Monday, June 30, 2014

10 Conversations to Have with Your Wedding Photographer

Wedding photography will likely be one of the biggest expenses in your wedding budget, so it's imperative that you know exactly what you're getting before signing on the dotted line. We recommend meeting with several different photographers to get a feel for different shooting styles and personalities, and then making a decision based on both your gut feeling and your budget. Read on for ten conversations you should have before choosing a wedding photographer.

Conversations to have with your wedding photographer

1. How would you describe your photography style? If you want a photojournalistic style and the photographer you're meeting with specializes in classic portraiture, this is not the wedding professional for you. Knowing your wedding style and bundling some images you love will help you find the right photographer for the job.

2. How often do you shoot weddings? How many weddings have you shot? Can I see your reviews? You want to hire someone confident, professional, and well-versed in the often-complicated realities of shooting a wedding. (Note: if you hire a friend or student photographer to save money, you may get some images you love but you're taking a gamble.) Checking out a photographer's reviews will help you get a sense of their "bedside manner" and the experience of working with them from start to finish.

3. Have you ever shot a wedding like mine? Have you shot at our location? Can I see the photos? Getting married in the woods of the Pacific Northwest? That's a different experience (read: rain!) than shooting a wedding in the bright sunshine of Southern California. Your photographer should understand the environment and be prepared for all types of weather and mishaps.

4. Can I see a full set of photos from a recent wedding? It's good to see an edited selection of a photographer's best images, but to get a sense of their range, style, and skill, you'll want to see a full set of wedding images. Know that not every picture will be great -- so don't toss a photographer aside because there are some less-than-perfect pictures in the set. Just browse the images to be sure all the important moments were captured and you like the overall photography style.

5. What do your packages include? What costs extra? Get specific about your costs: If you're buying a package, find out exactly what's included and what will cost you extra. (For example, if you need the photographer for an extra hour on the day-of, how much will it cost? Are digital images included?) Also ask if your photographer works with an assistant or second shooter and whether or not that person is included in the package fee. And confirm when your deposit is due and when your balance will be due.

6. What happens if you can't make it to my wedding? Things happen, people get sick, and there's a (slim!) chance your photographer won't be available on your big day. If he or she works with a backup photographer or another agency, meet those professionals before your big day.

7. Do you have any other events booked on my wedding day? It's OK if your photographer has other bookings, but you'll want to be aware of any time constraints and work them into your wedding-day schedule. If you need your photographer from morning to night, make that clear, and find out how much it's going to cost you.

8. What kind of editing will you do on my photos? All professionals do at least some editing on photos; fixing colors, shadow, highlights, and exposure is all standard. But there are some photographers who like to clean up "imperfections" on the subjects in their photos -- i.e. you and your new spouse -- and not everyone is OK with that. Ask any potential photographer how much editing they plan to do and be sure you're comfortable with it.

9. I have some particular shots in mind, are you willing to follow a list? Most wedding photographers are 100 percent familiar with shot lists, but ask this question in case you're working with a renegade who can't be tied down!

10. How long after the big day will I get proofs? Get this information in writing. You'll want to have, in your contract, a timeline for when you'll receive proofs and your final images.



Friday, June 27, 2014

7 Things Every Mother of the Bride Should Do

Mother of the Bride Duties
Photo: Christian Oth Studio

Some mothers of the bride are hyper involved in helping plan their daughter's wedding day, while other MOBs prefer to take a back seat. No matter which category your mom falls into, there are certain duties she is traditionally responsible for handling.

We consulted some top wedding planners to learn the ultimate mother-of-the-bride must-dos, plus asked them about some sweet nontraditional ways moms can lend a hand.

1. Shopping Support
Traditionally, mothers accompany their daughters in their search for a wedding dress, there to simply share in the joy and provide loving and honest feedback. Mom's far away? Email dress ideas back and forth or schedule a dress-shopping visit.

2. Researching Traditions and Finding Family Heirlooms
It typically falls on your mom to uncover religious or cultural traditions you — or your groom's family — might want to incorporate in the ceremony. She will also help you find the "something old" or "something borrowed," such as a stunning piece of jewelry that's been in your family for generations.

3. Go-To Contact
Your mom should be the one whose name you give to the caterers, florist, planners, entertainers, and venue to field questions and help coordinate. (Whew!) As celeb wedding planner Colin Cowie suggests, "Set your mom up for success with a list of creative contacts and a message book solely for your wedding day."

4. Playing Host
From the moment guests begin to arrive in town through the end of the ceremony, the mother of the bride is the official hostess, helping each guest feel welcome. According to Diann Valentine, event maven who has planned weddings for Usher and Toni Braxton, "Receiving lines are not as customary, so making point to greet or visit with each guest is important." Additionally, Valentine suggests that the mother of the bride host a dinner party for the groom's family or an afternoon tea for just the ladies of both families. "This goes a long way to help them welcome her into their family with open arms."

5. Communicating Outfit Choice with Your Groom's Mom
According to Colin Cowie, "Etiquette dictates that your mother follows your lead as to the color and formality of the dress she picks. The bride's mom buys her gown before the mother of the groom, and, once chosen, calls the groom's mother to describe her dress."

6. Day-of Dressing Assistance
"Helping the bride into her dress and placing the veil is, and will always remain, such a sweet, time-honored tradition," says Lynn Easton, owner of Easton Events in Charleston, SC, and Charlottesville, VA.

7. Second Dance
After you and your groom perform your first dance, then it's time for your mom and your dad (or whomever accompanies her), to take a spin. After all, your mom deserves her moment to shine, too!
No matter what, your mom will be there to help support you in whatever you need. There may be tension — between you and your mom or your family and your groom's — but it will pass. Emotions will be high, but your mom's there to be your rock — and your realist. Remember: She always has your best interests in mind.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Always a Bridesmaid (11 Times)

Jeff Firestone

I'll never forget my first time. I wore this drapey cream-colored promish dress. I think it involved a sash. At 21, I celebrated with the bride and other maids at some karaoke bar for the Bachelorette party. I gave the obligatory botched wine-soaked, half-crying speech at the rehearsal dinner. Headache pounding, I then miraculously made it through hair and makeup on the actual "big day."

Walking down the aisle, gracefully carrying a carnation bouquet, I stared at my then boyfriend standing on the groom's side fantasizing about our future wedding. A mere youngster, I clearly knew nothing about love, commitment, or holding my liquor. I'm not sure how much more I know now, but twenty years later, with significantly fewer stars in my eyes, I do have two feet planted more firmly on earth. I also look at the wedding machine quite a bit differently.
With 11 weddings under my belt, I know what wedding procedures and traditions I love (filet mignon) and which ones I would rather not experience ever again (the buffet). With the help of my compadre, Shannon Hill, we give you:

The Good, the Bad (dresses) and the Ugly (my updo) of Bridesmaid-ship
1. Most importantly, before I get into some of the jokes, costs, and annoyances, I want to say that your friend asking you to support her on her special day is a huge blessing. It is a beautiful thing to be asked, and I am grateful for every wedding I've been a part of. Now, let's dig in.

2. It's expensive. That diarrhea scene in Bridesmaids, where they are shopping for pricey wedding dresses, is no joke (well maybe the shitting and puking part). Participation in a full-blown wedding will set you back substantially.

Here is a standard and very approximate breakdown from my experience:
• Throwing the wedding shower costs (hopefully split between the bridesmaid crew) $100 to $300 each depending on fanciness-level.
• Wedding shower gift $50.
• Dress (you won't wear it again), jewelry, and shoes, $400 (bare minimum).
• Bachelorette Party in Vegas with flight, booze, food, chipping in for the bride, limo, hotel, strip club (debauchery), upwards of $1000 each.
• Wedding gift $50 (at least).
• Hair and makeup on the big day $100 to $200-ish.
Michelle's Rough Estimation = $1,800 to be a bridesmaid.

3. Some dramafied episode will happen. It just will. I've seen fistfights that ended the dancing part and major bitchery between the bride's newer friends and older ones. I've seen food throwing between divorced parents of the bride. Some bridesmaid (never me of course) will definitely hook up with some groomsman hoping a relationship will blossom. Someone will drop a glass of beer on the dance floor. Someone else will slip on that beer and cut their lip. Someone will cry. It all goes down at weddings because booze and romantic notions of forever make people say and do dumb things.

4. Rituals that seemed special will become annoying like: the bride and groom lighting one candle with their individual candles to show that now they are all joined and "one being." Same deal with the two colored sand piles that get mixed into one and "can never be unmixed!" The insanity of "mixing lives and forgetting individuality" that is implied with these rituals is what's annoying. Oh, and how can we forget the groom, to sexy stripper music, pulling the garter off the bride's thigh with his teeth while the bride laughs innocently like her dude's never been to that region before. It's so stupid. I loathe it and want this tradition banned.

5. If you are like me and still single in your thirties, be prepared to hear the same thing from aunts, friends, and anyone else at the wedding who sort of knows you: "Don't worry. I am sure you will be next, Honey." My recent experience, their expression is changing from hopeful to doubtful. These loved ones actually don't know anymore if you will be next (and neither do you). Too uncomfortable to ask what is going wrong, they nervously launch back into the old standbys, "You are dating right? Who are you dating?" Please, for the love of Jesus, just ask me about something else. I've gained some weight. Tell me you notice. Honestly, anything is less excruciating than someone asking whom I'm dating.

6. On a positive note, homemade vows are always the best things ever. When I see a couple read something they wrote for their person on a crumpled up piece of paper, I swoon. I love that shit. That's my favorite part of the wedding. Real words, said from the heart are #1 and rule.

7. Speeches are fun and should be taken seriously. If you are giving one, make it funny, practice it, and land those jokes. People love good speeches. Mix the stories, new stuff, and good things about the person your friend is marrying, and you'll be fine.

8. Participation in too many weddings could cause you to not want a wedding. I'm serious. I actually kind of don't know if I want a wedding (when I finally get married at age 80 to my childhood friend I made that "if we're not married by this age" pact with). I might just want to get hitched quietly, in front of a few family members in a field like Napoleon Dynamite's brother Kip. He and LaFawnduh were soul mates, you know.

This thing is getting too long, kind of like a wedding with a full Mass. Whatever you do, be grateful if you're asked, try to suck it up on the finances, and always act like a lady (at least until dinner and speeches are over with).

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

6 Things Young Brides Need to Know About Marriage

I have seen the "advice for brides" columns before. They are often laden with sugar-coated, diluted suggestions for living happily ever after: "Communication is the key to happiness" or "Healthy fighting equals a successful marriage."

I read them all before I got married. At 24 years old, I thought I knew I was doing -- because when you're in your twenties, you think you are wise beyond your years. But after two children and 10 years of marriage, clearly I wasn't wise enough, as my "happily ever after" ended with divorce.
Now, I am a divorce coach -- coaching women who are unhappily married looking to end their relationship, or those who are recently divorced. I have talked with hundreds of women worldwide about their regrets and what they have learned.

Here's what you need to know before you say "I do":

1) It's not about the wedding, but the man at the end of the aisle: The bridal marketing industry has done a great job brainwashing us to think we need that dream wedding. More than ever, brides are obsessed with spending thousands on a dress they will wear for only four hours, as well as months of planning every detail down to the last flower petal. Don't forget the purpose of the wedding -- which is to marry your best friend. When you walk down the aisle focus on him, not everyone looking at you. Remember, the wedding lasts a day, but your marriage is forever.

2) If you're not attracted to him now, you may never be: Perhaps you grew up with him or you've known him for years, and you love him because of the history you share. But are you physically attracted to him? Women who have been married for years have told me, "I love him, but I have never really found him attractive." And because of that, sex becomes a major problem in the marriage, with one or both spouses looking to cheat. Attraction to each other is a huge part of intimacy and passion, which is key to a lifelong relationship.

3) You need to be best friends now for when the sh*t hits the fan later: When you are in your twenties, you have yet to see job loss, mortgage payments, pregnancy scares or infertility, a sick child at 2 a.m., or having to take care of your elderly parent. You will endure stress you can't fathom right now, and your relationship will be tested. As best friends, role play these scenarios so that you can mitigate any surprises later.

4) You should never complete each other: Oh, Jerry Maguire, how you set us all up for failure with your famous line, "You. Complete. Me." Here's a secret: No one should complete anyone. You should love yourself and be secure with who you are, as no man should ever make you feel whole. Without a strong foundation of your whole self, your relationship will be built like a house of cards. In marriage, 1+1 does not equal 2. It should equal two ones.

5) Divorce is always an option: No one ever gets married thinking they will get divorced. But, try this: Go into your marriage thinking you might get divorced. Knowing that your relationship is always at risk will force you to nurture and respect it. Appreciate each other every day. Say thank you. If you happen to find a diamond on the ground, you will hold onto to it dearly, knowing that it might get lost. Do the same with your marriage.

6) Having kids will not make your marriage better: In case you haven't heard, having kids is tough. The moment a child comes into your life, your marriage is no longer about each other, but about raising a human being. Being a parent will bring you the most joy you will ever see, but it will also bring you agony, heartbreak, and lots of work. I see unhappy couples have more children to fill the void that is in their marriage, only to find them divorced after the baby novelty wears off. So don't expect children to improve your marriage because for a while, it will feel like they are tearing you apart.

At 39 years old, I recently walked down the aisle for the second time in my life. Hopefully you will do it only once. But I'm pretty confident this marriage will work, only because I know it may not.
Cheers, to all you beautiful brides out there -- now go get married!

Watch: Dying Cancer Patient Fulfills Wedding Wish

Rowden Go Pangcoga and his fiancée Leizel planned to tie the knot on July 8, 2014 — which would have been his 30th birthday — but in May, their dreams were dashed when he was diagnosed with stage IV liver cancer. His last request was to marry his one true love before it was too late.

In just 12 hours, family members and friends of the Philippines couple managed to prepare all of the arrangements. Pangcoga's brother, Hasset, posted a same-day edit by Snap Creatives on YouTube, writing that "Unable to take him outside the hospital, we brought the church to him. It was like a heartbreaking fairy tale."

The groom passed away on June 11, less than 10 hours after saying "I do," and he leaves behind a two-year-old daughter, Zakiah.

Watch the touching wedding video here:

Our prayers go out to the couple's families.

—Stefania Sainato

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

9 Couples Who Know That Weddings Are Just An Excuse To Have A Good Time

Between the romantic vows and the heartfelt toasts, there are plenty of serious (but beautiful!) wedding moments. So it's our firm belief that the rest of the wedding should be a party -- and parties, in case you've forgotten, are fun.

Below, nine funny wedding signs from couples who simply refuse to take weddings or themselves too seriously.
You've been warned.
Don't mess with this ring bearer.
If the DJ plays "Sweet Caroline," all bets are off.
The tie that binds.
Excellent point.
Angela Sackett, Legacy Seven Studios
The epitome of happiness.
Tellin' it like it is.
Nailed it.
There's no love like gamer love.

Monday, June 23, 2014

10 Things a Mother of the Bride Should Never Do Under Any Circumstances

things a mother of the bride should never do
Photo: New Line/Courtesy Neal Peters Collection

Sandy Malone, star of TLC's Wedding Island, is the owner of Weddings in Vieques, a destination-wedding planning company off the coast of Puerto Rico. Here, the pro-planner is dishing some of her expert advice for free. The topic? Her top ten don'ts for mothers of the bride.

1. Never be late. We've had the MOB show up after the welcome party ended (and she was staying at the venue where the party was held). Worse, another MOB was so far behind schedule on the wedding day that she caused the bride to go down the aisle 45 minutes late. That means the bride lost a chunk of her reception party time.

2. Don't try to steal the show or the photographer. Stay off the center of the dance floor after too many cocktails, and don't take the photogs away from shooting the wedding for your own personal picture requests. It's not your day.

3. If you didn't help plan the wedding, don't try to change any details on the big day. The planners are following a strict schedule and décor plan that the bride pre-approved.

4. Don't get drunk at the wedding events. It's fine to celebrate, but remember that everybody has video on their cameras now.

5. Don't wear white, ivory, or champagne — or any other color you wouldn't have wanted your own mother to wear on your wedding day.

6. Don't try to match the bridesmaids or the wedding party unless your daughter has specifically requested it. You're not a member of the bridal party, you're the mother of the bride and you should stand out as such, in an appropriate dress.

7. Don't flirt with the staff. More than one inebriated MOB has glued herself to my husband or another unfortunate male staff member at weddings I've planned. We're working and you're embarrassing the bride.

8. Never forget that you're a parent, not "one of the kids." Behave like an adult and resist the urge to plunge into the swimming pool when the drunk 20-somethings make the splash.

9. Regardless of how you feel about your daughter's new spouse, do not express displeasure with the groom or his family during the wedding weekend. You never know who can hear what you're saying, so be careful if you are complaining to friends or the wedding planner. There are other guests all around you who may repeat what they overhear you say.

10. Never refer to your daughter's big day as "our" wedding. It's not your wedding — the day belongs solely to your daughter and her soon-to-be spouse. If you keep this one in mind, it might help you avoid the first nine things "thou shalt not do" at her wedding.

Friday, June 20, 2014

What to Know About All-Inclusive Honeymoons

honeymoons, honeymon
photo credit: Honua Kai Resort and Spa
If you look in the back of just about any bridal magazine, you’ll see an abundance of advertisements for all-inclusive honeymoon packages. For many couples, this can prove enticing. Imagine not having to spend all that time coordinating flights, picking hotels, worrying about land transportation, or trying to budget for food and excursions. Sure sounds nice, doesn’t it?
While there are many benefits to choosing an all-inclusive honeymoon package, it’s important to note that not every “all-inclusive” is the same. Here are four of the key things you’ll want to consider before booking:

1. Just what is included? All-inclusive packages have a broad interpretation of the term “inclusive.” Be sure to read the fine print so you know if things like all meals, alcoholic beverages, gratuities and taxes, and off-site excursions are included in your rate. There can also be up-charges for travel at certain times of the day or year, so don’t get caught off-guard there.

2. Is it really a good deal for us? Do you and your spouse drink alcoholic beverages? Do you actually take excursions? Are you foodies who plan to experience cuisine outside of what’s included in the resort’s buffet? If you don’t actually need or intend to make use of the items included in an inclusive honeymoon package, you might not be saving yourself any money. Make sure the package is right for your needs.

3. Will the resort environment suit us? Some all-inclusive resorts cater to families, some to retirees, and others to honeymooners and romantics. Some are targeted towards adventurous and active couples who love off-site activities, while others encourage relaxation and indulgence. Be sure you book somewhere that will make your honeymoon as special as you’ve always dreamed.

4. Am I going to get what I expect? Keep in mind that all companies put their best foot forward in their marketing and sales efforts. You’ll find the best pictures and testimonials on a resort’s collateral. Before you book, read reviews from other couples who have already experienced the package you’re considering. This is the best way to help you make a decision on what’s right for you.
The bottom line is that you should do your homework before booking an all-inclusive honeymoon. Only you and your future spouse know what will fit your vision and budget. Don’t get caught by surprise by any fine print, and trust real reviews as you make your decisions. If you do, you’ll both be able to kick back and relax as you celebrate your new life together!

Which Bridesmaid Dream Team Player Are You?

For the remainder of this year's summer wedding season, you will be forced to deal with several of your high school and college friends deciding that:
A) Marriage before 30 is a good idea.
B) You should stand in front of hundreds of people, in a dress and heels, without a flask in your bra, and pretend that you aren't going to eat ramen noodles all next winter because you are so broke after all of this.
So which member of the Bridesmaid Dream Team are you? Let's find out.
  • Charles Barkley
You are the bridesmaid that knows how to PARTY!! You aren't really friends with any of the other bridesmaids. You are more than comfortable giving a speech after crushing that open bar, and your story about the bride's slutty phase that seemed to peter out about three to four months after she met the groom will not go over well with her father -- who just dropped 25K on the wine you are chugging. BUT, you never said you wanted to be the bridesmaid that everyone likes. No, you are the bridesmaid that isn't afraid to get a little aggressive with that aunt in from Angola when it's time to catch the bouquet.
Your motto: Your eye ran into my elbow.
  • Scottie Pippen
While you may end up broke after all said and done, you want to be remembered as the ultimate support player. When the bride goes for that pastel pink bridesmaid dress, you say yes! When the bride gets so drunk at the bachelorette party that she calls her ex-boyfriend, you take the phone from her and tell him he has a small penis. You may not get the respect you deserve for wearing that airbrushed tee that says Bridesmaid #8 or holding up the bride's dress as she pees, but you don't worry about that... because seriously, you made everyone else look really, really good.
  • Christian Laettner
You are the bridesmaid pick that everyone was a little bit surprised by, and it's certain that you will fade into oblivion after the wedding. You are totally cool with riding the bench with little to no responsibilities. You will show up to all the major events, clap, smile, and put on a pretty face. But make no mistake: you are really there for the free booze. Years later, the bride will look back on her wedding photos and kind of recognize you, and say, "She was really fun in college."
  • Patrick Ewing
You are the bridesmaid that LOVES wearing a flattop an updo. In a couple of years, people will wonder why anyone would have that hair style, but you will stand strong in your choice. And then 20 years later, when it comes back into style, you will no longer be shamed by those wedding photos. You are also the bridesmaid who takes her heels off as soon as she gets to the reception. Blame it on your knees or how tall you are, doesn't matter -- you're not about to be uncomfortable.
  • John Stockton
AKA "The Workhorse." You understand the job, and you work tirelessly to achieve success. Your speech is precise-but-meaningful. You make all the right moves to set the bride up to look good. You have complete control and know exactly where everyone is on and off the court, except for the Charles Barkley bridesmaid, because for some reason she slipped out of the hotel room and is wandering the streets of Barcelona after drinking the entire open bar. You may get overlooked and never win a championship get married be a maid of honor, but you will go down in history as one of the best to wear a matching dress.
  • Karl Malone
You are the bridesmaid that ALWAYS delivers. You are consistent. Yes, you are The Mailwoman. The bride wants to take one more tequila shot at the bachelorette party? Yes, and! The bride wants to take that "super funny" picture that looks like the poster of Bridesmaids? Yes, you will play the part of Melissa McCarthy.
  • Larry Bird/Magic Johnson
You are the seasoned bridesmaid. Yup, you've been friends with the bride the longest, and this isn't your first rodeo. You might think this wedding is a huge mistake, but you know that you are to smile, make a speech that is both funny and sentimental, and keep all the other bridesmaids in check. You aren't going to make the amateur move of finding the only single groomsman and making out with him on your best friend from high school's car.*
*Hypothetical situation author has never experienced
  • Chuck Daly
The Maid of Honor. You are in an interesting situation, my friend, because the success of the shabby chic bridal shower, the bride's overall mood on her actual wedding day and whether she looks good in the pictures are all on YOU. You lose, and you are the idiot who eff'd up the easiest gig ever. You win, and... well, that's what you're supposed to do. However, you are strategic in your path to greatness. You ensure that the bachelorette party is in some college town that has girls way hotter than the wedding party is, just so everyone realizes hey, we aren't invincible.
  • Michael Jordan
That busted-ass bridesmaid's dress looks amazing on you. In fact, after the wedding they will retire it and hang it in the reception hall. Your dance moves don't mimic those of an awkward white girl at her middle school dance. Your mere presence scores you a VIP booth at the bachelorette party. And while you may be the reason that Isaiah Thomas (the bride's cousin) isn't in the wedding party, no one seems to care... because you are a GOD and the best thing to happen to the entire wedding sport. You are so amazing at being a bridesmaid that you will actually become the bride -- six times!

Written by Becca Taubel. This post originally appeared on The Second City Network.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Money Monday: 5 Ways to Save Money on Your Wedding


The average wedding price has hit north of the $29,000 mark, but you can still create the wedding of your dreams without busting the bank. Here are a few tips for creating your perfect wedding while ensuring that your marriage starts off on a solid financial footing.

Set a budget, – decide what’s important and what’s not.

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of wedding planning and loose track of how much you’re actually spending. Your wedding is but a fraction of your larger financial picture. Setting a budget ensures that your wedding expenses don’t destroy the rest of your finances.
In the process, you’ll be forced to prioritize and identify what is most important to you as a couple. You may, for instance, chose to cut corners on wedding favors and invitations while allocating your precious dollars to securing a top-notch wedding photographer.

Think outside the box.

June weddings may be classic, but you can save serious money by holding your nuptials during off-peak months between November and March. If a summer wedding has always been your dream, consider a Friday or Sunday wedding date in order to take a serious bite out of your wedding costs. Thinking outside the box can pay off big when picking a reception venue as well. Non-traditional locations such as a lake, vineyard, public park, alumni college location, or family member’s backyard can shave thousands off your wedding bills.

Purchase the ring online.

While most men purchase engagement rings from traditional retailers, real savings can be found online. The biggest and most trusted player in the online diamond game is Blue Nile. Blue Nile offers a wide selection of GIA certified diamonds and wedding jewelry. The biggest advantage is that their prices run as much as 35% cheaper than traditional retailers.
But, for those who still prefer a more traditional approach, it pays to do the research. How to Buy a Diamond: Insider Secrets for Getting Your Money’s Worth by Fred Cuellar and the Diamond Ring Buying Guide by Renee Newman are two books which can save you money and prevent you from being taken for a ride when approaching your local jeweler.

Get the wedding dress for less.

For most women, a wedding dress will be worn once and never again. While sentiment may influence some women to purchase an expensive wedding dress, practicality drives others to find ways to slash the cost of the dress. Services like The Frock Shop allow women to rent their wedding dress for the special day. In the same vein, websites such as allow ladies to purchase gently used wedding dresses.
If renting or purchasing slightly used dresses is not your style, consider purchasing a white bridesmaid’s dress or formal dress and having it altered into a wedding gown. Alternatively, an experienced seamstress can often create a traditional wedding gown at a much lower price than traditional retailers. Finally, don’t forget that many mainstream retailers like Target, J Crew, and Ann Taylor now feature bridal selections at reasonable prices.

Cut your food and alcohol costs.

Food service at your wedding doesn’t have to be formal. As long as the food tastes good your guests are guaranteed to leave happy. Spend your time, for example, finding a local caterer renowned for their food, and feature a buffet style reception. Know of a local chicken joint that serves off the chain food? Ask them if they’ll deliver for your special day.
And remember, it’s not your job to guarantee that your guests leave with a buzz. Instead of an open bar, consider providing just a few alcoholic selections – champagne for the toast and a keg of beer – and allow your guests to purchase alternatives from a cash bar. You may also consider having an open bar for a limited number of hours. The money you save on alcohol could go a long way to starting your marriage on the right financial footing.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Not Even Brain Cancer Could Come Between This Couple's Unwavering Love

A month before her wedding, Mari Mckinstry underwent her fourth of seven surgeries in her battle against brain cancer. The procedure left her unable to walk, so just two weeks before the big day, she was in rehab learning the skill all over again.

But at her April 5 wedding to Nathan Lazur in St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands, Mari was glowing and full of life. Looking at the happy couple, you'd never know all that the pair has been through.


Joy Marie Smallwood, Mari's cousin and wedding photographer, told HuffPost Weddings that the most emotional moment of the celebration was when the bride came walking down the aisle.
"Nobody knew if she would be able to walk by her wedding date or even be in a condition to make it to the wedding," she said. "So when we all saw this beautiful girl walking down the aisle, everyone was in tears!"


Mari and Nathan's relationship started as a friendship several years ago when she was his personal trainer. They went on their first official date (a visit to Seattle -- Mari's hometown -- for a Seahawks game) in the fall of 2011. In April 2012, Mari was diagnosed with brain cancer. By Christmas of that year, the couple was engaged.

Joy Marie said that Nathan has been incredibly loving and supportive since day one -- a picture of unconditional love.

"Nathan had said that he felt like he was put on this earth to take care of Mari," she said. "I can't even type that without crying because that is exactly what he has done. He sleeps by her side in the ICU. I know I speak for our family and all of those who love Mari when I say that I am incredibly grateful for Nathan and I really do believe he is an angel. The selfless love and care that he has given Mari is beyond anything I have ever witnessed."
Below are more photos from the couple's beautiful and emotional celebration.

As for Mari's health of late, Joy Marie told HuffPost Weddings that the bride began a round of chemotherapy this week. A friend of the family has set up a Go Fund Me page to help offset the high cost of medical expenses and full-time care giving. You can make a donation here.
A marriage license is essentially a permit -- legal confirmation that couples are free to marry each other, have obtained divorce or widowhood papers if necessary, are of legal age, and have had blood tests if required. The license pick-up location varies by state: It might be City Hall, the city or town clerk's office, or the marriage license bureau in the county where you plan to wed.

Find an office: Look under "Marriage" in your phone book's city pages, search the Internet for state marriage license requirements, or use The Knot Marriage License Search.

Once you've located your marriage license office, call to ask when you should apply. Licenses are valid for a window of time (from ten days to six months), and there may be a short waiting period once you get the license. In most states you can walk in to apply, but some offices require an appointment, so be sure to ask when you call. Both bride and groom must be present in most states, although there are a few exceptions.

Licenses are valid for a window of time (from ten days to six months), and there may be a short waiting period once you get the license.

You will probably need:

  • Birth certificates (proof of age)
  • Proof of citizenship and/or residence
  • Photo identification
  • Parental consent if underage (usually 16-17; you may also need court consent)
  • Death certificate if widowed
  • Divorce decree if divorced
  • Blood test results (if needed; only a few states still require this)

After the wedding, your officiant will send your signed license to the marriage license bureau, and then you should receive a certified copy within a few weeks or months (depending on your state).


California wine country

  • Fee charged
  • License valid for: 90 days, no waiting period
  • Blood test: no
  • More info: Contact the wedding coordinator at the resort where you'll be staying or call the Napa Valley County Clerk (707) 253-4246, or Sonoma County Clerk, (707) 527-3700


  • Fee charged; it's lower if the bride and groom are Florida residents and attend an eight-hour marriage course
  • Waiting period: None (a three-day waiting period for Florida residents can be waived by attending the marriage course mentioned above)
  • License valid for: 60 days
  • Blood test: No
  • More info - Florida Keys: Monroe County Clerk of Courts (305) 292-3550 (Key West), (305) 852-7145 (Isla Morada), (305) 289-6027 (Marathon); Disneyworld: Orange County Clerk of Courts Marriage License Division (407) 836-2067, Walt Disney World (407) 828-3400 or

  • Fee charged
  • Residency Requirement: None
  • Necessary Documents: Driver's license or passport; no proof of divorce is necessary, but those who are divorced must be able to list the date, state and county (or country) where the divorce was finalized.
  • Note: Licenses must be filed with the state health department office in Honolulu, or call the department for listings of agents in rural communities. Forms require the names of parents and their places of birth. Both parties must appear in person.
  • More info: Hawaii's Department of Health marriage licensing office or (808) 586-4544; or Las Vegas
    • Fee charged
    • Waiting period: None
    • License valid for: Indefinitely
    • Blood test: No
    • More info: Clark County Marriage Bureau, (702) 455-4415, ext. 5
    Mackinack Island, Michigan
    • Fee charged
    • License valid for: 30 days, after a three-day waiting period
    • Blood test: no
    • More info: Contact the wedding coordinator at the resort where you'll be staying or call the Mackinac Island Chamber of Commerce, (800) 4-LILACS
    Nantucket, Massachusetts
    • Fee: Varies by county/town
    • License valid for: 60 days, after three-day waiting period, anywhere in state
    • Blood test: yes
    • More info: Contact the wedding coordinator at the resort where you'll be staying.
    New Orleans, Louisiana
    • Fee charged
    • License valid for: 30 days, after 3-day waiting period
    • Blood test: no
    • More info: Contact the wedding coordinator at the resort where you'll be staying, or call the Louisiana Office of Tourism, (800) 261-9144

    Tying the Knot Internationally

    • Fee charged (it's much lower if one person resides on the island for 15 days)
    • Residency period: None, paperwork requires two days
    • Necessary documents: Passport, proof of divorce or death of spouse (if applicable)
    • More info: Two witnesses are required. For further information, call the Magistrate, (264) 497-3477
    • Fee charged
    • Residency period: None
    • Necessary documents: Passport, proof of divorce or death certificate of former spouse/s if applicable
    • More info: Contact the wedding coordinator at the resort where you'll be staying, or call the Antigua and Barbuda Department of Tourism at (212) 541-4117
    *** It is now possible for nonresidents to marry in Aruba, but there are many restrictions and requirements.
    • Fee charged
    • Residency period: None
    • Necessary documents: (copies of all the following must first be faxed for review, then sent via courier, such as FedEx, at least 14 days in advance) passports; raised-seal birth certificates for both parties and the witnesses; divorce decrees/death certificates if previously married; apostilles (documents from your local government declaring you are eligible for marriage).
    • Civil ceremonies -- must take place inside City Hall in Oranjestad. Once you have a civil ceremony you may have a religious blessing.
    • Catholic -- contact a Catholic church for details.
    • Protestant -- contact the church of your choice. Ceremonies may take place in a church or anywhere else on the island.
    • Jewish -- both parties MUST prove they are Jewish with documentation from their home rabbi; a petition for permission must also be submitted to the Jewish community; ceremonies may take place at the synagogue or anywhere else on the island.
    • More info: Call the wedding coordinator at the resort where you'll be staying and the Aruba Tourism Authority, (800) TO-ARUBA
    • Fee charged
    • Residency requirement: 24 hours
    • Necessary documents: Passports; birth certificates; proof of divorce or death certificate of former spouse/s (if applicable); declaration certifying both parties are unmarried U.S. citizens, sworn before a U.S. Consul at the American Embassy in Nassau, or a marriage license from the Commissioner's Office on other islands; proof of arrival in the Bahamas.
    • Knot Note: Both parties must apply in person.
    • More info: Bahamas Ministry of Tourism Romance Director at (888) NUPTIAL or
    • Fee charged
    • Residency period: None
    • Necessary documents: Passports; proof of divorce or death certificate of former spouse/s (if applicable); letter from officiant performing service
    • Obtain marriage license from Ministry of Home Affairs or (246) 228-8950
    • Fee charged
    • Residency period: None
    • Necessary documents: Passports and a "Notice of Intended Marriage" form from Bermuda's Registrar General's Office (The form is available by phone request or at Fill it out and mail it -- along with a cashier's check or bank draft made payable to the Accountant General, Hamilton, Bermuda -- back to the Registrar General. Your license will be valid for three months and can be picked up at the Registrar's office by you or a designated person.)
    • Note: "Notice of Intended Marriage" must be filed
      2 weeks before the wedding
    • More info: Bermuda's Registrar General office, (441) 297-7709 or -7707; the Bermuda Department of Tourism office nearest you; or
    British Virgin Islands
    • Fee charged; it's lower if you've been in the BVI for more than 15 days. It's less expensive to get married at the registrar's office than elsewhere.
    • Residency period: 3 days
    • Necessary documents: Passports; birth certificates; proof of divorce or death certificate of former spouse/s (if applicable)
    • Note: Publishing banns may be necessary for church weddings. Make plans with appropriate clergy.
    • More info: BVI Registrar's Office, (284) 494-3701 ext. 5001/2/3; British Virgin Islands Tourist Board, (800) 835-8530
    Cayman Islands
    • Fee charged
    • Residency period: None
    • Necessary documents: Passports; birth certificates; proof of divorce or death certificate of former spouse/s (if applicable); return or ongoing tickets; proofs of entry (Cayman Islands International Immigration Department pink slips or cruise-ship boarding passes); letter from authorized officiating marriage officer
    • More info: Cayman Islands Government Deputy Chief Secretary; (345) 949-7900 or (345) 914-2222
    • Fee charged
    • Residency period: None
    • Necessary documents: Passports, original birth certificates, proof of divorce or death certificate of former spouse(s) if applicable
    • Note: There are no non-denominational ministers; requirements vary by religion
    • More info: Contact the wedding coordinator at the resort where you'll be staying or contact the Fiji Visitor's Bureau, (800) YEA FIJI
    • Total cost of civil service: Varies by region
    • Residency period: One of you must reside for 40 days in the town or district (in Paris) where the wedding will take place
    • Necessary documents: Passport; certified copy of final divorce decree or death certificate of former spouse/s if applicable; both birth certificates (from the Bureau of Vital Records, not from a hospital); a notarized "Affidavit of Law;" and a certificate of health
    • Note: Requirements may vary by region and city and blood test requirements vary by gender; all documents need to be professionally translated; and all documents translated in the U.S. must be legalized with an "apostille" from the Secretary of State of the state they are issued in. We highly recommend that you contact a wedding planner who specializes in destination weddings as early as possible to help you fulfill the requirements or contact the French Consulate in your area to review your paperwork.
    • More info: Contact the wedding coordinator at the hotel where you'll be staying, the French Consulate in your area, or the Marriage Bureau of the City Hall in the town or district where you will be wed
    French Polynesia
    • Residency period: At least one of you must live in French Polynesia for 30 days (no fighting, now!)
    • Necessary documents: Birth certificates (issued within 3 months of your wedding and translated into French), medical certificates, 1 certificate of residency, 1 copy of notarized marriage contract, customary certificates, certificates of celibacy, and a certificate of publication of marriage bans in the non-resident's hometown
    • Note: Assuming one of you can establish residency, we highly recommend that you contact a wedding planner who specializes in destination weddings or in Tahiti as early as possible to help you fulfill the requirements.
    • More info: Call the wedding coordinator at the resort where you'll be staying or a travel agent that specializes in Tahiti or destination weddings. Tahiti Tourism, (800) 365-4949
    • Total cost for civil service: Varies by region
    • Residency requirement: None
    • Necessary documents: It is possible to use an American marriage license, but only if it meets certain requirements; passports; certified birth certificates; proof of divorce or death certificate of former spouse/s (if applicable); certificate from U.S. Consulate in Athens, stating that there is no impediment to the marriage; two announcements in local Greek newspaper (one announcement for each person)
    • Note: Greek tourism officials advise that gathering and preparing required documents could take a few months. All documents must be translated into Greek by the Greek consulate in your area. The Greek National Tourist Organization, (212) 421-5777, will fax instructions and supply names of companies that specialize in arranging weddings for foreigners. Greek law does not provide for certain interfaith marriages such as Christians to non-Christians or Jews to non-Jews. Proof of religion, such as baptismal certificates, may be required.
    • More info: Greek National Tourist Organization, (212) 421-5777, or the Greek Consulate, (212) 988-5500.
    • Fee charged
    • Residency period: One person must establish a residency of 15 days, the other must fulfill a minimum 7-day residency
    • Necessary documents: Passports; birth certificates; certified copy of final divorce decree or death certificate (plus original marriage certificate) of former spouse/s if applicable; Notice of Marriage (provided by the Registrar and published twice with a one-week interval in a Dublin newspaper)
    • Note: You must notify the Registrar for Marriages at least three months before the wedding date. We recommend that you contact a wedding planner who specializes in destination weddings as early as possible to help you fulfill the requirements.
    • More info: Contact the wedding coordinator at the hotel where you'll be staying or call the Registrar for Marriages at 011-353-1-676 3218
    • Total cost for civil service: Varies by region
    • Residency period: four days
    • Necessary documents: Passports or armed forces ID cards; certified copies of birth certificates; proof of divorce or death certificate of former spouse/s (if applicable); declarations "atto notorio" sworn to by four people attesting that they know of no reason to object to the marriage under the laws of the couple's home country; declaration sworn to by both parties that there are no obstacles to the marriage under U.S. law
    • Note: Certain documents must be translated into Italian with special "apostille" seals from the secretary of state from the state from which the documents originated. Additional requirements apply if one of the parties is an Italian citizen or resident of Italy. Requirements may vary by region and city. It is highly recommended that you work with a wedding planner to help you fulfill all requirements properly.
    • More info: Italian consulate nearest you; Italian Tourism Board, Italy weddings websiteor
    • Fee charged
    • For a higher fee, the wedding coordinater at your resort will arrange for for the officiant to go into Kingston to the Ministry of National Security, (876) 922-0080, to get the marriage license. Otherwise you have to go yourself.
    • Residency period: 24 hours
    • Necessary documents: Certified copies of both birth certificates; proof of divorce or death certificate of former spouse/s if applicable; and name change or adoption papers if applicable
    • Fee charged
    • Residency period: One day
    • Necessary documents: Birth certificates, a sworn statement that neither person is married, proof of divorce or death of former spouse (if applicable), and completed application and Sworn Declaration forms (available from the Marriage Registry) must be sent to the Registry Office between six weeks and three months before your intended date
    • Note: These requirements apply to civil ceremonies only. Religious weddings have a different set of conditions; work with a destination wedding planner or speak with the Marriage Registry office (below) to make sure all requirements are fulfilled.
    • More info: Marriage Registry office, 011-356-626-221775, 225291/2 or More info: , (877) GO MALTA
    • Total cost of civil service: Varies across country
    • Residency requirement: None
    • Necessary documents: Certified copies of birth certificates previously "legalized" by the Mexican consulate with jurisdiction over the place of birth; driver's licenses or passports; certified proof of divorce or death certificates of former spouse/s (if applicable) previously "legalized" by the Mexican consulate with jurisdiction over the place of filing; judge's form; tourist cards; Mexican-performed blood test results
    • Note: The marriage requirements in Mexico vary from city to city and judge to judge. The Mexican Ministry of Tourism recommends that you budget two to four days to complete all requirements. It is recommended that you work with a wedding planner to help you fulfill all requirements properly.
    • More info: Mexico tourist board, (800) 44-MEXICO
    St. Lucia
    • Fee charged
    • Residency period: 2 days
    • Necessary documents: Passport, birth certificate, proof of divorce or death certificate of former spouse/s if applicable, and name change or adoption papers if applicable
    • More info: Call the wedding coordinator at the resort where you'll be staying or contact the St. Lucia Tourist Board, (888) 4-STLUCIA
    U.S. Virgin Islands
    • Fee charged
    • Residency period: None
    • Necessary documents: Driver's licenses or passports; proof of divorce or death certificate of former spouse/s (if applicable); letter accompanying application for marriage stating date of visit, length of stay, and preferred wedding date if having ceremony performed by a judge
    • Note: Application must be received at least eight days prior to wedding.
    • More info: USVI Division of Tourism, (800) 372-8784; Territorial Court, St. Croix, (340) 778-9750.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

3 Engagement Ring Etiquette Questions You Need to Know

Engagement etiquette ring questions
Photo: Getty Images

It's the most important piece of jewelry you'll ever own — which is why you want to do everything right when it comes to your engagement ring! So many couples wonder how much to spend, who should pick it out, and many other logistical quandaries when getting engaged. Here, we found answers to these pressing etiquette questions!

My boyfriend says he wants to propose to me soon — and he wants me to help pick out the engagement ring. Is this appropriate?

Definitely. In fact, 62 percent of couples now go ring shopping together. If you don't feel comfortable doing so, though, just tell your boyfriend that you don't want to do a joint shopping trip because you think it's more romantic to be surprised. Then, show your mom, your sister, and/or your BFF some photos of rings you like, and ask them to give him some guidance.

Is it appropriate for my sister to help my boyfriend pick out an engagement ring for me?

Absolutely! You want someone who knows your style to be at his side, steering him toward the rings you'll love and away from the rings you just won't. Feel free to get as specific with your sis as you want. If you're obsessed with emerald-cut diamonds, tell her. If you've been spending every lunch break shopping for rings online, send her links to all your faves. If you'd rather have a bigger diamond with a few flaws than a smaller diamond with none, slip her that nugget of info, too. With your sister on the case, he'll get a sounding board, you'll get a ring you'll adore, and she'll have the thrill of being part of one of the biggest moments in your life. Everyone wins.

How much is too much to spend?

The answer depends entirely on your fiancé-to-be's financial situation. On average, a guy will spend about $5,229, but Justin Theroux, for example, forked over about half a mil on Jennifer Aniston's rock. As a rule of thumb, most jewelers suggest that men shell out about three months of their salary. But if he's heavily in debt or concerned about his job security, he may want to scale back. Worried your boyfriend will be tempted to go overboard? Slip your opinion into a casual conversation.

Monday, June 16, 2014

10 Marriage Vows You Couldn't Possibly Have Known to Make On Your Wedding Day

Let's be honest. Most of us are more likely to upgrade the operating system on our iPhone than to revise the vows that we made at our wedding.

As I sat writing my vows on the eve of my marriage (yes, it's true, I'm a big-time procrastinator) I was no better prepared to face the rigors of marriage than I was to pilot a jumbo jet. And, no surprise, like most soon-to-be newlyweds, the promises I made were idealistic and romantic -- based on what I imagined it would take to create a marriage that lasts.

Not that there was anything wrong with my vow to be loyal and honest or my promise to stand by my husband through life's ups and downs. But in order to follow through with those commitments, it became clear, over time, that I needed a new set of promises that went beyond my lofty aspirations and vows of undying love. I needed vows that would address what marriage actually required.

Yes, marriage vows are meant to be idyllic and inspiring, to remind us that true love still exists, to bring an entire room to tears. Our wedding day promises are about love and hope and how we'll come from our best, not about housecleaning or self-development or what to do when we feel like murdering each other. Imagine the nervous laughter (or horror) if someone vowed to only hate her husband for short periods of time?

None of us can possibly know at the outset what our marriage will bring or what tools we will need. Marriage has challenged almost every assumption I had about myself and my husband. It has asked me to stretch and to grow beyond what I thought possible; to be bigger and more resilient and exponentially more flexible. It has presented challenges that seemed insurmountable and then demanded that I surmount them.

Why not think of our original vows as a first draft that we will eventually replace with a set of promises that reflect a deeper, broader and more realistic understanding of what marriage calls us to do?

Knowing what I now know about the challenges of marriage and what I aspire to as a spouse, here are the vows I would make:

1. I promise to notice and acknowledge the positive things that you do, rather than get hung up on the negatives.

2. I promise to accept that we are different -- that we will see the world differently and over the course of our marriage we will want different things. Though I don't expect this to be easy, I will strive to be open-minded and loving about the way that you see things. Failing that, I will do my best to be tolerant.

3. I promise to do more than my fair share when necessary and to not grouse about it. Keeping score is about fear and stinginess, not about love.

4. I promise to release my end of the rope when we're in a tug of war, knowing that there's a cost to my winning when it means that you lose.

5. I promise to not ask you to change in ways that I'm unwilling to change.

6. I promise to not take your annoying behaviors personally, even though I really, really wish you would wash out the sponge.

7. I promise to keep in mind that your basic intention is to be a loving and decent husband, even when you're not doing so.

8. I promise to drop my expectations of your becoming the man I want you to be as opposed to the man you are.

9. I promise to focus a lot more on my shortcomings and a lot less on yours.

10. I promise to forgive both of us for having not known from the start how to be the kind and generous partners we've finally become.

Friday, June 13, 2014

7 Small Things Happy Couples Remember to Do Every Day

So much in life is about the little things, isn't it? The smell of fresh coffee. A cardinal on the bird feeder. The first crocus in spring.

Most of us assume that our greatest happiness comes from life's big events, like landing our dream job, getting married, or giving birth to a child. While these extraordinary moments create a brief spike in happiness, current research confirms that sustained happiness is derived from life's ordinary, everyday stuff.

You know, the little things that we do for each other that make life feel good. A soft squeeze on the arm when we're worried. A trip out in the rain to pick us up at the bus. A gracious offer to go right ahead and eat that last bite of cake.

As couples, we can easily get caught up in life's endless demands and forget that we aren't running a business together, that life isn't all about tasks and results and who's doing what, when.

Given all our distractions and pressures, it's no wonder we lose sight of the need for small, loving gestures that, in fact, carry great meaning.

It's been said that, in the end, the little things are actually the big things, though we don't realize it at the time.

I say don't wait to discover what's truly important. Even if you're facing big difficulties in your marriage, these small caring gestures may give your relationship a surprising boost.

1. Be here now.
Quality attention. For me it's better than flowers or a candlelight dinner and I bet I'm not alone. Couples often complain that their days are so over-scheduled that their attention gets pulled from one thing to the next. The last thing they want is to talk to a partner whose nose is in his cell phone.
Think you can multi-task? Think again.
Why not shut down your phone, turn off your TV and walk away from the computer. Tell the kids that, for a least a few minutes, the two of you are off duty.

Face each other. Make eye contact. Be fully there.

If you spend more than fifteen minutes a day giving each other your undivided attention, talking about something other than kids or logistics, you're a rare exception.

2. Drop everything.
No matter how busy, frazzled, or tired we are, we all have thirty seconds to connect with each other when we walk through the door at the end of the day.

A simple Honey, I'm home, followed by a smile or a hug proves that there really is no place like home.

3. Go the extra mile.
Most of the time, going the extra mile requires little more than going a few steps out of your way.
Whether you fold that one last basket of wash, make your spouse a cup of tea, place a gentle hand on her shoulder, or make a late night run to the grocery store to get milk, these small (and even medium-sized) favors we do communicate love and affection and say, I'm happy to help.

4. Express appreciation.
No gesture is too small or mundane to warrant a sincere word of thanks. You don't have to hire a brass band or put up a billboard. A simple thank you is enough to brighten anyone's day.

Feeling creative? Leave a love note on her windshield. Say nice things about him to others -- and make sure he overhears it.

Beyond saying thanks, acknowledge each others' patience or kindness or willingness to take risks. Sometimes it's extra sweet to be complimented for who we are, not just what we do.

5. Say yes.
Too often (and too quickly) many of us tend to say No. Whether it's a request to clean out the garage, take a hike, or make love, why not pause and ask yourself, Why not say, yes?

Not perfect timing? Not your first choice? Unless the answer really has to be no, watch good things happen when you surprise your spouse with a yes.

6. Check in.
At my daughter-in-law's wedding shower, she asked each of her newly married friends to give her one piece of advice. More than one of them said take a moment to call. Not just when you're running late, though especially then! And definitely more often than you would normally do.

Whether it's a brief phone call or a text message or two minutes of IM, it always feels good to touch base and say, hi.

7. Pucker up.
When was the last time you gave your spouse more than a drive-by kiss as you were dashing out the door? Are we really too busy to stop and do it once more with feeling?

Try a full six-second kiss. Yes, count it out on your fingers. The difference is... well, you'll see.

While you're at it, a goodnight kiss with the same enthusiasm is a sweet addition.

What better way to begin and end every day?

Now it's your turn: What are your favorite ways to let your partner know that you care?

Thursday, June 12, 2014

These Wedding Splurges Just Aren't Worth The Cost

By Davia Montaya for Bridal Guide

Throughout the wedding process there will be elements that entice you to spend a little more than you were planning on — and we all know how tempting those can be! Some splurges are worth every penny while others may leave you with a case of serious budget regret. Here are a few guidelines to help you decide where to cut corners.

1. The Champagne Toast
The champagne toast is a wonderful tradition and something that I personally love as a champagne drinker. Unfortunately, it's also one of the biggest wastes I tend to see at weddings since most guests prefer to toast with their beverage of choice, if given the option, which means that their champs will go untouched or they'll barely sip it. My recommendation to all of my clients who want to cut costs is to skip the bubbly and just make sure that all of your guests have a drink in hand.

Photo Credit: Park Road Photography on The Wedding Chicks via

2. The Cake
However you decide to approach the dessert course, my advice here is to simplify. There's no rule that says you must serve cake — think of it more as an opportunity to share your favorite treats with your guests. For example, maybe your wedding calls for cookies and milk or pie and root beer floats.

Photo Credit: Pure7Studios on Every Last Detail via

I come from a family of cake-lovers so not having one simply isn't an option. However, my cake will not be some overly dramatic style that requires countless man-hours and has a huge price tag. I'm leaning towards having a trio of simple, smaller cakes in a variety of flavors that all of my guests can enjoy.

If you want to have a cake-cutting ceremony, consider serving sheet cake to your guests instead of paying for a tiered confection. Besides the huge savings, the beauty of sheet cake is that it can be pre-plated and served the second after you cut the display cake. This ensures that less goes to waste because it's at the forefront of guests' minds that they better grab a slice before hitting the dance floor all night!

Photo Credit: Emily March Photography on Heart Love Weddings via

3. Wedding Rentals
Although I adore a well-designed place setting from the amazing, creative vendors out there like Casa De Perrin, most guests will not know the difference between specific glasses or appreciate the cost of a colored cut crystal goblet. However, what they will remember is how their meal was presented and how delicious it tasted when they cut into it. I can assure you that a simple white plate with a beautifully presented entrée course can be just as impressive as the same meal served on a different plate.

Photo Credit: Jose Villa on Society Bride via

There are other, more cost-effective ways to play up your table décor than renting expensive tableware and linens. For example, you could get creative with your napkin fold, handwrite a thank-you note for each guest's place setting or add a spring of fresh lavender to every dish. All of these small touches will leave your guests thinking how tastefully simple and elegant everything was.

4. Guest Favors
Personally, favors are something I can do with or without unless there's some emotional or personal significance to the item. For example, I'm not a fan of personalized M&Ms or bubbles; these are the types of favors that will get left behind or eaten before guests even leave the wedding. They also cost more than you'd think! In my opinion, anything with your name etched into it, whether it be glassware, bottle openers, or containers, also aren't worth the splurge. If you have a lot of guests traveling from a long distance to your wedding, then you may want to avoid items that they can't easily pack in their suitcase, such as planted herbs.

I advise my couples to think local by offering edible favors that guests can take home with them, such as cooking oils and spreads from the region where they're getting married. By creating something that is a reflection of your wedding, you are inviting loved ones to continue to remember the celebration and to bring that joy into their homes. Or you can skip the favors entirely by hosting a late-night snack station or take-home breakfast treats station, instead. These are great additions to your catering budget.

Photo Credit: Emily RC Photography on Fab You Bliss via

5. Luxe Centerpieces
I'm a sucker for beautiful flowers but I also know how much they can cost. What I love about wedding centerpieces is that they are a complete reflection of you as a couple and don't need to follow any specific guidelines. Who says that your centerpieces have to be completely draped in expensive blooms? Instead, I would suggest displaying a collection of simple, in-season flowers, more greenery and décor accents such as candles, driftwood or even antlers from your father's collection. Most of your guests may not know the difference between a peony or a hydrangea but they will notice the small details that are a reflection of the two of you.

Photo Credit: Caroline Tran on Enfianced via

A great designer or florist won't try to talk you into more than what you need, want and have budgeted for; what they will do is create a beautiful tabletop that is reflective of your personalities, budget and wedding vision. Don't feel that you have to go over-the-top and spend hundreds of dollars on your centerpieces. Think of it as an opportunity to get creative and find something truly unique to your special day.

Of course, there are many other ways that you can trim your budget without sacrificing style, such as asking a friend or relative to officiate your ceremony or calling upon talented friends. Remember that what's truly priceless is celebrating with loved ones and creating memories that you'll cherish for the rest of your life.