11 Little Tricks for a Stress Free Wedding Day

There may be a million little tricks for a stress-free wedding day, but these 11 will certainly keep you in good stead as a digestible mashup from us + other top industry pros + friends of mine, Lisa Vorce, Brooke Keegan, Maria + Kelly of Ritzy Bee, and Audrey Hurst.

I love when Real Simple comes calling, especially when penned by my long-time schoolmate + NYC writer extraordinaire Elizabeth Passarella. The content is so spot-on and sleek, and just makes you kinda wanna fill a bathtub up with back issues and bathe in all the OCD goodness. Weird mental image- but truth.

If you’ve missed our contributions to Real Simple in the past, take a gander:

1. One of our first Indian weddings + favorite clients’ work of all time was in Real Simple Weddings, before it was shuttered. LOVED that mag, and that’s how I got to know my good friend and Country Living EIC Rachel Hardage Barrett, a TN native like Elizabeth Passarella and myself.

2. Keep Calm + Party On shares some of our ways to entertain easily + breezily during these sweltering summer months.

3. How to Plan a Destination Wedding in Real Simple shared our simple advice on the first 5 steps you need to take- so crucial.

4. 16 Tips for an Effortless Outdoor Party in Real Simple is just the tip of the iceberg of our wealth of knowledge after over a decade in that biz- but a good read at that! Call us if you want the real skinny. Ha.

Enjoy the below tips + tricks on making your big day fun- that’s the whole point y’all, it’s not supposed to be this frenetic, harried experience- that’s why you have “us”!

real simple 11 little tricks for a stress free wedding day 1 real simple 11 little tricks for a stress free wedding day 2 real simple 11 little tricks for a stress free wedding day 3 real simple 11 little tricks for a stress free wedding day 4


Top Tips : Knockout Dinner Napkins

Chèz Clark, there is a beautiful primitive pine chest with 5 drawers positively overflowing with stunning linen dinner napkins galore. Hemstitch, monogrammed, whipstitched, rolled edge, luncheon size, dinner size, antique, heirloom, Swiss dot, scalloped, Irish linen, you name it. There is even this sneaky half drawer at the bottom- if you look really closely, you’d still mistake it for a decorative front to the chest. Oh no, m’dear- that’s my stash of hundreds of cocktail napkins in every color of the rainbow- many delicately embroidered, some flaxen and Belgian, some crisp and preppy, all pressed and ready to dab.

We love a refined seated dinner- well, what designer wouldn’t? I know it’s truly de rigueur in the South to have a station-style wedding, and trust- je did for our own 10 years ago. When I have my druthers though, I’ll take a seated party every time; I can play with paper, linens, flatware, china, glassware, containers, and napkins to my wee heart’s content.

As an aside: I think it’s lame to clutch your sources to your chest . . . to build a virtual panic room to house your design “secrets” and your suffocating scarcity mindset. To offset that common practice in our industry, I aim to share within these posts. I hope you ‘preesh- because it makes me happy to think I may turn anyone on to these awesome purveyors we tap constantly for beautiful bits.

Here are our favorite go-to sources for elegant dinner napkins. Caveat emptor: I didn’t say inexpensive. Ahem. “Buy cheap, buy twice” is most certainly one of our design mantras.

1. Julia B. Linens 

Julia is the end-all be-all of monogrammed fabulosity. Click and slobber over the options- it’s pretty painful. I am über decisive and even I stutter + stumble trying to narrow the field for our clients.

2. Leontine Linens

Jane Scott Hodges is a fabulous arbiter of style and her NOLA headquarters is chock full of inspiring linens ranging from bedding to tabletop. If you don’t have her book, Linens: For Every Room and Occasion, get thee to Amazon.

3. Sferra

Sferra’s Filetto + Festival lines totally blow our skirts up. Gorgeous dye lots, dependable customer service, and exquisite edging are the hallmarks of a Sferra napkin.

4. Boutross

I cut my teeth on Boutross. Even typing this blurb takes me back to being 22 at Design Cuisine– in the grip of the Rockefeller-Carnegie wedding (my 1st wedding, ever- could you die?) and The Kennedy Center Honors, ordering thousands of Battenberg lace napkins and chewing my nails to the quick that they made it through customs. I remember fondly the weeks-long span when they were stuck on a barge in some sea near Turkey- recurring nightmare of my career.

Those are just a few gems- the rest of our go-to faves are to the trade only and would likely “pedigree check” you (aka a “pedicure check” in our studio) and make your life hassle-ish.

Check out some of our favorite napkins, monograms, and folds below!

Julia B pale blue napkin place setting

Could there possibly be a prettier fretwork faggotted edge or wedgwood blue that’s not too Williamsburgish and stuffy? Only with Julia Bcitrus and orange blogspot place setting gold feather napkin

I’ve just always loved the simplicity of this look: continental bead plate, gold flatware, chunky white napkin folded simply and secured with a gold leaf napkin ring, replete with asymmetrical pink blooms. via Citrus & OrangeSouthern Living Leontine Linens Place Setting

Jane Scott Hodges of Leontine Linens whipped this table setting up for Southern Living– natch. I have all this lying around in my abode, too- I just, you know, couldn’t get it together in time when they called. (wink). And this, my fine feathered friends, is why it always IRKS me when brides say they have no need or desire for china. It makes me stabby. I wanna say- ‘you sure ’bout that? take a look-see, glasshoppah- learn from the wise ones.’Style Me Pretty pale blue napkin

This little gem of a shot came from Style Me Pretty, and reminds us that less is definitely more. A simple watercolor-lettered menu resting atop lemon leaf (or salal, or some such greenery) on top of an everyday powder blue napkin- it’s all good in the ‘hood. Southern Lady Magazine flower napkin fold

I’m not a giant fan of the Victorian Depression Era pink glass in this application per se- it’s a little saccharine . . . but for some reason, I think the dip-dyed napkin folded into a rosette with two fresh green leaves for “reality” is really sweet without being precious. Perf for a bridesmaids’ luncheon, no? via Southern Ladythe enchanted home.co monogrammed napkin

This two color custom monogrammed napkin in slate blue and navy goes with everything, as evidenced in this picture where it’s not super matchy McMatcherson but totally works. I’m guessing it’s via Number Four Eleven, one of our fave Savannah-based monogrammed napkin sources. I could be wrong, but whatevs- Number 411 is the bee’s knees anyway. found via The Enchanted Home100 layer cake grey napkin

Here’s what works here, and why you love it like I do. Flaxen linen alone would be Dullsville, but here it provides the perfect tonal backdrop to gold flatware and a greige napkin. The napkin is simply rolled and fastened with easy-to-snag spiky garden greenery. No fuss, no muss. If you look closely, yes- the white china is embossed with a matelassé texture that adds a little oomph- but other than that, simple + classic + totally works. via 100 Layer Cakewunderweib.de velvet tied napkin

Although we eschew “table trash” at a fête- meaning, anything that you untie that then creates a bunch of crud on the table, this one doesn’t bother me. I love that the lavender velvet ribbon doesn’t perfectly coordinate to the French dishcloth napkin, but rather to the small bunch of (heather? lilac? lavender?) bundled with a fork and knife. Rustic + pretty. via Wunderweibnumber four eleven champagne monogrammed napkin

You can’t go wrong with tone-on-tone. This is my go-to for pillow cases, napkins, sheets, and more. White base, champagne mono? Yes ma’am. This is a Sferra Festival napkin with a Number Four Eleven monogram, secured with a beautiful silver napkin ring. Oh how I wish I had a slew of antique sterling napkin rings- it’s time to start collecting. number four eleven border dinner napkins

These bordered napkins are Number Four Eleven, but I’m really into K Style Design’s versions too. I’m jonesing for one of our Fall clients to pick these style where KSD can border one edge in one thread color, and another in a second color, thus creating this fab effect if folded not in a pocket fold but bunched more grandly and secured with ribbon or a cool napkin ring. Loving the clean + modern + masculine mono here.Taigan Julia B Paris Place Setting

Last but never least, Julia B. for Taigan with her Paris Place Setting. Salt cellar? Check. Round scalloped edge placemat? Check. Fat angular pocket fold? Check. Rusty Hermès-ish colors abounding? Check.

Showstopper Sparkle : Engagement Ring Round-Up

Non-surprising confession: I am a sucker for all things sparkly. Celebrity ring close-up paparazzi shots may be the only thing that keeps my subscription to US Magazine active, and my Safari jewelry bookmarks are over-run with the likes of Harry Winston, Van Cleef, and Graff– to name  few. It’s kinda sick.

One the one hand, I love when our brides stick to the classics- an exquisite emerald cut stone with baguettes or trillions, a giant Asscher cut on the teeniest band filled with prong-set diamonds. Then the edgy bauble devil in my other ear whispers sweet nothings about Blake Lively’s rose gold + pink diamond moment or a sliver of emerald in Erin Fetherston’s engagement ring, and I swing moodily back toward high drama.

Just to whet your whistle, I’ve rounded up my latest cravings so you too can drool over Edwardian milgrain detail, pavé halos, semi-mounted radiants, and more.

Also, here are a few top tips as you research (in stealth or in the open):

1. If you haven’t heard it by now, get your sweet little ostrich head out of the sand. The five Cs are cut, color, clarity, carat weight, + certification. A heady place to start is on the most respected certification site, GIA. If that’s too technical for you, try this site. It can’t hurt to know your terms- from the girdle to the table, from a cloud inclusion to a feather inclusion.

2. Consider a “fancy” shape. I know, hysterical- kinda an 80s word. Round diamonds are the most common (who wants common?) and that drives the price point (classic supply + demand). Stepped stones (emerald cut, Asscher cut, Ashoka like Reese Witherspoon’s, etc.) have to be significantly bigger to appear “same” as their counterparts to the naked eye- thus ratcheting up the price point again. Great fiery brilliant-cut fancy shapes to consider are the timeless cushion (whether pillow-shaped in ratio or more rounded/fat), the radiant (often mistaken for a rectangular Princess cut), and the pear (remember Selma Blair’s character Vivian Kensington’s Harry Winston pear diamond in Legally Blonde? Yeah, me too).

3. Always be thinking about the “friends” you’re going to stack with abandon down the road. Click here for our article with sources + top tips on fabby stacking bands to keep your sparkler company. Personally, I’m still all about a micro-pavé band (or 10) from someone like Martin Katz.

Kwiat diamond engagement ring

Super classic emerald cut excellence from Kwiat.

Erica Courtney Madison Engagement Ring

Erica Courtney nails it every time. The detail!

Shreve Crump & Low diamond ring

Shreve, Crump, & Low for the wine with this monster beauty.

stunning engagement ring by Penny Preville

Penny Preville knocks it out of the park with this semi-mount “suspended” cushion cut stunner.


stunning engagement ring by Erica CourtneyErica Courtney again- I have a thang for her.

stunning engagement ring by Kwiat

Kwiat‘s Edwardian angle on one of their original antique designs- love the bit of sapphire.

stunning engagement ring by Harry Winston

Harry Winston can do no wrong with this lovely brilliant oval surrounded by prong-set round brilliants in its halo.

stunning engagement ring by Single Stone

Single Stone is doing some amazing things these days – curating both vintage pieces and making new to look vintage.

stunning engagement ring by Penny Preville

Penny Preville again- but in a very geometric + architectural setting. Hint: plays nicely when the right hand has a cocktail ring that is more organically-shaped and not squared-off at all.





8 favorite kids’ wedding table ideas

Kids’ wedding table ideas are a darling way to keep the wee ones occupied while your guests mingle + nosh. We simply adore having children at weddings, and think it adds a sweet element to your memories of the day- plus, aren’t weddings all about family, anyway? Little wedding guests should be considered with the same care + level of hospitality extended to adults, but pint-size it for maximum impact.

Top tips for creating knockout kids’ wedding tables:

1. Lure them in:

A colorful table with whimsy + treats will lure them in and keep them sane for at least, well, 15 minutes. Verticality is big- puffed cotton candy cones, curling silly straws, sky-high lollipop centerpieces, and even live goldfish (yep, I did it) can draw them in + get them excited to park their backsides tableside and engage.

2. Seat them in style:

If the children range from 3 to 12, consider a regular-sized table with adult-sized chairs and a tabletop full of fun. If they are all ages 2-5, say, consider a kid-sized table + shorter chairs or stool from either your local rental company, World Market, or Target. While the picnic blanket tea party makes for a darling editorial, it’s not advisable for a real wedding scenario.

2. Keep ’em busy: 

You know the drill- washable crayons, washable markers, and chalk are your art tool “friends”- most children in my world (including my two!) will draw + doodle for a looooong time. Activity kits are all the rage + the way to go if you want to step it up a notch: they entail a pre-packaged picnic basket or mini tin suitcase filled with goodies + double as a parting favor. Temporary tatoos, stickers, glow-in-the-dark anything, sunglasses, Dollar Store etch-a-sketches, and simple helium or non-helium balloons are just a handful of ideas to include in a stylized way at the table. Consider a color theme that looks analogous to your elegant tables + follow the bouncing ball. Literally.

3. Make it easy on the mamas: 

Lollipops, jawbreakers, bubblegum, and sour candies are a bit of a risk factor with choking, age range issues, and general nastiness. Choose unwrapped candies to cut down on “table trash” and on children needing help opening a dang Tootsie Roll for cryin’ out loud. Hire a few fabulous sitters and let them help corral the kiddos so the parents can cut a rug.

4. Have a “next phase” plan.  

There is a window in which this little group can stay engaged. When it closes, you’re toast. Just as guests appreciate milling from cocktails to a beautiful dinner to dancing to a late night hang, little people want the same fluidity. Gather a few iPads or snag some DVDs and a VCR and create a tent-within-a-tent, a teepee tent, or another spot within the wedding venue to lay out lovies, blankets, bottled waters. Then, let the sitters and the parents kick their feet up for just a moment.

Check out our past posts on kids’ wedding table ideas, kid-friendly activities, + children’s place settings, and more . . . or simply scoop up the ideas below for an impactful kids’ wedding table for your big day.

Kids' Activity Suitcase + Kids' Wedding Table Ideas via Brides.com + Babble.com | #kidsweddingideas | calderclark.com

Activity suitcases like this one from Brides are SO exciting to open, compact, and brilliant for quick clean-up before the above-mentioned “next phase plan”. The kids’ table from Babble on the right hits all the high notes with a simple color scheme, child-height chairs + table, scalloped gable boxes, and balloons for verticality + happy faces. Kids' Centerpieces (Trawlergirl.com) + Kids' Wedding Table Ideas via @catchmyparty | cotton candy | #kidsweddingideas | calderclark.com

You know we love us a stack of cake stands- and these pink mercury ones don’t disappoint. The Lego people could double as place cards or, as here, a fun takeaway. {via Trawler Girl} I die over the Tom Collins glasses filled to the brim with sprinkles and stuffed with cones of old school real deal cotton candy. {via Catch My Party}Kids' wedding table ideas (via @simplesong) + DIY Hopscotch via en.paperblog.com | #kidsweddingtableideas | calderclark.com

There’s nothing in design that Suann Song of Simplesong can’t nail – like this darling table she created for her son Jaden’s party. The kraft-hued everything sets a color scheme, and the details (the wishbones! the twiggy pencils!) are too cute. I couldn’t resist including the DIY hopscotch via Paperblog on the right- how easy + simple to set up in the corner of your fabby tented party or somewhere in a garden on your venue property, yes? Chalkboard Kids' Table via @britmorin + Kids' Table setting via @projectwedding | #kidsweddingtableideas | calderclark.com

I’m here to tell you that chalkboard paint is your friend. If you still feel like blackballing it from your crafting toolkit, you can easily pick up chalkboard cloth to make a road-themed or school-themed table top in a jiffy. {via Brit.co} The plastic beach buckets filled with snacks + the wheatgrass centerpieces are to-die-for cute for kids’ wedding tables for any coastal wedding. {via Project Wedding}