Category Archives: Wedding Design

Q & A’s with Borrowed & Blue

Events of Distinction recently teamed up with Borrowed and Blue, a locally-focused online wedding resource, to give couples everything they need to know about our event planning services.

Here’s our Q&A with Borrowed & Blue:

1.      If you could possibly narrow it down, what would be your favorite moment of a wedding day?

My favorite moment of the wedding is when all the talented wedding professionals arrive at the venue to begin the installation and setup of the wedding. The wedding couple secures the services of these professionals, and like a perfectly oiled machine, we magically transform an empty canvas into a wedding work of art.  We take the vision and dreams of our wedding couples, and together, the perfect team executes a wedding beyond the imagination of our clients.  It’s so rewarding to be of service to our wedding couples on one of the most important days of their lives.


2.      Describe your event aesthetic in three words.

Euphoric, Experiential, Epic.


3.      The first thing you ask when you sit down with a couple?

I always ask these questions:

  • What would you like your guests to say about your wedding?
  • What does that experience feel like?
  • What don’t you want to see or experience at your wedding?


4.      Top three pieces of advice for couples who just got engaged?

My advice is to first just revel in your engagement…quietly. Don’t tell everyone until you have had time to take it all in and discuss the details between the two people who matter the most, yourselves.  It’s time for you to simply savor the moment and celebrate your engagement quietly together.

Second, there is nothing more important in your initial steps of wedding planning than getting a grip on your guest list.  The number of guests you decide to invite will greatly affect the cost of your wedding, as well as many decisions that you will need to make.  For instance, you wouldn’t want to select a site for your reception without first knowing how many people you expect to have there on your big day. Create a guest list with the correct spelling of first and last names and correct addresses.

Since I am a wedding designer and planner, I willing acknowledge that I may not be totally unbiased about the subject of securing the services of a wedding planner.  With a myriad of wedding details that can be all time-consuming to plan, most busy engaged couples are enlisting the services of a wedding planner.  While you can certainly plan a wedding yourself, it will not have the same outcome if planned professionally. And the more complex the details of your wedding are, the greater the level of skill is required for your professional wedding planner.  Therefore, my third piece of advice for couples is to weigh the pros and cons, especially if you want a fabulous you-don’t-have-to-worry-about-a-thing day!


5.      Most important detail of wedding decor?

You want your wedding to reflect your personal style and elicit an emotional response from guests as the day unfolds.  My advice is to start and finish with a flourish and utilize the five senses.  Incorporate your style / design concept into the first communication about your wedding, such as your Save the Date card or invitation.  When choosing a style/design concept, make sure it can be communicated through not only the invitation, but your decor, music, food, beverage, tabletops and vignettes. Continue to thread elements of your style/design concept throughout the wedding, from the start of the ceremony to your last dance or final getaway.


Tamara & Damon’s Save the Date and Grand Get-away


6.      Your thoughts on DIY weddings?

I’ll repeat it again, and quote myself this time from my book Countdown to Your Perfect Wedding: “While you can certainly plan a wedding yourself arguably, it will not have the same outcome if planned professionally.”  Ever try doing your own highlights on your hair, give yourself a manicure or cook a gourmet dinner for 100?  It’s worth the time and money to pay a professional to do these things, not to mention relieving yourself from the aggravation and stress.


7.      What would your ideal tablescape look like?

Rather than focusing on one individual tablescape, I prefer to design with the entire dining area in mind.  When guests first transition into the dining area, I don’t want them to see a sea of sameness.  Instead, I try to create a sense of excitement and interest through a variety of tabletop designs that complement each other.

A good example is Marissa and Matt’s wedding, where we had a combination of nine 54” square tables from Classic Party Rentals with “Williamsburg Celery” linens from La Tavola, four kings banquet tables with Rico Jungle Green linens, and two long farm tables.  Each type of table had its own sensational tablescape.

For the 54” squares, arrangements of plum, raspberry and fig flowers were placed into large clear square glass vases with added green accents.  On the banquet tables, low rectangular ceramic containers each had their own monochromatic arrangements. And for the two dramatic rows of farm tables, vessels of various shapes and sizes created a chic and modern look. Eclectic place settings featured a Green Swirl charger on the natural wood farm tables and a white square charger on the squares and kings banquet.  Each charger was layered with the Sophia dinner plate and a Camelot Kiwi folded napkin, which showcased the custom menu.

Photos: Arrowood Photography


8.      Your favorite of all the San Francisco wedding venues?

As a native San Franciscan, I love the iconic views of the Golden Gate Bridge from the James Leary Flood Mansion in Pacific Heights.  Known as the Convent of the Sacred Heart by day, this private all-girls’ school turns into a fabulous wedding venue for special events on weekends and evenings.

The Flood Mansion is a symphony of classical styles—Italian Renaissance, Rococo, Tudor and Georgian—featuring a “Grand Hall” with marble floors and great views of the Bay.  There is also a lovely enclosed courtyard off of the Grand Hall available for outdoor  ceremonies and receptions. The Flood Mansion is definitely a venue to show off the City by the Bay!


Photo:  Grace Image


9.      What about Lake Tahoe wedding venues?

Just south of Tahoe’s most spectacular beach, Sand Harbor, the Thunderbird Lodge is the premier place to get married in the Lake Tahoe area.  An historic stone house and lush grounds by the shoreline, together with the azure Lake and surrounding mountains, provide an unparalleled backdrop for a sensational celebration.


10.  The most important part of wedding planning?

The most important part of wedding planning is learning the ability to be able to make a decision together.  The wedding planning process is the beginning of your many decisions you will make together as a married couple. Where will we go on a honeymoon? Where will we buy our first house? Who will do the cooking, cleaning and take out the garbage? Will we have children? How you make decisions and communicate with each other will affect every day of your married lives. Your wedding is a day, but your marriage is a lifetime.

Rustic & Vintage Weddings: Fad or Fixture?

I was honored to be contacted by Special Events Magazine to offer my perspectives on the current popularity of rustic and vintage weddings.  I am most grateful that some of my comments were even included in an article published in their weekly “Eventline” e-newsletter.

But since this is such an important topic into today’s wedding world, I thought it would be helpful to share the complete set of comments I made on this subject.  So below, I have listed the questions posed to me by Special Events, and my responses immediately following.

1)      Is the rustic/vintage wedding theme still a hot trend, or is it starting to fade?

First of all, there is a difference between “rustic” and “vintage.”  Rustic is weathered, time-worn pieces (furniture) and accents (accessories) in a more casual setting.  Examples include an old barn or a vignette of weathered country furniture.

“Vintage” applies to more refined furnishings, from the early 1900’s to the 1950’s, typically more “refined” than rustic.  Examples are painted French chairs, glided sconces, toile or lace fabrics, mercury glass containers, pieces of silver and crystal chandeliers.  “Antique” furniture is 100 years or older.

I don’t think rustic or vintage is a fad, but a style that will stay with us.  However, it’s also important to note that neither rustic nor vintage should be considered a “theme.”  Rustic and vintage are styles (and 2 of many style options) for a wedding couple to potentially select.  Typical styles include:  traditional, formal, casual, contemporary, modern, rustic, vintage and whimsical.

2)      If it’s still hot, what are some of the “must haves” for the rustic/vintage wedding? (That is, in linen, floral, tabletop, chairs, venue, etc.)

The plethora of bridal blogs show the typical items used at rustic or vintage weddings.  But unfortunately, I believe these blogs are all swimming in a sea of sameness.  If the rustic or vintage style truly resonates with the couple, I would encourage them to develop a unique “theme” which fits within that style, but also incorporates their unique tastes and personalities.

For example, Tamara and Damon’s wedding had a distinctively vintage style, but we developed a “Signs of Love” theme to make their wedding uniquely their own.  Here’s a synopsis of their story:

As their relationship blossomed, Tamara and Damon created many romantic rituals that reflected their playful personalities.  They loved to take drives in Tamara’s Mini Cooper convertible with the top down.  Every time they stopped at a red light, they would kiss.  Whenever they spotted a Volkswagen Beetle on the road, they would play a game of “Slug Bug,” giving each other a love tap on the arm.  And if they ever found a photo booth during their travels, they would always stop for a strip of pictures.

At home, Tamara and Damon kept mistletoe hanging in the hallway all year round, so they could kiss whenever they passed underneath.  Once each week, they would take turns cooking “lovey dinners” – culinary creations that they had never tried before.  And before quaffing a cocktail, they would dream up a poetic toast that rhymed.

After this darling couple selected Events of Distinction to design and plan their wedding, we first set out to develop an appropriate color palette for the celebration.  When we asked Tamara what her favorite color was, she replied, “poppy red… and cobalt blue, aqua, peach, taupe and gold.”  OK, no problem.  Working with a graphic illustrator, we were able to develop a logo for their wedding that included all of these colors, while vividly depicting the couple’s “signs of love.”  We used this logo on several printed pieces, including the Save the Date from Union Street Papery, beautifully photographed by Caroline Ghetes:


 On the wedding day, for a pre-ceremony beverage, guests were greeted beside a vintage truck at Beltane Ranch and a display of vintage linens and boxes in the color palette of the wedding.


During the ceremony, the chuppah included a vintage needlepoint heirloom that Tamara’s grandmother had made.


At cocktails we had a vintage display of silver champagne buckets used for the escort cards and a vintage stop light at the bar.


The dinner area had crystal vintage chandeliers from Twilight Design hanging over a tablescape of “Sevres Antique” china from Classic Party Rentals and floral centerpieces from Michael Daigian Design.



3)      Do certain color palettes dominate the rustic/vintage wedding? If yes, what are they?

Absolutely NOT!  All it takes is a little courage and confidence to create color schemes for any theme wedding (and style).   Start with your  favorite colors.   Change your mood (from ceremony to cocktails to dinner and dancing) with color.  For Tamara and Damon’s wedding, we used peach to poppy red for ceremony; cobalt blue and gold for cocktails and aqua and peaches for dinner.  After dinner we used gold, aqua and peach, as shown in these delightful desserts from Patisserie Angelica.


4)      Is there a certain profile of the “typical” rustic/vintage bride? (Maybe her age, where she’s from, other?)

For some city-dwelling couples, a farmstead wedding may serve as an escape from the urban concrete jungle.  After all, the grass is always greener on the other side (even when we’re in a drought).  Couples who have an appreciation for history may find the vintage style particularly appealing.


5)      Why do you think the rustic/vintage wedding is so appealing to brides? (Does it seem more “authentic” or more human in a high-tech age, other?)

The vintage-inspired wedding started to become popular as the economy was taking a downturn around 2008-9.  Couples in the luxury market did not want to appear “over-the-top” and started thinking more about “green” weddings.  Hence, vintage items from neighborhood garage sales and flea markets found a new life as nuptial décor.

I also think this style of wedding may be partly a generational issue.  Millennial couples who have embraced the rustic and vintage styles may be doing so just to assert their independence from their parents (and style of wedding their parents had).


6)      But if the rustic trend is starting to fall off, what trend is coming on strong? Old World elegant? Hip minimalist? Strong personal themes? Other?

I believe the word “trend” should never be used in the context of wedding & event design, because the key to developing a “trendy” design does not come from following the latest fads, but from capturing the couple’s unique personalities.  Following a “trend” only results in creating a copycat look.  That’s why I always focus on developing very personalized designs.


7)      What are the biggest drivers that influence your brides’ desires—Pinterest images? Bridal magazines? What their friends just did at their wedding? Your advice?  Other?

Brides do have an insatiable appetite for what’s new, but they are also inspired by great ideas from wedding design professionals.  It’s up to the designer to be the creative genius and convert the couple’s personal tastes into a workable design.  So the biggest drivers that influence our clients’ desires are my creative juices, along with their combined shared interests, ethnic heritage and personalities.

Julie & Mike’s A-Door-able Celebration

Over the past several years, many print magazines in the wedding industry have folded up and disappeared, unable to economically compete with the burgeoning bridal blogs. There have been many sad situations resulting from magazines that have been blogged out of existence, including one involving a client of ours.

Julie & Mike had a fabulous wedding that we were honored to receive a Gala Award for. Their wedding was scheduled to be published in a national bridal magazine, but the magazine kept postponing the publication date, then finally it ceased operation. It was a most unfortunate set of circumstances, both for the defunct publication, and for our darling client.

But while many wedding magazines have been on the decline, one publication has actually been on the rise. That publication is Ceremony Magazine. A lovely high-end bridal magazine that has flourished for many years in Southern California (with 3 separate publications for the Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego markets), Ceremony Magazine has recently expanded to the San Francisco Bay Area, as well.

And now there is a happy ending to Julie & Mike’s sad story. I am thrilled to learn that their wedding is being featured in the current Bay Area issue of Ceremony Magazine. Not only does Ceremony Magazine have a luxurious printed version that you can buy in bookstores, but they also provide an online version that you can view by clicking here. (Julie & Mike’s wedding can be found on pages 244-247.)

I wanted to take this opportunity to show some of my favorite photos from Catherine Hall Studios that Ceremony Magazine was not able to include in its feature. But first I need to explain how we came up with the design concept for Julie & Mike’s wedding.

Inspired by the couple’s travels together, Events of Distinction developed an a-“door”-able theme for their celebration. During a trip to Europe, Julie and Mike discovered that they especially enjoyed photographing old-world doors, capturing beautiful entrances that were surrounded by vibrant life. For their wedding design, the door was more than just a symbol of their unique personalities; it also represented a passageway to their new life together as a married couple.

The woodlands of Nestldown in the Santa Cruz Mountains provided the perfect backdrop for Julie and Mike to find the key to nuptial bliss:

A nuptial highlight was the “Key Sharing Ceremony”. Their mothers first came forward to give Julie and Mike “the keys in life.” Each mom gave their own child a key. Julie and Mike then exchanged the keys with each other as the officiant declared, “Select a special location in your home for these keys, so that they can serve as a reminder that the door to your hearts shall always be open.”

I am most grateful to the wedding service providers who helped make Julie & Mike’s wedding an award-winning event, including Asiel Design, Beaux Gateaux, Blueprint Studios, Classic Party Rentals, La Tavola, Painted Tongue Press, Papineau Calligraphy, Parsley Sage Rosemary & Thyme and Thomas Hughes Films. And I am delighted that this delightful couple finally got their wedding published!

The Compass Points to Love

In celebration of Cortney & Scott’s wedding anniversary, we take this opportunity to reminisce about their Napa Valley nuptials with some festive photos from Sharpe Photographers.

If Cortney & Scott’s story were summarized into a newspaper headline, it would read:  Navy Doctor from Michigan Meets West Coast Intern in Our Nation’s Capital.  The Smithsonian sang, cherry blossoms bloomed, and the Republicans & Democrats cheered in unison as this darling duo found love exploring the attractions of Washington D.C.

To capture the essence of this delightful couple, Events of Distinction came up with a compass logo for their wedding design, as shown here on their invitation:

The compass was divided into four quadrants. North represented Michigan, the groom’s home state, using the automobile and Mackinac Bridge as symbols.  East represented D.C. where the couple met. South represented the Outer Banks of North Carolina, where the groom proposed. West represented the bride’s birthplace and their wine country wedding location, The Vintage Estate in Yountville.

Cortney & Scott’s compass-themed wedding celebrated much more than finding each other. It also symbolized the new direction they were embarking upon in their married life together.  Here are some of our favorite images of their special day:

Many thanks to the fabulous team of wedding service providers who came together to make Cortney & Scott’s celebration a day to remember, including Blueprint Studios, Branch Out, Classic Party Rentals, Got Light, La Tavola and Perfect Endings.

Carrying a Design Concept to Completion

It was truly an honor to have Kathleen & Jonathan’s “Chinoiserie Chic” wedding featured in a recent blog post on Style Me Pretty.  The information and photos shown in the Style Me Pretty post provided brides with some helpful information about developing a design concept.  But unfortunately, there was a limitation on how many of Kevin Chin’s fabulous photos could fit into a single blog post. So Style Me Pretty chose to focus primarily on the wedding ceremony.  In this blog post, I will expand on what was shown on Style Me pretty, and explain how a wedding design concept can be carried on through the reception, as well.

Whatever you choose as a theme for your wedding, it is important to thread elements of that theme through every aspect of the celebration.  Establish the design concept in the first communication about your wedding (i.e. your Save the Date or invitation), so that guests become intrigued and excited.  Then, for your big day, continue to carry your theme throughout the celebration.

To recap what was already discussed on Style Me Pretty, the design of Kathleen & Jonathan’s wedding was inspired by the couple’s Chinese heritage and their global travels together.  Embracing their mutual love of France and China, I developed a “Chinoiserie Chic” theme.  In the French language, “Chinoiserie” means “Chinese,” and it also refers to a design style that was first popularized in the 18th Century Europe, with the commencement of regular trade between the Western world and the Orient.

A Chinese-patterned place setting provided the inspiration for the design motif that was used in the Save the Date and the invitation from Union Street Papery, creating a must-attend response from guests:

Guests heard and saw the Chinoiserie theme as soon as they arrived at the Four Seasons Hotel for the ceremony.  For Prelude music, the string quartet from Golden Gate Music played selections from French composers.  The fantastic floral designer, Hunt-Littlefield, built a square “altar” with four asymmetrical white pillars. Positioned on these pillars were groupings of blue and white Chinese porcelain vessels, filled with white dendrobiums, white roses and white hydrangeas.  The columns were wrapped in a blue and white Chinoiserie toile fabric.

For the cocktail reception, the escort card display often provides a great opportunity to creatively express the design theme.  For Kathleen and Jonathan’s wedding, we celebrated their travel experiences with escort card “luggage tags,” which were displayed in vintage style suitcases with the trunk lids open.  Papineau Calligraphy scripted the guests’ dining destinations on these tags, directing guests to tables that were named after the couple’s favorite Chinese and French landmarks.

The ballroom decor had a more classical French look of regal blues and golds, but at the same time, we maintained the Asian influences.  Tall dramatic centerpieces contained a mass of flowers clustered around a natural manzanita branch, in a glass vase wrapped with a gold fabric Asian belly band.  On alternating tables, we had low centerpieces, reintroducing the Chinese porcelain vessels in a trio of staggered heights.  Classic Party Rentals repositioned their gold chiavari chairs from the ceremony to the dining tables, and we quickly changed the blue cushions to gold.  Lamour Light Blue linens from Napa Valley Linens completed the look.

For after-dinner fun, Blueprint Studios furnished an illuminated bar featuring the same Asian pattern that guests originally saw on the Save the Date and invitation.  To complete the Chinoiserie look, a French Provincial back bar was adorned with blue & white floral décor.

The lounge areas included tufted sofas with “Shanghai Toile” pillows and Louis XIV coffee tables, creating the perfect atmosphere for guests to say “Oooh La La!”

A custom designed gobo projected the Chinoiserie pattern and the couple’s initials in blue onto the white dance floor.  Following Kathleen and Jonathan’s heartwarming first dance, the 9-piece band from Innovative Entertainment kicked the music into high gear, and guests danced the night away, ending this most memorable day with Chinoiserie style.

For your wedding, there are many ways you can build a theme – the design concept can be based on your ethnic heritage, your favorite things in life, or memorable experiences you have enjoyed together as a couple.  When choosing a theme, make sure your ideas can be translated into tangible items, including the invitation, décor, music, food & beverages and favors.  By creating a unique design concept, you and your guests will delight in the details on your special day, and treasure the memories long afterwards.

Invitation Inspirations (Part 2)- A Printing Primer

It is important to understand your options when it comes to printing, because this is usually where money and turn-around time become significant issues. So here is a brief review of the different methods of printing used for invitations.

Engraving is the most traditional printing method; it was introduced in the 1600’s in monastic schools.  The printing process involves etching the lettering and imagery into a metal die, inking the etched depressions, and then pressing the paper against the die.

The result is that the text and images are raised on the printed side of the paper and indented on the opposite side.  Engraving is used primarily on traditional, formal invitations.  It provides sharp, intricate lettering that has a three-dimensional quality, but it is a costly process, and often requires a long turn-around time.

Another classic printing method called letterpress was on the verge of extinction before recently enjoying a renaissance in popularity, especially among boutique stationers.  Letterpress can be considered to be the opposite of engraving, in that the lettering on printing plate is raised, which creates indentations in the paper during the printing process.  Letterpressing is especially suited for luxurious handmade papers.

Image from Peculiar Pair Press

Thermography remains a popular printing technique for invitations.  Thermographic printing feels similar to engraving, in that it produces raised lettering on the printed side of the paper.  To create this lettering, the paper is first printed with standard ink, then the paper is dusted with a resinous powder and passed through a heating unit. The thermographic lettering is not quite as fine as what you get with engraving, but it is popular because the raised lettering gives the invitation an elegant look, but at a lower cost.

Lithography or offset printing is a possible option if you’re on a budget, as it is less expensive than thermography and faster to print.  Lithography is basically a photographic printing method, where negatives are transferred to a thin metal plate which is wrapped around the cylinder of a sheet-fed press.  The ink lies flat on the paper, but a virtually unlimited variety of colors can be selected.

Digital Printing now surpasses lithography as a low-price option in many circumstances, especially when the print quantities are relatively small.  While the actual digital printing has a higher cost per page, there is an offsetting cost savings because there is no need to make printing plates.  Digital printing also provides a short turn-around time.

No matter how you choose to express yourself, the invitation and save-the-date card should set the tone for your special event by giving guests a captivating preview of what’s to come.  If you can create a sense of anticipation and excitement with your printed materials, you can be sure that everyone will have a fabulous time at your celebration.

Creating Festive Food Stations for Your Wedding

In a previous post, I mentioned that I recently gave a presentation at Catersource, the leading industry conference for caterers.  Here is an excerpt from this presentation topic – the design of food stations for wedding receptions.

If you are unfamiliar with the term, a “food station” is simply a fixed location where your guests can go to obtain food (instead of waiters coming to your guests to serve food).   Some people use the term “buffet” interchangeably with “food station,” but they are not the same thing in my book.  In fact, in my book Countdown to Your Perfect Wedding, I had this to say: “long buffet tables, exhibiting all the ambiance of an Army mess hall, should be dishonorably discharged from service.”

So while buffets may resemble your high school cafeteria, at food stations we typically use “small plates,” which are served in a much more attractive manner.

Photo:  Dennis DeSilva, Studio Seven

Why would you want to have food stations at your wedding?  First of all, food stations entice your guests to move around more, and this leads to more interaction among the guests.  Also, food stations provide more variety in the styles of food service, which makes the reception a more interesting culinary experience for guests.

There is one more reason to use food stations – and this is the reason why I gave the presentation at Catersource.   Food stations provide an opportunity to creatively express the design theme of your wedding.

For example, I had a bride and groom who loved all sorts of sports – hiking, biking, running, skiing, etc. – so I designed an “All Things Athletic” theme for their wedding.  To convey this theme at the cocktail reception, we had a “Mountain Climbing Station” decked out with an ice pick, pitons and climbing rope:

Photo courtesy of Melons Catering

If the idea of having food stations at your wedding intrigues you, first consider when you might want to use them.  It really is a matter of personal choice!  Some couples decide to have stations for their main meal service, but the vast majority of my clients have opted for a seated, plated meal for their dinner.  If you also prefer to have a sit-down dinner, then the best opportunities for using stations are during the cocktail reception… or you can have a dessert station after dinner:

Photo:  Wendy Maclaurin Richardson

Regardless of the design theme you have chosen for your wedding, it creates more interest when you have a variety of table shapes and heights at the food station.  This waterfront wedding, catered by Paula LeDuc Fine Catering, was designed with elements of sailing ropes and grasses growing by the seashore.

Photo:  Wendy Maclaurin Richardson

To provide some finishing touches on the stations, I like to select dishes and utensils that complement the food & beverage and the design concept.   When appropriate, I use lighting and props to enhance the look.  This station was designed to represent the couple’s favorite Asian restaurant in New York:

Photo:  Grace Image

Custom-designed food stations are not inexpensive – they typically can cost anywhere from $400 to $1,000 to create.  But they are a wonderful way to enhance the design concept of your celebration, while creating an unforgettably delicious experience for your guests.