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A Sense Of Place January 24, 2017

Destination weddings have become popular for a variety of reasons, but not all couples can jet off to an exotic locale for their nuptials. Sometimes budget and logistical restraints make a destination wedding unfeasible. But couples who are still dreaming of a picturesque wedding at an exciting destination need not despair; they can bring the "destination" home. There are plenty of ways for a wedding celebration to incorporate inspiration drawn from a faraway place, whether it's a favorite vacation spot, the location of the planned honeymoon trip, or simply somewhere the couple dreams of visiting. Here are a few examples of how brides and grooms can translate a sense of place into the decorations, attire, cuisine, entertainment, and other elements of their special day.

Hawaii

A wedding that draws inspiration from the Hawaiian Islands' legendary beaches, lush vegetation, and well-known tiki culture will offer a fun, comfortable vibe.

Flowers - Select tropical flowers such as orchids, birds of paradise, or hibiscus for the bouquets of the bride and bridesmaids. Skipping the bouquets and having each member of the wedding party wear a floral lei would also be particularly appropriate, since leis are traditionally given in Hawaii in honor of important events - including weddings.

Decorations - For centerpieces, opt for tropical flowers or potted mini palm trees or embrace island kitsch and decorate tables with vintage hula dancer dashboard dolls. Turn a surfboard into a functional decoration by affixing photos or table assignments to it like a bulletin board. Or, turn a surfboard into an innovative guest book alternative by inviting guests to write their warm wishes for the couple directly onto the board with a permanent marker. If your wedding is outdoors, play up the tropical ambiance by ringing the space with tiki torches.

Food and beverages - One sip of a mai tai will transport attendees straight to the Aloha State. Guava and pineapple juice make for tasty nonalcoholic options. A pig roast will play up the luau feel of the reception, and pineapples, mangoes, papayas, and other tropical fruit can be incorporated into the menu. Coconut and Kona coffee flavors will also make guests feel like they're dining in a tropical paradise. For dessert, opt for pineapple upsidedown cake or white chocolate macadamia nut cake. Another option would be eschewing the cake in favor of a Hawaiian shave ice stand, where guests can enjoy an icy treat with their choice of tropical flavors.

Mexico

A festive fiesta with Mexican-inspired details will ensure that members of the wedding party and guests have a great time while celebrating the happy couple.

Decorations - Cheery fiesta decor will set the stage for the celebration. Beautiful picado tissue paper banners can be liberally strung around the reception space, and colorful folk art pieces can be incorporated into centerpieces. In honor of Mexico's strong tradition of observing Day of the Dead, couples may even consider honoring the dearly departed members of their families through a traditional Dia de los Muertos altar, complete with photos, flowers, and food offerings.

Food and beverages - The popular cuisine of Mexico provides couples with numerous options for wedding day fare. Set up a taco bar where guests can create their own tacos from a choice of beef, chicken, or beans, as well as a variety of toppings. Or hire a food truck that serves tacos and other Mexican-style food items to be on-site. For beverages, offer guests margaritas and Mexican brands of beer. Consider providing a dessert buffet offering tres leches cake, churros with chocolate sauce, and - of course - Mexican wedding cookies.

Entertainment - Couples can hire a real mariachi band to play at the reception. Guests will love dancing to mariachi standards, as well as a modern love song or two, performed mariachi-style. Piñatas make for another fun form of reception entertainment. Since piñatas are available in a variety of styles and colors, couples can go with classic shiny star-shaped orbs or find a piñata that showcases their love of a particular sport or animal. Allow the children in attendance to get the first whack before letting the adults join in the fun. The bride and groom can even give guests a mini piñata as a wedding favor.

Swiss Alps

Couples can play up the beauty of a winter wedding and give themselves and their guests a mountaintop experience by embracing a Swiss Alps theme.

Attire - To help the bride's and bridesmaids' dresses to stand up to the winter chill, top them with a faux fur or knit wraps. Stylish coats or sporty parkas will also keep wedding party members toasty and warm in chilly weather. If you'll be taking photos outdoors, outfit the members of your wedding party in matching scarves and mittens to ward off winter chills.

Decorations - Deck out your reception venue to look like a posh Alpine ski chalet by incorporating cozy, rustic elements. A fireplace with a crackling fire will set the ambiance, and vintage snow sports gear such as skis, snowshoes, toboggans, and ice skates can be used as decorations. Add a sense of warmth to the room by using woolen blankets instead of tablecloths or runners. Purchased or DIY snow globes featuring winter scenes make for charming centerpieces. Other decorative ideas include displaying a collection of Swiss cowbells or even an authentic alphorn.

Food and beverages - Whether as the main meal or an appetizer, you can't go wrong with classic cheese fondue. Consider offering the Berner platte (the Bernese platter), a regional specialty that consists of an assortment of meats and sausages, along with juniper-flavored sauerkraut, potatoes, and dried beans. A main course could be Alplermagronen, or "herdsman's macaroni," made from cheese, potatoes, onions, macaroni, and milk or cream. Help revelers stay cozy and warm by offering mulled wine and hot chocolate. Speaking of chocolate, the Swiss are known for theirs, so be sure to play up that ingredient when dessert time arrives by serving Swiss chocolate mousse in addition to an array of decadent pastries. A wedding favor that sends guests home with a few pieces of Swiss chocolate is also sure to be popular.

Japan

Borrowing from Japan's ancient traditions will create a truly lovely and elegant fête.

Attire - The bride and bridesmaids can incorporate the Japanese theme into pre-wedding preparations by donning kimono-style robes featuring bright, floral patterns while styling their hair and makeup. Kimono-style design elements and silk accents can be incorporated into the wedding attire, as well.

Decorations - Go heavy on the cherry blossoms, incorporating them into the bridal bouquets and reception centerpieces. Scores of paper cranes made with beautiful paper also make for charming decorations, whether sitting on tables or strung up and hung in garland form. Paper lanterns, Japanese-style fans, and oil-paper umbrellas can also be used as decorative elements, and miniature versions can make a unique and memorable wedding favor for guests.

Food and beverages - The traditional Japanese tea ceremony is highly revered in Japanese culture, so providing guests with a selection of teas (hot or iced) is a natural choice. So too is serving sushi, though be sure to include rolls featuring all-cooked ingredients or separate Japanese noodle dishes for guests with less adventurous palates. A Kobe beef dish is another option for those who dislike sushi. Other popular Japanese imports that can be served include sake cocktails and mochi, daifuku, and other sweets.

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Seasons of Love August 1, 2016

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

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

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

Spring

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

Rustic Chic/Garden Party

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summer

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

Nautical/Beach/Backyard Cookout

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

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

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

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

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

Autumn

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

Country Chic/Haute Harvest

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

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

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

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

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

Winter

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

Holiday/Winter Wonderland

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

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

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

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

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

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How Sweet: Cake-Cutting Etiquette August 1, 2016

The presentation of the wedding cake traditionally marks the culmination of the day's festivities and a final symbol of a happy couple's new partnership. Many people eagerly await the cake as much as they may anticipate catching a glimpse of the bride in her beautiful gown. While the cake in all its finery can be a beautiful sight to behold, a cake can only last so long before its fate as a delicious dessert is sealed.

As is the case with many wedding traditions, there is some established etiquette with regard to cutting and serving the wedding cake. Couples who plan on putting their cakes on display should be sure it is made with a frosting and filling that can endure room temperature. Certain creams may sour if not refrigerated and could cause guests to become ill. Couples who select perishable fillings should keep the cake refrigerated and then have the big reveal right before it is cut.

The cake cutting usually comes near the end of the wedding reception. The couple should schedule the cutting so that older guests or young children can leave without feeling as if they would be offending anyone. The master of ceremonies typically announces the cake cutting, and music may while the first slice is being cut.

Per tradition, the bride should hold the cake knife with her right hand, while the groom places his right hand over hers before they proceed to slice the cake together. If the cake has a foam or cardboard support, they should be careful not to cut through it. They should use a cake server to grab the first piece.

Traditionally, newlyweds feed each other a bite of the cake to symbolize their first meal as a couple. Many couples no longer embrace the once-popular tradition of smashing cake in each other's faces, but whether or not couples follow this tradition is up to them.

Some couples like to serve their parents a piece of cake. Following tradition, the bride should serve the groom's parents and the groom the bride's parents.

If there is a groom's cake, guests may prefer a slice of both cakes. Guests may also want to take home a slice of the groom's cake. Couples should make arrangements for proper packaging of the groom's cake so guests can take home a slice if they so desire.

The waitstaff typically handles the slicing of the cake. The uppermost tier is reserved for the couple to save for their one-year anniversary, and the remainder of the cake is served.

Couples should recognize that not all guests like cake, but it is better to err on the side of caution and have a cake that will feed all of the guests. The newlyweds also may want to consider offering a dessert bar for guests who prefer another type of sweet treat.

The cake-cutting ritual at weddings has withstood the test of time, and many couples still prefer to present the cake with fanfare and excitement.

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The Return Of The Groom's Cake July 28, 2016

Guests and well-wishers expect to see at least one cake at a wedding reception, but guests at upcoming weddings should not be surprised if they notice two cakes sharing the spotlight on the dessert table.

The second cake is likely a groom's cake, a tradition that has been making a comeback lately. These cakes have existed for generations but have fallen out of favor in many parts of North America since the 1970s.

A groom's cake traditionally represents something masculine, providing a contrast to the often feminine features - such as floral bouquets and frilly gowns - that dominate many weddings. Groom's cake designs often reflect a particular hobby or interest of the groom's.

Historically, groom's cakes are chocolate, a sharp contrast to traditional wedding cakes, which tend to be vanilla. Tradition once called for single women at the wedding to take home a slice of the groom's cake to place under their pillows when they went to sleep. It was believed the cake would help them have sweet dreams of the man they would eventually marry.

Women today are likely no longer snuggling up to fondant and mousse cake slices at night, and wedding cakes are no longer relegated to vanilla cake with vanilla icing, which may account for the waning popularity of groom's cakes. Yet with wedding cake bakers showing off their creative prowess on television or through their own artistic bakery displays, it is no wonder that couples looking for something unique are once again embracing the tradition of groom's cakes.

Couples who would like to serve a groom's cake may consider the following tips.

· Make it highly personal. Groom's cakes typically reference hobbies, affiliations or interests of the groom. Some men may want their cake to showcase the logo of their favorite professional sports team, while others may want a cake inspired by a favorite superhero.

· Involve the groom in the process. Despite the name, groom's cakes sometimes do not involve the groom; a cake may be designed or selected by the bride or the groom's mother. Some brides may want to encourage their grooms-to-be to select their own cakes and offer input on their designs.

· Find a bakery that has experience in whimsical cakes. Groom's cakes are often very intricate structures. The groom's cake may be more labor-intensive than the traditional wedding cake, so couples may want to shop around for a cake chef with the experience to pull off the design they desire.

· Experiment with flavor combinations. Because the groom's cake is all about that special guy, the flavor of the cake should be centered on what he would enjoy. The sky is the limit on flavors, which can include traditional chocolate, candy bar-inspired flavors, coffee, or coconut--or even a bacon-infused cake.

· Consider serving the groom's cake at the rehearsal. Some couples prefer to serve the groom's cake at the rehearsal dinner rather than having two cakes at the wedding. Guests may not have room for two slices of cake after a large wedding meal, so serving the groom's cake at the rehearsal dinner may be a good option.

The bride - and her cake - typically steal the show at the average wedding. Therefore, a groom's cake can be a special touch that allows the groom to bask in his own wedding-day spotlight.

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Nix Vendor Vexation January 5, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Color Inspiration: Neutral Territory October 15, 2013

Why Choose Beige, Gray, White, Ivory, and Black?

-A classic, timeless, sophisticated vibe

-Can be contemporary

-Certain neutrals, like black, tend to be flattering on many skin tones with many different hair colors

-Formal and elegant

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Color Inspiration: Perfect in Pink October 15, 2013

Why Choose Pink?

-Associated with love & nurturing

-A feminine, sweet, romantic vibe

-Bright hues can be sassy, bold

-Works well for spring and summer weddings

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Color Inspiration: Freshly Squeezed Citrus October 15, 2013

Why Choose Citrus Orange and Yellow?

-Bright hues offer contemporary appeal

-Playful, fresh, energetic, and joyful vibe

-Appropriate for garden or beach themes

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Color Inspiration: Hues of Blues October 15, 2013

Why Choose Blue?

-A cool, calm, and peaceful vibe

-Fitting for a number of themes, like nautical, beach, or winter

-Different hues of blue are appropriate for all four seasons

-Flattering on different skin tones and with different hair colors

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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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Traditional and Non-Traditional Ways to Celebrate August 28, 2013

Some couples want to celebrate their weddings in traditional fashion. Others want everything to be unique, new and exciting. Today's weddings are largely planned, financed and executed entirely by the couple getting married. Therefore, it is up to them how to celebrate their special day.

Here's a look at some of the traditional wedding elements and how they can be shaken up for a different spin.

Traditional: Father walks the bride down the aisle.

Alternative: A son, daughter, friend, or even both parents walk the bride down the aisle. She can also traverse the white carpet solo, if desired. Perhaps the groom meets the bride halfway, and they walk the rest of the aisle together.

Traditional: "The Wedding March (Here Comes the Bride)" plays when the bride enters.

Alternative: Any favorite classical or modern song is played when the bride enters, as long as it is approved by the venue where the ceremony is taking place.

Traditional: Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.

Alternative: Wear all new items or all antique items. Borrow all of your wedding day apparel -- it's the bride's choice.

Traditional: Mother-Son, Father-Daughter dances at the reception.

Alternative: Encourage everyone present to dance with a special member of their family so all eyes are not on the bride and groom, who may be self-conscious about dancing with their parents. These dances also can be skipped.

Traditional: Bouquet toss for the bride and garter toss for the groom.

Alternative: Toss beads or treats in the style of Mardi Gras to all of the guests, so it's not only about single men and women.

Traditional: A three-tiered wedding cake all in white.

Alternative: Choose cupcakes, a festively colored cake that matches the wedding theme or another desired dessert.

Traditional: Reception at a catering hall or hotel.

Alternative: Reception at an alternative site, such as an aquarium, zoo or museum.

Once a couple thinks about what is important at their wedding, they can cater the event toward their personal interests. Tradition can be followed or they can do something completely unique.

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A Wealth of Local Talent August 28, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Yum Factor: Wedding Cakes August 28, 2013

Beautiful, classic all-white cakes will never go out of style, but these days couples are having a lot of fun working with bakeries to design one-of-a-kind creations that not only reflect their personalities but taste good too! The flavors inside are also customizable - tier by tier.

Whether its spice cake and caramel for fall; mangoes, coconut, and passion fruit to reflect your tropical theme; or chocolate cake with chocolate ganache and chocolate butter cream icing just because you're that much of a chocoholic, you have the freedom to make your cake anything you want it to be.

What you should know

Depending on the bakery, you should order your cake four months to a year before your wedding.

Linda Cwynar, owner of Linda's Cakery in Mount Joy, books a maximum of three to four weddings per Saturday. Once she is booked for a particular date, she's no longer available, so she recommends six to eight months.

Pat O'Brien, wedding cake consultant for Shady Maple Farm Market in East Earl, suggests six months to a year, but they need a minimum of one month's notice.

Cathy Lewars, bakery manager and head decorator at Oregon Dairy Bake Shoppe, suggests four to six months before your wedding.

What you should bring

Our consultants all recommend bringing pictures from magazines and the Internet, color swatches of your wedding colors, and a copy of your invitation. "All of these items will help to personalize your cake and [help the designer] create a cake of your dreams," says Lewars.

"Some idea of shape - round, square, hexagon, or combination - [is also needed]," Cwynar suggests.

"Whether or not you're using a cake topper," says O'Brien, adding that couples should consider the time of year and what ingredients will work best for an outdoor wedding if that is what they have planned.

A sampling of flavors

Popular cakes at Shady Maple include Red Velvet Swirl with European raspberry filling, as well as orange blossom with orange-pineapple filling. Assorted mousse fillings and a rich Dutch fudge, as well as butter cream and rolled fondant icing, are also available.

At Linda's Cakery, the most popular cake is white with strawberry filling and white chocolate butter cream or pink champagne with strawberry whip or raspberry mousse. New flavors include those baked with wine. Her shop has recently developed a chocolate berry wine cake with cherry and ganache filling.

In addition to the traditional white cake, Oregon Dairy Bake Shoppe offers chocolate, marble, red velvet, red velvet marble, and yellow cake. Fillings range from chocolate silk, raspberry, and strawberry to peanut butter mousse, caramel apple, and French cream. To top off the cake, they offer traditional butter cream, chocolate butter cream, peanut butter, or fondant icing.

New, popular and unique

"Cupcakes, cupcakes, and more cupcakes!" says Lewars in response to recent trends. In cakes, "Topsy Turvy" creations are among the more unique cakes offered at Oregon Dairy. Lewars gets inspiration for designs from the Internet, wedding books, and magazines, but mostly from the brides. "They usually know what they want, so we work very hard to bring their ideas to life and create their dream wedding cake. Our cakes do not leave our store unless we are 100% satisfied with the product."

O'Brien agrees that cupcakes are not just for children, but for weddings too. Shady Maple is also doing more 3-D-shaped cakes. "Just about anything can be used as inspiration for a cake - from a hobby to a favorite toy to a wedding dress," she added. "We take into consideration individual style as well as [your] budget." O'Brien's personal favorite - a groom's cake shaped like an X-Box controller.

Cwynar notes that damask designs and printing on icing sheets that matches the invitation are among newer design elements. "There is no limit as to design; make it something that reflects you personally," she says. She gets her inspiration from attending wedding competitions and national conventions, as well as taking classes and watching demos. In April of 2011, she made a hand-painted cake with a bride and groom frog as a topper. She also created a Mad Hatter Halloween cake for one bride, and that cake placed in the top 10 in a competition in Maryland.

A myriad of bakeries offering countless options in style and flavor are available to couples in Central Pennsylvania. Cwynar offers one last piece of advice: Cakes have to taste as good as they look.

Special thanks to:

Linda's Cakery

2050 Harrisburg Ave.

Mount Joy, PA 17552

717-367-8372

www.lindascakery.com

Oregon Dairy Bake Shoppe

2900 Oregon Pike

Lititz, PA 17543

717-656-2856

www.oregondairy.com

weddingcakes@oregondairy.com

Shady Maple Farm Market

1324 Main St.

East Earl, PA 17519

800-238-7363, ext. 642

www.shady-maple.com

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Classic & Creative: August 23, 2013

A tiered wedding cake is often a fitting conclusion to a wedding reception. In recent years, wedding cakes have become more of an artistic centerpiece, rather than just a confectionary treat. Some couples seek out renowned wedding cake bakers for a cake that will amaze the crowd, complete the theme of their wedding, and offer a unique representation of their persona as a couple.

If television trends are any indication, many people are opting to spend several hundred to thousands of dollars on a customized wedding cake. Indeed, the average couple will spend between $600 to $800 for their wedding cake. Although some catering halls or reception sites will include the cake in a package deal, many couples choose to order their cake from a specialty bakery.

"When a bride is asking questions early on...and wants to know, 'What should I expect to pay for my wedding cake?,' a very accurate answer is, you should expect to pay for your wedding cake about the same price (per person as) you would pay for a dessert at a fine dining restaurant," said Naomi Byers of Byers Butterflake Bakery in Leola. "Through the years, this (has been) very accurate. Today, a good dessert is between $5 to $7 per dessert," she said, adding, "This gives you a great idea when planning how many people you're serving."

When deciding on the type of cake, it's no longer necessary to stick with a simple white cake with buttercream frosting. Think about exploring other flavor and filling combinations that will tempt the guests' taste buds. For those who can't settle on just one flavor, how about having a different flavor for each layer?

Couples getting married in the fall may want to think about a spice cake that evokes the feelings of sipping a mug of spiced cider. Cream cheese frosting is often a pairing with spice cake, or think about a layer of caramel that will make it taste like you're enjoying a candied Halloween apple.

A hummingbird cake may fit the bill for a spring wedding. This is made with mashed bananas, pineapples and chopped pecans. This cake is perfect when paired with cream cheese frosting.

Yellow or white cake are universal favorites for weddings. Some pizzazz can be added through the use of creative fillings. Consider something citrusy and summery for a summer wedding. Raspberry preserves or lemon curd are tart and sweet. For a tropical flair, mangoes or passion fruit can be mixed with touches of coconut.

A winter wedding can be accented with rich flavors, like a decadent chocolate cake filled with chocolate ganache and black cherries in a black forest style. Those toasting to the good life may want an almond cake enhanced with some fine liqueur and simple chocolate buttercream.

Couples should sit down with their baker and sample a number of flavor combinations to determine a recipe that works for them.

Pastry companies also may be able to develop a cake that encompasses a couple's favorite flavors or symbolizes a special moment in their lives. A Boston Cream Pie-inspired cake may liven up the wedding of a couple who became engaged in Boston. Maybe a cannoli cream-filled cake will usher in memories of a trip to Italy. Kids at heart can enjoy candy confection cakes filled with gooey chocolate, nuts and marshmallows.

Don't forget about decorative elements. Wedding cakes today can be covered in icing flowers of any hue, patterned to look like lace or draped fabric, or even painted with pictures or scenes. Often, the type of icing chosen, such as buttercream, royal or gum paste, will determine what elements the baker can employ. It all depends on the consistency and durability of the type of icing.

According to Linda Cwynar of Linda's Cakery in Mount Joy, buttercream typically limits the decorator to various flowers and leaves, applied with an icing decorating bag. Hard royal icing, which is made of meringue, sugar and water, is also applied with an icing bag and can be used to create flowers and other decorations or patterns. Gum paste, however, is the most versatile type of icing and allows decorators the opportunity to be extra creative.

"Gum paste is a mixture of gum and fondant to make it pliable, so we can handshape (elements) into realistic flowers or anything else we can come up with," said Cwynar. "By using gum paste, it gives us the ability to shape things, and it will hold its shape and be totally edible."

Just remember, cakes, elaborate in nature or otherwise, typically need to be ordered several months in advance. Keep in mind that some bakeries may offer discounts if payment is submitted ahead of schedule.

"(We offer) a 10 percent discount when your tier cake is paid in full at least 2 weeks prior to your delivery/pickup date," said Sharon R. Redcay, executive vice president of Achenbach's Pastry in Leola.

Whatever the type of cake you finally decide on, choose a presentation and flavor combination that fits both your ceremony and your preferences. You may even consider displaying the cake as a centerpiece on a table with seating cards, so that your guests can enjoy the culinary masterpiece all evening.

Special thanks to:

Achenbach's Pastry Inc., 375 E. Main St. Leola, PA 17540; 717-656-6671; www.achenbachs.com

Byers Butterflake Bakery, 44 W. Main St. Leola, PA 17540; 717-656-6803; www.byersbakery.com

Linda's Cakery, 2050 Harrisburg Ave. Mount Joy, PA 17552; 717-367-8372; www.lindascakery.com

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