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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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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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The Mail Must Go Through January 5, 2015

Save-the-Date Cards

The save-the-date card is a precursor to wedding invitations that simply lets guests know when the wedding is so they can clear their calendars for a couple's big day. While save-the-date cards are best kept simple, there are a few rules you should follow before sending your cards to loved ones.

* Finalize the guest list. Having a final guest list before sending save-the-date cards avoids the potentially messy situation that would arise if a guest were to receive a save-the-date card but then not make the final guest list. Trimming the guest list often comes down to finances, so couples should agree on their budget before sending save-the-date cards. Once the guest list has been finalized, save-the-date cards should be sent as soon as possible.

* Confirm addresses. You should confirm your loved ones' addresses before mailing any save-the-date cards. This can be easily accomplished by sending mass emails to friends and family members or by contacting individuals via private messages sent on social media sites. Confirming addresses can save you money on potentially wasted postage should the cards be returned because they were sent to the wrong address. In addition, confirming addresses ensures that everyone will receive their cards.

* Keep things appropriate. Save-the-date cards need not be as formal as wedding invitations, but they should still be appropriate. Guests often keep save-the-date cards on their refrigerators, where people of all ages can see the cards. So while cards can be light-hearted, they should still be family-friendly.

* Don't include too much information. Save-the-date cards don't need to include as many details as the invitations. A save-the-date card only needs to feature the date of the wedding, including the month, day and year. You can add the Web address for your wedding website on the backs of the cards so that guests can access more details about the wedding without being inundated with information too early.

Wedding Invitations

Wedding invitations often provide guests with a first glimpse of a wedding's style. Invitations may also serve as the means by which distant friends and relatives find out about a couple's pending nuptials if a formal announcement was not made.

Amid the flourishes of calligraphy and impressive paper stock is information that speaks to the importance of the day when two people will join their lives together. Guests will learn not only the time and the place of the wedding and the reception from the invitation but also the formality of the event and the scope of the party that will follow.

You should keep certain things in mind as you begin to design your wedding invitations.

* Know your budget and guest list. As with save-the-date cards, knowing your budget and guest list before choosing invitations can help you to avoid going over budget or hurting a guest's feelings.

* Decide on the formality of the wedding. Will you be hosting a black-tie affair, or will it be a casual gathering at the shore? The invitations should match the formality of the event in style and the sentiments expressed. An ornate invitation written with classic wording suggests a more formal affair, while a whimsical invitation with less formal wording could indicate a more laid-back event.

* Dare to be different by playing with invitation sizes and shapes. Rectangular cards are standard for wedding invitations, but you can also explore creative options. Circular invites or cards with scalloped edges can add some whimsy to the wedding mood. Invitations that fold out or are embellished with ribbon or other decorations can also be appealing. Just keep in mind that cards that are not the standard shape and size could be more costly to send. Always have the entire wedding invitation weighed and priced at the post office so you will know what the postage will cost.

* Choose a legible font and text color. Your invitation may look beautiful, but it may prove ineffective if it is difficult to read. Do not risk guests misinterpreting the date or the location because they cannot read the writing on the invitation. Steer clear of pastel or yellow text colors, and remember to have a high contrast between the color of the invitation and the text.

* Keep the invitation simple. All your really need to include are the key pieces of information, such as the couple's name and the ceremony time and location. Crowding the card will take away from its aesthetic appeal. Most stationers will suggest a separate, smaller insert in the wedding invitation for the reception information and response card. Never put information such as where you are registered or caveats such as "no kids allowed." This is material better reserved for word of mouth or placement on a wedding website.

* Do some math. It is important to know your dates so you can receive the invitations on time, mail them out, and give guests enough time to respond. A good rule of thumb is to mail out the invitations at least two months before the wedding. Have an RSVP date of no more than three to four weeks before the wedding, giving ample time to the caterers and accommodating anyone who procrastinates in sending a response. You will need a final headcount in order to confirm seating arrangements and plan for centerpieces and favors.

* Handwrite the envelopes. Your invitations will look more impressive if you address them by hand rather than printing them off of a computer. If your handwriting is not very neat, consider hiring a professional calligrapher to write out your envelopes.

* Make it easy for guests to respond. Be sure to place a stamp and your home's address on the response card envelope so that guests will be able to respond promptly.

* Always order extras. Mistakes happen, and you may need to send out a few extra invitations that you hadn't originally counted. Always order extra invitations just to be on the safe side. And don't forget you will probably want to keep one as a memento for yourself.

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A Tip from a Pro - Reply Cards September 4, 2013

"When inserting your reply cards with your invitations, put on the back of the reply card the guest's last name in invisible ink or a number coinciding with their name on a list. When they send it back (you would be surprised how many forget to fill in their name), just check the back of the card with a light!"

Lori Hemphill, owner/designer/planner of The Perfect Plan by Lori Hemphill, Lancaster

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

"Shop local. You will be surprised!"

Jim DeFilippis, coordinator at Eicher Arts Center, Ephrata

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Invitation Options September 3, 2013

While traditionalists may pore over carefully crafted invitations and other stationery products from commercial printers, couples looking to rein in wedding spending may choose to take a more hands-on approach to wedding invitations by making or printing the invites themselves.

Before the advent of sophisticated home computer systems and affordable desktop printers, brides- and grooms-to-be had to rely on professional printers and engravers. Though formal and often exquisitely executed, wedding invitations produced by professional printers can still prove expensive.

The Bridal Association of America says that the average cost of professionally produced wedding invitations is $659. This refers to invitations that have printed envelopes, reply cards, and printed reply card envelopes. Changes in design or even the color of the text can impact prices further. It is not unheard of to spend as much as $2,000 for high-quality engraved wedding invitations. While the results may be gorgeous, some couples are reluctant to spend that much money on invitations that are often held for a short period of time and then thrown away.

In recent years, there has been an advent of online printing sources. Discount invitation printing vendors abound on the Internet, and couples can choose and customize everything they want on their invitations. Depending on how much control the couple desires over the invitation, there may be ready-made templates or the ability to pick items a la carte. The reduced overhead means that many online retailers can produce wedding invitations at a lower cost, but that doesn't mean they are cheap. According to estimates from many printing company websites, couples can expect to pay anywhere from $150 to $500 on invitations, depending on style and quantity.

As the evolution of home-based printing has also broadened the possibilities of do-it-yourself printing, couples who hope to design and produce their own wedding invitations have many options at their disposal, including the following:

Pre-Made Kits

A visit to a stationery store or even the local craft retailer should present shoppers with several different wedding invitation kits. These packages often include blank invitations, response cards, envelopes, and other embellishments pertaining to the invitation design. Some can be quite elaborate, with the inclusion of vellum or card inserts, as well as die-cut designs. The couple simply uses the template provided to create text on a personal computer, and then the invite can be run through a home printer. Couples who want control over the wording and printing but would rather leave the creative design to someone else can benefit from these invitation kits. They also tend to be affordably priced in comparison to a professional printing service.

Crafty Card-Making

Interest in scrapbooking and card-making has spurred craft centers to stock many different materials that can be used to design wedding invitations. Layering different types of paper to create a three-dimensional effect, and using embellishments such as rhinestones or ribbon can help dress up the wedding invitation.

While this ultimate DIY option may be a cheaper if couples get good prices on all the materials, it also entails the most work and the greatest margin of error. Couples hosting a casual wedding for a small number of guests may enjoy the process of hand-crafting wedding invitations and possibly customizing them for each guest. Intimate affairs lend themselves well to this level of personalization, and handmade invitations could set the cozy tone of the celebration.

Graphic Design Work

Couples who have a creative spark may want to draw up their own invitation design or look for the assistance of an artist or graphic designer. There are many different programs that employ the use of clip art and stock imagery that can be put to use with regard to invitations. Those who have a cursory knowledge of some design applications can import text and images and manipulate the size of their templates accordingly for the type of invitation they desire. The finished file then can be printed at home or brought to an office supply center for more professional results.

The opportunities to create wedding invitations at home enable some budget-conscious couples to keep costs for stationery at a minimum. DIY invitations also may enable couples to have more creative control over their invitations, an important component of a wedding that helps to set the tone for the occasion.

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Themed Weddings: Going Creative Over Campy September 3, 2013

Fairy tale wedding or modern twist? Many brides- and grooms-to-be have been thinking about their ideal wedding for years. Some may already have strong opinions about their wedding plans, complete with scrapbooks featuring color schemes and wardrobe choices.

Themed weddings have grown in popularity - as couples want to do what they can to set their event apart from the scores of other weddings guests have attended. The key to themed weddings is to create a balance between tradition and elements that tie into the theme. This way the wedding is classy instead of over-the-top ... unless, of course, over-the-top is what is desired.

* Decide on your theme: Develop a clear idea of what you would like the theme to be. Themes can range from tie-ins to seasons to specific interests, such as sports or hobbies, to a particular color scheme. Once you have a firm concept of your theme, you can plan and shop around it. Although prime wedding season runs from May through October, many couples choose to tie the knot during the winter. This article will offer tips for incorporating a subtle holiday theme while still retaining both elegance and tradition.

* Introduce your theme with stationery: Your save-the-date cards and wedding invitations will present the theme to your guests and could be the building block for the entire wedding. A patterned border or a mention of the theme in the wording can clue in guests on what to expect. For a winter wedding, choose an invitation design that will set it apart from the typical holiday greetings. You may want to forgo a folded card or any holiday-inspired embellishments, such as snowmen and ski boots, entirely. Instead, go with a classic white or off-white card. A whimsical font of swirly type may evoke the feel of winter wind, or delicate polka-dots could hint at falling snow. Keep in mind that wedding guests are likely to be busy during the holiday season, so be sure to send out save-the-date cards well in advance of sending out the actual invitations. Mail the invitations about three months before the wedding.

* Keep it simple: Some themes can be achieved simply with color. Draperies, flowers, seat covers, table linens, and similar items can set the mood. There's no need to clutter up the space with too many knickknacks, which may make the theme overwhelming. Remember, you want the event to still be traditional, with touches of the theme throughout. During the holidays, a frosty blue, silver, or white color scheme will touch upon the feel of winter. Or choose colors from among the traditional hues of the holiday season, such as burgundy, berry red, forest green, gold, and cream. Deep red gowns complement many skin tones, and bouquets full of green and white will call to mind a light snow dusting evergreen boughs.

* Choose an accent: There may be one concept of your theme that you would like to build upon. Be creative and think of subtle ways to incorporate the accent. If you wish to highlight snowflakes, for example, try to think outside of the box. Paper snowflakes hanging from the ceiling may be more reminiscent of a classroom than a reception, but doilies under the china could hint at snowflakes. Italian pizzelle cookies dusted with powdered sugar look like snowflakes and are very tasty. Or, instead of including Jordan almonds in favors, use large nonpareils. You can even ask the venue to create a signature cocktail that's white and frosty.

* Rely on flowers and lighting: Flowers, foliage, and other natural accents can add a special touch to your wedding. Nature provides many different hued and shaped flowers that can work effortlessly into many themes. For winter festivities, remember that flowers may be more expensive this time of the year, so spread a tight budget by including candles, greenery (like evergreen branches or holly), or simple poinsettia plants with other more traditional flowers. Since most churches and reception sites will already be trimmed in seasonal decor to accommodate various holiday events, couples may be able to save some money by utilizing current decorations. Pretty additions including hydrangea or snowball plants (also called guelder rose) can form large puffs of flowers that resemble snowballs, which can add an element of fun. Also, delicate alyssum, and even the common baby's breath, can be tucked into floral arrangements to suggest snowflakes.

Lighting is something couples often overlook. Changing the color or the scope of the lighting for different parts of your reception can create different moods. Simple twinkle lights suspended from the ceiling or featured behind netting can be reminiscent of glistening snow.

* Choose festive foods: Foods don't necessarily need to look a certain way to evoke a theme. For a holiday wedding, you may not want mashed potato ski slopes, but you can still touch on the theme by using seasonal foods, such as winter squashes, hearty foods, or seasonal fruits.

Get creative with wedding cakes to tie into the theme. An all-white cake can look like it's covered in snow. A cake can also be shaped into a wrapped gift or a giant ornament.

Creating a theme does not have to be ostentatious or evoke feelings of a kids' birthday party. Subtle touches that are cohesive will provide the desired mood.

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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.

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Going Green On Your Big Day: August 23, 2013

Couples about to tie the knot can make their weddings even more special by making the festivities eco-friendly.

Environmentally friendly ideals are now permeating all aspects of daily living, and couples who already do their best to reduce, reuse, and recycle may want to employ those same values on their wedding day. The growing interest in eco-conscious weddings not only benefits the planet, but also allows couples to set their weddings apart, as eco-friendly aspects can help create unique memories.

Eco-conscious couples can go green in a number of ways before, during, and after their wedding. The carbon footprint of a wedding can be reduced simply by scaling back and avoiding over-consumption. However, there are also easy ways to include green practices in a wedding without compromising on style or statement. Couples won't have to jeopardize their ideals or tastes to achieve a wedding that is both green and beautiful.

Invitations:

One of the easiest ways for a bride and groom to go green while planning their wedding involves the wedding invitations, as couples have many options for eco-friendly invitations. Though many etiquette experts frown on abandoning paper invitations for digital ones, many couples are doing just that. Those who still prefer paper can go green by having their invitations printed on recycled paper or tree-free paper.

Couples can also reduce their other wedding stationary needs by skipping the extra inserts inside of the invitation, such as directions and registry cards. Instead, couples can direct guests to a personal wedding Web page. Many wedding websites offer couples the chance to create their own personal Web page with information about themselves and the wedding ceremony and reception. Couples can post directions, hotel information, and other details that would otherwise be disseminated with the paper invitations. Collecting all of this information on a Web page reduces paper consumption and makes it easier for a couple's guests to find all the pertinent details regarding the big day.

Wedding Attire and Jewelry:

Another way to reduce a wedding's carbon footprint is to reuse and recycle wedding attire and jewelry. A couple's journey to their wedding day typically begins with the marriage proposal and an engagement ring, and even this time-honored tradition can be done in an eco-friendly way. Couples can go green by purchasing vintage or antique engagement rings and wedding bands. Couples can also shop from jewelers that use recycled stones and metals. For a more personal approach, family heirloom jewelry can be used.

Eco-conscious brides can also embrace history when selecting their wedding attire if the bride's mother, grandmother, or other relative has offered her wedding gown. Reusing a wedding dress that has been re-fitted will save the bride money, in addition to conserving the energy that would be needed to construct an entirely new gown. Furthermore, the sentimental gesture of wearing a gown passed down through the generations will be appreciated by the bride's family members and is one way for her to include them in her wedding. Brides can also reuse veils, jewelry, shoes, and other accessories.

Brides who do not have heirloom dresses and accessories to incorporate into their wedding attire can still take an eco-friendly walk down the aisle. In vintage stores, brides can find many styles of dresses and accessories. Additionally, a number of websites match up brides with others looking to swap gently-used items at low or no cost. Brides can also purchase a new gown that is made from sustainable materials. Many top designers now make gowns produced from such materials, leaving brides with a variety of green options.

Beauty:

Brides can also incorporate environmentally friendly products into their wedding day beauty regiment by asking their hairdressers and makeup artists to use all-natural beauty products instead of conventional cosmetics, which may contain toxic chemicals. Brides can also patronize an eco-friendly salon, which are growing in popularity.

Venue:

Eco-friendly wedding options can also extend to the ceremony and reception venues. One of the most affordable and environmentally friendly ways to get married is to simply elope or have a small ceremony. After all, there's no rule that says couples have to invite 300 of their not-so-close friends to the wedding. Opting for more intimate affairs allows couples to save on cost and to help the environment.

For those who do want a larger wedding, keep the event close to home. Couples can wed in a family member's large backyard or in a nearby park to avoid using large, indoor reception halls. Moving the ceremony and party outside can alleviate some environmental impact related to energy usage.

Couples may also look into catering halls that offer packages that include other elements of the wedding, such as flowers, cake, linens, music, and more. These convenient packages may be more affordable and will save the couple the time and gas they would have used driving around to visit different vendors.

Instead of rice, which can be damaging to wildlife, guests may be supplied with bubbles, birdseed, sprinkles, biodegradable confetti, or flower petals to throw at the happy couple after the ceremony.

Flowers:

Flowers add significant aesthetic appeal to a wedding, and couples can make them even more appealing by choosing local flowers that are in season. Local and seasonal flowers do not need to be transported as far as their exotic and out-of-season counterparts.

When shopping for a florist, eco-conscious couples should look for one who specializes in organic flowers, which are never sprayed with potentially harmful pesticides or fungicides. In addition to organic and seasonal flowers, green options include bouquets made of sustainable succulent plants and centerpieces full of organic fruits and wildflowers.

Reception:

Suggestions abound for couples interested in hosting a green reception. Hosting a wedding at or near home gives couples the opportunity to shop around for locally produced, organic foods. Couples may also wish to consider skipping the all-you-can-eat buffet and serving a more traditional meal to reduce the amount of wasted food.

Instead of formal escort cards indicating firm seating arrangements, couples can save paper by allowing guests to choose their own seats from mix-matched options, such as long, communal benches and comfy sofas.

To save money on decorations, couples may decorate with items they already own. Centerpieces and other displays can incorporate the couple's favorite books, photographs, souvenirs, collectibles, and other special items, adding a personal touch to the event's decor. Brides and grooms can also make or purchase banners, garlands, signs, and other decorations that are made from old maps, handkerchiefs, books, and other recycled items.

Another way to make the reception more eco-friendly is to choose a charitable party favor. Instead of giving a party favor that will end up collecting dust on a shelf or sitting in a landfill, couples can give guests organic products or make a donation to a charitable organization in the guests' names.

Transportation:

A major way to reduce the carbon footprint of a wedding is to reduce the transportation-related energy consumption. Carbon emissions can be reduced and fuel can be saved by reducing guests' need to travel far for a wedding and by employing transportation options that can accommodate several people at once, such as a limousine for the wedding party or a party bus to transport guests.

Gifts:

Couples can opt for open registries that enable guests to give everything from eco-friendly housewares to charitable donations or cash for down payments on a home. When giving money, guests do not risk giving the bride and groom something that may be returned or discarded.

Honeymoon:

A couple's dedication to being environmentally friendly can even extend to the selection of a honeymoon destination. Couples can choose from a number of eco-conscious hotels and resorts or elect to honeymoon close to home.

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