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Newlyweds In The Golden Years January 24, 2017

When they tied the knot on April 9, 2016, Wendell Rockey and Ruth Fender were not typical newlyweds, as they exchanged their vows at the ages of 92 and 86, respectively. The couple married in the Commons building at Quarryville Presbyterian Retirement Community (QPRC), where they are residents. As both Wendell and Ruth were married previously, they brought a wealth of marriage wisdom to their new union.

Wendell is a former U.S. Navy man and pastor. He has three children with his first wife, who died in 1962, and one with his second wife, who passed away three years after the couple moved to QPRC in 2008. Ruth, who was formerly employed as an activities director at a skilled nursing facility, moved to QPRC in 2012. She had been previously married for 25 years and has one child. Ruth had been a widow for 40 years before she and Wendell tied the knot.

Several months after their wedding day, The Wedding Planner checked in with the Rockeys, who were happy to share their insights on life, love, and marriage, drawn from decades of living and the first few months of their union together.

"Enjoying life together is beneficial at any age and arguably even more so later in life," Wendell said. His new bride concurred, saying, "When you get to this stage in life, love and marriage prove there is hope for companionship, regardless of your age or circumstance."

Ruth and Wendell first met in the Windows on Park Dining Room at QPRC when Ruth was looking for a place to sit and, always the gentleman, Wendell offered her a seat at his table. During their ensuing courtship, the couple realized they share many interests, and they incorporated a main one - music - into their wedding ceremony. As for planning the wedding, Wendell said, "I pretty much yielded to Ruth but offered some suggestions and she honored them. We planned our wedding ourselves. At a certain level, you probably need the help of a planner. It would save an awful lot of stress!" To that end, Wendell had one more piece of advice for couples embarking on planning a wedding: "Keep it simple. Simple can be beautiful."

The new marriage was not something Ruth entered into lightly. "I spent a long time thinking about getting married to him and thinking, 'Is this the best plan for these years of my life?'" she recalled. While being married again has been an adjustment, Ruth noted that she doesn't regret her decision at all. "Has it been worth it? Indeed! It's definitely better to be married," she said.

"Realize there are differences and you have to respect that and work through them," Wendell said. "Even in our advanced age, we're working through that." He noted that conflicts can sometimes arise over even simple things like what kind of music to listen to or what to watch on TV. "You're not going to change a person's tastes, but you have to make accommodations," he stressed.

No couple can expect to travel through life together without facing conflicts. "You have to talk about it," Wendell advised. "You have to identify what the other person is doing that upsets you and discuss the differences. Sometimes it is helpful to have an outside person give their perspective."

Ruth noted that the importance of compromise is something she's been adjusting to after being single for 40 years. "I was completely unaware that I made all of my decisions; I was just used to doing it," she explained. "Now someone else has input into our lives. Something I was surprised to learn when I married Wendell that I didn't know is that there are two right answers: mine and his," Ruth noted.

When asked what is important for couples - of any age - to know as they contemplate marriage, Wendell remarked, "Hopefully you know one another. To know a person is different than having information on them. You could have two people who are married but don't really know each other." He noted that truly knowing your spouse-to-be involves thoughtful, honest discussions of hopes for the future, as well as fears and anxieties.

Ruth said, "Be daring. Take initiative. Believe that you have something to offer somebody else. It's having a mindset that it's not what's in it for me but that I have something to contribute."

"Some people marry for what they get out of it, but marriage should be about serving each other," Wendell explained. "You should make your mate a better person and they should make you a better person. (Good candidates for marriage are) people who enrich one another and make each other better. You fill a need in each other's life and desire to make another person's life better."

Photos by Dale Brady.

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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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Meet Paige And Evan January 24, 2017

bride's hometown: Hummelstown, PA

groom's hometown: Manchester, PA

current place of residence: Royersford, PA

bride's occupation: worship arts coordinator

groom's occupation: underwriting associate CL

how they met: The couple first met at Stillmeadow Church of the Nazarene in York, PA, where Paige was a worship intern and Evan helped lead the church's young adult small group. Both Paige and Evan helped with the middle school/high school youth group, and Paige recalls being impressed by how much the students respected Evan and how invested he was in their lives.

proposal story: On the couple's four-month anniversary, they went to see "Moses" at Sight & Sound Theatres and then stopped at the same Dunkin Donuts where they'd had their first date. Sitting at the same table they sat at on their first date, Evan presented Paige with a box with a light blue stuffed heart in it that said "Be Mine." After Paige picked up the stuffed heart, she saw another, smaller box beneath it that contained a ring. After Evan proposed and Paige accepted, they went to Paige's house, where friends and family members threw them a surprise engagement party.

length of engagement: one year, to the day

honeymoon destination: Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas

The Wedding

wedding date: February 20, 2016

ceremony location: St. Paul's United Methodist Church in Red Lion, PA

reception location: The Hotel Hershey in Hershey, PA

wedding colors: light pinks, peach, black and white stripes, and gold glitter

wedding theme: romantic and classy

the menu: buffet featuring chicken, cocoa-marinated beef, mashed potatoes, mixed vegetables, a salad bar, different kinds of cheeses, the groom's mother's famous punch, Hershey's peanut butter chocolate pie, assorted macaroons and petit fours, and a hot chocolate and coffee bar

wedding cake: lemon cake with raspberry filling and buttercream icing. Each tier was a different design and color: The bottom two layers were different shades of pink to match the bridesmaids' dresses, the third layer had a black and white striped design, and the top was a gold dusted layer with a "To the Moon and Back" cake topper. "Evan and I would say that phrase all throughout our relationship and engagement, and we incorporated that design element throughout our wedding," explains Paige.

flowers: pink cabbage roses, baby's breath, lily of the valley, stephanotis, and white orchids

first dance song: "Come What May" from the movie "Moulin Rouge" sung by Mr. Brennan and Mandi Bell, friends of the groom

favorite element of the reception: a tie between the choreographed mashup father/daughter dance featuring "What A Wonderful World," "The Twist," "Stayin' Alive," "Billy Jean," and "Shake It Off" and the beautifully designed sweetheart table

favors: a Hershey's candy bar in honor, as well as a doughnut from Dunkin Donuts in Hershey in honor of where Evan and Paige had their first date and got engaged

one thing worth splurging on: music. "We wanted to make sure we had a live jazz band that could play music that would capture the feel of our wedding as well as express our taste in music," says Paige.

advice for other brides and grooms planning a wedding: Make sure you take time to take a break from all the planning and invest in your significant other.

Vendors Used

wedding planner: Susan Moran of That's It! Wedding Concepts LLC, Mechanicsburg, PA

photographer: Tennison Photography, Lancaster, PA (or Tennison Commercial Photography )

videographer: Lavon Films, Lancaster, PA

cake and catering: The Hotel Hershey, Hershey, PA

bride's dress: POSH Bridal Shop, Lancaster, PA

decorations and lighting: Shumaker PDT, Lancaster, PA

flowers: Blooms By Vickrey, Camp Hill, PA

rings: The Jewelers Bench Inc., Hershey, PA

invitations, place cards, programs, and special signage: Persnickety Invitation Studio, York, PA

reception music: David Leonhardt Jazz Group, Easton, PA

hair and makeup: Shelbi Harmes Expressions, Akron, PA

limousine and bus: Premiere #1 Limousine Service, Middletown, PA

church vocalist: mezzosoprano Gwendolyn Bowers, Palmyra, PA

organist: Shawn Gingrich, Hershey PA

harpist: Louis Lynch, Camp Hill, PA

church reception: Linda Bish, Mount Joy, PA

photobooth: Mixed-Up Productions, Harrisburg, PA

bridesmaids' dresses: David's Bridal

groom and groomsmen's suits: Jos. A. Bank

dance lessons: PA DanceSport Ballroom, Hummelstown, PA

The Wedding Planner: What was the first thing you did when you began to plan your wedding? What inspired you to start there?

Paige: The very first thing that my mom and I did together was to book The Hotel Hershey for my reception venue. Ever since I was a little girl, I dreamed of having my reception at The Hotel Hershey, where my family would go every year for Christmas brunch. It was a dream come true to be able to have it there!

I have been in several weddings, so I knew that organization is key! That being said, I knew that I could not plan a long-distance wedding on my own, since I was in Philadelphia and the wedding was in Hershey, so my mother and I decided to invest in a top-notch wedding planner, Susan Moran from That's It! Wedding Concepts LLC, who pulled off the wedding of my dreams and kept everything and everyone organized.

TWP: How did you select the bride's dress, the groom's attire and the outfits of the members of the wedding party?

Paige: I found my dream dress at POSH Bridal in Lancaster, PA. I was open to trying a vast variety of dresses, but there were a few elements that I knew the dress must have: a sleeveless design, a sweetheart neckline, chiffon material, and lots of sparkles. When I first tried on my dress, I liked it a lot but decided to keep trying some other dresses. But, when I tried the dress on for a second time, I knew without a doubt that that was my dress. I also liked the back of another dress that had horsehair-like material laced with sparkly gems, and I was able to have that incorporated in my dress as the train/bustle. I also chose a sparkly belt to accent the hourglass shape of the dress. I chose my Betsey Johnson shoes from David's Bridal because I love high heels and they were very sparkly!

For Evan and the groomsmen, we chose Jos. A. Bank because of its wide selection of suits and color choices and because of its many convenient locations. All of the groomsmen wore darker gray suits, while Evan wore a light gray suit that made him stand out. We also wanted the guys to wear plain white dress shirts and brown dress shoes. Evan provided skinny black-and-white checked ties as the groom's gift as well as various crazy socks that described each groomsman.

I gave the bridesmaids the freedom to choose any style dress that would be flattering on them and that would make them feel beautiful and that they could wear again! I chose David's Bridal because of its color choices, wide variety of dress styles, and affordability. I chose four specific colors in the pink and peach spectrum and told the girls that they could choose any dress as long as it was one of the four colors. For the accessories, I gave the girls complete freedom to choose whatever they wanted as long as it was gold and sparkly. My gift to the girls was whatever hairstyles they would like.

TWP: How did you incorporate the tastes and personalities of both the bride and the groom into the wedding?

Paige: To Evan and me, the most important element that we incorporated into every part of our wedding was our relationship with Jesus. From the choice of music for the ceremony to the groomsmen's and bridesmaids' speeches, we wanted everyone to know that we love each other and that we love the Lord.

One special element I wanted in the ceremony was a time of prayer where both families and any pastors who were attending would come up and pray over our marriage. The Rev. Delbert Bieber, who married my parents, led the family and pastoral prayer during the ceremony. Also, Evan's pastor, the Rev. Dr. Bayse Reedy, and my pastor, the Rev. William Russell, both co-officiated the service and married us. These three men have a very special place in my heart, and they were an integral part of making our wedding day so special.

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Neat Nuptials January 24, 2017

Weddings require a lot of planning. Couples hosting large weddings or even intimate gatherings can easily be overwhelmed by the amount of planning they must do to make their weddings into events they will remember and cherish forever.

Staying organized when planning a wedding is a tall order. It is wise to expect the unexpected when organizing a wedding, and the more organized couples can stay, the more fun they can have during the planning process, and the better they can handle the unforeseen circumstances that are bound to arise in the months leading up to the wedding. Couples may consider trying the following strategies.

· Create separate filing systems for each aspect of the wedding. Rather than maintaining one massive file with information about various elements of the wedding, maintain a separate file for each aspect of the wedding. For example, keep all quotes from prospective florists in a single folder that remains separate from information about other parts of the wedding. Separate filing systems make it easier to find quotes and contracts when they are needed, saving couples the trouble of digging through pages upon pages of quotes, notes, and other information they had stored.

· Maintain a spending spreadsheet. Many couples plan weddings on carefully constructed budgets, but couples can easily exceed those budgets if they are not routinely monitoring and recording their spending or the spending they are committing to upon signing contracts with vendors. Couples should create spending spreadsheets that allow them to track how much they have already spent, how much they are committed to spending, and the due dates of various wedding-related bills. The couple should update the spreadsheet whenever they write a check or sign a new contract, and they should periodically examine the sheet so they can make sure they are still on track to remain at or under budget.

· Hire a planner. If wedding planning is proving especially overwhelming or if the couple simply does not have time to do all the legwork necessary, they can hire a wedding planner. Wedding planners are invaluable resources who can help couples quickly connect with vendors who can meet their needs while staying within their budgets. Planners can advise couples on ways to save money, but also when to splurge. Couples planning destination weddings should inquire about resort-affiliated wedding planners before choosing a venue to host their ceremonies and/or guests.

· Start early. It's never too soon to start planning certain aspects of a wedding, even if it seems like you have plenty of time before your big day. According to The Knot 2015 Real Weddings Study, the average length of engagement for couples who wed in 2015 was 14.5 months. That means today's couples have more than a year, on average, to plan their nuptials. By starting their wedding planning early, couples can avoid having to organize everything at the last minute, which can be hectic, nerve-wracking and sloppy. In addition, starting early affords couples more time to find great deals and stay within their budgets.

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Rain, Rain - That's OK! January 24, 2017

A beautiful backdrop like ocean waves or rolling country hills lends a lot to a wedding, making the day enjoyable for couples and their guests. But Mother Nature also presents risks to those planning to host an outdoor wedding. Weather is unpredictable, and couples who hope to tie the knot in the great outdoors must develop a contingency plan just in case Mother Nature decides to rain on their parade. While outdoor wedding venues often have backup venues in place, couples can take some additional steps to ensure a rainy day will not ruin the wedding.

· Find a place to take photos. Many couples arrange for outdoor wedding photos whether they are tying the knot indoors or outdoors, but couples should also arrange for a place to take photos indoors in case there is inclement weather. If possible, the couple should walk the grounds of the ceremony or reception site with the photographer in the weeks before the wedding to scout out potential areas to shoot indoors in case the weather does not cooperate. Ask a representative from the venue to recommend potential photo locations.

· Consider a tent. Some wedding venues are exclusively outdoors, meaning they do not have indoor backup options on their premises. If this is the case, couples may rent tents to serve as their safety nets. If a venue has no indoor alternatives, a tent should be considered and factored into the budget.

· Establish a cutoff time. Depending on how remote the ceremony location is, couples might be able to wait until a few hours before their weddings to decide if they will still tie the knot outdoors. Make the call earlier if the wedding is to be held at an especially remote location. At the cutoff time, let guests know where the wedding will be. Include information about the cutoff time on the wedding website and/or invitations. Use a social media platform such as Facebook or Twitter to inform guests of the final decision.

· Provide umbrellas. Some inclement weather may not be enough to deter couples or guests from braving the great outdoors. Couples getting married in the summer may be able to withstand a summer shower, but they should provide guests with umbrellas just to be safe. The umbrellas can be mementos of the event.

· Insure the wedding. Couples who are hosting destination weddings on tropical isles should look into insuring their weddings. Such islands might be susceptible to harmful storms like hurricanes, which can prevent weddings from taking place. Insurance can cover couples for a host of unforeseen circumstances, including weather.

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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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Go Over "Board" January 24, 2017

Turning a dream wedding into a reality may require some creativity. It can be challenging to organize an abundance of ideas, but inspiration boards may be able to help.

Inspiration boards, sometimes referred to as idea boards, are commonly used by interior designers, artists, writers, and even wedding planners. Such boards can be important when starting a new project, especially if all of those creative ideas seem to lack cohesion. Sometimes it is helpful to see things together, rather than in bits and pieces.

Inspiration boards may include magazine clippings, photographs, fabric and color swatches, and quotes or literary passages. As a couple adds to their idea board, they may find a common denominator among their inspirational elements. This can help determine a theme for the wedding or jump-start other planning.

While poster boards may be the more traditional style for idea boards, creative ideas also can be compiled in binders or scrapbooks, which work especially well for keeping all items organized and concise. Plus, they are portable, which means a couple can take their scrapbook to a meeting with a wedding vendor and show the vendor concepts for the wedding.

Later, when photographers, florists, and other vendors have been booked, the couple can attach receipts or agreements to the inspiration board for future reference. This practice will keep all the important wedding information in one place so the bride- and groom-to-be do not have to search through folders or files for important documents. In addition, if friends or family members ask for advice when planning their own weddings in the future, the couple can look back at their inspiration board.

To start building a board or book, the couple should accumulate clippings of photos or articles that resonate with them. As they visit bridal shops and other stores, they can take fabric swatches and pictures of particular looks. Couples may attend bridal shows and take home promotional materials. Remember, inspiration may not always come from wedding-related sources. Anything in daily life may provide ideas.

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Wedding Budget 101 January 24, 2017

Couples engaged to be married have a lot on their plates as they begin planning their weddings. Whereas tradition once held that the parents of the bride paid for a couple's wedding, nowadays more and more engaged couples are completely or partially financing their own nuptials. That means prospective brides and grooms must develop wedding budgets that will ensure their first act as Mr. and Mrs. is not paying down debt.

In its 2015 Real Weddings Study, online bridal resource The Knot found that many couples still receive substantial financial support from their parents to pay for their weddings. The survey found that, on average, the bride's parents contributed 44 percent of the overall wedding budget in 2015, while the couple financed 43 percent. The remaining 13 percent was financed by the groom's parents and additional sources. Couples who hope to follow that formula or pay for their weddings on their own can heed the following tips to build wedding budgets that will not break the bank but will still ensure a day to remember forever.

· Examine your collective finances. Few couples know all of the details of each other's finances before getting engaged. While some may still hesitate to share their personal financial information upon getting engaged, an open and honest discussion and examination of each person's finances is the only way to develop a realistic wedding budget that both partners can live with. Once couples know what they can contribute, they can consult their parents to determine if their families intend to contribute.

· Develop a preliminary guest list. A preliminary guest list can give couples an idea of how large and expensive their weddings will be. According to the Real Weddings Study, the average cost per wedding guest in 2015 was $237. While that cost can vary greatly depending on geography and other factors, couples should keep that figure in mind when drafting their guest lists. If need be, keep costs down by trimming the guest list so it includes only close family members and friends.

· Don't count on gifts. Many couples justify runaway wedding budgets by telling themselves that they will ultimately get the money back in the form of wedding gifts. While many guests will give financial gifts, counting on such windfalls is a recipe for accruing debt. Do not build potential wedding gifts into a wedding budget. Couples that do so could be facing considerable debt upon returning home from their honeymoons.

· Gather quotes before choosing a wedding location. Where couples get married will have a great impact on how much money they will spend on their weddings. For example, the Real Weddings Study found that, in 2015, the average wedding in Manhattan cost couples slightly more than $82,000, while the average Alaskan wedding cost just over $17,000. Even within the same city, venues can vary greatly with regard to pricing and offerings, so couples should give themselves ample time to gather quotes and find an affordable venue they like.

· Research the average costs for vendors. Couples can conduct preliminary investigation to determine about how much they can expect to pay the vendors that provide photography, cake, music, and other services. Don't forget to budget for tax and gratuities.

· Build extra costs into the budget. When creating their budgets, couples must remember to include a little extra for unforeseen costs. Building such costs into the initial budget will make these unforeseen circumstances easier to handle.

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Meet Emily And Chris January 24, 2017

bride's hometown: Lancaster, PA

groom's hometown: New Castle, PA

current place of residence: Mount Joy, PA

bride's occupation: contact center specialist

groom's occupation: yard jockey

how they met: Emily and Chris were first introduced by mutual friends at a Halloween costume party. "We were two of the only attendees not in costume and later found out that we both worked part-time at the same bar," recalls Emily.

proposal story: While sightseeing on a family vacation in Muncy Valley, Sullivan County, Chris professed his love and devotion atop High Knob Overlook in the Endless Mountain Range, knelt down, and popped the question. "Shut up!" was Emily's response. Chris waited a few moments and asked, "Well, will you?" and Emily, of course, finally said, "Yes!"

length of engagement: 13 months

honeymoon destination: Rather than taking a traditional honeymoon, the couple treated Chris' mother, who was visiting from Montana, and Chris' son to a week in Ocean City, MD.

The Wedding

wedding date: July 3, 2016

ceremony location: Breezyview Overlook, Columbia, PA

reception location: Perfect Settings (owned by Daisy Pagan), Columbia, PA

wedding colors: beige and blue

wedding theme: elegant peacock

menu: mini crab cakes, beef bruschetta, cheese and fruit tray, roast beef, vegetable lasagna, broiled lemon pepper haddock, side salad, spiced carrots with apples and raisins, steamed asparagus, wild rice, and roasted Parmesan red potatoes

cake: a four-tiered cake, with two tiers of chocolate with peanut butter filling and two tiers of white cake with strawberry fruit filling

flowers: white roses, white ranunculus, and purple and Malibu blue orchids. "Half of the centerpieces were tall, live curly willows, and the other half were short white hydrangeas," Emily says.

first dance song: "Only You Can Love Me This Way" by Keith Urban

special elements included in the ceremony: a sand ceremony to include Chris' son, Malachi; a special Bible reading by Emily's grandmother, Claire Storm; and a blessing over the meal by Emily's grandfather, Albert Storm

favorite element: "It's impossible to choose favorites!" exclaims Emily.

favor: peacock feather bottle opener and/or wine bottle stopper

one thing worth splurging on: photography

Vendors

photographer: Emily Grace Photography, Elizabethtown, PA

music (ceremony and reception): DJ Fade (Jere Lefever) of Fade Productions, Lancaster, PA

flowers: Floral Designs of Mount Joy, Mount Joy, PA

officiant: Renee Heller, Celebrant, Lancaster, PA

day-of coordination: Daisy Pagan of Perfect Settings, Columbia, PA

hairstylist for bride and bridesmaids: Ashlie Clapper of Kauffman's Salon, Columbia, PA

bride and bridesmaids' dresses: David's Bridal

groom and groomsmen's attire: Men's Wearhouse

limousine rentals: Premiere #1 Limousine Service, Middletown, PA

catering: Classic Cuisine Catering, Palmyra, PA

outdoor chair rentals: Fricke Hardware & Rental, Columbia, PA

decorations: Edward Bullock Wedding Planning

linens: Special Occasions and Queen Street Linens, Lancaster, PA

cake: Mary Frances Kreiser, a family friend

videography: Mitchell Weaver, a cousin

wedding planning: Joan Barr, the bride's mother

The Wedding Planner: What was the first thing you did when you began to plan your wedding? What inspired you to start there?

Emily: We started by researching venues and catering. These two are the most costly and take the most room in the budget.

TWP: How did you select the bride's dress, the groom's attire and the outfits of the members of the wedding party?

Emily: Chris and I selected our attire based on comfort, and it definitely proved to be worth it when the big day arrived. The bridesmaids chose their own style to reflect their personality with comfort in mind! The groomsmen matched the groom except for the bowtie, so the groom would stand out.

TWP: How did you incorporate the tastes and personalities of both the bride and the groom into the wedding?

Emily: I was most concerned with keeping the ceremony meaningful and the reception fun. The celebrant and the disc jockey played a huge role in helping make that happen. Chris was most interested in the food and beverage choices, so he approved the menu!

TWP: What did you find to be the biggest challenge in planning a wedding?

Emily: Finding enough time outside of work and other obligations to meet with potential vendors. It's more time-consuming than we ever realized!

TWP: What is the most important piece of advice you have for other brides and grooms planning a wedding?

Emily: Enjoy the process, accept help from those who offer, keep an open mind and remember to toast often to your engagement!

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Meet Megan And Austin January 24, 2017

bride's hometown: York, PA

groom's hometown: York, PA

current place of residence: Dallastown, PA

bride's occupation: special education teacher at Central York School District

groom's occupation: global learning development associate at McCormick & Co.

how they met: Megan and Austin first met as fifth-graders at North Hills Elementary in Central York School District. They grew up hanging around with the same friends and playing sports. During senior year, Austin asked Megan to go to the prom with him, and the two began dating during the remaining part of the school year and continued their relationship throughout college at Penn State University and Lebanon Valley College.

proposal story: Austin had been intending to propose during two different adventures he planned. Unfortunately, as a teacher, Megan had picked up a bug at school and got very sick, and Austin had to cancel his plans two weekends in a row. Undeterred, he planned a trip to see the lights and flowers at Longwood Gardens when Megan was feeling better, and the two spent the evening walking around Longwood Gardens and enjoying the sights. Right before they were about to leave, Austin asked a woman to take their picture in the conservatory, and as she was taking the photo, he got down on one knee and proposed.

length of engagement: a year and a half

honeymoon destination: Sandals Grande Resort in Antigua

The Wedding

wedding date: June 18, 2016

ceremony and reception location: Wyndridge Farm, Dallastown, PA

wedding colors: coral and gold

wedding theme: rustic chic

the menu: house salad, raspberry sorbet, free-range chicken or flank steak with garlic herb mashed potatoes and grilled lemon butter asparagus

wedding cake: vanilla, plus cupcakes in the flavors of raspberry, chocolate with peanut butter, vanilla, and carrot cake with cream cheese icing

favorite food items: the appetizers during cocktail hour - spring rolls, crab and asparagus mini quiche, rosemary and basil flatbread, and pork sliders

flowers: baby's breath, orange roses, curly willow, gold/orange cockscomb, raspberry pods, green succulents, peach hypericum berry, coral gerbera, and gold crespedia

favorite design element: the historic barn at Wyndridge where the reception took place with the simple decor

first dance song: "Mean to Me" by Brett Eldredge

favor: Since Austin works at McCormick, the couple gave each guest a test tube filled with a unique spice from his company. They attached a sign that read, "Thanks for spicing up our special day."

one thing worth splurging on: venue

Vendors

photography: Chad Lippiatt Photo, Glen Rock, PA

cake: The Flour Child, Columbia, PA

disc jockey: Ray Thomas, Carlisle, PA

bride's dress: Lilla's Bridal Boutique, York, PA

bridesmaids' dresses: David's Bridal, York, PA

groom/groomsmen's attire: Jos. A. Bank, York, PA

florist: Lincolnway Flower Shop, York, PA

decorations: all do-it-yourself, using supplies from Etsy, Joann Fabric & Craft Stores, wholesale florists, and antique

shops

hair: Salon Nouveau, York, PA

makeup: Brandi Hill Makeup Artist, Emigsville, PA

catering: Wyndridge Farm, Dallastown, PA

The Wedding Planner: What was the first thing you did when you began to plan your wedding? What inspired you to start there?

Megan: The first thing we did was to create a list of how many guests we would be asking to the wedding. This gave us a concrete idea of what venues we could look at and also what questions to ask the venues when we visited based upon the number of guests we would potentially be having. That helped narrow our venue search and provide clarity.

TWP: How did you select the bride's dress, the groom's attire, and the outfits of the members of the wedding party?

Megan: I was very specific that I wanted something unique and different on the bottom of my dress. When we went looking, I asked several consultants to show me dresses that would fit this qualification. I went to two dress shops and ended up at Lilla's. The dress I chose was the very first dress they put me in at Lilla's! I started to cry when I had it on, and my family was teary too!

We wanted something classic and timeless for the boys. We selected Jos. A. Bank because of their quality and also their ability to connect with our groomsmen who lived various places in the United States. We chose black suits with white shirts and black ties, because it complemented the girls' dresses very well.

I wanted unique and different bridesmaids' dresses that you wouldn't traditionally see. We went to two shops in Hershey and Lancaster and ended up back in York at David's Bridal, where we found the gold sequin dress that I was in love with. I saw it online and at other stores and it was too pricey, but David's had the look and price just right!

TWP: How did you incorporate the tastes and personalities of both the bride and the groom into the wedding?

Megan: Austin and I are very simple and hands-on when it comes to making things our own. We did all the decorations on our own, gave favors unique to Austin's line of work, had our pastor incorporate many personal stories and connections into our ceremony, and finally we just let the beauty of Wyndridge speak for itself. We love rustic places, and the restored barn and outdoor wedding venue took your breath away, so simple decor was all we needed!

TWP: What did you find to be the biggest challenge in planning a wedding?

Megan: Communication with the bridal party was a challenge, because of the members living in all different places. We found it helpful to share Google Docs or emails with them to keep them informed and on top of things like getting their outfits altered.

TWP: What is the most important piece of advice you have for other brides and grooms planning a wedding?

Megan: Create a spreadsheet or organizational list with all of your vendors and information on it to provide you with easy access in one place for all parties involved to be able to see. Plan ahead! It's a wonderful thing not feeling stressed two months before your wedding because everything was all taken care of and booked early.

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Meet Meredith And Michael January 24, 2017

bride's hometown: Reading, PA

groom's hometown: Lancaster, PA

current place of residence: Lansdale, PA

bride's occupation: teacher

groom's occupation: sales

how they met: The couple first met at their good friends' wedding, where Michael served as a groomsman and Meredith was a bridesmaid.

proposal story: On March 20, 2015, Mike took Meredith to the Iron Hill Brewery in Phoenixville, where they went on their first date, and proposed. "It was a total surprise! Mike knew he had to propose on this date because it was the first day of spring, and it snowed," Meredith explains, noting that many of the couple's fun and important events happened in the snow. "Having Mike propose on a snowy night in a special place was magical!"

length of engagement: one and a half years

The Wedding

wedding date: July 2, 2016

ceremony and reception location: Cork Factory Hotel, Lancaster

wedding colors: navy with coral and white accents

wedding theme: rustic (burlap and lace)

menu: hot and cold hors d'oeuvres during cocktail hour, plated and served house salad course, intermezzo sorbet, and entrees Tuscan chicken with wild rice pilaf and London Broil with roasted red potatoes

cake: alternating layers of red velvet and carrot cake with cream cheese icing. The cake was accompanied by chocolate-covered strawberries.

flowers: a variety of pink-, coral-, and salmon-colored flowers

first dance song: "Yours" by Russell Dickerson

special readings included in ceremony: John 15:9-17 and 1 Corinthians 13:1-8

single favorite decoration: Meredith and Michael's favorite decoration was the antique ladder that was hung over the fireplace and decorated with hanging baby's breath flower bouquets and hanging mason jars with lights inside.

favor: M&M's in a glass jelly jar with a special decorative label with the couple's wedding date and initials and message

something worth splurging on: the photographer and the makeup artist

Vendors

photography: Lindsey H. Dienner of Sweet Face Photography, New Holland, PA

venue: Cork Factory Hotel, Lancaster, PA

cake: The Baker's Table, Lancaster, PA

flowers: Rohrer Family Farm Flowers (Lancaster Central Market), Lancaster, PA

makeup: C.E. Facial Artistry, Philadelphia, PA

disc jockey: Dave Stephenson of A Time for Music & Memories, Douglassville, PA

The Wedding Planner: What was the first thing you did when you began to plan your wedding? What inspired you to start there?

Meredith: The first thing we did was find a wedding location and venue. We chose Lancaster because it was a central location for guests since most guests had to travel either from out of state or from other areas in Pennsylvania. Plus, Lancaster is a special place for both of us: Michael grew up in Lancaster, and I went to college in Lancaster at Millersville University. We knew the venue would help us decide our wedding theme and colors. Once the venue was selected, it was very easy to move forward with the selection process for other aspects of our wedding, including the attire for Mike and the groomsmen, the wedding dress, the bridesmaids' dresses, the decorations and centerpieces, the flowers, etc.

TWP: How did you select the bride's dress, the groom's attire, and the outfits of the members of the wedding party?

Meredith: Once we selected the Cork Factory Hotel as our wedding venue, we knew a more rustic theme utilizing burlap and lace would be a perfect fit for us. Pinterest was an amazing research tool that helped us select color schemes and attire for the members of the wedding party. We decided to integrate lace with the wedding dress and the bridesmaids' dresses. We also wanted to use neutral colors like navy for the bridesmaids' dresses and gray for the groom and groomsmen's suits and accent with pinks, corals, and white. These colors complemented the burlap and lace well.

TWP: How did you incorporate the tastes and personalities of both the bride and the groom into the wedding?

Meredith: Fortunately, Mike and I have similar tastes, so incorporating our personalities and tastes was pretty easy. We both liked the rustic look and wanted to find ways to integrate family and friends in our wedding day. For example, we had special rustic signs made for guests to guide them to their seat as well as for the sparkler send-off at the end of the reception. Mike and I also each used a rustic picture frame to create a collage of family pictures. An anniversary dance was used to celebrate the numerous married couples instead of having a bouquet/garter toss. And the sparkler send-off was a fun way to celebrate the end of the reception with family and friends together.

TWP: What did you find to be the biggest challenge in planning a wedding?

Meredith: The biggest hurdle in planning the wedding was getting the RSVP responses back from each guest. Thankfully, we set the RSVP date a month prior to the venue needing final numbers. That gave us enough time to contact our guests and determine if they were able to attend and ensure they would receive the plated entree of their choice.

TWP: What is the most important piece of advice you have for other brides and grooms planning a wedding?

Meredith: Give yourself plenty of time to plan, and stay organized by saving important documents/receipts in a folder or electronically. Also, don't sweat the small stuff! As you're planning your wedding, enjoy each moment with family and friends. And just take a moment to look around on your wedding day and soak up all of the love and laughter surrounding you.

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Meet Samantha And Ryan January 24, 2017

bride's hometown: York, PA

groom's hometown: Quarryville, PA

current place of residence: Lancaster, PA

how they met: The couple met while they were college students at West Chester University. "We started talking at a beginning-of-semester picnic and clicked so well that we already had our first date planned by the end of the night!" recalls Samantha.

proposal story: When talking about engagement and marriage, Samantha once jokingly told Ryan that he wasn't allowed to propose until June. So he made sure to wait until it turned midnight on June 1 to get down on one knee and ask her to marry him.

length of engagement: a little over a year

honeymoon destination: Bar Harbor, Maine

The Wedding

wedding date: June 26, 2016

ceremony and reception location: the Rotunda at Lauxmont Farms, Wrightsville, PA

wedding colors: mint, lavender, and gold

wedding theme: brunch and books

the menu: brunch food, including quiche with gruyere and herbs, triple berry baked oatmeal, bacon, ham, baked challah French toast with peaches and creme, and roasted baby red potato hash

instead of a wedding cake: assorted doughnuts from Maple Donuts in York

flowers: lots of greenery, succulents, and lavender

first dance song: "Your Song" by Elton John

favorite decorations: all of the vintage books. "It took lots of yard sales and used book sales to get such a beautiful collection!" says Samantha.

favor: bookmarks

one thing worth splurging on: the photographer

Vendors

venue: Lauxmont Farms, Wrightsville, PA

photographer: Autumn Kern Photo, Lancaster, PA

dress: Melissa Sweet at David's Bridal, York, PA

dress alterations: Linda Poff, Dover, PA

bridesmaids' dresses: Tevolio at Target

groom's suit: H&M

bride's hair: Meredith Ernest, Dover, PA

catering: The Scarlet Runner, Lancaster, PA

florals: Daisy May Flower and Event Stylists, Lancaster, PA

sound: FnP Productions, York, PA

doughnuts: Maple Donuts, York, PA

ceremony pianist: Taylor Gavin, Coatesville, PA

The Wedding Planner: What was the first thing you did when you began to plan your wedding? What inspired you to start there?

Samantha: The first thing we did was brainstorm what kind of wedding we wanted, and we began looking at venues based off that. Once we saw the Lauxmont Farms Rotunda, we knew it would be the perfect place for an afternoon brunch wedding, and we began planning based off the space.

TWP: How did you select the bride's dress, the groom's attire, and the outfits of the members of the wedding party?

Samantha: For my dress, I knew that I wanted detail: lots of lace and florals. I always loved long-sleeve dresses and wanted to try on a few. I let my family members each choose a dress from David's Bridal that they wanted me to try on. The dress I ended up wearing was my dad's choice!

For Ryan's suit, he saw a brown suit in a movie that he really liked, so we went on a hunt for something similar and found it for a good price at H&M. We had the groomsmen get the same pants, and I ordered the skinny woven ties from Etsy.

With the bridesmaids' dresses, I wanted two things: a light mint color and something affordable. I ran across the perfect mint Tevolio dresses on the Target website. I didn't even know that Target had bridesmaid dresses! And it just so happened that they had six varieties - perfect for each of my six bridesmaids to have a different dress! So, once my bridesmaids approved, I let them choose their favorites.

TWP: How did you incorporate the tastes and personalities of both the bride and the groom into the wedding?

Samantha: Both of us are morning people and book lovers, so an afternoon book and brunch wedding was very "us." Ryan is obsessed with Maple Donuts, so he suggested using them in place of cake, and it fit into the brunch perfectly. Once I knew those things, I was able to make the rest of the wedding fit in as well.

TWP: What did you find to be the biggest challenge in planning a wedding?

Samantha: It's so easy to get overwhelmed in the beginning. Looking at a long list of decisions to make and money to spend can be very stressful. Just take it one step at a time: figure out what your priorities are and get them done as soon as possible. For budgeting, do a lot of research to get a realistic view of what you can afford and plan your budget based on what is most important to you.

Get your vendors booked quickly. You can get crafty decorations anytime, but the caterer you want may be booked if you wait too long. If you find that you simply can't afford something in your budget, don't be afraid to ask around to family, friends, and your vendors. You'll be surprised who people know or what services people are willing to give you "as a wedding gift."

TWP: What is the most important piece of advice you have for other brides and grooms planning a wedding?

Samantha: Get the big decisions (venue, vendors, etc.) out of the way early on. Then you only have the fun details left as you get closer to the wedding!

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More Than A Dream January 24, 2017

Destination weddings can make for memorable moments for brides, grooms, and their family and friends. While the celebrations often take place in idyllic locales that make for a gorgeous backdrop to the celebration of the happy couple, setting the perfect ambiance for such a noteworthy occasion without breaking the bank can be tricky.

Destination weddings ask a lot of both the couple and their guests. Couples may need to visit the location of their wedding several times before the big day, and those costs can quickly add up. Guests will also need to budget for flights and lodging to attend a destination wedding. However, there are some ways for couples to rein in the associated costs to ensure that everyone has a good time without having to worry about finances as soon as the big day is over.

Look for Convenient, Affordable Travel. Some resorts may offer great prices on destination wedding packages, but be careful to avoid locations so remote that you and your guests will be forced to pay for expensive flights. With the rising popularity of destination weddings, many resorts now offer competitive packages; however, if keeping travel affordable for guests is a goal, it is important to choose a location that will allow travelers to book a reasonably priced flight rather than choosing the location based on the cost of the wedding package.

Shorten the Guest List. Trimming the guest list is how many couples curtail destination wedding costs. Invite only your closest family members and friends to the wedding and reception and then host a second, less-formal party for your remaining relatives and friends after returning from your honeymoon. Guests will understand, and you will ultimately get the chance to celebrate with all of your loved ones anyway.

Go Simple and Save. Many traditional weddings include all the bells and whistles, like lavish flowers and elaborate gowns. Destination weddings are often expected to be simplified, particularly if the festivities are at an island location. Let nature do the decorating and opt for native wedding attire if it's more affordable than potentially costly gowns and tuxedos.

Resist Peak Tourist Season. Much like there is a peak wedding season throughout North America, many popular travel spots' economies depend heavily on tourism seasons. Avoid that season when choosing a date for your destination wedding and you'll also avoid the higher costs that are associated with the more popular tourist times.

Go Discount Hunting. Popular destination wedding locations may be willing to negotiate prices on all aspects of the wedding, and those discounts may increase as more guests commit to attending. Resorts recognize that weddings will bring guests in need of lodging, food, and entertainment. Couples can use that to their advantage when negotiating prices. Couples may even be able to negotiate with airlines for discounted airfares if they can guarantee a certain number of travelers.

Buy Local. When planning your wedding, embrace the culture of your chosen destination and choose local foods, flowers, and entertainment. Not only will it make your big day more unique and authentic, but it will also save you money and benefit the local economy at the same time.

Don't Forget... Couples hoping to have a destination wedding in another country may want to plan for a longer engagement than those getting married closer to home. The longer timeframe gives guests more time to arrange for travel, and it allows the bride and groom more time to navigate the requirements of getting married in a different country. Paperwork should be expected, and wedding license applications may not be processed as quickly. Be sure to have a firm grasp of the country's application process, including the possibility of having birth certificates and other personal documents translated into the official language of the country. Also, be sure to check on residency requirements of the country that you hope to marry in. Take advantage of a professional wedding planner, if the resort you choose has one on staff. A professional can make it easier for couples to navigate the sometimes complex laws regulating destination weddings, and a wedding planner's services are often included in resort wedding packages. If no such service is included in the hotel package, consider hiring a local wedding planner to make the process go more smoothly.

Destination weddings can be significant undertakings, but if couples are armed with the proper knowledge and preparation, the bride and groom can enjoy the wedding event of a lifetime and create memories that will last forever.

Ben & Andrea's Majestic Rocky Mountain Wedding

When Ben and Andrea Singer of Lancaster decided to plan their dream wedding, they knew that it would involve travel for their family and friends. "Our family is spread out across the country," Andrea explained. "Regardless of what we did, half of our family would have to travel."

The couple began planning a lavish autumn wedding in their local area, but they soon decided it wasn't going to live up to their hopes for the big day. "We realized we needed to refocus and bring things back to what mattered to us," the couple shared. "We were planning a wedding for other people, rather than a wedding that would make us happy."

With their newfound focus, the couple zeroed in on a destination wedding in a location that was special to both of them: the Rocky Mountains. "Andrea spent her childhood vacationing at the YMCA of the Rockies, and as adults, we have shared this place together. When we decided to go with a destination wedding, it was a logical choice for us, given its significance and our great love of the outdoors," Ben said. "It seemed like a wonderful idea to bring our families together in a place with so many fond memories for the two of us, and it gave us an opportunity to share this place with the people we love."

In the week leading up to the wedding, the couple rented a 32-person cabin where their families could spend time and get to know each other. "It was a surprisingly drama-free week that culminated in our wedding," Andrea recalled. "There were certainly a lot of 'what-ifs' leading up to the wedding, but the YMCA of the Rockies did an amazing job of making our wedding work," noted Ben.

The Singers were thrilled with their Rocky Mountain wedding, and they have a few tips for other couples who are interested in saying "I do" in a special, far-away locale. "Destination weddings can be tricky because you may not even see your wedding venue until (the big day)," Andrea noted. "Plan how you want things to go way ahead of time so that there are fewer surprises when you get down to the wire." Ben and Andrea also recommend that couples decide what they are willing to sacrifice, noting that not all of their close friends and family were able to make the big day. "For some, that may be a sacrifice they are not willing to make. Even something as small as trying wedding cakes or catering options will be something you may miss out on," Ben said.

However, for each sacrifice, there is the reward of lifelong memories. "Destination weddings replace some of the sacrifices with memories you simply can't make elsewhere," Andrea pointed out. One glimpse of the Singers' incredible wedding photos with breathtaking mountain views in the background, and there's no doubt that the couple made a great decision.

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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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Cortney & Colin August 1, 2016

Bride's Hometown: Lancaster, PA

Groom's Hometown: Willow Street, PA

Reside In: Elizabethtown, PA

Wedding Date: Sept. 6, 2015

Wedding & Reception Location: The John Wright Restaurant, Wrightsville, PA

Photographer: Emily Wilcox of Emily Grace Photography

Honeymoon: Costa Rica

Following a tradition they'd observed for several years, Cortney and her boyfriend, Colin, joined members of their families at Colin's brother's house to carve pumpkins on a fall day in 2014. After dating for more than six years, Cortney admits that she was beginning to wonder if Colin was ever going to pop the question, and nothing about Colin's calm demeanor that day betrayed the fact that Cortney was in for a big surprise as she began to clean out her pumpkin.

Colin had previously removed a section of the bottom of Cortney's pumpkin and inserted a bag with a small box inside. As she scooped away pumpkin seeds and goop, Cortney saw the box and knew immediately that it contained an engagement ring. Both sets of their parents came over to join in the celebration. "It was a night we will always remember!" Cortney said.

Another night that Cortney, who works in administration at Willow Valley Communities, and Colin, a sous chef at Lebanon Country Club, will always remember occurred 11 months later when the two wed alongside the Susquehanna River and celebrated with friends and family at The John Wright Restaurant in Wrightsville, Pa. Cortney shared insights into the couple's planning process leading into their big day.

Vendors Used:

Venue: The John Wright Restaurant, Wrightsville, PA

Cupcakes: The Flour Child, Columbia, PA

Bride's Dress: The Bridal Emporium, Elizabethtown, PA

Bridesmaids' Dresses: Alfred Angelo, Lancaster, PA

Flowers: Wedding Flowers by Cyndi, Willow Street, PA

Photography: Emily Grace Photography, Elizabethtown, PA

Disc Jockey: Top Hat Entertainment, Lancaster, PA

What was the first thing you did when you began to plan your wedding?

The first thing we decided on when we began to plan our wedding was the location and date. I knew I wanted to get married outside and by a body of water, and Colin agreed. I also wanted to get married in the summer, and our venue was booked for the summer until September, so that is how we chose our date. The first and only venue we checked out was The John Wright Restaurant. I had seen pictures of previous weddings there, and we both fell in love with that spot.

How did you choose a style for your wedding? What unique touches did you add to your wedding?

We chose a style for our wedding based around our venue and the time of year we got married. Since we got married along the Susquehanna River and I love the beach, we went with a nautical theme for our wedding. This included jars of sand with candles for our centerpieces, anchor-themed table numbers, and nautical knots tied around the bridal bouquets and the boutonnieres. Our colors were navy and coral/watermelon, which we thought were great colors to go with our nautical theme.

How did you select the bride's dress, the groom's attire and the outfits of the members of the wedding party? Did you know what you wanted in advance or base your decision on what you saw while shopping?

We had an idea of what we wanted when we first started to shop for the groom's attire. Since it was the end of summer, we knew there was a chance it could be really hot so we opted for vests and no jackets for the guys. We chose a light gray suit since it was an outside wedding, and it went well with our nautical wedding theme.

I knew I wanted the bridesmaids' dresses to be short, but that was all I had in mind. When we went shopping, I told the girls they could pick out their own style as long as it was short. However, they all ended up loving the same style, so everyone wore the same style dress, except for my sister. She was the maid of honor and I wanted her to stand out, so she wore a different style dress. She also wore a watermelon-colored dress while the bridesmaids wore navy.

For my wedding gown, I had a style in mind that I was interested in, but I was open to trying on different styles. We went to three different bridal stores before I fell in love with my gown. I knew right away that it was the dress for me and that all of the other dresses I had tried on did not compare to this one. When you are the bride, you just know when you have found the perfect one.

Out of the many skilled photographers in the area, how did you choose one?

We chose Emily Grace Photography after doing an Internet search of local wedding photographers. We started looking at photographers early in our wedding planning process because I had heard that photographers get booked up quickly, especially in the popular wedding months. When I found Emily's site and started browsing her pictures, I knew she was the photographer for us. She captured those special moments between a husband and wife that only a skilled photographer can capture. Her photos showed guests having a great time on the dance floor and dads seeing their daughters in their gowns for the first time. I loved the photos of all those "real" moments during a wedding day. Those are the moments that I wanted captured at my wedding, and I knew Emily could do that.

How did you incorporate the tastes and personalities of both the bride and the groom into the wedding?

We incorporated my tastes and personality through the nautical theme and my love for the beach. We incorporated Colin's tastes and personality through the food that we had at our reception. He picked almost the whole menu. We had a buffet-style dinner, but he wanted a roast beef carving station, so we had that as well. I love cupcakes and Colin isn't a huge dessert fan, so we had cupcakes instead of cake.

What favors did you provide for your guests?

We gave them a succulent plant in a pot and wrote our names and our wedding date on it. We added tiny starfishes to the pot to incorporate our nautical theme. We wanted to do something unique and different that we haven't seen at a wedding before. It was a Pinterest idea, but we loved the idea because it was a lasting gift that our guests could remember our wedding by.

If there was one thing you could do differently, what would it be?

I would have added an extra hour on to our reception. The night just flew by, and there were some things I would have liked to do that we didn't get the chance to because we just ran out of time! I know my guests and I would have enjoyed an extra hour of dancing as well.

Do you have any tips for managing wedding planning stress, pre-wedding jitters, etc.?

Start early and do not wait until the last minute to get things done. Make a list of when payments are due to vendors so you will be able to meet their deadlines. We found it helpful to use a wedding planning timeline that we found in Engle Printing & Publishing Co., Inc.'s Wedding Planner! This helps you to stay on track of when items should be bought and vendors need to be contacted. According to the timeline, we stayed on track and that caused us less stress because we knew we had everything done when it was supposed to be, and we were not worried that it wouldn't be done in time for the wedding.

Any other tips for brides- and grooms-to-be?

Just enjoy every moment of the wedding planning process because your engagement period goes by way too quickly! Even if you do get stressed and just want your big day to be here (like I felt a number of times), just remember that this time in your life only happens once and you should make the most of it! And when your bridesmaids ask if they can do anything to help, take them up on their offer. It takes a load off you, and it allows for fun bonding time with your girls before your big day!

Everyone told me that my wedding day would fly by, and it sure did! On your special day, you want to make sure you stop what you are doing, look around, and soak in the excitement and beauty around you. This is the greatest day of your life, and you do not want to be caught up in the small details that will not even matter in the end. One last piece of advice - don't forget to breathe.

Photos by Emily Grace Photography

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Ashley & Jesse August 1, 2016

Bride's Hometown: Lebanon, PA

Groom's Hometown: Manheim, PA

Reside In: Manheim, PA

Wedding Date: June 27, 2015

Wedding Location: St. Paul's United Church of Christ, Manheim, PA

Reception Location: Historic Acres of Hershey, Elizabethtown, PA

Photographer: Jeremy Hess Photographers

Honeymoon: Hawaii (Maui and Kauai)

If the old adage that rain on a wedding day is good luck, Ashley and Jesse hit the jackpot. "Our wedding day was one of the rainiest days of the summer. The forecast said there was a 100-percent chance of rain, and the forecast was right!" Ashley recalled. "It rained all day, but we really didn't let it bother us at all." The two even managed to use the damp weather to create a unique memento of the day. "We set a jar outside and captured some the rain, and we will save it as a keepsake to commemorate our wedding day," Ashley explained.

Ashley, a sales consultant, and Jesse, an auctioneer, first met when they were set up on a double date by Ashley's sister, Kaila, and her husband, Ryan, one of Jesse's friends from high school. Ashley and Jesse hit it off immediately over dinner and ice cream in Mount Gretna, Pa. "Practically love at first sight," Ashley said.

The two became engaged on a 2014 trip to the Adirondack Mountains in New York. During a morning hike to Billy's Bald Spot, Jesse proposed at the top of the mountain and then the two shared a celebratory toast from a bottle of champagne that Jesse had been carrying in his backpack.

Nearly 12 months later, Ashley and Jesse wed at St. Paul's United Church of Christ in Manheim and joined family and friends at The Historic Acres of Hershey to celebrate the joyous (and, yes, a little soggy) day. Ashley answered our questions about the big day and the planning that went into it.

Vendors Used:

Catering: The JDK Group / Weddings by JDK (David Everett), Camp Hill, PA

Coordinator: Susan Barry Events, Newmanstown, PA

Photography: Jeremy Hess Photographers, Lancaster, PA

Video: Willow Tree Films LLC, Philadelphia area, PA

Florist: Wildflowers by Design, Manheim, PA

Cake: The Couture Cakery, Lemoyne, PA

Linens: Special Occasions, Lancaster, PA

Invitations and Programs: Designs by Renee, Lancaster, PA

Hair and Makeup: A Little Off the Top, Lititz, PA

Eyelashes: Ooh La Lashes, Lititz, PA

Farm Table Rentals: Weir Event Rentals, Hershey, PA

Vintage Rentals: Swoon Vintage Rental, Hummelstown, PA

Sweetheart Table Loveseat: Treasured Rentals, Lancaster, PA

Corncrib Drapery: Shumaker PDT, Lancaster, PA

Bride's Dress: La Bella Moda, Conshohocken, PA

Bridesmaids' Dresses: Alfred Angelo, Lancaster, PA

Tuxedo Rentals: Shaub's Classic Apparel, Lititz, PA

Transportation: Unique Limousine, Manheim, PA

Dance Lessons: PA DanceSport, Hummelstown, PA

Music: The Love Jones Band, Williamstown, NJ

What was the first thing you did when you began to plan your wedding?

The first thing we did was to search for a reception venue. With wanting to get married within a year, we knew that our options would begin to be limited for a Saturday wedding venue, as some venues are booked years in advance! After searching in the Lancaster/Lebanon/Hershey area, we discovered a brand-new venue, Historic Acres of Hershey, which wasn't even built yet! Their design plan, style, and indoor/outdoor vibe were exactly what we were looking for. The size was also perfect - it can be difficult finding a venue that accommodates more than 200 guests.

How did you choose a style for your wedding? What unique touches did you add to your wedding?

We wanted a style of "rustic elegance" for our wedding. This style describes us as a couple and also worked well with our venue selection, which had a barn feel with crystal chandeliers.

How did you select the bride's dress, the groom's attire and the outfits of the members of the wedding party? Did you know what you wanted in advance or base your decision on what you saw while shopping?

For my bridal gown, I knew I wanted lace on the dress and a sweetheart neckline. The rest of the decision was based on what I saw while shopping. I found that A-line dresses and ball gowns were too overwhelming for me, but I still wanted fullness within the skirt. The fit-and-flare style turned out to be just right. I absolutely fell in love with the skirt of my dress, which had layered English netting.

For the groom's and groomsmen's attire, we wanted to go with a classic look, so we decided that black tuxedoes were the way to go. Jesse's only request was that he wanted to wear black cowboy boots, and the boots added a great personalized touch to his outfit.

We ordered the bridesmaid's gowns from Alfred Angelo. They had a variety of different styles to choose from, so each bridesmaid was able to choose her favorite style in the same color.

Out of the many skilled photographers in the area, how did you choose one?

After looking through many options, I decided to meet with Amber Martin from Jeremy Hess Photographers in Lancaster. Her style of photography seemed fresh with a classic appeal. Her images seemed like they would be beautiful and classic five, 10, or even 50 years down the road. After meeting with Amber in person, we loved her personality and attitude. She really cared about our wedding and what was important to us.

How did you incorporate the tastes and personalities of both the bride and the groom into the wedding?

Our rustic elegance style really captured both of our personalities. With Jesse being an outdoorsman, we incorporated antlers within the floral arrangements on the tables, as well as tasteful antler images on other details like signage, cocktail napkins, and matches. However, we still maintained a classy and elegant vibe through the use of antiques and metallic copper as an accent.

Also, I love to dance and take dance classes as a hobby. Jesse agreed to take ballroom dancing lessons for our wedding day, and we showed off some of our newly learned moves during our first dance, which made our first dance so fun and memorable for us.

What favors did you provide for guests?

We gave our guests small glass jars filled with a "Hunter's Blend" salt, because it is something that we love to use personally when cooking. The seasoning is perfect for any meat, fish, or wild game - which we eat a lot of since Jesse is an avid hunter. We also liked the salt as a favor because it was something that the guests could take with them and actually use when they got home. We got responses from our guests that they loved the favor and wanted to know where they could get more!

What did you find to be the biggest challenge in planning a wedding?

Our biggest challenge or concern was estimating how many of our invited guests would attend the ceremony and reception. At the church and the reception venue, we had a maximum of about 230 guests that we could accommodate. Luckily, our estimate was right on the nose, and we came in just under 230 guests so everything worked out perfectly. However, waiting for that final guest count to come in was probably the most stressful part of the planning process!

If there was one thing you could do differently, what would it be?

If there was one thing that we wish could have been different on our wedding day, it was the rain. Luckily, the rain didn't impact us too much because the ceremony and reception were inside. The only major thing that was changed was our cocktail hour, which was planned to be outside in the courtyard at Historic Acres of Hershey but instead had to be moved inside to the pavilion. We accepted it and had an absolutely perfect wedding day!

Do you have any tips for managing wedding planning stress, pre-wedding jitters, etc.?

Find a "day-of" wedding coordinator. Between JDK Catering, which did an amazing job with setup and teardown, and Susan Barry Events, our day-of coordinator, we felt very confident going into our wedding day. JDK and Susan Barry Events worked together to outline every detail of the timeline. We were able to relax knowing that everything was taken care of and that they would keep things moving on schedule throughout the ceremony and reception.

Any other tips for brides- and grooms-to-be?

Once your wedding day arrives, just try to relax and enjoy everything! Let the professionals do their jobs and know that they will be able to handle any obstacles that come up. Try to relax and soak up every moment of the day that you've worked so hard to plan. Also, take some time to enjoy a few private moments with your spouse. We had some alone time driving from the church to the venue and also taking our "first look" at the reception venue before the guests arrived. These moments are definitely some of the ones that stick out in my memory from what was an amazing day.

Photos by Jeremy Hess Photographers 2015/Amber Martin

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Darcy & Jerome July 29, 2016

Bride's Hometown: Lancaster, PA

Groom's Hometown: Connellsville, PA

Reside In: Philadelphia, PA

Wedding Date: March 28, 2015

Wedding Location: Mellinger Mennonite Church, Lancaster, PA

Reception Location: Bareville Fire Company, Leola, PA

Photographer: Kelly Lapp Photography

Honeymoon: Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in Farmington, PA

"We joke that we had an 'arranged marriage,' because we agreed to get married about three weeks after meeting for the first time," explained Darcy, recalling the early days of her relationship with her husband, Jerome. "It wasn't love at first sight, but certainly we were hooked at some point on our second date," she added. "Sometime during that second date, we both let our guards down and realized there was something special between us."

It certainly seems like it was meant to be for Darcy, an elementary music teacher, and Jerome, a graduate student and future pastor. The two met online on the first or second day after Darcy created a profile on an online dating site. Darcy later found out that one of her housemates knew Jerome and was already planning to match him up with Darcy, which only added to the sense that the two were destined to find each other.

"It was a whirlwind," said Darcy. "Jerome proposed in his living room with an impossibly cheap engagement ring that made way for a better one a few months later. His earnest, nervous speeches melted my heart." Five months later, the two wed in a traditional ceremony that included worship music and then celebrated with friends and family with a reception held at a nearby fire company. Darcy provided insight into the couple's wedding planning process.

Vendors Used:

Photography: Kelly Lapp Photography, Lancaster, PA

Catering: Stoltzfus Catering, Mount Joy, PA

Dress: Reifsnyder's Bridal Boutique, Lancaster, PA

Bridesmaids' Dresses: Alfred Angelo

Groomsmen's Suits: Men's Wearhouse

Flowers: by the bride's aunt, Laverne Oberholtzer of Elizabethtown, PA

Cake: by the bride's sister, Danelle Fernandez, Colorado Springs, CO

Videographer: Treasure Box Family Life Productions, Lancaster, PA

What was the first thing you did when you began to plan your wedding?

First we reserved the church. I knew it was a great place to get married. My older sister had her wedding there nine years prior.

How did you choose a style for your wedding? What unique touches did you add to your wedding?

I don't think we did anything that stylistically unique. We had a traditional ceremony with some time for worship music, which is something that was so important to me because I love worship.

For the reception, we went with a rather rustic feel, and my mother was the mastermind of a lot of the decorative details. She suggested using cross-sections of logs for the tables, brown paper, and lace. She also crafted our seating chart cards. I wanted both candles and flowers on the tables, and my aunt made beautiful bouquets in jars. My cousin lent us strings of Christmas lights to hang at the reception.

How did you select the outfits of the members of the wedding party? Did you know what you wanted in advance or base your decision on what you saw while shopping?

I selected the bridesmaids' dresses quickly, knowing that they needed to be ordered soon. My sister graciously spearheaded the search for the dresses, and I loved the color.

For the groomsmen, we wanted something classic and not too pricey, so we settled on what the associates at Men's Wearhouse guided us toward. Opting for suspenders instead of vests saved some money, and we bought the guys some wild purple socks.

Out of the many skilled photographers in the area, how did you choose one?

I chose Kelly Lapp Photography because I've seen her work on Facebook and I attended elementary school with her, so I trusted her artistry and work ethic. When she was recommended by another photographer I checked with, it sealed the deal. Her second shooter for our wedding day, Laura

Burkholder, was a classmate of mine from first grade through high school. Both Kelly and Laura were delightful to work with. They kept things running smoothly and were so joyful and relaxed, which was a blessing on the wedding day.

How did you incorporate the tastes and personalities of both the bride and the groom into the wedding?

Jerome was laid-back about preparations, just suggesting that his mother sing at the wedding and that the guys wear traditional tuxedos. We both like purple and have friends who are fantastic musicians, so we had great music and a lot of purple.

I selected most of the ceremony music, and Jerome chose the recessional and the music for the bridal party's entrance into the reception. You can imagine the response of our white and black friends and family members when the bridal party strutted in with James Brown's "Say it Loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud" blasting. I insisted upon dancing at the reception, but it was Jerome who wowed the crowd during our extemporaneous first dance.

What did you find to be the biggest challenge in planning a wedding?

Weddings involve so many people, and people all have opinions. It was a challenge to navigate those opinions while maneuvering within a budget and trying to decide what aspects were important to me personally. There are so many decisions to be made, and it's hard to know which ones are even important. It was also a challenge to limit the guest list!

If there was one thing you could do differently, what would it be?

I would have left out the open mic at the reception and chatted with more wedding guests instead.

Do you have any tips for managing wedding planning stress, pre-wedding jitters, etc.?

Stay away from people who upset you! And plan ahead. I spent a lot of energy in the weeks before the wedding pulling together the musicians, who were all friends of ours, because one of our singers backed out. It worked out for the best, and I was thrilled with the end result.

Also, Jerome surprised me by booking a massage for me the week before the wedding. That was certainly relaxing!

Any other tips for brides- and grooms-to-be?

The ceremony is so much more important than the reception! We can have another big party sometime, but I will always treasure the ceremony. My advice is to pay attention to the details of the ceremony - the music, readings, prayers, etc. It is so meaningful.

Photos by Kelly Lapp Photography

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Shannon & Tim July 29, 2016

Bride's Hometown: Short Gap, WV

Groom's Hometown: Harrisburg, PA

Reside In: Hershey, PA

Wedding Date: April 17, 2015

Wedding & Reception Location: Historic Acres of Hershey, Elizabethtown, PA

Photographer: Joseph and Deborah McDowell of J&D Studio

Honeymoon: Playa Del Carmen, Mexico

After meeting on the job, line cooks Shannon and Tim perfected the recipe for love. "We cooked together and built a strong friendship for two years before transitioning to dating and beginning a relationship," Shannon explained.

Tim proposed late one night after the couple had survived a rough day at work. "We were hanging out on the couch, and he got down on one knee and asked," Shannon recalled. "The proposal was sweet, simple, and perfect for us!"

During their 14-month engagement, the culinarily talented duo cooked up plans for a spring celebration that treated their guests to a healthy portion of fun in the form of dancing, games, and a photo booth. "We loved our wedding day and honestly wouldn't want to change anything," Shannon said. She provided details about the big day and the couple's wedding planning journey.

Vendors Used:

Caterer: The Uncommon Caterer, Harrisburg, PA

Bride's and Bridesmaids' dresses: David's Bridal, Harrisburg, PA

Photographer: J&D Studio, Harrisburg, PA

Cake: by friend Wes Hellberg

Disc Jockey: B&B Light and Sound, Sinking Spring, PA

Tent: Hess Tent Rental, Lititz, PA

Flowers: Weddings and Blooms, Mechanicsburg, PA, and Sam's Club, Harrisburg, PA

Bridal Hair: Holiday Hair, Hummelstown, PA

Officiant: Pastor Jeffrey Fisher

What was the first thing you did when you began to plan your wedding?

The two most important things to start with are researching wedding venues and also to start compiling the guest list. It is important to have an idea of how many guests will be attending so that you will know if the venues you are interested in can accommodate your group.

How did you choose a style for your wedding? What unique touches did you add to your wedding?

We chose to go with the very popular "rustic" theme. Tim and I both love the outdoors and the natural look of burlap, wood, lace, and wildflowers. We also liked the rustic approach because every single detail did not need to be absolutely perfect. We came up with a motto throughout all of our planning and crafting for when things didn't go exactly according to plan: "If it doesn't turn out perfect, it's OK because it's RUSTIC!" We brought the outdoors inside as we put a huge tent right overtop the beautifully landscaped patio area at Historic Acres of Hershey. It was unique and truly special to us.

We had so many unique touches at our wedding that our family was involved in! My brother built cornhole boards for guests to enjoy during the cocktail hour. My parents made an incredible wooden backdrop for our photo booth. The photo booth props were all handmade by a friend. The wood logs we used for centerpieces were all hand-cut by my uncle. We also had an amazing wooden guest book that we can hang in our house as a reminder of our special day!

How did you select the bride's dress, the groom's attire and the outfits of the members of the wedding party? Did you know what you wanted in advance or base your decision on what you saw while shopping?

I did a little research on dresses before going to the store. I had an idea of my likes and dislikes, but what I ended up choosing was really not at all what I had pictured myself wearing. However, we all loved the dress once I put it on. It was the right fit for me, my boots, and the overall style of our wedding.

The bridesmaids' dresses were pretty easy to pick out. I told the girls that the color of the dress should be mint, and they quickly found one they all agreed on! It was the right color, and the lace on them blended in beautifully with the lace bridal gown. The girls also wore boots, which looked so cute with the knee-length dresses.

Tim wanted to buy a suit rather than renting a tux, so he and the groomsmen all bought black suits and shoes. Tim and I went shopping together to find shirts and ties for the guys to match the bridesmaids' dresses, and I think we found a pretty great match!

Out of the many skilled photographers in the area, how did you choose one?

J&D Studio was recommended by a friend who had her wedding photographed by Deb and Joseph. We looked through the amazing photos on her website and scheduled a meeting with her. After talking with her and going over pricing, we knew we had found our wedding photographer. Deb and Joseph are so talented and will do whatever it takes to get the best pictures!

What favors did you provide for your guests?

We saw the idea of doing a popcorn bar online and thought that would be a great wedding favor! We wanted to give something that people could use - or eat, in this case. We got a personalized stamp with a design featuring our initials inside of a Mason jar and stamped brown paper bags for guests to fill with popcorn, seasonings, candies, and nuts. The caterer took care of the entire thing for us!

What did you find to be the biggest challenge in planning a wedding?

The biggest challenge that probably every couple will encounter is having all of the last-minute details to finalize the week of the wedding. It seems that no matter how much work and preparation you put in ahead of time, there will always be last-minute things to take care of.

Do you have any tips for managing wedding planning stress, pre-wedding jitters, etc.?

Get your bridal party, close friends, and family involved. We had several people helping out with building, crafting, organizing, and lending us things for the day. It really helped knowing that we weren't the only two people working to make the day successful. We are so lucky we had people willing to help out!

It's also very important to stay organized and make a to-do list to keep you on track. It felt great to get things marked off the list and helped to keep the stress level down. Also, plan a great honeymoon to keep you excited during the stressful and busy times.

Any other tips for brides- and grooms-to-be?

Put your main focus on the parts of the day that are most important to you. Don't worry about the little things that may not go exactly as planned, because chances are your guests won't even notice. When the big day comes, relax and take it all in, as the day will go by fast.

Photos by J&D Studio

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Julia & Dan July 29, 2016

Bride's Hometown: Charleston, SC

Groom's Hometown: Royersford, PA

Reside In: Schwenksville, PA

Wedding Date: May 22, 2015

Wedding & Reception Location: Cameron Estate Inn, Mount Joy, PA

Photographer: Epic Photography

Honeymoon: Sandals Grande Antigua Resort & Spa

"It was a perfect moment," said Julia, describing when Dan, whom she originally met through a mutual friend from grade school, proposed to her via a beloved holiday decoration. Dan's mother had given the couple a beautiful rocking horse Advent calendar that featured little drawers containing a different decoration for each day. When Julia opened the drawer for Dec. 11, she found that the daily Christmas decoration was sharing its space with another sparkly surprise - an engagement ring. When she turned around, Dan was down on one knee.

During their year-and-a-half-long engagement, Julia, a hair stylist, and Dan, a dispatcher, collaborated to plan a wedding and reception that drew heavily on influences from their heritages (Japanese and American for Julia, Portuguese and German for Dan), as well as their own favorite things. From paper crane decorations to special floral arrangements to scrumptious cupcakes from their neighborhood bakery, the details of the day spoke to who Dan and Julia are, as they celebrated their new life together with their families and friends.

"I was just so happy to see all of our planning, decorating and guests all come together in one beautiful day," said Julia. She took the time to share more details of the big day and the planning that went into it.

Vendors Used:

Photography and videography: Epic Photography, Elizabethtown, PA

Cake: Bause Catered Events, Pottstown, PA

Cupcakes: ICED by Betsy, Royersford, PA

Bride's Dress: Jon's Bridal by Suzanne, Allentown, PA

Bridesmaids' Dresses: Stephanie's Bridal, Pennsburg, PA

Catering: Cameron Estate Inn, Mount Joy, PA

Flowers: Petals With Style, Lancaster, PA

Hair and Makeup: Artistic Design Hair Studio, Allentown, PA

Officiant: Michael Dunstan, Bethlehem, PA

Favors: White River Designs

What was the first thing you did when you began to plan your wedding?

The first thing we wanted to do was find the wedding venue. We wanted a venue that hosted both the wedding and reception since we were going to have a lot of out-of-town guests. We knew we wanted to get married spring or early summer but were not picky about any specific day, so we picked the date based on what the venue had available.

We wanted to choose the venue first mainly to get a better idea of what colors we could use to decorate and to pick up the ambiance of what our bridal party would wear.

How did you choose a style for your wedding? What unique touches did you add to your wedding?

Our wedding's style was based on our personalities, families, and international backgrounds - Dan has a Portuguese and German background and I have a Japanese and American background. Our favorite unique touch was having Dan's mother, Anita, sing "A Thousand Years" by Christina Perri right before the bridesmaids walked in. Her voice was so beautiful and set the tone for a perfect day.

Our welcome wedding bags were full of Portuguese, Japanese, and German treats. Our table cards were Japanese origami cranes, which were all handmade by family and friends, so this really gave a personal touch to our day. Another personal touch was having all of my girls get ready in floral kimono robes, and all of Dan's groomsmen wore Sanuks, a brand of shoes that he loves. Also, because Dan's father is from the Azores, a set of islands that are famous for their flowering bushes of hydrangeas, we had Petals With Style design the different arrangements with an abundance of hydrangeas.

How did you select the bride's dress, the groom's attire and the outfits of the members of the wedding party? Did you know what you wanted in advance or base your decision on what you saw while shopping?

The groom's attire we knew we wanted gray, so it was easy to check that decision off the list. I wanted a lace dress but was unsure of the style. I really think the secret is having an experienced bridal consultant who knows what is best for you. I tried a few bridal shops and each consultant would take me from dress to dress, and I would end up with five or six dresses that were lace and beautiful but I was overwhelmed with so many options. Suzanne at Jon's Bridal was the best consultant I dealt with; she looked at me and knew what dress was going to look good on me. She came back with it, and I was in love!

The bridesmaids' dresses were a lot more difficult to pick out, since I was very picky and stuck on a shade of yellow that was now discontinued. After accepting that they were not going to be yellow, I went with a beautiful blush color that would complement yellow flowers.

Out of the many skilled photographers in the area, how did you choose one?

I did a lot of Facebook "stalking" in the Lancaster area, and I loved Jamie and Andrew's style of photography at Epic Photography. They really grabbed candid moments.

How did you incorporate the tastes and personalities of both the bride and the groom into the wedding?

We included everything we love: our families, friends, and food! We love these delicious cupcakes from a small shop in Royersford by our house, and the owner, Betsy, was such a joy to work with. It's amazing how many different flavors of cupcakes this woman can make! She provided us with 13 dozen cupcakes, and we did about seven different flavor options. A couple of our favorites are the Sweet Piggy, the Couch Potato, and the Bananatella. These cupcakes were definitely a wonderful thing to share with all the family members and friends who were there to celebrate with us.

For our ceremony, we wanted something different than a unity candle - something that was more "us." We did some research and came up with the Covenant of the Salt. From the earliest times, salt has been known as a preservative and purifier that prevents decay and corruption. It is eternal, enduring, and never changing, and they say the only way to break this covenant is to retrieve all your own grains of salt. The bride and groom each have a glass of salt representing one's life and then pour the salt into one glass to blend these two lives together.

What favors did you provide for your guests?

We gave our guests unique candles with orchids inside them. We wanted to provide something useful for our guests and something that did not take up a lot of space on the table. We wanted to stay away from the traditional favors that you always get at weddings, so this was the perfect budget-friendly favor.

Do you have any tips for managing wedding planning stress, pre-wedding jitters, etc.?

Make a wedding binder and stay organized! My wedding binder made it easy to multitask, because I brought that thing everywhere with me. I also followed a very thorough timeline that I found, and it really helped me not feel so overwhelmed. The stress is inevitable, but I think what really helped me was that you have to have a mindset that something will go wrong. Perfection is impossible because you cannot be in five places at one time.

Any other tips for brides- and grooms-to-be?

Take in every moment of the day, because it really just goes so fast.

Photos by Epic Photography/Jamie & Andrew Schoenberger

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Jill & John July 29, 2016

Bride's Hometown: Columbia, PA-

Groom's Hometown: Columbia, MD

Reside In: Timonium, MD

Wedding Date: April 18, 2015

Wedding & Reception Location: The Farm at Eagles Ridge, Lancaster, PA

Photographer: Kylene Lynn Photography

Honeymoon: Secrets Silversands Riviera Cancun, Mexico

Jill and John, who hail from different towns named Columbia (Columbia, Pa., for Jill; Columbia, Md., for John), first crossed paths during their senior year at Towson University, where they were both athletes. Track team member Jill and baseball player John remained friends after they graduated and officially began dating a few years later.

During their engagement, Jill, a disability examiner, and John, a beer distribution sales representative, returned to their sporty roots. "We both grew up appreciating our athleticism, and we enjoy exercising and its many health benefits. After the engagement, we decided it was the right time to get into shape all over again; however, this time we agreed we would make it a team effort," Jill explained. "Wedding planning is a lot of work, and taking a break is important. When we found ourselves so overwhelmed with planning, we knew that going for a run or hitting the weights would help release some of that tension. Working out together during our planning days paid off both physically and mentally!"

All of Jill and John's hard work on wedding planning paid off, truly hitting it out of the park with their Lancaster County farm wedding, complete with a barbecue meal and plenty of dancing. The couple took the time to answer our questions about their process of planning the big day.

Vendors Used:

Wedding Planner: Taryn Blake Events, York, PA

Officiant: the Rev. Kelly Jo Singleton, Lancaster, PA

Catering: Hess's Barbecue Catering Inc., Willow Street, PA

Photography: Kylene Lynn Photography, Lancaster, PA

Disc Jockey: Roger Campbell, Top Hat Entertainment, Lancaster, PA

Cake and Cupcakes: Byers Butterflake Bakery, Leola, PA

Dress: Renaissance Bridals, York, PA

Bridesmaids' Dresses: www.donna-morgan.com

Groom/Groomsmen Suits: Jos. A. Bank, Lancaster, PA

Makeup: Kayla Hummer with A Little Off the Top, Lititz, PA

Transportation: Newhurst Inc., Pine Grove, PA

Other/private vendors utilized by Jill and John included James Burke (videography), Courtney Torborg (flowers), and Rhonda and Colleen (hair).

What was the first thing you did when you began to plan your wedding?

Immediately following our engagement, we wanted to pick a venue and a date - they coincide when planning! We knew we wanted at least a year to plan and did not want a winter wedding, so we were anticipating April or May 2015, pending on venue availability. We had a few venues in mind, and nowadays venues tend to book fast, so we booked several tours right away. We knew we needed to act quickly if we wanted our dream venue, and 26 days after the proposal, we put down our venue deposit and had a wedding date!

How did you choose a style for your wedding? What unique touches did you add to your wedding?

From the beginning, we knew we wanted our wedding to be laid-back with a touch of tradition - not super fancy - and offer a good buffet-style dinner and a really fun time. The "rustic" theme seemed to fit us best - relaxed, unsophisticated, homey.

The Farm at Eagles Ridge has a ton of character on its own, and we chose to utilize the layout. We wanted guests to appreciate all that it had to offer - structural pillars outlining our dance floor, original barn wood, the spacious corncrib, and the simple backdrop of the pond during our ceremony. We kept centerpieces and decorations simple. (This also helped keep costs down, which is a huge perk!) We opted for rustic elements like tree slices, terra-cotta flowerpots with miniature peach roses, and jelly jars with white candles. We served cupcakes for dessert, so we had two cupcake stands built from barn wood and garnished with burlap.

We went with Hess's Barbecue to cater our wedding meal, which seemed fitting on a Lancaster County farm. Most importantly, it felt like a giant spring barbecue with our biggest fans! Our guests enjoyed a buffet-style meal loaded with pulled pork sandwiches, baked beans, corn bread, and much more.

How did you select the bride's dress, the groom's attire, and the outfits of the members of the wedding party? Did you know what you wanted in advance or base your decision on what you saw while shopping?

When selecting attire for our wedding, we wanted something that fit not only our personal styles, but also our rustic theme and color scheme. We knew sparkly items, satin dresses, lots of tulle, and tuxedos were out for us!

Jill had some ideas in mind - lace, slim-fitting, off-white, lightweight. Even though she tried on a few dresses, she ended up saying yes to the first dress she tried on, falling in love with the low-cut back, scalloped trim, and the way it looked bustled.

John knew from the beginning that he wanted a slim-fit suit versus a tuxedo. Originally, Jill was set on light tan suits for the guys, but John suggested navy blue, ultimately selecting a two-piece navy blue suit with a subtle tan pinstripe and a tie that corresponded with Jill's dress.

Once we established an April wedding, Jill fixated on pastel, spring colors and immediately fell in love with the peach/mint combination. We liked the idea of the matron of honor and best man wearing a different color, so we selected a mint dress for her and a corresponding mint tie for him. The girls wore one of two different styles of dresses to accent the color scheme and add some character to the wedding party. The groomsmen wore peach ties to match their wedding party partner. The navy suits really brought out the peach and mint colors and set the vibe for the pretty spring day!

Out of the many skilled photographers in the area, how did you choose one?

We came across Kylene Lynn Photography on The Farm at Eagles Ridge blog. We decided to contact Kylene, really liking the idea that she was familiar with our future wedding venue, and her pictures were amazing. Aside from a photographer who was prompt, personable, and friendly, we were looking for someone who provided an assistant on the big day and granted us the rights to the photos taken. We were super excited about the digital rights we earned to our photos - the online gallery made it easier for sharing with family and friends after the big day.

How did you incorporate the tastes and personalities of both the bride and the groom into the wedding?

We have similar tastes and personalities, but nonetheless our wedding was a mutual project that reflected both of us. We shared ideas with each other and found ways to incorporate them into our wedding.

Our music choices for the night allowed guests to enjoy a variety of tunes. Although we listen to almost anything, we do have different tastes in music. We trusted our disc jockey to take care of the majority of music for the evening - we agreed to let him spin whatever the crowd was into - but we took turns selecting the special songs. Roger Campbell with Top Hat Entertainment did a wonderful job of getting our crowd going and rolling all night. We trusted his knowledge and only provided him with a small song list to play throughout the night.

What favors did you provide for your guests?

We wanted our favors to reflect our theme or colors and found the "mint to be" idea appealing. Rather than using a pack of mints, we decided to give out something we both love - Keebler's Grasshopper cookies! Our favor was simple, inexpensive, and edible - and who doesn't like cookies?!

What did you find to be the biggest challenge in planning a wedding?

The biggest challenge was narrowing down the final guest list. We would have loved to have an unlimited number of guests at our wedding, but given that we would also be spending on the venue, additional vendors, food, etc., we had to come up with a comfortable number that was affordable for our parents and us. Creating the seating arrangements was difficult too, but looking back on it, it is really nothing to stress about! It is your day, and, unfortunately, you are not going to be able to accommodate every single guest.

If there was one thing you could do differently, what would it be?

Hire a loading crew! We created our centerpieces and brought in the majority of our decorations and props, so we were also responsible for packing it up and taking it all home at the end of the night. Although we got everything packed and loaded after the reception, we missed a little bit of the after-party because we felt it was necessary to assist with cleanup.

Do you have any tips for managing wedding planning stress, pre-wedding jitters, etc.?

Take advantage of it when people (parents, bridesmaids, friends, a wedding planner) offer to help. And do not be afraid to ask for help from those in your wedding party; they agreed to stand by your side no matter what!

Have a first look! We met on the dock at the pond two hours before our wedding ceremony. It was a moment we will never forget, and it helped ease the ceremony jitters. Our photographer was able to capture the moment, and our parents and the wedding party watched in the distance. It was honestly the best moment of the day!

Finally, if you have to stress, stress up until the day of your wedding, but do not stress on the day of your wedding! We know it sounds like terrible advice, but it is true. We will admit that were some stressful moments leading up to the wedding, but, ultimately, the most important part of your wedding day is that you enjoy it. There will be hiccups, but keep in mind that they will probably be minor and they will go unnoticed by guests, who are there to celebrate you, the newlyweds!

Photos by Kylene Lynn Photography

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