From lush florals to simple candlelight, wedding centerpieces are perhaps one of the more important elements of your wedding day. Determining how much you’re actually planning to spend sets things in motion in terms of incorporating your personal taste throughout the design—even more specifically, the tables at your reception.
Florist and event designer Kiara Hancock shares that there are a handful of things you can focus on when trying to stretch your dollars when it comes to wedding centerpieces: budget, seasonality, and creativity. “Your budget is the biggest deciding factor in centerpieces for your wedding,” she says. “If you have a budget in mind for your flowers, make your wish list of what you have in mind for your wedding and reach out to a few florists to see how far you can get on the budget you have set.”
Charleston-based destination wedding planner Augusta Cole believes the conversation starts with what actually makes something affordable. “Maybe something feels more affordable if it is also sustainable and reusable,” she says. “Even something that easily translates into your home life after the event, something that can have a second life makes what is perhaps an upfront investment feel like it has a longer shelf life and value.”
Meet the Expert
Whether you decide to rent or purchase the elements that come together as centerpieces, when it comes to affordability, you can make it cost-effective. You want every table to feel like they’ve been treated with a similar touch of thoughtfulness.
Read on to discover 34 centerpiece ideas that make a big impact on the design, but not on your wallet, no matter your wedding style.
Make a Statement With Candelabras
The presence of a candelabra brings a decidedly elegant factor into the mix at the reception. Even if you prefer a minimalist feel, a single piece of design like this will make a big statement, as it takes up more space on the table and the overall design, and will potentially be more cost-effective than individual candlesticks.
The addition of a combination of candles in various colors makes it even more interesting!
“One of my favorite ways to decorate is potted plants,” says Cole. “Blooming florals, citrus trees, potted ferns in pretty containers, you truly can keep these and pop them in your garden, pot them at home—you can even donate them to the church or synagogue you were married in for them to plant on the property!” Your selection could include your personal favorites, or perhaps even something that’s prolific within the area. “It’s the gift that keeps on giving.”
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
The idea of sustainability isn’t one that’s new to the wedding industry, but it is one that is easy to consider and incorporate within the overall vision of the wedding weekend festivities. This rehearsal dinner in Michigan boasted herbs and simple florals replanted in bright and colorful cans that added a punchy element of color as an affordable and fun way to reduce & reuse.
Mix It Up
“I love mixing things up at a reception to create visual interest and add texture. It is also a strategy you can use to help bring your floral costs down,” says Hancock. “Instead of having centerpieces at every table, you can have 2-3 designated designs for your reception. For example, some tables can have floral centerpieces, others can have loose greenery on them, while the rest can have sets of bud vases with singles of your favorite blooms and votives.” This vintage-inspired garden wedding in the Bronx incorporated towering vases on some tables and smaller compote arrangements at others, dispersing the florals in a number of ways.
Entertain Beyond the Day
Consider the focal point and pick and choose exactly what you’d want to live longer than the wedding day and become a part of your entertaining arsenal. A great way to do that is with centerpiece vessels. “The more intimate the wedding, the easier it is to do this,” shares Cole. “If you’re doing a table for 50, or even a party for 100, there could be some value in investing in entertaining pieces that you’ll use again at home.” When the party’s over, share the wealth! “Give some of the pieces to your parents or in-laws. You get something really special, and then the investment lives on.”
Let the Family Heirlooms Shine
If sustainability is on your mind, Cole encourages a dialogue with your creative partners early on in the process. One way this could come to life is by using pre-existing family heirlooms as part of the design of the centerpieces. This opens up a layer of affordability by making do with what you already have, and the sentimental value can’t be beat! Showcasing a family collection of silver or other vases adds a touching element and your guests will love the story.
Perfect for the minimalist couple, a scattering of vases with single stems can cut down on the cost of flowers significantly. In this instance, choosing more exotic or unique florals that make a big impact just on their own can elevate a reception focused on the details. Each vase essentially becomes a piece of art, like this table at this couple’s destination wedding in Portugal.
Accessorize With Fruit
A design element we hope never goes away, Cole shares that fruit as an added element of color and elegance can make a large impact even for a smaller budget. “Fruit immediately elevates! Cut citrus, bowls of cherries..it adds color, seasonality, personality, without a lot the requirement of a lot of arranging or prepping.”
En Masse Florals
“A really tasteful and pretty way to do floral design is floral en masse,” says Cole. “So even if it’s just all hydrangea, en masse it will look much more ‘designed’ versus incorporating a mixture of different flowers along with their varied expense.” Cole even suggests color-blocking anything from mums to carnations, both incredibly affordable.
Statement-Making Solo Blooms
A design that highlights a handful of statement-making single blooms within one tablescape will make things more affordable based on the sheer quantity alone. This fall wedding incorporated large dahlias and roses, a true showing of “less is more.” In doing so, it becomes more about the flower having its moment to express itself more than multiple different flowers would do in one singular arrangement.
Cole suggests the design idea of beautiful white pottery or ceramics from a local artisan. It’s an element of design that will last long past the big day. “Wherever we can, we’d love to incorporate a ‘second life’ scenario for plants, floral, etc.” That can be an upfront conversation rather than reacting. There are more and more companies coming up with ways to support that—having the actual plan in place that will make that more achievable.
Is it possible that the most affordable centerpiece is… possibly no centerpiece? This couple’s lakefront Illinois wedding was heavy on the pattern and light on the centerpieces. The mixture of texture and color that a combination of floral printed napkins and tablecloths bring to the table might eliminate the need for a centerpiece completely, but be full of life and vibrant design. “If you go more heavily patterned on the tablecloth, you could go more simple on the floral,” Cole says. Regardless, “every guest should sit down amongst a similar level of design layering and intrigue.”
The dream-like quality of a design featuring only candles of varying shapes and sizes, like this stunning wedding reception in Mallorca, is a design that Cole can absolutely advocate for and embrace fully, no matter the wedding style! “That’s always a great solution; you can even rent racks of votives very inexpensively. If you time the reception right, you can begin just as the light is fading for a major wow factor.”
Favors Front & Center
While some couples have more of a penchant for favors than others, incorporating gifts for your guests as part of the focal point of the design is a unique and surprising way to elevate a centerpiece. This summer wedding on the Greek island of Crete featured bottles and jars of local olive oil and salt for guests to use.
Take that a step further and adopt a similar design idea in multiples, allowing guests to take a piece of the day home with them.
Palm Leaf Garland
For a quintessential tropical design, singular palm branches strewn across the table is perfect for a beach wedding. Use a combination of differing leaves for a layered effect; you’ll be able to get away with laying the leaves or branches end to end to cover more space and won’t require as much as a vase full of leaves might necessitate.
En Masse Greenery
“Have fun with greenery! It’s gorgeous and you can do that en masse,” says Cole. Greenery on rustic farm tables for a chic barn wedding is undoubtedly lush and full of life while remaining elegant in design and execution. Ask your florist what ‘filler’ greenery can be strung together as a garland, and have tables overflowing with it!
Keep It Loose
Want greenery but prefer a more simplistic look and feel? Scattered pieces of greenery, whether mixed or just one kind, can bring cohesiveness to a tablescape centerpiece. Let the greenery serve as the element that holds the other individual pieces together, perhaps candlesticks or votives, or even other pops of green incorporated throughout the ceremony design.
This Atlanta wedding was inspired by The Secret Garden, incorporating drapey foliage for an elegant, Old World European vision at Swan House. Layered amongst candles and a gorgeous silk runner, smilax stole the show. The waxy, dark green vines take on a life of their own, weaving effortlessly throughout long farm tables as a centerpiece that gives you more bang for your buck. A little smilax goes a long way—a perfect option for when it comes to affordability!
Bud Vase Collection
“English floral design is very en vogue right now. Traditional English weddings incorporate florals a little more sparingly, with clusterings of bud vases and the like,” says Cole. With fewer flowers needed, this simple look can translate well for a minimal wedding, true English garden design, and for weddings large and small.
Combine Food and Decor
A charcuterie board as a centerpiece is a combination of both ingenuity and creativity! This is the perfect opportunity to highlight a specific element on the menu, and marrying two major pieces of the wedding puzzle (design and catering) in an inventive way emphasizes a design element that can be enjoyed for more than just it’s stunning looks!
Don’t Forget to Look Up
This classic wedding in Minnesota was light on the table decor and overflowing when it came to elevated—literally—design! Take the design up, if the reception space is conducive to it, and have hanging greenery as the focal point ‘centerpiece.’ It’s unexpected and will cover more ground than keeping track of multiple centerpieces.
Light the Way
If you’re getting married in a library or other historic venue, as this couple did in Washington, make use of what’s already available in terms of lighting perhaps. Adding lamplight to a tablescape, and as a main focal point no less, casts an elegant glow throughout the event, a classic, thoughtful touch that’s a welcome change from the standard of buying candles you’ll only use once on the day!
Bowls of Fruit
Even if you utilize this trend as decor only and not for consumption, bowls of fruit as the main centerpiece, accented by votives like this rooftop wedding in San Francisco, can cut down on costs tremendously. “It’s so beautiful and natural; to add fruit to the mix, bowls of lemons or limes, tropical fruit mixed with maidenhair ferns—it’s not DIY, it’s good taste,” says Cole.
Farm to Table
We know fruit can have its moment in the wedding design, but what about vegetables? Absolutely! A plethora of cabbages or artichokes graced the tables of this wedding in Tennessee, and for the better. This would be perfect for a rustic, barn wedding or an intimate fall wedding down on the farm highlighting the bounty of harvest and the abundance of your life ahead as a married couple.
Groupings of Small Glass Vases
Choose a statement flower that will really catch the eyes of your guests. Instead of turning them into a large arrangement, keep it simple and arrange a handful of small, inexpensive glass vases—perhaps from your florist or even as rentals—together as a centerpiece. This can be done on round or long tables alike, and keeps things crisp and clean, while still being bold and chic.
Wow your guests with pieces that make a big statement! Vases in a variety of motifs or designs can serve to carry the load. This wedding in San Francisco boasted large, ornate blue and white ginger jars at the ends of each series of long tables; the remaining centerpiece items were much smaller floral arrangements.
By investing in a handful of large pieces that serve as ‘bookends’ to the design, and keeping it simple for the in-between, you’ll definitely save.
Baby’s Breath certainly has the ability to be the hero of the centerpiece—and keep you way under budget. The inexpensive flower looks best in bunches. A runner made exclusively of Baby’s Breath eliminates the additional cost of flowers that Baby’s Breath would historically serve as an accessory for and creates an ethereal, floating garden sense of design. When it comes to this flower, more is more.
Palm Leaf Towers
We’ve covered palm leaves as table runners, but the eye-catching fronds are an incredible element of design in vases too! Their height and vibrancy mean you can probably get away with needing less than you think, which saves you money, and also brings the focus solely to the center of the table, where the design is best experienced.
Table numbers can pull double duty on keeping things organized and easy to find, and can also be a unique alternative to a traditional centerpiece. Let each piece make a statement as the focal point and work backward from there. Even if your table markers aren’t numerical but rather a nod to something special to you as a couple, it’s possible to keep it festive and affordable.
“Seasonality is key when it comes to saving money on your centerpieces. If you use flowers that are in season for your wedding date, you can save big,” says Hancock. “The main reason for that is because you can find them locally. If you're hiring a florist, ask them what flowers will be in season for your big day.” By choosing what’s in bloom in season, you get to show off the best of the season, and perhaps use the money you’ve saved by shopping seasonally to get more in quantity and quality! “Reach out to or visit your local flower farms and neighborhood wholesalers to understand what they will have available for your wedding,” encourages Hancock.
Ikebana Style Florals
The Japanese art of floral arrangement is known as Ikebana. This style is simple, minimalistic, and absolutely exquisite. The florals for this San Francisco wedding are artfully arranged in this style and serve as a tasteful elevation of wedding centerpiece design. Your florist will know which blooms will be best utilized for this style of design, where less is definitely more.
To Rent or to Own
Have a serious conversation with your planner or florist to consider what actually makes sense for your design when it comes to renting or purchasing design pieces to own. “It’s all about quantity. Rental can be more affordable in high quantities. There’s a threshold where investing in your own pieces quickly becomes something that’s more palatable in concerns to your budget and design,” says Cole. “If you do have the luxury of having a large wedding, and you do need to rent the majority of pieces, do something special at the head table only!”
“One way to take ‘affordable’ from being ‘inexpensive’ to being ‘resourceful’ could be doing something that’s multi-use,” says Cole. A eucalyptus table runner packs a punch on the day, but can also be collected and saved after the day and incorporated throughout your home. Dried eucalyptus has long been an element that has a long shelf-life; consider fashioning it into a wreath for your home.