A Bride's Best Friend - wedding coaching and consulting

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7 Wedding Day Beauty Tips for Brides (Bridesmaids too!)

Ready for some tips from the pros on how to look and photograph your best on your big day?  I interviewed some of my favorite bridal beauty experts and here is what they had to say...

About Radiant Skin

Maria beautifies everything!

Taylor covers up a tiny tattoo ;)

The stylist's palette.

If you are planning on getting a facial for the first time, make sure it is not the week of your wedding. Facials often give the opportunity for the icky things beneath the skin to surface.  I find that my brides that enroll in a 6 month series of facials always have the most radiant skin, thus giving me a cleaner/smoother canvas to work with.

-Armando Sarabia of Get Your Do Up!

The best way to moisturize?  Hydrate yourself the week and especially the day of your wedding.  That 8 glasses of water per day rule is tough to achieve, but don’t ignore it the week of your wedding.  It makes a difference!

-Taylor & Mimi of Thi Cosmetics Studio

Wearing a strapless, off the shoulder or spaghetti strap dress?  The back and shoulders are one of the areas often forgotten.   A spa service that I suggest a bride should include to enroll in is a 6 month back facial service. A back facial will ensure that your shoulders look their most radiant. If you are wearing a off the shoulder dress do keep in mind that your back is facing your guests for the first part of the ceremony then your back becomes the most caressed and photographed while on the dance floor.  Tip: Assign a Bridesmaid to help you moisturize.

-Armando Sarabia of Get Your Do Up!

Your Lovely Locks

A neatly pinned half updo looks good at all angles.

Incorporate heirloom jewelry in your 'do like Mandi did.

A beautiful chignon by Taylor.

Do not condition your hair the day of the wedding. (The night before is fine, but use a detangler spray instead of conditioner). Unless you have extremely curly hair, then condition as usual to prevent frizziness. Do not have any hair products in your hair.

-Maria Chang of Professional Makeup Artistry

Keeping your hair healthy means you have to keep it trimmed. Keeping the split ends at bay is an important part of healthy looking hair. Keeping it trimmed every 6-8 weeks will keep the hair from fraying. Don’t let your hair fall out of style on the road to your wedding day.

-Armando Sarabia of Get Your Do Up!

Wedding Day Calm

Mandi relaxes before dressing in her gown.

Taylor giving Joan a final touch up.

Dress in clothes that are easy to remove and will not have to go over your head. If you are wearing a low back or strapless dress, do not wear a bra the morning of the wedding. The strap and back clasp of your bra will make a mark on your skin, which can take several hours to disappear.

-Maria Chang of Professional Makeup Artistry

Place all of your jewelry and accessories in an easy to see box (a shoebox is perfect). A box is convenient because the photographer may ask for these items and a box is easy to grab.  Also the photographer will know to put them back in the box and not leave them scattered. Remove any tags attached. Move your engagement ring to your right hand. You are not in charge of the timeline, so NO Watches!

-Maria Chang of Professional Makeup Artistry

Bonus Tips from Me:

Opening a gift from her groom, Joy has a blast on wedding day morning!

Bridesmaids admire Kristen & Sean's wedding rings while Kristen's hair is set.

Arrange to have water, soft drinks and your favorite healthy snacks available while you are getting ready. It is very important that you and your bridal party eat and not get dehydrated.  Hang your dress in a low traffic area, where no part of it is touching the floor.

Joy's radiant smile that lasted all day. Thanks Maria!

Plan to have your bridesmaids “camera ready” 15-30 minutes before your photographer and videographer is scheduled to arrive.  Hang your dress in a low traffic area, where no part of it is touching the floor.  Assign one of them to tidy up the area where you are getting ready so that your photographer has a clean backdrop to shoot.

Be Prepared and Be Beautiful!


Stay tuned for my next post: How to budget for beauty services.

Photo Credits:

Geoff White Photographers: Photos 1, 10, 11

Catherine Hall Studios: Photos 6, 7, 8

Lori Paladino: Photos 4, 9

Jay Kelly: Photos 2, 3, 5


A Real Wedding Sneak Peek: Jon and Joy Love Aubergine & Platinum

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Hello wedding people,

I hope you've been enjoying the holiday season, getting lots of what you want and none of what you don't!  Mr. Wonderful and I have been exploring our own backyard, something we rarely get to do during wedding season.  We got to be tourists in Union Square and Nob Hill (always scouting wedding locations on the way), and just came back from a quick trip to Carmel Valley, where we stayed at the Santa Lucia Preserve.  More Carmel Valley wedding news slated for early 2011!

In the meantime, I wanted to take a look back at one of my favorite weddings of the year.  Jon and Joy are middle school sweethearts!  Having known each other since they were 12, this was a much anticipated wedding by their family and friends.  Over 200 guests came out to support and celebrate with them. They were so gracious, stunningly beautiful and such big-hearted people.  It's impossible to post all my favorite images, so I'm going to share a small part of the day with you.  Jon and Joy were so excited about the design process, so I made sure to get them back in time from pictures to enjoy the ballroom untouched, and sneak them out again just a few moments before their guests began to arrive.

Here's a peek at what Jon & joy saw.  Take a look at the Geoff White Blog for more featured photos.  Scroll down after the pictures to see Jon and Joy's fabulous, all-star wedding team.  Enjoy!

Photography: Geoff White

Flowers: Nicole Ha

Lighting & Draping: Julio of Enhanced Lighting & Sound

Hair & Make Up: Maria Chang of Professional Makeup Artistry

Invitations & Paper Goods: Marivic of Marizette Paperie

Video: Mayad Productions

Reception: The San Mateo Marriott

Ceremony: All Saints Church

Guest Book: Screenbooth


Eleanor & Yuki’s Wedding Trailer

I love living a seasonal life.  In nature, bears hibernate for the winter and birds head on a tropical vacation. In the wedding world, winter is when all us wedding pros have time to catch a breath and reminisce on our couples from the past year.  I started working with El and Yuki back in February to plan their multi-cultural wedding.  El's family hails from Korea and Yuki was born and raised in Japan.  They held their ceremony at the UC Berkeley Botanical Gardens and partied down at the beautifully renovated Hotel Shattuck Plaza in Berkeley.

It was a sweet Thanksgiving treat to receive this sneak peek from Jordan of Event Horizon Pictures.  Enjoy!


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Nominated for Best Coordinated Wedding 2010

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What an honor to find out that one of my weddings is nominated for Best Coordinated Wedding on Style Unveiled.  Kristen and Sean were married back in February and were such a sweet couple, rallying together and supporting each other when Sean lost his dad just two weeks before the wedding.  Lots of emotions were on the surface that day, but the overall mood was very joyous, thanks to the fabulous family and friends they have.

Here are a few more of my favorite images of their big day, courtesy of Lori Paladino:

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Special Announcement: Certified by the Guide!

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Today I became a member of Here Comes the Guide, the best and most respected wedding resource in Northern California. HCTG members go through a rigorous screening process, and I can’t thank my colleagues and clients enough for their praise.  Merci, Muchas Gracias, Vielen Dank and Todah Rabah.   Read all about me here.  I had a really hard time only selecting 8 photos for my listing, so here are a just a few of my other tasty favorites...

(Click to enlarge.)

Sweet Dreams,


Photo Credits: Geoff White, Lori Paladino, Tim Sohn, and Cory Foster


A Very Wordy Wedding

This past wedding season I’ve worked with some very inventive couples.

The fabulous groom's cake by BethAnn of Studio Cake.

Yes, those are real game pieces on the place cards!

Christina and Burt met while serving in the Navy. As their relationship blossomed and they were stationed apart, one of the ways they stayed involved in each other's days was to play Scrabble on their mobile phones.

The actual scrabble board that Burt used when asking Christina to marry him!

This joint affection for the game lead to Burt’s very creative proposal, taking a portable scrabble game board and gluing the pieces down to spell out a beautiful sentiment, then dropping to one knee and popping the question.

I love that Christina & Burt drew inspiration from their proposal and shared something personal about their relationship with their guests.  Each escort card had the guest's initials and either a double or triple word score.  The handmade table "letters" represented an oversized scrabble tile.  The sweetest surprise was that Christina had a special groom's cake made for Burt that replicated the board he used to propose to her.

Be creative!


Florals by Ingela Floral Design.


Hello again, wedding world!

It’s been far too long since my last post, but with good reason.  I had the honor of being the wedding planner for 14 amazing couples this season, one of them being my own baby

Yummy german chocolate cake from Jordan & Kevin's summer wedding. I nabbed the recipe from his mom for my Thanksgiving feast!

brother and his new wife.  There are far too many highlights to recount in one post, but I plan on getting back to the blog on a more regular basis to share some of my favorite moments and images of the year.

As 2010 winds down, I’m looking forward to my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving.  I think it has a lot in common with weddings: a chance to gather all the people you care deeply about and celebrate with a delicious feast!  I am certainly counting many blessings this year, including all the wonderful and unique couples I’ve worked with.

Till Next Time,



How to be a Good Bride, Groom, Wedding Planner and Guest

Your wedding day won't be perfect.  Are you surprised I said that?  Now, wait, let me explain.  Perfection doesn't exist, and holding yourself to that perfect standard takes away all possibilities for spontaneity and authentic moments.  But if you're like me, you still aim for a pretty high standard.  And you should.  But you should also keep in mind these things, which are often overlooked, when preparing for your wedding day.

Bride & Groom
Your guests can only have as much fun as you are having. A huge part of your job is to be as relaxed and well rested as possible.  When I say relaxed, of course I know that butterflies in the tummy feeling comes along with being a bride or groom and making one the biggest public commitments of your lives.  That's all part of the process, but combine that with sleep deprivation and short nerves and you've got a formula for disaster.  Invest in your experience (and your future memories) by taking one week off work prior to your wedding.  I know times are hard and vacation days are slim.  But 5, 10 15 years form now you won't give a second thought to losing those days.  But you will still remember how you felt on your wedding day.  Work with your wedding planner (or bridal party if you don't have one) so that you aren't doing more than one wedding related task per day that week.  Why?  You need this mental pause to be able to refresh internally.  Plan to get plenty of fresh air, sunshine, nutritious foods and exercise.  All of these things help balance your body and mind and make it more possible for you to be open to the hidden joys and surprises that come along with any wedding day.

Wedding Planner
My job is also to be as well rested, prepared and forward thinking as possible.  Since we've been planning together for at least the last few months, I should know what you and your partner are most excited about (i.e. that organic menu you've been planning with the chef or seeing your best friend from college who now lives in Australia) and also what you are most anxious about (your dad giving a long winded embarrassing toast or your brother taking the mic from the band to do a little karaoke).  This way I am able to cut off any potential problems before they start, and trouble shoot any unforeseen issues that come up on your wedding day.  I will also show up early, staffed appropriately and be a support to you, your family and bridal party, and be a resource to all your hired professionals to trouble shoot any unforseen issues.

Wedding Guests
Your job is easy!  Show up on time (and this means 15-20 minutes before the ceremony is scheduled to begin), leave your day to day stresses at home, and be prepared to fully celebrate the love of this couple and the shared bond they have with you.  Congratulate the couple heartily at your earliest opportunity.  Get up on that dance floor at the first invitation, and bring as much joy as you can to this unique day in their lives.  Want to go above & beyond?  Buy a copy of the local paper to add to your gift as a topper and keepsake of your big day.  Since you probably won't get a chance to talk much with the bride & groom, send them a hand written note along with a print out of your favorite snapshot you took that day and send it out right after the wedding.  Planning on taking lots of pictures on the wedding day?  Great!  Just remember that the couple has likely paid thousands of dollars for their professional photographer, so just don't get in the way of their shots.  Depending on how many photographers there are, below is a list of shots that are often not captured at weddings.  Try for these shots and be adored by your friends!

  • Parents / Bridal Party reactions to the bride & grooms first kiss, first dance and speeches and toasts
  • Your table setting before the food gets served
  • Kids playing away from the main action of the party
  • Late night dance shots after the photographer has left of grandma getting her groove on!

Want more advice that you won't find on any checklist?  Visit my friend Ron's blog for a great post on the invisible moments that make a great wedding.

Happy Wedding Season!

XO Elle


Wedding 360: The Academy for Planners & Designers Part 2

Hello again Friends!

I hope you're all enjoying a fabulous start to Spring.  The first roses are blooming in my backyard, and I am on a fruit binge - even though the strawberries and raspberries aren't quite in season yet, I'm getting an early start!

Before we hop too far into the season, I wanted to take a look back at the Fabulous Wedding 360 conference for wedding planners & designers that I was privileged enough to be on the planning team for.  My role focused on the closing party - entitled "The Museum of Petals".  With Gloria Wong at the helm, I led the design team in managing the complicated logistics in carrying out this stunning design - which took 143 planning hours and 128,000 petals!  Here is some eye candy from the fabulous event.  A heartfelt thanks for the countless hours of the talented sponsors: Nicole Ha Floral Design, Neil & Mircea from Blueprint Studios, John & Julio from Enhanced Lighting, Robert from Chisel It Ice Sculptures, Ron Grandia of A Different Kind of DJ, and Amy Hayson of both Snapshot and Peculiar Pair Press.  An oversized Merci, Danke, Thank You to Orange Photography for capturing all this delicious beauty!

Be Well, Elle

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Wedding 360: The Academy for Planners and Designers

Hello again, wedding-verse! I’ve been behind on my blogging duties lately, but for good reason. For the past two months, I’ve been a part of the behind-the-scenes planning team of Wedding 360’s inaugural The Academy for Planners and Designers, one of the most ambitious educational conferences for wedding planners and designers out there. This project is the brainchild of Jean Marks and Jubilee Lau (I like to call them the J's), who have been amazing friends and supports ever since I entered into this beautiful industry 8 years ago.  You can see a video of the Next Day Edit captured by Andrew of Studio MSV for a taste of the conference.

The J's vision was to produce a content rich program that would give experienced planners and designers the tools to take their businesses to the next level. They started by picking one of the most fabulous hotels in downtown San Francisco, the St Regis, as the conference home.

You know with my Ritz-Carlton background, I am not an easy person to please, but their staff was amazing, and I even recognized some familiar faces from my hotel days! The J's then recruited some of the most amazing industry elites, like David Beahm, Todd Fiscus, Rebecca Grinnals, Sean Low and Tara Guearerd (pronounced Taw-ra, not Ter-ra), whose portfolios and client lists, I have to say, are larger than life. Come on, meeting the wedding designer of Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones? That’s only a tad bit intimidating. In real life though, they are all very humble, generous, gracious and, well, real.

Highlights: I got to meet some pretty amazing planners from all over the country, see one of my weddings presented in the photography forum by Catherine Hall, felt like a rock star at the Emerald Underworld and Museum of Petals parties designed by the uber-talented Gloria Wong, and was inspired by walking through the four designershowcases put together by Nancy Liu Chin, Jonathan and Linnae of Asiel Designs, Grant Rector and Tara Guerard.

Though I played just a small role in bringing this conference to life, I have to say, I feel like a proud mama! Everyone brought such great energy to the conference, and I overheard so many people saying the information they learned was crucial to catapulting their businesses forward. I’ll post more on content later, but for now, I’m going to reflect on what I learned, and how I can better serve my clients over the next year and beyond.  I'll leave you with this quote from the amazing David Beahm, "If you create good and you allow good, your business can only be good."