Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Amber Events on Hawaii Time

The blog will be quiet for the next week as I'm traveling to the big island of Hawaii for Erin and Shawn's wedding at the Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort and Spa in Kona then a few days of vacation with my husband. Aloha!
Brookleyn Photography
Image taken by the uber talented photographer Brooke Fitts of Brookelyn Photography, the photographer for Erin and Shawn's wedding. While this picture isn't exactly taken in Kona, the feeling sums up my clients: beachy, chill, and cool.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Trish and Matt's Bel Air Bay Club Wedding

IMG_4032
Weddings don't have to take multiple months and years to plan. Trish and I are proof of that! Trish contacted me in June regarding her August wedding. She had just booked the gorgeous Bel Air Bay Club in Pacific Palisades, CA and was planning an intimate wedding for approximately 90 people for her and her Australian fiance, Matt. We met, clicked, and hit the ground running to get her down the aisle in time! And run we did! At one point we were emailing each other as she was on a 10 day vacation in rural Costa Rica!

Because Trish and Matt are having another wedding and reception in Australia this December, Trish had to pull off basically TWO weddings with one budget. Her willingness to think outside the box (have a Sunday wedding, rent her gown), do a lot of legwork on her own (make her own programs, purchase decor items to give to the florist), and openness to the suggestions I made (skip a formal champagne toast, skip favors) enabled her to have a gorgeous wedding. She's going to have another one in December. Lucky lady!

After an entire month of grey and foggy days, August 23 dawned beautiful and blue with big fluffy clouds in the sky. We did have some drama with the makeup artist who showed up almost an hour and a half late, but because we had padded the Timeline enough, we were able to scramble to make everything workout OK. Whew!

Their ceremony was held out on the lawn and the guests had a gorgeous view of the Pacific Ocean as they listened to the sounds of the string trio from Perfect Music For Weddings. Family friend and wonderful officiant Barbara White performed a touching ceremony that included a sand ceremony and roses presented to the mothers. The Bel Air Bay Club built a wooden walkway for Trish so that she wouldn't sink into the grass in her 4" Christian Louboutin heels! (she would not budget on that one--can you blame her?!)
Bel Air Bay Club Wedding Ceremony
The string trio continued during the cocktail hour held on the terrace, and guests were escorted into the Living Room for the Reception.

Trish's colors were champagne, gold, cream, and sparkle. Yes, I've just decided that sparkle is a color. The centerpieces for the reception were tall vases with sprays of Dendrobium orchids and Manzanita branches with crystals and candles hanging from them . Gigantic crystals with gold numbers on them marked each table that was covered in a crinkled antique gold linen and scattered with crystals. Orange County florist Jan Wilder of Flower Fusion not only did a wonderful job with all of the florals, but she was a joy to work with.
Bel Air Bay Club Wedding Reception
The day could not have been pulled off without the team of:

Charley Star Photo - Gorgeous Photography
Dash Entertainment - Reception Music and MC
Elegant Designs - Table Linens
Rosebud Cakes - Wedding Cake
Video Artistry - Videography
Floral Fusion - Florals
CLS Limousine Services

A big thank you to the wonderful and professional vendors that worked so hard that day, a huge thank you to my interns Sacha, Amanda, and Nicole, and a gigantic thank you to Trish and Matt for letting me be a part of your day.

Monday, September 28, 2009

A DJ's Perspective: Martin Felipe of Invisible Touch Events

Martin (pronounced like martini without the "eeee" on the end) Felipe of Invisible Touch Events is a funny guy. And a dang good DJ to boot. If you know me at all you know that I have a love/hate relationship with reception entertainment, be they bands or DJ's, so when I know someone is good, I loooooove them. I currently don't have a picture of Martin as he's traveling right now in post-wedding season bliss, I'm sure, but it's sufficient to say that he's very nice looking too. Not that large, loud, sweaty, smarmy, mouth-breathing DJ that many of us know and dread. Martin took a few minutes to answer my questions. Enjoy!

Q. Who are you and what makes you fabulous?
A. I have a few philosophies I've developed over the 400 or so weddings I've had the honor of DJ'ing. The most important is that my role is that of a facilitator. By that, I mean that I am not the star of the show, the couple is. I showcase them. Their wedding is NOT an opportunity for me to show off. What skills and talents I have are in service of making them look good, and making their wedding day an experience for them to treasure for the rest of their lives.

I also feel that a couple is not the host of their reception, they are the guests of honor. They shouldn't have to worry about what happens next, when it's time to cut the cake, what songs they're going to hear, and so on. This is why they hire people like us with the experience to keep their party flowing, so that they can relax, meet their guests and have a great time. They spend months working up to this day, we allow them to let the pressure valve release.

Finally, each reception is different. I customize what I do to suit the vision of each individual couple. If you want a ton of fun interactive ice breakers, I can provide that. If you prefer a more traditional and formal approach, that's what I'll give you. If you like 80's music, but not hip hop, 80's music it is.

Q. What is it like working a wedding WITHOUT a wedding coordinator?
A. One of the things I like about having a coordinator is that I know all of the details are covered. When it's time for the cake cut, I don't have to worry if there are plates and a knife at the cake table. When I announce the father/daughter dance, I don't have to check first to see if dad's in the bathroom. When the groom removes the garter, it's on her leg and not in the hotel room. I've developed the trouble shooting skills to avoid such problems on reception night, but with an experienced coordinator, I can focus more on the music and announcements, and trust that champagne will be poured when the best man gives his toast.

Q. What makes a coordinator good?
A. I answered this in part above. I also think a great coordinator creates a sense of effortlessness about the job. By this, I mean everything looks smooth, even when it's not. As a performer, showmanship makes a big difference to me. If a cd skips, or if the wrong song comes on, how I handle that is very important. Mistakes will happen, and rushing around, frantic, trying to resolve the problem NOW DAMMIT! only draws more attention to it. I think the same is true of all vendors.

A coordinator, of course, has the toughest job, because they're juggling all aspects of the wedding. Now, they tend to develop relationships, as do we all, with other vendors that they trust to do their thing, freeing the coordinator up to know the train will stay on the tracks while they focus on some other detail. However, when the train threatens to derail, great coordinators fix the problem without clients and guests ever being aware that there was a danger in the first place. They're magicians. Sleight of hand.

That said, I can't say enough about the relationships. A wedding has so many facets, so many areas where things can go well or can go wrong. This is why a coordinator is so important. They develop those relationships. They know which florists, photographers, videographers, dj's, and so on do great work, and can handle the trouble shooting. That way the coordinator is freed up to do their thing, confident that the team is on point, doing theirs.

Q. Do you have any funny wedding stories?
A. Oh, you can be sure that after hundreds of events, I've seen quite a lot. And, every time I think I've seen it all, some new adventure will happen. One story stands out in my mind for some reason. I was introducing the father/daughter dance and right in the middle of my intro, the bride grabs her father's hand and drags him from the dance floor. I pop on a song to stall and rush over to find them at the bar. Turns out the bride wants to do shots with her dad and she wants me to join them.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Eva and Brinton's Malibu Wedding: Stauffer Chapel & Rancho del Cielo

rancho del cielo wedding bride and groom
August 15, 2009. What a gorgeous day! Eva, Brinton, and I had been planning their wedding for about 8 months and the day came together flawlessly. I am so excited to share these pictures!

Eva, a super duper smart business consultant (they moved to Boston the week after their honeymoon so she could get her MBA at Harvard) and Brinton, a cool video game producer (with an awesome name, I might add) were a joy to work with. They both truly “got” what I do and let me do what I do best: create a wonderful wedding day.

The ceremony was held in Stauffer’s Chapel on the Pepperdine Campus in Malibu. I kid you not, there were deer strolling around the grounds at the wedding rehearsal. Pretty deer, perfect weather, and a view of the Pacific? Heaven! The ceremony was officiated by the rad Rev. Maryetta Anshutz of All Saints Episcopal Church in Beverly Hills. Maryetta was a blast to work with--young, hip, and cool.
Stauffer Chapel Malibu ceremony
pepperdine wedding purple parasols

pepperdine chapel wedding purple parasols
The guests left the chapel and parked at another church’s parking lot in Malibu to take the shuttle ride up to Rancho del Cielo. I compare the shuttle trip up to the top like a ride at Disneyland—you don’t know what is going to happen next! The shuttle takes you up a private road then when it looks like it dead-ends, you keep going and going and going. Rancho del Cielo is a little piece of heaven perched on top of a mountain with 180-degree views of the ocean. It is a secluded and private estate owned by the adorable Jill and Sparky and site managed by Avesta Carrara. The gardens are spectacular and the views are mind blowing.
rancho del cielo bride and groom
It is a challenging property to work as there are only 5 parking spots up top and when you have rentals, caterers, photographers, coordinators, videographers, musicians, and guests coming and going, it takes a precise logistical dance to make things flow smoothly. And flow smoothly it did for Eva and Brinton’s wedding reception. I attribute that to not only awesome vendors, but to happy guests and a happy couple. Seriously, EVERY person that attended that wedding was nice—bridesmaids, groomsmen, family, friends. Everyone. It makes my job so much easier!
Rancho Del Cielo Wedding Reception Details
Eva's colors were a range of blues and purples ranging from pale silvery blue to a deep violet. The long feasting tables had signs on them that pointed to which side of the table the guests were to sit at. Each table name represented one of them and their personalities: "Mathematics" for Eva, "History" for Brinton, etc. The tablescapes were an organic mix of rocks, bird's nests, white bud vases, wooden boxes with ferns, hydrangea, sweet peas, and succulents, candles, and white ceramic bird salt and pepper shakers The white paper lanterns strung overhead added to the whimsical feel to the decor. Eva's dress was done by Amy Kuschel up in San Francisco. According to Eva, her line is carried in some SoCal shops, but the advantage of ordering from the San Francisco shop is they make the dress to fit you exactly - they take all your measurements, etc, so the dress fits perfectly.
Rancho Del Cielo Wedding Reception Tables

The day could not have happened without the following:

Next Exit Photography - Photography
Gary Cobb - Organist for Stauffer Chapel at Pepperdine
Design Visage - Eva and Bridesmaids Hair & Makeup
Buckley Videography - Videography
Diana's Creative Catering - Catering
Mobile Disc Music - DJ and MC
Commerce Flowers - Floral
Smart Party Rents - Rentals
A Sweet Design - Wedding Cake
Corporate Coach Charter & Tours - Guest Shuttles
Crown Limousine LA - Limo for Bride & Groom

A big thank you to the wonderful and professional vendors that worked so hard that day, a huge thank you to my assistants Krista, Erin and my interns Sacha and Marci, and a gigantic thank you to Eva and Brinton for letting me be a part of your day.

Rancho Del Cielo Wedding Reception Cake
rancho del cielo wedding reception

Monday, September 21, 2009

A Hair & Makeup Artist's Perspective: Mariah Nicole Hair and Makeup Artistry

I refer all of my brides to Mariah Nicole of Mariah Nicole Hair and Makeup Artistry. Not only does she do a great job to make my beautiful brides look their absolute best on their wedding day, I can sleep peacefully knowing that she is going to show up on time, stay on the Timeline, make the bride look fabulous, and keep our bride calm and happy. Cutting to the chase: she's a professional, and working with a professional is always the best way to go. Mariah took some time to answer questions for me today. Enjoy!


Q. Who are you and what makes you fabulous?

A. I am Mariah Nicole, hair and makeup artist to you and the stars! What makes me fabulous is how fabulous I make all my clients look whatever the age or skin color or occasion or event


Q. What is it like working a wedding WITHOUT a wedding coordinator?

A. I always freak out when the bride doesn't have a coordinator. I usually try to talk them into hiring someone for at least day of, and tell the bride she will see more premature greys if she doesn't!


Q. What makes a coordinator good?

A. I love it when the coordinator sends me the location and arrival information-- no really, I've actually been left out of the loop. I know a coordinator is good when she is hands-on with me about the prep time because that sets the tone and pace of the day; when she has an emergency kit; when she schedules cushion room between segments to allow for hick-ups; and especially when she and her crew wear black and Mission Impossible headsets.


Q. Do you have any funny wedding stories?

A. The oddest requests I've had as a makeup artist are:

1. Glue the bride's ears to the side of her head because she wanted an up-do but had little protruding ears

2. conceal two black-eyes for the Best Man

3. A request for me to not wear any makeup, do my hair, or look "too" pretty. (editor's note: WOW. Just wow.)



Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Sharon and James's wedding at the Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel

Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel Wedding - Bride
Sharon and James were married August 1 at the Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel with 170 guests in attendance. James is a sports broadcaster in Bakersfield and Sharon is a lawyer in the Los Angeles area and, over countless emails and conference calls over a six month span, we planned a lovely wedding down at the Ritz.

Sharon's colors were pale, shimmery neutral colors of sand, ice blue, silver, and cream and the flowers were lush Phalaenopsis Orchids mixed with Lisianthus, Cymbidium Orchids, Sahara Roses, Cala Lilies, Gardenias, and Ferns. The favors were a lucky penny attached to a lottery ticket with the saying "Lucky In Love" attached to the favor.
Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel Wedding - Favors and Candy
They wanted an elegant wedding with a fun party feel to the reception and James, ever the sports fan, wanted a Basketball arcade game for his buddies during the reception. Sharon had her heart set on a Photobooth and a Candy Bar, so they compromised and decided to have ALL of those things! The Basketball game and the Photobooth were set up outside of the ballroom on the terrace that overlooks the Pacific ocean, and guests were able to play and pose to the sounds of the surf crashing. When they weren't tearing up the dance floor, of course!
Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel Wedding - Centerpiece and cake

Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel Wedding - Bride and Groom

Even though the Ritz was completely full and busy that day, because of the great team that we had, the wedding day was smooth, stress-free, and fabulous! I had a wonderful time working with some of my favorite vendors:

Florist Alison Franchi of Le Petit Gardenia
Photographer Asgeir Bollason of Asgeir Fotografica
DJ Nahchey Storer of Dash Entertainment
Ceremony String Quartet by Newport Music Services
Officiant Pastor Tae Kim
Videography by Buckley Videography
Basketball Game for reception by Arcade Amusements, Inc
PhotoBooth by Party Booths
Lighting by Aspect Lighting

And of course, my awesome assistants that day: Krista, Erin, and Mallika. The Ritz is so spread out and maze-like that we were running the whole day to make sure everything happened correctly. As per usual, we have to "test" the Photobooth at some point!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Timeline Busters: Pre-Ceremony

The more seasoned I become, the more patterns I see emerge from what appears to be sheer chaos to the untrained eye. Today I'm going to share the top PRE-Ceremony Timeline busters and how I prevent them.

Hair & Makeup
My brides are always a bit surprised when it's time to create the Timeline and I have their hair and makeup finished a full three to four hours before the invitation time. To have them completely done and ready to dress, I budget a full hour for hair and full hour for makeup. If the makeup artist is not one that I have worked with, I'll create a fake time to have the bride done. Hair and Makeup ALWAYS takes longer than expected and I like to have the Timeline padded for that. Another thing I do is budget an entire half hour for my bride to put her dress on. It sounds crazy, but in my early assisting days I was stationed as the bridal attendant frequently and I saw first hand the chaos that is the bridal suite.

Pictures
Probably 80% of my clients do their photos before the ceremony (100% of my Jewish clients) in order to be able to enjoy the cocktail hour and have more time with their guests. Inevitably, only half of the time that is scheduled for pictures is actually used for taking picture, so I budget 1/2 hour for getting ready shots, 1 hour for "first look" and romantics, 1/2 hour for bridal party, and 1/2 hour for family. Because of moving people around and people running late, etc., of that 2.5 hours I have budgeted, we are only actually taking pictures for a little more than 1 hour. I always have my clients tell their bridal party and families to show up earlier than we need them in order to get started somewhat on time. Again though, the Timeline is padded to ensure a prompt ceremony start time.

In order to get a 5:00 PM wedding started on time, this is what my bride's Timeline would look like:

11:30-12:30 PM Bride Makeup
12:30-1:30 PM Bride Hair
2:00-2:30 PM Bride dresses and "getting ready" shots are taken of her and Groom separately
2:30-3:30 PM "First Look" and Romantics of Bride & Groom
3:30-4:00 PM Bridal Party Photos
4:00-4:30 PM Family Photos
4:30 PM Bride hidden from early guest arrival
5:00 PM Invitation time (Ketubah signed at this time if Jewish wedding)
5:15 PM Processional starts down the aisle (5:30 if Jewish wedding)

All of this looks like a lot of time on paper, but as one of my brides once said "it's the longest and fastest day in the world" and the day flies by.

As crazy as this Timeline looks, it's crazier to squeeze all pictures into the cocktail hour, so I always try to gently recommend a "first look". One of my favorite wedding blogs is Photographer Jasmine Star's blog and she talks about the First Look in this post. I experienced a similar feeling at my own wedding, but Jasmine just has a way of capturing words.....oh, and pretty, pretty pictures.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A Photographer's Perspective: CallawayGable

Today I'm thrilled to share the fabulousness that is Brian and Allie Callaway of CallawayGable Photography. I've worked with Brian and Allie at awesome weddings at incredible venues such as Vibiana and Marvimon and not only are they great photographers, they keep me laughing and entertained througout the entire day. I think Brian's funny story is the best I've received so far. Enjoy!


Q. Who are you and what makes you fabulous?
A. My name is Brian Callaway and together with my wife Allison, we are CALLAWAYGABLE—a world class Los Angeles-based wedding photography team. Our 'fabulousity' comes from our unique intertwining of art, creativity and experience which ensures incomparable and everlasting imagery. How? We are the only team with high-fashion experience behind, and in front of the camera. As a former high-fashion model for over ten years, Allison capitalizes on that experience, patiently guiding the bride and groom to their best angles and moments. I am the eye. Together we focus on capturing the moment with a sense of anticipation, humor and sensitivity that is unparalleled in wedding photography. We have shot weddings in South America, Scotland, Mexico, Hawaii and beyond! Our work has appeared in Flaunt Magazine, LA Times, Southern California Bride, and in syndication through national newspapers and online media. You be the judge! Please visit our website and blog.

Q. What is it like working a wedding WITHOUT a wedding coordinator?
A. Have you ever ridden a bike without a seat? This is how a wedding seems when there is not a professional coordinator: it is frantic, exhausting and out of control. Although Allie and I are very accomplished at shooting weddings without a hired coordinator, it is less arduous for us when there is a professional. Specifically from my professional photographer's point of view, a wedding coordinator is instrumental in ensuring a wide range and amount of excellent and stress-free photography. Why? They wrangle the family members (I have never seen this work well when a family member or friend is designated) and manage the wedding / photography schedule.
In this world, you get what you pay for. If you want a stress-free day in which you can fully invest and relish in the emotion and experience of the most important day of your life, without the worry that comes with mounting the biggest production of your life – hire an accomplished coordinator. It will be the best investment you ever made, except, of course, the photography investment.

Q. What makes a coordinator good?
A. A good coordinator is a super, god-like human being because she must be an excellent multitasker, planner and organizer, communicator and leader, all the while maintaining a cool head under fire.

A great coordinator, like Amber Gustafson, does this subtly and seemingly effortlessly with panache and grace. (editor's note: I did not pay Brian to say this! Thanks, Brian!)

Q. Do you have any funny wedding stories?
A. This question had me stumped, and not for lack of funny stories. I have so many; it was difficult to decide—until a wedding at The Los Angeles Central Library last Saturday night.
Allie and I were in the bride's room at The Biltmore, just beginning our evening. I was in a squat position, taking macro (extreme close-up) shots of the rings, when all of a sudden I heard a huge fabric rip. It got very breezy very fast in an area not normally exposed to the breeze. I slowly turned around, trying to stifle the oncoming dread, and what did I see? Fifteen or so women of all ages, staring at me, in various stages of horror and shock.

I had split my pants right down the middle.

It should be noted that I carry four backups of everything in case of a catastrophic emergency: cameras, lenses, flashes, memory cards, etc. I only brought one pair of trousers. Uh-oh.
We tried to tape it shut, that wouldn’t work. We tried safety pins – same result. Keep in mind that I was still shooting while Allie was working on my rear end. Finally the wedding coordinator came to the rescue with a sewing kit. As I photographed our bride’ portraits, Allie stitched those pants, Frankenstein-style. To her credit and chagrin, her impromptu repair held throughout the evening (thank goodness it was dark!)
When I look back on happy accidents like this, I am always reminded that they seem to always happen for a reason. Our bride had been very tense, obviously nervous as is usual with 99% of brides. The second my rear end went from private to public, the place erupted, instantly relaxing the entire room, and sending our bride into hysterics. Her nervousness and tension was not to be seen again for the rest of that fabulous evening.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Labor Day

Happy (post) Labor Day! There was a quite a holiday weekend in my world as I had the weekend off after a stretch of five (awesome!) weddings in a row, and, along with pool parties, BBQ's, crafting, sleeping in, and spending time with my husband, I attending a wedding as a guest Saturday night and had the best time ever! I haven't been a guest for at least three years and I know how lame it sounds when I say I'd forgotten what it feels like to celebrate at a wedding. Don't get me wrong, I love what I do and I love watching my clients celebrate, but it is such a different perspective to be on the dance floor after a few glasses of champagne, than standing in a corner in a suit checking a Timeline! I closed the dancefloor down at 2:00 AM and am still sore from it. It was fantastic!

It was a great way to recharge after an intense wedding season and I'm ready for my next batch of weddings!