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Simple Table Decorating Ideas for Wedding Receptions

Amy Hoover
wedding table decorations

The right table decorating ideas for a wedding creates a beautiful tableau for the reception and the beginning of a couple's happily ever after. While people may not notice if you swap out the room's curtains to match your wedding decorations, they will notice whether or not your tables are festive. Make sure each one is part of the overall decorating scheme.

Simple Wedding Table Decoration Elements

Tables are an integral part of any reception, so a couple's budget could easily be stretched thinner than a tablecloth when choosing how to make each one attractive. There are many easy ways to decorate tables, however, without excessive spending on wedding reception decorations.

Cloths and Covers

Classic white tablecloths are the most common choice for weddings, but they are also the most predictable. Use these easy ideas for unique tablecloths to add flair and distinction to the table decorations:

  • Choosing colored cloths will add drama, and will also conceal stains more easily
  • Use streamers, ribbons, or layered cloth napkins to create a central runner or add color to the tablecloth
  • Choose patterned or lace cloths for more textural detail
  • Drape cloths along the edges of the table for greater visual impact
Arranged Dining Tables During Wedding

Lighting

How a reception is lit can greatly enhance the atmosphere, and many decorating ideas for a wedding incorporate different light sources as part of the décor. Options include:

  • Candle centerpieces or tea lights as centerpiece accents
  • Floating candles or candles on mirrors to reflect the light
  • Twinkle lights strung along the sides of the tables and wrapped in tulle or lace
  • Rope lights along the edges of the tables
wedding table decoration

Centerpieces

Centerpieces are the most common way to add flair to a table, but a wedding centerpiece idea can be more than just a pretty bouquet of flowers. Try these ideas for centerpieces for wedding reception tables that will create unique and beautiful decorations.

  • Alternate short and tall centerpieces to provide visual appeal
  • Incorporate the bridesmaids' bouquets and bridal bouquet as part of the centerpieces to save money
  • Match the season or location to your centerpiece, like using tropical wedding centerpieces for a summer beach wedding
  • Use unusual items such as autumn leaves, ice sculptures, mirrors, or picture frames to create distinctive centerpieces
  • Create breakaway centerpieces that can double as wedding favors
  • Create edible centerpieces for tasty decorations, such as carved vegetables, a fruit bowl, salt water taffy for a beach wedding, or other delectable treats
  • Use thematic elements, like succulents, wood slices, or even antique books, to create the right look
  • Go with a color, such as red centerpieces or purple centerpieces
Floral Wedding Reception Centerpieces

Sprinkles and Scatterings

Adding lightly sprinkled items is a fast and inexpensive way to decorate wedding tables. Sprinkles can be combined with centerpieces or used on their own for more simple designs. They look best when surrounding a centerpiece on round tables or stretched down a long table runner on rectangle tables. Popular items to sprinkle on tables include:

  • Glitter or confetti that matches the wedding colors
  • Rose petals or other flower petals
  • Autumn leaves for a fall wedding
  • Faux ice cubes for a winter wedding
  • Glass beads or rocks
  • Mini rose buds
  • Small sea shells
Dining Table During Wedding Ceremony

Place Settings

Extending decorations to the edge of the table will create stunning place settings that add to the overall décor of the event. While place settings must be functional, these tips can make them beautiful as well.

  • Choose upgraded china, cutlery, and glasses for immediate elegance
  • Use elaborately folded napkins to decorate individual plates
  • Add decorative place cards to assist with seating charts and add a formal flair
  • Coordinate colors of china, napkins, tablecloths, and other items for an integrated, professional look
  • Decorate chairs with covers or ribbons to further extend the décor
Gold and linen place settling

Shape and Arrangement

The shape and table layout at a wedding reception are subtle but powerful decorative elements. Small round or oval tables are more elegant than rectangular tables, and arranging tables in clusters encourages conversation and mingling. Buffet tables may be arranged in a U-shape or other format for more distinction than a straight line. Adding a backdrop behind the head table or cake table can also accentuate the decorations and create a picture perfect setting.

Wedding Event Decorations

How to Decorate Different Types of Tables

It's important not to forget any tables when making or purchasing your decorations. Write down each table that will be at your wedding reception and the decorations you plan to put on each. This way, no table is neglected.

Head Table

The head table is usually a long table for the bride and groom and bridesmaids and groomsmen. Sometimes ushers and children in the bridal party are also included. It's the front and center of the wedding, so you'll want to be sure the decorations are stunning. Decorate behind the table as well as on top and the front with wedding backdrops, centerpieces, lighting, flowers, and signage.

Bride and Groom Table Decorations

Commonly known as a "sweetheart table", this is a more intimate table for just the bride and groom. It can be as elaborate or as minimalist as you desire, but should match the rest of the wedding decor. It's usually decorated with linens and centerpieces and may be placed on a stage or below a wedding arch.

Sweetheart Table for Bride and Groom

Cake Table

Wedding cake table decorating ideas can run the gamut from simple swags to heavily decorated tables full of sparkle, rhinestones, and florals. Many brides and grooms choose to match the rest of the reception table decorations, but on a smaller scale. For example, if you have large bouquet centerpieces, scatter similar blooms or petals on the table top. Small signs and similar linens also work well. After all, the cake takes front and center here.

wedding cake on table

Buffet or Dessert Table

If the meal or snacks will be served buffet-style, the table will require some decorative accents. Tablecloths to match the guest tables should be included, and you may want to add a few floral arrangements to fill in empty spots or frame the space. Rope light strands can line the table or be hidden in tulle in dimly lit spaces.

Dessert table for any holiday

Guest Tables

From just a few to a few dozen, each guest table should be coordinated. The table decorating ideas don't have to match perfectly, but should include similarly styled candles or flowers, along with runners, mirrors, and other accents. Decorating each table differently for a wedding reception can create a unique space and feel unified as long as your color scheme stays the same and you carry a few cohesive elements from one table to the next.

Reception table setting

Guest Book Signing Table

This table will have a guest book or other way for guests to offer individual comments. At the ceremony, the table may include guest book, bouquet, card box, and basket for wedding programs. At the reception, it may have the guest book, card box, flowers, and include favors or seating arrangement place cards. In both instances, covering it with linens is recommended unless you're going for a minimalist or rustic look.

wedding table of the newlyweds

DJ Booth

A DJ will require a large table for the music equipment, and decorating it appropriately will make it a part of the reception rather than a pile of electronics. That said, the table will need to hold that equipment, so most people add a basic tablecloth, perhaps some rope strands, and rely on spot lights and lighting to create the right ambiance.

Dj setup in wedding

Gift Table

Guests who bring gifts to the wedding reception will need a place to put them down. Have a basic table set up with a tablecloth that matches the rest of the guest tables ready to go. If desired, a small decorative placard will help guests figure out where to put their gifts.

Groom's Table

The groom's table holds the groom's cake and features items that show the groom's interests. This table may match the rest of the overall theme of the wedding or it may be unique unto itself. Add linens, trinkets, photos, and other items to highlight the groom.

Wedding Table Decoration DIYs

Homemade wedding table decorations don't have to involve a lot of work or expense. Simply purchase the various elements and put them together. A few quick and easy DIY centerpiece and table decorating ideas include:

  • Any table will look good if you cover it with a cloth, add a single rose or flower stem to a vase, and tie a ribbon around it. Scatter a few colorful beads or flower petals around the vase.
  • Modern wedding tables and centerpieces may have layered linens that are topped with geometric candle holders and succulents or green vines. Go for a minimalist look.
  • For a classiclly elegant table, top tables with satin cloths and criss-crossed runners. Place a tall metallic vase in the center with a premade floral ball in the center. Hang crystals from the sides of the vase for an upscale design.
  • On a rustic table, skip the cloth and just put a runner down the middle. Add wood slices at regular intervals with votive candles. Place a mason jar tied with twine on top of the slices and add water with baby's breath.
Rustic wedding reception decor

What to Avoid

It is easy to go overboard with decorations, and couples must remember that many times the simple approach is elegant and beautiful. Other things to avoid include:

  • Crowded place settings that can inhibit guests from enjoying their meals
  • Tables with too many guests seated at them
  • Centerpieces that are at eye level and block conversation (go short or tall)

Planning Is Key

With care and planning, it is easy to incorporate many table decorating ideas for a wedding. You can create a stunning wedding reception setting for beautiful pictures, an elegant event, and happy memories.

Simple Table Decorating Ideas for Wedding Receptions