Whether it’s a summer celebration on the beach or a sophisticated backyard affair, some of the wedding industry’s elite give insight into elegant tablescape ideas that guarantee a seasonal event set to impress.
Providing both comfort and luxury, furniture is the perfect addition to any al fresco event. Christina Millikin, owner of , suggests creating a sophisticated dining experience by using furniture that complements the surrounding outdoor elements. “Don't try to fight the aesthetic of the venue," she says. "Working with the existing environment will make your design look authentic and intentional."
A chic and stylish way to integrate playful elegance into your summer setup is to utilize an assortment of vibrant glassware. Lyndsey Hamilton, creative director at , recommends this for adding flair to any bar or tablescape. “I love antique colored glasses for the perfect summer cocktail," she says. "Go bold!”
No stranger to ethereal elements, Aleah and Nick Valley, founders of , suggest using your tablescape as a tasteful balance between comfort and celebration: “Create a decadent base of stunning white with linens and flowers, and bring in color with pops on cocktail napkins, table runners, or draping in a tent and greenery.” Soft hues like sky blue, pale taupe, and buttery yellow, can be added to conjure an authentic summer feel.
One of the most elegant ways to add both flair and sophistication to any table setup is with exceptional flatware. Whether antique or modern, a range of styles and colors can make classic forks, knives, and spoons a showstopper in design. Ashley Sawtelle, owner of , advocates the use of gold when finalizing flatware styles. “Nothing makes a table standout more—or complements surrounding color palettes—than gold," says Sawtelle. "You can’t go wrong with this timeless choice."
A relaxed, yet playful way to put a twist on an outdoor fete is to create a striking picnic. Laura Ritchie, principal event designer at , advises this layout with the inclusion of china and trays for easy eating. "A picnic reception takes the guesswork out of creating a memorable event for guests," she says. "Reverting back to childhood summers with fresh fruit, bite-size treats and toes in the grass makes for a soiree that's casual but chic."
Calder Clark, owner and creative director of , balances the savory layers of a first course with the floral pattern of summer linens to add engaging contrast to a cheerful display. “Play with pattern in the linen, the florals, and even the food," she suggests. "Here, we layered delicate bites to create a refreshing first course.”
Carry your vision throughout the entirety of your venue by utilizing the space above and around the table itself. Jenny Schneider, owner of , showcases this idea with a setup that goes beyond the traditional tablescape. “Add lights, garlands, and even a chandelier when expanding beyond the décor of your tabletop," Schneider suggests.
From a delicate flower to a calligraphed name card, details sprinkled throughout your display can make a major impact on your guests. Lindsay Jani, owner of , agrees that: "the tiniest, personalized touches often have the most memorable and biggest impact.”
With flowers serving as the traditional choice for an elaborate presentation, Virginia Edelson, founder of , encourages the use of a lush garland to ornament a classic summer table. “We work on layers of texture with our florist and tabletop vendors to make sure there is plenty of depth and dimension," she says.
Jacin Fitzgerald, owner of , is putting good use to all of your rarely-used tableware. Even when hosting an al fresco affair, incorporating this touch of formality can add loads of elegance. “Use that fun china you've been storing away and make this your special occasion by bringing out the good stuff!" she says.
Much like extending your design concept above—and around—your tablescape, the same idea can be applied to nearby seating. Kathleen Deery, owner of , used Italian ruscus to embellish a bride and groom’s chairs while tying in with the overall theme of the space. “Hints of ruscus were noted as an accent to the seasonal peonies in the table centerpieces," she recalls.
Both decorative and resourceful, lanterns are the perfect summer prop. “Lanterns are classic, and when paired with a seasonal floral arrangement, it's a match made in summer heaven," suggests Dawn Goldsmith, owner and creative director of .
Leslie Mastin, president of , achieves an varying depths by using an array of materials. “A curated collection of hard goods, receptacles, and flowers help to build a layered and multidimensional look,” Mastin says. Other materials such as wooden boxes, delicate vases, and intricate textiles can also enhance the table display.
Extending your creative vision beyond chargers and flatware adds a compelling quality to your overall theme. Francie Dorman and Britt Cole, co-founders of , encourage classic details and inviting colors for paper goods, like “visually illustrating a summery scene on each personalized menu, welcome note or escort card as a special touch that your guests will treasure.”
Go the extra mile in execution by organizing a menu full of alluring courses. Kelly Leonard, owner and lead producer for encourages focusing on fresh seasonal items that help translate your table’s theme. “Along with small plated courses, placing charcuterie boards down the table is one sure way to leave all of your guests satisfied," she explains.
Brandi Reiland, creative director and owner of , uses layers to create a softer look. “Pairing fabrics like linen, or lighter-toned velvet, with earthy items such as slate, stone, wood, fruit or mixed metals, can make for an interesting and vibrant presentation," Reiland says.
Place cards are great ways to showcase an equal balance of personality and style. For a garden dinner, Sara Fay Egan, owner of , used small calligraphed terracotta pots in replace of traditional name cards. “The mini pots also doubled as each guest’s party favor," she says.
Brianna Sumey, director of sales at , is all about embracing overgrown, wild nature. Incorporating this signature mark of the season can be easily translated into a lofty, statement-making canopy. “A floral canopy over the head table lends a feeling of composed nature and elegance," says Sumey.
Using unconventional materials to spice up your centerpieces not only connects your menu to the overall design of your table, but creates a topic of conversation among guests. Whether using fruits, candles, or other fanciful props, Jill Remy, owner of , advises “using organic and edible elements in your centerpieces,” ensuring a guaranteed way to go beyond the expected in table presentation.
The frontrunner in a summer tablescape setup, flowers are an inviting way to bring a sense of familiarity and elegance to elements of your display. Melissa Porter, managing partner and wedding planner at wants to remind couples to bring their attention to other elements when finalizing their concept. “A beautiful charger, hemstitch napkin, curated menu, or place card can really enhance a summer table," she advises.
After taking the time to plan an elaborate display, no one strives for a look of an empty place setting. “A bold charger can both fill the void and add a touch of gilded glamour to any tabletop," says Kate Whelan, owner at , who opts for a bold showcase of tableware to avoid unnecessary subtleties.
With a seasonal abundance of vibrant summer blooms, what better way to create a one-of-a-kind centerpiece than with the budding florals from your own garden. Rosemary Hattenbach, owner of , suggests utilizing your choice of charming garden flowers as a detail in your arrangement. “Lively summer blossoms add the perfect pop against a cool and breezy white tablescape," says Hattenbach.
Timeless pairings like blue and white create an inviting display that evokes the feeling of summer. Emily Clarke, creative director and founder of , used this technique to adorn a festive table for a wedding in Mexico, complementing a red tablecloth with an ornate lace overlay. “We added pink and peach florals to bring the perfect softness to the display," she says of the setup.