Event Planning: Creative Centrepieces

When it comes to event planning, do you like to turn centrepiece arrangements over to your florist, or have you found there are some occasions when a restrained budget, coupled with creative colleagues, leads to inspiration?

I was recently one of a group of people organising a retirement party for a high powered executive who is, even as I write, shredding documents and cleaning out her office to make way for her successor. We’ll greatly miss this stylish woman, and wanted to send her off appropriately.

IMG_7868 Copyright Shelagh Donnelly

With the events including a dinner for roughly a hundred guests, we decided to reflect our retiree’s love of shopping, which extends to jewellery and purses as well as her immaculate wardrobe, to create attractive, yet reasonably priced table centrepieces.

Purse centrepieces floral Copyright Shelagh Donnelly

We settled on the classic simplicity of roses and baby’s breath as our flowers of choice. Knowing that red, black and white are our honouree’s favourite colours, we had our colour scheme in place. The next step was to incorporate simple arrangements into … compact evening bags, of course!

Purse centrepieces white Copyright Shelagh Donnelly

With this in mind, we enlisted the talents of one colleague who is an admin. professional by day and talented painter,  jeweller and all ’round artisan outside the office. Over the period of a few weeks, she stopped in at every thrift shop she could find, scouring the shelves for gently used evening bags. With one exception, a beaded purse for our retiree’s head table, the purses averaged out at well under $10 per table.

Our artist’s work wasn’t yet done. While at various thrift stores, she also kept an eye out for a corresponding number of short tumbler glasses that could be tucked into the compact purses, to serve as vases. Half the fun of our event planning meetings was the ooh-ing and aah-ing over the latest acquisitions of attractive bags at ridiculously low prices.

Purse Centrepieces multitude copyright Shelagh Donnelly

The week prior to the big dinner, a couple of colleagues reviewed the guest list and finalised an order of red roses – no need for long stems on this occasion! – and baby’s breath. Our florist delivered the fresh beauties the day of the event, and a small group descended upon an available room to trim and arrange the centrepieces, some of which you’ll see on this page.

Our retiree loved the attention to detail that reflected her style, and guests were admiring of the centrepieces – which, with their low profiles, ensured that people seated at the rounds of eight were able to converse and make eye contact without having to peer over or around bulky arrangements.

The bonus for our guests? At the end of the evening, our MC invited people to check the until-then surprise indicators at their respective place settings, to determine which lucky person at each table was able to depart the party with a lovely little keepsake to take home. People could also feel good about the environmentally friendly approach to consumption, given the used bags and glassware.

The bonus for our budget? With a bit of inspiration, and the time, dedication and keen eye of our talented shopper, a group of assistants pulled off elegant, personalised decor at a fraction of the price we’d have otherwise paid.

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