Category Archives: DIY

Real Wedding: Party Animals at SmogShoppe

By | DIY, event design, Event Design Tips for Weddings, Event Planner, J Huffman Photography, king Protea wedding flower, Los Angeles Wedding Planner, SmogShoppe, Uncategorized | No Comments

When great ideas and great execution collide, you have the definition of successful event design.  We love taking our clients’ ideas and transforming them to tangible decor that has a purpose at their event.  In this case, for Hayley and Nick’s wedding, they wanted to implement the fabulous “Party Animal” theme with bright colors, flamingo figurines, and the playful shape of the king protea.  We created fun and stylish centerpieces, had a spray paint ‘clinic’ on how to class up the flamingos with an ivory and gold sheen, and weighed in on the selection of chic table runners from Luxe Linens.  The couple’s details – animal masks, menu and signage design, perfectly painted mini animals, and a station for advice givers – were so clever. Together we worked to create a cohesive design for a wedding that truly was a party!

Vendors and Venues:

Ceremony: St. Timothy’s

Venue: SmogShoppe

Photography – the awesome J Huffman Photography

Videography – George Street

Catering – Huntington Catering Company

Reception Music – DJ Swon from Red Shoe LA

Cocktail Hour Music – Jenny Luna and Alex Logan

Florals – No Worries












Smart Ways to Stay On Budget for Your Wedding

By | Budget Los Angeles Wedding, Budget Weddings, DIY, How Much Do L.A. Weddings Cost, Los Angeles Wedding Coordinator, Realistic Wedding Budget, Wedding Planner | No Comments

It’s every bride and groom’s biggest concern:  Budget.  Many couples get a sense of sticker shock when they find out how much weddings cost, and justifiably so.  While the end result is a beautiful day and celebration that in some ways is priceless, there’s no getting around the fact that spending a certain sum on ‘one day’ can be uncomfortable.

When thinking about saving money but preserving the vibe of your event, keep these things in mind:

1.  The extras.  You don’t always need that something ‘extra’. For example, gold leaf on your cake can be pricey; buying a roll of exquisite satin gold ribbon instead can save a significant amount of money.  Letterpress invites are lovely; but not necessary. Flat printed invitations look beautiful and are elegant enough without the additional charges.

We created this sweet centerpiece with inexpensive greenery and sunflowers, using a pitcher that we sourced from the rental company for that evening's event. Photo by Lorenzo Hodges.

We created this sweet centerpiece with inexpensive greenery and sunflowers, using a pitcher that we sourced from the rental company for that evening’s event. Photo by Lorenzo Hodges.

2.  Food!  Food is one of your biggest costs, as is venue (particularly if the venue is lumped in with food, such as when hosting an event at a hotel).  If working an out of the box space where you can provide your own food server, be careful about using a food truck or taco cart. These are great options for saving money, but you need additional staff to properly serve at the bar and clean up at the end of the night.

A space like the Millwick in downtown LA ( already has some kitchen infrastructure, lighting, and dining tables and chairs, allowing for savings on outside rentals. Food trucks are also doable at this space.

A space like the Millwick in downtown LA ( already has some kitchen infrastructure, lighting, and dining tables and chairs, allowing for savings on outside rentals. Food trucks are also doable at this space.

3. Decor.  Beware DIY tips online – there are some awesome tutorials out there, but when you see a photo of a stunning decor idea that is labeled cost effective or DIY, ask yourself, ‘how much would the labor cost?’ Hanging lights, large floral pieces, etc – all those projects cost in labor, and anything that requires going up a ladder means serious liability risks.  So be sure to factor the labor in to any supposedly ‘easy’, ‘inexpensive’ DIY project.

A professional event planner’s goal should always be to create a gorgeous and lovely day without sinking a client’s budget.  It takes innovation, experience, and familiarity with cost controlling procedures.  Typically working with an event planner can save you money and keep you at budget.  (Some statistics say the average couple otherwise goes over budget by 30%.)  There are also all sorts of wacky fees (“administrative charge,” “AV liaison fee,” etc) that can rear their ugly heads when clients least expect it, whereas event planners frequently see them coming long before they are an issue. I often recommend to a couple on a tight budget to hire a planner just to do a budget consultation.  That way, they have a good idea of all those scary unknowns, and have the most accurate information on realistic pricing.  This consultation also gives them solid strategies for progressing along their planning process with extensive wisdom based on a pro’s experience.  Then the planner can become involved again a couple months out and serve as day of coordinator to bookend the entire process.

Once your goals for each wedding expense are locked in, you can proceed with authority and way less stress. For more about budgets, check out our past blog posts here and here. Happy planning!


The Five Biggest Wedding Planning Myths: Myth #5 – “I can DIY my entire wedding!”

By | 5 Biggest Wedding Planning Myths, Budget Weddings, DIY, Jackie Combs Lotus and Lily, Katie Robertson Photography, Los Angeles Wedding Coordinator, Los Angeles Wedding Planner, Wedding Budget, Wedding Coordinator | No Comments

Over the past few days, we’ve been breaking down the 5 biggest wedding myths. Today we’re tackling Myth 5: DIY/”Friend-or” weddings.

The DIY movement enpowers brides and grooms to add personal elements to their event, and fold in their buddies to the big day, as well.  We’ve had friends play guitar for the ceremony, or brides bake a grooms cake – small contributions make up for big, heartfelt gestures. But totally replacing a major vendor with a friend or your own DIY efforts? That’s flirting with – or hurtling headlong into – disaster.

One of the best examples of this myth is the “FRIEND DJ.” (Settle in kids – I’ve got a few fun stories for ya.)

Here’s the thing: music is inescapable. If the music is suddenly off, the WHOLE crowd notices. It’s also the international sign for, “Show’s over, Folks! Time to leave!” Unlike a drink that is a little too strong for one particular guest, or one centerpiece that is a bit wilty on a table of twelve, the music is everywhere and affects everyone, not just a handful of guests. Thus, your wedding tunes have a huge impact on the success of your event. At the end of the day, how much are you really saving?

A bride wisely provided her own lovely and easy to assemble candle centerpieces, but hired a professional florist (Lotus and Lily) for the more complex bouquets.

A bride wisely provided her own lovely and easy to assemble candle centerpieces, but hired a professional florist (Lotus and Lily) for the more complex bouquets. Photo by Katie Robertson Photography.

We no longer work events where a “friend is managing an Ipod,” and per our contract, all non-professional vendors are SOLELY responsible for the integrity of their work. For example, we’ve had a “friend-DJ” space out and not immediately turn the music back on after the bouquet toss, causing confusion and guests to start leaving. After our urging to get the music on, he panicked and had a hard time finding the next song – and by then, in just that minute or two that passed, we lost a dozen guests at a wedding that already had a low guest count. The wedding died out shortly thereafter.

At another event, a “friend DJ” did not know at all how to work the rental equipment, and had to use the one speaker on the venue’s property. This speaker was a low-quality piece of equipment that was typically used for the less complicated ceremony sound. So, it sounded muffled – like it was underwater: in a word, terrible. Even worse, this DJ started using an online song source ON HIS PHONE. The music stopped every time his phone buffered!

I mean it: Get a professional DJ, florist, officiant, – the whole nine yards. Also, most venues now require every vendor to have insurance, so right off the bat that takes away the option to involve an amateur.  Reserve friends’ talents for small touches, like providing the ingredients and recipe for their special signature cocktail, or to craft a lovely gift card box for you. Otherwise, let the pros safeguard your beautiful day with their savvy services.

Apply your talents to DIY touches you can do well before the event – like namecards, table numbers, or other printed goods.  Definitely don’t try florals – honestly, that’s a whole other blog post – unless you’re pre-building tissue or paper florals.

Make sure your vendors know your tastes and preferences so that the day is still all about you and your fiance’s personality – and then you, and your friends, can just relax and enjoy the day.  Happy planning!

Aaaaand we’re back: From Palm Springs, Anyway

By | Acqua Pazza, Cakes, Destination Wedding, DIY, Flowers, Korakia Pensione, Palm Springs, Red Lantern Photography, Signature Party Rentals, Succulents, Sylvia Weinstock Cakes | No Comments

Wow. It’s been ages since I blogged! As a mom / house cleaner/ cook / event professional / laundry-doer, honey, there just isn’t a lot of spare time.  I love the whole mad rush of life, don’t get me wrong; it’s just, social media tends to drop down a bit on the ‘ol to do list, as much as I love going viral as often as possible.  My routine is getting more and more Swiss-Watch-like as time goes on, and soon I plan to blog 2 – 3xs a week. Fingers crossed.

And now.  Palm Springs.  Ladies and gentlemen, I love Palm Springs. I’m planning on making it one of my two destination wedding specialties (the other one being Paris – I’ll be there next month for a wedding).  The tranquilizing heat, the festive nightlife, the stunning mid-century vibe and architecture…it calls to me. I’ve been there many times, and each time I hop on the 111, I get a little smile of anticipation.

It was my good luck to meet a couple last year who wanted to wed at Korakia.  They booked the space – a gorgeous getaway with both Moroccan and Mediterranean elements – and we were off and running.

Korakia's signature: The front door in front of where couples stand to exchange vows.

One of the planning elements, the cake, had an unusual spin:  A dear family friend of the bride’s happens to be related to the great Sylvia Weinstock, and the cake was a gift.  I was on call throughout the week leading up to the wedding, tracking the logistics of shipping and driving the cake out to the desert.  Continental and Action Messenger did the delicate work of getting the showstopping cake to Korakia, safe and sound.

Buttercream morrocan-tile design...

Nader and Donna from Red Lantern Photography were so hard working and easy going; they’ve recently moved to L.A. from Palm Springs, and I look forward to working with them in both cities.  Soon their pics will be up too – can’t wait to see his pro images from the big day.  Acqua Pazza is a popular restaurant in P.S., and they cooked up fresh, delicious Mediterannean-style fare; the staff were warm and friendly (and rustled up some cranberry juice when yours truly got, shall we say, a mild heatstroke and needed a little sugar before cocktail hour).  DJ Chase Martinez kept the party going; Tom Laliberte and his team from Signature Party Rentals were so on top of it, so fun to work with, and Tom gave me some great inside scoop about the best of Palm Springs event venues and vendors. Lastly, my girl Mary Phelan assisted me from start to finish, and was amazing, as always.

Succulents and boxes stained by the groom himself

Eagerly awaiting the bride and groom...

This wedding was so much about friends and family coming together, from the groom’s family friend creating all the flowers, to the maid of honor writing the table assignments, to so much more.  When the sun set and the refreshing desert breeze set in, not only was the setting beautiful, but the atmosphere of love and generosity was palpable. I hope to have more weddings in the desert, and I’ll be lucky if they are with as sweet and fun a couple as this one.

Wedding Planning, Hollywood-Style

By | DIY, Lighting, Planning, Venues | No Comments

I have two lovely clients getting married this fall at a large studio in Hollywood, and while it’s an amazing space, it’s truly a blank slate.  They decided on black, white and blue, perfect colors for the space.

A shot of the main portion of the studio, with the permanent lighting grid.

We scouted the space recently with their friend (the “man of honor,” actually) who is a camera op, director, and DP.  He’s hanging lights and selecting gels to wash the space in cool patterns and that bright blue, for a tongue-in-cheek 80s nightclub look.  When we scouted, there was a big event going on, but it showed us how well it accommodates social events.

In a studio space, lighting grids offer great opportunity for advanced event design, but it’s helpful to know how best to access the grids, what costs apply, and what liability waivers there are to sign or insurance to gain.  It’s essential to clear all this up before the day of, of course.  We have several months, so we’re ahead of the game.

The space comes with some furniture, so I took pics of the couches that come with the space and how best to use them.  Site photos are key to making sure you have all your cards on the table when creating a floor plan.

Yes, my Iphoto library is full of pictures Tres exciting, non??

In back, there’s a lovely garden area with a separate entrance off the parking.  The bride and groom will use some of the lounge furniture for VIP seating, then the rest of the attendees will stand for the brief ceremony. Sunset will fall during cocktail hour, then a reveal of the space – with lighting set, cool uplit centerpieces aglow, and music playing – will greet guests.   A fitting, dramatic reveal for the Hollywood setting.

Picture the furniture arranged in a 'v' facing left, and voila!, you have a ceremony space.

I love tackling a space like this where the possibilities are wide open, and working with the client to take their ideas from just that to reality.  And just wait till October to see the results…!

Getting Hitched in Palm Springs: Off to the Ace, with a detour at Korakia

By | DIY, Flowers, Hitched, Planning, Pretty Stuff, Succulents | No Comments

Last night, coordinator/bride to be Dani and I headed to Palm Springs for the second bridal bash Hitched, this time in the desert (last year it was at Smog Shoppe).  This is a very fun, hip showcase of the latest and greatest contemporary event professionals in SoCal.

Along the way, we stopped at Korakia Pensione to take some scout pics for our upcoming P.S. wedding in May. I was introduced to Korakia many moons ago by a friend who lives part time in P.S., and fell in love. I’m abosolutely thrilled to be working there this spring.

The entrance to Korakia. Doors close, and it becomes the ceremony setting.

Then we headed to the Ace, another busy spot in Palm Springs with a hipster vibe that is as friendly as it is…well, hipster. (Sometimes the two don’t mix!).  Hitched was at the Commune, the part-desert, part-industrial-esque event space in the center of the hotel complex.  Lit fireplaces and twinkle lights set the mood for a crisp, festive evening.

Cozy outdoor lounges are sprinkled throughout the Ace.

Dani snapped up a hairpiece by Ban Do, a fantastical line of gems, poufs, and clips for hair, shoes, and dresses.  Ban Do featured heavily in the fashion show, and I thought it was clever that their pieces helped individualize the simplest of dresses.

Megan from Mae Mae Paperie (an invitation designer Dani met with for her own wedding) was in attendance, showing off her creative wares.  Save the dates, bridal shower invites, table number cards – nowadays the sky’s the limit for one’s stationary needs. While email has flourished, there’s been a new resurgence of old-fashioned snail-mail communication and elegant hand-crafted paper decor.  I, for one, am happy about this. (As long as recycling is involved, of course!  Yeah, yeah, I’m a hippie.)

I love succulents (and a blog post about them is forthcoming), but a little weary of dry grass, sticks, cacti, and billy buttons festooned about for weddings – if not used wisely, they look like a bunch of detritus and/or weeds.  So it was lovely to see this table, full of color, whimsy, and romance by Carter and Cook.

That said, there was some amazing stuff with cacti, like this table by Sugar and Fluff. The succulent driftwood piece is amazing, and the wood-stemmed silverware works so well with this rustic/modern look.

Setting these rustic elements ontop of a clear tabletop keeps the design organic and fresh.

We drove home in some rain and wind, but made it back to L.A. safe and sound, gossiping about this-and-that while Dani poked through the gift bag.  The fact that I get to go to these kinds of events for work and research?  Gotta love it.