Long tables with family style service have become very popular for wedding receptions. The idea behind this style of dinner is to create a relaxed convivial atmosphere that encourages conversation and good times. It is not enough to swap out long tables for round ones, though; you also need to set the table to encourage this friendly flow of conversation. These are some suggestions on centerpieces for family style wedding receptions.
The tall formal floral arrangements which are often seen on traditional round reception tables simply do not work for long family style tables. Not only are they too stuffy for the laid back atmosphere of a family style dinner, but their tall height blocks the view of the people across the table, hindering the flow of conversation. The number one rule of designing centerpieces for long tables is to keep them low. Your guests should be able to chat without craning their necks to see around the centerpieces.
If you opt for tall elements like candelabras, choose ones with narrow bases and open designs that will not create a wall between the two sides of the table, and set them in the spaces between place settings to keep the line of vision clear. You can then fill in the spaces between the candelabras with low floral arrangements. Rustic iron candelabras would be wonderful for a vineyard wedding with rectangular tables. For a more airy look, create groups of clear glass candle holders with very tall stems in several heights. Float ivory candles in them to add the soft romantic glow of candlelight to your family style reception, and will cast a flattering light on your guests in their lovely wedding attire and pearl earrings.
Flowers are very popular for centerpieces. A great effect for long family style tables is to use a series of small low centerpieces down the length of the table, rather than a few larger arrangements set far apart. It also makes it easier to pass dishes across the table, if need be. A mixture of flower colors and textures suits the relaxed character of family style service. Choose flowers based on the season, the location of your wedding, and of course your personal taste. If you are a bride who loves the timeless look of pearl earrings and lace, clusters of white garden roses, pink peonies, and yellow sweet peas tumbling over the sides of vintage white hobnail vases and bowls would be lovely. Loose arrangements will lend a "fresh from the garden" feeling to the centerpieces.
Less usual natural elements like succulents, river rocks, and desert flowers (just no prickly cactus plants, please!) would be a fresh contemporary approach to decorating long reception tables. Set the table with white linens and place a runner in down the center to help unify the various decorative elements. The runner could be in a natural color like wheat, or contrast with the understated decorations by choosing a runner in a vivid hue such as hot pink or orange. This would be a fantastic tablescape for a reception in a field or a venue with clean lines like a city loft.
When decorating your family style reception tables, do not overlook the design possibilities of fruit and vegetables. For a classic autumnal celebration, set hollowed out gourds, mini pumpkins, and eggplants down the middle of rectangular tables. Fill them with seasonal flowers in shades of red, purple, orange, and cream. A fun idea for a summer reception would be to set low footed bowls filled with lemons and limes down the length of the tables. Between the bowls of fruit, layer in very low arrangements of hot pink gerbera daisies, lime green kermit mums, and a scattering of small white blossoms (to break up the intense color palette just a bit). The final effect of your centerpieces will be inviting, festive, and absolutely perfect for a fun family style wedding reception.