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Symbols of Love: Months of planning and thousands of dollars go into this one day, but there are only a few pieces that live on after that. The photos and videos, obviously, but also the ultimate symbol of a wedding ceremony: the rings.

Flower Power: Just as a stunning piece of jewelry can really set off a wedding gown, beautiful blooms are like accessories for your big-day décor. But we’re not just talking decoration here – with countless colors, textures and options for arranging, your florals also are an easy way to create the vibe for your event.

Petal Planning

If you’re a fan of flowers, booking the shop or event designer who will create your arrangements may be at the top of your to-do timeline. “But don’t hire the florist until after you’ve selected your venue and date, and secured your main vendors – band, catering, and photographer,” says Karen Bussen, author of the “Simple Stunning Wedding Organizer” (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2011), which has a section on what to ask prospective florists and how to calculate costs. “Then you’ll have a better sense of what your décor budget is and what kind of ambience you want to create.” Six or seven months out should be a safe bet.
Before meeting with vendors, peruse magazines, books and websites for ideas. Rachel Bowes, owner of Seattle-based Finch & Thistle Event Design, says that blogs are her primary source of wedding inspiration because there are so many, and they update daily. “But I also like the British Wedding Flowers magazine, which is available at craft stores in the U.S.”
As for the average bill, you can expect to pay out about 8 to 10 percent of your total budget for blooms. However, the actual number varies widely, depending on factors like your desired aesthetic (e.g. lush and glamorous versus minimalist and chic versus simple and rustic), the type of flowers (think seasonal and locally grown blooms to save money) and the size of the event. In addition to reception centerpieces, for a traditional wedding you’ll likely want bouquets for the bride and bridesmaids, boutonnieres for groom, groomsmen, ushers and dads, corsages or small posies for MOBs and MOGs, and possibly petals and head wreaths for flower girls. But you can use flowers anywhere, from chair-back garlands, altar and the cake, to windows and restrooms.
Once an idea of the approach, color palette and price range is formed, Bussen recommends meeting with a few vendors who seem like a good fit before making a decision.

Flower Forward

While the over-the-top, romantic look still resonates with plenty of couples, more modern pairs are preferring a simple, clean and less formal aesthetic that’s still striking. For example, instead of one large, elaborate centerpiece, Bowes suggests using lots of small-bud vases and bottles of varying heights and shapes. “That way your florist can showcase a few amazing blooms, such as peonies, garden roses and orchids, to their full potential, and use less expensive flowers and foliage as accents in the majority of the vases.” As an alternative, Bussen loves submerging exotic flowers. “One stem of bird of paradise or heliconia makes a great table accent when turned upside down in a glass vase,” she says. 
For eco-friendly couples, Bowes recommends using a small potted tree (citrus, olive, cypress) in a lovely pot as a unique centerpiece, while Bussen is a fan of live phaelenopsis or dendrobium orchids interspersed with a few votive candles.


Alternative Arrangements

Real flowers are glorious, of course, but if you’re crafty, there are numerous ways to personalize your floral design. For example, Bussen suggests making all your bouquets out of ribbon remnants, coiling the pieces into rosette-style shapes and wiring them together. Or you could fashion the bride’s bouquet and groom’s bout out of vintage brooches or buttons. Paper blooms provide a rustic look, while fluffy ostrich feathers feel elegant. “Just make sure your bouquet suits your dress and the overall spirit of your celebration,” Bussen says. As for alternative centerpieces, Bussen recommends collections of different candles (pillar, votive, even floating), stacks of favorite books, vintage picture frames, or mixing and matching these elements. Want a more natural vibe? Bowes likes piles of gourds and pumpkins in the fall or seasonal fruit in clear vases for a modern look year-round.

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