Whenthe church for a wedding the first step is to pay a visit to the church by yourself. Take a notebook and pencil and sit down in a row about half way down the aisle. You may know the church well, or think you do, but you must now look at it from a new point of view.
Colour plays a very large part in wedding flowers, and it is important to notice any bright stained glass windows or strip of carpet which may dominate the scene. Altar cloths and hangings often vary according to the church calendar, and the vicar or the verger should be consulted about these. The general atmosphere of the church should be taken into consideration. Some churches are light and airy and are lit from the sky by a clerestory or from the sides by large plain windows uncluttered by glass. Others are built of heavy stone, with only small stained glass windows. A lofty building with big windows through which the sun comes streaming in, will require different treatment from a dark church with solid architecture producing deep shadows. All these factors must enter into one’s conception of the colours to be chosen, fitting in, of course, with the selection of the bride herself.
Pedestals being of special importance would probably be the next note heading. As you sit in your place looking round the church, you can probably see everything clearly. But you must imagine the church full of people standing up. In that case, only flowers which are above the height of the average person’s head have a chance of being seen, except when the congregation is seated and the marriage service is one where the greater part of the time is spent in standing, hence the pedestal arrangement. A well designed one adds dignity and shows off its flowers to great advantage. The great point about a pedestal is that it should be absolutely steady and capable of firmly supporting a heavy weight.
Sometimes one pedestal is required and sometimes two. If you decide to have a pair, there is the added difficulty of matching up two big, getting flowers of the same variety, shape and size.
If the font is particularly lovely or very near to the church entrance, the bride may like some form of decoration in it or round it. Should the font stand well back in a corner of the church it is not always necessary to fill it with flowers. I once decorated a font in thisby putting a big square glass fish tank inside and almost filling it with water. I used large mesh wire netting as an anchorage, and arranged in it tall branches of silver birch. The effect was rather like a small bit of woodland in the corner, and as it was so far away from the centre aisle it showed up in a way I think that flowers would never have done.
A subsidiary decoration may be needed in the form of a vase on the prayer book table near the door, or one on a window ledge. People occasionally ask for garlands to go from pew to pew, but the making of garlands is really strictly for the professional and should never be attempted without expert advice. At Jewish wedding ceremonies the tabernacle is often decorated in this way, and I have known three trained flower arrangers spend a whole morning on this alone.
Containers can be discussed with the verger as you make your plans. I suppose that nothing varies more in churches than the way in which they are equipped—or not equipped—for arranging flowers. With weddings one expects to provide most of the necessary vases, etc., as requirements may vary greatly from wedding to wedding.
Remember that if you are having two bigon pedestals, you will need two matching big containers, and these may take some finding, unless, of course, the church has them there already. If you do not know, find out where the water supply is, and arrange for permission to leave your flowers overnight in buckets of water in a cool place. (Most churches are notoriously cool, but I have heard of flowers being placed near some hot pipes when the heating happened to be turned on.)
It is most important to find out if the church is free some hours before the wedding, for sometimes there is another wedding to fit in with, and you may only have enough time to whisk away those vases and put your own into, having had to arrange them beforehand. Or, there may be a choir practice the evening before and you may have to work while it is going on. But whatever happens, you must allow yourself plenty of time, remembering that whenever it is at all possible you ought to do the flowers the day before and then just tidy up on the day itself.
Equipment needed for doing wedding flowers is almost the same as that used for doing them in the house, only on a much larger scale.
- 3 large dust sheets
- 6 buckets
- plenty of large mesh wire netting
- 2 pairs of secateurs or special scissors that will cut wire and trim branches
- small bottles of lead shot, or bag of sand tin tubes for raising height of flowers
- can with narrow spout for topping up the vases vases and pedestals
The uses of the dust sheets are obvious. The six buckets may seem mysterious, but if the flowers are to soak the night before they need plenty of water and space. Flowers like to breathe as well as to drink and being tightly packed together will not help them at all. I have put two pairs of secateurs in because it is easy to put them down amongstand then not be able to find them. Without scissors one is completely lost. They will turn up in the end, but in the meantime you are wasting time looking for them.
The lead shot and the sand are used to weight down the large vases; use one or the other or both if you like. The tin tubes are valuable for getting height, but it is sometimes difficult to use them so that they remain invisible. They are fixed into the wire when most of the flowers are already arranged, and then kept in position by binding them with string or wire to the existing support. The last two requirements on the list speak for themselves.
Some special flowers in special colours have to be ordered well ahead of time, particularly if they are out of season, but it is advisable to have delivery of them only the day before. If you areflowers from the garden, do so at a cool time of the day. If you are buying them from a shop, only go somewhere that you know and where you can depend on the flowers being fresh. A good reliable florist will be your greatest friend at such a time, and it is worth paying a little more to get the very best material.
When you have all the flowers together take them to the church or have them delivered there, and then unpack them, trim the ends and smash theof branches or split them up (any woody stemmed flowers such as and roses require this).
There are a few ways of helping flowers to last well, apart from trimming the ends of the stems and giving them a good drink. Sometimes, if the stems and heads are wrapped round in stout newspaper while they are standing in water, wobbly stems will become strong and floppy flowers will become crisp and sturdy. (This applies especially to tulips.) Mock orange () will show better and last longer if many of its are trimmed away. Stocks need tender care and must have their lower stems stripped. Fox-tail lilies (Eremurus) may be bought ahead of time if they are in tight bud, and kept in a shut wooden box. Queen Anne’s lace, cut from the hedgerows, will behave wonderfully if given a good deep drink for some hours and allowed to stiffen its stems.
Now begins the most exciting part.
- You divide your material, fix the wire netting so that an earthquake would not move it, weight down the vase, fill it three quarters full with water, then arrange the flowers.
- The arrangement itself is entirely for you to create. You will have thought out the colours and and shapes, and after that it is exactly like painting a picture.
- I have always found it very helpful to go and sit in various pews in the church, and see how the arrangements look from each one.
- Fill the to the brim with water when you have finished and tidy it up the next morning, topping it up where necessary.
Perhaps a few suggestions for wedding flowers might be helpful, thinking chiefly in terms of white. Other colour schemes are perhaps not quite so specific, since they vary from one wedding to another according to personal taste and selection.
- WHITE: carnations, roses, delphiniums, fox-tail lilies (Eremurus), Solomon’s seal, , , gladioli, gypsophila, azaleas, narcissi, larks pur, , summer flowering jasmine, phlox, iris, spiraea, valerian, tobacco plant, marguerites, magnolia, peonies, tulips, campanula, ( ), guelder rose, montana alba, flammula and The Bride, broom, myrtle.
- BLUE: African lily (Agapanthus) bluebells, campanulas, delphiniums, Californian , ( ), Mrs Cholmondeley, cornflowers, gentian, hydrangeas, iris, larkspur, love-in-a-mist, lupin, flax, scabious, veronica, sea holly, globe thistle.
- PINK: larkspur, carnations, roses, lilies (Rubra), camellia, hydrangea, dahlia, nerines, peonies, fox-tail lilies (Eremurus), gladioli, phlox, valerian, Chilean gum box ( ), bush honeysuckle (Weigela), coral bells, spiraea, snapdragon.
- YELLOW: fox-tail lilies (Eremurus), carnations, roses, lilies, yarrow ( ), honeysuckle, , globe flower, (Trollius), broom, , tulips, daffodils, leopard’s bane (Doronicum), chamomile ( ), , winter flowering jasmine, azalea.