Meet-the-Maker • Carly Totten


We're so excited to introduce you for today's Meet-the-Maker, because this lady is extra special to us! Carly from Carly is Inspired is both a writer and event planner, and is also a contributor to Red Oak Weddings! Carly's passion for weddings, and more importantly, her couples, shines through in everything she touches. From floral styling to day-of coordination, her talent and eye for detail are impeccable, and we're so honored to have her sharing her story with us today!

Tell us a little bit about you, and how you got started!

My grandparents were married for over 70 years, and I was incredibly close with them. They helped to shape me as a person, and they definitely shaped my views of marriage, love, and serving others. They inspired my brand and my heart for what I do, and I keep them in mind at all times. 

I’ve always been fascinated by events. I always had to walk by ballrooms and conference centers while visiting hotels when I was younger, and I loved looking at event boards to see what was happening. The funny thing is, I still do all of these things years later! I knew I wanted to work in the event industry, but I wasn’t sure which road I would take. 

When I was a senior in college, I decided to intern at Brides Local Magazines in New York City. I loved my experience. From there, I started working for other editorial sites as a freelance writer. A highlight was attending Bridal Market as a Junior Editor for WeddingWire and covering fashion shows from the wedding industry’s top designers. My experiences as a writer have lead to me working with sites, such as Red Oak Weddings and Every Last Detail, and creative businesses to create digital content. 

As much as I love writing, I also knew I wanted to plan events too. Whether I’m assisting at a wedding, coordinating the entire day, or designing the flowers, every experience gives context to my writing. Weddings also allow me to be creative in a hands on way, and I love to serve couples and allow them to truly enjoy their wedding day. 

For the modern couple planning their wedding in NY, NJ + PA. Real weddings, engagements, inspiration + more!

Photo by: Alicia Lacey Photography  

What services do you offer and/or what do you specialize in?

As a wedding planner, I love working with couples as a month of planner. Couples who choose to work with me for this service have mostly planned their wedding day, and they turn to me to tie everything together so they can be fully present. To me, serving people in this way is incredibly rewarding! 

I tend to be onsite from the moment the bride and bridesmaids start getting ready until the last gift is packed up at the end of the night. Throughout the day, I act as Team Captain to the other vendors, and I also want to become best friends with each couple’s family. I’m there to make sure the couple knows they have a friendly person on their side at all times and to make sure everything runs smoothly. 

I also specialize in floral styling. I grew up gardening with my grandparents on my mom’s and dad’s respective sides, so my love for flowers is definitely from them! I believe the bride’s bouquet should make a statement. I also love making moms, bridesmaids, the groom, groomsmen, and dads feel special by designing gorgeous pieces for them. Everyone needs flowers on a wedding day! 

I definitely have perfectionist tendencies, but flowers also have a mind of their own. Designing a bouquet, boutonniere, or centerpiece is not about my own vision, but about working with the movement of the flowers. It can be humbling! But, I’m always thrilled when the final piece is something that’s beyond the couple’s biggest dreams. When a bride wants to save her bouquet forever, that’s when I know I have succeeded.   

For the modern couple planning their wedding in NY, NJ + PA. Real weddings, engagements, inspiration + more!

Photo by: Antrim and Spruce

What makes your business unique?

I serve both creative business owners and couples. Not many people work on both sides, and I love that I have that unique ability. I think it allows me to fully understand everyone on a wedding day!

For the modern couple planning their wedding in NY, NJ + PA. Real weddings, engagements, inspiration + more!

Photo by: Carly Fuller Photography  

What is your favorite part of working with couples?

I love building a relationship with couples. I’m a listener at heart, and I tend to ask a ton of questions. I’m always trying to find common ground between myself and my couples and clients because that’s where a deeper connection can form. I think when we realize we like the same things it allows couples to realize even more how much I understand them and am forever on their side! 

I also love getting to know each couple’s family. I understand your mom’s emotion just as much as I encourage your dad’s sarcasm (and vice versa!). I love when family members realize they can turn to me for anything they may need just as much as the couple can. I’ve had the great honor of having couples say they want to be friends with me and parents say they want to adopt me. The feelings are always mutual from my perspective too!

For the modern couple planning their wedding in NY, NJ + PA. Real weddings, engagements, inspiration + more!

Photo by: Meg Brock Photography  

One piece of advice for couples?

Enjoy your engagement, know your marriage is more important than the details, and…hire a planner! Unlike a photographer who provides a tangible product, a wedding planner provides an experience. That can be difficult to understand unless you have been in a wedding party where a planner guided you through the day or received encouragement from a friend who either hired a planner and loved it or didn’t and wished she had. 

Hiring a planner allows you to be fully present on your wedding day and enjoy it rather than continuing to be the point person for all questions and problems. A planner will always have your best interests at heart and will still consult you on bigger questions, but your planner will also problem solve on her own. I once changed a transportation plan in five minutes because a water main broke at a hotel that prevented guests from getting ready. The couple had no idea what had happened, and they kept taking photos with their photographer completely unaware of what had just transpired. The costs associated with a planner are definitely worth it in my opinion!

For the modern couple planning their wedding in NY, NJ + PA. Real weddings, engagements, inspiration + more!

Photo by: Reiner Photography 

Childhood career aspiration?

I always wanted to be an artist, but I only ever associated “artist” with “painter” when I was really little. That career aspiration switched to interior design for a long time, and then I switched again to writing, event planning, and floral design. My aspirations have always evolved, and I hope that continues for years to come!

Coffee or tea?

Iced coffee always looks delicious, but I just don’t like the taste of coffee. I wish I did! I’m a tea drinker instead. To this day, “put the kettle on” means there is a problem, exciting moment, or much needed catch up session about to be solved or shared in my family. My grandparents are from England, and their heritage has very much extended to my mom, aunt, cousins, and me. I love it because it’s the same thing my Nana always said when I visited her while growing up. Tea is definitely comfort.

Hidden talent?

My driver’s education teacher taught me how to parallel park like no one’s business. I’m still so grateful for him 10+ years later! It’s a skill that has definitely come in handy when I have to unload flowers in a city or hope to park close by to a venue.

For the modern couple planning their wedding in NY, NJ + PA. Real weddings, engagements, inspiration + more!

Ten Reasons to Hire a Wedding Planner • Carly Totten


Looking back, not having a wedding planner was one of the biggest mistakes I made on my wedding day. The day went smoothly, everyone was happy, and for the most part, it was stress-free. But if I had to do it all over again, there would most definitely be a wedding planner on my big day. Carly from Carly is Inspired is sharing her Top Ten Reasons why you need to hire a wedding planner, and we agree with every single one of these. Your sanity is worth it! 

Ten Reasons to Hire a Wedding Planner • Carly Totten

While planning your wedding, your photographer, videographer, and venue are likely three of the very first wedding professionals you will look to hire. Each provides something that is tangible – photos to treasure, a video generations will watch for years to come (or a piece to post on Facebook now!), and a lovely place to host one of your most important life events. The difference between each of the professionals I’ve mentioned and an event planner is the service a planner provides is an experience that isn’t tangible like a product.

Each planner will tailor her services to your unique needs. Some planners specialize in full service planning where they will begin working with you shortly after you get engaged through the day you become a Mrs. Other planners thrive while working with couples to partially plan their weddings. In this sense, the couple hires many of their wedding vendors but needs guidance finding a few members of their team as well as styling direction. Then there are planners who love month of coordination or day of coordination. In each respective case, the planner is stepping in to aide the couple during their final month of planning or just on the day of their wedding. 

No matter the service you choose, you will (hopefully!) realize your planner is just as valuable as each of the other professionals on your team. Not quite convinced? Keep reading below for 10 reasons why you should consider hiring a wedding planner!


Whether you’re in the beginning stages of planning or halfway through your reception, your planner will always make sure your voice is heard. As a couple, this is your day together, and your planner wants it to feel (and look!) like the magic you’re dreaming about.  


Pinterest is a blessing, but it can also cause you to become overwhelmed. And fast! Some planners also act as stylists, and they will be able to review your inspiration and make suggestions for ways in which they can pull together a cohesive design plan. Plus, there’s always a new creative way to uniquely tell your story!


Word of mouth is key in so many industries, including the wedding industry. Just like any other vendor, planners like to work with specific pros, and they are happy to recommend them to you. Your planner will learn your style, budget, and personality and will tailor her recommendations for you. There’s no need to research for hours because your planner wants to take the guesswork out of planning.

Ten Reasons to Hire a Wedding Planner • Carly Totten | Photo by Jennifer Larsen


Think of your wedding planner as your best friend. Your planner wants to know about your family. She’s wants to know about your sweet flower girl who may feel shy on your wedding day just as much as she needs to know if members of your family don’t quite get along (it happens to all of us!). By knowing these details, your wedding planner can prep beforehand. Everyone will be on board and ready to assist if anything should arise in order to keep your day as enjoyable as possible!


Specifically during the month leading up to your wedding day, your wedding planner will become the point of contact for your vendors instead of you. As a result, you are free to enjoy your final month of your engagement, and (more importantly!) your planner will also be Team Captain on your wedding day as she points every professional in the correct direction.   


Your planner will create a wedding day timeline for your event. She will consult your photographer, hairstylist, makeup artist, and more prior to your wedding day in order to create an event flow that will work well for all. From vendor arrivals to when your transportation needs to leave your hotel, the best time to start your ceremony to the moment your final dance must occur, your wedding planner will have expert suggestions for it all!

Ten Reasons to Hire a Wedding Planner • Carly Totten | Photo by Ann Blake Photography


Each and every vendor makes a mistake (we’re all human!), and one may occur on your wedding day. However, your planner will likely catch the mistake before you ever notice it. She will double check contracts to make sure you’re receiving the full service you expect, guide transportation that may run behind, and so much more. Your wedding day will feel close to perfect to you even if your planner has been solving problems throughout the day. The key is for you to never feel stressed.


Even the most prepped bridal parties will have questions on your wedding day, and that’s where your planner will step in! Your planner will make sure your bridal party is running on time, she will provide guidance for your processional and recessional during your ceremony, and she will be on hand to remind your maid of honor and best man about their speeches. Your planner is also always ready to pin a boutonniere, hold a purse, and offer advice.


The best weddings are talked about by guests for days, weeks, and months after they end! Planners are well equipped to advise you on seating charts and timelines that will allow your guests to have an optimum experience. Plus, your planner will also be happy to lend a helping hand to grandparents, guests with dietary restrictions (always inform your planner and caterer about food allergies!), and more (I once changed a transportation plan in minutes because of a water mane break at a hotel in order for guests to be able to get ready at another location).


Venue coordinators are wonderful. They make sure the venue is prepped and ready to serve you and your guests, sometimes they will jump in with the catering staff to ensure meals are arriving to guests in a timely fashion, and so much more. Although your venue coordinator wants your wedding day to be wonderful, her first priority is to make sure the venue is on point. Your planner, on the other hand, is there for you and your love and your bridal party, family, and guests first.

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photography in article by Eva Lin, Jennifer Larsen and Ann Blake

Newlywed Notes: How to Change Your Name • Carly Totten

Newlywed Notes: How to Change Your Name

For some couples, one of the most exciting moments of being newlyweds is officially having the same last name. Before you’re able to celebrate, there are a few steps to take, places to visit, tips you need to consider first (hint: changing your name is not nearly as difficult as you may think!). Below, I’m explaining all of the details, plus I’m sharing the names of companies that can help your name changing cause. Take a peek!


First things first, your marriage license must be approved by your state and your county before you can officially begin the name changing process. After signing their portion, your officiant will likely offer to mail your license on your behalf. I completely recommend taking him or her up on the offer! However, make sure to follow up with your officiant if you haven’t received a certified copy of your marriage license in the mail within 2-3 weeks.


Apply for a Social Security Card: Pop onto the Social Security Administration’s website where you will have access to each of the forms you will need to print, sign, and mail. Yes, mail. You cannot complete the forms online. Note: You will want to make sure you’re applying for a corrected card NOT a new social security card. Your social security number will remain the same, but your name will be changed. 

3 | DMV

Visit the DMV: The top piece of advice for this step is to make sure you have received your new social security card before visiting the DMV. Your social security card must list your new last name in order for you to successfully obtain a new driver’s license. Also, make sure to bring a copy of your marriage license, your current driver’s license, and your passport (even if your maiden name is listed!) in order to prove your identity. 


Contact All Other Entities: Your marriage license, corrected social security card, and updated driver’s license are the most formal pieces you will need in order to officially change your name. However, you will want to make sure to check in with anyone and everyone who has your name listed (think: employers, banks, USPS, credit card companies, utility companies, insurance companies, and the like). Tip: As you receive billing statements and emails, pause to make sure they note your new last name. You will likely forget to contact someone, which is totally fine! Just make sure to note the change to the company at your earliest convenience. 


Contact a Name Change Company: In order to ease (and quicken!) the process of changing your name, there are companies who will happily guide you through the process for a fee (prices tend to range from $30-$60). I’ve heard rave reviews about HitchSwitch and Miss Now Mrs. If you use a service, the company will check in with your state, send you all of the required documents you need to complete, and have you mail them to the appropriate place. 


Whether you are boarding a plane days after your wedding or planning a trip a few months down the line, I highly suggest creating plane, car, hotel, and excursion reservations under your maiden name. This also means you will press pause on updating your passport or changing your name until after you return. The name change process tends to move quickly, but there’s always the scenario where a piece takes longer than expected. There are so many things that can happen while traveling, and being questioned by a host of security personnel (particularly at the airport!) because your last name does not match the one they have on your reservation is an avoidable moment that is completely in your control. Think of your name change as something to look forward to upon your return!

Have you changed your last name? What is your best tip? Let us know in the comments! 

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Tips for Writing Your Wedding Vows • Carly Totten


As much as I adore incredible details and a great party, it’s during the ceremony that I always feel the most inspired by the couple. I love the bride and groom’s emotions as they see each other for the first time; I adore listening to the readings so carefully chosen by the couple; and I will forever treasure listening to couples recite their vows, especially those they have crafted themselves.

Your vows serve as the foundation for your marriage and oftentimes the most significant moment during your wedding, so the decision to write your own vows can be a difficult one to make. “Where do we even begin?” is likely your number one question. To ease your mind and spark your creativity, here are five top tips to inspire your own vow writing journey: 


1.    Make the decision mutually. First things first, make sure you’re both on board with writing your own vows! Although you don’t have to write your vows together (surprising each other is highly recommended!), it’s helpful to decide together whether to only include sentimental statements or if you would prefer to mix in a few humorous notes. Whatever you decide, make sure you are comfortable making each promise in front of your friends and family – it’s not quite a broadcast, but you don’t want your partner to feel uncomfortable.

2.    Talk with your officiant. Before you begin writing your vows, talk with your officiant. She will be able to walk through your ceremony with you, so you will know exactly when you will be reciting your vows. Plus, your officiant will have notes to share about personal vows she has listened to before, formats that work well, ideas about perhaps incorporating traditional vows with your originals, the length of time you should plan to speak, and more. Knowing all of these details ahead of time will help you to outline the vows you will write.

3.    Leave enough time for inspiration to strike. Although it may feel tempting to wait to write your vows, try to start early! Each and every one of your notes about your journey together, things you love about your partner, and moments you want to continue to share together will add up during the months, weeks, and days leading up to your ceremony. Having a notebook at the ready will allow you to jot down ideas on the go and help to prevent an amazing idea from escaping your mind too quickly. 

4.    Be meaningful and genuinely you. Although inspiration is wonderful, always remember to take a step back and ask yourself if what you love about a quote or verse is something you’re typically drawn toward. Further, think about the tone and words you’re using while writing. If you feel like something doesn’t feel authentic to you, don’t write it or plan to say it to your partner. Remember: your vows are yours, and they should sound exactly like something you would say! Don’t lose yourself in the process.

5.    Don’t feel the need to memorize. Once you complete your vows, you will likely need to edit them in order to include the best pieces and meet your timeline from your officiant. While it’s important to practice and practice some more, there is absolutely no need to memorize your vows. By removing the need to memorize, you will help to keep your nerves at bay, and you will remove the fear of forgetting to say something. Instead, plan to rewrite your vows in a vow book (like this or this!) and encourage your partner to do the same! The books will be something you will treasure and have the ability to read for years to come.  

Are you planning to write your wedding vows? What is a vow you loved from a ceremony you attended? Let’s inspire each other in the comments!

Photography by Clean Plate Pictures + Saltwater Studios

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You're In The Bridal Party... Here's What to Expect • Carly Totten


We've all been there... your best friend asks you to be in their bridal party. You both cry, accept her sweet proposal and continue to celebrate this exciting time in her life. Once the thrill (and the champagne) wears off, you're left wondering... what do I need to do? Carly from Carly Is Inspired has outlined what you need to do, including some helpful tips to make your bestie's wedding day everything she dreamed and more! 

For the modern couple planning their wedding in NY, NJ + PA. Real weddings, engagements, inspiration + more!

Whether the bride asks you in person or ships a box filled with surprises along with a note to your doorstep, one of the sweetest questions to be asked is whether you will stand by her as her maid of honor or one of her bridesmaids. Being in a wedding is fun (or at least we hope you’ll agree!), but there are quite a few jobs and moments you agree to willingly participate in once you say yes to the wedding party. If you’re curious what happens after you say yes, take a peek below!

Photo by Emily Wren Photography | For the modern couple planning their wedding in NY, NJ + PA. Real weddings, engagements, inspiration + more!

Parties: You will likely team up with the bride’s mom (or the ladies of her family) to plan and contribute financially toward her bridal shower. Further, be at the ready to assist in planning and contributing toward the bride’s bachelorette party. Lastly, don’t rush to make plans for the morning following the wedding because the new Mr. and Mrs. may choose to host a brunch. 

Attire: As the maid of honor or bridesmaid, you will of course be wearing a bridesmaid dress! In some cases, the bride may ask for your opinion on the style, color, or length of dress you would like to wear. If she does, answer thoughtfully but honor her wishes if they’re different than yours. If a few members of the bridal party all live near the bride, plan a date to try on dresses together. It’s helpful for the bride to see dresses on different silhouettes, plus it’s a great time to get to know the other members of the bridal party.

Planning: As the maid of honor or bridesmaid, it’s safe to say you are one of the bride’s closest confidants. Be at the ready to offer a listening ear whenever the bride needs one (planning can be stressful!), and don’t be surprised if you find yourself at a DIY party in honor of wedding details. Also, ask questions so you’re in the know for the wedding day (knowing about the timeline and details will ease your mind and hers). Offering a helping hand is one of the best assets you have during this time, and you will always remember being involved.

Photo by Michelle Lange | For the modern couple planning their wedding in NY, NJ + PA. Real weddings, engagements, inspiration + more!

The Wedding: The wedding is your biggest moment as the maid of honor or bridesmaid! You will want to keep the night before the wedding clear for the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner, plus you will likely be staying in the same hotel or home as the bride in order to ease the process of getting ready on the wedding day. The photographer will likely be on hand to capture photos during the final hour you spend getting ready, and you will take many more photos throughout the day with the full wedding party – stay together! Think about your wedding reception entrance, and if you’re the maid of honor, prep your speech well in advance. Then, get ready to dance!

A few more hints for the wedding day:

  • Talk with the bride and bridesmaids to see if anyone owns a steamer, and make sure to have one during the morning of the wedding for last minute dress touchups. 
  • It’s incredibly helpful when one of the bridesmaids has a large tote on hand throughout the day to serve as a catchall for items you may need (bobby pins, safety pins, hairspray, makeup remover, etc) as well as items you may just want to have near you (clutch, phone).
  • Well in advance of the wedding day, ask the bride how she will bustle her dress. Her mom is likely aware, and as the maid of honor, you should know too. 
  • Make sure everyone stays hydrated throughout the day, have snacks on hand, and continue to encourage the couple – it’s an exciting day, but it’s also a long one for all!

Finances: You may be expected to contribute toward the shower, and you will want to fully pay for yourself for the bachelorette party as well as a portion of the bride’s costs. Plus, you will be responsible for purchasing your bridesmaid dress, accessories, and in some cases your hair and makeup on the wedding day. Because you will need to be on hand during the morning of the wedding, you may be staying in a hotel room the night before and the night after the wedding. Lastly, gifts! You may opt to purchase a gift on your own for the bride’s shower, bachelorette party, and wedding day, but it’s always a great idea to team up with the rest of the bridal party and purchase something together. 

Photo by Ashley Errington | For the modern couple planning their wedding in NY, NJ + PA. Real weddings, engagements, inspiration + more!

If you’re in a wedding or if you have already served as a bridesmaid or maid of honor, let us know in the comments if you have anything additional to add!

Photography by Emily Wren, Michelle Lange and Ashley Errington

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Top Ten Wedding Registry Must-Haves • Carly Totten

Wedding Inspiration for the Modern Couple | New York, New Jersey + Pennsylvania

Perhaps it’s because I work in the wedding industry and also adore gift giving, but I find wedding registries to be one of the most exciting and fascinating pieces of weddings! I’m always excited to take a peek at registries for friends and family before attending bridal showers, and I’m also just as curious to see which items married couples continue to rave about years later.

Wedding Inspiration for the Modern Couple | New York, New Jersey + Pennsylvania | Cassi Claire Photography

Choosing the pieces for your registry can be a nerve-inducing process. Questions such as which pieces to register for and which pieces will we truly use for years are likely lingering on your mind. In order to help your cause (and indulge my gift giving whims!), I’ve put together a carefully curated list of the top 10 must-haves for your wedding industry. Take a peek!


There has never been a couple who has complained because they registered for lovely bed linens! Curling up in bed after a long day is one life’s best little luxuries, so this is an area in which to indulge. Consider registering for high quality linens from places such as Pottery Barn or Restoration Hardware. Tip: Register for more than one set!


Similar to sheets, register for towels that will remind you of a stay at your favorite hotel. These pieces will be reminiscent of a spa, and, better yet, luxurious towels will last for years. The money you may spend on several inexpensive towels is as much as you will spend on a couple sets of higher end towels that will serve you for much longer. It’s an investment that will be well worth it! Tip: Similar to sheets, register for more than one set! If you have a guest room, think about registering for a set to have at the ready.


There is definitely a trend among couples to register for china they can use everyday rather than fancier sets that have to be saved for special occasions. Couples reach for plates and bowls every day for almost every meal at home, so you should love those pieces. With that said, if you do want to have more special china on hand, consider registering for pieces that you can see yourself mixing and matching for everyday meals as well as formal occasions. Nothing should stay in your cabinets unused!


Flatware is another piece you will use everyday, and the hope is your forks, knives, and spoons will serve you for years! Because your flatware will be so heavily used, consider registering for a nicer set. Also, think ahead to how often you run your dishwasher or invite friends and family over for dinner. While fewer pieces may suit you as a couple, having extra on hand will ensure you have more than enough for company (and less time spent washing!).


While grabbing a water bottle may seem like a simple solution when you’re on the go, glasses are you’re saving grace while you’re at home! Just like all of the other pieces, register for a set you love. Also, keep your glasses classic and timeless. Because these pieces are glass, you will likely brake one at some point. A trendy piece may not always be in stores, but a classic piece is never a worry because a quick trip to the store will oftentimes result in replacing it with an exact replica. Just like your flatware and everyday china, make sure you have enough glasses for guests!

Wedding Inspiration for the Modern Couple | New York, New Jersey + Pennsylvania | Cassi Claire Photography


The time to register for a great set of knives is now, especially if you love to cook. The pieces that suit you best while cooking will vary greatly, so perhaps a complete set of knives doesn’t feel right for you. If that’s the case, make sure to register for the set of knives that will meet your cooking needs.


Whether you are a baker or simply adore cooking, consider registering for a high end mixer. Everyone loves the Kitchen Aid standup mixer, and for great reason – as someone who has used a handheld mixer for years, there’s nothing like placing all of your ingredients in the appliance’s bowl and letting it do the mixing for you. Again, this is something you will use long term!


An incredible mixer deserved its own category on our list, but I haven’t forgotten about other small appliances. If you’re a coffee drinker, treat yourself to a coffee pot or a Keurig (plus k-cups!). If you love tea, register for a teapot you will use for years. Other small appliances that will be in heavy rotation: crockpot, toaster, and toaster oven. 


Pots and pans will also be in heavy rotation in your kitchen together! Before you register, think about the meals each of you already love to cook. Make sure you register for pots and pans that will enable you to continue to make those meals. Pots such as sauce pans in varying sizes and frying pans will go a long way. Plus, it’s also a great time to register for or upgrade your baking sheets, cupcake/muffin tins, and casserole dishes.


While gift cards may seem like a strange request, you will find yourself picking up additional items once you’re married! Having a gift card to use will make a trip to the store even more enjoyable. Plus, gift cards are also a great way to add to your honeymoon fund. If you’re funding your honeymoon, make sure to plan ahead to see which credit cards your destination accepts. 

Wedding Inspiration for the Modern Couple | New York, New Jersey + Pennsylvania | Cassi Claire Photography

While creating your registry, keep these three questions in mind:

• Will we actually use this item or does it just sound like fun? Register for things that are practical.

• Do our price points vary? Try not to make a guest feel as though they have to spend an amount that’s outside of their comfort zone – vary your price points and items!

• Did we register in multiple places? Guests love convenience, and some will opt to shop at a store they frequent while others prefer to browse online. Spread your registry wealth!

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Photography by Cassi Claire Photography

Gift Giving 101: How to Purchase Engagement Party, Bridal Shower and Wedding Gifts They Want • Carly Totten

Red Oak Weddings | Gift Giving 101: How to Purchase Engagement Party, Bridal Shower and Wedding Gifts They Want • Carly Totten

From finding the perfect piece friends and family will love, to wrapping everything up and tying it with a bow, I tend to become overly excited about presenting gifts for birthdays, holidays, and moments “just because”. Simply put, gift giving is my love language. With that said, purchasing a gift for an engagement party, shower, or wedding always feels as though I’ve entered onto a different playing field.

Sometimes a friend’s or family member’s fiancé is someone I’ve known for years as the pair have grown closer together, and sometimes I’ve never met his or her partner. To avoid feeling overwhelmed in either situation, I’ve noted my top three gift giving tips below for you. Plus, I’m making suggestions on the gifts to purchase for engagement parties, showers, and weddings that both parties will adore for years.   


Top 3 Gift Giving Tips:

1 | Listen: Often, there are hints that a couple is likely going to become engaged or perhaps you meet them once they already are planning their wedding. When they talk about themselves and their partner, I always listen extra carefully to try to pick up clues about things they love. Go-to stores, color palettes, hobbies they both enjoy, and travel plans for the future, including their honeymoon, are always points I stow away in my mind for gift giving options.

2 | Start Early: From the moment I learn a gift is in order, I start my search. This may seem crazy, but it allows me to carefully cull through all of my options and consider everything from money and registry items to off-registry items that may take more time to arrive at my doorstep. Also, starting early allows me to brainstorm with others to see if we may all be interested in purchasing a particular experience or item together to defray the cost. Start early and finish strong and stress-free! 

3 | Personalize: In the event that you would like to purchase something that’s not on the registry, I always like to choose a piece that’s personalized with a monogram, name, or date. For a gift just for the bride, a jewelry box (West Elm is a great source for this!), bracelet, or necklace engraved with her new monogram is always a fun piece to open and enjoy at the wedding or just after. Things such as a hanger for her wedding dress or a robe to wear while getting ready on her wedding day are also great too, but you may want to check in with the bridesmaids or moms to make sure these are not already being purchased by them. For a gift for the couples, I always gravitate toward gifts with their wedding date or new last name (Parris Chic Boutique is a great source!).

Red Oak Weddings | Gift Giving 101: How to Purchase Engagement Party, Bridal Shower and Wedding Gifts They Want | Carly Trotten

Gifts for Every Pre-Wedding & Wedding Event:


For the Engagement Party: Engagement parties often occur before the couple has had a chance to create a registry, so it’s a time to get very creative! If you’re searching for a more extravagant gift that you can purchase with others, I always look to experiences. Whether they enjoy the arts, sports, cooking together, or simply going to the movies, tickets to do any of the above are always appreciated because it’s time they can spend together without worrying about wedding plans. For a simpler gift, I love framing photos, especially if I’m able to have one printed from the moment when they got engaged (this is perfect for work friends to place on their desks!).

For the Shower: The pieces on the registry are things the couple needs (or wants!) the most. Don’t be afraid to peruse their registry and purchase something from it. I always gravitate toward pieces that I feel the couple will appreciate or use the most. Time and time again, couples say they are most thankful for pieces like kitchen appliances and plates, so that’s always a great place to start. If you’re purchasing a kitchen gift and wish to add a personal touch, include one of your favorite recipes from your family for them to make together. Also, think ahead to their honeymoon: a passport cover, fun tote, or accessory that matches her style is always fun to receive.

For the Wedding: The most popular gift to give when attending a wedding is money. However, there are a couple reasons why. Once the couple’s wedding day arrives, they have likely enjoyed at least one shower together (sometimes more!), so almost every item from the registry has been purchased. Another reason to consider is size: a present will likely have to be carried until a wedding planner or gift table is in sight. This is tricky! The third reason: monetary gifts can help the couple pay for their honeymoon and perhaps experience something additional while they’re there, or your gift can be placed into savings account for future plans. How much to give is entirely up to you and your relationship with the couple, but I always give in increments of $25 (typically $75-$100 is a great starting point).

Do you have questions or suggestions about gift giving for weddings? Let us know in the comments! We’re happy to help.

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photography by Cinnamon Wolfe Photography