7 Catering Event Decor Tips
Superb food and drink at a special event, from a formal sit-down dinner to a hawkers night stall, is enhanced further with special decor to make it an Instagrammable event, according to decor hire and sourcing website, My Event Decor.
Here’s seven tips to create catering magic.
Themed events require a higher level of cohesion and effort than a conventional party. If you think of the Alice in Wonderland theme, your décor automatically requires brightly coloured teacups and teapots and abundant desserts. Perhaps you also need to source oversized armchairs, clocks, giant faux trees, a grinning Cheshire cat and a huge chessboard.
For a hawkers’ night stall you’ll want to decorate with neon signage, festoon lighting, pallet benches and tables, plants, astroturf and picket fences, chalkboard signs and eco-friendly plates and utensils. Asian night markets call for red Chinese lanterns and bamboo furniture, while beer and sausage festivals would be perfect with hay bales and wine barrels.
A destination wedding can have fun with elements typically associated with its location. For example, a Hawaiian wedding might greet guests at a tiki bar, or have the menu written on a sunset ombre-coloured surfboard. The buffet table could be covered in monstera leaf placemats while every guest’s cocktail glass includes a colourful paper umbrella.
You can continue the visual magic on the dessert bar, sweets table or lolly buffet. An 80s night just begs for containers in acrylic neon, a Halloween table could have black and orange sweets surrounded by faux skulls, rats, spiders, spiderwebs, eyeballs, black candelabras and a dry ice bubbling witch’s cauldron, while a Chinese event theme lends itself to colour-coordinated takeaway fortune cookie boxes. You might display a range of incredibly realistically iced cupcakes that resemble flowers and succulents for a garden party.
A mass display of one-coloured sweets looks amazing. The different shapes – not to mention the different taste and flavour sensations – of Kool Mints, marshmallows, milk bottles, sugared almonds, Jelly Bellys, milk chocolate-covered raspberries, almond nougat and white M&Ms collectively are incredibly impressive.
Showcase them in clear glass containers of varying heights and widths: narrow and tall, short and squat, round fishbowls, Greek urn shapes and so on.
Perhaps you don't have a dessert table at all but cater for the sweet-tooths with freshly made serves of fairy floss, ice cream or gelato. You might give your guests take home boxes of custom-printed macarons, a cellophane-wrapped professionally iced cookie, or hire a specialist coffee cart that prints cookies with their photos while they wait.
For weddings, but also for celebration events such as birthdays, anniversaries and milestones, such as retirement, cutting the cake is a traditional part of the entertainment.
So consider how you’ll be showcasing the cake. Will guests see it on arrival as part of the dessert table or will it remain a surprise until the special cake cutting moment is announced? Is it a four-tiered royal icing wedding cake or a themed creation, such as a pirate’s chest overflowing with gold coins, pearls and precious gems?
Will it have its own cake table? What does it sit on? A white candy cart? A rustic vegetable cart? A wine barrel? A floral-covered swing? How is it being lit? If your event is large, unless it’s up on a stage, many guests won’t see the cake-cutting.
You’ll need different methods of display depending on whether you hire professional waiting staff who walk around serving guests or if it’s simply a serve-yourself grazing platter.
For an ocean-themed event, why not display your prawns in a professionally created ice sculpture? Or for an upmarket, yet rustic affair, hire a professional shucker and arrange your oysters in a wooden rowboat full of shaved ice so guests can enjoy freshly shucked oysters. It’s guaranteed to be a hit!
Are your hot hors d’oeuvres “hand-friendly” – that is, can guests hold the item in their hands without burning their fingers? You could serve, for example, a single portion of fish and chips in the day’s newspaper or in a kraft paper cone.
Grazing platters usually look amazing to start with, but all that co-mingled food gets messy really quickly with guests spilling dip on the crackers, smearing cheese all over the grapes, and dropping salami in with the strawberries. Don’t forget, if some people have allergies, the mixed-together food could be a disaster.
Specialist food stations, or at least nibbles in their own serving platters looks neater and creates fewer issues for guests.
Communal tables have captured the attention of guests and Instagrammers alike. It’s far easier to photograph beautiful tablescapes on long, rather than round tables, and it’s easier and faster to serve food too. They also take up slightly less space for the same number of guests.
Your event, and to some extent your venue type, will largely dictate what type table you need. A formal event calls for round tables, while communal tables have a more chilled-out vibe. However, many guests dislike that they can speak only to the persons directly opposite and adjacent on a communal table – while round tables allow all guests on them to chat together.
Most communal tables however, offer very little area to decorate and provide catering provisions in the centre strip of the table.
Here’s why: the average dinner plate is 30cm in diameter. With guests facing each other across the table, you’ve already used up 60cm of depth on tables that can be as shallow as 75cm. This creates not only decorating, but catering challenges with the remaining 15cm. There’s hardly any room for glasses, centrepieces, candles, table numbers, and placecard settings before you even consider salt & pepper shakers, water carafes, bottles of wine, champagne, beer, bread, etc.
At a bare minimum, seek venues with – or hire – tables of at least 100cm depth, if not deeper if you insist on communal dining arrangements.
Napkins add an eye-catching pop of colour and texture to your tables that plain white napkins provided by venues cannot. Hire them from a speciality linen hire company or commission custom-made ones in a fabric pattern that matches your theme. Make sure you know what size to order: 50cm x 50cm are dinner size, 40cm x 40cm are cocktail size.
After napkins, charger plates are the next decorative piece of your tablescape jigsaw puzzle.
Charger plates serve a couple of purposes. They anchor and help protect the tablecloth from food spillages and, if the dinner plate is pre-warmed, they help keep food warm.
Traditionally they are removed once dinner has been completed as dessert is never served on a charger plate. You should never serve food on a charger plate directly.
Can your guests guess how many courses you’re serving? Guests look at their cutlery to give them clues as to how many courses to expect.
If you’ve ever had dinner in an American chain restaurant, they don’t typically give you fresh cutlery between courses. This usually means you need to use your bread and butter knife for your entrée and your entrée fork for your dessert. So don’t underorder on the cutlery pieces.
You’ll need to order an entrée knife and fork, dinner knife and fork, and dessert spoon for a sit-down dinner, possibly also soup spoons, fish and/or steak knives depending on the dishes served. A fancy high tea may need only cake forks and teaspoons. With so much metalware occupying the table, you might consider upgrading to hiring coloured sets, such as gold, copper, black or even iridescent to make your event that much more special.
If your venue does not have its own glassware, you’ll need to hire it. At bare minimum you’ll need separate glasses for water, wine and champagne and for cocktail parties you’ll also need martini glasses and whisky tumblers.
You might want to hire one or more coloured glasses per guest to enliven your tablescape, while Christmas and New Year’s Eve parties instantly look festive by serving sparkling wine in plastic flutes which illuminate when liquid is poured into the glass. Events on boats require shatterproof glasses and they’re also a good idea at poolside parties.
A fancy bar customised with your initials or company logo makes an impact on your guests, as does champagne towers and prosecco wall bars.
For more information, visit www.myeventdecor.com.au
Get 20% Off Your First Order
And the latest specials and free samples