3 Wish List Wedding Dresses

One of the most crucial pieces of my job as a wedding planner is making sure each wedding feels distinct to the couple. This means that the parts of the day that feel most individual are incredibly important in distinguishing it. So far be it from me to suggest anything about what the bride wears on her special day other than logistical matters like too many layers of tulle might get really hot at an outdoor summer wedding, etc. 

That being said, having been in this world long enough, and already being married myself. I still come across dresses sometimes that I hope and pray one of my brides will choose one day so I can see it up close! This seemed like a perfect post since Bridal Fashion Week was last week and so I have hundreds of photos to pull from!

I saw this dress when I was at an event at the Mark Ingram Atelier and I fell in love. The hand embroidery around the bodice was stunning and, as everybody knows, I love blue and white! I am completely captivated by the simple lines but unique details. I would LOVE to see one of my brides in this dress!

I definitely tend toward classic designs and this J Mendel dress from the Spring 2016 collection is another one of my favorites. I love the waistline detail which gives interest without it becoming a fussy dress. It almost feels a little vintage! 

Then I have to cheat a little bit and not just give you a single dress... I hope you'll forgive me :) I loved this years Oscar de la Renta collection. So I'm including some of my favorites here. There was an incredible mix of classic silhouettes with stunning details ranging from architectural to delicate floral appliques. When I got married my dress was very simple and classic and so this sort of design absolutely speaks to me!

What sort of dress are you looking for? Do you have a style you wish you could have worn? If so, go comment on my Instagram!

Blue and White Sea Island Dinner Party

I was so lucky to get to spend some time in Sea Island this summer with my family. Those of you that check in here regularly will have seen some shots of a tablescape I built while I was there in my last blog post but I have many more and I wanted to keep sharing! I was so lucky to work with Kelli Boyd Photography who did an incredible job of capturing the day!

You all know my love of blue and white!

You all know my love of blue and white!

Nothing is more classic than the color combination of blue and white. I knew when I was planning these tablescapes that I had to have at least one set up in these colors because they are perfect for a beachside location! I loved putting white flowers in the patterned vase (my friends at Vinegarden Market did an incredible job with the flowers!) because it was dynamic and eye catching without being too busy!

I experimented with two different settings for the table and I had such trouble making a decision! I love the sea motif of the set on the left but ever the lover of color that I am, the contrast of the blue and coral in the plates on the right were so lovely. The exercise also reminded me that there are so many different ways to set a table and to keep pushing myself to try new things!

A close up of the sea motif table set up!

A close up of the sea motif table set up!

A subtle detail that I loved about this setup was the way the light caught the tablecloth and gave it a pinkish glow (you can see easily in the photo above). That tint perfectly tied in with either of the place settings in a really nuanced and beautiful way!

I will be posting more shots of these tablescapes (and maybe some never-before-seen shots) on my Instagram over the next couple weeks- so if you aren't already following me there, make sure to click here to check it out!

Creative Table Decor: End of Summer Dinner Party

I just returned from spending a couple of months in Sea Island with family. Returning to my Southern roots is always a jolt of inspiration - I am reminded of pieces I forgot I owned, traditions I only see in the South or the pace of life which I often neglect in the busy day-to-day of New York City. 

I was lucky that I had the chance to work with Kelli Boyd Photography down in Sea Island and she did an incredible job capturing one of the favorite things about our house down there - the light!

The bright open spaces in our house make me so happy!

The bright open spaces in our house make me so happy!

When planning tablescapes in Sea Island, I always start off with these chairs. The colors are so beautiful and distinct that I don't want to try and force anything that wouldn't blend seamlessly.  Starting off with something in your space as inspiration is a great way to keep the entire room feeling coordinated and purposeful. 

I love the little details here of the pearlescent charger underneath the china.

I love the little details here of the pearlescent charger underneath the china.

Building off of the coral orange chairs, I built a place setting of layered coral china in sea inspired motifs. When you are so close to the ocean, it's nice to include references to that part of nature. I love how perfectly the scalloped trim on the napkins match the china. 

Salt and Pepper dishes are an often overlooked but beautiful detail.

Salt and Pepper dishes are an often overlooked but beautiful detail.

Since the rest of the table had stuck to such a minimal color scheme, we used the flowers to add some variety. The coral and blue in the arrangement coordinated with the place setting and the chairs but I liked how the light pink and green really punched up the arrangement. I love color so much so these arrangements by Vinegarden Market were perfect!

Meat and Cheese plates are an easy set up for pre-dinner cocktails!

Meat and Cheese plates are an easy set up for pre-dinner cocktails!

In addition to the big beautiful arrangement for the table, putting a couple of small arrangements on the coffee table near where you might be having cocktails brings great continuity. It was convenient how beautifully our meat and cheese platter color coordinated!

I had so much fun putting this table together. And even better - I put a handful of other setups together at the same time which you all will see in a future blog post! If you can't wait until my next post, I might be posting some sneak peeks on my Instagram so make sure to follow along there!

3 Fun Champagne Cocktails to Try this Summer

We have to relish summer while it lasts and one of my favorite ways to celebrate when the weather is warm is with champagne. I hope you enjoy these festive champagne drinks as much as I do!

Add a slice of lime to your champagne- it looks and tastes beautiful.

Add a slice of lime to your champagne- it looks and tastes beautiful.

Making interesting and delicious cocktails doesn't have to be hard. Have you ever tried adding a slice of lime to a glass of champagne or prosecco? Just the little bit of citrus adds so much taste and the slices look beautiful in the glass (if you're drinking out of a flute, you'll have to either use wedges or quarters of slices)!

Everything looks prettier covered in bubbles!

Everything looks prettier covered in bubbles!

This cocktail suggestion might be more for look than for taste, but slicing fruit for garnish will get everybody excited about their cocktails. Pictured here are two great ideas, the sliced fruit on the rim of the glass or sliced strawberry inside. How lovely is it, the way the bubbles are clinging to the berry. 

If you wanted to really make it a cocktail, you could add some muddled strawberries into the champagne to make a sort of strawberry mimosa!

Champagne + Popsicle = Delicious!

Champagne + Popsicle = Delicious!

Perfect for summer parties and warm weather, popsicle cocktails are colorful, festive and delicious. Pick your color based on your flavor preference and watch as the popsicle starts out as an ice cube and quickly melts, adding more and more flavor to the cocktail. Careful though, if the popsicle is too big, it will overwhelm the drink with too much sweetness! I love this idea because of the way the drink will change over time!

Champagne is such a festive drink - these fun ways to serve it will absolutely add to any celebration!

3 Ways to Take Your Finger Food to the Next Level

Everybody has seen the big platters of chips and dips at parties, but the hosts who take it to the next level get so much appreciation.  Want to find ways to take your finger food not only to the next level of delicious, but also eye catching? You'll bring the house down.

Gradient Crostini

Ombre and gradients are all over the place, even your food!  As opposed to spreading out your garnishes evenly across your crostini, try turning it into a gradient of colors.  I did it here with different color tomatoes over a goat cheese spread and it was delicious and beautiful!

Who says finger food has to be savory?

Who says finger food has to be savory?

This strawberry, balsamic and mint crostini is beautiful and a nice switch up from the typical savory tastes you typically see. You can serve it for dessert but it also makes a fun hors d'oeuvre for your next cocktail party.  Add some goat cheese or ricotta and you'll have people clamoring for the next piece!

Image.jpg

Another great option for finger food is the ever delicious and very trendy avocado toast.  I made it multiple ways here: sliced, mashed, and even an avocado flower!  (I wouldn't recommend to try to serve the avocado flower, it's hard to eat!)  Avocado toast is so easy -  just squeeze some lemon juice and add some red pepper flakes or make it with some garlic powder and diced tomatoes.  I love how vibrant the color is! 

Next time you're hosting a party, I hope these ideas might spark some creativity to try something other than the traditional chips and dip.  There are so many great ways to think outside the box with finger food that can please and impress your guests!

Interior Design Inspiration for a Girls Room

This weeks post will be rather brief because I am actually traveling in France at the moment!  (What did I say last week about New Yorkers loving to get out of the city!) Anyway, I just finished a refresher of my daughters' rooms that I am really excited about and so I wanted to share some of the images that have inspired me through the process!

Image via Style Me Pretty

Image via Style Me Pretty

I love the commitment to the color scheme in this room but also the adventurous throw pillows on the bed!  This room would be perfect for girls a little older than mine but I love the sophistication that the chandelier ads and I was absolutely inspired by the bright colors.  The walls!!!

I love the bold colors and the pattern mixing in this room. I have never been afraid of patterns but seeing rooms like this where it is done so seamlessly and with such sophistication definitely got me thinking how I could bring that element into my girls room!

The Finished Product!

The Finished Product!

And then this is the finished product! I thought it came out so well - I loved the rainbow throws I found at Sara Ruffin Costello's pop up shop at the Southern Style Now festival I went to a few weeks back because they pulled together the colors all around the room. And they're so fun! The addition of the rainbow really connects all the various elements of the room I've been working on for so long - the orange trim in the window treatments, the orange and pink ikat in the bed design, the turquoise in the headboards and the pops of other colors elsewhere!

3 Event Details You Can Incorporate to Your Next Outdoor Summer Party

Summer is here and it's time to celebrate.  So much of summer, especially for everybody in New York City is about getting away.  Crowds flee the city every weekend to enjoy the beautiful weather at whatever destination appeals to them.  Yes, vacation is great but summer also reminds me of cookouts and grilling and so many reasons to be outside.  I thought I'd pass along some little details of summer entertaining that could add a little spice to your next event!

1. Drink Stations

Image from ChristianPF

Image from ChristianPF

When entertaining outside, refreshing drinks are a must to keep the crowd happy.  If you don't want to limit yourself to wine and beer on ice, these punch jars are a great way to serve festive cocktails without being attached to the bar all night pouring.  They allow you to make big batches and just let your guests enjoy!  I love having all the fruit slices sitting inside the jars, it makes them look extra beautiful, so they serve as a decor element to your summer party or barbecue as well!

2. Yard Games

Image via Buzzfeed

Image via Buzzfeed

Incorporating (or even just offering) games at your next outdoor party adds so much variety to the event.  Cornhole is a classic summer offering, but don't feel limited.  Matching games like you see above are easy to make and can be coordinated with the color scheme of the event.  If you're feeling committed you can make oversized versions of many games (Bananagrams, Jenga, Dominoes, Tic Tac Toe, etc).  Having these sorts of alternative entertainment options are especially useful when some of the guests may not know each other and can use the games as an opportunity to start talking!

3. Blanket Basket

Image via Bridal Musings

Image via Bridal Musings

Outdoor parties always invite a little bit of a risk from weather.  Depending on where you are in the world, people may be sweltering when the sun is out (and clamoring for some cold cocktails from your ice cold refreshment station) but start to get chilly when the sun goes down.  Have a basket of blankets ready for people to cuddle up under.  Whether you are making s'mores around a fire pit or hanging out by the pool after dark, this detail will make your guests feel taken care of and encourage people to continue to enjoy themselves regardless of the temperature.

Some of these details may feel small in the grand scheme of the party itself - food, drinks, date, venue, theme, etc. - but sometimes the little details can make the difference between a good party and a great party.  Summer is high season for entertaining so taking the extra time to stand out from the pack with these elements of your next summer party will make you the toast of the town! 

A Classic New York Wedding at the Pierre Hotel

I am very proud of my Southern heritage and that is one of the reasons that I love planning weddings back down South.  But I have now lived in New York for 13 years and so I am equally in love with the glamour of my city.  It really is a magical place, especially for weddings.  Just last month I had the opportunity to plan a classic, glamorous New York wedding for an incredibly lovely couple.  I couldn't have been happier - it was such a treat for me!

This wedding did a great job of letting the beauty of the spaces they were in speak for themselves: Manhattan, Central Park, The Pierre.  There was never a need to be fussy or to try too hard - much like the couple!  Sam and Ken are incredibly effortless to be around and their love always spoke for itself.  So I loved how even though their wedding day was glamorous, it was never high maintenance!

I think the above shot is so beautiful.  You can see how madly in love Sam and Ken are with each other.  These two decided to do a First Look, which is something more and more couples are doing these days.  Seeing each other before the ceremony gave them time to take some beautiful portraits in the daylight in Central Park, without being rushed to get all the shots and get back to their guests.  It's also a great time for the bride and groom to see each other and really enjoy the day!

Pierre Hotel NYC Wedding Ceremony

Sam and Ken's ceremony was beautifully refined.  Tons of candles and mirrors made the light reflect beautifully and the ceremony itself was really touching.  Sam looked stunning walking down the aisle with her long veil walking arm and arm with her mother framed by the gorgeous chandeliers of the Pierre Hotel

I love both these detail shots from that weekend because they show how beautifully the design of this event let the space speak for itself.  If you are planning a party or a wedding, make sure to take into account the space when designing the party - if you are looking for a sleek, modern aesthetic, planning a ballroom wedding is going to be an uphill battle because you'll either have to cover up or work around the more ornate details of the ballroom.  Sam and Ken embraced the old world glamour at the iconic Pierre Hotel and so all it took was some well chosen details to make a stunning event!

All white flowers on the tables and classic silver, glass and china made for a beautiful evening.  We put orchids on each place setting which I thought added a really nice detail to each place setting.  Sticking with all white flowers meant that we could use a wide range of flowers for variety and texture without it looking too busy.  I thought Belle Fleur did an amazing job - as always! 

How stunning is this shot of the entire ballroom?  This is a great example why lighting is such an important part of every event (and often unnoticed) - the floral arrangements pop in this shot because of the lighting and the dance floor looks warm and inviting without being too in the dark.  Don't skimp on lighting, brides!

Another incredible thing about this couple is how giving they are. They partnered with Repeat Roses, an incredible organization that repurposes flowers from weddings and events and gives them to worthy causes, to reuse the flowers from the event. They were even featured in a Nightly News story for their generosity. It made looking around the ballroom even more amazing when you knew that all the flowers were going to be making people happy all over again!

I wanted to end with this lovely shot of Sam and Ken's first dance because I love the look on her face.  When it comes down to it, my job is about making people happy.  I can talk about flower arrangements, tablescapes, favors and lighting design, but if the couple isn't happy or if the party isn't fun, then I haven't done my job well.  I had so much FUN working with these two and seeing them smiling, surrounded by all their friends and family having a great time, as cheesy as it may sounds, is all I could ask for. 

I hope you all enjoyed getting a little more in depth view into one of my events.  Make sure if you aren't already following me on Instagram to do so because I try to give glimpses into the "behind the scenes" of my day-to-day as often as I can.  Have a great week everybody!

Event Instagram Accounts You Must Follow

I spend a lot of time on Instagram.  It's a great place to look for inspiration, to find new up-and-coming vendors to work with, or to see what some of my other friends in the wedding industry are up to.  Of course, I also love getting to share what I've been working on too and some of my tips for brides in the throes of planning their weddings.  But for today, this isn't about my Instagram (although if you want to check it out tomorrow, I wouldn't stop you!).  I started to sit down and make a list and realized I had too many for one post. So I'm going to start today with event-related and I'll give you my thoughts on lifestyle accounts next week!

casadeperrin

It's not easy to post a lot of the same thing and for the posts to continue to look beautiful.  Casa de Perrin, a tableware (silverware, china, glasses) rental company out of California, does just that.  They are constantly giving me new ideas for tablescapes and the styles range from dainty and feminine to bold and colorful.  Their gold silverware is always my favorite but I love seeing the innovative combinations of surfaces, flower arrangements and the Casa de Perrin products. 

My love of flowers run deep.  So it's no wonder I love following Nancy Kaye, a Senior Event Designer at Marks Garden who plays a role in some of their most stunning designs. Her feed is not limited to the events she designs, some of the posts feature other event details and some just her eye for beautiful flowers. 

stylemepretty

It's rare to find someone in the wedding industry who doesn't at least like Style Me Pretty. They receive hundreds of submissions of events around the world so their feed is the best of the best and represents all style of events.  I know that when I go scrolling through the SMP feed, I can find inspiration for any project in any part of an event.

Inslee

Inslee is an incredibly talented illustrator based out of NYC.  This might have been cheating a little bit including her in the event-related post but I have always imagined her designs would look stunning on stationary.  She has a beautiful knack for painting the female form (both nude and in various fashionable options) and she also teaches an illustration class which looks amazing.

hooray magazine

And in a colorful final pick, I love Hooray Magazine, they are an Australian publication that is girly without being fussy and posts a beautiful mix of bona fide event photos and great ideas for DIYs.  Their food pictures are innovative, not exactly the same photo you've seen everywhere else and their flower photos are colorful and fresh.  It's an all around good page, less known than the Style Me Pretty's of the world, with a great variety of inspiration for all your event and wedding dreams.

I could spend hours and hours scrolling through Instagram, but I know you don't have those hours to scroll through roundups of Instagrams so I will end it here.  Check in next week for my top lifestyle accounts to follow. 

Wedding Stationery: How to Make a Great First Impression

I haven't spent nearly enough time on this blog talking about one of my favorite parts of weddings - stationery!  Yes, I love flowers and I love working with the couples, but there is something about stationery that gets me so excited.  If I weren't doing what I am doing today, I would love to own a stationery boutique.  I have collected four examples of various pieces of stationery included in past weddings I've done and I can't wait for you to see them!

I am starting off with a Save the Date and welcome map by Mr. Boddington Studio because one of the most important parts about wedding stationery, in my opinion, is that you start your wedding off on the right foot.  For some of your guests, the save the date will be the first communication they receive and you want it to not only capture the vibe of the wedding, but get them excited for the event.  The most successful stationery suites are not only beautiful, but full of personality.  This one for example, not only matched the blue and coral color scheme of the rest of the Sea Island wedding, but also did a great job of capturing the fun and carefree vibe of the couple and the wedding weekend! 

The next example by Regas Studio is a more classic example.  This wedding suite had the beautiful hydrangea trim running throughout and the classic script lettering.  Having a consistent motif, like the hydrangeas here, will tie your paper goods and really the whole event together.  It was great for the guests to walk in and see table numbers (or in this case names, like "Basil") with the same look as the save the date they had received so many months before.  This was a summer wedding at Blue Hill Stone Barns, so the paper pieces had such a nice casual yet elegant feel to them.  

I love this set by Sloane Design because of how considerate it was. The bride was from Brazil and the groom from California, so every piece was in both English and Portuguese. This was a considerable investment on their part because the whole stationery suite was letterpress but the payoff was so huge.  Every guest felt welcome and a part of the weekend, no matter how far they had come from.  I also loved their save the date because it captured their global love story and still got all the necessary information across in a fun postcard format!

This final example (another gem from Sloane Studio) was for a beautiful wedding at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens.  There was lavender throughout the event and I loved how you got the garden party feel even in the stationery.  The escort cards were pretty envelopes with ribbons and inserts printed with botanical patterns.  I loved the couple's choice to use a more modern font around the more natural, botanical theme - I thought it was a great balance!

So there you have it: four great and very different examples of beautiful wedding stationery.  It captures the feel of the event before guests even step foot at the venue.  It's an opportunity to show the personality of the couple just as much as the flowers or the band.  Take advantage of the chance, brides and grooms, and have fun with it!

Four Things to Think About When Choosing Your Wedding Planner

I find most brides fit into one of two categories: they get engaged and they cannot wait to start the wedding planning process OR they get engaged and then suddenly they realize after a couple months that their wedding isn't going to plan itself.  These two brides have very different problems: one wants all the information and to do a lot of things, the other one has no information and probably doesn't have the yearning to go get it.  Wedding planners are great for both types of brides.

Image from Snippet and Ink

Image from Snippet and Ink

Of course, I know that many people say a wedding planner is not in their budget.  This may be true for some but if you plan to "splurge" on multiple parts of your wedding, you may be wasting money and adding significant stress by not hiring one of us.  We come with years experience and lots of relationships that not only can help you pick the best vendors, or get the best deals with those vendors, we can help you enjoy the day. 

I could go on and on about the importance of wedding planners (are you surprised by this fact?) but I won't.  I want to talk about four things you should keep in mind when choosing your planner.  Whichever type of bride you are, there are a couple key things you should think about before signing that dotted line. 

1. Do you like their taste?
It does not have to be exactly your taste.  I've seen a fair number of wedding planner/bride pairings who have completely different vibes but it's important that you trust their judgement.  If you find yourself looking around their office saying "I love this design" or "Although I wouldn't decorate my office this way, this is so cute!" - you're on the money! No matter how much you wish to be involved in every part of your wedding, there will be some decisions your planner has to make on the fly and so it's important that your tastes align.

2. Do you enjoy their company?
You three (the groom is a factor here too, remember?) are going to be spending a lot of time together.  Don't pick the most famous, or most respected planners just because of the name recognition.  This person will be one of the people you interact with most on your wedding day.  Make sure you like spending time with them!

3. Do they ask you hard questions?
When you sit down and talk with potential planners, watch for the ones that are pushing you on your priorities.  I don't just mean trying to change your mind but trying to understand what is truly important to you about your day.  Early in your engagement these questions may be hard because you want everything but a planner who pushes you now is really prioritizing you having a day you are happy with, as opposed to an expensive day full of all the little details you've seen on Pinterest.

4. Are they constantly up-selling you?
It might be hard to spot this before signing on with a planner but you want to avoid the planners who are going to constantly push you for the more "premium" option because they get a percentage of the booking fee.  You shouldn't have to defend yourself from exorbitant prices every day of your engagement.  Perhaps in your introductory meeting tell the potential planner your budget and ask for some vendor suggestions - see if they are suggesting vendors that are actually within your range!  Money is a sensitive topic and it can quickly derail what should be a beautiful time in your life if you aren't looking proactively for a great planner.

Of course, these aren't the only things you should be watching out for, but if all four of these questions are pointing you toward this planner you're probably on the right track!

Four Ways to Incorporate Family Heirlooms into your Wedding

Over and over again, I talk to my brides about how best to capture the spirit of her and her husband-to-be in their big day.  Encapsulating their personalities is one of my favorite parts in bringing the event to execution.  But the logical extension of bringing these two people together is bringing two families together.  Making sure to acknowledge and incorporate your families into the big day will not only be appreciated by the two families involved, but also makes the day more special and sentimental for every guest there!

1. Family Linens

One of the most simple, and perhaps the most sentimental ways to incorporate family heirlooms on your wedding day is to wrap the bridal bouquet in a handkerchief that has been passed down.  I carried a handkerchief that my mother carried that was given to her by a family friend who's mother also carried it.  That woman was a former First Lady of New York State.  This was special to me both because my mother carried it at her wedding, but also because I live in New York (though I did not grow up here).  There is likely to be at least one significant item like this that the bride can have with her as she walks down the aisle.  This is not the most visible of ways to incorporate these items but it is so meaningful for those involved.  

Other ways to incorporate family linens?  Sew a patch of something significant - an old quilt, your mother's wedding dress, your dad's favorite t-shirt - into the lining of your wedding dress.  It can even serve as your something blue!  Alternatively you can use a set of napkins or a special tablecloth for the head table at your reception, or maybe even your entire reception, depending on the size of your event (and the size of your linens set). 

2. Family Silver

I love using this heirloom monogrammed mint julep cup even after my wedding day!

I love using this heirloom monogrammed mint julep cup even after my wedding day!

Family silver can come in many different sizes and quantities.  My go-to way to incorporate it into a wedding (or in reality any party I host to this day where it seems relevant) is to repurpose mint julep cups (above) as containers for flowers.  Flowers are already an eye-catching part of any event and so being able to add additional texture and detail is so lovely.  This principle can be applied to weddings - if you have a set of mint julep cups or any other silver implement that could hold flowers, use them as containers for the florals in the cocktail reception.  If quantities are limited, you can focus your use on the head table or on the bar.  (It would be incredibly appropriate if you had flowers in mint juleps cups on a bar where mint juleps would be served - Southern brides take note!)  If you don't want to use your silver to hold flowers, consider using serving dishes to display favors at the end of the night or to be carried by servers passing out your late night snacks!

3. Family China

Image via The Knot

Image via The Knot

I find that many people have china that is rarely used because they don't feel the various occasions are "special" enough to warrant the use.  But then families pay to rent china for their weddings, one of the most special days in most couples lives.  The quantity problem is a limiting factor.  So if you are having a small reception and have a large quantity of china - this may be your opportunity to shine!  That being said don't feel limited by having enough of the same type of china to outfit everybody at the reception. You can alternate patterns (if they both match your color scheme, of course) to add more depth to the tablescape.  Alternatively, you can mix and match with other patterns from a rental company or only place the heirlooms on some plates and use solid plates on others. This will depend how vintage, boho, or delicate you want your place settings to look.  One thing to consider: if guests will actually be eating food off of your china, budget an extra amount for the catering staff to hand wash those plates, otherwise your heirloom china will be going in an industrial washing machine!!

As a guest and a planner I have always whole-heartedly appreciated the events where couples have made an effort to include their family in the event in ways small and large. These small details can provide another way to include your family in your special day!

Three Fun Alternatives to a Dinner Party

Now don't get me wrong, I love a great dinner party.  In fact, I threw one just earlier this week - it was southern themed.  We had twenty one different types of Southern dishes, mint juleps and a bluegrass band.  It was lovely and most importantly, our guests had fun!  But sometimes dinner parties can be restricting.

Dinner parties fall during the same time of day and most commonly on the weekends when caterers or any other event vendors (bands, florists, etc.) are going to charge the most.  They also require a great deal of preparation to provide a satisfactory amount of food for a real dinner for your guests.  Then there's cost of alcohol and probably some dessert... it can add up, in money and stress.  Now I'm not advising abandoning dinner parties altogether, but I wanted to talk about some of the fun alternatives so you don't feel so stuck.

The delicious selection from my Valentine's Day shoot. 

The delicious selection from my Valentine's Day shoot. 

1. Dessert Party
A dessert party is perfect if you'd still like to host an evening event but would like less of the stress of a typical dinner party.  You only need to provide enough dessert for everybody and you can have fun with putting together a beautiful spread.  The dessert table I put together for my Valentine's Day shoot (if you didn't catch that post, check it out here) is a perfect example.  I got to pick out lots of fun varieties of desserts, a signature cocktail involving Veuve Cliquot Rose and voila - a dessert party was born!

Image via Lia Griffith

Image via Lia Griffith

2. Tea Party
Now a tea party doesn't have to be a throwback to little girls playing dress up, nor to a stuffy English tea room.  I lived in London for a while and still drink tea almost everyday, but I rarely sit down for high tea as it is properly served.  Tea parties are a great event for an afternoon get together.  You don't have to limit yourself to just serving tea - as shown in the photo above, cocktails are also acceptable!  Tea Parties are a fun opportunity to incorporate bright colors and festive flowers - perfect for the dawn of Spring we are experiencing right now.  Food can be limited to little sandwiches and pastries - much more manageable than a full blown dinner party, but if making all those little things is still too much pressure, they are very easily purchased.  Of course tea parties are also perfect for children's birthday parties as well, but we can't let the kids have all the fun!

 

Who doesn't love mimosas? And with a variety of adorable offerings...I'm in love! Image via Design Love Fest

Who doesn't love mimosas? And with a variety of adorable offerings...I'm in love!
Image via Design Love Fest

3. Brunch Party
Why not throw a party in the morning?  Not many people will have thought of it, not to mention that brunch food is some of the most soul-satisfying food out there.  You can get creative and really show off your party planning chops with any variety of "bar" offerings - Mimosa Bar (as above), Bloody Mary Bar, Waffle Bar?  There are some great ideas in this article (and I'm not usually a Buzzfeed reader, but I found it on Pinterest), but basically with this event, anything goes!  As much fun as mimosas or bloody marys are, you can also easily cut costs by making the event alcohol free and focusing on the parfaits or waffles or granola options. Have fun with it!

How Traveling to Japan Inspired Me as a Wedding Planner: Part 2

It has now been over a week since my trip to Japan but I am still harvesting all sorts of inspiration.  Last week I talked about some of the bigger picture ways in which I was getting inspiration. If you haven't checked that out, take a second and give it a read.  But I had so many thoughts I couldn't fit it all in one post.  So here we are again...

The Japanese culture is known for its attention to detail and beauty.  The picture above is of calligraphy brushes from one of the stationery shops I visited in Japan.  The perfect placement of each brush in the display is so impressive.  After posting this picture I noticed two brushes that are slightly off center and I realized that was because of me!  I picked up those brushes to look at them and then quickly threw them back in place so that I could snap a shot.  Goes to show that slowing down and being more intentional (like the Japanese) really pays off in the end.

If there was one thing that I was most impressed by on my trip, it was the food. But not in the way you'd expect. Yes, everything was incredibly delicious - but the presentation blew me away because of the attention to detail. I loved how care was taken to present each piece of fish - just to lay them out was not enough. The Japanese see the world as a canvas, and because it is a country of participation and inclusion, no single person is incapable of contributing to the nation's art of presentation.  No one is without talent, and everyone has experience from childhood. Thus, on a plate the composition, color and overall arrangement of food, even in the most mundane dish like Ramen, is carefully considered.  Where the pork, egg, green onions, shoots and leaves lay atop the ramen noodles is done with as much intention as that in the dishes of the famous Kaiseki cuisine.

I smiled when I saw fiddleheads in the presentation here because I have always loved interjecting greenery unexpectedly. Perhaps that is one of the ways I can connect my experiences in Japan with my experiences as a wedding planner - sometimes taking the unexpected route can really pay off.  I see so many brides doing exactly what they've seen at other weddings because that's what they are "supposed" to do.  Brides, don't be afraid.  Put things where they might not belong.  Do what is unexpected.  It will mean your wedding is far more interesting and it will be remembered .

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As much as the presentation and detail impressed me, the spirit of Japan was incredibly captivating. Sometimes that spirit presented itself in light-hearted, fun ways like these emoticon inspired macaroons.  I loved seeing the smiles and surprise associated with these desserts.  If this is another inspiration as a wedding planner, it's to say not to take yourself too seriously - as a bride, but also in planning any event.  Too stuffy never makes for a good party.  Having fun is the most crucial part! 

Weddings and parties, like travel, are an experience and as much as one can try to control the situation, much of it is subject to the people we surround ourselves with and that is where the joy comes from.  I loved witnessing the Japanese culture and that has more to do with the people behind it than any food, clothing or place I showed you here.  I am so thankful for the chance to get to travel and see a culture so different from my own.  I consider myself so lucky.  Yokatta, arigatoo gozaimasu and sayonara.

How Traveling to Japan Inspired Me as a Wedding Planner: Part 1

They aren't lying when they say, "Travel is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer."  Travel can invigorate and inspire and my recent trip to Japan did exactly that. Thank you all for understanding as I was a little more offline than normal - this trip was all I could have asked for in terms of inspiration, but also a vacation.

I will not parse out every detail of my trip, if for no other reason than it would take me hours to write.  I would rather talk about the amazing ideas and inspiration that came from this trip.

Beautiful Cherry Blossoms at Saihoji Kokedera (Moss Temple)

Beautiful Cherry Blossoms at Saihoji Kokedera (Moss Temple)

How stunning are those cherry blossoms?  I was so glad to have been in Japan at the right time to catch them blooming.  You all know by now what a flower lover I am, but seeing them in such volumes was incredible.  I was so inspired by the contrast and colors all over Japan.  I feel as though many people are afraid to be too bold when they are picking colors, and this view, along with many others, reminded me of how inspiring bright colors are.  If you love pink and green (or any other color combination), don't be afraid to go for it!

As you can imagine, the cultural experience of visiting Japan was incredible.  The above picture on the left is in the Nishiki Market in Kyoto.  Its this long and narrow indoor/outdoor market that runs five blocks and is lined with over 100 shops and restaurants.  You will see anything from fresh-caught tuna and squid to Japanese sweets and pickled vegetables.  I was so busy looking at the culinary delights that I almost forgot to look up, but thank goodness I did!  The lanterns and colored glass skylight above were stunning! Not far from Nishiki Market I wondered into the most beautiful stationery store.  And by stationery, I mean handmade paper, calligraphy brushes and the most gorgeous hand-painted  cards.  The card in the photo on the top right was one of my favorites.  I must have brought home over 100 hand-painted cards.  Talk about inspiration!  I need to do a blog post just on those cards.  In addition to flowers, I LOVE stationery.  If I weren't a wedding planner, I would love to have my own stationery boutique.

Now I could talk about the various inspirations I picked up from the Japanese culture, of which there were many, but as a wedding planner, the main thing that jumped out at me was that where you come from plays such a huge role in who you are.  This felt to me like another of many reasons to remind my brides that your wedding should represent you.  In the same way that I would never want to force a bride from Japan to conform to the American traditions, I think it is hugely important that each bride spends time incorporating who she is into her wedding (and of course, the same applies to the groom).

Lounge at Amanemu in Shima-she-Mie

Lounge at Amanemu in Shima-she-Mie

This beautiful lounge in our hotel overlooking the Ago Bay was so simply designed and I was so captivated by the lanterns hanging above the bar. What being in this beautiful space triggered in me is the importance of lighting. Those lanterns are so stunning, but what is even more incredible about this space is the natural light.  What you don't see in this picture is the water that this room looks out over - the Ago Bay.  The natural light that floods the space and the view of the water makes it feel like you are a part of the landscape.  Inside flows outside and it creates the most serene look and feel.  I have mentioned the importance of lighting before in a #MollyMondays post on Instagram.  It is so important for the ambience and experience of a space and especially an event. So don't make me say it again: Brides, don't be stingy with your lighting budget!

Matcha Tea Latte at Ritz Carlton Kyoto

Matcha Tea Latte at Ritz Carlton Kyoto

So I use to be a big coffee drinker until I had my second daughter.  Somehow I lost the taste for coffee entirely after she was born.  But I didn't lose the need for caffeine in the morning.  I can't remember exactly how is started, but somehow I got hooked on the green tea latte at Starbucks, which is made with matcha powder.  I order a venti green tea latte every single morning.  I swear the thing must have 500 calories in it - it is so good!  Starbucks seems to be the only place you can find this drink in the US.  In Japan, its everywhere.  Boy, was I in heaven!  One afternoon we decided to do traditional Japanese tea with our daughters.  So many delicious sweets and plenty of choices for tea or coffee.  Obviously I had to order a green tea latte.  The above picture is what it looked like - gorgeous!

Of course, when you are in a foreign country you have to be willing to try new things if you are going to take advantage of the full experience and really immerse yourself.  How does this apply to being a wedding planner?  As a bride, you should be ready for new experiences, etc., but to me, the most applicable version of my culinary adventures while in Japan is that as a wedding planner, it is important for me to be willing to adjust and accommodate what is most appropriate for my clients.  There are some wedding planners who are specialists at one type of wedding, whether it be destination, ballroom or barn wedding, they excel at the one type that is in their wheelhouse.  I think, much like trying new foods while in a new country, one of the greatest joys of being a wedding planner is that I have the opportunity to be a bit of a chameleon and adjust to each client.  And this reminded me what a luxury that is!

Wedding dresses at the Isetan bridal salon.

Wedding dresses at the Isetan bridal salon.

Okay - wedding dresses!  In writing up this post, I was reminded of the fact that some things are universal.  That the moments shared between bride and groom at the altar, no matter if you are in a white dress or kimono, are transcendant.  That no matter whether its filet mignon or traditional Japanese cuisine, the point of the reception is to bring friends and families together to celebrate.  Walking through the bridal salon in a Japanese department store was amazing because of the beautiful dresses, as it would have been in the US as well.  But that reminder of the continuity of love and celebration across continents was far more important.

Cherry Blossoms in Kyoto 

Cherry Blossoms in Kyoto 

This final photo seemed important to share a) because I could not get enough of the beautiful cherry blossoms everywhere we went, but b) because walking into our beautiful hotels, or around our various attractions each day, this trip reminded me every day, over and over, to slow down and appreciate what I was seeing.  We often get so caught up in our day to day that we don't appreciate how lucky we are.  I think this happens a lot to my brides - they get so caught up in trying to make sure every part of their wedding is perfect that they don't remember to look around and appreciate how in love they are and how everything about wedding planning is supposed to be a celebration.  Like the cherry blossoms above, if I had been stressed and texting, I might have walked right past it!  And what a shame that would have been for a flower lover like me. 

If you want to see more shots from this trip, check out my Instagram. I've already posted a few and there will definitely be more to come!

Five Places You Must See: Some of Molly's Favorite Places

"Travel is the one thing you can buy that makes you richer."  I love to travel.  I have been very lucky to have gone on some pretty amazing trips (and am actually on one as we speak - more on that later).  So I wanted to spend a little time today on five places you must see, in case any of you are looking to plan a new trip, or (who knows?) a destination wedding.

The Islands of the South Pacific

Bora Bora (image from)

Bora Bora (image from)

How incredibly photogenic is Bora Bora?  French Polynesia, Tahiti, Bora Bora - these islands in the South Pacific are some of the most breathtaking tropical locations in the world.  The downside of visiting these island is its particularly difficult to get to from the United States.  But on the other hand, the upside is that these remote islands are relatively untouched and allow you to completely disconnect and enjoy your vacation. 

The South of France

Provence (image from)

Provence (image from)

Romantic and beautiful with so much character - the South of France has so many different facets that it can please almost any traveler.  Whether you're staying on the Mediterranean coast or more inland, you are not far from wine country, the beach, and plenty of charming little french towns.  A vacation to the South of France is best executed in lots of little excursions so you get to really see the area. I have been fortunate enough to spend a fair amount of time in Provence.  What a slice of heaven!  Some of my favorite towns to visit are Saint Étienne-du-Grès,  Saint Rémy, Eygalière, Arles and Les Beaux.  The best part of hitting these places may be just driving between the aligned large plane trees on the D99, stopping here and there at small vineyards and canals.  Along the way, I highly recommend a good hike up into the Alpilles followed by cheese and crackers with rosé!

India

Taj Mahal (image from)

Taj Mahal (image from)

The history and culture of India is unlike any other.  I have always wanted to go to India to see the Taj Mahal (pictured above) and many of the other beautiful and historically rich sights.  India is enormous, and I wonder if many people shy away from trips there for this reason or perhaps fearing logistics and culture of such an economically stratified country.  I would say, much like a wedding planner can be key to the success of your wedding, employing a travel agent or concierge to help you with the nitty gritty of your time there is a smart investment.  We all have too few travel days to waste any one of them on a less than stellar vacation.

Italian Coast

Genoa, Italy (image from)

Genoa, Italy (image from)

There are too many parts of Italy to easily pick one, but if forced, the coast of Italy is one of the most charming places to visit.  I have also had the luck of spending a fair amount of time there.  The coast line is rugged and imperfect and there are beautiful towns tucked up and down the coast of an already culturally rich country. You get to eat Italian food the whole trip while relaxing and exploring fascinating little towns. The photo above is from Genoa, but I also love Cinque Terre, Positano and the island of Capri. 

London

Notting Hill (image from)

Notting Hill (image from)

London is one of my all time favorite cities in the world and while perhaps not exotic, it is a place I believe that you must see.  Every time I visit I love exploring all the neighborhoods of London.  Of course, the most beautiful, in my opinion, are Mayfair and Belgravia.  My favorite floral boutique is located in Belgravia - Neill Strain Floral Couture.  It is OUTSTANDING!  They are so creative and everything is absolutely stunning.  Right around the corner is my favorite street, Motcomb.  Talk about beautiful boutiques!  ON Motcomb has the most exquisite collection of ladies eveningwear.  Every time I go I wish I had a fabulous event coming up that demanded a new dress (Met Gala, one day - #goals).  And for children's clothing, La Stupenderia is truly to die for.  I always have to pick up one little piece for my girls.   And finally, one of my favorite spots to indulge in a sweet treat after an afternoon of shopping on Motcomb is Ottolenghi.  Their meringues are the size of my head and they literally melt in your mouth.  AMAZING!

I mentioned earlier that I am on a trip right now.  I am actually traveling in Japan!  It has been an amazing second visit to this country and I cannot wait to talk more about it.  In the meantime, I want to let you know that I will be taking time off from the blog next week, in order to fully enjoy the land of the rising sun.  Check back in two weeks for another post and in the meantime, check out my Instagram for posts from my trip! 

Creative Table Decor: How to Use Citrus at your Next Party

I have mentioned it on an Instagram or two... but one of my favorite ways to surprise and delight guests is to create non-traditional tablescapes or centerpieces. I am a flower lover at heart, but mixing it up can sometimes be fun, not to mention a gift to your wallet! One of my favorite ways to do this is with citrus! I love integrating it into my tables and it makes the room smell so great. 

Chic tablescape (image from Architectural Digest)

Chic tablescape (image from Architectural Digest)

This tablescape makes me want summer to come even faster. The idea of sitting by a pool at the beach with the sun shining sounds amazing compared to dreary New York City right now. You are probably not surprised to hear that I love the blue and white color scheme of this table, since I always love blue and white together. But more relevant today is the choice to put bowls of citrus fruits as the centerpieces as opposed to flowers. It's more functional because the oranges could also be eaten as snacks later and for the purpose of this tablescape, they inject a great pop of color. Its a low-maintenance, cost-effective alternative to flowers!

Casual citrus-filled tablescape (Image from)

Casual citrus-filled tablescape (Image from)

This table runner full of lemons and limes makes me think of outdoor dining around the Mediterranean. It is beautiful and dramatic but doesn't seem too "done" or fussy. The contrast of the greenery and the bright citrus means that the table doesn't need much else to look really beautiful and I love that the runner spans the entire length of the table!

I saw this image on the Style Me Pretty Instagram and loved it so much I regrammed it!

I saw this image on the Style Me Pretty Instagram and loved it so much I regrammed it!

Here's another example of citrus on tables. Here they chose not to use the citrus in the tablescape per se, but I love how they used oranges with the place cards. The pop of color and texture is so great and it keeps the event feeling natural and festive. 

My Chinese New Year Dinner Party

My Chinese New Year Dinner Party

I have even used this concept myself recently at my Chinese New Year dinner party with kumquats and greenery and I thought it turned out really well. The bright green and orange combined for a really festive atmosphere. (You can see the rest of that blog post here!)

You should never feel limited by flowers for your table - they are often expensive and time consuming. You can balk expectations and show your creativity by incorporating citrus or other fruits and vegatables into your table with great results. Creativity is your best asset as a host or hostess - take advantage!

 

A Jackson Hole Wedding: A Look at the Day Molly got Married

I have been a wedding planner for 10 years.  I have helped many brides and grooms create weddings that not only describe them as couples but are enjoyable for them and their guests.  One thing that makes me good at my job are the memories from when I was in their shoes.  Being able to relate to the feelings of the bride or tell stories of what happened on my wedding day are invaluable for being a successful wedding planner.  So today I will share some photos here from my wedding weekend in Jackson Hole!

For our welcome party, the hosts incorporated the western theme into the flowers.

For our welcome party, the hosts incorporated the western theme into the flowers.

As you can imagine, I have hundreds of photos of this weekend. And as I often have to remind my brides, everything did not (or will not) go perfectly. But letting all the hard work and planning play out and just sitting back to enjoy the fact that I was about to marry the love of my life was the most important part of this weekend. Walking around and getting to see moments like the florals in a boot above, which I thought were both beautiful and took advantage of the western vibe of Jackson Hole, was a great reminder of how lucky I was (and still am)!  A piece of advice I always give to couples is in the middle of all the hustle of the day, stop, breath, and remind each other to look around and take it all in.  Undoubtedly one of you will say the next day, "It was so fast and there were so many people, I don't even remember what the cake looked like."

The childhood photos were such a hit with the guests at my Bridesmaids Luncheon.

The childhood photos were such a hit with the guests at my Bridesmaids Luncheon.

I kicked off the wedding weekend with a lunch with my bridesmaids at the Jackson Hole Wildlife Art Museum. I had two matrons of honor in my wedding, one whom I have known since we were two years old!  She made the placecards at each table and used different childhood photos of me on each one.  It was one of my favorite and most meaningful details from the weekend!

Our booklet of weekend events which each guest received in their welcome bags upon arrival.

Our booklet of weekend events which each guest received in their welcome bags upon arrival.

Jackson Hole sits on the Continental Divide and so we loved getting to use that in the Save the Date and Wedding Weekend booklet.  "Union on the Divide" was a cute way to incorporate both of those elements. The photo here is of the booklet we put in each guest's welcome bag upon arrival with a schedule of the weekend events, shopping and restaurant recommendations, transportation details, maps and important phone numbers for the weekend.

We traded traditional linens for a hide for the tabletops at our rehearsal dinner.

We traded traditional linens for a hide for the tabletops at our rehearsal dinner.

In my opinion, Jackson Hole is one of the most beautiful places in the world.  The views are staggering; so when we started planning our weekend we wanted to incorporate lots of natural elements to showcase the beauty of the valley and surrounding mountains.  Our rehearsal dinner featured wildflowers and lush greenery on the tables and soft hide tablecloths.  It was a detail that not many of our guests had ever seen! 

The whole evening had a great western, rustic feel to it but the monogrammed napkins and formal calligraphy on the menu cards gave the tables a refinement that balanced the evening.  My husband and I wanted nothing about the weekend to feel stuffy - the most important thing was to have a good time and this evening was the perfect kickoff!

A great detail shot of my mom fastening me into my dress.

A great detail shot of my mom fastening me into my dress.

Even though I got married in June, the weather on the day of my wedding was a total whirlwind. It is a great story to use with my brides to explain that as much as you'd like to control every element of the day, you can't.  I was having an amazing morning getting ready with my girlfriends at the Amangani Resort and all the while temperatures outside were dropping from a sunny and crisp day into quite a chilly one. It led to us ultimately making the decision to move the ceremony inside the tent for the enjoyment and comfort of our guests.  (It was suppose to be outside in the great wide open under the Tetons!!)

As many of you know from my Instagram, I am a huge flower lover. I had planned beautiful combinations of blue, white and green flowers, all delicate and many beautifully fragrant. Much to my chagrin, a lot of the flowers froze because of the cold weather. There was nothing I could do about it, but I still look back a little sad about all those beautiful flowers!

Despite the chilly weather and having to move the ceremony inside, it went beautifully. The lush florals on the altar were all I could have asked for and we served Hot Toddies inside the tent to keep our guests warm. I wore a beautiful (and simple) Angel Orensanz dress (with pockets!!).  I carried a bouquet of Lily of the Valley (which is my favorite flower) accented with delicately fragrant Gardenias. We made the best of quickly changing weather!

One of the sweet arrangements that DIDN'T freeze from the cocktail reception. 

One of the sweet arrangements that DIDN'T freeze from the cocktail reception. 

Although I look back very fondly on my wedding day, and remember many of these last minute changes without much concern, there is one thing that still breaks my heart - any of my flower arrangements had frozen due to the cold weather and had to be removed. The flower lover in me still cringes a little bit remembering but the ones that did survive were amazing and added great texture to the reception decor. It still serves as a reminder to go with the flow and also that the day is, at its core, about getting married and not about every detail of the party. Make sure to set yourself up for success with your mindset!

After the ceremony we got to take advantage of our beautiful surroundings to take photos. The Tetons in the background made for a beautiful backdrop and at this point in the day, the snow was magical!

After formal portraits we got to enjoy. Just as the rest of the weekend, for our reception we tried to incorporate some of the essence of our surroundings. We had delicious fruit teas displayed on a table decorated with colorful fruits and flowers (fitting for June, despite the weather) which turned out beautifully. My cake, and cake table, had wooden touches to connect back to the rustic, western vibe, not to mention our antler chandeliers which were one of the most interesting details of the reception. We danced the night away in our beautiful tent tucked in the property of Lost Creek Ranch. 

I always recommend to my clients that they find ways to make sure the day really represents them. We had a Dylan's Candy Bar bar, which referenced our life in New York (and my sweet tooth).  And we served huckleberry milkshakes from the Victor Emporium, a local favorite.  

All in all, I look back on my wedding weekend fondly. It was unpredictable, but full of love. As much as I loved putting together all these beautiful things, at its core, it was a great day because I had all my friends and family together and got to marry my best friend. Brides, people will keep saying it so eventually you should believe it - focus on getting married, the details will fall into place.