Category Archives: Wedding Industry Education

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.

Bringing Your Wedding Vision Into Better Focus Than 20/20

ABC television, in a recent broadcast of its 20/20 program, aired a rambling episode that they called “Wedding Confidential.”  This episode consisted of several segments, one of which was an attempt to portray wedding industry professionals as scam artists who gouge engaged couples at every opportunity.  In case you missed it, you can watch the entire show by clicking here.

Many outraged members of the wedding industry have offered insightful rebuttals to the 20/20 segment. If you want to read some of the commentary about the 20/20 program, please visit the blogs of my colleagues Alan Berg and Andy Ebon.  Since I have previously commented on these kinds of accusations in another blog post, I will not repeat my prior observations here.  But after finally watching the program online and mulling over the massive outcry it generated, I wanted to offer a slightly different, and hopefully helpful, perspective.

Yes, there are a few bad apples in every industry, and the wedding industry is no exception.  But what is truly important for the engaged couple is to know how to avoid the bad apples.  Brides and grooms certainly won’t learn that by watching 20/20, a program that was designed to entertain, not educate.  So in the paragraphs that follow, I want to take this opportunity to offer my advice to couples on how to make sure you are getting fair value for the wedding services you need.

The single most important thing you can do to ensure that you’re paying a fair price is to obtain proposals from more than one service provider in each vendor type that you need for your wedding (i.e. florists, photographers, caterers, etc.).  And it’s fine to inform each vendor you contact that you will also be getting other quotes – most vendors would expect you to do that anyway.

Make sure that you ask for similar levels of services from the vendors you contact, so that you can make an accurate comparison of the quotes you receive. Getting 2 or 3 proposals from qualified service providers is typically enough for you to make an informed decision.  (Getting 20 to 30 proposals is unnecessarily draining on everyone’s time – especially yours.)  Your decision on which vendor proposal you prefer may be based on the price quoted, but that shouldn’t be the only thing you consider – you may, for instance, decide to select a more expensive photographer because you liked their style the best.

Assuming I’ve convinced you of the value of getting multiple proposals, an important question may still be nagging at you – “How can I be sure that all the vendors I am contacting are qualified, capable and trustworthy?”

My advice is to look for service providers that have credentials, experience and established reputations.  Many qualified vendors belong to non-profit associations that seek to advance the level of professionalism in the industry.  These associations include the Wedding Industry Professionals Association, the International Special Events Society and the National Association of Catering Executives.

If you’re looking at wedding websites to find qualified service providers, check out listings of vendors that have been carefully screened, such as those appearing on Here Comes the Guide or Style Me Pretty’s Little Black Book.  With these listings, the service providers have all received rave reviews from couples as well as other respected professionals in the wedding industry.  Other website listings may only require the service provider to pay a fee to be listed, so there is no mechanism in place to confirm the qualifications of the advertiser.

So I hope the above advice will help you find reliable service providers that you can count on to make your wedding day a wonderful experience.  But before concluding this blog post, I wanted to address one more issue that was brought up in the 20/20 program segment – whether service providers typically charge more for weddings than they do for other types of events.  The answer is that sometimes they do, and let me explain why that can be the case.

I can assure you that the amount of time you will put into planning your wedding will far exceed the amount of time you would put into planning another event, such as a birthday party.  After all, birthdays happen every year, but a wedding is a once-in-a-lifetime event, and you will want to fondly remember your wedding day for the rest of your life.  Your wedding vendors want that for you, too.

But this means that your service providers may also need to spend more time working with you to prepare for your big day, to ensure that your wedding celebration is a much more special occasion than a more “ordinary” event like a birthday party.  So it’s not the selections of flowers for your centerpieces, or entrees for dinner, or music for dancing that are themselves more expensive – instead, a somewhat higher price can occasionally result from the extra time that your service providers take to make sure those centerpieces, entrees and tunes are exactly what you want for your wedding.

Overall, the vast majority of wedding service providers work very hard and earn a very modest living.  What motivates them the most is not making money, but making all your wedding dreams come true.

A great example of the kind and generous spirit of most wedding service providers was clearly (and ironically) illustrated in another segment of the same 20/20 program.  This other segment told the story of a bride who supposedly had terminal cancer (she actually did not have cancer, but that is beside the point I’m trying to make here).  What did local wedding service providers do when they heard about this bride’s terminal cancer?  Did they try to overcharge her because she wanted to get married quickly?  No, they offered their services for free or a deep discount because they wanted to help her!  (Unfortunately, since the bride was faking having cancer, it was the wedding service providers who actually got scammed.)

So let me finally wrap things up with what I think is the moral of this story:  If you do your homework to find qualified service providers, and put your trust in these knowledgeable professionals, they will skillfully implement your beautiful wedding vision with much more sharpness and clarity than the producers of 20/20 could ever envision.

A Mother’s Mission

What appeared to be so far in the future back in January finally arrived on Saturday, May 7th.  The students of the Wedding Planner Certificate Program at California State University East Bay had been studying the whole semester, preparing for this day.  Why was this day so important to them?  Who would ever want to sit through a 4-hour Wedding Planner Certificate Exam?

All semester I have been sharing, teaching and mentoring my students about wedding & event management.  Prior to taking the Wedding Planner Certificate Exam yesterday, each student stood before their peers to review their “Student Profile” – a document of their objectives and goals that they had written on the first day of class.  As we listened carefully to each student, many of them indicated that their reason for taking the program was to gain more knowledge and learn all that they could about weddings.  Many of them also shared something that I hadn’t realized – while I was teaching my students and encouraging them to be the best of the best, they were also gaining confidence.  Confidence can’t be bought or sold.  But through the power of knowledge, it can be earned and achieved.

The next day was Mothers Day, which I enjoyed in the company of my friend’s mom, Patricia Clarke (she has been my “adopted mom” since my own mother passed away in 1993).

During our brunch together, I came to another important realization:  Mother’s Day isn’t just for mothers.  Mother’s Day is also for those who have served maternal roles in their lives – like the role I have played for the very special people whom I have had the pleasure of teaching for over fourteen years. Although I have never physically had a child of my own, I feel like I have given birth to hundreds of children – yes, my students have been my children, as I have trained them and encouraged them to be the “cream” and rise to the top.

Where did this determination to do and be the best come from?  From my own mother, of course.

Ines Scardina was a lady of grace and style, as she managed a household of four children.  She raised ironing to an art form – never a wrinkle in my beautifully pressed organza dresses from the I. Magnin’s department store. From my mom’s drive for perfection, I learned the importance of doing those little things right.  Little did she know how those perfectly ironed dresses would influence my life and the students I teach.

I’ve handed down my nuptial knowledge to my students, but more importantly, I have been blessed and energized every time I walk into the classroom to share this knowledge with them.  May my students learn well and teach others too, for they are tomorrow’s leaders in an industry that is all about being of service.

Why I Do What I Do – Part 3

In my 2 previous posts on this subject, I explained what has inspired me to create “Stylishly Ever After” experiences for my clients – from the wonderfully positive influences in my life (covered in Part 1) to the negative press that the wedding industry has occasionally received (discussed in Part 2).  In this post, I want to talk about another driving force in my desire to advance the world of weddings – my love for education.

I have enjoyed teaching all my life; it is something that has always come naturally to me.  When I was in Grammar School, I would invite the neighborhood children over on Saturdays, and we would have an extra day of school.  Going to class on Saturday was fun because I got to be the teacher!  Later in life, when I went on to college and majored in Hospitality Management at San Francisco State University, I also took Education courses and received a Teaching Credential when I graduated.

When I first became regularly involved with the wedding industry in the early 1990’s, I saw that the quality of education for newcomers left a lot to be desired.  By that time, I had already received a Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) credential, and I realized that much of the knowledge that one needed to be a professional meeting planner was equally applicable in the world of weddings.

So I set out to develop my own educational program for wedding planners, and in 1997, I began the Wedding Planner Certificate Program at San Francisco State University – the first program of its kind offered on a university campus.  Since 2003, I have been teaching this program annually at California State University East Bay, including this year’s class:

shown here striking a creative pose captured by our guest speaker and talented videographer Justin Fone.

While I am gratified by the success of the Wedding Planner Certificate Program, I recognized that it is one educational program in one geographic location.  I really wanted to raise the bar on education and professional development throughout the wedding industry and across the country.  In many other industries, non-profit professional associations effectively provide those kinds of benefits to their members.  To its detriment, the wedding industry lacked a non-profit association of its own – until recently.

In 2008, I worked closely with 35 other “Founding Sponsors,” and together, we successfully launched the Wedding Industry Professionals Association (WIPA), the first national non-profit association created for wedding service providers.  It was a tremendous honor and an amazing experience for me to serve as WIPA’s first President.  Today, I am proud to say that under the enthusiastic leadership of its current Board of Directors, WIPA continues to advance the wedding industry through its frequent educational programs.

In the coming months and years, I will continue to focus on creating beautiful weddings for my brides and grooms, so they can live Stylishly Ever After.  At the same time, I also will continue to devote myself to improving education in the wedding industry as a whole.  I intend to use this blog as a platform for eliciting discussion of topics that are important to both the bride & groom and the entire wedding industry.