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wedding flower tips

Our Top Wedding Flower Tips

Choosing your flowers is one of the most exciting parts of wedding planning. But it's not as simple as picking your favorite flowers and requesting them in your wedding colors (sorry!). These basics will help you get up to speed so you can talk flowers with your florist and get the look you're after.

Photo: Jen Fariello

Do Your Homework Before Meeting A Florist

Take some time to figure out what you like, and learn what it's called, before you start talking to florists. There are two main things you'll want to know: the names of flowers and floral terms, like types of bouquets (cascade, posy and biedermeier), arrangements and other details.

Let Your Venue Influence Your Florals

Your wedding locale will greatly influence your floral decisions. If, for example, you're marrying in a park, botanical garden or vineyard, the flowers can be kept to a minimum (meaning you can make a big impression with fewer flowers). Opt for arrangements that look like they belong: Clusters of wildflowers may look out of place in a formal ballroom the same way a glam grouping of all-white orchids wouldn't seem right in a rustic setting. Keep in mind your table configuration too (round tables versus long farm tables), which can help influence the shape and style of your centerpieces.

Talk to Other Couples About Their Florists

One of the best ways to find your florist is by word of mouth -- ask for recommendations from newlyweds you know, read reviews and browse wedding magazines. If you're working with a wedding planner or a wedding pro coordinator, they should have some suggestions of area florists. Set up appointments with a short list of florists, so you can connect in person and view a portfolio of their work. You'll want to book someone six to eight months out. Florists book up fast, especially if you're getting married in peak season (May to September), so start vetting them alongside some of your other professionals early in the process and lock one in as soon as you can.

All Florists Are Not the Same

This sounds strange, but what it means is there are different types of wedding pros who deal with flowers. Do you want someone who'll not only make your arrangements but also help design the look of your reception tables and ceremony aisle? A florist designer is probably more your speed. Already have a planner or an eye for design? Then a regular florist will likely do the trick. Figure out which is the best fit -- this will help you narrow your search and determine your budget (floral designers generally cost more than florists).

You Need to Show, Not Just Tell

Images are way more telling than words. Bring your inspirations boards, a bridesmaid dress fabric swatch and a photograph of your wedding gown. This will cue your florist in on the look you're after from the start. Keep in mind: Your florist will totally appreciate snapshots that reflect your style, but don't expect exact replicas of what lives on your inspiration board. Floral designers are just that -- artists with a vision and a desire to create something one of a kind for your wedding. Communicate what you like about the centerpiece or archway, but be open to modifications and substitutions, especially when it comes to actual flowers. Maybe you're attracted to an arrangement because you like the loose, deconstructed vibe, or maybe you just like the colors.

Flowers Are a Big Chunk of Your Budget

Figure that 10 percent of the total wedding cost will go to flowers and d├ęcor -- from the bouquets and boutonnieres to the ceremony, cocktail hour and reception details. At the start of your first meeting, put your budget on the table. Ask, "What great things can you do with $__________?" (Don't spend time talking about $5,000 worth of flowers and then let your florist know your bottom line is $2,000.) If you love flowers and want a grand installation, or are dead-set on peonies in November, plan to spend more on flowers and less elsewhere. And don't forget to account for extras, like setup and breakdown charges, taxes and tips.

Some Flowers Will Be Out of Season

Talk to your florist about what's blooming when you're set to wed and try to make those stems the mainstay of your arrangements. There are also lovely flowers available year-round. If you're getting married during the hot summer months, or just outside where elements like wind and chill can come into play, you'll need your flowers to be able to last.

Some Flowers Have Look-Alikes

If your favorite blooms won't be in season (or you've just seen the price tag for your beloved lily of the valley), find substitutes that achieve the same style. Garden roses, which are available almost year-round, can often stand in for peonies, while hydrangeas can pose as sweet peas. And don't forget the greens!

Certain Flowers Evoke Specific Styles

Yes, even your flowers can reflect your wedding style. Tighter bunches of traditional bridal blooms such as peonies and roses fit a classic vibe, while lush arrangements of soft, big blooms will take on a romantic note. Sleek architectural varieties in minimalist arrangements are more modern, and loose clusters of vibrant flowers mixed with greenery exude a rustic feel. Work with your florist to pick the style that matches the overall look of your day. Or break away from traditional centerpieces and experiment with floral alternatives, like feathers, fruits or even wheatgrass.

Many Flowers Come in Lots of Colors

You may just say "roses" while you're actually thinking "pink roses." Be specific about what you like -- do you like roses, or are you really after a pink bloom? A swatch of your bridesmaid dress fabric is a great jumping-off point for your floral designer. And think about your style: Pastel flowers are ultra-feminine; vibrant shades can have a more modern feel; and soft green paired with white makes for a timeless combination. Choose one hue, a pair to match your palette or mix a bunch of shades for a casual paint-box effect.

Bring Meaning Into Your Flowers

Look for ways to personalize your flowers ,from bouquet wraps to symbolic stems. The Victorians assigned meanings to different blooms -- red tulips signify love and passion while lily of the valley represents happiness and purity.

Flowers Aren't Just Bouquets and Centerpieces

Sure, that's what you think of when you think wedding flowers, but there are other arrangements to consider too. All eyes will be on the altar when you say, "I do," so use flowers frame the two of you. These amazing arrangements will be included in lots of the important photos, like your walk up and down the aisle and your first kiss. Don't forget other arrangements, like boutonnieres, your escort card display and cocktail table clusters.

Size Does Matter

If you're petite, don't let your flowers overwhelm you -- I'm looking at you cascade. Wearing a ball gown? Make sure your flowers can stand up to the ruffled skirt of your dress. And no matter your fashion choice, be sure your bouquet isn't too heavy or too fragrant -- you don't want to sneeze your way down the aisle. Fragrant blooms, like lilacs, freesias, lilies, gardenias, tuberoses and jasmine vine, are best used in moderation.

Your Florist Will Give You a Proposal

Have a second interview or follow-up discussion with your finalists to hash out details like exact flowers, cost of materials, and setup and breakdown costs. Have each florist put together a detailed proposal for your wedding, based on what you've told him about your vision and budget. If you've spoken about many different ideas, ask him to prepare a "high" best-case scenario and "low" bare-minimum proposal. You can always mix and create a mid-range package -- perhaps you spend more on the centerpieces and pare down the bridesmaid bouquets. At this phase, you're choosing from two or three florists, or you've figured out the one you want and are trying to zero in on how much it will cost. It's super-important to be honest and up-front here with your budget. You won't want to waste your time or theirs.

There Are Some Logistics Involved

Coordinate the delivery time of your bouquets, corsages and boutonnieres with your photographer's arrival -- you'll want them to be worn and held in photos. When they arrive, remove any damaged blooms and place in vases to maintain freshness. And don't leave them in the sun -- direct sunlight will speed up the wilting process.

Recycle Your Blooms

Your "I dos" will probably last less than an hour, so it's a shame to not enjoy your flowers for longer. Aisle arrangements can flank the cake table, bridesmaid bouquets can add color to the escort card display and an archway can make for a memorable exit. Talk to your florist about how you can reuse arrangements to get the most bang for your buck.

Keep Your Guests In Mind

Don't let your flowers get in the way of a good time. Visualize your entire tablescape and choose centerpieces that are low or high enough to encourage conversation. You don't want your tables to seem empty, but you also want your guests to have room to cut into their steak.

-- Lauren Kay

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