Sunday, January 31, 2010

Inspiration #59: Chocolate Butterbean Signs

I envy the belles getting married in the South because they've got Chocolate Butterbean to make kick-ass signs. I'm sure these custom wooden signs are way beyond my budget, but a girl can dream.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Sneak Peek: IKEA Tablescape

Tomorrow, I'm hosting a dinner for 20 guests using a 20-ft and 8-ft tables. Here's what I picked up at IKEA on Friday. The print fabric was especially a good deal -- discounted by 84% to $0.99 a yard, and it was already hemmed and trimmed at the right size for a table runner. Tune in early next week to see how these elements come together:

Here's how used the Salong vases:

Friday, January 29, 2010

A Kitchen Themed Bridal Shower

I'm a foodie. So when I saw a kitchen-themed bridal shower on, I was jazzed. The post's author offered fun tips like sending recipe card theme invites or having guests decorate their own sugar cookies.

Going beyond the tips offered on, I think an Iron Chef themed bridal shower would be awesome: two teams, one ingredient. I've thrown Iron Chef dinners with professional chefs before, but never on my own. So that's a little daunting without chef supervision. :)

Maybe we could get around it by setting the ingredient and everyone bringing a dish featuring that one ingredient. What ingredient should it be? Chiles to represent my and Guitar Fred's hot passion? Honey because we're sweet? What would be the ingredient that represents you and your fiance?

One of my favorite parties involved making our own limoncello with citron. Maybe we can have the girls bring their own bottles/mason jars and we can make it together! A recipe I've used before follows below -- it's delish! Happy Friday!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Sophisticated look for less

This is really lovely, isn't it? And it's only $110! Local San Francisco designer, Christine Aiko Beck of Aiko Designs creates necklaces, earrings and bracelets such as these by hand. She describes her style as "sophisticated and elegant, organic yet ethereal." Her designs are "thoughtful" and she places great value on the details. Read my interview with Christine on the Bay Area Bride Guide. And check out more of her lovely designs, many under $150! The Stars earrings are my favorite! I can see that being a sweet gift. :)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

How to Pin a Boutonniere

You'd think they would know how to pin one on after prom, but for many grooms and groomsmen, prom is a distant memory. Here's a quick and easy tutorial to share with the guys before the big day so they can pin on their boutonnieres without a hitch.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The ornament terrarium

You might have already seen this ornament terrarium over Christmas on Design*Sponge, but I just wanted to share it again because it's such a great idea and shouldn't be limited to decorating for the holidays. Can you imagine hanging them from a manzanita branch? Click here for the how-to tutorial on Design*Sponge. (P.S. I tried finding these clear ornaments in post-Christmas sales without any luck! Too bad, they would've been 75% off!)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Eat my garter

I was at a dinner party yesterday night and the subject of edible panties came up (don't ask me how). And then everyone thought it'd be a great idea if I wore an edible garter at the wedding reception. Haha, funny guys. 
I didn't think such things existed, but oh yes they do.

Personally, this one (from is more my style.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Help me design an "extreme" tablescape

I have a dilemma. Next Sunday, I'm hosting a dinner party that's going to be filmed for TV. For this special occasion, I'm feeling pressured to come up with something over-the-top, which goes against my usual down-to-earth sensibility (as seen above in a Moroccan themed party). Right now, all I've got to use are Fiesta ware, vintage linens, and yellow lanterns.

I don't know if the "goldfish-in-a-vase" will cut it (plus, who takes them home afterwards?!). What about flowers frozen in Jell-o? Or flowers covered by water goblets? Pushing daisies?

or maybe, I should just stick to something pretty like the one by David Stark below.

What's the most unusual centerpiece you've seen?

Friday, January 22, 2010

What's in your purse?

What's in your purse & why? 
Would love to see on your blog & don't forget to relink back :-)
{Thanks to Jenny May at The Swede Records!}

I use
this Franco Sarto
bag almost's petite.

  Open up my bag
  & this is what you'll find...

Pink ink fountain pen - to jot down dates or notes to myself
Nars lipstick - in Afghan Red
Purse hanger - you don't leave money on the ground, so the same goes for your purse
Oral-B satin tape - to keep my gums happy
Banana Republic sunglasses - I like a little mystery
Moo Cards - you never know when you'll meet someone you want to stay in touch with
Pink Palm Centro - so I can stay connected 24/7
Coach wristlet - the easiest way to carry my $ when walking Munch
ColorScience pressed mineral compact - to look naturally good
Marc Jacobs 'Lola' Roll-on perfume - Guitar Fred nuzzles my neck when I wear it
{Not pictured: my metallic fuchsia pink Nikon Coolpix S9 - b/c you never know when you see something really awesome and want to share it!}

Thursday, January 21, 2010

I heart Elizabeth Hurley

I'd like you to meet Elizabeth Hurley. No, not Hugh Grant's ex. I'm talking about a talented San Francisco wedding photographer with an exquisite eye, organic and earthy style and easy on the budget (I couldn't believe my eyes) without sacrificing quality!

I met Elizabeth (Beth) at a wedding fair at the Four Seasons a couple weeks ago. I was immediately impressed by her style: vintage wire baskets held 11x14 mats dedicated to three unique weddings and the tables were accented with branches and peonies. Beth was also very friendly and flipping through the photos, I sensed that her clients were relaxed and clearly felt comfortable with Beth's direction.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Ho$tel vs. Hotel

According to Emily Post, proper wedding etiquette calls for the bride and groom to pick up the tab for their attendants' accommodations. We'd been hoping my parents could help in this department since they're timeshare holders with Marriott, but new rules bar them from using their points until 2011.

Hotels in Sausalito are pricey ($200+ minimum) since they have premium views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Bay. It's about 30 miles away from San Francisco International Airport and Oakland Airport, so public transportation to and from is not an option.

We have two alternatives: book a block of rooms at the Marriott in Larkspur, 10 miles away  or rent a whole house or annex via Hostel International's outpost in the Marin Headlands.

The Marin Headlands Hostel -- a certified green business -- offers the best price per person, at $26 per person/per night including tax, linens and towels. The hostel would be for guests who don't mind dorm-style living for a couple days, or those with kids. I coordinated a wedding a couple years ago and the couple stayed with their family and friends in an entire 2-story house, formerly officer's quarters, went on hiking excursions, cooked together, played games by the fireplace, and more.  It was a great way for everyone to reconnect with each other.

My ideal accommodations would be the Cavallo Point Lodge, a renovated military post that features extensive healing arts + spa amenities, culinary classes, and guided hikes and walks. But as you can probably tell, it'll be way beyond the 10kbride's budget!

What are you doing for your guests' or bridal party's accommodations? Have you found an amazing deal? Do tell!

Other good tips on finding budget accommodations can be found at this  Associated Press article.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Love when you can

I learned very sad news about a good friend on Monday. He was vivacious, smart, funny and always made you feel like you were special. I miss him terribly --a friend posted this as her Facebook status, and I echo her sentiment:

"Once again reminded to take the opportunities to tell the people you love what they mean to you and not to put off those lunch dates when possible as you never know if you'll ever be able to reschedule that lunch date again. Life is wonderful, but you never know when it will also be short and fleeting. Hug when you can, laugh when you can, love when you can."

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Oahu for us!

So, our meeting with Guisselle (of Mundi Travel) was great -- we left with smiles on our faces! (By the way, she also booked our first trip to Disneyland five years ago, where 3 months into our relationship, Fred said his first "I love you" to me. It was only natural we came back to her for our honeymoon.)

When I'm looking for price alone, I book on Expedia. But when it's something complicated -- something that includes airfare, hotel, car rental and excursions -- then I turn to the travel pros not only because they get the deep discounts, but also because they are like counselors who can make recommendations on activities or destinations that best fit your style. Guisselle did just that. (Not to mention, she and her team will personally handle our online honeyfund registry -- so if any of our guests have questions or need help selecting an excursion for our registry, they will handle the back office paperwork, not us.)

At the start of our meeting, Guisselle shared how excited she was that we were considering Hawaii in addition to Barcelona because of a special promotion a wholesale operator was offering. I thought the island she'd recommend would be Kauai, but it was Oahu. I was skeptical at first because I pictured Oahu teeming with hordes of Cancun-or-Daytona Beach springbreakers, Fisherman Wharf-like crowds and cheesy boutiques.

I'm outdoorsy and love hiking, eating good food, and exploring museums and culture. Fred  enjoys touristy area (like Fisherman's Wharf of San Francisco), reading on the beach and also  exploring history and culture, but he doesn't like hiking. Guisselle highlighted the styles of each island: Kauai for the outdoor adventurer and upscale R&R experience, Kona/Big Island for those who really want to see the live volcano, Maui for a scaled down Kauai experience, and Oahu as "Hawaii 101." Kauai was the most expensive for accommodations, followed by Kona, and Maui. Oahu was the best fit for our budget.

The more she showed how Oahu would satisfy all that we wanted out of our trip, the more we got excited. Oahu has a bit of the city life, history and culture (the Polynesian Cultural Center and Pearl Harbor), hiking (the Moana Falls), snorkeling, etc. She'd also found us a phenomenal deal at a 4-star hotel (with partial ocean view) for 7 nights, 8 days, with round-trip airfare and a full-sized car for less than $2,800 (prices subject to change and exclusive to Mundi Travel). The deposit for the trip was also affordable, so we're excited to have found a good fit.

All is not lost with Barcelona. Guisselle recommended we do a 9-day tour of Madrid, Seville and Barcelona as a 1-year anniversary instead. The round trip flights to and from San Francisco this year are easily over $1,000 and it's probably best we wait until we have more money in the bank. It's something to look forward to!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Destination or staycation?

So, will it be Barcelona or Kauai?

Guitar Fred and I have been staycationing a lot. While most people have their 3-day weekends planned in South Lake Tahoe two-hours away or down south in Los Angeles, we have been sticking around the San Francisco Bay Area to save money. It's apt that this 3-day weekend, Guitar Fred and I are meeting with a travel agent (and former grad school alum) -- Guisselle Nunez -- of Mundi Travel to start planning our honeymoon, especially since we're setting up a "honeyfund" as our registry.

I've been dreaming about honeymooning in Southern Spain, especially Barcelona, and Fred is excited too (especially since he's a Spanish and flamenco guitarist). However, my best friend just got back from a week in Hawaii. I haven't been since I was 2-years old and I don't think that counts. Fred's never been to Hawaii and since it's much closer, we might get more bang for our buck staying domestic. 

So that's where Guisselle comes in. I know we could book our travel on our own with the plethora of travel sites, like Expedia, Orbitz, etc. but I don't want to leave my travel to the hands of an impersonal automated system especially when I'm too busy entertaining our families and friends in the days before the wedding.

Guisselle sent us these questions to start. How would you answer these? (I'll answer them in a few, gotta run to our appointment now!)

  1. What kind of trip experience do you seek, relaxation, active, etc?
  2. What is your idea of romance, relaxation?   
  3. Is there a destination you already have in mind? 
  4. What kind of sightseeing are you interested in? 

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Beautiful Blogger Award goes to...

Cheyenne of Girl v. The World nominated me for the Beautiful Blogger Award. I'm blushing!

Here are the rules:

1. Thank the person who gave you the award.
2. Paste the award on your blog.
3. Link back to the person who gave you the award.
4. Share seven interesting things about yourself.
5. Nominate up to 7 more beautiful bloggers.
6. Link the seven bloggers you nominate.

Seven interesting things about me? Here goes:

1. I picked up the torch in running an underground supperclub. You might have heard of it. And it's going to be filmed for cable TV at the end of this month!
2. I once had a fear of live electric guitar (something about the echoes creeps me out). My fiance is a guitarist, so I've had to overcome this phobia.
3. When I was a little girl I wanted to be a fashion designer. I live vicariously through Project Runway.
4. I, too, like Cheyenne, would be happy living on a ranch. Especially in Sonoma...with goats and a field of tomatoes.
5. I am a tennis fanatic. I love playing competitively and making new friends through tennis. Such a fun and social sport!
6. I want to start taking adult ballet classes at the Berkeley Ballet Theater.
7. I am particular about pens and fonts; somewhat of a dichotomy -- handwriting vs. print?

And now, to pass on the prestigious award. I hereby bestow the Beautiful Blogger Award to:

The fab, Emilia Jane, at Auburn and Ivory

Thursday, January 14, 2010

One to watch: Aaron Lee Films

For the San Francisco brides, every Thursday on the brand-new Bay Area Bride Guide, I'm going to introduce you to local vendors you should consider in your search. I've found these vendors on my own, probably like you have -- combing wedding websites, blogs, online review sites, Craigslist, you name it.

In the coming weeks, you'll be meeting an affordable jeweler with ethereal tastes, the most outgoing hair stylist I've ever met to date, and a down-to-earth photographer with a great eye.

On this inaugural post, I'm pleased to introduce you to Aaron Lee, of Aaron Lee Films, based in San Francisco, whom my colleague, Corina Beczner of Vibrant Events recommended. I've enjoyed Aaron's videos, as seen on his website, and his amiable personality shines through!

Here's a snippet and you can continue reading at Bay Area Bride Guide. 

What is your favorite part of a wedding?
Wow, it's tough to choose one part of the wedding day as my favorite. But I'm going to go with the vows. That's truly the moment. Up there, in front of everyone, eye to eye with each other, and you make that commitment, you say those words, tears roll, and you cross a threshold in life.

What has been your favorite wedding so far? What made it so special?
One of my favorite weddings was Heatherose and James. I think that the couple's clearly unique style, and intense love for each other and their circle of friends made for such an emotional day. Add in the dramatic setting of the Scottish Rite temple in Oakland, and the pure good luck of working with Ben Chrisman and I can't think of a wedding that inspired me more. Heatherose and James are fearless people. They take life seriously, and celebrate love.

What would be your dream wedding to film?
I want to film a Philippine wedding. Like, "in the Philippines" Philippine. I don't know if you're familiar with the weddings there, but I love the culture, the architecture, the family bonds, and the desire of the clients to have amazing videos. It's a big deal over there. Videographers are hired before the photographers. Imagine that!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Dear Vera: Is it possible?

Yesterday, I got a question from a lovely reader, Cheyenne, and it's one that's probably on all our minds: is a budget wedding possible? Thank you, Cheyenne, for letting me post your questions -- followed by my replies.

From Cheyenne:

Hi! I read your blog and I was wondering how you are doing so far with your goal budget? Right now, I am very discouraged. I have already found my dress ($500 off the rack!) but the venue search is making me want to elope. I may have found a great venue that charges $1,500 room fee but they make me use their own caterer and bar which will make my food/bar bill pretty high considering I anticipate 140 guests. In this situation, what is the best way to cut down on costs in other areas?

Thanks for your blog. I don't know what I would do without bloggers like you!


My reply:

Hi Cheyenne,

Thanks for reaching out to me. We are just under our goal budget and I'm re-evaluating where we can save money, especially in terms of flowers, cake, music and gifts.

The venue, catering and photography are indeed the biggest chunks of our budget. We were fortunate enough to win an all-out wedding photography package by Davina + Daniel (normally charge $5,000+). If we hadn't, we found a super photographer who was just starting out and was going to charge us $700 (after discount) for 6 hours.

I was very particular about choosing a venue that would accommodate a bring-your-own caterer option because we are friends with a chef who offered to cook at cost ($10/pp for apps and family style meal with 4 courses of locally sourced, gourmet food). We have 120 guests and limiting drinks to only beer, wine, and a signature drink for about $260, plus a bartender at $35/hr. My total catering budget with food plus servers is about $2,500. 

Where do you live? If you're in a city with a culinary school, you may luck out and find a student who would be eager to cook for you for less -- but you definitely want to do a tasting!

P.S. Would you mind if I shared your question on my blog? I've gotten a couple questions like these and I bet other brides would find this helpful.


And more from Cheyenne:


Yes, of course you can use my question. I know I'm not the only one who wonders!

I live just outside of Dallas but I have been looking all over the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex for venues. Unfortunately I have not found any venues that will allow me to bring my own bar/caterer. Originally that was what I had intended, especially because I wanted to splurge on the photos, but evidently I am out of luck. So I am trying to find a way to feed my guests nicely but cheaply and we are limiting our bar to beer and wine, much to the angst of my Scotch-loving fiance.

I have always intended to do my own invitations, save-the-dates (if any), flowers and decorations. I know this will save me some money, but how much, I don't know. And then, of course there's the issue of the ceremony which is an expense I wasn't expecting. I wanted to get married in the local botanical gardens, but I probably can't now that my (probable) reception venue is so far away. A beautiful church near the reception site is offering me their member rates at $800 because my mom works for another church in their region and pulled some strings. Non-member rates are $1,600!! Can you believe that?

I envy your venue--it's amazing! That's what I would have chosen if I were in Cali. Silly Texans. Why can't we have pretty venues like that?

Thanks for letting me vent. I am so frustrated and I am finding that no one really understands besides other brides-to-be!


And finally, my latest reply (if you live in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area and know of a place Cheyenne should check out, please post a comment below!):

Hi Cheyenne,

Have you considered an offbeat venue like the local zoo or university? They might have a garden/botanical area. For example, I helped a bride client of mine choose our local zoo because it offered a beautiful arts n' crafts reception hall and outdoor patio with trees; an independent catering company that works exclusively with SF Zoo charges $15/pp for a BBQ picnic, which is casual but can be dressed up with the proper details.

Have you considered having the ceremony and reception in one place vs. two? We lucked out in that the church we are getting married at has a garden and reception hall across the street. Could there possibly be a church in your area that offers these and for less than $3,500? ($1,600 IS steep for non-members to pay to use the church; ours is also about the same price and would've been free if we were members of the parish.)

As for DIY flowers: I was going to go that route but decided to hire a professional for the bouquets and boutonnieres. To cut costs, I am doing my own centerpieces, especially since they're simple (hydrangeas with ranunculus). I would suggest looking on your local Craigslist or Yelp for up-and-coming floral designers. If they've been doing floral arrangements for under 2 years, they're more likely to offer lower prices than more established vendors. You do run the risk of not having the exquisite beauty of a saipua bouquet but vendors just getting started are more apt to please you and meet your requests -- just make them do a mock-up for you and if you're lucky, they will do it for free. If you still want to do it on your own and if you have a flower mart, where local florists buy their flowers, you might want to consider going there in the afternoon when wholesalers are more eager to bargain with regular consumers. As for the save-the-dates, if we hadn't won them, we would have sent postcards directing our guests to our wedding website to RSVP online. And decorations -- I am fortunate to have friends and family who like to collect vintage, so I'm using their stockpiles of white milk glass and linens. However, I did take advantage of store closing sales and post-Christmas sales when a lot of things were 75% off. I still kind of went overboard with the decor!

I hope I gave you a few ideas, or else reinforced what you may have already been thinking. Feel free to vent and thank you again for reaching out. We're here for each other, right?! :)


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Inspiration #58: My Dream Bridal Shower

Succulent wall, Flora Grubb Gardens, by Gabriel Harber Photography

One of my passions is gardening and I love tea parties. But I don't want the traditional English tea party you can have at ultra-girly tea parlors around the San Francisco Bay Area. Since most of my girl friends live in the area, I didn't want to go very far for my bridal shower and unfortunately we all live in apartments or condos without gardens of our own. And there's where Flora Grubb Gardens comes in. I've put in an inquiry to see if she'll let my gals host an intimate bridal shower, and I'll keep you posted. Here's some photos that will show you why I'm digging Flora Grubb Gardens (pun intended).

Succulent Tea Party at Flora Grubb Gardens, Source: Apartment Therapy

Flora Grubb Nursery Wall of Chairs, Photo by Colleen Baptista
{Flora Grubb Nursery Wall of Chairs, Photo by Colleen Baptista"}

Monday, January 11, 2010

8 months and 29 days

January 10, 2010 marked 9 months to the big day. And how did I spend it? At a bridal fair, of course! The Bay Area Bride Guide invited me to attend the San Francisco Wedding Fair at the Four Seasons and blog about my experiences and any vendors I clicked with -- not only for myself, but also for my bride clients. A few stood out and I will be introducing you to them over the next 3 Thursdays at the Bay Area Bride Guide. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, here are some photos from the day (all photos by Vera Devera):

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Inspiration #57: Hello, The Indigo Bunting

Jack and Jill
Originally uploaded by indigobunting

Over the summer, you may have seen the whimsical work of graphic designer, Erin Jang, float around the blog world, like design*sponge, for her work on her friends' wedding at Radonich Ranch in Los Gatos, CA. (By the way, if you didn't catch this real wedding on 100 Layer Cake, check it out now!)

I find myself drawn to design that makes me smile, and I'm glad Erin Jang's work is available on Bella Figura, an eco-friendly wedding letterpress company. Granted, this is not for the $10K bride's budget, but definitely The Indigo Bunting gives me some ideas on how to possibly layout the menu cards, etc.

Some Glam Blog Love

Chocolate Lover bestowed me with this sweet blog award. So, now I'm paying it forward to 6 glam bride bloggers who'll make you laugh, swoon and be inspired!

Giovanna at Swoon
The fab lady behind RedWhiteBride
Jenny of Swede Records

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Who's behind the lens...

A few months ago, Davina + Daniel (the cutest couple ever!) selected us for their 2009 Photography Giveaway. I was tickled with their recent blog post, where they show what it's like to be a wedding photographer. I expect they'll be sporting their acrobatic skills for us as well!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Inspiration #56: The Barong

Does your cultural heritage have distinct wedding attire? The most well known are probably the Chinese red dress or the Korean hanbok for brides, but what about for the groom?

{Photo by Gene Higa Photography, Destination Photography based in San Francisco}

I am incorporating my Filipino cultural heritage into our wedding byway of the dinner menu (e.g. lechon, or whole roasted pig), but I did briefly consider having Guitar Fred wear the traditional Filipino wedding attire, the barong. The barong is a lightweight, transparent embroidered formal garment worn untucked (similar to a coat/dress shirt), over an undershirt. It's made just right for the high humidity and heat of the Philippines!

According to Wikipedia, there are 3 different fabrics:
  • Piña fabric - is hand-loomed from pineapple leaf fibers. And because Piña weavers in the Philippines are dwindling, its scarcity makes the delicate Piña cloth expensive and is thus used for very formal events.
  • Jusi fabric - is mechanically woven and was once made from abacca or banana silk. Today, China is the main source of polyester Jusi.
  • Banana fabric - is another sheer fabric used in formal occasions. Made and hand woven from banana fiber, it usually comes with geometric design details.
Here are two images of the barong from Gene Higa (who also happened to cover my sister's and a friend's weddings):

Also, check out this rockin' barong tagalog in gray, as photographed by Misha Media:

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