© Melissa Nowakowski April 2010

At times I encounter clients who feel somewhat distressed over their chosen venue for their wedding or event. They have picked a venue that they feel is the best fit for their needs in terms of budget, location and (of course, the most important factor) the quality and style of food.

So what's the problem? The said venue is quote: "a typical banquet hall" -- bland, boring, perhaps outdated...just no 'oomph'.

So how do you take a venue like this and make it unique, stylish and, well, you? Apply The Little Black Dress Theory.

Think of your venue as the classic little black dress: a solid canvas that can be dressed up or down with the right accessories. That said, your standard venue can be anything you want it to be with the right additions.


Photo courtesy of Irina Photography

Outfitting your chairs in beautiful coloured covers can turn your standard banquet chairs from weary to wow. Stretch covers can give your chaise a sleek, sophisticated appearance while wraps, brocade and ballroom covers add flowing elegance. Add a sash, band or tuck a flower into the cover's folds for a splash of colour. Not feeling the whole cover-your-chair bit? Replacing the chairs altogether with stylish chair rentals such as Chiavari chairs, Ghost chairs and more, will instantly transform your tables. When choosing linens, don't feel limited to solid cotton or satin linens and overlays. Play with bold patterns, intricate designs and more. You would be surprised how dramatically a room can change from the simple (yet strategic!) use of linens and chairs.


Copyright Et Lofte Events

Banquet halls are synonymous with round tables but there's nothing holding you to that shape. A mixture of round, square and rectangular guest tables add dimension. And why should the 'Head Table' get all the fun? Adding a series of risers along the walls and placing a few guest tables on them creates bold height definition (just be sure to include steps for any guests you seat on risers and ensure those guests don't have mobility issues!). Rather than opt for the standard jumble of tables, place all your tables in one large circle, figure eight them (with the 'Head Table' at its centre) or place rectangular tables in one large, adjoined rectangle.

Centre your 'Head Table' among guests or distribute your guests-of-honour to separate Bistro-style tables set on risers at different heights to change up the boring 'Head-table-at-the-front-of-the-Room' look.

Forgo banquet tables and chairs altogether and implement comfort furniture such as couches, coffee tables, benches, bar stools and bar tables, armchairs, ottomans and yes, depending on the event's formality, even bean bag chairs!


Photo courtesy of John Bauld Photography

When used properly, lighting can dramatically change not just the venue but the entire mood of an event. There are numerous lighting options out there ranging from the budget-friendly to the luxurious. It's all in how you light it up.

Uplighting walls and drapery with coloured Gobos can instantly transform a venue's perimeter. Whether your look if soft and pretty or bold and funky, LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) have the ability to mix colours and can illuminate everything from walls, ceilings, tables and bars. Pinspots can highlight centerpieces and specific focal-points for effect. Underlighting (most often seen at 'Head Tables') can provide drama for your guest tables when strategically placed under just a few.


Photo courtesy of Dance Floor Decor

Dress up your dance floor...literally! While lighting can add ambiance, gone are the days where a monogram Gobo lit up the tiles. Nowadays, you can literally dress up your dance floor with lightweight covers in your theme design. Whether adorned with a monogram, logo, photograph, pattern or even simply in a specific shade and design, companies such as Dance Floor Decor in Toronto provide a thin covering that adheres to the dance floor -- instantly dressing it up with some pizazz. At the end of the night, simply peel off the covering like a Post-It note!


Photo courtesy of The Wedding Decorators

The right draping -- whether heavy, satin, lightweight or sheer -- can instantly add texture to any room. Ceiling swags give a stylish 'whoosh' to high ceilings while strategically placed and designed draping along the walls can elegantly accessorize bland walls.

Does the colour of the walls at your venue contrast with your colour scheme? Draping -- albeit at times a costly measure depending on the size of your venue -- can hide unsightly walls and present beautifully textured perimeters instead.


Putting a unique spin on traditional elements of an event -- whether they are guestbooks, wedding cakes, favours, seating arrangements, etc -- will draw focus to them and away from the room itself. Add additional focal points such as stylish and interactive food stations or specialized entertainment such as a dance floor troupe or cultural performance, strategically place blown-up photographs related to the guests-of-honour around the venue for attendees to view while they sip cocktails, hang coloured Chinese paper lanterns (or for a unique twist, hang large-scale Origami!) from the ceiling, project a different silent video montage on each of the walls...the possibilities are endless! Getting creative with the "little" details will again, draw attention to the right elements and add flavour to any area that you feel is...well...tasteless.

Copyright Et Lofte Events

Now, I'm not saying that all banquet halls are bland and boring. There are some absolutely stunning banquet halls out there. But let's be honest shall we? We've all encountered those venues that provide impeccable quality in food and service but at the same time make us want to gouge our eyes out in terms of appearance.

If the venue that you have chosen has everything you could ask for -- except personality -- the key is to look at it as you would view your little black dress: a timeless piece that we can instantly update and, with the right accessories, become instant va-va-voom!