Martha Stewart Weddings, Volume 13 2000

Tiny, wearable flower arrangements known as corsages have traditionally been bestowed on the mothers and grandmothers of the bride and groom, but they can also be given to anyone else the couple wants to acknowledge -- a soloist or reader, a godmother, or an aunt.

Type of Flower
A corsage should complement the wearer yet blend in with the rest of the wedding flowers. You might plan each corsage around its wearer's favorite flower. A diverse group of corsages will look harmonious when each is framed identically -- with a spray of tiny buds or a single impressive leaf.

For a more uniform look, consider matching the blooms in the bridal bouquet or the groomsmen's boutonnieres. If the bouquet is made from roses and ribbon streamers, for example, a simple corsage of ribbon-wrapped rosebuds is a sweet choice.

An important note: Ask your florist about the stamina of the flowers you have chosen. On an extremely hot or cold day, blooms that arrived looking luscious may wither long before the reception -- or even the ceremony -- has ended.

To be certain the arrangement will not clash with the recipient's ensemble, ask what she will be wearing. For mothers and bridesmaids, you will most likely be able to offer fabric swatches to help the florist match flowers to dresses. Or again, let the wedding party's flowers guide you. Even if all the corsages are made from the same flowers, the stems of each arrangement can be wrapped in a shade of ribbon to match each individual outfit.

Shape and Placement
For taller guests, a cascade of blooms or larger flowers may be flattering. For petite guests, a bud or single bloom simply wrapped in ribbon will be more to scale. Most corsages are pinned onto an ensemble -- at a lapel, or the chest or waist -- with a long decorative pearl- or jewel-topped pin. Pretty as these pins are, though, they can damage some delicate fabrics. So if you know that someone will be wearing a lightweight silk dress, for example, consider making hers a wrist corsage or another alternative.

Caring for and Attaching Corsages

Planning Ahead
When your wedding day arrives, you will want to know that each corsage has reached its guest. Assign a bridesmaid or other trusted friend the task of coordinating the delivery of the corsages with your guests' arrival and with picture taking. Also make sure that someone is on hand -- a florist's assistant or a bridesmaid, for instance -- to help your guests with pinning and adjustments. If you will not be able to spare the extra hands, arrange with your wedding planner or the banquet manager at your reception site for your guests to have access to a mirror and good light.

Pinning on a Corsage
The following instructions are for pinning a corsage on someone else; the same technique can be adapted by the wearer herself, with the indispensable addition of a good mirror.

1. Hold the corsage against the guest's chest, just below the shoulder and near the collarbone (consider the lapel, if there is one, or any jewelry the guest is wearing). Face your palm outward, so your hand won't hide the bloom from view.

2. Holding the corsage in place, catch the fabric -- just slightly -- with the point of a pin; the pin should be close to the base of the blooms to prevent the corsage from falling forward.

3. Guide the pin over the stem, not through it, at a slight downward angle; be careful not to pull too hard; this can create a hole in the fabric. Catch a small amount of fabric on the other side of the stem to secure the pin; the point of the pin should remain on the surface of the fabric.

Alternative Ways to Wear a Corsage
For corsage recipients whose outfits will not accommodate a chest corsage, or who simply prefer a different look, feel free to be creative with placement.

At the Cuff
A single blossom pinned to the cuff at each wrist adds a touch of grandeur. With each toast and handshake, the gardenia shown here will release its sweet fragrance.

Along the Collar
Here, an elegant cascade of phalaenopsis orchids complements a dramatic neckline. A string of these generous blooms is luscious and flamboyant but can also be overwhelming, so it is perhaps best suited to taller guests.

On a Bag
Ribbon bows and cymbidium orchids add bursts of color to this otherwise simple handbag. A corsage like this is in no danger of being crushed -- the handbag can be set on a table when it's time to greet guests or dance -- nor will it damage delicate fabrics that could be ruined by a pin.

Fastening a Wrap
As an alternative to a bridesmaid's bouquet, a gentle cluster of roses and amaryllises fastens this off-the-shoulder stole, leaving the attendant's hands free for greeting guests and assisting the bride. This floral accessory is also a lovely alternative for the mothers of the bride and groom or for special family members.


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