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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Present And Unplugged December 20, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Special Thanks To:

Melania Timpano, Melania Marta Photography

Melania Marta Photography on Instagram and Facebook


The Venue Review January 18, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Food Makes The Mood January 18, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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!


"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.


"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.


"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.


"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.


Tips For Toasting The Bride And Groom August 1, 2016

Wedding toasts are a tradition to which many guests and wedding participants look forward. An opportunity for maids of honor and best men to express their feelings about the bride and groom, wedding toasts often touch on the heartfelt and the humorous while shedding light on the relationship between the happy couple and the men and women they have chosen to play such significant roles at their wedding.

While guests might enjoy wedding toasts, best men and maids of honor may be nervous about honoring the brides and grooms in such public settings. That anxiety is perfectly normal, especially for those who have never before been asked to serve as maids of honor or best men. Those tasked with toasting the newly anointed husband and wife can consider the following tips to make the task a little easier.

· Keep it brief. While there might be many things you want to say, try to be as concise as possible. Convey your relationship to the bride and/or groom, but avoid lengthy histories that might come off as rambling. While personal anecdotes that shed some humorous light on the relationship are great additions to wedding toasts, avoid going into too much detail when telling such stories, focusing instead on the parts of the stories that illustrate your feelings and generate a few laughs.

· Avoid being too formal. Even the most formal wedding can benefit from a toast that veers more toward the spontaneous. While you want to thank the parents of the bride and groom for hosting the wedding and the guests for being on hand to celebrate, there is no need to be especially formal. Giving a less formal speech also may help calm your nerves.

· Practice, practice, practice. Practice your speech ahead of time so you are not reading from cards or notepads during the toast. Reading from a piece of paper is less likely to engage the audience than speaking to them directly and sharing some heartfelt thoughts about the bride and groom. It's all right to hold onto some cue cards while delivering your toast, but practicing the toast as the wedding draws near will boost your confidence and make you more comfortable with the microphone in hand.

· Stay appropriate. Humor adds a lot to wedding toasts, but make sure to clean up any humorous anecdotes so they can be shared with all wedding guests, including children. In addition, avoid stories that, while humorous, may embarrass the bride and groom.

· Share well wishes. Before you raise your glass and ask guests to do the same, express some heartfelt well wishes for the bride and groom. Doing so is a fitting end to a tradition that's meant to highlight the special relationship brides and grooms have with their maids of honor and best men.

Maids of honor and best men making their first wedding toasts may be nervous in advance of the big day, but there are ways to calm those nerves and deliver heartfelt, memorable toasts.


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.


Wedding Reception Games To Add Fun To Your Celebration July 28, 2016

For couples wondering how to entertain wedding guests who might not be interested in dancing at the reception, or for any couple that loves game nights and good competition, offering a few games at the reception is an excellent way to get people laughing and having a great time.

Keep the games casual and optional, and do not pressure guests to participate. Consider the venue and your overall vision and choose games that will fit the reception setup and timeline and also reflect your personalities. Here are a few ideas:

Wedding guest bingo. One variation of this great icebreaker is to print bingo cards listing interesting facts about your wedding guests. The guests need to find a person who can sign that space. Facts can range from obscure things that the bride and groom know only one guest has done ("recently met Joe Biden" or "climbed Mount Everest") to broader facts ("owns a motorcycle" or "married his or her high school sweetheart"). The first person to hand in a finished bingo card could win a small prize purchased ahead of time or be served the first slice of cake.

Lawn games. Outdoor receptions with ample space provide an ideal setting for cornhole sets, badminton, croquet, horseshoes, quoits, bocce, giant Jenga, or other favorite picnic games. Include signage directing guests to the games and have the Master of Ceremonies make an announcement reminding guests that lawn games are available.

Kissing game. Whether you and your future spouse are anticipating or dreading the wedding reception tradition of guests clinking glasses to have the newlyweds kiss, this game can put a fun spin on things. In advance, write down the names of married couples that will be attending the reception and put the names into a hat. When the glasses inevitably start clinking, the bride and groom will pull the name of a couple from the hat every time the glasses clink. The couple whose name is drawn has to stand up and kiss before the newlyweds can kiss.

Shoe game. The bride and groom sit back to back, take off their shoes, and give one shoe to the other person so they are holding one of each. The master of ceremonies asks the couple a series of questions (the maid of honor can write this list so it remains a mystery) that can include anything from "Who says 'I love you' more often?" to "Who is a better driver?" Each member of the couple will hold up the shoe that corresponds with his or her answer. Make sure the couple is positioned where everyone can see which shoe they hold up to answer.

Board games. Put a stack of fun, quick board games on a table with a sign that says, "Tired of dancing? Play a game!" While Monopoly or Twister might not be the best bets, Apples to Apples, Scattergories, Bananagrams, or other family favorites should be a hit.

The limbo. Give the band a break or have the disc jockey incorporate this classic into the lineup of music. But know your crowd and do not include this activity if you can foresee that only a handful of guests would willingly participate.

Photo scavenger hunt. Print a fun list of items for guests to capture in pictures - a group hug, the first dance, a bridesmaid's bouquet, a selfie of the whole table, someone making a toast, and so on. The scavenger hunt list can either be printed for each guest or just one per table, or it can be posted on a large chalkboard or sign where guests will easily see it. Include disposable cameras at each table or simply create a social media hashtag (#smithphotohunt) so the pictures can be easily uploaded, viewed, and judged later to decide on a winner.


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.


Nuptials In Nature January 5, 2015

Outdoor weddings are romantic when done right, and a growing number of couples are exchanging vows amid an expansive garden or with the splendor of the pounding surf providing a picturesque backdrop. If Mother Nature cooperates, outdoor weddings can go smoothly. But even if the weather does not cooperate, there still are ways couples can enjoy a memorable ceremony.

Preparation and planning can help keep outdoor weddings moving along. Weather can be unpredictable and unforgiving at times, so it is always best to account for various scenarios. The following are some tips to consider:

* Be mindful of hot weather. Many outdoor weddings occur when temperatures are at their warmest. As anyone who has had to sit outdoors in the blazing sun for an extended period of time can attest, it can grow quite uncomfortable, especially when everyone is dressed to the nines. Advise guests in advance that the wedding will be taking place outdoors and to dress accordingly. Arrange to have shaded areas for guests who may struggle with the heat. Keep chilled bottled water nearby so guests can stay cool and refreshed. Ask the officiant to keep the ceremony brief.

* Keep wind in mind. A stiff breeze can upset tents and wreak havoc on hairstyles. Be sure everything outdoors is properly secured and weighted down. Avoid lightweight or sheer fabrics on a wedding gown that will get swept out of place by the wind. A short, blusher veil may be more appropriate than a sweeping train. Couples should also advise their hairstylists that they will be getting married outdoors, and looks should be well secured by bobby pins and gel to keep hair in place. For the reception, stick to real dishes for food service, as plastic or lightweight materials may get blown away.

* Check for power sources. Choose a wedding location with easily accessible power outlets. Guests will certainly want to hear the vows, requiring the use of microphones and a sound system. Having power available also makes it easier for bands and musicians to set up their equipment for an outdoor reception. If the wedding or reception will stretch into the evening hours, electricity will be needed to power supplemental lighting to illuminate the festivities.

* Ensure accessibility. Outdoor terrain can prove tricky, especially for older guests or those with mobility issues. When scouting locations, select a wheelchair-accessible spot that can be easily traversed by attendees. Understand that turf can become water-logged and challenging to walk over should it rain the day of the wedding or just prior. Plastic or fabric runners may make things easier. Also, choose a location that is not too far off the beaten path. It should be an easy walking distance to a parking area and should not require guests to have to take an extended hike through nature.

* Face away from the sun. Glares can make it difficult for guests to see the ceremony. Be sure to arrange seats so that guests do not have to look into the sun. This is best achieved by having the sun behind everyone for the ceremony. It also ensures that the wedding pair will not end up with washed-out photos or pictures of everyone squinting.

* Ensure food is properly chilled or heated. Food safety is imperative when dining outdoors. Food that is supposed to be kept cool should remain on ice or be refrigerated until served. Hot foods should remain hot. Food in chafing dishes or served buffet-style should also be protected from insects. Improper handling of food can result in foodborne illnesses.

* Use potted plants and flowers. Cut flowers tend to wilt prematurely in hot weather. Rather than waste money and beautiful flowers, choose potted plants that will thrive if well-tended. Guests can then take the plants home as a reminder of the day.

* Budget for a tent. It is always better to have a contingency plan. Even if you have your heart set on an outdoor wedding, have a backup plan in place if the weather is uncooperative. A tent with surrounding sidewalls may be sufficient. Otherwise, determine if there is an indoor location that can be kept on standby.

* Mix up the candles. Intersperse citronella candles with the decorative ones to help keep bugs at bay. You can also consider placing small bottles of insect repellent on the tables. Guests will appreciate the gesture when biting flies or mosquitoes want to join in the fun.

* Remember the season. If a fall wedding is part of the picture, be mindful that cooler temperatures may be unavoidable. Select wedding party attire appropriate for autumn, such as attendant dresses that come with matching stoles or wraps and tuxedos or suits that are fashioned of heavier fabric or material. For picture purposes, keep in mind when the sun will go down so the photo sessions are timed accordingly. Consider renting heat lamps if necessary, especially if the reception is outdoors as well and festivities will continue into evening. Have hot chocolate or warm apple cider on hand for guests to savor.

To make sure Mother Nature does not ruin an outdoor wedding, couples should take care to plan ahead for all possibilities.


Seating Solutions January 5, 2015

After all of the invitations have been sent and RSVPs returned, engaged couples who are including a sit-down dinner as part of their wedding receptions must figure out the seating arrangements for their guests. Such a task can be both fun and stressful.

The fun of making seating arrangements stems from reuniting friends and family members who couples feel will enjoy one another's company. But feuding family members can make the task of assigning seats somewhat stressful. Couples need not be relationship experts to plan seating arrangements that ensure guests have a good time. The following tips can help couples enjoy the process of mapping out their wedding reception.

* Make assignments by hand. While there is software designed specifically to help couples map out seating assignments, many couples find it easier to do the seating assignments by hand, which allows couples more freedom to rearrange tables. In addition, making the seating arrangements by hand ensures that couples spread out guests who might not get along.

* Do not seat guests in the hopes of quashing old conflicts. While the jovial spirit of a wedding ceremony and reception might seem like the perfect atmosphere for feuding friends or family members to bury the hatchet with regard to old conflicts, these feuds might instead escalate. To prevent this, keep opposing factions apart when assigning seats.

* Keep special needs guests in mind. Some guests at the wedding may have special needs, and this must be kept in mind when planning seating assignments. Guests with medical conditions may benefit from sitting close to the rest room, while those with mobility issues might be best served in a spot where waitstaff can more easily recognize when they need something. Consider seating older guests, whose vision might not be as strong as it once was, as close to the happy couple as possible so these guests can see everything and will not feel left out.

* Make sure the seating assignment table is easily accessible. The table on which seating assignment cards will be placed should be immediately accessible upon entering the reception hall. A table that is far off in the corner may confuse some guests, who might think the seating is a free-for-all and simply sit in the first empty seats they see.

* Consider flow between tables when making assignments. While you might have aced the seating assignments at each table, do not overlook the importance of mapping out tables as well. No couple wants their guests to feel isolated from friends or family members at other tables, so do your best to ensure there's a good flow between the tables. Plan for tables of family members to be placed near one another, and do the same with groups of friends. This encourages guests to mingle and can make the night much more enjoyable.


Cheers! January 5, 2015

Toasting the bride and groom at a wedding reception is a responsibility that typically falls on the shoulders of the bride's father as well as the best man and the maid of honor. Though it is an honor to give a wedding toast, it also can be nerve-wracking, as no one wants to give a toast that's memorable for all the wrong reasons.

While the best toasts are often those that veer off the beaten path, coming from the heart rather than from a how-to guide found on the Internet, there is a certain formula guests can follow to ensure their toasts cover all of the appropriate bases without offending the bridal party or fellow guests.

* Acknowledge the guests. Families are more geographically diverse than ever before, so more and more weddings host guests who come from far and wide to celebrate with happy couples on their wedding days. It's customary for men and women making wedding toasts to acknowledge the guests, thanking them for being there. This is often a great way for best men and maids of honor to break the ice and calm their nerves, especially at larger weddings where they may only know a small percentage of the guests. When thanking the guests, be sure to thank the parents of the bride and groom as well.

* Explain your relationship to the bride and/or groom. Best men and maids of honor should devote a portion of their toasts to explaining their personal relationships with the bride and/or groom. Introduce yourself and explain how you met the bride or groom. Oftentimes, such stories have a comical twist that can further calm your nerves.

* Aim for a jovial toast. Wedding toasts are typically given at the wedding reception, when guests and the bridal party are ready to celebrate. Such an atmosphere lends itself to a jovial toast wherein best men and maids of honor focus on happy times with the bride and groom. Tell a funny anecdote that illustrates the special bond you have with the bride or groom. When choosing a story to tell, remember to keep things appropriate for guests of all ages, including young children.

* Steer clear of alcohol before giving your toast. Many people overindulge in alcohol at wedding receptions, but best men and maids of honor should avoid consuming alcohol until after they have toasted the bride and groom. Horror stories about drunken, inappropriate wedding toasts may seem more like an urban legend than a legitimate possibility, but the tendency for alcohol to lower people's inhibitions makes it dangerous for men and women to consume it before giving their toasts.

* Give your best wishes to the bride and groom before raising your glass. Raising your glass to toast the bride and groom is often the last step before your toasting duties officially end. But before you raise your glass, remember to offer your best wishes to both the bride and groom. Once those sentiments have been expressed, ask the guests to raise their glasses and toast the newlyweds.

Toasting happy couples at their wedding receptions can be stressful for best men and maids of honor who are unaccustomed to speaking in front of large groups of people. But following the above formula and speaking from the heart will ensure such toasts go off without a hitch.


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.


Something Old October 22, 2013

Everyone knows the recommendation that a bride should have "something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue" as she heads down the aisle, but, lately, many brides are lingering over the "something old" part. Vintage style has made a major comeback recently, due in part to a number of popular historically set movies and television shows. As "Downton Abbey," Baz Luhrmann's "The Great Gatsby," "Grace of Monaco," "Broadwalk Empire," and other period pieces have conquered pop culture, the vintage trend has exploded in the wedding industry, with couples pulling inspiration from the beautiful style elements showcased in these hit television and film projects.

"The vintage trend is HOT right now for the 2014 wedding season," exclaims Melissa McClain of Melissa McClain Photography, Harrisburg.

Sabrina J. Drouillard, IEWP, owner/coordinator of Decora Wedding and Event Planning, Mountville, agrees, explaining, "From the invites to the dress and decor, brides are loving this trend! If you are incorporating this into your wedding, you will have so many options."

Couples looking to include vintage elements in their wedding attire and decor must first decide what "vintage" means to them. Wedding elements can invoke a specific time period (for example, the Roaring '20s) or leave a more general old-timey or classic impression. "There are many views on what 'vintage' looks like these days, but I always think of lace, subtle colors, old books and dainty flowers," suggests Nicola Herring, owner of Nicola Herring Photography, Lancaster. "There are many ways to incorporate these things, even in a do-it-yourself wedding."

In addition to drawing inspiration from the vintage-inspired costumes and set design of movies and television shows set in decades past, brides and grooms can go online for ideas. "Pinterest is a great brainstorming tool for ideas, so pin everything that appeals to you, and your ideas will come together," recommends Herring.

A major way the vintage trend is being incorporated into wedding style is through the attire of the bridal party, especially the bride. Whether she is wearing a dress that has been passed down in her family, attire purchased from a vintage store, or a new dress that has a vintage look, the bride can channel classic style with her gown. Popular vintage twists for bridal gowns include lace, beading, crystals, off-white or ivory hues, and other romantic elements.

When it comes to jewelry, brides are favoring art deco, estate-inspired silhouettes and often choosing one or two standout accessories for a more minimalistic and classical look. Simple, elegant pieces are distinctive without being overwhelming and can be worn alone or layered. Wearing heirloom jewelry is a great way for brides to go vintage and honor members of their family at the same time. For her other accessories, a bride can turn to retro-style pumps, a tiara or a birdcage veil to continue the vintage theme.

The bride is not the only one who can have fun with incorporating vintage elements into her attire, however. "The Great Gatsy," "Downton Abbey," and other film and television period pieces supply plenty of inspiration for the groom's attire, as well as that of the bridesmaids and groomsmen. The bride and her bridesmaids can also incorporate the vintage trend via their hair and makeup choices (finger wave hairdos, red lips, subtle cat's eye eyeliner, etc.). But remember to be careful that you don't take the vintage elements too far; you want the bridal party to look classic, not costumey.

Another key way that couples can incorporate vintage style into their wedding day celebrations is through their choice of ceremony and reception venues. If you want your event to have a vintage vibe, starting with a venue that has inherent vintage charm will reduce the amount of effort you have to put into dressing it up. "Historic settings are a logical choice for vintage weddings, since their unique surroundings provide ample photographic opportunities that just can't be replicated in most other venues," explains Arlene Stewart, chairman of marketing and advertising for The Iris Club, Lancaster.

But no matter what venue you choose, it can be decked out to fit with your vintage theme through some creativity. Visit vintage and antique stores, as well as thrift shops, to see what catches your eye, whether it's an antique handkerchief, mismatched china teacups, old books, or pieces from retro board games. Chances are you'll be able to incorporate whatever vintage items you love into the wedding decor.

"Be cautious!" Drouillard advises. "Just because it says 'vintage,' that doesn't mean that it is!" If you desire bonafide vintage items, research the authenticity of the antiques before you make your purchases.

"Old glassware, such as mason jars and wine bottles, are a really popular (way to incorporate vintage style)," comments Emily Wilcox of Emily Grace Photography, Elizabethtown. McClain adds, "Couples (are) incorporating lace and burlap elements, Scrabble letters, and subtle yet delicate flower arrangements." McClain recommends, "If going vintage, consider shying away from common DIY projects featured on inspirational sites and customize your decor items for a more personal touch."

Think outside the box: everything from antique keys to vintage bicycles to old suitcases and furniture can be used as decorations. What is even better is when the wedding decor incorporates vintage items that hold special significance to the couple - such as a grandmother's china, a grandfather's military trunk, antique clocks passed through the generations or old family photos of the couple's ancestors.

"For couples on a budget, consider renting key decor pieces from vintage rental stores near you," suggests McClain. "If you have a little wiggle room in your budget, rent a few larger pieces of vintage furniture for a great post-dinner lounge area for guests to relax and mingle. (You can also) change out standard seating and tables for handcrafted items and think about (offering) old-school lawn games for guests to play during cocktail hour," she recommends.

And don't forget about the music. A band playing Dixieland hits and jazz standards will give the whole party a vintage vibe in a fun and memorable way. (If you can't find a band in your local area or price range, you can achieve a similar effect by having your disc jockey spin vintage tunes.)

Another way retro elements can be incorporated into the reception is by serving food and beverages with a vintage influence. Also, you can add to the theme through transportation choices such as horse-drawn carriages or classic cars.

"Be sure to carry your vintage theme throughout - from the design of your bouquet, to the style of your gown, to your place cards and invitations - for a fully developed theme. All in all, make it your own!" McClain encourages.

Brides and grooms who are interested in the vintage trend have many options - whether they want the vintage theme to infiltrate every element of their big day or just want to include a few subtle touches. "What makes the vintage trend so great is that it can be as subtle as wearing your grandmother's wedding ring on your big day (or as flashy as using) an eye-catching classic car as the bride and groom's gateway vehicle," explains Wilcox.

Couples looking to go vintage on their big day have many options to help them achieve the classic, glamorous style they desire.

Special thanks to:

Melissa McClain Photography

119 Aster Drive, Harrisburg, PA 17112


Decora Wedding and Event Planning

416 Huntington Drive, Mountville, PA 17554


Nicola Herring Photography

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


The Iris Club

323 N. Duke St., Lancaster PA 17602


Emily Grace Photography

120 Heisey Ave., Elizabethtown, PA 17022



A Tip from a Pro - "Destination" Wedding September 4, 2013

"Want a destination wedding, but guests can't afford to travel? Make the destination your wedding theme. Use exotic, tropical colors in your wedding candles and accessories."

Kathy Brown, Keystone Candle, Harrisburg


A Tip from a Pro - Dance Lessons September 4, 2013

"Dancing lessons are not only a great date night and a way to be in each other's arms, but your guests will enjoy watching even the least choreographed first dance, rather than just the usual bride and groom swaying back and forth for three minutes. Starting a year in advance is not too soon, because it takes the pressure off trying to learn at the last minute and you can use your new skills at all your friends' weddings you go to during your engagement period."

Renee Roberts Kopp, wedding planner at Celebrations!, Ephrata


A Tip from a Pro - Candles in Outdoor Weddings September 4, 2013

"If you are planning an outside wedding, glass hurricanes or cylinders are a wonderful way to help keep your candles lit on a windy day."

Kathy Brown, Keystone Candle, Harrisburg


A Tip from a Pro - Purchase Your Own Items September 4, 2013

"Compare apples to apples. Break out packaging to compare with listed line items, so you know what you are paying for each. If you are able to purchase your own items, such as alcohol, you may come out ahead. Costco and The Restaurant Store have wedding tablecloths and wedding plastic ware that looks like china."

Joyce Perkinson, director of sales at Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum, Lancaster

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