Abundant Bouquets

Martha Stewart Weddings, Spring 2000

Spring and summer may offer the mildest, most temperate days for weddings, but in spirit and poetic lore these are the seasons most given over to abandon and even intemperance. Look around at the spring flowers in riotous bloom or the summer gardens brimming with ripeness. No wonder some brides have seized upon that abundance, wrapped it up in silky ribbons, and marched down the aisle with it. Pleasant weather is nice, these bouquets seem to say, but if you are to embrace the season, try holding its wild exuberance in your hands.

Of course, in the real world of wedding traditions and budgets, such abandon in the face of flowers is rare. When it exists at all, it usually finds expression at the altar or along the aisle -- not in the bridal bouquet. But why shouldn't it make its way into this most important of bridal accessories? No other flowers speak more strongly of the bride's state of mind than what she carries in her grasp, and no other type of arrangement proclaims joy quite so boisterously as the abundant bouquet.

Remember that the very word abundance is a close cousin to words like bountiful, unstinting, and even extravagant, and you will come closer to the heart of what makes such a bouquet. The sheer number of flowers involved can be startling, but it does not necessarily follow that the arrangement must be large. Diminutive bouquets of pansies or lilies of the valley can be overflowing with blooms. It is rather a case of exaggerated, if not outrageous, proportion at work, as if the addition of only one more flower might tip the balance from beauty to chaos. Abundant bouquets delight in such risk.

It's fair to say one must be bold to choose an arrangement so capable of making its own indelible impression, but then it is the nature of brides to be bold. No one makes the decision to marry with a faint heart -- at least, one would advise against it -- and even the most demure bride can feel her assertiveness growing as she makes the plans that will shape her wedding.

Boldness, however, need not be rash, and most brides will deliberate long and hard about what manner of bounty is appropriate for their bouquets. Might this not be the opportunity, they wonder, to acknowledge some private experiences with specific, symbolic flowers: the daisies her fiance brought her during courtship, for instance? Or could this be a way of including the hyacinths that are so perfectly in season? The answers may lie in something as practical as the bride's knowledge of her own size and an intuition about the bouquet that would be the most flattering for her. If she is petite, she could find the proportion she wants with sweetheart roses; if she is tall, she may favor a full spring tide of gladiolas. And if she is having a long ceremony, a bride must also consider the bouquet's weight. An hour at the altar would not seem too cumbersome with a generous handful of Eucharist lilies.

The next test for any bouquet is how well it complements the bridal gown. And it is in this context that the notion of bounty becomes surprisingly flexible. With the most minimal of dresses -- say, a straight sheath or slight slip dress -- a generous handful of flowers becomes the single ornament, set in relief by simplicity. On the other hand, full-flowing, bejeweled, and train-heavy dresses demand the bouquet that can meet their exuberance on equal terms.

But doesn't abundance imply expense? Certainly using so many flowers can be costly, though it doesn't have to be, especially when they are in season -- readily available and less expensive than at other times of the year. Florists are usually well stocked in seasonal blooms, and you can make selections to satisfy both your taste and your budget. Or maybe you know a gardener who will offer up the fruits of a season's labor for a lavish, homemade bouquet -- the kind that lets flowers tumble and cascade as they would in nature.

If you want the look of abundance, beware of the florist who attempts to defy gravity and keep every stem stiffly pointing upward. Large blossoms of roses or long stems of tulips or peonies do well when their natural tendencies are given full play. The stems of tender wildflowers should only be trimmed, left long so they can drape across your arms. In the hands of a specialist, even the stalwart calla lily can feel comfortable in a downward sweep, one bold blossom trailing another.

After the ceremony, the dancing, and the champagne, it may be difficult to remember that your bouquet bears the heft of your abundant emotions. Before you throw it (and endanger your single girlfriends), remove a few flowers -- or grab a miniature bouquet made just for the purpose. Then, turn your back, raise your arm and, with the gentlest of tosses, let the joy fly.

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Textures Galore
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