Have you ever given any thought, if given the option, whether you would prefer to have rectangular tables or round tables for your guest seating at your next event? As an East Lansing Event Designer, and East Lansing Florist I’ve got some guest seating tips for you. Most venues don’t supply enough of both types of tables to allow you the option of all of one or the other. However, if you have a strong preference, you can use a rental company to bring in the type of table you want, or do a mix and match of rounds and rectangles.
Assuming you have the budget to bring in the tables of your choice, or that your venue graciously offers both options, below is a list of the pros and cons of each to help you to make that decision easier based on both design aesthetics and event logistics.
Pros of Rectangular Tables + Cons of Round Tables
1. Rectangular guest tables are less expected. In general, most venues will offer round tables for your guest tables, and rectangular tables for your accessory tables. If you’re going for the extraordinary, doing something less expected is a good place to start.
2. Rectangular tables give us floral + event designers more space to work with. With round tables we are limited to having a centerpiece in the middle of the table with about a 2′ diameter, if we are lucky. From there we are limited with space because we have to allow for full place settings, butter plates, coffee fixings, and salt + pepper while allowing ourselves enough room to place votives around florals without burning them. These restrictions would be less apparent with a tall floral. When you have a long rectangular table, you have limitations from side to side, but basically have a full 8′ to design. This can be more expensive, but gives you more options.
3. Along this same concept, a long table allows you to have both tall and short centerpieces on one table and well as a mixture of floral and non-floral. Often, the taller centerpieces and floral centerpieces are considered the nicer, and more expensive design. You can have all of your tables have the same “feel” of luxury to them by using long tables and incorporating a number of different element types along the tablescape.
4. My biggest endorsement for rectangular tables is the versatility of set up. You can place each 8′ table by themselves or you can line them up end to end, as long as the space will allow, creating a fabulous family-style table. You can also place the tables side by side, along with end to end, so your table can be wider and even grander.
5. If you have a guest list that has a lot of different groups, rectangular tables can be a better option. Logistically, you can only speak to the 2-4 people across from you and the person on either side of you. So if your guest list has many distant relatives who don’t know anyone else, a very small group of co-workers, or a couple that isn’t a part of your friend group, then long tables may be more suited for your guests. We all know with round tables, we are bound to have the “randoms” table. Your high school coach is seated with your mom’s best friend along with the only colleagues you invited to the wedding. You can save your guests awkward small talk by limiting with whom they are physically able to talk.
Cons of Rectangular Tables + Pros of Round Tables
1. Round tables are more inclusive of all guests at the table. Refer to #5 above. Now if you have a lot of people who know each other and will definitely want to be able to catch up, round tables may be your best bet. Just like the idea of saving people from feeling awkward, you may also want to give others the opportunity to have access to talk to the entire table.
2. Although you can custom order any type of linen in any size you want, you may not have the budget to do so. In general, linen rental companies tend to stock a wider variety of linen options in a round linen rather than a rectangular linen. This is simply a case of supply and demand. Since more venues offer round guest tables, there is a higher demand for a variety of options in round linens.
3. Depending on the actual table itself, round tables tend to have less mechanics under the table, or at least the bars are placed more strategically. Many times, we have to carefully decide where to place chairs, and possibly space them a bit unevenly to avoid someone straddling an under the table support bar.
4. You have a bit more wiggle room with squeezing in an extra chair or two, if needed. I always tell my brides and clients that the most stressful part of planning an event is the seating chart. Unfortunately, friends and family don’t come in nice even groups of 8 so inevitably you’ll want 9 at one table and 10 at another, and a round table gives you more flexibility to put an extra chair in here and there.
Pros of Mixing Rectangular + Round Tables
1. Most venues will have at least some of both, so, in general, you shouldn’t have the extra cost to bring one or the other in as a rental yourself.
2. Your designer will love you because they now have the ability to make coordinating, but different centerpieces. Again, it’s unexpected and interesting to look at.
3. You can put the people who may feel awkward making small talk with strangers at the rectangular tables, and the people who want to visit with each other at the round tables.
4. You can fit more people into a smaller space. I don’t know why this is the case, but at some venues, when they can mix the table type, they end up fitting more guests into a smaller space. Now I’m not advocating for jamming people in, I think you should book your venue based on your guest list size. But if you are over the capacity by a very small amount, this is a creative way to make it work at your dream venue.
The biggest factor in this decision is going to be budget, any wedding designer can tell you that. Generally rectangular tables are going to cost more because you have to (1) likely bring in the tables yourself, and (2) there’s more space on the tabletop to design and decorate = more cost. But if cost wasn’t a factor, aesthetically I LOVE a huge, end to end, rectangular guest table set up. However, taking both logistics and aesthetics into consideration, it’s difficult to argue with a mix of rectangular and round since they present the best of both worlds.
Header photo: Sarah Elizabeth Dunn Photography