Non-floral wedding centerpieces

My best friend is an offbeat bride and she's planning an awesome personality-filled offbeat wedding for October.

There's a problem though — centerpieces.

We're trying to find something that's DIY, doesn't cost much, and doesn't involve flowers. Yikes.

Any suggestions? —Miranda

Centerpieces are tough. They can end up being a TON of work or more involved and expensive than you expected. That said, cute and funky ideas to adorn your table centers are a click away, if you've got the patience to do exhaustive internet searching. Fortunately, we have gathered some downright fab ideas for you, so rest those little phalanges and browse away!

Any suggestions?! Even though we skipped centerpieces all-together at our wedding, I inhaled dozens of ideas online during the planning process. Here are a few of my favorites:

Stones and Rocks

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Photo by Brian Tao
Oonagh and Dylan went centerpiece mad with different styles on different tables! This one is charmingly sweet and simple with their names hand-written on them.

Centerpiece
When combined with other natural elements, as shown here at Kate and Eli's wedding, rocks can make for a nice organic feel to a table.

Sticks and Branches


Center pieces.
This particular skull-themed concept is brought to you by Tribe member Shellbelle.
Again: easy, natural, cheap. Bonus points if you make 2D bird-shapes out of felt or add little fake birds (woodland forest theme?)!

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Critters abound in Kimi and Paul's table number centerpieces. These branch-like twiney-vineys definitely have an organic vibe with those faux flowers.

Leaves

leaves
Dude, I'm totally sticking with my hippie theme here, aren't I? But check out this simple concept: vase, fall leaves, candles. Tada!

If you're looking for a bit more interest with the leaves, consider pulling them from local trees, framing them on some nice card stock and adhering a label naming what type of tree it dropped from. Guests could also take them home as a souvenir! Great for a fall wedding.

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Photo by Brian Tao
Here's another centerpiece from Oonagh and Dylan. This time they combined sticks with paper flowers and cut-out leaves for some origami-esque chic.

Lanterns

lanterns
Photo by Amber Zagorski
With a little creativity, latnerns could be applied to almost any theme. Check out these battery-powered options of the paper variety.

Another interesting option would be to do metal and glass lanterns, like the one above from Jen and Mike's Harry Potter-themed wedding. They would be stunning for a nighttime wedding where a little romance is involved. For a homespun country-style wedding vintage lanterns would really set the mood.

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Photo by Tao Nguyen
I love this two-sided lantern idea from Gloria and Pete's wedding. It somehow looks totally zen with a little bit of nautical thrown in.

Books

centerpieces
Photo by Jacob Bauch
Dude, I am in love with this concept from Michele and Matt's wedding. This idea is an obvious fit for academic/literary types, but could be extra funny with cheap romance novels and pulp fiction, which you can get for pennies at any second-hand store. Stack 'em and wrap 'em in ribbons — suddenly trashy fiction becomes an entertaining conversation piece. Stick a wedding-branded bookmark in 'em and they're kitchy favors! Like Muglies, only readable.

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Photo by Type A Images
This is cheating since I'm pretty sure this is solely a cupcake stand. But does it have to be? I love the creative book stacking and wonky angles. This could become a pretty amazing centerpiece if you had the books for it.

Table
Photo by Becca Scheiblauer
Ribbon-tied books, candies, and candles make for a sweet and stylish centerpiece. Makes me thirsty too. I wonder why.

Medical Glassware


I've never actually seen this done, but the idea of Erlenmeyer flasks or Volumetric flasks is SUPER way cool. Add some colored water and candles on a clean white table cloth and you've got a geeky, colorful, UNIQUE centerpiece!

Some other filling options could include M&Ms or other colored candy, semi-transparent beads, marbles, or dry ice!

James & Melissa's Pi Day wedding
Photo by Megan Finley
James and Melissa used glass beads in a medical beaker (with flowers, don't tell anyone) in their scientist-themed centerpiece. You can barely tell it's medical glassware until you look closely. Sneaky and cute!

Here are some other non-floral centerpiece inspiration posts and DIY tutorials to peruse:

I'm guessing some of our readers have some amazing ideas — anyone?

  1. so totally not as impressive/original as these, but we have a million old mismatched vases (actually left over from a death in the family). so we're sticking them on tables with short pillar candles in them and tying ribbon around the vases. bootleg, but we think successful.

    23 agree
  2. I've been to a wedding with peaches in vases in the middle of tables, and I'm thinking about doing the same with apples for mine.

    15 agree
    • Apples sound fun! I want to do vases with lemons & limes…I that it can add some funky fresh scent too =)

      14 agree
  3. Nice, Rachel! Yeah, it seems like all manners of fruit can make great centerpieces — bowls of cherries can be really striking.

    8 agree
  4. Great ideas! I made decoupage wine bottles for centerpieces for my wedding– just put them on some pretty fabric with candles. I spray-painted the wine bottles and gued on romantic pictures and sometimes quotes. I also used them as favors for important people in the wedding party. They looked really nice.

    11 agree
    • Can you post a picture of this? I am trying to convince my fiance to do this and I think he is having a hard time picturing it. What kind of candles did you use? (Tea lights, votives, etc.)

      11 agree
    • Priscilla, I love this idea. I've been wanting to do something fun and creative. Our wedding is in Costa Rica, so I think it would be a great way to incorporate phrases that Costa Ricans say on the wine bottle. Do you have pics you can post?

      8 agree
    • what a fantastic idea! i would love to do something like that for my wedding as well!

      6 agree
  5. I agree! Fruit and veggies. Very stiking if each table is a single variety with contrasting votive candles tucked in amongst the produce.

    4 agree
  6. This would require a lot of photo frames, but I love the idea of a large candle as the centrepiece with 3 or 4 photo frames with different photos of the couple grouped around the candle so that no matter where you're sitting at the table you can see at least one or two pictures. Bonus – this will get your guests to mingle a bit as they check out the different photos at different tables!

    9 agree
      • We did this for a fundraiser a few years ago: make a triangle out of three wooden picture frames. You can tape or use hinges. Print pictures on vellum, and put a candle in the middle of the triangle. The light shines through the vellum, illuminating the pictures. Beautiful! You can get even cheaper and use cardboard picture mats in place of the frames.

        10 agree
    • I'm planning to do something like this…but using wedding photos of all my guests. Making the prints in sepia tone unifies the look and then placing them in various frames found at yard sales and thrift shops.

      4 agree
  7. Ahh the non-floral centerpiece: How do I love thee? Here are a few:
    -Simple wood/terra cotta containers (can be stained or painted to match palette) filled with wheatgrass or baby tears moss – you can 'nest' candles here or any number of fun creative things.
    -Edibles: Coffee beans, and in fact dried beans (lentils are a lovely bright green, for example) of any sort look fab in a clear vase with a candle in the middle and are v. cheap.

    You can also go sweet like some of my couples have and do candy (I don't suggest chocolate, it melts and looks a mess in the least bit of heat) such as jelly beans (all kinds of colors) sour balls, peppermints (wintery) or any of the millions of other sorts. You can do lollies/suckers sticking out as non-floral 'flowers" or get really creative with it.

    -Interesting found china, wood or silver (eBay, thrift stores, borrow for deals) such as footed bowls look great with floating candles in them. Make sure they are waterproof first!

    On the book bit: Bookends or architechtural finials are often really neat and interesting to look at – they can be painted, textured, etc and put flat-side down with candles, maybe some moss and make a great talking peice.

    Cheers! Maya

    9 agree
  8. My idea for my own wedding, since Henry and I met on flickr, was to print out tiny versions of pictures we took early in our courtship, then pick up a bunch of those photo holders that have clips attached to tall, skinny springs and put those around the room (we're not having a formal sit-down dinner thing).

    6 agree
  9. i am currently conducting a scientific experiment with old jars, potting soil, and seeds. the idea is to figure out what does well and how long it takes and do it for our center pcs. but there is a lot of room for catastrophe, so it might not be worth it if you have a weak heart, or don't have a back up plan for the jars…

    5 agree
  10. We created very simple and inexpensive centerpieces for a budget wedding. Granny Smith apples in a low bowl, a few cybidium orchids on top, and some glycerized birch leaves. The apples were the small, bagged apples you get at the supermarket for $3.99. The most expensive item was the bowl. They looked great and were relatively inexpensive. They could be made by almost anyone with a little time.

    5 agree
  11. I am having a fall wedding as well and will be decorating the buffet tables with long willow withes and scattering leaves.

    Do you really need centrepieces? I find they get in the way of people talking across the table. Keeping it low with braches etc creates impact without impasse! And, tree bits are free!

    3 agree
    • Mari and I went to a wedding of our friends, and there was a huge column vase of beautiful flowers at our table…that blocked our view of the dance floor and the people sitting across from us.

      Centerpieces should not come up to above shoulder-level when the guests are sitting, imo.

      2 agree
  12. I've done it! I've found the perfect centerpiece for our Pagan Handfasting.

    Start with 4 kinds of 2.5" herb starts. I choose Thyme, curry plant, purple sage, and rosemary. Buy 6" pots from Ikea and plant your herb starts a few weeks before the big day to give them a chance to settle into their new home.

    I can stay within my $200 budget for the centerpieces and my friends and family will have something useful to take home instead of a bunch of flowers that will die.

    Some girlfriends actually applauded when I told them my idea so this is going to be perfect!

    9 agree
    • We are using live plants. After the wedding and changing our clothes, the families are planting them at a Habitat for Humanity build site and a senior citizen home's garden. We'll use dyed burlap sacks for pot covers which will become part of the weed barrier around the newly sunk plants.

      22 agree
  13. We are getting married this fall in a back yard bbq style wedding. we are placing wooden bird houses on the picnic tables. We picked these up at an unfinished wood store and are now working on decorating them with paint, ribbon, and rhinestones. They look cute and will be useful following the celebration! Yeah for inginuity! Boo for my poor spelling skills!

    6 agree
  14. for a gothic or halloween wedding you can get inexpensive cardboard coffins. We will be stacking 3 varied sized coffins on top of eachother, tying with ribbon and placing a few small tealight holder on each level.

    On top of those we'll have bat shaped table number cards with photos of the two of us at the age corrosponding with the table number.

    6 agree
  15. another cute centerpiece i am doing is wineglasses (not expensive kind) and put a small candle in them, or if you are a candle maker you can place a wick and wax directly in them. Tie some ribbon around the glass and hot glue a small silk rose and leaves. place it on on of those small mirror bases at the dollar store and throw some silk rose petals around it. VERY CUTE!

    5 agree
    • Going with the wine glass idea….I have seen people using mixed matched sets of wine glasses and fipping them over. Using the bottom for a candle holder and on the inside cup part, putting flowers or leaves or..whatever!

      6 agree
    • What did you hot glue the rose and leaves to? Sounds nice.. do you have a picture?

      6 agree
  16. We are doing low 10" bowls with three 3" floating candles in them. Those will sit on black napkins with votives and rose petals around them. Best part is that I found the bowls at a party supply store (to rent) for 1.50 each.

    2 agree
  17. I did a mardi gras theme for my wedding in Sept. We even rented a Bourbon St. sign, fake jester who was the hit of the party. girls wore dark plum, centerpieces were lightpole candle holders with a street name/landmark of new orleans, played jazz during appetizers, each guest got a mask, beads inside a hurricane glass. Bridesmaids walked in with boas on. Cake was jester like in purple. I explained Mardi gras framed on each table. People had a BALL. And who cares if it wasn't mardi gras season. My gown even had an amethyst overlay!

    6 agree
  18. For my daughter's June wedding we're using glass cake stands with antique wedding cake toppers collected over the years. We're also using crocheted doilies under the toppers and the florist is providing greenery and floral rings around the base of the cake stands.

    7 agree
  19. For my wedding we are going to fill fish bowls with red colored water and lemons. We may or may not float white candles in the bowls.

    5 agree
  20. I'm planning a murder mystery wedding (assuming we don't change plans again!) & I'm playing with the idea of having each table represent a different location (signified with some kind of sign-age): the conservatory; kitchen; garden; etc… and decorate each accordingly. That will give each table a little individuality & might even be a conversation sparker seeing as people will want to check out what the other tables are!

    7 agree
  21. I see that lots of people have mentioned fruit, I was also going to use fruit with (mismatched) glass bowls of mine and borrowed from friends, full of character and edible!

    2 agree
  22. These are all excellent ideas!! We are getting married in March! What would you suggest for a theme! I was thinking winter, is that weird for a march wedding??

    4 agree
  23. We were also thinking of doing pastel blue and purple with a white accent! What would you suggest for centerpieces??

    3 agree
  24. Our wedding is totally "island style/beachy" theme. It is being catered by a place called rasta tacos, it's a full on red yellow and green taco cart. It was our inspiration for our theme. Anyways, for centerpieces I found galvanized beer buckets, $14 for 5 at corona.com, they will be filled with ice and different kinds of beer (red stripe, corona, pacifico) with ribbon to match our colors tied around the necks of the bottles. For favors, we are placing a bottle opener in each place setting for them to open their beers with!

    8 agree
  25. did u putthe fish in the day of your wedding? just wondering,dont want them to go belly up,what kind of flowers float that i could use,any advice??

    3 agree
  26. we are having a june wedding and i wanted it to be really bright and playful. we are having a "Candy Shoppe" themed reception: there is going to be a table with several different sizes and shapes of glass jars filled with different candies in the colors of our wedding. Our guests can fill up goodie bags with their favorite candies to take home with them. Our centerpieces are candy bouquets – (made with lolliops and little tootsie rolls on sticks wrapped in colored celophane, etc). We are also going to have a few candy dishes on each table. Our guests can munch on the candy from the dishes and bouquets during the reception and take the leftovers home at the end. The name cards are going to be those big swirly lollipops stuck in little flower pots with stickers on the wrapper stating their names. There are a lot of websites where you can buy bulk candy online for really cheap. We are going to be saving a ton of money on flowers and then we don't have all of these flowers left at the end of the day that will just die and be thrown out.

    3 agree
    • i love this idea
      my daughter is getting married in july
      we have been trying to come up with soemhting fun an diffrent
      we both loved this idea :))
      thanks so much

      2 agree
  27. I am having a rock show themed wedding (think hole in the wall venue that is smokey and dark and in the middle of Portland's industrial district). I want to do centerpieces, have the option of doing flowers (as there are florists in the family) but am still undecided. I considered records, but didn't want to stray from the idea that it's a CONCERT, not a rock n roll theme. Any ideas?

    2 agree
    • you could totally do personalized guitar picks for a gift. or scatter them on the table.

      3 agree
    • I just saw another site (cant remember the name) I was researching cheap and unique wedding centerpiece ideas, anyway they used vinyl records, the lady even melted some into bowl shapes. It would be really cool for a rock show themed wedding!

    • I hear you about the difference. Maybe do posters and tickets? They could lay flat on the table and then colorful wristbands could be on top (or around vases if you do flowers)? How about set lists with important songs to you as a couple? Live CDs or CD booklets? Accessories that people might wear to shows? Concert T's? Packs of guitar strings (in case you break one on stage!) or picks? VIP passes? Maybe make it look like they ordered bottle service (even rundown places like the Viper Room have that) and have bottles filled with all the aforementioned items in them? Anyway, sounds like an awesome theme! Have fun!

      EDIT: Just realized this is a super old post. Hope the wedding was awesome! I'm sure it was!

      1 agrees
  28. Having a Halloween wedding, so I'll be making trick or treat candy bouquets for each table instead of flowers. I'll also have crayons at each table and butcher block paper for doodling on.

    1 agrees
    • absolutely love your ideas!! What is best of all, it totally matches my invitation, I can do it myself, and it looks perfectly wonderful!! Thank you for putting up your blog pics!!

      1 agrees
  29. We recently decided to go with those lovely 10"-12" statues (lawn ornaments?) of faeries that are that kinda turquoise colour (oxidized copper coloured)
    They're going to be different for each of our 8 tables, maybe a lantern ornament, or a dragon or something, too.
    Then we'll have a draw at the end of the night for anyone who wants to keep one.
    We're spluring a bit on ours, 'cause it just happens to be one of the things we really want, to tie in our 'magicakal' theme, but i'm sure there are other less-expensive options in a similar vein.

    2 agree
  30. I love the book idea!! My partner and I are both book worms. ­čśë

    2 agree
  31. I have 2 ideas for non floral centerpieces. I'm getting married this Oct on a very victorian like island a few hours away from my house, and only accesible by ferry and horse drawn wagons once on the island. My aunit is a florist but agreed that if we went with a lot of flowers that she is bringing, they'd get ruined by the time we got there. I have been thinking about "hurricane" glass pillars with a candle inside and those beady type garland around the glass. Or my mom makes these cool glass blocks that you can get from Home Depot and you drill a hole in it, slide in battery operated white christmas lights, wrap a silky ribbon(wedding color) and some kind of decoration in center like leaves for fall or ornament for winter or whatever. They look cool and give a pretty glow.

    I don't know, just ideas.

    2 agree
    • Where is there such a place? this sounds like so much fun.

  32. We're doing green and yellow polka dot runners (my mom is making) with trifle servers filled with lemons and limes. Serving lime-aid on each table as well. Also whipping up some fun letterpress questions about us to place on each table (i.e. where was their first date, what dvd boxed set do they watch episodes of before going to bed, what's his favorite band, etc) as ice breakers.

    1 agrees
  33. another fun one… get mis-matched teacups (and saucers) at a thrift store — place cheap plants (i.e. fern or those multi-packs from your local garden supplier) in each cup, put 3 in the center of the table. Cute, organic, original and your guests can take them home.

    2 agree
  34. Lara,

    I saw what you said about red water and lemons. I would test that first to make sure the water doesn't stain the lemons. If it does, maybe get fake lemons and coat them in clear spray paint?

    3 agree
  35. We live in the gold coast, Australia and we have access to tons of sand and shells. I was gonna have jars of them, and some votives for mine! The wedding is in 8 months and we are saving all our glass jars.

    2 agree
  36. What do you suggest for a rustic theme. I like the rustic country things like grapevine wreaths and berries.

    1 agrees
  37. I saw toward the top the use of grass/moss and candles… BEWARE: I went to a wedding with cute terra cotta containers, moss/grass, and candles… and they CAUGHT FIRE!! They were a really cute idea, just poorly executed. Make sure you use sturdy candles that will not bend!!

    2 agree
    • candles should be placed 2 inches from burnable items and only be lite in apporoved containers,not easy to knock over or fall if bumped,use a high quality candle that will not soot or smoke,this isnt the place you wanna cut corners,good candles bur better and are much safer.

      1 agrees
  38. Unless I discover something else that sparks my interest, (like that murder mystery thing…how'd you do it?) I'll be using potted succulent plants. 3 different species to a pot if we go with round tables, singles in a row if we get rectangle tables.
    Succulents are very forgiving plants so if you buy them a few weeks in advance and only water them once, itz ok, they won't die!!!

    1 agrees
  39. Were having a destination location on beach on east coast. Centrepiece wise, thinking about IKEA lanterns(painted purple) with tealights plus blue sand and shells. Low budget & No flowers needed.

    We went to a fall wedding last year and the apples were great, we ate them on the way home and snacked on them at the end of the night.

    1 agrees
  40. My friend created thousands of beautiful handmade origami cranes and scattered them on the tables, in the reception area, in the bathrooms, filled in vases, etc… It was amazing. They were made with a variety of different colored/patterned origami paper and were so unique and gorgeous.

    A few ideas I saw from this article: Test tubes filled with herbs; asparagus wrapped around a vase (fill with whatever you like).
    http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2005/04/29/earlyshow/contributors/colincowie/main691859_page2.shtml

    1 agrees
  41. I just happened to come across this site and it is quite useful. Great ideas. I'm having my wedding this novemeber and also looking for a creative centerpiece idea without flowers. I was thinking about the apple in a low vase idea with vines and berried twigs. Any other rustic ideas?

    1 agrees
  42. We are planning to use retro games that we are collecting from friend and online (Rock Em Sock Em Robots, Candyland, Hungry Hungry Hippos, Operation, etc.) We want the over all feeling of our wedding to be fun and playful. These games are colorful and will hopefully encourage people to loosen up and mingle, plus my partner loves games so it's a way that something that he loves can be incorperated. Also very cheap most of the games can be borrowed or bought used for a couple dollars. WE're also thinking about getting Janga and writing silly things that who ever pulls that block has to do.

  43. We used tree branches in small urns (bought end of season for 60-80% off), and tied polymer clay leaf wine glass charms to the branches. The charms doubled as favors for the guests and were a big hit! The urns went home with whomever wanted them, to be re-purposed as planters this summer.
    I made all the clay leaves, then used wire earring hoops and some beads to create the charms.
    It can be done assembly line style with several helpers fairly quickly once all the leafs are done.
    I estimate it took about 8 hours to complete 150 leafs from start to finish.

  44. Having a Hawaiian wedding in Santa Barbara, CA – was planning to have Pineapples with candles around them as center pieces – but LOVE that battery lanters, may alternate tables – will add such a wonderful glow to the whole event.

    :)
    Brynn

  45. I worked at a function centre through university and did loads of weddings so I have seen lots of ideas!
    My favourite has to be having a large round mirror as a centrepiece, with tealight candles placed on top. You could have candles alone or around a vase in the centre or whatever else you've decided on. But the mirror reflects the candles and looks fantastic, it adds a nice glow to the room. I think you can hire them for under $5, where I am in Adelaide, Australia anyway! I'm going to have a crystal vase (borrowed!) in the centre with maybe white feathers in it… bit worried they may catch fire though so we'll see!

  46. My fiance and I are both artists and not too big on flowers. We bought 8×10 canvases and made little table tents out of them with hot glue and black ribbon and each painted the table number on one side. Our wedding was Black and White so we only used those colors, but other than that we ahd complete creative freedom. I was worried it might look crafty, but it looks fantastic. We have gotten tons of compliments and our weddings not until August. We are going to give the canvases to members of the wedding party and close friends after the reception.

  47. i'm getting married in october and my fiance and i are HUGE football fans (i like the eagles and he likes the giants) and we wanted to incorperate that into our reception does anyone have any ideas for centerpieces?? please HELP!

    • get small astroturf squares to use as placemats….or get a large one and put in center. it would need something on it of course. havn't thought of that yet! get those teeny football helmets like they used to have in gumball machines (you can probably find online) and put some of each team on it…like a little playing field. your guests can play with them.

    • Grab a few beverage covers of your favorite teams. Insert an open can or jar, fill it about half way with stones or sand to make it stable, add skewers with ticket stubs from different games glued on the ends.
      You could lay sport pom poms on the tables or those hat fingers…just loook around and be creative

  48. For our wedding, we're using various brown antique-like candle holders we bought from Michael's on clearance and placing them on round mirrors. Then we're going to scatter peacock feathers (just the eyes) on the rest of the mirror. Our colors are brown and teal, so the colors work well and we're also using peacock feathers in our bouquets:)

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