As evening descends on your wedding day, you need lighting that sparks a warm, beautiful atmosphere at your wedding reception. The perfect solution? Lantern centerpieces. The right lantern acts as a jaw-dropping gem to decorate your tables, while also serving as a romantic light source for any wedding decor.
The best part is that these wedding centerpieces works on multiple levels. It can be a great alternative to flowers, or it can be combined with bouquets, accent florals, or greenery for an elegant effect. There are so many ways to utilize a lantern wedding centerpiece. Use this guide to find the right one for your romantic wedding celebration.
The new-age wedding day lantern is classy and comes in many forms. And deciding which one to pick can be quite the challenge. Should you opt for a candle-filled DIY? Or shop for an electric alternative online?
Below, you’ll find some stunning ways to use lanterns as unique wedding centerpieces, plus the best ways to arrange them.
The flickering glow of a candle provides intimacy and warm, natural light to your reception tables. And with a little fragrancy in the wax, you can easily add another element to the guest experience.
However, with candles come flames. And with flames come… well, let’s not go there.
If having candles in your wedding centerpieces makes you uncomfortable, you always have the option of using an electric candle. As a bonus, flameless candles eliminate any need to relight any inadvertently extinguished flames.
Lantern Centerpiece Tip: In some cases, your venue may not allow candles. Always check with the venue before getting your heart sold on the perfect decorative lantern centerpiece.
Whatever your style and lighting preference (natural vs. artificial), a candle lantern can be an attractive centerpiece. Depending on your choices in terms of material and lighting, you can nestle a lantern within a foliage display, or let a dramatic lantern stand on its own. Just be sure to find a setup as flame-resistant as it is beautiful!
A glass lantern lets you experience the gentle, flaming wick while protecting it from any sudden gusts of wind. Likewise, it keeps your tablecloth and your guests safe from potential exposure to dripping wax.
You can keep it simple with your glass lantern and just feature a single candle enclosed in glass. Or, if you want to up the visual ante, a few popular options for glass lanterns include:
3) Terrarium-style lanterns: Don’t stop at just one candle. Large glass lanterns have room for several candles and beautiful objects, such as crystals and seashells, or seasonal objects, such as decorative squash and Christmas ornaments. With a dramatic centerpiece, you won’t need flowers on your guest tables—these lanterns stand on their own.
4) Elegant brass lanterns: Tall, cylindrical, or rectangular brass and glass lanterns place candles front and center. These lanterns’ clean lines and classic materials make them an ideal centerpiece for small and round tables. However, you could also use several at a more extended rectangular table or add additional decorations to complete it.
5) Distressed and vintage lanterns: If your wedding has a vintage or boho vibe, distressed and second-hand lanterns provide another layer of charm. Try using several lanterns in different sizes or materials to create an eclectic vintage lantern wedding centerpiece. They don’t have to match—variety creates more visual interest and room to express your unique taste and love story.
6) Dramatic lanterns: A lantern with a unique, striking shape makes for a sophisticated and minimalist centerpiece. An iron lantern, for example, is as beautiful as it is unusual.
Glass lanterns provide maximum protection—both for your candle’s lighted wick and for the rest of your table decor and setting. However, open and caged lanterns offer elegant designs that make them a strong contender for your centerpiece display. Plus, should you go with a caged lantern, just wait until the sun goes down. Caged lanterns are known for their ability to make breathtaking geometric patterns between light and darkness.
When choosing a caged lantern, decide which you want to take center stage—a beautiful candle or the lantern itself.
8) A wide cage can expose a decorative candle that matches the wedding colors. For an added layer of wind-proofing and visual interest, you could also consider placing a votive candle inside. That way, you can enjoy the votive’s protective glass and even choose unique, themed votive designs.
9) Crate and Barrel’s wire cage lantern recalls the appearance of traditional Chinese fishing nets, providing delicacy and drama for a wedding ceremony.
10) Some cutout lanterns may have glass on two or more sides, improving their ability to stand up to wind.
If you choose a caged lantern, just be sure you have a plan to avoid spilled wax, stubborn wicks, and other candle mishaps.
If you’re looking to avoid the pitfalls of wax candles, electric lanterns are a perfect substitute. Most are designed explicitly with attractive bulbs, so you won’t have to do any mixing and matching of lanterns and candles.
These centerpieces are easy to turn on with a switch—no assembly or customization required. Just make sure you have a spare lightbulb on hand, just in case.
12) Jonathan Y’s outdoor woven lanterns are made of wicker-woven plastic to prevent heat damage. Reminiscent of Southeast Asian bamboo lanterns, these have a natural, earthy vibe despite their electric bulbs. As a neutral brown, they could be an attractive centerpiece alongside other, more colorful decor elements.
In some cases, your venue may not allow candles, or you may choose to simplify planning and forgo matches, lighters, and candle snuffers. Some guests may even have allergies to scents and smoke, taking wax candles off the table. Literally.
Luckily, flameless candles have come a long way since the stark white, cylindrical columns of yore. With beveled tops, unique textures, and other decorative elements, electric candles can make attractive additions to your lantern centerpiece. So, if you’ve already fallen in love with one of the shapes or styles above—but can’t use real candles at your venue—just replace the real candle with an electric candle.
Lanterns can be stunning, romantic display pieces—and that’s sometimes reflected in the price of individual products. If expensive lantern centerpieces don’t fit into your overall wedding budget or you’re determined to craft your decor, here are a few easy at-home lantern projects.
If your wedding has a rustic elegance, boho wedding, or vintage vibe, mason jar lanterns could be a perfect addition to your centerpiece. Popular ways to create rustic wedding lanterns include:
Place LED fairy lights in mason jars for a flameless solution. If you go with this method, you could also include other materials or objects inside your mason jars, too—as long as they aren’t sensitive to heat.
Create a candle holder by filling mason jars about a one-quarter full with pebbles, crystals, acorns, or even corn kernels. Then, insert a wax or electric candle of your choice.
Upgrade mason jars with decorative ribbon or twine. Just don’t use an adhesive, as it may melt upon exposure to heat.
Lantern Centerpiece Tip: Mason jars will get hot if a real candle is placed inside. Use caution, and if there are any kids at your wedding, make sure these centerpieces are well out of reach.
If you’re prepared for a slightly more elaborate craft project, you can create your own glass lantern using simple picture frames from a craft store or dollar store.
For this fabulous DIY project, you’ll need:
To make a rectangular lantern, take the following steps:
This creates a fairly simple, topless lantern. However, it’s easy to add on from here, whether that means painting your frames before assembly, creating a top, or constructing your own handle.
If you’re not confident in your picture frames’ fireproofing, play it safe: Use an electric candle (or multiple!) inside your lantern.
Once you’ve figured out your lantern solution, you can decide whether your lanterns are stunning enough centerpieces to stand on their own, or whether you’d like to supplement your centerpiece with flowers, lush greenery, live plants, or other objects.
If you settle on the latter, here are some ideas for completing your centerpiece.
If you have a narrow circular or cylindrical lantern, you can place it inside a floral wreath. This way, you can add flowers and lush greenery that tie into your color scheme, as well as provide different levels of height and interest to your display.
Work with your florist to create a wreath, or if you’re crafty, make your own.
If you’ve chosen a large, bold lantern, you can still bring some fresh flowers to the table. Consider:
16) Florals inside your lantern: If you’re using a flameless candle, it may be safe to include some fresh flowers alongside it.
17) Miniature flower arrangements: Place small spherical or square vases with just three to five flowers around the lantern. You could also bookend your lantern with two small bouquets on either side.
18) Tall, thin vases: If your guests are dining at long, rectangular tables, consider alternating lanterns with floral displays of equal height
19) Scattered petals: Bring in a bit of color with scattered petals or greens.
If you’re using smaller decorative lanterns with cutouts and other delicate features, they may be the accent to your florals rather than the other way around. Place a larger bouquet or even a live plant as the centerpiece, and then accent with small lanterns.
Looking for some more inspiration? Here are a few additional lantern wedding centerpiece ideas to get the creative juices flowing and help you find the perfect centerpiece for your big day:
21) Hanging Lanterns. Who says a centerpiece needs to be completely on the table? Add visual interest to your reception space by hanging paper lanterns above each of your dining tables. For the full centerpiece effect, be sure to hang each lantern so it’s centered over another visual focal point on the table (like a floral arrangement).
22) Gold lanterns. Gold is a timeless, elegant color for weddings—making it a fantastic choice for lantern centerpieces. Try incorporating gold into your lantern centerpieces in different ways—like using a gold-trimmed glass lantern or a gold candle.
23) White lanterns. If you want to keep your reception look clean and streamlined, all white decor—including white lantern centerpieces—is a great way to do it.
24) Black lanterns. On the flip side, if you want to add drama, black lantern centerpieces may be a better bet. Off-set the intensity of the color by surrounding the lantern with greenery or flowers.
25) Wooden lanterns. If you want to go with a rustic lantern look, try a wood lantern. Add a pillar candle and surround the lantern with succulents to really capture the rustic vibe.
26) Mini lanterns. Instead of one large centerpiece, scatter mini lanterns with tea lights across each table. (As a bonus, they can double as wedding favors!)
27) Metal lanterns. If you want to do something different (and a bit edgy!) with your centerpiece design, try going with metal lanterns for a more industrial look.
29) Colored candles. Candles are the focal point of many lantern centerpieces. And while many couples choose to go with white candles, you certainly don’t have to—so feel free to experiment with different candle colors.
30) Repurpose your lantern centerpieces. If you want to be able to use your lantern centerpieces after your big day, make sure to match them to your home decor; that way, when the reception is over, you can just take them home with you!
At Zola, we know all the steps that go into planning a wedding—and all the stress those steps can cause. From centerpieces to canapes and beyond, there are hundreds of decisions to make sure your celebration feels uniquely yours.
That’s why we provide easy-to-use tools for wedding and registry planning.
Create an account to start planning your registry and browse our wedding boutique for everything you need to make your reception and ceremony shine.