How to Decorate Banquet, Square and Round Reception Tables

Whether round, square or banquet-style, your reception tables should complement your venue and get the styling they deserve.
by The Knot
Indoor round reception table and ghost chairs
photo by Alixandra Gould Photography

Besides the reception venue itself, your tables will play a large role in dictating the atmosphere of your celebration. Lucky for you, party rental companies offer a variety of table shapes and sizes so you can opt for a set that suits your space. Working with a large, formal ballroom with high ceilings and large windows? Long banquet tables might be exactly what you need to add warmth and dimension. Hoping to create a cozy dinner-party vibe? Choose round tables in various sizes for an immediately more intimate setting. Read on for how to decorate and make the most of each reception table variety.

  1. Banquet Tables

    Outdoor banquet table
    photo by Rachel Red Photography

    So, you've fallen head over heels for a room with high ceilings and oversize windows that needs some serious filling. Don't worry—here's how to outfit them to a T.

    1. Balance Out Your Space

    Consider your venue: A lofty ceiling and floor-to-ceiling windows usually need to be offset, and longer tables can be the perfect solution to create depth and vibrancy in a bare room. Set up long, lean banquet tables in organized rows or a U-shaped formation, and watch the lines of color and texture bring your room to life. 

    2. Use Height

    A fabulous way to give your long, narrow tables some dimension is to break them up with décor of different heights. Alternate between ceramic vases and thin taper candles, or try tall, statement vases accompanied by medium and small hurricane candles and petite votives.

    3. Play With Shape 

    You don't have to settle on round, standard plates. Square or rectangular place settings that mimic the tables' shape make an edgy statement.   

    4. Run Long 

    Elongate the table by working the middle zone. Add texture by layering a graphic runner over a solid tablecloth, or, if you're not big on doubling up on linens, use a lush runner of greenery for a farm-to-table fete. 

    5. Disperse Details 

    Rectangular tables have a lot of space to fill. Take some pressure off yourself and remember you don't need to cover every inch. Prevent this potential color overload or a clutter of décor by accenting a few strategic spots: Have fun with bright chair cushions, line the center of each table with tall candlesticks or go bold with your menu or place cards.

  2. Round Tables

    Round reception tables with gold chairs in tent
    photo by Lacie Hansen Photography

    Love a classic round table? Nope, you aren't settling on the norm—there's a reason they're a crowd favorite. Not only do round tables provide excellent conversational benefits, they also don't need to follow any rules. They can mesh with just about any scenario. Here's a trick to spicing things up: Add more visual interest by mixing up sizes—for example, alternating between 60-inch and 72-inch rounds.

    1. Think in Threes 

    It's easy to commit to one arrangement, but if you're hoping to make a splash with your rounds, why not work a trio? Cluster table décor and arrangements of similar colors and sizes in the middle of your tabletop.

    2. Don't Be Afraid of Color (and Patterns)

    If not done well, too much white can be a little boring. We're all for infusing a white palette with neutral metallics, muted patterns and eye-catching textures. Diversify your rounds and white tablecloths with details like gold chairs, copper cutlery, a quilted or eyelet tablecloth, or unique floral arrangements.

    3. Think Small

    There's something to be said about understated style—you think your guests won't notice, but they will. Subtle details often make an unexpectedly pretty presentation. A beautiful floral arrangement, or three or four smaller ones, plus a few votive candles, seashells or other on-theme details can be just the right touch.

    4. Give It Some Edge

    Introduce rectangular and square plates or other décor elements to add unexpected, modern angles to a familiar setup.

    5. Layer It On 

    No one says you need to drench your tables in bright color if you don't want to—there are other ways to jazz up a traditional round table and neutral color scheme. If you're going for a clean and classic look, bring in some texture through patterns like damask, florals or stripes in a crisp ivory or eggshell.

  3. Square and Rectangular Tables

    Outdoor reception tables
    photo by Gayle Brooker

    Square and shorter rectangular tables can work wonders on a party space that's not super well defined—maybe your wedding is on a lawn or patio, or under a tent at a vineyard. Establishing borders creates a sense of place, and square tables usually do the trick. You don't have to line them up like you might with banquet tables—the beauty of working with squares is the freedom to arrange them in different angles for a dynamic reception space.

    1. Add Formality 

    Just as you don't want to overcrowd your tabletops, the reverse isn't always great either: Exposing surfaces can set a casual tone if you're not careful. The main culprit? A too-short tablecloth. Drape floor-length linens over your square tables to instantly dress up your space.

    2. Use an Even Number of Chairs 

    Squares are solid shapes, but they need some symmetry, so place an even number of chairs on all sides. Otherwise you'll be left with awkward, lopsided table arrangements

    3. Round Things Out

    Incorporate round accents to soften the edges. Your options are endless here: Place votives and round chargers on the tables—consider wood slabs and coasters for a rustic theme or smooth marble trays for a cool, contemporary feel—and suspend circular or cylindrical lighting from the ceiling.

  4. Find more reception décor ideas and inspiration right here.

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