MINNEAPOLIS — When Natasha Cronen got married last September, she knew exactly what her bridal bouquet would look like, down to the petal.
That's because she had made it herself, two days earlier, along with all the other flowers for her wedding.
Cronen, of Woodbury, Minn., and her bridesmaids gathered at Market Flowers near the Minneapolis Farmers Market to craft coral and white roses into bouquets, centerpieces, corsages and boutonnieres.
"I had never done anything like that before," said Cronen, who had worried that doing all the flowers might be stressful or that her friends would get bored. "Actually, it was a lot of fun."
She loved the way her flowers turned out. "I got a ton of compliments on them." And she also saved money, spending about $500 total on wedding flowers versus the $2,000 she would have paid to have a florist create similar pieces, she estimated.
The explosion of online tools and scrapbook boards, along with the trend toward casual outdoor weddings with simple floral arrangements, have fueled a wave of DIYers trying their hand at wedding flowers. With how-to instructions just a Google search away and inspirational photos abloom on Pinterest, amateurs now have the resources they need to nurture their inner florist.
"It's really grown," said Diane Barriball, owner of Market Flowers in Minneapolis, which started offering use of its facilities to DIYers several years ago. They can preorder the flowers they want or choose from what's available, make their creations at one of six design stations, then store them in the cooler for a day or two before the big event.
The first year it offered the service, Market Flowers hosted one or two DIY groups, Barriball said. Last year, they were booked every weekend from May through October — not just for weddings but for graduations, class parties, dance recitals and other occasions. And not just for women. "We've had guys — a few grooms, brothers and dads," she noted.
"It's the whole Pinterest, Etsy thing," Barriball said. "And the whole vintage, outdoorsy wedding thing lends itself to what we do."
Even some professional florists are starting to cater to the DIY crowd. Bachman's, another Minneapolis florist, offered its first DIY bridal floral class last fall, which sold out, said Leah Schmidt, wedding and events manager. "It was a big hit. DIY brides are full steam ahead."
At the most recent class, about two dozen women of all ages gathered in the cool, flower-fragrant basement of Bachman's flagship store in Minneapolis to learn how to make a bridesmaid's bouquet, using calla lilies, hydrangea, lisianthus and spray roses, plus two different styles of boutonnieres.
Some people who have taken the DIY classes show a knack for flowers, Schmidt said, while others decided it's more than they bargained for and end up ordering professionally done flowers. One of the hurdles for beginners is that they're often too timid about altering flowers to get the look they want. "People get nervous about taking the petals off, or the foliage," said Schmidt. "They don't realize how sturdy flowers are."
And while a talented DIYer can produce a pretty bouquet, it's tricky for an amateur to pull off the sophisticated designs many of today's brides want. "There are design elements that we study — line, structure and color — that the brain registers as beauty," Schmidt said. "Designers add all those elements. Some people naturally can do that, but most of us study the craft to know how to make that beauty happen."
In addition, struggling to create floral arrangements on a deadline at an already hectic time can be a recipe for stress. That's why she often advises brides on a tight budget to consider having a pro make the arrangements but then do the setup themselves, placing the centerpieces on tables and the altar flowers on the altar.
DIYers should be prepared to work independently, without much handholding, at Market Flowers. "We tell them to bring their own supplies and prepare as if we can't help you, but if we can help, we do," Barriball said.
Cronen got the tips and advice she needed to complete her arrangements. "Diane gave me a lot of good information about what flowers would be in season," said Cronen, who changed her floral plans as a result. "My colors were Tiffany blue and coral, and originally, I was thinking Gerbera daisies for my bridesmaids and hydrangea for myself. But Diane cautioned me, especially with that hot summer last year, that hydrangeas start turning brown very easily."
Barriball also let her know that daisies in her chosen color might be in short supply by the time of her September wedding. "The Gerbera daisies coming into season were mostly hot pink and baby pink; they weren't getting a lot of coral," Cronen said.
In the end, Cronen switched to roses to ensure getting the color and look she wanted. On the day of the project, "Diane put us on an assembly line, and showed me cool techniques and tricks for the day of the wedding, like how to open the flower heads to make them look fuller," Cronen said.
The process went so smoothly that Cronen's family and friends may do it again — with a different bride. "My maid of honor is getting married this August, and we might be going back."