Excerpted from the book
Bridal Style, Concise Edition

(see also: the Illustrated Glossary of Flowers from our book Floral Style)

The beauty and symbolism of flowers lend a special meaning to many of the most important occasions in our lives. A fragrant bouquet or a colorful, carefully crafted arrangement of the freshest blossoms enhances any decoration scheme. Naturally, when it comes to your wedding celebration, the flowers you choose require careful consideration.

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Porcelina roses, lisanthus, hydrangea, and Queen Anne's face festoon a tall candelabra, creating the scene for a fabulous wedding centerpiece. Flowers by Elizabeth Ryan. Photo by Z. Livnat.


In order to create a design, a florist needs to know certain facts about your wedding day: the ceremony and reception sites, the times of day, the style of your gown, and the color of your bridesmaids' dresses (it may help to have fabric swatches) are all essential elements to be considered. It is only natural to want your wedding festivities to be visually harmonious. Remember, though, this is your wedding, your day, so don't be afraid to express your own wishes, and to indicate to the florist how much or how little help you feel you need. Bring your florist to visit the ceremony and reception sites so that he or she can have a clear idea of what you envision. View the albums of past work and ask for suggestions and estimates within your budget. A true professional will take the time to understand your wishes and try to fulfill them.

Most floral designers agree that a bride should arrive for a first meeting armed with lots of tear sheets from magazines showing examples of flowers she likes and dislikes. Tear sheets and photos help guide the florist to your specific tastes and the direction your wedding look will take.

Be sure to mention any flowers that have special meaning for you and your fiancé. If there was ever a time to surround yourselves with a favorite fragrance, color, and design, this is it. Some floral designers also suggest that you compose a list of appropriate adjectives describing what you would like to convey through the display flowers, even if you are not sure of the specific names of the blossoms. Such phrases as stark, linear, and clean; lush, full, and natural; colorful, fun, and happy; or romantic, soft, and light can often be more revealing than pictures.

Naturally your wishes are of primary importance, but there are two factors that help determine which flowers you might include in your wedding decorations. The first is the time of year you plan to marry. Most florists will advise that choosing seasonal flowers is wise. Not only does it make good economic sense (specially grown, imported flowers can be more expensive), but many brides prefer that the flowers decorating their wedding be representative of their region as well as the climate.

Although the rose, splendid in all its forms, remains the most popular of all wedding flowers throughout the year, there are dozens of other ideal seasonal choices. For spring celebrations, a beautiful selection of blooms may include bulbs (try tulips, anemones, ranunculus, and daffodils); sweet blossoms (peach, cherry, and apple); and an assortment of pussy willows, forsythia, heather, waxflowers, and roses. For summer through fall, some favorites are lilies, stephanotis, monte casino, and the many varieties of carnations. In the winter, many brides ask for all white flowers, such as roses, stephanotis, carnations, orchids, and gardenias- often with a touch of fragrant evergreens.

The second major factor that affects your floral scheme is the formality of your wedding. An outdoor celebration may call for bouquets and centerpieces with a "just-picked" look inspired by summer fields. But for a black tie event held in a hotel, you might want a more tailored view, perhaps flowers of all one color--crimson or lavender--set beside candelabras. However, don't hesitate to have what others might consider informal flowers at your formal celebration. Your first criteria should always be those blooms, or boughs, that reflect your vision and make you happy.


Fresh flowers can enhance any chosen setting for either the ceremony or reception, but it is your bridal bouquet that often makes the most lasting impression. When it comes to choosing a shape, your florist may create any number of pleasing designs. There are three styles that remain most popular: the flowing cascade bouquet, the classic nosegay, and the graceful arm bouquet. Because each of these basic styles can, of course, be styled and modified to your liking, be sure to discuss your preferences with your floral designer.

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The colors and scents of rich jewel-toned flowers mixed with fresh fruits makes a sophisticated, heady arrangement. Leaf-edged votives encircle the creation for added drama. Flowers by Elizabeth Ryan. Photo by Z. Livnat.


Buttercups, lilacs, and lilies of the valley; roses, ranunculus, and bachelor's buttons; stephanotis, sweet peas, and forsythia--the limitless colors, combinations, and heady fragrances are easily translated into unforgettable arrangements by a floral designer. Your idea may be to create rich contrasts and dramatic shapes or delicate shades worked into neat nosegays. Together you and the florist can design a beautiful bouquet.

Since color can be incorporated into any aspect of floral decorations many brides choose white only for their bouquets. However, when New York City floral designer Elizabeth Ryan gets a request for a white bouquet, she takes it one step further. "I combine many differrent shades of white," says Ryan, "to make it more interesting. Also, I like to incorporate lots of texture and variety. I recently created a bouquet of white gardenias and black 'caviar' (viburnum) berries for a really striking look. Blue-green hydrangeas and eucalyptus pods are another pretty combination. And a bouquet of scented geraniums, roses, and marjoram--which looks and smells beautiful--makes a wonderful mix."

Large white casablanca lilies in a cascade bouquet or the summery blend of Hawaiian dendrobium orchids are choices that make a strong statement. For something a bit more traditional, you might combine white roses, stephanotis, and freesia. If you're set on using just a touch of color to catch the eye, try a pastel composition: pale peach Osiana roses, pink phlox, irises in the softest lavender, and champagne roses are a few favorites for achieving a romantic look.

Attendants' bouquets may be as colorful as you wish, and it's up to you whether the flowers you choose complement or contrast with the shade of their dresses. Do plan, though, to have the bouquets work with the rest of the wedding flowers, such as those used for centerpieces or the bows at the ends of church pews. Attention to these details will create unity and enhance the floral theme. For still more continuity, consider using the same type of flower in the attendants' bouquets as in the bride's bouquet. For instance, her creamy white roses may be complemented by roses in hot shades against deep velvet dresses or by roses in jewel tones with floral-print gowns.

To add a more personal touch to the bouquet, you might want to provide your florist with ribbon or pieces of fabric that match your wedding gown or attendants' dresses to be incorporated into the design. And if you want to toss your bouquet but don't really want to part with it, request that a simpler bouquet be made just for this event. Extra long ribbon streamers tied around the stems make for a fabulous photograph as the bouquet sails towards waiting hands.


The flowers and colors you choose for your wedding ceremony will depend a great deal on the style of the church or temple, home or garden, or whatever site you have chosen. In a religious setting, your choices should be both joyful and dignified to convey the feeling of celebration. Consider the scale and architectural details of the building's interior when deciding on altar and pew decorations. For example, in a large space, don't make the mistake of spreading your dollars too thin. Instead of several small arrangements on the altar and bows on every pew, opt for a single grand altar composition and decorations for the first few family pews.

Many florists agree that the simple use of color plays an important role in flowers for the ceremony. A fresh, lively palette may be needed for contrast in a dark, wood-filled space, while a more modern, well-lit setting would benefit from a number of schemes ranging from rich, jewel tones to classic all-whlte. In fact, even less expensive white flowers, such as gladiolas, generally look regal at a ceremony when used in full, lush arrangements.

An increase in formal, traditional weddings is being noted by florists all over the country, and some of the charm of such ceremonies comes from the presence of fresh-facedand unpredictable--children. Flower girls look absolutely delightful carrying bouquets and tossing rose petals.

More inventive contemporary designs have evolved for the youngest members of the wedding thanks to floral designers like David Kurio of Austin, Texas, who proposes, for example, that "if there are two children in the wedding, they can walk down the aisle each holding the end of a garland. That same garland can later be hung on the back of the bride's chair at the reception or across the guest-book table.

"In a Jewish ceremony, garlands can also be used to decorate the huppah, the canopy that symbolizes the couple's new home. Woven strands of lush flowers may trim the top edges and be entwined around the structure's poles. Another fresh idea is for flower girls to carry pomanders instead of bouquets. I've made them with stephanotis, roses, and alstromeria and hung them by wired French ribbon. If there are many children in the wedding, the girls could hold pomanders, and the boys could carry garlands."

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An archway of greenery creates a handsome and intimate wedding bower within an oversized hotel ballroom. The pine boughs have been arranged to draw attention to the celebrants. The large pine cones convey a traditional meaning of good wishes for long life together. Flowers by Elizabeth Ryan. Photo by Z. Livnat.


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