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Wedding Editors on StageofLife.comRead below for a welcome message from ourWedding editors. While thousands of writers and bloggers contribute their stories and essays to StageofLife.com, we work closely with a handful of wedding editors who are here to comment on your blog posts, lend a helpful voice, and answer your questions about StageofLife.com.

If you would like to meet all of our Editors working on the Stage of Life initiative or apply for an Editor position, please check out our Staff page and Contact Us.

Weekly Message from the Editor

Wedding Editor's Welcome

Gift Giving

by Jay Remer, Wedding Editor

The other day I received an article that appeared in a Toronto newspaper describing a bride, her displeasure with a wedding present she received, and a request for feedback. In essence, the bride received a basket of assorted edibles from a local gourmet food store as a wedding gift. Although there was nothing wrong with the items chosen for the food basket, the very idea sent this bride into a tailspin! She wanted envelopes stuffed full of money instead, arguing that she had laid out $200 per person for her wedding and she expected cash or checks in return. She was so put off that she texted the gift giver, explaining her dismay. In turn, totally puzzled and very hurt and insulted, the gift giver wrote a letter to the editor asking for clarification on the subject of wedding presents.

I have had two radio interviews about this letter and I feel it is important to review the whole arena of gift giving and how it relates to weddings. Although wedding invitations do not come with a ticket price, it is accepted behavior to send or bring a present or a monetary gift to the bride or the bride and groom jointly. There is no stipulation about the value of the gift – one’s personal budget and relationship with the couple are the determining factors.

Since the whole wedding ceremony and reception are honoring age old traditions practiced for generations in every culture around the world, it is the union which should be the focus, not what loot is received. There has been a noticeable and significant decline in gratitude in society at large as of late, and weddings are another example of how this new era of entitlement and expectation has turned polite society barbaric.

No mention of gifts of any sort should be included on an invitation, especially a wedding invitation! Wedding presents are given to the couple as a way to help them set up housekeeping. Although this industry has morphed into a no holds barred commercial bonanza, wedding presents essentially replace the dowry chest or trousseau. They are to assist the newlyweds in getting started with their new life together as a couple.

If the bride and groom wish to have cash, word of mouth is the appropriate way to let invited guests know this. There are plenty of good reasons why bulky presents are neither desired nor practical – destination weddings being but one example. If one is giving a card enclosed with either cash or a check, this should be brought to the wedding reception and placed in a designated basket, box, or tree. If a gift is purchased from a store where the bride has registered, the gift can either be shipped from the store or delivered to the bride’s parents’ house prior to the date of the wedding. This allows the gifts to be unpacked, thank you notes written (by hand – on appropriate stationary), and displayed at the reception. This practice is especially handy if the reception is at home. Gifts can be carried to the reception if that is more convenient. Calling ahead will give guests a good idea of when, where, and how gifts are to be delivered.

No matter what configuration the wedding takes, it is the tradition of the ceremony that must be the primary focus, with the gifts taking a back seat. No one gets exactly what he or she wants when they get married. And being grateful for all gifts and best wishes, expressed in a hand written thank you note is all that is required from a newly married person. Sending a text message railing about one’s displeasure with a certain gift choice is inexcusable. It's just not done. It is rude, hurtful, and ungrateful.

Think before you text or email an angry response to what ought to be a beautiful life experience.

Wedding Editor's Welcome

Children at Weddings

by Jay Remer, Wedding Editor

This month’s topic centers around children and weddings – should they be invited or not? General consensus falls on either side of this question; so here’s my take on the matter from the point of view of traditional etiquette. The answer lays to a large extent in common sense and practicality. There are children, and then, there are children. Young impatient children who won’t settle properly for a long church ceremony are best left at home – even if they are invited, unless they promise to be on their best behaviour (big reward offered). They can always be carried away if necessary.

If the wedding is an evening ceremony followed immediately by the reception/dinner, children are usually excluded for any number of reasons, but the option is always there to invite whomever a bride may want to. It is always possible to have a children’s party as a sub party of the reception with more child appropriate activities. There is no wrong or right way of doing this. Just decide how you want to handle it and follow through consistently with the whining mothers who will challenge you on your decision. They shouldn’t ask, and you don’t need to give them any explanation. This is true of any invitation, and is a very important consideration with weddings.

As a rule of thumb, the more formal the wedding will be, the less likely it is that children will be invited. The later during the day the wedding, the more formal it tends to be. Guidelines are flexible. The tone of the wedding rests with the bride – hopefully.  If she wants to invite children, so be it. If she doesn’t, so be it!

Wedding Editor's Welcome

Blended Families

by Jay Remer, Wedding Editor

Spring is here and the intense planning for summer weddings is in the throes. A question that pops up with great regularity is how to handle blended families. Today we see an increase in the number of couple who come from blended families - families where there have been multiple weddings and stepparents and stepsiblings. Usually when such questions arise it is due to the already built up angst the bride has about how all of these guests will interact. This should not be a concern, but sadly, not everyone knows how to behave civilly. Add some alcohol and some uncomfortable clothes and one has a recipe for disaster.

My advice is to let the chips fall where they may. No amount of dancing around the issue will resolve it. People need to learn to buck up every so often and behave in a dignified manner for the sake of the couple being married. This is what the essence of good manners and proper etiquette is all about – putting the other person first.

When faced with such a situation, care can be given to seating warring factions at opposite ends of the dining room. One can also inform disagreeable people that they should be forewarned and to behave. Some people simply cannot be in the company of certain other people. They should regret any invitations where unpleasantness may arise until such time as they grow up. I also encourage hosts to strike such rabble-rousers from one’s guest list.

On the other hand, blended families can add a great deal to the festive atmosphere of any celebration. What better opportunity to really get to know one another – when one’s hair is down, so to speak, and when, for the moment, all is well in the world!

Wedding Editor's Welcome

Etiquette

by Jay Remer, Wedding Editor

What is all the fuss about?

In this modern age, so many young couples ask what the relevance of wedding etiquette is. Do they need it? Do they want it? The answer to both questions is an emphatic “Yes”! The reason is very logical. In order for the day to run smoothly and be everything you could have ever asked for, you must be well organized and everyone involved must know what to do and when to do it. In other words, they must understand clearly “how we do what we do”, my definition of etiquette.

Etiquette is lubricant in society that keeps thing running as smoothly as possible. It also simplifies things. While allowing plenty of room for creativity, etiquette does provide some useful guidelines as boundaries.

One’s wedding day is highly charged with emotion. Success of the day depends on good organization within an agreed upon set of rules or guidelines. Following traditional rules of etiquette makes matters far simpler, and guarantees to avoid many common pitfalls a less well-organized event would have to deal with.

Use your logic and common sense and follow your gut instinct. You will soon discover that many of the ways of proper etiquette are already a part of you!

Wedding Editor's Welcome

Bouquet Toss

by Jay Remer, Wedding Editor

This month's topic comes from a reader who wants to know the tradition of and the timing for tossing the bride’s bouquet and garter. Although this can vary slightly for any number of logistical scenarios, the bouquet is tossed as the bride is leaving the reception to change for the departure. The bridesmaids gather round; the bride turns her back to them and tosses her bouquet high into the air behind her; the girl who catches the bouquet, tradition has it, will be the next of the group to marry. This tradition has evolved from the 14th century, a time when the bride’s garter or stocking symbolized the same good luck. In that age, guests would remove the garter after quite a dishevelment. Over time, the bride took matters into her own hands. In modern times, this tradition has changed once again.   

The groom now kneels down and retrieves the garter from his bride’s leg and tosses it into the assembled throng of groomsmen. He, who catches the garter, again according to tradition, will be next amongst these men to marry. The garter is often blue and is one of the four “somethings” – as in “something blue”, making up the bride’s complete outfit.

Have you any fun stories about your bouquet or garter tosses?

Wedding Editor's Welcome

Parting Words of Advice

by Elle Lamboy, Wedding Editor

For about the past two years, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being one of the Editor’s for the Wedding Section of stageoflife.com. Of course, I had a great time coming up with the weekly topics and sharing my wedding planning trials and triumphs with you, but my favorite part of the job was reading your stories and learning more about your journeys to the altar.

I know I’ve surely written about this topic in a previous post, but if I could offer one piece of final advice before I leave as Editor of this stage (I’ll remain as the Married without Kids Editor and may be moving to another stage too, we’ll see!) it would be this: TAKE TIME FOR YOUR MATE.

It is just so easy to get wrapped up in the hoopla of wedding planning: the dress, tux, bridesmaids, groomsmen, flowers, cakes, seating charts, menus, readings, speeches, favors, honeymoons, photographers, programs, etc. and forget about the most important part of the wedding: your future husband or wife.

Don’t let this be the most stressful time in your life. Enjoy the planning. Listen to each other. Learn from each other. Compromise. Laugh. Go on date nights. Don’t talk about the wedding one day each week. Remember why you are marrying that person and tell them once in a while. Shower him/her with love. Give a gift for no reason. Leave love notes. Cherish the chaos. Embrace the details. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Dream big and love bigger. Breathe. Laugh. Kiss. Snuggle. Party on.

I hope you all enjoyed reading my Editor’s Welcomes as much as I enjoyed and will continue to enjoy reading your stories.

Happy Wedding Planning!

-Elle

Wedding Editor's Welcome

Tweeting During a Wedding?

by Jay Remer, Wedding Editor

I thank a reader wanting to know what the proper etiquette is for live tweeting or updating Facebook during weddings or other events for suggesting this month’s topic. From my traditional point of view tweeting during a wedding ceremony – the actual ceremony – is a no-no. You should be giving your full attention to the proceedings and not be distracted by being the resident live social commentator. That said, there are long lapses before and after the ceremony where tweeting is fine – yes, even in a church, if you feel a strong compulsion to do so. I think taking photos is far more interesting, but definitely not during the ceremony. There is hired photographer for that. But for those of you who simply cannot resist recording the moment, do be discreet and do not lean over people or into other pews in order to get the shot. That is disrespectful of the proceedings and will brand you as a buffoon. The reception, rehearsal dinner or showers are totally fair game though and some wonderful moments can be captured then. Just do try to remember the seriousness of the marriage ceremony and keep your attention focused on the couple – and not through the lens of a camera!

Wedding Editor's Welcome

Winter Wedding

by Elle Lamboy, Wedding Editor

This weekend was unseasonably warm in south-central Pennsylvania, with temps ranging in the high 50s to early 60s! While most of the state was relishing in the reprieve from Old Man Winter my friend’s poor cousin was devastated.

Despite their very low popularity, she had always dreamed of a winter white wedding; complete with temps cold enough to don fur wraps and muffs—both of which she purchased for her bridesmaids as gifts. With the warmer temperatures, many of her guests didn’t even wear winter coats, making her bridesmaids winter wardrobe seem sort of ridiculous (and sweaty.)

Normally, the fear of having a winter wedding is that of a snowstorm, not a heat wave. But, no matter what the circumstance, a winter wedding warrants special planning that a summer or spring wedding does not. Check out this Huffington Post article for expert tips on how to plan the winter wedding of your dreams—and troubleshoot any startling surprises from Mother Nature.

Wedding Editor's Welcome

Happy New Year, Newlyweds!

by Jay Remer, Wedding Editor

Happy New Year newlyweds! For this inaugural blog for 2013 I thought I would share some goals to consider for making your new lives together grow and succeed, while becoming less time-starved and more fulfilling.

Have compassion for yourself. We are all human. We make mistakes. Admit them, learn from them, don’t repeat them, but don’t flog yourself because of them.

Have humility when delivering advice and expertise. We are all walking along our own unique paths at our own pace.

Have awareness of what is going on both inside your heart and the effect you have on others.

Take responsibility for all of your actions and accept the consequences. Conversely, let others take responsibility where appropriate, allowing them to make the right choices for themselves.

Be grateful for everything that comes your way, even those that you judge as negative. These places are where the greatest learning opportunities await.

Encourage everyone to do well in his or her chosen profession or personal life, without judgment.

What will you be doing to enrich your lives together?

Wedding Editor's Welcome

How to Remain a Happy Bride Over the Holidays

by Elle Lamboy, Wedding Editor

The holidays can be a very stressful time for everyone. Between the holiday greetings, baking, cooking, present purchasing, wrapping, worshipping and decorating, there is hardly any time left to think let alone plan anything other than your holiday party. That’s how the holidays look for a civilian—its one hundred times more stressful for a bride-to-be during the holidays!

Before you have a bridal breakdown, check out this article, which gives you nine fabulous tips to keep yourself sane (and even productive!) during the holiday season.

How will you use the season to enhance your wedding planning?

Wedding Editor's Welcome

Behave!

by Jay Remer, Wedding Editor

This month’s wedding topic is how to behave properly as a guest at a wedding.

Be sure to respond to the invitation (not invite!) as quickly as possible after its receipt. Waiting until the last minute is to be avoided, as planning a large event is a lot of work and a nose count is critical. If the invitation is to a couple, this does not mean children are also included or in fact are even an option. And, don’t ask!

As a traditionalist, I advise sending a wedding gift to the home of the bride or bride’s parents before the date of the wedding. Alternatively bring it with you to the wedding or better yet, the reception following if there will be one. Although there is a guideline saying that one has a year from the date of the wedding to deliver one’s gift, I think this is to be minimized.

Don’t dress to impress. This is the bride’s day. Wearing inappropriate attire to try to upstage anyone is very poor form and is especially so at a wedding. Respect for the institution of marriage should be first and foremost.

At the reception, if this is a sit down affair, do not switch the place cards. The seating plan has been put together with purpose and great care. Do not place your handbag, cell phone, or eyeglasses (or anything else) on the dinner table.

Avoid overindulging in alcohol, if it is served. Making a fool of oneself is best saved for your home turf.

Enjoy yourself and spread goodwill and congratulations to the bride and groom!

Wedding Editor's Welcome

Remembering Something Old in a Modern World

by Elle Lamboy, Wedding Editor

Something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue. These are the essentials that every bride is traditionally supposed to have somewhere on her body before she walks down the aisle.

However, these fundamentals should also be considered when it comes to wedding planning.

With all the advances in technology and modern convenience, it’s easy to forget your more vintage wedding guests while transfixed on IPAD friendly RSVPs or a fast-talking wedding planner who’s promising bridges made of ice and rotating dance floors.

This Huffington Post article gives some excellent tips to ensure that your fabulously modern wedding doesn’t leave your older wedding guests feeling a little something blue.

Wedding Editor's Welcome

Budget

by Jay Remer, Wedding Editor

As a new editor for the Wedding section, I hope you will indulge me as I focus on various aspects of weddings and the proper etiquette attached to each. I encourage discussion and hope you will feel free to suggest topics or ask specific questions. I am delighted to answer them right here on the Stage of Life website.

For this first month’s commentary I thought we might begin with the budget. Traditionally the bride’s family has paid for weddings. As the cost for these events has grown and personal finances have been challenged, in many cases other family members or the couple themselves participate in some way financially. Naturally as hosts they would have some hand in the decision making process unless they abdicate that role, which is perfectly appropriate.

 

Once the budget has been established then the planning can begin in earnest, but that won’t stop the eager imaginations of newly engaged couples. I have known some weddings that cost very little and were really community events where many people contributed to the celebration. There are others where no expnses were spared and magical extravaganzas were produced. 

 

No two weddings are alike, nor should they be. They are as unique as the couples that are celebrating their nuptials. Let the uniqueness of the relationship carry the day and only entertain as much as you can comfortably afford.

There are many ways to economize when it comes to planning weddings. A professional wedding planner is essential and well worth the cost.

What are some of the ways you have saved money, or some difficult challenges you are facing now?

Wedding Editor's Welcome

Dear, Bridesmaids

by Elle Lamboy, Wedding Editor

Once in awhile, something comes along to put life into perspective. A commercial to support a starving child may make you rethink the third scoop of ice cream, or a 20-minute World News update can remind you that the new zit on your chin is not the tragedy you once thought.

In wedding-planning world, sometimes you need to witness the behavior of a true bridezilla to realize that you really aren’t that crazy—or save you from crossing  into the bridezilla territory. This Yahoo! Shine article, written by an ex bridesmaid, reveals the insane details from the E-mail of a bride gone wild asking her friends to accept the “honor” of being in her wedding. Here’s just a little taste so you can comprehend how over-the-top  demanding this bride-to-be is. She writes: "The wedding as I stated will be in Vail the engagement party will either be in NY or CT and the bachelorette party will be in Vegas, cliche yeaa but I've never been…if you wont be able to afford a flight then that means you cant make a party which ultimately means I cant have you as a bridesmaid."

…that’s nothing compared to the rest of the E-mail.

While totally entertaining, it also reveals some interesting insight into what’s going on in the mind of a bridesmaid. Whether you utilize the over-the-top E-mail and commentary to gauge your personal bridezilla status, learn a bit about the bridesmaid psyche, or just need a good laugh, the article is definitely worth a read.

Would you agree to be a bridesmaid in this wedding?

Wedding Editor's Welcome

Handfasting

by Shaina Lucas, Wedding Editor

Handfasting is an ancient Pagan tradition of marriage. The process is very long and tedious with every detail planned accordingly. There are two types of handfasting: legally binding and spiritually binding. Most couples perform the spiritual binding first, then the legally binding themselves. Having a legal handfast is hard to come by; not many ministers are willing to perform a handfast. The details involved in planning a handfasting are just like any other wedding. There’s the geological choice for marriage (where do you want to be married?), how do you want to be married (formal, informal, etc.), clothing choices, color themes, cultural choices, etc. etc.

Every bit of planning must be complete before the wedding is to take place. My best friend performed my wedding, which for now is spiritually binding. The date, time of day, everything used all plays a part in the wedding. Many couples for the actual legal wedding splurge on fancy cords and handfasting kits, while I used a piece of ribbon from my sewing kit. The cords in a handfasting play a crucial role; they are the symbol of binding the couple together forever. A traditional handfast lasts for a year and a day. If the couple does not like their marriage, after that trial period they are allowed to leave each other with no consequences. If the couple chooses to stay together, they can be handfasted again, and this time it lasts forever. Legend says if a couple breaks their second handfast, the one who broke the marriage will die in their sleep.

In a pagan wedding, you can do as you please. My plan is to be carried down the aisle in an old vampire coffin, wearing a medieval wedding dress with a Phantom of the Opera theme. The beginnings of handfasting were not a religious act. Handfasting was done in any marriage ceremony and was a symbol of marriage. In the Middle Ages, handfasting was not marriage, but a betrothal between a couple. During the Renaissance if a handfasted couple consummated, then their betrothal was a legally binding marriage until the day one of them died. Searching around the internet always is helpful for finding any information on having a Pagan wedding.

Wedding Editor's Welcome

The Wedding Guest's Guide to the Perfect Outfit

by Elle Lamboy, Wedding Editor

Sure, weddings are all about the couple and their love but they’re also about the fashion! No matter the scale of the affair, the attire is always a highlight. Whether a fancy ball gown or a low-key suit, the duds of the bride and groom always take center stage.

However, the bridal party aren’t the only people who have to worry about looking their best. The attendees also have a responsibility to look fabulous yet appropriate.

While the bridesmaids and groomsmen’s attire is carefully planned out by the happy couple, the wedding guests are left to their own devices to come up with the perfect outfit. There is a lot to consider—the weather, locale, theme, time of day, level of formality and the list continues!

This Huffington Post article  is a great cheat sheet to consult while planning what to wear the next time you are a wedding guest.

What are your go-to rules when planning your wedding guest attire?

Wedding Editor's Welcome

Wear Your Derby Finest

by Elle Lamboy, Wedding Editor

One of the bridesmaids’ key roles is organizing and hosting the bridal shower. Typically, the bridesmaids work with the mother-of-the-bride to put on a shower that mirrors the bride’s interests and taste. For example, a bride who does not like a lot of attention may have a “green” shower where guest bring their gifts unwrapped to display so that the bride-to-be doesn’t have to open them in front of the crowd. Or, a night-owl bride-to-be may have an evening cocktail shower rather than an early morning brunch or tea.

This past weekend, I attended the most unique shower I’ve seen. (And I’ve been to A LOT of bridal showers!) The bride-to-be spent much of her childhood on her aunt’s farm in rural Pennsylvania. She has many fond memories of playing in the barn, riding the horses and feeding the goats. So, her bridesmaids asked her aunt if they could host the shower on that very farm.

The invitations, sketched by one of her bridesmaids, showcased a woman in a fabulously large hat instructing guests to “wear your derby finest…the bigger the hat the better.”

Being three girls from Jersey we were a little skeptical of a farm as a shower venue but my mom, future sister-in-law and I had a blast picking out huge hats and dresses to wear and when we arrived at the farm, all our suspicions were wiped away. The place was transformed into a beautiful and chic shower venue!

The bridesmaids did a great job of setting up champagne, wine, appetizers and pastries right inside the barn and used fun country-themed platters and dispensers. For non-alcoholic beverages, each guest received a mason jar to fill with their choice of sparkling water, tea or lemonade. Each table had an umbrella for shade and bright sunflowers in the center. The hats the guests donned also came in handy to not only provide a fashionable twist but also to shield from the sun. As an additional favor, each guest also received a homemade salt scrub in little baby food jars.

One of my favorite moments of the shower was when the bride-to-be made a toast to her guests and bridesmaids explaining why the farm was such a special place to her and how thankful she was that her guests made the trip out. It really tied the venue to the bride and made our presence there feel really special.

Whether you are a country gal or a city chick, your shower should reflect your interests and taste. Make sure to talk with your bridesmaids about your shower likes and dislikes and if you are a bridesmaid, check-in with your bride to be. Guests are volunteering their time and money to attend the event and want to see a happy bride. There’s nothing more awkward than a miserable bridezilla at a bridal shower!

What type of bridal shower do you envision for yourself?

Wedding Editor's Welcome

Let Him Eat Cake!

By Elle Lamboy, Wedding Editor

While we don’t always want to admit it, the Groom-to-be puts up with a lot of craziness while the pending Bride is working her magic: mood swings, dwindling bank accounts, dress dilemmas, nightmares, venue woes, bling barters, guest-list gripes, and the list continues.

One way to reward your man for seeing you through the wedding planning and deciding to go ahead and marry you anyway is with a Groom’s cake. Groom’s cakes are a great way to put the attention on your man for a change. Typically, they are designed to have a more non-traditional flavor and batter and reveal something quirky and fun about the Groom or about the two of you as a couple.

Not one to give up too much wedding-day attention, I presented my man with a Groom’s cake during our rehearsal dinner. If you already have an attention-grabbing wedding cake, the rehearsal dinner is a great chance to present your Groom his cake. Some of my friends had a cake sent to their man’s bachelor party; which is also a great alternative.

My hubby has a very large man crush on Michael Jordan and was an all-star basketball athlete himself throughout high school. So, I had a cake made to look like a Jordan jersey with chocolate and peanut butter filling, his favorite! He was totally surprised and loved not only the cake, but the gesture, too. Our guests got a kick out of the creative-looking cake and learned a bit more about my Groom-to-be.

Check out this Huffing Post article to learn a bit more about the groom’s cake tradition and view some more incredible pictures of really creative Groom’s cakes.

 Will you have a cake for your Groom?

Wedding Editor's Welcome

Finding "The Dress"

By Michelle Pease, Wedding Editor

I've only been bridal gown shopping once, and the experience was both exciting and terrifying. How on earth does a dress that you wear for one day cost hundreds to thousands to tens of thousands of dollars?! And the craziest part, to me anyway, is that brides are more than willing to dish out the money for "the dress."

But is there really such a thing? I've always wondered this, especially while watching shows like Say Yes to the Dress that practically live on the idea of a bride finding "the one." I'm a little reluctant to latch onto this idea, especially if it means latching onto a ridiculous price tag. I've got a few dress styles in mind that I want, but there is no particular dress maker or design that I NEED to have. My wedding is still pretty far away, so I've got time to change my mind though!

 What do you think? Did you settle, or did you find "the dress?"

Wedding Editor's Welcome

Wedding Nightmare

By Elle Lamboy, Wedding Editor

Like many brides, I lived, breathed, ate, and slept weddings while preparing for my nuptials. So, I wasn’t shocked that before my big day I had some pretty awful nightmares about my wedding. One reoccurring dream I had was that I picked out a hideous wedding dress. The same horrifying dress reappeared each night that I had the nightmare—it was a sheer unflattering number that developed more and more glitter and bling each time I had the dream! If I recall correctly, one time I even donned a peacock feather 1940s-inspired headband and long cigarette holder to complete the awful mismatched ensemble. I would wake up in a cold sweat in full Bridezilla-mode; phoning my poor mother and sister to scold them for letting me purchase such an awful dress—which always resulted in them rolling their eyes and hanging up on me. (Don’t you wish you could somehow record your dreams so that family members and friends could understand the trauma?!)

I guess my nightmare was equivalent to the “walking into the cafeteria in your underwear” dream that so many teens have before entering high school.

Lucky for me, my nightmares remained in dreamland and my wedding gown was just want I wanted. Unlike many brides, I was thrilled my wedding gown dreams didn’t come true!

This poor bride, however, experienced a real-life dress nightmare on her wedding day—sending most of her bridesmaids to the hospital and the remaining two with stained dresses!

 Have you ever experienced a real or reoccurring wedding nightmare?

Wedding Editor's Welcome

Roller Coaster Ride of Decisions

By Michelle Pease, Wedding Editor

For those of you who have been following me, you know I’ve been facing a roller coaster of decisions regarding my wedding planning process. Well, this month is no different.

I should preface by saying that I am not making any real decisions about my wedding until after I have some sort of income. I graduated college in May, so here’s hoping I find something soon.

My fiancé’s parents have been way more interested in helping out our wedding plans than my parents have. By helping out, I mean occasionally they’ll leave us articles about planning budget weddings or suggest local venues for us to check out. Recently, my soon-to-be dad-in-law left an advertisement for a local, environmentally-friendly venue about twenty minutes from our house. Since Fiancé and I have been wanting to do an outdoor wedding (regardless of location) I decided to look into it.

The place is actually a youth camp during the summer called Trailblazers. They are located between High Point State Forest and Stokes State Forest in Northwest New Jersey and offer two gorgeous areas for us to get married. Best of all: it’s wicked cheap. Like $500 for 8 hours cheap.

But when Fiancé and I got really excited and told our parents about Trailblazers, both parents responded, “Oh, I was looking forward to going to Virginia Beach.”

We can’t win.

Wedding Editor's Welcome

Chill Out

By Elle Lamboy, Wedding Editor

For many couples about to take the plunge, the months leading up to the wedding are the most stressful part of their relationship to date. Your free spirited mate turns into a crazed maniac as he\she tries to make sense out of the wedding planning process.

While you may be granted a couple free “freak out” moments, it is important to remember and consider your partner’s feelings. This Yahoo! Shine article gives some great exercises from a couple who have been happily married for a decade.

Read it over and share it with your partner. Choose the tips that you find you really need to work on and vow to exercise them; especially during these stressful months of wedding planning.

I, personally, like tip number 9: CHILL OUT. While I am not always successful, I try to really exercise this in my marriage. I am a creative person and it is my nature to make drama out of everything; which gets very exhausting for my even-keeled husband. When I feel myself going diva, I try to remember to breathe and reboot before approaching him about my problem.

I learned the importance of tip #9 while planning my wedding. There were times I found myself screaming (when I wasn’t crying) to my husband about things that were beyond our control—from small things like a missing RSVP to larger things like a delay in the bridesmaid dresses. The sheer stress of the wedding planning was driving me crazy and I was taking out my frustrations on my groom-to-be. I started realizing that I was single-handily ruining the most exciting time of our lives. So, when I felt myself getting frustrated or overwhelmed I would grab my I-pod and go outside and just get some fresh air. Sometimes I would take a walk, play in the garden, write in my journal, or just listen to music and chill out. Nine times out of ten, this cleared my head and allowed me to face the problem in a calm manner. I took my frustrations out in a constructive way and was able to discuss them with my husband maturely. I had a well-thought out plan to present instead of coming at him predicting the end of the world. The end result was always better than when I faced the problem in a defensive, aggressive and dramatic manner.

Which tip will you incorporate into your relationship?

Wedding Editor's Welcome

Where's the Happy Middle?

By Michelle Pease, Wedding Editor

Compromise is an essential part of any relationship. But compromise is proving especially difficult during the wedding planning process.

My fiancé and I quickly discovered that we had completely different ideas of what we want our wedding to include. Fiancé imagined a big gathering for family and friends to join in on the celebration, whereas the thought of more than, like, ten people watching me say my vows makes me shiver with anxiety. Fiancé wanted an elaborate ceremony and reception space for us to party in; my wallet shriveled with fear at the thought of the potential cost of 75+ guests at $80/head.

Talking my Fiancé into seeing something more, well, budget friendly was not an easy battle. Fiancé could not for the life of him understand that a small, destination wedding was an acceptable alternative to the modern-day “spend all your money ever” type of wedding. He had been brainwashed by the media into thinking that we would be (I don’t know) socially ostracized or something if we didn’t dish out $10,000+ on a wedding.

I’ve been trained since birth to look after my finances responsibly; Fiancé likes to splurge on things that matter. To him, a wedding and reception are “things that matter.” And I agree, they do matter. But what’s wrong with getting hitched on the beach in the Bahamas?

I wrote in my last post that Fiancé had agreed that a destination wedding in Virginia Beach was the best plan of action. Since then, he’s rescinded this belief and is now back on his “real wedding” pedestal.

I don’t want a real wedding, and he’s not “settling” for a budget-friendly wedding. Where’s the compromise in all this?

Wedding Editor's Welcome

Hold That Train

By Elle Lamboy, Wedding Editor

Planning a wedding is stressful. There are a million details to consider: the dress, the venue, the budget, the dress, your accessories, the transportation, the vows and the dress…

It’s important once in awhile to take a moment to relax. Have a glass of wine or a cup of tea and give yourself some mindless Internet, magazine, or reality TV browsing time. Try to incorporate both wedding and non-wedding related topics (be careful not to overdose on Bridezillas and Say Yes to the Dress… the detox isn’t pretty.) You’ll be surprised how a little mindless browsing can lead to some creative inspiration later on and let’s face it—sometimes you just want to read about a bride that is acting as crazy as you feel.

Check out this story (and video) of the world’s longest bridal train. It’s sure to make your dress hunt seem a tad less over-the-top.

Enjoy!

How do you de-stress during your wedding planning?

Wedding Editor's Welcome

Virginia Beach, Here We Come!

By Michelle Pease, Wedding Editor

My fiancé and I have struggled about what to do with our (extremely) limited budget for months. We think we’ve finally come to a conclusion.

Neither one of us are really big into parties or formalities. We aren’t religious, so we don’t need a massive ceremony with hundreds of people, and we hate dancing, so why force our friends and family into a small, awkward space where we would shuffle about uncomfortably?

We’ve decided to have a destination wedding. We’re looking into a Virginia Beach wedding, because Busch Gardens would also be nearby. We could spend our honeymoon on the beach, at the theme park, and exploring the historical sites nearby. Plus, we wouldn’t have to plan our elopement that far in advance.

The only downside is that (on average) only 12 guests would be allowed to attend. So we would have to pick and choose family and friends wisely. We were also thinking of having a potluck post-wedding celebration in our hometown. That way, we could rent a wicked cheap space and invite everyone to cook food and listen to crummy music off my ipod. Everyone would also be able to look at pictures from our wedding and honeymoon and celebrate with us.

For now, we think it’s the way for us to go. But who knows if we’ll find any road bumps along the way.

Wedding Editor's Welcome

Here Comes… the Shamrocks

By: Elle Lamboy, Wedding Editor

This St. Patrick’s Day combines two of my favorite things: StageofLife.com & Weddings! (And, of course, green beer but that’s for another post.)

This Saturday I will be attending a StageofLife.com sponsored workshop in Lancaster, PA titled: The Power of Collaboration: Demonstrating the Power of a Collaborative Partnership between Writers and Artists.  In the workshop literary and artistic students will work hands-on with StageofLife.com’s CEO Eric Thiegs! It is a very exciting endeavor to be a part of since workshops that explore this important collaborative experience are few and far between.

Following the workshop, I am attending my husband’s grandparents’ 60th wedding anniversary party and renewal of their vows. It is just incredible to witness the love and admiration they have for each other after all these years and I am very excited to celebrate this huge milestone with them.  As I pictured what their wedding must have been like in the 1950s, I couldn’t help but wonder how funny it would be if they derived from their traditional 1950s wedding mind-set and incorporated a St. Patrick’s Day theme into their vow renewal ceremony and reception.

While I know their ceremony and party will be shamrock-free, check out this St. Patty’s themed wedding for inspiration.

How will you incorporate your heritage or favorite holiday into your wedding theme?

Wedding Editor's Welcome

Destination Weddings

By: Michelle Pease, Wedding Editor

Destination weddings are a fun (and cost effective) alternative to throwing a traditional $20,000+ wedding bash. Some popular locations offer wedding packages complete with a minister, decorations, chairs, an arch, three hour photography and videography, and other important wedding details, for as low as $2,500! What a steal!

There are, of course, several things to consider before you and your partner decide on a destination wedding…

1.    Travel: Are your family members/guests willing to travel to whatever location you and your partner decide on? How much will travel cost your guests? Does that really matter to you—especially if you are considering eloping? (Another cost effective wedding alternative.)
2.    Reception: Depending on the destination location, some venues will be pricier than local venues. This is especially true if you are considering a tropical vacation spot.
3.    Formality: Destination weddings don’t give the impression of staying especially formal. So if you are dead set on having a religious or formal ceremony, I would stick to your hometown venues.
4.    Fun: Your guests will treat a destination wedding like a vacation and have more fun!

For my fiancé and I, the destination wedding is sounding better and better.

Wedding Editor's Welcome

Fun, Fabulous, and Frugal

By: Elle Lamboy, Wedding Editor

Many of our readers have commented on the daunting task of planning a wedding on a budget. Especially in these tougher economic times, planning the wedding of your dreams turns quickly into a logistical nightmare.

Here are five tips to help you plan a fun and fabulous yet frugal affair:

1.    Make a List.
Before you even begin thinking about your dream wedding, make a list of all the potential expenses that go into planning your wedding (dress, venue, food, booze, flowers, etc.) When you are finished, rank the items in order of importance to you and your mate. This will be tedious at first, but it’s worth it in the long run. This list will be your wedding planning roadmap; and help you decide what you really need for your wedding and what you can live without.  You may decide you absolutely must have a professional photographer but can survive without extravagant flowers. As a result, you can pick wildflowers from your grandparent’s garden, and use the cash that would have gone to a bouquet towards a photographer.  If you really take the time out to do this, you will realize how much money you can save by prioritizing your wedding wish-list.

2.    Delve Into Your Personal Network.
One huge way to cut costs is to employ friends instead of big businesses. Think about your and your fiancé’s connections. Do you have a friend who is an amateur photographer who may want to take your photos in lieu of a wedding present to get his portfolio started? Do you have a co-worker whose son is starting up a catering business? Does your best friend have a knack for hair and makeup? Does your fiancé have a buddy whose IPod has better jams than the local DJ? By tapping into your network of friends and family, you can save a ton of money on professional fees and still come out with top-notch results. Don’t be afraid to ask, most people are willing to help out their friends and family (especially if it gets them out of buying a wedding present!) Just be prepared and willing to return the favor in the future.

3.    Get Creative.

Food and beverage are often the biggest strains on your budget. If money is tight, you may want to consider having your ceremony and reception at an off- time of day. Consider having your reception from 8pm-10pm and have a cocktail and dessert-only affair with some fabulous desserts and light cheeses with artisan breads. Or, you may want to have your reception after lunchtime and just offer a few appetizer stations. One cost-effective appetizer station option is a mashed potato martini bar; where your guest get to eat mashed potatoes (a very affordable food option) out of a martini glass adorned with their favorite toppings (sour cream, chives, scallions, cheddar cheese,  bacon bits…the affordable possibilities are endless!)   

4.    Location, Location, Location
Another huge burden to your budget is the venue. Instead of a traditional banquet hall or lavish country club, consider a city or state park for your affair. They are usually free of charge with the exception of a minimal permit fee.  You may also consider your (or a friend or family members) own backyard! My best friend recently got married in her backyard and it was one of the most beautiful and fun weddings I’ve attended. She rented a couple tents and a dance floor and transformed her backyard into a chic party space. You will incur some cost here, but will save a bundle in room rental fees. You may also consider your local VFW or fire hall for an affordable space.

5.    Invitations

You cannot have a wedding with guests without invitations. However, there are some more affordable ways to get the word out. Consider sending a postcard invitation or have guests RSVP to your wedding website or designated E-mail address. This will cut your postage costs in half and force your guests to view the wedding website you’ve spent so much time creating! You can create your wedding website for free by using sites like theknot.com and projectwedding.com.

There are just 5 small ways to have a fabulous yet frugal wedding.  Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box while planning your wedding. Remember, it is YOUR wedding. If naysayers aren’t offering to help you pay for your big day, they really shouldn’t get much of a say in how you decide to celebrate the love between you and your fiancé. The important part of the wedding is the celebration of your love surrounded by close family and friends. The dollars and cents are just logistics.  

How will you cut costs for your big day?

Wedding Editor's Welcome

Decision Making

By: Michelle Pease, Wedding Editor

My fiancé and I are slowly making some small (and big) decisions about our wedding. We’ve decided on a date (August 25, 2013), since that is the first thing everyone asks us when we tell them we’re getting married. We’ve picked wedding colors (navy blue, yellow, and pink); similarly, we’ve discovered craft stores like AC Moore are perfect for playing around with potential flower colors. We’ve picked centerpieces (bettas in small glass bowls with a floating flower on top). If our guests wanted, they could take the betta home, too.

We’ve been researching potential venues, and may begin to tour them starting as soon as Spring Break. Despite all the excitement surrounding our upcoming nuptials, we’ve been distracted by a bigger challenge: graduation from college. We decided to focus on finding real-life grown-up jobs before worrying about a wedding. But that doesn’t mean we don’t like to talk or think about it.

Our decision making is very out-of-order, but we’re getting there: slowly, but surely.

Wedding Editor's Welcome

Ooo La La!

By: Elle Lamboy, Wedding Editor

About a decade ago, engagement sessions were cutting age, and now they are the norm. Almost every newly engaged couple gets several professional photos taken to use in their engagement announcements, Christmas cards, save the dates, or just to post on Facebook! In fact, many photographers include the engagement session in their wedding packages. When I got married, the engagement session was a mandatory part of the wedding package. Our photographer said she enjoyed the sessions because it “gave her the opportunity to see how we photographed” before our big day.

Another pre-wedding photo session that has been around for a while but, still has edginess to it, are boudoir sessions. In these sessions, the bride-to-be gets sexy photos of herself taken to give to her love the night before the wedding.  Some brides-to-be really just get them done for themselves so they can look back and remember how hot they were back in the day!

Our wedding photographer was also an expert in boudoir photography and I contemplated getting them done as a gift for my hubby-to-be….especially since she knew how to Photoshop! I decided to get a feel for what he thought of the whole idea before I subjected myself and wallet to the session.

So, one evening after a glass or two of wine, I brought up the photographer’s boudoir photo site and asked him in my sexiest voice if he “would like sexy pictures like this of meeee.”

His response?

“I would never stop laughing.”

SERIOUSLY!??!?!?!

Alas, my husband thought they it would be a little strange to have a professional photo book of sexy photos of me. It’s not like I would let him show anyone, and he felt like he would “almost feel like a creep looking at them on a regular basis.” Plus, I don’t exactly ooze sex appeal, so it would be a little hard for him to take them seriously. Of course, he covered his initial reaction by explaining how he, “has his own collection of more natural looking pictures” of me that he considers to be sexy.

Whatever.

Check out this informative Huffington Post Article that defends the art of boudoir photography and explains the sessions in more detail.

To be honest, I kind of regret not getting the photos done. I think it would be a liberating experience and I’m sure hubs would appreciate them when it was all said and done.
Perhaps for Valentine’s Day….

Are you considering getting a boudoir session done for your spouse-to-be?

Wedding Editor's Welcome

No Money

By: Michelle Pease, Wedding Editor

Every Sunday I make a ritual out of watching wedding-themed shows, namely Say Yes to the Dress and Four Weddings. I watch these shows for “research” on how I want my own wedding to look and feel, but the budgets on each of these shows is always completely ridiculous. Who has $5,000 for a wedding dress? Or $40,000 for a wedding? That’s a down payment on a house, or a new car!

I’ve taken to calling myself the Budget Bride. My fiancé and I have agreed that what’s most important to us in our wedding is getting married, and having some friends and family around to celebrate with us. I want to wear a pretty white dress, and I really want to have photos to remember the day. But everything else is negotiable.

My fiancé and I have a starting budget of, well, absolutely nothing. We are getting no help from our families; although I am partially convinced that if I make a convincing budget and cry a little, my parents may help us out.

So when you have no money, where do you begin?

Wedding Editor's Welcome

Reader Question: Holding on to Your Individuality

By: Elle Lamboy, Wedding Editor

Privy Trifles Asks: Why is that after marriage the "YOU" seems to take a back seat and that individuality is lost somewhere. It never ever remains about what we want to do or like to do......?

Before I got hitched a little over a year ago, I often worried a little bit about this same thing. I had lived on my own for about four years, not including the four previous years that I lived away at college. I had a rather large and demanding group of friends and family that would not bode well to me suddenly becoming less of myself. Not to mention an active career and several quirky hobbies!

I’ve learned that you need to put the effort in to make time for yourself. It is hard, especially when you first get married, to remember to do that; but it is absolutely manageable.  To help with this, my best friend and I have “Thelma and Louise” road trips once a year where we leave our loving husbands (and before that it was our boyfriends) at home and go somewhere else for the weekend just the two of us. It is a great time to connect with ourselves and our individuality. We don’t always take crazy trips, this past one was just a town away from where I live, but it’s the perfect amount of time and space for us to catch up. Our husbands, in turn, also get some time to themselves and both couples are excited to reunite and reconnect and the end of the weekend. Everyone wins!

It is also important to have one or two hobbies that you enjoy separate from your mate.  Sometimes in the evenings, I will write or read my latest fashion magazine and he will play guitar or read his latest non-fiction novel that would put me immediately to sleep! These hobbies give us outlets to express our unique individualities and are also fun to share with each other from time to timeā€•but not always.

Holding on to your individuality is important, because it is what drew you to each other in the first place. However, becoming a unit is important, too. Learn to find a happy medium and your marriage will continue to grow, excite and strengthen.

How do you express your individuality in your marriage or in your wedding planning?

Wedding Editor's Welcome

Newly Engaged and Overwhelmed

By: Michelle Pease, Wedding Editor

Since I’m still so newly engaged (and since my proposed wedding date isn’t for another year and a half), I’ve barely begun planning. I went to look at wedding dresses with my mom, and I’ve started thinking about reception venues. But really, I have no idea where to begin planning.

I signed up for theknot.com (no particular reason why this site—I saw another newly engaged friend use it and thought I might as well too). The site asks right away for things like wedding theme, colors, and ceremony “feel”—beach, or formal? Traditional, or green-friendly? Geez, how am I supposed to know already? I signed up for this site for some help with that!

The good news is the site does have some good advice on budget weddings, and a free budgeter (with the site membership, of course). Budgeting is going to be extremely important to me, since my parents are NOT contributing anything to the wedding. On your profile home page, you get to see a little countdown to your wedding date. Only 570-something days away, eep!

I think the first place to start is to sit down my fiancé and write a list of what is going to be important to us for our wedding. In other words, what do we absolutely need, and what can we throw away?

Hopefully this will help us prioritize our costs, and help us make important decisions once it comes to important decision making time. 

Wedding Editor's Welcome

Breathe and Reboot

By: Elle Lamboy, Wedding Editor

Over the summer, you couldn’t watch TV or pick up a magazine without seeing something about Kim Kardashian’s fairytale wedding. Now, less than 100 days later, her quickie divorce is the hot media topic.

Kim has reportedly said that she got “caught up in the hoopla” of the wedding and didn’t take the time to listen to her heart in the process.

No matter what you think about the Kardashians or this super quick wedding and divorce, there is an important lesson here for all brides and grooms to be:

TAKE TIME FOR YOURSELVES TO CONNECT AS A COUPLE.

Sure, we all aren’t planning huge fairytale weddings to be featured on a major network. However, no matter how big or small your affair, it is a big deal to you as a couple and it is so easy to get wrapped up in the excitement and the details and forget about the most important element of the wedding: you and your mate.

The best advice I can give is to check-in with your fiancé periodically to ensure you are on the same page. Not only with the color scheme of the wedding, but also with the commitment you are about to embark on together.  Take one day a week, to just be together. Make it a rule that all wedding-planning conversation and errands are off limits and go for a hike, out to dinner, or just rent a movie and cuddle on the couch.

Not only will you feel refreshed and ready to tackle the next wedding errand, you also will be confident that you and your fiancé are absolutely tying the knot because of your love for each other and not simply going through the motions in fear of disappointing your wedding guests or breaking a contract with a vendor.

While I was going through the wedding planning craziness, I began to cross into bridezilla territory. So, I made sure we had a “date night” every Friday night where I was not allowed to talk about the wedding whatsoever. We also tried to discuss a topic that was brought up in our Pre-cana class to learn even more about each other.

It was tough at first, but once we made it a priority it was probably the best thing we could do for ourselves. We went into our wedding with no doubts and discussed topics ranging from our thoughts on children to where we would spend the holidays so that there were no false pretentions before we said, “I do.”

Just like you need to restart your computer once a week to keep it functioning correctly, you also need to recharge and reboot in your personal life. Take a day a week to refresh and reboot with your mate and ensure you are heading down the aisle with the best intentions.

How do you and your fiancé take time for each other during the hectic wedding planning process?

Wedding Editor's Welcome

Reader Questions

By: Michelle Pease, Wedding Editor

Hello there.

My name is Michelle, and I am extremely new to this new stage of life. My boyfriend of four years proposed to me on October 17. Since everyone asks, this is how it happened:

Justin took me to a park by our house to take some photos for his class. We were supposed to have dinner with a friend at 6:30, and it was creeping up on 6 very quickly. It was also very windy and very cold, so I was very, very grumpy. Justin took me over to a small man-made waterfall in the park and knelt on the ground to take some photos. Then he pointed at something on the ground, “Michelle, you have to see this!” I walked over to him and squinted, but I couldn’t see anything, “What are you looking at?” By then, Justin was on one knee and pulled out the ring, “Something shiny! Will you marry me?”

My first reaction, since I was in such a foul mood, was “Are you for real?!” When he meekly nodded, probably afraid that I was going to push him into the waterfall, I finally said yes. And that was that.

I called my mom to tell her the news, and we both sobbed to each other over the phone. She was at a Chinese restaurant with my dad at the time, and she had to leave the restaurant to talk to me. Then when she got home, she called ALL OF THE RELATIVES. They were all ecstatic, naturally.

I am excited to share my wedding planning journey with you—all of the fears, stress, and excitement. The wedding will be in June 2013 (we think), so I’ll be here for a while.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, we did make it to dinner. We ate warm steak and baked potatoes. It was delicious.

Do you have any advice for a newly engaged bride?

Wedding Editor's Welcome

Reader Questions

By: Elle Lamboy, Wedding Editor

Part of my job as a Stage of Life Editor, is to filter through the various questions in the stages and make comments, offer advice, reflect, or grant kudos. I am vowing (note the wedding pun) to do a better job at this and will try and feature one reader question or story every other month in my Wedding Editor’s Welcome. 

In late August, “Nies” asked a question that shared the same theme I’ve noticed in many of the questions and stories in our stage so I think this is a good one to address and open to everyone for further comment and/or reflection:

“As an eighteen-year-old young man, I may be too naive to understand the notion of marriage. However, I want to ask: what is special about marriage? It is a tradition, yes, and religions require it. Still, is it truly necessary? Do all couples hit an indestructible ceiling when in love for too long, and is marriage the only way to destroy that ceiling? Also, do you believe that it is more financially beneficial to be married than not? Finally, do you believe that there is such a thing as an unacceptable marriage?”

I am not an expert on marriage by any means but I can answer this question based on my newlywed experience.

I, too, was a tad skeptical about what made marriage so special as was my husband. I used to be a firm believer in the commitment but after getting burned from several bad relationships, I started to feel like it wasn’t in the cards for me and therefore spread my Sinicism to everyone. My husband was shocked by his parents divorce when he was younger and had his doubts on the whole institution.

However, after close to three years of dating, we decided to take the plunge.

Being married, to me, is more than the glitz and glamor, and the shared bank accounts, and the title that comes with it. It’s about having a partner in crime…someone to ALWAYS HAVE YOUR BACK. There is something very comforting and inspiring in that. Sure, you may feel you get that from your boyfriend or girlfriend or your best friend or sibling, but when you agree to legally merge your lives, it ups the ante.

 You consciously decide to forever support and rely on each other. Not because you share the same blood or a dorm room but because you love each other and realize life wouldn’t really work without the other. You try harder, you see each other in a deeper light, and you know that in the eyes of the law, God, family and friends you two loved each other enough to join your lives and be each other’s sole intimate partner for life.

That’s my favorite part of marriage. It’s having that partner, the Clyde to your Bonnie, the peanut butter to your jelly the mac to your cheese that you can count on to walk beside you in this crazy journey we call life.  The path is always changing, and it will not always be easy but, to me, it’s worth it.

Having that life partner gives you a renewed sense of confidence in yourself. Suddenly, you feel like you can do all the things you never believed in yourself enough to do. For example, after working at the same job for over 5 years (my only “real” job since I graduated college) I recently took a new position in a completely different genre in a totally new city. My husband gave me that renewed sense of confidence….I honestly saw myself through his eyes instead of just my own. I knew in the back of my mind that I was capable and qualified to take on the challenge but knowing he was behind my decision helped a great deal. That’s what’s special about marriage to me. That feeling that you will never have to go it alone because you have someone by your side who makes you want to be a better person not only for them, but for yourself. That feeling that even if they aren’t physically with you, you have their confidence, and they will meet you when you get home to just simply have your back.

Sound hokey? Maybe, but it’s the truth. And let’s face it, it’s the hokey parts of love that make it worth the risk.

As for the financial question, (Also, do you believe that it is more financially beneficial to be married than not? Finally, do you believe that there is such a thing as an unacceptable marriage?”)…sure, two incomes are better than one, but I would NEVER advise getting married solely for the financial benefits and if you ask my husband I have NO business giving anyone financial advice!

I’m not sure how to answer the part of the question that asks if certain marriages can be unacceptable (Finally, do you believe that there is such a thing as an unacceptable marriage?”) You never know someone else’s struggle but I would say that any marriage that is entered without the best intentions is unacceptable to the institution of marriage and is what often gives marriage a bad name.

I’d like to thank Nies for submitting this question and hope my two cents gave you some food for thought. If my piece didn’t do it for ya, here is a more scientific reason to tie the knot.

I encourage all of you to share your thoughts on the topic and please continue to post your questions, stories and contest entries on the site!

Wedding Editor's Welcome

Worldwide Wedding Traditions - Making Them Yours

By: Laurel Diehl, Wedding Editor

As the months fly by, my fiance and I have finally decided what we truly want on our wedding day. A quiet, intimate ceremony with the people we are closest with in a unique and romantic setting. Afterwards, a dinner together in the banquet room of a downtown Italian restaurant in Baltimore.

Since it's all considered part of an "elopement package" (a money-saving term that can still give you everything you want), we don't have to worry about our venues until three months prior our wedding date. Not only are we excited to share this special day with our closest friends and family members, but we can still take part in the wedding traditions that mean the most to us.
 
Despite our small ceremony, I will still have "something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue". Despite our Italian dinner party in Baltimore following the ceremony, the banquet room will still be open enough to have our first dance, and dance with our parents. The music will be from an MP3 player, the audience will be small - but the traditions will be the same.

No matter what kind of ceremony and reception you have, some kind of wedding tradition will be incorporated into your special day. The traditions we incorporate are typical "American" wedding traditions, but there are many other unique and beautiful traditions from all over the world. Check out this link, thanks to theknot.com, that lists wedding traditions from all over the world.

What kind of traditions will you have on your wedding day?

Wedding Editor's Welcome

Shall We Dance?

By: Elle Lamboy, Wedding Editor

Ahh, the first dance. Traditionally, this moment signifies the first “real life” romantic moment as husband and wife.

Factually, the moment that makes two singles a married couple is during the ceremony, but there’s something about the first dance that really seals the deal. Up until the first dance, the couple is caught up in a whirlwind of protocol, paperwork, structure, serious vows and promises, sweaty palms, tears and pictures.
The first dance is usually the first time the newly married couple can really connect and let it all sink in.

Wedding Writing ContestUntil the music starts.

Then, for many, the panic sets in all over again.

Thanks to Youtube, first dances have gained a ton of popularity. Couples are doing everything from choreographed waltzes to broadwayesque performances to the increasingly popular slow to fast dance fakeout.

While these are entertaining to watch, it has created a great deal of pressure on many engaged couples to wow the guests in their opening number as husband and wife. I felt it when I got engaged, too. We knew we wanted to dance to Frank Sinatra’s Fly Me to the Moon, and I was convinced we had to perform a classic fox trot.

However, while my husband has the swagger of the entire Rat Pack, my dancing will drive you to chug a six pack. So, I insisted we enroll in dance lessons.

About two weeks before we were scheduled to appear at our first lesson, we attended a wedding where the couple had a professional choreograph their first dance. I was so excited to see the number, as I knew my friend had been stressing about it and practicing the routine around the clock for weeks.

While lovely, the dance looked very rehearsed. They were too busy counting steps to connect with each other and at one point my dear friend had to count aloud the steps to her struggling groom.

On our drive home, my husband suggested that we ditch the professionally choreographed dance and lessons and try to go it alone so that it would “feel more like us.”

“Your friends know you can’t dance like a Disney princess,” he laughed, “Leave this one to me.”
At that point, I was buzzed from my friend’s wedding and stressed from the million other wedding related tasks I had to complete in the next six months so I agreed.

Later that week, he called me into the living room. The furniture was all pushed along the wall and our wedding song was playing on the computer.

Long story short, through my husband’s guidance and patience, we choreographed our own first dance and it was fun learning something brand new together. It took a LONG time and we viewed many painful playbacks on the camera phone but we finally started looking in each other’s eyes and enjoying ourselves instead of staring at each other’s feet!

Was our first dance perfect? Nope. But, it was perfectly “us.”

As you plan your first dance, is important to forget about the pressure and remember that it is your wedding and your special moment, so make it your own. If you want to take dance lessons, or choreograph an elaborate hip-hop number, channel Broadway, or just sway to the music…. go for it!

What will you do for your first dance?

Wedding Editor's Welcome

Remember Who You're Marrying

By: Laurel Diehl, Wedding Editor

There's one important lesson that I've learned when it comes to wedding planning, and all other things related to the stage of being engaged. It's easy to get caught up in all the planning, and easy to get wrapped into every detail -- down to each color shade and little ruffle. It's very easy to get lost in who you're going to invite, who you're not, and where they are going to sit. There's one thing I've learned through this experience of being engaged: Don't forget who you're marrying.
 
It's incredibly easy to let the stress of every day life and wedding planning consume you. You have to remember why you're doing all this planning in the first place... you're marrying the person you LOVE! Remember to love them!
 
I realized this was happening to John and I when Hurricane Irene ripped her way through Maryland. We lost power in the wee hours of the morning on Sunday, and woke up that day without the ability to check our email or turn on the TV. He could not play his computer games, and I could not watch my usual Sunday wedding shows. We went several days without any power, and although we lost most of the food in our fridge and bought the shelves clean of candles from the stores, we had true, honest fun with one another that we had not had in a long time.
 
We spent quality time talking, had spaghetti by complete candle light, and played a card game of War with booklights. Best of all... we laughed hysterically the entire time.
 
Wedding Writing ContestSlow down. Take a deep breath and remember why you are doing all this planning. Remember why you have a ring on your finger (or why you gave someone a ring!). You are planning to make a promise to spend the rest of your life with the person you love, so remember to enjoy them and love them. Live in the moment and create memories!
 
How do you take a break from the stress of wedding planning? What do you and your fiance(e) do to live in the moment and enjoy the engaged life, and most importantly, each other?

Please post your thoughts about the stress of wedding planning on your relationship, and how you take time out to spend time with the one you love.

Wedding Editor's Welcome

To Smash or Not to Smash

By: Elle Lamboy, Wedding Editor

The cake smash: some may say it is the most awkward element of the entire wedding reception.
That moment after the cake is cut, where all the wedding guests hold their collective breath to see if the newlyweds smash the cake in each others faces or delicately feed each other.

I always wondered how this wacky tradition started and, not surprisingly, could not find any reliable theories in my research. Many think it started with one groom who drank a little too much and wanted to tease his new wife. Another claimed it began with a wife who was irritated with her new groom’s bachelor party antics the evening before.

Or, could it just be the fact that everyone loves a good food fight?

No matter what the origin, the cake smashing is still alive and well at wedding receptions and seems to bring mixed reactions from wedding guests.

My old college roommate, after attending a relative’s wedding who chose to smash the cake claimed,“ If the bride and groom smash the wedding cake, the marriage is doomed. It is an obvious sign of disrespect.”
While a seemingly harsh claim, many other wedding guests we polled over the years had the same reaction as she, while several others saw a couple as boring if that didn’t partake in the cake smash.

A couple years ago, I was at a wedding and the couple really went at it during the cake exchange. While the guests thought it was a fun exchange, the red-cheeked bride spent the next 5 minutes digging cake icing out of her nose.

At another, more casual wedding, I attended the couple took the cake smash to another level and then polled guests to see who won. That was an interesting take….

At my wedding, we did not do the cake smash. I warned my husband ahead of time that he had an unfair advantage, being a foot and some change taller than me. Plus, if I am totally being honest with you all, I am not a huge fan of the aggressive cake smash (keeping in mind, that many people who know me would classify me as a bit of a wuss.) We ended up placing (well I reached up to place) a playful amount of icing on each other’s nose to somewhat adhere to tradition and we called it a night.  I’m not sure if the smashing of cake is an omen for a bad marriage, but it does pose an interesting question:

Do you see the cake smash as a sign of disrespect or just a goofy tradition? Will you (or did you) smash the cake at your wedding?

Wedding Editor's Welcome

It's YOUR Day!

By: Laurel Diehl, Wedding Editor

It's been a frustrating month in my world of wedding planning. My fiance and I have hardly had the time to schedule any venue tours together, since places are not usually available on weekends. Worst of all - the venue tours we did schedule - the event coordinators didn't show up!

After hours of research, venue hunting and countless mouth-dropping, bank-breaking rental fees, I've come to the most honest conclusion - it's not worth it.

Please don't recoil with the "but it's the most important day of your life statement" because I'm well aware how important this day is to my fiance and I. Which is exactly why we've decided to have a small, intimate ceremony and dinner with those nearest and dearest to our hearts. By deciding on this style of wedding, we're saving ourselves over ten thousand - let me repeat -

TEN THOUSAND dollars. When we broke down the numbers, we were baffled. We were really going to shell out enough money on one day equivalent to a down payment on a house.

For a little while, I felt guilty - almost selfish - about wanting to do a small scale ceremony. In our society, everyone talks about the "dream wedding" with several hundred guests and all of the usual traditions, so I felt pretty bad about not wanting everyone we know see us wed.

After much thought, I realized that when it comes down to it -this is our day. This day is about us, and our promise to each other to love, cherish, and move forward in life as one. It's not about how glorious of a reception we have, how nice our center pieces are or how tall our cake is. We're really not that traditional, anyway!

When you are doing your wedding planning, think about what's important to you. If you're determined to have a giant, traditional "dream wedding" of a day, then I wish you the best and I hope it's everything you ever dreamed of. But if you just want to exchange vows with the one you love in front of the ones you love the most - don't feel guilty about it. Embrace it, and think of the honeymoon or house you'll be able to afford afterward!

Do you feel like society puts too much emphasize on extravagant, expensive weddings?

Wedding Editor's Welcome

Here Comes the Bling

By: Elle Lamboy, Wedding Editor

Bummed the royal wedding is over? Have no fear; we have a new royal wedding on our hands. The Queen of reality television, Kim Kardashian, announced her engagement to NJ Nets player Kris Humphries this May. According to reports, he presented her with a 20.5 caret rock to seal the deal. Yes, you read that right…. 20.5 CARETS.

She’s already had two glitter-coated horses as guests of honor at her engagement party and now is rumored to be planning a 10 million dollar wedding! While I may have whined that the Royal Wedding was lacking a little bling, there is no doubt the Kardashian wedding, rumored to take place next month, will be chock full of it!

Wedding In my experience, while my friends and I can’t shell out 10 million on exotic accessories, every bride splurges on at least one wedding element. My cousin splurged on a Caribbean wedding venue, Lea sprung for lavish centerpieces (each table had a full sized cake!), Erica donned VIP transportation, Jamie had a rockstar band, and Mary’s reception food was exquisite.

I chose to splurge on accessories. My dress was encrusted with Swarovski crystals, my parents graciously agreed to help me purchase blinged out earrings and an exquisite bracelet, and I sprung for 4 1\2 inch Benjamin Adams slingbacks.

The important thing is that I, along with my friends, thought carefully about choosing a “splurge element”that was special to us. Each element was unique to our style and taste and while our weddings could have gone on perfectly fine without them, made the day that much more magical.

There will always be someone whose wedding budget is larger than your own, but that isn’t important. Choose one or two elements that you can’t live without and then focus your energy on your spouse-to-be!

Will you choose an element to splurge on for your wedding?

Wedding Editor's Welcome

Getting the Most Out of Your Venue Tours: Clipboard in Hand!

By Laurel Diehl, Wedding Editor

It is hard for me to believe that our wedding is just a little over one year away. With that in mind, we have one important thing that we must secure before this summer draws to a close. A venue.
 
We originally planned to have our wedding in York, Pennsylvania, where the majority of my family currently lives. Since we've moved down to Maryland a few months ago, we were open to the idea of having the wedding in our new home state. It is a decent medium between both of our families. Plus, there are plenty more venues to choose from as far as location, style, and affordability here. As our list of potentials grows longer, we have started setting up tours around our very different work schedules. Because our time is so limited, I know it's important that we make the most of the tours we attend. To make sure that we are getting the most out of our wedding venue tours, I'm going in prepared - clipboard and all.
 
When you visit a potential venue with your spouse-to-be, it's important that you go into the appointment with all of your questions already in front of you. That way, you are not distracted by the beautiful views or the event coordinator who is, more or less, trying to make an emotional sale.
 
Before you walk away from any venue tour, make sure the event coordinator, owner, or caterer answers the following questions:
 
Are there special rates for Fridays and Sundays? (You can save thousands of dollars by going with a Friday or Sunday event, as opposed to very desired Saturdays.) 

Can both the ceremony and reception be held at this location? Are there additional fees for hosting the ceremony here?
 
How much is the deposit to secure our date? What are the deposit terms and conditions? (Most deposits are non-refundable.)
 
Do you allow alcohol on the premises? Can we bring our own alcohol into the facility?
 
Do we need liability insurance? (Many venues require this as a means to protect themselves, and you, for your wedding.)
 
Do you have audio/visual equipment?
 
What is the parking like?
 
What is the sitting/standing capacity of the facility? (Will your guests be comfy, or cramped?)
 
What does the rental fee include? (Sometimes, high fees only include the use of the space. Others include tables, chairs, and other additions for your day. Make sure you're getting the most for your dollar.)
 
If a package is all inclusive (site fee, food cost, etc), can the package be customized?
 
Are there any additional fees? (Cake cutting fees, clean up fees, extra hour fees, fees, fees, fees...)
 
Is the tax and gratuity included in this price? (Most of the time, tax and gratuity is an additional expense. This could even break the budget, and the bank!)
 
When can deliveries be made on the day of the wedding to the site? Will someone be here to receive them?
 
These are just a few questions on my clipboard. As you can see, there is a lot that goes into learning about, and choosing, your venue. Don't feel like you are being a pest, either. Your event coordinator should be able to answer all of these questions without a second thought. This is valuable information that affects your special day, and your budget. Make sure you come to each tour prepared and make sure you leave knowing what you need to know.

How do you prepare when you go on a tour of a venue? Do you stroll in hand in hand with your spouse and let the atmosphere take you over and worry about details later, or do you approach the venue with an exact game plan?

Wedding Editor's Welcome

The Interesting Origin of the Summer Wedding Season

By Elle Lamboy, Wedding Editor

June is a popular month for a lot of reasons: warm weather, the end of school, the start of summer, vacations, ice cream, Father’s Day, blooming flowers, outdoor concerts and festivals; and , of course, weddings!  I always assumed June was a popular wedding month because of the nice weather, vacation time from work, and the plethora of fresh beautiful flowers. 

 However, one day at work I received a very interesting chain E-mail. It was one of those forwards that reveal different fun facts from history. This particular letter focused on modern traditions that stemmed from the 1500s. Most of the facts I was already aware of until I stumbled upon fact # 5: “Most people married in June because they took their yearly bath in May and still smelled pretty good by June.”   

WHAT?!

This was just crazy talk. I thought of those manic brides featured on Bridezillas and screaming about favors, horse drawn carriages, and blinged out receptions for their June celebrations and our sisters from the 1500s just planned around when they could hop in the tub. (I won’t even get into the “only taking a bath once a year” concept. That is for an entirely different forum!).  While the letter claimed to be accurate, I needed to do a little more research.  I found the same claim on many varying websites but none that I could site as absolutely credible. 

A couple other practical theories I found in my research are:
The Roman goddess Juno: Many Romans chose to honor Juno, the goddess of marriage, by having their weddings in June. They believed that if they married during Juno’s feast month the goddess would shower the couple with luck and prosperity.

Harvest: While couples today may plan weddings around time off from work, couples in years past planed their weddings around the peak harvest time. An summer pregnancy allowed women to be able to still help out in some of the manual labor that was required to get through the peak harvest time and a spring birth allotted enough recovery time to assist with the next harvest.

While the origins may not be relevant today, June still reigns supreme as the ideal month to get married with October becoming a close second.

What is your ideal month to tie the knot?

Wedding Editor's Welcome

The Interesting Origin of the Summer Wedding Season

By Elle Lamboy, Wedding Editor

June is a popular month for a lot of reasons: warm weather, the end of school, the start of summer, vacations, ice cream, Father’s Day, blooming flowers, outdoor concerts and festivals; and , of course, weddings!  I always assumed June was a popular wedding month because of the nice weather, vacation time from work, and the plethora of fresh beautiful flowers. 

 However, one day at work I received a very interesting chain E-mail. It was one of those forwards that reveal different fun facts from history. This particular letter focused on modern traditions that stemmed from the 1500s. Most of the facts I was already aware of until I stumbled upon fact # 5: “Most people married in June because they took their yearly bath in May and still smelled pretty good by June.”   

WHAT?!

This was just crazy talk. I thought of those manic brides featured on Bridezillas and screaming about favors, horse drawn carriages, and blinged out receptions for their June celebrations and our sisters from the 1500s just planned around when they could hop in the tub. (I won’t even get into the “only taking a bath once a year” concept. That is for an entirely different forum!).  While the letter claimed to be accurate, I needed to do a little more research.  I found the same claim on many varying websites but none that I could site as absolutely credible. 

A couple other practical theories I found in my research are:
The Roman goddess Juno: Many Romans chose to honor Juno, the goddess of marriage, by having their weddings in June. They believed that if they married during Juno’s feast month the goddess would shower the couple with luck and prosperity.

Harvest: While couples today may plan weddings around time off from work, couples in years past planed their weddings around the peak harvest time. An summer pregnancy allowed women to be able to still help out in some of the manual labor that was required to get through the peak harvest time and a spring birth allotted enough recovery time to assist with the next harvest.

While the origins may not be relevant today, June still reigns supreme as the ideal month to get married with October becoming a close second.

What is your ideal month to tie the knot?

Wedding Editor's Welcome

Royal Wrap-Up

By Laurel Diehl, Wedding Editor

Since I've ended my classes for the semester and only have to worry about working, I've found myself with a lot more time to think about our wedding. Since we were engaged in February, work and school made life a whirlwind - though I did manage to find myself "the dress" and recently, "the shoes". I've also managed to gather together a neat collection of books and literature about wedding vows, both traditional and non-traditional. After attending several weddings and regarding our own personal beliefs, my fiance and I have no desire to recite the traditional vows. At the ceremony with my beloved, there will certainly not be anyone saying "dearly beloved..."
 
After spending time searching through these books with highlighters and sticky notes, we've found passages and traditions from many cultures across the world. Several stick out to us, since it directly connects with our family heritage. Based on our collection thus far, we will be having a You're-My-Soul-Mate-Celtic-Irish-Native-American ceremony. I'm not exactly sure how this will flow, or who the lucky officiant will be, but the passages we've found this far are beautiful and mean so much to John and I. I've snagged these from a cute book I picked up in a discount book store on the beach. It's called "Wedding Vows & Traditions" by Cathy Howes. Here's some of our favorites:
 
Wedding RingYou are the star of each night.
You are the brightness of each morning.
You are the story of each quest.
You are the report of every land.
-Celtic Spiritual Blessing
 
May our days be good and long upon this earth.
-Apache Indian prayer
 
May we know that riches are not needed for wealth.
-Adapted from an Irish Wedding song
 
May the sun bring you new energy every day,
May the moon softly restore you by night,
May the rain wash away your worries
And the breeze blow new strength into your being.
May the garden of our marriage bloom with many colors,
And all the days of your life may you walk
Gently through the world and know its beauty.
-Adapted from an Apache blessing
 
In the passages we've found do not mesh into our ceremony, we were thinking about putting the smaller lines and quotes onto nice cards and laying several on each table around the centerpieces. There are not enough words in the world to describe our love, but we can share some of our favorite words with our dearest family and friends.
 

Are you writing your own vows, or a DIY ceremony? Please share your favorite passages or interesting traditions.

Wedding Editor's Welcome

Royal Wrap-Up

By Elle Lamboy, Wedding Editor

Along with millions of other American women, I followed the royal nuptials from the minute Kate started sporting that sapphire ring! I anxiously counted down the days, followed all the blogs and set my DVR in advance to record every second of the historic affair. While many viewers were excited by the romance of it all, I was interested in one thing: Kate’s wedding day wardrobe.

This royal wedding is my generation’s Cinderella story. Granted, Kate‘s social status is far from rags, but there’s something about a prince choosing a “common girl” that makes the marriage that much more magical. Consequently, I was envisioning Kate in princess-esque wedding attire. Or, at least, my version of what princess attire should be.
While Kate’s everyday style is typically conservative, I still hoped for grandeur. A Diana-sized train with a larger-than-life diamond encrusted tiara and a bouquet so full and lush, it could put your annoying neighbor’s perfect garden to shame.

When I got my first glimpse of Kate as I was about to walk out the door and she was about to walk down the aisle, I was…well...underwhelmed.

My living room commentary went something like this…

  • “ What is with those flowers? Are they even flowers?! It looks like one of those kids picked them on the way to the church.” “Are they WEEDS?!”

  • “ That is the tiara she chose out of ALL the tiaras in the Queen’s collection?! Its tiiiinnnnnyyyyyy! Where is the bling?!”

  • “Is there any embellishment on that dress….at alllll?!”

  • “ Why is Pippa (her sister) wearing white?!”

I only got a very quick glimpse of her before I had to head to work. For some reason, my boss didn’t understand the importance of this event and didn’t feel “I - will - die - if - I - can’t - stay - home - and - watch - the - royal - wedding" a legitimate reason to sign my sick day slip. My co-workers were awaiting my arrival, since I’d been gushing about the pending nuptials for months.

As I walked into my office, I was greeted with the following:

  • “How obsessed are you?!”

  • “She looked so elegant, don’t you think?”

  • “ Prince Harry is so hot.”

  • “They are so in love!”

  • “She was the most perfect bride I’ve ever seen”

I quietly replied that I was, “kind of underwhelmed” and literally had to dodge the pencils, coffee cups, and donut holes that were about to be thrown at me.

I knew I had to investigate further. I mean, I am notoriously known for not being a morning person, and I literally saw her walk down the aisle and that was it. I had an evening of wedding watching planned and hoped my opinion would change. Was I delirious? Were my expectations too grand?  

After some research, and watching HOURS of royal recap coverage, I came to embrace and actually almost love her look; especially her dress. Let’s face it, Kate is not the Duchess of New Jersey she is the Duchess of Cambridge and has traditions to uphold.

Here’s the scoop:

  • The flowers: Kate toted lily of the valley for happiness, sweet william for gallantry, hyacinth for everlasting love, and myrte, a royal tradition.

  • The dress: Kate looked to the late princess Grace Kelly for inspiration. She chose Sara Burton and her team at Alexander Mc Queen who worked with the “Royal School of Needlework “to create the royal gown. Kate offered insight to the design by choosing rose and shamrock appliques and the ivory satin bodice.

  • The dress part deaux: Much to my delight Kate had a costume change! Kate debuted another Burton for McQueen dress for her reception. This satin stunner featured diamante’ detailing that framed the waist (I finally got to see some BLING!) She paired it with a fuzzy cardigan that coincided with her conservative style but also added a touch of glam. Dare I say that I liked this gown better than her first?!

  • Pippa’s dress: Apparently in the UK it is considered good luck to have an all white wedding party as it wards off evil spirits. There is also speculation that Pippa donned white because any other color would clash with the scenery and that extravagant carpet.

  • The tiara: It is rumored that Queen Elizabeth let Kate choose a tiara from her extensive collection, but favored the one Kate chose –a Cartier tiara which the Queen inherited on her 18th birthday – because she thought it had a youthful look.

So, while I may have missed some sparkle and drama, there is no denying that Kate made the picture perfect princess bride. She held true to her personal style while also giving a nod to the royal traditions.

What did you think of Kate’s wedding day look?

Editor's Welcome

Reminder: The Engagement Party is NOT the Wedding

By Laurel Diehl, Wedding Editor
 
Whenever I manage to collect some free time, I often check out wedding message boards to see what other brides-to-be are sharing and networking with each other. These message boards are great ways to learn about local vendors, venues, and to share stories, experiences and do's and don'ts. The latest boards that have caught my attention? Brides-to-be stressing over the fine details of the... engagement party?
 
Special invitations, catering, a cake, favors? I thought this stuff happened at the wedding. Isn't that the "main event" anyway? To be completely honest, I was completely baffled to learn that people spend a great deal making the engagement party like a pre-wedding reception, down to the finest and expensive detail. What ever happened to a cook out in the back yard with family and friends?
 
Witht the help of my maid of honor, my fiance and I are looking to host an engagement party this summer to gather our family and friends together and announce our official wedding date. We fully intend to do it in a BBQ-and-bring-a-covered-dish kinda way. Of course, for everyone, it's "to each their own", but if you're a bride on a budget like me - you are not going to drop dollars on a stunning engagement party. The most important part of the engagement party to me is to bring two families together. Plus, we can share good stories, good laughs and good food.

Do you think a fancy and extravagant engagement party is money well-spent, or well-wasted? If any of you have had an engagement party, what was it that made it special to you?

Wedding Editor's Welcome

Here Comes the Bling

By: Elle Lamboy, Wedding Editor

Bummed the royal wedding is over? Have no fear; we have a new royal wedding on our hands. The Queen of reality television, Kim Kardashian, announced her engagement to NJ Nets player Kris Humphries this May. According to reports, he presented her with a 20.5 caret rock to seal the deal. Yes, you read that right…. 20.5 CARETS.

She’s already had two glitter-coated horses as guests of honor at her engagement party and now is rumored to be planning a 10 million dollar wedding! While I may have whined that the Royal Wedding was lacking a little bling, there is no doubt the Kardashian wedding, rumored to take place next month, will be chock full of it!

Wedding In my experience, while my friends and I can’t shell out 10 million on exotic accessories, every bride splurges on at least one wedding element. My cousin splurged on a Caribbean wedding venue, Lea sprung for lavish centerpieces (each table had a full sized cake!), Erica donned VIP transportation, Jamie had a rockstar band, and Mary’s reception food was exquisite.

I chose to splurge on accessories. My dress was encrusted with Swarovski crystals, my parents graciously agreed to help me purchase blinged out earrings and an exquisite bracelet, and I sprung for 4 1\2 inch Benjamin Adams slingbacks.

The important thing is that I, along with my friends, thought carefully about choosing a “splurge element”that was special to us. Each element was unique to our style and taste and while our weddings could have gone on perfectly fine without them, made the day that much more magical.

There will always be someone whose wedding budget is larger than your own, but that isn’t important. Choose one or two elements that you can’t live without and then focus your energy on your spouse-to-be!

Will you choose an element to splurge on for your wedding?

Wedding Editor's Welcome

Getting the Most Out of Your Venue Tours: Clipboard in Hand!

By Laurel Diehl, Wedding Editor

It is hard for me to believe that our wedding is just a little over one year away. With that in mind, we have one important thing that we must secure before this summer draws to a close. A venue.
 
We originally planned to have our wedding in York, Pennsylvania, where the majority of my family currently lives. Since we've moved down to Maryland a few months ago, we were open to the idea of having the wedding in our new home state. It is a decent medium between both of our families. Plus, there are plenty more venues to choose from as far as location, style, and affordability here. As our list of potentials grows longer, we have started setting up tours around our very different work schedules. Because our time is so limited, I know it's important that we make the most of the tours we attend. To make sure that we are getting the most out of our wedding venue tours, I'm going in prepared - clipboard and all.
 
When you visit a potential venue with your spouse-to-be, it's important that you go into the appointment with all of your questions already in front of you. That way, you are not distracted by the beautiful views or the event coordinator who is, more or less, trying to make an emotional sale.
 
Before you walk away from any venue tour, make sure the event coordinator, owner, or caterer answers the following questions:
 
Are there special rates for Fridays and Sundays? (You can save thousands of dollars by going with a Friday or Sunday event, as opposed to very desired Saturdays.)
 

Wedding Ring

Can both the ceremony and reception be held at this location? Are there additional fees for hosting the ceremony here?
 
How much is the deposit to secure our date? What are the deposit terms and conditions? (Most deposits are non-refundable.)
 
Do you allow alcohol on the premises? Can we bring our own alcohol into the facility?
 
Do we need liability insurance? (Many venues require this as a means to protect themselves, and you, for your wedding.)
 
Do you have audio/visual equipment?
 
What is the parking like?
 
What is the sitting/standing capacity of the facility? (Will your guests be comfy, or cramped?)
 
What does the rental fee include? (Sometimes, high fees only include the use of the space. Others include tables, chairs, and other additions for your day. Make sure you're getting the most for your dollar.)
 
If a package is all inclusive (site fee, food cost, etc), can the package be customized?
 
Are there any additional fees? (Cake cutting fees, clean up fees, extra hour fees, fees, fees, fees...)
 
Is the tax and gratuity included in this price? (Most of the time, tax and gratuity is an additional expense. This could even break the budget, and the bank!)
 
When can deliveries be made on the day of the wedding to the site? Will someone be here to receive them?
 
These are just a few questions on my clipboard. As you can see, there is a lot that goes into learning about, and choosing, your venue. Don't feel like you are being a pest, either. Your event coordinator should be able to answer all of these questions without a second thought. This is valuable information that affects your special day, and your budget. Make sure you come to each tour prepared and make sure you leave knowing what you need to know.

How do you prepare when you go on a tour of a venue? Do you stroll in hand in hand with your spouse and let the atmosphere take you over and worry about details later, or do you approach the venue with an exact game plan?

Wedding Editor's Welcome

The Interesting Origin of the Summer Wedding Season

By Elle Lamboy, Wedding Editor

June is a popular month for a lot of reasons: warm weather, the end of school, the start of summer, vacations, ice cream, Father’s Day, blooming flowers, outdoor concerts and festivals; and , of course, weddings!  I always assumed June was a popular wedding month because of the nice weather, vacation time from work, and the plethora of fresh beautiful flowers. 

 However, one day at work I received a very interesting chain E-mail. It was one of those forwards that reveal different fun facts from history. This particular letter focused on modern traditions that stemmed from the 1500s. Most of the facts I was already aware of until I stumbled upon fact # 5: “Most people married in June because they took their yearly bath in May and still smelled pretty good by June.”   

WHAT?!

Wedding Ring

This was just crazy talk. I thought of those manic brides featured on Bridezillas and screaming about favors, horse drawn carriages, and blinged out receptions for their June celebrations and our sisters from the 1500s just planned around when they could hop in the tub. (I won’t even get into the “only taking a bath once a year” concept. That is for an entirely different forum!).  While the letter claimed to be accurate, I needed to do a little more research.  I found the same claim on many varying websites but none that I could site as absolutely credible. 

A couple other practical theories I found in my research are:
The Roman goddess Juno: Many Romans chose to honor Juno, the goddess of marriage, by having their weddings in June. They believed that if they married during Juno’s feast month the goddess would shower the couple with luck and prosperity.

Harvest: While couples today may plan weddings around time off from work, couples in years past planed their weddings around the peak harvest time. An summer pregnancy allowed women to be able to still help out in some of the manual labor that was required to get through the peak harvest time and a spring birth allotted enough recovery time to assist with the next harvest.

While the origins may not be relevant today, June still reigns supreme as the ideal month to get married with October becoming a close second.

What is your ideal month to tie the knot?

Wedding Editor's Welcome

Time to Think

By Laurel Diehl, Wedding Editor

Since I've ended my classes for the semester and only have to worry about working, I've found myself with a lot more time to think about our wedding. Since we were engaged in February, work and school made life a whirlwind - though I did manage to find myself "the dress" and recently, "the shoes". I've also managed to gather together a neat collection of books and literature about wedding vows, both traditional and non-traditional. After attending several weddings and regarding our own personal beliefs, my fiance and I have no desire to recite the traditional vows. At the ceremony with my beloved, there will certainly not be anyone saying "dearly beloved..."
 
After spending time searching through these books with highlighters and sticky notes, we've found passages and traditions from many cultures across the world. Several stick out to us, since it directly connects with our family heritage. Based on our collection thus far, we will be having a You're-My-Soul-Mate-Celtic-Irish-Native-American ceremony. I'm not exactly sure how this will flow, or who the lucky officiant will be, but the passages we've found this far are beautiful and mean so much to John and I. I've snagged these from a cute book I picked up in a discount book store on the beach. It's called "Wedding Vows & Traditions" by Cathy Howes. Here's some of our favorites:
 
Wedding RingYou are the star of each night.
You are the brightness of each morning.
You are the story of each quest.
You are the report of every land.
-Celtic Spiritual Blessing
 
May our days be good and long upon this earth.
-Apache Indian prayer
 
May we know that riches are not needed for wealth.
-Adapted from an Irish Wedding song
 
May the sun bring you new energy every day,
May the moon softly restore you by night,
May the rain wash away your worries
And the breeze blow new strength into your being.
May the garden of our marriage bloom with many colors,
And all the days of your life may you walk
Gently through the world and know its beauty.
-Adapted from an Apache blessing
 
In the passages we've found do not mesh into our ceremony, we were thinking about putting the smaller lines and quotes onto nice cards and laying several on each table around the centerpieces. There are not enough words in the world to describe our love, but we can share some of our favorite words with our dearest family and friends.
 

Are you writing your own vows, or a DIY ceremony? Please share your favorite passages or interesting traditions.

Wedding Editor's Welcome

Royal Wrap-Up

By Elle Lamboy, Wedding Editor

Along with millions of other American women, I followed the royal nuptials from the minute Kate started sporting that sapphire ring! I anxiously counted down the days, followed all the blogs and set my DVR in advance to record every second of the historic affair. While many viewers were excited by the romance of it all, I was interested in one thing: Kate’s wedding day wardrobe.

This royal wedding is my generation’s Cinderella story. Granted, Kate‘s social status is far from rags, but there’s something about a prince choosing a “common girl” that makes the marriage that much more magical. Consequently, I was envisioning Kate in princess-esque wedding attire. Or, at least, my version of what princess attire should be.
While Kate’s everyday style is typically conservative, I still hoped for grandeur. A Diana-sized train with a larger-than-life diamond encrusted tiara and a bouquet so full and lush, it could put your annoying neighbor’s perfect garden to shame.

When I got my first glimpse of Kate as I was about to walk out the door and she was about to walk down the aisle, I was…well...underwhelmed.

My living room commentary went something like this…

  • “ What is with those flowers? Are they even flowers?! It looks like one of those kids picked them on the way to the church.” “Are they WEEDS?!”

  • “ That is the tiara she chose out of ALL the tiaras in the Queen’s collection?! Its tiiiinnnnnyyyyyy! Where is the bling?!”

  • “Is there any embellishment on that dress….at alllll?!”

  • “ Why is Pippa (her sister) wearing white?!”

I only got a very quick glimpse of her before I had to head to work. For some reason, my boss didn’t understand the importance of this event and didn’t feel “I - will - die - if - I - can’t - stay - home - and - watch - the - royal - wedding" a legitimate reason to sign my sick day slip. My co-workers were awaiting my arrival, since I’d been gushing about the pending nuptials for months.

As I walked into my office, I was greeted with the following:

  • “How obsessed are you?!”

  • “She looked so elegant, don’t you think?”

  • “ Prince Harry is so hot.”

  • “They are so in love!”

  • “She was the most perfect bride I’ve ever seen”

I quietly replied that I was, “kind of underwhelmed” and literally had to dodge the pencils, coffee cups, and donut holes that were about to be thrown at me.

I knew I had to investigate further. I mean, I am notoriously known for not being a morning person, and I literally saw her walk down the aisle and that was it. I had an evening of wedding watching planned and hoped my opinion would change. Was I delirious? Were my expectations too grand?  

After some research, and watching HOURS of royal recap coverage, I came to embrace and actually almost love her look; especially her dress. Let’s face it, Kate is not the Duchess of New Jersey she is the Duchess of Cambridge and has traditions to uphold.

Here’s the scoop:

  • The flowers: Kate toted lily of the valley for happiness, sweet william for gallantry, hyacinth for everlasting love, and myrte, a royal tradition.

  • The dress: Kate looked to the late princess Grace Kelly for inspiration. She chose Sara Burton and her team at Alexander Mc Queen who worked with the “Royal School of Needlework “to create the royal gown. Kate offered insight to the design by choosing rose and shamrock appliques and the ivory satin bodice.

  • The dress part deaux: Much to my delight Kate had a costume change! Kate debuted another Burton for McQueen dress for her reception. This satin stunner featured diamante’ detailing that framed the waist (I finally got to see some BLING!) She paired it with a fuzzy cardigan that coincided with her conservative style but also added a touch of glam. Dare I say that I liked this gown better than her first?!

  • Pippa’s dress: Apparently in the UK it is considered good luck to have an all white wedding party as it wards off evil spirits. There is also speculation that Pippa donned white because any other color would clash with the scenery and that extravagant carpet.

  • The tiara: It is rumored that Queen Elizabeth let Kate choose a tiara from her extensive collection, but favored the one Kate chose –a Cartier tiara which the Queen inherited on her 18th birthday – because she thought it had a youthful look.

So, while I may have missed some sparkle and drama, there is no denying that Kate made the picture perfect princess bride. She held true to her personal style while also giving a nod to the royal traditions.

What did you think of Kate’s wedding day look?

Editor's Welcome

Reminder: The Engagement Party is NOT the Wedding

By Laurel Diehl, Wedding Editor
 
Whenever I manage to collect some free time, I often check out wedding message boards to see what other brides-to-be are sharing and networking with each other. These message boards are great ways to learn about local vendors, venues, and to share stories, experiences and do's and don'ts. The latest boards that have caught my attention? Brides-to-be stressing over the fine details of the... engagement party?
 
Special invitations, catering, a cake, favors? I thought this stuff happened at the wedding. Isn't that the "main event" anyway? To be completely honest, I was completely baffled to learn that people spend a great deal making the engagement party like a pre-wedding reception, down to the finest and expensive detail. What ever happened to a cook out in the back yard with family and friends?
 
Witht the help of my maid of honor, my fiance and I are looking to host an engagement party this summer to gather our family and friends together and announce our official wedding date. We fully intend to do it in a BBQ-and-bring-a-covered-dish kinda way. Of course, for everyone, it's "to each their own", but if you're a bride on a budget like me - you are not going to drop dollars on a stunning engagement party. The most important part of the engagement party to me is to bring two families together. Plus, we can share good stories, good laughs and good food.

Do you think a fancy and extravagant engagement party is money well-spent, or well-wasted? If any of you have had an engagement party, what was it that made it special to you?

Editor's Welcome

Girls Just Wanna’ Have Fun

By Elle Lamboy, Wedding Editor

Even princesses-in-waiting need one last single girls night out!

Kate Middleton’s sister and maid of honor, Pippa, has reportedly been busy planning Kate’s bachelorette party, or as they call it in the UK her “hen party.” According to People magazine, Pippa may have booked four different venues to keep guests guessing and even has a Dirty Dancing party lined up at the family home in Bucklebury.

Wedding Stage of LifeHowever, because of Kate’s high profile union, the hen-happenings need to remain pretty private and G-rated.
Bachelorette parties, as we know them today, became popular during the sexual revolution of the 1960s. As a result, they tend to involve activities that represent sexual independence; such as checking out male strippers, wearing flashy and sexually suggestive items, getting tipsy, playing truth or dare, dancing provocatively….you get the gist. 

Traditionally, the maid/matron of honor and bridal party throw the bride-to-be a surprise evening to celebrate her last night as a single woman.  However, like Kate, it may be wise to give some forethought into your soiree before you are taken captive and forced around town like a hen with her head cut off!

For example, my bachelorette party was perfectly suited for me, personally. My best friend rented an unbelievable room in Atlantic City where my bridal party and 8 close friends played some silly games, had some champagne and then went to dinner at Carmines, a family style Italian restaurant frequently visited by large bachelor and bachelorette parties. Following that, we went to a rooftop bar\club and literally danced the night away. I wore a fabulous sash that touted I was a proud bachelorette and had a blast. My best friend, however, wants something completely opposite from my high profile party for her upcoming festivities. While we are also having her bash in Atlantic City, she wants a more laid back vibe so we’re planning drinks by the pool, pizza for dinner and possibly hitting up a roulette table or two in the evening.

No muss no fuss.

While you don’t want to seem presumptuous and plan your entire bachelorette party, it is important to tell your maid of honor (or whoever you think will be taking the reigns) a few things you would like to have at your party or, more importantly, what you don’t want. Here are three tiny tips to keep in mind:

1.)  Share your style

Do you want a crazy girls night out at a strip club or does the thought make you cringe? Is a quiet dinner or a daytrip to your favorite museum more your speed?  Do you even want a bachelorette party at all? Give your point person an insight into your bachelorette party style so she is not flying blind while planning your festivities. It is not rude to offer some suggestions --- it is your day and your family and friends want you to enjoy yourself!

2.)  Offer a Guest List

It is important to let your point person know who you really want to have at your party. Don’t go overboard here; but if there are any close friends or family you will be miserable without, relay that information.

3.)  Let Loose

While you want the party to feel like “you,” your bachelorette party is supposed to be a little chaotic and free-spirited. Appreciate the time and effort your friends and family put into your soiree and enjoy the ride.

Take these tips into consideration, make yourself a small wish list (try and keep it to 3 suggestions --- you want to seem helpful, not ungrateful) and share it with your head hen. Consider passing along a quick “bullet point” list.

For example:

  • no sexual accessories
  • dinner and dancing
  • overnight accommodations

-or-

  • trip to the Art Museum
  • lunch at Café Cascetti
  • want to sleep in my own bed

By only sharing a couple thoughts that sum up your style and guests with your bridal party, you can guarantee to have a bachelorette party to remember…. and not regret.

P.S. The Royal Wedding is April 29. Make sure to tune in for inspiration and, more importantly, so we can dish!

What elements embody your ideal bachelorette (or bachelor!) party?

Editor's Welcome

Finding Time to Wedding Plan:

By Laurel Diehl, Wedding Editor

Here ye! Here ye! I am publicly announcing that I, Laurel Diehl, have not put any effort into my wedding plans!

I type this article with a guilty expression on my face and in my heart. Since getting engaged in February of 2011, I can't say that I've made much progress in my wedding planning. And perhaps it's because I had a misconception of wedding planning in the first place.

I have my dress (oddly enough), some favor baggies and some faux diamond table decor. And a ton of magazines. And a cute basket to put them in. But that's about it. We are planning on getting married next summer. I think.

Although we have a venue in mind, we have only taken a tour.

I've even stopped dreaming of what the wedding will look like, as my life has been thrown into a tail spin with a brand new promotion and relocating from Pennsylvania to Maryland.

Wedding Stage of LifeFor some reason, I was under the impression that once I got the ring on my finger, my days would be spent taking tours, tasting cake and giggling with my bridal party ladies. Instead, I've been doing school work, packing the life my fiance and I have made in York, PA and getting ready to throw it all into Baltimore, MD. So where did this vision of all-day every day wedding planning come from anyway?

Since the rest of you have become engaged - do you find yourself dedicating your time to your special day, or are you like me - forgetting it in the midst of the daily grind?

How does (or did) wedding planning fit into your daily life?

Editor's Welcome

The World Wide Wed: 5 Tips for a Guest-Friendly Wedding Website

By Elle, Wedding Editor

Earlier this month, St. James Palace launched officialroyalwedding2011.org which promises to be the official website of the Royal Wedding, providing the most in-depth details about the upcoming April 29th nuptials of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

Wedding Stage of LifeThe site breaks down the big day details; focusing on the service, the procession and the reception. Each section of the site provides excellent images (including some fabulous shots of Westminster Abbey!) videos, and even a link to an interactive map of the procession route. The site also promises to be the first place that Kate will release the scoop on her royal wedding gown; which is arguably the most exciting feature of the site!

The site also has a biography of Kate and some adorable family photographs of her as a child and some of her and William throughout their courtship. The site is also currently working on featuring a 'live stream' of the ceremony itself; which is great if you need to watch the event from your computer or 'smart phone.'

While your wedding day details may not include a procession map or palace protocol; a wedding website is a great source for your guests to obtain information about your big day details. It can also be a place where you can be a little less formal and have some fun with your guests!

Unlike the Royals, you do not have to purchase your very own domain for your website. Many wedding planning sites, including The Knot and Project Wedding allow you to create your very own wedding website for free!

Here are 5 tips for creating your own wedding website:

1.) Include your major big-day details

Your wedding site should serve as a virtual invitation, where guests can obtain more visual and in-depth information about your day. Make sure you cover all the basics: Your names, ceremony and reception dates, times, locale and suggested attire. Let your guests know if it is going to be a formal, semi-formal or casual affair so they can dress accordingly. Include images of your venues and links to their websites.

You can also include the hotel information, if you reserved lodging for your guests, or offer some recommendations if not. Your website is also a good place to discreetly offer guests links your registry, since you typically do not include that in your wedding invitation.

2.) Give your guests some direction

In addition to giving your guests some insight into your venues, make sure to also provide directions and maps to the ceremony and the reception. You want to make sure to include directions from varying locations, too. Research ways of getting to your venues from at least two major bridges, highways, or other landmark that your guests are either familiar with, or can easily find.  Also, guests will likely use their GPS systems as well. Use addresses that the GPS will recognize and include them on your site.

3.) Get a little personal

All your guests may not know how you and your fiancé met, how he proposed, what you enjoy doing as a couple, etc. and learning a little about your romance will help your guests get excited for the big day! You can include your proposal story, first date details, and maybe even a mini-biography about each of you. You can relay as much or as little information as you like. Take a note from the Royals, and even include a few childhood and engagement photos of the two of you!

You may also want to include a little about your bridal attendants and your relationships with each member of your party. Photos here are a plus, too!

4.) Be Mindful

While your wedding website is typically a more informal element of your wedding; it is still a reflection of you and your fiancé, so make sure to proofread your site or have a friend or two read it over for you before you go live. The site will be accessible to your guests and other web travelers so make sure the information you provide is appropriate for all to see.

5.) Promote Your Site

Your site is only helpful if your guests are aware it exists! Include your site’s URL with your invitation information, or send an e-mail notice to your guests so they can access your website.

You do not need to be a princess in waiting or a Webmaster to create a fabulous wedding website. Many of the sites mentioned above make creating your site easy and fun so don’t be discouraged! Your wedding website will not only be a creative outlet, but also a great way for you to communicate with your guests. Check your site’s guest book regularly and make sure to update the site as your plans progress.

What will you include in your wedding website?

Editor's Welcome

The Groom's Perspective

By Elle, Wedding Editor

Wedding Stage of LifeTypically, the bride-to-be takes the wedding-planning reigns. Her and her entourage tackle all the big day decisions, stress over the minute details, and ensure that the dreams of her childhood come to fruition. As a result, the majority of wedding-related articles, magazines, and websites are tailored to the bride and her point of view. Grooms-to-be tend to slink back into the shadows after the passing of the bling which can be frustrating for both parties.

In an attempt to shed some insight into the male brain during the wedding planning process, I interviewed a recently married gent to share his words of wisdom.

Elle: So, be honest, are you relieved the wedding planning is over; or do you miss the excitement, just a little?

Groom: What excitement?

Elle: You honestly didn’t find any part of the wedding planning process exciting!?

Groom: Excited isn’t the word I would use. I was excited to propose to my wife, and I was excited she said yes and that there would be a wedding. There were some aspects of the planning that were fun; but I wouldn’t say I was really excited about them at first. I was more nervous about what I was getting myself into than anything.

Elle: OK….so what did you find fun about the planning process?

Groom: Anything that involves food is always good. The cake and dinner tastings were a lot of fun.

Elle: What part of the planning was not so fun?

Groom: The budget. We were fortunate that my wife’s parents paid for most of the wedding and reception but there were a few elements that we agreed to pay for. I felt if I said “yes” to one element that somehow branched out to 10 other items that we needed to get as a result. For example, I said she could order these fancy “Save the Dates” that she wanted. Well, then she had to get the matching return labels, and these envelopes that had a matching liner. Like, seriously?! It isn’t even the real invitation. I just couldn’t get over how much things cost for weddings and the incredible amount of detail that went with everything.

Elle: Was there an element of the planning that your wife chose not to include you in that you wish she did?

Groom: The registry. Granted, I was thrilled at the time that I didn’t have to go with her and her mom to pick out the stuff; but now I have no idea what we are supposed to do with all this fine china and crystal. I’m not allowed to use it, and now she wants to go buy a “breakfront” to display it all. Just seems like a huge waste to me!

Elle: And what would you have registered for?

Groom: Tools….and an ice cream scoop. We have 12 fancy place settings but no ice cream scoop.

Elle: I see….any other advice for future grooms?

Groom: Trust your fiancé. I was lucky because my wife realized pretty early on that I didn’t need to or really want to be included in every single wedding day detail so she did a lot on her own and with her mom, sister, and friends. There were times where she would come home and tell me about the flowers, or the venue, or the attire and some of it sounded pretty crazy to me. But, when everything came together on our wedding day, it was better than I could have imagined.

Elle: Any advice for brides-to-be?

Groom: You are already our dream come true. The wedding isn’t something we’ve been picturing in our minds since birth. We don’t mean to sound uninterested or ungrateful but we just aren’t wired to get excited about the flowers, decorations and other little details. Try to include your future husband on things that he enjoys, like the food, transportation, or the music. If you include him or task him with things he can somewhat relate to, things will be a lot smoother.

How is your future groom helping (or hurting!) your wedding
planning process?

Editor's Welcome

Once Upon a Time...

By Elle, Wedding Editor

This month is the last chance to enter the Stage of Life wedding writing contest: What is your Engagement Proposal Story?

Your proposal story doesn’t have to be out of the ordinary to be special. Your fiancé didn’t write your name across the sky, rent a hot-air balloon, or hire a marching band?  So What?!  Your story is the beginning of your married life together; and it is something you should treasure no matter how outrageous or ordinary.

What's your proposal story?One of my favorite wedding gifts I received was also the most unique. My dear friend snatched up my proposal story from my wedding website and retyped, redesigned and framed it. She even did a little editing and began my modest story with “Once Upon a Time” and closed it with “ And they lived Happily After.”

By formatting my story like a fairytale, it allowed me to not only relive that surreal moment, but also appreciate its significance.

While you are taking the time to put your proposal tale on paper for our writing contest, why not consider doing something special with it for a gift to your bride or groom to be; or friend or relative who is about to tie the knot? If a framed copy isn’t your style, you could also write it in a fancy script on a brownish colored paper, and burn the ends; or
wrap the text around a favorite photo.

When wedding planning gets into full swing, it is easy to consume yourself with the details and forget about the romance. Take a break from wedding planning today to reflect on your love story and its special significance in your life.

What is your engagement proposal story?

P.S. While Valentine’s Day may be over, the goodies still remain on the shelves of local pharmacies, supercenters, and malls…at highly discounted prices!  Take advantage of the sales on everything love and stock up on themed note cards, candy, decorations, etc. You can use these items as thank yous to your bridesmaids for your bachelorette party, as little extras in your welcome bags or bridal party gifts, to spice up your scrapbook, random love notes to your fiancé…you get the idea!

What is your engagement proposal story?

Editor's Welcome

To Video or Not to Video?

By Elle, Wedding Editor

Wedding videos aren’t a necessity; but, if you and your honey’s budget allow for one, it will be a keepsake you will treasure for years to come. Like hiring a photographer, booking the perfect videographer requires some research. I know I probably sound like a broken record by now, but you need to decipher what style of video you wish to have before you begin rolling tape. According to The Knot, there are three different video styles:

1.  Documentary

Your wedding is filmed more like a major news event than a Disney movie. If you like seeing only the major “ headlines” of your day, this style is for you. However, this style typically requires two cameramen, which means shelling out more dinero for an element that isn’t a total necessity.

2.  Memory Lane

This style tells the story of you and your mate. While your wedding is the main attraction, it incorporates personal home videos, photos and commentary from your family and friends. If you don’t feel tortured by watching home videos, this style is for you. But, again, it requires a lot of editing so the cost may be higher.

3.  Rough Cut

This is raw, unedited footage of your wedding day. This is the route you’ll take if you’re having a friend or relative capture your day. While this is a great way to save cash, prepare to hit the fast- forward button frequently during viewing since there will be little to no editing of the video.

Once you have an idea of your style, make sure you go to the appointment with your videographer armed with questions and ask to see a sample of his\her work.

Also, beware of the video packages. Most videographers design their packages based on number of hours. If your entire day is going to be 10 hours, book the videographer for 6 or 8. Trust me, there is only so much reception dancing you are going to want to watch! Also, many videographers offer to take footage of the bride or groom getting ready. If you are having your photographer take these shots, think twice about having a videographer there too. Things are going to be hectic enough without the extra guest, and you will also save billable hours for the ceremony.

One of the only wedding elements my husband and I disagreed on was whether or not to hire a videographer. I was all for hiring one to capture the wedding I spent over a year planning, while he feared a videographer’s presence would feel like the paparazzi were in attendance - following us around with a bright light and a huge camera.

We ended up hiring a videographer, who was practically invisible. As scarce as his presence was, the video he produced captured our wedding day beautifully. He filmed the major elements of the day while also zeroing in on the tiniest details-like the flowers in the centerpieces and the martini glasses at the bar (we requested a more documentary-style video.)

I missed our cocktail hour because I was busy greeting guests, but I got to re-live it through the video. Also, it was beautiful to see my bridal party process in and my husband and I say our vows to each other. We also cracked up all over again watching ourselves stuff cakes in each other’s faces and observe some of our friends attempt to do the hustle. The moments that felt like a blur on that day were captured for us live through the video. If your budget allows, I would highly recommend springing for this keepsake.

Will you hire a videographer to capture your wedding?

Editor's Welcome

Focus on Photography

By Elle, Wedding Editor

Your wedding photos will tell your story of becoming husband and wife. Through your photos, you will get to experience your wedding in a way you weren’t able to on that day so you will want your photos to be the perfect reflection of you and your wedding. 

Here are 5 tips to help you with this important element of the wedding planning process:

1.) Know Your Style

  • Before you begin searching for the perfect photographer, take some time to know your photography style. The best way to do this is to envision your dream-wedding album. Do you want it filled with traditional posed pictures with orchestrated backdrops or do you prefer a more photojournalistic style of candid shots and formals in natural backdrops?  Do you need your photos to reflect a certain theme? Do some research on varying styles and discuss the pros and cons of each with your fiancé.

2.) Schedule an Interview

  • Once you know what style photography you want, set up appointments with a few different photographers in that genre and arm yourself with some vital questions.  While the Internet, family, and friends are excellent resources; don’t rely on them entirely. You want the whole package for your big day. Hire someone who presents an album you love filled with incredible photos, is engaged in your wedding style and vision, and exemplifies someone you wouldn’t mind having as a wedding guest.

3.) Review the Contract

  • After you choose the winning photographer, it is important to carefully examine the contract. Some important things to look for are: name of principal and assistant photographers, all of your package details (number of pictures he/she will take and number of proofs or pictures, albums or discs you will receive and the timeline in which you can expect them), photo ownership or licensing, the timeline of your wedding day with locations, the total hours your photographer will work, total cost (including any overtime), cancellation and refund policy and any other elements you discuss in your interview. Basically, if your photographer promises you anything that is of great importance to you, make sure it is in your contract.

4.) Book an Engagement Session

  • Engagement sessions are becoming increasingly popular. Not only can you use the photos in your wedding announcement but they also serve as a great trial run for your wedding day. Your photographer will learn how you and your fiancé photograph, and you can experience how she works as well. If your photographer doesn’t offer an engagement session in her contract, see if you can negotiate some sort of trial session before the wedding.

Tips for your Wedding Photos5.) Make a Photo List

  • Take the time to compile a list of all the photos (family shots, picture of your cake, you with your college friends, etc.) and moments you want your photographer to capture (the first time your dad sees you in your dress, the grand entrance, sipping bubbly with the bridal party etc.) and give it to her well before your big day. It may be wise to do this before you sign your contract so you can ensure she is comfortable with your demands.

Your wedding day will be over in a flash (no pun intended!) but you will treasure your photos forever. Take the time to do the research and you (and maybe even your children!) will be glad you did.

What are some ’must have’ shots on your wedding photo list?

Editor's Welcome

I Now Pronounce You Man and Knife

By Elle, Wedding Editor

As the New Year approaches, our minds shift gears from gift wish lists to self-improvement resolutions.

Brides-to-be tend to use this time of self-reflection to envision themselves as the perfect brides and make plans how to get there. I know after my December engagement, I pledged that in the new year I would lose ten pounds, get monthly facials, take up yoga, do at least two juice fasts, and keep my hands perfectly manicured at all times to offer proper homage to my new bling.

These kinds of resolutions are pretty standard among newly engaged brides. As women, we tend to always want to improve something (our hair, our homes, our communities, our careers…) and as brides we tend to take that instinct to the extreme.

But how extreme is too extreme?

While visiting my family over the holidays, my mother (who is the epitome of a modern day Jackie O) alerted me to a new show concept she heard about on the radio that she thought was “just horrifying” called Bridalplasty.

I assumed it was some new fictional mini-series on the Lifetime network. When I got home, I Googled it and was surprised to find out it was a reality show on the E! network with the premise: “ Brides-to-be compete in challenges to earn plastic surgery procedures in a quest to win their dream wedding.”

So, in the name of research, I watched an episode.

These women signed on not only to win their ‘celebrity dream wedding’ but also the chance to become physically transformed. The fiancé of the winning bride will not see the “new look” until he lifts her veil four months later.

I couldn’t help but wonder how that would be for the husband-to-be. You fell in love and promised to marry one woman and then, on the day of your wedding, you lift her veil to see a completely different woman standing before you. What if you don’t like what you see?  Ouch.

Like many reality shows, the brides are faced with a series of challenges to compete for the grand prize. The challenge in this particular episode required the ladies to stand face to face with their bikini-clad life sized “before pictures” and use magnetic puzzle pieces to put together the new version of themselves (which comes from a wish-list of surgeries from each bride) over their current selves. Some of these women requested over ten surgeries!

The winners of this particular mini-challenge got to pick up a syringe and head to an “exclusive first-class injectables party.” OUCH.

Obviously, someone had to get kicked off this round and as the loser of the puzzle piece charade was forced to pack her bags, she received the sound advice that, “Your wedding will still go on but it just may not be perfect.”  OUCH!

In the spirit of resolving to be ones best self; how far will you go to be the picture-perfect bride?

Editor's Welcome

Christmas...is the time to say...I DO!

By Elle, Wedding Editor

It is common knowledge that the holiday season is the prime time for wedding proposals. As the famous Christmas carol instructs, “Christmas, is the time, to say I love you!”

Whether it is the magic of Christmas or the unbeatable sales on diamonds; something about the holiday season encourages romantics everywhere to pop the question.

My proposal was no different.

There’s just something about Christmas that turns me back into that 6-year old girl waiting at the window in hopes of seeing Santa’s sleigh. Growing up, we went into Philadelphia every year and saw the light show in the department store, and viewed the annual live performance of A Christmas Carol at the local performing arts center. My brother and I even concocted yearly top-secret “Christmas Plans” where we would discuss and outline what kind of cookie and reindeer food to leave, how we would sneak our baby sister out of our parents room (we couldn’t get our presents until the little bugger was awake) and what Christmas pajamas we would wear.

Not much has changed. I still listen to Christmas music the minute it starts playing non-stop on the radio, decorate the house to the nines, and watch every Christmas movie on ABC Family. So, when I discovered that Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania had a Christmas Wonderland I immediately started pleading my case to my man that it was something we just couldn’t miss.

Much to my surprise, he purchased tickets to the Gardens and we set out the first week in December.  Long story short, he proposed to an unsuspecting me in an intimate pavilion on the property called the “Love Temple.” 

It was a wonderful moment in itself; but I have to admit it made it even more special that the minute we jumped into the car and I began calling family and friends to inform them of the announcement that the sweet sound of Christmas carols were ringing in the background.  That magic of the season was amplified with my own magical moment.  

Lucky for me, my proposal was a moment I will cherish always. However, it can be easy to get caught up in the magic of the season and allow your perfect proposal attempt to go awry. 

If you are considering popping the question this season, make sure to check out this timely Yahoo! Shine article that covers the five worst ways to propose.

What is your proposal story or how do you plan on proposing this holiday season?

Editor's Welcome

StageofLife.com features many stories and blogs about Engagements and Weddings.  After the Editor's weekly welcome message (below), please keep scrolling down to find the stories from both our Featured Wedding Writers and Regular Stage of Life Members.  Whether you're Share Your On My Own Storyengaged, in a committed partnership, newlyweds, or just love catching up on weddings, we encourage everyone to share their story, wisdom, and advice about this important life stage.

An Organized Bride is a Sane Bride

By Elle, Wedding Editor

The holidays are a crazy time for most folks. There are decorations to display; gifts to find, purchase and wrap; parties to attend and outfits to coordinate; dinners to coordinate…. and the list goes on.

Planning a wedding during the holiday rush is enough to turn the jolliest ol’ elf into a Grinch. You can avoid turning green this holiday season, however, by getting yourself organized.

After you decide on what type of style and theme you want for your wedding, it is time to get started making your dream day a reality.

Use Outside Sources

First, you should find a reliable resource other than your mom, best friend, groom or co-worker. While these loved ones mean well, you need to turn to the professionals to organize your thoughts (and keep your sanity in tact!)

There are plenty of fabulous wedding planning websites, books, and magazines that offer you a cornucopia of wedding tips, advice, venue recommendations and, most importantly, checklists. These month-by-month checklists will help you stay on top of your wedding-planning duties and still have time to celebrate the holidays.

I used The Knot for my wedding planning. This particular site is helpful because not only does it offer an interactive checklist, but also sends monthly newsletters that highlight your monthly tasks. It also offers other helpful interactive tools such as a guest list manager. Another helpful website is Project Wedding. StageofLife.com also offers excellent wedding advice and vendor discounts as well as a forum for your wedding questions and concerns.

Get a Binder

You should also get yourself a binder or some sort of filing tool that you will dedicate to everything wedding---your computer printouts, dream dress photos, magazine clippings, vendor brochures, etc. You will be shocked at the amount of collateral you accumulate once you become engaged!

If you prefer a non-virtual planner, I highly recommend The Brides Essential Wedding Planner by Amy Nebens. This planner offers checklists, seating charts and, best of all, questions to ask each vendor (photographers, florists, videographer, etc.)

Read Magazines

Also, don’t forget about Brides’ magazines. They are a great resource for dress and hair ideas as well as wedding planning tips and tricks. Many of them offer month-by-month checklists too. If you enjoy consulting the magazines, consider subscribing to one versus buying it off the newsstand every month to save a decent amount of cash.

Get a Day Planner

Another tool to have in your wedding planning arsenal is a good day planner. Once your planning takes off, you are most likely going to have a ton of appointments and big-day deadlines. Your day planner will ensure you don’t schedule a dress fitting the same day you are taste-testing your cake. Also, incorporate your other life events (unfortunately life still goes on during wedding planning!) into this planner.  Make sure you keep you sanity by not scheduling your meeting with the wedding officiate the same week you have a huge proposal at work due. Using a day planner can seem like an annoyance if you are not used to it, but once you start getting into the habit, you won’t know how you survived without one.

There is no one perfect tool for everyone. It is important to find the ones that work best for you and your wedding-day responsibilities so you can enjoy this special time in your life.

How do you organize your big-day details?


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Editor's Welcome

StageofLife.com features many stories and blogs about Engagements and Weddings.  After the Editor's weekly welcome message (below), please keep scrolling down to find the stories from both our Featured Wedding Writers and Regular Stage of Life Members.  Whether you're Share Your On My Own Storyengaged, in a committed partnership, newlyweds, or just love catching up on weddings, we encourage everyone to share their story, wisdom, and advice about this important life stage.

Style & Theme: Your Roadmap to a Seamless Wedding...

By Elle, Wedding Editor

The two most important things you should do before you start stressing about your guest list, bridal attendants, flowers, entertainment or photographers is to picture your wedding style and theme.

Trust me on this — once you have your style and theme hammered out, the rest of your planning will follow suit.

Pour yourself a glass of wine, tea, coffee, or your relaxing beverage of choice and picture yourself as a bride or groom. Do you see yourself in a formal ballgown with a cathedral veil or a tux with a bowtie? Then you want a formal style. Do you see yourself barefoot in your best friend’s backyard? An informal wedding is more you.  Maybe you want a long gown but no veil or a suit with a tie? Plan on having a semi-formal affair. Your style is your guideline to your overall theme (or locale.)

How to Plan Your Wedding - Style and ThemeIf you picture yourself in a traditional gown and your guests in black-tie attire then a barnyard wedding won’t gel; just like a glamorous ballroom wouldn’t host guests in Bermuda shorts and sundresses.

Your style is more general, while your theme is personal. On the day of your wedding (like any party you plan) you are going to want you and your mate to shine through. You should feel like this event was perfectly planned around your taste, interests, and style. Because, lets face it, it’s all about you!

Within the past year, I’ve been to more than a few weddings (including my own!).  Here is how a couple of my friends allowed their weddings to reflect their style:
 

  • Lea: Lea is the free spirit of our group. Her and her husband just got accepted into the Peace Corps and spent the past summer backpacking through Europe. She knew that she wanted her wedding to feel laid back and comfortable. Her bridesmaids wore airy tea length dresses and her groom and his men doted tie-less suits. She chose an outdoor ceremony on a river with the reception in the boathouse.
  • Erica: Erica and her husband have a passion for the literary arts. Ryan writes for a living and Erica thoroughly loves to read. They had their reception at a historic mansion with an extensive library. They gave bookmarks as favors with an Irish blessing on the back to celebrate Erica’s rich Irish heritage.

 

  • Carmela: Car is very low-key and doesn’t enjoy attention. She is planning a small barefoot ceremony on the beaches of Mexico with a few close friends and the ocean.
  • Mary: Mary and her husband love autumn and wanted a semi-formal style. She wore a beautiful long gown and the gents sported suits and ties. The ceremony was in a glass church in the woods engulfed in breathtaking fall foliage.

No matter what your style, remember to consider it while choosing your big-day details to ensure a seamless wedding that will inevitably feel like you and leave guests talking about your day long after the cake is cut.

Here are a few helpful sites that focus on wedding styles and themes:

How will your style translate to your wedding?


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Editor's Welcome

StageofLife.com features many stories and blogs about Engagements and Weddings.  After the Editor's weekly welcome message (below), please keep scrolling down to find the stories from both our Featured Wedding Writers and Regular Stage of Life Members.  Whether you're Share Your On My Own Storyengaged, in a committed partnership, newlyweds, or just love catching up on weddings, we encourage everyone to share their story, wisdom, and advice about this important life stage.

Top 10 Wedding Tips for Grooms...

By Eric Thiegs, StageofLife.com CEO

I have attended 59 weddings and participated in 22 of them as either a groomsman, a soloist, reader, or best man. 59 weddings.  In fact, my wife and I recently attended my cousin Debbie's wedding (#59) held in Minnesota two weeks ago.  I'm 37 years old and all of these weddings occurred in the last 15 years.  And no, I'm not a professional wedding musician or guest-for-hire to help fill up the bride's side of the aisle...rather...these events have been purely to witness the love of friends and family tying the knot.

As part of showing our love, my wife and I have traveled the US to support our loved ones for their weddings:

Cornfields of Iowa. Beaches of Puerto Rico.  UP of Michigan. The downtown scene in LA. Master suite at the Bellagio Hotel in Vegas overlooking the fountain. Inner Harbor of Baltimore, MD. A skyscraper in Minneapolis, MN. Caves in St. Paul, MN. Etc. etc.

From a male point-of-view, in the goings-to and participation-of these weddings, I've learned that there are a few do's and don'ts to which every groom-to-be should take heed.

Take this Top 10 Wedding List to heart, gentlemen. I've seen situations in which it wasn't employed...and it wasn't pretty...

10.  Ask your best man to include your wife's name in his toast:  Make sure your best man includes your wife's name or something about her in his toast. There's nothing more mortifying when the best man goes on and on about the groom without a single mention of the bride. You rarely ever see that happen when if the Matron/Maid of Honor is giving a toast. She always includes the groom in the story, but it's hit or miss for Best Men. 

9. Watch your groomsmen:  Make sure your best man isn't drunk for the toast. I was at a wedding in which the 200+ guests started dinging their glasses for the best to STOP his speech. Someone had to actually go up and take the mic from him. Talk about a trainwreck! If your best man likes the booze, have a back-up speaker ready. Seriously.

Wedding Tips for the Groom8. Get personal:  Add a personal touch to your invitations. Something creative. Make the initial announcement about your wedding stand out to those who might be attending. And I'm not talking about adding the cream bow instead of the off-white bow to the invitation. Something real. Something that defines your relationship. For instance, on the RSVP, rather than the "Yes, I will attend" / "Unfortunately, I can't attend" choices, instead have more unique options such as "Hell yes I'll be there!" / "I can't come, I have something better to do." You get the point. Write something fun.

7.  Be involved:  Be involved with the wedding process. If your bride-to-be asks you to come to a cake tasting - do it. And have fun! Don't go and act like it's a burden. You should be able to make even the little moments like a cake tasting fun. Plus - you'll get to add your two cents...it is your wedding too.

6.  Don't get drunk (yeah - you):  Similar to the best man advice in #9, don't get drunk at your wedding (unless you both are going to be). Nothing says "jackass" like a drunk groom and a mortified (and sober) bride.  As a side note for this one...don't end up in the hospital on your wedding night either.  This happened to me and no, I wasn't drunk, but it did have something to do with trying to perform the 1980's breakdance move, "the worm," on the dance floor only to end up  hitting my chin, getting my tux bloody and finding myself in Baltimore General's ER at 2am requiring 4 stiches.  Becky (my new brided), thankfully had a sense of humor about this.  But overall...No fun.  I would have rather been in the hotel.  Dance with your eyes open.

5.  Mother-in-Law is No No:  Don't let your mother get on the mic. before or after the best man or maid of honor speeches. The woman "of the day" is your bride.  I've seen this done tastefully at some weddings but overall...nix Mom.  Nuff said.

4.  Be original:  Of the 59 weddings I've attended, the most memorable (in a good way) are the ones that didn't follow the cookie-cutter wedding outline. Instead, the couple incorporated the standard elements of a traditional wedding with something BIG and BOLD that made the event their own. For some it was the location. For others it was a food features that got everyone talking. It could be anything as long as it breaks the mold and give you and your bride something to get the guests talking about your wedding for years to come.

3.  Write your own vows. Too many men stick with simple recital of vows. If your bride and you decide to keep with tradition and keep it simple, then that's great. But work something out with the minister/rabbi/priest/judge so that you have a moment to say a few words before you recite your vows. If you want to make that moment stand out forever, than conquer your fears and write out a sentence or two.

2.  Keep it a secret:  Don't see her in her dress until the moment she comes down the aisle. The sight of her will amaze you.

1.  Personal gift:  Have a small, personal gift (and hand-written note) ready for your bride-to-be that you can give her the first moment you're alone after exchanging vows and jumping into the full swing of the reception. This moment could occur in the limo ride on the way to the reception or maybe in a hallway in the church after you walk down the aisle. But as long as it's someplace where you can whisper in her ear, "I'm the happiest man on earth" and give her the small gift with the note, it'll mean the world to her. I wish I had done this for my wedding.

NOTE:  These tips did not apply to Andy, my counsin Debbie's new husband, during our recent experience with their wedding.  The guy was a class act from start to finish.  I...on the other hand...went to the emergency room...ugh. 
 

What other advice do you have for grooms?


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