Sunday, June 28, 2009

Throwing a Budget Mad Hatter's Bridal Shower

You can ask members of the bridal party to volunteer their china; going for variety of sizes, patterns and colors of plates adds to the party's whimsy and charm. Stack teacups as part of the tablescape (ack, I'm using Sandra Lee terms!) or use teapots for floral arrangements. Keep the colors bold and vibrant, such as fuchsia, teal, lime green or lemon yellow. Shop at Salvation Army or flea markets for vintage print tablecloths.

Skip the custom-made invitations and instead find free DIY templates (see Pash and print from home. If you'd rather not print at all, you can easily use Don't forget to tell guests to wear the most chic or wildest hats to the party!

See if someone is willing to host the bridal shower at their home/backyard garden. You can also leverage personal/business connections to a restaurant, art gallery, etc.

Food & Beverages
Enroll the bridesmaids to get together the day before to make tea sandwiches, salad, and cupcakes/cookies. Here's a few recipes from to get you started:
[Photo from the Happy Wonderer]

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Cool Stuff: Jerry Yoon's Oakland Engagement Session

I have to admit, I'm totally jealous of North Carolinans -- you have White Box Photography - fresh, bright and lovely indeed. In search of a photographer with a similar artistic style West of the Mississippi, I came across Jerry Yoon. What caught my eye was his urban engagement photo session of Meagan and Sperry in Downtown Oakland. I hella love Oakland. And I hella love Boston Terriers (sorry, Munch, my chi-corgi!). Bravo, Jerry for venturing to this side of the Bay and demonstrating that yes, Oakland, can just be as cool for an urban engagement setting as San Francisco's Mission! Thank you, Jerry. I'll be calling you soon 'cause you rock!!!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Inspiration #24: Creative Wedding Cocktail Hours

The cocktail hour is generally held between the ceremony for up to 1.25 hrs so that the wedding party can take their composed photo portraits. I've been brainstorming ways to keep my guests entertained other than just providing drinks and appetizers. How about a mini-carnival, like the kind your school had when you were a kid - think popcorn balls, a couple booths of games (or kissing booth). Or how about setting up a Great Gatsby cocktail hour - with croquet or bocce on the lawn, champagne, and parasols?

Definitely set up a buffet of tapas and rather than start the open bar, have specialty drinks named after you and your hubby (make 'em quirky, fun names!). If you have these special drinks, you can control your alcohol budget, i.e. you'd just offer a sangria or beer or water vs. the whole bar. Try to borrow as much as you can (such as lawn game sets, vintage linens, popcorn machine) and see if you can get family members to volunteer their time to prepare the appetizers ahead of time and keep warm in the oven or chilled, if needed.

Carnival Themed Cocktail Hour Ideas
  • Drink - Beer and bottles of pop
  • Carnie food as snacks - sliders, popcorn, mini hot dogs or mini corndogs (buy in bulk from Costco)
  • Have guests trade in "wishes" (attach to wish tree) for drink/game tickets
  • Games: bean bag throw, kissing booth, ring toss (save up your bottles of soda or beer for this!)
  • See Real Wedding - Courtney & Charles in Anaheim, CA

Gatsby Themed Cocktail Hour Ideas
[Photography by White Box Weddings, from Summer Picnic Wedding Blog]
  • Use quilts on tables for a picnic feel
  • Traditional tea food - tea sandwiches, chilled mini mixed berry trifle
  • Drink - bowl of champagne and punch
  • Use baskets to hold simple floral arrangements
  • Borrow classic lawn games, such as bocce, croquet

Monday, June 22, 2009

David Clay Diamond Dash Report + Truly Affordable Rings (Turtle Love!)

Early Saturday morning, my MOH (maid-of-honor) and I trekked across the Bay Bridge and hailed a taxi to Crissy Field, the starting line for the David Clay Jeweler's 1st Annual Diamond Dash. We had received instructions to get in line at half past eight, and getting there at 9:00 AM, the organizers still had no clue where to set up their tent, how to check dashers in, etc. Not a way to kick off an event and we had a sinking feeling the dash would be ill executed. Since we were on foot versus bike as the David Clay organizers had urged (probably because they got a kick back from Bay Bikes), we thought we'd get a head start by getting to the Palace of Fine Arts. Forty-five minutes later, 30 min past the official start time as communicated by the organizers, we got our first clue - to name a rare flower at the Crissy Field Wildflower Preserve! Darn! We double backed, and the next clue asked us to count the V's of the bridge crossing the marsh. 74. Clue #2: Go to the lone pine tree and what number is on its doggie tag. And on and on. The dash was a bit self-serving because one of the clues we got towards the end was: Who is the greatest jeweler in all of San Francisco? And then, "if you want to continue, text in I love David Clay." What?!? That's some shameless self-promotion!

Around 12:30 PM and not having really gone beyond the area between the Palace of Fine Arts and the St. Francis Yacht Club, we received the SCRMBL. At that point, you would get the final clue no matter where you were but you had to wait 5 seconds for every point you had lost. We had just gotten the question, "What is the name of the structure at the only address on Marina Green?" when we were directed to head to the "Marina Green and use this key to get the first letter. Key: (Bench # from Fort M. Letters from Top Left). What's this letter? (14, 16)?" By then, we were tired, hungry and dehydrated. We walked rather than ran the half mile to the Marina Green benches, as they were already swarming with crazed couples around plaques affixed to the benches. My MOH and I found bench #14 after a game of deduction (heck, we really didn't want to start at one end and actually count 14 benches) and earned the next clue: Go to the following benches and collect the letters for (21,55), (13,25) and so on. We split up and met in the middle to decipher the bewildering anagram: BOBXW,etc. WTF?! Our hint told us think about the alphabet being off by one where b might be an a and c might be b. We moved up the letters and got: ORVGAWANE. We were stumped. Orange Ave? Could we have messed up counting letters? I looked across the water to the little point at the end of Yacht Drive. It was then that a fellow contestant passed by shaking his head with disappointment,"It was the wave organ over there!" and pointed to that strip that she and I were sitting straight across from. A wave of frustration washed over me for a brief moment since I hadn't thought about the wave organ. But then, whoever figured out wave organ among the 300 other contestants surely deserved the $15,000 1.5 carat Hearts on Fire diamond!!

So that was my adventure in competing for a classic wedding engagement ring without spending more than cab fare and 6 hours of walking on a beautiful Saturday in San Francisco. If you're on a budget like us, who says that you have to have a diamond? I just discovered Turtle Love Committee (TLC) and they make it easy to find truly unique engagement rings and wedding bands that fit your style and won't break the bank. They have a collection of engagement rings and wedding bands in sterling silver and semi-precious stones, believing that the decision to spend a lifetime together should be about love and commitment, not about expensive cookie-cutter jewelry. Definitely splendid! Check out Turtle Love Committee here>>

Friday, June 19, 2009

Inspiration #23: DIY Wedding Moo Cards

I'm a Pro Flickr user and my first splurge with Flickr was the Moo card. I selected my best photos and within a week I received a darling little package from the UK with 100 of my signature photos on the front and personal contact information on the back. So handy for networking, right?

Moo cards are also a splendid customized and budget friendly accessory for weddings. $19.99 gets you a box of 100 mini photos. Order 'em here>>

Here are some fun ways Flickr-ettes incorporated the Moo in their weddings:

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Bridesmaid Dresses for Under $150

As many wedding experts say, another way to keep costs down on your wedding is to limit the number of attendants, or bridesmaids, so that you don't have to spend as much on dresses, gifts, etc. Today's post focuses on the bridesmaid dress bargain hunt. My favorite place to look first is Jeremy's - they sell overstock of J. Crew dresses for less than $100, and I've bought 2 for $16 each. Alas, Jeremy's is only in the Bay Area and NYC, so check out, J. Crew, or (Above is The Marilyn Dress for $58.)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Inspiration #22: The DIY Photo Booth

One of the coolest Halloween parties I've ever been to was one that my friend, Jeremy, threw for the Ghetto Gourmet. What made it so fun was that it featured a Photoboof, where guests could go in and take wacky photos and the images were immediately projected on a huge wall while at the same time a keepsake strip was produced, like you would get at an old timey arcade. Renting a Photoboof is really expensive ($1,000+) but you can definitely create your own photo area using a homemade backdrop, a tripod/digital camera, and lighting.

You probably can't nail/tack anything at your wedding venue, but what you can do is rent professional photographer's C-stand ($4-5 day at Calumet) and muslin ($25). Set up a couple c-stands to create your "wall" for the backdrop. You can also custom make a backdrop using muslin and painting it yourself. Position your tripod and camera with a few props and voila! You've made yourself a photo studio, like the kind you had at prom.

Check out how Jose Goleman's bride and groom pulled off a Georgia carnival wedding and this old-fashioned photo setup>>

More Freebies: Western Fonts & Vintage Labels

Goldrush is one of my favorite fonts these days, and I found a free download of it along with other Western style fonts on the Vintage Glam blog! Yee haw! See below for links.

Here's another freebie from Heirloom Paperie:

I also earned a spot on the David Clay Diamond Dash this Friday. Since Fred has to gig at a wedding, my maid of honor will be my dash partner! Basically the way it'll work is that we'll get a clue on our cell phones, such as "Jack & Jill went up Telegraph Hill and came upon this landmark." You text "Coit Tower" and then we'll receive directions to go to Coit and text the 20th word on the plaque at the tower. A correct answer will give us the next clue. It's like the Amazing Race, except within San Francisco's 7x7. Wish us luck.

Western Fonts: Download now>>
You're Invited: Download now>>

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Mad Diamond Dash - Free!

I'm a sucker for free stuff. So how could I say no to a diamond, especially a 1.5 carat worth $15,000?!

This Saturday, David Clay Jewelers is sending 500 people from around San Francisco to search for a hidden Hearts on Fire Diamond ring worth $15,000 to benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team In Training. Clues will be sent to teams via cell phone text messages leading them to various city landmarks. Teams receive points for solving the clues and the team with the most points at the end of the race, will win the 1.5 carat ring.

You can't just show up! You'll have to register via the David Clay Jewelers website and write why you deserve a spot among the 500 available. Register here>>

Monday, June 15, 2009

Inspiration #21: Vintage White Milk Glass Love

One of my collectible obsessions is vintage white milk glass (e.g., above is a lovely cake stand I purchased at the Alameda Flea Market). I buy a fabulous piece every chance I get and I recently Yelped about Polka Dot Attic in Danville, CA. They had a super selection of compotes and vintage cake stands (another obsession). Another good place to find vintage milk glass is online (Ebay and Etsy). Locally, the first-Sunday-of-the-month Alameda flea market offers the opportunity to haggle with vendors for these hard to find collectibles. The typical range I pay for compotes and bowls is between $5-20.

For my vintage garden themed wedding, I've envisioned using a variety of compotes, cake stands, footed bowls, and vases in floral, geometric cut and hobnail patterns. Here are some splendid examples I found online (list of credits below) on how to pull this off:

Photos by Marion Brenner for House & Garden July 2004 as featured on the London Calling Blog | Note Songs Blog
Country Living Magazine | Mr. and Mrs. Gibbons Blog | In This Instance Blog | Life in the Fast Lane Shop on Etsy |
Vintage Glam Blog | Elsea Chelsea Blog | Elizabeth Ann Designs Blog | Apartment | Vintage Florals Blog | Pleasant View Schoolhouse|
Carolina Panache Blog

Friday, June 12, 2009

Here Comes the Bride: Wedding Music Pt. 1

My fiance is a music snob with good reason -- he's a classically trained Spanish guitarist and music teacher! We're fortunate to both have many friends who are classical vocalists/musicians or blues/rock musicians, and so complying with our venue's restriction on amplified music won't be too much of a problem. Besides, we love live music! We realize not everyone is blessed to have such a talented circle of friends and you may find yourself trying to figure out how to select your wedding musicians. Here are some tips:

Selecting your wedding music for both the ceremony and reception may seem low priority, but like the food, it can set the tone and flavor for your special day. Assess your priorities. If you're on a budget, don't expect to have a 4-string quartet, and opt instead for a soloist, like a guitarist, organist, or pianist. Harpists are more expensive than guitarists since there isn't a specialized academic program for them -- they often learn their craft privately -- and their instruments are more expensive to own and transport.

Ask your potential musician what his/her range is, education/background, experience and references. Be sure to ask for samples as well, which may be posted on their website or myspace. Consider how long you want the musician to perform -- you will save money if you need him/her only for the ceremony. Don't be surprised if the price increases by $100+ for the cocktail hour and/or reception.

There are distinct sections of wedding music for the ceremony: the seating music (generally for 30 min), the parent's entrance, the groomsmen/bridal party entrance, the bride/father entrance, and the recessional. Work with your musician to select what pieces of music will complement the length and style of your ceremony best. I've sat in on my fiance's initial client meetings and I've been amused (and secretly pleased) that some brides choose to have him arrange music like the Beatle's All You Need is Love, or more recently a Billy Joel's Just the Way You Are, for classical guitar. Some want a lot of flair opposed to the traditional Hornpipe for the recessional and therefore choose a spirited flamenco piece to exit with. It's interesting that most brides opt for Pachabel Canon for their entrance, and only twice in his life has my fiance ever played Here Comes the Bride.

If you don't have band friends or can't afford $800+ for a DJ, using your iPod for the reception is definitely the way to go if trying to keep on a budget for music. That way, you can choose the music that most resonates with you and husband-to-be and induce your friends and family to get up and boogie. Be sure to assign a groomsmen or other savvy volunteer to man the playlist so that an inappropriate song doesn't squeak by and create an awkward pause.

NPR's All Things Considered recently asked listeners to send in their stories and votes for the least appropriate songs ever. Click here to view the list of stories which includes The Righteous Brothers' You've Lost That Loving Feeling >>

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Wedding Catering on a Shoestring

I'm on an event committee for a nonprofit and the issue of catering costs came up and spurred a lot of debate. In these tough economic times, I understand that spending $10 per person may be a lot but I have to admit, I balked at the thought of using the local bakery's sandwiches and crudite for this signature event. Like it or not, the quality of taste and presentation of food you provide at a special event sticks in your guest's memory and sets the tone of the occasion! But you don't have to spend $30,000 on catering or serve foie gras, caviar, etc to make it "rich." Taking Anthony Bourdain's great wisdom, "The engine of gastronomy is poverty" and therefore, it's okay to throw a wedding reception on a budget as long as you embrace the spirit of creativity!

Here are some ways I addressed this issue for my own wedding:

1. Find a venue that will allow you to bring-your-own (BYO) caterer. This will be challenging and requires compromise because a majority of venues have preferred caterers, who can be quite costly. If you bring your own caterer, you can find someone on Craigslist who might be willing to do it within your budget. We were able to find a lovely historic hall and garden in Sausalito for only $1,800, with only a $500 deposit. The venue has tables, chairs, state of the art kitchen, and allows me to bring in my own chef!

2. Consider the style of service. Buffet or appetizer stations are extremely cost effective because they cut down in terms of labor and service. Reach out to friends of yours and see if there's someone in your network, such as friend or colleague's nephew who's in culinary school, and can do a seated dinner at cost or as a wedding present.

3. Consider the season. If you like asparagus wrapped in prosciutto, don't expect to have it in the fall -- I mean, you can, but the quality won't be so great and the cost will be a lot more! Check out CUESA's season chart here>>

4. List your priorities. Do you want to splurge on meat or fish? Would you like variety of options, so that appetizers would make sense vs. a sit down meal? Do you really want 200 people at your wedding, or do you want your 90 or less closest friends?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Blue Light Special: Paper Source 50% Sale

Paper Source is having a 50% sale on more than 800 items. Among them are placecards, such as $2.63 for a 50 pack in jadeite or up to $4.00 for basic white. Scallop edged notecards in a variety of colors, such as "mars" are $3.50 for a 20 pack with matching envelopes for $2.38 for a 20 pack. Sweet deal!
Don't forget to check out the Paper Source blog for the how-to on the paper lanterns above! (Thanks, Patrina for the heads up!)

Friday, June 5, 2009

Inspiration #20: The DIY Wedding Arch

Save-on sells the basic white wire arch above for $15.99 (6ft). The decoration will cost you above and beyond the initial $15.99 + shipping, and you'll be able to adorn it with ornamental touches that fit with your overall theme.

I love the use of hydrangeas in this real wedding featured on Elizabeth Anne Designs. To make the floral pomanders (with real or silk flowers) refer to this article>>

If you want to go nonfloral, hanging Asian lanterns could be dramatic. The purple eyelet "beehive" lantern from retails for $14 and could be great in the center with other smaller size lanterns to balance it:

The Star Lantern seen here in a photo taken from retails for $7.50 on as well.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Inspiration #19: Cake Toppers!

"When Queen Victoria wed Prince Albert in 1840, her wedding cake was reputed to have been 300 pounds, nine feet in circumference and topped with an ice sculpture of Britannia surrounded by cupids," says Maria McBride, wedding style director for Brides magazine. "As news spread in the popular women's magazines of the day about the royal wedding, royal wannabes copied the style of the regal cakes and topped their cakes with sentimental novelties." Read more: "Cake-topper couples poised to reign again"

While the average cake costs $543, you can spend next to nothing (use your parents') to $40 (the precious wooden "Kokeshi" ones above are from temple7e on for a cake topper. An alternative to the cake topper (usually plastic, wood or polymer) is the icington (see below from, a French sugar version.

Lime Green Vintage Cake Topper by Miss Avocado

Ram Groom + Sheep Bride by PassionArte

For a bit of elegance, you can stick with DIY monogram (starting at $16.80 unadorned) and adorn with rhinestones. Order from>>
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