Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Bouquet Boo-Boos

Help me out here: why does the most important bundle of flowers in the whole wedding get the least attention? I have scratched my head over this many times and have yet to come up with an answer. I'm hoping that a little advice to future brides will begin to remedy this terrible oversight.

So, here are the 4 Biggest Bouquet Boo-Boos:

Bashful Bouquets

You can have the most beautiful, most expensive, most rare, perfect flowers in your bridal bouquet...but they won't be seen in pictures if they blend in with your gown. There is a trend/belief that all white bouquets are elegant, pure and lovely. That they are, but the issue of noticeability still persists. When you walk down the aisle, don't let green stems be the only part of the bouquet that your guests see. A little contrast can go a long way!

Bold Bouquets

Then there's the other side of the spectrum: loud flowers. There is something to be said for pops of color. Unless pops of color are everywhere. And then that would defeat the idea of POPS of color. Sometimes these bouquets are the product of indecisiveness, but sometimes they are simply an overuse of every part of the rainbow. If you eliminate even 1-2 of the colors in your bouquet, you'll see how perfectly colorful it is (without incorporating the whole garden).

Big Bouquets

Being able to physically lift and carry your bouquet. Yea, that's kind of important. If you want a full arrangement, go for it. Add peonies or lillies, fill with roses or hydrangea, but keep the crazy branches, fake butterflies, and pine cones to a minimum. Nothing screams "Bridezilla" like a bouquet that weighs as much as your Bichon and spans from your waistline to your knees.

Beaded Bouquets

Let me just say that I remember the Bedazzler and bedazzling every piece of clothing I owned. And even in 1985, no one approved of it being used in a floral bouquet. A little sparkle can look pretty, but it's a bit over doing it to add beading to every flower and every petal. Don't get me started on crystalizing the full stem. 

Stop yourself if you feel the need to whip out that old rhinestone setter and crystalize your bouquet. This is tacky. It's tacky now. It'll be tacky on your wedding day. And in 10 years, when you open that coveted wedding album to reminisce, it'll still be tacky.

The good news...

You don't have to be a victim of bouquet badness! Here's how to choose a Brilliant Bouquet:

1) Give it the attention it deserves from the first floral meeting. Don't decide on your bouquet flowers a month before your wedding as you're making all your final decisions on transportation and escort cards.
2) Keep your dress in mind. Do not decide on your bouquet before you have chosen your gown.
3) Be open to options. The colors and/or flowers that you think are least likely a fit, may be the perfect contrast.
4) Know yourself. It's okay to give your bouquet personality and to let yours shine through! (Just keep the above no-no's in mind).
5) Don't forget about your stems. They might be just green sticks to you, but there are lots of ways to wrap, unwrap and tie them.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Centerpieces: Size Matters

Tall, wide, short, long, round, square, skinny, full, you didn't know floral arrangements came in so many sizes.

It can be easier to begin with choosing the size of your centerpieces than the colors - especially if you already have your venue chosen. Size matters when it comes to centerpieces and bigger isn't always better.

Top 3 Questions On Centerpiece Sizing

How can I have big arrangements without blocking my guests from socializing across the table?

Skinny vases and/or flower stems. You can have big bright flowers and loads of them at the top of a tall vase. Still, keep the inside of the vase as clean as possible. Too much going on in a semi-thin glass can give the appearance of a thicker vase...and could create a barrier between your cousin Robert getting to know your former college roommate Kelly. Now wouldn't that be a shame?

Should I do all big arrangements?

We don't think so, but that's a personal preference. 18 tables of tall vases and lots of flowers can overwhelm a room and achieve the opposite look you were intending. And you might have bobbing heads all around the room trying to see speeches and introductions because branches and lilies are everywhere. Do 9 tables of tall arrangements and 9 tables of low, full arrangements. Remember, keep the low ones below eye level or we're back to the same issue discussed above.

How can I achieve the full look on the table and at the top of the vase? Or can I?

Low, full arrangements at the base of the vase. Still keep the fullest part of the arrangement above eye level, but adding in low flowers on the table will give the centerpiece a wider, fuller appearance without obstructing views. And poking people in the eye.

Two Final Pieces of Advice:

  1. There IS a such thing as over doing it when it comes to flowers. Try to visualize your options in the venue before going crazy with centerpieces or even have your planner or designer do a sketch of what it will look like. Most florists will do a mock centerpiece complimentary, so ask about getting one for your tasting. This will make visualizing much easier. Less can be more, and often is with arrangements. 
  2. If you're planning to incorporate branches, hanging mini lanterns, top heavy vases, large pieces of fruit, candelabras, etc., it's best to consult a floral expert or a wedding planner before implementing your selections. Tipping vases, bouncing limes and fire hazards can make for a heck of a show, but not the kind you want at your reception.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Toasting: The 5 Ws

It's 3 weeks until the big day. You've been making major decisions about dresses, colors, venues, and timelines for what feels like 10 years. But before you exhale a sigh of relief, you have one more to make: the Toasters.

No, I don't mean the duplicate appliances you've received from your Bed Bath & Beyond registry. I'm talking about the select few who will have access to the microphone. You'll want to decide this well before the wedding day and let your Planner and DJ know who is allowed to cheers, or you could end up with Open Mic Night.

The 5 Ws of Toasting:

Who: Bride's Dad, Best Man, Maid/Matron of Honor (typically). Feel free to let someone else in on the fun, like the Groom's Dad or Bride's Mom, if you'd like. But keep the number of talkers to a minimum or much of your evening could be spent listening to family and friends tell stories about your lives. Save that for a night around the campfire.

What: Toasts should be about the Bride, the Groom or the Bride and the Groom. Let your speakers know that going off on multiple tangents for many minutes will mean abbreviated mic time. In a nice way.

When: During dinner is the best time, as most people are seated and paying attention. Avoid clanging for the attention of your guests by scheduling your toasts 10 and 15 minutes apart. Do all the toasts back to back to allow the evening to flow naturally and relatively uninterrupted.

Where: From the toaster's seat is usually best. For the Father of the Bride, you should give the option of speaking from the center of the room.

Why: Because it's one of the biggest days of your lives. And an opportunity for the people who love you the most to let you know it. So let 'em tell a few's good for the soul!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The First Dance: Not Just a Song

You know when it's time to pull out the camera at a wedding - the first notes of Elvis or Shania come floating from the DJ booth. The couple embraces, smiles at each other and starts to dance. After 20 blissful seconds comes awkward swaying and boredom. Don't be this couple.

Your first dance isn't an obligation. If you don't like to dance and the thought of 150 people circling the dance floor to get a glimpse of you two eye-locking doesn't do it for you, then don't do it. Simply tell your planner to cut it out of the timeline.

But, if you want your two minutes of expressing love through words of someone who knows how to sing it, listen up...

You just said "I Do," something you've been rehearsing how to say for many months, if not years. You just shouted to the world that you've found your soulmate, the person you plan to have and to hold for the rest of your life. While Eric Clapton sure has a way of making me feel wonderful tonight and Lionel Ritchie can sell me on endless love, you can do better if these songs don't have a special meaning to you. Now there's no need to get upset and defend these beautifully written ballads! I personally think they are perfect...when the couple connects perfectly with them.

This is your first real chance to make a statement about your love to the family and friends that just witnessed your first real commitment of love. Dig deep.

Here's how to proceed:

1) Turn on the radio and tune in (together!). Start with the oldies station, then hit the easy listening station, maybe some country, and then pop and soft rock. Write down any artists or songs that remind you of your coupleness. Compare notes!

2) Remember: Just because it was popular in 1952, doesn't mean that it's outside the realm of possibilities. And Remember: Just because it's popular (and possible overplayed) right now, don't nix it from the list. The goal is to find YOUR song, and what's going to make you smile after 20 years of marriage.

3) Lyrics matter, too. There are lots of pretty songs to choose from. But if it says nothing about what made you get down on bended knee or say yes, it doesn't matter.

4) Stop when you find the one! Don't make the mistake of instructing the DJ to play your 8 favorites songs throughout the course of the evening that describe you as a couple. Your guests know that you've "Had the Time of Your Life" and that you can "Feel the Love Tonight." What they don't know is why, so tell them. In one song.

Bottom lines:
Make your first dance something you'll remember.

Not because it was the easiest song to box step to, or your current favorite song on the radio, or what everyone else will recognize.

But because, when you close your eyes, you think of all the reasons that led to knowing this one moment had to happen.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Destination: Keswick Hall, Charlottesville, Va.

Bias Alert!: We've fallen into a love affair with Keswick, so the following review may be a bit slanted.

Romance haunts every nook of this venue. Be prepared to succumb to it's power.

Of the 48 rooms, no two are alike. Every guest will experience this venue in a unique way, starting with their accommodations. Decorated in true Laura Ashley style, Victorian accents meshed with modern amenities make Keswick comfortable. The perfect mix of home and hotel.

This venue lends itself to a full weekend's worth of relaxation. Whether it's golf, spa treatments, historical tours, winery visits, tea time or lounging by the infinity pool, there is something for almost every guest.

Much of the spectacular cuisine is drawn from local farmers: vegetables and meats delivered fresh from Virginia. Executive Chef Dean Maupin is versatile and creative, and it shows in each and every dish.

Service is prioritized at Keswick, and you'll notice from the time you check in with one of two receptionists smiling behind vintage desks to the history-smart bartenders to the ever-present management. No beat is missed.

The rehearsal dinner, ceremony, reception and brunch can all be held in completely different parts of the venue. And, like the guest rooms, every event space is very different from the next. You'll feel well acquainted with Keswick by the end of your wedding weekend. You may even say it became your home away from home.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Destination: Harbour Island, Bahamas

Destination weddings are gaining momentum. And for lots of reasons: the couple that can't trim the invite list, different settings, an all weekend event instead of one night, etc.

During our travels to unique destinations, we're going to give you the high points of why these locations are worth a second look for your wedding weekend.

Harbour Island, Bahamas or as the locals call it, Briland

An outside ceremony here would look much like this:
Tame breeze, 80 degrees, quiet gentle waves, specks of coral pink woven into plushy white sand. No need to dress it up with decor...the sky streaks raspberry and azure as the sun sets.

This destination is for the bride who can leave her watch at home. It's for the groom that appreciates lazy days. These locations are truly on island time.

Breakfast is before 10am and lunch starts at noon. Dinner is a big deal, especially if you've spent the day catching grouper or snapper. Local restaurants, like Acqua Pazza, will cook your catch and serve it up with fluffy mashed potatoes and lemon caper sauce. The best method of travel around the island is via golf cart...and stay on the left side of the road. Easy travel time - only one hour from Miami, Florida.

Nightlife options are limited, but exists in full force after sunset. On the weekends, Valentine's Marina has live bands; all the songs you know with a Bahamian twist. Even more local, check out Gusty's any night. Sand floors, boards of Tequila shots and even a window to the bar to order from the deck.

The recommended resorts are: Dunmore Hotel, Coral Sands, Valentine's, Rock House, Pink Sands, Romora Bay, and Runaway Hill Inn.

Resorts come in all sizes and shapes: some cottages, some hotels, some rooms in mansions. They can accommodate between 25 and 100 guests. If you're invite list is longer, you can always book your guests in two resorts, as many are just a beach walk or golf cart ride away from the next.

Don't overlook this magical destination if you're criteria include unpopulated beaches, tasty dishes, friendly service, relaxation and privacy. The toughest decision you'll make on Harbour Island? Rum Punch or Goombay Smash.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Location, Location, Location...Venue Shopping!

Have you made your list? You know the one I'm talking about.

Must haves: water view, seated capacity of 152 with a dance floor, separate rooms at least 15 feet from each other for cocktails and dinner.

Would like: chairs included in rental fee, high ceilings.

Repulsed by: cheesy hotel decor, restrictions on red wine.

If you haven't written this laundry list of venue preferences, it's probably because you haven't yet made a venue visit. If you are super picky about this part of your wedding and don't know much about the venues in your area, it's wise to hire a planner for just this aspect, if nothing else.

If you have a solid, small outline of the aspects that matter most, move full speed ahead and schedule your visits. You have a big task in front of you! Read on for the criteria to consider first.

SAS it up: Size, Amount, Scenery

WARNING: Before you get down with your SASsy inner bride, do nothing until you establish your guest list. You'll be juggling some heavy clubs if you choose not to heed this warning. And if you're stressed now...prepare for wedding overload if you're not relatively set in the number of guests you'll be inviting.

A seated dinner for 150 requires a room (or adjacent rooms) that can accommodate enough tables and chairs for 150 guests. White-pillared, enchanting veranda, and a trellis with cascading greenery won't change that fact. Don't fall in love with a venue that will force you to cut people off of any set-in-stone invite list. And, yes, kids count. They can't eat in the parking lot.

Money matters. If your overall wedding budget is $25,000, DO NOT rent a venue that includes nothing but the four walls around you for $10,000. I promise you, it won't work. Always ask about how many hours you'll have the space, are chairs, tables, etc. included, any additional fees.

If your dream reception includes chandeliers, marble balconies, antique soft-gold trimmed chairs and pixie dust, don't waste time on visiting barns, tented gardens and beachfront houses. And be flexible on the pixie dust; it's hard to come by.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Cake Troubles...Fondant: I Do?

All sweet teeth are different. Devil's food versus chocolate, strawberry preserves versus cream cheese...and, of course, buttercream versus fondant.

Now you ask, what the heck is fondant? Cake is cake, right? And frosting is frosting? Not so! Wedding cakes usually come with two main "frosting" options: Buttercream and Fondant. The first you know well. It's what grandma put on every holiday homemade cake and the stuff you licked off the spoon when she was finished icing the layers. The second is tricky. Whether you say fon-dònt or fond-ant, this one word makes tastings complicated and, at times, frustrating.

When approaching wedding cake, you need to know what you're getting into. There's no Easy Bake Oven involved and Betty Crocker is staying out of it, so it's important that you arm yourself with the appropriate questions. Let's explore and troubleshoot.

Lesson #1: Don't knock it till you've tried it.
Fondant has a bad rap. By now, you've likely heard that it tastes like glue, cardboard or plaster. While I hope you've never tried a shot of glue, a slice of cardboard or a spoonful of plaster, one can only imagine how awful this thing called fondant must taste. So, ask your baker what product she/he uses and ask to try a little piece of it at the tasting. Some kinds actually remind me of marshmallow...yum!

Lesson #2: Seasons matter.
You've imagined an outdoor, tented, June wedding since you were 12. Well, start imagining a fondant cake, too. Buttercream likely won't last in the heat and outside, so you may want to go fondant shopping and focus your cake search on this item alone at first. Otherwise, you're looking at a melty mess by the time you and your love cut the cake.

Lesson #3: Costs.
Regardless of how it tastes, bakers charge more to use it. If you're on a tighter budget, consider sticking to buttercream to save fifty cents per slice.

Lesson #4: Smoothing it out.
Looks matter. Even with cake. If you want your decorations to look smooth, fondant is the best route to take. Some bakers can make buttercream look 100% flat, so ask to see pics of previous work.

Now that you know the four major considerations, you can confidently approach cakes and icing. Don't be intimated by the names or options. This isn't a pop quiz...take your time and decide what you like.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Sexy Budgets

Really? So you say...but you, too, can make your budget one spicy piece of work. And something to make your bride-to-be friends jealous.

Before diving into bouquets, banquet orders, and bridesmaid dresses, BUDGET!

Follow me on a numbers journey...

Step 1: Go online (or ask your planner) for a wedding budget sheet. HJ uses a detailed, 4 page document, which includes every possible aspect of the wedding that will pull funds from your reluctant wallet.

Step 2: Ask your fiancé to spend an hour of his/her time to discuss the wedding as a whole. This is good practice for financing that first house and making real life money decisions.

Step 3: Be honest! Don't fill in $500 for your reception flowers if you know you want Amaryllis and Asiatic Lilies in all of your centerpieces. Note: You may not know what certain items, like flowers, catering, etc., will cost. A great starting point is to get at least two itemized quotes from two different vendors to get an idea of what you'll need to budget and where you can save.

Step 4: Add it up and eliminate. If your total budget is $40,000 and your budget sheet comes out to $45,000, go back and make changes. Opt for fewer hours of an open bar, less transportation, all in-season flowers, etc.

It's not easy to sacrifice, but you'll know where you stand financially from the beginning and can make wise wedding decisions accordingly. If you're really struggling with the budget, call a planner. Many, like HJ, offer the option of à la carte services such as budget meetings. We're here to help. Budget stress be gone!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

We're Back, and Better than Ever!

It has been two years since our last post. Just going to get that out there now. We're not big talkers...we're big doers! We're going to be both from here on out, in hopes of providing sage advice to savvy brides. We'll try to make up for the lost time by sharing pics and stories from past weddings.

We've revealed cost saving tips on Washington Business Tonight, presented gems of wisdom on Let's Talk Live, and entertained you on MTV. Now it's time to open the vault of wedding secrets. Smart brides, stay tuned...