Setting the Table

Photo courtesy of Nine Photography


There’s always a moment, when you’re sifting through wedding photos on Pinterest, that you stop and say WOW.  Maybe it’s a gorgeous dress, or a stunning bouquet, or a spectacular job of lighting.  But more often than not, that wow factor is achieved by creating a wonderful tabletop for your guests.  And what makes for an awesome tabletop?  Layers!  Yep, this is the big secret, folks – adding more layers to your table will allow you to create more of an impact with your design by including additional textures, patterns, and colors.



Your first layer should be whatever is covering the table.  A thoughtful linen selection, rather than using the complimentary linen the venue offers, can punch up the look of your reception with a minimal investment.  Think color, texture, patterns (ooo, patterns!) – how can you use these elements to make a more interesting table?  You can also consider bringing in runners or overlays to use with the standard linen, which can add a touch of your aesthetic to the room without a significant expenditure.


Photo courtesy of Amy Karp Photography



Chargers are the large decorative plates that are placed on the table underneath any other plates.  They range in style from painted plastic to vintage pottery to handblown glass, and can dramatically change the look and formality of a table.  Some venues offer a basic charger with their wedding packages.  If that’s not available at your location, there are many rental companies that offer a wide selection of chargers in different colors, patterns, and styles.



Depending on your food service style (buffet or stations vs. served), you may or not want any sort of plate on top of your charger.  A single white plate on the charger that is removed before dinner is served is called a presentation plate.  Receptions held in country clubs, hotels, restaurants, and other venues with onsite kitchens use presentation plates most frequently, because they have access to a bunch of plates as needed.  Receptions held at standalone venues require additional plate rentals to include a presentation plate.  You can also look at renting plates that reflect your style more specifically – an upgraded china, perhaps, or a vintage mix and match place setting?


Photo courtesy of Miranda Marrs Photography



Napkins offer a whole range of options in punching up your look!  Not only do you get the option of colors and patterns, but you also should consider the fold and placement of your napkin.  If you have a charger or a china setting, consider whether you want your napkin on top to create a little impact, or possibly hanging from under the charger in a presidential fold, giving a more discreet splash of color. If you have a menu, do you want it slipped into a pocket fold napkin, or placed on top of the charger?  Also consider the quality of your napkins – full polyester does not hold a crease well, and it can be slippery.  For a more intricate fold, consider a cotton or linen napkin for best results.



Tableware is a wonderful way to bring in a little metallic pop.  Copper place settings really dial the look of your table up a notch, for example.  Anything out of the ordinary, whether in metal or in handle pattern, can give your tabletop a more sophisticated or casual look, as you prefer.  If your budget doesn’t stretch to renting tableware and you’re planning on using plastic, consider using the silver or gold plasticware if it’s being set at each place.


Photo courtesy of Amy Karp Photography



Formality generally dictates the number of glasses at each place setting, as does your liquor distribution rules within the venue.  Will the servers be pouring wine for seated guests, or is the bartender legally required to pour all alcoholic beverages?  Are there wine pairings for each course and, if so, would you like pre-set glasses for each wine or new glasses served with each course?  Also, consider the style of your glassware – a stemless wine glass creates a lower profile more modern table, or a colored vintage glass might create a more elegant look for your mix and match place settings.



Don’t forget to check in with your stationer!  Are you doing escort cards (cards your guests pick up from a central table and take with them to their seats) or place cards (cards that are sitting above the charger or place setting at each chair around every table)?  And are your cards actually cards, or are you using something else, like geodes or plants or champagne glasses?  What about menus – and how will they be displayed?  And for the final touch – table numbers!  Whether it’s a number on a card, a named table in a pretty frame, or a laser cut script, table numbers can impact the look and feel of your table!


Photo courtesy of Amy Karp Photography



Many couple choose to put favors at each place setting.  If this is your plan, be sure the favor packaging blends with the rest of your design choices!  If it doesn’t – put it somewhere else, so that it doesn’t distract from your lovely tabletop!


Seating Considerations

When you’re adding layers to your table, don’t forget that people will actually be eating at them!  Consider the number of people that will be seated at each table as you add layers, and be sure to leave enough elbow space for people to sit comfortably.  Generally, we plan a *minimum* of 2 feet per person – so, 3 people on either side of a 6’ rectangle or 8 people around a 60” round.  Take extra care to leave room for your beautiful centerpieces as well, and double check to make sure nothing will be lit on fire during the reception (this actually happens fairly often, unfortunately!).


Leave a Reply