20 Ways to Transform Your Reception Space

Just because your reception space is a rented hotel ballroom or a plain white tent doesn't mean you can't revamp it and make it totally your own. In fact, whether you want to give your venue a minor face-lift or put it through major rehab, you can make your reception look like none other -- just start with these 20 ideas.
by Vi An Nguyen
  1. Hang Extra Lights

    photo by Aaron Delesie
    Lots of chandeliers, lanterns or cafe lights hanging from above can change the atmosphere of a space from feeling empty to intimate -- especially if your venue has lofty ceilings.

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  2. Bring the Outdoors In

    photo by Roey Yohai Photography / The Knot
    Work with your florist to bring in small trees to break up the dinner tables, or even wrap a pergola with vines and greenery to make your head table stand out.

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  3. Light Up the Room

    photo by Gruber Photographers / The Knot
    One of the most effective ways to instantly make over a space is with gorgeous allover lighting. Expert planners love amber or pink uplights -- the warm glow is inviting and can make even the simplest room feel chic and stylish. Plus, this kind of light is super-flattering for all skin tones.

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  4. Focus on the Details

    photo by Binaryflips Photography / The Knot
    Once the room itself is lit, highlight a few spots within your reception with smaller lights to bring even more drama. For example, shine a monogram gobo light on the wall behind your sweetheart table, or aim pinspots at the cake table, escort card table and guest book display.

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  5. Drape the Room

    photo by Allan Zepeda Photography / The Knot
    If your reception venue has wallpaper or paint that will clash with your wedding decor (or even if it doesn't!), you can create another world within the room with draping. Choose a fabric that matches your wedding colors, or pick white for a clean, classic look. Bonus tip: Draping just the ceiling can also make the space feel totally different, and it's cheaper than covering the entire room.

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  6. Choose Bright Linens

    photo by Marni Rothschild Pictures / The Knot
    Skip the standard white linens and choose tablecloths, runners and napkins in bolder hues to give your tables eye-catching blocks of color.

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  7. Divvy Up the Space

    photo by Hugh Forte Photography / The Knot
    If your venue is a large ballroom or loft, consider staying away from the typical round tables and dance floor arrangement. Instead, set up a lounge area, outdoor seating and a zone of cocktail tables (these can be separated with draping), which will make the space seem cozier (and completely different).

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  8. Accent With Some Sparkle

    photo by Domino Arts Photography / The Knot
    Turn a drab space into a fabulous one with a little shine. Crystal curtains hanging along the walls, dangling from centerpieces or scattered on the dinner tables can give a plain space a fresh look. Or go the metallic route and deck out the tables with polished silver or gold vases and candlesticks.

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  9. Repeat Decor Elements

    photo by Kristen Beinke Photography / The Knot
    There's strength in numbers, and that goes for decor too. Any piece of decoration, like these antique frames, has more visual impact when shown off en masse.

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  10. Create Vignettes

    photo by Jasmine Star / The Knot
    Borrowed from the world of interior design, a few stylish vignettes (grouped decor displays) can bring serious personality to your reception. For example, set up your guest book table with a few floral arrangements, framed photos and family mementos, or display pieces of antique furniture topped with vintage props.

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  11. Embrace a Theme

    photo by Red Gallery Photography / The Knot
    If you really want to turn your venue into another world, choose a strong theme and carry it through all of your reception decor. For example, go all out with a Western motif, complete with horseshoes, rustic wood elements and woodsy colors. For an Asian-inspired style, hang red lanterns, use gold decor accents and pick tall, exotic flowers. Or even embrace a fall theme, with autumn hues and lots of fall foliage.

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  12. Mix Up the Dinner Tables

    photo by Wedding Photojournalism by Rodney Bailey / The Knot
    Round tables are classic, but you can totally change the flow of your reception by playing with the shape of your tables. For example, mix round and square tables for an eclectic look, or choose all long banquet tables for an intimate family feel.

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  13. Bring in Candles (Lots of Them!)

    photo by Olivia Leigh Photographie / The Knot
    Add more votives than you think you’ll need and fill the room with candles -- we’re talking hundreds of pillar candles, luminaries and tea lights mixed together for an enveloping, flickering glow.

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  14. Hang Chandeliers

    photo by Chris Bailey Photography / The Knot
    Whether they’re modern wrought-iron chandeliers, antique crystal ones or chandeliers wrapped in greenery, ballroom-appropriate lights hung over each dinner table make for an elegant ambience.

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  15. Vary the Centerpieces

    photo by Brian Dorsey Studios / The Knot
    When it comes to flowers, variety is the key to a wow-worthy look, so work with your florist to make a mix of tall and low centerpieces.

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  16. Jazz Up Your Glassware

    photo by lunaphoto / The Knot
    Instead of clear glassware, an unusual shade like black, red or cobalt will add instant personality to your table settings. Plus, the little splashes of color throughout the room can have a big impact.

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  17. Rent Unexpected Chairs

    photo by Riverbend Studios / The Knot
    Chiavari chairs are a wedding staple, so choose something more unexpected for a new look. Rows and rows of eye-catching seats, like brightly colored vintage chairs or clear ghost chairs, can completely change the style of a space.

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  18. Hang a Backdrop

    photo by Indigo Foto / The Knot
    A big and bold custom party backdrop featuring your monogram, a big panel of fabric that matches your wedding style or even a faux wall filled with candles can provide your reception with a fun focal point. Bonus: One of these can double as a background for your photo booth.

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  19. Wrap the Columns

    photo by Blonde Tulip Photography / The Knot
    Transform your venue's columns or tent poles from annoying distractions into artful decor by wrapping them in strings of lights, greenery or colorful fabric.

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  20. Hang Unexpected Decor

    photo by Randy and April Wedding Photography / The Knot

    You can hang more than just chandeliers and lanterns from the ceiling -- try strings of flowers, paper cranes or colorful ribbons.

    Special thanks to Diana Gardner of Alohana Weddings; Joni Scalzo of Your Special Day by Joni; Tamara Cohen of TC Event Design; Michelle Neff of Dreaming Tree Events; Karine France-Matsumoto of Seasons of Life Events; Erica Kates of Ambiance Chic Wedding Designs; and Sandy Walker of In Awe Weddings and Events

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