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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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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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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 Wellness February 17, 2015

It may have seemed like a blissful dream when the love of your life got down on one knee, pulled out a ring, and asked you to spend the rest of your life with him.

You may still be on Cloud Nine every time you glance at your engagement ring or recall each moment of your fiance's proposal, but let's face it: A lot of planning has to happen between "Will you marry me?" and "I do."

A couple's wedding is a special day, so it's no wonder brides-to-be and their fiances spend hundreds and even thousands of hours planning and preparing to make sure their big day is just the way they dreamed.

There's a reason that "Bridezilla" has become a widely recognized term. For all the joy there is in being engaged and in planning certain aspects of a wedding, there are plenty of times when the process can be stressful.

But fear not! There are ways to prevent the transformation into Bridezilla, that not-so-pleasing mutation. From caring for yourself to taking time to relax, a variety of healthy habits can be seamlessly sprinkled throughout your event planning, proving that wellness is more than just a fairy tale when it comes to wedding preparation. So wave goodbye to Bridezilla and hello to your happily ever after.

Properly Fuel Your Body:

What your parents told you at the dinner table when you were a kid - "Eat your veggies!" - is no less relevant now that you're an adult planning a wedding. The nutrients found in vegetables can bolster your immune system and boost your energy. The general rule of thumb is that the more colorful a natural food is, the more nutrients it contains. So keep that in mind as you eat plenty of vegetables, as well as fruits. Also, be sure to consume plenty of high-quality protein, which can come from various types of meat, beans, and other sources.

Of equal importance is staying hydrated. Here's some hydration trivia: By the time you start feeling thirsty, you're already dehydrated. Have water on hand and make it a habit to sip it - not gulp it - consistently throughout each day. Staying hydrated will keep you energized and focused, which is a plus for busy days as you plan your wedding. Not a fan of water? Water-based beverages, such as juices, are OK, but just make sure to keep an eye on the sugar content. Sugar consumption has been shown to increase feelings of irritability, among other drawbacks, which may make it easier for Bridezilla to rear her stressed-out head. So when at all possible, refrain from sugary, processed foods.

Perhaps most importantly, never skip a meal! It can be easy to sacrifice food for the tantalizing thought of getting something else on your checklist accomplished, but beware of "hanger" (that's a combination of "hunger" and "anger," referring to the irritability caused by hunger). If you know an upcoming week will be swamped with appointments, make a large, healthy recipe and freeze it in single-serving portions so you can have simple, already-prepared meals for later in the week.

Get Some Shut-Eye and Some Exercise:

You may think you can't afford to spend much time sleeping, but in reality, you can't afford not to. A lack of sleep can lead to irritation and can have a detrimental effect on your immune system's strength and your ability to focus. On the other hand, getting an ample amount of sleep, but not too much, on a consistent basis can improve your mood, re-energize you, and even cause you to look refreshed - say goodbye to those little bags under your eyes! Try to avoid stimuli that might prevent sleep, especially right before you go to bed: screen time, caffeine, and alcohol, to name a few.

Regular exercise can also help you to defeat stress and irritability. Exercising causes your brain to produce endorphins, a chemical that will improve your mood. So make exercise part of your weekly routine. Find something that you like to do and stick with it. Sure, that could be running, taking exercise classes, or cycling, but it could also be walking your dog, cleaning the house, or cranking your music and dancing.

Kick Stress to the Curb:

First of all, when you feel yourself getting stressed out, pause and take three deep breaths to calm yourself down. Also, don't hesitate to call close friends or family members when you feel overwhelmed. Chances are, they'll be able to talk you through some of the stress, calm your nerves, and help you refocus.

You can also find peace of mind by scheduling "trial runs" before your wedding day for everything and everyone, from your makeup artist and hairstylist to the skin products and cosmetics you plan to use. You can even practice putting on your dress, not by putting it on headfirst but by stepping into it and pulling it up, which is most likely the way you will don it on your wedding day, when your hair and makeup are already done. It can remove a lot of stress knowing in advance that your test run went off without a hitch and that, for example, you won't find out last-minute that you have an allergy to a cosmetic product.

Don't be afraid to delegate. You're not Superwoman, so you're going to need some help. There are aspects of wedding preparation that others can do for you, and you'll find that relinquishing control of these minutia to a well-trusted friend or relative can take a lot off your plate.

Above all, pay attention to your body and know the warning signs of stress. For example, if you're out to dinner and you nearly bite the waiter's arm off when he asks if you'd prefer ranch or Italian dressing, you might be stressed. In addition to a short temper, other common symptoms of stress include headaches, sleep problems, difficulty concentrating, an upset stomach, and low morale. Recognize these red flags early and deal with the root cause.

Give Yourself a Chance to Relax:

Your big day is probably getting just about all of your focus, and you probably feel like you need to go, go, go in order to get everything done. The truth is, though, that can eventually leave you feeling frazzled, stressed, and running on empty. Finding a retreat from the regular hustle and bustle will give you more fortitude to tackle the tasks at hand, so it's important to recharge your batteries before they're low. Plan some relaxing activities ahead of time, whether they're for you and your fiance, for you and your friends, or just for yourself.

Be intentional about spending time with your fiance. Ask him to be in charge of planning special date nights for the two of you. With the busyness of your schedules, set aside that time to enjoy reconnecting while not discussing wedding details.

Invite your bridal party or other friends to indulge in a chick flick marathon or some other relaxing activity. No matter what you choose, make sure you get some laughs; laughter has been said to be the best medicine, and it's also a great ab workout!

Give yourself some time alone. Some quiet time may still your mind and re-energize you. Curl up with a good book and a soothing cup of tea or soak in the bathtub. Take a leisurely walk in nature - sans cellphone - or spend some time indulging in a hobby that's fallen by the wayside.

Make sure you pay your body some attention, too. There's nothing wrong with a little pampering, and spas usually offer ample options for brides-to-be who are looking for a way to de-stress.

Massages are a great way to show your body some TLC, and spas may offer a massage and facial combo or other specials. Massage parties or spa days are also options if you're looking for a laid-back way to spend time with your bridal party or relax with your fiance. Additionally, some spas may offer specials for the day before or morning of a wedding.

Carry It Over to Your Wedding Day:

When your big day finally arrives, you'll feel a mix of excitement and nerves. But it doesn't have to be overwhelming.

Start your wedding day preparation the night before by getting a good night's sleep so you will wake up feeling and looking refreshed, relaxed, and ready to greet the day.

Consider scheduling some alone time to begin the day, which can help you to gather your thoughts and settle your mind before the hectic portion of the day arrives. Also, make sure you eat a substantial breakfast to give you energy that will last for hours.

To avoid having your blood pressure skyrocket, make sure you plan your day effectively, from having your hair and makeup done to determining how much time it will take to travel to the wedding site. Don't forget to set aside some extra time for pre-wedding photos, too. Remember, it's better to overestimate how long each component of your wedding day to-do list will take than to underestimate.

Designate someone to be the trusted keeper of your cellphone on your wedding day and to respond to the calls and texts you receive. That way, you can spend your time doing final preparations instead of answering texts from cousin Trixie about how to get to the wedding site.

Keep Calm and Walk Down the Aisle:

Yes, your wedding is your big day. But at the heart of the celebration is the fact that it's the day that you and your fiance are committing the rest of your lives to one another. And that's what really matters, more than having the perfect dress, decorations, food, and venue.

So remember to breathe. You've got this. Your happily ever after is more than a blissful dream, and it's just ahead.

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