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More Than A Dream January 24, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ben & Andrea's Majestic Rocky Mountain Wedding

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Planes, Trains, and Automobiles August 1, 2016

Engaged couples may be ready to walk down the aisle and begin their new life together, but first they have to get to the ceremony.

Couples have many options at their disposal regarding transportation on their wedding days. Limousines continue to be popular choices, but other vehicles also may fit a couple's needs. According to The Wedding Report, a research company that tracks wedding trends, the size of the average wedding party has grown, which means a greater number of people may need a ride to the festivities. Couples who want to arrive in style may want to consider the following options.

· Take it to the water. If a couple is having a lakeside or seaside wedding, taking a water route to the ceremony can make for a dramatic entrance. Vessel options include speedboats, yachts, or something more intimate, such as canoes or rowboats. Afterward, the couple can coast off into the sunset.

· Arrive like royalty. A couple may take a page out of a favorite fairy tale and arrive in a horse-drawn carriage. Carriages can typically fit between two and six passengers. If the couple cannot find a carriage, they may consider pedicabs or bicycle-drawn buggies as an alternative.

· Step out of a classic movie. Vintage cars can make a statement. Although one may immediately think of a Rolls Royce, couples should consider cars that embody their personal style. Rugged couples may want a classic pickup truck, while those who live life in the fast lane may prefer a vintage sports car.

· Take the party on the road. Moving a large number of people in the wedding party takes forethought. Party buses and SUV limousines can fit a substantial number of passengers, making them a more cost-effective option for large bridal parties. The vehicles may be equipped with party lights, impressive sound systems, and even minibars.

· Go eco-friendly. If the ceremony is nearby, the couple may arrive on horseback or even pedaling a bicycle.

Couples should book transportation for themselves and their wedding party well in advance. In addition, they should get all agreements in writing, verify that the company is licensed, and insured, and provide directions and the itinerary to drivers.

Any member of the wedding party who will be arriving in a hired car will need to make arrangements to have his or her own vehicle available at the end of the wedding or be able to call a taxi or car service to get a safe ride home. Some wedding party members may decide to park a car at the reception site or a hotel on the day prior to the wedding so they will have a return ride. It is also a good idea to ask friends or family members who are not in the bridal party for a ride home.

Also, safety is an utmost concern after the wedding. Even if wedding party members have a car available, no one should drive when intoxicated. Couples may want to include the phone number of a local taxi service in their hotel gift bags just to be safe.

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Half The Fun Is Getting There January 5, 2015

Couples must make a host of decisions when planning their weddings. When and where to get married may be the most significant decisions, but such selections are only the tip of the iceberg.

One important decision couples must make is how to get their guests to and from the reception. Since alcoholic beverages are served at many wedding receptions, it is a good idea for couples to have transportation available for their guests to ensure everyone safely gets from the reception hall to the hotel after the party has ended. The following are a handful of options couples can consider when arranging transportation for their wedding guests.

* Private shuttle. Private shuttle companies are a popular option, especially among couples whose guest lists are extensive. Private shuttle companies typically have a vast fleet of vehicles of various sizes, from 10-passenger vans to larger buses capable of seating several dozen passengers. Private shuttle companies may run several shuttles to and from the reception and the hotel over the course of the night, and all guests need to do is gather at a particular place at designated times to be taken to the party or back to the hotel. Shuttle information should be included in welcome packages provided for guests.

* School bus. Couples might be able to find a local school bus company to transport their guests to and from the hotel and the reception. This option may be best suited for couples whose reception hall is only a short distance away from the hotel, as such vehicles are not often considered the most comfortable method of travel. Couples who rent a school bus may want to ask the company if they can decorate the bus prior to the event to give it a more festive feel.

* Hotel shuttle. Hotels may provide airport shuttle service to and from a nearby airport for their guests, and a couple might be able to work out a deal with their wedding hotel manager to use such shuttles to get their guests to and from their reception. Hotels often do not use their airport shuttle services at night, so it is possible the hotel manager might be amenable. Using the hotel shuttle service will not be free, but couples might be able to negotiate a rate based on the number of guests registered to stay under their wedding party. The hotel may offer a discount for its shuttle service based on the number of wedding guests staying at the hotel, and couples should broach that subject during the negotiation process. If the hotel does not provide shuttle service, its manager or concierge might be able to recommend local shuttle companies.

* Taxis. If no transportation will be provided, couples should arrange to have taxi cabs available outside the reception hall. The reception hall manager can help with such arrangements. When opting for taxis, arrange for some to get there as much as an hour before the reception is scheduled to end for guests who wish to make it an early night.

Arranging transportation for guests is a nice gesture for a bride and groom who want to ensure their family members and friends have a fun and safe time at their wedding reception.

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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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Going Green On Your Big Day: August 23, 2013

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

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

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

Invitations:

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

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

Wedding Attire and Jewelry:

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

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

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

Beauty:

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

Venue:

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

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

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

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

Flowers:

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

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

Reception:

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

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

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

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

Transportation:

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

Gifts:

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

Honeymoon:

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

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Riding in Style: August 23, 2013

You're getting married! Congratulations!

You've decided when and where the wedding ceremony will be, and where you're going to hold the reception. Now, you have to figure out how you're going to get there.

And, guys, since the bride-to-be has been planning every other little detail of the big day, from the flowers to what her bridesmaids will wear, this is something that you can do. Luckily, these days, there are a lot of options for arriving in style.

The traditional, time-tested way to go is, of course, renting a limousine, or car. The Bridal Association of America reports that the average couple spends $400 to $500 for an automotive rental. However, prices may vary depending on the geographic area and the type of vehicle rented.

When going the limo route, there are several things to keep in mind. One is to book as soon as possible, especially during the peak wedding season. "It will be one less thing (the couple) will have to worry about," says Linda Steffy of Landis Enterprises in Ephrata.

"Depending on the type of limousine, we recommend booking eight to 12 months in advance," says Douglas Rydbom of Premiere #1 Limousine Service in Middletown.

In choosing a limousine service, Rydbom recommends "checking apples-to-apples between services. Each limousine company will generally have their own pricing policies. Pay attention to 'add-ons' like fuel surcharges, travel time to your location or other service fees not included in the base price. Be sure you get the full price up front when weighing your options."

Vehicle options at Premiere include sedans, sport utility vehicles (SUVs), vans, party buses, motor coaches and stretch limousines. Landis also rents town cars, SUVS and passenger vans in addition to limos.

Before making that call, decide how many limos are needed, and the size. Because the bride and groom often do not see each other before the ceremony, two limos may be rented, one larger for the bridal party and one smaller for the bride and her parents.

"We have six-, eight- and 10-passenger limousines," says Steffy. "We do offer a 10-percent discount for three or more limousines."

When deciding on the time length for renting a limo, don't skimp on time. "Weddings do not normally go off with military precision," says Rydbom. "Rent the limousine for at least an extra hour beyond the expected schedule."

Both Premiere and Landis rent limousines by the hour, with a three-hour minimum. Premiere offers eight-, 12- and 16-hour packages, and doesn't charge extra for additional stops, mileage or fuel.

Premiere leaves the driver gratuity up to the customer, but recommends between 10 and 20 percent. Landis adds a 15-percent gratuity to the total bill. "That way on her wedding day, the bride will have nothing to worry about," says Steffy.

Once the bridal party is en route, limousine services usually offer some nice amenities.

"We also provide water, champagne glasses and ice in the limousines," says Steffy. "We have 'Just Married' signs for the back of the vehicles. We also offer a 'red carpet' to make the bride's day even better!"

All of Premiere's stretch limousines are appointed with glassware, bottled water and ice service. Premiere can create custom signs that the couple can keep after the wedding. All decorations supplied by the customer must be approved.

Both companies also offer transportation for bachelor and bachelorette parties, thus providing a designated driver. At Premiere, bachelor/bachelorette packages range from wine tours, paintball and nights on the town. Both also provide shuttle transportation for wedding guests as well as honeymoon transportation to and from airports and other venues.

"We can shuttle guests to whatever hotel they need to go to after the reception," says Steffy. "We can even have the driver stay there and be ready whenever they are needed. That way, no one has to worry about drinking and driving."

Besides the traditional limousine or a classy car, there are other memorable ways to get to one's wedding.

How about a classic car, or a sports car? Also impressive would be a stretch SUV, like the Cadillac Escalade, Ford Expedition or even a Hummer.

Or, if you want that true fairy tale feel, try a horse-drawn carriage. This is probably best suited for warmer weather, unless you're willing to snuggle up in the winter. RuthAnn Rabold of Rabold's Carriage Rides of Newmanstown offers services to couples in Lebanon, Lancaster, Dauphin, Berks, Montgomery, Chester and the surrounding counties. She recommends booking six months to a year in advance. Various wedding packages are available, and customers are charged a flat rate by the hour, with a two-hour minimum.

"The uniqueness is it's a horse-drawn carriage ride," said Rabold. "(We provide) carriage drivers with many years of experience, (as well as) a Just Married sign." For an additional charge, couples can decorate the carriage in flowers to match the color scheme of their wedding.

Speaking of horses, they can haul more than just a carriage. A bride and groom atop a handsome steed can make for a memorable mode of transportation and equally memorable photos.

Or, if you want to rev things up a bit, ride off into the sunset on a motorcycle.

Those who love the water and have planned their wedding near the sea or a lake may want to consider getting there by boat, be it a large vessel or a canoe or rowboat.

But whatever route you take, don't forget: Half the fun is getting there!

Special thanks to:

Landis Enterprises, 4412 Oregon Pike, Ephrata, PA 17522; 717-859-5466; www.landisenterprises.com

Premiere #1 Limousine Service, 2000 Vine St., Middletown, PA 17057; 717-616-8995; www.pemiere1limousine.com

Rabold's Carriage Rides, Newmanstown, PA 17073; 717-949-3259 or 717-813-1230; http://raboldscarriagerides.net

Dutch Country Helicopters Inc., 500 Airport Road, Suite T, Lititz, PA 17543; 717-735-2208; www.flydch.com

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