Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A Mountain Wedding Series : Decoration Day Style Memory Table, Part 1

April showers bring May flowers!  I don't know about you, but I could just about jump straight into summer after that long winter we had.  Speaking of summer...wedding season is just around the corner, so I thought it would be a perfect time to start sharing a series of wedding related posts I've had in mind.  And since it is still May, I thought I would start off with part 1 of a wedding post that also ties in with Memorial Day...or Decoration, as it's traditionally called in Appalachia.

Do you have any memories of Decoration Day yourself?  I have so many!  Most Memorial weekends found us headed south on Route 23 with countless other migrant families.  If there was ever a time of year that drew crowds back to the mountains, hills, and hollers, it had to be Decoration.  The road was usually jam packed trying to get south out of the city at rush hour come Friday evening.  Everyone wanted to head "home" to honor the memory of all those dear loved ones who had passed.

A lot of hill climbing sure did take place on that weekend!  Most old family cemeteries in Appalachia seem to lie on higher ground, maybe to avoid flooding, so climbing was usually inevitable.

And, in more modern times, when much of the country shifted to a focus of barbecues, park picnics, and launch of summer activities for that weekend--Appalachia excelled at keeping much of the focus on memories, reunions, family, and honoring the lives of those who were no longer with us.

And did you ever help clean up an old hillside cemetery to get ready for decorating?  Now that can be hard work!  I've assisted in helping clean off more than one in my life and, while a tough job, it was so worth it.  Those little family hillside cemeteries can be such beautiful and peaceful places...particularly when well cared for.

Have you ever heard people say you can tell someone is from Appalachia if they know exactly where they are going to be buried some day...even when they are pretty young?  Who knows, maybe the special traditions and memories surrounding Decoration have helped foster this throughout the region.  Knowing your body will be laid to rest in such a familiar place, where forbears from generations past lie, and a piece of your own heart already lies as well, can certainly be a sweet thought.  If you knew Jesus was in your heart, and the peaceful old family plot would be your resting place...death had most certainly lost its sting.

Getting back to the subject of weddings, when I married City Boy, I wanted to make sure that I included bits of my Appalachian culture into the wedding day, because those roots make up a huge part of who I am.  I'm a true believer that a wedding is always more special, and memorable, when it is personalized to really reflect who the bride and groom are at heart.  I'm also a Do It Yourself kind of gal, so I forfeited the idea of an expensive planner...and dove headfirst into "crafting" the day myself.

Me on our wedding day
By the time our special day had rolled around, my mamaw and papaw had passed...as well as City Boy's mom and dad.  So to include them in the day, we used the popular concept of a memory table.  We placed pictures of them on the table, but I wanted to add a little something extra special.  And that's where I drew on my Appalachian roots as inspiration.

If you are at all familiar with the history of Decoration Day...you know that the popular custom in the mountains and hills of Appalachia (and...to be fair, in some other parts of the country as well) was to hand make flowers to decorate the hillside graves of loved ones.  The flowers were often made from colored crepe paper and wire.  Hours were spent forming these handcrafted blossoms.  The winds and the rains would eventually destroy the handiwork, but while they lasted, these flowers were a painstakingly crafted tribute of love to those that were no longer here.

So, to grace our memory table, I knew I wanted to create flowers by hand.  I didn't use crepe paper...in fact, I used coffee filters.  But I spent hours forming a small bouquet of white roses in memory of our loved ones.  We would miss the presence of them tremendously on our wedding day, so honoring their memory was important.

The results turned out just right, and the hours of work were worth it...knowing that this was all in honor of those who had meant so much to the two of us.  And the fact that my Appalachian culture was getting a "head nod" on our special day, made it all the more meaningful.

The memory table flowers with a photo of my sweet mamaw and papaw in the background!

Click here to find out how I made the roses for our wedding memory table.  But if you are interested in the more traditional crepe paper style, join me back here for my next blog post! I will share the results of a visit with my Eastern Kentucky born mother...when I sit down with her for an authentically Appalachian crepe paper flower making lesson!  Can't wait!  See you then!


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Loved this post. It made me take a pause and reflect on our family plot on the hill and the precious loved ones buried there. Thank you.....

    1. Kathy, I am so glad you loved the post! Thank you for the sweet comment. Hope your Decoration Day is a blessed one!

  3. Oh, this simply touched my heart! Thank you for sharing.

    1. You are so welcome, Tatersmama! Thank you for the comment! God bless!