Ah, centerpieces. The cliche wedding task that brides in sitcoms and romantic comedies most often freak out about, or that most often goes wrong. But are they really such a drama? Here’s how we decided on them at the Reflective Wedding, and how they turned out.
I had not given much thought to how our wedding decorations would look, let alone the centerpieces, until a recently married girlfriend asked me how we were progressing with our plans for them. “Oh, we haven’t got to that kind of thing yet,” I replied.
“You should have something like we did!” she gushed. “You remember the lovely centerpieces we had at our wedding ?”
It hit me: no, I didn’t. I couldn’t actually remember anything about the centerieces or any decorations my friend had at her nuptials the previous year. In fact, to my memory, the only thing that had been on that table was an assorted range of wine, beer and vodka bottles. Hadn’t those been the centerpieces? It was a joyful feeling of relief, actually: I didn’t remember her centerpieces, and no one would remember ours – so there was absolutely no point obsessing over them.
Unfortunately, this didn’t stop me obsessing (though no more than any other aspect of the wedding planning). The Reflective Groom and I weren’t so fussed about the type of decorations at our reception, but were in agreement that we wanted our guests to say “wow!” when they first walked into the room. We took our usual approach of selecting wedding vendors: finding a supplier whose gallery of work we liked the look of, and who offered the right price. I then took our usual approach of getting inspiration from the vendor’s own catalogue and other online wedding websites. I knew immediately that I didn’t really want flowers for our centerpieces – neither the Reflective Groom nor I are floral fans, and I didn’t want to spend all evening worrying about whether our centerpieces were slowly wilting on the warm day.
So what to do with centerpieces when you’re avoiding flowers? The first theme that jumped out at me in the galleries was centerpieces featuring stacks of books. My groom and I are both big readers, so I thought this could an unconventional and fun way to represent that side of our personalities. I also quite liked centerpieces with a beach feel – incorporating raffia, starfish, coral and shells – to fit with our beach ceremony. Scrabble tiles also seemed like a fun addition to the tables.
About six months before the wedding I showed my groom some of the ideas I had been collecting. “Erm… didn’t we decide we were going for formal and elegant with everything?” he replied. “Books and beach stuff doesn’t really fit that. What about something a bit more classy, like candles?” Back to the drawing board! It was excellent feedback (and obvious feedback, somewhat annoyingly) but this time I focused on decoration ideas that were a little more glamorous. In this new direction, I really liked glass and silvery candleholders, regal candelabra, mirrors and scattered flower petals. The groom now gave the centerpiece approach his stamp of approval.
We combed through the decorator’s catalog to find items to match our vision. There were many candelabra, though rather expensive to hire. (“You realize we have to pay for one of these for each table, right? And that we have seven tables?”, prodded the groom.) The other problem is that the candelabra on offer were rather tall. We had already decided that we wanted centerpieces lower than eye-level, so they wouldn’t disrupt the flow of conversation among our guests. The previous New Year’s Eve my groom and I had attended dinner at a friend’s house, and the friend had been so elaborate with his centerpieces that we couldn’t actually speak to the friends sitting directly across from us. We found ourselves having to constantly crane to peer over the top of or around the sides of the centerpiece just to catch their eye, and spent much of the night feeling irritated. So for planning our maximum desired centerpiece height, my groom and I sat down at our dining room table and used a tape measure to see just how tall was too tall – and settled on a centerpiece height limit of 18 inches (45 centimetres). There were in fact no candelabra sufficiently short, but they offered a single thick candleholder with a glass bowl on top. (Its silvery finish also matched our color scheme.) However, one candleholder with one flame meant fewer points of light. However, our decorator also hired out many types of small candleholders to scatter around, and square mirrors that we could set the candles on to further reflect the light.
We asked the decorator for advice on what small candleholders would match our large silvery one, and they – somewhat lazily – said to just look in the catalog to see what we like. Neither of us have a flair for decorating, so saw plenty of things we liked… but had no idea what things would match well. So we – equally lazily – chose to simply copy the centerpiece from a photo shoot featured toward the back of the catalog. It featured our single candleholder surrounded by four small round candleholders, featuring small round crystals. As we were paying by the item with this decorator, we scaled ours back to three small candleholders.
The decorator approved this plan… but our other ideas met with more resistance. I preferred square mirrors to place under all our candles, as I felt it looked more modern… but the decorator insisted that with round tables only round mirrors would match for the centerpieces, even when I pushed back about my desire for a modern aesthetic. We would be using beige sashes as the decorations on our chairs (our wedding color palette was blue and beige, and my groom was convinced blue chair sashes would make the party look like a baby shower), so I was determined to feature blue in our centerpieces. I returned to the idea of petals scattered around the centerpiece, and asked our decorator if they offered artificial rose petals in a powder blue color… and again they vetoed my suggestion. They prodded that the centerpieces would look too busy with the addition of rose petals, and didn’t stock them anyway. Oppositely, I felt the tables would look a little bare and soulless without the splash of blue. The decorator may have won in the battle of square vs circle mirrors, but on the matter of petals I could simply bypass the decorator: the reception decor would be set up the day before our wedding, and when we went in after the decorator to lay out escort cards and such, I could simply scatter about the rose petals then. I found a supplier online that stocked artificial petals in numerous shades.
Our decisions on centerpieces then guided our decorations for the cake and bridal tables. Our wedding cake would be surrounded by three of the small round crystal tealight holders, and these tealight holders would also be spaced out along the length of the bridal table – with a generous helping of my stealthy blue petals on both. The four bouquets used by me and the bridesmaids during the ceremony would add extra decoration to the bridal table.
The last thing that needed to be considered for the centerpieces was the table numbers. In our case we had settled on table names, so our guests wouldn’t feel ranked and to lend some of our personality to the setting. We chose names of cities we had travelled to together, presented as vintage travel posters in wooden frames. (At home I always use matching photo frames, so in the interest of cost savings we simply temporarily removed the photos that had been in the frames for use at the wedding.)
So that’s everything that went into deciding our wedding centerpieces! (Who knew there would be so many elements involved?) And now… how did it all turn out?
Below you can see photos of our finish centerpieces. Although these decorations perhaps look a little simple in pictures, in person they did definitely carry a wow factor and contributed to our atmosphere of “formal elegance”. (One thing I learn from wedding planning is that things that look amazing in person don’t always show up so well on film, even when taken by professionals.) I think the candles were the best way to achieve that look, in the absence of our preference for flowers. The glass of candleholder, mirror and small tealight holders, as well as the metals, definitely gave it a more glamorous feel. I absolutely would have liked to include more candles to further accentuate that, but when there are budget considerations you have to do the best you can!
The single larger candleholder was a great height, and there was no need for guests to “navigate” the conversation around the centerpiece – though it was still large enough not disappear into the table.
On centerpiece issues we fought the decorator over, I think the round mirrors worked well, and indeed a square shape might have looked out of place. (It certainly would have looked more modern, but maybe that wasn’t so important.) However, I definitely stand by our decision to scatter about the blue petals around the centerpiece. I think the centerpiece would have looked very barebones without them, and they added a little personality and much-needed splash of color to the table (in amongst all our silver and glass). And I don’t think they made the reception look at all like a baby shower. 🙂
As for how we presented table names… Overall, I loved them. One could argue that the vintage-style pictures contrasted too much with the formal elegance theme to fit in, but again I feel this simply added some personality and color. It could also said that maybe a silver metal frame would have matched better than a wooden one, but a silver frame might have blended in too much with the glass and metal around it. The wood again added some color, and also made it easier for guests to see the names of the tables as they wandered the room searching for their seats.
Would I have liked a more elaborate centerpiece – one that does show up well on film? Of course, but when you don’t have an unlimited budget for a wedding, you have to pick and choose where to best use your funds. After the experience of speaking to my friend about her wedding, we learnt that centerpieces are not an area you need to go overboard with. None of our guests commented on the centerpieces to us, but they did say that they noticed the room looked fabulous when the first entered. It doesn’t take too elaborate a centerpiece to achieve that!