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How to Make a Corsage

Choosing and Buying the Flowers

Choosing the correct flowers for a corsage or boutonniere is important.  There are some lovely flowers that just don't hold up well.  (Gerbera daisies, hydrangeas, lily of the valley, daffodils, oriental lilies, pansies and tulips).  You often find these flowers pictured in design books or pictured on the internet.  Just keep in mind that these flowers have a shortened life as a cut flower when there is no water source.

But most flowers with a straw-like stem are very water loving and tend to wilt quickly once cut off from their water source.  

Here's a perfect example.  A bride begged me for Gerbera Daisies for boutonnieres.  I tried really hard to talk her out of it.  They are beautiful . . . but do not hold up well in cut work.  She was adamant. . . so I caved.

I did everything I could.  I used the freshest Gerberas, misted well with a flower sealant and made the bouts right before the wedding.  Coming out of the fridge, they looked beautiful.

I took a shot of it later on the groom's lapel.  Mind this was a couple of hours before the wedding even started - but they were getting ready to take some outside photos.

I was dismayed that the flower was already showing definite signs of wilting within the hour.  The tell-tale signs of flower stress is when  petals begin to droop.  The only reason it held up as well as it did was that I had made a ring of wire and "framed" it behind the flower petals to give it support.  Had I not done this, the flower would have been sagging even more.

If these flower varieties are essential to your wedding theme, I suggest you look into silk alternatives.  There are some beautiful ones that are very hard to tell the difference from fresh.  Look for clean cut edges and no fraying.

I don't say this to disappoint the bride . . . merely to give her my advice as a professional of what flowers will work well for what she wants.  I don't care if flowers are shown on the internet as a boutonniere or corsage - some simply do not hold up well!

I have followed through with the flowers I carry on my website.  Some simply do not travel well in non-refrigerated trucks.  I refuse to sell these because I do not want the bride to be in a state of panic if her flowers should arrive half wilted.  

Other websites do carry these and will ship them . . and then willingly give you a refund if they arrive in terrible condition.  Ok .. great . . . what good is a refund if the flowers are bad right before the wedding?  Does that mean the bride doesn't want flowers - but all is ok because she got a complete refund?

I'd rather say upfront . . ."Look - you don't want these flowers shipped.  If you want them - go to the florist.  You will pay a high premium - but the cold chain (traveling under refrigerated conditions) shouldn't be broken."

But keep in mind that YOU have to keep those flowers refrigerated all the way up until the wedding as well.  There are plenty of beautiful flowers that hold up well for days in normal temperatures.  As a DIY bride - don't look for ways to give yourself additional headaches and stress.  Research what you buy and choose durable flowers that will look beautiful all through your wedding day.

Wilting flowers can give a florist a bad reputation and should be avoided!  OK . . 'nuff said!!

Roses make beautiful corsages and (understandably) a traditional favorite with brides.  Consider the size of the rose heads.  40 cm (short stems) are generally a better choice since they won't overwhelm the wearer.

I love using snapdragons.  This hardy flower holds up well in both corsage and boutonniere work and reminds me a bit of Sweet Peas (but hold up better).  They come in shades of oranges, white, reds, yellows and pinks.  

The individual florets can be snapped off the main stem and quickly glued into place.

Miniature carnations were scorned back in the 1990's for being "too common" . . . but the newer brides of today are finding that this versatile flower holds up well, has an amazing scent and comes in a large range of colors!  (Check out the Moon collection of purple hues!)

Wax flower is a favorite of mine.  These perfect little flower heads come in shades of whitepink and purple and are a perfect accent flower.

Don't feel limited to just flower flowers used in tutorial.  The technique can be applied with spray rosesbutton mumsalstromeriaminiature calla liliesastilbecornflowersdaisieshypericum berriesdelphiniumfreesianerine lilies, and so much more.

Where you buy your flowers is important.  I am in favor of ordering your flowers ahead of time from a reputable flower source.  Buying flowers from the buckets of a grocery store has several problems.  You don't know how long they have been there (age is calculated in days), how long they have been out of refrigeration, whether they've been pulled in and out of the water by customers, and whether they were processed correctly by the store clerks before going on display.

 Buying your flowers in bulk (dry pack) means that you process them yourself and know that it has been done properly.  Pay attention.  This is an important part of flower work and is why florists get the big bucks.  It's what goes on behind the scenes and how the flowers are treated from field to your church that makes a difference.

Flowers come in grower's bunches, such as the wax flower shown below.   They are either packed by a certain number of stems (5, 10 or 25) or by weight if the flowers are grassy or cut from a bush type source.

The wax flower shown below is in it's prime season - making it full and lush. 

Now . . . let's have a reality check.   Many websites advertise as "wholesale" flowers.   Now many are wholesale farms and no doubt sell huge quantities to wholesale distributors.  But do not expect to get the same price as those distributors.  Sometimes you are actually being charged close to retail - but are expected to buy in WHOLESALE QUANTITIES.

There are many reputable farms online and they ship beautiful flowers.  The problem for DIY brides, however, is the quantity requirement.

Some sites require that you buy as much as 8 to 10 bunches of every flower variety you order.  This has the ability of suddenly turning a few sprigs of accent flowers into a mind boggling purchase!

Fourteen bunches is enough to do around 280 - 300 corsages if you followed this tutorial.  One to two bunches is usually sufficient to do an average wedding's corsages and boutonnieres and still leave enough flower stems to accent the bridal and attendant bouquets. 

However . . . FOURTEEN BUNCHES!!!  looks like this and fills five (5 gallon) buckets:

Start adding in the required purchase of 100 stems of snapdragons (I used one stem for this tutorial) at the tune of almost $150 . . . you can see that buying wholesale flowers in large quantities can quickly turn "savings" into a runaway flower budget.

One hundred stems of miniature carnations and your flower buckets are going to start taking over your working space.  Just think - we haven't even talked about the roses or greenery yet!

Wholesale sites usually require minimum purchases.  Sadly - the breakdown of cost per bunch could be very close to retail instead of "wholesale" price.

Shop carefully and compare prices to see if you are actually buying wholesale.  For flowers to be sold directly to the public and requiring that the DIY bride buy in the large packed quantities that floral wholesalers may not represent much of a savings.

As a florist, I buy what I need for a wedding - and I certainly don't buy in cases.  If I need only one or two bunches of snapdragons - that's all I order.

I think the DIY bride should have the same privilege and be able to pick and choose different varieties of flowers and greenery without having to purchase minimum quantities.  Some wholesale sites offer mixed packages - but you have to make do with their selections - not your own personal choice.

Use a Wedding Flower Calculator to determine how many bunches of flowers you need to order - and still have enough left over to buy the florist supplies that are necessary for keeping fresh flowers good through the wedding date!

I don't sell "wholesale" - but surprisingly my retail prices per single bunch are often close to their quotes of "wholesale" price!  

I didn't start off with the intention of selling fresh flowers - only the hard goods that was difficult for DIY brides to find.  I found it frustrating, however, that those flower sites required such large purchases that the DIY bride would end up spending MORE money than she would if she went to a professional florist.

By providing access to single bunches of flowers and greenery, the DIY bride can follow my step by step flower tutorials, create beautiful (and interesting) designs and . . . by providing her own labor . . . actually save money.   Hmmmm . . . I thought that was the whole idea behind doing the flowers yourself, anyway!