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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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Trends In Wedding Videography August 1, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Picture Perfect August 1, 2016

Photography is a great way for couples to capture all of the special moments that occur on their wedding days. Long after the final piece of wedding cake has been consumed, wedding albums remain to remind couples of the moments that made their big day so special.

Photography preferences differ from couple to couple, but when the weather permits, many brides and grooms prefer to take photos outdoors. Mother Nature can provide some awe-inspiring backdrops, and such beauty comes at no extra cost.

Couples using professional photographers should share their image preferences with their photographers, especially if outdoor photography is desired. Photographers may have to do a little more work to achieve great outdoor photographs, such as visiting a site in advance of the big day to scout areas that can produce great photos. Scouting and preparation can involve seeing the landscape, examining the way the light shines on photo subjects and getting an accurate light reading on a meter to adjust flash accordingly. Photographers also will need to ensure that there are no obstructions that will appear in the background of the photos.

It's also important for photographers to select locations that have shade. This way they can adjust the amount of light needed, rather than having to contend with the photo washing out from too much sunlight.

A photographer can do much in production to fine-tune photos, but the couple can help things along. Bring along some powder or makeup to touch up between photos. Warm weather can cause shininess or beads of sweat on the skin. A light dusting of powder can tame shine, while any remaining moisture can be blotted away with a towel.

Brides and grooms need not fret if clouds appear on their wedding day, as overcast conditions can actually contribute to better photos by producing richer colors and pleasing shadows. making photos even more appealing.

Couples may want to change into comfortable footwear as they traverse the landscape to get into perfect portraiture locations. This will help to keep fancier shoes clean, and photos can be cropped to hide feet.

Bring along some refreshments when posing for photos, as the process can be tiring. Couples can take frequent breaks as the photographer adjusts his or her camera for the next shot. Staying hydrated will keep skin looking supple and ensure that everyone feels refreshed when it's time to return to the party.

Not every family member will be able to join the happy couple for outdoor photos. Elderly relatives or those who have mobility issues may find it difficult to stand in the sun or make their away across certain landscapes. Arrange for indoor photo shoots with guests who cannot easily navigate the outdoors.

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Snapshot: Choosing A Wedding Photography Package August 1, 2016

Couples must make a host of important decisions when planning their weddings. Some decisions, such as choosing a venue to host the reception, require more effort and research on the part of couples than others.

One decision that couples must make carefully concerns the photography package they choose for their ceremonies and receptions. Wedding photographers play a big role on a couple's big day, and it is important that a couple about to tie the knot consider several factors before choosing the photographer they will ultimately task with visually documenting their wedding day.

· Engagement photo shoot: Couples who want to do an engagement photo shoot may want to negotiate such a shoot into their photography package. Some agencies include engagement shoots in their packages while others do not. If the engagement photo shoot is on a couple's list of needs, they may want to look for an agency that provides such services as part of its packages or that is willing to include the engagement photoshoot for free or for an added fee.

· Party size: The number of people on the guest list should factor into your choice of wedding photographer. If the guest list is especially long, couples might want to consider hiring two or more photographers to document the day. Many agencies offer separate packages for couples who want one photographer and couples who prefer two or more photographers, so it pays to examine the price differences between such packages to see if more than one photographer can fit into the wedding budget. Couples with relatively short guest lists can typically get by with just one photographer to document their ceremonies and receptions.

· Travel: When discussing a wedding photography package, ask how much travel is included in the package. This is important for couples whose ceremonies are in a separate location from their receptions. If the distance between the ceremony site and the reception venue is considerable, a couple may have to pay extra for the photographer to travel between the sites. While a reasonable amount of travel is typically included in a photography package, it is best to confirm this prior to signing an agreement.

· Videography: Photography agencies may also offer videography services in some of their wedding packages. Videography can be a great way for a couple to document their wedding day, and it can be fun for couples to watch their wedding videos with their families down the road.

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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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Picture Perfect January 5, 2015

Long after the final toast has been made and the last guests have left the dance floor, wedding photos will help couples relive the wonderful memories of their ceremonies and receptions.

Wedding photographers realize the important role photography plays in a wedding. Photos are how couples document their nuptials, and the right photographer can make all the difference. The following tips can help guarantee a successful wedding shoot and beautiful photos to help couples recall the best moments of the day.

* Seek referrals. There are scores of wedding photographers, and some are better than others. Word of mouth from other couples can help. Referrals can offer insight into a photographer's personality and his or her abilities to work with the wedding party and guests throughout the day.

* Communication is key. An important component of wedding photography actually starts well before the wedding day. The way a photographer communicates with you about your wishes and desired shots is very important, as this is when to discuss specific shots you want taken during the ceremony, such as whether the bride wants to be seen by and wishes to pose with the groom prior to tying the knot. In addition, this is a great time for the photographer to get familiar with each venue's rules regarding vendors.

* Choose a photographer who is confident and firm. A good photographer will be able to direct photo subjects and get everyone to participate and stand in line. Brides and grooms likely won't want to handle such tasks on their own, so a confident and firm yet cordial photographer can be an invaluable asset.

* Prepare a shoot list. Meet with the photographer before the wedding and provide a list of all the shots you absolutely need to get. This way the photographer can plan for these as well as capture the candid moments throughout the day.

* Discuss a backup plan with the photographer. Mishaps happen, even on the most carefully planned wedding day. Discuss what the photographer does to safeguard your digital photo files. Are they backed up to a "cloud" or secure offsite server? Does the photographer bring along a second camera in case the primary one has a malfunction? What happens if the photographer is ill on the day of the wedding? How is a replacement chosen? Understanding how the photographer adapts to unforeseen situations can make you feel more confident in your choice. The camera gear should also have adequate memory to store all of the photos, and a few backup batteries can't hurt, either.

* Consider hiring a photographer's assistant or second shooter. The photographer is less likely to miss a shot or fail to capture various perspectives of the wedding if he or she works with a partner. While one photographer is doing close-up portraits, the other may be capturing candid shots of onlookers from another angle.

* Know what each package includes. The photographer should clearly spell out which items and services are included as part of the contract. There should be no surprises when it's time to pay the balance of the photographer's fees, so go over each itemized detail to be sure the package in your contract is the one you really want.

* Get to know the photographer as a person. It can be difficult to loosen up in front of the lens, particularly if you do not have a good rapport with the photographer. Do not judge the photographer on his or her body of work alone. You will likely grow more comfortable with the photographer if you get to know him or her in the months leading up to your wedding.

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Avoiding Four Photo Faux Pas January 5, 2015

Dealing with unmet expectations post-wedding is probably one of the most difficult aspects of wedding planning - they don't mention handling disappointment on those wedding planning sites. I worked tirelessly during my engagement to ensure nothing less than perfection on my wedding day; it was like a full-time job. But let's face it, nothing is ever perfect, and something will inevitably go wrong on your wedding day. And by "wrong" I mean "wrong according to you."

Every bride has an area of wedding planning that is extra special to her, and she is more prone to breakout "Bridezilla" when discussing this topic. (I like to picture it like Bruce Banner transforming into the Hulk - ripped clothes, engorged veins, that sort of thing.) For some brides, it's the food; others, the dress or flowers. Even the invitation suite can be a touchy subject. I find that in today's digitally driven culture, more so than ever one's wedding photos are the key issue that brides everywhere stress over and want to be absolutely perfect. (Let's face it - Pinterest? Not always reality.)

However, what I learned through my recent wedding planning and wedding day experiences is that there are some things that even an incredible photographer can't prevent, plan for, or Photoshop later. And, frankly, there are some things photographers aren't responsible for. So in order to prevent post-wedding frustrations, here are four wedding photography faux pas and tips on how to avoid them:

1. Wardrobe Malfunctions

Brides often spend hours researching hair and makeup before deciding on their bridal style. Some brides pay big bucks for their wedding hairdo (not to mention the pre-wedding bridal hair trial). Your bridal portraits are important! The few photos of just you, your dress, your veil, and your bouquet will be the only portraits of just you as the bride (and princess of the day).

On my wedding day, the bridal portraits were taken last after the group bridal party shots. My photographer dismissed the bridal party back to the limo while he focused on just me. I loved everything about my bridal look and was anxious to see my photos. Once I received my bridal portraits, I was horrified at the full-body shots of my dress because it turns out that my bustle was sticking out at a literal 90-degree angle, creating a perfectly straight shelf of tulle (on the bottom half of my dress). It looked like I had a cardboard box under my dress. Even though I was mortified, I could not blame my photographer for this wardrobe malfunction. Brides, your photographer is not liable for wardrobe malfunctions. Your photographer may not know what your definition of the "perfect" look is. And during my bridal portraits, my most trusted entourage of ladies were waiting in the limo.

First lesson: it is a good idea to have a person you trust provide a second look during your bridal portraits. Ask your maid of honor to stay behind and act as a second pair of eyes. Have someone you can relay on there to keep an eye out for wardrobe malfunctions.

2. Clean House

I wanted an intimate and nostalgic setting to put on my dress and take pictures, so my parents' house, not a bridal suite, was the backdrop for my "getting ready" photos. Even though I knew I would be getting dressed at my parents' house, I didn't really consider that the house itself would need to be in good condition since it was also being photographed. My frenzied it's-the-week-before-my-wedding-and-there-is-so-much-left-to-do brain did not even think about vacuuming, dusting, or straightening up. Looking at the photographs, I realized that I should have vacuumed my carpet, because when the photographer shot me putting on my shoes, the camera also saw the dust, the string, and the hair on my dirty carpet - eew!

My parents' house has a beautiful staircase, so I wanted to walk down the stairs like Belle in "Beauty and the Beast," showing off my beautiful dress to my bridesmaids waiting below. The shots turned out great, and the looks on my girls' faces were priceless. However, below the steps is the living room ... with laundry baskets on the couches, dirty glasses on the coffee table, and dog toys strewn across the floor. These little things I didn't think about putting away distracted from the beautiful moment captured in the photograph.

Regardless of where you get ready, make sure the room is in top condition. Delegate the necessary actions to straighten up the room to either your coordinator or maid of honor. Ask your attendants to neatly store shoes, day-of bags, cosmetics, etc., so they aren't all over the floor, bed, or chairs in your bridal suite, hotel room, or bedroom. Put away empty coffee cups and dirty plates. In doing so, you won't sacrifice a beautifully captured moment to the messy backdrop.

3. Shots, Shots, Shots!

Choosing a wedding photographer is all about matching styles - your personal style, but also the style, theme, and feel of your wedding day. For example, if you have an outdoor summer wedding with a lot of open spaces, flora, and fauna, then a photographer with a clean, natural light focus would be fitting. If you plan an evening wedding in a glamorous ballroom, a photographer with a bit more of a dramatic style and a strong knowledge of Photoshop would be best suited.

When searching for my wedding photographer, I researched blog photos and individual engagement and wedding shoot portfolios. I selected my photographer because I could tell from his shots that his eye was drawn to the exact things I wanted pictures of. In his portfolios, he captured everything I would want to have photographed, so I (mistakenly) believed he would capture all of the images I wanted captured at my wedding and I neglected to give him a shot list - even when asked!

The bottom line is that even if the photographer you choose shows evidence of taking all the right photos during other weddings, you must provide him or her with a shot list. Your photographer is not a mind reader. Don't assume he or she knows what you're thinking, knows which decor is most important to you, and knows that you want every shot he or she has ever posted on his or her portfolio or blog. Give your photographer a shot list ahead of time with clear specifications, and you can even supplement it with examples of his or her previous work!

4. Disappearing Shots

It is also important to keep in mind that certain shots have a time limit, and it is crucial to communicate this to your photographer (again, this reiterates the importance of the shot list). An example of a disappearing shot would be a photo of the arrangement of the escort cards. Two of my bridesmaids spent an hour perfectly arranging my escort cards in front of a vintage typewriter on the welcome table. There were over 100 cards, and they aligned them in perfect columns and rows. It looked spectacularly clean and orderly. However, both my photographer and the second shooter were busy taking pictures of the bridal party while guests trickled in to the reception and snatched up their escort cards. No one was at the reception to capture the escort cards before they were disturbed.

To prevent this from happening, provide your photographer(s) with a shot list so he or she knows where to be and when. Many wedding photography packages have two shooters to help with these types of situations, but be sure to make a point of telling your photographer about the shots that will expire once guests arrive. Here are some examples of disappearing shots: escort cards, unity table, favors (if not placed at the guests' seats directly), place setting (without food), empty reception venue, etc.

Following these tips will help to prevent post-wedding photo regrets, but another important tip in preventing Hulk-like Bridezilla explosions is to learn to let it go (insert amazing vocals by Queen Elsa here). If you don't get the escort card photo or a shot of the unity candle before it has become a pile of drippy wax, everything will be okay. A good photographer catches natural light, captures intimate moments, and controls your unruly uncles during the group family shots (our photographer did all our family shots in under 20 minutes!). Remember that the most important photos - the candid shot of your groom kissing your cheek, your parents dancing to their wedding song, the flower girl sneaking a kiss from the ring bearer - are what truly represent the essence of your day: you and your forever love, family and friends celebrating, and the beginning a new life together. And while this may be a hard pill to swallow after all the hours spent creating perfect Pinterest crafts, trust me: the people, not the props, will mean the most to you.

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Engagement Photo Tips October 30, 2013

* Find a photographer who fits your style. If you are a quirky couple, go with a quirky photographer. If you are reserved and a follow-the-book type of couple, then select a more traditional photographer.

* Select one who is open to different shoot locations and brainstorming. Some of the best photos occur in natural settings.

* Choose your location wisely. Certain locations will stand out in your minds because they are visually stunning or are special places. By choosing a place that offers a personal connection, there's a good chance you'll appreciate the photos in the long run.

* Try random poses and some candid shots. Be open to the unexpected. Although you might have a vision of the perfect photo in your mind, experimenting with different ideas can sometimes lead to a great photo you really love. Remember, sometimes photographers will pose you in positions that seem a bit awkward, but this is to get the best lines of the body and flattering images.

* Choose clothing that fits the mood. If time and budget allows, have several different wardrobe changes. Avoid clothing that is too trendy, busy or matchy-matchy, which may take away from the actual images. You will want your individual personalities to shine through.

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Say "Cheese": How to Ensure Your Wedding Photos Will Make You Smile October 30, 2013

Limousines, gowns, and flowers are important components of a couple's wedding day, but few aspects of a wedding are as important as wedding photography. Your photographs will help you relive the memories of your big day for a lifetime and will be fun to share with children, grandchildren, friends, and family.

Finding a photographer can be quite overwhelming. Like many wedding-related fields, there are a myriad of choices and many factors to consider. Some local professional photographers have offered their tips and recommendations to help take some of the stress out of at least one of the important decisions you have to make in the months ahead.

WHO do you choose?

Make a list of photographers whose style you like. Nicola Herring, of Nicola Herring Photography, Lancaster, recommends that when looking for a certain style of photography, "Look for consistency. If you find they have a number of different 'looks' (i.e. bright and playful, vintage, old looking), then that photographer may not have a specific look. You want to work with someone who is consistent so you can know that your images will have the style you are going for."

"Take a look around their website," advises Emily Wilcox, of Emily Grace Photography, Elizabethtown. "Does the work catch your eye? Read (the photographer's) bio. Do they sound like someone you'd be friends with? Your photographer should want to not only capture beautiful photos of you physically, but also (capture) your personality!"

Get the whole picture. "I recommend requesting to see an album or an entire collection from a wedding or two," stated Cindy Frey, of Cindy Frey Photography, Lancaster. "Most photographers can choose a few great images to post online, but I believe it's important to see how the photog will capture the entire day."

Verify they're the "real thing." "Make sure the photographer took all the photos you see," recommends Ole Hongvanthong, of PhotOle Photography, Lancaster. "View a minimum of three full weddings for consistency."

Make a connection. Melissa McClain, of Melissa McClain Photography, Harrisburg, says, "Be sure to interview your potential photographer in person for personality matches and ask questions that are important to you. Your photographer should be passionate about the questions you have and how they create your images."

WHAT should you know about pricing?

Photography is often the second most expensive item in your wedding budget, after the reception. Couples can expect to pay 10 to 15 percent of their total wedding budget on photography, an investment that many couples say is well worth the expense. Expect to pay more for additional accessories (albums, photo booths, etc.) or if you have a particular high-end photographer in mind. Price alone should not dictate which photographer to hire, as going with someone with bargain-basement prices may result in a subpar product. That doesn't mean you need to hire the most expensive photographer, but couples should realize the value of experience and professional equipment, both of which tend to come at a premium price.

If you are looking for a bargain, "shop around," recommends Frey. But be careful; "Price does not always reflect quality," she adds.

"Don't hire your photographer from Craigslist," says McClain. "Staying within a budget is a challenge; however, prioritizing your wedding needs is crucial. Seek out photographers who may offer non-standard packages and offer a per-hour rate. In most cases, you can obtain exactly what you need without breaking the bank."

"Keep in mind that with cheaper/budget-friendly services, you might get great looking images, but how will the photographer deliver when it comes to products offered, in the event of an emergency, image back-up, liability, etc.," advises Herring. "Those things should be considered, as well."

WHEN should you book your photographer?

Your options will most likely be different if you are planning a wedding in three months as opposed to three years, so if you are working on a shorter time frame, be aware that your first-choice photographer may already be booked. To avoid this problem, Hongvanthong says, "As soon as you get engaged, you should lock down your photographer."

"Most couples choose to book their photographer within 12 to 18 months prior to their wedding date," says McClain. "Popular dates book fast, especially during the months of May, June, and October in the Central PA area, so don't wait too long."

If you are working on a short time frame, remember, it never hurts to ask. Wilcox says that although she starts booking weddings a year in advance, "there's always a few last-minute brides every summer." So, there's hope!

In addition to the scheduling aspect, the earlier you book your photographer, the longer you will have to get to know him or her. "It's about creating that bond before your wedding day. The more face time you have with your photographer, the better your session will be," says Hongvanthong.

WHY choose a professional?

Some couples think that the fact that most wedding guests have camera phones means they don't need to hire a professional photographer, but no amount of amateur candids can make up for the expertise, vision, experience, and equipment that a professional brings to your event. From composition and posing to lighting and editing, a professional photographer will work hard behind the scenes throughout the day to create gorgeous images that will portray the various aspects of your wedding for years to come!

"Being able to provide affordable photography without compromising quality is very important to me. It breaks my heart when I see people paying thousands of dollars for blurry photos or, worse, not even hiring a photographer because they think they can't afford it," Wilcox says.

"I enjoy the energy of the day—from the anticipation, the first time seeing each other, the joyful giving away of the bride, the intimate, romantic couple shots, fun times with the bridal party, and a celebration at the end! A wedding encompasses so many emotions, and I love capturing all of those things in one day," Herring said.

WHICH things to prepare together

Once you have found your photographer, there will be a number of things to go over with him or her to make sure your photography goes as smoothly as you'd like it to on your wedding day.

Provide your photographer with a schedule. "You definitely want your photographer to be a step ahead of everything. Don't make them guess when you're going to do things," Wilcox notes.

"Photographers typically have a set of detail-oriented questions, ranging from start and end times to both the ceremony and reception to additional details of colors and theme, number of attendants, special guests, traditions, and guest count. Expect most photographers to ask these questions both at the first consultation and at a final detail meeting a few weeks prior to your wedding day," McClain says.

Hongvanthong advises couples to provide the getting-ready locations for the bride and groom, ceremony and reception times and addresses, and your must-have shot list, as most of the other details fall into place. "If you hire a good photographer, you'll automatically get the great standard shots," Hongvanthong says.

Be sure to note any "special events or details that might not be typical, such as a surprise song, unique unity ceremony, etc.," Herring recommends.

Another important planning detail is allotting the proper time for photos. The amount of time needed could be affected by traveling to different venues, the number of attendants, the size of your family, your "must-have" shots, and whether or not you and your significant other are doing a "first look" prior to the wedding. Many couples are opting for a first look, which allows them to take care of the photography earlier in the day in order to celebrate after the wedding with their family and friends. It also allows them to conduct some of the most emotional parts of the wedding in a more private moment.

Because of the variables involved, work with your photographer to find out their recommendations, as photographers also have different preferences when it comes to timing. "If couples do not do a first look, they should allow two and a half to three hours between the wedding and reception," Frey advises. "If couples choose to do a first look, three hours should be allotted before the ceremony."

"Always give yourself one hour after your ceremony for portraits if you want good photos. If you don't use the time, you'll be early. For the first look, give yourself one and a half hours—you don't want to be late to your own wedding," says Hongvanthong.

"If doing a first look, aim for your photographer to start about three hours prior to your ceremony for ample time of getting ready images, bridal/groom portraits, and your couple portraits, as well as family posed images," McClain notes.

WHERE to have fun with your planning

There is a lot to be said for making sure that you have formal shots with the bridal party and family members on your wedding day, but there is also wiggle room for fun. Discuss some of the options with your photographer, as chances are they have experience with several different ideas you may not have thought of.

"We offer photo booths with some of our packages," notes Wilcox. "I love photo booths at weddings because it's a great way to say thanks to your guests. It allows them to get involved and have some fun!"

PhotoOle Photography offers Instagram printing on-site.

"Another up and coming trend is the slow motion photo booth, where a can of silly string can create some intense photo moments!" McClain suggests. "Some of the hottest trends in wedding photography right now are capturing highly vibrant portraiture with bold, beautiful skies or architecture, sparkler exits or painting with light as the ceremony winds down, sneaking out after dinner for a dreamy sunset image, and dramatic dance floor images."

Some of the fun photo elements can also be incorporated into the decor or other wedding elements. "Many of my clients create a photo guest book using images from their engagement session," Frey notes.

"Another great 'guestbook' option would be to have someone take a Polaroid image of each couple/guest and have them sign their name at the bottom of the picture. Then the couple can put the images in a little scrapbook and have a visual picture of each person who was at their wedding too!" says Herring.

"One of our favorites is seeing couples use engagement images for place cards, table numbers, or guest favors," suggests McClain.

HOW Long?

Once your big day is over, you are probably anxious to see your images. Some photographers will give you a sneak peek right away, and some will have some online images for you to peruse in a week or two. However, many photographers require from one month up to six months, depending on the time of year and how busy their schedule is, to complete your final images. Manage your expectations by asking this question up front. If it does take a while though, it is because the photographer puts a lot of work into editing your images to make them the best they can be.

Special Thanks To:

Cindy Frey Photography

Lancaster, PA

717-808-1091, cindy@cindyfreyphotography.com

www.cindyfreyphotography.com

Emily Grace Photography

120 Heisey Ave., Elizabethtown, PA 17022

717-940-8431

www.emilygracephoto.com

Melissa McClain Photography

119 Aster Drive, Harrisburg, PA 17112

717-309-2440

www.melissamcclainphotography.com

Nicola Herring Photography

519 E. King St., Lancaster, PA 17602 (mailing address only)

717-413-0937

www.nicolaherring.com

PhotOle Photography

532 W. Chestnut St., Lancaster, PA 17603

717-333-0618, Ole@PhotOle.com

www.PhotOle.com

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A Tip from a Pro - Leave Time for Photographs September 4, 2013

"Be sure to allot enough time for photographs. Your wedding day will be hectic and over before you know it. You'll want beautiful photographs to help commemorate your big day. Forty-five minutes or more between the ceremony and reception is usually a good time to get them done."

Emily Grace, owner/photographer of Emily Grace Photography, Elizabethtown

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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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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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