Archives: 2011/04

Man Cake: You Know You Want A Piece! Apr 28th | Wedding Tips

This one is for the guys…the men…the bros…the lumberjacks! Just because your a guy doesn’t mean it’s “girly” to have input in your wedding. Who knows, perhaps showing a little interest and gusto might earn you some much needed brownie points from an otherwise stressed out fiance. If you want something you can have input in and really sink your teeth into, then go nuts designing your Grooms Cake…or as I like to call it…THE MAN CAKE!!!

Above is the photo of my grooms cake. It’s an exact replica of my favorite guitar; The Gibson Firebird V. I had a great time getting photo’s together and designing it with Jo at Jo’s Custom Cakes. It’s a great representation of who I am and what I’m about: obviously I’m a guitarist and it’s one of the best guitars ever made!

So for all you fellas out there, get a grooms cake and make it yours. Make it your man cake. I challenge you to design a cake that is more than a tasty square with your favorite sports team’s logo…dig a little deeper and make it standout. It’s the only thing that’s about you all day.

Chelsey: LOVE Jo's! We shot some cakes for her not too long ago and we love her! her anniversary chicken rocks! (Apr 28th - 09:32 pm)
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Vendors We Love! – Southall Eden Apr 26th | Vendors We Love!

Rolling hills, a red barn, and just a few minutes from quite possible the most dapper of country townships in the South, Franklin, TN…yep, that’s Southall Eden. Southall Eden is about as cool as it gets for those wanting a farm wedding, but still wanting to maintain that chic and modern feel, and not cart your guests back and forth from the backwoods to the boondocks.

Southall Eden is nestled in the Liepers Fork community a stones throw from Franklin and about 30 minutes south of Nashville. Not only is it a fantastic wedding venue and event space, but it also seconds as a paperie where brides and others wanting custom stationery, invitations, and high-end paper goods can come and tickle their fancies. I had the chance to speak with Shannon O’Kelley, the head-honcho over at Southall Eden, and she was gracious enough to answer a few questions about the venue and paperie.

Give us a general overview of the services you offer to brides, as both a wedding venue and paper-designer.
Southall Eden Paperie specializes in custom wedding stationery. Our typical client is the mid- to high end bride who is looking for something completely unique to announce her big day. We work one on one with her to create an invitation that is both personal to the couple and also fits their wedding style, whether it is luxury, modern, vintage, or earthy. We offer complete stationery suites and all accessories from Save the Dates down to favor tags and boxes. All of our design, printing, die cutting, and assembly is done in-house, with gives us the flexibility to meet each couple’s individual needs. We also have a retail line of invitations available at You’re Invited in Belle Meade and Williamson County Weddings in Franklin.

The venue is a 5 acre farm in Leiper’s Fork, just minutes from historic downtown Franklin. In addition to a historic red barn built in 1904, we have a party shed, pavilion, restroom facilities, catering kitchen, and bridal suite. There are several sites on the property for a wedding ceremony and/or reception. We offer all-inclusive wedding packages but also rent out the property a la carte for weddings, rehearsal dinners, and engagement parties, as well as commercial photo shoots, bridal portraits, and engagement photos.

Southall Eden Paperie and Farm is quite the combination.  Why did you decide to offer both services?
I have been designing wedding stationery for about 7 years, but just purchased the farm 2 1/2 years ago. I didn’t purchase it with the intention of hosting events, but after moving here I immediately noticed the demand for farm wedding venues in Leiper’s Fork. A photographer whose client had a last minute conflict with her venue approached me about having the wedding here. We made it happen, and word of mouth kind of took over from there.

Located in the gorgeous Leiper’s Fork Area near Franklin, TN, do you feel being positioned in a slightly more rural area has given you an advantage or disadvantage?
Definitely an advantage! People love this area, and are always happy to bring their out of town guests here to show them how beautiful Tennessee is. We are located just 10 minutes from downtown Franklin and 3 minutes from the village of Leiper’s Fork. Both have great restaurants, shops, and art galleries where guests can entertain themselves when they are not participating in wedding related events.

What has been your biggest obstacle as a wedding venue owner?
Well this is not unique to wedding venues, but I’d have to say the recession! The average Nashville wedding costs about $28,000. While we can throw a nice wedding here for significantly less than that, the fact remains that weddings are expensive. In the past year we’ve seen couples not having as much money to devote to their wedding as couples in past years have, and we have to be creative to throw weddings that are fabulous for budgets that are not ;)

What entices a bride to book Southall Eden?  Is there anything that sets you apart from the local wedding venues?
Most of our couples are laid back people who want a natural outdoor wedding that is beautiful but also comfortable and fun for the guests. We tend to attract a lot of artist and musician types, which we love! Our big red barn is usually a big selling point because of the popularity of barn weddings and the lack of other venues who have that sort of facility.

Are you simply a wedding venue, or do you offer planning and design services?
As of 2011 we now have an on-site planner who plans some of our weddings, but we also work with outside planners as well. And of course we are always delighted to be involved in the design process
for any couples who want it!

When designing wedding invitation and other custom stationary, what can a bride expect from start to finish?
The process begins with an in-person consultation (for local brides) to hear more about the couple, their vision, and other elements they are incorporating into their big day. We also work with brides on a national (and sometimes international) level, and those consultations are done either by phone or email. The second step is the design process, whereby I create a sample based on everything I’ve learned in the consultation. I then meet with the client again to go over the proof and make any necessary changes. Once she is 100% happy, we start production. After the invitations are finished and mailed, we move onto wedding day accessories such as programs, place cards, table numbers, and favors.

Where do you pull your inspiration from when designing wedding invitations?
This usually comes from the client. I always encourage her to bring photos of things she loves, whether its wedding related or not. I also like to find out details about the venue, the tablescape, flowers, bridesmaid dresses, and anything else that is important to the look of the wedding.

Does Southall Eden act as an event space for functions other than weddings?
Yes. This year we are offering a rehearsal dinner package that seems to really appeal to couples who want a formal indoor wedding but still want to give their out of town guests a true Tennesse experience. We also do engagement parties, corporate functions, and music industry events.

As always, I have to ask, do you have any quirkiness or weird habits you’ve noticed while working?
Me???? Never!! I’m totally the most normal person ever. Aren’t all artists???

What are the best ways prospective brides can contact you?
For brides interested in stationery I prefer an email (shannon (at) For couples interested in the venue I prefer a phone call at 615-775-4080.

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Favorite Photo Friday – A European Vacation? Apr 22nd | Favorite Photo

I’m feeling fairly good today, but for whatever reason I’m really missing Europe.  I was sorting through some of Whitney’s photos and saw this, and for reasons unknown to me it’s making me think Paris, and that I really need a European Vacation…really bad.  There are some excellent elements in this photo.  The wall has great character, the red coat makes the photo pop, and just take a look at the the couples faces…good times!  I hope everyone has a great weekend and we’ll see you next week!

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Get On the Dance Floor Apr 21st | Wedding Tips

Getting your wedding guests to cut the rug can be a struggle, to say the least…especially if alcohol isn’t hanging around and lowering everyone’s inhibitions. So, your only weapon to fight the empty-dance-floor phantom is your musical choices.

Music is a huge part of mine & my wife’s lives, so personally, we strategically chose and placed each song in correlation to the night’s event. I know a lot of people say this, but we really do like all genres of music, and we wanted to display that in our wedding play-list. We had everything from old-school hip hop, hard rock, hair-metal, country, bluegrass, and gangsta-rap. My best man even had “Gangsta’s Paradise” play after his speech…the biggest song out when we were kids. I digress, but my point is you want music that everyone can appreciate and more importantly dance to.

There are the usual oldies and disco favorites, the modern hip-hop and dance tunes, and wedding standards, but their are two things I don’t want you to forget….that is THE GROUP DANCE and ROCK N” ROLL!!!!!!

The group dance is a low-stress and non-invasive way to get EVERYONE, and I stress this, on the dance floor. For those people that are germaphobes or who still thinks the other sex has coodies…not to fret. The group dances, a la the “Cha Cha Slide” and “The Cupid Shuffle”, don’t normally involve touching other people, so there ya go! A word of caution though, if you even think of playing ‘The Macarena” I will jump through this computer screen, drop kick you right in the mouth, point at you violently, and tell you,”NOOOOOO!!!!!!” You’ve been warned.

And then there’s good ole’ ROCK N’ ROLL! For whatever reason, people have shied away from playing rock music at weddings and I’m not really sure why. Back before the time of the emo scream, grizzly bear metal, and two-piece whiny blather rock music was actually something you could dance to…shocking, but I know you remember. At our wedding we threw on some Def Leppard, some JET, and a few other straight-ahead rock tunes and it moved people off their seat and onto their feet. Yes, that rhyme was completely intentional.

If you’re afraid of an empty dance floor throw out some group dancing on the front end and get your guests comfortable with the idea of dancing. Set the example early on in the reception…because you came to party! When the crowd starts to ween and people start dropping off, throw on a good fist pumping rock tune and get them back out there.


Kevin Nichols: I am so going to share this on my blog and Facebook. From a DJ, it's refreshing to see a Photographer that gets it! Thanks again!! kev (Jun 30th - 11:18 am) chris: Thanks @Jon Bufkin; if you dance, other will follow...I believe it's called 'boogie fever' (Apr 22nd - 08:30 am) Jon Bufkin: Good call on the group dances early on. That coupled with the bride and groom stepping on the dance floor definitely helps get things going. (Apr 21st - 07:47 pm)
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Vendors We Love – A Village of Flowers Apr 19th | Vendors We Love!

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said,”The Earth laughs in flowers.”  I would have to agree, seeing as most oxygen breathing, warm-blooded, well minded human beings can at least offer a smile when the see and/or smell them.  Flowers can warm the heart of even the most destitute of ho-hum pessimists, and may even bring some softies to tears….especially at a wedding!

A wedding florist is an artist.  Their medium organic and absolute.  They turn what nature has provided and make it signature to your wedding decor.  One wedding florist we always enjoy working with is A Village of Flowers.  They have an uncanny ability to take a brides bouquet and arrangements, and have them speak (sometimes scream) who that bride is stylistically and personally.

For those of you searching for a great wedding florist in Nashville look no further than A Village of Flowers.  Lauren Atkinson was kind enough to answer a few questions, and lend some insights to the world of the wedding florist.

How did A Village of Flowers get it’s start?  You guys look like a fun little family!
We very much are a family! A Village of Flowers first began in 1985. The current owners, Melissa and Paul Seykora, acquired the shop in 2003. We have had such a healthy growth over the past several years, and each staff member has arrived at the perfect time to fill a specific need. We are so blessed to have such incredible talent and think they are the absolute best in town, but we may be partial.

Where do you get your inspiration from?
From everywhere and everything! Sometimes the simplest things inspire each of us: Melanie feels inspired by being on her family’s organic dairy farm; Kala is inspired by cool and unique flowers that our fabulous wholesalers often surprise us with; Hayley is inspired by fun containers and anything whimsical; Lydia finds inspiration on relaxing rainy days; and I find inspiration on my grandfather’s flower farm back home.

Do you have any weird or quirky things you do while arranging?
Unbeknownst to us, yes! We were recently made aware that we do have quirky mannerisms while arranging. Last spring, we were approached to have a music video shot in the shop for musical artist, Jewel. The video production team stopped in to watch us design one day so that they could teach our same mannerisms to her. There is a shot in the video where she steps back from the arrangement she is designing and cocks her head, intensely looking the arrangement over. We all started laughing because we realized that is exactly what we do!

What can a bride expect when she comes in for a consultation?
We have the fun part of the wedding planning process – bringing all the details and design elements together to create what that the bride and groom have envisioned for their wedding day. Before the client arrives, we ask a series of questions to the bride or planner to best prep their wedding designer. We identify the style of the bride and groom, their vision for the day, and how we can incorporate their personalities into their wedding. We hope that when the consult is over, they feel as though they have completely visualized their wedding day down to even the tiniest of details.

When is the best time of  the wedding planning process to book your florist?
We only require that you have the venue for both your ceremony and your reception chosen for your wedding before you meet with us. This, along with general style and color scheme, determines a great deal of your wedding design. We love having ample time to meet with brides and work with them on their wedding, but we can also pull together and design a wedding weeks before the big day.

Is there something that differentiates your services from your competitors?
We have an incredible and versatile design team. When we initially talk with the bride, we discuss their personal style and wedding vision. Brides are paired with the designer that will best fit their needs, and because we are very team and family oriented, our couples and planners often come back to us saying that they felt incredibly at ease and welcomed during their consult, as though they were already a part of our family.

Do you have a particular style or approach when assembling a floral design for a wedding?
We typically have the same routine every weekend with weddings. We process flowers on Wednesday and Thursday, begin designing on Friday afternoon, and we complete the design on Saturday morning before the installation. We take pride in spending the time to make sure we’ve paid attention to even the slightest of details, down to the ribbon wrapped around each bouquet. We often design the personal party flowers first, as those are usually the favorite to do!

What kind of challenges are presented when working indoors?
Fitting through doors! You would be surprised how creative we have to get with getting structures and large floral arrangements inside!

What challenges are presented when working outdoors?
Wind and weather. Generally, there is always a backup plan with inclement weather, so a rainy day will not bring us down. But even on a beautiful, sunny day, the wind can really put a hitch in floral designing. We’ve learned that keeping designs low is best in large open fields.

What are your interests outside of work?
Shockingly, I love gardening and entertaining! I suppose I just cannot get away from events and flowers even outside of work! In the summer, we all go out on Melissa and Paul’s boat on the lake and waterski. Anything outdoors!

How can potential clients reach A Village of Flowers?
They are more than welcome to stop by the shop anytime. We are also accessible through phone or email, 615.369.3030 or

These photographs are from the wedding of Cali & Will at The Belle Meade Plantation by the always wonderful Angela Proffitt and designer Jennifer Milam at REAL EVENT STYLE.

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Favorite Photo Friday – The More The Merrier Apr 15th | Favorite Photo,Uncategorized

Who says you can’t have enough groomsmen, the more the merrier right? Of course!!!! I love this photo, and it’s got attitude written all over it. I love the facial expression of the kid walking out from behind the groom. It’s always nice to see a groom and groomsmen who exude confidence. Most of the time, it takes us guys quite a bit to get loosened up and to feel even a touch comfort when getting our photo taken in a tux, but not these fellas.

How many individuals does it take to make up the perfect weeding party?

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A Nice Country Wedding. Just What I Needed! Apr 14th | Personal

This weekend I headed west.  No not to California, to Ashland City….duh!  I headed out to A-Town for my cousin Ashley’s wedding.  It was a very simple and traditional wedding, and in many ways was somewhat refreshing.  A nice country wedding is just what I needed to snap me back to reality and remind me why we all get together for these unions anyway.  It’s not just about how many guests, how much you spent on floral arrangements, the dress designer, or the imported organic goat-cheese from Swedish free-range herders who sing their live-stock to sleep.  Its about celebrating love and family!

It’s easy to get caught up in the hoopla and and general over-indulgence of planning a wedding.  I know, I’ve been there.  But at the end of the day when it’s all said and done, it’s all about the love.  I love going to wedding’s in the family, it’s like a mini family reunion and we all have a great time, and that’s exactly what we did at my cousin’s wedding.

It was held at a small church off of River Rd., and since my wife is out of town I got to drive her honda…which can really hug a turn at 60 mph on a back-wood country road…had the windows down. the stereo up, and basically having a good ol’ time.  The sanctuary was quaint and classic, with stained glass windows and exactly what you would expect for a southern protestant church.

Here are a few photo’s I took of my cousin in her gorgeous gown.

This great hair accessory was made by a friend and fits perfect with Ashely’s gown….and attitude.

I started to realize half-way through the ceremony that I was completely engrossed in the moment, and focusing solely on Ashley and her groom to be Justin.  I could hear every word of their vows, I could see every expression on their face, and wasn’t distracted by, well, anything.

You definitely want your wedding to speak of who you are, but while your planning remember what this is really about.

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Vendors We Love – Maples Wedding Cakes Apr 12th | Vendors We Love!

What do People Magazine, Martha Stewart Weddings, and TLC have in common? JAY QUALLS…that’s what!!!!

Jay Qualls is the owner and head designer of the premier custom-cake bakery Maples Wedding Cakes in Murfreesboro, TN. Jay has become one of the most recognizable wedding-cake designers on the map, and most recently due to his appearance on TLC’s hits show The Next Great Baker hosted by The Cake Boss himself Buddy Valastro.

Jay has been super busy since his appearance on the show, but he was kind enough to answer a few questions on his way to Alaska  for our ‘Vendors We Love’ Blog Series….because Jay and Maples Wedding Cakes is definitely a vendor we love.

Tell us about Maples Wedding Cakes…what’s the climate like in the shop…who really runs the show?
Well, everything is pretty much the same except for the people stopping by the shop to say hi, ask questions about the show, or to have their picture made. Production has remained the same. It is a bit more difficult to get work done in the studio now I must admit.

What has been your biggest inspiration?
I’m inspired by many things everyday. I suppose my biggest inspiration that keeps me doing what I do is that I always have something to prove to myself. Now it has become challenge to me. How much can I accomplish in this industry? I have some plans up my sleeve that I will share in another interview. I’m inspired by my colleagues, fashion, other cake artists, Nature. Many, many things inspire me.

How do you start the cake design process and how do you take it to the finished product?
Unless it is an original design for display or marketing, the design process all starts with the client and ends with the client. The client ultimately has the final say about design but I try very hard to listen to the client and determine her style. It is my job as an expert in my field to guide the client to a beautiful outcome and not something she is going to look back on 10 or 20 years from now and have remorse.

You were recently on TLC’s The Next Great Baker…what was that experience like and how has it changed your life & business since?
Careful what you wish for! It was a great experience. I didn’t go there to win honestly. I went there for exposure and looking back now to find out what I’m really made of. It was very, very, difficult. It was long hours, hard physical labor in unbelievable situations. It certainly has been a whirlwind for sure. It has given me many opportunities that I would have never gotten without that type of international exposure. I am traveling all over the United States and Canada teaching, lecturing, and demonstrating my craft. All the fans have been amazing and getting to work side by side with some of my cake idols is a dream come true. Crazy!

You have been traveling all over and meeting tons of new people…what is your fondest memory so far?
Hmmm…that is a tough question because there have been so many. I think one of my fondest memories was when I was asked to do an 80th birthday cake for a sweet southern lady from Alabama who was a fan. They drove her all the way to my shop so I could surprise her with her cake. When I was posing with her and her cake, I actually cried that I could touch a woman’s life with a cake after 80 years of her life and all she has seen and as many cakes as she has gotten. She still wanted mine. It was an unforgettable moment for me.

What is your favorite design element and technique…for those who don’t know, whats your trademark?
It is strange, until I did the cake for Martha Stewart Weddings, I never considered myself as someone who could pipe. Piping is a skilled art. After being asked to do that cake I fell in love with it and practiced, practiced, practiced and now it is one of my favorite technique. I’m also known for putting jewels or brooches on my cakes. I’m working on doing them in sugar as well. There are some great techniques that I am working on and going to be doing new designs around them. I love the art of string-work which is piping done with royal icing. It is beautiful and I feel so peaceful when I’m doing it.

Describe your perfect wedding cake?
Wow….that is a tough question. I get asked that question a lot. Hmmm? I’ll answer the best I can as of today because I change my mind everyday…LOL! I would say round, tall, tier’s will be different heights, 2 colors, maybe all white or soft ivory on white…it must have piping for sure. Maybe jewels. Not sure. See…I get lost every time I start to design my vision of the perfect wedding cake. I have too many techniques in my mind to design just one. That is why I like the diversity of designing for clients.

If you could make a cake for any couple…who would it be?
The Royal couple of course and Oprah and Steadman.

When a new client comes to Maples Cakes what can they expect?
They can expect to have a pleasant experience with knowledgeable staff. We make the tasting and design process an experience that hopefully will be a fond memory. They will get to sit in a luxurious beautiful studio with over 50 cakes on display. They will be able to taste at least 5 of our most popular flavors of cake, and our delicious buttercream and white chocolate fondant. We will spend as much time as we need until we get there cake designed. Sometimes they are surprised how quickly it comes together. Most of our cakes are unique designs, but that is usually determined by the client. It makes me feel good when they pick one of my original designs for their wedding.

Is there a Philosophy behind the work at Maples Wedding Cakes?
Martha Stewart has a standard called “Perfectly Perfect”. I have striven over the years to set and maintain a standard of excellence when we produce every single cake that would live up to that expectation. My philosophy is that my ability and skill set should be level with the bride’s expectation. I find that makes for a wonderful working relationship because we are able to do our best work and make our clients happy. Another important element is that I think CAKE SHOULD TASTE GOOD and BE MADE FRESH! Never freeze cake people! Never!

Anything else you would like to say…
Thank you to all of our former clients for allowing us to design their cake and be a part of their lives. Thank you to all my fans who have reached out to me and follow me to see what I’m doing next. Speaking of which….keep your eye on me. I just developed a new company called Jay Qualls Holdings, LLC. Just wait till you see some of the things I have planned. Great things coming this year! Until next time! Eat More Cake! Jay


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Favorite Photo Friday – Through The Door Apr 08th | Favorite Photo

Last week I featured a candid photo of cute flower girl yawning, a small taste of photo-journalism. But this photo, ladies and gentlemen, is the real deal. This is a moment that is hard to capture, and captured it has been. It’s a beautiful, sublime, and elegant moment with everyone’s eyes on the bride. When you look at this photo you feel so engaged, almost like you’re actually experiencing the moment…and that to me is the core of photo-journalism.

Do you think photo-journalism has become more popular for wedding photography over the years, or do folks still want the traditional poses?

Linda at Cedarwood: We love, love, love this image. The flower girls looking at the bride in wonder....priceless. These little girls are already dreaming of being a bride some day. Lovely job!!!! (Apr 08th - 01:54 pm)
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Sneak Peak from Harlow…Salon on Music Row Apr 06th | Portraits

Last week I was subject to a little treat.  Being the dubbed “marketing-dude” I’m usually stuck in front of a computer screen or aggravating my carpel-tunnel writing and typing away, but Whitney was kind enough to let me tag along on a photo-shoot and haul some gear around.

We headed down to Music Row for an afternoon at Harlow Salon.  Whitney is doing some press shots for the salon and it gave me a chance to meet and hang out with the wonderful staff. They are a great bunch of people with a cool and professional attitude that is hard to find and comes highly recommended.  If you’re in the area and in need a new do…Harlow Salon is a must!

Whitney is putting the finishing touches on the photos, but in the mean time I figured I would post a few I got from the iPhone when Whitney wasn’t watching.  Be sure to check back soon for the finished product.


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Nashville Wedding Photographers, Whitney & Peter Carlson are Dove Wedding Photography.
Our wedding photography portfolio and information can be viewed on our portfolio site.

Dove Wedding Photography
2827 Azalea Place
Nashville, TN 37204
(615) 730-7716

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