Getting Married in L.A.
Shopping for an engagement ring, wedding band, or even just a little treat for yourself? Forget the overpriced, snooty places in Beverly Hills and head downtown to Rondel's.
After reading a lot of positive reviews about Rondel's on wedding websites, my then-fiance and I went to check them out and try on some rings. The showroom is on the small side, but we found the selection of rings to be very tasteful and elegant. The service was also quite friendly and professional-- there was no hard sell, no one tried to talk us into spending more than we were comfortable spending. We were allowed to take our time, try on a variety of band styles, ask lots of questions and see a number of diamonds of varying quality. I fell in love with an antique-style setting and was pleased to discover that it was less expensive than similar styles we'd seen at places like XIV Karats.
My fiance ended up purchasing my engagement ring here and was very pleased with the level of service he received and the quick turnaround on his order. We ended up coming back to Rondel's a few months later and purchasing our wedding bands here as well. We experienced the same pleasant service on that occasion. Since the wedding, I've been back twice to have my rings cleaned and settings checked. The staff has always greeted me with a smile and been eager to assist.
There are a lot of jewelery shops in the downtown diamond district, but Rondel's is a cut above the rest. Their small showroom is located in a building at the corner of 6th and Hill. You can park under the building or look for a spot on the street.
Tic-Tock is tucked into a rather dingy strip mall just north of Sunset. You'd never think it was anyplace special from the outside. But inside, floral paradise awaits! This is hands down one of the best places in town to buy flowers. This shop reliably has beautiful blooms and arranges them in sophisticated and lovely ways. If I were shopping for a florist for a wedding or special event, Tic-Tock would be at the top of my list. The designer, Eddie, is extremely creative and really has a vision when it comes to design. Give him an idea of what you're looking for and guaranteed he will interpret that in a way that's more fabulous than you could have dreamed up on your own.
When you think of wedding videos, the old cliche probably springs to mind: cheesy, grainy, badly edited monstrosities that no one but the bride and groom could ever want to watch. Well, fortunately for L.A. brides we have some much better options. At the very top of the list is Walter Pawluk. Once I saw his demo video, I knew there was no one else I'd want to tape my wedding.
Walter's work is really a cut above the rest. His camera is steady (unlike so many shaky, handheld demos we saw) and he doesn't resort to flashy editing or unnecessary Dutch angles to create a beautiful wedding video. Every single person who sees our wedding video tells us they've never seen one like it. It's so professionally done.
Walter was also a real pleasure to work with. He's friendly and laid back. He was sort of everywhere and nowhere on our wedding day--- he captured every moment, but without being obtrusive or getting in the way of the guests. I cannot recommend him enough if you're looking for a truly exceptional videographer to capture your wedding day.
Ixora Floral Design did the flowers for my wedding. I could not have been more thrilled with the quality of their service and product. I highly recommend Ixora if you need flowers for an event.
I took an initial meeting with Lisa, owner of Ixora, to discuss my wedding. My floral budget was really, really low. Knowing that Ixora did very high quality work, I wasn't sure they would even want to deal with my small wedding. However, Lisa could not have been nicer and more accomodating. Through the whole process she treated me as if I was her most important client. She listened carefully to what I wanted and delivered amazing, amazing flowers on the day of my wedding. The bouquets were stunning- exactly what I'd asked for and then some. The floral displays at the ceremony site were lovely. Lisa was there early to set up, giving my photographer plenty of time to take photos of the flowers before the ceremony. I have zero complaints about Ixora and am so glad I hired them for my big day. If you have a special event looming, I would really recommend talking to Ixora about flowers!
I was married at The Athenaeum a couple years ago, and my friends & family STILL talk about how much they loved the location. I am definitely biased, but from first hand experience I'd say The Athenaeum is one of the best and most elegant places to hold a wedding in the Los Angeles area.
First of all, the structure itself is beautiful. It really doesn't need a lot of dressing up because the architecture and furniture are so lovely. Secondly, the staff here is incredibly professional. They know how to handle events and will make your wedding run smoothly. Third, the food is amazing. What's that? Amazing food at a wedding?! Yep, that's right. The dishes are really tasty and elegantly presented. I really could go on and on about how pleased I was with The Athenaeum's handling of my wedding. The coordinator was professional and gave us lots of personal attention. Every detail that I requested was present and perfect on my wedding day, including a chocolate fountain that The Athenaeum arranged to have available after dinner. I felt pampered all day long, from when I arrived at The Athenaeum at noon to get ready to the end of my reception at eleven o'clock. I did not have one problem with this location in the entire year of planning my wedding.
This is not an inexpensive venue, and you also must be sponsored by a member of The Athenaeum in order to hold your wedding here. Any trouble or expense is well worth it, though. This is a magical place.
Lula Belle Toffee does not have a dedicated store. It is only available online, although it pops up in L.A. stores from time to time. It's a L.A.-based company and in my opinion the most addictive food to come out of Southern California since In N Out.
I never really thought of myself as a toffee person. It's one of those things that lies around the office at the holidays and you sort of ignore it. Then someone brought me a tin of Lula Belle toffee as a gift and **OMG** ... it is ridiculous! Seriously, it's not like the toffee you're familiar with. It's a thousand times better, and so good you may eat the entire tin before you know what has happened. It's chunks of creamy chocolate with toffee and nuts, not too crunchy, not too soft, utterly delicious.
The toffee comes in dark chocolate, milk chocolate and white chocolate varities. Get an assortment-- they're all good. Oh, so good! It's packaged in silver tins tied with bows. Lula Belle Toffee has become my favorite thing to send as a thank you gift, and invariably I always get phone calls from the recipient raving about the toffee and wanting to know where they can get it.
Lula Belle is now doing small bags/boxes of toffee for wedding and party favors. Let me just say that if I went to a wedding and there was a Lula Belle toffee favor waiting for me on my plate, I would call that the best wedding I'd ever been to, no question.
I toured Wattles Mansion when I was looking for a place to hold my wedding. Located up a narrow street above Hollywood, the mansion is a beautiful venue. It was built in the early 1900s and became a historical landmark in the 1980s. It's been restored and really showcases all the grace and glamour of a bygone era. The interior space of the mansion is actually quite small. The rooms are paneled in gorgeous old wood, but they're small and don't flow into each other well, as tends to be typical of older houses. If you wanted to use the indoor space, it'd be best if you had a smaller guest list for your wedding. However, when you step out the back door an amazing garden opens up in front of you, complete with terraced levels, a rose garden and stairs leading up to a very romantic ceremony location. I absolutely loved this area and think it would be a very memorable place to get married. There's also a large, sloping front lawn with a nice view of the city.
Pros: Beautiful and historic location, scenic garden ceremony spot, ability to have ceremony and reception in one place.
Cons: You have to bring in everything (rentals, catering, valet, etc.) and that can be a lot of work; Music is not allowed outside at night due to neighbors and the dancing space indoors is very limited; indoor spaces are small so if it rains and you have a lot of guests, they're going to get wet.
We didn't end up choosing Wattles Mansion for our wedding location, but it was one of the most beautiful places we toured.
I did not actually buy my wedding dress at L'ezu Atelier, but I tried on gowns here and had a really good experience. This is a small bridal salon with just a couple of (nice sized) fitting rooms and a moderate amount of dresses available to try on. The great thing is that the store does not overbook their appointments, so it never felt crowded or chaotic while I was there. It was just me and one other bride the entire time (on a weekend!), so I got lots of personal attention from the staff and was able to try on any dress that I liked.
The staff was very knowledgable about their gowns and made helpful suggestions about what could be done in the alterations process to change the look of a certain gown. They weren't pushy at all, but seemed genuinely intersted in helping me to find the right dress. While I didn't end up falling in love with a dress here, I tried on plenty that were absolutely beautiful and clearly of high quality-- just not "the one." I would absolutely recommend this store to other brides who are searching for a wedding gown, however. It's a very pleasant atmosphere in which to shop and I really liked the salespeople that I encountered.
I had a really good experience trying on wedding gowns at Renee Strauss. I called ahead and made a Saturday appointment. I arrived (free parking behind the store- bonus!) and was immediately greeted by a friendly receptionist who then introduced me to my consultant. The consultant was very nice. Not pushy at all, not distracted and taking phone calls (like some places I went). She listened carefully to what I wanted, pulled dresses accordingly, and helped me in and out of them.
I was impressed with the designers stocked at Renee Strauss. I was able to try on some really lovely gowns in my price range. I found the selection to be much nicer there than at many other salons where I tried on gowns, and the environment was certainly much more relaxed and comfortable.
Even though I didn't end up buying my wedding gown here (I fell in love with another dress by a designer that they didn't carry), I was so impressed with the service at Renee Strauss that I did order all of my bridesmaid dresses here. I had five bridesmaids, three of whom were out of town and had to place orders by phone. Each bridesmaid ordered a different style dress by the same designer. Not only did the dresses come in even earlier than we were told they would (awesome!), but each and every dress was perfect and exactly as ordered. Three of my bridesmaids said they didn't even need any alterations. The dresses were great as is. So, I had a wonderful experience at Renee Strauss and would highly recommend them to other L.A.-area brides.
This was the first place I tried on wedding dresses. I had a good experience here, although I didn't end up purchasing a dress from Mon Amie. I had the first appointment of the day on a Saturday, something I really recommend no matter where you shop. If you are the first to arrive, you won't be held up by other appointments that have run over their allotted time.
My salesperson was friendly and helpful. She asked for my budget and if I was looking for a particular designer or style of dress. I told her what I had in mind, but also mentioned that this was my first time trying on dresses. She pulled a number of great gowns from the racks for me in varying styles, making some suggestions that I wouldn't have thought of otherwise. I liked almost all of the gowns I tried on, and one of them was a real contender. The only aspects of the experience that I didn't like (and later discovered were typical of any bridal shop) was that the salesperson didn't let me just browse the racks and pull dresses on my own-- she wanted to do that for me, and she wouldn't let me try on dresses out of my price range. I get the reasons for that. They only have so much time to help you and why waste it? But it would have been fun. I told the salesperson I needed to think about the dress I was considering. She was fine with that. I didn't get a hard sell or anything.
So, I had a positive experience trying on dresses here and as such would recommend the place to other brides who are shopping for gowns. Obviously, I can't speak to the ordering and alterations process, since I didn't end up buying my gown here.
Susina Bakery rocks. The cakes and pastries here are just ridiculously good. I've sampled a number of their treats and have yet to try anything that wasn't completely delicious.
Last August, I ordered my husband's birthday cake from Susina. I called in the order by phone and service was very helpful and polite. Picked it up a week later and the service in the store was similarly courteous. The cake was ready, it looked fantastic, the people behind the counter were very friendly and chatty. I'd ordered the cake style called "Bear"- basically the most insane chocolate confection ever. It was SO good. Our friends raved over it at my husband's party. I will absolutely be ordering special occasion cakes from Susina in the future.
I went to Susina last weekend to pick up some pastries for my book club meeting. I love this place, but the customer service was so freaking S-L-O-W last weekend that I am downgrading my star rating. Seriously, I counted six people milling around behind the counter, yet I stood in line for 15 minutes behind two other people before I was helped. WTF? I don't know what those other five employees were doing back there, but they should have been assisting customers, seeing as the line was really starting to back up. The coconut cookies I purchased were delicious, I just wish I hadn't had to spend so much time waiting to get them.
Auntie Em's Kitchen is really known for their cupcakes, but I'm a fan of the rest of their food as well. I really appreciate a restaurant that serves seasonal foods, as Auntie Em's does. Their vegetables are always so fresh and delicious and it really makes the overall quality of their dishes better, in my opinion. This time of year is all about asparagus, so I was delighted to see a Roasted Asparagus, Caramelized Onion & Brie sandwich on their menu. YUM! The chicken sandwich is also great. Oh, and try the raspberry lemonade with lunch.
As for the cupcakes-- yeah, they're great. I actually think the red velvet is the least tasty of their options. For me, the best is the carrot cake cupcake, followed closely by the coconut. Auntie Em's is heavy on the frosting, but it's good frosting. These are cupcakes worth driving across town for and worth paying $3.50 for. They also have mini cupcakes for those that don't want the regular (huge) size. Very cute.
Interior of the restaurant is unfussy and casual. Service is friendly. I recommend a trip to Auntie Em's!
** updated 6/25: I attended a wedding last weekend that was catered by Auntie Em's. Awesome food! There were several stations of different kinds of food: seafood, Southwestern food and comfort foods. Everything was delicious and the servers were friendly and helpful. For dessert, cupcakes! There was actually a whole dessert buffet with lots of yummies, but the cupcakes were the favorites. I only wish every wedding I attended had food this good.
House of Petals is the florist to choose if you want an arrangement that is different, innovative, maybe even a little offbeat. Sure, they can do your standard vase of roses, but what they really specialize in is something a little more unique. Submurged orchids, unusual colors and textures-- this is the place to call if you're looking for something that you don't see every day. One step into their shop on LaCienega and you'll see what I mean. Dramatic arrangements fill the lobby area and you can see the designers working on orders in the back. The flowers are simply beautiful.
Service here is friendly and knowledgable. Prices aren't cheap, but are competitive with the other high-end florists in town.
Bridal Images surprised me, because it's not particularly fancy given its location. Right in the heart of Beverly Hills, this store is strangely plain and unassuming on the interior. They don't take appointments, so it's first come first served. This sort of makes getting any personal attention difficult, but on the other hand it can sometimes be nice to have a low key experience at a bridal salon.
On the day I tried on gowns there were not a ton of other brides in the store, so I had no problem getting a fitting room and finding dresses that I liked on the racks. While the shop's interior seems a little worn, they are still stocking some really beautiful, high end dresses. I tried on two Jim Hjelm gowns that were absolutely stunning. While I didn't end up choosing my dress here, my experience was pretty good, overall. No pushy salespeople, no attitude.
Pebbles is a good place to go if you're a bride on a budget. They have discounted dresses and friendly service. The shop is located in a warehouse-like space in a strip mall. There's nothing fancy about it at all. Dressing rooms are small, lighting is a tad on the flourescent side and the dresses are all just squished in together on metal racks. Doesn't sound super appealing, I know. But Pebbles makes up for the lack of atmosphere and glamour by offering some really nice dresses at competitive prices. I tried on several gowns here that were absolutely beautiful. The sales girl who was helping me was sweet and knowledgable about the designers.
This isn't the place to come with your mom and your girlfriends so you can all squeal over dresses together and have the sales staff bring you champagne. But if you don't mind overlooking the decor (or lack thereof) and sorting through a bunch of dresses, you can find something nice. I didn't end up finding my dress here, but I had a pretty good experience overall.
Tried on bridal gowns here while shopping for my wedding. Ummm... it's okay. I can't really say more than that. I didn't have a horrible customer service experience. The woman who helped me was nice enough, if a little pushy about making a sale. The real issue for me was that I didn't think the dresses were very nice. The quality and construction just didn't impress me. There also wasn't a huge selection and some of the sample were pretty worn and old. The prices here are on the average to below-average end of the scale, so if you're looking for a deal you might find something nice here. I just think there are so many better bridal salons with more interesting gowns in L.A.
The cake is good. But not good enough to make up for the truly horrible, dismissive and incompetent customer service at the Fairfax store. I called ahead to the store, told them I wanted to order a cake for my husband's birthday and asked if I could come in to select a design and sample some flavors. I showed up at the time they recommended, only to stand around for 10 minutes while the salespeople gossiped and ignored me. Then they dropped a design book in front of me and left me to my own devices without offering any guidance. I found a couple of cakes I liked and then it took me another 10 minutes to get someone to talk to me about them- which they only did with a grudging sigh, taking phone calls the whole time I was trying to place an order. Really, this is unacceptable. Especially when you're ordering a special occasion cake that costs a pretty penny. Against my better judgement I left a deposit and placed an order.
When I arrived to pick up the cake a week later, I got the same frosty reception. Someone finally took the time to retrieve my cake from the back, but by this point I was late for the party the cake was meant for. I hand over my credit card and was told that the balance for the cake needed to be paid in cash. It might have been nice if anyone had mentioned this beforehand! I had to get back in my car and go find an ATM! Finally, cash in hand, I was able to collect my cake. Now, this is a HUGE, heavy cake. Yet, not one staffer offers to help me with it. They can't even be bothered to open the door, leaving me to wrestle this enormous cake all by myself.
I cannot imagine a scenario in which I would ever order from Hansen's again. This kind of customer service is appalling and inexcusable. There are lots of good bakeries in L.A. where you won't be treated like this.
Lili's is a disaster and I cannot in good conscience recommend it to any brides who are shopping for dresses. Lili's had none of the good, personal service I've had at other bridal salons. Upon arrival, my mother and I stood around in the lobby for quite a while waiting for someone to help us-- and I had even called two weeks in advance and made an appointment. When someone finally acknowledged us and let us back to look at the gowns, they were rushed, harried and distracted. I had three different people helping me throughout the 1.5 hours were we were-- only one of whom even bothered to ask my name and none of whom were around half the time I needed to be unzipped. My Mom ended up getting me in and out of the dresses. I had to pull dresses off the rack myself because no salesperson ever offered to do it. Oh, and the dressing rooms at Lili's are so small you literally can't turn around in them with a ballgown-style dress on. It was not comfortable at all. When we were finished trying on dresses there was no one around to ask about ordering... so we just left. No one seemed to notice. Nice.
I actually did find my wedding dress here, a gorgeous Reem Acra that I loved wearing on my wedding day. However, I specifially searched out another store that carried this designer and ordered the dress from them so I wouldn't have to deal with Lili's again. I wouldn't have trusted them for a minute with my dress, given the service I encountered in the store.
**edited to add**: The glowing, 5-star "reviews" of Lili's here that popped up after my review were so obviously posted by Lili's staff. Come on now, ladies. You wouldn't have to come on Yelp and add fake reviews pimping your store if you'd just provide decent customer service in the first place. Just something to think about.