SIGNATURE SIPS: An Evening of Cocktails & Dresses

With event restrictions relaxing across the country and vaccination numbers rising daily, wedding planning is kicking back into high gear.

Our SIGNATURE SIPS virtual event series continued last week with expert tips on signature cocktails and custom dresses to perfectly personalize any wedding, pandemic, or otherwise. 

On March 12, a dozen future brides joined us for an interactive evening of creative cocktails and dazzling dresses with special appearances from mixologist Ramon Griffin and celebrity designer Nneka Alexander of Brides by Nona. Prior to the evening, the lucky brides-to-be each received complimentary event packages of Korbel Prosecco and Chambord black raspberry liqueur from event sponsor Brown-Forman and chilled their bottles to prepare for the festive Friday evening.

SIGNATURE BRIDE’s CMO, Lynn Cooper, hosted the evening and kicked off the event with a brief welcome before opening the floor to introductions from the brides, whose upcoming weddings ranged in date from next month to next year. While COVID-19 considerations had already postponed one bride’s big day twice and another had yet to nail down a date, all were excited to take a break from the pressures of pandemic planning and let our invited experts do some of the legwork. 

Bottles chilled and corks popped, Washington, D.C., mixologist Ramon Griffin started the party with a brief introduction to Korbel and Chambord, and the answer to the question some brides had: “What is a signature cocktail?” Griffin explained that many contemporary weddings offer a signature drink during cocktail hour (and often beyond) to highlight the wedding’s motif, a theme related to the relationship, or even just the couple’s favorite flavors, giving guests a special memory to recall years later. As one bride noted, some weddings even have two signature cocktails—one for the bride and one for the groom—and the drinks are often renamed with wedding-related puns. 

korbel

Griffin’s first offering was the Chambord Royale, featuring half an ounce of the premium liqueur topped with prosecco and finished with a raspberry garnish for an added splash of bold color. Quick to create and almost universally appealing, he described it as the perfect sip for a little kick that puts everyone in a happy mood for celebration.

While our brides certainly won’t be making their own drinks on the Big Day, Griffin offered an important tip for mixing sparkling wine drinks at home. While other cocktails are traditionally crafted with liquors first and mixers after, the reverse is true when using sparkling wine. Pour mixers first and top with sparkling wine to manage foam and offer better distribution of the mixers in a cocktail that can’t be shaken. Pro Tip: Never stir a sparkling cocktail either—you’ll just kill the bubbles faster. 

One drink down, LaJuane Mack of Brown-Forman dropped into the event to share his expertise as market manager of South Florida, where our brides-to-be for this event call home. Mack spoke to Brown-Forman’s deep commitment to a more multicultural platform that highlights and prominently features Black women. He noted that the group developed its improved platform goals with the input and expertise of Black employees within its brands to ensure meaningful change, not just superficial promises full of empty buzzwords. Griffin then returned to demonstrate the proper mixing of a Prosecco Grapefruit Spritz and encouraged plenty more sips to keep the vibe alive. 

For the main event, Nneka Alexander presented a private trunk show staged at Midtown Collective Atlanta, featuring three of her showstopping designs, including the now-famous dress worn by Real Housewives of Atlanta star Cynthia Bailey at her wedding last October, along with complimentary hairpieces by SuReina Bridal.

In a question-and-answer segment, Alexander noted some major shifts in dress trends since the pandemic began, mostly centered around unconventional cuts and fabrics, and an emphasis on structural elements and all-around uniqueness. She’s noticed that her brides have had many of their wedding elements altered by the pandemic, but they all still want to be the centerpiece of the day, and no one wants to look cookie-cutter anymore. 

brides by nona

Beyond the desire to stand out, the custom designer stressed that “ethnic women have ethnic figures,” and gowns should be designed to fit real Black bodies, something that’s not easy to achieve with off-the-rack dresses. Brides by Nona not only custom builds to individual shapes and measurements, but it offers a wide array of nude meshes for sheer detailing (another rising trend, often intricately jeweled) that actually matches ethnic skin tones and an extensive collection of cup sizes that range all the way to I. The typical process from consultation to final fitting takes about 90 days, but more technical designs could take up to six months.  

Some of our brides wondered how to approach a custom designer, unsure if they needed to have a strong vision in mind. Alexander responded that some of her clients do know exactly what they want and come with a long list of elements to be included, while others show up with a general idea or next to nothing. She uses consultations to discover the bride’s personality and preferences as well as the design of the wedding itself so she can bring all these elements together in the dress—a special bit of magic that’s much harder to achieve with an off-the-rack find.

Brides by Nona designs for brides across the country, coincidentally including one of our event participants, who raved about Alexander’s process. Her parting bit of wisdom for all of our stressed brides dealing with the chaos of event planning was a humbling reminder of what’s truly most important: “Put more work into your marriage than into your wedding.”

If you’re a bride interested in participating in a future live event or a brand interested in collaborating, email [email protected].

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