Love in Bloom

Independent brides, considerably older and possibly better educated than in past decades, do seek tradition, but with a twist.

One of the things they most look for now is color. Brides are shocking their mothers by putting color — even bold color — into the traditionally all-white bridal bouquet.

“They’re in their 30s, a lot of them,” says Teresa Beck-Lauterbach, owner of a flower shop called The Blooming Acorn in Bedford (603-471-1433). “They’re very aware of what they want. They’re using the Internet; they’re talking to each other in chat rooms. They’re in a never-ending search to find what’s unique and different.” Often, what they find is Martha Stewart.

“Martha Stewart is one of those people whom florists love to bash,” says Jody Gage of Fortin-Gage, Ltd., in Nashua and Amherst ( “It’s true that some floral arrangements in Martha’s magazines are so expensive to produce that they don’t always transfer well to a commercial product, but there’s a good side. Martha has brought to the forefront the awareness of flowers. Her designs are nice, and they can sometimes be reproduced.”

In recent years, advances in everything from long-distance overnight shipping to Internet ordering have transformed the floral industry. “Flowers don’t need to be as seasonal as before,” says Gage, who grew up in his family’s floral business. “When I was a kid, a wholesaler would show up with a truck full of flowers that he’d picked up at Quincy Market in Boston that morning, and we’d select what we wanted from that. Those guys don’t exist any more.”

Instead, Gage explains, he gets on the Internet, often late at night, to see which flowers are available from up-to-the-minute inventories. “Most flowers are shipped overnight from California, Holland, and South America. If a bride is looking for a particular flower, chances are it’s in season in one of those places.”

The average total price tag for wedding flowers could be about $1,500 — with small budgets starting at $200 and large ones upwards of $5,000. The majority of costs can be determined by answering these questions:

How many people will be in the bridal party?
How many guests will attend?
How many tables will there be at the reception?
Whatever budget one has must be spread carefully over the whole event, with the bride deciding which elements take priority. Of the flowers being carried or worn, the bride’s bouquet will be the focal point. Depending on her selections, a colonial, round, simple bouquet might start at the lower end of the range, maybe $100, while a cascade look could be twice the price or even more. “Round rather than cascade is the choice today,” says Beck-Lauterbach. “We’re wrapping a lot. Brides like the stems showing now — a hand-tied look.”

In making selections for bridesmaids’ bouquets, Judy Pyszka of Chalifour’s in Manchester ( recommends, “You want your flowers to offset or enhance the color of the dress, not necessarily to match it.” Purple flowers on a purple dress, for instance, would fade right into the fabric. “If you had lavenders, yellows, whites and pinks, they would stand off the purple dress,” she says.

There are new styles even for boutonnières. Roses and baby’s breath were used in the past. Mini callas are more popular at the moment. Teresa Beck-Lauterbach says, “We’re noticing in boutonnières the ongoing search for something different, such as foliage or interesting berries.”

Traditional corsages for mothers of the wedding pair have been updated — and scaled down in size. “This is not your grandmother’s corsage — you know, the orchids that covered her whole shoulder,” Gage says with a chuckle. “They’re smaller than they used to be — an accent piece rather than a focal piece. And ladies are wearing more wristlets.”

What about flowers for the church? Gage advises: “Either make them big or save the money. Small arrangements get lost in large churches.” Some brides try to conserve funds by conveying their church florals to the reception, but they should keep in mind that really large arrangements may not transport well to the next location.

“Whether in a church or a tent, we like to place something at the entrance to greet the guests,” says Beck-Lauterbach. “Rather than having anything at the altar, we can offer tall rental pieces, and pew bows turned out to face people in the very last pew.”

“People are more willing to be contemporary with table designs today — we don’t see basket arrangements anymore,” says Gage. “That ‘roundy moundy’ centerpiece is kind of gone. Hydrangeas may cost more than some traditional flower types, but you can do a far more dramatic look — and use fewer flowers.”

Elevated arrangements, mounted in tall glass cylinder vases or antique wooden candlesticks, offer more bang for the buck. Why? “You’re adding beauty to the entire room rather than just the table,” Gage explains. Adding to the elegance, mirrors can be placed underneath, with candles glowing to bring up more light.

How do you find just the right height for a centerpiece? “I tell my brides to sit and put an elbow on the table, just as a guest would do,” says Beck-Lauterbach, “and then to rest their chin on the heel of their hand. That is eye-level, and that is just what you want to see — the centerpiece must be either shorter or taller than that.” She adds that some brides like to put a votive cup at each person’s place with a little blossom in it.

Another new centerpiece idea is to cluster smaller arrangements to make one big one — the “breakaway” centerpiece. “Each female guest takes one away as a favor,” says Beck-Lauterbach.

“What’s really wonderful — if brides are willing to do it — is to have different kinds of flowers on every table,” says Pyszka with enthusiasm. “We take bubble bowls and fill them with clusters of tulips, roses, daisies, etc., and it totally changes the atmosphere of the room. After all, spring is a mixture of flowers, and this looks fabulous. People are excited to say, ‘I’m sitting at the tulip table.’ It makes it fun for them.”

Whatever flowers are chosen, a wedding joins two people and their loved ones. With the aid of their florists, their mothers, and the Internet, today’s brides have all the ideas they need to make their memories lasting and beautiful.