From the smallest details to grand installations, greenery is bringing a natural look to weddings.
By Michelle Franzen Martin | Photography by Kelli Boyd Photography
Lush, voluminous foliage and flowers hugged the steps and archways of St. George’s Chapel, where Prince Harry and Meghan Markle exchanged wedding vows last year. As the world watched the nuptials, engaged couples took notice—and the use of greenery for weddings continues to grow.
Now known as the “go-to shade” for wedding décor, greenery such as freshly cut ferns, winding vines and pungent herbs are frequently adorning churches and wedding reception venues.
“The hottest trend is tablescapes and abstract installations made from natural elements using texture greenery and foliage,” says Joan Wyndrum, vice president of Blooms by the Box, an online wholesale floral company. “Creating greenery décor is all about layering, using varying textures and draping vines.”
For the wedding ceremony, couples are covering welcome signs with garlands, lining aisles with stems of olive branches, hanging wooden lanterns filled with mixed greens and even using garlands to line entranceways.
At the reception, doorways are often trimmed with green swabs and centerpieces are stuffed with fresh herbs. Dance floors are surrounded by potted plants and chandeliers are made exclusively of vines. Fresh standalone features are popular alternatives to the ice sculptures and golden trellises of yesterday.
“2019 will redefine modern elegance, bringing in more greenery in a variety of shades and texture,” Wyndrum says.
A Touch of Nostalgia
Using greenery offers a deeply personal touch—think bright herbs that are reminiscent of grandma’s kitchen; plants and trees that are native to a favorite vacation locale; and winding vines that once draped across a childhood fence.
“Guests no longer want to feel like they are in an event space, but that they are entertaining these guests in their personal homes,” says Danielle Smith, event design manager for Sea Island. “We see brides who fall in love with the greenery that grew on the side of their house as they were growing up, or the pergola that was in their grandmother’s backyard that was overgrown with vines. These are the touching elements that every wedding designer wants to bring into your overall design.”
At Sea Island, Smith sees a lot of the outdoors coming inside—while capturing that homelike feel. “A lot of our brides want to find a way to bring inside the hanging greenery and Spanish moss into a ballroom space,” she says. “We can incorporate this by bringing in actual trees and potted greenery. We will see [this year] and 2020 that our brides want a more residential design.”
In the South, particularly in South Georgia, brides are making an impact with a focus on local plants. “We’re lucky to live in the South where there’s access to stunning greens and florals almost year-round,” says Allison Lyons of Modern Floral, a Charleston, South Carolina-based floral design company that specializes in weddings and events. “I love using local magnolia with its contrasting leaves to make something feel uniquely Southern. Camellia greens have a beautiful, rich color and can bring a Southern garden indoors. Adding small touches of Spanish moss immediately makes you feel as if you’re standing under a sweeping grand oak.”
Green Meets Multicolor
The Meghan Markle/Prince Harry wedding highlighted greenery with white flowers, bringing in a small pop of color. Likewise, the bouquets featured greenery with a variety of white flowers. Both are looks that wedding planners are seeing a lot of this year. “The color green elicits thoughts of growth, harmony and freshness,” Lyons says. “It brings renewal and growth. Because of its seasonal variability, something so vibrant in spring can elicit a beautiful red or orange in the fall, and may have berries by winter. Even without adding floral touches, greenery can stand on its own.”
Greenery looks great with any color, and really stands out against neutral tones such as white, oatmeal, taupe and gray. For a bright, bold contrast, flowers like ruscus and tropical palm serve as beautiful additions. “Greenery, in most cases, is used to create balance within a flower arrangement to make it look more relaxed and natural,” says Daulton Van Kuren, owner and principal planner of The Refined Host, an event planning and design firm that specializes in weddings. “If you are using one or two types of flowers, I would recommend using one type of green within the arrangement since that design is more streamlined. If you are going for an arrangement with an array of flower types, adding in more greens will give extra texture to look freshly picked.”
Size and scale are important considerations in the use of greenery. “For many Southern weddings, it is the lush greenery décor installations that are making big statements,” Van Kuren says. “Lining a full staircase with cascading greens and flowers to look as though they are growing naturally creates a magical photo moment for the couple and their guests. For outdoor weddings, utilizing existing trees and adding garlands of greenery with flowers to the trunks is a design feature that you don’t see at every event.”
The green trend goes a step beyond the rustic wedding décor that has been popular in recent years. “It started out with greens being used in more rustic settings to help ‘bring the outside in’ and play off of the natural surroundings where the wedding was taking place,” Van Kuren says. “However, more recently, we are seeing all types of greenery such as ferns and palm leaves being used in more modern ways to make a statement.”
In large event spaces, greenery works well with tall ceilings. Statement arrangements within the room fill the empty space and long branches of leafy greens in tall vases help to break up the emptiness overhead. Pops of color draw attention to the arrangements around the room.
Hanging installations are also adding a dramatic effect. “If you’re shooting for something completely out of the ordinary, suspended floral installations over the tables are completely unexpected and stunning,” Lyons says. “We’ve seen some beautiful installations at ceremony sites over dance floors and at bars. … Think a coffered ceiling made of greenery with floral accents.”
One unique aspect to greenery is that it can help create a cohesive look from the ceremony space to the reception area. “A greenery wall can be used as a ceremony backdrop or a photo booth wall,” Lyons says. “An ornate arbor [at the ceremony] can also be used as a bar at the reception. A floating installation with a base of greenery and floral accents can create an instant altar.”
Living bars can take on many shapes and sizes, with some couples and designers using greenery to cover the façade of the bar. Others grow greenery through a lattice that is set behind the bar or install a climbing rose garden behind the bar.
While greenery remains a go-to around candle centerpieces, it also is becoming popular in smaller ways. Potted plants—reminiscent of a family garden—are often placed down the ceremony aisle, and natural elements, such as potted herbs and fresh ferns, are a popular choice for tables. The design can be highly individualized; for example, a single leaf can be placed on each cloth napkin.
No matter how little or how much greenery is being used at ceremony sites and wedding venues, it seems that the emphasis on fresh décor isn’t going to fade anytime soon. “Good design enhances the natural beauty of its elements, and I believe that is particularly true of greenery and florals,” Lyons says. “Strategically placed greenery and accents help create a custom and out-of-the-ordinary design.”
Wedding greenery isn’t the only way that brides are highlighting a natural look—makeup is also trending toward the organic.
“Brides want to look back at their wedding pictures and recognize the woman they see there,” says Margina Dennis, a makeup artist whose work has appeared in publications around the country.
Not surprisingly, the royal wedding also helped to influence this trend. “Minimal makeup has been big in the fashion world for a few seasons now, but I think when Meghan Markle married Prince Harry and looked like herself, it made a big push in this direction for trends for brides,” Dennis says.
To achieve a natural appearance, brides are using foundation with coverage, but it’s not heavy looking. From eyes to lips, makeup is kept very subtle. Eyeliner is moving away from liquid to a more relaxed, smudged look. Soft browns, peaches and mauves are popular, often with a small pop of color on the lips. The Pantone Color of the Year for 2019—Living Coral—is also appearing in bridal makeup. “You are going to see many brides embracing it as a blush and/or lip color,” Dennis says. “You also are seeing soft roses and mauves on the lips that look healthy and moisturized.”
And, of course, what brides are using is becoming just as important as how they are using it. Green and organic makeup is now a must-have for many. “They are more concerned with the skin care and makeup they are choosing to put on their skin,” she says. “The skin is our largest organ. I am so happy as a professional makeup artist that there are so many more options in green and organic beauty.”