Since the beginning of time we’ve been inviting family or friends over to share meals, with the central focus of these occasions being a well-dressed table. Whether it’s seated at a kitchen table covered with a laundered tablecloth and fresh flowers in a jug, or in a formal dining room with one’s best linen, china and glassware. It is the host’s way of thanking those who have made the effort to attend, to invite them to sit and share fine food and wine in an environment that is both comfortable and beautiful.
When it comes to your wedding however, the stakes are naturally a little higher. You’ll be surrounded by a large number of your friends and family, many of whom have travelled some distance to be with you and who have put time and effort into dressing up for the occasion. Your wedding breakfast is an integral part of your day – your first opportunity to dine together as husband and wife. It is a chance for your guests to sit and catch up with old friends or make new connections, all while enjoying fine food and wine. A comfortable place to sit back and enjoy the speeches! How you style your tables is an opportunity to pull together and mirror your wider design concept from previous parts of the day. Linens reflect your colour palette, floral arrangements and table stationery can mimic other design elements like your bouquet and invitations. It is also chance to express your own personal style and flair through the overall look and feel of the tables, whether you choose to go large and lavish or quietly understated. Your personalities shine through in the details such as your choice of vases and candlesticks, the style of chair, how you tie or fold the napkins and whether you choose to offer favours or not.
With all that in mind, it’s not surprising that couples often feel rather daunted by not knowing where to start, so here is a useful summary of all the elements which will make up your overall table style and what you’ll need to take into consideration for each one.
It goes without saying that your dining tables should always be clothed, unless you are having a rustic style wedding with vintage oak trestle tables, in which case a table runner will suffice! For my couples’ weddings, I insist on full length cloths which puddle on the floor and can be tucked under – there is nothing worse than seeing the metal legs of a table! In addition to the cloth, each guest needs a napkin, either in the same colour as the cloth or perhaps a contrasting yet complementary colour. Whilst crisp white linen can be a classically elegant style statement when enhanced with really beautiful flowers and tableware, I always encourage my couples to consider a colour for their linen. Perhaps a warm ivory or very pale pink, or something bolder like navy or sage green. By the time the table is laid and the chairs are put around, you actually don’t see much of the cloth but it is still imperative to get it right as it’s the canvas on which the rest of the table design sits.
Flatware Glassware & Cutlery
Plates and bowls are a given, but a quick and easy way to lift your table design is to add statement charger plates. These are large stylish plates already set out in position when guests take their seats; they are often removed when the starter plates are put down although some caterers do leave them in place until after main course. Hiring in charger plates is a really simple but effective way to add style to your table especially when combined with a prettily tied napkin and another detail such as a place name or a small gift.
You will need to allow space for 4 glasses – champagne for toasts, red and white wine and water. If you are offering liqueurs the caterers will probably bring these glasses around later. Whether having charger plates or not, I always counsel my couples to upgrade their glassware after all if they have gone to the trouble of tasting and selecting specific wines to accompany the meal, it should be served in special glasses and these remain on the table throughout the meal and will be visible in lots of photos!
You need to allow space on your table for cutlery for all 3 courses and potentially fish or steak knives too. It can be fun to upgrade your cutlery from the standard options but to be honest, if I had to choose, I’d upgrade my glasses rather than the cutlery.
Early on in their planning, couples focus on their save the dates and invitations and forget that their wedding breakfast will require a whole further set of stationery of its own. From the table plan through to the table names, the menu cards and placement, there are many ways to express your personality and style through your stationery. Why have a boring table plan on an easel when you could have an escort card tree? Don’t simply pop up a menu card in the middle of the table but weave it into the design for the napkin folding. And for placement? Bland tent cards are a no-no these days when there are so many more creative ways to show each guest which is their seat such as bespoke laser cut shapes which sit on a wine glass, small but meaningful calligraphed objects such as shells or monogrammed individual menus.
Your floral colour palette must always complement your linen colours. When choosing the designs themselves, you must consider simultaneously the size of the table and everything else that is going on the table to ensure that there is enough room. Table arrangements tend to be either super tall or super low, so you have a clear eyeline to the guest sitting opposite you. I always love it when couples have a mixture of both so when you look at the room as a whole you see variety. You could have a single vase or arrangement on each table or it is really effective to style a collection of vases of various sizes and heights; for long tables. we’ve seen floral table runners rise in popularity, perhaps with candelabras interspersed for interest. More and more couples are adding focus to the top table by making it different to the others, perhaps a floral runner elegantly tumbling off the table ends, a floral moon arch behind them or an abundant meadow style floor based installation around it. And my top tip? Candles and nightlights on every table and LOTS of them! Your wedding may be in the height of summer but you cannot beat twinkling candlelight to really lift a table and it really helps the photographer to have warm light under guests faces as they capture them during dinner as dusk falls. If your venue does not allow real candles then the battery operated nightlights are a good alternative.
Lastly, don’t forget to include in your table design the little details which reflect you and your partner’s characters and interests, this is a really effective way of both adding style to your table and a personal touch. For example, instead of having table numbers, give your tables special names, perhaps named after your favourite places, films or books and find unusual and interesting ways to display the table names, not the standard metal stands that the caterers provide. Instead of flat, rolled or folded napkins, perhaps tie them in a special way using lengths of greenery or beautiful velvet ribbons, you could also add herbs or flower stems.
To summarise then, focus on these four elements when dreaming up your own bespoke table styling – colour palette, layering (linen, flatware and glassware, napkins, stationery, favours), floral design and personal details and you’ll have the prettiest tables which are a true reflection of you.