Usually, when putting together the table plan for your wedding, the countdown is well and truly on! Amongst all the excitement of your upcoming nuptials, the table plan can feel difficult to navigate, particularly the top table. Questions are likely to arise, such as who traditionally sits with whom – the top table is likely to be the focal point of a wedding breakfast, so you need to get it right. Like with most wedding formalities, there are traditions that are associated with top table seating and a specific order in which people should sit.
So, what order is the top table at a wedding? The traditional top table order seats the bride and groom and six further guests. The order is (from left to right): maid of honor, groom’s father, bride’s mother, groom, bride, bride’s father, groom’s mother, best man. Whilst this is the traditional seating arrangement, there is no obligation to seat your top table guests in this way, and there may be a different format or layout that better reflects your friends and family.
We initially began researching this topic for our own wedding, curious about the traditional seating arrangement.
Some couples may breathe a sigh of relief knowing that there is a traditional layout for a top table that they can use.
This layout is great for a couple of reasons, the first being that it is one less decision to make yourself and the second being that it can prevent any unnecessary conflict between families.
However, this layout does not reflect all families – after all, no two families are the same!
And it could be that you as a couple would like to sit in a different order on the top table or even sit with different people.
Your wedding should be about your enjoyment as a newly married couple; therefore, feel free to organize your seating plan for your wedding however you want – that includes the top table.
When we were planning ours, I decided that actually, I would quite like to be sat next to my mother at our wedding!
We were originally going to use the traditional top table layout but have since tweaked it to suit our preferences; it is our wedding at the end of the day!
It might be that you are feeling the same!
Even about who to sit at your top table. Relationships and families can be tricky to navigate, and therefore a more traditional layout might not suit you at all!
You may be wondering, who sits on the top table at a wedding? Should it be just family and the key members of the bridal party, or is there any flexibility?
Who Sits On The Top Table At Wedding?
Traditionally, it is the bride and groom’s parents, the maid of honor, and the best man who sits on the top table at a wedding. This is due to the fact that it is typically these key members of a wedding party that give speeches, and hence guests’ attention is directed towards them. There are, however, no strict rules that couples need to adhere to when it comes to the top table at a wedding. Instead, it is advised that the bride and groom sit with guests of their choosing.
It is highly probable that your maid of honor and best man will have key roles in your wedding, along with your parents or parental figures.
Therefore, it is common for these guests to be sat with the bride and groom on the top table.
When it comes to the speeches, it is common for these to be given either before, during, or after the wedding meal.
So, it makes sense – both from a logistical and layout perspective when thinking about the PA or sound system – to seat the wedding party members who are giving speeches together.
Be this your best man or your parents; it is clear why so many couples opt for a seating arrangement such as this.
However, this rigidity in terms of who sits where may not suit your family and key members of your bridal party’s dynamic.
Thus, it is also common for the bride and groom to opt for a different seating arrangement altogether.
At weddings we have been guests at; this has ranged from a sweetheart table for the bride and groom (seating just the two of them) and an incredibly long top table where the entire bridal party and all of the groomsmen were seated with the bride and groom.
There is no one set up or layout that works better than others; it really is down to the bride and groom who sits at the top table for their wedding.
And once that decision has been made, considering the layout of the top table is the next decision to make.
What Is The Top Table Layout For A Wedding?
There are typically two top table layouts to choose from: the long top table and the round top table. The long top table is the more traditional of the two, where the bride and groom, as well as other guests joining them on the top table, sit facing the rest of the wedding party. The round-top table makes for a more intimate dining experience for the bride and groom and their guests, but it can also mean that some other wedding guests sitting at other tables may not have a good view when it comes to the speeches.
At our wedding, we are opting for round tables for our guests and a long top table.
This wasn’t my first choice – I also liked the idea of a round top table – but our venue advised us that in terms of lighting for photos and addressing the guests in the speeches, a long top table worked better in the space.
We would always recommend asking your venue for recommendations as to what generally works well in the space that is offered for the wedding breakfast.
Your wedding coordinator may well surprise you with the answer given, and you might end up with the last top table layout you expected but the one that works best for you.
A round top table can be unifying.
Guests who are sat at the top table may well find it easier to converse with one another from across the table, rather than down a line of people sat at a long top table.
If you are concerned about your parents or chosen guests who are going to be sat at your long top table at your wedding, we would recommend opting for a seating order that allows guests to converse easily with those who are on either side of them.
This is part of the reason we have opted not to follow the traditional seating plan for the top table.
Whilst we are having the traditional people sit with us on our wedding day (our parents, maid of honor, and best man), we are changing the order so that my family is sat together on one side, and my fiancé’s the other.
I can understand why people may not like or even agree with our arrangement – a wedding is supposed to be about families joining together and blending – I am not at all worried about it.
In fact, I am simply looking forward to enjoying our wedding meal with the people we love the most in our lives.
Should You Mix Families At Weddings?
It is traditional for families to be mixed on the top table at a wedding as this symbolizes the joining and blending of the two families through marriage. However, it is down to the bride and groom to decide if this is how they would like to sit or even if they want to share the top table with their families at all! There is an abundance of different family dynamics to consider when planning a table seating plan, and it is most definitely not a one size fits all approach.
Like with most wedding planning decisions, mixing families at a top table is very much an ‘if you want to: do it. If you don’t want to: don’t’ consideration.
I think it is becoming more and more common for couples getting married to sit with their own families on their top table.
In fact, I cannot remember the last time I attended a wedding where the traditional seating plan for a top table was followed.
I cannot be certain if this is just a trend followed by my friends and family or a more widespread occurrence.
One thing is for sure, though, it is not just where you are sat that blends families at a wedding.
Usually a happy and joyful occasion, there will be much mingling and exchanging of pleasantries between your guests, including your families.
The same can be said for your bridesmaids and groomsmen.
Key members of the bridal party, I think it is pretty safe to assume that the people both you and your partner have chosen to bestow the honor of being a bridesmaid or groomsman on have a special place in your heart and, therefore, your wedding day.
Do All Bridesmaids And Groomsmen Sit At The Top Table?
It is not traditional for all bridesmaids and groomsmen to sit on the top table. It is usually just key members of the bridal party and groomsmen such as the maid of honor and best man who are seated with the bride and groom on their wedding day.
I have mentioned previously a wedding in which all of the bridesmaids and groomsmen were sat on the top table with the bride and groom and their parents.
I was fortunate enough to be a bridesmaid at that particular wedding, and it did make me feel really special to be sat with the newly married couple, so from that perspective, it was great!
However, it did mean that in all the photos and videos of the speeches, there were eight people with their back to the camera and sat in front of the bride and groom.
This is where the benefit of a more select, long top table comes in, as the focus of the guests and the photographer will be on the bride and groom, and those special moments that often arise during the speeches will be captured as a treasured memory.
However, you choose to seat your guests, remember that these are the people with whom you will be sharing the most memorable meal of your life – your wedding breakfast.
So choose wisely and choose the people who are most important to you.
Have other questions regarding wedding reception table planning and layout? Then my other guides may be of interest!
- Wedding Assigned Seating – Do You Need It?
- How Many People Can Sit At A 6 Foot Table? [Comfortably]
- How Many People Can Sit At A 8 Foot Table? [Comfortably]
Hey, I’m Allison – a recent bride, an expectant mother and the chief editor here at Everlasting Occasion. Here I document all the knowledge and experience I accumulated while researching and planning my dream wedding and ahead of our new baby. Here, I try to answer those many questions couples have when planning their dream wedding, while equally, helping expectant parents ahead of their new arrival!