Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Real Wedding Inspiration: Blending Eastern & Western Tradition

A few months ago, I shared a behind-the-scenes sneak peek from high school sweethearts Kim and Francis’ beautiful summer wedding, which elegantly combined Eastern and Western tradition for a day that was fun, meaningful and memorable for all who shared it. From the bride's stunningly intricate ao dai gown to the Vietnamese Catholic ceremony to custom cake toppers symbolizing the Chinese Year of the Pig, Kim and Francis consistently found ways to honor their heritage while also embracing the Western traditions they valued. 

Coordinating a wedding for such a truly gracious couple was in every way an honor, and that’s why I’m especially excited to share a selection of their professional photos, which were artfully captured by James Le Photography and showcase an all-around amazing celebration. I’ve also included just a few extra shots from my own personal library, highlighting even more favorite moments and lovely details. 

James Le
James Le
James Le
Stephen Walrath
James Le
James Le
James Le
James Le
James Le
James Le
James Le
James Le

Stephen Walrath 
Stephen Walrath

Stephen Walrath
James Le
James Le
James Le
James Le
Stephen Walrath 
Thank you, Kim and Francis, for letting me share your day, and many happy wishes for a wonderful future together!

Ceremony Venue
Holy Martyrs of Vietnam Parish in Arlington, Virginia

Reception Venue
Grand Atrium in Vienna, Virginia

James Le Photography

Floral Design:
Thao Tong

Napoleon Bakery

Amy Ma

Heather & Stephen Walrath

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Hottest Wedding Trends of 2012

It has always been a wedding pro’s mission to bring a couple’s unique vision to life by offering ideas and solutions that are original, creative, cost-effective and more. With today’s media-savvy and detail-oriented couples seeking everything from signature tapas bars to creatively stylized photo shoots and cinematography, pros across the country agree that personalization is key, with out-of-the-box themes, styles and creative details destined to pack a major punch during 2012 and beyond.

“Gone are the days of the cookie-cutter couple,” says LaToya Parnell, owner of Something Blue Weddings in Washington, DC. “They are all about the wow factor, the details.”

Meghan Ely, president of OFD Consulting in Virginia, adds that with the ever-increasing influence of the Internet, it’s important that wedding pros take the time to educate their brides and manage expectations, while still helping the overall vision become a reality.

“More and more, we're finding brides heavily influenced by wedding blogs,” says Ely. “This is great news for wedding pros who love the fresh inspiration, but can also prove to be a headache. Bloggity details, as I like to call them, are sometimes created in the controlled setting of an inspiration shoot, and brides may not realize that these wedding details may not be as easy to replicate as they think.”

Here, a few of the year’s buzz-worthy trends that are impacting everything from décor to photography to stationery and more, complete with inspiring advice and insights from in-the-know pros who are making it all happen.

Design, Décor & Style  

Themed, creative and highly personalized décor is where it’s at for 2012, says Amy E. VanMeter, owner of Amy VanMeter Events in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, who adds that vintage, rustic and whimsical vibes will be amongst those topping couples’ wish lists this year.

“Themes will continue to be pulled together with creative touches that represent the couples’ personalities,” says VanMeter. “The focal points for these creative elements will be escort card displays, guest book alternatives, table numbers and desserts.” 

Brides have also discovered that repurposing vintage items and natural elements into décor can be an inexpensive and fun way to make the day unique, she adds. “I love the use of a window, with guests’ names written on the glass panes, for the escort card display,” says VanMeter. “And for the table numbers, using items like vintage clocks or playing cards adds a whimsical touch.”

Favors can also play into a rustic or natural theme. Caren Richardson, founder of The Favour, expects some of her best-selling items for 2012 to include eco-themed favors that are biodegradable or can be replanted, such as confetti and celebratory poppers, which are the perfect addition to a couple’s grand exit.

Also in keeping with rustic and vintage vibes is the fact that outdoor weddings are continuing to grow in popularity, offering wedding pros a host of options to consider when it comes to tackling décor, logistics and more.

“Outdoor weddings are taking center stage as we head into 2012, thanks in part to the endless supply of alfresco fetes featured in wedding magazines and blogs,” says Ely. “It's going to be important for wedding pros to anticipate this trend and prepare themselves for the types of logistical challenges that brides may not initially consider – from Mother Nature and lighting to noise ordinances.”

Popular décor trends for outdoor soirées include lights in trees, says Sharon Naylor, author of over 30 wedding-planning books, including 1001 Ways to Save Money and Still Have a Dazzling Wedding, whether that means strings of fairy lights to create a magical environment or lanterns hung with metal S-hooks. “I'm also seeing way more chuppahs and trellises decorated with high-quality fabric, with the details in the draping and folds, minus a lot of flowers,” she says. “Many have no flowers, but have instead some subtle touches of crystals for sparkle.”

Brides are also once again investing in the production piece of the wedding – from lighting to event furniture, adds Jennifer McBride, owner of McBride Events in Virginia. “The standard polyester linens provided by the venue are just not going to cut it anymore,” she says. “The good news is that these details are no longer an afterthought, but instead a pressing item on the wedding to-do list. Wedding pros need to rethink their planning timeline to ensure the production piece receives attention sooner in the process.”

Pete and Liliana Wright, owners of Virginia’s PW Photography, agree. “As brides look to add their own personal touches to make it feel unique,” say the Wrights, “they are looking for the large items that everyone sees immediately, like event lighting and large centerpieces, as well as the little signature details that really make the room special.”

Details surrounding texture will be a dominant feature at 2012 weddings, adds Parnell, with linens showcasing such decorative details as petals, gems, appliqués, ruffles and lace, and creative color schemes showing off vibrant jewel tones and eye-catchingly unique combinations.

“Colors are all about the personality of the couple,” she says, noting that combos of deep purple and silver, yellow and silver, and red and blue will be popular choices, along with palettes that feature burnt orange, sage green, pale pink, gold, and the ever-classic black and white.

Non-traditional blends of color, including yellow and purple, orange and pink, and blue and purple, will also be seen paired together in floral arrangements, says Daevid Reed, owner of Virginia Beach-based Daevid’s of Norfolk. While traditional 2012 brides may seek a little touch of sparkle by adding crystals to English garden-inspired florals, he says, modern-minded brides will likely choose a more monochrome look with accents of jewel tones for a lively pop.

The use of color is additionally making an impact when it comes to 2012 wedding gowns, adds Lerkia Lee, bridal image consultant at Modage in Laurel, Maryland, citing Vera Wang’s collection of stunning black dresses and Monique Lhuillier’s blush-hued styles, both showcased last fall at Bridal Market in New York City.

“If I had to sum up my thoughts on the bridal collections I saw, the words would be modern, refined elegance and femininity,” says Lee, who notes that such accents as hand embroidery, heavy beading, silk tulle, French vintage lace, embellished sashes and lace sleeves are all popular enhancements.

Statement accessories also provide a personalized touch, she adds, taking note of trends surrounding the use of vintage hair clips and headbands, vintage cocktail rings and pavé bracelets. “Birdcage veils are totally here to stay,” Lee says.   

Photography, Cinematography & Entertainment

Vintage vibes and personalized flair aren’t limited to the design, décor and personal style aspects of a wedding, with everything from black-and-white images to stylized photo shoots currently topping the charts.

“Black-and-white photos are all the rage,” says Naylor, citing statistics from The Wedding, which indicate that over 60 percent of couples want at least some of their wedding photos to appear in black and white, allowing them to later mix these classics into albums or choose some for enlargement and framing.

In some cases, couples are even adding a vintage touch during the wedding itself by displaying classically themed engagement photos or old-school shots of relatives and friends. “I love the Old Hollywood touch at the reception by displaying a large black-and-white portrait of the couple,” Naylor says. 

While some couples are turning their eyes to the past, others remain firmly grounded in the present, with less interest in receiving physical prints and more focus on multimedia components, including slideshows that infuse both photo and video elements for a one-of-a-kind result, says Damien Smith, owner of Damien Smith Photography in Los Angeles.

“In my business, I've seen an increasing expectation for these,” he says. “The thing I do for my clients to enhance the multimedia experience is to provide a digital copy for their iPods and digital media players. This way, it's easier for them to share on Facebook with family and friends.”

Interactivity and multimedia also extend to the wedding day itself, Parnell notes, citing the use by DJs of such creative features as light shows throughout the evening.

Also incredibly hot with today’s brides are creative shoots that extend beyond the wedding day itself, including post-wedding rock-the-frock sessions and boudoir shoots as a special bachelorette party treat for the bride and her friends.

“The millennial generation loves to be seen, and with the invention of reality TV, everyone wants his or her 15 minutes of fame,” says Olesha Haskett Basma, owner of Oh!Boudoir Photography in Baltimore.

Rock-the-frock-style shoots, the Wrights add, give the bride an opportunity to expand beyond traditional-themed portraits and instead enjoy a session that truly allows her to let loose and express herself, without actually “trashing” her dress.

While traditional photography undergoes several creative twists, wedding cinematography is gaining enormous popularity, and accordingly, the number of studios that offer modern cinematography services is growing to meet demand, says Karyn Reohr, founder and chief creative officer for Black Label Event Films in Portland, Oregon.

“Cinematography is in higher demand, while documentary-style videography is on its way out, though it will continue to have a place with the budget bride for some time,” she says. “Wedding pros of all types, but especially event planners and photographers, should prepare for this trend to become a mainstream concept.”

When it comes to the relationship between photographers and cinematographers, adds Reohr, “it is our joint responsibility to ensure that our clients receive maximum return on their investment from both photos and film, and we should work to co-market the two mediums as a complete wedding day memory package.”

McBride agrees that she has seen an increase in the inclusion of wedding films and the addition of same-day edits as a special touch to impress guests. “Wedding cinematographers are every bit as important as the rest of the wedding-day team,” she says, “so I always encourage my planners to make sure they've dotted the I's and crossed the T's with any additional logistical items.”

Catering & Cakes

While ever-popular dessert bars can enhance the overall look and feel of an event, what about the couple who wants in on this hot trend, but also still wants to showcase a classic cake?

A popular trend for 2012, says Kara Buntin, owner of A Cake to Remember in Virginia, is the inclusion of a dessert buffet alongside a smaller wedding cake. “The display can be set up with the cake in the middle and smaller desserts placed around,” she says.

And while some couples are going smaller, others are going all-out with taller and grander designs likely influenced by last spring’s royal wedding, which featured a stunning eight-tiered masterpiece. 

The tall look, says Buntin, can be achieved by either using double-tall tiers or a combination of regular and taller tiers. “The irregularity of tiers that are different heights will give the cake a more modern look without getting too far away from tradition,” she says.  

Of course, cakes and desserts aren’t the only elements on display when it comes to food options, and tapas bars are another big hit for 2012, says McBride. “Say goodbye to food stations – that means you, mashed potato bars – and say hello to tapas bars,” she says. “Brides are having fun with food, so it's important for wedding professionals to stay current on culinary trends. Remember, a fruit and cheese display is an easy addition to the menu, but it will be the hundredth time the guests have seen it.”

Also every bit as important as the food choices, creative signature drinks have the power to not only “wow” guests, but to also make it seem as if the couple has spent more than they actually have, adds Naylor. “I'm seeing a lot more sangria in beautiful deep red shades, or pale peach, served in gorgeous glass pitchers,” she says. “It gives the guests something unique to drink that they wouldn't otherwise make for themselves. Champagne punches are also a big draw.”

Stationery & Invitations

Since today’s wedding trends are dictated more by personality than tradition, this approach is also reflected in the types of stationery couples choose, says Debi Sementelli, owner of Lettering Art Studio in Carrollton, Texas.

“Calligraphy, vintage and retro continue to be sought-after looks,” she says, adding that bold color combinations and the use of unique materials, such as fabric, wood and acrylic, are popular ways to create a signature style. “Overall, there is a great sense of fun in the out-of-the-box approach to weddings.”

With the increasing popularity of stationery blogs, plus the ease of sharing inspiration on the Internet, customized and non-traditional invitations are becoming ever more popular, adds Tracy Osborn, founder of

The hand-lettered trend is perfect for infusing a beautifully organic feel, she says, while wood veneer and watercolor-inspired designs offer the perfect complement to creative themes, including those which feature rustic, natural and artistic elements.