Tablescape: Fall Table Decorations for Group Luncheon

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Are you one of those dedicated volunteers who are the backbone of all non-profit organizations? Are you involved in work on behalf of your church, Scout troop, PTA, sports team, and other club or association?

Most organizations host meals or receptions at some point in time—hospitality hours, fellowship meals, fund-raising meals, awards banquets, celebratory parties, receptions to honor someone/something. Do you ever find yourself called on to help plan or decorate for some of these?

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Well, I certainly do! Ever since I drew big wall murals of Snoopy and his friends for a middle school dance, I have been planning and decorating on a large scale–our “Oriental Gardens” prom, the PTA carnivals and back-to-school picnics, banquets and concert receptions for the high school band, hospitality hours and Christmas parties for my writing group, and many, many church luncheons, dinners and receptions.

So I have put in a lot of practice at ways to decorate multiple tables on a shoestring budget without spending hours of preparation. I will be sharing many of these ideas on this blog.

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Today, I am sharing fall table decorations I used at my church for one of our monthly fellowship luncheons. At Second Presbyterian, we host “Second Sunday Luncheons” on the second Sunday of the month. I love thinking of creative ways to brighten the tables and to spend virtually no money.

Admittedly, I have a huge stash of personal party supplies and materials from my years of party-planning that I can use at these luncheons. I just call that good stewardship–to use what you already have!

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Case in point: for this group of tables (we usually set 12-15 tables), I already had the burgundy plastic toppers from a previous party. You can cut four toppers out of a $2 plastic tablecloth. You can use them lengthwise as table runners as seen in this tablescape, or you can use them across the width of the table at the center for color under the centerpiece. If no one spills or tears your toppers, you can wipe them off, and pack them away for your next event.

I also have two 18-gallon tubs of faux fruit and gourds, pine cones from the yard, dried hydrangea blooms from my backyard bushes, and artificial mums that I have used many, many times before. I add to my fruit and gourd collection by shopping after the season and when these items are on sale. Real fruit and gourds, if you have access to them or don’t have as many tables to decorate, would, of course, be the most ideal way to showcase the fall harvest’s bounty,

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We also added real nandina greenery and berries and some late-blooming camellias from the yard of my friend Lois to complete the bountiful harvest look for our centerpiece.

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My favorite trick in this centerpiece is the raised white bowl. Unless you intentionally want a long low centerpiece, it is good to add a little height to your table decor for visual interest. Your table centerpiece’s height should not, however, obscure the view of the guests on both sides of the table.

I have 20 wide-rimmed white soup bowls of my own (for holidays with a large extended family) which I took to church  to place on top of overturned small white soup bowls the church has. Placing my soup bowls on top of the church’s overturned soup bowls gave us instant raised bowls to fill with faux fruits and vegetables. Using baskets instead was an option, but I wanted to do something a little different than I have before.

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The paper napkins were the only thing I had to buy–they were on clearance after Thanksgiving at the grocery the year before for 35 cents a package. Clearly my party planning has me on the lookout for good buys all year long!  These napkins’ strong fall colors and fall leaf design would make them perfect for any number of tablescapes, so spending less than $2.50 on them to put away for the following fall was a no-brainer.

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We also decorate the piano top in the fellowship hall and dessert tables when we have those.

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And yes, I am blessed to have help putting out all the decorations on the tables on the Sunday morning of our luncheons. My friends Elva and Lois are the most marvelous assistants–I plan and bring the supplies, and they help me put the decorations on the table, adding their eyes for decorating. Their ideas often eclipse mine, and we modify the original concept to pull in their suggestions.

So please continue to watch for easy, inexpensive table decorations for group meals on this blog. Your non-profit groups are so lucky to have you as a willing worker to add cheerful, gracious touches to their events, and if sharing ideas for ways to do that will help you, I am all for it!

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