God Delivers

Cook Forest 2016
Cook Forest 2016

“Love the trees until their leaves fall off, then encourage them to try again next year.”
Chad Sugg

There’s a chill in the air when I wake up at dawn. The grass is covered with dew and my legs get wet when I walk Jordan outside in the morning. Our garden has turned pale and most of the tomato plants have withered.  I see trees dropping leaves to the ground; fall is here.

The days seem to fly by anymore. Where did the summer go? It seems to have passed by in a blur. This was the first time in years that I didn’t mind the heat (hot flashes are finally backing off!) and I relished more backyard activities than ever.

throwing-hoops
Beautiful Penny- now 8 months old!

I did so much this summer. I helped my mom, babysat Penny (love it!), and hosted the baptism. I coordinated eight events for my business (x 2 or 3 pre-planning meetings each plus rehearsals and day of duties), entertained fussier details than ever before, and accommodated bigger expectations. I am thinking that my days as a planner are numbered and my days as a writer are coming in closer. There is a fine line between control and grace. I started my event planning business as a way to bring grace in closer to brides and their families. Thankfully, this has happened many times. But sometimes the personality clashes, obsession to details, and unreasonable expectations begin to do me in.

When it seems that I am about over the edge, God sends me a sign. Last weekend’s wedding was a good example. It had a daunting weather forecast. The ceremony and reception were due to take place in a botanic garden, with a tent attached to the back of a gorgeous, 100 year old barn. The prediction was thunder and rain at the exact moment of the outdoor ceremony. If that wasn’t bad enough, more stormy weather was in store the rest of the evening.

At the rehearsal the venue coordinator suggested a last minute tent over the lawn (the ceremony area). The groom and I looked at each other and quietly said NO. The family was in agreement. No tent. We practiced a rain plan ceremony inside, on the dance floor, as a backup just in case.

Morning dawned on wedding day. I started watching the storm path from 9am, checking it each hour. I do this primarily because I feel responsible for the safety of the guests. The barn is a large outdoor structure and 138 guests were expected. Dancing and a sit down, three course dinner were part of the evening.  I said small prayers all morning, lit my candle next to Panayia, and turned the rain issue over to God.

By early afternoon, the storm was moving away from the garden site. By 3pm, we had placed all the chairs for the ceremony out on the lawn, such was our confidence in the predictions. The storm completely veered off to the north, leaving my bride and groom with a partly sunny, beautiful wedding day. Perfect temperatures- not too hot or cold- were the miracle of this day.

God delivers. That’s all I can say. Grace presents itself in the most obvious ways sometimes. I told the family that my perfect wedding weather average was pretty good but even I was impressed! I don’t claim to have the pipeline; I just have faith.

white-chairs

view-of-the-tent-and-garden

A gorgeous day for a wedding!

Check out my latest post on the Orthodox Christian Network by clicking HERE.

Join me on my graceful journey.
1015

Forever Love

Danina and Preston Seal it with a Kiss! Photo by Jessica Lubert Photography
Danina and Preston -Sealed with a Kiss! Photo by Jessica Lubert.

When I fall in love, it will be forever. Sung by Nat King Cole.

There was a chill in the air as I arrived at the barn that morning. It was a gorgeous, mid September day and the field of sunflowers was awash in color. I always get goosebumps when I arrive on the scene of a wedding and this one was no exception.

My daughter and I got to work, unstacking fancy chairs and putting the pads on them. By the time we were done, the linens had arrived and so had the rest of the staff. A big truck loaded with all the decor pulled up to the barn doors. It was time to set the tables.

There were so many beautiful details about Danina and Preston’s wedding I could go on and on. I’m going to save a few for a post later on my events blog. Instead, I want to tell you about the grace on this day.

Family members gave their heirloom china to display on the tables. Can you imagine rows of place settings and no two the same placed next to each other? Wow. And the father of the bride, Sam, did the flowers on the tables. He took his time and used many of the milk glass vases that Danina had gathered over the few months before the big day.

Table Settings and Sunflowers. Photo by Jessica Lubert.
Table Settings and Sunflowers. Photo by Jessica Lubert.

I had asked Danina beforehand what she was going to carry for flowers. She wasn’t concerned about it and told me that she’d probably just hold whatever was available (this is a low key bride!). Now for some reason before I left home that morning, I grabbed floral wire and a few other tools. I also picked some herbs from my garden- lavender, mint, basil, and a few flowers. I put them in a small mason jar. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with them but I took them anyway.

About an hour before the wedding ceremony, Michelene fashioned Danina a beautiful bouquet of sunflowers and tied it with ribbon. For the groom, best man, and officiant I created a quick boutonniere of herbs and flowers. Later I saw that someone had placed a small sunflower in the mens’ lapels along with my herbs- perfect. 🙂 And what a blessing to be able to contribute something of my own to this beautiful day.

October 8, 2015- I just published more pictures of this wedding on my events IDEAs! page! Click HERE to see them!

Here’s a few more photos of this wonderful day! Best wishes to Danina and Preston! Many thanks to my assistants- Michelene Cain and Jessica Lubert .

No Assigned Seating! Photography by Jessica Lubert.
No Assigned Seating! Photography by Jessica Lubert.
Waiting for the Guests...and Dinner! Photography by Jessica Lubert.
Waiting for the Guests…and Dinner! Photography by Jessica Lubert.
Hahaha! Photography by Jessica Lubert.
Hahaha! Photography by Jessica Lubert.
This Picture Makes Me Cry. Photography by Jessica Lubert.
Commitment in their own words. This Picture Makes Me Cry. Photography by Jessica Lubert.

 

 

 

The Sweetheart Table. Photography by Jessica Lubert.
The Sweetheart Table. Photography by Jessica Lubert.
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Today’s the Day!

Danina and Preston, Electric Lime Photography
Danina and Preston, Electric Lime Photography

Today’s the day, we’ll say “I Do” and we’ll never be lonely any more. Chapel of Love

My sister Mary was a huge Bette Midler fan when we were all growing up. I can still hear us singing the lyrics to “Chapel of Love” when Bette made this song famous once again in 1972.

It is this song that has been ringing in my ears for the last several days. One of my favorite people in the world is getting married today. It is Danina, above, who is marrying her sweetheart Preston. I’m not going to say too much about them, well, because I want to keep the good vibes going. And because I may get emotional, start to cry, and not be able to finish this post. 🙂

So I’m going to talk about my favorite moments at a wedding. Those moments that I truly adore, I wait for, and I believe are gifts from God. I can’t believe when I get to be part of another wonderful wedding day. I am truly blessed.

Here we go:

  1. The moment I see the bride in her wedding dress. Usually her mom and bridesmaids are there with her when she puts it on. The bride may step into her dress or decide to put it on over top of her head. If this happens, sometimes there is a ton of net to navigate and the giggling starts. When the mother sees her daughter in THE DRESS, this is when we all shed a few tears.
  2. When we (the bridesmaids + bride) begin the walk to the where we will meet the groom. This walk is hugely poignant. It is a symbol of “I am ready. I want to be with this person forever.” We walk slowly and usually someone is holding the bride’s train. She is holding her bouquet. It is really showtime.
  3. After the ceremony, when the bride and groom walk up the aisle as a wedded couple. I am usually the first person to congratulate them! This is not the moment to tell them what to do next. I squeeze, hug, and kiss them and say “Congratulations!”. This is important. They are important. This is probably my absolutely favorite thing.
  4. Their first dance. I love this part. I will always stop what I am doing and watch. And take pictures. Usually you can see everyone holding their breath. It’s magical.
  5. When I kiss everyone goodbye at the end of the night. Usually by this point everyone is tired but happy. The night has gone grandly, its been beautiful, and they will remember it forever. We have become almost family. I practically feel like family. And I will remember them all for a long, long time.

So there you have it. My favorite moments. Do me a favor today and send Danina and Preston your best wishes for a happy life together. They are a beautiful couple.

Electric Lime Studios
Electric Lime Studios
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Harmony and David’s Wedding

The newly married Harmony and David
The Newly Married Harmony and David, and their Flower Girl.

Somewhere over the rainbow
Skies are blue,
And the dreams that you dare to dream
Really do come true.

From Somewhere Over the Rainbow

I think it was in mid July that my friend Cathy told me her daughter Harmony and fiance David wanted to be married on August 15. I was fairly sure I would be invited but before I could be asked, I volunteered to come and help with the preparations. 🙂

Cathy and I go back about twenty years. I’ve not known Harmony quite as long but I felt a connection to her from the moment we met. She is a loving soul with a very caring manner. Her heart is big and bold and beautiful. I wanted to be a part of her wedding day.

So when I arrived on the day before the wedding (Friday), Cathy, David and Harmony had already been at work since Tuesday. The yard was ready, the arbor was decorated. The food was bought, the platters were washed and the extra fridge was stocked with drinks. They were expecting 40-60 people. I knew they were on top of it.

The wedding day dawned bright and sunny. We re-arranged lawn furniture a bit so seating would be comfortable. Harmony polished her toe nails (every bride needs pretty toes). Decisions were made on how to present and serve the food.  Along with Cathy’s friend Lisa, we put vases of fresh flowers in the bathroom and lit candles. We cooled down the house for the seniors who might need a break.

Harmony and her dad Michael
Harmony and Her Dad Michael

When the guests began showing up, it didn’t take long for everything to start rolling. Harmony walked down the green grass aisle with her father Michael. David was waiting for her in cool shorts and a summery shirt. David’s friend played “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” on a ukelele, in memory of David’s mother.

After the ceremony, there was the cake cutting. I heard that the minister said he watches how a newly married couple feeds each other cake. If they feed each other respectfully, they will have a happy marriage. Harmony and David were very loving as they fed each other cake. A good sign.

Getting Ready to Cut the Cake
Getting Ready to Cut the Cake. My friend Cathy is on the Far Left.

The whole atmosphere was of a wedding/summer party. Hot and sunny, flowers everywhere, people smiling and fanning themselves. Little children running around blowing super bubbles. Lots of great food to eat, red velvet cupcakes, and happiness.

The next morning, Harmony and David started packing their car early to head back home. Cathy loaded them up with lots of leftovers. As they got into their car to leave, we all started crying (me too). I’m not sure why I was crying but I felt like it was my kids leaving too.

As we waved good bye, I told Cathy how my grandmother used to stand on her sidewalk and watch our car leave when I was a little girl. Yiayia would stay there until she could no longer see us. I get that now. I really do.

Blessings to Harmony and David on their marriage! May God grant you both happiness and many years together!

Join me on my graceful journey.
1015

Being There for Grace

Photo by Zack Wilson
Photo by Zack Wilson

Faith is a living daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that a man could stake his life on it a thousand times. Martin Luther

There were some particularly poignant moments this past summer when my weddings were in full swing that I felt it. I felt touched by grace and in awe of being witness to such beauty and love. I have been thinking about those moments lately and I wanted to share a couple of them with you.

In June, I had fluffed Shaina’s bridal train at the back of the church, the doors to the sanctuary still closed. The music began and my assistant and I opened both doors simultaneously. Shaina and her father walked arm in arm down the aisle, down to Shaina’s beloved Rob. This is when people I have worked with (yet really barely know) become like little beats of my heart. That is when I know God has given me this magnificent job.

Thank you to Zack Wilson for this photo
Thank you to Zack Wilson for this photo

Then at the reception, I saw it again when Rob danced with his mother Cindy. She was the one who originally contacted me to assist with the wedding. I was honored she hired me and I told her so. I loved the venue, a traditional old country club, and I knew how much it touched Cindy that Rob and Shaina were getting married.

Cindy cried on and off all day and I know this is how I am going to be when either of my children get married someday. We put our heart and soul into raising our children and then- BOOM- all of sudden they are grown up and jumping out of the nest. Next thing you know they are in college, marrying, and where did the time go?

Somehow the families didn’t get a big picture taken at the church and Cindy’s husband asked me at the reception if I could make it happen. I went back and forth between the photographer, DJ, and family tables and coordinated the timing. Next thing you know, everyone is outside and the big picture gets taken.

This Photo is just Gorgeous! Thank you to Zack Wilson!
This Photo is just Gorgeous! Thank you to Zack Wilson!

Now it doesn’t get any better than this does it? I absolutely thought this was a magnificent display of God’s grace and love. A family together, celebrating a beautiful event and wow, how much they love each other.

I tell you, I really have the best job.

More wedding stuff later. I need another box of kleenex.

Blessings,

Joanne

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1015

A Night to Remember

 

Michelene looked Stunning!

Have you ever been in a time and place so unreal that you just needed to pinch yourself? Well, I have! It happened to me last Friday, when THE RECEPTION finally unfolded in Sewickley!

Nicole Michelene CuttingsAs I walked into Cuttings Flower and Garden that late afternoon, it was as if I entered Eden. All of my senses engaged as I stood in the entryway. The heavenly smell of cherry blossoms, spring flowers and wedding cake, the sight of beautiful embellishments, crystal chandeliers and amazing floral centerpieces were combined with a table set to knock your socks off. I lightly touched the delicate coral colored tulips (where have I ever seen those before?) and held my breath for a moment.

Table at Cuttings

My friend Jim, the owner of Cuttings, pulled out all the stops as he demonstrated the reason I have chosen him as my premier florist. He just knows what to do and does it. His creations are magnificent, his hands moved as if by grace.

And my models, AH, what can I say? They were stunning! Pampered and special, they looked beautiful, both my daughter Michelene (in my mother’s vintage dress) and Nicole in a lovely wedding gown by Glitter and Grit. I am eternally grateful to them (and every one of my business associates!) for devoting their evening to this special event.

Michelene looking upI had several high moments that night. The first one came relatively early, when a threesome of women walked in, spied my daughter in her gown and make up, carrying her bouquet of white roses, and literally dropped their jaws. I smiled and said something like “Gorgeous, isn’t she?” and they let loose with a barrage of delightful compliments.

Second, I saw a man and his wife later on in the evening whom I had not laid eyes on in years. The gentleman was one of my most loyal customers when I had my gourmet coffee shop in Sewickley twenty years ago. I recognized him immediately and introduced myself after all these years. He seemed genuinely moved and said “Oh Joanne! I am so glad to see you! Thank you for stopping me and saying hello!”

Thank you Michael!
Thank you Michael!

There were many other numerous glittery, happy moments. Our groom, Michael was such a personality and a good sport! He made conversation with EVERYONE and escorted the brides in a very noble manner. I get a smile on my face just thinking about Michael! He actually walked Michelene into town (they must have been such a sight!) and when it began to rain, ran her back to the store underneath the protection of my sister’s umbrella (Thank you Cally)!

Most of my business cards flew out the door that evening along with those of the other business vendors. If you want a full list of all the participants, just click for my events website HERE.

Was it a night to remember? Wow, you bet it was!

Many thanks to Joe Indovina, Jessica Lubert Photography and Erin of Glitter and Grit for these stunning photos!

 

Nicole in her beautiful gown!

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1015

A Match Made in Heaven

Mom and Dad!
Mom and Dad!

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage. Lao Tzu

Tonight is a special night. I have been planning an event in a beautiful town for weeks. My friends are going to be there- Jim, Joe, Jesse, Nicole (and YOU, I hope!)- and my daughter Michelene, husband Jim, my sister Cally and of course, my mom. We will miss Mary tremendously but I know she will be there in spirit!

Jim of Cuttings Flower and Garden Mart and I have imagined and thought of what you would want to see if you were planning a special event. We have wine, flowers, food, sweets, photographers, beautiful dresses, place cards and menu cards. There are very talented people involved. Local businesses that are passionate about what they do.

Though the focus is on weddings, there will be many good ideas for any type of event. We are pulling out all the stops tonight. My daughter Michelene is modeling my mom’s vintage wedding gown. My mom and dad would have been married sixty years this coming June. It is amazing how time flies. My dad passed eighteen years ago but I can see him at this moment, telling me to “Go For It!” He was always supportive of anything I ever wanted to do or try. I am lucky. My husband Jim has that same quality.

Like most of you, I believe my parents were a match made in heaven. There were good times and not so good; ups and downs. But that is characteristic of a long union. That is how it works. It stands the test of time if both parties are willing. I appreciate all the gifts and talents my parents gave me- salesmanship, hospitality, and great organization!

I feel truly blessed to be participating in “The Reception” tonight with Jim of Cuttings and so many other wonderful businesses!  If you live in the Pittsburgh or surrounding areas, click HERE for more information on this special night and JOIN US!

I hope you can be with us tonight but if you can’t, I hope you’ll think of someone special in your life, your parents or a special mentor, who has made all the difference for you.

Join me on my graceful journey.
1015

Lena and Andrew

Lena and Andrew
Lena and Andrew

I had the honor of assisting at a beautiful wedding last weekend. Lena and Andrew were married in my church and there were many of us there to witness this blessed event.

As God would have it, I bumped into my friend Rita and her daughter a few months ago in a home decorating store. “Lena is getting married!” said Rita and I couldn’t help but mention that I have done detail work on many wedding ceremonies and other types of events. 🙂

Lo and behold the phone rang one day and it was Rita. She felt fine about the reception but was nervous about the wedding ceremony. Would I assist at the church? I didn’t even hesitate. “Yes, of course!” was my answer.

We met to go over the details, then time quickly flew by. Soon enough it was rehearsal then, wedding time! The bridal couple was a youthful example of shining love…like a beacon that Hands Twowarmed and reminded us of our own days gone by. Lena and Andrew were a lovely couple and a bit old fashioned (which I loved!). They did not want to see each other before the ceremony! No pictures together….just one intimate moment in which they grasped hands from around a corner, while photographers snapped away, capturing the moment.

Instead of a choir, Lena and Andrew wanted cantors. I wondered how this would unfold and I have to say it took my breath away when the bride and her father walked down the aisle, to a heavenly host of voices singing from the front altar. It felt very traditional and different all at the same time!

As the guests sprinkled the newly married couple with white rose petals, I felt blessed to be part of such a beautiful event. There is that moment of satisfaction when you know that everything came together the way it should be, for a couple who are loved and wished all the best.

Do you have a favorite memory of a blessed event? Share it with me!

Join me on my graceful journey.
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