Frequently Asked Questions: How do you secure those gravity defying centerpieces?

place settings, table setting,flowers,wedding centerpieces,bouquets,arrangements

Floral Centerpieces (Photo via).

Okay, I think it’s confession time. Around 1995, I did an amazing wedding in New York. My client was over-the-moon happy and, as in some cases, she invited me to be a guest for her event. (Though all of us in the event business can probably understand how exhausting installing an event can be. Most of the time after finishing the set-up I just want to go home and soak my hurting feet.)

I had designed these 6 foot tall arrangements for most of the tables. It was with great horror (seriously, it was like being in a bad movie) that I sat in this beautiful room and watched in slow motion as one of the arrangements fell and hit a gorgeous lady on her head! Needless to say, she was not a very good sport about it. This is what I’d call my ultimate floral nightmare moment, and one that I’ll never forget as long as I live. Not only was it humbling, but I swore never to repeat the mistake that caused this accident.

place settings, table setting,flowers,wedding centerpieces,bouquets,arrangements

I do think that centerpieces can be a great deal of fun to create. I have always tried to create my own version of an art sculpture on each table (I have not always been successful but I do keep trying). I love when guests sit down and wonder, “How the hell did he do this?” or, “I hope this does not fall on my head” (just kidding).

So, these are my suggestions for creating a secure tall centerpiece:


1) Create a very secure base as an anchor. In order to do this, I usually plant this base in cement. (This gives it no chance to fall.) To cover the cement, you can do something as simple as covering it with moss or extra flowers. See the picture above


2) Most of the tables and tablecloths are rented. I usually screw metal bases into the table (yes, a bit time-consuming but very secure) .

3) There is a fool proof test I do in my office to make sure the centerpieces are secure. Try bumping your body into the table with force. If nothing crashes, it’s working.

4) As you arrange your flowers, make sure your centerpiece is not side heavy or top heavy. The weight of the flowers need to be evenly distributed all around.

If you have no other decor in your event, strategically placed centerpieces could create the magic you’re looking for. Just please, make sure there are no casualties.

I’m sure this might be a little difficult, but could you share with me any “nightmare moments” you had that you learned from?

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  • Erica Scott

    I’m a wedding coordinator. I had a reception once where a local school mascott made a brief appearance…the bride and groom were surprised and totally loved it. However, while the mascott’s uniform (which includes a VERY large headpiece worth about $10K) was not being watched and the vendor was seeking payment, a fan of this team’s biggest rival decided to steal this headpiece. After viewings of the hotel security cameras and a confrontation between the thief and a member of the wedding party that resulted in a call to the police, the headpiece was finally recovered an hour later in one of the parking garage elevators. Drama, drama, drama!!!

  • Georgianne Vinicombe

    We set up a wedding with flowers up on towers. I’d used these style towers many times before but for this event I decided to buy brand new ones, as mine were getting a bit tired looking. Prior to the wedding we cleaned each tower and reboxed. Unknown to us at the time, some of the towers were defective!! It was not until they each start crashing down that we realized that the glass was blown slightly curving, weakening the glass. Not all broke but enough that we had to run back to our shop and get our wider towers, just in case. The good news is that we still had plenty of time as I rarely cut things close (unless it’s a quick room change) and all went well. The bad news was the facilty was not used to our work and we had to convince them that this was not normal. In the end both the client and the hall were pleased and amazed by how quickly we turned a possible disaster into a sucess. Whew!!!

  • Timika Jefferson

    I’m an event planner in Detroit. We set up a wedding in a church and used various cylyndars to line the aisle floors. The cylinders held flowers, water, and rocks. When the bride and groom were announced husband and wife…they rushed up the aisle and the brides train knocked over some of the cylidars….it was a nightmare!!!!



    I am not an event designer, but I had such a long day, it was good to see this post. It made me laugh more than once, thanks so much!


  • Rowaida Flayhan

    This is really interesting and informative post, thank you

  • Ilona Tulyulyuk

    Уважаемый Престон! Как в таких высоких стеклянных вазах держится такая объёмная композиция (композиция на “Оазисе”?).
    А в композициях с лебедями розы к основе приклеены или как?
    Спасибо за ответ!!!

  • Ilona Tulyulyuk

    Престон! Если можно – пожалуйста, расскажите пошагово (step-by-step) про объёмные композиции в стеклянныз вазах. Большое спасибо!!! (Thanks).

  • Camilla Svensson Burns

    It is so humbling to hear that an amazing designer as yourself has had challenges with mechanics in the past. Thank you for sharing, knowing that I’m not the only one who has had a disaster or two…
    I designed a wedding with super tall glass vases that held floating spheres of roses, I was told after the event that one of the vases decided to slowly crack during the dinner. It went from a slow trickle to a major waterfall – luckily the guests thought it was extremely entertaining (it must’ve been after a few cocktails). The good news is that the bride was over the moon about the decor and flowers.

  • Maya de Roo

    I’m a freelance floral designer and one time I went to decorate a dinner in Rome, Italy, with one of the companies I work with. They designed all the tabledecoration just with vases and candles. The problem was that in the new building very modern architecture the wind consumed the candles in no-time ad wax was falling down into the plates and glasses, all over the food and evrything. It was really a nightmare!!!!
    So perhaps you could give us some advice on using candles (the ones we had were also supposed to not leek wax at all!)

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  • Karena

    Love your “secret tips” Preston, your centerpieces are always so gorgeous!!

    Art by Karena

  • Jackie

    I love this and I love learning from the BEST!!!! I’m still waiting for my special day to come and when it does your designs will be at the top of my list.

  • Charlene Thompkins

    Preston, my horror story begin last November. We were hire to decorate a Wedding that started outs so beautiful with spring colors. We create hugh centerpieces for 40 table. When I say hugh the metal vessal was 40″ tall and the arrangements was overall 30″in. This is probable nothing compare to what you design but it was a first and it turned out to be beautiful with all the specialty linen, lighting, 16ft by 40ft backdrop unit behind the 2 tier headtable. But I didn’t do the table bump as you suggested but from now on I will. I was so worried about the centerpieces falling from the table because it was a wild bunch and they party. Here was the problem not one centerpiece fell. The bride and groom was sitting at the headtable and the entire backdrop canopy over the entire headtable it was horrible. I finally got the real story as to what happen thank God it wasn’t a malfunction in the equipment.

  • Philygirl

    Hi Preston,

    I can’t express how incredible it is to hear you honestly talk about mistakes and learning points in your career. This industry can be isolating and filled people too quick to flaunt their success so it’s really comforting to know that someone as incredible as you has made some mistakes in their career too.


  • Infinite Affairs

    I only have one horror story but it’s hilarious. We were hired to direct a wedding in Atlanta. The bride’s family created these beautiful arches covered with flowers and greenery. The bride’s uncle volunteered to transport them to the church as a favor. When the bride arrived for rehearsel, I asked why she looked so sad? She responded with…you would look sad also if you just saw your wedding decorations fly off the back of your uncle’s truck while driving through downtown Atlanta! She was actually in the truck and looked through the back window as cars swerved to avoid the centerpieces and while 18-wheelers trampled the beautiful arch! So we were scrambling to help the family purchase and create replacement decorations. In the end everything turned out well and in fact I am directing her cousin’s wedding in May as she was impressed with our work for the other wedding.

  • Charlotte, NC

    How do you get those huge styrofoam forms? Do you use watertubes? If not, how long will the flowers look fresh / how far in advance can you start production on them? AMAZING!!

  • Maureen Mac Mahon

    Thank you so much, with this post you have restored my faith in Human nature! Something similar happened to me once, I had designed tall standing arrangements for a church and watched in horror as the bride and groom walked back down the aisle and the top fell off one of them! I thought these things could only happen to me! You are the floral God in my life, the designer I most aspire to be like! and it it so refreshing that you can admit to also having mishaps! I think these things happen for a reason though, it’s how we learn! I always make sure that everything is really secure now! Thank you so much for sharing and for your oh so wonderful inspirational photographs,

  • physician assistant

    Great site. A lot of useful information here. I’m sending it to some friends!

  • Ravel Shoes

    This is really good blog. I have a few myself. I really love your layout. I know this is off topic but,did you make this theme yourself,or buy from somewhere? London,UK

  • http://YOURWEBSITE Nadia J

    Hi Preston!!!! I was hoping you could give me some pointers on creating floral sculptures. I need to create an elephant and a gingerbread house out of flowers and I’m not too sure on what’s the best way to make the form for them.

  • http://YOURWEBSITE сочи-2014

    Всем привет, Какая нужная фраза… супер, великолепная идея

  • http://YOURWEBSITE Laura


  • Marble

    One time a year ago I asked you to decorate my daughter’s wedding in Uganda. This did not work out for many reasons and I felt very disappointed. However, I took some examples from your work and on a very negligible scale, we managed to create some wonderful centerpieces. It is a year now and people still talk about the wedding and how it was unique. Thank you for your inspirations Preston.
    I am now an aspiring decorator and trying to start my business in Uganda although I presently live in UK. One question, how did you create the peacock piece?

  • Tish Dacio

    Hi Preston! I absolutely love your creations!
    I learned a lot from this blog, and would like to share an incident where my client refused to rent the stands for the tarpaulin event signage. My quick solution, grab the cemented poles used by the hotel/ballroom for their flags. Any available pipes and some sturdy plastic straws to do an H bracket to hang those signs onto.

  • Alycia Nichols

    WHAT WOULD You showed me yours, so I’ll show you mine…all figuratively, of course! :-) I created a beautiful towering centerpiece for our Thanksgiving 2011 dinner. As usual, I started setting up several days beforehand to make sure everything would look right. Instead of the Cling floral adhesive I usually use, I opted for something else to secure a 4-ft. sheet of glass to the tops of 4 glass candelabra. I completed the floral embellishment, set the table, and went to bed. Next morning, came down for coffee and as soon as my foot hit the floor in the dining room……..I heard it all sliding before I actually heard the deafening crash! Horrified is a mild word for how I felt. Needless to say, I was cleaning up china and crystal and all the glass while crying that “ugly cry.” I had to come up with a new tablescape idea in a hurry. The 2nd one was MUCH lower and quite a bit less ambitious than the 1st!!! I will never, ever, ever stray from what I KNOW works in the future! Tried and true instead of sad and blue from now on! P.S. – I so admire your work, Mr. Bailey!YOU LIKE TO SAY?