Someone asked me the other day what my biggest wedding nightmare was, based on my eight year experience in the industry. I hesitated and thought. No obvious mishaps came to mind until I remembered my own wedding. I created all my own wedding florals and took extra care to include in each of the bridesmaids’ bouquets, the same flowers and the same number of flowers – there had been a few issues between the gals during the weeks before the wedding. Upon finishing up the flowers that evening, my Mother turned to me and asked where my bouquet was – there were only three bouquets made. I realized with dread that in all the concern with my bridesmaids, I had forgotten my own bouquet! Yikes! Thank goodness I was being married in my Mother-in-law’s garden, whereby I roamed with clippers in hand and had a fresh cut garden bouquet.
When I meet with Brides for the first time, I cringe if they say that Aunt Bunny will be creating the corsages and that cousins John & Hal will be doing the centerpieces. I remember my mistake on my big day, and know that the more responsibility you give your family and friends (as well as yourself), the more difficulties you open yourself to. Friends and family are not necessarily the best equipped to handle problems which may occur, such as fixing tired flowers before they are to be placed on the tables or touching up the water level in a vase due to “spillage en route”. If you are going to recruit friends and family to make your wedding flowers, chose the people who have a green thumb or “eye” for decor/design. They can probably give you some good ideas, too.
As you can probably tell by now, I am not an advocate of “doing it yourself” with regards to the florals at your own wedding, but if this is your only option, then I have a few considerations & suggestions.
#1. Remember that wedding days can be particularly emotional for the women in the family (usually the people you have helping out with the flowers), and you have no idea what your Mother or Aunt will be capable of the few days before – they may be too emotional and/or they may have existing duties playing hostess to out of town guests.
#2. The same goes for you, the Bride. Almost every Bride I speak with after their big day, says that they were emotionally different than what they expected to be – calm woman can be tear ridden with joy and emotional women can be stoic and quiet. Also, have you considered the fact that working with flowers the night before the wedding can leave green stains on your hands? Not to mention the havoc that wiring stems and stripping roses can wreak on your nice manicure.
#3. Things take much longer than expected. When I am doing a big wedding, a standard floral centerpiece can take 20 – 30 minutes just to green. If you have say, 20 tables then you should budget one person seven hours just to prep the oasis and trays and arrange the greenery.
#4. Overnight storage of the finished (or partially) finished product is not a last minute consideration. Bouquets should not be kept in the fridge unless it is almost completely empty and has been recently cleaned – food smells can be invasive and some smells may become embedded in the petals. Things in fridges also drip – make sure you place the flowers on the top shelf. Never put the flowers at the back of the fridge. A Bride I once knew did this and awoke the day of her wedding to frozen flowers! All flowers should be stored in a cool, dry place with minimal light, like a basement or enclosed garage.
#5. Animals and small children should be kept away from the flowers during prepping and assembly. Many a stray rose thorn can be bothersome to tiny feet and paws. Dogs can be particularly hairy at certain times of the year which means that the flowers are like magnets to air borne hair.
#6. Prep and condition your flowers before you begin working. Some flowers may need to be bought several days in advance to open – freesia, lily, alstromeria, some roses, peonies and tulips to name a few. While some flowers have particular conditioning requirements, most need to be cut on a sharp angle with a clean knife as soon as you get them home and placed immediately in tepid water for 4 – 6 hours or longer. Roses should be stripped of their thorns and leaves, especially the bottom half. Hand rose strippers are found at florist supply stores for around $3.00 – $5.00+ (this is a wise investment if you are planning to use a lot of roses). Other flowers should be picked clean of any dead stem or leaf bits, as well, the bottom leaves should be removed in order to keep the water clean.
#7. Depending on what you are creating, generally anything that sits in oasis can be made up to 2 days in advance, or you can have the arrangements “greened” well in advance and add the flower blooms last minute. Bouquets and corsages should not be made until the morning of your wedding. Or, you could do the bouquets the night before and sit them in water overnight, then finish them (tie or wrap the stems) in the morning.
#8. A good way to make a basic hand held bouquet is to assembly small, “mini” bouquets, each with 3 to 5 blooms, held together with floral tape. Then take 5 or 7 of the “mini” bouquets and place them together as if they were individual flowers. Once you have them arranged, you can decide whether or not to add more “minis” or take some away. Tie them together first with floral tape, then again with wire. You will have to hide the tape & wire with a ribbon.
#9. One of my favorite things to see at weddings is a bouquet put together as the bride walks down the aisle. This is an excellent consideration if you are on a strict budget, but it does take some time to plan ahead. Ask each significant friend or family member (about 10 – 15 people total) to bring a fresh cut bloom from their garden, or their favorite flower to the ceremony. Supply each with a floral plug a few days before the wedding (this is readily available at craft stores, or floral supply shops and is an individual tiny vase for a single stem). Have them bring their bloom of choice in the water filled plug and sit right on the aisle at the ceremony. As the Bride (that’s you) walks down the aisle, she collects the blooms and as the bundle of flowers grows, the Mom(s) can add the last bloom(s) and tie it off with a nice ribbon. Voila! – a group bouquet which doesn’t leave a dry eye in the house. You can request that they remove the flower plugs just before they hand you the bloom. You may also want to put someone in charge of organizing this – phoning to remind them the day before, suggesting a standard length of the flower and finding out what flowers people are bringing so that nothing outrageous like half a rose tree is handed to you while heading down the aisle.
#10. Think about the age-old trade off between time and money. If you save money on wedding flowers by doing them yourself, are you okay with the fact that the last few days before the wedding will be extra busy, leaving limited time with family and friends?
#11. A great (seasonal) centerpiece idea – a bunch of smaller terra cotta pots (painted or not) with bedding plants in them. If you are having 10 guests at each table, plant up the same number of pots (10) with nice plants like geraniums, Johnny jump-ups, miniature roses, herbs or impatience to name a few. They don’t all have to be the same. All are readily available in the spring & summer. Each pot can be taken home by the individual guests after the wedding, but during the reception they are bunched together on the middle of the guest tables as the centerpieces. You are using them twice. These should be planted up about 3 weeks before the wedding so they settle in. depending where you live, keep them moist and out of too much sun or shade (depends on the plant). Also ask your local nursery about deadheading – this is the removal of spent blooms in order to encourage new growth. Tell the nursery you would like the plants in full bloom in three weeks – should you deadhead now, or wait?