Sunday, November 22, 2015

Wedding Tablescapes

We live in a city with some great farmer's markets and florists. So I was very torn about going the do-it-yourself route or simply buying gorgeous and beautiful flowers to fill our tables. In the end, it came down to budget. After doing some research and seeing some sample quotes online, I knew were weren't going to get a sprawling table of flowers. I didn't even bother contacting florists for quotes in fear of offending them!

My initial vision was to keep things rustic to go with the restaurant's atmosphere. We were in what used to be a woodcutters' cottages after all. I was thinking mason jars and beautiful pink dahlias or flowers from my parent's garden. I collected mason jars from family and friends (and ate a lot of pasta sauce myself), cleaned them, and painted the inside with white acrylic paint. I wanted the look of milk glass - without paying for the hefty price. A Pinterest idea gone wrong! Acrylic is supposed to be waterproof, but after letting the jars dry for weeks, I tested them a week before the wedding. No! The paint simply peeled off and bubbled. Water had somehow gotten between the paint and the glass - despite two to three coats of paint. It did NOT look pretty. Think mad-scientist lab with organs in a jar.
So that week, we frantically tried to come up with an alternative. Our best bet was going to Ikea for their versatile Ensidig vases. We bought six of the large ones (diameter: 15 cm, height: 16 cm) and 10 of the smaller ones that resemble milk bottles (diameter: 7.7 cm, height: 18 cm). We dropped the six larges one off at the florist where I ordered the bouquets and boutonnieres and asked them to fill it with green hydrangeas.
I had made the table numbers that would be combined with the main centerpiece. Had to insert a bit of my love for baking here. I took some wooden cake dowels, bought cookie cutters in the shape of numbers, and used a hot glue gun to stick them together.
There you have it! A visible table number - with a nod to baking - rising above a fluffy bouquet of hydrangeas.
For the milk-bottle vases, Howard and I went to our grocery store and bought green chrysanthemum buttons the day before the wedding. We trimmed them at home and had them ready to go. The venue provided candles and candle holders so they did the set up, placing as many candles that would look nice and lighted them before the dinner. They also arranged each place setting with folded napkins, menus, cutlery, and glassware. We loved how they did a little extra for our head table, using different candle holders and including some of their own greenery.
We decided on assigned seating for each table, so we got a pack of ivory tent cards with an embossed frame along the border. Here's the crazy part - I hand lettered all of the names. Yes, we could have ran it through a printer . . . but where's the personality in that? I don't even have calligraphy pens or special nibs, I did these with a regular black pen and coloured in the areas I wanted thickened. Yes, hand cramps and lots of breaks were involved.
Wedding Photography: Ikonica | Venue: Auberge du Pommier | Candles and Candle Holders: Auberge du Pommier | Florist: Ruby Florist and Loblaws | Vases: ENSIDIG from Ikea | Place Card Hand Lettering: Sylvia Chan | Table Numbers: Sylvia Chan | Cookie Cutters: Fox Run Craftsmen | Wooden Cake Dowels: Michaels

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Wedding Hair and Makeup

This is probably my least favourite topic regarding our wedding. For those who know me, know that I've been grappling with skincare since high school. That's right, when acne reared it's ugly head in grade nine, it never went away. Thinking it was just a phase that teenagers go through, I never thought much of it. It became something that I categorized as mildly annoying. But then it stayed and it became wildly annoying. I tried Proactiv and many drug store face washes and cream - that didn't go so well as the products mainly dried out my skin to the point of flakiness. I hated getting my photograph taken. I didn't like to make eye contact because I'm sure people were staring all my acne. And I didn't (and still don't) have the skill that my friends and colleagues have in applying makeup. It's why I kept long hair to hide behind. It's why I don't wear V-necks or low swooping tops. It's why I wanted an illusion neckline and not a sweetheart top for my wedding dress. It's why I prefer sleeves to cover my dry, rough, itchy elbows - not just a winter thing for me, all year round I can't moisturize them enough.

Yet, I knew I wasn't going to go barefaced on my wedding day. I probably started too late, but I saw a dermatologist six months before the wedding who gave me three options: Take these pills that had crazy side effects that could change my mood, take birth control pills and use topical creams, or apply topical creams. Let's just say I didn't get along with my dermatologist and haven't been back after the wedding. She was firm on saying that there was nothing else in the world that could help. No natural solution at all, it was going to be medicine or nothing. And those cray pills didn't even guarantee that it would clear up my skin. So uh, no thanks. We ended up going with the last option - topical creams. I didn't see a huge difference, but it did cause a sunburn and after my skin peeled, the angry large pimples seemed to have went away. But that didn't mean that the scarring disappeared. Or the occasional pop-up around the T-zone. I did find that it was related to stress, so I tried very hard to remain calm the week leading up to the wedding.

But enough about my poor skin situation. I knew I needed to find a professional hair and makeup artist for my big day. My sister-in-law had hired Fidelia Lee and she did a great job. I loved her hair and makeup on her wedding day. I got in touch and made an appointment for a trial with Fidelia. I'm sure Fidelia knew that she had her work cut out for her! But she was patience and listened to what I preferred - as natural as possible with soft and romantic light colours. Nothing too bright or strong, I didn't want to look unrecognizable with large eyelashes, purple eye shadow, and red lips.
For my long hair, we tried a braided bun first. I liked the idea of a chic and dainty bun and showed her a bunch that I liked from Pinterest. But you know what? I didn't take into consideration that my black hair showed none of the lovely braids, twists, and curls. And with the veil, it was basically nonexistence. Not to mention, it felt so weird to not have my hair beside my face. I didn't like how it looked in the front with all my hair pulled back. It felt uncomfortable, like I had the shortest haircut ever.
So we kept it simple by doing loose waves. Tucking a few strands from the front and tying them to the back with an accessory. One of the best parts of doing the hair trial at Fidelia's was her wall of accessories. She has shelves and shelves of colour coordinated hair clips. I picked out a few that I liked for her to apply. While I loved the leaves from the top photo, it felt too large and concentrated in one area.
The next one was a bit better, but too plain.
I really liked this floral one.
And because Fidelia is a pro, she added some more leaves at the side. There we have it, the winning style!

You might have also noticed that I dyed my hair so that the curls would be able to caught the light better. This was the first time I went to a hair salon for colour and it was a long process. It took about three to four hours for all of the dye to be applied on my hair and wrapped in tinfoil. The stylist did a light brown highlight to make my hair look naturally sun kissed. He also made it look gradient so that it became lighter near the ends.

I had what was healthy hair, but a few days after the dye, it tangled and felt crunchy. I wanted to cry! Turns out this is a common side effect from research online. It only meant one thing, I had to buy lots of conditioner and keratin repair spray.
Okay, back to the wedding stuff. I love this combination so much! One focal point with the flower and four mini leaves and flowers on each side to balance it out.
We started our wedding day at 7:00 am, which wasn't considered early according to many brides and makeup artists. Fidelia and her assistant came over to my parent's house to set up. My bridesmaids opted out of hair and makeup so I decided to treat my mom and mother-in-law. While Fidelia worked on my hair style, her assistant worked her magic on both my moms with Fidelia looking on and touching up as she saw fit. 

Even thought 7:00 am wasn't early for them, I found myself nodding off while there was a hot curling iron behind me. I'm sure Fidelia noticed but was too polite to say anything. I was sleepy, nervous, and eventually feeding off the energy as my maid of honour arrived to help with the tea ceremony and my aunts, uncles, and cousins filled the house. Howard came by to steam his tuxedo. People hovered around me to see the process. There was breakfast in the kitchen being served. It felt really nice to hear everyone gather this early in the morning for us.
After my hair was set, I popped in my contact lenses so that Fidelia could start on the makeup. I have to say my favourite part was the eyebrows! I don't know how to shape them or fill them in, so when she did it, it looked so amazing. I can see what the YouTubers are always going on about when you have proper eyebrows framing your face. I did end up using fake eyelashes, but not incredibly thick or long ones. And all my skin worries melted away through Fidelia's expert application. She instructed me to put on my dress so that she could do more touch ups along my neck, shoulder, and chest.
The tea ceremonies were a long way from the actual ceremony. So I included a touch-up session in my package. Fidelia came to our venue to fix up the damage all the rain drops did during our photo session in the park. She did provide me with a touch up kit - but I honestly didn't know how to use the mystical things in it. Regardless, I am so thankful she was there to make me look my best that morning and evening. I've provided her link below, but if you want her e-mail, let me know! I highly recommend her if you have events or photo shoots.

Hair and Makeup Trial Photography: Maid of Honour/Mom | Wedding Day Photography: Ikonica | Hair and Makeup: Fidelia Lee | Hair cut and colour: NC Salon | Venue: Auberge du Pommier

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Wedding Photography

Okay, so you've picked a date, sent out your save the dates, booked a venue, sent out invitations, and found the dress. Simultaneously, and preferably a year ahead, you need to book your wedding photographer! Trust us, the dates book up fast! You'll want to check out each photographer's question and start inquiring to see if they're available on your wedding day. Compare prices, services, and photography styles. Some packages start at 6 hours, 8 hours, and you have to pay additional fees for over time. Does the company send one photographer? Two? An assistant? What is the policy if the photographer can't make it? Do you get the high-resolution files on a disc, USB, or does the package include prints and an album? Are you on the hook for paying for gas and parking? What about dinner?
So as you can see, there are LOTS of different options and we found it useful to create a grid to see everyone's offers in neat columns. Testimonials are incredibly important, but rely on your own instincts too! For instance, we loved the photos our friends received for their wedding, but found this studio to be incredibly rude and unreliable when we were discussing the details. Another photographer had many rave reviews, but accidentally double booked us. There were lots of talented options here in Toronto and we found this more challenging than finalizing the venue. When it came down to it, I knew I wasn't going to take this decision lightly and that this was going to take a significant chunk out of our wedding budget. The photos were an important part of the wedding for me, acting as keepsake and gifts for our guests. Honestly, we do think you get what you pay for in this department.
Our final decision was to go with Ikonica because we found the director to be incredibly knowledgeable, patience with our many questions, quick in getting back to us, and professional. We liked that as a studio, there would be a whole team behind us. And in the case of an emergency, another lead photographer at the studio would be able to work our wedding (I'm sure no one wants to be stressed and scrambling for a replacement on the week of). They provided a core package that included a photo essay of the day that we could have password protected for our guests to view, screen resolution previews, a lead photographer, a second photographer, and an assistant photographer. We were able to include additional hours and purchase the high-resolution files to do as we see fit. And browsing through their galleries and portfolios, they did great post production work on the photos. The payment structure was also nicely set up at signing, the month before, and upon delivery - this helped as there are lots of bills to pay during or after the wedding, so having it spaced out in installments gave us breathing room. In terms of additional fees on top of the package, we did provide vendor meals for the three photographers and for parking/tolls/gas.

We'd have to say that the team did a great job on our wedding day. They arrived on time for our first look. Made all of us feel easy and relaxed in front of the camera and could probably tell right off the bat that we weren't the type to awkwardly pose for "fabricated moments." They really hustled to keep us on time and go through our photo list with guests. They also took the time to seek out little moments from our day in which we only saw later when we were going through the photos. My favourite was the mix of portrait and candid shots they captured. Our guests were happy to take direction and a few exclaimed that they were impressed with the job the photographers were doing. They were also well aware of the schedule, the key people, and knew where to be and when. We have to say that our experience was wonderful and we would highly recommend them.

And you know what? Now you have a bit of a breather in wedding planning! The big stuff have already been sorted and decided, so you can take a little break until it's time to look for a florist and a hair/make up artist.
On the topic of engagement photos and albums, we opted out! Howard and I weren't sure what we would use our engagement photos for - I wanted to create my own save the dates and invitations, so it didn't seem like there was a need for these. I know a lot of photographers encourage it because you get to know your photographer a bit more before your big day and you get practice being in front of the camera. But I think we did fine without it. ;) And for the album, we felt that lots of people view these online nowadays, so there wasn't a point in having one sit in our home for the occasional guest to flip through. But, I did want a few photos printed out and displayed as a gallery in our hallway! By the way, aligning and hanging frames is a whole other challenge . . .

Photography: Ikonica | Lead Photographer: Jean-Marc Robin | Second Photographer: Felix | Assistant Photographer: Nicole | Post Production Coordinator: Virginia LeBlanc

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Wedding Dresses and Shoes

After you've determined your venue and placed your deposit. Go dress shopping. ALL the dress shopping. Everyone was telling me to go in October 2014 when our wedding was set for September 2015. I didn't understand why until I actually went and discovered the very long delivery times. Wedding dresses take a long time to make and arrive. I foolishly thought I could casually browse and order my dress in 2015 because I wasn't getting anything custom made or stitched to my exact measurements.

But wrong! I was so wrong. Wedding gowns can take up to 6 months to arrive. And you'd want to buffer in time in case there is an order mix up, or if the wrong colour or size arrives, and for alterations. Unless you're buying a pre-loved dress or one from a store that you can take home on the same day, GO EARLY. I ordered my dress at the end of November and got it at the end of February - and that was the dress coming in early since it was estimated to arrive in March. Luckily there was no mix up, my dress came in the right size and colour. I didn't end up needing alterations because my  heels made up for the length.
And what do I mean by ALL the dress shopping? I mean go bridesmaid dress shopping around the same time. After you find your dress, take your best friends and help find their dresses. We went at the end of April and beginning of May 2015 and it was a scramble. Again, I didn't realize that bridesmaid dresses took forever to arrive either. I had assumed that it was a simple process of ordering them and having them arrive within a month or some other reasonable time frame. But we were told that they could take 10 weeks or even 20 weeks depending on the colour of the dress. So not just the fabric or style, but the colour choices will impact when you will receive them. I wanted a pewter colour (seen above) as opposed to the mercury sample swatch that they had in the store and for some reason pewter took double the time. Then again, it also depended on the sales associate, we got some mixed answers which added to the frustration.

Anyways, my maid of honour arranged my first dress trying experience. She was so sweet in organizing the afternoon and the carpooling of my mom, mother-in-law, and myself. We decided to go to David's Bridal so I could try on all the different silhouettes I'd liked without feeling too pressured (as opposed to going to a boutique).

We arrived on time for our appointment and was told to sit in the waiting area. I was handed a tablet with all their different dresses and was told to choose the ones I liked. So I did. I went and marked up a few that looked like it would fit my style. When they assigned me a consultant, she looked over the tablet and told me I was all over the place. Well! It was my first time looking and I didn't know what I wanted yet. Then to my disappointment, she said that a lot of the ones I marked up were not in stock or unavailable for ordering anymore. Not off to a great start, but I could still try on the ones they did have in the show room.

We went to the dressing rooms and my consultant brought in dress after dress for me to try. I would come out and she'd help clip the back of the sample sized dresses. Then I'd stand in front of my posse and watch for their expressions. Surprisingly, my mom was the most opinionated! I know she used to work in a bit of fashion, but I didn't know how firm her head shakes would be. =)

I was all about the illusion necklines and didn't want a strapless dress. So I tried on ones with lots of lace, even sleeves (which made me look so matronly), trumpet, A-line, and mermaid.
I did try on a ball gown and completely loved it, but felt that it might be too cumbersome for the day. We are getting married in a cozy-sized restaurant and I didn't want my poof of a dress to take up all the space. I would have to lean over just to hug my friends!

But walking in a ball gown is a treat, you should try it on even if you know you're not going to end up going with that silhouette. It's truly one way to feel like a princess. The swish and movement of a ball gown is absolutely fun! Trust me, you'll feel like twirling and sashaying everywhere. I was close to bursting into song.
I thought about going whimsical, but the garden length wasn't well-suited for my body type and height. It made me look shorter and stubbier because of where the dress ended. I would have preferred it to stop just at my knee, but I wasn't keen on spending money on altering pretty much the entire dress.

Next, I went to Best for Bride to look at dresses. I had found an Alfred Angelo (2388) dress on Pinterest that I really wanted to try in and the store's website listed it. I was so excited, I was telling Howard that this was it! It might be a poof and it didn't have the illusion neckline, but I liked the simplicity of it and the one shoulder look. But guess what? None of their Toronto locations carried this dress, so I wouldn't be able to try it unless I ordered it. Regardless, I kept my appointment to see what else they had. And despite my reservations about strapless, I tried one on and loved it! Well, who would have thought I would be wearing a sweetheart gown on my wedding day? Not I! Just goes to show that you never know until you try.
The store said that this Mori Lee Blu was their bestselling dress and I could see why. It was simple with layers of tulle wrapping around with an asymmetrical trumpet flare featuring a strapless sweetheart neckline and a corset lace-up back. There was a small train in the back and I love how fitted it was on the top. I had to say yes! It was what I envisioned, no bling, beading, lace, appliqué, or shiny fabric. It was soft, romantic, and simple.

You can see the bottom part of the Mori Lee dress in the first photo where I'm trying on two different platform heels. I bought two pairs to try on. I really loved the lighter one on the left, but it was a stiletto and I would be walking on cobbled floors in the park and terrace. The darker sparkly shoe had a chunkier heel and was overall more comfortable. My aunt was saying it didn't matter since no one would see it anyways. Both shoes didn't have a rubber grip and were really difficult to walk in. Oh I practiced, but when it came to the wedding day, it didn't matter. It was raining, we had to take photos in the park, I put on my waterproof booties. And kept them on the entire day. Which meant I was able to return both sparkly heels because I never wore them out. Funny how things work. I did so much planning and practicing that it didn't even matter! My aunt was wrong though - our photographer did see them and applauded me for going weather proof. He said that he never saw a bride do that before. =)

Oh, one thing I didn't like about the whole dress shopping experience? The consultants kept tying sashes to my waist for every single dress. I know they need to sell more and make me fall in love with an entire "look" that included the veil and sash, but I really just wanted to see the dress first before they started accessorizing. One thing I did like about purchasing from Best for Bride was that they had a price match policy in which they would give you an additional 10% discount. So once I knew which dress I wanted, I inquired with other shops to see what they sold the dress for. Another store did have a lower price, so I brought it in and got the price match discount.

Later this year when I was shopping for bridesmaid gifts, I found out that Kate Spade released their tanner dress in white - ohhhh how I would have chosen that. It was simple and classic and casual. The bow on the back is just perfect. Our whole wedding would have had a different vibe, I first fell for the tanner dress when I saw it in a navy and white pattern that I couldn't find here in Toronto. I thought it would be a great rehearsal dinner dress if we ever did one (nope, we skipped hosting a rehearsal dinner).

But oh my goodness if I had an unlimited budget, these wedding gowns by Hayley Paige make me swoon! You need to look these up and marvel at the design. Those stripes and patterns and use of fabrics, all folded into things of fairy tales. I don't love the top for this Dori dress, but the volume and shape of that skirt is amazing! Then there's these two: Keaton and Guindon. Stripes that are subtle and striking at the same time. How would you pick? The ballgown or the trumpet silhouette?

I also adore the floral patterns on this Chaviano Couture dress featured here. I didn't find the name or style of it. Sigh, wedding dresses really are dreamy to look at. I hope you have a great time looking for yours!

Park photography: Ikonica | Shoe and store photography: Mom and maid of honour | Wedding dress from Best for Brides: Mori Lee Blu 5108 | Bridesmaid dresses from David's Bridal: Long Mesh Dress with Cowl Back DetailLong Mesh Dress with One Shoulder Neckline, and Long Strapless Chiffon Dress and Pleated Bodice | Flower girl dress: Joe Fresh

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Wedding Invitations

Alright, so last week I talked about our save the dates, which we sent a year in advance. We decided to send out the formal invitations at the six month mark.

Keeping with the dessert theme, I knew I wanted to do another piece based on photography. Something bright and cheery and related to the wedding venue a bit. And what's a French restaurant without macarons? We picked these ones up from Butter Avenue and started the project when we returned home.
I took out some of my favourite props: a cake stand, a cocotte, ramekins, a beautiful teal plate, and our marble lazy Susan. I laid them out on a sheet of parchment paper on the floor and played around the the arrangement.
Then, positioned the macarons on the edge and filled the containers with sprinkles. I left our two heart sprinkles on the plate thinking that it would be super cute to go along with the text.
Time to take shots from above. The bird-eye view works really well and I was able to try different heights by standing on the floor and the chair. The one above is pulled back so you can see behind-the-scenes.
A close up worked best because it gave me more room to include all the information on that small plate and the rest of the cake stand and marble platter wouldn't look too sparse.
There you have it! After fiddling with PicMonkey again to test out the text placement, we had our final invitation. I had about five versions of it until Howard and I both agreed on this one.
Again, we sent these out electronically instead of having them printed and mailed. We used the free wedding website that The Knot offers to create ours and e-mailed it to all the guests. It was a great way to share all of the information in once place!
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