Every bride has one. Whether you choose an elaborate florist's arrangement or gather daisies from your own garden, you will have a bouquet. The flowers you carry during that long delicious walk are more than an accessory. Their freshness and beauty embody the very spirit of this special day.
Pastel bouquets can be more exciting than white, less flagrant than red. And unlike a bold collection of contrasting blooms, a delicate floral composition made of similar shades of a single color satisfies the eye with its varying textures and forms while harmonizing effortlessly with your gown.
Imagine an elegant double-handful of lavender-pink lilies of the valley, those perfect little bells ringing with excitement within their ruff of pointed green leaves. Beautiful with a pale-green or barely pink gown, this is a fragrant nosegay. It's as easy to carry down the aisle as it is to handle when greeting guests at the reception. White lilies of the valley extend the theme to your bridesmaids, the flowers' stems wrapped in ribbon to match their dresses.
If you want roses, choose several varieties in hues that span only a few spare degrees on the color wheel. Consider hues that run from touch-of-apricot to pale-brown bisque, or from the most delicate peach to a blushing pink, and use as many blossoms as you can comfortably hold, up to about 50. Spike them with matching astilbe or a few sprays of fragrant tuberose. The satin petals against a beaded bodice speak softly but with great feeling.
The May-through-June-blooming peony loves weddings. The Japanese single varieties form sumptuous, glossy cups, delicate in color but substantial enough to withstand the heat of the moment. Peonies come in pastel colors to swoon for: ice-cream shades of pink, white, and cream, often with an upstanding bevy of bright-yellow stamens that look like floral exclamation points. Make sure to include some perfectly round buds in your peony bouquet, so bursting with promise that they may even open as you say your vows.
Brides in search of golden tones should look to a collection of early-spring bulbs. While the shapes of jonquils and tulips are not particularly complementary in a flower bed, they make convivial companions clustered together in a bouquet. Consider a mix of creamy daffodils, along with smooth, elliptical tulips of similar hue. Add pale-yellow ranunculuses and a few cheery blond poppies, and your bouquet will surely glow. If you have a passion for peach, try a lush bouquet of dahlias; with their long, fluted petals, they glow like silent fireworks against a cream satin gown.
For a cooler look, mix pale green and white: soft pom-poms of snowball viburnum interspersed with a needlepoint of Queen Anne's lace. This intriguing combination looks exquisite when held against an intricate bodice or delicate lace dress. Or try a compilation of freesia, ruffled-white sweet peas, green-striped 'Spring Green' tulips, and snowy daffodils, their petals fainting backward, their trumpets thrusting up from clear apple-green throats. For a dramatic effect, choose a solid sheaf of miniature calla lilies streaked with shades of light lavender to pale purple. Forgo the traditional throwing of the bouquet; put this stout-stemmed bouquet in a vase, and it will still be thriving when you return from your honeymoon.
By then, however, your wedding day will have become a collection of wonderful memories. Forever after, when you come across the same flowers -- in a shop, garden or tabletop bouquet -- the day will come flooding back. For, like the moment you said your vows or cut the cake, your bouquet is both ephemeral and, in memory, eternal.
Below, these satin, grosgrain, and taffeta ribbons are available in subtle and unusual colors -- French blue, pale pink, oyster, celadon, lavender, silver, and buff -- that can be matched to your wedding gown and to the bridesmaids' dresses, or to the flowers themselves.