Surrounded by Flowers

My family would tell you that I have been planning my only daughter, Kathryn's wedding since she was born. While I was not quite that obsessed, I must say I started hunting for a venue as soon as we knew the groom, Max was going to propose. In order to afford a nice venue, DJ and caterer, it became clear that doing my own flowers would help us afford the wedding of Kathryn's dreams (and my dreams too). Together we planned the feel and look of the wedding and reception. Kathryn wanted a romantic feel and a reception with lots of candles, fairy lights and elegant centerpieces. Given that her name is Kathryn Rose, of course we had to have an abundance of roses-and that we did!

Since I am not a creative or artistic type and I was very nervous about succeeding at becoming an instant florist, I researched what flowers held up well and spent many hours viewing the FiftyFlowers website and reading the flower stories for tips, inspiration and assurance that I could pull off this seemingly insurmountable job! I also viewed professional flower arranging on YouTube and practiced making arrangements and bouquets for her engagement party and the holidays leading up to the wedding. Making beautiful boutonnieres on our first try gave Kathryn and I some confidence and a taste for how much fun this project would be. I also found that using floral foam to build my centerpieces helped me structure the arrangement easily. Violet, the FiftyFlowers expert helped me figure out how many flowers I needed (although I confess I added a few), she gave me helpful tips, videos, pictures and links on flower arranging. I ordered all my supplies online to save money and kept everything organized and well labeled. The day the flowers arrived, I was amazed at how FiftyFlowers notified us of their pending arrival 15 minutes prior. The processing of the flowers was done by three of us and took most the day to fill 19 five gallon buckets! I was amazed at how beautiful the flowers and greenery were and most every stem was in good shape. The morning before the final flower arranging, I had all my supplies set out and organized. Most importantly I elicited the help of my sisters, nieces and the Max's mom to help with the arranging the day before the wedding. I followed the FiftyFlowers play book and assigned five of us to do centerpieces and two nieces to make up the aisle arrangements. I was amazed that a brief explanation and demo was all they needed to make such beautiful arrangements in so little time! The bridesmaids were a little nervous about doing their bouquets, but with a little help, they were loving the experience and so proud of their creation! We all loved the way each arrangement was similar yet unique. I ended up ordering a huge amount of flowers (just in case) and thought I would not use many of them, but my helpers grabbed vases and pitchers to fill so flowers were everywhere at the reception. In addition, we had enough to decorate all 24 aisle chairs with a beautiful bouquet making that romantic feel come to life! We also had about one hundred white carnations left over and my nieces came up with the idea to use them to send off Kathryn and Max at the end of the night. The venue rules did not allow most traditional options so this was a last minute surprise and success! I am happy to report the flower arrangements and experience turned out way beyond what I ever imagined. The wedding and reception were absolutely beautiful.

That however is only half the story. Little did I know the decision to do the flowers would play a larger role for me. Three weeks before the wedding, in the midst of great anticipation and excitement, Kathryn's Uncle Mike, my brother, was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer. This was a shock to the whole family and at the same time, my mother suffered 6 spinal fractures from osteoporosis and was unable to attend the wedding. There were lots of tears and discussions trying to help Kathryn see how she could be happy and enjoy her wedding while such a tragedy had occurred. As the wedding neared and Mike rushed to get his first chemo in time to attend the wedding, we were able to come to terms with our grief and look forward to the whole family doting on Mike as we celebrated. Then things got worse. The day before the wedding, when my sisters and nieces were arranging the flowers, we got a text that my youngest sister's husband, Erik, was in the emergency room. A few hours before the wedding we all learned Erik was diagnosed with the most aggressive type of brain cancer. The wedding for Kathryn and Max and the beautiful vows they shared took on a whole new meaning that day for all of us. The entire wedding and reception was filled with tears, hugs and enthusiastic dancing as we committed ourselves to the celebrating.

As I write this story, I reflect on how things would have been if I had not done Kathryn's flowers. My extended family would not have been together at my house when Erik was in the ER. In retrospect, the flower arranging was a great distraction-especially for me, and it brought us all together. These last few months I often look at the pictures of the flowers that I am so proud of and remember how much fun we all had arranging them. I will always remember the shock and grief we all shared, but that now no longer overshadows my memories. My extended family has 18 nieces and nephews. We anticipate a wedding every year or two for up to 25 years. Guess who the designated florist is!

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