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Expert Advice

Ask the Experts: Registering for Dinnerware

Choosing pieces is a breeze with the help of Four Seasons “china specialist” John Flynn.

By Irina Grechko All photographs courtesy of Rosenthal Sambonet.

For a newly engaged couple, setting up a wedding registry for table settings may seem like a daunting experience. There’s the patterns, the styles, the number, the pieces—the list goes on and on. This is where John Flynn, director of stewarding at Four Seasons Hotel Baltimore, comes in. Flynn, dubbed the “china specialist” by the Four Seasons, holds a complimentary consultation with every couple planning a wedding at the hotel in order to help them register for china, silver, crystal, and glassware pieces.

“Whether it’s ornate and vibrant or simple and understated, our priority is helping busy couples find a pattern for life,” says Flynn. We caught up with the hotel’s resident china whisperer, who shares his top tips for bridal registries, the season’s hottest china patterns, and the best ways to care for your tableware in the years to come.

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Expert Advice

Ask the Experts: Home for Two

The challenge of blending two domestic spaces into one gets a little easier with help from Lori Graham of Lori Graham Design and Showroom 1412.

By Kate Bennett Lori Graham's own line of custom furniture, LG Place, includes this sectional, which is a timeless addition to the family room.
Designer Lori Graham.

Whether you opt to cohabitate before the big day or after, moving into a cohesive marital home presents a unique set of challenges, from dual couches to a fiancé overly attached to his La-Z-Boy recliner. We checked in with some of our favorite interior designers to get their advice on how to soothe stressed-out moving woes and seamlessly shift to domestic bliss.

What’s the best way to tackle moving in and combining homes? 

A good first step is determining each person’s “non-negotiable” pieces—the ones that MUST be incorporated into the design plan of the new home. These are pieces that carry a great deal of sentimental value or are simply loved for one reason or another. Then assess the pieces as a whole and determine what they say about you as a couple. Even better, use the “Venn diagram approach.” Where do the pieces overlap? This will tell you the tastes you have in common. Equally as important, which pieces seem to stand out as different from the rest?

While keeping the non-negotiable pieces in mind, develop an overall design plan for your new home. Decide together how you want the home to look—modern, traditional, eclectic, sophisticated, casual, etc. Start determining ways to incorporate the pieces into your new plan. Keep in mind that pieces may go in different rooms and that furniture sets can and most likely will be separated.

This bedroom showcases how different side tables and lamps, not a set, work well because of the harmony of the wall treatment, chandelier, and other elements that ground the room. 

Finally, when developing the plan, make sure to account for each person’s personal habits and quirks. Does one of you need a reading chair in the master bedroom? Do you hate putting your toes on a cold floor in the morning? Does your partner prefer bright overhead lighting rather than soft mood lighting? Take the time to discuss these quirks and preferences and make sure to incorporate them into your design plan. You want the home to be comfortable for both of you and cater to each of your daily living habits.

After a couple has taken those steps, what next? 

Depending on budget, combining households can be a great opportunity to get rid of worn or tattered pieces that are not worth refurbishing, refinishing, or retrofitting. Donate these items, try to sell them, or simply call a junk removal service. We rely on Junk in the Trunk.

Also get rid of any pieces that do not fit into the design plan you’ve decided on together—pieces that don’t fit space- or style-wise. Pay attention to room dimensions and continuously consult your new plan while asking yourself if the piece conveys what you’re trying to accomplish in the combined spaces.

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Expert Advice

Expert Tips: Wedding Planning Essentials from Pineapple Productions

Whether it's avoiding trendy tones or sticking to solutions, one planner weighs in with her top five must-dos for couples-to-be.

By Kate Bennett One of Allison Jackson's tips is to edit your ideas - which often results in a solid theme that's easier to translate into your wedding. Photograph by Jacqueline Campbell Photography.

We once again inquired what the area’s top wedding planners would advise if they were to map out the essential “wedding resolutions” for 2013.

This week we hear from Allison Jackson of Pineapple Productions.

1) “I resolve not to let the Pantone Color of the Year determine my wedding color palette.” The Pantone Color of the Year might be nice inspiration for your next cocktail dress purchase, but it shouldn’t drive your wedding style decisions. When considering colors, look to what exists in nature and know that those color combinations will not only stand the test of time but will also work aesthetically. (Basically, Mother Nature knows best.) Examples of recent wedding color palettes inspired by nature: golden apricot, rosy coral, smoky lavender, and grayish blue, inspired by late summer sunsets; woodsy brown, olive green, and berry pink, inspired by a woodland scene; cobalt blue, seaglass turquoise, and sand white, inspired by an island beach; and coral, butter yellow, and tropical green, inspired by a parrot tulip.

This floral color palette was inspired by nature. Photograph by Jacqueline Campbell Photography. 

2) “I resolve to love my Plan B as much as my Plan A.” Whenever I am working with a bride who is planning a wedding with outdoor elements, my goal is to get her to love her Plan B as much as her Plan A. In order for that to be possible, all contingency plans must be thought through and detailed to the Nth degree to allow for as much beauty, creativity, and ambience as your “good weather” scenario. At the end of the day, rain, strong winds, unseasonably chilly weather . . . everything must be considered. Talk to your wedding planner about how decor elements might be repositioned or even reworked in the event of bad weather. Embrace the possibility of bad weather, and make sure your tent is as weather-proof as possible. Have resources identified for supplies that might come in handy—cute umbrellas, towels, golf carts, tented pathways, pashminas, planks or stepping-stone-type walkways, and outdoor heat lamps. The only way to deal with weather anxiety is to love your Plan B!

A tent is often a solid Plan B option when selecting an outdoor venue. 

And don't let a windy day spoil a joyous occasion. Both photographs by Patricia Lyons Photography. 

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Expert Advice

Ask the Expert: Farm-to-Table Weddings

La Prima Catering & Events' Dave Evans shares tips for planning a sustainable, locally sourced menu.

By Natalie Grasso Photograph by Lauren Cunningham of Lauren C Photography.

La Prima Catering & Events’ first Seeds to Celebrations wedding reception went off in September without a hitch. We spoke with La Prima’s president, Dave Evans, to learn more about the company’s sustainable approach to catering, see photos of “pioneer” bride and groom Jessie Greger and Jeremy Solt’s mouthwateringly fresh menu, and find out how you, too, might plan a farm-to-table wedding.

The expert: Dave Evans, president of of La Prima Catering and Events

Jessie and Jeremy’s wedding was in Emmitsburg, Maryland, and La Prima partnered with Open Book Farm, near the reception site. Are you able to team up with other farms to cater weddings in different locations?

Yes, as long as the farm is within a two-hour drive of one of our five kitchens, we can team with farmers in a wide geographic area. On this wedding we partnered with Open Book Farm, but we could have easily executed this wedding at a venue anywhere in the metropolitan area.

Photographs by Kim Haines, Marketing Coordinator, La Prima Food Group.
Photographs by Kim Haines, Marketing Coordinator, La Prima Food Group.

How far in advance do a bride and groom have to start planning with you for a farm-to-table reception?

Planning for this “grown to order” wedding began in February. To plan a farm-to-table event, the time frame should be similar to any other event. The primary difference is the menu. Clearly the summer growing season gives us the most variety and options for a grown-to-order event. But we catered an all-vegetarian bat mitzvah in December, and because of the mild winter, we were able to incorporate fresh-from-the-garden greens, herbs, and root vegetables into the menu with superb results. A December event will not have tomatoes and melons but can be built around greenhouse greens and root vegetables.

What gave you the idea for the Seeds to Celebrations arm of La Prima?

Over the past few years, the possibility of working with smaller, sustainable farms has been more of a focus for us. The inspiration for this was my daughter, who decided to become a farmer and is now operating her own sustainable farm outside of Rutland, Vermont. In 2010 we opened a sustainable urban garden at our headquarters in College Park, Maryland. We now cultivate and harvest fresh tomatoes, basil, Swiss chard, braising greens, oregano, thyme, parsley, mint, and other herbs. In fact, last summer we harvested more than 800 pounds of tomatoes and more than 300 pounds of basil—enough to make our own pesto throughout the year.

The garden and our other efforts—recycling, composting all our food waste, converting our kitchens to wind power, and developing partnerships with local sustainable farms—all led to the idea for this type of fully sustainable farm-to-table event. After having talked with Jessie and Jeremy and learning of their commitment to the environment and desire to use locally sourced products, the idea of Seeds to Celebrations came into focus.

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Expert Advice

Second Time Around: Stylish Gowns

Getting remarried? Here are elegant options for brides of all ages and styles.

By Samantha Miller Hint of Color: Monique Lhuillier spring 2012 (left) and Carolina Herrera spring 2012 (right). Photographs courtesy of Monique Lhuillier and Carolina Herrera.

Welcome to a new three-part series on Bridal Party. We’ll be asking some of the area’s top wedding experts their advice for your encore walk down the aisle.

Carine Krawiec, owner of Carine’s Bridal Atelier in Georgetown, says second- and third-time brides are ditching traditional gowns for modern silhouettes with a touch of flair.

“When it comes to second weddings, brides tend to shy away from things that look like a typical wedding dress,” she says. “So they’re looking for something that has a bit more architecture, a little bit more color. They don’t just want to repeat their first wedding.”

Carolina Herrera, Monique Lhuillier, and Marchesa are just a few of our favorite designers to offer unconventional yet sophisticated options. Herrera’s Spring 2013 collection featured structured peplum in off-white, as well as other simple, more mature designs, perfect for an understated second wedding. But sparkle is still a very practical (and appropriate) option, as long as the detail is elegant, as in Lhuillier's breathtaking chiffon halter gown with crystal straps, a dazzler from her fall 2012 line.

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Expert Advice

Ask the Experts: Wedding Invites and Etiquette

While a wedding is an occasion to celebrate, it’s also rife with chances to unintentionally offend family and friends. We asked a local stationer how to avoid common etiquette faux pas.

By Erin Keane Scott A fun and DC-centric save-the-date card from Digby & Rose. All photographs courtesy of Digby & Rose.

Two years ago, Heather Noss left her gig as a foreign-service officer at the State Department in order to tap into her artsy side. She was looking for a less bureaucratic career, and when she learned how to letterpress, she knew she’d found her niche. Shortly thereafter, she and her husband opened their Cleveland Park stationery shop, Digby & Rose, which sells whimsical yet elegant custom paper goods. We asked Noss to give us her top tips for ordering wedding stationery and getting in touch with your inner Emily Post.

What etiquette mistakes do you see people make most often, and how would you suggest avoiding them?

Most people have questions about what they should be doing—and that’s part of what you’re paying for by working with a stationer. You should ask your stationer how to word and address invitations in a way that is clear and courteous to guests such that they know who is invited and feel their stature has been acknowledged.

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Expert Advice

Ask the Experts: Wedding Budgets

It’s easy to get caught up in the fantasy of planning a wedding, but one expert warns: Don’t forget the finances!

By Laura Wainman

The Expert: Bill Moran
Merrill Lynch senior vice president and senior financial analyst

Okay, Bill, let’s say a client has come to you who has just gotten engaged. Where do you begin?

My budget advice would be the same as my marriage advice: Keep the lines of communication open at all times. Talk about your goals and aspirations, what you imagine things looking like for the wedding, and decide what each of you wants most from the day. The couple will also need to decide how much emphasis (and money) they want to place on this one day, versus other goals they may have for their future together, like buying a home or starting a retirement fund. We will also need to discuss where they individually stand financially, so we can figure out where they stand as a collective unit.

What are some potential pitfalls couples need to watch out for when it comes to planning a wedding?

The biggest issue I see is when a couple is not on the same page, whether that’s about finances or the wedding in general, and they aren’t communicating about it. If you have one partner who is an ultra-long-term planner and thinking about how to retire comfortably at 65, and the other isn’t looking past the immediate future of desperately wanting a 20-piece band and roses on every table, we are going to hit a speed bump.

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Expert Advice

Take the Cake: Sugar Magnolia’s Ice Cream Sandwiches

An old-school favorite provides a new twist on the typical wedding dessert.

By Erin Keane Scott Sweet treats from Sugar Magnolia. All photographs courtesy of Sugar Magnolia.

This summer seems like one never-ending heatwave, and while the Fro-Zen-Yo on M Street has been getting more play from our offices than we’d like to admit, it also got us thinking: What similarly cool treat could couples serve their wedding guests, especially during nuptials that take place during this sweltering time of year?

Enter Alison Reed, pastry chef at Ripple in Cleveland Park and the mastermind behind sister store Sugar Magnolia’s creative and tasty ice cream sandwiches. In variations such as maple-bacon pressed gently between homemade waffle cookies, or coffee ice cream surrounded by delicate and flavorful macaroons, her sweetly packaged, innovative desserts are the perfect after-dinner treat to impress, and cool down, party-goers. We caught up with Reed to chat about wedding desserts and what’s new at Sugar Magnolia.

You’re not quite known for doing weddings . . . yet. What can a bride expect if she wants Sugar Magnolia treats served at her wedding?

I would probably try to follow a theme. I can do a smaller cake, we could do a couple of flavors of ice cream sandwiches, sugar cookies with piped initials, and personalized fortune cookies. My recipes that are a little more homey would be well-suited for a dessert bar.

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Mom of the Bride

Ceremonies and Budgets: What’s a Mother-of-the-Bride to Do?

Welcome to another edition of MOB Monday, wherein our intrepid expert, Leslie Milk, author of “It’s Her Wedding but I’ll Cry if I Want to: A Survival Guide for the Mother of the Bride,” answers questions, soothes fears, and tells it like it is.

By Leslie Milk

I always dreamed my daughter would get married in our church. Now she tells me a friend is getting ordained online and will conduct the wedding ceremony. I just feel terrible. What can I do?

Welcome to the club. My son got married on a jogging path in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. He did agree to honor our Jewish heritage by breaking a glass at the end of the ceremony—but he neglected to tell us that he would be wearing flip-flops. Thank goodness the glass was well wrapped and we didn’t have to go straight from the wedding to the emergency room! Hard as it is to accept our children’s choices sometimes, maintaining our relationship with them is more important than any wedding venue.

My wedding budget is really tight. Do we have to entertain out-of-town guests for the entire wedding weekend?

Many weddings now seem to last as long and have as many events as coronations. But there is no requirement that you plan multiple activities—particularly if you are getting married here in the Washington area. I don’t mean to sound self-serving, but I’d suggest getting each out-of-town guest a copy of the Washingtonian Welcome Guide (to order, call 202-331-0715), or directing them to our one-, two-, three-, and four-day itineraries online, and letting them loose on the city. With so many free museums and monuments to visit, they should find plenty to do without you. And you’ll have more time to relax and prepare for your big day without the added pressure and expense of planning and attending multiple get-togethers.

Cakes

Take the Cake: Meet the Baker Behind Maggie Austin Cakes

We’re doing pirouettes for this former ballerina’s elegant creations.

By Erin Keane Scott The Ribbon and Roses and Bas-relief cakes from Maggie Austin Cake. All photos courtesy of Maggie Austin Cake.

Welcome to a new feature on Bridal Party. We'll be meeting some of our area's very best wedding dessert connoisseurs every other week with "Take the Cake."

There’s a new recipe for creating beautiful cakes. Mix a lifetime of classical ballet training with a French pastry education and an apprenticeship with superchef Charlie Trotter’s dessert genius, Della Gossett, and you’ll reach something pretty close to perfection. Maggie Austin brings exactly that delectable résumé of accomplishments to DC, whipping up innovative flavor combinations and beautiful decorations. We caught up with Maggie to talk trends, her favorite flavors, and how baking is like ballet.

Who is the “Maggie Austin” bride?

Brides who are doing their research, who are on Pinterest and reading blogs looking for ideas.

And what can a couple expect at one of your cake tastings?

I definitely have a distinct style, but I get inspired by my clients. I don’t ask them to bring anything along to the consultation; rather I ask them to talk about the aesthetic they’re going for. I won’t re-create the dress in cake form.

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