Thursday, June 28, 2007

Wedding Proposal

So, now that we've studied individual components of a wedding's look in some detail, the question is, how do we put it all together? For each hypothetical wedding I plan, I usually pick some sort of unifying theme that ties in with the season and color scheme. So, as I think I've already mentioned, one of my favorite ideas for an inexpensive winter wedding is to do a citrus theme. That takes care of the color and menu choices! Centerpieces would be bowls of clementines, favors could be chocolate oranges, etc.

My hypothetical weddings started out incredibly grand and formal, and while I still wouldn't mind having a wedding like that, I've realized that weddings should really be only slight embellishments of how you and your family usually entertain. This led me to conclude that I should have my wedding at the Potomac Boat Club in Washington, DC. My dad has been a member since before I was born, and still keeps his single racing shell there. My mom is now also a member and she and my dad go out on the river together. We also held a big 45th birthday party for Mom there, not to mention my own Sweet Sixteen, which was an incredibly fun party that Eva and I had together. So what follows is my proposal for a PBC wedding.

The Boat Club is tucked under the Whitehurst Freeway in Georgetown, so it's not the most glamorous of river properties. Downstairs is the big storage room that houses all the boats and leads to the dock. Upstairs is the "ballroom" which is usually full of ergs, and the bathrooms. There is also a balcony above, just perfect for throwing the bridal bouquet. The ballroom is panelled with dark wood, lined with built in benches and old photographs, and has french doors leading out to a veranda with a view of the river, Key Bridge, and Rosalyn, VA. To the left of the veranda is a smallish roof terrace. The whole space is probably not big enough for a sit-down dinner, but part of the charm of this wedding is that it's a more casual cocktail-y stand-up reception. Plenty of dancing, food, and drinks, but no awkward tables of conversationally-challenged people.

I struggled at first to come up with an organizing decorative theme for the wedding. "Boating" or "rowing" or other nautical themes made me cringe at the thought of crossed oars or signal flags or similar all over my wedding invitations. Beach themes were also (more unfortunately) out. Then I got it, sea glass! Sea glass would provide a wonderful color palette of blues and greens and relate to the water, while still making sense at a boat club.

Guests would get their first glimpse of these colors in the "Ocean" stationery from MountainCow, which I would use to print out the invitations at home. Or, if I was feeling ambitious, I would hand write them.

The "ceremony" will probably last ten minutes and take place on the dock. Yes, guests will have to make their way through the racks of rowing shells to get to the dock. Yes, some poor guy will probably be trying to use the dock to hose down his boat after a sweaty row. But this still seems easier than making everyone get to both a church and the reception. Plus, I don't know which church I would use since the one I went to growing up seems too far from the Boat Club. So the ceremony will probably be on the dock. If I can't find a reasonably priced and fabulous used or vintage wedding dress I'll probably get a white bridesmaid's dress or something from J.Crew. My bridesmaids would wear their own dresses in blues or greens, and the groomsmen can wear their own outfits too. But I might breakdown and dress the ring bearer and flower girl (probably my niece Lily and nephew Jackson) in matching seersucker.

The bridesmaids and I would carry big bouquets of baby's breath, which happen to symbolize everlasting love. I also might torture everyone by hiring a bagpiper to play, which is a family tradition at weddings. But I'll make up for it by getting a great live band for the reception.

As soon as the ceremony's over, guests will be offered a choice of cocktails, wine and beer. I'd want to serve Pim's Cup, another family tradition, and some sort of champagne cocktail, to remind us it's a wedding. We'll set up a bar or two inside and put all the beer in big containers of ice out on the veranda. Then we can tent the roof terrace and use it to serve all the food. We'll set up small tables and chairs inside and out so about half the guests can sit at any one time. But all the food will require fingers only, or at most a fork, so sitting down to eat won't be necessary for the young and nimble. Right now I'm thinking there will be a mix of Mediterranean things: tapas, antipasti, middle eastern stuff, and maybe a grilling station.

The cocktail tables will have blue or green tablecloths and centerpieces of glass cylinder vases (which you can rent or buy wholesale on eBay) filled with sea glass, pillar and votive candles, and maybe our baby's breath bouquets. To help fill out the lighting provided by the candles, we'll suspend white, blue, and green paper lanterns from the ceilings of the tent and ballroom.

In fact, paper goods might be another theme of the wedding, if has anything to say about it. I would want to get custom printed cocktail napkins in the design at left, with white flowers on a light green background, which reminds me of my favorite baby's breath (FYI ordering custom napkins can be cheaper than buying them in the store because you order in bulk). I would also get custom matchbooks to hand out as favors (and add to my own matchbook collection). I like the format and typeface of the example below but would use light blue script.

After some toasts and plenty of dancing it will be time for dessert. Since all the food is meant to be eaten easily with the fingers, I think the perfect wedding cake would be a tower of cupcakes instead. I would skip the fussy lace trim and fondant hearts you see here and decorate them with blue and green sugar crystals to tie in with the sea glass. Since my grandma is a one-person cookie factory, the cupcakes might well be the centerpiece of a dessert buffet of homemade sweets. All in all, I expect this wedding to cost about $6,000 for about 100 people, not bad for a wedding! Of course, prices might go up. Then again, if my wedding-planning trend continues my requirements might also continue to go down.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Wedding Stationery

Weddings can involve a lot of paper. Guests can be sent save the date cards complete with maps, lists of area hotels and attractions, and (god forbid) registry information. Invitations can include separate reception and reply cards (the former are perfectly correct, the latter a nouveau riche travesty). The ceremony can feature custom made programs, while the reception can be home to seating cards, place cards, menu cards, and the guest book. Despite the possibilities, or perhaps because of them, wedding stationery is best kept to a minimum. Here are some ways to have fun with your paper without felling too many trees.

The paper wedding invitation is absolutely mandatory for even the most casual weddings, and chances are any reception is going to involve some cards as well. On the right, for example, cards are laid out for guests to write good wishes to the bride and groom. These can then be pasted in a book in lieu of the traditional guest book that everyone hates to sign. On the left we see a formal invitation with a subtle fern motif, separate reception card, and a reply card with envelopes. These reply cards have become de rigeur, but I continue to protest against them. They are designed to make replying so convenient for guests that they will actually RSVP, but every wedding magazine still features a question from a bride asking how she can get a proper head count for the caterer since no one has sent in the little cards. If guests are sent formal wedding invitations, they should reply in writing on their own stationery. If the invitations are less formal, guests can phone or email whomever they know whose involved in the wedding, whether that is the bride, groom, or his or her parents. If the guests don't know any of those people's phone numbers or email addresses, they shouldn't be invited to the wedding.

Wedding papers offer a great opportunity to present a decorative theme. On the left a stationery suite in light blue and cream uses long thin formats and justified type to present a modern spin on a traditional color scheme. The suite includes (clockwise from top left) a seating card, handwritten menu card, ceremony program, reply card, reception card, place card, and invitation. Although tables at wedding receptions are most often denoted with numbers, you could also give them each the name of something to do with your theme. On the right seating cards direct guests to tables named after different kinds of shells. Each table could be identified by a sign with the name of that shell or a centerpiece displaying the appropriate shells in a bowl or on a tray. Shells could also decorate the invitations. Or tables could be named after different flowers, with the Tulip Table featuring a centerpiece of, you guessed it, tulips, and the bride and bridesmaids carrying bouquets that mixed all the flowers together.

The invitations can match the reception decorations in more subtle ways. The stationery at left in letter pressed on paper that resembles wood veneer, which would go wonderfully with the veneer covered vases shown in the previous post. For those of you with too much time on your hands, make envelope liners for your invitations using vintage or contemporary photographs, then decorate tables at the reception with photos of the bridal couple and the weddings of their parents, friends, and relatives.

After looking around a bit, it seems so hard to find reasonably priced invitations you really like that you might as well make your own. On the left colored stationery, napkins, and matchbooks are personalized with a custom-made embosser, which creates a colorless raised image and is traditionally used for monograms. On the right plain stationery gets printed up into invitations at home and embellished at the corners with a craft punch. I love the lacy look this gives, especially when combined with those brown paper lunch-bag-esque envelopes.

As an event planner, I've learned that seating card displays look beautiful for about two seconds after the guests start to show up. But by creating little accordion holders, like those shown on the right, cards will always keep in line. On the left sheer ribbon is used to hold down seating cards that might fly away at an outdoor reception. These techniques also give you yet another opportunity to use whichever colors you've picked for your wedding decorations.

Of course you don't have to use seating cards at all! These non-cards still direct guests to their tables and continue wedding themes. Little bunches of lavender double as favors for the guests and could echo flowers used in bouquets, centerpieces, or as a decorative motif on invitations. On the right tiny paper parasols fit right in with a beachy or Caribbean-themed wedding. The only downside of these cuties is that it's harder for guests to find their names.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Wedding Decorations

And now we come to the really fun bit. Almost everything at a wedding has the potential to be decorated, from the groom's lapel to the cocktail coaster. But the decorations that make the biggest impact are the table centerpieces.

You really can't go wrong with a lush arrangement of flowers. Table centerpieces are ideally low and wide to make a big impression without blocking views and conversation. I prefer arrangements with a narrow color range and textural unity. On the left, rannuculus in cream, orange and yellow are highlighted with a bit of greenery. On the right, parrot tulips and peonies range from creams and oranges to pinks and mauves.

Class cylinders are the ultimate centerpiece component. They come in a variety of sizes, can be used for flowers or candles, and can be customized to go with any look. The usual method is to affix colored fabric or patterned paper to the exterior. Here the cylinders have been covered in faux wood veneer, very Scandinavian modern.

Large receptions usually feature round tables that each seat about eight guests, but lately long rectangular tables have been making a comeback, perhaps because they lend themselves to more interesting centerpieces. On the left, flowering branches stand in a row of pale blue vases, which are placed in between seats to aid conversation. On the right similar stone vases are filled with a variety of white and yellow flowers, highlighted by a yellow runner underneath.

Sometimes it's the container that makes the centerpiece. Apples make a lovely focal point when mounded up in picturesque Nantucket baskets. Individual baskets of cherries double as favors. On the right a collection of unusual tea tins lends some unity to a diverse assortment of flowers. I love the arrangement's strong colors and kitschy charm.

Wheat is a favorite non-floral element of mine for weddings. It symbolizes prosperity and fertility (both appropriate for nuptials) and has a sort of minimalist sophistication, making it both modern and timeless. An abundant spray of wheat and grasses gets dressed up by a grey silk ribbon on the left. The theme could be continued through wheat wreaths like the one on the right (in a horseshoe shape for good luck) that could hang in the ceremony or reception space.

I also like almost any arrangement with lemons, though I can't explain why. I've even planned an entire citrus-themed wedding in case I ever have to get married in the winter (which would be a big money saver). The elegant arrangement on the left could be placed on either side of the altar, and gets its graceful lines from boughs of a lemon tree. They are used again in the centerpiece on the right, with adds some bold reds to the lemony yellows. The arrangement below left pairs white, yellow and hints of green with black containers for a graphic look. But the simplest citrus arrangement of all is to put a bunch of fruit in a bowl and call it a day. The arrangement below right adds drama with some ribbons, but I would rather see an unadorned collection of small oranges in various shades and shapes, including my favorite clementines. Then they could double as a fruit course for the guests.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Wedding Cakes

Weddings month continues here at Lina's Lookbook with a glance at quite possible the ultimate symbol of the wedding, the cake. Nothing else evokes the sweetness of love and hospitality towards your guests quite like it. In fact, for much of the twentieth century wedding receptions consisted of cake and not much else. Cake and champagne, or champagne punch for the budget-conscious, was the standard fare. Even the over-the-top wedding portrayed in the original Father of the Bride movie (with Elizabeth Taylor and Spencer Tracey) was expensive because of the flowers, trousseau, and (in a memorable scene) the cake. But the reception was still a stand-up cake and champagne affair with dancing, not a sit-down dinner. So why not take a page from their book and have a wedding that centers around one of these?

The traditional wedding cake is white inside and out. Apparently when my aunt cut the first slice of cake at her wedding there was a collective gasp from the guests, because although the icing was bridal white she had asked for a cake in her favorite flavor, chocolate. No matter what flavors you chose inside, there is something lovely about an all-white cake. These keep the monochromatic scheme interesting with some clever decoration. The cake at left uses tiers in a variety of shapes, and softens their edges with a little stylized floral icing. The cake at right is covered by edible sugar flowers in the shape of dogwood blossoms, giving it an interesting texture and romantic feel.

The combination of traditional white with rich chocolate offers a wealth of graphic possibilities. I love the cake on the left, whose elaborate decoration in chocolate icing is inspired by nineteenth-century transferware (like the platter on the wall behind it). On the right some more restrained decoration consists of tiny dots of icing. I also love the petal-shaped tiers used in both cakes.

Martha Stewart Weddings (from which all these pictures are taken) is always doing stories on using ribbons, and while I don't usually go for them myself, on these cakes they strike the right note. On the left white icing forms swags and bows on a pretty blue background. At right the brown moire ribbons pick up on the marbling effect used on the fondant icing, that in turn hints at the chocolate marble cake inside.

How simple can a wedding cake be? At right a basic pale yellow cake gets a little more embellishment at home with a bit of store-bought mini-ivy garland, affixed with extra icing. This would be perfect for a winter wedding with an ivy theme. Ivy has long been considered romantic, especially when paired with the masculine oak, because it clings to the tree the way a wife should cling to her spouse. On the right a far more modern (and more feminist) cake eschews exterior trappings and reveals the clean simple lines of its many layers. Talk about the beauty of materials! The lovely colors keep the minimalism from being boring.

Here are two of my favorite cakes that use the traditional rose in unexpected ways. On the left rose petals have been strung together into a floppy garland that encircles a tier, while a single perfect rose blossom crowns the top. On the right a far less labor-intensive decorating scheme consists of a simple scattering of rose petals. The scale of the cake, far more horizontally grounded than the average, adds to its drama.

Dessert buffets have become more and more popular on the pages of MS Weddings, and perhaps in real life. The buffet at left consists entirely of chocolate treats, while the one at right has a more balanced selection of chocolates and fruity candies. The display on the right also centers around a traditional French wedding cake.

Another popular alternative to the traditional wedding cake is to serve tiny individual cakes to each person. This may derive from the tradition of the groom's cake, which was sliced up and boxed to be taken home as favors. According to legend if an unmarried woman slept with the box of groom's cake under her pillow she would dream of her future husband. On the left little white cakes are topped with sugar flowers. On the right brownies have been cut into circles of various sizes, stacked into wedding-cake like tiers and sprinkled with powdered sugar.

Another alternative to the traditional cake is to have small cakes at each table. Rather than the tiny individual cakes shown above, each one would serve the whole table (e.g. eight people). If suitable decorated, such cakes can stand in for the traditional floral centerpiece. The cakes at left, for example, combine simple square forms with lush toppings of parrot tulips (which are non-toxic). Or serve what we all secretly prefer, cupcakes! This idea has also been catching on lately, and is especially popular when the cupcakes are displayed on tiered cake platters in imitation of a traditional wedding cake. But of course, MS Weddings has taken it to the next level by trimming the cake stands with lace and topping each cupcake with a heart of fondant stamped with a monogram. Sheesh.