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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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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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Hot Trends In Wedding Cuisine August 1, 2016

Once a couple has officially tied the knot, the newly recognized man and wife and all of their guests will retire to a party room where they can mingle, dance and enjoy a good meal.

In the past, standard fare like prime rib and roasted chicken dominated wedding menus. But today's weddings cater to a wide variety of culinary tastes, and couples and their guests can expect more upscale and creative cuisine to be rolled out for wedding receptions. The following are a handful of trends in wedding cuisine.

Miniature Bites

Many people say good things come in small packages, and when it comes to miniature versions of favorite foods, they may be right. Instead of large meals that fill guests up fast, couples can provide smaller portions of several dishes. How about a piece of meatloaf topped with whipped mashed potatoes? A cherry tomato with basil and a small piece of mozzarella cheese makes a mini caprese salad. Turning favorite foods into bite-size adventures can add a touch of whimsy to the reception.

Breakfast for Dinner

Brunch-themed weddings are a big hit with those who would much rather dine on a stack of pancakes than a dish of pasta. Omelet stations, croissants and a bevy of other breakfast table fare can be enjoyed at any time of the day.

Dim Sum

Dim sum, a Chinese dish of steamed or fried dumplings, allows guests to sample various foods without filling up. Carts of dumplings and other small plates of appetizers can be wheeled around so everyone can choose what they want.

Gourmet Comfort Food

People love familiar comfort foods, but now gourmet versions of comfort foods are shaking up wedding receptions. Macaroni and cheese with Gouda and Brie or chicken potpie with a puff-pastry crust are just two examples of glamorized comfort foods to serve.

Food With a Show

Instead of offering passed foods or buffet stations, some couples are opting to make food an experience for guests. An oyster bar with a chef serving fresh seafood or a dessert master whipping up flambe is a feast for the eyes and mouth.

Interesting Buffet Stations

Couples can keep guests on their toes with various meal stations. A bountiful display of artisanal cheeses, fruits and breads will be a cheese lover's dream. The stations also can be appetizing focal points around the room and ensure all guests get a bite of what they like best.

Family-Style Dining

Rustic and informal weddings have grown in popularity. Rather than food being brought to the guests or participants lining up in buffet lines, family-style dining allows guests to share conversation and pass the peas at the same time. Larger, rectangular tables allow more guests to sit with one another and serve themselves food from large platters located in the center of the tables.

Food and Beverage Pairings

Food-forward wedding couples are offering guests mouthwatering appetizers matched with a cocktail. A slider and a craft beer or a dumpling and a shot of saki are examples of this trend.

Nontraditional "Fake" Cakes

Instead of going with a multi-tiered cake or the cupcake fad, couples may opt for something new. One trend features desserts that mimic the look of cake but aren't quite that combination of sponge and frosting. Crepes, pies, cookies, and doughnuts are acceptable and can add a creative spark to the cake-cutting ceremony. When offered along with dessert stations, guests can certainly get their fill of sweet delights.

Vegan and Gluten-Free Options

Chances are one or more people attending the reception will be on a restricted diet. Rather than relegate these guests to dining on side dishes and patchwork meals, some couples are building entire menus around vegan and gluten-free foods.

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Seasons of Love August 1, 2016

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

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

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

Spring

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

Rustic Chic/Garden Party

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summer

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

Nautical/Beach/Backyard Cookout

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

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

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

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

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

Autumn

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

Country Chic/Haute Harvest

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

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

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

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

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

Winter

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

Holiday/Winter Wonderland

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

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

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

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

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

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Which Dinner Service Is Right For Your Wedding? August 1, 2016

When guests attend a wedding reception, they often expect music, mingling, and especially food to be part of the celebration. Couples have options when choosing dinner service for their weddings, and two of the most popular choices are buffet service and a sit-down dinner.

But each has its advantages and disadvantages. There are several aspects of each type of service that couples should keep in mind when making their choice.

Sit-Down Dinner

Sit-down service is usually in line with a formal reception. A sit-down dinner consists of several courses of plated food served by a wait staff; guests never have to leave their seats. Some food offerings at sit-down dinners tend to be fancy and presented in a manner that is appealing both to the eye and the palate.

There are several advantages to sit-down meals. Guests can focus entirely on enjoying themselves and conversing with fellow guests rather than getting up to seek food, and those with mobility issues do not have to worry about maneuvering to a buffet station or trying to balance food. Guests get top-notch treatment and will have a wait staff on call to fill their every need, which can make an affair more memorable for all in attendance.

But sit-down dinners are typically more expensive as well. Guests are generally given several choices for the main course, and that could mean ordering extra food and preparing it to be ready for guests' selections. Serving meals may take longer, and sometimes meals may not arrive hot to the table. Guests may be limited to certain food choices, and portion sizes may not be to the guests' liking. Sitting idle for a while can also affect the mood of the reception and lead to boredom.

Buffet Service

A buffet-style dinner is served from a long dais table that holds several chafing dishes full of food. Wedding guests are be able to serve themselves or be served by staff manning the stations.

Buffets present an array of foods that cater to the various dietary needs of guests. Those at the reception can sample several different foods rather than be restricted to one main course. Guests can limit portion sizes or sometimes return for second helpings. Buffets are generally less formal and allow guests to mingle more readily.

But buffet-style meals may produce long lines as guests pick and choose their meals. While experienced catering managers and reception site staff should have plans in place to create a free-flow of guests to the buffet stations, there will be a first and a last table called to eat, and guests on the tail end of the service may be stuck with whatever is left over if food is not adequately restocked. In an effort to accommodate everyone, extra food may be cooked for buffet-style dinners, which can be costly and wasteful. In addition, guests are asked to do more work, as they need to get up and retrieve their own food.

A catering company or the banquet manager at a reception site can work with couples as they decide if a buffet or sit-down dinner is the best option for their wedding receptions.

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Nix Vendor Vexation January 5, 2015

Weddings are a careful balance of many elements that culminate in one special day. Making all of the components of a wedding come together seamlessly requires a well-organized bridal couple and the cooperation of professional wedding vendors who understand their unique roles. The ease at which couples navigate the world of vendors can have a major impact on their stress levels leading up to the event and, ultimately, on the outcome and success of their big day.

Vendors, including florists, caterers, transportation companies, musicians, and dressmakers, are essential to a successful wedding. Competent wedding vendors should help to eliminate some of the bride and groom's wedding-related worries and responsibilities. The problem is: where to start? Brides- and grooms-to-be are often overwhelmed with the enormity of their task in the initial planning stages. Which local florist has the best selection and prices? A motorcycle or stretch limo to the ceremony? Cousin Johnny and his band have promised to play dance music at the reception, but how to find a string quartet for the ceremony? It is easy to become anxious and flustered.

When tackling any large project, the first step is to break the task into manageable duties. The bride- and groom-to-be should aim to provide themselves with ample time to plan their events. Having an opportunity to research and consider options with care should greatly reduce accompanying stress. If dealing with a more condensed timeline, keeping to a schedule and remaining focused is a must. Consider delegating responsibilities and tailor undertakings to reflect individual strengths and talents. Perhaps a "foodie" groom can gather information about catering options or a bakery, while a bride who grew up attending car shows with her father can research renting an antique or luxury car for transportation to and from festivities. Individuals should be sure, however, to review their discoveries together and make final decisions as partners.

Prior to meetings or negotiations, couples should spend time thinking about what they want their wedding to entail. Having specific ideas about elements of the ceremony and reception should make assessing vendor options easier and making choices less time-consuming. It will also help couples to address pertinent questions and increase the likelihood that their wedding dreams become reality.

Additional tips to keep in mind when researching, preparing to meet, or negotiating with vendors include:

* Seek recommendations from trusted friends and family members. Talk to those whose insight you value about which wedding vendors they used. Think of a gathering that featured particularly well-done flowers or music and ask for the name of the florist or band. Word-of-mouth advertising is a great way to find quality wedding vendors.

* Prepare, prepare, prepare. Couples who blindly enter negotiations with wedding venues and vendors are far less likely to get a good deal. When working with any wedding vendor, whether it is a wedding venue representative, a local florist, or a disc jockey, couples should know what the going rate for the services are. Couples who find a venue they like should receive quotes from similar venues before negotiating a rate with the venue they most prefer. Estimates from other venues can vary based on what they include. Even if a favorite venue does not come down much on its original quote, representatives may be willing to add extra services, such as an additional menu option or an extra hour during the reception, to match a competitor's offer.

* Always ask for references and do not ignore them. Busy wedding vendors should be able to provide a list of names of satisfied customers. Talk with people who have used the vendor's services in the past and ask the questions that are most important to your decision-making process. Unbiased feedback may also be available through online review sites, but direct contact with references will allow couples to address specific concerns. If a vendor fails to provide references, this should raise suspicions about the person or business's reliability.

* Avoid making demands. Much like couples do not want to receive "take it or leave it" offers, vendors do not want to be issued commands. The right tone can go a long way with wedding vendors, who are typically more willing to work with couples who treat them nicely. While vendors often like it when couples know what they want, couples are not doing themselves any favors when they express desires as demands.

* Don't be afraid to ask for more. Making demands and asking for more are not the same thing. When negotiating, there is no harm in asking for additional services or time. For example, the worst a disc jockey can do when asked to play an extra hour at no additional charge is deny the request. Reception venues often have the most wiggle room, so do not be afraid to ask for free coffee with dessert or valet parking. Vendors are often open to suggestions and willing to honor requests, but it is not their responsibility to offer extras up front.

* Deposits should be a fraction of the total price. Avoid wedding vendors who insist on hefty deposits. A deposit is a good-faith agreement to hold the date of the wedding, and it should be a small percentage of the overall cost of the services.

* Do not pay balances too far in advance. Many wedding vendors require the balance be paid on the day of the wedding or shortly before. Good vendors realize couples will not want to pay the tally until they have received the products or services they signed up for. A photographer may ask for the final payment when albums are delivered. The exception may be a caterer or reception site that needs the funds to order food and beverages a few weeks in advance. Paying off a vendor too early means you run the risk of a paid vendor not coming through on the big day.

* Make sure all contracts are itemized and read them thoroughly before signing. Every agreement should be in writing. Couples will have a better chance of fighting for a refund or restitution as needed when services and obligations are detailed in writing. In addition, the negotiation process can be tedious, and contracts should spell out in detail just what was negotiated and how much each item costs. Couples may even notice items in the contract that can be removed, possibly reducing the overall price. Be mindful of "extras," as fees can add up. These fees will be listed in the contract, and it is up to couples to have them removed before they sign and the contract becomes official.

* Remember there are two parties involved in the negotiation process. Vendors are not the only ones who might need to bend a little at the negotiating table. Couples might have to be flexible in order to make their dream weddings come true. Some vendors charge considerably less during certain times of the year than they do during peak wedding season. If couples find it impossible to afford their ultimate wedding during peak season, they should consider tying the knot during a less popular time of year, when more competitive rates are available. Brides- and grooms-to-be cannot expect vendors to bend over backward if they are not willing to make concessions themselves. Individuals should not compromise the whole concept of their event, but they should consider sacrificing nonessential details.

* Consider wedding insurance. Even the best-laid plans can go awry on a wedding day. Anything from freak weather events to an illness or a vendor's absence can wreak havoc. The Better Business Bureau advises purchasing wedding insurance to protect investments when weddings are especially costly. Such insurance may cover vendors who fail to show up, cancellations, inclement weather, military deployment, medical emergencies, and travel delays. A basic insurance policy that covers loss of photos, media, attire, presents, rings, and deposits is usually not too expensive, depending on the amount of coverage desired.

Many engaged couples have grandiose visions of their wedding days. While such visions may eventually come to fruition, they often do so only after couples have researched and selected the best vendors for their needs.

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

"Shop local. You will be surprised!"

Jim DeFilippis, coordinator at Eicher Arts Center, Ephrata

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Unique Ideas That Add a Special Touch to Your Reception September 3, 2013

Over the course of their lifetimes, many people will be wedding guests on several occasions. During the height of wedding season, weddings can blur together, as the format and the festivities are often similar at various ceremonies. While it is customary and often easy to follow tradition, that doesn't mean you can't buck tradition and offer a few creative ideas to make your event stand out. Couples interested in setting their nuptials apart may want to enhance the wedding reception with a few unique ideas. After all, at the heart of any wedding reception is the desire to present a memorable party for all in attendance.

Some ways to add extra indulgence to wedding receptions will result in additional expenses, and some couples are willing to splurge on special touches that will show guests how much they are appreciated and to set their celebration apart from others. However, there are also budget-conscious ways to make a reception stand out. Here are several ideas you can introduce to add something special to your wedding reception:

* Valet parking: Many wedding venues provide on-site valet parking, but if you're using a restaurant or banquet hall that does not provide this service, you can hire a valet company to do the parking for guests. While the members of the wedding party are often whisked from venue to venue in the back of a limousine, guests have to do their own driving. Being able to exit the car right in front of the venue and not worry about finding a parking space will add convenience.

* Butler-passed hors d'oeuvres: During the cocktail hour, guests mingle and take advantage of the opportunity to engage in conversation. This time may be their last real opportunity to chat with each other before the volume of the band or disc jockey drowns out discussions. Because guests making trips to the food stations can disrupt the flow of conversation, couples may consider offering butler-passed hors d'oeuvres, which are brought right to the guests. This practice also lends a feeling of indulgence to the reception.

* Skip the big entrance: Those who were kind enough to attend the ceremony have already been introduced to the newly minted happy couple. Instead of spending the cocktail hour in the isolation of the wedding suite, mingle with your guests from start to finish. Being with guests during the cocktail hour means you don't have to make that big entrance from behind closed doors.

* Choose one special component as an extra goodie for guests: If you want to go above and beyond the ordinary, instead of adopting a the-more-the-better attitude, which might be overwhelming to your guests, pick one thing that you absolutely love and offer that at the party. It could be a chocolate or candy bar, a carving station with your all-time favorite food (even if that's peanut butter and jelly sandwiches), specialty cocktails, a flambe dessert presentation, a cigar smoking area, or an automatic photo booth.

* Dance to an upbeat number: Guests are expecting a slow, sappy tune for your first dance as a married couple. Less expected is an upbeat song that shows you are willing to have a little fun. Feel free to choose a tune that shows your excitement and love for each other, whether it's "traditional" or not.

* Swap the garter/bouquet toss for something more meaningful: If you're part of a couple who feels the garter and bouquet toss has become trite, there are other ways to create special moments in your celebration - ones that don't single out the singletons who haven't yet found their special someones. For example, you can use this time to present a small gift or token of your affection to someone on the guest list who has served as a mentor or source of inspiration.

* Birthday and anniversary mentions: Another way to show that your guests are important to you is to notify the band or disc jockey of any guests in attendance who are celebrating their own special events on your wedding day or in close proximity to it.

* Emergency toiletries baskets: Rather than spending money on an extra floral arrangement for the men's and women's rest rooms, purchase items that can be grouped into handy emergency toiletries baskets. Consider including mints or mouthwash, dental floss, stain removal pens, spray deodorant, cologne, sewing kits, and other items that will save the day in the event that a guest experiences a minor mishap during the festivities.

* Let them eat ... cookies? Some people just don't like cake. If you're one of them, why should you have to cut a seven-tiered white confection at your wedding? Towers of different types of treats can be created from just about anything and still serve as the perfect backdrop for that classic cake-cutting photo. A pyramid of cream puffs, stacks of brownies, a cookie castle, or cereal-cake concoctions can work. Some bakeries will decorate a "dummy" styrofoam cake, and then you can serve apple pie a la mode, if you desire.

* Stage a costume switch: Let's face it: dancing all night in a long gown takes some stamina. Brides may want to have a more comfortable cocktail dress available to switch into for the latter part of the reception. Your wardrobe change will also add some variety to your wedding photos.

* Overnight accommodations: If your wedding will run into the wee hours of the morning, consider offering guests a place to stay nearby to remove the hassle of driving home at a late hour. Some reception halls have arrangements with nearby hotels. For those that don't, negotiate a discounted rate for wedding guests. Many hotels will set aside a block of rooms for your event with a discount code. You may want to treat guests who choose to stay over to a complimentary breakfast the next day as one final show of appreciation.

When planning your celebration, consider adding some extra touches that will set your wedding apart and make your guests feel welcome and important.

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Themed Weddings: Going Creative Over Campy September 3, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Simple Ways to Save Money on Your Wedding August 29, 2013

Weddings can be expensive, and many couples are interested in finding ways to save money so that their big day isn't a budget-buster. Unfortunately, such savings aren't always easy to come by, especially for couples with a distinct picture in mind of what the wedding should be. However, even couples strongly committed to a certain wedding style might change their minds once they realize how much that dream wedding will cost. Luckily, there are a few simple ways to keep costs down without venturing too far from your dream wedding.

* Don't go overboard on the gown. Styles are ever-changing, so there's a strong chance brides won't be passing down their wedding gowns to their own daughters someday. Keep in mind when shopping for your wedding dress that it is most likely something that will be worn only once. If you find an expensive dress you like, check to see if there are any other options that have a similar design but are made with cheaper fabrics, which should make them available at a fraction of the cost.

* Get hitched in the off-season. Many couples prefer to get married sometime between the months of May and October. During these months, venues and vendors, including limousine services, caterers, photographers, musicians, and disc jockeys, are often more expensive. If you are willing to switch your wedding date to the off-season, you may save a substantial amount of money. In addition, you likely won't face as much competition for the best venues and vendors as you will during the peak wedding season.

* Trim the guest list. Adjusting the size of the guest list is perhaps the easiest way to save money on your wedding. Caterers and banquet halls typically charge per person, so consider if you really need to invite 150 guests or if 100 will do. Such trimming can save you a substantial amount of money. For example, a banquet hall that charges $120 per guest will cost couples with a guest list of 150 approximately $18,000 for the reception alone. Cutting that guest list to 100 reduces that cost by $6,000. When putting together the guest list, remove those candidates who would best be described as acquaintances. This can include co-workers and other professional acquaintances with whom you don't socialize. Also considering cutting from the list old college friends and distant cousins you haven't spoken to in years.

* Host the reception at a private residence. Trimming reception costs is one of the best ways couples can save money, as the reception can account for a substantial percentage of a couple's expenses. Another way to reduce reception costs is to avoid banquet halls entirely and host the reception at a private residence, whether it's your own home or that of a parent or other relative. This option will save you the cost of renting the banquet hall, but it might only be doable for couples having a smaller, more intimate wedding or those whose families own large houses or expansive properties (like a farm).

* Choose a buffet instead of a sit-down meal with waiter service. Opting for a buffet-style reception is another way to save money. Sit-down meals in which guests are brought their plates can be significantly more expensive than buffet-style dining. Additionally, many guests may even prefer a buffet-style dinner, which will allow them to choose their own entrees and side dishes. A buffet might also have more options for guests, which is a benefit for larger receptions with guests of various palates.

* Trim your beverage budget. The bar tab at the end of the reception can be considerable, but there are ways to save money while ensuring your guests can still toast you and yours with a few libations. Rather than offering a full bar, you can limit the choices to beer and wine, which will be perfectly acceptable to most guests anyway. In addition, rather than paying the caterer for the wine, you may be able to buy your own and save a considerable amount of money. You may have to pay the caterer a fee to pour the wine, but that fee will likely be negligible compared to what you'd pay the company to provide the wine.

* Consider a package deal. Couples open to all-inclusive package deals, which typically include the cost of the wedding, reception, and possibly even the honeymoon, can save money that way as well. These deals are most common for destination weddings, but couples might be able to find a package deal in their hometowns.

* Hire a disc jockey instead of a band. Music presents another opportunity for cost-conscious couples to trim some of their reception expenses. Some couples insist on live music, while others are fine with hiring a disc jockey. If you're among the latter, go with the disc jockey, as they tend to be far less expensive than live bands. If you simply must have live music, look for a local band that might be willing to offer a hometown discount.

By making a few compromises and adjustments to the wedding day plans, a cost-conscious couple can save a substantial amount of money while still hosting a beautiful and memorable event.

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A Wealth of Local Talent August 28, 2013

If you think you need to travel to New York or Philadelphia to find amazing vendors in the wedding industry, think again! Save that gas money and put it into your budget! As an event planner in Central PA, my job is to be aware of the latest talent, trends and vendors in the hospitality and event planning field. We are blessed with an abundance of top-notch vendors that rival any city. Not only do they excel in their profession, but they are also good business people. Reputable, dependable and talented is the winning combination.

If you are strictly looking to save money, there are still things you should keep in mind. You may get what you pay for. Beware of hiring friends or family. Having your aunt cook the food in a small, intimate home wedding may be a lovely gesture, but a party over 100 guests may be more than she can handle. You could possibly run out of food, or maybe the food will be transported at unsafe temperatures or presented in plastic tubs and old pans. The best advice I can give when on a strict budget is to keep your guest count down. Have a more intimate wedding that you can afford with family and your closest friends, and it will be truly memorable. Honestly, who has 200 close friends?! Follow up with a postnuptial gig or casual party at your home.

Since this is probably the first time you are planning a big event together, what do you do first? Before vendors can be booked, how do you know what you want...or what is your style? A big party with the dance floor packed, or elegant and subdued? Maybe vintage chic or Kim Kardashian over-the-top is your thing. Your groom may love music, but you are a foodie. Whatever is most important to you and really reflects your style and fits your budget is where any extra budget dollars should go. Even though, in general, the venue/catering bill is 40% of your entire budget, if you are not a gourmet, have a brunch or picnic or light hors d'oeuvres and desserts, and spring for a great band if dancing is your thing.

So you've done some thinking, now who do you hire? Keep your search right here in Central PA; our wedding vendors are awesome. In addition to costs, you should feel comfortable and confident in the person with whom you are dealing. It is not an easy decision to choose from the wealth of talented vendor choices we have locally. The following is just a glimpse of what is right in our backyard, and there are SO MANY MORE!

Our awesome DJs are too many to list, but if they "feel" the crowd like Titus Touch, Mixed Up Productions or DJ Freez, it will be hard to keep guests off the dance floor.

Photojournalistic photography and amazing digital album choices and design have turned this industry into a total visual experience. The Wiebners still bend the lens; Jeremy Hess, Tony Gibble and Matthew Tennison capture light; and the "girls" at KM Photography, Krisha Martzall and Leslie Gilbert, have an eye for beauty. The list goes on....

Videography should not be left on the back burner. With skillful editing, your montage will look like a beautiful documentary that you can treasure forever and your kids can laugh at some day. Natalie Fava, Levan Films and Sugarleaf Films are all worth a look.

Color, shape and form is no longer all there is to florals. Designers continue to amaze by intertwining manmade materials like twigs, crystals and wire and juxtaposing them with nature. Breathtaking creations by Splints and Daisies, Wildflower Designs, All Things Beautiful, Blooms by Vickrey, Garden Path and Sandra Porterfield are amazing, as well as many more.

The cake tasting has to be the most fun part of your vendor search. This field has also expanded way beyond the days of buttercream rosettes and swags to works of sculptured art. Make sure your cake tastes as good as it looks. Bella Manse, Byers Butterflake Bakery, Rosie's Creative Cakes, Couture Cakery, and Providence Divine Cakes are just some of my favorite designers.

Your venue should reflect your style - indoors or out - especially if the convenience of hotel rooms plays a part. Whether it is an urban chic hotel such as the Cork Factory Hotel or Penn Square Marriott or a country club with old-school elegance, make it about you. Vintage or restored ambiance is highlighted at the Rock Ford Plantation, Stock's Mansion, Moonstone Manor (formerly the Conewago Inn), or the lovely Lime Spring Farm.

So start your homework! You have just a tiny start on where to look for local talent, professionalism and fun in these few mentioned wedding gurus. Clients at The Perfect Plan by Lori Hemphill are privy to a complete list of Central PA vendors to fit any style and budget. Services range from "consulting" to "day of" coordination to "full comprehensive planning" for special events. If you are the star of the day, do you want to be the producer, director and stagehand too? The day is fleeting, and you will want to savor every beautiful detail.

The Perfect Plan by Lori Hemphill (event planner and stylist)

Party Perfect by Lori Hemphill (store featuring chic accessories for weddings, parties and gifts)

7 West King Street, Lancaster, PA 17603 717-299-2128 www.theperfectplanbyLH.com

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Tasty Tops Trendy: August 23, 2013

Was the food good?

That's likely what guests at a wedding reception will remember when looking back on a couple's big day. That and whether they had fun.

But fear not. Good food and good fun can be enjoyed by all.

To avoid a forks-down review of the wedding feast, couples may want to take extra culinary care when selecting the wedding day fare. So, during all that planning and poring over every minute detail, don't fuss so much over whether to choose Jordan almonds over chocolate truffles or whether the cake should have an extra tier. Rather, put the effort into selecting dishes that taste as good as they look. When it comes to food, trendy doesn't trump tasty.

Whether you are cooking yourself, having a family member serve as chef or relying on the menu of the reception hall, think about foods that will please guests and select those items, regardless of them being fancy. Here are some other tips:

You want foods to be filling, but you don't want your guests to have to waddle to the dance floor. If you're planning on several courses, keep portion sizes small to offer a taste of the different items offered.

Classic foods can work well as wedding fare. Roasts, barbecued meats and favorite pasta dishes can make guests feel like they're dining at someone's home and not at a wedding.

Choose items people have heard of. Instead of tornadoes of beef, select a hearty prime rib. Just because a dish sounds fancy doesn't make it taste better. If a guest doesn't know what he or she is eating, it can be uncomfortable. Now is not the time to experiment with exotic foods, either. Otherwise, some picky eaters may be left hungry.

Think about the foods you love and see if they can be incorporated at the wedding. Although a breakfast bar at an evening event may seem funny, waffles and omelets may appeal to a greater number of guests than a gourmet fish creation.

Don't make vegetarians an afterthought. Too often, vegetarians must eat whatever the kitchen can pull together, which is usually a compilation of the vegetable garnishes from the meat dishes. Make an effort to have a true vegetarian dish that is intricate and delicious.

You can't go wrong with mashed potatoes. Drop dollops of creamy spuds into cocktail glasses and let the guests top them with bacon bits, cheese or chives.

Serving any type of food in a hors d'oeuvre style can make it acceptable at a formal affair, whether that food is pizza or caviar-topped crackers.

If you have a favorite restaurant that serves delicious food, find out if they will cater your wedding.

Just because it isn't on the menu doesn't mean it cannot be prepared. Talk to the catering manager and let him or her know your preferences. Provided you're willing to pay a little more, there's a good chance you can have items that aren't on the standard catering menu.

Think outside the box for your cocktail hour "bars." A bread bar, a dipping station, milk and cookies service, or vegetable bar are options that go against the standard cheese and pasta stations.

Although it's your wedding, you want your guests to be happy - and well-fed. By choosing foods they will love and rave about, you'll no doubt get lots of great reviews.

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Going Green On Your Big Day: August 23, 2013

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

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

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

Invitations:

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

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

Wedding Attire and Jewelry:

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

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

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

Beauty:

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

Venue:

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

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

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

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

Flowers:

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

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

Reception:

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

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

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

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

Transportation:

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

Gifts:

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

Honeymoon:

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

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