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A Lakeside Storybook Wedding: 20 Lessons Learned

I thought I’d interrupt my regularly scheduled wedding recaps (haha, riiight) to post about various lessons learned from my own wedding. Keep in mind: the wedding was the shiz-nit. An amazing, fun, without-a-care-in-the-world day and all-round hootenanny of hilarity with most everybody pitching in to get ‘er done! The following is just some information I personally could have used before the big day. Just nitpicky things. Not huge regrets. So hold on to your wedding hats, hive, cuz I’m about to get all up in the nitpick-pickety.

(Tip: scroll allll the way down to read the super short version of this post.)

All photos unless otherwise noted are by the lovely and amazing Tanja Lippert.

Here’s what I learned:

1. It’s sometimes easier to say you’re sorry than ask for permission. I know, I know, shouldn’t I be a tad bit more ethical, being a journalist and all?

I’m not talking anything illegal, but when it came to my at-home wedding, it was definitely easiest to just go for it, rather than ask, when it came to things like our parking-in-the-meadow-across-the-street-situation:

Personal Photo

See far left for nose of car poking out. Here’s maybe a better pic, showing the cars blurry in the background in the meadow:

*Side note: also, if you make lanterns streaming with ribbons in shades of peach, pink and taupe, be aware that in photos they’ll remind you of flying octopuses. Or a flying spaghetti monster. Anyone else get that?

My parents were all “oh, just ASK the land-owner for permission to park there!” But, what would have happened had he said no? Where would we all have parked? Plus, I doubt he was in any sort of liability trouble-zone, because technically we were on the side of the road next to his meadow.

2. You can totally get away with ignoring county music/sound ordinances, as long as you know and love your neighbors.

I’m passionately against ending weddings before 11 p.m. It’s just not right. In my ideal world, all us Americans would do it up Spain-style: dancing till 6 a.m. followed by breakfast with the whole wedding party.

Our band played past 11 p.m. despite county sound ordinances that mandated we be quiet at 10. If you’re in a rural enough area, and know your neighbors, I say go for it. I even investigated what could have happened had anyone complained, and the police chief and sheriff deputy I asked told me they would only come out and give a warning. Not too big a deal.

3. It takes three times as long as you’d estimate to do your own flowers. I love that I did it, it’s just, I didn’t take into account all the time it takes unpacking the bunches, filling up buckets, prepping, cleaning and clipping. For my 100-person wedding with about 30 centerpieces, it took half of the day Thursday and Friday before the wedding with two helpers.

And I didn’t have time to do all the ‘maids flowers.

Maid of honor bouquet:

Maids’ “bouquets” (i.e., didn’t have time to make them, so they carried lovely single stems of matilija poppies!):

4. Making 10 of these lavender-filled mason jar arrangements took way freakin’ longer than I thought it would:

5. If you’re an insomniac like me, a good thing to try is to stay up ALL night the Thursday night before your Saturday wedding. That way when Friday night rolls around, you will be sure to sleep very well and awake fresh and ready to go. I didn’t intentionally not sleep Thursday night. See #4 for the reason I was up all night. Yes, those containers of lavender took me all night to arrange by myself into the perfect little bunches that they were.

But you know what? It was fun. I was out there by the lakeside in the fresh summertime night air, surrounded by bushels of sweet-smelling lavender and my gorgeous blue mason jars. The waves were lapping against the shore, and I finally had some peaceful hours to myself after a week of harried, hurried wedding preparations. I sat there clipping the lavender and sticking them in the jars until each one was just how I wanted. When dawn began to break, I crept into bed and got a few hours’ sleep before the day-before-the wedding preparations began.

6. Do not attempt to harvest tons of lavender bare-handed when there are a bunch of bees. You will get stung on the palm of your hand and then by wedding day it will be all itchy.

7. If somebody tells you that baby wipes will take care of the dirt marks on your Melissa Sweet double-faced satin gown don’t listen to them. They don’t do anything, actually.

8. Also, if somebody tells you that putting antiperspirent on your thighs and behind your knees will help prevent sweat on an 86 degree day underneath several layers of tulle and satin — it doesn’t.

9. If you have a DOC who is not doing all that you’d hoped/discussed, don’t forget to mention to her to fix it. At the time, I was more concentrated on having fun, but I WISH I had asked her to do things like clean up the random sticks/trash/empty boxes scattered over by the bar area, and trim the plastic flowing out of the rowboat ice holder:

I saw that and minutes before I walked down the aisle, I ran behind and opened up my screens behind the bar to try and hide the mess, haha:

Aluminum rowboat, filled with ice containing beer…

… was supposed to look cute, but ended up with the clear plastic spilling out over the edges uncut looking hideous (See far right of photo):

Personal Photo

So hideous my pro photographer tactfully avoided taking any photos of it. Sigh. I wish I hadn’t listened to the DOC who said to line it in plastic, and wish I had just left it with the ice and beer alone in the clean rowboat instead. She said it was a health safety hazard that way. Pppppppfffft. Is what I say to that. Whatever. I’d cleaned it. It would have been just fine with the ice and closed cans of beer alone. It’s not like I was putting hors d’oeuvres on ice in there.

10. If the idea of being in front of a crowd makes you very nervous, you may be surprised on your wedding day. I wasn’t nervous in the slightest. I was afraid I would sweat in my armpits. I didn’t. You’ll amaze yourself.

11. If you make a huge, detailed timeline for your helpers outlining what they can help out with, and email it to them, and verify that they received that email, take the extra step to make sure you talk with them about it all in person, too. Because chances are, they might not read it and thus not be there at 3 p.m. as planned to help out. They might show up at 5:30 instead. Still others will pleasantly surprise you and totally go the extra mile, like my rocking MIL, and sisters-in-laws who put out the flowers despite a coordinator barking at them not to, and who helped make these lovely boutonnieres:

Be ready to roll with it all.

12. Make sure your DOC is totally OK with “rolling with it.” Otherwise, due to #11, your DOC might be the one who unexpectedly ends up having to put all the plates, napkins and glassware out on the tables (unfortunately while acting “put out”). Also, make sure that DOC understands you when you tell her numerous times prior to the wedding that she can put the flowers out on the tables starting at 4 p.m., because otherwise she might yell at your MIL and SIL’s — at 5:30 p.m. when all the guests are already there — that they can’t be put out until 6 p.m. because they might wilt?!? Um, no they won’t. And furthermore, so freakin’ what if they do! It’s better to have flowers out on the tables when you want them out there rather than no flowers at all. Thank you, MIL and SIL’s, for putting them out despite her yelling at you!!!

13. If your totally awesome band you booked seems to be the slightest bit confused/apprehensive about also being the ones to make all the announcements/MC’ing your event, don’t expect them to somehow miraculously be on the ball with said announcements on the day of the wedding. They’ll probably welcome your guests to the incorrect location (Napa instead of Lake County) then nearly drop an f-bomb into the microphone when the guests shout out the correct location… among other announcement goofs. ;p

14. When you talk to your parents about giving a toast and they agree, try asking them what they plan on saying, otherwise your mom might get up to the microphone and — in order to prevent your dad from making a completely inappropriate joke as he is known to do — grab the mic from him and thank everyone for coming in fewer than five words and go sit back down again.

Well-meaning, loving, yet exceedingly brief toast-giving parents.

15. Put all wedding items/decorations in marked boxes with lids on them. Putting things in marked boxes without lids is dangerous. All the lidded-boxes with stuff in them resulted in items being safe. All the un-lidded boxes with stuff in them resulted in items walking off and getting lost. Even 10 large white linen hemstitched table runners from Pottery Barn *sniff* placed in an un-lidded box mysteriously disappeared into thin air never to be seen again. Don’t underestimate the ability of large items to dematerialize. Better yet, keep all boxes of items in a locked room until it’s time to set them out on the tables.

16. Be prepared that you might spend a million hours making 200 lace-covered glass pillar candle holders, but only about 60 of them get put out on the tables. If that happens, maybe don’t just “roll with it.” Maybe consider taking them out yourself or getting someone to take them out and put them on the tables at nightfall, otherwise you’ll still be a little bit bitter about the whole dealy-bob eight months after your wedding ;p

17. Condensation and paper goods do not mix well:

Before:

After:

18. Remember to provide ample lighting for your caterer in their little catering tent set up. Oops. Sorry, Julie!!!

19. Inform caterer/day-of coordinator to plug the 100-cup coffee maker into separate outlet than the same one running the lights, otherwise all the lights might go out for a few minutes.

20. Thank your husband when he’s the one who remembers to grab one of the long lighters to make sure all the piller candles throughout the property and tables get lit, even though you paid the day-of-coordinator, and the caterers’ staff extra to do it (tsk tsk, forgetful wedding staffers!).

And there you have it!

SHORT VERSION OF THE ABOVE: Make damn well sure you communicate, communicate, and over-communicate with all your helpers/coordinators about what you want done and how you want stuff set out. Even if you communicate, and get it in writing and hire an expensive and good-Yelp-reviewed day-of coordinator, not all your !@#$ will get set out or performed to your specifications. Let it go. Or hold on to it, bottled deep inside, and then write a long-ass blog post about it eight months later.

EVEN SHORTER VERSION OF THE ABOVE: Not all of your wedding !@#$ will get set out. Let it go. Or do something to fix it.

Next up, back to the regularly scheduled recaps. If you’d care to catch up, please check out:

A Lakeside Storybook Wedding
A Lakeside Storybook Wedding: Leading Up

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Elegant, Gold and Red Wedding

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I’m so excited I get to design an inspiration board and buying guide with an elegant, sophisticated feel to it for my friend and his beautiful bride-to-be! The wedding will be held on the San Gabriel Hilton rooftop underneath a GORGEOUS white gazebo with city skyline views.

The color palette is primarily traditional Chinese wedding colors of gold and red. The bride also loves cherry blossoms, so I’ve carried the delicate pink of cherry blossoms throughout the design.

Here is an inspiration board and buying guide I created for the happy couple!

Here’s how to pull off this look while still sticking to your budget:

Manzanita Trees

1. Make the Manzanita tree centerpieces yourself. California — and indeed many Western states — have abundant Manzanita. Drive out into the country a bit and you’ll see some! Trim the trees of any leaves, wipe down the branches, and finish with some matte or metallic gold spray paint.

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While you have the spray paint handy, another inspiring centerpiece idea would be to spray paint regular wine bottles and use them throughout the venue as vases:

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Reception Decor

2. Vintage keys hanging from Manzanita branches are another look the bride loves. Find keys to decorate escort cards from Etsy or eBay.

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You could also create an amazing wedding favor by tying a vintage key to just about any keepsake or leaving it by itself for guests to use as an ornament.

Try working the vintage key theme into other aspects of your wedding:

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Wedding Favor Ideas

3. Since the couple are in need of some other wedding favor inspiration, I came up with these very usable options guests would enjoy:

Soaps in a cherry blossom scent, from the always-elegant L’Occitane

Another cherry blossom soap favor idea:

A bottle of wine with a personalized label:

Remember, this doesn’t have to be an uber-expensive gift. It could be a special favor to give to family members only. Also, many guests will neglect to take favors, so you may not even need a bottle for each guest. Another idea to cut costs is to leave a bottle of wine for each couple attending your wedding (and of course each single, above-21-years-old guest!) Get thee to BevMo quick! They’re having their 5 cent sale. 🙂

A cherry blossom candle:

Or how about something tasty as a favor? Edible favors are always a big hit! You won’t have to worry about left-behind favors with these ideas.

Try cupcakes or cookies decorated with the same cherry blossom motif:

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Petal shaped cookies. Yum! And SO totally unique.

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For an even more low-cost favor, try slipping a home-baked cookie into a simple favor box or cellophane wrapper and decorating it with a personalized label

or personalized tags!

Ceremony Site Decor

4. The ceremony gazebo would look amazing either draped in florals, or with hundreds of origami cranes:

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Pick up some lovely red and gold origami paper and do the folding yourself. Hey, if even I could figure it out after a few shots, I bet anybody could!

Another lovely look would be ribbons and origami cranes, together:

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I envision the gazebo’s white columns flanked in rich, red organza fabric, with a border arrangement of flowers along the top, and streams of ribbons and origami cranes making up a backdrop behind the bride and groom. I sort of picture it like this, but imagine the appropriate colors instead of green, and cranes and ribbons instead of crystals:

Source: Designs by Hemingway, LLC

Underneath the gazebo, the table holding unity candles or other ceremony items could be decorated like this:

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And finally, for that total “wow” factor that only costs a couple hundred bucks, order rose petals from your florist and have a creative, artistic friend scatter them down the aisle in a beautiful design:

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And there you have it! An elegant, red and gold wedding for the lovely bride and groom! Good luck planning, my friends, I know it’s going to be simply gorgeous!

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Make 3 Centerpieces from a Trader Joe’s Bouquet

Right now at Trader Joe’s in the flower section you’ll find peonies in rich pink hues and whites, as well as gorgeous $10 bouquets filled with festive boughs, pine cones, berries and chrysanthemums. By the way, I don’t need to spell check that last one thanks to Anne of Green Gables… (Leave a comment below if you know what I’m talking about!)

I grabbed one such bouquet intent on stretching it as far as it could go — as arrangements for a 15-person winter baby shower last weekend, and after they’d served their purpose there, as centerpieces to last through my husband’s and my holiday entertaining.

While the baby shower pics are coming soon, I promise, in the meantime I wanted to share how the centerpieces are holding up a week later, and go over how I whipped them up.

Excuse my poor photography skills. And excuse my rudimentary backdrop of gold curtains perforated with holes (courtesy of my cat, Tigerlily).

Without further adieu, here are my three centerpieces:

The pine-cone-on-a-stick came in the bouquet!

I used cheap rectangular and square vases from a florists’ store I picked up in downtown L.A. back when planning my own wedding. They come in handy these days for other parties and for centerpieces like these where the flowers need to take center stage.

Just a tip on arranging without using florists’ foam: hold each stem up to the vase in the position and angle you want to place it to cut it to the appropriate length. Use stems woven through and against each other for support as you build each arrangement starting with the largest blooms and ending with the tiny grasses and lightweight flowers, such as the snapdragons.

I would like to note that since this photo session, my cat has eaten all of the grasses. Seriously, they are now stubs.

And the third arrangement. Love the hypericum berries.

Except for maybe the white roses (can’t really see them in these shots–sorry), I’m counting on these flowers lasting me through Christmas. If you want to try what I did, just snip the bottoms of the stems when you first arrange them, and change the water every couple of days. Add a drop of 7-up or flower food to the water. And use room-temp water instead of cold. They like it more. Don’t ask me why. Just do it. (Says the UCCE Master Gardener who should totally remember why they like it, but doesn’t at all.)

Next up for the new year are some of those glorious Trader Joe’s peonies!

Stay tuned for baby shower coverage as well as some Christmas-y posts on holiday table-top decorating, and a festive DIY project I’m soo-oo-ho-ho-ho excited to try out this weekend!

Have you gone to town with one of those extremely gorgeous bouquets from Trader Joe’s, stretching it into several centerpieces for your home or table?

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How to Make Birch-Covered Vases

I first fell in love with the concept of birch vases when I saw  Beth Helmstetter’s design:

These photos by Jose Villa are incredible, and I swooned for birch!

I mean, look:

How gorgeous, right?!

This wedding is one of my favorites. I’ve also copied Beth’s lace-covered candles from this wedding:

Mine aren’t quite as gorgeous, but it was such a rewarding DIY project, that I highly recommend it!

My quick table mock up, with candles, birch vases, and white hem-stitch table runners on clearance for $19 each from Pottery Barn (waaay cheaper than even renting long table runners from the linen rental companies):

And another:

Photos above by Tanja Lippert.

Anyway, let’s get down to the birch vase tutorial. First, collect your birch bark. I got mine used from a bride who didn’t need them anymore.

Then I found a bunch more at Pottery Barn on clearance. They had them the past two winters, so maybe they’ll have them again next winter.

Chances are, some of the birch cylinders won’t be the right size you want them to be. If that’s the case, measure your “inside” vase–it can be a jar or simple old can from your kitchen, since it will be hidden, and measure how large you’ll need your birch cylinder to be, allowing for about a 2-inch overlapping seam of bark.

Here are my Pottery Barn cylinders and my tools: scissors, a pencil, and a ruler:

The cylinders were way too big, so I pried them apart at the seams (they had been hot glued together at the seams).

I then measured and cut them to the size I needed. Some of them were funkily-made with several “seams” and sections of bark forming one cylinder. I want only one seam so I can position the cylinders in pairs on the tables with the seams pointing in to each other so they’re hidden.

Here’s a picture of a PB birch cylinder cut in half, showing the funky extra pieces Pottery Barn had used to make them larger. I simply pulled those off.

Then I measured, traced a cutting line in pencil, and used scissors to cut the bark. Depending on how thick your bark is, you might want to use heavier shears or cutting tools. I used a utility knife once to start the cut, but I don’t recommend doing that! The utilitly knife was way too flimsy for the thick bark.

Now you’re ready to put ’em back together again!

I got a couple balls of twine and rafia ready, plugged in my hot glue gun, and started putting them back together again.

Some of the bark pieces weren’t very flexible, so I soaked them in the bathtub for an hour, which I found made it easier to bend the bark.

Step 1:

I held the cylinder together the size I wanted it, making sure the seam overlapped about a couple of inches so I’d have room to hot glue it securely. I then traced a line in pencil, as you can see in this picture, so I knew where exactly to apply hot glue. This also helped me create a perfectly straight seam in the haste of trying to quickly apply hot glue and then put the cylinder together before it dried on me!

Step 2:

I applied hot glue quickly and liberally. This was hard, because I needed to stop in the middle each time and add another hot glue stick into the glue gun. I used a lot of glue! About one stick for each cylinder! You might find you need more or less, depending on how large your cylinders are.

Step 3:

I held it together as tightly as possible while the glue dried.

I found this technique of smashing it down on the table using my palms worked pretty well:

I used both palms, for the record. (I had to remove one hand to take a picture!) Oh, if you’re wondering what that cardboard cylinder is on the inside, it came with the Pottery Barn cylinders, and for this particular vase, I was only shortening the length, not the circumference, so I decided to stick the cardboard cylinder inside for extra support.

Step 4:

I tied it in twine, to secure it. I’ll remove the twine before the wedding.

 

Have you used birch in your wedding? What did you make or buy that was birch?

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