Putting Together a Beautiful Wedding Table on a Budget

Green & Brown Wedding Table Setting

When I was planning our wedding, one of the things that always struck me was the absolutely gorgeous pictures of wedding tables repleat with beautiful center pieces, charming little favors, beautiful place settings and gorgeous linens. After all, with the exception of the dance floor, there’s no place your guests will spend more time during your wedding reception than at their table.

It seems like such a simple thing really…tablecloth + centerpieces + place settings = done. Right?

Ha. Cause anything about putting together a wedding is ever simple.

As I’ve mentioned in other posts, we were running on a budget for this weeding. $100 guests, $10,000. Less if we could swing it. That meant spending $2000 on centerpieces was out.

So here’s how the process went…

Our “picnic style” backyard BBQ wedding had quickly transformed into an “elegant but casual” affair when I came home with a full length wedding dress instead of a cocktail dress and Mr W promptly pronounced that if I got to wear a wedding dress, he got to have a tux.

Paper tablecloths wasn’t going to cut it anymore.

Linen rental wasn’t cheap, but it wasn’t out of the question. Real ivory linen tableclothes were going to run us about $9 each from the rental company with table runners coming in at an additional $3. Since we had sixteen six foot tables to cover, that number was adding up fast.

That’s when I ran noticed how many women were reselling their wedding supplies on sites like Wedding Bee and Craigslist after the event was over. Curious, I started hunting online retailers who sold linens and came across TableClothsFactory.com. They were selling seamless, heavy-duty 72″x120″ ivory tablecloths for $9.89 each. That was the perfect size for my guest tables. They even had “to the floor” tablecloths for $14.69.

Oh yes, you noticed that right. I could buy them for about $1 more each than I could rent them. Better yet, I found organza table runners (in my colors) for $1.50 each. Half the price I’d been quoted for rental!

Since it was cheaper to buy than rent, and since I knew there was the chance I could resell at least some of them, I put in an order for a few dozen ivory, chocolate and apple green tablecloths and runners to use on my guest and food tables.  They arrived and I was pleased to see the quality was outstanding and the colors were exactly as shown on the web site.

Of course even with my plans to buy and resell my tablecloths, if I added in any amount of budget for centerpieces and I was in trouble.

That’s when I started running across centerpieces focused on apples rather than flowers. After all, we WERE getting married in September, on a farm.

A few phone calls to some local farms told me that green Pippen or Granny Smith apples would run me about $20 per bushel in late September. A stop into Michael’s craft store revealed some super cute rust colored fluted pie plates at a mere $1 each.  Add in a bushel and a half of apples and a single $3 bouquet of baby’s breath from the local grocery store and we were able to put together 16 pretty beautiful center pieces for less than $3 each.

Green Apple Wedding Centerpiece

That covered me on the centerpiece side of things, but it still made for a pretty bare table.

Then I noticed a display of glass votive holders in the clearance section as I was walking back to the front of the store. Since we had some concerns about tent lighting, and since candles are pretty cheap, I picked up 120 votives at a mere twenty-five cents each. Toward the front of the store I found a sale on white votive candles as well. Twenty-five count boxes for $5.32 each. I picked up six boxes of those, giving me all the votives I needed to put one at each place setting PLUS have plenty leftover for food and drink tables. That put me at $62 for votives, or roughly $3.87 per guest table in costs.

It honestly seemed like such a little thing when I got them, but once the sun set and it got darker, the mood lighting provided by the votives was simply incredible!

Wedding votive candles

My final call toward dressing up the tables without spending a ton was to go ahead and put the place settings and plates on the table. I actually went against my caterer on this one as she felt the plates looked nicer set up along the food stations and that people don’t feel as “fancy” when they have to carry their plate from their seat to the food lines.

I countered with the logic that we were using food stations and thus, we weren’t sure where anyone would head first. So unless we wanted to pay to rent lots and lots of extra plates, it would actually be cheaper to put one plate per setting and have some extras in the back with the caterer in case something happened.

This turned out to be a good call because having the place setting on the table helped fill in what would have otherwise looked fairly lonely. Our caterers offered beautiful white square plates for only a few cents more than the traditional round plates, so we upgraded to those and added green cloth napkins (also purchased from TableClothsFactory.com) for a pop of color.

Wedding Table Setting Green

Of course having the table settings laid out also gave us the perfect place to add a splash of fun with our guest book cards and our menus.

Right under the napkin, we placed a flow-chart card designed to remind (and motivate) people to get up, visit the photo booth and then fill out their greeting or advice on the reverse side of the card to add to our guest book.

Photo booth flow chart

Under the photo booth card was the menu, letting people know what food options they would find at different stations. What I liked about the menu card was that even though we really didn’t have THAT many food choices, the way we laid them out and the way we presented it made it look like we’d be feasting the entire night. (It must have worked because people absolutely raved about the food the entire night.)

Wedding Menu Card

All in all, while the look was simple, it was elegant. Especially when you paired the table colors with the colors that existed on the farm around us.

Outdoor Wedding Table Setting

Cost wise, we did pretty well for ourselves too. It wasn’t even a full month after the wedding before I’d managed to sell over half of the tablecloths, all of the table runners, the votives and the fluted pie plates. The rest of the tablecloths simply got added to my own party collection, turned into an outdoor movie screen, or given to family members who could use them.

The apples? Well those turned into gallons and gallons of amazingly yummy homemade applesauce and frozen. We ate wedding applesauce for nearly eight months after the event was done.

My net cost for my linens, candles, centerpieces and so on?

Linen Purchases: $358
Votive Candles: $62
Center Pieces: $48Printed Items: $4 (cardstock)
Total costs: $472

However….after the wedding I was able to sell most of the linens at fairly close to cost. I sold about $265 worth of items.

Total cost after sale recovery: $207 for sixteen guest tables (plus eight food tables and the sweetheart table.)

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