Honeysuckle Hollow, LLC


Virginia Farm Wedding - From the Florist's Perspective - Part Three

Design, Fall, Family, Local Flowers, WeddingsMercedes Ivener1 Comment

We all got to bed late following the rehearsal dinner, and, before we knew it, the wedding day dawned. I was up early again and headed over to the house looking a little rough and begging my Aunt for a hair tie (for my humidity-crazed hair) and a cup of coffee. After a few days of going straight out, it starts catching up to you as all event people know. Fortunately, with caffeine and a new group of helpers that showed up, we were able to get all the last details completed—ribbons tied onto the bouquets, urns delivered down to the river ceremony site, the wedding arch decorated, etc. I took my five minutes to soak it all in when I was down on the sandy beach by the river where the ceremony would take place. After we put up the two urns, I sat down on one of the hay bales, covered with a quilt, and realized that the sun was streaming down directly on to the site where Brodie and Jake would be married. Here were my helpers who happened to be standing there when I grabbed my phone and snapped a picture. 


I sat back just to remember all the times I had brought Brodie and her brother Chris down to this very beach to swim and cool off in the hot Virginia summers when they were little. I could almost see them splashing in the water. Am I really this old to be getting sentimental like this, I thought? I guess so. That was more than 25 years ago. Wow. I was already feeling a bit watery eyed and the ceremony hadn’t even begun! My five minutes was up, though, and I got a call that Brodie had decided she needed hair flowers for the top of her veil. I rushed up to the house, made a simple little comb of flowers and eucalyptus and went upstairs to find her. There she was in the most beautiful, flattering, simply elegant dress one could ever imagine. The light was streaming through her mom’s bedroom window where all of her bridesmaids were helping her get ready. It was, as usual, me barging in on a bride and her maids with flowers on their big day, but it was my cousin this time! What an honor to be here with her doing what I do. There aren’t any pictures to go with this part of the narrative because things got hectic with less than an hour and a half before the ceremony started. I had my kids to organize, last minute issues down at the wedding tent, back up to the groomsmen for missing boutonniere pins, back to the house to literally throw on my dress (not even do my hair), and I raced back down to the ceremony site where I arrived less than 5 minutes before the ceremony started!!!! I did, however, arrive just in time to see the bride and her bridesmaids and flower girls arrive at the tent on my Aunt’s flat-bed pickup truck sitting atop covered hay bales. My aunt had done that to surprise Brodie and it was incredibly picturesque for a farm wedding to have the girls arriving on the truck!!! So cute. I heard they took pictures with the horses on the way down. I can’t wait to see the photographers pictures of that when they come in! 


I rushed into the ceremony and found a seat atop a hay bale with my hubby (who earned an A+ doing a myriad of tasks for the wedding all day with my son in tow). I sat and held his hand and waited for the bridal party to begin the procession. It was time to take in everything. Time to breathe and slow the release of adrenaline that had been coursing through my veins for the last hour of rushing. Time to watch as my Aunt walked her daughter down the aisle holding hands. What a moment that was – the two of them with fingers clasped walking down the pathway lined with river rocks headed down to the beach where Jake, and all of us, awaited them. They walked slowly and stoically, a solid pair – just like the two of them had always been. A team that could do anything together. I always cry at a wedding, but this one was a bit of a gusher for me. It was so touching and beautiful, and seeing them all holding my flowers was lovely. I saw her brother up there watching her be married, and the little flower girls peering at the bride attentively, and my sweet grandparents all with that dark reflective water drifting by in the river. It was such a lovely ceremony officiated by the Groom’s father. So personal and intimate, just like the setting. 


As everyone filed out after the wedding, we all found our way to the tent. It was a huge sail-cloth tent like none I have ever seen before. IT WAS GORGEOUS!!! There were so many special touches everywhere. Flags that many of us helped sew throughout the year for decorating the tent, signs that others painted, family trees that were displayed, little branches filled with sepia-toned pictures of the bride and groom throughout their lives, amazing garlands that the Bride’s sister made, and so on. There were these beautiful sitting areas outside of the tent where people wandered out to throughout the night to sit in serene bliss, fun areas for the kids with crafts, and cornhole. I was admittedly a little tired but so unbelievably happy with how everything turned out. We danced the night away and headed home happy and tuckered out. The Bride and Groom went up to their incredible glamping tent on the top of the hill where they stayed. I think it was an authentic Turkish tent, and it looked like something out of a movie set with candles lit up everywhere, ancient rugs on the ground, a canopy bed, and the full moon peering through the clouds. What a night. 


We woke up on Sunday, my hubby and I cleaned out the basement, and we headed to the brunch before catching a flight home with my kids. It was quite a weekend. I think I wrote all this down as a way to journal the adventure so I don’t forget it! It definitely has to be one of my favorite weddings ever (second to my own of course, which was also outside under a huge tent too). My kids jabbered on about the wedding and all their favorite parts as we traveled home. I slept and slept as I’m sure many people did after this weekend. But we all slept the blissful sleep of a job well done, love witnessed, a weekend in the great outdoors, and the contentment that being with all of your family brings. Cheers Brodie and Jake! It was an amazing weekend. Here is wishing you a lifetime of love, endless joy, beauty, health, and plenty of adventure together. Following photos by Sarah Cramer Shields.


I hope you enjoyed this tale of wedding flowers and walks down memory lane. People often ask what its like to be a florist, so sometimes it’s fun to give a blow-by-blow account of what it takes to do wedding flowers. Each event is entirely unique, but I so love the creative endeavor and collaboration with the couples. Looking forward to our next wedding coming up in Sioux City! 

(If you missed them, here are Part One and Part Two!)


Virginia Farm Wedding - From the Florist's Perspective - Part Two

Design, Fall, Family, Local Flowers, WeddingsMercedes IvenerComment

Friday morning I got up EARLY (4:30 am early) in order to get everything done and still be able to attend the big rehearsal dinner that night. It’s a whole different monster to do flowers for a wedding where you also want to partake in the activities. I hadn’t realized just how tricky this might be. I did type up a very detailed event “to do list” ahead of time but in reality it was rather difficult to juggle the flower work, attending and enjoying and really being present for all the incredible events, and trying not to look too terrible next to all these people who had spent hours getting ready in front of mirrors. I’m not sure I ever had more than 8 minutes (yes that was my maximum dressing time that I had all weekend) to get myself into clean clothes and throw back my hair. As the weekend wore on, let me tell you the pictures of me got worse and worse!!! But I didn’t care. This weekend was about Brodie and Jake. They were the ones who had to look good! 

I didn’t yet know all of this as I drove over the hills to my aunt’s in the dark. Fog had settled all around, and I actually did pull over at a particularly spectacular view on my drive just as the faintest light of dawn came over the sky. If you can’t take 5 minutes to soak it all in and appreciate the quiet of the fog, then life has taken over. This was such a special weekend that I really did make myself stop and breathe it all in on various occasions. This was one such moment, and I am so glad I took it because the day went into fastforward after that.   


I arrived at the house before anyone was up and started in making the huge buffet arrangement and two ceremony urns. I added in the grapes to spill over the edges and packed these designs full of all the local leaves and incredible flowers from the growers. WOW, were those urns beautiful. Here I am on my Aunt’s porch putting them together. 


It was such fun as my Aunt and my Mom popped in and out to appreciate them as they were created. It’s always fun to have cheerleaders! As the morning came into full swing, the groom’s mother Kim arrived and began working on flower centerpieces for the rehearsal (which she and her husband would be hosting that night). Kim did an amazing job arranging her flowers, and I am still thinking she has floral design training but isn’t telling me! I was so impressed. At one point her son (the groom) Jake came down and helped arrange flowers. I think this is my first groom to ever participate in the flower arranging, and it was the best! He is artistic and has a great eye for color. I loved watching the two of them taking a little time together amidst the flowers and immersed in a few moments of creativity. My cousin got so lucky with this family she has married into. I love all of them, especially Kim who I got to know well as we worked side-by-side in our little flower lair throughout the weekend. 


As I began working away on the bouquets, a team of flower fairies arrived (friends of my Aunt who were selected for their flower abilities). They filled all of the bottles with flowers and grasses that would be going on log slices as centerpieces for the wedding. They also made boutonnieres and corsages and created a few other floral arrangements to scatter around the reception. I could never have done it all without them! The rooms were crammed with people, and we spilled out onto the pool table and into the backyard on folding tables. I think at one point we had more than 13 people working on various projects! I didn’t move quite as fast on my bouquets as I was directing the “orchestra” but they got so much done that it didn’t matter. 


A highlight of the day was when my 94 year old grandma stopped by and came down to watch what we were doing. She is the matriarch of our family, and she gave all of us a love of flowers, beauty, entertaining, cooking, and creating. She says she always told me I should have a career in flowers, and she is one of my biggest supporters on this flower journey. I often send her pictures of what I am making, and she watches our little flower shop and all that it is becoming with eager excitement. This was the first time, though, that she has ever been able to watch me work and design in person. I gave her a tour of all the flowers, and she watched me make the bridesmaids bouquets. We oohed and ahhed over everything together and loved every minute. 

My daughter, Everly, set up a flower crown station outside and listened to a book on tape while creating her eucalyptus crowns for the flower girls. She finished each one off with a hand written name tag in her calligraphy (one of her recently acquired skills!). She also finished off two cute little flower girl baskets that would be filled with hydrangea florets the following day. 


Eventually the crowd finished their tasks and headed home. I found the peace of the basement the perfect time to make the bridal bouquet. I always save the best flowers for the bride and put the most effort and time into her bouquet. A bride’s bouquet is a gift of beauty that accompanies them all through their big day, and I want her to LOVE it….to love the flowers in it, the colors of it, the shape of it, the smell of it, the ribbons on it. I want them to remember their bouquet when they think back on their wedding. This bouquet was even more important to me, if that is even possible. I was going to give it to my dearest “summertime sister” for her to be married with. I was going to watch her walk down the aisle with it and see photos of it for years to come. Yep, no pressure right?! So I set in to make it. Amazingly, it seemed to come together easily and in just the right size for her. When it was done I asked her to come down so I could present it to her and make sure she liked it (this was a special treat because I don’t usually have my Bride onsite while I am designing). It looked great in her hands, and, thankfully, she loved it. What a relief! From there I finished all the rest of the bouquets. I didn’t have a cooler to put them all in, so (after I photographed them quickly), I turned off the lights to keep it as cool as possible, said a quiet goodnight to them, and did another 5 minute change for the rehearsal dinner.

Here is a picture of the bouquets sitting on the log slices, which her brother cut for the centerpieces. The bouquets turned out having a lot more purple and not as much blue as originally planned, but those were the flowers the growers had at the time, and so that is what we created. It turned out that the groom loved purple, so everyone was happy with the final output. Thank goodness Brodie was such a gracious and relaxed Bride! 

Brodie's wedding bouquet was wrapped in burlap and ivory ribbon and finished off with one of her great-grandmother's flapper-era pins.

Brodie's wedding bouquet was wrapped in burlap and ivory ribbon and finished off with one of her great-grandmother's flapper-era pins.

The groom had special little wooden skis hand-painted to make up his boutonniere. Brodie and Jake live in Salt Lake City, Utah, and Jake is an incredible skier, so it was a cute, personal touch.

The groom had special little wooden skis hand-painted to make up his boutonniere. Brodie and Jake live in Salt Lake City, Utah, and Jake is an incredible skier, so it was a cute, personal touch.

The rehearsal dinner was held under the wedding tent but with an entirely different décor courtesy of the Groom’s family. They created these amazing hanging lantern clusters suspended from the top of the tent. It was an artistic feat, and the colors looked amazing with all of their flower arrangements. There were so many special touches from the seating chart to the table names to the family trees they created, and of course the meal was delicious. To top it all off, it was a beautiful evening, and the full moon rose again over the tent to create the most magical setting one could imagine. 


If you missed it, here is Part One!

To continue reading, here is Part Three!

Virginia Farm Wedding - From the Florist's Perspective - Part One

Design, Family, Foraging, Fall, Local Flowers, WeddingsMercedes IvenerComment

In early October I had the honor of designing flowers for my cousin Brodie’s wedding in Virginia. It was particularly special because I used to go to this same horse farm outside Charlottesville for entire summers from the time I was 9 years old until I was 19.  It was my summer home where I learned how to ride and care for horses from my Aunt who managed two barns and nearly 100 horses on the property. I went to horse shows, mucked stalls, swam in the river (the very same one that Brodie and Jake’s ceremony was in front of), and eventually helped raise my two cousins, Brodie and Chris. I was a nanny half the day and a working barn student the other. For me, someone who was seriously horse-crazy, my summers were a dreamy mix of hard, sweaty work and endless hours of pure bliss amongst the horses and the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. I loved my summer family dearly and grew up a part of them as if my cousins were my younger siblings. And so it was with these bits of nostalgia that I began packing my bags to do a wedding back “home” for my “summertime sister”. Here is a picture of Brodie and Jake the day they got engaged. 


This was the first wedding I have done that was a plane-ride away, so I got busy preparing a suitcase of supplies from my shop. It took a bit of planning because there would be no running back to the shop for an item I had forgotten. There is no floral wholesaler in Charlottesville, so I wouldn’t be able to buy it either.  So I began a packing list and eventually compiled a suitcase full of necessary items. I also packed a carry-on suitcase of eucalyptus (for her flower girls crowns), larkspur, and some eryngium thistle. Those were the only items that I would not be able to purchase or forage when I got to Virginia, so I decided to pack them in my luggage. Here I was loading my suitcase Wednesday morning before  getting on the plane. My kitty, Heidi, didn’t understand why she couldn’t come too!


Brodie’s goal was to use almost exclusively local flowers for her wedding. She wanted us to buy from local flower farmers that she had discovered nearby and to forage the rest of the greenery and flowers from her mother’s horse farm. I could hardly wait. I love doing flowers in new locations where I have all sorts of new greenery and flowers to use. It also brings a special touch to an event to use items that echo the natural surroundings of the venue. It allows for a seasonal, cohesive feel, in addition to being fresher and often more beautiful! I like to compare it to the fun of buying and cooking food from a farmer’s market compared to buying it from a grocery store. You eat just what feels right for the season, you get more unique and interesting items to choose from, you get super fresh and seriously tasty product, you get to know the farmer who grows your food, and it is always an adventure taking it all home, spilling it out on your counter, and figuring out what to make from the bounty. Buying local flowers from flower farmers is very much the same. There was slow Food, and now we have Slow Flowers. Yes, it is a real term and a movement hitting our country, just like the local foods movement did 10 years ago. I love being part of it, and it was so fun to have my cousin request these types of flowers for her wedding. It must be because she is a dietician and a true “locavore”. 

Before I got to Virginia, my cousin and I had made various orders with different flower farmers in their area and basically just gave them a color scheme and left the rest to them. It would be interesting (and admittedly a little daunting) to create something beautiful out of whatever they gave us.

With all the preparations in place, the kids and I got on the plane (as my husband was harvesting beans at that moment), and we headed to Virginia.  


We arrived at Millington Stables and pulled into my Aunt’s house. We found a basement full of folding tables waiting for us, along with stacks of buckets for our early morning foraging session to come. My Aunt Liz and Brodie did a great job at preparing a floral design workspace for us on a concrete floor so we could make a mess without worrying; I couldn’t have been happier. We made plans for the morning and got to sleep with images of flowers dancing in our heads.

Everly (my daughter and my number one assistant for the weekend) and I woke up before dawn. I have learned from flower growers that it is imperative to cut flowers and foliage duringthe coolest, early hours of morning. It results in the freshest, least wilty flowers. I find that the gorgeous sunrises are often a reward for these early morning sessions. Today was no different. In fact, it was a magical sunrise over the fields and fences as we headed to my Aunt’s house. Really, it couldn’t have been any prettier, quite like a painting around every corner.    

Being up at this hour reminded me of my 5:30 am rides that I used to take with some of the older ladies at the barn who preferred to finish their horseback rides before it got too hot. This time, however, I wasn’t tacking up horses at the crack of dawn, but, instead, I was loading the van with buckets of water for a foraging session with my Aunt Liz, the groom’s mother Kim, and Everly. We drove to my Aunt’s various gardens that she had planted especially for the wedding, and we cut dahlias, dusty miller, asters, zinneas, plumbago, and more. We then moved on to all sort of bushes and trees that I only wish we had in Iowa! I went crazy over the magnolia leaves, boxwood, holly, wild honeysuckle vines, oak leaves, nandina, and so on and so forth. We piled two vans full of goodies and took them back to the basement. 

Here are the moonflower entryway "posts" to the wedding site that my aunt planted from seed and watered all summer!

Here are the moonflower entryway "posts" to the wedding site that my aunt planted from seed and watered all summer!

Next, Everly and I set off for two flower farms about an hour and a half up into the mountains. The drive was so beautiful passing through the wine country and eventually up and over a mountain pass. It did take a while, but it was a nice time to catch up with my daughter and relax a bit. 

First, we arrived at Pharsalia Farms and met up with the owner Foxie. She had buckets full of goodies for us, as planned, but she also had fun surprises too, like grapes from a vineyard, little apples, and even some figs! I had asked her to give us whatever was in Brodie’s blue, purple, green, and cream color pallet that was seasonal and interesting. She certainly did! We picked up 9 buckets of all sorts of flowers and greenery from Foxie, who was such a knowledgeable, creative, laid-back woman. Meeting flower friends along the way is such a fun part of my business—again, it’s like going to the farmers markets and meeting the growers of your food verses buying it off a shelf at the store.  


Next we set off for Blue Heron Farms and met up with Nina who had more flower buckets for us brimming with late summer Virginia beauty. We arrived at their adorable red barn sitting at the foot of the mountains and had to pinch ourselves that we were here. We used literally every square inch of the van to get everything inside. The oakleaves that I cut along the roadside may have been taking up a little too much room, but I had big plans for those in the ceremony urns so I stuffed them behind the seat and we were off. We did stop to take a quick selfie just to remind us of this amazing adventure. 


Once we got home, it was time to unload and organize the flowers. With large events, I like to take time at the beginning to organize which flowers will be used for which items. This helps us know that we will have enough flowers for each creation. Before I knew it, it was time to do a 5 minute change and head down to a “low boil” dinner at the barn, hosted by my Aunt, to kick off the weekend of festivities. A low boil is a super fun, easy for a crowd (there were over 120 people in attendance!) dinner that is common down South. Essentially, you pile potatoes, shrimp, sausage, corn on the cob (and you can of course add other items like crawfish etc.) into a huge pot of boiling water to cook. When it is ready, you strain it andlay it out straight onto the tables. As guests we had a blast just eating right out of the piles of food, cracking shrimp, slathering butter on the corn, and soaking it all up with bread and roasted garlic. YUMMMMM. My Aunt had gone all out and strung the barn with lights and lanterns. She had freshly stained the wood, painted the walls, scrubbed every inch of the place and decorated the tables with magnolia leaves and rope. It was pretty amazing to say the least. I stepped outside at one point and saw the moon rising over the tables and the guys playing corn hole and heard a country song from K.T. Oslin on the stereo; it took me back to being 14 in that same barn. Amazing how a song can do that. It was quite a way to kick start the wedding weekend. I picked my hubby up at the airport and we headed home for a few hours of shuteye. 


To continue reading, here is Part Two and Part Three!