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Everyone loves flowers. They’re beautiful, soul-affirming and can create a big impact at events. Sadly, they can also be very expensive. If you don’t hold back on the floral arrangements, a large chunk of your budget will disappear quicker than you can say ‘hydrangea’.
The key is to maximise your spend to create the biggest impact with minimal outlay. One huge flower arrangement will get noticed more than three small ones, so ask yourself whether you really need flower displays in the reception area, where guests will be more focused on finding the cloakroom and focus instead on having a really impressive one in the main reception space. It’s a given that table centres for a sit-down event have to be stunning, but this is one place where bigger isn't better. You'll want your guests to be able to see each other.
Seasonal flowers are invariably the best value. In late autumn, consider anemones; in late spring, freshly-cut garden flowers such as freesias. In summer, you’ll be spoilt for choice.
Think about how long the arrangements will have to survive. If you’re organising an event that lasts a few days, opt for long-living blooms such as orchids or heliconia, and avoid peonies, which have petals that not only shed fairly quickly, but also stain carpets once they’ve been trodden on. Check out the venue’s rule book – some historic houses won’t allow you to use water to keep your flowers fresh and might be fussy about pollen, too.
Don’t pick your flowers without taking the venue’s style and decor into account. How high are the ceilings? If it’s a tall room, go for an architectural floral display or you risk having arrangements that look as if they’re ‘sinking’ into tables. And make sure your vases don’t let your flowers down – any florist will tell you that successful flower arranging is all about the props. Think about what style you want. You needn’t opt for the standard glass variety. Mix and match jugs, jam jars or tea cups for a vintage feel, while for an elegant look, consider draping the arrangement around a candelabra.
Think beyond the visual impact – consider the flowers’ scent, too. Roses, magnolia and lily of the valley will create a wonderful aroma in smaller rooms. As will herb pots, which work as a nice twist on classic blooms and tap into the trend for foraging. Give guests a pair of scissors and they can cut the herbs to flavour their food. Tie a name tag and ribbon around the pots and they double up as a place card and a present to take away.
Foliage is a good way of creating a lush backdrop even if budgets are tight, particularly for large venues. Think Kate Middleton’s avenue of maple trees in Westminster Abbey at 2011's royal wedding.
Finally, if budget isn’t an issue, look past table centres and free-standing arrangements to play around with floral arches, statues draped in vines and mini indoor garden areas with carpets of grass. A good specialist event florist will relish the challenge and have plenty of fun suggestions for you.
This article first appeared in Square Meal Venues & Events Guide 2013.