More than just beautiful bouquets and buttonholes
Choosing your wedding flowers can be a daunting task. Here, florist Charlotte Elizabeth Harrison says it’s all about making them personal, regardless of budget…
The long summers and warm evenings spent running around her grandmother’s Cotswold garden provided such heart-warming memories for Charlotte Elizabeth Harrison that they inspired her to become a florist.
She remembers the foxgloves and hydrangeas, lavender and buddleia, and her grandma Elizabeth happily tending to her plants.
Now with her own business, Flowers By Charlotte Elizabeth, blossoming she looks back on those happy days.
“I spent a lot of time at my grandma’s house, pottering around with her in the garden as she taught me the names of flowers,” she says. “She had a lovely thatched cottage with a typical Cotswolds country garden, filled with beautiful flowers, an old apple tree with blossom all over it, and a stream at the bottom. I loved being there.”
Charlotte, 27, works from her Charlton Kings home. In the days leading up to a wedding her kitchen is filled with the scent of flowers with buckets of blooms left to rehydrate overnight and foliage and flowers cascading across the big old rustic table.
Her studio backs on to her garden where she is learning to grow plants that can give an arrangement a finishing touch; long-lasting hebe for buttonholes, cosmos, jasmine, eucalyptus and rosemary. Her dream is to pick flowers from her own garden.
For now though she gets up early to find ‘the best of the best’ at a Bristol flower market and a Cheltenham wholesaler.
Charlotte, who studied at Pershore horticultural college, loves the creativity of weddings and presenting flowers to take a bride’s breath away.
She recognises that it’s great to be able to dress a church and reception venue with sumptuous flowers, but it’s not possible for everyone. As well as a bespoke service, she has ‘bijoux’ packages which allow brides on a budget to order a bouquet, bridesmaid’s bouquet and buttonholes from £150.
For larger weddings the preparations take time and careful planning.
“If the couple want a very blousy look you need enough time to allow the flowers to open up,” she says. “If you had beautiful David Austin roses you wouldn’t want them to be tight so you need them drinking nicely in the light; if I want tight flowers I’ll put them in the dark. You have to get the timings just right as they need to be in their prime for one special day.”
Succulents and foliage continue to be popular trends, and previously unfashionable carnations are having a resurgence brought about by the variety of colour and texture they offer. Bold foliage with a jungle feel and an edgier boho vibe are popular too.
But Charlotte advises brides to go with their hearts, rather than follow fashion if it’s not quite them.
“I ask brides to think about things they like, flowers that remind them of their childhood or were used at the grandparents’ wedding, or something that’s special to their relationship.
“Flowers are very evocative, the smell
can take you back to a certain time and I think it’s nice to use those memories in your wedding flowers or create new memories with them. You don’t want a catalogue wedding so pick something personal to you and make it unique.”
Considering the venue is also important; something grand may require equally grand flowers, whilst soft, subtle shapes can look fantastic in an industrial environment.
Her personal style is a very free, uncontrived one that shows off the natural beauty of the flowers.
“I love foxgloves because they remind me of my grandmother’s garden, and lavender makes me think of my mum who has it growing up her pathway, and I like sweet peas and anything tendrilly.”
Whilst some five to 10 per cent of a budget should be spent on flowers, Charlotte maintains there are no rules – some may go wild and make them the biggest feature of the day, for others impact can be created using foliage, plants and herbs.
Her advice for keeping in budget is reusing the flowers on the day by putting someone in charge of moving them.
“Pew ends in the church can be moved and put around hurricane vases at the reception; a beautiful garland for signing the register can be put on the top table later. If you can find a way to make your flowers multi-purpose, do.”
Instead of the traditional lookbook, Charlotte uses Pinterest to create a mood board.
“Often brides have started a Pinterest board, if not I’ll create one that they can comment on so they might say, ‘I love this but I hate the colour’, or ‘what is this flower? Can I have that in my bouquet?’ It’s a great interactive tool for judging someone’s taste and for them to see the path I’m going down.”
Again, her grandmother provides inspiration for the presentation of her wedding arrangements.
“My grandmother always made any kind of party beautiful, if you had a birthday there would always be fresh flowers.
“I always want the flowers for a wedding to be perfect; I want the bride to have a bouquet she falls in love with and remembers forever. It’s such a lovely feeling when I deliver them and I can see from her face I’ve achieved that.”
Charlotte in her grandmother’s garden
Florist Charlotte Elizabeth Harrison
Flowers By Charlotte Elizabeth. Photography by Captured by Katrina
Flowers By Charlotte Elizabeth