20 (Easy!) Ways to Decorate Your Wedding Reception

Style your soirée with these fresh ideas.
by The Knot

Depending on your venue contract, there might be a few restrictions when it comes to the type of wedding decorations you can bring in or alterations you can make to the space. For example, a museum or historic wedding venue probably won't be okay with altering or damaging their walls in any way (think: using nails to hang signage).

Or maybe minimalism is your style and you're just not into the idea of a ton of décor, but you still want to personalize the celebration. Or you need to stick to a strict budget To save money, purchase items you can realistically use again or resell (we've included some product recommendations to get you started). Buying in bulk also helps—The Knot Wedding Shop is excellent for that. Otherwise, rent whenever possible.

Here are a few wedding decorations that are totally low maintenance, but beautiful and impactful.

(Psst—still trying to figure out what your wedding style actually is? Not to toot our own horn or anything, but The Knot All-In-One Wedding Planner app includes a Style Quiz that's not only fun, but refreshingly accurate. And it does way more than discover your wedding vision—it keeps track of everything from vendor contacts to day-of to-dos, all in one place.)

  1. 1. Drape the Ceilings

    It's amazing what a little fabric can do. Keep it formal and elegant with white fabric, or if you're after a fun vibe, opt for a bright color like yellow. Bonus: Take this approach and you can go light on the table décor and still get the same decked-out reception look.

    From: A Rustic-Glam Barn Wedding at Olympia's Valley Estate in Petaluma, California

  2. 2. Pick Up Patterned Pillows

    If you have a lounge area in your reception space (or made one with some rental furniture), get yourself to a housewares department for some pillows. Find them on sale (IKEA-style) and cover them with your favorite patterned fabric for a few low maintenance pops of festive color and pattern.

    Shop the idea:

    From: An Elegant Barn Wedding at a Private Residence in St. Helena, California

  3. 3. Create an Escort Card Display

    Instead of having an escort card table, create a board of seating assignments and display it near the entrance of the reception space. Bonus: You won't have guests squinting at tiny tented cards, trying to decipher their table number.

    From: A Kate Spade–Inspired Beachside Wedding at Sanderling Resort in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina

  4. Are you into...

    Rustic Weddings
    Rustic Weddings
    Down-to-earth with organic elements and personal touches
    Modern Weddings
    Modern Weddings
    Simple-yet-sophisticated with playful nods and unique accents
  5. 4. Hang Your Flowers

    Think flowers are just for your tables? Think again. Suspending lush arrangements a few feet above your guests' dinner plates is a fun way to create a more intimate space. (This tip is especially handy if you're not so fond of your venue's carpeting—just keep people looking up!)

    Shop the idea:

    From: A Murray Hill Wedding in Leesburg, Virginia

  6. 5. Make Chalkboard Signage

    Chalkboards are a great way to decorate an entrance or jazz up the cocktail bar. Personalize it by thrifting an old frame and spray-painting it to match the rest of your décor. Drape with greenery or a flower garland and chalk away!

    Shop the idea:

    From: A Tented Wedding in Georgia

  7. 6. Use Table Lamps

    Create height on your reception tables using table lamps. Tip: You can skip flowers altogether if you want, but surrounding the lamps with flowers or greenery is an easy way to hide cords.

    From: A Modern Garden Wedding in New York, New York

  8. 7. Add a Sprig of Herbs

    Just because you're having a formal wedding doesn't mean you can't have a little fun with your décor. Add herbs like rosemary or lavender for a fragrant touch on the place settings.

    From: A Rustic, Romantic Wedding at Shady Canyon Golf Club in Irvine, California

  9. 8. Rent Colored Glassware

    Instead of pouring your entire reception décor budget into the centerpieces, consider using part of that budget to rent extras like colored glassware—it'll make your tables pop in an instant.

    Shop the idea:

    From: A Country-Chic Wedding in Sonoma, California

  10. 9. Order Calligraphed Menus

    Rather than printing out your escort cards and menus, take the design one step further with calligraphy. There are different scripts for every type of affair, like traditional copperplate for black tie formal or something more free-hand for farm-to-table chic. If your budget doesn't allow for 200 professionally calligraphed place cards, invest in young talent—post the job in your local college's art department and test out a few students for the job.

    From: A Vintage-Style Wedding in Boston, Massachusetts

  11. 10. Use a Table Runner That Pops

    Look for modern table décor inspiration, like this patterned table runner. Rather than having several big floral centerpieces, space them out in smaller bud vases to span the length of the runner (and show off the pattern). This colorful detail will make your rental china pop.

    Shop the idea:

    From: A Buena Vista Farms Wedding in New Castle, Delaware

  12. 11. Reshape Your Table Numbers

    Want something original for your table labels? Think about number presentation. Display your table numbers or names on unique vessels like wine bottles, lanterns, moss topiaries or festive pennant flags.

    Shop the idea:

    From: A Fiesta-Style Wedding in Scottsville, Virginia

  13. 12. Make a Family Photo Wall

    For an easy conversation starter, create a wall of family wedding photos. Devote a row to your partner's family, one to yours or just mix them all up. Alternative idea: Showcase your (new!) family tree.

    Shop the idea:

    From: A Romantic Old-World Wedding in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida

  14. 13. Hang (a Ton of) Paper Lanterns

    We know—paper lanterns are nothing new. But multiply the number of lanterns you usually see hanging in a reception space by 100 and it's a totally different story.

    Shop the idea:

    From: A Classic Garden Wedding in Newport, Rhode Island

  15. 14. Add Terrariums

    Not a flower person? No need to splurge on a bunch of centerpieces. A patch of moss, a romantic terrarium, candles, a few blooms and a succulent or two and you have a perfectly rustic tablescape. 

    Shop the idea:

    From: A Romantic, Vintage Wedding at Carondelet House in Los Angeles, California

  16. 15. Photo Backdrops

    Create a stunning focal point that doubles as a photo backdrop. Layers of different colors and shapes give guests different elements to marvel at. Think about materials that are easily customizable like tissue paper tassels, balloons, garlands of greenery or paper flowers.

    Shop the idea:

    From: A Colorful, Whimsical Wedding at Station 3 in Houston, Texas

  17. 16. Mood Lighting En Masse

    When paired with some dramatic uplighting and luxe fabrics, the addition of tall taper candles turns your space into a magnificent scene of dancing lights.

    Shop the idea:

  18. 17. Hang Tapestries

    If it's too difficult to bring in large installments to decorate your space but you want to add a little flavor to the walls (or cover up some less than ideal wallpaper), look to tapestries. They're easy to transport and require very little setup. 

    From: A Rustic-Glam Barn Wedding at Olympia's Valley Estate in Petaluma, California

  19. 18. Opt for Wood

    If you're choosing between plastic tables and chairs versus wood, go with the natural option. You can still opt for folding chairs for a lower price point, but wood has a way of looking so much more polished.

    From: A Rustic, Vintage Mountain Wedding at Blue Ridge Mountain Club in Blowing Rock, North Carolina

  20. 19. Make Them Look Up

    If you want to save on flower arrangements for the table, add a few elements that will draw guests' eyes upward. A simple garland of greenery or a few hanging lanterns will fill the space and no one will notice smaller centerpieces. 

    Shop the idea:

    From: A Whimsical Spring Wedding at Bonnet House Museum and Gardens in Fort Lauderdale, Florida

  21. 20. Fewer Blooms, More Greenery

    If you're looking to save on the flower budget, let your florist know you're okay with lots of greenery. All you really need are a few fresh blooms to add some color. Eucalyptus, seeded eucalyptus, dusty miller, ferns and lemon leaf are all great options to create lush arrangements.

    From: A Colorful DIY Wedding at the Historic Rice Mill in Charleston, South Carolina

    Not sure where to begin with your wedding planning? Take our Style Quiz and we'll pull together a custom wedding vision and vendors to match, just for you. After that, create a free, personalized wedding website to keep your guests informed (and excited!) about your plans, and a time-saving Guest List Manager to organize your attendees. Even better? You can sync your Guest List Manager and wedding website to update everything at once. 

    Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, some of which may be sponsored by paying vendors.

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