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Wedding Flowers: Reception Centerpiece Styles

From over-the-top to flower-free, see what your options are and how to tell which will work wonders for your wedding.

Photo: Rita Maas

Simple

Why You Might Want It Maybe your venue is elaborate and you don't want your centerpieces to take center stage. Maybe it's just the opposite: You want your floral arrangements to echo the room's clean lines. A tight budget can also be a motivator; if your florist only has to get one kind of bloom, they can buy in bulk and help save you money. Simple centerpieces also tend to be less dense and, of course, fewer flowers mean lower costs for you. 

But Is It Really for You? These centerpieces can't be pegged to any time period, so simple is probably your thing if you're a more classic bride -- you're wearing a white, satin, A-line gown, walking down the aisle to Pachelbel's "Canon in D" and staying as far away from wedding fads as you can.

Common Elements

  • Just one or two bloom types
  • Flowers in a single color
  • that isn't too bright
  • A structured design
  • Few nonfloral elements, like crystals or ribbons
  • Classic bridal blooms

Modern

Why You Might Want It If your reception is in a less traditional space, such as an art gallery or a lounge, modern centerpieces will play off the setting's trendy vibe. If you have a more conventional setting, they'll transform the venue to match your avant-garde style. Break the single-centerpiece mold with clusters of centerpieces displayed in varying heights.

But Is It Really for You? Do you follow -- or set -- trends? These fresh ideas will likely make you happy. If you hate the thought of showing photos from the wedding years from now and everyone being able to tell that you had a 2009, 2010 or 2011 wedding, then tone down the progressiveness.

Common Elements

  • Graphic, exotic flowers
  • Square or rectangular vases
  • Minimalistic, like a single branch of flowers
  • Very little greenery
  • An architectural feel 

Dramatic

Why You Might Want It You're not afraid to bling out your look (you're wearing a beaded ball gown, after all), but what about your venue? If you're in a blank slate, like a tent or a loft, these centerpieces will instantly dress up your space. High-drama arrangements can also match the regal mood of historic settings -- or overshadow their most charming parts.

But Is It Really for You? If all you care about is hearing, "Wow!" from all your guests, and not about what may follow ("Ostrich feathers? Really?"), then you're a drama queen, and you want centerpieces that make a big statement. If you're more interested in pleasing the crowd have high centerpieces, but hold the feathers.

Common Elements

  • Height
  • Large, full blooms
  • Crystals 
  • Bold-colored blooms that may have patterns on them
  • Feathers


Natural

Why You Might Want It A natural centerpiece is, well, a perfect fit for an outdoor setting. It complements the surroundings instead of clashing, the way a dramatic arrangement would. The logical venues: gardens, barns, vineyards, terraces, parks and country clubs.

But Is It Really for You? No glitz factor here! If you embrace the just-picked look that earthy arrangements offer, you'll be right at home with natural groupings. Also keep in mind that you won't get a lot of color here -- natural centerpieces are more about texture. Still, that doesn't mean your centerpieces will look too uninteresting; just think about how beautiful forests and gardens are!

Common Elements

  • Twigs, branches and stones
  • Loads of greenery
  • Muted colors
  • Drippy shapes
  • Rustic containers, like wicker baskets and tin pails

Flower-Free

Why You Might Want It If you're bloom-averse because of a tight budget or a desire to do something different, you're in luck -- the options are literally endless.

But Is It Really for You? You can't go wrong with candles. A wrought-iron candelabra surrounded by tea lights has a feel of vintage romance. A collection of different-sized pillars has a similarly dreamy quality. And shallow, wide-mouthed vases look great filled with tinted water and a few floating candles. Lanterns are another way to decorate the tables and get some lighting at the same time. Not enough color for you? Fruit like oranges, apples, lemons and limes pack a powerful punch. Mix in strawberries, grapes or cherries for texture. Colorful jars look eclectic and stacks of jewelry boxes draped with costume baubles are so sophisticated. The lesson: Most items that are beautiful to you will also look good on your tables, but do a trial run to be sure.

Special thanks to Donna O'Brien of Beautiful Blooms, Philadelphia, PA, Natalie Willett of Zuzu's Petals, Orland Park, IL, and Orly Khon of Tangerine Creations, Boston, MA

-- Meredith Bodgas