You’ve selected a venue, found your dream dress, and all of your invitations are at the printer. Your wedding plans are coming along nicely, but now it’s time to focus on the reception. Planning the layout for a reception and setting the perfect table isn’t always glamorous, but it’s such an important part of making sure your wedding day goes smoothly. Why? Because you and your guests will most likely spend more time at the reception than anywhere else! It needs to be organized, comfortable, and, of course, beautiful.

Planning the Layout: Table Types

While it’s tempting to skip the logistics and head straight for the wedding reception centerpiece ideas, there are a few things you need to figure out first. One of the biggest things you’ll need to decide on is the layout of your reception space. This will depend on the shape and size of your venue, as well as the type of venue you’ve chosen. Once you know how much space you have to work with, you need to determine how many tables you’ll need to include in the space on your wedding day. Traditionally, wedding receptions will require:

  • Head Table or Sweetheart Table. A Head Table would seat the bride and groom alongside their wedding party. A Sweetheart Table would be a smaller, private table just for the two of you.
  • Guest Table(s). The number of guest tables will depend on the shape of the tables you select and how many guests you’re expecting. Depending on your venue, you’ll be able to choose from round, square or rectangular tables.
  • Cake Table. You need a place for that gorgeous confectionary masterpiece you’ve been dreaming about for weeks.
  • Buffet Table. This table is only needed if you’re planning a buffet. Check with your venue to determine what, if any, tables they will need to serve the meal you’ve ordered.
  • Signing Table. This is the place to display a Guest Book or another item for your guests to sign and offer well wishes.
  • Gift Table. While many guests send their gifts ahead of the wedding, some last minute gift givers will still bring a card or gift with them. Make sure you create a designated space where these can be placed so that your new knife set doesn’t end up being tossed out with the leftovers.
  • DJ Table/Stage for the Band. The space you need to designate depends on whether you have hired a DJ or a live band. If you’ve opted for a DJ, check in with them to find out what kind of table they need — if they’re bringing their own, ask for the dimensions to ensure you have enough space to put it. If you hired a band, make sure you ask them how they prefer to set up as well.
  • Groom’s Table. If you’re incorporating a Groom’s Cake into your celebration, you’ll need a place for it.

Table Types for Wedding

Once you have a list of which tables you’ll need during the reception, you’ll need to decide on the shape of your tables. Traditionally, most venues use round tables, but you may also have the option for square or rectangular ones. Once you know which tables you want and how many you need, it’s time to figure out the layout. Your venue should be able to offer guidance on this step, so we won’t say too much about it. Just remember to make sure you and your sweetheart get the best seats in the house!

How to Decorate a Wedding Table: Choosing Linens

Choosing Linens for Wedding Reception

Choosing tablecloths for your reception tables may not seem like a very important item to spend time thinking about, but, odds are, you’ll need them. Not only will they cover a boring old table and catch a lot of spills and drips from your messier guests, but they can also tie together your table decor. They are actually an ideal way to bring beauty into your reception space. Most brides opt for a traditional white tablecloth — and that’s completely fine. But if you’re looking to spruce things up a little bit, why not add some color?

Choosing colored tablecloths that coordinate with your color scheme can add some excitement and dimension to your reception space. You might also consider using table runners or placemats to add some color on the top of the table. For brides who want a unique reception table decor, patterned or lace tablecloths can also be a great option. If cloth napkins will be included in your place settings, they too, offer the opportunity to add a pop of color throughout your tables.

Lighting Your Wedding Reception Tables

The lighting at your reception serves two purposes. Obviously, you need light to see, but it’s also the perfect way to set the mood. While selecting the best option for your reception can take some time, the right lighting choices may decrease the number of other decorations you need. Typically, you’ll be choosing from some mixture of candles and electric lights. This season we’re especially loving:

Candelabras for Wedding Reception

  • Candelabras. Coordinated with the decor already in the reception space, these can create a classic, soft glow that is both functional and beautiful. If your decor is a bit more modern, you can swap them out for glass hurricanes with a pillar candle inside. If you’ve got your heart set on candles, but open flames are not permitted at your venue, consider using LED candles to create a similar effect.
  • Spotlights. In an indoor venue, spotlights can be used to feature your cake table or another focal point like an ice sculpture. If it’s an option at your venue, using a spotlight to project a monogram onto the dance floor can be a neat effect that guests are sure to gush about.
  • Twinkle Lights. What bride doesn’t dream of a sea of twinkling lights as she dances the night away? Choose from strings you can wrap around trees if you’re outdoors or wrap around pillars if you’re inside. You could also string them across the ceiling in an indoor setting for a soft overhead glow.
  • Lanterns. If you’re going for a more rustic look, lanterns fit the bill nicely. Not only are they gorgeous, but they’re a simple decorating solution that look great either on their own or surrounded with flowers and greenery.

Before you start getting too creative, you’ll want to check with your venue to find out what they will and won’t allow. For example, some spaces may not allow candles or have enough centrally-located electrical outlets to accommodate thousands of twinkle lights. Make sure you know what your options are so that you won’t get too far into the planning process and then find out you have to start over.

Once you know what your venue will be able to accommodate, what you choose in terms of lighting is going to depend on several factors:

  • Is your reception venue inside or outside?
  • Is your reception taking place during the day or at night?
  • What options are available at the venue you’ve chosen?
  • What theme have you chosen? Classic, rustic, romantic?
  • How will the lights be used?

The last question is going to be the most important because it will have a big impact on your budget. If you’re going to use several lanterns on each table and you’re planning on 20 tables, then you’ll be paying for a lot of lanterns. If you have your heart set on twinkle lights all over the ceiling in a large ballroom, you’ll need a lot of lights and a lot of electrical outlets in order to ensure that each table gets proper lighting. For a bride interested in an elaborate electric light display, it may be beneficial to consult with a lighting professional to determine the best way to turn a vision into a reality.

Wedding Reception Table Centerpieces

The sky is the limit when it comes to deciding on centerpieces for your reception tables. In fact, there are so many options floating around out there that it can get a little bit overwhelming. To find the best options to complement your theme and budget, it’s important to decide what type of centerpiece you’d like to have:

1. Traditional Centerpieces

You can’t go wrong with flowers and candles, especially if you’re going for a classic, elegant reception vibe. But just because you pick these more traditional materials doesn’t mean you can’t get creative with how you display them! Rather than a large floral arrangement in a classic, taller vase, consider a small bowl of your wedding flowers in the center of the table. Or, consider placing your flowers inside of old tea tins, mason jars, or other vintage-looking containers for a more unique, old-time feel. If you find a container and you like its shape, but the color doesn’t fit with your wedding colors, consider covering it with fabric, ribbons, or even spray paint to customize it to your needs.

Simple Yet Elegant Candles for Wedding Reception

Candles are a beautiful way to light up your reception tables, and can even be the centerpiece themselves! Consider mixing candles of differing heights to create an ethereal effect, especially if you’re using them at an evening wedding. Grouping a set of candles on top of a round or square mirror can also give your reception a simple yet elegant look. If you want to keep your centerpieces on the smaller side, you can use smaller tea lights and place them in bowls, small vases, or mason jars filled with water so that they float while they are lit.

Like the idea of using candles, but don’t want to worry about the potential hazards of having an open flame? Consider incorporating LED candles into your decor instead.

2. Non-Traditional Centerpieces

Who says that all your centerpieces should be identical? Change it up! You can experiment with different colors, shapes, and materials to give each table its own unique look. You could even stay away from the flowers and candles altogether and try designing your centerpieces using more unique objects like leaves, mirrors, pictures, or other items that complement your theme – whatever speaks to you and matches your style!

Unique Wedding Reception Centerpieces

You can even branch out from your theme and incorporate your personal interests into your centerpieces. For example — if you’re a musician marrying a singer, feature pieces of sheet music rolled up and displayed in a glass container. Love old books? Then try placing stacks of books at the center of each table to set your LED candles on top of.

We’re also loving brides who opt for edible centerpieces. These are great conversation starters — a definite plus if you’re seating strangers together at a table — but they’re also fun for guests to enjoy eating off of during the reception. Try placing a tray of fruit and cheese in the center of the table for guests to munch on while they’re waiting for you to get to the reception, or fill a tiered stand with gorgeous cupcakes for guests to dive into during dessert.

If you love the idea of food but don’t want it taking away from your menu, consider placing food in cute baskets or boxes that serve as a display during the reception and can be taken home to be eaten later. Small baskets of fruit are great if your wedding has a rustic theme, in particular.

3. Double-Duty Centerpieces

Speaking of food, centerpieces that incorporate other elements of your wedding are also a great option, especially if you’re on a budget. For example, incorporate your bridesmaids’ bouquets by using them as decorations on tables during the reception, or design your centerpieces to include your wedding favors.

If you want floral centerpieces but can’t afford huge arrangements, try grouping eight to ten small flower vases together on the table. You might also arrange several small potted plants, like herbs or tree seedlings, in the center of each table. Guests can take a vase or plant home with them at the end of the evening.

Candy Vases for Wedding

If you want to stay away from floral centerpieces, try etching small glass votive holders and grouping them around a larger pillar candle or two to create a magical effect your guests can take home and enjoy again later. If you like the idea of incorporating edible favors into your centerpieces, consider filling small vases with cake pops (frosted with your wedding colors), or invite guests to help themselves to bowls of candy — just make sure to provide scoops and bags for them to serve themselves a take-home bag of sweet treats!

Picking the Perfect Place Setting

Your place settings have to be functional — forks, spoons, knives, and plates are necessary for your guests to enjoy that amazing menu you spent hours selecting — but that doesn’t mean they can’t complement the rest of your table decor. When you’re selecting your place settings, there are a few things to remember:

  • Linens, china, and flowers should complement each other. No need to have them all be the same hue, but if the colors coordinate it provides the room with a more cohesive look.
  • Upgraded china, cutlery, and glassware will add extra elegance to your table, but don’t feel like you need to have each setting match. Consider choosing two or three patterns and have the venue alternate them throughout the room for a more eclectic look.

Perfect Reception Place Settings

  • Decorate plates with elaborately folded napkins.
  • Use place cards. Not only are they functional and great at making sure everyone ends up at the right table, but you can incorporate them into the design of your table for a more formal look. You can also use the place cards to create a more intimate setting by personalizing them to your guests, for example, by writing a sweet note on each.
  • You can extend your decor past the edge of the table by adding chair covers or other decorative elements.

While there are many, many options for ways to plan an elegant table, you always want to make sure you work closely with your vendor or a wedding planner, if you’re working with one. They will help you explore your options and determine the best plan for your theme — and your budget.

Even if your budget constraints mean you’ll need to stick to a simpler setting at your guest tables, consider going a step above at the head table. Because the wedding party will be seated at this table, it’s the place that’s most likely to end up in your photographs. Besides that, it’s the place where the guests of honor — the bride and groom — will be, so why not give their space a little extra flair? To do this, you can go with a different shaped table — if it works in your space — opting for upgraded chairs and incorporating more high-end items into the centerpieces.

Things to Put on Wedding Tables

When it comes to personalizing your reception table decor, there are plenty of small ways to make it special beyond your place settings and centerpieces:

  • Sprinkle each table with confetti, rose petals, or even a selection of autumn leaves if you’re getting married in the fall. Having a beach wedding? Scatter shells around the table.
  • Design your own dinner menus that incorporate your theme and colors and leave one on top of each place setting.
  • Add a runner to each table. Choose a fabric that incorporates your colors but also has a fun design or pattern on it to jazz things up.
  • Each table will likely be numbered so that guests know where to sit. Incorporate that number into your decor with a hand-decorated sign or small flag.
  • Decorate vertically. If your venue allows it, consider hanging decorations like paper lanterns, flower arrangements, or some greenery above the tables.

General Tips

Deciding on the perfect centerpiece ideas for wedding reception tables gives you a chance to get creative and really get into the theme you’ve chosen for your wedding. In this day and age, there are so many ideas out there, and many of them don’t even require a hefty budget. All they need is a little creativity and a few willing friends to help you pull them off. But, just in case you’re still a little nervous about putting together the perfect tables, here are a few things to remember:

  • Always Consult With Your Venue Before Finalizing Your Plans for Decor. Know what they have there for you to use and if there are certain items — such as lit candles — that they don’t allow.
  • Know Your Venue. Take stock of which of its features you love — and can easily incorporate into your theme — and which of its features you may want to cover up with your own decor. If you’re using their table settings and glassware, make sure you ask to see them ahead of time.
  • Use Complementary Colors. Colors should be complementary to each other and the decor already in the venue, but they don’t have to match. In other words, there’s no need to have a purple tablecloth, purple napkins, and purple carnations at every table. Instead, you can choose two to four different colors that complement each other well. Use one or two as your primary colors and then the others as accents. Plan your decor and table settings around these choices.

Complementary Colors Wedding Reception Tables

  • Be Realistic in Your Expectations. You may have plans for an elaborate display that incorporates a variety of spotlights and colored lights, but do you have a professional who can make that work? You don’t want anyone scrambling to figure out lighting an hour before the reception starts.
  • Think Outside the Box. This is especially important for brides on a budget. Just because you can’t afford elaborate floral centerpieces doesn’t mean your tables won’t be gorgeous. Get creative and find simple, beautiful items that will fill the space and leave your guests in awe.
  • Make a Seating Chart. You have a layout in place for your venue, but don’t forget to make a detailed seating chart so that there’s no confusion on the big day. If you’re really creative, you can even design a beautiful seating chart and incorporate it into the decor at the reception by displaying it at the entrance.

Seating Chart for Wedding Reception

  • Ask for Help. Check with your venue to see if they will provide an event coordinator to oversee the reception — inviting guests to be seated for dinner, organizing toasts, and troubleshooting any issues that arise. If your venue doesn’t offer this service, consider hiring an independent event coordinator to step in for the day.

Let Us Help

Your wedding reception should be beautiful and memorable — not stressful. That’s why choosing a good supplier for your reception decor is so important. We are a trusted, wholesale source for florists, wedding and event planners, and more, so make Jamali Garden your first stop for exclusive wedding decor. Whether you’re looking for floral accessories, lighting, or unique garden products, you’re sure to find just the right item for your reception table. We carry large quantities of our items and sell them at wholesale prices, giving you a great product at a great price. And, since we keep large quantities in stock, we can ship fast. Shop today, and let us help make your special day everything you want it to be.