Real wedding: Jessica + James

Jessica Guerrette and James Vanderberg
October 11, 2008
The Hill-Stead Museum
Farmington, CT
Jane Shauck of Iris Photography

Theme: We wanted to use the natural landscape and the time of year as a backdrop and highlight that with organic and natural touches and a nod to good old-fashioned Victorian weddings. Most importantly we wanted the day to be intimate and cozy and about our community coming together. Even with 150 guests we wanted each person to feel cared for and honored because they were there supporting us. We chose chartreuse and aubergine as our color scheme. James proposed to me with a redesigned ring from the turn of the twentieth century that was worn by my great-grandmother, grandmother (a wedding cake maker), and mother so we wanted the day to connect to parts of our past. We also wanted to make sure we used the creative resources (friends and family) we had at hand. Also, James and I spent a lot of time apart traveling and living in other places and we wanted our guests to know we were starting an adventure together…finally.

Setting: We chose The Hill-Stead in Farmington, Connecticut because of the surroundings, the history and because my family lives close by. The house was built at the turn of the twentieth century (a little before time my ring was first worn!) and contains a pretty extensive collection of art from the era (Monet, Manet, Degas, Cassatt, Whistler, etc.). It’s very rustic with gardens and gorgeous views of the Litchfield Hills and was a perfect setting for our October wedding. We had our ceremony in an Arts and Crafts style makeshift theater within the house, the cocktail hour in the sunken garden, and the reception in a tent on the front lawn.

Decor: Flowers were very important to my mom. Since the reception was in a tent we knew we’d need someone with vision who could turn a blank canvas into some place worth hanging out for a few hours and we found Dragonfly Events (www.dragonflyevent.com). They read my mind and created the most intimate, warm tent I could imagine. I gave her a list of things that I loved and she made it come to life. Each tablescape was different but coordinated with bell jars, bird cages, wooden boxes, succulents, white pumpkins, hanging moss, old picture frames, ranunculus, buttons, recycled glass, old stones, burlap and wine bottles. My Mom and Aunt Rosanne made all the burlap runners for the tables. We drank enough wine over the course of 10 months to be sure every table had at least 3 wine bottles filled with flowers. My father made the picture frames that acted as table numbers. James, a painter (www.jamesvanderberg.com), made a watercolor for each table and one guest sitting at that table took it home as a favor.

Invitations: Since I work at Lion in the Sun (www.lioninthesunps.com) in Park Slope, paper is very important to me. Through the shop I was introduced to local New York designer Kimberly Driessen of Blue Ribbon Letterpress Designs (www.blueribbondesign.com). She custom made a whole suite for me from invitations to informals to programs and placecards. One of my favorite things was how she letterpressed a portion of Walt Whitman’s (a fellow Brooklynite!) Song of the Open Road on the back of the programs:

Camarado, I give you my hand!
I give you my love more precious than money
I give you myself above preaching or law
Will you give me yourself? Will you come travel with me?
Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?

Food: The cake was made by my Aunt Rosanne and was inspired by the custom designed invitations. Vanilla cake with vanilla frosting, our favorite. Food was important to us too. Lisa Cole at Inspired Catering (www.inspiredcatering.com) was very helpful. We had just spent the last 8 months living in Paris and wanted the food to reflect our love of French cuisine. She created a meal using seasonal harvest ingredients that included a beautiful croquembouche to go along side the traditional wedding cake.

Dresses: The bridesmaid’s dresses and groomsmen’s ties were all from Simple Silhouettes in NY. My dress was Romona Keveza and reminded me of a John Singer Sargent painting. I bought it at Kleinfelds after trying on loads of dresses at 5 other boutiques. I didn’t think I was going to be one of those girls who “knew” what dress was for me, especially after trying on so many dresses. When I walked out of the dressing room the look on my family’s face confirmed that this was, in fact, the dress. The designer was there that day and helped me augment the dress by adding buttons down the whole back and customizing the veil. James wore a custom made suit from Brooks Brothers.

Photography: I chose Iris Photography because of her process. She has a journalistic eye and develops her pictures so the colors are super-saturated. She also had a really unique eye and shared a vision of my day, which was helpful. (www.photoiris.com). She and her husband work together and they even stayed later than expected to hang out and listen to our band…they were a lot of fun to work with and she took some really breathtaking pictures of the day. The best thing she did was set up a portrait station after the receiving line and took a portrait of each of our guests next to a stone wall or barn door.

Ceremony: Our ceremony was written by us. We took elements of a Quaker service without self-marrying. Our parents stood behind us as we said our vows to each other. We had friends read passages from Hafiz and Socrates. James’s brother Peter, a poet, read a piece he’d written for us and our families titled “Prothalamian”. During a long moment of silent reflection we passed our rings around the room so that every person could be part of something we would carry with us every day. Kir Royal’s were served as our guests left the theater to let them know that it was time to party.

Music: James and I are in a band together and music is very important to us. Our friend Emily, an opera singer, and Jamie, a classical guitar player played me down the aisle to their own version of Stereolab’s “Peng!” and our groomsman and bandmate Matt (www.myspace.com/mattsucichwiththevanderettes) lead our recessional with Van Morrison’s “Starting a New Life”. Art Bailey, a Brooklyn accordion player, escorted our guests to the sunken garden for the cocktail hour. James’s granddad sang along with Art during that time. The Blue Vipers of Brooklyn (www.thebluevipersofbrooklyn.com) played music from the 1920’s and 30’s during the reception…they are the best! Find them in the city if you can. After the ultimate dance party mix made by James and Matt, played through an iPod, we finished the night with a set from our own band (Matt Sucich with The Vanderettes) which included guest appearances by my dad and members of the bridal party.

L’il Things: I love Etsy.com and found so many amazing pieces on there for our wedding day. My hairpiece was made by Myra at Twigs and Honey (www.twigsandhoney.com). I had James’ cufflinks custom made with vintage maps of Brooklyn and Paris from Anne Holman Designs (www.etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=5053816). I even had custom fragrances made for each of my bridesmaids by Loreto Aromatica (www.etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=4563). James gave his groomsmen Laguiole knives, traditional French cutlery. I also had a lot of pieces from my family on me that day including a bracelet from my Great-Grandmother and a hand-crocheted hankie from my Grandmother.

[images by Iris Photography]

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Real wedding: Rebecca + Tony

There were so many images I was drawn to when Erik sent me this wedding…the organic florals, the way his suit goes so well with that boutonniere, even the tiny carrot display!  It was all very well put together…if I had to put a name on it, I would call it organically modern.

[images by Erik Ekroth]

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Real wedding: Anna + Liberty

I’m so jealous that Anna and Lib got to ride the ever-elusive Carousel in DUMBO….we took our wedding photos in many of the same spots down there but that was the ONE that was closed :(

Anna & Liberty
September 19th, 2008
SmackMellon Studios, BROOKLYN, New York

Lib and I had a GREAT time planning our wedding.  For us, getting married was just declaring publicly what we have known for a really long time, that we love each other deeply and are meant to be together.  We are a pretty non-trad couple and we wanted everything about the day to reflect our style.  Every thing we did had meaning and symbolism for us, we made it all count!  We knew we wanted a short, but very meaningful and spiritual ceremony and then…throw a huge, awesome party to celebrate with all the people we love!  We had a very diverse crowd – backgrounds, age ranges, country of origin – so we wanted to make sure we everyone felt included and part of the party, in every aspect.  We chose to use local businesses and artists as much as possible.  The quality of their work and dedication far surpassed anything we’ve ever seen.  We had the best day of our lives and when I think back, all I do is smile, the room was completely full of love – it was amazing!

Ceremony & Reception Site
We had our ceremony and reception at Smack Mellon in Brooklyn (www.smackmellon.org/rent.html) – we loved the venue from the second we saw it.  I really wanted a blank canvas for the wedding so we could set things up exactly as we wanted it to be.  The space is located between the foot of the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges in DUMBO and the views are spectacular.  It brings the feeling of old Brooklyn, together with the new – and since Lib and I are both born Brooklynites, and so proud of it, we felt it fit perfectly.

Photography
Karen Mordechai (www.karenmordechai.com) of Brooklyn.  I found Karen through a post on Brooklyn Bride!  I thought her photos were fantastic, so I called her immediately and booked the date.  She met with Liberty and I and we were on our way.  She is talented, calm, sweet and extremely professional.  Karen shoots in more of a photo-journalistic style – and that’s what we wanted – someone who could go with the flow.  She honored all our requests and was genuinely concerned that we be satisfied and happy.  Karen totally surprised us when she told us she obtained permission for us to take pics on the beautiful antique carousel in DUMBO – something Liberty really wanted to do!

Always a Bridesmaid (www.alwaysabridesmaid.us)
Possibilities are endless when you rent a raw space, and so is the list of things you have to do to make it all work out.  Since the venue comes with, well, 4 walls and a bathroom, we were really going to need help coordinating the days leading up the wedding and the day of.  Xochitl and Mayra were the unbelievable!  They went above and beyond what they signed on to do, and the day went off without a hitch (at least none that I know of)!  They have a terrific relationships with their past and current vendors and knew exactly what to do when they were faced with new challenges.  Liberty and I enjoyed every second, they kept everything organized and on track, and were absolutely graceful and amazing and lovely.  Liberty and I don’t know what we would have done without them, and we cannot say enough about them and the amount of joy they brought to our day.

Our Amazing Ceremony
My sister was my maid of honor and Liberty’s nephew was his best man.  My mother walked me down the “isle” to Israel Kamakawiwo’oles’ version of “Wonderful World.”  Our officiate was Ali Berlin (www.aliberlin.com) who we feel blessed to know!  She is an amazing, spiritual woman who is a life coach in San Francisco, CA.  Liberty and I wrote our own vows and asked Ali to incorporate several themes into our service – including having our guests be a part of it.  Ali asked all our guests to join hands and pledge to support us not only on that day, but throughout our marriage.  Our ceremony was about 15 minutes, but every single word was meaningful!  After Ali finished her beautiful ceremony, we recessed to “Here Comes the Sun” by the Beatles. There was hardly a dry eye in the house!

Invites, Cards, all things paper (and beyond)
All by Jessica and her staff at Artez’n on Atlantic Ave (www.artezn.com).  We knew the vibe we wanted and Jessica caught on right away.  We wanted to use a photo Liberty took of the Brooklyn Bridge, so she worked her design magic and made it into our “Save the Date” postcard.  The invites, envelopes, place cards, table cards, menus and our thank you notes all keep in the same “Brooklyn LOVE” theme. We got so much positive feedback about them – some of our guests framed them!  Jessica also put together our hotel bags which were Brooklyn themed and contained Brooklyn Soap, Brooklyn Fudge, Brooklyn maps, magnets, postcards…

Music
Our talented friend Scott Bragin of Rhythm of the Night Entertainment (Brooklyn again!) ruled the turntables!  Liberty is a musician and he and I met when I was working in the music business – so this was perhaps the most important part of our reception for us!  Lib had stacks of song lists by the hour and after a few meetings with Scott, we knew it would be flawless.  Our guests were pretty surprised that with a room full of musicians we chose to have a DJ.  For us, it was a no brainer  – we wanted our guests to dance, not play music all night (which is what happens when musicians and instruments are in the same room).  Originally we didn’t want a “first dance” but so many people told us that we needed to get the party started by getting up there first, I’m glad we did!  Lib dedicated, “Feels Like Home” to me and I dedicated “No One” to him.  We played music during our cocktail hour by our musician friends who were in attendance, mixed in with Americana and Lounge and the rest of night covered everything from Funk and Soul to the Stones and Jane’s Addiction. Scott did an amazing job – the dance floor was always FULL – including all the musicians who kept going, “Oh – I love this song! (info@rotnentertainment.com).  We closed the evening with The Beatles, “All You Need Is Love.”  I would not change a single note played.

Food
Steve Carapella, Three Brothers Butchers/Caraleo Catering – We are way into food and Lib has serious Italian roots, so we really wanted everything to be outstanding.  It was.  We worked with Steve who also helped us with rentals of staff, chairs, tables, linens, silverware – lots of planning and sampling (which was fun). They even brought in uplighting for us for the room.  We didn’t want any “typical wedding food.” Our menu was completely custom created from our wishlist and they tweaked everything we wanted so that we could make it work in a space that does not allow open flames and has a limited kitchen.  We added Brooklyn Wine (www.redwhiteandbubbly.com) and Brooklyn Beer (www.brooklynbrewery.com) to our full bar, as well as several ‘non-alcoholic’ customized drinks for our guests – so they would have more than the same old soda and juice options.

Brooklyn Dessert
We didn’t want a traditional wedding cake, so we brought in all of our favorite desserts, gigantic chocolate cream filled cupcakes (they look like the famous ones with the white squiggle on top – only twice the size) from Downtown Atlantic Bakery on Atlantic Avenue (www.downtownatlantic.com), trays of caramel bread pudding from 3 Brothers,  all different flavors of delicious Junior’s Cheesecake (www.juniorscheesecake.com), cannolis, fruit and pastries and…what turned out to be the biggest hit of the night – and a surprise for Lib from me -a Mr Softee truck (www.mistersoftee.com)!  We attached tickets to the back of everyone’s place card that they could turn in to the ice cream man for whatever they would like.  In a matter of seconds, all the guests turned into a bunch of kids running out the door to get to the truck!  It was terrific (and it is a great value)!
Flowers & Decor
We are all about the vintage and antique vibe and I wanted something really special for our centerpieces, so we spent months collecting vintage antique depression glass pitchers and glass sets from flea markets and antique shops – no two were the same.  I printed out tons of pictures of flower arrangements and color schemes and brought them to Joe at Langdon Florist (212 962 4371).  After being endlessly patient with me  (I am clueless about flowers) we decided on arrangements that were antique looking and let the beauty of the glass shine.  Joe filled each pitcher with flowers and the matching glasses were filled with tea lights and placed around the pitchers on each table. I bought tons of vintage amber juice glass sets and amber candleholders and we used them on the tables, window sills – everywhere!   Joe also made a few large arrangements that we used for multiple purposes at venue (on the card table, as a backdrop for the ceremony, then the bar, then the buffet – you make the most of your budget that way) as well as the bouquet for my sis, boutonnières for Liberty and Eric and flowers for our parents.  He went out of his way to make sure everything was perfect.  Joe took our budget and showed us how to get the most out of it.  At the end of the night, whomever had a purple ribbon tied to their chair, took the vintage pitcher and glass set home as their favor.  Also, we set up 2 Polaroid cameras and sign in books for our guests to take pics, and write notes (lots of people snuck extra pics and took them home as mementos).

Remembering
This was a very important part of the day for Lib and I and we wanted to make this happen in a way that was positive and happy.

I asked our photographer Karen for one posed shot – and one only!  When my mom got married, her photographer took a few pics of her getting ready with my Nana in front of her vanity mirror.  My nana passed when I was little, but we were very close.  My mom still has that mirror, so she brought it to our apartment where Karen helped set it up in my bedroom, and we placed a photo of my nana and pop off to the side.  My mom posed in the mirror with me, and I got a new version of her picture.  Karen also took photos of the original Polaroid’s, which was a nice surprise to see when I got my pictures back!  Also, I put my nana’s bedspread and a pretty little pillow she had on our so it’s in the background of all our “getting ready” shots.

During our ceremony, Ali spoke about those whom we wished could be with us, more specifically mentioning Liberty’s brother who passed away very young.  She pointed out that he was there with us through his son Eric, Liberty’s best man.  Ali also thanked my mother on my behalf, for being both my mom and my dad my whole life, and how much that means to me. The photos of nana and pop went on my mom’s table, as well as a few other photos.  My cousin, Father Giles (who is 80!) is a Franciscan priest and he blessed our marriage and said grace prior to dinner, pulling all of our family members and guests together. I searched all over for a vintage locket that could hold multiple pics for a gift my sis (which I found on Etsy).  I filled it with photos of all the generations of strong women in our family who we are descendants of.  I wanted her to know that’s he is one of those strong women and that I love her not only as my sister, but as my best friend. I added my mom’s blue butterfly pin to my bouquet, as well as a locket (Etsy again) with pictures of my family who could not be with there with me, but were all definitely there in spirit!

Beauty & Attire
My hair was done by the talented Paul of PANYC Salon in NYC (www.panyconline.com). I’ve been going to him for about 10 years now and he never lets me down!  Brooklyn make up artist Elizabeth Kamp was amazing!  She not only did my make up, but also did my sister’s and mom’s.  She is the calmest person in the world and she’s a great listener!  Fellow redheads will understand this – she didn’t try to cover my freckles or cake on crazy amounts of makeup!  Both Elizabeth and Paul offer amazing pricing for what they do.  My dress is Jenny Packham, Liberty’s suit is John Varvatos.

Accessories
My earrings were borrowed from my oldest friends, Jennifer Gandia of Greenwich Jewelers NYC (www.greenwichjewelers.com)  I carried a purse that my sis got for me from a vintage shop specifically for this purpose – when I got engaged (5 years ago)!  My sister’s jewelry is by Maleeka on Atlantic Ave (www.maleeka.com).

[images by Karen Mordechai]

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Real wedding: Carly + Ari

Yay for Brooklyn weddings!

CEREMONY

We chose the Brooklyn Bridge Park for our ceremony. We set up our chuppah and our wedding party on the pebble beach and our guests were seated on the steps leading down to the beach (complete with bottles of water – lovingly labeled by our friends – and mats to sit on). Ari’s best friend officiated; he and Ari wrote the ceremony together.

CEREMONY MUSICIANS

Brooklyn-Queens Conservatory of Music musicians, led by guitarist Ron Jackson, played at the ceremony – “Your Hand in Mine,” by Explosions in the Sky while everyone in the wedding, including Ari and his parents, walked down the aisle, and The Beatles’ “Here, There and Everywhere,” when I walked down the aisle.

RECEPTION

Our dear friend and wedding planner, Viva Max Kaley (who was full of great ideas and immensely helpful to us and without whom our wedding wouldn’t have been the same) recommended reBar in Dumbo, just a short walk from the park, and we were thrilled with it. It’s a great space with a lot of character, which is great because you don’t have to go crazy designing a look. We had an afternoon cocktail party reception as opposed to a formal sit-down dinner; the atmosphere was fun and relaxed and exactly what we were looking for. As people walked in we served lemonade in mason jars with flags stirrers in each one that said A <3 C, each flag handmade by one of my best friends.

RECEPTION MUSIC

Jonathan Sklute was our DJ and he was fabulous. We gave him a list of songs that we liked and he was super easy to work with. We were happy to see everyone on the dance floor.

CAKE/DESSERT

We decided on cupcakes and a mini cake for us to cut – one of my friends made the cupcakes (frosted in rainbow colors) and her mom made the cake, both of which were amazing. We got our adorable owl topper from the talented and super nice Lauren Bradshaw. We also served ice cream sandwiches at the end of the party – we got them from One Girl Cookie in Brooklyn and they were a big hit.

FAVORS

We used local vendors wherever possible and were thrilled to discover Brooklyn Cookie on this very blog. Their Brooklyn Bridge Cookie was perfect and delicious.

PHOTOGRAPHY/VIDEOGRAPHY

Charlotte Jenks Lewis was our photographer and she and her videographer did an amazing job. They were so nice to work with and captured everything beautifully. We’ve gotten great feedback from everyone who has seen our photos and video and we love looking at them ourselves.

FLOWERS

Viva Max Kaley recommended Hatch Creative Studio and they were amazing. They were so much fun to work with and came up with the most beautiful and unique designs. I wasn’t sure what I wanted but they listened to my thoughts and took it from there and their flowers were gorgeous. The groom and groomsmen wore buttons on their lapels as boutonnieres instead of flowers. Barb at Hatch came up with this idea and we loved it. The groomsmen wore buttons that said Carly <3 Ari Brooklyn, NY and the date, and Ari’s button said I Love Carly. They were perfect.

INVITATIONS

Our invitations were Kate Spade, ordered through Kate’s Paperie. They were kelly green on white and felt fresh and summery, which was exactly what we were looking for.

DRESS

My dress (and veil) came from The White Gown in Brooklyn and my bridesmaids wore navy dresses with pink sashes from Coren Moore.

SHOES

I wore the Kate Spade ‘Gilee’ slingback heel – they were a sort of metallic gold fabric. I decided to go with these instead of white because I know I’ll wear them again.

HAIR/MAKEUP

Dora Peterson of Roy Teeluck Salon did my hair and Keri Berman did my makeup – they are both a pleasure to work with and amazing at what they do.

[images by Charlotte Jenks Lewis]

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Real wedding: Ro + Kenan

Jessica Johnson sure knows how to shoot a wedding! Ro talks a bit about the day below….

When we started planning our wedding, we originally thought we would have it in Brooklyn, which is where Kenan grew up and where we currently live. We looked at a few New York venues and then decided that it made sense to look into spaces in my hometown of Detroit as well.  When we got there, I realized how strongly I felt about getting married in Detroit, where I grew up.  It just felt like the natural decision for both of us, and as soon as we saw Orchestra Hall we knew we had found our spot.  It had the perfect combination of the elements we were looking for.  The theater, where we had the ceremony, is steeped in history, and spoke to our sense of tradition.  What was really appealing to us was that in addition to the magnificent ceremony space, they had a more modern, completely adaptable attached space for the reception.

We used a combination of New York and Detroit vendors, and did a lot of work ourselves, with the help our our families.  The personal touches that we added were so important us, because they were a reflection of our shared vision for the day, and how we wanted to experience and remember it.  We brought all the candles for the ceremony from a Brooklyn Botanica and our families set them up on the stage. I made all the table lanterns myself, and we got the flowers we used for the centerpieces from  Fischer and Paige in the Chelsea flower market, and had them fedex’d to Detroit the day before the wedding.  We used a local florist in Detroit, Flowers by Gabrielle, for the Bridal Bouquet and flowers for the Bridesmaids and Groomsmen. We used framed photographs that Kenan had taken of various numbers around New York as our table numbers.  Kenan and I met 6 years ago while working the door at Brooklyn music venue, so we brought the beat up old wooden podium that we used to use to take tickets at the club and used it as the lecturn for our readers at the ceremony. We had friends of ours play the music at the ceremony, and a family friend officiate the service. We hired a Mariachi band from Mexican Village in Detroit to play at the cocktail hour, and our DJ, the world renowned Cosmo Baker, is a Brooklynite and a dear friend.  Kenan made a collage of all of our parent’s, grandparent’s, and sibling’s wedding portaits and we projected it onto a huge wall above the reception.

We are so thankful to the staff at Orchestra Hall for helping us with all the planning and details.  The stagehands, sound and lighting technicians, and Holly Clement, who runs the Front of House there were all absolutely incredible.  The food was excellent, and was provided by Epoch Catering, the in house caterer for Orchestra Hall.  Maria Scarvalles from Epoch was a pleasure to work with from day one, and was sensitive to all of our needs and requests along the way.

We are thrilled with our photographer, Jessica Johnston, for capturing the feel of the day so beautifully.  I am a photographer myself, so the pictures were the one thing that were completely crucial to me. The minute I saw her photos on her website I knew there was no one else who could have captured the spirit of the day.  She did a truly magnificent job.  With all of the little touches, there were a lot of things that could have gone wrong, but absolutely nothing did.   We really could not have had a more magical start to our life together.

[images by Jessica Johnston Photography]

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