Thursday, December 31, 2009

Raising a Glass with Signature Drinks

Happy New Year’s Eve! Given tonight’s history of celebration and spirits, I’ve got signature drinks on the brain. Of course, as wine lovers, sangria is an absolute must in our reception lineup. Also on our shortlist is a refreshing blackberry lemonade that perfectly meshes with our purple color scheme.

Whether you’re looking for the perfect cocktail to serve at your reception or just a fun way to ring in 2010, check out these two recipes, courtesy of iPhone app 8,500+ Drink & Cocktail Recipes by Webworks and Applications.

Red Wine Sangria

1 1/2 liters red wine (Cabernet Sauvignon)
1 cup sugar
1 large lemon, sliced
1 large orange, sliced
1 large apple, cut into thin sections
3-4 oz. plain brandy
Soda water

Mix wine, sugar and fruit, and let sit in the fridge, ideally for 18-24 hours. The mixture will have a somewhat syrupy consistency. Before serving, stir in brandy and cut the mixture with soda water until it has a thinner, more wine-like consistency. Serve from a pitcher in wine glasses.

Blackberry Lemonade

1 part blackberry vodka
5 parts lemonade
Fresh blackberries

If you have time, crush half of your blackberries and combine them with the lemonade the night before. Strain the blackberry parts out of the lemonade prior to adding vodka. Add whole blackberries for extra aesthetics and taste.

Are you serving a signature drink at your wedding? What are a few of your all-time favorite cocktails?

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Ask the Bridesmaids: Bouquet Toss

Over the years, I’ve enjoyed being one of the single ladies called to the dance floor during weddings for the classic bouquet jostle. But while I thought it was fun, other friends always told me they found it downright silly or embarrassing to be singled out for being, well, single.

To help me figure out how to handle this tradition at my own wedding – whether I should include it, call up only the unmarried women, invite all the ladies to take part, or even give the bouquet away as a prize during the anniversary dance – I turned to my most treasured confidants in all things wedding-related and in many areas of my life overall – my bridesmaids.

I guess I should have known that a couple of the things I love most about my girls – their uniqueness and strong opinions – would result in very different views! Here’s what they each had to say.

I love the bouquet toss! It gives single women like myself that magical, fairytale hope that someone is out there for us, and that one day, we will be able to feel how the bride feels at her wedding. It symbolizes “our turn,” and since the married women have already had their “turn,” they should step back and let us single ladies have a chance. I definitely don’t feel uncomfortable during the toss.

– Pooneh

I love the bouquet toss, and like it even better when people fight. (Maybe not “fight,” but at least a good-natured tussle.) I like that it’s tradition. I like the sheepish grins and bad jokes everybody makes as they stand around. I like the very little girls who take it so seriously. I love it when the bride throws the bouquet so hard it hits the ceiling and misses the crowd. For your bouquet toss, I think it should be open to all women and be “for good luck.” That keeps enough of the original meaning, but makes it less embarrassing.

– Ellen

Of the tosses I’ve seen, young girls seem to be the most excited about catching the flowers, while young women in their teens and twenties seem especially shy. And single middle-aged and older women sometimes refuse to participate. I, for one, have avoided catching the bouquet by allowing a hyper 6-year-old to jump in my way.

– Bridget

From my understanding, the tradition is that the woman who catches the bouquet is the next woman to get married. So, I think it makes sense for only non-married women to participate.

– Gianna

As for me, I’m leaning toward taking Ellen’s advice and doing a “good luck” toss that includes all the ladies at the party, whether young or old, as Martina MacBride’s uplifting song “This One’s for the Girls” plays in the background.

What do you think? Are you doing a bouquet toss or giveaway at your wedding? How will you do it, and who will you include? Let me know, because I’m still open to more fun ideas!

(Photo Credits: Wedding Aces & Jennifer S Rau Photography)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Accessories Unveiled

Well, here I am in sweet Southern California for a couple weeks of holiday food, fun, and, of course, wedding shopping!

Since I’m buying and leaving most of my goodies in Cali until the big day, here’s a sneak peak at a few of my fun picks so far.





Have you picked out your bridal accessories yet?

(Photo Credits: Kellie Warren & Heather Warren)

Monday, December 28, 2009

Wedding Invitations: Why Maps Matter

As Stephen and I headed to our friends’ recent wedding, armed with turn-by-turn directions from Google Maps, we felt excited and relaxed, knowing we had more than enough time to get there, mingle with guests, and enjoy the anticipation of such a big moment.

Fast forward an hour later to the two of us frantically dashing into the church at the last minute, now feeling stressed and frustrated that Google Maps led us on a wild goose chase through one poorly marked street after another.

What can a bride and groom do to prevent these types of mix-ups for guests? Before sending out your invitations, be sure to plug your venue addresses into popular online mapping sites, including Google Maps and MapQuest, to make sure the route that pops up is the right one.

If you find that one of these sites leads guests through a maze of wrong turns, you’ll then have plenty of time to warn them, either by including the info with your invites or posting it on your website. Sure, it’s extra work, but do you really want to take a chance with something as important as ensuring guests make it in time to witness your I-dos?

I’d also suggest including a paper map as an invitation insert, which our friends unfortunately skipped. Even if your ceremony and reception are being held at the same place, a map showing the cross streets and general area will at least allow guests to tell whether they’re on the right track.

I’ve seen a lot of fun hand-drawn and homemade maps, but if DIY isn’t for you, there are tons of professional options out there, including this cute and classy version by Distinctive Directions.

As for us, we’re taking the DIY route, and I’ll be sure to post pictures of our map card once it’s ready. Are you including a map with your invites? What special designs are you thinking about using?

(Graphic Credit: Distinctive Directions)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Garters Gone Wild

Well, ladies, after going back and forth for the longest time, I’m excited to say we’ll definitely be tossing the garter at our wedding! Still no plans for anything too over-the-top, but in the end, this is one tradition that’s just too much fun to skip.

And after I stumbled upon a few sassy picks from Garters by Kristi, there was no turning back. Whether you’re looking for a design featuring a college sports team, military branch, superhero movie or more, from the classy to the wacky, this site pretty much has it all!

Which garter will I be picking? That’s a surprise to be revealed only at the wedding! What’s your design? Are you keeping it a secret from your fiancé?

Friday, December 25, 2009

A Little Bit of Christmas Cheer!

Merry Christmas, everyone! To spread a little joy on my favorite holiday, here’s a fun questionnaire I’ve seen making the rounds. To you and yours, I wish you love and happiness today and always!

Wrapping paper or gift bags?

Gift bags! It’s hard for me to mess them up the way I do wrapping paper.

Real or artificial tree?

Artificial. We’re admittedly terrified about fire hazards.

When do you put up the tree?

My family has always put the tree up on Thanksgiving weekend. It’s the perfect way to kick off the holiday season!

When do you take the tree down?

Usually a day or two after New Year’s. We like to let the holiday season linger as long as we can.

Do you like eggnog?

I love eggnog! Stephen makes a killer homemade batch.

Favorite gift received as a child?

My three-story dollhouse, which we (as in, my parents) built by hand over the course of many months. I still have the house, which has working lights, plus carpeting and hardwood floors, today.

Hardest person to buy for?

My grandparents. After over 50 years of marriage, they have absolutely anything and everything you can think of.

Easiest person to buy for?

My sister. She loves gift cards to her favorite stores, which makes it easy to get her something she really wants and can use.

Do you have a nativity scene?

Not our own, although my parents have always had one at their house.

Mail or email Christmas cards?

Christmas cards? What Christmas cards? I’ve made a promise to myself to get with it and start sending them once we’re married.

Worst Christmas gift you ever received?

I can’t say anything comes to mind. I’m just grateful for the gesture!

Favorite Christmas movie?

Since I was a kid, my mom, sister and I have had a tradition of watching The Muppet Christmas Carol every year. I figure you can’t go wrong with this movie’s classic message about spreading kindness.

When do you start shopping for Christmas?

Usually during Thanksgiving weekend, but never on Black Friday. I absolutely hate shopping in crowds, so I usually go out at night after most people have finished up for the day.

Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?

No, I just don’t have the heart to.

Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?

My family’s Italian anisette cookies. The recipe has been passed down for generations.

Lights on the tree?

I love traditional multicolored lights. Classic!

Favorite Christmas song?

My favorite traditional song is definitely “Do You Hear What I Hear?” I also love “The Bells of Saint Paul” by Linda Eder.

Travel at Christmas or stay home?

Since our families live in California while we’re in D.C., I’m a traveling girl.

Can you name all of Santa's reindeer?

I can! Can you?

Angel or star on the treetop?

This is a tough one, but usually a shiny star.

Open presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning?

One gift on Christmas Eve just to get the fun started, but the rest on Christmas morning! The anticipation is half the fun.

Most annoying thing about this time of year?

People fighting in stores over toys and material things. Can’t we please focus on the things that really matter and just enjoy the season?

Favorite ornament theme or color?

I love to mix-and-match as many unique and non-traditional ornaments as possible. My favorite is the marshmallow snowman I made when I was a kid.

Favorite Christmas dinner?

The Italian in me craves lasagna, ravioli or tortellini. Yum!

What do you want for Christmas this year?

Some much-needed downtime spent with Stephen and my family, plus the friends I don’t get to see very often.

Have you ever been caroling?

Well, I sang with a Christmas choir in elementary school. Does that count? I think the answer is no.

(Photo Credits: Google Images)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Decking Your Halls: Holiday Registry Inspiration

Stephen and I both love the holidays, but when it comes to decking the halls, ours are pretty bare. To better help get us into the Christmas spirit next year, we’ve picked out a few fun and affordable registry items, courtesy of Target, so that we can kick off our first holiday as husband and wife in style.

Plus, since a few relatives are relying on our registry for Christmas gift ideas, we’re even getting a couple of these fun finds now. I can’t argue with that! Here, a few of our favorites.

What’s Christmas without a tree?
9' Basic PVC Pine Christmas Tree -- $99.98

Pretty ornaments in our wedding colors…
Plastic Ornament Set: Purple/Silver (40 ct) -- $10.50

Adding that holiday glow…
Pearl String Lights: Red/White/Green -- $6.98

Are you registering for any holiday-themed or seasonal goodies? Has anyone given you something off your registry as a Christmas or holiday gift?

(Photo Credits: Target)    

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Keepsake Wedding Ornaments

Since I was young, it’s been a favorite tradition in our family to choose a few new ornaments each Christmas to symbolize the special things happening in our lives. Here, a few of the cute “just married” and bride-and-groom ornaments I’ve found this year!

Kapners Kreations


What are your favorite holiday and family keepsakes? Which new additions will you make after the wedding?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Bridesmaids Playing Dress-Up

How many wedding gowns did I go through before making a choice? Surprisingly, not nearly as many as I thought I would. But picking out a dress for my maids? Now, that was the hard part!

When I first started keeping an eye out for bridesmaid dresses (which I’ll admit was during my pre-engaged days), I was crazy about some of the short, sassy designs by Mori Lee.

But when I actually saw them in person, they seemed too informal for our church ceremony, and also weren’t a good match with my dress. (More to come about that very soon!) It was on to “Plan B.” With my sister, who’s my maid of honor, being a great sport, we scouted around tons of different shops, including David’s Bridal, where she tried on a couple other styles.

But neither of them stood out as “the one.” Finally, after lots more indecisiveness, we struck gold at a store carrying dresses by one of my all-time favorite designers, Alfred Angelo. There, Kellie graciously got in and out of a few more gowns, telling me what she loved and hated, until we both fell in love with this beauty.

Not only do I love how elegant the gown looks in rich grape, but the beadwork and white embroidery on the sash also add just the right touches of embellishment. And with added spaghetti straps, the dress has turned out to be a flattering pick for all seven of my maids, despite their different heights and body types.

Did you and your bridesmaids consider many different dresses before making a decision? Are your girls all wearing the same dress, or are you letting them choose their own gowns in a certain color or style?

(Photo Credits: Mori Lee, David’s Bridal & Alfred Angelo)

Monday, December 21, 2009

He Said, She Said: The Garter Toss

To switch things up a bit today, Stephen and I decided to take turns sounding off about the reception classic that is the garter toss. Here’s what we both had to say.

Groom’s View by Stephen

To some, the garter toss may seem like a long-standing tradition, but it was never done at any of the weddings I went to as a kid. Because of that, the ritual doesn’t have the same significance for me as it does for others. The one time I did see a toss, the garter removal was done in such an over-the-top fashion that it seemed more like a burlesque show than part of a wedding celebration.

The worst part was that when it came to the actual toss, the half-dozen guys made hardly any effort to catch the garter, and were completely disinterested. Compared with the jostling and general excitement during the bouquet toss, the garter toss came across as being awkward and devoid of any enjoyment.

I’m not completely opposed to having a garter toss at our wedding, but I’m also not going to do it simply for the sake of tradition. It needs to mesh with the overall feel of our celebration, and if that can’t be done, well, then it isn’t worth doing.

Bride’s View by Heather

Having seen enough garter tosses where the groom (in many cases after enjoying the open bar just a bit too much) got completely carried away, I’ve gone back and forth about whether we should include this ritual as part of our wedding reception.

On one hand, the garter toss sounds like a fun tradition I would hate to miss out on. Plus, I know that Stephen is definitely not the type of groom to carry things too far. But, that said, I’m afraid that if we do include it, everyone will expect us to go all-out in a way I’m not comfortable with, especially in front of our families, former professors, and a couple teenage guests.

To keep things sweet and only a little sassy, I envision us playing a cute song, maybe the Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love,” which is one of our favorites, while Stephen kneels down, kisses my hand, and removes the garter with his fingers, not teeth. After that, he can perform the traditional toss of the belt to all the eligible guys at the party, who, with the right build-up from the DJ, will hopefully show some enthusiasm. It’s classy yet simple, and would still let us include the toss as part of our celebration.

Well, those are our thoughts, ladies. What are yours? Do you think we should be more willing to “let loose” during the garter toss, or do you like what I have in mind as a compromise?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The iPhone: My Ultimate On-the-Go Wedding Organizer

As all you busy brides know, it’s no small feat juggling our careers and classes – not to mention our social lives – while also planning a wedding. To make my life easier (and because he was probably just a bit tired of my constantly borrowing his – LOL), Stephen recently suggested I get an iPhone. After having it a couple months, all I can say is, WHY didn’t I think of this sooner?

Now, when I’m on the run or traveling, I can easily access our wedding website, keep up with all of your fun blogs, and even watch my favorite wedding-planning TV shows. Our vendor contacts, to-do lists, appointments, inspirational photos, music and maps are right at my fingertips, too.

Of course, the first thing I did after getting the phone in my hands was scour the web for suggestions about the best iPhone apps to help a time-crunched bride. Check out a few of the fun picks I’m already trying or plan to download ASAP!

Brides Dressing Room (Free)

Browse wedding gowns and bridesmaids' dresses by designer, style, price and more. See something you like? Use the “Find It Near Me” tool to find the dress at a local store. You can even set up an appointment to stop in and try it on!

Wedding 911 by The Knot (Free)

Using a fun Q&A format, The Knot answers all your must-ask questions about fashion, beauty, budget, bridesmaids…you name it!

Tag Reader (Free)

I love this innovative Microsoft app, which I tested out with my copy of Get Married magazine. By simply snapping shots of the tag logos included with many of the magazine’s ads, I was linked right to additional info, including video footage and websites. Definitely a time saver!

Nike & iPod (Included on iPhone 3GS)

This app will help me revamp my bridal shapeup routine by programming and logging workouts based on the desired time, distance or calorie burn. It also lets users track their history and access workout playlists. Don’t have it on your phone? Nike and other fitness groups offer similar apps.

Wedding Day ($0.99)

Check out this just-for-fun app that counts down the remaining time until the big day in years, months, weeks, days, hours, minutes and even seconds. After the wedding, it will start tallying how long we’ve been married!

Waltz, Your Wedding Dance (Free)

While definitely no substitute for professional dance lessons, this Ballroom Dance Channel app is a fun way to test your skill with a basic beginner’s waltz step.

Bible (Free)

The name says it all. This is a quick reference from to help make ceremony planning a snap.

Gotta Etsy ($0.99)

Tons of goodies just a click away!

Wedding Dash Lite (Free)

This cute game from PlayFirst, Inc. lets players plan and carry out a couple’s perfect big day by fine-tuning the details and avoiding pitfalls. The “lite” version offers five levels of play for free.

And what about you? Any favorite apps or tech-savvy wedding-planning tips to share?

(Photo Credits: Apple & Macworld)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Spiced-Up Catering

Whenever Stephen and I need a pick-me-up to remind us of California, we can’t go wrong with our all-time favorite – Mexican food. So, you can imagine our excitement when we saw a Mexican buffet listed as one of the onsite catering options at the golf club that’s hosting our reception!

Sure, we considered more traditional options, like fish and steak, but in the end, the spicy flavors won us over during our tasting. In addition to classic beef fajitas and cheese enchiladas, we’ll be serving two salads – black bean and shrimp, plus lime and cilantro Caesar.

And of course, there will also be salsa, rice and beans on the side, plus a signature sangria we’re working on putting together a recipe for. Maybe I’m getting carried away, but I just might have to throw a margarita machine into the mix, too…

Which favorites are you serving up at your wedding? Do you think buffets work out OK, or do you prefer a sit-down meal?

(Photo Credit: Google Images)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

I’m Dreaming of a…Cute Rehearsal Dress!

Though I admit it would be fun to change into a short, sassy reception dress, I’m so psyched about my gown that I plan to spend every possible minute of my wedding day wearing it.

As for the rehearsal and dinner, I had that all planned out, too, thinking I’d stick with a black and gold dress I already own and love. But, of course, that would just be too easy! No, I had to go and discover Alfred Angelo’s “Little White Dress” collection, including this gorgeously elegant pick, which is 100 percent my style.

The price code on the website says the dress is under $300. What do you think, ladies? Is it worth it? Would you or did you spend that much on a rehearsal dress? Will you be changing into a separate dress for the reception?

Oh, decisions, decisions…

(Photo Credit: Alfred Angelo)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Wedding Cake: Topping It Off

It’s a bride’s prerogative to change her mind. And I have. About many things. What I haven’t second-guessed? Our wine-themed cake, which we’re having a great time designing with our baker. What I have gone back and forth on? How to top it all off.

Unimpressed with run-of-the-mill ceramic bride-and-groom figurines, we tossed around all sorts of other ideas, from using real champagne grapes, to bringing in fresh flowers, to borrowing my grandparents’ toppers, which are shockingly still in one piece after over 50 years. But it was only after reading about the custom topper dolls Cape Cod Bride found on Etsy, the ultimate home of handcrafted goodness, that I knew we needed to look no further.

Working with photos and descriptions I gave her, Etsy seller Samyii designed the cute dolls to match our wedding-day look, right down to my gown style, headband and planned hairdo. Incredibly friendly, quick, and easy to work with, she did a fabulous job designing the toppers for less than $50.

I love everything about these unique, fun dolls, and think they’ll be the perfect finishing touch to what I hope will be our just as unique and fun cake! What types of toppers have caught your eye?

(Photo Credits: Etsy)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Wedding Photography Tips From a Pro

If you’re like me, one of the most important aspects of your wedding day is ensuring beautiful, timeless photography that will preserve your memories forever. But getting started can be a bit confusing.

I recently chatted with Los Angeles-based wedding photographer extraordinaire Damien Smith, who shared with me some of his best pointers learned during 16 years shooting professionally. I hope you enjoy his advice for navigating the world of wedding photography!

· There’s no such thing as a bad location. Damien finds something memorable about all of the weddings he photographs, and likes to get creative no matter what location he’s working in. One of his favorite weddings was held in New Orleans, where he got this shot of a “Second Line” march following the reception.

· When choosing a photographer, be sure to shop for quality, and not just by price. While many brides and grooms are looking to save money, Damien has heard plenty of horror stories from couples who hired an inexpensive photographer for the savings, only to later hate the way their photos turned out. Know what you’re looking for, and don’t expect a $5,000 job for $500.

· Pay attention to style. Damien uses a blend of photojournalistic and traditional photography styles. Photojournalistic shots capture great candid moments, while traditional photos are beautiful, presentable keepsakes parents and family will admire.

· Don’t forget to ask about insurance! Many wedding venues won’t allow photographers who are uninsured to shoot at their locations. Be sure to ask about a photographer’s insurance coverage before hiring him or her.

· Always meet before signing a contract. No matter how much a couple may love the photos on his website, Damien will not contract with them until they’ve had a chance to meet him in person. When you meet a photographer, ask yourself whether he or she is someone you could see yourself forming a personal bond with, and whether you trust the person. Don’t feel comfortable? Look elsewhere.

· Do an engagement session to establish the relationship. This photo shoot allows Damien to learn more about his clients, and also lets the bride-and-groom-to-be get a feel for his work style.

· Plan to take photos at a park or another outdoor location? Always check ahead of time to see whether a special permit is required. Damien loves to shoot outdoors, since this provides tons of options for fun locations, such as Southern California’s Santa Monica Pier, and allows the photographer to step back and let the couple relax.

· Digital photography is less expensive. It’s also not limited by film speed, and allows the couple to get their photos back sooner after the wedding. But Damien also carries a camera loaded with classic black-and-white film, since film is still a gold standard for great black-and-white shots.

What are the best photography tips you’ve picked up so far?

(Photo Credits: Damien Smith Photography)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Weddzilla’s Newest Bride Blogger Is…Me!

It’s definitely no secret that I’m crazy for everything about weddings – planning them, reading about them, writing about them, and anything else in between. Always on the hunt for fun ideas and inspiration, one of the sites I’ve loved following is the Weddzilla Blog, and now, I’m thrilled to join the group as a featured bride blogger!

If you’re looking for fresh, creative advice, you can’t go wrong with Weddzilla. Feel free to check out my intro post, and be sure to read up on what all the other fantastic bloggers have to say. I’ve learned a ton from them, and know you will, too!

(Photo Credit: Weddzilla)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Designer Spotlight: Alfred Angelo

From his wedding gowns to his bridesmaid dresses, Alfred Angelo’s designs have topped my list of favorites since long before I ever got engaged. Over the years, I’ve known many a bride who’s had nothing but good things to say about this line.

Now that I’m a bride myself, I can see why. Not only are Alfred Angelo’s dresses stunningly gorgeous, but they also come in so many styles to complement different tastes and body types. Plus, they’re affordable for brides on a variety of budgets.

Check out a few of my all-time favorite Alfred Angelo fashions, including gowns from his new 2010 lineup.

Who’s your favorite designer, and which wedding gown styles do you love most?

(Photo Credits: Alfred Angelo)