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Hannah and Rob’s wedding flowers: part 1

October 25, 2011

My amateur floristry skills were put to the ultimate test a few weeks ago. Han and Rob are two of my oldest friends, so I was honoured when they asked me to do the ceremony and reception flowers for their wedding at Gate Street Barn in Surrey. I’ve always loved doing informal displays for my house using flowers from my garden, but creating arrangements for such a big event was a different story. It was a real buzz but has given me a new respect for pro florists who do several weddings a week.

It’s certainly not something I’d recommend taking on alone if you’re the bride. It’s easy to underestimate the amount of time and work involved, and believe me, the last thing you want is to be faffing with roses on the morning of the wedding! However, it can save you a substantial amount of money if planned properly. The best thing to do is to entrust a creative friend or relative to take on most of the work. Bear in mind that the flowers you order from the wholesaler should arrive two days before the wedding, and from that moment on, you’ll be up to your eyeballs in blooms! From the second they’re delivered, each stem needs to be conditioned (leaves/thorns removed, and each stem cut on the diagonal before placing in clean water). This takes time and a calm head, so unless you’re fanatical about flowers, I definitely suggest entrusting all the flower preparation to someone else.

All this effort can be worth it, though, particularly if you don’t have a huge budget. We decorated the ceremony area, pew ends and 12 reception tables for around £300. Anyway, here are some pics of the preparations, along with a few tips I picked up on the way. See tomorrow’s post for the finished result.

Green and white hydrangeas wedding

Hydrangeas have very long stems when they arrive from the wholesaler. You need to remove all the lower leaves with a sharp knife and cut their woody stems with very sharp secateurs or scissors before placing in fresh water. Hydrangeas drink through their petals, so you could either dunk each head in a bucket of water or spray with a mister. I left mine outside in the drizzle for a few hours, which they seemed to love!

White hydrangeas wedding flowers preparation

The idea we came up with for the tables was to group five mismatched crystal and silver vases/votives around one larger cake stand display. It’s a strange law of design that odd  numbers look more effective, hence the five smaller vases and the odd number of roses used in the larger displays.

Eclectic containers

I spent time before the wedding testing out which containers looked good together, trying to get a even amount of clear glass, silver and green votives on each table. The final groups were then stored in separate boxes labelled with the table name, which helped keep things organised.

I made these jam jar vases using coloured card and a Martha Stewart paper punch (try Ru Craft )

Once the flowers have been conditioned and vases organised, you can start arranging. I soaked the Oasis foam the evening before the flowers arrived to save time. All you need to do is drop the block of foam into a large bucket of water and wait until the block is saturated (it will turn dark green – normally takes about a minute). You then need to shape it to fit your container, removing any sharp edges with a floristry knife to create a rough dome shape. You can then secure it in place using clear floristry foam.

Preparing Oasis foam

Preparing Oasis floral foam

Once the Oasis is sorted, it’s time to start arranging. The first stage is to ‘green up’ the display with foliage. I used green and white pittosporum from a bush in my garden, plus some garden mint that added a fresh scent and splashes of zingy green. The idea is to create a rough dome shape to start building on. Cut the foliage at different lengths to avoid the dome looking  too uniform.

DIY wedding flowers

The next step is to add the ‘filler’ flowers, adding another layer to the display. These are usually medium-sized flowers, such as spray roses, lisianthus or hydrangea blooms cut into smaller pieces.

Below, the same principle, but a larger display.

Now that the basic structure is in place (you shouldn’t be able to see any floral foam), it’s time to add the largest blooms that will form the focal points of the display. I used large garden roses called ‘Ritz’. They turned out to be slightly cream rather than white, but I think they worked well. I tried to add odd numbers of the larger flowers, so 5 hydrangea stems and 3-5 roses per arrangement. Once I was happy with the rose placement, I added a few sprigs of gyp or Lady’s Mantel, some fresh rosemary and astilbe (the feathery spires of flowers below).

Green and white wedding flower

Packing up the flowers to transport to the venue was tricky – thank god for bubble wrap! If you want to see the finished result, check out tomorrow’s post!


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  1. Amazing Sarah! It all looks so beautiful and lovely 🙂

  2. Anonymous permalink

    Fantastic job,! Really looks charming…

  3. Wow, they really are stunning designs, I love the cake stand idea its very pretty. I did the flowers for a friend wedding last year and I must admit I found it both stressful and exhilarating. I had major problems getting good quality flowers and this coupled with a last minute trip to M&S to get more roses made my day before the wedding very panicky! I noticed that you’re based in Surrey, would you be able to give me details of the wholesaler you ordered from as the flowers look really really lovely , (unless this is a trade secret)
    Many Thanks

    • Hi Ellie – thanks so much for your lovely comments! I’ve been a bit slack with the blog recently but have lots of content coming. I bought the flowers for Hannah’s wedding from a wholesaler in Winchester called Dutch Masters (google them!) They were brilliant and very helpful. Anyway, thanks again for your feedback – I will follow you on Twitter too! Best wishes, Sarah x

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