by Joelle Steele

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Every florist should know something about wedding flowers, as they are the basis for most floral businesses. Here are some basics of wedding flowers.

Bridal Bouquets. General rules are that the bride's bouquet dictates all other bouquets. Hers is always the biggest, the nicest, the splashiest, and most expensive. Style-wise, anything goes, as long as it matches the tastes of the bride and her dress. Size should be proportional to the bride. A petite woman should not be carrying a giant bouquet, nor should a large woman be carrying a tiny bouquet.

The maid of honor's bouquet is usually a little smaller than the bride's, matches the color of the bride's bouquet, or else matches the color of the maid of honor's dress. The bouquets for the bridesmaids are the smallest and simplest, and they should match the bridal bouquet or the bridesmaids' dresses. Since the colors of the dresses of the maid of honor and bridesmaid are sometimes rather garish, it can be a challenge to find a suitable color for the flowers.

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Not all brides, maids of honor, or bridesmaids carry the standard, round-shaped, cascade bouquets. They may instead carry:

Beidermeier. A round bouquet in which the flowers are arranged in circular rings, a different flower type or color in each ring.

Bernhardt or arm bouquet. This is a bouquet in which the flowers are long-stemmed and carried like a bundle cradled on the bride's arm at her elbow.

Cascade. As its name implies, this is a bouquet that may be of any style, and it simply cascades down, making it rather fragile, regardless of the types of flowers used in its construction.

Crescent. An asymmetrical bouquet that is flowing/cascading on the bottom sides, with one side slightly longer. It can also be created to be held sideways so that it is cascading down one side (usually the longer side) and arched upward at the top on the same side.

Fan. This is an actual fan (usually plastic, but sometimes antique ones are used) to which flowers are attached in whatever way the bride wants them to look.

Freeform. This is a more contemporary take on bridal bouquets, in which the flowers may be less traditional ones, such as tropical bird of paradise, giant lilies, or orchids. The style can vary to suit the exotic flowers selected.

Nosegay. A round bouquet with fewer flowers and more green foliage.

Pomander. This is not really a bouquet, per se. It is a ball of flowers that are attached to a ribbon and usually the ribbon is attached to the bride's wrist and kind of dangles from it.

Single Stem. This is just what it sounds like, a single flower, usually wrapped in a ribbon.

Teardrop. This is shaped like a teardrop, with the pointed end at the bottom. It is similar to a cascade, but a little stiffer and more confined.

Wrist Corsage. This is just a very small bouquet worn on the wrist.

Corsages and Boutonnières. These are necessities at weddings. Corsages are usually for the mothers of the bride and groom, and any other female relatives they want to wear them. They are either worn pinned to the bodice of a dress, sometimes pinned at the waist, or on the wrist. Boutonnières are worn on the lapel by the groom, his best man, the ushers, the fathers of the bride and groom, and any male family members they want to wear them. The styles and colors of corsages and boutonnières can vary within a particular wedding so that there may be more elaborate corsages for the mothers of the bride and groom, or the groom may wear a boutonnière of a color different than those of the other men. However, the groom's boutonnière should match that of the bride's flowers, and usually the same flowers are used in all corsages and boutonnières.

Flower Girl Bouquet and Head Garland. The flower girl usually carries a basket and wears a small wreath or garland on her head. Since flower girls are usually young children, the garland and basket should be light in weight. If she is to toss petals as well, there needs to be a place for those in the basket.

Wedding and Reception Arrangements. Every wedding and reception is different, so you can expect to be doing a variety of different arrangements for each wedding. At the church, you may need to do some altar pieces or some floor arrangements. At the reception, there are usually several centerpieces for the bride and groom's table, the guest tables, the buffet table, the bar, the gift table, and the entry or guest book table. In general, all of the arrangements for a wedding will match or blend together in some way, usually in the use of the same flowers and/or the same colors.

This article last updated: 08/28/2007.