Center of attention: Creative, budget-friendly ideas for table toppers

Allecia Vermillion

Traditionally the phrase “wedding centerpiece” conjures up images of lavish floral displays. But those grandiose arrangements can also conjure up some pretty hefty florist bills.

“People are actually veering away from florals,” says Camille McLamb, founder and wedding coordinator for Camille Victoria Weddings who works primarily in Illinois. Her guess is the economy is inspiring brides to find less-expensive ways to glam up their tables.

If budget isn’t a concern, McLamb says, she has seen weddings where each table boasted its own miniature ice sculpture.

If an ice carver doesn’t happen to be in the budget, McLamb shares some ideas for centerpiece trends that don’t rely on blossoms and greenery:

Illuminating ideas Candles are an inexpensive way to make an impact, and McLamb says she has seen them used in several creative types of centerpieces. Gather an assortment of vintage lanterns, for instance, and place one on each table with a lighted candle inside (you can also find new lanterns that just look vintage). Tall candelabras with taper candles — you can buy or rent the candelabras — create maximum drama, especially when festooned with strings of beads or crystals. Even a simple cluster of candles in different-sized vases or hurricane lamps, by far the cheapest option, dresses up a table.

Make dessert the centerpiece Candy buffets are a popular trend right now, says McLamb: “Rather than have one table that’s a candy buffet, you could have a mini candy buffet at each table as your centerpiece.” Look for glass apothecary jars of varying heights and fill them with candy that matches the color scheme of the wedding. At the end of the night, guests can scoop out the candy and take it home in small bags or boxes. This approach “does double duty and it’s very elegant.” While apothecary jars are sold online, McLamb finds hers at discount stores like Marshall’s and TJ Maxx, usually for $10 to $20 apiece.

Fruitful decor Another trend McLamb sees often, especially in summer months, is replacing florals with fruit. Cut lemons or limes (or both) in half and arrange them in an apothecary jar so the cut half of the fruit is facing outward. Fill the container with water and add floating candles or greenery on the top. Simply arranging uncut lemons or limes in the jar works too, says McLamb: “Fruit is, again, much cheaper than flowers.”

Branch out Centerpieces of tall branches, like birch, are perfect for a winter wonderland theme, says McLamb, though they certainly work year-round. String the branches with crystal strands, she says, or hang votive candles from them.

Feathered focal point McLamb has also seen centerpieces of ostrich or peacock feathers, fanned out of tall vases so they almost resemble palm trees in shape. These tall centerpieces also make it easier for guests to see each other across the table.