October 10,2009

How to Survive Planning an At-Home Wedding

Having just come off two back-to-back weddings at clients’ homes (one where it poured buckets and one with perfect weather), the complexities and challenges of at-home weddings are fresh in my mind so I thought I’d share some tips on how to survive. Weddings at your home will always take more planning, more work and, almost always, more money. If you imagined that an at-home wedding would be a way to save money and stress, think again. Unless you are talking a dozen people in your living room with cake and punch, weddings at private homes are usually very involved affairs (at least the ones we do).

First, you need to make sure you have enough space for the kind of party you want either inside your home or in a tent outside. And make sure a tenting professional takes a look at your space to make sure that a tent will fit and that they can get to the area you want to tent. I have had clients have to rip up trees to get tents into their backyards!

Think of how your guests will get to the tent. I have also had clients have to build brick stairs so that guests could get to the tent without killing themselves on sloping ground. If ladies will be standing on grass, consider provding a basket of flip-flops so they don’t spend the whole event sinking into the ground.

Lighting. Remember that it may be dark when your guests leave (or arrive) so consider landscape lighting. You don’t want guests tripping trying to find the way out! With that in mind, make sure your homeowner’s insurance will cover you for any accidents at the event. If in doubt, consider additional event insurance. Check out Wedsafe for reasonable policies.
Power. Don’t rely on power from your house. By the time you get a band, industrial coffeepots and lighting plugged in, you could easily blow a fuse. You will most likely need a generator. Just be sure to ask fora whisper generator so the noise doesn’s steal the show!

Think of parking! If guests will be parking in your neighborhood, make sure to let your neighbors know ahead of time. If you have a field guests can use, it is still smart to hire valet so ladies aren’t trudging through grass in heels and long dresses. You may need permits to park on public streets, as well, so be sure to know the rules.

Think of the weather. If it will be hot, that may mean bugs. Have your lawn sprayed before the wedding to eliminate most of the pests. Also, spray table and chair legs with bug spray to prevent ants from crawling up. Have packets of insect repellent wipes on hand (next to the programs as people arrive for the ceremony, on the bars and in the bathrooms) in case guests start to get bitten.

Hot weather also means making sure you have fans in the tent, plenty of water passed to guests and even paper fans or parasols if guests have to sit in the heat for any length of time. If there is chance of cold, however, consider heaters, sides on the tent and a supply of pashminas for ladies in strapless dresses.
Have a good rain plan. Make sure guests can get to your tent without getting wet and make sure the tent is guttered well so rain doesn’t drip in through seams all night long. Have plenty of golf umbrellas on hand if it looks at all like rain. You can’t stop rain, but you can make it more bearable.
If your wedding will be at your home, you will need to think seriously about bathrooms. Do you have enough? If not, should you bring in restroom trailors? Even if you decide not to do additional restrooms, you should have one staff person dedicated to keeping the restrooms in your home clean: emptying the wastebaskets, wiping down the sink and restocking with guest towels, toilet paper, and fresh soap. Consider an amenity basket for each restroom full of practical items guests might need (bobby pins, mints, safety pins, combs, etc.). A very practical reminder for those with septic tanks: get it emptied before the wedding or you may have an unpleasant surprise on the wedding day.

Security. Don’t keep any valuable out or unlocked. Avoid having guests or staff in your personal rooms but always put any valuables away regardless. If you really want to discourage wandering, ribbon off areas where you don’t want people to venture.
People always forget to factor in the cost of additional landscaping and redocorating that they inevitably do to prepare for the wedding day. I’ve had clients remodel bathrooms, build decks and recarpet entire floors in anticipation of two hundred wedding guests. Also, remember that you will need someone (hopefully not you) to clean the house both before and after the wedding.

It is very possible that your house and/or lawn will be the worse for wear after the wedding is over so be sure to consider the fact that you may have to reseed a lawn that guests have parked on or replant a flowerbed that may have gotten trampled.

Don’t let all the warnings scare you off, though. Home weddings are wonderful and so personal but I think it is good to know the additional challenges so you don’t have any surprises on the wedding day. Have fun!


October 08,2009

Where to Begin… {Amy & Clark}

So, I was at an industry event this past Tuesday chatting with two of my favorite DC photographers, Jennifer & Mary from Love Life Images. I was gabbing non-stop about how much fun I have been having planning my wedding over the last very short, but yet somehow long, very exciting three weeks.

While some of you may have caught wind from our blog that Clark proposed {more to come on the engagement story soon} it has been a whirlwind ever since! Our engagement day truly was the happiest day of my life thus far and without Clark knowing, it unleashed the months of planning that my dearest mum and I have been working on undercover!! Needless to say, it was high time to kick it into gear if I was going to make my hopeful wedding date of March 6, 2010.

Jennifer & Mary told me how fun it would be to follow along on this path of a Wedding Planner planning her own wedding… so, here goes!

First things first. While my engagement came in September, I started having the planning discussions with my mother over the summer in hopes that Clark would ask one day soon. As we hemmed and hawed over details, the day finally came when I had to pop the question to my parents… “What is the budget?” It’s not an easy task of reigning in all the wonderful ideas to the confines of a budget but it must be done! I always advise my clients to define a budget and stick to it. It was time for me to follow my own advice…

The second thing that I always say is a must is having someone assist in the planning who isn’t emotionally attached to all of those wonderful ideas and who can realistically guide you through matching up your dreams while still staying on the right track with funding it all – Hire a planner!

Finally, I had Clark sit down and pick his side of the guest list. {Yes, only his side… I did mine in July!!} This was a lot of fun to do. We both are very fortunate to have both friends and family that are excited to share in this long awaited moment with us! However, Sara has been key in reminding me that our guest count drives budget. Somehow I am having bridal amnesia when it comes to my own wedding and how things work in this process 😉

Must Haves in the beginning:
1) Defined Budget – be realistic about what you can afford and stick to it!
2) Have help in maintaining reality along the way!
3) Define guest list – this will help maintain your budget throughout the planning!

More to come on the fun stuff – event design, wedding gowns, photography, venue, bridal party and men’s attire!

Amy Lorraine


Romance at The National Cathedral {Ashley + Adrian}

A few weeks ago, I had the great fortune to work in one of my favorite places in the city: The National Cathedral. I’ve been doing weddings at The Cathedral for well over a decade now and can’t count how many brides I’ve sent down that magestic aisle. I love the grandeur and reverance of the space; I always feel both humbled and inspired after being inside the Cathedral.
I also love the Cathedral staff. The Vergers know their stuff and working with them is always a pleasure.

If being in the Cathedral again wasn’t wonderful enough, I got to work with the nicest couple you could imagine. Ashley and Adrian were an absolute dream! I started working with Ashley at the beginning of the year and we hit it off right away. We’re both vegetarians who love yoga and animals (Ashley plans events for the Humane Society) so it was a perfect fit. We had the best time running all over to find the perfect reception site (finally landing on the beautiful Strathmore Mansion) and vendors to make her wedding day perfect.

Ashley was such a calm bride. She even calmed the nerves of her soon-to-be stepdaughter right before the long walk down the aisle. Adrian’s three charming children all took part in the ceremony and behaved beautifully. It was touching to see that they all felt part of their new family already.

After the gorgeous ceremony in the Great Choir at The Cathedral, Ashley and Adrian ran outside while guests blew bubbles and dashed off to Strathmore Mansion for the reception. They took photos on the lovely grounds before joining guests inside the house. Sharone from DaVinci’s Florist created the beautiful, classic arrangements in shades of cream and white for the bride and burgandy and celedon at the reception.

Ashley has wanted a reception that was fun and fluid so, instead of seating everyone, we had various size and shapes of tables throughout the mansion (some long, tall share tables and some cocktail tables). Waiters passed small composed plates (mini crab cake with corn souffle, fried chicken on mashed potatoes) to guests and then a main buffet opened. Augie Bove of Strathmore made sure that the food and service were flawless. I love working with Augie!

Guests danced to the sounds of Bittersweet before the bride and groom cut the cake from Just Cakes. Just Cakes also provided the heart-shaped chocolate chip cookies that guests left with at the end of the night.

Special thanks to Joseph Allen for the gorgeous photos. Joseph is an absolute delight to work with and creates such stunning images. It was an honor to be a part of such a special day for such special people in such a truly special place. I really do have a great job! Thanks to Ashley and Adrian for letting us share their joy.


October 07,2009

Photobooth Fun!

At this past weekend’s wedding, we had a very long cocktail hour with which to contend. Since the reception was at the family home/horse farm, we were able to set up croquet and boccie ball on the lawn to amuse people. But perhaps the biggest hit was the photo booth from PoshBooth!
I think photo booths are just the right mix of kitsch and fun at a wedding. Guests love goofing around and taking home silly shots but photo booths are also the perfect alternative to the traditional guestbook. I’m not a big fan of the “sign your name on the dotted line” guest books of old. I don’t know any couple who curls up by the fire to read through a list of names after their wedding. Snooze.
But a scrapbook filled with fun photos of your friends and messages they have written next to them is a different story. The folks from PoshBooth are so nice, the photo booths look great and are easy to use (which is helpful after a few cocktails) and don’t take up tons of space, and their packages are reasonable. So if you’re looking to sidestep the boring guestbook, entertain your guests and provide fun take-away gifts, look no further!

October 06,2009

Fairytale Wedding at The Fairmont

Trina and Gene were such a pleasure to work with. Both are successful and career-minded and, up until they met each other, had not found the time to focus on love or getting married. Meeting through mutual friends and after initial hesitation, they both realized they had an immediate connection. Gene being 42 and Trina in her 30’s (I would never tell a lady’s age), they realized they had finally met their soul mate and 9 months later, Gene proposed to Trina.

Trina, falling in love with The Fairmont Hotel, chose this to be the site of her reception. Cocktails would take place in the loggia and courtyard while dinner and dancing would be in the garden-style Colonnade Room. Working with the amazing Mark Medrick, they came up with a menu that was to die for. They then began working with Janet Flowers to come up with centerpieces, bouquets and other flower accents that incorporated the colors of orange and deep red. Even the cake was adorned with burgandy ribbon. Such gorgeous colors for an autumn wedding!

On the day of the wedding, the bride spent most of the morning surrounded by her mother and bridesmaids in her suite at the Fairmont hotel while hairstylist, Jean of Salon Montage, and make-up artist, Kim Giammaria, worked their magic on all of the ladies. Once the bride was dressed and ready to go, a vintage Bentley, provided by Regal Limousine, whisked her and her father off to Mt. Olive Baptist Church in Arlington for her ceremony.

The ceremony was beautiful and included an organist and three soloists who performed not only during the processional and recessional but also throughout the ceremony itself. After the
ceremony, guests moved to the Fairmont for a stunning cocktail reception. The weather could not have been more perfect and we were able to utilize the gorgeous outdoor courtyard. Guests enjoyed the delicious appetizers and the drinks flowed from two bars.
Once the formal reception began, it was clear everyone was ready to celebrate. DJ Cheryl Brockington, of Mitchell’s Music and Entertainment, kept the guests on the dancefloor all night. Darla of Darla Photography was kept busy capturing all of the special moments of the day. The video of the wedding was taken by Stephen at Video Express.

Congratulations Trina and Gene!


October 01,2009

The Great Sandal Giveaway!

Well, you caught us! Sometimes I just don’t know where the weeks go! Yes, weeks. There is not enough time in the day and then all of a sudden months are flying by. But anyway, back to the case at hand. Thank you to our brides who posted about the fantastic sandals giveaway from Sandals4Events. Congratulations to Angela, you are our winner! Please contact us so we can send you your fabulous footwear!


September 30,2009

Hail to the SugaChef!

You may have noticed that we have quite a few blogs devoted to cakes, cupcakes, and various forms of sugar. We’re big fans. My assistant, Alison, knows more about cupcakes in the D.C. area than anyone over the age of eight probably should. She can tell you who has the best cake to icing ratio, who has the best red velvet in town and who is out of their mind for serving cold cupcakes. It’s both impressive and scary. But at Engaging Affairs not only do we value such knowledge, we embrace it. Which is why I was so thrilled when Padua from SugaChef contacted me about his boutique dessert business.

Padua has created wedding cakes and pastry for one of the area’s top caterers so I knew his work very well already (and liked it a lot). But when he brought over a selection of his desserts for me to sample, from cookies to tarts to cheesecake, I was blown away. It’s hard to pick a favorite but the bread pudding was surprisingly addictive for something that looked so simple and the apple tart was beautiful and delicious. His cookies were so yummy and the perfect size for an almost guilt-free treat.

We love finding new talent in the event world and Padua is definitely one to watch. He can turn out a fabulous wedding cake and then wow guests with lots of tiny treats (including the ubiquitous cupcake). And since I think hors d’oeuvres and dessert are the best parts of any meal, Padua’s amazing confections are right up my alley!

September 24,2009

August Wedding on the Bay

Well, I admit I have fallen quite behind. I had a huge wedding month in August and have yet to share all of the wonderful details with you. So, here goes!

On August 22nd, Annie and Rob treated their guests to Annapolis wedding weekend that would keep the celebrating going for days. I met Annie and Rob in January and there was really only one issue we had to work with. Very good friends of theirs were getting married Sept. 19th so we had to leave some time before or after that date. So, we started looking at places on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Annie and Rob were coming from NYC and wanted something a bit more slow paced than DC, and we decided on an October wedding date. After reevaluating their guest numbers a couple of times, we determined that their ideal setting was going to be a bit too quaint for their numbers and we had to look elsewhere. The couple finally fell in love with the setting of the Chesapeake Bay Beach Club and decided to nab the only date still available, August 22nd!

The humid weekend began with a rehearsal at St. Christopher’s Church, a newly opened house of warship in Chester, MD. The wedding party boarded the bus to travel over the Bay Bridge from their hotel in Annapolis. The rain came and went while we were inside practicing, and as the night cleared up, the celebration continued with a dinner at Treaty of Paris and drinking in Annapolis.

The morning of the wedding was a humid one but the bridal party was in great spirits as they got ready and boarded the buses to the ceremony. The rain came later, as guests were arriving at the Beach Club but that certainly wasn’t going to start the festivities. The steel drum group, Oasis Trio provided by Bialek’s Music, moved themselves inside and the cocktail hour was hopping

Amaryllis and Digital Lightning made the ballroom look beautifully traditional, but the decor didn’t take away for the beautiful wall of windows overlooking the Chesapeake and the Bay Bridge. Rentals were brought in from Party Rental LTD to finish the look.

A special thank you to Fancy Cakes by Leslie for the wedding cake and grooms cake, a Loyola Grey Hound, Free Spirit for keeping the party pumping all night long, Linder and Associates for the transportation, Jenny Lehman Video for capturing the emotions of the day and Michael Bennet Kress and Associates for the beautiful Images.


September 23,2009

What Makes You Feel Like a Bride?

I got the most interesting phone call yesterday and thought I would share. First, it was from a groom. That isn’t completely unheard of but it isn’t typical. Most of our calls come from brides or their mothers. Then, he mentioned that his wedding was in two days. That got my attention. Lastly, he told me that he wasn’t looking for wedding planning but wanted to know how to make his bride “feel like a bride.” Even though I was juggling about a hundred things to do (this is the Fall wedding season, after all), I thought his request was so sweet that I had to help.
Apparently, the groom-to-be and his bride were eloping (second wedding for both) but the bride had told him (with tears in her eyes) that on the wedding day she wanted to feel like a bride. The groom wanted to make her happy but didn’t know exactly what it takes to make a woman feel like a bride. After bantering some ideas back and forth (and him rejecting my fantasy of sending her to the Mandarin Spa for the day), we decided that a limo ride around the monuments culminating in a picnic with champagne, flowers and gourmet fare would be perfect for them.
This phone call made me think that we all have different ideas of what it takes to feel like a bride. I’d love to hear what yours is!

September 22,2009

Wedding Shoes Giveaway!

It’s the giveaway you have been waiting for! About a month ago I blogged about a great pair of footwear one of my spring brides sported. Now, it’s your turn to win a pair for yourself! Sandals4events are custom personalized sandals great for weddings, bridal and bachelorette events, the honeymoon and then every day use! No more spending tons of money on shoes you will only wear once and will want to take off after the pre ceremony pictures. Flip flops are great for every day, but the pair you wear at your wedding should be a little more special!

So, just send us a comment with you name and be sure to check back on Monday when we announce the winner!