15 (Easy!) Ways to Decorate Your Wedding Reception

Style your soiree with these fresh ideas.

Whether your historic wedding venue won't let you bring in a big installation, or you just want to keep the décor to a minimum, we have 15 totally doable ideas to turn your reception space into a celebration that's all you.

  1. 1. Drape the Ceilings

    Rustic barn wedding reception space with draped white fabric decor
    Photo by onelove photography

    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

    Lounge area with antique furniture and patterned pillows
    Photo by Meg Smith Photography

    If you have a lounge area in your reception space (or made one with some rental furniture), get yourselves 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.

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

  3. 3. Create an Escort Card Display

    Preppy escort card display with paper flowers and blue calligraphy
    Photo by Meaghan Elliott Photography

    Instead of the old escort card table idea, create a bulletin 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. 4. Hang Your Flowers

    Suspended floral arrangements in a barn wedding reception
    Photo by Rebekah Murray Photography

    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!)

    From A Murray Hill Wedding in Leesburg, Virginia

  5. 5. Make Chalkboard Signage

    Elegant chalkboard sign displaying romantic quote
    Photo by Harwell Photography

    Chalkboards in a photo booth are pure fun—but they're also 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!

    From An Elegant Tented Wedding at Pebble Hill Plantation in Thomasville, Georgia

  6. 6. Use Table Lamps

    Glamorous wedding reception with modern lamp centerpieces
    Photo by Ira Lippke Studios

    Create height on those 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

  7. 7. Add a Sprig of Herbs

    Sage and bread place setting with spring of herbs
    Photo by Troy Grover Photographers

    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

  8. 8. Rent Colored Glassware

    Blue colored glassware at an outdoor wedding reception
    Photo by Anna Kuperberg

    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.

    From A Country-Chic Wedding in Sonoma, California

  9. 9. Order Calligraphed Menus

    Calligraphed wedding reception menus
    Photo by Ned Jackson Photography

    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. 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

  10. 10. Use a Table Runner That Pops

    White and blue patterned table running with tall taper candles
    Photo by Hudson Nichols Photography

    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.

    From A Buena Vista Farms Wedding in New Castle, Delaware

  11. 11. Reshape Your Table Numbers

    Uno table numbers at tented wedding reception
    Photo by Jen Fariello Photography

    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.

    From A Fiesta-Style Wedding in Scottsville, Virginia

  12. 12. Make a Family Photo Wall

    Family photo wall at outdoor wedding reception
    Photo by Pure 7 Studios

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

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

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

    Tented wedding reception with white and yellow paper lanterns
    Photo by Armor and Martel Photography

    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.

    From A Classic Garden Wedding in Newport, Rhode Island

  14. 14. Mood Lighting En Masse

    Dramatic wedding reception with tall taper candles
    Photo by Glen Allsop / Christian Oth Studio

    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.

  15. 15. Photo Backdrops

    Photo by Sarah McKenzie Photography

    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 tassles, balloons, garlands of greenery or paper flowers.

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

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