From the very start, the second I laid eyes on the beautiful invitation suite from Lauren Chism Fine Papers, I knew this wedding was going to be out of this world beautiful. What I did not expect, however, was mother nature showing up big time and gracing this already stunning wedding with a little extra love, all captured by Ava Weddings. It’s so beautiful it almost doesn’t feel real.
From the stunning bride… Dan proposed on a Friday evening in Manhattan during Hurricane Sandy, presenting me with his maternal Grandmother’s beautiful 1930s ring. He’d traveled into the city from the town on the Jersey shore where we grew up to make sure I was ok. I lived in lower Manhattan at the time and had to evacuate my apartment. I was fortunate and found refuge at my cousin’s apartment on the Upper East Side. Our engagement news brought some much needed happiness into the lives of our family members and loved ones from New York and the Jersey shore. I started planning right away, despite the fact that we were all without heat, hot water or electricity. It was no surprise to those who know me that I’d always dreamed of a wedding at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.
My love affair with flowers began a long time ago. My mother, an avid gardener, always has the most beautiful and lush yard on our block. She taught me early on about the joy flowers can bring to others. My mother showed me how a simple fresh cut bouquet of flowers, for any reason or no reason at all, could inject a little sunshine in someone’s day. I decided to follow in her footsteps by educating myself about flowers; I learned their names, new arrangement techniques and most importantly, the magical language of flowers. For example, it would be quite appropriate to send your best friend a bouquet of freesia, which symbolizes lasting friendship (and smells amazing too).
Just a week after our engagement, I got incredibly lucky and secured a Friday evening in May at the Palm House at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. I also happened to fall head over heels for a gorgeous dove grey chiffon J.Mendel gown later the following week. I knew that May’s flower is the lily of the valley, which symbolizes the return of happiness and purity of heart, so wanted to work with flowers that had equally important and meaningful associations. I decided that I would plan the day around a floral theme, focusing the classic bridal whites in the floral details rather than my dress, with dramatic pops of purple flowers, my favorite color. The color scheme would also incorporate greys, a nod to my dress, and soft greens to reinforce the garden’s beautiful backdrop!
Our wedding day was spectacularly sunny – not a cloud in the sky! We planned a “first look” and I absolutely adore that series of photographs. I’ll never forget the expression on Dan’s face when he turned around to see me; the pure joy and happiness the radiated from him as he twirled me around was so lovely!
Dan donned a boutonniere of lily of the valley. My bridal bouquet was full of peonies (happy life – happy marriage), with lily of the valley and purple lisianthus (appreciation) details. A simple bouquet charm that Dan gave me for Christmas, which was engraved with the title of our song, Your Smiling Face by James Taylor, hung from my bouquet. The garden was so incredibly lush and green and we wanted to cover as many special sites as possible. We walked through the gardens, too happy to allow the 90 degree weather distract us, posing with the most incredible scenery, including a field of bluebells (constancy) and bright red roses (love) in the Rose Garden. We were quite a ways from the Palm House after all of our exploring, but a kind grounds worker let us hitch a ride back in his cart!
When we arrived back at the Palm House we were greeted by our immediate family members and our Officiant. We all headed out to the scenic lily pond to take our family portraits. Being a flower lover, I had to make sure that my Flower Girl, my darling niece, received special attention for her very important role. She carried a bouquet of light purple tulips (declaration of love) for photographs, which were also incorporated into the centerpieces for the reception. She also had a white basket with purple ribbons full of white rose petals (innocence and hope) for the ceremony. Her brother, our Ring Bearer, wore a boutonniere of purple wax flower (beauty), which filled the escort vases for the reception. He carried a delicate bird’s nest which held our rings by the ribbon. My attendants were my brother and my Maid of Honor, his lovely fiancée at the time and now my sister-in-law. Dan’s attendants were his brother, who was the Best Man, and his sister, the mother of our Flower Girl and Ring Bearer. The girls carried large bouquets of peonies – they were in season and I wanted to take full advantage of fresh seasonal flowers – with delicate hints of light purple freesia. The guys wore classic bridal white rose boutonnieres. Our mothers wore wristlets of cymbidium orchid (refined beauty) and our fathers wore the same as boutonnieres.
Once our portraits were concluded, the family proceeded to the meadow, which was the amazing background we’d chosen for the ceremony. We would be married under an enormous willow tree at the center of the meadow. Family and friends settled in and were sipping champagne and sparkling water, while listening to the Tribute String Quartet play contemporary tunes like What the World Needs Now by Dionne Warwick and My Cherie Amour by Stevie Wonder.
Once everyone was seated, the Tribute String Quartet began playing In My Life by The Beatles. Dan was first down the aisle, accompanying my Grandmother Janet to her seat. This was an extra special moment for everyone in both of our families. Once the bridal party processional was complete, the Tribute String Quartet switched to a rendition of Nightswimming by R.E.M., which they’d arranged just for us. This was the song that we’d been dancing to when Dan proposed. I clutched my Dad’s arm rather tightly as we headed down the lawn together. He made me laugh so hard when he whispered to me “this is kind of nerve-wracking, isn’t it?” I whispered back “tell me about it!” This special father-daughter moment lent to some very smiley photos.
We put a lot of time and thought into planning our ceremony with our Officiant. It was everything I’d ever hoped it would be and more. Having someone who has known you since you were three years old marry you is a pretty incredible gift. I was overwhelmed. My lovely friend Laura sang a beautiful hymn with the Tribute String Quartet accompanying her. Dan’s extraordinary friend Britt wrote a poem dedicated to us on our wedding day, which he recited to everyone’s delight. I couldn’t stop smiling as I looked around at all of our loved ones, listening to the birds chirping in the background, the whole garden felt alive. My dream day was coming true. The most fun part for me was when our Officiant announced “let the kissing begin” and with that the kissing did indeed begin, as did the open strings to Viva La Vida by Coldplay. I let out a WOOHOO and we made our way down the grass aisle back up to the Palm House.
I wanted to reinforce the floral theme in as many different ways as possible: guests enjoyed a signature that I’d created for the day – the Flower Girl; the floral arrangements for our cocktail hour consisted of deep purple stock flower (united hearts), nestled in white birch vases; we had a guest tree in lieu of a guest book; the silver matchbooks had a purple imprint of a lily of the valley on the back; our favors were tiny bags of wildflower seeds with the saying “all things grow with love” stamped on them with purple ink; and our gorgeous Ana Parzych cake was detailed with dogwood flowers. I wanted to make quite an impression in the entry way to the Palm House, so I had a tall mercury vase filled white snapdragons (dazzling), white delphinium (big-hearted) and green vibernum (vibrancy), which looked like exploding fireworks on the escort table. Little escort vases filled purple wax flower covered the table. I named each table after a special flower for different groups of guests. For example, my parents, grandmother and godparents were seated at the tulip table. Dan’s parents, siblings and their children were seated at the lisianthus table. The centerpieces incorporated very special flowers, the meanings of which you may have learned by now: white peonies, white freesia, white sweetheart roses, purple and white lisanthius and white and purple tulips. One very special touch that my amazing floral designer put together for me was at our sweetheart table. A small mercury vase containing white gerbera daisies (my Grandma Edith’s favorite) with white roses was placed to the left of my table setting, which was her place – by my side. She always sat to my left on the end of the table at every holiday dinner because she was a leftie and didn’t want to elbow me through the entire meal!
We kicked off the reception by performing a choreographed dance to Your Smiling Face for our guests. What nobody knew was that minutes before I’d announced to Dan that I’d forgotten the entire thing and developed a charley horse from dehydration. It was 90 degrees out after all! I chugged some water and relaxed as Dan reminded me that we practiced so much that my feet would just know what to do. He was right – we rocked it!
There were so many incredibly touching and special moments that day, but I do have two favorite memories from our reception. My Dad’s toast was spectacular. He was describing Dan’s visit to the house during Hurricane Sandy, explaining that they were huddled around a fire drinking wine when Dan asked for my hand in marriage. My Dad announced before our guests “the lights didn’t come back on at that moment Dan, but I sure felt they should have.” He was a star.
My other favorite moment happened near the end of the night. My fourteen year-old cousin Charlie, who is the lead singer in a band in New Jersey, performed with our awesome eleven-piece band. He belted out Twist and Shout as people filled the dance floor. Our guests started chanting “one more song” and the next thing I knew he counted it off and started singing I Saw Her Standing There. It was the best surprise performance ever!
Dan and I took a few “time outs” to soak in the memories. The soft grey linens and tea lights kept the room bright and cozy as the stars came out that night. I was full to the brim with happiness as I looked around the room at all of the amazing people in our lives. I would send them all buckets of Canturbury bells (gratitude) if I could!
Photographer: Sara Harper-Hudson & Ted Hudson Of Ava Weddings | Wedding Coordinator: Christine Viola Of Exquisite Affairs Productions, Inc. | Flowers: Designs By Rose | Wedding Dress: J. Mendel (Mark Ingram Atelier) | Cake: The Palm House Cake Collection By Ana Parzych | Bride's Shoes: Diane Von Furstenberg | Bridesmaids' Dresses: Bill Levkoff | Bridesmaids' Dresses: ML By Monique Lhuillier | Caterer: Charles Sally Charles | Groom's Shoes: Ferragamo | Groomsmens' Ties: Valentino | Ceremony Music: Tribute String Quartet Of Lucys Music | Bride's Hair: Gabriel San Emertilo | Bride's Make-Up: Karina Montoya | Bridesmaids' Earrings: Alexis Bittar | Day Of Paper Goods: LaurieLaurie Coreas Of Exquisite Affairs Productions, Inc. | Groom's Shirt: Armani | Groom's Suite: Custom-made By Suitsupply | Groom's Tie: Brioni | Hair Accessories: Paris By Debra Moreland Fantana Vintage Bridal Hair Comb | Purse: Judith Leiber Overture | Reception Music: Steppin' Out | Save The Dates, Invitations And Programs: Lauren Chism Fine Papers | Wedding Venue: The Palm House - Brooklyn Botanical Gardens