Finally, the Wedding Flowers

The Magnificent Altar Bouquet

It was a beautiful day in Mid-July and I was on vacation.  Was I in the garden?  Touring another garden?  At a garden center?  No, I was in my basement carefully arranging 250 glorious hot pink roses for my sister’s wedding.  And it was worth every ounce of worry and effort to see her happy face on her wedding day.

As you may recall, since she told me last summer that she wanted my homegrown hydrangeas as the bridesmaid bouquets, I’ve been worried that these tough plants would somehow succumb to bugs, disease, weather… etc.  Mother Nature certainly had a go at the plants- sending us day after day of torrential rain.  I was out there in long jackets and sweatpants in pouring down rain to save myself from the mosquitoes that love me, trying to shake the water off the hydrangeas so that they could stand somewhat upright. (Staking!!!)

With such warm weather I worried that they would bloom to early and be green. But they were perfect.

Hydrangeas- before becoming bouquets.

My humble workstation

So, down in the basement, I was with my faux Saarinen table and a nice cold concrete floor, and 250 ‘Hot Lad[ies]’.  I’d set the air conditioning at iceburg, to make sure the roses stayed cool.  When they arrived straight from Ecuador, I stuck them immediately in a tote bin filled with water.  I didn’t worry about cutting the stems, but I did unwrap the cardboard as soon as I could.

Gorgeous Roses, wrapped in cardboard

We ordered them from Sam’s Club, online, which offers very reasonable direct shipment of gorgeous flowers.  I think my parents paid about $100/100 stems.  These were very good sized roses and they lasted forever: I received them on Thursday, July 7, and the “extra” bouquet I made lasted easily until July 17.  They were in great shape.

So the task: 13 centerpieces, 1 altar bouquet, two bridesmaid bouquets and other flowers for the reception hall, and last but certainly not least, the cake topper (can you hear the ominous music in the background?).

Hosta leaves soaking in the sink

First, I cranked out the 13 centerpieces: each had four hosta leaves from my garden, basically all from one plant because every other hosta had slug holes in it (umm- rain, as I’ve mentioned).  I hand-arranged exactly one dozen roses and then added the hosta leaves and tied each with a white ribbon;  every one was set into small fishbowls.

Two done- 11 to go.

The family (who was, of course, banned from the house so that I could work without interruption) stopped by to bring me some lunch, and my sister mentioned she’d like 14 centerpieces, just in case.  A great idea.  So 12 to go.

The gorgeous centerpieces, finished.

Once done, I set to work on the cake topper.  While the family was there for lunch, I’d asked what my sister wanted for the topper, and she didn’t really know… something along the lines of “you’re the expert, do it.”  Ok, then.  Here was my idea, having never made a cake topper before.  Take one gladware sandwich container, sans lid.  Add wet foam.  wrap with ribbon, encircle with hosta leaves and add roses to cover.

The beginning of the topper- the pink ribbon, Dad's idea

Once I added the roses, it was beautiful, and heavy.  It must have weighed a lb. at least.

'Hot Lady' and 'High Society'- c'est scandale, no?

And finally, my favorite: the Altar Bouquet.  This included three dozen ‘Hot Lady,’ 3 ‘Blue Mammoth’ Hosta Leaves, and 6 ‘Annabelle’- set in an enormous, heavy fishbowl.  Because it needed to be seen from three sides, I made it interesting from every angle.  I delivered it to the church the night before and set it in the basement- the only casualty overnight was one hydrangea stem- easily remedied by a call to my husband, Usher-extraodinaire, who arrived at the church, in his tux, with three extra freshly cut hydrangeas. Perfect.

All told, it took about 8 full hours of work to do the flowers- but a good hour of that time was spent trying to figure out how to do the cake topper, which wasn’t exactly intuitive.

All Done

It was quite a task to deliver all the flowers, but my husband was the man of the hour (yet again) and drove the flowers to the west side of Madison for the reception and the bouquets to the church in Monona. (Not to mention picking up all of the other flowers- Corsages and Bridal Bouquet).

Hauling the bouquets upstairs
My only regret is that I didn’t make my sister’s bouquet.  I was too chicken that I would ruin it and had asked her to go elsewhere, especially with such talented florists in Madison.  She did, but had liked the bouquet I made this past winter so much, it looked exactly the same as one I would have made,  and it was beautiful.
It was such an honor to do the flower’s for my sister’s wedding, but honestly, it was one of the last things I thought of as I was walking down the aisle: I was much more focused on the fact that my baby sister got hitched!

Not thinking about her handiwork

p.s. thanks Stephanie for the last photo!

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5 Responses to Finally, the Wedding Flowers

  1. Beautiful work! I love hydrangeas, and pairing them with the hot pink roses really made them pop.

    Amy Ryan

  2. gwendolyngarden says:

    Thanks AJ!

  3. Sheryl says:

    Your wedding flowers are gorgeous! I live in Vermont and my daughter wants me to make the bridesmaids bouquets from the Annabelle hydrangeas in my garden for her July wedding. I am worried they will wilt and was hoping you could share if you have any tips for keeping them fresh. How long before the wedding did you harvest them? Did you keep them cool in your cellar before the wedding? For how long? What did you do with the stems for the bouquets? How many blooms to a bouquet? Any advice for how to make my bouquets as beautiful as yours would be very appreciated.

  4. gwendolyngarden says:

    I did harvest them the day before, but we had some wilting. The older blooms seemed to be better- newly opened flowers were more wilty than those that had bloomed for a while. My sister’s July wedding was a scorcher, so I kept the flowers in the basement at home until the next morning. My husband delivered the flowers to the church, and I cut a few spares that morning to throw in the arrangements for those that had wilted. Fortunately, the bouquets themselves were fine. I know that as the mother of the bride you will have a lot going on that morning, but I’d cut about 6-8 stems the night (or afternoon) before- whenever the sun isn’t shining on the flowers- and leave them overnight in the cellar. If you can, make the bouquet in the morning with those that haven’t wilted. I didn’t smash the stems or anything, just wrapped them in ribbon and left them in vases until about 30 seconds before we walked down the aisle. They were in the hot church from about 10 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. and they were fine. I’m not sure about making it all day with the bride… maybe she’s willing to have a backup bouquet just in case? Either way, with the BRIDE’s flowers, I’d definitely make two.

    I used three stems of Annabelle and one of Blushing Bride.

    I hope your daughter’s wedding is filled with great joy and that she has a long and happy marriage! Good luck with the flowers!


  5. Sheryl says:

    Hi Gwendolyn
    I can’t tell you how much I appreciate all the detail you provided in your post in your response to my questions! I am pretty hopeful now that I can create the bridesmaids bouquets for my daughter’s wedding that will be a as beautiful as yours. You gave me just the extra inside info I needed as I know hydrangeas can be tricky. Thanks again.

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