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Bright Bouquets

Martha Stewart Weddings, Summer 1999

The palest and softest nuptial bouquets are often a bride's first choice, but they are by no means her only one. Today, more and more women choose to walk down the aisle carrying a glorious bundle of bright-colored blossoms. In doing so, the bride makes a passionate statement -- the vivid hues of her bouquet are reflective of the intensity of her emotions.

The colors of flowers have always been replete with meaning: During the decorous Victorian era, couples in love gave each other flowers to express the nuances of their feelings, without ever uttering a compromising word. Upon receiving a dozen red roses, a woman knew her suitor was consumed with passion. But if there were yellow roses among the red, she understood at once that he was growing impatient and even jealous. She could respond with an arrangement of blue sweet peas to express how blissfully happy she was to receive such a fervent dispatch. Unless, of course, she chose to send him a bunch of pink garden roses, meaning "let's just be friends," or a small bouquet of violets to say, "I am shy -- don't pressure me."

Today, you don't need a Victorian decoder to decipher the message of a bouquet. Flowers speak directly to our senses. From sunny yellow to dusky purple, blooms offer endless possibilities for self-expression. A dainty blue nosegay of grape hyacinths acknowledges a gentle and caring nature. A wild cascade of pink and chartreuse orchids pays homage to an independent spirit. A loose bundle of russet heather is evidence of a wholesome and informal nature. These bright modern bouquets have another advantage: By emphasizing your personality, they remind everyone that this occasion is an affair of the heart. 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. A modern environment with spare decorations is an ideal setting for the elegant emerald stems of tulips, topped with polka dots of color from red to purple to the boldest yellow.

After your gown, your bouquet is the next part of your ensemble to consider. Its composition, colors, and shape will set the tone for all the other floral arrangements. Whether you select a simple 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 full-fledged motifs integrated with the day. 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. Stud blue bachelor's buttons in a posy of anemones to match a wreath of cornflowers in your flower girl's hair.

If you prefer to carry white, make a statement with the bridesmaids' bouquets, and choose the color of their bouquets before the gowns. When shopping for 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, pick a simple black dress or pastel one against which any bright bundle would pop right out.

Composing bridal bouquets is like composing love poems: You don't have to be an expert to be good at it. Some bouquets are white sonnets, others are pastel madrigals -- and still others are vibrant ballads that speak the language of romance in bright and festive hues.

Blue Nosegay As innocent as a white bouquet, these plump grape-hyacinth and delicate lavender florets are dressed with a mauve silk handle; a pin adorned with a lavender glass bead secures the ribbon on top.

Handful of Roses
Minimalist Sheath
Take Your Pick
Nature's Couture
Wild Bundle
Cascades of Orchids