A Moment With 'For Keeps'
ABIA meets Jessica Chalk, owner of this Sydney-based wedding flower preservation service.
Images courtesy of For Keeps
Once, blooms like roses, orchids and sunflowers could provide only fleeting happiness and beauty, but thanks to advanced preservation techniques and 30 years’ experience, Jessica Chalk, and her team at For Keeps, can preserve flowers, and other treasured memorabilia, indefinitely.
“We understand the sentimental attachment and memories held by flowers, especially wedding bouquets and arrangements,” Jessica says. “And carefully preserve the memories and emotions associated with them.”
And while the technical aspects of the flower preservation process are overseen by a highly-skilled line-up of engineers and plant physiologists, personalised service and customisation remain key to the For Keeps’ offering.
ABIA caught up with Jessica during a pause in the multi-step process, to talk petal preservation, customisable displays and the joy of flowers that last a lifetime.
Tell us about your business and wedding services.
We have more than 30 years’ experience preserving flowers from special occasions, like weddings, using advanced techniques to ensure the blooms retain their natural beauty for a lifetime.
We preserve bouquets, and all sorts of wedding flowers and arrangements, together with accessories, memorabilia and keepsakes from the day, and work with our couples to present them in customisable displays to suit their personal tastes and home décor.
How did you get started in the wedding industry?
I grew up in the wedding industry. My mum, Gwen, is a renowned florist and the founder of For Keeps. Among our family photos are images of my siblings, and I, in mum’s florist shop window, and as toddlers handing out flyers and promotional bags at wedding exhibitions.
Where are you based and what locations do you service?
We are based on a beautiful five-acre property in Sydney’s west — equipped with state-of-the-art machinery and an in-house laboratory, including several microscopes — from where we can accept and preserve flowers from all over Australia.
What inspired you to start preserving flowers and keepsakes?
I developed an interest in flower preservation through my mum, the founder of For Keeps. Her extensive experience as a florist, and her interactions with clients seeking to preserve their wedding flowers, inspired her to explore flower preservation techniques, and she established For Keeps more than 30 years ago. I started working here while I was still at school, and in 2016, when Mum was diagnosed with dementia, I formally took over running the business.
What’s involved in the preservation process?
With the guidance of chemical, electrical, and mechanical engineers, and a plant physiologist, our proprietary preservation process focuses on preserving each flower, and even individual petals, based on their distinct cell structure.
Every bouquet undergoes meticulous photography and disassembly, and each flower embarks on a personalised rehydration and preservation journey.
The preservation process is made up of 48 to 56 steps and takes approximately four to six months to complete.
This attention to detail ensures that every bloom retains its original colours and shape.
What sorts of wedding keepsakes can you preserve? What are the most popular options?
Bridal bouquets and groom boutonnières are timeless choices, but we can also preserve bridesmaid and flower girl bouquets, and boutonnières and corsages worn by the couple’s family and wedding party.
Flowers used in the bride's hair can also be conserved, as can floral arrangements from the reception, such as centrepieces.
In addition to flowers, we can also preserve marriage certificates, invitations and stationery, photographs, cake knives and cake toppers, and wedding accessories, like tiaras, garters, shoes, cufflinks, veils and jewellery.
What display options do you offer for preserved flowers and keepsakes?
We prioritise personalisation and work closely with our clients to create bespoke displays that match their décor and taste and offer two preservation types — pressed or 3D preservation.
Preserved flowers need to be kept in a sealed environment — to protect them from moisture, dust, and insects — so we also offer a range of different display types, including frames, keepsake boxes, domes, standard and rear-mounted perspex boxes and custom keepsakes, like baubles.
Are there any special considerations that couples should be aware of, when choosing and planning for their wedding day, to optimise floral preservation?
Our unique preservation process involves preserving each individual bloom based on the cell structure, so there are no limits on the types of flowers we can preserve.
That said, the fresher we receive the flowers, the better the result. Choosing flowers based on a colour scheme, rather than specific blooms, can enable florists to pick seasonal blooms that are usually not imported, therefore fresher when they use them. This can also increase the longevity of the flowers throughout the day.
Any bruising is emphasised through the preservation process too, so floristry techniques, like reflexing, are best avoided.
At what stage of the planning process should couples contact you to discuss preserving their wedding flowers and keepsakes? And how soon after the wedding do they need to get the items to you?
Once they have booked a florist they should be talking to us, as our preservation process is very labour-intensive, so the number of orders we can accept each week is limited.
Once booked in, we provide care tips on how to look after the flowers until we get them. Ideally, we need the flowers 24-48 hours after the wedding for optimal results.
What makes your service standout?
We go beyond just preserving flowers — we preserve love, joy and the essence of our couples’ most important day. Our commitment to ensuring that these cherished memories last a lifetime is what makes us unique.
Read For Keeps ABIA Wedding Reviews
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