Creative wedding table centerpiece ideas that don't involve flowers or candles?
October 13, 2008 4:24 PM   Subscribe

Creative wedding table centerpiece ideas that don't involve flowers or candles?

The place I'm having my reception is a heritage home and prohibits the use of candles, flowers, or glitter inside. So I'm having a hard time coming up with centerpieces for the reception tables because almost everything I look at involves or candles. Any ideas anyone? I'm also working (as most brides are I guess) with a fairly limited budget, so cheapy ideas are most welcome.
posted by supercrayon to Grab Bag (39 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
posted by brain cloud at 4:32 PM on October 13, 2008

Silk flowers. Large glass vases with pretty pebbles or shells or marbles. Fresh fruit.
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 4:35 PM on October 13, 2008

I've seen fish done and it looks great.

Glass vase filled with brightly colored somethings (beads, marbles, etc) on top of mirrors to reflect them.

It is October, what about a fall arrangement of branches with leaves/berries?

What's the tone of the wedding? If it's casual/playful, you could do tall vases (or stagger several smaller vases of different heights on each table) filled with small colored candies like M&Ms or skittles. This looks best when the candies are layered by color, and the colors go along with your wedding colors. So a vase of pink and white "stripes" composed of pink and white M&Ms, for instance.
posted by Bella Sebastian at 4:45 PM on October 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

I really like the idea of natural river or beach stone centerpieces. Large, palm-sized, smooth stones arranged in shallow bowls or on artificial moss (since you likely couldn't have the real deal). This is a casual idea, but natural, inexpensive, and understated. Martha did one arrangement like this. Etsy, if you search for "shallow bowls" comes up with a lot of ideas, both pottery and wood. These are nice (and affordable).
posted by rumposinc at 4:47 PM on October 13, 2008

What about one (or two or three small ones) of these tissue paper poufs placed inside of a shallow bowl? Or you can give them a hair cut on one side so that they may sit flat on the table and then surround them with ribbons. Super cheap/super cute!
(Please don't use fish. ::on knees/begging::)
posted by hecho de la basura at 4:56 PM on October 13, 2008

Can you do grass. I think tall squarish glasses filled with interesting rocks, some soil and some tall growing grass are really nice and good for the air as well and make decent take-home gifts. You can see some variants on the theme here and here. My apologies if you're not allowed anything growing at all.
posted by jessamyn at 5:01 PM on October 13, 2008

I totally cannot fathom the fish thing. Why would someone do that?

Anyway, the stones centerpiece linked to from Martha reminds me that a friend of mine just got married with a Celtic theme -- her groom wore a kilt and she had a tartan shawl -- and one of the things they did was, in lieu of a guestbook, guests signed river stones (just like the one in the link) with their name. Some may have included good wishes on them as well. Then they brought them home and used them along a walkway in their yard (it's a pretty awesome yard). Now, everytime they're out there relaxing they can be reminded of the lovely people who came to their wedding. I like this idea!

You would want to include a couple thin, black sharpies and instructions. I don't know if this is a real tradition or one they came up with but maybe you can find info about it online.
posted by amanda at 5:03 PM on October 13, 2008 [2 favorites]

I would hate to go to a wedding with fish in fish bowel, knowing that most of them would be dead by the end of the night one way or another.

Do they allow water? If they don't allow flowers, candles or glitter they might not want water around.

How about:
Paper craft of somesort
Fake flowers as long as they aren't tacky looking
Those glass mirror balls you see in gardens
posted by bottlebrushtree at 5:07 PM on October 13, 2008

Photos of you and your beloved throughout different stages of your life (infancy, terrible twos, awkward teen years), or engagement photos
posted by chara at 5:07 PM on October 13, 2008

We had big, round, shallow glass bowls filled with water and a layer of floating cranberries. I liked it. I have also seen clear glass vases filled with lemons, or pine cones. There are lots of interesting-looking fruits and vegetables that you could use for something like this, depending on your color scheme.
posted by librarina at 5:11 PM on October 13, 2008

We used limes for our wedding. A pile of them on a nice rattan placemat. You could put a silk flower tucked into the side.

Other produce ideas: lemons, oranges, apples, gourds...or a combination of these depending on season/colors.

Other ideas: Glowjars (battery operated), picture frames, mini cakes on each table....
posted by jay dee bee at 5:13 PM on October 13, 2008

Fruit? eg see this page, scroll down a bit. They used lemons and limes in glass bowls, plus candles.
posted by AnnaRat at 5:14 PM on October 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

For my wedding, I filled ivy bowls with Cracked Ice crystals. (I did put votives inside like the package shows, but you could easily put something else.) You can dye it different colors with food coloring.
posted by candyland at 5:22 PM on October 13, 2008

Friends of mine bought a bunch of used books (stamped inside with their names and the date of the wedding) scattered around tiered dessert stands. The books were their wedding favors. I thought it looked really cool, and it was fun to choose the right book to take home. I guess it depends on the style of your wedding, though--might be too casual (and dusty), but it's certainly a change from flowers and glitter.
posted by Meg_Murry at 5:24 PM on October 13, 2008 [4 favorites]

Cupcakes! Yum.
posted by emd3737 at 5:26 PM on October 13, 2008

Can you do fake tealights? At my daughter's wedding, we had mosaic candleholders on glass plates with river rocks around the candleholders and some greenery. You could use the battery operated tealights instead of real candles.
posted by tamitang at 5:29 PM on October 13, 2008

You could always fill the vase with sand, and stick in some wires (cut snips of 16 gauge wire) that are bent and hooked to hold dangly things (crystals, ornaments, glass dangles, words or letters on bits of paper) or are twisted to hold photos of you two or things you love. You could fall anywhere along the spectrum from traditional to funky.

It's the wrong season to pick up tabletop ornament holders cheap (to dangle things) or christmas card holders (to hold pictures), sadly, but you might find small topiary frames cheap at a garden center that you could put on the table and be architectural and see-through-able. Bonus - get a friend/relative to collect them for you at the end of the the reception and reuse them for years!

My only other idea is if you have the skills - make up fake movie posters featuring you two, and use them(propped up on display easels) as your centerpieces. Critic reviews ("You'll laugh! You'll cry! You'll eat cake!" or "Never have any two people made a more perfect union!"), producer credits, the whole thing.
posted by julen at 5:32 PM on October 13, 2008

My suggestion is a tall thin vase filled with marbles/stones and then some thin dark branches inside. I've seen i tbefore (no pics, sorry) and it looks great.

Also, I'm just wondering, why would fish in bowls be dead by the end of the night? Why would they be more likely to die than a fish in a bowl at home? I don't get it....
posted by Jubey at 5:37 PM on October 13, 2008

Oh dear lord please don't do fish.

I love the idea of cute photos of you and the groom. You could do a different picture at each table, or have each table have the same little collection.
posted by radioamy at 5:50 PM on October 13, 2008

I went to a wedding where the tables were decorated with seashells. The favor was a sand dollar stamped with the bride and groom's names. It was lovely.
posted by Ostara at 5:56 PM on October 13, 2008

One note on centerpieces. Make sure that they don't obscure the the view of people sitting on the other side of the table. There is nothing worse than trying to talk to people on the other side of the table through the vase/flowers.

The one thing I've seen that I loved was a large, square tray (aluminum, with the edges rolled down a bit) with luxurious grass (they bought roll-out turf and cut it to the right size), and a pansy plant, along with a miniature zen garden. The plant sat in the middle, one side had grass (with a stack of pretty pebbles) and on the other side was a zen garden with more pebbles. After the reception at their newly built house, each table brought the aluminum tray to the garden and planted the grass/pansies in the flowerbeds. Made for a great memento, and was very earth friendly.
posted by gemmy at 6:08 PM on October 13, 2008

Is it "no flowers" or "no plants"? We had 6-8 pots of different herbs on every table, and sent them home with guests (also kept a few for us).
posted by ersatzkat at 6:20 PM on October 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

I've seen wheat grass used in several attractive centerpieces.

Other ideas I've seen:

Cupcake stands with cupcakes
Empty boxes wrapped as wedding gifts
Paper flowers ( like these.)

As always, Martha Stewart has some clever ideas.
posted by shesbookish at 6:27 PM on October 13, 2008

I understand the concerns about fish, but just to allay some fears: the wedding I went to that did fish planned this out well in advance. There were a number of young cousins/nephews/etc around who were eager (and had permission) to take them home at the end of the night. The fish were not dead, nor were they flushed when the night was done! So I think it can be done humanely. (As humanely as keeping fish in a small bowl can be...)
posted by Bella Sebastian at 6:40 PM on October 13, 2008 [2 favorites]

Yes, photos! I just went to a wedding where they had various photos of the bride and groom on each table, and it was great. Photos of them as kids, dressed up in chef hats taking a cooking course, sledding, etc. It was a great conversation starter for guests who don't know each other but are sitting at the same table.
posted by selfmedicating at 6:43 PM on October 13, 2008

I love places like the Paper Source for stuff like this. Like these lanterns with some kind of battery-operated votive, PS mini-Suitcase stack, a bouquet of paper poppies (or daffodils or many other flowers), a tower of flocked gift boxes? Lots of fantastic choices.

More unusual ideas? Bonsai? Table top postcard display with postcard-sized photos of you and yours? Unusually-shaped glass jars filled with pretty things (Shells? Things from nature? Seaglass?)?
posted by jeanmari at 6:53 PM on October 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Feathers. Peacock feathers, pheasant feathers, ostrich feathers.
Our centerpieces involved about 3 flowers and a couple peacock feathers per table.
posted by agentofselection at 7:13 PM on October 13, 2008

I just saw a beautiful store window that had several small pumpkins that had been completely spray-painted silver. If you're not getting married in the fall, you could try something similar with lemons or apples or a pineapple.
posted by jrichards at 8:05 PM on October 13, 2008

I went to a wedding that had rock candy in the bridal party colors in a champagne flute (plastic). These were also for the guests to take home.
posted by fructose at 8:22 PM on October 13, 2008

I just got married. We didn't have any restrictions on candles or flowers, but our centerpieces didn't involve either. They were curly willow branches and fern leaves in a square vase with (red) glass marbles. Attached to the branches were butterflies made of feathers.
posted by desjardins at 8:27 PM on October 13, 2008

A big origami on each table in the wedding colours.

Cheap, a fun get-together for the wedding party, and an interesting keepsake if you let folks take them home. And, if you don't, you can string them up and use them as an ornamental garland or somesuch during an appropriate time of year.
posted by batmonkey at 9:10 PM on October 13, 2008

We did cakes at our wedding. We had something like 17 wedding cakes done- one for each table, serving 10 people each. We made our own cake toppers out of fake flowers, and the head table had a slightly bigger cake. Since the cakes were all small, it cost about the same amount as it would have to get a big cake for everyone. We saved a lot of money this way, and we didn't have to pay the hotel for help to cut the cake (since someone at the table just did it themselves).
posted by nataliedanger at 10:47 PM on October 13, 2008


At my wedding my husband and I made a bunch of these paper stars in different sizes and put them on these memo clips from C&B. Everyone really liked them and they were the take home gift for the guests. FYI C&B also has memo clips with colored bases if you do something like this and prefer a little color.

Personal note: they had huge sentimental meaning for a lot of my family. A favorite uncle used to make them in the 70's when we were all kids. He died after a long battle with AIDS in '93. This was my way of having my uncle at my wedding.
posted by dog food sugar at 12:16 AM on October 14, 2008

If you grab some thinned glue, tissue paper in the color of your choice, and some cheap clear bowls in any shape you want, you can cover the bowls in in a few layers of the tissue paper.

Around Christmas they sell small strings of battery-operated Christmas lights that can then be tucked into the bowls (you might have to wrap them in a bit of netting to diffuse the lights even further if you put too thin a layer of paper on your bowl).

You can also just leave the glass clear and stuff various shiny things into the bowl with the lights to obscure the wires, or don't obscure them at all.
posted by haplesschild at 5:17 AM on October 14, 2008

Some interesting ones I've seen:

Small round cakes (pre- the big cupcake popularity) - the only caution I'd use there would echo nataliedanger - smaller cakes so that it all gets eaten. The wedding we were at had triple layer 9 inch rounds for each table of either six or eight - there was _a lot_ of wasted cake.

A recent wedding had a different "theme" for each table - the couple were world travellers, and each table had a framed "scrapbook" page from a different country they'd been to. Sort of like the idea above with pictures of the bride and groom as kids. Or, if you've got a large family see if you could collect wedding pictures of a lot of the people attending - make it a celebration of marriage as a whole, not just yours.

Is it soon? Could you do a small carved pumpkin like these? Picture, picture.

If you've got someone crafty around, something like these birdhouses would be time, but not cost, intensive - birdhouse, another one. You could personalize them with favorite poems, lyrics, pictures... make them little pieces of art about your relationship.

I did these last year for a professional event. If you could use those battery candles on the inside they wouldn't be that expensive - I got the bowls at a craft store on sale, and used a few old books that I was going to craft into something else anyway. One jar of modgepodge, and then the candles... I did 8 of them, plus flowers for less than $100. So replace my flower cost with your battery candle cost and you'd be close...

Congratulations btw!
posted by librarianamy at 5:56 AM on October 14, 2008

We did this for our wedding. It was cuter in person, I swear. The vases were cheapy things from Ikea, and the birds I ordered from the interwebs. We gathered the twigs from a nearby park. Origami birds are also a nice idea, if you have the time to make them.
posted by wowbobwow at 6:46 AM on October 14, 2008

I third the fruit!
posted by timepiece at 10:01 AM on October 19, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for all the ideas everyone, I have a list of ideas and now just need to go shopping!
posted by supercrayon at 5:48 PM on October 21, 2008

We're going to do writers and books for ours next year. I have heard good things about fruit, bamboo, and using different pretty cakes/desserts too. The dessert one was especially great at the wedding I saw it at because it was absolutely beautiful and did delicious double duty.
posted by ifjuly at 10:12 AM on November 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

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