No wedding day would be complete without fresh flowers. Professional arrangements add life, color, and beauty to your ceremony and reception.
However, bouquets, corsages, boutonnieres, altarpieces, and centerpieces can add thousands of dollars to the total wedding bill. If your budget can’t accommodate a professional wedding florist, you may wish to consider a less-expensive alternative.
Alternatives to a Florist for Your Wedding
1. Visit the Floral Section at Your Grocery Store
Many grocery stores – including Whole Foods, Vons, Safeway, and Publix – have a floral department. And in many cases, employees are accustomed to putting centerpieces together – some of them have even been professional florists at some point. Contact a few stores, and you may discover that they can provide the same centerpieces and bouquets as the average wedding florist, and at a much lower price point.
Stores may also offer full floral packages that include boutonnieres, corsages, and ceremony flowers. As an added bonus, you can have your cake prepared by the grocery store bakery and consolidate vendors. However, some grocery stores won’t deliver your flowers – or they may charge a high premium to do so – so be prepared to have someone pick them up the day of the wedding.
2. Buy Wholesale
Avoid a florist’s markup by ordering flowers wholesale and arranging them yourself. If you live in a big city, check out a local flower market to get fresh buds at low prices. Alternatively, services such as FiftyFlowers and BloomsByTheBox.com ship flowers to you in insulated containers or cooler packs.
It is important to realize that arranging your own flowers requires research, practice, and tools. You need to invest in floral shears, floral tape, decorative wrap, and pins for the bouquets. For the centerpieces, you need a vessel for the flowers and floral foam to keep them moist and help them retain their shape. Unless you’ve arranged flowers in the past or have a fantastic eye for design, you may want to find an online flower arranging tutorial.
Perform a dry run a few weeks or months beforehand so you’re not flustered when the actual day arrives – and order more flowers than you think you’re going to need, just in case some wilt or fall apart. Keep your flowers in water and in a cool environment, such as a refrigerator, until you’re ready to transport them to your wedding venue. Arranging flowers is a time-consuming task, so enlist friends, family, or your bridal party for additional help.
3. Order Online
Preparing your own flowers is a lot of work. As an alternative, order prepared bouquets and centerpieces from a big box store. This costs more than purchasing flowers wholesale, but doesn’t require you to spend hours learning and practicing the art of arranging. Costco sells more than 40 wedding flower packages online in different color schemes at different price points. 1800Flowers.com also has a wedding collection you can choose arrangements from.
One of the perks of using a prepackaged online service is that you know exactly what your flower bouquets and arrangements are going to look like. This makes it much easier to coordinate colors for the bridal party and plan your table decorations. On the flip side, this does not give you the ability to customize your arrangements, so you may not be able to get the exact look you want. As with wholesale flowers, keep these arrangements in water and in a cool, protected environment as soon as you receive them.
4. Ask a Friend to Help Arrange
If you don’t want the commitment of arranging flowers yourself, find a friend or family member to help. You’re not the first person to DIY your flowers, so there may be one or two folks in your social circle who have done it before.
Remember to be sensitive to the time and cost required to arrange centerpieces and bouquets. At a very minimum, offer to pay for all the flowers and supplies. In addition, try to find some way to compensate your friend or express your gratitude – a gift certificate and a thank you card are always a thoughtful gesture. If the friend is getting married in the future, you can offer to take on the wedding planning or flower arranging duties in return.
5. Explore Potted Options
Because wedding flowers are perishable, they tend to be expensive and stressful to manage. Once you cut the stem, the clock starts ticking. No one wants wilted flowers on the table, and even the freshest ones have an optimal life of only a few days.
One way to avoid this pressure is to use potted plants, flowers, or herbs in lieu of cut flower arrangements. You still get the fresh scent, colors, and textures of cut flowers, but at a fraction of the price. And, by opting for potted centerpieces, you can have weeks to procure flowers, rather than having to scramble to get the work done the day before.
Nurseries, home improvement stores, and grocery stores offer reasonably priced container arrangements with a variety of flowers. Store availability and seasonal products are variables, but the majority of stores have some sort of arrangement available year-round. Succulents are widely available, and are becoming quite popular for weddings – but watch out for high price tags.
For minimal maintenance, purchase potted centerpieces a week or two before your big day. And, reach out to the store a few months before your wedding to understand what to expect. The professionals there can keep you advised of shipment schedules and perhaps even make a special order for you.
6. Grow Your Own Flowers
If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can buy potted flower arrangements ahead of time or grow seedlings over the course of a few months. However, you should only attempt this if you’re a somewhat experienced gardener – you don’t want your wedding flowers dying on you a week before the big day.
Many flowers and herbs do well in full or partial sunlight and with plenty of water. Remove wilting flower blossoms to encourage blooming before the wedding day.
Home Depot flower expert Suzanne Oliver advises that begonias, geraniums, impatiens, pansies, petunias, and hibiscus all do well in containers. For an elegant, English garden party look, opt for mini-roses in containers. For an earthier feel, use herbs with textual contrast, such as lavender, thyme, oregano, rosemary, and basil.
7. Use Silk Flowers
In many respects, artificial flowers are much more practical than the real thing. They won’t wilt, bruise, or fall apart. Since they don’t need to be kept cool or moist, you can buy them ahead of time, and transport is a breeze. If you’re dead-set on a flower that’s out of season or extremely pricey, silk flowers can help you create the look for less.
Keep in mind that not all silk flowers are created equal. Many of the artificial blooms you find in craft stores have a distinct plastic or fabric texture. Silk flower companies such as Afloral.com tout higher-end “real touch” flowers that are more convincing than what you can find in the bargain bin of a craft store. However, these flowers also come with a much higher price tag.
Although more practical than cut flowers, silk flowers aren’t necessarily less expensive than a traditional centerpiece. You can try to resell them after your wedding though, which can help defray the cost. Some florists also allow brides to rent silk flowers and return them after the event. Still, even the most convincing silk flowers are missing the authentic scent and fresh texture that makes live flowers so stunning.
8. Share Flowers
If you play your cards right, you can get more than one use out of a set of flower arrangements. For example, if you’re getting married in a church close to Easter or Christmas, the venue may already have flower decorations you can use for your ceremony.
Also, some venues host multiple weddings during one day, either at different ceremony sites or during different time slots. If you suspect there’s another wedding happening the same day, ask if you can get in contact with other brides to share flowers and split the cost. Or, if you’re not picky about what you get, just ask that a few centerpieces be set aside for you after the prior wedding is done.
Be aware, however, that sharing flowers can be a bit dicey. You never know what kind of damage may occur before your wedding.
9. Use Your Environment
Even the most elaborate wedding flower arrangements can pale in comparison to the natural beauty of the outdoors. Choose a ceremony or reception spot where you can capitalize on the colors and textures offered by the trees, vines, shrubs, bushes, and wildflowers. For example, you won’t need any extra ceremony decor if you get married at your local botanical garden, or say “I do” under a huge willow tree. City parks, forests, groves, beaches, and backyards are all potential outdoor wedding venues.
Hosting your reception outside also allows you to minimize the need for reception flowers. It takes a lot of flowers and color to fill up the space in indoor, neutral-colored reception halls. By contrast, table centerpieces for an outdoor wedding can be smaller and simpler. Just know that you may need to rent outdoor heat lamps, umbrellas, or even a tent if the forecast calls for rain, which can defray some those cost savings.
10. Go Without Flowers
There are plenty of beautiful and unique alternatives to wedding flowers. Classic non-floral centerpieces include vases with pearls, stones, crystals, manzanita branches, ostrich feathers, lanterns, and leaves.
Rather than using traditional flowers, personalize your wedding centerpieces by adding framed photos of yourself and your partner when you were kids. Alternatively, you can include photos of family members’ weddings, or photos from trips you’ve taken as a couple. Incorporate your personal interests by stacking a few of your favorite books underneath a single candle. Find fruit that matches your wedding colors and place it in a bowl for edible texture and color.
Non-floral bouquets may not be as common, but they’re still a completely viable option. Instead of holding a floral bouquet, hold a parasol, fan, lantern, or a bouquet made of paper flowers or brooches. Use pine cones, berries, and cotton balls in lieu of peonies and roses – or skip the bouquet altogether.
Additional Expert Tips
If you do choose flowers, opt for seasonal flowers. Sturdy flowers – think, sunflowers, daisies, and carnations – can also lower your bill. Use an online resource, such as BridalGuide‘s seasonal floral chart, to check what type will be in season on your wedding day.
Many folks shy away from expensive blooms, such as peonies and hydrangeas. However, these high-end flowers can actually be great for a modestly priced bouquet. Because each bloom is so large, you need fewer flowers to fill up your bouquet and you may actually spend less overall.
Design your ceremony decor in such a way that it can be repurposed for the reception. For example, hang flower arrangements in a decorative vase from shepherd’s hooks along your ceremony aisle, then use the arrangements as table centerpieces during your cocktail hour. Bridesmaid bouquets can be set on the cake table for extra color, and your arch piece can double as your head table decor.
Traditional wedding florists can charge exorbitant amounts. Of course, they also offer convenience, expertise, and assurance that your flowers will be on-time and beautiful. If you simply need the convenience of a wedding florist, reach out to newer professionals who are still building up a portfolio. Be honest about your budget and ask what your options are. If they really want your business, they’ll find a way to get you the look you want for a price you can afford.
What sort of floral arrangements do you like at weddings?