(Robert Ellis Photography)
Is there a bride whose fantasy day does not somehow involve flowers? Flowers are a true sensory experience: beautiful, colorful, fragrant, symbolic, evocative. Every bride has a picture that involves the floral. No matter what time of year, whether a royal extravaganza or a small civil ceremony, there are always flowers to sweeten this milestone occasion.

If you are trying to keep costs within bounds, however, you might consider taking on just one floral area, such as the bouquets, or embellishing the cake table. Doing your own flowers can be a creative way to keep things simple, low-key or within a particular theme. But think realistically about the scale of your event- if you are hosting many guests and dream of garlands, bouquets, boutonnieres, and centerpieces for each table, we do not recommend trying this at home. A full-scale extravaganza requires the expertise of a professional. Fortunately our community is blessed with some amazing floral artists. Consult the local yellow pages or ask for references from other wedding professionals.

However, if you have some experience with arranging flowers, have some help (weddings require good friends!) and access to some interesting materials, doing some of your own flowers can be a lovely labor.

There are a few basics to keep in mind. Flowers generally need to be arranged just prior to the big event, which will dictate who is available for this duty. I once participated in a homegrown, very low-budget affair, in which the bridal attendants bedecked the sacred place while the bride was having a massage.


As in so many situations, planning is paramount - your success is directly proportional to the extent of your planning and preparedness. Time is a key ingredient for procuring, conditioning and arranging your blossoms. You will also need some simple supplies to ease your task.

Several things to keep in mind are color, scale and season. The more flexible you are regarding your choice of varieties, the more will be available to you. Although the flower industry has figured out how to grow just about anything in any season, the most reasonably priced flowers are those that are naturally abundant in your area.

Stroll the farmer's markets well before you need to buy; get an idea of what is available. This is a good idea even if you are not planning to be the designer. Knowing more than "I hate gladioli"will enable your florist to deliver a much more personalized result. Pay attention to the color combinations that speak to you. If you are a knowledgeable gardener, make a list of the flora that resonate with you. Inspiration is available everywhere, not just in beautiful bridal magazines!

What is the mood of your celebration? Do you fancy woodland plants to pave your fairyland?Or do you prefer the drama of scarlet silk linens with a single black lily? Consider the mood set by a given type of flower or arrangement. Most materials lend themselves to many different moods,depending on use.

An all-white bridal bunch affords an opportunity to focus on fragrance - lily-of-the-valley, sweet peas, freesia, white lilacs and hyacinths are only a few of the delicacies abounding as spring arrives. Summer is heady with lilies, honeysuckle and roses. Autumn affords so many beautiful nuts and berries and gourds -how lovely would a harvest wedding be?Winter is the time to use opulent fabrics, textures and colors.

All flowers last longer if conditioned between purchase and arranging. Specific varieties call for specific techniques, but in general: Remove all leaves beneath the water line; re-cut the stem at a sharp angle, and place in clean, cool water. Some say warm water is more easily absorbed, but this is tricky - too-hot water can wilt your treasure. Keep flowers out of direct sun, heat or drafts. Think root cellar! Florist shops always have refrigerator cases to safeguard the most delicate.

Some simple ideas
· Any single variety (sunflowers, tulips, etc.) bunched together in a simple container really pops
· A solitary, tall, sturdy-stemmed variety, such as a calla lily,in an elongated graceful bottle or vase
· Leafy branches in season - fruit or forsythia in spring;blooming rosemary or other herbal sprays, or red-leafed maples in summer and fall pines and conifer branches in winter. These can be put to beautiful use either upright in a container of water, or lying down on the table's surface.
· Forced bulbs or blooming annuals in terracotta pots
· A simple show of color in a unique container - vintage glass bottles, funky coffee cans, old-fashioned milk bottles or mason jars tied with gossamer ribbon.

Materials list

Even the perfect bloom may need support, lengthening or spacing, which can easily be achieved with just a few basic aids:
· Very sharp shears or flower knife
· Wire for reinforcing or extending stems
· "Oasis" floral foam that holds water and supports stems, allowing the use of many types of containers
· Foil, plastic liner or pie tin to waterproof the containers
· Green florist tape for wrapping stems and forming a sup-port by crisscrossing over the top rim of vessel
· Cellophane for scrunching in the bottom of a vase to raise things up.

Your neighborhood library has many wonderful books on flower arranging. Just perusing the sumptuous photographs is a lovely indulgence. There is much to know. We probably won't become experts in time for the Big Day, for it is a long-lived and varied art. But we can educate ourselves enough to know what welike and create some lovely floral additions to our wedding d├ęcor if we keep these basics in mind.

And brides - the very best thing about whatever your heart desires to enhance this most special day is that no one can deny you your blooming dream!

Learn more about the Monterey Bay area at MontereyBayAdventures.com.