One Year

One year.

One year ago today.

Photo by Katch SilvaOne year ago today I was double checking all the flower arrangements in the basement, thanking the gods that they made it through the night.

Photo by Katch SilvaPhoto by Katch SilvaPhoto by Katch SilvaOne year ago today I was sharing my first Texas Lollipop with him in the kitchen.

One year ago today I was standing in his mother’s bathroom in my underwear — nearly falling over as I tried to take off my Doc Martens — ready to put my wedding dress on.

Photo by Katch SilvaOne year ago today I was sitting on his lap on the rocks at the back of the yard by the raspberry bushes. Our photographer stopped to change lenses, saying “Don’t do anything cute until I’m ready!” I surreptitiously poked my tongue out and licked his cheek while she wasn’t paying attention.

Xander-Kylie-195Xander-Kylie-196One year ago today I was praying to any deity that would have me — begging the rain to hold off for just a little longer.

One year ago today I was standing on the back deck and freaking out because the processional song started playing too early. I hyperventilated as my maid of honor told me to seriously chill out.

Photo by Katch SilvaPhoto by Katch SilvaOne year ago today I was walking arm in arm with my dad across that lawn.

One year ago today I was standing in front of one hundred people but speaking only to The Boy… retelling the story of the magic summer, the summer when we fell in love.

One year ago today I was nearly dropping the ring as I moved to put it on his finger.

Photo by Katch SilvaOne year ago today he was hunching over trying to speak into the microphone, which was still set at my height. I couldn’t help myself, “Oh for god’s sake, just raise it!” Everyone laughed, and someone in the front row said, “And so it begins.”

Photo by Katch SilvaXander-Kylie-348Photo by Katch SilvaOne year ago today I was kissing my husband for the first time.

One year ago today the clouds finally burst and doused us all in thirty seconds of cool, blissful rain.

Xander-Kylie-372Xander-Kylie-377One year ago today we were standing in front of the long driveway where it all began, holding hands and grinning conspiratorially at each other.

One year ago today we were married.

Photo by Katch SilvaPhoto by Katch SilvaMy wedding day was the happiest day of my life so far. It was electric and intoxicating. The golden glow of thousands upon thousands of string lights was reflected in the starry eyes of all my family and friends, and of course in those of The Boy I love. I felt the most intense, buoyant euphoria…. like my whole world was encased in a shimmering bubble that was destined to pop, but for that one moment I was seeing everything reflected through the glassy iridescence, and it was just exactly perfect.

I’ve only ever felt like that once before. It was the day when the junebugs hummed in the tall weeds, and the light bent and refracted in rainbow whorls around the green leaves, and I looked at him, and he looked at me, and we both started the long fall that has never since slowed or stopped.

It’s an incredible feeling, and one that I return to often in my memory, remembering it with a kind of bittersweet yearning, because I’ll probably never feel that way again. And that’s ok, because my wedding was a dazzling ecstatic culmination of family, and friends, and me, and The Boy… this whole community of people feeling the exact same unparalleled joy all at the same time, but my marriage is about so much more than that one perfect moment.

It’s about the conversation we had a few days before the wedding, when he and I were taking a break from the planning whirlwind to wander quietly in the woods together. It was the happiest I’d seen him in months, and I smiled softly to see him so at home amongst the trees. As if he could hear what I was thinking, he stopped dead in his tracks and turned to me. “I’m not happy in LA. I think we need to live somewhere else,” he said. And all the hurt, and anxiety, feelings of being lost were so evident in his face that I just said, “Ok. I’ll go wherever you want.”

It’s about the time I got the stomach flu in March, and he made me mashed potatoes because I asked him to, even though he knew I was just going to throw them up again.

It’s about preparing our joint tax return, sitting side by side as I filled out and signed all the documents, passing them wordlessly to my right for him to sort into piles.

It’s about going to see Phil Lesh together, listening to the band play this song, and turning to whisper to him, “We’re so lucky.” It’s about him whispering back, “I was just thinking the same thing.”

It’s about grinding my teeth down to little nubs of frustration because he’s developed some sort of psychic awareness of exactly when I’ve sat down to write, and that’s when he suddenly decides he has thirty questions I absolutely need to answer immediately.

It’s about how I can’t ask a simple question without getting a twenty minute lecture on physics/3D modeling software/meteorology/firearm safety/wilderness skills. It’s about how I roll my eyes every time, but this is actually one of the reasons I fell in love with him.

It’s about how I’ve discovered that the most effective way to communicate an idea to him is to draw a picture, so at some point in nearly every conversation I find myself hunting around on his desk for the sketch pad.

It’s about how he can’t send an email without me looking at it. It’s about the inevitable argument that ensues when he doesn’t write down exactly what I dictated.

It’s about how I didn’t have enough appropriate socks to hike in, so I took all of his to Israel.

It’s about how I’m slowly learning to cope with his anxiety, to help him figure out how to deal with unexpected or unwanted outcomes and minor setbacks without losing sight of the big picture.

It’s about how he’s figuring out how to communicate with me, to use words in ways that are completely unfamiliar, foreign, and often uncomfortable for him, because he knows that’s what I need.

It’s about how we’ve started to realize that, even in the middle of a fight, we can stop and say, “Let’s just both apologize and have a better day from here.” It’s about learning to really mean that and follow through.

We have learned so much this year. It’s surprising at times, because we’ve known each other for so long, but there is still so much to discover about each other. It’s not that I’m learning new things about him, per se… more that my understanding is deepening, growing more complex. This delicate spiderweb of shared stories, and personal histories, and old grudges, and childhood memories, is constantly expanding but also wrapping in on itself as we become more and more entangled with each other. In six years, we will reach the tipping point where we will have known each other for more than half of our lives.

It has been a year of adventure, of unknowns, and of goodbyes. There has been so much change–some good, some bad, some magical–that at times we’ve both felt completely overwhelmed. Through all of that, it has been unspeakably meaningful to have each other as constants. We have not always lived up to those roles…. I have been guilty at times of being a bad partner and a lousy teammate, and so has he. But, as obvious as it sounds, I think we’re both learning that the point isn’t to be perfect, it’s to be together.

Photo by Katch SilvaBut every once in awhile, his fingers will brush the palm of my hand on our walk home from the restaurant, or I’ll look up and find him reading the email I’m writing over my shoulder, or I’ll wrap my arms around him from behind as he does the dishes, or Ripple will come on the radio on a long drive home, and in his eyes I can see — just for a moment — the reflection of all of those stars, and fireflies, and sparklers that I saw on July 20th, 2013.

All photos by the incomparable Katch Silva.

The Promise of Summer

Last week we had a freak hot spell, and even though we’ve since returned to sweaters and soup it put the taste of summer on my tongue. With the prospect of long days and warm nights ahead, The Boy and I have turned our attention to the yard.

photo 1After our wedding, I knew for a fact that I wanted to plant dahlias the next season. I ordered the tubers from a local supplier, and man, can you say “ugly duckling”? Pretty incredible that such gorgeous flowers come from such hard and knobbly little potatoes, huh? But to me dahlias are pure summer, and that’s how summer goes, right? In the depths of winter, with all that cold, hard, gray, you think the days of green and sunshine will never arrive. But they always do.

Processed with VSCOcam with lv01 presetThere’s a quote that I love, though I have no idea where I heard it: “Summertime is always the best of what might be.” Google tells me it’s by Charles Bowden. Whatever its origin, those words have always resonated with me. School children and old folk alike wait and pray all year for it to come around, begging to be released from the bitter ice and solitude of winter. We spend a whole year daydreaming of the far off lands we’ll visit, and strange people we’ll meet, and wild adventures we’ll have, and even when the season finally rolls around, containing no more excitement than a run-around in the sprinkles, a cherry popsicle, and the occasional afternoon thunderstorm, it somehow does not disappoint. No matter how ordinary, no matter how stiflingly hot, summer always seems to carry with it the electric promise of freedom.

photo 4It was 90 degrees here a few days ago — definitely not ordinary spring weather in Portland. As we lay sweating side-by-side in bed that night, The Boy was finally inspired to fix the stuck window in our bedroom. With a decisive crack of his fist, he finally got the damn thing open, and it was such sweet instantaneous relief to feel that warm night breeze on my skin.

It was still too hot for cuddling though, so we held hands in bed instead, and it felt so nice that I started thinking of the summertime, and all the good things that have happened to me in summers past, and all the wonder that’s waiting to come. I kissed him for the very first time on the second to last day of summer, two days before school was due to start, the year I turned sixteen.  I married him eight years minus a few weeks later, on a sweltering day at my favorite place in the world. I’ll be visiting my baby sister in Israel this June, which is so surreal I can hardly even wrap my mind around it. And sometime in July, we’ll be heading back home to return to our very favorite music festival (the site of our “honeymoon”) for the sixth year in a row. I love New England in the summer, and I’m so excited to go back and see all our family and friends, but it makes me a little sad to think of a certain house and a certain yard that we won’t be visiting this time around. It’s a foreign notion to me; I’ve never gone home and not been in that house. I don’t know yet how it’ll make me feel but, after all, that is the magic of summer: you never know what she’ll bring.

Oh, and if you have a few seconds, go check out our wedding photographer’s gorgeous new website, designed by the one and only Boy. And, since wedding season is coming up and I know someone out there must be looking , I’ll just say one more time that Katch was an absolute dream to work with.

Unto the Path

path1path2We’d only been in our new house for about a day when a mysterious package arrived. It came from Maggie, and I knew our wedding present was inside. It was wrapped in such a way that only Maggie could wrap a box – thorough, meticulous, hard to open. It made me smile, as The Boy hacked through layer after layer of bubble wrap with his pocket knife, and for a second it felt like she was there with us.

Finally, we got through all the layers, and found a simple wooden picture frame with a piece of cardboard laid over the front. The Boy removed it carefully, and both of us gasped very softly in delight.

It was made by ShadowfoxDesign, based on this picture that The Boy drew for me so many years ago. It seemed just right that it should come to us now, in our new home, with so many possibilities and so much unknown ahead. We’ll hang it over the fireplace in our living room, so that it’s the first thing everyone sees when they walk in. So that whenever I come in the door, I’m reminded of my two very best friends in the world, and how lucky I am to have them.

I’m telling you guys, she’s one of the best ones.

Photos by ShadowfoxDesign

I Remembered

When The Boy left home for college his bed tagged along with him, so this time I was sleeping on a mattress on the floor. His old room is the only one on the top floor of the three-story house, and virtually the entire southeast wall is windows. Lying on the mattress in a dark and nearly empty room, I stared out of those windows for the second to last time as The Boy wheezed softly in his sleep beside me. What with the room being so high up, and me being so low to the ground, all I could see were the tops of the trees, branches bare and black against midnight blue, like I was in a treehouse or a small boat floating through the sky. It was one of those cold and clear winter nights, and I could see a handful of crystal bright stars winking at me from behind the branches. I hadn’t expected to be back there again, looking up through those windows across the tops of the trees.

We weren’t supposed to go home for Christmas. Earlier in the fall, when we’d discussed how we’d spend our first holidays as a married couple, we tip-toed around the real reason. We’d done so much traveling that year, we said. With The Boy’s graduation and subsequent move, and then the wedding… it was all too much. We needed a break. Some quiet.

But staring up through those windows, so far away from the relaxed and balmy LA Christmas I’d imagined, I knew something I had always known, but hadn’t said or even thought before. I hadn’t wanted to come home, because I hadn’t wanted to say goodbye.

The wedding had been the perfect ending to my relationship with that house, because it hadn’t really felt like an ending at all. The house and yard were still full of furniture, full of people, full of shouts and laughter, full of life, full of that magic green and gold. Weeks later, when I learned the house had been sold, it seemed fitting that the last memory I would have of the place was one of being loved, of loving, of running around in old shorts in 105 degree weather making flower arrangements, of wildflowers and the same old trees that I’d known since I was fifteen watching over me. I was sad that it was over, but I wrote this, and felt a little better. We had sent the old girl off in style, and it really didn’t get any better than that.

But things change, and somehow I ended up standing in that driveway again, walking through that door again. Only this time it was bitterly cold, half the house was in boxes, and the green and gold had been replaced with bruised purple and grey. This time, it felt like an ending: sad, and leaden, and with the kind of finality that you know won’t feel fully real until weeks later, when it’s over and gone, but you can still sense waiting in the wings.

That night, lying underneath those windows, I remembered.

I remembered the summer before The Boy and I started dating, when we’d get too tired and too drunk to drive me home, and I’d end up crashing in his bed, sleeping right beneath those windows. This happened almost every night. We were still just friends, but every once in awhile I’d wake in the middle of the night and find that our bodies had unconsciously wrapped themselves around each other. We’d pretend like it hadn’t happened when we woke the next day at 4 am to drive me home before my parents woke up and noticed I hadn’t come home. Who was I kidding? Like they hadn’t noticed…

I remembered waking up on hot summer mornings in a haze of blinding sunshine baking me alive through those shadeless windows. When I couldn’t stand it anymore, we’d pull all our blankets and pillows out onto his balcony and sleep off the rest of the morning in that cool early morning summer breeze carrying the smell of fresh cut grass. The railings were tall and solid wood, so lying on the floor all I could see were the swaying green treetops, outlined against a cloudless blue sky.

I remembered standing on that balcony in the middle of the night in my underwear and old leather jacket, smoking a cigarette. It was a warm summer night, and we’d only been dating a couple of weeks. I could see my best friend’s house from that balcony. Her lights were off. She’d left us hours ago to go to bed.

I remembered standing on that balcony on a hot summer afternoon, the day The Boy and I fell in love. He was waiting for me in the yard while I ran upstairs to grab something. His room, with its air conditioning and slate blue walls, felt so cool and refreshing after the scorching heat, and the heady smell of the trees, and the irresistible momentum of falling in love. I grabbed what I needed, whatever it was, but for some reason I felt compelled to go out on the balcony before I went back downstairs. I could see my best friend’s house from that balcony. Her car was gone. I could see a red garden hose, curled up neatly on the black asphalt of The Boy’s driveway. I could see him, waiting for me on the front stoop. He didn’t look up, but I smiled at him anyway. I didn’t tell him I loved him that day, but I would.

I remembered standing in that driveway a few weeks later, talking to The Boy over my shoulder as I rummaged for something in my friend’s car. It was late August, and he was home visiting from college. He’d only left for school two weeks earlier, and he hadn’t been planning on coming home yet, but we missed each other so much that he did. We still weren’t dating. When I went over to his house that night I actually ran across the kitchen to hug him and he breathed into my hair, “Hey, kid.” Later, he walked out into the driveway with me so I could get my cigarettes out of my friend’s car. For some reason I’d decided to take all of the cigarettes out of the pack, and we were trying to put them back in, talking about something unimportant the whole time, when finally I couldn’t stand it anymore, and I dropped all of the smokes we had so painstakingly been trying to fit back into their cardboard box on the ground, reached my hands around his neck, and kissed him for the first time in years, with the moonlight filtering down on us through those same old trees that I’d known since I was fifteen.

I took an oral history class in college, and in it we spent a lot of time talking about the powers and limitations of memory. One image that’s always stuck with me is the notion of memory as a hydraulic wheel. The more it spins the faster it goes. You start remembering a single image, or perhaps a smell, and that leads to another and another, and the more you remember the more you remember, coming faster and faster until you’re left swimming in the deluge. I laid beneath those windows on a cold winter night with the hydraulic wheel of memory spinning faster and faster in my mind, remembering, and remembering, and remembering with the cold brightness of the stars piercing through my heart and the warm skin of my husband’s back pressing against my side.

This was the goodbye that I never wanted to say, the real reason we hadn’t wanted to go home, and it was bittersweet and heavy. But on Christmas Eve I sat on the floor with The Boy, and his brother, and his mother, and his grandmother, wrapping presents. This song was playing softly in the background, and The Boy and his brother were joking around about something or another, while his mother sorted through old photos, running back and forth to show us when she found one of The Boy sporting a baby mohawk in his bath, or his sister in her wedding dress, and I hummed along to the song and thought, “I never would have wanted to miss this.”

Photo by Decade Diary.

This Is What I’m Feeling Like These Days

I love The Moth very much, and this story is just so exactly perfect. I too occasionally mourn the loss of the first date, the first kiss, the first few months when you are just an absolute loon in love. But sometimes I’ll be lying on the couch after dinner, and The Boy is doing dishes in the other room, and he’ll come in to grab the last few plates, and hand me a fresh glass of seltzer even though I didn’t ask, and I think, “No matter what happens, or where I go, I’m so glad you’ll be there to bring me seltzer, and braid my hair when I can’t quite get it right, and remember an extra pair of socks for when mine inevitably get wet, and do the dishes, and be mine.” Sometimes I try to tell him all this, but it usually just comes out like, “I love you.”

Story by Jeff Simmermon, via The Moth.

How To: DIY Wedding Photobooth

Kylie & Xander Wedding Photobooth_189Kylie & Xander Wedding Photobooth_114Kylie & Xander Wedding Photobooth_13Wasn’t our photobooth adorable? And I will say: our guests had a blast using it. I was a little concerned, because we had originally wanted to set the thing up outside, but the weather forecast predicted storms, and we couldn’t chance the camera getting doused. I actually said to The Boy: If we move this thing inside, no one will use it. I really ate my words on that one, but I was glad it got so much use!

Kylie & Xander Wedding Photobooth_243Kylie & Xander Wedding Photobooth_45

Photobooths are super trendy at weddings right now, but renting one can be expensive. Of course, our photobooth did not give our guests the chance to print and keep their photos right on the spot, but we posted them all to an online gallery, and I don’t think anyone minded. All in all, our photobooth cost under 200$, and you could probably do it for less by borrowing equipment instead of renting. But here’s how we did it…

Kylie & Xander Wedding Photobooth_375Kylie & Xander Wedding Photobooth_371You’ll Need

A DSLR camera (someone you know owns one)

A sturdy tripod

A laptop

An extra long USB cord

A ring flash (This isn’t a must, but it’ll make the photos look a lot more professional. There are many kinds of flashes available, we chose the Ring Flash because it was the most efficient in terms of space, cost, and flexibility as far as light power)

A soft box (see above)

You can probably borrow a lot of this equipment. We had some things on hand, and rented the rest from Borrow Lenses.

1) Mount your camera, ring flash, and softbox to the tripod. It’s important to go with a tripod that has a sturdy head, because this equipment combination is a bit heavier than just your average camera. The distance between the camera and the spot where people stand will vary depending on the kind of lens you’re using, so play around with this until you get the framing and focus right. It’s a good idea to mark off the area with tape, so everyone knows when they’re in frame. Pro tip: Have two people of different heights try the booth out when you’re working out the framing. The Boy was the only one who sampled ours, and he’s very tall, so we could only see the tops of our little kid guests’ heads!

2) Set up your ring flash to go off whenever you take a photo. There’s a couple ways you can do this, the easy way and the proper way. First, the easy way: flip up the flash that comes with your camera, when this goes off the ring flash will also go off. There are some problems inherent with this, like weird shadows, so I’ll explain the proper and (slightly) more complicated way. You’ll need a hot shoe sync adapter. Plug it into the hot shoe on your camera (usually located on the top, near the flash). The particular ring flash we rented came with a sync cable, which we connected from the flash to the hot shoe adapter. You’re ready to go! NB: We were using a Nikon camera, so the equipment you use may vary depending on what kind camera you’re using. A little research should clarify what you’ll need.

3) Tether the camera to your laptop with the USB cable. The purpose of tethering camera to computer is twofold: 1) The laptop works as a viewing station, as people take photos, the pictures will appear on the computer’s screen for people to see, and 2) We were using a Mac remote to fire the camera, so the Mac computer was necessary to make that whole thing work. You can actually purchase remotes that will work directly with the camera, but we just happened to have a Mac remote on hand.

3) We used a software called Capture One so that every time the camera took a picture, the picture was automatically saved to the computer and displayed on the laptop screen. Capture One is on the pricey side as far as software goes, but The Boy already owned it. There are lots of less expensive options for tethered shooting software, and many camera companies (like Nikon) actually make their own. The idea behind tethered shooting is that the computer is controlling the camera, so once you have your software you’re going to want to go in and play around until you find the command keys that will trigger the camera to shoot. For Capture One every time you hit the “apple-k” on the keyboard, the camera would take a photo.

4) Download this app. This will allow you to set the Apple remote’s buttons to application-specific commands, which is a fancy way of saying that we programmed the remote to hit “apple-k” for us. The Boy set up the remote so that every single button would trigger the camera, which was useful as the night went on and people got drunker. Nobody was pawing at the buttons wondering which one to use.

5) Type up some brief instructions, basically to the tune of stand in the box and hit the button. It might be a good idea to remind people not to steal the remote!

6) What’s a photobooth without props? Maggie downloaded these free printables, which we had printed at the local copy center. Maggie had the brilliant idea to mount all the props on foam board, which made them extra sturdy. It was a little extra effort, because we had to print the props on paper, then adhere them to the foam, then them out again, then color in the edges of the foam board with sharpie to make them look nice and clean. But it’s your wedding, so a little extra effort can be worth it. We also threw in some fun over-sized sunglasses, and the Mardi-gras beads and leis that Maggie made me wear to my bachelorette party (I am so getting her back for that one when she gets married).

7) That’s it! Shoot away!

Kylie & Xander Wedding Photobooth_48Kylie & Xander Wedding Photobooth_81

This is just the way that we did it. There are lots of other ways to create a photobooth, many of which are much simpler. For example, you could forgo the laptop and just do this with a camera and camera-specific remote. If you go that route, your guests will not be able to view their photos, unless you hook your camera up to some kind of video output, like a TV. There’s a great post over here that talks through some other alternatives for a DIY photobooth.

And of course, don’t forget to charge your camera battery!

Photo by Katch SilvaA Note on Our Backdrop

Our awesome pinwheel backdrop was created by the ever-rocking Maggie and our incredible friend Serena. Pinwheels are not especially difficult, and there are a billion and one tutorials online, so I won’t bother explaining it. We originally planned to attach ours to The Boy’s tennis court fence with zip ties, but when we had to move the whole thing inside we found that nails worked pretty well for attaching it to the kitchen wall. Something about the way we attached it to the wall, or perhaps all the moving back and forth while we figured out where to put the thing, made some of the pinwheels come apart. Not a single person noticed or cared.

Oh, and guess what? Our wedding is being featured over here today, go check it out!

Bottom photo by Katch Silva. All other photos courtesy of Xander Keeping.

How To: DIY Your Wedding Flowers, Part Two

photo(1)photo(7)photo(9)So as you can see, we had a lot of fun arranging flowers for the wedding. A couple weeks ago, I offered up some general advice on DIY wedding flowers. Today we’ll talk about the subject in a little more detail. I’m going to break this post down into a few parts: how to source your flowers, what to order, and how to do your actual arrangements.

How To: Source Your Wedding Flowers

Let’s start off at the very beginning: where should you be getting your flowers from? This is necessarily tied into another question: what kind of flowers do you want? Most suppliers will carry a finite selection, and while some local florists might be willing to special order things for you, it will probably be more cost efficient to choose from their existing stock.

I started this whole process off by getting a feel for what kinds of flowers I liked. I spent a lot of time on google and Pinterest, but this was only somewhat helpful. I wanted a wildflower look, but every time I looked at a picture of someone’s so-called “wildflower” bouquet, it seemed to consist of normal flowers arranged in a more rustic and undone kind of way. I wanted actual wildflowers. Turns out, lots of places don’t carry actual wildflowers.

So this played a big part in my decisions regarding flower suppliers. Sourcing your flowers can be a little tricky, but it’s getting a lot easier as more and more brides are going the DIY route. Professional florists buy their flowers from wholesale suppliers, who sell their stock at seriously discounted prices. Most wholesalers will not sell to non-professionals, but I’ve heard that many vendors at the NYC Flower Market will sell to regular people if you go at a certain time of day. Driving into New York to pick up flowers was just a little too stressful for me, so I had to look into some other options. I found a local florist who sold bulk flowers at wholesale prices, and an online vendor who would ship flowers to me.

For most people, online vendors will be the most convenient and cost effective. There are quite a few of them these days, and they all seem to have pretty competitive prices and high quality stock. At the beginning, I was really leaning towards using the online vendor for all of my flowers. They were the cheapest option, they came well reviewed, and I could even purchase certain flowers that would otherwise have been out of season in my area. However, I had a few hesitations. One: they didn’t carry all of the flowers I wanted, and that seemed to be the case for pretty much every online supplier I considered. Two: Even though 99.9999% of their reviews were positive, I was fixated on the handful of situations where flowers didn’t arrive on time, or they arrived dead, or some other catastrophe arose. Three: I had a slight ethical dilemma about buying flowers that were out of season and grown in Ecuador (I think), as opposed to locally.

This led me to Butternut Gardens, a local flower farm. Evelyn, the owner, had some of the most beautiful flowers in the world, and she carried many of the varieties I wanted that were impossible to find online. However, the online retailer’s prices were much lower, and if I went through the flower farm I would have to give up on certain flowers that were not in bloom in July. In the end, I split the order. I sourced most of my flowers from Butternut Gardens, but I bought my dinner plate dahlias, delphinium, and larkspur from the online seller. The dinner plate dahlias would have been prohibitively expensive to buy locally, and the other two were currently out of season (but only by a little bit!).

Here’s the last thing I will say about my suppliers: My experience with Butternut Gardens was infinitely superior. Fifty Flowers made a couple of mistakes with my order, including delivering one of my boxes late, so that my poor dahlias were sitting in a hot warehouse for six hours. Ultimately it worked out fine, and the flowers were stunning, but it was stressful. Evelyn, the owner of Butternut Gardens, was impossibly sweet, knowledgeable, and when she forgot to give me five of the sunflowers I ordered she actually drove to my house the next day to drop them off. For FIVE flowers. (PS: She runs a monthly flower subscription service, which is totally awesome. If you’re in the Fairfield County area you should check it out!)

How To: Calculate Your Flower Order

photo(2)

The key to the final flower order is a trial run. I visited Butternut Gardens a month before the wedding and walked home with about fifty blossoms. I went home and unpacked some of the jars and bottles we had ordered, and set to work. I was using these two images (1, 2) as loose inspiration, but I knew I wanted even more flowers. I worked on my dining room table, which was almost the same length as the tables we had ordered. I tried to include as many of the other items that would be on the table as possible, such as candles, so that I could get a clear sense of how many jars we would need.

Once I had the whole table set, I counted how many flowers I had used. Keep separate totals for large blossoms and smaller, filler blooms, this will help you achieve the right balance between the two in your order. Once I had the total, I multiplied the number of flowers by the number of tables. One thing that’s important to bear in mind: I still ended up with way more flowers than I needed. When I did the mock arrangement, I did not have all of the glasses, and silverware, and plates, and placemats, that would eventually go on the real tables. These things made the tablescape much busier, and that translated into fewer flowers needed. I knew this was going to be the case, but I ordered extra flowers anyway. Better to have too many than too few.

However, I still needed to figure out exactly what I was ordering. I wanted a lot of natural texture and variety, so I ordered smaller quantities of lots of different kinds of flowers. This was another reason why ordering from a local supplier was super beneficial: I visited Evelyn’s farm twice to look at what she had in bloom, and she even offered up some amazing suggestions when I was at a loss. This is what my final flower order looked like:

60 Dinnerplate Dahlias

25 Regular Dahlias

80 Larkspur (Mixed Colors)

80 Delphinium

60 Black Eyed Susans

30 Brown Eyed Susans (Similar to above, but smaller filler flowers)

60 Prairie Sun Coreopsis

50 Coneflowers (also known as Echinacea)

25 Sunflowers

90 Zinnias

3 Bunches Mountain Mint

3 Bunches Goldenrod

Now, some notes on my order. I had also ordered 40 cosmos, but it was so hot in the week before my wedding that they didn’t bloom properly. I think we replaced them with something else, but I can’t even remember what it was. This is important to bear in mind when you’re working with a local supplier: they’re at the mercy of mother nature, so you want to be as flexible as possible with your order. I wanted a really organic, natural look, so it was no problem at all for me to go another direction.

When placing your flower order, think carefully about balance. You want to have tall thin stalks, like larkspur and delphinium, as well as round blooms, like black eyed susans and zinnias. I ordered more small to medium sized flowers than larger ones, like sunflowers and dinner plate dahlias, because larger flowers make a greater impact when they’re seen on their own. Don’t forget to include some greenery in your order, like the mint and goldenrod. Professional florists always include some greens in their arrangements, but this often goes overlooked by DIY arrangers.

How To: Do Your Actual Arrangements

Photo by Katch Silva

First of all: this happens the day before the wedding. Keep your schedule clear of other activities for that day, because flower arrangements should not happen any other time. Truth be told, we probably would have gotten away with doing them on Thursday, instead of Friday, but the stress about whether or not the flowers would make it would not have been worth it. All in all, with four people working on the flowers, this took less than four hours. I was done with plenty of time to help The Boy hang lights before our rehearsal dinner.

Necessary Supplies

Floral Shears (do yourself a favor and buy one for every person helping you; no one should be sharing)

Floral Tape (you only need this for bouquets)

Flower Food (I had two kinds: little crystal packets and spray)

Buckets

Pitcher

1) First, prepare your space. You want to work in a cool room with limited natural light, so a basement is really the best option if you have the choice. We laid out garbage bags to act as work stations, theoretically to assist with cleanup. This was basically a failure, and stems got everywhere. But if you’re neater than me, maybe you want to give it a try anyway. Have all of your jars out and easily accessible; once you start putting flowers in jars you want to just be able to keep reaching for empty ones. I had lots of different kinds of jars, so before I even started arranging things I decided how many of each jar I wanted on each table. I wrote this down for the person who would later be moving jars to tables.

2) Once your space is set, you want your flowers all prepped and ready to go, sitting in water. To prep your flowers, use the floral shears to snip off the bottom inch or so of the stem. Make your cut at about a 45 degree angle; this creates maximum surface area through which the flower will absorb water. Next, strip off all but the very topmost leaves. You don’t want any leaves below the water level, because leaves are filthy with bacteria. Place all prepped flowers in buckets filled with water and a couple drops of bleach. The number one reason that cut flowers die quickly is bacteria, so a tiny amount of bleach helps to prevent that. Regarding water temperature: you want to listen to any instructions from your flower supplier, but as a general rule stick with super cold water for already blooming flowers, and lukewarm water for buds. Tip: if you’re also making bouquets, set aside those flowers first, so that you don’t get stuck with the loser flowers at the end.

3) Once you have all your flowers in buckets, it’s time to start transferring them to your jars, bottles, and other vessels. This kind of needs to be done by feel and personal taste, but try some of these combinations: a large flower all on its own in a small squat vessel, a large group of all small flowers, one tall flower and one large flower, three different flowers in the same color scheme, a handful of greens in a tall vessel. Those are just some ideas to get you started, but as my friend Maggie says, it’s basically impossible to screw up flowers in jars. If you want to be really anal about bacteria snip the stems once more before you move them to the new jar.

4) Start out with all of your jars completely dry, but keep a pitcher filled with water and a couple of drops of bleach nearby. Every time you complete about seven to ten jars, pour in a couple inches of water. We had literally hundreds of jars lying around that basement, and if they’d all been full of water before we added flowers I would have kicked over at least five of them, guaranteed. Once you’ve added water, move the jars to a safe location away from stray limbs, windows, or air vents.

5) As you’re placing flowers in vessels, don’t worry about keeping all of the jars grouped together by table. I just grabbed all the jars that were nearest and set to work; the person who moves your arrangements to the dinner tables gets to be in charge of making sure the right kinds of jars end up on each table. This is why you made your list.

6) A note on bouquets: there are plenty of good bouquet tutorials so I’ll keep this brief. The traditional way to create a bouquet is to start with three central flowers and then keep adding layers in a circle around that core, alternating between fillers and central blooms. I started with this theory and then just sort of pulled on things until it looked a little less perfect. Ultimately, I found that my bouquet looked prettiest when I just picked things up randomly, but then again that’s my taste. I also have an eye for color and shape, so if you don’t then feel free to pass this job off to a friend. Wrap your bouquet in floral tape, then tie ribbon or twine around it to hide the ugly green tape. Give the stems another angled snip and place in water.

7) Once all of your arrangements are done, I highly recommend spraying them with this. It came recommended by some fancy New York florist, and I’m positive it helped preserve my flowers for a few extra days. I sprayed all of the arrangements, and then added flower food to the bucket with my bouquets, and a few other vessels per my supplier’s instructions. Say goodnight to your flowers, and whisper a quick prayer to the flower god that they last the night. As long as they are in a cool, dark place, they will.

8) It’s your wedding day! Now, I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: it is not your job to move the flowers to the tables. This needs to be delegated to someone else. Hand them a list of how many of each kind of jar goes on each table, and trust that they will do you right. Make sure the flowers are the last thing to go out, because you don’t want them sitting in the sun all day. Now go get married!

It really was much easier than I thought it would be, especially to create the kind of look I was going for. And I got almost as many compliments about the flowers as I did about the food, which is really saying something.

A few final recommendations: for inspiration I read this post and this book. Lots of pretty pictures and useful information about flower care, plus it’s written like a cookbook. Much like with cooking, if you pay attention to the general technique rather than the specific ingredients, you can apply the lessons to your own arrangements, even if they’re not exactly identical.

Good luck!

Last photo by Katch Silva. All other photos by the incomparable Maggie Jo Shapiro.

The Name Game

Photo by Katch Silva

I have been married for over a month, and I still have not figured out what I’m doing with my name. Some people seem to have decided for me. To them, I am Kylie Keeping, no questions asked. Honestly it hasn’t bothered me too much, and for the most part I haven’t gone out of my way to correct them. I suppose it’s sort of a sneaky way to try it on, see how it fits, how it looks on me.

The fact of the matter is it’s adorable. It’s a great name. A name many other actors or writers would kill for. And then we look at my old name, clunky and German, awkward to spell and say, the bane of substitute teachers and telemarketers alike. My mother and sisters were baffled when I told them I was unsure if I would be exchanging it for something cleaner and, well, cuter. Why on earth would I want to hang on to Schachte? Why did I always have to be weird about these kinds of things?

To be perfectly honest, I’ve wondered the same thing myself a few times. The last name issue has been an ongoing debate between The Boy and I for years, and on more than one occasion I have woken up in the middle of the night, turned to him, and said, “I think I’ve decided. I’m changing it.” And then the next day I’d wake up, suddenly unsure all over again.

Because that name, that clunky German name, odd as it may be, is mine. It’s been my identity for nearly twenty-four years. And the nineteen-year-old liberal arts student wearing too much eyeliner who still lives inside me demands to know: why didn’t The Boy even think about changing his name? Why do we live in a world where it’s assumed that this is my issue, not his? Why aren’t there more guys like this? Why are we hanging onto these outdated labels of propriety that don’t even make sense in modern society? And then the part of me that does not spell women with a y rolls her eyes, because Keeping is a great last name, and it’s kind of a nice idea that everyone can automatically tell that The Boy and I are a family, that we’re a unit.

I feel like either way I lose a little something. I know that if I do change my name I’ll probably mourn the old one awhile, and then get over it and move on. I know that if I decide to keep Schachte that we will not be any less of a family. I know that there are alternatives, ways for me to decide without really deciding, but hyphenation feels like a cop out, and The Boy wouldn’t even discuss both of us changing our names to something new, like Adama or Stark. I know that this decision is really not all that important, and either way it will be just fine. But the question sticks in the back of mine, and every once in awhile I take it out and weigh it up and down, like a loose tooth you can’t help but play with.

So as you can see, there is no end to this in sight. But I did just get my new California driver’s license, which means I can’t step foot in a DMV for at least another two years, so I have awhile longer to decide. Hell, I have our whole lives.

Photo by Katch Silva

Of Dahlias and Pork Belly

Photo by Katch SilvaPhoto by Katch SilvaPhoto by Katch SilvaThe night before the wedding, The Boy and I stayed up until the early hours of the morning, frantically hanging string lights in his backyard. The next day we woke late, and from the moment my eyes opened I was having one of those experiences where you feel like you’re standing outside of your body, watching yourself. I had never expected to be so nervous on my wedding day. After all, I had no doubts. But my hands wouldn’t stop shaking, and my intestines seemed to be doing some kind of Zumba class inside my belly. What was I most afraid of? Forgetting my vows. A decade’s worth of theatrical training, and I was scared of dropping my lines.

getting ready 1Photo by Katch Silva Photo by Katch Silvarocks1But all those nerves evaporated when I saw him for the first time. If I can give you a piece of advice: do a “First Look” session with your photographer before the ceremony. I was skeptical; I wanted to see him for the first time as I was walking down the aisle. I was convinced it would all somehow be less special if we saw each other beforehand. In the end, it was The Boy who convinced me otherwise, and I was so grateful. The second I saw him it was suddenly just the two of us hanging out. It was just another day in the yard.ceremony area Tent StuffMy favorite elements of the wedding were all the tangible expressions of love surrounding us. This wedding was truly a team effort, and it meant so much to both The Boy and me that so many people wanted to help out. My sister stayed up late every night the week before the wedding, slaving over our gorgeous chalkboard menus. My dad gleefully put his new saw to work on the easels and chalkboard placemats, onto which my mom painted one perfect pig. The Boy’s mother basically lived in her backyard for five months, planting flowers and waging war on weeds. Maggie, my badass maid of honor and craft goddess, cut and assembled all the banners, photobooth props, and paper pinwheels until her fingers blistered. Lorenza, my wonderful officiant, turned hoarded fabric scraps into lovely bunting to hang around the ceremony area, and made the flower crown I wore in my hair. For days before the wedding, that yard was crawling people, all working their butts off to create this day for us. And on July 20th I looked around at all the chalkboards, and pinwheels, and flags, and flowers, and I thought: we are loved.
Photo by Katch Silva Photo by Katch Silva Photo by Katch SilvaWe walked down the aisle to this song, and when I got to the front and looked The Boy in the eye, Jerry sang my favorite line in the world, “If I knew the way, I would take you home.” I smiled, and mouthed the words along, and he smiled back at me, and I was ready to be married. Photo by Katch Silvaceremony1There is no doubt in my mind: we had the best ceremony of any wedding ever. Asking my best friend to officiate was one of many excellent decisions I made. Lorenza, our beloved third wheel, has been such a steady presence in our relationship and our adventures, so she seemed like the perfect choice to bind The Boy and I together permanently. Her address was exquisitely intimate and personal, and if I had had any doubts about this marriage her words would have put them to rest. She spoke of clocks, and clementines, and purple houses, perfectly encapsulating both the mundane mechanics and the absolute enchantment of the way The Boy and I love each other.

My dad also spoke during the ceremony, and his words were a beautiful testament to his own love story with my mother, which is in itself an affirmation of the power of marriage and commitment. Honestly, I expected to cry uncontrollably through the entire ceremony. But instead, I giggled. I think I’m laughing in just about every picture. It’s not that I wasn’t taking it seriously; as I laughed, I could also feel that gentle sting of emotion welling behind my eyes. But it was just so damn nice, standing up there in front of all those people, letting everyone love us and giving all that love right back, I couldn’t help but laugh out loud.

Photo by Katch SilvaPhoto by Katch SilvaPhoto by Katch SilvakissPhoto by Katch SilvaI will say that our ceremony was spectacularly under-rehearsed. We had no idea where to stand, and at one point Lorenza had to ask us to move so that she could see us better. We had never used the mics before, and there was a lot of adjusting up and down to compensate for height differences. At one point, The Boy got a little carried away and tried to kiss me before we were even done. Lorenza’s voice shook, and she looked like she was just barely holding in tears as she delivered her address. These aren’t the kinds of things that you necessarily imagine when you picture your wedding ceremony, but they made it feel so much more real, and that was the best part of all.party1Photo by Katch Silva Photo by Katch SilvaWhat’s that, you ask? That would be a smoker. We smoked meat on site. I will say unequivocally that this was the best wedding decision I made, aside from, you know, the getting married part. I really don’t have any other words about our amazing caterers, except this: those pulled pork sliders, with their delightful little pickle slices, will haunt my dreams.
party2Photo by Katch SilvaPhoto by Katch SilvaPhoto by Katch SilvaPhoto by Katch SilvaPhoto by Katch SilvaPhoto by Katch Silvadance1Photo by Katch SilvaPhoto by Katch SilvaPhoto by Katch SilvaKylie & Xander Wedding Photobooth_32 Kylie & Xander Wedding Photobooth_39pb5Kylie & Xander Wedding Photobooth_218 Kylie & Xander Wedding Photobooth_226Officially married! Like our photobooth? Tutorial to come!Photo by Katch SilvaPhoto by Katch SilvaPhoto by Katch Silvapie5party3Photo by Katch Silva

I’ve written and deleted a lot of things about this wedding. It’s so hard to talk about that wild feeling of spinning madly through love, but I think the most wonderful part of all was getting to share this special place with all of our guests. This yard, the yard we have so casually wandered around, picking raspberries and playing games, was suddenly the backdrop for the biggest day of my life so far. It felt simultaneously larger than life and also wonderfully ordinary.

That yard has been our Secret Garden, our Whangdoodleland, our Terabithia, and for so long The Boy and I alone were the keepers of that secret magic. All those years, it felt so wonderful to be the only ones who knew the truth, to hoard it for ourselves and share it with no one but each other. In many ways, that was the foundation of our relationship: we learned to love each other in that magic yard, and as we wandered through the world together we would sometimes smile at each other conspiratorially, proud of the secrets we had learned one summer, secrets that no one but the two of us knew.

But on July 20th, we invited everyone we loved into the clubhouse, and if I ever had doubted its power, it was on that night that I knew for that sure that this place was enchanted, because I could tell everyone else was feeling it, too. In my vows I spoke of The Magic Summer, as I often think of it, the summer five years ago when The Boy and I fell in love. I said that in my mind, the whole thing kind of shimmers in this haze of green and gold, and no matter how old and grown up we get, our life together will always be touched by that. At one point in the night, a friend of mine looked around and said, “You know, I think I see it. All that green and gold.”

Photos by Kateryn Silva. All this would not be possible without our amazing vendors, any one of which I would happily recommend.

Catering: Pitmaster BBQ Catering Dessert: Rosie’s and Michele’s Pies Flowers: Butternut Gardens Furniture Rentals: New England Country Rentals Tent: Events Party and Tent Rentals Bride’s Dress: Patty Castillo Makeup: Courtney Murray Paper Goods: Danielle Young, Xander Keeping, and Sparkvites

 

 

How to: DIY Your Wedding Flowers, Part One

Photo by Katch SilvaPhoto by Katch SilvaPhoto by Katch SilvaPhoto by Katch SilvaLook at those flowers. Don’t they look beautiful? And professional? Well, like just about every other detail for this wedding, I did them myself… with a lot of help from some amazing friends and family, of course.

DIY wedding flowers are kind of a thing right now, and there are two really good reasons for that. First of all, it saves a ton of money. Towards the end of the wedding planning I was getting really stressed out, and I looked into hiring a florist just to get one thing off my plate. At that point I had already priced out how much it would cost to do the flowers on my own, and it was way more expensive than I thought it would be. I was curious if it would really cost that much more to hire someone else. Yes, it was. More than three times as much, actually.

Second of all, doing your own flowers can be fun and, most importantly, soothing. The day before the wedding I descended into the basement with my flower crew to cut, clean, and arrange. Crazy things were happening upstairs: The Boy was freaking out, the tent people arrived late, the lights couldn’t be hung until after the rehearsal dinner, and everyone was running around the backyard yelling and fretting when it was about 105 degrees outside… but guess where I was? In the cool, air-conditioned basement, chatting with friends and snipping flowers. And every time I went upstairs, someone would try to grab me and ask for help, but I was all like, “Oh, so sorry, I can’t help you because I’m soooo busy with the flowers!” Best decision ever.

Xander-Kylie-248Xander-Kylie-252So just in case DIY flowers are something you’re considering, I thought I’d pass along my not-so-hard earned wisdom. Next week I’ll be doing a step-by-step tutorial, including all kinds of practical information like the exact order I placed with my florist. But until then, here’s some more general advice about DIY flowers:

1) Someone will try to talk you to out of this. Actually, a lot of people will try to talk you out of this. The internet, your mom, your sister, whatever. But seriously: this isn’t rocket science, it’s floral arrangements. You can handle this.

2) Enlist a team of minions helpers. This is actually the most important piece of advice I can give you, and it pertains to every element of the wedding planning, not just flowers. I would have been up all night crying in that basement without my wedding planner and my two best friends. In fact, just as we were getting started I felt myself starting to hyperventilate. I was sitting there, looking at the 500 flowers I had ordered, and I couldn’t remember a single thing I’d learned about floral arrangements. But then I looked over at Lorenza and Maggie, coolly chatting as they snipped stems with Fleetwood Mac playing in the background, and I calmed down. Even if your friends aren’t as hands-on helpful as mine were, having other people around to talk to while you work will keep you from descending into the mad, hellish vortex of your pre-wedding day mind. This is a good thing.

3) Do a mock arrangement at least a few months in advance. It’s ok if the flowers you’re going to use aren’t in season yet, because you just want to get a feel for two things: 1) How many different types of flowers you’ll need to get the right variety and texture you’re going for, and 2) How many actual blooms you’ll need. It will also demystify the arranging process, and make you feel more comfortable doing the real deal. Start thinking about what kinds of pairings–as far as size, shape, height, and color–look nice together. The one semi-complicated part of my arrangements was the fact that I was working with flowers in lots of different sizes and shapes, and I’d made absolutely zero attempt to coordinate color. I wanted my flowers to be very textural and organic, but I didn’t want them to look like I had just blindly thrown them together. I had been trying to figure that out for the first time the day before my wedding, I probably would have thrown up a little. Also, my mock arrangement looked so pretty that my mom stopped trying to convince me to hire a florist, so that helped, too.

4) If you’re going to go the DIY route, it helps to be super flexible and have somewhat “rustic” taste. I wanted my tables to look undone and imperfect, like they were overflowing with wildflowers that I had just picked, and they pretty much did. If I had wanted super polished, professional looking arrangements, I’m not sure the whole thing would have come off as well as it did. In reality it’s probably not that hard to do those things, especially with a little research and practice, but it would have freaked me out to even try. But as my maid of honor Maggie said, “You can’t go wrong with flowers in mason jars.” Seriously, it’s impossible to screw up.

5) So you’re going to do the flowers the day before your wedding, and you don’t want them to wilt, so you leave them in a cool, dark place, like your basement. That means that on the day of your wedding, those flowers have to travel up the stairs, possibly into a car, and make their way onto your tables. This is where my advice comes in: the person in charge of getting those flowers onto the tables should not be you. I helped get all the flowers into jars on Friday, and on Saturday I wiped my hands of it and told someone else to figure it out. Actually, this was my motto for pretty much everything on July 20th. And every time someone tried to ask me something I just said, “I’m probably the last person you should ask this question to.” And everyone figured it out. And all my flowers made it onto my tables, looking perfect.

I’ll be back next week with more specific advice. I’m going to go spend the rest of the weekend looking at my wedding pictures, which just arrived in the mail.

Photo credit to Kateryn Silva.