Wedding flowers–huzzah!! This is for all you DIY brides out there (I’m looking at YOU Garlic, My Soul).
But let me start by stressing a little bit of advice here stemming from (ha! See what I did there?!) my experience in the wedding floral business: it’s all well and good for the bride to intend to get her hands dirty with this kind of project, but PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE have several friends or family members on board to help you out. I have pre-wedding jitters about your flowers. Things get crazy in the hours leading up to a wedding.
Now that we have that one tiny little bit of ominous warning out of the way–on to the fun stuff! Flowers–YAY! You guys know I am a cheerleader of the Slow Flower movement (read what I wrote about it here); I am all about using what is local, seasonal, and fresh. Whether the materials are from your own garden, foraged (legally) from the wild, or purchased from your most local flower farmer, it’s all amazing in my opinion. Visit slowflowers.com to learn more about all this and to search for flower farms, farmer-florists, and locally-sourcing floral designers near you or your wedding venue. There is something truly magical about seasonal flowers.
Garden and #CAgrown gorgeousness.
The best time to assemble flowers would be the morning of the event–but…ain’t nobody got time for that. So I recommend doing the flowers the day before. Store them in the coolest, darkest place you can find overnight, and make sure they are all in clean, fresh water.
Material selection is, of course, really important, and sometimes rather daunting, and so I have a few rules I like to stick to. Are you familiar with the container-gardening guideline: ‘The thriller, the filler, and the spiller’? No? Read about it here. This is a cute little reminder that for a fabulous container garden, you need a ‘thriller’ (some sort of eye-catching superstar), a filler (something that fills space around the ‘thriller’), and a spiller (something that hangs down or sticks out from the overall arrangement to add movement and interest). Yeah. I like to apply this rule to my bouquets and flower arrangements, too. It’s super helpful, because it reminds you to keep things simple. As little as three materials can look fabulous (frankly, just one material in abundance can look pretty amazeballs, too–but I digress). You don’t need 25 different flowers in your bouquet. In fact, I beg you, do not put 25 different flowers in your bouquet. You only need anywhere from three to five different materials to make a really great arrangement. I promise. For this bouquet, I bought some gorgeous marigolds and dahlias from a local farmers’ market (because all the flowers in my garden are so scorched right now from record-breaking temps combined with severe drought–GAH!!), and pulled some scented geranium leaves and amaranth from my yard. So that’s four different things–but because I used two different, vibrant colors of dahlias, I like to count those separately–so really, this is five materials. Makes perfect sense, right? In my head, at least.
So if we are applying the ‘thriller, filler, spiller’ rule to this bouquet: I see the dahlias and marigolds as the thriller (so that’s THREE thrillers), the geranium leaves as the filler, and the draping amaranth as the spiller. Frankly, the little dahlia buds poking up from the bouquet are kind of ‘spillers’, too. But often they come along with the dahlia blooms and instead of stripping them away, I sometimes like to let them come to the party, too.
Don’t ever get hung up on ‘rules’, though. These are just helpful guidelines. You want that sixth material in your bouquet? You go girl. It’s gonna look awesome.
To make a bouquet, you will need:
-a healthy selection of sturdy, straight-stemmed flowers and greens of your choice (I used approx. 11 dahlias, 9 marigolds, five stems of geranium leaves, and three stems of draping amaranth).
-good, sharp scissors to cut stems with
-some sort of water-proof tape (I recommend this, but narrow duct tape would work just as well, too. I was out of both, so I used this, which works in a pinch, but I really don’t suggest it)
-ribbon or other such decorative material to ‘tie’ your bouquet with
-sharp ribbon-cutting scissors
-pearl-topped boutonniere pins (such as these)
-it’s also helpful to have another set of hands standing by, but not 100% necessary
Building a bouquet requires four fairly simple steps:
1) Clean and prep your materials
2) Assemble your bouquet
3) Tape your ‘handle’
4) Pin ‘handle’ ribbon
Now, let’s elaborate:
1) Clean and prep your materials
Whatever flowers and greens you wind up choosing, the very first step is that you must strip any leaves, thorns, or satellite stems from the main stem. You can do this with your fingers (not what I recommend if there are thorns), scissors, or with a stem-stripper. Cut the length of the stems, also. You want to leave them longer than what the eventual bouquet length will be, but you want them short enough that they are easy to handle as you assemble. I usually leave mine about 18″ long at this point.
You want clean, straight stems. Strip all materials that are within the possibility of using, and set aside in their own bucket or basin of water. If a few tiny leaves miss the stripping process, it’s aw-rite.
When you strip away the leaves, buds, and misc. branches, be sure to keep them for use in other small arrangements, boutonnieres, and flower crowns. I keep a mason jar with water handy to drop any useable bits into.
Before you begin, cut about three or four six-inch lengths of your waterproof tape and stick one end of each to the counter where they’ll be handy, but not in your way. Fill a quart-sized mason jar about one-quarter full of water (this will be for your bouquet to sit in when you are done).
2) Assemble your bouquet
Gather a few stems into your hand to start the bouquet. I like to start with some thriller. And I always start with an odd number–usually three or five. Hold the stems where the ‘handle’ of the bouquet would naturally fall.
Add a few more thrillers working around that center cluster in a circular fashion. Add a few pieces of ‘filler’. Be random. Don’t work with an eye toward symmetry. The flowers won’t let you win that one. A good rule of thumb is to stick to clustering materials together in odd numbers–those always seem to appear more natural.
Keep adding thrillers and fillers at random. If you’ve got some spiky spillers, pop those in here or there.
***Helpful Hint***As you add materials, you may find that certain pieces back towards the center of the arrangement have slipped down. Never fear! Loosen your grip just slightly, and then gently push or pull the offending blossom into a better position (it’s best to try to grasp the blossom by the stem just under the bloom). You want the overall shape of the bouquet to be a natural mound.
Once you have the bouquet to about the size you want, add your ‘spillers’, if you have them. You want the drapey bits to fall here and there from the outside edges of the bouquet.
3) Tape your ‘handle’
Now your bouquet should be more or less how you want it. Go ahead and grab a length of waterproof tape and wrap it around the ‘handle’ of the bouquet just above where your hand is holding it. Wrap that tape TIGHT. Cinch that sucker. Make sure that the tape wraps around and over itself to adhere it snugly.
You can wrap tape as far down as you want the ‘handle’ of the bouquet to be. The idea is that whatever tape you put over the stems, you will cover it with some sort of ribbon or decorative material to hide the tape. So how much or how little you use depends on how much stem you want the bouquet to be showing. I like to see a lot of stem (seems more natural to me), so I don’t use much tape.
Now you basically have your bouquet assembled.
***Helpful Hint***If you’re looking at it and thinking you need to add a few more stems, go ahead. Just place them and then wrap with another layer of tape. Only do this once or twice–after that, it will start making things look wonky in the ‘handle’ area.
At this point, it’s a good idea to go ahead and cut your stems to the finished length you want them. Use good, sharp scissors or clippers and get a nice, even cut across all the ends.
4) Pin ‘handle’ ribbon
I chose to use ribbon for this, but you can get creative and use just about any sort of binding material: twine, rope, wire, raffia–almost anything you can dream up. Ribbon is the only material that requires this pinning step, anything else would just need to be tied or twisted.
Choose your ribbon and unravel a piece that is much longer than you assume you need (just how much depends on how much of the stems you want covered by the ribbon).
Start at the bottom of where you want your ribbon ‘handle’ to fall. Pin the ribbon end securely to the stems by inserting the pins at an up or down angle into the stems (obviously you want to avoid sticking them straight in or any other angle that might result in pins sticking out and turning your beautiful bouquet into a booby-trapped device of torture and pain).
Now you are ready to wrap the ribbon. First wrap down one rotation so that you are sure to cover the pins and ribbon edge, then proceed to slowly wrap the ribbon snugly up the stems. I like to overlap the ribbon on itself as little as possible in order to show more of the pattern–but that’s a personal preference. When you get just past the top of the tape, cut your ribbon (this is where it might be prudent to have an extra set of hands), fold the loose end into a point, and pin it with one pin.
Be sure to slide all pins in completely–this photo shows it in process so that you can see the angle.
Now, you can call it a day, or you can choose to cut another length of ribbon and tie a bow around the top to hide that final pin.
Place your finished bouquet in the quarter-filled mason jar you prepped earlier, taking care to not get water on any of the ribbon. The stems should be submerged so that the water level covers the ends and not much more. Make sure every stem end is underwater.
***Helpful Hint*** To prep for transportation, place a bunched up sheet of paper towel in the bottom of a mason jar and fill with enough water that the paper towel becomes super-saturated and there is a tiny bit of loose water above the soaked towel. Just a tiny bit. Insert your bouquet so that the bottom of the stems firmly touch the paper towel. This will give your bouquet the moisture it needs for a few hours on the day of, but will prevent water from sloshing up onto the ribbon during transport. HEADS UP: always remember to dry off the bottom of the bouquet whenever you remove it from the water–water stains on wedding dresses are no bueno!!
***Helpful Hint*** Have mason jars or vases quarter-filled with water sitting on the head table for all the bridesmaids and the bride to be able to place their bouquets in during the reception. This helps keep the bouquets fresh all night (and keeps them from getting smushed by laying them on the table), and actually serves as makeshift centerpieces for the head table.
And there you have it: your very own handmade bouquet!
For more information on where to find locally-grown flowers, please visit slowflowers.com.
Stay tuned for imminent tutes on boutonnieres, flower crowns, and simple mason jar arrangements to complete your wedding DIY!