January 31, 2011

A Little French Influence

In honor of Best Man Justin (now known in our parts as Groom Justin -- more on that later), I wanted to share a wedding blog from across the pond: Le Petit Journal des Mariages Retro. This hot spring of vintage  photos, decor and accessories has an entire tab dedicated to the groom (also known as le marié).

There's nothing old-fashioned about these babies

And through LPJMR, I rather fortuitously found my way to the Cyberoptix Tie Lab, one of the best groom-friendly shops I've seen on Etsy and self-proclaimed producer of "ties that don't suck". The ties pictured above, as Groom Justin puts it, would have been almost too perfect for our October wedding. 

Happy shopping, men.

January 28, 2011

Yet another reason to not have a lame proposal (via The Wedding Salon)

The Wedding Salon's newest promotion made 2E's want to file for an annulment and get engaged all over again. Another 18 months of planning and another X thousand dollars spent on another wedding would be well worth the prize.

In short, WS is offering a Valentine's Day giveaway to the groom- and bride-to-be with the best engagement story. And what do this groom and his 2E's receive for their killer proposal? They get Belize. The country.

And if that paperwork doesn't really pan out, they'll get a trip to Belize, which is not as lucrative but much less time-consuming. Even more impressive than your hot air balloon/Bermuda Triangle proposal will be your 6-night stay at the Hidden Valley Inn (courtesy of Romantic Travel Belize), a 7,200-acre reserve with 12 luxurious cottages in the middle of the remote Mountain Pine Ridge.

 My backyard looks exactly like this

To enter, just send an email to Tatiana at the Wedding Salon with your name, address, upcoming wedding date and a recount your one-of-a-kind engagement story. The winner will be announced on the WS blog on Monday, February 28th. 

The fine print: The honeymoon giveaway includes the 6 night stay and round-trip ground transfer to the hotel, air travel is not included. The offer/prize is valid for 12 months only and must be redeemed with Romantic Travel Belize by February 2012. For full details, visit http://www.weddingsalon.com/blog/index.php/2011/01/26/honeymoongiveaway-romantictravelbelize/.

January 27, 2011

Recipe for an Amazing Proposal (Gluten Free)

It wasn't the coast-to-coast flights, or the flight across the Atlantic the following morning; it wasn't her great grandmother's ring, nestled in the front pocket of my backpack and stashed underneath some Kleenex, or even the hassle of making a reservation at the restaurant in Brussels on account of a country code and a baffling combination of 1s and 0s. It was none of those things.

But it was walking beneath this eerie bridge en route to the restaurant and, for a moment, being disoriented in a part of Brussels that isn't exactly touristy ... or populated ... or lit. That's what made me nervous. And it was at that moment (at the tail end of a month of organizing and preparing) when I realized, There should really be someone to do this for me.

Sarah Pease does precisely that. In addition to being a full services event planner in NYC, she is also a renowned proposal planner, taking care of all the minute details so that the only thing you have to worry about is the "marry me" part. And while she may not know her way around Brussel's Quartier des Marolles -- had I known Sarah at the time, she wouldn't have let me take that route to begin with.

Watch: Josh & Mandy, a Proposal Planned by Brilliant Event Planning

So I asked the expert on popping the question to stop by and give us some on advice on simplifying a process that can, at times, seem really complicated.

The Recipe for an Amazing Proposal
by guest blogger Sarah Pease, The Proposal Planner
Brilliant Event Planning
  • Pre-Heat the Oven: Think about it ahead of time. That's right, don't pick up the ring on a Monday and plan to propose that night on a whim. This is a question that (hopefully) you'll only ask once in your entire life. Some people suggest spending as much time planning the proposal as you did earning the money for the ring.  That might be a little over the top, but it's the right attitude.  You can always upgrade the ring - you can never re-ask her to marry you.
  • Write your Own Recipe. While your girl will likely be happy with your proposal no matter what, you should put a little more creativity into it than the "Rose Petal Turndown Package" at your local hotel. Make it personal to her by thinking about what things she loves and what she thinks is romantic. Whether her favorite things involve high heels or dirt bikes, luxury hotels or log cabins, making it thoughtful and personal is the key.
  • Serving Instructions. As you plan your proposal, make sure to think about the "aftermath."  If you're proposing the night before her big work project is due, she won't be able to concentrate on celebrating and getting her work done.  If your ideal engagement is during your vacation in Timbuktu, how will you be able to call your family & friends to share the news without a long distance phone line?
  • Cooking Time.  The best kind of proposal is a total surprise. Even if you've already talked about getting engaged and shopped for the ring, you can still take her by surprise.  Let's face it: if you plan a special dinner and tell her to get dolled up, she's going to know that she's getting proposed to.  And, it'll take a little of the wind out of your sails if she knows what's coming. Switch things up and plan your engagement for first thing in the morning or a random Tuesday afternoon.  You'll get the priceless reaction that will make it truly a moment to remember for the rest of your lives.
  • The Secret Ingredient.  When it comes to proposals, there are three traditions that should not be ignored. You should always get down on one knee, have a ring (even a candy one as a prop), and say "Will You Marry Me?"  Follow this recipe for a proposal and you're sure to be on your way to baking a wedding cake!
Sarah Pease, The Proposal Planner, is recognized as the foremost expert on marriage proposals and is the pioneer of Marriage Proposal Planning. Based in New York City, Sarah and the team at Brilliant Event Planning have designed and produced dream engagements for countless lucky couples from across the world. She is the go-to source for all things regarding, "Will You Marry Me?"

Contact Sarah by email or by phone at 917.974.4729.

January 25, 2011

Another guest blog that reveals too much about my personal life

Ladies & Grooms,

Please take a moment and visit The Man Registry blog for the latest guest post:


And in case it slipped by you, also check out Exploring the [Wedding] Man Cave, a celebratory post in honor of the latest groom-friendly wedding trend, the Man Cave.


Putting Your Muse(s) to Work

In the fall of 2002, I gave a rather horrific Best Man toast at my older brother's wedding in Miami Beach. I perhaps remember it as a much bigger disaster than it was ... but it was far from a success. I had just turned 19, and in my mind, I had written the most well-crafted, well-balanced speech of all time. It blended pop culture references with a sweet sentiment about Jessica's inexplicable love for my brother. I expected the entire room to be simultaneously slapping their knees and crying hysterically by the time I was through. 

As it turns out, no knees were slapped that evening. And the only person who was crying hysterically was my inner child, who crouched behind the open bar for the remainder of the evening.  

Enter Angie and Alicia, two ladies I've been stalking this past week after discovering them on Twitter. As professional writing consultants for wedding vows, speeches, toasts or whatever, Angie and Alicia (known in some circles as the Vow Muses) give voices to the voiceless. Angie and Alicia bring closure to an event that I still refer to as the greatest failure of my writing career. Nine years later, I'm comforted in knowing that there are two personable professionals out there in the wedding world who can prevent vows, toasts and the like from going south. 

How does it work? Simple: consultation, writing, reveal, revision, collaboration, revision, completion! And aside from injecting you with eloquence and elocution, the muses can also edit your ceremony wording, pen a love poem, revamp your wedding website content, and prepare you for your impending public speaking engagement.

To test their skills, I decided to give Angie and Alicia three extreme but plausible scenarios in which a groom would need ... well ... a script. See their responses below as evidence of their serious writing prowess and their wicked sense of humor.

You've flown across the country to surprise your girlfriend's father at his home and ask for his daughter's hand in marriage. Unfortunately, on that sharp turn into the driveway, you took out his mailbox with the rental car. On top of that, your return flight departs in an hour, so you've got zero time for small talk. How do you apologize for the damage, get his blessing and prove to him that this mailbox incident is not an indication of your potential ... and accomplish all of that in two minutes or less?

Good afternoon Mr. Guglia, it’s nice to see you again. I have an extremely important request of you and not much time to chat, unfortunately, though those sweet new golf clubs near the stairs may warrant a follow up phone call. Your daughter, Julia, is a wonderful woman. And she takes after her mother, so kudos to you on that. I’m here to request your blessing before I ask for her hand in marriage. Because I don’t want this to turn into a “Meet the Parents” situation, and because my return flight leaves in 50 minutes, I will make this brief: your daughter is the best thing that’s ever happened to me and I will take care of her come hell or high water for the rest of her life. Oh, and you’ll see that I’m quite adept at resolving chaotic situations as I’ve already called a handyman to fix your suddenly dilapidated mailbox… You’ll be happy to know that I’m also working on how to better handle stressful situations and continuously improving my driving skills. With this hesitant handshake and your confused expression, I know exactly how you are feeling even if you can’t conjure the words to express it. Thank you, Mr. Guglia, I look forward to cursing the opposing sporting team with you on Thanksgivings for years to come.

- - -

You're stretched out in the backseat of a car, en route to a hospital somewhere in the middle of the Nevada desert. Your memory is fading, but if you remember correctly, your boys dragged you out into the woods for the bachelor party of a lifetime. Unfortunately, while they did remember the Vienna sausages, they managed to forget the snake bite kit. When your leg tripled in size, they decided to seek medical attention. While you writhe in the backseat, how do you thank them for ten memorable minutes of the bachelor party of a lifetime and, at the same time, suggest that one of them start sucking the snake juice out of that wound?

Dudes, seriously, you guys are awesome. You know your bros are there for you when they plan a totally wicked bachelor party. You know your friends care when they pack you a lunch, take time off work and agree to be in your wedding. Hell, if it doesn’t work out with Brenda, I may just come knocking on one of your doors for more than a couch to sleep on, if you know what I mean. But seriously guys, I know this didn’t go to plan -- unless you planted that bastard of a snake because you didn’t actually get Monday off work -- but sometimes it’s the effort that counts. And speaking of effort, a guy knows he’s really got the best friends ever when one of them is willing to suck snake venom from his leg. No, seriously, I’m gonna need someone to get on that ASAP, sentimental time is over; I can’t feel my hands anymore.

- - -

Well, the good news is that no one at the rehearsal dinner has caught on that there's a fire brewing toward the back of the venue. The bad news is that there's a fire brewing toward the back of the venue. (Something about your family and open flames never sat right with you.) As entrees make their way out to the tables and the curtains begin to blaze, you stand to deliver your welcoming toast for the weekend. So how exactly do you thank them for coming while politely asking them to get the hell out ... like, now?

Hello everyone and welcome to Beth and my wedding weekend. Thank you all for coming; we’re so glad that you could all make it. You know, someone once told me that love is like a fire that burns inside us and grows to consume our bodies and minds. At one time I would not have believed that, but some very recent events have wholly convinced me of this truth. And on that note, I thank you all for coming here to celebrate the fire of love that burns between Beth and myself, and kindly ask you to file out your nearest exit to avoid any further flames unintentionally affecting anyone else on this wonderful night. This toast will continue on the front sidewalk in 30 seconds, move it people!

 - - -

Before you leave us, ladies -- any tips for grooms out there who may be thinking about writing their own vows?

First, if you're hesitant, get help! That's what Vow Muse is for, of course, and we can save you from looking like a doof in front of hundreds of people (not to mention invoking the Wrath of the Bride). If you're comfortable writing your own vows, we advise that you remember who your audience is (grandma doesn't want to hear anything raunchy); just say what you feel (your friends can tease you later); and say just enough that your lady doesn't upstage you but not so much that your guests are staring out the windows by the end. Good luck and happy groom-ing! 
- - -

Please visit the talented Angie and Alicia at VowMuse.com
follow them on Twitter, or contact them directly at muse@vowmuse.com

January 24, 2011

wedding recap: the NYC Flower Market

Three days before our wedding, 2Es and I could be found outside the McDonald's on 28th Street and Avenue of the Americas in Manhattan, clutching our coffees and massaging the bags under our eyes. We were up early to meet one of our designers (Jeremy Norman from David Beahm Design) and do a walk-through of New York's Historic Wholesale Flower Market.

I was no stranger to the Flower Market, but this was 2E's first time shopping in the district -- perhaps her first time shopping for flowers, ever. Although she'd worked in and around the neighborhood when we lived in the city, this stretch of West 28th Street was an utter mystery. It was almost as if these vendors (Rodem Flower, Associated Cut Flowers, G. Page & Major Wholesale) and the thousands of bagged and potted plants and flowers lining both curbs had magically appeared.

Jeremy knows the Flower Market the way Joanna knows the sixth season of Will & Grace -- inside and out. The retailers all know him by name and vice versa. He moved through each shop with grace and purpose and know-how while 2Es and I (his couple in tow) stumbled over boxes and cables and ogled every colorful wall of flowers that we came across. Not surprisingly, there are many.

In the hour we spent combing the racks of spray roses and gerber daisies, 2Es transformed from window shopper to informed decision-maker. She needed only a brief introduction before she knew precisely what she wanted. She'd ask my opinion occasionally, but this was one element of the planning that I was pleased to leave entirely in her hands. I was happy, for that single hour on 28th Street, to play the aloof, uninterested fiance.

Overall, 2Es was impressed by the vibe of the market -- the haggling, sure, but also the speed of the transactions, the chummy buyer-seller relationships, and the dichotomy of dozens of hydrangea sitting street-side and the back room freezers full of fresh cut flowers.

For me, it was people like Jeremy, the ambassadors of the Flower Market. In my twisted mind, Jeremy is like the John Nash of floral design. I walk the market, and I see flowers; he walks the market, and he sees arrangements. He can envision the final product. We see colors and stems and leaves. He sees opportunities.

Photos by Brian Leahy for Joanna Wilson Photography

January 14, 2011

Rehearsal Dinner Photoshop-ing, as promised

As I mentioned in Monday's rehearsal dinner post (Dîner de Répétition), my sister-in-law Jessica had slaved for months over an impressive collection of movie posters, swapping our heads and facial expressions with those of John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John, Kevin Costner & Susan Sarandon, Brad Pitt & Cate Blanchett, and Jeff Bridges & Julianne Moore among others. Walking into The Smith's downstairs private room, we discovered that we, in fact, had co-starred in When Harry Met Sally, 50 First Dates, The American President, and Basic Instinct

That last poster is especially creepy. My Michael Douglas is not attractive.

Below, as promised, is a collection of our (and our guests') favorites. Looking through these, you have to imagine them as 4x6 prints inside freestanding frames (double-sided), with five or six frames scattered on each table, and yet another display with larger prints in a far corner of the room. And you have to imagine everyone getting really creeped out by the Basic Instinct poster until finally, when the food began to arrive, someone took initiative and placed it face down on the table.


 Can you tell who's who?

Joanna totally forgot to put this on her resume


 Not so bad-ass 

 I'm just glad Jessica snuck the Yankees cap in there

Notice Kickass Maid of Honor Teresa as the Scarecrow and Ballsy Best Man Justin as the Cowardly Lion ... and yes, our cat Scooter as Toto

and our personal favorite...

January 13, 2011

The vendors who saved our asses: Coolhaus

About 2-1/2 hours into our reception, a ripple of sorts went through the crowd. There was this buzz, almost like schoolgirl chatter, spreading from table to table, person to person. Were we the unsuspecting victims of some soon-to-be unleashed wedding prank? Or, even more plausible, were my dance moves so visually painful that our guests had resorted to small talk, collectively refusing to join us on the dance floor?

Thankfully, no.

The ripple, the buzz, the chatter, and the small talk were all a result of the happenings at the other end of our venue. Nestled in the far corner of the room was a single 6' table adorned with a simple linen, some catering equipment and a small, colorful chalkboard. Two newcomers stood behind the table with gloves and aprons, and both of them had that "California glow" about them. Yes, this was Coolhaus.

2E's and I never wanted a traditional wedding cake. We couldn't afford one; didn't care much for the taste of cake; and were rather bored of them to tell you the truth. (Granted, there are some amazing cake makers out there, but with our modest budget, that was never a realistic option.) Coolhaus' solution to the "cake-cutting" dilemma was a generous helping of their delicious red velvet ice cream sandwiched between two large black and white cookies (a true New York classic).


Our guests could not have been more thrilled with this new take on dessert (kickass caterer Kim Pistone also supplied mini red velvet cupcakes for the ice cream "haters"). We received compliments throughout the evening (from Never seen anything like it! to I'm on my third now), and we managed to turn all of the skeptics onto the idea. Our floral and decor designer, David Beahm, a true trendsetter in the wedding field (one of Modern Bride's Top 25 Trendsetters in 2008), thought it was an absolute hit. New York, or at least the microcosm of New York that had gathered in a loft beneath the Manhattan Bridge that evening, could not get enough of Coolhaus.

Ari made all the ladies happy that night

Natasha Case, one of the co-creators of Coolhaus, asked us to choose 5 cookie varieties and 7 ice cream varieties (we chose brown butter candied bacon, dirty mint chip and baked apple among others), and on the Friday before our wedding, Natasha traveled cross-country with the ice cream. Let me just say that another way: she literally brought the ice cream from Los Angeles. It just makes it all that much more worthwhile, doesn't it?

Natasha and her staff were an absolute delight to work with--before, during and after the event. It was the little snippet of Los Angeles (by far our favorite snippet) that we had wanted to incorporate into our tiny Brooklyn wedding from the very first day, and everything about it worked beautifully. Really, anything to take the attention off my dancing.

- - -
All photos courtesy of Noah Devereaux

Please contact Natasha about your own NYC or LA wedding at natasha@eatcoolhaus.com

And check out my previous posts featuring Coolhaus

January 10, 2011

Dîner de Répétition

When 2E's and I walked into The Smith restaurant on 3rd Avenue (just a short walk from Astor Place in Manhattan) one evening last April, we knew without hesitation that this was our rehearsal dinner venue. The restaurant was packed--an immediate indication that the food is good. The downstairs event space, which can accommodate 50-75, was simultaneously classy and casual. By the time we got to the corridor with the photobooth and unisex bathroom stalls, we were putting down a deposit.

(Strike that. Our gracious hosts, the illustrious MOG and FOG, were putting down a deposit.)

After several conversations with my mother, we finally came to the consensus that we should have tables assigned to each guest or group of guests to avoid awkward pairings and a musical chairs of sorts. So we needed an escort card display. We brainstormed a variety of designs (I still love my idea of an old Outlook Hotel-style key cabinet and plan to use it elsewhere) until we stumbled upon our favorite -- and the most feasible. Affordable and fitting for the location, I ordered a true English pub dartboard on Amazon.com and 20-something darts. Guests' names were written on small slips of paper that were then fastened to the neck of the darts. And six random numbers along the perimeter of the dartboard served as our table numbers. It was my very minor contribution to the decor for the evening.

"find your dart to find your table" - sign courtesy of the MOH

Getting to the dinner was the biggest chore of the evening. The rehearsal was an hour longer than we'd anticipated, and the rain wasn't making transportation around the city any easier. I was sitting on the couch in our hotel suite, counting out the cash that we'd be distributing to our vendors and photographers and waiters the following evening, and 2E's chirps, Um, aren't you going with me to this thing?  

Hours had escaped me. I had fifteen minutes to shower and get dressed and find a decent enough hiding place for thousands of dollars of cold hard cash in a hotel suite with a busted safe. So I half-showered while kickass bridesmaid Laura did 2E's make-up and hair for the event ... and while kickass Maid of Honor Teresa saved the evening with a sprint to Rite-Aid for a pair of nude panty-hose-in-a-hurry, I upgraded my dress shirt to better complement 2E's rockin' evening dress.

We received two instructions regarding the rehearsal dinner: (1) arrive slightly tardy and (2) butt out. So we did. And when we arrived and realized, piece by piece, detail by detail, all of the work that had been done in preparation for the evening, we were flabbergasted. We walked around the room in a haze, unable to take it all in. The OGs had ordered personalized buttons and hats and lookalike figurines. And the MOG (with the aid of the bride's mother, of course) had locked herself in a room for the past three months and cut and edited an hour-long slide-show with the most adorable slash disturbing photos and videos from our childhoods. Highlights included a teenage 2E's overacting in grade school choir and a toddler 2E's addressing her future self. I had no highlights--or at least none that I'm willing to reveal here. 

The other scene stealer of the evening, which inevitably became the recurring theme of the night, was an impressive collection of photoshop-ed movie posters, with our faces superimposed over those belonging to Sally & Harry and Zack & Miri, to Charlie & Maverick and Bella & Edward. A dozen or so posters adorned a table in the corner while dozens more in small white frames provided the centerpiece for each dinner table. And all of this had been done in secrecy by my sister-in-law, Jessica. I'll be sharing some of our favorite posters shortly (there are so many!), and Jessica will be giving a seminar on stealing images from Facebook and discreet photoshop-ing in Conference Room B. 

She's so Bella. I'm SO not Edward.

We had amazing food, an in-room bar just for us and the best 52 dinner companions a couple could ask for. We asked 2E's brother Patrick to host the evening -- a seemingly logical and ultimately spot-on decision. And we passed our camera off to 2E's cousin Michael, who did an amazing job snapping photos of our guests and our decor throughout the evening.

For more info on The Smith, check out their website. For special events, email Lisa and tell her The Groom Says said to.

Photos by Brian Leahy & Michael Wilson for Joanna Wilson Photography