Washington DC

First Lady's Luncheon 2019 - Washington Hilton Hotel | Washington, DC

I was honored to have the privilege for the second year in a row to photograph on behalf of American Grown Flowers as they sponsored the 107th annual First Lady’s Luncheon, a bi-partisan event hosted by the Congressional Club, honoring the First Lady of the United States, Mrs. Melania Trump.

About 30 volunteers from all over the US flew in for 5 total days to help design and create the centerpieces and arrangements to highlight and accent the grand ballroom of the hotel. Over 22,000 stems of flowers were donated from about 15 farms across our country.

Two conference rooms are turned into a flower shop for several days prior to the Luncheon, and the stems are flown in. Once they arrive, they’re unwrapped and prepped, placed in buckets of water all around the room, and made ready for centerpieces, arrangements, bud vases, and more… All by these volunteers who are running on little sleep, a few snacks, and lots and lots of coffee.

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It’s so cool to watch as these talented creatives do what they do best. There were a total of 145 floral centerpieces, several arrangements for the head table, bathrooms, high-top tables for the pre-luncheon receptions, and numerous other misc. arrangements around the hotel for the event. Over 1,000 boutonnieres were created for the guests to wear also, as well as two flower walls for photo ops, and much more… It was very impressive and quite an undertaking!

I was completely infatuated with the peonies…

^ Above are our fearless leaders, Christi (co-lead, who will lead next year), followed by Kasey and Andrea of American Grown Flowers, and Mary Kate, our lead. They kept everything organized and even took us all out to a really nice dinner the evening before the Luncheon! It was nice to have that time together to get to know everyone and bond over a meal. :)

Every year there’s a theme for the decor, and this year’s was “Indianapolis 500”, hence the black and white tablecloths. Vera Bradley company donated bags for each attendee, along with multiple other sponsors who helped put on this event. Lee Greenwood was present again to sing “Proud to be an American” of course, and Kathie Lee Gifford, Nicole Mullen, and Michael W. Smith were at the pre-luncheon VIP Reception as well.

Before the Luncheon, Melania and Karen Pence came out to greet those who were closest to the podium. I was able to shake her hand and say hello, which was a really neat experience! She’s absolutely beautiful and so graceful and eloquent. She seemed so respectful of each person she met, looking them each in the eye, greeting them, and thanking them for coming, rather than rushing down the line of women eager to say hello. I didn’t get to shake Karen’s hand, but I imagine she was just as lovely. :)

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That last shot was snapped from a video on my cell phone. :)

The Luncheon was so nice, with speeches given by Mrs. Trump as well as Mrs. Pence, and performances by Michael W. Smith who sang a few of his praise songs, including “The Word” which I’ve always loved, and Nicole C. Mullen, who sang her song “The God Who Sees”.

It was nice to be able to attend again this year! I always love the people watching, all of the pretty dresses and shoes, and styles of everyone who comes to attend.

Thank you to Andrea and Kasey from American Grown Flowers for this awesome opportunity! And to Mary Kate and Christi for leading the team so well. It was a wonderful time and so well done!


Sponsors:
DV Flora, Accent Decor, Oasis, and The Congressional Club

Lead Designer:
Mary Kate Kinnane - The Local Bouquet, RI

Co-lead Designer:
Christi Lopez - Bergerons Flowers, VA

Flower Farms:
Bloomia, Camflor, Dramm & Echter, Eufloria, Fern Trust, Gallup & Stribling, Green Valley, Holland American Flowers, Kitayma, Mellano, Myraid, Menagerie Flower, Ocean Breeze, Ocean View Flowers, Paja Rosa, Pyramid, Resendiz Brothers, Westland Orchids

Volunteers:
Alaskan Legacy Peonies, The Secret Garden Charleston, Joslyn Peony Farm, The Hotel Florist, CW Floral Design, Petals by the Shore, Lumme Creations, Christina Flower Co, Fancy Florals by Nancy, Bramble and Bee, and more…

2018 First Lady's Luncheon | Washington Hilton, Washington DC - American Grown Flowers

The First Lady's Luncheon is a bipartisan event to honor the First Lady of the United States. Proceeds go to a charity of her choice.

Over 15,000 stems were donated from flower farmers across the country. 170 centerpieces, 800 boutonnieres, 50 bud vases, numerous other arrangements, and an 8x8 flower wall were designed and executed by about 30 florists, farmers, and volunteers from different parts of the country from Alaska to Rhode Island. It was such a cool experience to meet and connect with such talented and wonderful people, documenting as they worked so hard to bring the 106th First Lady's Luncheon together!

Thank you Kelly of Petals by the Shore for asking me to photograph on behalf of you and American Grown Flowers as you lead this team of hardworking individuals to execute the vision you've been working on for so long - what an honor it was!

It was fun to photograph a head shot of each of the volunteers and flower designers who were there to execute. They were all so sweet and enjoyable to spend time with! Luckily the sun was shining in the hotel courtyard for us to use as a nice green backdrop.

After a delicious lunch together at the hotel restaurant, it was time to set up the ballroom! During this time, we were given word that Melania was still in the hospital after undergoing kidney surgery which was obviously disappointing since she was the guest of honor.

After a stormy night spent in the hotel (with tornado warnings!) we woke bright and early to get ready by 5:00 am and head down to finish the morning-of setup! The flower wall had to be put into place, ballroom arrangements, the boutonniere/corsage bars, and so much more! Once we were all ready to go, we showered and changed and got ready for the guests to arrive! I believe I heard that there were over 2,000 guests! It was so fun to watch the ladies pick out their corsages and take pictures in front of the flower wall, enjoy a few mimosas, and mingle together! I loved to see the styles these women had - and let me tell you, they brought it! Hats, shoes, gorgeous dresses...

Once the luncheon began, introductions of the spouses of congress, followed by Mrs. Karen Pence, wife to our vice president. She gave a beautiful speech and we all carried on with a lovely lunch and celebration in honor of Melania. 

I was so blessed to be part of such a beautiful event! It was such an impressive sight to see so much hard work be put in my Kelly and her team, and be able to photograph such influential people of our country. Would love to be back next year! 


Lead designer: Kelly Shore, Petals by the Shore

Co-lead designer: Mary Kate Kinnane, The Local Bouquet

Design team: Fancy Florals by Nancy, Harmony Harvest, J Starrs Flower Barn, Goodness Gracious Florals, Blair Sweet Blossoms, Green Sinner, Sophisticated Floral, Westcott Diana, Christina Flower Co., Bergerons Flowers, CW Floral Design, Pamela Primrose, Susan Marie, Atelier Ashley Flowers, Crimson and Clover Floral, Whats up Buttercup LLC, Pollen and Pastry

Support Team Members: Wayne Zimmerman, Alaskan Legacy Peonies, Betty Joslyn, Sunny Side Flowers PA, Fresh Blooms, DV Flora, Dream Floral Art, Rose Gold Event, Anna MK, Arnosky Family Farms, Hagerstown Garden Club

Farms: Mellano and Company, Gallup and Stribling, Westland Orchids, Resendiz Brothers, Kendall Farms, Ocean View Floweres, Callaco, Holland America Flowers, Sun Valley Floral Farms, Len Busch Roses, Eufloria Flowers, Dramm and Echter, Green Valley Floral Co, Fern Coolie, Arnosky Family Farms, Oregon Flowers, Bloomia Flowers, Harmony Harvest, Protea USA

Sponsors: Accent Décor Inc., DV Flora, Oasis Floral Products, Shop Nature Supply

Host: The Congressional Club