Looking for something moody, showy, and a healthy combination of both timeless and timely in the wedding flower department? With bold colors and a lush, overflowing abundance, these painting-inspired wedding flowers certainly fit the bill—and are downright gallery-worthy!
Some of our favorite wedding floral designers have been taking cues from the 17th-century Dutch masters and creating colorful arrangements of painterly blooms that have us swooning. Inspired by the vibrancy of the Dutch Golden Age paintings, these wedding floral arrangements are full of movement and dramatic hues—a trend in the making. Pop any one of them on your reception tables for a romantic vibe that calls to mind the works of Willem van Aelst, Rachel Ruysch, and Ambrosius Bosschaert. They may be creative interpretations of famous pieces, but these wedding flowers are their own works of art.
Interested in one of these painterly arrangements for your own wedding? We spoke with four of our favorite floral artists about how they achieved this aesthetically stunning look and why they're so inspired with this centuries-old artistic throwback.
"Dutch masters is about overgrown, lush abundance." says Doan Ly, NYC-based florist and founder of a.p. bio. And one thing that makes this look versatile? "It can be done cheaply or cost a million. The key is timing—you want to make sure all of your blooms are wide open and to also shape the arrangement with gestural pieces so there is a sense of movement. An easy cheat would be to add fruit to the table design. Cut-open pomegranates are very moody and sexy with their jewel-like red seeds!"
When asked what to avoid and what to look for when you're talking to your florist about getting all Dutch masters-y, she says, "I think of Dutch masters as being about shape and a sensuous palette. There’s usually a lot of texture and movement—all flowers are welcome to the party if they're used in the right way! Maybe phalaenopsis orchids might read as too graphic and tropical, but if tucked in the right way and in the right color, it could still work. I would, however, avoid an all-white palette!"
When asked the best way to achieve this look, Kiana Underwood, owner of Tulipina and author of Color Me Floral, sites it being an effortless aesthetic that comes from that "fresh from the field" vibe. "For starters, think about how the old still-life scenes are put together. If you observe a Dutch master's painting, you see abundance, color, asymmetry, and, oftentimes, many different ingredients. Whether a painting or an arrangement, the look is very much that someone went into the garden and picked one of whatever they could find and added it to the vase, and I believe this is indeed what happened."
When it comes to avoiding certain elements, Underwood doesn't think exclusion is the key to this look: "I actually think that there is nothing to avoid given there are so many different varieties of flowers in so many of the paintings that I love. For example, one of the characteristics that draws me to a Dutch master painting is finding that there is no discrimination in choosing flowers—whether color or variety!" She says, "I love that these Dutch masters–inspired arrangements offer me endless possibilities to tune into my creative side, knowing that the result will be unique every time.
Oftentimes, designers think that they need to copy one another to be 'good,' but we all produce our best results when we allow for our own creativity to run wild."
One of our favorite florists, Lewis Miller, owner of Lewis Miller Design and author of Styling Nature (if you didn't know him before, you certainly know of his "Flower Flashes" that are all over Instagram!), gave us these tips on styling and achieving the Dutch masters look: "Start with a dark linen, whether it’s a rich blue, deep green, or oxblood red swathe of fabric. Use lots of compotes and mismatched containers. Use fruit and have your elements spill out onto the table. And always use flowers in every stage of their gorgeous life cycle."
"It’s also important to make sure your flowers have movement," Miller continues. "With this carnation arrangement, you can practically envision the butterflies floating through each individual blossom. And add interesting objects. I love the rows of empty bird nests that serve as the backdrop to this 'cherry bomb' arrangement."
"Get to know the source material when you're trying out the Dutch masters look," urges Siri Thorson of Siri Thorson Flowers. "Choose a few of your favorite paintings and take the time to really examine them. Try making a list of every flower you can name in one image—you might be surprised at just how many different varieties there are in some! Choose glass vases or metallic containers with a rich patina, and keep the setting dark and moody and lit only with real candles if possible."
When it comes to which flowers are suited to these artistic arrangements, Thorson has a slightly different take than some of the other floral designers we spoke with: "With some exceptions, most of the original paintings were composed using flowers commonly found in Northern European cutting gardens, so tropical flowers and foliage can feel out of place in these arrangements." However, when asked what she loves most about this look, she says, "I love that it’s an opportunity to examine the intersection of flowers and art, and to consider floral arranging as an art form in and of itself.
I also love getting to throw a reserved palette to the wind and just use all the colors! It’s the most fun."
Feeling inspired? Talk to your florist about recreating a similar, painterly mood for your own wedding. Or give an artistic arrangement a go at your next dinner party!
This story originally appeared in the April/May 2019 issue of Brides, on sale beginning February 26.