Small Tables of Four or Six at Wedding Receptions: Intimate and Cozy or Weird and Awkward?

Here's what we think.

Small Tables of Four or Six at Wedding Receptions: Intimate and Cozy or Weird and Awkward?

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I saw an article this week in which a bride was inquiring about the idea of seating her guests at smaller tables—as in, tables of four or six—at her wedding reception, and, if I’m being honest, was pretty surprised by the responding wedding planner’s thoughts on the matter. Namely, that I think this sounds like crazytown, and the planner thought it was a very lovely and cozy idea.

She did point out that things could get a little expensive that way, since you would need more tables, obviously, to accommodate your guests, and therefore more centerpieces, and possibly waitstaff, and all that jazz—and while that’s a great point, it actually didn’t even come into my head when I had my initial reaction. My first vision was of a bride ripping her hair out as she tried to break down and match up 200-some people into happy little gatherings of four or six. No. Thank. You. Seems to me there’s not enough wine in the world to help make managing that seating chart anything other than cruel and unusual torture.

The second vision was of myself happily making my way into my just-married friend’s reception venue, glass of sauv blanc in one hand, beaded clutch and escort card in the other, and being involuntarily plunged into a double date I never agreed to. To say that I would be thinking, “Um, what?” is a PG understatement.

Now, I get that we would probably be seated with very good friends and that of course, it’d all be fine; we’d eat, drink, laugh, dance, toast the couple and make merry just as we would at a table for 10. But it’d be weird. My friends and I go out in little groups all the time. At a wedding, it’s a party—you hang in bigger groups, you mingle with people you’ve never met before (and at weddings, they’re often people you’ve heard about through your mutual friends—the newly married couple you’re there to celebrate—and are quite happy to finally meet), you experience the entire celebration as a group; a bonded-together, wedding-guest group. Tiny tables would bust all that up, I think. And if you weren’t seated with good friends? Oof.

But just to see if I was being a bah humbug, we checked in with Philly wedding planner Lynda Barness of I Do Wedding Consulting, to see what she thought—and it sounds like I wasn’t the only one to give this whole idea a big hmm. “A table of four doesn’t foster lively conversation,” she says. “The art of conversation needs a better platform. And if the four are not compatible, the evening is ruined for all.” She does suggest that if you’re just looking to shake things up, you could seat each guest away from their partner via specific seat cards—though because the nature of the seating chart is that it always needs to be done at the last minute, having to match people up so extra carefully does put undue stress on an already difficult project.

Barness makes another good point, too, that I hadn’t thought about: “From a design perspective, a sea of four-tops may make it look more like a cruise than a supper club, with tables possibly crowded together.” As a creative alternative, she suggests mixing table shapes and sizes—some larger and square, some smaller and round (with an absolute minimum of six for the small)—as that still gives people the opportunity to speak with a number of the other guests, and where the room configuration can actually be a topic of conversation.

You know, instead of the thing everyone exchanges horrified looks and nightmare stories about later.

But, we’re curious about what the reasons would be for a bride who was planning to do this. Have you ever been to a wedding like this where this type of seating worked out great? Are you thinking about doing this yourself?

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