feature story

picture-perfect weddings

Meet the winners of our 11th annual “Picture-Perfect Weddings” contest.

by Kelsey E. Smith

Our annual “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 married.

the winner
     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 meeting.

     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).
 


The bride carried a hand-tied bouquet of white Hydrangeas, Ranunculi, roses, miniature callas, chocolate Cosmos, sea holly (Erngium), seeded Eucalyptus, dusty miller and privet berries.

The 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.

Feather collars 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 finishing touch.

     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 Amaranthus.

     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.
 


Featuring 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.

An 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 feathers.


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 points out.

     With a cohesive color scheme and tastefully executed accents, our judges believe this winning wedding was just right.


Coordinating 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 decorative "button."

Tiny crab apples make a charming accent for a shot of the couple's wedding rings.
    meet the winner
 

    Dawn 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.”

     staffing strategies.  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 relates.

     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 satisfied customers.

     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 Winner
Picture Perfect Wedding - Best Bouquets & Best Cake Decorations Winner
Picture Perfect Wedding - Sponsors

 


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