Thursday, July 31, 2008

In memory of the wedding decorator

My mom, who taught me all I needed to know to be creative, intelligent and successful, passed away last night. She was diagnosed with stomach cancer last year and has been fighting ever since. I thank God she's now delivered from her pain and suffering, but mourn the loss that she means to my life, my sisters' lives, my brother's life and all our friends and family beyond.

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Need to cut down on your wedding costs? Get away and get married!

Photo by Flickr's willshoot

I'm a big fan of personal finance stories in the Washington Post, so I was pretty interested in this article recently that some brides are saving money by having a destination wedding. To me, that seems counterintuitive -- wouldn't having your wedding somewhere else make the costs skyrocket? But I make sense of the entire paradox -- eventually.

The biggest cost of a wedding is people -- bridesmaids, groomsmen, sponsors, guests. Most people would invite everyone and their mommas, daddies, nieces and nephews, if you think about it. So by having your wedding in some exotic locale, say Maui like in the photo above, you end up pre-excluding some because a lot of people usually can't afford to fly somewhere, put themselves up in a hotel, and give you a gift. That's just reality.

From the article:

These unromantic downers are forcing couples to take a hard look at what they're spending on their special day. In many cases, the new economic reality means downsized ambitions. Couples are scaling back on their guest lists, replacing filet mignon with chicken, and crossing out honeymoon plans to Italy because of the sinking value of the dollar. Some are choosing exotic destination weddings instead of hometown fetes to keep their guest numbers low. Others are making small cuts where they can: getting professionals to print invitations but stuffing envelopes themselves or replacing expensive peonies with cheaper roses.

Richard Markel, director of the Association for Wedding Professionals International, estimates that couples are spending $1,500 less this year on the average $28,000 wedding.

Tough times also are hitting wedding vendors: photographers, caterers, planners. "People are coming in with smaller budgets, but we're trying to make the most of what they have to still give them a special experience, and if that means losing $100 to $150 for us because of the cost of a better quality of meat, that's okay for us," said Dan Capobianco, president of American Catering in Centreville.

Experts say there are many ways to cut wedding costs. "This is the time to prioritize what you need and realize that there is always something in your budget" to economize, Markel said.

The article continues on to say that hometown celebrations often come with guest lists of 200, 300 or more, but when it comes to destination weddings, it mind end up being 50. That's a lot of $100 dinners you're cutting from your wedding budget. Read the whole thing its very enlightening.

Anyway, there's another plus. If you bring your wedding to one of these resorts, chances are you won't need decorations. I know, I know, as a former wedding decorator I shouldn't be advocating for no decorations. But I'm also in love with the beauty of nature. And if you've got a view like the one from the pictured Maui wedding, you really don't want any flowers distracting from the simple beauty of your surroundings.

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Decorating with fabric: tulle vs. English netting

When I was decorating weddings, my weapon of choice was always fabric. A variety of fabrics, actually -- English netting, organza, sequined fabrics, whatever I could get my hands on. But it seems there is a lot of confusion when it comes to whether you're looking at tulle or English netting.

To me, the distinction is easy. Above, I used English netting on this cake table for my friend Cathy (for whom I was a bridesmaid). English netting is soft to the touch, it floats, flows and hangs easily. English netting, in my experience, has been best used for accents to more high-impact fabrics like organza. English netting is what you might actually wear, its so soft and nice to feel against the skin.

Photo by Flickr's Kyrielle

I believe there are many different types of tulle, and above is an example of what I call a crunchy variety. Tulle for many brides can be preferable -- its cheaper and its easier to mold. Its often used for giveaways and favors like this one.

Photo by Flickr's Details of the Day

Fabric is probably most often used for draping along the aisle for the ceremony. Even in a case like this, I like using English netting more than tulle, even though tulle might behave better. However, when decorating with fabric outside, just beware the wind -- fabric is still fabric and it can act like a sail in windy conditions.

I have generally used English netting sparingly, but it can be very pretty when used in excess, like the gazebo above. A set up like this is not difficult, even for you DIY brides -- buy a couple dozen yards of English netting (seriously), attach one end to the top, let it fall to the ground, and loop it back up. Repeat as many times as the fabric will allow and feel free to vary the lengths. But I gotta say, recreating a set up like this one will require several yards of English netting, and it can get expensive. Maybe try different fabrics.

Photo by Flickr's mcwaneevents

Check out this ceremony set up. Spectacular, no? Ceiling and wall decorations, however, take a lot of time, so remember that when you're booking your site, if this is the type of decor you want. The fabric hanging from the walls and ceilings of this tent have to be English netting because I don't believe tulle can hang like that. Or maybe it can, but you probably have to shell out for the more expensive varieties. Don't forget to check out that pretty little backdrop. I believe those are stargazers and gerber daisies hanging along the backdrop.

Now, I need your help. I have tons of pictures but am unsure of what y'all want. Do you want to see more pictures of tulle, English netting, organza, etc? Do you want to see more about individual flowers? Or do you like the weird wedding asides? Let me know, because if not, I'm just going to keep doing what I'm doing.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Call for girlfriend getaway and bachelorette party ideas

This is not really in the realm of wedding decorating, but still -- its all creative ideas, right? A friend of the wedding decorator, Amy Chen, is an assistant editor at Budget Travel magazine and wants ideas for girlfriend getaways and bachelorette parties.

Photo by Flickr's n1kk1best

Her asking me was basically her first mistake, since I've only been an active member of a bridal party twice, beyond my stints as a flower girl. So, I have no idea. Basically, what she's wondering is: what would you like to do like to do with your girlfriends beyond wine tasting and spa treatments.

Anyway, the Girl Getaways site is actually chock full of cool ideas. And because they're ideas from Budget Magazine's staff, they're budget minded -- thank God! Because from my most recent experience as a bridesmaid, I was shocked at how expensive being a bridesmaid can be. I don't know how you repeat offenders can afford it! I don't even know how repeat wedding guests can afford it!

At any rate, Girl Getaways did have one really cool bachelorette planning article recently. I swear I wanted to send this to every bride-to-be (and a few former brides) to demonstrate that you could do a whole heckuva lot more than just go to the spa and get sloshed. Their best idea? The Beach House Rental:

Dive in by determining what's most important to you. For the house: Is there a private pool or hot tub? How many bedrooms and bathrooms will you need? For a group of women, assume that no one wants to share beds and figure on one bathroom for every four people. For the location: Keep in mind you'll need a break from the sun, and zero in on communities where you can walk to shops, galleries, restaurants, and bars, or join a lively boardwalk scene.

Beachhouses in high season are generally rented by the week, so you'll find a better selection of weekend rentals in shoulder season (May or September in Cape May, N.J., or April in North Carolina's Outer Banks, for example). Locales with lots of housing stock also work well for a weekend rental; you may not be able to find a weekend rental in Martha's Vineyard in July, but you probably can nab a lovely place in Myrtle Beach or Hilton Head, S.C.

Work out how you're going to handle chores like cooking and cleaning ahead of time. Many rental services build in a cleaning fee or let you add a cleaning service for an additional charge. If none of you are inclined to spend time in the kitchen, look into hiring a personal chef or assign a team to breakfast, another to lunch, and agree to eat dinners out.

Have some activities like beach volleyball and Frisbee on standby for those who can't sit still and, in case the weather doesn't comply, be ready with board games, a poker set, or guilty-pleasure movies and popcorn.

Something Extra Hire a yoga instructor to lead a group class on the beach. There's nothing like doing sun salutations in the sand while facing the wild blue yonder. Call a local yoga studio or try
My contribution to this idea? Reserve a Crystal Cove Beach Cottage. Sigh. Can you imagine how restful and rejuvenating your bachelorette party could be? Ahhh. That's my kind of party.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Transportation gets cut from the wedding budget first

So if you were wondering what to cut from your mutating wedding budget first, here's what everyone voted on what to snip first: transportation. In most cases, this means that stretch limo, Hummer, Range Rover, Audi -- whatever. (I really did see a stretch Audi on Flickr.)

Photo by Flickr's philippebierny

So what does this all mean for you brides who must still get from Point A (the church) to Point B (the reception)? It could mean any number of things. Heck, it could mean a golf cart for you and your new hubby. This may be a little too out there for some, but if you happen to have your church and your reception in a relatively small, low-trafficked city, I think it could be a fun option -- sort of like the whole horse carriage thing, without the horses. Imagine all the fun you'll have waving at drivers as you go!

Photo by Flickr's urbanshutterbug

Trains seem to be a very popular option. I'm a big fan of trains myself, even though I'm from Southern California -- as a license-less college student, I used to haul train from Orange County to L.A. every day. That's another story. This appears to be an Amtrak train, and Amtrak just happens to have a page where you can request group reservations for 20 or more. Of course, you never know if they're going to stick it to you or give you a discount for a big group. If this is something you do, let me know.

Photo by Flickr's ohdebbieo

And, as I noted before, subways are an environmentally friendly and inexpensive option. I'm not clear if the photo above was taken in France, though. Anyway, this would be a great option for someone getting married with good public transportation. Here in Los Angeles, that might be a tad difficult -- maybe it could work if you were getting married at Our Lady of the Angels in downtown and having a reception at, say, the Renaissance at Hollywood and Highland or the Sheraton or Hilton at Universal CityWalk. Of course, then you have to wonder -- what will the guests do with all their cars? Yeah.

Photo by Flickr's coach_stacey

The above photo is a bride (rocking a non-white dress, no less) and a canoe! Now, I don't know for sure if they were being taken to their reception, but it is labeled wedding transportation. At any rate -- how cool is this?? I would love to be rowed across the lake to my reception.

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Friday, July 18, 2008

Wedding cakes of cheese

Here in America, I think wedding cupcakes are the alternative du jour to a full on wedding cake. But is that true?

Photo by Flickr's honto

Because, apparently, wedding cakes made of cheese are taking New Zealand by storm, according to this article. Hat tip to Doris for finding it!

Photo by Flickr's

From the article:
Canterbury Cheesemongers co-owner Sarah Aspinwall said the wedding cheese was a growing trend overseas and, in New Zealand, was requested mainly by couples returning from their OE.

"I guess some people don't like traditional fruitcakes very much and perhaps have a real passion for cheese," she said.

"It is a delicious thing to have at the end of a big feast, rather than something sweet."

The cake is made by stacking an assortment of round cheeses to resemble a traditional cake, and is served with crackers and fruit.

That appears to be the case with both above -- pretty simple wheels of cheese stacked on top of each other, or in the case of the second picture, four quarters of different cheeses laid out to form one wheel, plus another wheel of cheese on top. But don't think cheese can't be decorated. Oh no.

Photo by Flickr's emilykreed

Hopefully, this couple doesn't mind being on this blog, but they are standing in front of one impressive cheese tower there. Its decorated with all kinds of colorful fruit, what looks like salad greens and bright flowers. However, I wonder how hard it must be to cut the cheese? (Hee, hee, I couldn't help it. Sorry.)

Photo by Flickr's Miss V Lemon

Here's another pretty impressive multi-tiered cake of cheese. I couldn't even tell you what kind of cheeses those were. Those round fruits that are whole and cut look to be figs, plus there are grapes, strawberries and that orange fruit under that extra big thick wheel of cheese. And its all sitting on top of a pretty silver stand.

Photo by Flickr's The Cake Fairy

This cake is a little less like your traditional tiered cake -- it's got a pretty thick base, but appears to be several ingredients down there -- it looks like custard filling the layers of cheese, plus nuts, figs and gerber daisies. Then, a narrow tower of cheese layers topped with what looks like a thick wheel of blue cheese. I may be getting this all wrong, seeing as how I know nothing about cheese. Feel free to correct me in the comments.

Photo by Flickr's rbrwr

This cake of cheese, I think, is my favorite. They used several, visually different wheels of cheese and used very colorful flowers and red cherries to decorate and topped it with Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker. Too cool!

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Wholesale wedding flowers delivered to you

I'm of the opinion that weddings are the type of affair you would like to hand off to someone experienced that you trust. However, I did just up and get married without much fanfare, so take that philosophy with a grain of salt. Nonetheless, if you are the type who taking care of everything herself, then is for you.

In a nutshell, FiftyFlowers can put together together centerpieces for you and ship them to you -- all you have to do is put them on the tables. OR, you can pick out your favorite flowers -- say mini lilies and stargazers -- and they'll cut them and ship them to you, so you and your crew (friends, bridesmaids, relatives, what have you) can arrange them the way you want them arranged.

For example, check out this mini sunflower corsage. They can arrange these mini sunflowers as a boutonniere. Let me tell you, this is useful -- my mom used to say that the personal bridal flowers were the most work, as they are the most intricate of the vast variety of wedding flowers out there. So if you decide to do your flowers yourself, but have to bite the bullet for your personal flowers, this is not a bad way to go.

And while delivery of personal flowers can be a pill (trust me, I was a delivery person many a time), their delivery boxes are impressively well made to keep the flowers safe from being crushed against one another.

They were even bold enough to list their prices right up front -- 20 stems of mini calla lilies for $79.99. And they have a huge assortment of fresh rose petals, ready to ship right to you.

I don't know about anyone else, but I'm a cheap bastard. So I would probably spend the gas and waste my time going into downtown to get my own flowers, if I were so inclined to do my own flowers for my wedding (which, as I mentioned, I was not, but that's an entirely different story). But you might not be near a large flower market like the one available here in L.A., or maybe you want a certain flower you can't seem to find. This is a good option. And, I'll do you a favor.

I have a postcard they were handing out. It says they're giving a Show Special -- 5% off your total order. Just enter discount code: BRIDE. Easy as pie.

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Sunday, July 13, 2008

Don't forget to decorate inside your flower vases

I'm of the opinion that while every flower lover loves a vase, that the vase itself tends to be wasted real estate. Seriously! So let's start using up that vase to make the entire arrangement work hard at looking beautiful.

For example, from a past 25th anniversary celebration, you've got a sprig of yellow cymbidium orchids submerged in water on top of a bed of rocks. Simple, yes? And expensive, too -- a sprig of orchids can run you about $25 each, I believe. Can you imagine an extra $20 per table, in addition to your arrangement. It's just an option, and there are so many more...

Here's another example, from the huge event I stumbled upon in St. Petersburg. Those are pink glass pebbles in the conical vases, and bigger glass pebbles submerged in water below an unlit candle in the cubed vase. Again, simple, high impact, and you add an extra oomph to the decorations. But, wait! There's more!

Photo by Flickr's Flor & Forma

These are really tall, cylindrical vases, but those roses aren't the gargantuan type that would have such straight stems, right? So in the taller vases, it looks as though they wrapped the inside with long, green variegated leaves (meaning, it has the white stripe). I don't remember the name of the leaf, but doesn't it look like that one houseplant so many people have? Simple, huh? The slightly shorter vases look like they've got what could be reeds in it, but I'm not sure. The effect, though, is increased depth and stature to the entire arrangement.

Photo by Flickr's lovyprincess

Fruit is increasingly being incorporated in wedding flower arrangements, and why not? It's cheap, its colorful and its fun. However, I don't know how the acidity of certain fruits, like lemons and limes, might interact with the flowers -- I would imagine that it might decrease the shelf life of the cut flowers, but I have never done an experiment to find out. I'd also recommend possibly working with colorful vegetables, like carrots or eggplant. :) My mom often liked to use green beans.

Photo by Flickr's Tabbi Kat

This might be my favorite vase arrangement. Inside a punch bowl, there's water, some dendrobium orchids, a second vase (presumably filled with another flower arrangement) and a fighting fish! It's awesome. It's fun. And it moves! What a conversation piece. But probably only recommended for the boldest (or most fun loving) of brides.

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Friday, July 11, 2008

Find A Wedding Photographer: Christopher Becker

I am such a fan of photojournalism. Seriously. I've been enamored, sometimes even infatuated, with photographers that I've worked with in the past, they were so effortlessly talented. I like to think I attract similarly talented people. But anyway, combine photojournalism and wedding photography and you've got a recipe for incredible memories for life.

All photos by Christopher Becker

Only because I had a bunch of other posts in the queue, I'm only now blogging about Becker. He's a photographer out of Orange County and he's spectacular. Not only that, he seems to have massive fun as he works. Who doesn't want that at their wedding?

Above, is a wedding Becker shot in Colorado at the Roaring Fork Club (what a great name!). Hehe, with scenery like this, you don't need much in the way of decorations! By the way, you can click each photo for the full size.

I've only been a casual reader of his blog for maybe two, three months now, but the man really has a sense of what to capture. Check out the groom above, seeing his bride for the first time -- I love this photo. Society says men are not supposed to get emotional, but I love the tenderness of the awe and love in his eyes. I don't know about any other bride, but I'd want to engrave that image in my mind forever. This was part of Becker's all-time favorite wedding images post.

Again, here, Becker gives you details that you might miss in the hullabaloo that is most weddings. At this wedding at the Ponte Family Winery in Temecula, you might only focus on the rose petals, the gorgeous skies, the tastefully decorated trellis. But I love the details on the back row -- pink, black and white ribbons tied to the backs of the chairs in the rear. Cute and simple.

Becker, in his favorite wedding images post, said that this one was among his most commented images. I can see why! I love awesome, slice of life stuff like this. What a great story to tell the kids..."kids, when we got married, it was on the beach and it was a beautiful day, and while we were taking pictures, this nude old man walked by and gave us a dirty look..." Awesome.

Anyway, enough from me. If you think Becker might just be the wedding photographer for you, shoot him an email and tell him I sent you. But even if you don't think he's for you, here's what he has to say about choosing a photographer:
i'd say to meet with as many photographers as possible, narrow it down to the ones who's work they admire, then hire the photographer with the best personality match to the couple. after all, you are stuck dealing with your photographer long after the wedding and you are going to want to make sure you like that person.

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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Save money and go green by renting flowers

Have you ever heard of renting flowers? Neither had I, until I came upon Elaborate Floral Design's booth at the BrideExpo show at the L.A. Convention Center. But I kind of like the concept. I mean, what are you going to do with those flowers anyway? You'll probably give away all your guest table arrangements. But if you're like many right now, you're probably looking to save some cash, yes? So rent.

EFD, as I'll refer to them here on out, had some really lovely, simple arrangements. Like the one above, for $25, you've got calla lilies entwined in a shallow glass bowl, with clear glass pebbles and flameless candles in the middle. You're probably thinking, shoot. I could do that on my own. You probably could. But why do you want one (or, depending on the number of tables you have, maybe 10 or 15) more thing to do? You probably don't. Plus, if you want really pretty, spectacular arrangements... this one, it would cost you a pretty penny if you went the traditional florist route. Above, that's a vase topper laden with roses and stargazers and a footer of roses and more flowers (sorry, can't identify the spiky ones). Um, although, I'm not positive that this arrangement is silk... Anyway, this would be a seriously expensive arrangement otherwise. EFD even has season-themed lines of flowers from which to choose from.

In addition, there is the whole bonus of leaving a smaller carbon footprint. According to EFD's site:

We are taking steps to becoming an all green company, here are a few examples of how we are taking action and going green!
1) E.F.D. specializes in renting out silk centerpieces, which not only helps our environment by recycling and re-using but it also helps our economy with our affordable prices.
2) E.F.D. is changing all of our harmful chemical cleaning products to eco friendly and organic cleaning products.
3) E.F.D. is changing how we pay our bills, we will be paying everything online with no papertrail.
4) E.F.D. uses only energy efficient appliances.
5) E.F.D. will be using only compact flourescent lightbulbs.
6) E.F.D. recycles all glass, paper, cardboard, and metal.
7) E.F.D. buys local produce and groceries
8) E.F.D. uses a programmable thermostat.
9) E.F.D. uses energy star electronics.
10) E.F.D. will never share or sell your info to anyone.
You probably never imagined silk flowers for your wedding, I know. But you know what? All that matters is that the decor is still spectacular. And I've seen some silk flowers look pretty damn real -- they just have to be well maintained.

EFD even lays out all the reason:
Our event Rental Lines feature top of the line silk flowers, that confuse the eye, and entice the touch! Not only do our flowers look and feel real, but they can smell real too! Why rent silk flowers? 1) The Budget-you spend less than half the cost of having an all fresh event! 2) The choice- your favorite flower that might be out of season, is not with our top of the line silk florals! 3) The Privilege- instead of waiting until your wedding day to see all of your flowers you get an exclusive look at everything, and get to make any changes! 4) The Look- no matter hot or cold, rainy or humid, the flowers always look great and no wilting! 5) The Experience- with our uniquely designed silk florals we can manipulate, twist and arrange our florals in ways you can not with fresh floral!
Need I say more?

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Saturday, July 05, 2008

Overlooking the ocean at La Venta Inn in Palos Verdes Estates

This may be a little late, but better late than never! (Brides, remember that line when everyone asks why the wedding started so late.) Wedding Decorator pal Doris came all the way from Washington D.C. to take pictures of her friends' wedding just for this lil' ole blog! Well...not quite.

All photos by Doris. Thanks, Doris!!

As the headline suggests, this wedding took place at La Venta Inn. It so happens I have done a wedding here -- a long, long time ago. I remember the place pretty well -- spectacular location, as you can see from the photo of the gazebo, although the facility where the reception is a little tight -- no 500-person parties here! But if you asked me for pictures, I probably lost them. Oops! Not to worry, Doris has swooped and saved the day.

The flowers, I gotta say, are spectacular. Totally bright and eye-popping, perfect for an outdoor wedding overlooking the ocean. Very summery. These lovely flowers were designed by Be Buds Florist in Torrance. Nice job! The photo above, by the way, is a close up of the gazebo's centerpiece, and have a gorgeous variety of flowers -- orange-edged yellow and pink roses, green cymbidium orchids, pink orchids, pinky-green hydrangeas. There's just so many!

The pew decorations are simple but effective -- red and orangey-yellow roses attached to the chairs. Simple, easy, colorful. Ka-pow! Massive impact. Heheh.

I've been meaning to do a post on staircases. Don't ignore your staircases! I love decorating staircases. They add a lot of drama, without needing a lot of decoration. Think of all the bridal magazines you've seen, where the bride's wedding gown train is spread behind her on the staircase. And those staircases don't even tend to be decorated! Decorating a staircase is easy, just like in this photo -- rose petals, a few bunches of roses, and some draping. Easy elegance.

This photo was labeled a tabletop arrangement -- which could mean it was for the gift table, or the sign-in table or a cocktail table. Anyway, here we've got more hydrangeas, more of the orangey-yellow roses and -- are those coffee bean buds?! How cool are those?! They're actually called hypericum berries.

This is the sweetheart table. It's very simple, but in a way, the statement of where the bride and groom are going on their honeymoon -- Maui -- kind of invokes your imagination.

This guest tables appeared to be set with three different styles of vases, carrying three bunches of flowers, although I'm not clear if all the tables had the same type of trio. I don't think that's the case, since in the background, I don't see the big sprig of orchids at that table to the right. Anyway, I like the asymmetry here -- square, tall vase with a green cymbidium orchid sprig in water, topped with a candle, a short cube vase with a bunch of those orangey-yellow roses, and the sprig of bright pink orchids. Really cool. And, I think, looking at the other pictures in Doris' set, there were other combinations for each table.

Last but not least, the cake. A bakery was not listed on the wedding website so I have to assume that La Venta Inn did this cake, and it is so simple and beautiful. As a wedding decorator, I tend to like wedding cakes that are simple so that they can be dressed up with flowers. I mean, look how this one turned out! And the florist left nothing un-decorated -- the cake knives, the wineglasses, everything has blossoms on it. And yet, nothing seems to be dripping with flowers. That's good decorations, my friend.

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Flutist's wedding at the Padua Hills Theater

All photos by FlutePrayer

Apparently, a flutist like FlutePrayer attends a lot of weddings! The same weekend she attended that lovely wedding at the Los Angeles County Arboretum, she played a duet at this wedding at the Padua Hills Theater. I actually am unfamiliar with the Padua Hills Theater in Claremont, so this is a treat for me, too.

The lovely bride and groom walk back down the aisle, happily married. I love that the bride chose purple -- did you see those bridesmaids in front of the gazebo? Purple is such a strong color, plus it denotes royalty. What else could you ask for in a color? It really pops against white, but also looks so elegant paired with silver.

You see what I mean? Purple table cloths and white rose petals? Wow! So romantic. By the way, those glass vases holding up the guest table arrangement look slim and elegant, but they're actually quite strong. I've placed many a heavy arrangement on those vases, but the trick is to place the arrangement without overextending it. You don't want it to tip over into your food.

Ah, and the arrangement itself. Those look like stargazers, pink orchids, pink larkspur and possibly carnations. The overall effect, with the glass reflecting the candles and the purple table cloths (such an easy, yet eye-popping detail) -- elegant.

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