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!
As I became more cognizant of how a vessel could impact the look and feel of a floral arrangement, my awareness started to expand into stoneware, ceramics, and other styles of clay pottery. Handmade pottery has been making more of an appearance in the wedding world in general and it’s oh-so-pretty. My husband and I have a couple of friends who make pottery, so clay vessels had been on my radar for some time now.
With floral design, the visual aspect of the arrangement is always noticed first – it looks beautiful. But how a floral arrangement feels, both visually and tactically, also holds a tremendous amount of importance. Clay vessels are wonderful options to consider when choosing your floral arrangement vases. Not only do they look beautiful, but they feel rich, weighted, and gloriously palpable.
Garnering this appreciation of handmade clay vases, my interest was immediately peaked when I learned that Shelby of Shelby Bond Ceramics created an inventory of rental vases for weddings and events. Shelby gets her clay from Vashon Island, so the material is local to Washington, which is awesome. When I got married back in 2017 in Colorado, my husband and I incorporated many design elements that were local to the area. Our wedding was unique to us, but also served as a salute to the local region.
With some flowers from my yard and some leftover stems from a wedding mock-up, I made these cute arrangements with Shelby’s beautiful clay vases.
In a recent collaboration with Pacific Place on a Tabletop Floral Virtual Workshop, I created a delicious flower + food arrangement in a beautiful salad bowl from Anthropologie. I had gifted one of these bowls to a friend who got married last year and I knew I needed one of my own. It’s a gorgeous light blue color with a lovely speckled pattern around the rim. It might be one of the most beautiful salad bowls that I have ever owned.
A vase is really just a water-tight vessels, so anything that is water-tight can be a potential vase. Mixing different mediums is quite fun in the world of floral design. Floral arrangements don’t have to use just flowers! A salad bow, while perfect for salads, can also be great for floral arrangements…well, floral salad arrangements, really!
My goal for these blog posts about vessels is to inspire more consideration with regard the non-flower elements of floral arrangements. In design, all elements of the creation must work together in a balanced and pleasing harmony. And when they do the results can be tremendous.
Let me know what you think about ceramics and stoneware vessels! Do you love them as much as I do? I would love to hear from you!
Being alive in the year 2020 has been challenging to say the least. Sometimes, when there is so much negativity in the world, we forget that beautiful things still exist. And we can forget to look for those beautiful things and grab a hold of them. With spending more time in our homes these days, it’s more important, especially now, to bring beauty inside. And while I might be biased, I think everyone would agree that flowers are definitely beautiful. Flowers embody beauty, life, and joy – all things we could use a little more of right now.
I recently collaborated with Pacific Place on a virtual workshop all about stylish and creative ways to add flowers to your dining table. Each year Pacific Place hosts a Film Meets Fashion event celebrating Seattle’s fall fashion. While COVID-19 disrupted their plans for an in-person affair, Pacific Place still wanted to share the spirit of Film Meets Fashion. They created a lineup of uplifting and inspiring virtual workshops, by showcasing fashion inside the home.
Sharing these different tabletop flower ideas was so much fun! I hope this virtual workshop inspires you to create something beautiful for your dining table. Check out the full workshop in the video below. You can find more images of the four different floral styles I present further down on this blog post. Enjoy!
Flowers in Kitchenware Vessels
Vases come in all shapes and sizes, but at its core a vase is really just a water-tight container. So if you go into your kitchen and look around you’ll probably see a bunch of water-tight containers. And just like that you have an inventory of flower vases!
For this arrangement I chose to design in a cute little tea pot that had been a gift for my mom some time ago. I didn’t use any mechanics inside the teapot, as I didn’t want to scratch the inside finish. Isn’t this arrangement just the sweetest?!
Flowers in Food Containers
Another source of water-tight containers are food containers! Anything from a spaghetti jar to a yogurt container could be used as a vase. Before you throw that tomato can into the recycling bin why not give it yet another life, even temporarily, by putting flowers in it??
In this demonstration I made savory Italian-inspired floral arrangements in two spaghetti jars and one tomato can. The local dahlias I included were the perfect richness for these arrangements. Delicious!
Flower + Food Arrangements
Confession – I was most excited about creating a flower and food arrangement for the tabletop workshop. I had been dreaming about designing in a salad bowl for some time now, after gifting a beautiful salad bowl to a friend in honor of her marriage. And I’ve been on a fresh kale kick for several months and was admiring the shape and texture of the kale leaves, and thought how lovely they would be in a floral arrangement. So, creating a flower + food arrangement was perfect for this salad bowl!
The final design idea I shared was elevating flowers off of the dining table. This is done all the time in the wedding and events world, but deciding on mechanics that would be relatively accessible and easy to replicate for the non professional Florist was something I had to really think through. I searched around and finally settled on some ceiling command hooks that I found on Amazon. They don’t take a lot of weight, but just enough to make a visual impact. Have fun with this one!
If you are inspired to try any of these arrangement styles I would love to see what you create. I will add your photo to this blog post and share on my Instagram account. You can contact me via email: firstname.lastname@example.org or send me a DM to @hollyyeefloralarchitecture
I can’t wait to see what beautiful things YOU create!
The other day I traveled up to Mount Vernon, which is about an hour north of Seattle, and spent the afternoon with Jesalyn of Mossy Gate Flower Farm. I was on the hunt for aster flowers and was told by another Flower Farmer to check with Jesalyn. The aster flower is one of September’s birth flowers. This year I have been spending a lot of time photographing flowers in order to practice my photography skills. I have learned over the years that as a small business owner it’s imperative that you photograph your own work. In an effort to push myself to produce better images I have been gifting some of my flower photos to friends and family members for their birthdays. With a handful of September birthdays marked on my calendar, finding beautiful aster flowers was on my to-do list.
Jesalyn started Mossy Gate Flower Farm in 2015. The name for her flower business came about one day while staring at the old farm fence at the rental home where Jesalyn’s flower journey started. The need for a unique name, paired with her love for moss and cottage gardens, was realized upon seeing that gate. Her mountain man boyfriend, as she refers to, then crafted (initially as inspiration) THE Mossy Gate Flower Farm gate – the image you now see depicted in the Mossy Gate logo and in all of Jesalyn’s branding.
Mossy Gate Flower Farm currently covers two acres of land, which is divided up among three different plots. In Jesalyn’s front yard, where she grows some of her flowers, is the Mossy Gate roadside flower stand where you can grab a bunch of home-grown fresh flowers. This flower stand was crafted out of an old vintage truck bed with a custom wood canopy, also built by her mountain man boyfriend.
When she first moved into her house, Jesalyn said her front yard was covered entirely in thick blackberry bushes. The pictures she showed me of the blackberry removal didn’t lie – those were some gnarly bushes. The land today, though, is a a gently sloping grass hill with her flower stand and growing blooms at the bottom. The feverfew that Jesalyn cut while we chatted were some of the tallest stems I have seen.
Back behind her house stand a structure where Jesalyn propagates flower plants from seeds. She watered her plants while I snapped some more photos.
Jesalyn’s yard used to have more of her flower crops planted there. Last year, however, she found another piece of land and decided to expand her flower farm, which included moving some of her flower varieties to this new space. A big sunflower still remained in her home-base plot, however, and I watched in amazement as Jesalyn made a smiley face by pulling out the seed heads. So of course I snapped more photos – how fun! Her two geese, Moxie and Pippin, also though so, too. Although, in retrospect, I think they were actually more suspicious of this new person with a camera.
After walking around her home-base property, Jesalyn rounded up her two adorable sons and I followed them to the most recently acquired Mossy Gate Flower Farm plot (plot number 3). This was a flat piece of land in the Mount Vernon valley. Super straight rows of flower crops were dotted by pops of colorful zinnias.
Our final stop for the afternoon was Jesalyn’s second plot where she grows a big majority of her flowers. The Bonita and Masumoto asters were in full bloom – pink, purple, and white ones. There were also big, beautiful dahlias. I loved buying dahlias locally back in Colorado, which made me happy to find such a wonderful farm here in Washington. Jesalyn also had a variety of flower that I have never actually used in any of my design work – dianthus or ‘Sweet William’. The color of these burgundy blooms was so rich and the fragrance was incredible! I will definitely use dianthus in the future. Move over peonies!
Jesalyn rounded up my requested aster flowers, but she also threw in a big bunch of other beautiful blooms for me to play around with. Can I just say how fun it is to design with a heaping full of locally grown super colorful flowers??
I visited Mossy Gate Flower Farm in search of aster flowers and not only did I find what I was looking for, but I left with a bucket full of beautiful flowers, some cute cards which Jesalyn sells on her website, and a heart full of gratitude. It was an afternoon spent with great company in beautiful surroundings. Jesalyn has grown her flower farm in the five years since she started. Her ideal size of land to farm on is five acres and she is well on her way to getting there. I can’t wait to see what she grows next!
For a long time I held tight to a belief about floral arrangements – that the flowers were much more important than the vases they were designed in. Dreaming about the varieties of flowers I would use for wedding centerpieces could take up the better half of the day. Their colors and shapes would paint vivid pictures in my head as I used my imagination to create beautiful displays for the dinner tables. But the vases? Well, the vases were needed, for sure, but they always came secondary to the flowers. After-all, flowers were the true star of the show (after the couple, of course!).
Last year, however, I came to fully understand and appreciate the magnitude of the vase. I was making a floral arrangement to be given away as a door prize at a networking event. The design turned out lovely, but something felt…off. And at first I had a hard time putting my finger on it, until I finally realized it was the vase that was bothering me. So I swapped out the light brown compote I had used for a rich, dark wooden container. Ta-dah! It was a small change, but it made all the difference. With a simple change of vessel the floral arrangement went from good to great.
So I thought it would be fun and useful to take a look at different styles of vases to see how they impact the overall look and feel of the floral arrangement. In this analysis I used all blue/purple hydrangea from my back yard and simply swapped out the vase without taking out any stems or adding any additional flowers. There are four main characteristics of vases that seem to affect the aesthetic of an arrangement the most: color, shape, material, and prominence.
While many vases used in floral design are neutral in color – clear, white, or brown – the color of a vase (even a neutral color) can change the aesthetic of the arrangement. In this example I started with a blue vase, which was essentially a continuation of the monochromatic color palette of the hydrangea. I then tried yellow vase for contrast.
When I look at the arrangement with the blue vase these words come to mind: rich, striking, bold. When I look at the arrangement with the yellow vase I get a different feeling: cheerful, lighthearted, sweet.
Vases come in an abundance of shapes. From cylindrical to compote to urn to trumpet – the list goes on and on! The shape of a vase directly affects how the flowers will sit, which can play a big part in determining the overall shape of the arrangement. But even if you can create a similar arrangement shape with different shaped vases, the shape of the vase itself also infuses a feeling into the arrangement. In this example I decided to go with a round bowl vase and then I used a square cube vase.
When I look at the arrangement with the round vase these words come to mind: bulbous, lush, romantic. When I look at the arrangement in the square vase I get a different feeling: modern, different, contrast.
Material is another vase characteristic that impacts the arrangements aesthetic. The material of a vase will determine not only the color sometimes, but also the texture. Texture can be felt directly with your hands, of course, but texture can be felt visually, as well. In this comparison I opted for a metal container and then a wooden container.
When I look at the arrangement with the metal vase these words come to mind: geometric, modern, contemporary. When I look at the arrangement in the wooden container I get a different feeling: rustic, rich, solid.
The final quality of a vase that can influence the style of the floral arrangement is the size of the vase in regard to its prominence. Some vases are low and discrete, while others cannot help but demand attention. Here I used a shallow ceramic bowl and then countered that with a tall vase with a bold, contrasting design.
When I look at the arrangement with the shallow vase these words come to mind: fluffy, full, luxurious. When I look at the arrangement in the tall vase with the ornate design I get a different feeling: unusual, impressive, fascinating.
What are your thoughts? Do you agree with me on these comparisons? Even if different words came to you when viewing these arrangements, hopefully you took away an understanding of just how much a vase can impact the overall look and feel of a flower arrangement. Crazy, right?!
As I continue to evolve and grow as a Wedding and Event Floral Architect, my appreciation for different vessels continues to grow. I plan to highlight more vessels in up-coming blog posts. Stay tuned!
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.