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The arrangements every wedding needs


Photo Credit: Native Heart Photography from a Poppy wedding in Anaheim, California in December 2021

Planning your wedding flowers? Here’s what you need to consider. 

In a recent post Top 5 questions about wedding flower costs, we talked about how much wedding flowers cost and how to plan out your wedding flower budget. Now, for the big question, how do you want to spend your carefully planned budget? 

What types of flower arrangements do I need at my wedding? 

Planning the flower arrangements for a wedding is a bigger logistical task than, say, getting the dress. That’s an intense process of research, shopping and styling, but it’s pretty straightforward. You’ll need a dress. Probably just one. Done. 

How many flowers does it really take to create your vision for your wedding day? Where do they go? What kind of arrangements do you need? And how do you allocate your budget to decorate the ceremony and reception sites?

The most important wedding floral categories  

There are four main categories of wedding flower arrangements. 

Personals: These are flowers that attach to a person. Bouquets, boutonnieres, corsages and even flower girl petals get grouped into personals. 

Ceremony: Any flower arrangement used to decorate your ceremony space, or frame the entrance or aisle, is part of your ceremony spend. 

Reception: Reception arrangements include flowers for tables, the band/DJ stage, and any other part of the room you’re decorating.

…and sometimes 

Cocktail: This is a much smaller category specifically for the cocktail hour and usually refers to bud vases on high top tables. 

(Poppy has a lot to say about personals, so that’s a topic for another day. And we really can’t wait to talk about it!) 

The vibe of your wedding venue can help you choose your wedding flowers 

Even more than the season in which you get married, it is the size of your guest list, the theme of your wedding, and your venue that will make the biggest impact on your floral planning. 

You were drawn to your venue for a reason, so it’s helpful to think about the exact reason you chose your venue. Maybe you’ve selected a contemporary art gallery with soaring ceilings and stark white walls. Did you choose this venue because you’re minimalist at heart? Or did you choose a vineyard with rolling hills and a tasting room with oak-paneled walls? You might have been drawn to the vineyard’s sunset views and coziness of the tasting room. 

These are just two examples, but with any venue, there’s a reason why it’s your perfect space. (Also, it’s perfectly acceptable to admit that the reason for your hotel ballroom is efficiency. The reason doesn’t need to be poetic; it just needs to be evident so you can start planning.)

Flower arrangements for each special moment of your wedding

Imagining that you’re the couple who is getting married at the vineyard mentioned above, let’s talk more about your reasons – sunset and coziness – and follow the roadmap to your flower arrangements. 

You’ve talked it through with your venue coordinator, and your ceremony will be outside, naturally, and it’s going to be at sunset. You’ll host cocktail hour on the big wraparound porch outside the tasting room, and guests will start to drift inside as the sky darkens. Inside the tasting room, you’ll have a small dance floor by the big window with the best view, and there will be seating just opposite the buffet. With the remaining space, there’s an impressive floor-to-ceiling wine bottle display that will be a great backdrop for pictures, so you won’t block it with the band stage. You’re inviting 80 guests, and you’ll be using the venue’s collection of high-top and round dinner tables – as well as the beautiful bar with its stools – to accommodate them. 

Now let’s dig even deeper. For an outdoor ceremony, you want the sunset to set the tone. You’ll keep flower arrangements low so you don’t block the view. You want seating in the round, so you’ll have a semi-circle of long benches angled toward you. That means you’ll be creating two aisles. Let’s do a flower check here. You’ll have two of Poppy’s signature flower clouds in stands flanking you as you say “I do.” To mark off the two aisles, you’ll need florals on the ground. You can put more budget into this, as you won’t be able to decorate the benches themselves. 

Moving on to cocktail hour on the porch, votives with flickering light will add almost all the romance you need. Flowers can be very minimal here – bud vases are customary at cocktail hour, and perhaps you’ll even alternate the tables with vases and those with candles. 

The tasting room has the most floral space to fill. It’s tradition to line bridesmaids’ bouquets on the sweetheart table where you’ll eat dinner. The guests’ low tables will need more elaborate flower arrangements, but the high tops can use simple bud vases like the ones from cocktail hour. You’ll also add one low arrangement to the band stage to soften the appearance of wires and speakers. 

And just like that, your venue layout helped your flower choices fall into line. As you think about how to arrange your ceremony, where to group guests for cocktails, and how to accommodate sitting and eating, standing and mingling, and dancing guests in your reception area, the flower arrangements will populate where you want to direct focus, designate seating and personalize the space with your palette. (That wine bottle wall would really pop with a lush garland in your shades of pale pink and copper, for example.)

How to think about investing your wedding floral budget 

Spatially, you’re set. You know how many flower arrangements and where to put them. As you start thinking about the “how much” of the costs, there’s one more important consideration.

Which space gets your biggest investment: ceremony or reception? The ceremony will run half an hour, on average. The reception is where you’ll dine, dance and get down for the better part of three to four hours. By the logic of spending money where you’ll spend the most time, you’d allocate the biggest share of your floral budget to reception arrangements. 

Consider where the most memorable moments happen at the wedding. By this, we mean the moments that get photographed, framed and placed on your mantle: the first kiss, the walk down the aisle and the ring exchange. These are ceremony moments, and they’ll be captured in your memory and in photography with the most significance. It’s essential to give these moments a worthy floral background. 

Your Mantras for Planning Flower Arrangements

Let your venue be your guide. The layout of the space will build the formulas for how many flower arrangements and where. Allow the flower arrangements to direct focus, designate seating and personalize your space. Think about the moment in your day that you’ll want to gaze at for years to come, and make sure there are gorgeous flowers in that shot. 

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