Experts, Fall/Winter 2012

Five wedding experts share their wisdom on how to set the scene, dress your best, and finance the big day.

The Scene Setter

How do you incorporate vintage pieces into your wedding décor without going over the top? It’s all about keeping it true to you, says stylist Jillian McDonough.


Photograph by Scott M. Lacey

Not many of us could take an assortment of crocheted blankets, retro furniture and suitcases, a stack of wooden milk crates, and an aluminum rowboat and turn them into trimmings for an elegant wedding. Yet Jillian McDonough thrives on such a challenge. With her ever-growing inventory of antiques and gently used items, McDonough — owner of New England Vintage — provides styling services and décor rentals that help couples set the scene for a stylish yet comfortable ceremony and reception, whatever the venue.

How did you get started in this business?
When I was planning my own wedding at my parents’ house in the Berkshires, I was looking for that vintage feel. I wanted it to be loving, homey, and authentic — but not like a pig roast! I started collecting for my wedding, and then afterward, I kept going. There wasn’t a vintage-rental service on the East Coast, so about a year later, I started to offer rentals. I launched my website in February 2011 and sent it to a few wedding planners, and business was immediate. They said, “We’ve been waiting for this.”

How do you get your items?
Once you start building a network, lifelong collectors will call you when they think they have good stuff. I’ve started going to more auctions and estate sales. I go to the Brimfield Antique Show for inspiration, but I don’t do much shopping there because the prices tend to be marked up.

How do you “style” a wedding?
Styling actually grew out of the rental business. I had a lot of brides who would come into my showroom and love what they saw — and they wanted that look, but they couldn’t figure out how to set it up. Now I work with brides to outline their vision — the overall look of the day — then create every aesthetic aspect of the wedding, from the table settings to the cocktail-hour setup to the dessert tables.

Tell us about your clientele.
A lot of my brides are getting married at what I call “blank slates,” meaning barns, tents, and fields. They want their wedding to be different — even if it’s at a more-traditional venue. They want something that represents them, that feels comfortable but a little upscale, because it is their wedding day.

What if I’m a bride with no vision? Or, conversely, overflowing with ideas?
I have brides who have their vision down to the fork they want to use; the reason they come to me is for styling. They have a strong sense of what it looks like in their head, but they need help seeing how it will all come together beforehand, and then executing it. I always tell brides, “You don’t want to be hauling hay bales on your wedding day.” And even the surest bride wants a second opinion. Others will come to my showroom and say, “I love this look, but I don’t know how to make it happen.” So we start with the big picture.

You work a lot with Pinterest.
It’s so important to the beginning stages of planning a wedding. Most of my brides have their own pages already, or I create one for them. I tell brides to pin anything that strikes emotion in them — someone’s tablescape, or a photo of a lounge area. This is usually how they start to form an overall look or color scheme. And then we whittle it down. There’s great communication back and forth, and it ends up forming the pieces of the wedding.

Do you have a favorite item?
I love all my stuff! Mismatched china is one of those oldies but goodies. I love vintage silverware; it has so much detail that you can’t get nowadays, and it’s heavy and feels good in your hand. I also really love the furniture that I redo. I have a white settee that had this horrid fabric, but it had great lines and was romantic and small and cute. I love knowing what it was, and seeing what it is now.

But is there one piece you can’t live without?
It shifts: Now it’s vintage flour boxes that we found in Maine. I do everything with them — I can make them into aisle ends, or a million different kinds of centerpieces with flowers. I’ve even stacked them all together and put pictures and vintage knickknacks in them to get a cool, shadowbox look.

How do you keep clutter at bay?
Early on when I was collecting, I’d say, “I love this, and I want it for my house.” But because it’s a business, I have to think: Is it rentable? Will others want it? Will it break easily? Is it logistically possible?

Is “vintage” simply another trend?
I don’t think vintage is a trend. It’s the act of making something old into something new and fun. You can work vintage into any kind of motif — it just gives this rustic elegance that you can’t get in a very modern palette. I don’t think it’s going to go away. People will always look for ways to represent themselves with unique items, and that’s what I offer.




Jillian McDonough’s pointers for giving your wedding day a style all your own.

Go Shopping
I find an incredible amount of inspiration by walking around the city and window-shopping, or paging through magazines like Town & Country and Harper’s Bazaar. Fashion is a great way to express yourself, and you’ll find that a lot of your design and style choices will be similar to your fashion choices.

Hunt for Treasures
Although I don’t do much of my shopping at Brimfield or antiques stores, these are great places for finding inspiration. Plus, it’s a good way to spot trends.

Get a Sense of Place
You picked your venue for a reason — something about it felt right. Visit a few times and figure out what the venue has to offer and build off of it. The best looks complement the aesthetics of the space and elevate it to a more personal level.