by Rhae Adams, Found in Nature LLC

*This content is Copyright 2016, Found in Nature LLC. You are welcome to link to or quote from this article with proper attribution. Any unattributed use of this article in whole or in part will be considered copyright violation and will be pursued.

What flowers do you need for your wedding? A look at the lists available on wedding websites and blogs gave *me* a feeling of panic – so many things! One website actually suggested “server tray decorations”! No wonder couples come into their floral consults confused about what flowers they *really* need to order.

I’ll start by saying what I tell every couple worried about what is “traditional” or “normal” – every wedding is unique, and there are no rules anymore about what you have to do. So, what makes sense for one couple may not make sense for another. For example, a couple with small families, having an intimate ceremony and brunch reception, will probably need far fewer flowers than a couple with large families, having a huge ceremony and full sit-down evening reception. There could be things on this list that you won’t need, and there might be things that aren’t on the list that you’ll want to include. It is based on my years of experience working with real couples, and is meant to kick off your thinking. Yes, your florist should be able to help you finalize your list, and they might suggest things that you haven’t thought about. However, thinking about your list first will make your consult go more quickly, and might help protect you from an overselling florist.


Wedding party:

*Bouquets – Bride(s), bridesmaids, groomsmaids. It’s not necessary to make the maid or matron of honor’s bouquet any larger, or different.

*Bride’s hair – Definitely not a must, but something to consider.

*Toss bouquet – Ask if they can make this complimentary by using flowers that couldn’t be sold due to quality issues. After all, you’re going to literally throw it away.

*Flower girl flowers – Depending on your venue, this could be petals in a basket. But, it could also be a small bouquet, kissing ball, floral bracelet, fairy wand, or circlet for her hair.

*Corsages or small bouquets for mothers, grandmothers, and honored guests – This is a very flexible area and there’s no requirement for any of this.

*Boutonnieres for groom(s), groomsmen, fathers, grandfathers, and ushers – Ushers are often overlooked, but this really helps your guests to know who to ask for assistance for seating at the ceremony.

*Boutonnieres/Corsages for officiants, singers, readers, attendants, musicians – Again, this is a flexible area and is very dependent on your budget, and the formality of your wedding.



OK, here is where it gets tricky. Your ceremony could be anywhere. A church is going to have different needs than a downtown loft, and both of those are no comparison to an outdoor garden setting. So, I’ve broken down the ceremony needs by type of location.


*Christian Church:

**Altar flowers – For example, single arrangement, matching pair of arrangements, or arch structure

**Aisle decoration – Pew end flowers, floor décor (if your aisle is wide)

**Other – Door wreaths; Guest book table arrangement; Memorial arrangement, to honor those not present; Unity symbol arrangement (candle, sand, etc.)


*Catholic Church: As above, and in addition, Roses for mothers; Bouquet for the Blessed Mother


*Hindu Ceremony:

**Flowers for mandap

**Garlands for couple

**Loose rose petals in large quantity

**Flowers to decorate the venue – entrance, along the aisle

**Garlands for bride’s hair and/or groom’s headdress

**Other – Decorations for Ganesh Pooja, Mehndi, and/or Barat


*Jewish Ceremony:

**Flowers for chuppah

**Decorations for Kabbalat Panim

**Decorations for ketubah


*Secular location

**Ceremony markers – single arrangement behind couple, matching pair of arrangements, or arch structure

**Aisle decoration – Chair flowers, floor décor (if your aisle is wide)

**Door wreaths

**Guest book table arrangement

**Memorial arrangement, to honor those not present

**Unity symbol arrangement (candle, sand, etc.)


*Outdoor Venue – Keep in mind you may not really want much decoration

**Ceremony markers – single arrangement behind couple, matching pair of arrangements, or arch structure

**Aisle decoration – Chair flowers

**Guest book table arrangement

**Memorial arrangement, to honor those not present

**Unity symbol arrangement (candle, sand, etc.)


Reception Décor (in order of priority):

*Centerpieces – One, two, three or more different designs, depending on your table count

*Head table décor – Consider using the bouquets with some decoration in between

*Cake flowers and/or dessert table decoration

*Cocktail table arrangements – Small touches can be nice, especially if the cocktail tables are accessible throughout the reception. If your cocktail time is short or at a location not accessible during the rest of the reception, you may want to skip this.

*Bar arrangements – Consider the size of the bar(s) and your guests activity around the bar. A small, busy bar may not be a great place for a large arrangement.

*Guest book table arrangement

*Escort card table arrangement/decoration

*Entry arrangements


Things I Don’t Recommend:

So, a disclaimer – this is just my opinion, based on my experience. You may really, really want things on this list, and if you do, go for it. It’s your wedding. I just think there are better ways to spend your money; and some of these things are massively impractical. Then again, I don’t recommend buffet arrangements, and I had one at my wedding.

*Any aisle decoration, like a petal design, that requires your aisle to be blocked off. Guests really, really hate this; it’s expensive; and the slightest wind will ruin it for an outdoor ceremony.

*Spending a lot of money on ceremony decorations that can’t be moved to the reception. Examples include garlands on the railings outside the church; massive altar arrangements that are too large to move; and flowers on the aisle. Also, receptions that start just after the ceremony make relocating ceremony flowers difficult, especially if the ceremony and reception are not in the same place.

*Huge centerpieces, especially tall ones. These look great on website photos and TV. But again, guests don’t like sitting underneath one all night. Massive, tall centerpieces block the guests’ view not only across their table, but across the whole room. They are also intimidating to sit underneath.

*Too much stuff on the table. Again, the look is great in photos. But there’s not as much real estate to fill on a table as you might think. Couples often see tables empty, so it seems like there is a huge open space that you need to fill. Once the table has all the guests’ dishes, glassware, and utensils, plus salt/pepper/sugar/salad dressing/etc containers, favors, disposable cameras, table numbers, your cute Instagram signs, and the guests’ personal bits and pieces (phones, purses, etc.), there isn’t that much space left. The last thing you want is for your guest to feel annoyed by flowers literally on their plates, which can easily happen with an over-full centerpiece.

*Buffet/food service table flowers. Caterers don’t usually care for arrangements on their food service tables, where space is often at a premium. Flowers don’t usually care for being near heat, like you would find around a chafing dish. And guests aren’t looking at your buffet for flowers. There are exceptions to this. At my own wedding, the buffet went on a huge table and the caterer couldn’t use the middle section, so we put our altar piece in the middle. Talk with your caterer first before ordering any arrangements for your buffet.

*Flowers at every place setting. This is lovely, for the few minutes prior to your guests’ entrance. Some guests will love it, but most will set it aside and forget about it. If you really want to include a flower for every guest, consider something that can be incorporated into a favor.

*Flowers on the gift table, in the bathrooms, along the railing out front, or other little places that no one is really going to see. Put your money where your guests will be.