Photo: Christina McNeill
Designing your reception space can be one of the most intimidating parts of wedding planning. There's a lot to consider — from the height of your centerpiece down to the lettering on your menus. But while these little details are important, they don't necessarily make the biggest impact. According to event designer Jung Lee, founder of Fête, there are some more basic wedding style elements, that when done right, can transform the entire experience. Below, Lee shares five commonly overlooked big-day design tips that make a huge difference.
Use Smaller Reception Tables
"A lot of brides use dinner tables that are too large," says Lee. "I always suggest using a narrow table without too much surface area or a smaller round table when possible." A smaller table not only feels cozier, it also makes decorating easier and gives the final look a more polished feel. "A larger tabletop requires a lot more than just a centerpiece, place settings and glasses to fill up," she explains. "And often that can start to look cluttered (not to mention, be a lot more expensive to decorate!)."
Forgo the Linens
Lee is also a fan of an uncovered table. "The truth is, unless you have very high quality linens, some tablecloths — particularly colored ones — can have a sheen to them that looks cheap, especially in photos," she says. If you want to highlight a certain hue in your setting, Lee suggests maxing out the color with other touches instead. Incorporating your signature shade in menus, glassware, napkins or even ribbons are all good options.
Don't Space Your Tables Too Far Apart
"There's a design rule of thumb when it comes to spacing tables," Lee says. "From table to table, make sure there's no more than six feet of space: two feet per chair and two feet of walking distance in between." She continues: "It's the people that ultimately create the ambiance. If the tables are placed too far apart, the space loses that intimate feel and energy that you want. It can make the room feel empty."
Dim the Lights
"Everyone's lights are way too bright!" laughs Lee. "Dim the lights more than you think and use candles. The candles in the room will make the area a lot brighter than you expect." If you're having an afternoon reception, make sure to close all the drapes. "It doesn't matter what it's like outside — you want to control the mood indoors and make sure that it feels warm and inviting. A change in lighting can mean the difference between having a packed danced floor and guests standing around feeling unsure."
Don't Forget the Bar
"The bar is an often overlooked area," says Lee. "But if you think about it, it's the first place most guests go!" Don't forget to give the bar the same attention you do the tables — some strategic candle placement and a floral arrangement can make a big difference in the feel of the space. But even if designing the bar isn't in your budget, Lee offers an important piece of advice. "Ask your bartenders to arrange all the glasses in height order," she says. "The taller, highball glasses and wine glasses should be in the back [closest to the bartender] while the shorter Old Fashioned glasses should be up front towards the guest." This simple design trick instantly elevates and streamlines the look of the space. As an added bonus, the light reflecting off the glasses makes the whole area sparkle and glisten.