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Making a Foam Free Arch with Janelle Gerestein

Tara Whittaker Photography

Recently, an image of a floral arch caught our attention. Because it was designed by floral artist and flower friend, Janelle Gerestein (Janie) at Flowers by Janie, we reached out to ask her about the mechanics and process she used to design and install the stunning arch. Janie is always generous with her time and knowledge, so she offered to share a behind-the-scenes look at the process with the BB Community. We’re excited for you to learn a bit about her process. Enjoy!

Flowers by Janie team installing an iron arch in front of a chapel

iPhone image

Did you have a drawing prior to the execution?

 

I didn’t have a drawing but I had inspiration images that the bride had provided. Knowing I wanted the arch to be 100% foam free, I drew on mechanics I’d previously used for other installations such as the cemetery vase (funeral cones). I was first enlightened to these as a mechanic in wedding work at the Chapel Designers workshop in London in 2015 when Shane Connelly did a large urn demonstration using them. I’ve used them multiple times in large installations on stairs and in archways since then.

The bride’s inspiration came from this wedding with flowers designed by All For Love London. Due to budget constraints we scaled down the look. It was a second wedding with only 11 guests so they wanted a grand entrance but didn’t need to go too over the top.

buckets of flowers waiting to be installed into an arch surrounding the wooden doors of a chapel

iPhone images

How many people worked on it?

 

 4 of us. Including drive time, loading and unloading, it was a 12 hour day for all of us and took 2 vehicles.

How long did it take?

 

From the time we arrived at the venue it took 4 designers 4 hours to fully install this arch. Three of us were setting up the arch, mechanics and doing the actual designing and one of our team members was water tubing the flowers that needed to have a water source. She was also sweeping up and cleaning up after the 3 of us to keep things tidy and to limit clean up at the very end.

It took 2 hours to disassemble the arch and repurpose the flowers into about 20 different vases (supplied by the bride) so that she could have them at their home the following day for a family dinner. The evening of the wedding the couple stayed in Banff and two designers from our team went to the Fairmont Banff Springs to set up a garland style table centerpiece and dropped off the repurposed flowers.

What were the mechanics used?

 

We rented a wrought iron arch from a local Calgary rental company. It was 5′ wide. The side pieces were 69″ tall and the arch that then gets placed on top is another 28″ at the highest point of the archway. So basically the arch was 5ft by 8ft tall. Once flowers and greenery were added it measured closer to 7ft wide by 9ft tall. The bride had previously sent us measurements of the doorway of the church so I secured this arch afterwards knowing it would fit. We set the arch rental in place and weighted the bottom with weights. Next, we built out the sides and top curve of the arch with ½ a roll of coated chicken wire (12” wide). We also used the cemetery vases as previously mentioned 6 per side. The vases were filled with water. The chicken wire and cemetery vases were zip tied to the arch frame.

What were the ingredients used?

 

  • Antique Pink hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla)
  • Limelight hydrangea
  • White limonium
  • Antigua Carnations
  • Quicksand Roses
  • Sweet Escimo Roses
  • Ivory Majolika Spray roses
  • Jana Peach spray roses
  • Pink O’Hara Garden roses
  • Light pink thryptomene/calycina
  • Pink & White Waxflower
  • Pink Astilbe
  • Greenery: Salal, Italian ruscus, oak leaves, leather leaf, Baby Blue eucalyptus, maple vine, myrtle, olive branches, cotinus (smoke bush)

Any special care and conditioning instructions?

 

All of the flowers and foliage were conditioned the day before in our studio. Everything was brought to the venue in buckets of water fully conditioned and hydrated.

Maple vine doesn’t do well out of water so we needed to make sure they were designed into water in the cemetery vases. I chose them for their height and lovely golden/burgundy colour. Everything else was quite hardy which is why I chose them since I knew the bride wanted to have the flowers repurposed. The astilbe was the most delicate of the blooms and needed to be water tubed. We also put water tubes on most of the roses as a precaution. Everything else was designed straight into the chicken wire and didn’t have a water source.

Floral arch in front of a stone chapel

How much time did you have to complete the arch before the event?

 

We arrived at 9:45am to start setting up and the micro wedding ceremony (11 guests) started at 2pm. We finished just before the guests were arriving around 1:45pm so we had 4 hours to complete the arch.

The ceremony started at 2pm in Banff. Our team was coming from Calgary which is 1 hour + 45min drive from our studio.

Any challenges?

 

It was really cold (Oct. 8th) and the weather was around 0 celsius (at least the flowers weren’t freezing!). For the first 2 hours we were in complete shade which made it feel colder and our hands hurt even though we were wearing floral gloves. We might have been able to design a bit quicker had it been warmer but we had to stop a couple of times to sit in our vehicles to warm our hands. I think I would have packed warmer gloves had we known we’d be designing in the shade- it was something I didn’t even consider.

Janie Gerestein of Flowers by Janie places flowers in a foam free floral arch installation surrounding the chapel doors at a wedding

How did you price the arch?

 

I priced the arch by square foot of flowers/greenery. We also charge a 20% delivery/set up fee that is on top of the flowers which covers mileage and staffing for the entire day. I use Details Software so it was easy to price things out and order the flowers and make sure I didn’t over order.

 

Any additional thoughts on the process?

 

Yes! Don’t forget ladders, a broom or two and lots of compost bags. We also asked someone to be at the church to let us in to use the washroom at noon. The nearest public washroom was 2 blocks away- not bad but would have cut into our design time. If this is your first time designing an archway this large, give yourself more time. Building out the arch and making it thick took a lot of time as did the initial mechanics before adding any flowers. Also know your team and their strengths. We had 3 experienced designers (over 30 years combined experience) and 1 junior designer and we had just the right amount of people + time.

Also don’t be afraid to charge what you are worth. Flower prices have gone up and so have supplies, labour and gas. Many of us also have years of experience, schooling, and workshops that have honed our skills. It takes time and skill to design something like this. We can also take on limited design work each week so we need to make a living and charge industry standards.

This bride originally wanted to spend much less so I sent her a photo of what it would potentially look like if she paid half the price. This was not the look she wanted at all, so she was willing to pay more for the look she wanted.

Flowers by Janie team standing under the foam free floral arch they created

Image of Janelle Gerestein: Tara Whittaker Photography

All additional images (other than those labeled as iPhone images) courtesy of: Stephanie Couture Photography

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  1. Emily Herzig says:

    Great info.! Beautiful arch!

  2. Evelisa says:

    This is gorgeous! Thank you for sharing. And providing a list of all the flowers you used. Super helpful. What was the quantity of the florals per foot?

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