Wedding Experts

Tips, tricks, and advice from the pros.

| Boston Weddings |

Wedding ExpertsPhotos by Matt Kalinowski

The Tastemaker

What’s fresh, sustainable, and green all over? A wedding menu created by Robert Harris’s Season to Taste Catering.

Robert Harris was running East Coast Grill’s catering service when he came across The Omnivore’s Dilemma, a book by Michael Pollan that explores the origins of the foods we eat. “It was like peeling back a veil,” Harris says. “It brought to light the negative effects of agribusinesses that rely on pesticides and treat animals with antibiotics.” Reading Pollan’s book, and shopping with his daughters at local farmers’ markets, changed the way the Cambridgeport resident thought about food—so much so that in 2005, he launched his own catering company, Season to Taste, based on principles of sustainability.

“People were starting to understand how this was important, and I tapped into it at the right time,” Harris recalls. Over the years, he has built a reputation as a chef devoted to local vendors, sourcing produce from the Kitchen Garden farm, ice cream from Toscanini’s, and coffee from Rao’s—all of which he combines to produce elegant, eco-friendly wedding feasts.

—Kara Baskin

How is Season to Taste green?

We make the most sustainable, locally sourced, and seasonal food choices possible. For example, we offer only grass-fed beef from our farm partners in West Brookfield, and we typically have one or two cows culled and delivered to us per week during wedding season. Our dedication to local sourcing was initially problematic because the beef option on wedding menus has traditionally been a single cut of meat, like tenderloin or rib-eye, which translates to several animals per wedding. The solution we developed is to serve duets and trios, using multiple cuts and cooking techniques. Braises, grilled cuts, and homemade sausages allow us to create diverse and interesting menus.

Weddings are notorious for leftovers. How do you make sure nothing goes to waste?

We try our best to limit waste through careful planning and efficiency. When there are leftovers from events we cater, our clients can either keep them or leave them with us to donate to a shelter.

How does a couple know that they’ll click with a caterer?

These days, most brides and grooms do a lot of online research before picking up the phone. The aesthetics of a website are a good indicator of similar tastes, styles, and values.

Any strategies for keeping costs down?

You should never skimp on the food. Instead, look at the bar: Do you need a full bar? Just do beer, wine, and one specialty cocktail. Also, cut back on fancy table settings. Do you need ballroom chairs? Try folding fruitwood chairs instead.

How can a couple ensure that vegan or gluten-intolerant guests are satisfied?

Guests with restrictions tend to get the short end of the stick, and the cool thing about using locally sourced ingredients and cooking from scratch is that it’s easy to avoid things like gluten and just let the vibrant, fresh flavors shine through.

What are some good kid-approved wedding dishes?

Children can always have a smaller portion of what the grownups are having. But kids will be kids: Whole-grain pasta, fresh fruit salad, grilled cheese, and mini burgers are all good choices. We do a classic PB & J with organic peanut butter, and we make our own jams.

What is the biggest mistake couples make when planning their wedding menus?

Not taking their guests’ needs into consideration. While the big day is all about celebrating the union of two people in love, the best weddings are designed with everyone in mind. We love cooking for carnivores and vegetarians equally, but a whole roast pig might not be a hit at a wedding with mostly vegan guests.

Are there certain questions a bride and groom should ask the caterer at the tasting?

Not to get on my soapbox about this, but the same thing that everyone should be asking, all the time, about the things they put in their bodies: Where is this product from? Who grew that carrot and what is it sprayed with? We believe that knowing the source of the ingredients allows the consumer to make the best decision for the environment and for their own health.

What are some of the biggest trends in catering right now?

Natural-wood farm tables and benches for the reception are really hot. More and more people are looking at farmsfor their venue and embracing the farm-to-table movement. Popsicles, too.

How can a couple actually find time to eat on their wedding day?

We bring the food to them. After the ceremony, while the bride and groom are taking photographs or swarmed with their guests, we bring a plate with a sampling of all their appetizers to them, as well as a cocktail. But honestly, they don’t always get to enjoy their meal, which is why we go all out during the booking process with a five-course dinner paired with wine.

What food did you serve at your wedding?

[Sighs.] It was 1995. It was Cleveland in December. My wife and I met when we were young—17 and 20. We got married when I was 23, and she was 21, during Christmas break from culinary school. It wasn’t the best wedding food—something like walnut-crusted chicken, a veggie terrine, probably purchased and reheated, all the usual wedding food that we don’t do at Season to Taste. We’re hoping to have a big 30th anniversary celebration.

Season to Taste Catering, 2447 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, 617-826-9037,



Robert Harris dishes on his favorite warm-weather foods.

Heirloom Tomatoes
For a fun departure from traditional appetizer stations, stack six or seven types of tomatoes—like purple Cherokee and green zebra—on a big wooden board, and prepare them to order with mozzarella, basil purée, aged balsamic vinegar, and crusty bread.

Striped Bass
Pair a sweet corn-basil-tomato relish with striped bass, which can be caught right off the coast of Massachusetts in the summer.

Buttermilk Biscuits with Berries
It’s simple and elegant—top with whipped cream for a fresh alternative to wedding cake.

Wedding Experts

The Paper Dolls

The venue, food, and flowers are all important parts of the big day—but it’s the invitation suite that really tells your story, says letterpress pro Samantha Finigan.

Samantha Finigan wants to know all about you. How did you meet? Where do you live? What was the proposal like? The co-owner of Gus & Ruby Letterpress will happily take in all the details over glasses of champagne.

Finigan and her business partner, Whitney Swaffield, met six years ago while working at an ad agency. After bonding during walks with their dogs (Gus and Ruby, of course), the two friends decided in 2008 to launch their stationery business. Today they have a design studio and brick-and-mortar paper shop in downtown Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

When it comes to wedding stationery, Finigan and Swaffield let each couple’s unique history inform their designs. “People come to us for something different,” Finigan says, “knowing our invitations will get their guests excited for what’s to come, whether it’s a formal affair or a pig roast.”

—Marni Elyse Katz

At what stage of the planning should a couple order invitations?

Start the process as soon as you have the major details (date, venue, overall vision) ironed out, about six months prior to the wedding. This allows ample time for the design, proofing, and production process. If you’re creating a completely custom invitation, plan to start even earlier, about 10 to 12 months before the wedding.

When are save-the-date cards a good idea?

We recommend save-the-dates for destination weddings, those held on holiday weekends, and weddings in locations where accommodations are limited. Mail them six to nine months before the wedding. This gives guests enough time to make travel arrangements, but not so much that they toss the invitation aside.

There are so many different components to an invitation suite. How do you help couples determine what they really need? 

Stationery is often the aspect of wedding planning a couple has thought about the least. Many come into it kind of blind, but that’s okay. We educate them. Most brides and grooms will need the invitation, reply card, reply envelope, and outer envelope. But it’s important to work with a stationer who will illuminate the process in a way that makes sense for you, especially since there is so much choice. It’s not just about picking white or ecru paper, and black, gray, or navy ink anymore.

How do you help finicky clients choose an invitation design?

In the initial meeting we talk a lot about the couple. We pour champagne and ask them to fill out a worksheet, circling words that describe their vision—formal, rustic, romantic, extravagant, intimate, simple, chic, et cetera. We want to know about them, too, so our designs can be a reflection of who they are as a pair.

How strictly should a couple adhere to rules of etiquette? 

A bride and groom do not have to follow wedding rules from the 1800s. There are no wedding police. Set a tone that’s in line with your personality and party. For instance, the phrase “We request the honor of your presence” for a barn wedding where pulled pork will be served doesn’t feel right. You want the language to match the overall event style.

Has letterpress printing replaced engraving?

Letterpress is what engraving was generations ago. Even if a bride wants to be formal, she still wants to be current, and letterpress is the modern thing to do.

What new techniques are popular?

We see a lot of brides using foil stamping right now. It’s a printing process that uses heat, pressure, and metal dies to lay a thin layer of foil film onto the paper. It adds glam and glitz. People are also loving edge painting. You use a thicker card and have the edge painted for a gorgeous pop of color.

Is that extra piece of vellum enclosed with the invitation really necessary?

We don’t often get requests for that anymore. It was originally inserted so the ink on the invitation wouldn’t smudge.

How about envelope liners?

In past times, it prevented others from seeing through the envelope, but we like them from a design perspective. A couple might use a traditional invitation, but pair it with a fun liner.

When is it okay to use email? 

It’s never appropriate to use email for wedding-related communication with guests. Weddings are important events and should be treated as exalted occasions. That said, couples do use email to get out extra information or to alert guests if plans change.

What paper décor elements are hot right now?

Monogrammed coasters stacked by the bar are popular. We also make swizzle sticks with flags in custom patterns, especially for clients serving signature drinks.

Tell us about an especially creative piece you’ve designed recently.

For a wedding at a Vermont inn, we found a vintage map of the town that we turned into a gatefold folio to wrap around the invitation. Then we tied it with gold-filament-laced baker’s twine and attached a foil-stamped hangtag reading, “See you in Vermont.”

Where can budget-conscious couples save?

If you’re using letterpress printing, screen-printing, or foil stamping, limit the ink to one hue. You can easily add color with a contrasting envelope. Another way to save money is to use a custom return-address rubber stamp on the outer envelopes instead of having them printed. And at the reception, have a chalkboard with handwritten table assignments instead of printed or calligraphed cards.

Gus & Ruby Letterpress, 29 Congress St., Portsmouth, NH, 603-319-1717,



Samantha Finigan on how to create the perfect invitation suite.

Go Postal
Custom stamps are a finishing touch that can tie the whole wedding suite together visually.

Green It Up
Letterpress pieces can be printed on reclaimed cotton or bamboo—or even on paper containing wildflower seeds that guests can plant later.

Sweat the Details
An envelope liner based on something personal (the pattern of the rug at your reception, for instance) is more special than generic printed paper.

Don’t Mix and Match
Keep the printing types consistent within one mailed suite. You wouldn’t want to enclose directions printed on your home computer with your letterpress invitations, for example.

Wedding Experts

The Ring Leader

Want your engagement ring and wedding bands to really shine? Consider going custom, says jewelry designer Megan Flynn.

Like many successful entrepreneurs, sisters Megan and Moria Flynn were inspired by a childhood pastime. “We were always making jewelry as kids,” Megan says. As preteens, they even dabbled in wholesale, selling bracelets crafted from friendship pins to a store on Mount Desert Island, Maine. “We didn’t have cable,” Megan says, “so we had lots of time on our hands.”

Fast-forward to the recession, when the sisters again found themselves living together at their parents’ house—and making jewelry together, too. After creating a few pieces for Megan to wear to a wedding, the Flynns decided to spin their hobby into a profession, opening up a South End studio and, shortly after, the retail showroom M. Flynn.

For brides- and grooms-to-be, the chic boutique showcases handcrafted engagement rings, wedding bands, and other aisle-ready baubles. The sisters are currently honing their skills on jewelry-specific CAD (computer-aided design) software and taking part-time courses at the Gemological Institute of America so they can continue to expand their custom offerings. Here, Megan schools us in the art of big-day bling.

—Marni Elyse Katz

Tell us about your custom jewelry design process.

First we listen to what the client is thinking about and get an idea of budget. Then we brainstorm ideas and put together a mood board. When we’ve settled on a basic look, we use a jewelry-specific CAD software program to further refine the design. The program lets us provide a detailed rendering of what pieces will look like.

Is the custom route for everyone? 

It’s great for clients who are looking for something different, and who want to take part in the design process. But some people need to touch and feel the jewelry. The CAD software helps, but the ring won’t be right there in front of you.

Do clients come to you with ideas already in mind? 

People pay attention to wedding blogs and Pinterest boards. Some bring in photos of different rings that they want to blend into one design. That’s where we can really help—we are able to work with them to transform their ideas into a finished product.

So is it men who are seeking out one-of-a-kind engagement rings and getting involved in the actual design? 

The men who come to us for engagement rings do so because their fiancée has poked them. This past spring we did quite a few nontraditional engagement rings, though always at the direction of the bride.

Can you tell us about a particularly original commission?

We recently designed a ring featuring a huge pink sapphire that rivaled the cost of some diamonds we’ve purchased. We surrounded it with marquise and half-moon diamonds for a starburst effect. It was thrilling for us.

Are colored stones becoming more common?

Yes. Clients are choosing less common colored stones and experimenting with different combinations, not just mixing sapphires with diamonds. Recently we designed a ring with tanzanite accents. It’s a bright, purple-blue stone that the couple had seen when they traveled to Africa together. They incorporated it as a reminder of the trip. We’ve also used pink sapphires, tourmalines, and, of course, canary diamonds.

What cuts of stone are popular? 

We’re seeing a mix of cuts. We had one client ask for alternating round and baguette stones in an eternity band. We’re currently making another eternity band with marquise-cut diamonds that are nested to look like petals. We’re having fun playing with different shapes. Moria made a ring for herself using marquise-cut stones that she set in a crisscross pattern.

How can a bride rework a vintage or heirloom piece? 

We love working with inherited pieces. But vintage jewelry is often very delicate, and you don’t quite know what you are getting. Clients often bring us old pieces to be reset or repaired. Many older pieces are worn thin, and too fragile for everyday use. We recently reset a ring a bride inherited from her grandmother that she planned to wear as her engagement ring. We simply reset it in a similar manner.

What are brides looking for when it comes to wedding-day jewelry? 

More and more brides are commissioning fine keepsake pieces to wear on the day of the wedding. We call it the Kate Middleton trend, because she wore earrings that her parents had custom-made for the wedding. We also had brides this spring who did complete outfit changes, wearing one gown for the ceremony and another for the reception, along with complete jewelry changes.

And how about accessories for their attendants?

It used to be everybody had to wear the pink necklace to match the same pink dress. Now brides are more open to finding dresses and jewelry that match each girl’s personality. It’s refreshing.

Have you had any bizarre requests?

More than a few couples have asked to incorporate their pets into their wedding jewelry. We’ve had brides engrave their dogs’ faces onto cuff links. We even had a couple ask to engrave an image of their pet on the inside of their wedding bands, but there really isn’t much room for that sort of thing.

M. Flynn, 40 Waltham St., Boston, 617-292-0079,



Megan Flynn offers advice for selecting wedding bands and sparklers.

Size It Up
Buy the highest-quality stone you can afford, not the largest. A beautiful stone can be highlighted with a great setting or smaller stones around it, but there’s no way to hide or change a bad-looking stone.

Be Color Conscious
If you really want an eternity band but a diamond one just isn’t in the budget, choose colored stones like pink sapphires instead.

Think Blue
Consider incorporating a sapphire or blue topaz into a wedding-day jewelry piece for your “something blue.”

Keep It Comfy
Comfort-fit bands have tapered edges that easily slide over knuckles and don’t dig into the skin. The extra layer of rounded, interior metal ups the cost, but it’s money well spent.

Wedding Experts

The Lens Crafters

Ready for your close-up? Tom and Melissa Dowler of Long Haul Films turn out Hollywood-worthy wedding videos.

Tom and Melissa Dowler didn’t set out to be videographers. The married couple—he has a master’s degree in film from London’s Goldsmiths College, she started in advertising and has a flair for production—were working on a documentary about weddings when a friend asked them to shoot her big day. “It was so creatively fulfilling, so rewarding,” Melissa says of their first assignment. “We didn’t look back after that.”

And it’s a good thing they didn’t: Since launching Long Haul Films, the pair has put together everything from a Bollywood-meets-Scorsese wedding trailer to an engagement video featuring a couple crossing the Boston Marathon finish line. No matter what they shoot and how they shoot it, though, each couple’s story ends up tugging at Melissa’s heartstrings. “We say the trailer isn’t ready until Melissa cries,” Tom says. “That’s the final test.”

—Gina Tomaine

What attracted you to wedding videography? 

Melissa: I think we had a little bit of a stereotype in our minds about what wedding videography was. But then we realized that there was some incredible cinematic work going on. We love it. And I think that’s important: When you’re hiring a videographer—when you’re hiring any wedding vendor—hire someone who loves weddings. Hire someone who will cry at your wedding.

What’s your videography style?

Melissa: We find that clients are reacting well to a mixture of cinematic and documentary styles—something that has high-quality production value and really beautiful shots with a healthy dose of candid moments. We do sound capture of those candid exchanges, whether it’s your mom talking to you right after you get into the dress, or that little whisper the bride and groom exchange as they walk down the aisle after the ceremony.

How should a couple select a videographer?

Melissa: Many videographers post wedding trailers (three to five minutes) on their websites, but most offer longer cuts as part of the package. It’s good to see a longer version and ask yourself: Did they sustain the story and keep up the personal element beyond those three to five minutes?

How do you remain unobtrusive but still stay true to your aesthetic?

Tom: There are times during a wedding when we shoot with wide lenses, which means we get really close to the couple, and there are times when we step back and shoot with longer lenses. The best wedding videographers now use digital SLR cameras, which are small, agile, and awesome in low light. They make the venue feel less like a film set.

Why should couples hire a videographer in addition to a photographer?

Melissa: Photography is good for capturing moments in time, while videography is good for telling the story. It shows how the whole day flowed, from the time you got ready to when you said “I do” to when you hit the dance floor with your grandma. You can watch it on your anniversaries, show it to your family, and, if you have children, show it to them.

Is it ever a good idea to have a friend film your wedding?

Melissa: Think of what you might spend on your dress and the décor, and then think about how you’re only going to have those items for one day. Isn’t it worth it to have someone professionally capture everything so you can experience it again? That’s why we call videography an investment, taking time and care to capture all the other things that you’ve carefully chosen for your wedding day.

What advice would you give to a bride and groom who aren’t sure what they want from a video?

Tom: Would they describe themselves as fun and playful, or serious and romantic? We ask these questions to get to the heart of their relationship so we can better portray it.

Melissa: Sometimes they have a style without even realizing it. We’ll see their lists of favorite movies and think, Oh! They love bright, colorful comedies, or They love dramatic romances.

What’s new in wedding videography? 

Tom: For a few years, there has been a big increase in engagement shoots for photographers. Now, we’re seeing more and more people who want an engagement film, as well.

Melissa: Couples are using these films at their reception—guests can experience parts of their story that maybe they didn’t even know.

What’s a recent funny moment you caught on film? 

Tom: We had one wardrobe malfunction that was accidentally captured. A female guest threw her hands up enthusiastically and showed a little more than she intended. We were very discreet about that scene—it definitely hit the cutting-room floor.

How do you choose what to edit out?

Tom: We shoot 8 to 10 hours of footage at most weddings. There’s a temptation to capture everything for posterity, especially when we shoot throughout the day. It can be a real challenge sometimes to not only find the most beautiful shots, but also bring out the emotions of the day. Sometimes we have to leave beautiful shots out so that we can include the most important moments.

Long Haul Films, 107 South St., Boston, 617-259-8900,



Tom and Melissa Dowler share their secrets for a flawless wedding video.

Organize a Meet and Greet
Encourage your videographer to connect with your photographer before the big day to discuss how best to shoot the ceremony and the speeches.

Set the Stage
Set up a clutter-free zone where the bride can get into her dress and enjoy a quiet, calm moment with key members of the wedding party.

Plan Smart
Allow time to do some formal videography between the ceremony and reception. That way, your videographer can spend the rest of the time on the peripheries capturing the candid moments.

Prep Your Party
People giving speeches are nervous, and often pace. Use a stand for the mike so that it stays fixed. The more stationary the best man is, the better he’s going to look on the wedding film.

Wedding Experts

The Frock Finder

Stacey Kraft on how to say “yes” to the dresses you want and “no” to the bridesmaid drama.

No bridal party is too high-maintenance for Flair Brides & Maids owner Stacey Kraft, whose fascination with weddings started when she was just old enough to be a flower girl. After spending two years as a consultant at Flair, the California native jumped at the opportunity to buy the business in June 2012—the same month she got married herself. “Since I’ve just been through the wedding-planning process,” she says, “brides feel like I understand what they are going through—and I do.”

Her secret weapon? A degree in psychology from UMass Lowell, which comes in handy when tackling body issues, defusing bridal disasters, and pacifying fussy ’maids. “We tend to do a little bit of therapy in here,” she says with a laugh.

—Lindsay Tucker

Is it a good idea to bring all 12 of your bridesmaids to an appointment?

No. We usually tell girls with bigger bridal parties to bring their maid of honor and one or two bridesmaids to the first appointment to get an idea. It can be extremely overwhelming if you bring everyone in at once. It’s a lot of opinions, and sometimes the bride’s opinion gets stifled. Have the rest of the girls come in for a second appointment so they can do fittings, try on, and even choose their dresses—but narrow the selection down without them.

How should brides deal with picky bridesmaids?

Carefully. Keep everybody’s body-image issues in mind—understand that they are your friends, they are your family, and remember that we all have something we don’t love about ourselves. Playing up their best assets and making them feel good about themselves is important. It’s a delicate balance, and that’s why it’s good for brides to come in alone the first time, or just with a few people.

What if your bridesmaids have drastically different body types? 

It’s best for the bride to choose the fabric and a color and then let the girls pick what kind of style fits them.

Do most brides still choose uniform gowns for their ’maids? 

It’s probably a 50/50 split, and it’s changing every year. Fifty percent go with everyone in the same dress, and 50 percent let the girls choose between two or three styles, or even a complete range—everyone in something different, same color. I have very few that will do a palette—dresses in several styles and colors.

Are long dresses still in?

We’re definitely seeing a resurgence. I think it has to do with the dates of weddings now. People are having them year round in New England. And if you’re having a winter wedding, it doesn’t really make sense to have your bridal party in short dresses. I did long for my wedding, and that was in the middle of the summer. It’s nice to get dressed up—I think bridesmaids like it. It’s just fun to feel glamorous and red carpet–ish, and long gowns tend to be made of chiffon, which is always a little more flattering—you have more room to hide what you don’t love. But hands down, short is still the most popular.

How many weddings have you been in? What was your favorite dress? 

I’ve been in four weddings. One of my friends let us each pick the style and the fabric for our dresses, which were all navy blue. I chose a hammered-satin dress, short and one-shoulder with some pleating at the top, really modern. It would be pretty easy to wear again with a chunky necklace and a bright blazer.

What runway looks are you seeing in bridesmaid wear? 

One-shoulder is one of the biggest trends right now because it works on every body type—especially people with big busts. You still get a strap without looking matronly.

Which colors are universally flattering?

Black, navy, dark gray—those are the best and most flattering, and most popular. With these, girls can do so much more with their flowers and decorations. Especially if there are a lot of bridesmaids, we tend to push people more toward neutrals.

Do an attendant’s shoes need to match her dress?

No. I love doing nude shoes with a short dress, or really neutral shoes. It makes girls look skinnier, taller, and keeps the attention on the dress and the girl in it. For longer styles, I suggest doing something fun with a pop of color under the gown.

How much is too much to ask your bridesmaids to spend?

It depends on the wedding, but I think under $300 is totally acceptable. The trend I’ve been seeing lately is brides contributing a little so their bridesmaids can get a nicer dress. I always tell girls: You want what you want. You have to look at these pictures forever. If it ends up costing you 200 bucks in the end but the bridesmaids are in the dresses you love, that’s great.

Can you really wear a bridesmaid dress again? Be honest. 

Yes, I swear to God it can happen. If the bride picks a good color, you can 100 percent wear it again. Think about a navy-blue dress—you live in New England. Wear it out to dinner, or on the Cape in the summer. My sister-in-law and I are the same size, luckily, and after my own wedding, I was like, “Okay, I’m going to keep your bridesmaid dress, because I really want to wear that to a wedding.”

Flair Brides & Maids, 10 Newbury St., Boston, 617-247-2828 (by appointment),



Stacey Kraft’s pointers for a painless dress hunt.

Avoid Store Overload
Visit only two or three boutiques—otherwise, it can get overwhelming. Once you start considering too many options, you’ll lose your original vision.

Come Prepared
Have an idea of what you want. Bring pictures, folders with cutouts from magazines, or images from your Pinterest page.

Choose Your Dress First
Buy your gown before you shop for the bridesmaids’ attire (and bring a picture of it to the appointment). You want everybody to look like part of the same wedding.

Act Early
Order bridesmaid dresses six to eight months before the wedding to allow time for alterations.

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