Wedding planners have responded with a cascade of creative ideas for celebrations with whimsical themes, one-of-a-kind mementos, surprising décor and design elements, and stunning photography and video options for recording the day. This past December, the Orange County chapter of the Association of Bridal Consultants (ABC) held its fifth annual Trendsetter Awards gala at St. Regis Monarch Beach in Dana Point, organized by Stacey Gitten, trendsetting chair of ABC and owner of Hitching Post Public Relations. Awards were given to wedding event professionals in eight categories. In addition, individual wedding professionals were given separate awards for their contributions and high level of professionalism.
“Couples are interested in modernizing traditions, or doing away with them altogether,” says Gitten. “They want every detail to be connected to their taste or their relationship.” Brides and grooms want wedding celebrations that demonstrate who they are as people – where they grew up or sports teams they support, for example.
The awards highlighted imaginative ways that wedding planners accomplished this. The Best Overall Theme winner was a Bermuda nautical-themed party for wedding guests created by LVL Weddings & Events. The winning Best New Memento was a wine-bottle-as-time capsule idea from Wendy Dahl from Chic Productions, who created wine bottles into which guests inserted messages for the bride and groom to read on anniversaries in years to come.
“The millennial bride wants something creative,” says Natalie Good, of A Good Affair, who won in the category of Best Tablescape. “She wants a wedding that will reflect her style and who they are as a couple. She doesn’t want her wedding to look like everyone else’s.”
Best Overall Theme & Thematic Follow-Through
LVL Weddings & Events for the Bermuda Nautical Wedding
lvlevents.com :: 866.261.3313
The trick of establishing a wedding theme is to make sure that it truly reflects the tastes and interests of the couple. For this wedding, Lindsay Val Longacre at LVL extended the Bermuda nautical theme with plenty of fun elements.
“Neither John nor Lindsay loved big formal, fancy weddings,” says Longacre. “Lindsay grew up with her grandparents living in Bermuda; she would spend summers there. She took John to Bermuda for the first time last summer and he fell in love with it. This is where the idea of a Bermuda-themed wedding was inspired – Bermuda suits and all! They were members at the Balboa Yacht Club, and John is an avid boater, so we had to incorporate his love for sailing, which ended up being the perfect marriage. They had a custom moon gate (marriage symbol of Bermuda) created and used paddles as their guestbook.”
Natalie Good, A Good Affair Wedding & Event Production, Tustin
agoodaffair.com :: 714.505.3653
This winning tablescape, created by A Good Affair Wedding & Event Production, was part of an open-air St. Regis event, and captured the romance of the day with beautiful touches.
“I wanted to create a timeless, romantic feel for the client's wedding design using a palette of soft creams, whites and blushes,” says Good. “The soft florals were placed in long glass cubes that played off the beautiful candlelight accented with touches of mercury glass. Jasmine vine trailed down the edges of the tables and filled the space with a delicious fragrance, further emphasizing the romance in our tablescape. When choosing fabrics… we went for tone-on-tone linens but used different textures between the linens and the napkins, giving a unique sense of depth to the overall look. Beautiful silver-patterned china chargers, custom-made circular menus and individual Bottega Louie French macaron favors finished off the exquisite design.
Best Supporting Event
Kerrie Underhill, Platinum Weddings, one-of-a-kind California Lovin' Welcome Party
This Welcome Party reflects a trend of extending the wedding day fun into a long weekend, with every detail personalized. This party focused on the groom and reflected his likes and his unique personality, as well as gave guests a real taste of California – both bride and groom are native to the state.
Underhill described the inspired event this way: “The groom loves beer – so we decided early on to feature local craft microbrews in some way. This developed into an all-encompassing theme for the night – a neighbor’s garden was transformed into the Stone Family Brew House, including a custom microbrew station with four taps. From there the personal and meaningful touches kept rolling, including:
A custom Stone Family Brew House logo inspired by the brand used on his family’s ranch
A Mexicali-inspired menu served by the MIHO Gastro truck, featuring ‘farm-to-street’ food elements
The Ride the Tide beach band, featuring former Beach Boys and Eagles members
Interactive sweet treats for guests, featuring a Cool Haus ice cream sandwich truck and Fry Girl mini-doughnut station
Menus for the brewery created by the mother of the groom, featuring photos of the bride and groom growing up as well as their time together
Best New Memento
Wendy Dahl, Wine Bottle Time Capsules
Chic Productions, Huntington Beach
chicproductions.com :: 714.596.4455
Mementos for wedding guests have gotten highly creative. The trendsetting winner in this category created specially labeled empty wine bottles that can be used as time capsules for guests to write messages for the bride and groom – then incorporated into future anniversary celebrations.
Says Dahl: “In this wine-themed wedding, the bride and groom labeled empty wine bottles for anniversaries from one to 50, and asked the guests to write messages on scrolls for a particular year they wanted the couple to read the message. The guests loved the idea so much that many wrote several messages for different years. The bride and groom intend on displaying the bottles in their home as a reminder of the love they shared that day with their family and friends. It can easily be duplicated and can be a great DIY project.”
Best Captured Moment
Frank Salas Photography, Irvine
franksalas.com :: 949.727.3045
Among the many submissions in this category, there were lots of romantic and funny photos that told a story about the bride and groom, their love and excitement of the day. But this black-and-white image by Frank Salas is a heart-stopper.
“Being able to capture the right moments of a wedding day not only takes photographic skill, but the ability to anticipate moments like this!” says Salas, and he explained some of the significance this way: It’s a “very emotional moment after the ceremony in the Indian culture when the bride says farewell to her family, typically called the Bidaai. The bride will throw rice over her head which coveys good wishes to her parents, and thanks them for loving and caring for her all of her life. This photo is of her father giving her the final blessing.”
Best Design Transformation
Bernie Gaps, Absolutely Fabulous Events, Costa Mesa
absofab.net :: 1.866.ABSO.FAB
Before-and-after photos of this hotel room could not be more dramatic. A dark, wood-paneled hotel room was transformed into a bright, colorful, almost futuristic-looking space.
Absolutely Fabulous Events described it this way: “The newlyweds wanted to celebrate with friends and family. However, the hotel room that was available was covered from floor to ceiling in wood paneling and ceilings with ornate chandeliers – and the couple wanted a contemporary design style. We started by wrapping the entire room with white sheer drape to hide all the paintings and wood paneling. We created a guest seating area using an assortment of brushed aluminum glowing LED tables in varying heights. A one-of-a-kind stainless steel dance floor took center stage. This unique and contemporary dance floor created a cutting-edge vibe for the dance area. Surrounding the dance floor was a variety of white leather furniture including serpentine-style benches, round ottomans and glowing accent tables.”
Best New Venue
Kaitlin Kuykendall & Chris Hartley, private events directors for Center Club
center-club.com :: 714.662.3414
The well-known private Center Club, adjacent to the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, is now transformed and revitalized in a multi-million-dollar reinvention. Phrases like “pristine interior design” and “contemporary elegance” have been used to describe this space, now featuring vaulted ceilings, crystal chandeliers and a private patio for receptions and ceremonies. “This reinvention marks a new beginning for the club and a reinvention of the club’s culture,” says General Manager Shahin Vosough. “We have tapped into the changing lifestyles of today’s clients and have brought fresh energy to the club. It’s a very exciting time.”
Best New Concept
Commemory Fine Art
bethany-thomas.com :: 714.305.1915
The idea here is to create original artwork for wedding décor so that the couple can keep the décor forever to enjoy and remember their big day.
Artist and owner Bethany Thomas describes it this way: “Giving couples the ability to share their love story at their wedding as décor and forever in their home with textured paintings on canvas created just for them is my passion. For this event, I created two paintings as backdrop pieces. Designed with a graphical look… they incorporate wedding invitation paper and old postcards a couple could collect from their travels. My artwork ties all the elements together – the furniture, lighting, chairs, etc. The couple’s custom artwork can be either rented or purchased.”
Elevation of Industry
Caren Lazarus, Design Visage
designvisage.com :: 800.603.1383
This award is given to an Orange County ABC member who has raised the bar for the wedding industry through her contributions, years of experience, ability to evolve within the industry, and to create change.
Lazarus describes her experience as a professional this way: “In 1986 I had an idea of providing hair and makeup services to brides. Design Visage was started and a new industry created. It has been a joy for me to see this industry grow.” She is appreciative of the support she has received from ABC. “From my first ABC meeting about 20 years ago, a round table of 25 people, Design Visage has worked closely with all wedding professionals. I instantly understood the value of these relationships and the DV girls have always been available for complimentary makeovers, photo shoots and business head shots. I worked closely with the first bridal hair and makeup companies to make sure we kept the professionalism in the bridal beauty industry.”
Coordinator of the Year
Paula Laskelle, Champagne Taste
champagnetaste.com :: 949.498.4806
Before creating Champagne Taste, Paula Laskelle was a business executive in the corporate world. Today she is one of the most respected wedding coordinators in Southern California – you’ll find her name on the preferred lists of coordinators in top resorts of the area.
Known for her breadth of experience and high quality of service in wedding consulting, planning and design, Laskelle puts her clients at ease so they can fully enjoy their day.
Trendsetter of the Year
Larrissa Rehder, Inviting Occasion
invitingoccasion.com :: 949.407.5060
Larrisa Rehder is an event designer who is known for her innovation and creativity in design and décor. She uses many kinds of mediums for hand-crafted details in a variety of styles, from classic to vintage and everything in between. A quote from her website describes her philosophy: “Following the crowd, doing what has been seen, just isn’t our style.”
New Member of the Year
Kellie Migliaccio, FormDecor
This award is given to a new (less than one year) ABC Orange County member who has shown career development, future promise and engagement in ABC.
Migliaccio is a hard-working professional who helps event planners and designers to create original décor and furniture concepts. She shares this tip: “My formula for success has been the 3-3-3 ratio (three in-person meetings, three showroom tours, three networking events per week). I continually offer superb customer service, collaborating with brides, planners and venues alike, challenging the norm and mixing things up to be not-so-expected!” Her peers say Migliaccio keenly follows trends in décor aesthetics and is an inspired and dedicated professional.
Joannie Scott Award
Natalie Vishny, Swellegant Events
swellegant.com :: 714.473.9512
Joannie Scott was a longtime wedding planner, known for her professionalism and dedication, who passed away in October 2011.
In her honor, this award is given each year to a wedding planner who reflects that same high level of professionalism with her drive, dedication and passion.
Natalie Vishny is all that and more: She is a shining light in the industry, known for her hospitality and good humor and dedication to putting the needs of her clients first. Vishny has also been featured in many national publications in recognition of her creativity, innovation and high standard of work.