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Expert Advice

5 Tips for Eloping in DC

Maggie Gaudaen of Pop! Wed shares how to plan the perfect flash wedding.

By Caroline Cunningham Photograph by Maggie Gaudaen.

For couples who aren’t sure they want 400 people surrounding them for their nuptials or wish they could say their vows in a venue that doesn’t technically host weddings or simply decide they want to buck traditional sit-down ceremonies, Pop! Wed has an answer: flash weddings.

Last January, photographer Maggie Gaudaen and her husband and business partner, Steven, a wedding officiant, hit on the idea of providing local couples with a way to elope that can still involve cake, a dress, and photos to remember the day.

“We wanted to offer the best parts of a big, fancy wedding with the most fun parts of an elopement—a brand-new way to get married,” says Maggie. “We thought about the kind of wedding we’d want to have—tiny, stress-free, unique—and then we built a package around it.”

Pop! Wed partners with the couple to create the small wedding they want, including a custom ceremony, cake cutting, photography, their look, and a location that suits their style. The very first Pop Wed! ceremony took place outside the gorgeous, rainbow-painted Blind Whino Arts Club, another featured a flash mob wedding at LeDroit Park, and yet another took place in front of the elephant at the Natural History Museum.

The flash weddings don’t have to exclude family and friends from the celebration. “Lots of our couples incorporate a Pop! wedding into their larger wedding plans,” says Maggie. “For example, one couple headed over to Darnell's after their wedding for a giant afterparty filled with family and friends. It's a great way to get married without the stress and then celebrate afterward with everyone you love.”

Admittedly, these spur-of-the-moment nuptials don’t always go as planned. “We got kicked out of the Natural History Museum and the Sculpture Garden so quickly that we were all laughing about it for hours afterward,” says Maggie. “It's just absurd that someone would interrupt the tiniest, least invasive wedding ever!”

But for the most part, Steven and Maggie have become pros at planning elopements. For couples who are interested in scheduling a Pop! wedding on one of the available dates, Maggie has some words of wisdom.

1) Clue your families into your plans. “If you tell them why you're eloping and share how excited you are, they'll hop right on board. When we got married, we also created a website where we shared our wedding photos, video, and updates about our lives so that even though our extended family wasn't invited to our wedding, they felt included in our plans.”

2) Prioritize your wedding traditions. “The awesome thing about eloping is you can incorporate any wedding traditions you want. You can bring a bouquet or ignore flowers altogether. You can wear a fancy bridal gown or a tux or your favorite pajamas. There's no pressure to fit into this predetermined wedding mold.”

3) Wear your wedding garb all day. “You should do this no matter how you get married. It's ridiculously fun, everyone wants to high-five you, and you just look awesome.”

4) Document your elopement. “I'm a photographer, so I'm fairly biased. But especially with elopements, you want to make sure you have photos to share with everyone who wasn't there on your wedding day. A wedding video can also be a great way to include people who aren't invited; they'll basically feel like they were there the whole time—right?”

5) Think outside the courthouse. “You can elope literally anywhere in the city. Well, a lot of places in the city. There are so many awesome options that you never have to go to the courthouse at all!”

Expert Advice

Hire a "Certified Lipsologist" for Your Next Bridal Bash

Find out what your lip prints say about your personality.

By Caroline Cunningham Photographs courtesy of Ariana Lightningstorm.

Attendees at Sunday’s Washingtonian Bride & Groom Unveiled bridal showcase had the opportunity to have their lip prints analyzed by the only certified lipsologist on the East Coast, Ariana Lightningstorm. (And, no, that’s not her real name—it's Anna Snodgrass.)

What’s a lipsologist, you say? Funny—we asked the same thing.

After observing her read prints at Unveiled—she prescribed a spa vacation for one tired editor, who wasn't about to argue with "science"—I got in touch to find out how, exactly, Lightningstorm got her start in this bizarre corner of the entertainment industry, and how one becomes certified in something as slippery as lip print reading.

Lightningstorm, a Maryland Renaissance Festival veteran, has the right background for getting into lipsology: She says she's been fluent in palmistry and tarot cards for more than 30 years. But the real decision maker for her certification was Jilly Eddy, who birthed the lipsology technique and literally wrote the book on the topic. Eddy wasn't about to let just anybody follow in her footsteps; Lightningstorm filled out an information packet and questionnaire, spent 22 hours on the phone with Eddy, and participated in the one-on-one training program Eddy invented before passing the test to finally receive her certification.

Eddy, who devoted 30 years to researching lipsology—until she was "satisfied that her understanding was correct," according to Lightningstorm—collected over 10,000 unique prints in the process. Eddy broken down the prints into 25 categories with upwards of 100 sub-categories. “What lipsologists look for are size, shape, color intensity, lines, or lack of color in spots or lines, and special characteristics in the lip prints,” says Lightningstorm. “For instance, one of the more common shapes is a triangle. If you have a triangle shape lip print it means that you ‘help others to succeed,’ you ‘lift others up in life,’ and recognize others skills or talents and help them to recognize those skills in themselves.”

To read your lip prints, Lightningstorm will have you kiss a card three times, numbering the card in the order that you kissed it. From those three prints, she says she's able to comment on your personality, physical pain, and how others respond to you, and even suggest remedies to whatever struggles she sees in your prints.

“One of the things folks ask is how to kiss the paper, and I tell them that this is where their personality shows up, so it's not for me to tell them,” says Lightningstorm. “How hard someone presses lips to paper, how open or closed the print is and in what order that shows up, how dark or light the print is, and many other factors tell me a range of things about what is going on with someone in the moment.”

Lightningstrom has entertained at bridal showers, bachelorette parties, wedding receptions, bat mitzvahs, birthday parties, and more. For now, her goal is to spread the word about lipsology.

“Jilly and I would like to see at least two lipsologists in every city, and I would love to travel to train folks inside and outside the United States,” she says. “I would like to see lipsology be a worldwide phenomenon.”

Expert Advice

5 Cake and Wine Pairings for Your Wedding

Experts from Salamander Resort & Spa and Greenhill Winery share pairings that will please the palate on your big day.

By Valeria Boucas The Nutella Cup cake at the Salamander Market is the perfect year-round flavor. Photograph by Nathan Mitchell.

When it comes to planning a wedding, few decisions are as delicious as choosing a wedding cake. We tapped Salamander Resort & Spa's executive pastry chef, Jason Reaves, to give us the skinny on the five most popular wedding cakes he makes. The Middleburg, Virginia, retreat is popular not just for its bakery, but also for its scenery—it sits on a beautiful tree-lined road with views of the Bull Run Mountains.

To go with Reaves's top five cakes, we asked David Greenhill of nearby Greenhill Winery to select a wine that best suits the flavors of each. See them all below, arranged by season.

For a spring/summer wedding:

Lemon Zest cake. Photograph by Katie Stoops.

Lemon Zest

Vanilla sponge cake layered with fresh raspberries and zesty lemon curd

Pair it with: 2009 Greenhill Sparkling Blanc de Blancs

"The Greenhill Sparkling wine is made with 100 percent Chardonnay. It's produced in the traditional Méthode Champenoise fermented in stainless steel, and aged for 22 months in barrels before undergoing its second fermentation in the bottle. The creamy mouthfeel and grapefruit flavors make for a perfect balance."

Tres Leches cake. Photograph by Salamander Resort & Spa.

Tres Leches

Vanilla sponge cake soaked in “three milks,” layered with whipped cream and fresh berries

Pair it with: 2013 Greenhill Seyval Blanc

"This is a French-American hybrid grape. This wine is off-dry yet crisp and fresh, and exudes components that are perfectly balanced with a conglomerate of citrus, exotic, and stone fruit aromas. Mandarine, lychee, peach, and apricot are most apparent, with hints of almond and plumeria flowers."

For a fall/winter wedding:

Pumpkin chip cake. Photograph by Katelyn James.

Pumpkin Chip

Chocolate chip pumpkin spice cake layered with ginger crème

Pair it with: 2013 Greenhill Viognier

"Feminine, fresh, and crisp, the stainless steel-fermented Virginia Viognier, with its pale-gold color, expresses aromatic fragrances of wild flowers, jasmine, and crème brûlée. On the palate, flavors of apricot, peach, and a tinge of lemongrass are rounded out by raw honey notes and baking spices with an intense, long finish."

Caramel Apple cake. Photograph by The Observatory.

Caramel Apple

Apple spice cake layered with cinnamon buttercream and sea salt caramel

Pair it with: 2013 Greenhill Chardonnay

"This wine is aged for 11 months in French oak before seeing the bottle. Aromas of hazelnut and brioche toast linger with light buttery notes and flavors of pineapple, fig, and apple. The enriched mouthfeel and texture is persistent and refreshing."

For a wedding any time of the year:

Reaves’s Nutella Cup

Devil's food cake with Nutella (chocolate-hazel­nut) crème and dark chocolate pearls

Pair it with: 2010 Greenhill Philosophy

"This rich, dark, and bold wine exudes strong aromas of wood, earth, and tobacco. Philosophy’s flavor profile is musky and rich, with strong tannins, structure, and roundness of body that bestows a smooth, long finish."

Find Valeria Boucas on Twitter at @valeriaboucas.

Expert Advice

Q&A: Solidcore Owner Anne Mahlum Shares Her Get-Fit-Quick Tips

How to whip yourself into shape for your walk down the aisle.

By Valeria Boucas Solidcore's secret: the Megaformer Pilates machine. Photograph by Studio3877.

There's a reason Anne Mahlum has dubbed herself chief motivational officer of Solidcore, the fitness studio she founded less than a year ago in Adams Morgan. Mahlum has made it her mission to get people in top shape using a patented machine called the Megaformer—and guests who sweat through the 50-minute sessions are seeing results. The in-demand fitness center now has two other locations in addition to the original, which the First Lady is known to frequent.

We asked Mahlum how a bride-to-be can get in shape for her big day if she only has a few months to spare before she heads down the aisle. Like any mindful fitness guru, Mahlum offers ways to tighten up without over-exerting your body in harmful ways. Read on for her tips.

Photograph by PopMotion Pictures.

Design a routine for a bride-to-be with only, say three months, to tone up before she walks down the aisle.

1) Solidcore three times a week. We will give you a safe, total-body workout where it is impossible to be bored or to plateau.

2) Interval training (running/biking/rowing) three days a week (pick a day to double).

3) Rest two days a week—walking is fine, but if you don’t let those muscles rest and rebuild, they won’t change.

4) Drink lots of water—10 to 12 glasses a day.

5) Live actively—walk to work, go for bike rides. If we work out for an hour a day, but then just sit and sleep the other 23 hours, the math doesn’t work out. Move your body as much as you can.

6) Cut out the processed food, especially sugar, and any liquid calories. Eat real food, and eat consistently. I’m not a big calorie counter, and my days vary between 1,800 and 2,400 depending on my level of activity. I very much believe that the food you put in your body is more important. However, if you are committed to the workout regimen above, don’t eat fewer than 1,800 calories a day—your body will go into starvation mode and you will not lose weight or see your body change.

What mistakes do you see people making with their workouts?

I have been extremely active as long as I can remember, and have had many ups and down with my weight and the shape of my body. What I have learned is that you can make substantial changes in your body in 9 to 12 weeks by eating right and by not just exercising, but doing the right type of exercise.The biggest mistake I see people make when they are trying to change their body is they do cardio and that’s it—and to make matters worse, the cardio is not intense, it’s 30 or 45 minutes on the elliptical machine. The fastest and most efficient way to change your body is through resistance training. Your body needs to build muscle to burn fat.

What was the turning point for you to launch your own fitness center?

I have been working out since I was 16 and never came close to results I've seen since starting the Lagree Method. Pre-Solidcore, I was lifting at the gym on my own, running, and doing boot camps. I was in shape, but not the type of shape where you work out without a shirt on. I had never heard of using slow, controlled, resistance-based movement as a workout option before, and frankly, it sounded easy and something “fun” to do—after all, I’m a marathoner. The only impact is your bodyweight—no jumping, no pounding. I thought, "Okay, really, how hard or effective could this be?" It was SO intense. My muscles were burning and shaking all through class, and the next two days, I was sore in all the right places—my abs, oblique muscles and inner thighs. I realized how much of my body I wasn’t challenging and how this method was everything I never knew existed. I was just hoping the results were going to be as good as the burn, and they are.

Find Valeria Boucas on Twitter at @valeriaboucas.

Expert Advice

Ask The Expert: Blush's bSkin Bridal Plan

Dr. Arleen Lamba shares the six steps for perfect skin on your wedding day. Plus—find out how to win a free trial.

By Valeria Boucas
Dr. Arleen Lamba. Photographs by Allen Pruitt.

Just like finding the perfect gown starts with a dress fitting and picking out a reception dinner menu starts with a tasting, you may want to start your bridal skin boot camp with a skin assessment at Bethesda-based Blush Med Institute. Cofounder Dr. Arleen Lamba has created a six-step process to help brides look their best on their wedding day, for just $59 per month for six months. Read on for details of each step. 

Month 1: Blushing Facial. We need to cleanse, exfoliate, lightly extract, and prepare your skin for its healthy future.”

Month 2: MicroPeel. “Our most popular skin treatment starts with a microdermabrasion. This is a mechanical way to exfoliate your dead cells so new cells underneath can come to the surface. At Blush, we are able to perform microdermabrasion at a variety of levels—from polish micro, which we like to call our ‘get your glow on’ micro—to deep micro, which we use to sandpaper off the acne scars some of us have from pesky zits. After the microdermabrasion, we do a light chemical peel. Don’t worry, your skin won’t peel off like Samantha from Sex and the City! This is purely done as a chemical exfoliation. We will decide which chemical peel to do upon your skin assessment. Pair with an aloe mask to get your skin cool, calm, and bright.” 

Months 3 and 4: MicroPeel, Part 2. “Third time’s the charm! We continue to mechanially and chemically exfoliate. Your skin will be brighter, tighter, and healthier. This is what gives the bride the ‘no makeup’ look. Your pores are smaller, fine lines diminish, and breakouts are history.”

Month 5: Blushing Facial and Skin Light Therapy. “Time to cleanse gently again and follow with our medical-grade skin light therapy. The light we use will penetrate deep into your skin and help oxygen get inside your skin cells. Once oxygen reaches the cells, it provides them nourishment and helps your skin glow from the inside out. It also prevents breakouts, since a high-oxygen environment is not a good breeding ground for acne-causing bacteria. This light treatment will recude any redness you may be having, so all you see is smooth, clear skin. Bonus—the light will focus not just on your face but also on your neck and décolletage, so you will be gown-ready."

Month 6: Skin Light Therapy and Massage. “This is the time to relax. You’ve done a great job, and all will go as planned. Continue with skin light therapy, so your skin has a calm, bright, and healthy glow. The massage will just bring all the elements together, help you relax, rejuvenate, and give you some much-needed ‘me’ time.” 

Interested in Blush’s bSkin Bridal Plan? E-mail realweddings@washingtonian.com for a chance to win a free trial plus a feature on Washingtonian Bride & Groom’s blog documenting the results. Tell us why you should win! 

You can find Valeria Boucas on Twitter at @valeriaboucas.

Expert Advice

Ask The Expert: Choosing the Right Photographer

Michael Kress shares his advice for selecting the perfect professional to capture your special day.

By Jordan Muto All photographs courtesy of Michael Bennett Kress Photography.

Choosing a photographer for your wedding is no easy task. You want someone you can trust to make you and your party feel comfortable while capturing the essence of the celebration you’ve planned. Says Michael Kress of Michael Bennett Kress Photography, “I love knowing that I will not only capture all of the special moments from a bride and groom’s day, but I can also ensure the couple will love them. They will look great and will be authentically romantic and inspirational moments.”

We asked Kress—who has been studying photograph since college and has built a career as one of Washington’s leading special-event photographers—for his advice to brides and grooms on how to select the right wedding photographer. Read on for his suggestions.

What wedding packages do you offer?

The packages we offer are all full-coverage (eight to ten hours), because I believe this is the most important first step in achieving successful photographic coverage. We also offer a variety of album packaging separately, which is up to the bride and groom to decide on after their event. It all depends upon what suits them best to achieve their personal goals.

What advice would you give to a couple when picking a photographer for their wedding?

Every bride and groom want their event to be the most special and that’s what should drive every photographer in achieving greatness on every job. If a couple have not chosen a photographer that believes this, they have chosen the wrong photographer. I say to my clients, “Ask all the questions you can to have the most elevated experience.”

What are the new trends in wedding photography these days?

I think trends come and go. Getting the images shot beautifully with great lighting and thought the first time is what’s important. After that, one can add filtering or design elements to enhance anything, but if it’s not shot right the first time, you can’t go back and make it better later. And iPhones don’t cut it.

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Expert Advice

Ask the Expert: Using Sustainable Flowers for Your Wedding

Local florist Tobie Whitman of Little Acre Flowers shares her tips for choosing locally sourced arrangements.

By Jordan Muto Photographs courtesy of Tobie Whitman.

Despite asuccessful career in international development and women’s empowerment, Tobie Whitman felt like something was missing. “I wanted more creativity in my day,” she says. So in 2010, she began working at Allan-Woods Flowers, an upscale florist in DC, doing floral design and marketing. She soon began to think of a way to combine her interest in sustainability with her desire for a more creative career. “Being interested in the local food movement, I began to wonder why more people didn’t ask where their flowers come from,” she explains. This notion inspired her to start Little Acre Flowers, DC’s first completely locally sourced floral-design studio.

Whitman launched Little Acre Flowers this past Valentine’s Day, and creates arrangements using only the freshest locally available flowers at the time. Little Acre Flowers creates two floral designs daily—one arrangement and one bouquet, wrapped in Mayorga Coffee burlap sacks—which can be delivered throughout the Washington area. As of now, there is no retail shop, so clients must order online, where arrangements and bouquets start at $40 and are available in three different sizes.

We recently chatted with Whitman about Little Acre Flowers and the possibility of making these local arrangements part of a wedding.

How did you decide to enter the floral business?

I have always loved flowers from when I was a little girl—I’m from California and grew up in a major growing area. I love that my job helps bring joy into people’s lives. I decided to start a local-only floral business because I think a lot of changes need to be made in the industry.

What makes you unique in comparison to other florists in the area?

Little Acre Flowers is DC’s only 100-percent locally sourcing florist. By staying local, we provide fresher arrangements, minimize our environmental impact, support nearby farms, and promote seasonality. It’s an extension of the “eat local” movement—freshness, variety, and sustainability. We are a perfect choice for brides and grooms who are interested in a sustainable wedding.

Why did you decide to use only locally sourced flowers?

I wanted a more sustainable floral industry. Did you know most flowers are stale and shipped from thousands of miles away? They arrive soaked in chemicals and packed without any water. Through cultivation, many unique characteristics, including fragrance, are gone. Delicate, local varieties are being lost in favor of hardy options. As with the food I buy, I started to ask more about the flowers I was bringing home.

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Expert Advice

Ask the Expert: The Photo Booth Trend

Daniel Nakamura, owner of Booth-o-Rama, shares the benefits of having a photo booth at your reception.

By Irina Grechko Photograph courtesy of Booth-o-Rama Modern Photobooths.

What Daniel Nakamura, owner of Booth-o-Rama Modern Photobooths, loves about photographing people is the moments they don’t notice the camera, when they are purely in their element. “I thought the best way to capture people being their most real and genuine selves was to remove the photographer and put guests behind a curtain so no one could watch,” says Nakamura. “I liked the concept of a traditional photo booth, but I thought just two heads squeezed together was not fun.” So in 2008, he designed and created a large photo booth, equipped to fit up to 12 or 13 people, and launched Booth-o-Rama. We caught up with photo guru, who shared why a photo booth is worth the wedding investment.

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Expert Advice

Ask the Expert: Getting Healthy for the Wedding Day and Beyond

Local dietitian Carlene Thomas shares her tips to help brides look and feel their best.

By Irina Grechko
Photograph courtesy of Carlene Thomas.

With so much pressure to look their best in time for the big day, brides sometimes forget about wellness, and many embark on extreme diets. Enter Carlene Thomas, a registered dietitian, nutritionist, and the voice of reason behind the health-oriented lifestyle blog Healthfully Ever After. A self-proclaimed foodie, Thomas got invested in wedding wellness while planning her own wedding in 2011. “As I met with my vendors, many remarked that they wished they had someone like me to send their brides to. They were seeing dangerous crash dieting behaviors in the name of being skinny,” says Thomas.

Thomas now works with brides (and also does remote Skype sessions for those not local) to cheer them on to make healthy changes before and after the the wedding. The personalized sessions can include anything from what to order when you get takeout to where to host a healthy bridal shower, depending on the bride’s individual needs. The only thing Thomas won’t say “I do” to is diets. Instead, she encourages brides to stand tall and smile. “Confidence and positivity are a major part of how you look. Even just standing up straight with your shoulders back will help lengthen the way your body looks,” she says.

Read on for Thomas’s nutrition and wellness tips.

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Expert Advice

Ask the Expert: The Importance of Premarital Counseling

Relationship consultant Glennon Gordon shares the benefits of addressing issues before the wedding.

By Irina Grechko
Photograph courtesy of Glennon Gordon.

When it comes to the should we/shouldn’t we question of getting premarital counseling, a growing number of couples are choosing to sit down with a psychotherapist to discuss what “for better and for worse” really entails. “It is an opportunity for the couple to think together about questions they may or may not have thought about, as well as an opportunity to hear answers they may not have heard before. Even the most communicative couples end up learning something new about their fiancé[e],” says Glennon Gordon, a relationship expert and consultant at the Learning Space who works with couples to prepare them for marriage and the challenges that can sometimes arise after the honeymoon is over.

Gordon offers three one-hour sessions with soon-to-be newlyweds, wherein she teaches how to become effective communicators and avoid common pitfalls of relationships; she also touches on past relationships to help troubleshoot problems that might come down the road. “We talk about all the ‘hot topics’ in relationships, such as sex, finances, faith, parenting, and roles in and around the house. These topics become hot because people don’t learn how to talk about them from the beginning. Over time, the conflict or the distance that these issues create becomes increasingly difficult to undo,” she says.

Here, Gordon shares her tips for surviving the stresses of wedding planning and being the best partner you can possibly be.

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