Cocktail tables present a unique opportunity when it comes to decorating and styling them. Here are our tried-and-true tips for styling cocktail tables that are both beautiful and functional. 

Cocktail Table Linens

Tablecloths help elevate the style and elegance of cocktail tables. From bright and bold to elegant and understated, the tablecloths you choose are quite impactful visually, and will help set the tone for your entire event. Our tall cocktail tables are 42 inches tall, and tablecloths should be long enough to reach the floor. We recommend going up one linen size if you plan to cinch the tablecloth with a sash. Check out our helpful Linen Size Chart for more detailed tablecloth sizing information. 

Tablecloths can hang loosely over the table, or may be secured around the table’s column with a coordinating sash. 

Cocktail Table Centerpieces

Decorations placed in the center of a table serve as a focal point and add interest to any table. Cocktail tables require extra thought thanks to their smaller diameter – centerpieces that are too large (either wide or tall) will hinder the function of the table itself. 

Cocktail tables are meant to be conversational in nature – encouraging conversation and movement between tables. Centerpieces that are too tall hinder the view of other people around the table, while centerpieces that take up too much of the table surface make it difficult to place drinks and food. We suggest following an 80/20 rule. When it comes to styling cocktail tables, 80% of the surface area of the table should remain usable, while 20% may be used up by a centerpiece. 

Looking for centerpiece ideas? Here are some of our favorites:

  • Candles
  • Flowers
  • Greenery
  • Lanterns
  • Terrariums
  • Bowls of fruit
  • Rock garden
  • Vases
  • Framed table numbers
  • Framed photos


Using Patterns and Colors

A simple way to add interest to your cocktail party is to add texture and color. Coordinating colors, patterns that stand out, and texture – like metallics, lace, and burlap can make a major impact on the overall look and feel of your event. Details like table runners, napkins, and napkin rings, can be layered to accomplish this goal and complete your cocktail table design. 


Spacing and Positioning Cocktail Tables

Cocktail parties require different spacing needs than a formal sit-down dinner. That being said, you should plan to host a cocktail hour in a space that offers at least 6 square feet of space per person for an all-standing cocktail party. If you plan to have partial seating, we recommend increasing that to 8 square feet per person. Cocktail tables should be spaced to allow guests to easily move from table to table and mingle in the spaces between and around each table. 

Each venue space is different, and the way you may choose to position your cocktail tables will likely vary based on the event space. While some outdoor venues are large and feature multiple patios and green space, others may be more limiting. In large spaces, we typically recommend creating a “cocktail table” section, while in smaller spaces we often recommend spreading cocktail tables throughout the room or patio. 

You may choose to place chairs at the cocktail tables, opt for standing room only, or some mixture of both. 


Cocktail Table Sizes and Materials

Cocktail tables come in several different varieties, including heights and widths. 

Lowboys – Lowboys are short cocktail tables, typically seated with chairs. A 30 inch lowboy is a nice size for four chairs during a cocktail reception where you only need enough table space for a drink and perhaps a small plate. A 36 inch lowboy can accommodate five chairs for cocktails, and is also large enough to seat four people for dinner. 

Highboys – These are the more commonly used tall cocktail tables, which are best used for guests to stand around. Similar to a lowboy, a 30 inch highboy can accommodate drinks and small plates, while a 36 inch highboy offers more space for large plates. 

Both highboy and lowboy cocktail tables come in either aluminum or wood finishes. Aluminum cocktail tables are especially popular for outdoor use, as they are designed to be used without linens – so there is no need to worry about linens blowing off of the tables in super windy conditions. Additionally, aluminum tables end up costing less, since linen rentals are not necessary. 

Looking for more cocktail table inspiration? Check out our photo album.

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