How to save on wedding flowers

Everyone wants their wedding to be beautiful, and florals are often considered crucial when completing the look and feel of a ceremony and reception space.
Everyone wants their wedding to be beautiful, and florals are often considered crucial when completing the look and feel of a ceremony and reception space. PHOTO: REUTERS

(NYTIMES) - When Nathalie Guedes and her husband, Christopher Zardoya, were planning their wedding at 501 Union in Brooklyn, New York, they knew they wanted flowers - and lots of them. "We're both from Miami, so we're used to tropical plants and flowers everywhere," she said. Still, they didn't want to spend too much money. Centrepieces and bouquets are often thrown away after the night ends, and as architects, they believe strongly in sustainability.

"Weddings can be so wasteful, so we tried to reuse as much as we could," said Guedes, who budgeted US$2,000 for florals. She and her husband used discarded squares of marble from finished architectural projects to make decorative table number plaques and seating number assignments. Then Guedes discovered Bloomerent, a company that finds ways for brides and grooms to share wedding flowers. "We loved that our flowers would have a second life," she said. And, of course, they saved cash.

My Flowers Are Now Your Flowers

Here's how it works: If you sign up with one of 60 participating Bloomerent florists, brides and grooms can rent back their wedding flowers to another couple locally, with florists picking up the designs at the completion of one wedding and delivering it to another wedding for use the following day. (Currently, the company works with florists in 26 states and the District of Columbia.)

The reward: big savings on flowers for both brides. The first bride receives a 10 percent refund on the total cost of her flowers, while the second bride pays 40 to 60 percent of the original cost. (So if the flowers originally cost US$10,000, the second bride is paying only US$4,000 to US$6,000, and the first bride gets $1,000 back.)

When Guedes' industrial modern affair wrapped one Friday night in November, the long strands of greenery that lined the extra long communal tables at her wedding were set up at Patty Lee's wedding - a complete stranger to Guedes - the next day at the Brooklyn Winery. Here, the same strands of floral garland were also used to decorate long communal tables. "You couldn't tell - our florist did such a good job refreshing them," said Lee, a freelance food writer.

Everyone wants their wedding to be beautiful, and florals are often considered crucial when completing the look and feel of a ceremony and reception space. But couples get sticker shock when they realise just how much those overflowing centerpieces they saw on Pinterest actually cost. They begin to wonder if there is any way to get the costs down, and the good news is, even beyond Bloomerent, there are.

Don't Be Picky

Erica Jones, creative director of O Luxe Designs, a Boston-based wedding design company that caters to high-end clients around the world, says that floral budgets climb when couples meet a florist with very specific ideas, often gleaned from a glossy social media post or swoon-worthy magazine spread. "You'll save money by going in with an open mind," she said. You should still bring the photo, but ask how you can realistically achieve the look within your budget. Maybe the floral designer can suggest a similar colour scheme using less expensive flowers, or maybe the flowers in the photo are particularly expensive at that time of year, but a similar flower is less at the same time.

Sometimes a simple adjustment can save hundreds or thousands of dollars. Ranunculus flowers, which are often considered timeless and ephemeral, are readily available most of the year, but one popular variety, the Clooney, is available only for a few weeks, making them extra expensive. South American hydrangeas, which are white, light blue and pale green, are significantly less expensive than hydrangeas from Holland, which come in more vibrant shades of blue, pink and purple.

There are certain times of the year when the cost of flowers skyrocket, mostly because of demand. If you are getting married around Mother's Day or Valentine's Day, you should expect to pay more no matter what flower you're considering. ISome may think that greenery is less expensive, but it is not. "The kind of greenery brides want is often just as much as flowers," Jones said.

Bigger Blooms, More Bang for the Buck

Choosing flowers with more volume can also help couples save since they take up more space in a vase. You'll need many more tulips to fill a centrepiece than you would, say, garden roses, which take up more visual space. "Larger blooms can often give you more bang for your buck," said Courtney Nelson Lunsford, a lead planner with Pineapple Productions, an event planner in Washington.

Also, don't think you have to put flowers everywhere. Nelson Lunsford encourages brides to consider focal points in the reception space. Think about areas where guests will spend the most time and consider making investments to create more visual impact in those spots. Maybe there's a gorgeous entryway, and you want to place a tall imposing arrangement on a circular table at the centre. You might use floral arrangements at food stations since people will congregate there, or if all eyes are on a live band, then tall arrangements flanking them might be worth it.

Do It Yourself, or Maybe NotThe ultimate way to save money, of course, would be to do the flowers yourself. But Carly Cylinder, author of The Flower Chef: A Modern Guide To Do-It-Yourself Floral Arrangements, doesn't recommend DIY for wedding flowers. Ever. "Yes, you can do it, but why would you? In 20 years, you're not going to remember the extra thousand or two you spent on flowers. But you'll always remember the stress of running around the day before your wedding making centrepieces."