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A Garden Wedding

Jodi Sammons Feil

Vintage or modern. Casual or formal. A garden party is one of the most versatile themes you can create for your wedding. Typically held in the warmer months that Spring and Summer promise, a modern day garden party can feature any kind of design.

The Venue
When you set out on this adventure, have a vision in mind. Begin with looking for a venue that can provide the backdrop to your wedding, such as outdoor gardens and features to naturally enhance your décor. Says Sandy Murphy of A Mile Away in Milford, NH, “I believe one of the most important things for a venue or restaurant to do is to define “who you are.”  We see ourselves as a facility for a country garden wedding.  If you are looking for a ballroom or nightclub atmosphere, it is not us!  If you want a tented event in a garden setting with lots of different spots for guests to enjoy that's what we provide.”

Choosing a venue that does not specialize in garden parties—but promises to create it for you—could spell disaster. The attempt may be whole-hearted but without the beauty of nurtured  (and natural) gardens and trees, the delivery will fall short. “Let the trees and garden plants create the beautiful backdrop to outdoor garden events,” says Pauline Gaffney at Three Chimneys Inn in Dover, NH. With gardens that offer two beautiful arbors, stonewalls & walkways as well as a reflection pool with a lighted fountain, it’s easy to see how she can lend such advice.

Décor
According to Gaffney, simplicity is the key when planning this type of event. “Keep the decoration simple” she says. Mother Nature (with a little help from the gardener) has painted your backdrop already. Incorporating the particular gardens of the venue you’ve chosen can also help to pull the design together. Meaning, include the flower types that grow in those particular gardens into your centerpieces, bouquets, garnish and even your hair. “Wildflowers seem very appropriate for a “garden” party— Daffodils, Tulips, Iris, Lilies, Daisies, Lilacs, or Hydrangea come to mind” she goes on to say.  All of which can be found in the Three Chimneys gardens.

Sandy Murphy of A Mile Away in Milford, NH suggests “Some brides have had table flowers arranged in flower pots, watering cans, a variety of small herb pots, or in gourds or pumpkins.”  Possibilities for arrangements are certainly only as endless as your surroundings and this is where your vision will come into play. If you’re envisioning a more formal garden party, flowerpots and watering cans are not for you. Simple silver or porcelin vases would be a better choice. Conversely, these formal choices would be awkward for a casual or vintage garden party. Rely on your coordinator, or event planner, to guide you to appropriate choices for the style specifics.

Food! Food! Food!
Choosing your menu is one of the most important decisions you’ll make for your guests.  After all, they traveled near and far to join in your celebration…nourishment and drink are necessary.  Depending on the time of day and style, your menu items can offer a delicious and filling, yet cost-effective choice.

Says Gaffney, “Menu items to serve would depend on whether it was a buffet or plated event.  A few suggestions would be to start with a fruit cup, chilled strawberry and cabernet soup, and any type of salad with light raspberry or balsamic vinaigrette dressing.” She suggests a roasted chicken, chicken Florentine or lemon herb haddock for the main course. And of course, ending with a light dessert, or petit fours.

Morning or afternoon brunch, or even an afternoon tea can offer an abundance of sandwiches such as, Cucumber and Watercress, Smoked Salmon & Cream Cheese, Chicken Salad and Egg Salad. As a tea-side treat, Lydia Blanchard of Sweet Lydia’s suggests a small but sweet indulgence such as her mini–s’mores.

What garden party would be complete without tea? Morning or afternoon, offering tea is a must. “A beverage station should always include pitchers of iced tea and lemonade with fresh lemon slices as a garnish” offers Gaffney. In addition, placing pots of hot tea on each table is a nice touch—and doing so in mismatched vintage teapots adds a touch of whimsy to your party, whether formal or casual.

The Attire
Picking the appropriate dress for your garden party wedding may not be as difficult as you think.  Dress styles seem to be as versatile as the event itself, with everything from tea length to layers of tulle. Many dress designers are also using pastels either on the bodice or skirt. With soft colors accenting your dress, you will become the centerpiece of the garden backdrop so don’t be afraid to step away from the traditional white.

Be playful and include parasols for your bridesmaids, flowers in your hair or twined as bracelets for everyone. Incorporating other items you would find in a garden can add a creative touch to your accents. Try a dragonfly or frog broach to add to the corsage you make for parents, or even the grooms(men) boutinieres. Like this idea? Nestle a beautiful dragonfly barrette in the flowers you choose for your hair for a truly unique and whimsical detail.

Sequins and beads are the things to avoid when choosing your attire and accents. Unless they are part of a broach or hair accessory, they will seem gaudy and out-of-place. Keep things more natural and you’ll design the perfect garden party wedding. Rounding out the whole affair is, of course, your groom! Keeping it simple for the man-of-the-hour, as well as his crew, is the way to go. A simple suit is the best choice—and in a softer color, such as beige or deep blue.

The formula seems to be not re-inventing what Mother Nature has already created. Use your surrounding for inspiration and you’ll find all the ingredients you need. Have fun while you’re doing it and don’t be afraid to be creative and playful. Above all else though, this is your day…create the vision that will be memorable to you. You can’t go wrong with that.

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