Decorating a buffet table requires a balance between functionality and beauty. Whether you're using a long row of tables or a simple sideboard, you want your guests to be enticed by the food and able to reach it easily, even as they're dazzled by the beautiful way in which you displayed it. Here are some buffet ideas on how to decorate your table for both function and style.
Choose Your Theme and Personal Items
If you're decorating for a holiday or a special occasion, your theme and color scheme may be predetermined for you, making many of your decorating choices easy. Once you have a foundation of table linens and serving pieces, be creative about choosing extra decorative touches to fill out your buffet table and make it look special. For example, if you're decorating for a Christmas buffet, pull a few ornaments off the tree to scatter around the table, or unscrew those large, old-school Christmas tree lights and fill a glass vase with them. A birthday buffet can feature framed photos of the birthday celebrant through the years.
Choose Your Table Linens
Your table linens serve as your foundation when you're decorating a buffet table. The great news about using a full-sized tablecloth is you can turn any surface, even a card table, into a beautiful display and serving space when you choose the right covering. Pick colors that match your theme, whether it's school colors to celebrate a graduation, wedding colors or white lace to set the table for a wedding or shower, or black and orange for Halloween. Consider draping layers of table linens over one another, with a lacy tablecloth or a festive runner covering a solid color.
Showcase the Food
No matter what occasion you're celebrating, a buffet table is first and foremost about the food. Show it off with the appropriate serveware: cake plates, indented deviled egg dishes, cupcake holders, and more. Remember your buffet table is a three-dimensional experience for your guests, so decorate accordingly, with taller serving dishes interspersed with the flat platters. If most of your food is to be served on platters, place some boxes on top of your main tablecloth and cover them with another tablecloth to draw attention to certain foods. Consider creating an edible centerpiece, such as a chocolate fountain on a dessert buffet or even just a watermelon boat filled with melon balls.
Help Direct Traffic
Think about your last experience going through a buffet line. Did you forget to pick up your flatware at the beginning of the line and have to apologize as you crowded back in to pick it up? Or did you pick it up, and then have to juggle it as you worked your way down the line? Keep that in mind as you arrange your buffet setup and consider placing flatware at the end of the line. Start your table setting with stacks of plates and napkins, and then lead your guests straight to the food. End with your flatware caddies and another stack of napkins. Set up a separate table for drinks, and include plenty of glasses or cups so you don't have to keep restocking during your event. Never set a buffet table against a wall, but arrange it so people can approach it from either side to keep traffic flowing.
Add the Finishing Touches
Once you plan the flow of your buffet table, it's time to turn your attention to the final decorating touches. Add vases of fresh flowers, or if you're tight for space, scatter flower petals, leaves, or confetti across your tablecloth. Place your special holiday touches or photos at this time, and don't forget lighting. Candles always add a lovely touch to a buffet table, but place them away from the table's edges so guests don't risk catching their hair or clothing on fire.