Wild at Heart

There's so much more than flowers to bring the beauty of nature into your wedding day.

AS WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE wrote, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. But let’s face it, it would still look like a rose—not exactly a flower that will wow your guests with its originality.

To add intrigue, many local brides and grooms are looking to their floral designers for nontraditional elements to add to their arrangements, and are venturing outside the florist’s box of long-stemmed roses when choosing their wedding flowers. Some incorporate elements of nature—seedpods, moss, berries, feathers—into bouquets and centerpieces for added texture; others do away with blossoms entirely and opt for bare-branches arrangements that are striking in their simplicity. From bamboo branches to river rocks, here’s how some local designers are thinking outside the bloom.

Branching Out

FOR STARTERS, DESIGNERS TODAY are looking to nature when seeking nonfloral accents and additions to brides’ wedding-day arrangements. “We did a holiday arrangement with Christmas-tree bush, amaryllis and red tulips, and wrapped the vase in a sheet of birch bark. It looked like the arrangement was coming out of this natural, organic log,” says Andrew Anderson, co-owner of Ilex Designs in Boston. “We played off the dark-red coloration and stayed away from the traditional holiday, lush green presentation.”

Different kinds of branches also can wrap around or over the arrangement. “It looks like a freestanding, very organic piece—it’s a very cool look,” says Anderson. Curly willow can be woven into a bird’s nest at the base of the centerpiece, kiwi and bamboo branches can add height, and flowering tree branches are striking when they’re in season. For more drama, branches can be sprayed silver or gold to add shimmer to the table, which creates a great atmosphere in the cold-weather seasons.

Going Green

USING REAL LEAVES THAT CAN BE PAINTED any hue of your color scheme is becoming increasingly popular as well. “There are natural leaves you can spray silver and see through—they look like organza,” says Jennifer Cahill, owner of The Tangled Web in Whitman. “It’s a nice way of using a metallic accent that’s not overpowering.”

And while designers have been using fruits and vegetables in arrangements for what feels like eons, the range of options in the produce aisle means there’s always room for new ideas. Ginger Catalani, owner of Boston-based Box on Beacon Hill, has used whole pieces of fruit as the container, creating the appearance that the flowers emerge from the fruit. Artichokes, dried poppy seeds, orange slices and dried exotic flowers are other elements she loves using to accent arrangements. Anderson agrees—he likes to fill vases with asparagus, kale or other visually interesting vegetables.

These unusual elements don’t just spice up your blooms, they add interest to the whole table. “I’ve been using unexpected but subtle elements,” says John LaRoche, owner and creative director of BlueGuava in Boston. “I love using a soybean inside the vase—it adds color and texture, and it’s unique and interesting,” he says.

Something For Everyone

TO CREATE A SOPHISTICATED LOOK FOR A less extravagant wedding, Cahill created big bowls of apples with rose petals scattered throughout. For fall weddings, she says, mixing deep-purple grapes with calla lilies in dark shades of purple, burgundy and eggplant can create a rich look. And for a bride who wants a paler palette, white and pink snowberries have a short season in early fall but are beautiful choices if the timing is right.

Cahill also has lined votive candles in the center of the table and surrounded them with burgundy and deep terra-cotta rose petals, and brown and green mosses. “It’s a textural, earthy alternative to typical centerpieces,” she says.

Feathers—turkey, ostrich or other—can add texture, depth and color you can’t get with flowers alone. “I use feathers in a way that doesn’t look like feathers,” says LaRoche. “Tufts that gently poke out of the centerpiece can soften the arrangement.”

Marc Hall, creative director of events at Boston’s Winston Flowers, also turns to flowers for a fun, nonbotanical element to arrangements. “Just think of the number of species of birds that exists and the color-enhancing capability of the plumage,” he says. “You can go from things that are stark and linear to very light, ethereal feathers.”

Going beyond organics, lighting—with flames or otherwise—can brighten arrangements. “I use battery-operated lights inside the flowers or inside the arrangement, spotlighting its focal point,” says Catalani.

LED lights come in myriad colors that can match arrangements. (They’re particularly welcome choices in venues that ban candles.) “I’ve been doing tall arrangements in glass pilsner vases, tinting the water and using submersible lights you can put inside the vase,” says Cahill. “It creates a whole different look that’s really dramatic. You can put flowers or crystals or any kind of thing inside the vase, and the light looks amazing.”

Anderson also enjoys working with lights: “Water is such a great refractor—the movement is very cool. It creates another whole level to the arrangement,” he says.

Sometimes, the lighting becomes primary, and the flowers work as accents. A glass candelabra can serve as a chandelier on the table. “It has architectural structure—it’s very sophisticated and cool—and it doesn’t obstruct the view,” says LaRoche. “I’ll add touches of flowers—maybe calla lilies to dress it a little, but very little.”

For a more playful look, fabric or paper can add a graphic element to the tablescape. “We wrapped vases in polka-dot paper the same shades as the flowers—hot pink and chartreuse—for a fun, hip look with a lot of graphic impact and color saturation, coordinated with the linens,” says Anderson. Ribbons are another option—they can be woven into the arrangement to create a pattern or simply used as a band to bring color down from the flowers and toward the tabletop.

In more formal settings, jewels can add sparkle and a level of sophistication. “I’ll use a rich jewel tone like ruby-red jewels with ‘Black Magic’ roses for a tone-on-tone effect with the jewels peering out of the centerpiece to add a little shine or glisten,” says LaRoche. And Hall creates a dangling effect by sewing together small blossoms or petals cascading from an arrangement, ending in a small jewel at the bottom.

LaRoche also has placed a 4-foot-tall iron tree on top of the table, with tufts of flowers placed sporadically on the tree. “I’ll use little collections of flowers in cream tones or with a hint of pink, and also hang votives with tinted water. It’s a tall, refined rustic piece. I’ll alternate that with a low piece in the same color and style so as not to overwhelm the room,” he says. “It worked really well in a ballroom with warm- to dark-wood walls in neutral tones.”

Whether your taste runs to feathers or fruit, lighting or leaves, arrangements centered on these ideas can create tabletops even Romeo and Juliet would envy. If only.