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Bouquet Basics

Do You Know?
Here's how to hold a bouquet: With the handle securely in both hands, extend your arms downward so the bouquet is just below your waist. Point your elbows out just a bit, revealing the curve of your waist.

Flowers have been an integral part of weddings for almost as long as the ceremonies have occurred. If you don't know much about flowers, don't worry; your florist will guide you -- and you'll learn a lot in the process. But with so many flowers and so many styles, it helps to do a little research first.

When you see a bouquet that appeals to you, ask yourself what you like about it. Is it the size, shape, color, style, the way the ribbon is wrapped around the stems? Is the bouquet composed of one kind of flower, or a garden's worth? Visit florists or a flower market to see and smell as many varieties as you can; you can also clip photos out of magazines to show to your florist.

Complementing the Bride's Look
A bouquet should complement your personality, proportions, and attire, remaining in the general aesthetic theme of the day. Tradition and practicality dictate that smaller brides carry a smaller bouquet, while a lush, large bouquet or a dramatic cascade is left to a taller bride.

Provide the florist with a photo of the dress and, if possible, a swatch of fabric -- which is particularly useful when it comes to choosing the ribbon trim. If the gown's bodice is embellished with elaborate beadwork or lace, a pared-down, possibly monochromatic, bouquet will look best. A relatively unadorned bodice provides a neutral background for a more complex arrangement of flowers, though a bouquet as tailored and clean as the dress would also be striking.

Color
To choose the right color combination for a bouquet, consider your own taste, but also the time of day, the season, and the atmosphere of your location. For a late-summer garden wedding, crimson poppies or an armful of sunflowers in rich sunset shades would be appropriate, whereas at night during the winter holidays, a pomander of garnet roses and pink pepperberries would look festive and luxurious. An environment with spare decorations is an ideal setting for an elegant bundle of tulips or calla lilies with their emerald-green stems exposed.

Coordinating with Other Elements
Your bouquet's composition, colors, and shape will set the tone for all the other floral arrangements in the wedding. Whether you select a monochromatic palette, choose the same flower in a range of colors, or mix and match, your bouquet should contain elements that can be developed into motifs. Among the mauve roses of your bouquet, for instance, tuck two yellow ranunculuses that match the pocket posies of the ring bearers. Or create a halo of miniature fall foliage around a red nosegay to echo the garlands on the tent.

Bridesmaids' Bouquets
The bridesmaids' arrangements may pick up a flower or color from the bride's or echo its shape; the smaller bouquets should relate to each other, but they don't have to be a matched set. If you prefer to carry a white bouquet, make a statement with the bridesmaids' flowers. When shopping for bridesmaids' dresses, take along flowers you are considering. Purple irises, for instance, may inspire a lavender or pale-gray dress. If you don't have a flower in mind or your choice is not in season, it's safest to pick a sleek black or pastel dress to serve as a neutral background for any bright bundle.

The Toss Bouquet
It's easy to lose track of the bridal bouquet after it's tossed. If you want to save it, have the florist make a "toss bouquet" -- a small, inexpensive posy made to be thrown over the shoulder to guests.