Wedding Planning

The Elements of a Wedding Tablescape: Tips for Designing the Perfect Table

April 29, 2024

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Welcome back loverves! In today's episode, we're diving deep into the art of crafting the perfect wedding tablescape. Whether you're planning your dream wedding or just love a beautifully set table, you'll want to tune in. I’m going to share everything from choosing the right linens and centerpieces to the subtle touches that make your guests feel truly special. I know you all love it when we talk about design topics here on the show!








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Last week, we shared all about the world of floor plans, talking about how the perfect layout can transform a space and enhance the guest experience. That was such a great interview with Randi, wasn’t it? Today, we're building on that foundation by focusing on one of the most visually impactful elements of your wedding decor—the tablescape. On your wedding day, guests spend the MOST amount of time at their table, so this definitely deserves your attention and is often one of the more exciting things to design too. 




Choosing Centerpiece Flowers

For today’s episode, we are going to start from the middle of the table and work our way out. And what’s in the center? Usually some sort of floral arrangement (or arrangements!). You can opt for single statement pieces like large centerpieces, or you might prefer a series of smaller bud vases for a more understated elegance. Another popular choice is to have two or three medium-sized centerpieces, providing a balanced visual impact along the length of the table. Or, if budget allows, for a truly lush look, consider a floral runner adorned with greenery that stretches the entire table length, adding a natural, organic feel to your setup. This is always a favorite, but is likely the most expensive option.

Mixing up centerpiece sizes and styles not only caters to varying budgets but also adds a dynamic texture and depth to your venue. Tall, dramatic centerpieces can be used to draw the eye upward in a room with high ceilings, while softer, pastel arrangements might better suit a daytime, outdoor setting.

Remember, the flowers you choose should complement—not overpower—your overall wedding theme and color palette.

And try to avoid creating centerpieces that will block a guest's view of the wedding couple or the person sitting across from them at the table. If you love a lush look but are on a budget, one option I love is to decide to invest in more lavish, fuller flower arrangements for the head table—because that’s going to be a true focal point for the entire evening. Complement this with slightly simpler arrangements for the VIP tables and even more streamlined versions for the outer perimeter tables. This tiered approach not only manages costs but also keeps the eye moving, and I think it adds visual interest to the space.

Speaking of budgets, a great tip that we’ve talked about on the podcast before is to repurpose the floral arrangements from your ceremony to your reception. Those beautiful ground meadow arrangements or arch flowers can find a new home at the ends of your head table or as part of the backdrop. This not only saves money but also maintains a cohesive aesthetic throughout your wedding events. While we think about flowers, let’s also not forget your table numbers. While I’m personally a fan of straightforward table numbers because I find that it’s a lot easier for guests to find their seat, that’s not your only option. Alternatively, you could theme your tables around hobbies, favorite books, or songs that have significance in your relationship. This creative twist on table numbering turns a simple logistical element into a unique and memorable aspect of your wedding’s aesthetic.


Adding Candles To Your Tablescape

You can choose from a variety of candles such as pillar candles, taper candles, and tealights in votives. Each offers a different vibe and lighting level. Pillar candles are robust and stand out on their own, while taper candles offer elegance and height, whereas votives provide a gentle shimmer across the table.  And let’s not forget the candlesticks! The options are virtually endless—fluted holders add a textured look, vintage silver exudes classic charm, and faceted crystal holders sparkle with a modern flair. These details help to enhance the overall aesthetic of your tablescape and can be tailored to match your wedding theme seamlessly. 

A quick note about candles though – While you’ll often see an abundance of candles in every Pinterest photo, an often overlooked aspect of using candles is understanding and adhering to venue restrictions. Always check with your venue about their policies on open flames. Many venues require the use of hurricane covers for taper candles or even battery-operated candles to prevent any fire hazards. Remember, no candle is truly dripless, especially in conditions like a breezy outdoor setting or under air conditioning indoors. The last thing you want is to be charged for damaged linens due to candle wax.


Place Settings: Chargers, Flatware & Glassware

Moving on from the centerpieces, let’s talk about what’s actually going to be sitting in front of your guests. Let's start with the base of your place settings—the charger. It’s important to consider that while Pinterest might show gorgeous stacked plates, in a real setting, plates are brought out as needed by the kitchen, especially for plated dinners. I know this can be disappointing because these photos on Pinterest are SO pretty, but it really just is not practical. 

With that said, we do always have a charger in our designs because the table just does not look finished without one. There are so many different options depending on the style and aesthetic of your wedding. You can have gold chargers, metal chargers, glass chargers, or chargers with a pattern on them, the options really are endless. If you are on a budget, a charger is purely decorative and is definitely not a necessity, though I would personally choose to have a charger and a less-expensive napkin, which we will talk about later on in this episode, and then skip the charger.

While we are talking about chargers and plate options, one thing I want to mention is that if you're leaning towards a family-style meal, it CAN allow for more plates on the table at once, such as a charger beneath an entrée plate and a salad plate. However, serving salad family-style can be messy, so we often recommend it be plated separately in the kitchen anyway. In general, family style is less formal and can be ideal for couples who prioritize a more relaxed dining experience.

OK, moving on to flatware and glassware.

Moving on to flatware, there's a simple mnemonic to help everyone remember their placement: forks on the left (both have four letters) and spoons and knives on the right (spoon has five letters, so does the word right). Your dessert fork or spoon traditionally sits at the top of your plate at the 12 o’clock position unless it's provided at a dessert station.  I have to be honest, most of my couples will choose to have a dessert station with pretty plates and dessert forks/spoons there instead of on the table. Otherwise, it can feel like guests have to wait for the last course when most of my couples would prefer their guests make their way to the dance floor and grab cake and dessert at their leisure!

Then, above and to the right of the plate, you'll typically place your glassware—a champagne flute, a wine glass, and a water glass.

Optional items like a bread and butter plate can be placed to the upper left, although in our designs, to avoid clutter, we often opt not to use individual bread plates and instead opt for a shared butter plate on the table.  To be honest, sometimes when designing a tablescape some people will just plan to have TOO many things on the table and it ends up feeling cluttered and takes away from the guest’s actual experience. Plus, if you do coffee cups on the table it’s easy to get a conference room vibe which nobody wants. Instead, we will set up a nice coffee station or have servers offer seated guests coffee as the dance floor starts to fill up.

In general, when it comes to your flatware and glassware, these elements should reflect your wedding's theme and level of formality. Opting for unique items like vintage China, colored glassware, or specialty champagne flutes can add a distinctive touch that complements your décor and makes your settings pop.

Place Settings: Menu Cards, Napkins & Place Cards

Next, I want to talk about menu cards, napkins and place cards.  The design of the menu card can vary widely—you can choose shapes that complement your place settings, such as round menus that fit perfectly onto the charger, or perhaps opt for a more traditional rectangular card. In general, the menu should feel like a cohesive part of your stationery suite, echoing the design elements from your invitations to your day-of paper goods.

Then, when it comes to napkins, the presentation is key. A well-pressed and neatly folded napkin completes the look of your place setting. It also conveys a sense of attention to detail, which has our heart as wedding planners. There are numerous folding styles to choose from—whether you prefer something simple like a classic rectangle or a more elaborate design like a bishop's hat fold. For a modern and sleek look, we love a waterfall fold where the napkin cascades elegantly from beneath the plate. This not only looks stunning but can also be a practical way to tuck a menu card or place card for a streamlined setup. Plus, for all my wedding planners listening, we love to pre-fold these before the wedding.

Next, we have place cards, which although are optional, I highly recommend them. Trust me, your guests WANT to know where to sit. Plus, you want to make sure your parents (and VIPs) get the best seats in the house. For a unique twist, think beyond traditional paper cards. For instance, at a coastal-themed wedding, use oyster shells with guest names painted on them, or for a vibrant, fun affair, use color-coded cards attached to the menu to indicate meal choices. I usually recommend a legend to indicate meal choice. This makes the server's job easier!


Linens + Table Options for Your Tablescape

We have spent a lot of time talking about what’s going ON the table. Now? It’s time to talk about the table itself (and the linens!).  The choice between rectangular, round, or even square tables can dramatically influence the flow and feel of your event space. While round tables have been a traditional favorite, offering an intimate setting that encourages conversation, they can sometimes feel a bit predictable. That's why I love to recommend a mosaic layout, mixing table shapes like rectangles and rounds to create a dynamic and visually interesting space. This approach not only adds depth to your layout but also keeps your guests engaged as they navigate through a more uniquely arranged venue. We talked more about that last week on episode 142 so definitely listen to that one next if you haven’t already.

Once you've chosen your table shapes, it’s time to talk linens.

Linens make SUCH a big difference to the overall look of your space. Whether you opt for full-length tablecloths or decide to showcase beautiful wooden tables with runners, remember that the quality of your linens is paramount. Full-length linens bring a polished and refined look, draping elegantly to the floor, which hides the legs of the tables for a cleaner silhouette. On the other hand, using a runner can highlight a table’s own charm, perfect for featuring handcrafted wood or specialty finishes.  I’m personally not a fan of half-length tablecloths because I think they look unfinished, and I also don’t love when people choose to do a tablecloth AND a runner because I think it can feel like overkill. Ultimately, though, you do you!

For those lucky enough to have access to beautiful rental tables that don’t need to be covered, that can work well too! A well-crafted lacquer or finely finished wooden table can speak for itself, especially if you're aiming for a minimalist or modern aesthetic. In such cases, less is definitely more, allowing the quality of the tables to shine through. We don’t have a rental company with such high-quality tables where we are though!



Mixing linens for different table shapes can add visual contrast to your layout, just like your floor plan.

Perhaps choose a textured linen for your round tables and a complementary solid color for your rectangles. The key is to maintain a cohesive look that ties into your wedding’s color scheme and style. Remember, the linens should work together, not against each other, to enhance the overall decor.

When selecting your linens, consider texture, color, and the overall finish. Does your wedding theme call for sleek and shiny satin? Rustic burlap? A touch of glamour with sequined tablecloths?  It’s also SO IMPORTANT to make sure that your linens are immaculate—this means wrinkle-free. You know we are KNOWN for this and even name the steamers that we bring on a wedding day lol. Whether it’s you, your planner, or the venue’s responsibility, having your tablecloths steamed is a must to achieve a crisp, photo-ready setting. You will NEVER see a wrinkly linen at a Verve wedding.  


Lastly, Don't Forget the Chairs!

Last but not least, we have the chairs! Do NOT underestimate the impact of the chairs you choose. From classic folding chairs and elegant Chiavari chairs to rustic crossback, or stylish wishbone chairs, there really are so many options. Each style contributes distinctly to the atmosphere and aesthetic of your venue.  Investing in elevated rental chairs is something I really do recommend, as they are one of the most visible elements in the room—way more so than the flatware or even some smaller décor items. Choosing the right chairs can beautifully complement and enhance your overall theme, providing a cohesive and polished look.   







If you have any questions, DM me on Instagram at @asktheplannerpodcast, call the wedding planning hotline at 585-210-3467, or drop it in your review on Apple Podcasts.

Plus, don’t forget to check out the Wedding Planning template shop, including my new Wedding Day Master Organizer which includes the same spreadsheets we use in our day-of production books.

And for all my planners out there, check out my new wedding planner coaching service! Whether you’re in the first 1-2 years of your business and you don’t know how to increase your prices, build a team, attract your ideal clients, find your brand’s voice, or you’re a little further in your career and you want to take it to the next level with a digital product, start a podcast, or something else, I would love to help you build the dream wedding business you deserve!

Learn more and schedule a call with me to see if this is what your business needs at