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Upcycling your wedding flowers


What can I do with my wedding flowers after the wedding? 

Making the most of your big-budget wedding spends

When you review your wedding budget, you’ll make peace with some expenses simply being expensive. The venue will be costly, and the food will, too. The cost for your cake might come with some sticker shock (remember the line from Father of the Bride? “A cake, Franck, is made of flour and water. My first car didn’t cost $1,200.”), and the investments in wedding bands and attire are also high on the list. 

There’s some comfort in the fact that there are plans for leftover wedding cake. The top layer gets saved for your first anniversary, and the rest gets boxed for guests to take home. The dress can be consigned, lent to friends or even reconstructed for a baby’s christening gown. The rings you’ll have forever, and the same goes for the photos.

But when you’ve invested hundreds or thousands of dollars in your wedding flowers, it can be very hard to stomach the thought of simply leaving them behind. The flowers are a living, beautiful testament to the months of planning you put into executing a theme for an unforgettable event. 

There’s staying power in stems – if you plan ahead

Leave your flowers behind? To be pulled out of vases and tossed when the florist returns to dismantle arrangements? To wilt until the next morning when the venue sends in its cleaning crew? 

On the other hand, at the end of the night, you’re exhausted from a day of being groomed, photographed and zipped into formal wear – only to have spent the next five hours catching up with a hundred of your closest friends, drinking too much champagne and dancing. You want to fall into your getaway car and think about your flight to Aruba. 

Let’s split the difference between the two ends of this spectrum. 

One end: I cannot believe I’m abandoning $2,000 of flowers. 

The other end: Get me away from this ballroom and out of my shoes. So long, flowers. 

You can create a plan for your flowers when you’re checking other items off your wedding to-do list. Not every option is time- or labor-intensive. And happily, you’ll find peace of mind in getting the most value and pleasure out of your arrangements. 

Repurposing, preserving or upcycling your wedding flowers

Your options are repurposing, preserving or upcycling. We’ll review each option so that you can find the perfect solution for your event. 

Each option needn’t be used exclusively; combining methods to accommodate your variety of arrangements (and your attachment to or investment in each) will help you find the best way to extend the life of your wedding flowers. 

Disposing of wedding flowers

First, Secret Option One. Letting go. We didn’t count this as an option because it’s fairly evident, but you have the option of simply leaving your flowers behind. What you spend on your venue or wedding flowers will include the labor of flower breakdown and disposal. No one will fault you for choosing this option. After months of making choices and mapping out plans, it is certainly within your right to call a night a night and move on. (Remember that flight to Aruba? Bon voyage, friend!)

How to repurpose wedding flowers: reusing and gifting

Option Two is repurposing your flowers. This is a broad category.

Repurposing might entail reusing flowers from the ceremony site at the reception site. This requires a willing floral designer, as well as an interim event between ceremony and reception so there’s time to move the arrangements. Usually that’s a cocktail hour, but it’s not unheard of for a few hours to elapse between the vows and the party, particularly if you’re hosting a destination wedding and have an activity planned for that time. 

Less effort than moving all the flowers, or deconstructing and reconstructing the arrangements, is simply putting wedding party bouquets in vases to decorate tables, or even draping them like a garland across the couple’s table. 

If you’re hosting a post-wedding brunch the morning after, you can repurpose arrangements to decorate the venue. For best results and freshest-as-possible stems, keep the arrangements in a refrigerator overnight. Alternatively, you can pull the arrangements out of their vases, give them a fresh snip on the ends, and put them in clean water. The lowest-level lift is keeping them in their containers, misting them with water, and placing them in a cool room. 

Another way to repurpose flowers is to give them away at the end of the night. Your DJ or band leader can make an announcement inviting guests to take an arrangement as they leave the venue. Ensure that your contract with the florist includes ownership of any vases or containers (many contracts do). 

If you’ve repurposed your flowers for your post-wedding brunch, you can also encourage those guests to take an arrangement on their way out. 

How to preserve wedding flowers

When industry experts talk about preserving wedding flowers, they’re typically referring to the primary bouquet. 

Preservation methods vary from full preservation of the arrangement as a whole to an artistic depiction of the arrangement’s essence. You’ll need to decide what matters most to you: a replica of your flowers as they were on your wedding day, or an artful suggestion of the arrangement. You should also plan whether you’ll be handling the preservation method or enlisting a professional to do it for you. 

Arrangements can be dried or freeze-dried, wax-dipped or even dried with substances like glycerin or resin to be preserved as three-dimensional relics. Drying methods affect the color of the flowers, so research which method creates the effect you like best. You can also deconstruct the arrangements to dry specific stems. 

More contemporary preservation methods nod to the essence of the flowers, such as pressing petals to create a likeness of the bouquet, or even commissioning an artist to paint it. While you won’t be keeping the actual bouquet, it’s often easier to find a place in your home for a painting than it is a large shadow box with the whole arrangement. 

How to upcycle your wedding flowers

Option Three is upcycling your flowers. “Upcycling” means a thoughtful reuse of a material. In a world where we do our best to reduce, reuse and recycle, we upcycle by giving something to a person or organization who can make better use of it moving forward. 

You’ve got a lot of upcycling options for wedding flowers, and your only requirement is connecting with the right person ahead of your wedding date. 

Nursing homes and hospitals are natural recipients for upcycled wedding arrangements. These are facilities with many common areas and private rooms, and the spaces could benefit from the cheer and freshness of brightly colored flowers. Almost any community agency can find an appropriate desk, table or office for flowers – truly, it depends on where your own interests guide you. 

If you would like to upcycle your flowers, connect with the organization of your choice about six weeks in advance to secure help picking up and distributing arrangements.  

Some couples leave their ceremony flowers at the venue if it’s a site where religious services are held the next day. It’s not uncommon to see a note in the accompanying program that flowers were given on behalf of the just-married couple. 

Prioritize, plan and appoint your petal pusher

There are many ways – and many permutations of ways – to make good use of your flowers after the wedding. Set your priorities, choose your preservation vendors and recipient organizations, then appoint someone within your family or wedding party to execute your wishes. Any extra effort at the outset will be well worth your time when you enjoy your preserved flowers for years to come, or when you imagine the joy you’ve created in passing along your bespoke arrangements.

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