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Subtly scented, frilly as tutus, and found in every shade imaginable, carnations are making a comeback, one petal at a time. And it's no wonder. The world's most underrated flower is also one of the most versatile, thanks to their durability and availability in every color. Use carnations in your wedding centerpieces, escort cards, or even your bouquet. Even better, they will last longer than most other blooms and they dry out well, for a post-wedding memory.
White Carnation Bouquet
Here, putumayo carnations the color of antique lace hold their own against anemones, hydrangeas, Majolica roses, and passion vine, proving that the often-overlooked bloom is every bit as sophisticated as its pricier peers. To further lower costs, save the big-ticket flowers for your posy and centerpieces, and let carnations alone fill other arrangements.
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Serene Ceremony Marker
Saying "I do" before an ethereal curtain of carnations? Pure heaven. Each of these garlands was hand-strung and draped over a dowel suspended from the ceiling.
To go the DIY route, you'll need monofilament, a large needle, and about 1,000 carnations (order them through The Grower's Box). Make the strands a day or two in advance and store them in a fridge. "After your vows, use them to decorate the bar," suggests floral designer Ariella Chezar, who created the displays in this story.
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Carnation-Covered Escort Cards
Sitting pretty on a bed of coral-and-ivory blossoms, these tags come with a little something extra: a mini-carnation boutonniere. To compose your own display, line a tray with damp floral foam, snip off the flowers' stems, and poke in the buds. Two-tone varieties look especially striking, but a monochromatic scheme (think all pale yellow petals) can be just as fun.
The Details: Calligraphy by Jill Velez
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Freewheeling centerpieces in cheery colors practically shout "party time!" Here, fringed tulips and fruiting clementine branches create lush overhang from a compote—"My go-to vessel because it takes just one to make an arrangement that fills a round table," says Chezar—while picotee-edged carnations, daffodils, sweetpeas, and ranunculus add volume. Perched at each setting is a favor box festooned with a paper carnation.
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You don't have to be a master baker to assemble this gorgeous spread. All you need are basic premade fondant cakes in various heights, cupcakes, carnations in coordinating hues, and a few stands. The trick is alternating the decorating style for each dessert: Ring multitiered cakes with flowers, for example, crown cupcakes with single blooms, and cover a one-layer confection with a wreath of blossoms. To fashion the table swag, simply string petals on monofilament.
The Details: Fishs Eddy cake stands.
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A Bold Bunch
One look at this handheld knockout and you'll wonder why carnations were ever considered filler flowers. Aside from a few ranunculus and a halo of wire vine, they make up the whole stunning shebang. Grouped by color, which intensifies from plumtrimmed white to deep magenta, they show off what Chezar calls "the peony effect": Five or six together mimic the popular (and pricier) wedding favorite. A riot of ribbon adds even more oomph.
The Details: Aria dress #162FA
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A Floral Cover
Marry under a ceremonial mandap structure, or let the Indian tradition inspire your reception décor. Weddings InStyle used carnations, orchids, and antique brass bells to create this installation.
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A Touch of Pink
The mix of Babylon, with the nude and rose-tinted carnations add a rustic, vintage vibe to this bouquet by Saipua.
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