Tag Archives: reception

Collaborating With Your Wedding Photographer, 113: Planning for a Picture Perfect First Dance

02 | 18 | 2011

The first dance is such a sweet moment in the wedding day.  It’s a challenge for shy brides and grooms (since all eyes are on you!), but I think it’s a particularly lovely tradition, one that can yield some fantastic photographs, and one that deserves some thoughtfulness in the planning of your wedding day.  Here are a few easy tips to get you started:

1. Choose that just-right song.

Emotion in real life = emotion in your real photographs.  The song can be magical or meaningful, sentimental or just plain fun, but definitely choose one that makes you two dance.

2. Consider the lighting and space you’ll use.

Lighting can add drama, but it also shows off your faces.  And I know I’m always reminding folks about their grannies, but your grannies will be glad they can see your faces, too.  This might mean planning your first dance just before or after sunset if you are planning an outdoor reception.  Or it could mean bringing in lighting to accent the dance floor if you’re planning an indoor or late night outdoor reception.

3. Practice!

I don’t necessarily mean you have to take dance lessons, though I have seen—and thoroughly admired!—some spectacular choreographed and rehearsed first dances.  Practice could simply mean slow dancing around your living room a few times before the wedding (which you’ll probably love anyway at that point in the planning!).

photos: Gia Canali


S + E’s Wedding Featured in C Weddings

01 | 14 | 2011

{we’ll share more soon, but in the meantime, click any image to enlarge!}

We love C Magazine’s stylish C Weddings issue!  Last year, they featured Negar & Peter’s downtown Los Angeles wedding.  This year, they’re featuring S + E’s secret-garden-in-wine-country wedding.  We were so excited to get our copy in the mail yesterday!


Negar & Peter’s Elegant Downtown Los Angeles Wedding

07 | 22 | 2010



Negar and Peter’s wedding was fantastically formal, glamorous, and richly textured in a way that very few weddings here in California ever are.  If I could think of one phrase to describe this wedding, it would definitely be, dressed to the nines.  Of course, that phrase makes a lot of sense when a fashion stylist weds a writer.

{click any image to enlarge}

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Above: Tiny Pine Press designed and handmade these formal letterpress wedding invitations for Negar & Peter.  I love how they look like they might have come out of grandma’s wedding album … or an F Scott Fitzgerald novel.  They make me hope for a return to classical wedding design.

Negar & Peter had a traditional Persian ceremony, fireside, with a beautifully decorated sofreh. In Persian ceremonies, I love when all the girls (sisters, friends, mothers, aunts, etc.) get up and sprinkle the couple with sugar flakes.  What wedding couldn’t use a little sweetness like that?


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Negar called on her gifted pals, Joseph Free and David Rogers, who are usually busy designing events for Vogue and fashion designers, to design the florals and decor for her wedding. Inspired by their handiwork, and not surprisingly, this is the wedding that made me rethink baby’s breath.  Heaps of lacy-soft baby’s breath and the warm glow of candlelight, it turns out, are pure magic. Here are a few of the intricate and particularly stellar details:


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Even the wedding’s tiniest guests were dressed up and ready to party:

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We were honored to have this wedding featured in C Magazine’s C Weddings this April and are doubly thrilled that it’s being shown off on Style Me Pretty {here} today as well.

photographs: Gia Canali; venue, The California Club; invitations: Jennifer Parsons, Tiny Pine Press; floral design: Joseph Free; event decor: David Rogers; gown: Monique Lhuillier; bride’s jewels, vintage Neil Lane; shoes, Valentino


Interview with Yifat Oren: Tips for Everyone from Celebrity Wedding Planning, Part II

07 | 17 | 2010


We’ve got celebrity wedding planner, Yifat Oren, back with us today, offering one more expert wedding planning tip and it’s an especially good one to heed:

“There’s a whole art to the pacing of a party and the energy of a party.”

“If you create too many lulls, your reception will not be as great as it could be.  Waiting in between courses too long without giving guests something to do – like geting them up and dancing or listening to toasts – can really suck the life out of a party.   When creating your timeline, pay special consideration to timing.  A good rule of thumb is to serve a course and then have a couple of toasts.  After the toasts, clear the course and either get your guests up for some dancing or come out with the next course immediately.  For all this to run smoothly, your caterer/banquet captain at a hotel and band leader must work closely together with a well-thought-out timeline.  Ideally, you would also have someone there on the day of the wedding to manage this process and be the liaison.”

Thinking about the flow of your party when you create your timeline is essential, particularly in considering your guests.  But a wellthought-out timeline won’t help you if you don’t stick to it (or, at least, as much as is up to you). I’m not saying, don’t let yourselves be spontaneous. I’m saying: plan for the experience you want to have and share with your guests and then have it (don’t just think it’ll happen).  Your wedding crew will be busy doing the best job they can to realize that dream wedding day for you.  Poor planning and big deviations can impact what they can do for you and can halt the party you’ve hoped for and imagined.  Plus,  a lively party renders much better on film.  Thanks (again!), Yifat.

photo: Gia Canali


Interview With Yifat Oren: Tips For Everyone From Celebrity Wedding Planning, Part I

07 | 16 | 2010


Yifat Oren has spent the last dozen years planning weddings and parties for some of the most discerning folks in Hollywood. When asked about her work, Yifat says, “I love what I do because I love what goes into weddings:  design and décor, food and wine, fine papers, entertainment, and even the creativity that goes into executing it all flawlessly.   I think the best weddings I do are a great collaboration between the clients and myself—that kind of collaboration breeds the most creative, trend-setting results.”

Those clients are high-powered and high-profile, everyone from Mariska Hargitay & Peter Hermann and Christine & Kevin Costner, to a host of Hollywood producers and business moguls.  And while a lot of what these folks do for their weddings seems (or is!) totally unattainable for most of us, some of the most important and impactful aspects of planning a fantastic wedding translate perfectly to diy (or do-it-with-a-little-help) wedding planning.  You don’t necessarily need more money or a bigger wedding budget; you just need a little forethought.

Consider The Guest Experience:

“Be thoughtful and cover your bases. When I’m planning a wedding, I walk through the entire event ahead of time, as if I am a guest. I imagine, for instance, “I just got off the shuttle. I left my hotel room an hour ago.  I’m probably thirsty and I need shade because it’s hot.  So we would serve cold beverages as soon as people get off the shuttle to quench their thirst and either a canopy or some market umbrellas for shade.  The grass is tricky to walk on because ladies’ heels will sink. So we put out ‘heel savers’ … and so on, throughout the rest of the party, ending with a heater near the valet station, to be sure your guests aren’t freezing as they wait for their vehicles.”

centerpiece with peaches

Here are a few specific areas you can consider:

1.    Be thoughtful about parking.

If you’re not doing a valet, it’s okay—just make sure there’s plenty of parking so your guests don’t have to walk too far or fight for spots.”

2.    Consider the weather.

If there’s sun in everybody’s eyes during the ceremony, it’s awful.  So offer some parasols or change the direction of the ceremony if possible.  It’s nice to let people know, especially the ladies, what they can expect in terms of weather and terrain for the wedding day.  If they’ll need to wear wedges, let them know.  If it’s going to be cool during the evening but hot during the day, they might not think to bring wraps, so let them know ahead of time or provide them yourself.”

3.    Consider the general appeal of the food.

You can be a total foodie, but if you want to serve something that’s wild and out there, do it as one of six appetizers, not as the main entreé that comes out for dinner.”

4.    Consider your bridesmaids and groomsmen.

Usually they have to be there hours ahead of time.  Make sure there are cold drinks for them, somewhere for them to hang their coats and stash their stuff, somewhere to sit down, and some shade, especially in the summer.”

5.    Consider the bathrooms.

Have someone checking the bathrooms throughout the night.  Make sure they are clean, well-stocked, and that the plumbing is working.  We like to set out nice hand-towels, not linen ones, but nice linen-like paper ones.  We also leave things your guests might need in the bathroom—a nail file, clear nail polish, extra deodorant, nice soap, lotion, safety pins, a mini sewing kit, and feminine hygiene products.”

I think that we (the wedding-ready universe) spend a lot of time thinking about who to invite and about hiring services, but not so much time about the experience of those services for ourselves and our invited guests. Hiring services is not the same thing as creating an experience. These tips are really helpful in taking diy wedding planning that one very important step further—having bathrooms at your venue, for instance, isn’t the same thing as having continually clean, well-stocked bathrooms for you and your guests all night long.  Small but important details can be not-thought-of at all.  Of course, in a world where we all had business-mogul-sized wedding budgets, we’d want to hire an experienced and expert wedding planner to think of all these things for us (because, believe me, Yifat thinks of everything).    Check back tomorrow for part two. Thanks, Yifat!

photo: Gia Canali


Collaborating With Your Wedding Photographer, 109: Planning Picture Perfect Wedding Toasts

07 | 15 | 2010

wedding toast

We love wedding toasts!  For one thing, hearing how other folks love the bride and groom makes us—and everybody at a wedding, I think—adore the bride and groom even more.  And the photographs of the bride and groom and the guests reacting to toasts can be so fun (though, in fact, that could go either way if the toasts are deadly-long or if there are too many of them, come to think of it).

Somehow, toasts are more-often-than-not overlooked in the orchestration and choreography of the wedding day—but they’re important because the toasts themselves can be very meaningful and the photos do actually sometimes make it into the finished wedding album. So, naturally, you want the toasting photos to be their best selves.  (And don’t think that this magically won’t happen to you on your wedding day … )


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Here are a few easy tips for setting yourself up to have picture perfect toasts:

  1. Have the speaker stand somewhere with a nice background and nice light, even if that spot is right at his or her dinner table.  Ample ambient light is the best kind.
  2. Please don’t put your toaster in front of an EXIT sign. (This is just an expansion of point #1, I suppose).
  3. Make sure your photographer is present. If you have a planner, he or she can help with this.  If you are diy-planning, you’ll need to keep an eye on this yourself.  Although your photographer may stick close by your side the entire rest of the day, during dinner time, she could be off taking photographs in another part of the event, or trying to take a quick dinner break.  If unscheduled or unannounced toasts happen, she can miss them.
  4. Toasts REALLY TRULY need to be short and sweet.  Haute wedding planner, Yifat Oren, notes,”it’s a toast, not a roast.  Toasts should be short and sweet and moving and anecdotal. The longest amount of time for any one toast should be seven minutes, but preferably no longer than five.  You can say a lot in seven minutes.”  And, “if you’re planning to have 35 minutes of toasts, don’t do it all at once.”  It’s hard for the guests to sit through a bunch of long toasts (read: boring) and can bring the whole party to a halt. If someone really wants to give a long toast or say something much more expansive to or about you and your beloved, the rehearsal dinner might afford a better and more intimate opportunity for that kind of thing.

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Check back tomorrow for an interview with Yifat, full of tips from celebrity weddings that are applicable to weddings on any budget.

photographs: Gia Canali


Getting Inspired Performances from Your Wedding Photographer & All Your Wedding “Vendors” or Artists

06 | 07 | 2010
The Inspiration For This Post Is You.

I have had drafts of this post floating around my computer for nearly a year and floating around my brain for much longer than that.  One of the driving reasons for starting this blog is that I want to help or coach people into getting the best photography that they can possibly get, from me or from any other photographer.  I want folks to be educated consumers (hmm … let’s say “patrons” or “commissioners”) of photography.  The truth is that everybody wants to get the most out of their wedding photography, and out of their wedding.  And each and every couple deserves an inspired performance from all their wedding vendors, right?  But sometimes—surely unwittingly—brides and grooms can get in their own way of making that happen.  I want to be delicate about this, but also truthful.  Nearly all of my clients are so thoughtful and considerate of us that it hurts my heart (really!) … but small considerations (or—gasp!—mistakes) can really make an impact, whether or not the client is really aware of it in the end.

(Okay, let me back up and be clear on this: the term “vendor” does kind of make me gag.  I’m used to it, after eleven years, but not happy with it.  Meg over at A Practical Wedding has kindly suggested a reconsideration of the terminology, maybe wedding elves.  It’ll do.  It at least describes the work ethic and energy most of my colleagues and I put forth at weddings.  But you could just call us artists. If you want to.)

I. The most important thing is TRUST.  Hire artists you truly trust, and then trust them to do their jobs with excellence.

Hire artists you trust, and then trust them. Nothing is more morale-busting or inspiration-deflating than micromanagement.  You want artists who share your vision, obviously, but keep in mind that they’ll do their jobs how they do their jobs and not how you’d do their jobs.   Listen to your wedding elves; we promise to listen to you.  We want to get you what you want (and then some!)—whether or not you know exactly what that is and whether or not you can articulate it—and we know how to do that.  The adage “expectations are premeditated resentments” fully applies, though.  Allow yourself to be surprised and delighted with our interpretations of your secret hopes and wishes.  We work so hard and consider our efforts a labor of love.  We are soulful about what we do.  I think there are probably folks out there who aren’t, but you don’t need to hire them, right?

II.  Give them what they need to do their jobs with excellence (e.g., time, space, resources).

This is a huge and, unfortunately, very common mistake we see.  For instance, so many weddings run behind because of hair and makeup (despite our often-repeated and LOUDEST advice for folks to pad the hair and makeup schedule).  I’ve previously always held an ill-founded vendetta against stylists themselves, but now that I have produced a short film (since I don’t have enough to do during wedding season), I can see how the makeup artists might feel flustered or set up to fail.  That’s not a good way to go into a job.  I know I can get flustered when folks step in and try to tell me how and how fast to work.

And I can’t tell you how disappointing it is when I have clients claim that portraits are so very important to them, how they’re envisioning all these set ups, lots of variety, and then they schedule fifteen minutes or less for portraits of themselves. Photographs are actually moments in time.  So we need time to make them.  Other artists need other things to do their jobs well.  Producing a wedding and producing a film are probably not all that different in the end.  You might want to think of yourself as a “producer.” On a film set, the producers (who put out all that money) make certain that everybody there—all the artists, all the talent, and all the so-called help—has what they need to do the best work possible.

III. Keep your artists, vendors, wedding elves performance-ready: well-fed, well-hydrated, and as rested as possible.

These considerations are of course much-expanded with a destination wedding, but the same principles apply to one-day local weddings.  My suspicion is that people can sometimes forget how really human we are.  I have heard this complaint voiced most often by the wedding planners themselves. We need nourishment, water, and a little appreciation (see below).  Keep in mind that you want your planner and photographers and videographers to be working their best all day long and after dinner, too – if you give them a crummy meal, not only does it literally leave a bad taste in their mouths, they’ll be running on empty and their growling tummies will be begrudgingly ticking off time until they can leave and get some real food … if that’s even possible.

  1. Maintain a human pace to the day.  Your vendors will have a good sense about what’s realistic.  You want your day to be humane for you, too.  Harried and joyful might actually be mutually exclusive.
  2. Keep water and other non-alcoholic beverages accessible throughout the day.  In California, with all our 100+ degree weddings, heat stroke is a real and serious concern.
  3. A good vendor meal is nourishing, timely, balanced, and absolutely necessary.  A few years ago, I kept hearing people say, “a vendor meal is a courtesy, not a requirement.” Seriously?  We know catered food is costly and we aren’t saying you have to give us the filet mignon unless you want to (!), but remember that we are human: we can’t run on empty and we can’t go anywhere else.  You don’t want us to. It’s one thing to be a band member  and come at five o’clock (hence the ubiquitous bandwich), but for those of us who have already been running around for eight or ten hours before dinnertime with twenty five pounds of gear swinging around our necks, it’s nonsensical.  On my contract, I say “feed us whenever you eat,¹ and feed us well.  Warm, nourishing food is a good idea. Wedding photography is a lot like marathon running.”  And so it is.  I have to prep for my job with running, hiking, and lots of pull-ups.
  4. Respect dietary restrictions.  There are a lot of reasons people eat the way they do, whether out of religious or ethical belief, allergy, or preference, but it is always personal.  I, for one, am allergic to the United States of America.  I can’t tell you how much I appreciate sitting down to a meal I can actually digest.  It’s a matter of consideration and respect at the most basic level.
  5. Some things don’t count as real meals: pasta with no meat, salad with nothing in it, sandwiches with dried nasty chicken, just to name a few.  Think nourishing, timely, and balanced: protein, grain, and something that would feel good in your tummy.  Our favorite vendor meals are always from the folks at Lucques but we’ve had lots of good same-as-the-guests meals, too.  Lucques gives us a complete meal.  My last one was a beautiful, tasty, and nutrient-packed nicoise salad; my husband had a giant holy pilgrim sandwich with lovely thick slices of roasted turkey; we also both had an apple, a dessert (chocolate-covered honeycomb for me, chocolate chip cookie for him), and homemade sweet potato chips (still dreaming about those and Matt swears he’d give up Doritos if I could offer him a steady supply of them).  I know I’m going on and on about food.  But it’s important.  All of this is to say: be sure you know exactly what your caterer is feeding the vendors, whether it’s the same food as your guests are being served or not; don’t assume the caterer will just get it right.  You may be charged the full meal rate while your vendors are eating terrible cold sandwiches.  Not that good cold sandwiches don’t exist.  Your caterer might be trying to feed ham to folks who keep a kosher diet. Eeps! There are no hard and fast rules here, just a gentle call to attention to detail.  A good meal is a good meal.
IV. In the same way that actors perform better with a little applause, your vendors will perform better with a little appreciation.

I’m not talking about gratuity; I’m talking about gratitude.  We’ll do our jobs either way (with gratitude or without), but we’ll do it better if we know you’re thankful for our efforts and creativity.  We’re human.  We’ll work to our own high standards for anyone, but we can’t help but go that extra mile for the couples who love us.


That’s me! With my Leica! On a (rare) bathroom break!

¹ If you feed us when you eat, all that you’ll “miss out on” are photographs of folks eating.  Which you don’t want anyway.  Feed us later on, and we’ll be missing the real moments.  You might need to make this point to your caterers if they are providing the vendor meals.  Sometimes they won’t feed the vendor-folk until after the dinner service is completely completed.  This seems counter-productive because we’ll be eating when things are getting going again …

photos: Gia Canali


Dreaming of a Trend: Ice Pops

03 | 17 | 2010


Today is the first really warm day we’ve had in a while.  And I’m celebrating (well, in just a minute here) with a Popshop ice pop break in my back yard.  Last summer’s weddings were hot! Hot, hot.  I kept thinking they could be much improved with a popsicle here or there, to keep us all from melting.  So I’m just putting it out there to the wedding-ready universe, that I want ice pops.  From the Popshop.  Any flavor will do, but avocado vanilla is really my favorite.  Or maybe Mexican chocolate. Or coconut vanilla (which is wedding white for all you melt-a-phobes).  You pick.

I think: sharing childlike pleasures with a bevy of wedding guests could be pretty grand.  No affair is too formal for that kind of happiness, right?

photo: Gia Canali