Lately, a still unmarried man walked in and asked if we could preserve the bridal bouquet after his wedding? What he meant to have was a lasting memorial of his forthcoming marriage. The preservation of the bridal bouquet is a bit of a mummification job – I heard the Japanese are good at this. But then again, the Japanese also put a blue potato in an expensive wrapper as a gift for a friend. The man talking to me had obviously never considered the custom of tossing the bridal bouquet into the crowd of the unmarried maidens – who catches it would be married next.
Actually, it is a bit surprising to think of the Japanese preserving bouquets. Their culture is attuned to celebrating nature in its most natural apparel: a Zen master once asked his apprentice to sweep the parkways, which he did. Thoroughly! But the master wasn’t as pleased as his apprentice expected him to be. Instead, the old man walked the clean-swept ways and shook, here and there, a branch of the trees sprinkling the gravel paths with colourful autumn leaves.
I hope you don’t expect me to explain what happened here – there must be a hidden moral but it is rather elusive. It does, however, allude as to the question why we like to give flowers as a present. A gift of beauty, yet whatever the occasion, whatever it symbolises, it is the story of a fading beauty, something directed at the moment which passes in the end just like the moment the bouquet or arrangement was meant to glorify.
So, then, why not using artificial flowers? We are becoming rather good at imitating nature. It is, of course, not the real thing. A bridal bouquet which the components are made from latex, wire and plastic seems a bit odd even to contemplate – but it lasts and looks acceptably real, if you don’t look too closely.
Yet just how weird the thing can be is if we consider an assembly line of bridal bouquets, each looking just as all the others, perhaps with models and variations, but ultimately an assembly line product. You don’t pick your partner from the assembly line (you wouldn’t even greet a mail-order bride with a plastic bouquet) and your florist as well doesn’t do assembly line. He individually creates to the purpose with the materials the season has to offer and each and every product is unique. What you see, for instance, on our website are ideas for similar products but nobody would expect to get something that exactly goes in length, cut and shape as the flowers in the picture. Flowers are a product of nature and the assembly of an arrangement or bouquet is one of the last acts of craftsmanship and genuine handiwork left in this, our industrial age. Something to celebrate, as long as it lasts.
What the man in our shop had been asking for was preserving the moment, to be remembered in its uniqueness at old age. That’s something a latex bouquet won’t do.