I love poppies, they remind me of glorious summer days in my beloved grandparent’s garden. So I knew I wanted to incorporate them into the wedding in some way.
There was no way to use real ones (they last for such a short amount of time when picked). So the idea of creating paper poppies instead was born.
When we started planing our wedding we knew we wanted to essentially host a massive dinner party for all of our friends and family, once the poppies were added it took on a bit of a midsummer night’s dream feel, only with less wife swapping and fewer opiates (only paper ones, like the poppies themselves).
It’d fair to say that when we started this project we had no idea how long it would take or how much work would be involved. Originally we thought we’d probably need a couple hundred, maybe a thousand at most and that we could knock them out in a matter of months.
We were wrong.
It was only after we’d made a few hundred that we checked our maths and realised that we’d actually need over 2000 to cover every pole in the marquee with poppies.
Some people might have stopped there and found a different solution. But we’d committed, and who were we to back down when faced with a bit of hard work.
The poppies are theoretically easy to make, but they are time consuming and there are quite a few steps involved.
Here’s how you can make them too (although I’d recommend leaving yourself a lot of time to make them and avoid needing to make 2000 of them if you can!):
What you’ll need
First of all you will need the following things (small & medium sized poppies):
- Glue guns (one per person making poppies) and glue sticks
- 15mm hard styrofoam balls
- 25mm hard styrofoam balls
- Green lacquered 10″ florist’s wire, 18 gauge
- Yellow and/or black tissue paper (for the inside of the poppy)
- Tissue paper in the petal colour of your choice
Large poppies are largely the same but you need crepe paper instead of tissue paper for the petals, thicker wire and bigger balls.
- Crepe paper
- Wire (type 1)
- Wire 2mm thickness (type 2) you need to wind these two wires together to support the weight of the completed poppy
- 70mm hard styrofoam balls
How to make the poppies
I found it easier to do things in bulk stage by stage. I also took on all the boring early stage jobs myself and kept the satisfying part of putting the petals on for family and friends. It helped to keep everyone happy and focussed on finishing.
Attach the balls to the wire. Put a dab of glue on the ball and then twist in the wire.
Cover the balls in yellow or black tissue paper. I wanted to do half the poppies in darker colours and half in lighter ones so I made 1000 with black middles and 1000 with yellow middles, and as you’ll see the first ones I did I mixed the two together. That was a mistake.
You’ll first need to cut the tissue paper into squares before covering the balls and twisting shut. These squares should be the following sizes:
Small: 2.5in x 2.5in
Medium: 4in x 4in
Large: 13in x 13in
Cut out, fold and then feather cut the stamen.
Cut out strips of tissue paper in the following sizes:
Small: 3in x 1.5in
Medium: 4in x 2in
Large: 13in x 10in
Fold every strip in half and then cut along the unfolded edge.
Put a line of glue along the folded edge of the stamen and attach to the covered balls.
They should look something like this (these were the mistake ones with black and yellow, imagine that the stamen are yellow).
Cut strips of the coloured tissue paper in the following sizes (this is to make the petals for the poppies):
Small: 4in high and the width of the tissue paper
Medium: 6.7in high and the width of the tissue paper
Bleach the petal strips (this is only relevant for the small and medium poppies, I’ll take you through the large poppies separately from this point).
There is an element of experimentation involved here depending on how bleached you want the petals and some colours of tissue paper need more bleach to remove the colour than others.
I would normally make a solution of 20 parts water to 1 part bleach for a weak bleaching (or to bleach the bright and light pink, and purple) and a solution of 10 parts water to 1 part bleach for a stronger bleaching (to bleach the red and orange tissue paper). Depending on the colours that you choose you should experiment to see what shades you like before you do any mass bleaching.
DO NOT make a stronger solution. I did at the beginning and these petals became brittle and fell apart when touched when we tried to open them up a year later. One done with a 10-to-1 or 20-to-1 mix will survive.
I always bleached big wads of the petal strips in one go, this meant that the colours varied across the pack and that some were more bleached than others. I liked this but you could bleach in smaller batches if you want a more consistent finish.
This was the first time I bleached and you can see that I’ve used too much bleach and the red became white.
Here you can see the difference between the over bleached red (far right, middle row) and the red with the correct (10-to-1) bleaching (middle of the bottom row).
After the petal strips have dried fold them over into almost squares and cut out ovals (as seen above). I never worried too much about these all being perfect or equal. Later on they will be scrunched up so it doesn’t massively matter.
Take six petals (all in the same colour) and one of your covered and stamen-ed poppies.
One petal at a time draw a line of glue on the petal and then stick it on the covered ball. You want the bottom of the yellow or black tissue paper that you’ve twisted around the ball to be covered by the bottom of the petal.
You are going to stick on three petals to begin with and then use the other three to fill in the gaps between those first three petals. So in the end it should look like this:
You need to put the following amounts of glue on the first three petals (in order from 1 (red) – 3 (orange):
I’ve done a diagram because the glue dries really quickly, sorry!
The very first petal doesn’t have that much glue on as you’re attaching it to the wire and the ball. The second two have more because they’re now attaching to the previous petals.
Do not try and put all the glue on all three of them straight away. The glue will dry too quickly. You need to do this one petal at a time.
For the second row of petals you need to add the following amounts of glue:
In this case you want more going just under half way up the petal. This will help to provide structural integrity to the poppy.
This feels wrong to begin with. You’ve worked so hard to make them and now it feels like you’re ruining them. You’re not. This will improve them and make them easier to store and transport. Without this step they don’t have a poppy’s crinkled petal structure.
Be harsher with them then you think that you should be. Don’t be too delicate with them.
They should look like this once you’ve scrunched them up:
Also, see how you can’t see any yellow or black peeping out at the bottom of the poppies. Make sure you cover all of yours when you stick the petals on.
Step 4 (large poppies)
No bleaching or cutting of strips required here. Instead you will need to cut a teardrop template out and you use that to cut out each petal individually. This takes time. My template was roughly 11in high by 7in wide at the widest point and I found I could get 14 petals out of a standard roll of crepe paper.
You can experiment with the sizes.
Attach the petals in the same method as the smaller poppies.
The only difference is you will need to use a lot more glue. You will need to glue every edge onto another petal. These poppies need the additional glue to give them rigidity. If you make smaller petals you shouldn’t need as much glue.
The other thing with the large ones is that you need to hold the petals in place for 15-30 seconds after you glue them to let the glue set. Out of all of them these are the ones that will burn you.
I like to give the petals a stretch before attaching and then after to give them their crinkled poppy look (since you cannot scrunch these ones up).
They should look roughly like this once you’ve done that pulling and stretching.
This is what they all look like together and the relative sizes.
Attaching them to poles
After making all of these we needed to find a way of attaching them to the poles in our marquee. The simplest way of doing that seemed to be to attach them to canes (cut to the right length) and then to cable tie the canes to the poles in the days before the wedding.
The wire was wrapped round canes and then kept in place with florist tape. We then wound fake ivy round each of the canes (two lengths per cane). All the poppies had been stored scrunched up in boxes up until this point and were only opened up two days before the wedding when we put them up in the marquee.
Poppies being opened and put up in the marquee:
We also made four poppy chandeliers that were made out of three 2 meter interlocking pipes which we covered in green frog tape and then covered in poppies and ivy. These were then hoisted up in the middle of each of the four individual tents.
Testing the chandelier two weeks before.
Putting it up in the gazebo to check that it would work.
In the marquee
In the church
As we were getting married in my old school chapel outside of term time we had quite a bit of flexibility with how we could decorate the chapel and when we could put things up and take them back down again. So armed with a ton of poppies and ivy we headed over to the school the Wednesday before the wedding and applied them liberally to the chapel.
They look pretty awesome.
Make them if you have the time (or I will happily sell you mine if you don’t).
They are simple, but very repetitive.
You will burn yourself more times than you think possible.
You will need more help than you think you will. These would not have been made without help, and I have to say a massive thank you to Robin, Sharman, Teri, Claire, Ellie, Phil, Stuart & Olivia for helping and keeping me sane whist making them all.