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Roundup: Non-Floral Centerpieces For Weddings


Say goodbye to sad wedding goldfish bowls

by Meg Keene, Editor-In-Chief

Roundup: Non Floral Centerpieces For Weddings | A Practical WeddingRoundup: Non Floral Centerpieces For Weddings | A Practical WeddingRoundup: Non Floral Centerpieces For Weddings | A Practical WeddingRoundup: Non Floral Centerpieces For Weddings | A Practical WeddingRoundup: Non Floral Centerpieces For Weddings | A Practical WeddingRoundup: Non Floral Centerpieces For Weddings | A Practical Wedding

1. Simple Fruit Centerpiece 2. Faux Garland Centerpiece 3. Glittery Fake Floral Centerpiece 4. Glitter Feather Centerpiece 5. Vellum Candle Centerpiece 6. Pink Pumpkin Centerpiece

Last fall, the APW team decided to put our heads together (and bring in the much smarter head of our favorite wedding designer, Brooklyn’s own Michelle Edgemont) to create a bunch of non-floral centerpieces for weddings. All of the APW staffers had limited funds when we were planning our weddings, and all of us tried madly to problem solve when it came to centerpieces. (In fact, we spent the shoot day saying things like, “Man! I wish we’d done this for our wedding. Or this, it’s so cute and easy.”)

Centerpieces are one of those wedding items that you totally don’t need-need, but your mom is probably going to insist on (or deep down, you just… want). Plus, having a pretty centerpiece is kind of like getting your nails done. You may not have a lot of money to throw at the other things—but that one pretty detail makes it look like you really have your shit together. My solution to not having cash for centerpieces was to DIY flower centerpieces the day before our wedding. And while they turned out looking pretty cute, they are also the one wedding detail I’d probably do differently. The amount of effort and lady power (and ultimately, cost, since we didn’t know what we were doing) that putting together those centerpieces took, is energy I would have rather spent having a drink with friends on my wedding weekend.

So for you, here is our complete collection of non-floral centerpieces for weddings. Each of them can be made in advance—some can be made a week in advance (hey, fruit), and some can be made forever in advance. They are all relatively affordable (the feathers and fruit are the cheapest, the gold explosion is the most expensive). And most importantly, they’re all chic, and can be modified in a zillion different ways to fit your particular style. Here is to bringing non-floral centerpieces into this century (goodbye, cantaloupe cut like flowers), and here is to fewer dead goldfish, sacrificed on the centerpiece alter. I wish you many weekend drinks with friends in your new spare time, and a super stylish wedding reception.

Meg Keene

Meg is the Founder and EIC of APW. Her first book, A Practical Wedding: Creative Solutions for Planning a Beautiful, Affordable, and Meaningful Celebration, was published in January 2012, and has been a top three bestseller on the wedding bookshelf ever since. Meg has her BFA in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and son.


The Info:

Photography: Allison Andres for A Practical Wedding | Design: Michelle Edgemont

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  • scw

    I was just researching centerpieces, so this is perfectly timed! anyone have experience with potted herbs (maybe to double as favors)?

    • amc

      In September I went to a wedding that had a large (maybe 10in) centerpiece of potted herbs. I took it home and used it all fall. I loved it! I think the large version worked better than many individual pots because there was enough to cook with.
      Another idea would be to do the centerpiece and then give seeds as a favor if you wanted to.

      • scw

        I like the idea of one big one better, but who decided who got to take it home?

        • KC

          “Door prizes” can sometimes be determined by a post-it note stuck under one of the chairs at the table (and then that fact announced later). [if that person really doesn't want to take them home, then they can talk someone else at the table into it, or whoever is cleaning up and/or you and your family just also get some pots of wedding herbs. Not exactly a sad thing. :-) ]

    • Ellen

      Trader Joe’s usually has fantastic potted herbs in a pretty nice container- definitely centerpiece-worthy!

    • MirandaVanZ

      I went to a wedding that had potted plants that doubled as favors, they looked great and people with greener thumbs then I got to have a reminder of the wedding alive in there home afterwards. I still have the pot though!

  • Jenn

    I’m hoping this works, but for my wedding this summer I’ve ordered a ton of miniature polka dot pinwheels online that I’ll be putting little flags on saying “thanks for coming!”, and sticking those in vases full of LEGOs. They do triple-duty– centerpieces, something to keep you and your kids busy, and take-away favors. Also, 210 pinwheels cost $60, I’m borrowing vases, and am getting a few buckets of lego pieces for $60, meaning that my total centerpiece AND favor cost will come out to somewhere around $120 for 25 tables and 200 guests. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the idea pans out as nicely in real life as it does in my head.

    • http://readingandthensome.blogspot.com/ Martha Smith

      LEGOS???? You should use crayons too, equally colorful and cheap :-)

      • Jenn

        What a good idea! I was also thinking I’d just see what the thrift stores have in terms of bulk small plastic toys like those little animal figures.

        • http://readingandthensome.blogspot.com/ Martha Smith

          Oh that’s a great idea! I bet the dollar store has big bags of stuff like that too.

        • Lindsey d.

          There are a bunch of places online to buy small toys/prizes in bulk. I googled “small plastic toys bulk” and found a lot geared toward school carnivals and whatnot.

    • Eh

      We had LEGO as our table numbers! It was awesome and after people found their tables they had fun playing with the LEGO. (We had a LEGO heart with Han Solo and Princess Leia mini figs on our table instead of a table number.) Also to entertain our guests we had games on the table as our centrepieces (inexpensive since we already owned them).

  • Lindsey d.

    I’m so excited about my non-floral centerpieces. We were going to do terrariums but ditched that after someone posted a link to glittery, gold paper lanterns one Happy Hour. So we are doing those (so bright they don’t need candles), with a few little white lanterns around them. We’re also doing a few tall centerpieces. My mom found these amazing gold, glittery branches on sale around Christmas and bought a bunch, as well as several bags of small gold, glittery (sensing a theme) little balls for vase filler. The photo is just messing with everything at home, but you can see the elements. It’s definitely going to bring sparkle to the country club reception venue. And cheap! I think we’ll total $150 for 20 centerpieces.

    • Jenn

      That is so cool!

    • MisterEHolmes

      Pretty! I like the idea!

    • Ariel

      Yay!!! I can’t wait to see the finished centerpiece! I’m loving all the gold glitter :-)

      I went to buy the lanterns last night from that website and they were sold out… I hope they get them back in stock soon. Since you already have them in your house… Do you think I should buy those hanging LEDs for some/all of them?

      • Lindsey d.

        Ariel! Yes,you were totally my inspiration. When is your wedding? I have a feeling I will have two dozen gently used gold lanterns to sell to you at the beginning of April for cheaper than the website. And probably some crazy gold branches and vase filler (the vases go back to my mom, though). We should keep in touch. If you don’t hear from me, my email is ldeblieux @ gmail.com (without spaces clearly).

        We are having a daytime wedding (noon reception) in a room with lots of windows and decided the lanterns have so much sparkle on their own that they don’t need extra lights. I actually think they would have to be pretty bright light to make an impact. We are also doing small (4.5″) white lanterns with the gold ones that would look good with a touch of light in them. I’m not bothering because lazy.

        • Ariel

          That’d be awesome, thank you! My wedding isn’t until June 28th.

  • http://readingandthensome.blogspot.com/ Martha Smith

    Confession: I had floral centerpieces. BUT, they were anything but elaborate.

    My mom & grandma used to be hard-core in to canning, so between the two of them they had plenty of mason jars on hand. I’d totally recommend first figuring out what you have for free/borrow-able and go from there. We bought cut flowers from our bouquet florist (so cheap!) and put them together with the help of bridesmaids the morning of – no problem! My brothers were responsible for Mission: Flower Pick Up the day before and it worked out great. Mom & I came up with a quick, easy arrangement in less than five minutes. I highly recommend flowers with big blooms to get the most for your money – think hydrangea or dahlias. It took less than an hour to do the arranging, lay out the place cards, arrange a few misc decorations, and fill the jars with stones and water.

    • http://twitter.com/mollyepollard Molly Pollard

      My grandmother is making my centerpieces a couple of days before the wedding. I hope I’ll be able to help her. I’m glad to have her doing it, she’s a pro at making beautiful floral arrangements. She has told me she doesn’t do bouquets well, so I’m going to have to get the bouquest and bouttonieres from a florist, but that should be easy enough… there are only two of each. :)

      My whole wedding planning philosophy has been keep it simple. It hasn’t always worked out that way, but in the case of wedding decorations, I’m sticking to my guns.

  • MirandaVanZ

    We have rectangle tables so we are doing a line of randomized items down the length of them, I hope it doesn’t look to busy. We are using the spray painted apples along with mason jars / random clear jars I’ve been collecting with either a tea light or a single flower in each one. So hopefully it doesn’t look bad, I think the key to making it look cool as opposed to messy is having everything super evenly spaced.

    I’m also going to do up some of those pumpkins and put them along with some more apples on the guestbook / food / cake tables.

    • Maddie Eisenhart

      That idea reminds me a lot of this tutorial we did a while back. It’s always been one of my favorites. Basically, everything looks good with tea lights or votives next to it. :)

      http://apracticalwedding.com/2012/05/how-to-make-a-simple-colorful-tablescape/

      • KC to KE

        This is the plan I have for my centerpieces. Our wedding is April 2015, and we’ve already got boxes of clear glass jars saved. I loved this for the simplicity. Our wedding venue is outdoor, with hideous green picnic tables. I’m planning to cover the tops with table cloths, and then run the glass jars down the center just as depicted in the photo above. I think it’ll dress the place up a bit and not break the bank. I’m pretty excited about it.

  • Nope.

    I would love to hear from anyone who’s done centerpieces made of food! I’ve been Pinteresting everything from vegetables in big planter boxes to jars of pickles to little pots of seedlings. Anyone have any experience with this?

    • scw

      we’re thinking about food too! I’m picturing bowls of radishes… maybe a radish wreath.

  • Maria

    Glass beads and LEDs in vases! We wanted something that gave off light for our outdoor evening dinner, but didn’t want to bother with candles that might blow out. We rented the vases and bought the glass marbles, bare LED bulbs, and batteries. That, plus some friend-made paper flowers and table runners and our tables were gorgeous!

    For the LEDs, we made LED “throwies” instead of buying strings of LED bulbs or anything, which basically meant we taped the LEDs to watch batteries, both of which could be bought in bulk online. Here’s instructions: http://www.instructables.com/id/LED-Throwies/

    • Emmers

      pretty!!!

  • Stefanie H.

    For ours, we’re going less for pretty and more for functional, space-filling and unique. We’ve collected a bunch of cool old coffee table books, random old hardcover how-to books, books about the universe and celebrities from the 40’s and gardening, etc. and we are putting them in arranged stacks in the middle of our circular tables. We’ve got a bunch of synthetic moss to scatter over them and on the table around them, and each stack will have a mismatched candy dish (or watering can or random other containers we’ve collected) on top, which we’re going to fill with fortune cookies. Everything (with the exception of the cookies and the moss) has been collected secondhand for super cheap. The idea is, hopefully if we find enough cool books, it’ll give people something else to do at the reception, and we’re going to put little signs out asking them to take as much of the centerpieces home to keep as they like (the closest thing we’re doing to favors). It might be odd, and we might get some weird looks from family, but I think it fits in nicely with our engagement photos (taken at the local library) and our STD’s (which look like old library book due date cards, hand-typed, with the date of the wedding stamped with one of those old date stamps). I’m not sure useful that is to anyone, but I definitely think going for unique means more people potentially remembering those centerpieces you put so much hard work into.

    • MisterEHolmes

      Holla to the fellow book nerd! A family friend inherited her mother’s library of exceedingly odd books (lots of astrology, some crazy 70s meditation stuff, horribly cheesy romance novels, etc) and gave them away. I backed up the metaphorical truck and took away as many as I felt I could reasonably use–anything with an old-looking cover, a funny allusion to love, a few “how to sex” books because it will embarrass my parents and come on, weddings are about legal sex–and I’m still figuring out how to use them for centerpieces!

  • Kate Stein

    We used vases from IKEA (they came in sets of three) with some old coffee beans in the bottom, and filled with clementines. After the wedding we encouraged everyone to take oranges home with them. I made the ones that weren’t taken into marmalade.

  • Kat

    We took forever to decide on centerpieces. I couldn’t find something I was really enthusiastic about and after costing out candles and vases, realised something I wasn’t that excited by was quite expensive. We ended up with these wooden centerpieces (the photo is of a mock-up may parents did for me) and made them using branches from trees on my parents property (and I learnt how to use a drill press in the process). I loved them!

    • Kat

      We were inspired by this photo I found on the internet. I e-mailed it to my parents saying I like this but can’t see how we’d do it, and they e-mailed back with the mock-up above.

      • http://hayleyannephotography.com/ Hayley_Anne

        oo these are cool!

  • Karen

    I really don’t get the centerpiece thing… what’s wrong with a couple of candles? Regular candles? Or a photo? Or a handful of confetti? Or nothing? Do you ever go someplace and wish that there were more objects on the table?

    • Caitlin_DD

      This. I want people to be able to see each other (David Tutera, I’m looking at you) and have plenty of room for foooooood! The centerpiece is the food!

      • http://karenmadrone.wordpress.com/ Karen

        I’m with the other Karen on this. I always look at things like centerpieces and wonder what would we do with it afterwards. If we can’t reuse it in some way it’s not going to be used.

    • Kayjayoh

      Well for us, it is so that the tables aren’t completely bare-looking at the start. The food is going to be buffet-style, so the plates and all will be at the line.

  • Kayjayoh

    We are trying to figure out what exactly to do with the big book of SF/F paperbacks that will show off their awesome cover art and *also* won’t be destructive to the books. (We’d like people to be able to take them home if they like.)

    • ediblesprysky

      I once saw books used as place cards! They were romance novels, but sci-fi/fantasy sounds way more badass. But it was decorative AND served as a favor–I loved it. I don’t know how many guests or how many books you have lying around that you’re willing to part with, but that could be SUPER economical!

      • Kayjayoh

        Placecards only work if you are assigning seats, which we are not.