Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Wedding Planner Reviews the Wedding Planner

Those who know me well know that I love books as much as I love weddings. So, why not combine my two passions and bring you my personal take on the latest wedding-themed books? Sometimes I'll be reviewing fiction with a wedding theme and sometimes the books will be the latest and greatest wedding planning guides. Just another fun way to connect you with all things bridal!

Today's review is of Fete, The Wedding Experience by Jung Lee. You might recognize the author's name from her stint on the Style Network's Whose Wedding Is It Anyway? This big coffee table book is a blend of practical advice and layouts of real weddings. I must say that I've read a million coffee table wedding books full of pretty pictures (at least it feels that way) but I really enjoyed this one. The author includes more of the nitty-gritty information than most of the glossy books do like how to calculate if you have enough space for your guest count and what to ask videographers before hiring them.

Another favorite feature of the book for me was the section on transforming a boring space into a fabulous reception. With before and after photos to really bring home the point, this was a great way to show brides who may have a hard time envisioning things just how dramatically a room can change with the right lighting, draping and decor.

The real weddings in the book cover a range of wedding styles and, while gorgeous events, they are not so far off the charts that regular brides can't take some ideas to adapt for their own weddings. I personally love having the idea of putting the guests' seating assignments on a giant black slate. This book makes me long for fabulous loft spaces that New York seems to have in spades and D.C. does not!

All in all, a nice combination of eye candy, inspiration and information. If you are a collector of wedding books, this is a good one to add to your collection.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Wishful Thinking

As I sit here wearing a turtleneck and wool pants, I can't help but long for the sunny, warm days of Spring. I am not a cold-weather person, as anyone will tell you. My absolute favorite time of the year is the Spring, and I adore Spring in D.C. So I thought I'd do a post to help hasten the coming season and also feature the always fresh and preppy color combination of pink and green. I hope you enjoy some of my favorite ideas for a preppy, Spring wedding.

One of my new favorite paper companies was actually started by a former bride. I did Kristin's wedding well over ten years ago (which maybe dates us both more than we'd like) and it was a gorgeous affair at the Fairmont Hotel (then it was called the ANA Hotel--dating myself even more). But, I digress. Hampton Paper Designs is a fabulous, whimsical line of papers featuring lovely custom artwork that is perfect for a preppy or seaside wedding. I adore the pink and green wedding cake motif at the top of the blog! Also, they use recycled papers. And you all know that we love being green!

My fantasy preppy Spring wedding starts with fun Save-the-Dates from Hampton Paper Designs adorned with the pink and green wedding cake above. Next, elegant pink and green invitations from Smock invite guests on 100% bamboo paper. This is one seriously eco-chic company with gorgeous invitations.

It just so happens that one of my favorite new finds is custom jeweler Meg Carter. She lives right here in the D.C. area and designs gorgeous jewelry inspired by the sea and the city. She will also work with brides to custom-design jewelry for their bridal party. What could be more fun than designing the perfect necklace to go with those darling Lilly Pulitzer bridesmaids' dresses? Check out these pearl bracelets!

And I would be remiss if I didn't mention perennial favorite site Etsy for fabulous design ideas and details to pull any wedding together. You can find designers to customize wedding logos and monograms that you can then put on anything that doesn't move. From welcome bags tags to programs to favors, a chic wedding logo can pull your whole look together. I love the one below, although I'd put the bride's name first. It's all about the babe in the white dress.

Another great Etsy find are these pink and green dotted favor boxes! Fill them with pink and green candies or uber-deluxe pink and green French macaroons for a perfect wedding favor.

I hope you enjoyed tip-toeing through the Spring tulips with me. Is that snow I see outside my office window? I think I need a warmer sweater!


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

And the Beat Goes On... (and the planning continues)

So, while I didn't bore you with the preliminary stages of arguing over guest lists, budget and details on dates, we're moving into the fun of choosing a venue. While both my fiance's and my parents live in New Jersey, we decided the DC metro area was the natural choice for our celebration location. Here is just a flavor, in no particular order, of what we have discussed.

Of late, many of my brides have the desire to use more than four walls of a hotel and wish to bring their guests to a location with more "character" as they put it. One location of interest is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Located at 1615 H Street, NW, the building sits right across the street from Lafayette Square and the White House and shares a block with the Hay Adams Hotel (the location of our engagement). While the building has plenty of rooms for a ceremony, cocktails and reception, the Hall Of Flags, most often used for receptions, is an interesting mix of traditional and regal with ceiling detail you would only find in a building nearing a century old.

Choosing a hotel as your venue can sometimes be the most practical choice given expected guest count, amount of out of town guests and convenience. First class service and impeccable hospitality can surely contribute to easy decision making. The Park Hyatt located at 1221 24th Street, NW, offers all of these things. The recent renovations done throughout this hotel and covering all of the guest rooms will allow your guests to feel like they are on a vacation retreat instead of a quick stop into town for a wedding. Four walls of a hotel ballroom easily become a blank slate with the stunning drapes that can be hung around the room.

And finally, if you take a trip outside of DC, we have entertained a meaningful yet unexpected venue for both of us. While it would be too cliche for me to get married at the brand new Alumni Center of our Alma Mater the University of Maryland, the thought did cross our minds, Terps sports enthusiasts that we are, to get married at Cole Field House, the one time men's basketball arena where we cheered on the National Championship Team in 2002. The arena stands as it did in that day although the floor has been stripped and it now hosts a number of indoor sporting events and galas. Would attending a wedding surrounded by 14,000 bleacher seats be too strange for our guests who have no significant ties to such a distinctive venue?

I guess we'll see.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

See and Be Seen

With another fabulous wedding season fast approaching, we decided to get out and about these next few months and take part in the upcoming bridal festivities! There are going to be a few events taking place here in the District for brides and vendors alike to come together and snag ideas to bring a fresh new spin to weddings this year.

The launch of the New Washingtonian Bride & Groom Magazine, to be held on Sunday, January 25, 2009, is sure to be a huge gathering of Washington's most talented vendors. Doors will swing open promptly at 11:30 am at The Park Hyatt - Washington, DC. The Washingtonian is known for their discerning taste when choosing their "Best Of" Vendor Lists proving very useful to the Washington bride. Surly an event not to miss!

Not long after the Washingtonian Launch, we will be attending the Engaged! Magazine 2009 Vendor Showcase. Our good friend, Doreen Tisone, Editor, has pulled together Washington's finest vendors and placed them all in one room at The Willard Intercontinental Hotel on Sunday, March 1, 2009. Engaged! Magazine is known for it's inspirational pages and this is the annual event for Brides to meet these fabulous vendors in person. Champagne bottles will be popped at 11:oo am so don't be late. Come and be inspired!

Don't forget to pick up the Premiere issue of Bride & Groom at the Launch. Both Sara and I are ecstatic to showcase two of our weddings in their first issue!

Hope to see you sipping champagne with us at these events!


Amy Lorraine

Thursday, January 15, 2009

There's Nothing Like Room Service!

One of my favorite things is checking into a hotel and ordering room service. I love the tiny bottles of ketchup and the fact that I can eat sitting on the bed and watching TV. With two small children, I get to do this almost never.

But I also love another type of room service. The newest transplant from Miami is a fabulous furniture rental company called Room Service. Located in nearby Landover, Maryland (but with delivery trucks going all over the Washington metro area) they provide super cool furniture for events.

Room Service's design specialist, Heidi Berger, invited us over to visit the warehouse with several other wedding planners for a tour and lunch. What could be more fun than getting to hang out with other wedding planners we really like and check out the latest in funky lounge furniture?

I'm not sure whether I loved the bamboo beach sets or the white leather lounge ensembles the most. My true favorite may have been the cabana bed, although I'm not sure if I can convince a bride to have a bed set up at her reception. Over here at Engaging Affairs, we really don't do those types of weddings! But it would be perfect for a beach reception, and we do plan destination weddings!

Even for our traditional weddings at elegant reception sites like the Mellon Auditorium or the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, we love setting up sleek lounges so guests can kick back and enjoy a drink away from the crowds. If the weather is great, we love setting up "Havana Lounges" outside (at sites that permit it) complete with bamboo furniture, cigar rollers and mojito bars.

So if you're looking for a way to jazz up your party, check out Room Service and give Heidi a call. Cool furniture that makes a strong statement is one way to get a lot of design bang for your buck. And let's face it, we're all looking for ways to make our design dollars stretch and have maximum impact. Happy planning!


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Can't Buy me Love; Keeping an Even Head in Todays Economy

Well, one thing is for sure, people will never stop celebrating. Birthdays, anniversaries, promotions and yes, of course, weddings. In today's troubled economy, it is just as important as ever to not lose track of the reason for the celebration. That being said, there are plenty of ways to throw a party that are morally and socially conscious of the times we are facing. Whether out of necessity or as an act of conservation, I have found the following tips have released the stress and burden most of my clients feel when trying to project their budgets.
Prioritize. What is more important to you, a blow out party with everyone you know or a detailed celebration with those who mean the most to you. These days, I find that my clients are learning they have to choose and when thinking about it rationally it's almost like experiencing an "Aaahaa" moment. Whatever their decision, it's right for them. This isn't the time to be keeping up with the Joneses. For instance, a couple I am working with recently decided to cut their event of over 300 to a more friendly celebration of 75. They have forgone the large event space for a backyard bash that will be more casual and low key but will still enable them to share their day with those important to them. Who says you're any less married dancing to a band on the patio while eating hamburgers and hot dogs?
Ok, so what if I still want everyone I know there and don't want to sacrifice the small details? Well then you find the right person to work with. The first thing they will do is tell you if you are being completely unrealistic. I have had clients in previous years who just really appreciate the candor and can then reevaluate. Lot's of times they have spoken with other planners who hear the desired budget and just dismiss them and say, "I don't think I can help you". The right planner will help to stretch your dollar and may have suggestions for vendors and equipment that may not be widely available to the general public walking in off the street. Some may even have relationships with vendors they work with a lot that would allow you to get something extra thrown in or a discount off a standard package.
Finally, the most important thing of all, no one will know what you didn't do. Get excited about the alternatives. I always say to my clients when they are choosing one band over another, or one table linen over another, no one is going to look at it and say, "Well, she should have gone with the 10 piece group" or "the green linens would have looked so much better in this space". Own your decisions and get excited about them. If you want to invite 200 people but the food is out of budget, do an hors d'oeuvres and dessert reception. Have the same great party and offer the fare that most people fill up on anyway! As long as you can get excited about it and truly own your decision to do it, no one will ever ask why you didn't do an alternative.
So, while it is ultimately important that the bride and groom are excited about their big day, sometimes thinking rationally or outside the box can turn up unique solutions to keep spending under control. Breakfast for dinner anyone?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Green?

Lately, our most common request from clients has been for us to "green" their wedding. Over here at Engaging Affairs, we love eco-chic events. From sourcing a completely locally-grown and sustainable menu to finding organic flowers, we like to stay on the cutting edge of the trend to be more environmentally aware. In that spirit, I've going to devote a few blogs to our fun environmetally-friendly finds. Special thanks to our very own Alison for combing the fashion world for our brides!
Before you made a single decision about your wedding—before you picked a date, or settled on a venue—maybe before you even met the guy!—you’d thought about The Dress.

And so when the big day approaches, even the most environmentally savvy bride may balk at compromising her vision of the perfect gown for a more eco-chic version. With visions of hemp dresses better suited for Woodstock than a wedding dancing in your head, who could blame you? Luckily, environmentally conscious bridal fashion has come a long way in recent years. The designers featured here have all gone green, and the results are nothing short of gorgeous!

Morgan Boszilkov uses sustainable fabrics and environmentally responsible business practices, and gives five percent of the proceeds from her Natural Bridal Collection to environmental causes. Her gowns are handcrafted in the USA and are absolutely stunning. Don’t believe us? See for yourself (dress above and directly below photographed by Kyle Egan).

These dresses are just too pretty to only wear for one day! So in a stylish twist, some of Morgan’s gowns are convertible, with detachable bottom skirts that allow brides a completely different look for their receptions, as well as the very real (and green!) possibility of wearing their wedding dresses again.

Another favorite eco-chic designer is Deborah Lindquist , who mixes “reincarnated” and new Earth-friendly fabrics to create lushly beautiful gowns that are unabashedly romantic, more old Hollywood siren than sixties flower child. (dress to left)
We’re also big fans of Olivia Luca , (dresses pictured at top of blog) whose website allows you to design custom bridal gowns and bridesmaid dresses from scratch. You can choose a growing number of organic and fair trade fabrics to make your gown as green as possible.

Of course, the greenest fashion choice for your wedding is to recycle a dress that’s been worn before. Consider having a seamstress update your mother’s gown, or check out everything from eBay to online vintage boutiques like The Frock . There’s something so romantic about wearing a dress with a history of its own. But in case you’re not ready for your bridal gown to be that “something old,” it’s good to know that there are more and more designers out there making sure that your new dress can be “something green!”


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Destination: Naples

Engaging Affairs has two brides-to-be on staff, which makes for lots of fun (and even more wedding talk)! You all know that Sara is recently engaged and will be blogging on the trials and tribulations as she plans her DC wedding. One of our faithful associates, Grace, is also engaged and will be getting married in just a few short months. She's been planning her wedding in Naples, Florida although she lives in DC and has some unique insights into what goes into putting together a wedding long-distance. So for all of you ladies planning (or thinking of planning) a destination wedding, Grace has some tips on how to survive and keep your sanity!

Three months to go! I can’t believe my time being a fiancée will soon be over. As Monica Geller on “Friends” would say, “Soon I will just be a stupid wife” ha! But what a wonderful ride this engagement has been.

It began with a beautiful, surprise of a proposal, followed by the wonderful support and love of my family and friends. But soon after that came the planning! It felt like the moment after the ring hit my finger it was time to plan! Questions arose from friends, family, co-workers and perfect strangers like, “So when’s the big day? How many people are you having? Where are you getting married? Are you going on a honeymoon?”

If all these questions didn’t stress me out enough, it was the constant feeling of worry that everything may not be as perfect as I have always pictured my wedding to be. Especially while working with the best wedding planners in DC…beautiful weddings is what we do…so when the time came to plan my own wedding, I wanted the same. So here I am with nine months of planning behind me, but I am rearing up for the next three, which will probably be the most exciting yet! So here’s a synopsis of my last nine months…in the life of a wedding planner and soon-to-be-bride!

Our vision began as a Caribbean wedding on an island, somewhere far, far away. Now, mind you, I love DC, but my family resides in FL, my fiancees’ family is all over the place and after the chanting at the dinner table on our engagement night, “Destination Wedding, Destination Wedding,” we figured it may be the best idea. But let me tell you, it’s hard planning your ideal wedding from thousands of miles away! Most of the destination wedding packages we encountered were a bit too cookie-cutter for us. And after working with Engaging Affairs and seeing so many amazing weddings, I really wanted to add a special touch.

So after much, MUCH research and talk, we both decided to have our wedding near my parents' house in Florida. It’s at a beautiful club in Naples, The Club at Mediterra, with a Mediterranean feel and gorgeous landscaping. You couldn’t ask for a more picturesque wedding. (Found the place, check!) After the search for the venue completed, my fiancée and I spent the better time of June, July, December and now January hopping back and forth to Florida making arrangements, meeting with photographers, videographers, cake designers and music ensembles (check, check, check!)
One weekend, we met with 6 photographers and 8 DJs! What a ride! But we were efficient! That’s one thing to remember when planning a wedding far from your home…call ahead, schedule meetings, make a timeline and take lots and lots of notes to remember who you met and what they said. Believe me, after your 3rd glass of wine on the plane ride home, you and your fiancée will be bickering about whether DJ Zizzy was the one that use to sing on cruise ships or the one that asked if he could sing along with the music as he DJ’d! TRUE STORY!

So after securing all our vendors in Florida for the wedding, I definitely wanted to ensure I received wonderful engagement pictures in our hometown of DC. Renee Michele was the photographer that my fiancée and I were lucky enough to book for our engagement shoot. Not only is she a wonderful, professional photographer, but she’s sweet, energetic and very creative! If you ever have the chance to work with her, take the opportunity!

But as easy as it was for me to find vendors in DC, especially working with the best in the biz, it was extremely difficult blindly choosing vendors for my wedding without local knowledge! Tons of questions went through my mind when researching and finding our vendors. But I learned that the best thing to do IS to ask tons of questions! Don’t feel bad, just do it! It’s your wedding day so don’t be shy when explaining exactly what you would like and how you would like it. They won’t know unless you tell them. This has been a hard part for me. I’m used to being on the other side of things and seeing how hard the vendors work. Therefore, it’s difficult for me to not be sympathetic or understanding to their needs. So good thing I have my sister or my fiancée with me when the caterer starts to say, “Wouldn’t the macaroni and cheese look perfect for your centerpiece?” Ummm…

So here we are, with three months to go. The end of this month will be our last visit to Florida before the big day in April. Time is going by so quickly. For the three days we are there, we have scheduled our last meeting with the club/caterers, my last (hopefully) dress fitting, our last run-through with the florists/lighting technicians and our last bits of designing with our cake decorator. On top of all of this, at the end of the month, it will be the last time I can call myself a fiancée in the month of January…but next year I’m excited to be calling myself “just a stupid wife.”

Monday, January 5, 2009

And the Planning Begins!

Let me start off by saying thank to all the vendors, brides and mothers of brides, both past and present, who have sent well wishes and offers to plan my wedding. This is why I consider myself so lucky. I do something I absolutely LOVE and get to work with the most fabulous people.

So, it seems I am now planing my own wedding. I guess I had to experience it to believe it, but I was astonished that people I called to tell the evening that it happened, actually asked me if we picked the date! We have been engaged two hours people! Anyway, now I know how all you feel and why you call me the next day! But first thing's first.

I was lucky that my man actually surprised me. After !#*!? years together I figured there was no way. But he did. Check it out. I think this is when it all hit me what was going on.

If you can't tell, he surprised me on the rooftop of the Hay Adams. So we decided we'd wait until after New Years to start planning and here we are.
It would be easy enough for me to implement all the ideas I have, but I understand now I have other people's feelings to consider. So, it all begins and I figured, I may as well chronicle the planning as, for my benefit, it will be interesting to read back through, and will hopefully help some of you. I will also get to talk about all the fabulous people I will get to work with. So, stay tuned! It should be an exciting ride.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Baubles That Give Back

Our brides are always on the lookout for unique bridesmaids' gifts and we've found some that not only are unique, but the proceeds benefit charity (which we love). We are very into finding products and vendors who improve the world or help the environment, and these items certainly fit the bill!

You may have already heard about The O Bracelet because it's sponsored by Oprah and, well, that woman can market. The bracelets support women in Rwanda and Kenya who face ethnic violence. The women actually handcraft the bracelets and they (and their communities) are the only ones making a profit from the enterprise. The bracelets range in cost between $54-$350. There are several versions with semi-precious stones, as well as the newest design of mesh filled with crystals. To order, visit Macy's website.
Brighter Futures Project is another group that helps women through the sale of some pretty cool jewelry. Their bracelets are each $56 and are made by orphaned teen girls in Third World countries. The money supports these women as they transition from orphanage life to life on their own. The bracelets are made of semi-precious stones like amethyst, jasper, and tiger's eye and each one is unique. Each bracelet comes boxed with information about the project, as well.

These are both amazing projects that help empower women so please check them out!

Glamour Shots

We have a tradition at Engaging Affairs of sending Valentines cards instead of holiday cards. Frankly, it gives us more time to get them together after our Fall wedding season ends. We like to do a company photo on the card so all our colleagues can see our team so this means we have to do a photo shoot each year. It's a lot of fun but it takes some coordination to find a great site and get the photography team lined up. This year we chose to do the shoot at our new favorite event site, L2.

L2 is a membership club in Georgetown with fabulous exposed brick, a bar with customized lighting and funky, modern furniture. Plus, their food is really good! We planned a book launch there in October and it was a huge success so now we're working on booking the space for rehearsal dinners and cocktail parties. If you're looking for a hip venue for up to 200 guests (standing) that no one has seen before, this is the place!

Our contact at L2, Lucia, was kind enough to arrange for us to come in on a weekday and take over the club. As you can see, we had a great time toasting with our martinis (okay, they're just water and olives) and taking some fun shots. Juan Carlos Briceno of Fotobriceno took the photos and was endlessly patient with us, shooting all over the club for a couple of hours. We even took a shot of us checking out the recently released Washingtonian Bride and Groom magazine. Both Amy and Sara have weddings featured in the issue so you can understand our excitement!