Yes, weddings are meant to be a happy time of celebration—but as anyone who has ever done one will tell you, planning every component of it can be stressful. Which is why eschewing a more formal, structured event for an at-home bridal shower can be the way to go for the casual bride in search of something a bit more relaxed.
Such was the case for photographer Judy Pak’s sister-in-law Anna Chung. The hedge fund executive-turned-yoga teacher (who also casually happens to have founded two startups, Tanya-B and BYoga) wanted an inviting, relaxed, yet chic shower held in her East Hampton home where her guests could take advantage of the beautiful backyard space. And she turned to her future sister-in-law to make it happen.
Pak drew on her creative background to prep—and, of course, later photograph—the shower. She created an event that somehow felt both expertly styled and laid back, with scattered pillows lining the lawn and an assortment of wild flower arrangements balanced out with more high-end features, like a menu designed by private chef Alessandra MacCarthy and a wait staff on-hand to cater to the guests.
“I wanted to embrace the natural surroundings of the Hamptons combined with the aesthetic of a casual yet elevated garden party. I rented rattan couches for a unique lounge vignette for guests to enjoy. For the meal, I designed a long table with bamboo chairs and simple floral centerpieces let the lively conversation flow amongst ladies who lunched,” says Pak.
The afternoon started with a cocktail hour with custom-made refreshments, followed by a lunch highlighting locally sourced, seasonal ingredients. “We wanted things that were simple to prepare, yet luxurious and fresh,” says Pak of the menu which included a light summer salad and fresh salmon served with vegetable couscous.
Going barefoot was encouraged, and the beautiful outdoor space had plenty of seating for guests to chill out with a cocktail and celebrate Chung.
Want to take a page out of Pak’s book and DIY your own at-home bridal shower? We spoke to the photographer and designer to get her tips on hosting the perfect casual fete.
How does planning and executing a bridal shower at home compare to something more formal?
I find it to be more relaxing and enjoyable! There’s something beautiful about hosting at home—you and your guests instantly have the feeling of being in a warm, comfortable environment. While many full-service venues can take care of coordination during the planning process, if you have a great catering partner and clear design vision you can achieve a beautiful event with low stress.
We wanted the afternoon to feel personal, and hosting at home provided the perfect canvas to create a memorable, intimate celebration.
What did you have to keep in mind when planning an event like this al fresco? Did you design with any potential day-of weather problems in mind?
I’m a big believer in always having a plan B. This helps eliminate any additional stress on the day of the party. In the case of rain, my plan B was to set the dining table under the covered porch. We would still have the feeling of outside but be covered from the elements.
Can you share a couple of your top tips for pulling off a shower at home?
Design in a way that feels comfortable to you, and allow for moments of connection and conversation; avoid trying to micromanage every moment and your guests will have a lovely time.
Since some guests may already be familiar with your home, think creatively about a way to reveal the property to them in a new way. For instance, setting up a comfortable lounge area that you don’t normally have at home, or serving the main meal from a different vantage point in your home or backyard.
How did you save time with prep leading up to the day of the event?
I created a moodboard just to make sure everyone is on the same page, and then I delegated to the partners I [was] working with: catering, florals, rentals. Being in the wedding industry, I’m so fortunate to have many creative friends that I can rely on for tips and help on the day-of.
And how did you minimize stress surrounding prep on the actual day?
Hire a bartender! Having a bartender mix and pour drinks will not only minimize your stress, but also elevate the ambiance.
In terms of decor, how can you save a little money with certain pieces?
I clipped florals from the garden and mixed [them] in with flowers I purchased from the farm for a natural, whimsical look. Embrace using found or vintage table linens, glasses, and plates. Try to keep a cohesive color palette and texture theme, but feel free to use things you may find at a vintage market.
What’s the number one thing to keep in mind when planning a bridal shower at home?
Designate specific areas, such as a gift spot, lounge, and cocktail area, so that there will be a seamless flow to the event and so that guests feel engaged yet relaxed during the course of the afternoon.
What’s the biggest mistake people make?
People can sometimes overthink an event, especially when it’s at home, and let those expectations completely consume their attention. For this event, having a fully stocked bar wasn’t necessary, nor were things like place cards at the table or favors. Rather, we focused on providing a memorable guest experience through the elements we cared most about—a few signature cocktails, deliciously fresh and simple food, and a relaxed environment.
If you could do anything differently to make the process easier or more time-efficient, what would you do?
Give guests an end time! This helps guests plan their day, and you get your home back at a decent hour.
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