Charlotte NC Wedding Planner

Featured: Hope and Faith

I've been an admirer of Inspire Weddings & Marriage magazine for a while. I'm a huge fan of any publication that showcases marriage and real couples rather than just pretty things without substance and meaning. So when they reached out to ask me to design a shoot based on a real couple's love story, I didn't hesitate to accept! Once I heard Emily and Scott's incredible story, my heart immediately sank - how could you hold back tears after hearing about this couple's journey?! Their inspiring and unwavering devotion aside, I felt such a personal connection to this couple and their story.


On May 3, one of my dear friends was in a tragic car accident while serving in the U.S. Army in Venice, Italy. She's been in a coma ever since and has been fighting for her life every single day since that terrible night to regain consciousness and return to her husband, 3 year old daughter, family, and friends. So, when I heard that Scott had a terrible accident that left him unconscious and the doctors had told Emily to give up hope - so eerily similar to my friend, Captain Kimmy Fix - I just had to be a part of this project! Emily never gave up. The words she shares inside the pages of Inspire are absolutely beautiful. Scott is the definition of a fighter and his future is still so bright, with sweet Emily by his side.


I love to share background details on inspiration shoots because I feel like everyone has this perception that it's all glamour. Hate to burst your bubble friends, but styled shoots are really anything but glamorous. I mean, everything always turns out amazing - just look at the incredible images Julie Staley with Old South Studios captured! But, it took a lot of hard work to get there. Oh and always bear in mind that life is not perfect and things don't always go as planned. (I think Emily and Scott can attest to this!) Even though we had this date set for weeks to do a styled shoot, naturally Mother Nature stepped in with a different plan. She decided to let it monsoon - I'm not being dramatic here, y'all. Picture this: Outdoor shoot in a sunflower field. All the furniture and rentals are delivered. Hair and makeup has arrived to get our lovely models ready. Outfits have been coordinated. Cakes were en-route. Flowers were arranged. The photographer and I had just arrived when the sky opens up and it begins to pour. Absolutely pour. Don't even get me started on the lighting! I hadn't been that scared in so long. So, it took some scrambling. What do you do next?! With Emily looking so gorgeous and Scott so handsome, we couldn't afford to postpone until the next day. Thankfully our lucky started to turn around and the rain gave us a little reprieve. We rushed back out to the sunflower field and started snapping away. In all honesty, I think this is exactly what God had intended - everything happens for a reason, right? The sky that appeared as we started shooting was pure magic! We made the decision to break up the shoot into two parts - the couple was shoot that evening and then we did the details at 7:00am the following morning. You better believe I'm still cleaning mud off my shoes from this shoot. But, you probably couldn't tell any of that from these gorgeous photos. That's the amazing part of styled shoots. All the chaos and things that didn't go quite as planned are completely masked by the stunning images that are the result of a hardworking team.


My inspiration for this shoot was this incredible couple. These photos have captured this couple to the letter. Scott is so handsome, he's funny and sharp as a tack. He had us laughing so hard during this shoot! Emily is beautiful inside and out, so loving and attentive, and just the most kind-hearted person. Together they are so sweet. I used a color palette of yellow (a symbol of hope), dusty blue, blush, and green. For me, this color palette is sweet, romantic, and a bit playful. Just like Emily and Scott's story. I had this vision of Americana in my head - moving from industrial error to the modern 21st century. I loved the idea of mixing elements. Industrial metal and rustic wood with modern china and gold flatware for the table top. Soft, bohemian style lace Claire Pettibone gown (from J Majors Bridal Boutique) next to a preppy, modern Brooks Brothers navy suit.


The way this vision came together was really beautiful. I'm so proud to be a part of this team of talented vendors, who poured their love into this shoot. The magazine hits news stands this week! You can pick up a copy at your local Barnes & Nobel, or you can order a copy online. You have to read Emily and Scott's beautiful love story. Here are a few of my favorite images from our inspiration shoot.

Lindsey Regan Thorne of Be Pretty made this beautiful wife feel like a glamorous model. And I'm pretty sure Scott agreed with the rest of us that Emily's the most gorgeous woman in the world!


I created the vow runner backdrop using words of hope, faith, love, devotion, honor, and respect - all words that describe the commitment that is marriage. Creating this was so cathartic for me, personally. I felt like I was renewing my own vows by just writing the words and creating each statement! Couldn't be more excited with how this turned out!


I love the textures of this arrangement by Karisa of Nectar Floral Designs!


Carrie of Pink Toast Ink absolutely nailed the paper goods. How stunning is this suite she designed?

These cakes exceeded my every expectation. Ines of Sky's The Limit! Custom Cakes & More is such an artist!


So, if you know me then you know that I have to incorporate a signature drink into my designs! They're so fun - so why not! I opted for a fun champagne cocktail. Huge thanks to King of Pops for supplying us with these delicious popsicles. A fun and easy drink to make... how can you resist?!


I cannot thank Inspire Weddings & Marriage enough for allowing me to be a part of this shoot and to tell this sweet couple's story. And I have to brag on this amazing team of vendors that helped me create something really remarkable. I love working with creatives who are just as passionate about telling stories as I am. I'm so grateful for all your flexibility and team work!

Photography: Julie and Andrew Staley of Old South Studios
Styling and Design: Ashley Culicchia Cash of The Graceful Host
Floral Design: Karisa Pennell of Nectar Floral Designs
Cake Design: Ines Aranguren of Sky's The Limit! Custom Cakes & More
Paper Goods: Carrie Barker of Pink Toast Ink
Rentals: Party Reflections and AFR Events Furnishings
Hair and Makeup: Lindsey Regan Thorne of Be Pretty
Popsicles: King of Pops
Wedding Dress: Claire Pettibone from J. Majors Bridal Boutique
Bride's earrings: Scout and Molly's of Charlotte
Groom's attire: Brooks Brothers and Mens Warehouse

And a big thanks to our sweet models, Emily and Scott Agnew, for being so fabulous! We loved working with you! Cheers to your beautiful love!


Engaged: Christi + PJ

It's finally Christi + PJ's wedding week! This adorable couple will be traveling down from Boston, Massachusetts to beautiful Asheville, North Carolina in a few short days to say "I Do" at the Omni Grove Park Inn. Christi and PJ knew they wanted to have a fall wedding in the mountains, and the stunning views at the Grove Park Inn won over their hearts. We've had so much fun planning their intimate, fall-inspired wedding full of lush cranberry and golden tones. I cannot wait to head up to Asheville in a few short days to celebrate this fun-loving couple! In the mean time, as I finalize some of their wedding details, I'm excited to share Christi + PJ's beautiful engagement session from Lauren Friday Photography! I love how these two fit so perfectly together - their love is just so sweet! Cheers to the best week ever, you two!

Christi and PJ - Engagement - Lauren Friday Photography
Christi and PJ - Engagement - Lauren Friday Photography
Christi and PJ - Engagement - Lauren Friday Photography
Christi and PJ - Engagement - Lauren Friday Photography
Christi and PJ - Engagement - Lauren Friday Photography
Christi and PJ - Engagement - Lauren Friday Photography
Christi and PJ - Engagement - Lauren Friday Photography
Christi and PJ - Engagement - Lauren Friday Photography


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!


Anniversary: Morgan + Mike

Today, I'm having so much fun reliving Morgan + Mike's wedding! Hard to believe it's been one year since this beautiful bride and handsome groom said I Do. This architectual-inspired grey and white wedding at the Atrium at Byron's SouthEnd was so much fun to create! I loved working with Morgan, who is just so incredibly sweet. What a wonderful experience it was to work with such a great friend to help her plan and design the perfect day. But, even though the entire day was absolutely flawless, Mother Nature decided to RSVP - but that didn't dampen our bride and groom's spirits one bit! (Who ever said rain on your wedding day can't be incredibly romantic hasn't seen these beautiful photos from the talented Sarah Whitlow of Two Cents Photography!)


I can't believe how fast time flies by! I hope this first year of marriage was full of incredible memories and lots of exciting firsts. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to work with you both, and to create such a beautiful + fun day. Wishing you both a happy anniversary and many more years of wedded bliss! Cheers you two!


Signature Drink: The Paloma

Happy Friday, y'all! Who doesn't love a good cocktail recipe as we head into the weekend?! I fell in love with this unique signature drink from Adriana + Terrell's Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden wedding. Throughout our planning, it was so important to tie in aspects of Adriana's Mexican culture. What better way to include our sweet brides heritage than through a traditional cocktail signature drink that would greet guests upon arrival! Within beautiful clay pots (straight from Mexico!), we served a very yummy Paloma!

Signature Drink - The Paloma - Felder Wedding at DSBG

(Photo by Richard Israel Photography // Catering by Best Impressions Caterers // Wedding Planning and Design by The Graceful Host // Wedding Venue is Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden)

The recipe:

-One oz of tequila
-Three oz grapefruit soda
-Splash of lime juice
-Splash of club soda

Serve over the rocks with a lime garnish. Don't have these adorable vessels to serve in? No worries - You can use a high ball glass as a substitute. Cheers to the weekend, friends!


Bridal Portraits: Jacquelin

I'd like to introduce to you the stunning Mrs. Victory! This sweet bride is finally a Mrs. after over 4 years of being engaged to her high school sweetheart. Seems like a marathon, right?! Last weekend, surrounded by family and loved ones, Jacquelin said "I do" in a beautiful ceremony at Morning Glory Farm. I am so excited to share her gorgeous bridal portraits by the very talented Andy of Indigo Photography! Seriously, y'all - how beautiful is her dress?! Oh my goodness. This married lady is one heart stopping bride!


Locations: Private Residence & Monroe Airport Bouquet: Elizabeth House Flowers Photography: Andy with Indigo Photography


Featured: Fiesta Wedding Inspiration

I absolutely LOVED this shoot, and I was so honored to see it featured on Inspired by This on Cinco de Mayo!! Last summer, Charlotte Wedding magazine asked me to design a fiesta-inspired wedding for the summer issue. (And, brides even voted the design to win a 2013 BOW Award!) To now have one of my all-time favorite blogs feature it, is so exciting! Be sure to check out the full feature here, and scroll through some of my favorite photos - all captured  perfectly by one of my favorite photographers in Charlotte, Smitten and Hooked. These two are amazing! smitten & hooked | charlotte wedding magazine | details-70TheGracefulHost_Blog_FiestaInspirationShoot1smitten & hooked | charlotte wedding magazine | details-41smitten & hooked | charlotte wedding magazine | details-10smitten & hooked | charlotte wedding magazine | details-64smitten & hooked | charlotte wedding magazine | details-152smitten & hooked | charlotte wedding magazine | details-168smitten & hooked | charlotte wedding magazine | details-180smitten & hooked | charlotte wedding magazine | details-184smitten & hooked | charlotte wedding magazine | details-166smitten & hooked | charlotte wedding magazine | details-163smitten & hooked | charlotte wedding magazine | details-157smitten & hooked | charlotte wedding magazine | look2-3smitten & hooked | charlotte wedding magazine | look2-46smitten & hooked | charlotte wedding magazine | look2-19smitten & hooked | charlotte wedding magazine | look1-4smitten & hooked | charlotte wedding magazine | look1-27smitten & hooked | charlotte wedding magazine | look1-43smitten & hooked | charlotte wedding magazine | look3-52smitten & hooked | charlotte wedding magazine | look3-62smitten & hooked | charlotte wedding magazine | details-195smitten & hooked | charlotte wedding magazine | look5-37smitten & hooked | charlotte wedding magazine | look5-4smitten & hooked | charlotte wedding magazine | details-85smitten & hooked | charlotte wedding magazine | details-114smitten & hooked | charlotte wedding magazine | details-138smitten & hooked | charlotte wedding magazine | details-100smitten & hooked | charlotte wedding magazine | details-105


This whole shoot makes me want to throw a BIG party! Absolutely love how everything turned out… I couldn't have asked for more.  All the amazing vendors and talented wedding pros that participated in this shoot are nothing short of incredible! I'm so grateful to have had the opportunity to work with so many amazing vendors to produce this shoot for Charlotte Wedding magazine. They helped me bring this vision to life!

Photography by Smitten and Hooked | Wedding design and styling by Ashley Culicchia Cash, The Graceful Host | Fashion styling by Laurel Bendum of Charlotte Wedding magazine | Produced by Aleigh Acerni and Kellie Duff of Charlotte Wedding magazine | Shot on location at Brakefield at Riverwalk | Floral design by Lily Greenthumb’s | Catering and cocktails by Something Classic Catering & Cafés | Cakes by Wow Factor Cakes | Mexican cookies by Suarez Bakery | Rentals and linens from Party Reflections of Charlotte | Paper goods by Three Little Birds | Makeup by Casey Lombardi, Dollface Skin & Makeup Lounge | Hair by Lindsay Pizzuti, Mirror Bomb Studios | Gowns worn by the bride: Marisa - style 898 from Hayden Olivia Bridal, Intuzuri Augustine from Poffie Girls, Watters Blanca gown from J Major’s Bridal Boutique, Modern Trousseau Marena gown from Hayden Olivia Bridal, & Tadashi Shoji dress from Neiman Marcus.

XO, A.