First of all, let me be clear. As far as I’m concerned there are two ways to do your own wedding flowers. The first option is to do your own bouquets, and skip the rest. The second is to do your own bouquets and all your own arrangements. These are two totally different projects. While flower arranging is never scary, bouquets are a pretty easy project. Heck, you can pick up the flowers at Trader Joe’s and be done with it. If you’re taking this option, please don’t listen to all the, “You can’t, you can’t, bouquets are HARD you’ll be too STRESSED” nonsense. They are not hard and you will not be stressed.
If, like me, you are taking on the whole kit-and-caboodle, that is another thing all together. Not a scary thing, but a big thing. For our wedding we made 5 bouquets, 50ish small centerpieces, 6 bigger square centerpieces, 6 tall centerpieces, and an ENORMOUS arrangement in a bucket. So if you’re counting at home, we did about 70 pieces. And it was fine. In fact, most of the time it was pretty fun. But if you are taking this on, it should be one of your *few* big wedding projects. There are some who are stronger than me who can do their own flowers and self cater at the same time without breaking a sweat, but I wouldn’t recommend that to us mere mortals.
So, without further ado, here are my best flower decorating tips, for those of you going whole-hog:
- Don’t be scared. They are flowers for God’s sake. They are pretty, and fun.
- Do a dry run. Seriously: Do. A. Dry. Run. I made my bouquet in about 10 minutes sitting in the corner of the patio, while people yelled that I was late for the picnic, and one of my dearest bridesmaids held the front line, and told everyone to take a hike. The reason I was fine is I’d done a dry run, and I was really comfortable with what I was doing. If I hadn’t… well… it might not have been pretty.
- Think through what supplies you’ll need, and order them in advance. Your dry run will help you figure this out. I will however, give you some quick tips: floral tape, floral scissors, pins, floral foam, vases. Enough for a group of people (but we’ll get to that).
- Along those lines, if you are transporting your arrangements, I really really suggest that you use floral foam. It makes them pretty snug, and if they fall over in transport, you’ll be fine. If you are using floral foam, you’ll want to think about opaque vases. That’s why we used metal vases, though they were also pretty stylish.
- Do your flowers the day before. This is not a joke. You cannot do your flowers on your wedding day, if you would like your sanity intact.
- Stop worrying about refrigeration. You’re not going to be able to refrigerate everything, and that’s FINE. Put your arrangements in a cool shady place (and water them. but you’re not dull, right?) and stick your bouquets in water in a fridge. Done. Also, hot tip: boutonnieres, should you choose to use them (We did not. David muttered things about it not being a f*cking prom already, and that was the end of that) can’t be done the day before, because they will die. Thems the breaks.
- Pick a few super decisive people to go with you to the flower mart. Or if you’re chill like that, send a few decisive people to the flower mart without you. I was planning to go with my Mom, but that didn’t work out, so I literally TORE through the enormous San Francisco Flower Mart with stage manager Kate and David. TORE. We just pointed and grabbed. We over-bought a bit (better than under) but what we got was fantastic and more to the point was speedy.
- You need helpers. You CANNOT do this with out a team. It’s DIT all the way. That said, pick your helpers carefully. We threw a flower decorating lunch and invited the female wedding party and female relations. If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t have called it lunch, and there would have only been worker bees. I was in production mind (when my immediate family sees this glint in my eye they skedaddle) and I was just “Go, go, go.” Calm? Yes. Speedy? Yes. Focused? Yes. Friendly but firm? Also yes.. My girlfriends saw what was going up and kicked in gear, hard and fast. The more distant relations we’d invited for lunch were slightly… scared… I think. I’m not sure they expected to work that hard, and honestly, we probably were not fair to them, not giving them a heads up.
- Set up a sample or two, and let people copy that. Your helpers may not know as much about flowers as you (now) do, and they are going to obsess about getting it right. In retrospect, I probably should have given more guidance to the poor ladies on their bouquets because they were *stressed*, but we made it work.
- Set up quality control. If you have a lot of hands working, and you’re attached to the output, have someone with a trusted eye covertly tweaking things.
- Make sure you have transport, if you can’t set up at the site. Flowers take up quite a bit of space. We rented a Ryder van for the weekend, and Kate-the-stage-manager-of-magic drove it. I owe her.
- Remember cleanup. There will be lots of cleanup. Have brooms.
- And finally, realize that doing your own flowers isn’t cheap, it’s just cheaper. Once we bought all our flowers and supplies, we spent about $700, of which $500ish was for flowers (we could have spent a little less, but hindsight is 20-20) and $200ish was for supplies (mostly vases). It sounds like a lot, but in San Francisco, it often costs that much *just* for bouquets (I knnnnnooooowww). And we had flowers piled to the ceilings, which is just what we wanted, and never could have afforded otherwise. And besides, we now have the worlds most stylish vases, which I use at least once a week. You can do it for less, but keep in mind that flowers ain’t free, unless you grow them.
So how did our flowers turn out? Well, it wasn’t stress free, I’m not going to lie to you. But we loved them. I also had a much more personal relationship with our flowers than I would have otherwise. We used Dahlias, and I’ll probably get a little weepy forever when I see Dahlias like the one’s we used. Plus, my bouquet felt like me. And I was rough with it, and comfortable with it
in a way I wouldn’t have been if I’d paid good money for it.Oh. And did I mention? I spent a year dreaming of having bouquets filled with pink star jasmine, which is the smell of the bay area in the summer. But I knew you couldn’t buy it, and I’d resigned myself to not having any. Well, when we showed up at the flower mart, we found a bush sized pile of jasmine, for just $10. My bouquet looked wild and smelled like heaven.
Top photos by Kate! Wedding Stage Manager! Last two photos by One Love Photo, of course