How To Create Pretty Centerpieces

I get a lot of emails from readers with questions about how to create specific elements of a party like table settings, dessert tables, backdrops, etc. I’ve decided this year I will try and tackle as many of the basic “how to’s” as I can. I tend to forget that even though I can look at a photo’s contents piece by piece to analyze “what works” and why it works, many home entertainers don’t see things in that way. I’m going to try to break it down for you as best I can to help you design prettier parties for you and your guests.

I’ll start with my favorite point of display – the seated table. Specifically I want to talk about the importance of centerpieces and how to arrange them for the most visually pleasing effect.  Using some of my own favorite table designs as examples, here are my secrets to a fabulous centerpiece arrangement.

{Click on photos to see their original post}

  • Size Matters – The first thing to consider is the size of the table you’re working with. From large dining room tables, to folding banquet tables, to round tables, the size is going to dictate how much or how little space you have to work with, or fill up. Your centerpiece arrangement should be proportional to the size of the table. In the 2 examples below I show you how a wide dining table can be filled with a wide centerpiece, while the narrow banquet table only has room for a single flower arrangement that’s made more important by placing a wire cloche over it.

  • Blank Space – It’s important to think about “blank space” when designing the table. Whether you love an eclectic mix of items lined down the center, or you want a minimalist approach, you need to keep in mind that too much of the plain table showing can look unfinished and boring. If your table is a wide dining table or a round table use large items that make a statement and take up more space. For narrow banquette tables use smaller items that can be clustered together for several “mini centerpieces”. You can see the mini vignettes in the table below – one of my favorite looks, compared to the round table with 1 large vignette. You wouldn’t want to use a single vase of flowers on the round table because it would get lost in the size of the table.

  • Height – Something I see a lot of is very “flat” tables with almost no vertical presence. We know that centerpieces should be low enough for easy conversation but placing very low elements for a centerpiece is a No-No. Even if you use nothing more than recycled soda bottles filled with wild flowers this is enough to give height that will make the table interesting. Below, I’ve used clear glass bottles as vases, and baby bottles as vases and lined them down the center.

  • Don’t Be One-Sided – Remember your guests will be sitting all the way around the table so make sure your centerpiece is pretty from all angles. I love creating mini vignettes down a narrow table and it’s a great way to add interesting elements where no two are exactly the same. If you’re more of a minimalist keep your statement piece symmetrical and simple. In the parties below I created simple centerpieces that are very different from one another but both are pretty from all sides of the table.

Final Tips to Remember:

  • Table Runners – Don’t forget about adding table runners. These can add visual interest without taking up table space. Use fabric off the bolt, rolls of craft paper or wrapping paper, ribbon, or other items to create a runner effect.
  • Long Narrow banquet tables – Create mini vignettes down the middle; Create symmetry with simple items that look equally pretty from all sides.
  • Dining Room tables – These are usually much wider and provide more space to create large focal points such as a great flower arrangement or large vases.
  • Round tablesFill the center of the table with a single vignette that showcases something unique at each direction; Using one large flower arrangement is a classic choice here.

What do you think? Does this help you in thinking through your table centerpiece? What’s your favorite style?


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  1. Thanks for great tips & pictures! Any suggestions on how to display cookies, cotton candy, a deck of uno cards and balloons at each table for centerpieces?

  2. We agree about the importance of a visually strong centerpiece. Especially love how you’ve highlighted non-floral centerpieces as well! We have seen some amazing tablescape work done with cupcakes dressed in Dress My Cupcake’s designer cupcake wrappers. Looking forward to seeing more of your posts!

  3. Great series Chris – you always do such a fantastic job at explaining things to people. Keep up the great job! =)

  4. I love this Chris! You give so many ideas that are so helpful! Thanks for sharing your expertice!

  5. Love all the displays! Especially the cupcake set up. Looks very royal!~ We would love to “Fashion” them with some of our Bella Cupcake Couture designs in pink. So pretty!

  6. Chris you are such an expert and this is a fantastic idea for everyone to learn from. I look forward to seeing more in this series.

  7. Great tips Chris. I have learned a lot from your blog over the years & will look forward to the rest of this series.

  8. Easy rule of thumb when creating a centerpiece:
    Stick your elbow on the table & extend your arm & hand vertically. This is called “the conversation zone”. Your centerpiece should either be below your fingers or well above to avoid blocking another guest’s view.

  9. Fabulous new series, Chris! As a long time party planner, I often forget to share tips on setting up tables and backdrops. It’s my new focus this year, too. Can’t wait for your next installment!

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