Remembering Loved Ones on Your Wedding Day

remembering loved ones

It’s the joyous occasion you’ve been dreaming of since you were a little girl: your wedding day. But, as the special approaches, perhaps you’re also feeling a tinge of sadness as you think of loved ones who will not be in attendance — those who have passed. Many brides have found meaningful ways to remember loved ones who have held a special place in their lives and hearts. Be it a parent, sibling, or grandparent, there are lots of ways to honor the deceased in your wedding ceremony or reception to make it something everyone will appreciate and remember.

Memorial Candles One of the easiest ways to remember a loved one is to light a memorial candle near the front of the church. You can also ask the officiant to speak a few words about your loved one or recite a favorite scripture or poem. If you choose to have a wedding program, you can include verbiage about the memorial candle and the person it honors.

Keepsake Charms Charms are the perfect choice if you want to keep your tribute low key. You can either carry or wear a special charm that reminds you of your loved one or, my personal favorite, fasten a small picture of them to your bouquet. You can find vintage-looking charms that allow you to insert a small picture at craft stores like Michael’s and Hobby Lobby. Not only will you have carried your loved one throughout the ceremony, but you will also have created a beautiful family keepsake to be cherished for generations.

The Empty Seat If your missing loved one is your mother or father, consider leaving his or her seat empty in the front row along the aisle. As you walk by, you can place a flower from your bouquet on the seat. Because this can make for an emotionally charged moment, it is not for every bride. Remember, above all else, your wedding day should be happy. If the empty seat evokes too much sadness, opt for something else.

The Wedding Program Guests love a wedding program. Through it, they get to know your family and friends, so it makes sense to include the deceased here as well. In fact, even if you are doing any of the above remembrances, it’s still a good idea to include mention of them in the program. It allows your guests to fully experience the occasion with you and they will appreciate the sweet token of remembrance.

Photo Display Create a display of treasured photos of your loved one. Arrange them prominently on a table near the guest book or wherever guests enter the church or reception hall. You won’t be able to display all of your photos, so pick a few favorites. If they are small, scan and enlarge them to 5×7 and 8×10 sizes. Shop discount stores for unique frames. Mix and match them for added interest. Guests are guaranteed to stop, look, linger, and remember with you.

Post Wedding Tribute A private graveside tribute can be a special moment for you and your new husband. Take your bouquet, or a specially designated bouquet or corsage, and place it on your loved one’s grave after the wedding. Alternatively, if you have a church wedding, you can donate your altar flowers for Sunday services in memory of your loved ones.

However you decide to remember your loved ones is up to you. Don’t let well-meaning family members pressure you into doing something you aren’t comfortable with. Most importantly, relax and know that your loved ones will be with you in spirit, smiling down on you on your joyous day.

What to Eat for Great Skin

healthy skin

As a bride, you’re going to have a natural glow on your big day. But what if you could take it to the max? You can, and it’s all about the foods you eat in the weeks or months leading up to your wedding date (and hopefully beyond).

Sticking to a diet that’s rich in whole foods will supply your body with the vitamins and minerals it needs to keep your skin looking fantastic. Foods to incorporate into your diet include:

Beets: Beets reduce inflammation in the body and help balance the hormones, which can cause acne.

Carrots: The anti-aging beta-carotene gives a boost to your sunscreen’s effectiveness, but don’t skip the SPF!

Mangoes: The vitamin A and antioxidants in mangoes help skin look younger and more refreshed.

Pumpkin seeds: The zinc in these can help clear up acne or make the skin tone appear more even. There’s also magnesium and those lovable omega-3’s to give you a glow.

Coconut oil: Eating coconut oil, a healthy fat with vitamins A and C as well as antioxidants, (or applying it directly to the skin) can promote moisture and elasticity. It can help repair the skin.

Olives or olive oil: Olive oil works to keep moisture in the skin, whether you eat it or apply it topically. Try using extra virgin olive oil on your salads for an extra helping of antioxidants.

Salmon: This fish helps the skin retain moisture and also promotes collagen growth. The omega-3s in salmon and other fish like tuna, catfish, pollock, anchovies, and oysters also reduce inflammation.

Nuts: Eating a variety of nuts can give you an extra dose of vitamin E, beta-carotene, selenium (especially in Brazil nuts), magnesium, copper, and B vitamins.

Green tea: Drink it, flavor your rice with it, or apply it topically. Green tea contains antioxidants (specifically EGCG) that help reduce DNA damage.

Eggs: Because of a combination of B vitamins, choline, protein, and lutein, eggs help the body make collagen and elastin. They also help reduce free radical damage to the skin.

Maple syrup: Maple syrup can enhance cell regeneration, and the antioxidants inside help neutralize free radicals.

Dark chocolate: Guess what? You don’t have to give up chocolate before your wedding day. Just choose dark chocolate, complete with antioxidants, and only have a square or two per day, at the most. It helps protect skin from sun damage.

Cucumbers: Not only are cucumbers loaded with water, they also contain antioxidants, vitamin C, and manganese (which helps create enzymes that boost antioxidant efficiency).

Melons: Like cucumbers, these are full of water so they assist with hydration. In addition, you get antioxidants, vitamins A and C, lycopene (which fight free radicals and block UV rays), beta-carotene, and anti-aging flavonoids.

Rhubarb: Full of antioxidants and lutein, rhubarb works against free radicals that come from exposure to the environment.

Berries: Berries are tiny little antioxidant powerhouses. Throw them on top of yogurt or cereal, or toss them into a smoothie.

Dark, leafy greens: You can’t go wrong with these. Cook them, use them in salads, or put them in smoothies when you’re always on the go between work and wedding planning (you can’t taste them once you add your other ingredients, like fruit, coconut water, or milk). You get vitamins like K, C, E, and B), minerals (iron, calcium, potassium, and magnesium), and phytonutrients (lutein and beta-carotene).

What to skip: Refined sugar, white bread, soda, artificial sweeteners (Stevia is fine), and other processed foods.

Eat clean! Don’t underestimate the power of getting half your body weight in ounces of water (for example, a 150-lb woman should have at least 75 ounces of water each day), exercising five to six days per week, and sleeping seven to nine hours every night. By increasing your intake of foods that benefit your skin, you’ll find an increase in energy and maybe even a more balanced mood, too.

DIY Wedding Favors: Everlasting Bouquet

FW Origami1L

By Virginia Bittinger

One of the most treasured keepsakes from your wedding day is the bouquet. If you want to keep your bouquet forever and have it look just as it did on your wedding day, then make one out of paper! Origami flowers are simple to make and the paper choices available for patterns and colors are endless. This would be a fun project to do with your bridal party. Each bridesmaid can make her own bouquet and will have a wonderful keepsake from your wedding.

Supplies:

  • Scrapbook paper, book pages, or sheet music
  • Hot glue gun
  • Paper clips
  • Embellishments such as buttons or vintage jewelry (optional)
  • Dowel
  • Fabric

Directions:

Cut the paper into squares. The larger the square, the larger the bouquet. In this case, we are using 6-inch squares. You will need 6 squares of paper to complete one flower.

 

To make each petal, start by folding the paper in half to create a triangle.

Fold both the right and left corners up to meet the top point.

Fold that section in half so that the center edge comes down to meet the outer edge.

Place your finger inside the pocket formed from the last fold to open and then press down.

Fold both tips down into the pocket so that you are back to having a square.

Fold bottom section of each side at the crease.

Join sides together using double sided tape to form the shape of a petal.

Once you have completed 6 petals, join them together using a hot glue gun to complete a flower. Secure petals together with paper clips until dry.

Glue the flowers together to form a sphere. Embellishments may be added to the center of the flowers for a more dramatic effect.

Cover a dowel with fabric and insert into the sphere and secure with hot glue to complete the bouquet.

This bouquet will not wilt or discolor, but will be an everlasting memento of a very special day!

 

Take Financial Steps Before Walking Down the Aisle

couple finances

Even before the ceremony, an engaged couple should take time to sit down and get serious about finances. Newlyweds need to take control of their finances or else the walk down the aisle will only lead to a rocky financial future.

In a marriage, it’s important for newlyweds to realize that they are making a financial commitment as well as an emotional commitment. Couples need to have the conversation sooner rather than later, so they can develop healthy personal financial habits together.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) offers the following advice for newlyweds planning their financial future together:

  • Let Financial Skeletons Out of the Closet. After marriage, any personal debt becomes “our debt.” It is important to sit down early when marriage is being discussed to discover what outstanding obligations exist on both sides. These could include car loans, school loans and credit card debt. Review your credit reports to get a better idea what both people are bringing to the marriage.
  • Build a Budget. After you’ve gotten a grasp on your debt, it’s time to build a monthly budget. Look at your monthly bills to create a realistic picture of how you spend. Discuss your long term goals—such as buying a house or car and having kids. Figure out how much money to set aside each month to reach those goals.
  • Designate a Driver But Travel Together. In order to avoid confusion, one person should be assigned to pay the bills every month. This doesn’t mean that the other person takes a back seat role in managing the finances. Have a discussion at least every month about your financial progress in order map your path and nip in the bud any bad spending habits.
  • Plan for Emergencies. Many young couples fail to save money to get them through hard times such as health problems and unexpected unemployment. Experts recommend you set aside three to six months of salary in a rainy day fund—ideally an interest-bearing account that can be easily accessed.
  • Save for the Future. Retirement may seem like a long way off to newlyweds, but setting aside money now means reaping big rewards later on. Take advantage of both employers’ retirement matching programs—if available—or set up individual retirement accounts.
  • Make a Vow to Be Savvy Consumers. Many families have had their life savings decimated after becoming a victim to fraud or identity theft. Check out BBB’s website to find trustworthy businesses, get educated on the red flags of fraud and learn how to protect your identity.

Courtesy of the Better Business Bureau

DIY Manicures for Brides

pretty hands

Even if you’re a no-frills kind of gal, chances are you’re going to want your hands and nails to look beautiful both before and during the wedding. Consider taking a “DIY” approach: you don’t need professional manicures to make your nails look beautiful, and there are ways to keep the skin on your hands looking youthful and gorgeous as well.

The first tip is to always keep a hand cream and cuticle oil nearby so you can moisturize when you need it. Try Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Hand Cream ($4.49, Drugstore.com) or Clinique Deep Comfort Hand and Cuticle Cream ($20, Clinique.com). If your cuticles need extra attention and you want to use a cuticle oil in addition to the rich creams, try argan oil if you already have some in your beauty arsenal. Sally Hansen Cuticle Oil ($5.59, Ulta) has vitamin E in it for additional skin benefits. Massage the oil into the cuticle each night before bed and then rub it across each nail for extra strength and to prevent breakage.

Hands are in the spotlight when you’re engaged because everyone wants to see your engagement ring. Your hands will also show up in quite a few wedding photos, up close and personal, so you want to make sure they look good. You’ll want to keep the nails painted, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune on professional manicures.

Trim your nails so they’re the length you want, then smooth out the edges with a nail file, rounding the edges just a bit so they’re less likely to catch on things and cause breakage. Buff the nail for a smooth finish.

Never cut your cuticles. Instead, push them back in the shower with a washcloth while they’re still damp (or just soak your fingertips in warm water for a few minutes if you’re not showering first). You can push the cuticles back more if needed with an orangewood cuticle stick before applying the polish. Massage the oil into the cuticles if you wish, let it set for a few minutes, and then wipe your nail clean with nail polish remover. From there, if you’re using a single shade, just apply your base coat, color, and a top coat to seal everything in. Once the nails are completely dry, apply cuticle oil to the nails and cuticles. Then clean up the edges with a cotton swab dipped in nail polish remover.

For a classic French manicure without the hassle of stickers or special manicure kits, choose an opaque white polish for the tips and a sheer peach or pink polish for the rest of the nail. Paint the tips of your nails white, but don’t worry about getting the perfect line yet. Once that has dried completely, take a flat, dense eye shadow brush or paintbrush with natural bristles, dip it into acetone nail polish remover and swoop in at the bottom edge of the white polish in a windshield-wiper motion to get a crisp, curved line across the tip of the nail in the width you prefer. Go over the whole nail, including the tip, with the other sheer shade you’ve selected. Then apply a top coat once it’s dry to prevent chipping.

Make using your hand cream and cuticle oil a daily habit in the days or weeks leading up to your wedding date, applying at least before bed. Try the DIY manicure at least the week before, just to make sure your polish choice is perfect for your skin tone and to give yourself a chance to perfect the technique. Doing your nails on the evening before your wedding may give you better results (if nervous, you may have shaky hands on the day of the ceremony), so let the manicure be a moment to relax and wind down before the big day.

 

Step-by-Step Survival Guide for Mother of the Groom

mother-of-the-groom-books

Loving the kids that made me Mother of the Groom

The older I get, the more I appreciate “experiential vs. intellectual” understanding. Books, blogs, lectures, experts and friends may prepare me for a task or opportunity but it’s not “real” until I live it. This has never been more true for me than last year when my son became engaged. Until that time, the phrase “mother of the groom” evoked vague and misty images of rehearsal dinners, bridal showers, corsages, and well, not much more.

In May of 2012, shortly after I first received the sisterly counsel to “shut up and wear beige,” a gradual concern began to build.  What, exactly, are the responsibilities of this new position? How does the process unfold? Who does what, and when and where does it happen? What, if anything, am I supposed to do? I had a lot of questions. Google and friends gave me lots of answers, but experience, as always, was the best teacher.

When planning this issue, it occurred to me that other future “MOGs” (Mothers of the Groom) may find themselves in similar positions. Consequently, what follows is a blend of “textbook” and “real”, a traditional-meets-contemporary, step-by-step primer for a role that, however ancient, is still new to someone every day. It isn’t comprehensive, but I hope it is helpful to you in the way it would have been for me a year ago.

What’s Important?
Emily Post advises remembering the three C’s in wedding planning: consideration, communication, and compromise. I heartily agree. It’s a great plan for any endeavor, but especially one in which everyone’s emotions are so potentially fragile.
Here’s my no-need-to-read further best advice: exercise the three C’s liberally. What you do in this tender time lays a founda-tion for the future, and what really matters is life after the big day. 

There aren't that many references for this job.

First Steps
Traditionally, when the engagement is announced, the groom’s mother is expected to reach out to the bride’s parents and offer congratulations. She may plan a gathering to introduce the two families and begin the “blending” process. Those are the old-fashioned first-things-first duties that I gathered from various sources.

Here’s what actually happened in our real-world, real-time scenario: the summer before our kids became engaged, the bride’s family attended a massive family cookout at our house.
So, “check” for introducing everyone to the bride’s family.
On the day of the proposal, both mothers, and a few hundred other people, secretly knew “what was up.” Many prayers went up before, finally, a flurry of texts, Facebook messages and excited phone calls poured forth the good news and congratulations.
I feel pretty good about saying I successfully completed the first duties. 

Step Two
At this moment, you’re beginning to realize you don’t know what you should be doing. Here’s my suggestion: Get your guest list ready.

You don’t have to know how large or small this event will be to begin compiling the names and addresses of people you most hope to share in this moment with your family. It is a small step you can take immediately and one that will make you feel like you’re accomplishing something right away. And believe me, you are.
This is your list. Your son may have his own list, the bride will have a list, the couple will have an “our friends” list, the bride’s mom, of course, and others will have lists too. Be prepared to cut-to-fit this list mercilessly. That means you begin with the people you can’t imagine not being there and continue through to those less likely to be included.
I had a wonderful experience with my son and daughter-in-law regarding invitations. Very graciously, I was asked how many I needed and then was given what I asked for. My son and his fiance came over one evening and we addressed them together. It was not only a pleasant visit but a great way to get the work done.
Pray that it works this way for you, but be prepared if it doesn’t. I’ve heard a few hair-curling stories about very different scenarios from other MOGs. Seriously different, as in “no” (yes, I do mean “zero”) invitations. I don’t know how to advise you in those cases, except to remember what’s most important: life after the big day. 

Steps Three through 3,000
You’ll need those three C’s in this phase.

Google was a big help

Here’s the tradition: the bride’s family invites guests and hosts the wedding. The groom’s family hosts the rehearsal dinner. Certain flowers are paid for by her family, others by the groom, who also pays the marriage license fee and the officiant. This is more or less what you’ll find in your research.

I suspect few weddings strictly adhere to these protocols, however. In most cases today, parents on either or both sides may join the couple themselves in sharing many of these responsibilities. Grandparents, siblings, and other family and friends may help out as well. This was certainly true in our situation.
The key here, in my opinion, is to be flexible but practical about your own resources. Take a realistic inventory of your time, energy and finances before diving into these waters.
Then, my best advice is to be available and helpful, but not intrusive. It is an honor to be asked to help. Say yes when you can.
In our case, three months after the engagement commenced, the couple set a date that was three months later. Suddenly, we had 90 every-minute-counts days to get it done. Since I work best with a fast-encroaching deadline, this was good for me. Not stress-free, but good. The bride’s mom, who likes to make color-coded spreadsheets of lists within lists, was in hyperdrive. I learned in this process what a wonderful administrator she is and thank goodness. We needed one.
The rehearsal dinner is officially your territory. Officially. In reality, the bride and groom, the bride’s mom and even other people may want to have a lot of say in this. You’ll have to roll with that.
Thankfully, in my case, it was my baby. I did, however, coordinate it carefully with the overall event. There is only one rule to remember here: never, ever, be grander than the reception. Never. Ever.
And even if it is your party, be sure your future daughter-in-law likes what you’re planning. Tell her what you have in mind. Get her input. Ask your son what he’d like as well. I was careful to include foods I knew he loved for this part of the festivities, and I nixed a menu item the bride said didn’t agree with her.
I relished planning this party as much as anything I’ve ever done in my life. It was pure joy, an utter distraction amid no small amount of chaos. I shopped on Friday evenings for little details, because we all know that’s where the love is. With my husband and step-daughter, over Sunday morning breakfast, I very seriously discussed what sort of filler to use in the hurricane lamps centerpieces. As a result, it was actually my husband who found exactly what we needed. Cracked corn, right there on the shelf at the hardware store. 

Mini-steps that can be missteps
Showers: These are non-negotiable. Unless you or an immediate family member is hospitalized or in the mortuary, attend the ones you’re invited to. Be on time, polite, sincere, courteous, loving, unfailingly gracious… all the things your aunts and mothers taught you.

I was 40 minutes late. Don’t be me. Leave an hour early and know where you’re going. Look at the GPS route before you leave home.
Also, it is appropriate for you to host a shower for your future daughter-in-law if you desire, especially one that includes your family, according to many of the articles I read. In our case, time and geographic challenges made this impossible. Had it been different, I would have enjoyed doing this.
What to Wear: You don’t have to wear beige, but you do need to blend in nicely in the background here. Protocol is to allow the mother of the bride to select her dress first, and then to be sure you wear a different color, at least. Preferably, choose a very different style as well. My advice? Be “less.” Shoot for understated, but elegant.
In real life, for us, the bride’s mom changed her mind about what she was wearing the day of the wedding, or the day before, I’m not really sure which. Thankfully, my color choice was still okay. Whew! 

Last-minute Steps
RSVPs. If you’ve ever invited anyone to anything, you know this is a challenging area. You can be a big help to the bride and her mom by keeping a running list of the guests you know are attending. Consider reaching out to the no-responses on your list to confirm their status as the day draws nearer.

Very Last-minute Steps
This one’s easy: don’t panic. :-)

Whatever you’ve done or not done, the moment is here, the people you love most are here. You be here too, in the “now,” not in your head working through some checklist of to-do’s that don’t matter anymore. 

We danced to Israel Kamakawiwo’ole's version of 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow'

Dance Steps
Dancing with your son at his wedding is one of those once-in-a-lifetimes. You’ve done your job. Enjoy this moment.

The “manual” says you should help choose a song for this. That didn’t happen for me. I also did not get to practice ahead of time, something I repeatedly asked to do. Not getting to practice, it turns out, was good practice for not being number one anymore. You’ll get your chance to practice this too.
When the moment arrived, I had no idea what the song would be or whether this kid we raised could even lead me.
And it was perfect. Priceless. Unforgettable.
He picked a new version of an old song, one I have loved all my life, and the surprise made it all the more special.
On the dance floor, we talked about the perfect day, his beautiful wife, and how we were going to handle Christmas. And the babies. It was just grand. 

Next Steps
Now that I’m a mother-in-law, my goal is to keep those three C’s handy. And to add a fourth: calendar. A flexible one.

The Busy Woman’s Guide to Wedding Planning

busy bride shutterstock_56067820

I would happily relive my wedding day but never the year leading up to it. I planned our event while juggling class, working 30 hours a week and enduring a sudden death in my husband’s family. Needless to say, I was ready to throw my hands up and scream “I’m done!” during the months leading up to the big day.

If this madness sounds familiar, try not to get weighed down by the drama and details of it all. Consider the following tips for saving time and staying sane during the most complicated party you’ll ever plan.

1. Prioritize
The easiest way to cut down on the planning process is to reduce the number of things to plan. Prioritize what you and your future spouse really want for the wedding. Do the invitations need to reflect the latest innovations in origami? Are programs really necessary? Weddings are pretty commonplace, after all — most people know what’s going to happen. Not only will this save you time, but it will save you money, too.

2. Register Online
Online registries are all the rage these days, reflecting the needs and lifestyles of modern couples. Avoid spending your precious weekend in the aisles of Bed Bath & Beyond and create a wedding gift registry at CardAvenue.com. The site allows you to select gift cards from hundreds of favorite retailers, restaurants and even airlines. It’s as easy as creating a registry, selecting the cards, and sharing the link with friends. Done and done!

3. Delegate
People close to you enjoy being part of your big day, so let them! I relied heavily on my mom during planning and she was thrilled to be involved. Similarly, a good friend of mine asked me to set up her reception space while she prepared herself for the aisle. Granted, her meticulous instructions took time to create, but ultimately it allowed her to focus on what’s most important – getting ready for the ceremony.

4. Get Pinning
The days of shopping for wedding magazines and scouring wedding websites are over, thanks to Pinterest. Ideas ranging from the highly traditional to the totally off-the-wall are all available in one easy-to-use website. Better yet, there are several DIY ideas that help you stay within budget and make your day truly unique. No time for DIY? Refer to tip 3 – that’s what bridesmaids are for!

5. Go All-Inclusive
Depending on your budget, couples might find it easier to select a venue that offers access to music, catering, rooms to get ready in, and all the other details that make wedding planning chaotic. The all-inclusive convenience will likely jack up the price of the venue, but if you can afford it you’ll save a lot of time.

6. Keep it Simple
Avoid pouring over dress styles and let your girls select their own dresses in your preferred color palette. Ditch the formal dinner in favor of a buffet to bypass seating arrangements and dish preferences. And finally, make the reception as carefree as possible — the big moment is over and it’s time to relax and enjoy time with your guests.

7. Think Small
It’s a fact of life — it’s much easier to organize a small group of people than it is a large one. Keeping the guest list small has multiple benefits, not the least of which is saving you money. After the wedding, send a marriage announcement to everyone in your extended network, thanking them for their well wishes.

8. Stay Local
From food to flowers, keeping your vendor selections local will reduce the headache associated with coordinating out-of-town services. It’s much easier to have a friend swing by a shop to pick something up than it is to order a last-minute necessity and hope it gets where it needs to be on time. TheKnot.com’s Local Vendors page offers easy access to nearby vendors of all kinds.

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Kendal Perez is a frugal fashionista and bargain shopper who helps fellow shopaholics find hassle-free ways to save money. As the deals expert for FreeShipping.org, Kendal has the resources to be an extreme couponer but prefers a less complicated approach to staying in-budget. Kendal has been quoted in such media outlets as CNN Money, TIME Moneyland, FOX, ABC, NPR and Kiplinger Personal Finance. For savings tips and more information, visit HassleFreeSavings.com.

10 Cheap Ways to Throw a Unique Wedding

wedding_shutterstock_66686689

No one wants a cookie-cutter wedding. The day you tie the knot should be as unique as your individual personalities. There’s a quote that says, “The universe is not made of atoms. It’s made of tiny stories.” Just as you’re coming together as man-and-wife, allow your creativity to spill into the details you’re sharing on your wedding day.

1. Craft a story.
Telling your story as a couple as you approach the altar is a powerful way to connect with your guests and chronicle your journey to this point. Think of every element of your wedding — from the invites to the wedding favors — as a chance to craft a story from beginning to happily ever after. Don’t be afraid to incorporate religious or ethnic touches that are special to you.

2. Pick a theme.
A well-executed theme can add loads of personality to your wedding day without looking cheesy — like these Lego, hockey and 50s-themed weddings. By picking a theme that’s already a hobby or interest, you’re likely to already own a lot of materials you can incorporate into the decor.

3. Pick a repeating element.
If a theme is a bit much for your taste, focus on one element you can repeat throughout the printed materials, decor and attire for big impact, like these feathers or parasols.

4. Go handmade.
Making decor by hand ensures that the look of your wedding is one-in-a-million. Consider paper or fabric flowers (like these cuties) or buy a custom wedding stamp to personalize all your paper goods.

5. Shop vintage.
Shopping for vintage or thrift items for your wedding and reception may save you some time and headache over everything handmade. A vintage wedding dress customized with modern accessories could be the thing that makes your wedding standout and memorable.

6. Register for gift cards.
Create a wedding registry online at CardAvenue and register for the the stores you most like to shop at nationwide, instead of just one or two generic ones that offer wedding registries.

7. Mix-and-match.
Stick closely to your theme but allow variations to create a unique look and feel. Think non-matching bridesmaids dresses and a menagerie of vintage vases of differing sizes in the same hue as centerpieces.

8. Re-imagine the guest book.
Set up an iPad to record or photograph guests as they enter, or set up something unique for your guests to sign that you’ll incorporate into your home decor later (a signed vintage map from your location, smooth rocks you can use in a clear vase). In our fall wedding we scattered colored paper leaves on the welcome table and pens and used the leaves in our wedding scrapbook.

9. Festive food.
Marry at a non-traditional time or place and you can pull off a unique reception for cheap. Think coffee bar & pastries for a mid-morning wedding, or a Memorial Day wedding on the lake for a laid-back barbecue dinner.

10. Send off in style.
Forget bubbles, sparklers and bird seed (some venues won’t even allow them due to the cleanup involved). Offer wrapped candy for tossing (which the kids are sure to clean up without complaining), release balloons or have your guests create a human arch or a large paper banner for you run through. For a nighttime wedding, fireworks or glow sticks create a fun and colorful goodbye.

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Weddings expert Cara Davis is the author of Cheap Ways to Tie the Knot and blogs from her home in Orlando, FL, about cheap ways to spend and save at CheapWaysTo.com.

Brides: Buyer Beware

bride_money_shutterstock_44584474

With today’s weddings costing thousands of dollars for vendors ranging from florists to caterers, brides and their families can find the process of evaluating firms overwhelming. The BBB can help.  A bride wants her wedding day to go off without a hitch. While there’s no way to guarantee that mistakes won’t happen, dealing with reputable companies reduces the chance of a wedding disaster.

Beware of one-day specials, discounts for advance payment and hidden costs that you may encounter as you meet potential vendors. Read contracts and ask questions before you sign anything. Be wary of vendors that ask you to pay most of the fees in advance. Ask about refund policies on deposits or prepayments.

Some common problems that brides encounter and tips for avoiding them include:

• Strange, senseless or unexpected fees. Some caterers, hotels or reception venues try to charge extra for “plate splitting,” “cake-cutting” or “corkage” fees, especially if you bring in a cake or liquor purchased from another source. Ask whether any fees apply beyond the cost per person, gratuities or room rental, if applicable.
• Dresses that don’t measure up. Brides have complained to the BBB about bridal shops ordering the wrong sizes and colors of gowns as well as dresses that arrive too late for timely alterations. Make sure your order specifies new merchandise, sized to fit you and your bridesmaids. Call the shop to remind the staff of your schedule if you don’t hear by the promised time.
• Wedding transportation problems. Complaints about limousine service include poor customer service and rigid cancellation policies. Get details in writing. Ask how the company handles problems if you aren’t satisfied and what they will charge if you need the vehicle longer on your wedding night. Don’t pay the entire amount in advance.
• Musician switch. Brides shouldn’t rely on a web site, demo tape or phone conversation when hiring a band or other music service. Find out where you can hear the musicians play before you hire them. Ask who will actually perform at the reception and get a written commitment from the band or musician, including the amount of time they will play and costs to extend the time the night of the event.
• Photographer issues. A common complaint from brides is that the photographer they hired doesn’t show up for the wedding or fails to deliver pictures until months after the wedding. Find out when and how pictures will be delivered, whether you will have the option of getting all the images on a DVD or CD, how much time you will have to choose the pictures and whether other members of your family or wedding party will have access to the pictures.
• Floral changes. Fresh flowers are a perishable commodity and the final bouquet or arrangements may need to change depending on what’s available on the wedding day. Make sure you spell out a minimum size or number of stems in each bouquet or arrangement. Ask how the florist will handle any last-minute substitutions and charges, especially if the value of the flowers actually used is markedly different from what you had agreed upon.
• Bridal gown preservation. Some bridal shops or other businesses sell bridal gown preservation packages, including cleaning and a box, for $250 or more. Many of these packages are no more than regular dry-cleaning and a cardboard box, which may not be acid-free. Check with a reputable cleaner on the cost of cleaning your gown after the wedding. The cleaner or another supplier may be able to sell you an acid-free box and tissue at a more reasonable price.
• Wedding memorabilia. Monogrammed napkins, decorations, swizzle sticks, pens or other souvenirs often are marketed as a way to enhance the event or remember the wedding. Resist the temptation to buy stuff that may be overpriced, of poor quality or that adds needlessly to the total bill.

The Better Business Bureau provides background on the business practices of more than 4 million firms nationwide. When searching for a company to assist with your wedding, consider using a BBB Accredited Business. BBB Accredited Businesses have agreed to adhere to BBB’s Standards of Trust, BBB’s Code of Advertising Standards and to respond to any complaints filed by BBB.

 

What a Girl Wants: The Registry Essentials

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Wedding registries, like wedding dresses, come is every size, shape, and form imaginable. Delicately created to fit the needs of every bride’s individual lifestyle and situation, gift registries can range from the simple request of “monetary gifts for our honeymoon” to an entire household overhaul. Throw in your fiancé’s perspective (Do we really need fine china?), and it’s easy to get overwhelmed.

If you and your husband-to-be are in the process of getting a place together, then most likely you will want to register with a home goods store such as Bed, Bath & Beyond, Crate & Barrel, Pottery Barn or Macy’s. Starting with the basics, you will want to stock up on the necessary items for the kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom. Don’t be afraid to ask for first-class brands for your essentials—now is the time to get quality gifts that last.

For the kitchen basics, search for premium cookware and bakeware to add to your registry wish list. Even if you haven’t had much experience in the kitchen, you will find out that having quality cookware will make a difference in your recipe results. Invest in your cookware wisely and care for it properly to ensure it will stand the tests of time.

Basic kitchen cookware should include a saucepan, an omelet pan, a skillet or fry pan, a dutch oven, and a stock pot. Aluminum cookware is a great choice due to its lightweight feel and excellent heat conduction. Stainless steel cookware is highly durable and scratch-resistant, but a poorer conductor of heat. Chemical non-stick finishes will make both aluminum and stainless steel pots and pans easy and quick to clean.

Bakeware generally follows the same rule – the better the bakeware, the better the chance that the baked goods will turn out right. Some things to keep in mind when searching for quality bakeware include the piece’s durability and construction. In general, the heavier the piece, the more evenly distributed the heat. This means that it will cook evenly in the oven, with fewer “hot spots.” Basic bakeware items to ask for include a cookie sheet, casserole, muffin pan, pizza pan, cake pan, and roasting pan.

One of the best investments that can be made during the early stages of marriage is a high-quality cutlery set. Choose a set that can be used for years to come, allowing you to carve Easter hams and Thanksgiving turkeys. Search for hand-forged knives (formed from a single piece of metal) made with full tang construction (the end of the knife runs the full length of the handle) as marks of a quality craftsmanship. The all-important blade should be constructed of high carbon stainless steel. Essential cutlery items include a 3” paring knife, a Chef’s pairing knife, an 8” bread knife, an 8” slicing knife, an 8” Chef’s knife, and a blade sharpener.

As newlyweds, the bedroom should be the sanctuary where you can relax, whisper to one another, and dream together. Choosing bedding basics and towels that are right for your new nest is important and should be well researched before being added to your registry. Most linen stores suggest that you have at least three sets of sheets for your bed and rotate them to reduce wear. The most popular choice in sheet fabric is cotton because it “breathes.” Thread counts can vary in options, but choosing a count higher than 300 will guarantee longer wear and durability.

Cotton is also the most popular choice for bathroom towels, due to their softness and water absorption levels. Egyptian cotton towels are soft, silky, and practically lint-free. Velour towels are softer but less absorbent, and embellished fingertip towels are often a great way to dress up a bathroom.

When it comes to building a basic registry, choose quality products you need (and want) instead of on-the-spot impulse gifts. Remember, your tastes may change over time, but high-quality essentials will last for years to come.

 

 

The Bride’s Quick Guide to Comparing Registry Incentives, Completion Programs, and Special Offers

Dillards

Dillards allows you to purchase items on your registry at 20% off the regular price. Offer starts 60 days after your wedding date and is valid for two months. Purchases must be made at a Dillard’s store location. Items qualifying for this offer must have been on your registry at the time of your wedding; add-ons do not qualify. The offer is for all items on your registry except for small electrics, which can be purchased at 10% off the regular price.

Pottery Barn

Pottery Barn offers 10% off any items remaining on your registry, as well as any items you wish to add. You may take advantage of this discount as many times as you would like for up to six months.

Crate & Barrel

Crate & Barrel offers a 10% off registry completion card, good for six months after your event toward multiple gift registry and other purchases in any Crate and Barrel store or online at www.crateandbarrel.com

Macy’s

Macy’s credit card holders can enroll in the Registry Star Rewards program to earn 10 % on Macy’s purchases made through your wedding day, and receive 5% percent rewards dollars on purchases made from your registry. After your wedding, you receive a 10 % completion discount on most items.

Bed, Bath & Beyond

Offers incentive gifts when guests purchase qualifying items from your registry. They also offer a 10% completion program anytime up to three months after your event.

 

Bridal Dress, Royal Style

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How the royal wedding influenced the latest bridal trends

Although the latest Brides American Wedding Study shows the average cost of a wedding in 2010 was $26,501, a decrease of 5 percent from 2009, weddings continue to be big business. But many couples are opting to cut the guest list instead of big ticket items like wedding gowns.

In fact, the average wedding gown cost $1,289 in 2010, a 20 percent increase over 2009, according to the study. This is no surprise to the millions who were glued to their television sets this past April during the most talked-about wedding since the 1981 royal wedding of Lady Diana to Prince Charles. Many brides are now emulating the elegant lace gown worn by Catherine Middleton, now the Duchess of Cambridge.

In addition to beautiful lace, the newest trends in wedding gowns include color, soft sleeves, short hemlines and eco-friendly materials.

Whether it is Chantilly, Alencon, duchesse, guipure, or ribbon, lace has become one of the hottest trends this year. “Designers at all price points have debuted collections featuring full frothy skirts, wildflowers and lace used in both traditional and modern ways,” says Kate Campbell, department chair of Fashion & Retail Management at The Art Institute of Tampa, a branch of Miami International University of Art & Design. “This particular trend parallels the more feminine, elegant trends we see in fashion everywhere – including more fitted and ladylike styles reminiscent of Grace Kelly and Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy.”

While not for everyone, the use of color in wedding gowns has been growing in popularity. Rich and vibrant, or more subdued, color in bridal wear is everywhere. Some brides choose soft pastel colors, such as blush, rose or skin-tone. Others opt to wear vibrant hues of lavender, green and deep pink. Less bold brides are more likely to use hints of accent color on sashes, bows, embroidery, hems, necklines or beading. “The bride who chooses to add color to her dress is fashion forward and confident – it’s not for the faint of heart,” says Amber Chatelain, lead faculty for the Fashion & Retail Management program at The Art Institute of Tennessee – Nashville, a branch of The Art Institute of Atlanta.

Another interesting new trend in bridal wear is short gowns, especially for brides choosing destination and beach weddings. While they may be short in length, these dresses are not short on style. Some offer sophisticated laces, chic feathers or multilayered organza mini-skirts.

Soft sleeves are enjoying a comeback. Designers have debuted soft, romantic sleeves, including traditional cap sleeves in florals and tulle, modern silhouettes using vintage elements, sequin fringe and flutter sleeves, and romantic off-the-shoulder versions. “The softness and elegance of the sleeves in bridal wear mirrors today’s general fashion trends, where designers are highlighting the elegance and beauty of the female form in very soft ways,” says Charlene Parsons, who heads the fashion programs at Miami International University of Art & Design.

Eco-friendly options have also increased in popularity. “There are now numerous eco-friendly designers whose sole business is to create wedding dresses made with earth-friendly fabrics and materials, using techniques that are in harmony with the earth,” says Crystal Shamblee, department chair of Fashion Design for The Art Institute of Philadelphia. Secondhand and vintage wedding dresses are another eco-friendly choice.

Whatever fashion trends a bride chooses, one that will never go out of style is a gown that fits well, is figure flattering and makes the bride feel like she’s the most beautiful woman in the world on her big day.

To learn more about The Art Institutes visit www.artinstitutes.edu.

Dream (Drive-to) Destinations

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One of the best perks of living in the Southeast is that you don’t need to worry about the ever-rising costs of airfare as you plan your honeymoon budget. Spectacular travel destinations abound between the Appalachian mountains and the Gulf Coast, and they’re a drivable distance away. Here are a few of our favorites.

Sunny Days

Located on Northwest Florida’s Gulf Coast, Sandestin is a 2,400-acre destination resort for all seasons. A member of the Beaches of South Walton, the resort has more than seven miles of beaches and pristine bay front, four championship golf courses, 15 world-class tennis courts, 19 swimming pools, a 98-slip marina, a fitness center and spa, meeting space, and The Village of Baytowne Wharf, a popular pedestrian village featuring shopping, dining, nightlife and events.  You can choose from a world of 30 neighborhoods with 1,400 condominiums, villas, town homes and a wide variety of hotel accommodations – so whether you prefer to stay in a beautiful condo with a beach view or a quiet, secluded villa, Sandestin has something to fit every your preferences. For additional information, visit www.sandestin.com or call 1-866-91-BEACH.

 

 

Private Paradise

Charlotte Harbor and the Gulf Islands, Florida, is an off-the-beaten track, romantic getaway on the Southwest Gulf coast, halfway between Sarasota and Fort Myers. If your idea of the perfect beach is more “Castaway” than “Spring Break,” you’ll delight in 28 miles of uncrowded, shell-strewn beaches, where wildlife outnumbers humans. Eighty percent of Charlotte Harbor’s shoreline is protected from development – no high-rises allowed – so its open, scenic vistas are plentiful. If you’re looking to go beyond the beach, you can enjoy the area’s award-winning sailing, fishing, and golfing, as well as nearly 200 miles of Blueway trails for kayaking, miles of biking trails and protected wildlife preserves. The nearby town Englewood offers beachside dining and boutique shopping. In historic and hip Punta Gorda, with its cobblestone streets and gaslight-style streetlamps, art galleries and nearly 60 privately-owned restaurants await. Accommodations include romantic boutique hotels overlooking Charlotte Harbor, Palm Island Resort, a magical castaway beach resort accessible only by ferry, as well as vacation rentals on the beach and nestled in golf communities. For more information, visit www.CharlotteHarborTravel.com.

 

 

Scenic and Serene

At 3,600 feet above sea level, tucked into the North Carolina Blue Ridge Mountains, High Hampton Inn & Country Club provides a breathtaking setting for a dream honeymoon.  Surrounded by mountains, lush green landscapes, and towering forests, the Inn is the perfect destination for an unforgettable romantic mountain retreat.  With a European spa, miles of hiking trails, golf and tennis, no couple will be bored!  The resort even has a romantic Honeymoon Cottage, set away from the rest of the property to give a new husband and wife some privacy.  As its name suggests, The Honeymoon Cottage is the ultimate escape.  Situated on its own private lake away from the rest of the property, the rustic cottage features chic handmade mountain furnishings, inviting and plush down bedding, and a stone fireplace perfect for relaxing.  Visit www.highhamptoninn.com for more information.

 

 

The Luxurious Life

In 1895, the Vanderbilts completed their 250-room French château Biltmore Estate, one of the largest and most luxurious in the country, in the mountains near Ashevillle, North Carolina. Today, honeymooners can indulge in the experience of vacationing like a Vanderbilt with exquisite accommodations, relaxed elegance, luxurious spa services, and fine dining. Romantic made-for-two activities include private carriage rides, couples massages and spa treatments, and private horseback riding.  Couples can wine and dine together with special Biltmore Winery tours such as the Red Wine & Chocolate Seminar or the Biltmore Bubbles tour and then linger over delicious meals at one of the various restaurants on property. Couples can customize their own vacation with a romantic package deal offered through the Inn on Biltmore Estate. For more information, visit www.biltmore.com.