Coming together and sharing a meal with loved ones is one of the most binding experiences in human nature. Sharing fine food and effervescent conversation with family and friends is one of life’s greatest pleasures and as such, offering delicious, mouth watering food to your guests is a central feature at every wedding.
As a wedding planner, designing the tablescapes – in other words, the uniquely styled backdrop of beautiful flowers, striking tableware and pretty accessories to complement the thoughtfulness that has already gone in to the menu and wine selection – is one of my greatest pleasures.
A tablescape doesn’t have to be complicated and it doesn’t have to be expensive. A simple arrangement of meadow flowers in a small vase on a crisp white cloth can be equally as striking and meaningful as the most lavish settings in five star hotels and luxury marquees. How you decide to style the tables is a huge part of the overall look and feel of your day. It is also a great way to explore and express your creativity and when you consider all the elements that make up a beautiful table, ranging from the flowers to the flatware, and the crockery to the candles, the items you choose and the way you set everything out sets the scene for the rest of the evening.
However, if you haven’t done it before, then I can see that the very thought of creating a cohesive design across your tables that will delight and inspire your guests can be rather daunting! There is plenty of inspiration out there on social media and as a result, no doubt you’ve been pinning like crazy (which is great!) but how then do you set about recreating these looks which have caught your eye and what is the magic formula for success?
Here is where I can help you! Designing and setting the tables is one of my favourite parts of wedding and party design (and yes, I have been known to measure the exact distance between neighbouring plates to ensure they are all equally spaced, as well as to measure the distance from the plates to the chairs to ensure precise uniformity!) so if you need more confidence in this part of your planning, keep reading for my top tips for how to ensure your tables are momentous - and not mundane!
First things first – the colour scheme. The colour palette for your wedding day is one of the most defining elements of the planning which will be woven throughout multiple elements of the day from your bouquet and wedding party accessories, to the cake design and of course your table styling. Having a colour palette ensures that your whole wedding style is consistent throughout. However, having said that, my advice is not simply to pick just one colour – as this risks making everything look too matchy-matchy and rather blocky) but instead choose one primary feature colour then another colour, or maybe even two, which complements, tones and contrasts perfectly with your feature colour. By doing this, you will soften the overall design and will avoid a look which is too bland and one dimensional. When choosing your colour palette, you must also take into account the setting and style of your venue so that you end up with a look which settles perfectly into its backdrop rather than clashing with it. Don’t forget to also factor in the overall style of your wedding – if you’re creating a day which is country luxe, urban minimal or boho chic (and do take a look at my pinterest boards here for more inspiration on these!) then this should also be mirrored in your table styling decisions.
The secret to a really great table is in the layering and although it is so subtle that you may never have actually noticed it, without it, a table really lacks panache. Think of your table as a blank canvas on which you are going to layer a number of elements from bottom to top – beginning with the cloths, then charger plates, then crockery, flatware and glassware, and on the very top, napkins, stationery and favours.
As all good florists know, creating table floral arrangements which sit at eye level is a total no-no as it makes connection and conversation with the person opposite you completely impossible. Florals should therefore be just below eye level or right up high. Once the style and height of your florals has been agreed, you should then add interest with additional props at varying heights – for example different height candles (some in candlesticks and some in low candle holders), perhaps some low bud vases or maybe a selection of votives and nightlights etc. A really effective design is to have half the tables with high arrrangements and half with low arrangements so there is variation in height not only not only on the tables themselves but also in the room as a whole.
No table is complete without candles! Candelabras, taper candles, pillar candles, nightlights, there’s so much choice so have some fun, pick a variety and mix them up a little! If your venue has a no naked flame rule then there are lots of good battery-operated candles out there now, or sometimes you can get around the rule if you use hurricane lamps where the flame is completely encased in glass. You could also consider placing candles not only on your tables but also on ledges and windowsills where you can, to add warmth and glow to every corner.
Layering fabrics on top of a standard tablecloth can really lift it and soften the overall look – if your venue supplies white cloths as standard, why not source some lengths of silk or chiffon (Etsy or Dunelm do them!) to layer over the top, either as a runner down the centre or over the whole table. Or if your style is a little more bold, how about a sequin table runner in subtle colour to add a little twinkle to your table.
Lastly, don’t forget to include in your table design the little details which reflect you and your partner’s characters and interests – this is a really effective way of both adding style to your table and a personal touch. For example, instead of sticking to the usual table numbers, give your tables special names, perhaps named after your favourite places, favorute restaurants, favourite wines or films or books, framed in unusual and pretty frames (rather than on the standard silver ‘stick holders’ all venues have); or instead of the standard ‘tent cards’ as guest placement, perhaps create pretty tags or use an unusual surface such as shell or agate; lastly, instead of flat or folded napkins, perhaps tie them in a special way using lengths of greenery or beautiful ribbons, perhaps also adding herbs or flower stems - or little gifts such as personalised biscuits.
Once you have decided how you want to style your tables, you need to ensure that you set the table correctly! As you may not often lay up in such a formal manner, the diagram below might be a useful tool to avoid making any etiquette mistakes!
My final tip is to find time before your wedding to completely set up a full table exactly as it will be, so ahead of time so you know exactly how it will look and have time to make adjustments and source alternatives if need be. You can then relax knowing that each element perfectly complements everything else you’ve set out and that your guests will feel well and truly welcomed and delighted that you’ve made such an effort to create a wonderful ambiance within which they will enjoy their meal.
Of course it takes more than just pretty tables to create the perfect ambiance for your wedding breakfast - don’t forget the other elements such as mood lighting and background music, but that is another whole story for another day, watch this space for more!
If you'd like to chat through any elements of planning your wedding or party, I'm always happy to chat. Drop me a line on firstname.lastname@example.org or give me a ring on 07747 011200 - my goal is for you to be #calmandconfident as you count down to your big day.
Photography Credits: Kate Nielen, Natalie Stevenson, Katherine Yianakki