The best thing about being a wedding florist in Seattle is all the wonderful people I get to work with. I make this statement meaning both the folks in the wedding industry and, especially, the couples I design for. Both architects and designers, I connected with Aireen and Greg on a shared understanding and appreciation of the process of design and how to communicate design. There is so much thought that goes into wedding flowers. As a designer you have to consider the colors, the textures, and the shapes of the flowers and foliage, and then decide which varieties of flowers will take precedent in a floral arrangement and which ones sit a step behind. You have to think about the shape of each piece, the movement, the positive and negative space, and non-floral accents, like ribbons, vessels, and pins. Finally, you have to think about how the floral arrangement will fit in with all the other decor. And then you have to translate all of that to the client. It’s a big job!
I also loved working with Aireen and Greg because they are just two incredibly down-to-earth, kind and engaging people, who enjoy riding bicycles (Greg did a US cross country bicycle trip in 2015), riding their motor cycles on the weekends, and hiking in the mountains. I don’t think two people can be any cooler.
Aireen and Greg decided to have their wedding at the beautiful Woodinville winery, JM Cellars. They fell in love with JM Cellars for the architecture and because of the canopy of trees with a hundred type of species. For their flowers Aireen and Greg wanted to include local greens with pops of rusty red, peachy pink, and coral colors using peonies, ranunculus, ferns, and pine cones. As a tribute to their late Uncle Gene, a family heirloom vintage cherry red Camaro automobile was featured at JM and it was the car that Aireen and Greg left the reception in formally as husband and wife.
Jessica and Jose were married at one of my favorite weddings venues here in Washington state, Twin Willow Gardens. Everything about TWG is amazing – the gardens, the ceremony area, the tiny houses where couples get ready, and the shop with the antique firehouse doors. It’s just a beautiful wedding venue and a fantastic place to get married!
Jessica and Jose’s wedding was styled and coordinated by the lovely Megan of Sage Event Co., who helped put together a boho style event that incorporated dried and vintage elements, and lots of pink and white.
Ferns and eucalyptus were included to incorporate the feel of the Pacific Northwest that Jessica and Jose wanted to embody. Peonies were used in the personals, a variety of flower Jessica loved. Plus, it was prime peony season here in Washington. And to my delight, Jessica was open to including my favorite textural element to design with – explosion grass! I don’t think any botanic element can be more fun! 🙂
As a designer, it is so important that everything I create is something I consider to be beautiful before it goes out the door. When I was designing Jessica’s bridal bouquet the stars were aligned, I was in a state of flow, and it just came together P.E.R.F.E.C.T.L.Y. I knew I had knocked it out of the park when Jessica’s mom, Tracy, told me that seeing Jessica’s bridal bouquet literally gave her goosebumps. Such a profound compliment that will stay with me forever. Thank you Tracy!
Jessica and Jose, thank you for including me in your special day. It was an absolute delight. All the very best!
My last wedding of 2022 was at Novelty-Hill Januik winery in Woodinville. Working at venues that are a hop and a skip away from my studio always bring an extra ease to the wedding day, and Sarah and Nick were one of my most easy-going, appreciative, and joyful couples. Plus, their florals were drop. dead. gorgeous. After a season of flower shortages, soaring flower prices, and a rose thorn stuck in my finger that took me to urgent care (where I learned that handling roses poses the risk of contracting an infection commonly referred to as “Rose Pickers Disease” that can lead to (although it’s rare) death), I was so grateful to end my wedding season with such a beautiful event and such a wonderful couple.
Sarah and Nick had been friends for over 22 years and were dating over 5 years when they got engaged. They wanted their wedding to be casual and intimate, with a warm fall color palette of pink, blush, peach, and orange and a hint of dried elements. They also loved greenery and were drawn to loose designs with natural movement. The selection of flowers in mid-September here in Washington is amazing – and dahlias galore! The combination of warm neutrals with warm fall colors that we chose for Sarah and Nick has become one of my favorite floral palettes. I always ask my husband if we can have another wedding, because our day was so much fun. I would do Sarah and Nick’s flowers over again in a heartbeat, because they brought me so much joy.
Grateful, also, to have worked with such an amazing vendor team, including Krista and the lovely ladies of Prive Events and Brian of Lightsmiths Seattle. Darryl Ann and Joe of Salt & Pine Photo captured Sarah and Nick’s wedding beautifully and one of their images of Sarah’s bouquet has become a favorite bouquet photo of mine. Darryl Ann and Joe are not only crazy talented, but they are so easy-going, lovely people. A post 2022 wedding season video coffee date with them was like a ray of sunshine.
Sarah and Nick, thank you for being so genuine, warm, and just plain marvelous. Sending you all the love for a long, happy life together.
I met with Syndie and Freddy right before the Holiday season to go through their floral proposal for their upcoming summer wedding at Willows Lodge. They arrived to my studio in matching bright red Christmas sweaters, as they were going out to dinner afterwards and wanted to dress for the occasion. I knew right away that they were my kind of clients – quirky, easygoing, and fun!
Syndie and Freddy’s vision for their wedding reflected their joyful nature and warm personalities. They wanted lots of summer colors represented in their flowers, which made my heart sing (can you infer tell that I love color?!?!), and they asked me to design a flower wall that could be used as a backdrop for photos during the reception. This was my first time creating a flower wall, but I was very familiar with them through the online world of wedding inspiration. But, never wanting to be one to follow trends, I presented Syndie and Freddy with a flower wall design that I hadn’t ever seen before – a flower wall that looked like an outdoor landscape scene. It included clouds, the sun, mountains, sky, and fields and fields of wild flowers. This wedding flower wall was one of the most challenging pieces I have created in my career as a floral designer, but one of the most rewarding.
The best part about Syndie and Freddy’s wedding for me, though, came after the fact. In following up with Syndie after her big day, she told me that she and Freddy had such an amazing, stress-free wedding with a ton of laughter and just good vibes. And that it was exactly what they had hoped for. As a wedding florist who genuinely cares about her clients and their weddings, and cares about giving great service, it was exactly what I had hoped for them, as well. Syndie and Freddy – thank you for sharing your joy with me!
They say that all good things are worth waiting for. And Heather and David’s wedding at Chateau Lill was filled with SO. MUCH. BEAUTY that it was definitely worth the wait!
Heather and David started planning their wedding in 2019 with the anticipation of tying the knot in the summer of 2020. But like so many others, covid-19 derailed their plans. Heather and David remained patient and flexible, however, and held on to the vision for their big, festive wedding. They say that the third time is a charm and third date Heather and David chose for their celebration was the one that finally stuck. On June 20th, 2021 they finally, finally got to have the amazingly beautiful enchanted wedding they had envisioned from many months ago.
Heather and David’s wedding was definitely one for the books! It was the first wedding where I used a scissor lift during installation. If you’ve never driven a scissor lift it’s one part fun and and two parts stressful, especially when you are on a timeline with people and things to watch out for. But, I managed to drive it well enough and got all the greenery installed in the tent. And just like that the tent at Chateau Lill was turned into a magical space. Heather and David’s warm, colorful, and quirky personalities were reflected in the decor and the energy of the their wedding day, from Heather’s gorgeous red dress, to David’s top hat, to the labyrinth in the wine cellar, to the colorful flowers.
A big shout out to Rebecca of New Creations Weddings for leading the wedding vendor the team through the rescheduling and ever-changing event protocols of the pandemic. Thank you to Jenn of Jenn Tai & Co for sharing her amazing images.
On Saturday morning in late March of this year I open up the door to my floral studio – it’s the start of a very busy day. But I don’t have a wedding.
Today a styled shoot is taking place, one that I have been thinking about and planning for many months. Not only am I the florist, but I am also the interviewer, as well as the photographer. Despite my nerves at all of this responsibility, I am looking forward to the day unfolding. I have just created one of those most beautiful bridal bouquets that I might have ever designed in my entire career. It is bursting with color and I am bursting with excitement to photograph it.
Almost a year earlier, on an overcast Seattle day, Eva Hom of August Skies Weddings and had I sat down over a cup of coffee for a get-to-know-you-better vendor meeting. I had first met Eva the year prior at a wedding professionals networking event. I was looking forward to learning how Eva got into the wedding industry, as every wedding professional has a unique journey into the world of weddings, as well as personal approach to their business and the couples they serve. But I also wanted to ask Eva about a picture of a beautiful red dress on her website that had really piqued my curiosity. A simple line of text next to this small photo had stated: I speak Cantonese and I help couples incorporate cultural elements into their weddings.
The red dress pictured on Eva’s website was the dress she wore to the Chinese banquet her mom hosted in California, about a month after Eva and her husband’s formal wedding here in Washington. Never having designed a bouquet for a red dress, I knew that I could create something spectacular and unique. I asked Eva if she would be willing to collaborate on a shoot using her gorgeous red dress. And luckily for me, she was.
Katey, the fantastic hair and make-up artist of Alluring Makeup Artistry by Katey, pulls up in her car and unloads her beauty supplies. She is also collaborating on this shoot and will be beautifying Eva. Not too long after, Eva arrives with the red dress in tow. Once settled and a little bit into our conversation Eva tells us, “I never got professional hair or make-up with that dress, so I am really excited about this.”
Eva was born and raised in California, but she is second generation Chinese-American, so Cantonese was her first language. “My parents came from China, which is why I grew up speaking Cantonese at home,” Eva explains. “And the way I maintained that was by watching a lot of TV with my parents, from the local news to drama shows to Hong Kong movies. I also went to Chinese school every Saturday for many years where I learned to read and write [Cantonese].”
In a city as multi-cultural as Seattle there is no doubt that it’s advantageous to speak more than one language. From my own experience as a small business owner, speaking other languages could have allowed for more efficient and accurate client communication. I once worked with a couple that was deaf. I didn’t know American Sign Language, but was fortunate that the bride could read lips. I remember thinking at the time, however, that it would have been even easier if I knew how to sign.
Eva’s couples don’t necessarily seek her out as a Cantonese speaking wedding planner, but she does find her bi-lingual ability helpful in conversing with Cantonese speaking parents, who might be heavily involved in the wedding planning process, as well as with guests at the wedding. “On the day of they may be flying in from somewhere else and they might not be familiar with the venue or a lot of things that are happening, so I catch them up and help them figure out what’s going on,” Eva explains.
A BUSINESS THAT VALUES DIFFERENT CULTURES
August Skies Weddings was formed at the end of 2019. Eva tells me that after planning her own wedding in 2018, she was hooked. “I had a day of coordinator,” Eva shares. “But I mainly planned the whole thing and I really enjoyed the process.” Wanting to figure out how wedding planners got started, Eva contacted a few local planners for informational interviews. After those meetings she spent time looking on Instagram at planners whose work she admired. Then jumping in with both feet, sent her resume over to those planners. “I didn’t even know when wedding season was,” Eva remembers. “But apparently I was applying at the right time when people were just starting to prep for that year’s weddings and looking for assistants. So I assisted for a year.”
Noticing the unfortunate timing of starting her business, I remark that it must have been hard to start a busines at the end of 2019 with everything in 2020 that happened. But Eva looks at the situation more objectively. “I got pregnant, she says. “Either way I don’t think I would have done much in 2020.” Luckily, as the world started to open back up, her 2021 season was much, much better.
Eva loves giving her couples ideas and building in aspects of their culture[s] that fit well with the grand scheme of their weddings. During her initial consultation she will ask her couples if they have any cultural or religious traditions they would like to incorporate into their wedding day. If there is something important to them, Eva will make sure it gets incorporated into the timeline. Eva will also help her clients finds vendors or source materials that might be needed.
“It’s always an honor to be trusted to coordinate a wedding with cultural elements that are not from my own heritage, it means I get to expand my knowledge and build my experiences! I love working with couples who want to have a wedding, but in their own way. If that means incorporating traditions and rituals from their cultural background then I will do my best to help them do that.”
The most memorable wedding with cultural elements that Eva planned was at her favorite wedding venue, Almquist, with the sweetest couple who wanted to honor their Filipino heritage. They included a few aspects of Filipino-Catholic traditions before their vows: the veil and cord ritual. The mothers covered the bride and groom with a ceremonial veil symbolizing being clothed as one. Then the cord, or yugal, was wrapped around the couple like an infinity symbol, representing an eternal bond of fidelity. “It was a really touching moment to witness,” Eva remembers.
Eva says at some point in her career she would love to plan a Korean wedding. She’s seen a lot of photos of traditional Korean weddings, including those of her husband’s Korean-American friend that got married. The pictures showed an incredibly fun wedding. “As far as I understand there are games involved. There is some part where the bride jumps on the grooms back and he gives her a ride around,” Eva describes. “I don’t know why. It’s probably really entertaining for the guests and really fun for the couple themselves.”
CHINESE WEDDING TRADITIONS
Eva’s favorite Chinese wedding tradition is the tea ceremony. “It’s a very simple ceremony,” Eva explains. “On paper it’s very simple – you’re literally just serving tea to your family and elders. But at the same time I feel like the meaning behind it, the symbolism, and how long that tradition has been around is pretty cool.” The Chinese tea ceremony is an event where the couple serves tea to their elders, usually their parents, which is symbolic of introducing the two families to one another. The act of drinking tea together demonstrates the parents welcoming and accepting a new person into their family. The tea ceremony is also indicative of respect and honor. “Thanking them for getting us to that point. Raising us and getting us to that point of being married,” Eva says.
“Without a doubt, my favorite tradition is the Tea Ceremony. It really seems like quite a simple gesture, the couple serves tea to their elders and the elders take a sip of tea. It’s a deeply symbolic, and joyful ritual of two families joining together and an opportunity for the marrying couple to pay respect and appreciation for those who raised them.”
In China you can hire professionals to perform the tea ceremony, but here in the United States, generally you have an older married female relative do the honors. I ask Eva if she and her husband had a relative perform their tea ceremony. “Yes, we had my dad’s cousin do it,” Eva explains. “She was invited as a guest. My mom was looking for someone who wouldn’t actually be receiving the tea, but knew enough about the ceremony to conduct it.”
While Eva would not take on the role of facilitating the Chinese tea ceremony herself as the wedding planner, she will help her couples plan it out in their timeline, as well as help them understand how long everything will take and the prep that goes into it, such as boiling the water for the tea. “There’s little things that not a lot of people realize will take time. Somebody’s responsible for doing that,” Eva informs me. “And then even making the tea. Usually it’s special and has special ingredients.” Our conversation is interrupted with the choice of false eyelash length, but I learn later on that the special ingredients are often things like red dates, lotus seeds, and lilies. “I would include that in the packing list to help them make sure they have everything the day of,” Eva says.
Before Western influence, the tea ceremony was the entire wedding in Chinese culture. Chinese weddings were small and intimate affairs with just the two families present. There was no white wedding gown for the bride, instead both the bride and the groom would wear red. The “qipao” or “qun kwa”, a full-length red dress with a high collar and an asymmetrical slit on one side was traditionally worn by the bride. The groom would wear a matching red jacket and pants, both embroidered. Sometimes the pants could be a simple black. Colors like white or blue, both in attire and décor, were (and still are) traditionally avoided at Chinese weddings, as they symbolize mourning.
My husband, Mike, is third generation Chinese, but he and I had a very Western style wedding, with lots of friends and family in attendance. One of the things I wish we had done was make it a point to greet all of our guests. It was not something my husband and I discussed in our planning. As a result, there were some guests we didn’t get the opportunity to talk to at our wedding. In Chinese tradition, at the beginning of the reception the couple will stand by the doorway greeting everyone that comes in, while holding a gift box that guests can put greeting cards in or the traditional red envelope. I love the thought of this formal greeting line. If my husband and I have a vow renewal celebration in 20 years or whatever, this is what I will plan to do. Although I wouldn’t expect red envelopes. I am familiar with the red envelopes in Chinese culture, as my husband’s parents will usually give us each a red envelope with some money inside every Chinese New Year. “In Asian weddings there is no registry,” Eva explains. “You don’t bring a toaster or anything like that. You just bring cash.”
Another Chinese wedding tradition, one that Eva will help coordinate at a wedding this summer, is lion dancing. Lion dancers come to perform and bless your event, whether that’s a wedding, holiday, or other special event. “It’s crazy, you have to be super in shape and they train really, really hard for it,” Eva tells me. “There’s essentially two dancers under a lion costume, so they have the head and then the body of the lion. The heads weigh a good 20-30 pounds and they’re holding it for a good ten minute performance. And they’re not just holding it – they’re jumping around with it, doing a lot of tricks. The lion stands up, so the front person jumps on the person in the back. They jump on their thighs. The back person is kind of squatting. It’s incredible to watch.”
Earlier this year I was at a WIPA event that was lunar new year themed. Dancers, who were wearing dragon costumes, came and performed. I learn that usually if the dance troupe does lion dancing they will also do dragon dancing. At the WIPA event I remember seeing some of the attendees put money in the dragon’s mouth. “Feeding the dragon is good luck and in a way it’s tipping the performers,” Eva explains. The local dance troupe that Eva is most familiar with is Mak Fai.
THE FUTURE OF TRADITION – A PERSONAL, MODERN APPROACH
With Eva’s own wedding in 2018 at Woodinville at the Novelty-Hill Winery, she was very intentionally about subtly incorporating pieces of Chinese culture into the celebration. She didn’t want to have a traditional Chinese wedding, but rather, she wanted to add in little personal details that were important to her and her husband. “For us, it was adding the double happiness character symbol, the symbol for Chinese weddings,” she says. “Traditionally in Chinese weddings those [symbols] are hung up on walls and printed on signs. We just had the script design incorporated into our photo booth. I thought that was a fun way to incorporate that in.”
“Just like American weddings, I think aspects of Chinese weddings are constantly evolving and there are always new and creative trends. There’s no one way to have a Chinese wedding, even in Asia – couples of Chinese background celebrate very differently according to what country they are in and what’s important to them and their families.”
Incorporating traditions in a not so quite traditional method is a way to honor the past, but embody the modernity of the 21st century. In Chinese weddings this could be by using different colors, like shades red, instead of all bright red. Or even incorporating other colors like pink and gold.
The traditional qipao that Eva brought with her to our shoot was not the dress she wore to her tea ceremony. Eva’s mom had ordered it from China, but it wasn’t ready on time for Eva’s actual wedding. “It kind of worked out,” Eva recalls. “I couldn’t find a traditional dress that I really liked. They looked too traditional and I wanted a modern twist on it. So I found a burgundy dress that I really liked. And it had a high collar similar to traditional dresses, but it had a lace back. So I wore that one to the tea ceremony.”
On a side note, Eva mentions she ordered her burgundy dress from Lulu’s. In unison, Katie and I both exclaim that we love Lulu’s!
Beyond the realm of tradition, Eva values design elements that mean something. “I think there’s a lot of details in a wedding that could turn into something more personal. For example, like table numbers. You could just go ahead and purchase some table number. But if the groom is a professional poker player you could use cards as the table numbers. And it’s fun for guests, because people who only really know who him would make that connection,” she explains.
I, as a wedding florist, absolutely love when I am able to help couples incorporate little personal elements into their floral designs. I once worked with a couple who wanted to incorporate their Irish heritage into their wedding, so we focused on using woodsy botanic elements, like ferns, berries, and moss. The groom was an avid fly fisherman, so we also included fly fishing feathers into his boutonniere. Another time I worked with a couple where the bride was in grad school for mycology, the study of fungi, so we included ceramic mushrooms into her bridal bouquet.
Incorporating elements into weddings that are meaningful to the couple, whether they stem from tradition or not, really does take those events to another level. Thoughtful, intentional design with meaning behind will always shine brightly.
Eva, we look forward to seeing all those personal touches in your weddings this season and beyond. What lucky couples you have!
Your wedding flowers are going to be one of the most important aesthetic investments in your wedding. Gorgeous floral designs not only bring in color and texture to your wedding style, but they also add life and energy to spaces. It’s understandable after months of planning, the costs involved, and how fabulous your florals are going to look, that many couples want to get the most use out of their wedding flowers.
I often get asked about the possibility of repurposing ceremony flowers to the reception. This idea is seemingly straightforward and practical, and has grown in popularity in the wedding world by respected online wedding sites. But repurposing ceremony flowers is often deemed as “simple” and doesn’t take into consideration true considerations of feasibility.
While I am definitely an advocate for showcasing those beautiful blooms as long as possible, I am an advocate for repurposing wedding flowers if conditions allow and in the right situations. Yes, there are many circumstances where ceremony flowers can be repurposed to the reception with just a little bit of planning and a bit of effort. Sometimes, though, there are just too many logistical challenges. Other times, there might even be reasons why you may not want to repurpose your ceremony flowers.
Here are some considerations to make when discussing the possibility of repurposing wedding flowers, so you can make the best decisions for your big day and the best decisions for your gorgeous wedding flowers!
WEDDING LOCATION & TIMELINE
Where your wedding ceremony and reception will be held can affect how easy or difficult it would be to repurpose your ceremony flowers and whether it makes the most sense to repurpose. If your ceremony and reception are in two different locations you might be more inclined to think about repurposing your ceremony florals, especially if you have a short ceremony. This can work well if you have a cocktail hour in a separate location, so there is time and space for the florals to come down from one location and then go up in another location. But if your guests will be immediately going to the reception following your ceremony and you want the floral arrangements to wow your guests as they walk in, repurposing might not make the most sense. If your ceremony is in the same relative area as your reception or you and your guests can easily access the ceremony area during your reception, your arch or other ceremony florals can act as a backdrop for photos. Just like that your ceremony site automatically becomes a selfie station for your guests!
Pictures courtesy of Into Dust Photography
MECHANICS & TRANSPORTABILITY
Florists have so many ways of constructing floral arrangements, especially big statement pieces, like floral columns and arbor designs. These mechanics are often the combination between industry standard techniques and unique tricks that each particular florist has picked up along the way. Some floral arrangement can be made in advance, especially those that are fully contained. Other floral designs, however, can only be assembled on-site. These designs are often made up of multiple pieces, sometimes use delicate flowers, and can be intricate, lush, and heavy. Many of these on-site installations cannot be moved, especially if taken down from the structure they are on, without coming apart and/or losing their shape. Mechanics for an arbor spray are not always the same as a table floral arrangement, and the two, if designed separately, would have completely different water sources. Other floral arrangements can be too heavy to be safely transported to another location, especially if a set of stairs is involved.
Pictures courtesy of Ashleigh Miller Photography
DESIGNATED PERSON TO REPURPOSE
You will also need to have someone (or more than one person) designated to actually do the repurposing of your ceremony florals to your reception. Be cognizant when speaking with your florist about the possibility of repurposing flowers. It can mean that the florist has to wait around until your ceremony is finished and until you are done taking pictures. If the florist is at a different location from your ceremony site they might not physically be able to repurpose your ceremony flowers. Then there is the labor of moving and reassembling everything, which sometimes can take as much time as it did during set-up. If you hired a wedding planner for your event, he or she might be comfortable with repurposing your ceremony flowers to your reception. But again, be considerate and always check with your wedding vendors to see what their services include. Time, labor, and expertise is valuable and always needs to be accounted for.
Pictures courtesy of David Cho Photography
The final thing to consider with regard to repurposing your ceremony flowers is weather. Florists work in all kinds of weather conditions, but the flowers themselves can not always withstand certain elements, whether that is extreme heat, extreme cold, or lots and lots and LOTS of wind. (As I write this blog post I am having vivid flashbacks from a wedding in 2016 of attaching flowers to an arch on a ranch in Colorado while getting beaten by the wind. Me and the flowers both.). Your florist will do everything in their power to hydrate and care for your blooms, so they can look their best for your event. Your florist will also choose the most appropriate blooms for certain designs with different water sources and specific blooms for particular environments, but sometimes, unfortunately, the weather wins. Let’s say your wedding falls during a freak heat wave and your ceremony is in full sun for 30 minutes. Your arbor floral spray, realistically, might not last much longer after you say your vows. If you are then counting on that arch piece to do double duty as a sweetheart table arrangement, you might not end up with the floral piece you had envisioned. So think about what the weather conditions will be and if there could be any extreme conditions that need to factor in to your repurposing decisions.
As I drove to meet Rebecca to find out more about her expertise in Hawaiian weddings, I chuckled at the humor at my wishful thinking in being able to garner the warmth of the islands with some tropical floral arrangements. They sat in the back seat eagerly awaiting to be showcased, their yellows and oranges attempting to cut through the grey sky. In the days leading up, my biggest worry was that our photoshoot would occur in frigid Seattle winter rain. So in preparation, I had brought with me two large umbrellas, one for Rebecca and one for me and my camera, a waterproof camera bag, and my new winter coat, in case the Hawaiian-style dress that Rebecca would be wearing proved to be insufficient for retaining any amount of warmth. It was a chilly 32 degrees that morning, but the skies, at least thus far, were holding out on releasing any precipitation.
I pulled up to Twin Willow Gardens, the wedding venue that Rebecca has owned with her husband, Brian, since 2019. Twin Willow Gardens is one of my favorite venues here in Washington. While it doesn’t have the palm trees and sandy beaches of Hawai’i, it does have an abundance of flora and fauna. In the summer the main grounds are filled with an array of flowering plants. It’s a big, beautiful, and colorful garden. Tucked off to the side is the ceremony area, which is enclosed by towering pacific northwest trees and lush ferns. Like that of the Hawaiian islands, the venue exudes aloha – an unseen, but very much felt sense of welcoming, harmony, and peace. Part of that comes from the beauty of the venue itself and part of that comes from the warmth radiated by its owners. As I followed Rebecca along the path through the gardens, I noticed small bits of ice in the garden beds. “Oh, yes,” Rebecca turned back with a look indicating she, too, had been worried about the weather for our photoshoot. “It hailed here yesterday.”
As we both got situated in the bridal suite where we planned to chat, Rebecca took a seat in one of the beauty chairs. Brooke of Onsite Beauty by Brooke, who was doing Rebecca’s hair and make-up, had also just arrived and was getting her make-up tools ready. I pulled out the Hawaiian inspired mood board document I had put together and asked Brooke to make Rebecca look like a glowing Hawaiian princess who had just come from the beach. In this case, a Hawaiian princess who just executed a flawless beach wedding in Hawai’i.
WEDDING PLANNING ROOTS IN HAWAI’I
Rebecca is no stranger to coordinating weddings in Hawai’i. In 2003 she moved to Oahu to go to school for Travel Industry Management at the University of Hawai’i. While in school and living on the island, Rebecca answered a job posting with a local wedding planner. Rebecca and Sandra Williams, the owner of Finishing Touch Hawaii, hit it off immediately and Rebecca ended up working for Sandra for 4 1/2 years. “I worked with her [Sandra] first as her Day of Assistant before taking my own weddings under her company. She’s Burmese and Chinese, so I got thrown into Asian & Pacific Islander wedding customs pretty fast. One, because she attracted a lot of Asian clientele, because she’s fluent in Cantonese, but also the geography of Hawai’i attracts a lot of Asian & Pacific Islander couples to it.”
Those first few years as a wedding planner was a lot of learning for Rebecca. Never having planned a wedding prior to working with Sandra, Rebecca was trying to soak everything in, retain all the information she was learning, and execute her weddings well under Sandra’s company. “Overall I really looked up to her [Sandra]. She had a very successful business and I was honored that she trusted me to represent her business.”
Rebecca laughs as she remembers something Sandra said to her in those early years. “I was putting out candles on a head table and Sandra came over – ‘Rebecca, you’re too symmetrical! Asymmetry is fine! You can move things around!’ So she [Sandra] would always come behind me and cluster the candles together.”
Amused, I ask Rebecca if she still finds herself placing candles symmetrically on tables. “Ha – not as much! I’ve moved on. She’s broken me of that.”
“Number one best thing I learned from working with Sandra was the total submersion into Asian & Pacific Islander wedding customs. I would have not learned that as rapidly as I did with anyone else. Hands-down that has been the most beneficial thing of my career.”
When Rebecca launched her own wedding planning business in Washington after moving back to the mainland in 2008, she spoke at a Wedding Network Seattle event about Asian weddings, which essentially launched her career here in Seattle. “I got several bookings off of just meeting people at that event and talking about Asian wedding customs. So many venue reps came up to me [after that presentation] and said they had no one who does Asian weddings,” she remarked. Venues continued to send their Asian couples to Rebecca. They were looking for wedding professionals familiar with Asian wedding customs to help support both the venue in what they needed to do for their couples, as well as support the couples themselves, without the couples having to educate their vendors. Rebecca also spoke on a panel at NACE event about Asian & Pacific Islander wedding customs, along side other wedding professionals who discussed Jewish weddings, African American weddings, and LGBTQ weddings.
I ask Rebecca about the flower image in her logo and if that has any connecting to her time in Hawai’i. “Yes,” she says. “I wanted to do a subtle nod to my background, where my roots are, and how I got my start. So I felt like it was a very fitting logo for me.”
HAWAIIAN WEDDING CUSTOMS AND TRADITIONS
Most of the weddings Rebecca planned when she lived on Oah’u were true destination weddings. The bulk of her clientele were from China, Japan, the Philippines, Samoa, the US, and Australia. She has coordinated weddings on the big island, Oah’u, Mau’i, Moloka’i, and Kaua’i. Often, her couples wanted to feature the flavor of the islands by incorporating Hawaiian customs and traditions into their celebrations. The most common of these was the giving and exchanging of leis. “We did a ton of welcome parties and had arms full of leis being ready to hand out upon guest arrival,” Rebecca remembers.
Leis were worn by ancient Hawaiians to beautify and distinguish themselves from others. With the rise of tourism to Hawai’i, the lei became the symbol of the islands. Nowadays, leis are meant to represent love, friendship, celebration, or honor. In a Hawaiian ceremony the couple will honor their family members by giving them a lei as part of the ceremony. This almost always includes the parents, but can also extend to the grandparents. The lei exchange between the couple themselves is meant to symbolize their affection for one another and their giving of themselves to one another. Traditionally, the bride will get a pikake lei, a very delicate, white, very fragrant flower that is worn in multiple strands. And the groom will get a maile lei, a green leaf lei that is open-ended when the ceremony starts.
As she describes the lei exchange, Rebecca looks over with a knowing smile, “You know the term ‘tie the knot’? That’s where that came from. The bride will reach over and close the open end of the maile lei and tie the knot.”
She then she gestures in the direction of the contain I brought with the two haku leis I made. “And then, of course, as you’ll be featuring today, the bride can sometimes wear a haku lei in addition to the pikake lei.”
The haku lei was one of the first flower creations I learned to make in my floral design journey. Like Rebecca, I also have ties to Hawai’i. When I was 9 years old my family moved to the island of Kaua’i. That next year I enrolled in a lei-making workshop at the local community center and we were taught the art of making haku leis. Even though that was many years ago, I vividly remember taking my first haku lei home and feeling quite proud that I had made something so beautiful. To this day, I still get that warm glow of accomplishment whenever I make a beautiful personal floral piece, like bridal bouquet or a flower crown.
Another Hawaiian tradition popular at weddings, one that I had also first-hand experience with while living on Kaua’i, is the hula dance. While all the 5th graders on the mainland were probably learning gymnastics and how to play the clarinet, I was on an island in the middle of the ocean learning hula dance and how to play the ukulele. Many of Rebecca’s Hawaiian brides are in halaus, which are formal hula groups. Sometimes her brides will work with their halau instructors on a specific choreographed hula dance to perform at their wedding. Hawaiian Wedding Song is a popular choice for the performance, but any song can be danced to. “The bride will typically perform a hula for the groom, which I think is incredibly intimidating. You’re doing this in front of all of your guests and you’re out there solo dancing for your groom,” Rebecca explains. Generally the groom will have a seat on the dance floor while the bride performs her hula dance.
I ask Rebecca if the groom ever dances for the bride. “Nope,” she replies. “The bride starts off doing most of the work from the get-go.”
We both break out into laughter.
Incorporating Hawaiian food is also popular at Hawaiian weddings. The guava cake is most prominent, which a lot of Hawaiian couples will seek out for their weddings. It’s a coconut flavored cake with guava frosting. The sides of the cake are covered in sliced almonds and the top is bright red gelatin. Around the edge is a piped in, cream-filled frosting. Other Hawaiian foods include the haupia coconut cake, roasted pig (kalua pork), poke, and Mai Tais. “And poi,” Rebecca muses. “Which no one really eats at weddings, but is there mostly to feature for the tourists.”
As someone who has never liked poi, even fried, I nod my head in agreement.
COORDINATING WEDDINGS ON-ISLAND FROM SEATTLE
Rebecca moved back to Washington in 2008, but she still plans weddings in Hawai’i, often with Washington couples that want to have a Hawaiian island destination wedding. Her process for working with a couple getting married in Hawai’i is the same for full planning weddings here in the Seattle area. Rebecca will begin by reaching out to vendors (mostly those on-island) to check availability and to check pricing. She is diligent in making sure the vendors align with her couples’ expectations, which she then submits to her couples for review. “I have them pick their top one or two [vendors] that they like. They either want to set up an interview or we’re ready to have the vendors go ahead and send us a contract.”
Prior to their wedding, Rebecca recommends that her couples visit the islands at least twice to do their venue walk-through, tasting, hair and make-up trial, and potentially see a floral mock-up. “All those pieces that you do want to be in person for,” she comments. Rebecca will line up all the on-island vendor meetings for her couples, and then either zoom into those meetings or get filled in afterwards. Sometimes she will schedule a virtual debrief specifically about the tasting, so she can be up to speed on her clients’ bar menu, what their final entrée selections were, or if there are any questions the catering sales manager had.
When doing on-island weddings, Rebecca requires that her couples have her there a minimum of 4 days. During that time she will meet with the venue manager and do a walk-through, to make sure she is familiar with the space. She then connects with her couples one last time to make sure they are good to go. In addition to managing the wedding day, Rebecca also runs the wedding rehearsal the day before. And she is on-island least the day after the wedding, so she doesn’t have to fly out that night.
“I still really do try and maintain relationships with people on the islands. I know who is relevant, what price-point they are in, and if there are any new up-and-comers.”
When planning a wedding in Hawai’i you have to be very aware of both the bugs and the weather. “I’ve seen a cake that looked alive, because it has so many ants crawling on it. They’ll climb up the skirting of the tables. And of course you have to be aware of the cockroaches. Even in the cleanest of hotels, you can’t get rid of them. It’s just a part of island life,” Rebecca muses. Most of the time Hawai’i is 82 and sunny, but every once in awhile you get the trade winds that come through, or a monsoon that comes through, or the 40 days of rain that happened in 2006. Rebecca’s advice: “Just be ready for Plan B.”
Worse than inclement weather, there is no doubt that coronavirus pandemic wrecked havoc on the wedding and event industry in 2020, but Rebecca thinks the that first year of the pandemic was a turning point for planning destination weddings. “I really think 2020 has changed the way vendors in general go about setting up interviews, and talking and interacting with our couples,” Rebecca explains. “Before couples [in Washington] would wish they could meet [on-island] vendors in person, but now meeting virtually has just become the norm. It’s actually made it easier to move forward with booking vendors.”
DESIGNING HAWAIIAN WEDDINGS IN WASHINGTON
Having a Hawaiian wedding doesn’t have to be restricted to the Hawaiian islands. The important cultural elements of Hawai’i can be found on and brought to the mainland. This wedding season Rebecca is working with a couple where the bride is Hawaiian. This couple is getting married in Washington, but they are incorporating the leis, the hula, and the Hawaiian cake into their celebration.
Rebecca’s top recommendation for having a Hawaiian themed wedding in Washington (or anywhere) is to hire a halau to come and perform. I learn there is a huge Hawaiian contingent in the Seattle area, especially the south sound, where most of a halaus in Washington state are based: Federal Way, Auburn, Enumclaw, and Tacoma. Much of the Pacific islander food is in the south end, as well. The Hawaiian bakery in Wallingford is Rebecca’s go-to for Hawaiian cakes. And while she will often source the family and guest leis directly from Hawai’i, there are a few local Seattle florists that Rebecca will work with for the specialty pikake and maile leis.
Rebecca and her husband celebrated their 10 year anniversary in 2020. I ask Rebecca if she were to have a 20 year vow renewal with her husband on their property and it was Hawaiian-themed, what tropical flowers would she choose? “So I really like textural flowers,” she says. “The pincushion flower, the coxcomb, and certainly some orchids in there, as well. And then mixing it up with some textural ti leaves. I like them when they are looped, so it’s not like a giant ti leaf that’s sticking out. And the flowers that smell so good, like the ginger flowers. Certainly the pikake flower and the plumeria, although I know plumeria is hard to put into an arrangement.”
I silently give myself kudos for for looping some of the ti leaves in Rebecca’s bouquet.
REBECCA’S HAWAIIAN FAVORITES
In relatively recent times, Rebecca noticed that in Asian & Pacific Islander weddings, a decline in couples embracing their culture. “It’s really sad to me, because there are so many amazing [cultural] things,” Rebecca laments. “But I feel like this year, even just with the lunar new year, I saw so much celebration around Chinese and Asian cultures than I have seen in a really long time. I don’t know if people are finally starting to embrace it or if there is just more awareness of the beauty of diversity.”
Either way, this wedding florist also hopes that trend continues.
On May 21, 2021 Kaytlyn and Ben were married at one of my favorite venues here in Washington: Twin Willow Gardens in Snohomish. Not only is TWG absolutely gorgeous – it’s a mix between a flower garden and enchanted forest – but it is owned by a fabulous wedding planner, Rebecca Grant of New Creations Weddings, who coordinated Kaytlyn and Ben’s big day.
Kaytlyn and Ben wanted a romantic wedding with a woodsy, fairytale feel. And that is exactly what their wedding was. They had a style in mind, but they were also open to new floral ideas. As a designer, I love when clients have great taste, but there is room for creative input! We choose a palette of neutrals with pops of color. Kaytlyn carried a lush, cascading bouquet with roses, poppies, ranunculus, lilac, geum, and ferns, Ben wore a ranunculus boutonniere, and their ceremony arch was adorned with two colors of sheer fabric, a lush side floral spray, and hanging glass terrariums with one of my favorite decor accents: fairy lights!
My first wedding of 2021 (my first wedding since the pandemic started), was with a wonderful couple named Catharin and Eric. They were married on May 8th at Block 41 in Seattle.
Now wedding planning is a lot to take on in normal times, but during a pandemic it requires even more. Catharin and Eric started planning their wedding back in 2020, and despite the lockdowns, the ever changing rules, and all the uncertainty, Catharin and Eric were wedding planning rockstars. Throughout the entire process they remained positive and optimistic, but they alway had different plans of execution in their back pocket. Those game plans corresponded to each of the reopening phases, as Washington state’s timeline for reopening always seemed to be a moving target. Catharin and Eric were hopeful, yet pragmatic, which are pretty much two qualities that apply to anything in life in order to be successful.
Catharin and Eric chose a warm color palette of reds, whites, blues, grey, and greens, with pops of copper. They wanted to incorporate carnations in honor of Eric’s mom and dark red roses in honor of Catharin’s grandmother, both who had passed on.
With a high level of planning and preparation, all the thought given to sentimental details, a team of uber-talented vendors, and a couple who maintained a strong tenacity and a positive attitude throughout, May 8, 2021 was not only beautiful, but was a very successful wedding day. Congratulations Catharin and Eric! You were such a joy to work with!
Hello and welcome! Thanks so much for taking time to stop by my part of the internet. I have been working with flowers for a long time and I just love helping people make their celebrations absolutely stunning. It is an honor and a priviledge to be a part of weddings and other special events.
In addition to floral design my other loves are yoga, coffee, the outdoors, and my husband and all the amazing people in my life.