The Wedding Gift – Try Giving A Floral Experience Instead

By Linda Lee

So many couples are marrying later or marrying after living together. For some it is a second marriage. Do they really need a toaster oven, or any appliance? Wedding presents are harder and harder to buy. But one thing to give a couple that they don’t already have is a memory.

A grouping of colorful flowers

That means an experience. It will take them out of their routine. It can be something a week, a month or even a year after their wedding, a small event or a big trip. And since Flower Power Daily has some nifty ideas that involve flowers, we want to share some. Our suggestions may need to be interpreted locally, which can be as simple as typing in the search terms “crepe paper” “adult” “flower” and “workshop.”

Mostly what these gifts will do is give the newly married couple a chance to be together in a new environment.

Too often even a new marriage falls into routine. More and more people stay home, and couples often fail to meet new people, explore new hobbies, even go places they haven’t gone before. This is a chance to give them something to put on Instagram, to laugh about, maybe something to learn. Steven Handel says, “Sharing new experiences is the bedrock of all healthy long-term relationships.”

Now that is a great wedding present. In many cases, the gift is the effort you put in to planning the weekend, the class, the occasion. It’s a reflection of how well you know them and want them to enjoy something new.

A Course in Flower Arranging

This is for two, so the price at Flower School New York, $150 for a Beginner’s Open Studio class, would be doubled. And note that even though it’s called Flower School New York, there is one in Los Angeles, too. Classes for fall are scheduled after work, from 5:30 to 7, or on Saturdays, and offer a range of choices, including bouquets like the one here, Thanksgiving or Rosh Hashanah centerpieces and Christmas wreaths.

A Course in Flower Arranging

Arrangement of flowers in a vase

A couple that plays together stays together. And if it is more likely that one member of the couple is crafty, and the other more inclined to stay home and read a book, make the $150 gift certificate for him, and let him bring her a nice bouquet when it’s over. They both win. The American School of Flower Design in Chelsea offers a three-session course, including all flowers and containers, trips to the flower market and including tabletop bouquets and bridal, taught by Michael Gaffney, beginner level, $495 a person.

Other courses are offered at Longwood Gardens, which offers three classes of basic floral design for $395. Classes are held on consecutive Fridays, from 9 am to 4 pm, including lunch. And the New York Botanical Garden offers a one-time course in flower arranging at its Midtown location on West 44th Street on various days and times, usually 6 to 8 in the evenings, for a mere $45 apiece, if the couple each brings pruners and bags to carry their arrangements home.

An Art in Bloom Weekend

Do they like art? Do they like flowers? Did one of them come from a big Midwestern city, or Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, North Carolina, Portland… the list goes on. We are talking about the “Art in Bloom” movement, usually in the spring, in which art museums (and sometimes an archaeology museum — we’re talking about you, Old Mizzou –) challenge local florists to respond to holdings with floral arrangements in kind. It’s a trip, and art and flowers. And it can be accomplished on a weekend, maybe even with a short drive from home. All it takes is a little research on your part, and perhaps a reservation at a charming hotel.

An Art in Bloom Weekend

Our favorite right now is the Milwaukee Art Museum, whose 2020 Art in Bloom is scheduled for April 30 to May 3. Why Milwaukee? Of course your bride and groom might be from anywhere, but the Milwaukee Art Museum’s Art in Bloom event includes a fashion show of dresses made entirely of flowers. The first place winner looked like this. The couple could spend a long time discussing whether the addition of feathers should have disqualified it.

Milwaukee Art Museum's Art in Bloom

OK, perhaps that is not for everyone. But the Art in Bloom events take place in the many institutions, including the Cincinnati Art Museum in October, in March at the St. Louis Art Museum, the New Orleans Museum of Art and the Washington County (MD) Museum of Fine Arts and, in April, at the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

A Flower Share Of Springtime Flowers

This one is worth getting married for: If it seems too expensive, go in with a friend. For someone who has a home in the mid-Hudson River Valley, it is possible to give them a five-week share of springtime flowers (including specialty tulips, fragrant narcissi, unusual hyacinths and all of the usual things that come up in Duchess County starting in April), $110 for flowers that can be picked up in Barrytown at the Shoving Leopard farm or in Redhook at the Sawkill Farm Market. Or, as seen above, a six-week share of dahlias, of every type, beginning in early September (perhaps as an anniversary present?) $110. Best of all, a Summer Share, $200 for 12 weeks of flowers at the farm.

This is the preferred gift because it involves them walking a seven-ring labyrinth through beds of flowers: zinnias, cosmos, amaranth, calendula, sunflowers, asters, bachelor’s buttons, larkspur, celosia, statice, cleome, snapdragons, strawflower, rudbeckias, marigold, nicotiana, cock’s comb, dahlias, all blooming in their season, until they come to the center, where there is a view of the Hudson Valley. By then the newlyweds have an armload of flowers they have picked. Barrytown is near Bard College, and pick-your-own days are Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, from 10 am to 6 pm. (They want to pick flowers as early in the morning as possible.)  Information at Shoving Leopard Farm.

A Flower Share Of Springtime Flowers

At the super-high-end, in the Berkshires, there is Many Graces, which has a CSA for the most exclusive cut flowers, $220 for an autumn and winter subscription of one preserved bouquet and two holiday wreathes; $135 for a four-week novelty tulip subscription. In New York City, flower shares are available from Brooklyn Grange CSA. Dreyer Farm in Cranford, NJ offers a 10-week flower share for $100, which will give the newlyweds a pre-cut bouquet of flowers for 10 weeks, not quite as romantic as walking a seven-ring labyrinth, but it will still get them out of the house.

The Philadelphia Flower Show

Just when winter seem dreariest, and when leap year gives us an extra day of the worst month, the Philadelphia Flower Show opens for nine days on February 29 to remind us that spring will come. Even better, the theme for 2020 is Riviera Holiday, inspired by Mediterranean gardens. Lavender, citrus trees, arches will make the newlyweds think they are in Monaco, or something like that.

The Philadelphia Flower Show

Tickets are not expensive. It’s a train ride from Washington DC to Boston. So the only big expense is a hotel room. Be creative there. Two nights in a nice hotel, a couple hundred dollars. Go in on the combined price, maybe $500, with people at the office. Get several couples together. Or the grown children of a newly combined family. This is a great gift, and the timing is nice for a couple getting married in the fall. They have had their honeymoon (or not) and five months later, this is a break, like going to Disneyland for grownups. No stress. Two days among candy-colored flowers. Information.

Giving Something to Plant

It could be a fruit tree. (Difficult to gift wrap, but not that expensive.) Even paying for the nurserymen to delivery it and plant it, still under $100. The card with a nice photograph of you with the exact tree is the best way to do it. As the gift-giver you know that trees are supposed to be planted in months with “r” in them, like September. So a fall wedding is ideal.

Giving a flowering peach tree as a gift

A peach tree will give the newlyweds lots of joint activities. First they will learn to prune it. Then they will figure out how to keep the squirrels away. And finally they will get to discuss how many peaches to remove each year, to get the biggest eating peaches. All are things they will share, along with peach sangria, peach cobbler and peach braised pork.

Resurrection lily

The other possibilities of something to plant, a beautiful hydrangea or something like a Resurrection lily. Give lily bulbs to them, their parents, relatives, children, everyone in the family. If they all plant the Resurrection lily now, a few leaves will come up in the spring, then disappear. After that everyone will forget where it is. Two years from now, beautiful, fragrant, pink lilies will be springing out of the ground, reminding them of the wedding. Something for everyone to talk about.

Flower arrangement against dark background

A Course In Making Paper Flowers

Every town has an art museum or an art society that offers art classes. Bigger cities have specialties. New York City has Livia Cetti, whose studio, Green Vase, gives an intermittent course in making paper ranunculus and peonies at places around New York. On October 19, it will be Making Paper Roses at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx, from 10 am to 1 pm, $165 each, and they will each take home a handmade rose. If this is your choice for a wedding gift, move quickly because Cetti is a star, and her courses sell out, even at these prices. Those are her flowers above, from a photo shoot. Reminder, those are paper flowers. (You might also pay for the newlyweds to watch a video of Cetti making delphiniums, but that seems a little advanced for beginners.)

A Course In Making Paper Flowers

Other artists offer similar courses. (Making paper flowers has become high art; an Architectural Digest story in 2017 cited the ancient Chinese art of paper-flower making and celebrated 14 paper-flower artists, including some who show in museums.) The courses can be expensive. The ones called “makeries” with Tiffanie Turner, a botanical sculptor represented by the Eleanor Harwood Gallery in San Francisco  who made “Dahlia I” (2014) above — those are out of anyone’s range and already sold out.

This is supposed to be fun. Maybe you should find something that is more in the craft line. There are workshops everywhere, like the one on September 29 in Ontario, making crepe paper dahlias ($50 apiece, plus $15 for materials), or November 17 , a Sunday, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, at 12:30 to 3:30 for members of the Gram Studio Art Museum. Because it is an ultra-local event, we urge you to search online for the words “crepe paper” “flowers” and “workshop.” Avoid an online course. The point is to get the couple out of the house for a day, for them to have a new experience, together. Perhaps even to go to a different town or neighborhood.

A Class in Indoor Gardening

If the newlyweds live in Brooklyn, and one of them loves to eat, here is a lovely present: Kitchen Botany for the Apartment Gardener at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden on Saturday October 26, $33 a ticket plus $16 for materials, for each of them, a tidy $100 present. The couple will go home knowing a lot about growing things indoors, and eating them, and will have two potted plants to practice on, and devour.

Other indoor gardening classes include one at the Midtown location of the New York Botanical Garden, at 20 West 44th Street, Houseplant Design Workshop, perhaps for a man and woman who are combining two sets of houseplants, October 2, Wednesday, 6 pm to 9 pm, $95 each, which includes a potted plant. There are also inexpensive classes in beginners Bonsai, even making Fairy Gardens, which might be fun for couples who cannot get over the end of Game of Thrones.

Gifting A Painting Class

If the couple getting married lives in Connecticut, how about this fun and affordable idea. The Hill-Stead Museum in Farmington, Connecticut, a charming town filled with history, offers a class for beginners on October 4, a Friday evening, in which a three-inch-tall ceramic pumpkin is to be painted in the manner of (see above) the 17th century Spanish painter Juan de Arellano, who specialized in floral portraits because, he said, they paid the most for the least work. (No cranky royal patrons, no traveling to distant landscapes, no rush, the subjects came to him, etc.)

Flowers painted on a pumpkin

Gifting A Painting Class

The class is $30 each, including light refreshments, all materials and two ceramic pumpkins. It runs from 7 pm to 9 pm, and this being Farmington, Connecticut, and the class running until 9 pm, it might be a nice idea to add a $50 gift certificate to the charming Fork and Fire restaurant for a late dinner. The kitchen stays open on Friday nights until 10:30.

Or How About Watercolor Classes?

Taking up painting with watercolors is so trendy people even promise beginners can paint something like the above. That’s a work by Jade Scarlett, who teaches beginning students at – I kid you not – various Pret a Manger locations after hours for $50 a lesson. Her classes run two-and-a-half hours and she supplies everything the newlyweds will need, including a video with further instructions.

Painting flowers in watercolor

Or why not take pay for them to take a serious drawing class at, gasp, the Art Students League? There is a course called Drawing and Painting for Total Beginners. Note the word “Total.” It meets on Tuesday nights, and no one is busy on Tuesday nights. The cost is $130 for a month. Double, of course for both of them. The Art Students League was founded in 1875. Cool, right? The couple doesn’t have to draw flowers, but it would be nice to think they would.

A Trip to Zundert, the Netherlands, for the Corso

Everyone thinks the Netherlands has only one flower season. Everyone would be wrong. All of Europe knows about the second season, the season of the bloemencorsos. That dragon up there? It’s made of dahlias. Starting almost a year earlier, a neighborhood of Zundert, just one town that does corsos, but the one that does the biggest, started planning the 2020 Corso, set for September 6. First comes the sketch. Then everyone in that village orders a designated color of dahlia. The steel framework is designed and welded. The weight is calculated, and towing is assigned.

People grow their dahlias, and harvested them just a few days before the Sunday parade. The petals come off, and children, grandmothers, all the people stay up day and night affixing them to the float. This one is from 2018. As a wedding present, this is the big one. Perhaps the couple getting married are parents of two dynasties of flower-loving families. Or one is the head of a major corporation, and she loves the Netherlands. A group of people could raise a few thousand dollars for round trip airfare from the US to Rotterdam, the nearest big city to Zundert. It’s then a 44 minute drive from Rotterdam to Zundert, the birthplace of van Gogh.

What is important is to book a charming hotel in Zundert for September 5, for the corso, because rooms fill up fast. After that, the couple could make their own plans for the rest of a week. Bruge is nearby. There are other corsos, especially Eelde, the Netherlands, before Zundert, and Loenhout, Belgium, for a week after.

Is it worth it? Take a look at our story, and then decide. These are just suggestions, meant to stir your imagination.

Why Give an Experience?

Perhaps we have given you ideas of your own, for something to give a couple setting out on a married life, a unique experience. It can be something simple and short, something that will be over in an hour. It may end up being a disaster, with a broken, ugly ceramic pumpkin.  It could be evanescent. The peach tree might die. Then again, it might give them a lifelong hobby.

But it’s better than a toaster.

Linda Lee is a former editor at The New York Times. She was deputy editor of the House & Home section, where she edited the garden column, and wrote frequently for Sunday Styles.

Photo Credits: FlowerSchoolNY, “Dahlia I,” Sarah Deragon