Coming up with ideas for centerpieces can be one of the roughest bits of wedding planning out there. Of course, for a few lucky brides, it’s not that hard — they just set the florist free with some thoughts about “mood” and a blank check. Others are happy to find their venue offers perfectly decent centerpieces as part of the evening’s services. Neither of those brides are reading this.
Since you are, you’re probably somewhere in between. And it’s possibly up to you to at least design, if not actually produce, the cute things that’ll unify the design and provide a focal point — or a talking point, even! — at every table. (And no, “what was she sniffing?” is not the type of talking point we’ll leave your guests with, promise.)
At first, the task can seem overwhelming. But if you check out the centerpieces showing up at weddings across the country, you’ll find there’s a big trend toward keeping it simple that works in your favor. And it’s easier than it looks to dream up dozens of great ideas. How? Just mix and match, stealin… — ahem, borrowing — from popular building blocks you’ll see everywhere. Just keep your overall look in mind (traditional? contemporary?) and you’ll be sure to come out looking like you were born to style weddings.
What Fabulous Centerpieces Have in Common
Not all centerpieces have all these elements, of course. If you actually used them all at once you might have some sort of horrible gravitational accident (“Sorry about the black hole, honey. I’ll work in the garage next time.”). But most of them use a few. Just play along with our creative nomenclature, and you’ll be off and running.
The guts, the contents, the gear, the goods. This is them. Going for the most stately and traditional to aggressively modern, these is a list of popular, well … stuff that brides build their centerpieces around.
- pillar candles
- floating tealights
- roses, gerbers, hydrangeas, callas
- black magic roses, orchids
- flowers plus interwoven bear grass
- hypericum berries
- flowered branches, curly twigs
- green ranunculous, brown or green roses, green mums, gomphrenia, proteas
- small citrus fruits wrapped in contrasting satin ribbons
- large variegated leaves, curled into clear cylinders
- wheat grass
- medium gauge copper wire, curled and spiraled
- tall curly willow or flowered branches pushing vertically above floral arrangements
- peacock feathers (a collar for roses, hydrangeas)
- white ostrich feathers (typically in Eiffel vases)
- traditional white blooms dyed startling colors (acid green, aqua blue)
- tropical exotic flowers, reeds, bamboo
- lotus pods, artichokes, kale “roses”
The Guts, Thematic Version
We’re going to take a brief detour here and list a few popular “thematic” centerpieces. Those are little more specialized, so we won’t linger long.
- candy bouquets (oversized lollipops, chocolate long-stemmed roses)
- cookie towers
- individual cakes
- tiered favor box “cakes”
- terra cotta pots, painted or natural
- wine bottles
- sand castles
- flower-filled conch shells
- pumpkins, gourds
- galvanized pails, watering cans
- birds nests, birdhouses
Okay. Let’s talk vessels and cylinders, fishbowls and boxes. These are a few of brides’ favorite things when it comes to holding The Stuff.
- bubble bowls (“fish bowls”), ivy bowls, hurricane lamps
- footed pedestal bowls, urns
- silver mint julep cups
- eiffel (tower) or trumpet vases
- mason jars
- photo cubes
- gift boxes, hat boxes
- wooden crates
- clear glass cylinders
- square vases, square bowls
- oversized martini or wine glasses
A rose is a rose is a rose, it’s said. But wasn’t a rose something else when you lopped off the heads of a dozen and sent the stems to your cheating ex in college? Of course it was.
How you treat Your Stuff says at least as much about your style as The Stuff itself. Here are some popular treatments, ranging from Princess Di-ish to Edie Sedgewick-y.
- flowers, nosegays
- flowers, wired to topiaries
- flowers, pavéed
- de-stemmed single flower heads floating in water: gerbers, roses, peonies
- blooms arranged into pomanders or spheres
- maple or oak leaves, roses, orchids, gerbers: submerged entirely in water (aka “drowning rose”)
- callas, bear grass, sword grass: submerged and twirled in bubble glass
- roses, orchids, gerbers: submerged plus underwater lighting
- vegetables (gourds, succulents): submerged
Killer Container Fillers
Of course, it isn’t always enough to have fabulous flowers and Baccarat vases (or wheat grass and stainless steel). Sometimes we ladies just need an extra design element. Voila: pretty stuff that goes into the container. Hey, plain old water isn’t always thrilling enough for events like this.
- gel beads
- vase gems, clear
- vase gems, bright striking colors
- vase gems with underwater lighting
- cranberries, kumquats, cherries, frozen green peas (can take water)
- coffee beans, candy corn, dried indian corn, popcorn, dried peas, lentils (keep dry)
- colored water, underwater lighting
- citrus fruit, arranged cut side out
- block of floral foam wrapped in sword grass or hosta leaves (placed in square jars)
Snappy Container Wrappers
You’ve tossed in the callas, the vase gems, a magnificent beta fish for good measure — but something’s still missing. What could it be?
Perhaps it’s the snappy container wrapper. Because that bubble bowl can look a bit bare without a little something wrapped around it. Miniature “bowl lingerie” is hard to find, but satin ribbons are easy. Hurrah!
- multilayered satin ribbons
- berry sprays/garlands
- bark strips
- marabou feather boas
- bear grass
- bear grass threaded with crystals
What a pretty word, eh? “Underlayments.” Sounds like something that involves a lot of rivets, and maybe some naughty lace. But in this case, it’s something that goes under your container to make it look even more fabulous. Yeah, like that’s possible.
- contrasting table runners
- reflective mirror tiles
- criss-crossed satin ribbons
- hosta leaves
- sheet moss
- “stone” runners on webbed backing, cut into squares
- bamboo rolling mats or soba trays
Contrary to popular belief, this is not the unfortunate transformation your fiancé wreaks on your living room before you even tie the knot. (“Your TV isn’t wired for 5.1?? Don’t worry, honey, I’ll take care of that. Can you hand me that coat hanger?”)
No, surrounds (at least in our minds) are those sophisticated little things you toss around your centerpieces to give them even more visual interest. Rose petals and vase gems are the most traditional. You can simply scatter them around your creations like little moons in loose orbits.
Or, if you’re feeling a little more luxe, you can arrange your centerpieces in a soldierly little line all the way down the table, filling the spots between with heaps of petals or orchid heads. Or if you really want to cheer up your guests, you could always scatter gold coins.
- vase gems
- rose petals
- round votive holders
- beach glass
- teacups (as votive holders)
- loose dendrobium orchids
- river stones
- square votive holders
- glass ornaments
- miniature gourds (plain or hollowed to hold votive candles)
- polished black river stones
And Now, Over to You
Whew! Well, that’s enough out of us (do I smell something burning?) You’ve probably thought of a few great centerpiece ideas yourself. Trade ideas in the comments field below … and don’t forget to include some pics of your mock-ups or final results!