Frugal brides, fear not. Creating stunning floral arrangements on a budget can be a challenge, but it's not impossible. With a smart shopping strategy, an eye for the right flowers and some creative repurposing, you can make a big statement on a small budget.
"Lots of brides think they need tons of flowers to make an impression, but you don't," says wedding expert Anne Chertoff, a former editor at Brides.com and co-founder of The B-List, a consortium of wedding bloggers. "Bigger isn't always better. Some of the most elegant arrangements are small."
A solitary calla wrapped in ribbon, for example, conveys the same elegance as a traditional bouquet of roses or mixed blooms but at a fraction of the cost.
"You don't have to sacrifice style to save money. Sometimes less is more," says Lori Friedlander, president of Flore, a European-style floral design studio specializing in weddings. "A bouquet consisting of just one type of flower can have a lot of impact and can be very cost-effective."
If a big, bold arrangement is nonnegotiable, mix and match.
"Think about doing one over-the-top centerpiece and significantly scaling down the rest," Friedlander says. "Select flowers that give more bang for the buck. Alstroemeria and spray roses come with several heads on a stalk and therefore create a fuller bouquet using fewer flowers. Hydrangeas are expensive, but they're the size of four to six single stems of less expensive flowers."
Get the most out of expensive blooms by pairing them with budget-friendly greens and fillers, such as ferns, decorative grasses and ornamental branches.
"Ask your florist to add more greenery and foliage to your bouquet. It will make the bouquet fuller, and thus you won't need as many flowers," Friedlander says. "You can also do a centerpiece of mostly greens with candles and a few floral stems to create a simple yet elegant look."
Even very inexpensive options, such as baby's breath and carnations, can make an elegant statement.
"Baby's breath, when grouped in large bunches, can look very dramatic and lovely. And carnations, while alone may give a cheap impression, look great when tightly bunched together," Chertoff says.
To stretch your floral budget even further:
--Think double duty. You don't need separate arrangements for the ceremony and the reception; you just need a reliable assistant to transport the flowers from one site to the next. "Try to get double duty out of as many of your flowers as you can," Friedlander says. "Bridal party flowers can be used to decorate the head table or cake table, and unity candle arrangements can be placed on the table with the guest book or used to decorate the entry to the reception site."
--Skip the florist. Supermarkets, wholesale clubs and farmers markets frequently offer wide selections of budget-priced flowers -- but shop smartly for the best deals and the best quality. "Buy in bulk," Chertoff says. "The more you buy of something the more the price will go down. You can also buy flowers that are locally grown to save on shipping costs -- and buy flowers that are in season."
--Consider potted plants. Depending on the season, shopping the local garden center may be more economical than buying individual stems from a florist. Mums, gerberas and spray roses make beautiful centerpieces, and potted lilies and orchids can be clipped for use in the bridal party bouquets and boutonnieres.
--Go faux. Silk flowers have come a long way, and many are virtually indistinguishable from their living counterparts. Silk flowers cost about the same as real stems, but because these flowers last longer, brides can buy ahead and spend time crafting their own arrangements to eliminate the cost of labor.
--Share the cost with another bride. If a friend or a co-worker has a wedding date close to yours -- and you can agree on the floral design -- split the cost of potted arrangements and silk centerpieces, and agree to pass the savings on to another bride after the ceremonies. "Sell your leftover wedding decorations through eBay, a local newspaper or a wedding website," Friedlander says. "You can increase your budget knowing you will recoup some of the money spent."
--Look beyond the store. Some of the best flowers and filler greens can be found in your own backyard. Look for seasonal blooms, decorative grasses and delicate branches clipped from ornamental trees to add bulk to arrangements.