What do real brides have to say about the wedding planning experience? Well, it's not all happy tears at the bridal boutique and indulgent cake tastings. Guest blogger Carolyn Hsu, founder of The Hsu Closet, is sharing the ins and outs of planning a New York City wedding, picking the perfect venue, crafting a day-of beauty look and finding inspiration in the strangest of places.
I didn't expect to, but I ended up loving the wedding planning process. Looking back, what's not to love about hosting a party for your best friends and family, good food, good music, pretty flowers, and gorgeous photography? Plus, I'm a very visual person, constantly inspired, and can look at beautiful images for hours and hours on end.
Even so, wedding planning can quickly become overwhelming. While I knew the general feel I wanted for my wedding, I still had to fill in all of the details. (So many details!) Here's how I narrowed my focus and found inspiration:
1. Use your wedding venue. Your venue is the most important factor when it comes to designing your wedding, and it will determine whether you're serving your signature cocktail in mason jars or champagne coupes. The first thing I did when I decided on my venue was to ask to see pictures of previous weddings and events held there. This is a great way to get ideas from other brides, as well as see how the space transforms for special events. Don't just limit yourself to weddings—ask to see other social and even corporate events. In fact, I got the idea to hire a vintage jazz and vocal band to play during the ceremony when I saw it in pictures from a birthday party held at the same space. (Incidentally, it was the party of wedding planner extraordinaire Michelle Rago). Seeing previous parties in the venue also allows you to see what you don't like, so you know what to avoid.
2. Look to wedding planners. Even if hiring a top wedding planner is out of your budget, you can still learn a tremendous amount from them by reading their blogs and interviews and paying attention to the little details in their work. I decided not to hire a planner for my wedding, but I certainly pored over portfolios to get ideas and inspiration. Very early on I stumbled upon a Manhattan planning and production company called Fete, which has produced some extraordinary weddings. While they were completely out of my budget, I was absolutely in love with the founder's vision and spent a lot of time looking through her photos and videos for little touches I could incorporate into my own event. I bought her book and even went to her store to get more ideas and ended up DIY-ing a look I saw on her site: luminary escort cards (for my wedding, I made them into place cards). Another designer I loved was Lisa Vorce. I spent a lot of time on her website, read her interviews, and even shopped her online boutique for little design touches for my wedding.
3. Compile a list of dream, if-money-were-no-object vendors. For me, this included photographers like Elizabeth Messina, Julie Skarratt, and Christian Oth, whose studio I eventually retained to shoot my own wedding. For designers, I listed big names like Matthew Robbins and Mindy Rice and boutique shops like Poppies and Posies. Once I had that list set, I went straight to Pinterest and Instagram and followed them all. It's amazing how many ideas I got from keeping up with them on social media—while these vendors' websites may not be updated continuously, their social channels usually are. By following them, I was also getting a curated stream of inspiration from florists, designers, and photographers whose aesthetic I already knew I liked.
4. Look beyond the bridal market. I snapped pictures of flowers at press events I attended and jotted down any memorable special touches. I asked my friend who worked at an art gallery for florists and caterers she's worked with. I looked at society pages in magazines for tabletop and centerpiece ideas at chic dinner parties. One of my favorite lifestyle brands is AERIN by Aerin Lauder and I spent a lot of time on her website reading entertaining, color, and decorating tips. I looked for makeup and hair ideas on every red carpet and even tried (unsuccessfully, alas) to locate Camilla Belle's Met Gala dress. Since you want your wedding to reflect your style (and most of us don't define our style just by weddings), don't forget to look outside of the bridal world for ideas and inspiration as well!