How To Make A Colorful Oversized Wedding Bouquet

 Sometimes working in the wedding industry means that I catch myself saying stupid things like, “I’m SO glad color is back!” But let’s be real. I’m so glad color is back. After what feels like half a decade of pastels, the wedding industry is finally embracing a little edge again, and I’m seeing a ton of bright colors and bold designs in the weddings I’m shooting this year. Wedding industry, I’m with you on this one. Yes, even the neon parts. Hell, especially the neon parts.

When we teamed up with Natalie from Belle-Flower in Emeryville for this How-To series (SF Bay Area, you go get her), our number one goal (other than inciting rage over grocery store cakes) was to demystify the oversized bouquet. Because oversized bouquets are awesome. And it turns out? Not that complicated to make, if you know the right ingredients and the right technique for building a bouquet.

So let’s get to the good stuff. We created this bouquet for use with flowers that are currently in season, but if you want to bookmark it for later, we’re including a few extra recipes for fall, winter, and spring flowers too. Referencing the photo above, we used (in numerical order from left to right):

  1. Peonies
  2. Garden Roses
  3. Green Hydrangea
  4. Decorative Kale
  5. Billy Balls
  6. Fern
  7. Eucalyptus
  8. Hanging Amaranthus

You can adjust your quantities to taste, but our final spread ended up being about 4 peonies, 4–5 garden roses, 2–3 bunches of green hydrangea, 2 stalks of decorative kale, 5–7 billy balls, and then a handful of fern, eucalyptus, and hanging amaranthus (enough to add volume, based on personal taste).

Construction was remarkably easy once when we got going. Since I know zero about flowers, I insisted that Natalie talk to me like a small child (bless her heart, she did just that). Scroll through for the in-depth instructions after the photos:

 Photos: Allison Andres / Flowers: Belle-Flower

For those of you who aren’t visual learners, this is what I learned from Natalie:

  1. First, remove all of the foliage from the stems of your flowers.
  2. To create the base for your bouquet, start by clustering a few of your big ingredients together (for this bouquet, peonies)
  3. Then add hydrangeas, kale, garden roses to build up your base. This is where I always get lost when doing floral arrangement (i.e., when I buy flowers from Trader Joe’s and try to make them look pretty in my house). The secret is to add them in small clusters so that the bouquet looks balanced (so if you add two roses on one side, then add one rose on the other side to balance it out) and concentrate on making the shape round as you go, pulling the stems up to create fullness.
  4. Now you have your base! You’ll know you did it right if your stems are pointing every which way. (This is my other floral faux pas. I always thought they should be in a straight line while you construct. Not true!)
  5. Gently wrap floral tape around the stems of your base, keeping it loose enough that you can still add additional stems.
  6. Next, add some eucalyptus and fern to outside of your base.
  7. We then stuck a few billy balls into the center of our bouquet. If you’re adding flowers to the center of your bouquet after you’ve taped it together, don’t try to fit the new stems inside the taped ones. It’s better to put them on the outside.
  8. Add hanging amaranthus to the cascading side of your bouquet, then place a few more big flowers along the outside of your arrangement.
  9. When the bouquet starts to get heavy in your hand, do another tape wrap. To add this tape, hold the stems together tight and wrap the tape as tight as you can go, up as far as you can go on the stems (higher and tighter than your last tape, which you’re going to remove). Then remove the old tape.
  10. At this point, you want to clean up. Find where flowers have gotten hidden, look underneath the bouquet to locate its stem, and then just push the flower up so that it “comes back into the circle.” Add more filler to the hanging side. Then tip your bouquet upside down and do a final taping.
  11. Cut all your stems to the same length, making sure they are at least long enough to hold with two hands.
  12. Time for ribbon! You need corsage pins or boutonniere pins. For this one we used small black boutonniere pins (one for the top and one for the bottom). Make sure to measure your ribbon to be more than you think you need. Then, starting at the top, hold the ribbon with your thumb, then take your pin and shove it up inside one of the stems to hold it in place. This anchors the ribbon so that you can wrap.
  13. Next wrap as far down as you want (there’s no rule here, just personal aesthetics) and anchor the bottom with a pin the same way you did at the top.

I also pestered Natalie for a few pro tips. She said the secret sauce is:

  • Cluster, cluster, cluster. There’s nothing more hideous than spotted flowers, so to get the look of an unfussy but cohesive bouquet, add two flowers of each variety on one side of your bouquet and then a single flower on the other side of the bouquet to balance it out. (Or two on one side and three on the other, etc. You get the idea.)
  • It’s fine if your stems to look a little crazy while you’re building. You should be adding things diagonally, so a little crazy is actually a good thing. It means you’re doing it right.
  • As you add each new layer to your bouquet (building out from the base) you’re going to notice gaps. That’s perfectly fine. Just fill the gaps in as you go, minding the overall balance of the bouquet and keeping the cluster rule in mind.
  • The essence of a bouquet is always round/circular. The way you add interest and variety is by poking things up for height or drooping them down.

Not getting married during peony season? (Or in an area where peonies just…aren’t a thing?) Not to worry! Natalie whipped up a few alternative recipes for us, to be substituted during the rest of the year (if something is listed twice, it means it’s replacing two parts of our original recipe):

  1. Dahlia
  2. Garden Rose
  3. Green Hydrangea
  4. Decorative Kale
  5. Billy Ball
  6. Fern
  7. Eucalyptus
  8. Hanging Amaranthus

  1. Double Garden Rose (use twice as much to replace the peonies)
  2. Garden Rose
  3. Green Hydrangea
  4. Green Hydrangea
  5. Billy Ball
  6. Fern
  7. Maple
  8. Maple

  1. Anenomies
  2. Anenomies
  3. Green Hydrangea
  4. Hydrangea
  5. Chocolate Cosmo
  6. Fern
  7. Dusty Miller or Lambs Ear
  8. Hanging Amaranthus (use green instead)
So have fun with this one, guys. Play around with the recipes Natalie gave us (send pictures?!). And rejoice in the fact that the trend of the moment is big, bold, imperfection. Because if I can do it, so can you.

How To Make a Floral Crown

How To Make A Lush Floral Centerpiece

How To Make A Simple Colorful Tablescape

How To Turn Grocery Store Cakes Into Wedding Cakes

The Entire APW How-To Series

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  • Other Katelyn

    YES. Color. We DIT’d our flowers (when I say “we” I mean my extremely talented friend and groomsman diy’d them) –we added these huge cabbage leaf-type things and used what was in season at Pike Place Market in Seattle, which in April was mostly while daffodils, tulips, hyacinth, lots of greens. Plus gorgeous roses we got at a grocery store. BRIGHT pink, muted pink, white and green.

    • Copper

      I feel like greens are so underused. Beautiful bright color, cheap, fluffy, what’s not to love?

  • Yesssssssssssssssss! This is exactly the tutorial I need for my wedding (which is in exactly 31 days).

  • Corrie

    Oh man, you even included flower substitutes for different seasons!? This is what makes APW tutorials amazing. I always see bouquets I like and think, “well, none of that will be in season, so what flowers WOULD be that could give me the same effect?” You guys rock.

  • I’d only add that flowers tend to look best in odd numbers (1, 3, 5, 7) rather than even, especially in a bouquet of this style. Nice tutorial, Natalie. :)

  • Leila

    We got married on Saturday and my friend made our bouquet. Our colors were sliver and pink so she threw in the lambs ear since it almost has a silver sheen too it. It was so wonderful soft and gave such a nice boost of texture. I highly reccomend it.

  • Catherine McK

    Oh. I love this so much. And not just because it uses the awesome coral charm peonies I had in my bouquet. Which my friend made for me and was so so beautiful I cried when I saw it. Amazing work ladies!


    • JEM

      The Cake That Shalt Not be Named *cough* katespadefancypartygrocerystoresheetcake

    • meg

      EXACTLY. Thank you, thank you, thank you. You noticed my favorites all match.

  • Yay! I’m doing this tonight for a my girlfriend whose wedding I am officiating tomorrow morning. It will be such a great surprise for her. Wonderful tutorial, thank you!

  • This is great! I’ve been making practice bouquets using farmer’s market flowers, getting a handle on what will be around when we do this next June (6-21-14!) Peonies have, indeed, been bountiful.

    And the diagonal stems things makes so much sense. I’ve been using earlier tutorials, and keeping the stems straight and taping a regular intervals. The first bouquet was very cabbage-like. The second one was great (green wheat as an accent!) since I taped lower on the stem, but still a little bunchy. I’m going to make attempt #3 this weekend, and I bet this is really going to make a difference.

    • Aly

      We’re wedding date buddies!!

  • brendalynn

    This is so cool! Kind of wishing we had more excuses to carry a bouquet of flowers around :)

    But I’m thinking these tips will help me make better arrangement for vases too. Time to go buy some beautiful blossoms and practice, practice!

  • Thanks for posting the instructions on how to do this, it looks pretty simple. Going to give it a try and see if maybe I can save money on my flowers for my April wedding next year!

  • Super-excited about this. I’m doing all my own flowers, but I haven’t been totally sold on doing a bouquet so far… I had thought that maybe I would carry a book of poetry instead or have my gals carry lanterns. But this is really gorgeous. I’m doing a flower test for the arrangements tomorrow, so I’m going to give this a shot. I’ll submit pics when I’m done.

  • Eenie

    Thank you for laying the flowers out individually! As someone who does not know much about flowers, that is such a helpful step.

  • SJ

    It’s a good thing my wedding theme is “Eclectic Spring…” becaue THATCAKE and THESEFLOWERS are totally happening.

  • bb

    THIS. and the different seasonal options. Divine.

    So I’ve done practice runs for our DIT flowers, and I plan to arrange them the day before, per Meg’s excellent How To advice. However, I still get a little nervous about the possibility of waking up on our autumn wedding day to a bunch of wilted blooms taunting me: “we looked beeeeautiful yesterday, sucker!”

    Any tips to assuage my irrational little-shop-of-horrors-esque fears? Specifically, at what stage of blooming/opening should you cut and arrange flowers (when they are just buds, or past that)? And is it wise or overkill to cut the stems again the morning of to help the blooms thrive throughout the wedding day?

    • First, don’t fret. The only ways to really kill flowers overnight are to freeze them, cook them, or gas them (with gasses that come off ripe fruit/vegetables). To answer your question, at what stage you cut/arrange completely depends on what kinds of flowers you are using. Some flowers will stay at a bud or partially-open stage indefinitely (many commercial varieties of roses, for example) while some flowers will GROW (tulips!) in addition to opening further. Peonies, anemones, garden roses will all continue to open once they’ve been cut/arranged so if you have a preferred state for those and those are the flowers you are using, cut/arrange them when they’re more closed than you want and they’ll open. Some flowers (what in the industry are called line flowers: stock, snapdragons, delphinium, etc) don’t have a “more open” stage. And some flowers, like button or spider mums, stay at whatever point they are cut for shipping/by the grower (usually fully-open) and won’t open further.

      If I were you, I would make sure to have a cool, dry space to keep the flowers overnight (even the fridge can be too cold for some varieties; I’ve accidentally wilted Bells of Ireland before by refrigeration) that is away from fruit/veggies. Keep everything in clean, cool water (bouquets and obviously centerpieces). You can keep even boutonnieres in water until the last minute if you leave the stems long and then cut them about an hour before you pin them on, giving whatever wrapping you use a chance to dry. I always deliver my bouquets in water and bring a small towel so the stems can be dried off; you can also leave bouquet stems extra long and then cut them again right before your event. If you plan to go the DIY route, something I’ve noticed isn’t mentioned in the tutorial is that you will need floral shears. Regular scissors will crush delicate stems and be too wimpy for tougher ones.

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  • Following this tutorial (mostly) with flowers from today’s farmers market.

    • mimi


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  • Bryna

    This is fantastic – thank you!

    I just tried the basic idea after nipping out to buy floral tape (floral tape!!) and using foliage only from our garden (it’s winter in NZ). Even the foliage only result looks great.

    Also – floral tape?! Who knew?! What a wonderful thing it is!!! Suddenly I’m a florist (except for the whole accuracy and knowing-the-flowers’-names thing).

    Two great things I’ve learned today:
    – floral tape (!!!) is the best thing ever;
    – listen to your kids when they suggest you put onion weed in a bouquet. I made a little kids one too and it’s super cute in a teeny crystal vase on the dining table.

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