You have a vision. Bryan Rafanelli can make it a reality. From save-the-dates to servers in period costume, Rafanelli's got it covered. So whether you want something exotic and over-the-top or a refined and elegant affair, here's one guarantee: Your special day will be remembered forever, as Team Rafanelli fades sweetly into the background and you take all the credit. 142 Berkeley St., Second Floor, Boston, MA rafanellievents.com/.
You know that cool aunt, the one who dabbles in ceramics and goes to music fests and has faded photos of herself with Jimi and Joni on the walls of her Topanga Canyon bungalow? Well, mother-and-daughter team Lisa and Danielle Kupsc have designed their boho-chic boutique with her in mind. Corey Lynn Calter dresses and Chaser tees are darling, of course, but the colorful bags, statement scarves, and funky pieces from under-the-radar jewelry designers like Alkemie and Pepita are what set this place apart. 274 Shawmut Ave., Boston, MA 2118, flockboston.com.
When bigger means better (and rare is the instance it doesn't), Dorfman majorly rocks the block. An ever-growing roster of exclusive high-end, high-drama designers—including Vhernier, Patek Philippe, and a new Van Cleef & Arpels salon (one of just 8 nationwide)—ensures your diamonds, pearls, and assorted gemstones outshine the competition. There are plenty of subtle pieces here, too, but where's the fun in that? 24 Newbury St., Boston, MA 2116, .
How fitting that the name of this jewel-box boutique brings to mind something you anticipate all year. A trip to Holiday indeed offers exciting treats: ruffled skirts, satin skirts, and buttery knits from top designers such as Tracy Reese and Mint. Step inside and you feel like you're peeking into a fashion editor's closet: the carefully culled selection always stays one step ahead of the style pack. 127 Charles St., Boston, MA holidayboutique.net/.
Not for nothing has this Boston institution been a favorite among other Boston institutions (Isabella Stewart Gardner and Ted Williams, for starters) since it opened in 1796. The store is packed with sapphire rings and ruby and diamond necklaces that shine with all the quiet wattage of a chandelier. Want to cut back on the bling? Go for any of the elegant diamond-encrusted pearl pendants—heirlooms in the making, every last one. 330 Boylston St., Boston, MA shrevecrumpandlow.com/.
With clean, fluid lines and one-of-a-kind designs by artisans from around the world, Quadrum is as much a gallery as it is a retail outlet. Expect to find a few whimsical pieces in addition to contemporary styles of everything from earrings to rings, bracelets, and necklaces. Any of the more than 40 artists can recreate a setting on display using stones brought in by customers. The Mall at Chestnut Hill, Newton, MA quadrumgallery.com/.
The skate park aura can be intimidating, but you can expect helpful staffers, decent pricing, and one of the widest selections of snowboards, boots, and bindings around. Choose from Ride, K2, Forum, M3, Salomon, and others. Also on offer are gloves, hats, and jackets—though the focus here is more on hardware than soft wear. Staff attention never wavers whether you're interested in clearance items or the latest models. 860 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, MA undergroundsnowboards.com/.
Okay, it's one of those chain stores you love to hate. Nevertheless, Tower Records is simply nirvana for any music lover. Whether you're searching for Bach, P-Funk, or Dexter Gordon, more than likely it will turn up here—at a reasonable price. This aural oasis even has its own free magazine, Pulse, which, beyond being a promotional rag, buzzes with commentary by truly music-obsessed scribblers. 360 Newbury St., Boston, MA .
When you're clearly a brunette—by coloring, heritage, and attitude—why do so many Boston stylists pressure you to go blond? The one man who gets brown in this town is Michael Albor. Wielding all the luscious shades (burnt umber, auburn, bronze), he creates a vibrant palette without a hint of brass. Unfortunately, the secret is out, so if you're fighting the clock to cover grays, book way (way) in advance. 253 Newbury St., Boston, MA theloftsalonanddayspa.com.
This one-room shop nestled down the street from the Harvard Book Store has volumes of poetry stacked from floor to ceiling—and the most knowledgeable proprietor around. The selection is stunningly comprehensive, including hard-to-find collections and even the most obscure poets. Grolier's 26-year-old poetry-reading series features the famous, and again, the obscure, with a new event every week (less frequently in the summer) and the occasional book signing. 6 Plympton St., Harvard Square, Cambridge, MA .
Here's one tiny institution that makes up for what it lacks in size with staying power. This graceful downtown jewelry shop has pulled in repeat customers for 162 years. Most impressive is the service. The salespeople at this family-owned and -operated business are on a first-name basis with most customers. There's also free wedding ring engraving, meticulous (and fast) in-house jewelry repair, and insurance and estate appraisal. 429 Washington St., Boston, MA ebhorn.com/.
Don't throw that sofa out: Getting it re-upholstered couldn't be easier, thanks to Fabric Place. The array of chintz, cushions, bias piping, and floral repeats might be overwhelming—at last count there were more than 50,000 fabrics alone—but this is one store where the staff takes the time to show you around. On-call decorators will swing by your house for a consultation (free with a custom order of $299 or more), all jobs are carried out at the company's workrooms, and prices are extremely competitive. 136 Howard Street, Framingham, MA fabricplacebasement.com.
From the smiling doorman who greets you to the freshly redone interiors, the Eliot boasts a European charm. The lost art of the small hotel has been reborn here with an eye for little details. the Back Bay location puts visitors within walking distance of all the shops, restaurants, and river strolls one could possibly cram into a single visit. Plus it's got a great new restaurant, Clio. 370 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, MA .
Love is rough. One of our readers in Watertown wrote to say that he fell in love with "a new Porsche 968 coupe with certain options." Unfortunately, it was sold before he made up his mind, and even searches of the World Wide Web did not yield another Then along came Craig Meece, auto broker to the uncompromising. Meece tracked down the car, secured the options, negotiated a good price, and closed the deal. "An example of Zuffenhausen pride is now sitting in my driveway," says the satisfied customer. International Auto Consultants, 11 Richardson Avenue, Arlington, MA .
Boston's best-kept secret works on Tremont Street in Chinatown. His name is Gin Soon Chu, but he is known in the area only as sifu (teacher). Sifu is one of two living disciples of the Yang Tai Chi line. Martial artists from all over the world come here to study with the grand master, who is said to be wiser than an owl and stronger than a bear. 324 Tremont St., Boston, MA .