Must-have wedding decor checklist

A woman arranging flower centerpieces on a long table on a warm day.
Paperless Post BlogWedding > Must-have wedding decor checklist

The time has finally come—you and your partner are engaged. Your friends have fawned over the ring. Your family is psyched. And all those dreams and visions you’ve had about the big day are about to come true.

Now it’s time to sink your teeth into one of the most fun parts of wedding planning: the wedding reception decor. Out of any wedding detail, the decor is one of the truest expressions of your and your partner’s personality—not to mention your no-longer-secret Pinterest boards. 

So, let’s step into your dreamscape of the perfect wedding decor. With these expert tips and checklist items, your wedding will look head-to-toe gorgeous. (Almost as gorgeous as you!)

How much should you budget for wedding decorations?

Your budget is a perfect place to start the planning. It can help you find decor pieces that are lovely and fit the price you have in mind. But how much should you spend?

On average, couples will spend a couple of thousand dollars on wedding decor. That being said, this is your day, so it all comes down to your preferences. If you envision beholding your soulmate wrapped in a spring bloom bounty, you might dedicate a few thousand dollars to florals alone. If you adore the thrill of thrifting, you can upcycle truly unique pieces and save more for that honeymoon on the Amalfi Coast. 

To make wedding decor even breezier, partner with your venue. Venue coordinators usually have truckloads of suggestions on decorating the space. Often, your venue will serve as part of your decor and dictate how you want to customize it. A turquoise ocean, green sweeping vineyard, mystical gray mountainscape, or grove of towering redwoods make unforgettable ceremony backdrops for outdoor weddings. If you’re looking for ideas when it comes to decorations for an outdoor wedding, we’ll help you find the perfect decor for your special day.
An infographic that reads “Decor zones” 01. Wedding ceremony, 02. Cocktail hour, 03. Reception table, 04. Reception space.

Wedding decoration zones

The easiest way to organize wedding decor is by dividing your space into zones. Whether you’re hosting the big day in your family’s sunny ranch home or at a twinkly tree-lined estate in Northern Michigan, the zones for most Western weddings remain relatively the same. You may want to grab a fuzzy blanket and get comfy as you read on—giddy daydreaming is guaranteed to ensue beyond this point. 

There are four primary zones where wedding decor shines the brightest: 

  1. Wedding ceremony decor
  2. Cocktail hour decor 
  3. Reception table decor 
  4. Wedding reception decor

Let’s start with the place you’ll say “I do”—the ceremony.

An infographic that named “Must-have wedding decor by event” and lists out a checklist of items by the four wedding decor zone.

1. Ceremony decor

Your fairytale rom-com ending is finally coming to life, and it’s going to be more magical than you ever imagined. For ceremony decor, keep the eye of the beholders in mind: your guests and photographers. Seeing your beloved through sprinkly tears is going to look perfect, but witnesses are the ones with the view of you both as you glide down the aisle. 

While envisioning your dream wedding ceremony, it’s helpful to mentally stroll through it from your guests’ fancy shoes. When you enter the ceremony space, perhaps you see plenty of green to match the rustic farmhouse wood. Maybe the aisle is sheeted in silky white to seamlessly connect to the clean white arc rainbowing you and your better half, speckled with fragrant pink roses. 

When your guests enter the scene, they’ll breathe in the entire space, but they’ll also be on the lookout for guidance. Are they at the right wedding? (Hello, welcome sign.) Are they supposed to sit on a certain side? (Make a sign for that, too, even if sides don’t matter.) Can I bring my gin and tonic into this thing? (Go right ahead.) 

Add a row for each of these ceremony decor items in your spreadsheet: 

A welcome sign that displays your and your spouse’s names

Floral arrangements

A sign indicating where guests can sit at the ceremony (even if it’s anywhere)

Programs or an order of events sign on how the ceremony will run

An aisle runner to light the way for your entrance

Chairs, benches, or other seating for guests, with reserved signs for guests of honor

Your ceremony backdrop materials, like flower arcs and neutral fabrics

A microphone if sound doesn’t travel far in the space

Ritual materials like ropes, brooms, candles, sand, or glass vessels

A small table to hold books and pens if you’ll be signing anything

2. Cocktail hour

While you’re off snapping gorgeous photos, your guests are letting their hair down at cocktail hour. This list of decor is a truly selfless act, but it needn’t be complicated. As long as you supply some drinks and music, your guests will be perfectly delighted.

Some couples like to have an activity at cocktail hour to keep guests engaged. After all, we know anticipation will be stirring to get onto the dance floor. You can prop a few Polaroid cameras on a stand with a place for guests to sign and display their photos. Or you might want guests to sign a wedding book so you can look back on loving scribbles and timeless memories for anniversaries to come. 

However you entertain them in the meantime, you can wow your guests with these cocktail hour essentials: 

Bar decor, like signature cocktail menu signs, or accent flowers

A table and supplies for cocktail hour activities

High-top tables for guests to stand by and rest their drinks on

Tablecloths and centerpieces

3. Reception tables

The photos look fabulous, the Champagne’s been popped, and now it’s your turn to let your hair down. It’s time for the reception. 

Your guests are going to freak out when they see the incredible space you brought to life. As guests file in, they’ll find their places at one of the most important parts of the decor: the tables. 

You’ll have your guests’ tables, a table for you and your brand-new spouse, and, if you’d like, a head table for your wedding party. You can decorate all of them the same way to save a few dollars, but feel free to mix things up for a unique look. Maybe each table is themed with a different colored flower or a different photo of the two of you. Get wild. It’s your wedding day. 

Keep in mind that out of all the zones at your wedding, this one is where your guests will spend the most time, so don’t skimp on the details. Between speeches, your family and friends will marvel at the gold detail of the centerpiece vases and welcome delightful table games to get the group talking.

Serve up scrumptious dinner on tables fit for kings and queens on your special day, using this checklist to nail the details: 

Centerpieces with flowers, candles, jars, gems, or terrariums

Plenty of floral stems (for the tables, more is more)

Tablecloths or table runners for a clean, uniform base

Large signs with table numbers for the center of the table

Name cards for each place setting if you’re assigning seats

Menu cards at each seat if guests haven’t chosen their meals ahead of time

Any dinnerware you want down before the caterers do their thing, including salad plates, napkins, two forks, a spoon, and a knife

A wine and water glass for sipping and clinking for a kiss

Comfortable chairs for when your guests need a break from all that dancing

4. Reception decorations

Your wedding day has been perfect beyond words, but this story arc is not over yet. The finale is about to begin. The white wine is plentiful, the pork tenderloin is succulent, the doughnut wall is sprinkled to perfection, and you’re prepared to only cry 27 times during the maid of honor and best man speeches. Let the reception commence. 

The entire wedding couldn’t be more special, but the reception is where the most lasting memories are made, so go ahead and splurge on decor for this part. When your guests walk in, you want them to feel warm, welcomed, and transported into a real-life fairytale. And, of course, you want them to dance all night long. 

The decor is a huge factor in making all of this happen. To solidify your reception decor, think about what you want guests to enjoy during the main event. Does your sweetie have a major sweet tooth? Prepare a few tables for a jaw-dropping dessert display. Is your circle known for chilling as hard as their whiskey? Arrange plenty of comfortable lounge areas. 

Get ready to eat, drink, and be merry on the best night of your life with these reception checkboxes: 

Lighting that mimics romantic starlight, like string lights or lanterns

Fabric for draping to create delicate, dreamy slopes over the dance floor

Side tables and tablecloths for desserts, gifts, and late-night snacks

A stand to display the most beautiful cake you’ve ever laid eyes on

A photo booth for unapologetic photo bombing in excellent lighting

A few cozy lounge areas for dance breaks and signature cocktail sips

Table accents for the dessert table, bar, and any other sparse areas

Sentimental decor, such as elegantly framed photos of older generations at their weddings, tributes to loved ones who have passed, and childhood pictures of you and your partner.

Paperless Post: Your wedding invitation headquarters

As you’re perusing your wedding decor checklist, go ahead and cross online wedding invitations off, too. At Paperless Post, we’ve thought of everything when it comes to invitations.

Our wedding invitations come in every style imaginable so that you shine through. Show your colorful side with this white and floral contrast, your artistic flair with a brush stroke, or a nod to the ceremony with this canopy design. The choice, the day, and the memories are yours to fall in love with.



Every Paperless Post invitation is customizable, so you can make it as unique as your love story. Include your wedding venue information (automatically linked to Google Maps!), a registry link, and any other details about your special day. Personalize your stamp, envelope, fonts, and more to set the tone of the celebration to come. And when the responses pour in, you can instantly track the RSVPs right from your phone

Your happily ever after is right around the corner—and it’s going to be breathtaking.


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