Peony Passion

Peonies are the most trendy flowers included in today’s arrangements.  They are sweetly scented and relatively inexpensive.  Their bulbs are large and their colors range from white to coral.  They can be paired beautifully with many accent colors.  Peonies are a sophisticated alternative to the rose.  Peonies bloom in May and June, making them the perfect choice for your outdoor wedding.  Here are five wedding themes that peonies compliment perfectly.

1. French Garden – French garden decor incorporates blue and green pastels with soft grey hues for a classic French look.  Light pink peonies are a perfect way to maintain continuity with the pastels while introducing another color for added interest.

2. Classic Nautical – Nautical decor mixes neutral tones of navy blue, white, and tan for a classic look.  Incorporating magenta or coral peonies add a bold punch of color to your decor while light pink or white peonies will add texture to your arrangements.  Consider pairing light peonies with an additional accent color like yellow or red.

3. Rustic Barn – Rustic barn decor is all about lots of earth tones and texture.  Mixing pines and other foliage with textured flowers is a great way to play up this effect.  Peonies are very soft and delicate so using light colors like white or light pink intermixed with ferns and berries can create an interesting look.

4. Black Tie – Black tie weddings are focused on elegance.  White peonies with smooth, dark green leaves can help create that clean, classic, and sophisticated look.

5. Shabby Chic – Shabby chic decor is all about color and texture.  Any color peony works magically with a shabby chic look.  Combine white, light pink, and magenta bulbs of different stages (some closed, some opened) for a natural look.

A Photo’s Worth

The story of a military wife, entrepreneur, and photographer whose photographs are more than something to look at.

Stephanie Needham and her husband Brandon.

Stephanie Needham and her husband Brandon.

Just four Januarys ago, when she was in high school, Stephanie Needham met Brandon, a man destined to join the Marine Corps.  In the four years since, Stephanie and Brandon did what many experience over the course of ten.  They fell in love, got married, moved across the country, built a home, started their careers, and just recently finished making it through their first deployment.  All the while, Needham explored her love for photography, making into a business.  In her new home in Oceanside, California, she has created her own company, Stephanie Needham Photography, taking family portraits for military couples.  For her, photography is so much more than simple images on paper.

Spending time behind the lens was an escape and a form of artistic expression for Needham.  “I do the sessions on the weekends so instead of just sitting in my house and sulking, I got to go out and do something that I love”, Needham says.  While her husband was away fighting in Afghanistan, Needham sought comfort in her photography, her dog, Brody, and her best friend Tasha, a young newlywed whose husband was also overseas.  “I believe it was the length of time that was hardest for Stephanie.  A year is a very long time!” says Tasha.  “She was there for me when I hadn’t spoken to [my husband] in weeks, waiting for him to come back to their base from long missions out of the ‘wire’, away from the safety of their camp on missions to find Taliban, etc.”  They supported each other through their first deployment and, as Tasha puts it, “learned how to live with the fear by staying hopeful.”

Her story begins like many other small-town girls searching for something more.  For Needham, life in rural Califon, New Jersey was very typical.  “I grew up with the same sixteen kids my whole life until I went off to high school”, she says.  Stephanie always had dreams of pursuing a career in fashion, but it was in high school that her passion for photography flourished.  Needham began exploring photography both in and out of the classroom.  “My dad really, I think, sparked my interest.  My dad has taught me more about photography than anyone else.  He’s pretty artistic and he was always taking pictures.”

Soon, Stephanie would meet Brandon Needham who would spark a new passion in her life.  At first, their relationship was hardly perfect.  “We were on and off for a while, really, until he went off to officer school in college.  About a year into our dating we kind of just stopped the fighting and kind of got ourselves together and started really just having a good relationship”, says the now nineteen year old.  While Brandon was pursuing his dream of becoming a Marine, Needham focused on finishing high school and supporting her boyfriend.  She couldn’t picture their relationship any other way.  “I couldn’t imagine where we would be if we were together everyday and it was like a normal relationship.  But I mean, when he went off to boot camp, it was only communication through letters which was the first time we were really apart and not talking.  I think that just made our relationship so much stronger”, she says.  For the three months he was away at boot camp, Needham wrote him every day.

In March of 2011, Stephanie and Brandon got engaged.  “Oh this is a good story”, she whispers followed by a sweet laugh.  Brandon was in school in North Carolina, many hours and many miles away from New Jersey.  Needham and her high school friend were spending the afternoon together when her friend suggested going to Round Valley Reservoir in Clinton, New Jersey to hang out.  “We get out of the car and Brandon’s standing there in his uniform.  I was completely surprised!  I ran over to him and he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him”, Needham explains.

While Needham was excited to get out of New Jersey and start a new life, her family was skeptical.  “My family, honestly, was not very supportive at first.  Of course, my Dad was kind of not really into it because I was so young”, Needham says.  “When people aren’t in the military, they think it’s crazy that I got married so young, and I mean, I guess I kind of learned to ignore it.”

Following her engagement, Needham knew that her wedding would have to be planned soon.  After finishing school in July of 2011, Brandon knew he would have two weeks of leave to spend time with Stephanie.  “I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I have to plan a wedding!’  We got married in a little church in Califon and it was only about fifty people.  It just ended up being a cute, small wedding.  It was really nice.”

In the same summer of their wedding, when Stephanie was eighteen and Brandon was twenty, they moved to Southern California with nothing but five suitcases.  Newlywed life presented challenges.  “We had never really actually lived together”, Needham says.  The most difficult part of marriage is figuring out “who’s going to do the dishes, because we never agree on that,” Needham chuckles.  “He’s a neat freak and I’m not a slob but I’m not a neat freak like him, so we kind of disagree on things.  But you kind of learn to just deal with each other and you have to really compromise.  I mean that’s kind of like the biggest thing is learning to compromise with each other,” she shares.

In January of 2012, after beginning to adjust and enjoy married life, Brandon was deployed to Afghanistan.  “I cried a lot.  It was hard.  There were a lot of things going through my mind.  I knew that he was going out on missions and that there obviously was danger in it, but I really just tried not to think about it”, Needham says.  She sought comfort in her friendships with other military wives.

Now that Brandon was overseas, Needham embarked on a personal journey of her own.  At first, Needham worked as a nanny for a little girl nearby the base in Camp Pendleton, California.  On the side, Needham began her photography business.  “There are a lot of other photographers out here that I really was just inspired from and I figured I might as well just try it out.  So I made a Facebook page and I kind of just tried to get my name out there.  I was doing sessions for really cheap and I finally started getting a lot of people with sessions.  I mean, each session that I have, I feel like I grow and learn more from,” she says.

After Brandon deployed, Needham delved into her photography even more.  “It’s honestly just really about capturing moments for people and giving them something to look at and to be happy about.  The most rewarding part is just getting feedback from people saying how happy they are to have good pictures to look at and just being happy making my customers happy”, she says.  “There’s this little girl that I’ve taken actually a few sessions for, and this past one with her family, we did a really cool location.  It was a barn out in wine country out east.  It was my favorite session.  The little girl, she loves being photographed so it always makes it easier”, she laughs.

It was one of Needham’s customers who got her a new job as a photographer and assistant manager for a rustic chic wedding décor boutique on  She works at their headquarters in Southern California, taking pictures of their merchandise to upload to their site and loves it.

A year later, Brandon returned from Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan to California.  “It was amazing.  It was so nice to have him home again and be able to just kiss him and everything and not be alone anymore.  He got about a week off and I took off of work so we really just had time to spend with each other”, Needham shares.

Needham continues to photograph military couples, a subject close to her heart.  Throughout Brandon’s deployment, Needham decorated their apartment with photographs so that she could see Brandon every day.  Needham hopes to provide that same comfort for other military spouses with her work.  Needham plans to expand her business over time once she is finished with school and has more time to devote to it.  The couple realizes Brandon will be deployed again.  He has six more years in the Marine Corps, but Needham is excited for their future.

Photography has been the thread woven through Needham’s life.  She began taking photographs in her small farm town with her father.  Now she pours her heart into her photography company and her new life with her husband.  Needham takes photos of military couples because that’s where her heart is.  “I’m really just interested in taking pictures of people and capturing their family together.  Their husbands or wives could leave at any point.  I think pictures really help people get through a lot.”

How to Bring the Outdoors In for Your Winter Wedding

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    While the sparkling snow and the cozy nights spent by the warm fire make winter a beautiful season, the elements are not as conducive to outdoor weddings here on the east coast.  I’ve been brainstorming some ways you … Continue reading

Interview with Owner and Creative Director of Rustic Charm!

Photo Credit: Amie Schroeder Photography

This week I was fortunate enough to interview owner and creative director of Rustic Charm-Vintage Styled Events & Rentals, Erica!  Rustic Charm is located in New Jersey but is willing to work just about anywhere!  Erica and her mother work together, searching high and low for beautifully unique pieces to add an element of surprise to your special event.  Yup, her job sounds like a dream!  Rustic Charm has even decorated for outdoor weddings!  Read this interview and check out their website for more inspiration!

1. What is the best way to personalize an outdoor space?

Our goal at Rustic Charm – Vintage Styled Event and Rentals is to make every event of photo shoot a one-and-only. When our clients come to us to rent our props and furniture it’s up to their creative discretion to make the effects and outcome what they dream up. On the other hand, when we are selected as a prop and styling resource for events, we have honed our approach to take a styled event to the next level – especially where it concerns an outdoor space. For our team, we start with two approaches. First, it’s important to do a walk-through of a space, whether indoor or out, to get an idea of how many pieces you’ll need to achieve all the elements that go into a styled event. Secondly, when possible we like to do at least one sit down meeting with our clients to develop an understanding of their personalities – this aids us in making an event more personalized and unique. It really comes down to what the event is about and who or what is being celebrated. From there, it goes beyond the furniture and props, to even the smallest of details. For example, if we know that a couple is celebrating their anniversary, we make sure to incorporate components of their life together in what we display. There are so many moving parts to this, but the best way to personalize a space is to make it truly inventive and unique to the individuals. On the other hand, if we are doing a commercial photo shoot and the sky is the limit for décor, then we try to garner inspiration from something personal to us, for example, a “Father of the Bride” at home soiree, or woodland themed tea party inspired by Alice in Wonderland. The options are limitless!

2. How can you make an outdoor space cozy while taking advantage of the openness of the outdoors?

One of my favorite spaces to decorate is an outdoor space. To make an outdoor space cozy in combination with the elements and openness of the outdoors, it’s important to keep in mind the logistics and the amount of literal ground you have to cover with furniture and décor. For example, a very large open outdoor space is going to require the incorporation of bigger pieces to pull everything together, such as a larger sized dresser, or at the very least a variety of smaller props that will bring everything together in harmony. The trick isn’t to overcompensate; as you don’t want the props competing with the natural elements of what’s outdoors, the purpose is to compliment what is already there. At Rustic Charm, our preference is to style with repurposed, more natural pieces. A great way to take advantage of an outdoor canvas is to combine it with the comforts of what one might find inside of a home – this establishes a balanced, relaxed look and feel, and often times is exactly what our clients hope to achieve.

3. What is the shopping process like?

Our goal is to present unique and timeless pieces to our clients. When sourcing props for Rustic Charm – nowhere is off limits. We simply love the hunt!  Often times when searching for our vintage props and accessories, we find hidden gems in the most unexpected places. At times we venture across borders, out of state doing style searches – scavenging small and large flea markets, auctions, estate sales, and small antique shops off the beaten path. It’s often the overlooked places where we scoop up the best deals and rarest pieces. For our team, it comes down to making a real connection with people, sellers and dealers – the majority of those we share our business story with are more than happy to share insider secrets and tips with us, and also the places they love to hunt for a great find. It all comes down to staying informed, a lot of research, countless road trips, and hours and hours of scouring high and low places for that one, amazing piece. As we continue to build our collection, it’s been important to keep track of everything and then deliver it in a way that clients can easily browse our offerings – therefore, we are currently in the process of updating our site so that each piece in our inventory has its own name and a catalog code for clients to easily select from.

4. What is one of your favorite pieces you have collected?

One of my favorite pieces, which also happens to be one of the first pieces I bought for Rustic Charm, is a vintage black typewriter. I discovered it one afternoon at an antique shop; it was hidden underneath an old cupboard – a writer by trade I was immediately intrigued by this piece and thoughts of who once used it. How many hours were spent bent over it – did someone use it to write letters? To pen love notes to someone? Was it used just for business memos? These questions piqued my attention further – and I had to make it offer on it. I was thrilled that day to add it to our ever-budding collection. There are so many other props that I love and I will admit that one of the most difficult parts is not adding our business finds to our own homes – it can be very tempting at times, but we try to reserve ‘decorating to our heart’s content’ for our clients.

5. Where do you get most of your creative inspiration?

There are so many inspired possibilities for making special events truly distinctive. Honestly, my partner and I have always had a knack for decorating and styling spaces with unexpected pieces. We both strive to place hints of surprise in everything we stage – whether for a photo shoot or a more intimate gathering. It’s been so refreshing to see many people, including brides and photographers, turn away from the one-size-fits-all venue. Our inspirations come in many forms. For me, I often find myself flipping through a home catalog or design publication and a light bulb goes off with something creative I have to try – I’ll rip out one page out of an entire magazine because I get that a-ha moment. Another great tool of inspiration is simply being out and about scavenging for furniture and props – often times it’s when we are on a shopping excursion for new pieces that we’ll stumble upon something and think about how we could use it differently. A good example of this, we’ve taken old wooden ladders and between its slats laid a flat panel of wood to create a standing display table. Another tool of inspiration has been Pinterest; this creative resource is helpful for us to see what is “of the moment.” This gives us a heads up in terms of what is inundating the market or style pages, if you will, and then we’re able to head in the opposite direction. We like to march to our own stylistic beat and give our clients true, one-of-a-kind staging.

6. What is one of your favorite events you designed and decorated?

One of my favorite events that we designed and styled was a recent wedding in Chestnut Hill – near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Actually, I should start by saying this was one of my favorites because it was one of the most challenging events I’ve done to date. The venue that this particular bride and groom chose had a very limited amount of space to work off of in terms of decorating. And while I was able to visit the venue prior to the day-of the event, there was a wedding taking place at the time so I was unable to do my usual measuring and planning tactics during my initial on-site review. The day of the event, I brought with us everything and anything I thought we could possibly need to pull off every wish of this client, whose bohemian-inspired style requested a whimsical outdoor ceremony and reception. Taking into consideration her own personal style, we incorporated the natural outdoors with artistic emphasis on the ceremony. After countless hours of prepping, I’ve never been so satisfied with an event. As much as you prepare, there are always other factors, such as other vendor’s decisions, that can take you by surprise right when you’re down to the wire. In the end, we triumphed and the bride was overjoyed with the result. Sometimes  the most challenging events, turn out to be the most rewarding.

7. What was your favorite decorative detail at your own wedding?

Wow, that’s a tough question as there were SO many elements of our wedding that I absolutely loved. If I had to choose one prop that meant a lot to me – it’d have to be the bible my mom (and co-founder of Rustic Charm) uncovered for our big day. This tattered bible from the 1500s made for a sentimental and perfect piece for our ring bearer, my nephew, to carry down the aisle. We wrapped it in twine as the binding had come loose over time and added a few pieces of grain — while it held a stylistic element, it also held so much meaning to both my husband and me as we exchanged our vows. Additionally, another favorite detail was this old shabby chic door that I had uncovered soon after we got engaged – we added a piece of vintage lace over the top of it and used it as a standalone prop in the reception area. This was one of many unique backdrops that we repurposed for our guests to enjoy while they mingled about and celebrated with us.

About Us: Rustic Charm – Vintage Styled Events & Rentals has created a stir by capturing the timeless simplicity and warmth of yesteryear. Every wedding, event and professional photo shoot is as unique as the clients who come to us. For those seeking event décor and prop resources through our array of inventory of casual chic furniture, vintage props and accessories, we supply rare and quality vintage pieces to those hoping to achieve a one-of-a-kind casual-chic setting. Through our ever-growing collection, we put an original and inviting atmosphere on display.

Designer Profile: Delphine Manivet

“Simplicity well-carried out” is how wedding dress designer Delphine Manivet describes her personal style and her designs in an interview with

Manivet chose to end her studies of economics to pursue her true dream of becoming a fashion designer.  Manivet moved to Paris and started working for a design house until one day it was time for her to find a dress for her own wedding.  Unable to find anything that felt truly her, Manivet designed her own dress.  She channeled her creative energy into wedding dress design and now has her own design house in Paris.

Manivet’s ideas are inspired by eighteenth century portraits, the symbolism of the wedding gown, and the individual femininity of every girl.  Her goal and biggest challenge is to create timeless looks.

Her dresses are all about the mix of modern and vintage and dream and simplicity.  Manivet looks to every day as an opportunity to gather inspiration for her next design.  The designer loves looking for vintage inspiration at flea markets and charity sales.

Manivet names the dresses in her collections after men’s names.  “For me, it’s a way to pay tribute to the man who is never included in the process of choosing or making the dress, but counts in the choice for sure”, she says.

Manivet’s looks are absolutely beautiful and worth taking a look at.  I love the simplistic femininity of her gowns and her classic use of white!  Please read this article on Manivet for more about her.  Here is her website.  Browse through her collections; they are stunning.

Pinterest as a Tool for Wedding Planning

Planning a wedding, or any event for that matter is so visual.  I love tools like Pinterest because we can use them to organize our ideas on a virtual pin board.  The bulletin board above my desk at home is covered with post-it notes, magazine cutouts, and photos that inspire me.  But only I can see those.  One of the other things that I love so much about Pinterest is the ability it gives us to share our inspirations with our friends.

For anyone planning a wedding, I would highly recommend using Pinterest as a tool to visually organize your ideas.  Sometimes, it’s hard to explain exactly what we want.  So many times have I gone to a salon to have my hair styled and walked out with something totally different, not what I wanted!  Using Pinterest, you can show your wedding planner, your florist, and your hair stylist exactly what you want.

If you are in the early stages of planning your wedding, Pinterest is a great tool for inspirational research.  Keep up on all of the latest trends in bridal fashion, centerpiece ideas, and venue suggestions.  Pinterest has something for every facet of your wedding.

If you don’t want to share the ideas you have pinned with anyone, you can use Pinterest’s new Secret Board feature.  This will keep all of the images you have pinned on this board private, so only you can see them.

How Pinterest works: Create an account on  Then, click on your username located on the upper right-hand corner of the screen.  Click on “Boards” from the dropdown menu and click on the “Create Board” button.  Fill out the menu by choosing a name and a category for your board.  Here, you can also decide whether or not you want the board to be secret by turning the “Secret” option on or off.  Then, click on the red Pinterest logo on the top center of your screen.  This brings you back to the Pinterest home page.  Now you can begin searching for images!  Use the search bar in the upper left hand corner of the screen or select a category from the “Category” drop-down menu located beneath the Pinterest logo on the top of the screen.  “Weddings” is a category!  (So perfect!)

Once you find an image you like, pin it by dragging your cursor over the image and selecting “Re-pin.”  Select which board you want to put the image on write a comment about it if you wish.  (This is great for making notes about where you want to use the idea in your wedding!)  Then, click on the red “Pin It” button, and you’re done!  Happy planning!

Love; Isn’t That What It’s Really About?

Now more than ever, price is a major factor when it comes to planning parties.  But your wedding is probably one of the biggest and most meaningful parties you will ever plan.  One of the biggest issues for couples when it comes to planning a wedding is cost.  At some point or another, every couple must ask themselves, is the high cost really worth it?  After all, isn’t this love we are celebrating here?

I love outdoor weddings so much because you can do a lot of the work on your own. Having an outdoor wedding means that you have the creative freedom to plan an event that is both beautiful and cost efficient.  This means, keeping the focus on you and your love, because that’s what the day is really about!  Flowers, decorations, food, entertainment, and venue should all be a reflection of that love.  Here are some things to consider while planning your wedding to make sure that you are staying true to you and your budget.

Where is your wedding going to be?  Finding the perfect venue is the first step before everything else falls into place.  Generally, an outdoor venue is going to be less expensive than a wedding reception held in a hotel or a ballroom.  While outdoor venues are less costly, they do take a lot of planning.  Everything from food to decor is up to you to coordinate.

Who will be attending?  There is a big difference between one hundred guests and one hundred and fifty guests.  Of course, there are always those people you have to invite.  Consult with your families to make sure you haven’t left anyone out.  Even though it’s hard to narrow down the guest list, try to think, will I regret not having invited this guest?

What is your creative direction?  Do you want a more relaxed and casual feel or are you all about formal and elegant?  Keeping this in mind, decide whether you want a daytime event, or evening event.  Evening weddings are more costly.

Most importantly, never let other people influence your decisions.  Planning the wedding, you will come into contact with so many different people, all with their own opinions and ideas of what you want.  From wedding planners to family members, never let anyone sway your decisions and pick what you want, for you.  Before you contact anyone, take the time to read bridal magazines, research wedding blogs, and develop a clear vision.  Pinterest is the perfect tool for this!  You can create a virtual pin board to organize all of your wedding inspiration.

For more information on budgeting and cost considerations, read this helpful article from The Knot!

“Marie Antoinette” Inspired Wedding

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For those of us who are cozying up on the couch with tea as the big storm begins to brew, here is an idea for a wedding inspired by the French countryside and the glamour of Versailles.  The French countryside … Continue reading