How an Open Mind Created an Artistic (and Practical) Cake Runner

When the wedding’s in a museum, your designs should be artistic. When the bride is your daughter and an artist, expectations can escalate. And when the most visible arrangement in the wedding benefits from modification, you find a solution. Jeanna Furst AIFD managed all that and more for her daughter’s wedding. Her opportunistic placement and mechanics for a floral wall on a landing railing just behind the wedding party table was innovative. But how she adapted the design of a stunning table runner for the wedding focal point? You could say it “takes the cake.” “Every guest stood before the flower wall and beside the wedding cake to have their photos made,” says Jeanna.

The challenge

“Our daughter Kristi wanted wedding flowers that were artful and not a traditional design,” says Jeanna of Furst the Florist in Dayton, Ohio. “She wanted her wedding cake to be an edible work of art and her signature design showcased in a mural of fresh flowers.” Kristi wanted the cake to be the placed in the center of the dance floor to capture the attention of arriving guests. Using inspiration, creativity, hard work and 5,000 stems of flowers, the Furst family and staff delivered the wedding décor of her daughter’s dreams! What floral techniques made these intricate designs look like ‘a piece of cake’ in the photos? Jeanna shares her secrets.

The floral cake runner “experiment”

“My first inspiration was to cover the table entirely in flowers, but my baker was afraid that it might diminish the cake so I came up with the idea of creating a flower runner.” “The floral cake runner made of floral foam tiles (OASIS® Floral Foam Tile) was an experiment,” shares Jeanna, “and we had a plan B.” The standard 18-inch width of the foam tiles seemed overwhelming for a 48-inch wide table so Jeanna cut the panels into 12-inch widths and pre-drilled holes for the zip ties that would connect them. The tiles were pre-soaked in water with flower food, drained and designed on Tuesday. They were installed on the wrought iron rail on Saturday with a canvas drip cloth beneath during installation to catch any drippage. It took 500 blooms to complete the runner. The tabletop panel was 48-inches long and each of the side panels were table height at 30-inches tall. The team zip-tied the three panels together and filled in the space between the connections with flowers while on-site. “I was concerned about the side-panels remaining vertical without sagging due to weight, but the opposing weight of the horizontal tiles across the tabletop held the side panels perfectly in place,” says Jeanna. Glass cubes were placed on the tabletop as risers for the circular glass cake base so you could see the full runner underneath. While guests were finding their seats for dinner, several people lifted the table with the runner in place and walked it 50 feet off the dance floor. “We all held our breath!” laughs Jeanna. The table decor remained intact. The next day the flowers were still sitting in place looking fresh and beautiful. “I attribute the long-lasting condition of the flowers to pre-soaking the tiles in flower food,” Jeanna confides. “Floral foam tiles were crucial for creating these two most special elements at the reception.”

A watercolor inspiration for a flower wall

The mural design process began with Kristi’s watercolor inspiration. She’s an art teacher and chose the Dayton Art Institute’s Gothic Cloister room for her reception. She hand-painted a watercolor in luscious shades of coral, melon, peach, orange, fuchsia and watermelon that became the inspiration for her wedding décor. Kristi replicated the design on the wedding print materials, in the flower color harmony and the cake icing. “Her colors reminded me of a romantic sunset,” says Jeanna.

Creating the floral mural

To create the floral mural, they measured the wrought iron railing and calculated the space would require 12 full 24-inch by 18-inch foam tiles. Jenna menued everything, including how many flowers each of the 6-inch by 6-inch squares in the tiles would require. She calculated they would need 1800 blooms for the mural. Like Jeanna, daughter Kylie is also a floral designer. The three ladies laid out the tiles in wall form at the shop. Using a sharp pencil, Kristi drew the design into the foam across the series of tiles. They noted the colors on cardettes in each section, paint by numbers style, and numbered the tiles. One row of foam was cut off each panel to fit the railing. Holes were drilled in each tile to accommodate the two cable ties that would secure each panel in place. The mom and two daughters flowered the tiles on worktables at the shop and placed them on a greenhouse cart in the flower cooler until they rolled them into the delivery truck on Saturday.

With white orchids? Or without?

[rev_slider alias="furst-foam-1"] Onsite they followed the numbers to put the mural back together for installation. The family members had to leave when the mural was 90 percent finished. Co-worker Loann Burke AIFD, AAF, PFCI, a Smithers-Oasis floral design director, stepped in to finish the job. Like all florists, Loann had to weigh her flower options. There were enough colorful flowers to finish the design, but there were also lovely stems of white phalaenopsis orchids available. She tried using the orchids first, but the cool white of the orchids stood out against the other warm colors so Loann decided not to use the phals. “I thought that was a good decision,” says Jeanna. The resulting backdrop was a beautiful 3-foot high and 12-foot long wall of deliciously fragrant flowers!

Guests were blown away

When guests entered the reception in the Gothic Cloister they were blown away by the volume of creative floral designs and intense citrusy colors! [rev_slider alias="furst-foam-2"] Centerpieces throughout the room featured hanging heliconia, pincushion protea, king protea, ranunculus, anthurium and other interesting materials. The cake table runner and floral mural featured a fresh mix of hydrangea, peonies roses, and garden roses and along with some silk coral hydrangeas and peach poppies needed to fill in specific colors.

Menued designs are the key

The key to designing weddings profitably is to menu each design so you know what goes in it. Which variety of flower. How many stems. Notes regarding the design. This ensures you will have the product you need while maintaining the wedding budget. “When you have fully detailed your wedding notes and made the appropriate calculations and procurements, anyone can step in to execute the plan, if needed,” Jeanna explains.

What other suggestions can Jeanna offer?

The Furst staff used lots of clear glass vases with flower arrangements balanced at the top to appear that flowers were floating in the room.   Triple brick trays were elevated on 30-inch glass cylinders and placed on marble shelving. Each brick tray sat atop two cylinders placed together in eight sets of four cylinders. “Another product I hadn’t used before but will use again is the 6-inch standing sphere.” Jeanna loved how the sphere allowed her to design inside the Accent Décor compote. “We sprayed manzanita with gold and a berry color paints and added tight clusters of roses into the designs. It transported easily because it sat down in the vase so well.”

The ultimate design challenge!

What is the ultimate challenge for a shop owner designing for her own daughter? “We did this for our daughter, her husband and our guests but it has generated a lot of response from our clients. Our vendors that were involved get to share the pictures, too. It helps all of us to showcase what we can do that isn’t typically requested.” “Each wedding deserves a beauty of its own and we always ask that brides allow us to create memorable flowers for their guests to remember.” How can you use innovative floral mechanics to create memorable flowers for your brides?


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I would love to see some “construction” pictures to fully understand how everything connected and stayed that way!

I read about a designer that said they had seen many designs lose their impact by including the colour white. Totally right to leave out the white orchids from the wall mural, good call!

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