Our Ultimate Guide to Wedding Flowers

By Madeleine Luckel

From the moment I met Mindy, I trusted everything she did. She created a magical garden in that tent! Photo: Maria Lamb.

For brides about to plan a wedding, florist Meredith Waga Perez of Belle Fleur New York only has one piece of advice: “There are so many flowers to choose from, the priority should be to include your personal favorites.” After working in one of the city’s most beloved and highly regarded flower design businesses, Waga Perez has become an expert when it comes to wedding flowers.  “As a designer, my job is to guide my clients to narrow down that selection based upon availability, hardiness, and budget,” she explains. And while Waga Perez has some strong opinions of her own (bridal bouquets are a must, table arrangements look best in candlelight) you might be relieved to hear that she doesn’t think any one flower is a mistake. “There are definite design mistakes, but that’s a different story. Every event should be personalized, and feel right for the bride and groom.”

As for those faced with flower-block? “If a bride is having a hard time choosing flowers based on the endless varieties, then I suggest creating a Pinterest board to narrow down the choices. It’s a process, but a fun and creative one, too.” But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do some research before hitting that Pin button. Below, Waga Perez spells out the A to Z’s—or anemone to zenobia—of wedding flowers.

Laurie Arons’s team and Mindy Rice put together this escort display. The trellis was later used as a backdrop to our Bosco photo booth. Photo: Maria Lamb.

Most Popular:

“In the past few years we’ve seen a resurgence of garden roses. They are now available in a plethora of colors and textures, and the scent is heavenly. They are relatively easy to work with, readily accessible throughout the entire year, and always look so pretty. Another popular flower are sweet peas. They are probably the most romantic and feminine floral to incorporate in bouquets, and don’t seem like a passing trend.”

Longest Lasting:

“Calla lilies are probably the longest lasting florals. They can survive out of water for hours, so I never worry when a bride asks for them. Another strong bloom to consider are peonies. They look soft and fluffy but they are actually quite sturdy.”

Our florist, Fiore All’Occhiello, created an elegantly simple bouquet to complement the floral detail on the ceremony gown without overpowering it.  

Too Delicate:

“Lilies of the Valley are so fragile, as are hydrangeas and dahlias. I often advise brides who do want a Lily of the Valley bouquet to commission us to create a second one as a back up since it’s common to take photos hours before the ceremony. In the hot summer months, I steer my clients away from these very delicate blooms in general. After all, there is nothing good that can come from carrying hydrangeas down the aisle in August—it’s a disaster waiting to happen.”

Scents and Smells:

“I’m a huge fan of fragrance, but I always ask whether there are any allergies to avoid the bride and groom sneezing through their vows. If I am working with a client who favors a garden style, then fresh mint, eucalyptus or rosemary are beautiful scents to pair with florals. Lilacs, hyacinths and freesias are lovely scents too—they waft through the air creating a memorable sensorial experience for the guests. But in general, it’s important to know that so many florals are hot-housed, meaning that they loose their scent.”

Our reception table filled with tonal florals and contrasting metal chargers and silverware. It was so romantic!

Added Significance:

“Lily of the Valley means return of happiness, hyacinth symbolizes constancy of love, ivy is for fidelity, and myrtle connotes love. All of these four flowers were used in the wedding of the Duchess of Cambridge, who I think started a trend for flowers that have symbolic meaning. These however aren’t the only blooms that carry special sentiments. For example, daffodil means new beginnings and luck, lilac is associated with purity, and jasmine signifies grace.

I always encourage my clients to select at least one symbolic flower for their wedding. For example, I recently designed a bridal bouquet and boutonniere with ranunculus. It was purposely selected by the groom thanks to the fact that it symbolizes being dazzled by charm. He, of course, was referring to his bride.”

Best Time of Year:

“The inventory of flowers from February to May is still the most plentiful. During that time of year, the floral market is overflowing with the most incredible flowers. However, new varieties and hybrids are being introduced every month, so there is never a shortage. And in general, importing flowers has become very easy, thanks to this worldwide, multi-cultural, industry. But things can always get a little bit pricey.”

Me and my sisters.

Difficult to Find:

“There are some very rare orchids that are a challenge to locate. For example, Lady Slipper and Cattleya are varieties that are imported from Asia and are difficult to source. I happen to love the challenge and look forward to occasions when the bride requests a bloom I’ve never worked with before, or that has to be found and flown in from a remote part of the world. It can be a scavenger hunt, but fortunately the lead-up time to a wedding is often months.”

General Maintenance:

“Regardless of what you choose, flowers should remain in a dimly lit cold room for as long as possible to avoid wilting. Bouquets, and other flowers that won’t be in vases throughout the event, should remain in water for as long as possible until they are used.”

—Madeleine Luckel