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Ashton and Jordan

Ashton and Jordan | Heather Nguyen Photography

September 23rd, 2017

Ashton and Jordan
Ashton and Jordan | Heather Nguyen Photography
Ashton and Jordan | Heather Nguyen Photography
Ashton and Jordan | Heather Nguyen Photography
Ashton and Jordan | Heather Nguyen Photography
Ashton and Jordan | Heather Nguyen Photography
Ashton and Jordan | Heather Nguyen Photography
Ashton and Jordan | Heather Nguyen Photography


Ashton and Jordan | Heather Nguyen Photography
Ashton and Jordan | Heather Nguyen Photography
Ashton and Jordan | Heather Nguyen Photography

Who Proposed To Whom?
Jordan proposed to me, Ashton 😊

How Did You Get Engaged?
Jordan planned the proposal out weeks in advance. There was a hike that I had wanted to try out for quite some time. It was May 14th, 2016. Jordan planned for a couple close friends to join us on our hike up the Malibu mountains. Once we reached the top with the stunning view of the pacific ocean at our backs, Jordan got down on one knee, and made a me a promise. A promise that he will always love and take care of me, to always put me first, and to always make life an adventure. With these promises, he asked if I would spend the rest of my life with him. I cried, threw the ring on my finger, and jumped into his arms with a resounding yes!

Wedding Date?
September 23, 2017

Portola Inn, Atascadero

Peggy O’Malley at the Portola Inn, Atascadero

Flora & Fauna Fine Foods

Sass Catering

Cake Topper?
Wedding Decor – A Shop On Etsy

Heather Nguyen Photography 😊

Kramer Events

Sprigs Floral

Friends And Bridesmaid

 Anything Else You’d Like To Add?
Our day was absolutely perfect! Everything went according to plan and every single vendor was a delight to work with. It was a stress free day full of love and laughter. 😊

A girl dreams of her wedding day and I can truly say it was the wedding I had always dreamt of. ♥ Thank you Heather for capturing such a beautiful day for us!

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10 perfect appetizers for your fall wedding reception

1. Brown Sugar-Glazed Turkey Meatballs

Because – meatballs and brown sugar. Perfect little mouthfuls of Brown Sugar-Glazed Turkey Meatballs! If you decide not to have these at your reception, save the recipe and serve them up at the next game event because Football season is coming – I think.

Get The Recipe

Image: Diethood

2. Mini Quiche Florentine

Everyone [almost] will fall for these Mini Quiche Florentines. Filled with spinach and cheese   – Instant hit!  Who says real men don’t eat quiche!

Get The Recipe

Image: Sam Anderson @ HGTV

3. Grilled Corn Salsa

This dish would be a perfect side dish to the mini tacos below. Serve with tortilla chips and you’ve got a southwest theme in the making. Screen ‘Blazing Saddles’ in the background of the dance floor and you’ll have the most talked about wedding in town – along with the Grilled Corn Salsa.

“Hello, handsome. Is that a 10-gallon hat, or are you just enjoying the show?” – Madeline Kahn

Image: Cooking Channel

4. Maple Chili Popcorn

Feeling a little chili? – Warm things up with this perfect fall appetizer, or favor, at your reception. Food Network’s Jeff Mauro’s Maple Chili Popcorn is perfect for filling cellophane favor bags that guests can enjoy later or have on the tables for guests to grab and munch between spicy dance moves.

Get The Recipe


5. Ropa Vieja Mini Tacos

First of all, these Ropa Vieja Mini Tacos are the cutest little appetizer out there – I mean, COME ON! With two types of chiles, these junior spicy mouthfuls are sure to keep the guests warmed up for the dance floor.

Get The Recipe


6. Bruschetta With Caramelized Dates, Walnuts and Goat Cheese

Whipping yourself up a Bruschetta With Caramelized Dates, Walnuts and Goat Cheese appetizers is a snap. Just toast a fresh baguette, then top the slices with a soft cheese — like chèvre — plus any combination of savory ingredients — like caramelized dates — and finely chopped pistachios or delicious crumbled bacon. See, it’s a snap. SNAP!

Get The Recipe



7. Taleggio Crostini With Apple, Thyme and Honey

These Taleggio Crostini With Apple, Thyme and Honey can be prepared with only a few simple ingredients and thyme – see what I did there? Spread cheese on toasted baguette slices, top with 1 or 2 apple slices, drizzle with a little honey and done!

Get The Recipe

Image: Andrea Albin,

8. Sausage and Stuffing Balls with Cranberry Dipping Sauce

I found this one on I should be mopping the floor. These Sausage and Stuffing Balls with Cranberry Dipping Sauce are an awesome autumn appetizer –  say that 10 times fast – and a perfect departure form the norm!  Perfect for Thanksgiving too!

Get The Recipe

Image: I Should Be Mopping The Floor

9. Autumn Leaf Wreath Cheese Platter

I love this one! How easy right? Cookie cutters and cheese and viola you look like a wedding catering DIY genius – I mean really, cookie cutters and cheese, WHO KNEW!

This Autumn Leaf Wreath Cheese Platter would be a fun one for the kids to be involved too.  Layer in some pretzel crackers and your favorite sweet-tart relish and fall has arrived.

Get The Recipe

Image: The Yummy Life

10. Creamy Tomato Soup Shooters with Grilled Cheese Sticks

I love tomato soup! And, I love grilled cheese. Well, you might as well mix the two, right?

Our caterer, The Hitching Post, served Tomato Soup Shooters and they were a huge hit. Especially with the kids.

Get The Recipe

Image: How Sweet It is


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“Touch Me” it Said

gifyyy machine ready for action

I have just received my impersonal-yet-irritating “happy one-month anniversary” reminder email from WeddingWire, requesting feedback on everything wedding.  And though I am not acting on their request, it did serve as a reminder that our thank-you notes are still not done. It also got me thinking about what stands out — after 30 days — as the best “unscripted moments” from our wedding day.

The GIF Photo Booth is a HUGE one – first on the list of happy surprises.  BTW – we get nothing from for sharing any of this — nada.

When our photographer, Jeff Newsom, offered to set up his new GIF machine at our reception, we said yes not knowing anything about it. It sounded like it might be fun.  We already had decided not to have a photo booth, an idea that did not excite us and an expense we could do without.  The gifyyy, however, sounded like a fresh, social media-ready upgrade of the photo booth idea.  Why not.

It was a hit, with kids and adults alike.  Not only are the images hilarious, people had fun just watching other people interact with the device, take their GIF and then play it back.  Think of it as an ice-breaker exercise you don’t have to organize or push people to do.


Good stuff to know:  Gifyyy’s website provides a good overview, though it is more oriented to wedding professionals who might buy the equipment rather than end users, but you’ll get the idea.

Five points worth emphasizing:

1.  The equipment takes up very little space – it really is just that tripod. The design is attractive & neutral enough for any setting, and the circle of lights on the perimeter naturally encourages guests to come check it out.  The iPad screen invites you in with a “Touch Me”.  Once touched, there is a slight delay and then 1-2 seconds later the GIF is created and immediately displayed.  Key in a phone number and the GIF is sent.  Ready for the next GIF, just like that.

2.   What it does require is plenty of space in front of it so that small and large groups can create their gif, and so that others can watch.  How much space?  We had a 10’ semi-circle available in front and that worked well.

3.  No need for a backdrop or props.  Guess you could, but you don’t need to.  Put the faux mustaches away.

4.  It does require a wifi or cell connection.  If your reception location has poor signal strength, you’ll need to figure out an alternative, because a big part of the fun is being able to share your gif on social media – immediate gratification.

5.  It is battery powered and self contained — no wires or cables to trip over or cover up.

And best of all, when your party is over you have a collection of all the GIF’s created for you to keep.

We haven’t decided what we’ll do with all of ours, but we are thinking that when our one-year anniversary arrives – we might just be sending out “anniversary reminders” of our own!

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Wedding Planning Tips

Three Wedding Planning Lessons from the Other Side of I Do

We did it.  After lots of searching, appointments, joint decision making, and check writing, we are most certainly, legally, undeniably married.  What did we learn?

  1. Hiring a wedding planner really is worth the cost – really.

I am a recovering control freak and proud spendthrift [sounds much better than ‘cheap’], and thought we could do without a planner.  As the date approached I began to feel overwhelmed, so with about 90 days to go we found someone who would actively manage the last few week’s “crunch” time, especially the few days leading up to our wedding and the clean-up after.  Her suggestions with our timeline were invaluable, she managed the wedding & reception set-ups perfectly, and having her there as the go-to person for the other professionals was, I am sure, more helpful than we know.  It was not cheap, but worth it.

What we learned:  Having the first dance early in the evening, our planner’s suggestion, was a nice change-up and got the evening off to a great start.  Thank you Jazmyn Strickland at Love Always Weddings!

Our Do-over: Hire a planner from the start (it doesn’t cost much more than bringing someone in toward the end) and off-load more responsibilities, like managing contracts & deadlines, progress payments to vendors, running a list of “to-do’s”, and keeping the two of us on a schedule.

2.  Don’t leave as much time as the experts tell you for guests to RSVP

I did what we all do when faced with an unfamiliar topic – I googled it.  My question about lead time for mailing invitations and the RSVP generated an overwhelming number of responses.  Most read something like the advice from from the Knot, “make your RSVP deadline 2-3 weeks before your wedding date”.

What we learned Do NOT follow this advice.

Why send out invitations 90 days or more in advance — as is often recommended — and then give people two months or more before responding?  For us, anxiety set in and we sent follow-up emails to our non-responders about one month before our date.  Almost all of the replies at that point were “no”.

Most people know if they are going to attend your wedding from the moment they get the invite. More time to decide does not generate more “yes” responses, just more creative “no’s”. Might a shortened RSVP deadline mean a couple more last minute cancellations?  Maybe, but those are beyond your control regardless.

Our experience — despite sending save-the-date announcements 6 months in advance, invites 90 days in advance, and allowing people to RSVP up to 2 1/2 weeks before our wedding, we still had a table’s worth of guests cancel during the last week.  Shit happens.

Our Do-over:  Still send save-the-dates at least 6 months out and invites no more than 90 days out, but give people only a short window to RSVP.  Then, if you have that “B-list”, you can actually use it.

3.  Spend your time (and money) finding your photographer

Then spend the extra money to have an engagement session even though you really don’t want to (and as a groom, I can’t emphasize enough how much I really didn’t want to).  Why?  The time you spend with your photographer during the engagement session is invaluable in building a relationship that will make your wedding photography more fun, natural and successful.  We knew we found our photographer from the first meeting (and he did not disappoint!).  Despite that immediate connection we felt, we were much less comfortable during our engagement session than during the wedding and its seemed to us that he felt that way too.

We had a blast with our photographer at our wedding, loved our engagement photos and can not wait for our wedding day shots.

What we learned:  There are many wedding photographers, but there will be one that will BOTH meet your requirements AND feel right to both of you. Spend the time to find that one. We are so glad to have found Jeff.   Thank you Jeff Newsom.

Our Do-over:  None.

We are proud of what we accomplished and are really happy with the day.  We made our wedding our own – a goal we share with many couples.  It takes time and energy.   We hope our experience helps you manage your time so you have the energy for creating your wedding day…and some extra left for the dance floor.

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A Toast To Wedding Toast Anxiety

hand mike

‘Why everyone hates wedding toasts”, “A tradition we can do without”, “Wedding Toast Survival Tips” — titles from my recent google search on wedding toasts.

Yes, people do not like public speaking in general.  It is difficult to risk putting ourselves “out there” for others to see.  Many of us are shy and experience stage fright, particularly if a microphone is handed to us. And like you, I’ve read the posts indicating that toasts are not just difficult for the “toaster”, but for vendors too, who struggle to manage the event and keep within a particular time frame.

Boo hoo.

To be sure, there is no shortage of anxiety and nervousness at a wedding.  It is tempting to eliminate this tradition that, it may seem, has outlived it’s usefulness and has few supporters.  Don’t.

Being asked to provide a toast is an honor.  It is a recognition of a shared bond.  Toasting is a connection to an earlier time.  By accepting, you are acknowledging and supporting the new couple. It may feel somewhat burdensome to be asked, but it truly is not intended as such — and it doesn’t mean you need to contort yourself into a pretzel of originality and praise worthy prose.

Wedding Toast Anxiety Reducing Strategies:

  1. Keep your remarks “in your wheelhouse”.  If poetry is your thing, create a poem.  If you are most comfortable keeping your comments lighthearted, do it.
  2. Keep it short.  Hopefully you were provided guidance, but if not — ask for it.  A couple minutes can feel like an eternity if you are not comfortable.  You are not the evening’s entertainment.
  3. Write it down and rehearse. Memorization is not required or expected.  If a note card helps, use it — though reading a paragraph word-for-word is not engaging.

A note to you “toasters”… any anxiety you may be feeling will likely be a fraction of the nerves being felt by the couple.  Why not expand your supportive role and check-in with the bride or groom and see how they and their anxieties are doing.  In addition to just being a good listener, you might have an opportunity to suggest some “day-of” stress reducers.

Two Easy To Implement Wedding “Day-of” Stress Reducers:

  1. Couple agrees on a “safe word” or a gesture that, when spoken/motioned by either, means he or she is in immediate need of a break from whatever or whomever – right now, no questions asked.  You then excuse the both of you for a minute.
  2. Advise the planner, the officiant, the DJ – of potential anxiety inducing moments for the couple and let these professionals do their job — looking out for the couple and making sure they are prepared should there be a moment of stage fright.

A toast is an ancient tradition – a way of symbolizing camaraderie by raising a glass together to celebrate.  Your toast is an opportunity to connect an important part of a bride or groom’s past with their future by sharing a bit of yourself and your shared history with the couple’s friends and family.  If your remarks are sincere and you speak in a way that is authentically you, you will have succeeded.  For inspiration, watch this video of a heartfelt toast from a dad to his son and son-in-law .



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Yes, we had an ‘engagement’ photo session.

We had an ‘engagement’ photo session with photographer Jeff Newsom.

Since we started talking about getting a photographer for the wedding it has felt a little nerve-wracking. I was not comfortable with the idea of being in front of, or followed by, a camera. Do we pose? Do we look at the camera? Do we stare longingly into each others eyes? Do we hold hands? Too many questions. And, at the wedding are we going to FEEL like the camera is watching us EVERY moment? It made sense that we, and by we, I mean I) needed a way to work that nervousness out.

Working with Jeff on an ‘engagement’ session felt like a way for us to get comfortable with him and him with us. Since Jeff is going to take part in our day we needed to feel like he was comfortable with us as well. Knowing he was sincere in his world meant we would then get real and honest imagery that showed the sincerity of love in our family.

When we first met with Jeff, he and his wife invited us to their home. That was a big deal. That showed us who he was. We looked at his book. He told us a little about himself and his life and we talked about our family and what we wanted. Jeff and his wife both made us feel right at home. We told him we would take a few days to think about it, but by the time we were in the car we had both decided he was the one.

We did check out other photographers. Looked at websites, read reviews and made calls to a couple wedding photographers that seemed like they might fit. Face-timed with one of them, but did not get the same easy feeling we got from Jeff.

When we finally booked Jeff we had decided that we wanted a family photo session and not an ‘engagement’ session. We have been together for nine plus years and it felt like ‘engagement’ just didn’t really fit our situation. We thought it would be more fun to have Leo and the dogs involved.

For the location we met Jeff at a field at Santa Margarita Ranch. After considering a couple of other locations — the beach, here at home, a winery or two (because wine!) — we decided on Santa Margarita Ranch – it just felt right. The place where we are getting married. There are big fields so we could have the dogs out running around. We could toss the football (I know right! A football.) with Leo and just feel like we had lots of room to roam around with the dogs off leash. Plus, it’s the Historic Santa Margarita Ranch. It’s beautiful!

So in the end I had nothing to worry about. The photo session was great. Jeff made us feel really comfortable. There is a very authentic way about him. I am much less nervous about that part of the wedding now. I can now let those nerves move over to the guest list RSVPs!

A few of the photos are below.

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 8.59.33 PM
Derek and David

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 9.00.06 PM


Santa Margarita Ranch Barn
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A Party Without Cake is Just A Meeting

poodleskirts the cakery
poodle skirts | | san luis obispo, ca

It is time, with 3 months to go before the big day, to make yet another one of “those” nearly irreversible decisions.  This one concerns our  wedding cake.  And though I freely admit to a mild case of wedding-decision weariness, it seems the wedding industry, which thrives on creating ever more  [costly] options from which brides and grooms must select, has been working overtime in the wedding cake arena.

Most alarmingly, the wedding cake decision now includes both the decision of whether to have a cake at all as well as whether to have not one, but two cakes — a more traditional “bride’s cake” as well as a more theme oriented “fun” groom’s cake.  Really?

There is no bride and having two groom’s cakes seems redundant, so we’re going to pass on that idea.

Our guide to getting to yes…


“The Traditional”

whimsical swirls the cakery
whimsical swirls | | san luis obispo, ca

COST:  Pricing generally is quoted per slice.  If you go the custom cake route, per slice cost starts at $5.00 and moves up from there.  It can easily top $10.00/slice for more complicated detailing, so buyer beware.


Naked/buttercream vs Fondant:  Not a hard decision for us.  A less formal and less fussy design suits us better.  Naked it is, with buttercream filling as a maybe.  However, buttercream and whip cream are not summer-temperature friendly, so be careful if your event is outside in the heat.

Tiered vs Deconstructed:  A tiered cake generally is [much] more expensive, and probably too “wedding-y” a look for our tastes.  The deconstructed option could allow for a smaller symbolic wedding cake while your guests are served from single layer versions.

Warning here – there is an additional “option-within-an-option” to consider.  An increasing number of couples are opting to have a mini-cake for each guest table.

The rationale is that the cake serves as a centerpiece substitute — reducing your florist bill.  True enough, but price out the cost of individual cakes before you happily bank your savings.  Cake bakers spend much more time decorating many small cakes than one larger cake – and will charge 3 to 4 times more as a result — easily tripling your cost per slice.  Depending on your guest count, those flower table-top centerpieces my start to look like a bargain.

Square vs Shaped:  I’ve spent considerable time reviewing wedding cake images from the world wide web and the more I viewed, the less I liked the over-the-top uniquely shaped designs.  Shaped cakes also are budget busters of the first degree.  Square is a more efficient shape to cut – serving more guests. This decision becomes much less of a concern if you decide on having only a small ceremonial cake and is a much bigger concern if you decide to have one wedding cake per table.

Standard Flavors vs Exotic: I say, go with what you know.  I’m a dark chocolate addict, and I’ve successfully converted my partner over to the dark side.  Our son, however is a vanilla hold out, we’ll figure something out.

Piped Detailing versus ribbons/berries/flowers:  We’ve all seen how intricate detailing can create a visual masterpiece.  Our view, a cake is to be consumed, not curated.  I want it to be appetizing visually and delicious, but mostly delicious.

“Cupcake Alternative”


COST:  Less than traditional cake, but guests may eat more than one.

By now, tiered cupcake holders, cupcake carts and designer cupcakes have become part of the normal wedding reception discussion.  Cupcakes offer a chance to provide a more varied selection, but often are more of a self-serve type dessert.  Many couples have paired a mini-wedding cake with cupcakes as an alternative to the deconstructed sheet cake thing.

“NO-cake Alternative”


Doughnuts, cookies, mini-cheesecakes, rustic-pies, fruit tarts, brownies, cinnamon rolls and ‘candy-bars’ all have supporters.  And for those with the budget to handle it, creating a dessert station with any number of these treats so that guests can choose their sugar-fix can be an awesome option.  Many of these options also are delivered to guests via a food cart for added fun and atmosphere.  I’ve not listed costs here, because quotes seem to be all over the board, which gets to another concern I have with some of these alternatives.  I very much value being able to make this decision and not feel as though I need to then worry about whether my artisan-mini-fruit-pie person is going to go out of business between now and wedding day.   These one-of-a-kind desserts are often prepared and supplied by fantastically talented – and over-worked – sole proprietors.

Our Decision

As it turns out, we easily agreed on a cake / sheet cake combo.  The ceremonial cake will lean toward “naked,” and it will not be tricked out – too much.  And it will be chocolate – dark.  We’ll be sure to post a picture.  Next up – play list…

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Tin is in.

What once was old is new again. Tin. Using chalk, add a personal message. Add jute rope for a more rustic feel. Works with a modern decor, wine country wedding or a garden event. It’s tin! Let your imagination run wild.

Tin Box With Aged Finish & Blackboard Panel Display
Tin Box With Aged Finish & Blackboard Panel Display
Laser Cut Self Standing Metal Table Number Set (Package of 6)
Laser Cut Self Standing Metal Table Number Set (Package of 6)
Oval Tin Tags With Jute Hangers (set of 8)
Oval Tin Tags With Jute Hangers (set of 8)

Tin Box With Aged Finish & Blackboard Panel Display
Laser Cut Self Standing Metal Table Number Set (Package of 6)
Oval Tin Tags With Jute Hangers (set of 8)

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The Favor Buck Stops Here

This past week, a bride-to-be started a WeddingWire discussion concerning wedding favors.  She was asking for unique wedding favor suggestions and mentioned her intention to put the couple’s name on whatever it was they decided to get…

…and then the comments came.

 Many comments included some great ideas [highlights follow], but there were more than a couple posts that were not just against the idea of personalized favors, but against any favors.  A few of these comments were served up with a heaping side of attitude.  

Most of the doom-and-gloomers reached their conclusion after their own favors had been left behind to be gathered up and tossed after the event — unloved and unappreciated — “a waste”.  Their conclusion, “don’t bother with the favors, nobody wants them”.  I disagree. Your personal experience doesn’t mean that all wedding favors are “a waste,” it may just mean that your choice of a gift didn’t connect with your guests.

To those whose gifts were “left at the alter,” why forecast disaster and disappointment for everyone?  Whether or not to include a particular favor is a decision that requires more thought than it may seem — and with so many wedding related decisions to make, this one often is left undecided until there is not enough time — or money — to make the optimal choice.

I have summarized my pick of the many awesome suggestions that were included in the responses to help get your creative juices flowing while you still have time to dream big.

The “DIY “solution:   edible and not  

bread and jam


Advantages:  a personal gift without being personalized; truly unique, can be very affordable

Disadvantages:  if you don’t already have a knack for making what you are thinking of doing— this is a really bad time to start; lots-of-guests means lots-of-hours baking/sewing/glueing and assembling; may require that it be done or completed at the last moment.

Examples:  a mini-loaf of bread & some jam; hand-crafted stained glass candle holders; pop-corn seed jars with custom finish and personalized label, small jars of homemade apple butter for a fall wedding; miniature cookbooks containing the couple’s favorite recipes.

The “edible” solution:  treats for now or later

Clover Honey Jars | Taylor Street Favors

Advantages:  edible, not as hard to organize and make happen as a DIY

Disadvantages:  can get expensive, may need to be “last-minute”

Examples:  so many great ideas…  jars of honey from the beekeeper groom; bottles of wine from the vineyard where he proposed; take-home Krispy Kreme doughnuts (my personal favorite – I miss my Krispy Kreme’s right off the conveyor belt…); cupcakes in personalized to-go boxes; bags of coffee beans that say “the perfect blend,” or bags of tea that say “love is brewed”.  I mean really – who can be upset with gifts like these?


The “coordinated” solution: favors tied to theme or individual passion

Classic White Gum Ball Machine | Taylor Street Favors

Advantages:  able to purchase and/or assemble ahead and check-it off the list; can be used as part of decor or do double duty as escort cards or seating assignments

Disadvantages:  could be costly; may not be appreciated by everyone

Examples:  $1 lottery tickets in an envelope stamped “may the odds be ever in your favor”, for a Hunger Games theme; mini Moet champagne bottles; plantable seed heart shaped favors that double as a seating chart; gum ball machines that double as place card holders.

With some thought, effort and not necessarily a lot of money, there are plenty of favor options available that your guests will appreciate receiving and you will enjoy providing.  Let the naysayer comments roll off your back and remember – it’s your party.


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Place card holders and the place they hold

Don’t overlook the little things. How will you set the stage with your place cards? Place cards and their holders add a little ease of elegance to the event by gently guiding each guest to their seat.

Don’t want to have placecard holders for the guests? Use them to identify food on the buffet or which coffee is decaffeinated or regular (you don’t want to get that mixed up!).

Or, perhaps you’re tired of plain old place card holders and you want to give out something in lieu of traditional favors. How about a simple recipe for cookies elegantly displayed on a card – prop them up on guests plates with an antique holder to take home.

Don’t stress and have fun. After all the memory is also in the making.

Faux Birch Log Card Holders (package of 6)
Silver Ball Place Card Holders (set of 8)
Antique White Stationery Holder

Find more Place Card Holders »