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Expert Advice

Q&A: How to Create Your Wedding Theme with the Owners of Sweet Root Village

Wedding experts Rachel Bridgwood and Lauren Anderson give their two sense on themes, flowers, and Pinterest.

Owners Rachel Bridgwood (left) and Lauren Anderson (right). Photography by Sarah Bradshaw Photography.

Q The name of your company, Sweet Root Village, suggests there’s more to it than just floral decor for a wedding.

A Lauren: I have a love for all things floral, and Rachel studied graphic design and photography— we are both artistic. So it made sense five years ago to start a company that offers a few wedding services—photography, floral design, and day-of coordination—not just one. A lot of clients will book us for one service, but most will book us for two, if not all three.

Rachel: We get to be involved in more aspects of the wedding day, which we feel provides a more cohesive aesthetic to the event—and we have more opportunity to get to know the couple.

Q You’re known for creating unique and nature-inspired bouquets and centerpieces.

Photograph courtesy of Sweet Root Village

A Lauren: We are committed to sourcing local flowers. While there are amazing flowers we can get from all over the world, we have lots of farmers less than 100 miles from us who grow flowers with impeccable quality; they work tirelessly to nurture those blooms just for your wedding. There’s something magical about holding a bouquet of flowers that were grown from seeds just for you.

Q What’s the most important issue a couple should tackle in terms of creating an environment or theme for their wedding?

A Rachel: I would say the first thing would have to be the venue. Seems obvious, but the venue really dictates the true vision for the day; it’s the canvas that you build the rest of the wedding upon. After that, I would suggest thinking about textures and colors. Tactile fabrics, patterns, color elements—those take designing the event to the next level. Deciding these elements early on will help a couple be more decisive as they move through the planning process.

Q With so many visuals to consider, how do you help clients narrow their focus?

A Rachel: We definitely use Pinterest, which is extremely helpful at times, but it can also cause issues when it comes to expectations. We love to be inspired by life, more than by other weddings, so we always work best face-to-face with a client. We find happiness in seeing what inspires them, and then we run with that to build a comprehensive concept.

Sweet Root Village:




Real Weddings

Real Wedding: Preppy Black & White Wedding at the Carnegie Institution for Science

Lindsay Bowles and Jacob Chervinsky wed on November 8, 2014.

By Caroline Cunningham All photographs by Katelyn James Photography.

Jake Chervinsky and Lindsay Bowles were both in their sophomore year of college when Jake drafted Lindsay onto his mock trial team. Shortly after she joined, Jake turned 19, so Lindsay coordinated with their teammates to sign a card for him. Though she initially had thought Jake was aloof, when she saw how touched he was by her efforts to commemorate his birthday, she realized he was nicer than she’d thought.

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Expert Advice

How to Feed Your Picky Wedding Guests

The secret to pleasing the dietarily demanding at your wedding.

By Leslie Milk Illustration by Britt Spencer.

The groom is a foodie who wants the menu to be locally sourced. The mother of the bride has gone vegetarian. And her mother insists that it isn’t a wedding without those little pastry-wrapped hot dogs.

It’s enough to give a bride heartburn.

Thankfully, there are solutions to most reception dining dilemmas. If the groom wants field-grown tomatoes in January, he’ll have to go pretty far afield. But there are enough chicken raisers, cheese makers, vintners, and other purveyors close to Washington to give your reception a home-grown ambience. Your caterer can help you devise a farm-to-table menu, and even serve it family style.

The vegetarian mother? She isn’t an obstacle. Special-menu requests are on the increase—low-fat, gluten-free, vegan— and customizing your menu may be as easy as changing the ingredients of a sauce or offering a wild-rice pilaf instead of a potato gratin.

As for Grandma and any other family member with a very specific request—my son-in-law staked his claim to steak—that’s why God invented hors d’oeuvres. Cocktail hour is also the place to indulge the couple’s passion for food that run-of-the-mill palates might eschew. Bring on the eel sushi—as long as it’s one of several choices.

Many brides ask their guests to mention special dietary restrictions in their RSVP, and some invitees on a restrictive diet will tell you even if you don’t ask. Your unflinching caterer should be able and willing to make accommodations. She also will know not to hide the nuts or bury the shrimp in any dish she prepares—there’s nothing like a case of anaphylactic shock to ruin a good reception.

And the guest who shows up and makes on-the-spot demands? You can’t expect the kitchen to instantly produce a kosher meal, but there should still be something on the menu that can fill in. If all else fails, the troublesome one can eat the garnish.

One question wedding couples should ask, but rarely do: How much food do we need to serve? Menus can be unnecessary budget-busters, so keeping an eye on the length of the guest list and on portion size is a smart move.

You do need to offer enough food with cocktails so that guests don’t stagger drunkenly into the reception, and after all those canapés, you may not need to provide an appetizer. And assuming your wedding cake tastes as good as it looks, an additional dessert isn’t required. All the recent hoopla over dessert bars and candy corners—even cupcake food trucks—doesn’t mean guests are expecting anything beyond the traditional tiers.

A bride and groom should go above and beyond in accommodating their guests, but there is a limit when it comes to pleasing unreasonable people. One couple stated specifically on their wedding invitation that the affair was adults-only. A wedding guest brought her children anyway, and then complained about the lack of kid-friendly food at the reception. My advice for that astonished bride: Suggest that the mother and her offspring head to the nearest fast-food establishment with all deliberate speed.

And ignore the counsel of a certain French queen: Don’t let them eat the cake.

Real Weddings

Real Wedding: Rustic Barn Wedding in Virginia

Jennifer Costanza and Amy Shopkorn wed on September 6, 2014.

By Caroline Cunningham All photographs by Dominique Attaway Photography.

Jennifer (Jen) Costanza, a Baltimore native, first met Amy Shopkorn, a New Yorker, on Match.com. They began emailing, and Jen was immediately impressed by Amy’s eloquence and openness as they sent long, personal messages to one another.

After five days of digital conversation, they decided to meet in person at Ebenezers Coffee Shop near Union Station at 8 AM on a Saturday. Both endurance athletes, they bonded over their habitual early rising and were soon inseparable. They dated for a little over a year when they decided to pick out rings together, allowing the rest of the proposal to be a surprise. One evening, when Amy was out with friends, Jen covered their backyard with hundreds of string lights and waited with their dog, Nigel, for Amy to arrive at home. Jen and Amy's romantic moment was briefly interrupted when they realized that Nigel was downing a bag of dog treats that Jen had dropped, but the proposal was salvaged by a trip to a nearby beach.

For their September wedding at Panorama Farms, both brides entered from behind trees so that they could watch one another’s procession down the aisle. They danced into their new life together to James Taylor’s “Only One” and sent their guests home with cocoa powder and coffee beans in honor of their coffee shop first date.

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Real Weddings

Real Wedding: Two Law Students Tied the Knot at DAR Constitution Hall

Candice Chiu and Alex Wong wed on April 12, 2014.

By Kate Bennett Photographs by Abby Jiu Photography

“Why is he always late to class?” thought Candice Chiu of her Harvard Law School classmate. Luckily, she also noticed Alex Wong's nice voice and put-together style, so she looked past his timeliness issue and got to know him. “We were given assigned seats next to each other,” says Alex of his good fortune to be near a lovely young woman he thought had “a beautiful smile.”

A first date at Upstairs on the Square in Cambridge soon followed, and the two tackled love and law school together from then on. Six years later, Alex persuaded Candice to return to Upstairs on the Square under the guise of meeting friends. Instead, Alex got down on one knee and asked for Candice’s hand in marriage; the bartenders poured Champagne.

Their elegant spring nuptials eight months later proved to be a stunning reflection of Washington’s quintessential cherry blossom season. “We had no idea it would coincide with the peak of the blooms,” says Candice, whose other favorite detail from the day was the personalized bookmarks that did double-duty as place cards and take-home favors. For his part, Alex cherishes the letters each wrote to the other to be opened in separate on the morning of the wedding.

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Engagement Photos

This Groom-to-be Proposed During Their Engagement Photo Shoot

Victoria Stiles and Jackson Nisewaner are set to wed in July 2015.

By Caroline Cunningham All photographs by Genevieve Leiper Photography.

Business was booming with her wedding and event hair and makeup company when Victoria Stiles realized she needed to make a change. She’d been working long hours and investing in her brand, but she hadn’t been devoting time to her health. Realizing that she needed to refocus on taking care of her body, she began to eat better and to train hard. She’d lost 100 pounds when she went to meet friends at a restaurant. It was there that Jackson Nisewaner spotted Victoria, and he knew he wanted to get to know the gorgeous blonde. He asked Victoria’s best friend if he could join them for brunch the next day, and it was there that he finally had the chance to introduce himself.

When Victoria found out that the handsome, but goofy, stranger was a personal trainer, she was immediately intrigued. They went for a first date at the gym, where their romance blossomed over deadlifts and squats. The pair had dated for two years without much talk of the future when they decided to get married in the summer of 2015. They planned an engagement photo shoot with Genevieve Leiper Photography, and while they were taking photos around Leesburg, Jackson got down on one knee to formally propose with a beautiful vintage diamond ring.

Victoria wore a whimsical flower crown created by Morgan Walker of Petals & Hedges, and she and Jackson snapped pictures at their favorite Leesburg coffee shop, while riding a tandem bike, and outside of Victoria’s A Little Wedding Studio. They are set to wed at Patowmack Farm in July 2015.

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Styled Shoot

Heiress Tea Party Styled Shoot

Relax like royalty before your wedding.

By Caroline Cunningham All photographs by Natarsha Wright Photography.

With the birth of the new princess in England, we’ve got royalty on the brain. So when we saw the elegance and sophistication in this styled shoot at Malmaison by Jayne Heir Weddings—from the rich jewel-toned hues of the ruby garden roses and amethyst calla lilies to the gold-painted teapot cake—we knew we had to share it.

Jayne Heir Weddings owner Jamésa Adams says, “The Heiress Tea Party is simply the whimsical fairy tale moment that you have with your bridesmaids before you take that final step in marrying your Prince Charming.” Here’s a bit of inspiration for how you and your bridesmaids can enjoy the royal treatment before you head down the aisle.

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Gifts and Favors

14 DC-Themed Favors for Your Wedding Welcome Bags

Give your out-of-towners a taste of Washington with these local goodies.

By Caroline Cunningham Photography by Astrid Photography.

If guests are traveling to attend your wedding, you can go ahead and assume they’ve put in a lot of effort to get there—scheduling around conflicts, buying plane tickets, booking hotel rooms, and more—all to see you on the happiest day of your life. Welcome bags for these long-distance attendees are a wonderful way to say “thank you.”

Washington is rich with local-made gift items, so welcome bags are also an opportunity for you to show your guests a bit of DC flavor—but whether that flavor happens to be in the form of gin or crab seasoning we'll leave up to you. To get you started putting together some fabulous bags, here’s 14 finds that will say “Welcome to Washington,” loud and clear.

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Real Weddings

Real Wedding: See Photos from Our Summer 2014 Cover Couple's River Farm Wedding

Adam Bachert and Meghan Sable wed on April 24, 2014. 

By Caroline Cunningham All photographs by Astrid Photography.

Adam Bachert was visiting friends in Chicago for the weekend, and on Friday night they celebrated a birthday in Wrigleyville. When Adam spotted Meghan Sable across the room at the party, he asked one of Meghan’s friends to play his wingman. After being told that the cute guy in the booth by himself wanted to meet her, Meghan gave him a quick once-over. She agreed to go talk to him, sure that they'd chat for a few minutes and then part ways.

But as Meghan talked with Adam, she noticed just how easy going and genuine he was. They agreed to meet up on Sunday at a little cafe in Lincoln Park for brunch, and they quickly realized this relationship was meant for something more. They had dated for five years when they took a trip to Paris, France together. At the beginning of their trip, they went to the famous Pont des Arts bridge to lock away their love, throwing the keys in the river below. On the last night of their trip, they returned to the bridge to see if they could find their lock among the thousands clipped to the bridge rails. When Adam shouted, “I found it!” Meghan hurried over, only to find him down on one knee, a ring in hand.

The pair married on April 24, 2014 in the bride’s home town, Alexandria, with a reception at River Farm. They fed their guests pistachio and strawberry cupcakes and seasonal beers and danced before all of their loved ones to “Our Song,” by Ellie Goulding.

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Expert Advice

15 Must-Have Detail Photos From Your Wedding Day

At the end of the night, it’s all in the details (and whether or not you have photos of them).

By Caroline Cunningham Photograph by Abby Jiu.

You’ve spent months planning and preparing, picking fonts for your invitations, gifts for your welcome bag, accent plates and flatware for your table settings, bouquets, centerpieces, canapes--the list could go on and on. But though you’ve invested all of these hours (not to mention dollars) in planning the perfect celebration, at the end of the night, all you’re going to have are the memories and the photographs.

That’s why it’s essential that you and your photographer are on the same page when it comes to your must-have shots. Of course, a professional photographer will have you covered, and you need not worry about them capturing all the moments of your special day. But it never hurts, especially on a day that will fly by in a blur of joy, to think and plan ahead with your photographer about the photos that matter the most to you.

As bridal editors who’ve poured over thousands of images, we’ve got an idea of some of the must-have photos from a wedding. Here are 15 detail photographs that we think are important to walk away with from your wedding day.

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