The Big Day

Venue styling made easy.

It used to be so simple. Once upon a pre-Pinterest time, all the wedding party needed to do was book the venue, buy the frocks and turn up. OK, that’s possibly oversimplifying it a bit – but at least nobody was expected to be a fashion expert, interior designer and menu planner rolled into one.

Traditionally, everyone’s wedding reception looked more or less the same. White linen tablecloths and a three-course meal – simple. However, this was back when melon balls were considered the height of innovation. Do this today, and your cooler friends will wonder if you’re being post-ironic.

Choosing your personal style

These days, anything goes. The more individual the better. You could go down the rustic Provencal route, with mismatched chairs and jam jars filled with hedgerow posies. There again, you might decide on whimsical little touches placed around the room – to reference that beach bar where you first met, say. Or hey! Perhaps the whole venue could have an Ibiza nightclub vibe…? Entirely up to you.

But don’t forget to be practical too. Before you get too carried away, consider the space, proportions and furnishings of the venue. Remember, you’ll be limited to dressing the room – enhancing, rather than transforming it – so instead of slavishly trying to replicate the latest trend, go with the flow. There’s really no point trying to recreate the first season of Bridgerton in a barn, so if you’re hell-bent on candelabras, choose a Georgian country house instead.  

Keep it simple

When it comes to the table decorations, be equally realistic. You may adore the idea of tall urns trailing foliage as your centrepieces, but these only work with lofty ceilings; if they’re brushing the roof, your guests will feel as if they’re stuck behind a pillar.

Think about the available light. Natural light can be in short supply at certain times of year, but that needn’t be a problem; strong colours, candlelight and luxe materials can create a fabulously glamorous vibe. Consult your photographer; they may have some bright ideas about how to illuminate the room.

Always check the decorations supplied by the venue or caterer, and ask to see examples of table settings they’ve created in the past. Not your style? Check if it’s OK to bring in your own bits and bobs – especially if you have your heart set on candles and table confetti.

Keep in mind that all these ‘little extras’ will have to be physically set up on the day; so if you don’t fancy spending your wedding morning stuck up a ladder with armfuls of bunting, or strewing tables with rose petals, designate these tasks to trustworthy friends or family members. 

Try out some ideas

Try out the look in advance by creating a test table, starting with a blank canvas and building up the look, using a mixture of heights and textures; have the largest or tallest item in the middle, with a gradual decline as you move away from the centre. And don’t be a slave to symmetry – the golden rule is that everything looks more stylish in odd numbers.

Mixing styles and textures, such as feathers with a velvet runner, and mismatched chairs, can create an original and stylish effect when done correctly, but keep in mind that less is often more, and don’t be tempted to over-clutter; the look you’re after is ‘effortlessly eclectic’. Remember Coco Chanel’s maxim that you should “take off the last thing you’ve put on”: probably just as true for table settings as it is for fashion accessories. Once you’re happy with the look, take photos as reference, for yourself, the venue and any little helpers you plan to rope in on the day.

Only those prone to crippling hay fever should consider dispensing with table flowers; not only are they the easiest way to add colour and texture, but they add a subtle scent to the room. Foliage can also look beautiful; think eucalyptus garlands on trestle tables, and small sprigs of fresh herbs in place settings.

If the venue permits, candles are the most romantic table decorations of all. Tall candelabras add elegance and focal points to a large room, while tea lights dotted among flowers add a soft, flattering glow.

Print your table plan

Now – what about those huge seating plan things that everyone now seems to have at the entrance to the dining room? Do you actually need one? The answer is probably, yes; there’s only so long you can politely stand in the doorway, bright welcoming smile fading by the minute, while your guests wander haplessly around the dining room looking for their seats.

Display the plan somewhere prominent, so that guests can consult it in advance before entering the dining space – everyone is always keen to see who they’ve been seated next to! An official table plan also reduces the risk of guests stealthily switching the name cards on the tables (yes, this happens…)

The simplest and most elegant table plans take the form of a large card propped on an easel; however, we’ve also seen names dangling from a tree, a plan wittily designed to resemble a tube map, and a dolls house with luggage labels (really??). 

The good news is that GM has thoughtfully come up with all the items you can have printed to enhance your reception tables. From large table plans, individual table plans, table numbers and place cards, with or without menus printed on one side. All are available from the Getting Married stationery site, and created to match our website designs – meaning that from sending ‘save the dates’ right through to labels for your favours, your style is carried through.

Discover the full range of printed stationery