Wedding Planning & Décor Tips from Michelle Rago

The esteemed wedding designer describes how to make your bridal fantasies reality

Michelle Rago is the owner of New York based event design firm, Michelle Rago, LTD. Crowned the "Wedding Design Dynamo" by Modern Bride magazine in 2004, Michelle has created lavish weddings for brides all over the world. We asked Michelle for her expert tips on how a bride can bring her wedding vision to life. Here's what she had to say.

What should a bride look for in a wedding florist or event designer?

I think it's important to be familiar with the work of the florist or event designer you are considering. Have you seen their work at another event, or do they come highly recommended from a friend or other reliable source? Check out their website for photos of weddings they have done, and ask to see their portfolio when you meet. And most importantly, determine whether you think the chemistry is right. You will be working very closely with your florist/event designer over the months ahead so choose someone you trust and enjoy working with.

Is it important to have a vision in mind when meeting with a florist?

I think it's important to be able to articulate your wedding fantasy, all those dreams you've had about what your wedding will be like. Do you want your wedding to be small and intimate or big and elaborate, formal or informal, indoors or outdoors? But be flexible; have patience with the process. There is often more than one approach in achieving what you want. The more you can give your designer or planner the better. Tear photos of things you like out of magazines and just don't limit yourself to wedding magazines. I often find ideas from home and architectural magazines. And know what you don't want. This can save a lot of time going in the wrong direction. Trust your instincts and when in doubt, trust the pros.

In addition to flowers, what other elements can a bride include in her wedding day decor?

As soon as I begin working with a couple, we start identifying the things that are important to them, and from these things we determine the elements that will be used throughout the wedding design. The elements are the core of the overall design and become a key aspect of every creative decision and the source of inspiration. For example, one couple I worked with loved the sea and spent many vacations in the Bahamas. For this wedding, we built our design on the elements of shells, seahorses, sea urchins, and giant barnacles. For a couple that spent time in the country we chose birch, acorns, daises, and pine cones as design elements. The elements become a unique and personal way to express what is important to the couple and gives you a wonderful means to translate it into the design of the wedding.

How can a bride save money on decor and still have a beautiful wedding?

When planning your wedding, think about the most effective way to use your resources. For example, if your wedding is in a church, it is not necessary to spend a lot of your resources decorating for the ceremony. Churches are usually very beautiful places and a couple of well placed flower arrangements may be all you need to create a beautiful setting. For the reception, make a bold statement where all of your guests will see it as they enter, and you can decorate less throughout the reception area. I always recommend making a bold statement with your seating card table. Everyone sees it and there are many creative ideas you can incorporate.

What are the latest trends in wedding flowers?

In flowers, I see a throwback to an earlier time, very romantic and glamorous with cascading bridal bouquets, lush garlands, and oversized urns of plumose. Asian influences have also been prominent, and of course, we are seeing natural elements incorporated into wedding design.

What's your favorite floral detail?

I love when garden roses are so open that they start to drop petals.

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