July 3rd Wedding - Vendor Reviews (long...)

H and I live in DC and used vendors based in DC, MD and VA, thus the reason for the cross-posting. 

Here’s my unsolicited advice on planning your wedding successfully – start early.  Before we chose a venue, we set our vision together.  Next, we established a budget.  Once we knew the look and feel (the vibe, if you will), it was all about getting contracts in place for the big ticket items.

As a friend of mine used to say, “Proper planning prevents piss-poor performance!”  Truer advice has not been given for wedding planning.  Also, we paid for everything ourselves and it all went according to plan – no one’s lists to adhere to, no one else’s vision to accommodate – simply fabulous!

Here we go:

Dress.  I bought my dress (an evening dress) off the rack from Nordstrom in Pentagon City.  Ferial, who works in the Studio department, and I talked about what I wanted over a year in advance – cut, color, etc. – and she kept an eye out.  If you’re looking for a non-traditional bridal gown, I strongly recommend her.  703-415-1121.   A+

Shoes.  This is where I spent the largest portion of my attire budget.  I had shoes custom made by Shoes of Prey (Austrailia).  If you don’t want just the same old shoe and have time (it took about 3 – 4 weeks from order to delivery), I say go for it."> .  A+

Hair.  I entrusted my hair to Bill Lawrence of The Bill Lawrence Salon in Adams Morgan in DC.  Bill has been featured for his wedding work in The Washingtonian Bride and Groom magazine.  He does not disappoint!  202-387-8310  A+

Skin Care and Nails.  I had a pre-wedding regimen of periodic facials leading up to the big day at Celadon Spa in downtown DC with the owner, Judith Koritsas.  My skin was flawless.  A couple of days before the wedding, I had a fabulous massage (and waxing … ouch!) with Judith as well.  She’s fantastic.  Manicure and pedicure with Mina at Celadon were perfect, of course.  202-347-3333  A+

Venue.  We chose The Historic Inns of Annapolis, specifically the Governor Calvert House, as our venue.  We had a small ceremony and cocktail party on their outdoor terrace – it was fantastic.  We moved into the atrium for dinner (their chef is fabulous!) and dancing.  Our guests loved the ambiance!  We worked with Michelle Vellon for more than a year and a half prior to the big day.  She’s a real pro and very responsive.  We checked in a day early.  I arrived sick.  The staff made sure to send hot water and everything I needed for tea with lemon and honey. Who could ask for anything more??">  A+

Photography.  I cannot say enough good things about Jim Johnson Photography, based in DC near the SW waterfront.  Immediately after securing our venue, we signed the contract with Jim.  Our package included an engagement photo session.  Jim brought 2 other photographers with him – they captured all of the action, including getting ready sessions in three different hotel rooms, without being intrusive.">  A+

Ceremony Music.  The String Quartet of Northern Virginia, based in Fairfax County, provided the ceremony music.  They were outstanding!  We wanted to set a relaxed mood with classical music and were not disappointed.  We spent a lot of time choosing our music and then worked with the director, Stephanie Flack, to make sure each piece worked within the flow of the ceremony (we did this for the prelude as well).">  A++

Reception Music.  We hired Chris Temple, the owner of C and J Entertainment, based in Odenton, MD.  Oh my goodness!  From the cocktail hour through dinner and dancing, the music was superb.  We gave Chris an extensive play list; we worked with him to move certain tunes around to different parts of the evening.  He made sure he knew our “must play” and “do not play” selections.  He did not miss a thing.  He helped make the evening all we wanted it to be – elegant and fun.  A+

Flowers.  Nancy Huffman was our primary contact for floral design at Homestead Gardens (Davidsonville, MD).  There was confusion during planning, one designer quit, a payment was not properly credited, ugh!  But … things turned around when Nancy took over.  What I liked most about Homestead is the willingness of the staff to follow our vision and not push unwanted flowers on us.  Other firms I interviewed had minimums that, with such a small wedding, we simply could not meet.  Everything – the canopy; my bouquet; the gentlemen’s boutonnieres; florals for the cake, seating assignment and gift tables – was perfect.  We made a last minute, on-site adjustment to the placement of the canopy and Homestead’s crew handled It in great fashion.  B

Invitations.  We bought our invitations from the Paper Source store in Old Town Alexandria.  What a disappointment!  We were going for a specific look and feel and used letterpress in an attempt to achieve it.  Multiple problems followed, including an incorrect initial proof.  If the printer had followed the instructions as written, everything would have been fine.  The worst part was that our invitations didn’t have the deep impression we wanted, which was chosen directly from their sample book.  How can these people get such simple things SO wrong?  They offered to re-print but frankly, given the wobbly excuse (the printer is from a multi-generation family of printers in Europe and they don’t do it the way you want) for why the impressions weren’t as we expected, we decided to go with the initial run.  I was the only one who knew the difference; it wasn’t worth a fight.  I do not recommend Paper Source for letterpress invitations.  They just can’t get it right.  D-

Cake.  We ordered from Oh, What a Cake!, based in Columbia, MD.  I’m not much of a cake person, H is the connoisseur.  He first tasted Marcia’s chocolate chocolate mousse cake at a bridal fair.  He picked up a piece and stopped in his tracks.  Marcia even accommodated H’s last minute (3 days before the wedding) cake design request.  She’s an angel!  The cake looked great and tasted fabulous.  Several guests asked for seconds!  410-381-3131  A+

I apologize for the lengthy post, but wanted to make sure I provided thorough reviews that can be used as you plan your happy day!  Good luck.

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