Why Do I Need A Party Theme

Let's talk about party themes. It's a frequent topic of conversation in most online mom groups, when discussing party planning ideas for kids. And have you hopped on Pinterest lately? Because it's covered with party planning themes for everything from baby showers to milestone birthdays, holiday parties to fake national holidays (I'm looking at you national chocolate chip cookie day!).

Some people really like a theme. Some people really don't like a theme. But the truth is, every party has a theme of some kind - obvious or not. Even the theme-less parties share a common thread, whether it's the color scheme or the overall style of the party. 

The truth is a theme helps you tell a story. A theme helps you make decisions. A theme helps you keep on track. A theme keeps your party looking cohesive and together.

See? A theme is a good idea after all!

So where do you begin - How do you chose a theme (or concept) for your gathering? 

My number one piece of advice is don't overthink it. This shouldn't be stressful or difficult - it should be fun. See an idea that catches your eye? Run with it! It can even be as simple as choosing one the birthday boy or girl's favorite things - favorite color, favorite food, favorite activity, favorite toy, favorite character. For my son Ryan's  second birthday party, we went with Party Animals. It wasn't really something I had seen before, but I decided to go with it because he loves animals - especially tigers! So it has a bit of a circus vibe with the vibrant colors and stripes, but highlights his favorite thing, which is animals.

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And hey, if you're still having a hard time figuring out a party theme, head to the almighty Pinterest or Google and search for "birthday party themes". Also, in our Party Kit shop you'll see a bunch of great themes to choose from!

See more from Ryan's 1st Birthday || See more from Ryan's 2nd Birthday

Have any questions about birthday party themes or about our Party Kits? Let me know!

XO,
A.

Defining Roles Within The Wedding Industry

defining roles within the wedding industry

There is a lot of terminology out there in the wedding industry for the various roles and services couples can choose from. It can be really difficult for Brides and Grooms (and their families) to understand who does what, and to know what the best option for them might be. In this blog post, I'm looking at wedding planning ... or coordination, or whatever term you use for this role/position/job.

Let's look at the list ... we have:

Wedding Planner
Wedding Designer
Wedding Coordinator
Event Planner
Day-of Coordinator, or Day-of Planner
Event Management
Creative Director
Venue Coordinator
Wedding Stylist

How do we define these roles?

Here at The Graceful Host, I really consider myself to be a Creative Director. However, since this isn't a very common term in this particular industry (at least not yet), using it exclusively might confuse couples - and I honestly only want to make things easier for others to understand what it is that I do. So, I refer myself a "Wedding Planner + Designer" for ease.

WEDDING PLANNER
A wedding planner is a person who focus' on the planning and logistics. They are responsible for managing all vendors, communication is streamlined. provide structure to wedding planning, and ensure all logistics are executed to perfection.

WEDDING DESIGNER
A wedding designer is a person who creates the overall design and vision. They conceptualize the design and communicate that with all the vendors. The designer relies on the vendors to execute the look, given his or her direction.

CREATIVE DIRECTOR
A creative director shares a very similar role with a wedding designer, but takes it one step further. Not only will the creative director conceptualize the design of the event and communicate those plans to the vendors, but they'll also direct the vendors through the creation of the design. This means working very closely with the vendor team to make sure all pieces of the puzzle are carefully planned and coordinated so that the event design is executed as it was conceptualized.

What about the other roles? 

There is so much overlap and many similarities between all of the roles listed above. In many cases one title will encompass another - for example, a wedding planner will also serve as a "day-of coordinator". Let's take a closer look at defining these roles, as well:

WEDDING COORDINATOR
Let me start out by saying that this one drives me nuts because there are way too many terms for this role. A wedding coordinator is the same thing as a day-of coordinator, or a day-of planner, or event management, or month-of coordination, or month-of planning. This person is focused on the coordination of the wedding or event planned. They typically step in around the 3-month mark to begin the transition and take over from there. This is why the term "event management" has come about in recent years. There is no such thing as a planner who can successfully handle just the "day-of" or the "month-of". And if someone does promote services that begin with just under a month before the wedding day ... run. They don't know what they're doing! The bride would have been responsible for all planning and booking of vendors up until the event manager steps in. This person will spend a lot of hours combing through your notes, communicating with your vendor team, and making sure your event day is set-up for success. As you can see, their jobs begin well before the wedding day.

EVENT PLANNER
It might be confusing to couples why some people call themselves an event planner vs a wedding planner. But it's really an easy explanation - events implies that the person handles more than just weddings. Events include things like birthday parties, showers, rehearsal dinners ... gatherings of any kind. While most wedding planners offer additional services like rehearsal dinner planning, welcome party gatherings, bridal showers, etc., they might only offer them to their existing wedding clientele vs. it being a standalone service, like an event planner would.

VENUE COORDINATOR
This one also deserves some in-depth explanation because it can cause confusion for couples when they are considering hiring vendors. A venue coordinator (or any individual that works for a venue and serves as your point of contact for the venue) is not the same as any of the roles above. They do not preform the same duties as a wedding planner, or a wedding designer, or a wedding coordinator. This person is simply the events manager at the venue you've chosen to host your wedding or event. Their responsibility pertains to all things related to your venue - not the entire wedding. Which means, your venue coordinator will not help you find your photographer (they might have a vendor referral list, but that list is not curated to reflect your style needs, budget, event goals, etc. That list is a recommendation of wedding professionals that the venue enjoys working with). They will not help you create a wedding day timeline, or deal with the logistics of your wedding day. They will not communicate with your vendor team on your behalf. They will not help you book vendors, or read through contracts making sure everything you need/are expecting is accounted for. They will not go with you to your floral meeting. They will not help you with the design of your wedding. Now, they might help you plan a menu - if the caterer is considered in-house for that venue. An example of this is with hotels and country club venues that do not permit outside catering. The reason you receive assistance is because catering is part of the venue. Another example: a venue coordinator might offer linen samples to choose from and/or chair choices that come with your rental package. This is not the same as what a wedding designer does or assisting with creating a wedding design plan. They are simply showing you what is available through their rental partner(s) because certain amenities (might) come with your rental package. Wedding planners are responsible for every facet of your planning process, with special attention to logistics. Planners are focused on the wholistic view of the planning process and the actual wedding day. Wedding designers are responsible for bringing your vision to life, and like planners, look at the bigger picture rather than one piece of the puzzle.

WEDDING STYLIST
A wedding stylist focuses on the styling of your event. They likely are not involved in the planning and concept creation of your event. But on the day-of your wedding or event they are there to make sure each detail planned looks as it should - from fashion to tablescapes to paper details. The role of a stylist overlaps with many other roles listed here, such as wedding designer and creative director, who also (usually) take on the role of stylist, ensuring their concept is executed to perfection.

Where should a couple begin?

You might be wondering how to know what the best choice is for you when it comes to hiring a planner (or designer, or coordinator!). A lot of couples begin the wedding planning process unsure of how much support and guidance they'll need. It's normal! So if you can relate to that - don't worry. It's not like planning for a complex event, like a wedding, is something you do every day. Some start out thinking Event Management will be sufficient, but they find out that they really need more help ensuring everything is crossed of their list - so a wedding planner would be a much better fit for their needs. Others might find out that they need more assistance creating a design plan and someone to help them better execute their vision because it's become too overwhelming of a task for them to do it alone - so hiring someone who is also a wedding designer is important in this case.

In many cases wedding planners offer design services to their clients. But you'll find that some are more focused on design than others. For example, The Graceful Host is focused on wedding design. The planning and logistics side is to things are still very, very important - but my brides seek out my services because of the design expertise that I offer. If design isn't that important to you, then you might not be a good fit for The Graceful Host. And that's okay! It just means that you'd be a perfect fit for another planner who's focus is more on the logistics side.

Before you dive into wedding planning of any kind, take some time to figure out what you truly need and why you might want to hire someone to help you, in whatever capacity. And be honest with yourself. Planning a wedding, even a small wedding (50-75 guests), can take a lot of time and energy! Then search for the right fit making sure you are working with someone who can provide a solution for your needs and problems, who will be a good personality fit for you to work with, and someone who you can trust. (That last one is a biggie!) You'll find that experience levels will differ, and services will differ from company to company - pay attention to that and to the language they use when describing their services. A company that has been in business for 6 years cannot easily be compared to a company who's been in business for 2 years. You'll see that difference in experience reflected in their service offerings and fees, as well as in how they operate.

A message to my fellow vendors ...

At the end of the day, planning a wedding takes a village. It's team work, y'all! A whole lot of coordinated team work. Each vendor needs to work closely together in order for the magic to happen. And our clients might not see everything we're doing behind the scenes - why should they, though? We need to listen to each other, respect each others needs and set each other up for success. We have to keep our clients wishes in mind and do what is in their best interest, as well as guide them in our area of expertise as the professional. Each and every vendor serves a purpose and fills a piece of the puzzle when it comes to a wedding or event. We all rely on each other when it comes to serving our clients well and providing an amazing final product. So, let's give credit where it's due (I'm looking at you social media and blogging!) and support each others craft.

Have anything to add to this conversation? I'd love to hear from you! Let me know your thoughts.

XO,
A.

 

 

 

A Classic Garden Wedding in Covington, Louisiana

I always love getting the chance to share images and videos from our clients weddings! It's so much fun to go back and relive the day and savor all the memories.

Check out Cali + Arrington's wedding featured on Style Me Pretty!

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Cali + Arrington's wedding day was pure magic. There really is no other way to describe it! There was a threat of rain all weekend. And when you're planning a complex outdoor event that includes constructing an on-site kitchen .... well, that just makes things a bit more challenging. But my team was up for the challenge! We began our installation 2 days before the wedding. We had a multi-tent set-up to accommodate the large size of the wedding - a large center tent with 2 bar tents on either side. The day before the wedding mother nature did not want to cooperate. We did our best to protect the grounds of the venue and keep high traffic areas looking pristine. But even a little rain in Louisiana can cause a problem. Luckily things started to dry up by the afternoon. We were left with high humidity, but I'll take that over rain any day! On the day of the wedding, we still had the threat of rain. Which doesn't sound like a big deal, but when you're planning a wedding with key outdoor spaces in the plans, it's a big deal. I kept a very close eye on the weather all day as our teams worked really hard to finish installation and set-up. Someone was looking out for us - or maybe it was the bourbon we buried at the venue?! - because while there was just one or two small showers, everything cleared up just before guests arrived and sunshine began to peek through the clouds, creating a beautiful glow at the North House. 

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I absolutely adore this bride + groom - two of the sweetest people you'll ever meet! And it was a fun change of pace to hop down to my home state to plan, design and produce a wedding. With the wedding being on St. Patrick's day, Cali wanted to bring a little luck of the Irish to her wedding day. She chose a neutral color palette with lots and lots of lush and textured greenery. (We even incorporated little four leaf clovers into the bar accessories!) Our brides personal style is classic and timeless, with a love of clean lines and no fuss. And while Cali loved the idea of an organic garden party, with sprawling greenery and loose lines, we made some slight adjustments to the traditional garden party aesthetic so that our bride could have the look she loved within a style that felt most like her.

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In true Louisiana fashion, there was a large emphasis on the party! Good food and entertainment took centerstage. Our menu was full of Louisiana favorites like a raw oyster bar, jambalaya, fried catfish, and BBQ shrimp. And the band Crescent City Soul kept the dance floor packed all night long - Y'all, this was one killer party ... just wait until you see the video! The signature drinks on the bar was another fun detail for our bride + groom and a chance for them to incorporate their beloved pets into their wedding day - each drink was named after their dogs.

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Cali + Arrington are both very family focused. And they both come from very large families! It was important to them that they get married in a church ceremony surrounded by their family and close friends. The chose Our Lady of Perpetual Help, which is the chapel at the high school Cali attended. It was a beautiful ceremony, centered around Christ and the journey of marriage Cali + Arrington were beginning together. Paying respect to and keeping family close was top of mind. The bride wore jewelry from several women in her life that have been important role models. "I wore gold and Sapphire jewelry, as my birthday is in September. It was also my grandmother’s favorite stone and she passed away a few weeks before we were engaged. My bracelet I wore was passed down to me from her. My earrings are my “aunt” Stephanie’s who has been like another mother figure to me. My ring is my other grandmother’s wedding ring. She could not be present for the wedding as she has been battling Alzheimer’s for many years. They were there in spirit and it was so special to have a part of them there with me," explained Cali. I love all the special touches she incorporated! 

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Another favorite moment was the father-daughter dance. Cali and her dad danced to less traditional song, "We Are The Champions". It was perfect for them! It's a song that she and her sister, Payton, have danced to in their home since they were kids. Everyone was cheering as they took the dance floor because it embodies the "Spell Family" mantra. Cali has such a tight knit family and loved that Payton joined them on the dance floor. She says, "It was a perfect moment that I will cherish forever!"

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I'm so excited to share more photos from this beautiful day with this amazing couple! And don't miss Cali + Arrington's wedding film - it's such a gorgeous recap of this special day. 

A HUGE thank you to our amazing team of talented vendors. It takes a village to make a complex installation of a 330-person wedding, with multiple venues, flow seamlessly... but this team made it look easy!

Planning + Design, Invitations + Paper Goods: The Graceful Host
Photography: Erin McCall
Floral Design: Poppy & Mint Floral Company
Band: Crescent City Soul
Rentals: Gulf Coast Events And Rentals
Rentals: Luminous Events
Videography: Harmonic Films
Cake: Maple Street Bakery
Ceremony Venue: Our Lady of Perpetual Help Chapel
Reception Venue: North House Home and Garden
Catering: Margo Bouanchaud Catering
Makeup: Lynna Vo Beauty
Wedding Dress: I Do Bridal Couture
Bridesmaid Dress, Brides Dress: Monique Lhuillier
Bridesmaid Dress Shop: Bella Bridesmaids
Draping: Quest Drape
Photobooth: HD Photobooth
Coordination: Girls In Black

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Cali + Arrington, thank you so much for allowing me to be a part of your special day! I had an absolute blast working with you both! Sending you two lots of love!

XO,
A.

Introducing: The Graceful Host Party Kits

The BIG day is finally here! The Graceful Host shop is open - and Party Kits are live!

It's time to make party planning simple, again! Because it doesn't have to be complicated. 

We've all been there. You're pouring through page after page on Pinterest, searching for party inspiration. Trying to figure out what theme you're going to pick this year, while being inundated with photo after photo, idea after idea. There's so much content out there! Then, after you finally pick a direction - where on Earth the do you find all this freaking stuff?! How do I make my party look like this?!

You don't need to spend hours, upon hours designing a party. Who has the time, anyways?
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You might not feel like the creative type, or have all that extra energy to pour into DIY projects. You've got plenty of other things to worry about!
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You want all the cute decor that makes you ohh and ahh, but you just don't know where to go searching for it. Getting started can feel so overwhelming!

I see you, friend... and I want to help you!!

Party Kit, The Graceful Host Party Kit, Party Supplies, Kids Birthday Party Ideas

We all want to create unique celebrations that foster unforgettable family memories. But sadly, sometimes life gets in the way of our planning and procrastination gets the best of us.

(Am I right?!)

Enter the Party Kits! Your handy tool to creating a fabulous party, minus the hassle and stress! Each kit comes complete with paper supplies, decor and a style guide, for extra party planning guidance and inspiration, as well as DIY project ideas that relate to your chosen party theme.

My goal in creating this product was to make it easier for you to celebrate all the fun moments and milestones of life! The Party Kits are a solution to the busyness we all experience. I've carefully sourced and designed each Party Kit so that you can create your own a well-styled, creative celebration! 

    Perfect for the person who ...
    ... doesn't have any time to shop around.
    ... loves to throw parties.
    ... wants their event to look beautiful.
    ... likes to be hands-on, but maybe isn't super crafty.
    ... doesn't know where to find the best party supplies and decor.
    ... needs help party planning, but doesn't want to hire a planner.

    Party Kits, The Graceful Host Party Kit, Superhero party, Kids birthday party

    And now we're LIVE!

    So how does this all work?
    Each Party Kit comes complete with:

    • Party supplies, including the plates, napkins, cups, & cutlery (serving approximately 24 guests)

    • Stylish decor, like balloons, banners, etc., that relate to the box's theme

    • Access to a style guide with helpful party planning tips and advice, as well as tutorials for DIY project ideas

    All Party Kits are shipped directly to you in 1 to 3 business days from Charlotte, North Carolina.

    Head to the shop now to learn more about the Party Kits!

    XO,
    A.

    PS. You can check out Ashley's interview on Charlotte Today about the Party Kits by following this link!

    A Colorful and Whimsical Wedding at the Mint Museum Uptown in Charlotte

    Jessie + Austin met in high school, but never dated. It took a few years of persistence from Austin, with Jessie "brutally shutting him down" as she says, for her to agree to a date with Austin. It was after that first date the summer of their freshman year of college that Jessie fell head over heels for Austin! And after several months of flirting and long distance (don't worry - Austin made her sweat a bit. Unknowingly, of course!), they made their relationship official.

    You'll never meet a couple more madly in love or incredibly down to Earth as Jessie + Austin. They are the life of the party and love to have fun in every situation. Their connection is unmistakeable! Just wait until you see their gorgeous images from Anchor & Veil Photography. They never shy away from adventure and new experiences. Trying new restaurants and recipes and exploring new places is one of their favorite things to do together. But as much fun as going out can be, they also love lay low by make a pallet on the floor and watch moves with some wine in tow.

    Jessie came to me wanting to create a unique experience for her loved ones. She said she wanted it to feel like one big party, with an amazing atmosphere, great food and lots of dancing - not stuffy or stiff, or too formal. Our sweet bride had a vision, and she was drawing inspiration from many different color palettes and styles - from whimsical and classic to sweet and modern. She didn't quite know where to begin and how to sort through everything. As we when through my design process, we were able to get to the heart of her vision and create a cohesive design that captured our bride's gorgeous style. The end result felt fun, eclectic and most importantly, different - and that is exactly what Jessie wanted! We infused a vibrant color palette into our design, using a range of purples, burgundy, pinks, creams, and pale yellow with abundant amounts of greenery for an ultra-romantic touch. It is traditional with a twist, as we mixed aesthetics to create a detailed and color-filled day for this sweet-as-can-be couple!

    Huge thanks to our talented team of vendors who made this day so perfect for Jessie + Austin!
    Planning + Design: The Graceful Host
    Photography: Anchor & Veil Photography
    Flowers: New Creations Flower Company
    Paper Goods: Elisabeth Rose Social Stationery
    Videography: Brian Bunn Films
    Cake: The Wow Factor Cakes
    Rentals: Party Reflections
    Catering: Something Classic Catering
    Venue: The Mint Museum Uptown
    Officiant: Rev Rebecca Nagy
    Hair: Mirror Bomb Studios
    Makeup: Erin Ashley Makeup
    Dress: Romona Keveža
    Dress Boutique: Ladies Of Lineage
    Bridesmaid Dresses: Brideside
    Groomsmen Attire: The Black Tux
    Entertainment: Split Second Sound

    Jessie + Austin, you two are such a joy to know! I loved every second of our time planning together and your perfect wedding day. Thank you for trusting myself and my team to execute your vision! Love you both!

    XO,
    A.

    Three of the Biggest Mistakes A Host Can Make

    Throwing a killer party requires a lot of careful planning. There's a lot of pressure on the host(ess) to throw a great party for their invited guests! You need to think about the atmosphere you're creating, a food and beverage menu that will leave your guests satisfied, and the overall flow of the party. Sounds like a lot of layers, right?? Well, that's because it is!

    Let's talk about the three biggest mistakes a host can make - so that you can avoid them.

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    #1 Not factoring in guest count during the planning process. The first thing a host need to do is figure out the guest list. You cannot begin to plan for a party without knowing how many people you expect to walk through the door! Are you inviting more people than your venue, or home, can accommodate? Will your anticipated headcount bring you over your desired budget? Knowing your guest count before you begin planning anything will help you tremendously and cut down on the stress that party planning can potentially bring.

    #2 Not accepting outside help. Planning a party, regardless of the size, requires organization and can be a bit of a juggling act for even an experienced host. Don't be a hero, y'all. Allow outside help! Let your significant other, friend, or family members to pitch in - it can be a big help to have an extra set of hands! And consider outsourcing for things like catering and/or rental needs. It will save you time and allow you to enjoy your party. Plus, the professionals do this on a daily basis and have the equipment you need to properly execute a party, and can make recommendations so that your party is a big success. 

    #3 Not thinking about the flow. Ever notice how everyone always seems to end up in the kitchen at parties? Thats because guests tend to gather around the food and drinks! When setting up seating areas, as well as food and drink areas, think of how your guests might naturally move through the party space - and where you want them to gather. Make sure your guests have a clear path to the goodies! (That would be the food and beverages.) Move furniture, if needed, so that guests move more freely throughout the party. And if you don't want guest to gather in one room, then spread the food and drink out. Extra Tip: I like incorporating appetizers and small bites within the seating areas to keep guests satisfied and conversations flowing.

    Let’s hear it: What do you think of this list? Any other big party faux pas’ we didn’t mention?!

    Cheers to throwing a great party!
    XO,
    A.

    Party Animals Birthday Party

    Why do kids have to keep growing up?! I feel like we were just celebrating our baby boy turning one, and now I blink and he's TWO! 

    After Ryan's first birthday fiesta, I swore I'd take it easy on the next birthday party. But once I decided on the theme of "Party Animals", I just couldn't hold back - there were too many cute ideas floating around! Let's face it, there will eventually come a day when Ryan doesn't want a birthday party (cue tears!), or he'll want to do something less adorable than what I have in mind. So I'm making the most of it for now! Plus, the party planner in me just can't help it.

    I went with "Party Animals" because Ryan really loves animals, especially cats ... or kitty kittys as he calls them. (I think it's the thrill of the chase that he's attracted to, really!) Once that theme clicked, the ideas started rolling in.  Tiny animals wearing party hats, a big colorful balloon garland, tails on chairs, a primary color palette, tambourine favors - the possibilities for decor were endless. A lot of love went into this party. The two major (and easy!) DIY projects were the tiny party hats for the mini animals and the colorful balloon garland decor. Tedious projects, but honestly they really only took a few hours each, and the end result was well worth it!

    General party tips to parents: I'm a big believer in renting certain items to make life easier on the host(ess), like linens, tables and chairs. I personally don't want to have to invest in purchasing those things and then storing them. I also recommend outsourcing catering. It is 100% worth it! We went with BBQ, at my husbands request - and I love it because it was easy for guests to eat, crowd pleasing and it's filling. And yes, even a kids birthday party needs a signature drink! It's perfectly acceptable to serve alcohol at a kids birthday party. You want to cater to your guests - adult and children, alike! Our two signature drinks were Zoo Water (a non-alcoholic option) and Jungle Juice (an alcoholic option).

    This was such a fun party to design, and I'm really excited to share it with you!

    Sources:

    Ethereal Blush and Mustard Wedding Inspiration

    I always jump at the opportunity to collaborate with fellow creatives to create things that aren't always seen in the world of wedding design! Like new design concepts, or interpretations of different aesthetics, or color palettes that aren't commonly done.

    We all know that blush is a favorite among brides. And I can't really fault anyone for that! But, I love to pair this sweet color with other shades - like peach or mauve - that give this common tone a bit more depth and dimension. I seriously love this color combination of blush pink and mustard! I hope mustard take centerstage one of these days - it's the most beautiful and underrated color! It can really pack a punch when added into a color palette. The tablecape was designed with the idea of spring on it’s way. Springvine Design created arrangements combining soft and bold florals colors and textures to bring our vision together so beautifully!

    I wanted to keep our brides style approachable. After all, editorials are all about inspiration, so if someone can't recreate it then what good did it serve?! This lace Claire Pettibone dress was absolutely incredible! The cape was just so elegant and ultra romantic - it was the perfect "something extra", to take this would be bohemian look to the next level. 

    It's such a thrill to see this editorial shoot featured on Inspired By This! To see the full feature, click here.  Below are some of my favorite images by the very talented Allison Kuhn Photography.

     

    Huge thanks to our very talented vendor team! None of this could be possible with the collaboration for these talented creatives!

     

    A Greenery-Filled Tented Wedding at Champagne Manor

    It's a happy day today because Alyson + Matthew's Champagne Manor wedding is featured on Style Me Pretty today! I don't know about you, but reliving this gorgeous summer wedding has me so eager for warmer weather!

    Alyson + Matthew were married in a family-centered ceremony, with their children by their side and surrounded by close family and friends, on August 12th at Champagne Manor in Monroe, North Carolina.  They have built a beautiful life together with their blended family, and they wanted to create a celebration of their love for one another and their new beginning at husband + wife. Getting to know this sweet family was such a joy!

    What you might not know by looking at the photos is that the entire wedding was planned in less than 4 months. That's right - all this came together in just 4 months! Our gorgeous bride, Alyson, has amazing style and incredible taste, so there was no detail was spared. Our design was inspired by Earth tones and organic textures, with a feminine undertone, and it was achieved using a somewhat neutral palette of mauve, peach, ivory, dove grey, and greenery. The atmosphere was chic, yet relaxed, incorporating upholstered lounge areas into their open seating floor plan. One of my favorite details was the 8'x8' hanging installation of greenery and glass orbs with tea lights that highlighted the dance floor and was the central feature in our tent.

    Holding on to beautiful weddings like this one is not easy! I've been bursting at the seams to share every little detail with you ... so at long last, here are some of my favorites from Alyson + Matthew's big day!

    How absolutely adorable is their daughter?! She is the cutest little thing and my heart just melts looking at these sweet photos of her with her beautiful mama!

    Thank you Alyson + Matthew for allowing myself and my team to be a part of this celebration and special time in your lives! And to our wonderful team of talented vendors - thank you for all your hard work to make this day so beautiful and memorable for this sweet couple!
    Photography: Perry Vaile Photography
    Flowers: New Creations Flower Company
    Venue: Champagne Manor
    Paper Goods: Pink Toast Ink
    Beauty: Lindsey Regan Thorne of Be Pretty
    Cake: Wow Factor Cakes
    Rentals: Old South Vintage Rentals
    Rentals, Lighting, Draping: Crush Event Rentals
    Rentals: Party Reflections
    Rentals: La Tavola
    Catering + Bar: Best Impressions Caterers
    Brides Dress: J. Majors Bridal
    Bridesmaid Dress: Show Me Your MuMu

    XO,
    A.

    How To Create A Rain Plan For Your Wedding Day

    No one wants to talk about the potential for rain on your wedding day. You're planning for the perfect day, right?? So obviously rain shouldn't be part of that equation. But the truth is, Mother Nature could care less and she just does her own thing! So you need to be prepared, should an uninvited guest - I'm lookin' at you rain! - decides to show up.

    Let's say you're a brave bride with nerves of steel, and the possibility for rain on your wedding day is a risk you're willing to take. For some couples, the potential of maybe having to go with plan B is well worth the reward of a beautiful outdoor celebration. Truth be told, outdoor ceremonies and receptions are my favorite! When you're looking at venues that offer outdoor space, you should also consider that venues ability to support a rain plan. Is there an indoor space you could use, just in case? If not, then is putting up a tent over your plan A ideas possible, and do they allow tenting on their grounds? And you'll want to put a tent on hold through a rental company if using a tent is plan B. As you're developing plan A, it's really important to also talk about your plan B if you're planning a celebration with outdoors events, such as a ceremony, cocktail hour, and/or reception. How are you going to pull all 150 guests indoors? How will rain affect the flow of events? These are all important things that you'll want to think through as you're planning for your outdoor wedding.

    But maybe you're the type of person who can't handle the stress of an outdoor wedding, so you are planning a wedding with indoor venues (i.e. a church, ballroom, museum space, etc.). There's nothing wrong with that! In fact, I fell into this category when I was getting married almost 6 years ago. It's stressful dealing with the unknown, and I knew I didn't want to handle having to switch to a plan B, when my heart was set on plan A! I hate to burst your bubble, though, because you're not out of the woods - you still have to think about unfavorable weather, even if your wedding is going to be held indoors. You'll want to think through how your guests are getting to the ceremony and reception, should the weather become a factor. Do you need to provide transportation from the hotels, now that rain is in the forecast and guests can no longer easily walk to the venue? (This scenario is a common occurrence for weddings here in Uptown Charlotte!) Where will portraits take place with your photographer? Do you have umbrellas available? All very important things to think through to ensure a smooth wedding day and a great experience for both your family and guests.

    While we always want to be prepared, we never want to obsess. Please don't obsess over the potential for rain or let an unfavorable forecast ruin your planning experience! Ultimately you cannot control the weather, but you can control how you react to it. So make plan A and make plan B, but don't focus all your attention on the "what if". I think it's good to be ready,  but I don't really starting discussing plan B with my couples until we have a forecast to consider. All of these questions and scenarios are all examples of things you should discuss with your vendor team. Let the professionals guide you to make the best decision for your wedding! It's their job, after all - so lean on them and their expertise.

    I'd like to add that in my 6 years of experience in wedding planning, I've only ever had to pull a ceremony indoors that was originally planned to be outdoors once. That's right - once! Sure it's rained on more than one occasion forcing a change in portrait location or a timeline delay, but we were still able to move forward as originally planned! For one of our weddings, the rain started just as the ceremony was about to begin. We knew there was potential for rain that day and we were closely monitoring the radar all day. The bride had her heart set on getting married outdoors, and we wanted to make that dream come true! So we went on a rain delay, and set-up our string quartet indoors and also started serving champagne to guests who were gathered indoors for a mini cocktail hour. As soon as there was a break in the clouds, we were able to quickly wipe down all the chairs so that the ceremony could still be held outdoors. We escorted guests to the garden and started just 15 minutes late. And everything was perfect - it was like the rain never happened!

    See what  I mean?!

    Rain on your wedding day isn't the end of the world. Trust me, I want my clients weddings to match the picture in their head, too! So while I know it's not ideal, a little rain won't stop you from saying "I do" - and that is what truly matters!

    XO,
    A.

    2017 Year In Review

    What a whirlwind year. Hard to believe we're saying goodbye to another year. 2017 was a good one. Lots of beautiful weddings, great memories & experiences, and valuable lessons.

      A peek at our Top Nine that I shared on  Instagram !

    A peek at our Top Nine that I shared on Instagram!

    I had the honor of working with some amazing couples and their families, as well as some insanely talented vendors. I produced an event with Crate & Barrel for engaged couples, re-launched The Graceful Host calligraphy shop on Etsy, designed a beautiful styled shoot that was featured on Style Me Pretty, had 12 press features with Martha Stewart weddings, Style Me Pretty, Carats & Cake, InStyle Weddings, Inspired By This, Borrowed & Blue, Loverly, and Brit & Co, and even had my sweet baby's nursery featured on Inspired By This. It was one hell of a year, y'all!

    As I reflect back on our year, I can't help but feel overflowing gratitude for the couples who chose us to be a part of such a special time in their lives. That trust to produce their dream wedding means the world to me! Here is a peek at some of our 2017 highlights:

    Ellyn + William at Trump National Golf Club// photography by Old South Studios
    As seen on Carats & Cake

    Alyson + Matt at Champagne Manor// photography by Perry Vaile Photography
    Coming soon to Style Me Pretty

    Maggie + JR at the Ritz Carlton ballroom// photography by Cheyenne Schultz Photography
    As seen on Carats & Cake

    Lauren + Mark at Duke Mansion // photography by Almond Leaf Studios
    Just a sneak peek ... full gallery reveal coming soon!

    Emily + Billy at the Mint Museum Uptown // photography by Crystal Stokes Photography
    Just a sneak peek ... full gallery reveal coming soon!

    Phew - what an incredible year! :) Thank you from the very bottom of my heart for following this journey, and for your support and encouragement along the way.

    I am eagerly awaiting all that 2018 has to offer, and the amazing celebrations we are busy planning for our couples! I have no doubt that 2018 will be oh so sweet!

    I wish each of you a happy and healthy 2018! I hope the promise of a new year and new beginnings brings you peace and hope. And that your new year is full of celebration! 

    XO,
    A.

    A few of our other 2017 press features:
    Martha Stewart Weddings - 12 Tips for Planning a Monochromatic Wedding That Isn't Just White
    InStyle - Don’t Start Your Wedding Website Before Reading These 9 Tips
    InStyle - How to Create Unique and Beautiful Boutonnieres
    Brit & Co - 14 Wedding Trends That Are Going to be BIG in 2017
    Inspired By This - 20 Bohemian Brides Who Nailed Free-Spirited Fashion
    Inspired By This - Monogramed Wedding Details That Aren't Preppy
     

    Celebrating Five Years of The Graceful Host

    It's hard to believe, but it's been 5 years since I've owned this wonderful business. F-I-V-E years. Holy wow! Who would've known the impact this decision on December 31, 2012 would have on my life, and all the places it would take me, the people I'd get to meet, and the opportunities I'd have at my finger tips?!

    In 5 years, I've learned so much. Not just about business and entrepreneurship, but about myself. And I think the later is really important. 

    In 5 years, I've had the honor of executing 64 weddings. That is 64 couples that have trusted me with their special day, that I've had the pleasure of getting to know and to witness their start as Mr and Mrs.

     Photography Credit:  Lauren Rosenau Photography

    Photography Credit: Lauren Rosenau Photography

    In 5 years, I've had highs and lows. I've been praised and I've been criticized. I've had epic successes and I've made embarrassing mistakes. But I see every thing as an opportunity for growth. Whether the experience was good or bad, I've learned from it in some way.

    In 5 years, I've had the opportunity to work with countless vendors who are beyond talented. Who have supported my business, encouraged me every step of the way, and inspired me, too.

    In 5 years, I've had weddings featured in countless magazines (both regional and local), national blogs, and hardcover coffee table books, such as The Knot Carolinas, Style Me Pretty, Inside Weddings, Carats & Cake, Southern Weddings, Ruffled, Trendy Bride, and Carolina Bride. And I've been interviewed and quoted about wedding trends and etiquette advice. 

    In 5 years, I've learned my "why". As in "why" I do what I do, despite the many challenges I face in todays saturated wedding market. As in "why" I fight so damn hard to earn my couples business. As in "why" I want to stick around for another 5 years (or more, God willing!).

    In searching for my “why”, I realized why I was drawn to this career in the first place. It took me a while, but I figured it out! If you're in the creative industry or familiar with small business, then you probably know that 50% of small businesses fail to reach year 5. And the percentage ticks up dramatically after that. So it takes more than just showing up to survive entrepreneurship. It takes courage, passion and heart. When I feel like I can't take this job for one more day - and believe me, I have my moments of wanting to toss the towel - I think about my “why”.

    For a while, I didn't really have a “why”. And without it, I was completely burned out. I had no boundaries. I had no sense of direction for my business. I had no control over my future. But overtime, I've discovered my “why”... And it's people. I show up because making people happy is what I love to do. I pour my heart and soul into The Graceful Host because I want to make other peoples lives happier and easier. I have a passion this career because I get the chance to make a difference during an important part of a persons life - as well as their families life. 

    It's my hope that by giving it my all, 110% of the time, that I can make a difference in someones life. That I can turn an experience, known for being overwhelming and stressful, into a memory that is happy. That’s a big thing that I hope our brides and grooms take away from their experience with The Graceful Host.

     Photography Credit:  Lauren Rosenau Photography

    Photography Credit: Lauren Rosenau Photography

    I can't believe that I've been doing this for FIVE years. It's so cliché, but it really does feel like I blinked, and then poof - here I am! It's been a wild roller coaster ride. And yet, I wouldn’t change a thing, and I’d happily do it all over again in a heartbeat. While I do consider The Graceful Host to be an expert in the field of wedding planning + design, I definitely don’t think that I have all the answers to running a business, or know everything there is to know about this career. I call myself a forever student because I’m always trying to learn whatever I can and ask as many questions as I can so that I am able to better serve others. That being said, can I say ... I'm just so damn proud of how this company has grown and evolved over the past five years! So much blood, sweat, and tears have gone into building this business. And I’m just really proud to be celebrating FIVE years.

    So, to every bride + groom who has trusted The Graceful Host to produce their dream wedding. To every vendor we've had the pleasure of collaborating with to create some serious magic. And to every person who has supported me, encouraged me and followed me through this crazy journey ... especially my saint of a husband, Todd ... a sincere and heartfelt THANK YOU! Words will never be enough. It is because of those 64 couples that I can celebrate five years of business ... and that I'm even sitting here writing this blog post. I feel so lucky to be able to do what I love every day, and to get to meet + work with such amazing people.

    With a heart full of gratitude, I raise my glass to you and say THANK YOU!

     Photography Credit:  Lauren Rosenau Photography

    Photography Credit: Lauren Rosenau Photography

    Each year of business gets better and better. 2017 was absolutely amazing and I’ll be sad to see it go. (I have my annual recap of our year coming soon.) But, I’m ready for you 2018! I cannot wait for all the exciting things I have planned to come to life, and to see some truly wonderful couples say “I Do!”

    What's in store over the next 5 years for The Graceful Host?! That's a great question! With the end of every calendar year, I take time to map out my goals and ideas for the next calendar year and several years down the road. And with the addition of calligraphy and The Graceful Host Etsy shop, it's even more important that I write these things down so that all my crazy ideas can be given direction that align with my overall goals. (I encourage everyone to do the same thing ... whether you own a business or not!) So, I can't wait to dive into some goal setting over the weekend. I have so many thoughts, and I honestly just can't wait to see what the future holds!

    Cheers to five years, friends!

    XO,
    A.

     

    Dear Jane

    It's been a year since I met you. And I've never shared this story. I thought maybe this wasn't the right place to share, since this isn't a personal blog, but rather a business blog to share all things wedding and celebration. But, it's a message that I think needs to be shared.

    You might not know it, but you saved me that day. You saw me when no one else did.

    Everything was piling up and it just felt like I couldn't breathe. Every day was getting harder than the next. It felt like the end of the world, but you helped bring me back to reality.

    When we met, I was at my lowest. I didn't know it at the time, but I was in a deep post partum depression. I didn't think it was possible to have "baby blues" 8 months post partum, but apparently it is possible. My husband and I welcomed our sweet baby boy in April of 2016. He was a dream come true. For as long as I could remember, I wanted to be a mom. And Ryan made me a mommy - the happiest day of our lives. Adjusting to life with a baby was not easy for us. Our lives were flipped upside down. I didn't grow up surrounded by a lot of children, and I was one of the first in my friend group to have a baby. So, while I knew things were going to change and that it would be hard - I had no idea it would be like this. The first 48 hours will go down as the most frustrating, challenging and down right scariest days of my entire life. I got 2 hours of sleep, during our two-day stay, before leaving the hospital with our baby boy. And coming home wasn't any easier.  Sleep deprivation, pain intense from breast feeding, and the insane hormonal shifts were my new norm. I cried so much that there was no more tears left. I kid you not ... Dry crying is a thing. And I actually never took a maternity leave because he was born during the middle of a busy event season. In fact, I was executing a wedding 17 days after Ryan was born. It's not that I was forced into not taking a time off. My clients are very kind people. But I felt that I had an obligation to them, one that came long before Ryans impending arrival, and as a business owner I made a choice. Was it the right one? I don't know. But it felt like the right one and it was a choice I made.

    For months, I juggled baby and business. And it was quite a juggling act! I had no idea what I was doing as a mom, and no idea what I was doing as a business owner who now has the title of mom added to it. So, I learned on the job. Some things got easier. And some things got harder. Such as my guilt around being a mom who was focused on her work. It started getting more intense as the months went on. There were nights that couldn't hold Ryan because I felt like he resented me. A tiny baby ... I know, it's insane. And that typing that makes me feel crazy. But it's how I felt. I just knew that he was starting to hate that my focus wasn't 100% on him all day. Because I had work to do, we didn't get to attend music classes, or baby and me yoga, or take trips to the park. Or at least,i that is the story my mind made me believe. I would refuse to hold him, or kiss him goodnight because I just knew he didn't want me. I wasn't good enough for him. He deserved better than me. He deserved a mom that could give him sensory play activities, and play groups with peers. I couldn't give him what he needed. I was failing as a mother, in my mind. And our minds are really powerful. I had this entire negative tape playing on a loop like you wouldn't believe. But when you're in the fog, you don't realize that these words are a lie. They seem so real. And reality is hard to distinguish from fiction. My husband is a wonderful and loving man. He knew something was up immediately, but like a lot of significant others, he wasn't sure how to handle this ... shift. He would always tell me that what I'm feeling is not true, and give me tons encouragement. But I didn't believe him. It felt like he had to say that as my husband and that he really didn’t feel it in his heart that I was a good mom.

    As the the end of the year approached, all these feelings started to intensify. And handling it got to be a bit much. I was losing control. We travel every year for Christmas, and this year was no exception - even with a baby. We decided that my husband would drive down to Louisiana from North Carolina with all the stuff (since a 11 hour drive would've been torture with an 8 month old), and Ryan & I would get on a plane and fly down for Christmas. This meant that my husband had to leave the day before. So I had to have everything prepared in advance. And as those that have ever traveled with a baby know ... they have a lot of crap to carry around! As my husband was leaving, my laptop went on the fritz. My laptop is my everything. My entire business was on that device. I had so much to accomplish so that I could go out of town to see my family for the holidays, and December is one of the busiest times for event professionals (hello engagement season!) - and my laptop (that was practically new!) was giving me trouble. Some of you might remember my struggles. And for me, it was the last straw. Nothing felt right and this was one more thing I had to deal with. I just couldn't. I had officially lost control of my life. And that was scaring me.

    Even after spending hours on the phone with Apple support, I was getting nowhere. So, in a desperate attempt to control things, I marched down to the Apple store at SouthPark Mall bright and early the next morning. There were no appointments available and I had a flight that afternoon, but I was determined to fix this problem. Fixing this problem would make everything better. Or so I thought. I arrive at the Apple store, and of course they can't help me without an appointment. They offer to put me on a wait list. I accept. I only had about an hour to wait because Ryan had to be home for nap time and I had to catch a flight after he woke up. So I sat on the couches outside the store. And the weight of everything started to get to me, again. I couldn't stop the tears. There I was on December 22, 2016 ... three days before Christmas, in a very busy mall ... and I'm crying, with my baby by my side. I felt pathetic, and that made me cry even more. I literally couldn't hold back tears. I sometimes think about how many people walked by me on that day. Maybe they noticed me, maybe they didn’t. But you did. You stopped.

    You saw me. You touched my shoulder and said hello. You didn't want to alarm or disturb me. But I didn't mind at all. You asked me if everything was okay, and I didn't know how to answer. I mean, yes everything was okay. But at the same time, nothing was okay. I just had no idea how to express it. You asked for my name, and gave me yours. "I'm Jane. It's nice to meet you." You said that you didn't know why I was crying, but that you saw me sitting here and felt called to reach out. You shared with me that just last year you lost your husband to a sudden heart attack. And that your first Christmas without him was lonely. I immediately felt humbled. Who am I to cry about a material object like a broken laptop? I have a wonderful life, and an amazing husband, and a healthy and happy baby boy. Isn't that all that mattered? Shouldn’t I be happy? She told me that it's okay to feel pain, regardless of the cause. I think you knew something I didn't. I thought it was about the computer, but it wasn't. You asked me if you could pray over me. And I said yes. We sat down in the middle of a busy mall three days before Christmas, and you prayed for me. Me. Who was I to deserve this kind of treatment? You walked away and my heart felt lighter. I kid you not. Did you know that the name Jane means "Gift From God". I truly believe that you were a gift from God. A gift I didn't know I needed. I called my husband after our interaction, and he agreed that you were a gift. You gave me a message that I desparately needed. You helped lift me from my fog. And from that day on, whenever I would feel myself slipping back into a bad place or like life was too much to handle, I think of you. I think of the way you saw me, when it seemed like I was invisible to the world.

    This year has been challenging in its own way, with the launch of a new business and a (now) very busy toddler to look after. And every time I feel overwhelmed, I think of you. I picture your face and your very sweet and comforting smile. I think you'll be happy to know that I'm not letting my mind get the best of me any more. I am enough. I am a good mother. I am a good wife. I am a good business owner. I am not invisible.

    So Jane, thank you for seeing me. Thank you for taking time out of your day to talk to me. Thank you for lifting me from that fog.

    During this season of hustle and bustle, I hope that I can pass on your message of self-worth to other women (and men) who need to be seen, even if they are in a deep fog.

    Gratefully yours,
    Ashley

    Holiday Entertaining Guide For The Newlyweds

    The official countdown to Christmas is on, y'all. There are only 11 days until one of the biggest entertaining holidays of the year. (And I don't know about you, but I feel so unprepared! Time really flies!) So, what do you buy for the newlyweds who are celebrating their first married Christmas? Or the engaged couple who are about to walk down the aisle? 

     
    holiday entertaining guide for newlyweds, christmas decoration, holiday place setting, holiday tablescape, holiday centerpiece idea, christmas table decoration
    Holiday Entertaining, Christmas Holiday Tablescape, Holiday Placesetting, Christmas Centerpiece
    holiday entertaining guide for newlyweds, christmas decoration, holiday place setting, holiday tablescape, holiday centerpiece idea, christmas table decoration
     

    Choosing gifts for newlyweds can always be difficult.  But you can never go wrong with personalized gifts! From city or state-themed to a classic monogram, it's a thoughtful gift that couples don't normally purchase for themselves. It seems we always tend to cater to more guests than normal during the holiday season, so stocking up on the essentials is key to an easy, breezy holiday entertaining season. Cheese boards and serving platters, extra glasses, bottles of wine or champagne, and extra candles are always needed and make great gifts.  But don't forget about the fluffy and fun gifts for the serial host(ess) - like an Instax camera, or vegetable spiralizer (personal favorite!), or a great coffee table book all about entertaining!

    (To view an item, just click the photo!)

    If you're looking fora  great place to start your registry wish list be sure to check out Zola. Zola makes it so easy to share your registry with family and friends! All your lists are in one easy place, and you can also register for non-traditional items such as honeymoon funds and experiences. A really great resources in wedding planning for todays modern couple! 

    So, tell me - what is your go-to gift for the host and/or hostess?!

    XO,
    A.

    Tablescape Photography: Paige Winn Photography | Florals and Design: The Graceful Host

    Modern and Bold Wedding Inspiration

    Incorporating color into a wedding design can be a challenge. Incorporating bold colors into a wedding design can feel impossible. But it IS possible!

    It's no secret - I love using color. You might wonder why I prefer color over neutrals. And it's not that I don't love neutral colors, or a good monochromatic palette ... I because do! There is so much beauty within a neutral palette. But designing with color keeps me on my toes. It's different! And it's not often seen in weddings, where blush and ivory and gold/champagne tend to dominate. 

    In September, I had the chance to collaborate with photographer Allison Kuhn to design + produce a styled shoot that was all about BOLD. When designing this shoot, I wanted to create something that I don't often see - it was about pushing the envelope in a way that was achievable for the modern bride. Ideas like "modern meets old world charm" and "classic style meets high end fashion" were phrases that came to mind. I was inspired by this teal blue, and from there I wanted to layer color and textures to create something that was a bit more daring and adventurous. And I absolutely love how the other colors pop against this bold blue!

    I'm so honored to see this shoot featured on Style Me Pretty today! Huge thanks to our creative team! So grateful to work with such a talented bunch of creatives for this shoot!
    Planning + Design | The Graceful Host
    Photography | Allison Kuhn Photography
    Beauty | Lindsey Regan Thorne (Be Pretty)
    Floral Design | Amy Lynne Originals
    Paper Goods | Elisabeth Rose Stationery
    Cake | Wow Factor Cakes
    Rentals | Nuage Designs, Carolinas Luxury Rentals, Party Reflections, Evermoore Event Rentals
    Venue | Barn At Reynolda Village
    Designer | Hayley Paige
    Wedding Dress Boutique | Hayden Olivia Bridal
    Shoes | Jimmy Choo

    The Perfect DIY Holiday-Inspired Cocktail

    Who's ready for holiday parties?! You can't tell, but my hand is currently raised.

    DIY Ornament Holiday Cocktail

    It's no surprise, I'm sure, but I love parties. Like, you know how Buddy the Elf loves Christmas? Well, that's how I feel about parties! Since having Ryan (now a year and a half old ... holy moly, how did that happen?!), we don't get out much. Sad, but true ... #momlife. But it doesn't mean my love for parties has dimmed even slightly.

    One night I was thinking of ways to fancy up my Friday couch session, and thought - hey, wouldn't a fun cocktail make this laid back night feel more exciting?? And that's how this Cran-Raspberry Vodka Fizz was born. I'm no mixologist, though. This is inspired by a drink created by One Sweet Mess, because I prefer vodka over gin.

    You'll need:
    yields 1 serving
    1oz Vodka
    1/2oz Cointreau or Triple Sec
    2oz Cranberry Raspberry Spritzer (I found a great one at Trader Joes) OR you can use cranberry sprite
    ~1tbsp Orange juice (I squeezed 2 orange slices)
    2 Rosemary springs
    Cranberries for garnish
    Cocktail shaker
    Ice
    Glass ornaments, large (I found these at my local Michaels)
    Acrylic paint pen, oil-free (I used Sharpie brand to letter these)

    DIY Holiday Ornament Cocktail

    First up, time to do some faux calligraphy! Take your acrylic paint pen and write anything you'd like on the ornaments. I was going for a Holiday vibe, so I went with Holiday-ish stuff. But you can write your name on it, or your guests names, if you'd like to personalize them a bit more! The paint should be dry after about 3 to 5 minutes, so let it sit while you move on to step two. (Pro tip: if you mess up your lettering, use rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball to take off the paint and just start again.)

    Now it's time to make the drinks! Take your shaker and add in the vodka, cointreau or triple sec, and rosemary sprig. Give the rosemary a little shake prior to adding it to the shaker to bruise it a bit, or you can muddle the sprig  just a little to release some fragrance. Add in some ice, the cran-raspberry spritzer, and a few squeezes of orange. Give it all a really good shake. Pour the contents of the shaker into the glass ornaments. Add in a fresh sprig of rosemary for garnish and a straw, so it's easy to drink. You can even pop in a few cranberries for extra garnish.

    The tart of the cranberry mixed with the sweet of the orange makes this drink extra delightful, and really refreshing!

    DIY Holiday Ornament Cocktail
    DIY Holiday Ornament Cocktail
    DIY Holiday Ornament Cocktail

    Cheers, y'all! And happy shaking! 

    XO,
    A.

    Photography credit: Paige Winn Photography


     

     

    Featured: A Jewel Tone Wedding At The Ritz Carlton Ballroom in Uptown Charlotte

    I'm incredibly lucky that my job leads me to meet such wonderful human beings. Maggie + JR are two of the most kind (and most hilarious!) people I've ever met! Their love for each other is so genuine and sweet - and you can clearly see that in every single image by Cheyenne Schultz Photography. Working with Maggie was such a dream! She trusted me and my team to execute her vision from day one. In fact, we actually didn't meet in person until a site tour to the Ritz Carlton in uptown Charlotte!

    The Graceful Host - Ritz Carlton Charlotte Wedding - Carats and Cake Feature.png

    Well, you can find me doing a little happy dance today because Maggie + JR are featured on Carats + Cake today! I absolutely love reliving wedding days through blog posts, so I hope you'll take a little walk down memory lane with me as I share some of my favorite photos from Maggie + JR's gorgeous fall wedding.

    A big thank you to all the vendors who made Maggie + JR's wedding so magical:

    Planning + Design | The Graceful Host
    Photography |  Cheyenne Schultz Photography
    Floral Design | New Creations Flower Company
    Videography | Shamus Coneys films
    Ceremony + Reception Venue, Catering + Cake | Ritz Carlton Charlotte
    Reception Entertainment | Split Second Sound
    Rentals | Party Reflections
    Paper Goods | Pink Toast Ink
    Hair + Makeup | Charisse Holliday with Be Pretty
    Dress Boutique | Hayden Olivia Bridal
    Dress Designer | Hayley Paige
    Officiant | Reverend Rebecca Nagy

    Congratulations, Maggie + JR! I am so thrilled to have been a part of your special day!

    XO,
    A.

    Real Wedding + Featured: Southern Charm at Trump National Golf Course

     

    I am just over the moon to see Ellyn + William's wedding featured on Carats + Cake last week! It's about time I finally share photos from this gorgeous spring wedding we had the pleasure to plan + design. Get ready, y'all - you're about to meet two of the sweetest souls on Earth! Ellyn + William met at work, and after hanging out professionally for quite some time, they made it official with a date outside of work. And soon, this workplace meeting turned into an international love story, with William living outside the US. And after years of distance, they're finally together... and finally Mr. and Mrs.!

    Charlotte North Carolina Wedding, Trump National Golf Course Wedding, Lakeside wedding, Blush Ivory and Greenery Wedding Design, The Graceful Host

    Family is everything to Ellyn + William, so it was really important to make family a priority on their special day. The bridal party was made up of siblings and close friends, and the couples nieces and nephews joined in as (the most adorable!) flower girls and ring bearers. Each guest table at the reception was given a name that held special meaning to the bride + grooms families. And of course, there were special heirlooms incorporated into their love story. The groom now wears his grandfathers wedding band, the stone in the brides engagement ring is from her mother, and the charm on the bride's bouquet is in memory of her late father.

    The only way we can describe this wedding style is timeless elegance, with a whole lot of grace and Southern charm. The couple chose a classic color palette of ivory, greenery, and a soft blush. It was absolutely perfect for this spring, lakefront wedding. Ellyn + William actually chose Trump National Golf Club because of it's waterside location, as a nod to their love of being out on the water. And after the wedding, the newlyweds left the reception on the grooms family boat! Working with this sweet family was such a pleasure + an honor! I loved getting to be a part of this fabulous celebration!

    Huge thanks to our amazing vendor team, who helped give Ellyn + William the dreamiest wedding day!

    Wedding Planner + Designer: The Graceful Host
    Photography: Old South Studios
    Reception Venue, Catering + Cake Design: Trump National Golf Club, Charlotte
    Floral Design: Lily Greenthumbs
    Ceremony Venue: Williamson’s Chapel United Methodist Church
    Ceremony + Cocktail Hour Musicians: Queen City Ensemble
    Reception Entertainment: Atlanta Showstoppers
    Hair: Mirror Bomb Studio
    Makeup: Erin Ashley Makeup
    Lounge Furniture: Old South Vintage Rentals
    Draping, Lighting, Staging, Linens: Party Reflections
    Rentals: Cooke Rentals
    Linens: Nuage Designs
    Wedding Dress Designer: Mikaella Bridal
    Wedding Dress Boutique: J Majors Bridal Boutique
    Bridesmaid Dresses: BHLDN
    Groom + Groomsmen Attire: Mens Warehouse

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    Thank you Ellyn + William for allowing us to be a part of your special day! It was such an honor to witness your gorgeous day + to celebrate you both! Wishing you a lifetime of happiness as you begin this next chapter in your lives!

    XO,
    A.