Flowers can be one of the biggest expenses for weddings, and it’s easy to think you can simply throw some stems together and call it a bouquet.
Florists train for years, know their blooms inside out, and have lots of experience. They’ll be at the flower market while you’re still fast asleep, they’ll go to lengths to find the perfect hue to match your palette, and perhaps most importantly, they’ll know how to deal with a flower related emergency, without breaking a sweat.
That said, if you’re creative, willing, and don’t mind getting up extra early on the morning of your wedding, maybe DIY really is for you.
Be realistic about your time and skills and the availability of willing and confident helpers. It often takes a full team of florists starting at the crack of dawn to deck out a large wedding so if you’re doing it yourself you need to be realistic, and ideally not too stressed. It’s a great idea to practice with cheap flowers well ahead of the big day, and time how long it takes to make certain pieces. Remember, you’ll need transport and a cool, shady place for storage. If you’re making bouquets, plunge stems into water the night before, leaving plenty to snip off and add the ribbon and trim on the morning of the wedding.
Arrange for Help
Unless you’re only doing simple bouquets, you’re going to need several sets of hands to put the flowers together. Set up a time (probably the day before the wedding) to do the arranging. Remember to have pictures on hand of what the final product is supposed to look like and set up a sample or two to copy. Once all the flowers are done, you may want to do a little quality control to make sure they look the way they’re supposed to. (Granny’s idea of hip centerpieces may be slightly different from yours.)
Share your style
If you’re decorating both your ceremony and reception, why not ask a friend to transport floral decorations between the two venues? This saves money and also helps to create a coherent theme. If you’re planning a religious wedding, it’s worth finding out whether there will be flowers already in situ in the church, temple or synagogue and using these as a basis for your own scheme; Christmas, Harvest and Easter are typically celebrated with floral displays.
Colour it beautiful
Don’t stick with just one colour, it will look dull on the photographs. If your theme is pink, for instance, try out combinations of deeper and lighter shades together. A colour wheel, easily found online, is helpful with this. Or create a contrast. Your colour wheel will help you find ‘opposites’ of your main colour choice to provide pleasing accents. Think about how everything will look as a whole, because a bit of colour clash or a complimentary colour can look brilliant and give everything a natural, modern look. In one of our weddings the colour scheme was burgundy and gold, so we used bright oranges and pinks in the flowers plus loads of green to finish off the look. If the flowers had been burgundy too it would have been a lot less striking.
Pick a pot, a vase or a pretty bottle
Jam jars make lovely table centrepieces and it’s always good to recycle, but dare we say they have become something of a wedding cliché. Davies and Lewis-Keane suggest using craft gin bottles instead, which look especially effective arranged in a line down a long table. Another nice idea is to collect together vases and china of a similar design or colour from charity shops and boot fairs; go vintage, embrace 1920s glamour or opt for contemporary cool with opaque 1970s-style glass bottles set off with a simple single stem. You might also find family treasures to use, such as granny’s favourite jug or a special engagement present.
Think out of the vase
Here’s a thought: Why bother with table flowers at all? ‘Some venues are already very beautiful and don’t need messing with,’ say Davies and Lewis-Keane. ‘If you’re having a small wedding (or a big one and you’re feeling ambitious) make your guests the decoration instead by giving every one of them a buttonhole to wear. This can look really special.’
And think about how you can bring nature into the ceremony and reception in other easy wow factor ways; a bay tree in a pot at the end of every pew – which can be given as thank-you gifts later, a sprig of foliage such as lavender on each place setting, a plant or succulent as a wedding favour, or ivy woven intricately around a bannister.
Arrange for Transportation
Unless you’re one of those lucky people with nearly unlimited access to your venue (maybe it’s your house?), chances are good that you’re going to have to prep your flowers in a different location and transport them to the venue. Transporting centerpieces takes space (you can’t stack them) and careful packing. One option is to use opaque vases and create your centerpieces in floral foam, so they’ll stay in one piece even if they fall over. Another option is to empty the water from the vases, and pack things together compactly so nothing gets knocked around too badly. Regardless, plan in advance for a friend or loved one with truck or van space to transport the flowers.
Dos and Don’ts of DIY Wedding Flowers
Do think about your theme
Give yourself plenty of time to think about your flowers and decide what you want. Have a theme. This could be seasonal, colour-led or a style such as vintage or country garden. Maybe take an evening class in flower arranging, which will also show you how to keep flowers looking their best.
Getting in the room with pretty flowers doesn’t mean that inspiration will suddenly strike or that you’ll have any clue how to construct a centerpiece or a bouquet. This is the time to scour the Internet for inspiration pictures of projects you think you could actually create, and ideally you should find tutorials for them (we’ve got a bunch right here). Also, spend some serious time with tutorials on how to put together a bouquet. Then get some flowers from the grocery store and practice.
Don’t leave it until the last minute
Don’t forget to give yourself plenty of time to source your flowers. If your dad has a beautiful garden of roses, and he’s happy for you to pick them, then, by all means, use them. However, you’ll also need to source some blooms from a flower market. Make sure you visit a few times so you can make friends with the stall holders and find what they’re going to have when. Don’t be afraid to ask about what they’d recommend for the time of year, after all they’re experts that you can also rely on.
Do opt for rustic charm
Country-style wedding lends itself best to a handmade wedding with DIY flowers. You can have simple jam jars crammed with wildflowers, cornflowers and roses as centrepieces on your reception tables. These will look charming and rustic and moreover, they will look handmade, which is a nice touch.
Do watch flower arranging tutorials
Don’t decide you’re going to create elaborate formal flower arrangements if you have little to no experience. Use the time in the lead up to your wedding to practice, watch flower arranging tutorials and understand what flowers go aesthetically but also what smell good together.
Do decorate the pew ends
If you’re getting married in a church, decorate the ends of the pews with a hand-tied garland of blossoms or even just different coloured greenery. If you’re planning a winter wedding, holly and trailing ivy will be very festive too.
Don’t feel the need to have a bouquet
There’s nothing to say your flower girls have to hold a bouquet of flowers or even real flowers. You could give them a simple basket filled with rose petals or even artificial wedding flowers, which they can scatter as they walk down the aisle behind you. However, if you’re feeling a little more adventurous, you could make flower pomanders for them to carry, just make sure you practise first.
Don’t Refrigerate Your Flowers
I know, what? But as it turns out, the humidity and temperature of a normal refrigerator is different from that of a floral fridge, and it will dry out your flowers and kill them. Store your flowers in a cool and shady place, and you’ll be fine.
Do keep practising
Finally, don’t forget to practise, practise and practise. When it comes to DIY wedding flowers, practice is precious. Time yourself on how long it takes to make a table centrepiece and decorations for the ceremony or venue. Enlist the help of your favourite girls if they’re reasonably artistic! Just don’t leave everything until the last week and then panic because you’ve run out of time. A stressed bride is not a happy one!
Does it have to be fresh?
Dried flowers and grasses are really on-trend at the moment, which is great for saving money as you can dry blooms out at home and collect them over time, helping to spread the cost, says wedding planner Fern Godfrey at Fern Godfrey Weddings. ‘Also this allows you to go round and pick up those roses marked down and left in the florists’ bucket at the end of the day.’
Grasses, ferns and ivy can also be foraged from fields and woods, just make sure you give them a gentle wash and allow them to dry somewhere cool and dark to ensure there are no insects in them. You can also hunt for foliage and branches to make wreaths and table arrangements; twisting branches together to use as a runner down the centre of tables will create a striking look for minimum spend. You could weave in fairy lights, or faux butterflies.
Flowers with a large head, such as hydrangeas, dahlias and peonies are great for amateur arrangers as they make an immediate strong impact requiring little embellishment. Or what about a bunch of lavender, twisted into a hand-tied bunch, secured with florists’ tape and finished with ribbon? It makes a beautifully simple bouquet for a flower girl.
What’s even better is that all these are blooms often found growing in British gardens, so are quite easy to source. Imagine how lovely it would be to include stems from your parents’ or grandparents’ own garden in your wedding bouquet. If you’re green-fingered (and organised) you can even plant your own wedding flowers; sunflowers and gypsophila are relatively easy to raise from seed.
DIY Floral Prep Tips
Whether you’re ordering wholesale flowers online for your wedding day or picking them up from a local flower market, you’ll need to know how to properly prep your stems for arranging. Don’t miss these 3 essential tips to help keep your flowers fresher for longer.
Cut stems at a 45º angle.
Trimming the stem allows the water to properly absorb into your flower, providing it with the moisture it needs to stay fresh. Cut them at a 45-degree angle approximately one inch from the bottom, trimming every 2-3 days.
Change the water regularly.
You’ll want to fill clean containers or vases with at least 4 inches of fresh, cool water to store your flowers, and change the water out regularly. A good rule of thumb is to clean out your vessels and fill them with fresh water every 1-2 days.
Clean and strip your stems.
Remove any leaves, thorns, or foliage that would touch or fall below the waterline in your vase. This helps decrease the growth of bacteria in your flowers and allows them to stay fresher, longer.
DIY Floral Styling Tips
Now that you’ve prepped your flowers, you’ll need to arrange them into centerpieces, bouquets, and more. Check out these easy styling tips to create your own arrangements!
Create structure using tape
For centerpieces, use clear tape to create a grid on the top of your vase or vessel. Strategically place flowers within the grid at even intervals and fill with greenery or other fillers as needed.
Find a balance
Use the rule of threes when adding greenery and different types of florals to a single-variety bouquet. Evenly space different blooms within the arrangement to create a balanced look.
Cut stems for easy arrangement
Measure your stems by placing your vase on a level surface (i.e. countertop, table, etc.) and bringing your flowers to the appropriate height next to the vase. Cut stems approximately 1” shorter than the vase to create an effortless arrangement.
When making your own wedding flowers, you need to firstly consider the time of year that you’re getting married.
Look around you and think about wedding flowers by season and whether the flowers you want are going to be in bloom. Not only will you be able to source cheap wedding flowers more easily, you’ll also be keeping your green credentials if you don’t require exotic blooms to be shipped in from overseas out of season. Remember, if you’re getting married around Mother’s Day or Valentine’s Day then you’ll pay a premium for your flowers.
So if you’re getting married in the spring, it’s going to be flowers like narcissi, hyacinths and tulips. In the autumn, you’re going to be opting for colourful brights like dahlias, hydrangeas and maybe branches of fruits and berries to decorate your venue too. If you’re still unsure, check our or wedding flowers by season guide for more information.