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Ask The Experts – ‘Should I Mix our Multinational Families at the Tables?’

Image from Ciara & Mark’s real wedding

My family is French and French-speaking with sufficient knowledge of English, his family are all from Ireland – should I mix the nationalities at the tables, or will that stifle conversation? – Delphine

From the Experts

Heather from The Brehon Hotel – View Profile

This is always a controversial topic that applies as easily to people from different villages as to people from different countries! I think the answer to this is to sit down with your fiancé when doing the table plan and evaluate your guests’ personalities. It’s only you two that know them and can judge how they will interact. Some people will have no problem mixing with people they do not know, in that case mixing groups does work. However, if your guests are shy then maybe it could be avoided. What can help break the ice and start conversation is a group activity that can get everyone at the table talking. That could be betting slips on the length of time the speeches will take, or a pop quiz about the couple. These always work well and get the chat flowing.

Peter from The County Arms Hotel – View Profile

If you don’t mix the nationalities at dinner, there will be no crossover – it’ll be like having two weddings taking place in one room. Depending on how much you want to do to mix the French guests, you might have one from each side doing a prayer of the faithful in Church in their own language, or the grace before meals in French etc. You could also have French dishes on the menu, or French wine. Lots of people use place names for tables instead of just numbers, so you could use French place names. I’d split the tables to have people talking to each other, whereas if they all sit with people they know, then the Irish will only talk to the Irish and the French will only talk to the French. Later, with the dancing, you could do some Siege of Ennis for example, but also do a Paul Jones with French women opposite Irish men and vice versa.

Joe at Rathsallagh House- View Profile

I would definitely recommend mixing the nationalities – here are some helpful ideas on this. First, if you can, use 5-foot round tables instead of 6-foot . People can easily talk across a five-foot table without being restricted to guests sitting next to them. In this case, you could alternate the Irish and French guests. Secondly, if at all possible, try to have at least one person fluent or fairly fluent in both French and English at each table. That person can then help keep the conversation going by way of translation when necessary. Thirdly, consider French/English and English/French pocket dictionaries as a nice touch. You can get them cheaply or borrow them from a local school or library. If you spilt the nationalities they will stay split right through the wedding, so you need to get as much integration as possible going during the meal. They will then find the confidence to communicate with one another and so the ice will then have been broken for the rest of the evening.

Suzanne at Harvey’s Point – View Profile

Hi Delphine – this is a hard one to judge, it could go either way depending on how sociable the people are. However, speaking from experience, I recently attended a wedding where the bride’s family were all Irish and the groom’s family Scottish. At that wedding every table was half-Irish and half-Scottish. I personally thought this was great as we got to know more about the groom and made great new friends, then we spent the whole night dancing and laughing with them. If we had not been mixed I am sure the room could have looked like a game of rugby – the Irish on the right and the Scots on the left!

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Rachel Green

Rachel Green

If you think the bride should always have the last word, then Rachel is on your side! A devoted fan of everything quirky, unusual, colourful or crafty, she loves scouting WOL's real weddings for unique and fun touches. When not gazing at pictures, she's dispensing no-nonsense advice on everything from reception entrance songs to bridesmaid problems.

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