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Liven Up Reception DŽcor With Living Centerpieces December 12, 2018

Centerpieces are one aspect of the reception where couples can get creative without breaking the bank. Flowers are popular centerpieces at weddings. But even with cost-cutting measures, such as choosing in-season blooms, bumping up the filler-to-flower ratio, and opting for low-profile centerpieces instead of towering alternatives, couples can expect to pay about $2,000 on wedding flowers, offers The Knot, a go-to resource for wedding planning. But opting for the following clever living centerpiece alternatives might impress guests - and also do so on budget.

One option is to choose potted plants, which can serve as both favors and reception centerpieces. Live plants also can be an eco-conscious decision for couples that are interested in incorporating "green" elements into their weddings. Couples tying the knot in the autumn can place mums inside of a hollowed pumpkin or gourd. Spring and summer weddings can be enhanced by miniature rose bushes or succulents. Winter weddings may be dressed up with small evergreen trees or potted holly.

Couples may also opt to incorporate butterflies into their celebration. Some cultures or religions view butterflies as a symbol of endurance, change, hope, and vitality. Incorporating butterflies into reception centerpieces can make guests feel like they are stepping into a living garden. Small, mesh-lined cages filled with foliage and butterflies might add that special touch.

Living centerpieces offer something different from floral centerpieces. However, because live plants and animals may be part of the display, couples need to account for their welfare. This means ensuring they will be cared for after the wedding, or, in the event of butterflies, released into the evening sky.

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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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A Sense Of Place January 24, 2017

Destination weddings have become popular for a variety of reasons, but not all couples can jet off to an exotic locale for their nuptials. Sometimes budget and logistical restraints make a destination wedding unfeasible. But couples who are still dreaming of a picturesque wedding at an exciting destination need not despair; they can bring the "destination" home. There are plenty of ways for a wedding celebration to incorporate inspiration drawn from a faraway place, whether it's a favorite vacation spot, the location of the planned honeymoon trip, or simply somewhere the couple dreams of visiting. Here are a few examples of how brides and grooms can translate a sense of place into the decorations, attire, cuisine, entertainment, and other elements of their special day.

Hawaii

A wedding that draws inspiration from the Hawaiian Islands' legendary beaches, lush vegetation, and well-known tiki culture will offer a fun, comfortable vibe.

Flowers - Select tropical flowers such as orchids, birds of paradise, or hibiscus for the bouquets of the bride and bridesmaids. Skipping the bouquets and having each member of the wedding party wear a floral lei would also be particularly appropriate, since leis are traditionally given in Hawaii in honor of important events - including weddings.

Decorations - For centerpieces, opt for tropical flowers or potted mini palm trees or embrace island kitsch and decorate tables with vintage hula dancer dashboard dolls. Turn a surfboard into a functional decoration by affixing photos or table assignments to it like a bulletin board. Or, turn a surfboard into an innovative guest book alternative by inviting guests to write their warm wishes for the couple directly onto the board with a permanent marker. If your wedding is outdoors, play up the tropical ambiance by ringing the space with tiki torches.

Food and beverages - One sip of a mai tai will transport attendees straight to the Aloha State. Guava and pineapple juice make for tasty nonalcoholic options. A pig roast will play up the luau feel of the reception, and pineapples, mangoes, papayas, and other tropical fruit can be incorporated into the menu. Coconut and Kona coffee flavors will also make guests feel like they're dining in a tropical paradise. For dessert, opt for pineapple upsidedown cake or white chocolate macadamia nut cake. Another option would be eschewing the cake in favor of a Hawaiian shave ice stand, where guests can enjoy an icy treat with their choice of tropical flavors.

Mexico

A festive fiesta with Mexican-inspired details will ensure that members of the wedding party and guests have a great time while celebrating the happy couple.

Decorations - Cheery fiesta decor will set the stage for the celebration. Beautiful picado tissue paper banners can be liberally strung around the reception space, and colorful folk art pieces can be incorporated into centerpieces. In honor of Mexico's strong tradition of observing Day of the Dead, couples may even consider honoring the dearly departed members of their families through a traditional Dia de los Muertos altar, complete with photos, flowers, and food offerings.

Food and beverages - The popular cuisine of Mexico provides couples with numerous options for wedding day fare. Set up a taco bar where guests can create their own tacos from a choice of beef, chicken, or beans, as well as a variety of toppings. Or hire a food truck that serves tacos and other Mexican-style food items to be on-site. For beverages, offer guests margaritas and Mexican brands of beer. Consider providing a dessert buffet offering tres leches cake, churros with chocolate sauce, and - of course - Mexican wedding cookies.

Entertainment - Couples can hire a real mariachi band to play at the reception. Guests will love dancing to mariachi standards, as well as a modern love song or two, performed mariachi-style. Piñatas make for another fun form of reception entertainment. Since piñatas are available in a variety of styles and colors, couples can go with classic shiny star-shaped orbs or find a piñata that showcases their love of a particular sport or animal. Allow the children in attendance to get the first whack before letting the adults join in the fun. The bride and groom can even give guests a mini piñata as a wedding favor.

Swiss Alps

Couples can play up the beauty of a winter wedding and give themselves and their guests a mountaintop experience by embracing a Swiss Alps theme.

Attire - To help the bride's and bridesmaids' dresses to stand up to the winter chill, top them with a faux fur or knit wraps. Stylish coats or sporty parkas will also keep wedding party members toasty and warm in chilly weather. If you'll be taking photos outdoors, outfit the members of your wedding party in matching scarves and mittens to ward off winter chills.

Decorations - Deck out your reception venue to look like a posh Alpine ski chalet by incorporating cozy, rustic elements. A fireplace with a crackling fire will set the ambiance, and vintage snow sports gear such as skis, snowshoes, toboggans, and ice skates can be used as decorations. Add a sense of warmth to the room by using woolen blankets instead of tablecloths or runners. Purchased or DIY snow globes featuring winter scenes make for charming centerpieces. Other decorative ideas include displaying a collection of Swiss cowbells or even an authentic alphorn.

Food and beverages - Whether as the main meal or an appetizer, you can't go wrong with classic cheese fondue. Consider offering the Berner platte (the Bernese platter), a regional specialty that consists of an assortment of meats and sausages, along with juniper-flavored sauerkraut, potatoes, and dried beans. A main course could be Alplermagronen, or "herdsman's macaroni," made from cheese, potatoes, onions, macaroni, and milk or cream. Help revelers stay cozy and warm by offering mulled wine and hot chocolate. Speaking of chocolate, the Swiss are known for theirs, so be sure to play up that ingredient when dessert time arrives by serving Swiss chocolate mousse in addition to an array of decadent pastries. A wedding favor that sends guests home with a few pieces of Swiss chocolate is also sure to be popular.

Japan

Borrowing from Japan's ancient traditions will create a truly lovely and elegant fête.

Attire - The bride and bridesmaids can incorporate the Japanese theme into pre-wedding preparations by donning kimono-style robes featuring bright, floral patterns while styling their hair and makeup. Kimono-style design elements and silk accents can be incorporated into the wedding attire, as well.

Decorations - Go heavy on the cherry blossoms, incorporating them into the bridal bouquets and reception centerpieces. Scores of paper cranes made with beautiful paper also make for charming decorations, whether sitting on tables or strung up and hung in garland form. Paper lanterns, Japanese-style fans, and oil-paper umbrellas can also be used as decorative elements, and miniature versions can make a unique and memorable wedding favor for guests.

Food and beverages - The traditional Japanese tea ceremony is highly revered in Japanese culture, so providing guests with a selection of teas (hot or iced) is a natural choice. So too is serving sushi, though be sure to include rolls featuring all-cooked ingredients or separate Japanese noodle dishes for guests with less adventurous palates. A Kobe beef dish is another option for those who dislike sushi. Other popular Japanese imports that can be served include sake cocktails and mochi, daifuku, and other sweets.

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Rain, Rain - That's OK! January 24, 2017

A beautiful backdrop like ocean waves or rolling country hills lends a lot to a wedding, making the day enjoyable for couples and their guests. But Mother Nature also presents risks to those planning to host an outdoor wedding. Weather is unpredictable, and couples who hope to tie the knot in the great outdoors must develop a contingency plan just in case Mother Nature decides to rain on their parade. While outdoor wedding venues often have backup venues in place, couples can take some additional steps to ensure a rainy day will not ruin the wedding.

· Find a place to take photos. Many couples arrange for outdoor wedding photos whether they are tying the knot indoors or outdoors, but couples should also arrange for a place to take photos indoors in case there is inclement weather. If possible, the couple should walk the grounds of the ceremony or reception site with the photographer in the weeks before the wedding to scout out potential areas to shoot indoors in case the weather does not cooperate. Ask a representative from the venue to recommend potential photo locations.

· Consider a tent. Some wedding venues are exclusively outdoors, meaning they do not have indoor backup options on their premises. If this is the case, couples may rent tents to serve as their safety nets. If a venue has no indoor alternatives, a tent should be considered and factored into the budget.

· Establish a cutoff time. Depending on how remote the ceremony location is, couples might be able to wait until a few hours before their weddings to decide if they will still tie the knot outdoors. Make the call earlier if the wedding is to be held at an especially remote location. At the cutoff time, let guests know where the wedding will be. Include information about the cutoff time on the wedding website and/or invitations. Use a social media platform such as Facebook or Twitter to inform guests of the final decision.

· Provide umbrellas. Some inclement weather may not be enough to deter couples or guests from braving the great outdoors. Couples getting married in the summer may be able to withstand a summer shower, but they should provide guests with umbrellas just to be safe. The umbrellas can be mementos of the event.

· Insure the wedding. Couples who are hosting destination weddings on tropical isles should look into insuring their weddings. Such islands might be susceptible to harmful storms like hurricanes, which can prevent weddings from taking place. Insurance can cover couples for a host of unforeseen circumstances, including weather.

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Quite A Sight In White January 24, 2017

Many brides walk down the aisle in white gowns, which have long been considered the most traditional choice. Wearing white can be a frightening prospect to some brides, who fear that white clearly shows every blemish or stain. Protecting a white dress so it looks pristine on the wedding day takes a little effort, but such efforts are well worth it.

Before The Wedding

When trying on gowns, brides-to-be should make sure their hands are clean and they are not wearing any makeup. They may want to wear a thin pair of gloves so any oils from their hands are not transferred to the gown. Anyone who helps the bride-to-be in and out of the gown should also make sure their hands are clean or covered.

The bride-to-be should try on the gown sparingly before the wedding, ideally only for fittings. When she is not trying on the gown, she should store it in a protective garment bag until it needs to be steamed just prior to the wedding. Some seamstresses or tailors will hold onto the gown until the final alterations are done and then steam out any wrinkles prior to delivery.

Wedding Day

On the day of the wedding, resist the urge to handle the gown early in the day. The gown should be the last thing the bride puts on during wedding day preparations.

Wait until just before departing for the service to get fully dressed in the gown. Again, the bride should make sure her hands and the hands of her helpers are clean. The bride should ask for help so that the dress can be placed gingerly over her head so no makeup gets on the gown. Some brides may find it helpful to make lipstick application their last step in getting ready, as bright lipstick on a white gown can be especially difficult to conceal.

Pack an emergency stain-fighting kit to bring along to the ceremony and reception. This way, should a minor stain occur, it can be treated right away. The bride should use the kit sparingly because she may not know exactly how a cleaning product will react with the gown's fabric, and overuse may make the stain worse. If possible, test the product on a small swatch of gown fabric prior to use.

After The Wedding

Use caution when removing the gown, and then promptly repackage it into its garment bag. After the wedding, take the gown to a professional dry cleaner to have it cleaned and preserved. Then the gown can be used by future generations or simply saved as a keepsake.

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The Well-Groomed Groom January 24, 2017

Weddings are a chance for couples tying the knot to be the center of attention. All eyes will be glued to the bride and groom on this special day, so it's important that they look their best.

The bride might garner most of the attention on a couple's wedding day, but the dashing groom also will get his share of the spotlight. As a result, gentlemen must be as diligent as their brides with regard to grooming and appearance on their wedding days. To look picture-perfect, grooms may want to include these tips in their wedding day preparation.

Hair

The groom-to-be should schedule a haircut with a professional stylist roughly a week before the wedding to get his hair shaped and trimmed. Although trendy hairstyles may show off creativity, grooms-to-be should keep in mind that photos will last much longer than these trends, and it is often better to stick with a classic cut. A barber or stylist may suggest styles that best suit one's face shape and hair texture, though it's a good idea to test drive a different style well in advance of the big day. Above all, the haircut should be neat.

Shaving

Shaving is another thing grooms must consider. Gentlemen with a beard should make sure their facial hair is clean, combed, and trimmed. Men who shave on the day of their weddings may find their skin is sensitive and irritated, which can lead to redness. Unless his facial hair grows especially fast, the groom-to-be should shave the evening before. This is a good time to splurge on a professional shave with a straight razor at a barber shop. A hot shave from a professional will produce a close shave with the least amount of irritation when done correctly.

Hands

Grooms also may want to book a manicure. Keep in mind that salons will do men's nonpolish manicures and pedicures, and they can be well worth the investment. Photos of entwined hands or close-ups of the ring exchange will have guests zeroing in on the couple's fingers. Grooms-to-be should make sure their hands look their best by having clean, shaped fingernails and trimmed cuticles.

Skin

Get plenty of sleep the night prior to the wedding. Being well rested will help reduce puffy eyes, dark circles and sallow skin. It may also lead to a more positive mood, which can help the groom enjoy the day even more.

On the day of the wedding, shower using water and a mild soap and gentle exfoliator. To avoid skin irritation, the groom should pat his face and body dry rather than rubbing it with the towel. The groom-to-be should moisturize his skin to avoid dry patches. Stores sell many moisturizers geared toward men's needs, often in unscented or more masculine fragrances.

Drinking plenty of water can also help skin look its best. Hydrate well during the week leading up to the wedding for best results, and be careful not to over-indulge on alcohol at pre-wedding celebrations, especially the night before.

Reducing shine is key for wedding day photos. Rely on face and hair products that will not add unnecessary sheen to the skin or hair, which could create a greasy appearance. Matte hair waxes and sprays will tame tresses. Also, gentlemen prone to oily skin may want to obtain a package of blotting tissues, which are absorbent sheets that will remove oil from the face and keep sheen to a minimum.

Smile

A groom-to-be should make sure his teeth have been thoroughly brushed and that he has used a minty mouthwash so he is ready for that first kiss. Many grooms also opt for whitening treatments prior to the wedding to have a dazzling smile.

On his wedding day, a groom will likely be photographed more than any other time in his life. That means putting extra effort into personal grooming so he will look his best.

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Wedding Budget 101 January 24, 2017

Couples engaged to be married have a lot on their plates as they begin planning their weddings. Whereas tradition once held that the parents of the bride paid for a couple's wedding, nowadays more and more engaged couples are completely or partially financing their own nuptials. That means prospective brides and grooms must develop wedding budgets that will ensure their first act as Mr. and Mrs. is not paying down debt.

In its 2015 Real Weddings Study, online bridal resource The Knot found that many couples still receive substantial financial support from their parents to pay for their weddings. The survey found that, on average, the bride's parents contributed 44 percent of the overall wedding budget in 2015, while the couple financed 43 percent. The remaining 13 percent was financed by the groom's parents and additional sources. Couples who hope to follow that formula or pay for their weddings on their own can heed the following tips to build wedding budgets that will not break the bank but will still ensure a day to remember forever.

· Examine your collective finances. Few couples know all of the details of each other's finances before getting engaged. While some may still hesitate to share their personal financial information upon getting engaged, an open and honest discussion and examination of each person's finances is the only way to develop a realistic wedding budget that both partners can live with. Once couples know what they can contribute, they can consult their parents to determine if their families intend to contribute.

· Develop a preliminary guest list. A preliminary guest list can give couples an idea of how large and expensive their weddings will be. According to the Real Weddings Study, the average cost per wedding guest in 2015 was $237. While that cost can vary greatly depending on geography and other factors, couples should keep that figure in mind when drafting their guest lists. If need be, keep costs down by trimming the guest list so it includes only close family members and friends.

· Don't count on gifts. Many couples justify runaway wedding budgets by telling themselves that they will ultimately get the money back in the form of wedding gifts. While many guests will give financial gifts, counting on such windfalls is a recipe for accruing debt. Do not build potential wedding gifts into a wedding budget. Couples that do so could be facing considerable debt upon returning home from their honeymoons.

· Gather quotes before choosing a wedding location. Where couples get married will have a great impact on how much money they will spend on their weddings. For example, the Real Weddings Study found that, in 2015, the average wedding in Manhattan cost couples slightly more than $82,000, while the average Alaskan wedding cost just over $17,000. Even within the same city, venues can vary greatly with regard to pricing and offerings, so couples should give themselves ample time to gather quotes and find an affordable venue they like.

· Research the average costs for vendors. Couples can conduct preliminary investigation to determine about how much they can expect to pay the vendors that provide photography, cake, music, and other services. Don't forget to budget for tax and gratuities.

· Build extra costs into the budget. When creating their budgets, couples must remember to include a little extra for unforeseen costs. Building such costs into the initial budget will make these unforeseen circumstances easier to handle.

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More Than A Dream January 24, 2017

Destination weddings can make for memorable moments for brides, grooms, and their family and friends. While the celebrations often take place in idyllic locales that make for a gorgeous backdrop to the celebration of the happy couple, setting the perfect ambiance for such a noteworthy occasion without breaking the bank can be tricky.

Destination weddings ask a lot of both the couple and their guests. Couples may need to visit the location of their wedding several times before the big day, and those costs can quickly add up. Guests will also need to budget for flights and lodging to attend a destination wedding. However, there are some ways for couples to rein in the associated costs to ensure that everyone has a good time without having to worry about finances as soon as the big day is over.

Look for Convenient, Affordable Travel. Some resorts may offer great prices on destination wedding packages, but be careful to avoid locations so remote that you and your guests will be forced to pay for expensive flights. With the rising popularity of destination weddings, many resorts now offer competitive packages; however, if keeping travel affordable for guests is a goal, it is important to choose a location that will allow travelers to book a reasonably priced flight rather than choosing the location based on the cost of the wedding package.

Shorten the Guest List. Trimming the guest list is how many couples curtail destination wedding costs. Invite only your closest family members and friends to the wedding and reception and then host a second, less-formal party for your remaining relatives and friends after returning from your honeymoon. Guests will understand, and you will ultimately get the chance to celebrate with all of your loved ones anyway.

Go Simple and Save. Many traditional weddings include all the bells and whistles, like lavish flowers and elaborate gowns. Destination weddings are often expected to be simplified, particularly if the festivities are at an island location. Let nature do the decorating and opt for native wedding attire if it's more affordable than potentially costly gowns and tuxedos.

Resist Peak Tourist Season. Much like there is a peak wedding season throughout North America, many popular travel spots' economies depend heavily on tourism seasons. Avoid that season when choosing a date for your destination wedding and you'll also avoid the higher costs that are associated with the more popular tourist times.

Go Discount Hunting. Popular destination wedding locations may be willing to negotiate prices on all aspects of the wedding, and those discounts may increase as more guests commit to attending. Resorts recognize that weddings will bring guests in need of lodging, food, and entertainment. Couples can use that to their advantage when negotiating prices. Couples may even be able to negotiate with airlines for discounted airfares if they can guarantee a certain number of travelers.

Buy Local. When planning your wedding, embrace the culture of your chosen destination and choose local foods, flowers, and entertainment. Not only will it make your big day more unique and authentic, but it will also save you money and benefit the local economy at the same time.

Don't Forget... Couples hoping to have a destination wedding in another country may want to plan for a longer engagement than those getting married closer to home. The longer timeframe gives guests more time to arrange for travel, and it allows the bride and groom more time to navigate the requirements of getting married in a different country. Paperwork should be expected, and wedding license applications may not be processed as quickly. Be sure to have a firm grasp of the country's application process, including the possibility of having birth certificates and other personal documents translated into the official language of the country. Also, be sure to check on residency requirements of the country that you hope to marry in. Take advantage of a professional wedding planner, if the resort you choose has one on staff. A professional can make it easier for couples to navigate the sometimes complex laws regulating destination weddings, and a wedding planner's services are often included in resort wedding packages. If no such service is included in the hotel package, consider hiring a local wedding planner to make the process go more smoothly.

Destination weddings can be significant undertakings, but if couples are armed with the proper knowledge and preparation, the bride and groom can enjoy the wedding event of a lifetime and create memories that will last forever.

Ben & Andrea's Majestic Rocky Mountain Wedding

When Ben and Andrea Singer of Lancaster decided to plan their dream wedding, they knew that it would involve travel for their family and friends. "Our family is spread out across the country," Andrea explained. "Regardless of what we did, half of our family would have to travel."

The couple began planning a lavish autumn wedding in their local area, but they soon decided it wasn't going to live up to their hopes for the big day. "We realized we needed to refocus and bring things back to what mattered to us," the couple shared. "We were planning a wedding for other people, rather than a wedding that would make us happy."

With their newfound focus, the couple zeroed in on a destination wedding in a location that was special to both of them: the Rocky Mountains. "Andrea spent her childhood vacationing at the YMCA of the Rockies, and as adults, we have shared this place together. When we decided to go with a destination wedding, it was a logical choice for us, given its significance and our great love of the outdoors," Ben said. "It seemed like a wonderful idea to bring our families together in a place with so many fond memories for the two of us, and it gave us an opportunity to share this place with the people we love."

In the week leading up to the wedding, the couple rented a 32-person cabin where their families could spend time and get to know each other. "It was a surprisingly drama-free week that culminated in our wedding," Andrea recalled. "There were certainly a lot of 'what-ifs' leading up to the wedding, but the YMCA of the Rockies did an amazing job of making our wedding work," noted Ben.

The Singers were thrilled with their Rocky Mountain wedding, and they have a few tips for other couples who are interested in saying "I do" in a special, far-away locale. "Destination weddings can be tricky because you may not even see your wedding venue until (the big day)," Andrea noted. "Plan how you want things to go way ahead of time so that there are fewer surprises when you get down to the wire." Ben and Andrea also recommend that couples decide what they are willing to sacrifice, noting that not all of their close friends and family were able to make the big day. "For some, that may be a sacrifice they are not willing to make. Even something as small as trying wedding cakes or catering options will be something you may miss out on," Ben said.

However, for each sacrifice, there is the reward of lifelong memories. "Destination weddings replace some of the sacrifices with memories you simply can't make elsewhere," Andrea pointed out. One glimpse of the Singers' incredible wedding photos with breathtaking mountain views in the background, and there's no doubt that the couple made a great decision.

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Excellent Accommodations November 9, 2016

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

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

Number of Guests

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

Location

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

Amenities

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

Cost

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

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

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Farm-To-Wedding Cuisine August 1, 2016

In recent years, the trends of "eating local" and "farm-to-table cuisine" have taken the culinary world by storm. However, for many of us in central Pennsylvania, where local farmers markets and roadside produce stands are plentiful, the concept of "eating local" is nothing new. As many of us enjoy purchasing corn, apples, and many other kinds of produce from area farmers to include in our everyday meals, on a larger scale, brides and grooms planning their weddings also have the option of enjoying local food during the festivities.

The benefits of incorporating local foods into a wedding day feast are many. Proponents of the local food movement laud farm-to-table food for its freshness and healthfulness. Because local food does not need to be shipped far, sellers do not need to employ techniques to increase its shelf life. Because of this, advocates point out that local foods are often more flavorful than products shipped from other locales.

Purchasing local foods also helps to support area farmers and food producers, thus bolstering the local economy. Another benefit to showcasing local foods, including those grown in the area and those produced by local companies, at a wedding is that it allows couples to share - quite literally - a taste of their hometown with out-of-town guests.

Embracing the popular farm-to-table trend, a number of reception venues and caterers in the wedding industry have made incorporating local foods a fundamental attribute of their menus. "The best way to incorporate the farm-to-table trend is to use a caterer who actually grows a large portion of their own produce," suggests Charlene Calvert-Campbell, president of Accomac Events in York, pointing out that Accomac Events has done so for the past five years. "In addition, it helps to know if your caterer is connected to a local farmer, like our neighbors at Lehman's Farms," she adds.

Molly Cook, assistant director at John Wright Restaurant in Wrightsville, agrees that finding a reception venue or caterer with close ties to local farmers is key. "By working with local farmers, John Wright Restaurant receives seasonal food and vegetables to incorporate in our dishes to make sure they are the best they can be for our guests," she explains.

Cook pointed out that working with local farmers also allows for opportunities to customize and personalize food offerings. "At John Wright Restaurant, most of our food comes from local farms and is able to be customized and made the way our customers prefer," she notes. "By being able to customize our specialty meals for our weddings, we can satisfy anyone that needs organic or gluten-free options."

Creative culinary artists can combine fresh, seasonal elements in surprising and tasty ways. For example, in the fall, when pears, butternut squash, pumpkins, beets, and other root vegetables are abundant, Calvert-Campbell recommends literally thinking outside the box. "(To go along with) a nice butternut squash hummus, think about baking off large carrots, beets, and potatoes to use as chips instead of crackers that have been living in a box," she suggests. Other options proposed by Calvert-Campbell that are full of fall flavors include Gorgonzola cheese cups with York County pears, walnuts, and green salad as a bite-size tartlet; roasted pumpkin wrapped in maple bacon on a knotted pick; and a flatbread hors d'oeuvre with sweet potato and caramelized onion.

Keep in mind that "local food" doesn't always have to mean vegetables. "One of our most popular dishes for weddings is stuffed chicken," says Cook. "Our local harvest chicken breast comes from Lancaster County, and the stuffing is made from certified organic bread from The Lancaster Food Company. Another popular option is our Alfredo pasta, which is all-dairy and comes from Apple Valley Creamery in East Berlin."

Another fun way that couples can "buy local" with regards to wedding cuisine is to serve products made by local companies and small businesses. For example, a coffee blend roasted in small batches by an area micro-roaster can be a perfect complement to a slice of wedding cake, and guests will love to receive favors in the form of truffles from a local chocolatier.

There are a few things for couples to keep in mind before committing to a completely farm-to-table culinary experience, however. First, it is important to remember that many foods are only in season at certain times of the year. Local strawberries will not be an option for a farm-to-table menu served at a December wedding, for example. Couples should research what local crops will be in season during the month of their wedding so they will not be surprised by any limitations the growing season will place on their menu options. "A couple can't expect to have fresh squash in April ... or York County corn in May," Calvert-Campbell points out. "If you understand what's in season, you'll know who is writing clean menus."

Another potential drawback to a couple planning a meal heavily featuring locally grown food is that the menu, like the local farmers who grow the components, will be at the mercy of Mother Nature. Weather conditions impact growing seasons and can affect harvest times. That fact doesn't mean that couples have to forego their farm-to-table meal, however - just that they need to talk with the venue or caterer supplying their food to make sure that there's a back-up plan in place in the event that the harvest of one of the meal's ingredients is delayed due to weather conditions.

When making decisions about farm-to-table cuisine, as when making all wedding food selections, a taste test always helps. Couples should meet with their venue or caterer in advance to talk through the entire menu and taste samples of the food that will be served at the wedding. That way, they know that the fresh, local ingredients will be prepared and presented in a way that does them justice. "If your foods are fresh, they can speak for themselves," Calvert-Campbell notes. "They don't need to be smothered in butter or sauces."

Couples who are proud of the fresh, local food they are serving their guests should feel free to let attendees know where the meal's components came from. "Occasionally, we have couples who want their guests to know where the food comes from, so we list the products and the farmers in a frame in the front of the buffet," explains Cook. "For served meals, we place a list on the hors d'oeuvre table." Giving credit where credit is due will let wedding attendees know that the food they are enjoying is fresh and seasonal, and guests will also know that they can swing by an area dairy to purchase some of the to-die-for goat cheese that was featured in an appetizer or visit a nearby orchard to pick up a bushel of the divinely juicy peaches that were included in a tasty dessert.

Conventional wisdom suggests that the food is one of the components guests will most remember about a wedding reception. Incorporating farm-to-table food items is one way for couples to ensure that their guests will have the opportunity to enjoy a menu that is both distinctive and delicious while helping them to celebrate the big day.

Special Thanks To:

Accomac Events

6330 S. River Drive, York, PA 17406

717-252-2288

www.accomacevents.com

John Wright Restaurant

234 N. Front St., Wrightsville, PA 17368

717-252-0416

www.jwrpa.com

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A Floral Finish: Preserving Wedding Bouquets And Arrangements August 1, 2016

A bride's gown may garner its share of attention on her wedding day, but floral arrangements also tend to impress guests. Fresh flowers make a wedding and the ensuing reception more inviting and appealing.

According to TheKnot.com, couples can expect to spend 8 percent of their wedding budget on flowers. That can be a considerable expense for fragile flowers with a shelf life of only a day or two.

But instead of tossing beautiful bouquets and other flowers into the garbage once the wedding day has come and gone, couples can employ various methods to preserve those impressive displays for years to come.

Air Drying

One of the easiest ways to preserve flowers is to dry them out. This is best done by hanging blooms upside down so they will remain straight and not warp or wither while drying.

Secure flowers in small bundles and hang from an out-of-the-way spot in a cool, dry area. The flowers may need to remain hanging for up to three weeks before they are completely dry. Once the flowers reach this state, gently remove the flowers and arrange them in a vase or another container. Otherwise, reassemble the bouquet how it was and carefully display it.

Pressing

Pressing is another way to preserve floral bouquets and arrangements. To press flowers, find a few heavy books to stack or another weighted object. Place the flowers between parchment paper or waxed paper and lay the heavy items on top. Flowers may also be placed in tissue paper between the pages of a book so they are not jostled.

Leave the blooms for a week or two and then check on them before putting them in a shadow box or photo frame.

Chemical Drying

Silica gel, borax and regular sand can be used to dry and preserve flowers as well. These can be handy for people who desire to preserve an entire bouquet as is.

Silica gel is a substance commonly found in small packets inside new shoes and purses. It can be purchased at home improvement retailers and is used to dry out musty basements and other areas.

Fill a deep container halfway with the silica gel or other drying material. Put in the bouquet and then gently add more product to the top of the flowers so they are completely submerged. Place a snug cover over the top of the container and let everything sit for about a week. Slowly the moisture will be absorbed from the flowers.

Some people choose to spray dried flowers with a sealant to keep them looking nice longer. An all-purpose craft spray might work. Couples may also ask for recommendations from the florist who handled the arrangements, and that florist may even preserve the flowers for an additional fee.

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Seven Tips For Planning A Great Honeymoon August 1, 2016

A couple's honeymoon is their first real chance to relax and unwind after the hustle and bustle of wedding planning. Couples who want to make sure their first getaway as husband and wife goes off seamlessly might want to consider the following tips.

1. Start saving early. Honeymoons are expensive, so to afford the vacation of their dreams, couples should begin saving for the honeymoon as early as possible. The bride- and groom-to-be may need to be willing to compromise and make sacrifices in other areas to ensure they have enough funds for their dream honeymoon getaway. Couples should not expect cash gifts at their weddings to pay for their trips. If they do, they may be sorely disappointed when the time comes to take off.

2. Read online reviews. Online reviews can paint an accurate picture of a potential honeymoon destination. A couple should look at vacationer-supplied photographs to see how the accommodations match up to the resort's own marketing materials. Surprises such as service fees, dirty rooms or a lack of beach amenities may be disappointing.

3. Plan at least one exciting outing. While on the honeymoon, a couple should be sure to go on at least one adventure. They should try an activity they have never done before, such as snorkeling, traveling a zip line or swimming with stingrays.

4. Pack early. After a long wedding day, the bride and groom likely will not want to spend time packing. They should pack their suitcases and travel essentials in advance of the wedding day so they have more time to sleep in before departing on their trip. Also, couples should remember not to overpack if they want to have room for souvenirs purchased along the way.

5. Enjoy the surroundings. Couples should put down their smartphones or tablets long enough to truly enjoy their surroundings. A honeymoon is an opportunity to relax, and that may not be possible if one is tied to his or her devices. Friends at home can wait for status updates and wedding pictures.

6. Splurge on something expensive. Whether it is an ultra-fancy dinner or an exotic souvenir, couples should indulge.

7. Leave the itinerary open. After scores of wedding appointments and watching the clock, couples have the opportunity to be flexible.

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Trends In Wedding Videography August 1, 2016

A wedding day is often a whirlwind for the bride and groom. Happy couples hope to remember every little detail, but that can be difficult when so much is going on; they may feel like they missed out once their big day has come and gone. As a result, hiring a professional videographer to preserve wedding memories can be a wise investment.

Today's wedding videos have come a long way from their predecessors. Gone are the potentially cheesy soundbites and elevator music. Many of today's videos are artfully edited and highly cinematic productions. The following are some wedding video trends popular among today's couples.

· Brief clips and highlights: Few people want to sit through their entire wedding day frame by frame. Montages of key elements of the day are much more popular than a chronological unfolding of the ceremony and reception. Some videographers like to show snippets of what's to come at the start of the wedding video, then go into more extensive segments later on. Many videographers offer packages that include a short montage as well as a full-length film of the ceremony.

· Special filters or film: Filters and lighting effects can give a wedding video an entirely different feel. For example, filming in 8mm can lend a grainy touch to the video and make it seem ethereal or even like it is part of a home movie collection. However, people may not want the stark reality of a high-definition camera, which can highlight every flaw.

· Film chapters: Dividing segments of the video into different chapters allows viewers to fast forward to the parts they want to see and pass those they wish to skip. This saves the hassle of having to watch the video in its entirety.

· Cinematic styling: Instead of a stationary camera on a tripod, this method of filming incorporates different angles and close-up shots to give the video a modern feel. It is shot more like a movie than a documentary, allowing viewers to feel as though they're really experiencing the event.

· Artistic, indie feel: Film buffs may want a wedding video that breaks the mold. Ask videographers to create something that would fit in at the Sundance or Tribeca film festivals.

· Same-day editing: Want to revisit the ceremony at the wedding reception? Some videographers will edit portions of the ceremony and preparations for the big day in the time between the ceremony and reception. This gives all guests, including those who may not have been able to make the ceremony, the chance to view the nuptials.

· Unobtrusive technology: This trend relates to the equipment used to capture wedding memories rather than the actual finished product. No one wants their view of the ceremony or reception to be marred by a big, bulky camera. Smaller video cameras enable videographers to seamlessly blend in and perhaps capture shots that larger cameras could not.

Preserving wedding memories takes on new meaning when couples explore the growing trends in wedding videography.

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