Do you ever have to decorate tables for school, club or church luncheons or dinners? Do you have to create a festive look for a large group on a shoestring budget? Well, if you do, I can commiserate because I have been doing this for many groups for a very long time,
In the photos used here, you can see that I had 50 tables to decorate for one of the high school band’s twice-yearly banquets. I always try to choose a color scheme that is bright and visually impressive because the first three minutes of the event, as all guests first enter the dining room, is your best chance to make an impression.
This banquet’s theme reflected the band’s musical program for the fall–Americana and a Little Bit of Country. I was already working on my patriotic color scheme and decorations when the band director told me he had added the “Little Bit of Country” to the program. At first, I panicked because I didn’t have the time or money to totally revamp what I was doing. But then I realized that all I needed to do was to add a red-and-white-checked table topper to the red and blue ones I already had. The checked toppers were just the little bit of country that I needed!
We used rolls of white plastic table-covering on all 50 tables first. Thank goodness that the band students helping me loved to roll out the table-covering and cut it before going to the next table in a race to see which team of workers could do the most tables the fastest! Because the tables are all very long, we used a wider topper, cut from a plastic table-covering roll, in the middle of the table and one shorter one at each end.
We had three rows of tables, so I used the red-and-white-checked toppers on the outer two rows of tables and solid red ones on the middle row of tables. The checked roll of plastic table-covering is more expensive than the solid kind, so this plan saved us money but gave us the same look. I used red napkins and blue napkins on alternating tables. As long as you have a pattern to the way you use your decorations, as long as it looks as if you have planned to do what you did, your guests will think everything looks great.
If your group has frequent luncheons or dinners, save the plastic toppers. If the toppers don’t have food or liquid or tears on them at the end of the meal, shake them out, fold them neatly and save them for another time. I have many, many toppers in practically every color and have been able to use them over and over again. That’s a big money-saver as well as a time-saver since you don’t have to cut new ones.
Because our tables are so long, I tried to have decorations that extend the length of the table so all guests can see them, no matter where they are sitting. When I found packages of 50 attractive but inexpensive patriotic paper plates, I got the idea of using them as part of the decorations. All you need is a stapler, and you can easily create a two-sided decoration that adds a lot of color to your tables.
Put two paper plates of the same size back to back–if the plates have a design, be sure that you have the design facing the same direction on both plates. Staple the plates together at the top and at the bottom, and bend out the bottom of the plates a bit to be certain your plates will stand up straight. It only takes two staples.
You could glue the plates back to back, but stapling them together is much faster and looks just as good. You can also use a plainer design or solid-color plate and glue or staple a message in the center of the plate –put the message on both sides. You can tie your message into the theme or purpose of your banquet–“Thanks for being a band volunteer! We couldn’t do it without you!” or “Join us for our big band competition on May 24!”
You can see that bending out the bottom of the two plates allows them to stand up. For my banquet, I just stapled all my plates together while I watched TV and put them all in big trash bags. I took them to the school and bent the bottoms when we put them on the tables. At the end of the banquet, I just tossed them all in the trash. I know–it sounds like sacrilege to throw away decorations you could use again, but you just can’t keep everything, and these would take up too much space to store.
Now the little firecracker decorations are easy to save and store. You need disposable cups in your chose color scheme, wired Mylar star garland, a pair of scissors or wire cutters to cut the garland lengths, and an exacto or paring knife. Wired Mylar garland is available in many colors and shapes so you can use it to go with many different themes.
With your knife, carefully cut an X in the bottom of your cup. The X doesn’t have to transect the entire width of the cut. Now as you can see in the two photos above, it is possible to use a plastic cup as I have for this demonstration. But I would recommend that you use a paper cup because it is much easier to cut the X in it without crunching the sides of the cup.
To make the firecracker part of the decoration, cut six to eight ten-inch lengths of wired star garland. Hold them all together in your hand and wrap the bottom of the outside length around the base of the rest of them to hold them together. You can also use masking tape to hold the garland strands together. Then you spread the pieces away so they are not tangled and if you like the pieces curly, you can wrap each length around your finger to make them spring-like. This is another one of those jobs to save for a TV night.
Then you simply push your firecracker strands into the X of the cup, and work with the strands so they look good and will stand up straight in the cup. Once your event is over, you can stack the cups and flatten your firework bunches and put them in ziplock bags to store them for another time.
These two easy and inexpensive decorations with the table toppers made these tables bright and fun manifestations of the band’s patriotic musical program. I hope you see some ideas that you might be able to use or adapt the next you have to decorate for a large-group event.
P.S You might also have noticed the little flags on the tables–a very dedicated and creative band mom made the little flags out of nylon fabric on her sewing serger, glued felt music staff symbols on it, and placed the flags on dowels. She made the base of the flags out of plastic disposable cups–she filled the cups partially full of gravel, put masking tape strips across the tops of the cups to hold the gravel in, and cut small X’s in the bottom of the cups for the flag dowels to go in. Then she gathered up squares of shiny fabric to cover the cups with rubber bands to secure them, and then she tied lengths of ribbon over the rubber bands. The flags are so cute, and we saved them to use over and over again in different ways.