Grow the Bouquet! An October Bride on the Flowering Cabbage That Came to the Rescue

Photos by Lauren DeBell

Welcome to Grow the Bouquet, our new series in which brides (and grooms!) tell us about the plants they carried on their wedding day. For our first edition, we’re excited to present the beautiful bouquet of our beautiful (and witty and gregarious) friend, Melissa Kushnaryov.

When Melissa showed me the photos from when she and her husband Anton got married in 2011 outside Madison, Wisconsin, I was moonstruck. She had me at “barnyard chic”: cows on site, Sigur Rós and Iron & Wine on the playlist, lots of candles and lanterns inside O’Brien Barn, Wisconsin beers and California wines. Fall farmland colors straight from a Thomas Cole painting.

The kicker? The flowering cabbage — huge, leafy heads of shocking amethyst and emerald — that was central to Melissa’s bouquet was a last-minute addition. She stumbled onto them up at the Madison Farmer’s Market on the morning of her wedding.

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Melissa and Anton Kushnaryov on their wedding day in October of 2011.

“I told the vendor, ‘these are going in my wedding bouquet today.’ People thought I was a bit nuts, but I was inspired,” says Melissa, whose sister arranged them with green button mums, dahlias, wheat from her parent’s farm and other seasonal flora. (Read on for the full list.)

Below, Melissa tells us the story of how she went from feeling iffy to overjoyed about her flowers — thanks to that fateful early-morning walk…

(Photos by Lauren DeBell, courtesy of Melissa Kushnaryov.) 

What was your vision for your bouquet?

We wanted our wedding to speak to our Wisconsin roots. Although we live in San Diego, we were both born and raised in Wisco, and we wanted everything about our wedding to be as Wisconsin as possible. So many of my wedding decisions were obvious to me and easy to make, but when it came to the bouquet I felt a little out of my element. I knew I wanted hydrangeas, but other than that I wasn’t really sure. I wanted something out of the ordinary and something that would add some elegance to our rustic farm wedding. Sunflowers were too “country.” Roses were too common. Lilacs are gorgeous but out of season for an October wedding.

I planted hundreds of wildflowers at my parents’ farm in Cottage Grove, hoping they would still be around for the wedding. But they passed their prime a few weeks too soon. As you can tell, my vision was a bit scattered. But I knew somehow I’d get inspired…it just came a bit later than I expected.

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How did your bouquet come together?

I was planning the wedding from San Diego, so the few trips I did make back home to work on wedding things were jam-packed with activities. Since the bouquet was an area that I wasn’t very sure of my direction yet, I asked my mom for some help. She recommended a florist in Madison, Abundance Acres, and I said, ‘Heck, let’s just go with them…’ sight unseen. Famous last words. We pulled up to this old farmhouse out in the country on the outskirts of Madison. There was a big old barn, a greenhouse, plants everywhere. It certainly wasn’t your typical wedding florist shop.

We knocked on the door and this sweaty eclectic woman opened the door to let us in. Old farmhouses are notorious for having many small rooms, and this one was no different, and each small room was filled with flowers and plants. I was a bit confused, but just went with it. She cleared off a place for us at her kitchen table, which was covered with flower magazines, pictures and vases. The one thing I knew was that I wanted hydrangeas and purple flowers, since that was the color of the wedding, I just didn’t know which purple flowers.

We sat down and went through picture after picture, narrowing down what we wanted. But I just didn’t feel inspired. For the bouquet we decided on: hydrangeas, dahlias (purple and ‘Brindisi’), lavender and royal purple stock and green button mums. I was confident that the bouquet would come together. I just didn’t have a vision for it yet. I could visualize nearly every detail about the wedding, but the flowers were confusing. I wasn’t inspired. But I had faith that it would come eventually.

So you got your foundation flowers from the florist, but something was missing. How did the cabbage enter the picture?

The morning of my wedding was a beautiful, warm fall day in Wisconsin. It was amazing. I woke up bright and early at 6 AM. I couldn’t sleep, but no one else was up yet. I was staying at the Edgewater Hotel in downtown Madison, which is a short walk from the Madison Farmer’s Market, located in the square around the capitol building. I figured a nice walk around the square was just what I needed. It was early but the market was in full swing. I stopped by the honey vendor who we bought the honey sticks from that we gave as party favors (along with chocolate chip cookies). I grabbed a coffee. I saw a tent selling all sorts of flowers and grasses. I bought an armful of pampas grass to decorate the front of the barn with.

And then I saw my inspiration: flowering cabbage. I thought they were amazing, but had my arms full of pampas grass. Hmmm…what to do? I went back to my hotel, dropped off my grass and then it was time to go get my hair and makeup done. After my hair and makeup was done, I remembered my cabbage. I grabbed my cousin Rose and ran out the door while my mother screamed at me not to mess up my hair.

We ran back to the flower tent and I bought a few of their biggest flowering cabbage.

I told the vendor, ‘These are going in my wedding bouquet today.’ People thought I was a bit nuts, but I was inspired!

My little sister and maid-of-honor offered to head out to the barn early to work on the flowers. I told her my vision and she executed flawlessly! The cabbage was perfect.

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Melissa’s sister (and maid of honor) Jessica Ricter arranged the bouquet using flowering cabbage from the Madison Farmer’s Market, dahlias, hydrangea, lavender and royal purple stock, green button mums, and wheat from their parent’s farm.

What plants are in your bouquet?

Hydrangeas, dahlias (purple and ‘Brindisi’), some wheat that grew on my parents’ farm, lavender and royal purple stock, and green button mums. Then, of course, my flowering cabbage!

And what did your wedding party wear/carry?

The men had boutonnieres of green button mums, a leaf from the stock and some wheat. The gals basically carried smaller versions of mine. The bridesmaids had mini cabbage from the florist. My cabbage were huge compared to those!

Set the scene for us. Where did you get married?

We were married at the O’Brien Barn in Brooklyn, WI. Everyone stayed in Madison and we bused them out there. We had both the ceremony and reception there. The ceremony was upstairs, dinner was downstairs and the dancing was back upstairs. There were lots of candles, paper lanterns, California wines and Wisconsin beers. The ceremony was made up of Sigur Ros music with a bit of Iron & Wine. And then we partied all night to your typical dance music. We almost danced that barn down to the ground.

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How does your bouquet reflect your personality?

My bouquet wasn’t your typical wedding bouquet. It wasn’t symmetrical or clean around the edges. It had volume and dimensions. The cabbage was very unexpected and a bit playful, and I think that’s the part that reflected me the most. I grew up on a 10-acre farm outside of Madison (not a working farm, more of a hobby farm) and it was nice to bring some of my farm girl roots into the bouquet.

How did people react to your bouquet?

People loved the cabbage! I got so many comments on it. When I told people I had just bought them at the farmer’s market, everyone was shocked. What bride runs out to the farmer’s market the morning of her wedding to get flowers for her bouquet!? It was too beautiful to throw, so we had to make a fake one to toss.

Who caught it?

My older sister, Emily. A four-year-old caught the garter. The bouquet/garter dance was hilarious to watch!

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For the brides out there who are elbow-deep in peonies and garden roses, any tips you’d like to share?

When it comes to the flowers there are endless options, and so many beautiful ones to pick from. I was overwhelmed. I think it’s important to arm yourself with another person (or two) who really understand your vision and can help make decisions for you. I trusted my sister to just run with my idea and she made my bouquet perfect.

Oh, and find little areas where you can add something unexpected or personal — that’s what makes it really meaningful. And the bouquet is a great place to start. There are so many unique things out there that can bring a bouquet from pretty to astonishing. Don’t be afraid to spice it up! Be unique, playful and personal with it.

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What did the bouquet mean to you? And why do bouquets matter?

My entire wedding was a bit out of the ordinary. There were cows…it was in a barn…but it was elegant, very elegant. We were aiming for barnyard chic! My bouquet spoke to my farm girl roots, but was also very classy and elegant.

Flowers help add beauty to a wedding, no matter where it takes place. The bouquet is an important accessory. Brides spend so much money and time getting the perfect look for the wedding — hair, make-up, shoes, dress, the list goes on. And the perfect bouquet can really enhance her look. It’s the icing on the cake. It’s a chance for the bride to say something about herself. I think it’s hard to go wrong with flowers, and the bouquet doesn’t have to be complex or expensive to be stunning.

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