Winter Wedding in New York  

On the eve of Christmas, the Panamanian designer Sarita de Castro and I, put the flowers for a very special marriage.

Florists always remember their first wedding. Many with the satisfaction that it is history because of the anguish they passed; others with astonishment to have dared without almost knowledge; and very few, with tranquility. Since I have total aversion to risk, I belong to the last group. The past two years I worked as a freelancer for events, mostly weddings, on the East Coast of the United States. However, when my brother told me he was getting married, I had tickles in my stomach. One thing is to send a bouquet, and another is to deal with a client (although I had an advantage, my brother is adorable), choose the designs, the colors per the place, size and type of vases; and of course, most importantly, flowers.

Francisco y Pasha se dejaron aconsejar para la decoración floral de su boda
Francisco and Pasha’s wedding was emotional, sober, magical and fun.. Photograph Fernando Gallardo

We had just one meeting with Pasha (audiovisual artist, Russian, from Tyumen, Siberia) and Francisco (artist, painter, sculptor, Peruvian family but raised in Chile, my brother). I was invited to have lunch at ‘The Odeon’, an American-French bistro in the Tribeca neighborhood (creators of the Cosmopolitan cocktail) where the wedding would take place. The idea was to try different dishes and discuss the flowers. When I asked them if they had any idea what they wanted, they both shrugged. «White flowers», said Francisco as if by discard.

Los arreglos combinaban perfectamente con los colores del restaurante
Taking care of the last details before receiving the guests. Photograph Fernando Gallardo

I arrived at the house to dive in the catalog of photos where I keep my favorites. Soon Francisco and Pasha received an email with attaches: Putnam & Putnam arrangements in shades of white and blue (wonderful!), and others of Erin Benzakein (Floret) of a more melancholic style in red and purple. They followed my recommendation and leaned toward the last, because ‘The Odeon’ has a lot of wood and burgundy leather.

Hice varias pruebas antes de decidirme
The bar arrangement had Dendrobium orchids. A last minute temptation. Photograph Fernando Gallardo

The following weeks I spent poking around at the market on 28th Street, asking what flowers would be available by the second week of December. My contacts David of G. Page and Nick of Associated Cut Flowers were my perfect allies, because on Christmas Eve, events in New York multiply and you have to ensure your flowers.

Una mini orquídea y el menú venía en cada servilleta. Fotografía Fernando Gallardo
A burgundy mini orchid and the menu came on each napkin. Photograph Fernando Gallardo

I did several designs. The flowers were exquisite (the Japanese ranunculus were in their pick) but I was not convinced by the color. «Add more drama», Pasha wrote to me. And he was right. But when I attended a class given by Deanne Nairns in Saipua‘s studio, I knew that poetry was also missing. That degree in which an arrangement of flowers happens to be art.

La diseñadora Sarita de Castro vino a ayudarme
Sarita de Castro distributing bud vases on the side tables. Photograph Fernando Gallardo

Of course, I am far away of such state, but is healthy to have a bit of ambition. I wrote to Deanne and asked her for advice. A Wednesday (the best day to go to the market, because the most flowers arrive) at 7 am we meet at G.Page. On my iPad, I took my tentative recipes (the types of flowers for each arrangement) and photos of the designs that inspired me.

I did several tests before deciding on the colors red and purple. Photograph Fernando Gallardo

Deanne gave me a master class: choose the purple tulips, but the ones that come with little blue sparkles; the anemones that go from white to cream with red splashes at the beginning of the petal; privet branches, but those with the very dark berries. She agreed with my choice of the ‘Edith’ garden roses and the ‘Loyalty’ amaryllis. In short, she taught me to see. When we said goodbye, she did not charge me. She explained to me that she made the flowers for her sister’s wedding alone and would have been happy if someone had guide her. And now she wanted to help me not live the anguish she suffered. I said goodbye grateful and excited. His gesture added to another. Flower designer Sarita de Castro would come especially from Panama to help me that weekend.

With the rattle of the road, the flowers lost water and had to fill the vases one by one. Photograph Fernando Gallardo

With Sarita we became friends through Instagram. Yes, believe it! We are FlowerSchool New York alumni and that’s where the link came from. «Why don’t you ask Sarita if she wants to come and help you?», my daughters told me as I tried to hook them up. Sarita didn’t hesitate and landed in New York only to work from sun to sun in the cold. My studio is my apartment, so I ran furniture, sprinkled plastics on the floor, and opened the windows. The heating is flowers’ worst enemy so we worked at zero degrees with polar jackets and wool caps.

Each arrangement had ten types of flowers and five of greenery. Photograph Fernando Gallardo

On Thursday night, we had the big tables, the bar and the grooms’ arrangements ready. For Sarita, who has more energy than I, we would have finished that night, but I collapsed. On Friday, she went to see art exhibitions and I spent the day sleeping. The stress had overtaken me and my body just couldn’t handle it.

The grooms’ design was done in a tall urn. Photograph Fernando Gallardo

On Saturday, we start early. Sarita took care of the arrangements that would be on both sides where the ceremony would take place. I took care of the bud vases for the side tables. We packed with paper balloon and cellophane, put the arrangements in boxes and at 4 pm Sarita departed as Carlos’ co-driver, a chauffeur specialized in the transportation, assembly and disassembly of flowers.

Happy with the outcome of my first wedding. Photograph Fernando Gallardo

I arrived at ‘The Odeon’ at 6 pm dressed up and without a manicure (a luxury I had no time). Sarita and my daughters had the room under control. Table with the service ready, table that received its arrangement. The only thing left was to place the menu and a mini burgundy orchid on each napkin.

Sarita could be at the party, but we shared every single compliment. Photograph Fernando Gallardo

When Pasha and Francisco arrived, their faces said it all. They were delighted! Sarita left in an Uber to her department to change, it was rush hour, and when she finally arrived she did not have the energy to return to the party. Her place next to me remained empty, but we shared every compliment that night.

My smile says it all. My brother Francisco, I and Pasha before the ceremony. Photograph Fernando Gallardo

The guests came from all corners of the world, only missing representatives from Australia and Antarctica, Pasha said in his speech. After the cake, the music started the party. The night was emotional, sober, magical and fun.

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