Dec 052014
 
Wedding at Locanda Verde

Photo: Chris Knight

As much as we love a lavish blowout, there's something very chic and modern about having a City Hall wedding, followed by an intimate celebration. Need evidence? It's how the ultimate New York girl, Carrie Bradshaw, decided to wed her longtime love. For brides who are looking to follow her lead, we've compiled a stylish how-to guide on how to have the perfect New York City Hall wedding.

1. Get your marriage license first, and then go back for the ceremony.
N.Y.C. requires that couples must wait 24 hours after they obtain their marriage license before getting married. No appointments are accepted so marriage ceremonies are performed on a first-come-first-served basis during regular business hours (Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. in Manhattan). The fee to obtain the marriage license is $35 and the fee for the marriage ceremony is $25.

2. Bring a friend or two, but not too many.
The marriage ceremony at City Hall requires the presence of at least one witness who is over 18 years of age. "However, don't bring a huge crowd with you," says wedding planner Ashley Douglass. "There will already be other people at City Hall and having too many people in your party can quickly feel overwhelming."

3. Be strategic about what day you go.
Thursdays and Fridays tend to be busier days at the Marriage Bureau so avoid those peak times (and lines) — and go as early as possible. "Also avoid the days right before a holiday weekend. Many people will try to get married right before a holiday in order to have a mini-honeymoon over the long weekend," says Douglass.

See more: A Traditional Fall Wedding at New York City's University Club

4. Hire a photographer you love.
Bring a professional photographer who already has experience shooting at City Hall. "Hiring a professional to capture these special moments is essential," says planner Tracy Taylor Ward.

5. Don't scrimp on flowers.
"Carry a bouquet that you love and have your groom wear a coordinating boutonniere," says Ward. Additionally, if you're inviting a friend or two to be bridesmaids, make sure that they carry bouquets.

6. Take portraits at iconic N.Y.C. locations.
One of the best parts of getting married in New York is that you have the city as your backdrop. After your ceremony, make sure you schedule time for portraits. "From the steps of historical museums to the beautiful Conservatory Gardens at the north end of Central Park, there are so many wonderful options to choose from all over the city," says Ward.

Locanda Verde Restaurant NYC

Photo: Chris Knight

7. Plan a reception for your friends and family.
Whether you're thinking of hosting a post-ceremony brunch à la Bradshaw, or an intimate dinner party at a later time, invite your family and friends for a celebratory meal. One of the easiest ways to do this is to host your reception at a restaurant.

"Restaurants are, generally speaking, easier to book for events than traditional wedding venues," says Marie Lyons, Director of Events at Noho Hospitality Group. "For dinner parties, usually booking three to six months in advance is adequate. If you're booking a lunch — for example, if you get married at 11 a.m. on a weekday — then it's usually even easier to get a reservation."

Be sure to send a proper invitation to those you are inviting to the reception. "Use the wording 'wedding reception' to indicate that the invitation is for the party, not the actual ceremony," advises Douglass.

8. Consider the balance between food and ambiance.
"The great thing about hosting a reception at a restaurant is that you can really make the food your centerpiece," says Lyons. "Pick a restaurant that serves food you really love. If the cake and desserts are very important to you, then look for a restaurant that has a notable pastry program."

Equally as important, consider the ambiance and mood of the room that you're booking. "I am a huge fan of the private dining rooms that are part of Andrew Carmellini's restaurants — Locanda Verde, The Dutch, and Lafayette (where the photos above were taken). Across the board their spaces are very well designed yet unpretentious, while providing great service, creative food, and all around exceptional ambiance," says Ward. "I also gravitate towards sophisticated yet cozy wine cellars, such as Il Buco and Del Posto, or contemporary upscale private dining rooms, like Restaurant Daniel, Eleven Madison Park and The Four Seasons Restaurant."

9. Know if you need to hire a florist or coordinator.
"Private dining spaces are usually already beautifully decorated and there's no need for rentals as the restaurant provides everything from furniture to linens to the wait staff," explains Lyons. "However, if you want additional décor — such as specific centerpieces — then you will need to hire a florist. Work with the restaurant to see if there are any required vendors you need to work though."

Nov 152014
 
Grand Arcade Asbury Park NJ Brides NJ

Photo: Inku

If you're dreaming of a Garden State wedding that is dripping with a mix of Great Gatsby-glam, Boardwalk Empire-cool, and seaside views, look no further than the Grand Arcade! Located on the heart of the Jersey shore, this Asbury Park, New Jersey venue seriously delivers on 1920's style.

Since this sweeping venue can hold up to 900 people, you can be sure your wedding will be a fête worthy of Jay Gatsby's approval. Start by exchanging vows in the Paramount Theatre, a gorgeous historical theater that is adjoined on to the Grand Arcade. Known for it's artful construction, perfect acoustics (hello, violinist!), and breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean, it's hard to think of a more romantic place to say tie the knot.

See More: The 5 Most Common Wedding Planning Mistakes

This jewel of the Jersey shore is perfect for your wedding any time of the year, too, since their staff can easily adapt the space to fit your particular needs. And while it's the home of restaurants and stores by day, this venue is entirely transformed by night! Their staff works to create beautiful décor that highlights the sweeping two story-high ceilings, classic architecture, and massive windows.

Another perk to saying "I do" at this seaside gem? It's the perfect venue for couples that are really looking to party, since the space has endless room for dancing and can accommodate huge performances.

See the complete list of the best wedding venues in the U.S. here!

Feb 102014
 
Bride and Groom at Shadowbrook in New Jersey

Photo: Ron Antonelli of Brian Dorsey Studios

The road to this gorgeous, flower-filled wedding began by coincidence in Venice, Italy, in 2001. Daryl was traveling through Europe on a teen program, while Jesse was backpacking with his best friends before heading to Cornell University for his freshman year. A mutual friend introduced the two, and they spent the afternoon together before continuing with their trips. In 2003, Daryl arrived at Cornell as a freshman, and she bumped into Jesse in a restaurant during orientation. The instant connection led to dinner and dating, which continued until Jesse graduated in 2005. They broke up, but stayed close friends and even lived in the same neighborhood in New York City. Finally, during the summer of 2010, they yet again found one another on a trip to Europe, and this time decided their adventures would be even better together.

In February of 2013, as the snow fell outside, Jesse urged Daryl to get ready so they could go to brunch with her sister and her boyfriend. "Since I work in the wedding industry, I very rarely get weekends off," says Daryl, "so Jesse wanted to make sure we made our plans." As she got ready to go, Jesse asked Daryl to come into the living room. She found him surrounded by rose petals, flowers, and images of Paris. "He'd told me we were going to Paris for Valentine's Day, and it suddenly hit me that the trip was going to be a celebration of our engagement," Daryl says. "He'd wanted to ask me while we were there, but he said he couldn't wait!" After she said "yes!" the couple made their way to brunch, where their families were waiting to celebrate with them. The next day, they were off to Paris!

There was no question that the couple would be wed at Shadowbrook, an historic estate an hour from Manhattan that Daryl's parents have owned and operated since 1971. Fresh flowers, an incredible garden, and a warm gold-and-ivory color scheme set the scene for their romantic summer wedding on August 10th, 2013.

Laser-Cut Formal Wedding Invitation by Alpine Creative Wedding Bands and Engagement Ring

Photo: Ron Antonelli of Brian Dorsey Studios

Intricate laser-cut invitations by Alpine Creative Group matched the lace on Daryl's gown. Jesse chose a non-traditional rose gold band, while Daryl's solid gold band was passed down to her from her grandmother.

Bride's Crystal Prada Sandals

Photo: Ron Antonelli of Brian Dorsey Studios

Crystal-embellished Prada sandals gave Daryl some height—and some sparkle—beneath her gown.

Bride in the Vera Wang Leda Gown

Photo: Ron Antonelli of Brian Dorsey Studios

The bannisters of the mansion were dripping with fresh hydrangeas and orchids.

Vera Wang Leda Lace Wedding Gown Bride with a White Bouquet

Photo: Ron Antonelli of Brian Dorsey Studios

Daryl chose an elegant fit-and-flare gown by Vera Wang. "The gown had just arrived at the boutique in New York—I was only the third person to try it on," says Daryl. "The light, dimensional lace was perfect for our summer garden wedding. I did my due diligence and visited another boutique, but I couldn't wait to come back and order the Leda!"

To compliment her gown, Daryl carried a small round bouquet of garden roses, accented with stephanotis blossoms. She wore two vintage sapphire and diamond bracelets from her mother as her "something blue."

Wedding Party in Tuxedos and Blush Dresses

Photo: Ron Antonelli of Brian Dorsey Studios

Jesse wanted to wear something unique, but doesn't like being the center of attention, so he chose a bespoke midnight blue tuxedo. The groomsmen wore classic black tuxedos, while Daryl's bridesmaids wore dresses of their own choosing, one in blush and one in gold. "My sister's dress was just the right amount of sparkle, and was perfect for our palette," says the bride.

Escort Card Display with Pink and White Flowers

Photo: Ron Antonelli of Brian Dorsey Studios

On their way into the ceremony, guests were greeted with a large escort card board framed in bright roses, ranunculus, hydrangeas, and orchids in pink, purple, and white.

Flower and Branch Chuppah at an Outdoor Wedding Floral Chuppah at an Outdoor Garden Wedding at Shadowbrook

Photo: Ron Antonelli of Brian Dorsey Studios

The ceremony took place beneath a natural chuppah made of trees hung with white orchids and candles. The design accented the property's lush, manicured gardens. "It completely exceeded my vision," says Daryl. "It was exaggerated and gorgeous, but not over-the-top." The couple worked with their rabbi to personalize the traditional vows, creating something meaningful and special while still keeping it formal. "I'm a huge sap that cries easily, and my husband doesn't like to be the center of attention, so there was no way we were writing the vows ourselves," Daryl says. As they shared their first kiss, the string quartet played Rick Springfield's "Jesse's Girl." "I've always been 'Jesse's Girl,'" says Daryl, "and it was such a great surprise for our guests!"

Gold Wedding Reception at Shadowbrook in New Jersey Gold and Cream Tables at a Wedding Reception

Photo: Ron Antonelli of Brian Dorsey Studios

"We used lots of gold, warm lighting, and mirrors to cast a soft, summery glow over the Oak Room's dark wood paneling," says Daryl. A mixture of high and low centerpieces, overflowing with orchids and roses in soft pink and white, were surrounded by tapered candles. Gold-accented chargers, gilded flatware, and embroidered tablecloths completed the ornate reception décor.

Wedding Cake Decorated with Fondant Roses

Photo: Ron Antonelli of Brian Dorsey Studios

The couple's four-tiered wedding cake was classic red velvet—Daryl's favorite. "The ivory fondant roses matched the lace of my dress and the design on the invitation," says Daryl. It was the perfect cake for a wedding overflowing with flowers.

Bride and Groom's First Dance at Shadowbrook

Photo: Ron Antonelli of Brian Dorsey Studios

The couple shared their first dance to "Green Eyes" by Coldplay. "We had an 11-piece band, and they were incredible," says the bride. "Everyone danced all night!" For the after-party, a Bruce Springsteen cover band, Tramps Like Us, played until 3 a.m. while guests danced and dined on classic New Jersey boardwalk food.

As a wedding professional, Daryl loved having the opportunity to plan every single detail of the wedding. She also loved getting to work with the Shadowbrook staff. "They've known me since I was a little girl, and it was so special to have them involved on my big day," she says.

Jesse and Daryl took a mini-moon to Maine just after the wedding, then went to Argentina and Uraguay a few months later. "Being married feels like being boyfriend and girlfriend again," Daryl says. "We get to relax and enjoy our time together, without any major planning! We've known each other for more than 10 years, so it's all very natural."

Since she works in the industry, Daryl has lots of advice for couples planning their weddings. But the most important thing? "Remember that at the end of the day, it's a party—a celebration of your love and life together. Nothing is worth getting too stressed or upset over!"

Ceremony & Reception Venue: Shadowbrook || Wedding Planner: Amy Winters Events || Bride's Wedding Dress & Veil: Vera Wang || Shoes: Prada || Earrings: Goldtinker || Hair: Nancy Monroy, 646-369-6718 || Makeup: KaTrina Pedersen of Bailey Makeup || Bridesmaids' Dresses: Maid of Honor - Donna Karan, Bridesmaid - Erin Fetherston || Groom's Tuxedo: Michael Andrews Bespoke || Wedding Bands: Groom - Jamie Neuthaler Books, Bride - Kwiat || Florist & Event Design: SBK Event Design || Invitations & Paper Goods: Alpine Creative Group || Music: Venus Ensembles, Carnegie Hill of Element Music, Tramps Like Us || Catering: Shadowbrook || Cake: Piece O' Cake || Rentals: Alma Party Rental, Something Different Party Rental, SBK Event Design, SCE Event Group || Lighting: Frost Productions || Favors: KC Fortune Cookie Factory, Chewys Rugelach || Photobooth: Snapshot Photobooths || Videography: Well Spun Weddings || Photography: Ron Antonelli of Brian Dorsey Studios


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Jan 292014
 
What happens when you plan your dream beach wedding down to the last detail—only to have to start all over months later? Jessica, 29, found out when damage to her Jersey Shore venue after Superstorm Sandy forced her to cancel her oceanfront bash and start all over—this time for an April affair at a nearby country club. With just six months to plan and a tight budget, Jessica and her fiance Colin—who met in high school and fell in love on the Jersey Shore beaches—got resourceful, making the most of the club's decor and designing a preppy, airy reception in shades of pink and green. Throw in a breathtaking Catholic ceremony at a historic church, a Cinderella-worthy ball gown, and two be-tutued ballerinas, and you've got a dream wedding, after all. Jessica and Colin started dating during a summer in college spent together at the Jersey Shore, so Colin couldn't think of a more fitting proposal spot than their summer hideaway. On Labor Day weekend in 2011, he asked Jessica to take a walk on the beach. Just as they were about to turn around and head back, he dropped to one knee—wearing nothing but his swim trunks! Jessica wanted to walk down the aisle in a dress she'd always remember, but she didn't want to blow her budget on a gown she'd only wear for a few hours. Weeks of research led her to a strapless ball gown with a feathered bodice and organza skirt by Pronovias. A fingertip veil, pearl earrings, and a simple bouquet of white peonies completed her traditional look. "The dress was so glamorous, I didn't want to over-accessorize," Jessica says. Jessica chose a long, soft pink chiffon dress by Bari Jay for her bridesmaids, in fitting with her springtime country club affair. "Plus, the color looked beautiful next to my dress," she says. Jessica's flower girls wore leotards, tulle skirts and ballet slippers. "Since my dress was so 'Swan Lake', I wanted my two flower girls to be my ballerinas," Jessica explained. Groomsmen wore slim-cut Vera Wang Black tuxedos and matching pink polka dot novelty socks. Jessica and Colin were married at Saint James Catholic Church in Red Bank, NJ, in a traditional Catholic ceremony. The historic chapel had special significance to the bride: Jessica's family belonged to the church, and her parents were married there. "The church was so beautiful, it didn't even need decoration," she says. After Superstorm Sandy put a damper on their beach wedding, Jessica and Colin scrambled to find another Jersey Shore venue that could accommodate them on short notice. The couple loved the idyllic Rumson Country Club for a spring wedding, but it meant big changes when it came to planning. "Switching from September to April and from the beach to the country club, my whole vision did a 360," Jessica says.
When she started thinking about an April affair, Jessica's mind turned immediately to her favorite designer, Lily Pulitzer. Using her brightly-colored sundresses as inspiration, Jessica designed her decor in a palette of springy pinks and greens. Simple white linens and the soft light from tall candles allowed pale pink napkins and preppy pink and green centerpieces to pop.

On the Rumson Country Club's walls hang beautiful prints of American birds. To offset the ready-made decor, Jessica and Colin hung escort cards in a birdcage and used John James Audubon's The Birds of America as a guest book. Jessica and Colin opted for eight tiers of buttercream-frosted cupcakes in lieu of a traditional cake, with a top layer of strawberry shortcake. Before they headed home, guests stopped by a candy bar filled with pink and green confections.



Jessica's advice to brides? "You can easily have a beautiful wedding on a tight budget, but don't skimp on the honeymoon! We'll never regret splurging on a trip to St. Barths."

Ceremony Venue: Saint James Catholic Church || Reception Venue: Rumson Country Club || Bride's Wedding Dress and Veil: Pronovias|| Shoes: Ann Taylor and Toms|| Hair: Liz Casey Makeup|| Makeup: Donna Massa || Bridesmaids' Dresses: Bari Jay || Groom & Groomsmen's Tuxedos: Custum Michael Duru and Vera Wang Black from Men's Wearhouse || Rings: A.H. Fisher|| Florist: Barbara Batting of Bloomster Floral Design || Invitations and Paper Goods: Lily Pulitzer from Pauline's Paperie 732-212-1071 || Music: Bobby Ballack (cocktail hour) and Motor City Revue Band || Cake: Cupcake Magician || Photography: Jenelle Kappe Photography

Jan 162014
 

When you've been with someone for eight years, more often than not a proposal will come at the least expected time. That's what happened to Kristina, who was sorting through the mail when John came home, plopped down on the floor next to her, and casually said "Hey baby, will you marry me?"

Kristina admits that she and John love to procrastinate, so narrowing down the venue and date helped all the details come together in under 10 months. For their September 9th, 2012, wedding, John and Kristina headed to Laurita Winery. "It was the perfect combination of nature and elegance," says Kristina. And the September date meant they'd be able to marry at sunset and benefit from the early fall warmth.

Once they'd chosen a venue, the rest of the details "just fell into place," says the bride. She and her now-husband used a deep purple hue to enhance the vineyard's rustic-natural feel. "All in all, the planning process was pretty easy," says Kristina. "We weren't too stressed out. We knew what we had to do, and we got it done." This laid-back vibe carried through to the wedding itself, where even a fainting groomsman couldn't faze John and Kristina. See how, with everyone back up the aisle in one piece, they celebrated on this gorgeous New Jersey vineyard.

Kristina used her jewelry to add some shimmer to her A-line lace Maggie Sottero gown. She borrowed her infinity bracelet from her Maid of Honor for good luck.

The couple focused on their vineyard location, as well as their shared love of the outdoors, when planning the wedding details. The invitations featured a bicycle silhouette, while bunches of grapes made appearances throughout the floral decorations.

Around Kristina's bouquet was a gold locket with a picture of her grandparents. "I never met my grandmother, but my grandfather was a huge part of my life," says the bride. "He passed away before getting to walk me down the aisle, so having the locket with me made me feel like he and my grandmother were there with me."

White peep-toe pumps peek out from beneath Kristina's gown. Instead of dress socks, John wore black cycling socks. "They represent the mountain biker in me," he says.

Kristina's bridesmaids helped her pick the eggplant hue of their chiffon gowns. "Since the beginning of September still feels like summer, I thought they'd be more comfortable in short dresses," she says.

The ceremony took place at sunset, overlooking the vineyard. Simple jars of baby's breath lined the aisle, while wine barrels overflowing with hydrangeas, roses, and orchids flanked the altar.

Halfway through John's vows, one of his groomsmen fainted. Thank goodness one of Kristina's friends is an EMT (and his services weren't needed)! "We got him in a chair, and continued on with the ceremony," says the bride. "It's a story we all still laugh about!"

The couple ordered used wine corks to hold the place cards. "We tried to match the cork with something about the person who'd be getting it," Kristina explains.

Favors awaited the guests at their seats. The linens were kept neutral. "The room is so beautiful, so we didn't want to overdo our decorations," Kristina says.

The couple collected lanterns to use in their centerpieces. Purple and white lisianthus gave the arrangements a soft, lush feel.

Kristina's simple up-do was accented with purple Vanda orchids, which matched John's boutonniere. Her bouquet got its dark purple hue from Vanda orchids, anemones, and lisianthus. Ivory roses added a touch of contrast.

The couple swapped out a traditional guest book for a thumb print family tree. The wire cake topper featured two bicycles, as well as the bride and groom's names.

The four-tiered wedding cake featured vanilla cake layered with chocolate pudding and strawberry preserves. "We wanted it to be simple and delicate, while still being fancy enough for a wedding," says Kristina.

The bride and groom shared their first dance to Incubus's "I Miss You." After the wedding, they took a two-week trip to Japan and Hawaii.

"We've been together for so long, the wedding was a way to make it official," says Kristina. "We knew what it would be like to live as one, because we had already been doing so." And as a couple who already knew what they wanted, Kristina and John say to go with your gut. "Everyone will want to give you advice, but in the end, it's just the two of you. That's what matters."

Ceremony & Reception Venue: Laurita Winery || Bride's Wedding Dress: Maggie Sottero, from Nicole's Boutique || Shoes: Lulu Townsend, from DSW || Hair: Carmen Cortese of Studio 960 || Makeup: Nour Valese || Bridesmaids' Dresses: Bill Levkoff || Groom & Groomsmen's Tuxedos: Chaz Ma Tazz || Florist: Skip's Florist || Invitations: Bicycle Paper Designs || Music: DJ Mike West of All Axcess Entertainment || Catering & Cake: Conroy Catering || Photography: Feuza Reis Studios

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