Wedding Tales - Julia and Braden

The quiet and charming town of Kennebunkport, Maine was the perfect backdrop for the romantic nuptials of these two college sweethearts.  Julia, a dear friend of mine from Wake Forest University, grew up spending her summers in this idyllic seaside town.  Lucky for me, I got to spend my first "grown-up" summer there with her.  Well, our first summer break in college pretending to be grown-ups at least, so this place held very special memories for me, as her wonderful family and her grammy took me in like one of their own. 

Julia and Braden created an effortlessly chic September wedding and fabulous party.  Julia wore an elegant lace dress by Ramona Keveza reminiscent of Grace Kelly circa Cannes 1955.  Julia possesses an elegance that does not cry out to be noticed, but rather radiates through her subtlety, which in our days of selfie culture, is a nice breath of fresh air.  In keeping with her personal style, Julia created an elegant, romantic evening with a touch of classic New England charm.  She kept her colors clean and simple, opting for blushes, pale pinks and a touch of navy throughout, letting her florals and decor complement the natural beauty of the seaside setting.  

I was honored when Julia asked me to address her invitations and design a wedding crest for her custom designed programs and menu.  It was so special to take her vision and style and translate it into stationery.  Working on her day of paper made me realize that subtlety is difficult to accomplish, but when done well, it looks like this wedding. 

Wedding Dress:  Romona Keveza

Wedding Invitations: My Gatsby

Calligraphy, Wedding Crest, Programs and Menus: Serena Martin Design

Groom's Tuxedo: The Black Tux

Wedding Portrait & Calligraphy: Serena Martin Design

Wedding season: Summer

Location: Kennebunkport, Maine

Wedding style: Romantic, classic, nautical, natural 

Wedding colors: Blush, pale pink, light green, navy

Photography: Emily Delamater | Event Planning: Blissful Beginnings | Cake: Let Them Eat Cake l Floral Design: Fleurant | Invitations: My Gatsby | Stationery & Illustrations: Serena Martin Design | Ceremony & Reception Venue: The Nonantum | Catering: The Nonantum l Dress: Romona Keveza

Wedding Tales - Jeeun and Ethan

One of my favorite parts of the job is creating custom wedding invitations.  It is an honor every time someone commissions me to create stationery for them.  I feel like the bride and groom invited me in to get to know them on a deeper level, and the stationery is a way to capture them and their unique styles.  

After doing a handful of custom invitations last year, I really start to see how the couple's personalities and styles permeate every aspect of their wedding, and it is really special.  Next time you are at a wedding, look for the couple's personalities in places you may not expect - from the invitations, to flowers, to color choices.  

Here I will share one of my first custom wedding stationery for good friends, Jeeun and Ethan.  

Wedding season: Fall

Location: Centreville, Virginia

Wedding style: whimsical, a touch of rustic, but still classic 

Wedding colors: Burgundy, pale pink, green

It's interesting to see how every part of an invitation is reflective of the couple, down to the fonts they choose.  






Chalkboard programs for the wedding.  This is a great way to add personal touches and decor for the ceremony while being budget friendly. 

Words to describe the couple:  Faithful servants of the Lord, kind, compassionate, genuine, fun, goofy, adventurous and wonderful beyond words.

They even gave me the opportunity to create custom thank you cards for them in illustrated traditional Korean wedding attire.  

As you can see, this was a very fun couple to work with, and thanks to their whimsical and creative styles, I would say the stationery turned out OK too :) 



Year End Recap - Grateful for my family

It's already January 5th and I am just now recapping the end of my year.  Like some people, I rush to create new years resolutions on January 1st, I have started as early as Dec. 26th.  Rarely do I stop to give thanks for the year that just concluded.  

Last week, as I sat down to write my 2016 goals, my first step was asking myself how I can improve from the previous year, but my husband, Blake stopped me in my tracks and suggested, "instead of focusing on what went wrong, why not look at what went right." 

Well, given I started my business last January, and it has sustained itself for a year, it wasn't a bad idea after all to look back on the year.  When I started writing down all that went well, it was evident how richly God had blessed the year, so I should begin this year by first saying thank you, and the first thank you goes to God. 

My career journey has certainly been interesting.  It was amazing to look back on the year to see and acknowledge how God had perfectly orchestrated everything.  After getting over my own ego and quit pitying myself for all that went wrong (several doors closed on the career path I was determined to pursue), God opened the most amazing door of all, but it took complete humility, giving up control, my excessive planning, and to earnestly seek His help, he delivered me a dream so great I dared not even dream it. 

Once that door opened and I walked through it, many great and unexpected things started going right.  I am someone who needs, at times to my own detriment, craves validation.  I certainly always sought that from my family, and I never thought I would get their support when I told them I wanted to be an entrepreneur and create art.  I come from a family of doctors and engineers.  They live life by reason and logic.  I was shocked when they decided to support this idea, and wholeheartedly nonetheless.  

My Mom and Dad on my wedding day (I painted this in Dec 2014 as my Christmas gift to them)

Then there are my in-laws, who are wonderful and kind people, but I still feared they would think I was reckless to quit a good job and try my hand at art.  But they didn't.  Instead, they encouraged me.  They were some of my biggest advocates and shared with all their friends my work, and they shared with me stories of other successful artists they knew.  That kind of encouragement helped me get through my own self doubt.  

The Martins (on the day I became a Martin :) )  I painted this in Dec. 2014 as my Christmas gift to my Mother and Father in-law

Left to right:  Sheppard Martin (Blake's older brother), Blake (my husband), Jamie and Steve Martin (my in-laws) 

The most surprising of all, I received a gift several months ago from my grandparents.  When I opened it, it brought me to tears.  I spent a large part of my life with my grandparents, which is pretty traditional in Chinese culture.  I had utmost respect for them and always wanted them to be proud of me.  Art is not typically a career Chinese families encourage their children/grandchildren to pursue.  My uncle studied science, my Mom is a doctor, and my cousin is training to be a doctor.  I thought I would be considered the black sheep in my family for deciding to be an artist.  But when my uncle returned from China after visiting my grandparents, he brought me back two books - One was a coloring book of fashion illustrations, the other was a how-to guide to drawing cats.  They had found it at their local bookstore and insisted my uncle bring it back to me.  

The two books my grandparents gave me

As I sit to write this, I am filled with gratitude all over again.   I don't stop often enough to reflect on just how fortunate I am for my family, and now to have their complete support as I pursue my dreams.  This is one of the best aspects of what went right last year. 

With deepest gratitude, 


Finding My Way

As I approach the end of nine months in business and head into my fourth quarter, I am amazed at the journey thus far.   Now standing here in the intersection of past and future, I ask myself what has my business been about?  What am I trying to achieve?  What do I hope to accomplish? 

It all began in January 2015, when I first pitched my idea of creating a pet stationery line to my husband, I had no idea where that would take me.  Well, I still have not created that stationery collection I set out to do.  Instead, I painted many pet portraits for amazing new clients, and I never imagined the joy it would bring me!  I penned wedding envelopes, designed wedding crests, invitations, painted baby and bridal portraits among other things.  It has been quite the exciting, unpredictable and incredibly blessed adventure.  

My first illustrations in January and February


I painted this in February 2015 at the start of this journey. 

Looking back, sometimes I question if I got lost along the way.  I started out with pet stationery, and now I'm doing weddings.  I can't help at times compare myself to my peers in the industry and think, they really know what they are doing!  They have such a distinctive style, a theme, a real identity.  But when I look closer at my own path, there was one consistent (and amazingly blessed) thread.  Relationships.  

Relationships make this all possible, and all the worthwhile.  Loving relationships got me through moments of panic.  Encouraging relationships pushed me to keep going.  Forgiving relationships gave me opportunities for redos and extended deadlines.  Trusting relationships referred me new clients.  Generous relationships welcomed me into their network, and inspiring relationships challenged me to go beyond my limits, to be more and go bigger. 

Until now,  I was not actively aware of that driving force behind it all.  As I step forward from the past and into the future, I want to make relationships the foundation of my business, my compass and guiding principles - In how I serve my clients and in all decisions I make.  It will serve as the underpinning message to my art, encouraging us all to pass it on.   After months of searching for my identity, I'm grateful I found it in my mission statement below: 

Encouraging one another to live relationally through love and generosity in order to positively change the world. 

Thank you all for making it all possible.  I hope you keep me accountable in my mission as I continue to joyfully serve you all. 



With sincere gratitude,


The Valentine's Project - The Art of Giving

Happy Valentine's Day from Bam Bam, a sweet Shih Tzu from   Lucky Dog Animal Rescue . 

Happy Valentine's Day from Bam Bam, a sweet Shih Tzu from Lucky Dog Animal Rescue

Valentine's Day, a day retailers rush to fill their shelves with chocolates, flowers, jewelry and other luxury items.  Thus, emerging from the post holiday sales slump. For us, the consumers, we are making our new "wish list;" pulling out our credit cards again after a losing battle to our New Year's savings resolutions. Here's to a new year of spend, spend, spend.  

I was no exception.  For years, holidays became a time where I could give my loved ones MY wish list.  It was time to get my new spring bag, the pair of Manolos I had been eyeing ever since I received my Saks new delivery email, or the trip to none other than the romantic city of Paris.  According to the National Retail Federation who surveyed 6,417 consumers in January of 2014, the estimated spending for Valentine's Day this year will reach $17.3 BILLION.  That is a staggering amount of money to show love.  What is interesting to me is, once my presents are unwrapped, the plane touches ground in U.S. soil, I loose sight of the meaning of Valentine's Day and begin looking forward to...Mother's Day? I'm not even a Mom, I have a dog and a cat, but hey, that counts, right?  This year, I paused long enough to contemplate what really leads to a fulfilling life.  After reading a number of self-help books and listening to "happiness" podcasts, the consistent source of happiness is, wait for it... giving

So after kissing my wish list goodbye, I've decided to give the idea of giving a try. I challenge all of you to join me in the Valentine's Project. The idea is simple. On Valentine's Day, instead of receiving, spend the day giving. Find a cause you care about and take the day to volunteer, pay it forward to a stranger, or spend the day with a friend or family member who needs your company. Whatever it may be, spend this Valentine's Day giving your time and service. There is no price tag that can be attached to the act of kindness.  The impression it makes actually lasts longer than diamonds, and they say, diamonds are forever

On Feb. 15th, send me a short email to info@serenamartindesign (subject: Valentine's Project) with what you did for Valentine's Day. On Feb. 16th, for those of you who emailed me, I will enter your name in a raffle drawing. The winner of the drawing will receive a free print from my Valentine's Project series.  I will post a new watercolor each day on Facebook and Instagram, leading up to Valentine's Day. You can choose your favorite from among the seven.  Your act of kindness to others will be your gift to me, and my painting to you to say thank you, that will be my gift to you. 

Happy giving!