Flower choices can make your simcha a blooming success

You may not wear white for your wedding or hold your ceremony in a synagogue, but chances are you’ll incorporate flowers into your day somehow, whether it’s with an extravagant bouquet or a simple hair accessory. Here’s what to consider when choosing your blooms:

First Things First
Don’t even think about visiting a florist until you’ve chosen what both you and your bridesmaids will be wearing for the ceremony. Your gown style and the colors of your bridesmaids’ dresses will help your florist get a sense of your personal style and enable her to create bouquets and arrangements that will enhance, rather than detract, from the main event — you.
Collect magazine photos of images you like and don’t like, and show them to your wedding/floral consultant, said Jennifer McGarigle, owner of FloralArt in Venice. She’ll be able to help translate your personal style into the visual and experiential vision you have for your wedding.

Color Clues
We’ve come a long way from traditional white wedding bouquets. Nowadays, anything goes, from bright orange to deep red to dramatic purple. Monochromatic or tone-on-tone combinations are a big trend right now, McGarigle said. (Think pale pink hydrangeas paired with deeper pink roses and bright pink asters.)
“Purple is a big hit … but be careful how you use it,” she said. “It works best when there are bleeding shades of purple — from lavender, to purple, to violet. Use crisp white, soft gray or celery green as a contrasting accent.”
Remember that color can come from more than just the flowers themselves. Incorporate accent colors with ribbon or beaded wire in your bouquet and with vases and tablecloths for your table arrangements.
“My favorite combination right now is monochromatic white with antique gold and beige or chocolate brown accents,” McGarigle said. “The gold can come from either the fabric of the containers or linens, like a gold matte satin cloth.”

Let’s Get Practical
Choose flowers carefully if you or other members of your party are prone to allergies, said Judith Sherven, co-author of “The Smart Couple’s Guide to the Wedding of Your Dreams” (New World Library, 2005). Gardenias and some lilies, for example, are very pungent and can cause headaches or other symptoms, even for your guests, she said.
You’ll also want to be sure that your blooms will hold up for the duration of your event and be easy to transport if you’ll be reusing ceremony arrangements for the reception (a great way to save money). Sharing your wedding day itinerary with your florist will help her in guiding your floral choices.

Money Matters
Be up-front with your florist about your budget, McGarigle said, and always get a proposal that itemizes and describes each area of décor. If you’re on a budget, prioritize, she said. “Choose the areas you do and do them well.”
If you have your heart set on pricier flowers, like orchids or calla lilies but can’t afford to use them in large quantities, think in terms of simple, elegant arrangements, Sherven said. Use your most expensive flowers in your hair and bouquet (where they’ll be front and center in photos and during the ceremony) and less costly blooms for site decoration. You can also use potted plants and flowers from friends’ gardens to expand on your use of florist arrangements, she said.

Style and Shape
“The biggest trends in flowers right now are modern but not minimalist arrangements,” McGarigle said, “meaning the lines of floral decor are clean and streamlined but lush in color, texture and abundance.
“Mix vases and other containers in varying shapes and sizes for a more eclectic, interesting look,” she said, “but create unity with common shapes, whether round or square. A centerpiece grouping, for example, could combine vases of varying heights in round and cylindrical shapes. For flower combinations, three- to five-bloom variations that complement one another make for cleaner looking arrangements with impact.”

Be Size Wise With the Bouquet
Don’t get stuck carting a bouquet that’s heavy or awkward. It may not seem unwieldy at first, but keep in mind that you’ll be holding it for the duration of your ceremony and through all your pictures. Keep both your body shape and dress style in mind when choosing your blossoms. The three main types of bridal bouquets are:

  • Round posy — either hand-tied (stems are bound and tied with ribbon) or wired (stems are removed to eliminate bulk). Hand-tied bouquets are versatile and work well with all types of dresses. Wired posies make for lighter bouquets and are a good choice for petite-size brides.
  • Trailing/shower. Elongated bouquets like cascades/showers (which resemble waterfalls) and trailing bouquets (which are full at the top, then taper to form a tail at the bottom) are good choices for fuller skirts and/or taller brides.
  • Overarm. Long-stemmed flowers (roses, orchids or calla lilies are popular choices) are tied with a ribbon and held along the inner crook of your elbow. This style suits a modern, slim dress and draws attention to an ornamented bodice.

Peak timing
Choosing in-season blooms will keep prices down, as will steering clear of red roses if you’ll be tying the knot close to Valentine’s Day.

Location, Location
Try to avoid competing with your environment, whether it’s indoors or out. Small bouquets can seem insignificant in large spaces, and extravagant blooms ostentatious for intimate backyard gatherings. Also take note of the floor and wall colors, and the type of decorations already on site. You may be able to save money by making use of in-house plants and archways.

Make It Meaningful
Many flowers have meanings associated with them, for example:

Rose: love, beauty.
Sunflowe: adoration.
Gardenia: joy.
Orchid: delicate beauty.
Lily of the valley: happiness.
Sweet pea: lasting pleasure.
Peony: bashfulness.
Stephanotis: marital happiness.

But what really matters is choosing flowers you love. You can also pick blossoms based on those that have meant something to you and your fiancé as a couple — pink roses for the first bouquet he gave you or lilacs for the bush in your friend’s backyard where he proposed.

The bottom line? “Surround yourself with flowers that bring you pleasure and joy,” Sherven said. They’ll set the tone for your wedding and be a constant reminder of your blossoming love.

Jenny Stamos writes about health, nutrition, psychology, work, money and love for magazines such as Self, Shape, Glamour, Women’s Health, Prevention and Woman’s Day.

Father of the Bride: No Job, Just Smile

Recently, I told some friends that I was going to accompany my younger daughter while she tried on wedding dresses. Their reactions were as follows:

From the women: “How very sweet”; “How lovely to bond with your daughter”; “I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.”

From the men: “Bring your checkbook.”

This is not going to be a rant about how difficult it is for men to deal with weddings — their own or someone else’s. (In fact my daughter paid for her own dress and, with her fiancé, is also paying for the wedding.) My role was to stand by, look as though I knew what I was doing, and contribute my considered judgment on how she looked in the dresses she was trying on. Not being an utter fool, I restricted my comments to an occasional “lovely” with a few “beautifuls” added for variety.

Face it friends, when it comes to weddings, men are about as essential as a third leg. This is true during the premarital stages and the wedding itself. (After the wedding it’s another story, but this is a family newspaper.)

We generally stand around, amazed at the enormity of effort that goes into its preparation and then, at the event itself, we walk down the aisle looking like penguins and stand under the chuppah unnoticed while everyone gazes in awe and admiration at the bride. If it weren’t for the fact that the law requires two for a wedding, we could just as well stay home and watch the Wedding Channel.

Viewing the preparations for my daughter’s wedding (never mind that it is scheduled for next November), I am in awe at the breadth and intensity of the action. I can recall three sites that were officially chosen and then rejected. Latest word is that it is set for the chapel of her alma mater, Brandeis University. The bride has informed me of the principal reason for this. Apparently the chapel has a glass wall, which catches the sun at a certain hour of the afternoon so that the wedding pair is silhouetted against the sky. I am not making this up.

When last I heard, the guest list was being kept to 125, a goodly number of whom will fly in from California, where she was born and lived until we moved to Rhode Island. Others will be arriving from Seattle, St. Louis, Chicago and Washington, D.C.

The dresses for the bridesmaids have already been selected, the canopy has been chosen and the rabbi has been alerted. Enough non-Jews will be present so that my wife will write a booklet explaining to them what they are watching. It will probably contain no reference to the fact that this is an all-woman production.

My role consists of saying the aforementioned “lovelys” and “beautifuls,” as well as a plentiful number of “yes, dears.”

Clayton, the other half of the duo-to-be, has only to utter one “I do,” an important responsibility, granted, but one I’m sure he can handle. His role has been even smaller than mine; he didn’t even get to watch the dress selection. Truth is, he is probably quite happy with this arrangement; call me a sexist pig if you will, but women seem genetically wired for this sort of activity while men are more interested in what takes place after the last grain of rice has been thrown. (Oops, sorry. I forgot. Family newspaper.)

The mother of the bride has been content with offering advice when requested. As a practicing historian, her interest in weddings as a genre is limited to the marital customs of the Incas and the Aztecs, most of which would probably be illegal in California. The stepfather of the groom lives in Washington state and has, thankfully, been most circumspect in his queries about what to expect when the day arrives. I doubt whether he will be surprised at anything that transpires. As a former Marine, he knows when to duck and weddings provide many opportunities for the men involved in them to practice their avoidance skills.

Which is pretty much what I am about at the moment. Frankly, I’m not anticipating the wedding as much as the aftermath, because in a year or two I expect that the products of this union will begin to emerge, among them I trust, at least one baby boy. Eventually he will develop a liking for the important things in life: baseball, TV, “EverQuest” and girls. When he does, you know whom he will turn to for advice and counsel. And the best part is that when he finds the right girl and is ready to marry, never, ever, will he ask me if the shoes he has picked match the socks he will be wearing at his wedding.

For this let us all give thanks and say, amen.

Yehuda Lev, former associate editor of The Jewish Journal, now makes his home in Providence, R.I. His business card reads “Journalist Emeritus.”


Attending to Gifts

Your wedding party is an entourage of childhood friends, college roommates, siblings and other close family members. Most have been by your side, contributing their time, energy and love throughout the entire wedding planning process. So, when the big event is about to happen, how best can brides and grooms offer their thanks?

As one would when shopping for any gift, it’s best to keep each individual in mind, choosing imaginative and stylish gifts that come from the heart, say bridal advisers at theknot.com.

Are traditional gifts the way to go?

“Brides can give the bridesmaids something to wear on the wedding day such as a necklace or earrings,” said Kathleen Murray, weddings editor at The Knot. “For the guys, a wine set, Swiss Army knife and golf kits are great traditional ideas.”

Looking for something a little trendier?

Owen Halpern, co-owner of OwenLawrence, an Atlanta boutique, prides himself on offering shoppers items they won’t see in every other shop.

For bridal attendant gifts he suggests a crystal bedside carafe, Italian crystal clocks by Arnolfo Di Cambio or beautifully boxed Italian vodka shot glasses by Salviati — all gift items that are as special as the occasion they mark.

He also said people are “loving” gift items called Elton Rocks, made out of colored, scented resin — “sort of an alternative to potpourri.” (According to Halpern, Elton John allowed his name to be used on the product because a portion of the proceeds are donated to his AIDS foundation.)

Halpern indulges OwenLawrence shoppers with champagne or signature bellinis, offered “only in crystal with linen napkins — no paper or plastic,” to help everyone enjoy “the finer things in life.”

“It’s a stressful time. Brides and grooms can relax and enjoy the shopping experience,” Halpern said.

Anything monogrammed is also popular for attendant gifts.

“Monogramming anything from jewelry to flasks to sandals for a beach wedding is hot right now,” Murray said.

While fountain pens may have become the joke of traditional bar mitzvah gifting, pens are popular as gifts for grooms’ attendants.

“We’ve sold everything form Mont Blanc, Cross and Watermans to Parker and Cartier. Generally we engrave initials of the groomsmen. It’s a small gift, but it’s a valued one,” said Steve Light of Artlite.

No matter how much appreciation you might want to lavish upon your bridal attendants, the sheer quantity can tally a daunting price tag. Be sure to ask yourself how much you plan — and can afford — to spend.

Murray normally advises bridal couples to spend what they can, but on average it’s usually $75 per person. The best man and matron or maid of honor should get something a little more lavish.

Yet, if a tight budget is cramping your style, there are great ways to get by.

Inexpensive gifts for bridesmaids can include an engraved silver photo frame or compact mirror, nice jewelry or beautiful candles.

For groomsmen, engraved pewter beer steins, silver pocketknives or cigar holders are usually low-priced.

Murray says it’s all about being a smart shopper.

“Inexpensive gifts are really just being able to find a great buy,” she said. “The bride may find a bracelet worth thousands of dollars, but if they look harder, they can find one for a lot less.”

Of course, if you decide to splurge on the wedding party, the options are endless. “The Knot Complete Guide to Weddings in the Real World” offers ideas ranging from remote control cars for guys, a certificate for an acclaimed restaurant or spa certificates to tickets to a game or play, silk pajamas, beauty baskets or cigars.

For bridesmaids, Murray says classes are always a popular item.

“Cooking, wine tasting, photography classes are all great options,” she said. “Again, base your decision upon each bridesmaid’s specific interest. For groomsmen, look into golf or ski lessons or even a bottle or case of wine from a great vineyard.”

Still stuck on what to get? Consider using your own talents. Artists can create drawings, paintings or pottery, while musicians can create a CD of their own music.

“If a couple does not feel they have such talents, or do not have time to make their gifts, they can have gift baskets created that are personalized to each attendants’ tastes and interests,” Murray said.

Laura Vogltanz of Copley News Service contributed to this article.

Here Come The Bridesmaids!

You’ve honored your closest friends and most cherished relatives with a special place in your wedding party. As bridesmaids, they’ll throw you a shower, plan a bachelorette bash and attend other pre-wedding event, which means you’ll be spending a good deal of time with them in the coming months. But weddings have a way of bringing out people’s true colors. And, like an ugly bridesmaid dress, those colors aren’t always flattering. So what do you do about an attendant who’s out to steal your spotlight? Or the one who complains all the time? Easy! Just use our baffling bridesmaid behavior decoder and follow our keep-the-peace guide.

The Diva

This bridesmaid manages to make your wedding all about her. She insists on planning the shower her way and around her schedule, and on the big day spends more time primping for the camera than you do. Watch out: The Diva is trying to steal your thunder!

Kim Thomas (*not her real name), of Santa Barbara, regrets having asked her friend Pia to be in the wedding party.

“She was impossible throughout the whole thing,” Thomas said. “First, she offered to have the bridal shower at her house, but said she would limit it to 25 people — even though she knows I have a huge family. Fortunately, a lot of my relatives live far away and couldn’t make it, so we came in under the limit. Then, she complained about the bridesmaid dress I picked, saying it was too short — but that’s because she’s really tall.”

“On the day of the wedding, she called me and said she wasn’t feeling well, although it was clear she was fine,” Thomas continued. “And then she wouldn’t stop whining about a little chip in her nail polish!”

How to Deal: If The Diva is trying to steal the show, there are a few likely reasons, says Sheryl Paul Nissinen, a Los Angeles counselor and author of “The Conscious Bride’s Wedding Planner” (New Harbinger Publications, 2003). “If she’s not married, it’s possible that she’s jealous,” said Nissinen, especially if she’s older than the bride. Another common reason for all types of behavior are subconscious feelings of sadness over “losing” a sister or best friend, she added.

Handle The Diva’s behavior with a heart-to-heart. You might say, “Hey, I’ve noticed that you’ve turned up your nose at every suggestion I’ve had. It seems like there’s something else going on. What’s up?”

“It sounds so simple, but sometimes just putting it out there and validating her feelings is the best way,” Nissinen said.

The Rookie

This is the first time she’s ever been asked to be a bridesmaid. She doesn’t know she’s expected to help pick out dresses, plan the shower and show up at events leading up to the big day. It may be because she’s single, or doesn’t have sisters to explain the bridesmaids’ role to her. Whatever the reason, you’re frustrated about picking up her slack — and perhaps feeling hurt that she’s not a more involved attendant. Such was the case for Felicia Lo, from St. Augustine, Fla., who asked her sister, Dorothy, to be her maid of honor — her first gig as one. Dorothy didn’t help the other bridesmaids plan any of the pre-wedding festivities.

“My best friend ended up hosting my bridal shower,” Lo said. “And my sister didn’t even come to the bachelorette party.”

How to Deal: Don’t take her cluelessness personally. Before you got engaged, you’d never heard of a wishing well, either! The Rookie simply needs a crash course in Being a Bridesmaid 101. Maybe you can ask one of your more experienced pals to fill her in, or buy her one of the many humorous books on the topic, such as “The Bridesmaid’s Survival Guide” (Viking Penguin, 2000) by Mary Kay McDermott.

The Critic

Because she recently got married herself, she’s full of advice — usually unsolicited. If she says, “I wish I’d gotten married in my hometown,” or “You should write your own vows,” that’s an indication that she has regrets about her own wedding, Nissinen said. You don’t want to hurt her feelings — after all, the tip about giving the DJ a “do not play” list was a great idea — but this bridesmaid is getting on your nerves!

How to Deal: “This often comes out at the bridal shower,” McDermott said. “She critiques every gift you open, saying, ‘Oh, you’re totally going to love that, you need that.'”

While it’s great to have an expert around, don’t let The Critic turn your wedding into “take-two” of her own. Thank her for her suggestions, but stand firm — “I know you would choose white roses, but I’ve had my heart set on freesia since I was 5.”

If you’re at the breaking point, “Say, ‘Gosh, your wedding was so great, but I want to do this my own way,'” McDermott suggested.

The Loner

Your sole grade-school pal or gym buddy can feel like a third wheel amid a sea of sorority sisters. After Tina Stroup of Towson, Md., asked a friend from work to be her bridesmaid, along with three childhood friends, she had second thoughts.

“She wasn’t interested in doing anything — looking at dresses, talking about the wedding,” Stroup said.

Having a bridesmaid who doesn’t fit in is awkward for everyone.

How to Deal: You and your other attendants might make an extra effort to help The Loner feel included — host a bridesmaid movie night, copy her on group e-mails and keep the inside jokes to a minimum.

If that doesn’t work, talk it out. Well before the big day, Stroup sat her friend down and said, “I get the feeling you’re not as excited about this as the other girls, so I want to give you the opportunity to bow out of the wedding party if you want.”

Turns out her coworker was relieved to be let off the hook and happy to attend as a guest.

The Whiner

She’s too busy to go gown shopping. Planning a shower is such a pain. Why did this wedding-party-pooper agree to be a bridesmaid in the first place? For Cara Cormier of Richmond, R.I., finding a flattering bridesmaid dress was especially tough, since her matron of honor would be eight months pregnant at the wedding.

“I picked out four different maternity dresses for her,” Cormier said. “When she finally got around to looking at them, she called me with 101 reasons why she hated all four — the color wasn’t right for her, the material was too heavy, they made her look like a tent, etc.”

Cormier was hurt by her longtime friend’s behavior.

“I thought that since it was my wedding, she’d be a little more cooperative since I bent over backwards for her wedding,” she said.

After an unpleasant argument, the two hung up on each other and haven’t spoken since.

“I highly doubt that I will ever talk to her again,” Cormier said. “It isn’t worth the effort to me.”

How to Deal: First, let’s get one thing straight: “It’s never about the dress,” Nissinen said. In Cormier’s situation — which, unfortunately, is not unique — The Whiner’s complaints about the dress seemed to be about getting her own way in spite of the fact that it was her friend’s big day.

“It’s sad, all too common and completely avoidable that friendships end because of a wedding,” Nissinen said.

So what can you do to avoid a blow-up? Take a few minutes and say, “Let’s sit down and talk.”

If you’re a nonconfrontational person, writing a letter is a great way express your feelings and invite the other person to express hers, Nissinen said. This approach to dealing with The Whiner (or The Diva or The Loner, etc.) can actually bring you closer together if you’re willing to take the risk and say, “I don’t want this to come between us and end the friendship,” she added.

Of course, there are some cases when a split is inevitable, and weddings are often the catalyst. A seemingly silly argument could simply be the final straw for a friendship you’ve outgrown — and that’s OK.

“Friendships do grow apart,” Nissinen said.

The Had-to-Ask-Her

Even though you don’t want your long-lost cousin/fiancé’s stepsister/insert-random-family-member-here in your wedding party, you feel obligated to ask her. But giving in to pressure from other people can cause resentment on both sides.

How to Deal: Jackie Lisek, a Stewartstown, Pa., bridesmaid who suspects she was a Had-to-Ask-Her, has a tip for brides in this tricky position: “If you think it’s an obligation to ask someone, it probably is. And that person probably knows it. Personally, I’d rather not be in the wedding in that case.”

However, if you know that being a bridesmaid is really important to your future sister-in-law, for example, “then you have to do it,” Nissinen said.

Chalk it up to keeping the peace with your new in-laws.

The Gem

She’s thrilled for you and wants to help in any way she can. If pink’s not her thing, she’ll tell you, but she’ll wear it with a smile if that’s what you want. She’s there with a hug, a shoulder to cry on or a glass of wine when you’re overwhelmed by all the planning. On the big day, she makes sure you’ve eaten, helps you go to the bathroom and even dances with dorky Cousin Eddie.

How to Deal: Give this maid a medal! Tell her how much you appreciate her friendship and support. She’s a real pal who knows the true meaning of the word “bridesmaid.” And don’t forget about yourself, too — you obviously did something to deserve a true-blue friend like her.

Abigail Green is a freelance writer and editor based in Baltimore.