Ask Abby
February 28, 2008

It's been a few weeks since we've done a Dear Abby session, and I have some really great questions from readers that I know you guys will appreciate. So, let's dive right in!

Q1 - I've been perusing your boards religiously for weeks, going back into the archives and waiting for your daily updates. But I've still not seen much addressing the problem I have: I'm looking for non-floral tablescapes. We're getting married on the beach in Mexico, and because the prices there for decor are so outrageous, we're looking to bring our own. But we're also looking to decorate our tables without flowers, as the only ones available there are from non-organic, non-fair trade sources. Plus, as the reception will be outdoors, in the evening, bright flowers won't add as much color as colored glass... (at least, that was my thinking!)

We need something that will shelter candles from the wind, but hurricanes are too large to bring down in a suitcase. So far, my attempts to create my own centerpieces (mason jars with water and floating candles and beach glass, aluminum vases with tropical leaves) have just felt...lackluster and underwhelming. In your vast web-travels, have you seen anything that you think might work?

A. First of all, I think that ALL of the ideas are great. I have to say, I am partial to lots of candle light, however you can get it. Whether it's through paper luminaries (which I love), tea lights in mason jars, etc. I think that candles create an ambiance that is absolutely romantic and elegant. Enough candle light will make just about any space look absolutely beautiful.

With that said, I completely understand your dilemma. I think that the key here is being able to transport your decor easily, while still being able to dream about the look you are going for and plan out every detail. So, I found a little inspiration from my best friend, Katie. Katie chose to enhance her table decor by choosing rich, colored linens (she made them all herself), and layering different textures on top. She bought these AMAZING gold leaf placemats that she placed in the center of each table (top left)...


Left photos are from Z Gallerie, Right photos are from Crate and Barrel

I love these gold leaves and they would be just beautiful at the beach. Plus they would be incredibly easy to transport. The second idea (dare I say it) would be to bring dried or high end silk flowers and supplement them with rich, real banana leaves or other local greenery. I am usually NOT a fan of silk flowers, but after seeing an article in Domino Magazine about adding real greenery and florals to silk flowers, I have started to change my mind. Okay, moving on...shells. They are obvious yes, but will always be super chic. Buy a large handful of shells for each table, stacked in a cluster, then tuck tea lights throughout. So pretty, so simple. My last idea is to buy some sort of multi-sized decorative balls (I like these robe ones here, but there are tons of fun ones out there...mother of pearl would be beautiful) and on every other table, adorn the center with three of these balls.

I could honestly go on and on...clear bowls filled with crystals, shells or colored glass, local fruits and vegetables in interesting colors and textures, the options are endless. My advices is to think about your surroundings, think about what your "ideal" would be, then try to find a balance between these two elements and traveling. I can't wait to hear what you decide!