If you want a striking wedding table centerpiece that’s both customizable and classic, look no further than your nearest drink container. Bottles of all sizes and shapes form the basis for gorgeous centerpieces and decorations. If you or someone you know loves a certain beverage brand, start saving those glass bottles now!
Preparing the bottles
You can use any bottles, although wine bottles are popular choices because of their convenient size and shape. For variations on the theme, use glass vases, cola bottles, or even mason jars. Mix up the sizes and colors of your bottles for a more jumbled, varied look.
Remove any labels by soaking the bottles in hot water for a few hours and scraping the labels off with a razor blade or knife. For stubborn labels, you can use steel wool and some dish soap. Some brands tend to use more glue on their labels than others, so if you find a particular bottle’s label comes off easily, it might be time to get your friends and family to start collecting.
Once you have smooth glass bottles, you’re ready to decorate! There are many ways to do this:
Bottles wrapped in fabric
A simple glass bottle wrapped in a fabric sleeve makes a striking, understated centerpiece when combined with delicate flowers. Surprisingly, rougher fabrics tend to look better than delicate ones (so leave the silk trim for your dress). Even burlap can add a surprisingly elegant look to a rustic outdoor vineyard or barn wedding when paired with wildflower bouquets.
To wrap the bottles, cut wedges of fabric that are the same length as the bottles. Make sure to cut one end thinner to compensate for the slimness of the bottle neck. You may have to experiment a few times to make sure the wedge wraps around the bottle tightly, without leaving gaps or overlapping, but once you get it right, you can use the wedge as a pattern for the rest.
Match up the fabric ends around the bottle and either sew or hot-glue them together to make a continuous sleeve. If you turn the fabric edges inward as you glue, you’ll end up with a smoother line, and dried glue won’t show.
Leave the wrapped bottles plain or decorate them with tied ribbons or twine around the necks. You can hang cards from the bottle necks to designate dinner tables, or drip colorful wax on them to bring out more texture.
If you want to go the extra mile, you can make an easy stencil by cutting shapes out of stiff poster board. You can write the date of your wedding, your initials, hearts, or other simple shapes that match your theme. Wrap the stencil around the bottle and dab paint onto it with a sponge. Only use a very light layer of paint and don’t mix it with water, to avoid running.
Candles “inside” bottles
This trick is actually an optical illusion, since the bottoms of the wine bottles have been cut off, but when they’re placed on a table of a similar color, or a mirrored surface, it looks like the candles are magically encased in the bottles. That’s about a hundred times more romantic than a model ship!
Believe it or not, this can be done easily at home. You’ll need a glass cutter, which can be purchased at most hardware stores for under $10. Sandwich the cutter between two heavy objects, or in a vise grip, to keep it steady. The blade will make a clean line as you rotate the bottle against it. Each bottle should take under a minute to cut once you get the hang of it.
Whichever method you use, make sure you cut a single, firm, clean line around the outside of the bottle (at whatever height you’d like your bottles; feel free to mix it up for visual variety). Don’t trace around the cut too many times or the glass will not break cleanly. Plan ahead and prepare yourself with a few more bottles than you’ll need, so you can break some without worrying.
After the bottle has been scored in a clean, firm circle, it’s time to stress the glass so the bottle will break itself along the line you just scored.
This is most easily achieved by dipping the bottle into cool water for a few minutes, then running boiling water over the bottle. Wear hand protection or wrap a dish towel around the bottle for this part, since the glass will heat up.
If the glass breaks a little jaggedly, that’s actually a good thing. It will allow air flow under the rim so the candle will continue to burn brightly. If your cut is too clean and the bottle creates a seal against the surface of your table, you may want to go back and score some little dips into the rim with your glass cutting tool or a hand-held rotary tool to let the air flow freely.
Painting the bottles
Yes, it looks great even if you paint glass bottles with regular acrylic hobby paint or house paint. Depending on the level of gloss in the paint (and the effect you want to achieve), you may want to go over matte paint with an additional layer of clear gloss enamel to give it a candy-apple shine.
One advantage to this approach is that you can have decorations that match your wedding colors exactly. You can even take a bridesmaid’s dress to the paint store and have them mix you a custom shade to match.
Paint similarly-shaped bottles a range of color tones, or paint different bottle shapes all the same color–it’s up to you! Bottles can be painted solid colors, or, if you trust your artistic skills, paint something more complex. If you want a personalized touch, you can enlist your friends to help at a “painting party” before the wedding.
Your finished bottle centerpieces may look perfect the way they are. Otherwise, it’s time to add the perfect extra touch by placing flowers, feathers, name tags, strings of lights or beads, or other decorations inside your bottles. Try a single lily or peacock feather to complement the bottle without overpowering it, but remember to have fun with it and to let your creativity flow.
Create your own wedding lamp centrepieces
Does your wedding venue leave you wanting more? For many brides and grooms, budgetary concerns and logistical compromises take their location dreams from “European castle” to “neighborhood community center.” If this is the case, however, don’t despair–with a little DIY magic, you can transform any room into a romantic wonderland.
Christmas light vases
You may have already seen weddings using Christmas lights (or fairy lights, as they’re called in the UK) as elements of wedding decorations. But did you know that you can bunch them up in vases to create softly glowing lamps? Just be sure to use strands of LED lights rather than lights that produce heat, since bunched-up traditional Christmas lights can melt their own cords and create an electrical hazard.
Position several clear (or colored translucent) vases or bottle of different sizes and shapes near each other, and fill each one with a bunched-up strand of lights to create a brilliant table centerpiece.
If you have a very large vase, you may even want to layer several colors of Christmas lights in a single container to create a “light parfait.”
Wine bottles also work well as light containers. To make sure the electrical cords don’t trail out of the bottles, hide battery packs in large vases or decoratively spiral the lights down and around the outsides of the bottles. When trailing cords are inevitable, keep bottles close to the wall and tape cords to the undersides of tables to keep them out of sight.
Black light bottles
Harness the power of fluorescing liquid to create glowing lamps in any size or shape you like. Simply fill your chosen container (mason jars and cleaned-up liquor bottles work well) with tonic water, laundry detergent, glow-in-the-dark paint, or Vaseline–all of these substances glow under black light to some extent. (Since some brands of laundry detergent work better than others, you may want to test a few to see which glows the brightest.)
Place the jars or bottles as closely as possible to the source of the black light. Lining them in a row with a long black light between the jars and the wall is an easy way to capture the most florescence. If you want to place the jars separately around the room, look for strands of black light bulbs and wrap a strand around the outside of each jar. When the liquid picks up the light, the glowing effect works just like a lamp.
Use translucent paper
Whether you’re an origami master or you’re just competent enough to tape four sheets of paper together, you can harness the beautiful power of light shining through translucent paper. To get the right kind of paper, you may need to visit some specialty paper shops and shine a flashlight behind each one until you find the one that glows the most pleasingly.
If there aren’t any resources, look for rice paper or other types of thin paper online. Paper with subtle textures (such as dried herbs or glitter) pressed into the sheets provides a gorgeous, complex light.
Wrap the paper around the light source. This can be anything from an LED tea candle to a plugged-in LED light bulb. (To reduce the risk of fire, never use open flame to illuminate paper lanterns. Stick with LED lights rather than traditional bulbs–that way there won’t be any heat reaching the paper.)
You can tape or glue the ends of a single sheet around the light source to create a cylinder shape, or you can fasten four pieces of paper together to form a box around the light. If you’re very good at paper folding, you can attempt more complex shapes–such as glowing flowers or hanging spheres–with the light source inside.
Arrange your lamps and bottles or use them as wedding table centrepieces
Take care when arranging your lamps around your wedding venue. Position them at different heights to create a more complex look. You may want to group a dozen or so together to give your venue a brightly-glowing focal point when guests walk in.
Remember, human eyes have a tendency to notice brightly-lit things, so by keeping some areas of your venue lighter than others you can control what aspects people are most likely to see and remember. Even though light is an intangible and inexpensive thing, it can still make a gigantic difference in transforming your wedding venue into your dream location.
Lisa is a special needs teacher and a hugger. She always makes time for everyone and lightens up everybody’s lives with her presence. When she is not chasing her students around the yard, she finds time to write about what she truly loves, and you guessed it, its people and relationships.