DIY Bouquet Basics for Non-Pros


You don't have to be an expert

by Maddie Eisenhart, Chief Revenue Officer

APW + The Bouqs
DIY Bouquet Basics APW
Where I grew up, the state flower is a pinecone. Combine that with my black thumb, and I don’t know why I was surprised when our attempts at DIYing our wedding flowers ended up a bit of a disaster. At first I thought maybe we’d just bitten off more than we could chew. But I’ve come to realize that the real problem was that we just didn’t do our research. (Whoops. Story of my life.) Most of the floral tutorials I had found online at the time were all style (aka what flowers look good together), when it turns out what I really needed was substance (aka what to do with your flowers after you get them). So when we had the opportunity to partner with the online flower delivery company The Bouqs this month, I wanted to rewind things a bit and get back to basics. Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned from watching florists work their magic, it’s that it doesn’t matter if you’re planning on creating a huge peony and wildflower bouquet with all kinds of different textures, or just a simple one-flower arrangement. You gotta understand the fundamentals first.

To help us out, we brought in Napa-based florist Melody Raye Mahoney of Melody Raye Flowers (who does bold, colorful wedding flowers like it’s nobody’s business), and asked her to share her best tips for getting the most out of your DIY wedding flowers. We chose to work with The Bouqs’s multi-colored “Cake ‘n Cream” ranunculus bouquet from their volcano collection (so named, because the flowers are grown on the side of an active volcano in Ecuador, on sustainable, eco-friendly farms). But you could easily apply these tips to any bouquet you’re working on for your wedding:

Bouqs Box

1. Give yourself a buffer. If you’re ordering your flowers online from a wholesale flower supply or a place like The Bouqs (who, spoiler alert is giving away six months of free bouquets at the end of this post, plus 15% off all orders placed within the next six days when you use the code SUMMER15 at checkout), they aren’t going to show up at your door ready to wrap ribbon around. Getting flowers to open up takes a few days, so you want to schedule your delivery for two to three days before your wedding. Once you have your flowers in hand, don’t worry about getting them into a fridge (commercial refrigerators aren’t calibrated to take care of flowers, so you actually run the risk of ruining them that way). Instead, keep them in water in a cool dry place and try to avoid handling them too much because it can cause browning. If your flowers are slow to pop open, putting them in sunlight, or a warmer spot in your house can speed up the process a little.

Pro tip:  Please avoid my wedding day disaster by doing a trial run a few weeks (or months) before the wedding. You’ll get a better sense of how many flowers you’ll need, and you’ll be able to work through the mechanics of putting together your bouquet without it being The Bouquet. Plus, when you’re done, you get fresh flowers for your house! So, win-win.

Also, when it comes to the real deal, make sure to order more flowers than you think you’ll need. The Bouqs sends their bouquets in a protected box like you see above, so everything showed up safe and sound, but a few flowers got damaged as we were putting our tutorial together (we’re only human). Luckily we had a handful of extras available to sub in, and you’ll want to as well.

Bouqs Prune

2. prep your flowers. While The Bouqs is more in the flowers for your mom on her birthday business (or your best friend just because, or heck even yourself) than the wholesale wedding flower game, one of the reasons I was excited to work with them is because the flowers show up pre-prepped (which is great if you’re just making one or two DIY bouquets and want to save yourself some work). Which means no need to strip thorns or cut stems. (Normally you’d want to get yourself a pair of strong scissors and possibly a thorn stripper to help with the prep process.) But even with The Bouqs, you’ll still need to prep your greenery. Greenery helps fill out bouquets, while adding texture, but you don’t need all the bulk that comes with them. So before you start in on your arrangement, remove about two thirds of the leaves from your greenery, leaving just the topmost part in tact.

bouqs025

3. Mind the base and the balance. Every florist I’ve ever worked with (including Melody) has started with the same technique: begin with a base of three to four flowers. Then, as you layer in more, the key is to mind the balance as you go. You don’t want to cluster too much of the same color together, but you also don’t want your bouquet to look like you deliberately placed flowers alternating one color after the other. For example, if you pay attention to the photos above, you’ll notice a lot of two-to-one ratios throughout the bouquet that Melody created for us. That is to say, if you put two orange flowers next to each other, put a single orange flower somewhere on the other side of the bouquet to balance things out. She alternated this process with greens every two or three flowers, and then she stopped to check the overall balance of the bouquet every ten stems or so (aka just stand up and hold it against your body to see if it feels like the right size for you).

Pro tip: If you want a more wild looking bouquet, play with the height of your flowers as you add them (kind of like you see in the second photo above). You can also make your bouquet feel more organic and wild simply by adding in different textures of flowers. We wanted to keep things simple for the purposes of this tutorial by using one flower type, but the base and balance principle still applies when you’re using multiple flower types. And for the #lazygirls in the house, if you don’t want to bother with figuring out what kind of flowers will look good together, you can always opt for a pre-mixed bouquet like this or this from The Bouqs’s California collection (which are available for overnight shipping. Because if you’re like me, #lazygirl is synonymous with procrastinator).

Bouqs Wrap

4. It’s a wrap: I’ve heard conflicting advice from different florists about when you should wrap your bouquet with floral tape. Some say it’s best to wrap every few stems as you go. Others say to wait until you’re done with the whole thing before you wrap. But Melody helped break down the discrepancy for me: floral tape just helps keep things together. So if you want more control over your bouquet, wrap as you go because it keeps the flowers from running away from you. But control also means you don’t have as much flexibility to fix things after the fact—like if you put your whole bouquet together and decide one flower feels out of place and should be moved. So if you want to be able to move things around or adjust the height of your stems, wait to tape until you’re done building your bouquet. Neither way is necessarily right or wrong, and you’ll know better than anyone which method is best for you.

Bouqs Bouquet Ribbon Final

5. Put a ribbon on it: Your flowers don’t have to do all the work for you. If your budget doesn’t include big expensive flowers (I’m looking at you, peonies), or if you’d feel more comfortable working with just one flower type, you can still add some personality to your bouquet with a cool wrap. We found this awesome glitter ribbon at Michael’s, and Melody gave it a little more edge with cascading ribbon. For that, she simply wrapped our bouquet, then looped a few pieces of cut ribbon around it.

the-bouqs-logo

This post was sponsored by The Bouqs, a new flower delivery service that puts the focus on the flowers (and not on unnecessary candy or teddy bears). All of The Bouqs flowers are grown at sustainable, eco-friendly farms that follow strict responsible farming practices certified by Veriflora and The Rainforest Alliance. And The Bouqs’s volcano collection are grown on the side of an active volcano in Ecuador, where more sunshine and mineral rich soil makes for better flowers (and a cool origin story, if we do say so). In addition to today’s giveaway, The Bouqs is offering 15% off your order when you use the code SUMMER15 at checkout!* You don’t need to be planning a wedding to take advantage. So go on, and buy yourself some flowers just because.

*Discount expires on 7/20.


The Info:

Flowers: Provided by The Bouqs | Floral Design: Melody Raye Mahoney of Melody Raye Flowers | Photography: Allison Andres Photography APW Sponsor

Maddie Eisenhart

Maddie is APW’s Chief Revenue Officer. She’s been writing stories about boys, crushes, and relationships since she was old enough to form shapes into words, but received her formal training (and a BS) from NYU in Entertainment and Mass Media in 2008. She now spends a significant amount of time thinking about trends on the internet and whether flower crowns will be out next year. A Maine native, she currently lives on a pony farm in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband Michael, their son Lincoln, and an obnoxious mastiff named Gaia. Current hair color: Natural (gasp!)

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  • raccooncity

    Amazing! This will help my plan of winging it the day before. Bam. (I actually just looked into getting some of these flowers, but alas, I am Canadian.)

    • Emily

      I do not recommend winging it the day before, unless you are really good with flowers or you have zero preference on what the flowers might be. I did mine and it was sort of a disaster until one of my bridesmaids, who worked for a florist, stepped in and took over and what was supposed to be cheap and fun and easy was REALLY stressful.

      • raccooncity

        I am definitely in the “zero preference” category. I pretty much like all flowers and we have a neutral colour palette so I’m happy going any number of directions. I also plan on doing a little gathering of only one kind of flower, so no rocket science with the arranging. I only really want flowers because I never know what to do with my hands.

        That said, if you wanted to share what specifically went disastrously for you, it might help me avoid some pitfalls. I’d love to learn from your experience.

        • Emily

          I think that the disaster began when I picked up my flowers from the market and the order was wrong which forced me to get a little creative in choosing replacements that went with my color palette and were in stock. I also think that I had too much “help” as in all of my bridesmaids, aunts, etc wanted to help but had no idea what was going on and weren’t very interested in instruction and that aspect kind of turned into herding cats. So I would say you’re probably in good shape regarding my first issue, and the second issue is an easy fix. Good luck!

          • raccooncity

            Thanks for sharing your experience with me! I’m keeping it all in mind.

        • Emma

          We did the bouquets for my sister’s wedding using this APW tutorial and it worked really well! http://apracticalwedding.com/2011/04/how-to-make-a-wedding-bouquet/

          • raccooncity

            Wonderful! Thanks!

  • dearabbyp

    Highly highly recommend doing your own bouquets — I am not particularly crafty and yet somehow committed to doing all the flowers for my 130 person wedding plus bouquets. Yay!

    I’d just say this: The prep for doing flowers took way more time than I expected several days before the wedding. Once the flowers arrived (we used some 50 flowers and some bloomsbythebox) on Wednesday, we spent hours filling buckets (going to Walmart to get more buckets), cutting, de-leaving, etc. Once we got to centerpieces (the next day) they moved faster and the bouquets were a piece of literal cake. I saved the ribbon until the morning of the wedding while my hair was setting, it was nice to have something to do with my hands, and kind of meditative. I would hands down do bouquets again, 20 centerpieces? Maybe not.

  • I love the Bouqs and I’m a big fan of DIY flowers! I did the flowers for my sister in law’s wedding last month totally last minute: http://therewm.com/2015/06/30/my-sister-in-laws-diy-wedding-flowers/ My friend Julia did her own as well (post is linked in that other link!) and they were beautiful.

  • Jules

    Lovely!! The only pro flowers we got were the bride’s bouquet and boutonnieres/corsages for the “key” people. We ended up making bouquets for my 2 MOHs (all peach roses) and ~18 centerpieces (simple hydrangea and baby’s breath arrangements), and we made a ton of tiny little baby’s breath corsages (last minute decision) for the siblings, house party, etc.

    It was nice to know that all the flowers that were really important to us were done, and everything else was gravy (and in budget). I had an awesome assortment of female relatives helping me that weekend/same day – we did the MOH bouquets while everyone got their hair done that morning!

    My venue featured some mantels, too, so we plopped down seeded eucalyptus and stuck some carnation blooms in them. Looked amazing. Took 10 seconds.

  • Rachelle

    I’ve used The Bouqs for flowers for friends and HIGHLY recommend! They’re so fresh, beautiful and last forever. Plus the price is a lot better than most of the mainstream sites.

  • Emily

    I’ve actually been trying to figure out how to incorporate a pinecone into my bouquet for my wedding to a Mainer!

  • I have zero experience with actual legit flower arrangements, but my sweetie used to work at a floral shop and is kinda excited about making my bouquet and some simple centerpieces for our small, casual wedding next month.

    Can anyone explain the pros/cons of getting flowers at the supermarket or farmers’ market a day or two before, compared to ordering them online through this type of service?

    This may be a really simple question, but I am a newbie in this area.

    • Stephanie B.

      I made my own bouquet, and used flowers from the supermarket, and it turned out very well (in my opinion). I made it the day before the wedding, and it held up nicely all the way until the day after the wedding.

    • Maddie Eisenhart

      I think a lot of it has to do with selection. If you want a specific flower, there’s no guaranteeing that the grocery store/flower market will have it the day or week of your wedding or that they’ll have enough. If you’re more flexible, or are using more prevalent flowers (roses, etc.) then you’ll be fine.

      • Jules

        Absolutely agreed – if you are more flexible/relaxed about the exact flower or the color and don’t need a zillion stems, the supermarket can be a good option.

        Other pros of supermarket:
        + Ordering online or through a florist (I ordered with a local wholesaler) doesn’t *guarantee* color unless the policy says so. And if the wedding is far off, they might not be able to tell you for sure if they will have enough of ____ flower from the growers. When my carnations came in, they were totally the wrong color, and this was important to me. I ended up using some roses instead. Also, they couldn’t tell me until a few weeks out if they would have enough seeded eucalyptus.

        + With the supermarket/store, you will be able to see and inspect the EXACT flowers you are going to buy before you take them home, instead of looking on a computer screen and hoping they are what you expect.

        + If having a small wedding, you may be able to tailor your order a little more exactly to the numbers you need. Some online places only sell, say, pack 25, pack 50, and maybe you only want about 6-12. I paid a florist to make my bouquet because I had very specific flowers in mind and wasn’t planning to use any “extras” as decor.

        + Similar to the above, ability to have LOTS of variety in blooms. Ordering online/wholesale – you might be able to find an awesome “mixed” pack (like the one featured here!), but you might find yourself having to decide between having 50 sunflowers and none at all. Of course, you could always supplement an online order with a store purchase.

        + You can change your flower budget all the up til, oh, the very last minute.

        Some cons:
        – Do you have a lot to juggle in the days preceding the wedding? If so, it might be nice to have them delivered…depends on where you live, your hours, etc

        – Possibly running out/not having what you want (as mentioned)

        Do a price comparison. Be mindful of the season, so you’re not pricing out red roses around Valentine’s Day for your September wedding! Also think about when you are picking them up. If you’re picking them up Wednesday for arranging on Thursday, with the event on Saturday – make sure to pick something that will look how you want it to that night.

        tl;dr: For a small wedding and a flexible bride, supermarket/store option could be a great route.

        • KA

          “For a small wedding and a flexible bride, supermarket/store option could be a great route.”

          Seconding. I had big dreams of DIY-ing exotic mail order flowers until it was suddenly the day before the wedding and I hadn’t actually acted on that. Miraculously, one of my ladies’ boyfriends had once worked at a florist. That late in the game I no longer had any actual preferences other than DONE, so he just ran with our overall color scheme for ~10 centerpieces worth of supermarket flowers, and they were lovely. Which is to say, @daniellela:disqus I would defer to your sweetie’s preference/expertise and you’ll be golden!

          • Thanks, KA! I will take your advice and defer to my sweetie on this.

            Even a month out, my preference for flowers (and let’s face it, most wedding-related things) is just DONE!

        • Thanks for your run-down! This is helpful.

          I am flexible/relaxed, at least about the flowers ;) For whatever reason, they are just not the most important thing to me. I figure ANY flowers we end up having will be nice.

          • Jules

            Sure! I had a very mixed approach – I had been dreaming of a lovely bouquet, but the rest of the flowers I just wanted to…exist? And not clash? (Which is pretty easy to do if you stick to something like white.) And be a reasonable price, haha.

            Anyway, I kind of threw this project over the fence to some aunts, moms, and cousins who were rabid for a project (bless them) and who also had done my cousin’s flowers, so they had experience in cutting/arranging/etc. We had a board of ideas, and my mom and I did a mock-up to figure out what to order from the wholesaler. We made sure to have all the supplies ready for the helpers, designated a location and time, and made sure to think about things like how were we going to keep the uncut flowers (little trashcans, coolers…) and how to transport them. It went amazingly smoothly. Even if you’re relaxed on the aesthetics, make sure to provide a bit of guidance for logistics, which become super unsexy and stressful once you’re in the <48hour window.

            For as organized as we were about the centerpieces, it really made me laugh that we just kind of winged the MOH rose bouquets and baby's breath boutonnieres. But anyway. Good luck! Have fun!

          • It’s funny how logistics are super unsexy but super…. necessary!

      • Thanks, Maddie! That makes a lot of sense.

      • SLG

        I’ve done flowers for a number of friends’ weddings, and been variously involved in a whole bunch more weddings, and my only suggestion is to be flexible, and remember that there’s always the chance the specific flower you want just will not be available. And you might not find out until the last minute.

        Flowers are living, sorta-fragile things, and sometimes storms or droughts or El Nino or what have you just mess with them. A close friend wanted peonies, ordered them, and was promised them by the florist, and at the last minute there just were no peonies that weekend — not in the US, not in Israel, not in Argentina, not anywhere. Period. (Her husband bought her peonies every week for a very long time after they were married. :-) )

        So know what you want, but have a plan B and remember that you can always get the flowers you want in the future and you’ll probably have them at your wedding too, but nature always gets the last say.

  • LydiaB

    So I was a complete amateur and absolutely recommend doing your own flowers!
    We got the flowers from a flower market in Florence at 9am on the Thursday with the wedding at 5pm on the Saturday – this obviously meant they had to be quite carefully looked after to stay fresh! The flowers were kept in a wardrobe when they were uncut and in the fridge as soon as they were cut. As it was, they kept too well and we had to take them out early on the Saturday to get the peonies to start blooming!

    All in all we spent around £40 on flowers and made two bouquets and four buttonholes. Bouquets were made the day before and stored in the fridge over night, buttonholes were made on the day and just kept uncut in the jug in the wardrobe until the Saturday morning. We used florist tape, twine and each bouquet had a wrap made from dress cuttings after it was hemmed. We pinned the wrap on at the last minute so it didn’t get soaked in the fridge. I did this with no practice as I honestly wasn’t that fussed on flowers and just thought I was have a go with what we found at the market or go without (thank goodness I didn’t!)

    Honestly so proud of myself, I really would say go for it!

    Album – http://imgur.com/a/JwXZf

    • Caitlin

      Thanks for sharing! Your flowers and wedding in general look gorgeous!

  • Clare Caulfield

    My high school job was working at a local wholesale rose farm soI love fresh flowers. Found your tutorial very helpful. Does The Bouqs ship to Australia?
    Right now I’m trying to balance our desire for a GoPro bouquet (best done with fake or dried flowers, or so the interwebs says) and my love for fresh blooms…any advice?

    • KPM

      GoPro bouquet? Like a GoPro filming from inside the bouquet? Kinda crazy awesome!

  • Danniella Cloud

    Awesome atmosphere

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  • Alison

    I got my wedding flowers from The Bouqs in May and they were fantastic! My contact Stepha was super responsive and even helped me when they were delivered to figure out how to store them. She helped to figure out what flowers to get me, and even took into account that I am pretty allergic to flowers and anything with too much scent. I basically told her some colors and she rolled with it. When they weren’t able to ship the exact flowers that they had initially told me, I even got a rebate for the difference in cost and honestly no one noticed any difference.

    I got WAY more flowers than I had anticipated to the point where my bridesmaids started just putting roses in random jugs at the wedding because we had about 6 dozen extra roses.

    Plus the flowers were gorgeous and way cheaper than any other option I had explored. We got compliments all night! Here’s a pic of my bouquet. I cannot recommend The Bouqs more! Wish I had this discount about two months ago though. =P

    • KPM

      These flowers are gorgeous!

  • Bettyvknowlton

    Get It Now. p-r-a-c-t-c-a-w-e-d-d-i-n

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  • Charlesshuntley

    NNow Get It -aapprracticalwedding

  • jubeee

    I ordered 3 thank you bouquets for my mother, FMIL and MOH for hosting my bridal shower, they were to be delivered last week. 2 of 3 of the deliveries were not satisfactory. The first one didn’t include the message or who the bouquet was sent from and the third was not delivered at all. This company refuses to offer a refund despite the fact that a delivery was not made and is only offering credit. Typically, I would be fine with credit had I been otherwise satisfied with a service but I don’t really trust this site and would prefer to support a local florist rather than use them again.