The time I made wedding flowers

IMG_0150Two of my very good friends got married last October. They put together an absolutely beautiful wedding, and managed to do it very economically! When the time came to decide on flowers, they opted for something a little different – they wanted flowers that they could keep. I’ve always been an origami lover, and when J found this pattern online for origami roses, I couldn’t wait to try it.

My first attempt took me over two hours. Ouch. I made it with white printer paper, which is what I usually start with when I’m making a new design, as I don’t like to waste beautiful and expensive origami paper. Suffice to say that it didn’t look great. But after a few more attempts, I had some prototypes to show M and J, and they did me the honour of asking me to make their wedding flowers for them. That’s a lot of trust right?

My first task was to source some paper. I went all over Melbourne looking for something suitable. What I needed first and foremost was a range of colours for M and J to choose from. But the paper had to also be thin enough that it would look organic when made into a rose. Japanese washi paper is the ideal for folding origami – I guess seeing as they invented the art, they also know what paper to use. It’s made of longer, stronger, softer fibres than normal paper, and feels almost like fabric. It’s usually quite expensive here in Australia, if you can find it. I ended up going to Papermarc in Hawthorn, which specialises in D.I.Y. wedding stationary, but has a whole range of other beautiful things. I bought a selection of colours and textures, and went home to make them all.

M and J settled on gold, yellow and white for the Bridal bouquet, and gold and yellow for the three bridesmaids.

I sourced the yellow, which was super lightweight (about 30 gsm I think) from Papermarc. The gold, which was heavier (I think about 50 gsm, but maybe higher) was also from there. It was a beautiful colour, but I was worried about whether it would look good when folded. I used washi paper for the white, which was very fibrous and thin – in fact, probably too thin! I got some sheets from Papermarc, and a couple of large 1 metre sheets from Paperpoint in Richmond, which another friend recommended. I think all the sheets came to about 80 cents each on average, although it may have been slightly cheaper.

Then, I had a lot of flowers to make.

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Each bridesmaid bouquet had about 35 flowers in it. The Bridal bouquet had about 45 I think. That’s 150 flowers! Luckily, I cut the folding time down to about 30 minutes by the end. Much better than 2 hours. Still, thats 75 hours of time I spent folding flowers!

The yellow folded beautifully. The gold, pictured here, did not. It was too heavy, and looked artificial when it was finished – too many sharp edges and folding lines. I decided to try out a technique I had read about called wet folding. As the name suggests, you use wet paper. It worked wonderfully, except that eventually I had to wear surgical gloves to do it, as my fingers started to crack and bleed after a while. I put olive oil inside the gloves to repair them, which worked quite well. I used a spray bottle to lightly dampen the paper – too much, and it would be a soggy mess, not enough, and there was no point. The folds have to be done lightly, but the heaviness of the paper and the dampness holds them in place. Only certain types of paper can be used to wet fold – printer paper, for instance would rip, as did the lighter yellow paper. When finished, the paper literally dries in place, making the flower much sturdier than any other method.

The white washi paper was an equal nightmare. It would not stay in place, and I went through about 5 tubes of superglue and many layers of skin getting them to stay together. The superglue took a very long time to dry, as it tended to soak into the paper, which had to be held in place. Eventually, I got there, and the white paper looked very organic.

Then, time for more folding: the calyxes. I used this pattern to make 150 of the “ultimate calyx” (Just as an aside, calyx means cup and represents the spiky base leaves of the rose. You need it to hold the flower to the stem). I knew the exact paper I wanted to use – it matched the the stem colour I had chosen exactly. It came from a pack of multicolour kinder squares that I have had for who-knows how long. Unfortunately, I only had about 5 green squares left. How hard could it be to find another pack? I could picture the brand, Prism. But they don’t sell Prism commercially anymore! After revisiting all the paper stores, as well as Riot Art and Spotlight, I was about ready to give up on finding a matching colour. Crap.

Eventually I found this wholesale paper site for schools, which sold my Prism paper wholesale! I called up and related my story to the receptionist, who organised for me to come to the warehouse at the end of the day to collect a few packs – she was so helpful. After all that stress, the total came to $8 for about 500 sheets of paper, so at least it was cheap!

As the paper was white on the back, I did some crafty things with a x-acto  knife and some more superglue to make sure none of it was visible when the calyxes (calyxi?) were finished. My fingers were green by the end! I then glued the calyxes to the roses using A LOT of super glue (I didn’t want them to fall apart during the wedding!).

I used this gardening wire from Bunnings for the stems, and attached them to the calyxes with, you guessed it, more super glue. I cut small holes in the bottom of the calyxes for the wire to go through. Finally, something went as planned, and the superglue stuck like a dream to the rubber wire coating.

This was the finished result after I put all the flowers together and made them into a bouquet:

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Now for the fun bit – decorating the bouquets. J was not wearing a veil, so I thought a bit of tule around the flowers would make them look softer. Mum found some beautiful soft tule at Spotlight. We also found a couple of cute fake crystal birds on wires which I bought to put in amongst the flowers. I threaded some tiny seed pearls onto wire loops and put them in too. With much manoeuvring and a few do overs, we managed to secure the tule in place with some white silk ribbon, and glued on a pretty pearl button to each one. I wrapped the stems with white satin, an off-cut of J’s dress that the manufacturer had kindly included. These were a few snaps I took when they were all done:

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I was very happy with them, but much more importantly, so were M and J! I made sure to finish them a few months ahead of the wedding, in case they wanted to rush out and order some real flowers!

And here the flowers are, in action at the wedding! It was such a beautiful day.

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At about $250 all up, they came in much cheaper than real flowers would have been, and will last forever!

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