Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Twilight and Whimsy: Our Engagement Photo Session with Ms. Jennifer Chase

What an amazing time you can have in two hours with a dramatic fall sky, paperback novels, orange foliage, a jack-o-lantern, barns o-plenty, and the award-winning photojournalist, Ms. Jennifer Chase.

I've got to say, Jennifer is a professional through and through, a true artist above all--one who's not afraid to roll up her sleeves in the late October cold, get down in the Virginia soil, and make amazing things happen with lighting, her lens, her aesthetic sensibility of rustic elegance, off-beat moments, and that quirky, genuine spark between a couple.

We began the session at the knarled root structure at the base of the cypress tree, the one nearest the Carriage House at Oatlands. Chris and I, dressed in dark jeans and green and blues, snuggled in tight and pulled out a paperback novel, pretending to read to each other while we tossed a beautiful green, cypress fruit that had fallen from a branch above us.

Next, we made our way to the mansion, with Chris and I relaxing into each other, back to back, on the steps of the portico. In the wonderland gardens, Jen shot us between ivy archways and snaggled turns, and even spread out in the grass with our heads resting against one another, ours eyes staring up at the sky.

In the cow barn beyond the garden wall, Jen snapped us in silhouette, against the light coming through the wooden beams and rafters--Chris against a green ladder, me resting into him, at other moments us dancing on the barn floor, twirling in a patch of sunlight.

In the twilight, the sky bruised and dramatic, we walked up the hills and back to Oatlands proper, Jen capturing us on the long, winding gravel roads, on the back of a wooden cart, and high up in the branches of a bright yellow dogwood tree.

Near darkness, we drove down 15 South to the small brick Episcopal chapel and carved a jack-o-lantern, a lopsided heart. We lit it up, and hovered over the flame, Chris and my silhouettes caught by candlelight, the pumpkin and our faces the only light in all the darkness.

Words can't begin to describe the experience--how do I express it, that intimacy and childlike play, the fun of working with someone so wonderfully adventurous and whimsical?

"I love how adventurous you are," she said to us, "these pictures are amazing," and with that Chris and I hugged her goodbye, giddy for our next photo shoot with the amazing Ms. Chase on our wedding day proper.

The Look, The Feel: Alice Has Found Her Reception Decor Inspiration

Splendid, splendid--this is gorgeous, and I want it. All of it. How can we make our Carriage House look like this?

Clear jars and vintage paint cans as vases.

White and green flowers: White anemones, sweet peas, peonies, hydrangea. For an unstructured natural composition, add green viburnum, moss, herbs, and artichokes. I'd like to add Queen Anne's lace, too.

Large metal address numbers, leaned against the vases, for table numbers.

Decor on lighting, lamps from ceiling. Love the greenery incorporated here.

Love the creme colored table linens. Could go with brown or black napkins?

I like the linen bag of almonds as a favor, but would like to use little boxes, wrapped in twine and ribbon. What to put in them? Chocolate?

Adore the white and green bridal bouquets.

String of lights in quaint corners of the barn. Adore this.

Love the tea candles on the tables, how they illuminate the flowers.

Adore the cake, the single striking bands around each tier.

Let's make it happen!!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Adventures in Wedding Gowns

My experience at Hannelore's left much to be desired; however, I did find two gowns that I simply adore. The first is made by Anne Barge, the second by Pronovios. I simply adore both. The Anne Barge gown is made of organza, is ethereal, but more conservative in its lace and collar line. The Pronovios gown is whimsical and full of delightful and organic rusching.

I'm not sure if I prefer these more than the three gowns I tried on at Jeannette's. I think the next step is to venture out to another boutique--they say four's a charm!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Rustic Elegance

Lovely Lanterns

I am in love with lanterns. All kinds: tall, short, wide, thin. Love them, and I think they will do splendidly in the Carriage House reception space. There are four rusty hooks from which we can hang a lantern, the white carriage rail in the dance hall space, and even sit them on the reception tables themselves. With the help of Somer's keen internet-savvy eye, we've found quite a bit of these lanterns. Here are the ones I'm most in love with. Which do you like the most? Which do you think will go best in our little Carriage House? I'd love your thoughts.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Wedding Supper: We're Thinking Cornbread

So we're in the beginning stages of selecting courses for our wedding supper in the Carriage House, and trying to narrow things down. We've perused the lists of two caterers recommended by Oatlands: RSVP and Amphora. Both are lovely and affordable, and we think we can pull together something quite tasty! However, we have to admit: we're really feeling cornbread. It's true: we want cornbread.

Overall, with the rustic feel of Oatlands, we are thinking we'd like the food to also be homey and genuine, have a kick of autumn to it in the Virginia heartland. We are open to ideas, many ideas, and anything that works well--you guessed it--with cornbread. I am soliciting thoughts. Suggestions. Brainstorms. All of the above.

We will need a first course (salad, preferably), main entree (some kind of beef or chicken), cocktail appetizers for right after the reception, and possibly cute little tarts in addition to wedding cake (though this latter is optional).

I'm looking for recipes. Alice thanks you. And her cornbread fettish. We both thank you.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Jeanette's Boutique: A Lovely Experience

On Saturday, mom and I went to Jeanette's Bridal Boutique in Manassas and had a wonderful time. Katrina was a delight to work with, helping me try on 12 different gowns, each time slipping them over my head and assuring me that it takes patience, this adventure of dress shopping.

We were there for several hours, in which time I discovered quite a bit about myself, including that I adore veils (they truly complete the gown), that August Jones empire waist style gowns are surprisingly plain and boring, that sleeveless and strapless gowns looked great (though I still think they are less lovely than ones with at least spaghetti straps), that I'm in love with vintage style cuts and draping, and that the mermaid style gown (fit and flare) was amazing on my frame.

Of the dozen or so I tried on, there were three I adored, though I'm still trying to find pictures of the exact gowns online. The first was Casablanca #1740; the second was Nuccia by Atelier Aimee; and the third was Lorella by the same designer.

Hoping to venture out to Hannelore's in Alexandria this weekend, to sample even more. The search continues!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Peonies, My New Obsession

It's true. I'm in love. With peonies.

They are such beautiful flowers. Romantic, soft, full--what more could a girl want? What's more, the white peonies would work beautifully with the Carriage House decor, and lighten it up beautifully. This is a strong consideration.

What's funny is that I remember a certain super stealth mission a year and a half ago, whereby I, along with two other ladies who shall remain nameless, snatched peonies from local hillsides in Cumberland, Maryland for a certain someone's wedding whom shall also remain nameless. (ahem... Danielle).

And I am reminded of why one would snatch these in the wee hours: they are simply beautiful.

Now, the question is, what other colors, if any, to pair them with?

Alice needs to brainstorm... They would, now that I'm thinking of it, looking so charming and rustic tied together with a bit of twine (as shown in the picture above) and placed in clear glass jars. Love it. More to follow...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Engagement Photo Session!!

Our check to Ms. Jennifer Chase is off and in the mail, and we've scheduled our engagement photo shoot for Wednesday, October 29th at 4 p.m. Jennifer has a few great ideas up her sleeve. We thought we'd begin the session at Oatlands itself--near the old barns with broken windows and the mountain scape of the Blue Ridge--and then finish up our last hour in historic downtown Leesburg at a bookstore on Main Street (picking up on our literary theme). I have no idea what to wear for the shoot (!), but Chris and I were thinking our best pair of blue jeans and cool colors to contrast with the peak foliage! Stay tuned for photos... coming your way!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Pictures of Carriage House, Interior

Here are a few images Danielle and I snapped at the Carriage House. As you can see, it needs a lot of loving care and creative thought, but it really will be quite charming when we get through with it! Right now, there are leftover tables, carpets, chairs, etc. from an educational event that was taking place on the grounds the day we visited. Katherine has also assured me that we are more than welcome to clear the space of all objects, furniture, etc., take down pictures on the walls, cover carpet, and remove the green shades from windows. The only thing we must be careful to do is not nail anything into the 250 year old wood of the house--that, and all decor must pass through approval of Oatlands staff to ensure the preservation of the estate.

Color Scheme, Reception Decor

With my recent trip out to Oatlands, I’ve had a change of heart, I think, about the colors for the Carriage House reception. Originally, before I'd found Oatlands, I had fallen in love with blue and black and white, having found such a whimsical pleasure in the combination.

However, when I went out to Oatlands during Danielle’s visit last week, and had an opportunity to study the Carriage House more closely, I began to wonder about the aesthetic potential of incorporating blue and black into the wooden interior, as well as into the green baseboard trim that runs around its perimeter and the green floor-to-ceiling shutters on

The difficulty with blue is that it is so fluctuating in color, and in the world of flowers, this becomes even more challenging, particularly as hydrangea is fickle in its hues and shades, ranging from white with blue centers, to a deep blue that is almost purple.

Also, blue and green can be tricky, as they seem to only work together when the underlying hue is a match. The underlying hue of hydrangea can be green, but it can also be purple, depending, whereas the Carriage House green has a teal undertone with an almost brown hue. This does not a match make—at least, not easily.

The solution, of course, is to head out to the House with a series of dried or silk flowers, fabric, and a scraps of ideas, to see how the d├ęcor might work with the natural farm-like beauty of the room.

Aside from that, one other option is to reconsider the color scheme altogether, working with the original charm of the Carriage House itself. Some options would be to do the following:


• White flowers to pull together the green and brown—peonies, Queen Anne’s lace?
• Green foliage, almost a sage color—dried hydrangea, hibiscus, pale green roses?
• A combination of the above?


• White linens with black carpet?
• Black and white lines with white carpet?

I think with a more neutral color pallet, we’ll be fighting less against the natural beauty of the Carriage House while still allowing the black typewriter keys and literary aspects of the reception to come to life.

Initial decor options that I've been mulling over for the dining area:
  • Flower vines wrapped around the four central posts
  • Four lanterns (perhaps copper, bronze colored, not sure about black) that would hang off each hook on the the four central posts, lit with electric tea lights, but preferably candlelight, depending on Oatlands fire policy for enclosed flame.
  • Possibly an exquisite carpet runner with a whimsical, vine like design for the central aisle, in between posts and tables, leading to cake display table.
  • Carpet on each green carpeted area--color TBD.
  • Remove all green shades on windows and leave bare--per permission of Katherine at Oatlands.
  • Three tables per side, a total of six. Perhaps seven, guest list depending.
Initial decor ideas on main room, dance hall:
  • Band placed inside white carriage rail
  • Rug/carpet in place of opening front green carpet
  • Fill the two large hanging ceiling lanterns ith flame/candle/electric tea lights, top each one with live flowers (same flowers we wrapped around four posts in adjacent room).
  • Hang a chain of flowers between the two lanterns.
  • If possible, hang an additional flower chain horizontally, in between two lanterns, across entire expanse of room.
  • Place two pots of overflowing flowers on either side of white carriage rail
  • Bartending station to the right--making use of bar already present.
  • Guest book signing with typewriter, perhaps to side of bar, adjacent wall to dining room.
  • Placement of table with assigned seating TBD.
More on this later, and more to come, though whatever we decide here will inform Jen's matron of honor dress potentially, as well as the bridal bouquet, Jen's bouquet, and the men's flowers during the ceremony.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Through the Rabbit Hole: Gown Shopping in Virginia

Here is a list, at least a beginning one, of local boutiques in the DC metro area that have several of the gowns by designers (though not all) that I'm interested in. I'm not sure when I'll begin the descent into the rabbit hole that is wedding gown shopping, but this is a least a good start. Danielle, during her visit last week, took me to Sax at Tysons II, but sadly there seemed very little to choose from. Fortunately, though, there is a trunk show on October 24th, so hope to venture out to see that!

One thing I have been learning, though, is that purchasing a gown from a boutique requires foresight and good planning, with six months to order until arrival, and up to four months of customization and tailoring. On our time line, that would mean having a gown (should I buy it from a boutique) by December!

A starter list of boutiques in Northern Virginia, MD, and DC area, at least for the next few weeks. I'll be adding to this...!

Hannelore's, Alexandria, Virginia: La Fleur by Anne Barge gowns.
Jeanette's, Manassas, Virginia: Augusta Jones gowns.
Betsy Robinson's Bridal Collection, Baltimore, Maryland: Amsale gowns.

Friday, October 10, 2008

A Photographer, Alice Has

Last evening Chris and I met with Ms. Jennifer Chase in Rosslyn, and we have, I can report, most certainly found our photographer. Five eight, dirty blond, extroverted, Jennifer purchased tea and coffee for us at the Starbucks on 17th St., making us feel right at home, welcomed, as if the city were her office.

She impressed us immediately with her passion for photography, her selection at elite workshops by renowned photographers, her business savvy, her dedication to Chris and me, and, most of all, her consideration of our comfort level on our wedding day. What struck me is her desire to know us, to understand us as a couple, as her mission, she said, was to render our relationship in a frame with authenticity and a voice, for the photos to speak.

She had a number of wonderful suggestions for the wedding day, and for the engagement shots:
  • Candid shots of bride and groom before the wedding. In her experience, the groom is so aware of all eyes watching his reaction when the bride comes down the aisle, that this expression is all too often exaggerated or forced, and that she has found groom and bride shots before the ceremony to loosen both up, to help them be more in the "now" as they exchange their vows. This way, too, there would be more light to use rather than racing against the clock at 6 after the ceremony. Chris and I are open to this idea.
  • Sparklers as a send-off at the end of reception. This was Somer's lovely idea, too, and one I had initially loved. The idea is to have guests make a pathway of sparklers outside the Carriage House at the end of the evening, and for Chris and I to make our way down the aisle, to the parking lot, and off to our bed and breakfast. Sparklers against a night sky, Jennifer said, make amazing shots.
  • 75% candids and loosely arranged shots, 25% portraiture photography. The portraiture would take place immediately following the ceremony, consisting of bride's and groom's family, the wedding party, and bride and groom themselves. After this session, the bride and groom would have a series of loosely arranged shots in the gardens, leading up until the reception.
  • Designate a "herder" of people for these portrait shots. Jen recommended someone who was willing to be quite active in gathering folks for their portrait shots. Portrait shots themselves are quick and easy to shoot. It's the gathering of people for the shots that takes time and wastes good light! Perhaps Somer might helps us?
  • Second photographer to shoot candids of guests at cocktail hour and coming into the ceremony garden.
  • Jen to photograph bride getting ready, second photographer to photograph groom.
  • No shots of guests sitting at reception tables. I couldn't agree with this more. Jen's experience shows that pictures of guests eating or sitting behind a white canvas of a table cloth do not make particularly engaging photos.
  • 1 hour at Oatlands for engagement session, 1 hour at a used book store in downtown Leesburg. The goal of engagement shots, Jen explained, is to capture the couple. With our literary-themed wedding, she has wonderful ideas for locations and shots. Jen said that, upon definitely going with her, she would call Oatlands and get an idea of the peak foliage colors, as these would make beautiful photos.
  • 50% off on any album we choose.
  • DVD archive of all digital photos highly suggested. From this, we will forever be able to view and print wedding photos, which is an excellent idea, as the pictures will only be stored for 6 months on Jen's server.
In short, we are sold on Ms. Chase. The price breakdown would work like this:

  • $3,000: Eight hours of photography, proof book, 6-month online album and printing.
  • $500: Second photographer
  • $500: DVD archive of all photos taken.
  • Total: $4,000 (within budget)
  • $250 (after 50% discount): Printed coffee table album of 60 large prints.
  • $400: Engagement session and DVD of all photos taken for printing and use on the wedding website I'm in the process of designing.
  • Total: $650
Jen will be sending us over a contract sometime this week to review, and to return with a 50% security payment of $2,000--half the cost of the main package items.

We love her! Mom, let me know your thoughts on this. I will forward you the contract when I get it!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Music Makes Whimsy

Ah, music at weddings. Inevitably the cheapest and most popular way to go is to hire a DJ to spin some tunes from the last four decades while serving as the master of ceremonies via a pumped up microphone. DJs are great for dancing, great for singing along to, but it's not the way we want to go. Partly it's the cheese factor, and partly the strong vibe of an eighth-grade dance event in the 80s, neither of which really fits into a rural Virginia location. Somehow, I'm thinking heavy base from a speaker would kill the mood. But maybe that's just me.

Instead, Chris and I are in love with the fiddle--yes, you heard us. The fiddle. As in fiddling. As in serious genuine music of the people. Of the peeps. Of historic value and ambiance. As in 'Ole Fizzy Wig of Charles Dickens' Christmas Carol. Yes, that kind of fiddling. While we adore Blue Grass, we are more in love with Irish music--folk songs, upbeat drinking tunes, traditional ballads, haunting violin solos.

Chris, thanks to his genius web searching, has found a band we adore! Dubbed the Bell/Blake duo, this team hails from New York City, but plays within 500 miles and for an incredibly affordable price. Chris has already written them, and they responded quickly, saying they're interested, though they're not booking until after the New Year. They would be perfect for both ceremony, cocktail, and the reception--their range wide enough for soft and airy as well as for a party time hoedown. We're already planing a trip to hear an audition.

Check out their tunes here!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Alice's Appointments

Appointment book is getting quite full somehow, and the dates are filling quickly! Funny how little white space there is in a hectic calendar. A few upcoming wedding-related appointments in Alice's planner:

  • August 6: Dress fitting.
  • August 22: Hair and make-up trial at Cloud Nine Salon.
  • Early September: 1-month-out meeting with ATrendy planners.
  • September 19: Final guest count to caterer.
  • September 21: Deposit due to caterer.
  • September 25: Final Guest count to cake maker.
  • September 26: Final deposit due to cake maker.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Wedding Supper: Caterers?

Mom and I had a good long brainstorming session last night about a good many wedding-related items, among them catering and cuisine for our Carriage House wedding supper.

Oatlands recommends a number of caterers in the area--two of which seem particularly promising: Amphora and Organix by RSVP. Both would do a family style, sit-down dinner, which would be lovely, and the price to feed 60-70 people seems (thank god) affordable.

We're registered on November 6th to go and sample the food prepared by RSVP; however, Amphora has yet to announce their cuisine sampling date. When they do, rest assure we will be there with our napkins fixed to our collars and our knives and forks ready to savor!

Until then...

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Fun with Nicholas, Our Officiant

We met with Nicholas last night to review the ceremony and our vows, and believe it or not, we got it all down to 25 minutes--probably less. This is a relief, as the ceremony begins at 5:30 (half an hour after the tourists leave Oatlands) and sunset isn't far behind, with twilight approaching around 6:45 on October 3rd. This window is a tight one, making things close for pictures unless Nicholas keeps things short and tidy! So, it looks like, at the very latest, the ceremony will wrap up completely by 6, and while guests are having cocktail hour, Chris and I and the wedding party/family will have a photo shoot: 10 minutes for family and wedding party, 20 minutes for Chris and me.

This will all work out!

Here's the structure of the ceremony:
  • Groom and officiant walk down the aisle first, followed by Best Man and one groomsman. Bert English and Matt McClinch will stand by Chris.
  • Music will change, denoting the bride and bridal party. Matron of Honor (Jen) will walk down the aisle, escorted by Man of Honor (Patrick). They will stand by Ally.
  • Father gives bride in marriage; this is accompanied by a brief spiel.
  • Biblical reading, which we'd like Bill English (one of our groomsman) to give.
  • Brief sermon, related to marriage, love
  • Marriage vows and exchange of rings
  • The Lord's Prayer
  • The Marriage Prayer, read by Bill English.
  • The Peace, during which bride and groom kiss and walk down the aisle.
Seems simple enough! And we like the pacing of it all! With no hymns or other readings, this ceremony above is around 20 minutes, giving Nicholas room to pad as he wishes, as he can be long-winded.

Nicholas also recommended that we print up programs, with the structure of the ceremony, or at least the Lord's Prayer and Marriage Prayers, so we can all follow along.

More to come soon... but Alice is off for a brief vacation, and away from wedding wonderland.