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?!



Featured + Real Wedding: A Modern Affair at The Mint Museum Uptown

We are honored to see Lauren and Andrew's modern & elegant Mint Museum Uptown wedding in the recent issue of Carolina Bride magazine. Lauren and Andrew met through mutual friends at Appalachian State University. If you're with either of them for even just a moment, you can tell that they are truly in love - as well as two of the most amazing human beings you'll ever meet. Being around them was like being in a Nicholas Sparks novel - two ridiculously good looking people, madly in love and sweet as pie!

I first met Lauren and Andrew over brunch to talk about their big day. From the get go, I knew it would be a very good day! Lauren talked about her love of sparkle and that she wanted a day that was elegant and simple, yet luxurious feeling. We settled on a color palette of cream, black, champagne and gold. Lauren chose a gorgeous wedding dress that became a big source of inspiration for the detailing on the cake. Man, oh man did she take our breath away in this gown! Our bride carried a beautiful cascading calla lily bouquet created by New Creations Flower Company, and the ladies carried calla lilies as well. We intertwined sparkly elements throughout their design with the linens and centerpieces. The kings table was one of my favorites in our design, with a series of spray-like tulips cascading in the tall centerpieces with mirrored pillar candles and crystal votives going along the 24' table. It was stunning!

We had an amazing team of vendors who helped Lauren and Andrew have the best day ever. Thank you to everyone for all your hard work and for making this day as beautiful as it was!
Planning + Design: The Graceful Host
Photography: Julia Laible Photography
Flowers: New Creations Flower Company
Venues: Mint Museum Uptown
Wedding Cake: The Wow Factor Cakes
Entertainment: Split Second Sound
Hairstylist: Lindsey Pizzuti of Mirror Bomb Studios
Makeup artist: Erin Ashley Makeup
Wedding Dress Boutique: Belle Vogue Boutique in Kansas City
Gown designer: Martina Liana Bridal
Bride’s shoes: Jimmy Choo Ivory Shimmer Flats
Bridesmaid dresses: David’s Bridal
Tuxedos: Calvin Klein from Men’s Wearhouse
Transportation provider: R&R Pedicab
Clergy: Pastor Reggie Hunt of Cornerstone Summit (Lauren and Andrew’s church during college)

Here are a few of our favorite photos from Lauren and Andrew's special day!

We were so honored to be a part of your celebration, Lauren and Andrew! Thanks for letting us in on all the fun! And don't forget to get your copy of the latest issue of Carolina Bride to see Lauren and Andrew's full feature on bookshelves now.


Featured + Real Wedding: Garden Elegance at Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden

We are over the moon and so thrilled to see Christina + Zach's Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden wedding featured in the pages of The Knot Carolinas!


Working with Christina + Zach last year was such a joy! I loved everything about our time together. This bride is just as sweet as she looks (x's a million!), and the love that they have for each other is so inspiring. Christina + Zach live in Raleigh, but wanted to plan a wedding in the Charlotte area since it was a half way point between their two families. Once they saw Daniel Stowe, they were sold! It was the perfect venue for their elegant garden wedding. When we met, Christina + Zach painted a beautiful picture of a garden wedding where they could bring the outdoors indoors and fill the room with full, lush centerpieces. They also stressed how important it was that they incorporate her Lao and Vietnamese culture into their day. With a color palette of blush, pink, green, and champagne we created a truly magical day for this amazing couple. (By the way, have you seen their inspiration board?)

I can't thank all the amazing vendors involved in Christina + Zach's beautiful wedding enough. It takes a village to pull off a killer wedding y'all, and I'm grateful for the chance to work with this wonderful team of talented vendors!
Planning + Design: The Graceful Host
Photography: Lauren Friday Photography
Floral Design: New Creations Flower Company
Venue: Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden
Catering: Best Impressions Caterers
Videography: Crown Alley Films
Entertainment: Split Second Sound
Rentals + Draping: Party Reflections
Hair + Makeup: William Henry Salon
Cake: Wow Factor Cakes
Wedding Dress: David Tutera from Savvi Formalwear in Raleigh, NC
Bridesmaid Dresses: Bill Levkoff from Savvi Formalwear in Raleigh, NC
Stationary + Paper Goods: Elisabeth Rose
Calligraphy for the Invitations: Delighted Calligraphy
Magnolia Leaf Calligraphy: The Graceful Host
Escort Card Calligraphy: Family member of the Bride and Groom

Here are some of my favorite photos from Zach + Christina's big day, thanks to the talented Lauren Friday Photography!

The boutonniere (photo on the right) was made of sweet peas, which is a nickname for Zach from Christina. And the turtle pin is a family heirloom from the grooms family. It's the sweet and special touches that make this wedding so unique and beautiful!

This family Bible has been passed down for generations in the grooms family and is traditionally part of the wedding day. 

 I love that their pup Amos was able to be a part of the ceremony! Mom + Dad are married!

I love all the heirloom pieces - and here's another one! The coop champagne glasses that the bride and groom toasted with are from the grooms parent's wedding day. 

Part of Christina's Vietnamese culture is to welcome each guest with a shot of cognac. Dressed in traditional Laos attire Christina welcomed her family, then changed to welcome into a traditional Vietnamese dress to welcome the other side her family with Zach by her side.

Christina + Zach it was an honor to be a part of your special day! Love you both! 


Featured: Fashion-Forward Bridal Portraits in Charleston, SC

On a beautiful September day in Charleston, South Carolina, a little team of Charlotte wedding vendors traveled down to the low country to create a fashion-forward and non-traditional bridal portrait session. At the time, I was working with a sweet bride who was a lover of fashion-forward style, which served as inspiration throughout our time planning for her wedding. So for her bridal portraits she asked if she had to wear her wedding dress for her portrait session. And that got me inspired to style a few different bridal looks for the bride who wishes to be fearless & sassy on her wedding day, rather than go the traditional route with a wedding dress. We took to the streets of Charleston to get the historical charm & architectural contrast against the modern, black and white palette in the bridal looks. I wanted to embrace some of the more daring bridal trends making their way into the bridal market fashion for 2015  like crop tops, tulle skirts, & low-cut backs, just to name a few. I absolutely fell in love with the gorgeous sequin skirt she's wearing from Erin Grey Couture.... I've never seen anything else like it! Isn't it incredible?!

Huge thanks to our mighty little vendor team:
Creative Direction & Styling: The Graceful Host
Photography: Lauren Rosenau Photography
Flowers: New Creations Flower Company
Hair: Paper Dolls Wedding Hair & Makeup
Makeup: Michelle Lopez
Skirts: Erin Grey Couture found at J. Majors Bridal Boutique
Dress: J. Majors Bridal Boutique
Shoes: Valentino
Birdcage Veil: J. Majors Bridal Boutique

And to Emily Breeze Ross for being such a beautiful model and the source of inspiration for this fun and unique shoot!

What do you think of this fashion-forward bridal look? Are you going to be a fearless bride and embrace a non-traditional bridal style on your wedding day?

Be sure to check out the full feature from Trendy Bride magazine by clicking here.


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!


Featured: Glamour Magazine Weddings

I am simply over the moon to see this image from Whitley and Darian's gorgeous wedding featured on Glamour Magazine's "Old Hollywood" wedding inspiration for style icon Scarlett Johansson!! This wedding will always be one of my favorites - mainly because this couple is so absolutely amazing - but I'm honored to see this design featured for Glamour readers to enjoy! Many thanks to New Creations Flower Company for this gorgeous centerpiece and Lauren Rosenau Photography for being so amazing at capturing all the beauty. Be sure to check out the full feature, here.

The Graceful Host - Glamour Weddings - Feature

Happy Friday, y'all! Cheers to the weekend!


Featured: Mardi Gras Wedding Inspiration

I'm so ecstatic to share our big, big, big news! Our Mardi Gras Wedding Inspiration shoot is featured on Southern Weddings - and on Mardi Gras Day, Fat Tuesday!  Oh, be still my heart.  It is an absolute dream come true to see my work featured by a publication that I admire and love so dearly! I'm humbled to think that brides from the Carolinas to the great state of Louisiana will be inspired by the unique and fabulous culture of New Orleans.  Really, I feel like someone should just pinch me! You never know why certain people are placed in your life.  And, I do truly believe that God does place people in our paths.  Julie Staley of Old South Studios and I met at a wedding earlier this year - and it was our first time working together, too.  At the end of the night Julie says, hey do you want to design a Mardi Gras wedding for an inspiration shoot? The rest is history, of course, and I just can't help but believe that we were meant to work on this project together. In that moment, I was thinking YES!, YES!, YES!, and later told Julie that I was actually born and raised in New Orleans.  I had a million ideas to share for the shoot!

First and foremost, the most important aspect of the design was to infuse the energy of Mardi Gras and unique characteristics of traditional New Orleans weddings.  I wanted this wedding inspiration to be as authentic as possible, so we incorporated real New Orleans wedding traditions - a second line complete with boa-lined umbrellas and a jazz band, and cake pulls to name a few.  To me, New Orleans is full of life in every way. It's people full of personality and passion; It's architecture full of character and poise; It's landscapes expressing charm and a rich history; It's food full of flavor; It's creativity expressing the unique voice of its' artist; and it's celebrations full of energy - Each element is beautiful in it's own way.  So with that inspiration in mind, I started to pull together a design plan. With the idea of Southern elegance, we choose to have the shoot at the stunning Separk Mansion - a renovated venue full of natural light, gorgeous chandeliers, and rich wood floors.  Chelish Moore of Chelish Moore Flowers took my vision and ran with it, incorporating gold candelabras, vibrant flowers and candles upon candles.  I love the sophistication and luxury of the floral design! Best Impressions Caterers provided a delicious menu, influenced by the incredible food and unique flavor palette of New Orleans.  The chef had all of starving by the end!  And, of course they provided us with a creative signature drink that was naturally N'awlins.  Elisabeth Connolly of Elisabeth Rose created all of the amazing paper goods, and incorporated the grace of New Orleans weddings.  The incredible cake was crafted by Mandie Miller of Got What It Cakes.  I love how she captured the grandeur of Mardi Gras through her design.  I just had to include a welcome box designed to greet guests upon arrival full of Louisiana goodies - Abita Root Beer, Tabasco chocolates, and Mardi Gras-inspired chocolate doubloons - tucked within a glittery gold box from Paper Source.  Stephanie and John, our bride and groom for the day, are actually a real married couple - which I just thought was so perfect!  The gorgeous bridal gowns were both by Modern Trousseau from their Fall 2014 collection ("Tate" and "Teacup") and came from Hayden Olivia Bridal. I am absolutely obsessed with these ultra glam dresses!  They couldn't have been more perfect for the shoot.  And our bride and groom looked picture perfect thanks to Erin Ashley Makeup and Adrian D. Howe Esthetics & Beauty.  All of the rentals came from Party Reflections of Charlotte - Sara Shelor you are amazing!  It is always a team effort to pull together a shoot like this, and I'm so grateful to each of the talented vendors that helped make my dream a reality.  Especially Julie Staley of Old South Studios who allowed me to design every detail.  Julie is so insanely talented, and her eye for capturing emotion and storytelling is incredible!  I can feel her passion for the art of photography and the love of her job with each photo - I am so lucky she asked me to work with her on this project!

I hope you grab a big slice of King Cake and stay a while - come celebrate New Orleans on the Southern Weddings blog! Happy Mardi Gras, y'all and laissez les bon temps rouler!

Here are some of my favorite shots from this fun shoot!