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I Do, Take Two December 20, 2018

Taking a chance on love and marriage for the second (or third) time is certainly worthy of celebration. The Pew Research Center reports that at least four in 10 new marriages now include at least one partner who has been married before, a trend that is on the rise.

Planning a second wedding can be challenging, as individuals may be worried about proper etiquette, superstitions, or meeting the expectations of others. But there are no hard rules governing second weddings. Now that couples are older and a bit more experienced, wedding planning may be met with greater enthusiasm and patience. Take note of these tips when planning a second (or third) marriage:

· Dress it up. Brides need not eschew white if they prefer to wear it for their second weddings. White, cream, ivory, or other similar shades are perfectly acceptable. Also, brides can make their gowns as lavish or as simplistic as they desire. The length and style of the dress should reflect the formality and scope of the event.

· Make it unique. Couples that have been married before may want to set this new occasion apart from their previous weddings. Discuss previous celebrations and what can be done differently this time around. Couples can use this opportunity to get to know each other more intimately by personalizing their festivities.

· Don't feel like the wedding has to be small. Second weddings tend to be more intimate, as guest lists tend to be smaller and couples tying the knot again may prefer less hustle and bustle. But couples should not avoid inviting people simply because second weddings are typically small affairs. Couples should invite as many friends and family as they want and as their budget allows.

· Set up a registry. Established couples may have the household basics already in place, but registries can include fun or entertaining gifts that speak to couples' interests. These may include home theater systems, fancy cookware, athletic equipment, or even funds for travel.

· Involve the children. Couples that have children can make them a special part of their second wedding celebrations. Children can play any role in the ceremony, depending on their age. If the second marriage comes after an amicable divorce, couples can invite their former spouses to provide support to their children so they can feel comfortable in the wedding.

· Be prepared. The marriage application process is similar the second time around, but additional documents, such as a divorce decree or death certificate, may be necessary. These legal documents also will be needed for men and women who intend to change their last names after getting married.


Selecting A Squad December 20, 2018

Making the important decision to get married can fill couples with joy and excitement as they imagine spending the rest of their lives together. Naturally, brides- and grooms-to-be are anxious to share the good news with others and to include their family and friends in the festivities. One way couples exemplify inclusion is by asking their closest friends and loved ones to be part of their wedding parties.

Being asked to serve as a bridesmaid or groomsman is an honor. Some couples may be tempted to ask every friend, sibling, or cousin they have to be in their wedding parties - and some do. In fact, ancient Roman law required 10 witnesses to be part of the wedding ceremony.

However, the larger the wedding party, the more people couples have to coordinate and the more personalities they must manage. There isn't any one-size-fits-all formula to decide which size party is right for a particular situation. Trends also vary based on geography and culture. The following tips can help couples decide on the size of their wedding parties.

· Match it to scope and style. Wedding planners may use a standard ratio for a proportion of guests to wedding party members. That ratio is one pair of wedding attendants for every 50 guests. This creates a balanced feel where the more people in attendance, the larger the wedding party and vice versa.

· Consider expenses. Wedding party members may be asked to spend considerable amounts of money to be in the wedding, but the couple will have certain expenses tied to the wedding party as well. These can include limousines to ferry people between the ceremony and reception, photography costs to arrange and photograph large wedding parties, the cost of boutonnieres and bouquets, and attendants' gifts, as well as extra mouths to feed at the rehearsal dinner. Small wedding parties can be easier on couples' budgets.

· Know your expectations. Couples should discuss what they expect from their wedding parties. Do couples want their loved ones to be very hands-on in planning and helping with the wedding? For those who want a lot of input from their wedding parties, asking distant friends or family to be included may be impractical. If couples' only expectation for their attendants is that they show up on the big day in the correct outfit and ready to walk down the aisle, coordinating with far-flung friends may not be too tricky.

· Select reliable, easygoing people. Wedding party members should be people that couples can rely on, and it also helps if wedding party members are not prone to overreacting. Choose a wedding party that can be trusted and people with whom everyone can get along.


Treat Your Squad January 18, 2018

A couple's wedding day is a time when they get to share their love and happiness with the people they hold dear. This usually includes bridesmaids and groomsmen, who play an important role in the festivities. Whether they are family members or the bride and groom's closest and most treasured friends, members of the wedding party typically go the extra mile to ensure the big day is a success. How can the happy couple ever repay their special squad?

Well, a thoughtful gift is one small way to show appreciation. Here are a few gift ideas that are both practical and personal - perfect to let those special people know just how much you value their friendship.

For the Girls:


Cellphone Charger - Not the average, bland charger, but a snazzy patterned model that will speak to the personality of your bridesmaid. The charger just might come in handy on the big day too, when snapshots and selfies are in full-swing at the reception.

Wristlet - A fashionable but functional wristlet wallet is perfect for stowing makeup, cash, a cellphone, and any other small items that need to be kept close. The wrist strap allows for hands-free maneuvering, as well. Go for personalization too! This item will come in handy on the big day and can also be something your special ladies can put to use for years to come.

Beverage Container - A travel mug, iced coffee sipper, or sporty water bottle makes a great gift, and - better yet - brides can fill the container with extra items like gift cards, candy, lip gloss, a fancy pen, or any other tiny gifts that fit the personalities of their bridesmaids. It's a gift that keeps on giving.


Personalized Jewelry - A bracelet or delicate necklace featuring your bridesmaid's initials, an engraved date or special sentiment, or a charm that fits her personality perfectly is a wonderful gift that each of your girls will wear proudly again and again.

Personalized Spa Robe - Find the softest, plushest spa robe and have it customized with each bridesmaid's initials. Add some bath and body products, and your best gals will have all they need to relax after the big day.

Top Notch!:

Spa Day - If you really want to thank your bridesmaids, book a spa day after the wedding. Let them pamper themselves and recover from the wedding day whirlwind with a facial, mani/pedi, and massage.

Designer Anything - Treat your girls like celebrities with a swag bag full of designer items like top-shelf perfume, major label beauty products, elite accessory brands, and the latest trendy fashion items.

A Kitten or a Puppy - Does this one even need an explanation?! Best. Gift. Ever. Period. (But definitely ask your bridesmaids first; you don't want any of the pets getting dropped off at the animal shelter...)

For the Guys:


Beverage Container - Just like the bridesmaid gift, only tailored to a man's taste. Consider an engraved beer mug or other piece of sophisticated barware or a water bottle featuring your buddy's favorite sports team. The options are endless, and don't forget to fill it with a gift card to his favorite store, some mints, and other small items.

Personalized Swag - A handy pocketknife, bottle opener, money clip, beverage decanter - these are all useful items for any man's accessory collection. The personalization adds that special touch and makes the item a great keepsake from a memorable event.


A Watch - It's practical and fashionable and can be engraved to add a personal touch that will mark the occasion properly. Find something to match your friends' personalities, like a hipster pocket watch, an eco-friendly bamboo model, or a logo-emblazoned sports watch for the die-hard fan.

Duffel Bag - Even if your buddies aren't into spending hours at the gym, a quality duffel bag is a useful item for guys on the go. Have it personalized or find one with a favorite sports team logo. Go the extra mile and fill the bag with trendy patterned socks, gift cards, a necktie, cologne, and more.

Go Big or Go Home:

Tickets to a Sporting Event - Surprise your friends with tickets to a big game and send along some cash for food and beverages while they enjoy the action under the stadium lights. If that is a little out of reach financially, treat your buddies to a night out at a pub or sports bar and help them unwind a bit after the big day.

Gadgets - Tech-savvy groomsmen will love to receive the latest and greatest gear, such as a hand-held gaming system or an electronic tablet. Go a step further and give your guys a personalized MP3 player with a special playlist uploaded and ready to bring back cherished memories.

A Kitten or a Puppy - Hey, if the bridesmaids get puppies and kittens, don't leave out the groomsmen! Everybody loves puppies and kittens!

Great gift options abound, but you can also consider making a donation to the favorite nonprofit organization of each of your attendants. They will love to know that the kindness they showed you has been paid forward to a cause that is close to their heart.


All In The (Blended) Family January 2, 2018

Families come in all shapes and sizes. During special events - particularly those steeped in tradition, such as weddings - blended families may have to employ certain tactics to ensure the events go off without a hitch.

When planning their weddings, couples must give consideration to the needs of their families. Even though a wedding is about the union of two people, oftentimes couples engaged to be married must contend with the politics of divorce or other familial issues. This includes if and how to incorporate stepparents and stepsiblings into the ceremony and celebration.

There are no traditional rules regarding how to handle blended families, so brides- and grooms-to-be can customize their decisions based on their own unique situations. Plus, the unique circumstances and traditions surrounding the nuptials can dredge up former insecurities for all families, and certain aspects may require extra patience and tact. Here are some tips to help navigate the process.

· Consider stepparents and stepsiblings VIPs. Brides and grooms who are not particularly close to their stepfamilies still have to recognize the role they play in the family dynamics. These people are still family, so respect and courtesy should be offered. If there is any lingering animosity, extend the olive branch on this day and try not to let anyone be made to feel as if they are unimportant. A simple announcement of who stepparents are at the wedding reception or inclusion of their names on wedding itineraries can help smooth over any potential bumps.

· Put others' needs before your own. While the wedding may be about you and your future spouse, you must respect the feelings of others. To help biological parents and stepparents not feel uncomfortable or hurt, try to consider potential areas of conflict. For example, a mother might be hurt if her ex-husband's new girlfriend is asked to be in a group family photo. Instead, select separate times to have everyone included. Remember to give parents and stepparents priority seating as well, and they each should be seated next to someone they love and someone with whom they can converse comfortably.

· Recognize that some families break the mold. Recently, a father went viral on the internet when a video of him pulling the bride's stepfather up to assist in walking her down the aisle went viral. Although this scenario might not play out for all, find ways to impart a special touch, especially if you're close to both your biological parents and your stepparents. For example, your biological father may walk you down the aisle, while your stepfather may enjoy the first dance.

· Order flowers and gifts for all. Purchase flowers and wedding party gifts for all of the special people in your lives, including your stepfamily.

Weddings can be complicated affairs when factoring in blended families. With patience and compassion, such families can enjoy a beautiful and happy day.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


A Tip from a Pro - The Real Meaning of the Day September 4, 2013

"It's easy to get caught up in the many details of a wedding, but never lose sight of the real meaning of that day. The day will come and go, but your family and partner are here to stay. Always remember to treat everyone with the love and respect they deserve."

Jessica Finch, manager of Finch Jewelers, Lancaster


Thank You Very Much September 3, 2013

Weddings and gifts go hand in hand. Couples who are tying the knot can expect to receive scores of gifts, ranging from simple well wishes to cash to items listed on their registries. Because gift-giving is tradition, couples should plan on spending some time writing thank-you notes to express gratitude to the people who were kind enough to give a gift.

Contrary to popular belief, couples do not have a year's grace period to mail out thank-you notes after the gift has been received or the wedding has taken place. According to the etiquette experts at The Emily Post Institute, all thank-you cards should be written and mailed within three months of receipt of a gift. It is preferable that the thank-you note be written directly after receipt of the gift, but time-strapped couples may not have the opportunity to do so. However, writing a few thank-you cards every few days can alleviate having a giant pile to do later on.

Many couples prefer to order thank-you stationery when they order their wedding invitations. This way the paper, font, and style will match the original invitations. In addition, it may be less expensive to order stationery as a package.

In some cases, a photography package may include thank-you notes with wallet-sized photos to include. Couples can then mail out a nice sentiment with a photo from the wedding. To keep with the etiquette time frame of thank-you notes, it is important to find out when the thank-you photos and cards will arrive from the photographer. The thank-you sentiments should not be delayed by the photographer.

For those interested in less expensive options, preprinted thank-you cards can be purchased at a stationery store. There are many designs and price points available. Remember, it is the thank-you message, not the card itself, that is most important.

As to the rules regarding who should be sent a thank-you message, just about anyone who contributed in some part to the wedding should receive one, even if a verbal thanks was already offered. Included on the thank-you list should be anyone who provided an engagement, shower, or wedding gift; those who gave gifts of money; anyone who hosted a party or shower; attendants in the wedding; people who housed wedding guests; the parents of the bride and groom; suppliers and vendors; and anyone else who helped to make your wedding possible, such as an employer who accommodated an odd schedule or friends who helped you put together favors.

Here are some other guidelines to follow:

* Mail a handwritten note to each and every person being thanked.

* Do not use form letters or preprinted cards to which you simply add your signature.

* Be sincere in your messages and try to mention the gift and what it will be used for.

* Promptly respond to gifts that were received through the mail so the giver knows they arrived.

* Never mention that you plan to return a gift or exchange it.

* Mentioning the amount of a monetary gift is optional, but it does confirm to the giver that the right amount was received.

* A mass thank-you message posted on social media is not adequate.

* Even if you are late with writing thank-you notes, that doesn't exclude you from doing so.

By adhering to thank-you card etiquette, couples will ensure their guests know that their gifts and other efforts to make the wedding special were appreciated.


Table for 20? September 3, 2013

One of the final responsibilities a couple has before tying the knot is planning the rehearsal dinner. Typically held the night before the wedding, the rehearsal dinner is an opportunity for the families of the bride- and groom-to-be and the members of the bridal party to get to know one another over a good meal.

Planning a rehearsal dinner is much less complicated than planning the wedding, but couples still must take steps in advance of the dinner to ensure it goes smoothly.

* Choose the right restaurant. Couples who are having their ceremony and reception at the same venue may be able to have their rehearsal dinner at the venue, as well. But many couples still prefer the rehearsal dinner to be held at a different restaurant. Be sure to make a reservation several weeks in advance and choose a restaurant that's fully capable of accommodating your party. The restaurant should have a menu that's versatile enough to accommodate guests on special diets or those who are vegetarian or vegan. The rehearsal dinner party can be quite large, so you'll want to make your reservation as early as possible so you can get the restaurant of your choice. The larger the group, the earlier you should make the reservation.

* Invite the right guests. Some couples may be confused about who should be invited to the rehearsal dinner. Wedding party members and their significant others should always make the cut, as should the parents of both the bride and groom, as well as the person officiating the wedding. Children who will be in the wedding and their parents also should be invited. Many couples also invite their immediate family members and siblings, even if those relatives are not in the wedding.

* Determine in advance who is paying. The groom's family traditionally pays for the rehearsal dinner, but that tradition has largely fallen by the wayside. Couples should determine in advance who will be paying for the dinner so there's no confusion once the meal is over. Couples who are handling the bill for their weddings should include the rehearsal dinner in their overall wedding budget.

* Try to create a relaxed atmosphere. Many of the people invited to the rehearsal dinner may be meeting one another for the first time, so couples should aim to create a relaxed atmosphere to reduce any nervousness and tension. The rehearsal dinner may also be the only time couples can relax and let their hair down with their family and friends, as the wedding day itself and the ensuing reception can be hectic. So take advantage of the more relaxed atmosphere and share a few laughs with those closest to you.

* Bring the gifts for members of your wedding party. The rehearsal dinner is when brides- and grooms-to-be give their bridesmaids and groomsmen their gifts. If the gifts are especially large, you might want to give them before you enter the restaurant or even back at the hotel. But in many cases, it's perfectly all right to give out the bridesmaid and groomsmen gifts at the rehearsal dinner.

* Allow time for toasts. Toasts are not just a tradition of the wedding reception; they are also a tradition of the rehearsal dinner. The couple's parents often want to toast the bride- and groom-to-be, and such a toast may be conducted in tandem. But the groom is also expected to give a toast, most notably to his bride-to-be. In addition, the couple walking down the aisle can toast their bridal party during the rehearsal dinner, thanking them for being a part of the big day.


Save-The-Date Card Decorum August 30, 2013

More and more couples planning to walk down the aisle are embracing the option of sending out save-the-date cards to give guests adequate notice that there is a party on the horizon.

Save-the-date cards do more than let guests know when you're getting hitched. The cards are a preliminary way to keep guests informed and to let them know they are, in fact, on the guest list. Sending these cards hasn't always been so popular, but this practice has become more common due to longer engagement periods, an increased number of destination weddings, and the growing number of couples with guests from all over the country, if not the world. Considering people often plan business trips, vacations, and other excursions several months in advance, save-the-date cards help secure a greater number of attendees at your wedding.

Save-the-date announcements can vary in many ways. They may be postcards or magnets that can be attached to a refrigerator door. If you desire a cohesive theme to your wedding stationery, select the save-the-date cards at the same time you choose your wedding invitations. This way you can ensure that the patterns, fonts, colors, and/or style of the cards will match. Uniformity between the save-the-date cards and the invitations can also help to convey the tone of the wedding. Guests may take cues regarding the level of formality of the wedding from the type of stationery the couple chooses.

The timing of sending out the save-the-date announcements is important as well. As a general rule, it is wise to mail out the cards six months in advance for a standard wedding. If the wedding requires travel or extended overnight accommodations, you may want to mail them out eight months to a year in advance to give guests time to investigate flight costs and hotel arrangements. Attending the wedding also may necessitate that guests plan a vacation or take personal time off from work. Therefore, ample advanced notice is advisable.

Be sure to make your guest list in advance of sending out save-the-date cards. Everyone who receives a card should also be sent an invitation prior to the wedding. Remember to include any members of your planned wedding party in the list of recipients. Just because a person has verbally confirmed attendance at your wedding doesn't mean they should be excluded from subsequent announcements. Guests may talk to one another, and it is best to avoid hurt feelings and any added drama before the wedding by treating everyone equally.

Be sure to include the wedding date, your names, and the location of the wedding on the save-the-date cards. You do not need to offer RSVP information or detailed specifics at this time. You may want to include the address of a wedding website on the card so guests can check it frequently for updates on wedding information. Be sure to also include that a formal invitation will follow at a later date. You do not want to cause confusion by having guests think that the save-the-date card is the actual invitation.

Although save-the-date cards are not a necessity, they have become a popular part of wedding planning because they can help to eliminate confusion about invitations and allow guests additional time to make the necessary arrangements to attend your wedding.


Penning the Perfect Wedding Vows August 29, 2013

Couples are increasingly integrating personal nuances into their ceremonies and receptions to tailor weddings to their unique visions. For example, including personalized wedding vows in the ceremony continues to be a popular trend.

If you are considering personalized wedding vows, first realize that writing your own vows may not be a simple task. You will want the message conveyed to be dear to your heart, and writing the perfect vows can be challenging, especially when you're faced with the pressures of planning the rest of the wedding. That isn't to say that writing your own vows is impossible. Following these guidelines will help you personalize your ceremony with your own sentiments:

* Schedule time for writing. Amid the bustle of dress fittings and interviews with photographers, it can be easy to put off the important task of writing vows for another day. But as any great writer can attest, it takes writing -- and rewriting -- to achieve a finished product you can be proud of. Set aside time to give the task of writing your vows your undivided attention. Mark it in on your calendar or set a reminder on your computer just as you would any other appointment.

* Be aware of ceremony guidelines. It is best to check with your officiant to confirm that personalized wedding vows are allowed. During civil ceremonies it's often acceptable to customize vows as you see fit. However, during religious ceremonies there may be lines of Scripture that need to be read or certain passages required. Before you spend hours working on the task, be sure that using your own vows is allowed and that you and your spouse-to-be are on the same page.

* Jot down your feelings. Answer some questions about what marriage means to you and how you feel about your spouse-to-be. Try to avoid trite sayings and consider your personal experiences. Think about the most important thing you want to promise to your partner. These notes can serve as the starting points for the actual vows.

* Read inspirational writings. Think about an author, poet, or musician who inspires you. You can quote other writers in your vows or let the tone of their works help shape the words of your vows. There also are suggested wedding readings and other quotes about marriage readily available through a quick online search or at your local library.

* Decide on a tone. Although the day is based on love and affection, you may not feel comfortable spouting words of adoration in front of friends and family. Feel free to tap into your unique personality. Humor can be used if it aligns with the way you normally express your affections. Be sure to weave this tone into more traditional passages to create a cohesive expression of your feelings.

* Establish an outline. Put together all the words and phrases you've jotted down into an outline to help you organize the flow of the vows, using these words as a blueprint for the vows and building upon them. Make sure the vows will be concise. Aim for your entire speech to be around one minute in length to keep everyone engaged and the ceremony moving along.

* Put everything together. Draft your vows and then practice reading them out loud. Avoid long sentences or anything that trips you up. Although large words may sound impressive, they could make the vows seem too academic and not necessarily heartfelt. Enlist the help of a friend or two to act as your audience to see if the vows sound good and are easily understandable.

Writing your own vows can be a way to include personal expressions of love into your wedding day. Public speaking is seldom easy, nor is finding the perfect words to convey the depth of your feelings toward your future spouse; however, with some practice and inspiration, you can create personalized vows that will make your ceremony even more special.


Solving the Seating Plan Predicament August 29, 2013

Weddings are filled with many emotions: happiness, excitement, and anticipation, to name a few. With all of the positive emotions a wedding may drum up, there may be a few negative ones in the mix as well, including feelings of being overwhelmed at all the details that need to be completed on a deadline.

One aspect of wedding planning that tends to send people into panic is determining the wedding reception seating arrangements. The thought of having 200 friends and family members together under one roof - and then attempting to seat them next to an acceptable group of people - can cause some couples to hyperventilate.

Every family has its ups and downs, and there are certain people who get along well and a few who clash. Ensuring that a wedding is memorable for all the right reasons (and not for the brawl at table 3) is why seating arrangements are so important. Many couples can use a little advice when seating guests. Here are some guidelines for setting up reception seating arrangements:

* Before beginning to make seating arrangements, a couple will need the entire list of people attending the event. Having a final headcount is essential. While it may be tempting to start working on the seating chart early in the reception planning, it's best left until a few weeks before the wedding day, when it is known who will and will not be in attendance.

* It is important to know the number of tables allotted in the party space. A catering hall may have a set number of seats that can fit at each table and can usually provide a map of the room or a blank seating chart. Many standard reception tables can comfortably seat between eight to 10 people. Squeezing in more people can make for an uncomfortable dining experience. Some venues may be able to provide tables of different sizes to better accommodate groupings of different sizes, as well.

* Visual people may benefit from writing guests' names on small pieces of paper and physically moving them around the seating chart, much as they would do if they were trying to arrange furniture on a room layout. Otherwise, planners should write things down as they go. Software and smartphone apps are also now available that make it easier to make seating arrangements.

* The wedding couple, as well as the bridal party, should be placed at the head or bridal table, which should be in a prime location in the room. This is one of the easier tables to seat, because it is traditionally filled with members of the bridal party and their respective spouses or dates. If the bridal party is especially large, consider flanking a sweetheart table for the bride and groom with two tables for the bridal party on either side.

* After arranging the bridal table, the focus should next be on seating parents and close relatives of the bride and groom. Some couples choose to seat both sets of parents at one table together - the parents' table. Grandparents may also be seated at this table, depending on the number of people each table can accommodate. Other couples decide to separate their families and have the groom's family sit on one side of the room and the bride's family sit on the other. This means there will be two parents' tables. Consider seating grandparents or other close family members at these tables to ensure they have a place of prominence in the room. The parents' tables should be stationed so they are close to the dance floor and have a good view of all the festivities. If parents are divorced or there are any other strained feelings among parents, they can be further separated to avoid unpleasantness or confrontation.

* Many wedding receptions are full of friends and even co-workers of the couple's parents, whom the couple tying the knot may not know well. In this case, couples may need further clarification of their relationships and who gets along before seating them. In fact, it may be a good idea to ask parents to take care of arranging their own friends, which will help ensure that the seating arrangements will be comfortable for everyone.

* A friends' table is usually a mingling of the couple's friends or co-workers who are of similar ages. A friends' table can make guests who arrived solo feel more comfortable because they can converse with others who are like-minded. Also consider arranging guests by common interests at each table.

* Seating children can be tricky. Couples may be inclined to seat youngsters at their own table, which is fine if the children are mature enough to handle sitting by themselves. Very young children are best seated alongside their folks, however, as young children sitting apart from their parents may be nervous and parents may continually need to get up to check on the kids. A general rule is that children under the age of 7 should be seated with their parents. Children between the ages of 7 and 14 can be seated at a separate kids' table.

* Guests with disabilities or mobility issues should be given special consideration. These individuals should be seated close to the door, bathrooms, or food station. Also, couples should try to accommodate special requests, such as not seating elderly individuals too close to music speakers.

* Instead of seating all of the bride's family members and friends on one side of the room and all of the groom's family members and friends on the other side of the room, the tables can be intermingled to promote conversation.

* Couples should take into consideration people who have relationship rifts and try to seat them separately. But the bride and groom should not stress about this too much, because it won't be possible to accommodate everyone. Hopefully, the wedding guests will be able to maintain a certain level of decorum during the wedding.

* It's not unheard of to let guests seat themselves. This practice takes the pressure of finding a seat for everyone off the bride and groom, enabling them to think about the other tasks at hand. The practice of allowing guests to seat themselves works best at a reception with a buffet meal or at a smaller affair.


Toast of the Town: August 28, 2013

Wedding days are typically steeped in tradition. Whether it's the hours before the wedding, the bride's attire, or the first dance, it seems that most aspects of a couple's big day are based on some age-old tradition.

One tradition tends to strike fear into members of the wedding party -- the toast. Once the reception has begun, the maid of honor and the best man are trusted to toast the new bride and groom. Such toasts are typically heartfelt and humorous, but there are also a few guidelines to follow to ensure the toast is memorable for all the right reasons.

* Stand up! Stand up when delivering a wedding toast. Sitting down won't command the guests' attention, and your voice likely won't carry as well if you're sitting down.

* Don't go too long. A good wedding toast shouldn't stretch beyond five minutes. Long-winded toasts could come off as rambling and incoherent, and the guests will likely tune out if the toast goes longer than five minutes.

* Introduce yourself. Just because you're a maid of honor or a best man doesn't mean all of the guests know your relationship with the bride or groom. Make it brief, but provide an explanation of your relationship.

* Keep the toast appropriate. Many adults who have been to a wedding or two in their day have a story about a wedding toast gone awry. While these stories are humorous, no best man or maid of honor wants to have similar stories told about his or her toasts. Make the toast appropriate, keeping in mind there might be some younger guests in attendance. In addition, avoid references to past relationships. Such references are awkward and uncomfortable.

* Don't make it an "inside" joke. Maids of honor or best men are typically close friends or siblings of the bride and groom. Such a close relationship makes it easy to tell an inside joke only a few guests will understand. Avoid such inside jokes, as one of the goals of the toast should be to illustrate your love and appreciation of the bride or groom in a way all guests can understand.

* Make it personal. A personal anecdote is a nice touch. Such anecdotes can be about anything, whether it's the first time you met your friend's now-spouse or, if you're not related to the bride or groom, how you met.

* Steer clear of the bar before the toast. Many a well-intentioned wedding toast has gone horribly wrong thanks to alcohol. Maids of honor and best men should abstain from alcohol before their toasts to avoid embarrassing themselves and the bride and groom. If you're especially nervous, maybe a drink can help calm your nerves. But if you're going to drink before the toast, be sure to drink only in moderation.

* Practice beforehand. Very few people can survive "winging" a wedding toast. Practice the toast beforehand so you're comfortable with what you're going to say before the moment arrives.

* Don't put too much pressure on yourself. Weddings are typically laid-back and fun affairs, so don't stress about giving the perfect toast. If the toast comes off as genuine and stays appropriate, it's a good toast.

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