The art of wedding table styling

A great table design is beautiful and functional, striking a balance between these two aspects is essential to creating an inviting and memorable atmosphere at your wedding reception.

Today I’m going to share a few tips and tricks on creating a spectacular table design, from textures and colours to flowers and table layouts. By the end of this blog, you’ll have a much clearer understanding of what goes into styling a wedding table and be able to create your own wedding table with confidence and flair.

Emma Jane Weddings, London wedding planner styling a wedding table at The Landmark London
Hello! This is me, in my absolute wedding styling element. Image by Poppy Carter Portraits.

First and foremost: functionality.

It’s non-negotiable that each table seats no more than the correct and comfortable number of guests. No matter how gorgeous your tables are, if they do not provide your guests with enough space to eat, drink and celebrate, all the flowers in the world won’t improve their experience.

As a table size to guest number ratio, stick to the below:

5ft round table: 8 guests 6ft round table: 10 guests 6ft long table: 6 guests (3 per side) 8ft long table: 8 guests (4 per side)

Long table designs should also always take the table width and the amount of décor on the table into consideration. The average long trestle table is 2.5ft wide, this is more than enough space for people to dine opposite each other, but if you’re planning to run a floral garland down the middle of the table, 3ft or wider will be more comfortable. Avoid going wider than 4ft as this tends to remove the intimacy from your guest’s dining experience.

Textures: quality linen should be your go-to.

Layering various textures is key to creating a table design with depth and interest. Avoid selecting all your table linen in identical fabrics, this can have a flattening effect on the design. A variety of textures will lift the design and create interest on the table. I’m a big fan of wooden tables with soft runners and luxuriously thick cloth napkins. With a combination like this, we’ve brought three different textures to the table, which will only be elevated by the addition of soft flowers, smooth tableware and glowing candles.

Heavy tablecloths with napkins in a thinner fabric and detailed charger plates can be just as impactful. I find couples often forget how valuable a quality tablecloth is to their table design. White table linen is so often the standard at weddings and can pull the entire design to the floor in some cases, especially when the event space doesn’t lend itself well to white finishes (which is the case in most ballroom, warehouse, or barn spaces where natural light isn’t as available).

In short, investing in gorgeous table linen can take the pressure off your floral and décor budget and give your reception space a quick and effective design boost, for very little money.

Colour, colour, colour.

Unless you are creating an ultra-modern all white and glass finish (which can be utterly spectacular in a cosmopolitan setting), include colour in your design! I get it, colour can be scary. But white is just so...boring. Colour doesn’t even have to be bright, it can be muted and gentle. Neutral tones are gaining increasing traction in the design world, and various hues of taupe, cream, and chocolate are all super stylish.

I love tonal styling, it’s probably my go-to choice for most designs. Tonal styling takes one or two similar colours and utilises many different shades from those colours. The result is always cohesive and understatedly luxe. Wedding tables in garish colours with oversized tropical flowers and eyesore chair covers are a thing of the past. Wedding designers are now looking to create stylish dining experiences for their couples, with guest comfort and conversation taken into consideration every step of the way.

If you’re unsure of where to start with your colours, look to your venue and the event space for guidance. If your colours aren’t going to blend into the room’s interiors, they must compliment it. If your wedding is taking place outdoors, the world is your oyster! Almost any colour works in an outdoor environment, though again, you can still look to the surrounding flowers, outdoor architecture, and landscapes for inspiration.

With thanks to the lovely photographers, in order of images: Maja Tsolo Photography, Poppy Carter Portraits and David Christopher Photography. Planned and styled by Emma Jane Weddings.

Speaking of flowers…

Quality over quantity. Fresh flowers are exquisite, and expensive. The key to maximising your floral budget is focusing on impact and smart positioning. Do place large flower installations in areas where guests will notice and admire them (the bar, the ceiling, a central table). Don’t break all your arrangements up to have flowers in every corner of the room, as they immediately lose their impact (unless your budget is big enough to accommodate the number of flowers required for this).

Do put yourself first! Have spectacular arrangements on the family / head table. If you’ve invested in quality linens and an inviting colour palette, I can guarantee your guests will not notice their slightly less extravagant or plentiful table flower arrangements, and you will have the pleasure of sitting at a gorgeous head table (that didn’t blow the entire budget) on your wedding day.

Wedding planner trick: recycle as many of your ceremony flowers as possible. If you’re not set on having a large floral arch as your ceremony backdrop (which can be very heavy and difficult to move), consider a combination of smaller, easier to move, plinth and floor arrangements. After the ceremony they can be placed on the bar, below the seating plan, in front of the head table, either side of the cake, the possibilities are endless. (see images above for examples of this!)

Table flowers should always prioritse conversation. Flowers and candles must be either above or below eye level and allow conversation to flow easily across them.

Flowers aren’t only visually impactful; they can delight other senses too. Think of including fragrant stems of jasmine, lavender, sage and rosemary in your table arrangements to add to your guests’ seated experience.

And last but no less important: long tables vs round tables.

Naturally, long table bring guests closer together and allow for more conversation to take place across the table. Round tables are great for creating defined groups. I personally find both useful, and love to combine a mix of long and round tables into one floorplan.

Long tables are particularly useful for the family / head table, where selecting only 8 – 10 guests to sit with you can be near impossible. Round tables allow you to seat older guests together, creating a comfortable atmosphere which is slightly removed from boisterous friends (who might be celebrating a little louder than most!).

And as with your interesting linens, colours and cleverly placed flowers, the table layout plays a significant role in the overall dining experience. You can highlight the spectacular length of a room with long tables, or feature a central element (think circular bar, cake table or dance floor) by positioning tables in a circle around it.

So there you it. Five points to consider when designing a gorgeous yet practical wedding table and dining experience. Functionality, textures, colours, flowers, and table shapes. Event styling requires lots of experimenting and envisioning what will work best in the space. Smart and effective design maximises the possibilities of your budget, which is why working with a professional is often the best decision a couple can make.

Planning a wedding in the UK or Europe? Contact me to find out more about how I support couples through the wedding styling process - I would love to hear from you!