How to Look Amazing in Your Engagement Photos

I often get questions from my couples about how to look your best in engagement photos - what should you wear? How can you make sure they don't look overly posed or cheesy? Are they really worth doing? To get the definitive answers to these questions I talked to Anna Wu, a lovely and talented photographer friend here in the Bay Area who also happens to have snapped the portraits of me in the About section of my website! Read carefully, take notes, and your engagement photos will be amazing! 

Anna Wu Photography

Anna Wu Photography

Rachael: Sometimes couples tell me they're not sure if they need or want engagement photos. When and who do you recommend them for?

Anna: I encourage all my couples to consider an engagement session. It can make for a great test run to see what it’s like to work with your photographer, and it’s also a chance for you to practice getting in front of the camera. Once you’ve done an engagement session, the portrait session on your wedding day gets that much easier, and everything goes just a little bit more smoothly. Your engagement session is also a great opportunity to get creative. You have more time and less stress than on a wedding day, so you can have a little fun with the portraits. You can explore a different location or theme that might be meaningful to you, and you can get a lot of variety. Plus, you’ll get to keep some beautiful portraits of you two that aren’t just in your wedding attire.

Anna Wu Photography

Anna Wu Photography


Rachael: How should brides and grooms prepare for engagement photos so they look and feel their best?

Anna: Choose your outfits ahead of time, and focus first on fit. You want to choose clothes you feel great in. If you’re absolutely lost on what to wear, a go-to recipe is a nice dress with a pop of color for the ladies (my personal preference is a long, flowy dress) and a collared shirt, pants, and nice shoes in all neutral colors (think browns, creams, blues) for the gents. I also recommend hiring a professional hair and makeup artist even if you want to keep a fairly natural look, because a great stylist will know how to enhance your features without making you look unrecognizable. Plus, it’s so nice to feel pampered. On the day of the session, give yourself plenty of time so you’re not rushing to get ready and get to the shoot. In fact, you might as well make an entire day of it and schedule yourself a date night after the session too. You’re already all dressed up, after all!

Anna Wu Photography

Anna Wu Photography

Rachael: I remember being so nervous and awkward during my own engagement session, and feeling hesitant to to show intimacy with my (then) fiancé, which is ultimately what I feel like makes for good images. What do you find is the best way to loosen up?

Anna: Remember that your engagement session is a celebration of this exciting time in your relationship, and it should be fun! It’s totally ok to feel awkward. Just laugh it off (literally, laughing can help you loosen up) and enjoy being with each other. Let go of the idea that you need to get perfect photos out of it or that you need to look a certain way. I totally agree that intimacy can make for some of the most impactful photos. But that can take many forms. If you’re not the type to make out in public, don’t assume that that’s the only way to get beautiful photographs. Sometimes it’s just how you look at each other or the way you entangle your arms together that make for the most meaningful images- because they’re uniquely you. Your only job is to be yourselves. Trust your photographer to do the rest.

Anna Wu Photography

Anna Wu Photography

Rachael: How do you choose a location? Any favorites you want to share?

Anna: I make my couples choose their engagement session locations, because I think the absolute best locations are ones that have some sort of personal significance. It could be as simple as a farmer’s market that you shop at regularly, the place where you had your first date, or even your apartment and first home together. I love seemingly mundane places because they’re unique. Anyone can go to the Golden Gate Bridge if they can’t think of anything else. Not everyone knows about that one park bench where you once got lost in conversation for three hours. But of course, if you do just want to go with an unfailingly beautiful spot, there are tons to choose from in San Francisco. Some of my personal favorites include the Ferry Building, City Hall, Sutro Baths, and anywhere in the Presidio.

Anna Wu Photography

Anna Wu Photography

Rachael: How can couples avoid photos that look overly posed or 'fake'? I feel like this is everyone's worst nightmare (including mine!).

Anna: There is definitely an art to creating something genuine despite the staged setting of a portrait session. I think most of the responsibility lies with the photographer. They should give you enough direction that you don’t feel at a loss for what you’re doing but not so much that they’ve directed you into a specific contortion that doesn’t feel like you at all. But for you as the subject, any time you start feeling awkward about a pose or a scene, reset yourself by focusing on your partner. Think of it as an interaction between the two of you and not a performance for the camera.

Ruby & Rose in the Kitchen: Grand Marnier soufflés

To all who are celebrating love today, happy Valentine's Day! In my line of work I am lucky to be surrounded by love every day, and that never grows old. 

My husband and I have gotten away from exchanging gifts (today is our 10th Valentine's Day together!), but I'll use any excuse to bake a fancy dessert, so I thought I'd share the recipe for the Grand Marnier soufflés I decided to make to celebrate this day of love. 

I first had this soufflé at Gary Danko here in San Francisco and have been dreaming about it ever since. Soufflés have a reputation for being difficult to make but the key is just to prep all your ingredients in advance and wait to put them in the oven until you are ready to eat them - there's nothing more sad than a fallen soufflé! 

Adapted from a Gourmet recipe on

Grand Marnier Soufflés with Warm Chocolate Sauce

3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter plus additional for buttering ramekins
1 cup sugar plus additional for coating ramekins
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup whole milk
7 large egg yolks
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon orange oil
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier
8 large egg whites
1 large bar bittersweet baking chocolate

Preheat oven to 400°F. Generously butter eight 1-cup (3 1/2 x 2-inch) ramekins and coat with sugar, knocking out excess sugar.

In a 1 1/2-quart heavy saucepan melt 3/4 stick butter over moderately low heat and whisk in flour. Cook roux, whisking, 3 minutes. Add milk and cook over moderate heat, whisking, until mixture is very thick and pulls away from sides of pan. Transfer mixture to a bowl and cool 5 minutes. In a large bowl whisk together yolks, vanilla, oil, and a pinch salt, and whisk in milk mixture and Grand Marnier, whisking until smooth.

In a large bowl with an electric mixer beat whites until they hold soft peaks. Beat in 1 cup sugar, a little at a time, and beat meringue until it just holds stiff peaks. Whisk about one fourth meringue into yolk mixture to lighten and with a rubber spatula fold in remaining meringue gently but thoroughly.

Spoon batter into ramekins, filling them just to rim, and arrange ramekins at least 1 1/2 inches apart in a large baking pan. Add enough hot water to pan to reach halfway up sides of ramekins and bake soufflés in middle of oven 20 minutes, or until puffed and tops are golden.

While soufflés are baking, melt bittersweet chocolate in a saucepan over very low heat and keep warm. 

Remove pan with soufflés from oven and transfer ramekins to dessert plates. With 2 forks pull open center of each soufflé and pour in melted chocolate. Enjoy immediately! 

A Modern Tea Party

Check out Style Me Pretty Living's feature on our Modern Tea party! 

With winter in full effect here in San Francisco, I've been drinking cup after cup of piping hot tea. Although I used to be a die-hard coffee drinker, a few years back, I switched completely to tea after noticing that coffee was bothering my stomach, and became a full-fledged convert. In particular, I became addicted to the teas from Mariage Frères, a French brand that a friend first introduced me to when she gave my husband and I some as a wedding gift (it is aptly named!). I do still love a good latte, but a good cup of tea warms my body and soul. 

When I heard my photographer friend Anna Wu mention the idea of a throwing a modern tea party, I was beyond excited. The tea party needs a makeover! There's no reason the concept needs to be centered on mismatched china, doilies, frilly linens and sad finger sandwiches. We decided to throw a modern tea party that would honor our love of this delicious beverage AND good, clean, modern design. 

We teamed up with our local friends Tea People (the same folks behind Boba Guys) to pour their delicious teas and teach us more about the different varieties, brewing methods, and history. Benj, our self-proclaimed tea geek, brewed up 4 different kinds, all unique and delicious. I love how different the leaves and the color of each tea look next to each other. And they all have such exotic names!

Of course for me, apart from the tea itself, I was most excited about designing a tablescape that was beautiful and unusual. I decided to go with a mid-century influence to bring in a modern vibe and then soften it with florals. I must have had 20 conversations with Melanie Tom of Hawthorn Flower Studio to try and describe what I wanted...I could see it in my head but it was difficult to communicate! But she read my mind and came up with the most gorgeous floral design that was both organic yet structured, romantic but not overly feminine, and had this amazing movement that filled up the negative space in the most incredible way. All the heart eyes. 

With a modern take on the tea party it only seemed fitting to have modern sweets, too - and Craftsman & Wolves fit the bill perfectly. The lemon saffron tea cakes, banana travel cakes, and raspberry lime cream puffs were the crowd pleasers. But my personal favorite were the yuzu almond caramels...they had such a rich, intense flavor. I could have eaten the whole bag myself. 

Naturally, one needs to be properly invited to a tea party, and I loved Bri Connolly of Brown Fox Calligraphy's modern take on this invitation suite. This was the first time I'd had a chance to design something on acrylic, and though a bit finicky to work with, it's such a fun material. Especially when you have Bri's gorgeous handwriting overlaid on top. 

there is always time for tea!

Featured on Style Me Pretty Living

Planning & Design | Ruby & Rose
Photography | Anna Wu Photography

Calligraphy | Brown Fox Calligraphy
Desserts | Craftsman & Wolves
Flatware | Mrs. Peasy 
Floral and Design | Hawthorn Flower Studio

Furniture | West Elm
Hair | Fox & Doll
Makeup | April Foster Artistry 

Tabletop Goods | CB2Crate & Barrel
Tea Tasting | Tea People
Venue | 1544 Events

The Barn at Tyge William Cellars Wedding: Brooke & Peter

Update: Brooke and Peter's wedding has been published on Inspired by This! Be sure to check out the feature for more images from their beautiful day. 

I had the honor of getting to design the very first wedding that took place at the brand new Tyge William Cellars barn earlier this year, so I was over the moon when Brooke and Peter asked me to coordinate their wedding there this September! Brooke and Peter are one of the sweetest couples I've had the chance to work with, and Brooke has an incredible sense of style, so I knew their wedding day was going to be not only filled with love, but also beautiful details. 

One of Tyge William's many great features is the gorgeous spot from where the ceremony takes place. Vineyard views for days with the mountains in the background make for a special spot. Brooke really wanted a clean, white and green palette that would highlight the natural beauty of the space, and keep everything feeling bright and airy.  For ceremony, they kept things simple and elegant by adorning a wooden arch with billowy chiffon drapes and soft greenery.

For cocktail hour, we created several lounge vignettes so that guests could enjoy the big lawn off the barn. I'm still swooning over the antique wooden bar in the corner - it came from Chateau Sonoma, which is just across the way at Cornerstone. They often lend larger pieces of furniture to the venue since they are so close by. Such a great perk! 

Brooke and Peter really loved the more casual feel of long communal tables for dinner, which worked especially well with the super high ceilings in the barn. Crystal chandeliers gave the space a gorgeous glow and helped fill the vertical space. And of course, white farm tables and chairs, decorated with long garlands of greenery. 

I love how perfectly the simple, elegant, 3-tiered cake fit with the rest of the decor. Sometimes simple truly is best. 

Sandra of White Ivory Photography captured these two so beautifully! How romantic is that veil blowing in the wind?!

Congratulations, Brooke and Peter! 

Wedding coordination | Ruby & Rose

Cake | Sweetie Pies
Caterer | Ramekins
Band | Lucky Devils
Floral Design | Baldacci & Daughters
Hair & Makeup | Dreamcatcher Artistry
Lighting | The Lux Productions
Musicians | Musical Heart Strings
Photography | White Ivory Photography
Rentals | Encore
Transportation | California Wine Tours
Venue | The Barn at Tyge William Cellars

Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay Wedding: Sivan & Jeremy

Thrilled to have Sivan & Jeremy's beautiful day featured on Style Me Pretty!

How gorgeous is this shot of S&J from their engagement session with Larissa Cleveland?! Major heart eyes. 

How gorgeous is this shot of S&J from their engagement session with Larissa Cleveland?! Major heart eyes. 

I knew from the moment I met these two that their wedding day was going to be amazing. Getting to witness the energy and love that just radiates from newly engaged couples is one of the best parts of my job and when I sat down to have a glass of wine with Sivan and Jeremy for the first time, I could almost see sparks flying! As they are both from CA, have large families and went to school close by at UC Berkeley (where they met!), they were expecting more than 300 people at their wedding, so I was thrilled that they brought me on board to help them with planning and design more than a year out from their wedding date. 

Planning a 300 person wedding is a very different animal than a celebration for 100 people, let me tell you. Not only is it more expensive because there are more guests to feed, but you are more limited in your choice of venues, and the logistics become a lot more complex. Our first task was to find the perfect venue, and from the start Sivan and Jeremy wanted to prioritize spaces where as much of the wedding could take place outside as possible. After touring several amazing places they finally settled on the Ritz in Half Moon Bay - its spectacular ocean setting combined with its location close to where Sivan grew up made it the perfect spot for their big day.

With the venue settled we started assembling a top notch vendor team and working on the design. Drawing inspiration from the California coast as well as a vibrant color palette that would pop against the natural outdoor setting and neutral colors of the indoor space, we designed florals and detail elements that felt romantic, summery and elegant without being too formal. 

Our biggest challenge (and one of the most fun floral installations I've worked on to date!) was trying to figure out how to take the ballroom where dinner and dancing would take place and make it feel special and intimate, to the extent that's possible in a ballroom! With super high ceilings and beige walls it felt like bringing in a massive amount of hanging greenery was the way to go. Anna of Loop Flowers and I designed 3 full but loose wreaths of hardy greens (and air plants! Can you spot them?) that became the focal point of the room. Placing the head table directly underneath made it extra special for the wedding party and also meant most of the guests could enjoy it too. Watching those wreaths being slowly lifted up into place via scissor lift was pretty awesome (and terrifying)! Luckily we had an amazing team and everyone came together to make it happen smoothly. 

It was important to Sivan and Jeremy to honor their Jewish and Persian heritage and they put their own spin on things in some really cool ways. They chose a beautiful, very delicate and modern Ketubah which fit perfectly with the other elements of the day. They also wanted to make sure everyone would have an incentive to get out on the dance floor so they went for a musical double whammy: an amazing Persian musician named Pedram Shadkamian who sang all the Persian hits (even Jeremy's grandparents were up dancing!) AND the guys from Dart Collective who played a great curated, more mainstream list of hits that the 'kids' could get down to. 

Such a fun and beautiful day! And Weddings on Film captured every gorgeous detail perfectly, didn't they? Congratulations again, Sivan and Jeremy! 

Featured on Style Me Pretty

Planning & Design | Ruby & Rose

Accessories | Theoni Collection 
Cake | Pretty Please Bakeshop
Calligraphy | The Bloomery Co
DJ | Dart Collective
Floral Design | Loop Event Arts
Hair & Makeup | Marisa Perel
Lighting | Enhanced Lighting
Linens | La Tavola
Persian Music | Pedram Shadkamian
Photography | Larissa Cleveland
Photo Booth | Giggle & Riot
Rentals | Standard Party Rentals
Venue & Catering | The Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay
Videography | Weddings on Film

Rustic Summer Supper at Stable Cafe

Exciting update: Head to Green Wedding Shoes to see their lovely feature about the event!

Late summer supper at Stable Cafe

Now that fall is here and we're done with weddings for the year, I'm looking forward to sharing a ton of images from the beautiful events and collaborations we got to be a part of this year! First up is an intimate styled shoot / dinner party that my good photo friend Kayla of Kayla F Photo dreamed up and asked me to help bring to life.

Like many lovers of good food and unique urban outdoor spaces, I am a long-time fan and frequent patron of Stable Cafe here in the Mission. It's pretty much the perfect urban oasis: a peaceful outdoor courtyard lined with fruit trees and accented with clever groupings of succulents and other pretty plants from Lila B. Add zig-zags of string lights overhead, a lush covered greenhouse and beautiful old café tables and chairs...and I basically want to move in. Intimate parties or small wedding celebrations are made for this place. Who wants to let me plan an event here?! 

Kayla's original vision was a simple and rustic dinner among friends - sounds easy, right?! Here are the key ingredients to any good intimate gathering, as far as I'm concerned: 

Beautiful flowers. If you know anything about me you probably know that I'm a full-fledged flower addict. Amanda Vidmar created this garden-inspired centerpiece that had us all swooning with its romantic combo of garden roses, ranunculus, bearded iris, Abelia branches, and blue Viburnum. 

Amanda Vidmar floral centerpiece

To help the table blend in even more with the courtyard setting, Amanda draped Hops across the backs of the chairs.

Hops chair swag

Next, you need a beautifully set table. We chose blue and white stoneware and votives from Heath Ceramics and these gorgeous pale grey, hand-blown glasses, both from Chairs + Cups' perfectly curated inventory. Cloth napkins, flatware, and marble candlesticks came from CB2. And that gorgeous hand-dyed grey runner from Silk + Willow.  

Setting the table at Stable Cafe
upscale summer supper stable cafe
Amanda and I intensely focused on figuring out the perfect napkin fold. OCD tendencies at their best!! These tiny details are the ones that make the overall picture perfect!

Amanda and I intensely focused on figuring out the perfect napkin fold. OCD tendencies at their best!! These tiny details are the ones that make the overall picture perfect!

Beautiful paper goods - another one of my favorite things. Including a simple menu at each person's place setting makes any meal that much more special and builds anticipation for the delicious food you're about to have. Bri of Brown Fox Calligraphy hand-wrote these menus in a medium-gray ink on light-gray paper. Of course, for a larger event, hand-written menus for each guest might not be practical, but when you're only setting a table for 8 this is a worthy splurge! We made each place setting extra special by attaching each person's place card to a sweet little plum. 

hand lettered menu on gray paper Brown Fox Calligraphy
Brown Fox Calligraphy hand lettered place card

Sometimes a little literary inspiration can really help set the mood. When I found this Virginia Wolfe quote, I knew I had to incorporate it into the design, so I had Bri make up a small sign to adorn our dessert table: 

one cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well

And of course, what's a good dinner party without amazing food?! We teamed up with LRE Catering who put together the most delicious, fresh, seasonal summer menu we could have dreamed of. Not only was everything to-die-for scrumptious but their presentation was spot-on. My stomach is grumbling right now...

LRE catering
LRE Catering rustic summer supper
LRE Catering grilled t-bone steak

The best part of any intimate gathering is undoubtedly getting to spend time with friends and enjoy each others' company. Ryanne at One True Love made sure we were all comfortably and stylishly equipped for QT with some pieces from the collection at One True Love Vintage Rentals. I love the rustic, mid-century feel of those leather and wood armchairs together with the weathered leather poof. And how sweet is that wicker basket? It became the perfect spot for Amanda to stash all of the hops! 

One True Love Vintage Rentals

See, it's not so hard to pull off an intimate dinner party! Grab a few of your closest friends and lay the table...and just remember, "one cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well"! 

Alana & Tyson | Private Home - Sonoma, CA

Weddings at private homes are kind of a double whammy. They can be some of the most logistically complex events to plan, since homes are not typically built with weddings in mind. Elements that you might not think about - like lighting, power, septic system capacity (gross I know, but SO important!), road width, or grumpy neighbors - all need to be taken into consideration and planned for. But executed successfully, a wedding at a private home can be so special. Remember Father of the Bride, the Steve Martin movie? How cool would it be to get married at your childhood home?

Alana and Tyson were fortunate enough to have a close family friend offer up their amazing Sonoma home as the venue for their wedding. This's pretty much what I dream of when I think about what my make-believe wine country vacation home would be like. Situated at the base of a hill, surrounded by oak and olive trees - it's secluded and peaceful. The house itself, a white ranch with great lines and a fabulous deck overlooking a pool and garden - was perfect for an al fresco September wedding, complete with a sparkler dance party at the end of the night. 

Catering: Wild Thyme
Andi Hatch
Wedding Coordination: Ruby & Rose

Charlotte & Eric | City Hall & Dogpatch WineWorks

Excited to finally have a chance to share some images from Charlotte and Eric's fun two-day celebration at City Hall and Dogpatch WineWorks! I often hear from engaged couples that during the planning process they struggle with how to decide between having an intimate wedding with just those who are closest to them, versus a larger more inclusive event. Charlotte and Eric got the best of both worlds by holding their ceremony at City Hall with close friends and family, and then holding a larger reception the next day at Dogpatch WineWorks. City Hall is such a great place to elope because it's not only cost effective but also an incredibly beautiful and iconic setting. There are gorgeous places to take photos all over that building and the light is always amazing. Lily of the Valley created Charlotte's sweet bouquet. I love how the yellow billy balls and flowering mimosa tie in with all the golden tones of the space!

Dogpatch WineWorks has a great modern, rustic-chic feel and Charlotte chose design details that complemented the space perfectly. Charlotte and Eric also chose to donate their flower arrangements (made by the bride herself) to Random Acts of Flowers, an awesome non-profit in the Bay Area that upcycles flowers and gives them to individuals in healthcare facilities who could use some cheering up. Such a cool thing to do!

With the guys from Dart DJ behind the turntables and Betty Zlatchin Catering serving up delicious bites, it was a perfect party in the city. And just goes to show that you can have your cake and eat it too when it comes to planning your wedding!

Bouquet: Lily of the Valley
Catering: Betty Zlatchin
Coordination: Ruby & Rose
DJ: Dart DJ
Hair & Makeup: All Dolled Up
Photography: Dan & Russell Photography
Reception Venue: Dogpatch WineWorks

Ruby & Rose Wedding: Anna & Charlie

Very excited to share some images from Anna and Charlie's wedding this June at Headlands Center for the Arts. Headlands is the quintessential San Francisco venue. It's unapologetically funky and has a character and patina that only comes with time and exposure to salt air. It's location in the Marin Headlands is especially magical as it is often foggy - very foggy. While some couples might not wish for fog on their wedding day, it makes for stunning photos and beautiful light, and as lovers of nature and the outdoors, Anna and Charlie took the weather in stride. 

Headlands and flowers from Natalie Bowen Designs are a match made in heaven - Natalie's wild, organic blooms are such a natural fit with the space! Pulling in some soft pinks from Anna's dress and pale yellows from the Rodeo Room and Mess Hall tied everything together beautifully without being visually overwhelming. 

This was also the first time I had a chance to work with photographer Corinne Krogh. Besides being a lovely person to work with, her photography is truly special. She captured the atmosphere and natural light at Headlands so beautifully on film, and was even game when Anna and Charlie wanted to go on a little walk through the fields behind the property, which served as a stunning backdrop to capture some intimate shots.  


Giving Thanks

In DC, where I am spending Thanksgiving this year with my husband's family, there is a serious chill in the air and most of the leaves have fallen from the trees. Luckily for me they are still clustered in big piles on the ground and the sidewalks. I grew up in the woods in Massachusetts, and every fall my parents would spend what seemed like days and days raking leaves into giant piles to be eventually stuffed into thick brown paper bags. Once this activity commenced, it went without saying that my brother and I needed to jump into as many leaf piles as possible. Though we never discussed a formal rating system, whoever made the biggest mess and managed to send the most leaves fluttering through the air was definitely the winner.

I'm too OCD now to want to get my clothes dirty by actually jumping in a big pile of leaves, but hearing them crunch beneath my feet and smelling their wonderful earthy smell instantly reminds me of fall on the East Coast - something I crave and really miss every year now that I live in California. Once fall arrives, time seems to speed up and the end of year holidays and all the craziness that goes with them are here in the blink of an eye. 

It seems easy these days to be overwhelmed by the number of commitments we all have during the holidays - either at work, with family, or otherwise. With holiday decorations popping up even before Halloween, and the hype of crazy Black Friday sales I sometimes feel like all the joy is being sucked out of the season right before my eyes, which makes me so sad because it can be such a wonderful time of year. But once I take some time to reflect and focus on what is important to me - spending time with loved ones, taking time to cook delicious food and do some entertaining - I get my holiday mojo back. 

2015 has been a big year for me personally and professionally. I have so much to be thankful for - my thriving business; my incredibly supportive family; a beautiful home in a city that I love and feel safe in; my friends who keep me laughing; my dog Bandit who offers daily snuggles and company in my home office; and my husband Andrew, who puts up with all my crazy ideas and is willing to travel to the ends of the earth with me. The list goes on...

What are you thankful for? I wish for you some peace and quiet and the time to reflect about all the positive things in your life this Thanksgiving. Here are some of the things inspiring me at the moment; click on the image to see the full inspiration board on Pinterest.

Ruby & Rose Wedding: Jessica & Matt

Well, hello! After a very busy few months wrapping up wedding season and preparing for some epic end-of-year travel (more on that soon), I've got an inbox full of pretty images from weddings this year and I'm excited to finally get them up on the blog and share them with you. 

I had a blast working with Jessica and Matt this July for their Piedmont wedding. They brought big smiles and a great sense of humor and creativity to the whole process. Their love for each other is truly infectious! Congratulations, you two. 

Photography: Helena and Laurent

Lake Tahoe Summer Inspiration

I'm heading up to Lake Tahoe this weekend with my husband, our pup, and some friends for a much needed mini vacation, so I've had summer in the mountains on my mind. Lake Tahoe is one of my very most favorite places in California, especially in the summer. A freezing cold, crystal clear lake. Amazing views of snowcapped mountains. Ice cream cones. The smell of hot pine needles and fresh mountain air. As I write this, the Sound of Music is running through my head...are we there yet?!

It's no surprise that Lake Tahoe is such a popular destination for weddings each year. What's not to like? Beautiful environs, a laid-back vibe, and in the summer, gorgeous wildflowers. A few of my favorite ideas for a summertime celebration up in the mountains, by the lake: 

1. Keep your guests cool with delicious ice cream sandwiches from  Coolhaus  2. Glamp it up out in the woods in a well-appointed tent form  Shelter Co . 3.  Sunset wine and cheese cruise  to Emerald Bay. Rehearsal dinner - check!  4. Make your get-away across the lake in vintage style on a Chris-Craft boat 5. A faux birch bark cake gives a nod to the woodsy setting. Photo:  Troy Grover  6. Two words:  bruschetta bar . The folks at Shelter Co. are geniuses. Photo:  Matt Armendariz  7. Go frolic in a field of flowers with your betrothed. Capture it on film. Photo:  Dylan and Sara Photography  8. Hire  Camper Cocktails  to show up in their Airstream trailor and make craft cocktails for your guests 

1. Keep your guests cool with delicious ice cream sandwiches from Coolhaus
2. Glamp it up out in the woods in a well-appointed tent form Shelter Co.
3. Sunset wine and cheese cruise to Emerald Bay. Rehearsal dinner - check! 
4. Make your get-away across the lake in vintage style on a Chris-Craft boat
5. A faux birch bark cake gives a nod to the woodsy setting. Photo: Troy Grover
6. Two words: bruschetta bar. The folks at Shelter Co. are geniuses. Photo: Matt Armendariz
7. Go frolic in a field of flowers with your betrothed. Capture it on film. Photo: Dylan and Sara Photography
8. Hire Camper Cocktails to show up in their Airstream trailor and make craft cocktails for your guests 

Click below for the full Pinterest board!

Doing Good: Random Acts of Flowers

Petal collage and photo by  Lily Goff

Petal collage and photo by Lily Goff

I knew when I started Ruby & Rose that I wanted to make a commitment to donate a portion of my time, services, or funds to charitable organizations that I believe in, because this is important to me and I believe it’s the right way to run my business. So I thought I'd do a series of blog posts about some of the organizations and causes I'm supporting so they are on your radar. 

In planning my own wedding a few years back, I was thinking about how, as a bride, to incorporate a charitable element into my wedding day. I was struggling with the amount of money we were spending on our wedding (and ourselves) and wanted to offset that cost in a positive way.

I ended up taking the budget I had put aside for favors and making a donation to Heifer International, a great non-profit that combats hunger and poverty by providing families with farm animals that provide nourishment and reliable income. I also listed Heifer on my wedding website along with my registries and gave my guests the option to make a donation in lieu of sending a wedding gift.  Making a donation to a charity you support in honor of your wedding is a great option for anyone, and let’s be honest - although favors are great - no one really misses them if they aren’t there. But the main reason I went the monetary donation route was because I didn’t really know what other options were out there.

Flowers are hands down my favorite part of any event and especially weddings; they instantly elevate a social gathering into something special. But part of their magic is that they are ethereal - you spend an incredible amount of time, effort and money to have beautiful floral arrangements for your event, and at the end of the night, they all go into the compost bin (hopefully)! Enter: Random Acts of Flowers, an amazing non-profit which “recycles and repurposes flowers by engaging dedicated volunteer teams to deliver beautiful bouquets and moments of kindness to individuals in healthcare facilities across the country. (Source: Random Acts of Flowers)

Check out this sweet video that explains what they do:  

How cool is that?! Random Acts of Flowers just recently opened a branch here in the Bay Area, and I couldn’t be more excited to support them. Ask your floral designer or your wedding planner if they will help you in supporting this great organization! It’s an awesome way to help a great cause and make your wedding a little more green in the process.

Venue Envy: Indian Springs - Calistoga, CA

Last weekend, my husband and I ventured up to Indian Springs in Calistoga to celebrate our 3 year wedding anniversary and get some much needed R&R. I’ve been wanting to stay at Indian Springs since I first moved to San Francisco, but it’s so popular that I’ve never been able to get a reservation - so book early!

Indian Springs just underwent a major renovation and you can practically still see the paint drying - the entire property is beautifully cared for and an absolute delight to stay at as a guest. If you’re looking for a beautiful, laid back, wine country setting for a small wedding or event (they can accommodate up to 80 guests, max) you’ll definitely want to stop by and check it out. To boot, the tiny town of Calistoga, which is a 5 minute walk from the resort, is ADORABLE and has some great restaurants and shops, yet avoids feeling like the tourist trap that much of Napa seems to be these days. 

The resort was built in the 1860's by the pioneer Sam Brannan, who also founded the town of Calistoga. Mini history lesson: Sam Brannan loved the spa town Saratoga Springs in New York state, and accidentally gave Calistoga its name when one evening (probably slightly inebriated), he said something to the effect of ‘I’ll make this place the Calistoga of Sarafornia’ instead of the ‘Saratoga of California’. There you go.

As a self-proclaimed spa junkie, for me one of the biggest draws to Indian Springs is the old Hollywood-esque, historic olympic-size swimming pool, which is fed by natural geysers. Because the temperature of the water comes out of the ground quite hot, taking a dip in the pool is essentially like swimming in a gigantic bathtub. Aimlessly drift around the pool atop a float or passing noodle, take a steam in the sauna, put on a plush spa robe, nap by the pool, repeat. Oh, you can also get poolside ice cream. What more could you want? Although I didn’t have a chance to try one of their famous mud baths I will definitely be putting that on my list for the next trip.

As a wedding venue, it would be the perfect place for an intimate wedding weekend experience, since all of your guests can stay on property and spend time together. Add classic lawn games like bocce and shuffleboard, grilling facilities and a delicious on-property restaurant (Sam’s Social Club), and you’ve got pretty much the most laid back, relaxing wine country wedding weekend I can imagine. If you’re not already getting in your car to go jump in that pool, here are a few snaps from the weekend to make you drool!

Thoughtful Ways to Involve Parents in Your Wedding Without Losing Your Sanity

With Mother’s Day on Sunday, I’ve been thinking a lot about my own mom and just feeling very appreciative that when planning my own wedding, she was incredibly thoughtful about asking how and where she could help with the process, instead of just inserting herself where she felt like it. I know the topic of parental involvement in the wedding process is a sticky subject for many couples so I thought rather than offer up some cheesy Mother’s Day homage, I’d give some practical advice on ways to get mothers and parents involved in your wedding that will actually be helpful to you AND help them feel as though they are being a meaningful part of the process, without driving you crazy. 

I am writing this from the perspective of a bride and the bride’s relationship with her mother, but I think this is also applicable to the groom’s relationship with his mother, the bride’s relationship with her father, etc. Remember that although your wedding day is all about you, and should be a reflection of you and your betrothed, it’s also a big freaking deal for your parents. They have loved and cared for you since you were just a wee babe and now their baby is all grown up, about to start a life of their own. Apart from sending you off to college or becoming a grandparent, your wedding day is likely to be one of most significant milestones of their journey as a parent, so it’s important to acknowledge this and allow them to bask in the glow of that moment along with you. Not to mention they may be helping to fund a significant portion of your wedding. 

All that being said, while I happen to have a great relationship with my mom, she can drive me totally bonkers at times, so the trick is to figure out the best way to get parents involved in the process that won’t significantly increase your stress level.

So how do you actually do this? I would start by identifying tasks or chunks of the wedding process that you actually need help with, as well as tasks that you are comfortable handing off to a parent and letting go of control over (these two buckets may or may not overlap). As a certified type-A control freak myself, BELIEVE me that I know this can be really, really, difficult. Then, you need to have an understanding of which components your mom or parent is interested in or feels strongly about. And, think about what their strengths are. What are they good at? You may find, for instance, that it’s very important to your mother that your invitations are addressed the ‘traditional’ way (see: Emily Post). Perhaps you aren’t crazy about addressing your friends as ‘Mr. and Mrs. John Smith’ (I myself had a hard time with this concept), but if it’s something you can live with, and it’s important to your parent, let it go and let them have it. Managing invitations and RSVPs is not an insignificant task from a time perspective, so handing that off to someone else to figure out and manage would be a big item to cross off your to-do list!

So what happens if you and your mother completely clash on a particular element of the wedding? Perhaps she feels very strongly that you should wear a veil, but this is something you are vehemently opposed to. Then it’s time to sit back and get some perspective - how will this one thing your parent is requesting/feels strongly about really affect the overall experience of the day for you? If it’s something that you know will make them happy, and you can live with it, then let it go. If it’s something you truly cannot get on board with and will create feelings of bitterness, let your parent down gently, give them some insight into why this is not something you are comfortable with, and then offer an olive branch - try to suggest an alternative. Being sensitive to the feelings of your parents and family throughout the planning process will go a long way. Maybe your mother feels strongly about you wearing a veil because she and her mother wore veils at their weddings, too. Could you incorporate a family heirloom into your dress or bouquet that would hold the same meaning?

Image:   Premack Weddings  My dad helps my husband put on cufflinks that belonged to my Great-Grandfather on our wedding day.

Image: Premack Weddings
My dad helps my husband put on cufflinks that belonged to my Great-Grandfather on our wedding day.

There are probably a million and one ways to get mothers or parents involved in your wedding and wedding planning process; here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing:

For creative parents:

  • Get them involved in the design process! Have them design or create invitation illustrations, favors, thank-you cards, programs, escort displays, chuppahs, or ceremony elements
  • Ask them to write, sing or play something during your ceremony
  • Seek their advice or feedback when making design-related decisions about flowers or decor-related elements

For business-minded parents:

  • Ask them to help with negotiation of contracts, managing your budget, or dealing with vendors (if this is not something you are hiring a wedding planner to do) 

For super organized parents:

  • Have them manage RSVPs or address and send out invitations
  • Ask them to plan a rehearsal dinner, farewell brunch, or shower

For foodie parents:

  • Invite them to attend a catering or cake tasting
  • Consult them on wine pairings or signature cocktails

For social parents:

  • Ask them to serve as the point person for out of town guests, helping to arrange lodging, suggesting fun activities for the wedding weekend, or connecting them with other out-of-town guests before the wedding
  • Ask them to give a toast or speech during the reception

If the above options sound like too much of a commitment for you, here are some ways to honor and get parents (or really anyone close to you) involved on the day of the wedding:

  • Include them in the ceremony processional
  • Ask them to perform a reading or blessing during the ceremony or dinner
  • Incorporate family heirlooms such as jewelry, handkerchiefs, ribbons, cufflinks, or boxes into your attire or ceremony
  • Ask them to be a member of your bridal party
  • Incorporate things that are meaningful to them into the wedding day. Serve a family recipe as a dessert or a favor, or include a favorite flower in your bouquet
  • Honor family members both living and passed by displaying wedding photos from their own wedding day
Image:   Premack Weddings  This silver box belonged to my Grandmother and was made by my ancestors who were silver smiths. We used it to hold our rings during our wedding ceremony.  

Image: Premack Weddings
This silver box belonged to my Grandmother and was made by my ancestors who were silver smiths. We used it to hold our rings during our wedding ceremony.  

Hopefully you are getting the sense by now that it’s not so much the specific gesture or way in which you invite parents to participate in the process that matters; it’s the meaning behind it and the effort you make to ensure that your wedding day is as special for your parents as it is for you and your betrothed. 

Happy Mother’s Day!

A Letterpress Love Note

Just as I was searching for some non-cheesy Valentine’s Day inspiration this week, my friend Anna suggested we check out a letterpress workshop being hosted by the lovely Andria Sato of Lilikoi Design + Letterpress. Cozied up in her adorable studio in Hayes Valley on Tuesday night, we shared some bubbles, nibbled on dark chocolate, and learned all about the incredibly romantic art of letterpress.

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Venue Envy: Haiku Mill - Maui, HI

This fall, I had the chance to visit Haiku Mill, one of the most magical event spaces on Maui (and just about anywhere, for that matter). If you're considering a Maui wedding and the typical resort beach wedding set-up just isn't cutting it, do yourself a favor and make Haiku Mill the first stop on your list - I promise you won't regret it! As soon as you turn off the main road and walk up the stone path where the space comes into view, you immediately understand why the space is called Pua Le'a in Hawaiian, or 'Blossoming Passion'. 

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