The Insider

My bridesmaid bouquet, the day after

Sometimes, I think it’s easier to tell a story when one isn’t directly involved in the events that unfolded. Then again, sometimes it’s easier to tell a story when it’s specifically your story to tell. When it comes to Leah and Simon‘s wedding, I’m somewhere in between those two poles, as obviously I wasn’t one of the people getting married, but at the same time I was a big part of the process from start to finish.

We were getting ready to leave for California the day Meg at A Practical Wedding wrote this post. I was taking a break from packing to look at the internet, and as soon as I read that post I knew exactly who Meg was talking about. I knew Leah had been to the Mighty Summit, and I knew there could not possibly be another person there who fit the description. I sent Meg an email, and she confirmed it, and I got all excited about it. When we got to California, I wrote a long email to Meg as a potential submission to her site, all about Leah and Simon and everything they had done for us for our wedding (and my sister’s!) and why they deserved an awesome wedding themselves, but then she never posted it. 😦 She did post this, though, so when we saw Leah and Simon that week for an event in San Francisco we got all chatty about wedding stuff. I immediately offered to do the flowers for the wedding, in addition to anything else they might need help with, but at that point details were still pretty nebulous as they needed a date and a venue before they could do too much more planning.

Weeks went by, and turned into months. I started helping Leah and Simon look for a venue, as other connections didn’t seem to be panning out for them. After the date of the Royal wedding was announced, Simon’s UK family let him know they could only come out for a visit during that time, and so the general dates started to be set. They came up here to look at a potential venue in January, but ultimately decided to go with a place in Berkeley (the same choice I would have made, if it had been my event.) Their details started to come together, and I looked forward to hearing more specifics about what they wanted for flower types and colors, and any other details they wanted to share.

* * * * * * * *

After getting some idea of the direction L&S wanted to go with their flowers, I started brainstorming. Yellow, white, structured, lemons, chili peppers. Whiskey bottles, mason jars, baby food jars. Red and white baker’s twine. Daisies, dahlias, nothing fluffy or fussy. I’m going to write a big long post about it on my Green Snapdragon blog (with photos, of course!), so I won’t get too into it here. But I will say that my experiments involved fishing line and weights, and getting sawdust in my bra, and scrambling up a hillside covered in poison oak while wearing flip flops.

* * * * * * * *

In March, Leah asked me to stand up with her at the wedding. On her blog! I was super surprised! It felt like a birthday present, because she posted it the day after my birthday. I borrowed two dresses from my sister, found pretty red shoes, and decided on which dress to wear. Details started to come together more, and I planned a bachelorette party, and I spent time with Leah and Wombat at their house while Dan attended Simon’s bachelor party. We looked at photos of flowers and talked about all things wedding and it felt really nice to have a just us girls time once Wombat went to bed. (I read him two stories, and we laughed, and he gave me lots of hugs.) A few days later, I got a long email about flower specifics, and plans began to solidify. I did one last experiment (again, with the fishing line, but for a different project) and knew exactly what I’d be doing once I got all the various jars and vases and baskets and containers from Leah and Simon during flower prep time.

* * * * * * * *

On Thursday, we packed everything we’d need to be gone for several days, and I sent my friend Karen a note on FB reiterating details we’d talked about when she and her husband came for dinner on Wednesday night. Unfortunately, the instructions were more specific than we were expecting, because (another blog post, another story) we’ve currently got a stray nursing mama cat in our garage that Feline Rescue asked if we’d feed until the babies are big enough to be weaned and mama can be caught and fixed. I went around the yard and picked flowers to leave for my sister’s roommate (my sister left for Ireland, and we were staying in their place until the roommate came home) and also picked a ton of little white flowers blooming on a weed, because I knew they’d fit in with everything else I was going to be doing for the wedding and hey, it was one less thing I’d have to buy. We drove south, leaving a bit later than we’d planned, and headed straight for West Oakland BART. Because oh yeah, we were going to a concert for Dan’s (early) birthday! (Also, another blog post.)

After the concert, we picked up the key to my sister’s house from my other sister and settled in at Laurel’s house.

Friday morning, we drove to San Francisco and I wandered the San Francisco Flower Mart, comparing prices and yelling random things to Dan while he struggled to understand and write everything down on a clipboard. Unlike my last sojourn to the Mart, when I just started buying randomly, this time I made myself look at all of my options before I began to buy. Leah had Very Specific ideas about flower types and colors and I wanted to make sure I could get enough of everything I needed while still fitting into her parameters. The problem with lacking a badge (which I can’t get until I get my business license) is that you have to go after 10 AM, when most of the sellers have closed up, and the longer you stay, the more of them begin to close. So I really was working under a time constraint. Luckily, I managed to find almost everything I needed. We left the city and drove to Berkeley, where I bought chili peppers (and we got a $43 parking ticket!!! because we didn’t see the parking kiosk half a block down the street), and we used the crappy $tarbucks internet to get directions to the Oakland Flower Mart. We went to Michaels where I found ribbon and got the glue gun and some other stuff I needed, and we went to Home Depot because I felt like Michaels was asking too much for Plaster of Paris. (More on that in my Green Snapdragon post.) I got the last few things I needed at the Oakland Flower Mart, and we drove, car full of flowers and craft supplies, to my sister’s house. I immediately started in on my first project, pomanders, and ran out of yellow button mums far sooner than I expected to. So we went to Trader Joe’s and I got more. After the pomanders were finished, I made garlands for the manzanita branch while we watched Fringe and then The Hangover (which wasn’t nearly as funny as people had led me to believe). Then we went to bed. I was really tired.

Saturday, I was awake before 8AM because I knew there was a lot to do. We repacked and cleaned and organized and I consolidated all the flowers down into two very full buckets and we managed to get everything (all our luggage, pillows, sleeping bags, flowers, huge manzanita branch, etc.) including the two of us into the car, and we drove to Brian’s house, who had generously offered to let me use his kitchen to work the rest of my flower magic. He and his roommates all did stuff around me while I made two identical bridal bouquets, a bridesmaid bouquet, a break-apart toss bouquet, and made boutonnieres for Simon and Wombat so they’d have them for the special photo shoot on Saturday afternoon. Then, piece by piece, I did everything else. I worked from about 11 to 6:30 with maybe around 15 minutes of break in there. I shooed away curious kittens and I drank some mead and I ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich that Dan made me once he came back from buying shoes in San Francisco. I was particularly pleased with how the large arrangements turned out – one with wired lemons in the arrangement and floating chili peppers, the other with wired chili peppers and floating sliced lemons. I set aside flowers for decorating the cake and for the other personal flowers (boutonnieres and corsages for family and the officiant), hoping that someone would notice the theme I had decided to use. I tied bits of red and white twine along with basic brown twine around mason jars, added water to the bourbon bottles, and packaged everything up for transport. We changed and left for the rehearsal dinner, and spent a couple of hours visiting with Leah and Simon’s out-of-town friends and family, hugging Heather B., eating pizza, meeting Leah’s boss (also their officiant), and getting last minute instructions for Sunday’s events. When we got back to Brian’s, I finished everything but the last few corsages and bouts, cleaned up the majority of my mess, and went to bed.

Taken by Brian in his kitchen

Sunday I woke up at 7 AM, and went in the cold kitchen to finish the last bits of everything. I put the personal flowers in the refrigerator, ironed my dress, washed out a filthy old compost tub in which to transport the two large arrangements, and we packed the car. I wasn’t sure whether or not we’d need to borrow Brian’s car, but with all of our luggage in the house, we managed to fit everything in – with me in the back seat, holding a bucket of flowers, bouquets in pickle jars on the seat next to me, my leg over the manzanita branch. Luckily, it wasn’t a far drive to the venue. We got there a few minutes early and unloaded the car as soon as the doors were unlocked. Dan left to get ice and cat litter (again, more on that in the Green Snapdragon post) and food, since I hadn’t yet eaten anything. I stayed to help unload linens and glassware and living room furniture and pvc posts in concrete and cases of beer and everything else that people hauled in cars and trucks and a giant van. Sara and Ron came, Sara with her hair done up in curlers and bright red toes. It felt like an army of people had all come to help set up. We unstacked and moved chairs, unfolded tables, rearranged the room, covered everything in linens, and people began setting up the decorations while I got to to work on the flowers. I wasn’t sure until we got there where everything would go or how I’d arrange it all because I’d never seen the space, but I settled on something I liked that involved multiples of each thing in the center of the table, over a runner and a snar we’d brought, leftover from our wedding 3 years ago. Flowers went into bourbon bottles. Flowers and pomanders went on the kids’ table. Dan helped with my manzanita branch project, pouring the cat litter into the large heavy urn while I held the branch in place, and together we moved it to the drinks table. I set everything up with lemons, and I tied the mum garlands to the branches, and it all came together exactly the way I had it in my head. I ate a donut and an odwalla bar before I went beyond the Point of No Return Unfed MLE.

We were told that the army of people helping would only have an hour to completely transform the space, but they let us work for an hour and a half. When we finished, it looked amazing. I gave myself a mental high-five, and we left to meet Brian for lunch at an Ethiopian place in Oakland (my treat) as a thanks for letting me take over his kitchen for a day and a half. We were both still pretty stressed; neither of us had showered in the morning because Brian was asleep and we didn’t know if there were clean towels, and Dan had to sew some buttons on his pants to be able to wear suspenders, and I still had to do hair and makeup and at the very least look presentable because I was standing up in the wedding. Lunch finished, we rushed back to the house, took showers, got ready, and were back at the venue at 3:30 PM exactly, me to assemble and decorate the cake, Dan to take photos of the flowers that he hadn’t managed to get during setup because both of our cameras were having battery issues.

When we got to the venue, Kristin and Scott were there with the cake, and we set it up. Serendipitously, I had exactly enough ribbon leftover from bouquets to decorate the layers, and I used the last of the flowers to make it look pretty. People began to arrive right away, and everyone looked so pretty. Amber was in green, and Holly was in yellow, and Heather B was wearing this awesome corsage. Will and Nina came in and I squee’d a little in my head and we introduced ourselves and I gave them hugs, and Will and Dan bonded over their bow ties. I met Meg and David, and Carla, and hugged our friend Dan (the Irish German! for those who have been reading this blog forever) and Jackie when they came in. Sara was the prettiest girl in the room (until Leah walked in in her dress, of course) because she MADE HER DRESS AND IT WAS TOTALLY FABULOUS AND AMAZING. Like, I desperately wish I’d gotten a photo of it because I cannot even describe how awesome it was.

* * * * * *
I had my baggie of personal flowers and I sought out the grandmothers and the moms, the dad and the groom and the best man and the officiant. And the wombat. And I pinned a posy to each breast, my own little stamp of approval on the festivities. One of the things I like best about doing flowers for a wedding is the opportunity to make personal flowers. Everyone in Leah’s family got daisies, her mom with white and yellow like Leah’s bouquet, with a butter-colored freesia, her dad’s boutonniere tied with red and white string. The groom and groomsman got craspedia (and wire fiddleheads, and brown twine). Simon’s mom got yellow mums and freesias. And Wombat got craspedia, a white/yellow button mum, two tiny daisy-like feverfew, and a red and white twine wrapping – a perfect blending of both the families.

* * * * * *

This is when I discuss the thing about worlds colliding. At this wedding of Leah and Simon were two of my friends from high school who knew Leah and Simon through us, having become friends because of everyone attending parties or events we’ve had (Sara and the Irish German and their respective partners). At this wedding was my college boyfriend’s ex girlfriend (the one he dated for nearly 10 years after he dated me), who is now in a band with Simon because they met at a party we had at the Irish German’s house a year ago last Christmas (my ex was the Irish German’s roommate for a while) and talked music. At this wedding were bloggers I’ve read (stalked) for years, and it was pretty much blowing my mind how so many of my worlds were all coming together at the same time. I wasn’t even this mindblown at our own wedding, because I knew exactly who was coming and how they all related to me. But to be in a room and talking to Will and Nina and then 10 feet away was Sara who I’ve known since 10th grade and on the other side of the room was my college boyfriend’s ex, and at the next table was a super high profile wedding blogger – there’s just no way to explain the way I felt. Mostly it made me feel like I wanted the cocktail hour to go on forever and ever, just to get a chance to talk to everyone for longer than a few minutes. So here’s where I thank Leah and Simon for having a wedding and inviting these people because never again in my life will so many of my worlds be colliding at once. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

* * * * * * *

During the ceremony, I stood in my red dress and watched while Leah’s boss said exactly the right words. I held Leah’s bouquet of yellow and white daisies while she said her vows to Simon. I laughed and I cheered and I may have even cried a teeny-tiny bit. The beautiful words everyone said made me feel all squishy and reminiscing about my own wedding, and I looked at Dan standing in the back of the room. Everyone’s faces were full of joy, which is the best part of getting to stand up in a wedding – seeing the faces of the bride and groom’s communities, everyone so happy to be able to witness such a deeply personal and meaningful event. We raised our voices to signify our approval of the union of Leah and Simon, Wombat cheering along with the rest of the guests in the front row.

* * * * * *

We did formal photos, after the ceremony, and I helped wrangle Wombat who wanted nothing more than to be chased halfway down the street and back, over and over again. There were family photos, and Original Wedding Party (ie, their book club) photos, and some with me in them. I hugged my friend and smiled for the camera and wished there was some way I could convey in the photos how happy I was for her and for her husband and for their child, that they’d finally done it, all the years of everything they’d been through culminating in this day of community and family and love. The taco truck pulled up, and after that everything was tacos and burritos and drinking and cheese and dancing and chatting and laughing and flowers everywhere, flowers I made to help transform the space to be THEIR space, if only for a few hours. Little kids were squawking and chasing and bunny ears and tossing the pomanders I’d made. The best man and I gave speeches and toasted the happy couple. I tried my best to be present, to be involved in everything all at once, to talk to everyone I knew and some people I didn’t, while my feet grew more sore (brand new shoes and months without wearing heels). I danced with the groom. I got a couple of tacos and had champagne. I was trying to open a bottle when Leah and Simon cut their cake. I missed the age-old tradition of them feeding one another, but the pop of the cork came at exactly the right time, and people cheered. I managed to only pee once, because wrangling with the spanx and a strapless dress was not the most fun thing I’d ever done.

Slowly, people left. I hugged everyone I knew goodbye, promised to exchange information with some. I held the baby and she chewed on my hand. I danced with my husband one last time, slow, with my head on his chest. And then, Simon put on an apron and the rest of us got to work breaking everything down, taking down decorations, giving away flowers, clearing everything away, stacking chairs, folding tables. Vehicles got loaded. We put all the gifts in our car, and the leftover food that needed refrigeration. We cleaned and we organized and we packed and in such a short time, so fleeting, the room was as it had been when we’d arrived at 11 AM. Simon mopped the floor in his apron, and we left, hugging Sara and Ron goodbye, car full of presents and supplies and leftover cake, and we drove it over to Leah and Simon’s house and unloaded everything and went to bed.

* * * * * *

I felt the same way after Leah and Simon’s wedding that I did after ours and after Lissa and Curtis’s wedding. Maybe it’s just something that comes with being in a wedding (as minimal as my role as stand-up girl really was, which solely consisted of literally standing up for a few minutes, holding a bouquet, posing for photos, and giving a 3 minute speech) AND doing flowers for the wedding. Or maybe it’s that those are the three weddings at which I’ve known the most people and felt pulled in so many different directions. Yesterday, my aching feet just added to the bone-weary fatigue I already felt, the feeling of having had all of my energy drained the day before – my vendor energy and my friend energy and my extrovert energy and my set-up and clean-up energy. I felt like an empty shell, with the added letdown like you get when you’re a kid and it’s the day after Christmas. I’ve been looking forward to Leah and Simon’s wedding day for years, and while I had no idea the role(s) I’d play in it, it was still like Christmas.

So there you have it, for anyone reading this who wasn’t at Leah and Simon’s wedding. It was like Christmas and a birthday and a giant party all rolled up into one. Thank you again, my friends, for letting me be a part of something so personal and special and fun. I hope it was everything the two of you wanted it to be.

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5 responses to “The Insider

  1. I think it’s pretty obvious that we couldn’t have pulled the day together without the two of you, but even more than that, it wouldn’t have been as fun and beautiful and full of smiles and good people had you not, first, been a part of our lives and, second, been such an integral part of the wedding. So, yeah, we pretty much have to be friends forever now, whether you like it or not. 🙂 You guys are THE BEST.

  2. It was a wonderful day and all your hard work did not go unnoticed. To paraphrase the groom: if you don’t get hired for 10 weddings after this, there’s something wrong with the world!

    (And you are too sweet about my dress. Thank god for our new BFFs from across the pond, or we’d have been changing clothes and doing hair in a urine-soaked alley somewhere off San Pablo Ave.!)

  3. Ummm, what she said.

  4. C’mon, Sara, it’s not like it would’ve been the first time.

  5. You did a great job with the flowers and decorations. Plus you did it on a budget—if I were planning a wedding I would totally hire you. I hope you get some jobs out of it!

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