Monday, December 22, 2014

Mother of the Bride, Part 3- The Winter Wedding Comes Together

This wedding became real to me months before the actual occasion, but not in the way many do for the mother of the bride. I was not in charge of picking out everything or paying for everything, thank goodness. But, my daughter had entrusted me with a precious task, which was to design the flowers, and to design the layout of the wedding site in general. For me, once I put pen to paper to design and invest my creative energy, that's when it started to get real. The funny thing is that my daughter completely understands this, because she is also an artist. She is also brilliant, because she knew this would keep her emotional mom busy and therefore less likely to worry about everything!

I began the flower design by researching what kinds of flowers are available in winter. My daughter's wedding would be held at Autrey Mill Nature Preserve just north of Atlanta, Georgia, on Dec. 13th. There are historic buildings on site, including a  historic chapel built in the 1800's, where the ceremony would take place. For the flowers, she wanted mostly greens, and only white flowers.

Because of my earlier research on birth flowers, I already knew that her birth flower was the chrysanthemum, and that the flower had a lot of significance in Japan, which is where half of her heritage lies. So, the chrysanthemum was a natural pick for part of the arrangements. However, neither one of us liked the "Spider mums", and I didn't really care for the little button mums for a wedding- too common. My early research online led me to what was called "incurve mums". Later I found that this term was pretty broad, and I had to narrow it down.

For my daughter's bouquet, I wanted to go with all white to set her apart, no winter greens, and a really special, delicate flower. I thought about Lily of the Valley as a traditional sweet-smelling wedding flower, but later found out that each one of those little stems would cost about five dollars and we probably needed 50. So, plan B... I saw something online about freesia, a flower that I had in my wedding bouquet years ago. It was a bit pricey, but well worth it for the beauty. I figured that we weren't paying a lot for the rest of the flowers, so we could splurge for the bride.

I decided to use the mums for the bridesmaids and the table centerpieces, and the freesia for the bride. I also added in some white roses in the design for the bridal bouquet. 

The other really special flower I found was called "Star of Bethlehem", which comes out for winter. I really loved the symbolic significance as well as the design, and decided to use them for the bride, bridesmaids, church pews, and groomsmen's boutonnieres. The groom would have a freesia.

The last little addition to the design during the drawing stage were the pussy willows. I love this winter reed, and my daughter went nuts when they actually appeared to us. We are both bunny lovers, and she said the soft buds felt like bunny tails. I decided in designing that they would add a lovely whimsy to the arrangements, and I was really right.

After the drawings were done, I discussed everything with the florist who would help me order the flowers.

Luckily, we had been referred to Tucker Flower Shop in Tucker, Georgia. The consultant who was ordering the flowers for me was unbelievable, both with his knowledge, design sense, and his ability to relate to my vision. He and I hit it off just about from the start. And it didn't hurt that he was crazy about all things Japanese. He did a lot of research on all of the flowers, and we settled on white "football" mums- they gave us the most bang for the buck, and they were gorgeous.

We had to go through the "greens", because I decided that there were some leaves there that weren't your typical "Christmas" greens, that I wanted.  I really wanted to add some juniper, because of the gorgeous blue-colored berries. Something told me to do that, and as I did, I remembered that I used to use Juniper a lot for our Advent Wreath at home- my candles were always 3 deep blue and one purple. I don't even know if it was a coincidence that this came together during the Advent season, as it has been years since I set up that wreath. But it was really a pretty combination, especially in the woods.

Juniper- a whole case!

Lastly, we added a whitish green plant called "dusty miller", a purplish leaf called Agonis,  and a fluffy fern called"plumosa", all which the florist had identified from a photo of a bouquet that my daughter liked.

Agonis (above) and Dusty Miller

Tree fern (shiny, above left), and Plumosa (or "Asparagus fern")

We picked up the flowers the morning of the Thursday before the Saturday wedding, and all that day was focused on the centerpieces first and then the bouquets. I figured I'd wait til Friday for the boutonnieres since once they were done, I couldn't have them in water.

Loading up the car

Luckily I had the help of a couple of her bridesmaids for part of the time, and her future mother- and father- in law were so gracious in letting me use their basement for everything. They helped me place everything in buckets and trim the ends of all of the flowers and greens, including cutting up the greens themselves into workable pieces. This was saying a lot, especially for the juniper.

 Juniper and Pussy Willow

We placed the Freesia and Star of Bethlehem inside though, since those flowers needed to open a little before the wedding, so they would have to be in warm, or at least room-temp water. When all that was left were the bride's flowers in that bucket after making the arrangements, I placed them in a vase and waited until the last moment to put them together for the bouquet.

My daughter had bought mason jars with candles inside for the centerpieces, so I decided to go with some pie plates to place the jars, and surround them with floral foam to build the centerpieces. We soaked them all outside and brought them in one by one as we worked. All of the greens we separated first and laid in piles so they'd be easy to pull from. I also separated the greens in a separate area that would go into the bouquets from those that would go into the centerpieces to make sure we had enough. The pussy willows had to be cut in sections carefully so I'd have enough for all of the centerpieces, bouquets and boutonnieres (for those, I used the very tender tips). 

I started the arrangements with the mums, then added the juniper since it was a little tricky to work with, filled in with the rest of the greens and added the pussy willow last.  Once we were done with the centerpieces they went outside because the temp outside was close to the perfect 38 deg. temp for the flowers- later we placed them in the garage so they wouldn't freeze overnight.

 The bouquets came next, and thankfully there were only four bridesmaids because I was wiped out by then! They contained the same as the centeripieces- 2 mums each, cedar, pine, fir, juniper, agonis, pussy willow, and for these also I added the star of bethlehem.

Next I made the flowers that would go on the church pews- these had the Star of Bethlehem, Agonis, Cedar, Pine, Fir, and Juniper. I used the Dusty Miller mostly for these, because their stems ended up being too short for the bouquet designs and they were too delicate for rooting too much into the centerpieces.

Thursday night, I still had to finish up my daughter's hem (which I described in the previous post), so the flowers sort of came to a halt. The next morning I was up at it again making the boutonnieres, and I snuck in time after the rehearsal dinner that night to finish tying bows on all of the bouquets. And at the last minute, the bride's freesia was opening up beautifully, and late Friday night I put my daughter's beautiful bouquet together for her.
Bride's bouquet- Freesia, Star of Bethlehem, White Roses ("Eskimo"variety)

 Groomsmen boutonnieres (above) with Star of Bethlehem, juniper, pussy willow and plumosa fern.
Groom's boutonniere (below) with freesia and plumosa fern

Groomsmen boutonnieres

 Planning the site...

I laid out the reception plan in terms of the tables we would need to seat the guests- I had done a preliminary plan, but once I was up there for the wedding and we had a final count, it was time to put pen to paper again.  It was fun to figure out where people would be and to envision making s'mores at a bonfire, tended to by an eagle scout who had made the fire pit for the site. We took a trip out to Autrey Mill the first day that I arrived so that I could get final measurements. I was having so much fun I broke their tape measure in the process! OOPS!

One of the visions that I originally had for the wedding at the very start were for making the traditional wedding cranes.  In our family, many times for weddings we traditionally fold 1,001 paper cranes, which is an old Japanese tradition, to wish the bride and groom health and a long, happy life together. From the moment I first saw the site months before the wedding, I knew that a tree near the pavilion where the reception would be held would be the perfect place for those cranes. I could just see them hanging there in the breeze. I wasn't sure if it would really happen, but all I had to do was say the word, and my sister-in-law went to work on half of them, with the rest made by bridesmaids, friends, myself, and my daughter.

My daughter strung the cranes on fishing line, 40 strings in all, 25 cranes per string, with one having 26. In-between she placed a cut piece of plastic straw to separate them a bit. I had the idea of tying the strings end to end so that the strands could be just hung over the big branches and we didn't have to tie anything or actually attach them to the tree in any way. In the end, I wasn't sure if hanging those strings of cranes was feasible, but the guys got it done, and it looked absolutely spectacular. I planned to place the cake table and sweetheart table under them so that the bride and groom could be framed by them. It was so magical to see them flowing with the wind.

After all was done, I really didn't even believe all that had happened. But I am so incredibly grateful to have been such an integral part of my baby girl's wedding, and it's something we'll always share.


  1. First - everything is so beautiful! Second - I have no idea how you had time to do everything. :) Congratulations to your family!

    1. Thank you Cathy! And I don't know how I had time to do everything either!! Closest I can explain it has something to do with how I had time to do everything when she was little- A lot of blood sweat and tears, and most of all love! :D