Evergreen wreaths are adorned with dried flowers in shades of blue and purple (homegrown and dried). Rounds of maple are in the center with quilted canning jars holding votive candles and fairy lights.Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
Here is an array of freshly harvested solstice herbs and seasonal yuletide greenery.Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
The three herbs of solstice are holly, ivy and mistletoe.Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
These three herbs are often used in Celtic ceremonies and have been featured for centuries in the Winter Solstice celebration.Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
Any kind of holly will do--the softer ones don't have such sharp points and are easier to work with. Holly is also a yuletide herb and the plant for the birth month of December.
There are many kinds of ivy from large leaved to very demure small leaves--all of them twine well for wreaths, crowns or hat adornments.Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
Mistletoe is one of the oldest plants used in solstice ceremonies; it is also used for yuletide and Christmas decorations. It is often hung overhead or in a kissing ball and one is supposed to kiss their true love beneath this herb. The white berries and foliage are poisonous so hang out of reach of children and pets.Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
Zack Wilkes is sporting a tradtional mummers' hat bedecked with solstice herbs and evergreens.Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
Wreaths represent the circle of life and candles signify the return of the light at solstice. Maid-of-honor, Cady, used pinecones for name cards and decorations on the tables.Photo/Illustration: louanne sargent
Table full of party favors--your choice of hot cocoa mix--classic, xocolatl, or magic mushroom--in a solstice mug.Photo/Illustration: louanne sargent
The mugs were printed with the names of the bride and groom and the date and on the other side the image of the solstice compass. We made the cocoa mixes and packaged them--folks could choose the flavor of their choice.Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
Guests lined up along the walkway with heart-shaped sparklers and the newlyweds ran through a blaze of light, hoots, hollers and well wishes upon their departure.Photo/Illustration: jolanta kunkulis
The winter holiday season has begun–yesterday was the Winter Solstice–and today the full cold moon shines bright in the night sky. Yesterday, we celebrated the marriage of my daughter Lucie to Matt, the love of her life. We used the herbs and greenery of the season with lots of candlelight and sparkly fairy lights to add to the magic of the day.
The ceremony took place at about 4 pm at the Howard County Conservancy, which is a modern wooden building with white walls, high wooden ceilings with rafters (from whence to string lights) and lots of windows, and a huge partially covered deck, which overlooks gardens and wooded trails.
For December 21 in Maryland, the day was warm–nearly 60 degrees F–with drizzle on and off, clouds and some sun–and a steady breeze. They say that rain on your wedding day is a good sign. Because of our wet weather, we were not able to have a bonfire, which we had hoped for; the trails were slick and muddy. However, we were prepared with abundant candles and hanging white lights and a few little electric stoves to represent the Yule log. My younger daughter Cady’s beau, Zack, laid out a labyrinth using 300 candlights on the outdoor deck.
We brought the forest indoors with evergreens and winter greenery, along with the three herbs of the Winter Solstice: holly, ivy and mistletoe. These three revered herbs have been used in solstice celebrations for centuries (we didn’t put mistletoe on the dining tables since it is poisonous), although it was in our greenery display, and I added as adornment to a hat and my hair wreath. A dear gardening friend, Deborah Hall and her daughter Susan O’Donnell made all of the fragrant and beautiful, evergreen wreaths for the tables as well as the floral arrangements, and the boutonnieres and bouquets for the bridal party.
In the center of each wreath, there was a round, handsawn slab of maple with the bark still in place. Good ole dad, Tomas, sawed a huge stack of rounds from a recently downed maple tree. On these slabs, we placed three different sized mason jars (half-pint, 12-ounce and pint) and put votive candles in the two smaller ones and a string of fairy lights in the pint-sized jar.
I gathered greens and herbs for the winter solstice display and headpieces and my herbal pals in Arkansas, Tina Marie Wilcox and Sue Toney shot down mistletoe from an oak tree on their driveway and shipped it along with fresh juniper and rosemary sprigs. Rosemary is an herb of the winter holiday season and it also is traditionally used for remembrance. Cady, sister of the bride and Maid-of-Honor, gathered pinecones of all shapes and sizes and brought them Florida and she trimmed them to stand on their ends and used them as holders for placecards and signage and for table decorations.
Besides the winter solstice, evergreens, natural burlap and lots of candlelight, Lucie chose celestial colors: deep, dark blue-indigo, silver and copper. We gathered and dried blue and purple flowers from our gardens and friends’ gardens, used blue cloths on the serving tables, and blue bandanas as napkins. My mom, Lucie’s grandmother, washed and ironed 100 bandanas and rolled the cutlery in each one, and tied them with natural hemp twine.
We had a hot cocoa bar with three kinds of cocoa: Classic (very chocolatey); Xocolatl (with dried ancho chiles and freshly ground mace blades); and Magic Mushroom (with cordyceps, reishi, lion’s mane, turkey tail, astragalus and marshmallow root). We served these with fresh whipped cream and miniature marshmallows and a few bottles of spirits were on hand. We packaged these cocoa blends and put them into dark blue with white speckles, solstice mugs for party favors. The couple used the winter solstice compass on their invitations and it was embossed on the mugs and also used on labels.
Well Crafted brought their antique truck equipped with a wood-fired pizza oven that cranked out six pizzas at a time (using seasonal root veggies and winter greens), rosemary focaccia and a seasonal salad. Anna Saint John, a friend and caterer, made the desserts–Lucie and Matt didn’t want a typical wedding cake. He wanted German Chocolate Cake and she wanted my Keylime Pie with Chocolate. So Anna made German Chocolate Cake Bites and Keylime Pie Triangles, along with Blondies with Dried Apricot and Beebalm (I made the Monarda Butter this summer and froze it); and Ginger Molasses Krinkles. In keeping with the evergreen theme, I made White Pine Shortbread Cookies from a recipe I found at https://wildmuskoka.com/blogs/recipes/white-pine-shortbread. (They make great bitters and shrubs!)
They say it takes a village to raise a child–and I say it takes a village to put on the wedding! Family and friends pitched in way back when the planning began–from creating Lucie’s ensemble to ordering rentals and estimating amounts of food and drink. And then they flew in and drove from afar. They showed up for rehearsal, hosted rehearsal dinner, helped and picked things up for us. A whole crew of Matt and Lucie’s friends came hours early and set everything up, hauling ice in coolers, dishes and equipment; Dain brought his homebrewed “Bridezilla Brut” and Corey created a signature cocktail “When Cranberry Met Rosemary”; Jolanta and Hannah organized and kept the show going, Nancy officiated and friends and family read for the ceremony and made toasts, and many of them took great candid photos. Last though not least, folks stayed afterwards and helped break down and pack up the entire venue, before heading off to the after party. My heartfelt thanks go to everyone who helped–and although I didn’t name every single person, you know who you are and how much we appreciate you!
Eastman String Band provided foot-stompin music, complete with call outs for the Virginia Reel and a circle dance.
Well this has gotten lenghthy, however I have to mention the ceremony. Matt’s mom, Diana Amtower played the piano before the ceremony and for the processional (Harvest Moon) and recessional (Islands in the Stream). It was simply perfect. I have never been in a room where there was so much joy, love and light. And there were many tears of joy–I heard a lot of sniffling. The candle lighting, readings and the vows were lovely; deeply heartfelt and sincere. We all witnessed the lovelight in Matt and Lucie’s eyes and celebrate their marriage, which we hope they will celebrate for many years to come–every Winter Solstice.
The bride wore ivory crepe de chine wool overalls covered in antique lace–with hand-carved, ivory bone buttons (one moon and one star) with a lace blouse, with a deep, midnight blue, Celtic, hooded cape and dark blue suede boots. The groom wore a heather green-grey jacket with dark grey trousers, his vest was a deep blue grey with buttons made from eucalyptus pods, his tie and matching pocket square had a celestial motif. Dear friend, MaryAnn McAbee created Lucie’s ensemble and Matt’s vest, while her husband, Doug, fashioned and carved the buttons. Lucie’s aunt, Louanne Sargent, made Matt and Zack their celestial ties.
Guests lined both sides of the walkway with heart-shaped sparklers making a sort of tunnel of starry light and the couple departed the party in a blaze lights, hoots, hollers and well wishes.
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