To those of you who are thinking of ordering, I'm back to quickly list some simple tips (these are applicable for roses, other flowers or complicated arrangements that might need other equipment such as floral tape and wire, oasis, etc.)
1. If you're particular about color, you might want to order a sample shipment (not always available), or make sure you pick a specific varietal that you know you like. I chose to just order in bulk by the generic color, to save money. Instead of ordering 200 "Vendela" roses for $220, I ordered 200 "light cream" roses for $200. I ended up getting Vendela (the boxes are marked with the specific type), but didn't have to pay the extra $20, since I was flexible.
2. Before ordering, search online for a coupon code. I was able to save 10% by using the code that came with my sample shipment. Give yourself enough time to source affordable vases, I love the little ivy vases that are only $1 each at craft stores.
3. Get enough buckets and flower food in advance (it takes more food than you think), and change the water as directed. Get a good stem stripper (you can get some plastic flower ones at www.afloral.com, along with other DIY tools). Also, get a strong pair of shears-- cutting thick stems with normal scissors would be hard on your hands.
4. For roses, don't forget to remove the guard petals-- you may have to remove up to 8 or so per rose, but trust me, the flowers look MUCH better once you remove the imperfect outer petals.
5. Set up an assembly line system-- much faster! As you're going along, if you break some of the flower heads off, don't throw them away-- save them to put out around the cocktail area, around votives, etc. You can also strip off the petals and scatter these around.
6. Keep an eye on how fast the flowers are opening, and adjust how you're keeping them accordingly (water temp, room temp). For example, my lavender roses opened much faster than the others. I should've moved them to a cooler part of the room, but instead I made separate arrangements of these lavender roses for the bar, cocktail area, etc. If your flowers are opening too slowly or too quickly, call the customer service line for advice-- they're very helpful. My lavender roses were fully open by the end of the night-- they were gorgeous, but would not have lasted another day. The other colors were beautiful for days afterwards!
7. Figure out in advance how you're going to transport the finished arrangements, if you're doing them off-site. Transporting lots of vases with water in a car is very difficult, as is rolling them down a hotel hallway on a luggage cart (haha :) )
8. Hire a helper, if you can!!!! My helper Barb was incredible. It was GREAT to have someone else do most of the execution, so I could just relax and take care of some other last-minute things. So, my flowers were DIY-with-a-twist! Of course, you can also gather together a range of free friend and family helpers, if your budget can't stretch to this. But for an extra $15-$25/hour, I think this is well worth it. Don't underestimate the time commitment-- depending on the size of your wedding, it can be a huge undertaking. We had ~60 small and ~30 large-ish arrangements of flowers, so it took a LOT of time.
9. Don't be intimidated-- just do it! Don't get stressed-- it's pretty difficult to mess up such a gorgeous raw material. It helps to have a trial run. This will help you determine what quantity to order, and also give you an estimate on how long each arrangement will take.
10. Enjoy the money savings! I had a certain look that I wanted to achieve, but I wanted to bring it in under a certain budget. The only way to have both was to order online, and provide the labor and materials myself. I got quotes from two florists, and they were more than triple what I ended up spending (for flowers and labor and equipment included). For the simple look that I wanted, DIY was ideal.
OK, thus ends my DIY Flower Diatribe! :) Good luck!