Of course, I always want my brides to look amazing as they ascend the aisle. That said, I have to think about what everyone will say when they look at the coveted wedding portrait twenty years from now. I don’t ever want a bride to ask herself “what was I thinking?” Or worse, “what was David thinking!?” When you look at old photographs of the grand floral displays of the 1920s, some are almost laughable. The bouquets were rigid, some almost as tall as the bride herself. That is not what I want as my legacy. So when it comes to the bride’s bouquet, I tend to err on the side of understated. That is until I met Gayle, a Ford model who asked me to step out of the box and “be David Beahm.”
Gayle had four dress changes planned for the evening of her wedding, but only wanted one bouquet for the ceremony. Something special and show-stopping. I knew I had to be careful. All too often, if the bride doesn’t know how to handle a prop and how her body works in space with a prop, the bouquet might end up walking her down the aisle. A bouquet should never up-stage the dress or call attention from the bride’s face. But I was working with a professional model. I knew Gayle could pull this off and still be the star of her show.
So I sprang my idea on her—something that I had always wanted to do, but never had the nerve to ask a bride. I wanted to create a long bridal bouquet and turn it around. Rather than have her carry it in front of her—and risking it looking like a hood ornament—I wanted her to drag a grand,fifteen foot long bouquet down the aisle. And I wanted her to drag it behindher, like an afterthought, so that it wasn’t given utmost visual importance. The Reem Acra dress she had was already a showstopper, so with her beauty and a little bit of attitude, I knew she could sell it. Which left only one problem: making it.
Weight. Motion. Shape. The factors involved in conceptualizing a bouquet like this were daunting. Almost every flower is individually hand-wired so that it remains in the desired position, meaning you end up with heavy metal wires hidden under all those blooms to make the bouquet look natural. How many flowers would it take before the bouquet became unmanageable? Visually, the bouquet had to balance with the white dress. Not too much green, not too hard lined. This was an enormous challenge.
It takes an inordinate amount of skill, time, patience and experience to create personal flowers so that they look natural and not simply bunched and crammed uncomfortably together. Now, I have been doing this for years, but I knew that I needed to turn to the expertise of our Bouquet Queen, Mari Shiihara Nelson. We have put our trust in her for many years and she always comes through, producing amazing bouquets. This time though, she looked at me as if I had six heads.
When I finally talked her down from the ledge she was still shaking her head, but with the just right amount of convincing she agreed to help. Mari knows that on the big day, I have to be in sixteen places at once to assure that the “big picture” is being produced to our customer’s satisfaction. She demanded I arrive early to hold up my part of the deal—to see my vision through. I showed, up and we jumped right in to wiring boxes and boxes of stephanotis, roses, orchids, gardenias, jasmine vice and the like. We wired many of the flowers, but also attached them to long tendrils of satin ribbon tied into love knots and to the tulle itself. At one point we had Nuala, Timothy and Christina join in the fun. It took most of the day to make.
The one inspiration that I had for the ceremony was tulle. Bridal Week had just passed in NYC and there was tulle on everything, so to jump the style gun, as it were, I wanted to make sure that the ceremony portion of the wedding featured tulle in a prominent way. And I’m so glad I did. I used the material to lighten up the visual heaviness of all the flowers that we were assembling while giving the entire arrangement a vehicle on which to be carried. We made the bouquet and sat it on a cape of tulle. Then I floated a veil of tulle atop the entire bouquet. The result, I felt, was magical. While, I admit the tulle did mask the intricacies of our work, it helped the bouquet to blend in with the dress (which, believe me, had its own story to tell). What resulted was one an entire look, rather than two separate entities.
I’m happy to report that Gayle loved the bouquet and made it her own while walking down the aisle. When she came down the steps at The Plaza, there was an audible gasp in the room. When she turned to go down the aisle, I had special lights come up behind her so that a halo formed around her. That’s why I love my job. We create magical moments that last lifetimes.
The Secret Ingredient? Even though people may think you’re crazy, persist to see your vision completed.
Photo of bride: Gruber Photographers