Thursday, May 28, 2009

Five Ways to Stay Focused and Excited for Your Wedding

Although planning your wedding is one of the most exciting times of your life, it has no doubt brought with it a little stress, a few more sleepless nights and one-or three-stress-induced headaches. Some days are glowing. You find a knock-out vendor within your budget, your dress fits like a glove and your bridesmaids are all getting along perfectly. Other days it is hard to get going.

I remember there were times throughout my 17-month engagement that my mother asked me if I was still getting married.

“You haven’t mentioned in weeks,” she said nervously.

It was because I had bridal burnout. But it doesn’t have to happen to you.

Here are five ways to stay focused, motivated and excited for your Wedding Day.

1. Don’t overdo it -at first, I mean. Most brides are thrilled to get engaged and want to jump feet first into wedding planning mayhem … but try to avoid this pitfall. Think of your wedding as a marathon (assuming you have more than six months to plan it … otherwise, that baby is a sprint and you don’t have time to lose focus).

Just like any successful marathon runner will tell you, you need to train hard (by being organized and informed) and set your pace. The same goes with planning your wedding.

2. Organization rules. (It really does! But what I mean here is to follow the rules of organization.) It makes sense that if you are organized with your wedding binder, you know your budget and-most importantly-you’ve given yourself enough time to plan your wedding, that things will fall into place. Although I definitely went through wedding planning dry-spells, I was lucky because I’d allowed almost a year and half to plan the event. I had that time to spare. If you plan your wedding far enough in advance, you don’t have to rush to the finish line … you can make a few pit stops along the way.

3. Get inspired. Download a theme-appropriate screen saver from American Greetings or create your own using a picture of your bridal gown, your engagement photos or a group shot of you and your bridesmaids. Seeing your wedding vision on a daily basis will help you keep track of your goals.

4. Divide and conquer. If you find yourself getting low on time, divide your to-do list into more manageable chunks. I created a one-page calendar for each of the three months leading up to my wedding. On the back of each month, I wrote a list of what I had to accomplish each of the four or five weeks in that month. It was comforting to look at one week at a time and it was rewarding to mark things off of the list.

5. Keep quiet. If you are really feeling the pressure, designate one day, a weekend or a full week (depending on how long you have before your wedding) as “NO WEDDING TALK” time.

Don’t check your wedding-related emails (unless an important vendor is at stake), don’t look through magazines or websites and don’t discuss the wedding at all. It is much like taking a break from work. If your wedding planning is starting to lose its zest, then step back and take a breather. You’ll return refreshed and ready to tackle the next thing on your list.

Has wedding planning stress affected you yet? What did you do to combat it?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Four Big Ideas for Your Smallest Attendants

To have or not to have them … that is the question when it comes to whether or not you and your groom will include children in your wedding. Oh no, I’m not talking about the Big Debate on whether to invite them or not. I’m talking about whether you’ll ask those petite princesses to scatter your aisle with fluttering flowers or whether your sooo-cute-you-could-eat-him-up nephew should really be trusted with two golden bands.

For some women it is an easy call. They’ve always dreamed of being a blushing bride surrounded by miniature princesses … for others, it is not so easy.

Here are a few things to consider if you thinking of including children in your ceremony.

- “No kids-no way.” That’s what I said when I tied the knot in 2007. I’ve been to hundreds of weddings and I know there is nothing like a blue-eyed, blond-haired flower girl toddling down the aisle before the bride to steal her thunder. It was my wedding and I wanted the attention. There I said it!

- It is also important to note that no matter how well-mannered a child may be, standing at the altar for any length of time is a challenge.

If you’d like to include children in your wedding but aren’t sure how, here are four ideas that might help.

1. I worked a wedding once that epitomized innocence and romance. The bride had six or seven similarly-sized tots dressed in fluffy white dresses, with their hair professionally pulled up with matching red headbands. The magazine-quality photos were flawless and those babes helped set a youthful tone to her extravagant wedding. It was perfection. But what really made this wedding unique-was the quantity and likeness of the girls … fewer children or any variance in their size or age, would have had less impact.

2. Although I said “no kids-no way,” I actually reneged a bit. I adore my then seven-year-old nephew and couldn’t imagine leaving him out of our Big Day, but seven is a tad old to be a ring bearer. Instead, I let him stand with the groomsmen and-along with my grandfather-deliver the Catholic gifts to the priest. He felt important and since the priest allowed the wedding attendants to sit during the Mass, he held up throughout the ceremony.

3. If you have children you’d like to honor with a place in your wedding but aren’t sure they fit within the traditional age limits, then ask them to be your wedding helpers. Depending on their ages, they can help you plan the children’s tables, entertainment or even the children's menu. Older children can help you with DIY items and younger children can "play" with you at a pre-wedding "just for the kids" party.

4. If that’s not enough and you’d like them publicly recognized on your Big Day, then invent a place for them. If you have female tweens you’d like to include, add them to your wedding party and dress them in a slightly different style or color than your adult bridesmaids. Or you can honor children by having them formally walk down the aisle with their parents or a groomsmen, much like you do with your grandparents and parents. Be creative and have fun.

Do you plan to include children in your wedding party? What role will they play?

Photo courtesy of

Thursday, May 21, 2009

When Do You Need a Wedding Website?

With over 100 things to check off of your to-do list and money-grubbin’ vendors crawling from the corners needing more money, offering new upgrades or increasing the bill it is hard to justify new expenses-especially a wedding website.

I mean … what do you need one for anyway? Most of your guests already know your back story and do you really need to list your registry locations again?

Well, it depends. If you are wondering if a wedding website is right for you, then answer the following questions.

Do I Need a Wedding Website?

- Are you having a destination wedding?

- Will you have any out of town guests?

- Will you need to communicate with all of your guests via email or the Internet?

- Do you have more information to share with your guests than you can put on your wedding invitations?

- Do you want-or need-a place for the guests who can’t attend the wedding to leave you a note or message?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then you need a wedding website.

Why Do I Need a Wedding Website?

- If you are having a destination wedding, then the majority-if not all-of your guests will be traveling, staying in a hotel, eating out and vacationing in this new location. Your wedding website will serve as a mini guide for them to know where to stay (because you will book one or two hotel room blocks so your guests will all be together), where to eat (you should share your research on restaurants, bars and clubs) and what attractions they can look forward to visiting.

- The same rule applies if you will have any out-of-town guests. Depending on the number of out-of-towners, you will likely book a room block at a local hotel. You should also point your guests to the best restaurants and/or city attractions. Again-your wedding website serves this purpose.

- Depending on who your guests are, you might need to communicate with them via email. Many wedding websites allow you to enter your guests’ email addresses and send them mass emails with wedding updates.

- If you have more information to share with your guests than will fit on your wedding invitations-such as driving directions, seating limitations or potential parking issues, then you should have a wedding website. You don’t want to include too much logistical information on your invitations … it ruins the mood.

- Having a wedding website can be a beneficial way for guests who can’t attend your wedding to feel included in your Big Day. They can leave you a message, peruse your categories and look at engagement and couple photos.

Which Wedding Website Company is Right for Me?

Wedding website companies range from the very expensive-up to $99 a year-to moderately priced-$30 a year-to absolutely free. However, you get what you pay for.

Free wedding websites offer the couple a place to list their information, but don’t normally offer customizable color and font options or themed backgrounds. Your website address would be similar to

Paid wedding websites offer a host of other options, such as a personalized url,, as well as gift tracking, online RSVPs (which eliminate the need to mail RSVP cards and extra stamps) and seating chart assistance.

WeddingWebsites lists most of the website providers and offers useful reviews and customer ratings. It is a good place to look for ideas and information regarding wedding website companies.

Are you having a wedding website? Which company did you use? Would you recommend them to other brides?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Three Perfect Gifts for Your Almost-Perfect Groom

If you have made it to the gift-buying stage of your wedding planning, you’ve already scoured through piles of notes, gone through check list after check list and revised your budget form more often than you care to admit.

Yet, one seemingly small thing or another always seems to creep up and add itself to your to-do list. That one thing for me was the groom gift.

See … I’m not really into bride-giving-the-groom a wedding present-and for the record … the vice versa. I think this dates back to the days when the bride’s parents footed the bill and the happy couple had little to do with their extra income than splurge on extravagant gifts for each other. But times have changed. With most couples paying, at least in part, for their wedding expenses, this tradition seems like overkill.

It is one more thing you, as a bride, have to do.

It is one more decision you, as a bride, have to make.

It is one more place you, as a bride, have to spend your money.

Yet, people still do it.

If you have your heart set on buying a romantic present for you betrothed, then by all means-please do.

If you are like me and would rather spend that dough on something else, then I suggest you have a heart-to-heart with your fiancé. (Well, if you are really like me, then you are marrying someone from another country who didn’t know about this American tradition, so you’d have to tell him about it, then tell him you’d prefer not to do it.)

But the bottom line is to talk to him, discuss your budget options and either agree to forgo the gift-giving or agree to set a spending limit.

That being said, there are some great groom gifts out there and if you and your honey decide you do want to be gift-givers, then here are three perfect gifts for your almost-perfect groom.

Apple Photo Book: Travels with Jenny & Michael...Image by mstephens7 via Flickr

For the Sensitive and Romantic Groom

Custom Photo Book

Sure you will take a load of wedding pictures-and likely pre-wedding, engagement-style pictures-but compile some of your favorite photos from when you first met, your first date or your favorite vacation and create a customized photo book-just for him! At you can select your choice of sizes, cover, fonts and pages and design a book tailor-made for your main squeeze.

I suggest adding a few text-only pages, of a cherished love letter, favorite poem or the lyrics to “your song” and a personal note about how you feel to be marrying him.

For the Life of the Party Groom

Personalized Lounge Signs

There is no better way to start your life together than with a personalized (with YOUR soon-to-be new last name) sign welcoming your friends to your new home bar. This gift is perfect for the groom who likes to entertain and will be a prominent reminder of your wedding day.

For the Intellectual Groom

Theme-related Bookends

If your future hubby would prefer to get caught up in a good book, then consider giving him a set of bookends for his office or home library. They can be displayed year-round and will be a constant reminder of your wedding day nuptials.

Are you and your fiancé exchanging wedding presents? What are you considering buying for him?
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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Four Places to Find Your Wedding Dress for Less

Let me guess. You have ransacked magazines, pounded the Internet and hit every bridal shop in town trying to find a less-expensive version of your dream wedding dress. Right?

Well if not. You should.

Did you know that buying your wedding dress online can save you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars? Seriously. Thousands. I mean, think about it ... what could you do with an extra, oh, let’s say $1500 for your wedding?

Wow, huh?

But where would you start? Should you just pick a website at random and order your wedding dress without ever seeing it? Trying it on? Knowing your exact size?

Uhm. No.

What you should do is find your ideal dress. Try it on. Fall in love with it. Then, go somewhere else to buy it.

I know it sounds mean, but bridal shops prey on inexperienced brides who don’t know their options and prices for the same dress-even from one bridal shop to the next-can vary hundreds of dollars. I know. I did the research on my own dress.

But I’ll save you some time. Here are four websites where you can find your dream dress-for less!

Bride Couture
Vera Wang? Carolina Herrera? Jim Hjelm? Those are some pretty impressive names in the bridal biz and Bride Couture is selling them on their website for 50-75% off the normal retail price. You can make a private appointment at their store in San Diego or order two, three, even four dresses, try them on at your house, then return the ones you don’t choose. You will only pay shipping.

Bride Power
Featuring the same designer names as Bride Couture, Bride Power goes one step further and offers a gown-locator service. For $50, they will search for your exact dress and guarantee it for 40% off the retail price. If they can’t find it, you get your $50 back. You can also sign up for their Gown Notifier service where they will call or email you if your gown arrives (although this option isn’t guaranteed).

Perfect Bridal
Perfect Bridal is the sister company of Brides of California and is an authorized dealer for all of the dresses they sell. In addition to wedding gowns, they sell bridesmaid dresses, mother-of-the-bride dresses and accessories.

Pre-Owned Wedding Dresses
All of the dresses on this site are previously worn and sold directly by the brides who wore them. Many sellers offer a return policy and prices run around 50% off the original price of the dress.

This is also a good way to sell your dress-thereby recouping some of your investment-after your wedding. I know I’m selling mine-and in fact, I think I’ll list it with this site.

With any Internet company, you should do extensive research (in addition to the information I’ve provided you), look them up on the Better Business Bureau and ask for recommendations. I asked for recs from one company I considered using, and although they sent me a list of four or five brides to email, I could tell from the tone of the emails and the unnatural English writing that all of the emails were answered by the same person. I ran-fast. You should, too.

You should also read the fine print and follow-up with the company. You could save hundreds-or thousands-on your dress, but if it doesn’t arrive on time or you choose an unethical company, your dream dress could cause you wedding nightmares.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Eight Steps to Organizing Your Wedding Rehearsal

We’ve spent a lot of time talking about wedding rehearsals and if you read this site on a regular basis, you know my opinion on the matter. (If you don’t read it on a regular basis, that is okay. For the record-I think they are a must!)

If you agree-or if I’ve turned you, convinced you or otherwise scared the bejeezes out of you, then that is great. But you might have a few questions about what to do and how to do it.

So, I'll help.

Here are eight easy steps to organizing your wedding rehearsal.

1. If possible, book your ceremony site for the evening before your wedding. It is best to rehearse on-site for about an hour. Many wedding venues and churches are open to the idea of a rehearsal and the time is included in the cost of your venue rental.

2. Notify all of your wedding party attendants, the officiant and anyone else who will play an important role during the wedding, such as readers, musicians and ceremony attendants.

3. Discuss your options with your fiancé and officiant before the rehearsal to ensure you are on the same page. Make notes of your choices and create a detailed outline for your attendants.

4. Things to consider include:

- Where do you want the attendants to stand?

- If you are having a religious ceremony, will the attendants stand the whole time, or will they sit during the readings, then move for the wedding nuptials?

- What will you do with the children? Can they sit if the ceremony is going to be long? Where will their parents sit?

- Who will open the doors for you?

- Who will notify musicians when you are ready to begin? When will they begin playing?

- If you are having a religious ceremony, will you and your fiancé sit or kneel? If so, where and on what?

- How will your attendants line up and which man will escort which woman?

5. If you haven’t already created a master outline for your wedding ceremony, you should! Here are a few websites that offer tips and suggestions.

- Forever Wed

- Two Oaks Wedding

Condense that detailed outline as much as possible for your attendants so you can distribute copies to them, along with a list of everyone’s phone number and contact information.

6. Once everyone arrives at the rehearsal location, call them together and distribute the outlines and lists. If there is anything specific you need someone to do, you should tell them at this point. (For example, I asked two of my ushers to distribute programs and the other two to present all of the women guests with a flower as they arrived. I also asked some of my bridesmaids to be responsible for paying musicians, etc. after the wedding and gave them the envelope and check during the rehearsal.

7. Your officiant will likely take the lead and instruct everyone where to stand and will walk everyone through the ceremony. Since you’ve already discussed this with him, you should be set. If you have any questions-ask him at this time!

8. Before you release your group, let them ask you any questions they might have, then head off to your rehearsal dinner!

You will sleep well knowing everyone is prepared for your Big Day and your ceremony will run much more smoothly the second time around.

What other things did you or do you plan to do during your wedding rehearsal?

Photo courtesy of What is in Us

Thursday, May 7, 2009

How to Plan a Backyard Wedding

Some of the most charming weddings in the world are the old-fashioned backyard weddings, held in a relative’s outdoor space or garden. They reflect youth and innocence and set a carefree tone for your nuptials. At first glance, this may seem like the perfect solution to your wedding location woes.

But think it through.

Here are five ways to determine if a backyard wedding is right for you.

1. Location Space
Is the backyard you are considering large enough for your ideal guest count, tables, chairs, tents, entertainment, ceremony area and food stations? Map it out before you commit to ensure the location offers sufficient space

2. Neighbors and Parking
What is your relationship with your neighbors? Will they agree to the late-night sounds your wedding will inevitably bring? You don’t want the police to crash your wedding and ask you to “quiet down.” Along the same lines, is there sufficient parking for all of your guests? If not, is it a problem you can easily solve?

3. Rentals
One of the best reasons I normally advocate using a fully-stocked hotel or banquet room is because the sheer volume of rentals you’ll need are almost overwhelming. Depending on the degree you want to transform your backyard into your dream wedding venue, you could need to rent tents, tables, chairs, tablecloths, napkins, plates, glasses, flatware, cups, serving platters and dishes, table skirts and lights. These costs add up-fast!

4. Weather
If you are seriously considering a backyard wedding, look into the weather predictions, typical rainfall and average temperatures for your wedding date. What will you do if it rains on your wedding day? Is the house large enough to accommodate all of the guests if you are forced to move inside? Is there another location nearby that can serve as a rain contingency location?

5. Bugs
Do you live in a mosquito-infested area? Will you be able to address the issue? How? Be sure to get quotes from experts on spraying the area before your Big Day.

Now that you have your mind set on a backyard wedding, there are a few things to remember. Here are four tips that are unique to a backyard wedding.

Be sure your invitations specify that your nuptials are at a private residence. Include the full address and a map with your invitation package.

Cakes and Flowers
Depending on where you live and when you are tying the knot, you might have special considerations with your cakes and flowers. I was coordinating an outdoor wedding once in Orlando - my first wedding actually - and the bride and groom arrived almost two hours late. The cake was starting to melt and the entertainers were getting … well, restless. Be sure you keep your cake in cooler temperatures and select sturdy flowers that can withstand the heat and sun.

Ask your photographer to do a walk-through of your wedding location and discuss how to set tables, lights and backdrops to avoid unseemly shadows. Show your photographer where you plan to place large items and get his/her input.

Be sure you hire staff to clean and re-freshen bathrooms and walkways. You want your wedding to look nice throughout the day and into the night.

For a first hand account of a $10,000 backyard wedding, check out the Backyard Wedding Blog.

Did you consider a backyard wedding? What other tips can you offer?

Photo courtesy of WukieGrl

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Six Ways to Relieve Pre-Wedding Planning Stress

You might have been planning this day since you were a child. You have always known you wanted a bouquet of brightly-hued tulips, a princess-style dress and your best friend - your only sister - standing by your side. The band or DJ debate was easy for you and you have said “Yes,” to *the* most perfect man walking the earth.

But still …

In the midst of all of your wedding planning glory, your glamorous dress-fittings and frivolous shoe-shopping it will hit you.

I’m talking about stress. Pre-wedding stress. The kind that strikes when you least expect it and appears in the form of uncontrollable crying, irrational outbursts, over-eating, under-eating or sleepless nights.

The wedding planning stress struck me in an unusual way. I was okay with the florists’ exuberant quotes, I dealt with fickle venue managers … but you know what got me?

The priest. The irony was not lost.

If it hasn’t hit you yet - you are lucky... and if it has, don’t worry. Help is on the way. Here are six ways you can de-stress during your wedding planning.

Basic stress management techniques include:

1. Get enough sleep.
You should aim to sleep at least eight hours every night while you are planning your wedding. You will need your energy for bargaining with vendors.

2. Get moving.
I know you are busy and the idea of adding another half hour to your fully-scheduled day seems impossible. If you can’t add a regular exercise routine to your schedule, then at least take the stairs, walk to your colleagues' desks instead of instant messaging and park your car farther away.

3. Eat well.
Depending on your wedding weight goals, you may already be controlling your sugar intake and eating more vegetables. For what it's worth, I’ve never been a proponent of stressful pre-wedding diets, but either way you should eat balanced meals and avoid drinking too much alcohol. Alcohol disturbs your sleep patterns, thus working against Tip #1.

In addition to the basic catch-all stress management techniques, here are three wedding-specific ideas to help you beat your stress.

4. Hit the Town
The Brit’s call it Hen Night, the Americans call it a Bachelorette Party but what I’m talking about is a good ole’ fashioned Girls Night. Invite your girls to join you for a night out on the town. If drinking and dancing isn’t your thing, then head to a local coffee house, park or mall. The idea is to get away from your wedding for one whole day. Make a commitment not to talk about-and try not to think about-your wedding the whole day and/or night. You will wake up refreshed and ready to get back to work.

5. Get in the Groove
… your groove, that is. You probably have a sure-fire relaxation technique you’ve used over the years (you just might not realize it!) To find your groove, think back over the years to your most stressful times and what you did to overcome them. Although I’m not much of an outdoors exercise person, my beat-all stress-busting technique is to head outdoors with my MP3 player and jog or walk as fast as I can. Burning the extra energy always helps me relax and I return to my tasks with a clear head and better attitude.

6. Talk to Your Fiance
Feelings of stress and light anxiety are perfectly normal. You are not only anxious about the outcome of your Big Day, but the significance and longevity of a “forever” commitment can be stressful. Talk to your partner throughout the wedding planning to ensure you are still on the same page. This does not give you the green light to monopolize conversations with flower selections or cake flavors-it is just a reminder for you to occasionally check-in. Knowing you and your partner have similar ideas, goals and expectations for your future will help keep your stress at bay.

What other stress relieving tips do you have for other brides-to-be?

Photos couresty of madalena-pestana and Geff Rossi