Archive for Wedding Design

A Lakeside Storybook Wedding: 20 Lessons Learned

I thought I’d interrupt my regularly scheduled wedding recaps (haha, riiight) to post about various lessons learned from my own wedding. Keep in mind: the wedding was the shiz-nit. An amazing, fun, without-a-care-in-the-world day and all-round hootenanny of hilarity with most everybody pitching in to get ‘er done! The following is just some information I personally could have used before the big day. Just nitpicky things. Not huge regrets. So hold on to your wedding hats, hive, cuz I’m about to get all up in the nitpick-pickety.

(Tip: scroll allll the way down to read the super short version of this post.)

All photos unless otherwise noted are by the lovely and amazing Tanja Lippert.

Here’s what I learned:

1. It’s sometimes easier to say you’re sorry than ask for permission. I know, I know, shouldn’t I be a tad bit more ethical, being a journalist and all?

I’m not talking anything illegal, but when it came to my at-home wedding, it was definitely easiest to just go for it, rather than ask, when it came to things like our parking-in-the-meadow-across-the-street-situation:

Personal Photo

See far left for nose of car poking out. Here’s maybe a better pic, showing the cars blurry in the background in the meadow:

*Side note: also, if you make lanterns streaming with ribbons in shades of peach, pink and taupe, be aware that in photos they’ll remind you of flying octopuses. Or a flying spaghetti monster. Anyone else get that?

My parents were all “oh, just ASK the land-owner for permission to park there!” But, what would have happened had he said no? Where would we all have parked? Plus, I doubt he was in any sort of liability trouble-zone, because technically we were on the side of the road next to his meadow.

2. You can totally get away with ignoring county music/sound ordinances, as long as you know and love your neighbors.

I’m passionately against ending weddings before 11 p.m. It’s just not right. In my ideal world, all us Americans would do it up Spain-style: dancing till 6 a.m. followed by breakfast with the whole wedding party.

Our band played past 11 p.m. despite county sound ordinances that mandated we be quiet at 10. If you’re in a rural enough area, and know your neighbors, I say go for it. I even investigated what could have happened had anyone complained, and the police chief and sheriff deputy I asked told me they would only come out and give a warning. Not too big a deal.

3. It takes three times as long as you’d estimate to do your own flowers. I love that I did it, it’s just, I didn’t take into account all the time it takes unpacking the bunches, filling up buckets, prepping, cleaning and clipping. For my 100-person wedding with about 30 centerpieces, it took half of the day Thursday and Friday before the wedding with two helpers.

And I didn’t have time to do all the ‘maids flowers.

Maid of honor bouquet:

Maids’ “bouquets” (i.e., didn’t have time to make them, so they carried lovely single stems of matilija poppies!):

4. Making 10 of these lavender-filled mason jar arrangements took way freakin’ longer than I thought it would:

5. If you’re an insomniac like me, a good thing to try is to stay up ALL night the Thursday night before your Saturday wedding. That way when Friday night rolls around, you will be sure to sleep very well and awake fresh and ready to go. I didn’t intentionally not sleep Thursday night. See #4 for the reason I was up all night. Yes, those containers of lavender took me all night to arrange by myself into the perfect little bunches that they were.

But you know what? It was fun. I was out there by the lakeside in the fresh summertime night air, surrounded by bushels of sweet-smelling lavender and my gorgeous blue mason jars. The waves were lapping against the shore, and I finally had some peaceful hours to myself after a week of harried, hurried wedding preparations. I sat there clipping the lavender and sticking them in the jars until each one was just how I wanted. When dawn began to break, I crept into bed and got a few hours’ sleep before the day-before-the wedding preparations began.

6. Do not attempt to harvest tons of lavender bare-handed when there are a bunch of bees. You will get stung on the palm of your hand and then by wedding day it will be all itchy.

7. If somebody tells you that baby wipes will take care of the dirt marks on your Melissa Sweet double-faced satin gown don’t listen to them. They don’t do anything, actually.

8. Also, if somebody tells you that putting antiperspirent on your thighs and behind your knees will help prevent sweat on an 86 degree day underneath several layers of tulle and satin — it doesn’t.

9. If you have a DOC who is not doing all that you’d hoped/discussed, don’t forget to mention to her to fix it. At the time, I was more concentrated on having fun, but I WISH I had asked her to do things like clean up the random sticks/trash/empty boxes scattered over by the bar area, and trim the plastic flowing out of the rowboat ice holder:

I saw that and minutes before I walked down the aisle, I ran behind and opened up my screens behind the bar to try and hide the mess, haha:

Aluminum rowboat, filled with ice containing beer…

… was supposed to look cute, but ended up with the clear plastic spilling out over the edges uncut looking hideous (See far right of photo):

Personal Photo

So hideous my pro photographer tactfully avoided taking any photos of it. Sigh. I wish I hadn’t listened to the DOC who said to line it in plastic, and wish I had just left it with the ice and beer alone in the clean rowboat instead. She said it was a health safety hazard that way. Pppppppfffft. Is what I say to that. Whatever. I’d cleaned it. It would have been just fine with the ice and closed cans of beer alone. It’s not like I was putting hors d’oeuvres on ice in there.

10. If the idea of being in front of a crowd makes you very nervous, you may be surprised on your wedding day. I wasn’t nervous in the slightest. I was afraid I would sweat in my armpits. I didn’t. You’ll amaze yourself.

11. If you make a huge, detailed timeline for your helpers outlining what they can help out with, and email it to them, and verify that they received that email, take the extra step to make sure you talk with them about it all in person, too. Because chances are, they might not read it and thus not be there at 3 p.m. as planned to help out. They might show up at 5:30 instead. Still others will pleasantly surprise you and totally go the extra mile, like my rocking MIL, and sisters-in-laws who put out the flowers despite a coordinator barking at them not to, and who helped make these lovely boutonnieres:

Be ready to roll with it all.

12. Make sure your DOC is totally OK with “rolling with it.” Otherwise, due to #11, your DOC might be the one who unexpectedly ends up having to put all the plates, napkins and glassware out on the tables (unfortunately while acting “put out”). Also, make sure that DOC understands you when you tell her numerous times prior to the wedding that she can put the flowers out on the tables starting at 4 p.m., because otherwise she might yell at your MIL and SIL’s — at 5:30 p.m. when all the guests are already there — that they can’t be put out until 6 p.m. because they might wilt?!? Um, no they won’t. And furthermore, so freakin’ what if they do! It’s better to have flowers out on the tables when you want them out there rather than no flowers at all. Thank you, MIL and SIL’s, for putting them out despite her yelling at you!!!

13. If your totally awesome band you booked seems to be the slightest bit confused/apprehensive about also being the ones to make all the announcements/MC’ing your event, don’t expect them to somehow miraculously be on the ball with said announcements on the day of the wedding. They’ll probably welcome your guests to the incorrect location (Napa instead of Lake County) then nearly drop an f-bomb into the microphone when the guests shout out the correct location… among other announcement goofs. ;p

14. When you talk to your parents about giving a toast and they agree, try asking them what they plan on saying, otherwise your mom might get up to the microphone and — in order to prevent your dad from making a completely inappropriate joke as he is known to do — grab the mic from him and thank everyone for coming in fewer than five words and go sit back down again.

Well-meaning, loving, yet exceedingly brief toast-giving parents.

15. Put all wedding items/decorations in marked boxes with lids on them. Putting things in marked boxes without lids is dangerous. All the lidded-boxes with stuff in them resulted in items being safe. All the un-lidded boxes with stuff in them resulted in items walking off and getting lost. Even 10 large white linen hemstitched table runners from Pottery Barn *sniff* placed in an un-lidded box mysteriously disappeared into thin air never to be seen again. Don’t underestimate the ability of large items to dematerialize. Better yet, keep all boxes of items in a locked room until it’s time to set them out on the tables.

16. Be prepared that you might spend a million hours making 200 lace-covered glass pillar candle holders, but only about 60 of them get put out on the tables. If that happens, maybe don’t just “roll with it.” Maybe consider taking them out yourself or getting someone to take them out and put them on the tables at nightfall, otherwise you’ll still be a little bit bitter about the whole dealy-bob eight months after your wedding ;p

17. Condensation and paper goods do not mix well:



18. Remember to provide ample lighting for your caterer in their little catering tent set up. Oops. Sorry, Julie!!!

19. Inform caterer/day-of coordinator to plug the 100-cup coffee maker into separate outlet than the same one running the lights, otherwise all the lights might go out for a few minutes.

20. Thank your husband when he’s the one who remembers to grab one of the long lighters to make sure all the piller candles throughout the property and tables get lit, even though you paid the day-of-coordinator, and the caterers’ staff extra to do it (tsk tsk, forgetful wedding staffers!).

And there you have it!

SHORT VERSION OF THE ABOVE: Make damn well sure you communicate, communicate, and over-communicate with all your helpers/coordinators about what you want done and how you want stuff set out. Even if you communicate, and get it in writing and hire an expensive and good-Yelp-reviewed day-of coordinator, not all your !@#$ will get set out or performed to your specifications. Let it go. Or hold on to it, bottled deep inside, and then write a long-ass blog post about it eight months later.

EVEN SHORTER VERSION OF THE ABOVE: Not all of your wedding !@#$ will get set out. Let it go. Or do something to fix it.

Next up, back to the regularly scheduled recaps. If you’d care to catch up, please check out:

A Lakeside Storybook Wedding
A Lakeside Storybook Wedding: Leading Up


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Great California Venues that Stay Open Late!

Are you interested in finding some great California wedding venues that stay open late, and allow the party to go past the usual 10 p.m.? Then this post is for you.

Honestly, hells wedding bells, why must most venues shut down at 9 or 10 p.m.?!?!

Take this beauty.

Nestldown, in Los Gatos.


It shuts down at 10. But if you have a wedding there, you could have an after party until 2 a.m. at the nearby Toll House Hotel.

The Ebell Club of Long Beach is more flexible.


This beautiful, historic woman’s philanthropic club is gorgeous, and lets you party into the wee hours!

MacCallum House in Mendocino.


Situated in the beautiful seaside village of Mendocino about three hours from San Francisco, this is a favorite spot of mine to visit. The MacCallum House allows music outdoors until 10 p.m. in their wedding tent, but guests can mingle in the hotel and bar until 2 a.m. with music indoors. Only downside is it’s so far from any major airport.

The Green Room in San Francisco.


You can rent this affordable gem in the city of San Francisco into the wee hours as well, and there are NO time restrictions! You could have the reception there, and still have a beautiful outdoor wedding at a local park, with a lighthouse:

Point Montara Lighthouse


Another park for an outdoor ceremony:

Marin Headlands


However, beware the S.F. summer fog. It is FREEZING and unpredictable and the lighthouses are often too windy. Think fall for an S.F. wedding.

Those are just a few of the dozens of venues I’ve researched up and down the great state of CA. Contact me if you’re interested in learning about more of them!

How is the venue search going for you? Is it a struggle to find a venue with a later-than-typical curfew?

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Budget Bouquets, Boutonnieres and Bowers!

So, you want to know how to save a bundle on flowers?

Did you perhaps receive a florists’ quote exceeding $4,000, for what you thought was a rather skimpy amount of blooms?

Of course, not to knock the florists’ talents! It’s well worth the money to avoid the hassle of planning and arranging for your own floral needs at your own wedding! As professionals, florists deserve to mark up their product, just like any other vendor would.

That said, I am an avid gardener (a Master Gardener in the UCCE program in Orange County) and passionate arranger of flowers and so I did the flowers for my wedding, and those of clients’, for under $300.

Anyway. If you’re going the DIY route, first off, establish a budget.

We were going to try to source everything from our own garden, but it was a tough winter on our flowers. So, plan accordingly if you are growing blooms in your garden. You may need to purchase more flowers than you’d previously thought in case it’s a harsh winter.


So, $300 brings us, courtesy of Sequoia Wholesalers:
15 stems Dahlias (light pink)
20 stems Billy Buttons
40 stems Veronica (white)
100 stems scabiosa (white)

And, from
56 stems peach Juliet peony roses

If at all possible, locate some “filler” flowers you can use to supplement your arrangements. Try meadows, friends’ gardens, and even post an ad on Craigslist or Freecycle asking if anyone can donate flowers if you come and cut them yourself.


For “filler” flowers for all my floral projects, I have this, my mom’s garden to work with:

A nice, big, Mock Orange:

Some Feverfew:

Lamb’s ears:

Pink Veronica:

And much, much more:

With these as fillers and Veronica, Feverfew, Scabiosa and oodles of the showy, white-and-yellow Matilija poppies, (that grow on the roadside in California) I’m hoping my arrangements will resemble Saipua’s aesthetic: loose, organic and gorgeous!


A cross between the above, and this:


For my bouquets, using the peach Juliet roses, the goal is they turn out something like this:

Miss Cowboy Boot’s bouquet! With peach Juliet roses, I believe.

Billy Buttons are great for the boutonnieres, and a few in the centerpieces.

Stay tuned to see how it all turned out!

Are you taking on a HUGE do-it-yourself project that everybody and their brother just shakes their heads at when you tell them about it? But you honest-to-goodness don’t mind doing it yourself because you luuuuurve doing said project? Maybe it’s baking your own cake? Baking batches of macaroons for your dessert table? Sewing your bridesmaids’ gowns? Letterpress printing your own invites? 😉 Do share!

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How to Make Birch-Covered Vases

I first fell in love with the concept of birch vases when I saw  Beth Helmstetter’s design:

These photos by Jose Villa are incredible, and I swooned for birch!

I mean, look:

How gorgeous, right?!

This wedding is one of my favorites. I’ve also copied Beth’s lace-covered candles from this wedding:

Mine aren’t quite as gorgeous, but it was such a rewarding DIY project, that I highly recommend it!

My quick table mock up, with candles, birch vases, and white hem-stitch table runners on clearance for $19 each from Pottery Barn (waaay cheaper than even renting long table runners from the linen rental companies):

And another:

Photos above by Tanja Lippert.

Anyway, let’s get down to the birch vase tutorial. First, collect your birch bark. I got mine used from a bride who didn’t need them anymore.

Then I found a bunch more at Pottery Barn on clearance. They had them the past two winters, so maybe they’ll have them again next winter.

Chances are, some of the birch cylinders won’t be the right size you want them to be. If that’s the case, measure your “inside” vase–it can be a jar or simple old can from your kitchen, since it will be hidden, and measure how large you’ll need your birch cylinder to be, allowing for about a 2-inch overlapping seam of bark.

Here are my Pottery Barn cylinders and my tools: scissors, a pencil, and a ruler:

The cylinders were way too big, so I pried them apart at the seams (they had been hot glued together at the seams).

I then measured and cut them to the size I needed. Some of them were funkily-made with several “seams” and sections of bark forming one cylinder. I want only one seam so I can position the cylinders in pairs on the tables with the seams pointing in to each other so they’re hidden.

Here’s a picture of a PB birch cylinder cut in half, showing the funky extra pieces Pottery Barn had used to make them larger. I simply pulled those off.

Then I measured, traced a cutting line in pencil, and used scissors to cut the bark. Depending on how thick your bark is, you might want to use heavier shears or cutting tools. I used a utility knife once to start the cut, but I don’t recommend doing that! The utilitly knife was way too flimsy for the thick bark.

Now you’re ready to put ’em back together again!

I got a couple balls of twine and rafia ready, plugged in my hot glue gun, and started putting them back together again.

Some of the bark pieces weren’t very flexible, so I soaked them in the bathtub for an hour, which I found made it easier to bend the bark.

Step 1:

I held the cylinder together the size I wanted it, making sure the seam overlapped about a couple of inches so I’d have room to hot glue it securely. I then traced a line in pencil, as you can see in this picture, so I knew where exactly to apply hot glue. This also helped me create a perfectly straight seam in the haste of trying to quickly apply hot glue and then put the cylinder together before it dried on me!

Step 2:

I applied hot glue quickly and liberally. This was hard, because I needed to stop in the middle each time and add another hot glue stick into the glue gun. I used a lot of glue! About one stick for each cylinder! You might find you need more or less, depending on how large your cylinders are.

Step 3:

I held it together as tightly as possible while the glue dried.

I found this technique of smashing it down on the table using my palms worked pretty well:

I used both palms, for the record. (I had to remove one hand to take a picture!) Oh, if you’re wondering what that cardboard cylinder is on the inside, it came with the Pottery Barn cylinders, and for this particular vase, I was only shortening the length, not the circumference, so I decided to stick the cardboard cylinder inside for extra support.

Step 4:

I tied it in twine, to secure it. I’ll remove the twine before the wedding.


Have you used birch in your wedding? What did you make or buy that was birch?

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Craigslist Deals Galore! Stuff I’ve Scored (And You Can, Too!)

I’ve had some interest from readers on finding good deals. I’ve scored big time on the classifieds on Wedding Bee, The Knot’s Trash-to-Treasure board, and Craigslist. Why, just last weekend, my dear cousin picked up another 40 cylinder vases for my collection (I have about 200 more!), which I found on Weddingbee. See, you can have a cousin way across the state or even across the United States pick up items for you second-hand! You’re not just limited to your hometown!

Some of my favorite finds?

Antique Spanish-style candelabra, with six LED flickering candles, Craigslist $35 Photo: Personal photo

Shepherds Hooks, Craigslist $40 Photo: Style Me Pretty

15 gorgeous white moroccan lanterns, Wedding Bee for $7 each Photo: Z Gallery

Sexy Little Bride Hoodie, Craigslist $20 Photo: Victoria

Probably the best deal I got was finding four gimongous glass beverage dispensers on Craigslist. I save my brides lots and lots of moula using good ol’ CL! They love that I’m frugal! All that money can go into making your wedding even more amazing!

Italian Glass Beverage Jar Photo:

Even designer veils can be found. I purchased one from Wedding Bee for $150–the “Corby” by Jennifer Leigh. I just think she makes the prettiest veils, but they are expensive. This one is cathedral length, edged in fine silver thread and embellished with freshwater pearls and rhinestones ever-so-delicately on the edges.

Jennifer Leigh Corby Veil, Wedding Bee $150 Photo:

My advice if you want to scour Craigslist: You CAN get some great deals and save a TON of money–just start early in your wedding planning process. About a year is a good amount of time. I typically can save about $10,000 on decorations, centerpieces and lots of other wedding things if given a year in advance to start shopping. Happy hunting!

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