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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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Wedding Website Essentials January 24, 2017

Personal websites are an invaluable resource for couples planning their weddings. Wedding websites provide a great platform for couples to share all sorts of information regarding their big day, making them an essential element of modern-day wedding planning.

Wedding websites need not feature all the bells and whistles of more permanent sites. Couples should be mindful to share certain information to ensure their guests stay in the know about the pending nuptials.

Participants

Wedding websites can be used to inform guests about the couple getting married as well as the various participants, such as the bridesmaids and groomsmen. Extended families of the bride- and groom-to-be may not know much about their loved one's betrothed, and the wedding website can help guests get to know both people getting married. Include information about the bridal party as well. A brief story about each bridal party member's relationship to the bride and/or groom can be a great way to illustrate just how much each person in the party means to the couple tying the knot.

The Big Day

Invitations were once the go-to source for information about couples' wedding ceremonies and receptions. But unlike invitations, websites won't get lost around the house or in the mail, making them more reliable resources for guests. Include all the pertinent details about the big day on your website, including the time and location of both the ceremony and the reception. Include directions to and from the venue (both the ceremony and reception venues if they are separate locations), and include a maps feature if possible.

RSVP Info

Couples can save guests the trouble of returning RSVP cards by including an RSVP section on the wedding website. Establish an email address solely for RSVPs and check it regularly so you can update who is and who is not attending your wedding. Couples can save the expense of postage by requesting that guests RSVP exclusively through the website. Be sure to include that request with the invitations if you still plan to mail more traditional invites.

Accommodations

Many couples arrange for discounted hotel rooms for out-of-town wedding guests. Include this information on the wedding website and aim to include at least two hotels where guests can register under your party and receive discounted lodging. In addition to the hotels, include some extra information about other lodging options in the area. Out-of-town guests will appreciate having as many options as possible, and having that information provided saves guests the trouble of researching certain neighborhoods to determine if they are safe or close to the ceremony and reception sites.

Registry

Wedding websites also provide a great way for couples to share registry information. Include links that take guests directly to your online registries.

Wedding websites are a great resource for couples who want to share information about their weddings and guests who would like to share in the excitement. As the big day draws closer, couples can update their sites to reflect any new developments.

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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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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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Excellent Accommodations November 9, 2016

Wedding planning can seem overwhelming at times, but couples also tend to have a lot of fun when making preparations for their big day. Whether it is sampling various cuisines for the wedding reception or researching potential honeymoon destinations, couples have much to look forward to as they plan.

One aspects of wedding planning that the couple may enjoy is finding lodging for out-of-town guests. Hotels come in all shapes and sizes, and visiting various hotels and seeing what each has to offer can be fun. As couples set out to find lodging for out-of-town guests, the following factors should be taken into consideration.

Number of Guests

Even if the couple has yet to pare down the guest list, they should peruse the preliminary guest list to determine how many of those potential invitees may need lodging. Some hotels will not offer discounted room blocks without a minimum number of guests, so the couple should try to find a hotel or hotels that can accommodate their group size and still offer discounted rates.

Location

Location bears considerable weight when choosing a hotel for out-of-town wedding guests. If the couple is tying the knot in a large city, guests are less likely to rent cars for the weekend, so the couples should look for a hotel with access to restaurants and other attractions the guests can enjoy. If the ceremony and reception are in a more remote location, the couples should try to find a hotel that is nearby so guests do not spend the bulk of their time behind the wheel while they are in town. If the couple simply cannot find a hotel that is close to the ceremony and reception locations, then they may arrange for bus transportation so guests can get to and from the reception safely.

Amenities

Out-of-town guests will have more free time on their hands than the bride- and groom-to-be, so the couple should consider the amenities of each hotel. On-site exercise facilities, pools and outdoor lounge areas can help guests fill the hours before the wedding and enjoy some rest and relaxation. In addition, hotels with on-site restaurants or those next door to restaurants can provide convenient places for guests to eat and meet up with fellow guests.

Cost

Cost is another significant consideration when choosing a hotel for out-of-town guests. Whether the guests are driving or flying in, the cost of travel is already hitting them in the pocketbook. For this reason, the couple should make it a priority to find hotels that offer budget-friendly rates for wedding parties.

Finding a hotel for out-of-town wedding guests can be an enjoyable element of wedding planning. Couples should consider several factors before making their final decision.

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Ideas For Celebrating A First Anniversary August 1, 2016

Couples approaching their first anniversaries may be amazed at just how quickly their first year as husband and wife flew by. Many would admit it feels like just yesterday that they were reciting their vows and dancing the night away in the company of friends and family.

Couples about to mark their first anniversaries often look back on a year of new experiences. A first anniversary is a milestone that should not be taken lightly, and there are plenty of enjoyable and meaningful ways to celebrate the first full year of wedded bliss.

· Enjoy a night of reminiscing and cake. If the couple saved the top tier of their wedding cake, they can take it out of the freezer and let it thaw. They can eat the cake while recalling the little details of the wedding. Couples may want to review their wedding albums or pop in their wedding videos to relive the magic of the big day once more.

· Plan an escape vacation. Consider traveling to a romantic destination and enjoying some romantic one-on-one time each and every year. Return to your original honeymoon spot or find a new locale.

· Dine at your wedding hall. Some wedding venues double as restaurants or may serve special brunches or dinners on occasion. Couples can make reservations and honor their first anniversary in the spot where they celebrated their union.

· Trade paper gifts. The first anniversary gift is paper, and couples can interpret this suggestion in various ways. Declare your love in a full-page ad in your local newspaper or treat your spouse to some tickets to a show or a sporting event. Consider jotting your thoughts on your first year of marriage down on paper as an impromptu poem or love note.

· Throw a big bash. Invite many of the same people who attended the wedding to a party at your home or another venue. Share a spotlight dance to your wedding song and be sure to toast all of the people who helped make your first year of marriage so special.

· Enjoy a fancy meal. Couples can use their anniversary as an excuse to try an exclusive restaurant that may be a little too extravagant for just any occasion. Indulge in an expensive meal and a nice bottle of bubbly.

· Relax with a spa treatment. Reserve a couple's spa day at a nearby resort or stand-alone business. Explore the services they offer, from massages and facials to relaxing body wraps.

· Have an adventure together. A couple may want to do something exciting for their first anniversary so they will remember it forever. Adrenaline-inducing activities, like scuba diving, riding roller coasters, helicopter tours or bungee jumping, are thrilling ways to mark a year of wedded bliss.

There is no limit to the number of ways a couple can commemorate their first anniversary. From romantic to wild, these activities can keep the spark alive.

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Many Hands Make Light Work August 1, 2016

Being asked to join a bridal party is both an honor and a responsibility. When asked to take on such significant and meaningful roles, men and women may recognize the honor but be unsure of what their responsibilities are as couples move forward with their wedding plans.

Bridal party roles can vary depending on circumstances, but many couples still want their bridesmaids and groomsmen to perform many of the traditional tasks associated with their roles. The following are some of the tasks bridesmaids and groomsmen can expect to perform in the months leading up to the wedding and during the wedding itself.

· Maid of Honor: The maid of honor serves as the bride-to-be's right-hand woman as she plans her wedding and gets ready on her big day. Maids of honor typically go gown shopping with the bride and may even choose or offer suggestions about the color and style of the bridesmaids' dresses. Once the bridesmaids' dress style and color have been chosen, the maid of honor will make sure everyone is fitted on time.

A maid of honor will also plan the bridal shower, sending invitations and arranging for lodging for out-of-town guests if necessary. Many brides want the details of their bridal showers to be a surprise, and maids of honor should honor those sentiments when possible. A maid of honor also plans the bachelorette party, though many brides do not mind being involved in the planning of such events.

The maid of honor may be asked to help address save-the-date cards and envelopes as well.

On the day of the wedding, the maid of honor will ensure the bride's day is as stress-free as possible, helping to address any last-minute issues that may arise. The maid of honor may be asked to serve as the legal witness to the wedding and sign the wedding license before the reception. At the reception, the maid of honor will toast the bride.

· Best Man: The best man is the maid of honor's counterpart, helping to plan the bachelor party and toasting the groom at the reception. The best man also tends to hold the rings during the wedding ceremony, and during the day of the wedding, he will coordinate the groomsmen to make sure everyone is ready to go on time. The best man may arrange transportation for the groom and groomsmen on the day of the wedding and may also return the groom's and groomsmen's attire the following day if the newlyweds are departing on their honeymoon.

· Bridesmaids/Groomsmen: The bridesmaids and groomsmen serve similar functions, acting as sources of support as couples plan their weddings. Bridesmaids and groomsmen help to plan the bachelorette and bachelor parties and may also be asked for their opinions as couples make decisions regarding their weddings. Bridesmaids and groomsmen must be prepared to take pictures once couples have officially tied the knot. They also must help the brides and grooms with any issues that may arise in the hours before couples get married.

· Flower Girl/Ring Bearer: Flower girls and ring bearers are often young relatives of the couple, such as young siblings or nieces and nephews. The responsibilities of the flower girl and ring bearer are typically limited to the ceremony, during which they walk down the aisle, either together or individually, before the father of the bride escorts his daughter to the altar or stage.

· Father of the Bride: The father of the bride walks his daughter down the aisle during the ceremony, and, along with his wife, may pay for the wedding, though many couples now finance their own nuptials. The father of the bride usually dances with his daughter during the reception, and some fathers may even share a special toast for the newlyweds during the reception, though such a toast is not traditionally required.

Bridal parties play an important role on couples' wedding days, and those roles are both an honor and a responsibility.

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Guidelines For Choosing Groomsmen August 1, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What To Include With Wedding Invitations August 1, 2016

Wedding invitations once followed a relatively standard format that did not necessarily require much thought on the part of the grooms- and brides-to-be. But many couples now take more creative approaches to their wedding invitations, using them to evoke a certain theme or to establish if the wedding will be formal or casual.

While wedding invitation designs might have become more flexible over the years, couples should still make sure to include certain information in their invitations to avoid being overwhelmed with questions from guests excited to attend the festivities.

· Date and time

· Venue location and information

· Reception hall location and information

· Hotel information

· Reply cards

· Reception menu

· Wedding website information

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Postal Perfection: Traditional Wedding Invitation Etiquette August 1, 2016

Whether a couple is planning a lavish wedding or a more low-key affair, wedding invitations are an essential part of keeping guests informed about the big day. While couples can now share details through email or even digital invitations, many still prefer to go the traditional route and send paper invitations.

In addition to the cost of the invitations themselves, couples need to factor postage into their wedding budgets. It may not seem like much, but the cost of postage can add up quickly. The following are a few postage pointers for couples about to tie the knot.

· Choose envelopes wisely. The size of the envelopes contributes to the cost of the postage necessary to mail the invitations. Postal services have specific size and shape parameters that govern postage. Envelopes that are oddly shaped or fall outside of the strict measurements are usually susceptible to additional postage charges because the envelopes cannot run through standard sorting machinery and must be hand-processed.

· Consider the weight. Mailings that exceed one ounce will require additional postage, even if they are in standard envelopes. Invitations, with their various components and thick card stock, typically weigh more than one ounce. Couples should weigh the invitation with all inserts included to get an accurate estimate of postage. Then they may purchase stamps accordingly.

· Get to know the local postal employees. Many postal employees, especially those who work at smaller branches, grow accustomed to seeing the same customers over and over. The employees can be good resources when it comes to saving money on postage. The bride- or groom-to-be can strike up a conversation with the person behind the counter and ask advice on the best way to mail invitations and ensure that they arrive looking beautiful. The conversation should be start at an off-peak time so the postal employee will not feel rushed by a line forming. The employee may suggest hand-canceling envelopes, which means the invitation will be processed by hand rather than run through machinery. This method can help to avoid damage.

· Stamp the return envelope. Invitations typically include response cards that guests will send back letting the couple know if the guest can attend the festivities. To facilitate the RSVP process, the couple should stamp the response cards.

· Prep invitations six to eight weeks in advance. Invitations should be mailed nearly two months prior to the wedding so guests can plan and respond accordingly.

· Double-check envelopes before sending. The couple should ensure that postage is sticking well and that envelopes are well-sealed. In addition, they should verify that they have the most current addresses for recipients. If invitations get returned to the sender, they can cost the couple even more time and money to resolve any issues.

· Consider custom postage. The post office should carry several attractive options for wedding invitation stamps. However, the couple also may be able to go online and purchase custom postage that features a graphic or an uploaded image to make the invitations even more special.

· Do a test run. The couple may want to send a complete invitation to themselves just to see how it arrives in the mail. This way, the couple can check the level of damage and have an opportunity to make any changes, such as adding a piece of vellum to prevent ink from smudging or to place bows or adornments in another area.

· Give the mail carrier a heads-up. The couple can let their assigned mail carrier know that response cards will be on the way. The cards tend to be small and can get lost among other letters and mail. A small token of gratitude, such as a gift card, for the mail carrier may be warranted.

Couples should make sure friends and family are well informed about the wedding by sending out invitations in advance and ensuring that the proper postage will get those invites to the right places.

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Building A Wedding Gift Registry August 1, 2016

Many once-popular wedding traditions have fallen by the wayside. But one wedding tradition that has withstood the test of time is the wedding registry. Couples about to tie the knot still build a wedding registry so their guests know what to buy them as wedding gifts. This saves guests the trouble of agonizing over what to buy the couple getting hitched and also helps to ensure that couples won't receive two or more of the same item.

Building a registry can be fun, as couples can act like children in a candy store and add items they might otherwise not be able to afford. But there is a method to building a registry that can ensure the process of giving and receiving gifts is comfortable and convenient for everyone involved.

· Choose a national chain. Many stores will allow couples to establish a registry, but it behooves couples to choose a national chain or chains for their registry. A local boutique store might sell several items a couple would love to have, but that store may only be accessible to guests who live nearby. Plus, such stores may be more expensive than larger national chains that can afford to charge less for similar products. Choosing a national chain ensures all of your guests will be able to access and purchase a gift from your registry, and make those purchases without breaking the bank.

· Choose a store with an online presence. When couples choose a store for their registry, it helps to select a store with an online presence that's user-friendly. Ideally, a couple should pick an online retailer with which they have already had positive experiences. This will make it easier not only for your guests, but also for you if you decide to return items down the road.

· Choose more than one store. Some guests will prefer to shop in-store rather than online, so the couple should give them some options so they don't have to drive far and wide to find the lone brick and mortar store on the registry.

· Visit the stores and do research. Though some stores allow couples to develop a registry entirely online, it still helps for couples to visit the store together and build their registries in the more traditional way. Visiting a store as opposed to browsing the store website allows brides- and grooms to touch and feel products, giving them a more accurate idea of the items' quality. In addition to seeing the products in person, couples should read online reviews of products before putting them on the registry.

· Choose items that vary in price. Many couples are sheepish about putting expensive items on their registries. That's not surprising, as the cost of attending a wedding, especially one that is out-of-town, can be substantial. But some guests, such as the bride's and groom's parents and siblings, may want to give a more expensive gift, so the couple should not be afraid to include items within a range of prices, from the inexpensive to the more costly, on the registry.

· Don't abandon the registry after the big day. The couple will not end up getting everything they include on the registry, but that doesn't mean they should just forget about those neglected items. Many retailers offer couples significant discounts on items from their registries that were never purchased, and those discounts may extend for as long as a year after the big day. The couple should revisit the registry after the wedding to see if they can find great deals on those items they never received.

Building a registry can be a fun activity for couples about to tie the knot. But there are some guidelines to follow to make the process go smoothly for guests and couples alike.

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Tips For Toasting The Bride And Groom August 1, 2016

Wedding toasts are a tradition to which many guests and wedding participants look forward. An opportunity for maids of honor and best men to express their feelings about the bride and groom, wedding toasts often touch on the heartfelt and the humorous while shedding light on the relationship between the happy couple and the men and women they have chosen to play such significant roles at their wedding.

While guests might enjoy wedding toasts, best men and maids of honor may be nervous about honoring the brides and grooms in such public settings. That anxiety is perfectly normal, especially for those who have never before been asked to serve as maids of honor or best men. Those tasked with toasting the newly anointed husband and wife can consider the following tips to make the task a little easier.

· Keep it brief. While there might be many things you want to say, try to be as concise as possible. Convey your relationship to the bride and/or groom, but avoid lengthy histories that might come off as rambling. While personal anecdotes that shed some humorous light on the relationship are great additions to wedding toasts, avoid going into too much detail when telling such stories, focusing instead on the parts of the stories that illustrate your feelings and generate a few laughs.

· Avoid being too formal. Even the most formal wedding can benefit from a toast that veers more toward the spontaneous. While you want to thank the parents of the bride and groom for hosting the wedding and the guests for being on hand to celebrate, there is no need to be especially formal. Giving a less formal speech also may help calm your nerves.

· Practice, practice, practice. Practice your speech ahead of time so you are not reading from cards or notepads during the toast. Reading from a piece of paper is less likely to engage the audience than speaking to them directly and sharing some heartfelt thoughts about the bride and groom. It's all right to hold onto some cue cards while delivering your toast, but practicing the toast as the wedding draws near will boost your confidence and make you more comfortable with the microphone in hand.

· Stay appropriate. Humor adds a lot to wedding toasts, but make sure to clean up any humorous anecdotes so they can be shared with all wedding guests, including children. In addition, avoid stories that, while humorous, may embarrass the bride and groom.

· Share well wishes. Before you raise your glass and ask guests to do the same, express some heartfelt well wishes for the bride and groom. Doing so is a fitting end to a tradition that's meant to highlight the special relationship brides and grooms have with their maids of honor and best men.

Maids of honor and best men making their first wedding toasts may be nervous in advance of the big day, but there are ways to calm those nerves and deliver heartfelt, memorable toasts.

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How Sweet: Cake-Cutting Etiquette August 1, 2016

The presentation of the wedding cake traditionally marks the culmination of the day's festivities and a final symbol of a happy couple's new partnership. Many people eagerly await the cake as much as they may anticipate catching a glimpse of the bride in her beautiful gown. While the cake in all its finery can be a beautiful sight to behold, a cake can only last so long before its fate as a delicious dessert is sealed.

As is the case with many wedding traditions, there is some established etiquette with regard to cutting and serving the wedding cake. Couples who plan on putting their cakes on display should be sure it is made with a frosting and filling that can endure room temperature. Certain creams may sour if not refrigerated and could cause guests to become ill. Couples who select perishable fillings should keep the cake refrigerated and then have the big reveal right before it is cut.

The cake cutting usually comes near the end of the wedding reception. The couple should schedule the cutting so that older guests or young children can leave without feeling as if they would be offending anyone. The master of ceremonies typically announces the cake cutting, and music may while the first slice is being cut.

Per tradition, the bride should hold the cake knife with her right hand, while the groom places his right hand over hers before they proceed to slice the cake together. If the cake has a foam or cardboard support, they should be careful not to cut through it. They should use a cake server to grab the first piece.

Traditionally, newlyweds feed each other a bite of the cake to symbolize their first meal as a couple. Many couples no longer embrace the once-popular tradition of smashing cake in each other's faces, but whether or not couples follow this tradition is up to them.

Some couples like to serve their parents a piece of cake. Following tradition, the bride should serve the groom's parents and the groom the bride's parents.

If there is a groom's cake, guests may prefer a slice of both cakes. Guests may also want to take home a slice of the groom's cake. Couples should make arrangements for proper packaging of the groom's cake so guests can take home a slice if they so desire.

The waitstaff typically handles the slicing of the cake. The uppermost tier is reserved for the couple to save for their one-year anniversary, and the remainder of the cake is served.

Couples should recognize that not all guests like cake, but it is better to err on the side of caution and have a cake that will feed all of the guests. The newlyweds also may want to consider offering a dessert bar for guests who prefer another type of sweet treat.

The cake-cutting ritual at weddings has withstood the test of time, and many couples still prefer to present the cake with fanfare and excitement.

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Seasons of Love August 1, 2016

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

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

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

Spring

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

Rustic Chic/Garden Party

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summer

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

Nautical/Beach/Backyard Cookout

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

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

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

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

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

Autumn

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

Country Chic/Haute Harvest

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

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

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

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

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

Winter

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

Holiday/Winter Wonderland

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

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

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

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

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

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