Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Flower fever

I don't know if I was one of those kids conditioned to believe that flowers are beautiful things -- the way we're conditioned to believe that spiders are icky and snakes are dangerous and yet probably, if we were not warned so, we would still think of these creatures as beautiful things too.

But I digress.

As far as I can remember, I’ve always loved flowers. I am fascinated by flowers that grow wild, those found in our garden and especially those dressed up for special occasions such as weddings. I bow to the beauty of all flowers, from the sweet smelling sampaguita to towering birds of paradise to fast wilting tulips to forever living everlastings and statices. When I was a preteen, I would even talk to the flowers in my grandmother’s garden, pretending they were my playmates. I greeted them every morning when I watered them, even spoke to them. I even spoke Spanish to a particular variety, the Bandera Espanola fearing that they may not understand me if I spoke to them in Tagalog.

And so, this fondness for flowers is something I never outgrew. Every summer, I try to go to UP Diliman to look at the rows of sunflowers as we drive along University Avenue going towards the oblation.

When I was planning my wedding, I wanted to have tulips for my wedding bouquet for these were flowers I only read about in books when I was a little girl. They were rare, found only in Holland or in countries with colder climates but in recent years have been readily available. I still don't know if they are grown locally by some florists but it's nice to know you can always find some available in our local flower shops.

I wanted to have lots of flowers at my wedding and I wanted to make sure they were beautifully, professionally arranged so I searched for the florist who fit my style, personality and of course, budget. I ended up with a good florist who took into consideration all my requests and my wedding turned out beautiful. I loved flowers so much it didn’t even matter that my flowers for the entourage and church ended up more expensive than my wedding gown!

Aside from the staple roses and occasional casa blancas or stargazers, I have yet to personally witness a wedding that uses entirely local flowers like sampaguitas, ylang-ylangs, champacas, rosals even dama de noches which are coincidentally some of the most fragrant flowers in the country. More abundant are colorful varieties of mums, orchids, gerberas, tulips, hydrangeas and calla lilies. Some florists are more creative and come up with combinations of carnations, Queen Anne's lace, and button mums.

Above, a pink Gerbera. Below, a pink rose selling for 20 pesos for two dozens (short stemmed) at Dos Castillas street in Sampaloc, Manila. For more purchases, you can haggle for smaller fees per dozen. These flowers however still have to be rinsed and "beautified" by taking out loose or torn petals and leaves. The red roses usually have to be de-thorned thoroughly.

Below, a new find! I forgot what their real name is but the vendors at Dos Castillas call them "paper roses." They come in white, purple and pink versions and are seasonal. I bought purple ones and made an arrangement for my sister's surprise party at home.

I mixed pink and white roses over formosa ferns and topped them with purple paper roses. Below, I combined the paper roses with Azucenas, faintly fragrant white buds that are favorably used during weddings to add height for floral centerpieces and aisle decor.

Wouldn’t it be refreshing to have pots of flowers as centerpieces instead of the freshly cut blooms stuck on floral foam that would wilt as soon as your reception was over? Some guests become so enamored with the wedding flowers during wedding receptions that they even bring them home. My husband and I brought home some of our own centerpieces and offered them to our loved ones on their graves the day after our wedding.

Some brides actually do not pay much attention to the flowers for her wedding, knowing that they’ll only last for a few hours. My sister just concentrated on her bridal bouquet and gave everyone else dainty white orchid wristers.

Here's my sister holding her bouquet of mango calla lillies during her wedding.

In a recently concluded food expo at the World Trade Center, I took snapshots of white, blue and pink hydrangeas and plump orchids being sold at the lobby. See how much of a flower freak I am? :-)

Flowers have always been part of weddings partly because each kind symbolizes a trait or quality that we would want in our weddings -- loyalty, friendship, devotion, to name a few. It would be best to be careful as to how they are perceived in different countries since some flowers that may be popular at weddings symbolize or are associated with death in other nations.

Potted or not, bouquets or wristers, tall or low arrangements, I really can't imagine weddings without flowers. Some brides opt to go zen and some go full force with candelabras, drapes and colored lights but one thing's for sure, flowers will always be part of the celebration. Another reason why I love going to weddings!

Attack of the killer cupcakes!

We've all heard it. A couple on the eve of their wedding along with their sleepy relatives, are finishing their wedding souvenirs, making last minute alterations on their gowns or simply cramming something they should've done weeks ago. I myself had to do the same thing at my wedding -- asking help from my sisters to pack mint candies in the souvenir boxes and staple missalette covers.

Some brides, although I don't know anyone personally, have even thought of doing wedding flowers or their cakes themselves. Talk about trying to cut on costs or bridezillas on the loose.

Just last Sunday, Father's Day, I surprised our youngest sister with a debutante cupcake party. She didn't want to celebrate her debut with a real party because what she really wanted was a digital SLR camera. So, I asked all our relatives to come celebrate with us. My sister was so busy trying to make the chocolate fountain I bought run smoothly, she was oblivious to the fact that I was decorating our dinner table with flowers and cupcakes using her favorite colors of pink, purple and white. Using my mom's cake stands and glass coasters, I was able to make a nice setting for the party.

Here are the cupcakes I had made at the Shoppersville bakery (Katipunan Ave., Loyola Heights) across Miriam College, which only cost me 11 pesos per cupcake.

I would have to say they tasted ok. Not enough to make me say I've died and gone to cupcake heaven but they were decent cupcakes. Not too sweet icing, not too moist nor too dry cake.

After I tasted the cupcakes at Mom's and Tina's Bakery in Libis (across SM Hypermart), I thought of buying their cupcakes for my sister's party (averaging 25 pesos per flavor), but when I found out that Shoppersville sold less expensive cupcakes, I chose to order the latter. Don't get me wrong though, I'd still go back to Mom's and Tina's Bakery for their cupcakes since they taste real good too. Here are some of them:

I've tasted Sonja's Cupcakes at Serendra and although I'd say that their cupcakes are good and relatively larger than M&T's and Shoppersville, using only the finest ingredients in cupcakelandia with more flavors to choose from, I find the prices a little a bit exorbitant for something my hubby can gobble in 15 seconds flat. :-)

Below are some cupcake bouquets from Sonja's that you might like to use as centerpieces too!

Above, Sonja's colorful sprinkles for her cupcakes.

I actually wanted a cupcake tree for my own wedding, wanting to deviate from the usual tiered fondant cakes that are usually made of styrofoam. I wanted to make sure that unlike other wedding cakes that are just for show at the reception, my caterer can easily distribute the cupcakes to my guests so they can partake in what is known to be another symbol of fertility in weddings -- the cake. In the olden days, it used to be bread that was to be broken over the bride's head. Weird huh?

I went through the motions of looking for cupcake tree suppliers but back in 2004, there were still very few wedding cupcake bakers. I inquired with one baker who wanted to charge me 25,000 pesos for 150 pieces of cupcakes. It sounded outrageous. There were other bakers however who quoted me 30 pesos per cupcake but by then, I had decided on my caterer and they offered a three-tiered fondant cake as part of my package. And so, I ended up with a regular cake after all.

If you choose to have a cupcake tree though, all you need to do is find a good cupcake maker, rent a stand or stands in various heights since they don't need to be on top of one another, add a few flowers (you can buy nice and inexpensive ones in Dos Castillas st. in Manila -- but that deserves a whole new post) and voila! your own do-it-yourself wedding (cup) cake!