Monday, July 8, 2013

Carolyn Westbrook: Wedded Bliss at the Oaks Plantation

 Finally...I had time to write the blog that I have been wanting to write since the last piece of cake was eaten and the last glass of champagne was gone. I wanted you to hear all of the details and tips that I learned along the way, to make this day a fairytale for my daughter, Alexandria. I wanted this wedding to look like a million dollars, without having to spend a million dollars, and if I do say so myself, I think it turned out rather great. The tent went up on a nice May day. We had alot of tornadoes right before, and more storms were predicted, so they had to put extra reinforced anchors on the tent, which meant an all day construction. We were anxiously awaiting, so that we could get started. It was a family affair, of course, like everything we do around here and the troops were gathered. I have never tented the top of a tent before, so I was really nervous. I had made at least 10 trips to Home Depot and had sketched off my version of how I thought it would work. I had Plan A, Plan B and a back-up plan, as I have done many tradeshows and shows in general, so I have sort of become the queen of improv.
Kind of like the McGyver of decorating.  I reserved a "pole tent" against the wedding rental lady's best advice. She wanted me to get a frame tent, but they are twice the price and the frame is LOW, and they are not nearly as dramatic looking. Three words...Alexander Tent Company. They brought a beautiful pristine white tent that was gorgeous, and they had the best price, and I checked with EVERYBODY!
I only had two poles to work from and the ceiling was 17 foot tall. WOW! I might have to become an acrobat, as well. You know me, never afraid of a challenge, which makes me brave or crazy or maybe both.
I realized right away that another trip to Home Depot was in order to rent a ladder tall enough to reach the top of the tent. I was afraid that a "cherry picker" would smash the grass. Off I went, yet again. The tool loan commander convinced me to get this folding ladder sort of thing...much lighter he convinced me and easier to haul. You know when you look at something and your gut tells you, "Don't do it," but you ignore your gut and off I went with this contraption in the back of the trailer. As soon as we unloaded it and set it up, we quickly found that it would not work. It was not 17 foot tall and flimsy. I went to hook my trailer back up to my Suburban, and Nick had taken my hitch off of the Suburban and put it on his truck. I then had to track him down (no easy task) get my hitch, hook up the trailer, and back I go to Home Depot. This time getting the much heavier 17 foot ladder that my gut told me to get in the first place. Then I enlist the help of two sales guys to help me come up with a contraption that would make 200 yards of voile and lights drape elegantly in the top of the tent. We came up with metal cables and another contraption that holds a clothesline wire. After paying for that, I headed back to the site.
Another friend, who has done many weddings told me to use fishing line, but I was not convinced that fishing line would hold that much fabric and lights without sagging, and what about the chandeliers for Pete's Sake? Then the rental company comes and Ms. Marsha tells me to use parachute rope. She swears by it. This is the tip of a lifetime that I am giving you today, if you are planning a wedding and feeling like sheering a 1500 sq. ft. tent ceiling. USE PARACHUTE works. So, I get back in my truck (without the trailer) and I drive back to Home Depot, round up my guys to find the magical Parachute rope. Everyone looked and called everyone else, and they took me from one part of the store to another. One had me convinced that something else that wasn't parachute
 rope, was. Finally...a guy that knew of the magical parachute rope, found it. It is white and like a nylon cord. I bought 20 packages of it, so I would not have to come back to Home Depot, and off I went, back to the site. Victoria, Luis, my son Nick, Victoria's friend Nick, and my mom of course...oh and Teddy (schnauzer)were all assembled and ready to help, but no one wanted to climb the ladder to the top.
 Oh, here;s another tip...almost forgot, have the tent people run your extension cord from the top of the tent down to the side, so that it is secure. You will need a white extension cord, so it will not show up and a white multi-plug. I looked online for white extension cords and they were up to $50 each. One word, Wal-Mart. They have white extension cords (25 ft) for $11.97 and they also had white multi-plugs. Woo-Hoo!
So, the extension cord was at the top of both poles. I taped the cord to the pole with White Duct Tape. Here is another thing that you will need, and plenty of them is zip ties. Fairly long ones. We started with the white twinkle lights. Here is another tip...I looked all over for white twinkle lights, and they are hard to find since it is not Christmas, and unbelievably expensive. Two words, Garden Ridge. They have them for a 100 strand it was around $6. We plugged in three strands of lights to make it from the pole to the corner pole. Another tip: after you plug three strands together, I ran zip ties around the cord plug that plugged into the multi-plug, otherwise the weight would pull them out, and we did not want that. Kind of tricky but gets easier after a few. After we had the lights up, I took the bolt of sheer fabric up the ladder and sheered it up at the top and tied it with a zip to the pole. Then we ran the fabric down to the corner, and then down the pole. We zip tied the fabric to the corner on the tent ropes and then cut it at the bottom. You just keep doing this until the one side is complete with lights and fabric.
Let me just tell you, that it was about 20 degrees hotter at the top of the tent, and you kindof have to be an acrobat to make this work.
Then you get 3 people to move the GIANT ladder to the other side, without tearing down the lights and fabric that you just put up. After we finished both sides, we ran more parachute rope in the center, between the two poles. At this point, we had used all 200 yards of  108" wide sheer fabric, so I would have to get more. How much more...100 more yds, for a total of 300 yds. of sheer fabric.
The rope in the center had to be tied off really tight because it would hold the three chandeliers. Here, we ran the fabric and lights from side to side.  The last thing was to drape the tent poles from the top to the bottom and cover any unsightly plugs.
Then, I had ordered 150 yds of gorgeous "wired" aqua ribbon to hang the chandeliers and the wreath candelabras from. One word, "Etsy." This ribbon was gorgeous and only $20 each for 50 yd bolts. I love Etsy!!! We hung the three chandeliers and the wreaths, that are a fabulous idea from my good friend Rebecca, who has a business called Heaven and Earth, in Lindale Texas. Her wreaths are AMAZING!! These are like a wreath chandelier, that were filled with candles. Let me just say that my friends are so talented and did I say, Amazing? She has a website... how's that for a shamless plug. She hand harvests the honesuckle that they are made from. Then, I bought a paint sprayer and painted them white. I do love the natural color. Let me just tell you, that I found the whole paint sprayer thing more than a little annoying, but it worked. I could get one wreath painted on both sides, and then I would have to go fill up again, and the paint has to be watered down considerably, and it runs and drips everywhere as you take off the cannister thing, not fun. Now my black and pink Nike's are peppered and spotted with white paint. ANYWAY, back to the story, I cut a circle out of masonite to cover the hole of the wreath. Then painted it...with a roller, not a spray gun. Then I drilled holes in the masonite, at four point to wire the wood circle on to the wreath to create a surface for the candles. Here is the tricky part, I measured 3 really long strands of ribbon and tied them on to the wreaths at three points to create a tripod effect. The ribbon had to be long enough to tie on to the magical parachute rope and have a bow at the top. It took a considerable amount of time to get the wreaths level, and by the end of it, I was pretty much pulling my hair out. THEN, I had to add the candles, which made them have to be leveled again. I could not decide whether to use flameless candles or the cheap-o church candles from the grocery store. You know the ones that are glass and come in white. I tried both, and I loved the look of the real flame better, but I was concerned about the weight of the glass ones. And, me being me, I had to have varied sizes, which would include votives and medium size white candles. Candles are expensive, especially when you have 8 of these chandeliers. Two words, Dollar Tree. I love that place too, but my kids refuse to go in, and are completely humiliated that their mom would go into one. Whatever...get over it,  my mom used to drag stuff off the curb that was out for garbage pick up. I thought that was emabarrasing when I was a kid. Now... love it.
So, went back with all of the candles, put a very liberal amount of the florists putty on the bottoms, and I put the collection of candles in the very center. That way, if they toppled over, it would land on the wood...hopefully. We tried one to make sure it would work. BE CAREFUL or use the flameless to be on the safe side. You dont want your tent going up in flames.
So, just like magic... that part of the tent was done. Would Alexandria ever know the lengths that I went to as a mother to make sure that this fairy tale wedding was truly a fairy tale? Probably not, but I knew that even she had to be amazed, when she saw it.
Oh, and one more thing. We had been talking of doing another book. I wanted an entertaining book, the publisher wanted a decorating book, so we had gone back and forth. I do love my publisher though. So, the week before the wedding, we decide to do another book, and include the wedding. No pressure...right? Now, this wedding really had to be something, you know...over the top. Ok, like it wasn't going to be  that way anyway, with me involved. I always seem to have to go the one step over to make it "just right" and fully exhaust everyone in the process. They might be so tired, they don't even make it to the wedding..nahhh. They were all able bodied, but I'm not gonna lie, I did take a whole bottle of Advil Liquigels that week.  I figured that I had made it through my acrobatic tricks and the heat of the tent, so the rest would be a piece of cake...right?? Check back and find out as the saga continues.


Rita C. said...

Holy moly! What a supermom/superwoman you are! Thanks for the tips - my daughter's getting married in October, and I'm taking notes! Can't wait to read the continuing saga....
Best, Rita

Decoratopia said...

P.S. I'm thrilled to hear you're doing another book!

steve said...

Hi i must say you have written this blog awesome and you must continue with this type of blog so much interesting.

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The Primitique said...

I'm not even finished reading and I have already hit "print". I am frantically searching for a highlighter and I MAY need to call these tent people before I forget. GREAT STUFF, Ms. Westbrook! Thank you so much for sharing! I am stupid, giddy excited! ~Mindy (more to come, I'm sure. Need to keep reading)