From Inspiration to Execution

Event Design and Production, Floral Design in Los Angeles California 

5 Benefits You'll Get from Hiring a Momtrepreneur

I'm sure you've heard the term Momtrepreneur. By some definitions it is a mother who starts a business from home; it may also be defined as a woman who is nurturing an entrepreneurial streak while also nurturing a family and home. 

Regardless of your own interpretation of the word, I'm here to explain why hiring one (specifically for your wedding, florals or other type of event task) will actually benefit you directly.  And in some situations these benefits cross over to other industries. 

 Moms are never off the clock

Moms are never off the clock

  1. Their overhead may be less.  I'm going to cut to the chase with one of the biggest benefits of hiring a momtrepreneur and that is the fact that their overhead may be less.  Moms who start their own businesses very often start from home.  Whether they're baking cakes in their own kitchen, or running a wedding planning business out of their home office, the odds that they are renting a physical space right out of the gate are lessened. And even as they grow, they may simply opt to work from home due to their need to balance work life with mom life. What does that mean for you? Well, if they aren't paying $2k in rent to open a store-front floral shop, that savings will most likely be reflected in your final bill. 
  2. Moms can juggle just about anything. Tracking down a vendor's contact information while simultaneously baking cookies for the fourth grade bake sale has given your momtrepreneur wedding planner the skill set she needs to juggle just about anything leading up to and on the day of your wedding.  Plus, moms are used to operating off of very little sleep so they aren't afraid to put in the extra hours for you. Groomsman is sick from drinking the night before? She has no problem with the puke he just left in the bathroom.  Your MOH forgot to prepare a speech? This isn't the first time she's had a homework assignment to assist with. Dad's missing his car keys?  Trust me, at her house, Dad's always missing his car keys.  No problem at all!
  3. You're inevitably getting a deal.  Like with any startup or non-childbearing entrepreneur, momtrepreneurs have to start somewhere and in doing so they are likely to offer up deals and discounts.  Because they aren't answering to a bigger corporation and they themselves are making the rules, you can do business with Mom on a more personal level.  If Mom herself is writing your invoice, she can control the wiggle room on the final numbers where as if you're going through a larger company, policies and rates are more set in stone. Don't get me wrong, you can't take advantage of Mom; she knows the word "no" better than just about anyone. However, she's not in this for the money alone and because of that she brings a level of understanding and generosity to the table that can ultimately lend itself to unique deals and opportunities. 
  4. Moms are extremely resourceful.  Remember how your own mother's purse felt like a scene from Mary Poppins? Moms in the event-planning business take that to a new extreme. Her diaper bag is probably filled with a tape measure, wet wipes and enough duct tape to make Macgyver jealous.  She's over prepared in just about any situation and can problem solve her way out of just about any situation.  This is going to help you out when it comes not only to the physical and aesthetic details of your wedding, but also with things like negotiating deals with other vendors and with saving the day on the day of. 
  5. You'd be supporting someone's dream... and someone's family, and someone's sanity.  Momtrepreneurs take on a business for many reasons. Some do it so they can stay home with their kids. Some need the money to support their family.  Others want to pursue a passion outside of their world of diaper changes and carpool lines.  Regardless of the specific reasons, your support goes a long way and is deeply appreciated more than you may ever know. 

To My Son on Your First Birthday

(plus images from your party)

 Photo by Alison Boyle of The Camera Scarf

Photo by Alison Boyle of The Camera Scarf

There were two lines on a stick. 

I didn't believe it. I tried again.

Still two lines. 

And there you were. 

Could you tell how anxious I was?

Those butterflies in my stomach as you grew...

... A blueberry

A lime

An eggplant. 

I talked to you and sang to you and called you by your name as the months went by. 9 months

Then 28 hours. 

And there you were. 

Squishy and small and gray. I thought you were perfect. 

I held you. I fed you. I counted your fingers and your toes. 

I memorized every curve of your face. 

I fell in love. 

Big fat huge crazy stupid love. 

I realized I'd spend a lifetime loving you. Teaching you. Giving to you with no expectation for return. 

I swore I'd do all the things...

The cloth diapers. The sleep training. The organic homemade food...

...and there you were making me question every move. 

Trying my patience. 

My sanity. 

Making me mentally elevate my own mother's status to that of a saint. 

When you smile, when you laugh, when you fall asleep holding my hand…

there's such clarity to my life. 

We will learn and grow together. 

Every day is a new adventure for us until you're ready to embark on your own. 

One day I was just a girl, with a stick, with two lines...

...and there you were. 



Thanks for making me a mommy. Happy 1st Birthday my sweet sweet boy.


Design and Florals: RTTO Events; Rentals: Otis and Pearl; Location: Reel Kick Ranch, Malibu, California

Photography: Combined efforts of The Camera Scarf, RTTO Events and Angie Keller 


The 5 Moments Your On-Site, Day-of Coordinator Will Miss

"I am not hiring a wedding planner or coordinator because my venue already provides one."

It is a common misconception in the bridal world that "Day of Coordinator" and "On Site Coordinator" are synonymous. This is so untrue that I have made it my mission to single handedly encourage the change of the title to "Venue Manager" or "On Site Manager" or at the very least "Venue Coordinator."  

What's the main difference? Simply put: Coordinators (aka planners who are working the month leading up to your wedding and the day of) have the couple's best interest in mind. Venue Managers put the venue's best interest first. 

But perhaps more important than the feel-good concept of someone having your back, is the idea that there are a few key moments in which your on-site "coordinator" will most likely not participate:

The moment you rehearse

In fact, you'll be lucky to find that your on-site manager even attends your rehearsal. If she does, it will probably be to unlock the door of the space, and then she will leave. And if she stays, she's definitely not going to be standing there, clipboard in hand, with all of your bridesmaid's names and processional order memorized. If you do not plan to have a full-service wedding planner or a day-of coordinator, you will want to plan ahead to lead your own rehearsal or ask your officiant to do so.

The moment you slip in to your dress

If you're hoping to have someone check in on you, offer you a glass of champagne, tell you how amazing you look in your wedding dress as your mom buttons up the back, or generally just make you feel taken care of while you're getting ready, you'll need more than your on-site manager. In her defense, she's likely too busy seeing to the staff setting up of the ceremony and/or reception to do this sort of task, but regardless, large amounts of doting just isn't in an on-site manager's job description.

The moment the stress level is peaking

One of the most chaotic and stressful behind-the-scenes moments happens when the bride's decor boxes are unloaded and everyone is trying to figure out how she wanted things set up.  I think decor setup is perhaps one of the biggest misconceptions in wedding planning. So, to clarify... 

On-site manager: Makes sure whatever team setting up the ceremony and reception doesn't break things, disobey rules or burn the place down. She will point out things to vendors such as where certain outlets are for your DJ or where they recommend storing the cake. And while at some special venues, she may help set out the tables and chairs, she most definitely will not set up decor items that her venue did not provide. Do not assume this person will set out your guest book, decorate your escort table, place your signage or drape fabric on your chuppah. So if you consider yourself a DIY bride, you'll  need someone (day of coordinator or otherwise) to execute all those projects you DIYed. 

Day-of (aka month of) Coordinator: Similarly to the On-site Coordinator, this Coordinator oversees the setup of your ceremony and reception. The difference here is that she has your best interest at heart and has spent a month getting to know you and your preferences. This knowledge will help her guide your florist in making certain placement decisions, or help the caterers figure out how to fold the napkin the way you want it. If your Day-of Coordinator ends up physically setting up a good portion of your decor, you should tip her really well as it is technically not part of her basic contract and doing so is taking her away from other necessary duties. Another thought: If you have detailed design elements a la Pinterest, you definitely need a full service planner and/or designer. 

Full Service Planner: Does all of the above, and is equipped (either with a staff, an assistant, additional time and/or vendor relationships)  to carry out every detail of the plan.

The moment you walk down the aisle

I use the world producing because a wedding ceremony is a production. It's like opening night at the theater and you only had one rehearsal the day before. The music must be timed, the children must be wrangled, the dresses fluffed and the bouquets in place. The last thing you want is to be a bride who is instructing her bridal party to walk. Orchestrating the ceremony is perhaps a Day-of Coordinator's most important job.  If you do not plan to have a Day-of Coordinator, plan to have a friend or relative who is not in the bridal party attend and lead your rehearsal, and then execute the plan the day of.

The moment the party begins (and the moment it ends)

Check your contract and then confirm with your on-site manager when she will be leaving the night of your wedding. I think you'll be shocked to find out that it's probably some time around 8 or 9pm. And if she stays, she's likely in a back office or the kitchen. The on-site manager is not at the reception, detailed schedule in hand, guiding the DJ, photographer and bridal party through every important moment. She is also not loading your car with you gifts, prettying up the bridal suite for your arrival that evening, and, very importantly, she's not cleaning up. In some cases, she will return at the end of the night to review a checklist to make sure the location is left the way your group found it. If you have a Planning team, they can see to it that the space is cleaned up properly. Otherwise, you may be leaving your deposit in the hands of fate and your Aunt Marilyn who may be two sheets to the wind. 

While we don't recommend going it alone, if you decide not to hire a day-of coordinator or wedding planner, carefully review the above moments and assign tasks accordingly.


Notes from a Wedding Planner Friend - The Inside Scoop

Dear newly engaged friend,

 Photo by Julie Shuford Photography

Photo by Julie Shuford Photography

When I got engaged I was determined to throw a budget-friendly wedding (like sub $20k) for 100 plus people, in Malibu, with all the standard bells and whistles that a modern wedding has (catering, entertainment, florals, guest gifts...).  Oh, and remember that view? I was absolutely determined to have an ocean view.  Everything I read and everyone I talked to (including my betrothed) said it was impossible. But when someone tells me I can't do something, well, you know the rest...

It wasn't easy, and I will tell you that in order to make this goal into a reality, it took me a year of painstakingly detailed planning (we're talking daily work), lots of research and negotiation and a ton of DIY projects. The results: a successful event that lacked a "budget wedding" feel. 

malibu california bluff

After that I couldn't understand why so many brides struggled to meet their budgetary goals. Turns out most didn't have the time, patience or desire to go through what I went through to stay on budget, but I digress. I decided to make my one-time accomplishment into a full-time career.

Today, when brides come to me with their wedding goals, I often cringe knowing that their budget just doesn't seem to match up with their vision. But when you announced your engagement I felt compelled to tell you the truth...the real-deal facts about planning a wedding on a budget. It can be done. But you have to be ready to accept some realities.  So here goes:

Reality #1: You need a planner.  Yeah yeah, obviously I want to sell myself.  I'm not going to deny that, but the thing is whether it is me or someone else (that you've heavily researched) PLEASE hire help. My planner wasn't so great, and even though I handed my wedding to her on a perfectly organized, perfectly labeled platter, her not-so-amazing skills caused more stress than necessary. But I have to be honest with myself.  I didn't pay her much.  I was one of those "Dear wedding planner, I've done all the work already so I really only need someone there the day of to make sure it goes smoothly."  And in my deepest, quietest moments I know that she gave me the value I gave her. She walked us down the aisle, she made sure my music was correctly timed, and that the day progressed as it was supposed to.  Did she set my tables up? No. In fact, I think it was you who pointed out noticing my mother running across the lawn in curlers as you arrived.  Did she decorate my dessert table? Nope. It looked exactly like I left it the night before with the platters and cake stands just left out. She didn't even move or place them.  But guess what, I hired a day of coordinator, not a designer.  Those two things are different.

Even if you have a simple elopement, a planner is worth her weight in gold. She'll help you get deals with vendors with whom she's built relationships. She'll make sure your day is orchestrated correctly and when the crap hits the fan on the day of the wedding (which it will) she'll be there to make sure it doesn't splatter all over your face. Other than a good photographer THIS is where you invest in order to protect your overall investment. A good planner starts at $2k. Probably seems high, right? Well, she's going to spend at least 10-14 hours at your wedding, and another 1-2 at your rehearsal. She'll spend 3-6 hours calling your vendors and discussing day of timelines with them and then another 2-3 hours returning their follow up calls, emails and texts the day before your event (yup, they'll wait until the day before). Then there are calls from your mother, your bridesmaids and your sister's best friend who wants to bring her baby to the wedding. She'll spend 2 hours constructing your wedding timeline, going over your rental details and reviewing your contracts and that's just the beginning of it. Divide all those hours by $2000 and see if you feel the rate is fair. Oh, and don't forget she has to hire and pay an assistant. If your planner doesn't offer an assistant, run. Even the best wedding planners can't be in three places at once. 

Reality #2: The more people you invite, the more money you spend. Seems obvious right? Okay then why do so many brides not understand that increasing their guest count from 80 to 150 is going to result in a huge increase in costs? We're talking thousands. Not only do you have to feed all these people but you have to rent a chair for them to sit in and a plate for them to eat off of and those 10 bridesmaids you've decided you need in your wedding party (trust me, they won't be upset if you don't include them) have to have flowers and gifts and champagne in the bridal suite. It adds up. Cut your guest list to your immediate family and closest friends and don't assume that your fiancé's cousin is clocking hours with her therapist because you didn't ask her to be your 18th bridesmaid. In fact, don't assume you need bridesmaids at all. 

Reality #3: Food is expensive. Hey I know you. You love good food. I also know your chef of a mom would be a little upset to sit down to a warmed piece of chicken.  If the situation allows for it, call a food truck and call it a day, but remember that feeding even just 20 people isn't cheap. How much would it cost to take 20 people to a fast-food restaurant? Ok, now think about the fact that at your wedding you have to bring the entire restaurant to your guests.  Many of my brides ask me why food is so expensive. Well it's not just the cost of the piece of chicken and the sauce that goes on top; you're paying for the chef, the service, the cleanup and in many cases the rental of various items needed to prepare the meal. 

Reality #4: You can't have everything. Unless you have an endless budget (and girl let's be serious, even if you did I would be advising you to be reasonable. Your future is filled with house payments and children and vacations and college educations).  So, you can't have an endless wish list. You have to make sacrafices somewhere. Now, a good planner can help you choose where to save and where to splurge so it doesn't look like you made sacrifices. Just remember that the brides who end up going over budget often can't draw the line. You don't NEED Swarovski Crystal encrusted napkin rings. 

Reality #5: Pinterest is lying. I'm addicted to Pinterest like the rest of our friends; I think it is incredibly inspirational (I freaking loved that "mommy on the go tote" you made me for Christmas), and I tell all my brides to start a wedding board as soon as they begin planning. I've secretly been stalking yours ;)

However, you have to keep in mind that most "Pinterest" weddings are unattainable on a budget and in many cases, aren't even real weddings. Gasp, I know!  The wedding industry is filled to the brim with what we designer/planners call "styled shoots." We vendors all get together to create beautifully detailed table tops with luxurious linens, elaborate florals, stunning rentals and decadent place settings. Sure, it's affordable to pull this off for an 8 person table, but multiply that by 12 tables and you've officially spent your entire life savings. Use Pinterest to pick concepts and hone in on a detail or two that you really like rather than an overall look.  

Oh and side note: be kind to your photographer.  When she is doing a styled shoot the attention is 100% on her goals.  At your wedding, the attention is 100% on you and the wedding. Some shots that are captured at the perfect magic hour in a styled shoot simply can't be captured at your wedding while also maintaining your schedule. 

Reality #6: Plan for the end

No silly, I don't mean prenups. I mean the end of the wedding reception. It's a common mistake.  I was guilty of it too.  I didn't plan for cleanup and my poor mother (you know, the one running across the lawn in curlers) and my cousin had to go back the morning after the wedding to clean everything up. I was lucky enough to have a location that allowed for this, but let me tell you, four hours later my cousin was chain smoking and practically in tears from all the work she had to do. Plan for cleanup. Some planner packages include this but make sure it is outlined in the contract.  Some venues also provide assistance with this. Just keep in mind that if you're bringing DIY projects (like the giant photo booth wall I built myself), someone has to break that down and take it home. Same goes for your centerpieces, your bar (and the alcohol you thought would save you money if you brought yourself), your gifts, and everything your bridesmaids left in the bridal suite. 

In the end, don't get caught up in everything society tells you a wedding should be. Make it about the two of you, plan carefully, and stick to a budget and it can still be amazing. 

I've said it before; I'll say it again.  The wedding industry may have you dreaming of a beautiful wedding, but we want you to have a beautiful marriage.  Start it off right, for the right reasons, and out of debt -- your marriage will be better for it. 

Wishing you all the best!


Lindsey and Mike's Bright Baby Shower

When Courtney approached RTTO to plan and style her sister's baby shower, she knew she wanted something simple, colorful and fun. We created a playful atmosphere with bright pops of color, beautiful florals, and a onesie tie-dye station. We wish Lindsey and Mike the best with Baby Kate! 


A Letter to My Unborn Son

I've worked on a lot of baby showers and baby parties over the last year. In fact, knowing the birth of my baby was just days away, we decided to take on another shower (don't worry, I have already been informed of my insanity).  It was this past weekend, and I'm thrilled to say, quite a success! I'm forever grateful that I have the support of an awesome team to pull off anything, regardless of the circumstances. 

Baby showers are such an exciting time in a mother's life - just one of the many moments during pregnancy filled with love, joy and new experiences. While contemplating these moments,  I recently wrote this letter to my baby boy and while I imagine there will be many more letters from Mom in his future (many of which he'll find just as cheesy as this one), I wanted to commemorate how I'm feeling about him and his future at this very moment.

I've also included a few photos from the "Giving Tree" photo shoot I designed with Jessie Samedi of House of James Parker.  How lucky we were to have the help of the amazing photographer Julie Shufford, and the talented Mai Kato along with access to the gorgeous landscape of Old Canyon Ranch. 

To my baby boy,
Though our eyes haven't met, I know you, and I will always love you.

I promise to protect you.

And I promise to show you how much I love your father.

I promise to listen to you even if I don't always agree.

And I promise to try to recognize that your interests may not make sense to me.

I hope you learn to laugh at life like your dad, and to have passion for adventure like me.

I promise to build forts and play with you in the rain and the mud and if we can't find trees to climb or puddles to jump in nearby, I'll take you to them.

I promise to teach you to swim and surf and ski and ride a bike.

I promise to help you grow your relationships with your grandparents.

And I hope you'll know your great grandparents for many years to come. You have a lot to learn from them.

I hope you aren't afraid of hard work.

Or of quitting if something isn't right.

I hope you'll stand up for what you believe and for those who don't always have a voice.

I hope you know that sometimes the hardest decisions are the right ones and that going against the grain is ok.

I hope you treat people with kindness and respect and rejoice in the uniqueness of others.

I hope you learn to create and tell stories and play tricks...especially on your dad. He deserves it.

I hope you understand, at least eventually, that when I make you write thank you notes and clean your room and hold open doors that I'm doing it because I'm raising you to become an amazing man.

I hope that you are more beautiful, more intelligent, more successful and happier than I could imagine. I'm not raising you to be like me, but rather to be better than me.

I hope you keep your chin up and your smile wide and that you never give up on things that are important to you.

I promise to teach you to follow through on your commitments.

I hope you understand that it is ok to lose and to fail.

I hope you'll love to try new foods, but that you won't love peanut butter quite as much as your father.

I hope you see the value of a dollar. And the value of an education.

I hope you see the value in waiting for the things you really want even if it means giving up something more immediate.

I hope you love the outdoors, and books, an animals and veggies.

I hope you have friends so amazing you call them family. And family so close you consider them friends.

I hope you laugh hard and long.

And I hope one day you know how much you are loved and that you experience it in a way that I've been so blessed to experience because of you.
Once there was a tree... and she loved a little boy. ~Shel Silverstein

5 Wedding Trends Brides Should Leave at the Altar (And How to Replace Them)

An alternative guest book, so I thought. 

When I was planning my wedding and trying to decide on a guest book, I was so pleased with myself when I came up with the idea of a guest globe.  It fit my "adventure" theme perfectly and, in my opinion, was a totally new concept.  

Well, if you've been exploring Pinterest lately, you're shaking your head right now with the knowledge that I was definitely not the first to come up with this idea, nor was I the last.

Trends in the bridal world have a very distinct cycle. Here's the basic gist of how it works:

1) The concept is created by industry professionals (designers, florists, coordinators, and in some occasions, a super trend-setting bride.)

2) The concept gets utilized, photographed and eventually pinned, blogged or showcased. 

3) Then that concept builds momentum, and in many cases it can take a year or two for it to truly become a trend.

Okay so this is pretty standard for many trends, bridal or not (interior design, fashion, etc.) but the interesting thing that happens in the bridal world is that most brides don't begin to seek out inspiration for their wedding until about a year before their wedding day. Yes, there are some who wait longer, and some who have been planning their whole life, but generally speaking if you only opened your eyes to the bridal world a few weeks after your engagement (or, okay, once you got wind that a ring was on its way), the trends you're seeing have been floating around real weddings for a while even though to you they may appear really different and unique.

"Who cares?" you may ask. If I like it, I like it.

Absolutely! Let me preface this list by saying that if you want to wear a strapless dress (one of the most common bridal fashions today) or strap on a pair of colored heels like your friend did or prepare a choreographed father-daughter dance like the ones you've seen on Youtube, girl, you do it!  The only reason for this list is to inform those brides who seek to be as unique as possible, to help them avoid the trap of thinking something is new when it has been around the block, and to help them replace an old trend with something we industry pros are only beginning to see.  So here goes: 


1) Lose it:  Mason Jars.  They're super versitle and super affordable. You can use them for drinks, flowers, take-home gifts and so much more, but as my mother said before my 2013 wedding, "If I see another mason jar, I'm going to pick it up and puke in it."   

Mercury glass compote bowls by Accent Decor 

Replace with: Mercury glass, mismatched votives, and compote blows in various colors, sizes and styles from vintage to mix-metals to uber elegant. 

2) Lose it: Rounded bouquets.  As I mentioned earlier, if you love it, leave it. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a perfectly rounded bouquet and for those looking to use florals like hydrangea or roses the shape is quite lovely, but if you're looking for something a bit different...

Replace with: a whimsical, wispy bouquet that features an asymmetrical shape. 

A "Naked Cake" found on GreenWeddingShoes.com 

3) Lose it: Over-the-top fondant cakes. Not only are they crazy expensive but we've been looking at the five-tiered towers for decades now. If you love tiered cakes, at least you have a lot of options in the way you can decorate them - explore these options and perhaps even ask your baker what the most popular selections are so that you can veer in a different direction.

Replace with: a naked cake. These rustic cakes are particularly appealing for outdoor weddings, garden settings and intimate gatherings.  They have a "my grandmother just whipped this up" feel but can be oh-so tasty.  They're not loaded with icing and fondant which totally fits the farm-to-table, organic trend that our palates seem to crave today and there's no reason you can't have three of them in different styles and sizes if you have a big group to feed or that over-the-top image to maintain. 

4) Lose it.  Burlap runners.  Okay, so I'm all for a rustic feel, but there are other ways to go about it than a lace-trimmed runner. 'Tis not to dis those brides who used this trend; seriously, it was a brilliant idea when it first popped up.  For a rustic event stick to mismatched items, reclaimed wood, vintage finds from local shops and organic florals with lots of greenery and neutral colors, and when it comes to the table runners, ...

Replace with: Patterned fabrics, squins, or even faux furs.  The shabby-chic rustic trend of 2012/2013 is leaning into a natural and sophisticated palate that incorporates elements of glam such as sparkly bridesmaid dresses, over the top floral headpieces and yes, even the outdoor chandeliers. 

How glamorous is this sequined chevron runner by Milk & Honey?

5) Lose it. Photo Booth Props.  Don't worry, I'm not advocating you kick the Photo Booth to the curb. It's totally still a huge hit at weddings. It's a conversation starter, a fun activity, and a great guest gift item, but what I'm suggesting we lose is the standard way we used to enter the booth - in crazy headpieces and oversized sunglasses, wigs that have been worn by who knows how many people, and yes, of course, a mustache on a stick. 

Replace with: Authentic pieces that allow you to create stunning frame worthy photos. In fact, Sharon Kanes of The Stylish Fox is an expert in this department, providing her photo booth users with amazing vintage finds like musical instruments, feather fascinators and stunning backdrops. 

Make it about you guys...

Ultimately your wedding is about you and the ones you love.  I'm not here to encourage you to make it a fashion show before a celebration or a production before a meaningful life moment. Whether you've discovered new inspiration, or perhaps realized you like the old trends, make your wedding your own in whatever way you see fit. 



Gwendelyn and Daniel's Malibu Wedding

I absolutely adored working with this awesome couple. Gwendelyn called me months before her wedding hoping she could accomplish a few DIY projects including her florals and her cake. No problem.  We went right to work.  Even though Gwen and Daniel were living in Chicago at the time, we were able to communicate regarding her vision: they wanted whimsical, wispy florals with greens that popped against the bright coral background of her location. She wanted small silver buckets dipped in dripping paint (a quick project I was excited to attack), some greenery on her chuppah, and a simple cake that represented the couples love for Dr. Who. Oh... and a last minute addition of a floral headpiece for the flower girl!

Gwen and Daniel accompanied me to the flower marts where we picked some of their florals - a touching moment where I got to see how well they worked together.  The day of their beautiful May wedding came quickly and I was honored to be a part of the stunning event.  Hats off to the couple for giving me such great inspiration. 


See more from this lovely ocean-view wedding photographed by Shannon Lee Images 

Spring Themed Ranch Shoot

What started out as a simple shoot designed to showcase some of the beautiful rentals that Rise to the Occasions incorporates into our styling for showers, intimate weddings and events, quickly turned into a slightly more elaborate affair. I decided that the tablescape I wanted to create would be perfectly suited for the Reel Kick Ranch, and that the farm fresh eggs that the ranch produces would serve as a beautiful focal point, especially with Easter quickly approaching.

But why have a beautiful little table, organic eggs, and frolicking animals without adding two adorable little girls to the mix? Thus, this spring-themed shoot was created, and I'm sure you'll agree that the results are too cute for words. 

Available for rent: gold rimmed plates, lace gold rimmed plates, gold rimmed glasses, silver flatware, tea cups, lace tablecloth overlays, pink tablecloths, brown vintage box (holding the radishes).  Reel Kick Ranch available for day rate rentals. Apollo the cat (okay, just kidding. But he's at the ranch if you want to meet him).  Interested in rentals? Contact us because If we don't have it, we can hook you up with someone who does. 

Available for purchase/design: floral headpieces, floral centerpieces, hanging florals

Must Be the Money

Bidding adieu isn't always a fun thing to do...

But if it must be done, it should be done in style. When friends and family gathered to wish Chris (a hedge fund manager) a happy departure from Los Angeles to Austin, a money-themed going away party seemed quite appropriate. And knowing that he could handle a bit of poking fun at his own expense, we decided to douse the place in a bit of financial humor. From the "100 dollar bottles of wine" to the "request for financial advice" (as if he needs it) on a golden wishing tree to aptly named foods such as the "diversified portfolio" of crostini appetizers created by the fabulous caterer Nataliya Vakulenko, it was truly a money-filled event that didn't break the bank in the least bit.

Guests enjoyed tasty foods, a "Gold Standard" signature drink and even got in a few laughs when they saw the streaming screen of Chris-focused memes. It was a golden affair enough to leave anyone green with envy. 

 Dollar Sign garland available on the  RTTO Etsy Shop  

Dollar Sign garland available on the RTTO Etsy Shop 

 Chocolate cupcake with homemade dark chocolate frosting. YUM.  A featured RTTO party add-on. 

Chocolate cupcake with homemade dark chocolate frosting. YUM.  A featured RTTO party add-on. 

 This golden cupcake features light and fluffy brown sugar frosting - recipe tweaked from one found on "I Wash You Dry?"

This golden cupcake features light and fluffy brown sugar frosting - recipe tweaked from one found on "I Wash You Dry?"

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5 Guidelines Every Bride Should Follow (that many forget)

If you've deemed yourself a "DIY Bride,"  my guess is that you're taking on the challenge because (aside from saving money) you want your guests to feel the love, to feel you and your partner's unique spirit come through in the details, and because you enjoy the creation process. You want a "homemade" wedding...so you say.  What you probably really want is a completely professional-looking wedding that you personally created, and for your guests to know you did it yourself, but not because they can see the hot glue strings.

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It's no secret: you are capable of a whole heck of a lot when you put our mind to it, but before you go grabbing your tool box, glue sticks and sewing machine promise yourself that you'll stick to these five basic (but important) guidelines so your homemade wedding isn't lacking in professionalism. 

1. Decide what is important to you and your partner. Pick three things that you value the most. Then let your partner do the same and try to agree on one that overlaps. Maybe you care about the dress and the concept of having a whimsical beach wedding.  Your groom, on the other hand, wants really great food and a band and you both agree your mutual priority is sticking to your budget. Knowing your priorities ahead of time will help you make decisions moving forward. Proper decision making keeps you away from clutter and chaos, and from overspending. 

2. Pick a theme.   Themes can be vague or very concrete as long as you (or you and your designer) personally know what it is before you begin hunting for decor. An example of this would be vintage. Anything non-vintage we'd avoid incorporating unless we found a vintage counterpart for that item.  As you progress through the planning process, ask yourself "does this play in to my theme or take me down another path." Your guests won't necessarily leave being able to state the theme, but they will leave feeling everything came together in a distinct, uniform way. (Ex. "Vintage romance with an Owl motif" ; "Love is an Adventure"; "Birds of a feather"; "Beatles 'Here Comes the Sun'") 

3. Pick a color palate and stick with it. Hopefully your color palate matches your theme (e.g. theme of "Beatles Here Comes the Sun" goes with a color palate of yellow, black and white.)  If your color palate is black, white and pink, do not add elements of lime green at the last minute and then a few days later decide to throw in some blue for good measure.  It will complicate your look and feel, and guests will feel something is off even if they can't pinpoint their discomfort.  Color palates can be as few as three colors and as many as five or six within similar tones. (Ex - black, white and red; Evergreen green, champagne, white and silver; teal blue, sage green, white, off white and brown.)  Obviously there are some exceptions (you're throwing a rainbow themed party) but for the most part this is a super important element to creating your overall look. 

4. Don't try to put everything you love in one spot. There's nothing wrong with loving a lot of things, but many brides make the mistake of using every idea they see. Ask yourself does it fit my theme?, is it in the category of 3-5 things that are very important to us?, does it match my colors? Ok then, it can advance. This is particularly important for that moment when you decide to get crafty. Opt for quality over quantity and stick with projects that you know you can create well. If a test run finds you amongst a major Pinterest fail, go back to the drawing board. If the project is fitting into your "i must do this to meet my budget, theme and "top priorities list" and it isn't coming out right, call on an expert to help. Remember, RTTO offers DIY project execution assistance. 

5. Remember that the venue space is the starting palate. Don't fight the palate. When you walk into your venue, look around for a minute. Then close your eyes and ask yourself what three colors and one word come to mind. Those are how you should proceed with the look and feel of the wedding. Uth oh, you have your heart set on a certain theme/color scheme but the affordable venue you found has colors that don't match. My suggestion is you reconsider the space, or you reconsider the theme... unless your space can be altered.  Is your floor red for a wedding that you wanted coral to be the main color scheme? That will not work unless you can cover the floor (which is indeed a possibility) or change the location of the venue or, perhaps, simply reconsider your colors.  Are you at a park? The colors you see when you close your eyes will probably be blues, greens, whites, creams and browns. Black would be too harsh as a main color in this space. Are you in Vegas? Pastel tones aren't likely going to work, but jewel metallics will!  So would red and black.  DO NOT try to fight the natural palate. It will unconsciously create discomfort amongst your guests and, moreover, this is where the breakdown happens between professional and homemade. 

In an ideal scenario you choose your location around your theme OR you choose your theme and colors after you've settled on a location so:

- set your budget, pick a theme, pick your colors then go find a venue that fits your vision OR

- set your budget, pick your location, then pick your colors to match your location and a theme that fits within this or provides you with direction within your palate (green, gold and silver colors in an estate so you decide on "Great Gatsby" as your direction) 

Most importantly, don't try to please everyone and enjoy every moment of the process.


A Star Wars Dinner Party

This week I had the pleasure of working with caterer, Nataliya Vakulenko on a Star Wars-themed birthday party. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the client and wife of the Star Wars fan gave us one point of direction: "It should be classic - like the characters are attending a dinner party."  I was thrilled with the chance to take something that could otherwise come across kitschy and turn it into something elegant and fun for all the guests. 

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As Nataliya created a delicious menu of bacon wrapped fingerling potatoes, kale salad with persimmons, roasted green beans, short ribs, polenta and dark chocolate cake with ganache filling, I worked to turn said items into something thematic: R2-D2 Potatoes, Jar Jar Beans, Jawa Ribs and of course... Darth Chocolate cake with Jaba the Nut frosting. We also served hot cider and minty lime water which also donned Star Wars themed names. 


One of my favorite elements of the party planning process is going to the local flower marts and creating florals that fit the theme. While I do not necessarily love artificial dyes or fake florals, these happen to feature some dyed blue and gold filler to pull in the theme colors.

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The DIY decor elements were really fun to make including "Use the Forks, Luke" forks, homemade Star Garland, Star Wars Madlib birthday cards for guests to fill out, and "May The Force Be With You" mugs with Light Saber Pretzel Sticks as the party favor.  All of these DIY items, including customized labels, can be purchased on the Rise to the Occasions Etsy shop

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Brown Paper Packages Tied Up with Strings

...these are a few of my favorite things.

 Set of three includes baker's twine

Set of three includes baker's twine

This year I'm going old-school with my gift wrapping: brown-paper bags tied together with baker's twine and...beer bottle caps. What? That's right. We've collected a whole heap of bottle caps this year, so this is the first of my bottle-cap inspired projects.

This classic-looking gift adornment has a wax-seal effect bringing to mind nostalgic packages of times past, but with a modern flare that's a bit easier than firing up the sealing wax. They can be upcycled (stay tuned for when I show you how to turn these in to oh-so-glamouus napkin ties) and recycled.

Visit the Rise to the Occasions Etsy Store to purchase a set of three ties for just $8. 

Dinner with the Star Wars

Currently I'm working on a dinner party for a guy who loves Star Wars and his 20 closest friends. While his wife (who is throwing this event as a surprise for her husband), wants to capture the essence of one of his favorite films, she doesn't want the party to be too kitschy...he is, after all, turning 33.  The direction she's given me:

"It can be like if the Star Wars characters went to a dinner party."

So here's what I'm working on. 

Star Wars Inspiration Board 

Credit: Green Wedding Shoes (left photo and bottom-middle)


Cookie Bar

My favorite new trend for parties is the "cookies and milk" bar.  Sure, cakes are great and cupcake towers and candy stations are ever-growing in popularity, but if you ask me cookies are the next "it-factor" for weddings and showers. They're super simple and totally portable making them perfectly suited for dessert tables and even take-home favors. Plus there are so many ways to make them your own: choose a family recipe or flavor that represents the guest of honor, color coordinate them to match a theme (blue icing for a baby-boy shower anyone?), add labels, fun straws and even a to-go jug of milk and you've created an oh-so-adorable item that's sure to be a hit. Eat this sweet trend up before the sugar high runs out. 


HoeDown ThrowDown - A Ranch Warming Party

When the owners of a new ranch wanted to throw a housewarming, there was no doubt it had to be a Hoedown theme. We went to work choosing colors and props that fit well in to the already beautiful and unique location. The dinner/cocktail hour itself was set back in the woods in a burnout where an old house once stood. The use of native items like hay made the event extra affordable. Some of the 75+ guests brought beer and wine, but we provided a whiskey tasting bar, cupcakes, horse d'oeuvres and flowers and when all was said and done we spent (get this...) a grade total of $575 on the whole event! 

  One of my favorite parts about the hoedown was the whiskey tasting bar we built. Guests enjoyed whiskey samples in homemade mini mason jars and then had the chance to guess the whiskey types. The winner took home a bottle!   (the property owner's friend had a birthday so we honored that too) 

One of my favorite parts about the hoedown was the whiskey tasting bar we built. Guests enjoyed whiskey samples in homemade mini mason jars and then had the chance to guess the whiskey types. The winner took home a bottle! 

(the property owner's friend had a birthday so we honored that too) 

  drink bar - we really put our mason jars to work - and the fans were all hand-crafted to keep decor fun and affordable 

drink bar - we really put our mason jars to work - and the fans were all hand-crafted to keep decor fun and affordable 

   Each drink straw had a saying from a country song. 

Each drink straw had a saying from a country song. 

   And we created a photobooth with items we found around the ranch. Here's my "portrait" with the head rancher himself. 

And we created a photobooth with items we found around the ranch. Here's my "portrait" with the head rancher himself. 

Credits: Renee Riehl, Nataliya Vakulenko

Down the Rabbit Hole - An "Alice in Wonderland" Shower

The bride ordered up a shower straight out of the story books and left the rest to us. After creating a vision board and choosing the color scheme (something we do for every event), we went to work.  

From the moment guests stepped on the property everything was topsy turvy just like in Wonderland. There were directional signs, a suave little rabbit to greet guests at the door, mismatched plates, fun party favors, and even some special surprises for the bride. 

(Click the photos to rotate through the gallery) 

The event was a huge success - not only for the bride and her guests but beyond that - we were named "runner up" in an event contest sponsored by Cvent! 

Credits: Nataliya Vakulenko (photography; catering); Alison Boyle (event assistant)