Molly & Bowen - Married!

It was tough to know where to start with Molly and Bowen. Do I talk about how smart they are? After all, they're both about to graduate from medical school and start their residencies. Do I talk about how sweet they are? They're so kind, so gentle with one another, and I've never heard a hard word from either of them, no matter how much planning a wedding while finishing medical rotations might have stressed them out. Do I talk about how good-looking they are? Molly looks like an absolute china doll, with delicate features and perfect skin, while Bowen has some of the kindest eyes I've ever seen and a smile that's completely infectious. 

There was a lot to love about Molly and Bowen's wedding. They used so many aspects of their lives to create a celebration that felt both classic and deeply personal. To celebrate Bowen's heritage as a first-generation American with Chinese immigrant parents, they peppered their wedding decor with rich red accents. To pay homage to their shared love of sci-fi and fantasy literature, Molly hand-crafted her wedding flowers from the pages of her favorite books. And then, of course, there's the princess thing.

It was so much fun to see how Molly embraced being a princess on her wedding day. Because she could. Because she had to. Because any wedding she planned for herself was always, unavoidably, going to be a Cinderella wedding. Why? Because Cinderella is her last name. (I know!!!) From the fairy princess gown to the white pumpkin centerpieces to a few cheeky photos featuring a lost shoe, Molly had a lot of fun with her unusual name.

But my favorite thing? The parade. Starting at the Sheraton in downtown Raleigh, Molly and Bowen led their guests on a grand, five-block processional to the NC Museum of Natural Sciences. With a six-piece drumline out in front, they made quite the scene!

I know these two sweetie pies are in for a lifetime of happiness. Bookwormy, medical, princessy, multicultural happiness.

Wedding ABC's: A is for Aisle

Let's start with the basics. What IS an aisle? Simply put, it's how you get to the altar. Most of the time, it's a corridor that runs around or through your assembled guests. I actually consider the “extended” aisle to include all the ground you have to cover from the time you can be seen by the guests to the time you reach the altar. For instance, if you're getting married in a field next to a barn, you may have to walk 100 yards or more before you reach the chairs. To me, that counts as aisle time, and I factor it in when cuing the DJ or thinking of how to space out everyone walking in the processional.

Your aisle is the last place you'll go on your way to married life. How can you make it pretty? Aisle décor, my friends.

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Budget Breakdown: Kim & Kevin

It's been just over a month since Kim and Kevin's wedding, and I was really starting to miss them! (When you plan a wedding together for over a year, that happens.) A few nights ago my husband and I caught up with them for tacos, margaritas, and Goodberry's. Along the way, I got their permission to try something new and use their wedding as the guinea pig.

So today, I'm putting up a blog post that I hope with be the first in a series. I'd like to show my couples what a wedding really costs. The internet is full of blog posts about about how host a fabulous wedding for $5K, but most of them include a line like, "My friend is a professional photographer with 8 years of experience, and she gave us her services as a gift!" Well, bully for you, I guess. Most people don't have that luxury.

Kim and Kevin were clear about what they wanted - lots of people, classic comfort foods, excellent entertainment, and a well-stocked bar. They were willing to cut back on decorative aspects, and they didn't care whether dinner was fancy as long as it tasted good. Their #1 priority, though, was their friends and family. Despite my urging them to trim the guest list, they insisted that having a large group of loved ones was the most important aspect of the wedding day. (In fact, their guest count of 165 already represented several rounds of cuts!)

So, how did Kim and Kevin spend their money? Check it out.

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Flower Profile: Peonies

The fattest and most scrumptious of all flowers, a rare fusion of fluff and majesty...

That's from American writer Henry Mitchell. And what was he talking about? Peonies! Fluff and majesty, indeed! Let's get into it.

Peonies have a look brides love. (Note - we usually strive for gender-neutral language, but dudes aren't usually psyched about flowers. For this blog post, we'll use "bride" instead of our usual "couple". Thanks!) They're big blooms, dense with ruffly petals, and come in range of colors that mostly would be considered feminine. They're especially lovely in that shade of pale, pale blush pink that so many brides go ga-ga for. Check it out:

Image by Peony's Envy (haha!)

Image by Peony's Envy (haha!)

When using peonies in a bouquet, you only need a few of them to really make an impact (like the Coral Charm peonies in the photo below on the left). Their size and showiness means that they'll be one of the dominant flowers in your bouquet, unless you decide to go monofloral. A bouquet made solely of peonies looks beautiful too, especially when using peonies of a single color!

Photo by Ellamah

Photo by Ellamah

Photo by KT Merry

Photo by KT Merry

One of the big downsides of peonies is that they're not available for weddings all year round. Well, OK, they ARE, but they're expensive if you buy at the wrong time of year. Peonies tend to be pricey during the best of times, so you better believe they're going to be even more so outside of their peak growing season. And on top of that, they won't be as pretty as the regular season blooms! They're normally available from early spring through the end of June, which is excellent news for Southern brides, as most couples want to get married in the spring or fall and avoid getting married on those 100% humidity days. (My friends from other parts of the country are always shocked to learn that summer weddings aren't popular in the South. July and August get HOT here, Yankee buddies!)

If you're looking to use an alternative flower, there are a couple of great choices. Below, you'll see a spread of many different flowers that have that lush, hundred-petal look that so many of us love about peonies. (All images from



Garden Rose

Garden Rose





Football Mum

Football Mum

Double Tulip

Double Tulip

Are you surprised to see carnations in the mix? Don't be! Carnations get a bad rap, but they are actually very ruffly and quite beautiful once they begin to open up. And despite their reputation as the bright red cheapo flowers you give away on Valentine's Day, you can get them in a variety of colors, like champagne and pale apricot, that are just as soft and romantic as anything else out there. (Maybe they'll even be the subject of a future Flower Profile.)

Which peony alternative is the prettiest? Would you ever pick your wedding date based around a flower's availability? Let us know in the comments section!

Inspiration Board: Spring in Bloom

My favorite time of the year, hands down, is spring. I love the splashy beach vibe of the summer, and I really enjoy the snuggly knit textures of fall, and winter... well, we don't have to talk about winter. (If you don't have anything nice to say, say nothing at all, right?)

Yes, all the seasons have their charm, but I positively adore spring! And how could you not? Every day brings a new little surprise. Daffodils peeking out of the soil, green leaves beginning to dot the spindly branches winter has left behind, the sound of songbirds returning after a long flight home. Spring makes one feel hopeful and cheerful. And wouldn't you know it? That's the perfect way to feel on your wedding day!

I planned my own wedding for the spring, and every year Jason and I are rewarded with an anniversary where we see days getting longer, air getting warmer, and a feeling that goodness is right around the corner. If we leave Raleigh for the weekend, we come back to find the world completely changed. It doesn't get much better than that.

For my fellow spring-lovers, I created an inspiration board that captures the sweetness and lightness of a spring wedding day. Enjoy!

When is the best time of year to get married? How much do you think the season should affect the look of your wedding? Let us know in the comments section!

Let them eat pie! (Or ice cream, or whatever!)

For me, nothing screams "WEDDING" more than a tiered cake. Even the silhouette, three stacked rectangles of decreasing size, is enough for most people to make the connection. For some couples, though, a traditional wedding cake reads as stale and old-fashioned. Modern weddings are all about standing apart from the crowd rather that adhering to tradition, and that multi-tiered cake just rubs some folks the wrong way.

Luckily, there are plenty of great alternative desserts out there. And if you're getting married in the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area, you have access to a ton of amazing vendors who are happy to provide you with something other than a traditional wedding cake. Let's get into it!

First, the naked cake. (As you might imagine, you must be VERY CAREFUL if you Google "naked cake". Some of the results are a real horrorshow.) Naked cakes are, simply put, cakes without exterior frosting. They've still got filling or frosting between the cake layers, but the outside is uncovered. Naked cakes look especially awesome when they involve multiple flavors in contrasting colors! The filling edges can be swept smooth for a sophisticated look or left alone for a rustic, handcrafted appeal. This option is more of a twist on the traditional cake than a true alternative, but it's still quite a departure from what your grandparents served at their reception.

Photo by Al Gawlik Photography

Photo by Al Gawlik Photography

Photo by MKM Photography

Photo by MKM Photography

Photo by The Schultzes

Photo by The Schultzes

And then there is pie. "YES!" some of you are now screaming, "PIE! I LOVE PIE! TALK MORE ABOUT PIE!" (You pie people are really in a league of your own when it comes to dessert loyalty.) Anyway, pie is pretty terrific. It's usually cheaper per-guest than cake, it comes in a ton of different varieties, and the leftovers are very easy to take home. If you're into miniature foods, mini pies are adorable. And if you're into having signs and tiny chalkboards everywhere, the pie table is a great place to show them off. Pie is especially good for weddings designed to project Southern charm, or weddings with a shabby chic theme. A pie bar with  mismatched pie stands borrowed from all your relatives is a sweet way to do dessert!

Photo by Liz Banfield Photography

Photo by Liz Banfield Photography

Photo by Stephanie Lindsay Photography

Photo by Stephanie Lindsay Photography

Photo by Mary Basnight Photography

Photo by Mary Basnight Photography

When it comes to dessert, my personal favorite is ice cream. And it's becoming more popular for weddings all the time! Ice cream works both as a standalone dessert and as a way to supplement your cake or pie. It's also a terrific way to serve a dessert that accommodates the food sensitivities that more of our friends and neighbors seem to have these days. Italian ice or sorbet works for those avoiding dairy or those eating a vegan diet. Ice cream is gluten-free, as long as it doesn't contain ingredients like pretzel, brownie, or cookie bits. One of the best parts of serving a frozen dessert at your wedding is the lovely little carts or displays that often accompany them. Something about those vintage, wheeled carts just makes everything a little sweeter.

Photo by Katelyn James Photography

Photo by Katelyn James Photography

Photo by Shane Snider Photography

Photo by Shane Snider Photography

Photo by Swank Photo Studio

Photo by Swank Photo Studio

Would you give up cake at your wedding reception? What's your favorite non-cake? Let us know in the comments section!


I've been out of ideas recently. Not for my clients, and not for myself, but for blogs? Oh goodness, yes. So here's the thing I'm going to do about it. I'm going to let the internet decide for me.

I'm going to let the Portent content generator come up with a topic for me, based on the word “wedding”. This generator tends to be a little cheeky, but that's life. Whatever nightmare topic it might spit out, I'll write a post on the subject. Ready? A little scared? Let's go!

Beepboopboopbeepboopbeepbeepboopbeep... boop... beep...


Okay, now, that's not so bad. This could actually BE something.

1. They're Not Inviting Your Friends

Hey, parents. It's finally happening! You're so excited! Your kid's getting married, and you can't wait to use the occasion as an excuse to floss a little in front of your fancy friends! Well slow down there, mom and dad. Ain't happening. No ma'am, no way, no how.

As much as you want to shove it in Smug-Irene-from-book-club's face that your kid is marrying a doctor, you're about to open a can of worms by trying to wangle an invitation for her. Prepare to hear yourself saying something embarrassingly blowhard-y like, “Well, I'm paying for everything, so that's that!” Regardless of who's footing the bill, putting that foot down in a way that forces your child to disinvite their own friends in favor of yours isn't going to make either of you happy. Your kid doesn't know Smug Irene, your kid doesn't care about Smug Irene, and your kid really doesn't have an interest in sticking it to her. Let it go.

2. Every Song Is Filthy

There are certain songs that any DJ worth his salt knows to hold until Grandma has gone home. But there are plenty of other songs, sung by adorable little pop stars with big ol' Bambi eyes, that are probably illegal to play publicly in certain states. Taking a quick look at the Billboard Hot 100, it takes me a while to find one whose lyrics I'd feel comfortable explaining to my dad. Like, a WHILE, y'all. Even Disney sweetie pie Selena Gomez is tarting it up these days! (Please Google “selena gomez good for you lyrics” if you'd like to feel old and filled with despair.) Your kids are hoping that you won't notice. They just want you to enjoy your dinner, nibble a little cake, then go chat with your cousins on the patio while they and their friends break it down to some highly danceable and potentially blush-inducing tunes.

3. They're Going to Go Over Budget

They've got the best of intentions. Seriously! Most of my clients have zero interest in draining their parents' bank accounts just for the sake of their wedding, but it's really tough to budget for a wedding if you've never planned one before. And even when you have a budget that looks pretty good, it's easy to trick yourselves into believing that you're doing fine.

Oh, you budgeted $1000 for guest transportation? $1200 is pretty close!
Your photography budget was $2400? Well, photos are memories, and $3100 isn't too high a price to pay for memories!
I know we only earmarked $800 for a wedding gown, but Dad cried when he saw me in this $1200 stunner. And besides, it's on sale from $1550!

Little overages turn into big overages faster than you'd believe. And there are plenty of spending areas that couples don't consider when making their budgets in the first place (stamps for the invitations, gifts for the wedding party, the cost of a manicure). You 'bout to spend that money, honey.

4. You Might See Them VERY Drunk

If your kid drinks, you probably know it. And you probably have watched them enjoy a glass of wine with dinner. What you may not have experienced is watching your precious flower out there on the dance floor, beer bottle in hand thrust defiantly toward the stars, screaming the words to “Don't Stop Believing” a cozy four inches from their best friend's face. And where, you'll wonder quietly to yourself, is that sweet baby boy who cried when Bambi's mother died? Where is the cherubic little girl who nursed a fallen baby robin back to health in a shoe box on a diet of old Triscuits and tap water? Fear not, gentle parents, for they are not so far away. They'll return to you in the morning, greeting their old friends over brunch, scrubbed clean as a whistle and suffused with the glow of newlywed happiness.

Right now, though? They're wandering around barefoot around the hotel lobby, yelling, “YOU GUYS DON'T EVEN KNOW, BEING MARRIED IS, LIKE, SOOOOOO GREAT!” That's where they are.

5. They're Already Married

This one might actually surprise a lot of people. And upset them. Which is why most of my already-married-before-the-wedding couples don't tell the people around them. And believe me, it happens way more than you would think. For example, in the last 12 months, RedBird planned or coordinated 27 weddings. At 5 of those weddings, the couple was legally married before they ever walked down the aisle. Couples do this for a lot of reasons - tax breaks, immigration requirements, health insurance, getting married in a different state from the one where they reside – but they rarely want their guests to know about it. Often, they're worried their friends and family will see their wedding as “fake”. As the planner, I always reassure them that's not really the case. I believe that, regardless of when the paperwork is finalized, a marriage isn't real until it's been made public. Standing in front of your loved ones and promising to be each other's family is what separates the legal arglebargle from the actual commitment of marriage. So even if your kids DO tell you that the state considers them married, don't worry. The wedding they're planning together is the real one.

Engaged couples, what else about your wedding do you not want your parents to know?

Seating: To Assign or Not to Assign?

One of the questions my clients most often ask me is, “Should we assign seats for our reception?” In almost every case, my answer is yes. Let's get into why.

First off, guests like it. Really, they do! In a 2006 survey, 84% of respondents said they preferred assigned seating. Only 13% said that they would prefer an open or “free-for-all” seating plan.

But why? Doesn't it seem more egalitarian and laid-back to let you guests find their own seats for dinner?

This way seems friendlier, and certainly faster, than making a seating chart, but it spells disaster!

This way seems friendlier,
and certainly faster,
than making a seating chart,
but it spells disaster!

Maybe, but it actually puts undue stress on your guests. Think about the last time you went to the movie with a group of friends. You grabbed your popcorn, made your way to the theater, and then probably stood there for several minutes trying to scope out an unbroken group of seats where you could all enjoy the film together. A free-for-all reception is like that, but it's even harder to find seats. The seats are all on one level, rather than being stadium-style. They're all facing different directions. It can be difficult to tell which seats have been claimed already, unless every guest has draped their chair with a heavy overcoat.

By contrast, if you've assigned guests a table, they simple breeze their way to their seat assignments without worry. Easy-peasy! It's a much easier, less stressful experience for your guests when they don't have to play Wedding Musical Chairs, which is where everyone scrambles to find a seat before the crab cake appetizers run out.

In addition to making it easier on your guests, assigning seats can make sure your guests have some good company during the reception. How? Well, suppose you're using round tables that seat 8, but you've got a posse of 10 college buddies coming to dinner. Oh no! Two of those people are going to be split off from the pack! I've been on the smaller end of that split, and boy, it is not fun. You'll spend the whole night gazing longingly at your crew on the other side of the room, feeling miserable as they laugh and relive old times, while you make small talk with a bunch of randos. That's garbage.

By assigning seats, you can ensure that every guest or couple is seated with someone they already know. And if you have guests coming who don't know anyone, you can play matchmaker and set them up with dinner companions they're likely to enjoy. It's not perfect, of course, but it's better than leaving them to fend completely for themselves.

The other reason for assigned seating are all about fun. It's an opportunity to add one more layer of detail and make your wedding aestheric even richer and more immersive.

These were for a New York City-themed event. (Don't look at me for that misspelling of "Rockefeller"! I didn't make 'em!)

These were for a New York City-themed event. (Don't look at me for that misspelling of "Rockefeller"! I didn't make 'em!)

Assigned seating lets you do some brainstorming. For instance, instead of using standard table numbers, you can name your tables in a fun way. Theme weddings make this easy. A “Doctor Who” wedding would have tables called Gallifrey, TARDIS, or Sonic. (My husband suggests that this would be very easy if you had 12 tables – nerds will know why.) If your wedding features a butterfly motif, each table could be represented by a different species. Monarch, Painted Lady, and Swallowtail all sound very fancy!

If your wedding doesn't have a concrete theme, you've still got options. For instance, if you love to travel, name each table after a place you've visited together. If you're homebodies who want to brag on your hometown, use the names of neighborhoods or main streets in your city. If you want to be sentimental, go through old photos and find snaps of yourselves at age 1, 2, 3, etc. Use a photo of each of you on the table that's assigned that to number.

If crazy table names aren't your thing, then escort cards can be a fabulous, fun way to work in more of your wedding aesthetic!

(And while we're on the subject, let's talk about escort cards v. place cards. Escort cards are all located in one place, and your guests will pick them up - they ESCORT your guests to their tables. Place cards are already on the tables and are used to assign specific seats. They usually rest on the PLACE setting.)

Orange escort cards are the new black.

Orange escort cards are the new black.

Sure, they can just be little pieces of folded paper, but escort cards offer you a chance to get creative. For a garden wedding, you could nestle them into a bed of grass grown in a tray. Pin a leaf-shaped card to an orange for an escort card that doubles as a fresh, tasty favor. Actually, they don't have to be cards at all! Maybe you want to write each guest's table assignment on a chalkboard sticker, then affix it to a mason jar mug that they'll refill throughout the night. An escort card is just one more little detail that sets a tone for your wedding, reinforces a theme, and gives your guests something to talk about.

Creating a seating chart is a pain, I know, but it shows a lot of consideration for your guests. It lets them know that you took the time to think about where they would be most comfortable, and it takes away the pressure to scrap for a good seat. In the end, what you want most is for your guests to have a great time. Help them out by saying, “Hey – saved you a seat.”

Ann & Ben - Married!

Although Ann and Ben make their home in Washington, DC, they came to Raleigh to be married. From our first meeting, I could see that there was something so real and deep between them. These two people were grown, mature, and incredibly bright. They're the kind of people for whom an ordinary love and an ordinary life simply wouldn't do. Thank heaven, then, that they found one another.

Here's the thing about Ann - she doesn't mess around. At our first meeting, she made it very clear that she had a razor-sharp vision for her wedding day, and she wasn't interested in any of this "whatever the coordinator thinks is best" stuff. That intensity doesn't just manifest as toughness. It also makes her an incredibly loving, fiercely devoted person. Ann cried more than any bride I have every worked with, and it was magnificent. She's a woman unafraid of really and truly expressing her emotions, and on that mid-September day when she and Ben became partners for life, she did just that.

Ann and Ben's wedding day was full of sentiment and symbolism. They married at the beautiful First Presbyterian Church in downtown Raleigh, the same church where her parents were married decades before. Ann wore a pair of earrings - inexpensive costume jewelry she admired as a child - that were willed to her by her grandmother. As an adorable wedding gift, one of Ben's friends crocheted him a little pair of Yoda in wedding finery. As a surprise for Ann, her father arranged for a slideshow to play during their special dance together. While the look of the wedding was pure elegance - all creamy white petals, rich blue satin, and hundreds of candles - the feeling was completely intimate and personal. What an amazing way to start a life together...

Baker:  Sugarland
Ceremony Musicians:  Foscoe Philharmonic
Ceremony Venue:  First Presbyterian Church
DJ: All Events DJ
Florist:  Fresh Affairs
Photographer: Jim Colman Photography
Reception Venue & Catering: The State Club
Stylist: Images by Denise (Hair) & OnLoKtion (Makeup)
Videographer:  Divine Treasures

Pinspiration: Fern & Woodland

Man alive, it is MISERABLE outside today. All the trees are covered in ice, and your every breath turns into a cloud as thick as mushroom soup. It's the sort of day that makes you want to curl up in front of a fire and watch an old movie you've watched 1,000 times before. And, if you hate winter as much as I do, it makes you long for the return of sunny days and green leaves and warm breezes.

To get me through the cold winter days, I created a Pinterest board. It's the beginnings of a wedding design that invokes a shady, earthy woodland feeling. From the invitations to the cake to the favors, every element is full of lush, green life. On days like today, it's nice to visit the board and take a little vacation from the chilly temps and damp air outside. Enjoy!

Wedding University: Intro to Cake Cutting

The cake cutting seems so simple – I mean really, who can't pick up a knife and chop a cake? For many couples, though, cutting the wedding cake becomes a weird and somewhat stressful task. Most of us aren't accustomed to cutting our food as a team, and most of us have no idea where to start with a giant, foot-or-more-tall cake. Do you cut it at the top? At the bottom? How big should the slice be? Do you entwine your arms to feed each other? How do you know if it's okay to smash cake in the face of the person who just promised to love you forever? Every wedding is different, but here's how RedBird advises their couples to do their cake cutting.

To start things off right, the DJ or emcee should make an announcement about the cake cutting. It's a pretty big moment in the night, and some of your friends might be bummed to miss it. If you can, get them to give everyone a five minutes heads up before you head to the cake table.

When the moment arrives, head around to the BACK side of your cake table, with the cake between you and any guests who are watching the proceedings. Your guests want to see your faces as you feed each other that first bite. If you need to move the cake table away from a wall in order to get back there, ask the catering staff or your wedding coordinators to do it for you – your buddies love you and are well intentioned, but your vendors have more experience moving those big, heavy wedding cakes on those big, heavy, tablecloth-ed tables.

Do a quick check that you have a plate, napkin, cake knife, server, and two forks on the table. It's going to kill the energy in the room if you cut the cake, move to feed one another, then realize that you have to wait for the catering staff to bring you out a couple of forks. Also, if your cake features non-edible items that will impair your cutting (for example, satin ribbon around the bottom of the tier) take them off before you cut.

Once you have the equipment you need, scan to be sure the right people are in the room. Get visual confirmation that your mom is there. Ask taller folks to please move aside so that your little, tiny grandpa can get a look. Be sure that your photographer and cinematographer are close by, and that they're happy with the lighting. If it takes an extra minute to get everything under control, that's okay. You get one shot at this thing, and you don't have to rush it.

When you're ready to begin, the bride does the actual cutting. She picks up the knife with two hands, blade facing down, and positions it over the bottom tier. The knife tip should only be about 2-3 inches in from the edge of the cake, because the goal isn't to cut a giant slice of cake. You just need enough for a couple of bites to feed each other. She makes one cut straight down to the bottom of the tier, pulls out the knife, angles it, and cuts again. And there you have it – a little wedge of cake, just big enough for tasting.

She cuts, he helps. Nice job, guys.

She cuts, he helps. Nice job, guys.

And what is the groom doing during all this? Mostly supporting the bride's hands and looking great for the pictures. I tell my grooms to sidle up next to their new wife, slip one arm lovingly around her waist, and place their other hand on hers once she's got the knife ready to go. With your bodies positioned this way, you look like a team while still mostly facing forward toward your guests and your photographers. A groom's hand alongside or underneath the bride's means that the couples is still cutting the cake together, even if the bride is mostly in control of the knife.

If your wedding is of the two-groom or two-bride variety (or if the first method just feels weird to you) try it this way. Both spouses stand side-by-side, hip-to-hip, each with an arm around the other's waist. With their free hands, they pick up the knife together and make the cuts as explained above. The main thing is to work together and create a beautiful photo for the years to come.

And once the cake is cut? Eat it! You only want to feed each other a small bite, so don't load that fork up too heavy. You can take turns feeding one another, or you can go for it simultaneously. One word of advice – unless you've discussed it ahead of time or you are POSITIVE it's what they want, please do NOT smash cake in your spouse's face! Brides are often especially annoyed by this. If you're a dude marrying a woman, you may not understand how long it takes to get your wedding day makeup done or how expensive it can be. Go ahead and risk it if you want, but know that your wife will probably be more appreciative of you feeding her nicely and then leaning in for a kiss.

If this sounds like a lot to remember, consider hiring a wedding day coordinator to handle all the details. We can't do the cutting for you, but we can manage the associated aspects like making sure you have a napkin handy or waiting until your favorite aunt has made her way to the cake table before you start. And if you need a refresher on how to make those cuts, we'll discreetly whisper a quick reminder in your ear.

All I Really Need to Know About Wedding Planning I Learned from Disney

This blog post started off as "Dos and Don'ts of Wedding Toasts". My favorite wedding toast is from the two dad-kings in Sleeping Beauty, and I wanted to find a clip. In looking for just the right one to share, I kept stumbling across other videos that seemed particularly relevant to wedding planning. And so, with permission, I'm going to switch gears and show you how Disney's Sleeping Beauty is secretly full of great tips for having the perfect wedding day.

Courtesy invites aren't the worst things in the word.

It's unclear what kind of species Maleficent is. A dark fairy? Some kind of devil, maybe? One thing we definitely know is that, underneath that spooky black cloak, she's a person with easily hurt feelings. After all, her curse on baby Aurora was a bad reaction to being practically the only person in the kingdom not invited to the Big Christening Party. When she finds out the slight was intentional, she looks like someone slapped her in the face! This whole "death by spinning wheel" affair could have avoided if the king and queen had simply swallowed their pride and stuck her at the singles' table in the back of the room.

We've all got a Maleficent in our lives - someone who you don't much want around, but who will actually make your life MORE unpleasant if you ignore them. Maybe it's your mom's boss or your cousin's boyfriend of about five minutes. If excluding your personal Maleficent is going to turn into a whole big thing, just invite them and get on with your life. And maybe "forget" to personally greet them at the reception.

Some things are better left to the professionals.

Aunts are great. They love to help with your wedding, especially if they don't have kids of their aunt. I myself am a childless-by-choice aunt to a cute little toddler who lives in Brooklyn, and when she gets married I'll probably insert myself to an annoying degree. The one thing I won't do for Caroline's wedding is try to be a vendor.

If your aunt (or friend, or neighbor, or whomever) has never arranged flowers, don't ask her to start with your wedding. Ditto for cakes or wedding gowns. Maybe don't ask a friend who has no public speaking experience to officiate at your wedding. And your mom is probably a great cook, but catering a wedding is a whole different ball game. Let the absolute cakewreck Aunt Flora cooks up for Aurora's Sweet 16 stand as a warning.

There are rules for toasts. (See, we got back to toasts after all!)

A lot of people ask their parents to give a toast at their wedding. That's awesome - it shows that you have as much respect for your old family as you do for the new one that you create with your marriage. But to make sure they get through it without being boring, embarassing, or even offensive, you may need to lay out the rules for them.

  • Keep it short - Stefan and Hubert say just a few lines, which is maybe TOO short, but ask your folks to keep it around three minutes.
  • Have a theme or focus - "To the future!" "To the home!" Stefan and Hubert are killing it.
  • Talk about both of the newlyweds, not just your own kid - watching this video, you wouldn't know who was Aurora's dad and who was Philip's. Good job.
  • End on a high note - possibilities include "To the newlyweds!" or "L'chaim!" or "Salud!' or even a classic "Congratulations!" (Or, if you're Hubert and Stefan, "Skumps!")

Beth & Cory - Married!

Everyone's thinking it, so I'm just going to say it – Beth and Cory are gorgeous. I know, I know, everyone looks gorgeous on their wedding day, but seriously. Come on. Look at this pair of lovely young people. And their wedding was beautiful too, with so many charming DIY details. I usually get a case of the shakes when a couple tells me that plan to arrange their own flowers, but Beth did an incredible job. Oh, and did I mention that she baked all her own desserts? Aaaaaaand all the scones for her scone-and-jam-in-a-berry-basket wedding favors? I'm telling you, if you need tips on how to pull off a fabulous DIY wedding, Beth is the one to call.

Beth and Cory came to us - as so many of our wonderful couples do - on a tip from Mr. Snipes out at Snipes Farm Retreat in Chapel Hill. It's still hard to believe that we didn't actually meet them until the day of their rehearsal. The lovebirds live in Miami, so all of their planning was done long-distance, and over the course of several Skype meetings we developed a real affection for each other. Case in point? Upon first catching sight of each other at the rehearsal, Beth and I ran at each other from across the field, romantic movie-style. Just being around those two is enough to give anyone a case of the warm fuzzies.

And when I say warm, hoo boy, do I mean WARM. Beth and Cory's wedding day was a scorcher in late June, with a humidity of about one gazillion percent. We all got awfully sweaty that day, but looking at the pictures of all the happy faces, you'd never know it. Part of that is due to Lauren Waterhouse's amazing photography, but I mostly chalk it up to the power of love. When you're in love, you don't care that it's ninety degrees in the shade. You don't care that your cupcakes are melty. You don't care about pushing the A/C to the breaking point. All you care about is sharing an amazing day with your true love, your friends, and your family.

Caterer:  Backyard Bistro
Ceremony Musicians:  Eversole Brothers
DJ:  Stephen Scott Professional Entertainment
Officiant:  Reverend Barbara Lodge
Photographer:  Waterhouse Studios
Rentals:  American Party Rentals
Transportation:  White Horse
Venue:  Snipes Farm Retreat

Mason Jars Forever

I am a woman awash in weddings. I probably use the word "wedding" upwards of 100 times a day, and I'm on track to personally plan or coordinate my 50th wedding by the end of this year. That means I come into contact with a lot of Mason jars. Rehearsal dinners, centerpieces, aisle decor, industry events, event rental showrooms... they're EVERYWHERE.

Egad. That is quite a lot of Mason jars.

Egad. That is quite a lot of Mason jars.

Despite the occasional feeling that the world is positively drowning in Mason jars, I still love 'em. And what's not to love? How solid they feel, the loopy script, the different sizes, and their incredible versatility make them very charming in a wide variety of wedding themes and settings. Heck, I even keep mini mason jars at the office as water glasses for my client meetings! But there's one problem with Mason jars - they don't disappear after the wedding. And for the DIY (or DIY-ish) couple who's spent months stocking up on those suckers, trying to figure out what to do with the jars after the wedding can be a real bugaboo.

Luckily, we've got suggestions!

This is such a cute way to organize your office supplies, and you have the ability to actually SEE what you've stored.

This is such a cute way to organize your office supplies, and you have the ability to actually SEE what you've stored.

The most obvious? Keep 'em. You will find a whole range of uses for those jars, I promise you. Store dry goods in your cabinet, like beans and rice. Use them to trap errant spiders or wasps that get into the house. Toss one on the desk to use as a pencil cup. If you don't mind having them all over the house, they'll all be put to use eventually.

If you'd like to reuse the jars without turning your home a veritable shrine to Kerr and Ball, there are plenty of fun crafts to do with Mason jars. This will get them out of your house more slowly, but each one will have a personality and a purpose as it moves into its next phase of life. They paint up beautifully, and choosing to put the paint on the inside or the outside will give you very different looks. After they're painted, you can use them as vases for fresh flowers, dry branches, or anything else you like. You could even repaint jars in special holiday colors to reuse them throughout the years. Still got too many? Bring a friend some grocery store flowers in a pretty, painted jar. She'll love it.

So much prettier than a little paper envelope, right?

So much prettier than a little paper envelope, right?

Jars can be used for making mini gardens or terraria, but we do recommend that you leave the jar open on top - plants need watering occasionally, even if it looks so much cooler to have the whole thing be self-contained with the jar upside-down. How about a jar as gift wrap or packaging? If you've got a small gift to give, or want to take leftover cookies to the office to avoid temptation at home, try putting them in a big Mason jar with a pretty ribbon tied around the rim. If you're giving a gift card, you can even fill the jar with water and a little glitter before dropping the card inside. It's like a snowglobe filled with money, which (COME ON) is awesome!

Finally, for the couple who can't deal with clutter, there is the option of simply giving them away. You can definitely take them to Goodwill, but wouldn't you like to help someone else with their wedding plans? Ask you wedding venue or your florist if they would like to keep the jars for future use. They will probably be happy to oblige you, as having an extra one or two around never hurts. (As we've discussed, they're dead useful.) And if you can't get your vendors to take them, there's always Craigslist! Just put them up in the free section. Chances are, another engaged couple is going to snap them right up and take them off your hands.

Before your wedding, decide whether your home is happiest when it's full of jars or free of them. Either way, this post should help you in choosing their post-wedding fate.

Linda & Ethan - Married!

Linda and Ethan are the most lovey-dovey couple I have ever met, hands down. Well, maybe "hands down" isn't quite accurate, because I had a 90-minute meeting with them in my office and they held hands basically the entire time. Who does that?!

People who are crazy in love, that's who. The joy they feel at being around one another is just off-the-charts, and it made their wedding day a wonderful experience for everybody involved. From the first moment they saw one another, they were grinning a mile wide. Ethan was so busy smiling and kissing his new bride on the way out of the ceremony that he ran straight into a pole. While scoping out their reception space during cocktail hour, they practiced their first dance moves one last time. The love between Linda and Ethan, swaying together without music, set an amazing tone for the night and (truly) for the rest of their lives. Who needs music when your true love's voice is the sweetest sound in the world?

While the look in their eyes was the most beautiful thing in the room, Linda and Ethan had plenty of other lovely things to look at. They chose to decorate their wedding in shades of peach and mint green, a color scheme that worked perfectly for a late March wedding when the trees were juuuuuuust starting to flower. The simple, lovely floral arrangements were accented by sweet paper pinwheels made by the bride. The pinwheels also made an appearance on the cake table, next to five delicious "almond amaretto" cakes featuring a variety of simple buttercream patterns. (Fun fact: This particular recipe from this particular bakery is my favorite cake on the face of the earth. No disrespect to my other baker friends, that's just how it is. That cake is my ultimate dessert soulmate from whom I shall not be parted.)

Robin Lin did an amazing job capturing the warm glow between the newlyweds, and we here at RedBird wish them all the best for years to come. Congratulations, Linda and Ethan!

Baker:  Edible Art
Ceremony Musicians:  Arioso Strings
DJ:  Kent Bloms for Joe Bunn DJ Company
Florist:  Tre Bella
Photographer:  Robin Lin Photography
Transportation:  EcoStyle
Venue & Catering:  1705 Prime (Rocky Top Hospitality)


Something Old

I like the expression "there is nothing new under the sun". It originates in the Bible, but Shakespeare used it too. It reminds us that for all our supposed novelty and modernity, everything has its roots in something older. That's definitely true when it comes to wedding planning. Here are a few of the wedding traditions and trends from years past that I'd love to come back into fashion.

For my money, there is no prettier wedding exit than through a hail of rice. Rice tosses fell out of favor years ago for their supposed threats to birds, and that's a real shame. As it turns out, there is absolutely no reason to worry about our fine-feathered friends (they eat dry grains all the time in the wild without incident). A beautiful newlywed couple laughing and running through a gauntlet of happy rice-throwers is one of the loveliest and most classic images of a wedding. It's high time we bring it back. For DIYers, this is just one more thing to add to your little list of jobs. Time to break out the tulle circles, crafters.

Hey - if it's good enough for the King, it's good enough for you.

Hey - if it's good enough for the King, it's good enough for you.

Don't get it twisted, now. I'm not talking about tiaras, which are falling out of favor but which definitely still exist in large numbers. No, I'm talking about round, completely enclosed crowns. My lovely bride Caroline wore one at her wedding last November, and I couldn't stop staring. She looked like a snow princess! The crown was her grandmother's, so there was actual family history in addition to the joy of wearing a beautiful piece of vintage bridalwear.

And while this post is bemoaning the loss of beautiful wedding traditions, there is one that's coming back into fashion. Floral crowns are a THING, everyone. Get used to it. It's happening. 

I've only had one bride wear a floral crown this season (her photo is below) but I think next year is going to be chock-a-block. The rustic thing is still going strong, and the crown is a new way to rock that earthy, handmade look. And within the floral crown, you've even got different shapes and ways to wear them! Some are worn on the back of the head, like a halo. Others - for the bolder bride, I think - are thinner and lighter and are meant to be worn straight across the forehead. It's a trend within a trend. It's like the Russian nesting doll of trends.

RedBird's beautiful bride, Caitlin, in her wedding crown. Stunner.

RedBird's beautiful bride, Caitlin, in her wedding crown. Stunner.

Lots of couples aren't even opting in for tiered cakes anymore, but the ones who do usually don't have the little couple on top of the cake. They've got their initial spelled in rhinestones, or maybe a little pair of cats or dinosaurs wearing a veil and top hat. But a tiny pair of people? Nope.

There is one drawback here. Vintage cake toppers are going to be very limited, from a diversity stand-point. It's always an opposite sex couple, and they're usually white. These days, though, you can find a lot of options that look like you and your new spouse. Big manufacturers are starting to produce great options for people of color and gay couples, and there is always someone on Etsy who's handmaking the very thing you're after.

I find the tiny cake people awfully charming. Everyone is so concerned with being nontraditional these days that nobody's wedding looks like their grandparents'. At this point, the traditional choice would actually be surprising and refreshing.

You don't need to have a themed wedding cake. "Wedding" is enough of a theme on its own.

You don't need to have a themed wedding cake. "Wedding" is enough of a theme on its own.

OK, yes - there are PLENTY of folks who still use these. But everytime I hear them, it just sends a shiver down my spine. (The happy kind of shiver!) We have been so attuned by movies and TV to feel a certain way when we hear these songs. We even refer to the first song as "Here Comes The Bride", when the song itself doesn't have any lyrics. We're culturally conditioned to tear up when we hear these pieces of music, and using them can really pack an emotional punch. If you don't have your heart set on anything yet, consider these two.

It's great to be on point with your wedding trends, but you might find a real satisfaction in pulling inspiration from the past. What "old-fashioned" wedding traditions would you like to incorporate into your big day?

Like a Boss

When I sit down to write my blog posts, I generally don't involve myself in the brainstorming process. I try to make sure every post is informative or fun for couples planning their wedding, even if I'm not the one helping them get the planning done. Today, though, I want to talk about something new.

There are a lot of labels we all carry around. Mine include wife, aunt, knitter, southern, and feminist (just to name a few). But now I've got a new one – Boss.

I realized some time ago that bringing other people on board would have to happen sooner or later. I needed consistent helpers whose patterns I could learn, whose behavior I could begin to anticipate, and who could grow to understand what I need them to do without my saying a word. Also, I was becoming weary of responding to the emails of excited brides and grooms by saying, “I'm so sorry, I'm already booked for your date.” Hiring employees was just the next necessary step.

I've hired some awesome coordinators for my 2014 wedding season. And while I'm excited about this next phase of my business, it's scary too. What if I hired the wrong people? What if they turn out to be unreliable or we don't get along? What if they turn out to be great, but they leave me? And what if someone does something unforgivable and I have to (gulp) fire them? That's the biggest fear, actually. The fear of telling someone else that they're not good enough and making them feel badly. The fear of hurting feelings.

Being a boss isn't the sexiest thing in the world. It's meant getting familiar with tax codes and labor laws, learning how to draft a paycheck and calculate withholding. But as unglamorous as those jobs might be, I was happy to take them on. For RedBird Events to grow and become as amazing as I want it to be, a good team is essential. And truly, expanding the company is better for everyone. It's better for the business if we can book multiple weddings in a single weekend. It's better for my clients to have a team of two or more coordinators on their wedding day, rather than a coordinator who works solo. And it's better for me, knowing that my success doesn't hinge entirely on my own efforts, but is facilitated by teamwork with others (even if I'm the one who's paying them to be there).

I'm really pleased with my coordinator team. They're all bright, professional, hard-working, fun-loving women and I can't wait to get to know them better. I just have a feeling - this wedding season is going to be a blast!

Radiant Orchid in 2014

Pantone announced their 2014 "Color of the Year" a while back, and I'm just now getting around to talking about it. And the winner is...


Ok, real talk? I'm not in love with this color. I generally like cool or more muted colors, and this color is way saturated and has more pink tones than I usually prefer in my purples. However, I recognize that I am not the supreme arbiter of what's in style, so I'm willing to roll with it.

I can totally see how Radiant Orchid is going to dominate weddings in late 2014 or (more likely) the whole of 2015. Case in point, one of my full-service brides is basically using a R.O.-like color scheme for her wedding in September, and it's going to look awesome. One thing I do like about this hue is its ability to be paired with so many different "hard neutrals" (metallics, wood tones, textures, etc.) and still look great.


From left to right, we've got three very different looks for the same central color. The first is a rustic/industrial mix with hard, vibrant gold accents and cutesy details like vintage furniture and chalkboard signs - this is a very hot look for weddings right now! The second is luxe, with silver and crystal sparkles at every turn (the full-sequin linen on the cake table would work great in solid silver, if you wanted to play up that aspect of the color palette). Finally, the last wedding look is soft, romantic, and thoroughly Southern. The bride's got pearls around her neck, an ethereal chiffon ballgown, and you just know that the garden-inspired, freshly-picked-look bouquet in shades of Radiant Orchid smells heavenly.

Be warned, though - as Tim Gunn might say, Radiant Orchid is "a lot of look". It's a great color for bridesmaids in a summer wedding, especially one that's soaked in color and full of energy. However, if you're looking for something a little more demure or traditional, you may need to use it a bit more judiciously. If a row seven women clad in dresses of solid, bright magenta doesn't sound awesome to you, there are still ways to incorporate your signature shade.


Radiant Orchid can look great in small bursts, and it can even have more impact in some cases. When you use it as a pop of color in an otherwise neutral palette, it will get tons of notice. A chunky necklace for bridesmaids is one idea. Personal flowers (this is wedding-planner-speak for any flowers that are carried or worn throughout the wedding) are another area for Radiant Orchid to shine. And you're not limited in flower choice, either - sophisticated calla lilies, funky zinnias or dahlias, and classic roses all come in tones that will compliment a wedding staged in Radiant Orchid.

Would you ever use Radiant Orchid in your wedding? Are you a fan of Pantone's top pick? Let us know in the comments section!

A Walk to Remember

While I love my grooms, today's blog is all about the bride.

One of the absolute highlights of the wedding day is the bride's walk down the aisle. As many times as I've seen it, watching a bride take her last walk as a single woman always gives me goosebumps. Because it's such an important few seconds, and she'll look at the photos of those seconds over and over again during her lifetime, I hate for my brides to look or feel anything less than spectacular at that moment in time.

Many brides find the moments before they walk down the aisle to be as stressful, like waiting to make their big entrance in a play. But it's important to remember that your wedding is not a performance. It's a sacred and transformative occasion, and the moments before you enter your ceremony should feel like the last countdown on New Year's Eve – exciting, momentous, preparing the way for something inevitable and wonderful.

Here is my advice for serenity in the last moments before the altar.

First, take a few deep breaths while your bridesmaids or other wedding party members process into the ceremony. Let your gentle breaths bring you peace and focus. Allow your muscles to relax, your shoulders to fall back, your head to lift high. Remember that you are being taken care of, and that you have someone there to gently let you know when it's time to start your journey. As your wedding party enter the ceremony, enjoy watching them. Enjoy the private moment you share with your escort once everyone else has gone and left the two of you alone. Enjoy the thought of being married very soon!

Let your coordinator take care of you. We will prepare you to look beautiful and put-together. Give us a few seconds to fan out your train in all its glory and to drape the edges of your veil gently across your shoulders. You spent so long putting together your perfect look, and we want it to make you positively glow.

Hold your bouquet nice and low – place your hand near your lower belly and you'll have it just right. For a lovely soft look, let your elbows point behind you rather than out to the side like chicken wings. With your other hand, you'll hold onto your escort. If you have a male escort, he should form a soft fist and place it against his ribcage. Gently hold onto the crook of his elbow or his bicep. If you have a female escort, the two of you can hold hands.

When your music begins, take a beat before you begin to walk. Remember what this ceremony means. Remember that the person you love most in the world loves you too, that they are about to pledge their life to you. Let that thought fill your heart with joy and put a smile on your face. A real, happy smile is the perfect finishing touch to your beautiful wedding ensemble.

Finally, when the time has come for you to move, walk slowly. (Too slowly, it will feel like!) Nerves can make you walk faster than you realize, so a walk that feels like a crawl is just right. Soak up the moment and really make it last. Drink in the sight of your family around you, your friends, and your beloved. Feel the love and support that surround you on this special day.

All the planning and dreaming has come down to this time and this space. Feel safe. Feel beautiful. Be in the moment. And know, really know in your heart, that all is well.

Flowers low, relaxed hands, happy faces - this is perfect.

Flowers low, relaxed hands, happy faces - this is perfect.

Why "No Boxed Gifts, Please" Is Still Not Okay

Today we're going to talk about the etiquette of wedding gifts.

I know – the word “etiquette” calls to mind fussy old ladies and dusty books of rules. But here's the thing – etiquette is for everybody, and it's awesome. Etiquette isn't arbitrary. It's a set of rules for how to avoid hurting anyone's feelings or making them feel insulted or even embarrassed.

Plus, etiquette is often completely practical advice. For instance, most people think that when dining out as a group, it's rude to eat until everyone's meal has arrived. However, Miss Emily Post says it's stupid to let a hot meal get cold, and that your FRIENDS are the jerks if they expect you to let a $27 steak go room temp before you eat it. However, if it's already cold (a salad, a sandwich, a chilled soup) then waiting won't hurt and you should be patient.

Totally logical, right? Yes. So let's investigate what the etiquette books say about gifts on your wedding day.

Remember that when you invite a guest to your wedding, you are asking them to join you in celebration. Often, you are asking them to schlep across state lines and spend the night in a hotel that might not be the first thing on their list of “stuff I easily afford right now.” The fact that people are willing to dress up fancy and spend a whole evening at your party should make you feel plenty loved without having to bring Williams-Sonoma into the mix. So please – don't be a sourpuss if your college roommate flies halfway across the country bringing nothing more than good wishes and a great looking outfit.

This is Gretchen's mom's favorite thing to give as a wedding gift. You don't want to hurt her mom's feelings, do you?

This is Gretchen's mom's favorite thing to give as a wedding gift. You don't want to hurt her mom's feelings, do you?

It is never – NEVER NEVER NEVER – polite to question a guest's gift. Perhaps you didn't put “a vintage picnic basket packed with a blanket and a bottle of wine” on your registry, but you know what? The person who assembled that gift did so with your happiness in mind. They put thought and time into it. Appreciate the gesture, and then try to appreciate the gift. If you really can't find a way to love it, keep it around for a bit and then send it off to the Goodwill. And ALWAYS send a thank you card, even if you hated the gift itself.

Don't put your registry info in your invitations.

“But I think that my guests will really want to know where I'm registered.”
     Don't do it.
“It's just so much easier that way.”
     Don't do it.
“My cousin did it for her wedding, and no one said boo.”
     Don't. Do. It.

Proper invitation wording is really so important. "No navy bean, please."

Proper invitation wording is really so important. "No navy bean, please."

It's really not polite to ask for gifts in the same breath as you invite someone to a party. Yes, its customary to put registry information in a bridal shower invite, but those parties are CENTERED around the gift-giving. That's the whole point. You wouldn't invite people to a soup party, omit the word “soup” from the invitation, then be like, “Dag, why did none of y'all bring any soup to this thing?”

The best way to handle this is to let your website do the talking. Include the URL for your wedding website on the stationery, and make sure your registry information is posted online. It won't take much effort for people to figure out what kind of gifts you're after. If you don't have a website, then many guests will ask directly. Make sure that your parents, the Maid of Honor, and the Best Man all have the scoop on your registries.

Dolla dolla bill, y'all.

Some couples just want money. They already own cookware, linens, china, appliances, pretty much everything they need to have a happy home. But what they REALLY want is a free honeymoon or a down payment for a house. And that's okay!

If you're going to ask for cash, however, there is a right and a wrong way to do it. We've already covered why putting your request in your invitations is in the "wrong" column. Let's learn more.

“Where are you registered?”

“We chose not to register for gifts – there is nothing material we need.”
“We have a small registry at Sears, and a honeymoon registry online.”

“Nowhere. We'd much rather get a check. Or large bills.”
“At the MONEY STORE, son!”

A honeymoon registry, by the way, is a great idea. That or a “cash registry” will allow your guests to basically PayPal you a wedding gift with the understanding that you will put the gift toward a larger purchase. Google will turn up some good ones, but RedBird suggests you look into or if this idea appeals to you.

Maybe you never realized how many rules dominated the concept of wedding gifts, but now you know. And knowing is half the battle.