Weddings have gotten increasingly expensive. The average wedding costs $26,444.00; in my area (Washington, D.C.), that figure raises to about $40,000.00.
That's nuts. For flowers, I am told to project a budget of $2,300.00.
The largest piece of the 'floral budget' is for centerpieces and bridal bouquets. A bridal bouquet alone usually runs between $150-500. This is hundreds of dollars for an item that is perishable and you will need to pick-up and refrigerate in the middle of coordinating a big a$$ party. Who needs one more thing to track? I sure didn't.
Instead, I decided to make my own bouquet and centerpieces. I think it worked out pretty great and, as a bonus, they look awesomely cartoon-y and make me smile. Did I mention they are immortal as well? Yep, no creepy preserved flowers for me!
For centerpieces, I was looking for easy, cheap, pretty. Those were my criteria. Some might say that the easiest flowers are the ones someone else does for you (florist), but I would argue that paying half to a month's pay for flowers isn't easy at all.
My 'floral budget' ended up being $200 ($150 for the centerpieces and $50 for the bridal bouquet) for a 100 person wedding with about 20 tables to worry about and two sets of flowers per table. I'd call that a win.
Step 1: Pick Your Colors
I get it.
You have come to the conclusion that you are going to commit yourselves to spending the rest of your lives with one another. In the face of that decision, you are now expected to hold a big party full of people who likely will not get along, pay all kinds of money for food, and speak publicly about love and not feel super awkward. Don't worry! All that internal anxiety about planning an event will be meaningless in the face of really annoying questions that strangers will now feel compelled to ask you (I'll ignore many of those questions to stay on topic):
"What are your colors?"
"What is your theme?"
Almost as if the decision to commit to a lifetime of togetherness comes in second to the look of your ceremony. While you decide what your colors or theme or whatever are/is, consider this:
“But I don’t want to go among mad people," Alice remarked.
"Oh, you can’t help that," said the Cat: "we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad." "How do you know I’m mad?" said Alice. "You must be," said the Cat, "or you wouldn’t have come here.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
We chose blue and purple. Because we like blue and purple. I'm more of a blue, he's more of a purple. Seemed inoffensive.
Step 2: Centerpieces: Slowly Accumulate Materials
soup cans (1-2 per table) - free-ish (accumulate as you naturally use canned goods)
spray paint (in variations of your colors or whatever strikes your fancy) - about $7/ea totaling $25
tarp or sheet (to protect surface while spray painting) - free, we used a trash bag
yarn of various hues (your colors, maybe some accent colors, go nuts) - I used 15+ balls, about $75
floral stem wire (shown in picture) - I used 10-15 packs of wire with 12 each because I purchased a little bit at a time but you could buy a big pack off Amazon for like $17; my intermittent purchasing of this item cost me around $30
pom pom maker - you can make your own out of cardboard but I'd call this item $6 well spent
scissors - had laying around
wire cutters - had laying around
hot glue gun - about $7
hot glue refills - $5
Total Cost to Me: $150
A note on quantity:
I made 40 centerpieces of various sizes, accumulating cans whenever I made chili or some such thing. I acquired yarn as I went, purchasing 1-3 balls of yarn at a time and seeing where that landed me. Depending on the thickness of your yarn, the size of your pom poms, how full you would like your centerpieces, etc... your mileage may vary. I used 3 colors of spray paint, about 15-20 balls of yarn of varying thickness, one bag of hot glue refills, and about 10 packages of 12 floral wires. I say to do this slowly because, if you do, this doesn't really feel like a chore. I could knock out 1-2 balls of yarn on a Saturday morning while watching cartoons and work on it more another time. If you do this all in one day, I think you might get a hand cramp.
additional note on sanity: There are a whole lot of fancy looking handmade centerpieces you can do and I know ambition can get the best of us at times. These centerpieces were very much contingent on 'looks cool' and 'minimum effort'. I decided that individually cut or molded flowers were out because I would have to make hundreds of them and that sounded terrible to me. If you are like me, these centerpieces will totally work, be cute, and not make you hate crafting.
Step 3: Centerpieces: Spray Paint Cans
Lay down ground cover.
Prop can up on a stick or wear a glove to minimize painting your hands.
Spray paint the cans.*
I strongly advocate using soup/vegetable canned goods for your centerpieces. It is almost as if your vases come with free dinner to sustain you through the long days and nights before you go on your honeymoon. Also, who needs 40 small vases? What would I even do with those when our party is over? I know people give them away but seriously, WHY? People could take ours if they wanted, or we could recycle them. I'll tell you what, though- I don't need to stare at two dozen vases in a cabinet for the next few decades.
* I am a perfectionist and this is me telling you that if your paint looks a little drippy that no one cares. No one. Not one of your people is going to roll up to you on your wedding day and be like, 'you suck at spray painting...best wishes'. Not going to happen. Embrace the character you give your centerpieces! You'll fill them with flowers, dim the lights, get everyone a little tipsy, and the only thing people will say to you is, 'you made all this? HOW DID YOU DO IT TELL ME ABOUT THIS SORCERY'. I promise.
Step 4: Centerpieces: Make PomPoms
Okay, you'll need a lot of these. PACE YOURSELF.
Buy some yarn, the fuzzier the better! I stalked the discount bin because a ball of yarn there was $2-3 for fancy stuff rather than $4-7 but you should follow your bliss or something. You can spread out the cost and the effort by purchasing one or two every now and again (bonus is the bargain bin gets refreshed in the interim).
You could make a pom pom maker out of cardboard but for the amount of pom poms you'll be knocking out? Well, I advise this little $6 purchase (http://www.amazon.com/Clover-Large-Pom-Maker/dp/B000WV1XGC). It is worth it.
Wind the yarn around the arms, as shown, until it is entirely covered by the yarn on both sides of the circle. Cut down the center ridge, tie tightly, release the pom pom, fluff up to cover defects, trim excess. Easy peasy. Repeat a billion times.
*The photos follow these instructions and there are explanations in the photo notes*
Step 5: Centerpieces: Cut Flower Stems
Take your floral stem wire and place in a can, cut to reasonable length. Repeat (your height may vary so you will have flowers fill out differently. This is firmly in the 'not a big deal' measuring range. I usually got two flowers out of each stem, though for some of the shorter cans I could cut three shorter flowers every now and again.
Step 6: Centerpieces: Hot Glue Flowers to Stems
Put some hot glue on to the end of your floral wire and push into the pom pom (careful not to bend the wire).
Stand in a can and let dry.
Repeat and let your flowers multiply.
Step 7: Bridal Bouquet: Pick Your Colors!
Go felt crazy! You probably have some sort of theme and can work with that (we have a lot of blues and purples) but don't feel restricted to it. You could easily make a more multicolored 'wildflower' look or even a monochrome bouquet! I would have liked more felt options but my craft store selection was fairly limited and special ordering seemed unnecessary.
Step 8: Bridal Bouquet: Aquire Materials
This is a little more involved and fancy than your table centerpieces, so the material list will be more exciting!
card stock for flower templates (about 5 sheets depending on how many types of flowers you want) - about $2
circles of varying sizes to trace (a button, a small glass, a large glass) - stuff laying around
scissors- I had on hand
pencil and marker- I had on hand
felt of various colors - I used about 15 sheets at $0.30/each totaling about $5
thread (thick and thin, in various colors) - sewing thread for the sequins and beads I had on hand but the thicker thread I bought (the kind you make friendship bracelets from), I bought 4-5 at less than $0.50/ea, totaling $3
sewing needles (a couple of sizes to accommodate thread) - I had on hand
needle threader (trust me) - comes with needles in a pack but I had on hand
buttons, beads, sequins (various) - have fun with this, a multipack of sequins and some beads and buttons cost me about $10
hot glue gun - I had on hand, usually about $7
hot glue refills - I had on hand but usually about $5
floral stem wire - $2 for a 12 pack, I needed three packs for $6
wire cutters - I had on hand
needle nose pliers or multitool - I had on hand
floral tape - $2 for a roll (see picture)
brightly colored ribbon - about $5 for the fancy kind, I used a blue satin one
sewing pins - small pack for $5
For a grand total of approximately $50!
Step 9: Bridal Bouquet: Making the Flower Templates
Okay, I know it is easier to print someone else's template out and use it but I BELIEVE IN YOU. Making a template isn't just for the crafty! The key to this step is remembering that your shapes absolutely do not need to be perfect. If you tend to beat yourself up over not doing everything 'just right' like I do, please take this to heart - your flowers are going to look awesome.
I went with a couple of different types of flowers, mostly blobby and comical in appearance. Here are some of my templates (pictures). Fore each, you'll need a large part, and at least one small part so that imperfections get lost in the layers.
Draw a few out with a pencil and make some varying sizes of circles as well (using juice cups or other things you have around). When you are satisfied you can cut out, or trace with marker before cutting out (whatever you like).
You will use these card stock templates to trace on felt before cutting (this is why the card stock helps, it just holds up better to multiple uses).
Step 10: Bridal Bouquet: Cut Some Flowers
Trace a few flowers using your templates and cut out from your felt. Prepare yourself for assembling the flowers by mixing and matching the different layers/colors at this stage. Once you start sewing, things will get more annoying to change.
Step 11: Bridal Bouquet: Construct and Embellish Flowers
This is where the work is but, BELIEVE ME, it is totally worth it. Assemble the flowers using a needle and some thick thread (I used friendship bracelet thread). When I first constructed the flowers, I thought they looked a teensy bit dull so I spiced it up with contrasting threads, big ole buttons, beads, and sequins. I have a whole mess of materials left over (the only sell tiny beads in packs of 5 billion) but I was very satisfied with the resulting flowers.
If you are wondering about some sort of 'plan' or template regarding embellishment, I had no plan. I went rogue. I sequined and beaded almost at random. Some flowers have just thread, some have a button, some have ALL THE THINGS. Have fun with it. Remember when I said earlier that your templates didn't have to be perfect? This is true here as well. You need a variety of small and large flowers and some will overlap so no worries about minor imperfections. A couple of times I even looped thread around a whole button rather than through the button hole...you know who cares? NO ONE. NO ONE CARES ABOUT THAT AT ALL. Push through. It will be fine.
Step 12: Bridal Bouquet: Hot Glue Stems
I attached these on the fly. No real plan at all. You can go my way, if you like, but feel free to forge your own path.
I used pliers to bend a circle in the floral wire to press up against the base of the flower. I sewed loops all the way around to secure. It seemed flimsy. I hot glued everything to within an inch of its life. Seemed stable. Called it a win.
Step 13: Bridal Bouquet: Arrange and Judge Remaining Flower Needs
As I made a few flowers, I would glue them onto stems and then eyeball them in a bunch to see when to stop. It was hard to estimate in the beginning because I was operating off of no guide but I found this to be a practical pause. This also shows you how the flowers will overlap and demonstrates the need for various sized flowers to fill in the gaps. We can't all be astronauts, sometimes you just need a filler flower or four.
Step 14: Bridal Bouquet: Cut and Wrap Stems
Initially, I wrapped the stems as they were but ended up with like a javelin of flowers. I ended up cutting them down with wire cutters to a more traditional length. Then I wrapped with floral tape. I know you can see some pipe cleaner leaves all up in there but you can't actually see them in the bouquet so I didn't put them in the instructions. Live and learn. Wrap thoroughly with floral tape.
Next, take some pretty ribbon and wrap overtop until you are cool with the look (I used the whole roll because I am me), fix with pins (I just used regular sewing pins).
Step 15: Bridal Bouquet: Enjoy
I heart my flowers so hard. You can fill in gaps by adjusting each one a little as you arrange, so no stress. I finished these months before the wedding so it was nice to be able to check something off the list and move on.