You spent months planning and pinning your dream bouquet, but when the day finally comes it can seem over in a flash! You carried it down the aisle, you glanced at it over dinner, but by the end of the night, you’re lucky to know where it is, and then what? Using fresh florals in your bridal bouquet is an important symbol of the brevity of these special days; beautiful, natural, and true. But unlike with artificials, it means you only have that bouquet for a few days. We want to help you keep a part of your most special bouquet for always, and it’s not really that hard!
Today we’ll discuss the different methods of preserving your bridal bouquet, including hanging, silica crystals, and pressing, to allow you to preserve those pieces in a shadow box or frame. While it is possible to preserve the whole thing as a bouquet, it is extremely difficult. The bouquet must be dissassembled, the blooms dried individually, and the whole (now much more fragile) thing must be put back together exactly as it originally looked. If this is what you want, I suggest looking for a professional service. For the average do-it-yourselfer, we’ll be able to walk you through the steps for an interesting display of some of your favourite blooms.
For all these methods you’ll need to disassemble your bouquet. If you don’t intend to hang the flowers you can just clip the flowers at the base of the head; both the silica and pressing techniques don’t require a stem. If, however, you want to hang them to dry, you’ll need at least an inch or two of stem, if not the whole thing, to suspend them from. For a hand-tied bouquet, as we do them, you’ll need sharp kitchen shears to cut through any ribbon, tape, and what-have you to separate the stems. If it’s in a foam holder, you’ll need to gently, but firmly grasp each stem below the flower and pull it from the foam. Most florists will use a spray glue for this type so you may end up pulling out chunks of foam, but as long as the flowers are intact you’re fine. Lay them gently on their sides as you go, careful to not bend any petals back against the table. If you had interesting greenery save some of that as well. When you’re done you can discard any mechanics you unearthed as well as any blooms or bits that have significant bruising or other damage to the petals.
Method 1: Hanging
This is the easiest method, and one most of you have probably tried at least once. Take your blooms and tie a string to each stem end. Suspend the bloom in a dry, cool place away from direct sunlight. Sunlight will further bleach the colours out. Make sure the blooms don’t touch much and there is decent air circulation in the room to prevent mold and rot. I like to attach each stem in a staggered garland, tying a new stem on every few inches so the bloom heads are well apart. This keeps them separated enough but doesn’t use a lot of space. Once the blooms are fully dry (about a week or two) take them down for arranging.
Method 2: Pressing
Another very easy method, there are a few different tools you can use for this one. The first is the good old encyclopedia. Open your trusty Britannica to one of the last pages and lay a few paper towels in it’s pages to absorb any excess moisture. Be sure to use ones with minimal texture to them as the flowers can end up with a pattern imprinted. In a single layer, place any slim, flat flowers face down on the towel. For fatter flowers like roses you’ll need to remove the petals to press individually. Once the page is filled, put some more towels on top and close the book. You can also flip forward some pages to lay another layer of flowers, just be sure to turn over at least a half inch worth of pages. Once complete, set the book somewhere it won’t be disturbed and wait a few weeks for it to dry out.
You can also buy flower pressers that can be used in the microwave. I’ve never tried this technique, although I have used the ceramic press from Lee Valley that can be used in the microwave to press my flowers the old-fashioned way and it worked really well. Honestly about the same as the encyclopedia, so if you aren’t going to microwave it, save your money.
Method 3: Silica crystals
This one is perhaps the most annoying, although really not very difficult. It requires silica crystals that you can purchase at most large craft retailers. I got mine, again, from Lee Valley (I love that place). It also requires a number of surprisingly large airtight containers. I wasn’t convinced of my knock-off tupperware’s airtightness so I also enclosed them in giant ziplock freezer bags to be safe.
For this you pretty much follow the instructions on the crystals which is to put a shallow layer of crystals in your containers, arrange your flowers so they don’t touch, and very gently shake the remaining crystals in among the blooms working from the outside in. It’s very important to work gradually, if you pour them in too quickly the weight of the crystals can bend the petals in unnatural shapes. You want to work the crystals in all the crevices and layers at an even pace to support the natural shape of the bloom. Depending how many flowers and the size of them you may need more than one jar of crystals; I bought 4 lbs and used over half of that to cover a single peony. It was an enormous peony, but still.
Then you seal up the containers, put those into ziplocks for insurance if you feel the need and place them somewhere they won’t be disturbed for at least a week.
Once your flowers are thoroughly dry, carefully remove them from their resting place and prepare to arrange them in your chosen display; for the pressed ones any picture frame will do, with some nice paper to affix them to (maybe something from your wedding stationary). For the hung or silica-ed blooms because they retain their depth you’ll need an appropriately sized shadow box. We’ll discuss how to mount for display each type in a future post.
Until then, congratulations and happy preserving!