The Secret to Stunning Flowers: A Workshop with Tulipina

Images by Jose Villa

Nothing brightens a space like breathtaking flowers, and nobody does it better than Kiana Underwood of Tulipina. So when Jesse had the chance to team up with her and Jose Villa for a workshop in Mexico, he jumped at the chance. Jesse spent a few spectacular days with two dozen creative minds in Cabo san Lucas, playing with fresh blooms, striking color, and beautiful models.

Centerpieces and personal flowers have never been more striking or more smile-inducing — we’ll let Jose’s photos speak for themselves!

Floral Styling and Design: Tulipina // Photography: Jose Villa // Event Design: Jesse Tombs for Alison Events, Assisted by By Jason Lloyd // Table Settings: Small Masterpiece // Onsite Coordination: Pina Cate // Paper Goods & Calligraphy: Design House of Moira // Artwork: Claire Tollstrup // Hand-dyed Ribbons: The Poetry of Silk // Painted Backgrounds: Valerie Teele // Gowns: Francesca Miranda // Linens: La Tavola Fine Linen // Event Rentals & Furniture: Event Design by Marianna Idirin // Hair & Makeup: Maripili7 // Venue: Flora Farms // Travel Planning: Ever After Honeymoons // Models: Loreto Ayuso and Jeniffer Hijar // Hotel: The Cape Hotel


Want to be the Best Dressed Guest? Here’s How.

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Photo by Elizabeth Messina

The second you get engaged, you’re inundated with questions from your friends and family. How did he ask? When’s the wedding? Where will it be? While most of the questions are easy to answer (especially once you’ve set out invitations!) there’s one that takes a little more guidance: What should I wear?

We always try to keep the dress code clear so everyone arrives appropriately dressed and looking — and feeling — their best, but even something as simple as “Cocktail Attire” or “Black Tie” can still be met with confusion. Enter The Black Tux. This suit and tuxedo rental company was founded to help dress the groom and wedding party, but has expanded to helping dress male guests, too. After all, not many people have a tuxedo in their closet these days, but you can’t just add a bowtie to a black suit and call it a day! We love this service (in fact, Alison’s husband and his groomsmen rented suits from The Black Tux for their wedding, above!) and how easy it makes it for men to arrive at a wedding, dressed to the nines and ready to celebrate. Not only do they offer a wide variety of suits for every dress code, they’ve made it even easier: Check out The Black Tux’s Wedding Guest Style Guide, check out the stylish options available to rent for your next jaunt as a wedding guest, then keep reading for our tips on making sure you’re the best dressed man at the reception — after the groom, of course!

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When in Doubt, Ask.
Did your friends decide to get creative with their dress code? If “Mountain Chic” just isn’t ringing a bell for you, send an email or make a phone call to get a little more information. You could ask the best man or maid of honor or, if that’s not helping, go straight to the source. Just make sure it’s more than a week before the wedding — any sooner than that and your friends will be busy with wedding prep and may not appreciate the extra questions.

Stay True to Your Style.
Is your closet full of color or prints? A black tie wedding doesn’t mean you’ve got to go strictly black-and-white. Rent a tux and invest in a beautiful patterned bowtie and cummerbund set, which will keep your look formal while still letting your personality shine through.

Overdressed is Best.
While “Black Tie Optional” does mean you can wear a black suit without offending anyone, we always say it’s better to be the most formally-dressed person in a room instead of the one who showed up in a sports coat in a sea of tuxedos. Go for a less traditional option (like the Midnight Blue Tuxedo) to expertly embody the dress code.


Florist Spotlight: Kiana Underwood of Tulipina

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Photo by Corbin Gurkin

There are so many pieces that go into the design of an event: Choosing the perfect venue, selecting furniture and tableware, lighting, linens, and, of course, flowers. When it comes to lush, dramatic floral designs that will truly take your breath away, one of our favorite floral designers to turn to is Kiana Underwood, founder of San Francisco-based Tulipina. She has an eye for color and texture that can’t be beat, and we love having her on board to help transform a space into something totally breathtaking. We sat down with her to find out a little more about what she does and why she loves it.

How did you become interested in floral design?
As a little girl, I spent a lot of time in my grandfather’s gardens. He had a huge estate surrounded by gardens, and my mother always kept her own lovely garden – we always had fresh flowers in our home. In general, flowers are an integral part of Persian culture, and being surrounded by flowers was very much a part of my childhood.

What inspired you to start Tulipina? When did you start?
I earned my Master’s degree in International Relations and Economics from a prestigious school in Washington D.C., after which I returned to San Francisco. I began working at Stanford doing research and writing, but it was within a subject for which I had little passion. So when my first baby was born, I decided to stay home with her. But soon I found myself at home with 3 kids under the age of 5. While I absolutely loved having the privilege of staying home with my children, I always felt like I needed something more, something that was just for me – an outlet. That was when my husband suggested that I start Tulipina. For years I had been creating my own floral arrangements for my home and parties and friends and family would admire them, so with the encouragement of my husband, I launched Tulipina in April of 2011.

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Photo by Corbin Gurkin

What do you love about working with flowers?
One of my favorite parts of my business is the creative aspect. I love working with beauty of course, but the creativity that I’m allowed in doing so is a real blessing. I think of flowers as my painter’s palette, and every arrangement as an expression of who I am creatively.
The other favorite part of my work are my clients and students, especially those who truly appreciate my work and seek me out – they make my job very rewarding.

What makes your approach to floral design and arrangement different? What sets the weddings you design apart?
I think that my use of unexpected floral elements and approaches to color are what set me apart. I’m often approached by those who appreciate my work for what it is, and are not just looking for a “florist“ per se, but rather for someone who does what I do creatively.

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Photo by Corbin Gurkin

Do you have a favorite floral aspect to design? Why?
I love to incorporate elements from my own garden – they add a unique element and help the design stand out.

Is there a type of wedding (location, culture, style, etc.) that you’ve never worked on that you would love to be involved in?
In general, I love being involved in weddings/events that step outside the box. I’ve always had a fascination with the Japanese culture and I would love to incorporate my designs with their traditional wedding rituals.Tulipina_jakarta16-012

What are your favorite flowers to work with? Does this change seasonally?
I have many favorite flowers, and pretty much love all flowers and foliage. In autumn I love dahlias and zinnias. In the spring I love peonies and garden roses. Ranunculus and gardenias have to be my absolute favorite flowers, but for very different reasons. I love ranunculus because they are so beautiful and come in so many different shades and textures (and last for a very long time), and I love gardenias for how delicate and aromatic they are.

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Photo by Corbin Gurkin

What about non-floral elements? Are there details you love to include that are unexpected?
I love using fruit branches in my arrangements.

What inspires you?
I’m inspired by music, art, or just a simple walk around my neighborhood.

What do you like to do in your free time?
In my free time I love watching my children play their musical instruments, and I also love playing the piano when I have the time. I also thoroughly enjoy visiting nurseries and maintaining my garden.

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Photo by Sandra Fazzino Photography

What’s a fun fact about you that your clients might not know?
I can speak Farsi, English, Italian, and Japanese (in descending order of proficiency).

What do you wish couples knew before hiring a florist?
I wish couples understood just how expensive flowers are, and the labor that goes into the creation of floral art.

What should couples know about their event or be prepared with when they meet with you for the first time?
They should have a good sense of the overall theme of their event. I can fill in the gaps, but being able to express their likes, dislikes and overall theme is very important to ensuring a gorgeous final result.


Vendor Spotlight: Yonder Design

 

Photo by Josh Gruetzmacher

The first thing your guests will see that truly represents your wedding is your invitation, but these days it’s so much more than a letterpressed card in a pretty envelope. Innovative ideas, unique mediums, and the desire to brand an event has led to a new crop of artisans who are taking traditional wedding paper goods to a new level. One of our all-time favorites? San Francisco-based Yonder Design, the brainchild of Chris and Julie Neubauer. They’ve helped us set the scene for some of the most incredible celebrations, telling a story that extends so far beyond the wedding day. We talked to Chris about why they do what they do, and what makes Yonder Design an event branding service that’s not to be missed. 

What inspired you to create Yonder?

My now-wife Julie and I created Yonder in 2011 as we sought to start a business together that fit both of our skill sets. My background is in print publishing, so paper, ink, and printing have always been very familiar to me. Julie formally studied fine arts and graphic design in college, but found herself in the finance world for almost ten years after graduation. After a few pivots and slight refocusing, we combined our skills and passions and Yonder became what you see today.

What makes Yonder Design different from other stationers?

We don’t actually think of ourselves as stationers. This might seem like a silly distinction, as we create a lot of stationery products, but we really identify ourselves with event branding. Changing the label from stationers to event branding helps get both our teams and our clients thinking in a more unique way, opening up the creative possibilities and removing the limitations of paper and ink.

Stationery is intrinsically linked to paper, but with our approach, the paper often comes second. We like to take inspiration from physical materials and natural elements, then weave them together with paper in a cohesive way throughout an event to represent a motif, place or style.

Thinking differently is made possible by our experience with a variety of production techniques using materials like wood, metal, leather, fabric, ceramics, and more. Like an event planner creates a mood board for the overall look of an event, we do the same thing to create an event’s brand. We believe that cohesiveness of materials, graphics and typography helps to leave a much larger impression on the overall guest experience.

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Photo by Josh Gruetzmacher

What can a couple expect when they work with you?

A couple can expect a highly tailored experience that is unique to them throughout the process. We don’t start from templates or past designs, so everything we create is specific to each client and event.

What type of couple do you usually attract?

We generally attract couples who are looking to make a statement and set the tone for their special event to come. We don’t have a set design aesthetic, so the styles of our couples range dramatically.  

How does your work in branding influence your work as a wedding stationer?

Our branding work and process is like that of many other creative agencies helping the corporate world to build identities or brands, but what is unique is our ability to offer this expertise to our wedding and event clients. Our team is comprised of members formally trained in graphic, industrial, textile and packaging design, as well as marketing communication and copywriting. Because of these diverse backgrounds, we are able to offer our wedding and event clients the same professional quality service we offer for corporate clients on the branding side.  

Extensive research, group conceptualization, sample sourcing, prototyping and design boards may be more common for creative agencies exclusively working to build brand identities at the corporate level, but we bring these same processes and level of thought to our wedding and event clients.

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Photo by Josh Gruetzmacher

What are three things a couple should keep in mind when they’re assembling a suite for their wedding?

  1. Just because it goes in the mail, doesn’t mean it needs to be paper.
  2. Less is more. Limit the amount of text and number of cards or inserts to 2 or 3.  Additional information can be presented to guests online in a far more efficient manner–and you can update minor details on short notice. This also allows more room in a budget to do unique things that get guests excited.
  3. Technology is wonderful… But we’ve found that not all guests appreciate email invitations. If you want people to attend your event and get excited about it, send something unique in the mail

What are the most important stationery vocabulary words that couples should know?

Stock: The paper being used.

#/LB: Paper terminology for the density of paper. When comparing papers of the same style (cover stock, for example) the higher the number, the denser (generally thicker) the paper.

Pantone Color: Digital proofs can be very misleading when it comes to color. Different monitors and displays show colors differently, so what we see on our end, might look entirely different to the customer. To avoid any confusion, we use the Pantone Matching System, which is the worldwide standard in the design and printing trades. You can generally get a Pantone book from your planner or order one online

Embossing/Debossing: Printing method used to raise or lower an image on paper, giving a three dimensional effect.

Die Cut: A die is like an industrial cookie cutter, which cuts paper into specific shapes.  This differs from straight edge trimming, where paper is stacked and trimmed along crop lines.

What should the couple already know about their wedding when they start working with you?

The couple should have a venue booked with the dates of their wedding set, as well as an idea of their budget range.

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Photo by Josh Gruetzmacher

Which trends or details have been popular recently? Is there a color scheme or style that’s a go-to? What about one you’ve been surprised to see take off?

We’ve seen a large trend toward the use of non-paper materials in invitations. I believe we are seeing more of this because of the glut of online stores providing basic paper invitations. Our clients tend to want something that has a lot of finishing details that can’t be ordered online.

A lot of our clients have gravitated to neutral tones or black and white color schemes lately. I don’t know if this is a trend or more of a timeless style. However, most of our clients prefer an icon over a traditional monogram.

Is there a style or design element you’ve always wanted to incorporate into a wedding stationery suite?

We are always interested in working with new and unique materials. Recently, we’ve been really excited about mother of pearl, tortoise shell acrylic and rattan paper.

Describe your dream clients.

Our dream client is simply one that trusts us. They are able to articulate what they do and don’t like and aren’t afraid to say it. We’ll try to push the envelope and present a variety of unique concepts that haven’t been done before. It takes a lot of trust to make this happen.

Do you have any tips for couples to help them narrow down a design, or bring their inspiration to life?

Stop pinning pretty styled invitation suites that were created for other people or just for a photo shoot. Styled invitations may look great for a photo, but consider what the opening experience for your guests will be. Instead, pin isolated images of things that express your interests and taste. Pull from packaging, typography, interior design, works of art, architecture, nature, experiences, etc. Most importantly, look at elements from the venue and the local area. Styled images are great to capture a mood, but not what specific design elements you may care for or that best represents you.

Focus on what you do NOT like and make a list. Eliminating options is a powerful tool!

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Photo by Josh Gruetzmacher

Is there one design you’ve created that made you say “I wish I was invited to this wedding!”? What was it about the stationery that got you so excited?

We worked on a project last year with Alison Events that incorporated moss, cork, acrylic, splatter paint, laser engraving, gold foil, screen-printing, lacquered boxes and much more. The design was unlike anything we’ve ever created for a wedding client. The amount of creativity involved and the challenge of creating production techniques to make it all happen was very rewarding.

What is something about you and Yonder Design that couples should know?

We love what we do and we love our clients. We understand that what we create is not for everyone, but we can create something unique for anyone. Our designs don’t get posted on the refrigerator. They are art pieces that provoke conversation and create excitement for the upcoming event.

When we aren’t in the office, we are most likely out chasing the next storm in search for snow.


Photographer Spotlight: Jesse Leake

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There’s no question that wedding days are incredibly beautiful. From the glowing bride and grinning groom to the flower-laden altar and impeccably set tables, there’s something gorgeous, emotional, and meaningful around every turn. It’s a feeling you’ll want to capture forever, and there’s no better way to do that than by hiring a truly talented photographer. One of our favorites? Jesse Leake. He’s been shooting weddings for almost 15 years, and is an expert at capturing those moments and details you’ll always remember.

Where are you based? I’m based in San Francisco. 

Why did you become a photographer? I’ve always loved taking pictures of the people and places in my life. After spending time traveling abroad and taking pictures during my journeys, I got a lot of positive feedback from others about my work. That inspired me to take my photography to the next level.

What do you love about it? With a camera in hand, I am totally immersed in the moment and encouraged to look for meaning and beauty in life.

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What makes your approach to shooting a wedding different? I approach a wedding as an open observer, there to seek out and document the beauty and feeling of the day in a natural way. I am sensitive to respecting the feelings and nature of my clients.

What medium do you work in? I shoot both with film and digitally. 

When did you start photographing weddings? I started shooting weddings in 2001. While in college, I spent my summers as a wedding videographer. At one of those weddings, I met Los Angeles-based photographer Joe Buissink. Watching him work, I was impressed by his easy-going nature and ability to capture candid moments. Later that night, I looked up his website and the inspiration for my career was born.

What is your favorite moment to photograph at a wedding? I enjoy all of it, but If I had to choose, I would say the couple’s portraits. I enjoy the collaborative process of working closely with my clients, implementing my creative vision and bringing out their natural beauty.

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What is your favorite location to shoot on the West Coast? Can’t beat the Napa Valley – Beaulieu Vineyard in Napa and Santa Lucia Preserve in Carmel are a few favorites.

Is there a type of wedding that you’ve never shot that you would love to shoot? I’d love to go to Europe and shoot a wedding in Italy or France.

Aside from weddings, what else do you like to photograph? I spend most winters doing travel photography, and am excited about my recent partnership with Pottery Barn, where my work is now available for purchase.

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What inspires you? Location, beauty and people inspire me.

What do you like to do when you’re not photographing? I love getting dinner with friends, doing yoga, antiquing, snowboarding, and traveling. 

What’s a fun fact about you that your clients might not know? I’m a juicer. Green juice is my coffee, and what you’ll find in my bag on wedding days.

What do you wish couples knew before hiring a wedding photographer? Take the time to get to know the photographer you want to hire. How much experience do they have? Are they good-natured? Is their work consistent? How good are they in low light? Are they passionate? Be sure to ask to see a full album or gallery from one wedding, not just a “best of” gallery. 

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What should couples know and be prepared with when they meet with you for the first time? Before meeting me, they should have a date and venue decided. They should have an idea of their photography budget and be familiar with my work.


Vendor Spotlight: LOHO Bride

If you follow us on Instagram, chances are you caught LOHO Bride’s takeover back in April. But we couldn’t get enough of this super-chill bohemian bridal salon in San Francisco, so we sat down with owner Christy to chat about her wedding dress-shopping philosophy, what trends she can’t wait to see transition from the runway to the aisle, and what it means to be a bride who’s in a League Of Her Own.

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What inspired you to create LOHO Bride?

5 years ago, I had a crazy wedding season (9 weddings in 8 months!), and became fascinated with the ritual. I’d never fantasized about getting married, but it made me wonder where someone like me would go for a chilled-out, non-traditional bridal experience.

Over a glass of wine, my previous partner (Brittany Castanos of Daughters of Simone) and I joked about the subject, did some research, and started reconstructing and modernizing vintage bridal gowns for women looking for something one-of-a-kind — that’s how Daughters of Simone was born! Brittany transformed the brand into a made-to-order line (that I’m thrilled to carry at LOHO Bride!), but I was still caught up on creating an experience for this niche group of women who often had to forfeit the salon experience in order to stay true to their aesthetic. So I opened LOHO Bride to create a place where the bride I was imagining, inspired by my friends, can come and find a gown and a comfortable experience that fits her personality.

What makes the LOHO Bride experience different from a traditional bridal salon?

Our focus is the personal experience, so the 1-hour private fittings in our studio are extremely tailored to our brides — it’s important that we know who they are before they step through our doors, because we want them to feel as comfortable as possible during what could be a very stressful process. The goal is to make dress shopping a fun, light-hearted part of wedding planning! As long as they leave feeling good and relaxed, we’ve done our job. That will likely involve champagne and a customized playlist, but only if that’s their preference, of course!

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How have you combined a more fashion-forward boutique with the process of shopping for a wedding dress?

We’ve been able to combine the two by committing to who our bride is. We keep our selection edited and tightly curated with the new-age bride in mind, which means she doesn’t have to comb through traditional styles trying to find what she’s looking for. She has an appreciation for the right cuts, fashion-forward designs, rich materials, and something that makes her feel completely her own. She doesn’t let convention get in the way of the look she wants to exude on her wedding day. Authenticity means everything to her, so we keep that attitude while we’re curating our selection.

What can a bride expect when she visits your boutique?

Our brides can expect one-on-one attention, privacy for her group, personal touches, and honest styling expertise. Many brides say that they feel as if they’re playing dress up in their friend’s apartment, which is exactly what we’re going for! We aim to guide them in a supportive way — no pushiness, mindful feedback and the willingness to help them find the right gown for them, even if it means recommending another store who might have what they’re looking for.

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What are three things a bride should keep in mind when she’s shopping for a wedding gown?

  1. Love your body and stay true to what flatters you the best. It’s easy to fall in love with a dress from a picture, but you have to ask yourself if the style of the dress highlights all of your most beautiful features. It’s a tough realization at times, but you’ll appreciate it when you see yourself in photos!
  2. Try to avoid bringing too many opinions with you. It breaks our heart when we see a group tear down a bride’s confidence, or kills the vision/vibe the bride is going for. Bring friends or family members who know your style and who respect that this is your day and your time to shine. Stand your ground!
  3. Don’t forget to enjoy the process! We get it — the wedding industry can be pushy. It’s easy to get pressured into making decisions and spending loads of money, and it can leave you feeling downright confused. We like to remind brides that they’re throwing a big, raging party with their all-time favorite people in the world. Relax and enjoy the ride! We hope that the LOHO experience we provide our brides can remind them of this and keep them centered.

What should a bride have with her while she’s shopping?

Good, positive energy ready to pour into the experience, an open mind, and nude undergarments. If you have these three things, we should be golden!

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Which trends or details have been most popular? Is there a style that you’ve been surprised to see take off?

Forever and ever, I think the low, open back is going to be popular. Who doesn’t love a sexy back coming down the aisle? And off-the-shoulder styles have been glorious options for a bride who wants to show off her collar bones, but doesn’t want to wear strapless.

As for a surprising style — I think the reign of the two-piece has been shocking, but now that I’ve seen it on so many women, I get why it’s popular! High waisted skirts are insanely flattering and the separates look is super inventive and playful — it allows brides to create their own look through layering and mixing textures.

What are some new trends that you’re excited to have in the shop?

Thanks to Solange, the cape has been asked about and we’re excited to have one coming to the shop soon! Dramatic sleeves are also really catching our attention this season, so we’ve picked up some Stevie Nicks inspired sleeves. Last, we’re loving illusion gowns this season, and have recently thrown a few into the mix too!

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Do you have a favorite gown or trend in your boutique right now? Why do you love it?

I can honestly say that I’ve only personally tried on one gown myself and it’s the “Gamila” gown by Houghton. It’s an off the shoulder style, 6-ply silk gown, with cape-like sleeves. I could envision Carolyn Bessette wearing it on the red carpet. I love that it makes a modern, edgy statement, but is still so elegant and timeless. On the dance floor, the sleeves would have such killer movement, which is a major bonus in my book! All in all, it has all the elements and personality that I love about a great dress. It’s especially cool to see the brides who have purchased it evoke a similar feeling once they have it on.

How can brides incorporate ready-to-wear and runway trends into their bridal look?

I think that the rehearsal dinner is a fun opportunity to shake things up with a favorite ready-to-wear look. Accessories and layering can be added to a more timeless gown to give the bride’s look a current feel. And so many runway trends make their way into bridal these days anyway, that I think they’re naturally intertwined.

Is there a venue or location where you’d love to be a wedding guest? What would you love to see a bride wear down the aisle there?

I’ve fallen in love with this wedding venue in Bali called the Bambu Indah. It would pair so perfectly with our Bo&Luca ISRA gown and I would die to see it all come to life!

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What’s a fact about you or LOHO Bride that your clients might not know?

Many clients might not know that I came from a tech background and was working in mobile advertising up until a month before we opened! I’m a big advocate of exploring being an entrepreneur while still having a day job; take the leap of faith when the time is right. I was fortunate enough to get a small business loan through the SBA, but it took years of juggling both my business idea for LOHO and having to pay my expensive San Francisco bills!


Instagram Takeovers, Wanderlust Edition

We’ve had a serious case of wanderlust lately, and our is no exception! Some of our favorite vendors have taken over our account over the past few months, filling it up with beautiful pictures of amazing locations near and far.

Archive Mexico took us to their home of Riviera Maya, filling the frame with some of the amazing pieces available to rent for your own celebration. We wish every rental came with sand between your toes and an ocean view!

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Images via Instagram, courtesy of Archive Mexico

The Venue Report gave us the inside scoop on hot new venues around the world, from the private courtyard at San Francisco’s The Cheese School to Cheval Blanc Randheli in the Maldives. And we’ve officially added Nicaragua to our dream destination list–let us know if you’re heading that way and have something to celebrate!

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Images via Instagram, courtesy of The Venue Report

Once you’ve said “I do” and are ready for a little one-on-one relaxation, Ever After Honeymoons has you covered. Katie stopped by our Instagram page to share some of her favorite global locales, whether you’re looking for a helicopter tour over Queenstown, New Zealand, or sun and sand in St. Barths. Or there’s always dramatic views and elephant rides in Bali!

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Images via Instagram, courtesy of Ever After Honeymoons

Are you ready to hop on a plane yet? Because we sure are!


Vendor Spotlight: Stag Dining

We caught up with Stag Dining this week and got a fun glimpse into the world of catering. Stag never fails to bring a fun touch of edginess and we love them for it! And their dream meal? Amazing….sign us up!

 

 

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Where are you based? San Francisco, CA

 

 

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What do you specialize in? Creative Catering & Beverage Catering

 

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How did you get started?
As a Supper Club, in 2010 Throwing underground dinner parties with our favorite Winemakers, brewers and bartenders

 

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What inspires you/your work?
Nature first and foremost. We also believe that there is a unique power in connecting people through culinary experiences & events. Often times, the event that we are producing is the first opportunity for our guests to step away from their highly connected and device-filled schedule and allows them the opportunity to relax and connect socially in an authentic way.

 

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What’s a fun fact about you that clients may not know?
We started making wine last year. We partnered up with our good friends from Bodkin Wines for a beautiful rosé we call Deerblood and Derby Meritage Red. The fruit is from Sonoma County from some small family farms and is tasting quite lovely. We have always been about collaboration so when the opportunity arose to create food-friendly wines with one of the most up and coming winemakers in Sonoma we jumped at the opportunity.

 

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What is one of your favorite venues to work in and why?
Our Russian River outpost, The Rio Theater in Monte Rio, Sonoma. It’s a slice right out of of Wes Anderson’s imagination on the sunny sandy banks of the Russian River.

 

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Do you see any trends happening in the catering industry?
Away with the white tablecloths! The Craft-Casual approach that is dominating the hospitality scene in restaurants, bars & hotels, is something we are are applying to the mobile landscape (catering and beverage catering).

 

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What’s a dish or meal that you would love to put together if you were given free reign at an event?
Take over a seated section at a major league baseball stadium, serve 9 courses of gourmet-inspired take on baseball food during a game… an event within an event!

 

Tell us the best way to reach you and check out your work.
Instagram: @stagdining
Website: stagdining.com
Tumblr: stagdining.tumblr.com


Vendor Spotlight: Lisa Francesa

When it comes to weddings, as much as we love designing them and personalizing the look, feel, and details—what’s essentially at the core of the event is the start of the marriage. And we tend to leave that to the pros—the talented officiants that help a couple actually get hitched.

Back when Alison did her first wedding in 2002, she worked with Hank Basayne, a sweet man with a very gentle disposition. A man who would walk into the room and make you feel at ease just by his presence. Someone who thought before he spoke, said nice things about everyone around him, and was so calm when things went hectic. And earlier this year, over a decade later, when it came time for Alison to actually be the bride herself, she turned to Hank’s daughter, Lisa. “Lisa is the exact same way as her father. She really listens,” Alison said. “She listens to your story and navigates through everything that is important to you and then she customizes the ceremony to work for you. If you want God in the ceremony or if you want a more spiritual service she caters to your wishes. Markus and I spent about an hour with her on two occasions and she wrote the most beautiful ceremony that was so reflective of my husband and I. She suggested several readings as well that were so on point. Lisa is very special to me and to many of our clients.”

Now that Alison has worked with Lisa as both a planner and a bride, it’s only fitting to shed more light on her ability to create a ceremony befitting of each and every couple she encounters. But first a bit more background…

Lisa Francesca got a voice mail from her father around the time that Alison and Hank started working together. Hank, a humanist minister, left a message saying that he had ordained her online. It came as a surprise to Lisa, though she had shown an interest in ministering and he had trained her over the years, it wasn’t something she expected. After Lisa married a few couples she really grew a passion for it, and the way in which she could bring her writing and poetry skills to the forefront, completely tailoring each service. Now, 80 weddings later, she’s written a book, The Wedding Officiant’s Guide, which will be published by Chronicle at the end of the year! You can pre-order it right here!

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Here, some tips to consider whether you’re the bride, groom, or helping out by officiating for a loved one. Certain ceremony milestones, such as the ring exchange and the recessional when the wedding party walks back up the aisle, tend to stay pretty much the same from wedding to wedding. But you and your officiant or celebrant can often craft a ceremony that is really unique. You can make the most significant changes in these three areas:

Write Your Own Vows
It’s not difficult to write meaningful vows. First, take some time to talk through the vow exchange as a couple: Will both of you recite the same vows, or will you each write your own? If you do the latter, will you show them to each other before the ceremony, or keep an element of surprise? Once you decide, it’s time to sit and reflect with a pen and a piece of paper (and maybe a mug of tea or glass of wine). Start with this simple pattern: think of a few things that you love about the other person. Jot them down. And then, think of a few promises you would like to make to your beloved. It can be very simple, and it must be from your heart. Later on, review what you wrote and see if you can polish it a little. That’s all there is to it. Print your vows once you have written them, and ask your officiant to hand them to you at the appropriate time during the ceremony. That way, since public speaking is a bit scary for nearly everyone, it will be a lot easier for you to simply read them and not have to memorize anything.

Unusual Readings
Many of us have heard the same classic wedding readings recited over and over. Consider choosing your readings from an unexpected source. In one wedding, a 12-year-old child stood and recited Edward Lear’s charming antique poem, “The Owl and the Pussycat.” All the guests agreed that the poem fit the couple perfectly. At another wedding, the groom himself recited a very modern poem to his bride that was written by NPR host, Garrison Keillor.

Sincere Ritual
Finally, think about what kind of ritual you could add to your wedding ceremony that adequately communicates to your guests something about who you are. Not every couple needs to light a wedding candle. In fact, in many outdoor weddings, candles are not even allowed. Take the time to think about your own cultural background, your own tastes and desires, and those of your intended. Between the two of you, you may decide, for example, to have both a Jewish chuppa and a Chinese tea ceremony. Or you might bake bread that morning and share it with your guests. Sometimes a couple will leave the altar to embrace each other’s mother and give her a flower. That always draws smiles and a few tears from those assembled. Google “wedding rituals” to fire up your imagination.


Vendor Spotlight: Photographer Elizabeth Messina

We are very honored to spotlight the über talented and insanely kind Elizabeth Messina. We are working with Elizabeth on two weddings in 2014. In February, Alison (our very own Creative Director) will marry her teenage sweetheart at Manka’s Boathouse in Inverness, California, and in April another lovely couple will marry in the south of France at the beautiful Hotel Du Cap Eden Roc. We are so happy she has taken the time out to share with you all.

Read on for a little Q&A with this amazing photographer and to see some of her beautiful work (including some images of Alison and Markus’s engagement shoot).

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Where are you based?
Southern California

What you do/specialize in?
I am a film photographer. I photograph weddings all over the world and I also photograph portraits, boudoir and bambinos, and quite a bit of editorial work. I am an artist at heart and specialize in creating beautiful images with natural light.

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How did you get started?
I got my first camera at the tender age of twelve, it was a gift from my mother. I loved it and photographed my friends and surroundings constantly—although I had no real understanding that I could be a “photographer”. It wasn’t until many years later that I truly embraced my dream and began creating images with purpose.

What inspires you/your work?
Life and my children. There is nothing more humbling than motherhood. It keeps me grounded and always on my toes. I love the way my children see and interpret the world. They are a source of constant inspiration to me.

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What do you like to do in your free time?
Sometimes I feel like “free time” is something I left in my youth somewhere. My days are full — I am blessed to be a quite busy photographer, and when I am not on assignment, I am faced with a barrage of paperwork, editing, and deadlines. At home, our life is a beautiful mess of laundry and sneakers, basketball games and bedtime stories. If I truly have “nothing” to do, I think my happiest place on earth is snuggling somewhere with one of my children.

What’s a fun fact about you that your clients may not know?
I have a rather devoted obsession with Pinterest and Instagram and although I tend to be rather reluctant to embrace any form of social media, I have now not only embrace both of these but I really enjoy them. Pinterest is an endless source of inspiration (I am a collector of beautiful things, and this site allows me to collect without limits and yet leaves my home and office uncluttered). And Instagram is sublime. I love the way it connects me to the world with images and allows anyone who is interested to keep up with my daily life. I share images from my home life, editorial shoots, my travels, real weddings and boudoir…nothing is off limits and yet I am very thoughtful about what i share. I think of my feed (which is a mixture of iPhone and film images) as a curated body of work. And I can get lost for hours looking at other peoples images too.

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What is one of your favorite destinations and why?
Last year I photographed a stunning wedding in Ireland (which I am so thrilled that Martha Stewart Weddings is publishing in November) and it literally took my breath away. From the rolling hills to the historic architecture, I was smitten. I’d love to go back someday. Sometimes I secretly think I was supposed to have been born in Europe!

What is one of your favorite venues to work on the West Coast and why?
I am quite taken with both the Villa at Sunstone Winery and the San Ysidro Ranch. The Villa is in the Santa Ynez mountains and sits amongst a stunning valley of grape vines and trees. It’s a stone estate, that feels like it could be in the middle of Tuscany. The ranch is nestled in the hills of Santa Barbara. It’s an intimate oasis that’s so beautiful and has a bit of modern history (JFK and Jackie Onasis honeymooned there).

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What’s trending in the photography industry for weddings/events now?
I really think there is a surge in people seeking out film photography. Although digital is an incredible medium, when brides find out I am a film photographer, I can sometimes here audible delight in their response. Film is truly an art form and I think many people like to honor their wedding and have “art” created throughout their day. In fact, I am doing as many “love shoots” as “engagement shoots” these days (married couples who seek me out, because they were lacking something in their “wedding photos” that they want to have captured).

What trend are you tired of seeing?
Anything that feels inauthentic. I know that seems vague, yet in an age of sharing and over-sharing it seems sometimes images and ideas are re-used, especially in weddings. For instance, if you grew up on a farm and love mason jars, then by all means incorporate them into your wedding if you like, but if you are using them just because you saw it somewhere, maybe re-think it. The beauty in life and in love is our personal experiences, so bring some personal touches to your wedding. Being personal and authentic will never go out of style.

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What’s your favorite photo to capture during a wedding?
Love, and expressions of tenderness between two people in love…there is nothing more beautiful.

 

Tell us the best way to reach you and check out your work:
Instagram // Kiss the Groom // Elizabeth Messina

I also am the author of The Luminous Portrait.