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Heather Rouffe

What You Need to Know About Designing Event Tabletops

This event rental pro shares tips for designing tabletops that aren't over the top but just right for the client.

Tabletops serve as one of the main focal points of an event, with limitless opportunities for design and decor. Although tabletops start out as a blank slate, it can be quite fun to adorn an empty table and create an unforgettable layout that will take a client’s breath away.

With that said, there is a lot to consider when designing tabletops. It’s not as simple as throwing on a linen and scattering flower petals around. You need to consider your client’s preferred style and budget, as well as everything that needs to be on the table—floral arrangements, menus, glassware, bread baskets, table numbers, and the like. All of these elements must work together to create a cohesive design.

Here are a few considerations to keep in mind when creating table designs for your clients:

There is such a thing as too much.
As with other design aspects, sometimes less is more. It’s easy to source countless items that your client likes, but that doesn’t guarantee that they all fit together. Keep the design streamlined by factoring in all the necessary pieces and opting for similarly themed elements. The goal is to ensure all of the pieces blend together, rather than giving off a look that can overstimulate the senses.

You can mix and match.
Rest assured that you can still mix and match colors and patterns without coming across as over the top. It’s always good to have someone with an eye for design confirm that the pieces you’re combining work together as opposed to against one another. Consider the overall vibe you are looking to achieve and ask yourself if your design fits in with that. Keep the floorplan in mind, with care to spread out design aspects to avoid overwhelming one area of the space. Photo below by Just to Please You.

Event tabletop design

Use trends wisely.There’s nothing wrong with following the trends on Pinterest and Instagram, but do so within reason. Of course, you want to adhere to your client’s wishes. However, you’d do well aligning decor pieces to the venue style. For example, rustic farm tables won’t necessarily fit in at a modern museum setting. You need to have a good feel for the event space in order to find the right balance with the design.

Some styles, on the other hand, are versatile and can fit into any setting. One trend we’ve had our eye on is the use of thinner napkins to create fun folds, like knots or origami shapes. Oftentimes, it’s the little things that bring your table to life.

Manage client expectations.
Social media is a great source of inspiration for our clients, and we highly recommend it for gathering ideas. However, it’s important to do so with clear expectations that consider the limitations of the client’s budget and the venue. It can be hard to meet the high expectations of an elaborately curated styled shoot on a tight budget. Not everything will look exactly like that Pinterest photo, which can upset some people.

Instead, pick out notable colors and features from the images they love and ensure them that you can create an original design that embraces their favorite elements. Be prepared to show them other ideas that will work more effectively given their constraints, and explain why you think the alternative is a better idea. Photo below by Vitalic Photo.

Event tabletop design

Communicate with the event team often.
A lot of factors go into a design scheme, including your client’s budget and vision, as well as the parameters placed by the venue and the caterer. It helps to have a collaborative floorplan that lays out the positioning of tables and other items in the room, so you can visualize the event space and determine the best placement of linen colors and patterns. Work closely with the other vendors to ensure that you’re not stepping on any toes and that everyone’s work will come together on the event day.

Don’t forget the other tables.
Sometimes, clients can get so caught up in the guest tables that they forget to think about the design for buffet stations, cake tables, gift tables, bars and other key tabletops. This is where that floorplan can really come in handy to ensure that all the furniture is accounted for in terms of design. Be cautious of overdoing the design elements in any one area; spread the decor features throughout the space for an even and eye-catching aesthetic. Photo below by Just to Please You.

Tables at special event

Gather fresh inspiration.
Think outside of the box when you’re looking for new inspiration sources. Pinterest is a lovely tool, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg. Instead of sticking to wedding-inspired boards, branch out to fashion and interior design for a look at trendy colors, patterns and textures. Take an afternoon to window-shop at the mall, or grab a copy of your favorite home-decor store’s catalogue. You can learn a lot from these other design industries that can translate well to an event space!

The key to designing a truly breathtaking tabletop comes down to finding the right balance of decor elements to make a statement without going overboard. All you need to elevate your look is updated linens, luscious blooms, statement centerpieces and cohesive place settings. Once you’ve made sure they all blend together, you’ve got yourself a winning tablescape.

Heather Rouffe is the director of sales and partner of Atlas Event Rental, a full-service event rental industry serving the Southern Florida market for more than 30 years. RNamed one of the 30 top rental companies by Special Events magazine, Boynton Beach, Fla.-based Atlas works to provide top quality merchandise and unparalleled customer service to every client.

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