How to work with your florist to create looks that perfectly reflect your style.
Nicole Evsiano carried pink dahlias, green hydrangeas and pink and cream English garden roses in her bouquet by Flowers on Orchard Lane for her Aug. 11, 2012 wedding to Vince.
Before Laura (Watson) Merz began her florist search, a friend in the business gave her a great starting tip: Think about her style. “From there, I was able to look for florists who met my needs,” explains Merz, who married on Nov. 12, 2011. Several factors influenced her ultimate decision, including consultations, responsiveness to emails and calls, office organization, past work and the openness of the consultant to translate her ideas. Merz and her husband, Michael, ultimately chose All InBloom, for its friendly and honest staff who could make her vision work.
Merz had a rough idea of what she wanted but didn’t know how to craft it. “I had wanted an outdoor wedding in a field, but since we were having a November wedding, I didn’t want to risk the weather,” explains the bride, who asked her florist to adapt the natural feel indoors, tying in vintage aspects. “I wanted the bouquets to look like an elegant blend of wildflowers that you might find in a field mixed with more formal roses.”
The bride was thrilled with the results of her floral design. “The florist was able to report back to me what she thought my vision was, and it was clear that we were on the same page,” Merz says. “She helped solidify the vision and create the perfect look.”
Finding the Florist
Before you can enjoy the fun of choosing those exquisite blooms, you have to deal with the hard part—finding the perfect florist.
Brides should begin the search about nine to 12 months before the wedding, especially if it’s taking place on a popular weekend. But even with only a few months notice, a bride still can plan a wonderful wedding—as long as she’s flexible about flower choices.
Florists offer a wide scope of services, so the right florist will need to meet a bride’s individual needs. For example, some businesses work only on bouquets and table arrangements; others work as ad hoc consultants and offer extra event decor
services such as linens, chairs, lighting and more. Some companies, like Griffin’s Floral Design, specialize in overall event design, too.
A bride should ask specific questions about what the florist offers. Is there a minimum order requirement? Will the same person who does the consulting also be supervising when the flowers are put together? If the bouquets arrive and something is wrong, will the florist fix the problem at the last minute? Will someone simply drop off the flowers at the church or venue, or will the florist be hands-on at both the ceremony and reception?
Stephanie Nemet Atkins from All InBloom believes every bride should meet as many florists as possible before making a final decision. “You are paying us to design your idea,” she says. “If I can’t come up with your idea, I am not useful to you.” Nemet Atkins has done consultations via email and even had assistance translating German via phone once. Athough she’s happy to communicate in any way with brides, she “prefers to meet in person because I think the product and result is better in the end. ”
Ideally, every bride enters into her initial consultation armed with five pieces of information: her wedding gown and bridesmaid dresses (including color swatches), venue locations, bridal party size, budget and a sense of what she does and doesn’t like. If the couple is having a themed wedding, a list of ideas related to the theme also will be helpful.
The first things brides should do is have an idea of what they are looking for from a florist, says Rita Keller of Blumen Garten Florists. “Each florist has a different style, and even though we are all versatile, there is a look we all have,” she explains. It’s also helpful if the florist has a working relationship with the couple’s venue. So asking the event planner at the venue to provide recommendations for florists they have worked with is a reliable place to start.
Michelle DeSantis, owner of DeSantis Florists Inc., tries to keep the consultation process very straightforward. She does not charge a meeting fee—not many florists do—and she asks that couples have their attendants gowns chosen or ordered. “The wedding colors determine what flowers can be used. It makes no sense to talk in generalities,” she says. “Once colors are chosen, many flowers are eliminated from the discussion.”
The wedding dress also tells a story. A heavily beaded satin gown with a long train sets a classic, formal tone that is entirely different from the lighthearted feeling of a Champagne pink halter dress.
The color of the bridesmaids’ dresses also plays a crucial role, since that hue often provides a starting point for the floral scheme. To ensure a perfect match, fabric swatches are essential for a florist. For example, plum—a hot color for attendants’ dresses for the past several seasons—has varying undertones that go all the way from a purple to a red tint.
Once venues are chosen, inquire about the official dos and don’ts at the facilities. Due to slippery slate or tile flooring, many churches no longer allow runners. Others refuse to permit scattered rose petals because they can grind into carpeting. Some welcome pew bows and unity candles; others don’t. Altar arrangements may be forbidden or limited to pedestals.
Reception sites, while less tricky, also have specific rules. For instance, some don’t allow candles or insist candles be shielded within glass. With the popularity of rose petals or confetti as table-toppers, more locations have begun outlawing them due to carpet stains and added cleanup. Having a florist well-versed with these intricacies saves time and frustration.
Following the first consultation, if it feels like a good fit, ask the florist for an estimate, and be ready to put down a deposit to save the wedding date. The second consultation, typically lasting an hour, is where the detail work is done. If possible, ask to see an actual bloom when considering a certain flower, since color and size can be distorted in photographs. To further help visualize designs, some florists construct prototypes or mini-versions.
Once all the major decisions have been made, additional concerns usually can be handled over the phone or via email. Major changes to floral design can be made up to several months before the wedding; minor ones can be squeezed in within a few weeks.
Finally, some florists encourage their customers to view the finished flowers the day before the wedding, to double-check the order and tweak the arrangements as needed. Bride Laura Merz definitely recommends this process. “The florist asked me to come in to look at the bouquets, boutonnieres and centerpieces the day before the wedding,” she says. “It really helped to see the bouquet in real life and see if it would be too big or too small for my frame.”
SETTING THE BUDGET
Most experts recommend setting aside 10 to 15 percent of the wedding cost for flowers and decor. Every bride can have flowers at her wedding, especially if she’s willing to be flexible.
Some florists require a couple to know their floral budget before a consultation is scheduled. “We require a budget or we won’t sit down with a client. We find that a bride knows whether she’s in the market for a Ford or a Lincoln,” says Russ Griffin of Griffin’s Floral Design. He adds it is a difficult discussion for any vendor to have, because “if you go too high, they might be insulted, but if you go too low, they could be insulted, too. In the end, it doesn’t matter what the budget is as long as you have an understanding of what you are getting for what you are spending.”
Jill Elmore of Connells Maple Lee Flowers & Gifts says most brides do not have a prepared budget. “We always start with the dream they have had since they were a little girl, and then we suggest what’s needed to create this look with the budget allowed.”
Florists are refreshingly matter-of-fact when it comes to money talk. And they have lots of strategies for getting the biggest bang for your buck. For instance, many of the gorgeous bouquets found in wedding magazines are expensive, but a good florist will be able to suggest just-as-pretty, yet practical alternatives.
Brides should be realistic about what’s available during their wedding season. Griffin says 98 percent of flowers are obtainable year-round. “There are a lot of substitutions you can use if something isn’t available,” he says.
Themes and Color Schemes
Wedding styles are as varied as the bride—from traditional to earthy, romantic to rustic. Right now, garden-fresh, country chic is particularly popular, complete with burlap and Mason jars filled with mixed blooms such as cosmos and zinnias. And there are always brides who want to maintain the traditional look of elegance at their weddings.
Often, the floral colors are influenced by a wedding’s theme—a rustic wedding, for example, will include lots of earthy browns and greens. Keller of Blumen Garten says the venue should always influence the theme and color scheme. “If someone books the Westin, I know what look they want, versus someone who books Dock580,” she explains.
What’s the hottest shade these days? Purple is in, agree local florists. The shade varies from eggplant to lavender to the popular plum. Bell-shaped lisianthus, fragrant lilacs, delicate freesia, ruffled scabiosa and softly hued hydrangeas all can lend shades of purple to the mix.
Green is also sought after, with many brides opting for a natural or organic wedding that embraces all things earthy. Growers have answered the demand for green flowers by producing lots of wonderful options. Fuzzy green trick dianthus is one unusual possibility. Trachelium also lends a different note from typical blooms. Green roses, grassy gerberas, seafoam green hydrangeas and jade-hued hypericum berries all lend vibrancy.
Yellow has gained in popularity recently, especially a creamy hue that offers elegant but sunny color. Pale yellow roses, spiky yellow stock, gerbera daisies and punchy alstroemeria can bring in this cheery shade. For bright touches of orange, brides can incorporate classic tulips, the layered petals of ranunculus, tangerine mokara orchids, dahlias and, for a more tropical flavor, pincushion proteas.
Black and white weddings are a classic and elegant style. “For us, white, cream, Champagne and blush is always the number-one color pattern,” Griffin says. “It’s cost-effective, clean and nice.” Brides can use white flowers to maintain the color scheme, or add dazzle with a bright accent color.
But color isn’t always the biggest concern for Nemet Atkins of All InBloom. “We like to make things unique and different. It’s about texture, such as brooches or pearls. We want to design something specific to each couple,” she says.
“Of all the decisions to be made when planning a wedding, I knew the least about how to select the right flowers,” says bride Katie (Kelso) Wilkinson, who married her husband, Nick, on May 12, 2012. “Flowers can set the tone for the day, so my florist [Flowers on High] and I dug deep into how I envisioned the day first and then reviewed flowers choices.”
Wilkinson certainly isn’t the only bride overwhelmed by floral selection. Brides who aren’t overly familiar with flowers will be astonished by the options.
Always a bridal favorite, roses remain a top seller. The versatile blooms can be packed into a full, lush hand-tied cluster or left on long stems and tied with ribbon for an elegant arm bouquet. Roses offer a strong form, pleasing texture and unmatched range of shades, from standard red to gold.
Hydrangeas are always in high demand. Brides adore their fluffy clusters of petals and soft shades of purple, blue, pink, white, peach and pale green. Peonies have a relatively short spring season but are beloved for their lush fullness and ultra-feminine pink and purple shades. Ranunculus, which looks like a cross between a peony and a rose, comes in rich apricots, yellows and pinks.
The charming informality of gerbera daisies in playful tints of yellow, lime, orange, red and pink have strong appeal for many brides, especially when paired with neutral or black dresses.
The calla lily, wildly popular for the past few years, remains a staple. Brides love their clean, modern lines and ability to stay fresh for the entire wedding day. The flower comes in three sizes and a wide variety of shades, including yellow, orange, lavender, mauve, butter, cranberry, purple, soft pink, fuchsia, red and aubergine.
Orchids commonly lend their unusual shapes and spectacular tropical colors to wedding bouquets. Dendrobiums look like long stems covered in little fuchsia or lemon-lime butterflies, while ornithogalums come in starry clusters of white, yellow, gold or pale pistachio. Cymbidiums are fat, star-shaped blooms that come in striking combinations such as burgundy and cream or coral and gold.
Florists note that flowers such as orchids, calla lilies and French tulips may cost more per stem, but still can be a budget option due to their relatively high visual impact—it can take fewer stems to make a big impression.
It also doesn’t hurt to think beyond blooms and request more greenery or non-floral elements in designs. Hearty, earthy greens like succulents are popping up in bouquets. Ivies, ferns and grasses also are being pressed into service. With the growth of rustic and natural as wedding themes, curly willow has gained a reputation for adding that perfect earthy element to weddings. Berries can also add a bit of natural color with greens, reds or browns.
For several years now, sparkly embellishments such as jeweled charms, metallic filaments, porcelain flowers and Swarovski crystals have been popular for adding a bit of bling to bouquets.
The bride and bridesmaids aren’t the only members of the wedding party wearing flowers. The groom and groomsmen traditionally sport boutonnieres on lapels. Today, boutonnieres are often arranged in a straight-stem style, with just a flower or two and a bit of green banded together. Many couples also select combos involving greens or berries. Boutonnieres can also be used to incorporate DIY or seasonal touches into the wedding day, such as using pinecones instead of flowers.
Mothers of the bride and groom no longer pin big clusters of roses to their dresses. Instead, they opt for a subtler approach to corsages, or even carry small bouquets of their own. Similarly, flower girls can carry anything from the traditional basket of flowers to a pretty pomander ball hanging from a ribbon.
Close family members, especially parents and grandparents, as well as special friends and relatives may receive flowers that complement the wedding’s color scheme.
“Our church and reception locations both provided a lot of natural light with big windows and neutral interiors, so we chose flowers that provided a bit of subtle drama while still providing a soft, earthy feel,” says bride Katie Wilkinson.
Soft greens and blues set the tone at her late spring wedding, but sprinklings of soft pinks and whites added texture to the decor at both ceremony and reception.
The flowers decorating the ceremony location should complement the bridal party’s bouquets and the site. A traditional stone church may need only a few altar arrangements and a bit of trailing ivy tied to the pews with white ribbons. However, Cassondra (Hoskinson) Zierk chose larger flower arrangements during her ceremony due to the church’s large and open altar and stage area at her August 2011 wedding to husband Beau. “We had two types of flower arrangements to help take up space but also because we had a couple of tables that needed decorations, including a candle lighting table and a table where we took Communion,” she says.
At Jewish ceremonies, the traditional chuppah, a four-cornered canopy, may be decorated with flowers or garlands. Traditionally, the vows at Hindu weddings are exchanged on a mandap, a large platform with a canopy set atop pillars. Flowers and garlands can grace the top, pillars and base of the mandap.
When the ceremony is not in a house of worship, the florist and bride may need to work together to define a ceremonial space using trees, garland-draped arches or flower-topped pedestals.
Nemet Atkins of All InBloom always asks one important question when planning with her clients: “My biggest question is where do you want to make the most impact?” She asks couples to determine if they can intermingle flowers between venues. If allowed, it can be more cost-effective to reuse ceremony flowers at the reception.
Many florists recommend making a statement with floral design at the reception, since that’s where most of the event takes place. “We put 90 percent of the budget into the reception usually,” Griffin says. “It’s not always true but it’s becoming more common for couples not to spend that much money on ceremony flowers.” If the ceremony setting is ornate, Griffin adds, very little decor may be needed.
The traditional approach of matching centerpieces on every reception table is also falling by the wayside. Instead, floral plans often incorporate a mix of containers, heights and silhouettes. In addition to adding visual interest, mixing centerpieces can be an excellent way to stretch a budget—smaller ones cost less than simply having all large arrangements.
Different heights also work together to produce the illusion of more flowers since more space is being filled visually. Tall arrangements atop glass columns or vases can dazzle guests, and low arrangements provide color and interest when people sit down to eat. And, best of all, neither height interferes with conversation.
One ongoing trend is submerging florals, greenery and fruit into the vase itself. While submersion works in any glass vase, the most striking examples involve clear pillar vases. Water magnifies everything, making blooms appear bigger, and with tall transparent vases, guests can see right through the arrangement.
Bare and adorned branches are another big trend in reception decor. Leave branches bare for an architectural look, drape them with crystals or flowers for an elegant effect or use dramatic lighting to accentuate the branch’s striking angles. Turning to bark can be a nice option for a wedding during a time when fewer flowers are in season.
And those watching their budgets should remember not every table needs a floral arrangement. Flowers can be alternated with small wrought-iron lanterns, candles or scattered petals. Or, for even less, every table can be topped with a lantern or candle, then garnished with petals for a pop of color.
Photos courtesy of Adam Lowe Photography, Courtney Mason Photography, Derk's Works Photography, Kimberly Potterf Photography, Marie White Photography and Julie Linz Photography