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Weddings 101- How to be a "Florist for a Day"

I wondered if I could be a "wedding florist" for a day. I tried, I survived, and you can too. It was hectic, but also one of my favorite memories of this year!

Some of you might remember   My daughter’s friend, Megan, was getting married and had the misfortune to have two separate florists drop her a few months before the wedding. 

Megan was panicky, given the fact that the wedding was rapidly approaching and that she didn’t have an unlimited floral budget for the big day.  I took pity upon her and offered to make a sample bouquet. 

Thanks to YouTube, I learned that it was easy and inexpensive. After our super successful trial run, I told Megan that I would be the official florist for her wedding. 

Megan and my daughter, Kiki, go way, way back- all the way back to kindergarten!  The girls lost touch when they attended middle school, but reconnected a few years ago.  I was thrilled to be a part of Megan’s big day, and wanted to make everything perfect for her. 

We made a few trips to the florist picking out exactly what flowers Megan wanted.  The bridesmaids’ dresses were royal blue satin and the flowers she chose were yellow and white.  Big, showy pom-pom Mums are really popular for brides, Calla lilies and roses are still in style, and Ranunculus and succulents are the epitome of the contemporary bride.  I used all of them, in varying tones of yellow and white.   

I’m being honest when I tell you that my commitment wasn’t time consuming until 48 hours before the wedding. In that 48 hour period I bought all the flowers, made one bridal bouquet, 6 bridesmaids’ bouquets, 3 large flower arrangements, delivered and set them up in the venue, went home to shower and change and got back in time for the wedding. 

If you suspect I didn’t get more than 5 hours sleep Friday night, you’d be correct!

Even though it was chaotic, stressful and exhausting, I’d tell everyone out there to “Go for it!”  The temporary weariness you feel when the wedding ceremony begins is minor in comparison to the overwhelming feeling of pride that will envelop you when you get that million-dollar smile from the bride. 

Before Megan walked down the aisle she whispered, “It’s all perfect.  I couldn’t describe exactly what I wanted, but you made my bouquet exactly as I dreamt it would be.”   I was teary eyed and she hadn’t walked down the aisle yet.  If you want to be one of the most memorable parts of a bride’s special day, pull up a chair and read on: it’s really NOT rocket science!

Two days before the wedding is when the full-fledged frenzy began.  I picked up all the flowers from Baisch & Skinner, a wholesale florist on LaSalle Street.  There are many places to purchase flowers in bulk, from florists online (I hear they are very reasonable) to florists in the area. 

I knew exactly how many flowers I needed for the bouquets, boutonnieres and greenery for the table and I placed the order 2 weeks in advance.  Ask the florist you choose how far in advance you need to place your order. 

The remainder of the flowers I was willing to drive all over town in order to get a good deal.  Trader Joe’s, Sam’s, Costco and most grocery stores have flowers that are inexpensive. 

I will warn, though- you can’t be super picky.  I knew that I was going to buy every white, yellow and blue flower I could get my hands on. 

Megan really wanted yellow Ranunculus in her bouquet.  They’re very trendy, but a bundle of them at Baisch & Skinner was $9.95.  I lucked out and got a bundle of the yellow Ranunculus that Megan had her heart set on for $4.99. 

Calla lilies are always in fashion, but they’re $3.50 a stem at Baisch & Skinner.  I got 36 stunning white Calla lilies at Trader Joe’s for $7.99 a dozen! 

One of my favorite flowers for arrangements is the Hydrangea.  They make a huge floral statement, last a long time, but can be financially out of reach.  I didn’t order them at Baisch & Skinner because they’re $3.65 a stem.  Trader Joe’s had white and blue Hydrangeas, 3 stems for $5.99.  I bought the entire stock of Hydrangeas at two Trader Joe’s stores! 

I filled up 2 shopping carts full of flowers at each Trader Joe’s and went to Sam’s for greenery for the table.  Since Megan’s colors include yellow, I bought three dozen lemons (at Trader Joe’s-$2 a dozen!) to place inside a huge rose bowl, knowing that it would make a striking floral arrangement.

My first “Bridal tip” is this: if you don’t have an SUV, ask to borrow one from a friend for two days.  With all my seats down, my Toyota 4Runner was filled to the gills with flowers.  My second “Bridal tip” concerns buckets for the flowers.  You will need lots and lots of them.  If you don’t have a lot of your own, network to be sure you have about 7 or 8 of them.  I also used beverage coolers- they hold lots of flowers!

You’ll need a staging area.  I used my garage.  I placed the flowers for the bridal and bridesmaids’ bouquets all together in one cooler.  The rest of the flowers were grouped together, placed in other buckets.  Save all of those packets of flower preservative- you’ll use them all!

My third “Bridal tip” concerns boutonnieres for the groomsmen, Mother of the Bride and Mother of the Groom.  Few flowers rival the Orchid.  They’re exotic, sexy and expensive.  If you have many boutonnieres to make, buy a few stems of Cymbidium Orchids.  Each stem has 10 to 14 flowers on it.  Each stem costs $14.50. 

Megan’s Mom made 8 boutonnieres, a Mother of the bride corsage, a Mother of the groom corsage, and still had Orchids left over to decorate the cake!  For under $30, we impressed everyone with Orchids!  And, they were made a few days ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator!

The wedding was on a Saturday, so Friday night, after dinner, was reserved for bouquet making.  My husband, Jeff, was the official flower holder.  Each bridesmaid’s bouquet had 5 roses, 5 big, fluffy Mums, Calla lilies and greenery. 

Time for my fourth “Bridal tip.”  My friend George had a Cymbidium Orchid that failed to bloom for a few years.  He was going to pitch it.  I saved it from the trash and used the leaves for the bouquets.  I took each leaf, folded it back unto itself and wired it tight.  The green added great contrast to the bouquets. 

After I got the hang of the bouquets, I could whip one out every 10 minutes or so.  You’ll need lots of florists tape, I’m sure I went through 3 or 4 rolls.  The bouquets would ultimately be finished with a white satin ribbon wrap, studded with pearls.

Megan’s bouquet was studded with flashy and sassy rhinestones!  I placed all the bouquets in a cooler, in the garage, filled with about 6” of water to keep the flowers fresh and prevent wilting overnight. 

Don’t forget to add a few packages of the floral preservative in the water.  Wanting to keep the bouquets in water for the longest time possible, I waited to wrap the handles of the bouquets with satin ribbon first thing Saturday morning.

There’s a real floral trend for bridal bouquets now.  They’re Succulents.  Succulents are popping up in bouquets, in flower arrangements, in wreaths for decorating the venue.  I’ve even seen them used to create a ring-bearers pillow.   

My fifth “Bridal tip” is about Succulents.  You can buy them from florists for about $5.  That’s just for the rosette.  Missouri Botanical Garden, Baisch & Skinner and many florists have Succulents in pots for about $2 to $4.  Megan got to pick out the exact succulents she wanted, and it was a cinch to turn them into flowers. 

I pulled the plant out of the pots, snipped off the roots, placed a firm piece of florists wire through the center of the plant and wrapped it with florists tape.  It took 5 minutes to assemble 5 flowers.  After the wedding Megan’s Mom, Terry, planted them all in a container garden.  They’ll root in a month or so and Megan will have a “forever” memory of her bouquet!

My sixth “Bridal tip” concerns making large, full and lush bouquets for the venue.  I had 2 glass vases that were about 3 feet tall and an enormous Rose bowl in the basement.  If I didn’t have a large selection of vases, I would have asked my friends who entertain a lot to lend me some.  If you can save your bride some money by borrowing vases for the event, it’s sure worth a few phone calls. 

A wedding screams out for large and exotic flower arrangements.  No one is going to notice a bunch of tiny arrangements with small, insignificant flowers.  GO BIG!  I filled a huge glass rose bowl with 36 lemons before I even put a single flower in the vase.  Hydrangeas, Lilies, Peonies, Iris, spiky Eucalyptus and Delphinium will get noticed and be remembered long after the wedding.

My seventh “Bridal tip” is this: don’t waste a single flower, even if it gets knocked off its stem.  Use them for table decorations, to float in the vases or to scatter down the aisle the bride will walk.  I even saved leaves from the Hydrangeas.  I placed them inside the vases- they hide the stems of the flowers.  I also peeled the outer petals from the roses, saving them to place down the center of the aisle at the venue.

My eighth “Bridal tip” is about decorating the tables at the venue: you don’t have to spend a ton of money creating an elaborate centerpiece for each table.  Megan and her Mom found a bunch of tin lanterns at a great price.  They bought lots and lots of them and used them as the centerpiece of each table. They even bought some miniature lanterns for each guest to take home, a nice memory of the evening. 

At Baisch & Skinner we ordered some large glossy-green leaves and ferns for the tables.  The lantern was placed on top of them.  Any flowers that I had leftover from the bouquets adorned the guests’ table.  Additionally, I had fragrant blooms from my Wisteria, some late season Daffodils and lots of early Bearded Iris.  In 30 minutes, the tables were decorated.  And, yes, they were stunning!

My ninth “Bridal tip” is to enlist the help of a good, strong friend.  George was indispensible for helping pack the car with all the flowers and helping me arrange everything when we got to the venue.  I could have never done it alone- he might not admit it, but he had fun, too!

My tenth “Bridal tip” is Pinterest.  If you have never been on the website, you must.  You can get ideas for bouquets, flower selection, table settings, hairstyles and makeup for the big day and so much more.  It was invaluable: I “pinned” flower arrangements I liked and Megan could comment on them.  It was like virtual shopping!

Now that Megan and Michael are married, back from their honeymoon and settled into married life, I hope that they remember their big day as I do.  It was just perfect.  I got to see a toe-headed 5 year- old girl morph into a stunning, confident 28 year old bride.  

Closing my eyes I remember her riding her bike to our house without training wheels.  I remember her ringing the doorbell in ice skates when the city was covered in ice.  I remember her swimming like a fish at the Ballwin pool so many summers ago.   She was a natural athlete back then and competes in triathlons today. 

On her wedding day Megan was strong, self-assured and blissfully in love.   I also hope that when Megan and Michael reminisce, they remember the night as perfect.  Being able to play a part in such a momentous occasion is a memory I will forever cherish.  For a single sleepless night, I was gifted with being a permanent portion of that event- I would suggest to any of you considering the same to take the plunge. You’ll never regret it. 

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This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Ashley May 02, 2012 at 04:24 PM
Very informative. Thanks!
Irene Boyter March 22, 2013 at 09:04 AM
Flowers have a different role in marriage ceremonies.Different color of flowers symbolizes different meanings. http://www.thebethwood.com/social.html

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