Tulips in Winter

For a soon-to be bride, walking into your local flower shop can be a daunting experience. In the window there are hundreds of floral combinations and designs; roses, dahlias, tulips, hyacinths, lilacs, bouquets, centerpieces, corsages, boutonnieres. The crimson red of the roses swirls into the white of the orchids, and the blueberry of the lilacs blends into the sunset yellow of the hyacinths.

All this beauty sends your mind into panic mode. How will I afford these flowers? What kinds should I get? Which ones are good for this season?

You decide right then and there, on the sidewalk in front of the florist shop, to cancel the wedding, throw out the invitations and go home to cozy up on the couch with your favorite movie.

A few hours later, after having some time to vent and rationalize, you are once again excited about your big day. Luckily you did not throw the invitations away, so it is only you who knew about the temporary cancellation of your wedding. Determined to make your special day magical, you admit to yourself that you know almost next to nothing about flowers. You need some help.
Although at first it seems overwhelming, there are only a few basic things that you need to know when planning your floral arrangements. Getting to know flowers and what flowers fit your wedding can even be fun. Each flower has its own personality, smell, shape and texture. Some like orchids because they are sensual and voluptuous. Others love roses because of their sophistication and tradition.

First, the basics: You need to figure out how many people are in the bridal party, what the bridal party will be wearing, where the wedding will be held and how many people will be invited to the wedding. Clearing up these details before beginning your floral arrangements will make your planning and shopping go a lot more smoothly.

The second step is the most fun: research. This step allows you to unlock your imagination and really ask yourself what you want your wedding to look like. Good places to do research include the Internet, bridal magazines and books. Brides.com has an excellent flower section which includes a flower glossary, checklist, budget help and tips on flower style. Simple Stunning Wedding Flowers by Karen Bussen provides clear descriptions and beautiful, full-color photos of nearly every type of flower.

The next stop is the florist. Brenda Menard, a floral designer from Nuttelman’s Florist in Northampton, recommends making your first floral consultation six to nine months before your wedding date. If you are having your wedding around a holiday like Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day, be sure to allow extra time.

On your first consultation, bring photo clippings of the flowers you particularly like, color scheme swatches and an idea of how much money you have to work with. With your ideas, a florist is able to help you make decisions that fit your personality and needs.

When thinking about what flowers to use, brides traditionally have used the season as their guide. Spring was perfect for tulips and poinsettias added the perfect touch to a Christmas wedding. Thanks to the expanding global market, times have changed. Nikes aren’t the only thing you can get from Malaysia. “It’s now a world-wide market,” says Nancy Garrabrants, who teaches floriculture at UMass Amherst. The floral shops I visited got most of their flowers from faraway lands: tulips from Holland, roses from Ecuador and orchids from Thailand. This translates into more options for you, like tulips in the dead of winter and roses all year round. Popular exotic flowers like yellow orchards, Hawaiian plumerias and red ginger are also now easily available.

With so many choices, choosing the colors for your flowers can be both exciting and difficult. Keep in mind what your bridal party is wearing as well as your overall color scheme. Karin Lebowitz, a recent bride, took a fairly dramatic approach at her own wedding: “To create a contrast, I had my bridal party wear all black and carry rose and hydrangea bouquets. The results were stunning.”

If you’ve made all the arrangements with your florist but you are still over budget, there are small, easy ways to cut corners. Buy locally grown varieties and use expensive exotics sparingly. Try stand-ins that are cheaper versions of the real thing, like lisanthiums in place of roses. Downsize the amount of flowers in the wedding. This can be as simple as taking out a few centerpieces or flower wreaths.

In the end, the best choices for your floral arrangements are those that are affordable and most suited to your personal tastes. When all is said and done, the day of your wedding will be spectacular, reflecting the love that you and your partner share. In that moment of relief, sitting next to the love of your life, you will sit back, relax and smell the roses. How sweet it is.

Author: Nora Ritchie

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