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Correct Order of the Top Table

Written by Rea Shaw

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Posted on July 27 2022

Do you lie awake at night thinking about the seating plan for your wedding? You are not alone! According to a poll I put up on my instagram stories, this is one of the details for the wedding that you agonise over the MOST. This means it is OFFICIALLY a hot topic that YOU want to talk about. It all started with a common question I am always asked, whether it is an online customer or at a wedding fair.

"Which is the correct order of the top table?"

I find this so interesting, that this particular question is still being asked today. As in my opinion, times have seriously moved on from the 'correct order' whatever that was! But let's just clarify what this may have looked like (in the dark ages! lol!) This is what came up in my google search;
Reading left to right:
Chief Bridesmaid, Father of the Groom, Mother of the Bride, Groom, Bride, Father of the Bride, Mother of the Groom, Best Man.
Now if you are down with the 'correct order' and your wedding is super formal and traditional and your having a toastmaster for example, we should maybe part ways here, because I am definatley not in the 'traditional correct order' booth. I am more in the non-traditional, laid back, do what like booth! Which is where this convo is heading. But, you never know, you may change your mind if you read on.

My Own Experience

In my own experience of arranging a seating plan, it is only hard if you make it hard for yourself. For my own wedding, I did decide to have a top table, which was rather large because my partner had step parents to include. We already didn't fit into the supposedly 'correct order' for the top table. So what is one to do? What was the solution? Well for starters I didn't make it hard for myself, thinking we had to follow any rules. I took the easy route and simply included everyone on the top table who we wanted on it! SIMPLE! 
I sat our parents and wedding party members where it made sense for our wedding. Not following some rules someone made up years ago!
Just to note: We had long rectangular tables with guests sat either side. This meant we had the space to put everyone we wanted.
( Knowing how much room you have, to put guests on your top table, plays a huge part in helping you decide who you include on there - so knowing your numbers is step one to figuring it all out)

Baffling

Still when I get asked 'the question', I always think, why are couples still asking this? I mean, let's think about it, how can there be a correct order? It baffles me, lol! We all have different family dynamics (me included!) and the traditional bridal party has been well and truly tossed to one side with a fresher, more up to date wedding party that looks very different today, with best women, men of honour and grooms women in the mix. So following what it used to be, just doesn't work.

The Order

One of the other things with the top table I find fascinating, is the order itself. If you are anything like me, I wondered for so long why the parents of the bride and groom are not sat next to their own partner. Instead they are sat with the other parents partners. So for example, the mother of the bride seems to sit near the father of the groom. Why? Personally I didn't like this order for my own wedding, even though they knew each other, I knew that all parents would be much happier next to their own partner. Again I totally threw out the rule book.lol!

On the Flip Side

But there are of course benefits to mixing your family up like this. It can encourage conversation, so everyone can get to know each other better and it can blend your families together more so they feel and look as one. Which is why I am not against it either. It's just that, that particular way just didn't feel right for my top table. Which is the key takeaway for the next point.

Personal Preference

It really does depend on your own group of family and friends and what they are like as people. That's what it comes down to. You have to gauge what will be the best way to arrange it all. Personally, I think that it is more important that your guests feel comfortable and relaxed, and next to someone they will get on with. So, it is how you would like it to be, and making sure to look at it from the guests point of view when deciding. While some couples embrace the idea of mixing families that hardly know each other and see it as an opportunity to bond, other couples cringe at the thought of it, and won't take the risk. So depends how you feel about that.

Creating Table Plans

Over the years of creating table plans for couples, I have seen all sorts of arrangements and let me re-assure you, they are all completely different. I have seen couples seat the mothers of the bride and groom together and fathers of the groom and bride together too. When creating mock up table plans for fairs or taking photos, I purposely make sure I put the top table guests in a random order. Now, I didn't think that people would really notice this, but it turns out they do! I have had bride's say to me, 'in your photo it is the wrong way round!' At fairs I have had parents say 'shouldn't the mother of the bride be sat next to the father of the groom?' It is a great conversation starter and I stand firm on the fact that there is no correct order in my opinion. Most of the time I am finding that people, just hadn't really thought of it any other way. So I am very happy to provide a different prospective on the matter. They can take it away with them or leave it if they don't agree. The bottom line is, I like to show that arranging your seating plan doesn't have to be difficult, it doesn't have to be a certain way you need to follow, and it definatley doesn't need to be traditional. 

Hot Topic

 
When I chatted to brides on instagram about this very topic, here were some of the common issues that came up, that may help you with your own top table.

Common Issues Couples have with the Top Table

I don't know where to put the best man? On the top table or with his partner?
I always advise sitting couples together even if they are part of the wedding party. Imagine their partner sitting on their own, they came together, but then they get spilt up. I'm sure you wouldn't like it, it's not the best feeling in the world. My advise is to either include the best man's partner on the top table if you have room to do so, or seat them together on a different table. If you are having some trouble deciding, because maybe he is doing a speech. Think about whether it really matters that the best man isn't on the top table to deliver it? Is it worth the headache and sleepless nights that it could cause you?
I don't want the pressure of deciding who gets to sit on the top table, what do i do?
Like I mentioned before, you don't have to have a top table at all.You'll be pleased to hear you have alternative options. Option 1: Some couples choose to sit on their own table, they call this a Sweetheart Table, this can help take the pressure off deciding who joins you. This can actually work out really well. For example if you have rectangular tables that can be joined together, you can make long rows for your guests and have your sweetheart table at one end to form a U shape. This way you will feel connected to everyone. This is definatley becoming a very popular choice among modern couples, and I think this is because of everything we have been chatting about above. The modern family dynamic and the modern wedding party opens a new door for mixing it up.
Option 2: I have had couples view all there guests as equal, so there is no favouritism. The couples sat themselves and any parents and wedding party all on different tables so they can mingle with all the other guests. So they scrapped the top table all together. 

What I have learnt

It is clear to me that everyone approaches their table plan very differently to each other, and what's important is that you are happy however you choose to arrange it. I am very sure that I will be re-visiting this topic again in the future to update my thoughts and findings as I meet new couples and the wedding industry evolves. I would love for you to join in the conversation over on my instagram page, which you can head to here>>> and let me know your thoughts or questions by sending me a DM.
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