Tablescape: Large Group Fall Luncheon

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If you are a member or leader of a club or organization that has frequent meals together, you may the person charged with table decorations for these meals. If so, you may find yourself constantly on the lookout for seasonal ideas that you could adapt. Check out this large group fall luncheon I did at our church for ideas you might be able to use.

We do monthly fellowship meals for church members and usually serve 90-120 people at a time. As the decorator, that means I need decorations for 10-15 tables (we have a number of tables for eight as well as several longer tables that seat more). Even though we only have luncheons from September to May, I am on the lookout all year for ideas and items that will work as inexpensive table decorations.

For this November luncheon, I decided to use natural items to give the tables a harvest look. I found some very nice fall leaves paper napkins on a clearance sale the year before–these would add nice color to our tables. I used the white paper table-covering we have at the church to lay my groundwork, so to speak. The other decorations stand out well against the crisp white of the table-covering. I had enough leftover olive green and orange paper placemats from two previous luncheons that I decided to use in alternation. The two colors added great seasonal color. I laid the napkins out on the placemats where the luncheon plates would go to add color to the empty tables until the church members sat down with their filled plates to eat. If you don’t have leftovers to use up, another good way to save money for a large-group luncheon is to use construction paper or colored copy paper for placemats. Another way to save is to buy some print napkins and alternate them with coordinating solid-colored napkins.

For my centerpieces, the first items I needed were some sort of risers to put the harvest items on. I could have spread out my fruit, gourds, pinecones, leaves, flowers, and berries down the table like a runner. but I wanted to have something to left them. I have twenty-four white china wide rim soup and pasta bowls that I realized would work well with the church’s white soup bowls turned upside down under my soup bowls to create pedestal bowls. I did not attach these bowls  bottom or bottom with sticky-tack or floral clay because no one was likely to touch the centerpieces and I wasn’t worried about them coming apart.

After assembling the pedestal bowls, I filled each of  them with an assortment of fall gourds, mini-pumpkins, apples, pears, pine cones, fall leaves, dried hydrangeas, berries and other flowers. Many of these items were artificial and many were real. I have a huge collection of faux fruits and gourds which you may not have access to, but between real items you and your friends may have and leaves, dried flowers and pinecones you may be able to pick up from your and your neighbors’ yards, you should be able to accumulate enough items to fill your bowls and to scatter around the bowls. If you don’t have the wide-rim soup and pasta bowls like I do, you could use a dinner plate on top of an overturned soup bowls as a riser for your centerpiece items. You could also use a large paper napkin over a book or two as a riser. If your dining venue has a large number of bread baskets, you could use them for the decorative items.For our dessert table, I used a large cornucopia basket I have and filled it with pumpkins, gourds, leaves and hydrangeas. This would have worked just as well with a large regular basket instead of the cornucopia basket.

So, the next time you get the assignment to do table decorations for a large group, don’t be embarrassed to borrow items from your family and friends, and check your kitchen and your meeting place’s kitchen for items that could be used in multiple ways. Remember that strong color can be your friend and don’t be afraid to mix real and faux items. Use your imagination, and your tables will be most attractive. Enjoy!



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