I listened in on the first-ever Clubhouse wedding along with 26,000 other people. It included heartwarming vows, a registry to gift a $5,000 Caribbean getaway, and snapshots of the happy couple.

Natasha Grano and Michael Graziano
Natasha Grano and Michael Graziano.

  • Natasha Grano and Michael Graziano are the first-ever couple to get married on the audio-only app.
  • The two-hour traditional ceremony included the walk down the aisle and a Corinthians reading.
  • Guests were instructed to “Push to Refresh” to update the couple’s profile photos as it went on.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Natasha Grano and Michael Graziano made history on the Clubhouse app yesterday when they became the first-ever couple to get married on the audio-only platform – a fitting venue considering that’s where the two met last February.

According to a report from Direcon, a third-party provider of Clubhouse analytics, the nuptials captured the ears of nearly 27,000 listeners throughout the two-hour ceremony, which was hosted by celebrity matchmaker Carmelia Ray – 10 times the amount of people initially expected to tune in.

One of those listeners was Digital Marketing’s Gary Henderson, who met the couple through the app and listened in from his home in San Juan, Puerto Rico, before going out to run errands with his wife.

“It was great to hear so many people share their loving words with Natasha and Michael,” Henderson, who’s never actually met the couple in person, told Insider.

“Clubhouse is the perfect way to invite your global friends and family to an intimate experience without it becoming too intrusive,” he added. “We were able to share a private moment together without the awkwardness of a camera, or lighting, or professional microphones, or any weird angles. Without Clubhouse, this amazing wedding would have never been possible.”

Although the executives at Clubhouse didn’t play a role in the couple’s wedding, Stephanie Simon, head of community, creators, and partnerships at Clubhouse, did take a moment to express her best wishes to the couple and issued the following statement to Insider: “We’re constantly inspired by the ways that individuals are using Clubhouse to meet new people, build friendships, and ultimately share milestones of the human experience with each other. This wedding reminds us that the power and intimacy of voice can turn conversations around shared interests into deep and meaningful relationships, and even love.”

As for me, while I was fascinated by the notion of an audio-only wedding – especially from a guest perspective, since I was able to attend Sunday morning’s festivities in my favorite sweatpants from the comfort of my sofa – I did find myself missing those quintessential moments one can only truly experience in real life: the first kiss, the first dance, the cutting of the cake, and yes, even the bouquet toss.

A traditional ceremony – all done via audio

The couple exchanging rings on Clubhouse
The couple exchanging rings on Clubhouse.

Henderson, along with listeners from around the world like me, were treated to a variety of rituals reminiscent of a conventional wedding, but through audio: the bride’s walk down the aisle, a reading from Corinthians, and heartfelt speeches given by members of the bridal party, which included rapper Ja Rule and John Assaraf, from the documentary “The Secret.”

Daymond John of “Shark Tank” and Netflix cofounder Marc Randolph, who were listed as groomsmen, were not in attendance, and according to Grano, one bridesmaid missed the event because she was stuck on an airplane.

The ceremony was officiated by John Gray, the former associate pastor under Joel Osteen at Lakewood Church. Gray put his own spin on things as he opened the service by proclaiming, “Dearly Beloved, we are gathered here today in front of this Clubhouse community to join Natasha and Michael in holy matrimony.”

He also concluded the service by offering the following advice to guests: “If any person can show just cause why they should not be joined together – let them speak now or forever hush their Clubhouse mouth.”

Wedding guests were invited to sign a guestbook and directed to a registry, where one could gift the couple a series of items, such as a bottle of champagne ($95), a romantic dinner for two on the beach ($250), or even a Caribbean getaway at a five-star hotel ($5,000). For those whose pockets didn’t run that deep, there were also nominal items, like a single lollipop for Rio, Grano’s four-and-half year-old son from a previous marriage ($1).

Adding some Clubhouse flair

The couple exchanging vows on Clubhouse
The couple exchanging vows on Clubhouse.

Then there were the aspects of the couple’s union that one could only experience in a Clubhouse wedding – requests to “mute yourself” and follow the couple and bridal party on social media and the presence of mic claps, the virtual version of applause, for example.

Unlike real-life weddings, where speeches have been known to go on too long, members of the virtual bridal party were met with constant reminders to keep their speeches to a maximum of two minutes long – and some even wrapped up their comments with the phrase commonly used on Clubhouse: “Thank you. I am done speaking.”

Throughout the ceremony, guests were regularly instructed to “Push to Refresh” or PTR, resulting in the couple’s profile photos continuously updating to reflect the event timeline and allowing guests to see snapshots of Grano arriving by limo and walking down the aisle, the two exchanging both vows and rings at the altar, and their first kiss as husband and wife.

A magical digital event

In reality, the images were all taken on Saturday inside a Vancouver church. Graziano told Insider the day of the Clubhouse wedding, the two were home on their iPhones wearing sweatpants. “Afterwards, we just relaxed, ordered in Greek food from DoorDash, and watched ‘Titanic’ on Netflix,” he said.

Despite some of the more less-than-romantic technical aspects of the event, listeners could still experience the warm fuzzies – the poignant pauses felt before the “I do’s,” the warmth of the couple’s handwritten vows, the smooching sounds that accompanied the couple’s first kiss, and the excited hoots and hollers that spontaneously erupted from some members of the bridal party in far-off distance places.

Grano and Graziano's first kiss
Grano and Graziano’s first kiss.

In his vows, Graziano told Grano, “I may have had to search the entire world to realize you’d been hiding in my phone’s apps all along, but this time I won’t let go,” adding that their Clubhouse matrimony was “the best day of his digital life.”

In classic wedding form, the couple exited the Clubhouse room to Kool and the Gang’s obligatory wedding anthem “Celebration” while wedding guest and social-media influencer Kiante Young, overcome with emotion, professed to all those listening, “I hope you two have a future baby shower on Clubhouse!”

Read the original article on Business Insider

The best places to buy wedding rings online

If you buy through our links, we may earn money from affiliate partners. Learn more.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Shopping for wedding bands online might seem daunting, but these sites make the process stress-free.
  • Our favorite wedding band sites are easy to navigate, have tons of options, and are eco-friendly.
Best places to buy wedding rings 4x3

The engagement ring might be the star of the show when a couple decides to get married, but the wedding bands officially seal the deal. That considered, taking the time to invest in something timeless is pretty important.

Sometimes engagement rings and wedding bands come together as a bridal set, but many people decide to shop for a wedding band separately to better reflect their personal style. That’s why we decided to do a deep dive into the world of online wedding band shopping to find the best websites to purchase your forever ring from. These five take the cake for being the best of the best when it comes to buying a wedding band online.

Ritani

Ritani

Ritani‘s website has hundreds of gorgeous wedding bands to choose from, no matter what your budget is.

With hundreds of wedding bands and what seems like endless customization options, it would be hard not to find your perfect wedding band on Ritani’s website –– and it helps that the site is super easy to navigate. You can choose between women’s and men’s wedding bands, diamond, 9-stone, gemstone –– you name it. You can even filter the results by specific types of ring finishes, styles, natural or lab diamonds, price, delivery date, and more.  If nothing catches your eye, you can start from scratch and create a one-of-a-kind wedding band.

What to buy:

Men’s 8mm Tungsten Diamond Wedding Ring (small)Women’s Classic Thin Knife-Edge Wedding Ring (small)Five-stone Asscher Cut Diamond Wedding Ring (small)
Joseph Jewelry

Joseph Jewelry

Joseph Jewelry is super informative and offers tons of variety when it comes to finding the perfect wedding band.

LeJoseph Jewelry has an impressive amount of high-quality inventory. The website lets you filter by style, metal, finish, features, and price to help you narrow down your list. The company also specializes in custom hand engraving, and its “Design Your Own” option is listed first on the site’s tab options. In other words, if you’re looking to create something exclusively yours, this is the place to go. If you have any questions, there’s a responsive and knowledgeable customer service team at the ready, in addition to a blog dedicated to answering FAQs and covering other jewelry-related topics. The company gets extra brownie points for holding itself to high standards of sustainability and ethics, too.

What to buy:

Custom Men’s Mokume Wedding Band (small)Custom Hand Engraved Wedding Band (small)Custom Baguette Diamond Eternity Wedding Band (small)
With Clarity

WithClairty

Don’t want to shop in person but still want the experience of trying on rings? With Clarity is the perfect happy medium. 

With Clarity is the perfect happy medium if you don’t want to shop in person but still want the experience of trying on wedding bands. First, filtering your search results is super easy. You can choose between men’s and women’s metal bands or bands with diamonds. With Clarity also offers complimentary engraving services and totally customizable rings. Customers can choose two replica rings, created with 3D printing, and preview them for a three-day period before committing.With Clarity has one of the most informative sites we’ve come across, and it’s super transparent about its diamond ethics, too? One of the best parts of buying your wedding band from With Clarity is its budget-friendly prices, discounts, sales, and price matching promise. Whether you’re looking to spend $150 or a couple thousand, there’s definitely a ring to fit your preferred price range.

What to buy:

Satin Round Diamond Men’s Wedding Band (small)Diamond Basket Solitaire Wedding Band (small)Three Stone Trellis Princess Diamond Wedding Band (small)
Krikawa

Krikawa

Nature enthusiasts and fans of unique jewelry: Krikawa is the best of the best when it comes to exquisitely-detailed wedding bands.

Krikawa is the place to shop for unique wedding bands that will surely stand out from the rest. Each ring is made to order and can be created from scratch, but if you want a base to work with, Krikawa offers designs like dragon scales, piano keys, giraffe skin, dragonflies, and snakes. Krikawa’s site is easy to navigate and breaks up its design options to make finding your perfect ring completely your own. It’s also a totally eco-friendly brand and only uses conflict-free diamonds, fair trade and lab-created gemstones, and recycled metals. 

What to buy:

Feather Embrace Wedding Band (small)Ring O’ Roses with Diamonds Wedding Band (small)Channel Twist Wedding Band (small)
Brilliant Earth

Brilliant Earth

Brilliant Earth takes sustainability one step further than most jewelry companies, all while offering gorgeous, high-quality products. 

With over 400 wedding rings and bands, plus endless customization options to choose from, Brilliant Earth might have a slightly slimmer selection than some of its competitors, but the quality of its chic and modern jewelry makes the brand stand out. Another one of the many perks of shopping with Brilliant Earth is how informative the site is, whether you’re just starting out in your ring-shopping process or are deciding on finishing touches. There’s even a “find my matching wedding ring” feature where you can see your engagement ring and wedding band side-by-side. There are also several flexible payment options, and that’s on top of free 30 day returns and resizes and free shipping within the US both ways.

What to buy:

Versailles Diamond Ring (3/8 ct. tw.) (small)Lunette Diamond Ring (small)Petite Comfort Fit Wedding Ring (small)
Check out some of our other jewelry guides

Read the original article on Business Insider

The 26 best bridesmaid gifts we’ve ever given or received, from custom gift boxes to bridesmaid dresses

If you buy through our links, we may earn money from affiliate partners. Learn more.

birdy grey bridesmaids dresses
  • Sending your bridesmaids a thoughtful gift is a great way to celebrate your wedding day.
  • We asked Insider staffers to share the best bridesmaid gifts they’ve ever given or received.
  • Looking for more gift ideas? Check out all Insider Reviews gift guides here.

Bridesmaids are more than just a handful of people you choose to pose for pictures with on your wedding day. They are your closest family members and friends – the ones who have seen you through the hard breakups before you found the one and celebrated with you when you finally got that promotion.

Even if your wedding is a long while away, you can still celebrate in small ways by reaching out to your bridesmaids. Sending them nice, thoughtful, funny, and custom gifts can help you express how grateful you are that they’re involved in your life, outside of your special day.

We asked members of the Insider Reviews team to tell us the best bridesmaid gifts they’ve ever given or received. From silk robes and eye masks to custom Bobbleheads and acrylic purses, we rounded up 26 gifts that any member of your “I do” crew will appreciate.

The 26 best bridesmaids gifts we’ve ever received or given, plus a few other recommendations:

Bridesmaids dresses so one expense is already taken care of for them

birdy grey bridesmaids dresses

Birdy Grey Bridesmaids Dresses, $99

I followed what was done for me when I was a bridesmaid and gifted my bridal crew their bridesmaid dresses. There are a lot of costs involved when you’re a bridesmaid so I wanted to make at least one part of that job easier. Knowing that I was footing the bill for a group of six, I needed something affordable and high-quality.

I found Birdy Grey on Instagram and was impressed with the selection of colors, dress styles, and, more importantly, that each dress was $99. I picked out the Dusty Blue color and let my bridesmaids choose their own dresses. Even though I knew they wouldn’t wear the dresses again unless they’re part of someone else’s wedding and it had a similar color scheme, they told me that it was a big expense off their shoulders.  —Jada Wong, senior editor

A custom market tote that they can use for years after the wedding

Apolis customizable tote

Apolis Market Tote, available at Apolis Global, from $58

I wanted to give my bridesmaids a gift that felt personal, looked cute for pictures, and that they could use for years after the wedding. I decided against any gift that said “bridesmaid” or had our names or wedding date on it since that limited the likelihood they would reuse it. I opted instead to personalize one of these market totes for each of them with the name of their hometown. I stuffed each one with other goodies, like a cookbook, candy, and a card. They were a big hit; even people who weren’t in our wedding party wanted to know where to get them. —Lauren Savoie, editor

A beautiful, monogrammed jewelry travel case

Mejuri Jewelry Case

Mejuri Jewelry Case, available at Mejuri, $75

If you’d prefer to gift something memorable that’s also highly useful, we’d suggest considering Mejuri’s leather travel jewelry cases which will keep their rings and necklaces from getting tangled or lost. The grain leather is soft and luxe — and Mejuri will monogram it with their initials. —Mara Leighton, senior reporter

Memorable, elegant earrings they can wear many times in the future

Mejuri Bold Pearl Drop Earrings

Mejuri Bold Pearl Drop Earrings, available at Mejuri, $65

Earrings don’t have to be incredibly expensive to look and feel luxe. A pair is an elegant way to remember the day — and your friendship — that’s as versatile as it is special. —Mara Leighton, senior reporter

An air plant and custom bridesmaid proposal box

Bridemaid gifts plant box

Bridesmaid Proposal Card and Succulent Box, available at Etsy, from $28.05

While the succulent is the perfect elegant desk accessory, the card it comes with is the main attraction. Each box can be customized so all of your bridesmaids feel special. —Ellen Hoffman, Insider Reviews executive editor

An eye palette with enough colors to work on a variety of skin tones

urban decay naked3 eyeshadow palette

Urban Decay Naked Eyeshadow Palette, available at Ulta, $54

Before I was a bride myself, I was a bridesmaid many times over. One of my most favorite bridesmaid gifts I received was an Urban Decay Naked Eyeshadow Palette, which I still use to this day. It was the sort of gift I’d never splurge on myself but was so thrilled to receive. While makeup can often be a risky gift, palettes like this one offer many colors to work with a variety of skin tones. —Lauren Savoie, editor

Sweet, personalized sweatshirts

bow & drape custom crewneck sweatshirt

Bow & Drape Custom Sweatshirt, available at Bow & Drape from $68

My husband and I dated when we were teenagers, didn’t talk for more than a decade, and then met up serendipitously again 13 years later in a chance encounter hundreds of miles from my hometown. I was wearing a Bow & Drape sweatshirt that said “You Had Me At Merlot” for that chance meeting and it’s become part of the lore of our origin story now.

While that original sweatshirt made an appearance for our wedding photo booth, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to buy my bridesmaids some sassy sparkly sweatshirts of their own. I customized each one with an inside joke that was unique to them or us, and I loved watching my bridesmaids bust them out on the dance floor. —Lauren Savoie, editor

Delicious food inspired by your wedding location

Goldbelly

Meal from Goldbelly, available at Goldbelly starting at $59

Gift them a delicious treat or meal that matches your wedding location from Goldbelly, a company that partners with iconic eateries around the country to deliver regional delicacies such as New York pizza, Memphis barbeque, and Philly cheesesteaks. —Mara Leighton, senior reporter

A personalized purse they can used at all future weddings

Rae of Light

Personalized acrylic purse, available at Rae of Light, $99

I’ve had plenty of weddings this year and always struggled to find the perfect clutch. My friend gifted us these luxe acrylic bags with our names on them. They are perfect for fancy occasions! —Chelsey Hoffman, producer

A suitcase to hold the gifts

Alana Yzola

Mini Suitcase Wishing Well, available at Amazon, $95.96

The gift box was delivered to each bridesmaid and maid of honor. For the bridesmaids that are related to me, I organized a surprise brunch and had the boxes hand-delivered by my cousin. We rolled out a red carpet and I made him wear a suit for it! I recorded their reactions and plan on including them in the final wedding video. — Alana Yzola, senior video producer 

Note: This product is currently sold by a third-party retailer on Amazon. 

A silky bathrobe they can wear while getting ready for your big day

Bridesmaid Silk Robes

Bridesmaid Silk Robes, available at Etsy, from $15

Aliza Gulab included these silky bathrobes inside of her bridesmaid proposal gift bag. Not only are they adorable in getting ready photos, but they are the ultimate armor of friendship on the big day.

A personalized wine tumbler to get the creative planning-juices flowing

Bridesmaid gift tumblers

Personalized Wine Tumbler, available at Etsy, from $13

Alana Yzola included these personalized stemless wine tumblers insider her bridesmaids’ ask box. They come in nine different colors and can be customized to include monogrammed initials or their name.

Sleep masks so they can recover from the bachelorette party

Bridesmaid gifts eye masks

Bridesmaids Sleep Mask, available at Etsy, $9.99

Alana Yzola also included these sleep masks in her bridesmaids’ ask boxes so that they could recover and get a little sleep on the way home from the bachelorette party.

A candle that smells like the location of the destination wedding

Yankee Candle

Pink Sands Candle, available at Yankee Candle, $17

Aliza Gulab also included a Pink Sands Yankee Candle which embodied the scents of her destination island wedding in Jamaica.

A face mask to prepare for the big day

sephora face masks aloe

Sephora Collection Rose Face Mask, available at Sephora, $4

Aliza Gulab also included this Sephora face mask so that her bridesmaids would feel relaxed and just a little pampered before the wedding.

A luggage tag they can use to travel to the destination wedding location

Miamica Confetti Luggage Tag

Miamica Confetti Luggage Tag, available at Miamica, $6.50

Finally, since the wedding will be a destination wedding in Jamaica, Aliza Gulab included these adorable luggage tags for their travels.

A garment bag for easy traveling with formalwear

Longchamp Garment Bag

Longchamp Boxford Garment Bag, available at Longchamp, $165

Wedding season means frequent traveling with formal clothing for many — and a nice garment bag takes some of the hassle out of the experience. —Mara Leighton, senior reporter

A bottle of their favorite wine with a custom label asking them to be your bridesmaid

Custom Wine Labels

Customized Wine Bottle Labels, available at Etsy, $4/label

My sister asked me to be her maid of honor with my favorite type of wine and a label that said, “Will you be my maid of honor?” on it. She got each bridesmaid their favorite bottle of wine and asked in the same way. I thought this was a thoughtful, sweet, simple way to ask. —Victoria Gracie, associate distribution producer

A custom gift that’s both thoughtful and practical

Customized phone case

Personalized Phone Case, available at Etsy, from $25.99

I received a custom cell phone case from Etsy for one wedding I was in. The bride asked us our phone size a few weeks before the wedding. I loved that this gift was something I could actually use! —Chelsey Hoffman, producer

A gift you can mail to your long-distance bridesmaid

Long Distance Friendship Picture Frame

Long Distance Friendship Picture Frame, available at Etsy, $23.50

When your bridesmaid lives hundreds or maybe even thousands of miles away, this gift can be a nice reminder that friendship knows no distance. —Ellen Hoffman, Insider Reviews executive editor

A robe that’s comfortable and can be worn even after the wedding

Personalized Waffle Robe

Personalized Waffle Robes, available on Amazon, $36.95

My sister gifted me and all of her bridesmaids personalized robes for the morning of the wedding. They were comfortable and perfect to wear while getting our hair and makeup done and even looked cute in any photos taken while getting ready. I love that this robe is something I can still use, too. — Victoria Gracie, associate distribution producer

A pair of getting-ready pajamas that you can wear even after the wedding

Gap Modal Pajamas

Modal Joggers, available at Gap, $38

If you’ve been a bridesmaid before, you know it’s a LONG day of sitting around getting ready. My friend gifted us Gap pajamas to lounge in for the day. They were not bride-themed so they were not only great for the day-of, but afterward as well. —Chelsey Hoffman, producer

Custom gift bags that fit the theme of the wedding

Personalized Gift Bag

Personalized Gift Bag, available at Etsy, from $2.95

We are having a destination wedding so I wanted to stick to the theme for my bridesmaids’ ‘proposal’ gifts. Our destination wedding will be in Jamaica so I took them to a cute brunch spot in Brooklyn called Negril and we sat near a neon sign that read “One Love.” I put their gifts in these cute bags. —Aliza Gulab, video producer

Hair towels that minimize damage and cut down on drying time

AQUIS Original Hair Turban

AQUIS Original Hair Turban, available at Amazon, $20.99

Also in the vein of things that will come in handy many times post-wedding is a hair towel that minimizes damage and frizz and cuts drying time by as much as 50%. Aquis towels are made from a proprietary fabric with ultra-fine fibers that are gentle on hair. —Mara Leighton, senior reporter

A makeup bag that can be customized for each bridesmaid

Custom Makeup Bag

Customize a Stony Clover Lane Pouch

I’ve received a few personalized makeup cases, but my Stoney Clover one is by far my favorite. They have the cutest styles and customization options. The options are endless! I use this to go to the beach and as a travel case. —Chelsey Hoffman, producer

A hilarious gift that even the groomsmen will appreciate

Custom Bobbleheads

Custom Bobblehead, available on Etsy, $59.99

For my wedding, my husband and I created custom Bobbleheads for all the groomsmen (based on photos we submitted of them). Everyone was obsessed and loved getting something so personal. —Marni Wagner, Insider Inc. lead project manager

Read the original article on Business Insider

I’ve helped over 3,000 clients plan elaborate marriage proposals. The most expensive proposal so far was on a private island and cost over $100,000.

Pics and Petals in NYC
A flower-filled proposal in New York City.

I’ve always been someone who likes a challenge. I started my company right after graduating college in 2008, when I was only 22 years old. 

It wasn’t an ideal economy to be looking for a job or launching a brand new business – most people were just trying to keep their jobs – but personally I’ve found that  if you really believe in what you’re offering and are also meeting a need, then it can work. 

Heather Vaughn Headshot  Founder of The Yes Girls
TYG founder Heather Vaughn.

Around this time, I came up with an idea of a marriage proposal business. I always loved hearing people’s proposal stories, but felt like given the resources and time, they probably could’ve come up with something better and more unique. I realized there wasn’t a business that offered great proposal planning like this, so it was the lightbulb moment for me, so I founded The Yes Girls.

We create a personalized proposal for each client.

Madison Ellis Photography.JPG
Flowers and a fluffy rug for a boat proposal.

I’m very passionate about my proposals and adamant about giving clients an experience that’s personal and customized to their relationship. Each of our clients builds out a relationship assessment questionnaire so we can get to know them as a couple. This is what really inspires the ideas. 

We work with a network of vendors and small businesses to create the proposal event. I love that we get to support other small businesses in this work  including florists, photographers, venues, and even Etsy shops. I love my team of five – you can’t do this work without a good team. We were already set up as a remote company pre-pandemic, so we have that system down.

The company mainly works within the US, but does occasionally plan an international proposal or vow renewal.  

As a team, we’re all very particular with the details. We handle the timeline and contact with the vendors to make sure we’re on the same page, and put together a floor plan so everyone can see exactly how it’s going to be set up following the client’s vision. We also FaceTime the vendors the day of to make sure everything is set up correctly. 

We’ve successfully planned over 3,000 proposals.

Janet Jarchow photography
A beachside proposal.

As more of a boutique, luxury focused service, we don’t necessarily plan 20 events each month because we’re really focused on creating a higher-end quality event that can speak to each couple’s love story well – and we want to make sure we’re giving them the time and personalized service they deserve.  

I’ll always remember my first planned proposal. It was for a client who reached out to me about a week after I first launched my website.

The proposal was in Napa Valley, California, at the stunning Domaine Carneros Winery. We made it a surprise under the ruse of doing  a private tasting and tour. When the couple walked out onto the balcony, there was a sweet setup there with a private bistro table and chairs, a floral arrangement in her favorite flowers, photos of the couple, a pair of wine tasting glasses, and a personalized rose bush to keep and plant in their garden to signify their next big milestone – their engagement. 

This was all set up on a private balcony at the winery overlooking the stunning backdrop of the valley and vineyards. It was so much fun and turned out amazing. I still have the email he sent thanking me when everything was done, I kept it as my motivation that I was doing the right thing starting this business. 

My biggest challenge has been finding and marketing to a niche clientele.

ashley burns photography
A sun-filled summer with a gazebo backdrop.

Over the years I’ve realized that I can’t help everyone and that my service isn’t necessarily for everyone. Whether I’m planning a $50,000 dollar proposal or a $1,000 dollar proposal, it can take almost the same amount of time and energy. It was more important to find my own market and the right kind of clientele.

Even though we’re in such a happy industry, we do feel a customer service-style role, so it’s important to spot the red flags with potential clients.

I’ve never had anyone say “no,” but we did have an incident where the girl being proposed to was hiding because she was so anxious about public displays of affection. We told our client to give her time until she was comfortable coming back out and there were less people around. 

Another challenge is because historically 90% of our clients are male, they can be more “last minute” and don’t leave as much time for planning – so we have some very quick turnarounds. 

We’ve planned a proposal in just one day – but we typically don’t do that anymore, because it can be too stressful. We can plan it within one week’s time, but typically we prepare to plan one to two months in advance. 

Still, we have organized a few proposals for women clients, sometimes proposing to male partners and other times to women partners. 

For the most part, the proposals are a surprise and only one member of the couple is involved in the planning.

Jessica Rice Photography Newport Beach CA
Butterflies decorate a proposal in Newport Beach, California.

I had one request for a co-planning situation, and we didn’t do it because it didn’t seem on-point with what we want to do as a company. 

I know it sounds cliche, but I always say my favorite proposal is whichever one we’re currently working on, because each is  always new and different. Anything that’s really creative and fun to plan is right up my ally.

We’ve planned some really high-end proposals – some that we haven’t been able to share online due to privacy requests – but our most expensive was over $100,000. 

It was on a private island off of Charleston, South Carolina where the gentleman flew in over 30 members of his closest family and friends on a private jet. We did a full-blown engagement party afterward, so it was a “proposal meets engagement party” all-in-one experience. She was really surprised, and it was gorgeous – like something out of a Nicholas Sparks movie, complete with a private villa and a boardwalk right up to the beach. 

We also want to help relationships beyond proposals, and ensure these couples are staying connected in their relationship throughout. I love it when we get to plan events like vow renewals, and re-proposals which is when someone maybe didn’t get to plan a proposal the first time or wants a luxury re-do. 

It’s great to support couples who want to refresh and reset their intentions and commitment to one another. We had a really amazing one where the client was upgrading his wife’s wedding ring, so he decided to re-propose in St. Barth’s, which turned into a full-blown vow renewal. 

As a business owner, I’m always setting new goals. I’m very future-oriented and definitely want to expand the company. I’d say my ultimate goal is to become the No. 1 romantic event planning company in the US. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

This is how we got married with 100 guests in Singapore while painstaking COVID-19 restrictions are in place

Gina and Shoshi Wedding
Gina Loh, 33, and Shoshi Kudo, 34, walk down the aisle.

  • Gina Loh and Shoshi Kudo got married in Singapore where COVID restrictions permit up to 100 guests.
  • But strict rules meant no live music, no noisy toasts, and ‘zoning’ to keep guests apart.
  • Guests toasted the couple in silence as rules forbade raucous cheers traditionally given.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Shoshi Kudo and Gina Loh had visions of a big white wedding with 180 guests, including Kudo’s family flying in from Japan, after he proposed to her in January 2020 during a mountain hiking holiday.

But three months later, Singapore went into lockdown amid the coronavirus pandemic and all weddings were prohibited.

When the coupled married on January 9 this year, only 100 guests could attend, provided they all took painstaking steps to maintain social distancing – including being divided into two “zones” of 50 people. Their pandemic wedding had to be radically different to what they had envisaged a year earlier. 

Some friends decided to postpone theirs until the pandemic was over but Kudo and Loh, who met on a blind date in 2015, didn’t want to put their lives on hold.

Kudo and Loh booked a church in June 2020, when Singapore lifted restricted first imposed in April. But plans for their reception hung in the balance.

On October 3, the government announced that weddings could have up to 100 guests. The couple decided to book the Grand Ballroom at the Singapore Island Country Club for a last-minute reception.

While the couple could have some familiar elements to the day, much of their original plan had to be scrapped or curbed.

READ MORE: I’m a doctor in Singapore. Our COVID-19 cases have been low since last fall – here’s what we’re doing right.

The 100 guests could not mingle and a ban on wind instruments and singing meant they could not have the choir they wanted.

The couple originally wanted a cocktail party, a DJ to play music all night long and a photo booth where they could capture candid shots of friends. But all of this was abandoned, along with a trip to Bangkok for a bespoke suit for the groom. 

When the event started, the mask-wearing guests had to remain one meter apart. Each guest had to register using Singapore’s contact tracing app, Trace Together, and stop for a temperature check before going directly to their socially-distanced, pre-selected pew.

“We had to separate our guests into two zones of 50, and these people weren’t allowed to mix, so we split them into family and friends,” Kudo told Insider.

“Depending on the length of the pew, three or four people could sit together, but they had to be from the same household.”

As they couldn’t have a choir, Loh walked down the aisle to ‘It’s Your Day’ by the Korean pianist Yiruma, which a friend played via Spotify.

The couple stood one meter away from the priest and said their vows. Before each guest could receive communion, ushers sprayed their hands with sanitizer. The priest gave the guests crackers but no wine. 

Singapore couple
The couple during the service.

“At church it was quite muted. We weren’t allowed to have any singing,” said Kudo. “We also had to leave within 60 minutes, which was maybe to help prevent any socializing.”

The only other difference to the ceremony was spotted by the groom. “The priest didn’t say ‘and now you may kiss the bride’,” Kudo said. “I was waiting for that moment.”

When the couple booked the church, they’d planned to serve a finger buffet so that guests could relax while they took photographs.

But the refreshments where they could mingle had to be cancelled, as well as the keepsake group photographs.  

While wearing masks was not part of the couple’s original plan, Loh said they had one advantage during a long day. “Your jaw gets locked up through smiling so much so we could take a rest,” she said, laughing. 

The guests took separate transport to the reception. As soon as they stepped out of their car, they had to check in at the club’s reception via Trace Together, take a temperature check and find their seat at a pre-selected table.

With a pre-COVID wedding, it would have been traditional for the best man and siblings to give speeches on the stage but, as everyone had to keep their distance, the bride and groom gave the only two speeches of the day.

This meant the couple had to be more hands-on. As Loh is a video editor, she organized a slide show of their story so far.

As the only group photographs during the reception were taken at the tables, the couple had to plan even more carefully who would be sat together.

“As guests couldn’t change tables or zones, we wanted to make sure that, for example, our parents were sat together,” Kudo added. 

Both Loh and Kudo have Chinese heritage. A Chinese wedding reception is usually a lively affair, with sharing dishes placed in the center of the table and a rousing toast given by each one to the bride and groom.

The sharing dishes were switched for individual plated servings and the toasts were silent.

“Each table would usually give the bride and groom a toast wishing them health, happiness and children,” said Kudo. “It usually turns into a light-hearted competition with each table trying to give the loudest cheer, but unfortunately they couldn’t do that.” 

“While the day wasn’t what we originally planned, it was still really special,” Kudo added.

The couple are now looking forward to starting to plan their honeymoon in Italy, once the pandemic is over.

Read the original article on Business Insider