Purple carnations

Photo: Courtesy of Matthew Mead

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Play It Safe (or Take a Risk) with Color
The biggest mistake amateurs make when it comes to creating a bouquet: using every color in a pack of Skittles. Committing to one shade (like all white) is foolproof, but mixing different varieties in the same color family (as Mead did at left with these lilac- and plum-colored carnations) is an easy way to amp up an arrangement. For a bolder look, celadon green flowers (like button mums) pair well with anything—from coral-colored roses to sunny yellow tulips. Contrasting combos like Chinese red and bright violet or white and aubergine are other florist favorites.

To keep your bouquet from looking sparse or straying in too many directions, gather the stems into a tight cluster and tie them together with a clear hair elastic. Then cut the stems on an angle at the same length for a sophisticated, pavé finish, says Waga Perez. (Keep in mind that flowers shouldn't be any higher than the span from your wrist to your elbow if you plan to put them on your dinner table—otherwise you risk obstructing your guests' view.)