North Carolina Wedding

Wedding Inspiration: Purple + Pink

I've been in love with this design since the moment this sweet bride approached me with these gorgeous colors - hello Pantone color of the year, radiant orchid! The design that we've created for Rachel + Mike's October wedding at the Mint Museum Uptown is without a doubt full of romance and chic style. I love every single detail we have planned, from the vibrant color palette of pinks and purples to the mixing of metallics to the floor plan! This couple is so great and we're having a blast planning for their big day, which will be here so soon and I cannot wait! Here is a little peek at our inspiration!

Rachel + Mike - Wedding Inspiration Board


Engaged: Jacquelyn + Daniel

It's been a while since I've gotten a new post up because we've been busy, busy, busy with end of summer weddings and prepping for an amazing fall full of beautiful weddings! One of our lovely Fall couples is this sweet pair - Meet Jacquelyn and Daniel. I love these two! Every time we get together for planning, it's all laughs and all fun... This wedding is going to be one epic party, y'all! (Here is a little peek into their design inspiration.) Jacquelyn is one of the sweetest brides I've had the pleasure of knowing, and Daniel is absolutely hysterical - like really, he's a blast! You can see every single bit of their personalities peeking through this engagement session from the incredibly talented duo behind Smitten & Hooked. I seriously cannot get enough of this couple and their uptown Charlotte engagement session! But more than anything, I can't wait for Jacquelyn and Daniel's August wedding at Foundation For The Carolinas - it's going to be one amazing celebration!


How dashing are they?! Jacquelyn is absolutely stunning and Daniel looks so handsome in his white jacket! Just wait until you see their wedding day attire! Just a few more weeks until they say, "I do"!


Wedding Inspiration: The Colors of Sunset

I'm so excited to share a little inspiration for Lindsay & Ben's October wedding at Vesuvius Vineyards with y'all today! This adorable couple fell in love with the natural Southern charm of Vesuvius Vineyards and knew immediately that this was the place where they'd exchange I Do's. We are putting the final touches on some really amazing plans for this sweet couple's wedding - I can't wait to see everything come together! When we first sat down to talk about design, Lindsay mentioned being inspired by the colors of sunset. What could be better inspiration?! Drawing from the colors of a gorgeous cotton candy sky, we've created a vibrant organic inspired wedding incorporating elements like birch wood, natural wood, full color textured floral arrangements, pumpkins, and kale. Take a peek!

Design Inspiration - Bachner Lehman Wedding

It's going to be a gorgeous fall wedding, that is for sure! I can't wait to celebrate this sweet couple!


Bridal Portraits: Taylor

I can't say enough about this sweet bride! Working with Taylor and Kyle for their May wedding at Byron's South End was an absolute blast. Taylor is about as easy going as they come and Kyle is such a gentleman! I loved getting to know this gal - she is so lovely and her heart is so big! I'm excited to share her gorgeous bridal portraits taken at Separk Mansion. Just take a look at her stunning smile - It's so infectious! I am pretty much in love with these photos from Lauren Rosenau Photography and I'm absolutely obsessed with her colorful bridal bouquet by the talented New Creations Flower Company. Take a peek at a few of my favorite portraits!

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TGH - Bridal Portrait 1 - Taylor Fenig
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TGH - Bridal Portrait 3 - Taylor Fenig
TGH - Bridal Portrait 2 - Taylor Fenig

Cheers to you, Mrs. Shirkey!


Anniversary: Stephanie + Bryce

I'll never forget the first time I met Steph and Bryce - I loved them from the moment we met. What an amazing couple these two are! Planning for their June 2013 wedding at St. Peter's Catholic Church and the Mint Museum Uptown was so much fun! The cherry on top was that half way through planning, as we're getting to know each other, Steph and I find out that we were both part of the same sorority. It is such a small world! I'm honored to have helped these two sweethearts plan a simply gorgeous wedding! Happy Anniversary you two! Time flies when you're having fun, right?!



It's All in the Little Details

I'll admit that I have a special appreciation and love of the little details.  After all, it's the little details that make life special, and the special moments in life personal.  With each new wedding design, my goal (always) is to make those little details, that are so important to brides and grooms, come to life! I've had the opportunity to create a lot of things over the years for brides and grooms. And, after finishing some watercolor creations for a wedding at Daniel Stowe, a Chuppah for two spring weddings, and lots and lots of escort cards, programs, and favor tags, I thought "I really need to gather up all these little projects and share them!" So, without further adieu - here are some of the things I've created for weddings so far in 2014 that I wanted to share! A few have been complete surprises, and revealing those surprises to my sweet clients brings me so much joy!  Just a warning: the photo quality is not that great - actually it's down right awful! - and is courtesy of my trusty iPhone. (Thank God for real photographers!) So, please excuse my photos... I'll just stick with wedding planning and leave the photography to the pro's! 

Custom table runners for Katie & Eric's Mint Museum Uptown wedding


Prop pillows and ring bearer pillows for Katie & Eric's Mint Museum Uptown wedding

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Sashes for the draping to match the runners and pillows for Katie & Eric's Mint Museum Uptown wedding


Floating frame display for Katie & Eric's Mint Museum Uptown wedding


Watercolor table numbers for Mia & Alex's Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden wedding


Watercolor seating chart for Mia & Alex's Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden wedding


Chuppah and organza draping for Mindy & Brett's Biltmore wedding (Okay, confession: I can't take all the credit for this one. My amazing husband actually built this chuppah for two weddings this year, and has come to both weddings to help me assemble it on-site. So grateful to have such a supportive and super crafty husband!!) 


Ceremony programs for Mindy & Brett's Biltmore wedding


Calligraphy favor tags for Mindy & Brett's Biltmore wedding


Acrylic table numbers for Whitley & Darian's Brakefield at Riverwalk wedding


"Here Comes The Bride" sign for Veronica & Chip's Mint Museum Uptown wedding


Travel-themed escort card display for Veronica & Chip's Mint Museum Uptown wedding


Travel-themed table numbers for Veronica & Chip's Mint Museum Uptown wedding


Citrus-themed escort cards for Taylor & Kyle's Byron's South End wedding


I hate to even share all of these terrible iPhone quality photos, but I'm really proud of the little details that leave my office each weekend to make their way to the amazing brides and grooms wedding days. I'm honored to have the opportunity to be creative and give priority to the special touches of a wedding day!  And believe me when I say that each has been an absolute labor of love.  But it makes me so happy to see my brides and grooms smile with excitement over these details they never expected!


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.

Engaged: Keely + Hill

No words could describe the beauty that is this engagement session from the amazing Lauren Friday Photography.  I mean, seriously, how stunning is this bride and how handsome is her groom?!  I absolutely adore these two.  Keely is such a sweetheart and every time we get together, it feels like meeting with a long-lost friend rather than a client meeting.  This engagement session is perfectly them - genuine, romantic, sweet, and full of L.O.V.E.!  Take a peek at a few of my favorites. 2014-04-11_00012014-04-11_00022014-04-11_00042014-04-11_00032014-04-11_00102014-04-11_00152014-04-11_00092014-04-11_00082014-04-11_00122014-04-11_00112014-04-11_00062014-04-11_00052014-04-11_00072014-04-11_0014 I'm pretty much obsessed with every single photo. Lauren you outdid yourself… These images are simply stunning! A big, big, big thanks to the talented Lindsey Regan Thorne of Be Pretty for Keely's hair and makeup. I can't wait for Keely and Hill's May 31 wedding at the gorgeous Boxwood Estate in Mocksville, NC! XO, A.

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?