Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Budget Crunch: Cake Cost-Cutting Ideas

Wedding cakes are one of the first places brides should look to cut their budget, yet many fall into the wedding industry trap of priced-per-piece wedding cake slices and exaggerated wedding baker-egos.

Think about it, ladies.

It is cake.

Yes, it is an important cake, arguably one of the most important desserts you will serve in your life. (Feel the stress? I know I do!) But in the end it is just that … . Cake.

I served individual wedding cakes for each of my guests and had a large(r) three-tiered cake to cut and still spent hundreds less than my bride-to-be buddies.

How?

I’ll tell you.

Here are six ways you can save money on your wedding cake.


1. Shop Around
This may seem like common sense, but you would be surprised at how many brides find a bakery that has a picture of a cake they like and instantly book them. Any bakery can make any cake, girls, so the idea is to choose a cake you like-not a bakery-and work from there.

2. Compare Prices
Ask the bakery how much they charge and tell them you are shopping around. If you had a lower quote from someone else-tell them. See what they can throw in to make up the difference or ask if they will meet the price from a rival bakery. Be sure you are comparing apples and apples here, though. Many bakeries include the price of transportation, set-up and even cake stands in their price. Others don’t. Make sure you have all of the information before you book.

3. Use an Unknown Baker
Not all wedding cakes have to be produced in a well-known bakery. In each area there are people who make their living baking wedding cakes at home. Previous brides know who they are, can make recommendations and can tell you if their cake is any good. Call the bakers, have a tete-a-tete, ask for recommendations if you haven’t secured one and ask to try their cake. Most of the “freelance” bakers I met offered to make me a small cake so I could test their skills before I committed.

4. Get Away From the Wedding-Craze
This is the biggest rip-off the wedding industry has come up with, yet we are all “bound” by it. Or are we? If you are a gutsy bride, call the bakery and ask for a quote for a cake that will serve around X people and don’t tell them it is a wedding cake. If you decide to book them for your wedding-and they try to raise the price-call them on it. Ask them why it is more expensive and challenge their motivations. I read about a bride who did this with her limousine company and saved $1,000 off of her total bill.


5. Get Around That Priced-Per-Slice-of-Cake Nonsense
After the “wedding craze” hype, the paying-per-slice-of-cake thing is my second biggest pet peeve with the wedding cake industry. I know you are worried you will have cake-deprived guests if you under-estimate your numbers … but you won’t. If you expect 100 guests, tell the bakery you need a cake that serves 90. Most cakes aren’t designed for an exact number of guests anyway, so the bakery will round up … you just want them to round down.

6. Flavors, Fillings and Decorations
Ask your baker about the added cost of having a variety of flavors and fillings. Some fillings cost much less than others and unless you are set on having fresh fruit-one of the more expensive options-then choose something else. Your guests won’t know the difference … but your bottom line will.

Rethink extensive handmade decorations. These will add labor time and your baker will be, oh-too-happy to bill you for those hours. Instead, choose a cake that has decorations you can purchase, such as ribbons, bows or in my case ... beads.

Have you chosen a wedding cake and baker? How did you choose someone? What questions did you ask?

Photos courtesy of Shutter Ferret and Mandott

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Four Reasons Why You Need a Wedding Program

How many times have you been to an event that dragged on … and on … and on? You didn’t know what to expect, you didn’t know who was who and worst of all, you didn’t know when it was going to end.

You don’t want to put your wedding guests through that, now do you?

Of course you don’t.

That, my friends, is why you need a wedding program.

I know budget-conscience brides might have hoped to cut this corner and save a little cash by not buying wedding programs. It is ok … I get that. But I’m going to let you in on two little secrets. 1) They don’t have to cost you a fortune and 2) you need one. You really do.

Let’s tackle that second secret first.

Here are four reasons you need a wedding ceremony program.


1. Your guests will know what to expect
As I said earlier, there is nothing less fun than sitting through a ceremony and not knowing the main characters, the first act or the last scene. Your program guides your guests through your ceremony and lets them know what to expect.

This is especially important if you are having any cultural or religious customs that everyone might not know. If you are having a Catholic wedding, include prayers and directions on when to stand, sit or kneel. Your non-Catholic friends will thank you.

2. Honor your attendants
This is yet another way to show your wedding attendants how much you appreciate them. Include their names, and if possible how you know them. It will be a sentimental message for them and a fun way for your guests to get to know your best friends.

Also, be sure to include the names of family members and friends who are singing or doing readings, as well as a thank you to all of your guests for attending your wedding.

3. Be creative and tie in the theme
Your wedding program is another place where you can showcase your creativity, highlight your wedding theme and offer continuity to your wedding day style. I used the same papers, ribbons, fonts and stamps on my ceremony programs, menu cards, table numbers and chair cards. (Ok, maybe I went overboard, but I made a card to hang on the back of each chair with an Italian-language wedding proverb or wish ... I know, I know. Obsessive!)

4. Create a long-lasting souvenir
Wedding programs last much longer than stale cake and are easier to conserve than many wedding favors, making them an ideal souvenir from your wedding day. Be sure to set some aside for you, your family members and attendants who might not get one at the wedding. They are also great to show your out-of-town relatives who couldn’t attend the ceremony.


As for special secret #1 regarding programs not busting your budget? Don’t worry. The Internet is full of sites where you can easily create programs, then you add your own theme and color-coordinated embellishments and … voila! Your programs are complete.

Did you make your own wedding programs or did you order them pre-made? Why did you make that choice? Are you happy with them?

Photos courtesy of Lana Stewart and
dydcheung

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Destination Wedding: Dos and Don’ts

With the cost of traditional weddings reaching the $25,000 mark, more couples are opting to head out of town and tie the knot in the romantic destination they’ve always dreamed of visiting. And I don’t blame them. There are a ton of reasons to move your wedding outside of your city limits and get married among the exotic backdrop of lush rain forests and azure waters.

Just be sure you know what you are getting yourself into, read the web for enlightening tips and destination wedding details.

To get you started, here are seven destination wedding dos and don’ts.



Dos

- Do ... try to get all of your most special people on board.
Even though I adamantly proclaim that major wedding decisions should be made by the bride and groom, it is important that the couple’s most cherished family members and friends are considered when planning a destination wedding. If a bride would love to get married in Maui, but doesn’t think her 85-year-old grandmother can make the trip, then she has to choose her priority. Likewise, if the groom can’t imagine getting married without his younger brother-who just lost his job and is feeling the financial crunch-then he should be cautious of asking his brother to travel to Europe for his nuptials. Remember, it *is* your wedding day, but you will likely be happier in the end if you have your closest family and friends near you.

- Do ... think of your guests
Be sure to book hotel blocks-with discounts!-for your guests and plan some events for them during the weekend. There will be more information on planning these add-on events in the coming weeks, so stay tuned here for more information and creative ideas.

- Do ... know the legalities before you go too far
Ever dreamed of getting married in front of the Eiffel Tower? Well … good luck with that. It is almost impossible for non-French folks to tie the knot in France. England requires a seven-day residency before getting a marriage certificate and Mexico requires local chest x-rays and blood work. Be sure you know the legal nitty-gritty before you get too deep into your planning and run the risk of a last-minute wedding mishap.

- Do ... consider hiring a wedding planner
Although my wedding planning pals would attack me for this, I normally recommend cutting your budget by not hiring a wedding planner. However, destination weddings are a whole new game. A good wedding planner can be worth her weight in wedding cake so consider hiring a planner to help with at least some of your wedding planning duties.


Don’ts

- Don't ... expect everyone to attend your wedding
Even the most affordable destinations can be a financial inconvenience on your guests. Realize that everyone can’t afford airfare, hotel or extra meals out and be a gracious, understanding bride when someone declines.

- Don't ... wait until the last minute to tell your guests
Save –the-dates are becoming increasingly popular in the United States for traditional weddings, but should always-always!-be sent for a destination wedding. If you can’t afford to mail expensive save-the-date cards, then send an e-card save-the-date. The idea is to make sure all of your guests know they are invited to your out-of-town shindig in plenty of time to make arrangements.

- Don't ... forget to dress for the occasion
If you are getting married on the soft white sands of the Mediterranean, rethink those 3-inch heels. Be sure to ask your wedding planner or resort coordinator if there are any other limitations you need to know of as you select your dress, shoes and other attire for your groom and wedding party.

Did you have a destination wedding? Do you have any other dos and don’ts to share?

Photos courtesy of mark sebastian and gewel maker

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Three Fresh Alternatives to the Bouquet Toss

How many weddings have you attended where the bride corralled all of her single friends to the dance floor, lined them up like paper dolls and watched as they scrambled madly for a bunch of overpriced flowers that-if they survived this masquerade-would no doubt be dead within the week?

Was that fun for you?


If so, feel free to ignore the rest of this post, but if you are like me and you didn’t enjoy taking out the groom’s six-year-old niece or having that 19-year-old wrestling champ stomp her stiletto into your freshly pedicured toes, then consider one of these three alternatives to the bouquet toss. Your friends will maintain their dignity and you’ll look like the thoughtful, trend-setting bride you know you are!

1. Anniversary Bouquet

I knew I didn’t want a traditional bouquet toss when I got married, but I still wanted to do something with those flowers, so I incorporated the wedding bouquet with the Anniversary Dance.

The Anniversary Dance is when the DJ or band leader invites all married couples to the dance floor. After a few beats, they announce for everyone who has been married less than an hour to step off of the dance floor … (that is you!). He continues to increase the time until there is only one couple left on the floor.

My maternal grandparents “won” my anniversary dance and my grandmother was thrilled when I presented her with my wedding bouquet. In fact, she doesn’t like to show emotions … but a tear or two nearly escaped … nearly I saw them.


2. Wedding Bouquet Presentation

If you don’t want to have an Anniversary Dance, you can present your wedding bouquet to a special attendant during a short toast or presentation.

Consider giving your bouquet to your mother, grandmother, sister, mother-in-law or special aunt. If you have more than one person you want to recognize, consider having a pull-apart bouquet that you can easily divide among them.

3. Break-Away Bouquet

This idea almost-almost!-won me back over to flower-flinging. Here is how it works.

Instead of having a bouquet that is all nicely tied together, ask your florist to prepare a “break away” bouquet. This is essentially several small bouquets that are lightly tied together to resemble one bridal bouquet. Before the toss, the bride ensures each mini bouquet is separated but continues to hold the bouquet in one hand. When she tosses the flowers, the individual bouquets break away from each other so more than one person can catch the flowers.

If you do this during your wedding reception, you will still have to call your single friends out and some of them will still walk away empty handed. Instead, have a quick get-together with your wedding attendants either post-photo or pre-reception and toss the bouquet to them.

Imagine their surprise when you toss a bouquet that everyone catches. Ask your florist to tie a special note to each bouquet thanking your attendants for their participation in your day, so they will walk away with a bit of your bouquet and a special thank-you note.

I know it will be hard-since you tell your attendants everything-but keep this idea a secret. The surprise will be worth it.

For more alternative ideas to the bouquet toss, read this article by Amber Dusick, author of Do-It-Yourself Weddings Blog.

Are you throwing your bouquet or using an alternative to the toss? Please share in the comments.

Photos courtesy of sotursiops and hbm

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Love Birds and Songbirds: How to Have Fun with Your Wedding Day Music

Have you ever been to what you expected would be a really great party? On the surface everything seemed in place. The food was good. The host was generous. The crowd mingled well. But something was missing. You weren’t sure what it was … but something wasn’t “right.”

If this has ever happened to you, chances are your hosts forgot one little detail that could have transformed their party from drab to fab.

Music!


That is right. Music sets the scene for any great event, from a child’s birthday party to your grandfather’s retirement bash and everything in between … including your wedding.

The Internet is full of websites offering suggestions for Wedding Ceremony and Wedding Reception music. Here are some of my favorites.

Our Wedding Songs
Our Wedding Songs lists 16 categories of wedding day songs, from ceremony interlude and unity candle song, to first dance and garter toss. Some of my favorites from their lists include "Another One Bites the Dust," by Queen for the bouquet toss, "How Sweet it Is," by James Taylor for the cake cutting and "Wonderful Tonight," by Eric Clapton for the last dance.

Wedding Music Central

Wedding Music Central lists dozens of articles and descriptive lists to help you get started planning your wedding music-or you can hire them to create your music lists for you. You can even sign up to receive a free newsletter-and a 10% discount-from their site.

Some of the best advice they offer is “what to play and when.” It can be daunting to try and decipher all of your musical needs. Read the full article for tips and ideas on how to best proceed but some of my favorite tips are to include:

- a specially-chosen song to play during your receiving line
- a family dance song just after the “first dance”
- a special song dedicated to stepparents

Wedding Wire
Wedding Wire lists a dozen categories of songs, including my favorite category, “Anniversary Songs.” The website offers a forum, as well as a place where brides can save songs, upload guest lists and seating charts and build a wedding website ... and the best part? It is all F.R.E.E.

Wed Alert
Wed Alert features over 1,200 songs broken down into dozens of categories and sub-categories, such as Style of Music (jazz, contemporary, country, big band, etc.), Ethnic Varieties (Italian, Jewish, Irish, etc.) and Group Dance specialty songs.

I am a firm believer that music sets the tone for your event and keeps the party moving. Since I was married in a Catholic church, my ceremony music options were limited but I still chose to have fun with the music.

Since my husband is 100% Italian-from the Bel Paese-we hired an opera singer to sing "Ave Maria" in Italian for our processional. We also had a long-time family friend and church member sing a communion song he had written with a fellow congregant called “Love is More.”

We had a keyboard player pounding live jazz music throughout the cocktail reception and guests entered the main dining area to Dean Martin’s “That’s Amore.”

The Bridal Party was introduced to the Right Said Fred tune, “I’m Too Sexy,” and we cut the cake to The Archies’, “Sugar, Sugar.”

I even had a special dedication before the Anniversary Dance to my mother, Jeanie where all married couples danced to Elton John’s, “Little Jeannie.”

To kick the party off, we did the Italian-version of the Chicken Dance and had the Italians teach the Americans the Tarantella.

Choosing the music was one of the most satisfying aspects of planning my wedding and I was excited each time I found a song with a new hidden meaning. So get out there and start planning your wedding music-you’ll have the time of your life!

Have you chosen your wedding music yet? What did you choose? Why?

Photo courtesy of azzaroni

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Four Steps to Creating Do-it-Yourself Wedding Invitations

In these tremulous economic times budget-wary brides are looking for ways to cut costs, pinch pennies and maximize purchases. And it isn’t easy. Prices are escalating, but you likely haven’t seen a pay increase or yearly bonus for quite some time. Let’s face it-life isn’t fair. It isn’t fair your dream wedding will fall in the midst of one of the most challenging economic times our country has faced in recent history.

So what can you do about it?

You know you deserve the wedding of a lifetime and you are your groom aren’t willing to sacrifice class for cash … right?

Well the solution to your wedding budget woes is in creatively planning and designing some key pieces that you can easily and inexpensively produce at home.

Wedding invitations are some of the easiest elements brides and grooms try to create at home. A quick online search will reveal unique, one-of-a-kind invitations that guarantee to announce your impending marriage with flair.

But they come at a price.

Designer invitations run as much as much as $5 each. If you plan to mail 100 invites, your invitation bill alone will hit the $500 mark and that doesn’t include envelopes, thank you cards or other necessary stationery, such as reply cards or maps.


I know what you are thinking … homemade wedding invitations? Hmmm … I don’t think so. But bear with me for a second. I’m not talking about an arts and crafts project your 10-year-old cousin could do in grade school. I’m talking about classy wedding invitations that look like they cost you a fortune.

Interested?


Here’s the deal.

Step 1:

Peruse invitation books, catalogs and websites and find invitations that appeal to your sense of wedding style.

Make a note about what you like about each invitation and search for similarities among the invitations. For example, do you like invitations that are tied with a small ribbon or bow? Do you like invitations that feature a photo of the bride and groom? Do you feel yourself drawn to bold, contemporary colors or do you prefer romantic scenes and scripts?

Step 2:

Look for Do-it-Yourself options.

Many websites allow couples to choose an invitation or color combination, upload text and photos (if they choose to use a photo) and alter the font type and size. I suggest you play around with various sites and invitation styles until you are satisfied with the result.

Keep in mind that you can order basic invitations, then add ribbons, charms or stamps you purchase at your local crafts store.

Step 3:

If possible, order a sample card.

It doesn’t have to be a personalized sample. By looking at the manufacturer's sample, you will get a good idea of what your invitation will look like and can play with various ribbons, charms or bow combinations and can try different stamps and colors.

Step 4:

Order your invitations and put them together yourself.

Many expensive invitations feature intimate details that make them stand out from the crowd. Don’t be afraid of spending a few hours … or days ... or weeks working on your invitations in order to make them special.

Have you ordered your wedding invitations yet? Would you ever create DIY wedding invitations at home? Why or why not?

Photos courtesy of zakwitnij and aus_chick

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Why Wedding Reception Venue is Everything

I know many a bride who accepts her glimmering rock of commitment, proudly prances through the next few months unfazed by her decisions and more or less lets the question of wedding reception venue answer itself. For one reason or another-which will forever be unknown to me-she looks at a few venues, accepts the answers the salespeople offer her and books a venue without doing all of her homework.

I personally believe wedding reception venue is everything and I think it is a matter many brides take too lightly. Think I am overly dramatic? Think again. Here are four reasons why wedding reception venue just might be the most important decision you make as a betrothed couple.


1. Location
Ok. Maybe this is a gimme, but the geographical location of your venue and its relative proximity to your guests is vital. You may have met your future husband at that glamorous resort four hours from your home, but if you honestly don't think your family members and friends can or will make the trip you might want to reconsider it as a possible venue … unless you want to plan a destination wedding and we’ll talk about that some other time.

2. Size
When I was engaged my mother and I visited a stunning banquet room that overlooked one of the trendiest areas in town. The entrance was elegant, the cocktail hour location was fun and exotic, the ceiling-to-floor glass windows offered the perfect atmosphere for the chic wedding I’d dreamed of for years.

The size of the room? Well, not so much. While the contact person told me the room would hold 200 people, my wedding planning instincts told me otherwise. Upon asking for further clarification, she told me that the room would indeed hold up to 200 people, but not if I wanted them all to have a seat and not if I wanted a live band and dance floor. It was hard for me to say no to this almost perfect venue, but since I had a good idea of my overall reception location needs, I realized this particular venue was not for me.



3. Atmosphere
In might be difficult-especially in small towns or rural areas where they don’t often cater to large, extravagant affairs-to find a venue that offers both size and atmosphere. I know. I grew up in a town like this.

In fact, most of the wedding receptions I attended growing up were held in a church banquet hall or similarly-styled room. The benefit to a large, essentially empty banquet room is that you have a clean slate on which to create your ideal wedding backdrop. The downside to this, however, is the sheer volume of materials, lights, decorations and manpower you will need to make the transformation. Keep all of these things in mind when you choose your venue and know that you might need to buy or rent an enormous amount of fabric, tables, chairs, tablecloths, chair covers, lights, greenery and other theme-related decorations to create the atmosphere you want.

4. Perks
Many people were amazed when I told them that the hotel banquet room I booked for my wedding actually cost much less than the traditional “events hall” a colleague had booked the year before. Although I was committed to using the hotel’s caterers, a side-by-side comparison of the two venues showed a bottom-line savings of close to $2,000. The reason? The perks.

Many venues include the use of flatware, dishes, glasses, serving platters, tablecloths, napkins and even chargers and candles in the cost of their rental. Others don’t. It is important to know what your money is buying before blindly assuming that a lesser-attractive hall is cheaper than a hotel banquet room or villa. Other perks can include guest parking or valet services, wait staff, dance floors or use of greenery and tapestry.

Have you booked your wedding reception venue yet? What were some of the most important things you looked for when making your decision?

Photos courtesy of Mikol_Ice and Sparlingo

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Snip, Trim and Cut: Four Tips to Help You Narrow Your Guest List

Think every guest doesn’t add to your budget’s bottom line? Think again. Each guest you invite means you have to pay for one more invitation, one more reply card and envelope, one more stamp, one, possibly two more dinners with drinks, one, possibly two more favors, additional table room, additional chairs or chair covers, additional cake … need I go on?

Unless you don’t plan for seating and feeding every guest, you will likely be concerned with how many people you invite, and thus … have to cut. American Greetings lists helpful steps for creating your guest list and here are four tips to help you snip, trim and cut that list once you have.

1. The Long-lost Friend Invite
If you haven’t seen someone in more than three years, consider giving them the axe. You might have been the dearest of friends in grade school, but you won’t have an opportunity to visit with them during your wedding anyway. If it is someone you feel you should invite, then call them and ask them to meet you for lunch or dinner. If you still feel a kindred friendship with them after you meet up again, then invite them. Otherwise … snip, snip, snip.

2. The Office Party Invite
Unless you socialize outside of work with your colleagues, consider slashing their names right off the top of your list. I know it can be a touchy subject, especially when they bring it up or ask you about your wedding plans at work. Tell them as soon as possible that you and your fiancé have agreed to have a small wedding and that neither of you will be able to invite friends from work. They might be hurt initially, especially if they feel close to you, but they will appreciate your honesty and will still be anxious to talk about your wedding at the water cooler!

3. The Mother-of-the-Groom’s Third-Cousin Invite
Although many wedding experts advise you to cut your wedding guest list into thirds (one-third for your family, one-third for your fiancĂ©’s family and one-third for you as a couple), I disagree. I was happy to read recently that I was not alone.

Remember, this is your wedding. Your parents invited who they wanted to attend their wedding didn’t they? Well, ok, don’t tell them I said it like that, but do keep in mind that you want your closest friends and family members with you … not your mother’s former co-worker or your groom’s dad’s golfing buddy.

4. The Plus-1 Invite
Contrary to what many bride-to-be’s believe, you do not have to invite a guest for your single friends. When I got married, I only invited married friends, engaged friends, or long-term boyfriends/girlfriends. I made an exception for guests who had to travel out of state to attend my wedding (no one wants to fly on an airplane or drive a long distance and sleep in a hotel room alone!) and for single guests who would not know anyone else there.

Other people suggest not inviting children and cutting out all relatives past a pre-set “distance.” The important thing to remember is for you and your future spouse to be on the same page and to cut guests accordingly. They say what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger … the same goes for planning your wedding. Be fair. Be consistent. And get to snipping!

Did you have to cut guests from your guest list? If so, how did you do it? How did you deal with family members who might not have agreed with you?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Budget Crunch: Save Money with an (almost) Hometown Honeymoon

I know this may come as a surprise to you ... but weddings are expensive! I know … you are shocked, right? As you may already be noticing, everything costs more than you thought it would and unexpected expenses seem to be waiting around every corner.

Bummer … I know.

Now, on top of the thousands you have to spend on flowers, photography and food, you have to choose a place you and your sweetie can go and celebrate your union. An Italian vacation may be out of the question, but you want to do more than get hitched and head to the local Super 8 ... right? You and your new spouse have worked hard in the days and weeks (and possibly months or years) leading up to your marriage and gosh, darn it – you deserve a honeymoon.

Well, here are four tips for how you can save money with an (almost) hometown honeymoon.

1. Do you live in a naturally beautiful or fun and touristy destination? If so, you can save travel money by heading over to that upscale resort across town or by staying in one of the famous boutique hotels you have always wanted to visit. Airfare is often one of the priciest components of a honeymoon, so if you can drive to your destination, you’ll save a bundle.

2. Do you have a family member or friend who has a breathtaking beach cabin, lake house or mountain retreat? If so, ask them if you can spend your honeymoon at their place. In addition to expensive airline prices, hotels are another major chunk of honeymoon change. If you can get your hotel either free or discounted, you will have more money for other wedding or honeymoon-related expenses.

3. So, your hometown kinda stinks and you don’t have any rich friends? Don’t worry, you can still have a great honeymoon without busting the bank … just look a little outside of town. I am from a small town in southeast Texas and San Antonio, one of the country’s most charming cities, is just a four-hour drive away. En route to San Antonio, you will pass through Gruene, Austin and San Marcos … all other great honeymoon destinations that I could have easily overlooked.

If you need some help choosing a location that is (almost) in your hometown, call your chamber of commerce or visit your state’s tourism website. You will be surprised to see how many interesting things have been waiting in your backyard.

4. When all else fails and you can’t find a fun hometown resort, free hotel or easily-accessible city or town, then bring the romance to you. Ask your friends to help you transform your house or apartment into a five-star hotel. Line your bathroom with candles, buy romantic flowers and stock your refrigerator with champagne. Turn off your phones, remove your computers and unplug yourselves from the world around you … if only for a weekend.

Have you chosen a honeymoon location? Where do you plan to go? Why did you choose that destination?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Three Wedding Themes You Might Not Have Considered

We’ve discussed how knowing your wedding style can make or break your Big Day but brides who choose and adhere to a specific theme can transform their wedding day.

There is no shortage of fun wedding themes on the Internet. Favor Ideas lists 11 themes that can help you save money, Your Wedding Company lists 30 fun ideas and WedThemes.Com lists wedding themes they claim “suit many tastes.” All great ideas. But here are three more wedding themes you might not have ever considered.

1. First Love Wedding
Nothing compares to the innocence of a first love, so bring back the days of puppy love and paper Valentines with a First Love themed-wedding. Complete with bright, bold primary colors, this theme reminds wedding guests of grade school crushes and of the unending promise of first love.

Invitations
Choose invitations with the image of a young couple, such as Precious Moments stationery line. These invites are the epitome of innocence and are guaranteed to set the tone of your first love themed wedding. Model the reply card after a traditional children’s love note. (For example, “We hope you can come. Can you? Yes, No, Maybe.”)

Cakes
Instead of traditional wedding cake, serve brightly colored cupcakes.

Decorations
Think of over-sized crayons, hearts and a teacher’s blackboard.

Attire
Dress your attendants in brightly colored knee-length dresses that reflect the fun and innocence of your theme.

2. New Year’s Eve Party (any night of the year!)
Any night can be New Year’s Eve as long as there is fun, friendship and fireworks – oh, and champagne! Ring in your wedding night by inviting your family and friends to celebrate your wedding New Year’s Eve style.

Invitations
Choose invitations that evoke the lively celebration your guests can expect at your wedding. Consider including a champagne glass and bubbles and telling them that you will celebrate New Year’s Eve a little early this year. Make sure your wedding date is listed prominently on your invite. You don’t want invitation-skimming guests to miss the Big Day or show up on December 31.

Food and Drink
Your options here are limitless. Have a full sit-down dinner with several courses, host an all-night buffet or serve heavy appetizers for dinner, followed with a breakfast buffet post-midnight. Whichever food option you choose be sure to have plenty of cocktails and champagne to go around.

Extras
- Have a party hat for each guest.
- Drop confetti at midnight and play “Auld Lang Syn.”
- Ask your maid of honor and best man to give a brief toast just before midnight.
- Countdown to midnight and pop open another bottle of champagne.

3. Murder Mystery Romance
Surprise your friends with a Murder Mystery party turned wedding celebration. Imagine their surprise when they arrive for your “party” and get to see you and your future spouse tie the knot.

Invitations
Choose invitations that reflect the theme of your murder mystery story.

Food and Drink
About halfway through the murder mystery, invite your friends and family members to dinner. You can either choose to serve something that reflects the murder mystery theme or serve items from your favorite dinner menu.

Attire
Dress your attendants in character costumes and ask them to play important parts in the murder mystery show.

Extras
Give your guests a wedding favor that either echoes the murder mystery theme or choose “detective-type” gifts such as a magnifying glass. Have fun with this!

Are you having a wedding theme? What is it? What is your favorite wedding theme?

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Personalized Thank You Gifts Your Attendants Will Thank You For

I think it is safe to say I am a big proponent of pampering your attendants. From Day One when you pop the question and throughout the weeks and months leading up to the Big Day, you should show your bridesmaids and ushers how grateful you are for their services.

I know money is tight and you can't treat your attendants to free lunches or dinners or possibly even drinks when they are helping you plan your wedding. They know that and they don't expect you to foot the bill each time they are with you. However, sending them cards-even ecards-is a great way to boost their motivation and let them know you appreciate them. The last thing you want is an attendant who feels overworked and under-appreciated helping you at your wedding.

Most brides know they should give their attendants a thank you gift following the wedding. Some brides choose a one-size fits-all approach and buy like-minded gifts for each person. Other brides select individual gifts based on each attendant's personality.

I don't think one way is better than the other in regards to how to buy gifts but one thing is certain ... show your attendants your appreciation and do it with a thoughtful gift that will reflect your friendship.

You've probably heard successful business people say that everyone loves to hear his or her name aloud. That is why professional salespeople often repeat your name several times throughout a conversation ... research shows it works.

Well it also works with your friends. And what better way to say thank you for all of their hard work and dedication than with a personalized thank you gift?

The selection of personalized photo gifts available at Photoworks.com ensures even the most discerning bride can find something for everyone on her list. From mugs to canvas prints to woven throws your wedding attendants are sure to love whichever gift you choose.

Here are four of my favorite personalized photo gifts for under $30 each that I would have loved to receive when I was a bridesmaid.

* Personalized Photo Journal, from $14.95

Find a flattering picture of you and your attendant goofing off, hanging out or participating in a shared-interest activity (like playing tennis or drinking coffee) and splash it across the cover of their personalized journal. You can also create a jpeg version of a thank you note to include in the bottom section.

* Photo Coasters, from $24.95

For this gift idea, consider waiting until after the wedding and choosing a photo of the two of you together in your Wedding Day attire. They will be a fun conversation piece and a sentimental reminder of your special day.

* Photo Keepsake Box, from $29.95

Depending on how long you and your attendant have been friends, you might want to find an old picture of the two of you when you were younger. Pull out those old high school photos or ask his or her parents or spouse for other interesting photo ideas.

* Photo Wine Box, from $29.95

You can choose up to the three photos for the wine box gift and I suggest finding three different photos that reflect your friendship with your attendant. If possible, consider giving this gift at a later date and including a photo of the two of you at your wedding. This is a perfect gift for both the men and women in your wedding party.

What are some of the best gifts you have ever receieved for being in a wedding? Why did that gift mean so much to you?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Wedding Style: Three Reasons Why You Need to Know Yours

You have style, you have grace and no one wants a perfect wedding more than you. I know. I've been there, too.

But there is more to a perfect wedding than choosing pretty colors and buying a beautiful ballgown. A perfect wedding aka, a stylish wedding, is one where all of the components come together to tell a story. Your story. Your love story. So get ready to choose the style of that story and plan the wedding of your dreams.

Not sure what your wedding style is? No worries. Brides.com has a fun, interactive quiz that will help you discover if you are a Roman-inspired romantic or a blushing Bohemian bride. IVillage has a wedding style quiz as well, or you can visit My Jean M and take their quiz. Heck - take ' em all-the more you do, the more ideas you will have to help you envision your ideal wedding style.

Go ahead and take them now. I'll wait.

All done?

(That was quick!)

So now you have a better idea of what your wedding style is ... but you might still be wondering WHY you need one. So, I will help you out. Here are THREE reasons why knowing your wedding style just might save your wedding.

1. Narrow Your Focus

I think one of the first things brides should do (after all the brainstorming and idea-gathering) is to decide on the style of their wedding. Why? Because it will save your sanity. You have seen the abundance of choices available to brides, right? It is downright mind-blowing. However, once she has selected her style, her options become more narrowed and she can focus in on the choices that best suit her.

For example, if you are a casual couple and you want your wedding to reflect the style of you and your future "Mr.," then you won't even have to look at the cakes that are topped with gold glitter or Swarovski crystals.

Knowing your wedding style will help you eliminate odd-fitting options and help you make the best decisions for your wedding.

2. Keep it Together

When I was planning my wedding, I read about a bride whose main responsibility at work was planning parties. She had a host of experience and envisioned throwing the wedding of a lifetime for herself and her future husband. However, she couldn't focus her options and the end result was a hodgepodge wedding she was ashamed of.

Her mistake was choosing everything she liked and not considering how-or if-the elements blended.

Knowing your wedding style will help you make wise decisions. As you progress in the wedding planning stages, continue to look back at your quiz results or make notes about the style you and your groom have chosen. This will help ensure each choice you make fits in with your overall style idea.

3. Set the Tone

Ok, I am from Texas so maybe this is just a southern girl thing, but how many of you have ever received one of those cute, laid-back, ultra casual wedding invitations (you know the type, like the ones with Precious Moments kids kissing or sitting on a bench wearing a cowboy hat) and assumed you would be attending a casual wedding?

I know I have.

You can imagine my surprise at showing up and seeing the bride in an elegant slim-fitting dress and the bridesmaids in long formals, with a full dinner and night of dancing following the ceremony. They just don't together.

Knowing your wedding style will help you set the tone of your event so your guests will know what to expect.

Do you have a style for your wedding? If so, what is it? How did you choose your style?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Budget Business: When to Splurge

Savvy brides know there is more to planning a perfect wedding than selecting centerpieces and creating a menu. Weddings take work. In fact, some brides claim to have spent more than 500 hours planning their weddings.

That is a lot of time!

Although your newly married status might be reward enough, it would be nice if you could treat yourself to something special or offer yourself a bonus for all of your hard work.



That is where today's tip comes in.

Anyone who has created her wedding budget knows that unexpected expenses creep up and things often cost more than you anticipate. You may have started with a guest list of 200 but had to cut it in half. Maybe you wanted a limo, but have to settle for a friend's cool Vette. Or maybe you always dreamed of a fully-stocked open bar, but can only afford to serve beer and wine.

All of these compromises can get a bride down. I know. I was there.

My mother, in all of her mother-of-the-bride-wisdom, got tired of my compromises and asked me to make a wish list.

So I did ...

I made a list of all of my "dream" wedding components, things I'd always wanted or new ideas I wasn't sure I could afford. Items such as

- miniature individual wedding cake for each guest
- limo rental for the bride, groom and wedding party
- bridesmaid luncheon and spa day
- morning-after brunch
- old-time photo booth
- live musicians

These things could easily bust a budget and none of them is as important as say ... a wedding dress or, oh I don't know ... a marriage license.

However, they were important to me and I didn't want to give up on all of them. So I scrimped a bit and saved a little ... and then I splurged.

My list helped me focus my priorities and I ended up with 4 out of the 6 items I'd written down.


Let's see what items are on your splurge wish list and determine if they are worth your sacrifice.

1. Grab a pen and piece of paper and write "WISH LIST" across the top.

2. Fill in the next several lines with items you would love to have at your wedding, but aren't sure you can afford.

3. Get quotes, or at least an average cost, for each item and write it beside the item name.

4. Insert the list into your wedding planning binder.

Now you will always have access to your list and can easily keep track of your dream wedding goals. This will help you organize your priorities and will give you something to think about before you splurge for something that isn't on the list.
It works like this ...

If "video" is on your list and you know you can find someone for around $1,000, you can try to save that money on other items by choosing less-expensive options or cheaper alternatives.

For example, you can choose the least expensive baker knowing the $400 you save will go towards your video. Likewise, it will be easier for you to trim your guest list, shorten your cocktail hour or do your own make-up if you know the end result is an item off of your wish list.

So what do you think? Do you think a dream wish list will help you know when to splurge and when to save? Come on, I shared my dream wish list with you. What items are on your dream list and what are you willing to sacrifice to get them?

Photos courtesy of Quo Vadis and sparktography