It can feel like there are countless rules and conventions to research when you start planning your wedding.
Some wedding customs you may want to follow, some you may tweak, and others you may decide are most definitely not for you. But that’s the beauty of modern weddings – you are free to tailor your day to you, and be as creative as you like.
The top table and its layout is one aspect of wedding tradition that causes many couples to scratch their heads.
So in this blog, we’ll be discussing the traditional top table layout, and lots of other options if the conventional version doesn’t feel quite “you”.
What is the traditional top table layout?
A traditional top table seating plan in the UK is (left to right), maid of honour or chief bridesmaid, groom’s father, bride’s mother, groom, bride, bride’s father, groom’s mother, best man. And as the name suggests, the table will be “top” of the room, or (depending on the layout/style of the room) to one side and in view of all other guests.
Lots of couples decide to stick with tradition, perhaps to have one less thing to think about, or because having a traditional “white” wedding is important to them. This layout goes also hand in hand with the traditional wedding speeches format: father of the bride, groom and then best man.
However, the traditional seating plan and top table style doesn’t work for everyone, for a variety of different reasons.
Why doesn’t the traditional layout work for everyone?
Firstly, the traditional seating plan doesn’t take same sex couples into account. Plus, not everyone has a mother and father, and lots of people have step parents.
Additionally, some couples don’t have a best man, maid of honour or bridesmaids, and it’s quite likely that you would like speeches from other friends and family members, rather than the conventional three.
Ultimately, the traditional top table layout is simply not practical, or possible, for all weddings.
(And even if you have the family dynamic for a traditional top table, it may not feel right for you and your guests. Many couples don’t want to feel like all eyes are on them while they eat, either.)
Alternative top table set-ups
As always, we want to stress that you have free rein to create the wedding/top table seating plan that suits you best. That may be well a traditional layout, or it may be something a little more alternative…
At The Waltham Barns, we’ve configured a wide variety of different wedding table layouts, and we saw many couples decide against the top table format during the pandemic, when intimate weddings were popular.
We often create one large table for our couples if they do have a smaller guest list, either in one long table, or a horseshoe shape. This gives weddings a lovely communal feel, and means that conversations can flow with ease.
You could have something similar to the traditional top table seating plan, but forgo the “top” aspect. There’s no reason why you and your immediate family/friends can’t join the rest of your guests on a round table, for example.
On the other hand, some couples decide to go down the “sweetheart table” route and have a romantic table for two. Or if you’ve got children, you may decide to have a table for your little family.
The options are literally endless.
Other things to think about…
Your top table may also be different depending on what food option you go for.
For example, we offer either a buffet or BBQ for our Twilight Wedding packages. This more casual dining experience lends itself to a communal table set-up. And if you get married during the warmer months, you may even decide to seat your guests outside in our beautiful courtyard.
Try not to worry too much about the speeches. It should be easy enough for the speaker to make their way to the front or middle of the room, regardless of where they are sitting.
The Waltham Barns is the perfect size venue, in that it’s large enough for all your guests to mingle comfortably, but small enough to still feel intimate, and for speeches to be easily heard by all.
Expert advice from our wedding coordinators
Remember, our wedding coordinations are here to help and offer solutions. They have a wealth of experience and have hosted all manner of weddings and receptions.
If you’re not sure what kind of top table to go for, they are on hand to offer inspiration and advice, or if you have an idea firmly in mind, they can help make it a reality.
Why not book a free viewing to get a feel for our space and meet the team? Simply email firstname.lastname@example.org to book yours today.
(Featured image by Bloomwood Photography.)