WEDDINGS | Brooch Bouquet - The Ornate Alternative


Alex L.'s Brooch Bouquet | Photo by Shaun Campbell
As I stand with my legs spread wide apart, with rivulets of sweat migrating from my hind quarters to the floor of the glamorous Bargain Barn in Hughesville, MD, I realize that this is my rock bottom. My travels have lead my friend Rachel and me to this sweltering, dusty, rotted-out establishment in the middle of nowhere in search of glittering, sparkling, and glimmering treasures that I will ultimately transform into a one-of-a-kind heirloom.

The process of brooch hunting began about a month after I got engaged.  I had seen plenty of brooch bouquets on Pinterest and other DIY websites, and I was determined to create one for my wedding day.  I began recruiting everyone I knew - friends, parents and grandparents of friends, students, their families, etc. - to pick up any brooches they saw on sale for less than $5 apiece (pretty difficult for vintage, but not impossible).  My friends and their relatives really pulled through, and soon I had around 30 vintage brooches from yard sales, flea markets, eBay, and a particularly sentimental batch from a childhood friend’s grandmother with whom I had been very close.  When the brooch leads seemed to start drying up, I expanded my search to rings, and then when that went south I hit the jackpot: clip-on earrings.  Since almost no one wears them anymore, but grandmothers (and abuelas and yia yias) and their offspring have been unloading them at second hand stores in droves. 

Why did I choose the brooch bouquet?  Because I absolutely hate flowers!  Sometimes I can break into hives just being in the same room with them.  And I take issue with the mortality of flowers and their lack of usefulness when they ultimately expire (read Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz “A una rosa” and you will get the gist of my feelings). 

Ebay Lot of Brooches

After I collected my brooches and treasures and sparkly bits, I thought the hard work was over.  That could not have been further from reality.  First, I had to soak them all and scrub them with a toothbrush.  After they dried off, I spent the entire summer on the arduous process of wiring each brooch.  I would take floral wire and pass it through the pin closure on the back, then twist it for dear life.  Each brooch, depending on how heavy it was, required at the minimum 2 or maximum 5 wires.  Multiply that by the pain that came from twisting those wires and ... well I’m no math teacher but needless to say I had red tender palms and quite a few scratches last summer. Then, you twist all the wires together on each brooch to create a “stem” for each brooch “flower.”

Once the brooches were wired, I cashed in on cheap labor (former students) to help me wrap the stems with floral tape, and then cut the stems down so they could be easily inserted into the styrofoam ball that I used as the base for my bouquet.  I had my father drill a hole into the ball and insert a dowel rod in, then hot glued it so that I would have a solid handle to grasp. The last bit of my brooch bouquet assembly came on a Sunday afternoon, where a friend and I took each brooch “flower” and lodged them into the styrofoam (Note: Some people take their brooches and just hot glue them right onto a styrofoam ball. As we tirelessly assembled the bouquet, we realized that this would probably be the easier option.  HOWEVER, I had the romantic vision that one day I would give one of my children a brooch from my bouquet for their wedding day, and so I had to be able to free the brooches, so that option was not for me). 
Ebay Lot of Brooches

When we finished this, I naturally expected an archangel to come to me and for the heavens to open up and maybe even a white dove to proclaim that I had truly done the work of the gods. However, my bouquet was ... puny. There were very visible holes where you could not get the brooches any closer together, but where you could still see styrofoam. And then we could not get the brooches down far enough or concentrated enough OR pushed in far enough around the base. At this point, we decided to go off the grid and try our own solution. We ran to the craft store, bought some silk hydrangeas, ribbon, and some sparkly trim, and came home armed with hot glue and a mission. We wrapped the dowel in ribbon and created some ribbon loops that we hot glued to the styrofoam to fill in the bottom area. I used sparkly trim to make the new stem of my bouquet (previously a wooden dowel) pop. Then my friend started snapping the hydrangeas off the stems and gluing them to the visible patches of styrofoam, while also leaving some of them on their stems and gluing them so they stood up at the same level as the brooches.

The effect was truly breathtaking. The brooch bouquet turned out to be everything I envisioned and more.  When people ask me how much time or money I spent on it, I know that the money was really marginal in comparison to a bride’s bouquet that dies right after, and at the time the amount of hours I spent on it were occasionally unbearable.  However the final product made it so worth it! 

About our Guest Blogger, Alex L.
I am a high school language teacher who, due to educational budget constraints and general unfair pay for educators, has to be quite resourceful with materials!  I love to create homemade gifts for friends, and in my classroom we have made some incredible cultural artifacts using repurposed materials.  My favorite classroom projects have been making altars for deceased celebrities on the Day of the Dead, creating lanterns for the Lantern Festival during the Chinese New Year, and creating reproductions of the statues of the Ming Dynasty tombs using newspaper and shoe polish.  When I craft at home, I like to use the pages of old InStyle magazines and the beautiful patterns on the clothes in it (that I will never be able to afford) to use to make collages and backdrops for framing photos.  This summer’s projects are hopefully going to include creating a curtain out of used wine corks and free trade beads from Uganda, creating outlet covers out of magazine paper, and making a wreath out of an old shower curtain for my parents’ beach house.

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