Custom Millinery for Alpacas (and other tidings of comfort and joy)

Photo courtesy of Wedding Connections

Melissa Thomas, proprietor of the West Asheville botanical boutique Flora, designed this regal headpiece for alpaca Harriet, who made an appearance at a wedding last month, along with a partner named Woo. It’s tempting to quip that pack animals are the new flower girls, but Wedding Connections owner/lead planner Sara Fields Bridges, who directed the event, reveals that “this trend has been on the rise for a while.” (She points out that some popular rural wedding venues, like Claxton Farm in Weaverville, have alpacas in residence, although Harriet came from a private farm in Madison County’s Sandy Mush region.)

Thomas has designed neck wreaths for horses and garlands for llamas, but an actual alpaca fascinator made of flowers “was definitely a new one,” she tells Asheville Made. She and her crew, which she terms a “busy ladies’ collective,” began with a soft headband once worn by Thomas’ own daughter, to make sure the layer closest to Harriet’s skin was comfortable. The designers then wove together Quicksand Cream roses, tea roses, white majolicas, and a combination of seeded and silver-dollar eucalyptus to accomplish the look of sophisticated rusticity.

Since leaf color came so late this year, as proven by the blazing fall foliage captured in the background that day, maybe November will become the new October, December the new November, January the new December — and, in good time, winter weddings will evolve as the new fall weddings. It could happen, agrees Thomas. While most of Flora’s clients still hold their nuptials in favorite months May and October, “we love winter weddings,” she says. “They’re so cozy and intimate.”

— M.J. MacAodh

Flora, West Asheville, 428-B Haywood Road. For more information, call 828-252-8888 or see

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