Friday, May 23, 2008

Be a great guest, shoot great wedding photos

Memorial Day weekend, thus many weddings, are at hand, and we've all got our cameras ready. But, are you wondering how to get great wedding photos? Well, I gotta say -- its not your job. But if you want to be known as the guest who shoots great pictures that everyone want to invite to their wedding? I suppose I can give you a few tips.

The above photo is actually shot by my husband at a wedding I was a bridesmaid in a few years ago. I couldn't take the photo because I was standing at the front, to the left of the couple kissing their first kiss of marriage.

I am actually a journalist by trade, so a lot of what I do when taking pictures is learned from the lone photojournalism class I took in junior college and from hanging out with really great photographers. The great thing about digital cameras is you can take tons of photos and check em out during a pause in the action, deleting the ones you don't like. Above, I shot this photo of my friend Cathy, not realizing that the light would be perfect for a silhouette. All I saw was Cathy's mom putting a necklace on her and thought, "aw!"

This picture was a beautiful accident. I was all over the hotel room that Cathy was getting ready in, taking pictures of everyone and everything. In fact, Cathy's photographers probably wanted to smack me because I was in their way. Anyway, when I first saw this picture, I nearly deleted it. Luckily, my genius-at-Photoshop husband stepped in and saved the pic by coloring it with a sepia tone. Now, I tell people I did this on purpose. Heheh. So take note -- don't delete everything! But see the potential in a raw photo.

This photo is one of my favorites. You see, I was at the cake table, helping my mom with last minute fixes and stuff, when I saw Cathy and her new husband rehearsing their first dance as the banquet staff milled around and set the tables. It was wonderfully intimate, even with all those people around -- a couple working on their first steps together. My only regret is that my camera was not of a better quality and that I wasn't a better photographer to make this picture better.

Need more? I found some great photojournalism tips from Vincent Laforet. The first seven tips are things any aspiring photographer should take note of. I plan on focusing on some great photographers I know, too, in a future post.

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Monday, May 19, 2008

Long head table decorations

Decorating a long head table for a wedding reception is tough. Trust me, when I was still decorating, I preferred a small sweetheart table to long head tables any day. However, they're usually a necessity, because its probably cheaper and many couples want to put their bridal party and sponsors in the spotlight with their own especially designated tables.

Above, you've got a combo -- two long-ish side tables uncomfortably close to a sweetheart table, decorated with lavender, silver and white draping. I'm not sure who put the bridesmaid bouquets at each point where the draping is gathered and attached to the tables, but its a nice touch. You can click on the above picture for its full size, or keep reading for a closer look at an angle.

Forgive me, I can't remember the name of the hotel pictured here, but -- it was a hotel! Anyway, you see the silver draping was used to accent the lavender (one of my favorite color combos). The sweetheart table is set apart with lights underneath the table, which makes a pleasing glow through the silver and white draping.

I'm positive that this set up is at the Pacific Palms in the City of Industry. This is a double long table set up -- a long table on the floor and a long table on a raised tier. If I remember correctly, most long tables seat about 15 or 16 people. However, they are not easy to decorate. You usually need several yards of draping, like 20 to 25 yards, plus, making all those loops symmetrical often takes a lot of pinning and unpinning and pinning again, plus, when you're working with two long tables, not everything will line up, as you can see from above. (Above, things probably line up from a certain view, but it doesn't look lined up to me from this picture!) When I first started draping it would take me an hour to do each table. I can do a long table in 20 minutes now.

This reception was at the Courtyard in Baldwin Park, but don't ask me if it was called a Courtyard at the time -- its undergone several ownership changes over the years. This set up was unique. If my memory serves me correctly, this was a big U-shaped table. I've done a couple of those setups at this hotel. Anyway, you don't see the U-shape here, but when it comes to a looooong head table that angles, all you can do is create a big visual impact and try to get everything mostly even. Pink helps a lot in that sense.

Yellow and silver for a silver anniversary celebration at the Glendale Hilton. This long table was not as difficult to decorate, since it was not excessively long -- it appears to seat 10. There is a sweetheart table setup behind the long table, and its flanked by two medium sized tables which seat four each. If I must recommend a set up for a lot of people at a head table, this would be it.

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Saturday, May 17, 2008

8/8/08 Wedding Giveaway

I came across this contest while doing my early morning (as in 11:40 a.m., heheh) surfing of sites. I don't know about you, but the offer of free anything rocks. But a free wedding? You could spend all your money on your honeymoon and your future home! How great would that be?

Anyway, its not just any wedding of course. The contest is sponsored by TheKnot and Eight O'Clock Coffee (never heard of 'em) and is for a wedding in Southhampton, NY on that auspicious date (which falls on a Friday) with a reception for up to 100 guests and decorated by (apparently) celebrity decorator Evette Rios.

I don't know if a Southern California girl like myself would want a wedding in Southhampton, but hey -- I'm just the messenger. Catch is the contest ends next weekend on May 31 and you have to write an essay about why you should win this contest. Oh, and you can only enter once. Anyway, if anyone from this site wins the contest -- let me know! I'd love to hear about it.

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Spectacular wedding guest table settings

When we think of decorating a wedding, brides (I think) mostly think about their head table or sweetheart table, the church, the altar...every place except where guests spend the most time -- at their table. So if you want to make the guest tables awesome, too, check these pictures out.

Above, we're flashing back to an oldie but goody at the former Holiday Inn in Monrovia -- its now a Doubletree, I believe. How do you make a guest table special, aside from the flowers? Why, with cool table cloths. The table above is decorated with a simple champagne organza overlay. As always, this post was inspired by many awesome pictures of tables I found on Flickr.

Photo by Flickr's Glass Slipper Gourmet

Glass Slipper Gourmet had quite a few awesome pictures of guest tables. Not only does this table have a gargantuan arrangement of orchids (they're even spilling off the vase! How arty!), the table is covered with a bronze, textured tablecloth that really sets off the gold in the plates and in the napkins. Oh, and there are more of those orchids, right there. Only thing is -- the utensils kind of disappear. Ah well, who needs utensils, right?

Photo by Flickr's Glass Slipper Gourmet

This is another table set up from Glass Slipper Gourmet, which is labeled "Sexy!" -- and it is! When you're decorating a house, most decorators would advise against this kind of pattern, but on a guest table, up against black and white plate ware, plum napkins and those magenta and white! It's all oh so sensual.

Photo by Flickr's Flor & Forma

This table by Flor & Forma is more traditional and simple, but still beautiful and striking. Probably what is most striking is the yellow and white rose arrangement atop a trumpet vase filled with water, with a sprig of yellow orchids inside. But the details! Those look like yellow baby roses tucked into the napkins all sitting on top of a white, embroidered table cloth.

Photo by Flickr's Manna from the heavens

Last but definitely not least is a wedding reception at what is apparently Caltech, here in the Los Angeles area. I already assume that most university campuses are beautiful, but wow! What a great place to have a reception. Anyway, the arrangement is cute, low and colorful (so it packs a big visual impact, but doesn't keep your guests from seeing each other at the table), and the embroidered, brown table cloth is beautiful.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Church and ceremony pew decorations

Decorating pews for the ceremony can be difficult. Not all wedding ceremonies are performed in churches, and sometimes churches are the most difficult places to decorate of all. A lot of churches, especially Catholic churches in my experience, do not allow tape on their pews of any kind, so trying to attach some sort of decoration on pews usually ends up with a wrestling match between you and some rubber bands. There are also clips, but those slip off easily, and you don't want a flower arrangement slipping off as you walk down the aisle in your full-skirted wedding dress.

Above is a picture from a wedding in which I was a bridesmaid a few years ago.

Here's another photo from a past wedding at St. Elizabeth in Rowland Heights. This was a golden anniversary wedding, thus the gold draping on the pews. I attached these with rubber bands, and made little poufs with the fabric and fluffed them up, which looks pretty and handily disguises the rubber bands.

These are just a few of the pew decorations that's available out there. Believe me, I've done so many types of pew decorations, but if a full aisle garland is not what you're looking for, Flickr is a great place for ideas.

One Flickr user in particular had most the best pew decoration ideas, from what I could see -- Wedding or Party Decorations. I'm not entirely sure if this account belongs to an actual florist, but if it does, I'd be happy to later on link to their website, if they have one.

Tulle and flowers is more along the lines of what I do when it comes to decorating a church. There isn't a lot of detail in this photo, but there are a bunch of roses where the tulle is attached to each pew. If you weren't sure, when there is draping along the aisles, its usually every other pew or every other two pews, after skipping the first two (which will usually be reserved for family and have the most traffic, like, for witnesses who need to get up and sit back down). The tulle and flowers don't appear to be attached by tape; it could be attached to that gummy flower adhesive, but that stuff leaves a residue, so I don't really recommend using that stuff. Another way to get this effect would be to use white rubber bands. Also, check out the petals in the loops -- not bad!

These are really nice -- big, purple and blue hydrangea blossoms in a metal flower vase. The vase is probably just aluminum, and the whole thing seems to be hanging by ribbon from a clip.

This arrangement is even more simple -- red paper cones hung with ribbon with what look like pink and orange roses and greens. The nice thing about this arrangement and the last is that they're easily hung, easily removed and make a lot of impact because of the strong colors.

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Monday, May 12, 2008

Photos of Jenna Bush and Henry Hager getting married

Obviously, Jenna Bush got married on Saturday and all the news organizations have been buzzing about it. I kind of like how they handled it -- they opted for a private ceremony in Texas, didn't allow the press in and President Bush didn't try to make it a big public extravaganza, even though it could have helped his approval ratings. By the way, even though I am posting these photos, I obviously did not decorate Jenna Bush's wedding.

Photos handed out by the White House and swiped from

Details: There were 30 attendants (15 bridesmaids, 15 groomsmen!), Jenna's dress was silk by Oscar de La Renta, and President Bush commissioned a limestone altar for the ceremony that will be a permanent structure at the ranch. They probably needed a strong altar made of stone to support those huge ceramic (I think) pots of flowers sitting on each side of the cross - check that out! Want more? Read the Washington Post article.

The cake was pretty simple, sitting on a bed of flowers, with little bunches of flowers on each tier, plus a nice top of flowers. But really, do you want the cake to outshine the bride and groom? *wink* Also, is it a little lopsided? Ah well, its going to be eaten anyway, right?

According to the White House's captions, these were the bride and groom's table settings. The table is simply decorated, with a low arrangement with what looks like white and violet roses. The food and plates seem to have more decorative impact than the flowers. The tent they're in seems to be decorated with a disco-sized ball of daisies in the center, and what looks like paper hanging from streamers. I wish I could get a closer look.

I also like the favors gave out -- they're very Texas. A wedding favor from the First Family? I would keep that. Although, for any normal bride and groom, I would recommend you stick with candy or chocolate.

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Saturday, May 10, 2008

Not your typical wedding dance

At the Offbeat Bride, I found this super cool video. I think that was the groom at the end doing all those super cool moves.

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Budget brides should beware Craigslist

I love Craigslist, believe me. I'm constantly on it, checking out writing gig listings and seeing whats out there in terms of rentals in my area. And with the tough economy, and everyone being all the more budget minded, you may be tempted to take advantage of Craigslist when it comes to planning your wedding. But, as with all things online, its buyer beware.

There are a lot of wedding-related services offered on Craigslist, but the most common seem to be photography and venue related. Are these ads a way to find something unique and totally unknown to anyone else, or simply a cheap way of advertising?

I found at least three ads for venues in Southern California. Here's one for the Enchanted Manor in Valley Village:

Incredible grounds to host your party, charity event, children's birthdays, or wedding. Property features a children's play house that is a mini version of the main house. Very unique. Price depends on amount of guest and what your needs are. The property has a lagoon type pool with 3 waterfalls, a fire pit, Gazebo Bar, Jacuzzi, Large deck, 2 grills, tree house, play house. Photo's on request by emailing me. 818-508-7618. SEE HTTP://ENCHANTEDMANOREVENTS.COM
You can also see photo's on my website by clicking on "On Location" from the main page.

Of course, I checked out the site, and the place looks like a pretty house. (However, as a voracious online consumer, I really hate the site's design, especially the moving clouds. Yikes.) And actually, the place looks more like an urban bed and breakfast, with daily, weekly and monthly reservations. There's no information available about actually holding a large event like a party or wedding, so again -- bride beware.

One ad was basically the image of a flyer for Matteo's Restaurant. So I did a Google search for Matteo's and found Matteo's LA. (If you decide to click, turn down your speakers if you're at work.) The site itself is pretty nice, the restaurant pictures look cozy and elegant, and the food looks good. (Although, I detest all-flash sites.) When you click on events, they tell you that they can provide decorations, flowers and music for a party of up to 70 guests, apparently, but for cocktail parties, they can accommodate up to 120 guests. And actually, what they're advertising on Craigslist is a wedding/event planners party on May 21st, so if you're planning a tiny party and want little to no fuss, that might be something worth checking out.

Still another ad tells us nothing:




Checking it out via Google, it looks more like a bar/club, than an actual place to have a wedding. Meh.

The other majority of ads on Craigslist are service-related -- makeup artists, photographers and wedding planners. I cannot stress enough -- buyer beware. Its already hard enough getting reliable service from people you find in the Yellow Pages or even from recommendations.

Don't get had -- follow these common sense tips:

  • Wedding coordinators should work for a flat fee, not a percentage of the total cost of the wedding. If they work for a percentage, that's incentive for them to find you even more expensive vendors.
  • Get recommendations for photographers, caterers, limousine services. For florists, ask to check out a wedding they'll be decorating (if they aren't decorating any weddings between now and your wedding, that's not a good sign).
  • Don't pay up front. Duh! Pay in payments, with the balance paid on the day of your wedding.
  • I've seen some experts say that you shouldn't pay cash to vendors. Well, yes, and no. In the case of florists, I'd say cash is not a bad thing, since florists have to go to their flower vendors and bargain. I know this from personal experience. As with everything in life, you have more bargaining power with cash.
  • Make sure you have a contract that spells every minute thing out, down to the labeling of personal flowers.
  • Pick a photographer and videographer you've seen in action (again, recommendations!).
That's all I can think of now, but if you have more tips to add, please leave it in the comments!

Now, I don't want to make you think Craigslist is evil when it comes to weddings. I found this lovely story about a couple that met via Craigslist extend the theme to their wedding:
We decided to take the next step. We started planning our Craigslist wedding. Again, it started as a joke. We were making out (yes, engaged people still do that), and I mentioned how weird it was to be making out with my Craigslist fiancé on my Craigslist couch in my Craigslist apartment. She asked if I got her ring on Craigslist. I responded that I wish I had, I would have splurged on something that wasn't made out of hard candy.

Then it got serious. At the time, we were poor — I was finishing up my last year of law school, and she was an artist — basically, we were living in debt. Craigslist discounts/donations could help defer costs. She's English — the bulk of her family lives across the ocean. Most of them would not be able to make it to our wedding in SF. Craiglist guests could help fill her side of the isle.

Could Craigslist be used to set up a wedding? The same impulse that led me to answer her original Craigslist personal ad led us to give it a shot. You never know. It could be fun, right?

We ran with it. Our first post looked something like this:

"Like weddings? Want to meet some new people? Do you own a suit/nice dress? Can you fake an English accent better than Madonna? Want free champagne and cake? Are you available January 15th? In 500 words or less, describe why you'd make a great wedding guest. Best responses get an extra slice of cake."

First off, let me tell you that San Franciscans are fantastic. We received over 2,000 responses. One man volunteered his restaurant in North Beach for a reception — another volunteered his strip club on Mission for the bachelor party. One woman said she'd baked a 7 layer cake for her sister's wedding, and could do it again, this time with raspberries. Another woman said she was a florist and could get us a deal on flowers.

These four people got extra slices of cake, even though their English accents were, in all honesty, absolute shite.

Our post/wedding became the hottest ticket in town. Two tailors volunteered to help with dresses and suits. Six separate caterers offered to set up a four star buffet. A couple offered to let us borrow a pair of their horses so we could gallop into our new life together after our vows (though we did not borrow the horses, these folks did receive an extra slice of cake which they brought home for the horses, Mandy and Sprinkles).

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Saturday, May 03, 2008

Unusual wedding practices

Photos by Washington Post's Nikki Kahn

A feel-good story in the Washington Post tells us about a couple getting married who decided on an unusual mode of transportation from ceremony to reception -- the subway.

In this era of matrimonial excess, many couples spare no expense to create lavish, traffic-stopping celebrations. They arrive in stretch limos, Hummer stretch limos, even horse-drawn carriages.

But newlyweds Anneliesa Clump and Scott Alprin found a way to turn heads yesterday for $1.65 a guest: They took the Metro, at the height of rush hour, to their reception.

"Weddings get so kind of out of hand," said Clump, 35, a project coordinator at Georgetown University who lives in Cleveland Park. "We're city people, we take Metro everywhere. It just kinda made sense. . . . You know, no fuss."

I love this story! It sort of continues my post from last week about going green, wasting less -- having everyone walk (thus, everyone gets some exercise before chowing down), using public transportation (saving fuel AND money!), and having fun all at the same time, since who doesn't enjoy going places with a big group of people? Plus, what a great ice breaker!

Fresh out of the Sixth and I Historic Synagogue in Chinatown, the couple, along with dozens of wedding guests in suits and spring dresses, hoofed it a couple blocks about 5:30 and entered the teeming Gallery Place Station, which was flooded with weekend-bound commuters and Washington Wizards fans arriving for last night's playoff game.

Clump handled the first obstacle -- the escalator -- with poise. Her veil flapping in the breeze, she hiked up the skirt of her white gown a bit and stepped onto the contraption with her tuxedo-clad groom.

The two began the slow ride underground, the wedding photographer's flash firing while confused and bemused strap-hangers, including work-weary commuters and tourists, looked on with grins. Some yelled "Congratulations!" as the newlyweds passed.

Seriously, what a great idea.

It just makes me think -- what else can a couple do to make their ceremony stand out, yet save money and be environmentally conscious? I can't think of any off the top of my head, but please, if you think of any, leave it in the comments!

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