A Marriage of Cultures on a Bright Summer Day

In the End

On the hottest, muggiest day of June, we were joyful and relaxed - and our flowers were pristine and glorious. My fiance and I thought that hot, bright, ebullient colors would be great for a summer wedding, and Mama and I had so much fun choosing the flowers together. She lives in California; I'm in Illinois. We had lots of phone calls, books, links, and pictures, and we loved every minute of choosing, planning, and enjoying our flowers. The colors were so radiant they almost glowed, and even in the sweltering heat, they lasted perfectly through the whole day and into the next week. FiftyFlowers really came through for us! On top of the gorgeous flowers, they answered all of our questions quickly and were friendly and professional. Working with them was such a joy! Every time I look at my photos, I'm so glad that I went with FiftyFlowers.

My (now) husband and I come from very large families - his mother was one of seven, my father, one of ten, and my mother and his father one of three each - and we invited everyone. Aunts and uncles. Cousins. Their kids. Friends. We wanted to make our guests feel special and welcome, to have beautiful things for them - but we were also working on a budget with a lot of people. I knew that if we planned right, we could rely on flowers to make really beautiful decorations while sticking to our budget. Fresh flowers are important to my family and our culture, and Mama wanted to do them for me. It was a gift of herself, starting three days before the wedding. By Friday, like magic, she had finished 29 centerpieces, 10 cocktail table arrangements, 5 bridesmaids bouquets, 2 garlands (communion rail), the flower girl's basket, and 6 other church arrangements (that later went to our reception). And then on Saturday, she made my bouquet, more beautiful than I could have ever wanted. She made 54 beautiful, unique arrangements - all on her own! The rest of us ran around and lifted things, but she brought that beauty to life. They were the heart of our decorations, and added joy to the celebration of our marriage, cultures, and families. I loved our flowers most of all because they were an expression of my mother's love.

At the Beginning (or, what I learned)
1. Think about shape and color.
Some flowers look a lot like other ones. For example, large carnations are a good, hardy alternative to peonies. Mama showed some of our island Filipino culture through tropical centerpieces, but she did this without any typical tropical flowers. Orchids are beautiful, but they have special needs. Peruvian lilies are also beautiful, have shapes and colors similar to orchids, are inexpensive and easy to keep alive. Mama even used the bottom halves of their long stems to make what looked like pieces of bamboo - pretty much for free! We also added some lemons, kumquats, and clementines to our reception. They were pretty, edible, and smelled great.

2. Sometimes less is more.
If you have a few arrangements you can repeat, you will get better with practice and have less stress. It can also be easier to make a beautiful arrangement with a smaller selection of flowers or colors (then you can buy more of them!). Or, one big, beautiful bloom can make a statement when paired with less expensive greenery.

3. Splurge wisely.
If you really have your heart set on it and can meet its needs, pick the showy flower! I chose less expensive secondary flowers, and this left room in the budget for some show-stopping, enormous garden roses.

4. Follow directions.
Getting the flowers into water as quickly as possible, stripping and trimming them, and keeping them cool but not frozen helps them to be their best. All of ours woke up and opened, right on schedule. There were so many flowers and buckets, it looked (and smelled!) like a flower nursery in the basement.

Last thoughts

What you don't need
A fridge (though a cool basement helps)
To be an expert (though Youtube, some books, and the Barefoot Contessa's twitter help)
A huge budget
Fancy tools
Expensive vases (the Dollar Tree came through for me!)

What you need
Buckets or tubs and water
Good flower cutters
Some floral wire or floral tape
To be understanding of your sweet self

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