Peonies and ranunculus by Adaptation Floral Design, Atlanta. Photography: Our Labor of Love

Flowers & Decor

Envisioning walls of climbing ivy accented by deep red camellias? Or pomander balls of snow-white Eskimo roses dangling from sparkling Venetian chandeliers? Perhaps you dream of marrying by candlelight, and no less than 1,000 tea lights will do the trick for your poetic nuptials. Is your bouquet bursting with the drama of hot pink peonies or is your boutonniere a nature lover’s dream with simple greenery? Whatever you’re envisioning for your wedding day, the flowers and décor tell your love story to your guests.

And whether your budget can net you a Cinderella-esque horse-drawn carriage decorated from neighing nose to wheel in fairytale blooms or only the centerpieces, decorative touches and personal flowers, we’ve got the ultimate guide (and some unique inspirations) to help you make your decisions.

Getting Started

Many wedding vendors wear multiple hats—especially in the area of flowers and décor. A florist typically has a retail shop and provides bouquets, boutonnieres, centerpieces and altar arrangements. While a floral designer may not have retail space, he or she should have a studio space in which to design and build larger items, such as custom floral arbors, chuppahs and a high volume of centerpieces. Typically, the designer will have multiple props, such as vases, candles, trellises, baskets and urns. Taking it a step further, event designers aid in conceptualizing an entire vision, and bring it all together with flowers, lighting and props. These professionals are the ones you want to call when you’re looking to entirely transform a space. If you’re working with a wedding planner, she or he will work closely with these vendors or take on some of the tasks. The titles are often open-ended.

If you decide to go with a florist, you may need to rent much of your own décor—either through your caterer or through a rental company, which may be where you get your basics (tables, chairs, linens) to the bigger items (dance floor, tent, lighting, gazebo), depending on your venue. Such a rental company will set up these items for you, but you’ll want to have someone—such as a day-of wedding coordinator—to oversee that everything comes together as you envisioned.

Prep Work

As your mind is dancing with the possibilities of a cabaret-themed ballroom, you’ll need to step back and think about what will work in the space you’ve selected. Are there any restrictions as to what can be hung, attached, put in the ground or erected on the front lawn? Imagine the flow of how your guests will be walking from room to room. What personal touches do you want them to see? If you want to rent lounge-type sofas and situate them next to the bar for your rock-star guests, take measurements of the furniture and the space so you can avoid that last-minute surprise. Consider what areas of the space you want to highlight, such as original artwork, or features you consider unsightly (a support beam in the middle of the room). If your ceremony and/or reception are outdoors, find out which flowers and plants are planted nearby and when it’s in season. If the backdrop of your “I do’s” is dotted with a full-on rose garden, you’ll want to select flowers that complement it, not compete with it.

While you plan your wedding, see the big picture in your head. Visually walk from room to room, and make sure everything has a consistent look and feel. Keeping it all together will help your fantastic wedding flow naturally.

In Bloom

Selecting Your Flowers

From romantic and delicate peonies to friendly and bright daffodils, your wedding flowers are a further expression of who you are as a couple. Your flowers should reflect your color palette, which is most often two main colors, and occasionally accented by a third. There’s no right combination. Some couples pick a neutral and a soft accent color, while others opt for stronger, more dynamic hues. While still other brides and grooms select a soft shade and a vibrant shade.

Bouquets and Boutonnières

For gay and lesbian men and women, deciding whether to carry a bouquet or don a boutonniere can induce a little stress for some. A masculine lesbian who’s wearing a suit to her wedding might feel silly carrying a nosegay of violets—or perhaps not. And a gay man might have been dreaming of an abundant cascading bouquet, not a perfunctory bout. But not all lesbians are masculine, nor are all gay men ultra feminine. The bottom line? Your personal wedding flowers should complement who you are in your everyday life.