With the help of a creative florist, it's easy to get the look you want at a price within your budget


January 07, 1996|By Kerry A. White

No matter how simple or grand a wedding, flowers play one of the day's starring roles. Their tradition is as old as the wedding custom itself.

In ancient Greece, a delicate garland was arranged in a bride's hair. In medieval times, aromatic herbs like garlic and thyme were incorporated into the ceremonies to ward off evil spirits. And the Tudors of England believed certain wedding flowers had aphrodisiac powers.

Wedding flowers today are as important as in years past, though their use is less specific: The flowers and bouquets symbolize love, joy and a plentiful future.

Wedding flowers set the stage for the ceremony and can transform almost any space -- plain hotel, stuffy country club or big back yard -- into one that is warm, romantic and festive.

For brides-to-be (and increasingly, grooms too), choosing the right flowers and finding a florist to carry out wedding-day wishes can be one of the bigger challenges of planning the big day.

"Flowers have traditionally been one of the bride's biggest concerns," says Millie Bratten, editor in chief of Bride's magazine. "Knowing specifically what effect she wants and finding the right florist to carry out her preferences can change an ordinary wedding into one that's extraordinary. Flowers can really personalize a wedding."

Years ago, floral decisions were simpler, she says. The reigning culture and seasonal availability of flowers dictated which flowers took center stage.

But today, with weddings ranging from barefoot in the park to formal cathedral, brides and grooms base their wedding choices less on "the rules," and more on their own style and taste.

Since Victorian times, the traditional color of bridal bouquets has been white or cream. Mixing shades of white flowers like roses, violets and lilies of the valley is still very popular for wedding

flowers, and these can look especially elegant in formal weddings, says Alison Webb, a floral designer for Rutland Beard Florists. But accents of more vibrant flowers like tulips, red and pink roses and calla lilies can add a lot of drama.

"Truly vivid colors look especially great around Christmas and early winter," Ms. Webb says.

Floral choices aren't limited to which flowers are in season. If a bride has a weakness for Easter lilies, orchids and gardenias, but her wedding is in the middle of January in Baltimore, a well-connected wedding florist will not disappoint.

"There are few flowers that aren't easily available all year-round," says Ms. Webb. "Commercially raised flowers have little to do with what's outside now."

But expense can be a consideration. Importing thousands of exotic Hawaiian orchids might be a possibility -- but it's not the most practical budgetary option.

Floral budgets, however, needn't quash wedding-day dreams. A creative florist will help you achieve the look you want, regardless of your budget.

"I always ask their fantasy first, and we go from there," says Ms. Webb. "When I find out what the budget is, we work on ways to achieve the look they want by focusing on flowers that will show the most and have the greatest effect."

Wedding florists say the setting of the ceremony and reception can be one of their biggest considerations. Careful and creative planning, they say, can be a real money-saver.

Most houses of worship are lovely with or without flowers. As for reception sites, if the one chosen is enormous, fill only one room with flowers. Further, florists say, if a couple want to surround themselves with flowers on their wedding day, they can rent an indoor or outdoor garden.

Shelly Snyder, owner of Shelly's Flower Box in Annapolis, considers her town "so romantic that most all the wedding sites look good in their natural setting. They don't need [much] enhancing." Which makes working within a bride's budget a lot easier.

"I haven't seen a gala wedding in this town," she says. "Most of the weddings in Annapolis are simple and elegant. We do a lot of small weddings at the Naval Academy, and at the historic inns and churches around town. Less is more."

For many brides-to-be, choosing flowers for the wedding party, as well as for the ceremony and reception sites, can be daunting.

Ms. Snyder says that while half of her wedding clientele comes to her with very specific ideas of what they want on their wedding day, the other half looks to her for guidance.

"I do a lot of hand-holding. We look at pictures to get an idea of what they'd like and we work through the details together."

Ms. Webb of Rutland Beard Florists says that brides-to-be are increasingly more reliant on her for ideas and input.

"Fewer women these days are coming to me with specifics. What is presented instead is an idea. We're getting more clippings than we used to, where a bride says, 'I'd like something like this,' which is where I come in."

Flowers may not be everyone's forte, but ultimately, the florists say, everyone has an opinion.

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