Wedding flowers: Decorating the church

WEDDING GARLANDS

All wedding flower arrangers should learn how to make a garland. The mechanics are such as to make the foundation of the garland completely pliable, so that it can take any shape and be of any size which is required.

Garlands are very easy to make and provide a useful way of employing unskilled labour! Elderly people enjoy the work, because they can make a garland sitting down. If shown how to start, they find it a very rewarding job.

Before you start making the garland, plan your colouring. Whatever you decide, sort out the colours and plan accordingly.

Mechanics of a wedding garland

There are four stages to the making of a garland, as follows:

Take a brick of Oasis and cut it into 12 pieces .

Make a polythene ‘sausage’ wide enough to hold the pieces of Oasis by taking a black dustbin bag, cutting it into strips twice as wide as the finished ‘sausage’, folding the long strip in half and machining along one edge . If a long garland is needed, it will be necessary to join two or more strips together before folding and machining.

Push the pieces of Oasis down the entire length of the ‘sausage’, tying it between each piece: use the ties which are sold with plastic bags. Secure each end with long pieces of strong string, leaving the ends free, or with stub wires .

Lay the ‘sausage’ on a work table and push the foliage and leaves into the Oasis . If the garland is to be on a ledge, it may be easier to work in situ. In this case use the bits of string to tie the ‘sausage’ down onto the ledge. If the garland is to be circular, surrounding a pillar or the font, tie it tightly in position when complete, using theloose ends of the string to join the ends of the garland together. Then fill any gaps which may be visible.

A garland once completed must be sprayed at least once a day, as the plant material is in very small pieces of Oasis.

WIRING LEAVES AND MAKING WEDDING RIBBON BOWS

For general purposes there is no need to back leaves with wire, but if you are making a very narrow garland for a very special occasion some of the leaves may have to be backed. In that case: Take a piece of silver florist’s wire or fine fuse wire and make a stitch through the back of the leaf, leaving the two ends .

Take the two ends of wire and wind them carefully round the stem: the leaf can then be bound onto either a stub wire or a small twig . Iftheleaf is bound onto fuse wire, the wire should be covered with gutta-percha.

Take a length of ribbon and make two loops, pinching it into place .

Flower decoration for a wedding in front of a ...

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Wind a stub wire round the base, leaving two ends which will be pushed into the garland .

PILLAR TOP DECORATIONS

When a church is being decorated with wedding flowers it is a good idea to get flowers at a height, particularly if you want to draw attention to the carving of capitals or a beautiful roof. Whatever may be the particular reason for having them, flowers on the top of a pillar are very pretty. Where the capitals are carved the flowers must draw attention to the carving but not hide it. Where, on the other hand, the capitals are plain, trails of ivy or cow parsley or whatever else may be available can come well down the pillar. There are two ways of decorating the top of a pillar.

Pillars decorated with wedding garlands

If there is only a small ledge round the top of the capital, a garland should be made long enough to go right round the ledge. In this case all that it necessary is to take the garland to the pillar and for one person to hand it up to another who, stationed on a ladder, will fix it in position, trying the two ends firmly together, and fill in any gaps.

Pillars decorated with triangles

You will sometimes find that there are on the top of a capital recesses roughly triangular in shape in the fluting of the arcading which springs from the top of the pillar, and these recesses may be large enough to hold pieces of Oasis. When using this method of decoration start by placing tinfoil so as to protect the stone in the recesses where the Oasis will be. Then proceed as follows:

Cut a brick of wet Oasis into four triangles .

Put each triangular piece into a plastic bag and secure it .

Surround the bag with chicken wire and secure it with stub wire .

Place a bag into a recess at each corner of the capital. Encircle the capital with string, threading it through the chicken wire on each bag so as to prevent it from falling forwards .

Push the flowers and foliage into the Oasis so as to form a decoration of the size and shape required. The decoration must not be heavy or irregular in size. It is essential to spray with water at least once a day, twice in hot weather.

PEW ENDS

They are usually hung on the outsides of the pews on each side of the nave and can of course be used in aisles and chapels as well. They provide a useful way to taking colour from one end of the building to the other.

English: Cotehele House, The Christmas Garland...

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Nowadays sheaves of flowers for funerals are often made up onto a plastic holder shaped rather like a little dustpan, the back being designed to hold a block of Oasis. Rescue these when the funeral flowers have died: they provide invaluable mechanics for pew ends.

The pew end is made as follows:

Place a piece of wet Oasis in a plastic container and wrap chicken wire right round the container to stop the Oasis from falling forwards; then thread string through the hole in the handle of the container and tie it to the end of the pew .

Push the plant material into the Oasis to form the required shape . Make sure that the flowers do not stick out too far, remembering that at wedding and flower festivals there will be many people moving between the pews and they will knock against a pew end if it is too prominent.

Pew ends sometimes drip while they are being arranged, so before you start work put a piece of polythene on the floor underneath. This is absolutely essential in the case of a wooden or carpeted floor.

SCREENS

A carved screen seldom needs flowers, which may detract from its own beauty. There are, however, some special occasions when flowers on the screen are an advantage; for example, as a way of achieving extra height. Garlands may be used in a restrained way, or pew end holders containing small bouquets. Some churches have metal containers specially made to hang onto a screen. I remember seeing these used in a Hertfordshire church filled with spring flowers for Easter, and the effect was charming. The great thing to remember is that if the screen is delicately carved flowers must take second place.

PULPITS

The pulpit is one of the focal points of a church, but will only be decorated at special festivals. Before you start decorating the pulpit, decide exactly what the purpose of the flowers is to be. Is it to draw attention to the beauty of the pulpit itself, as by accentuating carvings? Or is the pulpit not a very attractive one and to be treated as a background for the flowers? Once you have decided you can plan your design accordingly.

You will notice the garland made to run along under the top ledge, from which four more garlands hang down. Observe how the garlands are used to draw attention to the carving running round the pulpit. The colours were pale pinks shading off to white with green foliage. This pulpit had candelbra into which were placed candle cups filled with flowers in damp Oasis. Similar decorations could be made for Christmas using a variety of evergreens, loops of red ribbon and spray chrysanthemums. All pulpit decorations need to be sprayed with water. Care must taken not to mark wooden pulpits. The little bouquets on the steps were removed for the Sunday sermon and then replaced. The flowers were pale cream shading into yellow and green.

This method of decoration is achieved in the following way: Blocks of Oasis are placed on the stone steps and also on the floor alongside the steps. Those on the floor in containers are graduated in height. One block can be fixed on top of another by means of dowels. .

Pew ends are prepared , string is threaded through the holes in the handles, and they are suspended from hooks just below the ledge of the pulpit, a piece of string then being taken through the chicken wire at the back of each pew end and tied tightly round the pulpit so as to prevent any forward movement; the blocks of Oasis at the side are covered with ‘cages’ of chicken wire to give support . PLEASE NOTE: There were already hooks in the pulpit in question; obviously the decorator must not put in hooks, but a piece of string can be tied tightly round the pulpit below the ledge and the pew ends suspended from that. 3 Fill with flower material .

PORCHES

Whenever a church is decorated for a special occasion it is important to put flowers in the porch. After all it is the first place which visitors will see and flowers there will set the right atmosphere. Many porches have stone benches on one side or both sides of the door. A bench is a good foundation for a bank of flowers, or it can be decorated in a simpler way using mixed foliage arranged in troughs of Oasis with ivy hanging over the edge. Many porches have good window ledges which are ideal for flowers, and there is often a wooden roof from which flower balls can be hung.

PLAQUES

The term ‘plaque’ is used here to describe an arrangement which is to be hung on a wall. Some churches have no arches nor enough space to include pedestals and large vases, and the plaque is then a useful form of decoration. It is made in exactly the same way as a pew end , the foundation being either the little plastic container illustrated in Fig. 20 or a large block of Oasis enclosed in a polythene bag, and it is hung from a beam or nail. This little church has a small nave with no arches and plaques hung from the light brackets are excellent. When plaques are hung on either side of the building they give colour to it. At Whipsnade they draw attention to the attractive light brackets. The garlands running underneath them are a feature for special occasions and emphasize the colouring of the plaques.

In a large church the plaques can be far bigger. I have made them of sprays of azalea and included lilies and stocks and roses. These were impressive and beautiful.

WINDOW CILLS

Flowers are often arranged on window cills. If the cill tilts forward you must make a wedge to fit under the front of the container to keep it level and stop it toppling over.

If the window has very vivid colouring it may be difficult for the flowers to compete with it. In that case it is best to make the flowers part of the design and to pick up one or two of the srongest colours, using them boldly.

Plain glass in a window is an excellent background for delicate material like catkins, cow parsley and spring flowers. It will give enough light to show the form and detail of the material. If window cill arrangements are planned they should carry out the colour scheme of the rest of the building.

A window cill is likely to be high up, and therefore the container must be low: otherwise too much of it is visible. Bread baskets filled with Oasis, casseroles, pate dishes, soup tureens and small copper preserving pans are excellent. At Harvest Thanksgiving a wide cill is an excellent place on which to make a composition using fruit and flowers.

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