Flower Power

It's no secret to anyone who's ever purchased flowers as a gift for someone else, or who loves to decorate their home with fresh flowers: They're expensive. You'd like to think that buying in bulk — say, for a wedding — would cut down on the cost of the little buds, but you'll find that the size of your bank account is the only thing reduced by purchasing gads of roses and lilies. Are you simply doomed, then, to spend more than you'd like on this aspect of your daughter's big day? No, ma'am. There are many ways to ensure that your daughter's wedding is beautifully decorated without diving headfirst into debt.

Finding the Florist

Start shopping around for the right florist at least four months prior to the wedding — earlier than that if you have the time. You'll want to compare services, creativity, and prices of various florists, and you'll also want to give yourself ample opportunity to see their work at local weddings, receptions, or other events.

When you make an appointment to meet with the florist, have a solid concept of what you're willing to spend. A creative florist will have ideas for any budget; indeed, most florists can correctly be called artists. A florist who is in the business primarily to gouge customers will show you arrangements that are obviously above and beyond your means, and in that case, you should take your business elsewhere. This person is wasting your time in the hopes of pushing you to spend more. Another florist — one who will actually listen to what you're saying — is waiting for you. You just have to find him or her. Be persistent. (This is when you'll be glad you gave yourself plenty of time.)

Silk Flowers and Wholesalers

One popular suggestion for saving money on wedding flowers is to use silk instead of fresh cuts. If silk flowers are done well, they can look real; however, there's an over-abundance of fake-looking silk out there, so you do have to choose carefully, and it's best not to enter into this project alone. Take a brutally honest friend or relative along on the silk-flower hunt. If she tells you she's never seen a blue daisy in all of her life, and incorporating the silk variety of this flower into your daughter's wedding will be tacky, listen to her.

Essential

Think about a compromise. If your daughter just has to have that fresh-flower smell at her wedding, have a mixture of real flowers where they're most important — in the bouquets, in the centerpieces — and silk flowers (or other less expensive options) where fresh flowers won't be missed.

Some wholesalers will sometimes offer the same services as an independent florist (arrangements, delivery, wiring or taping the bouquets) or be able to recommend a local florist in your price range. Internet companies can offer low, low prices on their products along with how-to instructions for assembling the floral arrangements for the wedding. If you're fairly confident that you can handle the care and delivery of the flowers (to the church and to the reception site) on the day of the wedding, this may be a viable option for you. Look carefully at the site's delivery policy. When will the flowers arrive, and how? Is there a contingency plan in case the truck or plane carrying your order doesn't arrive? You don't want to be left searching for flowers — any flowers — on your way to the church. Keep in mind that you will have a lot of work to do the day of the wedding and the day before.

Common Sense

When the bride is sighing over the gorgeous orchids in the flower shop, pull her away to look at something else — anything else, in fact. Orchids (and roses) tend to be among the most expensive floral options. Steer her toward flowers that are in season and widely available in your area; while almost any flower can be made available for a wedding, out-of-season and exotic blooms will cost you much more. In-season flowers also tend to accentuate the wedding itself: If your daughter is getting married in December, wouldn't it be lovely and appropriate to incorporate poinsettias in the overall design of the wedding flowers — instead of trying to dredge up some sunflowers?

Christmas and Easter are wonderful times for saving money on wedding flowers, because most churches are already decorated for these seasons. Valentine's Day, conversely, is one of the most expensive holidays to get married on or around; flower prices are routinely increased in the weeks preceding February 14.

More tips for saving money on the flowers:

  • The bride can cut her number of attendants. Having ten bridesmaids means that she will shell out for ten bouquets (and most likely ten boutonnieres).

  • A single flower dramatized with a ribbon is just as lovely for the bridesmaids to carry as a huge bouquet is.

  • A wedding in an already decorated setting (think public garden or museum) needs very little in the way of decorations.

  • Grocery store florists are usually much cheaper than their independent counterparts. Be prepared to really investigate this option, though, to make sure the flowers are of the best quality.

  • Splitting the cost of the church flowers can save you a bundle: Ask the minister if another wedding is scheduled for the same day, and contact the other bride.

  • And just remember what some men love to tell their significant others: Flowers die. Of course, these men are also likely to follow that phrase with, “No use spending good money on them.” That sentiment doesn't exactly hold true here — a wedding might end up looking a little sad without a few blossoms to perk things up. However, you could wind up feeling downright morose if you discover too late that you could have spent much, much less on the decorations. Give yourself plenty of time and explore all of your floral options.

    Dressing Up the Reception

    If the reception is being held in a location without a single decoration, you could conceivably spend a fortune on simply making the place look less barren. A great option for dressing up plain halls is to call some local nurseries and ask them if they rent out potted plants. Put them in the corners, place them in the entryway, pop one next to the head table. If you're not completely sold on this idea, thinking that everything will just look too green and dark, consider stringing some clear “twinkle” lights on the plants. There's just something dreamy and whimsical about little lights that echo stars in the sky — or fireflies in the yard.

    Fact

    Some brides opt for simple, fresh floral centerpieces — and are still able to meet their budget. Consider small bud vases at each table, or candles surrounded by fresh petals.

    Candles are another less expensive option for beautifying a reception hall for less money. You'll find candles come in all sizes and colors, and are much cheaper than floral centerpieces. Float a candle in a crystal bowl; you'll be amazed at the light it gives off. Slide a mirror underneath and the effect is even lovelier. (You can also do different centerpieces at different tables. Have fresh flowers at half and candles at the other half.) Make sure to ask your banquet manager if the use of candles is permitted in his facility. Hurricane lamps are often an option if the flames must be covered.

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