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Something Old, Something New: DIY Wedding Centerpieces for Darklings

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There’s a bit of a paradox when it comes to wedding planning where everyone struggles to rebel against the big trends and be different, and ultimately everyone ends up doing the same different thing. For a while, in certain circles, the most common strike against the dreaded “Wedding Industrial Complex” was to replace stemmed glassware with mason jars, even though the stemmed glassware and mason jars both came from the same rental company. It was kind of like protesting against McDonald’s by refusing a Big Mac and ordering a Filet-O-Fish.

If you want your wedding to be different, look no further than your own unique relationship for inspiration. A neat and relatively simple and effective way to personalize your wedding is to construct your own centerpieces using objects that are special to you and your partner. After all, celebrating your relationship is the whole point of this thing, right? Plus, this is a great excuse to step away from all the seating chart hullaballoo for some sweet Zen craft time.

This tutorial will outline how to create a stuffed garden lantern centerpiece. I’m going to use a garden lantern for the following reasons:

  1. A garden lantern is easy to transport and easy to set up.
  2. In my experience, garden lanterns enchant guests to the point that they’ll jockey to take the lanterns home as bonus favors. They are the third most likely object to cause an incident, behind papier-mâché penguins and porcelain phrenology heads.
  3. Leftover garden lanterns (with glass) are an effective way to protect houseplants from cats.

Time Required

Between one and three episodes of Hannibal per centerpiece, depending on how long you want to put off defending your decision to have a child-free wedding with your partner’s Cousin Myrtle for the third damn time.

Tools

  • A box cutter
  • A ruler
  • A glue gun, with glue sticks that are safe for any materials you plan on using
  • Scissors

Materials

  • A garden lantern with the glass removed – The one I’m using for the demo came from Pier 1, but you can buy lanterns in bulk on Amazon.
  • Foam board
  • Fake flowers
  • Decorative moss (both reindeer and Spanish)
  • Objects of personal significance

Optional Materials Also Pictured

  • Feathers
  • A tiny frame intended for a place card (available in bulk on Amazon)
  • Russian netting

A Caveat

If there’s one thing I learned during my years as a cater-waiter it’s that humanity is just one open bar away from throwing a shoe into a sea lion tank and then climbing in after it. That said, do not choose objects that would be painful for you to have damaged or lost. Make duplicates of special photos or tend towards objects that are representative of significant things. That said, here are some things you should NOT put in the lantern:

  • Anything irreplaceable
  • Anything perishable, unless it is being set up on the day-of and can sit out for at least ten hours
  • Anything involving open flame
  • Anything sentient

Step One: Diagramming

Before you embark on this project, it’s a really good idea to draw your design to give yourself something to follow. Yes, freestyling is possible, but if you go in with a tangible plan, your life will be much more organized and you won’t keep risk going in a new direction and needing to order another supply. You’ll save time and money. Also, if you’re meticulous about your details you’ll end up with a solid diagram to give to your setup crew later on. You don’t necessarily need to go full Janice Poon, but check out the envelope for this pattern Anna Biller used for The Love Witch next to the finished product. The seams are so well-defined that you theoretically don’t even need the pattern to make the dress. Define your “seams.”

Step Two: The Base

Measure the floor of the lantern. Using those measurements, draw and cut out a piece of foam board to cover the floor. This is your base.

The cool thing about this base is that it’s removable, so if you have to transport all these centerpieces from your home to the venue and need to Tetris everything into a vehicle you have the option of taking the base out and packing it separately.

Step Three: Flowers

If you’re using false flowers with posable stems, trim the stems so that they’re a couple of inches long. Use the glue gun to attach the flowers to the base in a manner that you find visually pleasing. You’ll probably have to hold each flower in place for a couple of minutes while the glue sets. I reserved the leaves from my stems to use as extra color later on.

Step Four: Moss

Glue a layer of reindeer moss to your base so that it covers your stems. Once the reindeer moss is down, add some Spanish moss as you see fit. You may not need to glue down the Spanish moss. Mine assimilated on its own. However, your moss may choose to un-assimilate en route to the venue, so have an extra bag of moss on hand for setup just in case emergency plumping is required.

Step Five: Embellishment

Here’s where you add feathers and netting. Nestle your little photo frame in there. Arrange your special objects however you see fit. It’s your wedding. However, keep in mind that large objects are probably going to have to be removed for transport.

My Finished Design

 

It’s a really good idea to take photos of your centerpieces from several angles once you’ve settled on how you want them to look. That way, whoever is tasked on the day-of to set up the centerpieces while you’re busy elsewhere will have a good illustration of your vision. In the best case scenario, this person (if it’s a designated friend or family member) would be with you during the creation process and seeing the assembly firsthand, but that isn’t always possible and this task may very well end up in the hands of some waiter or planning assistant who’s never met you. If you have a special secret for getting the antlers to stand up in a certain way, make sure to write that helpful hint down, or perhaps even include your diagram so your setup crew isn’t stuck puzzling over everything.

Scatter a few candles around your centerpiece and you’re set for your reception. Mazel tov!

All images via E.K. Leimkuhler

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About The Author

E. caught the first ten seconds of a Dracula movie on TV while in first grade and immediately became obsessed. She's a huge fan of Gothic lit, outrageous horror movies, strange cats, and DIY projects involving black glitter. She has a degree in Medieval Studies and a background in costume. Her home improvement muse is Sarah Winchester.

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