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CONNECT: Southern Charm – A Wedding at The Clark House

Feb 4 2015

by Kate Spears

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The wedding industry is a booming business. But it can also be a little intimidating and as a soon-to-be bride, I’ve experienced some of this firsthand. As a blogger as well as avid blog reader, I feel like I’ve seen so many beautiful weddings over the years. When it was time to begin planning my own (set to take place in April 2015), I wasted no time calling in an expert in the form of a wedding stylist and floral designer extraordinaire.

Mitchell White, who I feel grateful to call a friend, is an artist first and foremost, but he’s also an entrepreneur and a one-of-a-kind southern gentleman. His wedding/event venue in the quaint Tennessee town of Livingston has become the place for brides from all around the region to hold their most special day.

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The Clark House, named for the family who used to inhabit the estate, is a magnificent Greek revival home nestled against the rolling hills of Middle Tennessee. The property and adjoining grounds have been the site of hundreds of weddings since White and his business partners started the business just a few years ago.

I sat down with him while planning my own wedding to discuss floral options and it struck me that some other brides-to-be out there might appreciate his wisdom on the subject!

With 30 years of experience, the services Mitchell provides are always in high demand. If you are a Tennessee bride looking for a gorgeous place to tie the knot, check out The Clark House. And whether you are recently engaged or hoping to be down the road, I think this info might come in handy!

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KS: How far in advance should a bride make arrangements and/or meet with a floral designer?

MW: Brides book with me anywhere from a year to a month in advance. Eight to ten months is usually good. If you wait too long, the florist you want could already be booked. Also, if you have something particular in mind that might be difficult to track down, the earlier you book, the better.

KS: I was the type of bride who brought tons of pictures and ideas to show you, but doesn’t that get kind of annoying? I mean, you are the expert after all.

MW: Ideas and pictures are great. It gives me a better understanding of the vision a bride has for her wedding day. There is a point, however, where everyone has to realize that the pictures are just a starting point and it is up to the bride, florist, planner, etc. to make the day unique and special. Also, the bride must realize that flowers in magazines are just like people in magazines; they’re often not a realistic depiction of the subject. They’ve been airbrushed and photo-shopped way beyond their normal state.

KS: What recent floral or wedding trend has surprised you the most?

MW: Color trends surprise me. I often feel like editors at bridal magazines just see how far they can stretch it. Color is great and it is very important, but simple, classic, elegant and low key is always best in my book.

KS: I crack up when I look at wedding pictures from the 80s or 90s. How do you help a bride make floral choices that are more towards the classical end of the spectrum as opposed to the trendy stuff?

MW: I guess I’ve been lucky in that most of the brides who choose me typically want something that is classic in style. I think that’s why they choose me, what I do leans in that direction. There have been a few occasions where I’ve had to make suggestions and each time the bride has trusted me and gone with what I suggested.

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KS: Have you ever had to work with flowers that you thought were hideous but had no choice because the bride wouldn’t budge?

MW: I’ve never had to work with flowers that I thought were completely hideous. I really do think that most flowers are beautiful and their beauty is showcased in keeping things simple. I do not work with silk flowers; I think that would put me to the test. If a bride wants to use silk, I generally don’t do the wedding. That sounds kind of rough, but a wedding day is special and I think that fresh flowers are a must if at all possible.

KS: Let’s say there’s a bride who is working on a very small budget. What is the most important floral element not to skimp on?

MW: I don’t think a bride should skimp on her bouquet. It’s one of the things that everyone looks at and it will be looked at in the pictures for years to come.

KS: What advice do you have for those DIY brides out there who have no money at all to pay a floral designer?

MW: DIYers should just keep it simple. Choose a couple of flowers that you want to work with. Try to buy them in bulk somewhere. Do a simple, hand-tied bouquet and simple low- key personal flowers for the wedding party. Candles for the ceremony and floating flowers for the reception. All easily done and nothing too pricey. 

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KS: If money were of no object and you were given complete creative freedom, what bridal bouquet would you create for a medium-sized, outdoor spring wedding?

MW: If money were no object for an outdoor spring wedding, I would use orchids, roses, tulips, ranunculus, lily of the valley, stephanotis, miniature calla lily and maiden-hair fern.

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KS: It seems like more attention is being paid to the men’s boutonnieres these days. What is a modern, but classic choice for boutonnieres that isn’t too frou-frou?

MW: In my opinion, a boutonniere should always be simple and very low-key. For a more contemporary look, I like to use a miniature calla with a few sprigs of bear grass.

KS: How do you deal with bridezillas, maniacal mothers-of-the-bride, and wedding day melt-downs?

MW: I’ve not had too much experience dealing with bridezillas. I’ve been pretty lucky I guess. I continually reassure the brides that I work with that everything is going to be ok and that at the end of the day, she will be married and there is no floral catastrophe big enough to keep that from happening. I’m a very calm, collected person and I’ve had a lot of brides tell me that they’ve appreciated my calm demeanor and that it put them at ease. I’ve been doing this kind of work for 30 years and at this point, I think if I picked up on a potential bridezilla, I would politely decline the job.

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So much good information here for brides! I am so glad to be able to share it with you all! Many thanks to Mitchell White at The Clark House for giving us a little bit of insight into the world of wedding flowers. To see more photos of weddings that Mitchell has done, check out The Clark House Facebook page.

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Kate Spears View More Blog Posts from this Author

Kate Spears is a self-proclaimed Southern belle who grew up in a tiny town near Nashville, but now calls Knoxville home. She graduated from the University of Tennessee (Big Orange Country!) with an undergraduate degree in art history and a master’s in public relations & advertising. In 2009, she started her blog, Southern Belle Simple, with the simple hope of giving herself a creative outlet. She continues to be amazed each time it leads to a new opportunity and cherishes the relationships that are formed along the way.

Kate is passionate about family history, time-honored traditions, and her Southern heritage. Her people hail from across the South, from the Lone Star State of Texas to the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. She grew up spending summers on her great-grandparents’ Tennessee farm where she developed a deep appreciation and admiration for people who could coax beautiful and delicious things out of a mound of dirt. She comes from faithful men, devoted women, hard workers and wickedly good cooks.

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