A friend of mine recently got married at a San Francisco restaurant with 25 close guests in attendance. The ceremony was held in a private room, and afterward, everyone sat down at one big table for a three-course dinner.

Since the couple threw together the "elopement" on short notice, they recruited friends to help; a friend and I were asked to do the flowers. I was surprised by how cheaply we were able to fill the room with blooms. Since the restaurant has exposed brick walls and a rustic feel, we decided to go for the same look with the arrangements. To see my tips for achieving a similar scheme, read more.

  • Know the space. Get a feel for the room you'll be working in and talk to the restaurant about any decor (such as candles and tablecloths) they'll have on hand or any restrictions that may apply.
  • Become a jar collector. To echo the rustic modern vibe of the room, I rounded up mismatched glass jars from my cupboards and friends' kitchens. They're free of charge and oh-so-hip.
  • Go wholesale. Many cities have flower markets that are open to the public. If you can, find a wholesale card to get better prices; I borrowed one from an event coordinator at a local nonprofit. Even if you can't get a wholesalers' discount, you'll still be able to get better bulk deals than you would anywhere else.
  • Mix and match. Splurge on some pricier statement flowers to anchor the arrangements — we went with purple hydrangeas, white tulips, orchids, and dahlias. Then, fill them out with cheaper filler in complementary colors: try mums, alstromerias, and assorted greenery.
  • Light it up. Place votive candles in smaller jars and use them to surround the floral arrangements. This will give the flowers a grander appearance without actually needing more flowers.