One of our most popular classes is the Bridal Class – in most of the cases I get calls from brides to be who enquire about the possibility of designing their own wedding flowers with the help of Mum, a talented Auntie, some green-fingered friends and/or their enthusiastic bridesmaids..
There are a few things to consider before embarking on such a major task on your wedding day, though the results can be very fulfilling and a memory to treasure forever.
Kate from Floret Cadet sums it very aptly ‘The 7 deadly sins of DIY flowers’.
1. Not doing a trial run
Even if you’re replicating an inspiration photo, a trial run is imperative. The same variety of flower from a different source could be a different size or come with a different stem length, and it’s very hard to tell from a picture exactly how many flowers were used. You’ll want a sense of how long the arrangements will take, how they’ll hold up, and how they’ll look with the specific elements you plan to use so you can tweak any part of your plan before it’s too late. You can also take classes and make your trial arrangements in a supported environment if that appeals to you. Many florists offer 1:1 coaching and DIY “bridal bootcamps” are even becoming more popular.
2. Doing your own flowers solely to save money
If you don’t particularly care about flowers and are drawn towards DIY solely for the cost savings, I think you’d be better off making your own non floral centerpieces and ceremony decorations and hiring a florist for personal flowers only. You can do non floral centerpieces in advance, at your own pace, and not worry about anything wilting or not looking like you’d envisioned day of. I’ve seen really cute ones with bird cages and dried botanicals, vintage books, vintage suitcases, the possibilities are endless. If you want something living, you can do nice centerpieces with fruit and/or vegetables that are a lot less fickle and labor intensive than fresh flowers. I think that anyone embarking on DIY wedding or event flowers should truly have an interest in learning the craft, or at least a strong passion for flowers with a limited budget as a strong motivator to do-it-yourself right and not cut corners or get frustrated with the process.
3. Not conditioning or storing flowers properly or not timing their delivery properly
A good flower source will be able to walk you through this and send you detailed instructions, but different flower varieties arrive in different conditions, from vase ready to requiring a few days to open before use, and many have slightly different conditioning and processing needs. Tulips continue to grow after they’re cut, so they should not be arranged as far in advance as other varieties can be. Lilies are often shipped in bud form and given several days to open. Some flowers excrete a milky substance when cut that poisons the water for others, and need to be dunked in boiling water to seal it off. Gerbera daisies should never be kept in more than a couple of inches of water because they will take in too much. The point is just that there’s no one stop rule for how to receive, condition and store all flowers. Generally, they will ALL need their stems recut with sharp clean shears on a diagonal right after being delivered. And they will all need to have below the waterline foliage removed to soak in their own clean bucket of warm water and flower food in a cool place away from sunlight for several hours to overnight to rehydrate. Also, no flowers should be stored near fruits or vegetables because of a gas they omit which is noxious to flowers. But you should get to know a rep at whichever company you’re ordering your flowers through to get the specific lowdown on your flowers and talk about how to time the delivery case by case.
4. Underestimating how much time and space it will take to make the arrangements
Everyone will work at a different pace and arrangements vary wildly in terms of labor intensity, but most single arrangements I’ve made have taken me at least an hour when you factor in unpacking, setting up, cleaning stems, creation and cleanup (this is not including the downtime for flowers to be rehydrated) so it’s a good starting point to budget for the time, unless your centerpieces are ultra simple. Some of these steps will be combined when making multiples but flowers really do take a good deal of time to arrange!
5. Trying to make your own florals without a truly willing brigade of helpers
See above. This is a lot of work, and it can’t be done very far in advance. You will go nuts if you try to go this alone. You need not only bodies to help, but preferably people who are genuinely interested and who have been given a realistic indication of what all is involved.
6. Not planning for delivery and set up
Once you receive the flowers, properly condition them, and arrange them you are not out of the woods! Who is taking them to the ceremony and reception site? Do they fit comfortably in that person’s car? How are they being secured / protected in the car(s)? Who is setting them up? Does that person know exactly where they go?
7. Trying to make any arrangements the day of the event
This goes hand in hand with #4, but underestimating the time and space it will take isn’t the end of the world if you do that underestimating re: a few days before the wedding. I know plenty of people who have stayed up until all hours doing their flowers the night before (one of them, a professional florist!!!).
Arranging lots of flowers is a labor intensive, messy, space sucking endeavor that can and should also be fun and rewarding. But it won’t be if you’re working against the clock or don’t have the proper resources (space, help, supplies). If you have a true interest in doing flowers yourself and don’t commit the 7 deadly sins, it can be a great experience that can save you a bundle of money. It’s just important to understand that you’re paying a florist for expertise and experience and lots and lots of labor including delivery and set up. To successfully do it yourself, you need to think of it as paying yourself instead for the same. You or your friends and family will need to do some research, gain some experience, and put in the hard work.
As a parallel, I would never ever try to make my own wedding cake, or let a friend or family member do it unless they had made a similar large scale special event cake and I liked the result. If I didn’t have a budget for a slick professional wedding cake, I’d consider an alternative like cute trays of store bought desserts. I would definitely consider doing my own wedding flowers, but only because I’ve been tinkering and trial, really enjoy it, and flowers are so important to me that I wouldn’t ever consider predominantly non floral decor.
Hope this helps anyone weighing DIY!