Figuring out how you want to decorate your wedding might sound like fun at first – you and your hubby-to-be might pour a glass of wine, pull out a notebook, and start envisioning what you want your wedding to look like. Rose petals lining the ceremony aisle, gold lanterns on the reception tables, and some sparklers for the send-off at the end of the night.
Annnnnd, that’s a wrap for your wedding decoration checklist, right? Not quite. :)
What about ceremony programs and altar details? Table linens and chargers? A reception seating chart and cake serving set? Lighting for the reception? Suddenly, a glass of wine doesn’t seem like enough to get you through all of the decoration decisions that need to be made.
Don’t worry though, I’ve got you covered!
Wedding Decoration Checklist
When it comes to weddings, there are SO MANY wedding day details and decorations to consider. Before you can really determine how you want to decorate everything, you first need to figure out WHAT you can decorate. Below, I walk through 68 items to add to your decor list to consider including on your wedding day!
Bridal Prep Decor
Overall, there’s not much decor you need for bride and groom prep. There are a couple of items that can make the photos look nicer though!
You might not always be able to see the furniture that’s available in the room you’re getting ready in prior to the wedding day, but if you can, be sure to take a look at it! While it might not seem like a big deal, having chairs with distracting patterns or ugly colors can be an eye-sore in photos.
If there are distracting pieces, see if they can be moved to the side or into another room you’re not using.
Ribbons and Small Flowers
One of the detail shots I’ll focus on during getting ready is a styled photo of your wedding invitation suite. Rather than just taking a photo of the invites on their own, an easy way to make them look nicer is by adding small pieces of decor, such as ribbons and small flowers that are in your wedding colors.
Pro Tip: If you can, send your photographer the invitation suite before the wedding day! Oftentimes, the getting ready venue does not have an ideal background to lay the invitation on, making an attractive photo challenging to get. By sending the invite to your photographer earlier, they can use tools like light boxes to produce images that are clean, well-lit, and styled to properly showcase the invitation suite.
Where your ceremony takes place will ultimately determine which of the following ceremony details you may want to consider having at your wedding. From beach ceremonies overlooking the ocean to indoor church ceremonies with stained glass windows, each will require different decorations to match the theme of your day.
This allows guests to know a couple of things: 1. That they have made it to the right place (this is especially helpful if you’re getting married in a location that could have multiple weddings that day) and 2. Where the actual ceremony is located.
While it might seem obvious to you, remember that most people have likely never been to your ceremony location. The last thing you want is Grandma getting lost and missing part of the ceremony!
Unplugged Ceremony Sign
If you choose to have an unplugged ceremony (which I HIGHLY recommend!), create a sign to let guests know about this. While the officiant can make it a point to remind everyone to put their phones and cameras away, a sign is a nice way to let guests know ahead of time!
Ceremony Seating Sign
While past traditions may have seated the bride and groom’s loved ones on opposite sides, it’s become pretty common to invite guests to sit on either side. Whether you choose to design a hand written sign or buy one off Etsy, there are tons of different “pick a seat, not a side” phrases you can go with!
Reserved Seating Cards
It’s customary for your immediate family to sit in the front row, and if you have other special family or friends that you’d like to be in the first couple rows, consider creating simple “reserved” cards that can go on the chairs.
These don’t have to be super fancy or anything, and they are helpful for guests so they don’t accidentally sit where you had intended your Grandma to be.
Ceremony Program Pamphlets
These are nice for a couple of reasons. First, they give your guests an outline of what the ceremony will entail. If you’re doing a religious ceremony, a program can help them follow along and better understand the different ceremonial events.
Second, it’s a nice way to recognize the different members in your wedding! From your parents to the officiant to the wedding party, it’s another way to tell them “thank you” for all of their help they’ve done.
Ceremony Program Table or Box
If you do create programs for guests, display them on a table near the ceremony site or in a display box. Make it easy for your friends and family to quickly grab a program on the way to their seat.
Decor for the Display Table
Along with placing the ceremony programs on the table, add some additional personal touches to it. This can be done by placing a few flower arrangements on the table, as well as some cute photo frames that include images from your engagement session!
Accessories for Guests
If you’re having an outdoor wedding where weather conditions might hinder or distract guests from the actual ceremony, consider getting some accessories and props for them! Get a basket and place parasols if it’s really sunny, or provide umbrellas if there’s a chance of rain.
Planning a beach wedding? Consider getting flip flops in a variety of sizes so guests don’t have to try to trudge through the sand in their heels and dress shoes.
Looking for another way to combat the sun? Provide sunglasses for guests! Add a touch of personalization to them by writing your names or wedding date on the ear piece.
Aisle runners are great for a couple of reasons. First, they add a visual element to the center area of your ceremony site (which looks great for ceremony wedding details shot with a wide angle lens!). Second, runners help protect your wedding dress, especially if you are walking on sand, dirt, or grass.
Depending on where you’re getting married, you might have the option to customize the type of aisle runner you’d like to walk down. This can range from a variety of things, from a simple white sheet of fabric to rose petals to carpet!
If you want to dress up the aisle a bit more, find decorations that can line either side of the runner. You can hang small lanterns from the aisle chairs or have flower arrangements on top of pillars.
Depending on how elaborate your aisle runner and aisle decorations are, you may want to consider getting a rope (or something similar) to block off the entrance of the aisle. This way, no guests can walk down it prior to the ceremony starting.
Also, if you have decor like rose petals on the ground, these can be slippery, and blocking the aisle will reduce the risk of people slipping!
If your ceremony spot does not have a permanent arch (or some structure you’re standing by, such as a gazebo), decide if you want to include one. Some couples choose to use arches that have religious or cultural significance (like a candlelit chuppah), and others include them solely for aesthetics.
Arches are a great way to create a beautiful backdrop for the end of the aisle (especially if you’re ceremony site has distracting elements behind it!). Depending on the look you are going for, this could be a fun and simple DIY project. Pick the main material for the arch structure (such as wood), and then determine how you want to decorate it (flowers and flowy, sheer fabrics work great!).
If you’re getting married in a church, see what options you have for adding your personal touch to the altar. This will vary at every church, so be sure to look into this before creating an elaborate set up!
Whether you’re saying the traditional vows or planning to write your own, taking a pen to paper and having them permanently written in ink is a perfect way to cherish those words forever.
While you could type them up or write them on a notecard, there’s just something about having your vows handwritten in a special book!
Flower Girl Basket and Petals
From dumping ALL of the petals out right as she reaches the start of the aisle runner to meticulously placing one petal down at a time, flower girls are wild cards (but, that’s half the fun of including them, right?!).
Don’t overthink this detail, as it’s one you see for less than a minute on the wedding day. Find a cute little basket, place rose petals in that match the colors of your wedding, and you’re good to go.
Ring Bearer Pillow or Box
A piece of advice here: If you decide to have a ring bearer, make sure his “ring transportation vehicle” is secure. With a pillow, ensure the rings are tightly tied on. With a box, make sure it latches shut. Like flower girls, ring bearers walk (or run!) to the beat of their own drum when they get to the aisle, and the last thing you want are your rings catching some airtime!
Whether you want a “ring bear” (How I Met Your Mother, anyone?!) or your adorable pomsky to make an appearance at your wedding, help them dress the part by getting them a snazzy little tux or wedding dress.
Again, make sure the rings are VERY secure as you entrust your furry friend to transport them.
Unity Candle or Sand Ceremony Set
If you’re planning to include a unity portion during the ceremony, decide what is symbolic and meaningful to you as a couple. It’s tradition in the Catholic Church to light a unity candle to symbolize the joining of the bride and groom. Sand ceremonies have also become very popular as an alternative to unity candles.
Bubbles for Recessional
Once the “I dos” are said and the first kiss happens, it’s time to celebrate! Give your guests a way to kick off that celebration by showering you with bubbles or even rice (if you want to stick to a past tradition)!
The time between the ceremony and reception is usually when guests are left on their own (AKA not with you around), so it’s important to keep them entertained and mingling with one another. Cocktail hour really focuses on your guests, so be sure the decorations allude to that! Some of these items below might be provided by your catering staff, but either way, it’s a good idea to make sure that these details are accounted for!
Straws or Cocktail Stirrers
These are pretty self-explanatory, but a good item to have. You can also find themed stirrers that align with the overall look and feel of your wedding.
It sounds obvious, but this would be a super annoying thing to forget! Pick up classic white or black ones, choose a color that matches your wedding, or get a little fancier by customizing them with your own text.
As your family and friends enjoy cocktail hour and head up to the bar, let them know what their drink options are. This is helpful because it will allow the drink line to move quicker, and guests won’t spend time asking if certain drinks are available or not.
Signature Cocktail Menu
Along with your standard drink menu, let your guests know if you have special signature cocktails! Write these drink names (along with the description if it’s not clear in the name) on something like a cute black chalkboard, a mirror, or framed in a picture frame.
If you have tables guests can stand around or sit at during cocktail hour, consider placing centerpieces at each one. This can range from a variety of things, including candles, flowers or small plants, and pictures in frames.
Games and Activities
Cocktail hour is a great time to find different ways to entertain guests as you’re off taking photos. Set up games like cornhole, bocce ball, or a giant set of jenga to play. Plus, if you have a kid-friendly wedding, this will keep them busy while their parents enjoy a drink at the bar!
Reception – Main Entrance
Upon guests’ first entrance into the reception venue, there are certain decorations they should see to help set the stage for the rest of the evening. These will help them find their dinner table, allow them to drop off any gifts, and make their way into the reception room! See below for the wedding decoration reception checklist!
Seating Chart Sign
When it comes to letting your friends and family know where they’re going to sit during the reception, there are a numerous ways to do this. You can keep it simple by having a giant sign with all of the tables listed and each guest’s name under the table they’re seated at. If you want to get a bit more creative with your signs, get chalkboards and hand write everyone’s names!
Another way is by creating individual escort cards that include the guest’s name and the table they’re sitting at. This can take more time to create rather than creating one giant table assignment display, but it can also feel a bit more personalized! You can also take the cards and attach them to a little gift, such as a mini champagne bottle or bottle of hot sauce!
Escort Card Table
If you decide to create escort cards, remember to have a way to display them. The most common way is probably by setting up a decorative table, but don’t be afraid to get creative here!
Guest Signing Item
Traditionally, couples have something for guests to sign as a way to remember who helped celebrate their special day. It’s common to have a guest book for this (for example, you can create a book that includes your engagement photos we took in San Diego and guest can sign around the images).
If a guest book isn’t your style and you want to get a little more creative, here are a few more ideas they can sign: a globe, jenga or puzzle pieces, giant picture frame, or special bottles of wine!
While it’s less common to bring a physical gift to a wedding (thank you Amazon!), consider having a table where guests can leave gifts in case they didn’t ship them to you. If you have a card box, it could go on the same table to keep all of the items you receive in one place.
As mentioned above, gifts might not be brought to a wedding, but some guests love to leave a personalized, handwritten note! Give them a place to drop them off, whether it’s in a customized mailbox, wooden box, or even a pinata!
Wedding Hashtag Sign
Want to encourage guests to post their images on Instagram? Come up with a creative hashtag for them to use! This will be an easy way for you to find images that your friends and family take throughout the night after the wedding.
Reception – Dinner Table Decor
When it comes to the reception room, the table decor is often times the central focus and can bring the “wow” factor to the space. In addition to deciding the overall table layout, here are decorations to consider:
Typically, couples decide to place some sort of flower arrangement in the center of each reception table to spruce them up and give the tables some design. Of course, flowers are not the only thing that can be used. Decorative cages, lanterns, or even succulents are great alternative to flowers.
Along with the centerpieces, determine if you want to add candles to each of the tables. Candles can help to add to the ambience of the room, and if you have the reception lights lower during certain parts of the night, candles can help to add a bit of additional glow!
Are you planning to keep these classic and white, glamming it up with black sequin linens, or something in between?
Not all tables necessarily need table runners or garland. If you’re looking for areas to save some money within your wedding budget, this can be one of those places! If you do want some garland runners, perhaps only use them on the sweetheart table or a long rectangular table (if the wedding party is all sitting together).
Make sure each table has a clearly placed sign so your guests can easily find their table number.
For each guest, you’ll need a place setting. While your venue or catering manager will likely ensure you have the following items, they’re worth mentioning here in case you’re having a DIY wedding!
These are the plates that go underneath your actual dinner plate. They’re solely meant to be a decorative piece, and you can generally pick a color/ design that fits with your wedding theme.
Decide if you’re planning on having unique plates for each course (salad plate, dinner plate, dessert plate), or if one plate will work for all courses.
Serving soup? Obviously, bowls make more sense here. :)
Water glasses, wine glasses, and even champagne glasses are some different options to consider.
Tip: From both photographing weddings and being a guest at weddings, the FEWER glasses you give each guest, the better! Tables can quickly become cramped if each person has 3 glasses, and if you can also get drinks from the bar, that’s yet another glass you have.
Forks, spoons, knives (maybe even steak knives) – you get the idea!
Unlike cocktail hour where paper napkins were likely used, it’s more common to use cloth napkins for your reception dinner.
Whether you’ve having a buffet style dinner or a plated one, it’s nice to let guests know the dinner menu. Create cards that outline the delicious meal you have planned for them!
If you’re providing wedding favors to each guest as a way to thank them for helping celebrate, it’s customary to place them at each place setting. There’s a wide range of ideas for this, from the classic jordan almonds to drink cozies to homemade sweet treats!
Chair Decor for Guests
While you can totally keep the rented chairs exactly as they come, depending on the overall look and theme of your wedding, you may want to dress the chairs up a bit. This can be as simple as a white covering over each one, or getting detailed with colored coverings, bows, and flowers on all of the chairs.
Chair Decor for Bride and Groom
If you don’t want to dress up all of the chairs, consider just decorating the bride and groom chairs. This can be a fun way to differentiate these chairs and add a little extra decor.
While not every guest needs a champagne flute, having special ones for the bride and groom is a nice added touch. You can get ones engraved with something like your wedding date or find another way to customize and personalize these glasses that you can keep for years to come.
Sweetheart Table Decor
If you have a dedicated table for you and your hubby, decide how you want to decorate it! It can look exactly like the other tables in the room, or you can dress it up a bit more to make it a focal point.
Reception – Overall Room
Past the main entrance and dinner tables, you’ve got an entire room to decorate! Okay, don’t freak out – I’ve broken it down to the main areas to think about when it comes to the rest of the wedding reception accessories!
If you have loved ones that passed and you want to recognize them in some way, having a dedicated space for them is a nice way to do so. Set up a table somewhere in the room (generally against a non-crowded wall) and place candles and framed photos of them up for family and friends to see.
While cake may be the traditional wedding dessert, there are numerous desserts you can have if you’re not feeling the whole cake thing (I personally want a churro bar for my wedding!!). :) Whether you go with mini pies, cookies, candy, or some other decadent treat, be sure to have a dedicated dessert table for guests to flock to when they want to satisfy their sweet tooth.
If you do choose to go with unique desserts, create signs that let guest know what each dessert is. This is helpful for those that have allergies (especially if you plan on having nuts in any desserts), and it’s another cute detail that can add to your wedding!
Does your cake need to be displayed on a stand, or are you planning to have it sit on the table?
Cake toppers add another unique touch to the wedding day and your personal style. Adding flowers that match your bouquet and color scheme is always a good and classic option. You can also look for a unique topper (gold letters, wooden animals, silhouette cutouts, etc) that can turn into a keepsake after the wedding!
Cake Serving Set
A cake serving set a necessary item, as a standard butter knife likely won’t (easily) cut through your 3 tier cake. Plus, a cake cutter and server are items that you’ll be able to use again throughout your marriage! You can get one with personalized engraving on it or with unique handles if you want to customize it a bit more.
Decorate the bar with elements that match the overall theme of your wedding. This is a good place to keep the decorations simple, since drinks will be poured and passed out here. If any spills happen, no need to have a ton of decorations get ruined!
Drink Menu or Signature Drink List
If your bar menu is different than what was served at cocktail hour, create unique signs/ menus to let guest know their drink options. If the drinks are the same as cocktail hour, just make sure the decor gets transferred into the reception room.
This is probably one of the most important things in your reception room! The lighting can help set the mood and ambience for the evening, and it also helps carry out your theme. Colored uplighting lining the walls can look beautiful, chandeliers hanging from the ceiling can give off a gorgeous glow, and candles on each of the tables can also help with the mood!
If you want to get creative with your venue space in a different way, consider projecting words or designs onto the walls or dance floor! This can be done on a simple level (such as projecting your name and a simple design), or you can get super elaborate with projection mapping and have it take over the entire room!
Another great way to showcase your venue is with hanging decor. Glowing lanterns, crystal chandeliers, wooden fixtures with edison bulbs, or market lights are all different ways you can add a little visual appeal up above!
From a magician’s card table to cigar bars, I’ve seen more and more couples finding unique touches to add to their reception. If you choose to do something like this, be sure to account for any of those details needed to pull it off!
Photo booths can be so fun at weddings, and they can give your guests something else to do if they want a break from the dance floor. Whether you decide to have a DIY photobooth with your own camera setup, or go with a pro like Red Photo Booth that will take care of the details and logistics for you, here are a few things to remember when it comes to photo booth decor:
Photo Booth Backdrop
From plain white to gold sequence to chevron stripes to lush green plants, there are countless backdrop ideas for what you can use!
Props can add so much fun to a photo booth! Giant sunglasses, a variety of hats, feather boas, and fun signs are a few props you can pick up to use in your booth. You can also stick to a certain theme (like vintage Hollywood).
If you’re planning on printing out the photos you and your guests take at the photobooth, be sure to have a table set up for a photo printer. Be sure that the table is sturdy and the printer is not close to any edges, since you don’t want to risk it getting knocked over.
Photo Booth Album and Pens
A fun way to see all of the photos that get taken in the booth is by having guests place them in a photo booth book for you and write something next to their picture! This is another way to create a keepsake from the wedding.
Lounge Seating + Side Tables
Once dinner and the reception formalities are over, consider having additional seating and tables for guests to hang out at. Cute love seats and sofas with side tables are a great way to fill empty space in your reception venue!
Send-off bubbles or sparklers
If you’re planning to do a send off at the end of the night, be sure to get something for your guests to send you off with! I LOVE sparkler exits, but if your venue doesn’t allow them, bubbles, confetti, and glow sticks are a few alternate options.
Getaway Car Decor
While you might not be tying cans to the car bumper, decide if you want to decorate the vehicle in any way. A couple ideas are using window paint and writing “Just Married” on the back window or creating a sign and hanging it with garland on the back on the car.
So, there you have it! A comprehensive wedding decor checklist to help you as you plan out your wedding day! From little details to big ticket items, there’s a lot of decor to remember. Use this checklist as a way to help remember everything!