feature story

picture-perfect weddings

Meet the winners of our 10th annual “Picture-Perfect Weddings” contest.

by Kelsey E. Smith

    It is often said that history has a way of repeating itself. This notion seemed especially fitting recently when, after our judges selected the winners of Florists’ Review’s 10th annual “Picture-Perfect Weddings” contest, they realized that the grand-prize winner — Carolyn Valenti, of Queen Anne’s Lace in Dalton, Mass. — also was the contest’s first winner a decade ago. We hope you enjoy learning about this talented event florist and her winning wedding work, as well as the winning elements of four other florists’ entries.

    Plans for the floral designs for this winning wedding began nearly two years in advance of the event. The couple desired an elegant look both for the small church, which they chose for its New England charm, and for the grand ballroom of the historic Cranwell Resort, one of the Berkshires’ original “summer cottages.”
 
     best wedding  
 

   Carolyn Valenti
   Queen Anne’s Lace
   Dalton, Mass.
   Date:
Sept. 13, 2008
   Ceremony site: St. Joseph’s Catholic Church; Stockbridge, Mass.
   Reception site: Cranwell Resort, Spa and Golf Club; Lenox, Mass.
   Number in wedding party: 24
   Number of guests: 168
   Approximate retail floral bill: $9,300
   Photos by Derek Fowles Photography
 
 
 


 
 
A pair of tall pedestals with lush arrangements of Delphiniums, Hydrangeas, snapdragons and roses flank the front doors to the church. Just inside, the flower girls and ring bearer sneak a peek at the approaching bride.
 

    Dendrobium orchids became a signature bloom for the personal flowers. Ms. Valenti put a modern twist on the bride’s requested long cascade bouquet by creating a hand-tied spray of white Dendrobium orchids. “The simplicity of all one flower made it elegant, and the movement of the blossoms as she walked made it come to life,” she relates.

    The six bridesmaids carried matching cascades of purple-throated Dendrobium orchids, which coordinated
beautifully with their gowns. The color palette extended to the younger members of the wedding party as well. Two junior bridesmaids carried hand-tied bouquets of purple miniature callas with white roses and silver Artemisia, and two flower girls carried nosegays of ‘Escimo’ roses with silver Artemisia, which beautifully repeated the shape of the nosegays that graced the church pews as they walked down the aisle.

    Ms. Valenti and her assistant, Dorothy Troy, dressed the church inside and out, starting with large sprays on the fence posts at the entrance of the walkway. Garden-style arrangements in large urns atop pedestals greeted wedding guests at the church doors, and similar arrangements flanked the altar inside the church. Four of the large pedestal arrangements served a dual purpose and were transported to the ballroom of the Cranwell Resort for the reception.

 



Nosegays of ‘Escimo’ roses tied with lavender ribbons graced the pews of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Stockbridge, Mass., which the couple chose for its New England charm. The simple yet elegant aisle décor was a beautiful reflection of the flower girls’ petite nosegays.

 

Soft organza fabric is draped along the banister that leads to the bridal suite at Cranwell Resort. Trailing ivy and nosegays of ‘Cool Water’ roses are secured to the banister with ribbons.
 
   

The bridesmaids’ bouquets create a beautiful line of color during the wedding ceremony.
 

 
 



The bride and her youngest flower girl share a fun moment before the wedding.

 

The bride displays her elegant cascading, hand-tied bouquet of white Dendrobium orchids as she and her father prepare to walk down the aisle.
 

    The ballroom, which has a ceiling more than 18 feet high and beautiful columns defining its structure, is surrounded on two sides by large windows, draped in sheer gold organza, overlooking the Berkshire hills. Each of the 17 guest tables was set with a tall Eiffel Tower vase with 40 stems of white Dendrobium  orchids, creating an arching display over the settings. Six ivory pillar candles in three sizes at the base of each, with scattered ‘Cool Water’ rose blooms and petals, completed the romantic look. Pillar candles also created ambient light among three garden-style arrangements that sprawled the length of the head table, and votives provided a romantic glow among the cake flowers.

   


Large sprays of ‘Cool Water’ roses, snapdragons, Hydrangeas and texturally diverse foliages graced the fence posts of the sidewalk leading to the church, welcoming guests to this winning wedding.
 
 

The 11 groomsmen and ring bearers each wore a purple-throated white Dendrobium orchid to match the bridesmaids’ bouquets.



The wedding party poses outside the Cranwell Resort, Spa and Golf Club in Lenox, Mass., before heading into the historic venue’s elegantly decorated ballroom for the reception.
 



Repeating the elegant simplicity of the bride’s hand-tied cascade bouquet of all-white Dendrobium orchids, the bridesmaids’ bouquets showcase the same concept but with purple-throated Dendrobium orchids to coordinate with their gowns.
 

Framed by their elegant head-table floral décor, the newlyweds share a kiss at the reception.
 
 





The head table was “landscaped” with three large garden-style arrangements, low and sprawling the entire length of the table, with ivory pillar candles among the flowers. Two tall Eiffel Tower vases, each with 40 stems of white Dendrobium orchids, created an arching display over the shorter arrangements.
   
 


 
  The intricately detailed four-tiered wedding cake, illuminated with votive candles among a textural collar of white roses and pale-green Hydrangeas, was the focal point of the reception.  
 
    meet the winner
 


    When Carolyn Valenti began volunteering nearly 20 years ago to create floral décor for the events of various charities of which she was a member, she had no formal training in floral design—just a creative sense, an associate’s degree in business and some fashion design experience from her college days. “I emerged as ‘the creative one’ for these events,” she explains. “Then someone asked if I could do flowers for a wedding, and I thought, ‘What a concept to be paid for something I love to do,’ and it took off from there.”

    In 1992, Ms. Valenti’s event-floral business, Queen Anne’s Lace, was born. Today, the florist and her assistant of 13 years, Dorothy Troy, provide floral designs for about 35 weddings each year, averaging $3,000 each.

    As an event florist, Ms. Valenti has found that the best way for her to market to brides has been to establish relationships with several prestigious venues in picturesque Berkshire County. “It’s a nice area in which to be a florist because we have access to beautiful mansions,” she says. “I went in and introduced myself and brought photos of things I had done, and I got on vendors’ lists at some of the most exclusive resorts within a year.”

    Ms. Valenti relates that portfolios are essential for showing brides the various floral possibilities of their chosen venues, from aisle décor and centerpieces to floral “extras” that may not have occurred to them. “I also ask them to bring pictures of things they like from bridal magazines. From there, I can pick up on their tastes and make it work for their wedding venues.”

    Each wedding consultation at Queen Anne’s Lace lasts approximately two hours, and while many florists prefer to meet one-on-one with brides-to-be, Ms. Valenti encourages brides to bring friends and family members along. “It makes it more of a fun experience for them,” she explains. “And we think of it as a brainstorm. We put all the ideas on the table, and I write copious notes. I look through things the bride has brought, like a picture of her gown, and we look at all the possibilities I have in things like urns and pillars. It all flows once I get a feeling of who they are.”

    Ms. Valenti has a formula she tries to stick with when charging for weddings. One-third is the cost of the flowers, one-third is the cost of labor and supplies, and one-third is gross profit. She adds that she works with couples of all budgets and often suggests using flowers from the ceremony at the reception as well, to help create maximum floral impact while staying within couples’ budgets. Couples can provide their own transportation for double-duty floral arrangements or, if they prefer, Ms. Valenti will provide this service for a transportation fee starting at $50, depending on how far it is between the ceremony and reception venues.

    Ms. Valenti is part of a small community of florists who help each other out and share rental items for their wedding work. “It’s so expensive to buy candelabra or tall fluted vases, so I’ll buy 10, another florist will buy 10 and another florist will buy 10, and together we have 30,” she says. “And when we have more [work] than we can handle, we ask our friends to help out on that weekend and vice-versa.”

    Ms. Valenti says the most important thing when working with brides is to convey your passion as a florist. “That love for what you do is contagious to brides, and it gets them excited,” she explains. “They might have had all these things going on in their heads, with ideas flowing here and there, but I sit down with them with this list of questions, and it puts order in their minds and gives them the sense of happiness that they should feel about their weddings. I take it as such a compliment when brides tell me that working with me was the most calming part of their wedding planning.”

Ms. Valenti is currently in the process of launching a new Web site,
www.carolynvalentiflowers.com.

Click on any of these categories to see more of the 2008 winners
Picture Perfect Wedding - Best Ceremony Setting Winner
Picture Perfect Wedding - Best Reception Decorations Winner
Picture Perfect Wedding - Best Bouquets & Best Cake Decorations Winner
Picture Perfect Wedding Sponsors

 


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