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12 Ways To Decorate Your Reception Venue

12 Ways To Decorate Your Reception Venue

No matter where you’re having your wedding reception you will need to decide on decorating the venue. So to make it the reception of your dreams you need to get your creative juices going as well as setting free your organisational talents.

What to Do First

What you need to consider first:

  1. the theme – the look and colours – romantic, modern, classic, fun – for your wedding
  2. the wedding budget
  3. requirements for the venue like cutlery, line, tableware, glassware, flowers, lighting, heating or cooling, decorations, sound – both for music and speeches.

The easiest way to successful decorate the reception venue could simply be hiring a specialist designer firm or wedding planner to do the lot but you will still need to know what you want so you can make the right choice.

If you have your heart (or budget) set on doing it yourself be ready to get organised with your wedding planning folder.

12 Ideas for Your Wedding Reception

1. Researching with Suppliers – start getting your suppliers together by making phone calls about services, products and prices. Calling a few suppliers for each thing you need to compare services, products and prices will not only get you the best price but also help you figure out what is out there and how it all works.

Keep track of the suppliers and their details in your Wedding Planning folder including the name of the person you got the details from and the date of the call.

2. Starting with your Flowers – these will often be chosen during the designing the theme stage for the colours, look and feel of the wedding. For the reception think of the size and location of the displays – having a big display in the middle of the table makes it hard for conversations. Setting flowers up on candelabras that carry both flowers and candles can look beautiful as well as making it easy for your guests.

Life can be much easier when planning and paying for the wedding when you get flowers that are in season. You can get any just about any flower any times of the year, you just have to give your florist enough time to order them in as they may need to be imported.

The usual places to display floral arrangements are on the head table, guest tables, display tables for the cake and presents as well as at entrance of the venue. Other uses are to decorate on poles or columns, hide unused doors, brighten up bland corners, frame window views as well as the back of chairs.

You can bring floral arrangements from the ceremony as well – just be sure those who are bringing them over know where they are to go. Floral arrangements can also be taken home after the reception by family and friends as special mementos.

3. Decorating with Fabric – flowers are a great way to decorate and can be beautifully complemented with graceful lines of flowing fabric. Draping fabric can be used to decorate walls, ceilings, poles and columns. Chairs can be transformed from ordinary objects into elegant works of design simply by being covered and having a broad ribbon tied at the back.

The fabric can be printed or plain – even with a combination with bold printed fabrics on the walls and a plain fabric on chairs so the dresses of your guests can show off in their own right (without the competition from a printed fabric on their chair).

4. Bringing Light – finding out what are the lighting options for your reception venue lets you make well informed decisions. You need to find out if the lights can be dimmed – the lighting you want for the speeches will be different to the lighting you want for dancing. Are the stairways and hallways well lit, does the dance floor have disco lights, are candles allowed and is there natural light? Can the lighting be changed during the reception to suit what is happening. What you want to avoid are those nasty harsh fluorescent lights.

If you are setting up a marquee or space where you have to bring in the lights yourself you will also have to think carefully about power sources for lights.

Finding the right balance with our lighting is important – too bright and it creates a harsh environment, too dark and no one will know what they are eating or see how beautiful the bridal party is! So find the right amount of light for the best effect. Having different sources of light such as candles, fairy lights, ceiling lights, wall lights and lamps can all be used to get the right balance.

5. Table Linen Etiquette – most venues provide table linen as a standard part of the booking that includes a damask table cloth and napkin. As a standard the table cloth should hang 45cm from the dining table while the head table and display tables such as the cake table should hang to the floor.

You can theme the table linen with your wedding colour by hiring what you want. Damask is the standard but you can have other fabrics too or simply making a change by having overlay clothes in lace or organza – think in terms of a transparent overlay fabric.

6. Match Your Tableware for Elegance – Keeping your tableware elegant and simple adds a touch of class. Just as table cloths have standard hanging length, tableware has an etiquette too with silverware being the same design and quality, china and glasses also need to be consistent in design and quality.

To keep life easy white china is easy to coordinate while colour can be easily introduced with the glassware. For a more relaxed wedding bright colours can work beautifully.

If you are having a buffet dinner aim to keep it as easy as possible for your guests by having cutlery and glassware already on the table so they only carry the plate of food and are not juggling other things, especially after a few drinks.

7. Decorations and Props – Decorations and props can bring balance and style to a room being dressed up for a celebration. These can include candelabras, vases and urns, display tables and pedestals, stages and podiums, placecard holders and menus, disposable cameras, as well as guest books.

The purpose of decorations and props is to add rather than distract so often it is a case of less is more is the best choice. If in doubt, try taking a few things out and having a look and taking some photos showing you before and after.

The purpose of decorating with props is to add that finishing touch to the room, not to overwhelm.

8. Wedding Guest Bomboniere – the traditional ways of wedding bombonieres are changing. The five or seven sugared almonds in tulle are still being given but these choices are wider now. Tealights in coloured glass with the bridal couple’s name are now available and can make a beautiful table decoration. Other sweet treats ranging from chocolate covered almonds to sweet wines in personalised miniature bottles are all popular choices.

Personalising the bomoniere with the name of the bridal couple and the date of the wedding is growing in popularity with more options available all the time.

9. Your Wedding Cake – Traditionally the wedding cake is displayed on a table in front of the bridal table so everyone can see it. Be sure to have photos taken of the cake early.

Decorating the cake table can be kept simple with an elegant floor length white table clothe and cake knife with a ribbon. The table needs to be kept fairly simple so the focus is on the cake but you can easily add a floral arrangement, a coloured table clothe to go with the colour theme of the wedding, or use coloured ribbons around the edges of the white table clothe that are pinned to drape gracefully down to the floor.

You can use a family table clothe such as an embroidered table clothe made by a favourite grandmother or great aunt for a special touch – this could even be the start of a family tradition.

The key for decorating the cake table is to keep it simple so the attention is on the cake and the ceremony of cutting it.

10. Sourcing your Decorations – being able to get all (or nearly everything) you want from one place makes decorating your wedding venues so much easier. Hire companies have treasure troves of goodies that will make your heart sing.

You need to look for hire companies that have showrooms you can visit and photo albums or catalogues for ideas and layouts. By seeing how things actually look and work you’ll be able to make realistic and sensible decisions that will give you the best results.

Hire companies can help from the small details like napkin holders through to the big things like marquees and dance floors.

When you are organising so much make sure you have good communication with your suppliers. Be sure details are written down and shared – make sure they have a copy and you have a copy. Avoid disappointment and miscommunication by having clear notes and checklists.

Hire companies can either simply deliver to the venue or setup before and packup after the wedding reception for you. Make sure you check with the hire company when getting the quote.

11. Hiring a Professional – if you feel like you’re not really an events organiser or not sure of exactly what you want getting a professional in who knows how to make it work all easily and beautifully can be a great idea.

Go armed with some ideas like magazine clippings, fabric samples or photos so they can get an idea of your style and what you like. From there they can start the ideas rolling so you can pick out what you like and don’t like.

Also, a wedding coordinator does all the organising with the hire company as well as knowing all the secrets of stunning displays and decorations so take advantage of these specialist skills.

Both a hire company and a professional wedding coordinator know all the little details so they will pick up on what you might forget or simply not think of.

12. Sticking to Your Plan – whatever you do the success of your decorating comes down to coming up with and sticking to your plan. Be realistic about what you’re doing both in terms of time and budget. We’d all love to have a wedding where money was no object and for a very few of us that is sometimes possible, for the rest of us creating our own beautiful events balancing the practicalities of reality and the glitters of our dreams can result in a wonderful day.

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Belinda Stinson is the designer and owner of – a popular and successful jewelry and earring holder gift idea store. Belinda also offers a range of business and marketing articles online published in the monthly email newsletter to help other businesses success.

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