Step 1: Find a florist
This was much more difficult than I had anticipated. First, I searched for wholesale florists, but there were not many in my area, and those that were here did not sell to individuals. Then, I went to grocery stores and the like, but the quality of their flowers was seriously lacking as was selection, and no one really knew what was going on. I found our florist at a farmer's market, but they were the only ones there who had any kind of selection. Honestly, if you can, I would recommend ordering your flowers from a regular florist (i.e. flower shop) and just doing the arrangements yourselves. It might be a little more expensive, but based on the prices we paid, I doubt it would be much more, and the quality of the flowers, service, and selection will be much higher than anywhere else. Though if you can find a wholesale market that will let you buy from them, I've heard that's the best option. Just make sure you can order your flowers, so you're not stuck with what they have that day.
Step 2: Appointment Someone in Charge of Flowers
Photo by Stephen Cheng Photography
We were very lucky to have Julia who already knew about arrangements. You need to have someone who can make themselves knowledgeable about flowers beforehand, and it cannot be the bride or groom. You guys have too much to do right before the wedding already to be worrying about flowers dying while you're getting your dress or tux on. Julia was working on the flowers right up until she left for the ceremony because a bunch of our flowers died. Not saying that will happen to you, but something will. If you can, send your appointed person to a class on flower arrangements or at least have them look at DIY tutorials online. Also, talk to your florist about how to keep the flowers fresh and how to transport them and such. They can be helpful in keeping your flowers alive and pretty.
Step 3: Pick Your Flowers
Actually, you should have an idea of what flowers you want before you pick your florist to make sure they can provide what you want. Look up what flowers are in season. Local flowers will always be cheapest. Find flowers that are easy to work with and hardy. You don't want any fragile flowers, especially if your refrigeration space is limited. Try to pick a color scheme that will work with local, in season flowers. We had a Hell of a time finding blue flowers that would work with my vision, and though I spent a lot of time trying to avoid hydrangeas, they ended up being a good choice because they were easy to arrange. If you want a wide variety of flowers, you probably want a spring wedding. Talk to your florist (or any florist) about flower choices. If you can describe what you want, they should be able to help find it. But always make sure you can see what they pick before ordering it, so you know it's what you're looking for. If you can't see it in person, look it up online.
Step 4: Create and Communicate a Vision for Arrangements
If you're reading this, I'm sure you know the wonders of the internet when it comes to (and I quote Offbeat Bride) wedding porn. Use it. Someone will give you inspiration or have had the same image as you. Find them. Copy them. Pictures are the most effective way to communicate your vision to others. Find something simple for your centerpieces. When it comes down to it, no one cares about them, and there are better things to spend your time and money on. Try to keep the variety of flowers you need to a minimum. It will be cheaper and easier that way. And if you can afford it and you care about it, hire someone to do your bouquet. It will turn out better if a professional does it.
Step 5: Order Your Flowers
You honestly don't need to do this very far in advance. Most places only place the order a week ahead of time. I'd recommend doing it a month ahead of time just to be sure. Try to be realistic about how many flowers you need. Try to get your florist to give you an idea of how big their bunches are. You definitely want extras, but you don't want a ton of extras. Allow for errors and screw ups, and if the budget is nagging you, make a list of what matters most to you and cut off the excess. Remember, no one but you is going to remember your flowers, so if they're not perfect, it's not a big deal.
Step 6: Get a Flower Arranging Team
You're going to need help. Get everyone you can to help you with the flowers, and make sure you give them plenty of notice because many will have to take off work. The more the merrier with flowers, and if it means you get done quickly, that is just fine. I would recommend doing the flowers two days before the wedding. That way, they should be fresh enough, but you won't literally be doing them at the last minute.
Step 7: Pick up and Prepare Your Flowers
Before you pick up your flowers, have on hand:
Pins for bouquets
Ribbons for tying bouquets
Here is what you need to do with your flowers when you get them home:
Put all the stems in water (but not the flowers; petals and water do not mix well)
Cut at least 1/4 in. off all the stems (1/2 in. is better)
Immediately return to water
Strip all the roses (dethorners are about $5 each, so I'd get two if you have a lot of flowers)
Strip other flowers as necessary
Prepare vases (fill with water, flower food if you're using it, anything extra like pebbles, sand, or aqua beads)
Cut stems to appropriate sizes
Step 8: Make Flower Arrangements
Start with the centerpieces. There are a lot of them, and no one cares about them, so they will be good practice for bouquets and such. Plus, once you figure out how you want them, it's easy to teach others how to make them, leaving the hard stuff to those who know what they're doing. The easiest way to make a centerpieces is to buy Oasis or foam of some sort to stick the flowers into. However, you don't need it. Pebbles, gems, or aqua beads work too.
Bouquets and boutonnieres are trickier. If you don't take a class, find some good online tutorials, and practice ahead of time if you can.
Step 9: Store Flowers
One of the hardest parts of DIYing flowers is figuring out where to put them once the arrangements are done. Many flowers need to be kept cool, and when you have 20 arrangements, it can be hard to fit them all. Put as much as you can in the refrigerator, then go find other people's refrigerators that you can use. We had our flowers spread over at least four hotel rooms and our venue at one point. One way to avoid this problem is to get flowers that are hardy enough to deal with heat for a few days. But whatever you do, don't fill a cooler with ice and put your arrangements in it like we did. They will freeze. But that's a story for next time.
Step 10: Enjoy
One of the nice things about DIYing your flowers is that you can be that much more proud of them when your wedding day arrives. When you look out over your guests enjoying their tables, know that you built that joy, and you made your day extra special by truly putting yourself into it.
Advice or experiences you had with DIYing flowers?