Cascade Craze

After years of tightly bound hand-tied bouquets reigning supreme, cascading wedding bouquets are hot again. Cascades have traditionally been favoured among the royal family; Queens Victoria and Elizabeth II both carried one, and Princess Diana’s 42-inch bouquet remains one of the most memorable in history. (Of course, a tall woman wearing a dress that puffy with a 25-foot train would look silly with a tiny nosegay!)

Long, flowing, cascading blooms are having a renaissance and it’s an exciting development for our industry. More technically challenging than hand-tied bouquets, cascades provide an opportunity for those florists who have the design skills—but also a threat for those who don’t.

Orchid cascade bouquet

Martha Stewart, Vera Wang, and Pinterest wield a significant amount of influence on wedding design trends. Stewart’s “Do it Yourself” message connected well with the popularity of hand-tied bouquets. Even if the bride didn’t pick a few blooms out of the garden and personally tie them with a ribbon, the bouquet’s simplicity made it look as though she could have. The style was good for the floral industry in terms of efficiency.

“The hand-tied look was popular with florists because the design was easy to make ahead of the event, so the industry promoted the aesthetic and contributed to its staying power,” said freelance designer Michael Skaff AIFD, AAF, PFCI, of Savannah, Georgia, who curated four distinct décor themes for the 2017 Flower Trends Forecast for the International Floral Distributors. In his research for AIFD, he detected one common denominator over and over again: cascades, which he attributes to brides’ desire to break away from the round, tight mold they’ve seen for so long.

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Cascade wedding bouquet

“Today’s brides want their personality to be expressed in all aspects of the wedding,” he said. “They don’t want anything contrived. They want movement and motion as they walk down the aisle … something more natural.”

Cascades have evolved over time, from the Victorian era, the roaring 20’s, 50’s, and 70’s, he explained, “and now we see a more natural, casual cascade bouquet.” This could be a result of the number of flowers now available and grown throughout the world, he said. Cascades vary in style and include: natural (freeform) cascades, traditional cascades, teardrop shapes, crescent shapes, and arm bouquets.

Pink purple cascade bouquet

Here, Skaff discusses the most popular wedding design themes today and how cascading bouquets fit in each.


The Style: This look is about beauty, romance, and history. Picture sparkling wine, an elegant pastry table, soft pink accented with black (very Coco Chanel), and other soft pastels. Invitations often use parchment paper and lavender often shows up as table décor.

The Bride: The French Connection bride typically wears a dress with a lace overlay or vintage details in an off-white tone, Skaff said. Additionally, a woman attracted to this style is likely a bit of a fashionista and will arrive for the consultation looking trendy and put together.

The Flowers: “The blooms for this cascade are big and luxurious,” Skaff said. Think: peonies, hydrangeas, and dahlias. While the French Connection style may include soft and faded colours, it would be a mistake to think neutrals are the only way to express it. “Brides love colour and 90 percent of them want colour in their flowers,” Skaff said.


The Style: Forces of Nature is about connecting to the earth. If the wedding is held in a rustic setting (a barn or an orchard, for instance), it nods to the couple’s desire to celebrate all things natural. Mason jars, burlap, and wood appear prominently in the table settings and décor. Reusable and recyclable materials also play a big part in the festivities.

The Bride: “Millennial brides are very aware of natural elements,” Skaff said. “They probably garden and love going green.” This is your Earth Goddess bride who eschews a veil in favour of a flower crown and wears a simple gown possibly with ballet flats or bare feet. She may show up to the consultation in jeans and a t-shirt and natural hair and makeup, as though she’s just come from the farmer’s market.

The Flowers: “These cascades have a three-dimensional aesthetic,” Skaff said. The Forces of Nature cascade is less fussy than the other styles, but it can still feature large blooms and greenery that make a big statement, such as garden roses, jasmine vines, grape vines, berries, succulents, and Maidenhair fern. Nature is big and dynamic, so the cascade needs to communicate that too.


The Style: This territory blends the fashion-forward qualities of French Connection with the untamed primal vibe of Forces of Nature. This style often suits a destination wedding on a beach or an exotic locale. If the bride wants décor with a bold use of colour, this aesthetic may be a great fit.

The Bride: “Fashion is driving a lot of floral design trends and this one is no exception,” Skaff said. He points to the popularity of animal and jungle prints in clothing and accessories as indication of fashion’s influence on floral design. “This bride loves colour and she’s confident,” he said. “The value of the flower means something to her.” If the bride arrives for her consultation wearing vivid colours and a scarf with a leopard print, a tropical-themed cascade may be perfect for her. Her dress may feature an atypical cut or an exotic accent, as well.

The Flowers: “Tropical flowers are hardy and unique,” Skaff said, describing the current cascade as a hybrid of the hand-tied bouquet with flowing elements. “The flowing material interrupts the roundness,” he said. Tiger lilies, callas, orchids, proteas, and anthuriums are excellent choices for these bouquets.


The Style: “Modern style meshes with historic Asian elements and Art-Deco furnishings and accessories,” Skaff said. The venue may be a distillery or a reclaimed industrial space. The décor has clean lines, chrome, glass, black lacquer.

The Bride: “The chic and sophisticated bride knows what she wants,” Skaff said. This bride will present herself fashionably but with classic rather than trendy pieces. She may combine vintage pieces with modern elements (think: a Harrisville tweed jacket with an Apple watch). Her dress will make a statement while remaining understated.

The Flowers: Crescent cascading bouquets work extremely well here and provide the bride with a modern style. Orchids, Gloriosa lilies, lotus pods, astilbe, and callas go well with this style. Arm bouquets do as well. “A modern muff would look great,” Skaff said.

“Cascade bouquets can extend the length and height of a bride, whether the cascade is short or long,” Skaff said. The shape provides movement, “which brides love,” and assorted flowers, foliages, berries, and branches add texture.

White cascade bouquet

Cascade bouquets test designers’ skills more than hand-tied bouquets, so investing in staff training will be important to capture a piece of this growing market. “A skilled florist can make all the difference in making the bride’s dream wedding come true,” Skaff said. “Artistry is required to create these extraordinary bouquets.”

Photos by Merri James, Director of Photography, FTD

Michelle Brisebois
Michelle Brisebois specializes in retail strategies with experience in luxury goods, restaurants, financial services, and ecommerce. She currently manages Trius Winery and Direct to Consumer for Andrew Peller Limited in Niagara on the Lake, Ontario.

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