If the bride is employing a professional florist, she too should be booked in good time. Popular churches and florists can be booked up nine months ahead, and some fashionable London churches may be booked as far as a year in advance. Remember that churches are usually withoutin Advent and Lent. Flowers may be allowed for weddings, but usually on condition that they are removed immediately after the service.
May I suggest that if there are to be bridesmaids the colouring of their dresses should be given priority in the plans, and also that the colouring should take account of the decorations in the church? I realize that the bride will have to play this one very carefully as adult bridesmaids are usually keen to ‘do their own thing’, but if you can visualize the wedding group standing in the church for some time you will see that the patch of colour provided by the bridesmaids’ dresses is a very striking feature. A carpet or a curtain or a highly coloured window may provide a background colour, and if the dresses can tone in or else provide a contrast the congregation will enjoy a beautiful picture. I prefer tones of one colour: I find that a good contrast is always difficult to achieve.
When the colouring has been decided, the next step is to plan the flowers. A large factor will be the amount of money available. Another will be the season and what flcwers will be out in the garden. The flowers must be discussed with the incumbent. Some incumbents are happy to have the church filled with flowers, but others limit them to certain areas.
If there is an active flower guild the bride may be content for the members to arrange all her flowers. In that case they will plan the colouring with her and make a charge for each arrangement. Brides should appreciate how much time and trouble flower guild members take in planning andwedding flowers. Many chairmen of flower guilds spend hours matching colours, raiding gardens and combing hedgerows, as well as visiting markets and, at the end of all this, charge only a very small amount. If on the other hand the bride chooses to employ a professional florist, or has friends to arrange her flowers, she must inform the flower guild. I know from experience the great embarrassment of arriving at a church armed with flowers, having been engaged by the bride to provide several pedestal , only to find the flowers already being done by the flower rota lady because the bride had failed to notify the flower guild of her plans. If possible, plan the church flowers about three months ahead, so that nearer the day whoever is in charge of the flowers can arrange for picking or buying without a last minute discussion.
If the church is a large one it is much better to concentrate on several big pedestalrather than a number of small ones scattered about the building. If you are not very familiar with the building, arrange to meet the verger (if there is one) or someone else who can show you round and tell you what pedestals and vases the church owns and what sort of lighting is available. There are often spotlights to illuminate the chancel and some churches have them in other areas as well. Information about spotlights is valuable if the building is a dark one. Good lighting means that the congregation can see pedestals at a distance and fewer flowers are needed. This is important when expense is a problem. I suggest that there should be a pedestal arrangement beside the altar, and another one nearer to the congregation. The lectern is not used at weddings and many incumbents allow it to be moved to provide a good place for a pedestal arrangement or a large vase. Some incumbents do not allow flowers on the altar; but if flowers are allowed there they provide an excellent focal point to catch the eye of the congregation. If it can be afforded, a vase in the porch or somewhere near the entrance gives a welcoming effect.
Many brides, particularly if they have access to large gardens, like the church to be lavishly decorated. If the congregation is going to fill the building, there may be very little floor space for pedestals and vases. This is an occasion for keeping flowers at a height. Pillar arrangements, flower balls, pew ends and wall plaques often provide a splendid and pretty solution to the problem. In a country church they can be made with attractive small material from gardens and hedgerows. In a large and formal church more sophisticated and exotic flowers can be used. If there are suitable window cills, they will make good places for flowers.
For an early July wedding I once made an arch of white ‘Iceberg’ and ‘Pascali’ roses and white border carnations mixed with lime flowers, alchemilla and cow parsley. The church had a chancel screen with a pointed arch in the middle. I made a ‘garland sausage’ , fairly wide to encase small pieces of Oasis, and tied it up one side of the arch, over the top and down the other side. The garland, being made of such light and pretty material, showed up beautifully against the rather pale wooden screen.