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Mommy on a Shoestring: Tablescapes 101

Event planner Debi Lilly says a single hydrangea in a small vase has the impact of a much larger flower arrangment.
Debi Lilly suggests sweet treats in glass jars for a dessert bar that is also an easy, attractive and edible tablescape.
The floral designers of Mariano's take advantage of the lush luxury of flowers and fruits layered with sculptural elements and rich materials.
A tablescape of gorgeous edibles, suggested by Debi Lilly, is beautiful and practical for a party.
Unusual items, like a picture frame, add a note of surprise to a tablescape, like this one created by Flaire Design Studio for last year's Flower and Garden Show at Navy Pier.

Facts

Learn more Spring blooms this month with the Chicago Flower and Garden Show at Navy Pier, March 15 -23. Floral designers at Mariano’s, along with several other entertainment experts, will showcase their tablescape talents throughout the show. There will also be workshops, demos and free activities for the kids and you’re sure to get some new ideas for your next entertaining adventure. More information at chicagoflower.com.

Add charm, whimsy and decadence to your table with these easy (and affordable) tips and tricks.

Think big by thinking small

“When it comes to creating memorable tablescapes, you need to pay attention to the details,” says Rebecca Eckblad, Floral Director of Mariano’s. Eckblad and her team of floral designers are adept at creating rich, decadent settings without breaking the bank.

Before getting started, Eckblad recommends choosing a theme to set the tone for your event and tie disparate elements together. Next, start layering your table with items that are beautiful, alluring and functional. “Our floral designers love to think outside the box by adding elements of surprise or using items in unconventional ways,” says Eckblad.

For example, try replacing traditional chargers with large Monstera leaves (available or by ordering at most floral shops and Mariano’s), or swap mason jars for drinking glasses for a decidedly rustic flair. Need a clever idea for place card holders? Try using artichokes. Simply chop off the stems and attach each card with raffia or ribbon.

The details really make each tablescape unique, so start “shopping your closets” for long forgotten platters and recycled items to reinvent in interesting ways.

Make a big impact for less

“To save time and money, use flowers that are big on impact and small on fuss,” says event planner extraordinaire Debi Lilly. As the founder and owner of “A Perfect Event,” http://aperfectevent.com, Lilly spends hours creating tablescapes for large events and intimate occasions.

One of her favorite tips is to fill a pretty vase with one or two large hydrangeas, which creates the illusion of a full flower arrangement without all the work.

Another eye-catching flower is the cymbidium orchid. Its vibrant colors add elegance and sophistication, while its ability to survive several hours without water makes it the perfect adornment for a place setting or napkin.

Function and form

Lilly is also a strong advocate for using tablescapes to make your life easier and simpler. “Try creating an edible centerpiece, with a visual explosion of gorgeous foods,” she says.

Incorporate big wheels of cheese, olives, salamis and jams, which require little prep work and taste great at room temperature.

For a sweet ending to special occasion, set up a dessert vignette on a side table or buffet. Display a collection of delectable treats such as chocolate truffles, miniature cookies and bite-size cupcakes, or add a pop of color with glass containers (bowls, jars, martini glasses, etc.) filled with gumdrops, jellybeans and licorice rope. A stack of small bags lets guests take home a bag of treats and doubles as a party favor while serving as a clever way to get rid of extra candy.

Read More Local Voices

Facts

Learn more Spring blooms this month with the Chicago Flower and Garden Show at Navy Pier, March 15 -23. Floral designers at Mariano’s, along with several other entertainment experts, will showcase their tablescape talents throughout the show. There will also be workshops, demos and free activities for the kids and you’re sure to get some new ideas for your next entertaining adventure. More information at chicagoflower.com.
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