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. We are using various glass jars covered in handmade papers, in earth tones. Tieing twine and twigs around them. And candles in the middle. Also some terra-cotta pots we will plant wheat grass in 1 month before wedding. People can take these home.

  2. For my wedding we took lime green gumballs and put them in old apothecary jars. We also had candles surrounding. It was really beautiful and no flowers :)

  3. Erin, I don't know if you're still following this entry's comment trail but as far as incorporating football into your centerpieces I would probably just number the tables in tens instead of 1s and set up a football with the table number painted on it on a kickoff tee in the middle of the table. then you could give each person a jersey number of you and your fiance's favorite players or just random players for their table cards and they could sit at whatever tens table they'd belong to (#25 would sit at table 20, #47 at table 40, et cetera).

    my other idea is that you could get the schedule for the weekend of your wedding and make each table themed for the matchups that would take place the sunday of that weekend. that way people could get excited about the upcoming games and you could have fun getting lots of cheap little football helmets and jerseys and maybe even still the football to set in the center of the table. especially with the footballs i could imagine you could get the paint off of them and donate them to a ymca or boys and girls club or some such organization.

    1 agrees
  4. Pam I think your branch with urn center piece idea is fabulous! Especially for the fall. I just wouldn't know the first thing about the polymar clay and how to do it. I might take another path with that idea… Still in the thinking process. On another note does anyone know where I could get burnt orange tissue paper?

  5. I'm getting married in October so we are carving hearts in pumpkins and putting candles in them.

    3 agree
  6. my fiance so far hasnt been much help in the decorating or the nitty gritty reception stuff… BUT

    He thinks the record place mats are a WONDERFUL idea!!! I was trying to find ways to incorporate my finance's hobbys/lifestyle. he is a drum and bass dj artist who is at his best only when he is mixing records.. (or when hes with me hehe)

    what an awesome way to incorporate that!! he is finally excited about helping decorate!!

    Kudos to that

  7. I really liked this idea mentioned above:

    "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."

    We wanted to do something similar also with wedding cake toppers. Wouldn't you know that the cake toppers are now a 'highly sought after' item. Can't even find a decent collection on ebay without paying a fortune.

    Thanks for the many ideas above.

    Kim

  8. I also saw these cordless/battery powered tranquility fountains recently that could be really neat centerpieces.. you can buy them in bulk on overstock.com and they average out to only $8-9/piece… Those could be fun for people to take home too!

  9. I am an art student, and shuttered at the thought of flowers, candles in jars, etc. for centerpieces. So I decided to spend some time searching for interesting found objects at the thrift store (globes, telephones, rubber ducks, ceramic pigs, and so on.) We're going to paint some of them solid red and some white (our colors), arranging groups of smaller objects on some tables, and allowing larger objects to stand alone.

    1 agrees
  10. I'm using snowglobes as centerpieces for my winter wedding. I have found that many of the snowglobes or waterglobes out there really aren't wintery, though, and some would probably really look nice any time of the year.

  11. I am almost positive that stick from Rachel Ray is dogwood, which is naturally that color!

  12. This isn't quite non-floral, but my mom's making origami paper flowers for table centerpieces and decorations. I won't get all origami-nerdy here, but the patterns she's using are beautiful, and they do a great job of representing flowers without pretending to be anything but folded paper. Instead of spending lots of money on special colored paper, she's going to use regular thinnish paper and spray-paint the flowers whatever colors we end up deciding on.

    I'm also really happy about it because it's something she can contribute that's significant (especially because we have lots of smaller tables!) but will cost her very little money–and origami's always been a hobby of hers. Unfortunately, we can't convince her that they'd make beautiful bouquets and boutonnieres.

    2 agree
  13. my wedding will be a spring wedding we are have a colourful bridal party.. Like always my partner is leaving it all to me….. so i am just looking around for ideas but i have sort of came up with the love of his past time lollies in a fish bowl (for eg. snakes or jellybeans or even m&ms just to give the table some colour) around the bowl i will put small tea-light candles and thoes small colour rhine stones all can be brought from dicount shops for $2 the most expensive thing on this table will most likely be the fish bowl or punch bowl….

  14. Because the colour scheme of our wedding is blues we are using peacock feathersand kiragomi flowers(cut paper designs) and glass beads for the centerpieces. and instead of candles we are using LED lights in the vases….they are much safer and feather friendly

  15. I went to a wedding that had the gold fish centrepieces and I thought it was a bit cruel. Particularly the next day, when my aunt was desperately trying to give away fish that nobody wanted. My brother and I ended up taking half the fish, but since we had a 6-hour drive home, not all of the fish survived the trauma.

    2 agree
  16. Help! I'm desperate! My daughter's getting married at the end of September, and I'm really in a pickle. They are both Scientists and she hates flowers. We looking for some ideas on Centrepieces for about 20 tables in the scientific vein. Something that we possibly can make ourselves that doesn't cost a fortune. For favors they're having test tubes and they wanted to fill them with nerds, but now we've found out you can't get nerds in just one color. She doesn't want multi colors. The colors are brown and ivory. Ideas, anyone????

    • You could order M & M's in any color you want. You can even have your names and a message written on them. I don't know how much you'd need, but you could check on the price. I believe you just go to the M & M site. Here is the link: http://www.mymms.com/customprint/

      They have golden, and cream. Hope this helps.
      Amber

    • Just keep them till their time. I've also seen fish used in centerpieces.
      Or have a mini fish sale on your street for little kids. Think: lemonade stand

      1 agrees
    • Just use bickers for the cnterpieces & fill tem w/ colored water of colored glass stones that you can buy at the $1.00 Store. Good Luck

  17. I'm highly allergic to flowers (and their high price tag), so I'm using manzanita branches for centerpieces. It's a small wedding, so it won't cost much to use hanging votives and other touches to give a high-class, but non-traditional look.

  18. We are also getting married at the end of September – and are scientists. I like flowers (I am a biochemist and naturalist) but we are considering non-flower centerpieces. I love the ambiance of candles for our sunset wedding with a reception in a barn. Simple clusters of candles (on mirrors for more reflection) are lovely. Clear glass cylinders with votives work (we found great ones at Target that were inexpensive). The cylinders are actually quite a bit like graduated cylinders but frankly I didn't think of that when we got them! Consider using displays with dried grasses – free if you have un-mowed fields nearby, the seed pods are great and all in the color scheme. Martha Stewart recommended two glass cylinder vases one slightly smaller and lining the space between with grasses. They could also be put on the outside of the glass (even mason jars / old spaghetti sauce jars) and tied on with a ribbon that matches wedding colors. Put just the mason rim on top or another ribbon. Try it at home first (we are) to make sure that the glass doesn't get too hot or use water in the jars and float candles. I'll post more if we have other ideas – we are doing a big push this weekend to try out ideas.

  19. Another idea – I'm considering adding photographs to the arrangements. Can use photos of them growing up and together, wedding photos of family, or do they do any photography related to their work? Neat abstract photos of science stuff would be cool – may even find some online.

    I've seen a lot of centerpiece recommendations using fruits and fruits and leaves. Not as science nerdy (unless maybe they are genetically engineered!) though. Arranging them in wood bowls would keep to the colors. Definitely the right season for it – grapes, apples, pears. Gourds would add neat shapes be nice for your colors too. Add ribbon embellishments.

  20. Would anyone happen to have some nice ideas for centrepieces/tabled decorations for a medieval-styled reception? I am collect wooden bowls, platters, and tankards or goblets and such for people to eat and drink with (no great stretch since I also play in the Society for Creative Anacronism) and also wooden candlesticks. Any ideas on what would go nicely with these things?

  21. We are getting married thanksgiving weekend, and I found at Michael's brass pumkins. They have a pillar candle holder in the middle. So I am going to get the smaller (4") pillar candles and at the bottom we are going to put fall leaves. I might even get a fabric in our color to put under it all. At most, it will cost us $12 a table. Don't have to worry about people taking centerpieces home with them and dying… these will never die. They will just have to get new candles.

  22. We are getting married in April and the theme is butterflies. We are considering using round mirrors placed on large squares of fabric in coordinating colors, and putting butterflies of some sort, either blown glass or beaded on the mirrors. The beaded butterflies would be keeping with the beaded flowers wer are doing instead of fresh or silk bouquets.

  23. After workinng in the catering business for several years, I have seen some pretty bad centerpieces.

    When nice centerpieces go wrong:

    Floating candles are nice but… When your guests start clinking on classes during toasts and someone tries to clink the glass bowl (which at this point has heated up unevenly due to floating candles), the bowl cracks and floods the table! I saw this happen to 2 centerpieces at one wedding.

    Also candles and flowers are nice, but flowers are flammable and burning or singeing vegetation smells terrible.

    Lastly, the whole fish thing… don't be upset if your goldfish start crapping halfway through dinner (I've seen guests get quite put off their dinner by this)! They are alive, and you can't exactly tell them to hold it until your dinner is done.

  24. Personally, I love centrepieces that are uniquely created to reflect the personalities of the bride and groom in conjunction to the season and setting of the wedding..

  25. for the medieval bride: setting long tables with plain white cloths – I recommend twin sheets (plain white cotton from an outlet or thrift shop) and using garland from end to end is relatively authentic. if using flowers, stick to something in season. fruit and candles are good options to include in the garland. seasonal garland can be purchased, or made with leaves, tuck in wheat and fresh or dried flowers. if you want to be really authentic, dont provide napkins as tablecloths were originally hanging over the side to use as a napkin. use ammonia in the wash to get the grease out of your fabrics after your party. pewter pitchers filled with wine or flowers are also good choices!

  26. I took Ariel's advice and did something more with records! I put my URL in there so you could see them. More pics after the wedding on 10/19.

    Although I did put flowers in them, I turned old LPs into cool bowls. You could do the same thing but put whatever you want in them.

    1 agrees
  27. My FH loves growing bonsai trees! he's just restarted his collection of plants (alot of them died in his old house cuz the neighbourhood cats decided to use them as litter trays) so we're going to be using the bonsai trees as our centre pieces, and perhaps decorate them with bead garlands, or silk flowers or other bits and pieces to tie in with our colours :-)

    1 agrees
  28. We bought some cheap vases from Ikea, and we're going to fill them up with Mint Crisp M&Ms (yup, the Indiana Jones ones!) because our colors are chocolate brown and mint green. Then, we're putting in four Siwrly Pop Lollipops and four Swizzle sticks to make a candy bouquet! We also have a bit of a leaf theme going on, so I grabbed some thin branches out of the backyard and we're going to cut out leaves from brown paper to write our table numbers on, and then hot glue the leaves to the branches and stick the branches in the vases as well (with saran wrap around the bottoms so people can still eat the candy). Finally, we bought little leaf-shaped milk chocolates wrapped in fall colors and we're going to sprinkle those around the table like fallen leaves.

  29. Please don't anyone use goldfish…
    It sounds like a cool idea and I'm sure it looks awesome. But these are live animals you are talking about. The vibrations from the music wouldn't be healthy for them. Round bowls are a form of torture for them (they are banned in Germany). And if you decide that you want to give them away to guests, there is no way that you can guarantee the safety of those animals. It is just plain cruel.

    3 agree
    • i totally agree. remember that these are LIVING things, not toys or decorations. How cruel.

      2 agree
  30. I'm not sure if it's too late for anymore ideas but I'm using lighted up effiel tower vases with white ostrich feathers coming out the top. I got 12 diy kits on ebay for $399 buy now free shipping.

  31. Whatever you do, don't use live butterflies! I went to a wedding and the bride/groom wanted their guests to release butterflies from these folded envelopes when the ceremony was over. Needless to say, most of the butterflies were already dead or couldn't fly when we tried to let them go.

    I wouldn't use goldfish either, for the same reasons Megan stated.

    I think centerpieces should be something simple and should reflect the couple's personalities.

    2 agree
  32. Since we had a 'cocktail' reception with finger food and no set places, we used our bonbonniere as the centrepieces. We had fudge in red organza bags, sitting on a red and black square plate in the middle of the (12ft) long tables. We also had tea light candles in red shot glasses that ran the length of the table with a few extra bags of fudge scattered around. No flowers and nothing that would die, and it looked really pretty.

    1 agrees
  33. I used sticks and balls of moss in large vases. They turned out very very artistic! The I had the catering company put out tea light everywhere. I was perfect.

    1 agrees
  34. I just want to point out to the people suggesting fish centerpieces that it is really cruel, sorry. Keeping fish is a hobby of mine, and basically you're giving fish a death sentence by putting them in bowls at a wedding and sending them home with people unprepared to keep a fish. Fish bowl water gets dirty VERY quickly, the temperature can't be regulated, it's not oxygenated (your fish will suffocate) and all the noise, vibrations, etc. of a wedding will stress the fish out big time. Not to mention the likelihood of being tipped over by inebriated guests. It's just not a good idea, and there are so many more humane options.

    2 agree
  35. where is the procedure in making poaper flowers using twine paper

  36. My sister just got married this past Saturday and they used succulent cactus for their centerpieces and it was a huge hit! I was totally skeptical about the idea beforehand, but when I saw the final centerpieces and favors, they were beautiful!

    They went to a wholesaler and got a variety of succulent cactus (cactus that are unusual shapes and many bloom colorful blossoms) and re-potted them in clear, inexpensive vases from Ikea. They did mini-cacti plants in little votive type glasses with a cute little tag and gold ribbon for favors (and gave guests a little white bag to carry their cactus home in safely). Then, they had medium sizes ones in larger clear, rectangular shaped glass vases with different shades of potting soils layered and showing thru the glass. They did 18 tables with those in the center and eight of the little favor plants surrounding that, and then LOTS of of white votive candles of varying sizes in clear glass, too.

    Then they did 3 bigger arrangements of big, round, circular clear glass planters (about a foot in diameter each) with the layered soil and a variety of interesting cacti in each of those mixed together. Those went on the "reserve" tables.

    Everything was accented with more small glass clear regtangular vases (little bigger than votive size) filled with creme or orange/yellow rose buds/blossoms and a little mossy type greenery, moss greenery on the tables, and some pieces of natural (tree limb) type of wood (kind of looked like drift wood).

    The whole effect was very natural, earthy, and beautiful with all the candles lit (they had over 300 votives total!) and the guests took not only the favor plants, but over half of the centerpieces, too! Lol! 😀

  37. I would LOVE to see a centerpiece with records or album covers — anyone have a pic?

    1 agrees
  38. I recently got married on November 1st. We wanted a "Pirate Wedding" so the typical floral centerpieces were out of the question. Our centerpieces were treasure chests filled with candy and "gold bar" treat boxes filled with more candy. We used the mirrors that the reception site provided, placed the chests on them and sprinkled the tables with strands of silver and gold "beads" and gold pirate coins. I bought a bulk order of paper mache treasure chests and painted them to look like weathered wood. The effect was awesome and each table took home a cool (and different) centerpiece!

  39. another cool idea is to use led puck lights (at home improvment stores) put them in shallow bolws and cover them with class floral stones or marbles, amazing at night!!!!!!!!!

    • Do you have a picture of this?? It sounds beautiful!

      1 agrees
  40. I am getting married on June first. My colors are lime, lemon and orange. My mother has lime, lemon, and orange trees in her back yard. So I am going to put the fruit in different sized vases. I am thinking about adding water to them. Has anyone else done or seen this? I would love to see some pictures. Thanks!!

  41. hey, i love all these ideas. any ideas for a december wedding that also doesn't involve flowers? i am enamored with Christmas and red but ANY suggestions will do.

    • branches, especially branches with berries make lovely wintery centerpieces, diy pine wreaths and juniper berries paired with candles will smell great and go with your theme.

  42. These are good ideas for flower-less centerpieces. I would imagine these will become even more popular in the current economy.

    1 agrees
  43. I am sooooooo happy I found this site. We just booked our hall today and I have been hitting my head on a brick wall trying to figure out what to do for centerpeices as I am not nor will I ever be a flower girl. Thank you all soooooooooo much for your advice and I am goin' to buy that book.

  44. DANI:
    I have been to a few winter weddings and one cool thing that I saw was glass or glittered snowflakes glued to tall candle holders for centerpieces. Also, cool funky ornaments in hurricane vases look amazing with candle light around them.

  45. My cousin did a really cool centerpeice at her July wedding. Her hubby built wooden boxes and then in each box they planted a small fir tree. At the end of the wedding lucky guests were able to take the tree home and plant it. It was a really personal centerpeice that added a lot of color and character the wedding while expressing both of them perfectly.

  46. I was going to use goldfish as a centerpiece, but have since realized how cruel it is. anyone know where i can get "fake" fish for the bowls i already bought?

  47. instead of using fish debbie, why don't you make in an underwater scene instead? put some sand and fake fish tank stuff, like trees, shells, etc. forget the fish.

  48. i'm getting married in april, outdoors, so i'm using very few flowers since everything will be blooming anyway at that time. for table centerpieces, i'm collecting photos of my and my fiance's family members on their wedding days. i'm going to enlarge them to 8x10s and put them in frames and set them in the center of the tables. i'm going to put a little folded card on each one that says "guess who?" and then have the answer on the inside of the card. i thought it would make things more personal for the guests, and give them a little challenge guessing who was who.

    1 agrees
    • that's such a neat idea, bringing in other family wedding pics. I am thinking about going with pictures since I'm a big photonatic. Thanks for the idea.

  49. My mom collected pitchers in the shapes of different fruits and vegetables…I'm alternating them along with painted flower pots to hold gerbera daisies for my centerpieces. I thought that would be a neat way to incorporate her memory into the wedding.

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