There’s nothing I love more than setting the mood for an event through invitations. After talking to a client to get a sense of what they’re looking for, I like to give my artistic side free reign to imagine a spectacular night. When I’ve come up with countless versions and allowed myself to take as many creative risks as possible, I’ll finally settle on a visual style that I’m confident can be carried through to the rest of the party.
I was able to do just that when I met Ashley Thompson, a beautiful young client who was planning the bash of a lifetime in Mexico. Knowing it was going to be set in a warm and colorful location, I pulled out my watercolors and let my creativity soar. The end result was an invitation that centered on a hand-painted swirl of hot pink and orange paisleys, accented in gold and black. To add an overall exotic vibe, I included Moroccan-style embellishments throughout, from the main envelope to the reply card.
It’s always incredibly exciting to see how a party finally comes together. As you can tell from Ashley and Brian’s photos, the energy was truly spectacular (in an experimental mood, I tried to capture some of that same wild, flowery spirit in the image below). This week’s Get the Look is a starter kit for how to get a similarly bright and exotic vibe for your next party. To make sure you’re always entertaining with flair, I’ve included my personal tips for creating unforgettable invitations. Plus, in the spirit of Ashley’s Mexico wedding, there’s also a travel guide to Los Cabos and recipes for authentic Latin desserts from Mexican-born pastry chef Fany Gerson. Here’s my biggest lesson: if you want to be remembered, never be afraid to take risks!
View the Behind the Scenes now!
Be inspired by Ashley & Brian’s summer Mexico wedding
Tags: custom stamps, die cutting, digital printing, foil stamping, hand calligraphy, hand-drawn, invitations, laser-cut printing, letterpress printing, watercolor painting, wedding
HOW TO INVITE AND ENTERTAIN WITH STYLE AND PERSONALITY
Looking to give your party the five-star treatment? I firmly believe that your image on paper is just as important as what you wear, so make sure your paper personality really pops. Be inspired by my top ten ideas on how to invite and entertain with style.
How to Invite and Entertain with Style and Personality:
Be uniquely you: When putting together a party – whether it’s for your big day or an intimate gathering – consider all the details. Show your guests that you really care and go the extra mile. Create thoughtful details like welcome bags or gifts personalized with your logo and fill them with local goodies to match your event theme.
Colors: Be bold and take risks with color. Don’t be afraid to use bright hues if you love them, like the way we incorporated bright fuchsia and orange for Ashley’s wedding. Own it and make a unique statement. Be sure to start with the invitation and carry it through to your thank you notes. And don’t forget all the day-of accessories like matching menus and place cards. Every detail matters!
Shape it up: For the ultimate in invitations, go for a uniquely shaped card – one that opens or has multiple printing techniques to make it intriguing and fun for your guests to interact with. If you’re an individual with unique style, then your invitations should reflect that!
Get organized: Be a courteous host and make sure your invitation suite is neatly organized. No guest likes to open an envelope and have tons of little cards fall all over the place. Consider sending an invitation with pockets or a simple belly band to hold all of the additional cards nicely together.
It’s all in the details: For a luxurious touch that always makes your guests smile, complete your invitation look with matching day-of accessories. Examples include creative escort cards, like laser-cut Moroccan stars that hang from trees, and clever programs that serve dual purposes, like fan-shaped programs. Guests can cool themselves after reading the event lineup. So smart of you!
Smart and stylish: Besides looking good, an invitation must do its job and inform guests of all the specifics pertaining to the event. Send something they’ve never seen before, but be sure to include all the necessary party details, like travel and hotel information if it’s a destination wedding. Or if you’re hosting a full weekend, send all the invitations in one mailing so your guests get them all at once and aren’t confused. Plus, you save on postage!
Patterns that pop: Make your invitation the focal point with an eye-catching painting. The invite is always the main feature but often gets overshadowed by other cards in the envelope that might have been placed on top. Mount it on a patterned backdrop so it really shines. If patterns aren’t your thing, draw attention to it with statement-colored paper. In Ashley’s invitation bright orange and fuchsia contrast perfectly with the cream paper and black-and-gold writing.
Calligraphic letters: Add a touch of romance to your party invitation with beautiful custom calligraphy. Not only does it say class but it will stand the test of time.
Brand it: One of the greatest ways to make your mark is to brand your event. Work with a graphic designer who can create a great personal logo to go with your invitations. Carry this branding through to your day-of details. In Ashley’s case, we embroidered her logo onto pillows and baseball caps. We also reflected it on the dance floor and printed it on cocktail napkins. You could even bring it to your cake designer to include on the cake. Wherever you can, brand it!
Go beyond paper: I love to take my custom patterns and go a step further by printing them on fabric. Remember, you don’t have to limit yourself to paper. Add your fabulous style to custom table runners, lounge pillows, or even men’s ties! The sky is the limit. Just make sure you don’t overdo it. Too much of a good thing could make it all go wrong very quickly.
Looking for more creative ideas? Be inspired by Ceci’s Creative Tips. And if you love the CeciStyle look? Check out our invitation portfolio here for all your party needs: Ceci Weddings | Ceci Events | Ceci Baby | Shop Ceci
ASHLEY THOMPSON SIDMAN
Read blogs, explore the internet and get every magazine you can! I tore out images and printed from the internet as I went along. Then I created a book of all of the images and organized them by cocktail hour, ceremony and reception. In the end I got every detail I wanted by showing the florist and design team examples of the quality and style I was looking for. And don’t be afraid to take two themes you might have always dreamt of and mixing them to have it all. My cocktail hour incorporated bright colors and was Moroccan influenced – while my reception was all feminine romance and candelabras! I also did two different types of tables, which was a fun twist!
What It’s Like to Be a Ceci Bride:
Working with Ceci, you have a completely different experience than you would with a traditional invitation designer. You can set the tone for your special day with an intense uniqueness that you won’t get anywhere else. Ceci actually painted a one-of-a-kind watercolor as the backdrop to my invitation. It opened from the center with a Moroccan-style emblem into a burst of color and golds! I’m not kidding when I say I was stopped on the street by friends of friends who said they either saw or heard about the invitation! Ceci gives you options throughout the process so you really end up with an invitation that says who you and your future hubby are. Your invitation will never be forgotten!
View Ashley’s wedding invitations and wedding photos in Our Muse
THE MAKING OF A CECI COUTURE PAINTING
The funniest thing happened to me when I sent out my own wedding invitations a few years ago. One of my family members called me once she received her invite and said, “I really love your wedding invitations! Especially the gorgeous liner. Where did you find that patterned paper?” When I heard that, I just about died. She honestly thought that I had used someone else’s artwork when in reality the image sprang from my own imagination. What’s more, I had hand-painted everything myself!
Unfortunately, this is a common misconception when it comes to the couture work done here at Ceci New York. So this week I’m hoping to clear up the matter once and for all: the artwork that you see each week and in our portfolio is completely exclusive – and meticulously created by hand for each of our clients. We never use clip art (existing artwork that can be found in royalty-free books, which many stationers source from). Why would we apply the same images that everyone else does? That’s not unique to Ceci New York.
Those of you who have gone through the Ceci Couture creative process know how fun the experience can be. But for the rest of you, I thought I would break down the steps of what goes into the making of a Ceci Couture painting. Discover the artistry below.
The Making of a Ceci Couture Painting:
Inspiration research, Pantone color studies, paper sourcing and sketching: Each design begins with this step, in which we spend hours sourcing the perfect ink colors, paper swatches, and inspiration images.
Sketches: This step is where we sketch the composition and the layout of the elements for the painting. In Ashley Thompson’s case, it was about how all the paisleys flow along the page. Once it’s finalized and approved by the client, the painting begins.
Painting with watercolor: Now that the pencil sketch has been finalized, it’s time to apply the color that we picked in step 1. It’s all about the delicate balance in the placement of the color. You don’t want to overdo one color; you want to create harmony. Layers and layers of watercolor are applied until it’s perfect and approved by the client.
Final hand-painted artwork is scanned and applied to the invitation design: In this case it became the stunning liner of the invitation gatefold!
View more invitations with Ceci Couture watercolor paintings:
Caroline & Nicholas
Merrill & Chris
Ceci & Alan
Tania & Abel
Baby John & Lily
Flora Fine Stationery
Ashley & Brian’s Dream Team
Use this palette as a stepping stone toward creating your own dream event.
Click on the color swatches to see how the colors come to life at a real event or discover more inspiring color stories now.
One&Only Palmilla, Los Cabos, Mexico
A verdant oasis on the tip of the Baja Peninsula. Where azure waters greet the mountainous desert and the Pacific Ocean merges with the Sea of Cortez. Where warm waves break onto a dramatic shoreline… and grey whales can be seen rising majestically in the distance. Here, the gracious style of Old Mexico – with its red-tiled roofs, whitewashed walls, and idyllic setting of exquisite fountains – is quietly nestled amidst swaying palms, bird of paradise and other tropical bloom.
This is where exhilaration and serenity thrive in blissful harmony. This is One&Only Palmilla.
Discover more on One&Only Palmilla, Los Cabos, Mexico
Top 10 Things to Try in Los Cabos, Mexico
The Esperanza Hotel – voted Best in Mexico 2010 by Travel + Leisure: #1 Resort, #1 Spa, and #1 Service.
Or try one of my personal favorites, the One&Only Palmilla. To me, it’s heaven on earth.
Try the spa at Esperanza.
Edith’s vividly combines the cuisine of Baja, California, with a Guerreran flair, featuring a regional fusion of steaks and seafood with local ingredients.
El Restaurante at Esperanza – the ceviche tasting is a must! Carved into the bluffs overlooking the Sea of Cortez, El Restaurante features three levels of stone terraces flowing from a circular palapa-roofed dining room down to the property’s two sandy coves. The menu features Cocina del Sol – “sun-filled” Mediterranean-influenced cooking that incorporates the freshest local ingredients and regional flavors. Complementing the menu is an extensive wine list as well as a tequila menu featuring more than 100 selections.
For other great food in Cabo San Lucas, try Nick San for Japanese, Mariscos Mocambo for seafood, or Doc Wine Bar for Italian.
Cabo Wabo is both a great bar and a fun club. With live music and entertainment daily, the stage at the Cantina has hosted top celebrities and musicians from all over the world.
There are lots of activities in Los Cabos. If you’re a golfer, this is the place for you. Cabo has become one of North America’s golf hot spots.
Swim with dolphins at Dolphin Discovery.
From Fishing to ATV tours to horseback riding, the options are endless. Los Cabos offers a little bit of something for everybody.
Pastel de Tres Leches (Tres Leches Cake)
8 to 10
1 cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup granulated sugar
1½ teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt
4 eggs, separated, at room temperature
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons water
¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup heavy cream
1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
½ cup dark rum (optional but highly recommended)
11/3 cups heavy cream
¼ cup confectioner’s sugar
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract, or ½ vanilla bean, scraped
1 to 2 cups coarsely chopped or sliced fresh fruit (strawberries, mangoes, and/or canned peaches are commonly used)
- In a clean, dry bowl, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until they start to thicken but have not reached soft peaks. Gradually add the remaining 6 tablespoons sugar and continue to beat until stiff, but not dry, peaks form.
- Add one-fourth of the flour mixture to the egg-yolk mixture and blend well. Add one-fourth of the beaten egg whites and fold gently. Repeat, alternating the flour mixture and the beaten egg whites, finishing with the egg whites, until thoroughly combined.
- Pour into the prepared pan and bake until the top springs back when touched and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 35 to 45 minutes.
- Allow to cool slightly, then turn out onto a wire rack. Remove the parchment paper and let cool completely. Gently slice the top to even it out and slice in half widthwise with a serrated knife.
- To make the tres leches, combine the heavy cream, evaporated milk, vanilla, and salt in a medium pot and scald over medium heat. Remove from the heat and whisk in the condensed milk and rum, blending well. Put the cakes in a deep dish and pour the warm mixture over them. Be sure to pour any liquid that dripped down the sides on top of the cake as well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour, or freeze for 30 to 40 minutes, so they are easier to handle.
- To make the filling, beat the heavy cream with an electric mixer or by hand until slightly thickened. Add the confectioner’s sugar and vanilla and continue beating until thickened and smooth. Refrigerate until the cakes have cooled.
- To assemble the cake, put one of the cakes on a piece of cardboard or a serving platter and spread one-third of the whipped cream evenly on top. Cover with most of the chopped fruit, reserving some for decorating. Top with the second cake and cover the top and sides with the remaining whipped cream. Decorate with the reserved fruit as desired. Dip a knife into hot water before cutting each slice.
Try this luscious topping on the cake above instead of the whipped cream.
- Combine the sugar and water in a small pan and cover and cook over low-medium heat.
- Once you can hear it boiling, remove the lid (the steam will help avoid crystallization).
- Continue cooking, without stirring until you reach the soft-ball stage.
- Meanwhile, in a large heatproof bowl, whip together the egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt to medium peaks.
- Add the syrup in a stream and continue to whip until the bowl feels cool to the touch.
- Finish by toasting the meringue waves with a kitchen torch.
Flan Imposible (Impossible Chocolate Flan)
8 to 10
1 cup cajeta, homemade or store-bought
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch processed
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
½ cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 egg, at room temperature
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
1 (14-ounce) can condensed milk
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup coarsely chopped, toasted pecans or walnuts, for garnish
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease the bottom and sides of an 8-inch cake pan.
- Pour the cajeta over the bottom and sides of the cake pan using a brush or the back of a spoon (you can heat the cajeta very slightly in the microwave so that it is easier to spread).
- To make the cake, combine the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl and whisk until well blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, vegetable oil, egg, and vanilla. Add to the flour mixture, whisking until thoroughly combined. Pour the cake batter into the pan and set aside.
- To make the flan, combine the evaporated milk, condensed milk, eggs, vanilla, and salt in a blender and blend until there are no visible lumps. Pour gently over the cake batter.
- Cover loosely with foil, place in a large baking dish, and fill the baking dish with hot water so that it comes halfway up the sides. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 50 minutes.
- Remove the cake pan from the baking dish and allow to cool for at least 4 hours or refrigerate overnight. To unmold, lightly pass a warm knife around the edge, place a plate or dish on top, and carefully but rapidly flip over. Garnish with the toasted nuts. Serve cold or at room temperature.
A GUIDE TO CECISTYLE
I’m so happy to be receiving such wonderful feedback and hearing how much you love CeciStyle magazine! I’m thrilled to know all this hard work is appreciated. I can’t thank you enough for your wonderful opinions (via firstname.lastname@example.org). I always welcome them. I want to make sure you use CeciStyle to its fullest as there is a lot of great content to help elevate your style. Below is a helpful guide so you can visit more than just on Tuesdays when the issue comes out – I’m hoping you’ll use it as a daily resource! Whether you’re planning an event or looking for a last-minute getaway, it’s all here for you. Discover more below.
Ceci Color Stories
Need color inspiration for your next event? I’ve created a helpful tool for all of you to use. Just click on any chip on the color wheel and it will take you to a wonderful array of color combinations to help inspire your event. Then click again on the combination to see how it comes to life in a real event.
Expert Style Tips
Here I highlight my favorite, most trusted experts each week, bringing the best in the business to your fingertips! Visit this section anytime to get top-notch advice on everything from party planning to health and wellness and so much more.
Recipes for Style
If you’re like me, you’re always looking for great recipes that are easy, impressive, and crowd-pleasing. Use this section as a daily resource for great recipes, from the best martinis to decadent desserts. It’s a guide you can always turn to while you’re out shopping and need to know what to cook in a snap or if you’re planning appetizers for your next fete. It’s all here!
Planning your next vacation or in need of a great venue for your upcoming event? Find all the hottest spots around the globe here. I’ve got it covered, from Thailand to Texas. Plus, consult my travel guides for a list of the top ten spots to visit in all of my favorite locations!
Ceci Creative Tips
In need of creative inspiration? Consult this guide in which I share the latest tips and hottest trends in the world of invitations, etiquette, style, design and everything in between. Here I’m always making sure you mind your social graces and look your best.
Get the Look
Build up your style arsenal with my guide to the latest trends in invitations, fashion, home goods, beauty and more! Each board can be printed as a helpful tool to define your style. And every item is just a click away, making it super easy to make it your own!
I know how hard it can be to find experts who excel at their craft and deliver top-notch customer service you can trust. Consult my A-List and you won’t be disappointed. These pros are the real deal.
There is so much CeciStyle for you! Please come back frequently to get your style fix.
CECISTYLE IN HIGH GLOSS MAGAZINE!
It was such an honor when Paloma Contreras, the founder and editor of the beautiful new magazine High Gloss, invited me to be a guest contributor! It’s been a big goal of mine to expand the Ceci brand beyond weddings and into lifestyle so I’m thrilled to be working with the talented team behind this publication. I encourage all of you to check out the latest issue and indulge in all the eye candy and great inspiration.
Check out the CeciStyle feature in the Spring/Summer issue of High Gloss Magazine – an exciting new lifestyle magazine, featuring inspiring interior design, fabulous fashion, fresh entertaining ideas and swoon-worth travel destinations. highglossmagazine.com
LA FLEUR WEDDINGS & EVENTS 1-DAY PHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOP
Ceci Johnson will be speaking on May 3, 2011 at the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa in California alongside other great trendsetters: La Fleur Weddings, Jose Villa Photography, Pacific Weddings Magazine, Style Me Pretty and more! Ceci will be giving advice on branding, her marketing success, and the importance of capturing the details. Spaces are limited, reserve your spot now.
In next week’s issue: Spring Has Sprung!
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, Founder and Creative Director of Ceci New York
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. Loaded with gorgeous tips and takes on invitations, fashion, parties, weddings, décor, gifts and more, CeciStyle
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