Planning your guest table decor is one of the biggest parts of your overall reception design. It can also be one of the trickiest to plan since it requires a knowledge of the various table sizes used for events as well an understanding of the amount of real estate required for things like place settings, centrepieces, and other catering elements.
Let’s review each element in turn:
1. Place Settings: Your place setting consists of all of the elements your guests will need for their meal. This includes items like charger plates, cutlery, napkins, glassware, etc. A typical place setting takes up 14″ – 16″ of space from the edge of the table and you generally leave 22″ – 24″ of linear space for each guest. Because people tend to under-estimate the amount of space required for the place settings, you may find yourself with either too much or too little room for the rest of your table elements.
As a quick example, most long tables are 30″ wide. If you take into account that the place settings will take up 14″ – 16″ of space, and if you have guests sitting on both sides of the table, you’re left with very little (if any) space for centrepieces. This is great if you want to do some simple bud vases and candles between place settings, but not so great if you want to use larger, more elaborate arrangements you’re going to have a hard time making them fit unless you get a wider table.
2. Centrepieces: The centre of your table is where you get to add some beautiful elements like flowers, candles, and table numbers. Those pieces will serve both as decoration and as conversation-starters for your guests. The thing is, you don’t want that conversation to be, “Wow, these tables are really. crammed, eh?” or “Huh, they went pretty light on the decorations, didn’t they?”
For example, if you have a 60″ round table (which seats 8 guests), you’ll have about 28″ at the centre of the table for decor. However, if you have some tables that are 72″ (which seats 10 guests), you’ll have 40″ left for decor. That’s a big difference as far as centrepieces are concerned – so the perfectly-sized arrangement that you’re putting on your 8-person tables will look a bit skimpy on your 10-person tables.
3. Other Items: Aside from your place settings and decor, your caterer will likely add a few more elements to your tables. It’s important to know what is or is not being added so that you can plan accordingly.
Some of those additional items include wine bottles, salt & pepper shakers, bread & butter dishes, coffee mugs & saucers, etc. If possible, it’s best for your caterer to add these elements after your room photos have been captured as these elements can really take away from the polished look.
BONUS: If you’re doing a traditional head table, with place settings along one side of the table only, you’ll have LOTS of space along the front edge for decor; be sure to plan accordingly.