Ideas and inspiration for easy entertaining and a fun home life


An Expert’s Advice on Unexpected Elements

March 6, 2019

I spoke in NYC a few weeks ago on a panel, “Engaged, Now What?” and the biggest through line and take away was that you should strive to make your wedding your own.    I could see some ladies in the audience wondering how.   Sure, we would all love our weddings to be “very us” but if this is the first celebration you have thrown, it might be daunting to imagine what’s possible and what’s not.

Let’s backtrack for a second and recognize that in the last fifteen years we have graduated from the days of wedding planners telling you exactly which flowers, cake, and tablecloth you can pick (swans in the bathtub) into the ultimate bespoke era where anything and everything is possible (a burning man themed heli-skiing wedding you say??).  And, in this fluid state of possibility, it can be intimating to figure out how to walk the line between wedding traditions (cake cutting, bouquet, toasts, timing, white dress, bridesmaids, the list goes on)… and a more off-the-beaten path “very you” touches.

In steps Serena Merriman of Merriman Events,  with whom I have had the pleasure of working with on several occasions (our first was Harley’s).    Serena is one of those women who appears to be so effortlessly herself that you feel at once immediately at ease and also inspired to be so thoroughly yourself, too — the perfect combination for a wedding planning guru guide.   She is well acquainted with wedding values and traditions but isn’t afraid to step off the ledge into a deeply creative space.     In this, she is the perfect woman to ask for some her favorite unexpected decorating surprises, whether you lift them directly or use them as your launch-pad to think outside the box….

Have fun with your Placecards

Placecards are a really good opportunity to get personal and have fun in an unexpected way.  I recently did a Valley of the Dolls themed birthday party where we did custom embroidered sleep masks at each setting rather than a placecard.  I also love doing cootie catchers, snow globes, party crackers, fruit (like mini apples), mini balloons, velvet ribbons tied around the napkin or the cutlery, beach rocks or shells, paper fans, wax lips, vintage postcards, little easels with tiny canvases, friendship bracelets, sunglasses, rings or even the napkin itself embroidered with the person’s name. 

Bathroom Surprise

I love doing a fun surprise element in the bathroom at a party.  I did a wedding at the Odeon restaurant in downtown New York recently that was very elegant and understated in the main dining room and then when guests went downstairs to the restrooms, they were greeted by a sea of red balloons in the little foyer.  Balloons in a tight space is such a fun little kiki moment. 

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Balloon bathroom surprise at Odeon

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Balloon Bar at Harley’s after party


I also did a party for Cointreau with my friend Rachelle MacPherson a couple of years ago where we floated lots of oranges in the bathtub which looked so cool and was an unexpected surprise when you walked in.  I’ve done balloons in a shower stall before for an Instagram photo opp and lipstick on bathroom mirrors for a feminine brand party.  Bathrooms are often an underused photo/ branding opportunity and it’s fun to have an excuse to get more wild than you would get with the rest of the party design!

Paper Crowns

Many clients have asked for old fashioned customized paper party crowns.  Harley Viera-Newton ordered them for her wedding, she had a wonderful sense of color and play.   Since then, I have gotten  many calls asking me for her source.   Paper crowns are a really fun way to do something personal with your wedding brand other than the usual matchbooks and paper napkins.

Lucy jumping in here:  Harley also had pass the parcel on the tabletop, which was a great conversation starter! 

Colored candles 

When you think of weddings you almost always see white or ivory candlesticks.   I love to try and mix in a colored or textured candle as a way to add a pop to the table.  Even a taupe or blush candlestick lends color when placed together.  If you work with a great florist, they can use a candle color as an accent to your palette in a beautiful way – for example, a blush candle with a darker fuchsia or purple in the centerpiece balance each other so nicely.

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Unusual Desserts

I love cake but I love doing an unexpected dessert even more.  I recently ordered a 3 foot tall croquembouche for clients who got married in New York which was looked cool on display throughout the evening.   I love doing a dessert inside a balloon or sugar cage or something you have to use a hammer on to open.  Anything that asks the guest to engage and play is a fun thing to have at the end of the meal.  Dessert should be fun!

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Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us, Serena!  We can’t wait to see what you do next. xxx!