My petals stand in beauteous ring,
Sweet incense all around I fling,
And boast a thousand colours.
Excerpt from The Beauteous Flower – Song Of The Imprisoned Count
~ Poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Like food, flowers are a staple of weddings. Historical accounts and legends about wedding flowers, herbs and other flora date back several centuries and include wreaths placed on the bride’s head and bouquets that were carried to ward off evil spirits or cover body odor (although the latter has been debunked by some sources). There are also superstitions associated with the color of the bride’s bouquet, such as not carrying all white or red and white flowers. But these color arrangements are popular today; moreover, Kate Middleton’s wedding bouquet was all white, and she certainly observed tradition. So I say feel free to use any colors and combinations your heart desires!
How Do We Love Flowers — Let Me Count the Ways
We love flowers for bouquets (and possibly floral headpieces) for the bride and her attendants; flowers or flower petals for the flower girl (or boy); boutonnieres for the groom and his attendants, the bride and groom’s fathers, grandfathers and godfathers, and the ring bearer (if a little boy); corsages for the bride and groom’s mothers, grandmothers and godmothers; and corsages and boutonnieres for any other honored guests.
We also love to place flowers on the altar or chuppah or other ceremonial structure, tables, pews and chairs, aisle runners, doors, mantelpieces, in restrooms, given out as individual posies to guests, placed on top of the wedding cake, etc. Floral arrangements are also placed in the hotel rooms of out of town guests or sent as thank-you gifts to those who put up out-of-towners in their homes, as well as to those who have hosted parties or gone out of their way to help with wedding tasks.
Flowers are also often present at the rehearsal dinner, morning-after brunch and a host of other wedding-related events, including showers, the bridesmaids’ luncheon and the after-party following the reception.
…And Let Me Count the Kinds!
There is an endless array of flowers from which to choose. There are typical flowers and many that are not so typical. Some traditional wedding flowers include calla lilies, myrtle, orange blossoms, orchids, freesia and roses. And there are also lilacs, larkspur, Queen Anne’s lace, asters, marigolds, gardenias and many others. Choosing your flowers depends on your taste, the season, availability, cost, your timeframe and budget.
Choosing Your Florist
Even if you have a favorite florist shop, you should consider cost as well as its ability to handle your requirements and whether its proximity to your wedding venue is practical.
For example, decades ago Ted and I ordered our wedding flowers from our favorite neighborhood florist, picked them up ourselves on our wedding day, placed them in our rented limo and whisked away to our wedding venue at The Bronx Zoo, about 20 minutes away. It was easy and cost effective — local prices and no delivery charge (we had to rent the limo anyway). On the other hand, our daughter and her fiancé are planning a more elaborate, traditional wedding that is being held about two hours from their home, so they chose a local florist close to their wedding venue. This has provided a comfort level because the florist they chose is familiar with the area, services many weddings there, comes highly recommended and is reasonably priced. It’s important to select a florist you know or has been recommended by a trusted source and is knowledgeable, attentive, creative, easy to work with and respects your budget.
If your prospective florist is in high demand or you have scheduled your wedding during a busy season, make an appointment for your consultation as early as possible; and you might want to meet with more than one. Busy seasons include Thanksgiving through New Year’s, Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, the popular wedding months of June, August, September and October, and the preferred social and business event months of April, May and October.
Bring all the details of your wedding, including the size of the wedding party, color choices and flower preferences along with any photos, fabric swatches and other pertinent items. If the florist is not familiar with your venue bring a brochure along. Tell the florist what is most important to you as well as what you wish for. Find out what can be done and what it will cost; you can always cut back if necessary.
Once you have settled on a florist and nailed down the basics of what you need, provided a deposit and signed the contract, keep in touch as appropriate depending on the complexity and time frame of your wedding. Listen to your florist’s advice and be flexible regarding what is available and fits into your budget. There are a number of aspects to planning your wedding flowers and the florist can guide you through all the choices and point out things you might not have thought of.
Some couples hire a floral designer. The difference between a floral designer and a florist is that the former designs and oversees your overall floral presentation at your wedding and related events while the latter typically has a shop or base of operations where flowers are sold, and will help you select and design your bouquets, boutonnieres and other individual pieces, deliver them and, if necessary, set them up. If you are having a large, formal wedding you might consider consulting with a floral designer first.
Throughout your wedding planning, keep in touch with your florist on any changes that occur or with any questions or ideas you have. Schedule a final check-in with your florist a week or two before the wedding.
The Flower Girl (or Boy)
If you have a flower girl, who precedes the bride down the aisle, decide whether she will simply carry a small basket of flowers, a little bouquet or a basket of flower petals to be scattered on the aisle runner ahead of the bride. Much will depend on the age of the child, her size and the rules and practicalities that might apply to the situation or venue. You might decide to have the child pulled in a wagon full of flowers or petals. If you decide to assign this role to a little boy instead, he can carry and scatter flowers as well or you might have him carry a hoop of seasonal flowers. Or a little girl and boy can walk together, holding hands or carrying a hoop of flowers between them.
Traditionally, mothers of the bride and groom have worn corsages to signify their special status at a wedding. That designation now applies also to grandmothers and godmothers of the bride and groom and any other very special women to be honored. You should also ask your officiant if she would like one.
The word, “corsage,” means “bodice” in French. As the first corsages were worn on the bodice of a woman’s outfit, the French call them “bouquet de corsage.” In English we simply refer to the flowers that are pinned to the shoulder or waist of a woman’s suit or dress, wrist or evening bag as a corsage. Years ago, corsages were quite large, but today they are relatively small. When pinning corsages, think left — the corsage is pinned on the left shoulder or left side of the waist, or worn on the left wrist. A corsage may also be pinned to one’s evening bag, or flowers may be worn in the hair. Corsages should complement the bridal party’s flowers as well as the outfits of the wearers. But that is all part of the coordination effort between the bride and the mothers of the bride and groom.
On the day of the wedding, keep anxieties low by designating someone to pin the corsages on the moms and other women to be honored. Don’t leave the pinning of the corsages to the honorees themselves (unless they insist, but most people are happy to have this done for them). Having one or two people who know how to pin on corsages correctly — such as your wedding planner, the florist, a member of the wedding party or a trusted family member or friend — will ensure calm and tranquility surrounding this task and ensure that everyone who is wearing a corsage looks and feels great. Here is a video with a simple technique for pinning the corsage on the shoulder, but it does take practice.
Boutonnieres are certainly de rigueur for male members of the wedding party, including the groom, groomsmen and ushers; flower boy or ring bearer; fathers, grandfathers and godfathers of the bride and groom; and any other special men to be honored. You should also offer your officiant a boutonniere. A nice touch is to have the groom’s boutonniere be a bit larger and more special, and the fathers of the bride and groom have boutonnieres that coordinate but are a bit different from the others.
The boutonniere (French for “buttonhole”) is affixed to the man’s left lapel. Often there is a buttonhole on the left lapel of a man’s jacket, its express purpose being to hold a boutonniere. Thus, purists will insist that the only way to attach a boutonniere is through the buttonhole, and if there isn’t one or if it’s sewn closed (like pockets sometimes are on a new jacket), it is suggested that you take the jacket to a tailor to have a button hold sewn in or a closed one opened. Here are the classic instructions on inserting a boutonniere through the button hole.
Today, however, there are many creative boutonnieres for weddings that go beyond the single flower and narrow stem that easily slips into the buttonhole, and the method of attaching them is a bit different, as they would not look right or even in most cases fit through the buttonhole. Here are two instruction videos showing the methods of pinning with one pin and with two pins.
On the wedding day, just as with the corsages, arrange in advance for designees to be available and prepared to pin on boutonnieres so this is not something you, as the bride or groom, need to worry about. And don’t leave the men to their own devices to pin on their boutonnieres! The wedding planner, florist or one or more members of the wedding party who know how to do this properly should be assigned this task so that this particular challenge goes smoothly and correctly, all the boutonnieres are attached uniformly and everyone is relaxed and looks great!
Be Lean and Green
Here are some creative budget-friendly as well as environmentally conscientious steps wedding couples can take:
- Skip the Toss – Many brides are opting to skip the bouquet toss. While it’s a traditional gesture that is fun and also marks the end of the reception, brides might wish to keep their bouquets and not spend the money for a second bouquet to toss. I will say, though, that after I caught the bouquet at a friend’s wedding, I received a proposal the same evening. Just sayin’.
- Find Alternatives to Flowers – Use DIY centerpieces using candles or bowls of DIY seasonal or theme items (seashells, candy or little cactus plants) or other inexpensive arrangements that can be reused or double as favors.
- Use Bridesmaids’ Bouquets as Table Decorations – A terrific idea from Emily Post’s Wedding Etiquette – 6th Edition, is to place the attendants’ bouquets at the bridal table at the top of their place settings. This allows these expensive bouquets to do double duty and set the bridal table apart (especially if there are no flowers at other tables) and be admired for a longer period.
- Don’t Bother Preserving Your Entire Bouquet – Here’s another idea from the Emily Post book: Rather than spending money to have your bouquet preserved, which usually means purchasing a second bouquet that will be in perfect condition for the process, simply enjoy it while it’s fresh and preserve it in photos. The second part of the suggestion, which I really love, is for the groom to present his bride on their first anniversary with a bouquet that contains the same flowers that were in her bridal bouquet!
- Recycle Your Flowers – Send them home with guests or staff, or arrange to have them donated to the church or other charity following your reception. You can have them picked up by the church or charity or ask one or more of your attendants to deliver them.
What other clever ideas can you think of?
Until next time,