Romantic, rare, and exquisitely beautiful, orchids are rather like weddings themselves. And
despite their reputation for being fragile hothouse beauties, orchids are practical and versatile as well, making them a welcome addition to any celebration. "You see orchids more and more often as wedding flowers," says David Stark of Avi Adler, an event-design firm in Brooklyn. "There was a time when tropicals were taboo, but -- along with sarongs, Asian fusion cuisine, and hot spots like Miami -- tropical flowers have become hugely popular."
Although most are grown in warm, humid climates, orchids don't require a lush, exotic setting. These remarkable flowers are at home at almost any style of event. The more than 25,000 species of orchids come in countless colors and patterns, from tiny, ruffled blossoms in spring-like chartreuse to grand, flamboyant bursts of deep ruby red. They grow in every color except true black, and many adorn themselves in exuberantly festive combinations like yellow with burgundy polka dots and pink with red stripes.
Another quality that makes orchids attractive for weddings is that they are among the hardiest of blooms. "If you have a sweetpea or a hydrangea or even a stephanotis out of water, it's going to be extremely fragile," says Leslie Palme of Leslie Palme Event Designs in New York, "whereas most orchids hold up remarkably well. It can be 105 degrees, and orchids will still look beautiful."
Sometimes called the aristocrat of flowers, the orchid has long evoked an aura of sophistication and elegance. In the nineteenth century, English merchant seamen brought these alluring, mysterious plants home from their travels. The flowers' brilliant colors and heady perfume captured the imaginations of Britain's wealthy, who snapped them up at exorbitant sums. By 1885 orchids were selling for as much as 180 pounds each -- at a time when the average monthly salary for a domestic servant was less than two pounds.
Happily, over the last century, orchids have become widely available in nurseries. Today they can be found year-round and at prices similar to those of other classic wedding flowers. But the irresistible mystique that first captured the hearts and stirred the imaginations of flower lovers is as powerful as ever.
Bursts of Brilliance
Above, graceful, arching stalks of many-blossomed cymbidium orchids create a wonderfully festive hand-tied bouquet. Below, nestled among clusters of pale-green brazilia and blush-pink tuberose, are delicate dendrobium orchids and dramatic lime-green cymbidium orchids, their vivid fuchsia lips adding a splash of contrast.