It's no secret that spring is the season for flowers. But how can you give them a twist for your celebration? For inspiration, we turned to top floral designers, like Amy Merrick and Saipua's Sarah Ryhanen, who know a thing or two about turning blooms into art. Here, their ideas for showstopping arrangements for your big day.
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Let It Look Wild
In 2006, New Orleans native Ariel Dearie moved to New York City with plans to open a bakery. But over the years, as she worked in restaurants, she found she missed the overgrown courtyards and vine-covered buildings of her childhood. At one point Dearie, also an amateur photographer, returned to Louisiana to shoot a photo series on old plantations where greenery grew freely. Inspired, she came back to New York and opened Ariel Dearie Flowers in 2011. Whatever the occasion, "we do our best work with seasonal elements," she says. As for her favorite spring blooms? "Poppies. They have the most beautiful lines, and I love their powdery scent and delicate petals."
These sweet centerpieces bring spring fever indoors. To keep the tablescape from looking too manicured, Dearie placed sculptural stems of Japanese ranunculus, poppies, wild sweet peas, pistachio leaves, and andromeda in an array of antique pottery, varying their heights, shapes, and colors.
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This floral chandelier, one of Dearie's signature designs, is twined with ranunculus, hellebores, poppies, and wild sweet peas for a sprawling-vine look. "Even just one is lovely hanging over an escort-card or side table in a lounge area," she says. "It's a great way to use an old lighting fixture that no longer works but is too beautiful to ignore." Don't have any suitable family heirlooms kicking around? Follow Dearie's lead and canvass local flea markets or antiques stores for options.
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Have a Soft Focus
An organic, but not haphazard, collection of ranunculus, hellebores, wild sweet peas, and geranium leaves, this bouquet "strikes a balance between full and airy, natural and classic," Dearie says. To create the look of a just-gathered posy, bind the stems with a ribbon tied in a simple bow. After the ceremony, set the blooms in a vase at your reception, where they can serve as décor until it's time for the toss.
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Former prop stylist Amy Merrick launched her eponymous flower business in Brooklyn in 2010 after learning the ropes as an intern at a floral shop. In the years since, she's become known for her loose and lush creations that bring the natural world into urban, industrialized spaces, like lofts and warehouses.
Whether you want a luxuriant scene for a ceremony backdrop or decorative focal point at your party, this idea won't break the bank. "It's much more affordable for a florist to put together a collection of potted plants, like these crab apples and ferns, than it is to create 12-foot-tall displays from cut flowers," says Merrick. For an overgrown feel, she positioned miniature daisies, towering apple branches, and creeping figs to frame the fireplace, then filled in the smaller spaces with lily of the valley, snowdrops, and a variety of mosses spilling out of terra cotta vessels.
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"One of the questions brides ask me most often is how they can decorate the space above the tables in a high-ceilinged venue," says Merrick. Her answer: reach-for-the-sky potted branches, such as the flowering apple one below, which offer fullness yet still allow for cross-table conversation. And the concept isn't season-specific, notes Merrick, who suggests a leafier version, like maple, in the summer; a fruiting tree like quince in the fall; and bare branches hung with votives in the winter. Here, a low arrangement of yellow peonies, purple hellebores, white lilacs, peach tulips, and green fritillaria, flanked by long tapers, balances the tablescape. At each seat: A single fritillaria in a miniature pot does double duty as décor and a favor.
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Fill the Bouquet to the Brim
This bouquet bursts with a mix of peonies, tulips, clematis, lilacs, and apple branches. Merrick left the stems exposed and tied the bunch up with a wide satin ribbon.
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Give Your Besties Corsages
For a surprising alternative to attendant bouquets, Merrick looks to the past, reinventing the classic corsage as an oversize accessory. "It's reminiscent of the 1950s but feels fresh when made a bit larger," she says. Pin one on your maid of honor to help her stand out (and keep her hands free for dress-fluffing). And aim high: "The key is to put all the weight on the shoulder," says Merrick.
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Shortly after their 2009 wedding, Adam and Alicia Rico partnered up once more—this time in business. The New Yorkers relocated to the bride's hometown of Dallas and opened Bows and Arrows, a boutique known for lush, stylish displays that make beautiful use of native flora. "My arrangements are pretty avant-garde," Alicia says. "They may be too off-the-wall for some, but I think they show how artistic you can be with flowers."
Alicia Rico packed a riot of bright peonies, ranunculus, and poppies into handmade concrete vessels (poured by Adam) to create this eclectic tablescape. The look can work for an indoor or outdoor wedding‚ in loft spaces or gardens. Rico went with neutral linens to play up the vibrancy of the flowers. And for a cheeky twist, clear rock-candy favors topped each plate.
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Keep Hands Happy
While monochromatic bouquets are, without question, gorgeous, there's something about this tangle of technicolor beauties that's so celebratory. Alicia's favorite, poppies, are front and center in two varieties: icelandic and the more unusual peony poppy, both locally sourced from a Texas farm. Aunshiny ranunculus, fluffy peonies, showy protea, and delicately ruffled sweet peas were also tucked in. "If you really have your heart set on using just one shade, the latter make exquisite single-bloom posies," says Alicia.
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Barrel and prickly-pear cacti planted in Adam's small concrete pots serve as both escort cards and tokens of thanks. Place them around an oasis of bright blossoms near your entryway to provide a cheery welcome. Bonus: The table will remain enchanting even after the gifts have been snatched up.
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After receiving a bouquet of black dahlias for her 25th birthday, Sarah Ryhanen was completely inspired, and set out to school herself in the art of floral design. Now the co-owner of Saipua, a flower and soap shop in Brooklyn, New York, she's known for whimsical displays that mimic how blooms grow. "Arranging classic flowers in a way that's a bit messy and unruly—that's my version of modern," she says.
Set the stage for an enchanting entrance to your reception with budding vines, like the clematis and grape- and passion vines shown here. Other ideas? "Mark your ceremony with an oversize wreath of boughs, or wrap a tangle of foliage around a trellis if your wedding's outside," says Ryhanen.
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Carry a Cascading Clutch
The ideal bride for this vivid bouquet? "One who's not afraid of color!" says Ryhanen. "I love soft, romantic shades, but I'm also a sucker for drama. So I often add dark accents to keep things from looking too girlie or precious." In this loose collection of peonies, sweetpeas, lilacs, clematis, and black lace elderberry, inky purples and rich greens mingle with vibrant pops of lavender and coral. A long, sheer pink bow ties the look together for an overall effect that's unique but still utterly feminine.
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Set Up a Rich Reception
Take it from a pro—pulling off a sophisticated tablescape with a kaleidoscope of colors is not as hard as it looks. Ryhanen's trick? Make sure every hue appears at least twice. Here, rosé wine plays off the peachy peonies, leaves tied around favors of jam echo the elderberry foliage, and table linens recall the pastel shades of the petals. As for the arrangements themselves, each vessel is filled with a different combination of blossoms. "The key is for the smaller vases to contain an element of the large one," says Ryhanen. Think complementary, not matchy-matchy. This sprawling composition of peonies, lilacs, clematis, and bearded irises, for example, is flanked by peonies and sweet peas on the left, and clematis and lily of the valley at right.
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Floral designer Livia Cetti fell in love with flowers as a young girl, and eventually opened her own shop, The Green Vase, with her friend, florist Joanne Donohoe. "We pull inspiration from anywhere—a piece of stationery the bride likes or even a ribbon," Donohoe adds. What do these two like for spring? "Wholeheartedly embracing the season's most beautiful flowers," says Cetti.
"This is the season for flowers," says Cetti. "There's no shortage of variety and color, so the options are truly endless." For this cheery tablescape, she and Donohoe zeroed in on oversize blossoms in an array of sun-kissed colors: yellow tree peonies and tulips, fuchsia peonies, coral ranunculus, and dark-red cosmos. "To add texture, we mixed in geranium foliage and rabbits foot fern," says Cetti. Neutral, organic details—including wicker baskets, antique flatware, and linen napkins—keep the focus on the flowers and tie in the farm-fresh theme.
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Go to Great Lengths
“I love the trailing, vine-like feel of a long, narrow bouquet like this one. It’s so romantic,” says Cetti. “And since the silhouette is stretched out, there’s room for all the flowers to hold their natural shape instead of being mashed together.” Here, she used tree peonies, cosmos, tulips, and delicate wire vine to create a cascade that’s meant to be draped over one arm. To really make a statement, “have your bridesmaids hold traditional, upright arrangements,” says Donohoe. “Then when you walk down the aisle, you’ll be carrying a beautiful surprise.”
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Bulbs are the ultimate thank-you gift for spring weddings—not only do they bring beauty to your loved ones' gardens, they're also easy to buy in bulk online (we suggest vanengelen.com). The yellow tulip variety shown here can be planted in fall and will bloom in the spring (as will daffodils and crocus). Or consider doling out tuberous begonias or gladiolus, which will sprout in the summer if planted in spring. At your reception, draw guests' attention to your favors with this arresting display of tree peonies, camellia branches, 'green goddess' calla lilies, white lilac, chocolate vine, and forsythia and viburnum branches. Then place a sign that beckons them to fill small, flower-stenciled burlap sacks with bulbs to take home.
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Catch Guests' Eyes
In 2011, Brittany Asch took a floral design course at the New York Botanical Garden, and just like that she found her calling. In 2013, Asch launched Brrch in New York City, drawing in newlyweds from both coasts by what she calls her "sculptures with flowers," fantastical arrangements that mix traditional blooms with otherworldly touches like patterned leaves and carnivorous plants.
There's no chance people will miss your guest book (or escort cards or programs) if it's next to an eye-catching display like this one. "I wanted it to look like it was made by someone with a wand," says Asch of the gravity-defying focal point that brings together poppies, peonies, wild roses, and begonia leaves in an abstract heart shape. While repeating flower types throughout the day, both at the ceremony and the reception, will keep your décor cohesive, an arrangement this visually arresting should be the only one of its kind. "Otherwise, it would be like telling the same story twice," Asch says.
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Switch Up the Shapes and Sizes
What gives a bridal bouquet that extra wow factor? According to Asch, it's all about using flowers of different shapes and sizes, as in this kaleidoscopic clutch. Some of the season's prized offerings—garden roses, lilies of the valley, and peonies—are mixed with caladium foliage for fullness, while foxglove and fuchsia seem to jump out of the bouquet. The finishing touch, or Asch's "element of surprise," is a spiky urn plant blossom.
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A centerpiece on a table is one thing, but a centerpiece that actually is the table is something even we've never seen before. "I like to toy with conventional perceptions of how to use flowers," Asch explains. In this captivating setup, she de-stemmed peonies, roses, magnolias, and poppies and arranged the blooms on the table under a layer of acrylic for a look that's flat-out breathtaking.