Meet the winners of our 11th annual “Picture-Perfect
Kelsey E. Smith
“Picture-Perfect Weddings” contest, which began in 1999, never ceases to
inspire us, with talented florists from across the United States and
Canada showcasing their best wedding work. We hope you will be inspired
by this year’s grand-prize winner, Dawn Kelly, of Soirée
Floral in Nantucket, Mass., as well as the winning elements of four
other florists’ entries.
A botanical trellis
created from birch branches and draped with sheer raspberry-hued
fabric created a nature-inspired setting under which the couple was
Perched on the edge of Nantucket Island, where the
famous Sankaty Head Lighthouse still shines over the Atlantic Ocean, the
Sankaty Head Golf Club offered a scenic setting for this autumn wedding.
The bride, a fan of an eclectic look, conveyed her desire to showcase
nature’s seasonal elements with event florist Dawn Kelly at their first
A birch branch trellis, with deep raspberry-hued fabric
draped over the top and down the sides, created the focal point at the
ceremony. The face of the trellis was covered with a garlandlike
arrangement of bay laurel, seeded Eucalyptus, pepperberries,
hanging Amaranthus, ‘Majolica’ roses, blue Hydrangeas and
sea holly (Eryngium).
carried a hand-tied bouquet of white Hydrangeas,
Ranunculi, roses, miniature callas, chocolate Cosmos, sea
holly (Erngium), seeded Eucalyptus, dusty miller
and privet berries.
junior bridesmaid carried a petite hand-tied bouquet featuring
the same botanicals as those in the bridesmaid's bouquets, but
the smaller composition placed more emphasis on the blue
Hydrangeas than on the bolder burgundy Dahlias.
beautifully complemented the burgundy Dahlias in the
bridesmaids' bouquets though the collars were not originally
part of the design plan. After receiving her first shipment of
them on the morning of the wedding, florist Dawn Kelly took a
chance that the bride would like them and used them as a
Ms. Kelly recalls that the day was windy, which made the setup
difficult. The sheer fabric was originally intended to be free-flowing,
but the final design included ribbon ties.
In the reception space, a rustic chandelier over the dance floor
was draped with pepperberries, ivy and hanging Amaranthus,
with blue sheer fabric on each side, to create a grand
showpiece. Ms. Kelly recalls that, like other aspects of this
wedding, the labor for the chandelier was a team effort. “We had
two people down below cutting the materials and grouping them
together, and we took turns going up and down the ladder to
place them,” she says, adding—about the construction method—that
“zip ties are a girl’s best friend.”
Suspended above the dance floor, this rustic chandelier received
a botanical treatment of pepperberries, ivy and hanging
To further fulfill the eclectic theme for the reception, Ms. Kelly and
her team set out to “mix and match pretty much everything,” the florist
says. Round, square and rectangular tables were covered with blue silk
linens and burlap runners. Some tables had twig chargers, and others had
gilded glass chargers. Centerpieces varied from arrangements in
beautiful silver urns to unstructured designs in various sizes of birch
vases. Blue Hydrangeas, burgundy Dahlias, Aranthera
‘James Storei’ orchids, dusty miller, pepperberries, rose hips, seeded
Eucalyptus and sage were among the botanicals used in the compositions.
unstructured, organic designs in various sizes of birch vases,
this table represents one of three arrangement styles at the
reception. Reclaimed cedar provided bases for the table cards
and coordinated beautifully with the wood containers.
old-fashioned birdcage with a peacock perched at its peak, made
an eye-catching display on the escort table. The cage was
adorned with Hydrangeas, Aranthera 'James Storei'
orchids, Dahlias, glory lilies (Gloriosas), sea
holly (Eryngium), and fruiting fig and persimmon
branches. The escort cards were nestled in birds' nests with
To create an eclectic look, reception tables featured varied yet
coordinating components, including twig "chargers" on some
tables and glided glass chargers on others, with assorted
containers to mix and match the centerpieces.
Ms. Kelly relates that at the last minute, she found some reclaimed
cedar, which she and her assistants cut and made into bases for the
table cards. “They smelled wonderful and added that finishing touch to
the tables,” she recalls.
Another finishing touch that was not originally planned
was the addition of feather collars to the bridesmaids’ bouquets. “I had
just gotten in a shipment of feather collars the morning of the wedding,
and I thought they were so amazing. I couldn’t reach the bride, but I
took a chance, and she loved them.”
Ms. Kelly shares that the biggest challenge she and her
team faced with this wedding was making sure the eclectic elements
worked cohesively rather than creating a cluttered look. “It’s easy,
with an eclectic look, to either go overboard or not do enough,” she
With a cohesive color scheme and tastefully executed
accents, our judges believe this winning wedding was just right.
with the bride's bouquet, the groom's boutonniere was composed
of a white miniature calla, sea holly (Eryngium), sage
and rosemary, with the stems wrapped in ribbon. A uluhe fern
curl, punctuated with a blue pearl-head pin, was used as a
apples make a charming accent for a shot of the couple's wedding
Kelly never intended to start her own business, much less one in the
floral industry. Prior to opening floral and event design studio
Soirée Floral six years ago, she was simply seeking a creative
outlet to balance her more analytical career on Wall Street. “I worked
in the financial markets, and I started taking classes at Parsons School
of Design as a stress reliever, not thinking that I would ever own my
own flower business,” she relates. “I met a lot of people through the
two-year program. Some of the teachers were designers in New York City,
so I was able to have mentors through them and freelance for them, and
it kind of grew from that.”
Today, this award-winning florist, whose work has appeared in a host of
consumer bridal magazines, has a regular staff of four to five people
who help design and set up wedding and event décor during Soirée
Floral’s busy season, which runs from April through October in the
popular destination wedding city of Nantucket, Mass. During the rest of
the year, Ms. Kelly works from Rowayton, Conn., where she resides, but
she often travels to handle weddings and events in Rhode Island, Maine,
New York and other surrounding areas.
Ms. Kelly hires contract employees to help with large
events, particularly during the busy season in Nantucket. “Depending on
how busy we are for the week, we can have up to 15 people working,” she
The business has a strong list of designers and other
workers to call as the need for extra help arises, and Ms. Kelly says
most of them have come from people contacting her. “We’re constantly
getting resumés, and we let people know that as we have needs, we’ll
give them a call,” she explains. “We also put things on Craigslist,
Facebook and Twitter. We’ve met some wonderful designers that way.”
marketing on the web.
Social media and other computer technology also has been a great way for
Soirée Floral to connect with brides. Ms. Kelly says most of her bridal
clients are career oriented and computer savvy. With links to the
business’s videos, portfolios, blog, and Facebook and Twitter pages,
www.soireefloral.com is a
wedding destination in itself.
“Our Web site is a huge marketing tool for us,” Ms.
Kelly says. “If we do a wedding on a Saturday, by Monday I can be
blogging about it.” The Web site’s “Tickled Pink” button is an important
feature as well, leading viewers to dozens of testimonials from
secrets to successful
consultations. Approximately half of Soirée Floral’s
initial consultations take place at the studio, where clients can see
the business’s full range of rental items and glassware, and the other
half take place either at the reception venue or via free video calls
through Internet communications company Skype. In fact, Ms. Kelly says
Skype has become quite popular for brides planning destination weddings.
When meeting in person, Ms. Kelly strives to offer her
brides as many visual references as possible. If the meeting is at the
reception venue, linens, place settings and containers are brought along
to help provide an overview of the look.
Inspiration boards, which Ms. Kelly creates for each
bridal client, are among the business’s most valuable sales tools. The
boards include ribbon samples, photos from magazines, dress material
swatches provided by the bride and other visuals that assist in creating
the bride’s desired look. Ms. Kelly shares that the boards serve to
inspire not only the bride and her floral designer but also potential
clients who are meeting with Ms. Kelly for the first time. “When they
walk in, they see a wall of boards that we’ve designed for our clients.
Sometimes they’ll look at those to get ideas. It’s pulling all of those
little elements together that gets them excited, and once we do that,
the selling part comes a lot easier.”
Last year, Soirée Floral handled approximately 50
weddings. Weddings account for approximately 60 percent of Soirée
Floral’s annual sales; corporate events, cocktail parties, birthday
parties and the like account for the other 40 percent.
Click on any of these categories
to see more of the 2009 winners
Picture Perfect Wedding -
Best Ceremony Setting Winner
Picture Perfect Wedding - Best Reception Decorations
Picture Perfect Wedding - Best Bouquets & Best Cake Decorations
Picture Perfect Wedding - Sponsors