Ceremony Flowers: Advice on Creating Floral Designs for Your Wedding

Selecting the right wedding ceremony flowers can transform a simple venue into a wonderfully lush and colorful indoor garden. Here at Perfect Wedding Guide, we sat down with Carol Thurman, wedding consultant, floral designer and owner of Oh!Ccasions, an Atlanta-based wedding planning firm, to discuss her tricks of the trade and other secrets for creating beautiful, picture-perfect ceremony floral arrangements.
Browse our gallery of wedding flowers for more ideas and inspiration.

Perfect Wedding Guide: What recent trends are you seeing with the use of ceremony flowers?

Carol Thurman: Some trends I’ve seen are the use of large urns and containers to create very large focal arrangements. Brides are using the mix of flowers used in the personals (bridal party flowers) with the addition of larger flowers such as hydrangeas, and airy, spiky branches such as cherry blossom (spring availability only), Belles of Ireland, and even recently, pussy willow, to add height and volume. Crystals or jeweled branches also add extra "wow" and height.

Another trend I’m noticing is orange flowers being introduced with traditional pinks and citrus colors; this really adds "pop." Brown flowers are also being requested such as brown cymbidium orchids.

Perfect Wedding Guide: How do you create a focal point with wedding flowers at the ceremony?

Carol Thurman: As I’d mentioned, the use of large containers, even crystal or glass containers with flowers suspended in the containers; mass and height draw attention, plus I like introducing an unexpected contrast color, such as purple, citrus- or yellow-toned flowers—which always show up at a distance. In making ceremony arrangements, you need to make sure the elements of your arrangements can be seen by the guests.

Perfect Wedding Guide: What are some tips to using floral design within a limited space?

Carol Thurman: Don't overpower your space. You should make floral arrangements/decor appropriate for the space. The term "less is better" sometimes needs to apply to ideas these brides have; they tend to want to overdo their decor!

Perfect Wedding Guide: How long will wedding flowers last during both indoor and outdoor wedding ceremonies?

Carol Thurman: If flowers are properly prepped and hydrated, they should last for days following the ceremony. Hydrangeas are the most difficult flowers to keep alive. I always remind guests who take the flowers home, to add fresh water to all arrangements.

Perfect Wedding Guide: For church weddings, are altars considered off limits for floral design?

Carol Thurman: Some churches will not allow any outside decor brought in. For example, I am on the flower guild at my church and there are only two arrangements allowed—one on the altar and one in the narthex—and the church flower guild constructs them; no outside florist is allowed to bring anything in except for personals. As a florist, I always find out who is the contact person for the church who determines the rules set for floral decor.

As I start to design the florals for my bride, it's a lot easier for me, as well as the bride, to know what can and cannot be done so that she will not have unrealistic expectations and become disappointed if certain things are not allowed.

View more Wedding flowers and inspirations at our gallery.

Perfect Wedding Guide: What are some ideas for decorating the aisle, pews and walls at a wedding ceremony site?

Carol Thurman: In main aisles, runners and roses petals are always popular. I am even using custom monogrammed runners. Here again, a lot of churches will not allow rose petals to be dropped.

There are so many ways to decorate the pews. I have done family pews with ribbons, flowers, lanterns, metal cone containers, and even artificial lighting inside the flowers. In the past I have decorated every aisle pew with large arrangements, ribbons and lighting; the church looked like a garden. For walls, I’ve layered greenery with flowers and candles on the window ledges. I also have made huge column arrangements mounted on columns if there are columns along the side aisles of the church to introduce flowers throughout the church, not just up front.

Also there is an old southern tradition called "Between the Ribbons," which designates spaces for special guests to sit.

Perfect Wedding Guide: Is there a rule of thumb for placing wedding flowers in certain locations around the venue?

Carol Thurman: Heavier flowers naturally do better as a base, but I like to do arrangements in an "in and out" style versus the traditional domed style; meaning, I sometimes will have large flowers coming out of the arrangements, (especially if their stems are sturdy and long enough) and smaller flowers down low repeating this process throughout the arrangement. I like to add texture and dimension to my arrangements opposed to the rounded technique I mentioned above.

Another way to see flowers from a distance is to cluster smaller flowers when adding to the arrangement. That way they are more visible from a distance. Roses do very well this way.

Perfect Wedding Guide: What are a few of your most trusted tips for designing ceremony wedding flowers?

Carol Thurman: (1) Prep, prep, prep. Not the fun part, but OHHHH so necessary for prolonged life of the flowers; (2) Water, water, water; (3) Freshness is Key. I now buy my flowers from a broker that cuts out the middle supplier, getting me my flowers sooner and direct from the growers; (4) Heat or refrigerate the arrangements immediately after they are made; this is very important for the life of the flowers.

Perfect Wedding Guide: What are the most requested flowers for weddings?

Carol Thurman: Calla lilies, peonies, orchids and hydrangeas (all of these in various colors) seem to be the most requested. And of course, roses are always popular.

See more wedding flowers and ideas in our gallery.

Perfect Wedding Guide: Lastly, what are the most popular ceremony flowers by season?

Carol Thurman: Roses, orchids, calla lilies and Asiatic lilies are year round flowers. Hydrangeas are better in the summer, but are available year round, just more costly. Tulips, narcissuses and other bulb flowers are great for winter and spring months. Peonies are better summer to early fall flowers, but can be supplied at other times of the year. Freesia, stock and alstroemerias are also year round flowers and make great filler flowers. Gerber daisies are best as summer flowers. A lot of off-season flowers can be obtained from growers, but the bride’s budget may not allow the use, so I try to encourage brides to use seasonal flowers or at least inform them at the time of selection about the availability.