Guest Blogger Carolyn Hsu’s Dream Honeymoon: St. Barths and Anguilla

 Carolyn Hsu, New York, Real Brides, Real Weddings  Comments Off on Guest Blogger Carolyn Hsu’s Dream Honeymoon: St. Barths and Anguilla
Feb 062014
 
Carolyn Hsu honeymoon

Photo: Courtesy of Carolyn Hsu

What do real brides have to say about the wedding planning experience? Well, it's not all happy tears at the bridal boutique and indulgent cake tastings. Guest blogger Carolyn Hsu, founder of The Hsu Closet, shared the ins and outs of planning a New York City wedding, picking the perfect venue, crafting a day-of beauty look and finding inspiration in the strangest of places. In her final post, she shares the details of her dream honeymoon!

A month after my husband and I tied the knot, we jetted off to the Caribbean for a nine-day honeymoon that ranks as one of the best trips of our lives. Curious after seeing so many tastemakers extol the virtues of St. Barths, we picked the storied island as our first destination and neighboring Anguilla as our second.

As we quickly learned, half the excitement of St. Barths is getting there in the first place. Due to the rocky terrain that makes up the island, pilots flying into St. Barths have to perform one of the most difficult landings in the world. The airport runway is notoriously short and the pilot has to clear not one, but three hills, before quickly bringing the plane to the ground. Aviation enthusiasts will definitely appreciate the view (the pilot's view I may add thanks to the open cockpit) as the plane approaches the island at what feels like a near-vertical angle. It was one of the most thrilling plane rides I've ever experienced.

On the ground, all that excitement immediately melts away into pure relaxation. The airport resembles an open-air mall and without even a single line in sight, we were quickly out the door and across the street at Mayas-to-Go, the casual outpost of the St. Barths institution, Maya's. One of the best things about St. Barths is the quality of its food; the most popular choice is often French...and upscale. As first-time visitors to the island, we made a list of all the "must-try" places—lunch on the beach at Eden Rock, Creole fusion at Eddy's, fresh seafood at Bonito, and special occasion dining at Le Gaiac. While we diligently ate our way through the list, we also found that some of the real gems are casual eateries and hideaways frequented by the locals. One such place we discovered was L'Isoletta, an outdoor pizzeria where you can eat, lounge, and drink for hours while watching people come and go. It reminded us of the late summer evenings in Italy where we got engaged. Another accidental discovery was JoJo Burger, a snack shack along the side of the road where you can enjoy a big piña colada with your fish or cheeseburger. The great thing about honeymooning on an island with such a rich culinary scene is that you really can't go wrong; everything we ate was simply delicious.

St. Barths honeymoon Carolyn Hsu

Photo: Courtesy of Carolyn Hsu

While in St. Barths, we stayed at Le Toiny. Picking a hotel was hard, as the entire island is dotted with ultra luxurious villas and gorgeous hotel properties. We chose Le Toiny because of its all-villa suites, each with a private pool, unobstructed ocean view, and legendary service. With only fifteen villas on property, there wasn't a bad room in the house, and each guest is treated like a VIP. Every morning, we had breakfast served on our own private deck and we ended every evening with a dip in our own pool. Staying there didn't feel like staying at a hotel—it was like we had our own home on the island. That feeling of being so relaxed and undisturbed was incredibly luxurious.

St. Barths is small, but has so much culture and variety, plus some of the most incredible beaches in the world, so it made sense to rent a car to explore on our own timeline. On our second day there, our hotel arranged a private island tour and our tour guide was the former editor-in-chief of Le Journal de Saint Barths, the weekly newspaper. Needless to say, she knew everything—from the island's humble history to its current day celebrity gossip. Spending three hours with her was one of the best activities of the trip, and we left the tour with so much appreciation for the place.

There are 14 beaches on St. Barths, each one with pristine white sand opening to crystal blue waters. At the recommendation of friends, we went to Saline Beach almost every day, just to take in the gorgeous views. The unexpected thing about St. Barths is, while it has a reputation of being a playground for the ultra-wealthy, it's actually not a scene at all. Instead, the island is so friendly and laid-back, offering complete seclusion and privacy and just letting its natural beauty inspire and amaze. Our second to last day on the island, we hiked about forty-five minutes (in the mountains!) to get to Colombier Beach. It was absolutely worth it. The beach is mostly isolated, but spectacular, and the water there is so still that it feels like you're wading in a giant pool. Being on that beach and looking out into the water is one of those moments that just make you feel so lucky to be alive and be at that place. Incredible is the only word I can use to describe the experience.

After five days in St. Barths we were sad to leave, but excited for the next leg of our trip—Anguilla. Back at the airport we had one of the best check-in experiences ever. No lines, no security, no metal detectors—just casual instructions to "have a seat" (outside! In the loveliest sunny, 80-degree weather!) and wait for the pilot to come fetch us. Then, it was just my husband and me on a short 15-minute jaunt to Anguilla.

Viceroy Anguilla Carolyn Hsu

Photo: Courtesy of Carolyn Hsu

When our friends heard that we were going to Anguilla, they almost unanimously recommended that we stay at The Viceroy. It's one of the newest resorts on the island, so we were excited to check out the glitz factor—and it didn't disappoint. The sprawling Kelly Wearstler-designed resort was a much fancier contrast to the laid-back (but equally stunning) style of St. Barths, and every corner you turned either offered some gorgeous design work or a sweeping view of the ocean. Our room at the hotel also had a private plunge pool (a honeymoon amenity I highly recommend) but we spent most of our days cruising around trying every restaurant and water sport the property offered. The Viceroy has much more of a traditional resort feel with a number of restaurants, pools, lounges and activities to try. One of the highlights of our time there was getting a private sailing lesson in the hotel's Catamaran boat and then being able to take it out on the ocean ourselves. Let's just say, it was definitely an exercise in learning to trust my new husband, but it was an exhilarating and fun experience.

It rained on the very last night of our honeymoon, but that turned out to be a romantic wrap-up to our Caribbean adventure. Our hotel had a covered, open-air lounge where we could eat, drink, play games, and hang out on fabulous day beds. That evening, they screened a movie so we went to enjoy. Just a few feet away, the rain came down hard and the waves crashed into the beach, but inside we were snuggled up with platters of sushi and cocktails. It was truly the perfect memorable ending to our honeymoon.

Rehearsal Dinner Ideas: One Bride’s Rooftop BBQ Bash

 Carolyn Hsu, New York, Real Brides, Real Weddings  Comments Off on Rehearsal Dinner Ideas: One Bride’s Rooftop BBQ Bash
Jan 302014
 
Carolyn Hsu rehearsal dinner invite

Photo: Courtesy of Carolyn Hsu

What do real brides have to say about the wedding planning experience? Well, it's not all happy tears at the bridal boutique and indulgent cake tastings. Guest blogger Carolyn Hsu, founder of The Hsu Closet, is sharing the ins and outs of planning a New York City wedding, picking the perfect venue, crafting a day-of beauty look and finding inspiration in the strangest of places.

My wedding, you could say, leaned a bit on the unconventional side. Instead of a more traditional venue, I opted to get married in a townhouse in the middle of Manhattan. I chose not to have a wedding party, served champagne during the ceremony, and walked down the aisle in a dress that was off-the-rack resort wear.

Unconventional it may be, but it was one really fun party—and it started the night before.

Rather than have a sit-down rehearsal dinner, which we felt wouldn't allow guests to relax and mingle as much as we'd like, my husband and I decided to have a rooftop barbeque at a private residence. Our friend generously allowed us to use his gorgeous duplex and rooftop (thanks Vlad!) and we invited our entire wedding guest list over for a sunset cookout. Though the get-together was casual, the clear view of the Empire State Building elevated the ambiance to a gorgeous city affair. Guests feasted on barbeque and lots of beer, wine, and champagne. At the end of the evening, we served two cakes from Black Hound, a maple "Carolyn" cake and a chocolate "Derek" cake. I had originally bought a whole box of sparklers for the wedding only to find out they would set off the venue's fire alarm—so we passed them out at the rehearsal party instead for a spontaneous mini fireworks display under the stars.

Rehearsal dinner cake Carolyn Hsu

Photo: Courtesy of Carolyn Hsu

What I loved about this approach to a rehearsal dinner was that it was fun, relaxing, required less planning, and was so much cheaper to put on! But more than that, it allowed all our wedding guests to meet each other or catch up, and enjoy a pleasant evening out without having to worry about any kind of schedule or formalities. It also gave my husband and me the opportunity to talk to and thank everyone for celebrating with us—something we were really glad we had the opportunity to do on the eve of our wedding, because the next day would turn out to be something else. Stay tuned for the big wedding day reveal in my next post!

How to Get Wedding Photos You’ll Love: One Bride Shares Her Tips

 Carolyn Hsu, New York, Real Brides, Real Weddings, Wedding Photography  Comments Off on How to Get Wedding Photos You’ll Love: One Bride Shares Her Tips
Jan 282014
 
Carolyn Hsu wedding photography tips 1

Photo: Christian Oth

What do real brides have to say about the wedding planning experience? Well, it's not all happy tears at the bridal boutique and indulgent cake tastings. Guest blogger Carolyn Hsu, founder of The Hsu Closet, is sharing the ins and outs of planning a New York City wedding, picking the perfect venue, crafting a day-of beauty look and finding inspiration in the strangest of places.

When it comes to wedding regrets, one thing I heard a lot from my friends is that they weren't thrilled with their wedding day photography. So when it came time to hire my own wedding photographer, I chose carefully. Luckily, I ended up being thrilled with my choice. Here's how I found the perfect photographer, and got the beautiful wedding photos I wanted.

Know Your Style
Knowing your favorite style is key to finding a photographer who can shoot images you'll love. Do you like pictures that look romantic and ethereal, or more like a fashion editorial? Do you prefer formal staged shots or candids? Do you gravitate toward unusual, artsy photos...or away from them?

I wanted something that looked like a cross between a luxury ad and fashion reportage. I loved the idea of documenting my wedding day in a natural, photojournalistic way, but wanted all my candid shots to look glamorous. And most of all, I wanted my photos to be bright and vibrant, not vintage-looking, overprocessed, or filtered. Knowing what you like best and applying that criteria to your search is the first step in finding (and eliminating!) photographers.

Carolyn Hsu wedding photography tips 2

Photo: Christian Oth

Go With Your Gut Feeling
Consider every recommendation you receive, but ultimately, let the photos do the talking. One night while on Pinterest, I stumbled upon this image by Christian Oth and was hooked. I couldn't look away! Soon I was clicking through every photo on his studio website and loving each one more than the last. Since the photos will be the biggest keepsakes from your wedding day, finding the perfect photographer isn't something to be rushed. Take your time and keep looking until you find someone whose work you absolutely love.

Don't Be Shy
If you pick the right photographer, you should already trust their skill, aesthetic, professionalism, and vision. Since I already had so much admiration for my photographer's work, I felt confident letting him shoot the way he wanted to on my wedding day. To help you get to that level of trust with your photographer, there are a few things I recommend:

1. Have an in-person meeting. This is key because the way you describe or envision something may not be how your photographer understands it. If you can point out photos that you love (or don't), this will help your photographer better understand your vision and how best to capture your day.

2. Ask for what you want. We all have our "good side," body parts we love, and body parts we don't. Let your photographer know if you want him to shoot from a specific angle or avoid something altogether. It's better to give clear direction upfront than be disappointed later because you were too shy to communicate something.

3. Book an engagement session. Initially, I was reluctant to have an engagement shoot, but in retrospect, I'm so glad I did! My husband and I both got to experience what it was like being in front of our photographer's camera—and let me tell you, getting those perfect shots (walking! kissing! looking lovingly into each other's eyes!) takes practice. It also gives you a chance to see what you two look like in the photos—so you can tweak things on the big day.

4. Ask for your photographer's opinion. Ask your photographer for his thoughts on things like venue décor or your dress, because those things can have a big impact on your photos. I had two questions I wanted my photographer to weigh in on: Which room at my venue to use for my ceremony should it rain (luckily, I didn't have to go there); and should I add a belt to my wedding dress (yes). I'm glad I got his opinion, because in the end, I was really happy with how everything looked in the pictures.

Carolyn Hsu wedding photography tips 3

Photo: Christian Oth

Make Photos a Priority
I was all about maximizing photo opportunities throughout the day, from the first look to the last dance. To do this, I opted to take portraits before the ceremony so we'd have more time to get the shots we wanted. I also wanted to get a variety of photos with different backdrops that captured the feel of New York City. We shot in the gorgeous roof terrace of the hotel where we had our first look, in front of the New York Public Library, outside Grand Central, and finally in the garden and throughout our venue.

If you also want to incorporate a variety of backgrounds for your photos, factor in some time to take photos in different places. An experienced photographer should have some go-to locations in mind. And if traveling around the city before your ceremony isn't feasible, then consider getting ready or having your first look at a venue that offers a few different backdrops, such as a rooftop, balcony, garden, or other private space. Looking back, those photos added unique character and personality to my wedding album.

4 Inspired Ideas That Helped One Bride Plan Her Dream Wedding

 Carolyn Hsu, New York, Real Brides, Real Weddings  Comments Off on 4 Inspired Ideas That Helped One Bride Plan Her Dream Wedding
Jan 232014
 
Carolyn Hsu wedding venue

Photo: Christian Oth

What do real brides have to say about the wedding planning experience? Well, it's not all happy tears at the bridal boutique and indulgent cake tastings. Guest blogger Carolyn Hsu, founder of The Hsu Closet, is sharing the ins and outs of planning a New York City wedding, picking the perfect venue, crafting a day-of beauty look and finding inspiration in the strangest of places.

I didn't expect to, but I ended up loving the wedding planning process. Looking back, what's not to love about hosting a party for your best friends and family, good food, good music, pretty flowers, and gorgeous photography? Plus, I'm a very visual person, constantly inspired, and can look at beautiful images for hours and hours on end.

Even so, wedding planning can quickly become overwhelming. While I knew the general feel I wanted for my wedding, I still had to fill in all of the details. (So many details!) Here's how I narrowed my focus and found inspiration:

Carolyn Hsu wedding drinks

Photo: Christian Oth

1. Use your wedding venue. Your venue is the most important factor when it comes to designing your wedding, and it will determine whether you're serving your signature cocktail in mason jars or champagne coupes. The first thing I did when I decided on my venue was to ask to see pictures of previous weddings and events held there. This is a great way to get ideas from other brides, as well as see how the space transforms for special events. Don't just limit yourself to weddings—ask to see other social and even corporate events. In fact, I got the idea to hire a vintage jazz and vocal band to play during the ceremony when I saw it in pictures from a birthday party held at the same space. (Incidentally, it was the party of wedding planner extraordinaire Michelle Rago). Seeing previous parties in the venue also allows you to see what you don't like, so you know what to avoid.

Carolyn Hsu wedding candles

Photo: Christian Oth

2. Look to wedding planners. Even if hiring a top wedding planner is out of your budget, you can still learn a tremendous amount from them by reading their blogs and interviews and paying attention to the little details in their work. I decided not to hire a planner for my wedding, but I certainly pored over portfolios to get ideas and inspiration. Very early on I stumbled upon a Manhattan planning and production company called Fete, which has produced some extraordinary weddings. While they were completely out of my budget, I was absolutely in love with the founder's vision and spent a lot of time looking through her photos and videos for little touches I could incorporate into my own event. I bought her book and even went to her store to get more ideas and ended up DIY-ing a look I saw on her site: luminary escort cards (for my wedding, I made them into place cards). Another designer I loved was Lisa Vorce. I spent a lot of time on her website, read her interviews, and even shopped her online boutique for little design touches for my wedding.

3. Compile a list of dream, if-money-were-no-object vendors. For me, this included photographers like Elizabeth Messina, Julie Skarratt, and Christian Oth, whose studio I eventually retained to shoot my own wedding. For designers, I listed big names like Matthew Robbins and Mindy Rice and boutique shops like Poppies and Posies. Once I had that list set, I went straight to Pinterest and Instagram and followed them all. It's amazing how many ideas I got from keeping up with them on social media—while these vendors' websites may not be updated continuously, their social channels usually are. By following them, I was also getting a curated stream of inspiration from florists, designers, and photographers whose aesthetic I already knew I liked.

4. Look beyond the bridal market. I snapped pictures of flowers at press events I attended and jotted down any memorable special touches. I asked my friend who worked at an art gallery for florists and caterers she's worked with. I looked at society pages in magazines for tabletop and centerpiece ideas at chic dinner parties. One of my favorite lifestyle brands is AERIN by Aerin Lauder and I spent a lot of time on her website reading entertaining, color, and decorating tips. I looked for makeup and hair ideas on every red carpet and even tried (unsuccessfully, alas) to locate Camilla Belle's Met Gala dress. Since you want your wedding to reflect your style (and most of us don't define our style just by weddings), don't forget to look outside of the bridal world for ideas and inspiration as well!

How One Bride Found Her Dream (Sophisticated, Cozy, But Not Stuffy!) New York City Wedding Venue

 Carolyn Hsu, New York, Real Brides, Real Weddings  Comments Off on How One Bride Found Her Dream (Sophisticated, Cozy, But Not Stuffy!) New York City Wedding Venue
Dec 192013
 
Carolyn Hsu Wedding Photos Christian Oth

Photo: Christian Oth

What do real brides have to say about the wedding planning experience? Well, it's not all happy tears at the bridal boutique and indulgent cake tastings. Over the next two months, guest blogger Carolyn Hsu, Founder of The Hsu Closet and Managing Editor at Makeup.com, will share the ins and outs of planning a New York City wedding, picking the perfect venue, crafting a day-of beauty look and finding inspiration in the strangest of places.

Choosing the right venue that reflects the couple's personality and taste is a daunting task for any bride (or groom) and it was no exception for me. My ideal was a backyard wedding followed by an intimate reception for our closest friends and family at a tastefully appointed house...in the middle of New York City. I wanted our wedding to be a sophisticated city affair but still have a cozy, personal, at-home feel. No grand ballrooms for this bride!

Sound difficult? Well, as they say, in New York you can find anything, and that included my dream venue and more. With my set of initial requirements in hand, I started the search. First, I considered renting a private home, but finding a house that could accommodate a large number of people and an owner who was cool with renting out his townhouse for essentially an eight hour party complete with a lot of alcohol, proved to be difficult. Next, I moved on to restaurants—cute ones with carriage houses in the West Village—but soon discovered that very few private dining rooms could seat upwards of 50 guests in one space. Then one day over dessert as I was lamenting the lack of wedding venues that felt like me, a friend asked if I had looked into some of the private arts and social clubs in the city, which commonly rents out spaces for events.

Norwood Wedding Venue, New York City

Photo: Christian Oth

These social clubs, it turns out, was exactly what I was looking for. Most clubs in New York (and other cities as well) usually have their own house that are, as expected, already beautifully furnished. This was really important because I did not want to have to deal with the added stress of designing and transforming the venue space (this seemed like the most daunting part of the planning process). Club houses also usually have different rooms and floors which would allow me to host different parts of the evening in different spaces, thus adding variety to the overall experience. Another huge bonus was that clubs also function as bars, restaurants, and lounges so that made the catering part really easy.

After just a bit of research, it quickly became apparent that the Norwood stood out among them all as the one. Unlike some of the centuries old clubs in the city, Norwood was distinguished but not stuffy. The staff was fun, laid-back, and professionals with incredible attention to detail and service. As an arts club situated in a downtown landmarked townhouse, the walls were filled with amazing pieces from notable names such as Damien Hirst and Gregory Crewdson and the interior was designed in luxurious Victorian style with a slightly boho, contemporary, and very creative feel. I completely dug it—from the light minty walls of the spacious first floor lounge (cocktail hour) to the rich, luxe, burgundy and gold dragon wallpaper that set the third floor salon ambiance (late night dancing) and everything in between. The house even featured a garden, complete with string lights and paper lanterns that completely transported me out of the city to the backyard wedding of my Pinterest dreams. The entire space was just incredibly photogenic—plus, every floor had a functioning full bar—guaranteeing this would be the best party ever.

If you're still searching for your venue, rest assured that you'll find something that speaks to you. Make sure your venue hits your most important must-haves (for me that was not needing excessive additional design and working with a staff that was experienced and understood my vision) and the rest will fall into place. And definitely don't forget to check out some less common options such as restaurants, inns, gardens, clubs, and other private spaces for something totally unique and memorable.

Carolyn Hsu

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Dec 062013
 

From a playful and glamorous bridal shoot to adding holiday spirit to your engagement photos, we round up some of our favorite blog posts from all over the web.

How do you keep a glitzy gold gown from feeling overly glam? Just add a pretty poppy-colored lipstick, bold pink bouquet, sunglasses, and some wedding donuts. (Yes, wedding donuts!) —Grey Likes Weddings

Get gifting! Show your leading ladies some extra love this season by surprising bridesmaids with a too-pretty present from our annual gift guide! —Brides.com

Cut costs on wedding day décor (or add a festive touch to your home) by making this super easy and adorable scalloped felt wreath. Even brides who are less DIY-inclined can handle this one! —Green Wedding Shoes

Wedding-day flowers help set the tone for your entire event, which can add a lot of pressure to find the perfect arrangement. Here are a few helpful dos and dont's when it comes to ordering flowers. —Brides.com

Is it just us, or was mistletoe practically made for engagement photo shoots? Snap up a sprig and get inspired by these 20 engagement photos that incorporate the holiday spirit. —POPSUGAR

Guest blogger (and newlywed!) Carolyn Hsu knows a thing or two about bridal beauty. Get exclusive tips for looking flawless from makeup artists, hair stylists, and dermatologists in her latest post. —Brides.com

Whether you're looking for the perfect hostess gift or a more elaborate favor, this DIY gift-wrapped wine box will definitely impress. —Oh So Beautiful Paper

Want to squash pre-wedding anxiety and have a great time with your bridesmaids in the process? Try this surprising happiness trick! —Brides.com

Poppies, roses, bottle bush, and anemones are the perfect blooms for adding a vibrant splash of red to your color palette. —100 Layer Cake

Want to win a celebrity-style, million-dollar wedding and walk away with $50,000? Of course you do! Find out how to enter here. —Brides.com

—Donna Kim

You Might Also Like:
Our Favorite Mother-of-the-Bride Dresses from Real Weddings
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What a Beauty Editor Learned About Hair, Makeup and Skincare from Planning Her Wedding

 Beauty, Carolyn Hsu, Real Brides, Real Weddings  Comments Off on What a Beauty Editor Learned About Hair, Makeup and Skincare from Planning Her Wedding
Dec 052013
 
Carolyn Hsu Beauty Editor Makeup.com

Photo: Courtesy of Carolyn Hsu

What do real brides have to say about the wedding planning experience? Well, it's not all happy tears at the bridal boutique and indulgent cake tastings. Over the next two months, guest blogger Carolyn Hsu, Founder of The Hsu Closet and Managing Editor at Makeup.com, will share the ins and outs of planning a New York City wedding, picking the perfect venue, crafting a day-of beauty look and finding inspiration in the strangest of places.

When I first started planning my wedding, I, like most brides, quickly realized there was a lot to learn about the world of weddings! For example, what's the difference between a florist and a floral designer? (More on that in a future post!) As a long time beauty editor, however, I knew that there was at least one place where I had a head start—my years and years of interviewing makeup artists, hair dressers and dermatologists, trying products, and advising others on how to look their best was about to pay off in a really big way. I had amassed a fair amount of beauty knowledge already, but whatever I didn't know, I had access to some of the best expert resources around to ask (all in the name of work research, of course). Here is what I discovered:

Carolyn Hsu Beauty Editor Instagram

Photo: Carolyn Hsu via Instagram

1. Know your skin.

I really can't stress this enough—in order to look your best on your big day, you have to know what works and doesn't work for you so you don't accidentally use a product that causes you to break out or have other adverse reactions. Through my years of trying beauty products, I've too often experienced the "but I reallllllyyyy want to like this" feeling, followed by "if I try this again, maybe it'll start working for me" thought. The lesson, as I learned is just "no." If you know a particular brand, or ingredient, or texture doesn't jive with your skin, do not be swayed into trying it before your wedding—it will still not work and it will give you extra hassles to worry about.

My advice is to find out as early on as possible what works for your skin and stick to it.

If you have sensitive skin, steer clear of anything with fragrances or harsh ingredients—I'm a big fan of products from Dermalogica, Simple Skincare, and La Roche Posay. If you have dry skin or are getting married in the cooler months, look for products that contain ceramide, an ingredient that helps your skin to keep moisture from escaping—I love Dr. Jart+ Ceramidin Cream, CeraVe Facial Moisturizing Lotion, and Elizabeth Arden Ceramide Capsules. For oilier or combination skin (that's me!), stick to a lighter product and don't be afraid to use two different products—one for oilier parts and one for dryer parts. I love Kiehl's Skin Rescuer, which has an added benefit of helping reduce visible signs of stress on skin. If you have more delicate or mature skin, go for a really high tech product, such ones from Algenist, La Prairie, or Skinceuticals, which have potent anti-aging ingredients. And if you prefer green or natural products, check out the products from Joanna Vargas—they are some of the best that I've ever tried.

2. Sunscreen all day, every day + Antioxidants.

The number one piece of advice from every dermatologist I've ever talked to is that applying sunscreen that protects both against UVA and UVB rays daily is the best thing you can do for your skin. You probably already know that...but if you really want to get serious about your skincare for the ultimate glowing complexion, also add an antioxidant serum into your regime. Not only will antioxidants boost the effectiveness of your sunscreen, it protects skin in other ways and helps to reverse damage that has already been done. Two common forms of antioxidants are Vitamin C and Vitamin E and as it turns out, they're even more effective when used together. My favorite antioxidant products are Skinceuticals CE Ferulic and Dr. Dennis Gross Hydra-Pure Antioxidant Firming Serum.

Carolyn Hsu Beauty Editor Instagram

Photo: Carolyn Hsu via Instagram

3. Exfoliate, but not too much.

Exfoliating is the one thing that I know I should do, but that I don't always make the time. Leading up to your wedding however, proper exfoliation is key to keeping skin looking youthful and radiant. Don't overdo it by going for a harsh scrub—keep it to something gentle such as Pro Therapy MD Gentle Skin Polishing Exfoliator or Peter Thomas Roth Peeling Gel Exfoliant and use it a few times a week. Results from using an exfoliator regularly is cumulative and you'll see the pay off in the long run.

When it comes to body exfoliation (my backless wedding dress makes it a necessity)—I don't know about you, but scrubbing my own back in the shower is not my forte. This beauty treatment is best left to the pros. You have two options here—you can go to a spa that offers a body polish or you can get a little adventurous and go for a full on Korean body scrub. I tried both. A few months before my wedding, I went to the Cornelia Spa at The Surrey for a purifying back treatment that included full on pore extractions and a soothing back masque. A pampering treatment like this one is a good option if you want to relax before your big day. However, being the curious beauty explorer that I am, I also booked myself a traditional Korean body scrub (offered at most Asian day spas), which involved laying completely naked on a treatment bed and getting every square inch of your body scrubbed with a mitt until no more dead skin comes off. Sound intense? It is—and not the best option for the shy, but the results—baby soft, glowing skin from top to bottom—are completely worth it. Whichever option you choose, book your final body exfoliation treatment about a week in advance of your wedding so your skin has time to recover from any irritation or redness but the results are still at their peak.

4. Find a makeup artist who understands what "natural but better" means for you.

Every bride wants to look like the best version of herself on her wedding day, and the trick is to find a makeup artist who understands your facial structure and how to highlight your best features. I decided to go with a former colleague and friend of mine, Margaux Zion, who is also a phenomenal makeup artist. Since we worked together daily for almost a year, she was already familiar with how I liked to wear my makeup. She's also very passionate about makeup and knows her products inside and out which is a huge plus. When you're interviewing makeup artists, be sure to ask them what they think your best features are and how to highlight them as well as bring a few photos of how you usually do your makeup to go to work or go out so they can get a sense of your natural style. If there's anything you want "corrected"—for me, it was contouring to slim my face—let them know and ask to see previous work where they've done that particular technique. Clear communication and visuals are key.

While you should be very clear with what you want, also be open to listening to the artist's expertise. For example, I absolutely love a red lipstick and how glamorous the perfect crimson can look. Margaux, however, deterred me from going down that route—not good for eating or kissing, she advised. "Your wedding is not the time to go for high maintenance makeup."

5. Know what you want but be open to change.

For as long as I can remember, I've been convinced that my hair looks better down with romantic waves as opposed to an updo. So when it came to wedding hair, I knew that's how I was going to wear it—down with loose curls. After I picked my dress however, I realized that the intricate and somewhat unusual neckline required that my hair be pulled back in order to properly show it off. In fact, my ideal down-do just looked completely wrong with the gown! Needless to say, some flexibility was needed on my part to part with my dream hair. In the end, I decided to go with a low chignon that still give a little bit of length to the updo but opened up the neck and shoulder area. I realized that what I liked about that whole loose 'do was the natural volume and the way hair softly framed my face. Knowing that, I was able to have my talented stylist at the John Barret Salon recreate the effect by not pulling the hair too tight to the scalp and leaving a couple soft waves out to frame the face.

6. Time your treatments.

Most brides will want to invest in some professional treatments right before their wedding whether it's brow shaping, waxing, facial, teeth whitening, etc. In addition to the body scrub, I had three other big ones: hair removal, facial for some last minute skin help, and teeth whitening. As you know from my exfoliation experience, I'm pretty adventurous when it comes to beauty, so I used my wedding as an excuse to invest in some treatments that I always wanted to get.

First up, laser hair removal. After countless waxes, I decided that it was time to rid my body of those pesky hairs once and for all (or at least for a few years at a time). Turns out, many brides opt to laser their underarms before their big day for smooth, worry-free skin. My go-to place in the city is Beam Laser Spa, a boutique spa run by two Brazilian sisters, whom I became friends with during the course of my treatments. While I love a deal as much as the next person, laser hair removal is not the place for that. Make sure you find a place that has state-of-the-art facilities and modern technology, and knowledgeable specialists that you trust and feel comfortable around. My specialist, Andrea Young, recommends starting underarm sessions about six to eight months before the wedding date to get full results which takes about six to twelve sessions. She also recommends doing the last session roughly two weeks before the wedding in case to give time for any redness to disappear. Didn't plan enough time for all those sessions? No worries—Young says that even if you do just one session 2 weeks before your wedding, you would still be completely hairless and smooth on the big day (it takes about 6 weeks for hair that hasn't been killed from the treatment to grow back).

Next, teeth whitening. Once again, I preferred a more permanent solution so I opted for an in-office Philips Zoom treatment which can drastically whiten teeth in just 45 minutes. Unlike laser hair removal treatments, this procedure should be scheduled a bit closer to your wedding day recommends Dr. Jeffrey Rappaport of Lavaan Dental Spa, where I went to get my treatment. "The ideal time is about one week before your wedding so that any sensitivity you may experience has completely disappeared and your smile is still at its brightest post treatment." If you're concerned about sensitivity, make sure you brush with a sensitive toothpaste starting about two weeks before your treatment.

Finally, the facial. This was one place where I was not willing to get too risky and I would recommend not trying anything new or extreme before your wedding. I went to Joanna Vargas, an aesthetician in the city who is known for her holistic approach to skincare for a maintenance facial—some extractions, a generous application of serum, and an oxygen mask can do wonders for your skin even if it's just a week out.

—Carolyn Hsu

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Introducing Our Newest Guest Blogger Carolyn Hsu

 Carolyn Hsu, Real Brides, Real Weddings  Comments Off on Introducing Our Newest Guest Blogger Carolyn Hsu
Nov 282013
 

What do real brides have to say about the wedding planning experience? Well, it's not all happy tears at the bridal boutique and indulgent cake tastings. Over the next two months, guest blogger Carolyn Hsu, Founder of The Hsu Closet and Managing Editor at Makeup.com, will share the ins and outs of planning a New York City wedding, picking the perfect venue, crafting a day-of beauty look and finding inspiration in the strangest of places.

When I got engaged last September, I didn't want to plan a wedding—I wanted to elope. It might seem unexpected coming from someone who lives the bulk of her life online (I'm a longtime blogger at The Daily Obsession and The Hsu Closet and current managing editor of Makeup.com), but I'm actually pretty shy when it comes to public attention and displays of affection. In fact, I kept our engagement secret for a few weeks (except to our families of course) before finally releasing a Facebook photo showcasing myself carrying a bag I had bought in Paris—and sporting some brand new bling. To this day, my Facebook relationship status still remains blank.

Carolyn Hsu Engagement Announcement

Photo: Courtesy of Carolyn Hsu

My engagement announcement, in all its glory.

As soon as the cat was out of the bag (or in my case, the bag was out on the Internet), the questions started coming in. When's the wedding? Where's the wedding? What color is your wedding? Have you set a date? Do you have a dress? And the answer to all those questions was either "no" or "I don't know." In fact all the inquiries swirling around my upcoming nuptials quickly became overwhelming when I hadn't even answered the most basic question of all: "would I have a wedding?"

The fact that I'm blogging about my journey to the aisle for Brides gives away that at the end I decided that I would—complete with a ceremony, cocktail hour, dinner, dancing, the whole shebang. The turning point came when one night over dinner, my fiance told me that despite my frequent proclamations that I was missing the "bride gene," he didn't want me to regret choosing to forgo a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I would never have again. Plus, he said, everyone that we care about will be there and when else would we ever experience so much love in one room?

Once that was decided, the rest of the planning process actually turned out to be pretty fun! One of the perks of being an editor is getting to attend awesome events and launch parties put together by some of the best planners around. I started paying extra attention to the details at those events, taking note of what I liked and wanted to incorporate into my own party. I knew from the get-go that I didn't want a big traditional wedding with a lot of pomp and circumstance, but rather something that was more intimate, non-traditional, and reflected who we were as a couple—young professional New Yorkers who didn't take ourselves too seriously and liked to go out downtown and have a good time. I wanted something that was stylish, original, and most importantly, fun and memorable for our guests. I look forward to sharing my experiences and discoveries with you over the next few months.

A little more about my fiance and I: he (Derek) and I met at a random birthday party at the end of 2009. Neither of us knew the birthday girl. Derek had just moved to New York from San Francisco a few weeks prior while I was going on my fourth year living in Manhattan. We met, of all places, in line getting carded and struck up a conversation where I learned that he worked in the solar industry. I thought that was interesting, as I had never met anyone in renewable energy before. A few years and a couple solar conferences later (hey, I went too because those conventions are held in really warm, sunny places ok?) he proposed one evening while we were vacationing in Lake Como, Italy. The ring? A classic David Yurman Crossover, which he knew I liked because I had Instagrammed a photo of it from their press preview months prior. I told you there were some perks to this job!

—Carolyn Hsu

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