White Cymbidium orchid

Lots of brides want to make DIY wedding centerpieces for the big day but choose something too complicated. You can save a ton of money by making DIY wedding decor – especially centerpieces – but it’s important to get everything figured out well in advance, so there are no unpleasant surprises in the week prior to your wedding.

Today, I’m going to teach you how to make a really easy style of centerpiece that can be done way in advance if you choose your design elements carefully. The DIY wedding centerpieces featured in the picture above are made with fresh flowers – white and green Cymbidium and Dendrobium orchids, to be specific – but you can use any flower that suits your taste and style. As long as it’s something that will survive out of water for the duration of your wedding and reception. I get the vast majority of my fresh flowers from Potomac Floral Wholesale. If you’re in the DC area, there’s no shipping to just pick them up. Everywhere else, shipping is reasonable. They’re one of the few wholesalers that allows non-florists to get their wholesale prices (and no, I’m not getting anything for recommending them – I just think they’re the best). They also have an extensive catalog of supplies – everything from floral glue to quick dip – so you can order everything in the same place, and get advice from their sales associates about what flowers will survive glued to your driftwood.

Green Dendrobium orchids

Keep in mind that heavier blossoms (like roses and sunflowers) require lots more glue and patience to attach than lighter-weight flowers. I like orchids because they look luxurious and expensive, but when you’re taking the blooms off the stem and using them individually, a little goes a long way. Also, they’re hardy and will survive a solid 24-plus hours looking fresh and perky. With that said, live flowers shouldn’t be attached to the driftwood any earlier than the night before the wedding – early the morning of the big day would be preferable if you’re going to have time or don’t have to make very many.

For brides who want to have all their DIY wedding decor completely assembled (perhaps even delivered to the venue) ahead of time, silk flowers are a much better choice. Faux flowers are available in such high quality now that they’re not obviously fake unless you put them next to a bouquet of fresh flowers. But flowers aren’t your only option for decorating a driftwood centerpiece. You can get as creative as you like, and even mix things up with several different elements, like seashells, greenery, succulents, or whatever matches your design theme.

Supplies for DIY wedding centerpieces

How to make DIY wedding centerpieces

Step One: Put down newspaper over a large, cleared surface like a kitchen table or kitchen counter with access to an electrical outlet for your glue gun. Plug it in and warm it up – if you’ve never used a hot glue gun before – BE VERY CAREFUL not to burn yourself with the metal parts of the gun, or the actual hot glue. That stuff burns like nobody’s business, and it’s impossible to wipe it off to stop the sting. I glued my fingers together the first time I made a Christmas wreath, but that’s a story for another day.

Step Two: If you want to put lights on the centerpieces, you need to add them BEFORE you start attaching other design elements so that you can hide the wires with your flowers or shells.

DIY wedding centerpieces

Green Cymbidium orchids

Step Three: Prepare the flower blooms by snipping off the stems as close to the base of the flower bloom as possible. The flatter the bottom off the bloom, the easier it will be to attach. Be sure to remove tags, price stickers and anything else extraneous from the decor elements you’re using. You’ll be moving fast once you get started, and you don’t want to have to stop and prep the stuff you’re gluing.

Step Four: Pre-plan the placement of the decor elements on your first centerpiece by making a little X with a pencil every place you plan to glue a flower or shell (for the purposes of this how-to, let’s assume they’re all flowers). You can take it a step farther by placing the different blooms around the driftwood, near where you’ll be gluing them, but I find that can get messy. Glue guns notoriously create strings of glue that are easy to remove or clean up as long as they don’t get on anything else. It’s easier to have your design elements sorted in to different piles, and pull from them.

DIY wedding centerpieces

White Dendrobium orchids

Step Five: Use your pre-heated glue gun to place a blob of glue on one of your X marks. Start out doing them one at a time to minimize mistakes – once you get the hang of it, you can do a couple of blobs and blooms at the same time. Too much glue will run and make a mess (wipe it up and start over). Not enough glue and the blooms won’t stick. You may have to hold a bloom in place in the glue for 30 seconds to get it to stick (more like a minute or so if you’re gluing it on something vertical). Start by placing the larger blooms or decor elements first.

Step Six: Attach all of the same elements at the same time – for example, glue on the big flowers first, then add in the smaller ones to fill in as necessary. This will help you achieve a balanced look, or a messy look, depending on what you’re shooting for. The beauty of DIY wedding centerpieces is that you can make them look like whatever you want them to look like – it’s your wedding and you’re the artist!

Step Seven: Let the completed centerpieces dry all the way, and then pick them up off the newspaper and remove any hanging strands of glue. Give a gentle tug on the blooms to make sure everything is actually attached well-enough to survive transport to your wedding venue.

A few more tips:

  • If you’re making your DIY centerpieces far in advance with faux flowers, consider covering them with plastic when they’re finished, to prevent dust from settling on the petals.
  • Collect empty boxes, and remove the flaps, to use to safely transport your DIY centerpieces to your wedding reception venue. Putting them in your car loose is a recipe for disaster.
  • For a round table, as a general rules, driftwood should be no bigger than half the diameter of the dinner table, minus six inches, in order to allow room for place settings. For long banquet-style tables, two 24-inch-long driftwood centerpieces will fill the center of the table and still allow room for seating on the ends.
  • The glue will come off the driftwood easily if you remove the decorations a few days after the wedding. Don’t let it set for too long or it may become permanently affixed, or damage the driftwood upon removal. But if you remove it carefully within a week or so, the driftwood should be perfect to reuse at another party, or for somebody else’s wedding.
  • No matter how hard you try, you can never conceal all the wiring if you choose to wrap lights around the driftwood. If that bothers you, consider setting votive candles around the centerpiece instead, being careful not to put any directly under anything that could potentially catch fire. Even fake driftwood is flammable!

Remember, there are no rules about how to decorate your own DIY wedding centerpieces, but you want to use common sense and choose things that will hold up well from the time they are assembled until you use them to decorate your wedding. Experiment early, and then take everything off and start over if you don’t like the final result. Eventually, you’ll create DIY wedding centerpieces that match the vision you have in your head if you’re patient.

Until next time, good luck and happy wedding planning!

Sandy