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GARDENING : Brief Beauties Set the Stage for Lasting Wedding Memories


History and tradition were in lavish display at the recent marriage of Jeanne Moriarty and Larry Williams. As members of Orange County's oldest families--hers dates from 1911, his from 1902--they wanted an Old California wedding replete with a bounty of flowers.

"Rancho Capistrano, where the wedding was held, feels like our own house," Moriarty said. "It's very tranquil and comfortable. It gives you the feeling that anyone who's been married there will stay married."

The rambling grounds of the Rancho, part of the Schuller estate, kept the wedding in the Old California rancho tradition with the reception held outdoors immediately after the wedding.

To create the Renaissance-like atmosphere Moriarty wanted--a feeling of opulence with an abundance of flowers and food--she chose Sue Kirby, owner of Out of the Woods, to do the floral design.

"It was an honor for Jeanne to choose me," Kirby said. "She could have used anyone. And it really was a team effort to pull off what the minister called the 'wedding of the decade.'

"My staff worked overtime to get the flowers arranged on such a tight deadline. We drove to the L.A. flower market three times to get the freshest dahlias possible," she said.

"The difference between going down to where the flowers are and handpicking them over having them delivered off a truck is a thousandfold. That way you see flowers you never would have seen. In fact, we added flowers to the design right there at the market."

Kirby says the details are what separates the ordinary from the extraordinary. And with the Moriarty/Williams wedding, she was dealing with the extraordinary. The bride wanted everything to be as spectacular as a rococo pageant. To this end, her gown was made of Shantung silk and the bridesmaids' dresses were each different, although coordinated with the gold, burgundy and plum color scheme.

Kirby took her cue for the bridesmaids' dresses and picked flowers so unusual, so rare that guests were guessing what they were. "I won't say that Jeanne gasped when she first saw the church," said Kirby, "but she came pretty close. When I saw the look on her face, I knew we'd pulled it off and fulfilled her wishes."

Because the altar was rather barren, Kirby's husband, Rod Wisehart, and a friend made a structure to frame the wedding without interfering with the guests' view of the ceremony. This golden structure had a profusion of unusual flowers draping it.

Fresh rose petals were strewn down the aisle that had pews festooned with golden cupids, while rose petals were sprinkled every fourth pew.

"We felt the rose petals were a wonderful, whimsical touch," Kirby said. "We sprinkled them around the flower-filled urns on the altar also."

Kirby had a silk brocade kneeling pillow made for the bride and groom that continued the gold, burgundy and plum color scheme. After the wedding it will be part of the decor in the newlyweds' house.

One of the underlying themes of Kirby's Out of the Woods is the desire to be outrageous, to use rare, exotic flowers, not the standard, by-the-book-florist type.

"For this wedding we used 40 dozen roses," she said. "In the main bouquets are large copper China mums, deep burgundy dahlias, hard-to-find monk's hood and Madame Pompadour roses from Colombia. They were incredible since they burst open as the heat of the day hit them. One of my assistants has worked for a florist for three years, and she's never seen some of the flowers we've used."

Other roses were in colors of red, salmon and cream tinged with pink. The sizes varied from floribundas to miniature.

The church was brought together visually by four large garlands of dried hydrangeas with bright burgundy coxcombs woven in them. They were so beautiful, the minister requested that they be left permanently. "We feel that we are setting the mood for the wedding with the flowers," Kirby sai.

The next day the bride and groom gave their thousands of dollars worth of flowers to a bride who couldn't afford such a lavish wedding. "This is a very close, caring family," Kirby said. "I was happy to add to their joy."

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