My son Rundy (a former contributor to this website) and his sweetheart Debbie announced their engagement mid-February. They got married on July 16th. I want to share our experiences doing the wedding flowers. (And by “our” I mean several people from both families.) I hope this will help you decide if you want to take on the flowers for the wedding of someone dear to you.

Wedding flowers are a crop

Wedding flowers are a crop. They are grown for a certain occasion and for a specific purpose. When deciding what to grow, you can’t merely think, “Is it pretty?” You have to consider how it works as a cut flower; will it look good in an arrangement, in a corsage, in a boutonnière, or a bouquet? And–if you are growing your own–will it be blooming when you need it? And for every crop, there is the possibility of crop failure. Drought, flood, heat, frost, wind, animal pests, disease, completely freaky things no one could imagine–you name it, it could happen to your precious wedding flowers.

Do you want to grow all the flowers needed, or just some of them?

The possibility of crop failure is why I told Debbie I would be glad to grow flowers for their wedding, but I did not want to be responsible for the most important wedding flowers–the ones the bridal party would be wearing or carrying. I was glad to hear Debbie’s co-worker Josh had a flower business on the side, and Debbie was going to buy those special flowers from him.

Debbie wanted a color scheme of yellow, moss green, and white, and she wanted the flowers to be wildflowers or at least have that informal, rustic feel. She mentioned Queen Anne’s lace and black-eyed Susans as examples of what she had in mind. We consulted our memories and our collective photo archives and thought those flowers bloomed in mid-July. I thought to myself that depending on the weather, those particular flowers could be a week early or a week late–but something would certainly be blooming!

When to start them?

Summer-blooming annuals take so long to get going here that they could almost be called autumn flowers. So, I’ll cut to the chase: I did start a bunch of annuals, but only the bachelor’s buttons were blooming in time for the wedding. In just two more weeks, most of the others were blooming, so for your information, this is what I started, and when.

Snapdragon Rocket Mix from Fedco

Alyssum Carpet of Snow from American Seed
Cosmos sulphureus from Outside Pride
Didiscus Lacy Blue from Fedco
Rudbeckia Gloriosa daisy from Fedco
Rudbeckia Goldilocks from Fedco
Rudbeckia Prairie Sun from Fedco
Cosmos Double Click Rose Bonbon from Fedco
Bachelor’s Buttons Blue Boy from Fedco

Benary’s Giants Lime Zinnia from Fedco
Green Envy Heirloom Zinnia from Renee’s Garden
Cabaret Double Cutting Zinnia from Renee’s Garden
Cool Crayon Colors Cutting Zinnias from Renee’s Garden

In a climate with an earlier last frost date, they could have been ready by July 16th, but not here, not without a greenhouse.

Flowers: From the Garden and the Field

At some point before spring, Debbie gave up on a rigid color scheme for the wedding flowers, and that was a good thing, because when you are on a tight budget (and she was), you can’t be too picky about your flowers; you take what you can get. Debbie bought three buckets of flowers from Josh: one bucket of special flowers for the bridal party, one bucket of sunflowers, and one bucket of filler.

Where did the rest of the flowers come from? From my garden–not from the annuals grown specifically for the wedding, but from the shrubs and perennials that make up the backbone of every garden bed–and not just flowers, but also seed heads and ornamental grasses.

In the cutting garden, where we had planted the annuals growing from seed, there were plants that had been started the previous year from a wildflower mix from American Beauties. There were also bee balms that had been started from seed at least two years previously.

Flowers were also picked from the wild places around our rural home and also where Debbie’s mom lives. (What were once called weeds are now hip “foraged flora.”) And a few were donated by Josh. He had been growing flowers on some nearby land, but the plot had gotten away from him. He let the wedding floral team glean from among the weeds there.

Who is going to arrange the centerpieces and assemble the bridal party flowers?

The floral team consisted of Debbie’s sister Becky and my daughter Talitha, assisted by Becky’s daughter Cassie and my other two daughters, Cadie and Deirdre. None of them were professionally trained or ever employed as florists. Becky had worked mostly with artificial flowers to make floral arrangements, wreaths, and the like for her home and church, or for gifts.

Talitha (also a former contributor) has cut and arranged flowers from my garden for years, flipped through flower arranging books that I’ve brought home, and helped a friend make the artificial-flower arrangements for the friend’s wedding. They both brought a lot of natural talent and willingness to work hard and long to this project.

If you are going to “do your own flowers” you will need similar friends and relatives on your team. Notice Debbie–the bride–was not directly involved in making the arrangements. She was busy putting out lots of other fires, including setting up at the wedding venue. No one can do it all for a big event like this, and success often means delegating jobs to those best suited for them.

DIY florists confer on wedding flower design

Becky and Talitha conferring on the design of the boutonnières. That’s the groom’s suit on the table beside them, so they can see if the boutonnière complements the suit colors. The open door leads to a screened porch. It’s dark out there! See the lantern on the table? They worked for two long days, and harvested flowers in the dark when necessary.

Countdown to the wedding

Just to confirm my assertion that the annuals didn’t bloom in time, here’s the cutting garden a mere five days before the wedding.

cutting garden 5 days before the wedding

5 days before the wedding (July 11), here’s what we’ve got from seed: 1. Snapdragons with buds on them 2. Cosmos with short stems, just starting 3. Last year’s coreopsis flopping over this year’s rudbeckia seedlings 4. Orange/yellow cosmos that’s too short to be useful. You can see daisies that were sown the year before, and bee balm that was sown two years before. In other words, almost every plant useful to the wedding was planted before we knew there was going to be a wedding. How’s that for preparation?

Two days before: Picking like crazy!

The moment of truth has come. It’s time to start making the centerpieces for the tables and arrangements for the aisles and other locations….