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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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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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Dance Those Jitters Away With Lessons August 1, 2016

Apart from their initial nerves during their wedding ceremonies, many couples settle into a comfortable rhythm on their wedding day, surrounded by the ones they love. However, some couples get a bit of stage fright when dancing as husband and wife for the first time with all eyes on them.

First dances and parent-child dances are popular and enduring wedding reception rituals. The couple's dance serves as their first act as a married pair, often occurring at the onset of the wedding reception. Father-daughter and mother-son dances may take place at different points in the evening.

While some people relish the idea of having the spotlight on them, others are nervous about dancing in front of a crowd. Couples need not look like contestants on "Dancing With the Stars" to pull off a successful first dance, but taking dance lessons prior to the wedding can teach men and women some key moves and help calm their nerves.

Couples may want to begin dance lessons a few months before their wedding day to get acclimated to the experience. The more lessons couples take, the more comfortable they will likely be when it comes time to shine.

Private dance lessons may be more effective than group lessons, as they enable one-on-one interaction with instructors, who can point out any missteps immediately and correct form on the spot. Instructors also may suggest which routines couples should embrace and which they may want to avoid.

Preparation can stem nervousness and help couples feel more confident on the dance floor, even if their dances last only a few minutes. The goal of dance lessons is for couples to become better dancers, but improved skills on the dance floor are not the only thing couples can take from dance lessons:

· Exercise: Dancing is an excellent form of exercise that can help couples build their endurance. In addition, the cardiovascular benefits of dancing can help couples shed a few pounds prior to their wedding days.

· Stress relief: Planning a wedding is not always easy. Having a night of the week devoted to some fun couple time can help relieve some of the stress couples may feel when planning a wedding.

· Enjoyable memories: Taking dance lessons as a couple is something couples may look back on fondly long after they have tied the knot.

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Make Note Of Potential Music Mistakes December 1, 2015

Wedding guests are usually anxious to head to the reception, where they can let loose and party. Music is an essential component of a lively and fun wedding reception, but there are some musical miscues couples should avoid so the music is not memorable for all the wrong reasons.

· Blocks of silence: Music helps everyone feel comfortable and creates a pleasing atmosphere, so there should always be a constant flow of music. This includes the time when guests are waiting prior to the ceremony and when they are entering the cocktail hour.

· Second-guessing a professional: In an effort to curb costs, some couples provide their own playlists via an MP3 player or music-streaming service. This is often a mistake. Hiring a professional means the couple will not have to worry about managing music on top of their other wedding day responsibilities. A band or disc jockey usually also serves as the master of ceremonies for the event, announcing key moments of the reception and getting guests on the dance floor.

· Playing only one type of music: Playing too many songs from one genre of music will alienate some of the guests who simply are not interested in that type of music. Professional disc jockeys or performers know how to offer a great mix that will appeal to the masses, and they are often well worth the cost. The music should span different decades and genres to keep as many of the guests on the dance floor as possible.

· Failure to make a song list: Couples may feel that some songs are essential to the wedding, while others may be associated with negative memories. Band leaders and disc jockeys are not mind readers, so couples should give the band leader or disc jockey ample time to review any requests, in case the musician must locate a song not already in his or her collection.

· Choosing songs that are not suited to dancing: Some songs just are not meant to be danced to. If the couple's favorite songs fit that bill but the couple still wants to hear the songs at the wedding, they may ask the disc jockey or band to play them during the cocktail hour or while everyone is eating dinner.

· Dancing to long songs: Pay attention to a song's length, and choose spotlight dance songs wisely. Couples should remember that guests will be watching them dance, and a five-minute song can seem interminable while others are waiting around. Avoid very long songs, as the mix of music should be upbeat. The wedding is not the time to play the full-length version of Justin Timberlake's "Mirrors."

· Inappropriate lyrics and volume: The music should be kept at an acceptable volume, and disc jockeys should avoid songs with suggestive language or curse words that are inappropriate in a family setting.

Music is a key element of any good party, including a wedding reception, and it is essential that couples take simple steps to avoid musical pitfalls.

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Setting The Tone February 17, 2015

Music often plays an important role in festive occasions, and wedding days are no exception. Finding the right music can help to make a wedding day more meaningful.

Though music selection might seem like one of the easier choices couples have to make, it has numerous components, such as whether to choose a live band or a disc jockey to perform at the wedding reception. While the reception could be the time when music is most on display, couples planning their weddings must think beyond the reception as they set the musical tones for their weddings.

Ceremony

The ceremony itself usually sets the tone for a couple's entire wedding day. A beach wedding, for example, often creates a laid-back atmosphere, while a ceremony held in a large church or temple often sets a more formal tone. Music played during the ceremony also goes a long way toward setting the tone couples hope to establish.

When choosing music for the ceremony, couples should first consider the venue where they are tying the knot. Some, such as houses of worship, may have rules pertaining to what can and cannot be played inside the venue. Classical music, hymns or processional music often make the best fit when weddings are taking place in more formal venues. Outdoor weddings tend to give couples more leeway. But in general couples should avoid choosing any music that's too loud or over-the-top for their ceremonies.

Live musicians can add a more elegant feel to the ceremony, but such performers can be costly, as their fees cover not only the actual ceremony but also rehearsal time, sheet music and other costs. Playing prerecorded music may not be as elegant as having a live performer, but it can be less expensive and still make for an enjoyable day and evening.

Keep in mind that, while the music played during the ceremony can set the tone for the day, this music can vary significantly from the music played during the reception. Songs by a favorite performer may not be appropriate during the ceremony, but that doesn't mean the couple can't dance to that artist's music during the reception.

Reception

Many couples prefer disc jockeys to live bands for their wedding receptions. Deejays can play well-known versions of favorite songs with which couples and their guests are familiar, while bands can only play their own renditions of those songs.

Another thing to consider when choosing between a disc jockey and a live band for the reception is the venue itself. Some venues are smaller and are therefore unable to accommodate a full band, while others may not have ideal acoustics, making it difficult for a live band to sound as good as they might in a more acoustically friendly environment.

The formality of the event should also come into consideration when choosing between a live band or a disc jockey for the reception. Disc jockeys spinning the latest Top 40 hits likely won't blend well at especially formal weddings, while a classical ensemble may not fit into the laid-back theme of a beach or destination wedding.

Couples tying the knot outdoors may need to consider equipment when choosing bands or disc jockeys to play their weddings. For example, some venues do not provide equipment, such as microphones and speaker systems, to couples for their ceremonies. Renting such equipment can be costly, but couples can often skirt such charges by hiring disc jockeys or bands who lend couples their equipment during the ceremony. Disc jockeys or bands that will loan and set up the necessary sound equipment for outdoor ceremonies merit extra consideration.

When discussing music to be played during the reception, couples must consider their own musical tastes as well as those of their guests. A wide range of popular music tends to go best at wedding receptions, as guests are more likely to dance to songs they recognize. Avoid any music that has the potential to offend guests, opting for lighter, happier tunes instead. Whether hiring a band or disc jockey, couples should make a list of no-play songs or artists and make sure that such lists are included in their contracts.

Music plays an important role on couples' wedding days. Though choosing music for the ceremony and the reception is often fun, couples should take such decisions seriously.

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