The tablescape is the crown jewel of wedding design. It’s the place where people will gather and spend the majority of their time celebrating your marriage (that and the dance floor of course!). It’s the one location where all of the vendors come together (catering, rentals, florals, paper goods, etc.), and the design each guest observes, tells the story of the day you created. The tablescape is the reception ambiance. So how can you create a stunning table? What elements should you consider? Get cozy and grab a cup of coffee (or wine!) cause I’m going to teach you how to design a stunning wedding tablescape in ten easy steps.
We’re going to solve this puzzle from the 30,000 foot view to the microscopic. This way we can easily dissect the problem and not feel overwhelmed.
1. Start with the Table
Based on the venue you’ve selected, you might be using a round table, or a rectangular table, or our favorite…a combination of both! When selecting a table type, first think about how many people you need to seat total, and then work backwards. The square footage of your venue might determine what you can do, but work with your wedding planner to play around with options.
60″ Round = Seats 8-10
72″ Round = Seats 10-12
6′ Banquet Table (rectangle) = Seats 6
8′ Banquet Table = Seats 8 (10 if you set one person on each end cap)
10′ Banquet Table (usually custom from an outside vendor) = Seats 10 (12 if you set one person on each end cap)
The table used in this example is 6′ long and 30″ wide.
2. Select your linens
Next up is to select your table linens. Unless you’re using a wood table, always, always, always use floor length linens. This polishes the look of the table and hides the ugly table legs. You can select a floor length linen and add an overlay, a table runner, or lush fabric that runs the length of the table. Unless you are using a very bold color palette, we recommend selecting a neutral linen, preferably one of your secondary colors (more on this in a future blog post). Our favorite colors are: white, cream, linen, almond, blush, light blue, lavender, and if we’re feeling very bold, vintage mustard yellow (my second favorite color to navy). In this example we selected a white floor length linen.
If you’re adding a table runner, choose a bolder color to contrast your floor length linen. If you want a more simplistic look, use white or cream. It’s easy to overdo it here, so remember, less is more.
3. The Chair
The chair is the second largest visual element to the table linen color, and therefore a critical element in the overall design. A chair should of course be functional and comfy, but select one that complements your venue. For example, the vineyard chair is a perfect option for a barn wedding, or to warm up an urban space. While the chivari chair sets a more formal tone. The ghost (or also known as mirage) chairs are very modern, but remember that they won’t add color to your design, so only use them when you have a strong table linen color and floral elements.
We did not show chairs in this example, as it would have blocked the tablescape.
4. Plates, Chargers & Cutlery
I love this element of the tablescape. There are SO many options to choose from! Most common are round plates, but there are also square (used in this example). You should have a dinner plate and a salad plate selected. If you’ve selected a buffet or seated dinner for your guests, remember that the dinner plate will not be at the table when the guests arrive. They will either pick it up at the buffet, or their main entrée will be served on the dinner plate. This will impact your napkin selection which we will talk about soon.
The plate charger is a fun way to add a pop of color. Again, these can be round or square depending on the plate you’ve selected. Use the plate charger to add some texture, something that compliments the table linen, but adds dimension and is still cohesive to your overall design.
With your fork, knife, and spoon (and additional forks or spoons depending on how many courses you’re serving, if dessert requires cutlery, etc.), you have another opportunity to add a pop of color or texture. The placement of the silverware is also another chance to be creative. You can place them on the table (remember this trick: the word “fork” is four letters and the word “left” is four letters. The fork always goes on the left and the knife and spoon go on the right. I remember this trick every time I set a table), on the center of the plate, in a cute linen bag, or tied together. We choose the traditional route for this example.
The number of glasses you place on the table will be determined by the menu. Will there be table wine service? How about a champagne toast? Will there be coffee service? You should always have a water goblet and at least a wine glass to start.
Work with a local rental company to see what options they offer. Some vendors carry beautiful colored glassware that can tie in your design. You can select glassware that is more formal or laid back, it’s up to you!
6. Florals + Centerpiece
I know I said I liked selecting the plates and cutlery, but the florals and centerpiece are my absolute favorite! The florals tie the whole design together. I could write a whole blog post on this topic, so I’ll keep it brief to save you from reading pages and pages on this topic.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when selecting your florals and centerpiece.
• Make sure that all guests at the table can see each other and your design does not block anyone’s view.
• You might need to include a table number or table name, so be sure to leave room for that. You can place the table number on a stanchion to give it height and make it easier for guests to view, or you can choose to place it on the table (incorporating it into the florals is a great combination of the two ideas).
• Think about the amount of space you will have at the center of the table to actually decorate. If you’re at a round table and dinner is served family style, you will have very little room due to all of the platters, so be sure to keep that in mind. If you’re at a long rectangular table, you’ll want to think about the width you have between your glassware, and the person sitting across from your glassware. There’s nothing worse than sitting down to a table and feeling cramped.
• Always, always, always add candles. Votives are easiest, but if your setting allows tapper candles, those are the best and add an amazing ambiance. If you’re designing a round table, use 5 or 3 votive candles. If you’re designing a long rectangular table, I like to clump them in groups of three, two and sometimes I’ll scatter a few by themselves.
• Have fun with this aspect of the design and don’t be afraid to get creative!
7. The Napkin
Like I’ve mentioned above, there are multiple opportunities to add pops of color into your tablescape design. The napkin is another one. As with my recommendations for the table linen, you can either choose to select a bold color, or another neutral.
In regards to the placement of the napkin, you can hang it off of the table (called a waterfall), fold it into a pocket on top of the plate (and potentially put the cutlery inside of it), you can wrap the napkin around the plate, or place vertically under the salad plate. Or maybe you’re fancy and know how to fold it into a bird!
8. Paper Goods
Your tablescape paper goods will be the table number (or name), menu’s and place cards. In a previous post we’ve talked about place cards and key details to keep in mind when designing them.
If you have a menu, be sure to think about the napkin and plate placement before designing your menu. For example, if you like the look of a waterfall napkin, but you’re serving dinner via a buffet, then there won’t be any plates at the table, so your menu will likely go on top of your napkin. Or another example, if you wanted a pocket fold napkin, but wanted to put your cutlery inside of the fold, where will the menu go?
Be sure to list all of the ingredients in each menu item in case anyone has allergies or dietary restrictions. The menu is also a great place to say thank you to your guests for coming to your event!
We touched on lighting when we discussed votive and taper candles, but the lighting in your venue will dramatically affect your tablescape. If you’re using a very light color palette and the venue is going to be dimly lit, it could be hard for people to read your menu for example.
Uplighting and pin spot lighting are great ways to add lighting to a room without losing the ambiance. String lights are another option that we love. Keep this rule in mind: if you can’t see your food to eat, it’s too dark.
10. An Unexpected Element
Last but not least, your tablescape should have an unexpected element. Maybe your centerpiece has a few pieces of seasonal fruit, or your place cards are a personalized letter to each guest. Or the pattern on the menu matches the wall paper in the venue to a tee. Whatever your unexpected element is, and like all design, have fun with it. It doesn’t need to be something that screams “I’m the unexpected element”, in fact, subtle is better.
I hope we’ve been able to inspire you as you create your next tablescape. Use this easy 10 step guide to walk you through the design process. We’d love it if you show us your tablescapes, use the hashtag #jleblogtablescape and we can’t wait to follow along!
To learn more about how Seattle wedding planner Jen Leslie Events can help you plan an unforgettable celebration, please contact us.
Happy designing! xoxo
Design, Florals, Props + Photography: Jen Leslie Events
Stationary + Calligraphy: Francis & Co.