Reception Decor: A Recipe for Hotel Ballroom Transformations

We love waking up to a Facebook newsfeed featuring Tamara Wendt Design’s work.  If you’re wondering how top designers transform generic hotel ballrooms into a distinctive reception spaces, look no further than this photograph of Tamara’s work.  Using high impact design pieces like a large crystal chandelier, shimmering fabric swags, and crystal hanging columns, Tamara draws your attention completely away from the more generic (not bad, but not wow!) features of this hotel ballroom and toward the modern, chic backdrop that sets the stage for a reception that is all about the couple and their vision.

Notice the glimpse that you get of the table centerpieces in the background ~ more neutral colors accented with bling ~ this time in the form of tabletop manzanita trees dripping with crystal bead strands and pendants.  Elegant, photogenic, and budget conscious without looking like it.

For us, this photograph is worth a thousand words when it comes to answering this question that brides face almost as soon as they get engaged:  How can a wedding design pro add value to our reception?  The answer, every day of the week and twice on Sunday (Saturday night?), is that when you hire an established wedding designer, you get access to her experience in making the most of venues like yours by employing reusable, high impact pieces like chandeliers, crystal columns, manzanita trees, and crystal bead strands.   And you get a person with a battle tested team that can meet the challenges of your day without bothering you — or your mother — with tons of last minute questions.  And you get high impact, high quality design pieces at a great rate because the designer knows that investing in them herself is a great value for her business and for her clients ~ and she can pass that value along to you.  Not only is a wedding designer an investment in *your* having a low stress wedding day, but it’s also an investment in your guests’ overall experience and in the value that you get for your design budget.

Image by Wiz of Oz Photography

Image by Wiz of Oz Photography

If your wedding designer did an amazing job creating a custom event landscape in your venue, we’d love to see the photographic evidence.  Shoot us an email at, and we just might feature your special day here on our blog.  (And hey, if you’re a wedding designer whose work rocks, don’t be afraid to let us know that, too!  We don’t mind a little horn tooting among friends.)

We are grateful to Tamara for allowing us to use her images of Tamara Wendt Design events. All of the weddings and events designed and coordinated by Tamara Wendt are produced by A One Event Rental.

Fabulous Fall Table Basics | Natural Neutrals in Burlap, Wood, and Moss

Whether you’re hosting the extended family for Thanksgiving or simply like a put together dining room for its own sake, we want to share our SWT recipe for building a fabulous fall table that will transition easily from informal to fancy, and even from fall to winter.

The key is combining the textured neutral building blocks of our Fab Fall Table Basics with some key pieces that combine color and interest ~ while marking the season.

Fall Table Decor-web

Honestly, we love a burlap table runner almost anywhere.  It’s easy to jazz up by putting a narrower runner on top to add color, and it looks great on its own, too.  Our runner is shot through with gold thread, adding just a note of texture and sparkle that is easy to dress up or down.  It’s great as a base layer for a formal dining room, and it works just as well in a casual breakfast nook.

Add a root taper candle holder and ivory tapers, and really you can be done working on your day-to-day centerpiece if you choose.  Add pumpkins, gourds, and pinecones for an easy, natural look that transitions easily from Halloween into Thanksgiving, and beyond (we’ll get to that in a minute).

If you’re having a dinner party or setting the table for a Thanksgiving to-do, lower the lights a tad, light those tapers (and you could totally switch the ivory tapers out for dark orange or cranberry to add both color and scent), and bring a little more layered loveliness with some moss, candles, and these subtle garland strands that play on your neutral building blocks.  Add burlap napkin rings to complement the runner, tuck a bright fall leaf into each napkin ring, and you’re off to the holiday races.  Gathering things like pinecones and leaves is also a great way to get your children involved in holiday prep.

Perhaps the best part about this set of Fab Fall Table Basics is that they’ll work really well to take you through the *next* holiday as well.  The stores seem to be in full Christmas mode before Halloween, and most of us seem to stay especially busy at this time of year, so it’s a nice to be able to switch out a few details (many of which you can probably find in your neighborhood or even in your yard) and be all set for Christmas, too.

To prepare for Saint Nick, we suggest swapping the pumpkins for evergreen branches, holly, and ornaments, “installing” red tapers and votives in your candle holders, and perhaps adding a bit of mistletoe to your napkin rings to keep things interesting.  And voila ~ your home is all set for another season, with pieces that are reusable from year to year and interesting from gathering to gathering.


Design Dissection: Glam the Tent with Lights and Chandeliers

We get so many questions about how the best designers create amazing signature spaces inside everyday venues, and especially in tents that begin as giant white boxes.  Let’s take a look inside this glam affair to see how the inimitable Colin Cowie transformed a tent into a reception that sparkles.

chandeliers, vases, pillar candles, and event lighting at tented reception

Image by Colin Miller

Two elements that Colin Cowie employs brilliantly are event lighting and fabric.  The alternating strips of fabric that drape the inside of the tent, paired with gorgeous event lighting, do much of the heavy lifting required to change the look of this tent completely.

Within that stunning backdrop, chandeliers and disco balls complete the look of a custom venue rather than a boxy tent.  These pieces are durable and reusable, and a few of them go a long way, whether you’re going the DIY route or are a designer building your arsenal of staple design pieces.

On the tabletops, candles in different sizes and heights, in combination with rich fuchsia florals, add an element of romance.  To get this look, mix votives, vases, and pillar candle holders while choosing a single hue for the candles themselves.  Intersperse candelabras for an added dimension on select tables.  Build your centerpieces on display mirrors for even more design power with minimal additional cost.  These mirrors another super useful design staple that you can use again and again, and candlelight in particular plays fabulously off these mirrors ~ they’re a little trick of the trade for adding light and ambience.

We hope that you’ve enjoyed this little peek inside the look that a top shelf designer like Colin Cowie achieves by transforming a plain Jane venue with vision + design staples.  We’d love to see how you implement your design ideas, too.  Email us your pics, and you just might find your business featured here on our design blog.

Total Tent Transformation – How One Designer Uses Beads, Lighting, and Feathers to Bring Brazil Home

Facebook has again transported us, along with the ever fabulous Tamara Wendt, from a regular venue into a blinged out scene from Rio de Janeiro using her creative vision and some affordable decor staples.

If you don’t believe us, take a look at this “before” shot of the event space that she transformed into a Brazil-themed wonderland for a recent charity event supporting Niabi Zoo.

In a matter of hours, Tamara and her team at Tamara Wendt Design, working in conjunction with A-1 Event Rentals, created this scene that brings the glory of Carnival home for a great cause.

Wondering how Tamara achieved this look on a budget that maximized every dollar spent?  Think ostrich feathers for affordable, reusable centerpieces, light curtains and chandeliers (again, reusable and high impact) suspended from the tent structure, LED lighting mixed with candles on the tables, and gorgeous fabric swags layered from the ceiling to bathe the entire event in the hot colors of Brazil.  We love the metallic cylinders that she hung from the ceiling, too ~ lots of impact with limited expense, easy to store, and reusable.

This shot really shows the impact of the light curtains and diamond bead curtains working in tandem to fill large aerial spaces, not to mention the original design work that Tamara and her crew did on the tent walls.  The alternating colors on the tables is another budget-friendly, high impact way to add splashes of color throughout the event.

We love this last image because it shows how clearly lighting and a chandelier can totally change the look of a space ~ in this case turning a plain white tent into a fabulous party venue for a fabulous cause.  Tamara has done it again, and we know that this event was super successful both for the Niabi Zoo and for the guests who attended to support it.  And of course, we really appreciate the chance to attend virtually through these lovely images.

Our thanks go out to Tamara of Tamara Wendt Designs and D’Lux Events.  All of the weddings and events designed and coordinated by Tamara Wendt are produced by A One Event Rental.

The Highs and Lows of Centerpiece Design

No, silly ~ not good centerpieces and bad centerpieces, but rather great tall ones and great small ones.  We really do love them both ~ low centerpieces that invite conversation across the table as well as tall, dramatic ones that let you focus on the people to either side.

When we want to share with you the very best inspiration photographs, Colin Cowie is one of our absolute top picks because he incorporates stunning design, fresh ideas, trend-setting details, and the couple’s unique vision for their event to create a look that is, well, a Colin Cowie Wedding.

We’ll start with the tall flair-for-the-dramatic centerpieces, because these showstoppers are some of the most captivating pieces in a reception.  If your budget knows no bounds, you can max each table out in this style, or to reign in the bottom line a bit, alternate more modest centerpieces on some tables to get a big effect on a smaller budget.

To get this look, you’ll need gorgeous purple chandeliers, pomanders of pink roses elevated on risers, tall candelabras, and of course some fab lucite chiavari chairs can’t hurt.

purple chandelier and bead strands

Image by Colin Miller

We sing the praises of ostrich feathers on a somewhat regular basis ~ they are one of our favorite renewable, sustainable design staples, and these spads are reusable for many events.  In this case, the contrast of sleek metallics below and soft black feathers aloft is sophisticated and certainly makes a statement.

ostrich feathers in wedding centerpiece

Image by Colin Miller

If your aesthetic is more natural, these trees on beds of moss, embellished with crystal bead strands and fresh florals, make lovely tall centerpieces, too.

Natural trees with crystal bead strands for wedding centerpieces

Image by Colin Miller

And on the other side of the design coin, low centerpieces can be just as eye-catching as their taller sisters, with plenty of flair and punch.  Many guests love the functionality of low centerpieces, since they encourage conversations with the entire table, and a running, table-length centerpiece like this one is a design trend that is here to stay.

The monochromatic candelabras and candles fit perfectly into the simplicity of this slate and carnation color palette, with long low blooms bringing the fresh floral element into the mix.  We’re big fans of the single amazing chandelier, too.

candelabras and beads at luxury wedding

Image by Colin Miller

This perfect mix of sleek metallics with soft candlelight and airy blooms balances modern and romantic in a perfect yin and yang of design delight.  The florals are paired perfectly with stacked candles and votives.  The mirror panels across the table’s surface are a luxe touch.

Low centerpiece with candles, votives, and flowers

Image by Colin Miller

Whatever your budget or design taste, we hope you love this mix of the highs and lows of centerpieces.  Colin Cowie dependably brings the best of the best in his work, and he’s a master of remaining at the cutting edge of good design while maximizing every dollar.


Paper Lanterns make DIY Halloween Decor a snap!

Whether you’ve had enough of carving “live” pumpkins, or you’re looking for a simple, DIY- and kid-friendly craft to do with the littles for Halloween, we’ve discovered a Halloween decor trick that we know you’ll want to add to your repertoire as the air turns crisp.  Paper lanterns + spray paint, stickers, decals, or vinyl = perfect Halloween decor for your porch or party, whether your tastes run toward cozy, cutesy, or downright creepy.

If you have a Silhouette, there’s no end of Halloween designs that will translate well to vinyl and adhere easily to paper lanterns.   If the Silhouette isn’t your thing, you can print Halloween templates and use contact plastic or plain old glue to adhere construction or scrapbook paper cutouts to your lanterns.

Just choose the sizes and colors for your paper lanterns, add your cutouts, and suspend them with jute twine, glitter tulle, or even bead strands.  And voila ~ instantly festive porch.

Image source:

Image source:

Whether you like your trick-or-treating atmosphere sweet or scare-worthy, LED lighting inside your paper lanterns can take paper lanterns well into the evening.  Vinyl or card stock cutouts in dark colors will create high contrast designs when the paper lanterns are lit from within, and you can even go with remote controlled LED lights for a freaky effect on the neighborhood kids.  We are kind of looking forward to “turning out the lights” as some of them knock on the door.  Not that we would do that.  But you tweens should really wear costumes if you want Snickers bars.  Just sayin’.

And to extend the life of your fall decor, try mixing in some pumpkins that can hang around after Halloween.  Simple stems and a leaf cut out of green card stock turn orange paper lanterns into adorable pumpkins.  As with many of our decor items, paper lanterns can be  saved and reused from year to year, too.  Just be sure that you only flatten the ones that don’t have cutouts already applied.

We’d love to see images of your fall and Halloween decor, including the many fantabulous ways that we know you use paper lanterns to capture the holiday spirit on a budget.

Design Dissection: Taking a Look Inside Crystal-Studded Wedding Reception Decor

When a show-stopping (scroll-stopping?) image comes across our Facebook newsfeed, we can’t help but mentally take it apart to see what tips and tricks went into creating the gorgeous scene in the picture.

This candlelit reception oozes class and drips bling, and it definitely made us stop our scrolling to admire the design.  And you can imagine how our design minds went into overdrive to figure out how to Get This Look.  Or rather, you don’t have to imagine…

We can’t wait to share our take on this design with you.

Floral design for wedding, crystal bead strands, vases, votives, LED lights, floralytes, floral sprays

Here’s our take on how to get this look, which we think is a hit for the designer *and* the bride.

The floral arch is definitely the piece de resistance of the affair, as it sets the scene for each guest who enters and frames the introductions of the bridal party and the new Mr. and Mrs.  Truly a focal point, a floral designer who knows what he’s/she’s doing is the best source for a floral arch like this one, since assembly must be done quickly on site to preserve the florals at their best for your big day.  (Depending on the blooms you choose, tiny water vases might even be attached to stems within the archway to make sure that they stay fresh and fragrant throughout your reception.)

The crystal bead strands, pendants, and hanging votives suspended from the floral arch add dimension and visual interest, and you might even be brave enough to use real tea lights.  If not, white LEDs are a fire-safe substitute to complement the candlelight on your tables.

The centerpieces feature loosely constructed pomanders on the top and smaller, tighter poms suspended within the bases.  Tall floral sprays break up the spheres and add height and drama to each table.  Many of the centerpieces also feature dripping crystal bead strands, and we think we might spy some suspended blooms as well?

Finally, the base of each centerpiece includes an array of votives.  Again, tealights are perfect for this purposes, or white LEDs offer similar light ~ and you can even choose LEDs that can be turned on and off remotely (no need to circulate lighting each candle individually) if time is of the essence.

We hope that you’ve enjoyed our little Thursday afternoon quarterbacking of this amazing Saturday night affair.  If you’ve got a favorite inspiration photograph and want our take, or if you want to challenge us to figure out how your amazing reception was created, shoot us an image, and we’ll do our best to dissect it!

DIY Trees | Perfect Home Accents and Fall Centerpieces

We’re seeing small trees everywhere this fall ~ from weddings centerpieces to home decor stores, they’re definitely an “it” look for fall.

If you love the look but need a little help getting it just right, we have some ideas that will get you started while letting you maintain creative control.

Let’s start with a finished product and show you the ingredients that you need to create it.  This pretty tree would make a great wedding or baby shower centerpiece, or a seasonal home accent.  To make it, begin with a gold manzanita tree, and then add burlap birdies and flower clips, hanging tea lights, and a pinch off a moss roll.  The result is this reusable, customizable tree.  Add a small chalkboard sign, and you’ve got a great wedding centerpiece.

Manzanita tree with birds, burlap, and tea lights as centerpiece

For your next event, or to complement the change of seasons, simply switch out the accents while keeping the manzanita tree as your base.  (Be sure to save the accent pieces from season to season, since you can reuse the ornaments for years.)  The manzanita tree itself will also last for lots of years/events, and you can customize it to go with themes, venues, holidays, etc.

For fall, we love mixed metal bead curtains as accents on the manzanita trees ~ just snip the strands into lengths and attach them to the branches.  Add monarch butterflies, acrylic pendants, bead strands, and even acrylic sprays for a layered look that will usher in autumn in style.  For Halloween, we can see a blingalicious tree with orange and black acrylic pendants suspended from black bead strands.  Burlap wraps hide the wooden base and help make this a quick DIY project, or you can also paint the base.  And don’t even get us started on how awesome these could be for Christmas.  (Check out the Christmas clock to know how much time you’ve got!)

Fall centerpiece manzanita tree with accents

And, if this is all a little more DIY that you bargained for, may we suggest these already done alternatives?  Choose a warm white option for year-round use, or pick a color and let your favorite hue shine through.

LED bonsai trees

Make Your Outdoor Space Gorgeous ~ Just in Time for Fall

We’re *inspired,* y’all ~ this is the first weekend of college football widowhood (shopping), we’ve had some chilly mornings even in the Southland in the past couple of weeks (though it’s hot as Hades today), and we just generally have visions of a more gorgeous, functional outdoor space in place of our toddlerific screened porch.  Since we’ve probably got another year (two) before *we* can reasonably give up the ToddlerContainmentArea known as our screened porch, we invite you to daydream along with us and, if you are in a better position to redecorate, be sure to tell us how you made your dreams a reality.

There’s no better place to start than with some photographs that give us space envy.

Of all the images that inspire us, this one might be the one that we love the most. From the stacked stone fireplace and flexible, neutral seating to the lanterns scattered about and the pops of color (hello, snazzy garden stool-as-end-table!), we could definitely sit a spell in this outdoor living room.


If this isn’t the mother of all sliding glass doors, we don’t know who/what is. It’s impractical in our climate, but gracious we could live wherever this room is. A puzzle lamp could totally bring the funk over the dining room table, and we heart the bright outdoor chairs in this relaxed combination indoor-to-outdoor space.


We don’t sell any of this stuff, and we’re really not sure how one would create such a thing, but this wall of succulents ~ well, it’s divine. Love.


If you’re renovating as well as redecorating, we want to be sure you know that this amazing tile exists. Again, just gorg. Kind of brings a Mediterranean or even quasi-Moroccan vibe to this chic outdoor living space. We could totally see a pair of hanging lanterns (this one, or maybe this one?) ~ and one or two more coordinating candle holders on that coffee table, btw.  And don’t forget the fab garden stool!


And finally, proving that some people with toddlers are a little more fabulous than, ahem, others, this lovely courtyard is rocking the light strings, and even letting them coexist with a “baby fwing” (very popular at our house right now) and a gated play area.


Whatever weather the end of August is bringing to your neck of the woods, fall is coming, and we plan to be ready to enjoy the opportunity to sit outside and enjoy it.  On furniture.  Y’all.  In a year (two).  Now show us how you’ve transformed *your* outdoors into something great.  (Extra cool points for before-and-after shots, btw.)



Throwing a Pretty Party ~ Pink Accessories for a Picture Perfect Pink Party

Whether your tastes run more toward Pinkalicious or Fancy Nancy, Shabby Chic Vintage or Blinged Out Bedazzled, one of the most versatile party themes is a favorite color that you can build decor, food, and favors around.  For impact on a budget, choose table dressing, balloons, paper lanterns, and a few other key (large) pieces to set the tone, and then supplement with some swanky details like paper straws and chic little favor bags.  If you’re into repurposing your party stash and have a little bigger budget, we love it when mamas choose a splurge piece or two, like a chandelier or a bead curtain, use it as a party prop or backdrop, and then incorporate it into a bedroom or play space when the party’s over.

So whether your upcoming soiree is a five-year-old’s birthday party or a breast cancer fighting celebration, you can’t go wrong with a pink theme and lots of pops in shades from cotton candy to fuchsia.  (And if pink isn’t your thing, click your favorite color to see lots of options in *your* preferred hue.)

This Shabby Chic Party with styling and photography by Louise Sanders shows exactly how alluring a table set almost entirely in pink can be.  Sweet, romantic, and classic.

pink party decor

Image by Louise Sanders

So without further adieu, here’s a sampling of our favorite pink pieces ~ just waiting to make their new home in your little (or big) girl’s next party (room?).  For a great deal, select a Room-in-a-Box kit and then think outside the box ~ use the pieces as party props-to-be-turned-room-decor once the party’s over.  Provide scrapbooking paper, washi glitter tape, and pink rhinestone stickers as a combo craft + favor that is sure to delight the bling-loving crowd.  Or just go crazy with paper party straws, favor bags, and pale pink lanterns for a to-die-for vintage party.

pink party decor available at

We can’t wait to see what *your* next over-the-top party looks like.  Be sure to show us photographs of your results (pro or DIY) for a chance to win store credit and a feature on our blog.