Gay Dad Life

How to Make Beautiful Christmas Garlands and Centerpieces

I cannot emphasize enough to y’all how much this Southern boy loves Christmas. I love everything about it! This time of year for me is special because – I know I’ve said this before – I love traditions. The food, the lights, the decorations, the joy and laughter... OK, OK ... Maybe all these are my favorite Christmas things.

This year is extra special because our daughter is now old enough to enjoy this time with us. Last year she was a just a month old: Douglas and I were up to our noses in a completely new way of life. However, this year we are able to decorate, cook, and watch the holiday specials with Alli Mae. Seeing her light up when she saw Frosty or Rudolph for the first time made my heart sing and it is something I will remember forever.

When it comes to decorating, I’m able to dedicate four solid days of organized phases. Phase 1: garlands and lights; phase 2: centerpieces and nicknacks; phase 3: Christmas tree;

phase 4: outside decorations.

When you have kids this is a must, so you are able to quickly find what you need and assemble each task and move on to the next.

I have it down to an easy and fast process that is fun and requires Christmas music!

In the spirit of Christmas, I am sharing some fun DIY projects to create beautiful garlands and centerpieces.


Instead of just using the bare green garland, you can really make your decorations stand out if you layer them.

Garlands: A Three-Step Process.  Step 1: String the white lights through the green garlands; step 2: Layer the glitter garlands over the green garlands-with-lights; step 3: Add the faux cranberries.

Materials needed: green garlands; foliage (silver or gold) glitter garlands; faux cranberries. (For examples of some of these materials, see the two photos immediately below. All items can be purchased from

Directions: After you have the green garlands in place, string the white lights through them (see photo above, step 1). The more lights you use, the prettier the finished product will look. Layer the glitter garlands over the green garlands and lights (see photo above, step 2). Then take the cranberries and layer them over the glitter garlands (see photo above, step 3).

Center Pieces

Now that the garlands are completed, we can move on to the center pieces. They will look perfect on dining tables and mantels!

Materials and tools needed: pinecones; foliage (silver or gold) glitter garlands; faux cranberries; silver or gold glitter; glue; some paint brushes; a drop cloth. (All items can be purchased from

Consider adding: 2 or 3 apothecary jars filled with candy (for mantel display); 2 large white candles (for dinner table display).

Directions: If you have kids, a fun project is collecting pinecones! In the South we have giant pine trees that produce huge pinecones that are absolutely perfect for centerpieces and last for years! Give your kids a paper bag and have them collect around 25-30 pinecones.

While they are gathering them, set up your glitter station with glue, paint brushes and either silver or gold glitter along with a drop cloth to collect any mess that may fall. Paint on your glue to the prettiest and largest pinecones and sprinkle glitter all around them. Once all the pinecones are glittered, set them outside to dry.

For a dinner table display: Find a red or white table runner that runs the length of your dining table. Place the glitter garland on top of the runner. Then, place the pinecones down the middle of your table. I use around 12 or 13 on my display.  After the pinecones look naturally placed, embellish the final look with cranberry garlands. Two large white candles really polish the look. (I also have a plastic gold bowl to hold a few cranberries, to help make all the placements seem more full.)

For a mantel display: These are my favorite. They are really easy to assemble and beautiful. I use apothecary jars filled with candy to really embellish the final look. It brings me back to my childhood every time I see my candy jars in these displays! Lay the green garland on the top of your mantel. String in the white lights and lay the glitter garland and cranberries on top. (It’s the same three-step process as before!) Place the apothecary jars in the middle and just like that, your centerpiece is complete!

Our home doesn’t have a fireplace, so unfortunately we do not have a mantel; instead, we use the top of our entertainment center. I have Nutcrackers to help fill the long space, but for a mantel you really do not need them.

*  *  *

Note: The first year these particular decorations took a long time to complete. But, every year after, I replicated the previous year. These decorations will last for many years; white lights are usually the only thing I have to buy every year. Being organized helps the process move quickly and seamlessly. Each year, you learn a little more to help you in the following years. I have been decorating with the same decorations for years now. I am able to organize the items into separate, labeled storage bins so I can quickly assemble each step.

Instagram is a great place to get inspired and find new ideas. @marthastewart@thefarmhouseproject and @inspiredbycharm inspire me daily!

With everything that has happened this year with our country, it is especially important to be compassionate and tolerant this Christmas season, even in the face of cruelty and ignorance. The holidays are the perfect time to teach our children to be empathetic and to help the less fortunate. As we teach them to love and be kind to others, they are then helping build a brighter future for all of us.

From our home to yours, we truly hope you’ll all have a wonderful holiday season and a safe and happy New Year!

Merry Christmas from the Alexanders!

❤️🎄❤️ Erik, Douglas and Alli Mae

Follow our family's journey on Instagram @Nolapapa

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