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.


#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!

How to Create a Wedding Website

Invitation Suite by Elisabeth Rose | Photography by Lauren Rosenau Photography

Invitation Suite by Elisabeth Rose | Photography by Lauren Rosenau Photography

There is no doubt we live in a digital age. And while that little fact can bring on it's own issues, it's also proven to be helpful in the wedding world. Don't get me wrong - paper invitations and RSVPs are considered proper etiquette for weddings. But wedding websites are rising in popularity - and necessity! With most weddings being a destination for guests, a website is an important piece of the puzzle to ensure wedding information is properly communicated and in some cases expanded upon. Save the dates and wedding invitations are for informing your guests about the time and place of your celebration. You should include additional cards with your invitation suite for other information, such as an accommodation card or direction card. Or you could just simplify it and include an additional card with your wedding website, and let the website guide your guests to all the additional information not communicated with your invitation that they'll need about your wedding weekend, such as dress code, transportation, and registry information.

Wedding websites should be something each couple creates for their wedding weekend. But how do you do it?! We create a complimentary custom wedding website for each of our couples, with a custom URL to go with it. (See the photo above from Angela + Charlie's wedding.) Here are some tips on how to create your wedding website and what all you should include.

1. Do purchase your own domain. It's inexpensive and convenient! Make it something easy your guests can remember, like your names. But don't include this on your actual invitation. It should be printed on an accompanying card, such as an accommodation card.

2. Don't be intimidated about building your own website. There are plenty of websites that offer wedding website templates - Squarespace, Weebly, etc. They're easy to figure out and easy to customize. Minted actually offers wedding websites that match your wedding invitation suite.

3. Do let your guests know about the area attractions. Your out of town guests are going to want to experience the city where you're getting married through your eyes. So, create a tab where you share all your favorite restaurants, bars, and sights. Don't forget to include the contact information, like the website, physical address and phone number. 

4. Do share your registry information through your website. You should never include registry information in any of your invitations. So add a tab for your wedding registry on your website and link out to your wedding registry lists.

5. Don't feel like you need to share everything on your website. Keep it simple. The most important details to include is the when and where of the wedding, accommodations in the area, transportation, travel information, and registry locations. If you want to include a story about how you met and/or how you got engaged, then feel free... After all it is your wedding website! But don't feel like you need to include every little detail about your relationship and your bridal party on your website. Think of the wedding website as an extension of your invitation where you provide a bit more detail about the wedding weekend. Keep the wedding website focused on the events of the wedding weekend so that you can ensure that guests won't miss any details.

6. Do be mindful of what information you include on your wedding website. Yes there will be a rehearsal dinner, but if all your guests are not invited then it shouldn't go on your wedding website. Consider the website a place where you communicate information to everyone; not just family and vip guests. So if one of your room blocks is earmarked for family and bridal party only because there is limited availability, don't include it on the website or in your invitation suite. Share that information privately through email or word of mouth. You should include things like a welcome party or farewell brunch, where all your guests are invited to attend. And you can use the website to allow guests to RSVP to these additional events.

7. Don't skip the paper RSVPs. Your website might have an RSVP function available, but please do not go all digital for your wedding RSVPs. I know, I know you don't want to pay for the RSVP card, envelope and postage, and this feels like a great area to save money. Remember, not all your guests will be Internet-savvy. And guests aren't very pro-active - they like things to be easy! So asking them to write their name, check a box, and put a pre-stamped envelope in the mail (which is already in their hand upon opening the invitation) is less steps than telling them to get online, type in a website, and RSVP. So, if you do plan to offer a digital RSVP option through your wedding website, you should still include an RSVP card with your invitation suite and just simply add a sentence at the bottom saying, "You may also reply by way of our wedding website:" 

We are quoted on InStyle Weddings today giving some wedding website tips alongside other wedding pros. Check it out for even more tips and how-to advice!

What do you think of wedding websites? Are you planning to create your own wedding website? We want to know! :)



How To Set a Table


With Thanksgiving right around the corner, chances are you'll be setting the table with all the fancy china you would never use for just any ol' Thursday with family and friends. And I bet Google will see a surge in questions like "which side of the plate does the fork go on?". Well have no fear, friends! Because we're here to share some place setting etiquette to get you ready for Turkey Day!

how to set a table - the graceful host - place setting help

All table top decor is from Crate and Barrel: Plates, Wine Glasses, Water Glasses, Silverware
Lettering by The Graceful Host

Happy Thanksgiving! May your tables be beautiful, your bellies be satisfied, and your hearts full!



For Better or Worse, Your Guests Will Remember These Details


Here's the scenario: the love of your life has just proposed and you said yes! Now you're thrown into the exciting adventure called wedding planning. In the weeks and months following, you'll begin to plan for your special day. You'll quickly start to ask yourself questions like "do we need that...?" or "will anyone even notice if...?". And the answers to your questions may vary. Your wedding planner will help you determine what you need and how to make sure your money is best spent. That's our job, right?!

Yesterday, over on Style Me Pretty, I shared a few can't miss details that your guests will definitely notice! These are the details that impact your guest experience - transportation, menu selections, & even the cake! 

Charlotte Wedding Planner - The Graceful Host - Style Me Pretty - Wedding Planning Tips

If you're in the middle of wedding planning, or even if you just slipped that gorgeous ring on your finger - you don't want to miss these tips! See the full feature on Style Me Pretty. 

I saw a few reader comments say things like "so basically thats everything". And to that I say, no not everything. (Trust me, I haven't even mentioned most of what is on a typical checklist for a wedding!) Planning a wedding requires a lot of details and a lot of coordination. Remember: you're planning a large scale event, not a dinner party at your home. You can expect a lot of these important details to be woven together. For example, the venue you select will determine your transportation needs and will also dictate your decor. You should pick your venues wisely. If you're on a budget or planning a wedding when the weather might not be favorable (i.e. it's freezing outside or dark out), then you should consider a venue that is near guest accommodations and would have an option for both ceremony and reception all at the same location. Trust your wedding planner to find solutions for you and to help you prioritize the important details of the day so that you spend your money where it matters!

Thank you for the interview, SMP! :)



Featured: Creating Wedding Welcome Boxes


There truly is no better way to kick off a celebratory weekend than with a welcome box filled with the Bride and Groom's favorite sips and treats, packaged with care for their family and friends who have travelled near and far to join in the fun of the wedding weekend. Every couple wants their guests to feel appreciated and we know that traveling to weddings can be expensive. So I encourage my Brides and Grooms to budget for welcome boxes rather than a wedding favor because it's a better use of their money and makes a bigger impact in the guest experience. 

I love doing welcome boxes with my clients because it's a great way to greet guests! Don't be afraid to personalize your welcome boxes with your wedding colors, favorite treats (local treats are a plus!), a note of thanks and welcome, and something fun to drink! It's a great way to give a taste of what is to come - maybe you add in cake pops in your wedding cake flavors or include some custom made koozies they can use at the wedding. Welcome boxes show your guests that you went the extra mile to welcome them to your wedding weekend and that you can't wait to see them soon. 

We partnered with Carolina Bride to create a welcome box full of some local goodies. It's in the latest issue of Carolina Bride, on newsstands now! Huge thanks to Caroline Portillo and Brianna Crane at Carolina Bride and also to Belva Barringer for her photography!

welcome box inspiration - the graceful host - charlotte wedding planner

We love using local creatives to create welcome boxes! Big, big thanks to:
Elisabeth Rose - Paper Goods
Hey Sugar Shop - Truffles and Cookies
Wow Factor Cakes - Cake Pops
Amelie's French Bakery - Macaroons
Honey Silks & Co - Silk Ribbons
When creating your welcome boxes, don't forget to look in your own backyard for vendors who can help you fill your box with lots of goodies. Votive candles, koozies, chocolates, cookies, candies, drinks - Charlotte (or your city!) has pretty much anything you can think of! Shop local! :)

And here are a few of our favorite welcome boxes we've created for clients over the years!

Photography Credits (Top, L to Bottom R): Lauren Rosenau Photography, Capture Me Candid Photography, Lauren Rosenau Photography, Lauren Rosenau Photography, Crystal Stokes Photography, iPhone)

As you can see, Cheerwine is always a favorite for couples wanting to give their guests a taste of the Carolinas! How will you personalize your wedding welcome box?!



6 Non-Traditional Items You Should Add To Your Wedding Registry

When it comes to wedding registries, there are always questions: What do we need to register for exactly? Where should I register? How do I even start creating a registry? Registries can be confusing and overwhelming, but it shouldn't be! They should be a fun way for you and your future spouse to think about your future lives together - whether you're starting from scratch, or you already live together - and how you'll build your home. Of course there are some "must haves" when putting your registry list together. Things like china, kitchenware, & household goods are always popular - and let's face it, always needed! But how do you craft a wedding registry that you'll love and that reflects your personal style? Some couples get nervous about veering off the path of tradition, but I'm going to share with you 6 non-traditional items that should make you reconsider the road less traveled!

a.) A DSLR Camera
You're going to be honeymooning after your fabulous wedding. Ditch the iPhone and opt for a real camera to snap those memories of you and your spouse! Photo credit: beginner level DSLR, pictured is the Nikkon D3300

b.) Frames for a Gallery Wall
Couples invest in professional wedding photography to capture their memories. So it only makes sense that you consider displaying those happy memories proudly once you get your photos back for all who enter your home to see! It's so important to remember to print your memories. Just think about all the butterfly feelings you'll have looking at them each and every day! Photo credit: pictured is Framebridge via Haute Off The Rack.

c.) Bar Cart & Accessories
I don't know about you but after I got married I had a huge urge to host every party under the sun. What can I say - I love planning parties! ;) It's traditional to register for serving ware, dishes, glasses, etc. But what about your bar? Make sure you're ready for your first hostess gig with all the necessary equipment - and maybe a cute, stylish bar cart to display it all! Photo credit: Pintrest via Lydi Out Loud

d.) A Juicer
File this under a must have kitchen item! If you haven't discovered the joys of juicing, you're missing out. From fresh squeezed OJ for mimosas with brunch to a healthy serving of veggie/fruit juice for breakfast - the possibilities with this handy kitchen tool is endless. Photo credit: Jack LaLanne electric juicer via Target.

e.) An Ice Cream Maker
Who wouldn't want to make fresh ice cream every night? Okay, well maybe not every night - that would be counterproductive to the healthy juice you made earlier! But think about how fun it will be to make all sorts of yummy ice cream varieties with your sweetie, and one day your children. Talk about sweet memories. Photo credit: Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker via William Sonoma

f.) Herb Garden
You've registered for all the cookware and kitchenware under the sun, right? Well, now it's time to start cooking! An herb garden is a fun project for both you and your spouse to enjoy. I know in our home, we play "how long can we keep this plant alive" often. Not only will it add color, foliage, and fragrance to your home but it will add lots of flavor to your dishes! Photo credit: via House Beautiful - a perfect Ikea hack project!


Your friends and family ultimately want to buy you something that will make you happy. Take comfort in the fact that you can't really mess up a wedding registry. Remember that variety is key so that you can offer your guests different price points, and consider shopping at 2-3 stores. Any more than 3 and it gets a bit excessive. There are great websites like Zola that allows you to combine your registry from various shops in one convenient list for guests. But I wouldn't skip registering at each individual store. When it comes to getting the additional money off after your wedding has come and gone, you're going to want to make sure you've registered with that store in order to reap that benefit! So happy shopping, y'all!


Bringing Your Inspiration Board to Life

I'm excited to have had the chance to be a guest blogger for Kory Woodard today! We are talking all about creating inspiration boards and how you can bring your ideas into reality. Ever wonder how designers and planners start the design process?! It all begins with an inspiration board! I'm a big fan of using inspiration boards for all sorts of projects, but when it comes to planning an event, they're a big ol' must for organizing your thoughts and creating style boundaries. See some of my tips for creating your own inspiration board and see how you can bring your ideas to life!

Click here to view the full post, full of helpful tips and advice to get you started! And I want to extend a big thank you to Kory for asking me to be a part of her blog today! Check out her beautiful branding + design work, here!


Thursday Tips: How to Jump Start Your Wedding Planning

There's a reason why the word "wedding planning" has become synonymous with words like "stressful" or "headache". An engagement is full of joy and anticipation! But the journey to the alter can be a difficult path to navigate. I love sharing planning advice with brides! Which is why each month, I'll be sharing different tips related to wedding planning, logistics, & design.

With 33% of engagements happening between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, January is full of hustle and bustle for those in the wedding industry! It's an exciting time for newly engaged couples who are looking to lock in a wedding date as the fun of planning for their big day begins. The most common planning challenge that I hear from couples is that they just don't know how to start. Well, why would you? It's not like you've ever planned a wedding before - and even if you have, then you know that it's a big undertaking! So take the added pressure off yourself and know that this is going to be a learning process for you and your fiancé. After you say "yes", here are the top three things you should do next! (Hint, hint: Besides hiring a wedding planner, of course! ;))

It's so important to set boundaries before you can even begin planning for your wedding. Be sure to start a conversation with your fiancé and families about the budget. Yes, money is an uncomfortable topic for everyone, but you will need to know your spending limits before you book a venue or any vendors. It will lead to less heartache, trust me! And while you're all sitting down together, it would be a great opportunity to brainstorm the guest list. I mean, how can you know what size venue to consider if you don't know how many guests you'll be expecting? Or how can you get an estimate from the caterer if you don't know how many meals to plan for? Lastly, have at least three potential wedding dates in mind as you start to search for vendors and venues. Securing a venue and/or wedding planner first will help you lock in your wedding date and jump start your planning process. It seems small, I know, but having these core details figured out prior to booking any vendors will help you save lots of time! 

Of course every couple's planning timeframe and desired engagement length is different - and there are no two weddings that are alike! (Fun Fact: Brides generally reserve our planning services an average of 12-14 months in advance.) It's still helpful to have a general idea of when you can expect to cross off certain items from your to-do list. A wedding planner will help you with all of the big decisions, little details and everything in between. They will also help you create a timeline that is personalized to you and your fiancé, and help you stick to it. From experience as both a planner and a bride, I can tell you that 99% of your anxiety and stress will come from the "unknown". Things like not knowing what you're supposed to do and when; or being unsure as to what's most important or necessary are all common feelings among brides. I don't want you to feel that way! There's no need to feel anxious or stressed - you just need the right tools. (My brides receive a welcome package full of goodies to help them plan for their wedding, all aimed to help manage their anxiety and feelings of being overwhelmed) So, I wanted to provide you with a very important tool - a planning wedding planning timeline and checklist! You can download the free printable, here. I hope you find it helpful to jump start your planning!


2015 Bridal Boutique Sales and Trunk Shows

It's no secret that many brides get engaged during the holiday season. It's also no secret that towards the end of the year you'll find lots of great sales and opportunities to find the perfect wedding dress. We are so lucky to have lots of amazing bridal boutiques in the Charlotte, North Carolina area that offer brides a wide range of gorgeous designer gowns! If you haven't found your dream dress just yet, be sure to take advantage of the upcoming events and make an appointment to find your dream gown. At each of these boutiques, you'll be met with an incredible selection of dresses and expert customer service! Don't miss any of these fabulous events!

J. Major's Bridal Boutique

Don't miss the huge winter sample sale going on at J.Major's located in the heart of Dilworth on Saturday, December 27 from 10am to 2pm! You'll find designer wedding dresses from Alvina Valenta, Augusta Jones, Aria, and Amy Kuschel to name a few. You won't need to make an appointment, but it's best to come early because it's first come, first serve ... and select designer gowns are marked off between 30%-90%! This is a great chance to get a beautiful gown that you've no doubt been eyeing on Pintrest at an amazing price! During this event, you'll also be able to find bridesmaid dresses on discount, too.

Another great event at J. Major's Bridal Boutique that brides-to-be cannot miss is the Carolina Bride Book Pop-up Shop and Fashion Show on January 8 beginning at 6pm! You might have seen the Carolina Bride Book, which is the latest bridal inspiration coffee table book that was recently published. Well, at this event, you'll have the chance to meet the authors of the Carolina Bride Book, as well as attend a runway show featuring wedding gowns by Erin Grey Couture. Oh, and did I mention that there will be yummy sweets and plenty of champagne on hand? Because thats a fact. Space is limited so you'll want to RSVP for this one. And the first 50 brides to RSVP will receive a special swag bag with goodies from Erin Grey Couture, Carolina Bride, and Aubree's Bridal. To RSVP call, (704) 372-0082.

Hayden Olivia Bridal

After the New Year, a number of trunk shows will be visiting Hayden Olivia's beautiful boutique. The Marisa Trunk Show will be January 15 through 17 and feature their beautiful Spring 2015 collection. The Blush by Hayley Paige Trunk Show will also feature their stunning Spring 2015 collection and will be in the salon the following weekend, January 22 through 24. Then, Hayden Olivia will round out the month with a Monique Lhuillier Bliss Trunk Show January 29 through 31. Appointments for trunk shows are always limited, so it's best to call in advance to reserve your spot! Trunk shows are a great time to try on those designer gowns you've been eying, and many times you'll find custom change options, price incentives, or even a trunk show/event discount. From time to time, you'll also find the gown designers will join in on the fun and attend the trunk show to offer their expertise. Be sure to call to schedule your appointment, (704) 333-0377.

Bellissima Of Salisbury

This amazing bridal boutique is worth the drive outside of the Charlotte metro-area. Belissima of Salisbury will have a huge sample sale just after the New Year, on January 3, 2015 from 10am to 2pm. You'll find countless gorgeous designer gowns at deep discounts - up to 75% off the sticker price. Again, another incredible opportunity to get a designer wedding gown at a price that won't blow your wedding budget. You'll definitely want to reserve your spot well in advance for this sample sale. To do so, you can send an email to, or call them at (704) 754-5330.

Brides definitely won't want to miss all of the trunk shows coming to the boutique in the New Year! The very popular Robert Bullock Bride Trunk Show will be at Bellissima January 17 through 24. Their entire 2015 Spring Collection will be on hand for the whole week. Another great trunk show event happening at Bellissima of Salisbury will be the Kelly Faetanini Trunk Show, February 6 through 14. And Bellissima is actually the only bridal boutique in North Carolina to carry this designer! Schedule an appointment for either trunk show event to reserve your spot by calling (704) 754-5330. 

Nitsa's Apparel 

You definitely won't want to miss any of the fantastic trunk shows making their way to Nitsa's Apparel, located in South Park at the Phillips Place shopping center. The Amsale Trunk Show will be at the Charlotte salon December 31, 2104 through January 3, 2015. Then Erin Cole Trunk Show will be visiting the following weekend, January 9 through 10. The Alyne Trunk Show will be at the boutique January 30 through 31. And then the Victor Harper Trunk Show will be in town February 6 through 7. Nitsa's Apparel also has a bridal salon at their Winston Salem retail location, and you can find more information about upcoming trunk shows and events for that location by clicking here. Space for each of these amazing events will be limited, so you'll want to call Nitsa's in advance to schedule an appointment for any of these amazing designer trunk shows by calling (704) 940-1999.

I hope each of you beautiful brides looking to find your dream wedding dress can find success at one of these incredible bridal boutiques. I can't recommend these four bridal boutiques enough!


The Perfect Bridesmaid Gifts

Much like your beau, your girl friends are with you through thick and thin, better and worse.  After you've asked your bestie to stand by your side for the big day, treat them with a special thank you gift. Since I have many brides who ask for advice on what to get their bridal party, I thought I'd share a few of my favorite gift ideas for your bridesmaids.


Buying Guide: 1. Gift them professional hair and/or makeup services | 2. Jewelry to go with their dress, like these adorable earrings | 3. A robe or t-shirt for getting ready in the suite before the ceremony | 4. Bridesmaid tote bag to keep all their belongings together as you go throughout the day | 5. Travel or cosmetic bag, because can you ever have too many?! | 6. A monogram clutch to take to the reception | 7. Stylish flip flops for dancing all night long | 8. Cute personalized koozies perfect for the bachelorette party and wedding weekend festivities


Featured: Easy Entertaining

Thank you to Lake Norman Magazine for asking some advice for easy entertaining this holiday season! Hosting a party is without a doubt one of my favorite things to do! The party planning process can be very overwhelming and the day of the party is usually full of organized chaos, but why not try some of these great tips this year so that you can a Graceful Host!



How To Plan A Wedding Menu

Brides and grooms always have dozens and dozens of questions around catering! I can't blame them, really, when there are a lot of choices and so many different ways you can go about planning a wedding reception menu. I think one of the most daunting tasks of wedding planning for brides and grooms is creating the perfect menu. Many of my couples aren't sure how to wrap their minds around catering and menu planning. So, where do you begin? How do you choose a caterer? What style of menu is right for your wedding? How in the world do I keep the food budget under control? There are so many questions to be answered! I've asked Catherine Luckadoo with Something Classic Catering & Cafes to give some expert advice on how to plan a wedding menu and to provide some insight into choosing the right caterer for your wedding.


Q: When first starting to plan for your wedding reception menu/food, what is the best piece of advice you can give to a bride and groom? What should they know going into this part of wedding planning so that they don't get overwhelmed and frustrated, or make too many costly mistakes? A: It's your day so make it a menu YOU like!  Choose items that reflect your personalities, cultures, and relationship with each other.  If you are from very different regions, select items that represent both areas.  If you love to eat pizza together, choose a small mini pizza as one of your butlered hors d'oeuvres for cocktail hour.  If you got engaged over cheesecake, incorporate cheesecake into your desserts.  Use food tags to identify why you chose some of the selections.  The more your menu reflects the two of you, the better.  Have fun with picking your menu and trust your caterer to help guide you with quantities and balancing the menu selections.

Q: Are there any specific food items, food genres, and/or serving styles that you would recommend to couples looking to plan a menu on a budget? A: Steer clear of a plated dinner if you are on a tight budget.  The food itself is not necessarily the most expensive option but the service required to execute a seated dinner - to get your guests served quickly and efficiently - is about 5% higher. A simple buffet is generally the most cost effective.  And a pasta buffet is typically the most economical way to really fill up your guests and keep them happy.


Q: The big debate: station style menu vs. a plated meal. From a catering perspective, can you give one or two pro(s) and con(s) of each menu style? A: Variety is the spice of life as they say, so the more variety, the better chance you have of pleasing all of your guests with varying tastes.  A stations menu allows you more selection.  Keep in mind it is also a little less structured so there is a slightly less formal feel to how it is presented and served.  A seated menu can be more time effective if you want to get your guests fed quickly and get on with the party!  It is also a little more formal in the fact that your guests are being served directly to their tables.  The major con, I would say, is that it is a lot more work for you.  Unless you plan to serve all of your guests the same meal, you have to keep track and organize everyone's meal selections from their RSVP cards to turn in to your caterer.

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Q: What are some of your favorite wedding menu/food trends that you’ve seen lately?
A: It’s all about “small plates” right now. Guests love the cute and clever presentation of their own petite dish full of fun and unique flavors. The small plates we are using at Something Classic these days are everything from an actual small plate, a mini cast iron skillet, a ceramic Asian spoon, a shot glass, a bamboo steamer pot, an espresso cup, and a petite mason jar, to name just a few.  You can take what would ordinarily be a rather uninteresting raw vegetable display, for example, and turn it into something fun and enticing by placing those same vegetables and dips in a little personal mason jar.

Q: Let's break down a wedding menu. How do you recommend brides and grooms plan a wedding menu so that it's balanced and appealing to all their guests? 
A: Let your caterer and wedding planner help guide you - and don't be afraid to ask for help.  No one expects you to know how to plan a perfect wedding menu.  Start by making a list of your dream selections and then your caterer can help ensure that it is balanced, well rounded, and cost effective.

Q: There are so many dietary restrictions these days, and all brides want their guests to be well-fed and comfortable. So, when planning a menu for your reception, how many options is enough and what suggestions do you have for accommodating guests dietary restrictions, while keeping costs in mind?
A: Don't get too bogged down in this one but it is, in fact, very considerate to try to accommodate the dietary restrictions of your guests as much as possible.  It is probably the easiest to do when you are planning a seated dinner and guests have the option of notating their restrictions on the response cards.  On the other hand, as I mentioned previously, the more variety you offer, the more chance you have of providing something for everyone. At Something Classic, we like to provide attractive menu cards to place by all of the food so that guests know what they are eating and can avoid anything that is not preferable (or not safe) for them to eat.  Ask if your caterer will provide those and if not, you may want to consider printing your own.


Q: What are the top three things you should be on the look out for/consider when going into a menu tasting?
A: So in all honesty, this is a bit of a hot button topic for me and probably for many caterers.  Every company does tastings differently and many do not offer them at all. Let me start by saying, I totally get it.  I was a bride once too and I wanted a tasting to be sure we had made great selections.  But I was told that they didn't offer tastings and that I could visit their restaurant instead.  I was disappointed, but I had lunch there and was relieved to find the quality was excellent and I could rest assured my guests would be happy with anything we chose.  And they were! There is a misconception out there that every couple should get a five course tasting just for considering a catering company.  If we offered that to all interested couples, it is all would spend our days doing. Tastings are expensive and incredibly time consuming and labor intensive for chefs, and so we reserve them for our clients who have booked our services.  For those who are not comfortable booking without a tasting, we offer three options: excellent references, several restaurants owned by our company to give our clients an idea of the quality of our food, and we do offer a tasting at a fee to clients who have not signed a contract (which is waived if they move forward with our team).

All of this being said, if you are having a tasting, these are the things you will want to keep in mind:

1.) Accept trying any food offered even if it is not what is specifically on your menu.  It will at least give you a good feel for the quality coming out of the catering kitchen. 2.) Understand that unless you are working with a restaurant, tasting hours may be very limited.  Catering chefs work very long hours and weekends so they typically have small windows during the work week to produce tastings on a smaller scale.  You may need to take time off of work to attend. 3.) Keep in mind that caterers serve the masses.  While our food quality is excellent no matter how many guests we are serving, I have found that what is being prepared for the two of you to try at your tasting may not translate exactly the same on your wedding day when it has been prepared for 150 guests. 4.) Have fun with it!  The best part of your tasting is getting to experience the excitement and anticipation of your wedding day together. Don't take it too seriously and get bogged down too much in the details.

I leave you with this: Food is important and with it being a huge portion of the cost on your wedding day and a very big part of entertaining your guests, I completely understand why it can feel like a stressful decision.  But it doesn't have to be and it shouldn't be!  Find a caterer who loves what they do - it should be evident from the start.  If your coordinator is excited about your wedding, that will go a long way in the service your receive from the whole catering team throughout the planning process and on your wedding day.  Our head chef, David Clarke, tells us all the time upon receiving complements on his food, "We just put a little love in it".  If you find a caterer who will do just that, you will be in great shape.

Eat, drink, and be MARRIED!

XO, Catherine


Huge thanks to Catherine at Something Classic for giving such great advice and insight into planning a great wedding menu that will please your guests - and your budget! I know wedding planning can seem overwhelming for couples - and planning a menu can feel nearly impossible. But, if you hire a professional and licensed caterer, you cannot go wrong! Trust them and their experience, and you'll have a delicious night your guests will enjoy. Happy planning, y'all!


Everything You've Ever Wondered About a First Look

Oh the first look. Arguably one of the biggest debates among weddings today is this question of: to do a first look? Or, to not do a first look?  And, you can probably make a sound argument for either side.  As a wedding planner (and former bride!), I have a strong stance on this topic.  But, I wanted to bring in a pro to also weigh in with her professional opinion and view points.  I've asked Charlotte wedding photographer, Crystal Stokes of Crystal Stokes Photography to help me answer common questions and clear up some misconceptions about the first look.

1. Let's start with the basics.  What is a first look? It is a private moment between the bride and groom prior to the wedding ceremony.  The photographer and videographer are the only other individuals around to capture this intimate meeting when you get to see your soon-to-be spouse for the very first time.  It's usually a bit staged so that the photographer and videographers can have the chance to capture your reactions as you see each other.  Basically, my clients will trust me to seek out a beautiful location for this moment to happen, and I do my absolute best to get them away from the crowd so they can be alone in this moment together.  Typically, I will place the groom somewhere with his back to the bride, and she will approach him and either tap him on the shoulder, or ask him to turn around to see her.

 2. Why do a first look? What are the pros?  A first look is advantageous for brides and grooms who want to get formal photos taken care of quickly.  The first look is helpful in a couple of ways.  Not only does it give the couple the opportunity to join the cocktail hour or reception more quickly, in order to enjoy the reception longer and to spend time with their guests who all travelled in to celebrate with them.  But, most importantly, it can also ensure that a couple doesn't run out of day light so that they can take all the photos they want out of their day.  A first look also will typically give a photographer more time to do what I like to call the "romantic shots".  You know, the ones that when you finally get your wedding photos back you immediately search for while skipping the others because at the end of the day, your wedding is about your marriage and the person you are committing to spend forever with - and having extra time to create those beautiful photos is really incredible and valuable! Another big pro is that the first look helps couples remain calm on the wedding day.  Nerves can often get the best of people on their wedding day, and I've seen those nerves settle on multiple occasions when the bride and groom were able to hold each other before one of the biggest moments of their life.  It really is a beautiful thing!

First Look - Crystal Stokes Photography
First Look - Crystal Stokes Photography

3. But, won't doing a first look ruin the big reveal? It won't feel as special when the ceremony time comes because we've already spoiled the surprise. I do not think that the first look ruins the big reveal.  There is something so beautiful and fresh and life altering that happens the moment a groom sees his bride walking down the aisle during the ceremony, among loved ones, for the first time. Perhaps he just saw her moments before the wedding, but that doesn't change the magical moment that happens when their eyes met moments before becoming man and wife.

 4. Any other advice you have to share with brides on the topic of a first look? Or anything you want to share with brides to help demystify the first look debate? A first look is a wonderful thing, and I believe that it really depends on what you want from your wedding day and the timeline you want to keep.  I know some couples want to remain very traditional - and I've noticed that the groom more often than the bride wants to wait until the walk down the aisle!  And, if tradition is a top priority, then I never push to change that. However, if a bride is on the fence about which direction to go, I absolutely let them know the benefits of a first look.

I wanted to add a little something, too!  Brides, I echo and want to further explain my personal and professional preference for the first look.  I have never met a photographer that did not prefer a couple to do first look. That is a fact!  I can tell you from experience being a bride that it does not in any way ruin that special moment at the church when you're walking towards your groom.  For me, I got to experience those butterflies and have a whole new rush of emotion all over again once the church doors opened!  I've seen brides visibly become calmer and more natural once they got to see and touch their groom.  The first look is meant to be an intimate time where you can take a deep breath together, and really take a moment to pause for just one little minute on one of the biggest days of your life to take the chance to soak it all in with your guy by your side.  Oh, it's such a special time - I really can't sing it's praises enough!  Brides always want to see their grooms reaction when they finally see them in their beautiful gown for the first time.  A lot of times you get a more genuine and natural reaction from grooms during the first look vs. waiting until the ceremony because they can let their guard down within that private moment and not feel like their whole family (and yours!) are staring at him waiting for him to react to his beautiful bride. Talk about pressure!  First look photos continue to be some of my favorite from the wedding day.  As a planner, I advocate for a first look because it helps with the timeline SO much! Like Crystal said, the photos you want to frame and hang on your wall, to send out as Christmas cards, to show your children one day, etc. are the photos of you and your groom! So, why not make that a priority by getting those coveted photos taken first so that you can be sure that you do not lose any time.  Things happen on a wedding day, and although we do our best as planners to control the schedule, I can't control family members that walk away before photos are complete, or unforeseen distractions that push the timeline back.  All of that being said, it's your day and no one will (or should!) ever force you to do something. However, your vendors are professionals that have done this a time or two, so they are giving you advice based on experience.

Thanks so much for bringing your viewpoint as a photographer to this fun debate, Crystal!  For more information about a first look, check out this helpful video explanation from Every Last Detail, this rather humorous explanation from The Knotty Bride, and this article about wedding day photography from The Knot - check out number 9, y'all.

But, I really want to hear from you! Brides - are you considering a first look? What's your hesitation and/or concerns? And, former brides - let's hear your experience! Did you do it? Did you skip it?


All Eyes on the Bride: Wedding Day Hair + Makeup

This post is part of a series of real questions, from real brides.  Do you have a question about wedding planning, or any part of the process? Ask me! I want to answer YOUR questions. To submit your questions, email me at

Question: What do I need to know about wedding day hair and makeup? Is there something special that I need to do to prepare for the big day?

There is a whole lot of planning that goes into a wedding day.  And as a bride, I'm sure you're very much aware of your ever growing to-do list.  But, as you're carefully planning every last detail for your big day, it's important not to overlook a big part of your wedding - hair and makeup!  On the biggest day of your life, you want to look your best.  So, leave the beauty prep to a professional!  I've asked the oh-so-talented Kymm McLean from Who's The Fairest? to weigh in on some frequently asked bridal beauty questions.

Wedding Day Hair and Makeup

1. What's your biggest advice to brides regarding a wedding beauty regimen? Keep it simple and don't stray from your regular routine. Definitely don't try anything new the week of your wedding! Unless you've tried it before and had good results, don't try it the week of your wedding - especially the day before your wedding. This includes waxing, facials, microdermabrasion, new cosmetic brands, new hair stylist, tanning, and many more. Anything that could potentially end in error, should be avoided.

2. The bride wakes up on her wedding day with a huge zit! Yikes! What's your recommendation to girls that have breakouts as the wedding day approaches and/or on the big day? A pimple is usually the result of excess oil getting trapped in the pore; however it can also be caused by hormonal imbalances caused by stress.  Since a pimple is just one little small area, there is no need to treat your entire face with strong products or medication. The best treatment is a spot treatment product for that one area: Boo Boo Zap!, Yes To TomatoesAcne Free are some great options.  You can also go by a medi-spa and get it "zapped" with a high frequency implement - don't worry, it's painless and takes only seconds - which will help speed up the drying/healing process.

3. What beauty service(s) should every bride absolutely, without exception, have on her wedding day? Certainly, makeup and hair.  Unless the brides hair is very short or naturally very curly and she is wearing it naturally.

4. What do you recommend all brides should do the morning of their wedding? The bride wakes up and then what are the first few things she should do before starting to get ready? Stick to your normal routine.  There is peace in familiarity, and feeling normal on your wedding day is important to keep the stress level at a minimum.  And, if bride had a little too much fun the night before, then hydrating is key.  Don't forget to eat breakfast and lunch - eating as well is important.  I see a lot of brides with nervous stomachs so keeping an antacid handy is also a great idea.

5. What is airbrush makeup? Do recommend this for bridal makeup? Airbrushing makeup is formulated to spray through a gun that sprays in tiny micronized droplets.  It "lays" on the skin, so it accentuates fine hairs, texture and pores.  And when your skin moves, it tends to "crackle" since the formulations tend to have a shellac finish to them. The product itself is very expensive with a very short shelf life, so once they expire, it separates and smells rotten. The airbrush machines are loud, bulky and difficult to transport, too.  They often clog which is a disaster because it takes a lot of time to disassemble them to clean and put back together.  (Precious time not available during a wedding beauty session.)  Also, the foundation may be self setting but you still need to set with a finishing powder to get a matte finish for photos - so what's the point of airbrushing?  You can't spray the eyes or lips so you still have to transport and apply traditional makeup, so again, what's the point?  I find it much more effective to apply a foundation with a brush and buff it into the skin so it looks like a part of the natural finish, and then setting with powder for a beautiful velvet finish.

6. What's something you wish all brides knew about wedding/bridal hair and/or makeup? Brides should book hair and makeup with a professional that schedules a practice session, so on the actual day, there are no surprises.  Aside from this, it's important that the bride work with someone that listens to her and finds out her daily makeup routine, her lifestyle and her exceptions on wedding day.  And, that professional should be able to incorporate those aspects while also achieving a style that photographs beautifully, lasts all day and night, and most importantly - makes the bride feel like she looks like herself, but just a bit more glamorous!

Thank you so much, Amanda, for the great question! Do you have a question about wedding planning that you’d like answered?  Email your question to


You're Engaged! Now what?

Congratulations on your engagement! I hope you've celebrated with friends and family, and you have popped more champagne than you could have ever imagined. It's important to soak in every single minute. After all, this is a huge milestone in your lives, as well as an exciting time for both your families. Your time as an engaged couple will fly by, so I encourage couples to do everything they possibly can to savor this special time in their relationship and to really enjoy planning for their special day.

It's no secret among anyone who's been there that engagements are full of emotion. Like, I'm talking a roller coaster ride full of emotions. Of course, the experience is different for everyone, but the basic emotions tend to be the same. First (and most importantly!), there's the extreme happiness knowing that you'll be spending the rest of your life with your best friend, experiencing all that life has to offer side-by-side. But, then once things settle down a bit you then start to think about actually planning for the wedding day, and you feel overwhelmed with where to even begin. Which can bring on the worry and fear that you want everything to be perfect, and for all of your guests to have fun at your reception, eating delicious food and partying all night long with a great band - but, how on Earth do you make this happen? There's the unique feeling of pure joy and anticipation when you finally find THE dress. There's the butterflies you feel as your wedding day get's closer and you arrive at your rehearsal realizing, "O-M-G. I'm actually getting married tomorrow!" And, of course all of the smiles and tears along the way. Regardless, it's a once in a lifetime experience that should be cherished and fun!

You're Engaged! Now What?

Pretty much every bride I come in contact with tells me the same thing - I have no idea where to begin with wedding planning. My response is, well why would you? I mean you've never planned a wedding before. So take some of that pressure off yourself and know that you're in the majority with that one - and, that's okay! Just like with anything else that is brand new to you, where you have no experience or information, research is key. You would do research before you buy a car, so why not do your research while planning for your wedding? It's pretty difficult to make a decision if you're not properly informed, so I encourage couples to do some reading - be a good consumer! - and look at real weddings so they have some sort of idea around the many, many, many options and decisions they're about to face.

So, you're engaged! Now what? Today, I'm sharing my top 3 recommendations to couples who are ready to start planning for their big day.

1. Determine your wedding planning budget. This is the biggest and most important step to getting started. I seriously cannot stress this enough, y'all. It can be a hard conversation to start, but it needs to happen before you can move forward with planning. If you don't outline a budget beforehand and know what you can spend, then how will you know how to make decisions? Once you have an overall budget set, a wedding planner can help you allocate your money so that you spend your budget in a smart and efficient way. Or your wedding planner can help you create a planning budget. Budget recommendations and tools from websites like The Knot can be helpful for some individuals, but it's not most. Each wedding is unique and each bride has her own set of priorities, so there is no such thing as a one size fits all wedding budget. That's where a wedding planner, someone who has an idea of what things actually cost, can help you budget your money efficiently so that all your needs are met. It's the first thing I do with my couples before moving on to step number 2.

2. Choose a few wedding dates. This can be tricky for busy couples, but it's important to have an idea of when you'd like to get married. Think of the time of year you'd like to get married and take into account things like national holidays, vacation time, family schedules, and yes, even things like sporting events/seasons and big conventions that can affect travel and/or accommodations. Once you've determined the time of year you'd like to tie the knot, then choose 2 to 3 dates - 1 date that is your first choice, but then 2 to 3 back-up dates incase the first date doesn't work out. Some venues can book up a year or two in advance! So, having those back-up dates outlined are good to have in your tool box, just in case. Then, you can tackle step number 3.

3. Get started on that guest list. Another difficult item on the checklists for brides and grooms, but one that will have a very big financial impact is the guest list. Long story short: the more people you invite, the more budget you will need to cover the cost of your guests. This is why setting a budget is an all too important first step. The number one way to cut costs when planning for your wedding is to cut your guest list. Obviously that can be difficult for couples with large families, but it's an important tip to remember when putting together a list of guests to invite to witness your marriage. If you need to be more budget conscious, consider inviting fewer guests to help keep costs low. There are a number of cost saving ways wedding planners can help couples who might want it all, but don't have the budget it afford it all.

Once you've checked off those three items from your list, then you can go on to look at venues and book wedding your vendors. If you're considering hiring a wedding planner, that should be the very first vendor you meet with after knocking out the steps above. Hiring a planner will give you the tools you need to have a stress-free, fun and organized experience planning for your wedding. A wedding planner is an important and valuable part of your wedding vendor team. The list of things a wedding planner handles for brides and grooms is not something a friend, mom, aunt or cousin can handle. For more information about getting started with planning your wedding and making some big decisions, I recommend starting here. Every wedding planner offers different services, and be sure to pay close attention to the wording being used - a wedding planner differs from a wedding coordinator. And not every wedding planner offers wedding design services. So if you're looking to hire a wedding planner, be sure to recognize the difference between the various types and choose the one that will serve you and your needs the best. You can read more about the various roles of wedding planners and coordinators: here and here and here.

The biggest tip I can give couples who are just starting to plan for their wedding is a simple concept at heart, but it can be hard to apply: "don't sweat the small stuff." Not everything will go as planned, not every dream will be realized, and it won't always be a fairy tale journey to the altar. But, who cares about any of that! The reason you're planning a wedding is to get married to the love of your life! As long as you two get married at the end of the day, then what else matters? So take it in stride if it rains on your wedding day and your outdoor ceremony is moved indoors. Don't stress out about the color of the napkins not being the same shade of pink as the flowers on the table. Let it roll off your back when family and/or friends give you grief over some of your decisions - it's your day, remember? And, look the other way when you realize that you don't have the budget for your favorite band AND a photo booth. None of that matters in the grand scheme of things.

You're engaged! Now start planning for your future together as Mr. and Mrs.! The Graceful Host offers full service wedding planning and design services - if you decide you need a little help. :) I'd love to talk to you about your wedding and see how I can help you plan for the best day ever. Come say hello!


Inspiration: Navy, White + Green

You may remember this wonderful couple from their engagement session over the summer with Lauren Rosenau Photography. Katie & Eric are set to wed next April at the Mint Museum Uptown - and, I seriously cannot wait to see these two get married!  Our first consult was actually one year from today. (I swear I'm not a creepy stalker ... I'm just a good note taker! And I was reading some pervious notes last week, when I realized our "one year anniversary" is today!)  From that very first meeting, we just clicked.  This post is starting to sound like I'm in love with these two - and, you'd be totally right to make that assumption. This girl is just so amazing, and we've had an absolutely blast planning for her wedding.  I thought today would be just perfect for sharing their wedding design inspiration. Katie can only be described as a Kate Spade bride. She loves clean lines, effortless style and chic patterns in all the right places.  With a color palette of navy blue, ivory and kelly green, I think even Kate herself would love what we've come up with.  I love the use of elements like geometric patterns and architecturally-inspired flowers mixed with clean and simple lines.  Brides often ask about mixing themes - and I say why not?!  I encourage taking elements or inspiration from a theme and, in some cases, altering it a bit to fit into a design plan in a cohesive way.  For this wedding design, we've taken a pretty traditional color palette and classic ideas but we infused a little modern flare in the execution through pops of graphic patterns and fun textures.  I always appreciate brides that are willing to take a few steps outside the box, and stretch their design comfort level to reach a whole new level of "wow".  I cannot wait to see this wedding unfold!  Take a peek at our inspiration, and let me know you what you think.


XO, A.

2014 Wedding Trend Predictions By The Graceful Host

It's hard to believe, but the 2014 wedding season is just around the corner. Each year trends emerge in fashion, which usually spills over into other areas such as home decor and weddings. After Bridal Market in NYC in October, we saw tons and tons of trends emerging through so many talented ateliers! In addition, Pantone has published their fashion color report for 2014. This report usually dictates color palette trends in the wedding industry, as well. I cannot tell you how much I love good design. Each fall I pay attention to each of these event and read up on industry predictions for 2014. Oh what a dream it would be to actually attend bridal market! I wish. But, for now, this wedding planner and designer is going to layout my favorite trends and predictions for 2014.

Wedding Dress Details

Laser Cut Detail

Probably one of my favorite trends for 2014 is the laser cut detailing. I think it's a very sexy and feminine detail. It's been all over fashion lately, and we've seen this amazing detail make its way over to weddings through paper goods, bridesmaids dresses, wedding dresses, and linens.

2014 Wedding Trends - Laser Cut Details

Pure Romance

I'm sure you could assume that weddings are a romantic affair by nature ... and it's true, they are. But, the colors trending for 2014 just scream romance! We can expect pastels to take the forefront in spring weddings for 2014. Although pink is a very common pastel (and wedding color), I think we'll see more dusty blue, lavender and pale green emerge over the traditional pink romance. The more vibrant colors brought to us by Pantone, such as dazzling blue, cayenne, and freesia, are gorgeous color staples that will complement their pastel counterparts perfectly. At the 2014 Fall Bridal Market we also saw shades of pastel all over from designers like Vera Wang, Romona Keveza and Watters.

2014 Wedding Trends - Pure Romance

The Wedding Dress - details, details, details

Speaking of wedding dresses - the wedding fashion from 2014 Bridal Market was nothing short of stunning! This is my absolute favorite topic to talk about - I love, love, love bridal fashion! This fall, we saw a huge increase in the use of beading and ornate details, along with gorgeous back detailing. I couldn't get over all of the incredible detailing from these designers! I love the use of illusion necklines and back openings with incredibly ornate details. Brides are also going for statement head pieces to create a truly romantic bridal look. Designers also showcased more halter silhouettes than years before. And, of course, we also saw some laser cut/lace detailing from many designers.

2014 Wedding Trends - Head Pieces


Weddings should be an expression of the bride and groom. There are tons of themes brides can choose from when beginning their wedding design plans - vintage, couture, classic, clean ... the list can go on forever! We'll see a continuation and emphasis on personal details like custom monograms, creative uses and displays of photos, personalized decor, and one of a kind invitations. I love finding out what makes a couple tick and what experiences we can use to infuse into design elements.

Personalized Wedding Details

Lush Floral Design

I believe that flowers are essential to wedding design. It is the main source of visual interest, provides color and texture for a space. Due to economic conditions, we've seen many brides scale back their floral design, opting to keep designs more simple, and/or go in the direction of DIY. In 2014, I think that we'll see an increase in more elaborate floral designs. Lush and full centerpieces, both high and low, along with uplighting and draping are making a huge comeback with brides who are looking for a "WOW" look. I think we'll see bouquets and centerpieces with a variety of textures, shapes and dimensions trending. Think of lush greens, full flowers and textured, unique blooms.

2014 Wedding Trends - Floral Design

Styled Grooms

Think this post is just about the brides and decor trends? No worries, grooms - TGH has you covered! Based on all that is trending with fashion, I think we'll see a big surge in styled grooms. Don't get me wrong. The bride will always be the main focus of a wedding and will always steal the spotlight. But, we're seeing more and more grooms wanting their time to shine on their big day. We'll see more of an emphasis on the groom's attire than in years past.

2014 Wedding Trends - Styled Grooms

If this is any indication of next year, then it is going to be beyond beautiful! I just can't wait! But, tell us what you think. What are some of your trend predictions and/or favorite trends for 2014?