DIY weddings are hard, but they can be done with a minimal budget, and they can be done well. If you are doing your own wedding, and are struggling with how to design and decorate your wedding tables, I am here to help! This is a lesson on how to make your centerpieces look good, even if they are low-budget centerpieces.
And if someone else has taken on the job of helping you decorate, slip them this link as well. Even the best laid plans can be destroyed by a well-meaning great aunt with no eye for design:
Sadly, I have seen many centerpieces that were put together with the best intentions in mind, but were lacking the pizzazz to look good. Even with the right components, they were still underwhelming.
We are going to be using the centerpiece above as our example. I am going to break down what makes a good vs. bad centerpiece, along with tips for making your wedding decor the best it can be.
What Makes a Good vs. Bad Centerpiece?
Let's take a look at what makes good and bad centerpieces.
(A quick note before we start- I'm going to be using the word 'component' a lot, meaning the different pieces that go into a centerpieces. Like the pieces of a puzzle. So, when I say "components", I mean wood slices, candles, vases, confetti, flowers, terrariums, table numbers, etc.)
What makes a bad centerpiece?
Emptiness and Blank Space
In the centerpiece above, there is a lot of blank space on the table which feels unfinished and boring.
The centerpiece in the picture above feels bare. The jars are half full of flowers, and even just one more vase or component would have helped a lot.
The colors should be consistent. In the above centerpiece, I'm seeing an orange button on the left-hand vase, and pink flowers in the right-hand vase. Either add more pink and/or orange to make the pop of color look intentional, or just stick with the blue and white for consistency.
Height makes an arrangement visually interesting. This centerpiece started to add some height with the smaller wood slice, what would have made it better was a third component that was lower on the larger wood slice, like a little succulent rosette or small votive candle.
Centerpieces are best if they look good from all sides. Keep in mind that guests will most likely be sitting on all sides of the table, so you want to make the centerpiece look good from all angles.
Too big or too small for the table
Maybe this sounds like a no-brainer, but don't forget to keep it in mind when designing your centerpieces. This centerpiece is surrounded by blank, white tablecloth, and looks empty and too small for the table.
Again, let's look at our poor centerpiece example. The large mason jar is sitting on the small wood slice and it overwhelms it. The smaller mason jar is sitting on the larger wood slice, but doesn't fill up enough space. If the smaller jar was on the small slice, and the larger jar was on the larger slice, the whole centerpiece would look more balanced and 'right'.
Here is the same centerpiece, with some of the above elements fixed:
Please forgive my terrible Photoshop skills!! Hopefully this picture just gives you an idea of the potential ;) Here's what I did:
I switched the small and large mason jar around, to balance it out.
I added some sprays of white flowers to the small mason jar to increase the height, becuase once it was moved to the smaller wood slice, the flower levels in both jars were the same, and it needed to look intentionally taller.
I added pinecones (spray painted blue?), which create a 3rd level of height, and also make the arrangement fuller.
I added more flowers to the vases (fullness). I also added more pink flowers to the vases, to compliment the pink flowers that already existed (color consistency). I removed the orange button on the chevron burlap that was driving me crazy.
I sprinkled some 'confetti' around the bottom on the centerpiece to increase it's size and presence on the table.
The other thing I would do on this centerpiece is make sure the obvious fake candles in the mason jars couldn't be seen. There is nothing wrong with LED candles- in fact, many venues won't allow you to use real candles. Just try a little harder to conceal them. Either fill the little mason jar with moss, more leaves, something to hide it, or take it out completely. Votive holders are great for LED candles because they are tall. Here's my Photoshop version of a votive candle, compared to the original:
Alright, enough of that. Hopefully even though my photo editing skills are awful, this gives you an idea of the potential!!
What makes a good centerpiece?
Here's tips on how to take the above elements and use them to your advantage to design great centerpieces!
You need variety in height to break up the design and give the eye places to go. This doesn't necessarily mean you need towering 3-foot vases, although this is ok. Several items of different 'levels' will be enough to break up the monotony.
Just remember that when your guests are seated at the tables, they will want to look over your centerpieces to converse face to face. Add height to your centerpieces, but don't make them right at face height, for your guests' sake. Tall center pieces should be at least 24" tall, and shorter pieces should be 12" or shorter.
The good thing about tall towering vases or super tall centerpieces is that they can help visually fill up a venue with a tall open ceiling. If you have a cavernous space, you can help it feel less immense by putting tall vases on a table, or, by hanging installments from the ceiling.
A low, simple centerpiece
Compare the two centerpieces above. One is super tall, the other is super low, however, they both have varying degrees of height within themselves.
How to create height?
1. Obvious answer: wood slices! My specialty, and wood goes with so many different wedding themes: rustic, modern rustic, bohemian, barn, garden...
2. Vases- luckily this is an essential centerpiece component and is easy. Having 2 or 3 vases or mason jars at different heights adds so much visual stimulation to a design.
3. Pedestals- putting things on pedestals makes them taller. Add a pedestal to a small bowl or a plate and boom- you've got height.
4. Hidden Risers- small boxes, books, cups- any sort of object under a cloth to create height. This centerpiece just has a small box under the tablecloth to raise some of the items:
You don't need a lot of 'things' to make a centerpiece look complete. However, you do need to decide if you are going to go minimalist, or more extravagant.
This wedding table is as simple as you can get: Wood slices, jars, flowers and greenery. But the amount of flowers in vases makes it full and not sparse. Also, there is a great variety of flower types in each jar, which also keeps it interesting. Plus, there is one every foot or so, which fills up the table, and the blank spaces on the table between the slices are filled with greenery. Even though the concept of these centerpieces is simple, they are FULL.
If you are going to go with the more-is-better approach, then take it and run with it! Don't get stuck in the weird middle by trying to create fullness, but sputtering out. Go full, or go home.
Some people are good minimalists, but remember that too much empty space is going to look unfinished. So unless being minimal is your superpower, go with fullness!
How to create fullness:
1. Fill your vases. Baby's breath and greenery are cheap and can fill not only vases, but little nooks and crannies between components. They can also be sprinkled around the centerpiece, to create an even wider footprint.
2. Confetti. Confetti comes in any color you can imagine, and in a wide variety of materials. It can cover blank spaces and make them look active.
3. Moss. If you are into it, moss can also cover gaps and spaces and make the whole centerpiece look active
4. Things that cost money: birdcages, lanterns, books, small containers, figurines from thrift store, small vases with little signs in them ("All you need is love", bible verses, etc), mini watering cans, fruit, antlers, spray-painted toys, etc.
5. Things that don't. Pretty rocks- larger river rocks, or containers of smaller rocks, shells you collected on the beach, branches, pinecones...
6. Table Runners- these are a simple way to break up the table and visually eliminate some of that empty space. Runners can be purchased or made from strips of fabric, ribbon, or paper.
6. Frames with you and your fiancee having fun in pictures.
In made these two simple rustic centerpieces to show you the comparison between what a little 'fullness' can do. The first is pretty, but in the second, I added some fairy lights, confetti, and baby's breath. These are simple, affordable ways to make your centerpieces feel full, and really pop!
Most receptions happen at night when the pretty lights of candles, lanterns, and fairly lights look best. If your reception is at night, adding lights to your decor is a must. If your celebration is during the day, lights can still be seen, and I guarantee you won't be sorry you added them to the list.
How to add light:
1. Tealight or LED tealight candles- the most basic, almost required :)
2. Fairy lights- wrap these around your vases or components in your centerpiece. These are one of my favorite elements to use. They give a romantic, ethereal glow to the night and are surprisingly affordable.
Every wedding has a color scheme, but it's best when that theme is a group of 2-4 complimentary colors instead of one color. The bride that picks "Purple" as her color scheme is setting herself up for a monochromatic disappointment, because it's too limiting. In her mind, she is only picturing navy blue, not the all the lovely details and accessories that go with purple to really make it pop!
The bride that picks charcoal, plum, emerald and gold, however, will go into designing her wedding with a complete color scheme and the design as a whole will be better.
How to add color:
1. Take the time to make a "mood board". Palleton.com has a really cool complimentary color wheel. You can play around with colors and find shades that compliment each other to find your perfect wedding pallete. (I think it's really fun!)
(The website will give you the hex code (6 letters/numbers assigned to that specific color) for the colors you like, and then if you want, you can convert the hex code to a Pantone color using this website. Pantone numbers are helpful when picking out fabric swatches for dresses, getting shoes dyed, etc.)
Once you have your complimentary wedding theme colors, find images of items in those colors so you have a really good idea of the mood your colors will evoke. Then, when you are ready to collect decor components, you truly know your color scheme and you aren't just shopping for purple, you are shopping for purple, emerald, gold, and charcoal. (Or Plum, Fernwood Forest, Golden Orchid and Charcoal Grey. Get as specific as you would like, but even variations in the same color, eg., lavender, periwinkle and purple, can look good).
2. Ensure you have contrast: Yes, color is good, but make sure everything doesn't blend in. This can be as easy as making sure your tablecloths contrast with your centerpieces. If you have mostly dark centerpieces and decor, use lighter colored tablecloths, and vice versa. The exception for this is white. I don't know if white can be overused at a wedding?
3. Be consistent: Pops of color are good, as long as they are complimentary and not clashing.
The centerpiece size should be appropriate for the size of table it's on. A large table with lots of space can handle a large centerpiece. If you have a small centerpiece on a large table, it will look skimpy.
Conversely, a too-big centerpiece on a small table will be overwhelming and annoying for guests that have to sit there. The centerpiece should be proportional to the table it's on.
Looks Good From All Sides
Guests are usually seated around all sides of the table, so make sure your centerpieces look good from all sides. There shouldn't be a 'front' and a 'back' to your centerpiece. Rotate components to face different directions so that each side of your centerpiece is interesting. Arrange flowers in vases so that each side of the vase looks pretty.
Bonus: Tips for Different Table Shapes
Round tables suit themselves to one large focal centerpiece. Also, very tall centerpieces look great on round tables, except if your venue has a shorter ceiling. Tall centerpieces can make a low-ceiling area feel cramped.
A square table also suits itself to one large focal centerpiece, but has even more space than a round table, because of the corners, so be prepared to fill up that extra space. Spread the love around!
These tables look best with decorations spread all the way down the center, from end to end, but it's best to stick with shorter components. Also, the centerpieces will have to be narrower, to leave room for place settings, drinks, and any serving dishes that may need to be placed on the table.
I hope this post gave you some insight on centerpiece design.
If you have questions, leave them in the comments below and I would love to answer them. Also, we would love to see pictures of your DIY wedding centerpieces! You can always contact us to send us your pictures, and we may feature them on our website!!