The Meaningful Details

Thanks to my wee business, I’ve been involved with a significant number of weddings to date. And luckily for me, I never seem to get tired of them – as a cultural construct, as a significant event, as something people spend months or years planning to get just right when it all comes down to a single day, a few hours. Many people don’t put much stock in my specific trade (flowers) because “flowers die,” they “only last one day.” Well, I can’t deny that. But I will say that EVERYTHING you do for a wedding is for one day – under most circumstances, that food won’t be eaten again for another meal. That music was only played once. Your ceremony lasted five minutes or 45 minutes or 90 minutes if you did it up with full mass in a Catholic church. The invitations got stuck on a fridge or tossed in the garbage, the cake was consumed (or not, depending on how much fondant was involved), the beverages metabolized. They say after a wedding all you have left are memories and photos. So I will agree that flowers are just another frivolous aspect of a traditional (or nontraditional, if you swing that way) wedding.

BUT. Flowers are something I find fascinating when it comes to weddings and traditions. It’s true that they only last a day, intended for a fleeting moment. But the history of using flowers in a wedding celebration, worn or carried, used as decoration, is probably as old as weddings themselves. It’s an art form using perishable materials, much like gourmet food. We use flowers to mark significant events – the birth of a baby, to note a performance well done, a graduation, a wedding, an anniversary, an illness, a death. Flowers are at once ephemeral and timeless. And for some people, flowers can tell a story.

For our wedding, many of the flowers were grown by my mom. I used a piece of the tree that was planted the day I was born and picked wildflowers that were personally significant to me and my life to use in my bouquet. When I work with a bridal couple, if I’ve never met them I like to hear the story of their relationship and find out whether there are any meaningful details that I might be able to capture in their personal or decor flowers, whether it be something that grew in grandma’s garden, or a favorite herb, or something grown by friends or family. Recently, my cousin Scarlett and her long-term significant other decided to get married, and after being engaged a month or so they decided to get married soon and then have a big party later.

I’ve written before about Scarlett and why she is so important to my life, but let’s simplify by calling her my not-biologically-related to me sister. Technically she’s my half step cousin, but she’s also a very close friend and has known me since I was born. And so when she called me up this summer to tell me she and Jason were going to have a mini almost-elopement in San Francisco in October, I was both thrilled and terrified – thrilled, of course, that they’d decided on a wedding that would work best for them, and terrified I wouldn’t do her bouquet (or the other small personal flowers used for their tiny wedding) justice. I asked her whether she had any special flowers she might want, and she gave me free reign to do whatever I liked. After brainstorming a ton of ideas I sent a message to my sisters asking them for a bit of feedback, and what I received went along with the major ideas I’d had.

Since the ceremony was tiny and immediate-family-and-closest-friends-only, I wanted Scarlett’s bouquet to have a piece of me and of my mom and my sisters and the place where she grew up. My friend Brian’s roommate grows amazing dahlias, among other flowers, and he offered me full use of his yard’s bounty. I sourced a few additional things at a local market, and here’s the final bouquet.

Scarlett’s bouquet included homegrown dahlias in many colors, veronica (which I used in my sister Laurel’s bouquet), lisianthus (which I used in my sister Lissa’s bouquet), snapdragons and larkspur (which I used in my bouquet), three succulents (one of which grew in my mom’s yard), and passion flower vine. I used a collar of cuttings from my birth tree (a douglass fir) and from a redwood tree, because of the redwoods where Scarlett grew up. Interspersed were cuttings from my sister Laurel’s tree, and the whole thing was wrapped with a pale green silk, some of which I used 4.5 years ago to make a purse for Lissa’s wedding.

Because Jason is a lifelong cycling enthusiast, I wanted to do something to reflect that in his boutonniere. After doing some digging, I found a local community bicycle shop that gave me a small bike sprocket for free, which I spray painted silver to make it stand out more. I used a homegrown calendula, larkspur, a bit of Laurel’s tree, and broom corn in Jason’s bout along with the sprocket. I had no idea what Jason was wearing but the boutonniere ended up matching his outfit exactly.

Scarlett and Jason were married at sunset on October 20, overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge at Land’s End in San Francisco. I could not be happier for them, and was so glad to be able to play a part in their celebration.

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