There are (literally!) thousands of types of flowers, and infinite combinations of colors and arrangements that you can create with them. So how do you narrow it down to the perfect blooms for your wedding? Start with these basic, must-know tips.
First, Know Your Budget
Have a good idea of what you're ready to spend on flowers before getting your heart set on specific blooms or arrangements. The cost of wedding flowers ranges widely (typically between $2,000 and $6,000) depending on the types of flowers you choose, how delicate those flowers are and, of course, how many arrangements you'll need and how elaborate they'll be. So set your budget, then look for inspiration -- not vice versa.
Then, Spend Wisely
Focus your flower budget on the areas of your wedding that will be in the spotlight. Your bouquet, a signature element at the ceremony (like the huppah or pedestal arrangements) and reception centerpieces should top your list of priorities. Use leftover cash on the extras like decor for the cake table, guest book table and cocktail hour.
Visit a Flower Shop...
There's more to wedding flowers than roses and peonies, so don't miss out on the blooms you didn't even know existed. (Some lesser-known types not to miss: craspedia, proteas, scabiosa and gloriosa lilies.) Find out what's out there in person by taking a walk through the biggest nursery or flower depot near you. Ideally, you'll go exactly one year before your wedding date so you'll see what colors and flowers are in season and will be readily available to you.
...Then Home Depot (Seriously!)
For color inspiration, visit the paint aisle of the local hardware store. Pick up a few swatches that you love and bring them to your meeting with your florist to get each of your creative juices flowing. Other good sources of color: Visit a fabric store, which can drum up ideas for both color and texture, or simply take a look around your apartment to see what colors you loved enough to choose for your home.
Prioritize, Then Plan
Think about how important flowers are to you in the grand scheme of your wedding. If the answer is "very!" then consider planning elements of the day around your dream flowers. For example, if you know you want lots of peonies, pick a date in late spring (when they're in season) and a classic venue to complement them.
Complement What You Love
Speaking of prioritizing, your wedding flowers should enhance whatever element of the day you want to emphasize most. Are you big on food? Plan to have centerpieces that fit in with the dishes on the table, like low, long centerpieces in wooden containers. Want your wedding party to be the stars of the show? Spend extra effort planning individualized bouquets and boutonnieres for them.
Look to Your Dress
As one of the first major purchases you're bound to make, your dress can inspire the style of your entire wedding and your flowers -- especially your bouquet. Choose a floral design that will photograph well with your gown. If you buy a sleek, sheath dress, a simple bouquet of calla lilies and similar arrangements will accent it well, while a loose, just-picked bunch of wildflowers looks great with a romantic, lacy gown. Also something to take into consideration: your height! If you're petite, ask for a smaller bouquet that won't overwhelm your frame.
Complement Your Venue
Once you book your reception site, choose flowers that will look like they belong there (wild, rustic flowers might look odd in a formal ballroom, while glam arrangements decked out with crystals might not fit with a garden venue). Take into consideration the height of the ceilings (high rafters call for taller centerpieces, which might look cramped in a space with low ceilings). If your florist isn't familiar with the venue, plan a site visit so you both know what you're working with.
Think in Seasons
Don't make decisions about flowers or colors before knowing what blooms are available for your wedding date. Spring and summer have the biggest selection of flower types and colors, while you'll be more restricted in fall and winter. Peonies, cherry blossoms, ranunculus, lilacs and anemones are popular blooms that have limited peak seasons. Some top flowers that are available year-round: roses, calla lilies, hydrangeas and cymbidium orchids.
Pick a Personality
Still stumped about your flower style? Rummage through your closet. Who's your favorite fashion designer? If it's Kate Spade, maybe your flowers will be monochromatic, but bold and bright. If your drawers are filled with J. Crew, a preppy, streamlined look might be for you. Consider putting together an inspiration board of a few things you love -- a photo of your favorite dress, a vintage postcard and a swatch of fabric, for example -- to show your florist your style.
Don't Expect Exact Colors
You might be able to find table linens in that perfect shade of pink, but flowers are a different story. Color-matching with a natural living thing like a flower can be frustrating, if not impossible -- flower colors vary vastly, even if they came from the same plant! Instead, think in terms of color families (think: light greens or pale pinks) rather than precise shades picked out of a Pantone book (like cerulean blue or lavender).
Go Classic for Your Ceremony...
Your ceremony flowers -- the bouquets, boutonnieres and those at the actual site of your vows -- will probably be the most photographed flowers of the day. Keep your ceremony arrangements on the clean and classic side so your pictures will stand the test of time.
...But Creative for Your Reception
For the party, there's much more room for creativity (that's right -- your ceremony and reception flowers don't have to match). If you're itching to experiment with funky colors or unusual arrangements, the reception centerpieces and other decor are the place to do it.
Mind Mother Nature
For an outdoor wedding, your flowers will probably be delivered and installed several hours before the event starts, meaning they might be sitting in the sun. Not all flowers can withstand heat or wind, so work with your florist to choose flowers that'll stay fresh for your venue. The same goes for boutonnieres and fresh flowers for your hair.
Envision Your Tables
When planning your centerpieces, visualize what else will be on the dinner tables. Don't let candles and favors upstage your tall, glam centerpieces. On the other hand, a minimalist arrangement might look too spare if there aren't other accents nearby.
Don't Forget About Your Guests
Don't let your flowers get in the way (literally) of your guests' having a good time. Be sure that centerpieces aren't so large that they'll block conversation across the table. If you opt for tall arrangements, display them in thin vases or clear glass containers so guests can see each other.
Think About Flower Alternatives
Nonbotanical decor can be gorgeous, especially for your reception. For a vintage wedding, a pile of old, meaningful books can make a great centerpiece (not to mention conversation piece) or arrangements of colorful veggies might be just the thing for a barn setting.
Making your wedding flowers extra meaningful can be as simple as adding your grandmother's brooch to your bouquet or carrying the same flowers down the aisle that your mom did -- or it can be as complex as using a photo of your family's home garden to inspire your entire floral vision.
Trust Your Florist
We've heard it over and over: The happiest brides are the ones who picked a florist they loved, then let them do their thing. Most likely, your expert has experience from hundreds of weddings and knows those little secrets about everything from choosing your flowers to last-minute adjustments. So trust her instincts as well as your own.
Show Them Off
After your flowers are set, make sure to show them in their best possible light. Plan for lighting that will enhance their beauty, like pink pin spots to highlight fuchsia centerpieces or amber room lighting to complement romantic all-white flowers. And choose simple, not-too-busy linens that will enhance your flowers, not detract attention from them.