Ana + Gina’s Colorful Rustic Handcrafted Wedding (07*14*12)

As you can see by the date in the blog title, I’m just slightly behind in sharing the weddings I’ve been working on. 😉  But in truth, I realized that I’d started this blog post a while back.  I was encouraged to publish it finally after last week’s marriage equality ruling.  And see?  I’m trying to keep my promise for moar!blogging!

Ana and Gina are one of my favorite couples.  They have such wonderful energy and chemistry, and I immediately liked them.  Mind you, I have a LOT of incredible couples that I like immediately – it’s something I am proud that I can say about just about everyone – but I still remember our first phone call.  Ana had just e-mailed me and set up a time to talk.  They lived in the Bay Area and couldn’t meet in person.  She hadn’t mentioned anything about Gina at all.  “My fiancé is here and wants to meet you too!” she said, as we were introducing ourselves on the phone.  I heard Gina’s voice, and my heart leapt.  It seems a bit silly now, but in 2011 marriage equality was still such an uphill battle.  I’d always wanted to do weddings for everyone, but you can’t really pick and choose your clients.  So I had to wait for someone to choose me.  I remember getting off that phone call and dancing around.  They liked me!  They really liked me!  And I liked them!  This was happening!

Over the next several months, we worked together on decor plans for their wedding.  We always had the most fun when we were together; it felt comfortable, like we had been friends for a long time.  The venue, Hidden Valley Retreat and Spa (which is no longer), was one where literally everything was do-it-yourself.  It was lovely, but challenging, especially given their tight budget, so we had to get creative!  You can see the results in the photos – lots of paper and streamers…  But it was so very lovely.  I’m so proud of the way their whole day looked!  I loved how colorful it was (they were inspired by a painting they loved), and how many fun details we were able to bring in.

On the wedding day, I had a team of four working from 10 am to 7:30 pm (when the reception was already starting, we were still finishing up the cake table that was, thankfully, in the other room), hanging lights and lanterns, setting up tables and chairs, doing table settings, putting together a DIY Photo Booth, and so much more.  We’d have been there sooner to get started, but we were running last-second errands for the wedding!  It is actually because of this wedding that I require additional assistants for venues that aren’t “set up” for weddings, since simply placing, setting up, and dressing tables for 60 guests took two of my staff several hours to complete!

At any rate, the wedding itself was incredible.  Happy and gorgeous couple, happy friends and family, heartfelt vows, beautiful decor, and a great party!  Kaysha Weiner took the most stunning photographs (more on my website).  It’s no wonder that Ana and Gina were featured on Equally Wed!

Ana and Gina's Wedding, image by Kaysha Weiner Photography Ana and Gina's Wedding, image by Kaysha Weiner Photography Ana and Gina's Wedding, image by Kaysha Weiner Photography Ana and Gina's Wedding, image by Kaysha Weiner Photography Ana and Gina's Wedding, image by Kaysha Weiner Photography Ana and Gina's Wedding, image by Kaysha Weiner Photography Ana and Gina's Wedding, image by Kaysha Weiner Photography Ana and Gina's Wedding, image by Kaysha Weiner Photography Ana and Gina's Wedding, image by Kaysha Weiner Photography Ana and Gina's Wedding, image by Kaysha Weiner Photography Ana and Gina's Wedding, image by Kaysha Weiner Photography Ana and Gina's Wedding, image by Kaysha Weiner Photography Ana and Gina's Wedding, image by Kaysha Weiner Photography Ana and Gina's Wedding, image by Kaysha Weiner Photography Ana and Gina's Wedding, image by Kaysha Weiner Photography Ana and Gina's Wedding, image by Kaysha Weiner Photography Ana and Gina's Wedding, image by Kaysha Weiner Photography Ana and Gina's Wedding, image by Kaysha Weiner Photography Ana and Gina's Wedding, image by Kaysha Weiner Photography Ana and Gina's Wedding, image by Kaysha Weiner Photography Ana and Gina's Wedding, image by Kaysha Weiner Photography Ana and Gina's Wedding, image by Kaysha Weiner Photography Ana and Gina's Wedding, image by Kaysha Weiner Photography Ana and Gina's Wedding, image by Kaysha Weiner Photography Ana and Gina's Wedding, image by Kaysha Weiner Photography Ana and Gina's Wedding, image by Kaysha Weiner Photography Ana and Gina's Wedding, image by Kaysha Weiner Photography Ana and Gina's Wedding, image by Kaysha Weiner Photography Ana and Gina's Wedding, image by Kaysha Weiner Photography Ana and Gina's Wedding, image by Kaysha Weiner Photography Ana and Gina's Wedding, image by Kaysha Weiner Photography Ana and Gina's Wedding, image by Kaysha Weiner PhotographyAna + Gina’s Colorful Rustic Handcrafted Wedding (07*14*12)

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Stacy + Tyler’s Handcrafted Rustic Yellow Wedding

I feel a little silly writing this blog post.  You see, in the intervening year and a half since Stacy + Tyler’s wedding, SO MUCH has changed in their lives too (they welcomed a beautiful baby girl to their family!).  But still, I want to share the celebration, even though it’s taken me much too long to do it.  It was a truly beautiful one, and one I loved being a part of.  🙂  And I’m thrilled to say that one of their bridesmaids has just hired me for her wedding later this year!

Stacy + Tyler and I clicked right away.  Sometimes you meet a couple and think “Oh, they were nice, I wonder if they’ll hire me?”  And other times you walk away saying, “If they don’t hire me I’ll be soooo sad!”  Yup, it was the latter. 😉  Luckily they felt the same.  🙂  It helped that their AMAZING wedding photographer (Jenna, from FlutterGlass Photography) referred me to them, of course.  That’s why it’s so nice to have a great network – fantastic referrals! 🙂

I did their wedding Coordination and styling, and designed their program and a few hand-drawn signs.  But really, I just had a heck of a lot of fun with them.  🙂  And these photos?  Well, they really speak for themselves.  Just check them out and watch the story of their wedding day unfold!

Stacy + Tyler, I know this is a bit belated, but I loved being your wedding coordinator and I’m so thrilled you let me into your lives! 😉  Hoping we can get A and F together for a play date some time soon! 🙂

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Stacy + Tyler’s Handcrafted Rustic Yellow Wedding Vendor Credits:

Happy Anniversary Emily + Jeremy!

I can hardly believe it’s time for another anniversary post (one day late)…  It seems like such a short time ago that we were hanging the lanterns in the pool house at The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe!  Emily + Jeremy’s day was chic, whimsical, and romantic, and the photos are to die for!  You might recognize these two as being all over my website, blog, and Facebook page…  I can’t help it – they’re just so gorgeous!

Wishing you two the sweetest of anniversaries and another year of happy marriage! 🙂

See the full gallery of photos from Emily + Jeremy’s wedding on my website!  And read the blogs about their ceremony and reception!

Emily + Jeremy’s Modern Handcrafted Inn at Rancho Santa Fe Wedding Details:

To DIY or Not to DIY?

DIY (or Do-It-Yourself, if you’ve been living under a rock) details can bring heaps of personality to your event.  The handmade look is “in” – but more than that, there’s a real sense of accomplishment when you look back at an event that just screams that you were the host.  Details you created by hand can take your wedding from blah and everyday to unique, interesting, and personalized.  And – sometimes, if they’re done right – they can save you money.

I am a huge supporter of DIY projects for weddings and events.  But there’s a catch.  If you want to Do It Yourself, you have to Do It Smart.
Handcrafted rice paper centerpiece for the family's round table by Events by Elisa

It’s a natural tendency.  The insistence on being Superwoman (or Superman!), on taking everything on.  We all do it.  But it’s one of my jobs to alleviate stress for my clients, so I will always have the same advice:

Choose wisely, plan ahead, do a trial run, start early, leave plenty of time, work efficiently, embrace imperfections, be realistic about costs, and know when to go to plan B. 

Okay, it’s not poetry.  But trust me on this, it’s advice worth heeding.  Unless you actually like to be stressed out, up working on projects all night right before your wedding or event, of course.

Choose wisely

While you might be painfully aware of every single detail that goes into your wedding or event, your guests only ever see the final product.  They won’t notice if your tablecloths are the perfect shade to compliment the bridesmaids’ dresses.  They won’t judge you for buying premade sweets for your buffet.  They simply won’t care if you’ve hand-embroidered every napkin.

Oh, they’ll see the overall look.  Some of your (more event savvy) guests might even notice a few of the special details.  But as a rule, your guests only notice a fraction of what you put into your wedding or event; so choose your handmade details wisely.

I always ask my clients who are considering making the details themselves what they want most to see at their wedding or event.  When in doubt, go for the visual impact – the big wow.  I also ask whether they have any experience with the DIY project at hand.  After all, baking and decorating a dozen cupcakes can be a challenge for someone who rarely cooks, but baking and decorating twelve dozen is tough even for the most experienced baker.  Likewise any project that you haven’t done before has a 50/50 chance of being harder than it looks (I, for example, am a disaster at making cake pops, no matter how many tutorials I read or watch).

When discussing strategies with my clients for designing their wedding or event, I always suggest to take on only one or two DIY projects; with careful advance planning you can do more, but beware the totally normal tendency to try to do it all.  Taking on too much might mean not getting it all done.

Plan ahead

French chefs are trained to cut first, cook second.  Instead of searching frantically through drawers and cupboards for just the right spice as the dinner is bubbling away on the stove, they measure just the right amount of each ingredient into little nesting bowls, all laid out on their workspace, before turning on the stove.

The trick to a smooth DIY project is to prepare your own mise en place (“putting in place”).  Read the instructions for your project, or figure out your plan of attack if it’s a totally unique idea.  Read them again or sketch out exactly what you need.  If you’ve heard the expression “measure twice, cut once,” that’s exactly what you need to do here.  Especially if a project is brand new to you, the last thing you need is to get halfway through and realize you need to make a run to the store.  Make yourself a shopping list and always get more supplies than you think you’ll need (if I’m making a dozen tissue paper flowers and my instructions say I need ten pieces of tissue paper per flower, I’m picking up 130 or 140 pieces; always better to have too much than too little, in a case like this!).  Lay everything out on a nice stable, permanent surface, and expect to dedicate the surface to your project until it’s completed.  And don’t forget to find a storage place for your finished project, before you start!

Do a trial run

I get a lot of questions from clients asking how long a project should take them to complete.  There’s no short answer to this question, even if I’ve done the project a thousand times before.  For example, it might take me twelve minutes, on average, to fold and fluff a tissue pouf.  But I’ve made dozens of them, so I have the advantage of experience.  I also have ripped dozens of them (it happens), and I know that certain tissue papers will be more cooperative than others.  If I tell you that you should plan on 15 minutes apiece, that might be an excellent estimate.  For me.  But if you have less of an affinity for the project, you’re exhausted from a full day of work, or the tissue paper you’re using is particularly thick or thin, it might take you closer to an hour.  Or you might get so frustrated by the whole thing that it just doesn’t happen at all.

To estimate how long a project will take you, to determine if you like the materials you’re using, and to make sure that you can even complete it at all (cake pops will never again be something I attempt!), you must do a trial.  Get enough of the supplies to make a single trial piece, set a timer when you start, and go slowly to make sure you complete all the steps.

Tissue Poms

Start early

Of course your trial run will help you establish a ballpark figure for how long your DIY project will take.  But a rule of thumb is that something is always going to happen to get in your way of finishing on time.  I always, always, always suggest to my clients to estimate that their project will take twice as long as they think, and to plan accordingly.  And, except for perishables, I strongly encourage them to plan on finishing no less than a week before the wedding or party (the earlier the better).  That way if the family dog gets sick, or the Maid of Honor can’t make it to help, or the store is out of supplies, you won’t be in the weeds.  You’ll just calmly pick up where you left off, a day or two after you’d anticipated, or add a day or two on to your finishing time.

Starting early has another advantage, too.  You can tell before the-wedding-eve if you might have trouble finishing, and call in reinforcements (what’s the wedding party for, anyway?) or move on to the next item.  And it’s an exceptionally satisfying feeling to look around you two weeks before an event and think, “I have no more DIY projects to do – I’m going to the movies!”

Leave plenty of time

This might sound redundant, but it goes hand-in-hand with starting early.  Especially for weddings, the days leading up to the Big One can get hectic.  Family comes into town.  Nails and hair need doing, the dress needs one last fitting, the rehearsal needs rehearsing.  It’s easy to overschedule.

Even for a social event, if you’re working a full-time job (full-time mommy is a job too!), or you have other obligations, it’s easy for time to slip away.  Something I’ve learned to do is carve out large sections of time for projects, but even that can get tough.  Leaving yourself plenty of time, solely dedicated to preparing your DIY projects, scheduled into your week, is the best way to ensure that you’ll be able to get it done.


Work efficiently.

You know how big manufacturing was revolutionized?  The assembly line was invented.  One person did the same thing over and over until all of the pieces for all of the items being manufactured were made.  And only then (if ever) did they start on something else.  The same principle should apply to any DIY projects you might have.  It’s much faster to cut 100 strips of paper to use as belly bands for your invitations than it is to cut each strip individually, as you need it.  And if you think “in bulk,” you’ll be inclined to think of things like minimizing the number of sheets you can cut at once while still maintaining quality, or how best to make the minimum number of cuts (I once received a “finished” piece from a designer that required four cuts per strip of paper, with little tiny stripes of white between each strip…  I almost threw my paper cutter across the room!).  You can use this principle to make backdrops or table runners, embellish details, and assemble just about anything solo.

But working efficiently can mean recruiting help, too.  After all, what makes a project go faster than spreading around the workload?  My favorite method for assembling boxed candy favors is to create an assembly line where one person folds boxes, another places paper shavings inside, a third adds one type of candy, a fourth another, a fifth closes each box securely, and a sixth ties a pretty bow or adds the sticker on the outside.  Yes, it gets repetitive.  But it ensures that everything is done consistently, quickly, and with minimum fuss.  And it’s a heck of a lot more fun than putting everything together by yourself.  This goes the same for assembling Out of Town bags, invitations, and a multitude of other repetitive tasks.  It’s also a great way to involve people who might not be as artistically inclined – they can make precise cuts, count out exactly the number of candies that go in a box, or stick adhesive to an invitation, and still make a big contribution to your wedding or event, without you having to redo their work.  That said, working efficiently means not redoing work – so if you worry that one of your loved ones might not be able to handle the task at hand, don’t assign it to them!

photo by Stephina Photography

Embrace imperfections.

Handcrafted events are just that.  Made by hand.  Unless you’re secretly Martha Stewart (and if you were, you’d tell me, wouldn’t you?), your DIY projects probably won’t look like they belong in a magazine.  Especially the first time you make one.

But that’s okay.

In fact, it’s better than okay.  It’s excellent.

You made this piece.  With your own hands.  How often can we really say that, in today’s grab-and-go world?

I think one of my favorite reasons to DIY is to just get my hands dirty.  To feel the paint and the clay and the wood and the paper.  It brings me joy.  And it should bring you joy too.  Remember art class in Kindergarten?  Your project didn’t have to look perfect.  It was perfect because you made it.

The same thing goes for your DIY projects.  Unless you’ve been sewing, or painting letters on a sign, or making tissue paper poufs, since the age of three, you probably will need a lot of practice to just make something that doesn’t look like a mess.  And even if it does…  Who cares?  You made it.  Be proud of it.  That’s the charm of “handmade” after all.

Be realistic about costs.

One of the biggest misconceptions people have about DIY projects is that they’re always less expensive than buying ready-made pieces, or hiring someone to make a piece for you.

I’d like to tell you that it’s true.  But it’s not.

Between buying equipment (staple gun, paintbrushes, drill, paper cutter, sandpaper, etc.) and supplies (paper, wood, paint, ribbon, etc.), a simple-looking project can turn into a money pit.  Many artisans can actually make a handcrafted project for you for less money (and in less time) than you could, because they already own the equipment, buy supplies in bulk, and know how to do the projects to ensure that they don’t waste anything.

This isn’t to say that you can’t create an inexpensive DIY piece.  But if budget is really an issue, it pays to be extremely aware of the costs of all of your equipment and supplies before purchasing anything.  Don’t forget to factor in extra supplies for your trial/learning.

Sweet Table Tags by Events by Elisa

Know when to go to Plan B.

Including beautiful handmade projects is a fantastic way to personalize your wedding.  But not every project is for every person, even if you’re crafty.  I learned this the hard way when I was making pipe cleaner Mickey Mouse ears for a friend’s Disneyland bachelorette party last year.  I can whip out a tissue paper pom in no time, but twisting a simple pipe cleaner around a cup to make an attractive ear shape, and hot glueing it to a headband, was impossible.

I ended up making a lumpy, gluey mess.

Luckily my sister was on her way over and just happened to be a pipe cleaner Mickey Mouse ear prodigy (who knew?).  The project that I’d been struggling with for an hour to make a single, awful-looking piece was done in forty five minutes.  And she made twelve.

I share this story to demonstrate that no matter how crafty you might be, you might not be able to make your preferred project, no matter how hard you try.  And in the event that you don’t have a crafty backup person whose strength just happens to be in the area of your weakness, you might have to come up with a backup plan.

Repeat this with me: It’s okay to use my backup plan.

If you’re struggling, slogging through hours of DIY without getting good results, getting angry at yourself and your supplies, or completely unhappy with your finished pieces, don’t forget it’s okay to stop.  Set yourself a time limit or a specific date (at least a week prior to your wedding day) by which you must finish all your projects, so that you’re not still trying to furiously work on DIY projects at 3 am on the day of your wedding.  Trust me on this one: it’s better to substitute your original plan with something more doable (buying or renting napkins instead of hand-embroidering them, hiring a graphic designer instead of creating your own invitations, or buying decorations instead of making them, for example) than to stress yourself out over finishing it.

I promise.

So if you do decide that you want to Do It Yourself, keep in mind the simple rules I laid out above.  Choose wisely, plan ahead, do a trial run, start early, leave plenty of time, work efficiently, embrace imperfections, be realistic about costs, and know when to go to plan B.  And don’t be afraid to ask for help, from a more experienced friend or family member, an online advice forum, or your wedding planner (who has probably already done this sort of thing!).

Oh, yes, and have fun! 🙂

Happy crafting!

Photography credits:

Emily + Jeremy’s Modern Handcrafted Wedding at the Inn at Rancho Santa Fe, 11*05*2011 (Part 2)

When last I posted, I gave you the ceremony portion from Emily + Jeremy’s gorgeous wedding in Rancho Santa Fe last November.  Today I’m sharing the reception with you!

But first…  One more photo of the couple, in a quiet moment between the ceremony and the reception. I love the relaxed, ecstatic expressions on their faces!

For starters, here are some shots of the setup, featuring table runners by Classy Covers and florals by Suzan M Florals.

I’m a huge fan of rectangular tables at weddings.  I’m not really sure why.  I just like them.  Feasting tables too.  I also love mix-and-matching table shapes/sizes so that each one is a little different.  Emily did just that, mixing circles with rectangles and creating an extra-extra long head table!  Being flexible with table shapes and sizes helps accommodate guests with different sized groups.

Remember how I said this dessert table was one of my favorites?  Here’s a shot of the whole thing, including the “Sweet Love” banner Emily made!

And more pictures of my mini bunting.  🙂  Each piece was less than an inch high.

YUM.  My mouth is watering!

My assistant Rachael makes the most gorgeously perfect escort card setups.

We also added some fun touches from the Events by Elisa inventory, including this gorgeous card cage:

And our guestbook tree.  Complete with one of my favorite pieces, the little metal bird.

I love these photos of Emily and Jeremy’s first dance:

And their “cake cutting” (really clinking together cake pops):

And let’s not forget the garter!

Of course I said before that the Chinese lanterns were some of the biggest parts of the decor at this wedding.  I do love a good lanternfest.  Here’s the archway near the dance floor – this is where we used up the extra few that we had.  It just made the whole thing festive, and was a nice surprise for the bride!

And my Chinese lantern sculpture.  Seriously, this took three people FOUR hours working together (perched on ladders!) just to put it together.  But it turned out so amazingly.  I could have stared at it all night.

It looks relatively small in that big photo, but it really made a huge impact on the entrance to the reception.  And that GIANT lantern?  Fabulous.  Especially after dark.

The guests were such fun, too.  Not all weddings end up having a breakdancing party on the middle of the dance floor!  Of course YES Productions kept the tunes coming.  🙂

My assistant Rachael and I got a chance to have a quick photo with the bride and groom. 🙂

It was such a stunningly beautiful, fun wedding, with such an incredible team!!!  I just have to leave you with another of my favorite photos from the day.  🙂

Emily + Jeremy’s Modern Handcrafted Inn at Rancho Santa Fe Wedding Details:

Emily + Jeremy’s Modern Handcrafted Wedding at the Inn at Rancho Santa Fe, 11*05*2011 (Part 1)

Now that I’ve finished up my website (finally!) I can get back to blogging!  And I’ve got quite the backlog of gorgeousness to show you!

I’m starting off with a wedding that probably looks pretty familiar to you, if you’ve visited my Facebook page, or my new website, recently. It’s Emily and Jeremy!  Just a word of warning: this post is EXTREMELY picture-heavy.  I couldn’t pare it down to just a handful.  There is just so much to show you!  And because I didn’t want to explode your computer…  I decided I had to split it into two posts.  🙂

Their beautiful wedding took place on a perfect day in November; the sun was shining but it was just overcast enough not to create shadows in their photos!  And considering that the day before their wedding, it was pouring down buckets of rain, we were all pretty excited to see it looking so fantastic!  It was a bit cool, but that just encouraged everyone to get on the dance floor and boogie!!!

Emily approached me last June, wanting the service that I now call Design+.  She is a graphic designer herself, but wanted another eye to help keep her wedding vision on track.  I loved her ideas from the start, of course, and we had an excellent time shopping together for lanterns to decorate the entry way to the reception (I’ll get to that in a minute)!

It’s obvious when you see the two of them together how much love Emily and Jeremy have for each other.  There was so much joy in the air!  And SO many gorgeous photos.  Emily had assembled a fantastic team of vendors, from Chaz Cruz Photography to YES Productions and Suzan M Florals to Tailored Sweets…  Really every part of the day was more fabulous than the next.

The couple decided that they didn’t want a traditional wedding cake, and opted instead for a dessert display by Tailored Sweets.  Sarah and my assistant Rachael and I styled the table together, and I have to say it’s one of my favorites so far.

Of course, it might have something to do with the super sweet mini bunting I hand made for the occasion.

Or perhaps the tissue pouf/lantern display we created to hang above it (this photo was taken by Chaz as well; I just realized that his logo isn’t on it!).

Those weren’t the only lanterns we used either.  In fact, when Emily and I went shopping, we purchased 35 white lanterns in sizes from 6 inches to four feet wide.  Yes, four FEET.  Add that number to the lanterns I already owned…  And we had a party!

In fact, we used most of those 35 lanterns in the pool house, which served as the entry way into the reception.  Since it was a jarring orange red (not exactly within the color palate of purple and pink!), Emily wanted something beautiful to draw the eye.  My assistants and I worked for almost three hours to hang each lantern perfectly and I am SO pleased with the results.  Our 35 lanterns turned into a single lantern sculpture.  It looked truly stunning, especially as it got dark and the light (just above the largest lantern) lit the entire piece.

But I guess I’m getting ahead of myself again (I tend to do that with details I adore!).  So I should start over.  From the beginning this time.  First, the dress and shoes.

And our beautiful bride.

And her flowers by Suzan M Florals.  Wowza!

First looks are one of my favorite things about today’s weddings – I wish I’d thought of doing one when I got married in 2008, but they just weren’t as common!  This one is simply adorable.

Look at how happy they are!

Bridal Party photos.  Love them!

And then there’s the wedding ceremony.  LOOK at that backdrop (hanging orchids by Suzan M Florals!).  I officially am in love with ceremonies under trees.

It was officiated by a friend of the bride and groom.  One of my favorite parts of it was the wine box.  The bride and groom sealed three bottles of wine into the custom-made box, each one to be drunk on an upcoming anniversary (1 year, 5 years, and 10 years) along with love letters to be read on each of those years.  Feel free to “awwwww!”  I did.

I can’t handle this level of cuteness.

Because of where I stand during wedding ceremonies (I direct people to walk up the aisle and then am at the back), I don’t usually get to see expressions on either the bride’s face or the groom’s.  I love seeing photos like this!

Stunning!

Sealing up the box!

MARRIED!

And of course this next photo will be super recognizable, since I’m totally enamored of the moment.  The bubbles!  The expressions!  The framing!  Chaz, you did an amaaaaaazing job on this one.

With that expression of ultimate joy, I’ll leave you until next week, when I’ll post Part 2 of this beautiful wedding!!!

Emily + Jeremy’s Modern Handcrafted Inn at Rancho Santa Fe Wedding Details: