December 15,2008
Monday

‘Tis the Season to Celebrate

It’s comforting to know that in an unpredictable time in our economy people are still celebrating things from the success of what became a troubling year, to the accomplishments of thirty years and even still the obvious holiday season. Last week played host to all of these celebrations and I was able to attend two of them. Congratulations to Martha K. Bindeman of Finishing Touches Events for thirty years of service and friendship to so many in the special events industry. Marty celebrated this milestone Monday evening at the Hyatt Regency in Bethesda with her daughter and grandson in attendance. The evening brought together friendly industry faces the craziness of the fall season has kept me from seeing. The Crystal Ballroom was draped in regal shades of reds and pink. The fare was fun and casual as four different stations offered guests cuisine from sushi and dumplings to French fries with carvings to a Maryland classic, crab cakes. No one could overlook the dessert table after Marty herself gave a ringing endorsement to the chocolate macadamia nut treats. It was an evening to celebrate a truly beloved woman and to toast the future ahead for all of us.

The following evening the Ronald Reagan Building held their third annual Sparkle Lounge holiday event in the Pavilion Room. This event was near and dear to my heart due in part to my wonderful relationship with the fantastic events team there as well as their eco conscious theme for the evening. Everything from the buffalo to the seas bass to the wine that was served came from self sustaining, eco friendly and conscious sources. It’s nice to see so many of our event partners doing their part for the environment. It really helps when collaborating on new menus for our fabulous events. Bravo team! You managed to bring partners from both private social and corporate events together yet again to celebrate the year that was and the new one that will be. Happy Holidays!!

Sara

December 10,2008
Wednesday

A Night with a Top Chef

For anyone who is slightly addicted to Top Chef, you will appreciate my excitement over having dinner prepared by famous chef Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin in New York and Westend Bistro at the Ritz-Carlton Washington DC. I should probably come clean and admit that Chef Ripert did not prepare dinner just for me (although that would be nice). I was lucky enough to be a guest (along with many of the city’s other top event planners) at a dinner hosted by The Ritz-Carlton in Washington DC to showcase Ripert’s new Fall menu.

Let me just say that the Ritz-Carlton knows how to do things right! Using only a portion of their ballroom, they draped the walls from floor to ceiling in chocolate brown fabric and ran a single table down the length of the room. The rich brown linens and chairs from Party Rental continued the look of opulence and set off the stunning white and green floral arrangements from Greenworks that created a virtual runner down the table. Gorgeous lighting added the finishing touch to the breathtaking room. This is my new favorite idea for a unique rehearsal dinner spot! More private than a restaurant and with Ritz-Carlton food and service–what’s not to love?

If the setting was stunning, the food was equally so. Starting with a lobster cappuccino (lighter than a bisque but with lots of chunks of lobster) that I could have happily swam in and continuing with a delightful salad of seared tuna and greens, guests then chose between a butter-light halibut and a rack of lamb that Chef Ripert promised was raised humanely and lived a happy life. The Chef emphasized the use of locally raised and organic food, which is a big plus since Engaging Affairs is going more and more eco-friendly. The meal ended with a heavenly chocolate, peanut and caramel tart.

Chef Ripert was as charming as he is handsome, and more than one woman at the event checked for his wedding ring (there is one). Our hats are off to the delicious Chef Eric Ripert and the amazing Ritz-Carlton staff (we must mention the divine Debrajean Overholt) for an amazing evening. Check out these stunning photos by Regati’s.

Laura

December 09,2008
Tuesday

Washingtonian Shout-outs, Take Two

In our excitement about hitting #1 on The Washingtonian list again, we forget to include some very worthy colleagues in our shout-outs. This doesn’t mean we don’t love them; we were just too darn giddy!

Kudos to the fabulous folks at Entertainment Exchange for being voted #1 this year. We have used their great bands like Free Spirit, Nightsong and Highway Star for well over a decade now! Another well-deserved shout-out to Design Cuisine for being the top vote getter for caterers. We love working with Christine Cadima there; she’s done so many of our fabulous weddings including one infamous one on a super-yacht during a flash flood. Hooray Design Cuisine!

Congratulations to Instyle Catering for making the list. Denise Thorne is so wonderful to work with and just about the sweetest person on the planet! Also big hugs to Kendall’s Cakes for being the Reader’s Choice. Her cakes are amazing and so is she. We could die happy surrounded by her lemon curd cake. Keep your eye on K. Rose Cakes. We sampled her pumpkin cupcakes at a recent event and were very impressed.

Big congratulations to two of our wedding planning colleagues who made the list, as well. We’ve known Michele Hodges since back in her Car Barn days and her inclusion on the list is well-deserved. We’ve also known Sara Franklin of Social Scene for ages and it’s great to see her on the list, as well. Congratulations ladies!

We have no doubt that we’ve forgotten many more wonderful colleagues so be sure to check out the listings for yourself. Washingtonian Bride and Groom magazine hits newstands on December 12th and will contain the full list as well as two real weddings from Engaging Affairs! Don’t miss it!

December 05,2008
Friday

Cecily and Ari

My fall wedding season ended with the most perfect weekend for an outdoor wedding. After a cold, rainy week, the skies cleared and the air warmed as the temperature reached into the low 80’s on Saturday, November 1st.
The wedding took place at a private home in Fairfax Station, VA. After a romatic late afternoon ceremony under a tent, guests enjoyed cocktails on the deck and around the pool as the sun set. Guests were then invited into a clear tent where they were enveloped by the amazing changing colors of the trees above them for dinner and dancing. The bride and groom literally danced the night away under the stars!

The space sparkled thanks to Sugarplum Tent Company, Digital Lightning and Yellow Door Floral Designs. Occasions provided the cuisine- my favorite was a first course of grilled cheese, tomato soup and bouquet of lettuce. How fun! Thanks to Free Spirit for keeping the dance floor packed, and to Justine Ungaro for the amazing images.

A highlight of the evening was one of the best “speeches” I had ever witnessed, as it turned into an interpretive dance by the siblings of the groom. So creative! As a parting gift, guests were given personalized Starbucks travel mugs with diamond ring key chains inside, a subtle reminder of how the groom popped the question. It was an enchanting night for all!


Stay tuned for more over the winter slow-down and a full spring of great events!

Sara


Friday

And There Was Much Rejoicing!

We were thrilled to find out yesterday that Engaging Affairs was named the Top Vote Getter among wedding planners in the Washingtonian Wedding Survey!! It is always such an honor to be included in the list (and even more exciting to come out on top) because it is a list voted on by our industry peers. We are so thrilled that our colleagues love us as much as we love all of them! A huge thank you to everyone who voted for us. We truly appreciate your support. You all make our jobs so much easier and loads of fun. We couldn’t be a success without each of you!

It was fun to see some of our favorite folks on the top of the list with us. Kudos to the fabulous Greg Gibson, ranked #1 photojournalist; Martin Andrews and the great team at Blue Sky Films for winning top videography honors; our buddy John Farr for the best lighting in town; the stunning Kim Giammarria for stunning makeup; the amazing Giselle for breathtaking hair; the super-cool Ray Bialek for super bands; the truly talented folks at Occasions for best catering (a big shout-out to Joel); the amazing team at Hitched (including our own Alison Ross) for the best wedding gowns in town; the lovely Caren Milman for calligraphy; the incomparable Chris Laich for best DJ; Amaryllis for truly gorgeous flowers; Fancy Cakes by Leslie for amazing cakes; Creative Parties for cutting-edge invitations; the fabulous Davis Richardson and his team at Sugarplum for the best tenting in the city; Atlantic Valet (we love Donna Chin) for flawless transportation and valet; and Steele Stevenson at the Willard for the best hotel for brides.

There are so many great folks on the survey that it would take all day to list them but check out the list for yourself. Of course, not everyone we adore is on the list. We still have some hidden gems. While we would love to keep them to ourselves, we know it is only a matter of time before they hit the list and the big-time, too.

We also want to give a huge congratulations to our fellow wedding planners and good friends Pam Barefoot and Jamie Sears for making the list. Well deserved, ladies!

November 11,2008
Tuesday

Cupcake Love . . . Not War

Over here at Engaging Affairs, we love cupcakes. And not just because D.C. has finally followed the trend in LA and New York with a new cupcake shop opening every weekend (or so it seems). And not only because a cupcake is just big enough to satisfy a sweet tooth without having to break out the “fat” pants. As one of our grooms put it so eloquently, “Who doesn’t love a cupcake?”

Cupcakes are nothing new in the wedding world. We’ve been doing cupcake towers in lieu of wedding cakes for years but now we can feed our cupcake habits at a moment’s notice. Our only beef with the cupcakeries is that they close too early! Cupcake cravings don’t stop at 7pm, you know.

We’ve taken note of The Washington Post’s recent “Cupcake Wars” and thought we should add our own kinder, gentler words. As true aficionados (and self-proclaimed experts on cake after eating more than our fair share of wedding cake over the years), we’ve come up with our own reviews of the area’s cupcakeries. Please note that these are completely personal and totally unscientific. Some cupcakes are from bakers without retail shops but they all take orders. We’d love to hear other reviews and opinions (or tips on flavors to try)! And if we have left out a cupcake shop, please forgive us (and for heaven’s sake, let us know where it is)!

Baked and Wired (http://www.bakedandwired.com/): Every time we’ve tried, they are sold out! But one of our brides swears by the red velvet.

Baltimore Cupcake Company (http://www.baltimorecupcakecompany.com/): Really fun, creative flavors. Lots of icing (which can be a plus or a yuck, depending on your fondness for frosting). One of our testers loved the chocolate chip.

Cakelove (http://www.cakelove.com/): We think being given a cupcake cold and told to wait for it to warm up for fifteen minutes isn’t all that realistic. Our unscientific polling has found cupcake buyers not to be known for their self control. And cold cupcakes? Yuck.

Charm City Cupcakes (http://www.charmcitycupcakes.com/): Not to be confused with Charm City Cakes from The Food Network lore. They are seriously yummy cupcakes. The cake is moist, the icing is delicious and there is the perfect balance of both. We loved the lemon and the orange! One of our favorite couples chose these for their wedding after sampling just about every cupcake in town.

Couture Cupcakes (http://www.couture-cupcakes.com/): These cupcakes are gorgeous. We tried a good chocolate cupcake.

Fancy Cakes by Leslie (http://www.fancycakesbyleslie.com/): One of our favorite wedding cake sources for years, Leslie has just opened a retail shop in Bethesda. We recently had her excellent chocolate cupcakes with a praline icing–yum!

Georgetown Cupcake (http://www.georgetowncupcake.com/): We love the Vanilla2 cupcake and the chocolate hazelnut. The cream cheese frosting on the vanilla is fab!

Hello Cupcake (http://www.hellocupcakeonline.com/): One of our Engaging Affairs testers lauds the Black & White as the perfect cupcake! She also loves the 24 Carrot and Vegan Peanut Butter Blossom. She also has been known to eat an entire 6-pack of these cupcakes in one sitting. We are very proud.

K.Rose (http://www.krosecakes.com/): We could have eaten a dozen of the pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. We didn’t, but we could have. Seriously delicious.

Kendall’s Cakes (http://www.kendallscakes.com/): One of our favorite wedding cake bakers also makes kick-ass cupcakes. We could die happy surrounded by her lemon curd cupcakes.

Lavender Moon Cupcakery (116 S. Royal St., Alexandria–no website): Get them fast! When we dropped by in the afternoon, they only had a handful left. The coconut cupcake that one of our unnamed tasters ate in her car before she got home was seriously fabulous, though. And, no, it wasn’t the same person who can eat six cupcakes at a time. Another plus: they try to use organic, local ingredients.

Patty Cakes (703.354.0677–no website or storefront): We swooned over the carrot cupcake. So did our three-year-old. Carrot cupcakes count as a vegetable, right?

So let us know what you think!

June 23,2008
Monday

Esprit Ecstasy!

Okay, maybe not ecstasy but that sounds better than “pretty darn excited.” I just found out that I’m a finalist for the International Esprit Award for Best Wedding of the Year (Budget over $200,000) for “A Red Hot Wedding.” Woo hoo! “A Red Hot Wedding” already won the Capital Award for Best Wedding of the Year and now it’s on to the big league. My competition is a pretty over-the-top wedding from Canada so fingers crossed!

“A Red Hot Wedding” was the wedding of Sasha Lewis and Chris Heinz that took place last February. The ceremony took place at St. John’s across from The White House and the reception was held at the Mellon Auditorium. It was an unbelievably gorgeous and unbelievably complex event (and also unbelievably cold) with vendors flying in from all over the country to bring it together. In the end, I had five assistants to help me handle the nearly 450 guests (not to mention the incredibly complex seating arrangements).

Here is the Dream Team from the award-winning bash:

Ceremony Site:St. John’s Episcopal Church

Reception Site:The Mellon Auditorium

Caterer:Occasions (Joel Wolke)

Event Designer and Florist:Van Wyck & Van Wyck

Photographer:Denis Reggie

Videographer:Jenny Lehman

Staging and Sound:All Stage and Sound

Band Backlines:Drums Unlimited

Fabric Draping and Kabuki Drop:A Vista Design

Piano Rental:Jordan Kitts

Dinner Band:Bob Hardwick Sound

Dancing Band:Tainted Love

Cake:Patty Cakes

Lighting:Atmosphere

Tenting:Sugarplum

Valet, Shuttles and Limos:Atlantic Valet

Bridesmaids’ Hair and Makeup:Andre Chreky

Rentals:Party Rental and Perfect Settings

Plant Rental:Plants Alive

Babysitters:Wee Sit

Museum Tour:National Gallery of Art

Welcome Cocktail Party Flowers:Helen Olivia

Welcome Party:Four Seasons Hotel

The winner is announced at the end of August at a big banquet so wish me luck!