The Brooklyn Arts Center Summer Wedding Show

by Amanda Wager

photos by Eric Boneske Photography

After participating in two wedding shows, BAC executive director Richard Leder was less than thrilled. To his way of thinking, it was unrealistic to try and sell the huge, magnificent, 123-year-old church, the beautiful, circa-1906 church manse next door, and the large, private, gorgeous courtyard behind the manse in a 10-by-10, pipe-and-drape little booth. "Why am I trying to sell my venue in another venue?" Leder asked himself. The answer was loud and clear: Leder decided that the Brooklyn Arts Center at St. Andrews would host its own wedding show.

Coincidentally, after their attendance at the same two shows, Courtney Shaver and Kate Mathies, co-owners and designers of Kickstand Events, a local, full-service wedding planning and design company, arrived at BAC to meet with Leder and discuss the possibility of producing a wedding show in Brooklyn. Kismet. "When we came to talk to Rich about it, he actually brought it up first," Mathies says. "It was perfect timing," says Shavers.

BAC and Kickstand were in complete agreement about something else as well: The Brooklyn Arts Center Wedding Show was going to be different. No pipe and drape, no long lines of attendees shuffling by vendors at speeds too fast for quality interaction. This show would be fun, entertaining, and more informative, with plenty of time for brides to develop personal rapport with the vendors. The show would be scripted, it would be planner-driven, there would be plenty of great food, music, and photography happening in the moment, and the BAC cash bar would be open for business. Mimosa anyone?

It was decided that Sunday, August 7, 2011, would be the first Brooklyn Arts Center Wedding Show. Its incredible success exceeded everyone's expectations.

Producing the Brooklyn Arts Center Wedding Show

The first decision was to plan the show as a series of small, individual weddings taking place simultaneously throughout the venue, to divide BAC into "Wedding Pods" and to put the planners in charge.

"Wedding planners drive the wedding," Leder says, "in the sense that they help the bride achieve her dreams by creating and executing a production and design agenda. It's much harder than it looks. It requires skill, talent, patience, and an eye for detail and design that most people just don't have. I have tremendous respect for our community of professional wedding planners. They make all the difference in wedding after wedding."

Mathies and Shaver immediately began booking top-area planners. They found five whose schedules allowed them to participate. Each was given "a big piece of BAC real estate" to create a wedding and showcase their heart and soul, their talent and experience. The planners chose their own vendors to be in their wedding pods, including DJs, photographers, videographers, cake decorators, caterers, florists, musicians and more. Each pod was unique to that particular planner and his/her team of professional vendors.

Small boutiques would set up shop inside the manse, including jewelers, spas, bridal gowns, and more. Once the decision was made to create a bridal shop inside the manse, the next thought was to have models in gorgeous gowns walking around the venue. From there, the leap to having live photo shoots throughout the show was an easy choice.

When one planner said, "I'll take the courtyard," the slate was full and production, including promotion, commenced in earnest.

"We worked hard on the marketing and PR side of it," Shaver says. "We designed posters and created a Facebook Event, sent out press releases, did some advertising, and got some feature stories written in the Star-News and Encore." Based on the buzz all the press created, ticket sales were strong. Attendees that purchased special Swag Bag tickets received a BAC tote filled with goodies from all of the participating vendors. A fabulous Wilmington Weekend Getaway was raffled off, with the winner receiving a three-day, two-night stay downtown at the Hotel Tarrymore, as well as coupons and gift certificates for local eateries, attractions, and activities.

The hard work paid off: More than 200 brides attended the show.

Hosting the Show

Style Girl Jess James is a local fashion icon. Zach Hanner is a well-known and widely loved musician, actor, writer, director, and all-around goofball (hey, he said it, not us). As hosts of the Brooklyn Arts Center Wedding Show, James and Hanner served as guides, interviewers, entertainers, and facilitators between the brides and the vendors. Traversing the venue armed with wireless microphones, they spotlighted vendors, giving each a moment to talk about what they offered. "It made the show much more dynamic and much more interesting for potential brides," Hanner says.

James and Hanner rehearsed like actors in any real production. "The more prepared you are on the stage, the more knowledgeable you are about what you're doing, then the easier it looks," Hanner says. He arrived early and met every single person that was participating in the show. He and Jess knew what everyone was about and were ready to answer whatever questions came their way.

"Having a scripted event with hosts leading the way, that's something that hasn't been done before," Mathies says. "Being the first to make a wedding show into a full production added a different spin to the same-old, same-old wedding show vibe and got people more involved."

Brides heard about special things going on in various weddings around the venue, even when they weren't near that area. They were directed on where to go when something sparked their interest, "which was quite often," according to Hanner.

"Take Khalilah of A Boxed Event," Hanner says, "her concept was so cool; it was 'The Secret Garden' on the BAC balcony. It was creative and interesting and new. People were blown away."

Planner-Driven

Participating wedding planners included: A Boxed Event, Design Perfection, Eventz! & Co., Kickstand Events, and Orchid Island Events.

Khalilah Olokunola, Eco Chic Event Stylist for A Boxed Event, decided to participate when she heard the show would be held at the Brooklyn Arts Center. She enjoyed the eco-friendliness of the renovated venue and chose the location of her wedding pod to be the balcony. Her theme was "The Secret Garden."

Her design was vintage-eco: a grass pathway lined with lanterns, moss-covered romance words in the windows, surrounded by calla lilies and lilies, a seven-foot-high curly willow, and, of course, a garden area with bites to eat from Hot Pink Cake Stand and Aramark Catering. Matthew Ray was Khalilah's photographer. "Matthew had pictures popping off the greenery like it was coming off the branches," she says. "He has a distinctive style and look."

Khalilah offers glowing reviews about the Brooklyn Arts Center Wedding Show. "It was well-advertised, well-promoted, and well-organized," she says. "I think what's important for most vendors in the industry is to get quality people out to shows, and BAC pulled it off. I feel like it brought people together in a unique way. Not as competitors, but as a designing and planning team to showcase what Wilmington has to offer. It was a great event."

Judy Bradley, owner and designer of Eventz! and Co., also loved the idea of having a show in the Brooklyn Arts Center and used the building for inspiration. "I played off the comfortable feeling of the old brick walls and huge windows, which were my backdrop," Bradley says. She encourages brides to decorate their weddings using anything that they would use to decorate their personal living spaces. Bradley practices what she preaches: "The wedding show table centerpiece, a simple terrarium, was designed with mosses, seed pods and bark gathered while walking the Lovely Miss Lola Maybrea, my rescued dog."

Bradley asked Sweet T's Cakes to bring a birdbath cake stand idea to reality. The cake was extraordinary, including cloisonn? birds, a chocolate nest, branches, and flowers. "Many people didn't even realize they were looking at a wedding cake!" says Bradley, who also partnered with Middle of the Island Catering Company. MOI served their famous shrimp and grits and presented a Black Angus beef carving station. For live music, Doug McFarland was Bradley's first. "Doug is incredibly talented," Bradley says. "He knows a wide array of music selections that enhance the mood for any event. To top it off, he even writes customized songs to perform at the bride's wedding!" Bradley used Justin Pearson Photography, whose photos brought oohs and aahs from the brides throughout the show.

Courtney Shaver and Kate Mathies of Kickstand Events took the BAC stage as planners and designers. Their inspiration came from a fabric with a bold, modern print that stood out in the church. "We like to do custom linens as often as possible," Mathies says. "It helps set us apart a little bit from other designers." Kickstand chose a sophisticated color palette: midnight blue and light green, surrounded with neutrals and browns.

The Kickstand design included a dining table with flowers, a bouquet, a mock-ceremony program, and lanterns. "We wanted it to seem very classic, but still with a modern, updated look," Shaver says. The designers partnered DJ Brian Hood, Miller's Caf? and Catering, Sue's So Sweet Chocolate Garden, Blueberry Fusion Photography and Videography, Theo Milo Photography, and Nye's Cream Sandwiches.

Brittany Koontz, owner and designer for Orchid Island Events, couldn't wait to participate in the BAC Wedding Show. She was interested-and relieved-not to have to cram her ideas into a 10-by-10 box. Instead, she had the entire courtyard to decorate. Koontz also enjoyed the "wedding-pod concept" for the planners, understanding how they would have a unique opportunity to showcase their professionally planned events. "I feel that wedding planners and designers are completely invaluable," Koontz says. "The theme behind the BAC wedding show gave us a chance to prove it."

The Orchid Island theme was "Wedding at the Palace of Versailles-A European Garden Affair," which was inspired by the recent Royal Wedding. Koontz admitted that some of the flowers and d?cor were slightly bigger than usual. "We are capable of this," she explained of the theme. "It doesn't have to be this big, but we are capable." Her wedding had an elegant, timeless feel.

Koontz used Keith Ketchum Photography, Island Cakery, Absolute Best DJ Service, Rent-A-Tent, and A Thyme Savor Catering, who created a hand-crafted, customized menu for the event. "Danielle and Thyme Savor are big on utilizing local, fresh farms," Koontz says. "I really appreciate their effort in doing that."

Orchid Island's participation in the Brooklyn Arts Center Wedding Show led to the best results Koontz had ever gotten from a show. When asked if she would participate again, Brittany did not hesitate: "Yes, absolutely."

The Brooklyn Arts Center Winter Wedding Show

For professional wedding vendors interested in participating in the Brooklyn Arts Center Winter Wedding Show, please contact Executive Director Richard Leder at 910-538-2939, at rich@brooklynartsnc.com, or at 516 North 4th Street.