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The Legal Fine Print Of Planning A Wedding During COVID-19

Written by: Elisa Yu-Shan Lion

In collaboration with James T. Bacon, Attorney at Law

Edited by: Natalie McCarthy


Many couples have felt the effects of Coronavirus on the plans and execution of their wedding day, being forced to reschedule, downsize, or all together cancel their wedding celebration. We have been supportive, flexible, patient and understanding with all our 2020 and 2021 couples, taking into consideration the restrictions and changes in everyone’s lives. All these drastic changes in the wedding and venue world has left many couples wondering the legal logistics of their decisions in moving forward with planning and having a wedding.  We at Exceptional Events by Elisa (“EEE”) have been given the unique opportunity to talk with our dear friend and attorney, James T. Bacon from Allred, Bacon, Halfhill & Young (“ABHY”) in a question and answer style to address some of the most highlighted concerns of our current and potential clients.

James “Jim” T. Bacon has represented corporations, limited liability companies, municipalities, foreign banks, exchange houses, other business organizations, and individuals for over 35 years in complex commercial and business matters by helping them navigate disputes and difficulties. He enjoys serving as local counsel for out-of-state firms in all State and Federal court systems. His areas of concentration include complex commercial matters, business planning and protection, mergers and acquisitions, due diligence, corporate structure and governance, employment issues and disputes, restrictive covenants and HR issues, complex arbitrations, civil and criminal forfeiture law, franchising law, technology matters, real estate law and transactions, real estate planning, and anti-money laundering, OFAC Compliance and FinCEN regulations.  He is licensed in all State and Federal courts of Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia. When we rebranded in 2016, he re-wrote our contract, subcontracts, and agreements. This was by far one of our best investments. He revises our legal documents every couple of years.

DISCLAIMER:  Please note that we are merely sharing legal advice that has been given to us by our attorneys.  This does not constitute legal advice from the attorneys to you personally.  Your rights and obligations depend entirely on the nature of your contract/s and the facts of your specific situation, so the discussion that follows is a general one that does not necessarily apply to your specific situation.  Be aware that neither ABHY, nor Mr. Bacon represent you by participating in this Q&A.  If you need legal advice regarding your specific situation, you should absolutely seek counsel.



Q & A:

EEE: Do I need to update or sign an updated contract with my venue and/or wedding professionals if “WE” decided to reschedule our wedding?

ABHY: This depends entirely on the nature of the relevant contract.  Most event contracts will have clauses stating what is required to reschedule and whether there are any additional fees associated with rescheduling.  In some cases, whether or not there are additional fees depends on the reasons for rescheduling.  If there are no provisions discussing rescheduling, then more likely than not, a new contract would have to be entered into.

EEE: What right do “WE” have if our venue has to close and/or reschedule our wedding due to COVID-19 government regulations?

ABHY: Many event contracts have “force majeure” clauses (discussed further below) that may determine the result.  However, not all such clauses specifically include “pandemics” or “government action,” and some such clauses only have limited relief in the event that COVID does apply.  For instance, some such provisions only provide for the delay of payment, and not for cancelling the contract.  There may also be provisions that state that any amounts paid prior to the force majeure event are non-refundable.

If you hope to cancel the event entirely and obtain a refund, there are other possible contract principles, such as “impossibility” and “frustration of purpose,” but the availability of these remedies depends on many different factors, including the state you are in.  These doctrines, so far, are untested in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, so it is difficult to say to what extent they would help at all, and every such case will depend entirely on the specific facts and the language of the contract.

EEE: How can “WE” renegotiate a contract with our venue and/or wedding professionals?

ABHY: You can generally request to renegotiate a contract, but if the vendor or venue contract was well drafted, there likely won’t be any way to compel the venue or vendor to renegotiate.  If you have not yet paid, or if you haven’t paid a substantial portion of the contract/s, or if you have a valid argument (based on the language of your contract) for terminating the contract/s, you may have leverage to re-negotiate, but obviously this depends heavily on the unique factors of your case, and you should absolutely seek legal counsel.

EEE: What wording must be included in the updated contract or new contract?

ABHY: If you are able to renegotiate your contract, you should absolutely consult with an attorney to make sure that you are protected in the event of further COVID-related delays and cancellations.  This includes careful revision of any force majeure provisions, as well as any payment, cancellation and refund provisions.

EEE: Is “Act of God” the same as “Force Majeure”?

ABHY: From a legal perspective, there is typically no difference.  “Acts of God” is a term that used to be more common, and the term “force majeure” is now more common, since it often includes events that are human-instigated (such as a government mandate).  Still, there is no universal definition of either term, and each contract with such a provision must be reviewed carefully to determine if the particular event (such as the COVID-19 pandemic) falls within the definition.

EEE: If our venue and/or wedding professionals close their operations (go out of business) prior to our wedding due to COVID-19, can “WE” recover part of our investment? How?

ABHY:  This too depends on the nature of your contract.  Typically, you would have the right to recover the value of the portion of the contract that the other party did not perform.  However, for events contracts, this can be difficult to determine, and often there are provisions that discuss what happens to your payments if for some reason the venue or vendor can’t perform their end of the contract.  You should review those provisions with a knowledgeable contracts attorney.

EEE: What is the difference between a “Deposit” and a “Retainer Fee”?

ABHY:  Neither of these have a universal legal definition, but typically a “deposit” would be an amount that you put down which will later be applied to your balance, unless it is not earned.  A “retainer fee” on the other hand is often an amount that is paid up front that is earned and non-refundable regardless of what happens later.  Having said that, some contracts will state that a deposit is “non-refundable,” and some will say that a retainer is refundable.  In short, it is crucial to review the relevant provisions of the contract. 

EEE: How many times can “WE” reschedule my wedding? Does each reschedule affect my contract?

ABHY:  This depends completely on the language of the contract, and whether there are provisions discussing rescheduling and cancellation.  Some contracts will charge additional fees each time you reschedule.

EEE: Should “WE” consult with an attorney when negotiating a contract?

ABHY:  We certainly recommend it, as you can see from the answers above!  Weddings often involve large expenses, and understanding ahead of time what your legal obligations and options are in the event of cancellations, rescheduling and events outside the control of the parties can save you a lot of expense and heartache down the road. 

Thank you to our dear friend Jim Bacon for taking the time to share his knowledge and expertise through our Q&A. If you have further questions, and/or need legal assistance, you can schedule a consultation with them as follows.

Jim Bacon can be reached via email at [email protected]  and via phone at (703) 352-1300.

How are you planning to move forward with your wedding planning? If you are looking for an experienced event and wedding planner to organize your deadlines, connect your wedding pros, coordinate logistics, and ensure that everything runs smoothly, look no further than Exceptional Events by Elisa. We would love to provide you with an exceptional wedding and event planning experience! Please call us at 703-752-6287 and schedule an appointment today! We look to accommodate each individual couple’s needs, while also maintaining awareness of safety and precautions for the foreseeable future.

NOTE: This blog was also featured on Virgnia Bride Magazine.


Rescheduling Your Wedding (Wedding Planning Advice During COVID-19)

Written by: Elisa Yu-Shan Lion & Lauren Duhaime

Edited by: Natalie McCarthy

Lauren & Nick’s Wedding was scheduled for April 2020. It got rescheduled to August 2020 and later rescheduled to April 2021. We look forward to their spring wedding!
Photo courtesy of Butterfly Photography.


We started working with one of our Brides-To-Be Lauren and her beloved Nick eight months ago. This couple is one of many that has felt the hands-on effects of COVID on their wedding, as they have had to reschedule for a second time. We have been in constant contact with them throughout the entire rescheduling process to ensure that we support her and Nick in every way possible. We had the privilege of an interview with Lauren where she offers personal insight for brides and how as a couple, they were able to navigate through difficult decisions.

Lauren and Nick plan to celebrate their special day April of 2021 at one of our partner venues 2941 restaurant. Nestled in the heart of Falls Church VA, 2941 is surrounded by lush landscaping, koi ponds, waterfalls, world-class artwork, and a lakeside view – we are so excited for their special day!

DISCLAIMER: In an effort to keep Lauren’s responses true to her, NO edits of any kind have been made to her responses and contributions.

EEE: How did you and Nick meet?

LD:  Nick and I met through mutual friends in 2014. He went to high school with people I met in college. We knew each other for about 6 months before we started dating!

EEE: What is your wedding vision? Which determining factors did you prioritize when selecting your wedding pro team to bring your wedding vision to life?

LD: Our wedding vision is simple and elegant. Originally, we thought we wanted a full black-tie wedding. But thought that ultimately it didn’t totally fit our personality. We used our vision and our story to connect with wedding pros. There are so many to choose from, so it was overwhelming to try to narrow it down. So, we used some recommendations from our venue but then we found a few that really felt like they would be a good match for us.

EEE: What factors did you and Nick take into consideration when you both decided to reschedule your wedding this past April?

LD: Our wedding was originally scheduled for the end of April 2020. The virus was pretty bad in all areas. At the end of April, our baby would have only been 6 months old so that was a HUGE factor. We also have a lot of out of town guests that have to travel, mostly by air. We wanted to make sure we could have a great wedding, with all our important people, and no stress of anyone getting sick.

EEE: What was the hardest part of rescheduling your wedding?

LD: The hardest part about rescheduling the wedding was honestly just that we were SO close. It was about 35ish days from our original date, and we had just returned from our out-of-town wedding shower. So, we were all totally ready, and had that crazy anticipation of finally having our wedding be SO close after so much planning. Having to experience that disappointment, that was really totally out of our control, was just deflating.

EEE: Did you lose any of your wedding pros?

LD: No! Everyone we had contracts with were SUPER flexible and understanding, and everyone was willing to work with us to accommodate a new date. We know we are very lucky for that, because we have heard some pretty bad stories.

EEE: How has working with a wedding planner helped navigate these unchartered waters?

LD: Oh, it has helped so much! Our planner has been so proactive about reaching out with any details they have, and potential plans based on what phase of reopening that Virginia was in. Our wedding planner updates us regularly and makes sure we have what we need to make the best decision about new dates, and details.

EEE: Have you had to adjust your wedding vision and guest list?

LD: At this point, no. We originally rescheduled from April 2020 to August 2020. When it started to get closer to the August date, we did feel like we would be sacrificing our overall hopes for the day because we just knew that some people wouldn’t be able to make it. That was the driving force between deciding to postpone again, to April 2021, we didn’t want to compromise on our vision or our guests so we felt the best thing to do to ensure the wedding would be what we hoped for on our original date was to move it back again.

EEE: How are you managing the reschedule?

LD: Because we were SO close to the original date, there is not much we need to manage right now. The bulk of our planning is complete. It still feels like it’s so far away, but hopefully by early 2021 we will get that excitement back.

EEE: Have your guests been understanding?

LD: Yep! Most of them are very disappointed for us, but I think they’re still excited for next year!

EEE: You rescheduled your wedding twice. Was rescheduling a second time harder than rescheduling the first time? How was it different? 

LD:  The hardest part of rescheduling multiple times is just the anticipation leading up to a wedding that gets deflated over and over again. We are so ready to have our day, and celebrate. We did go through a phase when we both wanted to completely cancel the wedding because we thought it was so lame to push everything back, and then we had to push it again! It’s kind of become one of those things that we joke and say “if it ever happens”…. I think we would definitely be disappointed if we ended up canceling it.

EEE: Would you reschedule a third time if the Governor of Virginia set stricter restrictions? If yes, how would you adapt your vision to the current restrictions?

LD: Oh man, I don’t know about that. At this point we have rescheduled for a year past our original date. It’s just so much planning and anticipation but I think maybe at one point we will have to reassess how long we can push it off while moving our life forward. We are just really hoping that things will clear up by April 2021.

EEE: What advice would you give other brides regarding rescheduling? 

LD: Definitely just do what is best for YOU. It’s super hard to postpone something you’ve been looking forward to. I know a few brides who have gone forward with a smaller, family-only ceremony, or some who have done a virtual ceremony. Each couple is different- we couldn’t see ourselves being truly happy with those decisions so we knew that rescheduling was our best option.

EEE: What advice would you give future brides with selecting wedding pros?

LD: Work with people who are familiar with your venue! Who have done weddings there before! It makes planning and coordinating so much easier, and it added a layer of trust for us. We knew that we were in good hands! AND!! Research and pick people whose work fits your vision!


Michelle Nguyen & Nicole Nguyen: The Next Generation of Wedding Pros

Michelle Nguyen & Nicole Nguyen: The Next Generation of Wedding Pros

Written by: Elisa Yu-Shan Lion

Edited by: Glenda Winters

Photo shoots are mock up events of elaborate parties and weddings. When done well, photo shoots can offer truly amazing opportunities for wedding pros (professionals) to increase their expertise and skills. Opportunities such as: create and test new room and dining designs, collaborate with new wedding pros, imagine and test new procedures and protocols, produce new marketing material and continue to learn and grow in the wedding industry. A general “dry run” so to speak, to ensure that they each deliver flawless service and experiences to engaged couples on that very special day: the wedding day!

Recently, as in many industries, COVID-19’s business lockdown has limited our ability to hold these photo shoots because they are, by their very nature, full of close contact between professionals from various specialties. So we were very purposeful about this photo shoot, testing not only how to solve all the “usual” logistics and challenges through practice, but also how we can ensure a worry-free setting applying smart and effective COVID-19 protocols as well. The added protocols were both behind the scenes as well as during the event portion of the photo shoot. Beforehand, we identified our usual goals: get the creative juices flowing, working  in-person with our team and part of our wedding pros’ core team on site, get into the mindset of exceptional service delivery and experience once again a full set up and service “dry run”.  In addition, this time our photo shoot goals included: working with face masks in 95+ degree weather and testing our COVID-19 protocols and procedures with our own staff as well as venue staff and wedding pros from other partner companies.

In preparation for our August weddings – both mentally and physically – we were able to work with one of our client couples, Lauren and Nick, while 2941 Restaurant’s Director of Wedding and Private Events, Michelle Marquez, oversaw our photo shoot. (Note: While we have been working with Lauren and Nick for the past 10 months – their original wedding date was April 25, 2020 -due to COVID-19, they have chosen to reschedule their wedding. Currently, we are looking forward to their wedding in the Spring of 2021.) It is always a delight to work with diverse and fascinating couples; their history and traditions are so much fun to incorporate into their special day and events!

Lauren & Nick were planning to get married in April 2020. They have chosen to reschedule their wedding twice due to COVID-19.

2941 Restaurant ( ) is our home venue and is one of the most celebrated restaurants in the Washington DC metropolitan area, nestled in the heart of Falls Church, VA and surrounded by lush landscaping, koi ponds, waterfalls, world-class artwork, and a lakeside view. 

When preparing for a photo shoot, generally we find a partner bridal boutique store to provide a gown just for the day. However, with COVID-19 limitations on many businesses, this approach would not be viable for this photo shoot, especially since we had a 10 day timeline in which to pull together all the wedding pros and complete the shoot. For anyone who has participated in a bridal photo shoot, you know that is an incredibly short timeline!  

Michelle Nguyen came to mind as an alternative. Michelle is the oldest daughter of My Pham and Johnny Nguyen, who own and operateMy’s Bridalterations( My is known in the wedding industry for her talent as a custom fashion designer and skills as senior tailor and seamstress, but above all else, for her exceptional, caring customer service.

I have watched over time as Michelle’s interest and skill in bridal wear developed, learning from both her father and mother. She accompanies her dad to Bridal Showcases and Open Houses while her mom and siblings tend to their clients.

I have to pause here and give the whole family a big, grateful shout out. During this pandemic crisis, the entire family (they have four children: Michelle, Nicole, Julie and Brandon) has been supporting their community and beyond by cutting, sewing and donating over 5,000 face masks to hospitals locally, statewide and nationally. Also during this time, Michelle was inspired to open her first on-line store where she currently sells all her face masks. (

While both Michelle and Nicole stepped up to the tasks surrounding this photo shoot, and I see great things in their future as inspired artists, it is Michelle’s journey I am delighted to share with you in this article. You will see glimpses into Nicole’s journey throughout my telling of Michelle’s journey.

MICHELLE NGUYEN – A Rising Fashion Designer

Michelle has always reached for the stars, ever since she was a little girl. At 16, she is the definition of excellence, hard work and dedication: she has been an honor roll student since primary school, a member of both National Honor Societies (Elementary & Junior), has a 4.1 GPA, and is currently enrolled in the Center for Fine & Performing Arts (CFPA) Specialty Program at Colgan High School. Michelle has had the honor of having her artwork displayed during various years at exhibits in the PWCS Annual All-County Arts Festival, Hylton Performing Arts Center, and the Kelly Leadership Center.

Michelle became curious and interested in artistic expression around the time she was trying to discover what mediums she could use to apply her artistic creations and shape her future career. By the time I contacted Michelle, she had extensive exposure to sewing and that “side” of fashion thanks to her mom and the family business.  

The hardest part of the challenge for her was knowing where to begin, and then keeping up the momentum. She had the ideas, the criteria, the outlines—yet found it challenging to translate the design from paper to fabric. On paper you can draw absolutely anything your mind dreams up and it’ll look beautiful, but on fabric is where it comes to life, miscalculations and all. She shared with me how she struggled to overcome her limited experience and stay productive, and, like similar experiences with her art in the past, she had to find a way to keep herself motivated despite how discouraged she would feel at times. At the end of the project, her initial design had changed and evolved around five times.

In 5-10 years, Michelle sees herself having her own art studio with a respectable brand name to be proud of. She sees herself producing both traditional and digital works, on every kind of medium–the Web, walls, and wardrobes!  She hopes to collaborate with diverse friends to build a team that strives to spread the beauty of art everywhere and in various industries whether that’s interior design, fashion design, architecture, culinary arts—Michelle plans to work with all types of people!

Michelle’s favorite part of this real-world challenge was seeing the dress on the bride the day of the shoot. Even though she was quite anxious – she shared with me she felt her heart was pounding a mile a minute – she conducted herself as a seasoned professional throughout the process. Seeing the dress on Lauren (our bride/client) for the first time was worth it! Michelle said she thought she might cry seeing her work come to life – going from sketch, to fabric, to a mannequin, then onto a person who was going to remember this for the rest of their lives—it was the most amazing feeling!

Michelle shared she learned a lot in the technical sense: she now knows what she could have done better in the design, what to expect during a shoot, what it’s like working at in a fast paced environment, and working with experienced professionals. She summarized the experience as both terrifying and exhilarating. The biggest thing she learned a lot about herself was that making something beautiful begins by believing that you are capable of making something beautiful.

But I’m getting ahead of myself! Here is a behind-the-scenes telling of Michelle’s journey with me to make my photo shoot a huge success……..

                                          And so it began……


Prior to approaching Michelle, I first spoke with her father, Johnny, due to Michelle’s age. He loved the idea of Michelle’s involvement and supported my decision to treat Michelle as a fellow wedding pro (i.e., adult). At our first call, Michelle also agreed it was a wonderful opportunity that she would be honored to participate in.

As new wedding industry norms are including more “mini-monies” (mini ceremonies), and elopements, Michelle Marquez, at 2941 Restaurant, requested we set up a small-style shoot to promote their new elopement packages. I had ten days to coordinate everything, so I gave Michelle the same timeline to sketch and finalize a design and make a dress for one of our brides, whom she would not meet until the day of the shoot. Michelle was thrown another curve ball; she would have to make a dress using only Lauren’s measurements from six months ago, knowing that Lauren had a baby late 2019.

Historically, when I design an event, I include all the elements in a mood board –including a color palette, floral inspirations, accessories, details, etc. However, for this shoot, we were designing everything in reverse, focusing on the dress and arches included in the 2941’s elopement packages first. We would not highlight accessories and chose instead to focus on the dress. This decision placed a lot of pressure on Michelle; not only was she sketching and designing her first wedding /elopement dress, she was creating it without fitting it on the bride prior to the shoot and the other elements of the shoot were dependent on the final design of the dress. She was being asked to make a summer elopement, Bohemian-style dress which could be easily used for a rustic backdrop and/or a tropical backdrop, without the benefit of fitting the bride prior to the day of the shoot!

This assignment was practically designed to throw Michelle curve balls at every opportunity, but she rose to the occasion each time and hit a home run! I demanded perfection, gave her an incredibly short timeline and had her do it at our home venue under the supervision of our venue Director overseeing everything. She took the initiative to contact the bride and share her initial sketches which took into consideration the bride’s body type. After they spoke, Michelle, most importantly, took the bride’s personal feedback into consideration and applied it to the final wedding/elopement gown.

(Remember, to add to the challenge, Michelle’s father requested that Michelle be tasked to do this assignment on her own, allowing assistance from her parents only as her consultants, but nothing more.)

During this time, I also learned that Nicole, My’s and Johnny’s second daughter was passionate about storytelling and film making. It occurred to me that Nicole could also bring her unique talents and passions to our photo shoot and add to our final product (the pictures/video) – her first professional assignment! Here is a little about Nicole and what lies ahead for her, from conversations I had with her.

NICOLE NGUYEN – The Future in Storytelling

Nicole is a hardworking, disciplined goal oriented young lady with a creative mind. While being just 15 years old, she conducts herself and with the same professionalism that characterizes her sister, Michelle. Nicole is a straight A student, attends Osbourn Park High School’s Pre-Governor’s Specialty Program, and is the former freshman class president. Her hard work and dedication have won her numerous principals’ awards. Nicole became interested in the film industry at a young age following her passion for storytelling and the desire to share her experiences.

Nicole envisions forming and growing an amazing production crew with whom she will travel around the world and who will partner with her in creating and capturing stories to share with the world. I can hardly wait to see how Nicole’s journey unfolds!

Her experience with our photo shoot was wonderful, shadowing and learning from our professional partners throughout the session. Initially I asked her to follow Michelle’s process and present it as a documentary and it was a great presentation when completed! She also enjoyed applying the techniques from our experts during the photo shoot, growing and learning right before my eyes! Our beloved and talented partners – Sanaz Fahimi from Butterfly Photography ( and Desmond and Vera Denton from Fine Art Wedding Film ( took Nicole under their wings. They took the time to meet her, get her familiarized with the equipment, provided her with tips, mentored, guided and encouraged her by having her shoot photos and video while they provided honest and insightful feedback.

The Dress – Behind the Scenes – The Process

Here is a sneak peak into how the dress went from a vision, to a sketch, to a fabric pattern to a sensual off the shoulders summer bohemian dress. From an interview with Michelle Nguyen.

Designing the elopement dress for this shoot took a lot of research, consideration, and educated guesswork.  There were a lot of variables and limitations that needed to be considered: a very tight deadline (10 days), the measurements were on paper only (Lauren couldn’t meet until the day of the shoot), and the fabric had to be procured (how to find enough suitable fabric on such short notice).

To fit the concept of sensual bohemian, Michelle chose to focus on three important elements: functionality, mobility, and elegance. It wasn’t a traditional wedding dress, it was simpler with fewer layers and embellishments. Michelle needed Lauren to feel comfortable, but also beautiful and elegant—in the end, it was still going to be a wedding celebration after all!

I provided Michelle with limited guidance, using the assignment to push her to excel in her art and pushing her a little beyond her performance comfort zone. I did share the following: the dress must be off-the shoulder with a small train based off what Lauren had expressed as her preference. This was Michelle’s only starting point for the design. Many of our current small events at 2941 Restaurant are now taking place within 5-10 days from booking the venue. It takes well-experienced and seasoned event pros to successfully execute an event with such short notice regardless of the event type and size. 

Research. Before Michelle even started designing, she spent 2-3 days pulling up endless references that fit under the concept of bohemian, what Lauren liked, as well as the venue and the elements that would be complimenting her look: the flowers, the hairstyle, the accessories, the different props and setup. I knew the dress had to be universally designed so it could be beautifully accented by almost any type of theme.

Michelle’s research was thorough and extensive, communicating with me in real-time. She was very organized with her thoughts and intentional with her questions. It was clear she was fully engaged and her heart and mind were wholeheartedly invested in this assignment. She considered design elements for different settings like snowy mountains to romantic beach weddings. Through the brainstorming process, Michelle spent hours scouring the Internet for anything and everything BOHO related. Her inspirations included and were not limited to themed objects like dreamcatchers, flora, and furniture— looking at textures, atmospheres, and even symbolic meanings behind why something was considered bohemian. She constantly consulted with her mom, whether that was on the way to the grocery store or during lunch in her storefront.

Michelle Nguyen spent 2-3 days researching inspirations prior to start her mood board.

Sketching. This was the really fun part for Michelle as she is most familiar with and knows sketching thoroughly. She had pre-sketched models called “croquis”; she studied and drew these many months before now, and printed several of these templates to use. She made a mood board to start, several printed references, and her computer was glued to her side with a folder with all her inspirations. Her ideas flowed and she just started sketching whatever came to mind; nothing clean, nothing perfect, but on paper/computer as soon as they occurred to her. This was an exercise to simply start conceptualizing her vision. She tried different necklines, trims, laces, different skirt lengths and styles. This part of the process was raw and messy. Michelle strives for perfection; she stayed up all night some nights trying to get it right! She constantly had to go back to the drawing board as different obstacles in the process came up (remember those curveballs? They didn’t stop!).

Despite all those free-flowing ideas, she had to narrow her designs down and ensure the final few fit our criteria. This was extremely challenging. She had been able to meet our bride and that was incredibly helpful and a crucial requirement since “A wedding dress is both intimate and personal for a woman – it must reflect the personality and style of the bride.” (Carolina Herrera – famous fashion designer). Michelle had only seen two photos of Lauren and had been given 3 measurements. Aside from missing other measurements, the measurements were also 6 months old. Michelle needed to take into consideration how could her body have changed since then.

Michelle drew over 60 croquis for this dress and narrowed it down to two. A “button down” off-the-shoulder summer bohemian dress with pockets. It had a train that she thought would flow beautifully with the open slit in the front, and that she hoped would help her walk with the fabric out of the way, just in case the dress was too long (there was no confirmation on how high of a heel she had selected). The A-line skirt would accentuate the waist and an off the shoulder fringe would be made with elastic to ensure that it wouldn’t slip down and Lauren would still be comfortable. And my favorite part (along with Michelle’s)? The pockets. Functionality has always been a standard Michelle wanted to make a consistent norm in as many future designs as possible, why not start here?! Michelle calls them her “pockets full of posies” because they were lined in floral lace trims. 

Sketch by: Michelle Nguyen (Michelle’s Creative Designs)

Fabric. This part was tough. There was no way Michelle could order high quality fabric in 10 days with the current pandemic lockdown, so she improvised and worked with what they had. They scoured fabric stores (limited supplies) and they dragged out all the boxes of fabric they stored in their inventory.

They looked for something flowy, light weight, a bit durable, and quick to dry (if possible). Despite knowing this dress was going to be used for a staged shoot at a venue, Michelle made this dress thinking “What if this was a wedding and not a photo shoot?” It could be dry, windy, muddy, wet – this dress needed to be like bridal armor, but stylish bridal armor.

She selected chiffon, soft Chantilly floral lace, and a stretchy jersey lining to make sure that Lauren would be comfortable in.

Michelle and her mom, My, started draping. Road bump #1? There wasn’t enough of it. This is where the tweaking started. Usually fabric should be decided on way before the sketching even starts to give you a better concept of what you’re working with and how your dress would look realistically. Unfortunately, they didn’t have that much time; they had to work with what they had on hand. So, they would start draping the design, tweak the design when the fabric fell short and begin draping again. It was by no means as efficient of a process as it could have been, but they got the job done beautifully.

2 days before the shoot. Patterns, Sewing, The Magic Happens.

Michelle’s mom’s 18+ years of experience with sewing and working with brides was welcomed, and indispensable at this stage. Michelle has experience sewing and designing. She recently opened a face mask online store and creates most of the product herself. However, a wedding dress is a whole different ball game! My helped Michelle understand measurements, pattern-making, how the paper would translate to the mannequin, and what measurements they would have to estimate. She helped add the extra fabric to the waist to make up for the possible changes Lauren’s figure may have undergone in recent months. My was strict (she wouldn’t do it for Michelle!) yet inspiring, encouraging and above all loving and patient throughout the process. She showed Michelle new sewing techniques to sew different types of fabric together, and when Michelle was busy balancing between late night schoolwork and their mask sales, My would stay up with Michelle, thoroughly checking all of Michelle’s work.

Photo taken by Butterfly Photography

The Mask

It’s the day of the shoot, and everyone is busy. All hands-on deck – final check and revision to the dress by My, Nicole is checking cameras and equipment, her grandmother is helping finish up masks for the wedding pros team, and Michelle is embellishing the matching mask to go with the dress.

Photo taken by Butterfly Photography

It was simple, yet dainty and Michelle loved it. It had matching lace and trims to compliment the dress. The best part is it had exactly 7 pearled-studded daisies lining the top. There is a hidden symbolic meaning in every piece Michelle does, no matter if that is a written composition, artwork, or, in this case, a dress design. Michelle thought of the saying “Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue.”

It’s a tradition meant to stand for and give the bride continuity, optimism, happiness, love, purity, and fidelity. Daisies are said to symbolize love, innocence, purity, motherhood, new beginnings, and good luck. So while Michelle couldn’t give Lauren something old, borrowed or blue, Michelle hoped the daisies would give her a bit of good luck on her real wedding day and all the best wishes for her family.

The dress was completed just 2 hours before the shoot. A far cry from the preferred timeline, but a beautiful gown Michelle can be forever proud she created on time and with a perfect fit. Below are a few photos of her bohemian elopement/wedding gown.

My Reflections


I have been planning events for over 20+ years; I am passionate about bringing others’ celebration visions to life! My event planning experience includes nonprofit, corporate and social events prior to planning private weddings and other special occasion events. My passion for event planning and design grew out of my love for big family gatherings and the countless times I organized family celebrations in Honduras during my youth.

My mother was always my biggest supporter and my most honest critic and she ultimately encouraged me to spread my wings and follow my dreams. My experience and passion led me to take a “leap of faith” and launch a full-time career doing what I love the most.

During my launching stage a handful of seasoned wedding pros generously gave me a helping hand. The one who has walked with me he longest is my Godfather – Sammy Pineda of Sammy’s Rental ( ). In honor of my Godfather and all those who have believed in me and helped me, I welcome this opportunity to “pay it forward” in their names and highlight these bright, brilliant and beautiful artists and their talents.

It was truly an honor to watch this talented and inspirational sister duo rise to the occasion! They handled the pressure and welcomed honest and direct feedback with professionalism. My team and those of my fellow professionals are eager to watch, follow and support Michelle and Nicole’s careers and professional growth in the coming years!

Collaborating Wedding Professionals:

Cake provided by: 2941 Restaurant –

Event “Day of Coordination” provided by: All For You Events & Designs –

Event Planning & Designing provided by: Exceptional Events by Elisa –

Florals (bohemian design) provided by: I Do Weddings with Love –

Florals (rustic design) provided by: Twinbrook Floral Design   and

Florals (tropical design) provided by: Karin’s Florist –  and

Hairstyling services provided by: GlamFace by Khatera –

Makeup provided by: GlamFace by Khatera –

Officiant services provided by: Rev. Jamie Dee Schiffer –

Photography provided by: Butterfly Photography

Rentals provided by: All For You Events & Designs –

Rentals provided by: I Do Weddings with Love –

Rentals provided by: Sammy’s Rental –

Stationery provided by: Via Paper Boutique –

Venue provided by: 2941 Restaurant –

Video provided by: Fine Art Wedding Film – 


Leo & Bill’s Wedding (10-07-2017)

Leo & Bill’s Wedding: Featured in Grace Ormonde Wedding Style

When Leo met Bill, it wasn’t long before he knew that Bill was the man for him. They both desired an intimate wedding surrounded by close friends and family, and a unique ceremony that celebrated their love. Exceptional Events by Elisa was thrilled to help them plan and experience the wedding of their dreams. Leo and Bill’s wedding was so lovely that it has been featured in Grace Ormonde Wedding Style, a highly prestigious publication. We are delighted to have received this great honor, and are inspired to share the behind the scenes details of this special celebration with you.


Decor: Leo and Bill’s decor was simple yet elegant, consisting of garlands and centerpieces of Eucalyptus and Salal. Italian Ruscus adorned the staircase to the ballroom, the ceremony arch, ceremony aisles, reception tables and lounge tables. The greenery gave it a clean, modern and masculine look that was infused with a fresh eucalyptus scent. Candles in glass cylinder vases and lanterns bestowed a warm, romantic glow.

Planning: It took one year to plan and design Leo and Bill’s dream wedding. This included over 170 hours of event planning and design, countless venue visits, 26 vendor proposal requests, 13 in-person vendor interviews, and numerous meetings with hired vendors. We conducted frequent meetings, lunches, and shopping trips with the couple, sent over 500 emails, and communicated via countless conference calls and text messages. The timeline was organized as a detailed, color coded and categorized 28-page document that listed the chronological details of the event minute by minute.

Team: It took a veritable army to bring Leo and Bill’s wedding vision to life. This included three event planners, three decorators, five event assistants, and a timeline keeper. A floral designer with four assistants, a stationary company, and two makeup artists added their design talents to the event. The day was captured by two photographers, two videographers, and two assistants. It was brought to life with the use of two party rental companies and one audio and lighting company. Entertainment included a DJ flown in from Honduras, a string trio, four samba dancers, four samba drummers, two stilt walkers, two human living tables, and a female impersonator. Finally, a regiment of chefs, sous chefs, pastry chefs, kitchen staff, event staff, valet staff and more worked behind the scenes to ensure the wedding was a smashing success.

Vendors: The vendors that contributed to Leo and Bill’s perfect day include:
• Exceptional Events by Elisa: Wedding Planning, Designing, Styling and Coordinating
• Butterfly Photography: Photographer
• Brookhill Florist: Floral Design
• Bowen Films: Videographer
• KK’s Printing & Stationery: Invitations
• Makeup by Masuma: Makeup
• Zulma’s Event Decor: Draping
• Select Event Group: Linens and Rentals
• Boom Audio Services: AV, Lighting & Sound
• DJ AllanV: DJ
• Olivera Music Entertainment: String Trio
• Zezeh Brazil Dance Troupe: Samba Dancers and Drummers
• Big Biz Entertainment: Performers
• Porce Lain St Clair: Impersonator
• Ritz Carlton DC: Venue

Ready to start your wedding planning? If you are looking for an experienced event and wedding planner, look no further than Exceptional Events by Elisa. It would be our honor to provide you with an exceptional wedding and event planning experience. Please call us at 703-752-6287, and schedule an appointment today!

Leo & Bill’s Photo Album (Butterfly Photography)

Leo & Bill’s Wedding Video (Bowen Films)


Grace Ormonde Wedding Style is dedicated to offering its readers innovative ideas and creative approaches from the world’s top wedding specialists. Recognized with prestigious industry awards for its superb printing and design quality, Grace Ormonde Wedding Style blends meaningful editorial content with select advertisers. Grace Ormonde Wedding Style is the most talked about luxury wedding magazine worldwide. Be sure to look for the exquisite spread featuring Leo and Bill’s wedding in the most recent issue of the magazine!

Leonidas Moncada & William Fritzlen


Selecting the Right Wedding Venue

Selecting the Right Wedding Venue

You’ve experienced that just-right feeling of finding “the one!” You may even have your eye on the perfect dress. Now, for one of the most important details–the venue!

There are several things to take into consideration when choosing your perfect venue. First, it’s important to create your budget and make a list of possibilities based upon it. Next, determine your guest list and decide how much you can spend per head. Once you are ready to narrow down your venues, create a list of pros and cons. What is included in the price? Is there wheelchair accessibility for handicapped friends or family members? Is there free parking? When ready, call the top three venues on your list and check if your wedding date is available. Once you determine which venues meet your needs and have your date available, schedule a tour of the top venues on your list.

Call in the Experts for the Perfect Wedding Venue

Finding the right venue seems daunting with all of the details described above, but it doesn’t have to be. Planning an event requires being creative, resourceful, an “outside the box” thinker, and a highly-experienced planner. Your best allies in planning your wedding will be your planner and time.

Did you know that on average, 40-50 percent of your budget will go to the wedding reception? There are a few venues that offer a big bang for your buck! One of these venues is 2941 Restaurant. Nestled in the heart of Falls Church, 2941 Restaurant is a hidden gem. It offers great views, amazing cuisine and excellent customer service.

2941 Restaurant offers:

  • Indoor and outdoor wedding ceremony space;
  • Indoor and outdoor cocktail space;
  • Reception space with a view;
  • Complimentary valet parking;
  • Access to award-winning, licensed and insured event professionals;
  • Menu tasting meeting for couples to finalize their wedding menus;
  • Outdoor area with view of pond, koi ponds and waterfalls;
  • Food, beverage and staff are included in your package;
  • Space options for intimate weddings (15-20 guests), small-sized weddings (25-40), medium-sized weddings (50-70 guests), and large weddings (160-200 guests);
  • In-house rentals including white linens, gold Chiavari chairs, white china, clear barware and silver flatware, round tables, cocktail tables, sweetheart tables, and cake tables;
  • Unique art pieces;
  • LCD screen with LCD projector; and
  • Clean and spacious restrooms.

At Exceptional Events by Elisa, we have the honor and privilege of being part of 2941 Restaurant’s preferred vendors. We would like to share some of the behind the scenes perks of booking 2941 Restaurant:

  • Their executive chef personally checks every plated dish before it is served;
  • There is an army of 30+ staff in the kitchen per event;
  • Food allergies are accommodated and addressed professionally;
  • Their staff is thoroughly trained and offer excellent customer service;
  • Left over cake, and food for guests who were a no-show, is packed and handed to a designated individual at the end of the event;
  • They have a back-up plan for every potential hiccup, including poor weather;
  • Many of their staff have been with the venue since it opened, or for the last 8-10 years; and
  • Staff check restrooms prior to events to ensure they are clean.

Ready to start planning? Interested in learning more about our services and about 2941? If you are looking for an experienced event and wedding planner to take command of the vendors, coordinate logistics, and ensure that everything runs smoothly, look no further than Exceptional Events by Elisa. We would love to provide you with an exceptional wedding and event planning experience! Please call us at 703-752-6287 and schedule an appointment today!



Ten Steps to Simplify Your Wedding Planning

Ten Steps to Simplify Your Wedding Planning

Valentine’s Day is over, and so is “engagement season,” the period between Thanksgiving until now when 40% of all engagements occur.  If this was the year when he popped the question and it was everything you dreamed of…now what?

Before the proposal, you were convinced that finding the ideal mate was the hard part. Now you’ve come to realize that wedding planning can be overwhelming. Never fear! We’ve compiled a list of steps you can take to streamline the process and simplify your wedding planning:

Step 1 – Set a date: You may have an idea of where you envision yourself walking down the aisle or what you want your cake to look like, but until you decide when you’d like to get married, you can’t commit to anything.

Step 2 – Set a budget: Whether you’re dreaming of a lavish hotel soiree or an intimate garden affair, figuring out your priorities and setting a budget will help you determine how much to spend to make it happen.

Step 3 – Determine head count: One way to determine headcount is to decide how much money you can afford to spend per guest on food at the reception. To prioritize your master list, determine the must invites, the should invites, and the could invites. 

Step 4 – Hire an event planner: If you aspire to achieve your wedding vision with your nerves and sanity intact, a professional wedding planner with a keen eye for design and detail is the wisest investment you can make. Read our blog post on this topic to find out why!

Step 5 – Get inspired:  Take your family traditions and values into account, and use them as inspiration for your wedding colors, theme, style, and more.

Step 6 – Select your venue: It is important to book your ceremony and reception venue early on to ensure availability. Other determining factors include location, cost, guest capacity, and alignment with the ideal look and feel you have for your wedding. 

Step 7 – Select your vendors: Hiring professional vendors will save you money and grant you peace of mind. Event planners have access to an extensive pool of vetted vendors.

Step 8 – Select your attire: Selecting your fairytale wedding dress is what you’ve always dreamt of. Enjoy the process, and choose complementary styles for your wedding party’s attire.

Step 9 – Send your invites: Save the Date cards and official invitations set the tone for your wedding. They give your guests a glimpse of what is to come during your big day.

Step 10 – Enjoy: Relish this uniquely romantic period of your life when your significant other is the center of your world. Relax in knowing that your professional event planner has your wedding preparations under control. Your dream wedding will be unforgettable!

Ready to start planning? If you are looking for an experienced event and wedding planner to take command of the vendors, coordinate logistics, and ensure that everything runs smoothly, look no further than Exceptional Events by Elisa. We would love to provide you with an exceptional wedding and event planning experience! Please call us at 703-752-6287, and schedule an appointment today! 


You Can’t Afford NOT to Use a Planner!

You Can’t Afford NOT to Use a Planner!

The love of your life proposed, and following an emphatic “yes”, you are now engaged! Congratulations! You can’t wait to begin planning your dream wedding, but the job of turning your wedding vision into reality is quickly turning into a nightmare. Should you continue planning your own wedding only to further deepen your frustration? Should you hire an amateur wedding planner to save money? Or should you listen to your wise married friends and make a strategic investment, for the sake of your sanity, to hire a seasoned professional wedding planner?

If you aspire to achieve your wedding vision with your nerves and sanity intact, a professional wedding planner with a keen eye for design and detail is the wisest investment you can make! Here’s why:

Knowledge and experience: When you hire a professional planner, you are hiring experience, knowledge, and refined talent. Experienced planners constantly grow their knowledge base and stay on top of trends through research and continued education. This makes them experts at what they love to do. Experienced planners are equipped to anticipate and troubleshoot emergencies that may arise before and during your event, allowing you to thoroughly enjoy your big day and focus on your guests without stress.

Savings of time and money: A professional planner is truly a worthwhile investment — one that will save you precious time and money. Most couples have a strict wedding budget and timeline to which they need to adhere. Your professional planner will make it a priority to help you achieve the biggest bang for your buck. They will crunch numbers and score discounts, stretching your dollars and securing the best deals.

Bringing your vision to life: A great planner will loyally protect the distinct vision you have developed for your wedding, ensuring the details and the big picture never deviate from your wishes. Many vendors tackle more than one wedding per day or per weekend, leading to mix-ups, distraction, and disappointment. A dedicated professional planner will focus solely on your special day and will serve as the head conductor of your grand wedding symphony. They will ensure everything looks, feels, tastes, and sounds perfect, according to your unique vision.

Connections: Experienced planners have access to a large network of tested and proven wedding vendors. A great planner will not only help you to secure discounts, but will also help you to select vendors whose services are truly worth what they charge. Seasoned planners will connect you with budget-friendly vendors that will achieve your unique wedding’s style, and identify extras that can be added to a service as a bonus. Professional planners expertly focus on each vendor’s value and reputation, which is a priceless benefit to your budget and your wedding experience.

Your sanity: Peace of mind before and during your wedding day is priceless. On average, wedding planning conducted by nonprofessionals takes between 250 to 500 hours to complete — hours that would be better spent making sweet memories with your spouse-to-be. It is frequently a source of stress that leads to tension between a couple, at times leading to the disastrous end of a relationship. Hiring a seasoned planner allows you to hand off time-consuming responsibilities so that you have space to enjoy the romance of this unique moment in your life. A professional planner is adept at scheduling appointments, working with vendors, and handling the nitty-gritty issues and inevitable hiccups related to planning your big day. A professional planner will hand you back your sanity so that you can truly enjoy the planning process and your relationship.

Are you looking for an experienced event and wedding planner to take command of the vendors, coordinate logistics, and ensure that everything runs smoothly? Exceptional Events by Elisa would love to provide you with an exceptional wedding and event planning experience! Please call us at 703-752-6287, and schedule an appointment today!

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