The AOW A-Z of Getting Married – F is for Flowers (Making Your Own)

 

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F is for Flowers (Making Your Own) by Emily 

I* love flowers: snowdrops and early crocuses transforming the depths of winter to the first days of spring, daffs on my desk, bluebells in the woods, a bud vase with something from the garden on the dressing table, bunches of heady stocks when someone comes for supper, pansies in the window box lasting for months and months, cyclamen and hyacinths at Christmas.

The first four pictures in the main body of this post were taken by the glorious Lucy Stendall

The picture I had in my head for our reception was the scene at the end of the BBC Bleak House when Esther and Dr Woodcourt finally marry and everyone dances on the lawn, all English country abundance and joy; we wanted the wedding to feel like that, like a flower filled family party.  I decided quite early on that I really wanted to do at least some of the flowers myself, because I was starting to have quite a clear idea of what I wanted and I wasn’t sure I could translate that into words for a florist, because I wanted to do something practical to make the reception lovely, and because then we could have more flowers without breaking the bank!

Enlist (preferably expert!) help

Before the wedding, my flower arranging experience stretched to plonking  a bunch in a vase.  But J, my Godmother, has a good eye and can translate that into reality, which I often can’t, so I asked her to come a few days early and help me.  This took a lot of the pressure off: as long as we had flowers, arrangements would be produced.  We then spent the morning of the day before the wedding arranging and it was the loveliest time.  My mother came out to help too, and we worked and chatted and laughed and our fingers and feet went numb with cold.  We split the work so J did the big arrangements for the rooms and Mum and I did the table flowers, which were quite small and so much easier.  And at the end of it all, we had ranks of beautiful flowers which I spent the rest of the day showing off to anyone and everyone within reach.

What do we put them in?

I chose the vases first, and then thought about which flowers would suit them.  I wanted the tables in the evening to feel like an old fashioned dinner party: all silver and glass and candle light.  So I had a look on eBay and bought a few silver plate rose bowls of varying sizes, some modern and not very beautiful, some old and a bit bashed about, but when they were full of flowers they looked exactly as I hoped.  Some of them came with the wire cage type top but I seemed to need a huge number of flowers to get it to look as I wanted so I took this off and instead used pieces of oasis from a local florist which I had soaked overnight.

We also borrowed 18 conical flask shaped glass vases and the plan was to put one of these either side of each rose bowl on our long tables.  My parents had some biggish glass vases knocking around that were perfect for the larger arrangements for the house.

What flowers?

I decided on seasonal spring flowers in blue, yellow and cream.  I spent a bit of time digging around to check what should be in season in April (apart from anything else, out of season flowers can be hideously expensive: I was hoping to have lily of the valley in my bouquet but we were just too early for it this year and it would have been fairly ruinous) and more importantly, what things I liked the look of were actually called.

I wanted to use something blue and bulky like hydrangea in the rose bowls to fill space, but again it wasn’t the right time of year.  I settled on a bluey purple and cream mix for the rose bowls with blue hyacinths, lilac freesias, cream ranunculus, and cream roses, and gyp and lots of greenery to soften them.  Oddly enough, the place we went to for my not-hen-do had tulips and gypsophila in conical flask vases on the table, so we pinched that idea and put 3 yellow tulips and a spring of gyp in each glass vase: pretty and economical.

To keep it simple we used a lot of the same flowers for the larger arrangements plus some delphiniums and carnations for a different texture.

Buying the flowers

I had intended to buy the flowers a couple of days before the wedding at the nearest flower market, but I was worried that they wouldn’t have what I wanted and I knew that I didn’t have the expertise for a last minute change of plan, so I decided to order them in advance.  A wedding forum recommended a wholesale website and some of the choices were made for me: they didn’t have any hydrangeas and the roses were quite pricey so I ordered mostly ranunculus instead.  I ended up supplementing what I bought with some lastminute roses and carnations from M&S because when I actually saw the flowers I hadn’t got the balance of colours and textures quite right.  I was a bit nervous of using supermarket flowers in case they had been sitting around for too long, but they lasted well.

How many?

Numbers wise, I just worked out approximately what flowers I planned to put in each vase and added a few on just in case.  Odd numbers tend to look better than even, so I went for 3 hyacinths and 5 ranunculus in the rose bowls and 3 tulips in the glass vases, for example.  Gypsophila is brilliant: it fills, it softens, it prettifies.  Also, don’t forget greenery: I bought a little and then raided my parents‘ garden for the rest.  Arrangements need it, again to soften the flowers, and obviously as filler.  Our pew ends were mostly greenery with just a few brilliant yellow roses, and were really effective.

What do I do with them when they arrive?

It turned out that the flowers actually came from Holland (via commercial courier!) on a specified day.  I went for the Wednesday before our Saturday wedding but Thursday would probably have been better, especially since they arrived pretty much first thing.  The flowers came in polystyrene boxes with ice packs; I took them out, stripped off the leaves and stuck them in buckets in the garage with any flower food that came with them.  It was freezing in April so I suspect you would need to buy them closer to the actual day in the summer.  I worried a lot that they would be looking past it by Saturday but they lasted brilliantly and the arrangements were still going strong two weeks later!

Know your limits

I should come clean here: we only did the reception flowers ourselves.  The Church flowers were done beautifully by a lady from the village who always does them.  We were married on the Saturday after Easter so she very kindly did the Easter flowers in the colours we wanted to use, and then supplemented the existing arrangements with extra flowers and lots of new bright pew ends for our wedding.  It was not expensive (we paid cost price for the additional flowers and a very nominal sum for the arranging) and the arrangements were beautiful and numerous.  She even did an extra bowl for my Grandparents‘ grave.  I also wanted a traditional shower bouquet which I knew was far beyond my skill, so we used the local florist in the village for the buttonholes and bouquets.

* This post seems full of “I”‘s; Keith was pretty uninterested in the floral side of things so I’m afraid it was all me!

Emily’s DIY floral pictures (taken by her father):

Mad chaos in the barn after the flowers arrived

J in action

Arranging in action

Finished table flowers

One of the arrangements for the house

Categories: A-Z of Getting Married, Wedding Planning
13 interesting thoughts on this

13 Comments

  1. Katie
    Posted September 26, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    Oh, I could have done with this, when we did our flowers. Emily, the arrangements are beautiful. I’m so impressed.

    My mum rolled her eyes at me, when I said about doing our own flowers, but I’m glad we did, as it’s something we really enjoyed.

    We had a marquee wedding, and due to the height and size of marquee, I wanted high and colourful arrangements. I was not brave enough to do anything complicated. We decided to go with lilies, as they’d make maximum impact for minimal effort. We ordered the lilies through a wholesaler, and bought the vases secondhand on ebay.

    We also did the church flowers. We did it ourselves for selfish reasons, as we wanted to move all the flowers from church to parents after, to decorate the garden and marquee afterwards. We had a family member, take them out, through a side door, and set them all up again at the farm, before guests arrived. It was only a month before wedding, that we were asked if we’d like of the ladies at the church to do the flowers for us. We’d already made plans to do them ourselves at this point, bought the pew clips and borrowed the pedestal stand.

    Foliage is surprisingly expensive, so we took all the foliage from my mother in law’s and auntie’s garden.

    We got the bouquets professionally done. You can see a few pics of the flowers here:

    http://anyotherwoman.com/2011/09/katie-and-andy-wedding/

    I would suggest if doing your own flowers, you need to be very organised and have done all your reseach, or very laid back about overall look. We were the latter, so it worked for us.

    xx

    • Emily
      Posted September 26, 2012 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

      Thanks Katie. The top (professional) pictures are not of our wedding – very sadly we didn’t get any professional pics of the ones we did, hence the scrappier pics at the bottom!

      • Katie
        Posted September 27, 2012 at 10:41 am | Permalink

        Oh but Emily, when I mentioned the beaut flowers, I meant the bottoms pics. They’re really pretty. xx

  2. Carly
    Posted September 26, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    I love this post Emily. It looks like you did a great job!

    We are also getting married in April so I have noted down some of the names of flowers you mention and I’m going to google them to look at for our flowers. I love roses and will have them in my bouquet, but we can’t afford roses on all of the tables so I’m looking for cheaper alternatives. I think Spring flowers are lovely though, so i’m looking forward to seeing what we can do.

    X

  3. Hannah J
    Posted September 26, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    Great post… i really want to do some of my own flowers but i’m a bit scared! Can I ask what wholesaler you used? My wedding is in September (a year on Friday.. eek!) and i’m going to have to rethink the spring flower arrangements I’d always imagined (i really wanted yellow tulips) and looking at what’s available this time of year seems like a good place to start. Thanks very much

  4. Lexie
    Posted September 26, 2012 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    Great post and I totally agree that if you’re going to go DIY then it really helps to be fairly laid back about how they turn out, that is less formal arrangements = less pressure.
    We pretty much did what you did Emily and I have to say that doing the flowers was one of my favourite things! My bridesmaids and I did our bouquets on the morning of the wedding and I did the buttonholes too, so much fun and I have never arranged flowers in my life before so it’s definitely possible to DIY!

  5. Becca
    Posted September 26, 2012 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    What wholesalers did everyone use?

    I was here yesterday http://www.misspickering.blogspot.com for a class (and because I fancied a day off work) and it was fabulous. I wore my head creation home on t’tube. The rule is do 5 full ones rather than 50 with one bud in. I also learnt that its not about skills, its about artistic ability to put things together. Which is a shame because I have none. I’m the one hiding my face with my hands in the dark picture at the bottom.

    I’m doing some of my own flowers (i.e. one or two small things). Everything else I’m leaving to the professionals and drinking champagne.

    • Posted September 26, 2012 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

      I AM SOOOOOOOOOOOOO JEALOUS OF YOU!
      I have read Miss P’s blog every post for about four years and would LOVE to do one of her courses

      Was it amazing??

  6. Claire
    Posted September 26, 2012 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

    I had a pretty horrendous florist experience…on being told that I didn’t mind if my red rose bouquet was small (she wanted me to spend twice the amount I had budgeted for) I was told “But you’re not a small girl!”….I was so surprised I still ordered the bouquet from her, much to my husband’s astonishment.

    I did all the table flowers myself with the help of my sister and two bridesmaids – we went the easy route – I had everyone saving big coffee jars for months before the wedding. We ordered 400 red carnations. We painted the cofee jars white, put some red polka dot ribbon around the top to hide the screw top marks, crammed the carnations in for big blousey colour block effect and bob was your table flowers for under £250 quid. I was proud of myself actually.

  7. Flick
    Posted September 26, 2012 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

    This is fab – I wish I’d done this for my wedding. My flowers were lovely but they weren’t quite what I wanted – I just found it so hard to explain to the florist the image I had in my mind especially not knowing the names of anything and asking for “big, blowsy, floaty type flowers”!

    Also, this post should come with spoilers. I’m half way through Bleak House and now I know what happens….. :-)

  8. Posted September 27, 2012 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    I love this post, and the description of the process from a brides’ point of view
    All too often the magazines and blogs portray an image of a bride going to some sort of market and dreamily picking things on the morning of her wedding.

    The reality is you need time, space, lots of buckets, and to be prepared for the fact you can’t buy a rose with pennies.

    Emily, your flowers were beautiful.

  9. Lara Blue
    Posted September 27, 2012 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

    I know I am late to the party here but I thought I’d add some of my recent DIY wedding flower experience to the already excellent advice above for the benefit of any future readers.
    This website is supposed to be good http://www.trianglenursery.co.uk/ although I can’t actually speak from personal experience as my flowers ended up being sourced from a flower market. This was the one in Glasgow as the one in Edinburgh was only for florists (something to check if you are DIYing). Everything was ordered via email with the Glasgow market and then picked up the day before the wedding. Thankfully my father and his girlfriend drove to pick them up (leaving at 5am!) before returning to my flat in Edinburgh for us (my sister replacing my father here and later my sisters-in-law helping too) to arrange them all. Don’t underestimate how long this will take- even with the aforementioned helpers and very experienced hands directing proceedings (my dad’s girlfriend), it took hours.
    The comments/questions on this post http://www.rockmywedding.co.uk/ask-the-experts-paula-pryke-florist-extraordinaire/ might be helpful for seeing which flowers are available in which months in the UK as most of the websites I found with this info were American ones (although I am aware that this does not necessarily mean that they are inaccurate).
    Not all of the flowers were DIY- my bouquet, the buttonholes and a wrist corsage for my niece were made to order from fabric flowers. If you want a peek, they have a special post over on the lovely Becky’s business blog, along with my beautiful hair combs:
    http://beautifulbirdcreations.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/something-blue.html
    I found that it took some of the pressure off knowing that I had these already made and one of the joys of a fabric bouquet is that it can be made far in advance and will be as stunning when you return from honeymoon as it was on the day of your wedding. I had grand plans of making the bridesmaid bouquets from fabric myself or paper flowers or using feather butterflies etc. but ran out of time. In the end, we got small white cages (with blue ribbon as a handle) and stuck a block of Oasis (green squishy water-filled Florist foam for the uninitiated) covered in blue hydrangea in the middle and then used feather butterflies on wire twined around the cage for extra decoration.
    So, my top tips are:
    * Do your research- flower types available, quantities needed, purchase details (remember to check that all quotes include VAT), transport (from the purchase location, to where they will be arranged, to the venue [how and when], what they will be carried in etc.), tools/equipment (Oasis, ribbon, wire, scissors, bins, vases/containers), and obviously the practical details of how to make the bouquet or arrange the flowers etc.
    * Ask for help- is there someone who will help with the actual arranging, provide transport, provide location for arranging, provide flowers (some people even grow their own or have family members do this), tidy up after or make food/tea etc. whilst the arranging is going on or even just keep you company? What is the venue’s involvement with set up- does this include flowers?
    *Think about after- I gave my arrangements away to very grateful guests in a somewhat last minute gesture towards the end of the evening but consider what you want to happen with them in advance
    *Remember that even if [insert some seemingly disastrous flower-related incident here] happens, you will still be marrying the person that you love and that’s the most important thing <3

  10. Posted September 28, 2012 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    Can someone point me to the wholesalers mentioned please?

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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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image by Lucy Stendall Photography

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