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5 Wedding Experts Share Their Tricks of the Trade

Planning a wedding can be daunting, to say the least. To ease the process a bit, we’ve gathered a panel of industry vets and asked them about everything from etiquette tips to bras for backless gowns. Click through the gallery ahead to read insights from a dress designer on ‘90s silhouettes, a florist on hellebores, a makeup artist on zits, and more.

*This article appears in the Winter 2015 issue of New York Weddings.

Photo: Bobby Doherty

The Gown Designer, Yael Aflalo, CEO and creative director of Reformation

After 16 years designing women’s clothes, why introduce a bridal collection now? Since the day we opened our store (23 Howard St., nr. Crosby St.), our customers have been asking for a bridal line. I think it’s because that relaxed Reformation look is underrepresented in the weddings market. I’ve always made clothes with my friends in mind—they’re stylish women who don’t want to spend thousands of dollars at a department store. Was your wedding line inspired by a particular style? I’m drawn to the high-neck, low-back wedding dress that was so popular in the ’90s. I tried to conjure Kate Moss for Calvin Klein: a clean and casual look that’s also incredibly elegant. Are you anti-taffeta? I prefer rayon, which clings to you in all the right places and doesn’t require so much effort. You shouldn’t need a friend to help you go to the bathroom at your wedding. How do you strike a balance between simple and special? It’s all about creating a beautiful silhouette instead of relying on embellishments. I started with two bridal designs. I call them daytime gowns, because they work for both brunch and black-tie events and cost around $500. The Citrine has front and back Vs and a slit, and the Noelle is backless but has a high neckline and a full skirt. Are they bra friendly? The low backs weren’t designed for bras, but if you’re worried about a sudden gust of wind, I recommend Breast Petals or a backless push-up bra for a little more support. I have a really busty friend who wants a backless wedding dress, so our latest collection has a gown with built-in support to accommodate a D-cup. I wanted to offer something a little more modest, too, so I made a dress with long sleeves. What’s the gown-buying experience like at your shops? Since I carry my entire brand there, you’re not getting lost in a sea of bridal­wear. But we do offer private appointments in the morning, before our regular hours, if you don’t want to be stepping into your wedding dress while the girl in the next fitting room is trying on a pair of shorts. Do you carry anything for bridesmaids? I designed six styles that girls can wear to all sorts of occasions, not just once. They have pretty cap sleeves and crisscross backs, and they’re all under $300. Everybody wins. Pro Tip: “I wish brides would slow down and enjoy the process of finding the dress. The more stressed out and anxious you are, the more likely you’ll be to choose something that’s not right for you.” -Maura Kutner Walters

Photo: Bobby Doherty

The Florist, Lisa Przystup, founder of James’s Daughter Flowers

Did you inherit the family business? Well, my dad’s name is James, but no. I actually discovered floral design through my work as a fashion writer. Luckily, New York is such a good place to be a schizophrenic creative. Last year, I wrote a piece about six female florists in Brooklyn. In the middle of December, I got to go into these beautiful, steamy studios full of flowers. It stuck with me. So I apprenticed, and started this business out of my apartment. What’s your general aesthetic? I love the wild, overgrown, natural look. I actually think I’m part of a pretty big movement among florists right now. The traditional florists are still in business, and you can definitely fall into a Pinterest hole, if that’s what you want, but I think it’s fun to have some trailing vines and a stem sticking out here and there. Can you still capture that “wild, overgrown” aesthetic in the winter? The springtime can be really overwhelming, because there are so many blooms to choose from. Whereas in the winter there are lots of statements you can make with leafy citrus branches and white flowers like ranunculus and parrot tulips. Plenty of roses are still very hearty in the winter, too, like virgo and cabbage roses. The palette is a little moodier overall, which I like. How do you help an indecisive bride figure out what she likes? Whenever possible, it’s useful to take her to the flower market. You’re surrounded by piles and buckets of flowers, trying out different pairings of blooms—exploring is the best way to see what gets her excited. Any cost-saving tips? You can keep more expensive statement blooms like peonies to a minimum and round them out with green accents like jasmine and passion vine. They add long, dramatic lines to a bouquet, and you can afford them in bulk because, as a rule, one bunch of greens costs half as much as one bunch of blooms. And for colorful filler, never underestimate carnations. They come in so many shades that you’re able to play tricks on the eye with them—sometimes people don’t even recognize them in the mix. Potential pitfalls to look out for? Towering centerpieces. When everyone sits down to dinner, they can have trouble seeing each other across the table. Use single stems in tiny bud vases instead. A cluster of them has visual impact, without the price tag. And for the formalists out there? Try low stone urns instead of big vases. They’re classic. Jamali Floral & Garden Supplies in the Flower District has about a million urns. It’s a great place to look for inspiration. Say the bride is set on the traditional, tightly packed bouquet. Are there ways to make it just a little wild? I’m currently obsessed with hellebores. They come in unexpected combinations, like pale green petals with dark purple veins, and they’re able to bloom under the snow. It’s such a romantic concept.   -Emma Whitford

Photo: Bobby Doherty

The Makeup Artist, Julio Sandino, co-founder of Pucker

What’s Pucker? It’s a makeup bar that I founded with my former client, Hiyam McKelvey. I’d been doing makeup for about 20 years, mostly for NARS, and Hiyam was a stay-at-home mom: She wanted to create a cozy place where you could get your makeup done, one that didn’t have the awkwardness of a department store. That kind of atmosphere is of course appealing to brides, too, so we do a lot of them, and a lot of bridal parties and bachelorettes as well. We have locker areas downstairs and dressing rooms so people can get ready here from beginning to end. What’s the process like when a bride comes in for a trial? When we work with a bride, we first ask, “What is your regular look?” A lot of brides want to look like themselves, just more enhanced. They’re not bringing in inspiration pictures of Kim Kardashian—L.A. is where you get the requests for super-flossy lashes and dark spray tans. New York women are more concerned about the texture of their skin, how healthy they look. How do you create that “healthy” look? I use cream blushes and highlighters—anything illuminating—and avoid matte textures. As a primer, color-corrector (“CC”) cream is amazing, because it gets rid of fine lines and covers pores and gives you that beautiful glow. And it keeps your makeup in place without a lot of powder: A bride I worked with recently, I did her makeup at 7:30 a.m., and after a hot, humid day, it was still perfectly intact at 5 p.m. What are your tips for pictures? Avoid makeup with SPF because it contains titanium dioxide, which bounces off the skin and blurs when you’re being photographed. Then look for products that say “HD,” like Makeup For Ever’s HD powder, which creates a soft-focus-like effect in pictures and looks beautiful in person. I also like to use bronzer for contouring; if you do it well, with a flat, square brush to shadow the nose and cheekbones, it can take five pounds off a bride’s face. And it helps set your makeup. What about criers? I mix an eye-­shadow primer with concealer to create an eye-shadow base. On top of the base, I use a smudgeproof eyeliner, and then eye shadow on top of that, and waterproof mascara—the makeup just doesn’t move. What if you wake up on your wedding day with a zit? Don’t try to pop it. Assuming you don’t have time to make an emergency trip to the dermatologist for a shot of cortisone, here’s my trick: Cover the blemish with one of those round bandages that are normally used for cold sores, which are really thin and flat, and then apply makeup over it. Unless they’re looking really close, people won’t be able to notice it.  Any makeup tips for grooms? I’ll usually just use a little eyebrow gel and blotting papers on them. Although, I don’t see anything wrong with a guy wearing makeup.                            Pro Tip: “Take iPhone snaps of your makeup trial. Brides can be very scared when I start using so much makeup on them—but in the photograph, they’ll see that it looks completely natural.” -Kathleen Hou

Photo: Bobby Doherty

The Guest Specialist, Rachel Hofstetter, founder of Guesterly

What is Guesterly? A service that creates mini–wedding magazines that feature guests’ photos and bios. It’s like a cross between a Playbill and a yearbook. My husband and I came up with the idea when we were planning our 2012 wedding in Cape May; we had friends and family coming from all over the country, and we wanted to make sure they’d mesh well. My husband remembered the freshman facebook he’d gotten before his first year at Princeton, and we decided to mail out our own version a week before the ceremony. Soon our friends were asking us to create books for their weddings, and it took off. What has Guesterly taught you about wedding planning? To make the most of the fact that, as a groom put it in his speech at a recent wedding I went to, “for one moment, all your favorite people are together in one place.” Researching this business, I learned that, yes, delicious food and beautiful centerpieces are great, but when couples and guests look back on the highlights of the day, it’s most often those spontaneous moments that happen when the different people you love come together—people who just met sneaking on a rooftop at 3 a.m. to smoke cigars, or coordinating with other runners to jog on the beach the morning of the ceremony. What about all those people you feel obligated to invite? It’s easier said than done, but you really shouldn’t invite anyone just because they invited you to their wedding, or because you work with them and have to see them every day. You and your fiancé should ask yourselves: Do we see this person being in our lives in ten years? And don’t feel bad about not giving a plus-one to someone who isn’t in a relationship: More often than not, it just makes them feel pressure to find someone to bring. What do you do with that one awkward person who doesn’t know anybody? Appoint an ambassador. I knew my boss wouldn’t know anyone at my wedding, so (unbeknownst to my boss) I asked my aunt to keep an eye on her. They were the same age, both with kids in the same grades and husbands in finance. My aunt introduced her to other family, and suddenly my boss knew lots of people. It made her feel included, and my aunt was happy to have a responsibility. I’ve passed on the advice to lots of other couples. Any special guest etiquette for out-of-towners? The morning of the ceremony, send a mass email with directions and the latest subway updates; if they know the C train is down, and to take the A instead, it could be the difference between them making it to the church in time and not. To hashtag, or not to hashtag? Hashtag! Most of your guests are likely already on Instagram or Twitter, and they want to share their happiness for you. Why not make it easier for them? Pro Tip:  “Include an arrival time on your invitations. If the ceremony begins at 3:30, it doesn’t hurt to add, ‘Please arrive no later than 3 p.m.’ No one likes to be the one disrupting the ceremony by walking in ten minutes late.” -Arianna Davis

Photo: Bobby Doherty

The D.J., DJ Reborn, a.k.a Robyn Rodgers, co-founder of Heartbeats Everywhere

What makes Heartbeats Everywhere different from other D.J. companies?   My partner Erica (a.k.a. DJ Eko) and I offer a more soulful vibe for big events and weddings. We’re more personal than your typical Top 40 D.J.’s—we sit down with the bride and groom ahead of time to get to know them and their music tastes, and we’ll travel anywhere in the world. I keep in touch with most couples afterward via social media. What’s the key to a great playlist? The couple should compile a skeleton with the songs they absolutely have to hear, and then also some suggestions from their guests. I had one groom who asked his guests to send their song requests when they RSVP’d; when he sent me a playlist, it was really fun to see his, his bride’s, and his guests’ picks (with funny notes like “NO Justin Bieber!”). It’s also helpful to know some background about the couple in advance, like where they went to college and where their families are from, so I have a sense of the culture. What are some of your favorite playlist picks?   The best ones are unexpected, but also feel specific to the couple. One groom was really into superheroes, so when he and his bride came out, I played the song from Superman. The worst picks are the ones that don’t fit the theme of the day, which is love. “I Will Survive” doesn’t exactly say, “We can’t wait to spend our lives together.” Do any other special moments stand out from recent weddings? I spun at a wedding last year where the father of the bride had taken D.J. lessons with me beforehand. After we got to know each other during the lessons, he asked if I would play his daughter’s wedding. Then he came out during my set and surprised everyone—especially the bride!—when he started spinning; there were glow sticks everywhere. How do you handle a drunken guest who keeps coming up to you and requesting songs? If it’s a cool request and I can fit it in, then I will. But if it doesn’t go with the mood or they’re really belligerent, my go-to answer is: “The bride and groom specifically asked that I not play that.” How do you please the young guests and the great-aunts at the same time? Biggie and Mary J. Blige songs from the ’90s—that era of rap and R&B mash-ups—really resonate with New Yorkers of many generations. In general, New York crowds young and old tend to go for a more eclectic mix: If I tried to put on Bunny Mack’s “Let Me Love You” at a West Coast wedding, it would flop; here, they love that old-school Afro-disco mash-up every time. What about when your time is technically over but the couple wants to keep the party going? This happens pretty often—plan ahead and talk to your D.J. about that possibility, so you can sort out the extra charge ahead of time. I’m usually prepared and don’t make plans afterward. For me, if everyone else is having fun, I am too, so I don’t mind staying longer. At that same wedding where the dad stepped in to D.J., I ended up spinning longer than planned. Once the older folks left, it basically turned into a club. Pro Tip: “If you need to fill a dull moment, Michael Jackson is foolproof.” -Arianna Davis

5 Wedding Experts Share Tricks of the Trade