Should we have flowers professionally done?
July 12, 2011 8:42 PM   Subscribe

Help me choose what to do for flora at my wedding: do it ourselves, or pay more than we want to?

I'm getting married on a budget: flowers are not a priority and we're willing to make sacrifices. Neither my beloved or I notice or care about flowers. The venues we booked are beautiful undecorated. However, we probably will be able to tell the difference between "decorated" and "undecorated" so we want to do a little something for floral decoration.

She and I love the idea of taking an extra day, a bunch of mason jars, and chopping away at nature until we have enough weeds, branches, and bushes to add some accents to what we're already convinced will be a beautiful day.

Everyone we know who has been married suggests that we hire a florist we know who can work on a budget and understands our love of woodsy, natural stuff. But $500 seems to be pushing the florists lower limit and our upper limit.

Should we hire, or do it ourselves? If we do it ourselves, how should we go about that?

(PS: we live in California while our wedding is deep in the South. We'll only be there a day or two early.)
posted by brenton to Society & Culture (37 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
It is possible if you have taste and some idea as to how the plants will behave after you pick them, but it might still take you too long. For my wife to pick flowers out of her own garden and make several arrangements she and two friends spent about eight hours (that's after a summer of watering and weeding them.) You will probably have to spend more time because you have to find the plants you want in the wild before you can pick them. And unlike flowers which are bred for their predictability, choosing the right stick or wild weed out of several unsuitable ones might take more thought which will lengthen the arrangement process.
posted by michaelh at 8:55 PM on July 12, 2011

I really love your mason jar idea. How about paying a friend or family member to do it for, say, $200? Or whatever reasonable lower rate? You and your fiance will no doubt be quite busy in that day or two before your wedding, especially since you're coming in from out of town. Probably a lot of the family will be raring to see you, excited about the wedding, etc. So I say handing off this task is a great idea.

If you can't find a friend or family member to do it, how about asking the Southern family & friends if they know anybody who'll do it? This would be a great little job pickup for a stay-at-home mom, part timer, etc.

And by the way, if this is all too much for you? Skip it. The most important thing about your wedding day is you and your fiance getting married. The rest is just accessories.
posted by BlahLaLa at 8:59 PM on July 12, 2011

I did this for a friend's wedding. We used mason jars and took some plants from the woods and the rest from our own garden. It was a lot of work, time consuming and the person who helped got exposed to a plant she turned out to be alergic too and had to go to the Doctor's for steriod's. It turned into a bit of a nightmare but the flowers at the wedding looked nice.

How much time will you really have to do this? If you bought mason jar's and purchased flower's maybe everyone in your wedding party would help you with the project. It could be a lot of fun. Or just one more thing you have to get done before the wedding.

After reading the above I realize I sound kinda negative. I'm not really. It was just more work than I thought it would be.
posted by cairnoflore at 8:59 PM on July 12, 2011

Have a florist do bouquets (professionals really are a lot better than amateurs at bouquets). But I think you could definitely do the other decorations yourselves. (I would advise finding the local flower market rather than flowers from the ... wild, though. What exactly do you mean by "nature"? People's yards? People you know? How will you know if you have anything to work with before you arrive?)

I did this, making arrangements for a friend's wedding (part of my maid of honor duties) out of plants we picked from the groom's parents' yard, but they had a really big yard and a lot of stuff we could pick from.

At my own wedding, I found the local wholesale flower market and went during the "open to the public" morning and got a ton of flowers for about $200. I mean, a ton, which was great because I could screw some of them up and still had plenty left over.
posted by purpleclover at 8:59 PM on July 12, 2011

Do you really want to spend the day of your wedding worrying about putting together centerpieces and accents? Do you really want the additional stress of arriving somewhere and having to go foraging for materials? Either go professional or don't do it at all. This has a lot of potential to become a huge hassle. You can also consider non-floral pieces, such as candles or rocks that you buy/find well in advance.
posted by Fuego at 9:00 PM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

I did the flowers for my wedding and it took INCREDIBLY long. Oh my God. Longer than I would ever have believed. I do NOT recommend it.

If you really need to go this way, all I can suggest is choosing flowers that will look good even arranged a few days in advance. Alstromeria? Lilies? Carnations maybe?
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:01 PM on July 12, 2011

Oh, and at the friend's wedding where we made the centerpieces, we had a little cookout/flower-arranging party the night before the wedding, so we got to hang out and arrange grasses and flowers.
posted by purpleclover at 9:01 PM on July 12, 2011

You know what I'm doing for my wedding? I got some vases at the dollar store and I'm assigning a family member to pick up some flowers at Whole Foods the day before. They're pretty and you just walk in and buy them.
posted by bleep at 9:02 PM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

You say "chopping away at nature", but what does that mean exactly? And where will you be doing it? Most places won't look kindly on you just raiding their grounds for flora, even if you're just grabbing some random bits of shrubbery.

I have never planned a wedding before, but my understanding is that you never have as much time as you think. I've run into way too many (usually) brides who try to make a bunch of stuff themselves and end up falling apart right at the home stretch because they've underestimated just how little free time they have as the day closes in, and instead of fun arts and crafts, it's a lot of frenzied and panicked all-night sessions.

Floral arrangements, particularly ones where you're going for the kind of artful artlessness like you'd find in nature, take a lot more effort than you'd think. I'm assuming you two aren't super-practiced at floral arrangements, so as romantic and cheap as your idea sounds, I would probably try to find a cheaper florist instead of trying to DIY, or if you do go the DIY route, I would definitely try enlisting help rather than trying it with just you and your fiance.
posted by Diagonalize at 9:02 PM on July 12, 2011

Have you considered going to a local grocery store the day before and just buying them out? You could do this and come in well under $500. You can get someone else to do this, too, so you don't have to. A big place like a Costco could save you even more money and have an even wider variety.

Alternately, have you considered going to the local Home Depot garden center and buying living plants and flowers in pots for decoration, and then simply giving them away after the wedding to be planted? What a great way to celebrate a union.
posted by juniperesque at 9:02 PM on July 12, 2011 [5 favorites]

Can you shop around for florists, or buy bunches at a flower shop then prepare them yourself (or, better yet, have someone help you)?

When I got hitched, our hotel florist dropped the ball on the bouquet, and the missus ended up with a generic rose bouquet rather than her requested gardenia and hydrangia one. Neither of us cared, and we certainly don't care today.
posted by Gilbert at 9:02 PM on July 12, 2011

Think of the cost of all the time. This could take a lot of time and effort--when you could be spending this time visiting with friends and family or doing other last minute prep.

We did buy a bunch of potted mums and gave them away to special friends at the end of the party, but we had a very casual outdoor wedding. But I do think in the grand scheme of weddings, that $500 will be money well spent.
posted by bluedaisy at 9:11 PM on July 12, 2011

I also had a destination wedding and we arrived two days in advance. I did all my own flowers.

A few weeks in advance, I called a wholesale florist in the town we were married in and pre-ordered the specific flowers/colors I wanted. As it turned out, this was totally unnecessary because when we got to the wholesaler the day before the wedding, they had a huge selection of just about every flower you can think of. My bridesmaids and I basically went totally nuts. We bought whatever we liked that they had on hand. They also had vases, ribbon, pins, everything for flower arranging. I am not exaggerating when I tell you just how nuts we went in there. It was so much fun.

The total amount I spent? Including pre-order, vases, everything? $115. That is not a typo. This was 4 years ago in San Diego, CA.

The florist sold us several five gallon buckets to transport the flowers and store them, we went back to the hotel and took a couple hours to make the bouquets, corsages, etc. We put what we could in the hotel room mini fridge and just left the rest in the buckets. Everything was totally fine thenext day for the wedding. It was really easy and fun and one of the best memories I have bonding with my girlfriends before I got married. The flowers weren't perfectly professionally perfect by any means, but they were beautiful anyway, and filled with such good memories. I highly recommend doing it yourselves.
posted by LyndsayMW at 9:11 PM on July 12, 2011 [5 favorites]

We ordered flowers wholesale and they were fedex'ed in two days before the wedding. My mom's got a knack, and we used almost entirely a single kind of rose and two kinds of fillers, so it wasn't a big deal. (However, the roses arrived moldy; my mom called and got a second shipment that arrived the next day. Plan B was to go to the big farmer's market and buy whatever. You need a Plan B.)

I think that route is preferable to going out and taking flowers where you're not necessarily welcome to do so. You're right, they really don't matter - mine were pretty, most flowers are if they aren't fuzzy, I didn't care beyond that.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:15 PM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

I went to a nursery the day before and dropped little potted plants in centerpieces. Cheaper than flower arrangements and it smelled like basil and rosemary and people fought over who got to take the little pepper plants home. Much faster and cheaper than flower arrangements.

I went to a wedding where they just ordered tree saplings on the internet and dropped those into Mason jars with fabric tied around the neck and it looked awesome. (However, my little tree died and I always felt bad, like I had cursed their marriage somehow.)

Given that you're only going to be there two days in advance, this is one of those ask for help moments. If you don't have a cousin or niece or hometown friend (or a group of a few of them) who'd be willing to do it, skip the flowers. Do something that matters to you, rather than what you think you should do.
posted by Gucky at 9:16 PM on July 12, 2011

Seconding that you should at least have bouquets done professionally. Florists have to order excess flowers to get the nicest ones that are the right degree of openness. It's costly.
Helpful friends with time on their hands may be able to make corsages and boutonierres. I've done it.
Centerpieces can be any kind of decor - candles, grocery store flowers in a vase, whatever. But arranging flowers really is time-consuming if you want it to look nice.
I think people tend to bite the bullet and pay a pro because of the time and hassle. You can make the combination work, though.
posted by Knowyournuts at 9:30 PM on July 12, 2011

Farmers market or local grocery store for the win here. You do not want to be mucking around in grass and weeds hacking at stuff the day before or the day of your wedding, even if you're super outdoorsy people. Going to the farmers market and getting vases at the dollar store sounds like a really good time.

I like the idea of having a plan B. It sounds like your plan B could be just "no flowers" and you'd be happy.
posted by k8lin at 10:04 PM on July 12, 2011

At work we have to do flower arrangements for several banquets a year. We buy from a wholesaler in town and do the arrangements ourselves. Granted, we've done this enough that we now have a plan and tend to do the same arrangements in rotation, but if you get several people helping it might not take long. For us, it takes between an hour to hour and a half for 4-5 people to make anywhere from 30 to 50 arrangements. They are very simple and are meant to only accent the table (we have presentations at the banquets so they can't be very tall or big on the table). I love the Mason jar idea!

We have also learned that some flowers we get need to arranged in the vase a full 24 hours ahead of time and left out so they open. Wholesalers keep those flowers COLD so they stay closed. If you want to do this, I suggest you do lots of experimenting. Find pics of stuff you like, talk to a florist or wholesaler who can tell you which flowers wilt quickly and which ones need extra time to open. If you can, wander around a shop and buy some flowers that you like and make arrangements to see how they turn out. Buy some straight out of the cooler and see how long they take to open. Do your research ahead of time so when the big day comes you know how to put things together without having to experiment.

And I think the bouquets need to be done by a pro (they will be in all the pictures!) unless you have a friend who really knows what they are doing. Practice, practice, practice!!
posted by MultiFaceted at 10:04 PM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

I just went to a friend's wedding where all of the flowers and bouquets were done by the bride. She picked most of the flowers from the homes of her parents and the grooms parents; the only flowers she bought were some roses and orchids from a not-fancy-at-all produce stand. (Attention was paid to flower quality though, she sorted through them to exclude wilting or dead ones) She bought vases at Goodwill and her one tip towards a professional florist was the purchase of that green spongy stuff people put in vases in order to keep everythingn together. She does not have any experience with floral arrangements. She is not a professional artist--she just likes crafty-type stuff and has worked on tech crew and some set design for plays.

She put together bouquets for her and her two bridesmaids, about 20 centerpieces, and boutonierres for the groom, groomsmen, and all immediate family members. She, her sister, and a friend got all the flowers on the morning before the wedding and she did all of the arrangements herself the evening of--we transported them over to location the next day. Everything came out seriously beautiful and you would not have known that a florist didn't do it. I wish I had pictures as proof.

I will note that putting together the arrangements was harder than I expected, the one time I tried it came out looking fairly bad so she ended up doing all of them herself. The rest of us helping with the boutonierres, fetching flowers, filling water, etc. If I were you I would do a trial bouquet or centerpiece to see if you have the knack for it. You also want to make sure you have a color scheme and a general idea of what you want your flowers to be and your arrangements to look like (woodsy, traditional, romantic, etc).
posted by Anonymous at 10:10 PM on July 12, 2011

I got married two weeks ago, and we did a combination of the ideas above. I originally planned using my own plants and flowers, and I am glad I didn't because weather in my area is 1-2 weeks behind what is was last year. I would not have had much to work with. I did supplement with hosta leaves gathered from the gardens of several family members

For the bouquets, boutonnieres, and corsages, we hired a florist. If you would like these items, I would recommend having a professional do them or do a non-floral alternative.

For the table arrangements, we bought some flowers wholesale and some online from Sam's Club. These were arranged the day before and put in Mason jars collected by family members. The total cost of the flowers we arranged was ~$230, and the jars were free because they were sourced from basements, auction grab bags, etc. With 4-5 people working, making 20 table arrangements and 12 ceremony arrangements took about 4 hours and made a huge, huge mess. We made rustic, loose, natural arrangements, so I would increase that time estimate for anything more formal. In fact, I don't know if I would go this way if you want anything formal, but it's well-suited to a natural look.

Some thoughts that might be helpful to you:
I don't count myself as a huge Sam's Club or Walmart fan, but ordering from them worked extremely well. Read the descriptions, instructions, and reviews for the flowers you want. I ordered them to arrive Wednesday for a Saturday wedding, and this was perfect. I have also read good things about their bouquets, corsages, etc.

It sounds like you are doing a nature-inspired wedding. Arrangements (and even bouquets) of baby's breath would work with this look and be super cheap. It also lasts forever. Had I used just baby's breath, I estimate my cost would have been ~$160.

To keep the arrangements steady in the jars, we wrapped the stems in green floral tape and put river stones in the bottom of the jars. I bought bags of stones at the dollar store and used one bag for two jars.

I really enjoyed this process and loved the result, but it did take planning and time. I would recommend it if you have a few extra people around to help, some space (like a basement or porch), and a span of several hours.
posted by TrarNoir at 10:12 PM on July 12, 2011

Also, it DEFINITELY did not cost $500, even if you include her time. One caveat: they were totally on top of their shit with planning so arranging things the night before was not a stressful hellfest. Or at least it didn't seem like it.
posted by Anonymous at 10:13 PM on July 12, 2011

Seconding Lyn Never. I ordered online from a no-minimum wholesaler called Blooms by the Box. Spent about $100 for enough flowers for a few centerpieces (didn't use bouquets). It took me maybe 3 hours to make them, and they looked good enough that they're going to make an appearance in a local glossy lifestyle mag.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 10:18 PM on July 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

For our wedding, my now mother-in-law went to a nursery/grocery store and bought a couple of flowering pot plants to decorate the chapel. They cost $7 each, looked awesome, and made great mother-of-bride/groom gifts. No arrangement needed.

For the next wedding, she and the bride bought trays of flowers, replanted them in pots and put pretty ribbons around the pots. That took an hour or two, but obviously the living flowers lasted well.
posted by jb at 11:07 PM on July 12, 2011

For my wedding, we had the florist do my bouquet and the corsages / boutonnieres, and then sell us the rest of the flowers in bulk for us to arrange ourselves. I would highly, highly, HIGHLY recommend that over picking your own. If you want to go even cheaper, see if you can buy the flowers direct from the grower.
posted by KathrynT at 11:51 PM on July 12, 2011

Another alternative might be choosing a flower variety that looks good by itself or en masse to minimize the arranging time and talent required. For example, bunches of sunflowers (I love the teddybear variety) would be festive, unfussy and inexpensive. If your venue is spare or modern, single Gerber daisies or Calla lilies in slender cylinders (in addition to stem supports) could be made to read as architectural and/or elegant. Either way you avoid dealing with multiple flowers, matching different arrangements, and the need for baby's breath and other fillers. Regardless, let me join the chorus urging you to spend the day before your wedding enjoying your friends and family; your plan sounds very romantic but has the potential to go wrong very fast via many routes.
posted by carmicha at 4:04 AM on July 13, 2011

Buy the mason jars where you are now & get 25% more than you need for the number of tables you'll have (for breakage). Keep the cartons. Buy white spray paint (or a color that matches your wedding colors) and paint the outside of the jars. Buy chalkboard paint and paint on shapes to each side of each mason jar. Put the jars back into cartons and ship them to someone reliable where you're getting married.

The problem with clear mason jars is the stems and water can look kind of messy, especially on a table top. By painting the jars, you don't have to clean up the stems so much. The chalkboard paint is so you can use the jars to number your tables (or if you aren't being that formal, write your names or the date or whatever - or even skip the chalkboard paint entirely)

A cousin got married in a public park on a picturesque bridge over a small creek. Her table decor was mason-like jars with painted stripes on the outside, the inside was filled with pretty stones (later returned to the creek) then she stuck branches into the pebbles and strung a small battery operated string of LED lights on the branches. Simple but pretty. Her bouquet was purchased from a florist - the only flowers they bought.
posted by jaimystery at 4:55 AM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

Do not give yourselves any big projects a day or two before your wedding. I've seen people try it and it always leads to madness.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:05 AM on July 13, 2011

Get the florist to do the bouquet itself -and any corsages and boutonniers.

As for the rest-see if you can rent some plants maybe? Or do friends and family have potted plants you could use for decoration?

I work for a florist and lots of times brides on a barebones budget just do the flowers for the wedding party and let the rest go.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:03 AM on July 13, 2011

It is my understanding Costco works well with DIYer's link yourself.

Some may be concerned with the added responsibilities you are adding to yourselves with an already hectic day as fresh flowers are not something can be arranged far in advanced. This is the perfect job for that Aunt in the family who wants to be apart of the wedding, but doesn't want to push in on your day. Ask around it the family for help, but be careful that the individual who does help has a history of follow through.

posted by BuffaloChickenWing at 6:39 AM on July 13, 2011

For my wedding, my mom and I went to the local farmers market and ordered the flowers we wanted and then picked them up two days before the wedding. Then, the day before, my mom, my bridesmaids and I sat around the dining room table and put the flowers together. The only annoyance was we had to clean out the fridge to make room for them.

Total cost: $168 and about three hours worth of time. And we did all the bouquets and flowers for the groomsmen.

The only thing I did that made it really easy was that I practiced. I went out months before and bought the same kind of flowers and played with arranging them. That way, all I had to do was to show my helpers what I wanted and then we had a quick little assembly line of flowers.
posted by teleri025 at 7:11 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

FWIW, for our wedding, we had no floral decoration in the chapel at all. This was on the florist's recommendation (and it was good for our budget) - the space was beautiful as it was, and we'd chosen it for its innate beauty, so why cover it up in STUFF? So while people may "always" have floral decorations, if you're doing it because you "should" . . .don't unless you have a big dose of "want to" in there.

Also, depending on your space, the flowers may or may not photograph well in the space. If they're not going to show well in the photos . . . I think it's okay to nix them. And then maybe you can just pay the florist for some nice arrangements for you and your girls, and the bouts, and not have to worry about DIYing stuff.
posted by Medieval Maven at 7:21 AM on July 13, 2011

You might also consider doing non-floral centerpieces (we had stacks of books) -- google for more ideas.
posted by pised at 8:36 AM on July 13, 2011

If you do your own bouquet and wearable flowers, check carefully for things that could ruin clothing, like the pollen-covered stamens that get yellow powder all over. In fact, you may want to clip these out of your arrangements, too.
posted by Knowyournuts at 10:44 AM on July 13, 2011

If you decide to buy wholesale flowers like a lot of people are suggesting (which I highly recommend too), consider flowers that will look good on their own with very little "arrangement." For my wedding, I bought four colors of Gerber daisies from the farmers' market and just put six flowers of varying colors in each vase. No filler, no greenery, no real work except trimming the stems to the right height. It took three people less than half an hour the morning of the wedding to make about 14 vases.

There are a lot of different kinds of flowers that will look nice completely on their own and not having to mess with getting everything just right made the DIY approach really easy.
posted by horses, of courses at 10:50 AM on July 13, 2011

Our floral decorations were a combination of sunflowers ordered from the Safeway florist (where we got all the boutonnieres) as well as lilacs and roses that were picked from yards and wild plants (maybe even some devil's club!) from around the town we got married in.

However, as the bride, I didn't do any of the work (other than picking up the stuff at Safeway.) (I did spend hours making hummus and grape leaves and assembling favors though.)

I went to a wedding where the table centerpieces were clusters of potted herbs. They also served as the favors to take home.

I like jaimystery's chalkboard paint suggestion if you're going to go with mason jars. I'd get mason jars at estate sales. Every basement I've been to has dozens of them!
posted by vespabelle at 11:32 AM on July 13, 2011

My local grocery store sold me gobs of alstromeria lilies and we put them in recycled wine carafes. They made bouquets, boutonnieres, etc. I suppose it was a bit of a risk, but it turned out very well, and I have heard many similar stories. Mason jars are a great idea. A friend loaned my some big flowering potted plants. If you pick plants, make sure it's allowed - no sense getting arrested in the local park. Also, don't pick anything that has a high allergen problem. We also got a helium tank and balloons, and had a lot of candles. It was fun, my family cheerfully did the work, and it was very pretty. Do what pleases you, and don't feel like you need to be part of the wedding-industrial complex. Mazel tov.
posted by theora55 at 2:09 PM on July 13, 2011

Last weekend, I was part of a wedding where the bride carried a regular bouquet, the bridesmaids carried handmade floral purses instead of bouquets, and there were no decorative flowers. At least, I don't think there were decorative flowers. I already don't remember - but I do remember it was a beautiful wedding. This is how little flowers matter to guests.

Come to think of it, I don't remember the details of flowers at my own wedding - the women carried bouquets, those had gardenias and some other stuff, but otherwise? I think there were some extra arrangements around, but I haven't a clue what they looked like and would have been fine without them. If you're getting married in an already-beautiful location, just skip the flowers, or stick to bouquets if you want to carry something.

Another alternative suggestion: balsa wood flowers. They make nice keepsakes, and they're not necessarily that expensive.
posted by orangejenny at 4:21 PM on July 13, 2011

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