One of the most time-consuming parts of wedding planning is deciding how to decorate your reception tables. From classic flowers to neon light installations—and everything in between—the world of wedding centerpieces is vast. Wondering where to start? Here, of course! We've put together a guide to every type of wedding centerpiece. See what you like best and then start designing the wedding centerpieces that fit your style and wedding theme.
Consider this guide to be everything you need to know about topping your tables.
The most traditional centerpiece is the floral arrangement. Whether these are tall, short, wide, or narrow, fresh blooms in the middle of the table just say “wedding.” Keep your venue’s structure and design in mind when determining the size of your arrangements, advises event designer Jove Meyer of Jove Meyer Events. Tall arrangements work well in large spaces with high ceilings; the height of the flowers draws the eye up and helps create volume in a massive venue. Short arrangements are often preferred by couples who really want their guests to interact at the table. The size does not block guests from seeing and talking to one another from across the table. Wide arrangements, which sometimes come with a more rustic, wild appearance, look fantastic on large round tables since they take up more space. Narrow arrangements, such as garlands and low planters, make the best use of long, farm-style tables. “Work with your space, not against it,” adds Meyer, who notes that “the bigger the centerpiece, the higher the cost.”
Flowers are only one part of the centerpiece. The vessel you put the stems in matters too. From classic glass vases to ceramic pitchers and acrylic holders, the vessels add another level of detail to your centerpiece. Use the colors, style, and materials of the vessels to echo the vibe of your event. You want to place wildflowers in camping mugs for your glamping wedding? Go for it. You can even mix and match, such as using gold and silver bud vases among mixed metal planters. Also, consider the size of your floral arrangements on the table. Meyer recommends placing tall arrangements in transparent vessels, so guests can see one another. For lower centerpieces, anything goes: “You can explore glass, metal, or wood because they enhance the design without blocking the view,” Meyer says.
Garlands and loose leaves are a refined way to dress a table, especially if you plan to have long tables rather than rounds. The strings of greenery can follow the length of the table, and the low height allows for plenty of conversation among guests. Greenery also gives a lush look without costing as much as bushels of blooms. That said, greenery doesn’t come cheap. “Given the labor in creating garlands, they are not a big savings option,” explains Aimee Monihan of Tropical Occasions. “If a couple loves the garland look, yet has budget concerns, loose laying leaves is the way to go.”
Candles say romance, so it’s no wonder that they have a place on the wedding table. “Flooding the room with candles is a great way to make a big statement without spending too much money,” says Caroline Greif of Birch Event Design. “It’s a very sophisticated look.” Candles come in plenty of sizes and shapes: Consider taper candles in candelabras for a romantic, Old World vibe; pillar candles for a bold statement; and votives with tea lights for a glow amid large floral arrangements or other decor. “Colorful candles are a fun way to bring in your wedding color in an elegant way,” Greif adds. Whatever you choose, just beware of the venue’s restrictions on open flames. Indoor event spaces may require hurricanes to surround candles, and many historic venues forbid open flames. You may have to use artificial candles.
“Trees are all the rage,” says planner JoAnn Gregoli of Elegant Occasions. When she says trees, she means couples are actually placing trees in the middle of the table and suspending candles from the branches. Some couples hang flowers such as orchids from the branches, or other types of decor like lights or ribbons, which create a magical garden vibe. To enhance the atmosphere, she recommends placing trees at the reception entrance or around the dance floor so that the look feels cohesive.
Nothing makes a dinner party feel grander than a beautiful chandelier. Consider dropping a crystal chandelier above your dinner tables if your venue says castle, chateau, or mansion. Lanterns look fantastic for tented celebrations or those in rustic locations; and floral chandeliers (flowers hanging in the shape of a chandelier) combine the best of both worlds. You can even complement them with a lighting installation above the dance floor. “This sets the wow factor in the room,” says planner Marylen Exposito. “Not to mention it is extremely Instagrammable.” Having an alfresco affair? You can still rig a system to hang chandeliers above tables, and it actually looks like they are floating in thin air. How about that for a centerpiece?
Why place a vase on the tabletop when you can hang flowers from above? A new way to incorporate florals, hanging arrangements of blooms and botanicals create a living ceiling for your wedding tables. As guests look up, they’ll see roses, wisteria, and more cascading down from above. It’s quite the experience! Hanging flowers also work well in tents, when couples want to disguise the rafters and ceiling.
Fabrics set the tone of any table, says House of Hough owner Clara Hough. From textured tablecloths like sequins to velvet table runners, linens are a way to boost your centerpieces. They lay the foundation for whatever you are adding on top. Beyond the color, look at linens with personality, such as embroidery, lace, or unique materials, to help set the mood. You can also go completely fabric with your centerpieces. “One of my favorite centerpiece trends is strips of fabrics hanging from the ceiling or from tall metal structures, creating a ribbon chandelier effect,” Hough says. “I always love seeing something other than flowers being used as centerpieces.”
Incorporating any sort of objet, from antiques to fine art, brings a new element to your reception table. Event designer Erica Haskins of Tinsel Experiential Design has worked with antique violins, marble busts, taxidermy, and “other curiosities” in the place of traditional florals. “It makes the table feel not just pretty but interesting,” she says. “Give guests another good reason to get up and move around the room to see what is happening visually.”
The centerpiece is the perfect place to showcase your personality. Display your collection of pewter horse sculptures or authentic Spanish pottery, suggests event designer Kristin Banta of Kristin Banta Events. “So often, couples feel like they have to dive into floral selections, and we encourage them to think about the process like building a house,” says Banta, noting that only at the end do you decide what goes on the coffee table. “Personalize your decor to be reflective of your unique personalities and passions. It’s a dynamic and memorable approach to your wedding design.”
Literary fanatics are often drawn to this idea: books. Place your favorite tomes in stacks on the center of the table, with or without details like flower and candles. It’s extremely personal—your guests will learn something about your erudite taste—and you can even theme tables after genres, like historical fiction, chick lit, classic epics, and poetry, or famous characters, such as Holden Caulfield, Harry Potter, or Nancy Drew.
LED and Neon Lights
Take your tables futuristic with the use of long LED light bars or neon lights in fun shapes. “They give a lot of flexibility with color stories so couples don’t have to commit to one color tone for the length of a party,” Haskins says. “Instead, shake things up by setting the bars to alternate between colors, roll into an ombré effect across a room, pulse with music, or ‘dance.’ ” Talk about a galactic experience!