Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Pink Ball!

What a party! The 2009 ISES Capital Awards Gala that you've been hearing us yack about for the past few weeks was held Sunday, March 29th at the new Party Rentals warehouse in Laurel, Maryland. D.C.'s biggest event industry event of the year was, true to form, an amazing party!

Guests were welcomed into cocktails by a rock violinist standing above the crowd on an industrial lift and dined on fun hors d'oeuvres and cocktail pairings like shrimp on skewers atop a mini margarita or a pig-in-a-blanket with a shot of beer. Steve Dunn and Ric Marino of Well Dunn Catering provided the amazing food for the event and really outdid themselves with creative presentations and great flavors (and plenty for vegetarians like me)!

Following cocktails, guests filled bags of flavored popcorn (kettle corn, chocolate, caramel, theatre style) from big metal pails and were escorted into a tent for the awards ceremony. A live band, Nation, courtesy of Elan Artists played on stage throughout the awards. Although another event won for best wedding, Sara represented Engaging Affairs so well with her amazing wedding. The winning event had an elephant trotting down Constitution Avenue. It's hard to compete with an elephant. All I know is that next year all of our events are going to have at least one exotic animal. "The bride processed in on an emu" has a nice ring to it!

After the awards ceremony, guests were led back into the warehouse by a large gospel choir. The Pink Ball featured interactive stations with an open kitchen format serving a range of cuisines, from Asian noodle bowls to retro American fare. Cupcake towers and a chocolate buffet with everything from mini chocolate milkshakes to brownies to chocolate sundaes made to order topped off the culinary experience. I am very proud that I only ate one cupcake. Three or four Cosmos but only one cupcake. Restraint has to start somewhere!

The decor, provided by Capital Decor, featured lots of pink and hip, retro details. Funky, multicolored chandeliers hung over sleek lounge furniture while long, narrow tables were mixed with metal bars for guests to sit at. This true warehouse ball used industrial details like uplit stacks of pink, plastic glass racks as decor. All equipment and linens were provided by Party Rentals and the cool furniture was courtesy of Room Service.

Guests were entertained by the fabulous, high energy band, The Source, from Elan Artists and aerial artists swinging and contorting high above the crowd. Roller girls in pink hot pants circulated through the dancers and human statues posed above the bars. I was so glad that I didn't wear my pink hot pants and roller skates, too. Wouldn't that have been embarrassing? For those not inclined to dance, there were casino games throughout the warehouse.

As if there wasn't drama enough with boys in skin-tight pink unitards on the bars, the evening ended with a dramatic fireworks display. Kudos to Wendy Raab and Kelly Jenkins for planning an amazing party, and congratulations to all of the Capital Award winners! Thanks to Juan Carlos Briceno of Fotobriceno for the great photos!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Dancin' in the Moonlight

Well, tomorrow is the big day. The 2009 DC ISES Capital Awards Gala hosted at the new Party Rental Ltd. warehouse. Since Party Rentals reminds up to "think pink" this year's Lucky- 21 (the DC ISES chapter is 21 this year) The Pink Ball will also go to benefit Susan G Komen for the Cure. I think it's a great initiative and can't wait to see who shows up in pink. I must admit, I will not be in the color of the evening.

Anyway, not so long ago, back in December actually when Engaging Affairs first launched our blog, one of the first weddings I posted about happens to be the wedding I have nominated tomorrow evening. I called it "Dancin' in the Moonlight" appropriately named as the festivities took place in a clear tent. Here's a quick re-cap.

Cecily and Ari were married on November 1st, 2008. It was probably the most perfect day weather wise you can get. The event took place at her mother's residence, a large lot of land in Fairfax Station, VA. The wonderful and talented Justine Ungaro of Studio Diana captured the event.
The ceremony took place under a tent erected on part of the home's driveway. There Ari and Cecily shared both Jewish and Filipino traditions. Guests then moved to the home's back yard and enjoyed cocktail hour on the decks and around the pool. Just around dusk, guests were asked to move to the large clear tent set for 250 situated under and oasis of trees whose leaves were changing the most beautiful colors of fall.
Guests dined on one of my favorites, grilled cheese and tomato soup for their first course. The perfect fall comfort food. Occasions dazzled and impressed with the meal. The mood was set with help from Digital Lightning, who not only lit the tent from inside, but lit the trees from the outside so they could be counted as part of the decor. John Duffy of Yellow Door Floral also helped dress up the space. His combination of coral flowers and green apples was a big hit with the bride and the guests.
The night went on as the bride, groom and their guests danced under the stars to Free Spirit from Entertainment Exchange. The evening was not complete until the brothers and sister of the groom topped off their toast with an interpretive dance that brought the crowd to their feet.
Everyone associated with this event was an absolute pleasure to work with. I'll let you know what the judges thought!


Thursday, March 26, 2009

There's a new kid in (Old) Town!

Last night we had the pleasure of attending the grand opening bash for the Lorien Hotel in Old Town Alexandria. The new Kimpton property is the essence of sleek style that we've come to expect from their hotels. I was impressed by how many people flocked to the hotel's opening night and how well the staff handled the crowd. The valet parking by MarcParc Valet was seamless (surprisingly so considering the narrow street and the rush hour traffic) and it seemed that everywhere you turned a Kimpton staff member greeted you. The music, provided by Dand Goldman and Ray Bialek of Bialek's Music, kept the energy high without being too loud to talk over.

The hotel itself is both charming and chic. They had cleverly spread the food and bars throughout the hotel so that you found new treats as you wandered through the space. The living room features walls of built-in bookshelves and all the books are covered in white paper covers. Quite a look! Perhaps our favorite space was the courtyard with the open fireplace. Sara and I immediately started brainstorming of ways to use the space for small weddings or rehearsal dinners.

The hotel's restaurant, Brabo, is getting rave reviews so it was no surprise that the food was fabulous. I liked the fact that they offered enough for vegetarians (like me) and that the vegi options were interesting. Since I lapse for shellfish, I tried the amazing shrimp tempura hors d'oeuvre, as well. I could have eaten a whole tray of them! My favorite culinary part of the evening were the desserts that were displayed in the restaurant. The carrot cake bites and lemon tartlets were to die for!

We didn't get to try out the spa (it just would have been awkward to walk around a bustling cocktail party in a spa robe and slippers) but it sounds amazing. The "Lavender Dreams Experience" has my name all over it! The whole concept of The Lorien is dreams and the tranquil decor and clean lines fit the motif beautifully. This is the perfect spot for a charming bridal tea, and fun rehearsal dinner or even an intimate, hip wedding. It is also just a great place for guests to stay if your wedding is near Old Town or a lovely new restaurant to try. So check out the new Lorien Hotel!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Bridesmaids Dresses Take Two

Who doesn't have a bridesmaid dress (or two or three or . . .) sitting in the back of their closet collecting dust? But if you didn't have to wear a forest green velvet "suit" with gold rope piping or a black skin-tight mermaid dress with a striped chiffon bow on the back, then I don't want to hear a word of complaining. If, despite the bride's best intention (and I like to think my friends didn't mean to inflict suffering on me), you know you will never wear this dress again, why not donate it to someone who would love to wear it?
Beginning April 1st, and continuing throughout the month, please stop by Hitched to donate your gently worn (and dry cleaned) bridesmaid dresses (in all sizes!) that will go to students in the community. Due to the great expense of prom dresses, these girls might otherwise not be able to afford a dress for this special night. So clean out your closet and make a girl's taffeta, silk, or satin dreams come true!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Jockey Club

Monday night we were invited to dine at the newly opened, famed DC Jockey Club located in the Fairfax Embassy Row Hotel. It was quite an experience. One of the few remaining restaurants where you have to "dress" for dinner, the Jockey Club has proven it intends to continue the excellence it established when it originally opened it's doors 40 years ago on the eve of President Kennedy's inauguration.

We had the company of the fantastic Scott Button, Director of Catering and Convention Services at the Fairfax, who lived through the remodel experience of not just the Jockey Club, but of the whole hotel over the past year and a half. One thing is for sure, he is happy to have his hotel fully back to operating order. (And we are too! In June I have a wedding there that I can't wait to blog about) While the restaurant was for sure not empty on a Monday evening, Scott mentioned that Thursdays and Fridays are packed and the establishment will not flip tables or have two dining sessions like so many in DC.

The food was wonderful. My pick for first course was the Golden Potato Gnocchi with Wild Mushrooms and Black Truffles. Laura had the Ricotta and Parmesan Filled Cannelloni suggested by Scott and it did not disappoint. We both finished off the meal with Strawberries Romanoff, YUM! The Jockey Club gets four stars in our book. Don't miss it!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Drumroll please!

Thanks to everyone who entered our very first Bridal Bubbly contest. I love entering contests (and am usually genuinely surprised when I don't win), and it was just as much fun being on the other side of things.

I'm happy to announce that our winners are Alexis and Erin. Keep reading for more fun contests. We'll have a new one starting next week although mum's the word about the cool wedding accessory we'll be giving away. Don't want to spoil the surprise!


Friday, March 20, 2009

Crazy Cookies!

Cookies are certainly nothing new in the wedding game. We've used Capitol-shaped ones for welcome bags, monogrammed wedding cake versions for favors and even little dog-bone shaped cookies to go with a donation card for the animal rescue league.

But we can't help think that the customized cookies from Parker's Crazy Cookies are something special. These cookies look so much like the brides and grooms! How funny would it be to have a bag full of cookies that look just like you and your fiance in the welcome bags at the hotels? With how formal and extravagant weddings have become, we don't think a little whimsy is a bad idea!

The company also does other shapes like monuments but we are crazy about the little brides and grooms! And they will ship these babies cross-country to the D.C. area (since the company is based on the West coast). If anyone orders these for their wedding, please send us a pic of the final product!


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Video Magic

As I was reading Sara's blog about her amazing Eastern Shore wedding, I realized that both of our Capital Award nominated weddings last year were filmed by Jenny Lehman. So I thought I'd give her an extra shout-out. I've been using Jenny for over a decade and her work is truly stunning. After seeing so many weddings (over 450 but I'm not counting anymore), it takes a lot for a wedding to make me tear up but Jenny's videos regularly make me get all misty. If you want really stunning cinematic video (no cheesy effects or painful interviews with guests), check her out. She uses real super 8mm and 16mm cameras if you want a vintage look (not a fake 8mm effect that I've seen some companies use--blech). She even is offering a cool short-form video for brides who want the best highlights of their wedding set to music instead of a traditional video.

A Bridal Bubbly Giveaway!

For all our faithful readers (and for those who stray), we're doing our first fun giveaway. Two lucky readers will win a signed copy of Better Off Wed. This mystery won the Agatha Award for Best First Novel of 2005 and features a wedding planner and a cast of zanny wedding industry characters. We are in tight with the author (okay, okay, the author is me) and can tell you that lots of the crazy situations in the book were inspired by real weddings. But I'm not naming names!
If you want to get your hands on the book, just send us your name through the comment section of the blog. We'll draw names on Monday, March 23rd. Good luck!

News Update!

We just received word that SOMETHING in DC is actually running ahead of schedule! As we mentioned just a few weeks ago, the new W hotel was slated to open some time in August and was taking events for September 2009. Ladies and gentlemen, we are excited to announce that we will be having drinks on the rooftop terrace 1 month earlier in July!! See you there.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

2008 Gala Revisited

While Laura came out the big winner last year, I was honored to be nominated in the Capital Awards Gala's Best Wedding Event category with her. The wedding I entered, suitably named "A Walk by the Water" took place at the Oaks in Easton, Maryland. The quaint bed and breakfast played host to just under 200 guests as the bride and groom decided to bring their friends and family out of the hustle and bustle of their daily DC lives to a relaxing retreat on the water.
Laurie and Mike were a great couple with a lot of energy. So, energy became the theme of the evening. The morning started with a light rain, but be noon the sun was shining and excitement was in the air. While the groom played football in the front yard and the bride and her party got prepped in the bridal cottage, my crews were just beginning the end of a set up which began on Thursday evening. The bride had envisioned getting married in a tent by the water, but the Inn's new ballroom took the space previously used for this away. So, we draped the ballroom and hung twinkle lights to create the feel of a soft canopy.
The ceremony took place over the footbridge and out on a bluff close to the waters edge. The simple design of the chuppa with sporadic Gerber Daisies let the stunning water backdrop shine.
After the ceremony, guests walked back towards the Inn and enjoyed cocktails on and around the dock. Everything from a raw bar to mini Reuben sandwiches were served to a bubbly crowd. As a foreshadow of things to come, the guests found their escort cards tied to Tab energy drinks. The detail had double meaning; the bright pink can gave a hint to the interior decor and the beverage told guests the event was going to be high energy.
The guests danced the night away to Highway Star and at the end of the evening the bride and groom made their way to the bridal cottage under hundreds of glowing sparklers.

Here's a run down of this couple's dream wedding team.

Venue/catering The Oaks
Photography LaCour
Videography Jenny Lehman
Transportation Dockside Express

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Capital Awards Flashback: A Red Hot Wedding!

As we lead up to the ISES Capital Awards, we're taking a little trip down memory lane to look back at past Engaging Affairs entries and winners. Today I'm remembering my entry for last year: the fabulous Lewis-Heinz wedding! The wedding of Sasha Lewis and Chris Heinz (renamed "A Red Hot Wedding" for the purpose of the Capital Awards) won the Capital Award for Best Wedding last year and was one of two international finalists for the Esprit Award for Wedding of the Year Budget Over $200,000. As you can probably guess, it was a freakin' amazing wedding!

I started working with Sasha and her mother early on and I just have to say that they were an absolute delight from beginning to end. Actually, everyone involved in the wedding was wonderful. The groom was charming and his staff was so easy to work with (and as we got closer there was plenty of coordinating between everyone's staffs).

We settled on the Mellon Auditorium pretty quickly, which was the perfect venue for a wedding for over 400 guests. The church was already set: St. John's across from the White House. The bride's family attended the church for years so it was a natural choice (and you can't beat the location). The bride's family had also worked with Occasions Caterers before and knew they wanted them to cater the wedding. Both Eric Michael and Joel Wolke from Occasions were so fabulous from beginning to end.

Other vendors fell into place easily. Celebrity wedding photographer Denis Reggie from Atlanta knew the Heinz family so was the clear choice for photography. Jenny Lehman was selected as the videographer for her cinematic and artistic style. The groom loved a band from California called "Tainted Love," but the bride's family also loved New York bandleader Bob Hardwick so we ended up having both bands, building a second stage and having two dance floors!

The floral designer from New York, Bronson Van Wyck, was a college friend of the groom and his sister, Mimi, and the whole team from Van Wyck and Van Wyck were amazing. They drove trucks down from New York days ahead of time and worked out of rented warehouses to pull it all together. The look was lots of red, funky banquette seating instead of all traditional tables and chairs; mirrored cubes and mirrored panels; and dramatic palms to create a supper club feel. It was sultry and sexy; not bridaly white!

It was an unbelievably gorgeous and unbelievably complex event (and also unbelievably cold on February 10th) with vendors flying in from all over the country to bring it together. In the end, I had five assistants to help me handle the nearly 450 guests (not to mention the incredibly complex seating arrangements). We didn't get the final table assignments until 9pm the night before the wedding so I was up until 3 am stuffing hundreds of escort cards, and Sara was putting the personalized menu cards in table groupings from 9 am until 3 pm the next day! I was on-site for four days (a day and a half for set-up, a day for the event and a day for break-down) and happened to be three months pregnant so by the end of the wedding, I was beyond exhausted. But it was all worth it as you can see from the pictures.

The event had so much drama and so much WOW factor that it is almost hard to remember all of the amazing things. My highlights were probably the moment after the bride and groom cut their ski mountain cake and the second band was revealed in a dramatic curtain drop behind the cake cutting; when the groom's stepfather, Senator John Kerry, jumping up on stage to play with the band; and when the frontman from the band Blink 182 sang a song for the bride a groom. All in all it was an amazing event for amazing clients!

What I loved most about the bride and groom was their sense of humor. They had a ski mountain cake instead of a traditional cake (both are world-class skiers) and even did their first dance (more of a jig then a romantic slow dance) to "Sleigh Bells." They were just plain fun and really had a great time at their wedding.

Here is the Dream Team from the award-winning bash:

Ceremony Site:St. John's Episcopal Church

Reception Site:The Mellon Auditorium

Event Designer and Florist:Van Wyck & Van Wyck

Photographer:Denis Reggie

Videographer:Jenny Lehman

Staging and Sound:All Stage and Sound

Band Backlines:Drums Unlimited

Fabric Draping and Kabuki Drop:A Vista Design

Piano Rental:Jordan Kitts

Dinner Band:Bob Hardwick Sound

Dancing Band:Tainted Love

Cake:Patty Cakes



Valet, Shuttles and Limos:Atlantic Valet

Bridesmaids' Hair and Makeup:Andre Chreky

Plant Rental:Plants Alive

Babysitters:Wee Sit

Museum Tour:National Gallery of Art

Welcome Cocktail Party Flowers:Helen Olivia

Welcome Party:Four Seasons Hotel

It was such a thrill to be part of such an amazing team! I was so impressed by how well the huge number of vendors worked together. Everyone was flexible and easy-going, even when they were exhausted. Each and every person involved deserves an award for pulling off an amazing event and making it look seamless.
I hope you all enjoyed my little trip down Capital Awards Memory Lane. We have more to come!


Friday, March 6, 2009

The Archives

A few weeks ago I mentioned the DC ISES (International Special Events Society) Gala Awards. Well, they are fast approaching on Sunday, March 28th. Engaging Affairs has always maintained a strong presence in the organization. All three of us have held positions on the Board of Directors and have stayed active at monthly meeting and at the Gala. Having been the third year I entered a wedding to be nominated for an award, I started to think back about my first entry and I thought I'd share what was that process.

In March of 2006 I met a fantastic couple who were in a race for time. The groom was in the Service and was scheduled to leave the DC area for training in July. The bride was in her final months of grad school here and didn't have time to think about moving, much less plan a wedding. They needed help and they needed it two months ago. They gave me the month of June and I got to work. (Yes June- 2 months from our first meeting date!)

Not many couples could have pulled this off. Emotionally it was a roller coaster, for all of us. But the one thing I took away from it is that your first instinct is usually the right one, so don't try to second guess it. This bride didn't have time to and it turned out to be perfect.
So now to the wedding, and entry, details. The wedding took place June 3rd at the Ronald Reagan Building Atrium space. I saved the best stop for last as I knew the clean, modern space was perfect for the couple. They fell in love. Check one! On to photography and entertainment. As per usually, the fabulous Justine Ungaro wowed the couple with her modern edge to photography. They hired her on the spot. After viewing several entertainment demos, they chose Prime Time from Washington Talent Photo and Video and added a few extra horns to fill the massive space. Check! Check! The final piece for the bride to concern herself with was the florist. She wanted to combine the sophistication of DC, which the event space clearly gave her, with the tropical feel of Florida, where her parents were. I sent her to Rick David of Amaryllis who understood her vision instantly.

The rest was cake. I brought in fabulous lighting from Digital Lightning, built a stage off the grand staircase with All Stage and Sound, and draped behind the band with Syzygy Events. Oh ya, and of course the cake! The talented Leslie from Fancy Cakes by Leslie created a cake with great tropical colors and a spin on bamboo.

Looking back, I'm not sure how it all came together. Eight weeks blows by quickly. I'm not sure where the first 10 weeks of this year have gone! But the event was a success for the bride and groom who are happily living with their 2 beautiful baby boys in North Carolina and the massive effort brought me my first ISES Gala awards nomination.
PS- I am doing the bride's brother's wedding this June! Stay tuned for pictures and details. They gave me a little bit more notice for his event and it is going to be just as amazing.


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A Freakin' Fabulous Bridal Show!

While most of the D.C. area was bracing for snow this weekend, we were spending an amazing Sunday afternoon at The Willard Hotel with Clinton Kelly (of television's What Not to Wear fame) and some of the city's best wedding professionals at the Engaged! at the Willard Bridal Show. If you missed it, you missed an amazing event!

Your favorite wedding planners (ahem, Engaging Affairs) had a display in the Crystal Room next to the lovely dresses from Rizik's. The super-talented (and international award-winner) Janet Flowers provided us with an amazing floral and crystal chandelier that went perfectly with our company colors of pale green and white (with an accent of soft pink). We were torturously close to the yummy cake and cupcake displays from Couture Cupcakes and Patty Cakes but I'm proud to say that we restrained ourselves.

A real bride trying on a dress in the Rizik's salon.

Flowers from Janet Flowers.

Couture cupcakes in adorable cupcake wrappers!

Amazing sugar flowers by Patty Colette of Patty Cakes.

The ballroom where lunch was served was nothing short of breathtaking. Plants Etc. created the amazing tablescapes which included table runners made out of real leaves! The Willard once again lived up to its amazing reputation with a fun menu that began with a seafood course of shrimp and oysters then continued with delicious brunch offerings like quail eggs benedict. A yummy bread pudding finished off the meal along with fresh fruit served from elaborately carved watermelons.

The highlight of the lunch was the talk by the delightful Clinton Kelly. After sharing his wisdom on style and bridal fashion, he answered questions from brides in the audience. Clinton was funny and charming and didn't gasp in horror once when he heard some of the bridesmaid dress colors people had in mind.

After lunch, brides were free to try on dresses in the three bridal salons, get beauty services from Red Door Salon stylists and talk to vendors while drinking more champagne. We were able to meet Clinton and get a picture with him while he signed copies of his book Freakin' Fabulous. Check us outwith the style guru! If you haven't read the book, run out and get a copy. Clinton is freakin' fabulous and so is the book.

A big thanks to the amazing Doreen Tisone, editor of Engaged! Magazine (pictured above with Clinton), and Steele Stevenson, Director of Catering for the Willard Hotel. Both ladies worked tirelessly to put together a truly beautiful event. Thanks to Janet Flowers for the stunning flowers for our display and thanks to Fotobriceno for the great photos of the event!