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A Sense Of Place January 24, 2017

Destination weddings have become popular for a variety of reasons, but not all couples can jet off to an exotic locale for their nuptials. Sometimes budget and logistical restraints make a destination wedding unfeasible. But couples who are still dreaming of a picturesque wedding at an exciting destination need not despair; they can bring the "destination" home. There are plenty of ways for a wedding celebration to incorporate inspiration drawn from a faraway place, whether it's a favorite vacation spot, the location of the planned honeymoon trip, or simply somewhere the couple dreams of visiting. Here are a few examples of how brides and grooms can translate a sense of place into the decorations, attire, cuisine, entertainment, and other elements of their special day.

Hawaii

A wedding that draws inspiration from the Hawaiian Islands' legendary beaches, lush vegetation, and well-known tiki culture will offer a fun, comfortable vibe.

Flowers - Select tropical flowers such as orchids, birds of paradise, or hibiscus for the bouquets of the bride and bridesmaids. Skipping the bouquets and having each member of the wedding party wear a floral lei would also be particularly appropriate, since leis are traditionally given in Hawaii in honor of important events - including weddings.

Decorations - For centerpieces, opt for tropical flowers or potted mini palm trees or embrace island kitsch and decorate tables with vintage hula dancer dashboard dolls. Turn a surfboard into a functional decoration by affixing photos or table assignments to it like a bulletin board. Or, turn a surfboard into an innovative guest book alternative by inviting guests to write their warm wishes for the couple directly onto the board with a permanent marker. If your wedding is outdoors, play up the tropical ambiance by ringing the space with tiki torches.

Food and beverages - One sip of a mai tai will transport attendees straight to the Aloha State. Guava and pineapple juice make for tasty nonalcoholic options. A pig roast will play up the luau feel of the reception, and pineapples, mangoes, papayas, and other tropical fruit can be incorporated into the menu. Coconut and Kona coffee flavors will also make guests feel like they're dining in a tropical paradise. For dessert, opt for pineapple upsidedown cake or white chocolate macadamia nut cake. Another option would be eschewing the cake in favor of a Hawaiian shave ice stand, where guests can enjoy an icy treat with their choice of tropical flavors.

Mexico

A festive fiesta with Mexican-inspired details will ensure that members of the wedding party and guests have a great time while celebrating the happy couple.

Decorations - Cheery fiesta decor will set the stage for the celebration. Beautiful picado tissue paper banners can be liberally strung around the reception space, and colorful folk art pieces can be incorporated into centerpieces. In honor of Mexico's strong tradition of observing Day of the Dead, couples may even consider honoring the dearly departed members of their families through a traditional Dia de los Muertos altar, complete with photos, flowers, and food offerings.

Food and beverages - The popular cuisine of Mexico provides couples with numerous options for wedding day fare. Set up a taco bar where guests can create their own tacos from a choice of beef, chicken, or beans, as well as a variety of toppings. Or hire a food truck that serves tacos and other Mexican-style food items to be on-site. For beverages, offer guests margaritas and Mexican brands of beer. Consider providing a dessert buffet offering tres leches cake, churros with chocolate sauce, and - of course - Mexican wedding cookies.

Entertainment - Couples can hire a real mariachi band to play at the reception. Guests will love dancing to mariachi standards, as well as a modern love song or two, performed mariachi-style. Piñatas make for another fun form of reception entertainment. Since piñatas are available in a variety of styles and colors, couples can go with classic shiny star-shaped orbs or find a piñata that showcases their love of a particular sport or animal. Allow the children in attendance to get the first whack before letting the adults join in the fun. The bride and groom can even give guests a mini piñata as a wedding favor.

Swiss Alps

Couples can play up the beauty of a winter wedding and give themselves and their guests a mountaintop experience by embracing a Swiss Alps theme.

Attire - To help the bride's and bridesmaids' dresses to stand up to the winter chill, top them with a faux fur or knit wraps. Stylish coats or sporty parkas will also keep wedding party members toasty and warm in chilly weather. If you'll be taking photos outdoors, outfit the members of your wedding party in matching scarves and mittens to ward off winter chills.

Decorations - Deck out your reception venue to look like a posh Alpine ski chalet by incorporating cozy, rustic elements. A fireplace with a crackling fire will set the ambiance, and vintage snow sports gear such as skis, snowshoes, toboggans, and ice skates can be used as decorations. Add a sense of warmth to the room by using woolen blankets instead of tablecloths or runners. Purchased or DIY snow globes featuring winter scenes make for charming centerpieces. Other decorative ideas include displaying a collection of Swiss cowbells or even an authentic alphorn.

Food and beverages - Whether as the main meal or an appetizer, you can't go wrong with classic cheese fondue. Consider offering the Berner platte (the Bernese platter), a regional specialty that consists of an assortment of meats and sausages, along with juniper-flavored sauerkraut, potatoes, and dried beans. A main course could be Alplermagronen, or "herdsman's macaroni," made from cheese, potatoes, onions, macaroni, and milk or cream. Help revelers stay cozy and warm by offering mulled wine and hot chocolate. Speaking of chocolate, the Swiss are known for theirs, so be sure to play up that ingredient when dessert time arrives by serving Swiss chocolate mousse in addition to an array of decadent pastries. A wedding favor that sends guests home with a few pieces of Swiss chocolate is also sure to be popular.

Japan

Borrowing from Japan's ancient traditions will create a truly lovely and elegant fête.

Attire - The bride and bridesmaids can incorporate the Japanese theme into pre-wedding preparations by donning kimono-style robes featuring bright, floral patterns while styling their hair and makeup. Kimono-style design elements and silk accents can be incorporated into the wedding attire, as well.

Decorations - Go heavy on the cherry blossoms, incorporating them into the bridal bouquets and reception centerpieces. Scores of paper cranes made with beautiful paper also make for charming decorations, whether sitting on tables or strung up and hung in garland form. Paper lanterns, Japanese-style fans, and oil-paper umbrellas can also be used as decorative elements, and miniature versions can make a unique and memorable wedding favor for guests.

Food and beverages - The traditional Japanese tea ceremony is highly revered in Japanese culture, so providing guests with a selection of teas (hot or iced) is a natural choice. So too is serving sushi, though be sure to include rolls featuring all-cooked ingredients or separate Japanese noodle dishes for guests with less adventurous palates. A Kobe beef dish is another option for those who dislike sushi. Other popular Japanese imports that can be served include sake cocktails and mochi, daifuku, and other sweets.

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Quite A Sight In White January 24, 2017

Many brides walk down the aisle in white gowns, which have long been considered the most traditional choice. Wearing white can be a frightening prospect to some brides, who fear that white clearly shows every blemish or stain. Protecting a white dress so it looks pristine on the wedding day takes a little effort, but such efforts are well worth it.

Before The Wedding

When trying on gowns, brides-to-be should make sure their hands are clean and they are not wearing any makeup. They may want to wear a thin pair of gloves so any oils from their hands are not transferred to the gown. Anyone who helps the bride-to-be in and out of the gown should also make sure their hands are clean or covered.

The bride-to-be should try on the gown sparingly before the wedding, ideally only for fittings. When she is not trying on the gown, she should store it in a protective garment bag until it needs to be steamed just prior to the wedding. Some seamstresses or tailors will hold onto the gown until the final alterations are done and then steam out any wrinkles prior to delivery.

Wedding Day

On the day of the wedding, resist the urge to handle the gown early in the day. The gown should be the last thing the bride puts on during wedding day preparations.

Wait until just before departing for the service to get fully dressed in the gown. Again, the bride should make sure her hands and the hands of her helpers are clean. The bride should ask for help so that the dress can be placed gingerly over her head so no makeup gets on the gown. Some brides may find it helpful to make lipstick application their last step in getting ready, as bright lipstick on a white gown can be especially difficult to conceal.

Pack an emergency stain-fighting kit to bring along to the ceremony and reception. This way, should a minor stain occur, it can be treated right away. The bride should use the kit sparingly because she may not know exactly how a cleaning product will react with the gown's fabric, and overuse may make the stain worse. If possible, test the product on a small swatch of gown fabric prior to use.

After The Wedding

Use caution when removing the gown, and then promptly repackage it into its garment bag. After the wedding, take the gown to a professional dry cleaner to have it cleaned and preserved. Then the gown can be used by future generations or simply saved as a keepsake.

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The Story of My Dress August 1, 2016

The story behind recent bride Ami's feathered wedding gown is as unique as the dress itself. When Ami married her husband, Chaz, in her parents' backyard in Palmyra, Pa., on Aug. 15, 2015, she walked down the aisle in a dress with a story that was 10 years in the making. Here, Ami shares the tale of how she found her special gown:

I spotted my wedding gown while shopping for prom dresses when I was 18 years old. My mother and I had visited Renaissance Bridal in York, Pa., to try on dresses for my senior prom. While I was waiting for a fitting room, I was browsing through the wedding gown section and spotted a Jovani gown with a feathered skirt. I remember thinking that it was incredible and showing it to my mother. I commented that I would be wearing a dress made of feathers on my wedding day. I memorized the designer and dress style number of that feathered dress and headed into a dressing room to try on prom dresses. I may have only been 18 at the time, but that dress made a lasting impression on me.

I became engaged 10 years later. Chaz proposed to me on a Monday evening. The following day, I did a quick search on the Internet for "Jovani 5858" - the designer and dress number of that feathered wedding gown that I had coveted 10 years earlier. I scrolled through page after page of photos of the dress - each one stating that the dress was no longer available. Then, an eBay listing appeared in the search results. I was surprised to see that the dress was my size, only worn once as a prom gown, and was listed for $200 or best offer. I, without hesitation, made the seller an offer of $150. Within minutes the seller had responded that my offer had been accepted. On Thursday morning, my wedding gown was delivered to my mailbox. I am so thankful and so surprised that I remembered the designer and style number for the past 10 years! This gown definitely spoke to me when I saw it the first time and then brought me to tears when I tried it on for the first time.

This dress is incredibly unique. The opalescent bead work, the intricate lace details, and the skirt full of feathers greatly appealed to me. I enjoy things that are slightly offbeat, and this dress is beautifully different from other wedding gowns I have seen.

Not every bride has had a dress in mind for 10 years, however. Ami offered a couple tips for brides-to-be who are embarking on a search for their own ideal dress:

Know your own personal style. Make a list of what you like and what you don't like. Also, envision what you want yourself to look like on your wedding day. I knew that I wanted something less traditional and very original. This dress fit my personal style so well, and I felt so beautiful while wearing it.

Don't show your future spouse your gown! I'm not very good at containing my excitement about things and had asked Chaz if he wanted to see my wedding gown at least a dozen times before our wedding day. Each time I asked, he said, "No. I want it to be a surprise." I am so thankful that I didn't show him this dress. His facial expression when he first saw me walking toward him while wearing a gown of feathers was priceless.

Photos by With Love & Embers

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13 Tips for Finding That Perfect Dress August 1, 2016

1.-Look at magazines, blogs, and designers' websites to get an idea of what kinds of dresses you are drawn to and bring photos to your first appointment. You can also consider creating a secret board on Pinterest so that you can easily show your salesperson your vision.

2.-On the flip side, remember that many brides end up choosing a dress that wasn't even on their radar initially, so keep an open mind. A style that might not flatter you in normal dresses could look great as a wedding gown because of the layers and lining. And a dress that does not stand out on the hanger might look amazing once you put it on.

3.-Consider your wedding style and venue. Ballroom gowns might not be the smartest choice for a beach or farm setting. Envision your wedding setting and choose a dress to complement that atmosphere.

4.-Keep in mind the time of year of your wedding. When trying on gowns in the winter for an outdoor summer wedding, remember that it could be very, very hot. (And vice versa for trying on gowns in the summertime for a winter wedding.)

5.-If possible, schedule an appointment for during the week or early in the morning, when stores are typically not as busy.

6.-Wear the right undergarments to try on dresses so that you know what the dress will look like when you wear it on your big day.

7.-Bring helpers or don't - shop however you feel comfortable. If you ordinarily shop with a lot of people and like to get a lot of additional opinions, consider sticking to that rule for wedding dress shopping. If you prefer shopping alone, however, go solo or take one or two trusted friends or family members along. Don't feel like you need a large audience.

8.-Don't put too much pressure on yourself to have a magical dress-buying experience or to find the perfect option right away. Sometimes the process can take time. Try not to rush, even if you may feel like you're on a tight deadline.

9.-Limit your appointment length to two or three hours per shopping trip. Anything beyond that may result in brides forgetting what they have tried on and becoming overwhelmed with options. Trying on too many dresses can lead to confusion.

10.-Take pictures of the gowns you try on so that you can ruminate on your options later, if need be.

11.-Sit down in the dress when you try it on and be sure to move around a bit as well. Sure, you're probably not going to be doing push-ups and squats in the gown, but you do need to make sure the fit will be comfortable for the big day, whether you're sitting, standing, or dancing.

12.-Try not to get fixated on a size. Wedding gown sizes often run differently than street clothes. Trying on a dress that fits you comfortably is better than saying you want a smaller size because you plan on losing weight.

13.-If you've set a strict budget for the dress, remember to include extra costs. Remember to factor in the costs of alterations and tax and delivery, plus shoes, a veil and hair accessories, and jewelry.

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Guidelines For Choosing Groomsmen August 1, 2016

Grooms-to-be face many decisions regarding their pending nuptials, but few may prove as delicate as choosing the groomsmen for the big day. Friends who expect to be groomsmen may be disappointed if they are not ultimately chosen, while brothers may feel left out if they are not chosen to support the groom in this way.

Grooms-to-be who are facing some difficult choices can follow a few pointers to ensure they make the right call.

· Pick a number. Before consider who the groomsmen will be, grooms-to-be should speak to their fiancees about how many bridesmaids they hope to have. The number of groomsmen and bridesmaids typically matches, so the bride-to-be's intentions may make her fiance's decision a lot easier. If the groom-to-be already has an idea of who he wants the groomsmen to be, but his choices outnumber his fiancee's, he could ask if she has anyone else she can add to her party.

· Choose the best man for the job. Many grooms pick a brother to serve as their best man, and while that is a nice sentiment, it is important that grooms recognize that being a best man carries with it some responsibility. A best man traditionally organizes the bachelor party, gives a toast at the wedding, and handles any post-wedding duties, such as returning the tuxes or arranging for the newlyweds' transportation to the airport. If the brother of the groom is already incredibly busy or if there are doubts that he is up to the task of being a best man, then the groom-to-be might be better off asking him to be a groomsman and finding another best man who is more capable of juggling the responsibilities that come with being best man.

· Don't forget your fiancee's family. While the groom-to-be should not feel pressured to pick anyone in particular as the best man, if his fiancee has any brothers, he should ask her if she had her heart set on including any of her brothers in the bridal party. Some brides want their brothers to be groomsmen, so it is important for grooms-to-be to discuss this issue with their fiancees before asking anyone to line up beside them. The discussion can also allow the groom-to-be to request that his fiancee include one of his sisters in her bridal party.

· Confirm their availability. When a groom asks friends or family members to be groomsmen, he should ensure they can actually make it to the ceremony. Availability is a concern for grooms who are planning a destination wedding or those getting married in their fiancee's hometown, since some guests, including potential groomsmen, may not be able to attend an overseas or other faraway ceremony. In such circumstances, the groom-to-be should explain the situation to the potential groomsmen and add that he fully understands if the friend or family member cannot commit to being a groomsman. Grooms-to-be should confirm their groomsmen's availability as soon as possible. For those who are asked to be groomsmen but are unable to make it, it can be a nice gesture to buy them a groomsman gift as a token of appreciation for their friendship.

Many grooms face difficult decisions when choosing their groomsmen, but there are ways to make such decisions a lot easier than they seem.

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Dress-Shopping Tips For Brides With Curves August 1, 2016

For brides-to-be, finding the right gown is one element of wedding planning that calls for patience and persistence. Trial and error is often part of the process as women look for the perfect wedding gown. Brides-to-be who have a specific style in mind may find that their dream gown doesn't always live up to expectations, while another style of dress they never imagined wearing turns out to be a stunner.

Another challenge women may face when gown shopping is that many wedding gowns are styled and geared toward women with slender figures, making the process of selecting a gown for a curvier bride a bit more difficult. But any bride, regardless of size or figure, can find the ideal dress, especially when she keeps the following tips in mind.

--Do not get discouraged. Sample sizes fit a select few. Bridal shops carry a range of dresses but may only stock one or two sample dresses. For economy, these samples are a median size that is intended to fit as many shoppers as possible. Such gowns are usually in the neighborhood of a size 10. Most women, whether petite or plus-size, will not fit into the sample.

--Visit large retail chains, but do not discount local shops. Popular wedding dress chains may have a wider selection of sample dresses in larger sizes. Department stores as well as designers who specialize in plus-size gowns also make good resources.

--Call bridal stores in advance to schedule visits. Time is precious, so brides-to-be should call bridal shops prior to visiting and explain what they are looking for in a gown. This will ensure they aren't wasting time driving to stores that cannot provide what they want.

--Select the right fabrics. Heavier fabrics like taffeta, silk dupioni and satin may conceal better than others and can be ruched to camouflage certain areas.

--Use salespeople as a resource. The right salesperson can make wedding shopping much easier and far more pleasant. A bride-to-be should not rest until she finds someone who is excited to work with her and will give his or her honest opinion and recommendations.

--Dresses can be altered. Every bride needs some alterations made to her dress to achieve the perfect fit. A dress is unlikely to meet all of a bride's needs right off the rack, so gown shoppers should find a good seamstress who can alter a dress. Sleeves can be put on, dresses can be shortened, support can be added, and many customizations can be done to a gown post-production.

--Find a flattering shape. Brides may want to choose a gown with a full skirt or an A-line skirt with an empire or a dropped-waist seam that will elongate their midriff and flow away from their hips.

--Don't get stuck on size. Sizes vary widely depending on the manufacturer. Wedding gowns tend to be labeled with couture sizes, which are much smaller than street sizes. A good salesperson should have a reasonable conversion chart or will choose sizes based on your measurements alone. Ignore the size on the tag and go for the gown that fits.

--Never settle for less. Whether it's a gown that's not flattering or a salesperson who is rude, the bride-to-be should not settle for anything less than a great gown and attentive service. Bridal stores compete for business, so if a given shop does not meet a bride's expectations, she should not hesitate to work with a rival store.

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Seasons of Love August 1, 2016

One thing can be said of most weddings regardless of size—there are a lot of details to attend to! Dates, venues, colors, flowers, attire, favors, food, cakes, showers, photography, invitations, oh my! One way to cohesively tie these details together and filter down the myriad options is to choose an overall theme for the event.

The word "theme" may scare some people, but a subtle or natural theme won't overshadow the nuptials. For that quirky couple, a 2016 "Star Wars" wedding will be fun and memorable, but for the bride and groom just looking for the key element to make all the smaller details fall into place, a theme drawn from the seasons may be just the ticket.

Here in Pennsylvania, we have the advantage of four seasons, each with its own lovely attributes. Brides- and grooms-to-be need not feel obligated to strictly adhere to the chosen theme, but they may find inspiration with a helpful starting point. Be inspired with these seasonal ideas!

Spring

"The spring season definitely inspired our wedding, particularly our colors. When we settled on a date in April, we immediately thought of pastel colors. We wanted something off the path of the typical light purples, blues, and pinks. Thanks to Pinterest, Jill became obsessed with the light peach and mint combination. The colors felt warm and calm, and they simply looked good together. We liked the combination of colors for flower arrangements and absolutely loved the way our bouquets and boutonnieres turned out. We got extremely lucky on April 18 when there was not a cloud in the sky, the sun was out, and it was 75 degrees. From our wedding party attire to the flowers and weather, we had the most perfect spring day." - Jill and John, Timonium, Md.

Rustic Chic/Garden Party

Spring colors lend themselves to a romantic rustic chic wedding. Light or faded pastel colors go well with distressed woods, lace, and other rustic and romantic elements, and many tend to be flattering bridesmaid dress colors, as well.

Bridal Shower - A late winter/early spring tea party bridal shower may be the perfect classy and understated prelude to a spring garden party wedding. Vintage floral teacups add an ideal shabby chic element.

Flowers - Early spring blooms like peonies, lily of the valley, hyacinths, tulips, and daffodils are readily available for use in bouquets or decor.

Favors - Hanging birdseed ornaments, small potted plants in tiny terra-cotta pots, or flower, herb, or vegetable seed packets may be given to guests to enjoy beyond the spring season.

Venue/Decor - There is always a chance of inclement weather, but late spring may be the perfect time for an outdoor wedding. Central Pennsylvania abounds with historic or rustic farm and homestead options that allow for indoor/outdoor mingling. Centerpieces and other decorations may include metal watering cans, chalk painted Mason jars full of spring blooms, a rustic birdcage card holder, or a cake topper decorated with birds or bunnies.

Photography - Outdoor shots with floral backgrounds and blooming blossoms, photos with umbrellas, and a shot of the couple's rings on the stem of a tulip or daffodil can make for colorful, beautiful photographs.

Summer

"I have always wanted a summer wedding because that is my favorite time of year. I love the warm weather! We picked the first Sunday in September because I knew the weather would still be warm, but hopefully not too hot. It turned out to be a beautiful day! Our nautical/beachy theme went along with my love for the summer and our venue. We got married along the Susquehanna River, so we had sand and shells as our centerpieces. We also had nautical knots around our flower bouquets. The groom and groomsmen wore gray suits with no jackets because of the weather and also because it looked less formal for the outside wedding. The wedding colors were coral and navy. The bridal bouquets had succulents in them, so as favors, we gave our guests a succulent plant in a small pot." - Cortney and Colin, Elizabethtown, PA

Nautical/Beach/Backyard Cookout

The bright hues of summer can paint a fun and festive atmosphere for a wedding. Whether planning a destination wedding to a beach or taking advantage of the backdrop of boats on the Susquehanna, couples that love warm weather have a host of options to capture the essence of summer in their wedding details.

Invitations - The classic white or cream wedding invitation gets a boost of color for summer wedding invites. Navy and coral, turquoise, pops of citrus colors, bright pinks and greens, as well as fun embellishments like anchors, starfish, shells, palm trees, and tropical flowers add some flair.

Fun Details - A sparkler sendoff, miniature tubes of sunscreen for guests, sunglasses, Adirondack chair place card holders, yard games, fans, and flip-flops can send the message that the day is indeed a celebration and that guests should feel comfortable and have a good time.

Food/Drink - In addition to a number of in-season fresh vegetables for the reception dinner, summer receptions can include s'mores, fresh fruit, lemonade and sweet tea, signature blackberry cocktails, coconut icing on the wedding cake, or tropical or backyard cookout fare.

Favors - Honey, jam, herbs, barbecue seasonings, s'mores kits, flip-flop shaped bottle openers, infused sugars or oils in miniature jars, lavender soap, seashell- or watermelon-shaped cookies, or personalized beverage holders are just some of the possible favors for a summer wedding.

Autumn

"We chose fall because of the cooler temperatures and the rich, warm, delicious colors. We had an outdoor wedding at Fort Hunter in Harrisburg in October to enjoy the backdrop of the changing leaves. The reception was held at the Crown Plaza Hotel in downtown Harrisburg. The bridesmaids' dresses were a rich, chocolately brown, and our bouquets and boutonnieres had calla lilies and other flowers in shades of autumn orange that were also reflected in the centerpieces. We chose a chocolate cake frosted in chocolate icing adorned with the calla lilies for an elegant fall look." - Melissa and Chris, Middletown, PA

Country Chic/Haute Harvest

Harvest season has become an increasingly popular time of the year to get married, and it's no wonder. The often warm days and cool evenings of fall combined with the colorful changing leaves can provide an enticing backdrop for the big day. There may even be an added bonus in avoiding peak vacation and wedding time, as well as extreme temperatures, for the best guest turnout.

Attire - Fall wedding colors can range from warm neutrals and harvest colors to rich, saturated jewel tones. Plum, cranberry, and emerald are just as comfortable against the backdrop of changing leaves as red, orange, gold, and brown. Shawls, chic suede booties, or cowboy boots can add coziness to the look.

Flowers/Decor - The decor for a fall wedding may or may not include pumpkins and gourds. Certainly these items are readily available, along with hay bales and corn stalks, but woodsy floral arrangements that include hypericum berries, twigs, and seed pods, as well as flowers ranging from calla lilies, roses, and dahlias to sunflowers, daisies, and chrysanthemums, provide couples with many other options.

Food/Drink - Pumpkin, pecan, and apple pies can easily take the place of the traditional cake for a fall wedding. Apple cider and wine, a caramel popcorn station, and hot cocoa pair well with savory comfort food appetizers and entrees.

Photography - Fall outdoor photographs can be some of the most stunning around, if the weather cooperates. The changing leaves, brilliant colors, gorgeous sunsets, and soft light of fall provide a perfect setting for wedding photographs.

Winter

"We are very excited about incorporating seasonal details into our December wedding. As part of my bridal attire, I have chosen a pretty rhinestone headband that looks like it is made of delicate silver snowflakes. I plan to carry a bouquet of light pink roses accented with cranberries and pine branches for a wintry feel. For centerpieces at our reception tables, we are making snow globes out of Mason jars. We decided to name every table at our reception after a Christmas movie; my favorite table name/guest combination so far involves having some of our friends who are priests and nuns seated at a table named "The Bells of St. Mary's." I think it would be fun to have a hot chocolate bar and Christmas cookies and perhaps even a gingerbread house or two! I am also sure that a number of the songs we dance to at our wedding will have a Christmas theme." Julie and Keith - Lancaster, PA

Holiday/Winter Wonderland

Brides embracing the magic of the holiday season or the beauty of a winter landscape can have fun with elegant long-sleeved wedding gowns, faux fur wraps, and color palettes ranging from deep blue and silver or sophisticated black and white to woodsy neutrals or the more traditional seasonal colors of burgundy, gold, and green. Holiday doesn't have to mean Christmas, as New Year's Eve and Valentine's Day weddings can also provide seasonal inspiration.

Decor - A potential benefit to choosing a December wedding date is that many venues decorate for the holiday season, and twinkly lights, wreaths, Christmas trees, and other decorations may already be in place. Centerpiece options include glass ball ornaments, pinecones, berries, and evergreens, or couples may opt for winter white and silver decor with "snow"-covered branches, sparkly snowflakes, white hydrangeas, and the glow of candles in clear or frosted sconces. Some wedding decor may be able to be used as holiday home decor after the wedding, as well.

Music - Sprinkling a couple holiday songs into the reception repertoire can be a nice touch for couples who are fond of the Christmas season. The holiday stylings of crooners like Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Dean Martin will fit right in with other music over dinner.

Favors - Mugs, ornaments, fuzzy socks or mittens, reusable hand warmers, and a host of scrumptious sweets like cookies, candies, and cocoa are all reminiscent of the season. Or, because Christmas is the season of giving, some couples may choose to donate to a charity in lieu of a traditional favor.

Honeymoon - Winter can be a great time to enjoy a ski resort or a popular vacation destination like Disney World or the Napa Valley off-season, with fewer people and cooler temperatures.

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"Green" Can Be The New Color In Wedding Wear August 1, 2016

Weddings are full of traditions. While some couples may be focused on the time-honored tradition of something old and something new as well as something borrowed and something blue, others may be seeing weddings in an entirely different - and environmentally-friendly - hue: green.

"Green" weddings are on the rise, and couples can embrace various strategies to make their big days more eco-friendly.

· Explore eco-couture designers. Brides need not compromise their eco-conscious ideals for gorgeous designs. Many established and up-and-coming bridal gown designers rely on sustainable materials and practices to craft beautiful gowns. Brides-to-be may not have to look far for a dress that matches their commitment to the environment.

· Consider a vintage gown. Wearing a vintage gown is recycling at its best. Not only will the bride still have her chance to look amazing, but she can breathe new life into a classic wedding dress. Family members can be the first people to seek out when looking for a vintage gown, as one never knows what an aunt or grandmother has in a keepsake chest in the attic. In addition to helping brides save money, wearing a vintage gown can give the person lending the dress a feeling of pride and inclusion in the festivities.

· Guys can don classic attire, too. Grooms-to-be also can embrace vintage attire, or they can borrow a suit or wear a shirt or sentimental item, such as an embroidered handkerchief, from their father or another male relative. If there are few options, renting is certainly a green idea, as a rented tux will be more environmentally friendly than purchasing a tuxedo that may get little use after the wedding.

· Choose sustainable fabrics. Certain fabrics are derived from eco-friendly resources, such as sustainably grown fiber crops or recycled materials. Organic cotton or linen are options, as are many other sustainable textiles. Individuals can purchase fabric and have a tailor or seamstress craft a custom wedding gown or suit, if desired.

· Wear something already in the closet. Couples opting for a casual or civil wedding may have more options with regard to their wedding attire. If the wedding is a less-formal affair, the couple can consider wearing clothes they already own. Such attire is perfectly acceptable, and they won't be ordering new dress clothes and having them shipped that way.

Couples interested in keeping weddings in line with their eco-friendly lifestyles can start with the clothing they wear on their special days.

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The Basics Of Shopping For Wedding Rings August 1, 2016

An engagement ring purchase is usually a solo endeavor, with the groom having an idea of the ring style and color his bride-to-be prefers. But couples usually shop for their wedding ring sets together, and such excursions can be special and meaningful.

Like many decisions couples make when planning their weddings, choosing rings comes down to personal preference. There are no steadfast rules when it comes to purchasing wedding rings, but some guidelines can make shopping far easier.

As couples prepare to shop for rings, it can help for each person to list the attributes he or she would like in a ring. The list should include the type of metal, color, width, and even cost. Couples may find they have different preferences, and this is perfectly fine, as wedding rings do not have to match.

A bride's wedding band should complement her engagement ring but does not have to be a perfect match. An ornate engagement ring might look better with a simple band, and vice-versa. Similarly cut gemstones also can complement an engagement ring. If the bride chooses to wear both her engagement ring and wedding band together on the same finger, she should choose a band that will accommodate the curves of uniquely shaped engagement rings.

Couples can make some early choices even before they visit jewelry stores. They should narrow down their options so the experience will not be overwhelming. When the time comes to shop, they should give themselves at least two months to browse and then choose the rings they like best.

Lifestyle and daily routine should be considered at all times. The rings will be worn daily, and no one wants to fret about a ring being too delicate to stand up to everyday wear and tear. Also, think long-term. Trendy rings can be fun, but will they still seem like such a good idea after 20 years of marriage?

When getting rings sized, the bride and groom should not go when their fingers are swollen from exercise or early in the morning after their fingers may have retained fluid overnight. Shopping should take place when hands are not too hot or cold. This will allow the best size so the bands fit comfortably and will have enough wiggle room should fingers swell or shrink a bit.

People can protect their investments by keeping their rings on as much as possible and only removing it when engaging in demanding physical activity or when working with chemicals. They should store the rings in a safe spot when they are not wearing them so the rings are less likely to become lost.

Wedding rings can be purchased from any number of retailers. Just be sure that the rings are of good quality and that the seller stands by the craftsmanship.

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Don't Stress The Dress! January 7, 2015

Planning a wedding can be a stressful undertaking. Couples want their big day to be as perfect as possible, and for a bride-to-be, the linchpin is often her wedding dress. The venue could be breathtaking, the meal delicious, and the music divine, but if a woman doesn't feel beautiful in her dress, her enjoyment and memories of her big day may be compromised.

While the day of the ceremony is the ultimate reward, the act of selecting the right gown can be one of the most exciting moments of the wedding planning process. Shopping for a dress, however, is not a task that should be tackled without preparation. While the idea of discovering the perfect dress by sheer luck may seem highly romantic and is at least plausible, odds are if a bride simply wings it, she may end the day more defeated than delighted. Prepping in advance, rather than rushing straight to the racks, will help to ensure your search stays fruitful and satisfying.

Start With a Plan

Many brides-to-be have spent nearly their entire lives dreaming about their wedding day. Sure, the identity of the man at the end of the aisle was unknown at the time, but it is not uncommon for a woman to have determined specific ideals about her big day when she was young. Perhaps you have known since you were in elementary school that you wanted a strapless gown with crystal beading on the bodice or a voluminous affair with numerous petticoats and a cathedral train. In most cases, though, a woman may simply have known that she wanted to look gorgeous and left the details to be determined.

Regardless, it is best to research styles before heading to the shops. Decide at once if certain designs clash with your preferred style. If you have always despised turtlenecks, eliminate any options with a high-necked collar. If high heels are your personal nemesis, nix the long, elaborate train and opt for a hem that just skims the toes or select a tea-length gown that will allow you to display a bedazzled pair of ballet flats or jeweled flip-flops. If you already know that you want a vintage or country theme, do not spend time fawning over a dress that clashes with the overall atmosphere. Keep in mind that what looks amazing in a magazine spread may not suit your frame or your aesthetic.

Gauge Your Budget

Weddings are not cheap, and a wedding dress is often an elaborate expense. Calculate your wardrobe budget before heading to the boutiques. If you have always desired a couture look, start saving in advance. Be sure not to tap into funds already designated for other aspects of the wedding. It is one thing to look gorgeous, but it is another entirely to look great at the expense of drab surroundings and awful food. Sure, a high-fashion gown may ensure you look wonderful in wedding photographs, but do you want to have to give up a honeymoon to fund it?

When you do head out to the shops, inform the sales assistant up front of your price range. Factor in ahead of time all the additional costs of accessories and extras, such as shoes, a veil, decorative hair ornaments, jewelry, and more. These items, when added together, may be a considerable expense, and the total should already be accounted for in your calculations. Be firm when relaying that you do not wish to see dresses outside of your budget. Designers are well aware that brides come from a variety of circumstances and tailor their offerings accordingly. Beautiful gowns are available with a multitude of price tags; have faith that you will find one you love in your budget.

Contemplate Accessories

It is best to consider accessories before shopping. Maybe you are planning to incorporate your grandmother's handmade veil or want to look at gowns with a detachable bustle, overlay, or train that will provide two distinct looks for ceremony and reception. Perhaps you want a strapless gown, but you also desire a decorative shawl or bolero jacket. Do not waste time trying on dresses that do not fit your requirements. It is certainly OK to try on a few samples that differ from your preference (you may adore something once it's on), but don't spend hours struggling in and out of varied gowns hoping for inspiration.

Another element to keep in mind is whether your attendants will require accessories, such as wraps or coordinating handbags. Knowing beforehand what extras each outfit will require will help you to determine cost and if you can purchase all accessories at one location.

Do Your Homework

Gather a listing of all the shops you wish to visit in advance. Go online or call ahead to confirm hours and whether or not an appointment is required. Determine if the business offers an on-site tailor or seamstress for alterations or dyeing services in the event that shoes need to be specially prepared to color-coordinate. Check the boutique's website to see if they offer more than dresses. Do they offer custom designs? Perhaps they have a separate men's wear department or an elaborate selection of jewelry to complement their inventory.

Another consideration to keep in mind when interacting with bridal sales staff is their expertise in the field. Feel free to ask attendants questions about current styles or in-season color choices. It's their job to be aware of popular trends, and they should be well-skilled in helping you select a style that best suits your body type and preference. Also, since dress selection is typically one of the first elements addressed on a bride's checklist, do not hesitate to ask sales staff if they can recommend local vendors for other aspects not yet finalized for your event. Being in the business and constantly dealing with wedding parties, they may have information regarding other professionals including florists, bands, caterers, or transportation companies.

Bring Props

Every woman knows that an outfit will look different with all "the trimmings." For something as important as a wedding gown, it is best to leave as little as possible to the imagination. When you go shopping, bring shoes of the approximate height as the ones you intend to wear. Wear supportive undergarments or a corset and bring a strapless bra from home if you plan to try on off-the-shoulder styles. If you intend to wear your hair up, do so on the day you look at gowns. There's no need to schedule an appointment with a stylist, but a general upsweep will help provide a basic appreciation of the way each silhouette will appear. Also, consider shopping with no or minimal makeup so as not to soil or stain the dresses.

Select a Shopping Crew

It is absolutely expected that a bride will want the opinions of others while shopping. Feel free to bring along your mother, as well as your sisters or best friends, but don't go overboard. Only invite those individuals whose opinions you truly value. Too many viewpoints may only lead to confusion and possible anxiety. Bring a camera or phone capable of taking high-quality shots of the options you especially like. Be sure to take front and back views of the ensemble. Remember, this is your day. Be prepared to stick up for your choices, and don't let one of your wing team talk you out of something (within reason) that you feel truly beautiful in.

Stick to a Time Frame

Dress shopping can be exhausting. It can often be emotional and draining. Even if you do find the dress of your dreams, you may feel done in at day's end. You may not find your ideal match on day one. Set aside a predetermined length of time to shop and be sure to stay within your allotted time frame. Too long of a day will tap out both yourself and your shopping partners, and individuals may become bored or irritable. Consider making a reservation for dinner afterward, as all involved will most likely be hungry and need to unwind. Having the opportunity to relax will also give you ample opportunity to discuss all of the varied options of the day.

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Fancy Footwear January 5, 2015

Consider picking a pair of shoes in a nontraditional color or style to add a sense of fun to your wedding day attire. Whether you're looking for glam or groovy, here's some inspiration for how to put your best foot forward.

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Looking Sharp January 5, 2015

Gentlemen getting ready to tie the knot will have to make certain wardrobe choices so they look their best on the big day. Although many grooms-to-be rent tuxedos on their wedding day, it may be more cost-effective to purchase a tuxedo.

Tuxedos are the ultimate formal wear for men. Worn for occasions like proms, weddings and lavish parties, they are the best option for giving a polished impression.

Men who are frequently called upon to attend formal events may find that purchasing a tuxedo is a wise investment. There are several advantages of owning a tux rather than renting each time one needs to wear one. Tuxedos typically cost approximately $1,000, whereas renting a tuxedo may cost $200 or more each time; this makes it advantageous for men who frequently don tuxedos to purchase their own rather than rent.

Another advantage of owning a tuxedo is the opportunity to wear a tux that is custom-made and tailored just for you. Instead of a rental, which will merely be stitched temporarily to fit your measurements, a tuxedo you purchase will be tailored specifically to your body, increasing comfort and making you look better.

Men who buy their own tuxedos also can choose the style, fabric, color, buttons, accessories, and type of lapels on the jacket. Also, a tuxedo store may have more styles available for sale than for rent. If you desire something that fits your personality and your physique perfectly, buying your own tuxedo may be your best bet.

Men worried about purchasing a tuxedo only to see their waistlines increase or decrease should keep in mind that many tuxedo shops offer free tailoring for as long as a customer owns the tuxedo.

When purchasing a tuxedo, you should choose a classic style and color so you can enjoy the tux for years to come. Opt for a slim-fitting white shirt underneath that won't billow out when jackets are removed. Men who want to break from tradition can opt for a shirt that is a pale blue or light gray to wear under the jacket. This is still an understated look but one with a hint of creativity.

A classic, black bow tie is an ideal match when purchasing a more classic tuxedo. The bow tie is back in a big way, and men can purchase more traditional neckties for those occasions when they don't want to wear bow ties.

Tuxedos come with different lapel styles, and it's important to know the differences. Today's most popular style is the notch lapel, wherein a triangular indentation is cut where the lapel joins the collar. This lapel mimics the shape of a classic suit. A peak lapel is the most classic, featuring a broad, V-shaped lapel that points up and out just below the collar line. A shawl lapel is a smooth, rounded-edge lapel. The shawl lapel reached the height of its popularity in the 1950s, but it can still look good today.

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Something Old October 22, 2013

Everyone knows the recommendation that a bride should have "something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue" as she heads down the aisle, but, lately, many brides are lingering over the "something old" part. Vintage style has made a major comeback recently, due in part to a number of popular historically set movies and television shows. As "Downton Abbey," Baz Luhrmann's "The Great Gatsby," "Grace of Monaco," "Broadwalk Empire," and other period pieces have conquered pop culture, the vintage trend has exploded in the wedding industry, with couples pulling inspiration from the beautiful style elements showcased in these hit television and film projects.

"The vintage trend is HOT right now for the 2014 wedding season," exclaims Melissa McClain of Melissa McClain Photography, Harrisburg.

Sabrina J. Drouillard, IEWP, owner/coordinator of Decora Wedding and Event Planning, Mountville, agrees, explaining, "From the invites to the dress and decor, brides are loving this trend! If you are incorporating this into your wedding, you will have so many options."

Couples looking to include vintage elements in their wedding attire and decor must first decide what "vintage" means to them. Wedding elements can invoke a specific time period (for example, the Roaring '20s) or leave a more general old-timey or classic impression. "There are many views on what 'vintage' looks like these days, but I always think of lace, subtle colors, old books and dainty flowers," suggests Nicola Herring, owner of Nicola Herring Photography, Lancaster. "There are many ways to incorporate these things, even in a do-it-yourself wedding."

In addition to drawing inspiration from the vintage-inspired costumes and set design of movies and television shows set in decades past, brides and grooms can go online for ideas. "Pinterest is a great brainstorming tool for ideas, so pin everything that appeals to you, and your ideas will come together," recommends Herring.

A major way the vintage trend is being incorporated into wedding style is through the attire of the bridal party, especially the bride. Whether she is wearing a dress that has been passed down in her family, attire purchased from a vintage store, or a new dress that has a vintage look, the bride can channel classic style with her gown. Popular vintage twists for bridal gowns include lace, beading, crystals, off-white or ivory hues, and other romantic elements.

When it comes to jewelry, brides are favoring art deco, estate-inspired silhouettes and often choosing one or two standout accessories for a more minimalistic and classical look. Simple, elegant pieces are distinctive without being overwhelming and can be worn alone or layered. Wearing heirloom jewelry is a great way for brides to go vintage and honor members of their family at the same time. For her other accessories, a bride can turn to retro-style pumps, a tiara or a birdcage veil to continue the vintage theme.

The bride is not the only one who can have fun with incorporating vintage elements into her attire, however. "The Great Gatsy," "Downton Abbey," and other film and television period pieces supply plenty of inspiration for the groom's attire, as well as that of the bridesmaids and groomsmen. The bride and her bridesmaids can also incorporate the vintage trend via their hair and makeup choices (finger wave hairdos, red lips, subtle cat's eye eyeliner, etc.). But remember to be careful that you don't take the vintage elements too far; you want the bridal party to look classic, not costumey.

Another key way that couples can incorporate vintage style into their wedding day celebrations is through their choice of ceremony and reception venues. If you want your event to have a vintage vibe, starting with a venue that has inherent vintage charm will reduce the amount of effort you have to put into dressing it up. "Historic settings are a logical choice for vintage weddings, since their unique surroundings provide ample photographic opportunities that just can't be replicated in most other venues," explains Arlene Stewart, chairman of marketing and advertising for The Iris Club, Lancaster.

But no matter what venue you choose, it can be decked out to fit with your vintage theme through some creativity. Visit vintage and antique stores, as well as thrift shops, to see what catches your eye, whether it's an antique handkerchief, mismatched china teacups, old books, or pieces from retro board games. Chances are you'll be able to incorporate whatever vintage items you love into the wedding decor.

"Be cautious!" Drouillard advises. "Just because it says 'vintage,' that doesn't mean that it is!" If you desire bonafide vintage items, research the authenticity of the antiques before you make your purchases.

"Old glassware, such as mason jars and wine bottles, are a really popular (way to incorporate vintage style)," comments Emily Wilcox of Emily Grace Photography, Elizabethtown. McClain adds, "Couples (are) incorporating lace and burlap elements, Scrabble letters, and subtle yet delicate flower arrangements." McClain recommends, "If going vintage, consider shying away from common DIY projects featured on inspirational sites and customize your decor items for a more personal touch."

Think outside the box: everything from antique keys to vintage bicycles to old suitcases and furniture can be used as decorations. What is even better is when the wedding decor incorporates vintage items that hold special significance to the couple - such as a grandmother's china, a grandfather's military trunk, antique clocks passed through the generations or old family photos of the couple's ancestors.

"For couples on a budget, consider renting key decor pieces from vintage rental stores near you," suggests McClain. "If you have a little wiggle room in your budget, rent a few larger pieces of vintage furniture for a great post-dinner lounge area for guests to relax and mingle. (You can also) change out standard seating and tables for handcrafted items and think about (offering) old-school lawn games for guests to play during cocktail hour," she recommends.

And don't forget about the music. A band playing Dixieland hits and jazz standards will give the whole party a vintage vibe in a fun and memorable way. (If you can't find a band in your local area or price range, you can achieve a similar effect by having your disc jockey spin vintage tunes.)

Another way retro elements can be incorporated into the reception is by serving food and beverages with a vintage influence. Also, you can add to the theme through transportation choices such as horse-drawn carriages or classic cars.

"Be sure to carry your vintage theme throughout - from the design of your bouquet, to the style of your gown, to your place cards and invitations - for a fully developed theme. All in all, make it your own!" McClain encourages.

Brides and grooms who are interested in the vintage trend have many options - whether they want the vintage theme to infiltrate every element of their big day or just want to include a few subtle touches. "What makes the vintage trend so great is that it can be as subtle as wearing your grandmother's wedding ring on your big day (or as flashy as using) an eye-catching classic car as the bride and groom's gateway vehicle," explains Wilcox.

Couples looking to go vintage on their big day have many options to help them achieve the classic, glamorous style they desire.

Special thanks to:

Melissa McClain Photography

119 Aster Drive, Harrisburg, PA 17112

717-309-2440

www.melissamcclainphotography.com

Decora Wedding and Event Planning

416 Huntington Drive, Mountville, PA 17554

717-368-3512, contactdecora@gmail.com

www.eventsbydecora.com

Nicola Herring Photography

519 E. King St., Lancaster, PA 17602 (mailing address only)

717-413-0937

www.nicolaherring.com

The Iris Club

323 N. Duke St., Lancaster PA 17602

717-394-7811, iris_club@yahoo.com

http://irisclublancasterpa.com

Emily Grace Photography

120 Heisey Ave., Elizabethtown, PA 17022

717-940-8431

www.emilygracephoto.com

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Color Inspiration: Neutral Territory October 15, 2013

Why Choose Beige, Gray, White, Ivory, and Black?

-A classic, timeless, sophisticated vibe

-Can be contemporary

-Certain neutrals, like black, tend to be flattering on many skin tones with many different hair colors

-Formal and elegant

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Color Inspiration: Perfect in Pink October 15, 2013

Why Choose Pink?

-Associated with love & nurturing

-A feminine, sweet, romantic vibe

-Bright hues can be sassy, bold

-Works well for spring and summer weddings

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Color Inspiration: Freshly Squeezed Citrus October 15, 2013

Why Choose Citrus Orange and Yellow?

-Bright hues offer contemporary appeal

-Playful, fresh, energetic, and joyful vibe

-Appropriate for garden or beach themes

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Color Inspiration: Hues of Blues October 15, 2013

Why Choose Blue?

-A cool, calm, and peaceful vibe

-Fitting for a number of themes, like nautical, beach, or winter

-Different hues of blue are appropriate for all four seasons

-Flattering on different skin tones and with different hair colors

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A Tip from a Pro - Affordable Engagement Rings September 4, 2013

"An engagement ring should not be valued by its cost, instead by what you can afford and what your heart tells you to get. You can get more bling for the buck by choosing silver or tungsten instead of platinum or gold, and semiprecious stones verses diamonds. Don't trade in a mortgage for a diamond."

Natasha Hoffman, owner of J&J Bridal (Part of Myth, Medieval, & Celtic LLC), Manheim

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A Tip from a Pro - Unique Engagement Rings September 4, 2013

"We suggest building an engagement ring with another precious or semiprecious stone, like a sapphire, ruby, or emerald."

Natasha Hoffman, owner of J&J Bridal (Part of Myth, Medieval, & Celtic LLC), Manheim

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A Tip from a Pro - Local Vendors September 4, 2013

"Shop local. You will be surprised!"

Jim DeFilippis, coordinator at Eicher Arts Center, Ephrata

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