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Floral Arches 101


beautiful floral centerpieces along a set dinner table that is underneath a large plant chandelier with floral arches in the background

No matter what is trending, floral design in the wedding and elopement industry continues to blossom with creativity, especially with floral arches and ceremony backdrops! In this blog post you will learn from one of the PNW’s most sought after floral educators and florists, Alicia Schwede.  Alicia started Bella Fiori back in 2003 specializing in wedding and event florals! Not only is she a fabulous florist, she also teaches workshops, has a floral design studio, and started an amazing industry blog and educational branch of her business called Flirty Fluers.

We reached out to Alicia with some of the most frequently asked questions that I receive about floral arches. I receive so many questions about florals that we also made a blog post about how to keep them fresh, with Carlee from Rusted Vase Floral Co.

When asking about arches and large installations, we knew that Alicia would be the perfect person to create this resource with us based on her expertise and plethora of experience!

Should you build your own?

Over the years we’ve had the pleasure of decorating numerous floral arches that had been built by family members. Quite often these are built by the father of the bride or the soon-to-be husband. We LOVE this idea! I love the sentimental bit of how the arch where the couple exchanges their “I Do”. After the ceremony, it will go on to be placed in their garden as a beautiful reminder of this special day.

black groom and asian bride sitting underneath a moon shaped floral arch smiling
black groom and asian couple sitting underneath a moon shaped floral arch laughing

What are your favorite three styles of arbor?

I do love variety and the artistic possibilities that come with them! The past few years has seen the rise in the Moon Gate floral arches. The Moon Gate has numerous meanings behind it, one of the most poignant is the symbolism of representing and celebrating the cohesiveness of the family. The perfect meaning for a day as important as joining lives and families together! Plus, they are incredibly beautiful when lavishly decorated with gorgeous flowers, just like you see in the styled shoot here!

large green plant chandelier hanging over the long dinner table with a large green floral arch blurred in the background

The wrought iron garden arch is also absolutely beautiful when adorned with flowers. They are perfect for an outdoor wedding ceremony. The wrought iron garden arch is a great choice for a couple that would like a backdrop for their ceremony that is thoughtful without out being too large and showy.

Be sure to view your florist’s portfolio and see what types of ceremony backdrops they have already designed and see if something appeals to you. One of my favorite structures to create doesn’t seem to have an exact name, but photos of this creation can be seen in my portfolio, I call it the topless arch – it has two side pieces that are asymmetrical – The two side pieces are heavily flowered and sometimes will have wispy flowers and foliages reaching over the couple as a way to surround them. This design is beautiful for the ceremony and has the added benefit as being easy to move – during reception they can be placed around the cake table or the couple’s sweetheart table.

Should you buy new or used?

Either new or used will work fine, and always ask your florist if they have one that you can rent should you not want to keep the arch after your wedding. If you do buy new or used, be sure to give the exact measurements to your florist and photos are always very helpful.

What are some of the best ways to communicate the arbor you want to your florist?

Photographs are very important to supply to your florist! Plus, please be sure to supply the florist with the exact measurements of the arch – height, width, depth. We’ve had very intricate arches made be family members and were very thankful when the brides sent us numerous photos showing all sides of the structures.

asian bride and black groom kissing over the long table with orange table cloth

Do keep in mind that flowers are heavy and the arch will need to be counterbalanced to be kept in place. Is there a way to weigh down the bottom? Tie off to a permanent structure?

And of course just open to your advice since you are an expert in big installation ideas!

The ceremony backdrop will be seen in many of the couple’s wedding day photographs so this is an ideal place to spend the flower budget. Go for the backdrop of your dreams! Be sure to share photos of backdrops you like with your florist, yet, give them room to be creative!

Where do most people put backdrops, floral arches or floral installations during ceremony?

The backdrops and floral arches are often placed where the ceremony will take place. This is a way to surround the couple as they exchange their “I dos” to each other. When the vision, venue, and budget allow, arches are placed at the entrance to the ceremony path. Sometimes down the length of the aisle! We also see arches placed a the entry to the wedding venue. This is a great way to invite and welcome guests into the space.

Can you use a floral arch for the ceremony and repurpose for reception?

Sometimes… For the most part many arches are fastened into place so they will not topple over during the ceremony. They can also be quite heavy and awkward to move seamlessly to the ceremony space. If repurposing the ceremony flowers to the reception is desired by the couple, I would suggest having the topless arch I mentioned above. This could be the one design that wouldn’t be out of the question to move. Do keep in mind that there will be extra fees from the florist to move ceremony pieces. They will need to keep staff on site during the ceremony and available to move these pieces.

asian bride and black groom clinking moscow mule mugs over the large long dinner table with the green plant chandelier above them and the table

What are the best flowers to use in an arch? What should be avoided?

The best flowers to use in an arch will vary greatly by wedding location. Here in the Pacific Northwest the temperatures tend to be cooler so we can use a large selection of flowers. In hotter climates the florist will select stronger flowers and foliages. Overall, I find roses, mums, carnations, alstromeria, tropical flowers all do great. There are awesome colors and shapes available for these flowers. I’m not referring to the ones you typically see at the grocery store! For foliages I find Texas Smilax, Italian Ruscus, Nagi, Salal all work great.

Do you recommend faux flowers?

Interesting insider information! When you see those huge floral installations, quite often they have a number of faux stems of flowers included in them! Large installations will often have a layer of faux flowers as the base and fresh flowers gracing over the top. Cost, amount of work included, weather concerns, are just a few variables florists consider. In the hands of a talented floral designer faux flowers will work just find and will have the viewer thinking they are looking at all fresh flowers.

Also, there is the option of having paper flowers hand-crafted for your event. These are a fun keepsake post wedding. Paper flowers are also a great option when the couple desires flowers that might be out of season (peonies come to mind) or for flowers that don’t work well in floral arches (dinnerplate dahlias come to mind).

One of the most sought after paper florists in the PNW is Quynh at Pink and Posey. Definitely check out her work on instagram!

large green hanging plant chandelier over a long table with places set on an orange table cloth

While at first one might cringe at the thought of faux flowers, give your florist a chance to offer suggestions. They might just have the perfect solution in mind to make your backdrop perfect!”

large dinner setting with bright orange table cloth and yellow and orange flowers

Here are a few more examples of Alicia’s work when she was teaching a workshop on Floral Backdrops! (All photos taken by Alicia!)

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My superpower is putting people at ease; whether that's behind the camera or on their elopement day solving problems calmly under pressure. I am passionate about building relationships with the people I work with. 


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