Ceremony Backdrop

So we've nailed down the venue, I've got a dress, and I'm dreaming about cake. Almost all our vendors are in place (just a couple smaller ones left), so I've left myself start dreaming about the decor. With pinterest inspiration in my face every day, I was wanting to jump into decorations the very first thing. I made myself a deal that I would wait until I had all the big components nailed down so that I wouldn't get my heart set on a decor idea that wasn't feasible for the venue or would clash with some of the larger items. Since almost all those are in place: full steam ahead! The first thing I'm scheming is our ceremony backdrop. The venue already comes with an amazing brick wall backdrop and some lights hanging overhead, but I want some other color and pattern as our main focal point. Something a little more dynamic than the white curtain that has been used in the space in the past:


Source: Photo Elan

I went back to our pattern and decided that maybe I would just do the simplest thing and re-create it in a larger format, with several types of hanging garlands. Globe lights  (which the pattern was designed around), pom pom yarn balls for the colorful circles, a bold geometric garland, and maybe even the paper airplanes that are a nod to our long distance relationship. I think a few of these garlands hanging side-by-side or overhead would be just the focal point I'm looking for.

Brianne wedding pattern ceremony backdrop

Sources (Top then left to right): The Ravenna GirlsCramer PhotoRuffled BlogGather and Build Lulu the Baker

What do you think? Is it too much, or just enough??


Finding an industrial venue


 Marvimon House, LA Source: Brian Leahy Photo

Going into the wedding planning process, I knew choosing a venue would be the hardest task, because I'm an architect. It was the first thing I wanted to go look at it, even though I knew I might be overly critical.Also, Erik only had plans for a brief leave when he'd be able to come home and see a few top choices, so I cast a wide net and started narrowing down the options.  I knew the general "feel" I wanted to find, but a lot of different types of venues fell in that category. After a lot of deliberation we found a place a venue that hit almost all of our initial wants and will only require a little bit of problem solving on our end. Here are the ultimate items that helped make our decision:

KNOWING OUR WANTS: We were able to establish some known things about our wedding day that helped pare down the giant list of venues we started with. For example, since we knew we were going to have a spring wedding in Seattle, we ruled out all venues that were primarily outdoors. The weather is unpredictable and generally rainy here until about July and I wasn’t going to kid myself that I would luck out with the perfect 70 degree spring day. So, farms and parks generally got cut off. Also, after we put together our inspiration board, it was clear we wanted a building with history and industrial edge. There were some hotels and restaurants that made the first cut, but we knew golf courses and newer venues would be off our list. Then we narrowed it down further by price and set a couple other deal breakers, like venues that wouldn’t allow us to have a full bar. It was tough to knock out some, but as Erik told me “we can’t have 20 weddings, you have to rule something out somehow”.


 The Foundry, Brooklyn Source: CLY Creation

SPACE: We’re inviting around 150 guests. Surprisingly, I found this to be a tricky amount of people to find a venue for. Most small/midsize venues comfortably fit about 120, but since we have a long engagement and people basically have this on their calendars already, we are expecting more than the traditional attendance percentage. I didn’t want a place that was going to feel really squished with 130 or 140 people. On the flip side, most large venues can fit 300 or more, and some of those places we visited felt pretty cavernous and we wanted to make sure our wedding feels cozy and happy. In the end,  our final few venues were the ones where our guest size would be comfortably accommodated.


 The Green Building, Brooklyn Source: Christina Szczupak

FLEXIBILITY: A big thing for me was flexibility on timing. I’m always disappointed when I go to a wedding, and the party just gets really rocking around 9 pm and then all of a sudden its last call, last dance and you’re thinking “now what”. On my wedding day, I might be done by 9, but I want the flexibility to make that decision or party until the wee hours. One of the criteria on my list was to try and find a place either with no curfew or a late curfew so we wouldn’t feel quite as rushed through the evening. This helped out rule out venues that required us to be cleaned up and out any earlier than midnight.

LIGHT: One of the difficulties in looking for historical industrial venues is that many of them are in older buildings without great natural daylight. Even though our ceremony is going to be in the evening, I looked up the sunset time for our wedding day, and its not until 7:30 pm. That means if we get started around 5:30, we still have 2 hours of daylight to enjoy. We ruled out a couple venues that just felt really dark and that we knew wouldn’t be great for photos.


Source: EM Fine Art


Source: Shahrzad Photography

In the end, we chose an art gallery in an up and coming older neighborhood of Seattle near the space needle (the two images above are from the gallery). We're planning to have the ceremony and the reception in the same location. The owners are fabulous and have been so great to work with. We get our choice of caterer and can provide our own bar, which should save us a good bit of money. The space is beautiful, and there are skylights to bring in great afternoon light. There is no curfew so in theory our guests can party their hearts out. Its nearby to several hotels and other amenities, and there is decent parking (which can also be a challenge in an urban setting). Locking in the venue really made things feel real – now its time to start imagining the details!

[ If you're looking for other Seattle venues with a similar vibe, consider 415 Westlake, Melrose Market Studios, Sodo Park, and Georgetown Ballroom]

Planning a Wine Country Wedding, Part 3: Where did you get that?

As an event designer, one of the questions I’m asked most by both clients and wedding guests is where I find all the unique elements — from the perfect dinner chairs to the adorable ring bearer’s pillow — that make a couple’s wedding uniquely them. For wine country weddings, you typically want thoughtful details that beautifully bridge both rustic and elegant looks. Here I share some of Esla Events' favorite sources.

Paper Goods


The Aerialist Press. They offer beautiful designs – both house and couture collections, and are two of the nicest people you will ever meet, who are inspiringly passionate about what they do.

Little Miss Press. She offers beautiful stationery design AND stunning calligraphy. Getting your invitations designed, printed, and addressed all in one spot? Can’t get any easier than that.


Materials & Special Touches



Save on Crafts. For all you DIYers out there, this is a gold mine for materials. From candles to moss to baskets, this national site’s warehouse is located just down south in Watsonville, so getting your items is very quick and easy.

Pressed Cotton. One of my new favorite sites for special little details. The products are tastefully done and well curated.

BHLDN. While some items are overpriced, sometimes you just can’t find that perfect coral cake stand anywhere else. Great for items you think you’ll want to keep long after the wedding.

Etsy. And no list can be complete without this “DIYer outsourcing” site. Sometimes it takes some patience to dig through all the postings, but usually you can find the perfect item at a great price.


Pretty Sweets


Miette. A San Francisco classic, this store just makes you happy. If you can incorporate some of their jaw-droppingly beautiful cupcakes and macarons into your dessert table, do.

Batter. One of my favorite sources for baked goods. Delicious, unique, and beautiful.

Candy Warehouse. There isn’t anything that glamorous about this site or source, but it’s a lifesaver if you’re trying to find a range of candies in one particular shade.



Hartmann Studio Rentals. Tip: They have one of the best shrubbery collections in the region. So if you need some olive trees or boxwoods to help define large outdoor spaces, and make ceremony spaces more intimate, this is the place to go.

Wine Country Party & Events. Not surprisingly, their inventory is geared beautifully towards the rustic yet romantic and elegant look of Napa and Sonoma weddings.

Classic Party Rentals. Looking for a great dark-wood farm table? They rent them for $85. Also, their benches and Descanso lounge furniture are quite popular with my clients.

For fans of mid century modern, industrial, and custom design rentals, keep an eye out for YEAH! Rentals and rEvolve (site coming soon!), who will both be expanding their presence in the Bay Area this coming year.


Vintage Touches


One True Love Vintage Rentals. Incredibly tasteful collection, with exceptionally beautiful pieces for lounge vignettes.

Heritage & Craft. With a beautiful selection of vintage goods, they also are able to craft custom pieces for you.

MilkGlass Vintage Rentals. Her selection of tables and glassware are fantastic, and she also can help you create a customized piece to perfectly suit your needs.

Wine Country Party’s Circa. Need to try and get all your rentals from the same place to avoid multiple delivery charges? Wine Country Party has a Circa line of vintage goods, so you can get 150 standard white plates and 5 wooden crates for styling your dessert table all in one place.



Napa Valley Linens. Amazing customer service and a constantly updated and beautiful selection of linens.

La Tavola. My clients go crazy for their Tuscano line (which are linen linens). Beautiful understated elegance. They have showrooms in both Napa and San Francisco, making sample viewing a snap.

Happy hunting for your perfect items!

Planning a Wine Country Wedding, Part 1: When & Where

Today we are announcing a new Engaged & Inspired series, Planning a Wine Country Wedding. This series is written by one of my favorite Wine Country wedding planners, Laurel of Esla Events. Esla Events is responsible for some absolutely gorgeous weddings, no seriously, check out her gallery of work. Truly breathtaking. Find out more about Laurel and Esla Events right here. Take it away Laurel! 


I’m thrilled to contribute to Engaged & Inspired’s wealth of information and insight for real brides who are planning real weddings. My four-part series will focus on planning a wedding in Napa, Sonoma, and the surrounding areas. While I have a few ideas for the upcoming posts, I want to first open it up to you, Engaged & Inspired readers: What would you like to know? Feel free to email me directly at laurel@eslaevents.com, or leave a comment on this post.

Two of the first major decisions you’ll need to make when planning your wine country wedding are where and when to get married, so let’s begin there.

“When” is relatively straight-forward. Prime wedding weather in Napa, Sonoma, and surrounding areas is mid-May through mid-October, with the most reliably comfortable months being June and September. However, couples get married year round in this beautiful area. Even now in February, there are beautiful blankets of yellow mustard among the vineyards and, just yesterday, I was comfortably running around Yountville in a dress. The weather is of course less predictable from November to April, but if you’re on a budget or have a challenging schedule, don’t feel limited to just the prime summer and fall months.

"Where” to get married is the more interesting, and often more personal and challenging, question.

Beautiful custom map by The Aerialist Press

You might have a vision in your head already — a cozy dinner with a beautiful vineyard backdrop and soft magical light, right? But beyond that, you might be surprised by the range of variables you’ll need to consider. Here are a few questions I always ask clients when beginning the venue hunt:

How far from San Francisco do you want your guests to drive? If you want to encourage all guests – including your San Francisco friends and family – to make a weekend of it and stay overnight one or more nights, select a venue in Healdsburg, Glen Ellen, or Calistoga, which are a solid 1.5-2 hours outside San Francisco. This can make for livelier receptions, as your guests won’t have to worry about driving home after the celebrating (assuming you provide transportation back to the main hotel, if needed). However, if convenience is a bigger factor for you, and you don’t want to ask your out-of-town guests to drive another two or three hours after their cross-country flight, then opt for a venue near the cities of Sonoma or Napa. Some favorites include The Carneros Inn and Gundlach Bundschu.

How late do you want your wedding to go? Local noise ordinances makes outdoor dance parties impossible after 9 or 10pm. If you want to twirl late into the night with your friends and new husband, seek out venues with indoor reception areas, such as Cline Cellars and Calistoga Ranch.

Do you want cocktails to be served? If so, be sure to check whether the venue you’re considering allows hard alcohol. Many vineyards only allow wine (often only their own) and beer, but many other types of venues allow both, especially hotels and estates, such as Solage and Beaulieu Garden.

What does an “intimate setting” mean to you? Many couples are drawn to wine country for the promise of an intimate, relaxed, and beautiful setting. There are many types of “intimate” in wine country though, and getting clear on what exactly that means to you and your fiancé will help focus your search. Do you want all your family and friends to stay onsite all weekend at a property like Dawn Ranch? Or do you imaging whisking all your guests away to a beautiful hideaway like Healdsburg Country Gardens? Or does is really mean renting a wing of rooms at your favorite hotel like Bardessono, and having all festivities right there onsite?

Talking about those four basic questions with your fiancé will help focus your search, and make the most of your initial visits to the area.  Once you have an idea of what you’re looking for, check out search tools like Here Comes the Bride, the local venue list at The Collection, or simply cruise around Engaged & Inspired and other blogs for leads. I recommend seeing no more than 3-4 sites in one day to avoid venue-overload.

And now for a little visual fun: photos of a few of my favorite venues by some of my favorite photographers!

Beaulieu Garden Located in Rutherford, this beautiful private estate is full of magical features like a sunken garden, fountains, and vine-covered arbors. This venue is perfect for couples wanting an elegant, extremely private, al fresco setting for their big day (and for those with a decent-sized budget.)

Photo by Larissa Cleveland

Photos by Larissa Cleveland

Photos by Larissa Cleveland


The Carneros Inn For those of you skeptical of hotels as wedding venues, this modern-meets-rustic oasis will win you over with its impeccable design (no crazy carpets here!), beautiful layout, and private-feeling event areas. One of my favorite spots.

Photo by Carlie Statsky Photography

Photo by Carlie Statsky Photography

Photo by Carlie Statsky Photography

Annadel Estate Winery This is one of the most intimate and beautifully raw settings I’ve come across in Wine Country. The vine-covered ruins are the centerpiece of the property, and they’re beautifully complemented by a large lawn and barn.

  Photos by MEF Photography


Calistoga Ranch For smaller weddings, this gem offers several different site options, including a beautiful lawn area overlooking a small lake on one side and a valley on the other, a gorgeous pool area, and a cozy wine cave.

Photo by Sabine Scherer Photography

Photo by Sabine Scherer Photography

Photo by Sabine Scherer Photography


Gundlach Bundschu While I haven’t personally planned a wedding here yet, I’ve visited the wine tasting room many times and have fallen in love with the ceremony site. Conveniently located near Sonoma, Gundlach sits on a hill overlooking beautiful hills and vineyards.

  Photos by Jessica Burke Photography

 Coming up next: TBD! Email me your topic requests, or post them in the comments below.

Double Take: The Decision to Have Two Ceremonies

If you had asked me 6 years ago (after attending my first wedding) if I would have a church wedding, I would have without a doubt told you yes. You see, my fiance and I both attended parochial school for the majority of our schooling and so as a young girl I thought that's what most people did.

Source 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

Well fast forward a few years and my fiance and I actually started talking about what our wedding might look like and the word church rarely came up. We pictured an outdoor ceremony, just like the one were planning. So maybe it's Catholic guilt or maybe it's just our nature, but we knew having a religious ceremony was important to us too. Since we were unable to find a priest to agree to marry us outside, we've decided to hold two ceremonies. The first, in the church with only our immediate family and bridal party on the Thursday before our big day and the second, on a Saturday, outdoors, followed by a terrific reception. This is a sure fire way to confuse your wedding guests :)

Love the look of quaint little chapels but also think grand, eye catching churches are gorgeous.

If I was having a church ceremony only, I think I would have loved one of these numbers above. Definitely more formal than my dress for my outside wedding.

I can't help but be smitten over weddings under trees. This is comfortable and so natural for me.

Aisle Blooms

This week I have been thinking about what I would like our wedding aisle to look like. A few months ago I bought a bunch of planters made from old cinnamon bread pans at a flea market. I'm not entirely sure how I will use these but I couldn't pass them up and though they would be great aisle decor.

I am also really loving all of these creative hanging flower arrangements.

Sources: 1 & 2


And these rustic stumps.

Sources: 1 & 2


 How are you making your aisle magical for your special day? What extra touches did you add?


Here Comes the Bride {aisle inspiration}

This past Saturday I talked with two different florists. Before doing so I gathered lots of inspiration and honed in on the look I wanted. I had been holding off on this because there are so many gorgeous options, I was having trouble committing to one. Creating a board with the things I decided on so far and adding in the flowers I was thinking about really helped me be sure I was going in the right direction. I sent the Pinterest board links to the florists and it helped them see my overall style and, more specifically, the flowers I had in mind (what did we do before Pinterest!?) One thing they both asked me on our calls was what my plan was for the aisle and ceremony space. I had been doing so much thinking about the flowers in terms of the tables and bouquets, I hadn't even thought of the aisles! So I asked them what they recommended and started searching and realizing there are endless options...

Source: left, right

Would love the candle look if I was having a nighttime ceremony.


Source: left, right


Shepherd hooks are really versatile and my venue has some I can use if I opt for this. No extra rentals =  money saved! But, you will be shelling out for the extra arrangements. One good option would be if you could move them to the tables after the ceremony for double duty!


Source: left, middle, right


And then there are petals. I love the look of petals along the aisle because it creates such a strong visual pathway. It's also romantic, timeless and (apparently) pretty cost-effective. One of the florists told me she could use the petals of a less expensive flower along the aisle.

When you have a gorgeous venue, I think you can get away with a more minimal aisle decoration. I'm thinking I will keep the ceremony decor pretty simple (we have Mt. Hood as the backdrop, so I think people will be looking at that), and put more towards the tables.

What are you doing to dress up your aisle and ceremony space? Did you have it figured out already when you talked to florists? Any cost-saving tips?

Dressing up the Aisle

One of my favorite things about our venue are the huge oak trees around the grounds. They add so much to the space and I can't imagine the place without them. There's one tree in particular that acts as the ceremony focus point. We will be getting married under the tree in June! Since the space around the tree is very plain and rustic, think dirt and leaves, I've been looking for ways to dress up the aisle without taking away from the beautiful tree. Here are a few ideas I keep getting drawn to.

Source 1, 2, 3

I love the idea of shepherds hooks with mason jars. They go perfectly with my venue and look beautiful down the aisle. Or the cultural idea of 1000 cranes. I absolutely love how these are displayed between two oak trees.  And drapping on beautiful linen between the branches, so gorgeous and romantic.

Source 4, 5, 6

These are the trees we'll be getting married under this summer. It's such a blank slate to work with, I can't wait to decide on the look. I'm in love with the rose petals down the aisle and the gorgeous dahlia tied to the chairs is soft and pretty.

 Source 6, 7, 8, 9

Other ideas might be petal designs down the aisle, a lace runner to walk down on, petals all the way down acting as a runner, or little tins holding flowers to add some pretty to the space.


Beneath the Leaves {Choosing Ceremony Florals and Eves}

I'm very lucky to be getting married at Paradise Ridge Winery, which offers an unbeatable ceremony location. See pics below.



Because of the space's abundant natural beauty, I want to keep things simple and botanical, but would love to bring to life our Art Nouveau aesthetic. Here are some images inspiring me this week.





Ready, Set, Location!

I concluded in my last post, that we decided to limit the guest limit making the final number 35 people.  So how do we find the right size space to accommodate this quantity?



We knew that we didn’t want an outdoor event because the uncertainty of the weather would have caused us stress up until the last minute.  The venues that I was familiar with were too large for our small guest list and I didn’t want to have us feel lost in the room.  I wasn’t finding as many smaller venues in our area so I started looking into function rooms within restaurants and didn’t find just the right space.

I broadened my horizons outside of the Raleigh area and still didn’t have as much luck as I had hoped.  I then began focusing in on B&B’s thinking that might be just the right direction to take: ceremony and reception all in one.  And there it was…The King’s Daughters Inn!  It is the perfect blend of 17 guest rooms, a parlor for the ceremony and reception, sun room for cocktail hour, and a dining room for dinner and cake.  We rented the whole Inn and our wedding will be an overnight getaway for our guests!

Has anyone else had to alter their venue ideas to better suit your guest list headcount?