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Susan + Tom, Honey Kisses and Lion Dancers

I had the pleasure of working together with Susan and Tom to create two ceremonies (a Western-style love story-centered one, as well as a traditional Chinese Tea ceremony) for their wedding celebration at Pomme at Radnor this summer. With two ceremonies comes a costume change--for the couple and the ceremony space. Susan and Tom's talented team of wedding vendors focused on design elements and details that would tell a bigger story and help to bring all the parts together enabling Tom and Susan's love to shine through...
An excerpt from their ceremony Love Story (Here's where I give my first ceremony shout out to Helen Fisher)
According to Rutgers University anthropologist, Helen Fisher: it only takes one second to intuitively decide if we are attracted to someone. A second or two later, as we gather more information, we might (and often) change our minds. But to help ensure that the right One doesn’t get away, our bodies produce a host of physiological signals to grab our attention—our hearts race, palms might sweat, pupils dilate, we might get clumsy or tongue-tied, hormones like dopamine flood the reward center of our brains—all of these physical responses serve one purpose: to tell us in no uncertain terms, that something vitally important is happening…to pay attention to what’s in front of you.
The night that Susan and Tom first met, they had the benefit of another blazing signal that they couldn’t ignore—a fire alarm had gone off in their in their dormitory at Widener University. Standing outside in all of the excitement, huddled together their mutual friend Kendall made the introduction. Susan remembers that she was “attracted to Tom at first sight”…and at second and third sight too. And Tom says he “immediately liked Susan” but used all of his reserves to try to play it cool.
Susan and Tom became fast friends and falling in love with each other was inevitable. They’d watch movies together into the early morning and find excuses to run into each other on campus. Susan noticed how strong Tom’s friendships were and how he was always there for the people in his life.

Susan says during those early days of being “head over heels”, when neither of them were brave enough to admit to the other what was developing between them, during that heady time, she devoted every single wish—eyelash wishes, 11:11 wishes and her birthday wish—to capturing Tom’s heart.
And unbeknownst to Susan…her wishes had already been granted, Tom says he fell in love with Susan quickly in their first few months of friendship, but he was young, and as a teenager, freshman year in college, he didn’t have the courage to vocalize how he felt until well over a year later, when it was almost too late.

Freshman year came to an end, and Tom still hadn’t told Susan how he felt about her. This actually made Susan’s decision to transfer to Temple University a little easier, she would start again fresh and try to get thoughts of Tom out of her head.
And it was during this time, while they were apart, that it became apparent to Tom, in no uncertain terms that something vitally important was happening and he needed to pay attention. He realized that “Susan was the only girl he wanted to spend his life with.” He remembers, “The gravity of my love for her weighed heavily on my heart, I could feel the ache of being apart deep in my bones; a feeling that was very foreign to me, it was both frightening and exciting!”

Tom eventually mustered up enough courage to tell Susan just how he felt. It was her 20th birthday, (two years after that fateful fire drill), and at the end of the night, after making one more birthday wish, and celebrating with all their friends, Tom asked if he could walk Susan out to her car. When they were alone he told her how felt, how he’d always felt, and asked Susan if she would go out on a date with him. And after considering the offer…for a few weeks…Susan agreed. From that point on, these two have been inseparable.
Susan asked her best friend Mike Roth to do the honors of fasting their hands together.

Honey Kiss—Tom says that one of the big things that gives him an unyielding confidence in their marriage, is Susan and his mindset—they are not content to “just make it work” they are committed to “making it a great one”… they share a common purpose, and that is to bring joy to and enhance each others life.
First kiss under the beautiful floral arch by Sullivan Owen
After their sweet honey kiss, it was time for a costume change. Tom put on a red bow tie and Susan changed into a traditional Chinese bridal dress. They re-entered the ceremony space, which Sara Murray of Confetti & Co. had expertly transformed, hand in hand for their Chinese Tea Ceremony. I wore a gold sequin gown, because it is a color Chinese say, “generates Yin and Yang”—it’s the center of everything in Chinese culture.
Banner wedding program, hand lettering by Ashley Wrenn of Hello Bird
In a Chinese wedding tea ceremony, the act of offering tea is meant to communicate deep respect and honor toward the newly wedded couple’s eldest family members, and in old times, served as a formal introduction of the bride and the groom to their extended families. It is traditional for these honored members of the family to then present the bride and groom with a red envelope, the color red being a symbol of good luck, joy and happiness.
The heirloom tea set was provided by the "oldest and best friends in the United States" of Susan's parents, Jim and Christine Wei.
Susan’s brother Danny and Maid of Honor Jenn served as the assistants, holding the tray of tea and collecting the red envelopes.
Uncle Jim Wei provides translation for the Mandarin-speaking family.
Every honoree gave the couple a red envelope.
The bride and groom then took turns serving their parents and family elders cups of tea as they exchange blessings back and forth. 
Susan’s mother and father gifted the couple with jewelry, digging into their pockets many times over to adorn the newlyweds with necklaces and bracelets of gold and pearl.
The Chinese Tea Ceremony was fun to witness, design and emcee, it served as the perfect starting point for what would turn out to be an amazing celebration. A celebration that included a team of Lion Dancers and drummers that lead the couple and their guests from cocktails into the reception.
Dragon and Phoenix red wedding cake by OC Cake Studio
We wish Susan and Tom all the sweetness and joy in life, and congratulate them on finding and celebrating their double happiness!

When I'm fortunate enough to work with Emily Wren Photography, it is always difficult to narrow down the photographs I want to use. Because, truth be told, I want to use them all!!! Emily and her team have a way of capturing authentic and beautiful moments, and Martha Stewart Weddings agrees, check out the gallery they put together.

The other vendors, who made this celebration what it was: 
Sullivan Owen Florals
Pomme at Radnor (Peachtree & Ward)
Emily Wren Photography
Confetti & Co
Maggpie Vintage Rentals
Wan Chi Ming Hung Gar Institute out of NYC
OC Cake Studio
Chinese Tea Ceremony emcee Alisa Tongg, Celebrant

Advice To The Young Wonder Woman, On Her First Milk Bath

Last month milk bath portraits started populating my social media feeds. Of course, I became mesmerized and wondered ‘what it would be like to be like Cleopatra and indulge in one of these luxuries...and be photographed doing it?’ I sent a text about my idea to my friend Rob Yaskovic, who happens to be a wonderful portrait photographer (among other things) and he replied immediately, “I’m totally in.”

The 7 things I learned getting this awesome portrait:

1) You don’t need milk from the farmers’ market for your milk bath.  I went to Walmart because I knew they would have Dry Milk at affordable prices. I ended up getting 6 large boxes of generic brand dry milk (everything they had on the shelf) and 5 gallons of whole milk.  I chose whole milk because I wanted to get my milk bath as white as possible. When it was time to get the bath ready, I poured the dry milk in one box at a time as super hot water was filling the tub. I wanted the warm water to dissolve the dry milk so there wouldn’t be clumps, and it worked.

*I feel like I should make a disclaimer, I also bought one bag of Oreos at Walmart while picking up the milk (I don’t even want to know what the cashier thought). Turns out, so many of the cookies were damaged when we opened them and were getting ready to start. As an Oreo aficionado, I have seen the occasional broken cookie, but never to this degree.  So where I can comfortably recommend Walmart for the milk, I would suggest your fanciest grocer for the pièce de résistance–America’s and my favorite cookie, Oreos.

2) There is such a thing as a modest milk bath.  For modesty’s sake, I made the photographer Rob close his eyes as I slipped into the tub. I was fully clothed mind you, in my Wonder Woman costume, but I still felt shy. It’s good to work with someone you trust when you’re trying out something kind of outrageous.
Upon reflection, I probably did not need to do my hair for this project.
3) You don’t have to be a method actor for a portrait shoot. Being in a milk tub surrounded by Oreos, I have to admit was disorienting. There was a very limited time we had to get the shot once the Oreos hit the milk because they dissolve quickly. I wish future me was there to tell me that I shouldn’t actually eat the Oreos. So many of the pictures that Rob took have me with my mouth closed chewing—or worse yet, with some of the black residue on my front teeth. Confession, there was even one point I grabbed an Oreo that was floating by my shoulder and popped it in my mouth. As it dissolved into oblivion in my mouth I thought, “wow, that milk got this Oreo just the perfect consistency.” It was against my nature to waste these cookies, but if I were to give myself advice, it would be to just use the Oreos as a prop during the shoot. You can eat what’s left over when the work is done.
4) Get some help. Rob wishes we had an assistant on hand for cookie placement and to fish out the soggy ones I didn’t eat first between takes. As it was, Rob was perched on top of the tub, straddling the edges to get his shot. Between his precarious position and the grip on the camera, he wasn’t able to toss the cookies at me like I had imagined.
5) Outtakes and behind the scenes are where it’s at. We both wish we had someone there to film the entire process. This whole shoot was hilarious. Rob and I wish someone was there to document us as we figured it out.

6) Culture Club for the Jet Set—Just three days after the milk bath shoot, I went to thoroughly clean up the tub. I noticed a slight sour smell and then saw a viscous creamy drip coming out of one of the Jacuzzi jets. Yuck! We had started a yogurt-like culture in the jet system. If I were to do this over again, I would immediately clean the tub right after the shoot. That means refilling it with clean hot water, adding bleach and then letting the jets run a full cycle. If you’re working with one of those old fashioned tubs, then you don’t have to worry about this part.
7) Collaborate and Listen. Like most people who make an effort to cultivate creativity in their daily lives, there are a handful of times every week where I’ll have an idea or vision for something new, silly or outrageous. Following the leads on these magical moments of creativity takes effort, time and courage. Not all of these ideas are birthed, but every time I pursue one, I learn something new and am happy I did. Most of the time, working together with a friend or trusted colleague will make the original idea only better.
And it's a wrap! Such a pleasure working with photographer Rob Yaskovic on this silly project.