Lush. Interesting. Jaw-dropping. Colorful. This is how you want your guests to describe your wedding flowers. Not on that list? Boring. Read on to find out how the experts ensure their brides' flowers are the most memorable ever, every time.

Jamie Tilson Ross still remembers the moment she first caught a glimpse of her wedding flowers. "I almost collapsed at the beauty," she recalls. "It was truly amazing."

Tilson Ross looked to the Daisy Basket and designer Judy Wood to set the mood at her ceremony and reception. "The second I met with [Wood], I knew how incredible she was going to be," recalls Tilson Ross. "She was going to make my dream wedding come true, without a doubt."

Wood combined dramatic swaths of fabric, towering glass vases of white hydrangea and suspended balls of leafy boxwood to create a modern aesthetic with Old Hollywood touches-exactly what Tilson Ross had always dreamed.

Tell Your Story

From the wedding invitations and venue to the detailed embroidery on the gown, all elements of a wedding come together to tell one story. On the wedding day, flowers help set the scene and allow your story to unfold. While florists can help flesh out a vision, Stephanie Nemet Atkins from All InBloom suggests brides have a good idea what they want in their bridal bouquet and how they would like to incorporate flowers into the ceremony and reception-even before meeting with a florist. As you prepare for your big day, start to gather inspiration-snippets from magazines, Pinterest boards and color swatches can all help communicate to your florist the theme, color scheme and feel of your wedding.

Choose Carefully

While most florists suggest beginning the process nine to 12 months prior to the wedding, less time is needed outside peak wedding season (May to October in Ohio, says Jan Reese, owner of Flowers on Orchard Lane). Shops that combine floral and design services often are in higher demand and book as far as two years in advance-so plan accordingly.

When choosing a florist, know what you want and do your research. It's common practice to meet with several different florists before making your decision, says Reese. Become familiar with their style and ask for references and photos of past work. "I'm there to create an image for the bride," Reese says. "Not sell them a product I have in my cooler."

Kim Byce chose locally owned EcoFlora in Clintonville for her April 2012 wedding to husband Trent after hearing about them from a friend. "I'm not really an orchid and roses type of person," Byce says. "I was attracted to EcoFlora because her flowers are sourced locally and in season."

For Tilson Ross, it was important that her florist shared her vision and brought expertise to the table. "I was able to describe [my vision], but she was able to really make it come to life [and] provide out-of-the-box ideas," she says.

Prepare for the Consultation

The initial consultation can be a fun, collaborative experience and gives you the opportunity to explore different options. Jill Elmore of Connells Maple Lee Flowers & Gifts says most brides have a good idea of what they want prior to their first meeting. "I always meet with the bride and find out what [her] dream wedding is," Elmore says.

To maximize the experience, come armed with a few key pieces of information. Florists will ask about preferred colors and flowers; venue, date and time of the wedding; size of the bridal party and budget. Bouquets and other arrangements should complement all aspects of the decor, including your wedding gown and bridesmaid dresses. Sleek, modern dresses call for tightly trimmed bouquets, while a whimsical dress may call for a lush, free-flowing bouquet. Bridesmaids' bouquets often include pops of color that match groomsmen's accessories or complement the bridal bouquet. Most florists ask to see color samples and photos of the dresses, and some even keep fabric swatches on hand from area bridal shops to ensure a perfect match.

Though Reese says it isn't essential to have all details set in stone prior to the initial consultation, keep in mind the venue will determine the style and quantity of flowers needed. Many churches don't allow anything to be attached to pews or petals to be placed in aisle ways. If florists know this information ahead of time, special accommodations can be made-paper cones filled with flowers can be secured to pews with ribbon, and flower girls can carry a floral pomander ball instead of sprinkling petals.

As for cost, Lynette Higginbotham of MadisonHouse Designs advises brides to be realistic and upfront about their budget in the initial consultation. When working with a florist, be open to alternatives, says Higginbotham. Many florists can suggest seasonal flowers that give the desired look at a lower cost. Standard roses emulate the look of pricey English garden roses while certain types of mums can serve as a cost-saving alternative to dahlias. A few stems of a larger-headed flower like hydrangea can be used to fill out bouquets and centerpieces at a lower price. "If a bride can be open to substitutes, she can get her desired look while still accomplishing a budget," Higginbotham says.

Know your Blooms

Florists can be especially helpful in selecting flower varietals to achieve a desired look. Bright and playful yellow billy balls added to the carnival theme of Byce's spring wedding, while Christina Wolfe opted for elegant bouvardia, gerber daises and roses to set the mood for her romantic June 2012 ceremony.

According to Elmore, garden-type flowers are trending for fall and winter months, including zinnias and geranium. Perennial clematis come in a wide variety of colors, and the ever-popular English garden rose never goes out of style. "They make such a statement in a bridal bouquet," Wood says. A tight bouquet of the lush, full-petaled blooms adds to a classic look while a loosely tied bouquet with sprays of greenery can achieve a more casual style.

Elegant classics such as hydrangeas are still wildly popular and are readily available all year. Clusters of small petals make up the large blooms, making them ideal for filling out delicate bouquets or making a statement in a table centerpiece. Wood says vibrant cobalt-blue hydrangeas are in high demand with the return of strong color palettes.

Mini calla lilies, orchids and standard roses are ideal for single-bloom boutonnieres and corsages and come in varieties of colors to complement the groom and groomsmen.

Nemet Atkins loves working texture and height into fall and winter arrangements with berries, branches and natural greenery. "Brides are going for something a little bit unique," she says. "Something normal with a pop of flair that makes them different." Sturdy boxwood greenery adds dimension to bouquets, and cotton stems can add rustic charm. Miniature succulents are perfect in an earthy bouquet, and crimson holly berries work well for winter weddings.

At the Ceremony

When choosing flowers for the ceremony, consider your venue and budget. Large or ornate churches often require minimal decor. "I try to focus on everything around the altar area and along the aisle," Wood says. "If we start trying to put flowers [in] lots of different places, it's like trying to adorn an elephant." To draw visual attention to the altar, frame the area with large vases of flowers or tall, slender bunches of twigs on either side. Floral accents on pews or along the aisle can even be transported to the reception site and reused as table centerpieces or deconstructed to adorn the wedding cake.

For her August 2012 wedding ceremony, Amy Hughes chose an outdoor location that didn't require much decor. Paper cones holding yellow and white blooms hung from chairs, and petals added a pop of color along the aisles in the Bride's Garden at the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. Other outdoor ceremonies may require more decor to create an altar area. Lanterns and shepherd's hooks with hanging candles can be used to define aisles and add visual appeal at an outdoor ceremony. In a large, open area, Higginbotham suggests using flowers and larger props to define the altar. She offers vintage rentals such as suitcases, trunks and crates that can be stacked and staged to do so. Rustic barrels, floral arches and picket-fence panels can also be used. Natural elements like large trees serve as visual anchors and can be strung with lights or old windowpanes to create a dramatic backdrop.

At the Reception

For many brides, the reception is where flowers take center stage. Reese says flowers play a major role in the reception, as guests spend the most time in this space. "The most impressive thing to people is when you walk into the reception room," Reese says. While traditional centerpieces and name cards are still popular, many brides are looking to the latest trends to add a unique flair to the reception.

Single blooms or simple candles work well for delicate cocktail tables, while large, round or square dinner tables can hold more substantial arrangements. Tilson Ross chose three different types of table arrangements to add height variation and interest to her modern-meets-traditional reception. Some tables sat beneath hanging chandeliers and boxwood pomander balls suspended from silky tents, while other tables featured tall, dramatic glass vases overflowing with white and green hydrangea.

For a simple look, Wood suggests gathering three vases of different flowers in the same color family. A vase of white English garden roses will go well with a separate vase of white hydrangeas and another of white tulips. "It's not busy or fussy," Wood says. For a trendy vase alternative, many florists offer galvanized pails, hurricane globes, cake stands, pitchers and even vintage teacups to add a pop of color. "We're stepping a little bit outside of the box," says Wood.

Tuscan-style head tables are also growing in popularity as an alternative to traditional head tables and allow the entire bridal party and their guests to sit on either side of the table. Some brides choose to highlight the bridal party at the reception by placing the head table in the center of the room and setting it apart with impressive centerpieces that are different from the other tables.

Seasonal Favorites

These old favorites and trendy newcomers are at the top of florists' lists this season.

English garden roses: With lush and swirling centers, these roses are a good alternative to out-of-season peonies.

Hydrangeas: Classically romantic, hydrangeas are readily available in the fall and winter months.

Baby's Breath: The delicate white blooms add softness to a bouquet or stand alone as a simple centerpiece.

Dahlias: Loved by florists for their array of colors, these full blooms are a staple for fall weddings.

Marigolds: Tight, small petals fill out these fall blooms, which come in a variety of vibrant hues.

Flower alternatives

Though floral bridal bouquets and lush centerpieces are
often wedding staples, some brides are looking to flower alternatives as a way to put a unique touch on their special day.

Swap flowers for brooches in your bridal bouquet

Bridal bouquets made partially or entirely of jewelry and antique brooches are an instant heirloom, says designer Jen Diehl of The Ritzy Rose. Brides can choose from a variety of bouquet shapes, sizes and styles, all made with handpicked vintage brooches. A bride can throw a brooch shower before the big day to fill out her bouquet or choose from more than 9,000 colorful antique treasures at Diehl's studio.

Incorporate sturdy succulents into bouquets, boutonnieres and centerpieces

Mini succulents add an earthy feel to a traditional bridal bouquet and offer a playful spin on a groom's corsage. Says Lynette Higginbotham of MadisonHouse Designs, they're sturdy enough to stand alone as place-card holders at the reception or can take center stage when piled into a long, shallow bowl in the center of a Tuscan-style head table.