Fashionable Florals

Written By Joanne O'Sullivan

Posted 02/05/16

Updated 08/23/19

Events & Activities

Flowers are as much a part of a wedding celebration as the music or the cake. So when plans began for our Fashionable Romance: Wedding Gowns in Film exhibition, our Floral Design team got right to work coming up with inspiring designs to set the tone for this delightful affair.

The exhibition includes costumes from 19 films, spanning hundreds of years and far-flung locations starting in 18th-century England and stretching into 1930s Germany. Using the costumes and the rooms where they’ll be located as a starting point, the designers began sketches.

The Entry Hall sets the tone for the exhibition with a dramatic four-tier floral cake under fabric swags lit from the inside with party lights. A floral chandelier in shades of pink dripping with crystal pendants hangs above it. Molly Reed created the design, which includes the 6.5 x 3’-cake form (seen below, in progress) decorated with 450 roses and 150 lilies, both silk and fresh, surrounded by fresh arrangements.

In the Banquet Hall, costumes from the 2005 film version of Pride and Prejudice called for a loose, English country garden look. A flower dangles from each of the three “love knots” in the ribbons hanging from the room’s two chandeliers, a nod to Regency and Victorian tradition. The three knots represent the three words “I love you,” says Cristy Leonard who designed the room’s florals. Cornelia Vanderbilt had these knots in her bouquet at her 1924 wedding to the Honorable John F.A. Cecil.

In the Music Room, designer Kyla Dana came up with the lush look for the florals accompanying the costumes from the 1988 film The Deceivers, set in early 19th-century British India. Dana used the film’s setting as inspiration for her lush design, featuring silk marigolds—a traditional Indian wedding flower—and purple bougainvillea.

A wedding dress worn by Helena Bonham-Carter in the 1994 film Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is on display in the Library. The theme here is silk roses, mostly in deep red with touches of hot pink. Eight heart-shaped medallions will be affixed to the balcony railings, referencing not only the film’s wedding but one of the more dramatic scenes. In total, there will be around 700 roses in the room.

But the Fashionable Romance exhibition extends beyond Biltmore House. The Biltmore Legacy in Antler Hill Village has been transformed into a stylish gallery featuring stories and objects from Vanderbilt family weddings. While there are no photos of George and Edith Vanderbilt’s wedding, photos allowed designers to re-create both Cornelia Vanderbilt’s dress and bouquet. Designer Lucinda Ledford recreated the stephanotis bouquet held by Mary Lee Ryan at her wedding to Cornelia’s son William A.V. Cecil in 1957, seen below in progress.

Biltmore Floral Department manager Cathy Barnhardt estimates that there will be approximately 3,200 fresh and faux roses in the planned displays throughout the exhibition, with around 1,500 fresh flowers being replaced each week. As you walk through the exhibit, be sure to pay attention to the lovingly designed florals, which add charm and beauty to the exquisite costume displays.

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