The bouquet is an essential part of the traditional wedding. Many brides, and even bridesmaids, have a special attachment to their bouquet, for often they’ve had them specially made. Of course they want to preserve them as a keepsake! These days, many brides choose to have a bouquet made of artificial flowers so that they can keep it without as much hassle, but for those brides using fresh flowers, here’s how to dry your wedding bouquet.
Above, beautiful pastel flowers, including the bridal bouquet from Nikki and Johns’s Real Wedding at Ramster Hall
A dried bouquet makes for a beautiful memento of your wedding day. It can become a beautiful work of art for your home—hung or mounted on display, placed in a vase, etc—and if you buy your bouquet with the intention of keeping it, make sure you ask your florist for advice on which flowers are best for drying and preserving.
Your bouquet can be dried professionally, or you can do it yourself. Generally, small flowers dry better than larger flowers, but most foliage doesn’t dry very well; you may need to peel away some of the leaves. Also, flowers shrink as they dry, so your finished bouquet will be smaller than the original. It’s recommended that you use a sealant designed for dry flowers to get the best results. Before drying you have to ensure that your flowers are completely free of moisture, like dew.
Method #1 – Hang To Dry
Step #1: Bouquets look best when they’re dried upside down, for this allows them to preserve their shape. To do this, you need a warm and dry space where your bouquet can hang undisturbed for anywhere from a few days up to two weeks.
Step #2: Remove any fresh foliage/leaves before you hang your bouquet. If you want to dry a few leaves, set them aside.
Step #3: Remove all of the ribbon and wire from the bottom of your bouquet, and then put it back together again with a large, strong elastic. Wrap the elastic first around a third of the stems, then twist and wrap around half of the remaining stems, and then again around the rest of the stems. This will keep your bouquet together as the stems shrink.
Step #4: Hang your bouquet in the warm, dry space, and check its progress in a few days. Keep it away from direct sunlight to preserve its colour.
Step #5: To dry the leaves, you need to place them flat on an airy surface (like a screen, or even a tennis racket!) and cover them with a newspaper. This will weigh them down and prevent them from curling up as they dry.
Step #6: Your bouquet is dry when the flowers feel stiff, and the stems snap easily.
Once your bouquet and the leaves are dry, tidy it up in case it’s lost its shape, and reattach the leaves. It’s safe at this point to use wire again to hold it together, and some florists even recommend using a hot glue gun to permanently attach the leaves and the stems to each other.
Your newly dried bouquet is fragile, so the final step is to spray it with protective coating to preserve it further. Just make sure you always read the guidelines on the product you choose. Most commonly prescribed sprays are:
- Dried flower spray – this is a spray that’s specially formulated for dry flowers. Some of these sprays are meant to be used periodically, and some just once. You may purchase this spray online or at florists and gardening centres.
- Craft Spray – there’s a variety of clear sprays available for craft projects, and some of them are suitable for dried flowers. Most of the sprays will leave a glossy coating on the flowers, and may also alter the natural scent of the flowers, just as hairspray would.
- Hairspray – add a light, even coating to your flowers when they’re completely dry. Please note that this may take away the soft natural scent of your dry flowers.
Above, image, courtesy of the The Coral Boutique
Method #2 – Silica Gel
Contrary to its name, silica gel isn’t really a gel but a sandy crystal substance that aids in the drying process. It preserves flowers in a much truer original form, and works by drawing any moisture out of the flowers while also preserving their colour and shape. The gel changes colour as it absorbs moisture, so you’ll know right away when the flowers are ready—this usually takes just a few days, but up to ten days for bulky flowers like roses. However, silica gel can be expensive. It involves several steps, which must be followed carefully to be successful.
- Step #1: Take apart your bouquet, removing all wires, ribbons, etc. (Make sure you take a picture of your bouquet to help you reassemble it later). Next, remove all parts of the bouquet that have gone soft or mushy (stems, leaves, buds etc) as they are no longer suitable for drying.
- Step #2: Cut off all stems, leaving only an inch below the flowerhead—the stems will be dried separately and then reattached, OR you can purchase green wire stems from a craft shop and attach those to the flowers instead of the real stems (or in case the real stems don’t dry properly). Hang real stems to dry (see above for “Method1 – Hang To Dry”).
- Step #3: Take a large, deep container, and pour a one-inch layer of silica on the bottom.
- Step #4: Arrange the flowerheads on the silica gel, ensuring they don’t touch each other or the walls of the container.
- Step #5: Cover the flowerheads with silica gel completely, gently sprinkling it to avoid flattening the flowerheads under the weight of the crystals.
- Step #6: Cover the container and put it aside in a warm, dry place that’s away from direct sunlight.
- Step #7: Check it in about four days. You’ll know it’s ready because the silica gel will have changed colour and the flowers should be stiff and dry to the touch. If they have any softness, cover them again and leave them for a few more days.
- Step #8: When finished, empty the silica gel into another container and carefully brush any remaining crystals off the flowers.
- Step #9: Once the flowers and the stems are dry, you can reattach them with hot glue using a glue gun, or by carefully pushing a length of wire inside the stem, and then into the flowerhead to join them together.
Silica gel can be used again and again for a variety of purposes, like keeping food or clothing dry, so don’t throw it out when you’re done, but preserve it in a sealed container for future use.