wedding & event inspiration at historic manor ruins

Beautiful wedding inspiration

I’ve already established that I’m a sucker for historic houses and museums. But historic house RUINS! What can be more romantic? There’s something absolutely stunning about a home that’s been abandoned and reclaimed by nature (usually in an intentional, manicured way).

So naturally, I was drawn to this styled shoot at Barnsley Resort. The Resort is the original site of Woodlands, an estate built in the 1840s in the north Georgia foothills. The home was directly in the path of General Sherman and was devastated by the Civil War, never returning to its former glory. In 1906 a tornado ripped off the roof of the  manor house, which was sold in the 1940s by descendants of the original owners.  In 1988 Prince Hubertes Fugger of Bavaria purchased the estate and revived it. Today it’s a glamorous resort, part of the Southern Living Hotel Collection. What a story!

So naturally, this is the ideal setting for a gorgeous inspiration shoot, designed by Edge Designs and Crush Event Rentals, photographed by Andie Freeman Photography. I love the stunning lounge furniture situated among the manor ruins, the beautiful drapes and dramatic florals. Enjoy!

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pinning it all: favorite pins of the week!

Pinning It All

Here are some fabulous finds this week! Enjoy!

These are charms you can add to your wedding shoes with photos of loved ones to “walk you down the aisle.” What a touching idea! {Offbeat Bride}

For a museum gala, instead of table numbers, the tables were covered in white paper and the numbers were stamped on the end. Very unexpected for a gala – I love it! {BizBash}

Long tables and farm tables are pretty popular now, but what about curving serpentine tables? It would definitely be a conversation starter! {Exclusive Affair Signature Events}

A cute idea for a guest book – the bride and groom’s fingerprint as a heart. {The Knot}

How about an Instagram frame photo booth prop! For all those who can’t get enough of Instagram (guilty!) {Etsy}

Don’t forget to follow me on Pinterest to see more fabulous event and entertaining pins! Leave your Pinterest handle in the comments and I’ll follow you back!

having enough forks, and musings on other little details at events

wedding fork

This past weekend I attended a lovely wedding. The wedding (and the bride) was beautiful, the venue was charming and the food (honestly the most important part for so many guests – myself included!) was delicious. But there was a tiny issue that I came across… during the cocktail hour, the venue ran out of forks.

Before I get into why this was such a big deal to me, you have to remember that as a professional event planner and a former wedding planner, I notice everything. EVERYTHING. To the point where my husband hates going to weddings with me for fear that I might turn “judgy.”  But in case any readers are fearful of inviting me to their nuptials, alas I’m not judgy at all when it comes to the decisions that a bride and groom and their families made. But…. I do have high expectations when it comes to the wedding vendors. After all, every event I attend is a chance for me to get ideas and find vendors to use for future events.

So let me set the scene: It’s the cocktail hour. It started off well, with waiters greeting guests with trays of champagne flutes and pre-poured glasses of the couple’s signature drinks. There was plenty of food: a charcuterie, a carving station, and a fresh ravioli station, plus plenty of passed hors d’oeuvres. My husband and I made the rounds, trying a little of this, a little of that, making the typical guest tradeoffs in our minds, “Do I grab another glass of champagne or do I grab more food?” The answer: “Both.”

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where was the most memorable event you attended?

library of congress event

I was teaching a class on venue research and site selection as part of a course on event management and I started out the one hour class by asking the students to share the most memorable event venue from an event they had attended. The answers ran the gamut from castles (more than one!) to landmarks like the Space Needle and museums like the Smithsonian. The one thing that almost all of the answers had in common was that they weren’t hotels or banquet halls – they were what we would consider non-traditional venues.

I like to describe non-traditional venues as any venue that exists for another reason besides hosting events; events are not their primary function. This also knocks out meeting space at hotels and private dining rooms or buyouts at restaurants. This includes places like parks, museums, libraries, warehouses, sports arenas, malls… this category is all encompassing. For many of these types of venues, hosting events there at all is somewhat unique and unexpected.

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introducing: pinning it all

Welcome to my newest feature: Pinning It All! I hope you get the reference – pinning it all, planning it all… anybody? Well like every other woman in the world, I jumped on the Pinterest bandwagon years ago. But it’s particularly useful for keeping track of ideas for events and entertaining. While I have a fully curated set of Pinterest boards (seriously, you should check them out and follow me!) sometimes I get so excited about a particular idea but I don’t have a whole blog post to do on it. So this new column is a way to showcase some of my favorite pins from the previous week. Of course, there’s no guarantee that the pins are new, but they are new to me. Enjoy!

Pinning It All

For a wedding, invite guests to join the couple at the sweetheart table! I love this idea of offering some chairs for guests to stop by and chat with the newlywed couple! { Planned Perfectly }

What could be an easier glam fall place card than spray painted leaves? Love this!     { Lovely Bride }

We might be well into fall but that doesn’t mean we can’t still plan for Root Beer floats! This idea of pre-scooping ice cream into mason jars is a great idea for parties!     { Chickabug }

Limes as a place card? I like it, just make sure they don’t roll away! { Real Simple }

For those of you who know me, you know that champagne is pretty much my favorite thing in the world. So imagine going to an event where there was a champagne bar In. The. Elevator.  What!!??! I’m pretty sure that’s my version of heaven. { BizBash }

That’s what we’re Pinning this week – what do you think of these great ideas?


having enough food at an event: a constant struggle

having enough food at an event

One of the most important rules of being a good hostess (and event planner) is making sure no one leaves hungry. You always need to make sure you have enough food and account for guests’ dietary needs. When I am entertaining at home, I usually just make an obscene amount of food and assume that I’ll have a ton of leftovers. My husband usually shakes his head at this strategy and accuses me of “overdoing it” but I’d rather eat leftovers for a week than potentially run out of food.

But in my day job as a nonprofit event manager, I’d prefer to not have leftovers at all. At a corporate catered event, having leftovers actually means we lose money. Some caterers allow you to keep leftovers or donate them to a charity or shelter, but oftentimes local laws or policies forbid that and the leftover food is just thrown away.

That means we have to be as exact as possible in our estimates. It’s a delicate balance between having enough food and having too much, leading to waste. When you are planning formal events like a wedding or gala you have a pretty solid idea of how many people will be attending beforehand, but most of our events don’t have that luxury. They might have an RSVP list, but there’s no guarantee that everyone will show up. Or sometimes there’s no RSVP at all and we have no idea how many people to expect.

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the role of food & beverage in events

The Role of Food & Beverage in Events

Have you ever thought about how many of life’s events are built around meals? Food plays a large role in meetings and events of any kind. I share my thought on this deep subject over at the Social Tables blog. Check it out!

You can find more of my event planning tips and articles here, or follow my “Event Planning How-To’s” board on Pinterest.

halloween place cards & escort cards

Halloween isn’t necessarily my favorite holiday – I loved it growing up, but as an adult I’ve felt it to be pretty hit or miss. That is, until moving into a house in a stereotypical suburban neighborhood. I feel like my house is the only one on the block that doesn’t have an elaborate Halloween display outside. Halloween is apparently a big deal in our neighborhood!

We don’t have plans for a big Halloween party this year, instead we’re opting to hang out and greet trick or treaters. But if you are hosting a soiree of some kind, here are some fun ideas for place cards and escort cards. Enjoy!

Halloween Placecards and Escort Cards

Clockwise from the top left:

Remember the raven? Edgar Allen Poe’s creepy poem is quintessential Halloween, just like this set of escort cards. { Camille Styles }

For something a bit lighter, I like these pumpkin straw labels – for smaller parties you can pair guests’ glasses with a fun straw and label to mark seats, or just keep track of drinks for the night. { Etsy: blewbydesign }

These mini witch hats are appropriate for a Halloween fete – or a book club discussing the final installment of the All Souls Trilogy – anyone else reading that? { Bridal Guide }

Instead of asking guests to find their table, invite them to find their resting place, with escort cards that look like tombstones! { Two Sweets Bake Shop }

Remember those dollar store Dracula teeth prizes? Spray paint them silver and you have a creepy but still glam escort card display! { Celebrities8 }

What other Halloween ideas have you seen? For more table ideas, check out my post on spooky but elegant Halloween tables.


the mount vernon wine festival & why festivals are hard to plan


Mount Vernon Wine Festival

A week ago I attended the Mount Vernon Wine Festival. This was an event that I’d been looking forward to for a while, and I’d heard about for many years. It’s well known in the DC area as a rare opportunity (it happens twice a year) to enjoy food and wine on the lawn of George Washington’s estate, overlooking the Potomac River, listening to some live music.

It’s hard for me to attend any sort of event without keeping my “event planner” cap on. It’s for this reason that my husband doesn’t love going to weddings with me anymore. So naturally, at this event with hundreds of people, an event that’s well-known and obviously successful enough to warren three days twice a year, I had some… feedback.

Overall, the event is well-run. The issues that the Mount Vernon festival run into are no different than other successful festivals, which are, by nature, difficult to plan and execute. Here’s why:

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how to successfully manage a team of event planners

managing a team


I have a new post over at the Etouches blog – “How to Successfully Manage A Team of Event Planners.” All you regular readers of the blog (hi Mom!), you know that my day job is working at a nonprofit, managing a team of fabulous event planners. I’m pretty excited about this article, but it covers something I think is very important -getting your team engaged with the mission of the organization and maintaining brand consistency.

You can find more of my event planning tips and articles here, or follow my “Event Planning How-To’s” board on Pinterest.

Show Etouches some love! Enjoy!