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Party Decorating with Flowers

Parties are one of life's great pleasures. To lend elegance and excitement to your next gathering, make flowers part of the festivities. Flowers are a super way to get the party started – they dress up dining tables and powder rooms, they can be key elements of a theme party, and unusual bouquets are excellent conversation starters. Flowers set the tone of the event, whether the occasion is formal or casual.

Your local florist is a valuable resource, especially if you entertain frequently. Building a relationship with a florist offers several advantages. If your party floral arrangements are complex, you have the option of leaving that entire part of the party to a professional and, for smaller, simpler affairs, you can check in with your florist for tips, such as what flowers will be in season at the time of your event.

To get you started, we checked in with floral experts around the country. For Tom Simmons, designing a perfect party is all in a day's work. Simmons runs Three Bunch Palms Productions in Palm Springs, Calif., and is the former president of the American Institute of Floral Designers. Tom gave lots of terrific suggestions as did Chicago-area floral consultant Kim Oldis; Bert Ford, owner of Ford Flower Company in Salem, N.H. and Carolyn Shepard of Carolyn Shepard Design Group in Charlotte, N.C.

Tap the power of flowers with these party-specific ideas:

Shop for New Baby Flowers

Baby showers

If you're looking for a theme, a map might come in handy – is there a corner of the globe that holds special significance for the parents to be? Or just work with baby gear. For instance, place vases of flowers amid bottles, blocks and stuffed animals. Instead of pink and/or blue flowers, yellow, purple and green are a nice update. And baby's breath can be beautiful as the focal flower, rather than as filler.

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Shop for St. Patricks Day

St. Patrick's Day party

One or two flower varieties in small groupings will maximize color, in this case, green. Bells of Ireland are a great choice – they can be clustered in vases of varying heights and shapes. Not only is cabbage a food associated with the holiday, it also functions as an all-natural vase. Slice it in half and cut the bottom so that it’s flat, then pierce the cabbage with a skewer to create holes for the flowers. Finally, place inside a low bowl with a little water. Wheat grass is another easy way to get green into your festivities.

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Shop for Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo celebration

Be sure to include the joyous music, food and spirit of Mexico at your Cinco de Mayo (May 5th) party. A fun and simple decorating idea is to fill a tall clear vase with lemons and limes, then add bright yellow sunflowers (and water for when they get thirsty). Decorative glass pieces inside the vase enhance this striking look.

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Shop for Graduation

Graduation party

Graduation is all about accomplishment and reward for hard work. So, how about a beach-vacation theme with tropical flowers, like hibiscus and bougainvillea? Floral leis also lend a relaxed air. Otherwise, you could have several groupings of flowers in school colors.

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Shop for 4th of July

4th July celebration

To spice up a red, white and blue celebration, have your flowers mimic the look of an exploding firecracker. Gather some cardboard tubes (5" or 10" diameter) and cover in red contact paper or paint them red. Then pop in a small vase of white spider mums, silver mylar, and glitter-coated dried grass. (If you don't have vases to fit, you can use plastic liner and floral foam.) Depending on the size of your gathering, make them in a few different sizes and use wherever you need eye-catching accents.

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Shop for Halloween

Halloween party

When you're cleaning and carving pumpkins, set some aside and paint them black, gold or purple. You can also paint them with black chalk board paint and drawy a face with the white chalk or write "boo" on the pumkin. Adding floral foam will turn pumpkins into festive vases. Mini pumpkins, adorned with flowers or wrapped with vine, are darling place cards or votive candle holders. Going for a glitzy vibe? Decorate pumpkins with shiny beads or thumb tacks.

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Shop for Birthday Flowers

Birthday parties

In addition to adorning the buffet area and individual tables, flowers look pretty next to the guest sign-in book and seating-assignment cards, perhaps blended with a collection of photos, conjuring milestones and joyful memories. Unless it's a surprise birthday party, a lovely gesture is for the guest(s) of honor to write each guest a brief note, describing their special connection or a good time shared. Put the notes at the place setting or attach to the slip of paper indicating table number.

Silver and gold are classic color choices for milestone birthdays, but your palette can be much broader, depending on who's blowing out the candles. Want to evoke the psychedelic era? It's easy to create a groovy vibe with flowers. Fill clear glass containers with 1.5 to 2 gallons of red, orange and lime JELL-O. While the mixture is still liquid, insert flower stems, leaving the petals just above the rim. Surround the containers with clear votive candles.

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Shop for Alstroemeria

Super Bowl party

Your color scheme will be set by whichever football team you're rooting for, but grass and flowers can give your party a creative kick-off. Try covering a table with an 18" by 30" flat of wheat grass so that it looks like a playing field. Old leather footballs cut in half and lined with wet floral foam can hold flowers, as can old helmets. Also, hallmarks of your favorite team's city (say beans for the New England Patriots) help put guests in the mood to cheer.

Teleflora's Angel Centerpiece

Bridal showers and engagement parties

A wedding on the social horizon likely means lots of parties and gatherings. Once the bride has picked her wedding day flowers you will know what her favorite flowers are to choose a bloom to appear on the invitation to the engagement party or shower. At the event, feature that flower in mixed bouquets around the room or in floral centerpieces for the dining area. Is there a wonderful story behind the proposal or the bride-to-be's ring? If so, make visual reference to it by filling martini glasses with individual blossoms and plastic diamonds. Or for a beach wedding, mix seashells into the floral décor. And don't forget the groom – be sure to include his favorite flowers at the rehearsal dinner.

Also, plants and flowers at the entrance to a party are attractive welcome signs. Try a ceramic pot filled with curly willow and Algerian or English ivy overflowing at the base. Party favors can hang from the branches.

Curly willow can also be used in centerpieces. Use three or four branches in a glass cylinder filled halfway with small pieces of frosted glass. For a little dazzle, spray the willow with silver paint and use floral glue to attach small crystals to branches; you might also hang crystals from the branches with ribbon or monofilament. At the opening of the vase, add a "collar" of hydrangea or carnations.

Romantic floral touches include sprinkling rose petals on tables, an ice ring with edible flowers for the punch bowl, a petite hand-tied bouquet for the bride and a floral cake or cupcakes (made from flowers and floral foam) next to the real desserts.

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