A note from Emily McMahon, Grandes Fetes:
As a wedding planner and floral designer who’s also recently engaged, when photographer Jessica Schilling approached me and asked if I would be interested in styling a faux-wedding photo shoot, I jumped at the chance to play with some ideas I’d had mulling around in my head as possible themes for my own wedding. I was also excited to collaborate on the project with some of my favorite vendors.
I wanted to create a shabby chic look that was elegant, without being stuffy. I’m a huge fan of the “DIY look”, and love getting creative with found objects, so I knew that was the direction I was heading for the shoot. As I started to plan, I knew that I wanted to mesh formal elements with casual ones, thus the crystal and fine china mixed with the crocheted hearts and old bottles & mason jars.
The first thing I knew I wanted to create for the shoot was a self-serve lemonade stand. I love adding a little “help yourself” element into a wedding. That desire was confirmed when on my first trip to a thrift store I spotted a gorgeous silver-plated crystal pitcher, for under $5. A quick browse on Ebay found the other two nearly-matching pitchers. When you find that one piece that really speaks to you, I like to advise brides to just embrace it. That one piece you love can often set the tone for the wedding, and helps you narrow down what else you’re looking for. Many brides never realize the treasures you can find (many for for under a dollar!), if you just spend a few days perusing your local thrift stores, and Ebay and Etsy are a DIY bride’s dream shopping centers – you can shop across the globe from your living room.
We mixed an Old Fashioned Lemonade (Just the way you remember it – Fresh Squeezed Lemons, Water and a pinch or two of Sugar), Spiked Strawberry Lemonade (Old Fashioned Lemonade mixed with Fresh Strawberries and a bit of Gray Goose) and a Mango and Mint Lemonade (A Southern-Style Lemonade, mixed with Fresh Mango Puree and Mint Leaves), and labeled them with simple printed cardstock slipped into a slit cut in real lemons. Add in some tall glasses (Prosecco Flutes from Classic Party Rentals), cute DIY drink stirrers, some mint sprigs, a few floral pieces in simple jars and some lemon halves and slices, and wedding guests are drawn to the stand to feast on the decor, before they even pour a glass.
For the dinner table, I used some amazing dessert plates (from my very own china cabinet), atop inexpensive blue glass dinner plates. A lemon lollipop favor placed on each setting pulls the lemon theme into the tablescape, and I also created lemon garlands for the backs of the bride & groom chairs. The florals were designed in some of the bottles from my blue glass collection mixed with other odds and ends collected from thrift stores. We used Montecito Flatware, Regency Glassware, simple white poly-cotton napkins and table linen, and Tuscan Chiavari chairs all from Classic El Segundo, and created a fabric runner – cut from affordable fabric found at the LA fabric district downtown, leaving the edges raw.
I went to the LA flower market a couple days before the shoot and did what I love doing – walked through and picked out the most beautiful flowers for sale that day. I wanted a mixture of wildflowers and more traditional wedding flowers, and I wanted some beautiful textural whites – the Hydrangeas and Peonies were beyond perfect. For brides who want to be a part of the whole design experience, I love to bring them along to the market with me to do a walk through, and talk about flowers they like and don’t. There’s something very different for them about seeing the flowers in person, and talking about them in photos. While I do encourage brides to be as hands-on as they feel comfortable, flowers are an element that take up a huge amount of time and energy in the days leading up to and the day of the wedding. Having someone to prep and arrange them for you can make all the difference in your hectic pre-wedding schedule.
We put together the shoot at Catchlight Studio in Los Angeles. It’s such a great venue for intimate events, with a lot of character, and at the same time it is a completely blank slate with it’s white brick walls, great natural light, hardwood floors and wooden rafters. What fun it would be to dress the entire space for a real wedding.
We worked with 24 Carrots catering company to create some unique lemon-based desserts for our dessert buffet – and let me assure you they were as delicious as they looked! There were Lemon Custard Shot Glasses, Lemon & Mango Tarts, French Lemon Macaroons and some super cute Yellow Cake Lollipops. Mmmmm. Jessica and I decided to decorate the cakes ourselves with store-bought candies, and added the left over candies into the buffet. I love the look of a homemade cake, especially for budget-conscious brides. If you’re a DIY bride there’s no reason you can’t decorate your own cake with easy to find materials, and save a good deal of money by skipping the expensive sugar-flowers and fondant.
I asked One Pink Poppy, a great Etsy vendor I’ve worked with long-distance on several custom sewing projects to put together the hearts for me – as it was my vision to use them as escort cards. They’re made from upcycled sweaters, stuffed with a little cotton stuffing and lemon scented potpourri. These double as a great keepsake scented sachet for your guests. They were so cute that we used them scattered on the lemonade stand and made a garland of them as well. The seating assignments were printed and cut into little strips reminiscent of a fortune cookie. I used hat pins to stick the hearts to a sheet of cork framed in a simple wooden picture frame, which was painted white, and covered with the same fabric I used for the table runner. I’ve already used the same frame for two weddings since creating it for the shoot. It’s always fun to splurge a little bit on your escort cards and create a unique display. Using picture frames to pin up even simple paper cards hung from ribbon, is an inexpensive way to shake up the usual boring escort card display.
I envisioned that the bride and groom for this wedding would be sweet & crafty, with a sense of humor. We asked recently married couple Trina & Brett to pose for us in their original wedding gear. Trina & Brett were a great DIY couple – they made their own wedding bands and Trina actually designed and sewed her own wedding dress. We also called in a couple of great kids, Natalie and Jack, to act as our Jr. Bridesmaid and Jr. Groomsman – they couldn’t wait to dig into the desserts and lollipops!
I’ve styled photoshoots for several publications, but always with a theme already in place. To be able to create my own look from scratch was a true treat, and I wouldn’t have done it without the suggestion & encouragement from Jessica. I hope you enjoy the final product!
A note from Jessica Schilling, Jessica Schilling Photography:
I love looking through styled shoots for photography inspiration and I approached Emily with collaborating on one so we could both explore some ideas. In discussing our plans, two things we knew were important to us were to have a real couple so we could capture their natural chemistry, and to have our models interacting with the food and decor as they would in a real wedding.
We approached our friends Brett and Trina to be our models because they are such an adorable couple and though they’ve been married for over a year, the honeymoon phase is still in full force. They’re both naturals in front of the camera and were always making each other laugh throughout the whole shoot. I was able to capture lots of genuine, candid moments of them together in addition to the more directed shots.
Since Emily did such a great job with styling the shoot and the deserts from 24 Carrots were so pretty, I knew I wanted lots of detail shots incorporating all of these elements. One of my favorites is a shot of Brett and Trina’s rings on fresh-cut lemons at the lemonade table. We also had a lot of fun photographing the couple and the kids eating the tarts and cookies on the dessert buffet. Of course the food is meant to taste great in addition to looking great, so I wanted to really show everyone enjoying it.
We had a lot of beautiful natural light to work with in our location at Catchlight Studios, and I intentionally photographed our shoot with warm golden look to compliment all the lemony yellow in the design. The gorgeous hardwood floors, Spanish tile stairs, and wrought-iron details gave several options for backdrops when doing our bridal party portraits, and make this such a unique choice for a modern wedding venue.