Marrying With Local Flair

Along with old, new, borrowed and blue, Amanda Rathbun added another element to her bridal ?list:? local. She envisioned locally sourced food on guests? plates at her wedding reception and flowers gro

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Thursday, September 01, 2011
Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser Photo

Kathy Smiarowski took care of the floral wish. Owner of Wisteria Vine, Smiarowski works as a freelance florist and garden designer. Rather than maintaining a storefront, she focuses on large events, like the Rathbun wedding. “I’ve always had gardens to harvest from,” explains Smiarowski, who’s  been in business for twenty years. “I do an average of thirty to forty weddings or large events per year. Because my focus is geared to specific events, I grow flowers with those occasions in mind. I try to use as many flowers out of my gardens as possible, and encourage clients to utilize plant material that is in season.”

Amanda and Bennett Rathbun were game. Smiarowski recalls, “In regards to Amanda and Bennett’s wedding—we spent a lot of time talking about their color palette, and what I could grow and source for them. For their wedding, I have grown or sourced locally hydrangea, larkspur, mini callas, delphinium, sweet pea and salvia. I’ve also utilized a lot of foliages—such as ferns, Baptisia, and ivy—from my gardens. I thought the colors—all those blues and deep purples—were beautiful.

“For Bennett and Amanda’s wedding, I relied on other growers as resources.  The heat wave really took a toll on the gardens.”

Guests first encountered the flowers outside Amherst College’s Johnson Chapel, where hydrangea in large vases flanked the walkway. A large arrangement sat on the table where guests signed in. Pews and the podium were festooned with green and purple flowers, along with glimpses of white. The wedding party wore corsages and boutonnières, or carried bouquets.

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Missy Bahret of Old Friends Farm in Amherst says that flowers represent a large portion of the farm’s business. “Salad greens are the majority of our business,” Bahret says, “then flowers, then ginger and other vegetables.” She estimates she averages about a wedding per weekend. In order to decide which flowers to grow, she begins with catalogues. “We spend a great deal of time planning,” she explains. “We scour cut flower seed catalogues, go to conferences, and keep up to date on varieties  research. We take care to choose flowers with a long enough vase life to merit purchase. We ensure we’re growing the best flowers for our customers.

“We can supply weddings with salad greens and edible flowers, too. More and more people are becoming conscious consumers when it comes to buying flowers. As a result, they choose more individualized and unique flowers than people who stick to very traditional choices.  Flowers can serve as a memorable feature of their event. Flowers do not have to be at all generic.”

While many people hire Bahret to arrange flowers for their weddings—and create corsages or boutonnières and bouquets—others order flowers to arrange themselves. “The more DIY-approach to flowers is gaining in popularity,” Bahret says. “People obtaining flowers, either to arrange themselves or hiring me to arrange them, tend to have checked our website and know what to expect. Often they have me do the corsages or boutonnières, and then they do the rest.”

“Lisianthus is my favorite for weddings,” Bahret says. “I like unusual perennials. I enjoy textural elements. I’m not afraid to use asparagus spears or garlic scapes in seasonal bouquets.” She adds, “One woman emailed me a photo of her bridal bouquet a year later, which was a sedum plant. I had used sedum for foliage in her bouquet, and after weeks of enjoying it in a vase she noticed it had sprouted roots, so she planted it!”

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With help from Laura Wear at the Hotel Northampton, Rathbun’s wish to celebrate locally came true. Wear says, “When I first met with Amanda, one of her top priorities was local and humanely raised meat. She is a vegetarian, but Bennett is not. Initially, she’d wanted to have an entirely vegetarian meal, but decided to include beef and chicken if we could source humanely raised.”

The morning of her wedding, Rathbun walked through Northampton’s farmers’ market on Gothic Street and noticed the Chicoine farm’s stand. “That was the farm that was supplying my wedding’s beef,” she recalls. “I went up and met the farmer and introduced myself. What a great way to begin my wedding day!”

Serving locally sourced meat for larger events does present some challenges, because the farms raising beef and chicken are small-scale operations. “The challenge comes from sourcing beef and chicken,” says Wear. “Most of our weddings have over 150 guests, and we do not receive their meal choices until two weeks prior to the event. Most small farms that raise beef are unable to take very large orders for the same cut with such short notice. Small farms also need to charge more for their product to cover operation costs.”

Both bride and groom like to cook, and so they wanted the freshest ingredients possible. Amongst the locally grown or raised food for the Rathbun wedding were mozzarella, tomatoes, herbs and other vegetables. During the warmer months, utilizing locally grown vegetables is easy. “Our distributor provides them,” says Wear. “We [at Hotel Northampton] use local fruits and vegetables whenever possible.”

Baker Ellen Darabi incorporated local blueberries into the lemon cake with lemon mousse, strawberries, blueberries and vanilla buttercream for the Rathbun wedding. “I go to the farm stand on Bridge Road for berries,” she says.  “Although strawberry season had passed, I love that I can stop and purchase fruit that’s been picked that morning and into my cake later the same day.”

Darabi made the frosting sweet. “The bride came to my house for a tasting and loved my cakes. She also told me she prefers her frosting sweet. Most people want less sugar, because they are so worried about sugar these days. I like a bride who knows what she likes!”

The cake—white buttercream frosting, no additional colors or edible ornamentals, no bride and groom topper—was simple and elegant. Kathy Smiarowski provided the flowers that adorned the four-tiered cake. Darabi says, “The flowers were dark purple hydrangeas broken up into small clusters along with a few sweet peas for contrast. It turned out to be delicious and really stunning.”

Laura Wear hopes that local food becomes a bigger trend for wedding fare. “We are so lucky to have so many local ingredients to choose from,” she says. “I think most people assume that options are limited when it comes to wedding food. People like Amanda and Bennett think out of the box and I hope that theirs is an example others follow.”

As Amanda Rathbun puts it, “It felt so much more personal to have met the person growing so many of our flowers, the woman who baked our cake, and the farmer who raised the beef our guests enjoyed.” Old, new, borrowed and blue worked out, too.

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