I love when a bride and groom come to me looking for unique floral elements for their wedding. They are asking me to engage in the creative process, to challenge my skills and to create something unique for their special day. And while they are relying on me to provide the design, they are also allowing me inside their heart and mind where their own creative instincts lie.
I met with a family many months ago to discuss their daughter’s Riverside on the Potomac wedding. This popular wedding spot in Northern Virginia offers a lovely, rustic barn with the original rafters in support of the two-and-a-half story ceiling. During the consultation, my client mentioned she wanted to do something very special in the space. I eagerly suggested that we raise the flowers up to the rafters to add height to the floral display and she happily agreed.
I approached the project with four key objectives that we agreed upon in our consultation.
1. Address the family’s desire to do something “extra special” with the space.
2. Take advantage of the gorgeous high ceilings (the client recognized that low arrangements on these tables could be lost in this loftier space).
3. Use the rafters themselves in the construction as they present an engineering solution that other types of rooms can’t provide and contribute to an authentic look.
4. Rely on lower arrangements and lanterns for the tables to protect the open sight line we were creating.
A note about the effectiveness of tall arrangements: Taller floral displays are elegant and glamorous. Like many of my peers, I recommend tall, thin vases that allow Aunt Dee to read Uncle Joe’s lips, as wedding receptions can be noisy affairs. The round, mound of flowers that we create for these types of vases are perfect for ballrooms and elegant spaces.)
After proposing the concept to the bride and family, I met with my team to discuss the mechanics. We all donned different hats, I am the carpenter, Katie (designer) is the engineer and Miriam (designer) deals with the floral rigging. We trust each other’s instincts, but we also went back to the drawing board more than once. We knew it was going to be quite warm so the flowers had to be treated with extreme care.
How to make a hanging floral chandelier in just three days
Ok, it might have taken more than three days in the concept stage. But the actual construction took place during the latter half of the week. We had to assemble the pieces in the shop, prepare the flowers and time our arrival at the barn so that the caterers and event staff could continue to make their own preparations.
Step 1: Create a durable and safe aparatus that promotes the beauty of the flowers.
Safety was our biggest consideration. We needed to make sure the beams could support the structure, that the ropes were graded for the appropriate weight capacity (our final selection tested for 122 lbs per rope), and that the planks were cut from a strong enough wood variety to support the flowers and their water source.
I visited Riverside on the Potomac twice after our session, dismissing our original design for one that allowed us to do more of the work for the large floral fixtures at the studio. The staff at Home Depot suggested oak and walnut for the 1” x 6” planks, two varieties that could support the heavy flowers without bowing.
Step 2: Use the flower recipe created during the consultation
This arrangement was half flowers, half greenery. It included some luxury blooms that could hold their own against the dark wood above. We wanted to create a lush arrangement that cascaded just above the guests. The arrangements were actually within arms-reach which meant that they had to stand up to close visual inspection.
The palette for the wedding was ivory, peach, antique pink and sage green, a beautiful contrast to the colors in the barn. The greenery created the movement that we were searching for drawing the on-looker’s eye to the full arrangement.
Step 3: Deliver and assemble
This was a full-team effort. Two designers in the shop, a drill-wielding owner (me) and a four-member delivery team had their hands on this project. As we built the support system, we tested each piece, taking our time to ensure that every rope, board and flower was firmly in place.**
Here are the rest of the numbers:
8 farm tables combined to make four long family-style tables (8 additional tables stood alone)
4 hanging arrangements (one over each long table)
(4) 1” x 6” planks
16 pieces of rope
8 low arrangements in wood boxes (plus succulents in mercury glass)
a bunch of votives
Hanging floral arrangements are still relatively new concepts for weddings. In fact, the DJ, caterer and event planner were fairly awestruck when they saw it. It’s fun for you to be able to surprise your guests with something -- your cool quotient goes up nicely. “Such a lovely couple -- and so creative,” they will say.
There are other possibilities for a venue like this. You could just use greenery for a more natural look, or we could use barn-siding planks as a chandelier, sans flowers, with votive candles to complement the more traditional lighting. One hanging arrangement above the head table is also a game changer.
This was just one example of how you can create something that makes a statement for your wedding day. We can make hanging arrangements for more traditional rooms like ballrooms that rely on the light fixtures in the room, adorning the actual chandelier with flowers and greenery. We can also start from scratch to create different high-impact elements. The key ingredient to our success is sharing the creative process during the consultation.