Event & Wedding Planning

One Year Anniversary Shoot

Exactly one month ago, my husband and I celebrated our one year anniversary. Even a year and a month later I’m still getting used to saying the words “my husband!” Recently, we had the opportunity to do a one-year shoot with my very talented photographer friend, Aki Akiwumi of Mangolens photography. We decided we might as well go all the way and throw on our wedding day garb to really enjoy the celebration of one year of marriage.

We made our way to the Netherlands Carillion which, in my opinion, is one of the absolute best views of the city. Case in point:

What I loved about the shoot was its relaxed nature. We were able to just enjoy being with one another, which was hard to do on our wedding day as we were rushing from the ceremony to pictures to the reception, keeping our focus on what was happening next instead of what had just happened. The photos of our wedding day are absolutely priceless and beautiful (thanks to Paul Morse and Jacqulyn Maisonneuve) but I think most brides can attest to the difficulty of relaxing on your wedding day.

If you’re thinking of doing an Anniversary shoot, whatever the year, I’d highly recommend it. It is a fun, low pressure way to document a special milestone in your lives. A shoot can be as low key as you, your significant other in your favorite jeans and tees or as elaborate as getting back into your wedding day outfits. Your photographer can work with you, too, to pinpoint ideas and inspiration.

We had a blast doing the shoot and being in my wedding dress made it feel even more special. But I will say, the well wishes and “congratulations!” from the occasional passersby did make us feel a bit awkward at first, but then we just embraced it and responded with a gracious “thank you!” One year of marriage deserves just as much congratulations as one hour, in my opinion!

Here are some of my favorite shots. Aki shoots in both digital and film (yes, good old fashioned film) which is really, really unique and a testament to his skills! See if you can tell which ones were shot on film and which ones are digital:

*All photos are courtesy of Mangolens photography.

Have you done an Anniversary shoot? What was your favorite part?


Something old, something new…

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, as the saying goes. It is tradition to have all four as you make your way down the aisle, but it is also a fun way to accessorize.

I think these little “somethings” are an opportunity to add some of the most special, heartfelt and creative finishing touches to your ensemble. However, they can often be overlooked amidst all the taffeta and tulle, and sometimes completely forgotten. I took a such joy in finding a unique way to satisfy each “something” that in some cases I wound up with two!

Something old.

This was one of my favorite categories. There is just so much you can do to have something old tucked away in your wedding day garb. They don’t give you all that tulle for nothing! I opted for using something old to create something new with the help of my good friend Nicole. My mother had so kindly given me her veil to use in whatever way I pleased. I, not so kindly, decided to chop it up, remove the gorgeous pearl beaded trim and Nicole was able to turn it into a beautiful belted creation.

I wore the beaded belt, in the upper right corner, down the aisle and the belt with the flower accent for the reception. (Photo from Paul Morse)

Something new

Something new is a pretty easy requirement to satisfy. Let’s start with a new dress, new shoes, potentially new jewelry, hopefully new underwear…you get the idea. I was extremely lucky to have a wonderful husband who gifted me with some seriously stunning pearl and diamond earrings. Something new, check!

(Photo from Paul Morse)

Something borrowed.

A few weeks ago, while I was on the topic of wedding shoes, I talked about the shoe clips that I was able to borrow from my mother in law. My cousin also let me borrow a strand of pearls that belonged to my Aunt who is no longer with us, which served as very special reminder of two people I love. Incidentally, my mother in law also gave me a set of her own pearls, which paired perfectly, allowing me to have something borrowed and something new.

I wore two pearl necklaces – one borrowed and one old – for my walk down the aisle. You can also get a better view of the belt which was made from my mom’s veil. (Photo courtesy of Paul Morse)

Something blue

This is where a bride can have the most fun. From painted finger nails to toe nails; from sashes to undergarments; and from flowers to hairpieces; blue can make its debut just about anywhere. Again, I opted for blue shoes but also borrowed (check, another borrowed item!) a bracelet from my mother with a small topaz stone. The possibilities are endless.

I loved the pop of blue in all of my photos. (Photo from Paul Morse)

These were my picks for my own something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. There are so many other creative ways to meet these traditional criteria. Have your bridesmaids sign the bottom of your shoes in blue or paint the bottom of your shoes blue. Tie a picture of your parents or grandparents on their wedding day to your bouquet for something old. Borrow a close friend or family member’s veil.

Whatever you choose, make sure all items are uniquely yours and make you feel special!

For all my married folk out there, what were your four “somethings”?


Bridesmaid Dress Basics

We’ve all been to a wedding or two where all we can do is stare at the bridesmaids with sympathy and wonder what the heck happened. Horrible bridesmaid fashion is a running joke, but when we see it in person, we all gasp and say under our breath, “I’ll never do that to MY bridesmaids!”

Yet, it Still. Keeps. Happening. So often, that there are entire websites devoted to showcasing these bridesmaid dress blunders.

I refuse to listen the age-old belief that people intentionally make their bridesmaids look bad so that they can look better; I won’t believe that anyone is that mean. I think that sometimes a well-intentioned bride can get a little too carried away with her vision of what she wants on her big day that she forgets the bridesmaids have to walk down an aisle in front of tons of people too.

Of course, sometimes brides just have terrible style. Blame the 80s. (Image from Bridesmaidtrade)

How can this be avoided? A few ideas:

  • Do enough research to know what color, length and material you want. Beyond this, let your bridesmaids weigh in with their opinions. What styles do they feel complement them the most and what styles do they feel downright uncomfortable wearing?
  • Ask at least a few, if not all, bridesmaids to come with you to try on dresses. Set proper expectations by sharing your wishes, wants and “deal breakers” with them and also letting them know you want their opinions but hope they will respect yours, too.
  • A bridal party is bound to include bridesmaids with several different heights, weights and body types. It can be very difficult to choose a dress that will look great on everyone. If you’re open to it, consider having different styles in the same color, or in complementary colors.
Amsale dresses in Blush. Amsale is a fantastic designer to choose if you’re looking to vary the bridesmaids styles and colors as all of the dresses are still cohesive.
Amsale again in different colors and styles. Photo from Style Me Pretty via Jamie Fender Photography
  • Let go of the whole “but they can wear it again” concept. When have you ever worn a bridesmaid dress outside of the celebration of wedded bliss? Never. Ever. Doesn’t happen. Get the notion out of your head now, realize that this triple digit expense is completely in your honor and save yourself the eye-rolls from the peanut gallery.
  • Now that you comprehend how much your bridesmaids are going to spend on YOUR day, ask them for a price range with which they are comfortable spending. As a bride, you are likely spending a small fortune on your wedding, but it isn’t fair to expect the same of your bridesmaids. Be conscious of what you are asking and if you fall in love with a dress that is simply too expensive, look for a cheaper alternative or consider paying for a portion of the dress as a gift to your lovely ladies (Want some more gift ideas?).
  • Don’t forget about the rest of the look – and the cost. Shoes, earrings, necklace, bracelet, etc. Accessorizing isn’t cheap and certain dresses require more than others. A halter gown lets you skip a necklace and opt for a bracelet and earrings. A strapless dress means they’ll likely need to spring for all three. A long dress lets you have a little more freedom with the shoes since they won’t be visible; let your bridesmaids wear shoes they already own to save them some cash.
  • Think beyond the traditional bridesmaid dress. There is no rule that you HAVE to pick a dress from a bridal designer and there are some pretty fabulous dresses out there. However, you do run the risk of the retailer selling out of a dress, so I’d recommend going this route with a smaller bridal party just in case. A friend of mine chose BCBG dresses for her bridesmaids and they were absolutely stunning. *This is the only case in which there is a small chance they may actually wear the dress again.
  • It is impossible to make everyone happy, but you can make everyone comfortable. Listen to your girls and do whatever you can to make them feel confident and fabulous. They’ve spent a ton of time supporting you, make sure you return the favor!

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

The detailing on this dress is darling. BHLDN Tracery Dress | on sale for $180 (originally $260)
Peplum flatters almost all body types. While peplum is a trend, this option is classic enough that it won’t lead to regrets in a few years. Alvina Valenta StyleAV9265
The one shouldered look is not for everyone, but this is a clean, classic option. BCBG MAXAZRIA Blue One Shoulder Dress | At Lord and Taylor for $298

Of course, I am partial to the bridesmaid dresses chosen for my own wedding. Strangely enough, this dress was picked by every single one of my seven bridesmaids. I was content to have several dress styles in the same color, but ended up with one dress as it was everyone’s favorite. It just so happened to look absolutely perfect on every single one of them!

Dresses from Jim Hjelm Spring 2011. Photo taken by Paul Morse. (A special thanks to these gorgeous ladies who are phenomenal.)


All About the (Wedding Day) Shoes

Most brides are meticulous about their wedding “look.” Countless shopping hours and splitting decisions are made regarding the dress, jewelry, accessories, hair and makeup. But what about the shoes?

Image courtesy of Mangolens Photography

As a shoe-lover, it is hard for me to understand how the shoes are not a primary focus of every bride. However, I could see how what you plan wear on your feet underneath a floor-length gown might be the last of your worries.

But ladies, please think twice about your wedding day footwear!

  1. You are going to parade down an aisle in front of an audience. Whether it is an audience of 10 or 300 is irrelevant. You will WALK for what seems an eternity down a tiny little aisle while nervous, anxious, excited, happy, insert-any-other-emotion-here. Every bride’s worst fear is teetering, tripping and/or falling during that fateful stretch between her and her groom. Make sure you have a nice, sturdy pair of shoes – flats or heels – to keep you gliding effortlessly down that aisle.
  2. After you’re done strutting better than a pageant queen, you are going to be doing your bride-ly duties of thanking guests, shaking hands, kissing babies and, of course, dancing the night away. Again, you want to look impossibly perfect while doing all of these things and painful, uncomfortable shoes will ruin your evening.
  3. Shoes are an opportunity to show some personality. Prefer living in color? Pick a pair of bold, colored statement heels. Country girl at heart? Throw on some cowboy boots. Tomboy for life? Put on a pair of Converse. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to personalize a day otherwise all about tradition.

A good pair of shoes do not need to cost a fortune either. I chose a pair of $40 blue heels as my “something blue” and added my mother-in-laws shoe clips, which she so generously let me wear as one of my “something borrowed” items.

Photo courtesy of Paul Morse Photography

Still searching for a perfect pair? Whether you’re a bride, bridesmaid or just a guest, these pairs are fantastic:

Caparros Shoes, Bouvier Evening Pumps | $76.50
Ann Roth Shoes “Swoon” | $312.50
Kate Spade Charm | $325

My absolute dream wedding day shoe, you know, if I had $1,000 to spend on a pair of shoes.

Manolo Blahnik ‘Hangis’ Jeweled Pump | $945

A Gift to Give

Earlier this week, I posted about my one year wedding anniversary. My “Like it. Love it. Buying It.” feature for the week just so happened to be comprised entirely of items from South Moon Under.

So, I thought why not combine the two and share one of my favorite items from South Moon Under for weddings, engagements, anniversaries or other related love stories! I always find it hard to purchase the right gift for such occasions. I want to buy the guest(s) of honor something special and personal, but most gifts are either too generic that they might receive 5 of them or entirely too intimate that the recipient might suspect you have a stalker-ish obsession.

The perfect in-between? A handcrafted picture frame adorned with wishes of happiness:

Happily Ever After Picture Frame | $52

You can find this little guy, which is actually 14″x 16″ (so not that little!), at South Moon Under or on the designer’s Etsy shop, “GO JUMP IN THE LAKE.” If you’re looking for instant gratification, SMU is your best bet. However, if you have some time, you just have to peruse Go Jump in the Lake’s Etsy shop which is chock-full of decorative signs of all shapes, sizes and colors with oh-so-sweet sayings.

Wedding Photo Frame | $40
All You Need is Love Photo Frame | $40

Whether you’re purchasing for yourself, your significant other or a friend, these signs will leave a smile anyone’s face! I’m already in love with mine. Now, I just have to find the perfect place to put it…



Upcoming Trunk Shows at Hitched and Carine’s!

In case you haven’t heard yet, here are the two trunk shows you do NOT want to miss this weekend:

Hitched Christos Bridal Gown Trunk Show

Make your way over to Hitched this Friday and Saturday, September 28th-29th for an exclusive preview of Christos Spring 2013 collection. The Christos line is technically an Amsale collection and it shows. These dresses are ultra-feminine, incredibly romantic and impeccably detailed, making them ideal for a bride hoping for a more traditional, yet ethereal look. If you have been searching for either a lace wedding dress or a dress with sleeves, Christos has some of the best options out there!

Here is just a glimpse of what you can slip on at Hitched:

You’ll save 10% on any Christos dress purchased during the trunk show and have the opportunity to meet with a Christos representative to discuss any potential changes to your favorite gowns. Make an appointment by calling 202-333-6162 or emailing appointments@hitchedsalon.com. Appointments are required!

Bliss by Monique Lhuillier Trunk Show at Carine’s

Starting TOMORROW through Saturday, brides can get their hands on the latest collection from Monique Lhuillier’s Bliss Spring 2013 collection at Carine’s Bridal Atelier. Dreamed of donning a Monique Lhuillier gown but the price tag has made it impossible? Look no further! The Bliss collection is all of the gorgeousness one would expect from Monique Lhuillier, without the extra $$$. Here is a preview of some of the frocks you’ll see at the Trunk Show, but if you want to see the entire collection head over to the Monique Lhuillier Pinterest page. More designers with flash sites NEED to do this! Brilliant!

Make an appointment by calling 202-965-4696 or emailing
info@carinesbridal.com. The trunk show runs from September 27th-29th.


A Year of Happiness

Disclaimer: This post is a bit more personal and a bit more sentimental than most. If you’d prefer to peruse about lighter topics, check out this or this.

So much happens in a year, yet a year flies by faster than you can say “happy anniversary.”

Almost two years ago, he popped the question:

Image from Jennifer Chase Photography.

Exactly a year ago, we said “I do”:

Image from Paul Morse Photography.

And today, we celebrate:

Image from Mangolens Photography.

One year ago today, I married my best friend and soulmate. I can honestly say, I have never been happier.

A special thanks to our bridal party for making sure we made it down the aisle.

My beautiful bridesmaids. (Photo courtesy of Paul Morse)
The dashing groomsmen. (Photo courtesy of Paul Morse)
The man who made it all possible. (Photo courtesy of Paul Morse)

Ok, and the people who REALLY made it all possible, our parents.

(Photo courtesy of Paul Morse)
(Photo courtesy of Paul Morse)


We call it true love because it is a certainty; because you can feel it in your bones, in the pit of your stomach, in your soul.



Wedding Budget Breakdown

Finances are always the most stressful part of any event, so it isn’t surprising that the budget can be a major point of added contention during the planning process. Let’s also consider the fact that money consistently pops up as a leading cause of divorce; yet another reason why communication about finances is essential during the wedding planning process and throughout your marriage.

Last week I shared some wedding planning budget basics and, in honor of the positive response it received, I thought I’d expand upon it a bit. After all, knowledge is power people!

One of the most common questions about a wedding budget is how much should be spent on what? Flowers, catering, booze, invitations, gifts – there are so many line items to consider it’s hard to know the price tag that comes with each of them.

The best approach is to look at each expenditure as a percentage of your total budget. Considering the most common line items, you can use the following as a suggested guideline, with the caveat that every wedding is unique and will have additions or subtractions to this list:

Reception Costs: 50%
YES, FIFTY PERCENT. A wedding is about the celebration of marriage. Operative word: celebration. Your reception will be the largest expense of your entire wedding and rightly so (see operative word above). Reception costs include food and beverage costs, linens, guest transportation, favors, venue rental, table and chair rentals (if needed), tent rental (again, if needed), lighting, non-floral decor and any other “upgrades” such as a custom dance floor, draping or a custom lighted monogram.

Photography and Videography: 10%
Your wedding day will FLY by faster than you can say “I do.” The bride and groom are bouncing around from the ceremony, to the reception and then on to their exit. Often, the guests of honor miss many of the special moments that happen when they are busy greeting guests, cutting the cake and tossing the bouquet. An exceptional photographer and videographer, if you have the budget, is essential not only for snapping portraits of the bride and groom, bridal party and families, but also for capturing fleeting moments and memories. I was able to relive my wedding while viewing our photos for the first time, which to me is invaluable.

My advice, don’t scrimp on the photographer; scrap the videographer if you don’t have the funds.

Jazz quartet at our wedding. (Photo courtesy of Paul Morse)

Music: 10%
As cheesy as it sounds, your music selection is the soundtrack for your wedding. A DJ is the less expensive option. A live band is considerably more expensive, but I believe there is no substitute for live music. If a Motown or bluegrass band is what you’ve always wanted, do not shortchange yourself.

Large floral urns we used during the ceremony. (Photo courtesy of Paul Morse)

Floral: 5-7%
Flowers are beautiful and, some would argue, necessary part of a wedding. I beg to differ. I stuck to a small floral budget because I knew I wanted to spend more on other areas of my wedding. That being said, if a bride has dreamed of centerpieces dripping in roses, lilies and dahlias, then she’ll want to increase her floral budget and decrease budget somewhere else.

Bride and Groom’s Wedding Day Garb: 5-7%
Girls dream of their wedding dress for decades. How can we put a number on the happiness of a dream coming true? We can and we will. It is easy to get carried away in the idea of walking down the aisle in a couture creation, but be realistic about your wedding day attire. Bridal salons should always ask you your budget prior to putting you in a gown; don’t lie, don’t exaggerate, don’t overestimate. If you’ve got a $3,000 budget, do not, under any circumstances try on the $10,000 Vera Wang “just to see how it looks.” It will look amazing. You will love it. You will cry when the sales assistant tries to pry it off of your naked, Vera-less body.

The groom can rent a tux fairly inexpensively, but can also opt to purchase one. After all, he should be able to look his best too!

Getting down to the nitty-gritty…

Our programs, handmade, with love. DIY can work! (Photo courtesy of Paul Morse.)

Invitations, programs, escort cards: 3%
Enough said. DIY can save you tons, but don’t DIY to the point that you are covered in paper cuts and reciting ink options in your sleep.

Wedding Rings: 2%
There are $100 wedding rings and $100,000 wedding rings. Pick accordingly. Go to the same jeweler where your fiance purchased your engagement ring because they will likely give you a deal. Remember ladies, don’t get carried away with the bling. Anniversaries = upgrades.

Ceremony: 2%
If a ceremony and reception are in different locations, the ceremony venue might ask for a small rental fee. An officiant should not cost more than $100. Additional costs will come from other factors, such as whether a venue requires any type of audio enhancement such as a microphone and speakers. Jewish brides will want to account for the cost of a chuppah, which often can be rented from a florist. Chairs can also usually be upgraded for an additional cost.

Bridal Party Gifts: 2%
Gifts are completely dependent upon what you can spend. If you have the cash, spring for your bridesmaids and groomsmen. After all they are your support system, and let’s face it, you’ve likely been a bit more difficult than usual to deal with. Here’s a great idea for a bridesmaids’ gift.

Bride and Groom Gifts: undecided
It is tradition for the bride and groom to exchange gifts either at the rehearsal dinner or prior to the ceremony. Many grooms opt to gift the bride something to wear for her walk down the aisle.Gifts for each other can be sentimental and cost nothing, be over the top and cost a small fortune, or fit somewhere nicely in between. I don’t feel right putting a price on this section because I think it is something that should be incredibly personal and doesn’t need to have a price tag. However, if your gift does have a price tag, make sure you budget for it!

“Oh, SH*T” Fund: 7-10%
Things will go wrong. Last minute expenses will pop up. That one crazy vendor will try to throw in an additional $1,000 charge at the last minute, hoping you’ll be so stressed out that you won’t notice or care (yes, this really did happen to me!). Do your best to reserve some money for emergencies,  just in case…oh, I dunno, it rains and you have to pay to tent your ceremony space; or you accidentally lose your security deposit because of “damages.” If this money ends up being needed, a whole lot of unnecessary stress was avoided. If it isn’t needed, congratulations, you just saved enough to do some major upgrading to your honeymoon.

First class tickets to Hawaii anyone?


Wedding Wednesday: Budget Basics

Photo from Jennifer Chase Photography.

You’re newly engaged. The excitement of your impending nuptials is contagious. Visions of flowers, tulle and taffeta dance in your head. Then you comprehend how much those flowers, tulle and taffeta are going to cost and you begin freaking out.

Stop freaking and start budgeting, stat! Sticking to a wedding budget is difficult, but not impossible. You have to start with a few basics:

  1. How much money do you have? Before you pin even one single picture to Pinterest, take a good, hard, honest look at your total savings and current salaries. Do NOT blow your entire savings on a wedding, even if you’ve dreamed of nothing but Vera and the Ritz.
  2. Who are you expecting money from? Figure out who is going to help foot the bill. Every family is different, so don’t assume anything when it comes to money. All brides would like to think mom and dad have been saving every penny since she was born for their daughter’s eventual walk down the aisle, but this is completely unrealistic. If you are expected money from your parents, ask them if they are able to contribute and, if so, how much. It will be awkward, weird and potentially uncomfortable but it must be done. If your betrothed thinks his parents would like to assist with the wedding funds, let him have a conversation with his parents. This is not your place and you should not expect it.
  3. How much do you really want to spend on a wedding? Once you know how much you can spend and how much your family is able to contribute, it is time to decide what you want to spend. Look at your money as a lump sum. What can this lump sum buy? A honeymoon to Tahiti? A down payment on a dream home? An Amsale gown? Make a decision about what is most important for YOUR wedding experience and prioritize accordingly.

These three questions will help any bride better understand what she wants and how it compares to what she can actually afford. Once a budget is in place, it is much easier to make responsible and realistic decisions, making the entire wedding planning process less stressful.

After the budget is settled, there are tons of ways to prioritize, cut costs, stretch investments and DIY your way to wedding perfection!


Modern Trousseau Trunk Show at Hitched

I must admit, I am completely partial to this particular event. I bought my own wedding dress at Hitched, and it just so happened to be a Modern Trousseau creation. I fell in love with my dress the first time I saw it and each subsequent time I viewed it as well. What can I say, I am indecisive and it took me four times to try on the same gown to admit to myself hat it was the right one. Thank goodness the lovely ladies at Hitched were willing to let me try it on over, and over…and over again.


So, gorgeous dresses, fabulous helpers and a discount? Three great reasons why you should make an appointment for the Modern Trousseau Trunk Show at Hitched this Friday, Sept. 7th and Saturday, Sept. 8th.

Try on the latest and greatest from Modern Trousseau and have an opportunity to actually meet the Australian-born designer, Callie Tein. You’ll be able to personally discuss any potential changes you want to make to a dress to create your ideal vision. And, as if that wasn’t enough, you’ll also score 10% off of any gown purchased during the Trunk Show.

Modern Trousseau is known for its, not unsurprisingly, modern style and sophistication. However, the designer prides herself on her commitment to customization. Brides can choose from tons of customization options, ranging from colors, to accents, trimmings, straps, necklines and even skirt shapes. No designer ego here – brides can even mix and match elements from completely different dresses. Of course, you may not even want to once you see just how gorgeous these gowns are! Here are some of my favorite picks from the Spring and Fall 2012 lines:

Modern Trousseau Emma
Modern Trousseau Sky


Modern Trousseau Michaela

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