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.

In Loving Memory of Ronnie Montrose

The tributes have been pouring in from aficionados of hard rock music following the passing of Ronnie Montrose.  Ronnie’s guitar-playing wizardry has been praised by his many fans, but there was a softer side of Ronnie that will always remain in my memories.

That’s because I wasn’t introduced to Ronnie by hearing him play at some headbanger hangout.  I didn’t even know he was a famous rocker in the 70’s (I must admit that I was more into the disco scene during that time).  Instead, I met Ronnie because of my relationship with Leighsa Montrose, his lovely wife who owns Branch Out Floral and Event Design.  I have had the great pleasure of working with Leighsa on numerous occasions over the years.

I loved Ronnie, not the rocker, but the “regular guy” who would build props for the weddings that Leighsa and I worked on together. On the many occasions where we collaborated, Ronnie was there to help install the fabulous décor.  He enjoyed fabricating items to use in weddings and events, because it gave him another creative outlet for his many talents.  The photo below shows Ronnie working on the setup of an Asian food station at the Four Seasons Hotel in San Francisco.

The end result was a spectacular sight:

Above Photos:  Dennis Desilva, Studio Seven

For a photo shoot for Grace Ormonde Wedding Style Magazine, I worked with Leighsa at Branch Out and Napa Valley Linens to design a fun poolside table at the St. Regis Hotel in San Francisco.  We wanted to have an out-of-the-ordinary table shape for this unique location.  Ronnie created a hexagonal tabletop and installed copper cladding around the base to coordinate with the china, flatware & stemware that I had selected.  It was way cool, and we could not have mastered it without Ronnie’s help!

Photos:  Events of Distinction

On several other occasions, I also knew Ronnie as the supportive husband who would be sitting in the audience as Leighsa and I partnered on speaking engagements together at industry conferences.

For as long as I knew him, I never realized how famous Ronnie was in the music world, because he was such a humble, down-to-earth person.  Instead, I had the pleasure of knowing Ronnie in the world of weddings, and giving him a big hug whenever I worked with Leighsa.  For that, I will always be grateful, but my heart is very sad at this time.  Ronnie, may you rest in peace and enjoy God’s love forever and ever.

20/20 Vision of “HollyWed” Is a Wake-Up Call for the Wedding Industry

I used to joke that I would like to design & plan more Hollywood celebrity weddings, because then I would have more opportunities for repeat clients. In fact, many of my esteemed colleagues have eagerly sought out this market, and have even elected to place the word “Celebrity” in front of their own professional titles (calling themselves “Celebrity Wedding Photographers”, “Celebrity Wedding Planners”, etc.), presumably as a marketing strategy to attract more clients. But after the recent “HollyWed” episode on ABC’s 20/20 was beamed into millions of homes across the country, I am very skeptical about the value of associating one’s wedding business with celebrities. And after watching this program and writing this blog post, I promise I will never tell my old joke again.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

In case you missed this episode of 20/20, and if you have the time and stomach to watch it, you can click here to see the entire video.

To me, the most nauseating part of the program was the segment on “Celebrity Wedding Freebies,” featuring the lovely Kim Kardashian’s momentary marriage. This segment unveiled the lengths to which some celebrities have gone to extract gifts and massive discounts from wedding service providers, in exchange for the potential of massive media exposure that is presumed to result from their assistance with the wedding.

But following the outrageous divorce filing only 72 days after the Kardashian-Humphries nuptials, I doubt that most of the involved vendors are still crowing “I did Kim’s I-Do’s” in their marketing materials. And I also suspect that these vendors will not rush to her side when Kim someday decides to have a sequel celebration with some other poor schmuck.


Photo Credit: usmagazine.com

Most importantly, I believe that the fallout from the Kardashian nuptial debacle may be leaving a big black eye on the wedding industry as a whole, thanks to the continuing media coverage of this travesty. So what exactly do I think is wrong with this publicity-driven picture? While subsidizing celebrity weddings may seem on the surface to be an appropriate marketing strategy for wedding professionals, I believe it is a bad business practice for two reasons:

1. Using the terminology of today’s public discourse, I believe it is morally wrong to offer freebies or huge discounts to members of “The 1%” (celebrities) in exchange for an expectation that it will increase the number of future bookings you will be able to obtain at full price. That’s because many of those future bookings would likely come from “commoners” – i.e. members of “The 99%.” So by subsidizing celebrity nuptials, you are effectively expecting future payments from The 99% to cover your marketing expenses on The 1%.

2. As the Kardashian catastrophe has graphically demonstrated, there is no guarantee that an investment in a celebrity wedding will actually yield positive returns in the future.

Over the years, the wedding industry has been accused of gouging customers, accusations that are overwhelmingly without merit, as I have discussed extensively in a previous blog post. Although the number of wedding service providers that have actually donated services for a celebrity wedding is very small, we all unfortunately and unfairly can get convicted in the court of public opinion of being “guilty by association.”

So I believe the Kardasian disaster serves as a wake-up call to everyone in the wedding industry. I think we all need to take a firm stand and “Just Say No” to any attempts by celebrities to seek our services for anything less than full price.

At this point, you may think that I just enjoy bashing celebrities in general. Not at all true. Many celebrities effectively use their status to promote great causes, and I have great admiration and respect for Hollywood couples who have had long-lasting marriages like Tom Hanks (a Northern California born & bred boy, by the way). My darling associate in Malibu, Sarah Kern Possick, has met many delightful couples who work behind the scenes in the LA entertainment industry. None of these couples have asked for discounts based on their association with celebrities.

So I think what’s really important is to ignore the temptations of the seamy side of Hollywood. If you feel a desire to donate your services, consider giving to a truly worthy cause like the SEARCH Foundation or Wish Upon a Wedding, not some celebrity who can easily afford to fully compensate you for your fine work.

Of course, your comments are always welcome on this subject.

Summer Entertaining– Dine Like You are in Napa in Your Own Backyard

Just last month I co-chaired a Wedding Industry Professionals Association (WIPA) meeting held at Church Estate Vineyards in Malibu.  The day was gorgeous and once guests entered the estate they were swept away to Southern California’s finest coastal wine country.

photo courtesy of Imagery Immaculate Photography

In addition to the fantastic setting, the food (catered by Good Gracious! Events) and its presentation were the epitome of summer vineyard entertaining.   Peach and thyme infused water along with platters of fresh figs and salads adorned the table.  The frequently refreshed platters gave a sense of abundance.

While we don’t all live on a vineyard estate we can take inspiration from the menus we find in wine countries all over the world.  The beauty of the quintessential wine country dishes is their focus on fresh and local ingredients. A white porcelain dish filled with organic farmer’s market strawberries makes a stunning statement.   The bright reds of tomatoes, oranges of peppers and squash, and greens of arugula and basil are beautiful as well as mouth watering.

Today’s Los Angeles Times featured an article on easy -to- prepare whole grain salads that are beautiful for a summer vineyard-inspired buffet.  The salad below is made with bulgur, arugula, zucchini, and pine nuts.

This Quinoa, grilled corn, tomato, and cilantro salad is refreshing and sophisticated and will certainly impress your guests at your next get together.

Please, pour yourself a glass of California Chardonnay and enjoy a fantastic, mouth watering meal in the sun to celebrate these precious summer months!

Unique (Vegan) Sweet Treat Stations

So, if you couldn’t tell from my last post, I LOVE vegan sweets!   Plus bringing sweets into weddings and events is really fun because there are as many options as your imagination can dream up.

Candy stations have been popular for years and are a festive way for wedding guests to keep their buzz going to the break of dawn.  We have seen candy stations that follow color, seasonal, monochromatic, or flavor themes to compliment the overall wedding design.   They are all great and fun but if you want to try something really special consider a vegan candy station.  Chances are your guests won’t even realize they are saving the planet one bite at a time– but YOU will know!

If you want to go a fairly traditional route, here is a list of vegan candies that are widely available and may be purchased in most grocery stores.  You will be surprised by all that’s on this list like Lemonheads, Laffy Taffy, Swedish Fish, Sour Patch Kids, and many others.

If you really want to serve a candy spread that will knock your guests’ socks off consider the Mounds, (pictured above) cookies, and cupcakes by Babycakes.  For those fortunate to live in New York, Los Angeles, or Orlando Babycakes’desserts are show stoppers.   The Mounds (you have to order ahead and they aren’t on the online menu) are nothing short of genius.  They are quite simply one of the most delicious treats I have ever experienced– the highest grade coconut shreds drenched in decadent dark chocolate.   Heaven!!!

Another fantastic and mouthwatering option is a s’mores station attended by a pastry chef.  Let guests choose their fillings from traditional (vegan) marshmallow and chocolate to bananas and caramel.   Check out the s’mores below for inspiration.  Yum!

One of my personal favorites is a donut and coffee station.  On a recent vacation to the Pacific Northwest I made it my mission to sample donuts from every vegan bakery.  I think I gained about 10 pounds but it was well worth it.  So delicious!  I can’t imagine offering anything more sweetly satisfying at a brunch event (or for the late late night partiers) than donuts, coffee, and (rice/almond/soy/hazelnut) milk.



Groom-ing Your Wedding Plans

A recent story about the groom’s involvement with weddings, which appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America, got me really upset.  There were 2 basic premises in GMA’s story, which I totally disagree with:  1.) having the groom involved with wedding planning is a brand new phenomenon; and 2.) when grooms do get involved, they often behave like “Groomzillas.”  You can watch it yourself and draw your own conclusions right here (if you can bear the 30-second commercial preceding the story):

The reason I’m so offended by this story is that my own experience has differed considerably.  Ever since I started Events of Distinction back in 1995, I have had numerous grooms take a very active role in planning their weddings.

Emma & Rob hired me for their 2002 wedding. Rob worked at IBM, but he found time to actively participate in the planning.

And that “zilla” creature may have been captured on the cameras of reality TV, but by now we all know that reality TV is anything but real.

Yes, there are many decisions to be made during the wedding planning process, some of which can be difficult.  But there are also numerous decisions couples need to make during their married life – when they purchase a home, have children, send them off to school, etc. etc. etc.  So I believe it’s important for engaged couples to work together on their weddings, because it will help to prepare them for what lies ahead.

But what do you do if you’re a bride-to-be with a fiancée who’s sitting on the sidelines?  First, you need to accept that many grooms are not going to get particularly excited about certain nuptial niceties – like centerpiece flowers or napkin colors, for example.  But there are many other places where a Y chromosome can be put to good use.  At the risk of being a bit sexist, here are a few suggestions:

Your Guest List.  Personally, I am often befuddled by spreadsheets, but they are absolutely essential to keep track of who to invite and how they respond to your invitation.  And of course, most guys just love computers!

Reception Music.  Some guys don’t like to sing, but they all love to voice their opinions about music.  So get his help in choosing a band or DJ, as well as the songs you want to hear (and not hear!) on your wedding day.

Food.  I’m sure you’ve heard that old saying about the way to a man’s heart… So when you’re working with your caterer to determine the menu for your reception, make sure your groom and his stomach are involved.  And I have yet to see a groom who didn’t love going to a wedding cake tasting!

Based on your groom’s personal proclivities, I’m sure you can find even more aspects of your celebration to secure his assistance with.

Overall, I have found that modern-day grooms are not just showing up on the wedding day.  They are happy to pitch in with the planning in ways that allow them to best use their talents.  So forget all that media drama, get your groom in the game, and together, you’ll be walking down the aisle of wedded bliss!

Photo:  Sherman Chu

Ice-Cold Vegan Wedding Desserts

Who doesn’t love an ice-cold refreshment on a hot summer day?  The thought of popsicles and ice-cream sandwiches takes me back to the ice cream vendor at the park I used to love as a kid.  I can still hear the tinny sound of the music that triggered a pavlovian response to run as fast as I could to the truck to order a Big Stick.   Now, with creative dessert artisans we can enjoy vegan versions of our childhood favorites without sacrificing the flavor we remember.

Compassionate (read dairy and egg free) desserts aren’t just for vegans these days.  They are for everyone who wants to enjoy delicious sweets.  Ice cream sandwichesSorbet cakes, Popsicles, and Ice Cream balls like the ones pictured above make a beautiful (not to mention tasty) dessert display so guests can cool down after a hot summer evening on the dance floor.

There are endless vegan ice cream flavors and options to play with for an exciting sundae bar.  For vegan Ice Cream Parlors across the US, check out: Ten Vegan Ice Cream Shops

Hope you all are having a fabulous summer and eating to your (vegan) heart’s content!









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.