It truly takes a village to plan a wedding, and behind our cover couple Jenna Ushkowitz and David Stanley's envious California nuptials was a crew of talented professionals that brought their visions to life for their special celebration. Ahead, we highlight just a few of those incredible vendors—and yes, they can be your wedding dream, too!
Cynthia Baghdasarian and Evelyn Pirali of With a Flair Events are planners behind our cover couple's beautiful July celebration. I had the pleasure of chatting with Baghdasarian one summer morning (Pirali gave birth to a baby boy two days before our conversation!) on all things weddings, what it's like owning a business with your best friend, and Jenna and David's celebrity-packed wedding. Plus, she dropped wedding planning advice even this Brides editor has never heard before.
Their careers are summed up by "leaps of faith," the first of which happened when they founded their company, With a Flair Events, in 2016. Before that, the best friend duo (yes, they have been BFFs since they were 12 years old!), were both knee-deep in corporate careers: Baghdasarian was a communications professional and Pirali, an event specialist at an esteemed Los Angeles hotel. Event planning was second nature to them.
And as is common for many planners, With a Flair Events' inception began while Baghdasarian was planning her own 400-plus person wedding. "The wedding day came and went; everything went successfully. And all of a sudden, my best friends are coming up to me and saying, 'Cynthia, oh my God, how did you plan a 400-person wedding by yourself?' I said, quite frankly, I kind of do this for work all the time. It wasn't anything kind of new or out of the ordinary for me. And slowly, the idea of With a Flair Events came to be at the same time."
The best business partner Baghdasarian could ask for? Pirali. "I point-blank asked her, 'What do you think about starting an event planning company?' And she said, 'Cynthia, that's like, what I do, but how cool would it be to do that for ourselves?" They scored their first client in 2017, and with that, With a Flair Events was born.
"Evelyn and I took a leap of faith," she repeats. "We left behind these corporate jobs that seemed so reliable. It was a scary place to be in at the beginning, because you're like, 'How is my business going to come in? How do I go about marketing myself?' Taking that leap of faith and wearing every single possible hat that you can possibly wear as a business owner [was] something that was so worth it for us at the end of the day. And as we continue to grow, we know it's going to be even more worth it for us."
With three years of wedding planning experience under their belts and an ever-growing business in their hands, the co-founders were gearing up for their biggest year yet in 2020. But, of course, the pandemic hit in March 2020, and With a Flair's jam-packed schedule of celebrations was abruptly put on hold. This, however, is where a new chapter began for the company.
"The number one thing we had to do—and we had to be as a company—was be optimistic," explains Baghdasarian. "The second we let that disappointment come through, we knew that it wouldn't be helpful and it wouldn't be [of] service to our couples." They rethought the norm in their own way, blending optimism with realism and help set expectations with their clients in an ever-changing new world.
But despite the challenges, changes, cancellations, and uncertainty 2020 brought, the year did bring a very special couple into Baghdasarian and Pirali's life: Jenna Ushkowitz and David Stanley. Their partnership was made possible by another leap of faith, with the planners messaging the actress on Instagram before she was even a bride-to-be. "We noticed Jenna followed us on Instagram... we wrote to her and said, 'Hey Jenna, if there is anything that we can do to help you celebrate, please let us know.'" Sure enough, Jenna responded, and by September 2020, plans for the couple's upcoming nuptials were underway—and With A Flair Events was there to make their romantic visions come to life.
"They were so incredibly sweet, warm—the client-friend line started blurring very quickly," she laughs. "They were so excited about their wedding day and that excitement carried from when we met with them in September 2020 through July 2021."
It's incredibly satisfying and rewarding to do a job that is centered on just making people happy. As hectic as it gets, as emotional as it gets, that notion, that thought keeps us grounded.
The planners also called Jenna and David's wedding a "top moment of our career," as it reaffirmed their love for the business. "My favorite part is kind of knowing the purpose of the work that we do. It's incredibly satisfying and rewarding to do a job that is centered on just making people happy. As hectic as it gets, as emotional as it gets, that notion, that thought keeps us grounded."
Baghdasarian continues, "The moment when [Jenna and David] walked in to see their reception space and we opened the barn doors, Jenna started crying. I got goosebumps and I was like, 'Oh my gosh, this is like peak feeling.' It was such a good feeling knowing that we had accomplished that for them and seeing that reaction was incredible."
Of course, I couldn't end the conversation without asking Baghdasarian for advice, particularly her take on the three most important details of a wedding—and I was surprised by her response. Number one, every big day requires a calm, yet celebratory morning. "The morning sets the tone for our couples... so for couples to prioritize themselves in their comfort right from the very beginning is so important because that's the fuel that's going to drive you until the wee hours of the night."
Number two, balance. Per Baghdasarian, no vendor should trump another, saying, "We want a balance of good food, good music, good florals, and good ambiance."
And last, but most certainly not least, every wedding needs a couple who doesn't leave the dance floor. "If you want that fun, exciting atmosphere, your guests need to see you out there. So not leaving the dance floor, enjoying that time with [your guests]... having conversations will really leave an impact on wedding days."
To that point, DJ John Lock was the perfect table-spinner to ensure Jenna and David stayed put (or rather, danced the night away) on the floor for the entire reception. "I tend to make sure that no one ever leaves the dance floor," he tells Brides with a laugh.
Lock’s love affair with music began in the fifth grade, and he landed his first party gig at 13 years old. Starting off as a drummer, fans may recognize him as a choir room musician on the hit show Glee—where he starred alongside Jenna for six years. Later evolving into a DJ and artist, electronic music fans might recall him as the opening act for Marshmello and Kaskade (both instances he credits as career highlights).
"As an artist, it's Electronic," says Lock of his music style. "I love making upbeat dance tracks that just make you want to move even if you don’t know the song. But as a DJ, I have played every genre you can imagine. I pride myself in being able to play any kind of party," adding, "I once played a funeral years ago and still got compliments on the music."
It’s seeing the audience’s reaction to the music he plays that is the most rewarding part of his profession. "I find joy in other people’s joy—I think that’s a Cancer thing." But being an entertainer is not without its challenges, as well. He explains, "I have never and will never play the same set! I’m constantly reading the crowd and picking the next song to drop. Being able to think on the fly and reading strangers' reactions can be pretty hard sometimes.”
He does, however, have a few go-to wedding songs that you’ll most likely find on every playlist of his: "Uptown Funk" by Mark Ronson & Bruno Mars, "PYT" by Michael Jackson, "Don’t Start Now" by Dua Lipa, "Single Ladies" by Beyoncé, "Got To Give It Up, Pt.1" by Marvin Gaye, and "We Found Love" by Rihanna & Calvin Harris, to name a few.
People only care to remember two things: that the bar had enough liquor and that the music was really good.
But he tackles each wedding playlist completely off each individual couple. "I love catering to who my clients are. Personally, I don’t play a lot of slow songs and stay away from generic 'wedding' songs—unless a couple really wants them." And as a reminder to all brides and grooms, he offers, "You know your guests better than the DJ does. Make sure you’re specific with what you and your friends like." Most importantly, decide which songs you don’t want to hear, "because if you don’t tell the DJ to remove those songs, they’ll get played!"
On Jenna and David’s wedding night, specifically, guests heard "lots of Beyoncé and Rihanna" sprinkled with sounds from NSYNC, Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, Bruno Mars, Dua Lipa, Calvin Harris, and Michael Jackson. "Seeing anyone from the Glee family on any day is a good day," he tells us. "But the best memory from that day, in particular, was just seeing how happy and loved both Jenna and David really are. Truly genuine humans that were made for one another, and anytime you get to celebrate that, it's a solid memory."
He ends with a blunt take: "People only care to remember two things: that the bar had enough liquor and that the music was really good." Hear, hear.
Caterer Shushan Darzian of Ladybugz Catering & Events agrees, with the addition of the menu, of course: "Food, drink, and music are the most important aspects of the wedding. It sets the mood for the rest of the evening. Most guests talk about the food and entertainment after they leave the party."
But before Darzian got her start in the wedding world, she was a school teacher in Hollywood, California, having immigrated with her family from Armenia when she was just 12 years old. "I’ve realized that there is a great connection between teaching and catering," she shares with Brides. "Working in a classroom to manage a group of twenty-something students really teaches you how to understand others and how to take care of them."
The birth of her business coincided with her time as a teacher in 2002, and she has her young son Robert’s birthday party—which happened to be ladybug-themed—to thank. Darzian explains, "My good friend suggested we work together and make a business out of birthday parties for kids, calling it, 'Ladybugz.' The drive to do something was there, but we didn’t anticipate what we were getting into." Eventually, the business transitioned into catering, and even when she continued the venture on her own, Darzian never changed the name.
"From the very beginning of Ladybugz, I’ve been hands-on, from the team effort, to making the dressings and marinades; from meeting with clients, to the logistics of the business; from attending the events, to managing them. The quality of the food is most important to me, but I also value a strong, dedicated team," she says of her business mantra. "My clients inspire me, and I build off of their ideas, working to give them what they want and [being] challenged to bring their vision to life."
Jenna and David were very clear about what they wanted from the beginning, Darzian reveals. She shares, "They wanted their guests to feel like they were at a family gathering with an abundance of flowing/good food at the table, and that's exactly what they received." From the savory chicken dumplings and mouthwatering French baguettes with tomato, mozzarella, and basil at cocktail hour, all the way to the satisfying sliders and fries as a midnight snack, Darzian and the newlyweds "made sure every guest had many choices of food."
Their ideas are more than a menu, a theme, or color scheme: it’s an atmosphere, a feeling, and it sets a tone for the event.
That menu and that wedding has since become one of the most memorable moments in Darzian’s nearly 20-year career. "Jenna got emotional as she entered her reception area and noticed the meticulously placed platters of appetizers, salads, and cheese set for her guests," describes Darzian. "She gave me the biggest hug with tears in her eyes and thanked me for the wonderful work."
She continues, "The most rewarding aspect of my career is the thank yous I get after the events. Their ideas are more than a menu, a theme, or color scheme: it’s an atmosphere, a feeling, and it sets a tone for the event. I have high standards for myself, and a transparency with my clients that makes all expectations clear. Between creativity, expectations, and particularity, my clients know what to expect and build a trust with me that I don’t take for granted."
According to Darzian, the recipe for serving an unforgettable wedding day is simple: "Every wedding is different, and the best way to choose a menu for a wedding is to make sure you have a good variety of menu choices for everyone to enjoy."
If you’re a West Coast bride, take a note from Jenna’s book and start your wedding dress search at Kinsley James. After all, it’s where our cover star ultimately said “yes” to her romantic A-line ball gown. (You can even get a behind-the-scenes look at her experience here.)
“Jenna is the absolute sweetest,” exclaims co-owner Amber Silva. “We loved working with her, and she was always so kind every time she came into Kinsley James.”
A bridal salon for all, Silva and business partner Dawn Silva Rigney opened Kinsley James’s doors in 2013 in Walnut Creek, California. Four years later, the duo debuted a second location in West Hollywood.
The Kinsley James bride is any bride—the daring or classic. We've had everything from a black wedding dress to a sheer wedding dress to a fully classic look.
But before they were bridal salon owners, they were business partners in another department: wedding planning. “We started off with a wedding planning company called A Touch of Grace and moved our way into our true passion of opening up our own couture bridal salon,” Silva explains. “Dawn and I found a common love for all things weddings.
So what sets Kinsley James apart from the rest? For starters, the salon carries a “collection of gowns that [Silva and Rigney] truly find unique,” with an emphasis on underrepresented, exciting new designers. “We were one of the first five stores in the world to carry Galia Lahav,” Silva admits, adding, “The Kinsley James bride is any bride—the daring or classic. We've had everything from a black wedding dress to a sheer wedding dress to a fully classic look.” The shop carries about 15 different designers to cater to all bridal styles, and if they don’t have a gown in-store, Silva assures, “we will get it for you!”
It’s also the culture that Silva and Rigney created, not only for their brides, but for their consultants as well that makes Kinsley James stand out. Silva calls the Kinsley James crew “one big family” and considers their brides a part of a special circle, too. When the pandemic struck last year, the owners introduced a slew of new programs to adapt to the uncertain times: from offering FaceTime fittings with designers to sending #kjkits to brides so they could have a tailored shopping experience at home. “It's the one-on-one personal care that sets us apart. Our stylists really focus on connecting with the bride and making them feel comfortable to come to us for anything! Since the wedding dress process can take anywhere from seven months to one year, we get to know our brides, offer encouragement when things get stressful in wedding planning, and make sure they have the best day ever!”
Silva left us with an important dress-shopping piece of advice: “Don't compare your experience to anyone else's. So many brides feel like they have to act or feel a certain way when they find their wedding dress, and it's just not true. Just because you don't cry when you find 'the one’ doesn't mean it isn't 'the one.’ Instead, she recommends focusing on the gown that makes you feel like the best version of yourself. “Confidence is key, and if the gown makes you feel that way, it's yours!”