2016: Real Wedding Head Tables

When I started working in weddings in 2002, sweetheart tables were used by real couples all the time. Then, for a short while, the majority of my clients sat a a regular round table with up to 8 other guests. It is clear now that long head tables (differentiated from those of the 1980s because guests are now seated on both sides) for the seating of the wedding party are a trend that has staying power. I think one of the reasons that they are so popular is that this style table allows you to seat your wedding party with their guests during the reception.

Some tips for when you decide to use a long head table:

  1. You need a table that is as long in feet as how many guests you have – if you have 16 guests at the head table, it should be at least 16 feet long.
  2. If you want to have a great view of your reception, don’t seat anyone else across from you. If you do this, then the table will need to be 2 to 4 feet longer than the rule of thumb listed above.
  3. If you want to have decor down the center of your table, then the table needs to be at least 42 inches wide – and more if you want a lot of decor! You need 18 inches for each place setting on each side of the table, which means that the difference between 36 inches and the total width of the table is how much space you will have for your decor
  4. You probably won’t want to plan on seating guests at the ends of your table due to space concerns. But if you decide to do this, let your decorator know this so that they don’t plan for the decor to reach the ends of the head table.
  5. Rectangular tables are not as space-efficient as the standard 60-inch round tables. If your venue is just barely big enough for your guest list, you may not be able to fit in these rectangular tables.
  6. Any rectangular head table should have assigned seats. This means you will need to plot out the seating of the head table in advance and have name cards at each seat.


AVAM wedding reception head table chandelier floral copper navy

Above we have a fabulous navy and copper head table at American Visionary Arts Museum in Baltimore with a stunner of a floral chandelier hanging overhead by Crimson & Clover. Sequinned linen from LaTavola. Chairs from DC Rental. Photo by Kurstin Roe.

Below is a 16-feet long farm table head table from Barnes at the Barns at Hamilton Station with adorable mismatched and vintage chairs from Something Vintage. I loved this look at this rustic vineyard venue so much! Photo by Kurstin Roe.

Barns at Hamilton Station wedding reception head tbale

Above is an October wedding at Daughters of the American Revolution when the sun set at 6:40 pm. I think this photo was taken by Stephen Bobb around 7 pm. This table sat 18 guests and was 20 feet long. LynnVale used small bouquets and a ton of candles to decorate it.

Below is a May wedding at Daughters of the American Revolution when the sun set at 8:15 pm. I think this photo was taken by Matt Mendelsohn around 6:30 pm. This table sat 16 guests and was 16 feet long. LynnVale used a handmade floral garland as well as small arrangements and votive candles to decorate it.


Above is Saint Francis Hall, set up for about 120 guests total, with the head table set for 33 guests. It was a big one! You can see that LynnVale used quite a few tall, leafy centerpieces in this set up.

Below we have a smaller but still awesome head table for 12 guests at Newton White Mansion. Decorated by B Floral Design for 12 guests and documented by Taylor & Ben.

Newton White Mansion wedding reception head table

There are a lot of ways to decorate your head table, as seen above: overhead decor, small bouquets and candles, a long garland, a flower on each place setting, menu cards, using a special linen not seen in the rest of the reception, a contrasting napkin, a beautiful charger plate and chair decor for the bride & groom. Some other ideas that aren’t shown here include: giving the head table their own style of chairs, unique and tall centerpieces different from the rest of the tables, and using a farm table when the rest of your tables have a linen.

What are you planning for your own seating at your wedding reception? What ideas do you have for your head table?