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It’s with bittersweet emotion that I announce a big change for The Graceful Host …

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We’re MOVING to ….. Louisiana!

It’s hard to even type those words. How do I leave North Carolina? The city I call home. Where my husband and I have built a life. Where we created two beautiful boys. The place where I built a business. Where I’ve fostered sweet friendships. Where I’ve grown up. The home of countless memories and experiences. Just, how??

I’ve had some time to sit on this news. I joke that I never like to do anything fast. It’s just not my personality - I’m a very analytic person who likes to think things through. So I’ve had time to process my feelings before announcing it publicly. And that’s good for me - That means I can type this without being in a gigantic puddle of tears. There’s just a tiny puddle.

So, you might be asking … why are you moving?! Short answer: My husbands job is the reason for the move. He’s being transferred. It’s a gift that we’re able to move to the New Orleans area, really, because that’s where my entire family lives. I haven’t lived in Louisiana since I moved away for college 13 years ago. And truthfully, I never thought I’d be back. I came to North Carolina and attended Elon University, and just fell in love! At the time of my college graduation, my now husband and I were engaged, and even though I didn’t have a job (hello vocal performance major! haha!), I knew I wanted to be on my own. Since my husband, Todd, got a job in Charlotte right out of college, I decided to move to Charlotte so we could officially begin our lives together.

Not going to lie. When I first moved to Charlotte, I hated it. I mean, HATED it. But it was such a different place 9 years ago. And I felt very much alone, since Todd was traveling non-stop - I was basically living alone with no friends around and no job. Since I first moved to Charlotte as a young college grad, I’ve found my place and have created a business - and life! - that I just cannot imagine leaving behind. I opened my mind to what Charlotte had to offer, and she’s never stopped impressing me. I really thought we’d never leave this sweet Queen City. It truly feels like home to both of us.

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It’s crazy to think about relocating, honestly. My anxiety is in overdrive, y’all! But as difficult as I’m sure this transition will be, I’m also looking forward to the change. It’s that feeling of living with paradoxical emotion, where I’m scared out of my mind about the unknown and yet, at the same time, eagerly excited for what’s to come. I will miss my friendships and vendor friends here in Charlotte deeply. I’ve had the chance to serve over 60 couples and dozens of families over the last 7 years! Not to mention work with so many talented vendors. And truly I cherish my team, who is just the best out there - Jenny, Brianna, Abby, Kasie, Chandler … I love y’all! I’m just so grateful for the opportunities I’ve experienced over the last several years being here in the Queen City.

But, there’s something to be said for starting fresh. For having the challenge of restarting in a new place, with so much experience under my belt. I do feel lucky to have a handful of vendor friends in the New Orleans area from past events. And of course, this does feel like a homecoming (for lack of a better term!) for me … because New Orleans was my first home. I truly can’t wait to reconnect with so many friends! Plus, we’ve never lived anywhere near family. So it’ll be a nice change to have family up the street, rather than a plane ride away. (Maybe Todd and I can squeeze a date night in more than just once a year! haha!)

So what’s going to happen to The Graceful Host, you might ask? I will absolutely be establishing both The Graceful Host weddings + events AND the Party Shop in New Orleans. And I cannot wait to serve brides + grooms and families in the Big Easy! If anything has come from this, it’s sparked a new fire in me. I’ve had some time to really map out future goals and make sure that I’m realigning my business with those goals. I have some big plans, y’all… I mean, HUGE! The news of the move may have rocked me in the beginning, but now … now, I’m taking this opportunity to dream bigger than ever! It’s been a difficult past few months having to turn away future business because we’re relocating, but I know in my heart that everything will work out and TGH will be better than ever in no time.

Make no mistake … this self proclaimed Carolina girl is terrified of starting over. Just terrified. But I love a challenge. And I cannot wait to have the chance to design and create in the city that gives me so much inspiration. The city taught me how to party - let’s be real. The city that molded me. And I’m very much looking forward to showing my family all that New Orleans has to offer, and to create a new home together.

So friends, my one wish is that you think of me and my family over the next few months as we make this huge life change and move hundreds of miles away from our beloved home of Charlotte.

And if you’re a bride in the New Orleans area …. I’m happily booking for 2020, and I cannot wait to get to know you better! Please give me a call!

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And to Charlotte, the place I call home … Thank you for all the memories! I resisted you for so long. You were patient, though. And you welcomed me with open arms when I was ready to let you in. I’ll always think of you as my home. Leaving in the Fall will be difficult, and who knows - maybe we’ll be back?! And if we do have the chance to come back to the Queen City, I have no doubt you’ll welcome me back with open arms once again. Thank you, Charlotte … for everything!!!!

XO,
A.

PS. I am still booking events through October 2019 in Charlotte! Our move will be in November, following my last wedding at the end of October. And I’d just love to help you with your event!!

Ethereal Blush and Mustard Wedding Inspiration

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

A Greenery-Filled Tented Wedding at Champagne Manor

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

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

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

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

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

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

XO,
A.

How To Create A Rain Plan For Your Wedding Day

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

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

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

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

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

See what  I mean?!

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

XO,
A.

2017 Year In Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

XO,
A.

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

Celebrating Five Years of The Graceful Host

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

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

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

Photography Credit:  Lauren Rosenau Photography

Photography Credit: Lauren Rosenau Photography

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photography Credit:  Lauren Rosenau Photography

Photography Credit: Lauren Rosenau Photography

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

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

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

Photography Credit:  Lauren Rosenau Photography

Photography Credit: Lauren Rosenau Photography

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

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

Cheers to five years, friends!

XO,
A.

 

Dear Jane

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gratefully yours,
Ashley

Holiday Entertaining Guide For The Newlyweds

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

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

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

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

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

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

XO,
A.

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

Modern and Bold Wedding Inspiration

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

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

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

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

The Perfect DIY Holiday-Inspired Cocktail

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

DIY Ornament Holiday Cocktail

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

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

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

DIY Holiday Ornament Cocktail

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

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

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

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

Cheers, y'all! And happy shaking! 

XO,
A.

Photography credit: Paige Winn Photography


 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

XO,
A.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

XO,
A.

 

7 Secrets to Creating Your Wedding Registry

 

Registering is one of the highlights of wedding planning. You get to go to store you love, and dream about all the fun new things your loved ones will gift you to fill your home, as you begin a new life together as husband and wife. Sounds dreamy, right? It also sounds really daunting. Sure, you're an adult now. And you probably know your way around a kitchen - or at least how to find the kitchen. But what do you really need? How many stores do you need to register for? Is there anything off limits when it comes to registering? We're sharing 7 tips on how to create your wedding registry that will answer these questions, and more!

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#1: Take inventory
You won't know what you need until you know what you have (or don't have!). Go through each others household goods (i.e. kitchen items, bathroom items, bedroom items, etc.) and see what you would like to keep and what you want to throw away, donate, or sell. Now is a great time to get rid of the dishes you've been using since collage, or to ditch the pans that have seen better days. And as you go through your belongings, you'll also realize what you use a lot of and what you don't use a lot of. Let that guide you as you create your registry. Your sister might be a big baker and have cabinets full of cookie sheets, mixers, and cake pans, but maybe you're not - so don't fill your house with things you won't use. Your registry is a great way to upgrade your household goods and appliances.

#2: Editing is okay
Just because you went to the store and scanned it doesn't mean it needs to stay on your list. Maybe you get home an realize that you don't want a new coffee maker because yours is just fine and you don't make coffee at home very much anyways. You can access your registry list online and make edits. It's always good to keep checking in on your list to see how things are going. If everything has been purchased, you'll want to add some more things to the list so that your guests have options of what to gift you. Also, if you register between seasons, you might want to take a look at the new inventory that is rolling out to see if you want to make any changes.

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#3: Variety is good
Consider registering at more than one store so that you can give your guests a variety of places, as well as price points, to choose from. I typically recommend no more than 3 traditional registry lists to my clients. But, websites like Zola.com can help you manage all your different lists, and you can add gifts from any website, even from independent sellers on Etsy.com. Remember to register for a variety of different price points so that you can give your guests options.

#4: Create a record
While websites like Zola.com are helpful, you still want to create a record of your wedding registry with storefronts like Crate & Barrel, PotteryBarn, Belk, Bed Bath & Beyond, etc. After your wedding day, stores like this will offer couples a discount so that they can fill their home with anything they didn't get off their registry. That's right - a discount! This is why it's important to register at places where you like to shop. 

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#5: Sky's the limit
There are traditional places to register, such as Crate & Barrel and PotteryBarn, or William Sonoma and Sur La Table, or Target and Bed Bath & Beyond. Then there are less traditional places to register, such as Amazon.com or Best Buy. There really isn't a right or wrong when it comes to choosing what stores to register, because each registry is going to reflect the couple! So maybe you need a new TV - register for it. Maybe you want a dining room table - register for it. Maybe you need new curtains - register for it. Your guests will want to help you fill your home, so register for the things that you need and want at the places where you plan to shop. The worst that happens is no one purchases it, and you go back afterwards and purchase with your discount and/or gift cards.

#6: Keep space in mind
A lot of couples deal with space issues when they first get married. You might be living in an apartment or condo with a small kitchen. So where do you put all your new kitchen stuff?! Well, consider that when you're registering. I'm not suggesting you register for less items because you have less space, but keep in mind the constraints of your living situation. Don't go for the big bulky appliance that will take up all your counter space and cabinet space if you don't have the room for it. Consider registering for gift cards to your favorite stores if you have space concerns so that you can purchase the items you need at a later date, once space isn't a concern anymore.

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#7: Just be yourself
It can be helpful to ask friends for their help with registering, or to look at sample registry lists, with the most popular registry items. But only and your Fiance know what you need and know what will fit your lifestyle! So don't rely on others more than your gut instinct. You might need 12 place settings because you come from a large family and plan on entertaining a lot, where as your best friend might need just 6 or 8 because she has a small family and doesn't plan on entertaining much. If you don't cook a lot and don't plan on learning, then don't go crazy registering for all the little cooking tools and utensils. Get what you need, and call it a day.

In February, The Graceful Host had the opportunity to partner with Crate & Barrel to host a private event for engaged couples. If you haven't had the chance to attend one of Crate & Barrel's Private Registry Events, I encourage you to go! They host them regularly on Sunday mornings, before the store is open to the public. The event we hosted was considered Private Registry Event Plus (PRE+). The Plus events are different from the regular Private Registry Events because we brought in local vendors for an interactive experience while couples had the chance to roam the store and create their wedding registry. In addition to some amazing giveaways and door prizes, we had delicious food and beverages for couples to enjoy, free cake samples and cake decorating demonstration, live music, a calligrapher creating custom monograms for couples, a photo booth, and a florist doing bouquet and boutonniere demonstrations. It was quite a party! And it was all captured by photographer Allison Kuhn and videographer Brian Bunn. Along with all the interactive vendor stations, I created a sample styled tablescape using all Crate & Barrel products. 

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