24 Wedding Reception Decoration Ideas That'll Wow Your Guests

These small details will make a huge impact.
sarah hanlon associate editor the knot
by Sarah Hanlon
sarah hanlon associate editor the knot
Sarah Hanlon
Associate Editor
  • Sarah is an Associate Digital Editor for The Knot, with special focuses in fashion, pop culture and wedding trends.
  • Before joining The Knot Worldwide, Sarah was a contributing writer for Bravo at NBC Universal.
  • Sarah has a degree in journalism and resides in New York City.
Updated Jan 12, 2021

Choosing the perfect wedding decorations for your reception can feel like a never-ending task. The right decor will enhance your venue and carry out your wedding theme. But with plenty of wedding decoration ideas to browse online, it can be hard to narrow down the best for your style. If you're not sure how to decide, we're here to help.

Before you start buying and renting wedding reception decorations, consult your venue contract first to see if there are any guidelines in place about what you can supply on your own. For example, a museum or any other historic wedding venue might not allow decorations that alter the property (like nails for signage or hanging light fixtures). Or, if you're getting married at home in your backyard, survey the space first to see what decor ideas are realistic, especially if you're in a remote location.

To get your creative ideas flowing, start by taking The Knot's Wedding Style Quiz to identify a theme for your big day. Then, when you're ready to start planning, browse our roundup of wedding decoration ideas below. Whether you're searching for seating ideas, unique centerpieces or DIY lighting hacks, we've done the work for you by finding inspiration for every wedding style and budget. Once you've gathered enough reception ideas, work with your team of vendors to bring your wedding day vision to life.

Hang String Lights

Create a romantic ambiance with string lights hung from the ceilings of your reception space. Or, if you're hosting an outdoor wedding, weave lights through trees and branches for a whimsical vibe. Creative lighting is one of the biggest wedding trends for 2021, so it's one wedding decoration idea not to overlook. String lights, along with votive candles, neon signs or tea lights, can create a welcoming visual aesthetic that'll transform your space. Rent hanging lights from a local vendor, or invest in affordable sets from a local hardware store to make it a DIY project. Lighting is a key detail that'll accent your reception venue—and of all the best wedding decor ideas, it's one of our favorites.

Simplify the Centerpieces

When it comes to wedding decoration ideas, less can be more. Table centerpieces are an important component of your reception, but they can be overpowering if they're not proportional to the space. Guests like to mingle at their tables, so towering arrangements might be distracting. Simple wedding table decorations can make just as much of a statement. Minimalist floral clusters, delicate vases, candles and table runners can all serve as impactful centerpieces. When planning your wedding reception decorations, be mindful of your space and how your centerpieces can complement it.

Create a Lounge Seating Area

Give your guests plenty of seating options with a cozy lounge area. Mismatched seating is an up-and-coming wedding trend that's easily attainable at your reception. Some rental companies may offer lounge chairs, chaises or couches to enhance your reception space. (Your venue might also have alternative furniture available to use as decoration.) Upgrade the space with thoughtful accents like throw blankets, printed pillows and textured poufs to invite guests to sit together when they're not dancing. Think of your lounge area as an extension of your wedding theme. Search for furniture and accents that match your wedding color palette to make it look polished and intentional.

Plan a Greenery Wall

Statement florals will be everywhere in 2021. If you're looking for a standout wedding decoration idea, consider a greenery wall. A cluster of greens will bring fresh life into your reception space, and it can serve as a unique photo backdrop too. Leave your wall as is, or dress it up with a custom neon sign or string lights around the outer edge. If you're looking for functionality, a greenery wall can work anywhere in your wedding venue—use it behind the altar as a ceremony backdrop, then transfer it to your reception venue to get as much usage as possible.

Drape the Ceilings

Don't underestimate the power of fabric. Draped ceilings can add a hint of glamorous opulence to your venue. (For a rustic finish, string lights above the fabric to cast a soft glow over the space.) Keep it formal with white drapes, or experiment with colored material for an avant-garde look. Draped ceilings will be an attention-grabber, so keep the rest of your reception decor minimal to avoid overpowering the space.

Hang Biodegradable Paper Lanterns

To make your wedding reception feel like a fairytale, hang eco-friendly biodegradable paper lanterns throughout the space. Like string lights and candles, paper lanterns will cast a soft, inviting glow. With some careful planning, your space will feel like a scene from a movie with these dreamy light fixtures.

Arrange an Escort Card Display

You'll need a way to inform guests where their seats are, so forgo a simple place card table and create a memorable escort card display instead. Guests will see the display immediately as they arrive at the reception, so it's a prime opportunity to wow them with your creativity. You can arrange a fun, interactive experience with minimal work. Food is a no-fail way to please guests, so offer a bite-sized appetizer or beverage with their table number. For an aesthetically pleasing option, stick table numbers on a greenery wall or floral fixture. (When the place cards are gone, it'll still serve as a piece of decoration.) Brainstorm ways to incorporate your wedding theme into your escort card display, because your thoughtful attention to detail will resonate with guests.

Turn a Custom Cocktail Recipe into Decor

Custom cocktails are a creative way to personalize your reception. What better way to show off your personality than by serving your go-to beverage? If you are planning to offer custom drinks, use a piece of art to display the beverages of choice. Work with your stationer or a local artist (or a talented family member) to illustrate your cocktail, along with its ingredients so guests know exactly what they're sipping.

Use Your Cake as Art

Wedding cake is more than just a dessert. In 2021, couples are turning their cake into decor with thoughtful designs and hand-painted accents. If you're searching for simple wedding decoration ideas, work with your caterer or pastry chef on a cake design that doubles as art. It'll serve as decoration from the moment guests arrive until you and your S.O. cut the first piece together.

Accessorize the Sweetheart Table

While you and your spouse can sit at the head of a table for dinner, it's also an option to sit at your own space separate from the wedding party. A sweetheart table is a romantic way for couples to enjoy the reception together (before dancing starts, that is). And, if you're looking for ways to enhance your venue, a sweetheart table can be a focal point for decorations. Arrange the area with flowers, elegant candle holders, statement chairs, a neon sign or rose petals surrounding your seats to bring color and texture to the room.

Hang Your Flowers

Flowers aren't just reserved for your centerpieces. Suspending lush arrangements a few feet above your guests' dinner plates is a unique way to create a more intimate space. Hanging flowers from the ceiling will also add dimension to the room, and it's a special way to transform the venue and make it feel unique to you.

Send a Message with Marquee Letters

If you think you're seeing marquee letters everywhere, you're not alone. Couples are taking signage to a new level with large letters to spell their names or send a message to guests. If you're working with a large reception room, marquee letters will fill the space nicely (especially if they have light bulbs on them). Rent letters from a local vendor to use at your celebration. Arrange them in your initials, your shared last name, or in a welcome message.

Serve Interactive Desserts

Everyone looks forward to dessert, but think outside of the box when it comes to serving sweets. You can create a dessert display that also functions as a piece of wedding reception decoration. Build a donut wall that guests can interact with, or arrange a candy table brimming with colorful treats. A dessert spectacle will impress guests, so be sure to customize the area with signage, personalized napkins and decorations.

Use a Table Runner That Pops

Yes, colorful table runners and chargers can be impactful wedding table decorations. Or, for a bolder accent, go for statement tablecloths instead. Choose a bright color or textured pattern to bring the eyes to the center of the tables. Then, rather than having several big floral centerpieces, space them out in smaller bud vases to bring attention to the colorful accents.

Display a Balloon Arch

Bring youthful flair to your wedding reception with a balloon arch. Put it around your entrance to guide guests in the right direction, or use it elsewhere, like above the bar, around the sweetheart table or as a photobooth backdrop. You can even use it as the wedding arch during your ceremony for a playful touch.

Include Pop Culture References

One of the most creative wedding decoration ideas is to include references from pop culture. Perhaps you and your S.O. are Star Wars fanatics, or maybe you can quote every episode from The Office. If your relationship has been significantly touched by a movie, TV show, song or book, include references in your decor. The options are endless: replace table numbers with names of your favorite movies, create a menu inspired by a TV show or use a cake topper with your favorite song quote. With some creative thinking, you can find a personal way to include pop culture moments that define your relationship.

Pull Seasonal Inspiration for Tablescapes

Those saying "I do" around the holidays have plenty of inspiration to work with from the start. Most holidays are synonymous with certain colors and patterns, which can take the guesswork out of wedding venue decorations. If you want your holiday wedding theme to look tasteful, focus on the tablescapes. Settings and centerpieces can bring your vision to life without looking too overpowering or kitsch. If you're planning a winter wedding, for example, incorporate a luxe ruby and emerald color scheme, or use plaid and burlap accents to fit a Christmas theme.

Incorporate Astrology

Some of the best wedding decoration ideas may be written in the stars. If you're an astrology enthusiast, consider incorporating celestial accents into your wedding reception decorations. Use shapes like stars and moons as table place settings, and lean into rich, dreamy colors like navy, silver, gold and black in your centerpieces and in accents throughout the room.

Lower the Lighting Installations

If you have the ability, lowering lighting installations is an unlikely wedding decoration idea that will create a unique and intimate atmosphere on your big day. Talk to the vendors at your reception venue about lighting possibilities. If you can lower chandeliers and lighting fixtures so they hang just above the tables, the space will be completely transformed to feel modern and moody.

Layer Rugs

For wedding decoration ideas that feel fresh, think from the ground up—literally. Believe it or not, the floor of your reception venue can dramatically impact the overall vibe of the space. For an area that feels cozy and eclectic, layer printed rugs on top of each other at the entrance or in a dedicated lounge area. Rugs that fit your color scheme will carry out the theme in a way that's practical and intentional.

Build a Self-Serve Beverage Wall

Champagne to go? Yes, please. Self-serve drinks may be a newer wedding decor trend, but it's a useful idea that'll keep guests entertained throughout the night. Much like a dessert wall, a beverage wall can be a focal decoration point in your reception venue. It makes it easier for guests to grab a drink while they socialize instead of waiting in a crowded line at a bar. Plus, when paired with other decorative pieces like a balloon arch, floral garlands or a monogram sign, a beverage wall will stand out for all the right reasons.

Use Terrariums as Centerpieces

Not a flower person? There's no need to splurge on floral centerpieces if they don't fit your taste. Create a rustic tablescape with a cluster of succulents and leafy green garlands (like eucalyptus or olive leaves) in an earthy wood basket. Consult your florist to learn about greenery options that can replace traditional floral arrangements.

Mix Shapes on Your Tablescape

Perhaps flower arrangements aren't enough for your ideal table decor setup. If you want tablescapes that wow, incorporate mismatched china shapes to add depth to place settings. Adding an angular plate to a round charger is a simple detail that will make an aesthetically pleasing impact.

Rent Colored Glassware

Instead of spending most of your reception decor budget on centerpieces, consider using part to rent extras like colored glassware—it'll make your reception tables pop with minimal work involved.

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