When creating a table spread for any dinner, holiday or event, a centerpiece is a central element that helps set the tone of the décor. A lackluster centerpiece can leave a table feeling oddly unfinished, but a well put-together arrangement can add a great wow factor.
The good news is that it’s actually relatively simple to create a beautiful and memorable centerpiece – you just need to know the basics and do a little planning.
Factors to Consider
The first and most important factor to consider is the setting for the centerpiece. Is it for a family dinner? A wedding? A holiday party? All of these occasions call for different looks, themes and levels of formality. Before you start putting together a centerpiece, think about these elements and decide what general look you’re trying to achieve.
If you’re stumped on what to highlight, try one of these themed centerpiece ideas:
• A specific color scheme
• A material like glass or wood
• A type of flower
• Holiday decorations
• Rustic or woodsy pieces
• Nautical elements
Table Size & Shape
The size and shape of your table will directly relate to the size and shape of centerpiece that will look right in your setting. You want to make sure the centerpiece you create is proportional to the size of the table, leaving plenty of space for place settings and any food dishes. For a longer table, you may even want multiple smaller centerpieces or one longer one that stretches down the table.
When it comes to arranging your centerpiece, there are three basic shapes that will give you professional looking results:
Standalone - The standalone centerpiece arrangement is the simplest of the three, consisting only of a single standout piece that sits in the center of the table. This could be a large vase, a glass hurricane, a decorative bowl, or anything else that adds a bold decorative element to your spread.
Grouping - A grouped centerpiece arrangement consists of a cluster of a few coordinating items placed together at the center of the table. This can provide a visually interesting centerpiece that seems a bit fuller than a standalone piece. When creating this sort of arrangement, it looks best to group odd numbers of centerpiece elements, as this creates a balanced look that isn’t too uniform. Also be sure to consider that the centerpiece will be viewed from all sides, so try to keep it balanced and beautiful from every angle.
Line - The line arrangement works well for longer tables where a central arrangement would look too diminutive. For this style of centerpiece you can create multiple groupings that are staggered along the table, or simply arrange centerpiece elements in a row that stretches the length.
As you plan the arrangement, it’s important to think about the vertical space your centerpiece will inhabit, as it is a crucial element in making the arrangement more dimensional. But, as you add vertical elements, always make sure your centerpiece stays low enough that people can see over it, or narrow enough that they can look around it so it doesn’t hinder guests’ socializing.
If you’re including a grouping of more than one element, it’s best to have all pieces sit at slightly different heights. Candle holders, pedestals and differently sized vases can help to vary heights of objects if needed. If your elements are in a line arrangement, create a more orderly look by lining up your components by height; for a more eclectic feel mix them up a bit.
Elements of a Centerpiece
Now that you have the basic requirements and general shape sorted out, it’s time to bring together the actual components of your centerpiece.
A distinctive foundation can help anchor a centerpiece and contribute to its overall theme. Here are a few great options that can add different accents to your centerpiece:
Table runner - A runner is a traditional accent that runs the length of the table, providing a perfect base for a centerpiece that is in a line arrangement.
Placemat - If you want to keep your base more compact than a full runner, a placemat can be a great alternative.
Mirror - A glitzy touch that adds a bit of sparkle and makes the centerpiece look bigger. A mirror base works particularly well with a centerpiece that incorporates candles.
Tray - A tray works well with grouped centerpieces, giving them a more cohesive look by visually containing them.
Doily - Doilies offer an element of formality from a bygone era that can bring a touch of class to a modern table spread.
Slice of tree trunk - If you’re going for a rustic or natural look, a bit of actual nature for a foundation can be a great thematic touch. Just make sure the base isn’t too rough, as that could scratch your table.
None - Of course, sometimes simplicity is the way to go. An arrangement that sits directly on the table leaves more room for place settings and other essential elements.
When it comes to selecting the specific items to include in your arrangement, it can sometimes be a bit difficult to pin down what objects might go with your chosen theme. If you don’t already have a clear picture of your final product, try using some of these items: