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Table Arrangements on a Budget

When you’re planning a party, it’s tempting to focus just on the menu. After all, food and drink are pricey enough—who can afford to throw expensive table arrangements into the mix? You don’t have to. We asked Suzanne Gulbin, owner of CocoRosie, a New York City floral design company, for wallet-friendly table arrangement ideas that only look expensive.

No matter what kind of arrangement you choose, there are a few basic things things to keep in mind. Avoid height, not only because it's hard to do on a budget, but also because you want your guests to be able to see each other. Don't go flower-on-flower. Work some greens in there to create texture (and to save you dough). And finally: have fun! Think beyond the flower store and get creative. Here are three ideas to get you started.

The Floral Centerpiece

Sorry, orchid fans. It’s near impossible to create a lush, budget-friendly arrangement using such expensive petals. Instead, Gulbin's advice: "Look for something that has a big head on it." Think amaryllis, dahlias, hydrangeas, chrysanthemums, and Japanese mums—these are large "face flowers" that take up more space. Just buy a few of these and flesh them out with plants, herbs, branches, or grasses. "The idea is to add some of this stuff as filler and to give texture," says Gulbin. "That way you're not spending your dollars on flowers."

Don't have time to get creative? Go for a succulent. "Any kind of succulent or air plant works any time of year," says Gulbin. Plus they last longer than blooms.

The Foraged Centerpiece

This may be difficult for city dwellers, but for everyone else it just takes an open mind and a trip out the front door. There's a Japanese maple tree at the end of the driveway? Great. Go pick up a handful of those beautiful red leaves and sprinkle them atop the tablecloth. If you don’t have a front yard, go to your local nursery—or even a well-stocked hardware store—and work with plants. "We cut from plants all the time," says Gulbin. "Begonia leaves, for example, really enrich an arrangement." The takeaway? You don't need a lot of flowers. In fact, you don't need any at all.

The Foodie Centerpiece

Yes, food. Pick up some extra lemons when you're at the grocery store, put them in a pretty bowl, and you're done. Bonus: you get to cut them up and use them when the party is over. Pomegranates, artichokes, pears, and figs also look great grouped in a bowl or on a silver tray.

Fresh herbs can work wonders, too. Gulbin loves lavender and mint because they add a lovely aromatic quality; rosemary, oregano, and sage are equally beautiful in arrangements. We’re also fans of tucking a sprig or two inside folded napkins on the table. Small tricks like this make all the difference, and make your guests feel like you did something special for them. Which you did! But you didn't break the bank for it.

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