Spectacular Flower Ideas from Preston Bailey

"Regardless of its size or complexity, the perfect floral arrangement is the one that makes you stop for an instant and smile with surprise and delight," writes Preston Bailey in his new book Preston Bailey: Flowers.

If that's the case, then his beautiful tribute to blooms is bound to inspire awe. Every bride I've shown Flowers to has grabbed the book from my hands and wanted to frame (not rip!) the out-of-this-world photos inside. His anecdotal stories from A-list events—he's planned parties for Oprah Winfrey, Joan Rivers, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Jennifer Hudson and Ivanka Trump—are equally fascinating.

Although some of the designs are decidedly over-the-top (poodles! merry-go-rounds!), Preston reveals gems of advice that all brides can follow, regardless of their budget:

1. Pull out all the stops at the entrance. Like many brides, I always believed that I would put the most thought (and biggest chunk of my décor budget) into the centerpieces, since that’s what guests will be staring at for most of the event. However, Preston advises that entrances set the tone for the entire evening, so the escort card table is a great place to add some dramatic impact.

Budget-savvy brides don’t even necessarily have to use flowers—our web editor created DIY snowflake cards (pictured here) to add some sparkle to hers. Nothing looks sadder than a bare bones table with lopsided, blank white cards.

2. The vessels can be just as important as the flowers themselves. "It can be great fun to work with different types of containers: Texture, height, placement, and shape can all be varied to add elements of intrigue and surprise to a party,” Preston said.

Ask your florist if they would be willing to loan some of their more intricate pieces to you gratis, so long as you return them the next day (make sure guests don’t take off with them at the end of the night!). Or you can scout flea sales or vintage shops for one-of-a-kind treasures that you can bring to your home and enjoy long after the party is over.

3. Never underestimate the transformative power of lighting. My favorite story from the book is about a couple whose ceremony was washed in blue lighting, with images of bare trees projected on the walls. When they were pronounced husband and wife, the room suddenly sprung into a bright carmine color and the trees came into bloom. “It was truly a breathtaking moment!” Preston reflects.

4. Non-floral elements can accent your décor or even serve as the main event. Preston’s worked with crystals, lanterns, ribbons, and even butterflies.

5. Prevent this number-one faux pas. Repeat after us: I will not feature flowers on some tables and not others. “No one wants to be seated at a ‘lesser’ table!” Preston said. Many couples use a mix of high-low centerpieces to cut costs and add visual interest to the room.

All photos courtesy of  ©John Labbe

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—Stefania Sainato