How to Select a Centerpiece for Dining Room Table 

I'm in love with my dining room table.

Ever since we got it, nearly 20 years ago, it's been the source of many happy memories.  It's where we play cards in the summertime, enjoy dinners with friends at the holidays and home to the buffet table at countless parties.

It's seen all sorts of centerpieces through the years, from vases of flowers to a decorative bird cage and everything in between.

You know when you're scrolling through Pinterest and see an image of a dining room table that stops you in your tracks?

In the blink of an eye, you think YES! and pin it.

How do you instantly know whether you like one centerpiece versus another?

The first reason that you were likely drawn to it was because of the style of the room, whether that’s mid-century modern, nautical or whatever style you prefer.

The second reason that the photo caught your eye was probably because of the centerpiece on the dining room table.

Ah, centerpieces!  The crowning glory of dining room tables everywhere.

Whether it’s an everyday centerpiece for a dining room table or a centerpiece for a birthday party, it’s the EASIEST way to make an impact on the entire room.

Here’s what you need to know to find the perfect centerpiece for your space.


Do I Need a Centerpiece for Dining Room Table?  Yes! 

Without a centerpiece on this table, it would look naked!


3 Reasons Why You May Be Wondering Do I Need a Centerpiece

If someone were to blindfold you and take you to a rustic beach area, perhaps in Maine or along California’s Highway 1, you would be surrounded by gorgeous ocean, large trees and craggy rocks hinting at what might be below.

Take your blindfold off and your eyes would instantly dart to the lighthouse.  Not the beautiful ocean that goes on as far as the eye can see, nor the sand that is seemingly everywhere.

The centerpiece for your dining room is like that lighthouse. 

1. Though that structure may be surrounded by beauty---a gorgeous dining room table, a striking portrait hung on the wall—the centerpiece on the table is the first thing people notice when they enter a room.

2. The centerpiece can set the tone for the table and the room and elevate everything around it.

3. It’s also likely to be the very first thing people notice when looking at your pictures. 


Most people notice the centerpiece--first!

Most people notice the centerpiece first.


The 3 Most Common Mistakes People Make When Selecting a Centerpiece

1. If you’ve ever seen a centerpiece for a dining room table that was just “meh”, it most likely was because the scale was off. Scale refers to how much space something takes up relative to its surroundings.

2. A frequent mistake that people make in their dining rooms in particular is to select a centerpiece that is too small in relation to the table and the room. 

A petite centerpiece on a large table is like having a large bowl with only a few pieces of pasta in it. If you’re only having a few bites to eat, then you should select a smaller bowl.

3. Other well-intentioned but misguided choices include getting the shape of the centerpiece wrong in relation to the table, using materials that don’t match the room and just putting “anything” in the center of the table without giving it much thought.

The good news?

Choosing how to decorate your dining room table doesn’t have to be hard, if you know what factors to consider. 

4 Perfect Dining Room Centerpiece Ideas

To select that best centerpiece, it’s important to know the space it lives on and in, as well as the people that will enjoy it.

Understanding these things will help you get really specific on what will and won’t work for you. 

Just think of it like shopping for a dress---some styles that look fabulous on tall leggy women may not work as great on short gals with long torsos.  

Even before you start thinking about dress style, consider what sort of event you'll be attending.  Obviously, a dress for a backyard BBQ differs from a ballgown for a formal wedding.

Start by knowing if you want a centerpiece for:

1. Everyday, so that your dining room table looks pretty

      I totally get it!  A styled dining room table makes me smile when I walk by it, even if I'm the only one home. 
        You can pretty much do whatever you want for a centerpiece, though if you put any real flowers or plants there, make sure you have a plan to water them.

        (For many of us, out of sight is out of mind and the last thing you want is a dining room that turns into an orchid graveyard.)

           2. A family dinner or a dinner party

          The single most important factor when selecting a centerpiece for a table that people will be seated at, eating a meal, is to make sure it doesn't obstruct the view of anyone seated at the table.

          No one wants to have to duck around a vase of too tall flowers just to make eye contact with the person sitting across from them!  As a rule of thumb, keep centerpieces for tables with seated guests to under 12" tall.

          3. Another consideration is the width of your centerpiece

          Anything too large and you run the risk of guess bumping their water glass or bread plate on it.

          Additionally, if your plan is to serve the meal family style with large platters and bowls being passed, there won't be much room left for a centerpiece.  The best option in this case is to go for several small arrangements of flowers in low vases and votive candles and call it done!


          Idea for dining room table centerpiece at christmas

          If people will be seated at the table, a great idea for a dining room centerpiece is to use several shorter items.  You'll see the striped Christmast trees and small floral arrangements are all less than 12" high.

          4. A birthday party, holiday or other event when your dining room table is being used as a buffet table 

              As restrictive as a seated dinner party centerpiece may seem, is as flexible as the centerpiece can be for an event. 

              Without having to worry about the centerpiece getting in the way of guests or serving pieces, it is free to become a showstopper.  No doubt, this is my most favorite centerpiece of all!

              A large Christmas centerpiece looks great on a buffet table

              You'll notice the large silver urn filled with seasonal flowers.  The mercury glass ornaments round out the centerpiece. 

              I like to start by using the event as inspiration.  If it's a holiday, take a cue from the season.  A beautiful Christmas centerpiece can easily be made with some flowers and ornaments.

              If you're thinking you want an easy done-for-you solution, consider a centerpiece from Birthday Butler.  Standing nearly 2' tall and 2'-3' tall it can make any room look festive--fast!

              It's shipped directly to your home. You just unpack the stainless steel Celebration Stand and attach a birthday banner, holiday banner or one for any other occasion. In just a minute or two, your dining room centerpiece is done.  


              Holiday centerpiece for dining room table is a fast and easy way to decorate

              Need a dining room table centerpiece idea fast?  Check out the birthday and holiday banners from Birthday Butler.

              How Can I Decorate My Dining Room Table? AMP it Up

              The secret to awesome table centerpieces is a mix of elements that blend together for an overall wow! effect.

              After many years of entertaining, I've come up with a recipe that always results in great centerpieces.  To decorate your dining room table, you will need:

              • 1 Architectural element
              • 1 Mother Nature element
              • 1 Personality element

              An easy way to remember this is AMP (where the A is architecture, M is Mother Nature and P is for personality), as in let’s AMP up your dining room table with a fabulous centerpiece.

              The Architectural Element

              An architectural element is critical to your centerpiece because it will take up significant space on the table. 

              Whether it’s a large vase for flowers or large hurricane lamps, this is where you want to get the scale of the object proportional to your table and your dining room. 

              Here are some architectural elements you can include: 

              • A vase or container to put flowers in
              • Lanterns or hurricane lamps
              • Candlesticks, candelabra or pedestal candle
              • Decorative birdcage
              • A tabletop fountain
              • Bowls, empty or filled
              • Urns, Grecian or otherwise 
              • Jelly jars or apothecary jars
              • Decorative boxes with ribbons
              • Stacks of books

              Dining room centerpiece with lanterns and light

              This centerpiece mixes glass lanterns with candles (architectural element), small floral arrangements (Mother Nature), and small photos (personality element).  

               The Mother Nature Element

              The next ingredient in our AMP centerpiece is Mother Nature. By adding something like flowers or fruits, you can literally bring the room alive. 

              These days there’s a wide array of artificial plants and flowers that look amazingly realistic, and are a lot less work to take care of.  Consider this an option as well.

              Not only are elements of Mother Nature a great way to incorporate the beauty of the season and gorgeous colors, they also lend a great deal of height to a centerpiece.  This is especially helpful when doing a centerpiece for a birthday or other special occasion.

               Some centerpiece ideas to include from Mother Nature:

              • Flowers are always a wonderful choice
              • Potted plants such as orchids make a great statement
              • Branches-birch, pine boughs, cherry blossoms, willow
              • Sprigs of greenery
              • Fruits
              • Vegetables
              • Feathers
              • Pampas Grass
              • Palm fronds

              The Personality Element

              The last part of a great centerpiece is personality.  This is an element that is added for a personal touch, perhaps for the guest of honor, or a whimsical note. 

              It doesn’t have to be big, but rather, it’s like the cherry on top of a delicious ice cream sundae.  If you’re still not sure, consider it to be the small detail that makes someone smile when they see it.

              You can add personality into your dining room centerpiece with these ideas: 

              • Photos
              • A small sign, perhaps saying Happy Birthday or YAY
              • A party hat
              • A beautiful ribbon
              • Confetti
              • Vase filler

              5 More Tips for Dining Room Centerpieces 

              1. Add a runner for emphasis

              A table runner is simply a piece of fabric that is most commonly laid in across the center length of a table.  It does a good job highlighting the middle of the table and drawing attention to your centerpiece.


              dining table centerpiece with pink runner

              In this cozy dining table set for two, the pink runner adds a great deal to the overall impact.  You'll see the architectural element (candlesticks), Mother Nature element (flowers) and personality element (chalkboard sign with Happy Birthday message).

              2. Keep the shape of the table in mind

              If the edges of the dining room table are curved as with an oval or circular table, opt for a centerpiece with curves.  Similarly, a rectangular dining table pairs well with a rectangular centerpiece.  

              3. Consider whether you'll be using a tablecloth under your centerpiece

              This is usually a matter of preference but can inform your selection of centerpiece, including the colors to include.  If i'm serving food, I almost always use one.  It makes clean-up easier!  At my house, no tablecloth for everyday. dining table because I enjoy seeing the wood.

              4. Look up and out!

              You'll want to make sure that your centerpiece isn't so tall that it hits the light fixture or ceiling fan above it.  Similarly, if you're lucky enough to have a dining room table with a gorgeous view, you opt for a lower centerpiece so as not to obstruct the view.

              5. Take into Account Passers by

              be mindful of whether there will be pets or small children in the dining room.  Murphy's Law mandates that any centerpiece with fragile or edible elements will attract unwanted attention.


              The best part about a centerpiece?  It's not permanent!  You can create a new one any time you like or leave it if you love it.

                Common Mistakes People Make When Selecting a Centerpiece