The art of wedding flowers
Friday, 18 July 2014

The art of wedding flowers

Picking perfect flowers for a wedding is about being adventurous – and expressing your own individuality, says florist Vic Brotherson

Written by Vic Brotherson
Where to start? How do you create an individual look given that there is such a wealth of flowers and foliage to chose from? Wedding flowers have a long history going back to ancient Greek ceremonies, where the garlands worn around the heads of the bride and groom were a celebration of nature. Today, they are purely aesthetic, as we no longer need to ward off evil spirits or scent our unwashed bodies with lavender and rosemary.

I can hear my own voice questioning all the brides who come to us. ‘Have you had any thoughts on what you would like?’ Some are excited and enthusiastic, brimming with ideas and expectations. Others are terrified and merely say, ‘I trust you to do whatever you think will look nice!’

Wedding-Flowers-01-5901. A tied bunch with ranunculus, hellebore, clematis, scabious and lilac 2. Single-stem  owers are easy to thread into the hair 3. Barely-there shades are perfect for weddings

I’d be delighted to do that, but I feel strongly that wedding flowers should be an individual signature – a layering of seasonality, favourite flowers and family traditions that capture moments and memories. Once the doors of possibility have been opened to them, everyone has wonderful stories that can be woven into the day through the flowers, creating a modern interpretation of a very ancient ritual.

So root out old photographs, question your grannies, think about the houses you grew up in, the flowers you picked from the garden, the long walks you took, the perfume you used to make, the flowers you pressed between piles of books and the first bunch you received. These are all things that will help to create wedding flowers that are completely yours.

Wedding-Flowers-02-5904. A buttonhole of lavender and herbs 5. Dressing the chairs shows real attention to detail

It is a good idea to have an underlying thread that runs throughout the whole wedding, from the invitations through to the venue and dresses. I prefer not to use the word ‘theme’, as anything that involves that word makes me shudder, imagining balloons and chair bows and strict colour rules.

As a florist, I ask a ridiculous number of questions about everything from outfits and linen to glassware. It is important that I have the whole picture and understand the bride’s vision for the day. I often ask how they want it to look and feel and get some surprising answers. The most common one, though, is ‘like us’. When first meeting a bride (who’s sometimes accompanied by the groom) it is impossible to guess what their choices will be. I have been surprised – and challenged – to combine shapes and colours that would not automatically jump out as a classic combination and to use flowers in ways that would never have crossed my mind.

Wedding-Flowers-03-5906. Simple knot of majolica and scented Norma Jean roses 7. A vintage print 8. ‘Hedgerow’ table runner with stock, phlox and greenery

Almost all our brides say they want their flowers to feel relaxed and meadowy, as if they have been picked from a cottage garden. If there is any single aesthetic that runs through my new book, it is that. There is definitely a timelessness to garden flowers that can work at any venue on any scale.

Weddings for me are a peculiar mix of fun and fear. Once all the meetings, samples, site visits and emails are over and the flowers have been bought, making up is the best bit. We all have our strengths in the shop and the little machine that is Scarlet & Violet cranks up to a busy little workshop full of laughter and spirited chat as we egg each other on to be a little faster, a little more generous with the roses or to go easy on the rosemary. The fear only starts once everything is made and timings and logistics come into play.

Wedding-Flowers-04-5909. Salvaged bottles ­ lled with € owers of varying heights look very e‚ ective 10. Make an entrance, so guests know where to go for the party 11. Dress around vases with trails of foliage and branches, fruits and flowers

My aim is to open up the possibilities of flowers for table settings, bouquets and buttonholes so you have a reference point for different styles whatever your budget. Also to encourage you to be adventurous in your choices. Primarily, though, you should choose flowers that suit your day and character, so you create beautiful, timeless wedding flowers you can enjoy forever, as the photographs will stand on your mantelpiece, and those of friends and family, for decades to come. 

Wedding-Flowers-05-59012. Good enough to eat – this bouquet includes mint and blackberries 13. A hair garland made of feathers, wax ower and rosebuds 14. A bouquet of Juliet and Keira roses with lacy details of astrantia

Extracted from Vintage Wedding Flowers by Vic Brotherson, with photography by Catherine Gratwicke, published by Kyle Books, priced £25.

Scarlet & Violet: 020-8969 9446, www.scarletandviolet.com


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