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Flower Staying-Power December 20, 2018

Flowers may look beautiful in gardens and even when snipped and brought inside to brighten up a mantel or dining table. Unfortunately, cut flowers have a finite shelf life. While cut blooms can't live forever, certain varieties will outlast others. Choosing flowers wisely for wedding centerpieces or keepsakes can help couples enjoy selected flowers longer.

· Peonies: Peonies can last for about a week or two when brought indoors. HGTV says to snip the stems when the buds are tight, wrap them in newspaper and store them in the refrigerator until you're ready to arrange.

· Zinnias: These bright blooms can last for three to four weeks and are best harvested in summer. Related to the sunflower, zinnias are available in a wide range of colors.

· Chrysanthemums: Widely referred to as "mums," these midsummer to late-fall flowers can last between three and four weeks after being cut. Mums can be used to fill out floral displays because they tend to be inexpensive but durable flowers.

· Coneflower: The purple coneflower is popular, but coneflowers are available in many additional colors. Coneflowers attract butterflies and are beautiful in cut displays.

· Ranunculus: Ranunculus mimics the look of roses and displays layer after layer of silky, crepe-like petals. These blooms can last a week or more in vases if they're put in water right after being cut.

· Carnations: Another budget-friendly flower, carnations are popular from early spring until late summer. Available in many hues, they can be used in conjunction with other blooms to create well-rounded floral displays that may last between two and three weeks.

· Lilies: Lilies are traditional flowers that are beautiful to behold and available in various sizes and colors. They can be bought fresh year-round. Lilies often last longer than a week after being cut. Look for lilies with tight buds, as such flowers tend to last the longest.

· Gladioli: The lovely flowers of the vertical-growing gladiolus, which is sometimes referred to as the "sword lily," are available in yellow, peach, pink, white, and other hues. These bulb-based plants can last up to two weeks after being cut and add variety and texture to floral displays.

Although advice varies on how to keep cut flowers fresh the longest, expert florists say the best approach is to keep vase water clean. In addition, keeping cut blooms in a cool room away from direct sunlight and heat is also a good way to keep flowers looking fresh and vibrant.

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Marital Ð and Financial Ð Bliss December 20, 2018

Happy couples experience various changes after tying the knot. One of those changes concerns couples' finances.

According to an analysis of data from the National Survey of Families and Households, arguments about money are a frequent concern with married couples. Furthermore, there is a correlation between the risk of divorce and the prevalence of financial disagreements. While fights about money do not necessarily cause divorce, they can create rifts in relationships.

Even couples that have plenty of money may have disagreements about their finances. Arguments may stem from spouses not understanding how their partner views money or from the disparities in spending habits among partners. Couples that make early efforts to get on the same page concerning finances may have smoother waters ahead than those who delay such discussions. The following are a few ideas to help couples get on track financially:

· Establish goals together. Couples should define their financial goals together. Is it a goal to save for early retirement? Is a house in the immediate future? Is frequent travel a desire? Does the couple plan to contribute to future children's educations? These questions and more need to be addressed early on. By creating a financial plan together, couples can more clearly map out their financial futures.

· Combine accounts. Some couples want to maintain their full financial independence. But combining accounts can help couples avoid arguments about secrecy and concerns about partner spending. Combining accounts also affords couples a clearer picture of their overall spending and saving habits.

· Assess debts as a team. One person may be bringing more debt to the marriage than the other. It's important for all cards to be on the table and for spouses to work together to eradicate debt. If a person will be coming to the marriage with poor credit, it may be worth it to keep things separate until that spouse works on remedying his or her finances, according to Credit.com.

· Decide how to split expenses. One partner may make more money than the other, and one may spend more time handling household needs or future child care responsibilities. Couples need to agree whether one person will pay for certain bills exclusively, whether they will spend from one salary and save the other, or whether they will combine finances completely and spend equally, suggests NerdWallet.

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Destination: Best Wedding Ever! December 20, 2018

For the travel-inclined, destination weddings present the perfect opportunity to meld wedding and honeymoon all into one - with family and friends around to enjoy the magic.

The Knot Real Weddings Study, the largest survey of its kind, surveys thousands of American brides and grooms to determine the latest wedding trends. According to the 2017 report, which was a survey of nearly 13,000 U.S. brides and grooms who married in 2017, 25 percent of weddings were destination weddings. Couples are increasingly leaning on entertainment and personalization to create memorable experiences for their guests, and destination weddings are great ways to create those unique experiences. While planning a wedding inevitably involves some hurdles and stress, planning a destination wedding presents a unique set of obstacles. Before couples commit to a destination wedding, it's important to first consider a few factors to ensure knots get tied without a hitch.

· Pick a meaningful location (but one that works for guests, too). Exchanging vows at a favorite hiking spot can give guests an inside view into what makes you tick as a couple, but the location of the ceremony should not come at the expense of practicality. Choose a locale that speaks to you but will also offer the convenience and amenities that work for the guests who will be traveling.

· See the place in person. If budget allows, book a trip in advance to the intended destination to see the facilities and location. Working with vendors in person also can simplify sorting out certain details.

· Send save-the-date cards promptly. Unlike traditional weddings, for which save-the-date notifications can be sent roughly six months before the wedding, save-the-date cards for destination weddings should be mailed at least nine months to a year in advance of the big day, to ensure guests have adequate time to make travel arrangements.

· Hire a professional. Professional wedding planners may prove invaluable when it comes to destination weddings. Rather than organizing everything on your own, you can hire a wedding planner to take care of itineraries, obtain information about necessary travel documents, coordinate with local vendors, and much more.

· Consider tourist seasons. Weather tends to be best during tourist seasons. If couples are planning a wedding at a peak time, they should make sure to reserve hotel room blocks and venues promptly. Slightly before or after peak season may still be fine, but ensure that vendors will be available and look into weather trends carefully before choosing a date.

· Research the legality. According to The Knot, many countries have residency requirements, which means couples must live in that country for a certain period of time before the ceremony. Factor this into budget and availability.

· Scale back on DIY. Handling many of the details while getting married close to home can be challenging, but doing so for a destination wedding can be even more difficult to organize. Scale back on DIY, leaving many of the details to the professionals.

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Practice For Picture Perfection December 20, 2018

During their engagements, couples will make many decisions in regard to their weddings. Wedding planning can sometimes seem like a runaway train of appointments, schedules, and deadlines. As a result, some couples do not take the time to enjoy being engaged, which is a special and unique time in their lives.

Engagement photo shoots can be a unique way for couples to commemorate and enjoy the months preceding their weddings. Engagement photos memorialize the engagement and provide many additional benefits as well.

1. Engagement photo shoots give couples a chance to connect with a potential wedding photographer. Booking an engagement photo shoot provides helpful information to both the couple and the photographer. The photographer gets to see how the couple interacts in front of the lens and can determine any insecurities or strengths and weaknesses couples may have. These lessons can be filed away and used to make wedding-day photos look better. Similarly, spending time with the photographer gives the couple an opportunity to develop a rapport with him or her. If couples and their photographer don't click, scheduling an engagement shoot well in advance of the wedding gives couples a chance to find someone else to take their photos on the big day.

2. An engagement photo shoot gives couples time to spend together. An engagement photo shoot is an ideal opportunity to spend an afternoon in a special location focusing on each other without wedding planning stress.

3. Photo shoots provide a chance to get comfortable in front of the camera. Having professional photographs taken before the wedding enables couples to view how they will appear in pictures. Seeing these photos might help couples grow more comfortable in front of the camera. This practice can help couples temper their anxieties prior to the wedding. An engagement shoot also can be a great time for couples to speak with their photographers about angles or styles they prefer or dislike.

4. The bride and groom can use the photos as save-the-date or social media photos or with an engagement announcement in the local newspaper. The photos can turn out to be a great way to spread excitement about the upcoming nuptials. Couples should check with their photographer regarding licensing first.

5. Photo shoots provide a chance to experiment with vivid backdrops. Engagement photography gives couples plenty of opportunities to experiment with different locales, which may not be possible on the wedding day.

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Strike Up The Band December 20, 2018

Booking a live band for a wedding or another special event can be a great idea. Many times, live musicians can create a level of excitement and atmosphere that other types of entertainment can't match. Some couples may find the prospect of booking live performers a bit challenging, especially if they've never hired musicians for an event before. The following are a few tips to make the process go smoothly.

· Get recommendations. Just like you might before booking other vendors, seek advice from friends or family members who have recently gotten hitched or had live performers at their events. They may have wonderful things to say about particular bands or performers. Individuals also can consider a resource such as HireLiveMusicians.com, a global musician database that can help couples narrow down their options.

· Decide on when the musicians play. Live musicians can entertain guests throughout the ceremony and reception, but the longer musicians play, the more they're likely to cost. Work with musicians to develop a schedule that suits your budget.

· Discuss the theme. Make sure musicians understand the type of atmosphere you're hoping to create. A band that customarily plays swing or big band-era songs may not fit in at weddings with more modern themes.

· Understand the fees. Musicians may have fees related to their agents, cartage (extra given to musicians who carry large equipment), mileage costs, travel time, lighting, and other factors that affect the overall price. Discuss these fees before signing any agreements.

· Be sure the venue fits. Live musicians are great, but not if the space is too small. In confined venues, the music can be too loud and overpowering, or the band will not have adequate space to set up. Couples should consider these factors before making any decisions.

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Weather Woes: Overcome Mother Nature's Wedding-Day Obstacles December 20, 2018

Some feel it's good luck for couples to get rain on their wedding days, but many couples would trade in a little of that luck for clear skies. However, weather can be fickle, and couples that build contingency plans into their wedding festivities will be able to "weather" any storms.

· Have solutions for sun and heat. Couples don't want their wedding guests or bridal party members passing out due to heat exhaustion. Make sure to offer shade if the ceremony or reception is outside in summer heat. Stock the area with cold bottles of water or a chilled lemonade stand. Have fans and umbrellas available in case guests need a way to protect themselves from the sun.

· Be ready for strong storms. Over the course of hot and humid days, storm clouds can develop and roll in. Afternoon thunderstorms are quite common on summer days. Accommodate for sudden downpours by hosting early luncheon receptions or ensure there is a plan B that includes a covered area. Couples can stash spare shoes or even rain slickers in a car to keep their wedding attire protected against rain as they dash between venues or take photos.

· Embrace the rain. Vivid skies with lightning or overcast days can make for unique and striking wedding photography. (But be sure to stay safe!) Couples need not look at the downside of rain, but rather they should see the opportunities for one-of-a-kind memories.

· Keep a generator on standby. Storms may knock out power. Some reception halls or banquet facilities may have their own backup power, but be sure to address how power outages are handled. If need be, bring in a portable generator to keep the reception room cooled by fans.

· Plan for wind. Coastal outdoor weddings present beautiful backdrops for weddings. But being near the shore may mean accepting windy conditions. In these locales or anywhere where it is expected to be breezy, tie down tents and use weights to keep wedding programs or other papers from catching a current. The bride and her wedding party should opt for free-flowing tresses so they needn't worry about intricate up-dos coming undone.

· Maintain a sense of humor. It's impossible to predict wedding-day weather, but staying calm, going with the flow, and laughing at things that can't be controlled can help couples make memories that last a lifetime.

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Looking At The Past To Celebrate Your Future December 20, 2018

2019 will certainly be a memorable year for couples planning to tie the knot. But it will also be a memorable year for other reasons, as the anniversaries of many important historic events will be celebrated. Couples can draw inspiration from some of 2019's milestones when picking a destination for a post-wedding trip.

Paris and Versailles, France

As the saying goes, "Paris is always a good idea," and that sentiment certainly seems true in 2019 when the City of Lights celebrates the 130th anniversary of the completion of construction on the Eiffel Tower, which was originally created for the 1889 World's Fair. With exciting nightlife offerings, world-class museums, legendary shopping, and delicious French cuisine, Paris provides something for everyone. Making it all the more perfect for honeymooners is the city's reputation as one of the most romantic places on Earth - think strolling along the Seine, sampling wine and chocolate, dining alfresco in one of the many charming cafes, and visiting the city's beautiful gardens.

The nearby Palace of Versailles is also marking a major milestone in 2019, with the centennial anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, which officially ended World War I. In addition to being the site of the signing of the landmark treaty, the palace is the former home of France's kings from Louis XIV, who established his court and government there in 1682, through Louis XVI, who had to leave the palace in 1789 due to the French Revolution. Now, the 2,300-room palace is open for tours, and in addition to the opulent building itself, visitors can view its extensive collections of art and historical artifacts. The palace's gardens include fountains, sculptures, and plenty of scenic spots for newlyweds to take a romantic stroll.

Those looking to celebrate yet another anniversary can hop on a passenger train to the United Kingdom, because the Channel Tunnel is marking 25 years since it opened in 1994.

Alaska and Hawaii

In 2019, Alaska and Hawaii will mark the 60th anniversary of becoming the 49th and 50th states, respectively, in the United States. While the locations, climates, and cultures of Alaska, the nation's northernmost state, and Hawaii, the westernmost state in the country, are quite different, both states offer plenty of attractions for visiting newlyweds.

Alaska boasts some of the country's most breathtaking national parks, and couples that enjoy camping, hiking, and wildlife viewing will be particularly enchanted with Denali National Park and Preserve (site of the tallest peak in North America), Kenai Fjords National Park (home to wildlife ranging from orca to moose and otters to mountain goats), and Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve (the largest national part in the U.S. and the national's largest glacial system), to name just a few. Visitors to Alaska in fall, winter, and spring will even have a chance to view the otherworldly phenomenon of the Northern Lights.

Honeymooning in Hawaii is popular for a reason. Hawaii's pristine beaches, luxurious accommodations, ukulele music, delicious cuisine, and abundant supply of mai tais are a recipe for island relaxation, which is sure to be appreciated by newlyweds after surviving the hustle and bustle of planning a wedding. Adventure-loving duos can learn to surf, go on a whale watching boat ride, try snorkeling, and take on some of the island chain's scenic hikes.

Apollo 11 Historic Sites & Exhibits

2019 marks 50 years since Neil Armstrong's one small step onto the surface of the moon signified one giant leap for all mankind. While a trip to the moon itself is still a bit out of reach for even the most daring and affluent of couples, there are a number of destinations where Earth-bound visitors can recapture the spirit of excitement that gripped the nation during the Apollo 11 space mission. The spacecraft was launched from Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island in Florida, and the mission was guided from the Mission Control Center at NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, and both locations offer tours and exhibits to highlight their important roles in the history of space exploration. (Newlyweds who also have a love of sun and sand will be pleased to note that both locations are also conveniently located near beaches.)

In 2019, the Apollo 11 spacecraft's Command Module Columbia will be continuing on a four-city tour that began in 2017. The Columbia will be on view at the Senator John Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh through Feb. 18, 2019, before taking up temporary residence at the Seattle Museum of Flight from April 13 to Sept. Sept. 2, 2019. To commemorate the golden anniversary, Neil Armstrong's historic spacesuit will also be on display at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

But if those options just aren't enough to satisfy a couple's thirst for exploration beyond the Earth's confines, stay tuned: With a number of companies working on pioneering space tourism, a new frontier in honeymoon destinations may be on the horizon in the not-too-distant future!

Berlin, Germany

November 2019 will mark 30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the reunified city has plenty to offer visitors. Be sure to visit the Brandenburger Tor, one of the most iconic landmarks in the city, and the Reichstag, the home of the German Parliament, as both landmarks are symbols of reunified Germany.

History buffs will find a host of historical sites and memorials to take in, including Checkpoint Charlie and the Memorial of the Murdered Jews of Europe (Berlin's Holocaust Memorial). For an Instagram-worthy history lesson, head to the East Side Gallery - an intact section of the Berlin Wall that is now considered the world's longest open-air gallery and boasts more than 100 murals. Art and history lovers thirsting for even more culture can head to Museum Island, a grouping of five world-class museums.

Those looking for some green space should visit the 630-acre Tiergarten, which offers plenty of space for visitors to stretch their legs and also includes the German president's residence, along with the Berlin Zoo, a number of monuments, and biergartens. Berlin is also music to the ears of honeymooners who love music of any kind, as they can seek out concerts at Berliner Philharmonie Concert Hall and Konzerthaus Berlin or dance the night away in the many clubs and discos in the city. The metropolis is also noted for its shopping and restaurants; don't forget to try currywurst, a local specialty.

Looking for more inspiration? Here are some other historical events marking milestone anniversaries in 2019:

2019 will mark 150 years since the birth of renowned civil rights activist Mahatma Gandhi, making it an opportune time to explore Gandhi's homeland of India.

Also marking a milestone birthday in 2019 is England's Queen Victoria, who was born 200 years ago in Kensington Palace in London. Influences of the beloved queen and her court are still felt today in England and throughout the world.

The Big Apple will mark 80 years since the World's Fair opened in New York on April 30, 1939. The international event was held in the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens, which is now home to sporting facilities, museums, the Queens Zoo, and more.

And, couples that cannot limit themselves to just one destination can take a cue from Ferdinand Magellan, as 2019 also marks the 500th anniversary of Magellan setting sail on his historic voyage to circumnavigate the globe in 1519. Additional inspiration for a globe-trotting trip can be gleaned from journalist Nellie Bly's successful 1899 attempt to race around the world in under 80 days, which will mark 120 years in 2019.

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From Appetizers To Dessert: Crafting A Menu To Remember December 20, 2018

Weddings are memorable for a host of reasons. While couples remember their weddings because they mark the day they tied the knot, guests may remember weddings for other reasons, including the food served at the reception.

Guests are sure to discuss the food served at the reception, so couples that choose reception menus wisely can go a long way toward ensuring there are more compliments than complaints once the dinner bell rings.

· Don't zero in on specialties. While couples might be tempted by specialty dishes when choosing their wedding entree, keeping things simple may be best if they are hosting dozens - if not hundreds - of guests.

· Consider potential allergies. According to Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), an organization devoted to improving the quality of life of individuals with food allergies, some common foods cause the majority of allergic reactions. Peanuts, soy, sesame, and shellfish are among the most common food allergies, according to FARE. FARE also notes that allergies to wheat, milk, and eggs are common in children. While such foods can still be served at wedding receptions, make sure to also include foods that are unlikely to trigger allergic reactions. Couples can even ask guests to inform them of any food allergies in advance so that special accommodations can be planned.

· Don't hesitate to offer a favorite food. While specialty entrees might not be a great choice, especially at large receptions where lots of mouths must be fed, a couple that has a favorite food that's symbolic of their relationship should not hesitate to offer it during the cocktail hour. For example, a couple that met in Thailand may want to offer a favorite Thai dish.

· Offer an elaborate dessert. The last bite guests will take is dessert, so couples that want their guests to go home raving about the food may want to offer something special after the entrees have been taken away. Some guests may not indulge, but those who do might end their nights thinking about the delicious dessert they enjoyed as the festivities drew to a close. If the dessert is especially unique, offer something more traditional alongside it for guests who prefer to stick to a tried-and-true option.

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Short And Sweet December 20, 2018

On a day when all eyes and cameras will be trained on them, it's natural for brides and grooms tying the knot to want to look their best. As a result, many couples invest a portion of their budgets into spa and beauty treatments, and many hiring salon stylists to ensure their wedding-day looks are flawless.

Women with short hair may believe that they do not have many options when styling their hair for their wedding days. Some may even consider growing out their locks. However, brides-to-be with short hair do not need to fret nor make drastic changes to their hairstyles to look beautiful on their wedding days, as plenty of creative styles exist for ladies without long locks.

Experiment With Color

One way to "tress to impress" is to experiment with some color. Well-placed highlights, balayage treatments, ombre, or peek-a-boo underlights can add an extra spark to a bride's normal hairstyle. Speak with a qualified stylist about what you plan to achieve with a wedding-day look, so color can be applied correctly.

Retro Glamour

Brides may want to harken back to an era when glamour reigned supreme. Replicate one of the classic short styles of the 1940s or 1950s, paying homage to Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Lauren Bacall, or Judy Garland.

Braids and Plaits

Braids can add whimsy to shoulder-length or shorter hair. In addition, braids can anchor short locks when an up-do is desired. Braids can be created to look like a hair halo or crown.

Use Embellishments

If short hair cannot be gathered into a braid or bun, brides can opt for adorned pins, barrettes, or headbands to add a touch of sparkle to the look. Brides should ask their stylist to tease the crown of their hair to achieve a little more height and impact.

Half-up Style

Many women with short hair find that using bobby pins to pin up select areas of their hair can help achieve a partial up-do look without the need for longer locks. Experienced stylists will know how to manipulate hair effectively to create this look. Small tendrils of hair can be left free and curled for a less structured, more natural effect.

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Get Me To The Church On Time December 20, 2018

Couples tying the knot often rely on professional transportation to bring them to and from the ceremony and reception. Wedding transportation options abound, and there are a number of transportation options for ensuring everyone makes it to the altar on time.

· Shuttles and buses: Investing in the guest experience means seeking ways to provide comfort and convenience for guests and wedding party members. Rather than asking guests to get themselves to and fro, couples may employ buses or shuttles stocked with amenities to transport a greater number of people.

· Exotic limousines: The chauffeur-driven limousine continues to be one of the most popular methods of transportation. However, to set their weddings apart, some couples are renting something more trendy, such as limos built upon sports cars. SUV-based limos are also still popular.

· Vintage cars: For that A-list look right out of a classic movie, stepping out of a vintage vehicle creates red carpet moments. Dream cars for this type of glamorous arrival and departure include Rolls-Royce, Bentley, and Aston Martin models and others. Many private companies rent classic vehicles. Couples also may contract with those who attend classic car shows.

· Water transport: Couples celebrating by the ocean, a lake, or a river can make a grand entrance aboard a watercraft vessel. Water taxis, pontoon boats, and even sleek speedboats may be the transportation of choice.

Couples looking to secure more untraditional wedding-day transportation should keep in mind that the more exotic the transportation option, the earlier they should book their first choice.

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Bachelor And Bachelorette Bashes That Won't Break The Bank December 20, 2018

While couples and their parents generally bear the brunt of wedding expenses, those who have accepted a role in the wedding party also can expect their share of expenses. Taking into account gifts, wardrobes, makeup, bridal showers, and travel, bridal party members can find themselves on the hook for a lot of money when their friends or family members tie the knot.

While it may be popular to travel for bachelor/bachelorette parties, cost-conscious bridal party members may be concerned about how expensive such parties can be. Pulling out all the stops can be exciting, but there's no guarantee these types of parties will be more enjoyable than simpler soirees. Taking steps to control the costs of pre-wedding festivities can help cost-conscious couples and their friends to have fun without emptying their wallets.

Some fun and affordable ideas to celebrate the upcoming nuptials include:

· Bar or winery crawl: Partygoers typically want to enjoy a night out on the town, and traveling from one establishment to another can be a fun way to do that. Provide participants with matching hats, T-shirts, or another signature item and make the rounds. If driving between establishments is necessary, be sure to appoint a designated driver in advance or arrange for transportation.

· Attend a group event: Gather together for a sporting event, a concert, a theater show, or a night at a comedy club. Investigate discounted tickets for large groups.

· Belt out the tunes: Open mic or karaoke nights at restaurants, bars, and other establishments around town may make for a fun way for friends to share a few laughs together. Participants need not be professional singers to join in on the festivities.

· Camp out: Get in touch with nature by enjoying a camping trip, complete with a campfire and a few brews. Spending time in the wilderness can restore focus and let stress melt away.

· Game night: Invite everyone to bring along a favorite game and get competitive. The host should make sure there are plenty of snacks and beverages for attendees to enjoy while they're playing charades or classic board games.

· Dinner party: Hire a chef to visit your house and prepare a meal for guests. Serve a signature cocktail and let the conversation flow.

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Present And Unplugged December 20, 2018

Every family has one—a family documentarian who is constantly snapping photos of you with your mouth stuffed with food, with your eyes closed, or in some generally unflattering position (the ubiquitous backside photo, for example). In my family, that amateur photographer was always using one of those disposable wind-up cameras with an obnoxiously loud winding noise and blinding flash. In other families, it may be an aunt carting around an enormous iPad or the dad who insists on bringing his new drone to every possible event.

The resulting unscripted, unflattering family photos provide us all with some laughs now and then, and they are fine for typical family gatherings, but when it comes to your wedding day, you may want to keep these overzealous family documentarians at bay. One increasingly popular way to do this is by having an "unplugged" wedding, in which all or part of a couple's big day is free of guests' cameras and electronic devices.

Recent newlyweds Meghan and Eugene, who live in Lancaster, decided to have an unplugged ceremony when they were married at Friedman Farms in Dallas, Pa. "Our version of 'unplugged' was just for the ceremony," they note. "Honestly, we first started thinking about it for more selfish reasons because we didn't want anyone jumping in the aisle trying to get a photo when we were paying professional photographers and videographers to be there to document everything."

Central Pennsylvania photographer Melania Timpano echoed that sentiment. "As a photographer, I have had guests stand in the aisles to get photos with cameras as the bride is coming down with her father. Unfortunately, my photo of the groom's reaction was ruined," she explains. "There have also been instances when someone's flash went off, and that ruined the photo by sending a bright blue light on my photo," Melania adds. "Sometimes we get lucky and can save an image, but most times we have to use the next best to deliver to our clients," says Melania.

Besides having unobstructed aisles and professional photos that capture the exact moment when the groom first catches sight of the bride, another benefit of having an unplugged wedding ceremony is a big one - the gift of guests and attendants being truly present to share in this special moment.

"I'll never tell a couple to ban mobile devices when it comes to their entire wedding," Melania says, "but I do give a friendly nudge when it comes to unplugged ceremonies. The ceremony is the most intimate part of the day. It's the moment that brides/grooms have been waiting for since they were kids. That's the part of the day when two people officially become a family. As a guest, why watch that through a screen when it's live, in front of your face?"

Bride Meghan notes, "So many guests made it a point to talk to us about how much they loved the ceremony, and I do wonder if it would have been different if people were able to be on their phones ... during that time instead of just relaxing and being in the moment with us."

When it comes to letting guests know their gadgets aren't welcome during your I do's, being simple and to-the-point is best. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of images online that come up during a search for unplugged wedding signs. While some rhyme and others illustrate their point with a cartoon instructing guests "not to be that guy," they all clearly state in some shape or form that guests should tuck away their cameras and phones until a certain point in the festivities.

Casey and Jason of Carlisle had hoped not to have "a sea of iPhones in all of [their] professional wedding photos" at their Linwood Estate wedding, so they opted for a sign and had their officiant make an announcement as well. "You can see those sly guests with their phones up in the air in some of the wedding pictures, but I truly believe that it was much better than if we did not have the 'unplugged' wedding," Casey reflects. "As I look back, I guess we could have alleviated some of those phones in the pictures by talking to specific guests before the wedding. I could have guessed those who would have not appreciated the idea of being 'unplugged,' but all in all, most of our guests respected the request, and the (professional) pictures turned out great!" Casey adds, "I would definitely recommend the idea of an unplugged ceremony to engaged couples, and I am happy that our photographer (Kimberly Wright) suggested it to us."

For some weddings, devices are welcomed back immediately following the wedding ceremony; for others, couples may ask that cameras are kept away until after the first dance at the reception. Considering that many couples opt to create a wedding hashtag, candid photos of the rest of the day's events are often warmly encouraged.

Meghan and Eugene's officiant noted in his announcement, "We have professional photographers and filmmakers here today who will be capturing Meghan and Eugene's ceremony. But the cocktail hour and reception are game on. Instagram and Snapchat away for the rest of the night!"

Melania offers some great advice in this arena. "We love seeing photos of ourselves, especially at an important event," she says. "So, rather than upset your guests completely, find another way to get them involved in the big day! I mean, you have a wedding hashtag for a reason, right? Scavenger hunts during weddings are a thing, and you can make them as fun as you want - (send guests on a photographic mission with) simple tasks like 'the groom playing with his new ring' (or) 'the bride laughing so much it hurts.'"

"You know your guests," she continues. "Give them a job to do, and print your instructions on some card stock. Want even more fun? Make them different for every table! Then, once your day is over, make a Facebook group and start asking for contributors or start a shared album."

When reflecting on the big day once it is over, the couples we spoke to were happy they chose to have an unplugged wedding, and photographers seem to embrace the rising popularity of such events.

"I'm definitely glad we did it!" Meghan says. "Our photos and video turned out beautifully, and I really think it added to the ceremony."

As a photographer, Melania notes, "Bottom line, this a decision that a couple has to make, but we are hired professionals for a reason. Give us the chance to do our jobs as best as possible."

Special Thanks To:

Melania Timpano, Melania Marta Photography

melaniamphotography.com

Melania Marta Photography on Instagram and Facebook

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A Celebration To Geek Out Over January 18, 2018

-If you hope to be married May the Fourth, not because May is a good month to get married but because it is Star Wars Day...

-If your "something blue" is related to Doctor Who's Tardis...

-If you plan to serve drinks named Polyjuice Potion, Felix Felicis, and Butterbeer during your cocktail hour...

-If you refer to your engagement ring as "one ring to rule them all"...

...then you might be planning the epic wedding of a superfan. For some quirky couples ready to take the leap into wedded bliss, no ordinary wedding will do.

A quick Google search for Harry Potter weddings nets a number of incredible celebrations covered by major news or wedding entities (like Martha Stewart Weddings) within the last two years. These weddings were complete with Hogwarts-style venues, floating candles, guests in full costume, golden snitches, wands, and "Always" galore.

Disney princesses and other characters inspire true devotion among their superfans; so much so that whole lines of gowns have been modeled after Ariel, Cinderella, Belle, Tiana, and other princesses. Not only can you look like a princess on your wedding day, couples even have the option to get married at "The Happiest Place on Earth." According to wdwnews.com, "Couples have traveled from every state in the U.S. and from international locations such as Japan, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, Germany, and the Netherlands to get married at Walt Disney World Resort." In fact, the site notes that more than 50,000 couples have tied the knot at one of Disney's affiliates (Walt Disney World Resort, Disneyland, Aulani, and Disney Cruise Line) since 1991.

A Pinterest scroll for "Game of Thrones"-inspired weddings covers every aspect of a wedding one can think of, from romantic hair and makeup to Westeros-worthy clothing, jewelry, and cufflinks to rustic decor, dragon-clad cakes, opulent centerpieces, and medieval table settings. Ideas for save-the-dates, invitations, and wedding programs abound, and don't forget the meat and mead. It is easy to see how a couple could transport their guests to the Seven Kingdoms with the right touches ... with happier ever-afters, of course.

Whether you "geek out" over comic books, "Lord of the Rings," video games, or Hello Kitty, now is a great time to be a fanboy or fangirl getting married. Theme weddings are rising in popularity, and vendors ready to provide the services and accessories can be found locally as well as at the touch of a keyboard. We were in touch with two Pennsylvania couples who recently celebrated their big day with some fantastic thematic elements that ranged from the subtle to the dramatic.

Rachael and Seth, Oley, PA

Married Sept. 9, 2016

Brasenhill Mansion, Lebanon, PA

Photography: Emily Grace Photography

The Wedding Planner: What "theme" was your wedding? What made you choose this theme?

Seth: If there was any overarching theme to our wedding, it was probably just "us," or "nerdy" things we like. Admittedly, we both can be very indecisive about things, so we were really having a hard time with picking a theme for our wedding. Eventually, we decided to take the advice of "making it our own" literally and just started incorporating lots of little details from things we liked.

TWP: What kind of thematic details did you incorporate?

Seth: Many of the details fell under the Batman/comic book category. Some things may have been a little more subtle, such as the color scheme. Purple and lime green, in the Batman context, immediately brings to mind the Joker. Other details were a lot more obvious, such as comic book-style action bubbles ("Kiss" and "Smooch") that were held over us during our ceremony, the Batman logo-shaped cake topper, and the Batman aprons we wore during the cake cutting. Other "nerdy" details outside of the comic spectrum were things like "Lord of the Rings" and Lego. We cut our cake with a sword (a replica of Sting from "Lord of the Rings"), and my wedding band actually has Elvish inscribed onto it similar to The One Ring. Legos made an appearance in helping our guests find their tables via little mini-figures holding flags with the guest's name and table number. Our officiant (Melinda Angstadt - Celebrations of the Spirit) also joined in the fun and added a couple references to Batman and "Lord of the Rings" into the ceremony.

TWP: Was the theme meaningful? How so?

Seth: The theme was absolutely meaningful because it truly represented us. Once we settled on simply making the wedding our own, planning the look and feel of it became a lot easier and more fun.

TWP: How did your guests react to the theme?

Seth: We heard over and over again that our wedding had a unique feel to it and that it was exactly what people would've pictured our wedding to be like.

TWP: Is there anything else you would like to share?

Seth: To all the couples reading this who are unsure about a theme for your wedding, we can't recommend making it your own strongly enough. Pinterest is great and all, and it can be a great jumping-off point, but be sure to make your wedding about you. It is so much easier brainstorming ideas related to things you know and enjoy than it is trying to pull off someone else's vision, and in the end it's going to feel a lot more genuine to both you and your guests!

We'd also be remiss without giving a shoutout to all of our amazing vendors. They were really the ones that took everything above and beyond what we could've imagined, and we cannot thank them enough!

Lisa and Thomas, Lansdale, PA

Married Oct. 21, 2017

Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire, Manheim, PA

Photography: Dana Crosby, Owner - Silent Film Photography

The Wedding Planner: What "theme" was your wedding? What made you choose this theme?

Lisa: If I could pin any specific theme on the wedding, it would probably be a general high fantasy sort of theme. Dragons, knights, fair maidens, that sort of thing. There were certainly some "Game of Thrones"/ "A Song of Ice and Fire" elements added in, as we're both massive fans.

Since I was very young, I've always loved high fantasy. One of my favorite books as a child was a picture book version of "The Hobbit," and that only grew as I got older. What better place to encompass that feeling than the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire?

TWP: What kind of thematic details did you incorporate?

Lisa: My shoes, which were handmade by UK-based Etsy seller The Elusive Rabbit, were ivory and gray lace peep-toe pumps topped with a red dragon's head and accented with dragon wings and a tail wrapped around the heel. The shoes perfectly matched our cake, which Rosie's Creative Cakes did an absolutely amazing job designing. The cake was a two-tier castle tower resting on top of a base of red sparkling dragon scales, and on top of the tower sat a curled-up red fondant dragon with its wings outstretched.

We also added our cheeky little nod to "Game of Thrones" as we walked down the aisle to the infamous "The Rains of Castamere." The Faire provided us with not only their harpist but also a cellist to make it particularly haunting and beautiful. After the ceremony, they played us out to the "Game of Thrones" theme.

One of our groomsmen, a tattoo artist based in Temple, PA, also designed our own medieval-styled crest, which we had incorporated into our burned parchment-themed invitations and placed onto our mint tin favors.

In lieu of a traditional veil, I chose to wear a fascinator with a small bird cage veil that took an abstract sort of inspiration from the old-fashioned style of a queen's crown. I had a friend of mine design it for me, and she perfectly intermingled modern whimsical touches with the exact old-school look I was trying for.

TWP: Was the theme meaningful? How so?

Lisa: For me, it was realizing something I've loved since childhood. For the both of us, it was a way to express our personalities and make "our" day something that actually represented who we are as individuals.

TWP: How did your guests react to the theme?

Lisa: Our guests loved the theme and found the entire experience to be really just plain fun. In our invitations, we specified that attire with a medieval flair was encouraged, and I would say that more than half of our guests got into the spirit. From little touches like a flower crown or an accessory to a full rented themed costume, we wanted to let people have a good time with it and express themselves while carrying our theme along. I feel like our guests playing along played an absolutely pivotal role in the theme's success.

TWP: Is there anything else you would like to share?

Lisa: I could not recommend the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire enough for any couple thinking about doing something themed or just a little different in general. Their wedding coordinator, Nicole, was a rockstar through all the planning process and made things so incredibly easy. The Faire also included full-day tickets for all of our guests as well as entertainment, which made it incredibly simple to make our entire high fantasy theme a very natural thing.

Special thanks to:

Emily Grace Photography

Located in Lancaster County, PA

717-940-8431

www.emilygracephoto.com

www.facebook.com/EmilyGracePhoto

Dana Crosby, Owner - Silent Film Photography

Located in Upper Bucks County, PA

215-804-8383

www.silentfilmphotography.com

www.facebook.com/silentfilmphotography

Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire

2775 Lebanon Road, Manheim, PA

717-665-7021

www.parenfaire.com

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Which Cake ... Takes The Cake? January 18, 2018

We asked professionals in the wedding cake industry to tell us about one of their favorite wedding cakes ever. They shared the memorable pastry perfection that most impressed the wedding guests:

Sharon R. Redcay, executive vice president at Achenbach's Pastries Inc., chose this traditional white cake with white icing as her favorite. "The cake was decorated by our very talented decorators - June and Joanna," Sharon recalls. "This cake was so special because it was made for my daughter and her husband six years ago."

For couples interested in a cake that is a bit less traditional, Sharon noted, "We have been making many Long John pastry wedding cakes also. They are the new hit. Who doesn't love our Long Johns?"

Achenbach's Pastries Inc.

375 E. Main St.

Leola, PA 17540

717-656-6671

bakery@achenbachs.com

www.achenbachs.com

Bobbie Jo Grove, bakery manager at Yoder's Country Market, said this three-tier marble cake stood out in her memory. "Serving about 100 guests and decorated with our homemade white cake icing, this cake is very simple and modern, yet very elegant at the same time," explained Bobbie Jo, who noted that this style of cake can be customized for each couple by adding different flowers to give it a distinctive look.

Bobbie Jo noted that other cake flavors available at Yoder's include white, yellow, red velvet swirl, spice, black walnut, lemon, raspberry, and strawberry. She added that cakes can be customized further, saying, "Why have just a plain cake when you can add a mousse filling or fruit filling and make your cake the talk of the town?"

Yoder's Country Market

14 S. Tower Road

New Holland, PA 17557

717-354-4748

www.yoderscountrymarket.com

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Bright Lights, Big City - Best Honeymoon! January 18, 2018

For active and adventurous couples, a sun-soaked honeymoon spent lounging on a sandy beach just won't cut it. Some newlyweds crave the culture, excitement, and entertainment that only a bustling metropolis can provide. For lovebirds who are looking for a honeymoon that has it all - gourmet food, arts and entertainment, historical landmarks, and top-tier accommodations - these big city destinations offer an ample assortment of get-up-and-go adventures for an out-of-the-box honeymoon that will provide memories to last a lifetime.

Chicago, Illinois: The Windy City is home to impressive architecture, including the second-tallest building in the U.S., the Willis Tower (formerly known as the Sears Tower). Newlyweds will find luxurious lodging along the Magnificent Mile in downtown Chi-town, which is also home to several upscale shopping destinations and Michelin star restaurants. Nearby attractions include Millennium Park, home of the famous Cloud Gate sculpture and other notable monuments; the Museum of Contemporary Art, showcasing a variety of post-World War II pieces; and the Chicago Theater, an instantly recognizable landmark entertainment venue. In the northern end of town, couples can catch a ball game at historic Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs, or take in an improv comedy show at The Second City, known for honing the talents of comedy legends including Bill Murray, Tina Fey, and John Belushi. A romantic evening stroll along the Riverwalk will provide lovebirds with breathtaking views of the city lights, plus ample dining options with gorgeous river and skyline views.

Baltimore, Maryland: This waterfront metropolis earned the nickname Charm City for many reasons, and newlyweds will discover quite a few when they book a luxury room with a view of Inner Harbor. The harbor itself is a bustling hotspot, offering shopping and dining possibilities, as well as must-see attractions like tours of the historic USS Constellation (a battleship built in the late 1700s) and the USS Torsk (a World War II-era submarine) and, of course, the National Aquarium, home to state-of-the-art marine life exhibits, a dolphin show, a shark tank, and a walk-through rainforest. Couples can head downtown for a show at the Hippodrome Theatre, a restored former vaudeville venue; explore the unique history of pop culture at the one-of-a-kind Geppi's Entertainment Museum; or take in the sights and sounds of Lexington Market (a massive indoor market established in 1782) while picking up some famous Maryland seafood. Restaurants like the highly acclaimed Charleston and farm-to-table experts Woodberry Kitchen offer delectable and varied dining options, too.

San Francisco, California: Welcomed by the stunning Golden Gate Bridge, honeymooners will find an enchanting and laid-back vibe in what was once nicknamed "the Paris of the West." Plenty of hotel accommodations are just a short distance away from hotspots like Pier 39, where couples can spend an afternoon enjoying bay breezes, shopping, and picturesque dining by the seaside. A daring drive along the eight hairpin turns of the infamous Lombard Street in the Russian Hill neighborhood can lead couples to Ghirardelli Square, a historic chocolate factory-turned-shopping hub, and then on to the famous Fisherman's Wharf neighborhood for a cable car ride and a visit to the Madame Tussauds Wax Museum.

Austin, Texas: While Austin is known primarily as the capital city of Texas, the evolving metropolis has also become a hub for live music and exciting nightlife. Honeymooners can choose from a variety of luxury hotels that cater to newlyweds and are located in the center of the downtown action. The best live entertainment, along with unique gourmet eateries, can be found along Sixth Street, which is known as the nightlife epicenter of the city. Venturing out of the downtown area, couples can stroll along the boardwalk on Lady Bird Lake, taking in the beauty of the Colorado River, which runs through Austin. Zilker Metropolitan Park is home to the Zilker Botanical Garden, which features 26 acres full of stunning flora and fauna, including waterfalls, peaceful streams, and ponds full of fish. Lovebirds shouldn't miss a walk across the Congress Avenue Bridge or a live show at one of many historic venues, such as the Paramount Theatre, located just blocks from the state capitol complex, or Austin City Limits Live at the Moody Theater, home to the longest-running American music television series.

New York City, New York: There is no other city on earth like the Big Apple, and couples looking for the quintessential big city honeymoon can look to the City That Never Sleeps to fulfill every romantic ideal. Besides premier luxury accommodations, dining opportunities at numerous world-famous restaurants, and shopping at the crème de la crème of designer boutiques, couples can also discover the more nuanced qualities of Manhattan's distinct neighborhoods. Lovebirds can stroll through Greenwich Village and enjoy the Bohemian vibe, rub shoulders with high society types in the Upper East Side, or visit a few of the more than 200 art galleries in the creative and diverse Chelsea neighborhood. Add the requisite activities like taking in a show on Broadway, a visit to the Statue of Liberty, and a stop in Times Square, and newlyweds can enjoy an action-packed adventure in the "city so nice, they named it twice."

Across The Pond: Two European Destinations That Are Honeymoon-Worthy (Besides Paris!)

Barcelona, Spain: Art and architecture await newlyweds in the city known as the cosmopolitan capital of Spain's Catalonia region. Couples can book a room overlooking the Mediterranean Sea or opt for a downtown hotel with views of the city. After a stroll through Las Ramblas, a bustling outdoor market, couples should be sure to drink from the Font de Canaletes fountain, which, as the legend goes, ensures visitors will one day return to Barcelona. Lovebirds can visit the Museu Picasso and marvel at the vast collection of the master painter's works, visit one of several 13th- or 14th-century churches, or tour the city in search of architectural wonders designed by genius architect Antoni Gaudí, the mastermind behind the magnificent Sagrada Familia cathedral located in the heart of Barcelona. Add the finest in gourmet Spanish cuisine, miles of beaches, and an action-packed visit to the FC Barcelona soccer stadium, and honeymooners will experience a Spanish holiday to remember.

Copenhagen, Denmark: The southernmost sovereign nation in Scandinavia, Denmark is an archipelago, and its capital city of Copenhagen is known as one of the oldest cities in the world and also as the city with the happiest residents. Newlyweds will be treated to beautiful waterfront views, quaint narrow streets, and an overall laid-back atmosphere. Couples can enjoy a bite to eat at an outdoor cafe in Nyhavn, the port neighborhood full of music, classy restaurants, and colorful, historic houses, including the former home of Hans Christian Andersen. Rosenborg Castle, located in the heart of Copenhagen, will take couples on a journey into the royal history of Denmark, with opportunities to view the crown jewels, coronation thrones, and artifacts related to the monarchy, which has been in existence for more than 1,000 years. Another must-see attraction for all newlyweds with a penchant for romance is the bronze sculpture of the Little Mermaid, which sits at Langelinie Pier gazing at the city where her true love waits. The statue, a gift to Copenhagen in 1913, remains one of the city's most popular attractions.

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The Venue Review January 18, 2018

Once a couple becomes engaged and shares the good news with friends and families, the next step is to begin planning the wedding. While couples must make myriad decisions during the wedding planning process, perhaps none is more significant than where to tie the knot.

The Knot 2016 Real Weddings Study found that couples spent an average of $16,107 on their wedding venues in 2016. That figure easily dwarfs the next biggest expense ($6,163 for the engagement ring). Because the wedding venue accounts for such a large portion of the budget, couples should give ample consideration to a host of factors before choosing where to get married.

Size - Until they can agree on a guest list, couples might want to delay looking for venues. On the other hand, some couples might want to first look at some venues so they can determine just how many guests they can afford to invite. Whether they're hosting small celebrations or large parties, couples should choose venues that can comfortably accommodate all of their guests. If possible, couples may want to look for venues with multiple reception areas, which might allow for some wiggle room if the guest list grows or dwindles during the planning process.

Availability - Some couples might have an ideal time of year they hope to get married. Some may even know the exact date. While that can help with the planning, it can also limit couples with regard to their venue options. Some venues may be booked for as much as a year or more in advance during peak wedding season. The Real Weddings Study found that the most popular months to get married in 2016 were October and September. Couples that hope to follow in the footsteps of many 2016 brides and grooms may need to book their wedding venues well in advance. Those who can be more flexible regarding their wedding dates may find it easier to book their dream venues.

Insurance - Ask about the venue's insurance policies, including the policies the venue has to protect itself. In addition, ask if the venue requires couples to have their own wedding liability insurance for protection in the event of injury, property damage, or incidents related to alcohol. Couples may also want to make the investment in cancellation/postponement insurance, and some venues may even require it.

Financials - It's easy for couples to be focused on the bottom line when choosing wedding venues, but it's also important that they get a complete grasp of the financials before choosing a wedding venue. Ask about the amount of the initial deposit and if that deposit is refundable. In addition, ask when the deposit is due and when each subsequent payment is due until the balance is paid in full. This research can make budgeting easier and planning less stressful.

Couples should have fun choosing their wedding venues while recognizing that certain factors must be given ample consideration before signing any contracts.

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Food Makes The Mood January 18, 2018

Food is often one of the highlights of a wedding reception. Couples researching potential reception sites for their parties should be sure to schedule tastings and confirm how the foods will look upon being served. In addition to the taste of the food, couples may want to consider which menu items are offered - particularly those that align with the latest trends in wedding reception catering. Some popular food trends include:

· Food stations: Food stations encourage interaction between a chef/server and the guests. Food stations may include a ceviche bar, fondue cart, quesadilla maker, or custom sliders station.

· Colorful foods: Guests may be tempted by the appearance of foods, and bold colors can set dishes apart.

· Brunch items: Recognizing that daytime weddings can be much less expensive than evening affairs, couples opting for a ceremony earlier in the day may want to have a brunch-themed wedding reception, featuring omelets, pancakes, French toast, and other tasty breakfast foods.

· Fancier "ordinary" fare: Although chicken fingers and meatballs aren't normally given gourmet status, they can be dressed up and repackaged for weddings. Whole-grain breadings, Asian dipping sauces, and gourmet ingredients such as Kobe beef give common foods some flair.

· Family feel: Some weddings are now served "family style," with guests sharing from larger passed plates. This method serves to connect everyone at the table and encourages conversation, helping to establish a warm atmosphere.

· Food trucks: Trendy couples can treat guests to another special component. Takeout-style food trucks can offer hors d'oeuvres or other parts of the meal.

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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:

Inexpensive:

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.

Middle-of-the-Road:

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:

Inexpensive:

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.

Middle-of-the-Road:

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.

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Wedding Wheels December 13, 2017

Before a couple can tie the knot and cut a rug at their receptions, everyone - the couple and guests included - must arrive at the event location. Though arranging wedding day transportation to the ceremony and reception can be difficult, there are ways to make the process go more smoothly for guests and bridal party members.

Determine your needs. Before a transportation plan can be made, couples must first map out their needs. Everything should be built around the ceremony. Once the ceremony time has been set, the rest of the day can be arranged around that time. Determine how much time is needed to travel from the ceremony to the reception area. Allocate enough time before the cocktail hour to allow for traffic, photos and any other needs that may take up time. Couples do not want anyone, including themselves, to feel rushed. Once the timing has been orchestrated, couples can figure out exactly which types of transportation will be required.

Book personal transportation first. Happy couples must make their own transportation their top priority, making arrangements between five and seven months in advance of the wedding. It may be preferable to book even further in advance if a couple is getting married around a holiday or during prom season when limousines and party buses are in high demand. Remember, unless the bride-to-be plans to be seen by her groom before the ceremony, couples will need separate transportation to the ceremony site. Factor multiple vehicles into the wedding transportation budget.

Explore your personality. Brides and grooms have many transportation options at their disposal. If a limousine doesn't add the spark of creativity they desire, they can opt for a VW bus or a retro roadster. Outdoor enthusiasts might want to ride off on horseback, while easy riders might prefer to rev up the engine on a motorcycle. Couples should not feel obligated to tradition, especially when something else fulfills their wedding dreams - and the budget allows for it.

Have your getaway car ready. Couples generally opt to arrive to the wedding and reception in style but take their own vehicles or cabs home afterward. This requires some advance planning. Enlist the help of friends to park the return-trip car in a convenient location. Couples should check with the catering hall to see if a vehicle can be left in its lot overnight. Otherwise, they may need to arrange to grab a ride home with friends or family.

Consider others' needs. Couples can have the names and phone numbers of taxi or ridesharing services available for those who may not be able to drive after the party. Elderly or disabled guests might appreciate prearranged transportation as well. Although couples can arrange for transportation as a courtesy to others, they don't need to feel obligated to make arrangements for everyone.

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Newlyweds In The Golden Years January 24, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photos by Dale Brady.

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