The interesting part of planning a wedding in 2021 is that all the “normal” rules and etiquette for weddings are free to be changed! With weddings being more intimate, socially distanced, and safe many of the old ways are being adapted to fit the new narrative. One area ripe for change is the reception seating! Traditionally there was either a head table that, could quickly grow to a large crowded affair or the sweetheart table which in some cases seemed out of place. Let’s take a closer look at head tables, sweetheart tables, or cocktail style in this new wedding climate!

Head Tables

Some may think the time of a head table is over, but that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. With smaller weddings come smaller guest lists and smaller wedding parties. In that case, you can still keep the head table concept with just your wedding party if it makes sense.

Here are a couple of tips:

  • Don’t be afraid to try a different size or configuration than the long rectangle table
  • Adding personalization like everyone’s name hung on the back of the chair is a fun way to make it more special
  • Decorate the table differently than the rest!
    • Different tablecloth and tableware colors within your wedding pallet
    • Extra flowers and decor on the table
    • An eye-catching runner down the middle
    • Special lighting above the table (think chandeliers or twinkle lights!)
    • A unique backdrop behind the table
    • Different style of chair than the rest of the tables

Head table feature wall

Sweetheart Tables

Even if this doesn’t initially appeal to you, trying to keep more space between everyone at weddings instantly makes this a more desirable option. It also spares you from having to draw a line about who gets to sit at a head table versus a guest table. Whether the idea of just the two of you sitting alone for everyone to stare at seems intimidating or you love the cozy feel, there are options to please everyone!

Here are some on-trend ideas:

  • Make it more casual with a couch, loveseat, or unique chairs for yourselves and a couple of additional chairs at a safe distance for guests to stop by and use to socialize with you (this has the added benefit of not hurting your neck from staring up at everyone all through dinner!)
  • For more privacy place some distance between you and your guests by putting the dance floor in between your guests and your table
  • Even if you’re on a tight budget you can splurge on decor for this smaller sized table
    • Add a larger centerpiece than the guest tables
    • A garland that runs along the table
    • Decorate the backs of the chairs
    • A wall of flowers backdrop or high floral arrangements behind you
    • Marquee lighting
    • Special tableware (think crystal, antique silver, sentimental china)

sweetheart table with high floral accents

sweetheart table with garland

sweetheart table with signs

Rooftop casual seating


Cocktail Style

Some brides might choose to skip the formal reception seating altogether and have a cocktail party reception. This allows guests to freely mingle and eat at their own pace with food stations and/or mobile waiters with heavy hors d’oeuvres. The big advantage to this is the ability to allow guests to have ample space between them if they choose. Setting up smaller tables with chairs throughout, intermingled with high cocktail tables and even some casual lounge areas gives the luxury of choice to your guests.

Some things to keep in mind:

  • Other than specifying it on the invitation, make sure guests are greeted as they enter and the reception style is explained to them
  • This does not mean your guests aren’t getting a full meal. There are many food station options (think carving stations, make your own pasta dish, etc) that can be set up throughout your reception, coupled with 6 or more hors d’oeuvres selections that can be spaced out throughout the reception. Your guests will be just as full as having a plated meal.
  • You still can have all the traditional elements to your reception! Don’t feel you need to cut out any of the fun in this setting. Just make sure your layout is conducive to everyone being able to see things like:
    • The wedding party introduction
    • First dance
    • Speeches
    • Mother-son and Father-daughter dances
    • Throwing the bouquet and garter
  • If you can, have at least two different bar areas in the space to prevent crowding in a single area

cocktail reception

reception desert bar

reception bar

reception food station

Embrace It!

Whichever reception seating style fits you and your circumstances best will ultimately be the right choice and will turn out beautifully. Head tables, sweetheart tables, or cocktail style, we’d love to help you plan every aspect of your big day and help it run smoothly. Feel free to contact us today!