Last week I had a call from my friend Neale, I've known him a few years having arranged he and his wife Sam's wedding flowers. Since then we often bump into each other at weddings, what with him being a photographer.
He called to ask about me arranging flowers for him to mark his late parents' golden wedding anniversary. Having written about them on his blog recently, showing a photo of them on their wedding day, they already seemed familiar to me. He wanted me to suggest some flowers he could leave as a tribute on Saturday 30th June 2012 as that would have been their fiftieth wedding anniversary. He planned to visit his parents' place of rest, have a moment of reflection and leave something special marking the occasion. I could hear the love pouring down the phone and felt saddened they were not here to truly celebrate what would have been such an incredible achievement, fifty years of togetherness.
I suggested it would be a beautiful gesture for him to lay a replica of his mother's bouquet.
If you know me you will know how passionate I am about making bridal bouquets. I consider it to be the single most important floral arrangement at any wedding ceremony. Remembered forever, an image of it with the bride and groom will often hold a prominant place in many a marital home, captured forever in a favoured photograph, it is, just a moment in time that lasts forever.
I think I could write a book just about bridal bouquets; they could have their own timeline as fashions and trends come and go; from the wartime frugal to the opulently extravagant - each style will have had its moment of glory somewhere in our history.
And so it was decided, he emailed me black and white photographs of the happy couple back in 1962. John and Wendy Bartholemew married at St Stevens Church, Bush Hill Park, Enfield with a reception at the Green Dragon pub just around the corner. They honeymooned in Newquay (oh, if only it were that straightforward these days)! The dress was in a classic 1960's style - most likely white and not ivory as they often are nowadays. The bouquet looked so delicate and because it was wired, no doubt was as light as a feather (something which can't always be said of some hand tied bouquets these days).
I estimated the size by looking at how long it was against her dress in the pictures, I counted the roses and identified the other flowers easily as lily of the valley and stephanotis. There were just a few leaves which I assumed looked like camelia. Each flower was individually wired, the overall design was quite frugal by todays full wired bouquet styles - almost skeletal and I had to stop myself from filling every gap. Neale asked his Aunt if she remembered the colours of the flowers for all we had to go on was the black and white image; she recalled they were ivory and yellow - again a very fine 1960's vintage colour!
Made with as much love and care as I pour into every bridal bouquet, each flower head was wired - first with a small gauge silver wire then mounted onto a heavier gauge wire. The right gauge weight is vital as the flowers need to have some movement without bending excessively under the weight of a heavy rose for example. The wire stems are assembeled into a bouquet and the ends of the wires brought together, secured, trimmed and bound in white ribbon to make a small handle. The fragrance of stephanotis with the lily of the valley was utterly intoxicating and filled my entire kitchen. It took about two and a half hours from start to finish and I have to tell you I enjoyed every second. I also made his father's buttonhole - a simple carnation in white.
My heart strings were genuinely tugged on this occasion as I felt honoured to have been asked to make such a pretty and delicate tribute for this moving yet sorrowful occasion. It was lovely to see and smell something which would have looked just the same 50 years ago.
I wondered how many of my own generation would make fifty years of marraige. My own parents are just two years away from theirs whereas my husband and I have another 30 years to go - a lifetime you might say! It made me think about how we put so much effort and thought into one (wedding) day, essentially the beginning of a long and hopefully enriching, happy, sometimes sad but overall enlightening journey of togetherness. I'm still thrilled to be part of that journey, not least my own, but also with each couple I work with. To be making something for another that, years from now, may be looked at and admired by the generations to come gives this humble florist another persepctive entirely.
Please read this - Neales Blog on his parents anniversary. http://www.nealejames.com/2012/07/04/white-horse-flower-company/#comment-1488