Ken Miesner’s Flowers has been at Plaza Frontenac from the very start, catering to some of St. Louis’ finest families, many of whom live nearby in Ladue, Clayton and Frontenac.
Every once in a while, I’ll find myself talking to a woman whose wedding I worked on years ago. Details come rushing at me as we talk, and I usually am amazed at how we managed to keep each wedding unique.
Before there were vast numbers of linen rental companies, the choices for tablecloths and napkins were quite limited. And in our efforts to personalize each wedding, we often made our own tablecloths.
One of the more memorable (and ambitious) ones was a woven ribbon top cloth. The ribbons were 10-inch-wide strips of moirés and satin, hemmed and iron-woven together, with a bow in the center of each overlap. The fabrics were in shades of pink and yellow. This was a one-use cloth, as it would be impossible to keep them assembled and cleaned.
Once, we covered the ballroom of a club with white satin, with not an inch of wall showing. Where the doors and entries were the white satin was puddled and tied back with wide strips of pink satin that we had tied into huge bows.
We once did a wedding in an architecturally magnificent church, where we placed 10- foot-tall gardenia trees in planter boxes that were made and painted in our shop. The trees themselves had to be ‘assembled’ on the day of the event. On both sides of the aisle front to back, 10 feet apart, we anxiously ‘made’ these trees, using cases of birch branches and crates of fresh gardenia and camellia foliage. We almost bit off a bit more than we could chew with that trick, but we were done with time to spare.
Once we had a client who had a large collection of old blue and white Chinese-export vases. We found a cloth with Chinese figures in blues and whites and made tablecloths down to the floor. We added mixed shapes and sizes of glass vases so that with her antiques, each table would have seven or nine vases. Each vase was filled with only one type of white flowers. We used freesia, tulips, roses, hyacinths, paper whites, blooming branches, and even delicate spring flowers like snowdrops and lily of the valley. We used a pew from an old church as a bench for one side of the head table. We used various shapes and sizes of pillows that we had stuffed with down. Each pillow had tassels, trims, fringe and its own unique blue and white fabric. I don’t know who loved the setup more, the bridal party or the florists.
We once constructed a hanging arbor for the ceiling of a club. The lattice-like top was hung from the ceiling by chains. We actually used rose foliage and roses in water tubes to give the trellis a very natural effect. For the ceremony, we hung votives in straight lines both sides of the aisle. Afterward, when the guest went for cocktails, we scattered the votives and added hundreds more. The guests dined under the roses with twinkling votive candles overhead.
Chandeliers in tents are commonplace now, but I remember Ken and I driving from one Central Hardware to another to get enough to fill a tent. Of course, each had a hanging basket of trailing flowers, shades for the bulbs and color-coordinated satin cord covers. Getting the heights staggered and just right was somehow very difficult for the tent’s crew. So up in a cherry picker I went, adjusting higher or lower as Ken directed me from below.
I remember the most wonderful effect of the lighting at Anthony’s restaurant downtown. To imitate it, we had a lighting company come to a club to pin-spot each centerpiece for a wedding. The club liked the effect so much that they decided to make the pin spots permanent.
Through the years, we have done some pretty remarkable things, such as putting dance floors over swimming pools. We have had fun, silly things for debut parties, Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, birthday and anniversary dinner parties and charity events. And we’ve enjoyed them as much as the clients.
When it comes to weddings, we want to be creative, fresh, new and innovative but never trendy. Weddings are almost sacred, so we tread a fine line between what is opulent and timeless and what is over the top.
Growing up, I always said I never wanted to work at all. Then I add, But if I do have to work, it has to be around something beautiful.
As I’m nearing the final quarter of my career, I can say honestly that I’ve always worked with beautiful things— with and for beautiful people—and for that, I am incredibly grateful.
John Sullivan has a fine arts degree from Kansas City Art Institute. He has partnered with Ken Miesner for the past 25 years at Ken Miesner’s Flowers at Plaza Frontenac, where they have done flowers for more than 1,000 weddings!