Top 6 Things I Don’t Regret Spending Money on for Our Wedding

One of the biggest challenges of planning a wedding can be the myriad of options you have for pretty much everything. And as much as you may want the best of the best in every category, most people in the world operate on a limited budget, which means you’re going to have to be selective about which things to spend more money on and which ones to DIY or find a cheaper alternative.

So, what things are worth putting at the top of your list? Obviously the list will vary for each individual based on personal preference, but I feel quite strongly about mine and would not hesitate to tell any bride to consider putting more of their budget toward the specific things listed below. Keep in mind that this is NOT a list of “what is most important” on my wedding day – that would be a very different list! This is just a list of the top 6 things I am glad I spent a bit more money on as opposed to finding the cheapest option available.

1. Photographer:

I love photography and looking at beautiful, artistic photos. Great photographers are hard to find, especially at an affordable rate. I looked through a LOT of portfolios for different photographers and rejected most of them for two main reasons – poor composition (no artistic perspectives, boring shots, bad poses, lacking in variety, looks like anyone can take take these with their phone) and poor color (too yellow, too dull, too unnatural, bad lighting). If there’s ever time to hire a great photographer to capture a special occasion, it’s on your wedding day.

I finally found my top three choices. One of them was way out of our budget (the starting price was $10,000!! I think she shoots Hollywood weddings), one was already booked the day of our wedding, but one was available and at a price we could afford! Thank you, Gregory Woodman of Woodman Weddings! He and his wife run their business and their portfolio showcased excellent compositions and fantastic colors and lighting. The photos we received from our wedding day absolutely met our very high expectations. Check out a few of them:

Gregory so wonderfully captured the beauty of our wedding day and I will enjoy going through all of our pictures over and over again.

So if you want to enjoy looking at beautiful photos from your wedding day for the rest of your life, do yourself a favor and hire a fantastic photographer who is dedicated to their craft. People who are very passionate about their photography will often go above and beyond to get that perfect shot. Our photographer was so committed that he jumped into a river to get us shots like this (I’m exaggerating, he climbed onto some rocks in the middle of a creek):

Photo credit: Gregory Woodman


2. Professional Hair and Makeup:

Before our wedding, I would have never thought that this would be one of the top things on the list. I mean, I do my hair and makeup all the time when I go to formal events and it’s not that hard, so why not do it myself or ask a friend to do it on my wedding day and save several hundred dollars? I debated for a while but BOY am I glad I hired a professional. She did a much better job than I could have done, and at twice the speed too. Your wedding day look will affect every single picture that you will be in and it’s not a crime to want to look stunning that day.

If you want to look your absolute best for one of the most important days of your life, hiring an excellent professional makeup artist and hair stylist is the way to go. My number one tip for finding a good one is to look at their online portfolio before you hire them to see if you love their work. I found mine by asking my cousin (who looked gorgeous on her wedding day) who her stylist was. That stylist was part of a network of other stylists, so I found mine by comparing all of their portfolios and prices.

The woman I picked was amazing and there was no way that I or any of my friends could have done what she did. Now I understand why there are professional stylists in the world. I paid for an hour long hair and makeup trial session with her a few weeks before the wedding (I also recommend doing that if you can) and during the session she crafted my hair into a number of different styles so that I could compare them and see which ones I liked most (they all looked really nice). What was impressive was that she was SO FAST and her hair and makeup work was beautiful, flawless, and very adaptable. Did I want tighter curls or looser curls? More volume or less volume? Did I want the makeup to be more bold or more natural? She even told me that if I couldn’t decide yet how I wanted my hair done, I could make that decision on the day of the wedding and we would have time to try different hair styles. Impressive.

I definitely recommend hiring a talented professional hair and makeup artist for your wedding day. As an added bonus, you get to just sit and relax while you get beautified, rather than worry about whether the back of your head looks right or if you will be able to finish everything on time.

3. Wedding Dress

I’ve never been the kind of girl to dream about her perfect wedding dress because white wedding dresses seemed rather boring to me. I love color so I had seriously considered getting a vibrant blue ball gown to wear on my wedding day (something along the lines of the stained-glass style gown that a certain model wore to the 2018 Met Gala but without the leg slits and sheer fabric). And before the mid-1800’s, white wasn’t even a common color for wedding dresses (Sarah Edwards, the wife of pastor Jonathan Edwards, notably wore a “pea green” dress on her wedding day in the 1700’s).

However, I finally decided to get a white dress because Revelation 19:7-8 says, “…the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and purefor the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.” The ultimate purpose of marriage is to be an illustration of the relationship between Jesus Christ and his church (see Ephesians chapter 5). The word pure in this passage has the connotation of clean, unsoiled, guiltless, and innocent, and that purity can only be given to someone who has had their sins forgiven by God through receiving Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

Isaiah 1:18 talks about God making the scarlet sins of his people white as snow and Revelation 7:14 talks about Christians who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb (Jesus), because the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross cleanses us from all our sin and unrighteousness. Since white is the symbolic color of purity in the Bible, and since the bride of Christ is clothed in “pure linen” I figured white would be a poignant color to wear on my wedding day. So no blue wedding dress for me! Even though it would have been totally okay to get a colored dress (go for it, if you want).

Whatever color you decide on for your wedding dress, I highly recommend getting a dress that you love and are excited to wear. I liked many dresses that I tried on, but when I put on the one I ended up buying, I knew it was the one. It was very much my style – a combination of modern bold shapes and dramatic lines while still being simple, classic, and soft. Lucky for me, it had just arrived in the store the day before I got there (it was supposed to be a sample dress for “next year’s collection”) so when I tried it on it was still brand new and fit me perfectly! It cost a pretty penny but it was worth every cent since I loved it so much! Here’s me in the dress on our wedding day:


So whether it’s borrowed, rented, bought at a thrift store, gently used off the rack, brand-new or couture, get a dress that you really love and not just “like” because it’s your wedding day! And actually, I think the same attitude should apply to clothes that you buy on a regular basis. We live in a day and age with so many options – for wedding gowns and regular clothes – so the clothes you love probably cost similarly to the clothes you like, which means you would save money (and closet space) by only selectively buying the clothes you love instead of a whole bunch of outfits that you would rank a 7 instead of 10. Stop buying clothes you don’t really love just because they’re cheap or on sale – save that money for an outfit you really enjoy. Rather than quote Marie Kondo, I will quote my husband, who says, “It is better to get one shirt that you love than nine shirts that you like.”

4. Wedding Venue:

Ultimately, a wedding is not about the aesthetics of everything but is about the celebration of the permanent covenant that two people are making to become one in marriage. However, a beautiful venue can very much complement and honor the beauty of the covenant you are making because beauty reflects the glory of God, who is the creator of all things lovely.

Our wedding venue was one of the things that my husband and I are both glad we spent a bit more money on. Originally he was thinking of having our wedding at a church, which I was not against (we are Christians after all). But my main issue with some church weddings is that outdoor lighting is often much better than indoor lighting (which can be a bit yellow and dark), and I think nature is a beautiful backdrop for such a special occasion. And getting married in nature isn’t any less spiritually focused than getting married in a church – the first wedding in human history happened in an outdoor garden after all (see Genesis chapter 2). I’ve always wanted to have an outdoor wedding and when we visited this venue, we both loved it and it was affordable – so we booked it!

Our wedding venue. Photo credit: Gregory Woodman

You don’t have to break the bank to get married in a beautiful location, whether you choose indoors or outdoors. Do your research. Some venues are cheaper at certain times of the year during their “off season” and many venues cost less on days that are not as in-demand. We got married on a Friday because Saturday or Sunday would have cost significantly more. We also attended a wedding once that was in someone’s backyard, and it was very nice.

Just remember that if you choose an indoor location, pay careful attention to the lighting (the source, the strength, and the color) when you visit the venue. And if you want to get married outdoors, remember to consider the weather and have a Plan B in case of rain or high winds.

5. Videographer:

I had never considered having a videographer document our wedding because they seemed too expensive on top of everything else. But my husband thought it would be a great idea so I let him run with it. To my surprise, he found one on Craigslist with a good portfolio and at an amazing price. Since his price was significantly cheaper than what some of my friends paid for their wedding videographers, I had pretty low expectations for his work. But he REALLY surprised me and far exceeded my expectations. I think he was also very intense about his craft, so his excellence and artistry came through in the video. My husband and I love re-watching our wedding day video (and short highlight reel) and reliving all the special moments. I am so thankful that my husband found this guy to record all of them!

So if you can afford it, get a videographer. Especially if you can find one at a great price.

6. Bridal Bouquet:

Planning our wedding was like working on a massive art project. I really enjoyed planning all the details and had decided to DIY many things (some of which I had help from friends) to save money and just to have some creative fun. All that DIY was completely worth it and I loved the results but it took a lot of time, energy, and coordination so one of the things I wanted to outsource was my bridal bouquet. I wanted it to look fresh and perfect the day of the wedding and knew I wouldn’t have time to make it with everything else I was doing (which included creating the floral decor and bridesmaid bouquets from flowers I ordered).

I actually designed my bridal bouquet and gave very detailed instructions to our florist on how it should look (see my post here about how I designed it). Since I had never made a bouquet that structured before, I figured it would be best for an expert to do it. I probably gave the florist a headache with how specific my directions were but I am so glad I had them construct it, because they followed my directions to a T and it came out perfect and exactly like how I had imagined.

Whether you decide to make your own bouquets, floral accessories, and decor or hire a florist to do it is entirely up to you. Just know that if you do it all yourself, it is actually a lot of work and cannot be done too far in advance because of the nature of fresh flowers. And then you have to keep them looking nice until the day of the wedding by keeping them cold, feeding them flower food, changing the water, and misting them. And then you have to get them to the venue and set up the day of the wedding (thanks, friends and family!). Looking back, I am still glad I DIY’ed so many of the bouquets and floral pieces because they were gorgeous and it would have been way out of budget to hire a florist to do it all. But it did add significant stress to the days right before the wedding, so I’m glad I at least hired a florist construct my own bouquet. Here it is:

CB 162


And that concludes the list of the top 6 things I do not regret spending money on for our wedding! If you have a wedding coming up, I hope my opinions were helpful to you for the planning of your big day. Have fun planning!

Wedding Program – Marriage & the Gospel

Photo Credit: Gregory Woodman

One of the things I was most looking forward to in wedding planning was making the program. When I was single, I never daydreamed about what my wedding dress would look like; however, over the years I had accumulated a mental list of Bible passages that I really wanted to be read on my future wedding day.

When I got engaged to my now-husband, I told him that one of my biggest dreams for our wedding was to write a coherent narrative weaving all of these passages together and to have it read as part of the ceremony. I knew my list of passages was much longer than the usual wedding readings so I was afraid he would say no but he cheerfully agreed (especially after I prefaced my request with “please don’t say no” and “it would mean a lot to me” and looked at him with my most pleading puppy dog eyes).

I really wanted to have the narrative tell the story of the gospel (the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ) as seen through the lens of marriage. Writing this out was one of the most enjoyable parts of wedding planning and it also helped me to reflect on God’s good design and purposes for marriage as I was planning my own wedding.

We asked four of our bridesmaids and groomsmen to take turns reading each section of the narrative during the ceremony before our pastor gave his message. The whole text was in the wedding program so that guests could read along and take it home as well. It was a dream come true to finally write this out, to hear all of the passages read on our wedding day, and to share it with all of our guests.

Those pages from the program are below (I used redwood trees to represent page numbers, since we were married in a forest of redwoods):









In case the pictures do not load, here are the readings in plain text:

Man and Woman Created in The Image of God

In the beginning when God made the world, God created the first man and woman in His image to reflect who He is. God made humans to reflect Him in our character, our relationships, our work and our creativity. So on the 6th day of creation, God said:

“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
(Genesis 1:26-27)

The First Marriage

This next passage invites us to see more of God’s thoughts and intentions as He created Adam and Eve. On that day, God also set marriage into place. It’s amazing how marriage is so important to God that He created it on the same day He made humans. After creating Adam, God said:

“It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
(Genesis 2:18-24)

The Fall – Sin and Death

We just saw that God created marriage for companionship. However, the newly married couple weren’t in Eden for long before they were deceived by Satan and sinned by rebelling against God and eating from the forbidden tree. This caused sin to enter the world. The Bible teaches us that God made us to be in relationship with Him but sin separates us from God. The book of Romans tells us that

“the wages of sin is death”
(Romans 6:23)

and that “just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned…”
(Romans 5:12)

Psalm 14 also tells us that everybody is a sinner:

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds; there is none who does good. The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.
(Psalm 14:1-3)

Reconciliation to God through Jesus Christ

Since God is holy, just, and perfectly good, He cannot be in the presence of sin. However, God in His great kindness did not abandon us to our sins. Even though we deserve eternal separation from Him, God provided a way for us to be reconciled to Him while satisfying His justice at the same time.

“By sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us…”
(Romans 8:3-4)

Jesus Christ was the Son of God who lived a perfectly righteous life and never sinned. He laid down His life by being executed on a Roman cross so that He could take on the punishment for our sins and in exchange give us His righteousness so that we could be forgiven by God and live in His presence forever. Jesus rose from the dead on the third day and those who believe in Him will also be resurrected from the dead to live with God forever.

The Bible tells us that “there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.”
(Romans 3:23-25)

Jesus said that “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
(John 14:6)

Jesus’ friend and disciple John also tells us that “God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.”
(1 John 5:11-12)

God Designed Marriage to be a Picture of the Relationship between Christ and the Church

Because of what Jesus has done on the cross, those who believe in Him now have peace with God and with one another. We are now called to live in response to God’s love and gift of salvation. This next passage exhorts all Christians to honor God and then specifically commands husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church, and wives to submit to and respect their husbands. We learn that from the very beginning God actually designed marriage to be a beautiful picture of the relationship between Christ and the church. A marriage lived in this way, with the husband loving his wife sacrificially and always desiring what is best for her, and the wife submitting to his loving and sacrificial leadership, paints the best picture of this. Ephesians 5 reads:

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil… be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.’
(Ephesians 5:15-33)

Jesus Rejoices over His Bride

This next passage from Isaiah uses the beauty of marriage to paint a picture of God’s love for His people. In the original context, this passage refers to the covenant relationship between God and the people of Israel, but as we learn from the Bible, all non-Jews who believe in Jesus are grafted into the people of God, and therefore we all share equally in God’s love. There is neither Jew nor Gentile anymore because we are all one in Christ Jesus and the true bride of Christ is the church. So listen as God uses the picture of marriage to illustrate His love toward His covenant people:

You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate, but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; for the Lord delights in you, and your land shall be married. For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your sons marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.
(Isaiah 62:3-5)

Jesus’ Marriage to His People

This next passage from the book of Hosea speaks of God’s mercy toward unfaithful Israel and the wooing back of His bride, as well as God’s future marriage to His people.

“Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her… “And in that day,” declares the Lord, “you will call me ‘my husband’; you will no longer call me ‘my master.’ …In that day I will make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, the birds in the sky and the creatures that move along the ground. Bow and sword and battle I will abolish from the land, so that all may lie down in safety. I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the Lord.
(Hosea 2:14-20)

The Marriage Supper of the Lamb

We catch a glimpse of this eventual marriage between God and His people in the book of Revelation. This final, ultimate wedding day is still yet to come. But Jesus’ disciple, John, was given a vision of it and describes it as follows:

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure” —for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”
(Revelation 19:6-9)

God with Us

What does the marriage between Christ and His people look like, you might ask? This is what John records in the book of Revelation:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
(Revelation 21:1-4)

How to Live Before We See Jesus

What a great future we have to look forward to! But before that ultimate marriage between Christ and His people, we are still here on earth to tell others of the good news of salvation through Jesus, and to display God’s beauty through our lives, relationships, and especially through our marriages. The apostle Paul tells us that we must now no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. Instead, Paul teaches us to:

[P]ut off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
(Ephesians 4:17-32)

Holistic Love

A key part of a beautiful marriage is to simply obey Jesus’ command to love God, and to love your neighbor as yourself. A scribe in Israel once asked Jesus which commandment is the most important of all. In Mark chapter 12, Jesus answered,

“The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
(Mark 12:28-3)

In order to have a marriage that is beautiful to God, the most important thing __ and Connie can do to is to love God first with all that they are, and then to love the other person as themselves. We learn from this passage that the faculties used to love deeply are the heart, soul, mind, and body. These are what Connie and __ are to love God with, and they are to love each other with the same faculties. They are to love and honor each other with their hearts, with their minds, with their souls, and with their strength. The deepest love is holistic; it is a love that comes from all that we are.

What Love Looks Like

The following passage from 1 Corinthians 13 describes what love does and does not look like and speaks of the surpassing value of love. As we just learned, love is not just an emotion; but neither is it just action. It is holistic and involves our attitudes and our hearts along with our actions. Paul writes:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.

As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away… For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
(1 Corinthians 13:1-13)

How to Love Well

This next passage from the book of Romans paints a glorious picture of genuine love:

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
(Romans 12:9-21)

Our Only Debt

Next, we are told the only debt that Christians are to owe one another:

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
(Romans 13:8-10)

A Work in Progress

These last two passages serve as an encouragement to __ and Connie that they are both works in progress, but by God’s grace, they are growing every day to love God and love each other more and more. God is the one who ultimately continues to transform them into the beautiful image of His Son, and He will one day complete that work when they see Him face-to face. Paul writes the following to the church at Corinth:

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
(2 Cor 3:17-18)

Paul also writes to the church in Philippi:

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
(Philippians 1:6)

How I Designed My Wedding Floral Decor (Designing Wedding Flowers: Part 3/3)

Photo Credit: Gregory Woodman of Woodman Weddings

Welcome to the last post of my 3 part mini-series on designing flowers for my wedding. Parts 1 and 2 were about designing my bridal and bridesmaids’ bouquets; this one is on designing the floral decor for the wedding.

There are a lot of paths you can take when designing floral decor; rather than discussing every option, I will simply describe what I decided to do, how I went about it, and any tips, tricks or difficulties encountered along the way. I hope this is helpful for any brides-to-be looking for some ideas on how to DIY decor. Please refer to Part 2 of this series for my tips on ordering flowers and how to take care of them before the wedding.


I really wanted flowers all along both sides of the wedding aisle as well as floral centerpieces for the dinner tables so I decided to create some pieces that could be used for both. To do that, I decided to put some flowers and greenery in quart mason jars, have them hung up onto chairs along the aisle with ribbons, and then have the ribbons cut off when the pieces get moved to the tables for dinner. See the photo above for a close-up of one of these pieces.

If you want to do the same, here are some tips that I have:

A. Look up “frog mason jar lids” and buy or make them to keep the flowers and greenery in perfect place. This also keeps the flowers in place when you change out the water. I bought some welded wire mesh from Home Depot (with 1/2″ or 3/4″ holes) and used the flat part of the mason jar canning lid to trace circles onto the mesh with sharpie and used wire clippers to cut the circle out. Then I placed it onto the top of the mason jar and topped it off with the hollow part of the canning lid, which was screwed into place to keep the mesh secure. My friend, Jaclyn, actually did most of the work tracing and cutting – I probably only made two of the lids. Her very generous wedding gift to me was helping me with some of my DIY projects as well as being my day of coordinator and setup/take-down coordinator. Thanks, Jaclyn! I don’t know what I would have done without you!

You can see two of my frog mason jar lids at the bottom of this picture, behind the flowers and eucalyptus

B. Wrap wire very tightly around the mason jar, right under the lip, as seen in the picture below. Create a 1/2″ diameter loop with the wire on both sides of the jar (use pliers) – you will tie the ribbon around these loops. I folded the loops up toward the lid after the ribbons were tied. If you just use ribbon to tie around the jar instead of wire, the jar may slide out of the ribbon and fall to the ground (ribbons are slippery!). The wire makes everything must sturdier.


C. Make sure you remember to change out the water and add flower food as needed, to keep the flowers fresh and to keep bacteria from growing, if you are making these a few days in advance. My then-fiance and I unscrewed the lids and removed the lids together with the flowers to change the water once.

D. Consider the color of the ribbon and the color of the chairs or hooks you will be hanging the pieces off of. If hanging from chairs, make sure the chairs have a place for you to hang them. I requested white chairs so I used translucent white ribbon in order to not draw attention to the ribbon.

E. Remove the guard petals of the roses (if you are using roses) either the day before the wedding or have someone do it during or before setup. My friend, Lyndsay, removed them during setup.

F. Remember to have someone cut the ribbons off for you after the ceremony, if you plan to use them as table centerpieces. Also let your setup team know where exactly they should place the flowers after the ceremony (I gave Jaclyn a detailed diagram of all the tables with all decor locations marked on it).

Photo Credit: Gregory Woodman


A. Make sure all stems are submerged a few inches in the water, especially the greenery. When my friends and I were sticking the eucalyptus into the jars, I didn’t realize that half the eucalyptus stems we put in were above the water, even though the rose stems touched the bottom of the jars. I later took out all the eucalyptus and cut off the leaves along the bottom few inches of the stem to be able to stuff them deeper into the jar so they could drink the water.

B. Assuming you are hanging these off of chairs, designate someone on the day of your wedding to make sure no guests drape their jackets over the flowers. Your coordinator will probably be busy, so I’d ask someone else. I did not think to do this and one guest apparently did not see the flowers and put her jacket over the entire chair, including over the mason jar of flowers. Oh well.



I wanted flower petals scattered along the grassy aisle so my florist friend, Lyndsay, helped me pluck the petals off a bunch of spray roses the night before my wedding. She also made the boutonnieres for the groomsmen that night. Keep the rose petals and boutonnieres in the refrigerator and make sure they don’t get left behind when everything is being transported to the venue.

Photo Credit: Gregory Woodman



Since the tables at my wedding were long picnic benches, I wanted additional floral decor besides the mason jar flowers. So I gathered a variety of vases, glass bottles, and lanterns and filled them with flowers and eucalyptus. Lyndsay and one of my bridesmaids, Ashley, came over to help me stuff them with flowers (Lyndsay put flowers into the lanterns during setup on the actual wedding day). I was very thankful for their help because all of the bouquets and floral decor ended up being a lot of work! It was worth it though, and it all came together beautifully:

Photo Credit: Gregory Woodman



Last, but not least, the Sweetheart Table. My florist friend, Lyndsay, did all of the work for this. All I did was send her a few pictures of the look I was generally going for and hand her the garden shears and the buckets of roses and eucalyptus that I allocated for the Sweetheart Table. She put all of this together on the day of the wedding during setup and went above and beyond my expectations. Thank you, Lyndsay, you did an amazing job!

Photo Credit: Gregory Woodman


I want to mention three more things:

A. Transferring all of these bouquets, decor pieces, and additional flowers to the venue is not an easy or simple task. Have a plan for how you want this done and discuss it with the people who will be helping you. I discussed the plan with my friend, Jaclyn (who was my day of coordinator), and put her in charge of getting everything to the venue on the day of the wedding. I was very blessed to have a team of friends to help me out with all of this.

B. Since guests were sending wedding gifts to my place before the wedding, I saved all of the bubble wrap from these packages for wrapping around all of the mason jars and vases so that they could be carried around in boxes without breaking or tipping over. I used tape to turn the bubble wrap into protective “koozies.”

C. You need to have a setup game plan and discuss that with your coordinator or whoever you put in charge of setup so that they know exactly where each item should go, and when they should put it there.


And there you have it! That is how I designed my bridal bouquet, bridesmaids’ bouquets, and floral decor for my wedding. Looking back, it was a LOT of work but it was fun and totally worth it. My husband tells me that wedding planning was like a giant art project for me, and I completely agree. Designing the floral pieces was a very rewarding project and I enjoy looking back at all of the beautiful photos and remembering our special day.


How I Designed My Bridesmaids’ Bouquets (Designing Wedding Flowers: Part 2/3)


Photo Credit: Gregory Woodman of Woodman Weddings

This is the second post of a three part mini-series on my process of designing the flowers for my wedding. Part 1 describes how I designed my bridal bouquet.

In this post, I will delve into how I designed my bridesmaids’ bouquets. I hope describing my process helps any brides-to-be out there who are DIYing their wedding flowers!

How to Design Your Bridesmaids’ Bouquets:


First, choose the dresses that your bridesmaids will wear. I didn’t make any final floral decisions for the bridesmaids until their dresses were ordered, because the bouquets needed to complement the color of their dresses. For tips on how to choose your bridesmaids’ dresses, see my post here.



Decide what you want your own bouquet to look like before designing the bridesmaids’ bouquets, which should complement yours. See Part 1 for tips and suggestions.



As I have already discussed in Part 1 of this series, using color in the bouquets to differentiate the bride from the bridesmaids is more effective than using size. Part of the reason I think some brides don’t stand out as much is because their bouquets are too big. I can’t admire your dress if you keep blocking my view with a huge wad of flowers.

To use color in the bouquets to draw the eye to the bride, I suggest using some bright or dramatic colors in the bride’s bouquet (or even just one color) and leaving those colors out of the bridesmaids’ bouquets. The colors in the bridesmaids’ bouquets should be in yours though, so that they still “match” with you and you all look cohesive together.

Here’s how I did it: My bouquet was an “ombre” color fade from white to red (see Part 1 for details). The middle of the bouquet was a mix of pale, medium, and medium-dark pinks, so I chose those pinks to be in the bridesmaids’ bouquets. And since the flowers in my bouquet mostly consisted of a variety of roses, I chose three different roses for their bouquets to match those colors and to create different textures. I also love the look of seeded eucalyptus and originally wanted them in my own bouquet, but since I decided on a different design, I gave the eucalyptus to my bridesmaids instead. I must say, the silvery green of the eucalyptus looks fantastic with the pinks in their bouquets and with their mauve-pink dresses (see picture below).

My biggest concern was that since I had not seen the bridesmaid dresses in person (they were coming to everyone through the mail since they were ordered online), I was afraid that the flowers I chose would be too similar in color to their dresses. I didn’t want their bouquets to “blend into” their dresses; rather, I wanted their bouquets to stand out and be lighter and brighter in color. Thankfully, the dresses were the perfect color!

My bridesmaids’ bouquets next to mine!



Now that you know what colors you want, it is time to choose the flowers. Keep in mind that many flowers are seasonal so they may not be available year-round (and even if they are, they may be more expensive certain times of the year). Check out Pinterest and online flower vendors to determine what flowers you like and which ones fit your color scheme. Order enough flowers for all bouquets, boutonnieres, and floral decor that you are making.

Assuming that you are making these items yourself, you have a few options for where to source the flowers from:

A) You can order them online (which tends to be more expensive, but less expensive than hiring a florist to do all the work for you, and you will have a larger variety of flowers to choose from);

B) You can order them from a local florist (prices can vary);

C) You can order them from a local flower mart if you happen to live near one (possibly the cheapest option); or

D) You can just go to a local store or flower mart and buy what flowers are available a few days before your wedding (which can be stressful, as there are no guarantees about what will be available, and the flowers may not be as fresh).

I ended up ordering most of my flowers online, because the prices the local florists quoted were much higher. I partially wish I had known about the local flower marts back then, because their prices are cheaper, but then I would have had to deal with the time and effort of transporting them all to my place during a very busy season and it was convenient to just get the flowers directly shipped to me.

I picked up the greenery (seeded eucalyptus, baby blue eucalyptus, and lemon leaf) from a local florist, because they had the best prices. There was a problem with one of the rose types from my online order so they eventually only shipped one dozen instead of two dozen to me. I ended up going to Costco a few days before the wedding and thankfully found a dozen roses that were the perfect shade of pink.

Wherever you decide to get your flowers from, make sure you calculate and plan out when you want to have them, how many of each flower you need for each item you are making, how you plan to keep them fresh, what day you want to make the bouquets, decor, etc, and how you will get them transported to the wedding venue on the day of your wedding. And make sure you choose a reliable source to order fresh flowers from because you need them to last a bit and still look fresh on the day of your wedding.



Before your flowers arrive, start to gather the supplies you will need to assemble your bouquets and decor. These were the supplies that I used for the bouquets:

A. BUCKETS: Have many buckets to keep the flowers in (with fresh water), and a few extra for changing the water later. I got mine from Home Depot.

B. FLOWER FOOD: You will need some sort of flower food to keep them fresh. I got flower food like this from Amazon. When you mix the powder with water and put the stems in, the flowers get energy when they drink the water.

You can make your own flower food but DEFINITELY experiment with several bouquets of flowers before your wedding flowers arrive, because you don’t want to accidentally under-feed or over-feed your flowers. I use a combination of Sprite and water sometimes (but not with my wedding flowers). I have found that Sprite keeps SOME flowers fresh for a very long time, while it causes other flowers to over-open (especially peonies and some garden roses). You really need the perfect amount of sugar to keep the flowers fresh. You can also try mixing up sugar, lemon juice or vinegar, and a little bleach (sugar feeds the flowers, acid helps the roses drink, and bleach kills bacteria).

C. GARDEN SHEARS: Don’t bother using regular scissors with flowers. You will crush your stems (which will hurt their ability to drink water), hurt your hands (unless you are only working with soft-stem ranunculus or similar), and make the process very inefficient. Get nice garden shears to make fast, clean, easy cuts. These are the shears that I own.

D. FLORAL TAPE: Use floral tape to construct bouquets, boutonnieres, etc.

E. PINS: Get some corsage pins for the bouquets and boutonnieres. I used them to pin the ribbons in place after wrapping the bouquets with ribbons.

F. RIBBONS: Get some ribbons for wrapping around the finished bouquets, so that your bridesmaids can hold them with comfort. I got some thick green ribbon from Michaels that matched the color of the stems, because I didn’t want the ribbon to distract from the color of the flowers, but you can use colors that match the bridesmaid dresses or other wedding colors.

G. SPRAY BOTTLE: I recommend using a spray bottle to keep your flowers even fresher by misting them with water a few times a day.

H. KNIFE: I used a knife to remove the rose thorns, but you can also use garden shears or a thorn stripper.

I. OTHER SUPPLIES: Depending on what you are making, you may need other supplies that I have not mentioned (like if you are making flower crowns, for example). Do some research to figure out what additional supplies you will need for your project.



When your flowers arrive, cut 1/4 – 1/2″ off the bottom of the stems at a 45 degree angle and put them in the buckets with fresh water and flower food immediately. Don’t overcrowd the buckets. If you ordered the flowers online, follow their instructions on how to revive them. I like to the cut the stems underwater to prevent air bubbles from forming in the stems which can hinder water uptake.

I highly recommend keeping your place as cold as possible when your flowers are there, because this will keep them fresh longer. Lightly mist them with water from a spray bottle a few times a day (I used filtered water to prevent mineral buildup). Don’t mist them too much though – you don’t want the petals to stick together or get moldy.

Change the water once every day or two and don’t forget to always include the right amount of flower food. I used filtered water (from my Zero water filter), which might have been overkill (I normally use tap water for flowers), but my flowers DID stay incredibly fresh and opened up perfectly right before the wedding, which is what I had planned. Since those flowers stayed fresh and perfect longer than any cut flowers I have had since then, I am going to assume it was due to all of the extra pampering I gave them, including leaving them in filtered water.

Just remember to NOT let the water get cloudy (bacterial growth is not your friend). You really should change it every day or two. To change the water, fill an empty bucket with the right amount of water and flower food, then move all of the flowers into the new bucket. You can cut the bottom of the stems again each time if you want, in case the bottoms are starting to decay or get clogged from bacteria, but I probably only did this with every other water change.



First, figure out how big you want the bouquets and what exactly you want them to look like. Here is a helpful link describing some different types of bouquets. Once you have decided on the style, if you have never made bouquets before, look up how to do do it on Youtube.

If you have roses, now is the time to de-thorn them. There are different ways to do that as well. I used a non-serrated steak knife to slice away the thorns (be careful to not snap the rose stems when doing this), but you can also use garden shears (which may not get as close to the stem as other methods, but at least it takes away the really sharp thorn point) or a thorn stripper.

I made the bouquets by bunching together a few flowers in the middle, wrapping them with floral tape, and continued to add more flowers and greenery around them while tightly wrapping each addition with more floral tape. Afterwards, I used green ribbon to wrap around the floral tape and stems and a corsage pin to keep the ribbon in place. Then I cut the stems to make sure they were all the same length.

This whole process of caring for flowers and making the bouquets and decor takes a lot of time. Think really hard about whether you really want to be doing this much work right before your wedding. This isn’t something you can do weeks in advance due to the nature of fresh flowers. I made the bouquets a day or two before the wedding.



Continue to keep the bouquets in fresh water with flower food. I continued to use the buckets, but you can keep the bouquets in mason jars if you want. Change the water at least once a day. Keep the place cold.



To match the bridesmaids’ bouquets, I wanted the boutonnieres for the groomsmen to also have seeded eucalyptus and pink spray roses. I originally planned to make them myself but ended up being much busier than I thought I would be the night before the wedding (boutonnieres can’t be made much in advance, since the flowers need to stay out of water once they are made). Luckily for me, one of the friends with me that evening was a florist and graciously accepted the last-minute task of making boutonnieres. I gave her the flowers, floral tape, and corsage pins and let her do her thing. She did a fantastic job (thanks, Lyndsay)!

Remember to keep the boutonnieres in the fridge the night before the wedding, and DON’T FORGET to have them brought to the venue.

Photo Credit: Gregory Woodman



You should have a plan in place to get the flowers transported to the venue at the right time on the day of your wedding. Hopefully you have some friends and family who can help you :). See Part 3 of this series for some flower transport tips.

How to Choose Your Bridesmaids’ Dresses

Bridesmaid Dress_1600
Photo Credit: Gregory Woodman of Woodman Weddings

Once you’ve chosen your dream wedding dress, the hardest part is over! You can now start to think about what you want your bridesmaids to wear when standing by your side to support you on your big day. Here are a few tips on how to choose bridesmaid dresses to complement your wedding dress:


Assuming that your wedding dress is white, choose a neutral color that you love for the bridesmaid dresses. By neutral, I mean not too dark and not too bright. The reason for this is because neutral colors make white stand out the most.

This is all personal preference, but I think that in general, when bridesmaids wear dark colored dresses or very rich colored dresses, the bridesmaids actually stand out the most because those colors are dramatic and kind of sultry, while white dresses tend to look innocent, plain and unassuming in comparison. There’s nothing wrong with the dramatic, sultry look, but if you’re trying to create an overall look that draws the eye to the bride and not away from her, choose a color that makes white stand out and doesn’t make white look “boring” in comparison. Neutral colors look lovely without being overpowering.

As a side note, I chose dark gray as the suit color for the groomsmen, dads, and pastor to contrast with my husband’s black tux.


Give some thought to how you want the bridesmaids’ dress style to complement or contrast with your dress. For me, I chose long column dresses for the bridesmaids that were similar to but not the same as the shape of my dress and that were smooth in the front, to match the smooth front paneling of my dress. I think long dresses are more formal than knee-length dresses, which is why I never considered shorter dresses for them. However, my bridesmaids’ dresses had a very different neckline (high neck) than my dress (deep v-neck) and they had matching necklaces, whereas I chose to not wear a necklace.

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My bridesmaids’ dresses look lovely!


This is a given, but in case some of you are secretly debating in your mind… do not choose ugly bridesmaid dresses to make yourself stand out more. I’ve heard that some ladies do that. It’s not very nice and will only make you stand out as someone who has bad taste. Remember what Jesus said: “Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them.” So unless you want to be assigned an ugly dress yourself, don’t choose ugly dresses for your friends.

Be classy and choose beautiful dresses for your beautiful friends. Just be thoughtful to use color and composition to draw the eye to where you want. Think of it like creating a painting – you don’t surround the focal point of the painting with ugly things to make people focus on what you want. Rather, you create a painting that is beautiful in its entirety and you artfully use color and composition to draw the eye to the focus.

How I Designed My Bridal Bouquet (Designing Wedding Flowers: Part 1/3)

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My wedding day bouquet! Photo credit: Gregory Woodman of Woodman Weddings

I had so much fun designing my bridal bouquet and other floral arrangements for my wedding and wanted to share that experience with you all in case there are any brides-to-be out there wondering whether or not they should DIY their own flowers, and if so, where to start. Here is a little three-part mini series describing my process so that you can have an idea of what it was like for one bride to go through it all. I can’t speak for all brides nor do I believe that my process is one size fits all. However, hopefully this series will give you some ideas to consider and you can decide for yourself if you want to DIY all things floral or outsource some or all of it to others.

For the first part of this series, I will discuss my bridal bouquet, which I LOVED! Every time I look at our wedding photos I remember that day fondly… and I also stare at my bouquet a lot. Fresh flowers don’t last long, but I am thankful for photos that can capture their temporal beauty!

Deciding what the bouquet would look like required a lot more thought than I had anticipated. However, part of the reason this was rather time-consuming is because I am quite detail-oriented, particularly when it comes to aesthetics.  I’ve created the following list to outline my process and hopefully help you in yours:

How to Design Your Bridal Bouquet:


Choose your wedding dress first. I strongly believe that a bridal bouquet should complement the wedding dress and not the other way around. So order or buy your dress before designing your bouquet. Remember to have pictures taken of yourself in the dress so you can look at the pictures when considering the bouquet.


Choose your wedding colors. If you know in general what colors you would like for the wedding party but are not sure how to incorporate them, consider incorporating some into the dresses, some into the tuxes/suits, and some into the flowers (bouquets, boutonnieres, corsages, etc).


Now, with some pictures of yourself in your wedding dress in hand (or in your phone) and colors established, consider the style and structure of your dress and the style and structure of your bouquet and how they will work together (composition). Yes, we are getting artsy here. I have a background in art so forgive me if I use some foreign terms.

Let me use my own dress as an example. Originally I thought I wanted a huge, whimsical bouquet with a lot of different types of flowers and greenery.  I couldn’t wait to plan my wedding so that I could finally have The Bouquet of My Dreams. However, the more I considered the dress I had chosen, the more I realized that the bouquet in my mind would not work well with the dress.  I really liked how clean-cut, modern, and minimalistic the front paneling and silhouette of my dress was, and a large whimsical bouquet would cover up or distract from the simple and sleek look of the dress.

I had also considered a cascading bouquet, but since I liked the clean, smooth drop of the front of the dress, I decided on a round bouquet to contrast with and highlight the vertical drop.  And although the “organically round” bouquets are very beautiful (like the ones with eucalyptus or other greenery sticking out of it), I figured a bouquet that was precisely round would work better with the structure and crisp lines of the dress. So consider how you want your bouquet to complement your dress and how you want the two to work together!

Me in my dress!


Consider the color(s) of your bouquet and bridesmaid bouquets. Most wedding photos I have seen usually have the bridal bouquet look very similar to the bridesmaid bouquets, except the bride’s is bigger. I personally think having the colors of the bridal bouquet be a bit different from the bridesmaid bouquets is a better contrast than size and draws the eye to the bride instead of the bridesmaids. See my next point on size for why I believe this.

As I mentioned in my post Top 6 Things I Don’t Regret Spending Money on for Our Wedding (post coming soon), I had considered wearing a colored gown on my wedding day, but finally decided to stick with the traditional white dress. With a white dress, however, I was craving bold and vibrant colors and really wanted to add some to the bouquet. Originally, I was going to have a bouquet intermixed with the different colors I had chosen for the wedding party but that seemed too visually chaotic for the simple and structured look I was going for. I finally understood why British royals like Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle went with small bouquets of white flowers for their wedding day – the bouquets drew the focus to their dresses, not to the flowers. So I considered a white bouquet for a while. But I really wanted my bouquet to drip with color.

Then inspiration hit. What if I designed the bouquet so that it looked like it was literally dripping with color? If it had a color gradient, the bouquet would have both structure and vertical movement (which would complement the structure and movement of the dress) while also providing vibrant color. Yes! I did a quick internet search but couldn’t find many bouquets that had a gradient to them at the time (although now there seems to be more of them).

Nevertheless, I went to work designing it using the wedding colors I had established. The color fade would start with white at the top to provide a natural transition from my dress to the flowers and to match with my husband’s white boutonniere. Then soft golden peach would follow, which is also the color I chose for the boutonnieres of my fathers, grandfather, and pastor. Then came light pink, medium pink, and medium-dark pink. These pinks were the colors I chose for the bridesmaids bouquets and groomsmen boutonnieres. I also wanted pink and peach for the corsages of my mothers and grandmothers. Lastly, the bouquet faded into bright red and then dark red / burgundy. The bright red was my color only, but the burgundy matched with the groomsmen’s ties and the dresses of my mother and mother-in-law.

By this point, I had decided to hire a florist to take care of all the corsages, half the boutonnieres, and to put together my bridal bouquet, because I would be too busy making the bridesmaids bouquets and the rest of the wedding floral decor. So without very many helpful photos, I wrote highly detailed instructions to the florist on exactly how I wanted the bouquet constructed, what specific colors to use (we worked together to finalize the flowers – I wanted mostly roses but with different forms/types to create different textures), and how to organically weave the colors together. I probably gave them a headache with all of my detailed directions but they patiently and kindly followed them to a T and the bouquet was perfect, EXACTLY like I had envisioned it in my mind. I am so glad I hired them to construct my bouquet! If you’re going to hire someone to put together your design, find a florist you trust and communicate with them to make sure they understand your directions.

5. SIZE:

Consider the size of your bouquet. Think hard about this one. In many of the Pinterest wedding photos I have seen, the bride is holding a very large and beautiful bouquet in front of her. The flowers are stunning, but do you know what I don’t notice? The bride’s dress. Her dress is merely a white background to gorgeous flowers. A large bouquet can cover up her entire upper body, depending on how it is held.

Wedding dresses are very expensive and after all the time you spent trying to pick out the perfect dress, do you really want to obscure it with a huge bouquet? Huge all-white bouquets are even worse, especially when the bride is surrounded by bridesmaids. The bride ends up looking like The Big Fluffy White Thing in the middle, while the bridesmaids look cool and elegant in their colorful dresses, completely unobscured because their bouquets are so small.

In general, I recommend a bridal bouquet with a diameter smaller than the width of your waist. If you’re still not convinced, again, look up the wedding photos of Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle. Those were royal weddings and you know what bouquets they chose? Tiny, simple white ones. And do you know what stands out in the pictures? Their faces and their dresses.

The only two exceptions I would make are:

A) If you really want a huge bouquet, go for it! Don’t let me stop you. Big bouquets are gorgeous. You can always take pictures while holding the bouquet at your side, or without holding it at all.

B) If you can make the composition work in favor of your dress, go for it. I was a bridesmaid in a wedding where the bride wore an A-line gown and carried a huge horizontally-shaped bouquet. She carried it quite low so it didn’t block her upper body and the horizontal composition of the bouquet complemented and contrasted well with her dress. Just keep in mind that a huge bouquet is very heavy and you will need to hold it for a while (I held my friend’s bridal bouquet in addition to my own bridesmaid bouquet for a large part of the ceremony and got quite the arm workout).

And there you have it! That is how I designed my bridal bouquet and some things you should consider when designing yours. Part 2 of this series on designing my bridesmaids’ bouquets is here.

Tartar Sauce Recipe


Connie’s Coronavirus Cooking Chronicles – Recipe 6 – Tartar Sauce

It took a bit of experimenting to get this tartar sauce recipe the way I like it, but I finally came up with a recipe that I love! It is sweet due to the sweet relish but also tangy due to the lemon juice.  Feel free to add some salt too if you would like. This tartar sauce recipe is perfect for homemade crab cakes, fish and chips, and other seafood dishes. The recipe for crab cakes is here.

Tartar Sauce


  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp + 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 6 tbsp sweet relish
  • 1 tbsp + 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 to 2 tbsp minced shallot (use 2 tbsp for a stronger onion flavor) (red onions will also work, try 1 tbsp first and increase if desired)
  • salt, to taste (optional)


  1. Mix all ingredients together. You have tartar sauce!

Crab Cakes Recipe


Connie’s Coronavirus Cooking Chronicles – Recipe 5 – Crab Cakes

Crab cakes are usually pretty expensive at restaurants. However, did you know that they are actually very easy to make and cost just a fraction of the price if you make them at home?

For my husband’s birthday, I made him a crab cake birthday cake (pictured above) since he isn’t a fan of regular cake. Instead of frosting, we had homemade tartar sauce with it. My recipe for crab cakes is below and the tartar sauce recipe is here.

Crab Cakes


  • 1 lb crab meat
  • 2 eggs
  • 2.5 tbsp mayo
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp Old Bay seasoning
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 cup celery, minced
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped (or 1.5 tbsp dried parsley, with 1 tsp water stirred into the mixture before adding panko)
  • 1/2 cup panko (gluten free panko also works, if you need it to be gluten free)
  • olive oil


  1. Whisk the eggs in a bowl.
  2. Add the mayo, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, Old bay, salt, and pepper and mix well.
  3. Add the celery and parsley and mix.
  4. Add the panko and gently mix until compbined.
  5. Add the crab meat and gently fold until combined.
  6. Chill in the refrigerator for a few hours.
  7. Shape into 2.5″ patties (or larger, if you want).
  8. Heat a skillet with a drizzle of oil on medium heat and fry the patties on both sides until cooked through.
  9. Serve with homemade tartar sauce! Recipe is here.

Corn Chowder Recipe


Connie’s Coronavirus Cooking Chronicles – Recipe 4 – Corn Chowder 

Who doesn’t love a good corn chowder? I like that this healthy soup can be made thick and creamy without having to add any heavy cream, although you can add some heavy cream (or milk or cashew cream) at the end if you want.

This recipe is kind of inspired by the corn chowder from Panera although I wouldn’t call it a copycat recipe exactly. It’s perfect for any season – in the winter you can use frozen corn and in the summer you can use fresh corn! I usually make this soup without cheese but you can add some cheese at the end if you want a cheesy soup.

Corn Chowder


  • 8 jalopenos, seeds removed, diced (~2.5 cups)
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 24 oz bag of mini golden potatoes, diced (or 24 oz of diced yellow potatoes – make sure you use potatoes that will hold their shape in soup, like yellow or gold potatoes)
  • 1 lb tomatoes, diced (about 3 tomatoes)
  • 2 lb corn kernels (frozen or fresh)
  • 8 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 2 tsp salt (or more or less, to taste)
  • 2 tbsp arrowroot powder
  • 1 pack of bacon (12 oz) or approx. 1 lb of pork loin, sliced thin (which meat you choose depends on how healthy you want to me 😉 )
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • Optional Ingredients:

  • heavy cream and/or milk and/or cashew cream
  • shredded cheese
  • 1 or 2 bay leaves (if you use, don’t forget to remove them before blending the soup)


  1. In a large pot, saute the onion in a little bit of olive oil until softened.
  2. Add the jalopenos, red bell pepper, garlic, thyme, paprika, and pepper and saute for about a minute.
  3. Add the chicken broth, diced potatoes, diced tomatoes, corn, half the salt, and the bay leaves if using.
  4. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are tender (about 20 minutes).
  5. While the soup is simmering, cook the sliced pork loin in some oil (or cook the bacon). Use scissors or a knife to cut the cooked pork into tiny squares (or crumble the bacon with your hands).
  6. Remove the bay leaves (if using). Turn off the heat. Use an immersion blender to blend some of the soup, until you like the thickness. OR you can transfer 1/3 to 1/2 of the soup to a blender and blend it, then pour the blended soup back into the pot.
  7. Scoop about 2 tbsp of soup into a small bowl. Add the arrowroot powder into this bowl and stir until a slurry is formed. Pour slurry into the soup and stir well.
  8. Put the cut up cooked pork loin or crumbled bacon into the soup.
  9. Bring the soup to a gentle simmer (or 160 degrees).
  10. Add however much milk or heavy cream or cashew cream you want to make the soup creamier or thinner (optional). Add however much cheese you want and stir to melt it into the soup (optional).
  11. Bring the soup back to 160 degrees while stirring. Taste and add more salt, to taste.

Easy Taco Recipe (with Frozen Barbacoa Hack)


Connie’s Coronavirus Cooking Chronicles – Recipe 3 – Tacos 

I am a huge fan of simple, easy, healthy and delicious recipes. This taco recipe definitely falls into all of those categories. I always thought tacos would be a little time-consuming to make because of how many ingredients can go into them but you can actually simplify the ingredients and even pre-cook and freeze some of them ahead of time so that when you crave tacos you can whip them up in no time.

Here are a few taco hacks to save yourself time:

  • Use whole avocados instead of buying or making guacamole
  • Use jarred salsa instead of making salsa from scratch
  • Use ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen, like onions and eggs
  • Pre-cook barbacoa or carnitas ahead of time and freeze it in appropriate portions in zip-loc bags so that you can just reheat the meat in a microwave or skillet instead of having to cook it from scratch. If freezing, I like to add some of the cooking liquid to the bag of meat or freeze the liquid in a separate container and defrost with the meat to prevent the meat from getting dry when reheating, especially in a skillet.
  • Pre-cook some mango “salsa” ahead of time and freeze to defrost later if you want to include it on your tacos. My “salsa” is just diced and cooked mangos. Period. Nothing added. It tastes great on tacos!

The above flavor combination tastes amazing on its own without added cheese, lettuce or sour cream (with or without mango) and is also healthier without all the added fat. However, you can always add these optional ingredients or any other ingredients you may want, especially if you happen to have them on hand when craving tacos. I guess these could be considered breakfast tacos, since they contain eggs. I think they taste great any time of day though!

Easy Tacos


  • tortillas, homemade or store-bought
  • 1 jar salsa (or homemade)
  • 1 onion
  • 1 avocado
  • 2 eggs
  • cooked seasoned meat like ground beef, ground pork, barbacoa, carnitas, etc. (see note 1)
  • Optional Ingredients:

  • mango “salsa” (see note 2)
  • corn
  • beans
  • shredded lettuce
  • shredded cheese
  • sour cream


  1. Open the jar of salsa and set it at your taco station.
  2. Cut and scoop out the inside of the avocado into a bowl. Set at taco station.
  3. Cut onion into slivers and saute with some olive oil until slightly caramelized. Put into a bowl and set at taco station.
  4. Pull cooked meat from the freezer and reheat in a skillet on medium-low heat until heated through (steaming hot). While meat is heating up, scramble the eggs in a bowl. Put cooked meat into a bowl and set at taco station.
  5. Add a little oil into the skillet, heat, and cook the scrambled eggs. Put eggs into a bowl and set at taco station.
  6. Put any other ingredients you may want at the taco station.
  7. Cook the tortillas in the skillet per packaging or recipe instructions.
  8. Assemble your tacos and eat!
  1. Pre-cook seasoned barbacoa or carnitas ahead of time and freeze it in appropriate portions in zip-loc bags so that you can just reheat the meat in a microwave or skillet instead of having to cook it from scratch. If freezing, I like to add some of the cooking liquid to the bag of meat or freeze the liquid in a separate container and defrost with the meat to prevent the meat from getting dry when reheating, especially in a skillet. I will upload my barbacoa recipe some other time and include a link here when I do.
  2. Pre-cook some mango “salsa” ahead of time and freeze to defrost later if you want to include it on your tacos. My “salsa” is just diced and cooked mangos, nothing added.

Avgolemono Soup Recipe


Connie’s Coronavirus Cooking Chronicles – Recipe 2 – Avgolemono Soup (Greek Lemon Chicken Soup)

Avgolemono is one of my all-time favorite soups. It’s fairly simple to make and consists of minimal, healthy ingredients but packs a TON of creamy lemon-chicken flavor. Eggs are used to thicken the soup and make it ultra-creamy without adding cream (although you can add cream too, if you’d like).  The first time I had it was at a local Mediterranean restaurant and almost every subsequent time I went there I would order the Avgolemono soup. However, at $5 a cup, I wanted to learn to make it at home so that I could have it anytime I wanted without the steep price tag. Luckily, it isn’t hard to make at all; however, there are three important tips to follow if you want your soup to taste amazing, which are as follows:

  1. DO NOT SKIP THE LEMON ZEST. Lemon zest is the key ingredient that makes the soup taste deliciously lemony. If you just use lemon juice, you will only get a tiny bit of lemon flavor and the more juice you add, the more sour the soup will be without much of an increase in lemon flavor.
  2. Use a BLENDER when mixing the soup with the eggs. You don’t HAVE to do use a blender but I’ve found it to be the easiest method of tempering eggs without accidentally curdling them (to temper eggs means to slowly heat and mix them into another liquid without changing their texture). I’ve tried tempering by hand and found it very hard to produce a result that is as creamy as tempering by blender. And yes, you HAVE TO temper the eggs. If you just mix them into hot soup without tempering them you will just get egg drop soup. Who wants bits of scrambled eggs in Avgolemono soup? No one.
  3. Use a KITCHEN THERMOMETER to measure the temperature of your soup after adding the blended egg-soup mixture as it continues to cook. Once the temperature reaches 160 or slightly higher, turn off the heat. The eggs are fully cooked at 160 degrees F and will curdle around 170 or 180 degrees F so don’t let the temperature get that high. If you don’t have a kitchen thermometer, you can try to eyeball it (once you see steam coming from the soup, continue to stir and cook for another minute or so and then turn off the heat), but I can’t guarantee that the soup won’t be undercooked (with bacteria still alive) or overcooked (curdled).

The local Mediterranean restaurant that I like adds some heavy cream to their soup, but I’ve found it to be unnecessary since the eggs and rice already make the soup creamy. However, if you want your soup even creamier, thicker, and silkier (not to mention fattier), feel free to add a bit of heavy cream to the soup after adding the egg mixture. Some people prefer using only egg yolks for the soup but I like to use the whole egg. Also, feel free to use white rice or brown rice. White rice is more traditional but brown rice had more fiber. I have some very specific opinions about brown rice, which you can read in the recipe notes below. Lastly, I recommend using homemade chicken broth because it tastes more “chicken-y” and less seasoned than broth from a box, which has other additives like celery and onions. I prefer the clean taste of plain chicken broth for this soup, but if you want to make avgolemono with a seasoned broth, you’re welcome to try.

Avgolemono Soup


  • 8 cups of chicken broth (see note 1)
  • 4 eggs
  • zest and juice of 2 lemons (or more lemons, to taste)
  • 1 tsp salt (or more, to taste)
  • 1/2 cup white or brown rice, dry (see note 2)
  • the cooked and shredded meat of half a whole chicken (or a pound or two of chicken breast meat, depending on how much chicken you want in the soup) (see note 3)
  • 1-2 tbsp heavy cream, optional


  1. Add the chicken broth and rice into a saucepan or pot and bring to a boil.
  2. Reduce the heat to bring the broth to a simmer.
  3. Cook the rice until it is done (20-45 mintues).
  4. Add the lemon juice, lemon zest, and salt to the soup and stir. Turn off the stove.
  5. In a blender, add the eggs and blend for a few seconds, until well-scrambled.
  6. Scoop about 2 cups of the soup and rice mixture into a pourable container (like a glass measuring cup) and SLOWLY pour into the blender with eggs WHILE THE BLENDER IS RUNNING. Your eggs are tempered now. Turn off the blender.
  7. Pour the blended mixture into your pot of soup. I like to pour it slowly while gently stirring the soup with a spoon in my other hand to make sure the eggs don’t curdle as they are added, but it usually doesn’t curdle even if I just dump the soup in without stirring.
  8. Add the chicken meat into the soup. If using heavy cream, add it now.
  9. Turn the stove back on to low and cook, stirring constantly so that the eggs closest to the heat source don’t curdle.
  10. Use a kitchen thermometer to check the temperature of the soup every so often. When the temperature reaches 160 F (or slightly higher), turn off the heat. Your soup is ready!
  1. If you want to make homemade chicken broth, put a large raw chicken (or two chickens!) in a large pot and cover with cold water (not too much water – covering by an inch or so is good). Bring the water to a boil and reduce the heat to low. Simmer with the lid on until the chicken is cooked through (about 90-120 minutes). Take the chicken out and shred it (after letting it cool enough to handle). I like to put the skin and bones in a pile separate from the meat and reuse for making chicken bone broth. For the broth, I use a deep ladle to gently skim the fat from the top of the broth and pour into a glass mason jar. Once the oil in the jar separates from the broth beneath, I use a spoon to scoop out the oil and add the broth back into the main batch. You can use the oil to saute other food or toss it. Remember to measure out the broth needed for this recipe! Feel free to double the soup recipe if you want.
  2. Rice is known to have a considerable arsenic in it, especially brown rice. The arsenic is not naturally-occurring in rice but is a result of environmental contamination that is pretty much present in most rice farms due to the way rice is grown (underwater). Arsenic from the water seeps into the rice while it is being grown. However, the arsenic in rice is water-soluble so you can get rid of some of it by soaking the rice for several hours in cold water and then tossing the water. I like to soak and change the water multiple times over 2 or 3 days to get rid of even more arsenic in my brown rice. This causes the rice to sprout during this period of time, which is supposed to make rice a little healthier by activating enzymes, increasing vitamins, and reducing phytic acid. It’s a nice side benefit, but I mostly do this to reduce the arsenic level. If you want to reduce arsenic even more, you can then cook the rice in a large pot with way too much water, get rid of the water half way through cooking and replace with new water, and then when the rice is done, strain it and toss the cooking water. I then add this cooked rice (about 1.5 cups) to the avgolemono soup towards the end, when adding the chicken. Rice cooked and added this way dilutes the flavor of the soup a tiny bit, but I don’t mind that.
  3. If using raw chicken breast, you can cook the chicken in the broth (before or during the rice-cooking stage) and shred it after it is cooked through.

Deconstructed Spanokopita Casserole Recipe


Connie’s Coronavirus Cooking Chronicles – Recipe 1 – Deconstructed Spanokopita Casserole

The COVID-19 lockdown in California has been going on for about a month and a half now and although many people are going stir-crazy, I’ve found this time to be quite productive. Creativity often thrives under limitation and I’m thankful for the opportunity to be stuck at home and able to focus on many of the projects I had placed on the backburner for far too long. One of these is working on my blog and uploading more recipes.

So without further ado, I bring you the Connie’s Coronavirus Cooking Chronicles series. This series will consist of the recipes that I make (or have made) during the coronavirus “shelter in place” mandate. Most of these recipes are my own (I will state otherwise if they were created by someone else) and are often inspired by foods I have had elsewhere. For any recipe I make, I like to find the sweet spot between maximum deliciousness (to motivate you to eat), ease of cooking (to motivate you to cook), and healthiness (to make you feel good about both cooking and eating it).

The first recipe I’d like to share is one of my favorites. I love a good crunchy spanokopita (a Greek spinach and feta pie often wrapped with phyllo into a triangular shape and baked) and have had spanokopita at various restaurants in Greece and also at numerous Greek/Mediterranean restaurants here in the United States. Every restaurant has its own recipe so they all taste slightly different. Here’s a picture of a spanokopita I had in Santorini:

santorini spanokopita 2_1600

Spanokopita is one of my favorite dishes so of course I had to make it at home. Although I greatly enjoy the crunchy triangular-shaped pies, I don’t have the time or patience to brush each sheet of phyllo dough with olive oil and then wrap each pie into a pretty little triangle, especially given how quickly my husband and I demolish them. Instead, I came up with a deconstructed version (inspired by my Greek mother-in-law, who bakes her Spanokopita in a casserole pan, as many Greek families do).

This spanokopita bake can be made with or without phyllo dough. I usually make it without the phyllo, because like I said, it is quite time-consuming to brush all that phyllo with olive oil and both my husband and I think it tastes just as good without the phyllo and it is SO MUCH FASTER (and cheaper) to make it this way. Really, this is one of my favorite ways to get my husband to eat his vegetables. He usually asks for seconds and thirds and I have to stop him from eating it all to prevent him from ODing on greens. Here is what the casserole looks like without phyllo:


However, if you want to make it with phyllo (which is more traditional but more time-consuming), you have two options:

Option 1 is brushing each sheet (or every other sheet) of phyllo with olive oil and layering the sheets on the bottom of the casserole pan and also on the very top after you’ve put the other ingredients in before baking. I never do it this way (even though it’s quite traditional) because the phyllo on the bottom gets soggy and I also like to make enough for a few days, so the phyllo on the top gets soft and squishy in the fridge. At that point, it is irrelevant to me if the phyllo is there or not, since I only like phyllo for the crunch that it provides.

That brings me to Option 2, which is to bake the phyllo separately. I always make it this way when I use phyllo, because it guarantees that every bite of of phyllo is supremely crunchy. I brush each sheet of phyllo with olive oil (sometimes I brush every other sheet) and lay them on top of each other. When the stack is about 6+ sheets thick, I cut them into small rectangles. Then I put most of these stacked rectangles into ziploc bags, press the air out, and stick them in the freezer. Anytime I want some crunchy phyllo to put on top of my spanokopita, I pull out some of these rectangular stacks from the freezer and bake them in the oven at 350 F for about 10 minutes, or until they start to turn golden-brown. Maximal crunch achieved.

As for the baked casserole itself, the recipe I came up with after several trial experiments is below. Some recipes call for a mixture of different cheeses (including feta), but I think it tastes best with feta only. Also, some spanokopita recipes are more “savory” and some are more “sweet.” The sweeter ones tend to use dill and no garlic, but I strongly prefer the savory flavor, so this one is on the savory side. Most spanokopita recipes use only spinach but I actually prefer the taste and health benefits of including a mixture of greens, so I recommend Costco’s Organic Power Greens, which is a mix of baby kale, chard, and spinach. But if you only have spinach or want more of a traditional flavor, spinach only is just fine. Lastly, chickpeas are usually not in spanokopitas but my favorite Mediterranean restaurant serves spanokopitas with chickpeas inside and I think they add great texture and flavor to a dish that would otherwise be just soft, especially without the phyllo. The almonds also add some nice texture as well. Here’s the recipe!

Deconstructed Spanokopita Casserole


  • 2.5-3 cups of feta cheese (I use 2 slabs of Dodoni Feta Cheese from Costco, chopped/crumbled)
  • 1.5 lbs of prewashed organic spinach or mixed greens (I prefer the Organic Power Greens from Costco, which is a mix of baby kale, chard, and spinach – I actually prefer the flavor of this over all spinach)
  • 1 onion (I prefer yellow)
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 tsp pepper (no need to add salt b/c feta cheese is salty)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 to 1.5 cups of cooked chickpeas/garbanzo beans (or ~0.5 cups dried) (see Notes 2 & 3 below on how to cook)
  • 1/2 cup (or more) of slivered almonds (optional)
  • 1/2 pack phyllo dough & extra olive oil for brushing (optional, see Note 1)
  • 1 to 2 tsp olive oil for sauteing


  1. See notes below on how to prepare the chickpeas.
  2. If adding slivered almonds, toast them for a few minutes in a frying pan on medium-low, stirring frequently until golden. Set aside.
  3. Dice garlic.
  4. Dice onions.
  5. Sautee the onions in some olive oil until cooked through.
  6. Add garlic to the onions and sautee another minute. Let this cool a bit so you don’t accidentally cook the eggs when mixed in.
  7. Whisk eggs into a very large bowl.
  8. Chop the feta cheese and put the feta into the large bowl with the eggs. Add pepper. Mix.
  9. Pour onion/garlic mixture into the bowl too. Mix.
  10. Add the cooked and drained chickpeas and mix. If including slivered almonds, put the toasted almonds into the bowl at this time as well and mix.
  11. Chop the pre-washed greens by grabbing a bunch at a time and chopping into 1/2 inch slivers. Chopping in one direction is fine, no need to chop in both directions. As you chop, put the chopped greens into the big bowl with the other ingredients.
  12. Use two spatulas to mix everything in the bowl until the greens are evenly coated with the mixture.
  13. Pour everything into a casserole pan (I use 10″ x 13″) and bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or so, or until the center reaches 170 to 190 degrees. I usually don’t preheat my oven because I use a small countertop oven that doesn’t take very long to heat up.
  14. Cut finished casserole into rectangles and serve. Dig in!

  1. If you want to add phyllo, read the blog post above the recipe for Option 1 or Option 2 on how to prepare and bake the phyllo.
  2. If using canned chickpeas, boil them with water until they are as soft as you would like. Drain and set chickpeas aside to cool a bit so you don’t cook the eggs when mixed in.
  3. If using dry chickpeas, soak 1/2 cup (or more) chickpeas overnight in water in a container that allows the chickpeas to more than double in volume during the soak, then drain the next day and cover with fresh water in a pot (the water should cover the chickpeas by about 3 inches). Boil without a lid for about 60-90 minutes until they are to your desired softness (they will not soften more during the bake). Drain and set chickpeas aside to cool a bit so you don’t cook the eggs when mixed in.

Our Sunrise

Acrylic on canvas, 2010

This painting is about God’s love and grace extending across space and time.

“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has visited and redeemed his people
and has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David,
as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
that we should be saved from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us;
to show the mercy promised to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant,
the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us
that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
might serve him without fear,
in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
in the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,
whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
– Luke 1:68-79 

Circle of the Earth

Acrylic on canvas, 2013
Do you not know? Do you not hear?
    Has it not been told you from the beginning?
    Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,
    and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;
who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
    and spreads them like a tent to dwell in;
who brings princes to nothing,
    and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness.
Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown,
    scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth,
when he blows on them, and they wither,
    and the tempest carries them off like stubble.
To whom then will you compare me,
    that I should be like him? says the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes on high and see:
    who created these?
He who brings out their host by number,
    calling them all by name,
by the greatness of his might,
    and because he is strong in power
    not one is missing.
Why do you say, O Jacob,
    and speak, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord,
    and my right is disregarded by my God”?
Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
    his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
    and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
    and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
    they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
    they shall walk and not faint.

-Isaiah 40:21-31

He stretches out the north over the void
    and hangs the earth on nothing.
He binds up the waters in his thick clouds,
    and the cloud is not split open under them.
He covers the face of the full moon
    and spreads over it his cloud.
He has inscribed a circle on the face of the waters
    at the boundary between light and darkness.
The pillars of heaven tremble
    and are astounded at his rebuke.
By his power he stilled the sea;
    by his understanding he shattered Rahab.
By his wind the heavens were made fair;
    his hand pierced the fleeing serpent.
Behold, these are but the outskirts of his ways,
    and how small a whisper do we hear of him!
    But the thunder of his power who can understand?”

-Job 26:7-14

Blue Skies, Love, and the Sea

Water soluble oil pastel on paper,

My friend Sadie got engaged in August and I had the honor of surprising her moments after the cliff-side engagement with our friend Page and both of their families. It was a beautiful day to be at the beach – there wasn’t a single cloud in the sky, and the vivid blue waters swarmed with dolphins and seals. The day’s adventures involved a fun road trip with her family, army crawling to the cliff to catch the moment Dillon proposed, snapping photos through the weeds, and singing Sadie’s favorite song “500 Miles” while her brother played the guitar. Congratulations, Dillon and Sadie!

Far Side of the Sea

Acrylic on canvas, 2008

The size of our universe is beyond comprehension.  Yet there is an infinite God who is everywhere, one who created this vast universe and is also intimately close.  This all-powerful, all-knowing omnipresent God is always sustaining, always near, always holding all things together.

“Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,

even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.

If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,’

even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.”

Psalm 139:7-12

Mountains and Valleys

Acrylic on canvas, 2011

“A voice cries:
‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.’”

-Isaiah 40:3-5

How to Grow Ranunculus

Ranunculus from my garden

Ranunculus are one of my favorite flowers. They have gorgeous fluffy petals, come in an abundance of bright colors, and are so easy to grow! The best part of growing ranunculus for me is having fresh bouquets of these lovely flowers from the garden all spring.

Ranunculus Planting Guide:


Ranunculus are usually grown from corms, which are like little octopus-looking tubers that multiply into more little octopus-corms during the growing season. While ranunculus do produce seeds, the seeds may not grow into the same ranunculus as the mother plant, depending on pollination. Ranunculus corms are fairly inexpensive and also multiply a lot during the season so seeds are rarely needed. The larger the corm, the more flowers you are likely to get that season.


These plants grow best in temperatures between 35 and 75 degrees F, although they can endure temperatures down to 10 F. They go dormant in temperatures above 80 F, although they may last a little longer if they are grown in partial shade. I have found that when temperatures are high, even if they have not gone dormant yet, they tend to grow “leggy,” meaning the flowers get tall and topple over.

When to Plant:

Ranunculus love cool weather (but not blisteringly cold). I live in a region with mild winters, so I like to start pre-sprouting my corms indoors as early as possible in late summer or early fall, as soon as daytime temperatures start to drop below 80 degrees.

Soak Corms: 

You can soak the corms in cold water before planting to make sure they get enough moisture to begin the growing process, but if you do, DO NOT SOAK FOR TOO LONG. An hour or two should be sufficient. Four hours is pushing it. They will continue to draw moisture from the soil once you plant or pre-sprout them. I once soaked some of my corms for 5 hours and they rotted (the octopus legs fell off or got really wiggly when I touched them). The corms are supposed to be firm, and the legs should not wiggle.

Pre-Sprout Corms:

I prefer to pre-sprout my corms to make sure all the ones that I plant are going to grow (some corms never sprout, some may rot, and old corms especially do not sprout well). To pre-sprout corms, I use growing trays like these and put a light layer of moist soil on the bottom. Then I put the corms in, leaving a tiny bit of space between each corm, with the octopus legs pointing down. Finally, I cover them up with more moist soil (I like to add some pearlite to aerate the soil and prevent rotting), until all the corms are covered.

Make sure the soil is not too moist or the corms will rot. I like using moist soil that is on the “dry side” because I can always spray the soil with a spray bottle filled with water if the soil gets too dry. I leave the trays in a cool place (temperatures in the 70’s or below – the cooler the better) where pests can’t get to them and check on them every few days to make sure the soil is still slightly moist. The corms usually sprout within one to two weeks. You will know they have sprouted when they grow little white roots on the bottom and little white bumps on the top.

Depth and Spacing:

Once your corms have sprouted, it’s time to plant them outside (you can also plant the corms without soaking or pre-sprouting, just make sure the temperatures are right and the soil is well-watered). Plant them 2-3 inches deep, 4-6 inches apart, with the octopus tentacles pointing down. Cover with soil and water well.


Keep the soil moist but not wet. If the soil stays wet for too long, the corms will rot. Do not let the soil dry out completely or the plants will die. I like to use a moisture meter like this to check the moisture of the soil once in a while. You probably will not need to water until the plants start to sprout through the soil. I usually don’t water the soil much, if at all, until late winter or early spring, since the rain usually takes care of that for me.


Before planting the corms, I mix bulb food like this into the soil. Once the plants start to flower, I sprinkle more bulb food onto the soil at the base of the plants. I feed them with bulb food one or two more times during the flowering stage (around 2 months), and feed them one more time right when the plants have stopped growing flowers but the leaves are still green. For the amount of fertilizer to use, follow the instructions on the packaging.


Ranunculus flowers are ready to be cut when the petals are just barely starting to open. I’ve read that you should cut the flowers even before this stage, when the buds are colored but haven’t opened at all and feel squishy like a marshmallow. However, when I cut them that early, I’ve found that they don’t ever really open up as nice and fluffy as they ones that are cut when they just start to open. I also don’t like waiting too long to cut them and bring them inside because then little bugs start to make their home in the fully opened petals, and the fully opened flowers don’t last as long in bouquets.

Use garden shears like these to cut the flower stems as close to the base of the plant as possible. If you cut the flowers too high, more flowers may grow from the same stems, which you would think would be a great idea, except that the flowers will get too tall and fall over from their own weight. The more flowers you cut, the more flowers the plant will produce, so don’t be afraid to cut them!

Care of Cut Flowers:

Place the flowers in water as soon as you cut them. When putting them into vases and jars, add some flower food to the water. I use diluted sprite or a spoonful of sugar as flower food. Change the water every day or two to prevent bacterial growth if you want the flowers to last a while.

Grow More Corms:

If you want to enjoy ranunculus again next year, don’t uproot the plants as soon as they stop producing flowers. Continue to keep the soil moist until the green leaves turn yellow. Once the leaves have yellowed and your plants look pretty dead and shriveled, the corms are ready to be harvested. For how to do this, see my next post on harvesting ranunculus corms (coming soon).

More ranunculus from my garden