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Ilana Stern Archives - New Orleans Weddings - Reception, Venue & Planning

An Unconventional Approach to the Rehearsal Dinner—Make Sure to Have Fun and Do What You Want!

 Ilana Stern, Real Brides, Real Weddings  Comments Off on An Unconventional Approach to the Rehearsal Dinner—Make Sure to Have Fun and Do What You Want!
Oct 312013
 
Ilana Stern Rehearsal Dinner

Photography by Erich McVey

What do real brides have to say about the wedding planning experience? Well, it's not all indulgent cake tastings and happy tears at the bridal boutique. Over the next few months, guest blogger and Weddington Way founder and CEO Ilana Stern will share the ins and outs of planning a California wedding, running a business, picking the perfect wedding planner, and customizing your dream dress.

When it was time to plan our rehearsal dinner, Jeff and I really wanted a casual and super social get-together (think a fun Friday night out as opposed to a stuffy sit down dinner). To get that open, laidback feel, we knew we had to do a few things differently.

First, we chose to have the ceremony rehearsal at The Viceroy in Santa Monica, the hotel where most of our guests were staying, instead of our actual wedding venue. Keeping everything in one place meant we didn't have to miss a minute of the rehearsal dinner fun (and force our guests to slog through 45 minutes of Labor Day LA traffic). Plus, cutting down the back and forth travel reduced a lot of stress—it's something I would highly recommend if it makes sense for you.

The Viceroy Santa Monica Rehearsal DinnerIlana Stern Rehearsal DinnerGuests at The Viceroy Santa Monica Rehearsal Dinner

Photography by Erich McVey

Next, even though we had a really large guest list for the wedding, we wanted to make sure that we had a smaller group (if you consider 100 people a smaller group!) to share that special evening with us before the ceremony. Although this may seem like a lot of people, it felt more intimate because the guests were only family, the bridal party, and friends who had traveled internationally. As for the space, we opted for a hip outdoor pool that was chic yet informal, with just the right splash of Hollywood glamour. Picture cabanas, a beachy breeze, and festive lanterns lighting the dining area at sunset. It was the perfect way to give our guests a taste of the LA vibe that we were striving for the entire weekend.

Ilana Stern Weddington Way Co-Founder

Photography by Erich McVey

Another unconventional way we celebrated? We didn't serve a sit-down dinner! Instead, we hosted a big cocktail party with lots of fabulous food stations like brick oven pizza and a barbecue carving station. This non-traditional set-up gave us a chance to catch up with old friends and encouraged everyone to mingle. To make sure everyone enjoyed themselves, we had an open bar (complete with a delicious blood orange margarita signature cocktail!). But here's the catch: it closed at 9 p.m., which helped us keep everyone from burning out on the first night!

The smaller guest list at our rehearsal dinner allowed for more heartfelt moments. Everyone loved the touching photo slideshow that my mom put together, featuring childhood pictures of Jeff and me. The dinner's intimate setting also gave us the chance to express our thanks to our parents, who played a huge role in our wedding journey (and the chance to present some unexpected thank you gifts!).

The Viceroy Santa Monica Rehearsal DinnerThe Viceroy Santa Monica Rehearsal Dinner

Photography by Erich McVey

At one point I looked around the room and realized that most of my bridesmaids were wearing dresses from Weddington Way and many of my other girlfriends looked super stylish in our new party frocks. I was very touched to see the significant women in my life show support for what I've worked so hard on at such an important moment of my life.

Looking back on that night, I think one of the best (though somewhat untraditional) decisions we made was to invite our wedding photographer to document it. It was great because he got a ton of cute, candid shots of all of our friends and family having a great time celebrating with us on the eve of our wedding. Our rehearsal dinner was such a joyful start to our wedding weekend for both our guests and for Jeff and me was because we decided to scrap the tradition and do things our way. If you do what really makes you and your fiancé happy, your friends and family can't help but have a good time!

—Ilana Stern

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Oct 252013
 

From a classic Napa Valley wedding to an elegant DIY wax paper invitation project, we round up some of our favorite blog posts from all over the web.

There's something so enchanting and romantic about wine country weddings! This couple completely embraced their venue by hosting their reception in the barrel room. See all of the elegant details including twinkling cafe lights and lush florals, here. —Elizabeth Anne Designs

Get dewy, camera-ready skin for your wedding day by diving in to our top picks for at-home masks and skin treatments. —Brides.com

If only all DIYs were this easy! This stunning wax paper invitation project is not only simple enough for craft-challenged brides to complete, but the end product looks totally professional. —Once Wed

Thinking about asking a friend to coordinate details for your wedding day instead of hiring a professional wedding planner? Listen to what our wedding etiquette experts have to say before taking the plunge. —Brides.com

Most jack-o'-lanterns are fiendish and scary, but this incredible design is actually quite romantic! This husband-to-be etched out an image of him and his fiancée against a skyline. Take a look at the impressive carving, here. —Huffington Post Weddings

In the spirit of Halloween (and couples!), we came up with five genius costume ideas for you and your significant other—one for every kind of couple whether you're history buffs or pop culture vultures. —Brides.com

Your engagement shoot provides the perfect opportunity to creatively incorporate save-the-date details. See how you can use Scrabble tiles, sports jerseys, sidewalk chalk, and more! —POPSUGAR

This fairytale-like real wedding, held in a historic national ornamental metal museum in Memphis, Tennessee, is filled with romantic and touching moments. (We're also so in love with the bride's Vera Wang strapless gown!) —Brides.com

Such an ingenious idea! Post-wedding, screen your wedding video with your closest friends in an outdoor movie night—complete with cold beers and festive decorations. —100 Layer Cake

Our guest blogger Ilana Stern from Weddington Way shares four extremely useful and helpful tips for how to have the most amazing wedding week with your family and friends in her latest blog post. —Brides.com

—Donna Kim

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Four Genius Tips for How to Have the Most Amazing Wedding Week

 Ilana Stern, Real Brides, Real Weddings  Comments Off on Four Genius Tips for How to Have the Most Amazing Wedding Week
Oct 232013
 
Guest Blogger Ilana Stern Wedding Week Dinner With Friends

Photo: Courtesy of Ilana Stern

What do real brides have to say about the wedding planning experience? Well, it's not all indulgent cake tastings and happy tears at the bridal boutique. Over the next few months, guest blogger and Weddington Way founder and CEO Ilana Stern will share the ins and outs of planning a California wedding, running a business, picking the perfect wedding planner, and customizing your dream dress.

After a little more than a year of planning, I couldn't believe when my wedding week finally arrived. Although my fiancé (now husband!) Jeff and I told ourselves we would have all of the logistics squared away two weeks before the ceremony, we did run into a couple of last minute snafus. Luckily, they didn't stop us from enjoying each other and the other things that mattered. After all, how could I not be happy when all of my favorite people in the world were coming to celebrate with me?

Guest Blogger Ilana Stern with Fiance Jeff

Photo: Courtesy of Ilana Stern

In the days leading up to our big day, it was important for me to press pause and spend quality time with the people who matter most in my life. A week before the ceremony, Jeff and I had a special date night at a restaurant we'd been dying to try in San Francisco. We focused on each other and really tried to appreciate the company, conversation, and cuisine. After dinner, we went to our favorite bar for fun cocktails. The next day the quality time continued as we headed to our final dance class. It was a great way to spend the day together while doing something related to the wedding, but that was active and fun instead of a chore. Plus, it was a necessary boost of confidence since we were both nervous about dancing in front of our wedding guests.

Guest Blogger Ilana Stern's Makeup Trial with Mom and Grandma

Photo: Courtesy of Ilana Stern

My wedding week continued with pre-wedding makeup trials at Blushington, a fun local beauty bar, with my mom and grandmother. The next day I spent some time with the other important man in my life: my dad! We had a lovely lunch at the Ivy by the Shore and followed by a long walk on the beach in Santa Monica—we basically did what we used to do when I was little, which was a priceless experience.

Guest Blogger Ilana Stern Wedding Week Lunch with Dad

Photo: Courtesy of Ilana Stern

Also on the agenda? An intimate Thursday night dinner with eight of our friends who had traveled to the wedding from distant locations. At first, I was worried that a Thursday night event would wear me out before the rehearsal dinner and our Saturday wedding, but this dinner ended up being one of my favorite moments of the week! It was amazing to have quiet time with my old friends, some of whom I had not seen in a long time.

The last week before your wedding will undoubtedly be full of emotions, last-minute to dos and lots of excitement. I'd like to share some lessons learned from those last few days before the big day:

  • Turn last-minute tasks into an event. If you're getting your nails done, get your best friends or female family members to come with you! These sorts of things are more fun when done with someone else and a great way to get through your errands while getting quality time with your friends and family, so invite the important people along for the ride.
  • Create a checklist of major errands. If you don't want to be stressed out by the logistics, assign a trusted family or bridal party member to take care of these tasks. This way you can relax and focus on having a good time.
  • Make time for loved ones. It was really important for me to spend time with the people who matter one on one. From your fiancé to your parents to your siblings, find time in that last week to do something special with them.
  • Press pause. Take a deep breath. Your wedding is here! Instead of rushing into everything, I recommend slowing down to be in the moment (yes, it's hard in the midst of a whirlwind but so worth it!). I'll never forget my future husband's laughter when I stepped on his toes (once again) at our final dance lesson, the smile on my grandmother's face as she looked in the mirror and saw her makeup done, the clink of wine glasses as my dad and I made a toast—moments like these should be cherished forever, so take note of them.

—Ilana Stern

You Might Also Like:
11 Things to Avoid the Week Before Your Wedding
15 Wedding Day Beauty Emergencies and How to Solve Them
Eight Groomsmen Emergencies and How to Solve Them

Four Genius Tips for How to Have the Most Amazing Wedding Week

 Ilana Stern, Real Brides, Real Weddings  Comments Off on Four Genius Tips for How to Have the Most Amazing Wedding Week
Oct 232013
 
Guest Blogger Ilana Stern Wedding Week Dinner With Friends

Photo: Courtesy of Ilana Stern

What do real brides have to say about the wedding planning experience? Well, it's not all indulgent cake tastings and happy tears at the bridal boutique. Over the next few months, guest blogger and Weddington Way founder and CEO Ilana Stern will share the ins and outs of planning a California wedding, running a business, picking the perfect wedding planner, and customizing your dream dress.

After a little more than a year of planning, I couldn't believe when my wedding week finally arrived. Although my fiancé (now husband!) Jeff and I told ourselves we would have all of the logistics squared away two weeks before the ceremony, we did run into a couple of last minute snafus. Luckily, they didn't stop us from enjoying each other and the other things that mattered. After all, how could I not be happy when all of my favorite people in the world were coming to celebrate with me?

Guest Blogger Ilana Stern with Fiance Jeff

Photo: Courtesy of Ilana Stern

In the days leading up to our big day, it was important for me to press pause and spend quality time with the people who matter most in my life. A week before the ceremony, Jeff and I had a special date night at a restaurant we'd been dying to try in San Francisco. We focused on each other and really tried to appreciate the company, conversation, and cuisine. After dinner, we went to our favorite bar for fun cocktails. The next day the quality time continued as we headed to our final dance class. It was a great way to spend the day together while doing something related to the wedding, but that was active and fun instead of a chore. Plus, it was a necessary boost of confidence since we were both nervous about dancing in front of our wedding guests.

Guest Blogger Ilana Stern's Makeup Trial with Mom and Grandma

Photo: Courtesy of Ilana Stern

My wedding week continued with pre-wedding makeup trials at Blushington, a fun local beauty bar, with my mom and grandmother. The next day I spent some time with the other important man in my life: my dad! We had a lovely lunch at the Ivy by the Shore and followed by a long walk on the beach in Santa Monica—we basically did what we used to do when I was little, which was a priceless experience.

Guest Blogger Ilana Stern Wedding Week Lunch with Dad

Photo: Courtesy of Ilana Stern

Also on the agenda? An intimate Thursday night dinner with eight of our friends who had traveled to the wedding from distant locations. At first, I was worried that a Thursday night event would wear me out before the rehearsal dinner and our Saturday wedding, but this dinner ended up being one of my favorite moments of the week! It was amazing to have quiet time with my old friends, some of whom I had not seen in a long time.

The last week before your wedding will undoubtedly be full of emotions, last-minute to dos and lots of excitement. I'd like to share some lessons learned from those last few days before the big day:

  • Turn last-minute tasks into an event. If you're getting your nails done, get your best friends or female family members to come with you! These sorts of things are more fun when done with someone else and a great way to get through your errands while getting quality time with your friends and family, so invite the important people along for the ride.
  • Create a checklist of major errands. If you don't want to be stressed out by the logistics, assign a trusted family or bridal party member to take care of these tasks. This way you can relax and focus on having a good time.
  • Make time for loved ones. It was really important for me to spend time with the people who matter one on one. From your fiancé to your parents to your siblings, find time in that last week to do something special with them.
  • Press pause. Take a deep breath. Your wedding is here! Instead of rushing into everything, I recommend slowing down to be in the moment (yes, it's hard in the midst of a whirlwind but so worth it!). I'll never forget my future husband's laughter when I stepped on his toes (once again) at our final dance lesson, the smile on my grandmother's face as she looked in the mirror and saw her makeup done, the clink of wine glasses as my dad and I made a toast—moments like these should be cherished forever, so take note of them.

—Ilana Stern

You Might Also Like:
11 Things to Avoid the Week Before Your Wedding
15 Wedding Day Beauty Emergencies and How to Solve Them
Eight Groomsmen Emergencies and How to Solve Them

As If. Our Fantasy Bridesmaid Dress Selections for Lauren Conrad’s Former MTV Co-Stars

 Bridesmaid Dresses, Celebrity Weddings, Celebrity Weddings & Style, Ilana Stern, Lauren Conrad  Comments Off on As If. Our Fantasy Bridesmaid Dress Selections for Lauren Conrad’s Former MTV Co-Stars
Oct 222013
 
Lauren Conrad Hills Cast Members Dream Bridesmaid Dresses

Photo: Getty Images

As Hills fans everywhere wait for Lauren Conrad to start planning her Laguna Beach wedding to William Tell, we took it upon ourselves to imagine what Conrad's former co-stars might be asked to wear should they be included in her bridal party.

See more: Wedding Etiquette Tips: The Bridal Party

While Conrad is now best known for her fledgling fashion empire—she's launched two successful clothing lines to date, "LC Lauren Conrad" and "Paper Crown"—her MTV besties are equally famous for their outspoken opinions when it comes to well, everything.

Enlisting the help of recent California bride and Weddington Way business owner Ilana Stern, we took into account each co-star's personality along with the proposed wedding location, Laguna Beach, of course, to put together a cohesive bridal party look that even Olivia Palermo would approve of. (Ah, remember her? Why oh why did this franchise have to end?)

Maid of Honor: Lo Bosworth

Lauren Conrad Dream Bridesmaid Dresses - Lo Bosworth in Donna Morgan Laura Dress

Photo: Joanna August

Conrad's high school sidekick Lo Bosworth stuck with her through thick and thin, so it's only fitting she stand by Lauren's side as Maid of Honor. Preppy yet casual, sarcastic yet caring, we imagine Bosworth dressed in a floor-length gown with a flattering neckline. "Lo's style is perhaps the simplest of Lauren Conrad's friends," adds Stern. "A quintessential strapless maxi with sweetheart neckline would look amazing on her."

"Laura" silk chiffon bridesmaid dress in blush, $230, Donna Morgan available at Weddington Way

A-List Bridesmaid: Whitney Port

Lauren Conrad's Dream Bridesmaid Dresses - Whitney Port in Joanna August Dani Dress

Photo: Joanna August

Aside from LC, Whitney has earned the most post-MTV kudos for launching her own successful fashion career as designer behind Whitney Eve. Known for her bohemiean style—we're still swooning over the flower crown Port wore to The Hills finale—we imagine The City starlet will want to wear something a bit less formal. "A bohemian Joanna August number is what I imagine being great on Whitney," says Stern. "Its flouncy top is chic, but laid back—just like Whitney."

"Dani" chiffon bridesmaid dress in tiny dancer, $250, Joanna August available at Weddington Way

A-List Bridesmaid: Audrina Patridge

Lauren Conrad Dream Bridesmaid Dress - Audrina Patridge in Watters Laurel Dress

Photo: Joanna August

Audrina epitomized cool-girl-meets-bad-boy (cough, Justin Bobby, cough) style on The Hills and was probably the only person on the show who managed to pull off black (and leather) despite the hot Los Angeles sun. Her bridal party look would no doubt stay true to her West Coast roots while also reflecting a bit of her bad girl edge. "Audrina's style is the epitome of casual California, and this Watters dress—in a color that's sure to show off her tan—reflects that."

"Laurel" crinkle chiffon bridesmaid dress in buff, $236, Watters available at Weddington Way

B-List Bridesmaid: Heidi Montag

Lauren Conrad Dream Bridesmaid Dress - Heidi Montag

Photo: Joanna August

It would take an MTV miracle for Lauren to ask Mrs. Pratt to be a bridesmaid, although her last-minute appearance at Heidi and Spencer's wedding does give us a glimmer of hope. Should the queen of cosmetic surgery get a second change, there's no doubt her request to wear something body-skimming and utterly inappropriate will get shut down. "A simple, form-flattering dress is ideal for Heidi," says Stern.

"Piper" eastern silk shantung bridesmaid dress in blush, $295, Jenny Yoo available at Weddington Way

B-List Bridesmaid: Stephanie Pratt

Lauren Conrad Dream Wedding Dress - Stephanie Pratt in Kirribilla

Photo: Joanna August

Although Spencer Pratt's little sister slid her way into LC's circle (and then subsequently out of it) on The Hills, her style sensibility never faltered. A big personality with a penchant for parties, Stephanie would need to wear something " flirty, fitted, and most of all fun!" says Stern.

"Zoe" silk wool bridesmaid dress in rose, $450, Kirribilla available at Weddington Way

B-List Bridesmaid: Kristin Cavallari

Lauren Conrad Dream Wedding Dress - Kristin Cavallari in Jim Hjelm

Photo: Joanna August

Last but certainly not least we have LC's forever frenemy Kristin Cavallari. A recent bride herself, Kristin married football quarterback Jay Cutler in a romantic Nashville ceremony, Kristin wouldn't be able to attend Conrad's wedding without a little something special. "This Jim Hjelm dress is classic, but the ruffled halter gives it a hint of edginess, which is perfect for Kristin," says Stern.

Style 5314, crinkle chiffon bridesmaid dress in petal, $250, Jim Hjelm available at Weddington Way

While it remains to be seen which MTV castmates are invited to what, LC's pending nuptials promises to be an unforgettable wedding. We know for certain that Lauren's enviable style will make this Laguna Beach blowout an affair to remember. Save us a seat, OK?

—Lauren Frankfort

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How to Throw the Most Relaxing (and Fun!) Bachelorette Party Ever

 Ilana Stern, Real Brides, Real Weddings  Comments Off on How to Throw the Most Relaxing (and Fun!) Bachelorette Party Ever
Oct 082013
 
Guest Blogger Ilana Stern's Bachelorette Party

Photo: Courtesy of Ilana Stern

What do real brides have to say about the wedding planning experience? Well, it's not all indulgent cake tastings and happy tears at the bridal boutique. Over the next few months, guest blogger and Weddington Way founder and CEO Ilana Stern will share the ins and outs of planning a California wedding, running a business, picking the perfect wedding planner, and customizing your dream dress.

For some brides, the words "bachelorette party" immediately conjure up images of all-nighters in Las Vegas, pool parties in Miami, or daylong wine adventures in Napa Valley. Don't get me wrong, these all sound like a ton of fun, but when I sat down and thought about what I (and my super busy best girlfriends) would love to do for a weekend away, all that came to mind was rest, relaxation, and sunshine (oh, and delicious cocktails, of course!). If, like me, you want to have an unforgettable and relaxing bachelorette party, here are my recommendations for how to make your last fling before the ring a truly memorable and fabulous weekend.

Guest Blogger Ilana Stern with Friends at her Bachelorette Party

Photo: Courtesy of Ilana Stern

The Company
The most important ingredient to any successful bachelorette weekend is the guest list: Your favorite ladies! I spent my bachelorette with five of my closest friends from different life stages (high school, college, and career) and I was excited for everyone to get to know each other. Our group was the perfect size—small enough for intimate dinners and late night chats, but big enough for poolside fun and happy hour! I had the opportunity to spend quality time with each of girls (which I LOVED) while enjoying the group dynamic and the weekend itself.

The Details
Since wedding planning requires a ton of decision making, I was happy to let my friends take control of the bachelorette party. Tiffany and Lauren (two of my bridesmaids) took charge of getting the group organized and spearheaded the itinerary. It was a relief not having to worry about finding a flight or booking a hotel suite or picking a restaurant. Plus, the details didn't stop at coordinating the group! Tiffany is super creative and went DIY crazy to make the weekend even more special. She had ribbon printed with "Ilana's Bachelorette Fiesta" and decorated our rooms with it. She also made gift bags filled with sunblock, mints, double-sided tape, Advil—all of the necessities for a few days filled with sunshine and margaritas. I was so thankful for of all of my friend's creative little details that really made my party remarkable.

Guest Blogger Ilana Stern's Bachelorette Party Favors

Photo: Courtesy of Ilana Stern

The Dream Location
Cabo was our chosen destination and there was no question of where to stay: Las Ventanas al Paraiso, A Rosewood Resort. Although none of us had ever been, we heard amazing things about it (after all, the resort name translates to ""The Windows to Paradise"). Plus, it's well known as a top honeymoon resort and destination wedding venue (think celebs like Gwyneth Paltrow, Heidi Klum, and Kate Beckinsale lounging poolside). Since the main goal of the trip was relaxation, it was really important for us to be at a resort that made us feel comfortable and Las Ventanas did not disappoint. From Coronitas in the car ride from the airport to mini beach bags filled with homemade agave syrup and vanilla extract left on our pillow before bed, no detail was overlooked. The cherry on top was the amazing and hospitable staff that really made us feel right at home.

Guest Blogger Ilana Stern Las Ventanas Hotel

Photos: Courtesy of Ilana Stern

Guest Blogger Ilana Stern Bachelorette Party Hotel Car

The Agenda
The key to having the perfect agenda for a relaxing bachelorette: Don't have one! You can't have a relaxing getaway weekend without spending quality time (doing nothing!) by the pool. From cucumber chili popsicles and refreshing watermelon cocktails to Evian spray and buckets of ice water, the poolside scene at Las Ventanas was perfect. The only thing better than hanging out poolside was checking out the breathtaking view of the ocean from inside the infinity pool (see below)—it was truly heaven!

Guest Blogger Ilana Stern's Bachelorette Party - Friends in Infinity Pool

Photo: Courtesy of Ilana Stern

The Unexpected
For my bachelorette party I let all organization, planning, and scheduling fly out la ventana (had to say it!) and kept my mind open to the unexpected. We kicked off the trip with an impromptu tequila tasting just after touching down in Mexico (Clase Azul was my fave!). Upon arriving at Las Ventanas, my friends surprised me with a spa appointment where I received an amazing massage (goodbye tension, hello zen!). That night we had a fun girls night in, which involved bachelorette games, cheesy decorations, and girl talk! I was totally shocked when my girlfriends brought out a video of my fiancé, Jeff, for the newlywed game! He was tasked with providing the "right" answer to the series of questions that they asked him about me and our relationship. It was absolutely hilarious and I still can't believe that he guessed correctly that the President that I would most like to have lunch with is Abraham Lincoln!

Guest Blogger Ilana Stern Bachelorette Party Spa Treatment

Photo: Courtesy of Ilana Stern

The Fun
Don't be afraid to order that extra margarita. There's no better time to indulge in a little sinful relaxation than your bachelorette party, right? We became well acquainted with the pool bar and their dangerously delicious mango margaritas, fresh fish tacos, chips, and guacamole. We also spent time in our hotel room. Now, that may not seem like the best way to spend a bachelorette weekend, but this was no ordinary hotel room. It was a beautiful two-bedroom suite with sweeping views of the beach, an infinity Jacuzzi overlooking the ocean, and plenty of space for us to lounge around. We had breakfast and Mimosas each morning on the balcony overlooking the ocean. Fresh-squeezed orange juice + huevos rancheros + my best friends + amazing view = no better way to start a day of rest and relaxation!

Guest Blogger Ilana Stern Bachelorette Party Margaritas

Photo: Courtesy of Ilana Stern

The most important thing to remember is to enjoy and appreciate the sunset, your best friends, and that third glass of Pinot and I promise that you'll feel relaxed and ready for your big day.

—Ilana Stern

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The Yummiest Part of Wedding Planning—Wine and Food Tastings!

 Ilana Stern, Real Brides, Real Weddings, Wedding Catering  Comments Off on The Yummiest Part of Wedding Planning—Wine and Food Tastings!
Oct 012013
 
wedding wine tasting Ilana Stern family

Photo: Courtesy of Ilana Stern

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 few months, guest blogger and Weddington Way founder and CEO Ilana Stern will share the ins and outs of planning a California wedding, running a business, picking the perfect wedding planner, and customizing your dream dress.

Other than shopping for my wedding dress, my favorite part of wedding planning has definitely been the tastings. It's one of the few times throughout this process where you can sample every drink, dish, and delicious dessert on the menu without feeling an ounce of guilt! Needless to say, figuring out what we are going to serve at our rehearsal dinner and wedding was one of the most fun things we've done so far. We were lucky enough to have three tastings: one for the rehearsal dinner, another for the wine at the wedding, and a final one for our wedding dessert.

We are hosting the rehearsal dinner at the Viceroy Hotel in Santa Monica, so Jeff, my fiancé, and I got a group of people together for a special Friday night dinner to take a few dishes for a test drive. I recommend gathering friends and family whose opinion and palate you really trust to assist with tastings—I'm sure they'll be happy to oblige! Don Samora, who runs the events at the Viceroy, took great care of us and made sure we had a taste of absolutely everything on the menu, which was very helpful because we were able to leave the meal with complete confidence in our choices. We also made sure to sample wine options and small bites to really recreate the cocktail hour experience.

When it came time to make the final decision for our rehearsal dinner, we went for the dishes that stood out the most. We immediately knew that our pre-wedding gathering could not happen without the mini Spanish grilled cheese sandwiches with manchego and membrillo (see below). Another dish we couldn't live without was a burrata, pesto and tomato crostini—it was to die for! For the main course we chose a brick oven pizza station and for dessert miniature cake bites (in three flavors: red velvet, meyer lemon, and strawberry shortcake...yum!). To top our rehearsal dinner menu off, we crafted a specialty cocktail for the evening. Who doesn't love the sound of blood orange margaritas?

wedding rehearsal tasting spanish grilled cheese wedding rehearsal tasting burrata crostini wedding rehearsal tasting blood orange margarita

Photos: Courtesy of Ilana Stern

Jeff and I share a passion for wine, so we wanted to make sure that we really loved the one that we'll be serving at our wedding. But after checking out the selection at our reception venue, we didn't love their offerings (and loved the prices even less). So rather than spend more than expected on wine that we weren't excited about, we decided to explore other options. While corkage isn't cheap, we found that if we brought our own wine, we could get better quality at a better price. Plus, this gave us another excuse to do another tasting to find the perfect pairing for our delicious meal.

My family and I had an absolute blast at the famed Wine House in LA. JB Severin, their General Manager, took us through the tasting. He's incredibly knowledgeable and ended up finding some fabulous deals for us that didn't sacrifice quality. When it comes to stocking your bar, I say don't be afraid to explore your options—even if it means looking outside of your wedding venue.

Our last tasting was my personal favorite—dessert! I have never been someone who loves wedding cake, so I wanted to do something different (but still delicious) for our dessert hour. One evening I came across Coolhaus Ice Cream Sandwiches online and a light bulb went off in my head. I had to have an ice cream sandwich cake for my wedding!

Ilana Stern wedding tasting coolhaus with founder Natasha

Photo: Courtesy of Ilana Stern

If you're not familiar with it, Coolhaus is this fabulous fleet of ice cream trucks that specialize in gourmet ice cream sandwiches. The founder, Natasha, and I actually went to high school together, so I contacted her and she was gracious enough to host Jeff and I at the Coolhaus flagship in LA. We lived every kid's dream as we got to taste over 20 ice cream flavors and 10 different types of cookies! We ended up selecting some exciting flavors: olive oil rosemary pine nut cookie with balsamic mascarpone fig ice cream, chocolate chip cookie sprinkled with kosher sea salt with mint julep ice cream, chocolate chip cookie with honeycomb ice cream, and sugar cookie with strawberry mimosa sorbet (and yes, the ice cream had booze in it!). I could not have dreamt up a more tasty treat to top off our night.

Wedding dessert coolhaus ice cream snadwiches

Photo: Courtesy of Ilana Stern

I think that every element of your wedding should reflect you and your fiancé&,dash;even the food! So have fun with your tasting: sample everything on the menu, share the experience with those you love (and whose palates you trust), don't be afraid to think outside of the box, and ultimately choose food, drinks, and dessert that you absolutely LOVE (because your guests will love it too!).

—Ilana Stern

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How To Choose Your Wedding Stationery Suite—A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words!

 Ilana Stern, Real Brides, Real Weddings, Wedding Invitations and Stationery  Comments Off on How To Choose Your Wedding Stationery Suite—A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words!
Sep 242013
 
Save-the-Date Idea from Real Bride Ilana Stern

Photo: Courtesy of Ilana Stern

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 few months, guest blogger and Weddington Way founder and CEO Ilana Stern will share the ins and outs of planning a California wedding, running a business, picking the perfect wedding planner, and customizing your dream dress.

When it was time to create our wedding stationery suite, my fiancé Jeff and I knew we wanted our personality as a couple to be reflected in the design. Naturally, we started with the save-the-dates. No design could convey our personalities better than a photo of us jumping for joy together in front of the Taj Mahal. We recently went on a trip to India (for the wedding of Karishma, one of my bridesmaids and employee #2 at my company Weddington Way), and this photo was a personal favorite from the vacation.

I uploaded the image to Minted and had a lot of fun crafting my save-the-dates. I loved everything about the Minted experience. I was able to work on the invite designs on my couch at midnight, which is perfect because I work crazy hours. Minted has super cute designs and I enjoyed using their tools to customize all things paper for our wedding. Plus, they had great customer service—the Minted team was very responsive to all of my questions as I went through the complex design process.

Jeff and I ended up creating two different postcard save-the-date designs: one for the 'grown ups' (family and parents' friends, see above) and another one for the 'kids' (our friends, see below). Doing this allowed us to have a lot of fun, while being generationally appropriate. It also set the tone for our wedding. After receiving a save-the-date, our guests knew that our wedding is going to be less formal and more fun.

Playful save-the-date idea guest blogger Ilana Stern

Photo: Courtesy of Ilana Stern

We enjoyed using our photo for the save-the-dates so much that we decided to use personal snapshots in all of our wedding stationery. We used pictures from our engagement shoot for the wedding invitations and thank you cards. The versions we created with our pictures on Minted felt the best—they felt like us.

Wedding invitation idea Ilana Stern

Photos: Courtesy of Ilana Stern

Thank you card idea guest blogger Ilana Stern

For brides who are having trouble deciding how to design your stationery, buck convention. Design something that really reflects your personalities—using shots from your engagement shoot is a great way to make that investment pay off!

—Ilana Stern

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How To Choose Your Wedding Stationery Suite—A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words!

 Ilana Stern, Real Brides, Real Weddings, Wedding Invitations and Stationery  Comments Off on How To Choose Your Wedding Stationery Suite—A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words!
Sep 242013
 
Save-the-Date Idea from Real Bride Ilana Stern

Photo: Courtesy of Ilana Stern

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 few months, guest blogger and Weddington Way founder and CEO Ilana Stern will share the ins and outs of planning a California wedding, running a business, picking the perfect wedding planner, and customizing your dream dress.

When it was time to create our wedding stationery suite, my fiancé Jeff and I knew we wanted our personality as a couple to be reflected in the design. Naturally, we started with the save-the-dates. No design could convey our personalities better than a photo of us jumping for joy together in front of the Taj Mahal. We recently went on a trip to India (for the wedding of Karishma, one of my bridesmaids and employee #2 at my company Weddington Way), and this photo was a personal favorite from the vacation.

I uploaded the image to Minted and had a lot of fun crafting my save-the-dates. I loved everything about the Minted experience. I was able to work on the invite designs on my couch at midnight, which is perfect because I work crazy hours. Minted has super cute designs and I enjoyed using their tools to customize all things paper for our wedding. Plus, they had great customer service—the Minted team was very responsive to all of my questions as I went through the complex design process.

Jeff and I ended up creating two different postcard save-the-date designs: one for the 'grown ups' (family and parents' friends, see above) and another one for the 'kids' (our friends, see below). Doing this allowed us to have a lot of fun, while being generationally appropriate. It also set the tone for our wedding. After receiving a save-the-date, our guests knew that our wedding is going to be less formal and more fun.

Playful save-the-date idea guest blogger Ilana Stern

Photo: Courtesy of Ilana Stern

We enjoyed using our photo for the save-the-dates so much that we decided to use personal snapshots in all of our wedding stationery. We used pictures from our engagement shoot for the wedding invitations and thank you cards. The versions we created with our pictures on Minted felt the best—they felt like us.

Wedding invitation idea Ilana Stern

Photos: Courtesy of Ilana Stern

Thank you card idea guest blogger Ilana Stern

For brides who are having trouble deciding how to design your stationery, buck convention. Design something that really reflects your personalities—using shots from your engagement shoot is a great way to make that investment pay off!

—Ilana Stern

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Wedding Invitations and Stationery for a Destination Weddings
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Get Your Bridesmaids Involved in Choosing Their Dresses!

 Ilana Stern, Real Brides, Real Weddings  Comments Off on Get Your Bridesmaids Involved in Choosing Their Dresses!
Sep 172013
 
Ilana Stern Bridal Party Look

Photo: Courtesy The New York Times

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 few months, guest blogger and Weddington Way founder and CEO Ilana Stern will share the ins and outs of planning a California wedding, running a business, picking the perfect wedding planner, and customizing your dream dress.

I believe that shopping for bridesmaid dresses shouldn't be a chore, but a fun experience for everyone involved. In fact, I believe in this philosophy so much that I created a business, Weddington Way, around it! Your 'maids are the most important women in your life, so shouldn't they feel beautiful and comfortable when they stand by your side on your big day? The best way to do this is to get your girls involved in the process of selecting a bridal party look.

After I asked my girls to be my bridesmaids with a bottle of bubbly, I immediately turned my attention to bridesmaid fashion. Since this is what my company is all about, I was excited to experience it from the bride's point of view. I started by playing with our color tools to discover which shades I loved. I knew I wanted something in the orange family and from there I used Weddington Way's tools to narrow the shade down specific tones such as coral and mandarin. Like any bride, I wondered how these colors would translate from the internet to real life, so I ordered fabric swatches from Weddington Way to find exactly which ones I wanted (we offer complimentary swatches to new brides, which was really helpful!).

To find the silhouettes I liked best, I spent way too much time (seriously, hours!) browsing dresses on our site. Once I knew what I liked, I met with Xay, the lead designer at Watters, one of my absolute favorite collections on Weddington Way. I shared my vision of a boho chic bridal party look, telling Xay that I imagined saturated hues of coral, color blocking (a fashion trend that I love!), and long flowy dresses in different silhouettes to suit various body types. Having my bridesmaid dresses personally designed by Xay was definitely a huge perk of heading a wedding business. Xay worked her magic and put together an inspiration board that matched exactly what I pictured! She also made sketches of several dresses (see it, below!), so I could share them with my girls.

watters sketch of bridemaid dresses

Photos: Courtesy of Ilana Stern

Watters bridal party look inspiration board

Next, I set up a virtual showroom and invited my bridesmaids to join. Everyone was able to check out the ten dress options they could choose from and "like" and "comment" on the styles they loved. I chose various neckline styles (one halter, two strapless options, and a style with straps), so my 'maids could pick a dress that would make them feel the most comfortable. Same went for the colors: I offered two variations (one bright and saturated and the other a softer pastel) and let my girls select a hue that best matched their skin tone. My bridesmaids loved having a voice in the selection process and the ability to share and chat with each other in our virtual showroom. It was awesome because I was able to accomplish the consistent vision I wanted for my bridesmaids to fit with the overall wedding aesthetic, and they were able to choose dresses that worked best for their bodies!

I can't wait to see how gorgeous each bridesmaid looks in her personalized gown. I was thrilled because our ultimate goal at Weddington Way was achieved: a happy bride and a happy group of bridesmaids!

—Ilana Stern

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