The Birthday Party Project

28 February 2013

Ever since I was introduced to The Birthday Party Project at Engage 12, I’ve been captivated by their mission: to celebrate the lives of homeless children and youth by partnering with homeless shelters to provide birthday parties and gifts for all resident children between the ages of one and eighteen.

The Birthday Party Project from WhenItClicks Wedding Films on Vimeo.

Watch the video, it’s really good.

There are so many amazing things about what Paige has done, but I think what is most inspiring to me is that she found a way to use the skill set she already had — she’s a wedding planner — for a greater good. There are a lot of noble charities and organizations to consider lending your time to, but if you find (or create) one that fulfills your passion while also doing good, it will be better for everyone involved. Sure I could volunteer as a high school math tutor, but I’m pretty sure no one would benefit from that.

I’m still looking for my perfect fit, but in the meantime, I’m planning to #sharemybirthday this year. John and I are headed to Target and the party store this weekend, and we’re going to pack up a box of goodies to send to Texas based on The Birthday Party Project’s wishlist. If you feel inclined to celebrate my 26th birthday, I welcome you to join me! :) And if you live in North Texas and want to help out in person, you can find all of the details for volunteering right here.

Inspiration Board No. 99: Beyond the Sea

27 February 2013

Y’all thought we were done talking about our wedding, but no — I’ve still got a few tricks up my sleeve! Since I’ve shared so many inspiration boards over the years, I think it’s only fitting that I show you my own. I know inspiration usually comes before fruition, but I think it’s kind of neat to see where everything started now that you’ve seen where it ended up.

My vision for our classic garden party seaside wedding…

Em for Marvelous

I would describe our colors as a gray ocean blue, navy, blush pink, softest peach, black and white, and the green of our surroundings (yes, people looked at me like I had two heads when I gave that answer), and our style as classic elegance and tradition with a light heart. One of the hardest parts of making everything come together cohesively was managing the balance between the black and the navy, but in the end, I think it worked out beautifully. The words I tried to keep in mind throughout planning were easy and elegant. I wanted the end experience to feel effortless, but intentional.

The Details:

Tablescape photo by Jonathan Canlas via Snippet & Ink (this is the wedding that inspired my linens!); my favorite cake of all time from my favorite wedding of all time, via Martha Stewart Weddings; Sperry tent flags photo by Cramer Photo via Snippet & Ink

Wine bottle photo by Jonathan Canlas from this wedding (inspired me to work with Magpie Paper Works!); anemone bouquet photo by Stephanie Williams; navy wedding invitation poster by I am Always Hungry via 100 Layer Cake; flowering boxwood bush photo by Katie Stoops from Southern Weddings

Dapper groomsmen photo by A Bryan Photo; bow tie escort cards from Martha Stewart Weddings (these inspired our “belles and beaus” in part); white arrangement photo by Lisa Lefkowitz via Snippet & Ink

Black and white dance floor photo by Abby Jiu via Southern Weddings; dock portrait by Tanja Lippert via Style Me Pretty; tablescape photo by Jonathan Canlas via Snippet & Ink

This inspiration board was a long time coming. I have long admired the ability of photographers like Bryan, Jon, Tanja, and Lisa to capture ease and love in an effortless, classic way, and I’ve long been a fan of the refined and understated editorial viewpoint of Martha Stewart Weddings and Snippet & Ink, and the fun, warmth, and focus on tradition of Southern Weddings. Before getting engaged, I thought it might be hard to sift through the abundance of inspiration available, but in the end, it was pretty easy for us to narrow in on what was right for us.

P.S. Wouldn’t it have been perfect if this inspiration board had been no. 100?? Alas, I came up one short.

Beyond the sea: Reception

26 February 2013

As we drove up the hill from the beach, we could see our guests transitioning from the cocktail hour area to the reception tent in the Sunken Garden of the O’Neill.

eugene o neill tent wedding

As guests approached the tent from the side, they could take a favor, peruse the menu, and/or leave some of their belongings inside the cubbies we had set up, and just inside the tent was a table with our guest book, marriage certificate, and family wedding photos. Let’s take a closer look at all that, shall we?

popper favors

Em for Marvelous

We opted to spend the majority of our “favor money” on a charitable donation to the shelter from which we adopted our beloved kitties. We did set out homemade popper favors filled with Snickers and Starbursts (two of our favorite candies!) as a small token along with a sign explaining our donation. Yes, those are actual watercolor paintings of our cats — we had them made through this Etsy shop a few years ago, and I scanned them for this special card!

oversize menu

Since our reception set-up was a little unusual — what I termed a “strolling small plates” reception — I wanted to give guests an idea of what to expect right off the bat. Our oversize menu did the trick. To make it, I purchased an old frame at the flea market for $5, popped the “art” out and wrapped it in a textured silk fabric to match our linens, painted the frame, popped the backing back in and secured it with my staple gun, then added the hand-lettered menu cards and bow. Not sure why it was positioned behind the tent strapping, but oh well :)

Em for Marvelous

You’ve already heard a bit about our “Quaker” marriage certificate, but I’m happy to say it worked out great! A quick tip: Definitely plan for fewer lines than you have guests, as many of ours signed as a couple, leaving us with half an empty column on our finished poster.

Em for Marvelous

I also loved our guest book. We printed up cards with six different prompts or questions — “What is your favorite memory of us?” “Emily and John are meant for each other because…” “What has been your favorite part of our wedding?” — and guests could fill out as many as they found interesting. I’m planning to compile them in some sort of book or display as soon as I hit upon a good format!

sperry tent

Our tent was filled with high tops, small round tables and chairs, and two lounge set-ups. Our florist used all of the silver containers we had collected to gather garden-y arrangements of my favorite flowers and fruits, including garden roses, anemones, spray roses, lisianthus, hellebores, jasmine vine, peaches, and crab apples.

mint julep centerpiece

Em for Marvelous

tented wedding

calligraphy signage

Since our reception had open seating, we made sure to reserve three tables on the recommendation of our caterer — one for my Mom’s Mom and her friends, one for my Dad’s Mom and her friends, and one for John and me. It was nice to know we had a designated spot we could retreat to, though I think we sat down for about five minutes the entire night!

Alrighty, now for two details that didn’t quite measure up.

Em for Marvelous

Keeping it real here, folks! It was only when the photos came back that I noticed these two little blips, so happily, they didn’t bother me on the day of. On the left, you see the cocktail tables just outside our tent. This was the inspiration, and as you can see, it fell a bit short. On the right, you see the mini boxwood wreaths on the back of our chairs. I loved them, I just wish that knot had been rotated to the back so it wasn’t visible and the two wreaths matched. Y’all probably think I’m NUTS for even noticing and/or mentioning these teensy details, but I think it goes with the territory of my job!

first dance

After our guests were settled in the tent, we made our triumphant entrance to “Ready to Go” by Panic at the Disco (the instrumental part at the beginning). A tip: Make sure you specify title AND artist when giving your song choices to your bandleader or DJ. I didn’t, and we almost had a heavy metal song also titled “Ready to Go” accompany us — yikes!!

happy first dance

black and white dance floor

Photo above by Nancy Ray!

We moved immediately into our first dance, which was to “Beyond the Sea” by Bobby Darin (hence the title of this series). Our first dance cracked me up. John and I talked about taking some lessons in the months leading up to the wedding, but never got around to it. To make matters worse, we were still deciding between two different songs about two weeks out – the other was “I Won’t Give Up” by Jason Mraz. In the end, we chose “Beyond the Sea” largely because it is a standard foxtrot rhythm and much easier to dance to than the Jason Mraz song, which is a very quick waltz. After deciding, we watched several YouTube instructional videos (oh yes we did), and practiced a few times in our living room. And that was it! The hilarious part is that we received compliments on our performance the whole night, with many guests assuming we had taken actual lessons! My theory about first dances is that it’s always better to look like you’re having fun (and actually have fun!) rather than be huffing and puffing and struggling to remember a series of moves.

father of the bride toast

As soon as we exited the dance floor, my Dad took our place to offer an opening toast. He told me he actually wrote it months ahead of time in a stroke of inspiration, and as usual, his brilliant way with words served him well.

happy wedding

Wait staff unveiled the first “course” after he finished — passed one-bite Shepard’s pie mini meals (complete with tiny slices of green bean on top!) and a “trio of tomatoes” station. Other highlights throughout the night included tiny lobster rolls, a trio of fancy mac and cheeses, and a mini “Thanksgiving” meal! We also finally had a chance to hug some beloved people!

Here’s a photo of the three mini meals at our tasting, since we didn’t get great shots of them on the night of:

mini meals

Em for Marvelous

Em for Marvelous

We spaced our other toasts between the courses. John’s best man and one of our dearest friends, Dan, gave the first toast, which, if you recall, was threaded through our highlights film. Needless to say, he did a marvelous job. My two sisters gave a joint toast, and they also did a fabulous job weaving their specialty (bones and ligaments — one is a physical therapist, the other is a physical therapist in training!) into our story. Fun fact: Our bandleader emailed me the week after our wedding to say that our toasts were the best she had ever heard at a wedding! I can’t take any credit for that, but I was impressed!

giving a toast

Em for Marvelous

Ever since my friend Katharine’s wedding, when she spoke so eloquently, I have wanted to take advantage of the opportunity of having all of our loved ones in one room to say a few words. I had my chance (so did John), and I hope I used it well! I concluded by inviting my Dad on to the dance floor for our father daughter dance.

father daughter dance

We chose “Lullaby” by Billy Joel. Billy Joel songs were a huge part of my childhood, and “Lullaby” always tugs at my heartstrings. In fact, I teared up pretty much every time I heard it in the months leading up to the big day, but on that night, I don’t think either of us shed a tear! I guess I used them all up on my walk down the aisle…

bustled wedding gown

military wedding

John and his Mom joined us halfway through the song. I love these photos of them!

Em for Marvelous

After more dancing and eating, we made a brief pause for our last scheduled events of the evening: our cake cutting and slideshow!

Em for Marvelous

Em for Marvelous

As much as I love a traditional white, tiered wedding cake, we went with something a little less grand — but majorly yummy — for our wedding dessert. It was a group effort! Our caterer made mini hot apple cobblers, chocolate cake “shots” with fresh raspberries, apple cider donuts, and mini fruit tarts (John’s favorite). We also served each of our mom’s specialties – chocolate peanut butter balls from mine, and chocolate chunk gingerbread cookies from his. We also served chocolate glazed munchkins from Dunkin’ Donuts as a late-night snack!

homemade wedding cake

Finally, my sister and I made our simple wedding cake — with Funfetti! — so we had something to cut into. I made a garland wreath topper with a little bow on top for a topper, but it never made it to the reception. Though it wasn’t what I was envisioning, the flowers the florist stuck on looked nice, too.

cake cutting

wedding cake cutting

Not sure what’s happening in this photo, but I kind of enjoy it.

funny wedding photo

After that, all there was to do was dance!

Em for Marvelous

parents dancing

Em for Marvelous

dad and grandma

tanja lippert photography

reception dancing

At the end of the night, everyone that was left gathered in a circle on the dance floor for a good old singalong to “American Pie.” Good memories.

end of reception dancing

Photo by Nancy Ray!

sparkler exit

sparkler getaway

And that, my friends, is the story of our wedding. Thank you again for indulging me, especially with today’s super long post. It has been such fun to share our memories with you along with so many of Tanja’s beautiful photos. Much love to you all!

Photographer: Tanja Lippert / Videographer: Inkspot Crow Films / Day-of-Coordinator: Diana Chouinard of Jubilee Events / Reception Venue: The Sunken Garden at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center / Tent: Sperry Tents / Dance Floor, Chair, Basic Linen, and Catering Rentals: Liberty Rentals / Lounge Furniture Rentals: Rentals Unlimited / Linens: La Tavola Linen / Flowers: Blush Floral Design / Hair and Makeup Artist: Tia Reagan / Catering: A Thyme to Cook / Band: Avenue A / Signage: Em for Marvelous / Boxwood wreaths: Save on Crafts / Ribbon: MJ Trimming / Bride’s Gown: “Brisa” by Christos / Bride’s Earrings: “Toulouse” by Nina / Bride’s Necklace: Blue Nile / Bride’s Veil: Chaviano Couture / Groom’s Attire: Tuxedo by Tommy Hilfiger from Macy’s / Groom’s Bow Tie: Bows N’ Ties / Groom’s Suspenders: J. Crew

Wedding Week
Rehearsal Dinner
Wedding Morning
First Look
Cocktail Hour

Beyond the sea: Cocktail hour

21 February 2013

I planned the time between our ceremony and reception very carefully, because I knew we didn’t have much with which to work. First, we sped off as soon as possible from the church. Philip and Tanja rode in the car with us (John driving!), and MacKenzie and Tia followed in their own cars. Second, we took a slight shortcut to our venue while directing guests to the slightly longer route to buy us a little extra time.

eugene oneill theater center

The goal was for Tanja and Inkspot to have time to record the cocktail hour and reception details in daylight, before they were enjoyed by our guests. While they worked on that, John and I headed down the hill to our pre-selected tree. Our caterer, A Thyme to Cook, assigned us a special friend for the night, Dina, and if we’re being honest, I’m pretty sure that was one of John’s favorite parts of the wedding! He thought it was the coolest thing. Anyway, Dina brought us a picnic basket of goodies and two glasses of something to drink, and we enjoyed the next twenty minutes or so chatting about the day and sampling our cocktail hour snacks. Perfection!

wedding picnic

It was so fun looking up the hill and watching our guests arrive for cocktail hour, too!

eugene o neill theater center wedding

By the way, this was their view out to the ocean. Glorious! I could stare at that every day.

eugene oneill theater view

Our guests were greeted with raspberry lemonade and prosecco with blackberries as they arrived. We offered a limited bar on the porch, and then opened it up to a full bar once under the tent. We paid our bar tab on consumption, and I think this was something that helped us keep our costs down!

Em for Marvelous

Aside from passed pigs in a blanket with violet mustard (trying to class the pigs up a little), the main gustatory attraction at cocktail hour was our Southern Favorites table.

southern favorites

Though born and raised in New England, John and I have spent the past three and a half years in the South, and we wanted to treat our guests to a little Southern comfort. We served biscuits (with our favorite North Carolina blackberry jam!), corn muffins with honey butter, mini pulled pork bites, and Tex Mex deviled eggs.


Em for Marvelous

Em for Marvelous

The final addition to our Southern table was mini glasses of Cheerwine. For those of you who are not familiar, Cheerwine is a distinctly North Carolina product that is similar to but not quite like cherry Coke. It does not, in fact, contain alcohol, something that confused many of our Northern guests!

olive branch centerpiece

Em for Marvelous

Yes, the ink blot on the “L” still annoys me :)

As a side note, I loved our olive branch arrangement — a great choice for something like a bar area, where you want a larger arrangement to make an impact. Greenery instead of blooms = money savings.

Once Tanja and Inkspot had finished with the details, they came to collect us for a few more portraits. We had to scurry to catch the remaining daylight, and I mean that literally!

Em for Marvelous

That’s what I call hustling your bustle!

You may be wondering why dear Philip is sitting in the trunk of a car. To expedite things, Tanja and Tia drove us the short distance from our tree to the beach. Philip had planned to come along to film, but seeing as there was no more room in the 4-door car, he began to demur. The dynamic duo of Tanja and Tia, however, insisted that he ride in the car trunk for the short trip (I should have known something like this was going to happen — they are, after all, the infamous chicken suit duo). Once Philip agreed, they took off at an alarming pace down the bumpy dirt road, all of us laughing our heads off. Thankfully, the trip was short and Philip made it in one piece!

beach wedding portrait

I can’t blame Tanja for wanting to catch the light, because it certainly was magical!

tanja lippert

It’s funny how certain photos catch your eye the first time you look through your wedding photos, and other favorites don’t surface until a second or third trip through. The one above was not at all on my radar at first, but now, it’s one of my most beloved.

Now, I’m only sharing this next photo because I love y’all, and I want to make a point.

beach wedding ideas

One of the reasons that I believe Tanja is an artist, and why her photos are so magical, is because she is not afraid to TRY things. And, she works with clients who are willing to try things, too. Not everything she tries works every time, but it’s only when you push the envelope that you sometimes come out on the side of amazing. Sometimes, of course, the trial ends up being a dud, but in my opinion, no duds = no amazing.

All this to say, while the above photo was a bit outside my comfort zone (can you tell I’m more of a smile-y person?), we were game to try and allow Tanja to do her artist thing. She probably hated us a little bit because most of the photos from this pose ended up like the one below, but at least we tried :)

beach wedding photo

September 15th had the softest, pinkest sunset — I think it was chosen especially for me!

sunset portrait

We ended our beach time with a walk along the water, just the two of us. Perfect.

sunset beach portrait

P.S. A tip. I know some people don’t like the idea of plastering their wedding photos all over their walls. If you’re lucky enough to have a photographer who took gorgeous environmental photos, I’d highly recommend them as an alternative! We’re considering enlarging one of these, because they take us back to that moment as much as the ones with us in them do…

connecticut coastline

Em for Marvelous

Photographer: Tanja Lippert / Videographer: Inkspot Crow Films / Day-of-Coordinator: Diana Chouinard of Jubilee Events / Reception Venue: The Sunken Garden at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center / Tent: Sperry Tents / Dance Floor, Chair, Basic Linen, and Catering Rentals: Liberty Rentals / Lounge Furniture Rentals: Rentals Unlimited / Linens: La Tavola Linen / Flowers: Blush Floral Design / Hair and Makeup Artist: Tia Reagan / Catering: A Thyme to Cook / Signage: Em for Marvelous / Bride’s Gown: “Brisa” by Christos / Bride’s Earrings: “Toulouse” by Nina / Bride’s Necklace: Blue Nile / Bride’s Veil: Chaviano Couture / / Groom’s Attire: Tuxedo by Tommy Hilfiger from Macy’s / Groom’s Bow Tie: Bows N’ Ties / Groom’s Suspenders: J. Crew

Wedding Week
Rehearsal Dinner
Wedding Morning
First Look

Beyond the sea: Our ceremony

18 February 2013

us coast guard memorial chapel

This is what the Chapel looked like when we pulled up. What a gorgeous, gorgeous sky! I think we arrived around 4pm for our 4:30 ceremony, and there were already guests outside – yikes! I would have liked to arrive a few minutes earlier (per our schedule!), but we were able to sneak in through a side door, so it was okay.

While we waited downstairs (everyone together), guests were treated to a few surprises upstairs. Ladies were invited to take a bell to ring at the end of the ceremony…

bells at wedding ceremony

…and gents, a boutonniere to pin on for extra festiveness. I made all of the boutonnieres out of velvet ribbon and hand wrote the tags – DIY instructions coming soon!

velvet boutonnieres


I designed our two-sided, single sheet ceremony programs in Illustrator and had them printed through UPrinting.

wreath ceremony programs

We had five helpers at the front of the Chapel — my brother in law, John’s brother in law, our friend, and two of my cousins — and between them, they handed out programs, facilitated the bells and bows, and helped guests to their seats.

Soon enough it was time for us to line up. When I was standing next to my Dad in the narthex, I felt the first flip in my stomach. I got another one when the string trio began to play the first song of the processional (more about our music here).

After the last bridesmaid had begun her walk down the aisle, the doors to the sanctuary closed, and my Dad and I moved into position.

blusher veil

I had specifically asked that the doors not be opened until about fifteen seconds into my song, so that we would hit the top of the aisle at the right point in the music. My emotions started to build, and I couldn’t help smiling, while we waited behind the closed doors. When the doors finally opened, I could hear an audible intake of breath from our guests. (That sounds horribly vain, but it’s true!) I think it was in part because I was wearing a blusher veil, which is so unexpected these days but so me, and my Dad looked stunningly handsome in his dress whites (military uniform).

groom waiting at ceremony

horsehair edge veil

blusher veil inspiration

I had my eyes locked on John’s the entire time we walked down the aisle, but when we reached our guests, I had to start taking deep breaths in and out to try and control the impending flood. Once we got a little closer, I could hear the entire row of bridesmaids and entire row of groomsmen sniffling, and that finally opened the flood gates for me. We all had tears rolling down our faces throughout the beginning of our ceremony, so much so that our pastor had to remind everyone to take deep breaths before he began.

coast guard chapel

After Carl’s welcome, our readers took the stage. You can read more about the selections we chose here. They all did a wonderful job!

coast guard chapel wedding

Besides my grandmothers, and John’s relatives who came from as far away as Taipei and Shanghai, our most special guest was our pastor, Carl. He’s the pastor of our church, and has had such a huge impact on our lives and our life together since we met him two years ago. We were so excited and grateful when he agreed to fly north to lead our ceremony. We were equally as devastated when we found out two months before our wedding that he had been diagnosed with cancer. He had surgery about a month before, and happily, was recovered in time to still make the trip. His presence was one of the most special parts of our entire day – our wedding would have felt entirely different (at least to John and me) had he not been a part of it. His address was perfect.

coast guard academy wedding

The next part of our ceremony was our congregational hymn — “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee.” It was one of my favorite parts! John and I both like to SING hymns, and apparently it made quite the impression on our guests! :)

Em for Marvelous

military wedding

Next were our vows. We chose to recite personal vows as well as the classic vows — you can read more about our decision here! You can also hear a bit of our vows in our highlights film. For our ring exchange, we used these words: John, I give you this ring as a symbol of my vow, and with all that I am, and all that I have, I honor you in the name of God.

wedding vows

The final component of our ceremony was communion. There’s more about our decision to serve it here, but let me say again how glad we were that we did; many guests told us that it was their favorite part of the day. We served our parents first, and then my grandmothers at their seats.

Em for Marvelous

Em for Marvelous

wedding - communion

Em for Marvelous

All that was left at that point was the kiss! Went off without a hitch, and then we were up the aisle as Mr. & Mrs.

coast guard memorial chapel

walking up the aisle

And out onto the steps, where our guests were waiting with ringing silver bells in hand!

tanja lippert photography

And finally into our oh so elegant chariot for the day. It would have been nice to rent a vintage Rolls Royce, but my beloved SUV did just fine when the budget came up short :)

Em for Marvelous

tanja lippert

With cheers and clapping, we were off to the reception!


P.S. I adored the pom poms, courtesy of our bridal party!

Photographer: Tanja Lippert / Videographer: Inkspot Crow Films / Day-of-Coordinator: Diana Chouinard of Jubilee Events / Ceremony Venue: The United States Coast Guard Memorial Chapel / Ceremony Officiant: Rev. Dr. R. Carl Frazier from First United Methodist Church, Cary / Silver Bells: Factory Direct Craft / Velvet Ribbon and Bouquet Trim: M&J Trimming / Flowers: Blush Floral Design / Hair and Makeup Artist: Tia Reagan / Bride’s Gown: “Brisa” by Christos / Bride’s Earrings: “Toulouse” by Nina / Bride’s Necklace: Blue Nile / Bride’s Veil: Chaviano Couture / Bridesmaid Dresses: “2834” by Dessy / Groom’s Attire: Tuxedo by Tommy Hilfiger from Macy’s / Groom and Groomsmen Bow Ties: Bows N’ Ties / Groom’s Suspenders: J. Crew / Groomsmen Suspenders: The Grunion Run