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 etsy.com.  She works at their headquarters in Southern California, taking pictures of their merchandise to upload to their etsy.com 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

This gallery contains 3 photos.

    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

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 bhldn.com.

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 Pinterest.com.  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!

9 Ways to Decorate with Mason Jars

I love the look of a classic mason jar.  Lately, it seems like they are popping up everywhere!  They are really inexpensive and because the jar has such a simple design, there is really so much you can do with them.  Here are nine ways you can use a mason jar at your wedding; whatever the season!

1. Fill them with Christmas lights.  Take a mason jar and drill a whole in the bottom center.  Then, fill with lights and string them through the bottom to plug into an outlet.  It is a great way to add some soft lighting and interest to your décor. (You can try this with empty wine bottles too!)

2. Pour water inside of the jar and place flowers or candles on top of the water.  Cut flower heads and place them on top of the water.  Instead of flowers, you can also use tealight candles. They will float on top and create an ethereal effect.

3. Fill them with an arrangement.  They make great centerpieces!

4. Fill the jar halfway with sand.  Then, put a small candle in the sand and wrap a piece of twine or ribbon around the top of the jar.

5. I found this idea on Oh Lovely Day!  Place old family wedding photos and your engagement photos in the jars and place them around centerpieces.

6. Put a small colored glass votive inside of the mason jar.  A simple and creative way to add some color!

7. Use the jars as cups for drinks!  This is a really cute idea for summer weddings.

8. One of the newest trends for centerpieces I keep seeing is a plant submerged in water.  Here is a really beautiful idea I found on Better Homes and Gardens using cranberries, candles, and greenery.

9. Fill a mason jar with sand and place the head of a flower on top.  Pale pink roses look beautiful against the color of the sand.