A fall wedding in Florida added caring for the environment to its mix of natural resources, bright colors, and bohemian touches, and the result was seamless.
A low moss-draped branch of a 600-year-old Virginia live oak stretched high across the grassy expanse, over the wedding site, ending in a skyward flourish.
The bride, Alys Stephens, and her groom, Alex Protzman, had chosen this live oak—at Eden Gardens State Park in the Florida panhandle—to be the central image of their ceremony. As such, it needed no adornment, a circumstance that reduced the number of flowers they would need to ship from California or New York or afar. It was one of several decisions that helped reduce the carbon footprint of their wedding day.
“A lot of times, florists try to create the work of art. Sometimes you just have to stand back and see it,” said event planner Christina Springfield, owner of Events by Nouveau Flowers, Inc., in Grayton, Florida. “How could I create a more beautiful setting than the arm of that tree?”
Alys, who grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, had vacationed all her life in Seagrove, Florida, near Eden Gardens. But she had never explored the long entrance road to the park until she and Alex went there together nice months before their wedding.
The bride and groom, who met in New York City, already shared an imaginative interest in trees when they visited Eden Gardens. But the specimens they saw that day were unlike any they had seen thus far, and the live oaks resonated with them, standing as metaphors of connection, permanence, beauty, and vitality—all things they would return to celebrate.
Eden Gardens is deeply, absorbingly green. It served as the estate of a timber baron, who built a large frame home on the land at the end of the 19th century. As handsome as that home still is, its presence does not impose on this tableau of natural beauty. The waters of the Tucker Bayou and the Choctawhatchee Bay limn the vast acreage, and the eye traces the gray-green gauze of Spanish moss across improbably long branches of pre-Columbian live oaks.
“We completely felt at home there,” said Alys. “We were just overwhelmed with the beauty of the site, and thought there could not be a more romantic and spiritual place to get married.”
The natural, Edenic tone of the setting mirrored the couple’s shared similar style, a style that seeks to bring elegance together with a bohemian sensibility and allows for spontaneity and unconventional choices.
Alys and Christina worked out the look together and called it, “Bohemic Chic,” a malapropism that made them both laugh.
“For better or worse, you feel like it’s an outward representation of your relationship, your family, you, your aesthetic,” Alys said of the wedding day. “And it’s fun to play with that. I feel like Christina just kind of got me. I was able to let go in a lot of ways.”
“Bohemic Chic” showed up in bridesmaids’ bouquets of zinnias, dahlias, ranunculus, and roses—blousy flowers that made an eclectic arrangement with orchid blooms and poppy pods. Each bridesmaid wore a solid fuchsia dress, and a single Mokara orchid bloom (purple or fuchsia) in her hair. The diagonal jewel-tone stripes of the groomsmen’s ties picked up the bold color palette.
Alys wore a romantic dress, a white gardenia in her hair, and she carried a bouquet of white dahlias, blushing bride, green roses, galax leaves, poppy pods, and green tulips, all billowing from a pocket of vintage lace. The father of the bride, whose green tie was at once electric and seemly, walked Alys toward the Reverend Samuel “Gates” Shaw, a family friend from Birmingham. Alys trailed the long train of her mother’s veil over the vast root system of the old tree as it spread underfoot of the guests waiting in mahogany chairs.
In lieu of an altar, an Italian ceramic pitcher sat on a nearby table decorated with one of the hand-crocheted coverings made in the 1920s by Alys’ great-grandmother, her great-great grandmother, and a great aunt, who all shared this hobby. This simple vessel gathered together fuchsia garden roses, orange tulips, and burgundy hydrangeas. Olive branches fanned out from the flowers, evoking for the bride a feeling of the South and the languid rhythm of a rocking chair.
“It brought an element of innocence to the wedding,” Christina Springfield said of this arrangement. It was, she added, “like [Alys’] grandmother had gone around the garden and picked things in a big group and just dropped them into an old Italian piece of pottery on a table.”
To discover how Alys and Alex’s “bohemic chic” ceremony progressed, pick up our Fall 2009 issue.