Many brides-to-be obsess over their place settings, centerpieces, and linens, but there’s one reception detail they may be overlooking. In order to create a truly stunning tablescape, you first need to choose the right tables. That may sound simple enough, but selecting tables to complement the overall vibe of your reception can be harder than you’d think.
First, you need to understand your choices. Round, rectangular, and square are the most popular options, and each suits a different type of celebration. To make things more complicated, there are variations within these groups. For instance, you can decide to have a king’s table, in which you, the groom, and your wedding party sit on just one side and face the rest of your attendees. Sweetheart tables, which are most often round or square, are just for the bride and groom. Want something a little different? Serpentine tables may be the option for you. You could also mix multiple types of table to create a look that best suits your space.
After you’ve learned about the options available, you’ll need to think about which table type makes the most sense for your wedding’s style and your guests. For an intimate bash, one long table might make the most sense, but if you’re having a big party and need to seat 200 attendees, a mix of round and rectangular tables might be the better option for making the most of your space.
To help you better understand which type of reception table is right for your big day, we went out to the pros. Here, wedding planners from AaB Creates and the team at Atlas Event Rental share everything you need to know about each type of table, plus offer their tips for deciding which to use at your wedding.
According to Heather Rouffe from Atlas Event Rental, round tables are the most popular option for wedding receptions. Standard 60-inch and 72-inch round tables comfortably seat anywhere from eight to 12 guests, depending on the meal service and table décor. Round tables are widely available and allow maximum capacity in nearly every venue. What’s more, couples will find countess linen options on the market. In terms of centerpieces, Rouffe recommends sticking with shorter floral arrangements; otherwise, blocked site lines will discourage conversation across the table.
Not sold on the traditional 60- or 72-inch size? Rouffe says that smaller options are also available. “Forty-eight-inch round tables seat six to eight guests, and 36-inch round tables seat four to six guests and are typically used during a cocktail hour. They can also be the perfect table for your cake!” she says.
Want to create an elegant atmosphere at your reception? Then consider renting rectangular tables (also called banquet tables). Depending on their length, rectangular tables can accommodate four to 10 guests. They promote easy conversation among guests, as long as centerpieces aren’t too disruptive. Brides and grooms can also connect rectangular tables to create extra-long tables, which works especially well for intimate celebrations with small guest lists but can work for any size party.
A variation of the rectangular table, wooden farmhouse tables are also rising in popularity, according to event producer Kait Rovnyak of AaB Creates. These wooden tables, which are usually around eight-feet by 42-inches, seat a maximum of ten people comfortably. “Generally, I like to sit eight people at these tables with four on either side, but we can add two more on the end caps to accommodate 10 people,” says Rovnyak. Thanks to their spacious surfaces, farmhouse tables are ideal for “family-style” meals, but they also make conversation feel limited. “Most people will only speak to the person directly next to them or across from them,” says Rovnyak, who adds that many couples use farmhouse tables for “head table” arrangements.
After exchanging vows, some brides and grooms want time alone with their new spouse. Having a sweetheart table—a small table for just the newlyweds—can be the perfect solution. The sweetheart table faces out to the reception, and it’s near the couple’s closest friends and parents. Keep in mind, however, that brides and grooms at sweetheart tables may feel disconnected from guests, who may come up to chat anyway.
While some couple prefer the solitude of a sweetheart table, others might decide to rent a king’s table for the newlyweds, their bridal party, and their parents. “The king’s table is usually an eight-foot by four-foot table used as a head table for family-style appeal,” says Rouffe. “They are a little more modern than the traditional round reception table.” King’s tables are often surrounded by smaller round or rectangular tables, and their expansive size allows for elaborate centerpieces. However, Rouffe says that this shape isn’t very intimate. “This can be considered a con since guests won’t be able to chat with everyone seated at their table as easily as with a round table option,” she says.
For smaller groupings of guests, a couple can also consider square tables, which usually seat four to eight people. Since square tables have a greater surface space than round tables, they can accommodate larger centerpieces and give lots of elbow room. As a downside, the pointed edges take up precious real estate, so guests with small-capacity venues should stick with round tables instead. Additionally, the bride and groom may have a harder time finding square tables through rental companies, who often stock up on the more popular round and rectangular sizes.
If you want to make a bold design statement, then rent serpentine tables for your wedding reception. Several curved tables are pushed together to create a long, winding, and whimsical piece of furniture, and they’re especially impactful if they’re large enough to seat all of the guests together. Due to their space requirements, serpentine tables work best at outdoor weddings with much space to spare.
Mix and Match
Nobody says you need to have a single table style at your wedding! Mixing tables of different shapes and sizes results in a beautiful and unique reception set-up. You can even create custom seating—whether it’s a U-shaped or cross-shaped table. Don’t be afraid to get creative, and make sure to order the correct linens for your desired set-up!