the wedding planner

{ to destination or not to destination…? }

Friday, October 12th, 2012 | etiquette, media, Q&A, Uncategorized | No Comments

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE CALGARY HERALD, IN LISA HANSLIP’S COLUMN “I DO, BUT DON’T…”
beach-wedding1

Q. My fiancée and I can’t quite decide what to do about our wedding. She is the youngest of 10 kids and her immediate family alone now numbers about 52 people, not to mention all the cousins and aunts and uncles. I have three siblings (all married with kids), countless aunts, uncles and cousins, and my parents are both re-married. By the time we actually start inviting all of our friends our guest list will be huge. We’re actually considering a destination wedding because we know very few of them could afford to attend, but we’re not sure we’d be happy with this decision. What should we do?

A. The guest list can be one of the most stressful parts of planning a wedding – even without such an expansive family tree. Destination weddings are increasingly popular for many reasons. Although thinning out the guest list often falls near the top of the list, it’s not the best reason to run off to the islands to get married.

“Is there really a bad reason to get married barefoot on the beach at sunset?” you ask… Actually there is. It really depends on what you want to remember from your wedding day – the pool boy bringing you a Mai Tai in a coconut as soon as you say “I do,” or that your family was there to share it with you.

Destination weddings can be wonderful if you choose a place that has particular meaning to you as a couple. Many resorts do a lovely job with weddings, however most of the time it’s a crap shoot what kind of officiant, flowers and photographer you’ll end up with, so do lots of research before you choose a location. You also want to look into residency requirements – some islands require you to be there several days before you can get a marriage license.

If you do decide to opt for a destination wedding to avoid feeding all 52 of your fiancée’s immediate family (yikes!), just make sure you do a good job of selling them on your penchant for fruity umbrella drinks so no one gets offended. Aloha!

 

paradise20in20vellum_lrg

 

 

http://www.mystylishwedding.com/store/destination-wedding/paradise-in-vellum-wedding-invitation-set

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where they take the cake (pt 2)

Monday, April 18th, 2011 | media, trends | No Comments

The two women met in 2005 while studying at Le Cordon Bleu Ottawa Culinary Arts School. Pellegrino founded Cake Opera Co. soon after. “All my instructors said, ‘You should be making showpieces in Vegas,’” she says. The timing dovetailed with a growing cultural fixation on cake, evident in the emergence of the golden age of cake TV – a spawn of shows including Ace of Cakes, Wedding Cake Wars, Cake Boss, and Ultimate Cake Off. In 2009, Pellegrino asked Smith, then head pastry chef at Toronto’s Truffles restaurant, for help on a Food Network cake challenge. Within months, they were in a partnership. Grace Ormonde, editor-in-chief of the US magazine Wedding Style, was an early supporter. “I had worked with the best and thought I’d seen everything,” she says. “And here come these two women who blew me away.” Their cakes taste as delicious as they look, she notes: “That’s not always the case.”

Their custom design work, which begins at $300 and rises to $6,000, tends to focus on weddings, which isn’t surprising. Once cakes only had to be pretty, says Ormonde: “Now everyone wants their wedding to be unique. They want sculpture.”

When consulting with brides, Pellegrino asks for visuals – the dress, flowers, a brooch – then brings her imagination to bear. An opulent three-tiered, chocolate, 24K-gold and burgundy cake created for a Venetian-themed wedding last year took its cue from the invitation. “I was drawn to the envelope’s lining; it had a beautiful pattern,” she says. For the top, she created a sugar replica of the masks worn by the bride and groom.

They’ve made black and purple cakes, but Pellegrino says she loves all-white cakes, with a twist: “I like to recall that traditional wedding feeling and then there will be something on it like, ‘Whoa, where did that come from?’” Given the work required, their cakes can exist as a metaphor for the marriage to come: under the showy surface, there’s a carefully constructed infrastructure necessary to keep it all aloft. A black-and-white pirate-themed cake took 150 hours to build, says Pellegrino: “It requires the mind of an engineer.”

Creating fantasy can be a slog. Fourteen-hour workdays are common; Pellegrino and Smith do all of their own deliveries. “Street-car tracks are the bane of our existence,” says Smith, the driver. “She’s crapping her pants,” says Pellegrino, the navigator. They’re more laid-back about marketing. “We’ve taken a very non-aggressive approach,” says Smith. “The work speaks for itself.”

“Alexandria is brilliant,” says Catherine Lash, creative director of Toronto’s The Wedding Co., a wedding show producer. “You will not see anything recognizable in her designs – it’s not Martha Stewart magazine. She’s going to the opera, she’s going to art galleries.” Researching Madden’s tattoos in the tabloids offered rare lowbrow trolling, Pellegrino says: “I got to read all of these wonderful, smutty magazines.” Her favourite period is 17th century northern European still life “vanitas” paintings, whose shadowy compositions warn the viewer not to invest too much importance in mortal wealth and pleasures, a message that might be lost on people planning $100,000-plus weddings.

A playful irony percolates through Cake Opera Co.’s rococo-chic website and shop, one reminiscent of Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, the 2006 movie that reinforced the link between sumptuous pastel pastries and the woman who never actually said “Let them eat cake.” Gilt abounds. In the front window, a French guillotine slices through a retro wedding cake bleeding edible 24-karat gold. Inside the shop, antique glass cabinets are filled with macarons, meringues, marshmallows and cupcakes with names like “The Lady Pompadour” and “The Musetta.” Pellegrino laughs at the mention of Coppola’s movie. “Never seen it,” she jokes. “Don’t know what you’re talking about.” That movie fuelled the macaron trend – and resultant backlash – “a tragic story,” says Pellegrino. “It’s such a beautiful confection,” Smith explains. “But now wedding planners are saying, ‘We’re so over that.’ It’s a slap in the face.” “They’ve been around hundreds of years,” says Pellegrino. “Cupcakes have been around 50 years. So throw them to the curb!”

Cake Opera’s theatrical flair attracted Beverly Hills wedding planner Mindy Weiss, who organized Richie’s nuptials. She’d heard of them via Ormonde. Their website blew her away, she says. “I would stare at it in awe.” When Weiss learned Richie wanted a Versailles theme, she contacted them with only two weeks’ notice. “Before I knew it I received an email with the most fabulous drawing of the cake,” says Weiss. “I did not change a thing. And I always change something!” The finished cake was “amazing,” she says. “It was an art piece that the guests would walk up to and stare at.”

Gushy coverage of the wedding in People and Hello! resulted in a flurry of requests to ship, which they won’t do. “Most people can’t afford to fly us in,” says Smith.

Weiss, who plans events for people who can afford it, says she can’t wait to work with them again: “They’re perfection.” Predictably, there’s talk of a TV show. “We’re open to it,” says Smith. They’d be naturals – photogenic, funny, and smart enough to know that if Marie Antoinette were alive today, her apocryphal command would be “Let them watch cake.” ANNE KINGSTON

cake-opera3

We’re definitely not in the same camp with the wedding planners that are over macarons…we’re a huge fan of the scrumptious French confectionary: they are delicious, come in a gorgeous array of colours, and are gluten free…what more can you ask for?!? Throw the cupcakes to the curb?…why not!

Re-reading this article makes me want to watch Marie Antoinette again…which will inevitably send to the patisserie for a wee box of macarons…YUM!

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where they take the cake (pt 1)

Friday, April 15th, 2011 | media, trends | No Comments

We have long been fans of the amazing design esthetic of the Cake Opera Co. so we were thrilled to see them featured in Maclean’s Magazine.

cake-opera1

Nicole Richie could have hired anyone to make her wedding cake. She chose Toronto’s Cake Opera Co.

 

LAST DECEMBER, business partners Alexandra Pellegrino and Jessica Smith flew from Toronto to Los Angeles with carry-on that was as fragile as it was weird: a sugar-modeling-paste sculpture depicting Nicole Richie, the daughter of singer Lionel, and her musician husband-to-be Joel Madden, as Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI-before the royals’ decadent reign came to its bloody, tumultuous end. Richie was decked out in a white wig, black mask and ruffly gown and splayed on a chaise longue; behind her, Madden, in a white wig and mask, presented his bride with arms out-stretched; through his jacket, the rocker’s famously inked arms could be seen, each tattoo replicated precisely.

The painstakingly detailed tableau could be seen as a biting social commentary on over-the-top celebrity culture, but wasn’t: it was the topper of the extravagant cake served at Richie’s and Madden’s Dec. 11 “Versailles”-themed nuptials.

Smith and Pellegrino, the pastry chef and designer, respectively, at Toronto’s Cake Opera Co., had transported surreal confectionary before. In February 2010, US Customs officials were bemused by a suitcase filled with sugar roses for a cake they’d be making for a Tim Burton-meets-Alice-in Wonderland-themed sweet 16 in Scottsdale, Ariz.

That party they were invited to. The closest they got to the high-security celebration at Lionel Richie’s Beverly Hills estate was the back entrance, where they delivered their five-tiered cake edged in edible 24-karat gold, created at a West Hollywood bakery taken over for the occasion.

The commission was a high point in their two-year collaboration, says the 29-year-old Pellegrino, who attended the Ontario College of Art and Design before turning to making ephemeral art with fondant and cake flour. “We still don’t believe it. It’s like, ‘We were at Lionel Richie’s house! With something that came out of this kitchen.’” It was all really hush-hush, says Smith, 28, who studied culinary arts at Toronto’s George Brown College and has worked at London’s Michelin-starred Yauatcha. “We weren’t even allowed to take pictures of our work.”

Sitting in their uptown Toronto shop in chef jackets and over-the-knee boots, Pellegrino and Smith present as confident patisserie swashbucklers. Samples of their couture cakes line one wall – one looks like blue Wedgwood china; on another, a glittery black lobster adorns an ivory tower festooned with black roses, oysters and pearls; their “ode to Canadiana” features deer and painted “birch bark” on pale green fondant. Inspiration ranges from Christian Lacroix’s 2008 collection to ‘60s chinoiserie wallpaper, which resulted in a cake painted with sumi-e style brushwork and topped with a Japanese crane. Clearly, Richie, a Tinseltown style-setter, played it conservatively.

cake-opera2

to be continued…

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destined for a destination….?

Sunday, April 10th, 2011 | etiquette | No Comments

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE CALGARY HERALD, IN LISA HANSLIP’S COLUMN “I DO, BUT DON’T…”
beach-wedding1

Q. My fiancée and I can’t quite decide what to do about our wedding. She is the youngest of 10 kids and her immediate family alone now numbers about 52 people, not to mention all the cousins and aunts and uncles. I have three siblings (all married with kids), countless aunts, uncles and cousins, and my parents are both re-married. By the time we actually start inviting all of our friends our guest list will be huge. We’re actually considering a destination wedding because we know very few of them could afford to attend, but we’re not sure we’d be happy with this decision. What should we do?

 

A. The guest list can be one of the most stressful parts of planning a wedding – even without such an expansive family tree.  Destination weddings are increasingly popular for many reasons. Although thinning out the guest list often falls near the top of the list, it’s not the best reason to run off to the islands to get married.

 

“Is there really a bad reason to get married barefoot on the beach at sunset?” you ask… Actually there is. It really depends on what you want to remember from your wedding day – the pool boy bringing you a Mai Tai in a coconut as soon as you say “I do,” or that your family was there to share it with you.

 

Destination weddings can be wonderful if you choose a place that has particular meaning to you as a couple. Many resorts do a lovely job with weddings, however most of the time it’s a crap shoot what kind of officiant, flowers and photographer you’ll end up with, so do lots of research before you choose a location. You also want to look into residency requirements – some islands require you to be there several days before you can get a marriage license.

 

If you do decide to opt for a destination wedding to avoid feeding all 52 of your fiancée’s immediate family (yikes!), just make sure you do a good job of selling them on your penchant for fruity umbrella drinks so no one gets offended. Aloha!

 

paradise20in20vellum_lrg

http://www.mystylishwedding.com/store/destination-wedding/paradise-in-vellum-wedding-invitation-set

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chocolate-dipped honeymoon

Monday, March 28th, 2011 | travel | No Comments

I’m always a fan of anything that involves high quality dark chocolate. In fact, part of my 3 1/2 week honeymoon in Italy included a visit to the Perugina chocolate factory, a night in the Etruscan Chocohotel, and a six-course tasting menu – each of which included chocolate. So when I heard about this new, oh-so-fabulous resort in St. Lucia, I knew I had to find out all about it.

hotelchocolat0328_001p

Hotel Chocolat is the brainchild of two British chocolatiers, Angus Thirlwell and Peter Harris .

On this 140-acre, 18th-century plantation, you can learn the entire chocolate-making process, helping to harvest and roast the beans and, of course, taste the finished product. Or you could simply retire to one of the six cocoa- and cream-colored cottages with gauze-draped four-poster beds, ocean-facing chaise longues, and open-air rain showers. (Eight additional villas will open in October.) The restaurant takes its inspiration from the hotel’s crop, with dishes like yellowfin tuna with cacao pesto. Talk about a delicious getaway.  Definitely my idea of hot chocolate!

http://www.thehotelchocolat.com/

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exceeding expectations

Friday, March 25th, 2011 | testimonials | No Comments

I just got this lovely email from Sonya + Travis. They are a lovely couple – inside & out – it was a delight working with them both! xo

hwthx

Hello Lisa,
I hope this email finds you happy and well.
I’m in the midst of helping two friends organize their weddings and find myself in constant awe of the spectacular work you did for Travis and me. From the vendors you recommended to budget to the wedding decor, you never led us astray. In fact, more often than not you exceeded our expectations.
When asked if I would recommend a wedding planner, I often tell the croquembouche story. The impossible dream wedding dessert that you somehow made happen. And when it tumbled, Travis and I were able to sit back with our guests and laugh instead of worrying because you were fighting that battle for us.

My husband and I know that you were vital to making not only the wedding but the whole planning process such a wonderful experience. Our wedding was truly the happiest day of our lives – thank you for helping make that dream a reality.

Take care,

Sonya

PS We also owe you a belated thanks for recommending Giovanni. Finally a fashionable solution to Travis’ 14 inch drop. (Though he still LOVES his tux!)

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You’re Engaged! Now What?

Thursday, March 17th, 2011 | etiquette | No Comments

Here’s some great advice from Emily Post:

choosing-engagement-rings

1. Share the good news
Your parents, and any children you may have from a previous union, should hear the news first. Then comes other relatives and close friends. Whether you do it in person or over the phone, do it yourself. Those closest to you will no doubt be hurt to hear the news second hand. Don’t announce an engagement until a former union has been dissolved, whether by divorce or annulment. Post it on Facebook only after your family and closest friends have heard the news from you. 

2. Meet the parents
Your engagement certainly signifies a change in the relationship with your fiancé’s/fiancée’s parents. Now’s the time to lay the foundation for a positive bond with your future in-laws. This is also when the parents of the bride meet – or at least make contact with – the parents of the groom. Traditionally, the groom’s parents call the bride’s parents to introduce themselves and extend an invitation to meet. But nowadays that first contact can also be made by the bride’s parents.

3. Make the guest list & set the budget
Your budget is the determining factor for the shape, size and fanfare of your wedding. But you can’t decide the type of wedding you will have until you have some idea of the size of the guest list. The easiest way to cut costs is to narrow your guest list.

4. Pick the date
The time of year you have your wedding is a key consideration. The most popular months for weddings are May, June, July, August, September and October. Popular wedding sites will be at a premium in terms of availability and cost during these times. Are you hoping for an outdoor wedding? Consider how many of your guests will have to travel when choosing a date as well. 

5. Don’t forget the three C’s
Not clarity, cut or color. We’re talking about consideration, communication and compromise. How you handle your wedding plans can foretell how you will handle the other major decision of your life together. Along with the stress that will accompany the big decisions and little details should be a sense of adventure and fun. You are celebrating one of the most joyous milestones in your lives. Do so with a focus on consideration, communication and compromise and the process is sure to be less stressful and more satisfying.

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Happy Valentine’s Day

Monday, February 14th, 2011 | Uncategorized | No Comments

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Saint Valentine’s Day, commonly shortened to Valentine’s Day, is an annual commemoration held on February 14th celebrating love and affection between intimate companions. The day is named after an early Christian martyr, Saint Valentine, and was established by Pope Gelasius I in 496 AD. It was deleted from the Roman calendar of saints in 1969 by Pope Paul VI, but its religious observance is still permitted. It is traditionally a day on which lovers express their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectionery, and sending greeting cards (known as “valentines”). The day first became associated with romantic love in the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished.

Modern Valentine’s Day symbols include the heart-shaped outline, doves, and the figure of the winged Cupid. Since the 19th century, handwritten valentines have given way to mass-produced greeting cards.

Whatever the history…it’s a MARVELOUS excuse for eating good chocolate! mmmm…

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wonderful wedding song

Thursday, January 27th, 2011 | media, trends | No Comments

Joshua Radin was on Ellen today singing the song (“Today”) that he sang at her wedding.

I had never heard the entire song before…just beautiful…and what a truly perfect wedding song.

ellen-portia

“Today”

Shoelaces untied
You can dry your eye
Perfect shadows lie behind us
And this is the day I make you mine

The way your hair lies
Sometimes unrecognized
All the way from Nice today, on a train
Nothing to say but there’s still time

You are the one I’ve been waiting for today
And here comes the sun
its been baiting more today

Lately I’ve lost my tongue
Today you found my song
Unknown our love, has grown
And I thank god you came along

You are the one one I’ve been waiting for today
And here comes the sun
it’s been baiting more today

You looked right through me, there was no one else
I sat beside you and became myself
today…today

You are the one I’ve been waiting for today
And here comes the sun
its been baiting more today

http://us.joshuaradin.com/

pic1

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etiquette, shmetiquette!

Monday, January 24th, 2011 | etiquette, media, Q&A | No Comments

As you all know I’m a stickler for etiquette…we love to do things “properly” – but we’re never about doing things just for the sake of doing them. Just because the last 10 weddings you attended did something doesn’t mean you have to…in fact, that sounds like a fabulous reason NOT to do it…and it certainly doesn’t mean it was correct from an etiquette stand point.

Originally published in “Ask the Expert” | Weddings in Alberta | January, 2011.

jan-etq-blog

Q: We recently went to register for our wedding and the store clerk offered us registry enclosure cards to include in our invitations. Is this acceptable? 

 A: No, no, a thousand times, no! It may seem helpful, but it is never acceptable to enclose a registry notice or gift wish list with your invitation. Never. Ever. 

One of the major etiquette questions is the method of informing your guests about your registries. Stores perpetuate this etiquette no-no by offering you these invitation enclosures, which can be offensive to guests. Your gift registry can be one of the most fun aspects of planning your wedding (“Here, honey, just point this gun at things and voila, they’re on our wish list!”), but it can also prove to be an etiquette minefield. 

You may prefer to receive money, which is traditional in many cultures, or contributions to your honeymoon fund, but you cannot tell your guests what to give you. It is just not polite to request gifts of any kind. Giving a wedding gift is the socially acceptable thing to do—but no one is really obligated to buy you a gift. Informing your guests what kind of gift you would like at the same time you are inviting them to your wedding is like telling them the gift is more important than their attendance.  

The way to let people know where you’re registered is via word of mouth. Make sure your bridal party and family know where you are registered or if you have a preference for a more non-traditional gift. Then you have to wait until someone asks where you are registered, and just cross your fingers!  It is also acceptable to put registry information on your wedding website if you plan to have one during your engagement. 
 

Q: We were a bit unsure what to choose when we made our gift registry. Help!

A: Today’s engaged couples often have established households of their own, so a registry is an excellent way for your guests to know what you actually need (Oh look! Another toaster! Everyone needs four toasters, don’t they?). Make sure you think carefully about what you actually need and make a wish list that is agreeable to both you and your partner. Your guests have different budgets, so register for items in a variety of price ranges. You cannot expect all of your guests to spring for that $400 food processor, or that they will be happy buying you one teaspoon because at $100 a piece  because it is the only thing on your registry they can afford. A thoughtful gift registry gives everyone the opportunity to buy you something you will love. 

These days, it is also perfectly acceptable to register for nontraditional items such as hardware, sporting goods, charitable donations, or, yes, even the honeymoon. Keep in mind, though, that although lifestyle gifts are appropriate, some people are going to prefer giving you something tangible. 
 

Q: I’m having trouble choosing a dress for my 10 bridesmaids. I want them all in the same dress but how do I choose one that will look good on all of them? Do I have to pay for all of them? Should they match my wedding gown?

A: Just like most things in life, one size usually doesn’t fit all—and one dress won’t suit all, unless your bridesmaids have similar body types. When it comes to your attendants’ attire, uniformity is nice, it’s expected, but it’s absolutely not necessary. In fact, mixing up the styles a bit is practically the norm these days. At the very least, it is nice to set your maid of honour apart by choosing a different dress in the same colour or the same dress in a different colour. 

Choosing a bridesmaid dress shouldn’t be looked at as an opportunity for retribution for that frilly sea-foam green number taunting you from the back of your closet. Be nice. These are your friends. Most women are initially thrilled when asked to be a bridesmaid, but if they’ve ever been a bridesmaid before, inside their head they’re groaning, ‘What is she going to make me wear?’ Consider choosing a colour and/or style grouping from one designer and letting your bridesmaids choose which one they feel best suits them. That way, as it will be the same fabric and the same general style, they will look similar, but your best friend won’t be hiding in the corner all evening for fear of falling out of the strapless dress you’ve chosen for her.

The bridesmaid dress should match the formality of your dress—so don’t put them in a sundress if you’re wearing a formal gown with a train—but it is no longer necessary to have your attendants’ dresses emulate your gown. Bridesmaids’ dresses not only used to match the wedding gown, but were identical to it, as the original purpose for a bridesmaid was to confuse the evil spirits. These days, they’re there for moral support and to look pretty walking down the aisle. 

It is expected that the bridesmaids will cover the cost of their own attire; however, some brides opt to pay, depending on the cost of the dress they’ve chosen or the financial circumstances of their friends. So, unless you are planning to foot the bill yourself, be kind with both style and price. And, by the way, feel free just to have three or four bridesmaids, not ten—you don’t need all of your guests standing at the front with you!

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