The Last Guide to Inexpensive Wedding Centerpieces You’ll Ever Need

It’s true — traditional floral centerpieces add a lovely touch to your wedding reception tables. It’s also true that they usually cost an arm and a leg, especially if your wedding’s big. Happily, there’s no rule that says you have to stick to the tried but costly floral route for your centerpieces. You have plenty of options that are original, creative and inexpensive. All you need is a good idea of your theme and color scheme.

How Sweet It Is

Having a less formal wedding? Add a lighthearted touch with candy bowl centerpieces. Start with a set of attractive glass containers you found at a craft store or your local Wal-Mart or Target — these could be fluted glass bowls, oversize goblets, clear glass pitchers or anything that strikes your fancy. Now fill them with anything you like, ranging from pastel M&Ms to jelly bellies. Finish them off with a silk ribbon round the edge. You can even stick a long-lasting, casual, pesticide-free flower right in the middle, such as a Carnation or Gerber daisy. These centerpieces are easy to put together, and your guests will enjoy munching on them throughout the evening.


Bargain Blooms

Absolutely must have flowers, but don’t have the budget for a big production? Again, you have options. Skip the pros entirely, and go with bright, appealing Gerber daisies in simple mason jars or clear glass pitchers. Fresh flowers don’t have to be fancy to be absolutely beautiful.


Or take the Eastern route, and go for minimalism. Buy yourself some hardy but exotic blooms, such as anthuriums or birds of paradise. Place two or three stems in a simple glass filled with white riverstones. Accent with a few white pillar candles.


Here’s another striking look with only a few flowers: buy a number of clear glass cylinders. Fill each one with water, and submerge the head of a perfect rose. Top off each cylinder with a floating candle and a smattering of petals. Surround your creations with more petals, or clear glass vase gems.


If you want the floral look but don’t have the time to mess with fresh foliage, take a good look at silk. Almost every hobby or craft store offers a wide selection of silk flowers that you can arrange into lovely centerpieces long before your crunch week arrives. These flowers are much more durable than the real thing, so you can experiment at length and explore your creative horizons. The same store will probably offer all sorts of inexpensive vases, but you may find you like the look of your silk flowers even better without a vase, tied with simple twine or ribbon, just like meadow blooms.


Gone to Pot

If you like the flowers but hate the thought of all those blooms going to wasteafter the reception, why not use potted plants? You can find inexpensive ones at home improvement stores, greenhouses and even grocery stores, all of which periodically discount their plants like mad to clear out the store. You’re sure to find lovely, fragile blooms perfect for repotting in more attractive containers that match your wedding’s color scheme. Or if the pots aren’t half-bad, sponge-paint them or add a little gilt and a satin ribbon to spice them up.


Remember that you don’t have to use traditional flowers if you go the potted route. If you’re having an Asian-themed reception, go for twisted columns of lucky bamboo in a lovely porcelain container. Having a wild West wedding? Group together some mini-cacti for a cute and memorable centerpiece. At the end of the wedding, make sure your guests know that they’re free to grab one and become its “forever owner.”

Hitch Up Some Helium

A classic tactic for dressing up tables inexpensively is helium balloon bouquets. Even with the expense of weights and a helium tank, balloons are a cheap way to add vertical interest and lots of fun to your tables. They also come in hundreds of colors, shapes, patterns and textures, although most brides will want to stick with the tasteful, pearlescent pastels. (Alternately, pick one neutral, light-colored pearlescent balloon, and one more dramatic color that matches your table linens.) When creating balloon bouquets, cut your ribbon in graduated heights so your balloons form an attractive vertical spiral. Or tell your cousin to do it — balloon bouquets are so easy, you can delegate this task to almost anyone.

You can jazz up your balloon bouquets and add an element of surprise. First of all, balloons don’t have to come in the familiar light bulb shape — heart shapes are sweet, and a little different. Another way to give your balloons that extra punch is to use inserts. Inserts can be as simple as some sparkling confetti you’ve dropped inside your balloons, using a simple tube to hold open the neck. You can even insert flowers (avoiding the thorny ones!), foil-wrapped candies, or most dramatically of all, other balloons. Here’s a page with how-to instructions on making dramatic “chandelier” balloon inserts, just to spark some ideas.

Thinking all that could just be too complicated? Here’s a simple crowd-pleaser. Instead of using traditional weights, tie your balloons to the table using candy bars — the regular grocery store variety, or exciting — and heavy — imports like Toblerone or Cadbury. This way, some of your guests can take one home as a souvenir, or at least do a clever munchkin imitation during the waning minutes of the reception.

Go Bananas … or Just Go Nuts

Even the simplest bowls filled with fruit on a little greenery usually look out-of-this-world wonderful. Try large, shallow wooden bowls filled with Spanish moss, lemons, and some matching yellow squash. Tall glass bowls filled with walnuts, grapes, a flower or two and a little durable greenery will look simply smashing.

How about this for simple elegance? Glue a six-inch segment of copper tubing to a flat plate. Fill the tube with dramatic curly willow, and heap the plate with bright red, resilient berries.


Blast From the Past

A photo cube also makes an inexpensive and creative centerpiece. Pictures of the couple as children, or photos of them early in their courtship, can be a big hit for the guests. If you know in advance who’ll be sitting at which tables, spread the nostalgic wealth by tucking in photos of family, friends and guests as well — be sure to get some photos of grandparents and great-grandparents in their christening gowns!

Give it Some Glow

Candles are another favorite way of putting together a simple but elegant centerpiece. You can group your candles by color and shape, or mix them up a little more if you’re good with arrangements. Many brides like to place mirrors under their candles to amplify the glow (mirror tiles are cheap to buy at home improvement stores; round mirrors from craft stores are slightly more expensive).

Don’t stop at pillar candles, though. You can often find hurricane lamps for cheap at your local Wal-Mart. You can also dress up candles in a big way with a little presentation. How about placing a big white candle in a low, black bowl? The result looks anything but low rent.

When your budget’s feeling a little strain and the lottery hasn’t yet come through, you’ve still got plenty of room to move when it comes to spectacular centerpieces. Just fire up your greatest asset — creativity — and you’re sure to come up with an option that’s far more exciting than the same old ho-hum floral arrangements.

Then, when all’s said and done, you’ll probably hear, “how did you come up with that?” Just smile demurely and murmur something about necessity … that is, if you’re feeling generous.