How to Save on Wedding Flowers

The average recent bride spent $2,141 on flowers and decorations. While that number was likely pulled higher by brides who spent extravagantly, even a basic package from a florist can be pricey. However, there are many alternate ways to incorporate beautiful flowers into your day, without spending so much. You could opt for fewer arrangements, substitute cheaper blooms, or even do the arranging yourself. Combining these approaches could cut your overall spend on flowers by half or more. To determine which kinds of floral expenditures are worthwhile for you, follow these steps:

Figure Out Your Floral Arrangements

To start, we'll evaluate the different types of flowers that can be seen at a wedding. The more types of arrangements you have, the more it'll cost, as you can see from the table below of an abundant vs. a pared back order from a florist. A simple cost reduction strategy is to cut down on the various arrangements, but we'll also discuss several different substitutions, alternate uses and considerations so bridal parties can get the most bang for their buck.

Abundant FlowersPost Cost-Saving Strategies

Bridal Bouquet

$135$135

Bridesemaids Bouquets

$500$200

Flower Girl(s)

$120$40

Groom's Boutonniere

$10$10

Groomsmen/Ushers

$80$32

Table Centerpieces

$1,500$750

Toss Bouquet

$20$20

Altar Decorations

$150-

Head Table Flowers

$75$75

Cake Table Arrangement

$60$60

Guest Book Table Arrangement

$40-

Gift Table Arrangement

$40-

Mom's Flowers

$30$30

Pew Decorations

$200-

TOTAL

$2,880$1,432

As you're evaluating which you want to keep while sticking to your wedding budget, an important consideration may be your photos. Ten years from now, your guests are unlikely to remember if the pews were adorned or what your centerpieces looked like. But the bridal bouquet and flowers for the party will live on in wedding photos for the rest of your life. What are you likely to treasure in the long run, as well as in the moment?

Your opportunity for the biggest savings lies in the most expensive categories: centerpieces, bouquets, and ceremony décor.

Save on Centerpieces

Centerpieces are often the biggest line items - costing half or more of a wedding flower bill- so trimming this category should result in the most savings. Centerpieces tend to be large, thus requiring many flowers, and there may be many tables at the reception. The typical 140-person wedding will have 14 10-person tables.Floral centerpieces can range in cost from $20 to $250 per table, depending on how elaborate they are. Here are a couple of ideas we found that'll help save on decoration costs for your reception tables.

Evaluate your venue décor: Before you default to a floral centerpiece, consider your wedding venue and your theme to understand how the table décor will fit in. If you’ve chosen a gorgeous restaurant or reception hall that has its own inherent beauty or architectural details, your guests’ eyes will be drawn to those features. In this case, you might opt for smaller and simpler table centerpieces. Large and elaborate vases or boxes of flowers may block a view of the beach, for example, or of the guests seated across each other.

Reusing bouquets: If you would like some floral element to your centerpieces, consider bud vases or smaller arrangements. You might use your bridesmaid bouquets as a jumping off point; since they tend to go unused after the ceremony and the posed pictures are done. Give them a second life by distributing them among vases or small mason jars for table centerpieces instead, and have your florist make up a few additional ones if you have more tables than bridesmaids.

DIY Centerpieces: A common way to save on centerpieces at a wedding is to replace either all or some of the flowers with something easier on the budget. These can include items easily purchased in bulk, like votive candles in their own glass cylinders. Not only do these cost about $1 to $3 per piece at places such as 100Candles.com, they also serve double duty as lighting when nighttime approaches. You could also use mementos with significance to the bridge and groom – a couple that loves books, for example, can buy vintage hardcovers at their local thrift shop oftentimes for $1 to $2 a book. The wedding location can also serve as an inspiration: for example, a wedding by the beach can have tables decorated with mixed seashells. A collection of large India Mix Shells are priced around $3.99 per 12 oz bag at craft stores.

The following table shows the cost per piece or items you might use for your centerpieces.Of course, the tradeoff for DIY centerpieces is that you or your delegates will have to spend time and money sourcing the parts, assembling them, transporting and positioning the items at the venue.

DIY CENTERPIECE ITEMS COST PER PIECE

Mason Jars (varies by size)

$0.83 to $1.51

Glass Bowls (varies by size)

$0.49 to $1.50

Mini White Balloon

$0.06

Vintage Books

$1.00 to $2.00

Small Floating Candles

$0.40

Votive Candles in Glass Cylinders (varies by size)

$1.00 to $3.00

Large Floating Candles

$1.50

Mixed Seashells (12 oz bags)

$3.99

Save on Bouquets

Here are a couple of replacement and substitution strategies that can wind up creating more room in your flower budget. Brides also have creative options when it comes to the types of flowers you can mix and match in your bouquet here. Just like centerpieces, you don’t need live flowers in your bouquets. Imaginative brides have carried silk flowers, paper flowers, pearl or feather bouquets, even a Bible, down the aisle. Depending on whether you put a non-floral bouquet together yourself, or buy it from a site like Etsy, it might still cost a sum, but you might be able to keep it forever without special preservation tactics.

If you do want a floral bouquet to carry down the aisle, a smaller version will likely cost less than an enormous torso-covering arrangement. The core cost components of the bouquet are number of stems and cost per stem, so scaling back either of those will save you money (read on for specific tips related to those tactics). Depending on your dress, this may actually be more advantageous. A smaller bouquet will block less of your torso, and leave visible your waistline,beading or embroidery on your bodice, or even accessories like bows or belts.

It’s clear you could save money on flowers for the bridal party by winnowing down the number of bridesmaids and ushers (you’d also save money on things like gifts for the wedding party or hair and make-up appointments for them.) If you’re not willing to leave anyone out, try some of the same flower-sparing tactics you might have considered for your bouquet. Bridesmaids can herald your arrival carrying non-floral items; we’ve seen lanterns and pinwheels as bouquet alternatives. You can substitute pricier blooms for cheaper ones in a bouquet. Or, they could carry a single stunning stem.

Save on Ceremony Décor

There are lots of reasons to forego ceremony flowers altogether. Many ceremony locations (like churches and gardens) have their own aesthetic, and your flowers may not have much of an impact. Many wedding ceremonies are very short; and not all the guests even attend. Plus, there are plenty of non-floral ways to make a ceremony site look wedding-esque—tulle, bells and bows are common.

For pew décor, simple pull bows can cost less than a $1 apiece on a site like orientaltrading.com. Or buy some pretty ribbon or tulle and tie up some bows of your own. Depending on the price you pay for your materials, you may or may not save money over a floral design, which can also be economical if blossoms like Baby’s Breath or carnations are used. Many brides decide to limit pew décor to the rows closest to the front; or cut down on the overall cost by only decorating every other pew.

Altars and Chuppahs look stately even without flowers. And all eyes are going to be on the bride and groom, so don't be shy about refusing arrangements in places where few will be looking, like behind the altar or off to the sides.

If you do choose to decorate your ceremony site, consider reusing the arrangements at your reception. Altar designs might work for the head table. Pew designs can make pretty centerpieces or adorn your gift, guestbook or cake table.

If you don’t have a florist or wedding planner to position and reposition the ceremony decorations, you’ll have to delegate the task to someone reliable. Groomsmen and family members might be up to the task. Consider also the cost of your time (and the hard-to-quantify hassle factor) if you do need to think about moving decorations around on your big day.

What Types of Flowers Do You Want?

For many brides, one of the best parts about planning a wedding is imagining the gorgeous possibilities for your big day. While browsing bridal publications and Pinterest may be fun, try not to be overly influenced by the flowers you see there. No expense is spared for professional photo shoots, and you may not be able to exactly replicate those arrangements within the parameters of your budget. Still, it’s worth it to figure out which flowers appeal to you, and why.

Clarify exactly what you like about them. Is it the softness of the rose petals? The bowing bells of the lily of the valley? The abundance of the peony? Each of these flowers is relatively pricey, but you may be able to get a similar effect with a cheaper blossom. For example, a ranunculus is a dead ringer for a peony. And stephanotis substitutes quite nicely for lily of the valley at a third of the price.

The chart below shows the savings you can get per stem if you choose these substitutions, or others. (N.B. The price per stem is wholesale, and if you order them from a florist, your cost is likely to be at least three times as high, due to labor and overhead.) Speaking of florists, if you choose to employ one, lean on their expertise and have them guide you towards other flowers you might like based on your preferences, and your budget. They can also warn you about potential pitfalls, like hydrangeas that wilt after a few hours if not handled properly.

INSTEAD OF:WHOLESALE COST PER STEMCHOOSE:WHOLESALE COST PER STEM

Hydrangeas

$7.02Carnations$0.85

Calla Lily

$5.60Alstroemeria$1.65

Lily of the Valley

$7.35Stephanotis$2.39

Garden Roses

$5.30Rose$1.60

Peonies

$6.00Ranunculus$3.60

Consider which flowers will be in season at the time of your wedding. You’ll get a lower price on them compared to other times of the year, due to the increase in supply. On the other hand, if you try to get them out of season, they may break your budget. Brides report price quotes for a single peony ranging from about $3 when they’re in season in the spring, to $35 just a few months later.

The following chart shows how the supply of certain flowers peaks at different times of the year.

SPRINGSUMMERFALLWINTER

Calla Lily

HydrangeaChrysanthemumCalla Lily

Tulip

Queen Anne's LaceHydrangeaTulip

Lily of the Valley

SunflowerQueen Anne's LaceRanunculus

Ranunculus

Sweet Pea

Sweet Pea

Peony

If you’re not so picky about specific flower types, but insist upon a particular color, because it’s your favorite or because it will complement your bridesmaids’ or your wedding dresses, consider all the possibilities especially if you want to save some money. Prices per stem can vary, as shown below on an array of flowers you can get in purple:

Range In Cost of Wedding Flowers in Purple

Statice
Statice$1.68
Lilac
Lilac$3.60
Anemone
Anemone1.94
Hydrangea
Hydrangea4.68
Iris
Iris1.95
Delphinium
Delphinium6.40
Lavender
Lavender2.87

How Many Flowers Do You Need?

Flowers are generally priced by the stem (with a required minimum, and specific number of stems per box), however blossoms vary in size and shape. This is something to consider if you’d like round and fluffy arrangements vs. long and lean. For example, it would take about three gardenias to fill out the same space as a hydrangea (approximately $40 vs. $7 at wholesale prices for similar size impact). The chart below shows a typical blossom size for some common wedding flowers.

If you have your heart set on a specific bloom but face a tight budget, there are a few techniques you can implement. For example, Cymbidium Orchids might run $25 per stem wholesale. You don’t, however, need to have a whole bunch of them for each centerpiece. They’d still make an impact when presented in smaller quantities beside another flower with a complementary color or shape – such as alstroemeria.

Here’s where cheaper filler flowers can also help lower your bill. Baby’s Breath and Queen Anne’s Lace are classic examples, but anything sold by the bunch can add volume to an arrangement at a lower cost compared to using more expensive flowers. Also consider options like spray roses, which have multiple blooms per stem for a more lush effect.

Where Could You Get Your Flowers?

If flowers are a must-have for you and your beloved, there are a few ways to source them with an eye towards saving on costs.

At the Florist: Your most expensive option is to work with a florist. The cost may be high, but you're paying for convenience:they will handle all of the hard work, down to delivering the fully-arranged flowers on your big day. If you’re considering this approach, meet with a few florists well in advance of the date to see whose vision aligns best with yours, and to give yourself some time to comparison shop on pricing.

Spend an hour or so in-person explaining your hopes and needs, looking at photo books, and coming up with a plan. It’s best to do this after you’ve established your wedding colors, and had a chance to explore your flower preferences through personal research.Once the florist writes up an estimate, make sure it includes any additional charges, from sales tax, to service charges, to delivery and recovery fees, so you can be sure the final total fits into your budget.

If you like the work of a particular florist, but the estimate is too high, ask things like—is there another flower for the bouquets with a similar look that costs a bit less? Is there a way to get centerpieces for a lower price? Also ask her to show you some other flowers that will be in-season and inexpensive on your wedding date—you might love a bloom you’d never heard of before. And some brides wiggle out of the delivery fee by having a friend or family member pick up the order. Just make sure your florist doesn’t mind this kind of cost-cutting; since some have minimums.

Florist prices on wedding items can vary widely. We called a handful of shops in the Charlotte, NC area to ask about the price of a 10-inch bridal bouquet made up of at least 20 calla lilies. The estimates ranged from $200, with tax included, to more than $300 plus tax. That's a wide range of nearly 50% off of the most affordable option. If you multiply that kind of difference across your entire florist bill, you’re looking at a savings of more than a third of the total.

Online Retailers: An even cheaper option would be to order a collection of wedding flowers online from a place like Costco. They’ll arrive pre-arranged with the flowers of your choosing, although the flower options and mixes can be limited. For example, a 10-piece calla lily collection includes a bridal bouquet (albeit with fewer blooms than the florists suggested above), two bridesmaids bouquets, two corsages, four boutonnieres and one petite bouquet, all for $230. A more extensive 40-piece order would include additional bouquets, corsages and boutonnieres as well as centerpieces (without vases) for $750.

DIY: If you’re willing to take on the hassle of sourcing, preparing and arranging your flowers, you can avoid florist labor and overhead costs entirely. You may be able to pick up the flowers from a local farmer’s market or even a supermarket. Or you could order them from online sellers at prices closer to wholesale.

DIY:How Much Work Are You Willing to Do?

Depending on how many flowers you want at your wedding, DIY-ing can become a big job.The DIY-approach will clearly save you money over hiring a florist, but it will take up a lot of time just when you’re being hit with a million other pre-wedding demands.The table below shows how much time and money you will spend on DIY flowers, compared to if your ordered similar things from a florist. The DIY estimates are from Amy McCord who runs FlowerMoxie.com, a site that sells DIY wedding flower kits and supplies (and shares tutorials).

ItemsFlorist CostWholesale CostAssembly & Prep Time (minutes)

1 Bridal Bouquet

$160$7530

5 Bridesmaids' Bouquets

$325$12590

1 Flower Girl Bouquet

$45$1515

10 Boutonnieres and/or Corsages

$100$50120

8 Centerpieces

$1,080$400180

Tools/Supplies

Incl.$7060

Shipping/Delivery

$150$6560

TOTAL

$1,860$800555 (or 9+ hours)

"Most brides tell me they spend two to four hours total, but they typically have their mom and some friends helping," says McCord.It’s probably a project best suited for a bride or groom who loves handling flowers; or delegated to an artsy friend with time on her hands.

For starters, you’ll need to study up in advance on how to preserve the flowers so they’ll last until (and throughout) your wedding day. Many require refrigeration, and time for buds to open. You might also want to learn a bit about artistic flower-arranging by reading or watching online tutorials.

When your flowers arrive, the stems might need to be stripped of their leaves, cut, or dipped in hot water or another solution. Then, they’ll need to be arranged just so. You’ll have to buy all the materials yourself—things like vases, floral foam, floral wire, tape and ribbon for the bouquets, and pins for the boutonnieres.

Make sure to schedule in enough time in the days before your wedding, and ask friends or family members for help if you won’t be able to do it all yourself. Also factor in transportation to the wedding site. Depending on how many flowers you have, you may need a cargo van or truck to transport them.

Price shouldn't be the sole criteria you use when planning your wedding flowers. But applying the strategies above should help you find the best array your bridal budget can buy.

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