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As newlyweds-to-be soon discover, floral arrangements are a costly part of most wedding budgets. Corsages are usual etiquette for the female members of the wedding party and boutonnieres for the males. Flowers decorate the carpeted path the bridal party travels on the way to the altar, and floral arrangements often adorn the altar where the wedding ceremony takes place as well. If you add individual floral arrangements for every table at the reception and for the head table as well (although frequently the altar's floral arrangements are used again for the head table during the reception), it all adds up to a lot of flowers.

There are, of course, companies that will rent you silk floral arrangements that look like the real thing, and silk flowers do reduce costs. But if, like me, you prefer "the real thing", there are a number of innovative "do-it-yourself" measures that you can take to cut the cost of individual table décor considerably.

At my own daughter's wedding, we purchased glass tile squares at the local hardware store – one for every table. Then we bought inexpensive but pretty glass candle holders, two for every table, and fragrant vanilla candles. The banquet facility provided bud vases for each table, and we placed a single rose in each. Then we sprinkled sequins to match the flowers on the glass tile. When the candles were lit for the reception, of course they were reflected in the glass squares, and the sequins framing the romantic single rose sparkled.

Another easy-to-do idea, especially nice for the autumn, is to put an inexpensive plant in wicker basket in the centre of each table. When the basket is surrounded by pine cones (I pick them up from the ground when I walk my dog in the park) or colourful gourds you can buy in supermarkets, it makes a very pretty centrepiece. In the spring, flowering plants in wicker baskets are a pretty touch, especially when combined with candles. After the reception, the plants right in their baskets can add a welcome touch of greenery to the newlywed's home.

It's also fun to personalize the table decorations to reflect the personalities or careers of the bridal couple. At the wedding reception of a well-known journalist, clay pots had not only been placed on the tables, but, in larger sizes, they provided the floral decorations for the entire room as well. In each of the pots stood pussywillow branches sporting flowers of crumpled newspaper fragments. The pussywillows were the "stems" of the paper "flowers". The newspaper pieces had been spray painted at the edges to match the wedding's colour scheme, and simply stuck on the branches. The branches were similarly sprayed, tie-dye fashion. The total effect was stunning, and it cost very little.

One of the things to be careful about in creating your own table decorations is to make sure the sight lines are clear. How often have you sat at a round dinner table and been unable to see the people across from you because the flowers block them from view. Then you have to move the flowers to one side, which spoils the table setting, and usually proves to be a clumsy arrangement for one of the parties at the table. So keep the table decorations low enough to see across them.

Or high enough to see under them! A creative solution is to use a tall comport (like a fruit bowl on a very long stem). Then you can put a plant with cascading leaves in it, and it forms a very pretty centrepiece that doesn't impede the view of your table companions. The comports can be all the same (at the wedding I attended they were all made of glass), or you can use a different one for every table.

It's also possible to use fruit as a centrepiece with pretty leaves all around the arrangement. If the budget is low, a simple glass or wicker basket of shiny red apples framed by colourful autumn leaves arranged around the basket can be most attractive. You can tie pretty ribbons around the basket to match the leaves. And it's a table decoration that is also edible.

If you're a lover of the sea, you may want to experiment with sea shell arrangements, easy to collect on a beach and inexpensive to buy in a store. Combine them perhaps with just a single flower or plant – or bunches of dried purple seaweed -- on each table.

If you're feeling really creative, you can extend the theme of your individualized table decorations to the rest of the floral arrangements. A few flowers go well with a large amount of ingenuity – and with your bank account.

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