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Three thousand miles away, in Petaluma, California, hundreds of exquisite garden roses were maturing on their bushes at Garden Valley Ranch, waiting to be cut and shipped to us in New York. They arrived via FedEx swathed in tissue and newspaper, swaddled by cold packs, and secured under thin wooden laths in a large, flat box that rather resembled a coffin. Opening the box emitted a small cloud of concentrated rose-scented steam.
Closer to home in western New Jersey, an abundance of dahlias were cut from the fields of Hautau and Sons and sent to the flower market. Inky black ones, bright magenta, clean white, and the coveted creamy blush Cafe au Lait comprised this particular order.
In addition to the roses and dahlias, we also procured Japanese ranunculus and asters, chocolate cosmos, bales of forsythia, bundles of eucalyptus, various seedy bits, packets of carnations, long stalks of antique lacecap hydrangea, and many other elements that I’ve forgotten about by now.
Prepping all these flowers was quite a process: it took four people two days to complete it, and by the time we were done, we had buckets overflowing the studio, spilling out into the hallway and into the recently vacated space next door. After the relative tedium of the flower prep, the actual composing of the table arrangements felt like an unbelievable luxury, and indeed it was. Having access to some of the most gorgeous natural material in the world, and using it to make something (arguably) even more beautiful, is kind of unbelievable. A small army of flower girls was assigned to the task: five of us to make almost thirty arrangements. After we finished, we tucked them away in the cold studio next door to chill till the morning.
We also made the bouquets that day – one bride and three maids – and although there may have been a few minor meltdowns in the process, the bride’s bouquet was absolutely spectacular, made even more so by its finishing touch of extravagant handmade plant-dyed silk ribbon from Silk and Willow. The maids’s bouquets were equally stunning, if a bit smaller.
In addition to the table arrangements, there was also the considerably less fun task of wrangling the boxes and boxes of hard goods needed for the event. More than 70 tapers and candlesticks, 200 votives, lanterns in different sizes and finishes, 200 glass globes to be strung from the ceiling, and all the tools and paraphernalia that go into producing an event of this size.
October 15th was one of those absurdly beautiful fall days where everything, from the quality of the light to the feeling of the air, is just right. We arrived at the studio at 8am, ready to go through the final checklist and load out. The flowers and the hard goods were so numerous they warranted two vehicles, one for each.
By the time I arrived at Tribeca rooftop in the hard goods van, all the flowers had already been ferried upstairs and a near-catastrophic incident with the cherry picker we had rented had already been resolved. Once the team had assembled and debriefed, we divided into groups spread out over three floors: entry, reception and cocktail, and ceremony on the roof. Serena and I had the lucky job of creating a wild garden along the wall and stairs of the entryway. Between the forsythia, smilax, dahlias, and roses, the generic New York lobby we had started with was barely recognizable.
Meanwhile in the reception space, Siri, Katie, and Hannah placed the flowers and candles and styled the tables with luscious green and concord grapes, delicate smilax and clematis, and pomegranates (messy, but worth it). Allison made wild little arrangements in copper and glass lanterns, all of which looked alive enough to move on their own, were painstakingly created and placed on the cocktail tables.
Up on the roof, framed by the iconic sight of the downtown skyline and the freedom tower, Joelle, Mindy, and Aviva, the install queens, were assembling what might have been New York’s largest chuppah ever. Truly massive, it was laden with pink and peach garden roses, persimmons, hydrangea, smilax, and unidentified orange seed pods, among other things. In addition to the main tasks, there were also a hundred other little things going on: the ribboning of the personals, trimming and placing candles, navigating the catering staff, wrestling with bags of smilax.
Amy, our fearless leader, kept this whole operation under complete control and even had time to make a killer escort arrangement with some of the darker forsythia and magenta dahlias. It’s hard to overstate how much planning and attention to detail goes into an event of this size, but between the meticulous preparation, organization, and incredible talent at work, everything went so smoothly. I would go so far as to say that the day felt almost…chill. Everyone had their assigned tasks, nothing fell through the cracks, all contingencies had been covered, and these women are really, really good at what they do.
As it approached 5 PM, we did the usual frantic scramble to clean up and hide all evidence of the months of hard work that went into creating perfection. We floated out of there at 5:15, knowing that celebratory margaritas and tacos were a few short blocks away, and that one lucky couple was about to have the most beautiful party of their lives.
All on-site photos, with the exception of the Bourgeon team photo, were taken by the talented Heather Waraksa.