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The Tale of Samantha Woo

A little, white house off Old Canton Road in Jackson has three large, pink fabric flowers in a row on the porch. A horizontal pathway of stones in varying shades of light brown and gray spans from the driveway to the edge of the house. A mannequin wearing a pale white wedding dress stares out from a large window at passing traffic, and a small sign in the yard says "Woo Couture."


When you enter the building, completed wedding dresses greet you. A dress form wearing pink and lace sits by a table full of beading and sketches.


Fabric swatches, dress sketches and other fashion-design paraphernalia are scattered about the studio.


Woo Couture is the brainchild of Samantha Woo, a wedding-dress designer from Vietnam. Woo's family has been making clothes for generations. She learned much of her craft from her mother, Su Dong, who is still in Vietnam. Her father, Toan Tran, is an artist, and her grandfather, Tin Tran, is a photographer who is most famous for his photos of the First Indochina War.




Pictures: simple wedding dresses


Samantha Woo opened Woo Couture at 4750 Old Canton Road in the fall of 2014. There, she designs custom wedding dresses. Photo courtesy Amber Helsel"Growing up in Vietnam, we didn't have a lot of toys," Woo says. "The only toy I had was the scrap of fabric my mom left on the floor. I would make dog clothes and ... make a Barbie doll out of fabrics. I had to be really creative. Growing up (in a) third-world country, I didn't have very much." Woo says that as a child, she was always drawing and sketching.


Though she says her mom made everyday clothes, Woo was fascinated with designing wedding dresses. "I love going to weddings. I love seeing wedding dresses, even when I was younger," she says. "My mother always says that I (was) at every wedding, almost. Even the neighbors'. Somehow I always snuck in."


She came to the United States when she was 13 in 1994. Woo says that 10 years after the Vietnam War, the country was in the midst of a bad economy. Missionaries connected to Catholic Charities of Jackson brought Woo to Mississippi.


"They took interest in me because I was so curious about Western people," she says. "I would always follow (the missionaries). They just kind of checked me out and saw how I was." Woo says she was the last Vietnamese child the organization sponsored.


The missionaries brought her to Jackson, where she was adopted and lived with different families as she grew up. "Everybody I met has always been my family," she says. "I was in America—a strange land—with nobody, but now everybody is my family." She is closest to foster family the Caseys, whom she lived with for about four years.


Woo graduated from Murrah High School in 2001. She went to Belhaven University, where she graduated with a bachelor's degree in history and political science in 2005. She studied fashion design at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco and received her master's degree in fine art from Mississippi College in 2013. She married her husband, Dr. Mack Woo, a physician at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, in 2008. The couple has two boys: Samuel, 4, and Matthew, 2.


When she was growing up in the U.S., Woo didn't know many people and learning English as her second language wasn't easy. Embroidery, beadwork and other types of handwork were her escape, though she didn't consider it as a career possibility until after she graduated from Belhaven.


About 10 years after leaving Vietnam, she went home to see her mother. After seeing her making clothes, Woo began missing doing that. Over the next few years, she picked it back up and then stopped, and picked it back up again, though she never stopped sketching and designing.


Her first insight into the world of wedding dress design was when she designed five dresses for her own wedding.


She and her husband bought the building off Old Canton Road, with the intention of it eventually becoming her studio, about three years ago. However, Woo Couture didn't open until fall of 2014.


Though she says she has created her own collections, Woo loves doing custom designs for brides. She does a consultation, and then sketches a few designs. Once the bride picks a design, Woo can spend 50 to 60 hours making a dress, and that time doesn't include beading, embroidery or other detail work. Though she pulls her inspirations from the likes of Christian Dior and Coco Chanel, Woo says her clients are the biggest inspirations.


"I think (the clients) are the ones that design the gown," she says. "I just put it into life." Besides wedding dresses, Woo Couture can do anything from flower girl dresses to mother-of-the-bride dresses.


Woo says her love of wedding-dress design comes from her love of fairytales, and through her designs, she ensures that each bride gets the wedding she wants.


"The wedding is something special and something intimate, and your dress can be the same thing," she says.


"The one thing special about us is that it will fit you."

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07:45 Publié dans wedding | Tags : weddings | Lien permanent | Commentaires (0)


St Andrew's to defy ban on conducting gay weddings

A Wellington church says a national directive from its highest body banning ministers from conducting same-sex marriages is appalling and disturbing and it will defy the order.

St Andrew's on The Terrace opposes the decision by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand.

The General Assembly - which sets the policy and the direction of the church and approves the various regulations - spent the past four days deliberating in Auckland and announced its decision yesterday.

In the eyes of the assembly, it was acceptable for gay and lesbian people to be in the congregation but not to be married by the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Marriage was the loving and faithful union of a man and a woman, the assembly said.

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St Andrew's Parish convener Sonia Groes-Petrie said the ban was disturbing and deeply disappointing.

"We strongly dissent from it," she said. "The Presbyterian tradition is for ministers to have freedom to make decisions about whom they will marry.

"There is a range of opinions on same-sex marriage within the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand and today's decision does not reflect that diversity."

Interim minister Jim Cunningham said he was appalled by the decision. "We see sexual orientation and gender identity as irrelevant in the celebration of a couple's union. It is the quality of the relationship, the love and commitment that matters," he said.

"St Andrew's has been blessing the relationships of same- sex couples for over 20 years, celebrating civil unions since 2005 and marriages since August last year."

St Andrew's Parish councillor and General Assembly representative Paul Barber, who was in Auckland, said it was embarrassing that religious organisations were the only stumbling block to full equality for same-sex couples.

Despite the order, St Andrew's had committed to be an inclusive church, faithful to the gospel message of love and justice, Barber said.

"We have ministers within our community who are registered as civil celebrants and we will continue to be able to provide a welcoming place for any couple who wishes to marry," he said.

Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand General Assembly Moderator the Right Rev Andrew Norton said the decision was an affirmation of the church's long-held understanding of marriage as the loving, faithful union of a man and a woman. No other type of contractual, covenantal or legal sexual relationship - no matter how loving, stable or sincere - could ever be regarded by the Christian church as marriage in the true biblical sense.

No immediate action would be taken against St Andrew's but if there was a complaint it would step in.

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05:13 Publié dans wedding | Tags : weddings | Lien permanent | Commentaires (0)


Contracts for destination weddings depend on who's paying

Q: I am planning a destination wedding for a nice young couple and their families, bridesmaids, groomsmen and other friends. I have obtained a good group rate at a Caribbean resort for 20 rooms, and I will handle airline reservations and ground transfers, rolling them into per-person price. Do I contract with just the bride and groom, or do I need a contract with each traveler? What should the contracts provide for?

A: Destination weddings have become very popular in the last decade. Unfortunately, they have also become the source of many lawsuits because the agencies' contracts do not make each party's rights and obligations clear.

Mark Pestronk
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Which party or parties you should contract with depends on whom you can expect to pay for the packages you are putting together. For example, you can have a contract that places the entire financial burden on the father of the bride, as in a traditional, local wedding reception. Or the contract can be with the wedding couple, making them responsible for full payment for all the participants.

Most likely, however, the guests will be expected to pay for themselves. In that case, you need a contract with each guest, just as you would with any tour participant. These contracts can be called "participant's agreements" or just "terms and conditions," and they would spell out deposit, final payment and cancellation requirements.

You should have another contract with the bride and groom that, in effect, guarantees against nonpayment by a guest and also clearly spells out the details and costs of the wedding ceremony and reception.

The guests should pay you, not the bride and groom, in order to protect against embezzlement, which will leave your agency on the hook to suppliers and guests demanding refunds. When each guest pays you, you could credit the bride and groom's account, leaving them responsible only for unpaid rooms.

Aside from the details, one of the biggest problems of destination weddings is a price increase due to lower participation than the minimum required or due to cost increases imposed by suppliers. You need to make clear that price increases are possible.

If air transportation is a mandatory part of your package, you need to obey the U.S. Department of Transportation rule that requires you obtain the client's written (or recorded oral) consent (at sign-up) to any price increase after a deposit is taken. After final payment, you cannot increase the price unless it is for taxes.

Another big, potential source of litigation is cancellation: If the wedding is cancelled, what happens to the guests' payments? Unfortunately, many guests will expect a refund, so you need to specify that there will be no refunds for cancellations for any reason within a fixed number of days before the trip.

If you deal with a wholesaler, the wholesaler might require each guest to agree to the wholesaler's own terms and conditions. Remember that such terms do not protect you, and they might make it more likely that you will be sued because the wholesaler is protected by its terms and conditions.

Your participant's agreement should be signed by each participant 18 and older, if they are paying for their own travel. Otherwise, you can send the terms in an emailed itinerary.

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04:51 Publié dans wedding | Tags : weddings | Lien permanent | Commentaires (0)