Wednesday, July 23, 2014

10 Hidden Cost of Throwing a Wedding

Hidden Wedding CostsPhoto: Getty Images

Want to keep your wedding budget in check? Start by checking out this list of the 10 things that could end up costing you a lot more than you anticipated.

1. Cake Cutting Fee
Want a pastry chef that isn't affiliated with your venue to make your cake? "Well, there's a good chance your venue will charge you a few dollars per slice to cut it and plate it," says Tracie Domino, founder of Tracie Domino Events. "If you're having 150 guests this could cost you well over $300."

2. Delivery Charges
Yes, almost everyone has a delivery fee, but you'll want to make sure that their warehouse is in your area, advises Katrina McCullum of Made of Honor Weddings. "A company can have a local office, but deliveries may be out of town and charge twice the amount as another 'local' company. Check to see if they double charge for deliveries over the weekend versus if they dropped off or picked up on a Friday or Monday."

3. Corkage Fee
Why hire a bartender when you can simply bring your own wine? Corkage fees, that's why. "Be careful and ask your venue or caterer if will there be a corkage fee per bottle," recommends McCullum. "Like the cake cutting fee, this can add up quickly if you aren't expecting it."

4. Administrative Fee
According to wedding planner Karen Brown of Karen Brown NY, an extra cost that catches many couples by surprise is the administrative fee, which is usually somewhere around 20 percent, tacked on to the final bill. On top of that, you've also got gratuity and taxes.

5. Coat Check Fee
If you're getting married during the winter months, be sure to budget for a coat check, says Brown. "This can be an additional $300+ and most clients expect that this would be included in the venue cost." However, it's probably not.

6. Transportation Cost
Transportation is another area in which couples are not prepared to spend extra dollars, points out Atlanta-based event planner Gail Johnson of Gail Johnson Weddings and Events. "Couples say, 'I only need a vintage car or limo for one hour'. What they don't know is that most companies have a three or four hour minimum, as well as gratuity, tax and charges if the destination is not within a certain perimeter or area."

7. Power Drop Charge
One of the least obvious costs when planning a wedding is the charge for a power drop, notes Florida-based wedding planner Aviva Samuels of Kiss The Planner. "Most historical spaces and even many hotel ballrooms were not built with enough amperage to power a band, specialty lighting or sometimes even a DJ. If a generator and cables needs to be brought in to add power, this can come with a hefty price tag, especially if it's the type of generator that isn't enormous or makes a lot of noise"

8. Postage Fees
"While just a small cost per piece, postage can really add up with save the dates, invitations and RSVP cards, especially if they are custom," points out Kristin Alexander of Esoteric Events. Remember: The heavier the weight of your paper products the more the postage for them will cost.

9. Seamstress Services
"Once a bride chooses her dream gown, she often forgets that the cost to get it to fit perfectly can be high," explains consumer and money saving expert Andrea Woroch." Generally, brides are looking at $500 for alterations." She suggests searching for a seamstress you trust and not skimping on quality because a botch job can cost you more in the long run, both financially and emotionally, particularly if time is limited.

10. Overtime Charges
You're having a blast with your friends, family and new spouse, so you decide to stay and party a little longer. Sounds great, right? If you're willing to pay the overtime charges it is. "Beware that most vendors and venues have an overtime fee clause," warns Stefany Allongo, founder of The Majestic Vision: Wedding and Event Planning Services. These fees can range depending on the vendor, but could add up quickly when you ask everyone to stay. If you have a feeling that you will want to extend, talk to your vendors ahead of time to negotiate the extension fee and add it to your contract," she recommends.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

How To Write Wedding Vows Your Spouse Will Absolutely Love

By Kellee Khalil for

When it comes to your wedding vows, keep this in mind: your vows are about you and your spouse-to-be, and they only need to reflect you and your relationship. That said, sitting down to write them can be a daunting task. Read on for our advice on getting through the process.

1. Confirm that everyone is in agreement. You and your partner should both be on board with writing personalized vows -- it can be an intense experience to write and read them aloud. Also, check with your officiant to ensure you're actually allowed to read your own vows, as some houses of worship require marrying couples to recite set vows.

Photo by: Hugh Forte on Polka Dot Bride via

2. Decide whether you’ll say the same vows or not. Some couples choose to write their vows together and read the same promises to each other on the big day, while others choose to write separate vows. Talk about which option is best for you, and, if you've opted for separate vows, decide whether or not you'll read them to each other in advance of the wedding or surprise each other at the altar.

3. Create a framework. Sit down with your spouse at least six weeks before your wedding and establish a framework for your vows: Talk about tone (heartfelt yet funny? Serious and romantic?), length (150-200 words? 1-2 minutes?), what types of things you want to say (memories from your relationship? Your "how we met" story? Promises for the future?), and how you'll close your vows (you may both want to say the same thing -- for example, "I'll love you forever," "I'm so glad you picked me" etc. -- or surprise each other with a unique closing line). It may be helpful to establish a template that both of you can work from.

Classic Lorain Wedding Captured by Ben & Les Photography
Photo by: Style & Story Creative on Heart Love Weddings via

4. Find inspiration. Call the local courthouse and ask to see the wedding vows they use in civil ceremonies; browse the web and find examples of traditional, civil, and offbeat wedding ceremonies; look to poetry, novels, speeches, religious texts, and other sources to find quotes that inspire you or that you can weave into your vows. Once you've gathered all of this material, note the common threads and let them help guide your vow-writing process (much like you would bundle wedding bouquets on Loverly then use the bundle to figure out your bridal style). And feel free to borrow and remix ideas you love from others' ceremonies.

LGBT Puerto Vallarta, Mexico Wedding Captured by Adventure Wedding Photos
Photo by: Adventure Wedding Photos on The Brides Cafe via

5. Reflect on your relationship. Set a date with your partner to talk about the past, present, and future of your relationship. Take a trip down memory lane and share stories about things you've done for each other that were memorable or extra special. Then pull ideas and feelings from that conversation into your wedding vows.

6. Create your outline. You've talked to your spouse-to-be about the length, tone, and structure of your vows -- now it's time to fill in the blanks. Make a rough outline of the the opening, middle, and closing of your vows. If you need a little help, think past, present, and future -- use those moments in time to structure your vows. What was it like when you first met? How have things changed to this point? What will you promise to your partner to improve your relationship over time? Or, open with the reasons you're marrying, and what marriage means to you. Then, talk through some of the specific reasons you love your partner. Next, state your vows (the promises you're making to your partner). Finally, close with a sincere remark.

7. Now for the details. Once you have set your outline, it's time to fill in the details. Choose a few anecdotes that speak to a larger truth about your relationship; consider the qualities you love most about your partner and the specific ways they've expressed themselves. Ask yourself what you want to promise. Include things you want to improve about your own self for the betterment of your marriage -- e.g. "I promise to remain kind when I'm having a bad day" -- and ways you'll protect and cherish your spouse.

South asian San Francisco Wedding Captured by James Thomas Long
Photo by: James Thomas Long Photography on Maharani Weddings via

8. Practice by saying them aloud. Be sure your vows aren't too long, that they sound nice when spoken, and that you feel totally comfortable saying them. Also, make note of any inside jokes and consider whether or not they'll be too "inside" for your guests to understand (and consider re-working). Make any necessary edits to your vows and keep practicing!

9. Remember that these vows are all about you If you cry, laugh, or need to take a pause during your vows, know that that's totally OK. Your vows are for you and your partner alone -- whatever you decide to say and however you feel while you're saying them is your business and no one else's. This is the part of the wedding that's for the two of you (the reception is for your guests!) Enjoy this moment and know that whatever you say will be perfect.

Monday, July 21, 2014

These Wedding Songs Will Have Everyone Screaming the Lyrics

We all want our weddings to be lively, fun, and full of great moments, right? Well, play the right songs and we guarantee a good time. These tunes will have everyone from your 7-year-old niece to your Great Aunt Shirley out on the dance floor, screaming the lyrics (maybe not always the right lyrics -- we're looking at you, "Blister in the Sun" -- but it's the sentiment that counts). Browse our playlist, then let us know which must-have songs you'd add!

(Album cover photo by Oh, Darling! Photography)

Don't Stop Believin' (Journey)

I Gotta Feeling (Black Eyed Peas)

Jessie's Girl (Rick Springfield)

Blister in the Sun (Violent Femmes)

I Will Survive (Gloria Gaynor)

Billie Jean (Michael Jackson)

Love Shack (The B-52's)

I Love Rock And Roll (Joan Jett & The Blackhearts)

Respect (Aretha Franklin)

Marry You (Bruno Mars)

We Are Family (Sister Sledge)

It's Raining Men (The Weather Girls)

Old Time Rock 'n' Roll (The Greasers)

Girls Just Want to Have Fun (Cyndi Lauper)

Mambo No. 5 (Lou Bega)

Y.M.C.A (The Village People)

Like A Prayer (Madonna)

ABC (Jackson 5)

Sugar, Sugar (The Archies)

My Boyfriend's Back (Angels)

Wannabe (Spice Girls)

Baby Got Back (Sir Mix-A-Lot)


The team

Friday, July 18, 2014

7 Twists on the Cascade Cake

Cascade wedding cakes (multi-tiered cakes with a waterfall of flowers down one side or in a spiral stream from the top to the base) are nothing new — in fact they’re usually considered a more traditional style of cake design. Talk about “something old” becoming new again. Like pillar wedding cakes, this classic look is making a a huge comeback. But these cakes prove that just because the style is traditional doesn’t mean they have to be boring, and these pretty cakes are anything but! Check out some of our favorites cascade cakes.

All White Sugar Flower Cascade Cake

From the album: Amazing New Cake Ideas

A Pretty Pastel Hydrangeas Cascade Cake

From the album: A Secluded Beach Wedding in Bald Head Island, NC

A Pink Ombre Cascade Cake

From the album: An Oheka Castle Wedding in Huntington, NY

A Coral Charm Peony Cascade Cake

From the album: An Allan House Wedding in Austin, TX

A Board Game-Inspired Cascade Cake

From the album: A Calistoga Ranch Wedding in Calistoga, CA

A Mini Sugar Flower Cascade Cake

From the album: A North Caroline Arboretum Wedding in Asheville, NC

A Classic Gilded Cascade Cake

Cascade Wedding Cakes | Abby Jiu Photography |
Abby Jiu Photography

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The 7 Most Common Wedding Planning Questions Brides Ask

Wedding Planning Tips
Photo: Levi Stolove Photography

Wedding planning can be pretty confusing — after all, it's probably the biggest party you've ever thrown. But best way to avoid problems later is to ask questions early. To get you started, we tapped three experienced planners to share the most common questions they get from brides-to-be. Chances are, you might be wondering some of the same things. (Luckily, you'll find the answers below, too!)

What exactly do you do as a wedding planner?
"This might seem like an obvious question, but it's an important one to ask because each planner works differently and you need to find the one whose process works for you," says wedding planner Melissa McNeeley. "All planners will coordinate the wedding day logistics: telling vendors where to go, being on the phone answering deliveries and questions, and scheduling the day. Many planners will also design the event — that is come up with the look for the wedding, find the right partners to bring that vision to life and help you work through budgets and contracts. Some planners also happen to be florists or can make things for you, but that's not always the case."

Do I need to include the dress code on the invite?
"Yes, this is a thoughtful gesture for your guests so that they know what to wear to the wedding," says Lauren Sozmen, founder of Loli Events. "But stay away from cryptic wording such as 'dress fabulous' and keep it to more obvious terms such as 'cocktail attire' or 'black tie optional.'"

What do I need to know about venue contracts?
"There can be a lot of fine print in wedding venue contracts," says Tzo Ai Ang, founder of Ang Weddings and Events. "Make sure you know how much time you have to set up and when you need to be all packed up by. Are there any additional charges like coat check, valet parking or restroom attendants? Are there any exclusive vendors you must use, and if so what's their pricing? Also, always ask if gratuity is expected and how much. Sometimes the service charge is not given to the servers as gratuity. This is often overlooked by clients and should be considered in their budget."

Do we need a choice of entrée for a seated dinner?
"No, you don't as long as your caterer is prepared with options for guests that are vegetarian or have other dietary restrictions such as being gluten-free or Kosher," advises Sozmen. "If you know that a certain number of guests are vegetarians or have allergies ahead of time, then give the caterer a heads up so they are fully prepared and can accommodate everyone. The nice thing about not having a choice of entrees is that there is less waste for the caterer which translates to lower costs for you."

Do we need welcome bags for out-of-town guests?
"This is completely optional," Sozmen says. "If you aren't going to create bags that are thoughtful and useful for your guests, then it's better to save that money and put it towards another bottle of champagne or upgrade those centerpieces you wanted. Remember if you do a welcome bag, it doesn't have to be two bottles of water and snacks — it could be a beautiful guide book for the city or state you are in."

Do we have to do favors?
Absolutely not, says Ang. "You are already throwing a fabulous party with a beautiful venue, delicious food and awesome music. But if you are doing favors, most people are pretty big fans of something edible."

How do I get a deal?
"Almost every bride wants to be smart with her budget," says McNeeley. "But it's important that you're cutting corners the right way. Some things are not really negotiable: food is food and labor is labor and those things are a fixed cost. So instead of playing hardball with your photographer's rate, ask if you can get him for six hours instead of eight. Or, instead of trying to negotiate down the cost of a hundred Wagyu steaks, ask if there are more budget-friendly menu options available instead. People will be a lot more willing to work with you if you ask graciously and try to figure out ways to work within both side's budgets than directly saying: 'Hey can you go lower?'"

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

These Amazing Wedding Moments Are Better Told In GIF Form

Wedding photos and videos are irreplaceable; we would never try to convince you otherwise. But they aren't the only ways to capture the essence and emotions of the big day.

Below are nine oh-so perfect wedding moments that have been perfectly immortalized in GIF form.

The look on Mom's face when she saw her little boy all dressed up. Credit: The MINNERICKS photographers

The way the wedding dress moved and made the bride feel like a goddess.
Credit: elhammond/Reddit

A quiet moment of reflection amid all the chaos.
Credit: JLB Wedding

A very Diddy-esque entrance to the reception. Credit: MattsRod/Reddit

The bride and groom's first dance when they felt like the only two people in the room.
Credit: Isaiah Takahashi

Guests having a good ol' time in the video booth.
Credit: Super Frog Saves Tokyo

And others who made the best of some less-than-ideal circumstances.
Credit: beckofargon/Reddit

Sparklers in all of their sparkly awesomeness
Credit: JLB Wedding

And the way the couple celebrated at the end of the night after everyone else went home.
via Giphy/The Time Traveler's Wife

12 Things the Maid of Honor Can't Forget to Do the Morning of the Wedding

Maid-of-Honor Duties
Photo: Cassi Claire Photography

Calling all maids of honor! You've been crazy busy helping the bride for the past year, but now's the time to really let her sit back and relax and soak in the moment. Take charge and make sure your best friend's big day goes off without a hitch by adding these 12 things to your morning-of to-do list.

1. Keep everyone on track
And keep track of everyone! According to Florida Keys wedding planner Lynn D'Ascanio of, the maid of honor should receive a copy of the timeline and familiarize herself with the morning protocol, including hair and makeup appointments. That way, she can keep everyone on schedule and get them to the ceremony on time.

2. Act as the point person
No wedding planner? No problem. The maid of honor should give out her phone number to all of the key vendors and family members in advance so she can help field any questions for the bride that morning, says Tracie Domino, founder of Tracie Domino Events. This will ensure that the bride remains relaxed and stress-free on her big day and that everything goes smoothly.

3. Feed the bride (okay, not literally)
"The morning of the wedding can be a fast and frantic experience and some brides simply forget to eat," points out Greg Jenkins, founder of Bravo Productions. "The day has to start with good health and nutrition, as blood sugar levels can run low, resulting in irritability." And let's be honest, no one likes a cranky bridezilla.

4. Be on drunk patrol
If you plan on enjoying some bubbly with the girls while you get glam, it's your duty to try and keep the bride and bridesmaids to a one to two glass max, warns Matiana Mitchell of Matiana Mitchell Designs. "It's never a good idea to let the champagne flow without a good amount of getting ready munchies around." Have lots of water for her and everyone else to drink throughout the day as well.

5. Have the bride's favorite treat on hand
Speaking of munchies, Mindy Home, senior events manager at AE Events, suggests having some of the bride's favorite snacks on hand to help calm her down in case of a possible freak-out. "Lately, most of my brides have wanted dark chocolate bits, but this can be anything," she says. "Another bride just wanted Tums!"

6. Help her get dressed
Getting a nervous woman into possibly the most expensive, elaborate dress she'll wear in her life is no small task. You'll want to be certain everything is laid out in advance, from undergarments to shoes to jewelry, so there's no last minute scrambling to find those heirloom earrings or an extra pair of hose, advises wedding planner at L.A. Botanicals and florist on, Joyce Geissinger. "And when the bride has successfully donned her beautiful gown, be prepared to help her into and out of the bathroom in the hours before the wedding. There will be a lot of lifting, fluffing, and rearranging involved."

7. Be at her beck and call
"While your BFF, the bride, sits for hours getting gorgeous, she'll need your help fetching things, dealing with her phone and generally calming her nerves the whole time," reveals professional wedding planner Sandy Malone of Weddings in Vieques.

8. Keep the groom's ring safe
Seriously, guard that thing with your life! Geissinger recommends wearing it on your thumb for safekeeping.

9. Write your speech
Even if you only jot down some talking points, at least you'll have something to go off of, notes wedding planner and founder of Pretty Pear Bride, Shafonne Myers. Unless you're a seasoned speaker, we suggest you definitely don't wing it.

10. Drop off any reception items
If things like toasting flutes, a registry book with signing pens, candle-lighting, seating cards or favors have not already been dropped off at the ceremony and/or reception venues, the maid of honor should add this to her list of things to do the morning of, advises Florida wedding planner Aviva Samuels of Kiss The Planner.

11. Act as a gatekeeper
If there are family members or friends that are known to seriously stress out the bride, it's your job to keep them away from her, as best you can, says celebrity wedding planner Donnie Brown of Donnie Brown Weddings and Events.

12. Make sure the bridal suite is spick and span
Technically, this will happen later on in the afternoon. Once all of the bridesmaids are done getting ready though, it's the maid of honor's job to make sure they clear their stuff out of the bridal suite so that the bride and groom don't return to a messy room at the end of the night, says Domino.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Budgeting for the Wedding: Wedding Budget Strategies

Whether it's just your folks, you guys alone, or a combination, you'll want to know all the pros and cons of who pays for the wedding.

These days, the cost of a wedding makes a year at Harvard and Yale look affordable. How are you going to scrape together the bucks so you can have the bash you want? Put that idea about sticking up the Federal Reserve on hold. You have options -- legal, time-honored, respectable options. The kind of options that, unless you're in the habit of bouncing checks, won't land you behind bars. Here's a rundown of some of them, plus their pros and cons. Keep in mind that a combination of two or more may be how you end up getting your wedding paid for.

The Bride's Parents Pay

The traditional -- and still pretty popular -- way of paying for the wedding.

tip If everyone is contributing, pool all the money upfront and then see what your bottom line is. It's much easier than saying "mom takes care of the gown, the flowers and the band" we take care of the rest.

The Pros:
You don't have to dip into your nest egg to pay for the wedding, which means you'll probably be driving a better car, buying a better house and taking better vacations a year from now than your contemporaries who are paying -- in full or partially -- for their own wedding.

The Cons:"The person who pays ultimately gets what he or she wants," says JoAnn Gregoli, a wedding consultant and owner of Elegant Occasions in Denville, New Jersey. Which means that if you want 100 guests but your parents want 250, you'll probably end up with at least 175 to 200 people at your wedding. "Having your parents pay for the wedding doesn't hurt your wallet," notes Gregoli, "but you have to be willing to compromise on what the wedding will be like." Another downside: Having your parents pay for the wedding -- especially if they're retired, on a fixed income, or just not that well off to begin with -- could strap them down with some major debt.

Everyone Pays

A contemporary and, according to Gregoli, effective way of taking care of wedding expenses is for the two of you, the bride's family, and the groom's family to split the expenses. It works best, she says, if you simply take the whole cost of the wedding and divide it three ways, rather than dole out specific things to pay for: "For example, if you let your parents pay for the dinner, then they may be inclined to invite more guests. It can get sticky." If you can't divide it equally -- say one party is more or less wealthy than the other two -- ask that party what's comfortable for them to give, and throw it into the pot. "But just because his family, for example, is giving four times as much money as yours doesn't mean they get four times more say," says Gregoli. "You're handling this as a group, and one person can't push his or her weight around." The key to making this work, she cautions, is negotiation and compromise.

The Pros:By pooling your resources, you may be able to afford the kind of wedding you want. You also may not have to empty your savings account to get it. What's more, since everyone is contributing -- which means everyone gets a say -- you're not likely to make one side or the other feel left out.

The Cons:
By accepting money from other people, you do give up some control. But there are always solutions, notes Gregoli. "If you want a DJ but the parents want a band, look for a band that also works with a DJ, who can play during the band's break. Or if you want a buffet reception and your parents want a seated dinner, perhaps have food stations, but arrange for waiters to serve your parents and their friends at assigned tables."

You Two Pay for Everything

More the norm than you might think. As more and more brides and grooms marry later -- stockpiling those Christmas bonuses, merit raises, and dividend checks -- more and more couples are in a good position to foot the entire wedding bill themselves.

The Pros:Money talks, and as such, you will have total control over all aspects of the wedding. If you want to get married in a bikini on the beach and dance to a reggae band at the reception, you do it. Your mom may think it's an outrage, but in the end, she-who-does-not-open-her-wallet can't dictate to you.

The Cons:
You might deplete your savings (and rack up some debt if you take out a loan or charge on your credit card). You also run the risk of offending your parents if you refuse their financial help. To remedy the situation? You might accept a nominal sum from them, or let them pay for something you don't have strong opinions about -- say, the flowers. In any event, don't shut your parents out of the wedding-planning process. Encourage their input -- hey, they may even have a good idea or two -- compromise where you can, and stick to your guns on the things that are really important.

"If anything creates problems in planning a wedding, it's money," says Gregoli. "To sidestep problems, you need to do a lot of communicating -- with your partner and both families. If you don't, there will be trouble." Truer words were never spoken.

-- Patricia Samuels

Monday, July 14, 2014

How much to spend on a wedding gift? 8 rules to live by

As anyone who’s ever paid for or attended a wedding knows, celebrating eternal love can get pricey.
Not only is the cost of a wedding soaring — couples spent an average of $30,000 in 2013, according to, up from $28,000 the year before and the highest level since 2008 — but wedding guests are spending more than ever, as well.

An American Express survey found guests spent an average of $539 on weddings in 2013, up from $339 in 2012. Bridal party members spent even more, shelling out $577 on average. Expenses like travel, hotel stays and wedding attire make up the bulk of wedding guest expenses, with an average of just $108 left over for gifts.

With all that money flying around, it becomes a perennial question for many wedding attendees: How much to spend on your friend’s, cousin’s, co-worker’s nuptials? You don’t want to look cheap, but you don’t want to go over budget.

To make things easy, we reached out to a few wedding etiquette experts to find out — once and for all — how to buy an ideal wedding gift.

1. No, it’s never OK to not buy a gift
No matter how cash-strapped you are or how packed your calendar is with weekend weddings, there’s never a good excuse to justify stiffing the bride and groom at the gift table.
If you truly can’t afford something right away, it’s OK to send a gift after the wedding has passed, says Denise Penny Shepard, senior editor at Brides Magazine. “You can give gifts up to six months to a year later,” she says. “You don’t need to feel guilty or sheepish. Spin it as an awesome anniversary gift.”

Destination weddings are expensive affairs for both the wedding party and the guests, so don’t feel pressured to cough up major cash on a gift. Once you’ve covered airfare, lodging and your transportation to the venue, take a look at your budget and decide how much left you have to give.
“I think couples who are having destination weddings kind of know people aren’t going to splurge on wedding gifts,” Shepard says. “They’re using valuable vacation time. That’s [when it's] totally OK to spend a little less on the gift.”

2. Use the 60-20-20 gift split
The friendlier you are with the bride and groom, the more expensive weddings can be. Not only do you have the ceremony to attend, but there are pre-wedding events like the engagement party, bachelor(ette) party and bridal shower.

The experts at recommend using a 60-20-20 split if you’re trying to budget for several events for one couple. Spend 20% of your budget on the engagement party gift, 20% on a gift for a bridal shower or other pre-wedding occasion, and reserve 60% for the wedding gift itself.
“Outline your budget ahead of time to see what is doable for you,” says editor Jamie Miles.

3. Family always spends more
Much like the wedding party itself, there’s a hierarchy when it comes to the amount spent on gifts. And when you’re related to the bride or groom, budget a bit more for a gift than you would for a friend.

“Your relationship to the couple should inform how much you’re giving,” Miles says.
The majority of wedding guests who are friends of the bride and groom spent less than $100 for a gift, according to a 2010 survey by Relatives shelled out an average of $146 on wedding gifts and were twice as likely to spend more than $100 compared with friends of the couple.

4. The cost of your Butterflied Leg of Lamb Provencal is irrelevant
Couples spent an average $220 per guest at weddings in 2013, according to, including $66 on food alone.

But all of our experts agreed that basing the cost of your gift on how much you think the couple is spending on food and entertainment is an antiquated notion.

“It's a bad idea to use the price-per-plate as a measure for how much you should spend on the wedding gift,” says Jessica Silvester, a deputy editor and wedding expert with New York magazine. “You wouldn't give your best friend a less expensive gift just because she was having a more casual affair.”

5. Cash isn’t always king
Cash seems like the sweetest gift to give a pair of newlyweds — whether they’re putting it toward their honeymoon, a down payment or all that wedding-related credit debt, there’s no doubt they’ll find a use for it.

But Shepard cautions guests against cutting a check until they are sure the couple prefers it.
“At some weddings, cash is considered a faux-pas, at others it's encouraged,” she says. “I'd say, if you are older than the couple getting married, and you know through word-of-mouth that they have been living together for a while, have barely registered and are desperately saving for a down payment, a check is great.”

To make the gift feel less transactional, she suggests writing a note in the memo line of your check — such as “Nest egg!” or “For your new digs!”

If you’re stumped, it may be better to just stick to the registry. “More often than not you are better off buying them a gift off their wish list,” she says. “Especially if they've spent a lot of time curating their registries. It's fairly obvious if they have.”

6. Yes, it’s OK to go off-registry
If you’ve waited until the last minute and all the good stuff is taken on the couple’s registry, it’s OK to shop off the beaten path — so long as you know their tastes well enough to pick a gift they actually need or want. If you don’t know them well enough to gauge their tastes, you might be better off sticking to the registry.

“At our wedding, a couple gave us an amazing set of Cook's Illustrated cookbooks because they knew I was an aspiring cook,” Shepard says. “I thought it was more generous than buying from the registry because they took the time to think of something original instead of just clicking through a checklist, which takes five minutes.”

7. Combine resources with friends
Group-gifting has never been trendier. Miles recommends checking out Blueprint Registry, where you can combine funds with friends to give the bride and groom a big-ticket item you may not have otherwise been able to afford.

8. Give a gift even if you can’t go
If you’ve been invited to a wedding but can’t make it, it’s bad form to skimp on the gift, Miles says.
“It depends on your relationship with the bride and groom but my instinct is you send a gift,” she says. “It’s just classy. Include a handwritten note telling them you’re sorry you can’t make it.”

Friday, July 11, 2014

Engagement Issues: Top 10 Wedding Fights (and How to Avoid Them)

You want a lovely wedding, but not at the expense of your relationship. If you're fighting about the wedding, here's how to deal.

Ah, engaged life. Fancy parties in your honor, a legitimate excuse to plunk down thousands for one dress. You never expected the downside: hissing at each other in bridal registry departments, screaming matches over the wedding guest list. The engagement period can be a minefield of hot topics that can trigger huge blowouts -- sometimes a seating plan is not just a seating plan.

"Planning the wedding is a trial run for your future marriage. The things you battle about now are clues to where you're going to have trouble in the future," says Tina B. Tessina, psychotherapist and author of True Partners: A Workbook for Building a Lasting Intimate Relationship. Here's what lies behind the most common prewedding blowouts -- and how to resolve them.


"His family's guest list is getting longer and longer every day, and they're not even chipping in for the wedding."
Tessina warns that this particular argument is "a prototype for future financial dealings." Her advice: Be businesslike. Say to your beloved groom, "This is what your family's guest list will cost, this is what my family's guest list will cost. What can we do to limit the cost? Will your family chip in?"

Dr. Patrick Gannon is a licensed psychologist in private practice and the co-creator (along with his wife, Dr. Michelle Gannon, also a licensed psychologist) of Marriage Prep 101, a course designed for engaged couples. He suggests that there may be more here than meets the eye. "Always be on the lookout for conflicts like these to be about 'hidden issues.' Are either of you sensitive about issues of fairness or balance? Does one of you have a greater sense of obligation to your parents that the wedding be a certain way?"

Groom Involvement

"He doesn't even seem to care about the color of the table linens -- what is he, insane?"
Tessina warns that you could be expecting too much: "He's a man. Most men are clueless when it comes to design and decor." This doesn't mean that you should give up on including him, however. "Find out what he is interested in and encourage him to participate in that part," she says. Michelle Gannon concurs, and adds, "Make sure there are not any underlying issues; say that he feels he should defer to you because you are the bride so it's 'your day' or he feels that your parents or his parents are interfering with the wedding plans."


You're spending big bucks on your dress; he wants to spend some of that cash to go to Bora Bora on the honeymoon.
This time, Tessina is not on the side of the bride. She asks, "What entitles you to spend big bucks on the wedding dress? This needs to be an equitable deal. At least the honeymoon is something you'll both enjoy. Sit down with him, like two adults, and work out the finances of the wedding together."


"Why isn't he making an effort to understand my traditions?"
Patrick Gannon advises first being sure that the groom understands what is expected of him -- the poor guy may not even know that you want him to learn about your traditions. Gannon suggests that this topic may even bring the two of you closer and says, "If handled calmly and sensitively, a discussion like this can be an opportunity to get to know yourself and your partner better just by getting clear about what these traditions mean and say about each other."


He wants dark green ink; you want pale green. He wants candles on the tables; you think they look silly. And so on.
"So," comments Michelle Gannon, "you wanted your fiance to be more interested in the wedding details. Now you have a more involved groom, and a new problem. Both of you need to share the power and decision-making regarding wedding plans." She has a plan to accomplish that: "Decide on priorities by having each person rate on a scale of one to ten the importance of each detail. Remember, it's good practice to learn early on how to prioritize, negotiate, and compromise. These skills will come in very handy later on."


"Why does he think we should be married in New Jersey just because we live here? We need to be in South Carolina with my family. His relatives can fly in from Ohio."
"Ask that question for real, not just rhetorically," suggests Tessina. "Why does he want to get married at home? Maybe having friends at the party is more important to him than having family. That's a reasonable want. Perhaps you can scale things down and have a wedding at your family’s home and a party in New Jersey."


"For his best man, he picked his jerk of a college roommate who's just intent on getting my fiance drunk at our wedding."
It's time to be both supportive and sensible. According to Tessina, "He and his former roommate may have a strong bond -- just make sure there are some more reasonable men around them to keep a lid on things. Arrange with your brother or a male friend to befriend your fiance and help him resist the ploys of the best man." Patrick Gannon recommends sharing your anxiety with the groom, so you can handle the situation together. He says, "If the best man has a drinking problem, the groom might address his concerns directly to the best man before the wedding."

Bridezilla Behavior

He says, "Who is this detail-obsessed, wedding-magazine-reading woman and where is the girl who used to sit with me watching baseball and drinking beer?"
Drop the Martha act. Your guy may have a point. "He's right," says Tessina. "If the wedding has become more important than your relationship, that's a warning sign. Yes, you want a lovely wedding, but not at the expense of your relationship. After all, what's the point? Keep your future in mind."


"Why is he so intent on planning our divorce when we aren't even married yet?"
This could be a blessing in disguise, according to our experts. "If you pay attention, the prenuptial agreement can be as big an asset for you as it is for him," says Tessina. "It's another way to discuss essential financial issues before you commit." Naturally, the prenup brings up more than just finances for many couples. "This is usually experienced as an emotional issue between the couple, often involving feelings of trust, commitment, and faith in each other and the future of the marriage," says Patrick Gannon. "Don't let this issue remain unresolved, because it can erode the love you have for each other."

The Past

He is good friends with an old girlfriend and wants her to attend the wedding. You wouldn't mind if she were dead.
Tessina minces no words on this topic. "Oh, grow up. You've already won this battle -- he chose you. Don't mess up things now by being petty and jealous. Those are not becoming traits. Befriend her, get to know her, and you may like her yourself. Invite her to help with a shower. If you're too insecure to do that, perhaps you should rethink getting married. You may not be ready." Michelle Gannon points out, "You two need to discuss how involved ex-girlfriends and ex-boyfriends are going to be in your life together."

Thursday, July 10, 2014

10 Ways to Ensure Your Wedding Guests Have an Absolute Blast

How to throw a fun wedding
Photo: Ira Lippke Studios

Obviously lush flowers and a gorgeous venue are some of the elements of a beautiful wedding, but picture-perfect décor doesn't ensure an epic party. Score a 10 out of 10 for overall experience by following these simple yet effective tips that will have your guests talking about your wedding for years to come.

1. Ask for Song Requests
To ensure everyone is having a great time and dancing the night away, have your guests request a song via the invitation response, recommends Key Largo wedding planner Lynn D'Ascanio of "Give this list of songs to your DJ, along with the name of the person who requested each song. That way, if the dance floor starts to thin out, the DJ can play songs off of the request list." This pretty much guarantees that the person who requested the song will get up and dance and encourage others to do so as well.

2. Don't Let Your Friends and Family Talk Forever
"Many fun events have been driven into the ground by deathly long speeches," points out Lynn Jawitz, owner of Florisan Wedding and Event Design in NYC. To keep the party popping, ask your speech givers to keep their toasts short and sweet.

3. Remember to Thank Your Guests
Speaking of speeches, it's important to let your guests knows how much you personally appreciate them coming. "It's hard to believe how often this simple step is overlooked," notes Jawitz. "Bite the bullet, make a speech (keep it short, of course) and just genuinely thank your guests for dropping their lives that day to share it with you."

4. And Keep Them in the Know
According to D'Ascanio, the best weddings are the ones that are organized and follow a timeline. "When the events of the day unfold in a timely manner, and the bridal party and guests alike are not left standing around wondering what's next or where they should go or what they should be doing, the entire day seems flawless."

5. Add in an Element of Surprise
Who doesn't love a special surprise at a wedding? "You could hire a group of singers or dancers disguised as wait staff to break out into song or dance during dinner," suggests D'Ascanio. Or you and the groom could perform a practiced dance routine yourselves for the first dance, offers Greg Jenkins, founder of Bravo Productions. "A 'wow' factor can be memorable and will ensure your guests have a blast."

6. Opt for a Short Ceremony
If possible, try to keep your ceremony simple and short in length. "A long, drawn-out ceremony takes away that guest energy level at the onset, and sometimes it cannot be recovered for the reception," warns Jenkins.

7. Give Birthday Shout Outs
Does your BFF have a birthday on the same day as your big day? Or is it his parents' anniversary too? "Have your MC acknowledge any birthdays and/or anniversaries with a dedicated song during the reception," advises Daniela Grafman, wedding & special events coordinator at Vision Entertainment Group LLC. People love attention. Plus, it's just a sweet gesture.

8. Hire a Great Band or DJ
After all, they can, in fact, make or break a party. Florida wedding planner Aviva Samuels of Kiss The Planner, recommends looking for a high energy performer, while being careful not to choose an annoying personality to be your MC. "Great vocals, great dance moves and great spunk will have everyone up on their feet until it's time to go home. Seamless song transitions and the ability to read the crowd when they want to hear more of the same sound or a desire to switch to a different sound is where a DJ's talent also comes into play."

9. Provide Transportation
If you're hosting a destination wedding or your wedding is in a remote location, be sure to provide transportation for guests from their hotel to your wedding and back, says Lauren Randolph, founder of My Hotel Wedding. "This way people don't have to worry about driving home drunk, which guarantees that they can party harder."

10. Allow Your Guests Plenty of Free Time
This is particularly important if you have a destination wedding or a bunch of guests in from out of town, says professional wedding planner Sandy Malone of Weddings in Vieques. "Back to back activities after a long trip will run them into the ground. Let them have some time and space to explore and they'll be refreshed and excited at all of your events." We concur.

After 31 Wedding Anniversaries At Red Lobster, A Widow Got An Adorable Surprise When She Went Alone

Reddit user Coppin-it-washin-it’s parents spent every wedding anniversary at a local Red Lobster. When his dad passed away, his sister took his mom out for dinner on their anniversary. Then they got the bill:

The note the servers left for them reads:

We are sorry to hear about your husband’s passing, but we appreciate your loyalty in spending 31 years of your anniversary with us. For your appreciation your meal is on us! We look forward to spending your next anniversary with us?
Red Lobster + your server, Taylor

The note was posted on Reddit Wednesday night and it quickly went viral.

BuzzFeed reached out the original Reddit user and haven’t heard back. But according to their comments on the post, the servers never let on what they were planning on doing.

“The waitress asked if there was a special occasion or if they were just hungry. My sister explained that my parents had been going there every year for their anniversary. The waitress then asked why my dad wasn’t there and they explained how he had passed away in March. She said she was sorry to hear that and then it was just a normal meal like any other after that. Until they got the bill.”

A spokesperson from Red Lobster told BuzzFeed the heartwarming moment did actually happen in a Missouri location. After the Reddit post started going viral, Red Lobster’s PR team decided to track down the server.

“We’re truly proud of the Columbia team,” the Red Lobster rep said. “We also extend our wishes to the family who dined with us and look forward to serving them again next year!”

This has been your much-needed reminder that cute things can happen in real life.

After 31 Wedding Anniversaries At Red Lobster, A Widow Got An Adorable Surprise When She Went Alone