How to Make Waxed Leaves to Decorate a Fall Wedding

A fall bride wearing a fur coat and holding a yellow leaf.

One of the staples of fall wedding decor are beautifully colored leaves. Using real leaves as decor can quickly cause a crunchy mess. While you can use fabric leaves, the downside is that their price adds up quickly and you’ll be left wondering what to do with a bunch of leftover fabric leaves after the celebration. A good compromise is to fortify real leaves by covering them in wax. Once dry, these beautiful leaves can be tossed by flower girls, decorate the ceremony area on strings, and be central to the centerpieces at the reception. Get a few friends together and spend a fun afternoon making these lovely leaves in four simple steps.

Step 1 – Gather Strong and Flexible Leaves

Someone pushing a wheelbarrow with yellow fall leaves on it.

To really get the most benefit out of your leaf-waxing experience, gather a wide variety of leaves. Focus on leaves that are still strong and flexible—not leaves that have already begun to crumble or show signs of disease. By using leaves from a variety of trees, you can get a nice diversity of color and shape. Or, you can choose to focus on iconic leaves, from trees like maple or oak. Regardless, make sure you have a good grouping of whatever fits the color scheme you want most at your wedding.

Step 2 – Melt the Wax Gently (Or Try the Wax Paper Pressed Method)

A double-boiler on a stovetop with a flame on the burner.

The more common way of making wax leaves that preserves their shape is to use paraffin or beeswax, heated gently via a “double boiler” method. This can be accomplished without a double boiler by placing chunks of the wax in an empty, clean coffee can and placing the coffee can into a big pot of water. By heating the water first, you gently warm the wax and can regulate the temperature so that the wax doesn’t overheat. One fun option is to add a drop or two of essential oil so that your wax leaves smell like cinnamon or other autumnal scent.

A blue iron on a towel.

If you remember being a child and “preserving” leaves, you’ll recall this method makes for flat, but beautiful, leaves. This involves gathering wax paper, an iron, and a towel. Sandwich the leaves between two sheets of waxed paper, and place the waxed paper between two layers of the towel. Using an iron on a low setting, gently heat up the towel, and then flip it to the other side. The two sheets of wax paper will fuse together, and you can cut out each of the leaves fairly easily. With paper involved, the leaves stay fairly durable throughout any decoration process, and can make for some very unique name tags or place cards.

Step 3 – Dunk Each Leaf in Wax and Cold Water

Once you’ve assembled your leaves, wax, and a surface for drying, quickly dunk each leaf into your wax. A quick way to dry them is to dip them into a bowl of cold water before laying them on a surface. This will quick-harden the wax that was cool and molten before. Make sure you shake off excess wax as you go, since it will save you time in the next step.

This process takes some time, so take turns with your friends, and consider experimenting with different kinds of wax, since each will give a unique look. Some people prefer soy wax flakes, for instance, even though they dry less clear and more white, simply because it makes the leaves look slightly “snow-capped.”

Step 4 – Smooth out any Rough Edges and Assemble Decorations

Once your leaves are finished, you can always break off excess wax and make sure that they look picture-perfect. A small nail file can be helpful if there are bits of wax that you want to remove without damaging the leaf.

Now, you get to choose what to do with the leaves! At this point, you can punch holes in them and string them onto a ribbon to display at the reception or ceremony, or you can keep them loose for placing on table tops or arranging as part of a centerpiece. You may decide that they look best affixed to candleholders, or you might choose to float some of them in a bowl of water, which can be incredibly picturesque. At any rate, preserved leaves won’t fall apart because they have that waterproof outer layer of wax, and even the version where you press waxed paper around them will keep them from getting wet or crunched in the process of getting your decorations to your venue.

Regardless of how you use the leaves, making them is really quite easy; even more elaborate waxed leaf crafts don’t require a lot of time or skill. With these beautiful leaves, you can make any space feel a bit more autumnal, which makes the wedding feel just that much cozier.

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