From Tables to Ceiling, Flowers to Paper

We approached a reception decor plan much the way we approached our ceremony decor plan. The reception would take place across the street from the ceremony in a tented area that leads out onto the Sound. We were dealing with a standard white tent, and wanted to incorporate three big things: color, pattern, and personal touches. We’d keep costs down by reusing elements from the ceremony and making as many of the elements ourselves that we could.

I knew from the start that I wanted patterned tablecloths, and found out two things very quickly: local rental companies didn’t offer patterns, and pre-made tablecloths for sale weren’t available in appropriate colors or patterns. In other words, we were going to have to buy fabric and make the tablecloths ourselves. Searching for the right fabric – the right color, the right patterns, all at the right price – was extremely challenging. To increase the pressure, almost every decision about reception decor was contingent on the fabric decision. We searched long and hard for almost two months before making our final selections. (Nothing went to waste – a fabric we decided against for the tables after seeing it in person became our aisle runner!) Here are the final fabrics, both from Premier Prints:


The reception tables were 60-inch rounds, so we hired a family friend to make 84-inch square tablecloths (half in the red print, half in blue) to provide a 12-inch drop all the way around the table. Each tablecloth was stitched in three pieces, with the pattern lined up so precisely you couldn’t even see a seam. Having such strong linens on the tables allowed us to use the vendor’s white underlays without sacrificing color, which helped cut down on costs.

Once we made the fabric decision, it was time to call in our floral/event design guru Renee Landry to help us plan out the rest of the space. I was inspired by tablescapes that featured separate clusters of matching flowers, grouped together in varying sizes. I was also inspired by pomanders, and was committed to reusing them from the ceremony for our tables. Here are two of my favorite inspiration images, both from Martha:


We decided to use urns to hold the large flower pomanders as table centerpieces and as accents on areas like the bar. The pomander centerpieces would be surrounded by smaller receptacles holding matching flowers, and we decided that the small receptacles should add to our mix-and-match feel by introducing yet more pattern. In order to cut down on costs, we planned on using aluminum cans of various sizes and printing patterned paper ourselves to cover the cans. I got to work creating patterned sheets using the design files that ABCD had given me, while my sister headed up the job of printing the paper and covering the cans. Lots and lots and lots of cans. And did I mention that she was super-pregnant at the time? Go sis! To supplement the look of the cans and centerpieces, my mom decorated white rice paper votive holders with whimsical red and blue designs.

The look coming together (remember our pomanders and wedding wands?):


To get a sense of the scale of this project, I offer this image. My mom lined her steps with the completed votive holders one night. Wow!


We were able to save some money by using the same tent as the wedding the night before ours, but renting a tent liner was still too cost-prohibitive, as much as I loved the look. The goal, then, became to liven up the ceiling with concentrated color. We decided to cluster paper lanterns down the middle of each tent: circles of blue, red, and multi-color pattern, and a few star lanterns thrown in for good measure. We also included white chandeliers and flowy white swags to draw the eye toward the center of the tents.

The area of reception decor that I spent the most time working on (while my family members were busy creating fabric pomanders and flower cans) were the paper elements. Using the design files from our stationery suite, I buried myself in graphic design and paper, creating escort cards and table signs for the reception, in addition to a few other signs and our Welcome Bag goodies. For the escort cards, I used the swirl design from our invitation to frame each guest’s name and table assignment. Attached to each card was a campaign button with our logo (I loved those campaign buttons!). We named each table after a political figure, and assigned the guests based on some loose themes, which was a lot of fun. Making the table signs was a treat; I included some basic trivia about each figure, but also threw in an inside joke or two on the table description. Plus, how often do you get to Photoshop Thomas Jefferson’s head?

The last space we dressed up was the pier leading out the gazebo on the sound. We lined the walk with paper lanterns, and my mom took the lead on spray painting tiny lanterns that we’d already used for two other family weddings in red and blue. Hanging from the ceiling of the gazebo, the effect of the lanterns was amazing. (She also took her spray paint can to an antique birdcage we used as a card box, which was adorable.)

We put so much work into pulling this reception off that it’s hard to skimp on the descriptions of how it was done. But finally… on to the pictures!

(All photos by Beach Productions)


paper lanterns in tent

campaign theme place card

blue and red centerpieces with pomanders and covered tin can centerpieces

red bouquet

campaign theme table numbers

bride and groom chair signs

pomander centerpieces

diy votive holders

diy votive holders

red and blue pomander centerpieces

diy votive holders

campaign theme wedding tent decor

blue and red tablescape wedding centerpiece

diy wedding cardbox


lanterns hung from barn roof

lanterns hung from barn roof

lanterns hung from barn roof

Later today: Party time!