vintage travel: attire

to continue on our journey of a vintage travel wedding, we're moving down the color palette from the navy of the invitations with a sassy blue bridesmaid dress. not to mention a gorgeously classic gown for the bride and a contemporary navy suit with an orange tie for the groom and groomsmen.

from left to right:
1. ruched matte jersey gown $105.90 (!)
2. hannah dress $800 (wear a 12? pick up the sample sale dress for $363)

photo credits:

vintage travel: invitations

i'm a huge fan of invitations backed with patterned paper. it gives us non-graphic designers a chance to whip up a basic invitation.

i picked one of the popular free fonts (museo slab) and whipped up some basic wording and scoured the web for imported patterned paper in navy tones. the paper can either be glued or run through a sticker machine (like a xyron) to attach to your cardstock. i created the second information page to perform double duty by making the bottom half a response card. save your guests from cutting by pre-scoring the invitation for easy detaching.

search free-use photos for pictures of passport stamps on a plain background like the one below, and you've got a subtle travel themed envelope liner. paired with a citrus colored envelope and you're set. just trace, cut and glue. :)

photo credits:
1. luxe paperie egg press blue paper
2. paper source yuzen blue swirls paper

vintage travel: venue

keeping with the travel theme, this wedding reception will be held at zaytinya, a greek/turkish/lebanese restaurant in DC. having a restaurant reception is an offbeat option for those weddings with under 100 guests. most restaurants can even handle over that number with a full-buyout (however, this is sometimes costly).

zaytinya has two beautiful spaces for small parties.

a mezzanine for 55 seated guests.

and a ground floor space for parties named the blue room. this room can hold between 60 and 70 seated and overlooks the outdoor patio.

the pros: both rooms are stylish with their deep blue walls, fireplaces, and nectarine and slate accents. the food is served "mezze" style the way of tapas and has many vegetarian and non-vegetarian options. there is also an option for passed hors d'oeurves. the crowning jewel? one of the most inexpensive sets of bar packages in the area. close in proximity to many ceremony and hotel sites.

the cons: you may be sharing the restaurant with their normal dinner crowd. depending on the size of your party there may not be room for a ceremony or cocktail hour. setting up a dance floor may or may not be allowed. parking in chinatown can be complicated and/or expensive.

one of my favorite parts about using a restaurant for your reception venue is the hassle-free review. you get to check out how the food tastes, the ambiance...everything before even asking for an RFP.

with its mediterranean cuisine, this venue plays on the travel theme through cuisine and bold colors. next, we'll take a look to the invitations and other paper elements to bring sass and personality to the party.

photo credits:
1&2: zaytinya

vintage travel: color palette

i think its wonderful when a couple's wedding celebration is a celebration of not only their love, but the things they do together. a wedding doesn't have to be a literal interpretation of those passions and hobbies though. take for instance, a love of travel - this can be colors inspired by your favorite place or the regional cuisine of your last destination.

for this wedding inspiration, i drew on the iconic blues of greece with accents of smoke, nectarine, and khaki. this color palette could be used for a wedding in any season - use more khaki as an accent color for winter weddings and more nectarine in the case of warmer weather.

next? a multi-season venue with a built-in regional cuisine.

photo credits:

DC sunset: budget and wrap up

so how does the DC sunset inspiration work towards creating an overall day and budget?

ceremony: its important that your wedding reflect your beliefs. a wedding ceremony on the rooftop would most likely involve a compromise if the duration required seating for your guests. for a short ceremony, the arch-canopy at the corner of the space would work perfectly. fill it with candles and gather your guests close.

budget: $150 ($35 marriage license, $10 certified copy of license, $100 candles, clear fishing line, glass hanging orbs)

invitations: as with most wedding expenses, invitations can always cost more. with a little ingenuity, some talented friends, or the help of an etsy vendor, achieving the same look as the invites featured here can be done on a budget. get a pdf design and print them yourself. want to customize an invitation without getting it professionally designed? look to free templates like this beautiful chrysanthemum style and customize it to your specific needs. its helpful to know a design program like illustrator or GIMP, but if you know paint and word, you can do this with a few hours and a laser printer.

budget: $150 ($75 good quality cardstock, $25 postage/supplies, $50 paper cutting by a professional)

attire: ordering a dress or suit that will need little, if any, alterations is a good way to keep costs down. accessorize with pieces you already own (like heirloom jewelry).

budget: $1,600 ($950 layered tulle gown, $150 accessories/shoes/birdcage veil, $200 suit, $200 shirt/shoes/tie/accessories, $100 alterations)

reception: stretch your reception budget by limiting the guest list. this venue does some of the work for you as it can only hold 60-80 seated guests. the beacon hotel's rooftop set-up will allow you three distinct spaces with a small guest list (ceremony/lounge, cocktails/dancing, and seated dinner). balance the cost of a seated dinner with one signature drink during cocktail hour and wine/beer for the remainder of the night. select one main entree and one alternative for vegetarians to limit the cost of stocking the kitchen. you don't need a ton of decor - the sunset is your ambiance. access to a rooftop of your own could cut costs dramatically with a reasonable catering bill. try saint germain catering if you've got this option in the DC area. their food is delicious and they're super nice (plus the prices? amazingly reasonable).

budget: $9500 (rooftop reception with cocktail hour, seated three course dinner, wine/beer bar, tip and gratuity at the beacon hotel for 75 guests)

flowers and decor: order in-season flowers or flowers that have full blooms. use plain low vases or rent slightly more ornate ones. add candlelight in the rooftop fountain and on the tables to create a warm glow. DIY is the key to keeping costs down in this area. but with the help of the interwebs, this is a DIY project with a ton of reference tutorials. also, use all one flower to keep your bouquets DIY stress-free.

budget: $500 (wholesale blooms from an online vendor, supplies, candles, vases)

photographer: if i were trying to keep costs down, but still wanted beautiful pictures, the first person i'd call is jessice valle. i adore her work - its fun and unexpected.

budget: $2,500 (in 2011 for 8 hours of coverage plus travel)

miscellaneous: DJ or speaker equipment for an ipod, gifts for your wedding party, unforeseen expenses, trial runs, hair/makeup

budget: $1,500


this may seem like a lot, but with the average wedding in DC running upwards of $35,000, coming in at half the cost seems like a fair discount for the time spent researching and DIYing. especially considering that trade-offs for a seated dinner and time of day/day of week don't need to be made.

could you do it for even less? sure. have a cocktail or buffet reception, choose a less expensive dress, cut your guest list, use your ipod to deejay, negotiate with the venue on things that can be cut from the menu. it all depends on what is important to you.

like one of the ideas, need a variation on the theme? post it in the comments.

xoxo, am

DC sunset: reception

we've picked out colors, we're wearing our sunday best, and we're partying at the beacon hotel's rooftop skybar. 

now here are some fun details to co-ordinate your reception:

serve a signature drink, like this summery frozen sangria during cocktail hour, but have a beer and wine only bar for the rest of the reception to keep costs down.

use simple white place settings with fun typography styled menus. stick with the basic china and flatware provided by your venue to save on rental costs.

use brightly colored large blooms to make a statement in small clusters or larger bouquets. you can save by doing the flowers yourself: order wholesale blooms from your local farmers market or a flower wholeseller (on a recent trip, peonies were 25% less expensive from a local grower, but you're at the whim of what's in bloom that week). check out sites like jamali gardens for inexpensive vases and flower arranging materials.

a side note regarding peonies - peonies oftentimes get a bad rap for being expensive. while they can be expensive, especially out of season, they're usually much larger than a typical bloom and you'll need less to get the same effect. still cant justify the cost, but love the look? try peony garden roses...they're half the cost and very similar in size, shape and coloring.

bring the bold graphic from your invitations back one more time in the form of your cake embellishment.

photo credits:

DC sunset: attire

next up in our DC sunset wedding? wedding party attire.

for this wedding i was looking for a gauzy and slightly ethereal dress and summer weight clothing for the groom and wedding party. remembering what type of event (rooftop) and the climate is key. no one wants to be sweating under layers of fabric.

for the bride, a grecian style layered tulle gown. for the bridesmaids, a purple dress with a hint of embellishment. for the groom and groomsmen, a summer weight cotton suit (with a tie matching the purple in the bridesmaid dresses).

from left to right:

i'm glad that the recent trend in weddings has been towards fashionable, well-made clothes at a fraction of the cost of designer gowns. the look for less is always a score. but bottom-line? pick a dress that you love, feel comfortable in, and that fits your esthetic. same goes for your groom and your attendants (if you have them).

photo credits:

DC sunset: invitations

to continue on the road of building a wedding using the DC sunsets as an inspiration, i was on the hunt for an invitation suite that played off the color palette from the previous post without being too theme-y. then i remembered a feature in the spring issue of martha stewart weddings.

these beautiful invitations were designed by thussfarrell for gail simmons' august 2008 wedding. i think they're a perfect combination of the colors in the inspiration palette, while still maintaining a slight sense of masculinity in the type.

but maybe a suite of letterpress invitations isn't in your budget - so i've scoured the web for similar styles that can be flat printed.

the first thing i'd do though? shoot an email over to the wonderfully talented printable press or 4th and folded (or any creative etsy seller for that matter) and ask if they'd be willing to design something similar that is within your budget. both of these designers will produce a pdf file which you can use to print the invitations yourself, saving money. doing it this way also gives you slightly more control over the finished product and the ability to add custom pieces to the suite. you get what you want AND you can control your budget. its a win-win if you ask me.

photo credits:
1. tara donne via martha stewart weddings
2. ($130 base cost for 100 invitations, use promo code "shopit" to save 10% on your order)
3. wedding paper divas ($179 base cost for 100 invitations)

DC sunset: venue

to build on the color palette i posted yesterday, i was looking for a rooftop venue that took advantage of DC's beautiful sunsets. rooftop space for events is prime real estate in DC. many of the best rooftops or outdoor spaces are attached to bars and restaurants that have huge minimums (i'm looking at you cantina marina). trying to plan a budget-friendly wedding anywhere is hard, but the DC metro is a notoriously expensive place to throw a party. that's why i was ecstatic to find that the beacon hotel had a rooftop.

besides the fantastic rooftop (you have a good chance at either renting the skybar OR the penthouse along with private roof access), this hotel is super close to the metro, has a pretty good reputation, is a hotel venue without necessarily looking like one (great for out of town guests), and from what i've seen of the catering menu, pretty reasonable in cost. and say you'd like an after-party? dupont bars are only a few blocks away.

drawbacks? the rooftop does have views, but obviously wont compare to the swanky W or hay adams at the steps of the white house, but there's always trade-offs for budget friendly. also, you cant supply your own alcohol, and no outside catering is allowed.

i don't know if you'd be able to use that espresso colored furniture from the top photo, but if so, you've already got two pieces of the color palette: the general feel of the sunset and the espresso tone. if not, the next posts will build more colors into this DC sunset wedding.

photo credits:

DC sunset: color palette

if a key point in wedding planning sanity is coming to the realization that you have to work with what you've got, then DCers have got it good.

we've got sunsets up our sleeves.

i don't know if its a reward for surviving the record-breaking blizzards and swampy hot summers, but the sunsets here are magical. so much so that i've used the sun setting over the smithsonian castle as my inspiration for this bright color palette.

up next? a venue that capitalizes on this DC asset in the warmer months.

photo credits:
1. drlandscape

change of pace

i firmly believe the key to organizing anything, whether that be a wedding or your closet, is knowing yourself. i'm the type of person who needs to see the big picture, make a list, then fill the gaps one by one. haphazard usually just makes me crazy.

so on that note, i've decided to take a slight change of direction in regards to how i'll approach this blog. instead of posting random thoughts and wedding inspirations, i'm going to group all of the pictures and ideas i've been collecting throughout the years into "weddings". starting with an inspiration or color palette and building from there. invitations, attire, venues (for both DC and beyond), reception ideas, sourcing/budget/DIY, vendors, and maybe even a honeymoon deal here or there. because that was originally the point of starting this blog, honestly.

like an idea or the whole thing? make it yours.
have questions? ask away.
need someone to throw some ideas at you? i'm your girl.


classic with a twist invitation

i adore this mandy gordon designed invitation with its bright, fun colors and its simple, yet intriguing design. the graphic makes me picture white netting wrapped centerpieces and a chic birdcage veil.

photo credits:

pictures as inspiration: cherry blossom color palette

cherry blossom season may be over for DC, but i'm still dreaming about the colors of the early april blooming period.


photo credits:
1. me (with palette help by degraeve)

DC as inspiration: brunch drinks

living in a big metropolitan area is a constant source of inspiration.

above is a re-creation of blue duck tavern's famous inside-out bloody mary. i'd serve this an alternative to a full bar for a late morning/early afternoon event. its a signature drink that can also transform one base, such as vodka or champagne into many drink flavors. vodka could be served with spicy tomato, orange, or grapefruit juice cubes. vodka too intense? pear, peach, and orange juices all mix well with champagne. yum.


photo credits:

springtime bouquet centerpiece

if there's one thing that reminds me of spring, its the smell of lilacs in the air. i'm lucky to live on a block where many of my neighbors grow lilacs in their front yards.

(lilacs, mini-hydrangeas, tulips)

for those of you DIY-ing your flowers, this was a no-fuss arrangement i picked up from the local farmers market for $20. add in a plain glass vase and the raffia that came with the arrangement and it was done. it really could have even been larger, but i took out some of the greenery that came with it.

to be quite honest, i'm not a rockstar flower arranger and i love pre-mixed bouquets for this reason. its basically fool-proof DIY. and supporting a local grower is an added bonus.

photo credits:
1. me

purple bridesmaid dresses under $125

i love the four dresses below as non-traditional bridesmaid dresses. (non-traditional because they're not marketed as such, and therefore you get the savings associated with non-weddingy things).

in the prettiest of spring-time lilac, magenta and purples:

from left to right:
4. ellen tracy ruffle front print sheath dress, $118.00

plus, get the dresses all at once and you can save with free shipping on orders over $200.

photo credits:


if i were getting married tomorrow, it would be in this tara latour lindemeyer dress featured on the wedding chicks.

photo credits:

the new cupcake

some wedding trends are here today-gone tomorrow. but others, like the surge of cupcake-cakes may never die. me personally? i'm a cupcake lover at heart. if its covered in cream cheese frosting any kind of frosting, i'll eat it.

maybe you don't want cupcakes. maybe you're looking for something just as nostalgic and relatively cost effective.

i'd personally love to see a resurgence of whoopie pies. they're similar to cupcakes in that they can be done yourself or with the help of friends with minimal day-of prep time. red velvet, traditional chocolate, spring-y lemon...the sky's the limit. some grocery stores (like giant here in the DC area) already make them. (for about a dollar a piece. quite the steal!)

the custom ice-cream sandwich route sounds just as delicious. if i lived in LA, my first call would be to coolhaus. they've got a ton of flavor combinations and will come right to your event either in their truck, or set up a table.

but the best part of picking these things for your wedding is all the tasting/research you get to do. so get out there. have a recommendation for the best whoopie pie recipe or ice cream sandwich vendor? let me know!

xoxo, am

photo credits: 1. source unknown. is this your picture? send me an email so i may credit you.
                    2. coolhaus

hello world

i've loved weddings since i was a little girl. anyone who knows me well enough can tell you that i fell hard ever since i read my first issue of martha stewart weddings at age 11. over the years i've collected hundreds of images, notes and thoughts that my friends tell me will be useful once  they decide to get married. so until they do, i'm posting them here.

a little bit about me: i'm a compulsive deal researcher, lover of all things pretty, full time accountant, and full of seemingly useless facts and trivia.

what will i be posting, you may be asking? budget-friendly wedding ideas, tips i've found to getting the best deal (on everything from honeymoon trips to using your tax return to your wedding-advantage), inspiring pictures and links, general thoughts and the things i would suggest to my friends if they ever came asking for advice.

while i'm not currently planning my own wedding (save me the "you're crazy"), i know one day this may turn into the best research i ever did.

so welcome! i hope you enjoy it around here.

xoxo, am

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