Fall Wedding Flower Ideas From Our Favorite Florists
For centerpiece, décor, and bouquet ideas that radiate romance, look no further than Mother Nature’s autumn offerings, when dusty shades of peach, lavender, and brown are on gorgeous display. Here, top floral designers, like Studio Choo and Sarah Winward, share their advice for mixing seasonal foliage and blooms to make the best of fall flowers.
In addition to the seasonal flowers seen here, these options also abound during the months of September, October, and November: clematis, crab apple branches, dahlias, foxgloves, garden roses, Japanese anemones, pomegranates, Queen Anne’s lace, and snowberries.
Meet Studio Choo
“We like to think our arrangements look like little gardens,” says Alethea Harampolis (below, left) of the lush, earthy groupings she and Jill Rizzo are known for. That’s not surprising given her former life as a garden designer and Rizzo’s childhood spent in her mom’s flower shop. True to form, the partners, who opened Studio Choo in 2009, turned to the trees for the displays seen here. “We’re branch hoarders!” says Rizzo. “Lately, we’ve been into oaks and sweetgum— the changing colors of their leaves in fall are like nature’s tie-dye.”
Harampolis and Rizzo made this wreath with curved driftwood and wispy manzanita boughs. Order branches like these from your florist, or just cut them from your own yard. Ones with bends and crooks are the easiest to work with. For a finishing touch, add crimson amaryllis, inky privet berries, white berzelia buds, purple artichokes, and, for a bright pop, persimmons.
This imaginative escort-cards-slash favors setup looks amazing but will help you cut costs. The duo used a drill press to make holes in large lengths of naturally flat driftwood. (Tool-phobic? Have a local carpenter do the dirty work for you. And if you’re working with round logs, sand them down on one side to prevent rolling.) Then they tucked in the take-home mementos: bud vases filled with astrantia, anemones, orchids, ranunculus, sweetgum, and viburnum. Calligraphed cards were secured to the glass vials with double-sided tape to direct revelers to their seats. For a twist, use inexpensive mismatched bottles, or even creamers and sugar bowls from thrift stores.
This lush tablescape was fashioned by hollowing out a piece of driftwood and concealing the container inside, making the arrangement appear as though it’s sprouting straight from the log. Next, it was loaded it up with blazing blooms, including amaranth, amaryllis, orchids, peonies, ranunculus, and scabiosas. The verdant backdrop was courtesy of Shelldance Orchid Gardens, in Pacifica, California, an exotic-plants sanctuary open to the public and, happily, available for weddings.
Meet Amy Gardella
As the owner of Seaport Flowers in Brooklyn, New York, Amy Gardella has been helping couples throw chic urban affairs since 1997 (she also works with newlyweds at home, too, by offering interior design services!).
Mix Light and Dark
Gardella’s secret for success? Choose unexpected varieties of flowers that are readily available, add berries, then set them all against a dramatic backdrop of jet-black, which helps softer hues come alive. Here, compotes and towering tapers highlight blushing clusters of peonies and amaryllis, along with gloriosa lilies and andromeda.
Keep it Cohesive
By incorporating the same inky privet berries as in the table centerpieces, this bouquet takes on the rich feel of a Dutch painting. To balance the pale pinks and peaches of these utterly feminine dinner-plate dahlias and ranunculus, Gardella used the dark berries and a plum ribbon to add a sophisticated edge. “Brides want romance on their wedding day, but not all go for over-the-top girlie,” notes Gardella.
Think Like a Locavore
For arresting displays, use local produce as ingredients. In this arrangement, Gardella paired vivid persimmons with dusky berries for a look that’s easy on the eyes as well as your budget.
Use Creative Containers
“The vessels play as important a role as the flowers do,” says Gardella of these charcoal vases and amber-glass jars. Show them off by spacing them apart along a mantel, then filling each with only a few blooms, like the calla lilies, roses, ranunculus, and tree peonies here. If your venue has white walls, she says, “sub in a few black blossoms for the same effect.” Consider using chocolate cosmos, black dahlias, and black calla lilies.
Meet Sarah Winward
Sarah Winward’s fascination with flowers began in her teens, when she worked for a florist sweeping floors and scrubbing buckets. By her college years, she was designing arrangements for friends’ weddings, and when she graduated in 2010 she realized that, despite her degree in international studies, she had to follow her love of the bloom. She opened a Salt Lake City floral design shop, Honey of a Thousand Flowers (the name is an homage to the bees she keeps), and started building her business through word of mouth and blog posts. Five years later, she has styled nearly 100 weddings—including some that have appeared in our pages—using nature and the changing seasons as key inspirations. “Flowers that are wild-looking are kind of indulgent,” she says. “They’re unapologetic, and they have imperfections. I think that’s incredibly romantic.”
Take a Bough
Japanese maple branches form the backbone of this elegantly rambling centerpiece, studded with white cosmos, Japanese anemones, oakleaf hydrangeas, and a combo of ‘metallina’ and peach roses. For a just-snipped-from-the-garden feel, Winward let balloon vines trail toward place settings.
Follow a Less-is-More Approach
“Fall flowers can sometimes look heavy,” says Winward, “but this ceremony marker made of Japanese maple branches is airy—it’s as much about the negative space as the space that’s filled.” It’s also surprisingly inexpensive and easy to create: some branches hang from monofilament, while others are simply secured to the wall with white gaffer’s tape. She took a similar approach with the horizontal spray of cosmos, heuchera foliage, cream garden and ‘metallina’ roses, salvia greggii, Japanese maple leaves, and balloon vines. “I like bouquets that stretch across the bride rather than being tightly bound or cascading down,” she says. “They look natural and effortless.”
The Details: Elizabeth Fillmore dress, $1,600; elizabethfillmore.com, Alberta Ferretti cape, $3,950; kleinfeldbridal.com.
Pick a Palette
To create the palette, Winward went for saturated pinks and muted reds and greens that signal the changing of the season. Here, smoke bush and peach garden and ‘metallina’ roses punctuate the greenery, which includes nandina foliage and Japanese maple leaves.
Fall for Foliage
The ebullient arrangement may look like it’s blowing in an autumnal breeze, but in fact the seemingly airborne heuchera leaves also serve as whimsical escort cards. The key to making them stay in place: tiny glue dots that adhere the scroll-like paper and leaf to the wall.
Meet Max Gill
“I love the moodiness of fall,” says Bay Area floral designer Max Gill, who grows much of his stock—and finds most of his inspiration—at his Berkeley flower farm. “Take an oak leaf: Dry, it’s one thing, but wet with dew, it becomes reflective and beautiful.”
Balance Color and Shine
For the impressionistic centerpiece below, Gill showcased his newest botanical obsession, ‘Koko Loko’ roses, whose colors change from mocha brown to mauve as they bloom. Peach and plum pansies, chocolate cosmos, bell-shape flowering maple, inky privet berries, and clematis vine round out the scene. Gilded walnuts also make an appearance, tucked into the arrangements and scattered along the table. “For a twist, you could fill the compotes entirely with nuts instead of flowers,” says Gill. “I’d gild or spray-paint most of them gold and leave the rest natural.”
Group Like With Like
“No matter the flower or foliage, when you group a single type together, it has a dramatic effect,” says Gill. To create the eye-catching favor display below, he nestled varieties of oak in a copper container found at a flea market, grouped pansies in copper vases, and filled trays with takeaway mixed nuts. The setup would also make an enchanting ceremony marker or backdrop for a guest-book station or bar. However you use them, arrangements of branches can be economical as well as impactful. “A dozen garden roses may cost up to four times what five four-foot-tall stems of oak do,” Gill says.
Pick a Palette, But Don’t Be Afraid to Stray
“My favorite palette is lavender with chocolate and copper,” says Gill. The below bouquet runs the gamut of his choice shades, with purple kale and salvia buds, black chervil, lavender garden roses, marbled coralbell leaves, and gilded acorns and oak leaves. Despite the large range of blooms, “the small clutch is special but not fussy,” he says.
Meet Ariella Chezar
Whether she’s designing for a wedding, a fashion party, or the White House, Ariella Chezar prefers to work with flowers that are in season. “They’re by far the best quality,” she says. Now based in New York City, the Massachusetts native has a special appreciation for autumnal arrangements. “In the fall, there’s a warmth to the wheat-colored landscape that’s elegant but simple,” she says. “It’s actually a wonderful time for flowers.”
This sprawling centerpiece of honey-colored garden roses, crimson dahlias, and blush-tinted ranunculus makes a warm, inviting space for guests. “Its untamed shape is rustic yet modern,” says Chezar, who also used branches of clematis foliage, and let rattlesnake grass and blueberries spill onto the table. “Long, wispy elements like these add lightness to what might otherwise be a big, dense ball of flowers,” she says. Lone ‘Graham Thomas’ roses serve as place card holders, and small candles set the blossoms aglow.
Carry a Wild Bouquet
“The most beautiful bouquets look loose and slightly wild,” Chezar says. Case in point: this fresh cascade of phalaenopsis orchids, garden roses, mini Japanese carnations, scabiosa, and blueberry branches, wrapped with an equally abundant range of velvet, satin, and lace ribbons.
Mix it Up
Your boutonnieres don't have to look exactly the same, says Chezar. “You can work in a variety of flowers—just keep the colors and sizes consistent throughout.” Here, a yellow orchid and rattlesnake grass (top), lisianthus (middle), and scabiosa (bottom) all sit atop deep-purple clematis foliage and are wrapped with similar ribbons.
Don’t Forget the Little Ones
Send flower girls down the aisle carrying rose petal-filled paper cones rimmed with orchids and rattlesnake grass. Use floral tape to secure bunches of grass to wire for a matching crown.