How to Save on Your Wedding Flowers

Master wedding planner Colin Cowie gives us the inside scoop on ways to save on your floral decor.

Bridal Guide: Some brides assume that only certain flowers, such as gardenias and roses, are the best and only choices for brides. But those can be costly. Is it okay to use inexpensive flowers instead of more traditional choices?
Colin Cowie: The price of a bloom has nothing to do with its beauty, and there are many options to the traditional roses and orchids.

BG: What are some of the greatest inexpensive wedding flowers available right now?
CC: One of my favorites—and probably one of the least expensive flowers—is the carnation. When it’s used en masse and on its own, the carnation looks lavish and elegant. Correctly handled, carnations can also be very sculptural. For something more whimsical, use cloudlike baby’s breath (gypsophlia), with similar styling to the above-mentioned carnations. When you set lots of candles around it, baby's breath makes a very ethereal statement. To create an interesting ceiling treatment, consider inverted stock or lavender snapdragons hanging from the above; both are inexpensive and will create the same effect as a very romantic wisteria.

BG: Do you have a baseline rule regarding these flowers?
CC: Never mix the above-metioned blooms with other blooms or with filler (greens). Don’t try to disguise them: Let your choices stand on their own.

BG: What sorts of containers work with less-expensive arrangements?
CC: It’s not the type of container that affects your budget—it’s the size of its opening and the number of flowers needed to fill it. I love the idea of small vessels, packed abundantly with one type of flower per container, to make a lavish statement. For added texture and glamour, use votives or tapers, spaced at intervals between the flowers.

BG: Do you recommend using items like rocks, shells, herbs, fruits, or vegetables in centerpieces along with flowers?
CC: I love mixing materials and augmenting the look of my décor, or creating an entire décor look with nonfloral elements, but remember that the color and size of the extra elements you select need to work in harmony with your overall theme. To add dimension, fruits can be painted, gold- or silver-leafed or dusted with sparkle. For a rustic Tuscan statement, integrate fragrant herbs like rosemary and lavender and flowering thyme. For an opulent effect, use fruits like fresh plums and grapes. And for a baroque look, try gilding some grapes. For the more contemporary bride make a dramatic candlescape that includes tapers, pillars, votives; you can also float single, flickering candles in small glass containers filled with water. Remember, beauty isn’t about cost—it’s about the look and style you make your own.