Tel: 07976 918185
Highland Occasions By Design

Centre Stage

Seven plus years ago we began styling venues in Derbyshire, Cheshire, Greater Manchester. Chair covers were not so widely used back then and so we had to find other ways to create the picture.

Centrepieces have long been the focus of any table. From the fresh flower to the party balloon. From floating candles to candelabra. And so the dilemma for any couple begins. What should we have? How big? How small? How many…and how much! I won’t pretend I have all the answers but what I do hope is to help with some of the considerations.

Real or replica – fresh or fake.

Once upon a time it was hard to imagine a wedding without fresh flowers. Their scent, their opulence, all designed to fill the room – a feast for the eyes.

However there are so many reasons couples choose alternatives nowadays. Allergy is a big factor – no bride wants to spend her day with a tissue constantly pressed to her nose. Budget is another. Or simply because a couple dare to be different and choose something quite personal to them.

So in more recent years we have seen the artificial flowers just get better and better in quality. Gone are the tacky plastic flowers of the 20th century. Instead stems and blooms which are hard to differentiate from the real thing. With the latest innovations of foam and real touch they can even feel like the real thing. So many creations can be reproduced using “silks” one really doesn’t have to compromise. That said, with stem prices at the high end comparable with fresh, a quality centrepiece made from artificials is not always the “cheap” alternative people might expect. The same hours go in and the same number of stems are used…so don’t always expect high quality silks to be a budget alternative. Of course we all know that often “Mum loves her fresh flowers” and so sometimes a compromise has to be reached. It shouldn’t exclude you from having alternatives. Simply think laterally. Fresh flower pedestals (our florists can make these so they can be given as great “thank you” for the Mums) and an altar/registry table display can be re-positioned at the top table. They will sit quite easily with artificial alternatives out at your guest tables. I personally love fresh flowers so have no desire to take away from the very special service they offer. And I respect the training a good florist will have gone through and the hours which go into making the perfect piece. I simply recognise the two can co-exist and that couples will always seek to get something which reflects them as individuals. And so if fresh flowers “isn’t my thing” then one shouldn’t feel forced to fill your wedding with them.


The choice in candle centrepieces is almost infinite. With pillars, floating candles in all shapes and sizes, tea lights, dinner candles, cubes, spheres, cones…the list is endless – and the colour choices too. We use a lovely handmade company from one of the Isles in Scotland who will make to any shade on the pantone colour chart – and will even match to a swatch. So there simply are no limits. So what do you use to display them? Again the choice in glassware is endless. Be brave..there are few items which won’t work together. However we have just two simple pieces of advice:

Scented candles and dinner don’t mix. You want to smell the food not have it tainted by overwhelming heady scents. Save the scents for the home and a romantic evening by a roaring fire!

Secondly – we are often asked to put floating candles in fish bowls…and indeed are often asked why others say they can. The answer is easy. Any glass which “rolls over the top” of a naked flame is liable to crack. Once placed a floating candle will move around and once it rests against the glass it will break. We recently heard at one of our venues where that did happen – the result….waitresses rapidly removing them before the water leaked out all over the table – and guests laps. Remember – anyone can mock up a sample – but a good stylist will test – and test – and then test again – in real time! To make sure your centrepiece is robust and will stand the rigors of several hours. So we always advise make sure your “flame” has room to breathe (there are lots of lovely open glassware options available equally if not more stunning than a fishbowl).

Which brings me to burn times. Consider your entire day – from the moment you sit to eat to the last dance being played. Your centrepiece should at least last the duration…so discard those flimsy 2 hour tea lights from the bargain shop and invest in something with a suitable burn time.


For years the “humble” balloon was possibly used in the larger percentage of centrepiece displays (after fresh flowers of course). Things have changed now as couples look to the hundreds of alternatives. But the balloon still has its place. It can be the addition which changes formal wedding breakfast to wedding party! And now with such creative ideas the world of balloons has moved on a lot from three balloons on a weight. So you can have a creative centrepiece made entirely of latex which is stunning and stylish. Choose a member of NABAS or, even better, a qualified CBA and you can be certain to receive consistently high standard displays which will last.

How you use them depends on your table layout….round tables should have a single focal point…so beware having two distinctly different pieces “fighting” for centre stage. Instead combine the items to create a centrepiece or design in itself. We see lots of displays with a mix and match design in the centre but what makes a good one stand out is their creative placement. So together they make a “picture” and not simply look like the balloons were an after thought. Your venue stylist or balloon artist will help you achieve this and if it just isn’t working then simply opt for floor standing arrangements instead…to frame a feature or add height around a room in clusters.

Rise and fall

Finally I am going to touch on the height. This is the subject of almost every booking we take. Should I go for low…or high. There are several considerations I suppose.

Nobody wants a conversation stopper. That’s not a centrepiece which makes everyone stand open mouthed! No – it’s the centrepiece which gets in the way. So a smaller intimate table might benefit from something low which guests can easily talk over. Banquet style dining in particular suits lower displays and lots of them. A long table of 16 can be a big space to dress so mix it up a bit. The round table provides a canvas for so many options. The bigger the table the higher the centrepiece could conceivably go…after all 12 people at a 6 foot round table are really more likely to talk to guests either side than shout across a noisy table. And if you really want height then make it a good height – with a narrow stem so people across from each other can see and speak without ducking a diving around a big display. If in doubt, sit at a table, opposite a friend and see how high your centrepiece needs to be to go above head height. It’s a good starting point.

What about your party size? Often people see their ideal set up on a photo online – a big hall or marquee with 20 tables and huge centrepieces. Amazing! But will it translate to your intimate five table wedding in a small function room or restaurant? A common issue and sometimes we forget to consider the room we have booked – instead imagining it to be a whole lot bigger and fuller than it really is. Secondly – and one we see a lot – ceiling height. Low ceilings and six foot high centrepieces don’t mix. They can have the visual effect of making the ceiling feel a whole lot lower. Think “rule of thirds”. If your table is the low third, your centrepiece middle third then ideally you want to see an equal amount of fresh air again above those flowers or candles! A grand two storey hall on the other hand really will have impact with a tall display. And if you are having 20 tables then why not consider alternating your displays? Low and high using the same theme can create more impact than every table exactly the same.

Check out lots of ideas and talk to your venue stylist or florist about them all. They are there to advise – and often will know your venue well enough to know what will work well, what might not. They will have your colour theme so will know what materials are available.

Whatever you decide, have fun with it……

Keep in touch with us

Highland Occasions by Design,
Gallowhill Cottage,
Banffshire AB37 9DL

Tel: 07976 918185

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