Friday, July 31, 2015

3 Relationship Habits Every Newlywed Couple Should Start Right Now

Positive Relationship Habits
Photo: Jen Philips Photography
Newlywed bliss isn't a myth: Everything seems shiny and full of promise in the months after you say "I do." But how do you keep that happiness going for the rest of your lives? The best way to create a happy life together is to start with good emotional habits. Here, these married couples share their secrets to a lifelong marriage. Practice the tips, below, and you are well on your way to a rock-solid, amazing, lifelong relationship.

Make time to be silly.
"Laughter is the most important part of our relationship. My husband Jeff will will put on oven mitts and make them sing if I am blue. I'll put on a parade for him with our son's stuffed animals," says Caroline Leavitt, married 21 years with a 17-year-old son. The Hoboken, New Jersey-based novelist finds her husband's cheerful efforts especially helpful in dark times. "I was critically ill for a year but we've both always been able to help each other see hope, even if it was only a tiny bright gleam in the sky miles and miles away."

Set goals but be open to changing them.
Before they married nine years ago Naomi Elena Zener and her husband set goals of where they saw themselves in one, five, 10, and 15 years. Naomi, who is a novelist living in Toronto, Canada, and has a blog Satirical Mama, laughs, "Some of the goals have been hit, others not." Their initial plan was to buy a home, collect art, travel, and build their careers. The "curveball" was a baby, followed by a second child. "Evan and I still have goals but things like travel have been reprioritized. Marriage to us was and is a lifelong commitment," Naomi explains.

Stop trying to change one another.
On their tenth anniversary Stephanie and James Freeman put into practice the truism every couple should know: You can't change another person. You can only change your actions and reactions. Stephanie, from Raleigh, North Carolina, shares, "We decided to take action together by making a list. On one side of the paper we wrote down our 'wish list' of things we wanted to change about the other, agreeing beforehand we wouldn't let ourselves be easily offended by what the other wrote." The couple also wrote a second list, which focused on characteristics about the other they would not want to see change.

The first list they exchanged was the "bad" one — discussing each item and doing their best to see the other person's point of view. Afterward they held each other to reestablish a feeling of love and connection. Next they shared the second list elaborating in admiring fashion on each point. "This list exchange was an event — fun, sexy and full of gratitude," Stephanie notes.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

A Handy Guide for How Much to Tip Your Wedding Vendors

Tipping can be one of those awkward things (which is why tipping guides are always helpful), especially if you’ve planned your budget right down to the dollar. We all know what is appropriate for our bartender at our favorite local spot, but when it comes to a wedding, the tipping game can become a bit confusing. As a wedding planner, I normally encourage my clients to consider a tip that fits within your budget and leaves your vendor feeling the love after you’ve said “I do,” the bouquet has been thrown and the ceremony has wrapped. Here are a few guidelines and suggestions to

consider when creating your tip envelopes.
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1. Wedding Planner: It is customary to tip anywhere from $100 to $500 or to give a personal gift. In most cases, your wedding planner has been your confidant, the person you turned to when you needed advice — and very darn well could be your seventh bridesmaid by your wedding day. As a wedding planner myself, receiving a personal gift from my brides always makes for a wonderful surprise. My most recent bride hand-wrapped my favorite notebooks and the cutest pens to help keep me inspired while planning my next wedding. Thoughtful gifts always make a lasting impression and make us love our job that much more. (via Lauren Louise Photography)

make us love our job that much more. (via Lauren Louise Photography)
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2. Photographer: Your wedding photographer is on his/her feet all day long, arrived early to snap photos while your hair and makeup artists were putting on final touches and probably stayed an extra hour to capture those blissful smiles as you and your beloved hopped in a getaway car. Tipping your photographer is not always necessary, but when they go above and beyond to capture those once-in-a-lifetime moments, a tip is always the perfect way to show your appreciation. (via Lauren Louise Photography)

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3. Florist: Similar to the tip advice for a photographer and wedding planner, consider a tip if your florist made it a personal experience during their time with you. You may also want to consider finding a meaningful gift for them while you’re on your honeymoon. (via Megan Breamore Photography)

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4. Caterer: Many caterers will automatically add a gratuity to your final bill. Be sure to check before setting aside an additional tip for the staff. If it is not included, tip based on 15 to 20 percent of the final bill, just like you would at a restaurant. (via Melanie Gabrielle Photography)

final bill, just like you would at a restaurant. (via Melanie Gabrielle Photography)
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5. Hair and Makeup Artists: Much like you would at a hair salon, tipping in this instance is customary. Tipping anywhere in the range of 15 to 20 percent range lets your artists know you were  happy with the final result. (via Lauren Louise Photography)

happy with the final result. (via Lauren Louise Photography)
6. Officiant: Many times an officiant’s fee is donation-based. If your officiant is from a religious affiliation, consider making a donation to the church, synagogue or place of worship. If you are paying a flat fee, an additional tip is not necessary. (via Lauren Louise Photography)

paying a flat fee, an additional tip is not necessary. (via Lauren Louise Photography)
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7. Musicians/DJ: Tipping customs vary by profession as well as whether or not the hired vendor owns the business. For example, if your DJ is an independent and does not have to worry about 75 percent of the total amount paid going back into someone else’s pocket, a tip is appreciated but not required. (via Lauren Louise Photography)

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Best Tips and Tricks for Saving Money on a Wedding


Planning a wedding is not easy. It can take a toll on your stress levels, as well as your bank account. But you don't have to go completely broke just to have a beautiful, fun and enjoyable day. The key is to decide ahead of time what you are and are not willing to negotiate on.

For example, are you okay with getting a DJ instead of a band, so long as it means so you can hire a professional photographer? Is it more important for you to have a large guest list, or would you be okay condensing it as so you can spend more on a sit-down meal with set courses? (Making the list as concise as possible can dramatically reduce costs, even if it's only a difference of 25-50 people.)


When it comes to spending money on your wedding, the options are limitless -- and unfortunately, they also can very quickly add up. But, rest assured, there are just as many options for saving money on your wedding as well. Below are some tips for doing so.

The Venue 
Provided the schedule of you and your guests allow it, consider having your wedding on Friday or Sunday rather than Saturday, as this can reduce costs... sometimes as much as 50 percent. Also, try to find a venue that won't require you to use their vendors so you have more options for exploring different rates and pricing, or using friends of family who are willing to give you a discount.

Before booking, know what will be included, such as tables, chairs, place settings, silverware, etc. If there are some things you will have to rent, such as extra tables, you want to know this as early as possible so you can factor it into your budget. Also, while shopping for venues, see whether or not they allow you to use your own catering service.

Dinner and Drinks
Of course, in terms of costs, the fewer guests you have, the better. But if you are willing to forgo the sit-down meal, you can actually afford to invite more guests by having a more casual-style meal, such as a buffet.

Eliminating the option of open bar can greatly reduce wedding costs, but if you don't want to make it a cash bar, you could limit the open bar to only an hour or two, or just for cocktail hour. Another option is having only wine and beer. This way you are giving your guests some free alcoholic beverages, without racking up a ridiculously high tab. Depending on the state laws, and vendor policies, you could also purchase the alcohol yourself, and hire someone to bartend for the night.

Wedding Dress
You want the perfect dress to celebrate your big day, and you want it to be one that makes you feel beautiful. But don't think that you can't have a beautiful gown by only buying designer label or one that is brand new. If you are planning a wedding on a budget, be open-minded and know there are other options beyond the traditional bridal salons. Try bridal gown outlets, vintage/consignment shops, or online auctions. Keep in mind that these dresses have usually only be worn once, if at all, so most will be in perfect shape.

Party Favors and Decorations
Party favors are a nice touch, but this is definitely an area of your wedding planning that allows you to get creative in order to reduce costs. A money saving tip is to order customized centerpieces and arrangements that decorate the venue, such as mason jars or candles, and then let the guests take them home. It's a win-win: Your guests will get a cute and free home decor item, and you won't be burdened with figuring out what to do with 20+ mason jars at the end of the night.
As for the people in your wedding party, you want to make them feel special and appreciated for all their hard work. Consider reducing costs without sacrificing any sentiment by using custom wine labels and other personalized tokens of appreciation in a gift bag.

If there is anything you probably don't want to skimp, it's a professional photographer. Although there will be plenty of people taking photos and videos on their phones, you want high-quality, expertly done photos documenting this day, especially the moments your guests don't see, like you getting ready with your bridesmaids.

A photobooth gives people souvenirs as well as something fun to do during the reception. While they tend to be upwards of $1,000, you can use ThumbTack to explore different companies in the area and get customized quotes. If you like the idea of a photobooth but can't bring yourself to shell out the money, you could set up a DIY booth with curtains/sheets against a blank wall, get cheap props and accessories, and either borrow or rent a camera. You could also just set up the booth and let people use their phones to take pictures in it.

Some people want a wedding band, and this is usually the more expensive option. But if you are willing to forgo this and opt instead for a DJ you can also use sites like ThumbTack to find the best possible deals. Another (very) low-budget option is a WeddingDJ app ($7.99), which lets you make several playlists to be used throughout the ceremony, cocktail hours, reception, etc.

When it comes to planning your wedding, keep in mind that there are plenty of people who will be more than happy to lend a helping hand, or family and friends who might know a florist, photographer, DJ, etc. looking for work. Don't be afraid to ask for help!

At the end of the day, remember this is a celebration. It's not the amount of money you spend on your wedding that will make it memorable -- it will be the people you're with and the experience itself.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

5 Digital Detox Honeymoons

Punta Cana Resort and Club
Photo: Courtesy of: Puntacana Resort & Club
It's hard to imagine life without fast Internet access, cable, and phones, but — a week? With just your new hubbie and nothing else to interrupt? Now, that could be perfect. Here, five places to escape to together for an unplugged honeymoon.

1. Jade Mountain, St. Lucia
This cliff-side Caribbean resort offers 600 jungly acres, set high above the beaches. Rooms not only don't have TVs, phones, or radios, they also don't have air conditioning: the fourth wall is open, letting in the breezes and the sound of nature;

2. Little Palm Island, Florida Keys
Coconut palms, white sand, clear blue water ... you can actually have all of these things without leaving the country. Hop a sea plane or boat to this private island, just off the coast of Florida, and you'll find an unplugged resort;

3. Rockhouse, Jamaica
For true lovers of getting off the grid, Rockhouse may just be the place: There's no wifi, no TVs, and no phones at this Jamaica property. Expect the two of you, a couple of Red Stripes, a pool, and jerk for dinner, all set to a reggae soundtrack;

4. Petit St. Vincent
This private island in St. Vincent and the Grenadines is so off-the-grid, you raise a flag to signal to the staff that you want service in your bungalow, and the cozy lounge chairs by the surf are actually hammocks;

5. Red Mountain Resort, Utah
This fitness-focused resort hidden among the red rocks offers a hiking-and-biking-filled itinerary, along with spa cuisine and a nature-focused experience; ;

Monday, July 27, 2015

9 Portable Food Ideas That Are Perfect for Cocktail Hour

Fried mac & cheese lollipops
Photo by Michelle Lindsay Photography
Appetizers are delicious, but they can sometimes be hard to eat, especially while mingling. If you're worried that your apps aren't quite the "finger food" you wanted, why not blend the classic fair idea of "anything on a stick" to your wedding? Making your apps portable will help your guests manage their cocktail hour eats with ease. We pulled our favorite portable food ideas from our real wedding gallery so you can get your catering inspo on. See the 9 best portable food ideas below -- the perfect blend of "Yum!" and "That's so smart!"

1. Crudite Shot Glasses

Crudite in shot glasses
Photo by Rachel Havel Photography
Kelly and Adam incorporated healthy crudite options in easy-to-eat shot glass portions at their Boulder, Colorado wedding.

2. Edible Appetizer Utensils

Edible spoons
Photo by Amanda Stevens Photography
Ashleigh and Eric's modern NYC wedding included these edible spoons filled with meats and cheeses.

3. Chocolate-Dipped Donuts in Ice-Cream Coup Glasses

Chocolate dipped doughnuts
Photo by Amy & Stuart
After a full seated dinner and buttercream cake, guests at Leslie and Ryan's Del Mar, California wedding were also treated to an over-the-top dessert bar including chocolate dipped donuts!

4. Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup Shooters

Grilled cheese shooters with tomato soup
Photo by Asya Photography
Elise and Dan served these little shot glasses full of tomato soup with bite-size portions of grilled cheese -- delish!

5. Tiramisu in a Martini Glass

Desserts in martini glasses with heart-shaped wafers
Photo by Onelove Photography
Kendrick and Aron set up a dessert bar with tiramisu in martini glasses at their Indian Wells, California, wedding, perfect for mingling while tasting something sweet.

6. Fried Mac N Cheese on a Stick

Fried mac & cheese lollipops were a crowd favorite during the cocktail hour.
Photo by Michelle Lindsay Photography
Fried mac 'n cheese lollipops were a crowd favorite during the cocktail hour at Jennifer and Paul's Washington, DC wedding.

7. Pink Lemonade Dessert Shooters

Pink lemonade dessert shooters
Photo by Melissa Oholendt
Katherine and Tim served these creative pink lemonade shooters to guests as an alternative to cake at their Minnesota wedding.

8. Soup Shooters

Soup Hors D'oeuvres
Photo by Meg Perotti
These soup shooters in mini espresso cups from a Woodside, California are the perfect first course!

9. Mini Shrimp Cocktails

Mini shrimp cocktails
Photo by Krakora Studios
These salt-rimmed shrimp cocktails were the perfect app for Kelly and Jared's Chicago wedding.

Friday, July 24, 2015

6 Steal-Worthy Details from Celebrity Weddings


There is something magical about celebrity weddings that seems to capture the country's attention. Maybe it's all the famous guests, the incredible fashion or the over-the-top receptions, but they are exceptionally popular or they wouldn't continually grace the covers of our favorite celebrity gossip magazines. If you have ever felt like you wanted your wedding to feel like one of these celebrity weddings, consider adding any of these steal-worthy details into your own to add a little celebrity sparkle.

Lauren Conrad & William Tell: Loveseat for the Newlyweds 
If there is one photo that pops up on almost all of my client's Pinterest boards, it's Lauren Conrad and William Tell sitting on a fabric tufted loveseat at their wedding reception. There is something about it that just looks cozier and more romantic than chiavari chairs or any other individual seating options. As rental companies have loveseats in styles ranging from modern to vintage, you can find one that will perfectly match your wedding reception décor and channel your inner LC.

Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Messina and Us Weekly
Neil Patrick Harris & David Burtka: Fireworks
Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka's wedding in the Italian countryside near the city of Perugia was intimate and spectacular by all accounts. The couple had arranged for fireworks to explode over the dance floor at the peak of Kelly Clarkson's A Moment Like This during their first dance. If the idea of fireworks excites you too, talk to your planner or local fireworks company to see what options are available in your budget from a full fireworks display to having your getaway car drive through a tunnel of remote controlled sparklers.

Photo courtesy of Danielle Levitt
Piper Perabo & Stephen Kay: New Orleans Second Line Brass Band
Piper Perabo and Stephen Kay's NYC wedding proved that you don't need to be in New Orleans to incorporate a New Orleans-style second line brass band into your wedding. The Second Line includes wedding guests walking and twirling parasols or handkerchiefs in the air along with a jazz-playing brass band. If you met your fiancé on Bourbon Street or in class at Tulane or if you got engaged at Mardi Gras, then adding a Second Line as guests walk from your ceremony to reception (as long as it is only a few blocks away) is a fun and memorable idea that your guests will love. Most local entertainment companies can get you a quote on a brass band and it's pretty affordable since they will be performing for less than an hour.

Photo courtesy of Dave Robbins Photography
Olivia Palermo & Johannes Huebl: Non-Traditional Wedding Dress
Olivia Palermo, who is often considered the best dressed New Yorker, stayed true to form by wearing a non-traditional wedding day look designed by specifically for her by Carolina Herrera. Palermo wore a simple cream cashmere sweater and chic white shorts with a full tulle skirt overlay. While you might not have Carolina Herrera's number on speed dial, you can still create a look that is totally you. It is no longer a requirement to wear white, ivory or any other version of cream favored by traditional brides for decades. Champagne, blush and even black, red or blue are making more and more appearances at Bridal Fashion Week.

Photo courtesy of Johannes Huebl and Olivia Palermo
Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent: Let Your Venue Shine
Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent were married at the gorgeous New York City Public Library - yes, the same place Carrie was supposed to marry Big in the Sex and the City movie. The venue is so incredibly spectacular that Berkus and Brent opted for beautiful but understated décor elements to really let their venue shine. The lesson here is to select a venue that complements the aesthetic of the wedding you are planning instead of having to hide the walls behind pipe and drape. When you select a stunning venue that fits your style, you might save a few dollars in the long run by spending less on flowers and décor.

Photo courtesy of Genevieve de Manio and People Magazine
Molly Sims: Mis-matched Bridesmaid Dresses
If the Lauren Conrad loveseat if the most pinned wedding image by my clients, the Molly Sims mis-matched bridesmaid dresses is second! Sims decided that she didn't want her bridesmaids to look like traditional bridesmaids and opted for custom designed dresses to flatter each of her friends. The good news is you don't need to have your bridesmaids dresses custom made to achieve a similar look. Work with your local bridal or bridesmaids salon to select dresses that look great together and complement your girls. Stores like J. Crew also have options available that you can order online and try on at home.

Photo courtesy of Gia Canali

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Lowdown on Your Wedding Budget: Things You Need to Include from Day One

  • Wedding budget factors
    Photo: Getty Images
    Many couples sit down and create a budget as soon as they get engaged and start planning their wedding. The numbers are imaginary until you have an actual guest count, but it's good to have a list of everything you expect you're going to need to pay for even if you can't fill in all the blanks. And another problem is that you don't know what-all needs to be listed on that budget on day one.
    It's okay to put a question mark in the blank, but leave that blank there so that you don't forget about it when you're adding up everything you need to spend. Sometimes it's these question marks that keep couples from spending needlessly on things they find late night on Pinterest. That's a legitimate budget-buster.

    On the front end, you have to think about things that have nothing to do with the actual wedding venue: wedding dress, groom's attire, rings, save-the-dates, invitations, and travel costs if you're having a destination wedding. Put those things in your budget.

    You'll also have blanks for each and every one of your vendors including the cake baker, the florist, the photographer, the videographer, the venue, the reception caterer, the rehearsal dinner, the welcome bags for out-of-own guests, the ceremony music, the reception music, the wedding favors, some beauty appointments for the bridal party, the minister, your marriage license, any required permits, reception décor, necessary lighting, various rental equipment (everything from linens to tents), other activities, and a lunch for the bridal party on the wedding day (so they don't have too much champagne on an empty stomach prior to the ceremony).

    Frequently, brides and grooms forget to include two very, very important items in their wedding budget: 1) a setup and teardown crew, and 2) gratuities for absolutely everybody who works your wedding from the kitchen staff to the lady who made the tasty bride and groom cookies for your reception favors. It's easy to forget that you have to pay somebody to clean up everything after your wedding even if you've paid other people to put it all up. And depending on whether you're getting married at a hotel or planning your wedding at a private venue, your gratuity costs will probably run between 18 and 23 percent — a hefty chunk of change unless you've planned ahead for it.

    As long as you plan ahead and have a real idea of all the things you're going to have to pay for, you are creating a realistic wedding budget. It may remain just a really good estimate until you have your final headcount and can recalculate how many people you have to feed and how many tables, chairs, and linens you're actually going to need, but it's a baseline you can use when you're organizing your finances ahead of time for your big day.

    Wednesday, July 22, 2015

    18 Themed Groom's Cakes That Are Anything But Boring

    For couples that are all about injecting fun into their wedding day, doing a themed groom's cake is a no-brainer.
    Unlike the traditional white wedding confection, the groom's cake usually has more personality and pizzazz and reflects the groom's specific tastes and interests.
    Below we've rounded up 18 totally awesome groom's cake ideas to suit every kind of guy.

    40 years later, couple recreates wedding photos from 1975

    Dexter and Carolyn Johnson, or "Dex and Carrie," met over 40 years ago in a bar called the Lower Level.
    "She was sitting there with her cousins," Dex told, "I saw her and I went up to her and I said, 'Do you wanna boogie?' -- B-O-O-G-I-E, boogie --That was the common term for 'do you want to dance' back then." With encouragement from her cousins, Carrie agreed to dance with Dex. The two hit it off on the dance floor of the bar, and were married in 1975. Forty years later, the love-struck couple threw back on their wedding attire to recreate the photos they took the day they were wed.

    Dexter and Carolyn Johnson wedding photos Courtesy of Jay Johnson
    Dexter and Carolyn Johnson wedding photos Courtesy of Jay Johnson
    "It was our anniversary the day before and we were going to Vegas the next day to renew our wedding vows," Dexter said. The two were "goofing around" before their trip and came up with the idea to try and recreate the photos they took decades earlier. "We started fooling around," Dex continued. "I got my motorcycle out and I started snapping some shots and all my neighbors were like, 'What are they doing over there?' because we were all dressed up!"
    RELATED: #FollowMeTo couple gets married, takes wedding photo to end all wedding photos
    Dexter and Carolyn Johnson Courtesy of Jay Johnson
    By dressed up, Dexter means that he was clad in the marital jacket his wife had made him back in 1975. Carolyn sewed the piece herself, finishing it the day before they walked down the aisle. Carolyn also made her own bridal dress, which she brought back out for the photos. All that was missing was Dex's white tie, which he had borrowed from his stepfather and thus no longer had, and Carrie's garter, which seems to have been "misplaced somewhere after 40 years."
    Dexter and Carolyn Johnson Courtesy of Jay Johnson
    "We're still very much in love," Dex told "We've always [taken] one day at a time." When asked what his secret was for an enduring marriage, Dex added, "Always kiss her goodnight and say 'I love you, baby.'"