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A Florist’s Guide to Wedding Flowers

A Florist’s Guide to Wedding Flowers

A wedding florist shares her advice for choosing the bridal bouquet, centerpieces, and more.

Selecting flowers, a focal point of wedding décor, can seem foreign and costly to many brides. Here, floral designer Meredith Waga Perez of Belle Fleur NY offers advice for picking the right arrangements for your big day.

What do you need to know before you start planning the flowers for a wedding?

The venue and date are obviously important so we have an idea of what will work stylistically and the flowers that will be available. It’s also helpful to know what the dress looks like, but that shouldn’t be rushed. If necessary, we can start on the overall scheme and wait until the gown is selected to decide on the design for the bridal bouquet.

What should brides bring to the initial meeting with their florist?

Before the first meeting, we ask brides to collect items and images that might inspire the palette and mood. These don’t have to come from traditional sources. You could bring in paint chips, tear sheets from interior design magazines, or pictures of gardens you took on your iPhone. One thing that’s extremely helpful is when a bride creates inspiration boards on Pinterest. I recently joined the site, so people can take images from my boards as well. With everything laid out clearly on the screen, it’s easy to edit the ideas down to a concise concept.

What are your favorite bouquets to pair with different dress silhouettes?

There are no rules, but I personally love the way a cascading bouquet echoes the long lines of a sheath dress. If the gown is really modern and clean, a minimalist, single-flower bouquet, such as tightly clustered mini calla lilies or French ranunculus, can also look stunning. With a ball gown, I prefer a traditional, round bouquet that mimics the shape and proportions of the skirt. A-line and empire silhouettes are simpler and can work with any bouquet. The thing to keep in mind is the level of embellishment. If the dress is ornate, I’d go with fewer varieties of flowers and maybe a matte duchess satin or sheer silk organza wrap. If the gown is on the plain side, you might want more texture in the bouquet and some sort of beaded fabric or embroidered lace trim. Think of the bouquet as an accessory that complements, but doesn’t overshadow, the dress.

If cost is a concern, where should couples focus their flower budgets?

People spend four to six hours at the reception, so I think centerpieces are key. At the ceremony, I would concentrate on a couple of fabulous arrangements flanking the area where you’ll exchange vows. If your reception is at the same location you can reuse them—have the banquet manager place one on either side of the band. You can also repurpose the bridesmaids’ bouquets on the cocktail tables. Ask your florist to leave some extra vases to pop the bouquets in after the ceremony. I would forgo pew or chair decorations at the ceremony because so many venues are beautiful on their own. In general, you can save about 20 percent per arrangement by incorporating a moderate amount of foliage, as opposed to doing all flowers. The greenery we’re working with now—geranium, hellebores, lamb’s ear, peppergrass, umbrella fern—is so gorgeous and chic, we use it even when cost isn’t a concern. As far as a splurge, save it for the bridal bouquet. This is your statement and it will be in tons of pictures—don’t even look at what the florist is charging you.

Is it true that using seasonal blooms saves money?

This is common advice, but it’s not always accurate. White hydrangeas, for example, are available year-round from South America and cost a fraction of what you’d pay during the late summer growing season here in New York. Lilacs, on the other hand, are three times more expensive if you import them from Holland versus order them from a local farm in the spring. Local tulips are often the same price as ones from Holland, but you can get hundreds of different varieties overseas, whereas here we only have access to a few dozen. It’s important to support local growers whenever possible, but your florist should also present you with all the options so you can make informed decisions and get the best value.

What are your thoughts on preserving the bridal bouquet?

I’m not a fan. I have done extensive research and sent bouquets to professionals who do floral preservation, a service that can cost hundreds of dollars. The process usually involves submerging the flowers in silica gel, a drying medium, or freeze-drying them. In both cases, I’ve found the flowers lose vibrancy. With silica gel, the blossoms may also yellow and those that are freeze-dried crumble easily. You can air-dry your bouquet yourself, but everything gets kind of brown and withered. In my opinion, the bridal bouquet is meant to be enjoyed on the wedding day and maybe for a few days afterward. If you want to save something, pull out blossom, fold a piece of paper over it, and press it in a heavy book—you can then frame the flower or put it in a scrapbook. You can also keep the ribbon treatment for your daughter to use on her wedding day.