With the holiday season fast approaching families will be gathering to sit around and enjoy good food and fellowship. If you are the lucky one to be hosting this gathering, then one of the items on your to do list may be selecting a table centerpiece.
Selecting the right centerpiece depends a lot on how your family gathers. So, I suggest asking yourself a few questions to get started. The first things to consider are the size and shape of your table or tables. And the second is how the food will be served. Once you answer those questions, then it really narrows down the selection process!
Size and Shape of the Table
The biggest thing to consider is how much space do you really have left after the plates, glasses and silverware are in place. This is influenced by the size and shape of your table. You might have a beautiful centerpiece when no one is seated around the table, but if people sit their plates down and the centerpiece is monopolizing their place setting, then your centerpiece is too large.
Here I mimicked the round table and put a round bread board in the middle. Next I added some green and Spanish moss. I topped it with some pumpkins for a seasonal centerpiece.
Round or Square
If you have a small round table then you may want to consider a small round arrangement versus a long skinny rectangular arrangement. Round and square tables can be very limiting on your options because you do not want the centerpiece to take over the space where your guests are eating.
In this example I have a large round table, so I used larger pieces for my centerpiece. I put a platter for the main dish on top of a tray. To add size and dimension to the arrangement I added some winter greenery to each end of the tray. This breaks up the wood tones and makes a larger centerpiece.
Ideas: Small wreath, punch bowl filled with ornaments or pumpkins, a short vase filled with clippings from your yard
Rectangular or Oval
A rectangular table will often allow you the largest area to decorate. Instead of being limited to the center, you are able to have a longer center of the table to decorate. Long, narrow tables might be more limited to a row of candles versus having enough space for a bunch of large bowls. While a wider table allows you more space to be creative.
In this example I used a shutter as my first layer and then topped it with a turkey platter, eucalyptus, and faux candles on wood log slices.
Ideas: Use a rectangular cutting board, festive scarf, ribbon, or something to make a table runner (shutter, wrapping paper, dough bowl). Then place smaller items on top of that base.
Where is Food Served
Does your family walk around the kitchen and fill their plates from food placed on the counters? Or does your family bring all of the food dishes to the table? Of course this will have an impact on the size or your centerpiece. Turkey, stuffing, potatoes, salad, vegetables, etc take up a lot of space. If you need a lot of your table to hold food, then focus on a fun tablecloth or table runner. Something two dimensional so that the table is “pretty” but food can go directly on the decor.
For this example I used gift wrapping paper in a fun color for the table runner. Cloth napkins coordinate with the paper and are place between a dinner and salad plate. In the center we have bottles used as candle holders.
Ideas: Use some plain kraft paper, wrapping paper, an old quilt, or even a sheet! Place cake stands in a couple spots so you can fit even more food onto the table!
In this arrangement I am getting some height with a cake stand, but the arrangement is low enough you can still see your guests on the other side of the table. The pumpkin could easily be replaced with a bowl of food. I also used a wreath in this centerpiece. Using a wreath gives you color, texture, and it’s easy to pick up and remove if you need that space for food.
Ideas: Candles, pumpkins, bottle brush trees, place these in a fun container like an old truck, wash basin, or pop crate
If you are able to serve your food buffet style, then you have an opportunity to decorate your table with something that you don’t have to move or set food on.
Will you be setting your table ahead of time? For me this works well if you have a large house where people will be gathering prior to the meal in another room. When guests will be sitting around the table, talking prior to the meal, then you might want to have your place setting on the counter with your buffet or even stacked on the table, but not all set out individually.
You may be serving your food, buffet style, but do not have room for plates, silverware and glasses in that same area in this situation. You might have everything stacked on one end of a table. Again, a lot of what you do and would work best depends on your table Size and family situation.
In this idea we kept everything functional and simply stacked the dinnerware on the table for guests to grab and get in the food line.
Ideas: a stack of dinnerware can be your centerpiece if you use disposable paper plates, etc. arrange them in a cute basket
Keep it simple
This can pertain to many aspects of your table when you may want to have a beautiful, larger centerpiece that you remove when it is time to actually eat the meal. In this case, you want to have minimal things that you have to move, have them be lightweight, and simple. Maybe you have multiple things sitting on a tray and then you only have to lift the tray up and off of the table when it is time to eat. Creating a centerpiece should not be something stressful that adds to your to do list of being the hostess. This is another reason to keep the centerpiece simple.
Why else might you want to keep it simple? It makes for easier cleanup. You can easily gather the tablecloth and throw it in the wash or if it is paper or something else. Disposable you can easily throw that in the trash. Again we want to make, a wonderful atmosphere, but at the same time not adding more stress
Using Kraft paper as the table runner. Provide crayons or markers for your guests to write their name, draw, and play games.
Ideas: a poinsettia, a bowl of pumpkins, a couple sets of cute salt and pepper shakers
Who will you be serving?
If you have a lot of kids in your family, it can be nice to make your centerpiece or table setting interactive. One of the easiest ways to do this is to cover the table with craft paper, so that kids can color and draw on the paper while they are waiting for the food to be ready And served. You can also provide small cards or different things where they can make their own name card. Sometimes just giving kids something to do can make the dining experience, more enjoyable for everyone.
In this example I simply folded unlined index cards and wrote names on them.
Ideas: Simple Christmas gift tags that can be decorated, folded index cards for name tags, mason, jars, with markers or crayons, you can even use Kraft paper as individual placemats instead of as a table runner.
The most common mistake
Probably the biggest mistake that is made when it comes to centerpieces for any occasion, is that they are too tall. Whenever you are creating your centerpiece, be sure to sit down in a chair and pretend to talk to someone on the other side of the table. Can you see them? If you can’t see them, then chances are your centerpiece is too tall. so while a low centerpiece might not look great in a photo, hence be Pinterest worthy or magazine worthy. It is still the best for functionality. And beautiful when you are in person. A lot of our gatherings is about socializing and making connections so it is very important that we can see each other sitting around the table
In this example I used some strung burlap down the center of the table. Then I added leaves and gourds. I also added some feathers in silver sugar pots.
You’ve got this!
I hope these tips help make your centerpiece, not only beautiful, but something easy to accomplish so that you can focus on what is important this holiday season and that is friends and family.
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Creating A Centerpiece
I am always a fan of layering. I think starting with one layer is a great way to anchor your decor. That bottom layer ties all of the smaller pieces together. Otherwise your pieces may look like they are floating! Take your paper, placemat, scarf, cutting board, tray, bowl, mirror, shutter, etc. and place it in the middle of the table.
Using items that fit the color scheme of the holiday, add to that first layer. This item will be smaller than the first layer, but really your options are endless. A pitcher, bowl, cake stand, candles, pumpkins, pinecones, leaves, etc.
Use what you have! Look around the house, your yard, and get creative!
In this example I am using what I have. A fall scarf as my first layer, with pinecones and antlers added in!
Using a round placemat in the center of the table to anchor smaller pieces. Corn tassels in a silver pitcher with a brass deer, and pumpkin! Yes you can mix and match metals!!!
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Interested in more decorating tips?
Decorate my built-ins with me HERE.
In this post I decorate my dining room for Christmas. See it HERE.