White Lightning

When Joy Holmes was choosing flowers for her wedding, a simple white bouquet jumped out as the freshest pick. “It’s classy, it’s traditional, and it didn’t take away from my dress,” says the former Joy Lang, who tied the knot with Robbie Holmes this past June in Groton, Massachusetts.

WHEN JOY HOLMES WAS CHOOSING FLOWERS FOR her wedding, a simple white bouquet jumped out as the freshest pick. “It’s classy, it’s traditional, and it didn’t take away from my dress,” says the former Joy Lang, who tied the knot with Robbie Holmes this past June in Groton, Massachusetts.

With all the season’s flowers available, she opted for snowy peonies in her bouquet, their delicate round blossoms bound by a ribbon. “They reminded me of my grandmother’s gardens,” she says. More peonies, along with white roses and snowy lisianthus, whimsically accented with limes, green grapes and other touches of green, brightened the centerpieces at her reception at the Barn at Gibbet Hill. These hints of green mixed in with the white was bright and clean, giving her wedding what the newlywed calls a “fresh, spring-y, sophisticated look.”

Sweetly traditional or organically garden-fresh, snow-hued wedding flowers have burst back into favor. With looks that have both sophisticated palettes and more playful, country-style informality, these pristine blossoms have become the clear choice for spring and summer weddings.

so many blooms
WHITE FLOWERS, WITH THEIR IMPLICAtions of purity and bridal festivities, aren’t exactly new. Look at your mother’s wedding photos, or your grandmother’s, and you may see her holding a bouquet both pale and graceful. But while the traditional look never exactly went away, it did fade from favor for a while, before springing back with renewed growth. “It’s a classic look, but for a while there, it was out of fashion,” says Nancy Vargas, owner of Southborough’s aptly named Le Jardin Blanc. “Now about 80 percent of my brides opt for white bouquets.”
What makes white fresh for the season, say area floral designers, are both the flowers themselves and the ways they are being put together. Some flowers, including hydrangeas and roses, will never fall out of fashion, say the experts, and miniature calla lilies, with their pristine grace, are “the new classic,” says Benjamin Newbold, assistant to the creative director of events for Winston Flowers, which has seven locations throughout the Boston area. But along with these beloved blooms, new—and newly rediscovered—varieties are making their mark.
White orchids are constantly being used in an astounding variety of shapes and sizes to grace both bouquets and arrangements, says Kathy LaShay, the floral designer-owner of Somerville’s K LaShay Floral & Event Design. She notes the rise of phalaenopsis: “They’re fantastic,” she says of the large, rounded orchid. “Very graceful.”

Vargas created a bouquet for Mary Wood’s April 2006 wedding out of frilly white Japhet orchids. With their light lemon-colored interiors, they were both “elegant and simple,” says the Boston bride. She wore a champagne-hued gown and the delicate bouquet, bound with ribbon, “offset my dress perfectly,” she says.

The constantly growing roster of rose varieties—older blossoms, long forgotten—also are popping up again in contemporary design. And the sweetly old-fashioned Eucharis lily, which to the Victorians symbolized “maiden charms,” has been rediscovered, says Newbold. “It’s a very special flower.”

white on white
FOR SOME BRIDES, THE IDEA OF ALL WHITE can be worrisome: Will an all-white bouquet fade in photos when held up against a dress? Nonsense, say the floral experts. What you’ll actually see will be both subtle and elegant. Although most florists will work with a fabric swatch to complement your gown, blossoms always will look somewhat different from cloth. “When you put white flowers against a white dress, you see the different tones coming into play,” says Jessica Wrobel, floral designer and owner of Jwrobel in Ipswich. “The key is to bring in texture.”

For many brides, that may mean a mix of flowers. The classic one-flower bouquet remains the most requested type, but Wrobel does often find herself creating “a mix of white hydrangeas, garden roses, hellebores, just to get some interesting textures and some shading variations.”

Robyn Flynn, proprietor of Wilmington’s All Seasons Florists, has noticed the same, well, blossoming of ideas. “Hydrangeas and mini callas and roses are becoming more popular in combinations, along with white lilacs [in the spring].”

“Lots of texture and variety is key,” says LaShay. For arrangements at the reception, often that means going for height, as well as a blend of blossoms. It also can mean being playful with the accents. Vargas’ use of fruit brought seasonal freshness, as well as a splash of green to the centerpieces at the Lang-Holmes nuptials. Such accents pull white into an informal garden-style approach.

designing your palette
WHITE FLOWERS ALSO CAN GO FORMAL, and take well to a little extra sparkle. While lots of glitter, in the form of crystals or heavy beading, is drifting out of style, many brides are opting for a tasteful bit of bejeweling. Pearl-like beads topped pins inserted into Wood’s bouquet. These pearl touches picked up on the beading on her gown. Often, say the experts, the ornamentation will have personal meaning. “Brides will use something special to put a twist on their flowers,” says Flynn. She has used a beloved grandparent’s lace handkerchief to bind a bouquet, and more and more frequently works family jewelry into bouquets, often on the ribbon. “If the grandmother’s brooch is a butterfly, it can even be worked in among the flowers,” she says. “And silver looks very nice with white.”
One thing to be aware of, especially when blending flowers, is which white you’re using. White can mean a variety of shades, say floral designers. The shades of white can really range from bright white to deep cream, with overtones of yellow or brown, or even to rose with pink overtones.

Although lisianthus and some lilies (such as lily of the valley) are bright white, says Wrobel, many flowers aren’t. “Most of your roses are not a pure, sharp white,” she says. “There’s almost always a hint or an overtone.” Such subtle differences can help your floral designer accent both your gown and your complexion, while retaining the overall impression of snowy purity.

delicate delights
AS WITH ALL FLOWERS, SOME WHITE varieties need special care or handling, especially during summer festivities. Gardenias are delicate and can brown easily, and although these luxuriant blossoms have an unforgettable perfume, LaShay cautions against using them for summer weddings, where body heat or candles, coupled with the warm weather, will contribute to their rapid decline. On the other hand, she says that orchids do particularly well during the spring and summer, even in humid heat—but can be expensive. Newbold cautions that some varieties can greatly increase the price of a bouquet or arrangement.

The good news, though, say the experts, is that—no matter your budget, your gown or even your personal decorating style—the white palette is back and can be customized for you.