Decoration ideas for your ceremony and reception venues (Updated for 2020)
Your ceremony and reception sites may already provide some decorations (either included in the package price or available at an extra cost). However, if the choice of decorations is limited or no decorations are available at all, you may want to "spice the place up" a bit before the ceremony begins.
Ideally, you and a few of your wedding helpers would go to the venue the day before with all the needed supplies and decorate the site as you would like. Not all vendors will allow you access to the facilities, however. What you may need to do instead is tour the facility beforehand, discuss what types of decorations you would like to use on your wedding day with both your wedding helpers / planners / coordinators and the ceremony site and, provided your venue will allow you to decorate, either:
- Send a few of your wedding assistants (perhaps even including the groom) to the site the morning of the wedding (they will decorate according the place as you wanted to see it while you are getting your hair and make-up done).
- Better yet, see if the ceremony / reception site or your caterer could decorate the site for you according to your preferences. In this case, all you need to do is to drop off the decorations at the venue a day or two in advance, make sure the person decorating understands the instructions, and check in with the vendor the morning of your wedding day to make sure everything is taken care of.
So, what are some of the typical decorations that you could use at your ceremony and reception venues? Here are a few ideas, and feel free to use our WeddingVenture.com feedback form at the end of the article to add any others things so that others could see those ideas right away - we'll add particularly outstanding ideas to this list.
Use the aisle runner at your ceremony site if one is not already available. For more details on how to choose an aisle runner, see our related aisle runner options article.
Arbor (aka a "Wedding Arch") is a great choice at all weddings - and often a must-have especially for outdoor ceremonies. You can borrow, rent, buy one or even make one yourself (given you have time and desire to do so). If you can borrow one, that is definitely the most affordable option :) Otherwise, between renting and buying an arbor, we at WeddingVenture.com would recommend for you to buy one since the rental price will, in most cases, come up to 60-70% of the purchase price anyway.
In addition, renting means that after the wedding, you would need to rush back to the rental place in order to return the arbor on time. If you do decide to buy an arbor, you can either choose to keep it in your garden, donate it to a friend for their wedding, or sell it and recoup a large part of the initial cost.
Among the arbors and arches we have reviewed in the past, here is one of the wedding arbor ideas we recommend at WeddingVenture.com. It looks great on photographs and is easy to assemble and decorate with flowers, ribbons, draping, etc.
Wedding centerpieces are traditional decorations for the dining tables at your reception. Most often centerpieces are large vases with flowers. You could arrange for these with your reception venue, your florist (provided this is where you are getting the rest of your flowers), or create your own centerpieces and either have your wedding helpers deliver these to the reception site in the morning or arrange for your catering to place these on all the tables when your caterer is setting up for the reception.
To create your own centerpieces, you will need to rent / borrow vases (here is an example of an affordable flower vase that we recommend) and buy a large number of flowers at your local mall / market / grocery store a day or two before the wedding (depending on the quantities needed, you may actually need to order these in advance). We at WeddingVenture.com already wrote about how to select flowers for your wedding.
As an alternative to flower bouquets in the middle of each table, you could choose a more luxurious option: put smaller flower holders with a single flower in front of each guest's seating. This would create a more personal touch, but can be much more expensive (you would need to get a small vase for each of your guests). In addition, some of the guests will be tempted to take their personalized flower with the vase home (so if you are renting the personalized vases, you are unlikely to be able to return all of them to the rental company).
These flower tubes are very elegant, but we say they are ridiculously expensive - if you are indeed seriously considering this option, consider getting them for each member of the wedding party only, as a special token of appreciation, and not for all guests.
Finally, of you are on a very tight budget, another idea is to use helium-filled balloons as centerpieces instead of vases with flowers. All you need is a disposable helium tank and a few packages of balloons (get balloon separately - you probably would want to have gentle purple or white balloons to create the wedding mood), tie downs and weights in your wedding colors. You can then position 3-5 balloons in the middle of each dining table.
Candles can be placed on the dining tables at your reception site; they can light the way to the altar/arbor (place along your aisle runner); or they can be placed throughout the ceremony and reception sites (on the cake table or a bar, for instance) to add a special glow and create romantic atmosphere.
You can use candles extensively in many creative ways as long as you discuss this with your ceremony/reception vendor, and the vendor is fine with this, and the fire code permits this. If you do end up using candles, make sure it will indeed be safe - while certainly unforgettable, starting a huge fire on your wedding day may not be the memory you are looking for to making :)
As already discussed above, you could use balloons to serve as centerpieces. You could also hang balloons throughout the ceremony and reception venue (tie them to chairs and columns, hang them at the ceiling, build a giant heart and place it at the entrance) to create a lighter and more festive mood.
Chair covers at your reception site definitely add a sense of elegance and luxury to the room. If your reception venue provides all the furniture, chances are they also provide chair covers. If not, your best option is to rent chair covers together with the chairs from a local furniture rental business (search among available furniture rental options and request a vendor quote). The most traditional color for chair covers is white. For an even more exquisite look, use tie-back chair covers or use decorative chair sashes and pew bows that match the color of the table linens.
Wedding pew bows, laces, ribbons
Pew bows, laces and ribbons are perfect to use to decorate your wedding arbor, ceremony and reception chairs, staircases, entrances, cake and gift tables, and anywhere else your imagination will allow you. These are also very affordable and can be easily purchased at any party store or online.
Backdrops look great if placed behind the head table where the bride, groom and their bridal party are sitting (especially if that table is rectangular). Many reception venues (and most often ballrooms) will already have magnificent backdrops as part of their decorations. If not, you could optionally create one, but be aware that this would require for you to purchase quite a bit of expensive-looking fabric (and most expensive-looking fabric looks that way because it is indeed expensive :)). You will also need to figure out how to hang it behind the head table in advance (may need to bring in additional equipment).
Draping creates a more dramatic emphasis to the event. Traditional draping has been used to decorate church aisles (in this case, draping serves as both decoration and the barrier that keeps guests from stepping into the aisle blocking the entrance of the bridal party). Draping can also be used to decorate the ceiling at the reception venue (for example, to hang above the dance floor) or as a beautiful separator where needed (e.g., to separate the area where the band is playing from the rest of the room).
Flowers, flowers, flowers!
Last but not least are, of course, flowers. They are certainly expected at every wedding and breathe in a lot of life into any event. In fact, flowers are so important that we at WeddingVenture.com actually dedicated an entire separate article on the choice of flowers. Check it out!