When planning and budgeting for a wedding photographer, you’ll often hear it said “the only thing you’ll have to remember your day by is your photography.” As a Tucson based wedding photographer that makes money off this sentiment, I cannot be mad when your friends preach this to you. However, there are other keepsakes you can and should plan ahead to save for memory sake. These include, but are certainly not limited to, your dress, a program, invitations, and of course, your bouquet.
“Wait a minute!” you say, “I’ve always loved the bouquet toss at a wedding, and I want to do that, too!” Well there’s a simple solution for that. Talk with your florist about ordering an extra ‘throwaway bouquet’ that is lesser in price and composition and you can still keep your bouquet from the day.
There are several methods of preserving flowers, I’ll quickly walk through them from easiest to most complex. Naturally the progression of costs tends to follow the effort. Whichever you chose, its important to remember that the sooner you start on your preservation, the better the results will be. In other words, if you spend top dollar to mail off your bouquet after you get back from your honeymoon and they’re already rotten, you’ll likely have ended up with much better results if you started on them soon after the wedding with a more simple method of preservation.
The easiest and cheapest method to preserving the flowers from your special wedding day is to press them in a book. This takes a few days, and can be done with materials you already have in your house. A phone book is probably best. In order to avoid imparting ink and toner from the pages onto your flowers, place a paper towel closest to the flowers on both sides, followed by wax paper. Then slam the book shut and dance on it with your new groom… or just place a few more books on top and leave it alone for a few weeks ;-)
As a photographer, pressing is my least favorite method. Sure, your pressed flowers can be neatly framed in a two-dimensional manner and presented on your wall for generations to come. But, what did you hire me for? Oh that’s right: two-dimensional presentations that can be framed for your wall for generations to come. I prefer to maintain the three dimensional nature of a bouquet.
Bouncing to the other end of the spectrum, we have professional freeze-drying. This will involve sending your bouquet off to a professional where it can be dried in a special oven. The preserving company will usually frame the flowers in an airtight box (thereby keeping out moisture) and returning it to you in a beautiful display box that can either be hung on the wall or placed in your closet. Expect to spend $500 or more for this process. Is it worth it? You must decide.
Moving back to the middle of the spectrum we have my two favorite methods. The better of the two is a method using silica gel that is comparatively tedious. Basically: buy a large, airtight plastic box. Gently place your bouquet in it, and gently pour the silica crystals around the flowers, inside their structure, and up over the top of them. Close off the box and in five to seven days you not only have dried flowers but less wilted ones than the next option below.
Expect to spend about $50 on enough silica if you’re cutting the tops of your flowers off the stem, and maybe two to three times that much if you want to keep your flowers whole. You’re also going to invest in a very large plastic box if you want to keep your stems attached to the head of the flowers. Its more common to cut the flower heads off the stem and use wires to attach them to a backing for presentation after the drying process is complete. The good news is that the silica can be reconstituted in the oven and used again later.
Here is the other of the two middle options, which happens to be the method my dear wife and I used more than a decade ago. Its cheap and easy. Plus, here today you get to judge for yourself how well the method works. Its simply the hanging method. You’ve probably heard of it before. Simply unravel your bouquet, group small numbers of flowers together, and drop from a hanger. Pant hangers with clips work best, but you can finagle them up using a variety of household objects, such as twisty ties, clothespins, etc.
Let the flowers dry in a room without moisture, so a bathroom you shower in is not ideal. After the flowers are dry, regroup and spray it down with a lacquer or more simply: some hair spray. We purchased a cheap plastic box meant for storing a signed basketball from a sports memorabilia vendor. It is not vacuum sealed, but being that we live in an arid climate we are quite comfortable with how it looks after a decade.
There are other methods that involve use of an oven, microwave, hot wax and dehydrator. Results can vary and the use of an active heating process makes me nervous. The more heat you apply, the more you should expect the flowers to shrink, and unpredictably so. Let me know if one of these methods has worked out for you!
Just like your wedding photography, you have several options, that range marginal in quality but very easy and cheap, to spending a few bucks and getting the very best. There are myriad expenses that will surround your wedding, and you must decide for yourself where to allocate your time and treasure. Whatever you chose, make it a point to have a plan going into it before your wedding. Don’t come back from your honeymoon before even considering your options. Its best to hand your bouquet off to a responsible family member who will begin the preservation process while the flowers still look fresh for a beauty that will—forgive me—echo throughout eternity.