Monday, December 5, 2011

Video: Alice & Arvi at Cornerstone Gardens, Sonoma

I was honored to coordinate Alice and Arvi's colorful wedding at Cornerstone Gardens, a unique wine-country venue that features outdoor art installations like a carpet of "daisy" pinwheels and a rustic modern barn. Alice and I used to be co-workers at a San Francisco branding agency and both she and Arvi are art directors -- so they of course had great eyes for design and did the graphics themselves. Citrus colors like lime and tangerine punctuated the neutral tones of the linens (ivory and charcoal gray). Their seating assignments were handwritten on window panes and Katharina Stuart added a rustic touch with branches softened with romantic blossoms.

Capturing the fun day on film was Seaglass Cinema -- Kevin Yau and Anna Wu. There were some surprises -- like the groomsmen sporting super hero tees underneath their tuxes and a bi-plane soaring overhead as Alice and Arvi kissed for the first time as husband and wife. Enjoy!

Alice and Arvi | 10.02.2011 from Seaglass Cinema on Vimeo.

Venue: Cornerstone Gardens, Sonoma, CA
Coordinator: Va de Vie Events, Vera DeVera
Hair: Sylvie Simon
Makeup: Julie Dy
Florist: Katharina Stuart
Catering: Alex's Catering, Tom Pezzutto
Dress: Jasmine
DJ: Manny Perez via DJ Sir Edgar
Photographer: Matthias Giezendanner
Cake: Bonjour Patisserie
Video: Seaglass Cinema, Anna Wu, Kevin Yau
Editing: Kevin Yau
Music: By My Side, David Choi

Friday, December 2, 2011

As seen on: Ruffled!

If you didn't see the great news already, Va de Vie Events was featured in Ruffled's Real Wedding post about Britta and Kyle's whimsical and colorful outdoor wedding at Flora Grubb Gardens.

Britta and Kyle had been together for 10 years before tying the knot; these Midwest “kids” met in Arizona, moved to Costa Rica for a bit of adventure and recently settled in Oakland, CA last year after getting engaged.

Details of the wedding included colors of jadite, saffron and coral popped with accents of charcoal. We did a lot of hands on work, including hand-dying muslin ribbons in those colors to hang above her head table, to creating invitations with designer Lilli Keinaenen, mason jar escort cards, and more. Pilar Zuniga created a whimsical bouquet that was literally buttoned up with vintage buttons and fashioned handmade flower boxes.

Here are some photos that aren't in the Ruffled gallery -- it's great inspiration for an intimate outdoor wedding!

Wedding party, Stephen Hughes Photography (c) 2011

Ceremony at Flora Grubb Gardens, Stephen Hughes Photography (2011)

Centerpieces by Gorgeous and Green, pink ombre cake by Two for Two Cakes, Stephen Hughes Photography (c) 2011

Custom flower box over head table by Gorgeous and Green, Stephen Hughes Photography (c) 2011
Devoted Catering, Stephen Hughes Photography (c) 2011

Green Cheeze Photo Booth, Stephen Hughes Photography (c) 2011

Dinner by Devoted Catering, Stephen Hughes Photography (c) 2011

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Are you the now or later type?

Happy Thanksgiving! We already put up our tree -- mostly because I needed a bit of holiday cheer. And many retailers have of course been ramping up for Black Friday, one of the biggest shopping days of the year. As a budget bride, I'm sure you'll be fighting the crowds -- at the mall -- or crashing servers with online shopping.

For a store that doesn't have many sales, this is one to surely hit up: Anthropologie! You can take an additional 25% off now or if you're willing to get up early and shop at 6am at your local store, then you will be rewarded with an additional 50% off. Good luck and best wishes for a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Round up of my fave DIY ceremony "arches"

I adore wedding altars that are handcrafted and whimsical and here are some I recently pinned to my Pinterest board. Yes, some of these can be made on a budget, but don't forget to be creative when it comes to the materials. For example the ribbons can be more affordable if made from muslin, versus silk. Fabric bunting is cute, but depending on the pattern, the cost may add up, especially if you'd got a lot of ground to cover. Sign up JoAnn Fabric's enewsletter or shop at your local fabric discouners. And tissue paper flowers can be time-consuming to make.

As with any DIY project, plan ahead and set aside enough time to complete it -- at least 2-3 weeks before the big day.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Real Wedding: Britta & Kyle at Flora Grubb Gardens

I am excited to share Britta and Kyle's wedding with you. This awesome couple hired me to help them from A to Z and put together their intimate wedding celebration on a budget. Since they had just moved to the Bay Area from South America, they needed help finding a venue that was untraditional and unique -- Flora Grubb Gardens in San Francisco was one of three venues I presented and they went with it! It totally reflected their style and playfulness. :)

And I enjoyed working with my dream team of wedding vendors -- like Stephen Hughes (Photography), Alison Okabayashi of Two for Two Cakes (who did my own), Pilar Zuniga of Gorgeous and Green Events, Tiffany Wu of Devoted Catering, Robin White aka DJ Kuya for sound equipment, Brett Smith (DJ), Henry Perez of Event Magic for lighting, Gwen Alaura of Classic Party Rentals, Jaimee and Sterling Nuzum of Green Cheeze Photobooths, invitation design by Lilli Keinaenen, Vanessa Beckrum on makeup and Jenna Bates on hair, Dyer Limo, and of course, my rock star, assistant, Brittany Piehl.

We are in the process of submitting to blogs, so we can't share more, but we'll share the good news when it comes!

(c) Stephen Hughes Photography 2011 / Please do not copy. Thank you - Vera Devera

Thursday, November 10, 2011

How to Hire the Right Wedding Vendor for You

Recently, a local news reporter approached me for advice on red flags when hiring wedding vendors -- a viewer had called in with a complaint against a vendor and they were investigating the story. While the story didn't pan out after all, the timing for sharing these nuggets of advice couldn't be better. Most couples are hiring their 2012 wedding vendors at this time of year, especially for summer and fall weddings.

Here's my list of ways to prevent getting burned by a wedding vendor. (And feel free to share any wedding vendor nightmares or happy tales!)

1) Review the terms and conditions. Look out especially for: cancellation, fee schedule, deposit requirements and refund policy! What happens in case of flood, or other natural or manmade disaster (like union strike or  fire) that can affect being able to get married in the venue and on the date of your wedding?

a) Related to this, what is their backup plan in case they can't host your wedding (if a venue) or get sick, etc?

2) Beware: a venue's wedding coordinator is NOT the same as a wedding planner. Don't expect the venue coordinator to put together a detailed timeline, list of items or confirm details with other vendors (unless stated otherwise in the contract).

3) Follow your intuition and trust your instinct. Personality is very important. Finding a wedding vendor is like online dating. You can check out their profile and gallery of photos, but until you meet in person (or on the phone if you are planning a destination wedding), you won't know if "sparks will fly"! You want to make sure you and your prospective vendor have an excellent rapport. Brides and grooms often build an intimate relationship with their vendors and you want to make sure your vendors are not only professional, but courteous, responsive and detail-oriented. If they don't demonstrate such qualities in your initial meetings/calls, then that is a red flag. Move on!!!
a) Related to this, are they genuinely interested in working with you? Do they listen to you or are they somewhat jaded with a "been there, done that" attitude? If you find a wedding vendor who feels like a friend who looks out for your best interest (and let's you call the shots), then you've hit the jackpot.

4) Consider purchasing wedding insurance. Wedding insurance can cover potential problems lost deposits, vendor no-shows, cancellations, inclement weather, military deployment, health emergencies and more. (from
  • If you're worried about recovering your deposits if a vendor goes bankrupt or doesn't deliver as promised
  • If you're concerned that extreme weather or an unexpected illness or injury could force you to postpone
  • If the bride or groom is in the military and approved leave could be cancelled
5) Maintain a copy of your communication with the vendor (like emails, estimates or change orders). Follow up on your voicemails with an email to recap your message.  Document your communication with the vendor so that it can serve as a back up in case the day-of comes and something isn't the way you agreed it to be. For example, I had a bride order "ivory" roses and on the day-of, the florist brought orange "creamsicle" roses that she called "creme de la creme." Had I not had the bride's contract, I wouldn't have been able to demand the floral designer to replace all the orange roses in the bouquets -- 2 hours before the ceremony -- with ivory roses!

6) Do your homework: ask for referrals, check out online reviews -- not only on Yelp, but Wedding Wire and other wedding review sites. Ask your wedding planner if they've worked with them before and what they may know about the vendor.

7) When you talk with the venue coordinator or vendor are they vague? Can they explain their pricing structure, how they will staff your wedding, etc? These details are critical to the success of your wedding day. If they don't have these within a reasonable amount of time, this is a red flag.

8) Always secure a contract or letter of agreement with vendors -- even friends. If they don't have a formal contract, this is a huge no-no! Why would you want to give money to someone you can't hold accountable with a contract? And what if a vendor is a friend doing a favor? You should still put your terms into an agreement -- that way, both parties -- you and your friend -- are aligned on expectations and you can avoid resentment or not having an important detail taken care of.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween: Cute & Easy DIY Projects

Last night, we hosted a pre-Halloween/housewarming party that sported a macabre vibe. It was SUPER FUN!

Guests enjoyed the DIY terror-rarium bar where they got to make their own mason jar terror-rariums with dinosaurs.

There was plenty to eat, including "mummy" dip. I took 2 long logs of herbed chevre (Trader Joe's) and shaped it into a mummy body. Then I used Trader Joe's whipped cream and put it in a pastry bag with a leaf tip and zigzagged the whip cream across the chevre to simulate ribbons of cloth. I added googly eyes to add a touch of cuteness. The extra large sushi platter the mummy is resting on is from CB2.

My friends, Brittany and Danikka, provided the dipped pretzels and cupcakes for our candy bar:
Cupcake by Danikka, photo by britt.piehl

Lurking around the house were mummified vases. They were so easy and cheap to make: wrap mason jars or any other vase in cheesecloth and secure with hot glue. Add googly eyes with hot glue and add flowers of your choice. I even did it with mini pumpkins.

And the most terrifying of all were the "Holy Bat Wings" -- tasty baked sesame chicken wings dyed black care of my friend, Dan. Rounding out the festive menu was a spicy pumpkin chowder my husband made.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Some good things to come!

Wow, it's been waaaay too long yet again since I've posted. But since August, I've coordinated 5 weddings -- from Kohl Mansion to a private estate in Napa, and then Sebastiani Winery and Cornerstone Sonoma. The brides and grooms were wonderful to work with and the details for each of them were unique and dripping with "wow" factor. I can't wait to share in the next few weeks.

And in the midst of coordinating these weddings, my husband and I moved to a new nest, Pt. Richmond, a quaint bayside town whose most famous lady is Rosie the Riveter.

I've been busy fixing up the place and last night I bought a couple of beat up dining room chairs for $20 each. I'm reupholstering them with this beautiful yellow and gray Waverly fabric from Jo Ann Fabrics (the one on the left is one of my favorite linens you can rent at a high end rental company). Hurry on in -- right now, Jo Ann Fabric is having their Moonlight Madness sale -- all their fabric is 50% off, which means I got 2 yards of this for $44 versus $88!

I don't remember how to sew, but there are lots of cool things you can do, like:

Make a table runner for a candy buffet or escort card display.
Alice and Arvi's Wedding @ Cornerstone; photo by Vera Devera

or craft a ringbearer pillow

or create bunting as a decorative element for a whimsical wedding:
Jane & Ted's Wedding @ San Francisco Zoo; photo by Kevin Chin

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Scenes from weddings past

Boy, has it been a crazy busy season this year!! I just wrapped up one of the most unique weddings ever -- at a bowling alley -- with Stephen Hughes and I've got some breathing room until two weddings during Labor Day weekend. In the meantime, the fabulous photographers I've gotten to work with in the past few weeks have turned around their photos rather swiftly.

Check out scenes from recent weddings ...and definitely peek at this awesome slideshow by Joel Flory of Helen + Emilio's pre-reception festivities!

Anand & Shreya - Terra San Francisco | Euan Art Photography

Erin & Sky - Piedmont Community Center, Piedmont | Beth Hurley Photography

Kathleen & Scott - UC Berkeley Botanical Garden | e&b photography

Natalie & Brent's Vow Renewals - Garden Pavilion, Sonoma | Halberg Photographers

Jiwon & James' Wedding | Preservation Park, Oakland | Erika Jackson Photography

Monday, July 18, 2011

Why Even Budget Brides Should Hire a DJ

Wedding Noveau, a print/online magazine that celebrates multi-ethnic weddings is featuring our wedding today: "Gorgeous Bay Area Wedding for $10,000!"
Feature on Wedding

We are super excited and honored...and the first bits of Wedding Noveau's coverage of our "budget savvy" wedding concerns the music -- it was a huge part of our wedding (food being the other half the equation). For our ceremony, a friend played the classical guitar while another friend sang "Ave Maria." Later on, our friend, Quinn, raised the roof with his band during cocktail hour/dinner and we had an iPod for the dancing portion of the evening.

So, you're going to think I (Ms. Budget Bride) am off my rocker when you hear me say this: say no, to the iPod!Well, at least a 100% iPod wedding. :)

Let me share my personal experience and you might better understand. Our coordinator flaked on our wedding day, leaving us on the lurch. While we had a friend step in to help coordinate the day (bless her heart!!), we didn't have another person solely dedicated to managing our playlists and coordinating announcements. For example, a friend who had volunteered to emcee followed my timeline to the "T" and announced the father-daughter dance, but didn't realize that he should have checked with my dad first to make sure he was ready! And my poor friend who was stepping in to coordinate was dealing with some other emergency related to the kitchen -- so she wasn't there to help our emcee manage the playlist (totally understandable). As it turns out, my father was in the bathroom changing out of his tux and when I got onto stage (our dance floor), I was standing in front of 95 people, awkwardly waiting for my father in silence. When we realized he was unavailable, I walked over to our iPod and switched to the first song of open dancing -- ironically, it was Billy Idol's "Dancing with Myself." Some of my good friends jumped onstage to mitigate the awkwardness of the situation and to my relief, everyone else followed suit.

Nonetheless, I was mortified.

Granted, most people who choose to go the "budget" route and have an iPod wedding do have someone in point to manage the playlist. But many don't realize all the factors that should be considered with this scenario.

Here are my top reasons why I strongly advocate at least hiring a DJ (or live trio/band/sound tech) for part, if not for all of your wedding, instead of going 100% DIY (aka iPod)**:
  1. iPods don't come automatically loaded. You have to create discrete playlists (Ceremony Procession 1, Bride's Entrance, Dinner Music 1/2, First Dance, etc). And if you don't already have a vast music library, then you will be spending a lot of time researching, purchasing and organizing music in a logical manner. Maybe you love music and you don't find this challenging and in fact, relish this -- that's totally cool! But for some couples, they don't know what the best songs are for X, Y, Z. And then they may push that to the back burner until it's close to the wedding day!
  2. iPods cannot read the mood of the guests. Typically, DJs have hundreds of songs on their laptop/music library that they can quickly pull up and cue to address the energy (of lack thereof) of the audience. If they notice no one's dancing to a slow song, they have the ability to use their sound board to fade out and introduce a new one. This smooth transition is difficult when you just have an iPod hooked up to a speaker and have to not only use your thumb to turn down the volume, but then search for the next best song without an awkward pause!
  3. iPods can't talk to your guests. You still need to ensure you have someone to "emcee" -- to cue and direct activities so that guests have a sense of what's coming next and continue to feel festive or entertained.
  4. iPods don't set themselves up. Although renting sound equipment may be cheaper than hiring a DJ, who's going to pick it up/return it, set it up, conduct sound check and troubleshoot if the system malfunctions? And if you put a friend or family member in charge of all of the above, it may take away from them relaxing and having fun at your wedding.  
  5. You will feel less stressed knowing you, your husband, your friends or family won't have to deal with coordinating sound. If you hire someone to at least manage the music [having friends as emcees is cool in my book, more personal in most cases] DIY, then you have one less thing to worry about since a professional handling it instead of you!
Now, I'm not saying that all DJs are great and know their stuff. Believe me, I've worked with some pretty lousy DJs -- who are rude, too cheesy or just don't have the people skills to read the audience or tone down.

That said, it's very important in the interview process that you listen to your intuition and know that you jive with the DJ (or band) personality and music-wise. Does the DJ spin their own music or do they prefer to play straight from a playlist? Does the band own their own amps, and necessary cords, and mics? Are they professional, charismatic? Are they okay if you choose to have a family or friend emcee and they just manage the music, transitions and equipment?

Fortunately, our sound equipment (Fender) was built in at the venue and we didn't have to rent any mics and our friend (an A/V professional) loaned us his projector and laptop for our slideshow and knew how to hook it up to the sound system. And a majority of our music was live. But if I had a chance to do it all over again (hindsight is 20/20!), I would hire a DJ or even just a sound tech for the 2 hours of dance time that we did have -- to manage our music and ensure transitions from major announcements throughout the night were as smooth as could be.

At the end of the day, having a budget wedding is not solely about price, but knowing your priorities and how to manage your expectations accordingly. 

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this! Thanks!

**Unless your friend/point person who is managing the sound is a professional/hobby club DJ, or member of a band, adept with or owner of the equipment you're using.

Monday, July 11, 2011

From Here to Eternity: Sneak Peek!

I'm super excited to share with you a sneak peek of a collaborative styled shoot ("From Here to Eternity") that I worked on with Anna Wu (Photography) and Ellen Kim of Gingerleaf Floral! Read more about our work at Anna's blog here. Part Two will share our inspiration to creation and then Part Three will show you how to accomplish the look on two different budgets. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Easy budget DIY succulent centerpieces

I've got a private dinner party coming up and I thought I'd make my own centerpieces using succulents and found objects. I bought salvaged wooden boxes ($3 each) that I turned upside down to create a platform and spray painted the insides of short sundae glasses ($1) with a $3 can of berry pink spray paint. The succulents were about $1.97 to $5.99 a pot at Home Depot -- fortunately, succulents are very hardy and can be cut and eventually regenerate their roots so I didn't have to buy very many to make these (I just took pieces from a handful of pots). I'm pretty excited to display these! What do you think?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Feature on Style Me Pretty today

Last September, I had the pleasure of coordinating the day-of for a sweet couple, Angelica and Daniel. I love Angelica's style and it shines through! Check out more details to drool over at Style Me Pretty. (Check out the Burkart Studios video too!) The full gallery of beautiful photos are care of the very talented Andi Hatch (Photography).

Thursday, June 9, 2011

My pics of the week: e-sessions that rock

As I mentioned before, Pinterest is one rad tool  for curating and sharing all the pretty things you find online!

I decided to look up some of the photographers I love working with and see what they have been up to recently. Here's a peek of some photos I added to my "E-sessions that rock" board.

P.S. Feel free to add me on Pinterest!

Aren't they the cat's meow? Photo by Jerry Yoon Photography (c) 2011

Rain didn't stop them from having a great e-session. Photo by Jerry Yoon (c) 2011
This gal's dress is sweet! Photo by Andi Hatch Photography (c) 2011
Eat, love, play. How did the bride jump in those heels? Photo by Dorothy Hatchel (c) 2011

Beautiful shot in this spiral staircase. Photo by W Photography (c) 2011

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Getting hands-on with the gals behind "Handmade Weddings"

Handmade Weddings book by Eunice Moyle, Sabrina Moyle and Shana Faust
This past Saturday, Paper Source Berkeley hosted a "Midsummer's Eve Affair" with Eunice and Sabrina Moyle (the lovely ladies behind Hello!Lucky Stationery) and Chronicle Books, giving 16 lucky workshop attendees, including myself, the chance to create select projects from "Handmade Weddings: More Than 50 Crafts to Style and Personalize Your Big Day."
(L-R): Sabrina Moyle, me, Eunice Moyle, Christina and Lizzie of Paper Source Berkeley

If you don't already have "Handmade Weddings," I highly encourage you to get a copy ASAP (it's only $25). The Moyles and Shana Faust curated the DIY projects into major design themes -- complete with color palettes, suggested fonts, textures, and more to create a cohesive look. The step-by-step instructions, rated from easy to advanced, are easy to follow and time-crunched DIYers will appreciate the estimation of hours to complete the project.

My favorite chapters happen to be "Girly Romantic" (which includes the how-to on achieving Eunice's ethereal coffee-filter pom pom garlands that were featured in Martha Stewart Weddings last year) and "Happy Graphic," a whimsical and spirited look focused on fonts and bold patterns.

Lizzie sporting the Button Favors we made from the "Happy Graphic" chapter

The other great thing about Paper Source's workshop was that I learned some new tricks. The Paper Source staffers, like Christina, Fonda and Lizzie were extremely knowledgeable and introduced us to the incredible Xyron machine -- which makes anything into a sticker (Eunice even admitted it was a game-changer for her DIY-crafting). Another wonderful tool they shared with us was the embossing powder tray. I've been using paper plates and this simple tray has a funnel on one end so that you can pour the excess powder back into the bottle without making a huge mess. Best $6 buy ever.

Stay tuned this week for a how-to on making graphic paper clips with the Xyron gadget!
A DIY gal's best friend: the Xyron

My Button Save-the-Date, inspired by the "Happy Graphic" chapter 

Thursday, June 2, 2011

My $45 Wedding Band

Because my 14k rose gold and amethyst engagement ring is so fabulous by itself and quite large, we almost didn't get a wedding band for me. But when I stumbled across Kate Szabone's shop on Etsy, I gave it a second thought especially because she offered a 14k hammered rose gold band that was thin enough not to distract from my engagement ring. Plus, the price was right -- only $45 plus shipping. While the price of gold has increased a little bit since October 2010, the ring remains very affordable at $48. Szabone offers other styles of affordable but stylish rings featuring semi-precious gems as seen below.

Above: This is the ring I got to use as my wedding band! Photo by Kate Szabone -
For the nature-lovin' gal, here's a 14k gold twig ring! I liked how they're stacked.
Photo by Kate Szabone -

And here's a pair of his and hers 24k gold bands with diamonds for $995 -- Kate uses the 100-year-old hammer passed down from her grandfather to finish it as if were "found at sea."
Photo by Kate Szabone -
Related Posts with Thumbnails