One of these things is not like the others: Me and the Howie sisters
You may have noticed, if you were looking closely, a rather large gap in last week’s blog posts. That’s because I had a little wedding business of my own to attend to. My dearest Alexandra Howie (now Howie Stark)– college classmate, roommate, travelmate–got married! And being a bridesmaid is time-consuming.
It was a beautiful event, and I’m not just saying that because I was a part of it. 20s themed– an antique car, a swing band and a photo booth with flapper/dapper props. It was on “The Neck” of Marblehead, Massachusetts, which means the wedding party arrived in a skiff while the guests cheered from the deck of the yacht club, the groom fired the cannon at sunset (yes, a cannon), and we were all privileged to an epic sunset.
This post is about gifts– me to the bride, and her to me– but first, some pictures of the event. (Keep in mind, the professional photos were not yet available to me, so these were culled from friends’ Facebook photos. I think you’ll still get the idea.)
Alex and Randolph next to the antique car that shuttled them around
The wedding party, entering on the dock
The bride and groom make their entrance. (Did I mention that dress is handmade by the bride’s grandmother?)
Marblehead at sunset, the view from the Corinthian Yacht Club, where the wedding was held
Too good to be true. (But it is!)
Spying on the bride and groom in the 20s themed photobooth. (You’ll noticed they’ve changed into Chinese garb.)
It really was a singular event, and these photos obviously don’t do it justice (the bagpipers! the swing dancing! the wonderfully designed table cards!). It made me realize a golden rule of wedding planning (which is also the golden rule of life): be mindful. Make sure you are reflected in all the details– try to express yourself and your values. Make it personal. Not only will it be the best night of your life, but your guests will be sure to love it too.
Ok, on to the point of this post: the gifts.
I’ll start with Alex’s gift the bridesmaids.
Each bridesmaid got a handmade piece of jewelry from our friend Collette Ishiyama‘s collection, inspired by “Egyptian burial jewels, samurai warriors and the omnipresent sliver of the Chrysler building.” The black is stingray skin. How cool is that?
Each piece was specially engraved (on the back, or in the case of the bottommost necklace, on the side) with the bride’s initials, the initials of the bridesmaid who was the recipient, and a heart. Kind of like a locket. It made the piece just that much more amazing. I’ve gotten so many compliments on it already!
Now, for my gift to her. Obviously, I wanted to do something special. The registry wasn’t going to cut it. Alex is a very generous friend– I’ve received scores of thoughtful gifts from her over the years–so I had a lot to live up to.
I started here: if there’s one thing I know about Alex, it’s that she really does appreciate the value of beautiful things. The first time I went into Evolution, a store in Soho that specializes in “unique natural history collectibles,” I was captivated by their butterfly collection. You could stare at those things for hours. Drawer after drawer of eye-popping colors and patterns. Alex and I went to art school together, and both of us concentrated in painting. Each of these butterflies seemed a masterpiece unto itself.
I went into the store a few weeks before the wedding knowing I wanted to get her a collection of butterflies under glass, but with hundreds and hundreds of species to choose from, I had no idea how I wanted to narrow it down. The drawers full of butterflies at Evolution are organized by location– Africa, Asia, etc. I slowly realized that I could choose butterflies that corresponded to locations that have some significance to Alex and Randolph.
Once that became clear, I chose the butterflies (in a painstaking, hours-long process) through a combination of symbolic and aesthetic value. I started with 12 butterflies and then whittled it down to nine. The resident entomologist removed the butterflies from the drawers and arranged them (with pins) on a slab of styrofoam. We spent some time together creating the best arrangement, figuring out how to balance all the individual colors.
The butterflies were framed with double-sided glass, so you can see the amazing, often completely different, patterns on the other side. My frame was ready in a few weeks time.
I had a purple butterfly to remind them of their wedding (purple was their wedding color). I had two Chinese butterflies, to honor Alex’s heritage. I had a butterfly from the Southeast United States, to honor Randolph’s. I had a butterfly from Thailand, where the Howie family often vacationed, to remind the couple of the importance of family. I had a Central American butterfly to remind the couple of their first trip together, to Costa Rica; an African butterfly to remind them of their South African honeymoon; and a Papua New Guinean butterfly to remind them to stay curious and open (and in anticipation of future travels). The “Painted Lady,” found all over the United States, was a reference to their shared future together.
The night before the rehearsal dinner, I made a card crudely depicting all of the butterflies as a sort of a diagram explaining the gift. I gave it to the couple privately after the rehearsal dinner. They loved it so much they displayed it at the Howie home the day after the wedding, when all the guests gathered for a BBQ. If you’re thinking of stealing this idea, be forewarned: it is NOT. CHEAP. But it’s something I know they’ll have forever, and when I saw how touched they were, it was entirely worth it.
Giving them the gift at the rehearsal dinner
The gift and the card on display at the Howie home, the morning after the wedding