Saturday, January 30, 2010

Maid’s Musings: Makeup & Marriage

Kellie writes her own fashion blog, Playing Dress-Up, and runs Whatshername Vintage, an Etsy shop specializing in all things vintage. Most importantly, Kellie is Bicoastal Bride's maid of honor, and is very excited to be a part of her sister’s wedding planning!

So, ladies, you’ve got your dress. Coordinating accessories have been selected. You’ve found the perfect pair of shoes. But there’s still another very important aspect of your wedding day look to consider – makeup!

Whether you’re an avid makeup user and product addict in everyday life, or prefer to go 100 percent natural, it can be difficult to pick the perfect look for your big day. There are endless possibilities when it comes to makeup. Do you want something soft and feminine, dramatic and glamorous, or beachy and natural? No matter what your personal preference is, the right colors can help emphasize your best features and highlight your personality.

Since there are so many options when it comes to bridal makeup, I can’t exactly help you narrow down your favorites. I can, however, offer up a few bits of inspiration from some lovely celebrities. Hopefully, these pictures will at least give you a few ideas about looks you’d like to try!

If none of these looks appeal to you, or you’d just like to try out some makeup techniques for yourself, may I recommend Lauren Luke’s excellent video tutorials?

Not only can Lauren guide you through a variety of celebrity-inspired looks, but she also has her own line of makeup palettes that coordinate with her videos! She even has some bridal-inspired tutorials, if you’d like to DIY on your wedding day. Check out her YouTube channel, and happy makeup-ing!

(Photo Credits: Google Images)

Friday, January 29, 2010

D.C. Weekend Event: ‘The Art of Planning Your Own Wedding’

If you’re a D.C.-area bride looking for a little wedding planning fun this weekend, feel free to join Stephen and I at Private Receptions’ “The Art of Planning Your Own Wedding” this Sunday in Georgetown.

“This event was designed specifically to help brides/grooms that either enjoy planning their own wedding or cannot afford the luxury of having a planner,” said Founder & CEO Nerissa Montemurro in our recent email exchange.

Starting at 2 p.m., the event will include a round-table planning session, panel Q&A, and raffle giveaway. I’m excited! Want more info? Check out the site below for additional details and to purchase tickets.  

Have you and your fiancé picked up any great tips at a wedding-planning forum or panel discussion?

The Bride: A Singular Sensation?

My desire for my parents to walk me down the aisle has never had anything to do with my wanting them to “give me away” or “hand me off.” As an independent woman, I have lived on my own, supporting myself financially, for years. My decision to marry Stephen is also mine alone, and I would have actually found it very odd if he had gone to either of my parents to request “permission” before proposing to me.

Having said that, it’s also true that I wouldn’t be who I am or where I am today without my parents’ support. Throughout my relationship with Stephen, my mom has always lent a willing ear and shared many caring thoughts, and in that way, she has played a direct role in our relationship. Asking my mom and dad to walk me down the aisle gives me an opportunity to honor them for having stood beside me, supporting me in good and bad times, throughout my life.

That’s why, for the most part, there has never been any question in my mind about having them by my side as I make the walk. A couple times, however, I have played over a few other scenarios in my mind. For example, the Catholic Church actually prefers that the bride and groom enter together, as a symbol of their partnership both before and after marriage. This has made me consider waking halfway down the aisle alone, with Stephen meeting me for the rest of the walk.

I do also love the symbolism of an independent bride confidently making her way toward the future she has chosen, with the focus of everyone, including her parents, on her. At the same time, I absolutely adore the symbolism of a bride who loves and acknowledges her parents for all they have given so that she could achieve her dreams and build the life of her choosing.

What do you think, and how do you plan to make the walk? Would you ever consider coming down the aisle by yourself?

(Photo Credits: Los Robles Greens & j.t.lowery)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Dress Quest: A Picture Perfect Gown?

One downside of planning a long-distance wedding is that my gown is far, far away in California. Even though I went to my first fitting in December, I won’t be able to see the results until the end of March. So, for now, all I have are pictures. And to my surprise, that’s turning out to be a bit of a problem.

You see, the thing is, each time I try my dress on and see myself in it, I love it. My mom loves it. My sister loves it. And my seamstress went on and on about how great it looked when I went for my fitting in December. When I’m wearing the dress, I feel beautiful and confident, knowing I made the right choice.

But when I see photos of myself in the gown, I’m suddenly filled with doubts. Maybe the problem is that when we took the photos, the lighting was awful. Or maybe it’s because so far, I only have pre-alteration shots. I’m not sure.

All I know is that when I see the pictures, the crystal and pearl details I love so much in person aren't as sparkly and prominent. Does the cinched waist really look OK on me? And why didn’t I notice the way the fabric hugs my hips when I sit? And on and on the thoughts roll through my brain…

When I first laid eyes on my gown last August, I learned it was a sample that the designer had initially considered introducing into the season's lineup. But that wasn’t to be. The gown wasn’t selected, and now needed a good home with a bride who loved it. And I did love it. A lot! Enough to buy it on the spot, out of fear that leaving it behind might allow someone else to snap it out of my hands. But why am I now, with less than five months to go, suddenly second-guessing my choice?

I’ll share the actual photos and more details about my dress hunt soon, but for now I want to know, have you ever had doubts about your gown? Do you think the thoughts I’m having are a normal part of being a bride, or are they a sign I might really have made the wrong choice, thinking a dress was “the one” when it wasn’t?

And what about trying on more dresses to try to put my mind at ease? Good or bad idea?

(Graphic Credit: Google Images)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Wedding Styling Decisions: Solutions & Compromises

First off, thank you all tremendously for your suggestions and input about my recent bridesmaid hair and makeup dilemma. Your honesty and willingness to share your thoughts helped me put this situation into perspective and work with the girls to arrive at a solution that makes us all happy.

Though I definitely consider myself to be an overall easygoing and stress-free bride, my perfectionist streak does make the occasional appearance. And let me tell you, if I’m wrong or out of line, I definitely welcome being told so, and will be the first to admit it. That’s the very reason I threw the situation out to you all – because I don’t want to in any way be a selfish bride who only cares about “her day” without any regard for others. Plus, I (of course!) realize that what matters most on my wedding day is simply having my sister and friends there beside me, since I love each one of them for exactly who she is, regardless of something as superficial as appearance.

In the end, given our wedding style and the girls’ limited experience doing their own hair or makeup for formal events, we decided that professional styling was still our best bet. But based in part on your input, I realized that the timeline I was initially given – starting at 6:30 a.m., plus allotting two hours for each girl’s hair and makeup – is over-the-top. And, while some of the girls still want to use my stylist, who charges $200 for both services, I agree that this is simply too much to expect all of them to spend.

As a compromise, I still plan to have my pro come to the house to style me, my mom, my sister/maid of honor, and about half of my bridesmaids, who feel the cost is reasonable and prefer to use this stylist. The rest of the girls have arranged appointments at a nearby salon that is offering each of them a basic hair and makeup styling for about $100.

I’m so glad to work this all out and move on to the fun part…searching for style ideas and inspiration! For myself, that is. As for the ladies, I’m completely fine with whatever looks they want to go with. Have you faced any challenges in working out wedding details with your bridal party? How did you resolve these issues?

(Graphic Credit:

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Expert Advice: Avoid a Wedding Rip-Off

In my past interviews with expert L.A. photographer Damien Smith, he’s shared his insider tips on finding and hiring a stellar photographer who’ll transform your special moments into lasting memories. But what about the photographer who only wants your money and couldn’t care less about delivering on your special day?

“You want to look for signs that they can actually afford to deliver what you are being promised,” says Damien. “If this is not apparent, don't hire them.”

Here, Damien shares a few potential "red flags," plus the best ways to avoid falling into a trap. Happy hunting!

Red Flag: The photographer wants to meet up at a coffee house or restaurant.

It may be the “in” thing to go to Starbucks or Coffee Bean to meet folks, but really, is that the proper venue for signing a contract worth several thousand dollars? Do you really want to write out a large check, or dish out a large sum of cash, at a coffee house? Also, how will the vendor give you a copy of your signed contract – by asking the coffee house if he can use their copier? It's simply a bad idea.

Instead, meet at the vendor’s place of business. For a photographer, this may be an office studio, or a home office studio. The most important thing is to know the physical location of the business. If a vendor doesn’t want you to know where she’s located, it's a really bad sign.

While you’re there, check to see if the meeting area is neat and clean. If you use the restroom, note whether it's clean. If all is well kept, this is a good sign. It means the vendor is likely always expecting to have clients at her place of business, and therefore must keep these areas looking nice.

If the meeting area is not well kept, she probably doesn’t do a lot of business, and this can translate into her not having the necessary funds to deliver your portraits and albums. You may think, “She’ll have the money I paid her!” But if she’s are not doing enough business, that money may go straight toward paying her bills, and not toward delivering your pictures.

Red Flag: The vendor’s business card or website looks like something your five-year-old nephew threw together.
Take a good look at the vendor’s business card and website. Is the card professionally done, or something the vendor created on a home printer? What about the website?

A photographer who doesn't have professional-looking business cards is not someone you want to hire. If he can’t afford professional business cards and a professional website, he probably can't afford to deliver your pictures. Please note that not having a website at all is not necessarily a problem. Lots of good businesses do not have websites. However, having a poor excuse for a website is a big problem.

Red Flag: The photographer’s office is bare of any photo-related items.

When you visit a photographer’s office, make sure you see wall portraits and wedding albums in plain sight. If he can't show you actual samples of what he says you'll get, how do you know you'll actually get it?

Plus, don't be afraid to ask about his camera equipment. Take a look at it. Make sure it's professional-quality gear, and ask whether he has backup equipment. You don't want to be surprised by him showing up at your wedding with a compact digital camera he picked up at Wal-Mart for $279. You know, the kind you might keep in your purse when hanging out with friends.

Red Flag: The photographer is dressed like she’s headed to the beach, rather than to a business meeting.

Pay attention to how a vendor is groomed and dressed during your meeting. If she appears not to care how she looks, that's a problem. Of course, she doesn’t have to be wearing a full business suit, but she should look like she cares about her appearance.

Pressed pants and a nice shirt, for example, are appropriate. Jeans, a tee and slippers are not. It’s true that most photographers like to dress comfortably, because they have to do a lot of running around and standing while shooting. However, photographers can be comfortable and neatly dressed at the same time.

Have you ever encountered a vendor who tried to scam or take advantage of you? What are some “red flags” that might make you think twice about hiring someone, and what do you think about those listed here?

(Photo & Graphic Credits: Google Images)

Monday, January 25, 2010

A ‘Picture Perfect’ Gift & Fun TV Surprise

Remember the Get Married Blogger Brides photo box giveaway I told you about a couple weeks ago? Well, guess what? My post drew the most comments, and I won!

I’d like to give a special thanks to everyone who headed over to the Get Married website to share your thoughts and help me win! Your support means so much to me!

If you’re interested in checking it out, my question about fun, affordable cash bar alternatives was also featured on Get Married TV Saturday during the “Slice of Advice” segment about halfway through the show. What a fun surprise!

Now, here’s the piece I wrote about our “picture perfect” moment since getting engaged. I hope you enjoy it!

Picture Perfect

My two favorite photos of Stephen and I weren’t taken during an engagement session. Nor are they two of the many pictures that feature us traveling or touring our favorite wineries. No, my all-time favorite shots include what is probably one of the worst pictures of me in existence. So why, you may ask, out of all the great pictures I just described, do these two have such significance?

Well, after enjoying one-too-many a slice of pizza on our Central American cruise, and many-too-many of Stephen’s famous shortbread cakes right in our own home, I made a commitment to ditch my status as the ultimate couch potato, and instead turn myself into a runner, able to last 10K nonstop by summer’s end.

So, when I know he would have much rather chowed down on pasta and chocolate chip cookies, Stephen instead spent his evenings researching and cooking healthy meals for me. At night, if it was too dark by the time I got home, Stephen laced up his sneakers and headed out to run three miles at my side, encouraging me to keep going, and sticking right with me, when I know this former high school cross-country star could have gone much faster on his own. Without uttering a single complaint, he selflessly attended 8 a.m. aerobics classes on Saturday mornings, and didn’t even flinch upon realizing that he was the only guy in the class.

And after a few weeks, Stephen was as into it as I was, eager to regain the glory of his cross-country days by reading nutritional labels at the grocery store, working out with dumbbells while watching TV, and allowing himself to become hopelessly excited about what had become not only my goal, but his as well.

Finally, one day toward the end of September, with fall creeping in and threatening to put an end to our outdoor runs for the season, we hit the pavement and ran. And ran. And ran harder, faster and longer than we ever had. When it was all over, we checked our distance to see that we had done it. 6.5 miles!

But, as excited as I was that we had reached our goal, I realized that it wasn’t even the accomplishment that was truly the best part. No, it was the time we spent together getting there – encouraging each other, helping each other, and supporting each other – that mattered the most.

Early in our journey to get fit, we took turns taking these two shots of each other before we headed out to run my very first 5K race, and his first in over five years. As you can see, there were no beautiful camera angles, no special editing techniques, and no dressy clothes. All the photos represent is us – plain and simple, in our running shorts and sneakers, together, in love, achieving something big. That is our moment, and it is perfect, even if the pictures appear to be far from it.

What’s your special story?

(Photo Credits: Personal Library)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Designer Dress-Up: Elizabeth Dye

Kellie writes her own fashion blog, Playing Dress-Up, and runs Whatshername Vintage, an Etsy shop specializing in all things vintage. Most importantly, Kellie is Bicoastal Bride's maid of honor, and is very excited to be a part of her sister’s wedding planning!

If you’ve been following my weekly guest-blogging articles, you may have noticed by now that I have a bit of an obsession with “uniqueness.” Nothing bothers me more than seeing a generic, boring dress design, especially if that dull dress is overpriced! My need for uniqueness in all aspects of fashion has, of course, carried over into my bridal gown research, and is why I have completely fallen in love with the new Elizabeth Dye collection!

Not only are the dresses beautiful, but they’re unlike anything I’ve seen before. Each design is the perfect blend of romance, vintage style, and adorable femininity – in other words, just my taste! They’re sweet without being cheesy or cliché, and fun without being inappropriate for a wedding. I’ve never been much of a “giant ball gown, excessive embellishment, I look like a Disney character” type of girl myself, so were I ever in need of my own wedding dress, Elizabeth Dye’s shop, The English Dept., would be my first stop! Plus, every dress is named after or inspired by a famous literary heroine! How amazing is that?!

Do you see what I mean? They’re so girly and wonderful, without having that “I paid thousands of dollars for an off-the-rack, mass-produced carbon copy” vibe. I could honestly rave about this collection all day!

The designer truly did a fantastic job capturing the literary romance she was aiming for, and any bride would feel like a Bronte character while wearing one of these gowns. But if none of these selections appeal to you, fear not! The English Dept. also offers custom dresses, and you can’t get any more unique than that!

Here, examples of the shop’s custom creations.

Whether your personal style is flirty, glamorous, retro or romantic, The English Dept. can whip up your dream dress! For more inspiration, check out these links.

Elizabeth Dye Blog

The English Dept. on Etsy

(Photo Credits: Elizabeth Dye & The English Dept.)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Our Ceremony Venue: Second Thoughts & Second Looks

After Stephen and I decided to marry in the Catholic Church, it only made sense that we should begin our search at the church I attended as a child, which, by chance, had also undergone a beautiful remodeling. When we got the OK from the church’s clergy, we were thrilled. But in the months that followed, that thrill quickly gave way to pure and utter frustration with both the church’s clergy and staff.

Why? Well, our priest is relatively new, and for a while seemed to either not know the answers to our questions, or to want to do everything painstakingly by the book, such as pressuring us to have a full mass. Plus, no one seemed to fully grasp that we live on the opposite side of the country, and therefore don’t have the flexible meeting schedule the church is used to.

Also, while a Catholic wedding is relatively important to Stephen, he knew that I would also be happy with a beautiful outdoor ceremony that didn't include the Catholic religious aspects. I felt upset when I learned that the church won’t allow an aisle runner, and won’t allow scattered flower petals. What, I started to wonder, would this church allow?! For a while, we were ready to walk away from this venue entirely.

But after a couple fantastic meetings over the holidays, I’m happy to say that things have turned around, and we’re feeling tremendously better about the situation. Maybe it was the holiday cheer in the air, but when I met with him in December, the priest didn’t so much as bat an eyelash when I brought up the non-mass. Plus, he happily accepted our addition of an Irish wedding blessing, and didn’t even flinch when I suggested a non-traditional processional tune from The Sound of Music.

And when I walked about the church, going up to the altar and scoping out details, it really hit me. In just five months, I’m going to get married in that church! I’m going to walk down that very aisle to the altar, where Stephen and I will become husband and wife. I realized that my past frustration had caused me to overlook all of the positives about this location – the lovely marble flooring, the sunlight streaming beautifully through the stained glass windows, and the kindness and thoughtfulness of our rehearsal director.

I left feeling relived and happy, plus more excited than ever. Where are you having your ceremony? Have you ever had second thoughts about your choice?

(Photo Credits: Heather Warren & Saint Paschal Baylon Church)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Groom With a View: Involving Your Fiancé

With wedding planning only getting more hectic as each month goes by, I feel so lucky that Stephen has always been very involved in the process – creating wine-cork escort-card holders, designing our wine-themed cake, coming up with ideas for our signature drink, and doing so many other things.

To change things up a bit this week, I decided to take a day off from blogging and instead let him share his tips for how to best involve grooms in the planning process. Enjoy!

When compared with the long list of preparation required for brides, the wedding day for a groom is relatively simple, and can be boiled down to three basic tasks: show up, say some lines, remember the ring, done.

Many grooms don’t really feel the need to get overly involved in planning a wedding because of the fact that our society places most of the emphasis on brides. Don’t believe me? Do a quick search on “wedding dress” in your search engine of choice, and compare the number of hits against “tuxedo.”

Give it another shot with “bride” and “groom,” and you’ll get similar results. (Plus, don’t forget that a good number of those “groom” hits involve combs and long-haired dachshunds). It may seem like an uphill battle to get your man to join in planning the wedding, but the real trick is playing to your groom’s strengths and interests.

For example, to me, you can call it orchid, violet, royal purple, or whatever you want, but when I look at it, all I see is purple. If your betrothed is like me, you shouldn’t expect too much help when you’re checking out floral arrangements, other than confused expressions and the occasional utterance of “uh…sure.”

Find tasks that match up with things your groom is good at. Does he love cars? If so, put him in charge of arranging transportation. I’m good at logistics, so I have the task of organizing the timetable for ensuring cars and drivers are available to ferry the wedding party every place they need to go.

Got a real handyman? Look for tasks that allow your guy to build and create items needed for the wedding and reception. From card boxes to trellises, there are lots of things that you can make on your own to save some money. Also, for those who are planning to hold the reception at a house or in a backyard, there are always home projects that can be done. Fixing up an old deck or building a fire pit can definitely spruce things up, and may even give you new options for your reception layout.

What about food and music? Plenty of guys have great taste in music, or at the very least have an opinion about what they don’t want played. When it comes to food, not all of us can be chefs, but you can send me to food and cake tastings all day and not hear any complaints out of me!

A muscle-car wedding chariot. Every groom’s dream come true.

However, I will warn those of you who want more involvement from your groom to be careful what you wish for. Your groom’s wedding ideas may not perfectly sync with your own. Personally, I would love to have a Ford GT supercar to drive off in after the wedding. But I’m not sure Heather would agree with the either the price tag or the fact that getting in and out of the car in her gown could be a nightmare.

There will surely be disagreements, but in every relationship, there must be compromise and understanding. I may not get the Ford GT, but at least I get to pick a tier of the wedding cake. Mmmm… lemon poppy! How are you involving your groom in planning the wedding?

(Photo Credits: 2009 Central Texas Dachshund Rescue Calendar & Ford)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Wedding Styling Decisions: A Hair-Raising Experience

Even in the early days of planning our wedding, I knew that having a top-notch hair and makeup stylist was high on my splurge-worthy list of musts, especially since we’re investing so much in working with an award-winning photographer and all-day videographer. And from the moment I met the stylist I ended up hiring, I absolutely loved her. With experience doing both hair and makeup styling for TV and plays, she’s highly skilled at creating beautiful looks for the camera, and is also very friendly and easy to work with. The only hitch? She’s definitely not cheap, especially since we’re holding our wedding in a very expensive part of Southern California.

Maybe it’s because I believe in the old saying that you get what you pay for, or maybe I’m simply becoming desensitized to the high cost of all things wedding-related, but when I learned that the price for my trial run, plus day-of hair and makeup styling, would come to almost $500, including tip, I thought it was high, but I accepted it. I also willingly told the stylist to plan on bringing and charging for two assistants the day of the wedding, so that the girls in my large bridal party of seven wouldn’t have to start getting ready at the crack of dawn.

Well, it all sounded great until I got the final timeline and pricing breakdown for the girls. Even with three stylists on hand, two girls will have to start getting their hair done at 6:30 a.m., with everyone else staggered throughout the day, until we’re all finished around 1 p.m. Um, I knew we’d have to start early, but 6:30 a.m., with an hour and a half allotted per girl for hair, plus a half hour each for makeup?! The girls were simply astounded by this. And then, there’s the issue of the $200 price tag per girl for both hair and makeup styling. That news just about floored them!

Since I’m definitely not a bride who cares whether all her maids have identical hairdos, I’ve already told the girls that if they prefer to go to a good-quality salon in the area, instead of using my stylist, that’s completely OK with me. However, even doing that may only save them about $50 each, since the salons in the area are also quite pricey. Would it be OK, they wondered, to do their own makeup in order to cut costs?

While I do want to help them save money, I have to admit that I strongly prefer that everyone has her hair and makeup professionally done for our photos. After all, these photos and this day are once in a lifetime events! But on the other hand, I don’t want to be a “bridezilla” who’s forcing everyone to shell out an exorbitant amount of money, especially since they’ve already spent a couple hundred each on dresses, and will be spending even more on my Disneyland bachelorette party.

What are your thoughts, ladies? Do you think $200 sounds like an outrageous cost? Are you asking your bridesmaids to have their hair and makeup professionally done, or are you OK with them doing their own? Are you all using the same stylist, or are some girls going to different salons? What’s your general timeline, and how much time is allotted for each girl’s hair and makeup? At this point, I’ll take all the advice I can get!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Our ‘First Look’: A Quick Trip Around the World

I’ll admit that in the beginning, I was a bride adamantly opposed to doing a “first look” with the groom, not because of any “bad luck” superstitions, but mostly because I simply wanted to experience that “wow” moment at the start of the ceremony, when Stephen and I would lay eyes on one another for the first time that day. Well, I’m hoping we’ll still get our “wow” moment, but now with a few tweaks.

Every time I’m in California, I just have to visit the Gardens of the World botanical site in my hometown. This unique and stunningly beautiful location features different garden settings modeled after the styles found in various countries around the globe, including Italy, Japan and England. And one of my absolute favorites is the site’s California-themed Spanish mission-style courtyard.

It’s true that early in our planning, we tossed around the idea of taking post-ceremony pictures at the Gardens, where my sister also snapped our DIY engagement photos last spring. But as more wedding details were worked out, we decided it made much more sense to take our cocktail-hour shots at the golf course where we’re holding the reception.

Now, overall, I consider myself to be a low-key, compromise-willing bride. But after visiting the Gardens again in December, I made up my mind. Come what may, I have to take photos at this site on my wedding day. It’s gorgeous, different, and I love everything about it. The only way to make it work? Heading to the Gardens two hours before the ceremony, and doing a “first look” photo session there.

Will it be hot in the June California sun? Probably. Do I need a willing bridesmaid to traipse with me from photo op to photo op holding my train so that it doesn’t get dirty? Yes. Will we have to comply with the site’s detailed permitting process? Absolutely.

But do we think it’s worth it? You bet!

Are you doing a “first look” before the ceremony? If so, where?

(Photo Credits: Gardens of the World)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Navigating a Wedding Expo: The Ins & Outs

The hottest wedding trends and fashions of 2010 were on display this weekend in Northern Virginia during The Great Bridal Expo at Alexandria’s Hilton at Mark Center! From the grab bags to the cake samples and fashion show, Stephen and I had a great time gathering ideas and inspiration for our own wedding and others’. But an expo can be a bit overwhelming if you don’t know what to expect. Here, my top tips for navigating a bridal show to get the most out of your experience.

Do arrive early. At the expo I attended, which was held on a Saturday during peak engagement season, the parking lot filled about an hour into the event, causing many eager brides to give up. Arriving ahead of time or right after the event has started also helps guarantee a lighter check-in line, plus shorter wait times when visiting popular vendor booths. If you can, it’s a great idea to purchase your tickets online in advance, too.

Do bring moral support, but only one or two people. Nothing is worse than not being able to have your questions answered because there’s a bride ahead of you with an entourage of nine blocking the entire pathway. Don’t be that bride.

Don’t lock yourself into a vendor’s services without scheduling a follow-up appointment. The atmosphere at an expo is fun and fast-paced, and it may be tempting to strike a contract or schedule a hair trial right then and there, especially when discounts and deals come into play. However, I definitely recommend lining up a more personalized meeting with the vendor, where you can go over your wedding plans in detail, before nailing anything down.

Do go to an expo soon after your engagement, but once you’ve already gathered a few ideas. The brides who seemed to get the most out of the fair were those who had at least done a little wedding research beforehand, and came prepared with some general ideas about themes, wedding styles, and location options. This allowed them to get a much better feel for which vendors meshed with their needs, and which they didn’t need to waste time with.

Do know which vendors you still need to hire, which services you want, and which questions you must ask. Vendors’ expo booths are continuously swamped, so you’re more likely to have your questions answered during what may be a quick conversation if you’re prepared ahead of time.

And finally, do take advantage of all the great raffles, giveaways and drawings, plus the free cake! I think these are without a doubt the most fun parts of any bridal show. And who knows? You just might win a free honeymoon, so don’t miss out! Just be sure to bring along printouts with your name, address and contact info to make entering the contests a lot quicker and easier.

Have you gotten ideas or found great vendors at bridal shows? What are your tips for a fun time?

(Photo Credits: Stephen Walrath)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Designer Dress-Up: David’s Bridal Spring ‘10

Kellie writes her own fashion blog, Playing Dress-Up, and runs Whatshername Vintage, an Etsy shop specializing in all things vintage. Most importantly, Kellie is Bicoastal Bride's maid of honor, and is very excited to be a part of her sister’s wedding planning!

With spring just around the corner, the new ’10 lines from every designer imaginable are starting to hit the shops, and bridal collections are no exception. The ever-popular spring wedding season is just beginning, and gorgeous new gowns have finally been unveiled (pardon the pun!).

To celebrate spring, David’s Bridal has released a new collection filled with flowing, elegant gowns, short and sassy frocks, and intricately detailed dresses perfect for warm-weather weddings. No matter what your personal taste, David’s is sure to have something to suit you, with a wide range of available options encompassing every style and trend.

Here’s just a taste of what you can find in stores now at David’s, including new fashions, plus a few favorites from last year!

These three dresses are from the Galina line, my personal favorite. Inspirations for the collection include Old Hollywood, Grecian and modern trends, creating a wonderful mix of new and vintage style. Everything about the Galina gowns screams “spring,” incorporating flowy, airy silhouettes and delicate details. The short dress on the left is, in my opinion, a true standout, since the cut is very modern and fresh, and the banding and flower appliqués give it a fun twist.

The Oleg Cassini collection at David’s Bridal is certainly the most couture-influenced, making it an ideal choice for low-budget brides with high-budget taste. Many of the elegant gowns feature beading reminiscent of what you’d find in expensive designer boutiques, so you’ll feel like a princess without spending a royal fortune!

David’s Bridal’s own collection is quite impressive this season, and incorporates unique touches, such as ribbon details and lace sleeves. They really stepped up their game both this year and last, creating a wonderful group of classy, understated and sweet pieces. If you’re in search of a timeless style, this line just might be for you.

So, ladies, what do you think of David’s spring dresses, and which designers are you excited about this season?

(Photo Credits: David’s Bridal)

Friday, January 15, 2010

Memory Box Groom’s Gift

If you read my earlier post about our budget breakdown, you may have noticed a couple things missing among the many “to buys” filling Stephen and I’s list – gifts for each other.

As unromantic as it may sound, he and I agreed right from the get-go, and especially once we realized how much we’d be increasing our budget, that the wedding day itself, along with our soon-to-follow Hawaiian honeymoon cruise, will be our only gifts to each other. And on top of that, we decided to forgo birthday and holiday gifts, instead putting the money saved right into our wedding fund.

Well, the secret’s out. I broke the rules – sort of. For Stephen’s birthday yesterday, I gave him a personal, romantic gift that didn’t cost me a penny, and that he said means more to him than anything I could possibly have bought.

What was it? A memory box revealing our history through random odds and ends collected during over three years of traveling, experiencing and exploring together. Ever since our very first date, I’ve saved small reminders of fun things we’ve done, hiding them away in a shoebox in my dresser until the right moment. Among the widely varied collection is a carryout bag from the restaurant we went to for our first dinner, several playbills from Broadway shows, brochures from wineries, theme parks and historical sites, plus keepsakes from our Central American cruise and a few assorted movie ticket stubs.

And since those last hurried days before the wedding are sure to be filled more with triple checking lists, packing, and squaring things away with vendors than they are with romantic reminiscing, I transferred the mementos into a pretty gift box we had on hand, attached a card, and left the box for Stephen to find when he got home from work on his birthday.

Like this idea, but haven’t been collecting since the early days? If your guy likes romantic surprises, creating a collection of mementos saved throughout your engagement could also be a sweet gift idea that won’t cost you more than the price of a nice box or scrapbook.

Are you and your groom exchanging gifts? What will you give him on or before the wedding day?

(Photo Credit: Heather Warren)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Fun Flutes, Servers & Gifts

When we stopped in at Things Remembered over the holidays, I was in heaven, finding the perfect personalized flute and cake server set, plus tons of great ideas for bridesmaid and groomsmen gifts. Check out a few of my favorites!

Park Avenue Flutes – $75

Park Avenue Server Set – $75

Black Leather Flask – $30

Memory Stick Key Chain – $25

Sterling 2-Piece CZ Heart Necklace – $45

“To My Sister” Shadowbox – $35

Are you ordering custom flutes and a server set? What gifts are you giving your bridesmaids and groomsmen?

(Photo Credits: Things Remembered)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Warm Welcome

Even though it means our wedding day is now just around the corner (only five months to go!), I always feel a little melancholy to see the holiday season come to a close. But this year, just when I thought the fun had all come to an end, I returned home from California to find a couple extra presents waiting for me, courtesy of my generous and thoughtful future mother-and-father-in-law.

After unveiling summery clothes and leis to take along on our Hawaiian honeymoon trip, as well as gorgeous brass candlesticks and some delicious goodies, I unwrapped a small final box to discover a handcrafted necklace with Chinese characters inscribed on the front.

I loved the necklace for its simple beauty, but what did the characters mean? I checked the package insert to find out, and felt tears well in my eyes as I read over the explanation. Even though there are a few months left before we marry and I officially become part of Stephen’s family, this touching gift helps me feel that I already am.

Why? Because that’s exactly what those Chinese characters spell out. Family.

Is there a special moment you experienced or item you received that made you truly feel welcomed into your fiancé’s family?

(Photo Credit: Stephen Walrath)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Budget Bride? Breaking It Down – Part Two

As promised, here’s our budget breakdown for a Southern California celebration with 80-100 guests, plus the money-saving tips I’ve picked up along the way.

Since we haven’t actually made some of these payments quite yet, the costs may be adjusted slightly higher or lower as we get closer to June. There may also be extra costs that we’re factoring in as needed, plus those that aren't exclusively wedding-related, like airfare back and forth to California. To avoid a math meltdown, I’ve rounded off some of the numbers, too. If you’re still working out your budget, I hope this info will give you some helpful hints!

Ceremony & Reception – Basic Costs
Church Fees: $650
Marriage License: $100
Reception Site & Food: $6,000
Cake: $500
Bar: $0
Couple's Transportation: $150

Total: $7,400

· While the cost for food at the reception may rise if we end up with 100 guests, instead of just 80, we got a fabulous discount by booking the wedding on a Friday.

· Since the catering is being handled onsite by the golf club, and we’re going with a Mexican buffet, the price per person is far less expensive.

· Instead of a limo, we’ll be renting a black car or van, which our best man will drive.

· As of right now, we’re planning to offer a cash bar, although we may decide to splurge on a signature sangria, which we’ll offer to guests free-of-charge and work into our budget accordingly.

· We’re saving $100 in church fees by asking one of my bridesmaids to be our cantor during the ceremony.

Photo & Video
Photography: $3,500
Videography: $1,000

Total: $4,500

· While we’re totally splurging on eight hours with an award-winning photographer, plus an album and a photomontage set to music, we were able to save big by hiring an up-and-coming videographer who is willing to give us eight hours for just $1,000. Sweet savings!

Cocktail Hour & Reception DJ: $1,200

Total: $1,200

· This price includes a great 10 percent Friday wedding discount.

Save-the-Dates: $50
Invitations & Envelopes: $80
Programs: $20
Escort Cards: $10
Thank You Notes: $50
Map/Direction/Hotel Cards: $20
Postage: $120

Total: $350

· Stationary is our most frugal area, where we’re taking the DIY route with everything but our save-the-dates, which we got on-the-cheap through Shutterfly. Family and friends have also been especially helpful in picking up California postcards for us to use as escort cards, with no added cost on our end.

Decorations & Favors
Favors: $150
Guestbook Photo Mat, Frame & Pens: $20
Wine Corks: $100
Table-Card Holders: $50
Cake Toppers: $45
Any Added Extras: $40

Total: $405

· We saved a bundle by buying standard wine corks and turning them into escort-card holders on our own. Stephen’s crafty family is also working on DIY pew bows for the ceremony, while my family is giving us custom flutes, as well as a knife and cake sever, as gifts.

Ceremony Decorations: $200
Bride's Bouquet: $100
Maid of Honor & Bridesmaids’ Bouquets: $315
Corsages: $50
Boutonnieres: $50
Reception Centerpieces & Decorations: $550
Delivery, Setup, Cleanup and Tax: $280

Total: $1,545

· Since our church already features a good amount of decoration, we’ll be sticking with just a couple ceremony floral arrangements. And instead of marking each pew with flowers, we’ll be using DIY bows.

Bride’s Attire (Including gown, alterations, headpiece, veil, shoes, lingerie, garter and jewelry): $1,100
Hair & Makeup: $500
Groom’s Tuxedo & Accessories: $0
Wedding Rings: $900

Total: $2,500

· As you can probably guess, I got an amazing deal on my gown! More to come about that soon…

· By renting the tuxes for our entire wedding party through Men’s Wearhouse, Stephen’s rental will be free. Check out their website to see whether your party is large enough for you to qualify for the deal.

Items for our wedding party, out-of-town guests and anniversary dance winners: $450

Total: $450

· To keep costs down on welcome gifts for out-of-town guests, we’re giving out See’s chocolate bars, a California classic. They’ll be wrapped with cute monogrammed stickers that one of my bridesmaids is designing.

Month-and-Day-Of Wedding Planner: $1,500
Wedding Night Hotel: $100
Dance Lessons: $200
Rehearsal Dinner: $0

Total: $1,800

· This category includes a couple splurges, including a wedding coordinator and dance lessons, but Stephen’s family has generously offered to host our rehearsal dinner.

· By staying at the hotel where we’ve reserved a block of rooms for out-of-towners, we got a great deal ourselves.

Grand Total: $20,150

In which areas are you scrimping or splurging, and what are your best money-saving tips?

(Photo Credits: Google Images)

Monday, January 11, 2010

Budget Bride? Breaking It Down – Part One

I’d do it again just to see the look on the wedding planner’s face when I told her we wanted to plan our dream wedding for $10,000 or less. Impossible, she told us. And you know what? She was absolutely right.

The truth is that from the beginning, I’ve considered myself a practical, frugal bride. Yes, I’ve ditched my original goal of planning the wedding for under $10,000. And yes, we’re now spending double that amount on our self-funded nuptials alone, even without the added cost of the honeymoon.

But while I still have moments where I go into total and utter sticker shock over how much my fiancé and I are spending on a one-day celebration, taking all things into consideration – including our incomes and the wedding-day aspects we feel are absolute musts – we are definitely keeping our costs at a level that is reasonable for us.

The part making me a bit uneasy is that although we’ve increased our budget to right around $20,000, not including the honeymoon, I still consider myself a savings-minded bride. I am looking for good deals anywhere and everywhere I can, have a relatively small guest list of no more than 100 close relatives and friends, and have said no to quite a few things that I feel are overly expensive and unnecessary, such as fancy floral décor for the church ceremony. In my eyes, my plans are unique, fun, and, most importantly, reflect what we want without being overly elaborate.

And in the end, maybe it’s all subjective. With The Wedding Report putting the average cost for the third quarter of 2009 at around $22,000, what one bride considers a “budget wedding” could seem extravagant and over-the-top to another. Plus, since our wedding will be held in a very expensive part of Southern California, we unfortunately get a lot less bang for our buck.

Coming up next, I’ll share a breakdown of our budget, along with my money-saving tips in each category, but right now, I want to know what you think. Am I crazy to call myself a budget-savvy bride? Have you increased your budget since starting to plan?

(Photo Credit: Google Images)

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Maid’s Musings: Vintage Wedding Dresses

Kellie writes her own fashion blog, Playing Dress-Up, and runs Whatshername Vintage, an Etsy shop specializing in all things vintage. Most importantly, Kellie is Bicoastal Bride's maid of honor, and is very excited to be a part of her sister’s wedding planning!

Every bride wants to feel special on her wedding day, but sometimes, an off-the-rack, mass-produced dress can ruin that feeling. How special can you feel knowing that somewhere out there is another bride with an identical dress?

I may not be a bride myself (I’m perfectly content being a maid of honor for now!), but I am a huge fan of fashion, especially of the vintage variety. So naturally, when my sister first began her search for the perfect wedding dress, I suggested an excessive amount of retro gowns from my favorite websites!

While Heather’s personal style didn’t quite click with any of my recommended favorites, there’s no denying that a vintage dress would make any bride feel 100 percent unique. Because most vintage dresses tend to be one-of-a-kind (with the rare exception), you’ll be able to rest assured that no one will have seen a gown quite like yours before! Here are some my dream dresses from eras gone by.

The dresses above, along with an assortment of party dresses for your rehearsal dinner or bridesmaids, are available (for reasonable prices) at

For the bride with a higher budget, has an amazing selection of vintage couture ball gowns, including the four above. You’re certain to feel like a princess in any of these beautiful designer dresses.

So, brides, what do you think? Would you consider walking down the aisle in vintage?

(Photo Credits: PoshGirlVintage & TheFrock)

Friday, January 8, 2010

Hustle & Bustle

As I stood waiting to slip into “the” gown during my first fitting, I felt excited, yet a bit anxious. After all, this was the moment I’d worked hard all summer for. Ran three miles a day for. Passed up cookies, chips and that extra glass of wine for. Would the dress fit the way I hoped it would? Would I love it as much as I did when I picked it from among a bevy of others back in August?

Happily, the dress fit perfectly, with only a couple changes needed at the hem. And yes, I loved it every bit as much and more. Having done my homework ahead of time, I also came prepared with the exact shoes and lingerie I plan to wear the day of the wedding. What I wasn’t prepared with were ideas about the type of bustle I wanted.

As a custom wedding gown designer from Peru, my seamstress has experience altering just about every type of dress, and was full of great ideas to enhance mine, such as attaching a couple small weights underneath my train so that it won’t crumple when I walk. When it comes to bustles, she said, the sky is the limit, and she’s seen it all. Here, a couple of the popular styles we considered for my gown.

Overbustle -- This style was subtle and barely noticeable. While it showcased the details on my train, the look felt a little too understated.

Pickup Bustles -- These were elegant and classy, with several variations, and I strongly considered the style.

But in the end, nothing impressed me as much as the gorgeous eight-tiered French bustle she showed me next. In my excitement, I completely forgot to snap a picture of the pinned-up layers, but here are examples of French bustles that are somewhat similar to mine.

I’m in love! Have you picked out a bustle style for your gown? Which designs are your favorites?

(Photo Credits: Google Images)

Thursday, January 7, 2010

All About Wedding Albums

Where-oh-where would I be without all the fantastic photography advice I’ve gotten from fabulous L.A. photographer Damien Smith? In our latest back-and-forth, he set me straight with everything I needed to know about the fun that comes after the big day – choosing photos, creating albums, and all the ins-and-outs of turning your pictures into lasting keepsakes. Enjoy!

What are your favorite wedding album styles and designs?

I love storybook-style albums, which I’ll describe in just a minute. They're great, and are masterpieces when done right.

When choosing a photographer, what are the most important questions a bride and groom should ask about albums?

Don’t be afraid to ask your prospective wedding photographer lots of questions about the wedding albums he or she produces. You want to know whether the albums are spill-resistant, and whether the photographer creates wedding albums uniquely designed for each individual couple, or if he or she simply uses predesigned templates. You’ll want to see examples of the photographer’s albums with your own eyes, and inspect them with your hands. Doing so will give you an indication as to the quality and craftsmanship of the albums the photographer produces.

Do you recommend that couples try to “do-it-themselves” when it comes to creating their wedding albums? Why or why not?

To be honest, I recommend against it. Not because I'm a wedding photographer, but because your wedding album deserves to be the best it can be. I know there are services out there, like iPhoto and Blurb, which are great if you're making an album of a birthday party, family reunion, or something like that. But the problem with using these services for a wedding album is that the books are created with extremely thin pages, which are very easy to tear or rip by accident. Not to mention that you will receive an album of very generic design. Your pictures are different, but the design and layout is the same that millions of others have. What's special about that?

A storybook album created by a professional wedding photographer is a different animal altogether. To start, all of the pages are created from actual photographs, and the minimum page thickness in these books is one-sixteenth of an inch. That is very difficult to tear or rip, even if you try to do so purposely. You would need heavy-duty tools to achieve this.

Here at Damien Smith Photography, we also go several steps further. All of our wedding albums are custom-designed for each and every couple. No two wedding albums are ever alike. The design process usually takes 8-to-12 hours. All the album pages are specially coated to be very resistant against accidental spills of liquids like coffee or water. If this happens, all you have to do is simply wipe off the pages and let them dry. The pages are also designed to “breathe,” which means they do not get stuck together.

Sorting through hundreds of wedding photos can surely be overwhelming for newlyweds. What can a couple and their photographer do to make the process easier and ensure that the best photos go into the album?

Actually, choosing pictures for your wedding album is a very simply process. You'll choose only the best of the best. What I do is provide every couple with a first-edition print album. This includes pretty much every picture from the wedding in a 4 x 6 format. That way, they'll already have just about every picture in printed form anyway. There's no need to fit every single picture into your wedding album.

While our newlyweds are choosing the pictures for their first-edition album, usually between 150 and 400 prints, I design a storybook album layout for them. Over the years, I've found that about 98 percent of our newlyweds love the design and picture selection I've done, and they simply want to change out a couple pictures here and there – maybe about two or three. Every once in a while, there's a couple not happy with our picture selection, but they love the design. So, we have them make all their own picture selections, and we then work those into the design. In the end, every newlywed couple has a beautifully created album they can be proud of and cherish for a lifetime.

In addition to albums, are there any other creative uses for wedding photos that you like, such as photo montages set to music, or poster prints?

Yes, picture montages set to music are a great, creative use of your wedding photos! At Damien Smith Photography, we create a lovely blend of pictures and live-action video to give you something that's truly awesome.

How do you plan to showcase your photos after the wedding? Will your photographer create any albums, or will you design your own?

(Photo Credits: Damien Smith Photography)