Jacquie’s tips & tricks: How to decorate a huge reception venue

February 15, 2022Lauren Windle

Once you have booked us and your wedding reception venue, it’s normal to feel a little overwhelmed with planning details – especially if your chosen venue is large.

If it’s a great hall with tall ceilings or a barn with high, exposed rafters, decorating the huge space for your reception is going to take some special planning. Large open spaces can feel cold and uninviting as your guests walk in – which is the last thing you want.

Here’s how to make guests feel welcome, relaxed and admire the surroundings in a huge space so they can look forward to the rest of the day:

  • Begin by walking the venue with your phone, taking pictures of the walls, windows, rafters, ceilings, hanging lights, and any other areas of interest.
  • Pay attention to wide open spaces. You’re going to want to cozy those spaces up.
  • Locate and map outlets.
  • Bring along a measuring tape. Measure space between hanging lighting and tabletops (standard table height is about 30”).
  • Notice window shapes and existing draperies. What is on either side of main entranceway?
  • Locate natural focal points such as columns, fireplaces, bars, existing staging, and the like.

Ask the venue manager what additional furniture (and tablecloths) are available for your use. Begin with what is available and rent or add from there. Remember that every table will look more presentable when it’s draped in fabric.

If your venue has high ceilings, a fantastic way to fill table space is using items that will give you plenty of height:

  • Trail long, large floral centerpieces along long tabletops. Don’t make them straight, but gently curve them, to make the tables more intimate.
  • Use tall candles to break up the space.
  • Consider tabletop balloons tied to centerpieces in your bridal colors.
  • Go big with explosive sprays of flowers in the center or tables or in threes
  • Drape exotic greenery down towards tables from overhead hanging lights

Creative lighting is your friend as it opens (and warms up) spaces. Play with tall ceiling space by visually lowering the ceilings using string lights:

  • Loop or drape white string lights over rafters
  • Hang taught string lighting back and forth 6 to 8 feet over tabletops (high enough so they won’t get bumped into as guests stand)
  • Drop long strands of lights from ceiling over center of tables, ending about 12” from tabletops.
  • Repeat your lighting theme behind the bar, over the dance floor, and around the cake-cutting area.

Use varied-height (draped) tables in corners and around featured areas:

  • Groups of three tables (or elevated covered boxes) can highlight either side of entrances, creating special areas for wedding gifts, desserts, parting thank you gifts, or framed special photos.
  • Flowers, potted plants and greenery are great ways to cozy up dark corners and bring in sides of a very large room.

Invite your catering manager to weigh in on traffic flow, table placement, food stations, bar area, cake cutting and serving station, and doors from which food will be brought in and served. Traffic flow is often overlooked when planning – but hugely important to the success of your event.

Once you have your décor and traffic flow figured out, factor in safety. It’s easier than you think to overload outlets. Make sure you respect your venue guidelines in this regard. Also, be sure guests won’t trip over cords (think of your senior guests) or get tangled or hit in the head (think of your tall guests) by your décor.

At Jacquie’s Catering, we know events inside and out. Ask us for ideas on venues, décor and staging as well as your food. We have lots of ideas!

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