Probably the largest part of your wedding’s floral budget will be the centerpieces. Yes, each table should have one. Many brides try to coordinate the centerpieces with the bridesmaids’ dress color, but there is no iron-clad rule that says you must.
Most weddings will be the highest level of formality the bride will ever wish to express. If you want a very tony, high-end look, consider candelabra or two-tier risers as a centerpiece base. These do provide that extravagant look, but usually come with the added cost of the rental, as well as the candles. Another alternative is the Revere bowl for a low centerpiece. You might choose to use roses, lilies, hydrangea, ranunculus, peonies or spray orchids in this type of formal arrangement.
Glass containers, especially square ones, have become very popular, and allow the florist to use flowers like protea and various orchids in a more contemporary way. There are a few types of flowers suitable to be arranged in tall glass vases; for instance, pussy willow and calla lilies. You do run the risk of blocking that sight line. But some brides are not concerned about others seeing across the table and would rather have a huge glass vase of bush lilac for its fragrance and drama.
More casual arrangements may be in baskets, ceramic containers, or lomey trays (a flat-bottomed, saucer-like container with 2-inch sides). You may use formal flowers in these casual vessels, but these types of containers look best with garden flowers like tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, zinnia, sunflowers and gerbera.
To make the tablescape prettier, use chargers or base plates. If the venue does not have them and you don’t wish to rent them, use a dinner plate. I also think that votive candles should be used in abundance, even if you are using candelabra. Candlelight is flattering and provides tons of atmosphere for very little cost. My suggestion would be to have three clusters of three votive candles per table. There are dozens of companies now renting tablecloths, and they do add a certain tone to the occasion. For me, my most favorite cloth for a wedding is still a beautiful white damask cloth.
When I first started planning events 30 years ago, centerpieces for an average round table seating eight people would run about $35. These days, most centerpieces for a table of eight start at approximately $100, or more if you add candlesticks, tapers or pillar candles or use flowers that are out-of-season. Put it this way: If you are entertaining guests with cocktails, appetizers, entrée, wine, dessert and coffee, you’d be spending about the same amount for one guest as you would for a centerpiece for a table of eight.
Probably the rudest thing a person could do is to remove a centerpiece from the table (We can’t see each other to talk!). Men usually get blamed for this uncouth act, yet their female counterparts can be guilty of the same.
Never take a centerpiece unless you’ve been invited to by the hostess. If the centerpiece is in a rental Revere bowl or any other rental container, the flowers are most probably arranged in a paper maché or plastic liner. Take only that part, as you’ll cause a huge problem for a nervous florist or club manager hunting through the dirty linen bins trying to find the purloined container to return to the rental company.
The bride should always be the focus of our attention at any wedding. In lieu of her formidable presence, we have at least 90 to 120 minutes to look at the centerpiece, so in my opinion, this is where you’ll get the biggest bang for you buck. Use a professional, and allow as much of the budget as you can for flowers. Forget the glitter, the confetti and the ribbons—forget the tricks because tricks are for kids.
John Sullivan has a fine arts degree from Kansas City Art Institute. He has partnered with Ken Miesner for the past 25 years at Ken Miesner’s Flowers at Plaza Frontenac, where they have done flowers for more than 1,000 weddings!