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Jewish Wedding Traditions

The following is a glossary of Jewish wedding customs as they are traditionally defined.  Although I am not Jewish, I often provide floral and decor for those who are and I wanted to educate myself of the traditions and customs.   These customs and traditions may vary amongst Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews as well as among those of varying levels of religious observance. We suggest using this glossary as a guide and consulting with your wedding officiate when choosing which customs to incorporate into your Jewish wedding.  I admit, this post is a bit lengthy, but if you are really interested in the traditions read it to the end.  There are some very interesting elements to the Traditional Jewish Wedding that I never  understood before this research.

Chossen V’Kallah
The Hebrew words for groom (chossen) and bride (kallah). The wedding couple is likened to a King and Queen and are to be treated with great honor and fanfare on the day of their wedding and the week following.

The Mikvah
Just prior to the wedding (within the final 4 days), a bride immerses herself in the mikvah (a ritual bath), with the purpose of spiritual purification. Oftentimes grooms pay a visit to the mikvah before their weddings as well. The Mikvah is an essential part of the the Jewish laws of family purity. It is customary for the bride and groom to learn these laws with a teacher during the period of engagement.

Week Before The Wedding
There is a custom in the Ashkenazi community that the bride and groom not see each other for the entire week leading up to their wedding. While there is no definitive source for this tradition, its benefits are believed to increase the joy of seeing each other again when they are reunited at the wedding. It also prevents the bride and groom from unintentionally hurting each other emotionally during the inevitable stress and strain of the final week before the wedding.

Shomer/Shomeret
While the word shomer (masculine)/shomeret (feminine) literally means a “guard,” the role of the shomer/shomeret is more like that of a best man/maid of honor.  The job of the shomer/shomeret is to make certain that the bride and groom arrive to the wedding safely and as stress-free as possible. Additionally, during the time that the bride and groom do not see each other before the wedding, the shomer/shomeret will often act as go-betweens for the couple.

AufRuf
It is customary for a groom to be called up for an aliyah and recite a blessing over the Torah on the Shabbat before his wedding. After the groom’s aliyah, the congregation will often sing “Siman Tov u’Mazal Tov” to him and may pelt him with candy as a fun way to wish him a sweet new life.
*The Aufruf is an Ashkenazi practice and is not generally part of Sephardic tradition.

Shabbat Kallah
On the Shabbat before the wedding, the bride’s friends and loved ones, as well as women from the community, gather together to celebrate the bride, bring her joy, make her laugh, and help keep away the last minute jitters.
*The Shabbat Kallah is an Ashkenazi practice and is not generally part of Sephardic traditions. The Shabbat Kallah is a relatively recent custom.

Like Yom Kippur
Because the bride and groom are starting a new life together, their wedding day is considered to be a personal Yom Kippur for each of them. For this reason, it is customary to add the Yom Kippur confessional to their private afternoon prayers. This is also the reason why many couples fast (see below) on the day of their wedding.

Tena’im
Tena’im are documents of betrothal similar to an engagement contract, agreed upon and signed by both a representative of the groom and a representative of the bride. Because it is considered a grave breach of honor to break this formal betrothal, it has become customary in many communities that the formal Tena’im not be signed until just before the wedding. Therefore the Tena’im are signed by two qualified witnesses at the Groom’s Tisch.
*The signing of the Tena’im is an Ashkenazi practice and is not generally part of Sephardic tradition.

The Groom’s Tisch
The Groom’s Tisch is a less formal reception for the groom. Tisch is the Yiddish word for “table,” and during the Groom’s Tisch the male guests will come to greet him and perhaps share a bit to eat or a l’chaim in his honor. During the Groom’s Tisch, the official betrothal (known as Tena’im – see above) is concluded and the marriage contract (Ketubah – see below) is signed. (Both documents are signed by two appropriate witnesses.) The Tena’im is then read aloud, after which there is the “breaking of the plate,” a ceremony during which the bride and groom’s mothers smash a ceramic plate together.  This symbolizes the seriousness of the commitment between the families: Just as breaking the plate is final, so too is the engagement.
*The Groom’s Tisch is an  Ashkenazi practice and is not generally part of Sephardic tradition.

The Ketubah
After the couple is legally engaged (Tena’im), it is time for them to be contractually married. Two witnesses sign the Ketubah (literally the marriage contract) which traditionally  spells out the husband’s obligation to his wife, everything from sustaining her with basic necessities to honoring and cherishing her. Additionally, the traditional Ketubah discusses how the husband must support his wife during their lives together, and, G-d forbid, in the event of death or divorce. While the contract has been signed, the couple is not yet considered married until the chuppah ceremony.

Chuppah
The Chuppah, or wedding canopy, is a covering, often cloth, held aloft on four poles. The chuppah is symbolic of the first roof the bride and groom share together, representing their new home. That there are no walls in this new home, encourages the couple to follow in the ways of Abraham and Sarah, whose tent was always open to guests.
Following a brief family processional, the groom precedes to the Chuppah. He is traditionally welcomed by the song Baruch HaBah (Blessed is he who comes). An Ashkenazi groom will often don a simple white robe, known as a kittel.  The bride and groom’s white attire is symbolic of purity and creates the imagery of angels. Sephardic grooms are wrapped in a new talit (prayer shawl) and recite a sheh’heh’cheh’yanu blessing, thanking God for sustaining him to this occasion.
The bride enters last and is escorted to the Chuppah where she meets her groom. In most Ashkenazi traditions, the bride circles the groom seven times under the Chuppah and then stands to his right. In many Sephardic traditions, the bride is escorted almost all the way to the Chuppah, at which point the groom comes out to meet her and escorts her the rest of the way.

Kiddushin
Like many Jewish ceremonies, the wedding ceremony begins with a cup of wine. The rabbi recites a blessing over a cup of wine and a second blessing of sanctification over the marriage.  Both the bride and the groom then drink from the cup. The groom then places a solid gold band on the right index finger of the bride and declares: “Behold, you are consecrated unto me with this ring according to the laws of Moses and Israel.” These two blessings and the giving of the ring, completes the ancient betrothal ceremony.
To separate the first part of the wedding ceremony from the second part that follows, the Ketubah is read following the giving of the ring.

The Ring Ceremony
During a traditional Jewish ceremony, the wedding ring is placed on the bride’s right index finger, which is the finger most visible to the witnesses. The wedding band actually validates the marriage contract, consecrating the marriage.   Jewish wedding rings must be made of solid uninterrupted gold, silver or platinum with no precious stones or holes breaking the circle. The continuity of the ring represents the hope for an everlasting marriage.

Reading of the Ketubah
The Ketubah is read aloud and the groom hands the document to the bride. The couple is now officially husband and wife. The second half of the ceremony now continues with the Nissuin (uplifting)

Yihud
Immediately following the ceremony, the bride and groom, now husband and wife, are escorted to a private room where they have an opportunity to  spend a few moments in each other’s company (Yichud means alone-together). During this private time in the Yichud Room, they may not be disturbed. Seculsion in the Yichud room immediately following the Chupah is only practiced by Ashkenazim. Those Sephardic couples whose custom it is to be secluded in a Yichud room, generally do so after the reception.

Simchat Chatan V’Kallah
A Jewish wedding reception may range from a sit down dinner with music and dancing to a carnival like atmosphere.  At Orthodox  Jewish weddings it is considered a mitzvah (good deed) to entertain the bride and groom.  Some guests may wear costumes, shake tambourines, do acrobatics, and even set their hats on fire in their seal to entertain the couple. Much of the dancing is done in large circles – otherwise known as “Simcha Dancing.”

Siman Tov u’Mazal Tov
A common song at Jewish weddings, “Siman Tov u’Mazal Tov” is a musical way of wishing the couple well.  “Siman Tov” means a good sign. “Mazal Tov” means good fortune.

The Horah
The Horah is the name given to the circle dance that is often done at weddings. A well known Horah dance song is Hava Nagillah.

Birkat Hamazon
At the end of the festive meal, Birkat HaMazon (Grace After Meals–also known by the Yiddish term Bentching) is recited to thank G-d for the food and sustenance that has been enjoyed. This is followed immediately by a second recitation of the Sheva Brachot (Seven Blessings) repeating the same blessings that had been recited under the chuppah.
There are two cups of wine involved in the formal Birkat HaMazon. The first cup of wine is held by the one who leads the Birkat HaMazon, and after the Grace has concluded, the second cup is passed around to the individuals who are honored with reciting six of the seven Sheva Brachot. The leader then recites the blessing over the wine, the seventh blessing. After the seven blessings are completed, the two cups of wine are blended together and divided among the bride, groom and leader to drink.
I know it was a lot to take in, and this list is in no way exhaustive.

Until next time,

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Bridal Show Advice for the Bride


‘Tis the season again, bridal season that is! As we approach next weekend’s highly anticipated Austin Bridal Extravaganza I wanted to give some bridal show browsing tips.  I recently attended a show with my newly engaged daughter and being that is way  my first show as a participant, browsing was a whole different ballpark!   I have observed many brides who were overwhelmed, but never quite experienced that myself until this visit.   Even though I am very familiar with the bridal world, and what information she needed, I still had no clue where to start. There were pile of people trying get to each booth.  Trying to successfully grab a business card you are sucked in to filling some door prize out, or setting up appointments and even listening to spiels from the vendors.  Don’t get me wrong, these prizes can be great and what they say could make or break booking that vendor. Follow these tips, not only from a wedding vendor but a Mother of the Bride’s perspective!

1.       Register online before you go, earlier the better. This skips you waiting in line to fill our paperwork at the door.

2.     Bring an appointment book, many vendors offer coupons or discounts if you book an appointment that day.

3.       Wear comfortable clothes and shoes, don’t bring the cute heels for this event, it is a large ballroom filled with people. Leave your coat in the car or check it at the hotel, what is worse than handling a huge purse, bag filled with goodies (Trust me we left with 4 bags filled with flyers, goodies and cards) and then also lugging around a coat.

4.       Leave the family at home, the little ones that is. There is nothing worse than trying to get to a crowded booth or through the isle than being blocked by a huge stroller.

5.      Print out address labels on sticker paper with your name, address, email, phone, and wedding date. This way you and your bridesmaids won’t spend 5 minutes at every booth entering for door prizes, or writing your contact information out for those vendors that you would like to contact you after the show.

6.       Keep a pen in your pocket easy reachable. When you taste the most amazing cake or see the most gorgeous gown in a catalog, write a star or quick note on their business card.  This way when you get home and empty your bags out you remember which stores you want to visit.

7.       Look first for vendors handing out bags, start there this way you can fill them up and not be stuck hands full of paper. Go around to all booths even if you think you know who you are booking for that category still grab business cards or flyers in case something happens like that vendor isn’t available for your date.

8. Enjoy the day.  How many times in your life will you plan your wedding.

These tips hopefully will help you feel less overwhelmed. Bridal shows are extremely informative and we vendors have a ton of knowledge to help you!   Go slow and keep your cool, talk to vendors even if there is a wait to reach their booth, you never know what help they may end up being.

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Old, New, Borrowed and Blue… Common Wedding Traditions Revealed

Today’s popular wedding traditions have evolved over hundreds, even thousands of years of people joining together in some form of matrimony. Some wedding traditions that have endured are based on blessing the couple with good luck; others are a means for the couple to convey their feelings for one another. Regardless of the wedding tradition itself, all wedding traditions share the same essential symbols of unity, happiness and prosperity; messages that stand the test of time.

Old, New, Borrowed, Blue

The saying, “Something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue” is a popular rhyme that has been used since Victorian times. The “something old” represents the bond to the bride’s family and her old life; “something new” represents the couple’s new life together and their future hope for happiness, prosperity and success; “something borrowed” from a happily married woman is meant to impart similar happiness to the bride; and “something blue” represents fidelity and constancy.

White Bridal Dresses

Wearing white also dates back to Victorian times when Queen Victoria abandoned the usual royal tradition of wearing a silver gown, instead choosing to wear white. Before that time brides simply wore their best gown, rather than a special wedding dress . The popularity of white can also be attributed to it symbolizing purity and virginity. White was also thought to ward off evil spirits.

Throwing Rice

Showering the couple with rice is an ancient tradition. As rice is considered a “life giving” seed it is thought that by throwing in on the couple they will be bestowed with fertility and have many children. Many churches now forbid it on their property but there are some safe alternatives to throwing rice .

Cake Sharing

Sharing the first piece of wedding cake is a wedding tradition with Roman roots. The Romans believed that by eating the wedding cake together a special bond was created between the couple. The wheat used to bake the cake was symbolic of fertility and a “fruitful union”, while the cake’s sweetness was thought to bring sweetness to all areas of the couple’s new life.

The Kiss

The ceremonial kiss that concludes the wedding ceremony is said to represent the couple sharing and joining their souls. In Roman times the kiss “sealed” the couple’s agreement to join in a life-long commitment. There are so many traditions that I could go on and on about them all, but instead, I think I will save some for a post later in the week.. Until next time,

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Chinese Flower Meanings

Chinese wedding flower traditions

Chinese weddings involve many symbolic acts, decorations and events, revolved from years of ancient Chinese culture, that all combine to create a beautiful wedding day experience for any bride and groom involved in planning either a more traditional Chinese wedding ceremony or a modern day Chinese wedding celebration.

Following the traditions of ancient culture, Chinese weddings involve numerous symbolic preparations and rituals that are evident even in modern day Chinese wedding ceremonies and celebrations.

"Chinese inspired Bridal Bouquet"

A gorgeous cluster of pink and red Peonies, Phaleanopsis Orchids, Garden Roses and Beargrass

In Chinese traditions, flower and floral arrangements are symbols of happiness, joy , life and fertility, which are all desired attributes in a Chinese wedding and marriage.  The symbolism of red in Chinese culture is powerful, joyous and deep, so adding as many red flowers to the floral decorations of a Chines wedding is important.  The only white-colored flowers that are accepted for use in Chinese wedding bouquets are white roses, so long as they are tied together with red or other colored ribbons or silks.  Any other types of white flower are considered symbols of death, so white flowers other than roses must not be used.  Other popular flowers include; peonies, which are symbols of renewed life; lotuses, which are symbols of the four virtues in the Buddhist religion.  Such virtues being  scent, purity, softness and loveliness; daffodils, which symbolize change an renewed life  and orchids, which are the most popular flowers used in Chinese wedding bouquets and other decorations, as they are the symbols of love and fertility.

Remembering departed ancestors and respecting the elders and family members of the bride and groom are essential elements in a Chinese wedding ceremony. More importantly, Chinese weddings are a bigger symbolism of the joining of the two families, rather than the joining of bride and groom alone. To honor this, most Chinese weddings feature a table or an altar decorated with white flowers to symbolize the passing of departed ancestors. In the alternative, two altars can be placed in front of the bride and groom, and following the exchanging of their vows, the couple kneels at these two altars to join them together. After this display of union, family members of the newly joined couple may kneel along with the bride and groom as a symbol of a larger unity and joining of the two families.

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Erin’s Green Affair at Spicewood Vineyards

Erin and I met at one of the wonderful “Weddings Unveiled Austin” Bridal Showcases that was held at the Palm Door in downtown Austin about a year ago.  Her style was sheek with a very natural European flair.  We really enjoyed creating her floral after planning for such a long time.  It was awesome to see all of her vision come to light.

Erin chose a garden full of floral for her bouquets and table centerpieces.   Her Bridal bouquet was the first item we created using; David Austin garden roses, Tiny succulent plants, Escimo Roses, Peonies, Hydrangea, Belles of Ireland amongst a myriad of others.

White and Green Bridal Bouquet

Erin's Bridal had so many differnt flowers and cute little succullents

White and green Bridal

The handle on Eriin's bouqet was simply wrapped with ivory satin ribbon. When we arrived at the church, we also wrapped it with a hankercheif that belonged to her mother, and a locket that was her father in laws.

Erin didn’t want to deviate from her boquet style too much for her bridesmaids, so we simply included a few lavender “Cool Water” roses into them for a splash of color.

Lavender Cool Water Roses

These were very fragrant and perfect

Lavender white and green bouqeut

Bridesmaids bouquets

Erin’s wedding was held at the gorgeous Queen of Angels chapel in Spicewood Tx.  Erin wanted the church to look lush and festive, while not being to overbearing and stuffy.  We created urn arrangements in the pave style that were set on top of altar tables at the back of the church.  After the ceremony was over, Erin’s family removed theses arrangements for use on the bar at Spicewood Vineyards.

Church decor

Classic stone urns were adorned with a pave of white and green garden style floral

Here is a shot that I captured of the altar area.  Although the church was very far off the beaten path, I believe it is a hidden treasure!  What a jewel.

Queen of Angels Catholic

Gorgeous natural light and fantastic decor in the Queen of Angels Chapel

When I was researching to create the right look for the pews, I found this wonderful 4″ double faced satin ribbon in moss.  Although it was a bit pricier than I was used to spending, it was so worth the end result.

4" moss green ribbon

I couldn't wait to get this ribbon tied and onto the pew arrangments.

Pew arrangements

Hydrangea and garden roses were tied onto the pews with 4" moss green ribbon for a lush garden feel to the aisle.

Once the wedding was completed, the party began.  Spicewood Vineyard was only a short drive from the church.  Anna, the coordinator at the vineyard is a detail oriented organizer.  She doesn’t miss a beat on reception day!.   As the guests entered the event center, there was a table that was covered with moss, and rocks.  The idea is that each guest would write a wish on the rocks and Erin would have them as a momento from the wedding to cherish.   We accented the rocks with open floral heads, little succulents in galvanized metal pots and votive candles.

Guest book design

Sign the rock guest book table

Guest book sentiment

Guest book table instructions

The table designs were three different looks.  First we designed a cluster style arrangement of vases that were wrapped with birch paper and green raffia.  Each vase had a single type of flower and they were arranged around an empty vase in the center that was a bit taller than the surrounding vases.  The center one was for the bridesmaids to place their bouquets into once they arrived at the reception hall.  These were surrounded with votive candles for accent.

Cluster design centerpeice

Clusters of vases with hydrangea, hypericum berries and stock.

The second design was a white milk glass container filled with a pave design of garden style floral.  These were also surrounded with votives.  I love the dusty miller and open roses they are very soft and fragrant.

Milk glass urn

Urn style centerpeice

The final arrangements were our favorites here at Blossom’s.  We started with 30″ tall cylendar vases that had a base of moss and rock inside the vase.  Then we placed a curly willow branch or two that had white Dendrobium Orchids attached to the stems to make them appear to be flowering branches.  On top of the tall vase we placed a pave of  Hydrangea, garden roses, hypericum berries, freesia, stock, Brunia Berries and filler flowers.  The bases of these arrangements were surrounded with potted succullents in galvanized metal pots as well as votive candles.

Tall Centerpeice

These were our favorite centerpeices

Succullents and votives

I just loved the little succullents! They are so cute!

The finished room

I loved the room when it was finished!

Well, there you have it!  I know it was a long post, but thanks for sticking with me!  Well worth the time!  See you all back here really soon!

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Blossom’s First DIY Bride

Donya, our Bride along with  her friends and family had a great time in the studio designing  centerpieces for her Wedding with a little help from Blossom.  Creamy white Carnations, and green “Kermit” poms were used in abundance to create the 18 wreaths for the guest tables.  The “Do it Yourself” concept allows a bride to come into the studio and design her own floral with help and is budget friendly.

DIY party

Once the centerpieces are completed, Donya had the option to take them home with her and place them on the tables herself, or store them in our large walk in floral cooler.  She chose to store them in the chilly environment and have us deliver them to her ceremony and reception site.  Here they are sitting pretty and waiting for their final destination.

Carnation and pom cernterpieces in the cooler waiting for the big day.

The  reception was held at The Mansion at Judges Hill.  We have had the joy of working with the awesome staff at the Mansion and are always excited at another chance.   The tables looked exquisite with navy blue and lime green table runners.  The Carnation and pom wreaths were placed around tall colored glass bottle vases that were adorned with silver beaded sprays jetting from the tops.  These were fun and economical centerpieces that looked far more costly than they were!

Festive DIY centerpieces!

The team made 18 wreaths at the DIY party, and when we were setting the tables, there were only 17… What to do with the last one?  Celia, a Blossom’s floral Designer,  came up with the fantastic idea to suspend the last arrangement around the squatty sweetheart tables vases for a unique twist on the design.  Way to get creative!

Cute squatty centerpiece

I have seen many candy bars in my days, but I liked this one so much, I had to share it with you.  The apothocary jars were filled with lime green and navy blue candies of all sorts.  Before we called it done and left the Mansion, Celia and I decided to help the family of the Bride finish up the presentation.  I think we ended up with a sugar rush!

Candy Bar

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Pom-Poms and Luminarias

Do it yourself decor ideas from Martha StewartJoyous bursts of color dance above a table, imparting a cheerful radiance to a rehearsal dinner or casual reception. The dahlialike pom-poms appear to float in the air; in reality they are hung from the ceiling with monofilament. Echoing the vibrant hanging puffs, pom-pom napkin rings in citrus shades adorn each place setting. Square glass vessels in various sizes line tables. Covered in sunset-hued tissue (cut to size and secured with double-sided tape), they cast a soft glow.

How to Make the Pom-Poms
You’ll need tissue paper and 24-gauge white cloth-covered floral wire.

Hanging Pom-Poms
1. Stack eight 20-by-30-inch sheets of tissue. Make 1 1/2-inchwide accordion folds, creasing with each fold.

2. Fold an 18-inch piece of floral wire in half, and slip over center of folded tissue; twist. With scissors, trim ends of tissue into rounded or pointy shapes.

3. Separate layers, pulling away from center one at a time.

4. Tie a length of monofilament to floral wire for hanging.

Napkin Rings
With just a few changes, these follow the same steps as the hanging pom-poms.

1. Stack four sheets of tissue. Cut a 10-by-5-inch rectangle, going through all layers. Make 3/8-inch-wide accordion folds.

2. Fold an 18-inch piece of floral wire in half, slip over center of tissue, and twist to secure. Trim ends of tissue.

3. Separate layers, pulling away from center one at a time.

4. Bend wire into a loop to fit around napkin, and twist end around loop to secure.

Thank you to Martha Stewart Weddings!

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