Naked Cakes: Letting It All Hang Out

As professionals in the wedding industry, it’s part of our responsibility to be up to date on trends. We’re well versed on what’s up and coming on sites like Pinterest; we’re familiar with bunting and gold leaf and mason jars and everything else that’s currently hot in the world of weddings. One major trend we’ve been seeing lately is the “naked” cake. That’s a cake divided into layers, each layer filled with buttercream and/or fruit, and stacked – with no frosting on the outside. Just layers of cake and buttercream. This creates a rustic-looking cake, for those going for a less refined type of wedding.


Cake by – Photo by AmalieOrrangePhotography

For us, the naked cake trend is a tough sell. We bake all of our cake from scratch, and that includes using butter rather than oil in most cases. When exposed to air, a butter-based cake has a tendency to dry out. This is because butter-based cakes have more air whipped into them during the baking process, creating tiny air pockets that can result in a drier cake when exposed for long periods of time. That’s the great thing about buttercream – it’s airtight and creates a blanket to seal in that moist goodness. We would never want a couple to have a beautiful cake that didn’t taste just as good as it looks, which is why we often try to steer couples away from the idea of the naked cake. That being said, there are some cakes – carrot cake for instance – that are entirely oil-based cakes. These oil-based cakes are more rich and dense in texture and therefore have fewer places for air to sneak in and dry it out. Our carrot cake is incredibly moist and would probably fare well when exposed to the air for a few hours.

If you’re interested in having a naked cake at your wedding, consider asking your baker about the specific ingredients in each cake. We recommend either an entirely oil-based cake or at the very least, half butter, half oil. This will help the cake retain moisture while exposed to the air, resulting in a beautiful and still delicious cake. Whatever you choose, be sure to discuss with your baker and cake decorator the best way to store and handle your cake before the ceremony to ensure when it comes time to serve it, it’s at room temperature and won’t be exposed to any extreme cold or heat.

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How Long Should Our Wedding Ceremony Be?

I’m often asked this question by my couples at our first meeting: “How long should the ceremony be?”

How Long Should Our Wedding Ceremony be?

As a team, I guide them by asking a few questions:

  1. What time is your cocktail hour?
  2. Do you have special readings or songs during your ceremony?
  3. Do YOU like sitting through lengthy ceremonies or do you prefer a 15 minute ceremony loaded with inspiration and romance, intimacy and personality, motivation and humor?

We make the decision on length based on their answers, though the average ceremony length is approximately 15 minutes. You can fill your ceremony with as much love and inspiration as you like: you can keep it short and sweet, or stretch it out to fit your needs and desires. As long as you have a good rapport with your officiant, you will work together to create the perfect ceremony!

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To Freeze or Not to Freeze?

That is the question. The age-old tradition of saving the top tier of your wedding cake in your freezer and then digging it out a year later to celebrate your first anniversary is something of a debate in the wedding cake world. Should you stick with tradition and actually eat a year-old cake, or should you break tradition and at the same time free up crucial space in your freezer?

A lot of couples come to us at their cake tasting and say, “Wait a second, aren’t we supposed to save that top tier for our first anniversary?” as if it was a written rule in The Wedding 10 Commandments somewhere. This tradition actually started back in the 19th century. At that time, a wedding cake was a brandy-soaked fruit affair that was easily preserved for long periods of time and was believed to bring good fortune to your marriage. At our bakery, we bake all of our wedding cakes from scratch – without preservatives – just three days before they’re served. We don’t freeze our cakes at all during our process, so why would we recommend freezing the top tier? We don’t.


Our cake in Boston Wedding Magazine Spring/Summer 2013

For hardcore traditionalists, we recommend saving the top tier for dessert the night after the wedding, or at the most, save it in the fridge until you get back from your honeymoon. One week, max. Another consideration is that if the top tier is being saved, we will have to bake more cake. For example: If you are planning your wedding cake to serve 100 guests and you want to take the top tier home with you, you will have to order a cake to feed 110-115 servings. The top tier of an average 100-serving cake will be a 7″ round, which feeds about 12-15 people. If you take that home, what remains still needs to feed 100 guests.

If you are sticking with tradition, be sure to inform your venue that you’re saving the top tier so that they don’t cut it up for serving. They should be able to box it up (in a box usually provided by your baker) and send it home with you or a trustworthy, non-sweet-tooth member of your family. When you get home, wrap the cake in plastic wrap, and then foil… and then wait a year. The day before you want to eat it, let it thaw in the fridge, and then warm up to room temp before serving. It might taste OK, and it might not…We don’t know what else you store in your freezer, or if you’ll store the cake next to your pickled garlic!


Oakleaf Cakes

If you are rebelling against this tradition all in the name of extra freezer space, you won’t have to worry about keeping track of that cake from the night after your wedding until a whole year later. We recommend coming back to us on your first anniversary and ordering a custom-decorated cake designed around all the fun stuff you did in your first year together. This also gives you a chance to try out a new flavor combo that you’ve had your eye on, and maybe even start a new tradition!

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Primp Your Prep Location!

No doubt, there’s a lot to think about leading up to your wedding day! One thing that shouldn’t be brushed aside without any consideration, though, is the location for your ceremony preparations. As a photographer, the images we get during your prep time are some of my favorite to shoot: everyone’s super excited and emotional, there are gorgeous details galore to set up; it’s just a nice relaxed part of what can be a very formal day. And who doesn’t want photos of everyone they love hanging out and getting ready, enjoying the calm before the storm and feeling closer than ever?

Pimp your prep space

With such great photo ops to be had, it’s impossible to overstate the importance of the location where you choose to dress yourself up! You have options to work with: you can get ready at home, at a hotel or inn, or, oftentimes, even at your wedding venue. It may seem like a daunting choice, but really the most important thing, no matter which option you go with, is to keep your chosen area tidy. The last thing you want in the background of your photos is a giant mess from strewn-about luggage. Trust me: Lara and I spend a good amount of time ensuring that the area where you put on your dress or suit is spotless, with nary a stray pair of undies in sight. But that’s time better spent photographing the star of the day – you! So let’s take a look at the advantages and drawbacks to each location to help you find your ideal, no-fuss, picture-perfect prep venue.

Prepping at a hotel or inn

wedding_prep_space_venue_1Where to begin? There are so many advantages to getting ready at a hotel, a bed and breakfast, an inn. The space is completely customizable not only to your budget, but to your style and how much space you need for you and your wedding party. Hosting a formal downtown black-tie event? Choose a swanky presidential suite in a high-rise hotel. Throwing a beach-front ceremony or a wedding in a sweet summer garden? Why not go for a charming cottage where all of your friends can primp?

And let’s just get it out there: it’s easier to keep the blank canvas of a hotel suite tidy than to clean up your well-loved and thoroughly lived-in home in the busy final week before the wedding day arrives. One less thing to worry about is nothing to sneeze at!

Take a look at Ashley’s preparation photos. She got ready at the glam Fairmont Copley Plaza and didn’t have to lift a finger to make the place look stellar!
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Emily & John chose to get ready at the beautiful Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel, which features gorgeous light and sweeping views from its suites.
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Getting ready at home
Home is where the heart is, and that can be especially true on your wedding day. Sure, you may have to take a little extra time to prepare the space, but that time is well spent when you consider how meaningful the setting becomes in your imagery. Your home will be showcased in your wedding photos, and the sweet vignettes we photographers love to create with your details will be set among your personal treasures.

Keeping it close to home can also be a great stress reducer. You’ll be in familiar surroundings, and not having to secure a hotel room takes just another task off of your already lengthy to-do list. Saving a little extra cash by getting ready in your own home is just the icing on the cake! To really make this option work for you, we recommend designating one room as the area for everyone’s luggage and personal items; that way, the majority of the home is kept clear and lovely for photo opportunities.

Our lovely bride Kelly rocked out her prep shots in the comfort of her own home, and we had a blast arranging her wedding details around her place for photos.© Studio Nouveau 2012 © Studio Nouveau 2012 wedding_prep_space_home_3

Super cute, right? Another Kelley of ours also got ready for her walk down the aisle at home, and came away with a completely different – but just as beautiful – result.
wedding_prep_space_home_4 © Studio Nouveau 2014 wedding_prep_space_home_6 © Studio Nouveau 2014

Creating your look on location
If you’ve booked a venue that offers a space to get ready in, then you’re one of the lucky ones! Prepping for your big moment on-site is the ultimate in convenience – and talk about a stress-reducer. You don’t have to worry about building in travel time from location to location – or any of the potential traffic that can go along with it. So, what to do with all of that extra time? You can’t go wrong with a bonus portrait session. And you’ll probably still have time afterwards for a pre-ceremony toast with your wedding party!

Amanda’s lovely Wentworth by the Sea wedding gave her the chance to get ready right on the property for a super easy morning and a beautiful location!
© Studio Nouveau 2012 wedding_prep_space_wentworth_2 wedding_prep_space_wentworth_3

Jessica hosted a Chatham Bars Inn wedding and prepped for the big moment at the venue – and everything was picture-perfect.
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All photos © Studio Nouveau

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Woodsy Wedding Cakes

Outdoor weddings are becoming more and more popular lately, and so is the use of natural elements such as wood and bark in decorations, centerpieces, favors and more. Of course you wouldn’t want wood on your wedding cake, so the next best thing is to have fondant, textured and colored by our cake artists to look like real wood accents.

First up is a wedding cake we actually designed and created to bring to the Boston Flower and Garden Show a couple weeks ago. I’ve been wanting to make a woodsy-themed wedding cake for a while now, and what better than a flower and garden show to show off our new design? Sugar peonies were made to keep the cake in more of a spring theme – plus, peonies are my favorite sugar flower to make. Other sugar flowers included were stephanotis and roses with gold edging. A ruffled fondant tier was added to keep it soft and feminine. This was a large cake that is about 2′ tall and would feed about 100 wedding guests.


This second woodsy cake was for a couple who wished to keep the price a bit lower, but still wanted to incorporate the wood-bark design along with their colors. The heart is actually etched into the fondant as if it was romantically carved into a tree. Topping the cake is a large sugar dahlia.


If you’re planning a woodsy-inspired wedding outdoors or are looking to bring the outdoors in, here is a great DIY tutorial we found on making your own real wooden cake stand. Although it’s not our cake on the stand, we really appreciate the creative approach to a DIY wedding decoration!


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A Seaside Wedding from Two Perspectives

The Wentworth by the Sea Country Club in Rye, NH, is a one-of-a-kind venue that I’ve been privileged to work at many times. I never tire of the view, the scent of the sea in the air… And working with Catering Director Kiersten Mayes is always a treat! So I decided to interview her, because she has the unique position of being a newly engaged lady herself as well as being the bride’s go-to expert at the venue.


BB: How long have you been in the biz of working with engaged couples, specifically here at the Wentworth?
KM: I’ve always been interested in event planning, but it all came to fruition here at the Wentworth when I got a summer job as a banquet server while attending the University of New Hampshire. Melissa Mack of Moxie Events was our Catering Director at the time, and her passion for planning was an inspiration for me. She was so involved with each couple, helping them with customizing their menus, to the little details like a garnish for a signature cocktail. That was 10 years ago this month, and since then I’ve worked my way up to Banquet Captain, Banquet Manager and presently, the Catering Director.

BB: What kind of bride is a Wentworth bride?
KM: The best way to describe a Wentworth bride is to say that she is someone who loves the ocean and is easygoing, creative and fun. Most of my brides have some sort of “tie” to the seacoast area, whether it be that they vacationed here as a child, went to UNH and spent time in Portsmouth, or that it’s their favorite getaway spot out of the city. We get a lot of city brides, mostly Boston. However, we’ve had brides travel here from as far as Singapore.

BB: What makes the Wentworth unique to other venues on the coast of New Hampshire?
KM: There aren’t many venues in the area that offer a tented wedding experience without all of the “planning hassle.” We try to make the experience as inclusive as possible without limiting their options for what is available. We want to work with them to customize each detail. We include the tent in our package and coordinate all of their rentals. We also handle all of our catering here on site. The alternative is finding a site and then booking the tent company, the rental company, and the catering company all separately. For the bride, it turns into a full-time job with coordinating. I really take to heart my job as being their “go-to” girl throughout the planning process, from helping them put their design vision into motion, to helping them with referrals for their other wedding vendors from flowers to entertainment. On the day of their wedding, not only am I there to coordinate, but we also have a day-of coordinator to assist the bridal party and make sure that our couples and their family and friends can just show up and enjoy their special day.

I’d like to think that this really sets us apart form other venues, but I also must mention our ocean views and location. We are so fortunate to have a gorgeous backdrop of the Marriott Wentworth by the Sea Hotel, Wentworth Marina and Little Harbor. It’s a truly breathtaking location! I still get goosebumps during each wedding when I see the bride walking down the aisle with this gorgeous backdrop.


BB: How many couples do you work with in a year?
KM: We do about 25-30 weddings a year in season and a few smaller indoor weddings in our offseason. Our weddings are booked from as much as two years out, to as little as a few months. At any time, I can be coordinating with 30-40 clients. I always tell my couples that I’m available anytime to answer any question. For most of my couples, it’s the first time they are doing this, and it can be overwhelming. I want to help my couples make this a fun experience and give them any advice that I can.

BB: Now that you’re a bride-to-be, you’re in a unique position. Please share your thoughts on how this may impact your professional life and your life as a bride.
KM: I must say that I’m truly surprised with how my engagement has changed my perspective. Although I know what a big undertaking it can be to plan a wedding, I’ve always prided myself on breaking it down for my clients to make it easy for them. I now have more of an idea of their mindset and know really how overwhelming it is at first. I’ve been engaged for a few months now and have yet to sit down and make my list, which I know is the first step. I’m going to take my own advice and break it down, so I hope to have my venue selected by the late Spring. One of the hardest parts about being is the biz is that I’ve worked with so many great vendors that it’s going to be hard to narrow down and pick people. One of the great surprises to me regarding my engagement was how excited my brides were for me! I’ve gotten so many cards and kind words from my couples, even Mothers of the Brides, it’s been truly special to have their support and congratulations.

BB: What is your favorite part of your job?
KM: My favorite part of my job is getting to go on this amazing journey with each couple and their families. I get to spend roughly a year with them and help them make their dream weddings a reality. It’s one of the most important days in their lives and I get to help them make those memories. It’s a lot of responsibility on my part, but when you love what you do it makes it that much easier. They do tend to come and go so quickly; the sad part is after the wedding is over, but I tend to keep in touch with most couples and we even invite them back for dinner on their first anniversary.



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Maternity wedding dresses – more options than you think!

Nearly every bride-to-be knows that the wedding dress is not only the most fun part of planning, but is also so important to make you feel like the most beautiful woman in the room. And really, who doesn’t want that? But times, they are a-changin’, and (in my humble opinion, biased though I may be), it’s perfectly OK to host your wedding celebration while expecting a bundle of joy. And while everyone may be familiar with this little gem of a maternity wedding gown, the sky is actually the limit when it comes to dresses available to the bride who is expecting.


Classic, no? But if you’re looking for something, say, a little classier, I’d say you should keep looking.

First, let’s take a look at the Empire silhouette. This is a style whose fitted bodice ends just below the bust line, at which point the gown flows loosely away, skimming the body. Easy to wear, easy to alter to fit your changing form, romantic and bridal to the max. This style probably has the most options and will ease your mind when searching for that perfect gown. Take a look at our bride from this past season, who owned it at eight months pregnant. Seriously, how beautiful is Erin?


You can find empire gowns almost everywhere; Claire Pettibone has beautiful options, as does BHLDN. If you’re looking for maternity-specific empire gowns, check out Tina Mak or TIffany Rose for some gorgeous options.


Traditional empire-waisted gowns are always lovely, but don’t be afraid to show off that bump, ladies. If you want to rock a more form-fitting, so-what-if-I’m-pregnant gown, you can make it happen. I know from experience that this is a scary prospect – trust me. You have to start alterations before you’re the size you’ll be at the actual wedding date. Maybe you’re afraid the gown that is perfectly fitted in the beginning will make you look like a stuffed sausage by the time you walk down the aisle. The key is to buy bigger than you need, and work with the most talented alterations specialist you can find. Show off that bump, woman! You can do it.

This is not to say that opting for a gown that shows off your new shape is an easy task. Having tried on several Empire dresses, I knew that I wanted to be loud and proud about my pregnancy. But it took two trips to the bridal shop, and trying on more designs than I care to admit. I’m talking hours’ worth of running through different gowns; everything from Greek draping styles to sheaths and more. Luckily, I had a great support system, because – particularly with the usual pregnancy hormones doing their thing – I initially found the process more than frustrating. Many pregnant women experience the same struggle; perseverance is key here. My family and Lara both loved the final choice, both because it celebrated the baby and my new body. I did feel sexy, which was rare for me with my changing shape. If you’re leaning toward this style wedding dress, keep with it. You will find the perfect gown. It just takes time and patience!

In the end, I went for a lace trumpet Vera Wang and worked with a rockstar alterationist to ensure that it would still fit on the wedding day. I met with her weekly for the three weeks leading up to the marriage. It worked out perfectly – which is not to say that my heart was not in my throat when that zipper was pulled up for the last time. But thanks to the super-talented woman who handled my alterations, the gown fit like a glove – and everyone was so surprised to see a dress like that on someone who was almost eight months along! Here are some photos from the day, courtesy of the lovely and talented Meg of Rodeo and Co. Photography.


So basically, the same rules apply for the pregnant bride as the traditional bride, and that is that there are no rules. Go with your gut. If you want a form-fitting gown, you’ll knock it out of the park. What’s more beautiful than a glowing, pregnant woman? If you’re more comfortable in an empire gown, by all means: rock it out. There are so many romantic options available in that cut, and the peace of mind alone is worth it. Either way, all eyes will be on you! Happy dress shopping!

{Kate’s wedding photos courtesy of Rodeo & Co Photography. Erin’s wedding photos courtesy Studio Nouveau.}

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Anatomy of a Table Vignette

Many of you might already be familiar with the idea of a table vignette, or what is sometimes called a “tablescape.” The word vignette originally comes from the French word vigne, meaning vine. It is often a term used in writing to describe a literary sketch (like a scene in a play or a story). Or, in painting, it is used to describe a story visually, like in a still life with objects that have underlying meaning. I love the idea that the diminutive word origin that was used to describe a plant growing on tendrils could also mean “growing a vine” or “spinning a yarn” in terms of storytelling – literally or visually.

Johannes Vermeer, "Milk Maid"

Beatrix Potter Illustration from "Peter Rabbit"

You may be surprised by this, but every time I create florals, whether it’s a bouquet or an entire vignette, I am telling a story. If the work is geared toward your event, the story is about you and for you! In a way, I’m painting your portrait. The literal beauty of a table vignette or tablescape is that it is telling your guests the story of you – your theme for that evening. Having a combination of objects and flowers on your table will entice your guests to dream their own story and understand the significance of these objects and flowers and colors from their own point of view. Finally, when they remember your event, they will feel intertwined with it – essentially “growing a vine” from your story to create their own. And when they tell the story to someone else, it will not only bind them to you for this one night, it will bind the listener – spinning a yarn. Wow! That’s amazing, isn’t it? When you go to see an art show, a play, a movie, or a musical performance, sometimes you walk away feeling like you shared something special with the audience, right? This is the same thing! You are creating an experience for your guests to take away, and you happen to be the main characters in this story!

So how do you do this? Well, let’s start with a real table vignette that I created for an event as inspiration!

Larz Anderson Auto Museum

First, you think about the event and the location. In my case, the event was The Larz Anderson Auto Museum Wedding & Bar Mitzvah Expo. What do you know about the space? What I know about Larz: it’s a gorgeous, rough-hewn gentlemen’s horse barn, so it lends itself to rustic yet elegant styling (you can read all about it in my past blog “What’s in Season: Designing for a Fall Wedding”). Then you think about the time of year. This event’s date was March 9, 2014. What is the significance of the date? Well, it’s cold, and there’s still a ton of snow on the ground. In my mind, what would guests want to see – where would they like to be transported to – on a cold, snowy March day? The significance of the date became more about what it could inspire about spring. A greenhouse!


My inspiration definitely had to be a greenhouse, but I also wanted it to relate to the space and the era in which the barn was built. There used to be an enormous greenhouse on-site when the mansion was still intact, so it would be a natural fit. What’s my color palette? As much green as possible, with some flourishes of spring color. What other things do you think about that are in a greenhouse? I think of mismatched rusty urns and old clay pots, wood, vintage glass, bits of nature. What else? Everything looking overgrown and wild and lush. What else? Remnants of human presence: an attempt at some point to keep things in order. Okay – so NOW we have a story to tell!!

Le Reve Greenhouse Vignette 1

Le Reve Greenhouse Vignette 2

Le Reve Greenhouse Vignette 3

Le Reve Greenhouse Vignette 4

Here is my finished greenhouse-inspired vignette that I set up for the event. I set it up in my studio, and then set up the finished product with a vintage linen for the event. What was amazing to watch was how everyone just gravitated to the table. Many times, I heard guests tell me it looked like it was right out of a greenhouse, without any prompting from me at all! The story of this vignette was a success for several reasons:

  1. Guests understood the underlying concept, and were prompted to talk amongst themselves about the vignette with fascination and smiling faces, which I was super happy to provide on that cold winter day.
  2. Guests were inspired to create something similar for their event. They were pointing out all of the things they liked about it and began to create their own stories about their own events with the inspiration!
  3. Guests wanted to ask questions and understand how I could help them achieve a vignette look for their tables: could we do a vignette even if it is fall or summer and not spring?

My answer: “Of course! Guess what’s even better about your wedding? It will be YOUR story instead!” Let’s go for it :)

Stay tuned for my next blog, Anatomy of a Vignette, Part 2: The Elements.

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Priorities: when to find and hire your officiant?

Now that you’re engaged, you begin your long list of to-dos. As an officiant, it breaks my heart when I get a call from a couple who really needs me but I’ve been booked on their date for months; I may have been able to be there for them. They told me that everything for the big day is set in stone…everything except who will marry them!

So after you choose your date and book your venue, find an officiant. How will you choose one? Check with friends, go online, and ask other vendors!


Ask questions, meet in person, make sure you are all comfortable with one another and can speak freely!

Discuss the rehearsal if you need one; your officiant can run your rehearsal efficiently and with ease. Talk about obtaining your marriage license; your officiant can help you with that detail, and you cannot get hitched without it! It’s generally under $50 and takes about 20 minutes in most cities. You both must go together to your city or town hall with photo ID. Have fun with it even though it’s red tape! Grab lunch, shoot a photo and keep the license in a safe place until you hand it over to your officiant, who will file it with the State for you after the ceremony.

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Vendor Visit: Bobby from Boston

In preparation for a styled shoot with the Boston Betrothed team, Lara and I (with the additional help of Elizabeth) headed out to Bobby from Boston‘s super-secret, not-even-open-to-the-general-public, absolutely hugenormous warehouse in Lynn, MA, to check out their amazing selection of vintage clothing. We spent a fun few hours amongst a plethora of unique and eclectic clothing and accessories, and were able to come away with some great options to dress our guys for our upcoming styled shoot! Check out a quick Behind the Scenes look at our visit!

And stay tuned for more big things from the styled shoot! We can’t wait!

Bobby from Boston – Vendor visit from Boston Betrothed on Vimeo.

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