After deciding on an overall wedding budget and allocating a certain percentage of your total to each element of the big day, it can be disheartening to hear that what you thought something would cost is radically different than its actual price tag. Not only does this mean you'll have to rejigger how you planned to spend your funds, but it may also force you to reassess your priorities and decide what is and isn't possible for your day. If the quotes you're receiving from your vendors are leaving you with sticker shock, it's important to remember that you get what you pay for—especially when you're talking about a wedding. There's a reason something as seemingly simple as a centerpiece comes with a higher-than-anticipated price tag. To get a better understanding of the costs associated with big-day centerpieces, we asked the pros to break down the costs.
"When paying for a wedding centerpiece, you're investing in not just the flowers and vase, but the expertise of a professional to design the arrangement in the first place," explains Danielle Gonzalez, florist and owner of Blooms by the Box. "The expenses associated are considerable—the florist has to the prep the blooms and store then, plus you need to consider the labor, production, supplies, and transportation—and everything has to work into the costs of the centerpieces." Before you decide to DIY your centerpieces, though, remember that this is a ton of work. As an already busy and potentially overwhelmed couple, learning the art of floral design in the months leading up to your wedding is probably not worth it.
A big part of why wedding centerpieces cost as much as they do is the price of the flowers themselves. Sometimes, working with large, statement flowers, even those that may have a higher cost per-stem, saves you more money than choosing an arrangement packed with countless mini blooms. "It may surprise you to learn that centerpieces composed of big, beautiful flowers such as roses, peonies, and hydrangeas often price lower than centerpieces loaded with mixed varieties of greenery and small blooms," explains Sarah C. Campbell, owner of Intrigue Designs. "These small blooms are sweet and delicate, and, in the flower world, 'delicate' is code for 'increase the price' because delicate blooms tend to wilt faster."
Campbell adds that floral designers need to bring in anywhere from 10-20 percent more stems than they anticipate using in your final arrangements to account for any flowers that arrive damaged, bruised, broken, or wilted, so that cost is factored into your final quote, too. Then, it's important to think about seasonality. The ever-popular peony is only in-season during May and June, so they'll cost more during the rest of the year. If you're looking for a simple way to save, working with the most seasonal flowers is a good place to start.
But the type of flowers—and whether or not they're in-season at the time of your wedding—isn't the only thing that impacts the price of a centerpiece. The overall size of your arrangements matters, too. Simply put, the bigger the centerpiece, the more costly it will be. And we're not just talking about the number of flowers, though that matters, too. A tall centerpiece with lots of greenery may be even more expensive than a low version made from the same amount of stems. "With tall centerpieces running upwards of $1,800 per table, this is certainly a luxury look that provides a huge impact," says Campbell, but not everyone can afford to spend that much on flowers. One easy way to get the look you want and still cut costs is by asking your florist to play up the hydrangea. "A hydrangea-heavy design will often give you just as much impact at a more manageable price tag," she explains.
A specialty look is also associated with a price surge, as custom-designed glassware, stands, pottery, risers, hanging votives, and suspended structures all add up. "The less typical a centerpiece is, the more premium the price tag," Bron Hansboro, floral expert at The Flower Guy Bron, points out. Labor costs are another thing to consider, as a great deal of hard work and long hours go into arranging and installing centerpieces. Lindsey Nickel, wedding planner and owner of Lovely Day Events, says, "The flowers need to be processed, which means removing thorns, trimming, throwing out the damaged ones, and putting the stems in buckets before the design work of assembling them all even begins. Since flowers have a short lifespan, this can only be done a day or two ahead of time."
While it won't save you money, you can donate your flowers and centerpieces to a hospital or retirement home after the wedding, which may make you feel better about shelling out so much. If you do this, however, be sure to coordinate that with your florist ahead of time, since your pro may have been renting the vases and will need to return them.