Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Involving Your Children in Your Wedding or Vow Renewal | Steven Miller Photography Orlando
With so many blended families in the world today, there are nearly as many weddings of couples with children as there are weddings of childless couples. Many wedded couples are also opting to renew their vows. In either case, it’s important to think about how you would like to involve your children on the big day. Here are some suggestions:
1. Invite them to be attendants. Children of any age can serve as wedding attendants, from ring bearer or flower girls babies wheeled in carriages up the aisle to grown children standing as honor attendants. Use your own judgment on whether this option will work well for you.
2. Ask them to speak or sing. If your child doesn’t mind being the center of attention, you can prepare a poem or reading for them to read during the ceremony, allow them to prepare a toast for the reception (if they’re old enough), or encourage them to sing a song with meaning to all of you.
3. Have a unity ceremony. This is a classic way to honor the joining of two families or just the love you have for children. You can go with a unity candle, a sand ceremony, a flower ceremony, a tree ceremony, or anything else that interests you. Provide your officiant with special wording for the ceremony to reflect how happy you are to have such a wonderful family.
4. Give them gifts. A sweet and simple way to involve your children in your wedding is to bring them up during the ceremony and present them with special gifts you bought just for them. Engraved items like watches, pendants, and rings make wonderful wedding gifts and keepsakes.
5. Ask the officiant to bless all of you. A nice touch is to have the officiant bring the family together at one point during the ceremony to extend a blessing over all of you. If you’re giving gifts to your child(ren), this is a great time to do it.
Real Wedding in Boca Raton
6. Assign them tasks. Having children serve as ushers, guest book or photo booth attendants, children’s table overseers, etc. will give them a sense of purpose and importance. This is a wonderful way to get them involved in your big day.
7. Plan special photos. Meet with the photographer before the wedding to discuss some fun and creative ways to capture the joining or renewal of your family in your photographs. You could even consider bringing your children to the meeting to get them excited about the idea. Do your best to incorporate some of their suggestions if they offer any so they feel more involved.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

9 Sweet Treats to Include on the Dessert Bar

Gone are the days when a couple’s wedding reception dessert consists only of the wedding cake. Today, couples want to offer their guests an assortment of sweet treats. A dessert bar is a great way to do this. Looking for ideas to stock your dessert bar? Check these out:

1. Mini pies and tarts. Serve up little flaky pies and tarts, choosing flavors that suit the season of your wedding. Fresh fruit pies and tarts work well for spring and summer weddings, whereas options like chocolate, pumpkin, or pecan are wonderful for autumn and winter weddings.

mini pies instead of wedding cake

2. Cake pops. One of the things to love most about cake pops is how easy they are to carry around. Guests won’t have to stop dancing to eat them!

cake pops

3. Chocolate-dipped fruit. Strawberries are the most popular fruit to dip in chocolate, but you can offer up an assortment. Apple wedges, orange slices, raspberries, and grapes are other great options.

chocolate-dipped-strawberries.jpg chocolate-dipped-strawberries-and-wedding-cake.jpg
4. Petit fours. These delicious, small square layered cakes can be personalized with your monogram or another design specific to your wedding.

5. Bon bons or truffles. These small treats are similarly delectable. Truffles are round and typically made with ganache and cocoa powder, whereas bon bons are likely to have flat bottoms and fillings like coconut, buttercream, or nougat. Whichever you serve, your guests are bound to enjoy them!

6. Shot glass desserts. Layers look great in glasses, so present your guests with shot glass desserts like strawberry shortcake, three-layer mousse, or Meyer lemon parfaits.

Summer Wedding Desserts

7. Macarons. You’ve probably seen many pictures of these light, colorful French meringue-based confections. They’re among the most fun and delightful desserts you can offer!

Edible Wedding Favors

8. Chocolate-dipped pretzel sticks. Another portable dessert item is a dipped pretzel. Chocolate works perfectly for this. You can also dress them up with salted caramel drizzle, toffee bits, crushed nuts, etc.

Fatty Sundays Chocolate Dipped Pretzels 
Image from Fatty Sundays
9. Cookies. Who doesn’t love cookies? This is another sweet treat that comes in so many varieties that you’ll definitely have enough choices for all of your guests. Offer up milk or cream-based alcoholic drinks on the side to add a little extra touch to this traditional sweet treat.

late night treat, weddings

Monday, August 29, 2016

Light Finger Foods You Should Serve While Getting Ready


As a wedding planner, I do my best to ensure my couples stay hydrated and eat something before their ceremony, especially if they’re having an evening wedding. Women, in particular, can be nervous, which can lead to either forgetting about eating or feeling too jittery to want to eat. Here are my suggestions for an array of finger foods you can serve while you’re getting ready that everyone in your wedding party will love:
    -Chocolate-covered strawberries. For an added touch, serve them with a glass of champagne! Just don’t overdue the alcohol intake or you’ll negate any efforts to stay hydrated for your big day.

    -Pizzettes. Bite-sized pizzas can be as fancy or familiar as you’d like. Avoid any ingredients that might overwhelm your taste buds or lead to bad breath, though.

    -Popcorn. Offer up a variety of flavored popcorn, from caramel to cheddar. This is a great light snack that even a fluttery stomach can handle.

    -Truffles. Few people can pass up chocolate, and truffles are a wonderfully decadent way to offer it to your bridal party.

    -Cheese tray. You can’t go wrong with a spread of cheeses, crackers, and fruit. It’s a light but satisfying treat.

    -Sandwich on a stick. One trendy finger food is a “toothpick sandwich,” such as a piece of roast beef paired with a cube of Swiss cheese or a cherry tomato paired with buffalo mozzarella, each intended to be eaten in one bite. Pair with dipping sauces for an added punch of flavor.

    -Tartlets. Tartlets are a wonderful way to offer either sweet or savory finger food for your bridal party. Opt for fluffy quiche, succulent mousse, or creamy pate. Yum!

    -Sliders. They may sound like bar food, but sliders are a wonderful one or two-bite finger food option. Consider classing them up a bit by offering crab cake or Angus beef sliders.

    -Spring rolls. Light, crispy veggie eggrolls are a fun and healthy option. Pair them with a variety of dips to appeal to a wide range of palates.
I don’t know about you, but I’m hungry! Be sure to budget for some light finger foods to enjoy while you and your bridal party are getting ready. Everyone will appreciate it!

Friday, August 26, 2016

7 Smart Ways to Use Your Wedding Cash

couple moving into home
Photo: Getty Images
After you have walked down the aisle, whispered "I Do" and locked lips with the love of your life, you'll spend the rest of the night dancing, eating and hugging guests. But once that's all over and the night comes to and end, one thing you can look forward to is wedding gifts. Chances are each of your guests gave you a little something, whether it was an item from your registry or just cold hard cash. Either way, those gifts are yours. If you're wondering what to use all that wedding cash for, here are 7 ideas to get you started.

1. Clear Your Debt
If you have a stack of unpaid credit card bills or student loans that are still haunting your finances, you can use the money you received from your wedding to clear your debt and start from a clean slate.

2. Pay Back Your Parents
If your parents picked up most of the bill for your wedding, you can write them a check to pay back some of the money they spent throwing you the celebration of a lifetime. Even if the amount of money you received from wedding gifts doesn't amount to the total that they spent, you can still offer to pay back a portion.

3. Open a Savings Account
Put the money away for a rainy day and don't spend a penny of it now. You never know when you'll need some of the money — whether it's to pay for a future emergency or even for a future purchase that you'll need to pay a lot of money for upfront.

4. Put a Down Payment on a House
Use that money to pay for a down payment on a house or to buy an apartment to live in. If you've been renting for years and looking for an opportunity to buy, use the large sum of money you just received to make you a homeowner.

5. Invest in the Future
It may be hard to put the money you received away for a long time, but you do have the option to invest that money in a mutual fund or an IRA. If you're planning on having kids, you can even think far ahead to the future and put the money in a CD for a college fund.

6. Let Yourself Have Some Fun
Remember, you can do what you want with the money. There are no rules attached. So no matter what you decide to do, use a chunk of the money on something fun, whether it's investing in a new hobby or buying that 72-inch TV for your living room.

7. Take off On a Honeymoon
If after paying for the wedding expenses you feel can't afford to have a honeymoon, you can use the gifts you received from your guests to plan a honeymoon for the next year or two.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Moving in Together? The 5 Things You Absolutely Can't Forget to Do

moving in together
Photo: Getty Images

Whether you've just gotten married or are taking the plunge way before your wedding day, moving in together is a huge milestone in any relationship. You're going from spending as much time together as possible to living together, 24/7, and that come with its own set of challenges. Maybe you're moving into his current apartment, the two of you signed a lease together, or you've secured a mortgage and are buying your first home. Whatever the situation, here are five things you should make sure to do before you start packing those boxes.

Take Inventory
Two people means double the stuff — and a lot of duplicates of things you only need one of. Go through both of your current homes and make a list of big items you both have (like sets of dishes, couches, or beds). Then decide which you'll keep, which you'll toss, or if you'll get rid of both and invest in something new. Try to do this before you've registered for anything so you can shop around for upgrades or items you'll both love. This way you're not stuck eating off of his chipped beige dinnerware from college, and he doesn't feel weird sleeping on your pink floral sheets.

Create a Budget
Combining households means sharing a lot of costs, from your rent or mortgage to the Netflix subscription and groceries. Even if you aren't planning to share finances, you'll want to outline how much you plan to spend together every month. Find a number that feels right to each of you, then decide if you'll open a joint account for household expenses or if one of you will pay for electricity and heating while the other will cover your parking pass and internet.

Set Expectations
They say opposites attract, but when a neat freak shacks up with someone who can't remember the last time they made the bed, tensions can rise quickly. You probably have an idea of your partner's living and cleaning habits at this point, but you'll want to set expectations before you've opened the front door instead of waiting for a month or two and then getting upset when something isn't put away properly. Some couples choose to divide cleaning tasks, while others tackle things together. Whichever style suits you, talk through ways that the less organized of the two can contribute to controlling clutter while the more organized can allow for certain less-than-perfect arrangements.

See more: The Signs You're Ready to Move In Together

Plan For the Unexpected
This goes back to budget. Even if every monthly expense is covered, there's always something you don't expect, from a leaky sink to an unseasonably cold week that kicks your heating bill into overdrive. Set aside some funds to provide wiggle room, and talk about how you'll handle surprise expenses that are above and beyond what you've planned for.

Make Space
Even after you've decided what to keep and what to toss, you may still want to downsize a little bit. After all, moving in together doesn't always come with double the space! Use this as an opportunity to clean out your closet, get rid of those things you forgot you still had (college textbooks, anyone?), and get organized. This is especially important if one of you is moving into the other person's current home: Making room for their things is the quickest way to make them feel like a welcome addition instead of an intruder.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

6 Things to Know Before You Write Your Wedding Vows

What to Know Before Writing Wedding Vows
Photo: Leggy Bird

Reading your vows during your wedding ceremony will be one of the most intimate and possibly even scariest moments of your life. It's a time when you're standing in front of the person you love, committing your plan to spend forever with them — in front of all of your closest friends and family members. It's a moment of laughs, tears, and an urgent request to find tissues so that your mascara doesn't run and stain your veil. So when you're sitting down to figure out what you want to say, here are six things to know before you write your wedding vows.

1. You don't have to make them perfect.
Don't bog yourself down with a desire to make your vows sound absolutely perfect. You may run out of words, ideas, and time. Instead, focus on getting a draft done and then revise that draft until your wedding day arrives.

2. You can add in humor.
Your vows don't have to be all mushy, all the time. You can add bits of humor throughout to get your guests laughing.

3. Your vows don't have to be very long.
Try to keep your vows under two minutes. That's the perfect amount of time to keep your guests' attention and also a long enough time to say what you want to say — without rambling or repeating yourself. Keep it as concise as possible.

4. Start writing as early as possible.
The sooner you start, the more time you'll have to brainstorm what you'd like to say. If you wait for the night before your wedding, you may be suffocated by nerves that you can't seem to string together a sentence.

5. Try writing them as a letter.
If you're having trouble starting, try opening up a card or take a piece of paper and write your vows down as if you were writing them as a letter to the person you're marrying.

6. Pick your words wisely.
It's always best to skip the clichés and instead use specific details that define your relationship with the person you're marrying. That way, it will feel very personalized and geared towards showcasing your true passion, commitment, and connection.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The 19 Best Wedding Planning Websites and Apps for Every Kind of Bride

texting bride
Photo: Getty Images
Whether you're just starting your wedding planning adventure or checking off the very last things on your wedding checklist, here are our favorite digital tools (besides, obvs) for planning the wedding you want while still having a life.

1. WeddingWire
Best for the bride who doesn't know where to start
This venue and vendor database is a one-stop shop, with more than 200,000 local listings and 2.5 million reviews by real brides. So if you're clueless about where to wed and who to hire, do a quick search and narrow results by type, location, price, or rating. When you're done with the big-ticket items, you'll find checklists, budget templates, and etiquette tips.

2. Carats & Cake
Best for inspo you can use
Ever see a wedding photo and think, "Who made that centerpiece?" Or "I have to have those shoes!" Carats & Cake eliminates the guess-work, providing a rundown of all the vendors used in its real weddings (caterers, florists, photographers, et cetera). Check out full portfolios and reviews, then book them on the site.

3. The Venue Report
Best for finding a Versailles-worthy chateau in the south of France
With "reporters" who research the latest event spaces, this directory has the hottest hotels and party pads, plus off-the-beaten-path locales like, say, a glamping venue in Montana that can accommodate 250 guests. The experience is seamless: Filter results by region, price, and capacity, review essentials like site fees and curfews, and contact the venue directly.

4. WeddingHappy
Best for planning without the planner
Think of this free app as your personal assistant. It's preloaded with tasks to guide you through your to-dos, and it even alerts you as you approach deadlines for things like "mail invites" or "pay deposit for the band" — same as a planner would do in real life. Share your "event" with your fiancé, mother, or hands-on MOH so everyone has access to the same info.

5. myPantone
Best for color coordination
Did a certain teal nail polish strike your fancy? Fire up myPantone (from $7.99), snap a photo, and the app will identify the exact color and point you toward others that anyone struggling to pick a palette or who's letting her bridesmaids choose their own dresses "as long as they're seafoam green," this is a must.

6. Minted
Best for fab invitations that won't break the bank
Minted works with indie artists and graphic designers to offer chic ready-made invites, save-the-dates, ceremony programs, escort cards, and more. Templates can be customized, down to the card size and paper stock. On a tight budget? Print your suite at home or take the file to a local copy shop. Minted also offers bespoke invitation design (from $234 per 100 invitations) in case you don't have an illustrator on speed dial but still want a hand-drawn map of Nantucket or a watercolor rendering of you and your fiancé.

7. Riley & Grey
Best for a wedding web site that looks totally different
Riley & Grey is where design-minded brides go to create their wedding hubs ($35 per month). Modern templates are added every few months, so you won't accidentally use the same one as your BFF who's getting married six weeks after you. Your site will be not only gorgeous but also user-friendly, with zero clicks required; simply scroll down to toggle between tabs like People, for bridal-party bios, and Place, for tips on where to stay, eat, and drink near your wedding venue. You can even embed links to Kayak for flight bookings and Google Maps for directions.

8. Mint
Best for tracking your spending in life — and on the wedding
While not made specifically with weddings in mind, Mint is a popular free money-management site for a reason: It's easy to use, syncing with your bank account and credit cards so you can monitor your spending and move funds around as needed.
(And it probably will be needed.) Create a wedding budget and stay on track, thanks to weekly email summaries and text reminders when payments are due.

9. Skipper
Best for organizing hotel-room blocks
Your Maui destination wedding will be epic. Finding hotel rooms for 150 guests? Less so. Let Skipper ( do the work: Plug in your wedding location, dates, and the number of rooms needed, and the site will populate nearby hotels at a variety of price points. Smaller parties can lock in discounted rates at one hotel directly through the site (in most cases, 15 percent off); brides who need more than nine rooms can pick up to four hotels, and a Skipper booking agent will negotiate deals at each on their behalf and email contracts to secure the group rates.

10. Google Drive
Best for keeping your crew informed and on point
Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, PDFs, photos — anything and everything
can be uploaded, stored, and shared in Drive for seamless viewing and editing by anyone with a Gmail account. (So, anyone.) Want to pull up your guest list, budget, vendor contacts, or décor inspo during a venue walk-through? The mobile app is there in a pinch. Need to share important dates with your fiancé, parents, and planner? The hub links directly to Gcal — so no one gets to complain about being out of the loop.

11. Trello
Best for anyone who loves a to-do list more than life itself
Forget that massive notebook; organize your entire wedding on Trello's virtual
pin board. Line up each "card" in a column (which you can name for a category like Venue or Photography), and drag and drop as the task is completed or pushed back. You can attach photos (place-setting mock-ups) or documents (final contracts for review) to cards, then give them color-coded labels — to indicate things like "vendor paid" or "follow up later" — and set deadlines, which the auto-generated email reminders will help you hit.

12. Zola
Best for registering for what you really want
We love a blender as much as any kale-juice-obsessed bride-to-be, and Zola has that standard department-store stuff, like Matouk bedding and Waterford-crystal stemware. But you can also request specialty goods, like a Sonos sound system or a BioLite camp stove, or set up a honeymoon or charity cash fund. Bonuses: Guests can easily go in on pricier items together with group gifting, and you also get 10 percent off all items on the site for up to one year after your wedding date.

13. Newlywish
Best for registering for experiences
Kitchen already stocked up? Check out Newlywish, where you'll find an incredibly diverse list of registry activities. Dance lessons, cooking classes, massages, concert tickets, sporting events — the list goes on and way on. You can even register for interior-
design consultations and OpenTable gift cards.

14. Tendr
Best for getting cash,the classy way
What to do if you'd rather get money toward a down payment than gifts? Register on Tendr, which lets guests electronically send funds (by wire transfer or credit card). You can specify where the cash will be allocated, and it's delivered via beautiful artist-designed e-cards.

15. Amazon
Best for a registry that's as easy for guests as it is for you
If you've been saving items to an Amazon Wish List, it will be easier than ever to get started on the mega e-tailer's new registry site. All the staples are there (KitchenAid appliances, Le Creuset cookware), plus spruced-up sections like a list of the top 100 most popular items, curated lifestyle collections (minimalists will flock to the Scandinavian-inspired edit), and "boutiques" for products by Jonathan Adler, Michael C. Fina, and the MoMA Design Store (a.k.a. Narnia for cool kids). It's also a gift for your guests, since most just have to log in to shop.

16. Vensette
Best for on-demand beauty
Have the experts come to you with this VIP beauty booking app. Reach out at least three months before your wedding to book a custom package (from $200) that includes two trials and day-of hair and makeup by editorial-worthy artists (currently available in cities like New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Miami, plus wedding hot spots like the Hamptons, Napa Valley, Palm Springs, and Palm Beach). Pick pros who fit your price and style, and they'll show up at the time and location of your choosing, making it easier than ever to find a crack team for your engagement photos, shower, bachelorette, and big day.

17. Weddington Way
Best for crowd sourcing bridesmaids' dresses
Need to rally your girls from coast to coast? Skip the stress (and the travel) of a group shopping trip with Weddington Way, which lets you browse styles using a variety of filters (color, length, body type, price) and share and comment on selections in a virtual showroom. Plus the site has more than just bridesmaids' get-ups: You can find attire for the groomsmen, flower girls, and yourself. (Check out the LWDs.)

18. AllSeated
Best for nailing your venue layout
Having trouble visualizing how to organize tables at your reception? Send AllSeated a photo of your venue and it will deliver a 3-D rendering of the space so you can digitally arrange tables, chairs, bars, and other furniture and assign place settings as RSVPs roll in. Share the graphic with your vendors (caterer, rental company, DJ) to make sure the room is set up right — because there's always that one cousin who shouldn't be within arm's length of the bar.

19. Postable
Best for painless thank-yous
You're back from the honeymoon, convinced the stresses of planning are behind you. Not so fast. It's time for thank-you notes. If you just can't even, try Postable: Choose a design, type a heartfelt message, and add the recipient's address (manually or imported from a spreadsheet), and the site prints a card, puts it in an envelope, and mails it ($3 each, plus postage). Will guests know you cheated? Likely not; Postable uses "smart fonts," so repeat letters are slightly different from one another. Handwritten cards are ideal, but our etiquette experts sign off as long as each note is personalized.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Our Wedding Has Passed and a Guest Never Got Us a Gift. What Should We Do?

Wedding Party Gifts
Photo: Readyluck
No one wants to seem like they're begging for gifts when they get married, but that doesn't mean having an opportunity to stock (or upgrade!) your home isn't welcome. And etiquette does state that accepting an invitation to a wedding is a nearly-contractual agreement to send a gift in return. So what happens if your wedding date has come and gone, and there are guests you haven't received gifts from? Here's how our experts recommend handling it.

Tradition states that guests have up to a year to send a wedding gift, but etiquette experts agree that wedding gifts should really be sent within a few months of the wedding date, after which they cease to really be gifts for the wedding. So, first things first, wait a month or two before taking any action, because technically the guests in question have some time!

Before you start calling people and asking where your gift is (which would definitely make you look greedy instead of grateful), ask your parents or a mutual friend to subtly do a little digging. Whether it's having your mom excitedly let them know about your new address or a friend bringing it up in the context of the next wedding you're all attending together, this could either be good encouragement for the guest to arrange to have something sent to you, or for the guest to comment on the fact that they haven't received a thank you note — which hopefully will inspire them to ask you if you got their gift so the two of you can figure out what happened to it.

If you never hear anything and more than a few months have passed, you'll unfortunately have to write this off as a loss, as you don't have much recourse here. After all, they did take the time and spend the money to come to your wedding, even if they did come empty-handed. Do your best to forgive and forget, send them a thank you note thanking them for their presence on your big day, and remember that their friendship is more valuable than a picture frame or some new dishes.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Not Into a Champagne Toast for Your Wedding? Do One of These Instead

Having a toast at your wedding is one of the most special and memorable moments of your reception. It's a time when all of your guests can take a pause from eating dinner or from breaking it down on the dance floor, to cheers to you and the love of your life, wishing you a strong future of health and happiness. It's one of the most engaging and special moments of the evening. That's why it's usually christened with some bubbly. But if champagne isn't your thing or you're looking to make your wedding as personalized as possible, it's okay to skip the champagne toast. Looking for a champagne alternative? Here, four ideas you and your guests love.

1. Your Favorite Shot
If there's a specific liquor that you adore, you can have that poured into mini shot glasses for your guests to toast with. Just know that not everyone may be up for taking a shot.

2. A Signature Cocktail
If you've invested time into thinking about a signature cocktail that you'd like to have at your wedding, you can tell guests that's what they should fill their glasses with for the toast. This will be more personal for your reception and for the toast.

3. A Non-Alcoholic Beverage
If you're not a big drinker or you have a lot of younger guests at your wedding and you want to get them involved, you can skip the alcohol and have your caterer make a beverage that's fun for everyone to drink. Maybe it's your favorite kind of soda or something old school like a Shirley Temple.

4. A Non Traditional Toast
Skip the toast all together and have all your guests meet you on the dance floor for a moment of everyone getting down to your favorite song. Sometimes this is an even more fun way to have your guests celebrate you with well wishes.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The 4 Most Annoying Things Bridesmaids Do, According to Real Brides

annoying bridesmaids
Photo: Getty Image
We like to think our besties will make the perfect bridesmaids. But as these brides reveal, they can seriously get on your nerves. Here, they share their biggest pet peeves from their bridesmaids on or around the big day.

"I asked all of my nine bridesmaids to wear silver shoes and one of them showed up in black. I know, I know, not earth-shattering, but I was still kind of annoyed since they wore short dresses and her shoes stuck out in photos. I've always wondered if she forgot or just decided the heck with it. I'm like most women and am super passive-aggressive, so I'm sure I'll never have the guts to ask." — Jeannie

"Taking on the posture that it is your wedding and not of mine. It is one thing to be supportive, share tips, and opinions. But it is a whole different ball game to attempt to take over. I am all on board for hearing and taking advice, but don't be so overbearing to the point where you make the person feel like it's not just a suggestion but a mandate or command. It's only one big day and it's mine, so stand by my side, not in front of me. And when it's your time, I'll do the same." — Chantay 

"I'm recently married, and I would say my biggest pet peeve is bridesmaids who don't realize their role in helping you plan the big day. We're so excited you will be standing next to us on our big day, but we're not just asking you to put on a dress and show up at the wedding. Planning the big day takes an army, and part of being a bridesmaid is being a part of the planning committee. There are so many elements that go into the big day, and trust me, your bride would really appreciate if you offer to help and roll your sleeves up. Planning a wedding is a lot of work and super stressful. That's why she needs your support in the days leading up to the wedding." — Diana

"My biggest pet peeve was with my sister-in-law complaining about paying for her bridesmaid's dress. Part of the problem was that the dress was multi-colored, which was symbolic for both the groom and me but which also meant she was unlikely to ever wear the dress again. Another part of the problem was we had only met once, and she was a newlywed and recent college graduate, so money was tight for her. I think we paid for her dress or offered to. We finally have a functioning relationship, but it has taken a very long time." — Ruth

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Bride Gets Walked Down The Aisle By A Man With Her Father’s Heart In Tearful Ceremony

A Pennsylvania bride who lost her father to tragedy 10 years ago found herself walking down the aisle with the man who received his heart.

Jeni Stepien was unable to hold back tears when she embraced Arthur Thomas for the first time Friday and felt her father’s heart beating inside him.

“Can you feel it?” Thomas asked her in a video taken by Pittsburgh TV station KDKA. She tearfully held his wrist and chest and quietly nodded.

Stepien’s father, Michael Stepien, was killed in a 2006 robbery when she was 23. After he spent 24 hours on life support, the family accepted the inevitable and donated his organs, Stepien told The Huffington Post.
Jeni Stepien feels her late father’s heartbeat inside Arthur Thomas, the organ recipient.
At that time, Thomas, who Stepien’s family calls “Tom,” had been waiting nearly 10 years for a heart transplant at his home in New Jersey.

“He was going to die if he did not receive a new heart in the next several days,” Stepien told HuffPost via email Sunday. “Tom received my father’s heart within the next 48 hours.”

The Christmas following his transplant he wrote to Stepien’s family thanking them for what they had done.

The families kept in touch through letters and phone calls over the years but it wasn’t until they started planning Jeni Stepien’s wedding that she saw the perfect chance for them to meet.
“When my fiancé proposed, one of the first things I thought of was ‘but who will walk me down the aisle?’ I could think of nobody more meaningful than Tom,” she said. “My fiancé suggested I write him a letter; that way Tom would feel in no way obligated or pressured by my request.”
A few days after sending the letter she got a phone call, she said. Tom’s answer was yes. She met him for the first time on Friday.

“Meeting Tom was so incredible!” she said. “He is such a gracious and kind-hearted man. You could tell he was so thankful for his life, and that radiated from him.”

The decision to invite Thomas brought joy to her entire family, Stepien added.
“My mother was very touched by the idea also and thought it was a very appropriate gesture to honor my father. I knew how important it would be for her and my sister to receive this piece of closure by finally meeting Tom as well,” she said.

“I wanted to make the day special for everyone, not just for myself.”

In sharing her story, Stepien said she hopes it sends a message to others: Organ donors do matter.
“Organ donation can provide an opportunity for a second chance at life. It is an exceptional gift, one that is selfless and generous, and always appreciated by the recipient,” she said. “We were able to see how wonderfully Tom was progressing all of these years, simply thriving, and [that] in turn, helped us with our own grief.”

Monday, August 15, 2016

12 Ways to Keep Your Bridesmaids Happy

Want to ensure your best friends still love you after the wedding? Here's your to-do list.

  1. 1. Realize They Have a Life Outside of Your Wedding

    Bridesmaids laughing at ceremony vow exchange
    Photo by Lauren Fair Photography
    Sure, they've received the honorable title "bridesmaid," but that doesn't mean your best friends can ignore their other real-world titles, and neither should you. Be mindful of their schedules when deciding whom to ask to tag along to your dress fitting or to an appointment with your florist. For example, don't schedule something for 10 a.m. on a Tuesday if you know it'll be a pain for your maid of honor to make it. If it's truly important to you for her to be there, find out what days are easiest for her to take a long lunch or leave work a little early. And be mindful of your tone -- ask them nicely (don't tell them) to be there. Hopefully, they'll make an effort to attend activities when they can.
  2. 2. Ask Them What They Want to Wear

    Blush bridesmaid dresses with wedding dress
    Photo by Jocelyn Filley Photography
    Even if you have a super-specific vision for the bridesmaid dresses, ask them for their input, and be open-minded to letting them wear styles that will fit their body types. You don't have to give them free rein to buy any dress in the store, but schedule a group outing where they can try on different styles, or have them send you pictures of dresses they think would look good on them. Trust us -- your girls will look great together in photos if they feel great.
  3. 3. Give Them Some Direction

    Beaded bridesmaid clutch
    Photo by Charlotte Jenks Lewis Photography
    If you prefer to take a more laid-back approach to their looks, give them a few hints about the style you have in mind for the wedding, or at least about what your dress will look like, so they have a starting point. Dealing with your bridesmaids is a balancing act. While you don't want to tell them they all have to wear the same strapless gown, you can't just say, "Wear anything you want," and call it a day. They want to look good together in your wedding photos, so help them however you can. Give them a paint swatch from the local hardware store, send them an inspiration board or buy them all the same statement necklace.
  4. 4. Make Them Feel Special

    Illustrated bridesmaids and groomsmen poster
    Photo by June Bug Company
    Your bridesmaids are likely putting time, effort and money into your wedding, and chances are, they've been looking forward to it as much as you have. Make them feel more like your VIPs (and less like your indentured servants) by making a solid effort to recognize them. Call them out on your wedding website, along with photos (or videos) and a little info about how you know each other. Also include their names in the ceremony program and give them a plus-one, no matter what. Even if they're not in a long-term relationship, it's important they be allowed to bring a date.
  5. 5. Help Them Get to Know One Another

    Bridesmaids in gold dresses walking to ceremony
    Photo by Laura Ivanova Photography
    The people you ask to be in your bridal party may all be special to you, but they might not all be special to one another. One or two wedding-chatter-free chances to hang out will, hopefully, get everyone feeling friendly and make the actual wedding-related activities more fun for all. As the bride (read: the glue holding this group of girls together), it's your job to encourage them to hang out and get along.
  6. 6. Keep Track of How Much They're Spending

    Getting ready: makeup brushes for the bride
    Photo by Vanessa Joy Photography
    You're planning this shindig, or you're at least fairly involved in how much it's costing, so it's easy to get wrapped up in how much you're spending without realizing the amount of cash everyone else is dishing out. If you've been a bridesmaid before, you're familiar with how quickly it all adds up -- the dress, the accessories, the shower and wedding gifts, the bachelorette party and travel expenses are only the basics. Do what you can to keep costs manageable, whether you look for less expensive dresses or help them find affordable flights and hotels. And remember: If you're requiring your bridesmaids to get their hair and makeup done, it's pretty much a given you'll be the one paying.
  7. 7. Let Them Know What You Expect

    Bridesmaids toast at bridal shower
    Photo by Look Wedding Photography
    Don't assume your girls know everything about being a bridesmaid. Even if they do, it's good to be clear about, for example, who will order the bridesmaid dresses. Will you all order them together in store, or will each person be responsible for placing her own order online? Ask in advance if you're hoping they can help you assemble the ceremony programs instead of calling them the night before you really have to get the job done. Also, put them on the same page with your family and your groom's family in terms of big events, like the shower, to avoid any unnecessary conflict.
  8. 8. Divvy Up the Duties

    Matching mauve bridesmaid dresses
    Photo by W&E Photographie
    Take some pressure off your bridesmaids by coming up with a mental list of friends and family you can rely on for extra help during crunch time. Maybe your mom or aunts are crafty and would actually love to help you package all of the favors. Think about the little last-minute to-dos ahead of time before you lock your bridesmaids into helping you with every single project.
  9. 9. Keep the Meltdowns to a Minimum

    Bride walking with bridesmaids next to mural
    Photo by Kallima Photography
    The occasional bridal breakdown is inevitable – your bridesmaids are pretty much counting on it. So don’t think twice if, during a particularly stressful week, you cry over boutonnieres or lose your cool over favors – it’s par for the course. Just try to keep the bridezilla moments in check, okay?
  10. 10. Give (and Receive) Graciously

    Bridesmaids first look
    Photo by Jeff Wojtaszek Photography
    You pictured an elegant afternoon tea; instead, there’s bridal shower bingo and mini hot dogs. You imagined a spa-day bachelorette; instead, you got a night of pole dancing in a strip club. It might be tough sometimes, but you’ve got to smile and say "thank you." They've worked hard to organize a nice event for you, so appreciate what they come up with, even if it's not exactly what you had in mind.
  11. 11. Talk to Them About Normal (Read: Non-Wedding) Stuff

    Preppy bridesmaids looks at spring wedding
    Photo by Abby Fox Photography
    Plain and simple, be a good friend. With the wedding at the top of your mind, it'll be easy to spin any conversation straight into planning talk. Make a conscious effort to ask your girls about what's going on in their lives and to remember when they have a big meeting or final exam, or a date with a new guy. First and foremost, they're your friends -- treat them that way!
  12. 12. Say "Thank You"

    Bridesmaids thank you gifts
    Photo by Erin Samuell
    You don't have to spend a fortune on bridesmaid gifts to show how grateful you are. Just make them meaningful and remember to write something nice in the card! Instead of waiting until the last minute and scrambling to find something, put serious thought into what you think each of your girls could use. If you love the idea of gifting them jewelry to wear at the wedding, consider buying different statement pieces that will make each outfit unique (and that they'll want to keep wearing after the wedding). Or go outside-the-box. Think: a gift certificate to a new restaurant for your foodie friend or kickboxing classes for your fitness buff bridesmaid.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Can We Invite Guests Who Didn't Get a Save the Date?

How to Be a Good Wedding Guest
Photo: Megan Clouse
So much happens during those first few months of wedding planning, from choosing a venue to putting together the guest list to designing invitations. And especially when a couple is on a shorter planning timeline, it can feel like decisions need to be made IMMEDIATELY. When it comes to guest lists, there can be a lot more politics and emotions involved than you would expect, making deciding who to send invitations to a drawn out conversation. Can you cut yourself a break by sending a smaller number of save the dates, then finalizing who gets an invitation later? Our experts weigh in.
The great answer is, yes! You can definitely add guests to your invitation list after you've sent out save the dates. This is great if you're still finalizing your guest count, or are trying to figure out if you'll invite second cousins as well as your college soccer team. Simply make a list of guests you 100% know you'll invite (most likely your families and closest friends) and send them a save the date so they can start reserving hotel rooms and booking flights, then spend that extra month or so deciding who else will be getting an invitation.
Worried that guests who didn't get a save the date will think they weren't invited at all? The best way to field questions about your guest list is to respond by saying that you're still finalizing the details. If it's someone who you've decided will definitely, without question be receiving an invitation, you can let them know that they'll be in the mail soon.
The big no-no? Doing the opposite and sending a save the date and not following up with an invitation. If you ask someone to save the date for your wedding, you must send this person an invitation to your wedding, whether you're not as close as you used to be or you are wishing you'd cut the guest list down further.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Happiest Couples Do These 7 Things Every Day

things happy couples do
Photo: Joey Kennedy Photography

Every couple is different. While your perfect date night out might be a raucous night on the town, that could be another Netflix-loving couple's nightmare. But no matter your personal tastes and past times, our experts say that the happiest couples do these things every day.

1. They have leaving and coming back together rituals.
According to Lesli Doares, marriage coach and author of Blueprint For A Lasting Marriage, research supports the idea that couples who have a ritual of greeting and leaving one another — whether that's when they first wake up or when they head off to work — have happier relationships. Why? "Because you are making a conscious effort to seek each other out," Doares says. "These times aren't taken for granted but intentionally acknowledged."

2. They touch base throughout the day.
Couples who keep in contact also keep one another's spirits up, says psychotherapist and relationship coach Toni Coleman. "That means touching base throughout the day by phone, text, or email just to say hi, tell one another you're thinking about the other, or to check in about your plans for the evening," she says. "How nice it is to know we are a priority to our partner — even when we are apart."

3. They have uninterrupted one-on-one time together.
And not just for a few seconds. The happiest couples soak up quality time for no less than 15 minutes each day, Doares says. "When you are focused on each other for more than a few minutes, you get past informational exchanges and can engage in deeper conversations that create connection," she explains. "Making this time a priority that isn't competing with children, text messages, TV, or emails shows how important nurturing your relationship is."

4. They share a laugh.
Happy couples get their giggle on whenever they can. Perhaps you spot something seriously funny on the sidewalk and snap a photo for your spouse, or you make a habit of sending one another corny jokes as a way to break up an otherwise boring day. "The point is, something makes you laugh and you want to share this with your partner," explains Coleman. "A shared sense of humor is an important part of relationship chemistry."

See More: Could You Guess the Surprising Secret of Happy Couples?

5. They give each other at least one sincere compliment.
The happiest couples make a habit of making one another feel good. Why? Because regular compliments will do more than give you love a confidence boost. "The time you spend identifying something positive your partner does keeps you learning about them and really noticing what they bring to your life," says Doares. "It keeps the negativity that is so destructive to relationships at bay. And, it also keeps you from taking those positives for granted."

6. They tell each other "I love you" in the love language of choice.
There are many ways to make people feel loved, from quality time to buying gifts. The happiest couples understand their partners' love languages and speak them. "Some people like to hear words, others appreciate acts of service, while others need a hug or kiss to feel loved," says Doares. "Learning your partner's love language and speaking it daily leaves no doubt about how you each feel about the other. It also shows a willingness to go out of your comfort zone to let them know how you feel in a way they best understand."

7. They go to bed at the same time if possible.
Finally, says Doares, "settling in together at the end of the day is a great way to increase intimacy — and not just sex. Your last words and thoughts will be with each other and this is can increase your sense of security with each other. And, yes, it will increase the chance of being physically intimate with each other as well — and that is almost always good for your relationship."

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Breaking Down Black Tie — What Does This Dress Code Really Mean?

black tie dress code explained
Photo: Alison Conklin Photography

The excitement of opening a gorgeously printed and packaged wedding invitation can soon turn into panic and fear once you read the words "black tie." Can I still wear a short dress? Does this mean my date has to buy a tuxedo? What type of venue must this be? Fear not! We're here to help as we break down the general etiquette of what exactly you can wear to a black-tie wedding — and explain all the variations on the dress code, too. Just for good measure.

Black Tie

This is for sure going to be a glam night, so get excited to look fabulous. For the ladies, this type of language on an invitation means to pull out all the stops. A common misconception means that you must wear a gown — but not necessarily. A chic, fancy and black-tie appropriate (glitzy, formal, embellished, etc.) cocktail length dress can be just as chic, and fit within the dress code. Traditionally, for the guys, this does mean a tuxedo with a variation of a black tie. However, a nice (black, obvs.) constructed suit with the obvious black tie can work — as we all know not everyone has tuxedos and gowns lying around in their closets.

Black Tie Optional
This type of request on an invitation leaves the door a bit more open for guests' dress, and we think it's always best to err on the side of caution in this situation. For those looking to glam it up, dress your best in accordance with black tie etiquette. For those a bit more casual, dress up your date in his best suit and put on your best dress, without the "limitations" of a strict black tie preference. Keep in mind, though, that traditionally speaking the black tie optional request technically applies to the guys, while the ladies are still held to the black tie guidelines. However, as with any formal affair, steer clear of the most casual options including sundresses, sandals, printed shirts, etc.

Creative Black Tie
Chances are you may never see this on an invitation, as it is rarely used within current wedding culture — but it's always best to be prepared. (Girl Scouts code, anyone?) In the event you find yourself in this situation, have fun with it! Creative Black Tie requests mean that the men can have some fun with their tuxedo accessories and add pops of color, prints, and more to their ties, suspenders, and shirts. For the ladies, it's time to glam up your black tie attire with statement jewelry, printed or colored scarves and shawls, and more. Think: fancy and fabulous.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

5 Ways to Politely Tell Guests That Your Wedding is Social Media-Free

  • winter bachelorette party ideas
    Photo: Getty Images
    It's the year 2016, and everyone knows that wedding guests are using their phones during weddings. But if you're worried that your guests will be staring down their phones the whole time and not enjoying the moment, you may want to create a social media rule to prohibit cell phone use. Whether it's because guests are Snapchatting or playing PokémonGo, it can be very intrusive and cause some to not be able to enjoy your special moment "in 3D." To spread that message without making guests angry or upset, here are five polite ways to tell your guests to put their phones away on your big day.

    Make It Funny
    Send out a GIF or a funny slideshow of wedding social media fails and explain that you don't want these to happen at your wedding. It'll give your guests a laugh and be something that is memorable yet endearing. Chances are when they try to post a photo on Instagram as you're walking down the aisle, they'll remember your funny .

    Ask Them Early On
    Put a note in the invitation so that your guests know ahead of time that you're having a social media-free wedding. That way, they won't be shocked or surprised on the big day.

    Give Them an Incentive to Be Phone-Free
    Let them know all the cool things at your wedding they can do when they aren't wasting time scrolling through Facebook during the reception. Maybe you're having a ice cream sundae bar or a photo booth — let them know of all the fun that is to come.

    Pin Up a Sign When They Walk In
    A small sign placed strategically at the entrance of your ceremony area is an easy and efficient way to spread the message before the wedding begins. Guests will all see the sign at the same time, and it will serve as a friendly reminder to keep their phones off.

    Have the Officiant Give a Reminder
    Before you walk down the aisle, ask the person officiating your ceremony to make a statement about refraining from posting on social media during the ceremony.

    Monday, August 8, 2016

    Can My Groom Wear a Tux to Our 'Cocktail Attire' Wedding?

    cocktail attire advice
    Photo: Phil Anema of Christian Oth Studio

    Wedding dress codes are complicated for everyone, including the bride and groom. You know not to shop for super-formal ball gowns for your beach wedding, and there are some groom looks that are more appropriate for a daytime celebration than an evening in a ballroom. But cocktail attire? That's a gray area that's often open to interpretation (and input from the type of venue and season you've chosen). So even if your wedding is cocktail attire, is it okay for the groom to wear a tux? Our experts weigh in.

    While tuxedos are usually reserved for black tie events, if your wedding dress code is "cocktail attire" but will run on the dressier side, your groom should be able to pull off a tux. You have a few options for keeping his look from appearing as though he's dressed for a different event entirely.

    The first option is to have the groomsmen wear suits that are the same color as the groom's tuxedo (most likely black). By having them dress down slightly while still matching, he'll stand out as the man of the hour, whereas an entire wedding party in formalwear could make guests feel underdressed.

    Another choice is to have him wear a non-traditional tuxedo. Navy blue tuxes are all the rage, and look sharp with black lapels and a black bowtie. He could wear a full navy blue tux, or black pants with a navy tuxedo jacket. Tuxedos also come in charcoal gray, which are a modern option that's a little more casual.

    And of course, remember that it's your wedding! If the two of you want to dress a little more formal (and it fits with your theme and your venue), by all means, go for it! No one will fault a bride or groom for wanting to dress up on their wedding day.

    This Man’s Romantic Rooftop Proposal Was 3 Years In The Making

    Everything’s coming up roses for Kornelius Bascombe and his new fiancée Rachel Jordan.

    None animated GIF
    On July 23, Bascombe popped the question to Jordan, his girlfriend of four years, atop the Citibank building in Los Angeles. At first, Jordan thought she was there for a romantic couple’s photo shoot. But what her boyfriend had in store was even more romantic ― a proposal he had been saving up for for three years. During a special shot with rose petals, while Jordan’s back turned towards him, Bascombe got down on one knee.

    “She turned around, threw the flowers in the air and my heart dropped,” Bascombe told The Huffington Post. “It was such an amazing moment because all I could do was think about how much I loved her and how much she meant to me.”
    “It would mean so much to me if you spent the rest of your life with me,” he told her in the video. “I know you’ll make a great wife and an even better mother.”

    Jordan accepted the proposal, of course. Then an elated Bascombe screamed at the top of his lungs, “She said, ‘Yes!!!’” and literally swept his bride-to-be off her feet.

    Jordan told ABC News that she is still in shock about the swoon-worthy proposal.
    “But the great thing about him is [that] he shows me that level of love every day,” she said. “He makes me a very lucky woman.”

    Afterwards, the couple took a helicopter tour over downtown L.A., dined at a rooftop restaurant and went out dancing with friends.
    The pair first met at a pep rally at North Carolina State University in 2010.

    “A lasting relationship doesn’t happen overnight,” Bascombe told HuffPost. “It takes obstacles and challenges to strengthen a relationship, and I believe the things that we’ve been through as a unit have prepared us for life together.”

    Wishing these two many more wonderful years together! 

    Friday, August 5, 2016

    The One Item Your Tented Wedding Reception Desperately Needs

    wedding tent decoration ideas with trees
    Photo: Bamber Photography

    Hosting a tented wedding reception? Bring the outdoors in by decorating your tent with beautiful trees and branches. Doing so will help the tent seamlessly blend into its outdoor surroundings. Plus, filling the space with elegant, towering trees is a great way to emphasize the tent's height. Here are six of the most stunning takes on this back-to-nature-inspired idea.

    Trees in Planter Boxes (above): Help create a focal point in the tent by flanking the dance floor or bar with live trees in clean, white planter boxes.

    wedding tent decoration ideas with trees
    Photo: Christian Oth Studio

    Tent Poles: Disguise some of the tent's support poles by installing tall, leafy trees throughout the reception space.

    wedding tent decoration ideas with trees
    Photo: Aaron Delesie

    On the Dance Floor: Help bring the outdoors in by decorating with trees the tent with live trees (these are aspen). Continue the tree motif on the dance floor by painting branches and leaves.

    wedding tent decoration ideas with trees
    Photo: Christian Oth Studio

    Tree Centerpieces: Instead of live trees, create a similar effect by decorating reception tables with tall, sculptural branches in glass containers.

    wedding tent decoration ideas with trees
    Photo: Annie Parish Photography

    Tabletop Trees: Deep-green ficus-tree centerpieces look beautiful set against a chic, all-white reception tent.

    wedding tent decoration ideas with trees
    Photo: Hitching Pole Photography

    Woodsy Setting: Create a magical woodland setting within your tent by adding faux tree trunks to obscure the poles. This couple's event designer then attached real tree branches to the poles and added twinkly lights.

    Thursday, August 4, 2016

    6 Things That Are Worth Splurging on for Your Wedding

    Setting a wedding budget can be one of the most stressful parts of the wedding adventure. Once money comes into play, the idea of your dream wedding goes from large scale to practically impossible. Wondering where you should splurge and what you should skip to save some cash? Here are 6 things worth splurging on for your wedding.
    1. Live Music
    Whether it's a professional band, a local jazz band, or even friends who play instruments, having live music on deck at your wedding is a guaranteed way to get the party started and have it flowing through the night. Live music is quite the hefty price tag upgrade from a DJ, but it may be worth it to go live for an hour or two during your wedding or even cocktail hour.

    2. An Interactive Photo Booth

    Most of your guests may be too busy or occupied to pull out their phones and snap photos. Have a photo booth option where guests can get a photo to take home with them at the end of the night and post on social media.

    3. Welcome Guest Bags

    What better way to welcome guests to your wedding than with awesome treat bags? Invest in these and give guests items they'll use throughout the wedding: Advil, candy, water, and snacks, lots and lots of snacks.

    4. Late Night Snacks

    Your guests will thank you for this (and you'll be happy too, trust us). At around midnight, have some finger foods or even delivered pizza for guests to munch on before they call It a night.
    5. Rides Home
    Your guests may have found their own ride to your venue, but most will be too tired or even unable to drive home at night. Have options for paid-for transportation, whether that's a bus or an on-call taxi service guests can use.
    6. Yum-worthy Food
    One of the most memorable parts of any wedding is the food. Splurge on good quality and tasty food. Your guests won't stop talking about this for months and even years after your wedding.

    Wednesday, August 3, 2016

    No Sex Drive? These 7 Reasons Might Be Why

    Photo: Getty Images
    Decrease in your sex drive? There are myriad reasons why your desire to get down may be slowing down, says Madeleine Castellanos, M.D., sex expert and author of Wanting to Want: What Kills Your Sex Life and How to Keep It Alive, and many of them include unintentionally sabotaging it yourself. Here are seven ways you might be, and how you can get back on a sexy track.
    1. You're taking the wrong birth control pill.
    By now you know that the pill works to prevent pregnancy, and it does so with a cocktail of hormones that stop ovulation. But those same hormones can upset your already delicate hormone balance, "which affects everything from her moods, to her sex drive, to who she finds attractive," Castellanos warns. "Some women find that their libido crashes and they have a difficult time getting back that same intense sensation that they had before they started the pill." If you've recently begun taking the pill and experienced a dip in your sex drive, it could be time to talk to your doctor about making a switch to a different formula or another kind of birth control.

    2. You think something is wrong with your body.
    According to Gloria Brame, Ph.D., sexologist and author of The Truth About Sex: A Sex Primer For The 21st Century, shame over our sexuality and our bodies can impair our ability to experience pleasure. For example, "women who worry their vaginas are smelly or otherwise unpleasant can sabotage their potential for pleasure in bed by rejecting oral sex or preventing their partners from spending time on the foreplay, which would help them receive more joy," she says. "Learning to love your body is key to enjoying all the pleasure it can bring you."

    3. Your body is in survival mode.
    "If you are routinely stressed out at work, find that you have no time to work out, and stay up late answering emails or watching Netflix, that may be enough to throw the body into survival mode," says Castellanos. And there's no room for sex when you're in survival mode. "Once this happens, the body tries to keep its resources by slowing down your metabolism, takes your muscle mass but keeps fat tissue, and decreases your sex hormones so that you can rest. Too often people take for granted that their body can adjust and compensate for this, until they crash." Get your body and libido back on track by finding time for some serious R&R.

    4. You can't admit there's a problem.
    The first way to fix any problem is admitting one exists. Yet Brame says some women endure vaginal pain, dryness, discomfort, or dulled sensation — whether from childbirth or medications — without ever acknowledging it. "These are common issues," she says, "but women are often too embarrassed to tell their doctors, who might have safe remedies." If you're experiencing anything less than pleasure before or during sex, consider consulting with your doctor.

    5. You're vitamin deficient.
    Popping daily vitamins won't just keep the common cold at bay. Your testosterone and estrogen levels depend on your diet, says Castellanos, "and another common cause of fizzling sex drive is depriving the body of the necessary building blocks and nutritional factors to carry out its complex processes." Vitamin B, Zinc, Selenium, and Vitamin D are all essential for proper hormone production, so make sure you're getting enough of each. Plus, Castellanos adds, "remember that alcohol, sugar, and simple carbohydrates all increase the stress on the body and deplete the body of these much-needed vitamins and minerals."

    6. You think sex is the least important aspect of your marriage.
    According to Brame, "the No. 1 way women sabotage their sex drives is scheduling everything down to their toilet-paper buying and yet never planning time for sex." Instead of scheduling sex, women often wait for the mood to strike, "which is a sure way for busy career women and moms to relegate sex to the bottom of their to-do lists," Brame says. "I tell clients to add sexy time to their e-calendars, and base it on the preferences they had before their lives got so busy. So, if they used to like sex two to three times a week, they should try to stick to it, even if there's only time for quickies. Some sex is better than no sex, and quickies keep the intimacy and most importantly the habit of making sex a priority in a marriage."

    7. You're comparing yourself to others.
    Whether it's your BFF dishing the details of her most recent hookup or the steamy new miniseries you just started streaming, seeing how other people's sex lives work can make you think yours is somehow lacking. "I have seen so many women wonder why they don't get aroused as quickly as they think they should, and I have to ask what has shaped their expectations about what is normal in sexual behavior and response," says Castellanos. Not everyone can get turned on as quickly as a TV star. "For most women, a combination of both psychological and physical arousal is what enhances their sexual experience and helps drive their desire," she says.

    Tuesday, August 2, 2016

    How to Write a Ceremony Program in 3 Easy Steps

    Creative Ceremony Program Ideas, Watercolor Brushstroke Program
    Photo: Maxwell Monty

    Ceremony programs are often a wedding planning afterthought. Sure, you've spent a lot of time working on the wedding ceremony itself, but explaining the details to your guests? Not so high on a bride's list of priorities. Thankfully, writing a great ceremony program is as easy as one, two, three!

    First, choose a design. Opt for something that matches your invitation and other paper goods for a cohesive look throughout your celebration. You could go traditional with a single card or a folded booklet, or get creative with something like program fans for an outdoor ceremony. Once you've picked your design, here's how easy it is to fill in the details:

    Step One: Outline the Basics
    Your programs should give guests information to guide them through your ceremony. They all follow a similar structure, so begin with this general format:

    Your names, the date, and the location of your ceremony (either at the top or on the front cover)
    A brief word of welcome, a blessing or prayer
    An outline of the proceedings
    The names of everyone participating in your ceremony

    Step Two: Fill in the Details
    When you're getting into the details, you can keep things more general or get really specific. The proceedings could be straightforward (Welcome, Readings, Exchange of Vows, The Kiss!) or go into detail about the order of the processional, which readings are included, and any additional blessings or unity rituals you're including. For a religious ceremony in particular, you should include the names of any readings or songs that will be included in the ceremony, with the optional addition of page numbers so guests can follow along in the scripture.

    When you're naming those participating in the ceremony, the traditional format is as follows: The parents of the bride, the parents of the groom, the bridesmaids and groomsmen (with the maid of honor and best man listed first), the flower girl and ring bearer, ushers and readers, and the officiant. If you are getting married by a religious officiant or someone whose job enables them to perform a marriage (like a judge), be sure to include their proper title (Father Michael Smith, Rabbi Andrew Zimmerman or The Honorable Samuel Brown). You could also list everyone's names in the order in which they'll walk down the aisle so guests can follow along as each person appears.

    Step Three: Include the Add-Ons
    Of course, every wedding needs a few personal touches! A longer note to guests or a note about the meaning of the venue will help further set the scene. Having an unplugged ceremony? Put this information front-and-center so the first thing your guests see is your request that the put away their cameras and phones.

    When you're naming your wedding party, consider adding a brief note about how you know each person, whether the maid of honor is your sister or the ring bearer is the groom's nephew.

    While religious programs usually do include the names of all the readings, it's not required for secular weddings — though it is a nice addition. Include the title of the reading, the author, and the name of the person who will be reading it.

    If you're having a multicultural wedding or including traditions guests might not be familiar with, your program is a great place to include some explanations, whether it's the symbolism of the chuppah or the meaning of the Filipino veil and cord.

    And if there are people who have passed away who you would like to honor, include a note at the end of the program acknowledging their absence. You could specify particular names, or leave this as a more general note in honor of the people who can't be with you to celebrate.

    Lastly, if your ceremony and reception are in two different locations, you may want to include the name and address of your reception venue and the reception start time so guests know where to head after your first kiss (and what time to get there!).