Thursday, March 31, 2011

Spectacular Wedding at The Cathedral and Corcoran {Isabel and Andrew}

This wedding was such a treat for me because it took place at two of my favorite venues in Washington:  The National Cathedral and The Corcoran Gallery of Art. Both spaces are grand and magnificent and quintessentially D.C.  Not only did I adore both venues, but I loved all the vendors who worked with us on this amazing day.  The cherry on the top for me was a lovely bride, charming groom and wonderful families!

Isabel and her bridesmaids got ready at The Jefferson Hotel with hair styled by Giselle and makeup done by Leah McKay.  Another two of my favorites!

I love the contrast of the pinks and lavenders of the flowers!

After getting ready, the bride took some time with the amazing photographer Greg Gibson for photos in the Cathedral gardens.  She also saw the groom for the first time in the gardens and the two had some nice moments before the ceremony.

The programs the bride chose echoed the beautiful scrollwork and detailing throughout the Cathedral.

The ceremony took place in the Great Choir. What an amazing backdrop for vows!

After some more photos in the gorgeous light of the setting sun, it was off to The Corcoran for the reception.  Jack Lucky did a spectacular job creating a magical setting with floral decor and lighting. Jack's work is always so breathtaking and he is the hands-down expert at Corcoran weddings!

After a cocktail hour where guests were serenaded by the Celebrated String Quartet, Isabel and Andrew were announced down the grand staircase and shared their first dance before guests sat down for dinner.

Joel Wolke with Occasions Caterers delighted guests with an elegant three course dinner then the couple cut the gorgeous wedding cake designed by the Fancy Cakes by Leslie.

The local band Gonzo's Nose kept everyone dancing for the rest of the night playing fabulous '80s music. I love Gonzo's Nose because they have so much energy and are not your typical wedding band.

At the end of the evening guests left with silk rose-topped boxes filled with gourmet chocolates and the memory of an amazing night.

Thanks to the phenomenal team who made this wedding so spectacular: a shout-out to Julie from Blue Sky for capturing the moments on video, Greg Gibson for the always gorgeous images, Linda Lindamood from Linder and Associates for the flawless transportation and valet, and the wonderful team at The Corcoran (Allie, Brooke and Kathleen) for making our job so easy. 

Thanks to my assistants Alison and Maeve for always being troopers, and special thanks to Isabel and Andrew for letting us share their beautiful day.  Congratulations!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Wedding Cake Flavors {The Top Ten}

Last night, I tasted a few flavors of wedding cake at an event (they were tiny bites) and started thinking about cake flavors. After over 15 years of planning weddings, I've seen a lot of cake! Some good, some bad, some amazing.

I love that bakers have become more creative over the years in developing new flavors and combinations. Lara Stuckey of Fluffy Thoughts has flavors like green tea and passion fruit and allows couples to design their own flavor combinations. Leslie from Fancy Cakes by Leslie has an amazing number of options, as well, and even offers rose petal jam in her cakes. Kendall of Kendall's Cakes has an amazing Tupelo Honey cake and once came up with a margarita flavored cake for a client of mine! My favorite flavor from famous DC baker Andrea Webster (before she moved to Scotland) was a dark chocolate truffle with blackberry filling. 

 Photo by

When searching online, I found that these are the top wedding cake flavors:

10. Chocolate-almond cake, chocolate ganache, and mocha buttercream
9. Banana cake and chocolate buttercream
8. Coconut cake and lime buttercream
7. Hazelnut-almond cake, chocolate ganache, and raspberries
6. White cake, lemon buttercream, and raspberries
5. Chocolate devil’s food cake, chocolate ganache, and praline buttercream
4. Lemon cake, lemon curd, and vanilla buttercream
3. Yellow butter cake and chocolate buttercream and/or chocolate ganache
2. Chocolate devil’s food cake, vanilla buttercream, and raspberries
and the most popular is...
1. Chocolate devil’s food cake and vanilla buttercream
 Compiled by Ellen Baumwoll of Bijoux Doux Specialty Cakes

Sara's favorite, carrot cake, didn't make the list, and although I love lemon cake with lemon curd, my favorite blackberry filling isn't anywhere on the list. And of course, Kate and William's wedding cake flavor, traditional English fruit cake, probably wouldn't make the Top 50 list of fave American flavors.

But what I'm most surprised about is the classic almond cake that used to be the standard American wedding cake flavor is completely missing. I have to admit a certain nostalgia for classic almond wedding cake with butter cream. What do you think of this list and what is your favorite wedding cake flavor?

Now I'm going to go run off those pieces of wedding cake from last night!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Hitched Sample Sale Soiree!

What: Slip In & Slip Out with a Steal-- The Hitched Sample Sale Soiree

When: Thursday, March 31st from 5pm-8pm [first-come, first-served—no appointment necessary!] 

Why: To find the dress of your dreams at a steal of a price! Couture weddings gowns [think Anna Maier/Ulla~Maija, Amsale, Judd Waddell, Oscar de la Renta, and more] will be up to 60% off, and once purchased, are yours to take home with you that evening.

RSVP: Although no appointment is necessary, please RSVP to

Here are just a few of the beauties that will be up for grabs at the sample sale event:

Feel free to check out the website for more of the gowns that will be sold, but keep in mind that Hitched will often continue to add them to the list right up until the last minute-- so get excited for some surprises!

Details: Please note that all sample sale gowns are final sale, and are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Because the sample sale gowns are stored off-site, the sample sale event is the only time we allow sample gown trials. To inquire about purchasing a sample sale gown over the phone [or with any other questions], please contact us at 202.333.6162 or

So grab the important decision makers in your life and be prepared to have some fun and find "the one!"

Matthew Christopher at Love Couture! {Trunk Shows}

Smokin'!  That's the first thing I think when I look at Matthew Christopher's gorgeous gowns.  You can meet this talented designer in person when he comes to Love Couture's trunk show this weekend.  The trunk show will run from Friday, April 1st through Sunday April 3rd and will feature appearances by the designer, 10% off his dresses and free custom changes to his gowns. Plus yummy mimosas while you peruse the gowns!

Don't miss this amazing opportunity! Call Love Couture Bridal for your trunk show appointment at 301-610-5683.  Happy gown shopping!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Snowy Wedding Inspiration!

photo by Lotus Johnson

Was anyone else as surprised as I was to wake up on Sunday morning with snow on the ground? I can't remember the last time that we got snow during cherry blossom week in D.C.  It's crazy!  But it does remind me that Mother Nature can play some funny tricks on us and especially when it comes to weddings. 

About a decade or so ago, I had a February wedding with a lovely snowflake theme and, lo and behold,  we had a warm snap the week before the wedding. I'm talking 85 degrees and people in shorts!  The hot cocoa station is a harder sell when your guests are sweating but luckily the weather turned back right before the wedding day and we had perfect cool weather for snowflakes and hot chocolate.

So in the spirit of crazy weather, here are some of my favorite snowy wedding ideas!

How cute is this getaway sled with bride and groom's names on it?

Love these snow-themed tote bags for stuffing with cold-weather supplies like warm gloves in your wedding colors, packets of gourmet hot cocoa tucked inside customized mugs and the makings for s'mores tied up in cute cello bags! The ideas are endless!

These adorable snow globes can be used as favors or double as escort card holders and tell everyone where they're sitting. I love the idea of a big white table of these tucked in fake snow for guests to take!

Here's hoping that D.C. has had its last snow day and that Spring will come to stay very soon! Happy Monday everyone!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Death on the Aisle {Chapter Thirteen}

Chapter Thirteen

            “What do you mean you need to seal off the boat?”  I tried not to let my voice sound as hysterical as I felt. "Because you think the chef was murdered?"
            Detective Reese took my arm and pulled me away from the crowds that had gathered in the parking lot. “Keep your voice down. I don’t want people to panic and start rumors.”
            I tried to stay outraged but he was holding me so that I was nearly pressed against him. “If you shut down my wedding, I’ll be the one panicking.” I held up a hand and started ticking off fingers trying hard not to focus on how good he smelled. “Not to mention the bride, her stepmother, Richard. . . .”
            “Be reasonable, Annabelle,” Reese said. “If this is a murder, we can’t let you have a wedding on top of the crime scene.”
            “The wedding is still a few days away,” I said, wiggling out of his grasp. “Can’t you get all the evidence you need before then?”
            Reese shifted from one leg to the other. “Well, yes, but that doesn’t mean the boat is safe. If it was an accident, there could be faulty wiring and you don’t want that during a wedding.”
            I crossed my arms over my chest. “But you don’t believe it was an accident, do you?”
            Reese looked uncomfortable. “No, I don’t.”
            “So bad wiring is out.”
            “That still leaves you with a killer on the loose,” Reese said. “And no idea of motive.”
            “Throw me something I haven’t dealt with before,” I sighed.
            Reese saw that I was serious and laughed. “Are all wedding planners like you?”
            “Definitely not,” Richard said, joining the conversation.  “She’s one in a million.” From his tone, I couldn’t tell whether I’d just been complimented or insulted. But that was usually the way with Richard.
            “What do I have to do so you won’t seal off the boat?” I begged Reese.
            He considered me for a moment. “Can you convince the family to pay for private security?”
            I glanced at Richard and he nodded. “I’m sure they’d pay for anything that would keep the wedding plans moving ahead.”
            Reese pulled out his cell phone. “I’m going to call the best security company I know, all former law enforcement guys, and have them put a 24-hour surveillance crew onboard. That way we can make sure that nothing else happens and that our officers can process the evidence.”
            I breathed a sigh of relief. “That sounds fair.”
            Reese dialed with his thumb and then narrowed his gaze at Richard and me. “They’re going to be reporting straight to me, so both of you had better behave.”
            Richard put a hand on his chest. “I resent the implication that I would do anything but help law enforcement to the best of my ability.”
            “Seriously?” I whispered to Richard as Reese turned away and talked into his phone.
            “Too much?” Richard asked.
            “Well, considering you’ve operated your business against police orders before and tried to get Leatrice falsely arrested on more than one occasion it may be a touch insincere.”
            Richard tapped his chin. “You make some good points.”
            Leatrice walked up with Brody in tow as Reese put his cell phone back in his jeans pocket and turned back to us. He jumped a bit when he saw Leatrice standing there but a tiny old lady with jet-black hair and a full-on sailor suit could do that to anyone.
            “We’re all set with the security,” Reese said. “They’ll be here in an hour or so.”
            “Security?” Brody asked. “What’s going on?”
            “There’s been a murder, dear, remember?” Leatrice said in a stage whisper and patted his arm. She leaned over to me. “He’s very distraught.”
            Reese looked like he was making an effort not to laugh. “In order to move forward with the wedding plans, we need to put some security on the boat.”
            “Like armed guards?” Brody asked.
            “More like retired cops,” Reese explained. “Just to keep an eye on things and make sure there aren’t any more accidents what with all the wedding preparations going on.”
            “I suppose that’s necessary?” Brody rubbed his forehead. “My stepsister is already pretty upset.”
            Reese shrugged. “It’s necessary if she still wants to get married on the boat. Otherwise, we can remove everyone from onboard, seal off the boat and lock it down entirely.”
            Brody’s eyes widened. “My mother would flip out.” He looked at Richard and me. “And that’s something you don’t want to be near.”
            “So as long as we have the security team, we can go ahead with the wedding as planned?” Richard asked.
            “Once the forensics team is done.”
            “Forensics?” Brody looked at the boat. “This is out of control.”
            I’d seen a lot of wedding craziness, but I had to agree with him. This wedding was not going as planned.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

From The Cathedral to The Corcoran {Sneak Peek}

This is one of my favorite shots from a wedding I did at The National Cathedral and The Corcoran. I've worked at both many times and love them for their grandeur and their quintessential Washington elegance.  I love this quiet moment in a wedding day full of excitement and energy because the couple is enjoying a few moments walking in the Cathedral gardens before dashing off to the reception. The day is perfect, the sun is dipping low and you couldn't hear anything but the bride and groom whispering to each other. Perfect!

Thanks to Greg Gibson for the always breathtaking images. More on this stunning wedding to come!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Ladyfingers Letterpress {Wedding Invitations}

I just opened a package from the lovely ladies at Ladyfingers Letterpress and was so charmed!  The gorgeous paper, the sassy inks and the delightful design make me stop in my tracks, and I just had to share this find with you.

Not only do I love this company's work, I really love their story and their company philosophy. The company owners, Morgan and Arley, met after both graduated from design school (one from RISD and one from Parsons). They fell in love, got engaged and couldn't find any wedding invitations that spoke to them so they did what any creative, entrepreneur-types would do: they started their own invitation company to be LGBT-friendly and appeal to all couples.

I also love that the company has a program they call "Ten Percent 4 Love." Because they feel so strongly that discrimination towards people because of their sexual preference, race, religion, etc, is wrong, they donate 10% of the total cost of every order placed through Ladyfingers Letterpress to the Human Rights Campaign. The Human Rights Campaign is a non-profit organization that works for equal rights and marriage equality in America.

 Be sure to check out the gorgeous work from these talented women who are making a difference one invitation at a time! And while you're perusing, be sure to read their bios. These are two cool women. Hot air ballooning and pie-making? When can we go hang out with them?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Spring Cocktail {The W Hotel}

Last week, the Engaging Affairs team was lucky enough to enjoy drinks on the rooftop terrace of The W Hotel in Washington D.C. What an amazing view and stunning setting! Watching the sun set while sipping on specialty cocktails and nibbling on flat bread pizzas is the perfect end to a day.  The W has just added the flat bread pizzas to their rooftop menu and they are so yummy. The flavors are truly decadent: truffles, wild mushrooms, tomato and basil.

The rooftop at The W is also known for their fabulous drinks. This is the place for a hand-crafted Dark and Stormy or a really fresh Strawberry Lemonade.  My favorite drink is their Berry Capriosca. If you can't get to the rooftop at The W to try it out, you can try your hand at making them yourself (but you won't have the killer view)!

Berry Capriosca from P.O.V. at The W Hotel D.C.

1.5 oz vodka
1 oz simple syrup
4-6 muddling limes
muddled berry assortment
ice cubes, crushed

Slice limes, muddle with berries in your chosen glass. Fill glass with crushed ice and pour on the vodka, top up with simple syrup, gently mix and then serve.

The best place to enjoy a perfect Spring evening is on the roof of The W with a fabulous drink so we hope to see you there!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Starting the Year off Right {Shannon & Kevin}

2011 is going to be a great year for weddings.  I know because for me, it started on the most beautiful day in March we've had.  Shannon and Kevin really lucked out for their St. Patrick's Day-esque wedding on March 19th at St. Bartholomew's and Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, MD.

Just look at the view from Shannon's bridal suite over the 18th hole of the golf course.

Shannon got her bridesmaids the most beautiful necklaces from Stella and Dot (Stella being my favorite name so be sure to look out for a dedicated blog on their stuff soon).

Shannon took time out from dancing to pose for a picture with her best friend Claudia.

Of course, it wouldn't be an Irish wedding without lot's of beer.  This was the beverage of choice for most guests over the weekend and just so that their guests keep them in mind long after the party has ended, Shannon and Kevin sent their friends and family home with custom beer koozies to get them through the rest of March Madness and into the summer months.

Thank you Shannon and Kevin for a great first wedding of 2011!


Friday, March 18, 2011

Death on the Aisle {Chapter Twelve}

 Thanks for your patience, everyone! I'm writing two books at the same time (only one of which is going up on the blog) so it gets a little crazy sometimes going back and forth between them. Sorry if I miss a week here or there. Thanks for reading! I really appreciate all your sweet emails and comments. I'm amazingly lucky to have wonderful readers and Annabelle Archer fans. Have a fabulous weekend!

Chapter Twelve

            “It was awful.” Richard had fought his way off the boat and the police gave up trying to keep him quiet.
            “We already questioned him,” one of the officers said to Detective Reese when they let Richard off the dock. “He’s all yours.”
Reese didn’t look thrilled.
“Richard.” I grabbed him by the shoulders. “What happened?”
Richard took out a lavender toile pocket square and dabbed his brow. “I just went in the kitchen to talk to the chef about our kitchen space. That galley kitchen is much too small for us to cook out of but I thought the ovens might be good for warming food. The equipment is top-of-the-line, you know.  And have you seen the wine cellar?”
Reese cleared his throat and gave Richard a pointed look. “Is this going anywhere?”
Richard pursed his lips and turned away from Reese. “As I was saying, I was talking to the chef about his equipment when he plugged in the blender and started twitching.” Richard put a hand to his mouth. “It took me a minute to realize he wasn’t just disagreeing with me.”
I put an arm around Richard. “That’s awful.”
“When he collapsed, I realized something was wrong and called for help.”
Reese took notes in his small leather notepad. “He screamed so loud that the police got calls from half a dozen nearby boats.”
“You’d think that someone would have come faster.” Now it was Richard’s turn to give Reese a pointed look. “I thought the DC response time had improved but the captain was the first person on the scene and then Mandy. It was a good ten minutes before the police showed up. I had to help Mandy to her quarters before they even arrived because she became a bit hysterical.”
I could only imagine what a mess Mandy had been if Richard classified her as hysterical. Richard didn’t look so hot himself. His beige linen suit looked like it had been slept in.
“Do you want me to take you home so you can change?” I asked.
“Well, your suit is all wrinkled,” I said.
Richard looked at the creases in his pants and jacket. “This is linen, darling. They’re money wrinkles.”
“Wrinkles are wrinkles, if you ask me,” Kate said, walking up to join us.
“I certainly didn’t ask  . . .” Richard began, running his hand over his jacket sleeve.
 “I thought you were helping Leatrice entertain Brody,” I said. I looked across the parking lot to where Leatrice stood her arm tightly linked with the bride’s stepbrother.  Brody wasn’t getting free from Leatrice anytime soon.  I only hoped he enjoyed talking about Matlock or violent crime reports.
Kate threw up her arms in mock surrender. “I give. A fiancĂ© I can handle. But a fiancĂ© and Leatrice? No thanks.”
“It isn’t like you to throw in the towel so easily,” Richard said. “Especially when they’re cute.”
“Well, I’m already seeing a couple of people and if I get too many, it just gets confusing.” Kate said. “You know what they say, two’s company, three’s too loud.”
Richard gave her a snarky smile. “I’m sure it is.”
I elbowed him and noticed Reese grinning at me. I gave him an apologetic smile. There was no chance of steering the conversation back to how I’d missed talking to him or how long it had been since we’d seen each other. Not with Richard and Kate (not to mention Leatrice) out in full force.
Richard tapped his pen on his notepad and looked at Richard. “Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?”
Richard shrugged.
“Why was the chef plugging in the blender?” Reese asked.
“To make Mrs. Barbery’s smoothie. She has them three times a day so she can lose weight before the wedding.”
“Really?” Reese scratched away in his notepad.
“Mandy told me when I walked her down to her room. She was babbling about the smoothies and how it was Mrs. Barbery’s newest obsession and she had the chef get fruit each morning and make them fresh. But she got bored easily so he had to come up with new combinations every time.”
“So it sounds like anyone who knew about this would know that the chef would use the blender on a regular basis,” Reese said.
“What are you thinking?” I asked.
            “That I’m glad I don’t work for Mrs. Barbery.” Richard shuddered. “A top-notch chef like Bernard being reduced to making smoothies. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a suicide.”
I ignored him and looked at Reese.
Detective Reese swung his notepad shut. “I’m thinking premeditated murder.”

Inspiration Flashback {Cherry Blossom}

credits: tablescape (A Delightful Day), bridesmaid dresses (In Style Weddings), centerpieces (In Style Weddings), cakes (Martha Stewart), invitations (Hello Lucky), landscape (Martha Stewart), cupcakes (Martha Stewart), cake slice (Martha Stewart), boutonnieres (Martha Stewart)

As the trees and flowers begin budding and blooming here in D.C., that means one thing: cherry blossoms are almost here! Enjoy this flashback inspiration board inspired by our city's trademark blooms!