Floral-induced psychosis: how big is TOO BIG for a bouquet, and other pressing questions

Updated Jan 7 2020
arielmstallings
STwed-429
Bouquet by Jennie Love with Love 'n Fresh Flowers. Photo by Allebach Photography

I don't get the whole wedding flowers thing. I want a bouquet (what would I do with my hands during the ceremony without one? I can just picture myself standing their awkwardly), but my head spins whenever I even try to think about the other flower shit I need for the wedding.

I just want the place to look pretty!

Why's it gotta be so hard?

—Jaq

miles.jpgGod, good question Jaq. "Why's it gotta be so hard?" could pretty much be the motto of every Offbeat Bride, but I extra-sympathize with you on the flower thing. I skipped the whole issue by getting married in a garden, but for those who chose a different road, there are answers.

I sat down with Seattle's demigod of blossoms, Fiori Floral Design's Miles Johnson and peppered him with questions and got a few tips for the floral-impaired:

Miles, how can brides get the most bang for their buck?
Pick in-season flowers, especially dahlias in summer and peonies in May. You get big bulky flowers, and you're paying low seasonal prices. Dahlias and peonies are also great because they're big flowers that make a big impact. Don't be fooled by inexpensive flowers like lilies of the valley. At a buck or two a stem they may seem like a bargain — but they're so small that it takes a lot of them to make an impact.

Oh, and if you can, for godsake avoid having your wedding in the 10 days before Valentine's Day. Prices on roses are jacked up 40-50%, and you'll have price increases on other flowers, too.

Obviously you're a florist with a vested interest helping brides, but do you have tips for couples who want to do their own flowers?

Timing can make it difficult for couples to actually arrange flowers themselves, since you need to be working on arrangements the day before the wedding, when couples have their hands very full. If you're not using a florist, make sure you have a friend or family member who's really committed to helping you the day before and day of your wedding.

Also, if you have to pick between which floral elements to get help with, do your centerpieces yourself — but have a professional do your bridal bouquet. Bouquets are the hardest to put together and they're the most photographed. [Editorial aside: if you're feeling brave and want to try making your own bouquet, here's a quick how-to.]

So, centerpieces, hmm? Got any tips about them?
Rocks look great with centerpieces, especially when combined with low bowls to create pond feeling and table-scaping element. [Here, I busted up laughing over the phrase "table-scaping." Miles very graciously didn't slap me for giggling.] Rocks and table-scaping are a great way to stretch your budget — but don't over do it. There's nothing worse than an over-scaped table. Limit yourself to three elements on the table besides dishes. Mostly, just remember that it doesn't have to look cheap to be inexpensive. Intention is everything.

bigbouquet.jpgWhat about ceremony flowers?
Do it big and well, or just skip it! It's better to intentionally have nothing and go for a minimal look than to have a small, distracting floral element.

How big is too big on a bouquet?
The shorter the bride the smaller the bouquet should be, and in general no bigger than the bride's head. [Here I had to show Miles pictures from my wedding, where my enormous bouquet was twice the size of my skull. We both laughed.] … Well, rules are meant to be broken!

A very special thanks to Miles from Fiori Floral Design for taking the time to answer my silly questions.

  1. I had no wedding flowers — I stood with my hands clasped in front of me during the ceremony, and for the photos, I mostly was holding my husband's hand or elbow, or had my arms wrapped around one of my loved ones. It was just one less thing to think about, which made the day just a little easier.

  2. I'm lifting this from the offbeat photo pool:

    world's cheapest flower arrangement
    okay, the square vase was a bit pricey, but the fish gravel was $3.50 and the roses were $8 for 22 (we put the other six in a taller vase in the bedroom). not too shabby. thanks for the idea, malmaison!

    note to ariel: these weren't our wedding flowers, but i couldn't comment on your blog post re: arrangements. if i'd arranged our flowers myself (and had thought of this look), i'd have totally have done this for our centerpieces.

  3. Here are some of our centerpieces – we had a moon and stars themed wedding and my husband crafted planet centerpieces for each table. They were more fun (at least to us) than flowers, and guests seemed to enjoy being assigned to planets rather than table numbers.

    • Do you still have these? How did your husband do them? We have a theme for our group as Planet Mom. I would love to do something like this.

    • how did you craft those planets, I need to make centerpieces with different planets, but don't know where to start. I love your idea!!

      • Just an idea – oasis floral foam comes in rounds/different sizes…place short cut fresh flowers covering entire round and place atop an eiffel tower vase….use different color flowers….one larger one for the sun…..red for Mercury, a green/blue combo for the earth…etc. etc. have fun! Marge

    • How did you do those, and how much did it cost you? I want to do something similar, but I have no idea how to go about it. Are those balloons?

  4. Ahem. I would like to ….well, write an entire addition to this post. As a florist-cum-wedding planner, one of THE biggest mistakes I see people (try) and make is "Oh, it's just flowers,….I can do thaaat."

    Flowers are, #1: Hell on your nails. For some brides, this isn't a big deal, but most people are going to have some pictures taken of their hands and they don't want them to look…icky.

    #2: Having elements that you can break apart/transfer from the ceremony to the reception is another great way to economize.

    #3: Pick one to three varieties of flowers (ie dahlias, roses and stock) that are in season to maximize your budget.
    Don't forget: Using textural elements such as: branches, metal objects ie birdcages, found objects, wood (boxes for centerpeices, tiki torches, driftwood, slices of a birchtree for a cake stand), recycled or borrowed elements (silver, china or other funky containers from thrift shops) are all wonderful ways to save cash and make a splash.

    When in doubt or where budget is tight, use candles of all shapes and sizes- unless your venue requires they all be in a container. (In that case, go with lots and lots of votives or large dramatic candle 'vases' you can get at Target, etc) You can accent them with rocks, glass, moss or grass and a few large, long-lasting dramatic blooms (ie orchids, sunflowers) and plants such as succulents.

    Don't forget the greens: Textural elements like ferns, ti leaves, grasses, flax, fuzzy verbena leaves, fruited branches, fruit and veg (you wouldn't believe how cool peaches, limes, eggplants, mangos, heirloom tomatoes or figs look all piled up) etc are usually dramatic and cost-effective.

    Don't forget the size rules: No taller than from your elbow to your wrist (about 24 inches) or else they must be clear/thin and really tall, to avoid aggravating people.

    And, finally: When in real doubt: Have a florist do the bouquets, and diy your centerpieces if they are simple and elegant.

    Whew!

  5. I felt pretty much like Jaq, and didn't want the stress of DIY the day before. We met with four or five florists, and two of them asked a lot of questions less specifically about flowers and more about what we liked in terms of visual styles and what else would be going on with the wedding, visually. They both used that to give us a sense of what they could do within a budget that they thought we'd like, and what the general vibe of it would be, which made it way less hard.

    We went with the one who'd done the flowers for a family wedding last year because she inspired the most trust. I really didn't want to have to think about details related to flowers once we hired her.

    We're spending more than we thought we would on flowers, due to having the wedding 4 days before Valentine's Day (we'd already scheduled it then for having-family-there reasons before we started thinking about flowers) but I expect to be pleasantly surprised by whatever she comes up with.

    I did have a brief fit of "the flowers are going to die anyway, what's the point, I don't need a bouquet" but my almost-husband pointed out I might appreciate having something to do with my hands during the processional. When I asked what he'd be doing with his, he said "wringing them" which made me laugh and get over the issue.

    Oh, and we're skipping centrepieces — the meal will be served family style, so there needs to be room for the food!

  6. I'm getting married in February and was lucky enough to be pointed to a fabulous florist by our cake designer. I found that the fact that we were referred she cut us a rate and since we were going with gerberas she was very happy because she was worried we'd be scammed by the feb rose deal. If you stay away from roses you're good in February though there is an increase just in general unfortunately.

  7. im going through the trenches at the moment of wedding paining, but since i found this site its becoming so much fun!!!!

    were gonna do it in september this year.

    ive decided im going to make the flowers with tissue papers and sticks for the bouquets and centerpieces. i can do this in front of the television which is pretty ace. that way the bouquet can be kept in a glorybox for the future baby (is that cheating?) and also it means no support of the water-wasting cutflower industry. they do better things for us when they stay connected to the earth. yay!

  8. I used to work for a florist in college, specially onoe summer doing weddings(which is probably what turned me into and off-beat-bride-to-be) and one thing i realised working with my florist… she's an artist and she loved to arrange, so the more particular the bride was about the bouquet, the less amazing it was. The best bouquets i saw her design(and she was an incredible florist) was when the bride gave her colors, a price restriction, and maybe a size idea or a favorite flower and let the florist run with it. Often in these cases the florist would go the extra mile to make it perfect(putting more money into it than she charged for or even picking flowers from her personal garden) because it was something that was her artistic vision. I"m not saying you shouldn't get what you want, but i think that in general knowing a basic flower you love and letting a florist design around it usually works out better than trying to pick out every individual flower, after, they know what's in season and also…they're professionals in this field for a reason.

  9. Centerpieces: Flowers that did not go to waste. We donated all our florals to hospitals and nursing homes — each was a location that one of our grandparents had spent time. From the first time we met with our wonderful florist, we warned him that we would be giving our centerpieces away. He planned beautiful containers that he did not expect to get back. Friends help coordinate the day after deliveries and even wrote very nice cards that explained where the flowers had come from and why they were delivered to each location.

    Ceremony decor: Behind us at the ceremony we had a wall of strung flowers. The florist had warned us that stringing all the flowers would be expensive, but if family or friends could make them we would save a lot of $$. At our pre-wedding picnic we asked all our family and friends to string at least one strand, and to think of us as they did. The activity gave everyone something to do while they got to know each other and at our ceremony we were surrounded by the energy all our friends and family had put into the flower strands. (sappy, but sweet.) Not to mention the amazing plumeria fragrance filled the room.

  10. I've decided to skip the flowers (there will be flowers growing around us, I'd rather not pick them and kill them just to walk around for 15 minutes).
    Instead? A VEGETABLE BOUQUET! You can do really cool stuff with carrots and leafy greens (and purples!), even carry it all in a hollowed out gourd. And then, you can eat them for dinner! I plan to start snacking on the carrots once our ceremony is over ; )

    • I'm planning a riff off of this: herbs. 🙂 Rosemary, sage, chamomile and lavender are going in there so far, but I'll get in touch with a local organic greenhouse and another organic farm and ask what they grow and what'll be harvestable next fall to tie into a bouquet for me and pot for decor. That way if one of the critters (or a guest) gets the munchies, we don't have to worry about somebody (like the resident cat) getting sick, and everything will smell awesome without the excesses of the hot house flower industry. 🙂

  11. What a great post! As a wedding photographer, I've seen way too many bouquets that are so big, they not only dwarf the bride, but the stem is so thick the bride can't even hold it!

    And then there are those rhinestone wraps around the stems that actually cut into a bride's fingers and get blood… yes, blood… on her dress.

    Trust me, ladies, simpler and smaller is better. Let YOU and your beauty shine.

  12. As our ceremony was super small and on a beach, we didn't really do flower arrangements or bouquets. But! What we did do was order felted flowers from Muncle Fred Art (https://www.etsy.com/shop/munclefredart). My husband wore a bright bout and we custom ordered a colorful floral crown for me. As for what to do with our hands… we held each other's and it was glorious to feel his sweaty palms on mine. Mine were naturally equally gross.

    Pictures!
    http://ambermarlow.com/tag/cape-may/

  13. We had fiascos all around with doing our own flowers.

    My mom was in charge of getting the bouquets we painstakingly arranged the night before the wedding to where we were getting ready for the ceremony the next day. She forgot to add extra water before going to bed and my bridal bouquet died. The morning of the wedding was spent trying to get an emergency bouquet, so any money saved was more than made up for by having to get a second bridal bouquet.

    My mother-in-law was supposed to bring our centerpieces and other flowery decorations for the reception. She decided it was too windy and they would fall over, and we didn't find out until we arrived that we had zero of the wedding decorations we'd spent so much time and thought on.

    If I had to do it all again, I would either have hired a professional wedding person to be in charge of setting things up/ keeping things alive, or just skipped flowers except my bouquet and had that done professionally.

    Our groomswomen and matriarchs wore crocheted flower pins and they, of all things, turned out great.

  14. Honestly I carried a little book in which I had written my vows. Gave me something to hang onto without doing the flower thing. Also I'd disagree slightly with the no bigger than your head rule. Look at Ariel's Wedding. It was big and bodacious, cool, fun and particularly outgoing. For something like that? Yeah I don' t thing there are rules that cover it. If you've got yourself a big bodacious theme, the I'd say the sky's the limit.

  15. What is too big, I'd suggest think of the weight you're carrying around often one handed and blocking out details like dresses or heads. I made my bouquets the night before, I love flowers so splurged a little bit then wanted to use them all so my bouquet kept getting bigger and bigger… Ended up gorgeous but heavy and the best man often held it for me. I used fake flowers and gum tree branches for the ceremony and reception decorations, all arranged the night before. A bit mad.

    Another suggestion, forage for branches and leaves prior to the sun setting, running around the bush in the dark, with no torch dragging branches on my own in the rain wasn't the happiest or smartest move.

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