Danielle DeBoe Harper was more prepared than most women to plan a wedding. As a visual manager for the international retail chain Anthropologie, she designed and implemented decor and displays that lured customers through store doors. As the proprietor of Room Service, an independent gift and clothing boutique that relocated two years ago, from Gordon Square to Ohio City and the Dredgers Union, an East Fourth Street shop shuttered in August, she's accustomed to picking and choosing fashion-forward items, everything from pullovers for men to lace dresses and sequined satin boleros for women.
Still, the 35-year-old Euclid native had always been too busy to really dream about her own wedding. So the joy of accepting Cleveland architect Westleigh Harper's December 2011 marriage proposal was followed by the task of staging a ceremony and reception that was uniquely hers.
But the couple did know that they'd say "I do" somewhere in downtown Cleveland. Harper is known for her "Made in the 216" events, biannual showcases of locally produced goods that continue at Room Service. Her husband has been fascinated with Cleveland and its architecture, particularly the Terminal Tower, since he was a child. Moreover, the couple — downtown residents before and after their marriage — met and fell in love in the city.
"When we got married, it was very clear to us that we would make it Cleveland-centric," Harper says.
While they were open to a church wedding, the cost of booking their chosen house of worship was prohibitive. Instead, they opted to have the Sept. 8 ceremony and reception in the English Oak Room at Tower City Center. The elegant Terminal Tower space, with its original carved paneling and marble floors, was just the right size to accommodate their 200 guests. It also eliminated the hassle of directing or transporting them to the reception. The couple decided to host their reception after-party at the Horseshoe Casino, while the groom's parents arranged to have the rehearsal dinner catered on the Terminal Tower observation deck. The venues eliminated the need for out-of-towners — or any guest who booked one of the rooms Harper reserved at the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel — to get in a car after they arrived downtown.
The couple's love of downtown was evident in their printed items, too. The save-the-date mailing featured a black-and-white postcard of the bride and groom dressed in evening attire and walking hand in hand on a Cleveland street, taken during an engagement photo shoot at locations throughout the city. The card was mailed in a black envelope lined with a vintage black-and-white image of the Terminal Tower. Another old photo of the landmark taken at night was used on the RSVP postcard included in the wedding invitation, a black card featuring the wedding date and couple's names in gold-foil script under a band of pink vellum. The choice of colors and design by Lakewood-based graphic-design firm Chartreuse reflected Harper's desire for a wedding day of "down-to-earth glamour."
At the reception, table numbers were replaced by more vintage images of Cleveland landmarks such as the Old Arcade, West Side Market and Higbee's department store. A page of the wedding program was devoted to thumbnail photos and descriptions of each location.
Harper purchased her wedding gown at Kleinfeld Bridal in New York City. It was a sleeveless, 1920s-inspired Lazaro sheath with an abundance of sequined floral embroidery that ended in tiered tulle layers near the high-low hem. "It was playful, pretty and fun," she gushes. "It had great movement to it." The silk charmeuse layer underneath was actually a separate slip dress with diamante overlay she wore by itself at the reception.
When guests arrived at the English Oak Room, they sipped champagne cocktails and lined up at bars of liquor and sushi from Sushi 86. They helped themselves to boards at each table of cured meats, French cheeses, crackers and cruditÃ©s. After the ceremony, Executive Caterers at Landerhaven served a dinner prepared by executive chef Marlin Kaplan featuring a beef filet in a red-wine reduction with a side of bÃ©arnaise. Staffers laid out pizzas about 10 p.m.
Harper ordered baby's breath in bulk from Allied Cut Flowers in Cleveland and used it to fill vases on the dining tables — the flowers were a single element in tablescapes of metallic vases, mercury tealights and golden eucalyptus branches on pale-pink tablecloths — and to make bridesmaids' bouquets. The stems of the latter were wrapped in strips of cream tulle left over after a seamstress hemmed her gown. Harper also assembled her own bouquet, a similar arrangement augmented by
a dozen deep-purple mini calla lilies.
The bride's biggest budgetary coup was picking up her six bridesmaids' dresses at H&M at Crocker Park for a mere $15 apiece — full price. She says the sleeveless gold-lame number with the high-low hemline was sack-like off the rack, but with the help of her mother, sister-in-law and best friend, she transformed it with tailoring and rhinestone trim.
The only thing missing from the wedding was the traditional multi-tiered cake. Harper opted to serve each guest a miniature cookie, cheesecake and scoop of gelato for dessert. The couple cut a 10-inch white layer cake covered in loose vanilla-buttercream rosettes — their favorite — made by the groom's mother. Harper found the script "We Do" topper on etsy.com, an online marketplace where people sell handmade and vintage items.
Harper's experience planning her wedding helped her create Weddings and Parties by Room Service, a wedding-and-event-planning concern launching this month. The business is named after and run out of her boutique.
But Harper stresses the service is founded on the desire to produce an event that reflects a host's style and personality. "A huge part of our business will be getting to know the couple and their experience to infuse their day with as many anecdotes and items that are personal to them," she says. "We won't do anything because it's tradition. We'll do it because it's the right choice for our clients."
The planning process begins with a free consultation that includes a selection of the current bridal magazines. Harper instructs those who hire her to tear out pictures of anything that appeals to them, complete a questionnaire included in the package and return everything to her.
"By our second meeting, we already know a little bit about what their aesthetic is, what they as a couple are drawn to," she says.
Harper's services begin with a la carte offerings such as packaging favors and making custom backdrops and displays. A Design Concepts package is "for the couple who really wants to plan their own day and do it themselves but just needs a little bit of help sifting through the visual inspiration and figuring out what type of wedding is right for them," she says. The service provides an "inspiration board" of images that suggest venues, color palettes, dÃ©cor items, etc., based on the magazine photos and completed questionnaire, as well as a DIY plan for making those ideas a reality, both of which are presented at a
The Design Management package includes a task list for implementing the aforementioned plan as well as venue research, vendor recommendations, budget-allocation suggestions, materials lists and how-to steps for making dÃ©cor items, as well as continued guidance via phone and email. The deal includes sourcing and negotiating with vendors and making custom backdrops and displays.
But Harper says the most essential service she offers is a day-of-event coordination package. For eight hours, Harper or her associate will serve as the couple's representative and problem-solver, the person who meets, directs and tips vendors at venues, gently instructs guests to take their seats, rounds up and lines up attendants, cues musicians, takes care of wardrobe malfunctions, points out key people to the photographer, transports gifts from the reception to the couple's new digs, etc.
"When you're the bride, you don't want to do it all," she says.