Preserving wedding flowers

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We treasure memories of most events in our lives and love, reminiscing over the special moments that went into making it an occasion to remember. More than ever, a wedding day is one such special occasion and sometimes, the bride and groom would like something more tangible to hold on to the memories – a piece of the wedding cake that they will savor on their first anniversary or something more permanent like a photo album, or even the bridal bouquet or wedding flowers.

For the latter however, preserving it is a painstaking procedure and one that requires considerable effort if doing it on one’s own. The alternative lies in doing it professionally, which comes at a price of course. But you are assured of quality and a long-lasting remembrance of your wedding day.

There are various methods available to preserve wedding flowers or a bridal bouquet. If you are attempting it on your own, it is advisable to...

Get pertinent information

A book like ‘How To Preserve Your Bridal Bouquet’, available by mail or as an e-book download (Everlasting Words and Flowers) provides detailed instructions on how to preserve wedding flowers and make a creative showpiece out of them.

In brief, the popular methods available are:

Air-drying

This is one of the easiest and most popular methods if you are looking to preserve a bouquet or wedding flowers as a do-it-yourself project. It does not cost anything and just requires a little effort.

1) Remove flowers from the bouquet or arrangement and segregate into smaller bunches. All leaves should be carefully removed.

2) Secure stems together with string or rubber bands and hang them upside down in a dry section, away from sunlight, like a basement for instance, as long as it is warm and not cold and dank.

Flowers should be totally dry, a process that can take up to three weeks, before they can be used as a keepsake or preserved in a frame for posterity. The only problem with this method of preserving flowers is that they lose their original color and often turn to dull shades, become shapeless and don’t last as long as they could with other methods of preservation.

Silica gel

This is another very popular method for preserving your flowers if you’re looking for cost-effectiveness and convenience of doing it at home. Alternatively there are also some companies that can do it for you. Silica gel is easily available and you would require about a pound of it for four flowers, so if your bouquet had about a dozen flowers, you’re looking at about three pounds of silica gel.

1) As with the air-drying method, carefully remove all flowers from the bouquet, and take off the leaves, but in this method you are also required to cut off the stems.

2) Take an airtight container and spread a layer of silica gel evenly on the bottom of it. Place the flowers on the silica gel and spread another layer of the gel over it. Secure the lid well and seal it with tape to ensure no air gets in.

3) Give it about a week or 10 days before checking on the flowers. A papery feel means they are done; else they need a couple of days more. You could gently shake off the excess silica gel or use a blow dryer on minimal setting for the purpose.

While it has its advantage over the air-drying method in terms of flowers having a longer life span retaining their color and shape more than when air-dried, they do still tend to become very delicate and fragile.

Pressing

This is a good method, as the flowers can last for a long time if done well, but is a little difficult to do at home, especially if you want to reproduce your original bouquet.

1) If you are attempting to press flowers yourself, first place them on a sheet of blotting paper and use another sheet to cover it. Then place it in a press. You can create a makeshift one by assembling a couple of boards anchored down with weights to keep it in place.

2) Flowers do lose their shape and it can pose a problem with rounder flowers like roses, often a popular choice in bridal bouquets. Flowers preserved by pressing can last for a much longer interval than either of the previous methods, but is generally ideal for flowers with flatter faces, like sunflowers, daisies, pansies etc.

Freeze-drying

This method cannot be carried out at home as it is cumbersome and requires costly equipment. If you have the budget for it however, freeze-drying is the most effective method for floral preservation today as it can preserve your wedding flowers/bridal bouquet in the best manner possible since flowers retain their color and shape, and can last a lifetime with proper care. Flowers like gardenias, anthuriums, calla lilies and orchids are considered ideal for freeze-drying.

1) In this method the bouquet is taken apart and each individual flower is placed in the freeze-drying machine. In this process, the temperature of the flowers is lowered to –20 to –25 degrees Fahrenheit.

2) A vacuum sucks out the moisture from the flowers and then the flowers are returned to room temperature.

3) Before being put into the machine, the flowers are treated with a solution that helps them retain their individual color and after being taken out of the machine, the flowers are once again individually dipped in a solution that seals the flower, keeping it soft and protecting it from moisture.

4) The flowers can then be rearranged in a display as per the bride's individual taste and selection.

If you have decided that you will be sending your flowers to an outside service for preservation, do ensure you take the following precautions…

1) Decide on a flower preservation company/expert who will be doing the job for you so that you can make a reservation sufficiently in advance and can arrange for the flowers to be sent while they are still fresh.

2) For best results, try to send the flowers within a couple of days after the wedding.

3) In the meantime, place the flowers in a large plastic bag and blow air into it to keep them fresh.

4) Secure the bag with twine and place it in the refrigerator (not the freezer).

There are various displays to choose from to preserve flowers, including shadow box frames, tabletop designs and even acrylic domes. These can be wonderful mementoes of your wedding day and enhance the décor of your home.