Arranging your own wedding flowers: a few tips

The past few days have seen floral tests of great precision going on in this house.

Natural wedding table flowers
A “floral test” — a rather pretty one…

I was really pleased with the variety of flowers I bought from the flower market on Wednesday. Next step was to test my own abilities at arranging them along with their longevity (because we’re driving up to Shropshire before the wedding, I need to buy the flowers four days in advance of needing them in the arrangements).

Last Friday afternoon was the designated bouquet arranging practice time. Saturday was the litmus test as to whether the flowers would still look good four days after I brought them home. And both tests were passed with flying colours…

Before embarking on the practice flower arranging, I felt pretty confident about the table vases (I stick flowers in little jugs all the time at home. I know that I, at least, think they look nice…) and I figured the buttonholes wouldn’t be too tricky since I had plans to do something really simple. But, I confess, I was a little nervous about the bouquet. I wanted something simple, natural looking and abundant. My fear was that this might be one of those times where making something look simple took a lot more artistry and care than making something look formal…

But, after only about 15 minutes of putting the flowers together, I ended up with this little beauty. Impressed? Yes! Pleased? Yes! Proud of myself? Exceedingly so!

Later summer wedding bouquet
Why thankyew, I made this with my own fair hands…

Ignoring the fact this almost certainly means total and utter disaster when I come to make the actual real bouquet in a  few weeks time, I thought I’d share a few tips for anyone else who, like me, isn’t a florist but is hoping to do all their own flowers.

(Interspersed with lots more photos of the bouquet, as well as the buttonholes and the prototype table arrangements…)

Tips on arranging your own wedding flowers
Tips on arranging your own wedding flowers

Trial run

I would say it is imperative, both for your sanity and confidence, to do a trial run in advance. I went to the wholesalers this last Wednesday to buy the flowers, conditioned them when I got home (read on for more on that) and then left them to sit for two days, since this will be exactly what I will do in two weeks for the actual wedding. Then on Friday, I made the bouquets, buttonholes and table arrangements and left them until Saturday to see how well everything lasts with the exact same time frame I’ll be using in a few weeks. Anything that wilts, can’t stick around that long (or simply doesn’t look nice) can be abandoned now, rather than facing the disappointment of being greeted with droopy flowers on the wedding day itself. (Nothing wants to be droopy on my wedding day, thanks. Nothing.)

Simple wedding table flowers
The stocks in this table display were originally planned for the main bouquet. But I discovered they started to wilt after a few minutes out of water, so decided to use them in table jugs only…

The only down side of this is the additional cost. As I was buying wholesale, I couldn’t just buy one or two stems of the flowers I wanted, but had to get a whole bunch of each one. I’ve used one poppy seed head in the bouquet, for example, but had to buy ten. However, for a start my house is now stuffed full with flowers; I’ve made myself popular with neighbours, friends and family by thrusting bunches on them and — in the grand scheme of things — I am still saving so much money compared to the cost of buying flowers from a florist that it felt like a reasonable hit to take.

Wedding bouquet
The beautiful poppy seed head in my bouquet

To give you an idea, everything I bought this week cost me £94 including VAT and I think I will spend just a little more than double that on the actual flowers in a fortnight. I think I could have feasibly saved a few of the things I bought and used them then (the wax flowers and chinch will definitely last that long…) but I got carried away with arranging them and giving them away.

The other important thing about a trial is it allows you to work out exactly how many flowers you’ll need to buy. I was surprised to realise that for my table arrangements I will need only three or four stems per milk bottle. I would have hugely over-ordered on the table flowers if I hadn’t trialled these all first.

Simple table flowers for a wedding
Poppy seed head and wax flowers, jauntily arranged in a little Hong Kong milk bottle

Containers and other bits and pieces

I would also recommend trialling the flowers with exactly the containers / ribbon / string you’re planning on using.

My table flowers are all going in little milk bottles I bought in Hong Kong. (Okay, eight of them are, the rest are going in normal clear milk bottles…)

Trappist dairy milk bottle as a flower vase
Trappist dairy milk bottle. Ah this makes me nostalgic for Hong Kong

I was really shocked how few flowers I needed to fill this up, so I tried out some in a jam jar as well. This also looked nice (though less nice and less striking) but used about four times as many flowers. And of course, four times the flowers equals four times the cost. I am so pleased I tried this all out now, rather than just spending too much money before the day on the assumption I would need loads of flowers for the tables.

I also bought some florist’s scissors (£8.50) and some florist’s tape (I can’t remember how much, but a matter of pounds I think) which not only made me feel like a complete pro, but also made the job much easier than had I used my kitchen scissors (a consideration for some time…)

Simple wedding buttonhole with lavender and wax flowers
My buttonhole was held together with florist’s tape and then artfully tied with some brown string

Conditioning the flowers

I read up a lot about conditioning flowers before heading off to the market. Basically, if you buy flowers wholesale, they won’t be treated in advance (as they would from a florist) so they wilt more quickly unless you do this yourself. All I did is fill buckets a third full of water (about six litres for my buckets), added a quarter of a Milton sterilising tablet to each bucket and five teaspoons of white sugar. You could use a couple of drops of bleach instead of the Milton. Stick the flowers into the buckets and then leave them in a cool, dark place overnight before arranging them. I’ve been amazed how well my flowers have lasted. Four days after I bought them, they look perkier and happier than the day I brought them home.

Wedding bouquet
Perky, cheerful flowers, three days after I bought them.

Insanely early hours of flower markets

If you can, once you’ve done your bleary-eyed early morning trial run, arrange for your flower market / wholesaler to deliver the actual wedding flowers to you. The new Covent Garden flower market was a selection of five or so stalls who take part in UK-wide delivery (though they thought Shropshire was a bit too far) and lots who will deliver within London. Check whether the markets or wholesalers near you have a similar system.  On your trial run, you can find the stall you like and have all the conversations face to face with them in advance. Then, when it comes to getting the flowers for the day itself, you can simply telephone through the order.

Wedding table flowers
Yes, I’m delighted with these table flowers. No, I don’t want to get up at 3.30am two days before my wedding to buy them…

Arranging

I’m not going to even try and tell you about arranging the flowers, as I am clearly far from an expert. All I will say is that there is lots and lots of information from experts online. My wedmin board on Pinterest has a few Youtube clips and tutorials pinned about spiralling the flowers and how to arrange bouquets etc. I watched all of these and then just held a flower in one hand and added on stems to it one at a time until I thought it looked nice. But actually, this was much much easier than I was anticipating.

Wedding bouquet
It sounds obvious, but don’t forget to hold your bouquet out and look at it, as you go…

So there you have it! A few tips and hints from a total amateur. If I can do it, so can you…

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Late summer wedding flowers

Have I mentioned that I’m getting married in a few weeks? Oh yes, I have. About six gazillion times.

summer wedding flowers
My dining room closely resembles a florists at the moment…

In a classic “how hard can it really be?” moment, I decided that it would be a good idea to arrange all my own wedding flowers. Actually, I had originally planned to grow them, transport them and arrange them myself, but the 60 white snap dragon plants that I’d been nurturing since spring all flowered six weeks ago, so that was the end of the grow-it-myself plan. Enter new plan: buy wholesale, drive to Shropshire and then arrange. Simple!

So on Wednesday this week, I set my alarm for 3.30am and cajoled my Mum into driving me to the new Covent Garden flower market in Vauxhall, to do a trial run of the wedding flower plans. My dining room currently resembles a florists shop, as you can see from the photo above…

Some of the stalls at the market will actually deliver if you’re based in London, so I won’t have to brave such a ridiculously early start two days before the wedding which is excellent news. (Huge bags to my cheekbones isn’t quite the fresh faced wedding look I’m after.)

But of course, I need to try out some plans for my bouquets, table flowers and buttonholes in advance. Firstly to make sure they work and secondly to figure out how many of each flower I’m going to need.

I’m a fan of British flowers, or at least flowers which have been grown in this country, so I really wanted to go for some seasonal blooms that look (almost) as if I might have grown them in my own garden.

I thought I’d share my finds with you, in case anyone else is looking for inspiration for flowers from late Summer too…

Poppy seed heads

poppy seed head

First up, these absolutely stunning poppy seed heads. Big, bold, architectural and interesting, I think I’m going to put a few in my bouquet and save some for table flowers as well. I’m also going to make sure I hold onto them afterwards and let the seeds ripen so I can hopefully collect them and sow them in my own garden.

Flowering mint

flowering mint

What more can you say about flowering mint? It’s mint, it smells beautiful. And the flowers are really delicate and cottage gardeny, which is my favourite sort of look…

Thistles

thistle

I love the spikiness and wildness of the thistles. Along with the gorgeous blue colour too. You may notice, there’s mostly a blue and white theme going on here.

Lisianthus

lisianthus

I have to admit, I know little about lisianthus, but I’m hoping that they’ll be able to stay out of water long enough to take a good central place in my bouquet. The colour on these is so vibrant it lifts the more muted blues and whites of the other flowers. But the thing I love even more is the spiralled purple and white of the closed buds. Gorgeous.

White snapdragons

snapdragon

Well, I had to have some white snapdragons. I adore these plants. When we were little, we always picked the flowers off and made them “talk”… I’m going to have some of these spiralling out of the bouquet as well as quite a few in the table arrangements as well.

Wax flowers

wax flower

These are not only beautiful, but the piney stems smell heavenly and they last for ages out of water. I’m using some sprays of these as buttonholes (along with lavender from my garden), quite a few will go into the bouquet and they will also go into the table jars. And even then, I’ll probably have armfuls of the stuff left over from the bunch I’m buying as you get a lot for your money!

Cabbages

cabbage

They’re cabbages. I love that.

Gentians

gentians

A really bright blue colour, these also seem slow to open their buds, which makes them perfect for keeping for a few days before they need to show off.

Chincherinchees

chincherinchee

Best flower name ever? Known as the star of the Bethlehem, this is white and green with dark black centres. I’d never come across it before, but it might be making it onto my list of top flowers ever… I’ll just be using one in the bouquet and probably will dedicate a few to the table arrangements as well.

I spent yesterday afternoon trying out different table arrangements, planning the buttonholes and practicing the bouquet. But this post is already super long, so I’ll save that for tomorrow…

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  • Once again, I’m counting this post as one of my photos of the day, too, since, hey, it does have some photos in. See more of my August break photos.