Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Our ‘Wedding Workshop’

Though we still have a short while before wedding gifts inevitably start rolling in, with fewer than three months until our big day, one glance around the house definitely screams “wedding planning”!

From the kitchen table covered in wine corks, sawdust and my gigantic wedding filing bin, to the home office overflowing with stamps, cardstock and photo printouts, there’s hardly a corner untouched by some type of wedding-related item. And how could I possibly forget my family’s home in California, where my loved ones are graciously storing an ever-growing number of wedding day goodies, including clothing, gifts, a huge photo mat, and countless other treats?

Well, since I’m a self-proclaimed compulsive organizer who’s been known to obsess over unfolded laundry or a sink full of dishes, you’d think this disarray would be driving me absolutely nuts. But you know what? It isn’t! Not in the least. Because each time I see those piles of paper, stashes of wine bottles, or half-printed labels, I realize just how close we are to starting our married lives together. I think about how much fun we’re having along the way, even though the printer might sometimes malfunction or a receipt get temporarily filed in the wrong folder.

Yes, the chaos is all symbolic of this busy, crazy, wonderful time in our lives, and each individual item is only a sign of the fun to come on our wedding day and in the years to follow. Each binder and ribbon belongs right where it is, and I know I’ll surely miss them all when they’re finally gone.

Has your home evolved into a “wedding workshop”? How do you think you’ll feel when all the planning and DIY-ing comes to an end?

(Photo Credits: Heather Warren)

Monday, March 29, 2010

The First Dance: Help Pick Our Song!

With our wedding getting closer by the day, Stephen and I are busy making sure we have all our ducks in a row when it comes to music. This month, we’re lining up dance lessons, prepping our outline for the DJ, and making sure the church is all squared away with sheet music.

The one little problem? We’re stuck about which song to choose for our first dance!

Knowing that we want an upbeat classic, we’ve narrowed our choices down to these three tunes. Take a listen, and let us know what you think!

“For Once in My Life” – Michael Buble

(The opening line is cut out in this clip, but the rest of the song is very clear.)

“Fly Me to the Moon” – Frank Sinatra

“Ain't That a Kick in the Head” – Dean Martin

Friday, March 26, 2010

Hair & Makeup Trial: Getting Inspired!

I can’t wait to head out to California this morning for an amazing week of wedding planning, my bridal shower, the big Disneyland bachelorette party, and more!

One fun thing on the agenda? My hair and makeup trial with the stylist I lined up in December! With experience doing styling for plays and television, she has an amazing portfolio, and the sky’s the limit when it comes to the beautiful wedding day looks she’s created.

The hard part is figuring out what I want! Since I’ll be wearing a veil and crystal-pearl headband, I’m hoping to have a small knot at the back of my hair to help give those items some hold. But as for the rest of the style, I’m envisioning wearing my hair down and long, in curls, possibly even with added extensions. Maybe something along these lines…

As for makeup, I’d love a soft, romantic look that doesn’t overpower my fair skin. I can’t wait to share pictures after the session!

Have you done your hair and makeup trial yet? Which styles are you considering or planning to go with on the big day?

(Photo Credit: Google Images)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Introducing Alex Neumann – Our Photographer!

Our stellar photographer, Alex Neumann, is the very first vendor (not including venues) we booked last spring after starting our planning. In fact, previews of his stunning shots were part of the reason we decided to pick Los Robles Greens Golf Course as our reception site, since his work there at past weddings was simply exquisite.

Which wedding day shots are you most excited about, and which vendor did you select first?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Wish Upon a Wedding & Get Married = A Perfect Pair!

Several weeks ago, I blogged about the launch of an amazing organization called Wish Upon a Wedding, which is helping make big day dreams come true for couples facing life-threatening illness. Well, I’m happy to announce that I’m now a member of the board for the D.C. chapter, set to launch in June!

I couldn’t be more excited about this opportunity, and as if that weren’t exciting enough, the organization today announced its partnership with Get Married, where I first got my start as a featured blogger last year. Read the announcement below for more details about this wonderful development, and don’t miss your chance to get involved with a Wish Upon a Wedding chapter in your area!


We are so incredibly happy to announce our partnership with Get Married Media. It is an unparalleled union to support the mission of Wish Upon a Wedding and starting today Wish Upon a Wedding will be the charity of choice & the National Media Partner for Get Married Media, Inc.

Get Married Media will increase the organization’s exposure both nationally and within local chapters on behalf of Wish Upon a Wedding by supporting the organization & the wish recipients! Get Married will provide ads in their quarterly magazine to raise awareness and we will be shooting PSAs for their weekly TV show on WE!

Wish Upon a Wedding and will also be featured on the Get Married Blog on Stacie’s page. And if that isn’t enough…they have agreed to consider features on our wedding wishes & videos shot by our wish granters including showcasing our wish recipients weddings on their TV show.

And there’s more!! Get Married will also provide products for our launch parties and printed products branded for WUW for our events.

This partnership is so amazing; we could never have imagined it. Stacie Francombe and the entire Get Married Media family have worked so hard on our behalf, and this just goes to show that they truly believe in our cause and mission. As America’s first non profit wedding wish granting organization, it’s important to us to have such great endorsements from the best of the best and Get Married does that for Wish Upon A Wedding.

Thank you so much to Get Married Media & Stacie Francombe for choosing Wish Upon a Wedding!

(Graphic Credit: Wish Upon a Wedding)

Our Wedding: As Seen On TV

Well, on our TV, at least!

I’ll admit that when we first started the planning process, videography wasn’t high on our list of priorities. Like many brides, I was more concerned about capturing the day through classic, timeless photography, and as a result, we splurged big-time in that category. But as the months marched on and our wedding ideas really started coming together, I realized it would be a terrible shame to pour so much love, money and time into our big day, but not have a “real-time” record of our vows, the laughter and tears of our guests, and our special “first look” moment with each other.

However, since many videographers in our wedding market charge as much or more than a professional photographer, we just weren’t sure whether this would be doable or not. Then, last August, thanks to a tip for our photographer, we struck gold with a great up-and-coming videographer willing to offer us eight hours of footage for just $1,000. (Trust me -- that’s an absolute steal in our area!)

While viewing footage from past weddings he’s filmed, we were impressed by his simple, straightforward style, and crisp cleanup editing, which is exactly what we’re looking for. Plus, as a bonus, he’s filmed events and prayer services at our church before, and is therefore very familiar with the layout and acoustics of the venue. After we receive the cleanup edit from him after the wedding, I’m also hoping to either hire someone or find a way on my own to create a few fun montages and video trailers.

Are you hiring a videographer for your wedding? Why or why not? Do you have any advice for me about how to best edit the rough footage after the celebration?

(Photo Credit: Google Images)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Light It Up: Fun With LEDs

Today, my bicoastal groom Stephen is on the scene, telling you how to light up your wedding day with simple, fun LEDs. Enjoy!

Most guys aren’t that into decorations, but a lot of us do love electronics. Find a way to combine the two, and you have a great way to trick, er…“entice” your future hubby to help make some really amazing decorations.

Light Emitting Diodes, aka LEDs, are energy-efficient and pretty easy to set up. A simple way to light up an LED is with a CR2032 battery, the flat disk batteries about the size of a nickel. To light an LED, sandwich the battery between the two LED wire leads so the longer wire touches the positive (+) side of the battery and the shorter wire touches the negative side (-). Use tape to hold the wires in place, and you’ve got yourself an LED building block to endless possibilities.

Combine a couple of the LEDs together with a rare earth magnet, and you get an LED throwie, as seen above. This allows you to latch LEDs onto metal surfaces and create some incredible designs. But one downside is that there is no on/off switch, plus a limited amount of battery power, so someone will need to assemble them no earlier than the night before your wedding, or even the day of. But it’ll definitely give the groomsmen something to do while you’re getting your hair done.

Want votive candles, but your reception site won’t allow an open flame? LED candles may be your answer. Besides, who wants a boring old red or yellow flame when you can have colors cycle through a variety of shades or set the LEDs to match your own color scheme?

Lastly, for the more avant-garde bride, there are LED bouquets. Since LEDs don’t put out much heat, you needn’t worry about burning your flowers. This would work best in a low-lit area, and might be difficult to see during an outdoor afternoon wedding.

All in all, LEDs are a great way to give your wedding a distinct look that is uniquely your own. Also, they can be so much fun to play with, your groom may not even realize he’s making wedding decorations.

Full step-by-step instructions for each of the abovementioned items are available at

What types of lighting will you go with at your wedding? Any DIY lighting projects on the agenda?

(Photo and Video Credits: Instructables)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Uniquely Traditional

When it comes to weddings, it’s no secret that personalizing the day with unique, individualized touches is the key to a fun and memorable experience. But is there such a thing as trying too hard, or adding “unique” touches for all the wrong reasons?

Over the years, many a bride has confided that from "day one" of her engagement, the pressure was on to not only have the best dress, décor, food and drinks, but also to wow everyone with the most unique cake, favors, name it.

Now a bride myself, I think it’s amazing that there are so many fun, unconventional ideas out there, and I definitely want our day to be as personalized and reflective of our personalities as possible. After all, what fun is a cookie-cutter wedding? But in my eyes, there’s a difference between adding unique touches that are truly meaningful to my fiancé and I, and simply feeling pressured or compelled to shun all things traditional simply out of fear that others might view our plans, or worse, us, as boring, old-fashioned or outright dull.

I’ve long described my personal style as classic with a modern twist, and when it comes to the wedding, you’d better believe I’m adding plenty of personal touches that will bring individuality to the big day without overdoing it. The biggest of these is our “California Romance” theme, which lets us tie in city postcards as table name cards, serve signature sangria and a Mexican buffet, as well as showcase vineyard-style grapevine decorations on the wedding cake and in our décor.

But, on the other hand, I’m definitely sticking with certain traditional aspects I love for their elegance and timelessness. Topping this list are the classic three-tiered cake, bouquets oozing with roses, and a golf club ballroom reception.

In my eyes, our wedding day is a beautiful opportunity to celebrate our love for each other, as well as our friends and family members, while giving everyone a taste of our style, personalities, and the things that make us tick. A showoff, look-at-how-great-creative-and-better-than-you-we-are affair is definitely not for us.

If traditional touches suit a bride’s style, I say they are just as unique as the latest and greatest trends to grace the wedding world, mostly because they reflect her desires in a way that is genuine and sincere. For her to strive to be different simply for the sake of being different would be inauthentic and phony. And, as we all know too well, that’s not unique at all.

What are your unique wedding day ideas, and which traditional aspects are you sticking with? Do you think there’s occasionally too much pressure on brides to be the best or to be different?

(Photo Credit:

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Our DIY Invitation Inspiration

As the RSVPs steadily stream in, I’m happy to present our invitations! If you’re looking for an easy DIY kit that will help you create simple and classy invites, I definitely recommend those we picked up at Michael’s.

Created by Brides, the kits we went with cost just $40 per pack, and included ribbon (which we'll be using for another DIY project instead), 40 invitations and envelopes, as well as 40 response cards and envelopes. Looking for something more elaborate? The collection also includes options for invitations with pocket inserts and other fun details.

Here, all the goodies for our guests.

The invitation…

The map card, courtesy of Stephen…

We found this paper, which matched the shade and texture of that used in the invite kit, at Paper Source, and also printed hotel information and directions on the back.

The response card…

And the final products, all ready to go!

Don’t forget to have a finished invite weighed at the post office to make sure you use the correct amount of postage. Also, be mindful of any extra postage needed for invitations being sent out of the country.

Have you sent out your invites yet? Did you decide to DIY or go with professionally crafted cards?

(Photo Credits: Heather Warren)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Damien Smith Photography to the Rescue!

Well, I’m happy to say that my “getting ready” photo dilemma has been resolved! Instead of simply having my bridesmaids snap the pictures, the fabulous Damien Smith, who will also be a guest at our wedding, has kindly offered to arrive early and take shots as my stylist puts the finishing touches on my hair and does my makeup. He’ll also be there to capture the special moment right after I at last slip into my gorgeous gown.

Thanks, Damien! I know these photos will be amazing, and I can’t wait to share them after the wedding!

If you haven’t yet checked out Damien’s work, you absolutely must. His style, technical knowledge, and wedding-related advice are unbeatable. I’m so grateful for all I’ve learned from him while planning my wedding. My only regret is that I didn’t meet him before booking another photographer for our celebration!

Are any of your friends, colleagues or guests wedding professionals? Will they be helping out on or before your big day?

(Photo Credit: Damien Smith Photography)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Wedding Day Photo Booth: Splurge or Skip?

In the back of my mind, I can almost hear my wedding budget start to groan as I say what I’m about to, but here goes. After thinking about it at the beginning of the planning process and then deciding against it, I may be jumping back on the photo booth train, especially after reading about how much fun it was for the Relentless Bride and her guests!

I, for one, love photo booths and have never met anyone who doesn’t, for that matter. They’re a great way to lighten things up at an otherwise formal or semiformal celebration, and they’re always one of the first things people remember looking back on the day. But with one company’s website quoting $1,300 for four hours, I’ve learned that the fun definitely doesn’t come without a hefty price tag.

Nevertheless, I can’t help but wonder whether we can make it work. In keeping with our “California Romance” theme, I envision a goodie basket filled with sunglasses, beach balls, and other fun, cheesy California memorabilia. If we want to get really fancy, we could even tie in Golden State backdrops and scenery.

What do you think? Are you having a photo booth at your wedding? If you’ve been to a wedding or party with a booth, did you enjoy it? Do you think it’s worth the expense?

(Photo Credit: Funbooth)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Luck of the Irish: A Blessing & Wedding Day Surprise

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day! Since Stephen and I share an Irish Catholic background, what better day to fill you in about how we’ll honor our heritage at the wedding?

First, just prior to the conclusion of the ceremony, Kellie, my sister and maid of honor, will read the following Irish Wedding Blessing. I love the sincerity and beauty of the language, and am thrilled to share it with guests during our celebration.

Irish Wedding Blessing

May the road rise to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon the fields.
May the light of friendship guide your paths together.
May the laughter of children grace the halls of your home.
May the joy of living for one another trip a smile from your lips,
A twinkle from your eye.

And when eternity beckons,
At the end of a life heaped with love,
May the good Lord embrace you with the arms that have nurtured you the whole length of your joy-filled days.
May the gracious God hold you both in the palm of his hands.
And, today, may the Spirit of Love find a dwelling place in your hearts.

And the surprise? Well, that’s a wedding day secret for my bicoastal groom, but I’ll let you in on it right here! Isn’t it a fun touch? Now, to find a baker who can create a Guinness-themed groom’s cake!

How will you honor your heritage at the wedding? Any fun Saint Patrick’s Day plans?

(Graphic Credit: Google Images)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Destination Wedding? Keep It ‘Simple’ – Part Two

In the second half of our Q&A, destination wedding expert Jeff Copeland of Simple Weddings shares his advice about choosing the best location, finding a reliable vendor long-distance, and avoiding common beach wedding sound snafus. Enjoy!

What are some of your favorite destination wedding locations, and why?

Well, I'm obviously partial to Florida, particularly the Gulf Coast from Tampa Bay to Naples, where the sand is sugar-white and the beaches face west for the sunset. I think a lot of people don't realize that Florida truly has it all.

Of course, we have the beautiful beaches, but we also have the "nature coast" area that is very rural and outdoorsy. We have the "space coast" with NASA and the Kennedy Space Center. We have the upscale international ambiance of Miami. We have the laidback island lifestyle in the Florida Keys, and of course, we have the theme parks if you're into that sort of thing.

Another of my favorites would have to be Hawaii. We were fortunate enough to live on Oahu for two years, and visited all the other islands while we were there. You just can't go wrong with any destination in Hawaii, if you can afford to get there!

When choosing a destination wedding site or vendor, what questions should a couple ask, and what elements should they look for to be sure they are trusting their wedding details to a reliable, dependable company?

Well, I think the appearance of a company's website says a lot about how they perceive and portray themselves, especially when it comes to destination weddings. So, I'd suggest that if you just don't get the "feel" you're looking for from a company's website, move on.

Secondly, years from now, all you're going to have are your memories and your wedding pictures. So, I think it is critical to choose a company that does its photography in-house. You should know well in advance who your photographer is going to be, and you should speak with him or her to plan your pictures according to your desires and the photographer’s advice. Your photographer should not just be some nameless person who "comes with the package."

Other things to look for are reviews and testimonials written by actual past clients – and make sure these are on a site where the client has to log in or validate an e-mail address to write a review. Otherwise, they're easy to fake! We funnel all of our client reviews to our profiles on

Lastly, make sure the company you use provides a written contract and an invoice that clearly spells out exactly what they are providing, and where/when they are providing it.

What is one tip or piece of advice you can share that people may not think about when planning a destination or beach wedding?

Most people don't think about it, but there is a lot of "white noise" on the beach with the wind and waves. Something I see all the time with our beach weddings are clients who think they can save money by providing their own music or forgoing a microphone for the ceremony. So, they bring a little iPod speaker or CD player out to the beach, and no one can hear it. Same goes for an acoustic guitar. You just can't hear it on the beach from more than about two feet away.

When I see this happen, I just think it's such a shame that the bride and groom spent so much time choosing their music or musician, writing their own vows, or personalizing the ceremony, and their guests traveled all this way...and then nobody could hear a thing during the wedding ceremony! So, that's my tip. Make sure you use the right equipment for your ceremony sound and your music. You'll be glad you did!

If you’re planning a destination or beach wedding, what are some of the challenges you’ve faced along the way? Or, if your big day already happened, what’s your advice for future beach or destination brides?

(Photo Credits: Claire Copeland of Simple Treasures Photography)

Jeff Copeland is the owner and marketing director for Simple Weddings by Simple Treasures Photography in St. Petersburg, Florida, and the author of the Florida Beach Wedding Guide. His company offers Florida Beach Wedding Packages on Florida's Gulf Coast from Tampa Bay to Naples. Simple Weddings was recently named "Best of 2009" in two categories – photography and wedding planning – by based solely on feedback from happy customers! Be sure to check out his website and his Florida beach wedding blog, or drop him a line at jeff (at)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Destination Wedding? Keep It ‘Simple’ – Part One

Who says planning a destination wedding can’t be simple?

Jeff Copeland, owner and marketing director for Simple Weddings by Simple Treasures Photography in St. Petersburg, Florida, recently shared with me the ins and outs of planning the destination wedding of your dreams – the easy way!

What should couples just starting the planning process take into consideration when trying to determine whether a destination wedding is right for them?

Obviously, budget is one of the top considerations for most people. On the one hand, a destination wedding can be less expensive, because they generally tend to have fewer guests, and you can often eliminate one of the top expenses associated with weddings – the venue rental.

Popular destination wedding venues, such as beaches and parks, are usually "almost" free. Sometimes, a permit is required, but this generally costs less than $100. And of course, even if you opt for a more traditional venue, you still save money by having a smaller guest list, which requires less space, food and drink. On the other hand, you do have to factor in the travel expenses – but see the next question!

What are some of the top benefits of having a destination wedding?

In my mind, one of the top benefits is being on vacation the days before and after your wedding. We all know that after a few days of vacation, the problems and stress of your day-to-day life at home just seem to fade away. What better way to ease into your wedding? I also like the idea of combining your wedding and your honeymoon. With destination weddings, they kind of overlap, which I think allows for a much lower stress level, and a much higher fun level!

What are some key challenges that might arise when trying to plan a destination wedding, and what are your tips to help a couple get past those issues?

Obviously, it can be hard to pick things like a venue, an officiant, and a photographer from hundreds of miles away. You have to find someone who can be your eyes and ears, and who you can trust. But again, that can be hard to do over the phone or via email. We have found that the best way around this is with the old adage "a picture is worth a thousand words."

We have designed our website and blog to cater to out-of-state couples planning a destination wedding, and both sites are chockfull of pictures. We have pictures of our most popular wedding beaches and venues, pictures and bios of our staff, pictures of actual weddings we've done, and tons of useful planning information online. We want our clients to feel like they can somewhat get to know us through our website and blog. And I have to say, it works. Often, our clients seem like old friends, even though we may be meeting them for the first time. We work hard to always maintain that personal touch!

Are you planning a destination wedding, or is it something you’ve considered? Why do you or don’t you think it would work for you?

(Photo Credits: Claire Copeland of Simple Treasures Photography)

Jeff Copeland is the owner and marketing director for Simple Weddings by Simple Treasures Photography in St. Petersburg, Florida, and the author of the Florida Beach Wedding Guide. His company offers Florida Beach Wedding Packages on Florida's Gulf Coast from Tampa Bay to Naples. Simple Weddings was recently named "Best of 2009" in two categories – photography and wedding planning – by based solely on feedback from happy customers! Be sure to check out his website and his Florida beach wedding blog, or drop him a line at jeff (at)

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Maid’s Musings: Marriage Equality

As you may know, this week Washington, D.C., began for the first time allowing gay and lesbian unions. Since my sister Kellie, who is also my maid of honor, and I are both strong supporters of marriage equality, she has devoted her weekly guest post to discussing this important issue.

It’s often said that your wedding day will be the happiest day of your life. With that in mind, countless brides are at this very moment fretting over every tiny detail, each hoping to make her wedding day as perfect as possible.

But unfortunately, there are thousands upon thousands of couples who have been denied their special day. Gay marriage is still illegal in far too many countries and states, including my home state of California. In the few states where gay marriage is legal, many churches and popular wedding sites sadly discriminate against gay couples looking for a place to wed, leaving them unable to live out the common dream of walking down the aisle toward the person they love.

Thankfully, progress is being made, slowly but surely, toward achieving equality, as this past week Washington, D.C., at last began allowing gays and lesbians to marry. No one should be denied the happiest day of his or her life, and I have hope that many other states will soon follow the lead of our nation’s capital.

If you’d like to get involved in the fight for marriage equality, please visit Freedom to Marry.

(Photo Credits: Freedom to Marry & Google Images)

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Happiest Bachelorette Party on Earth!

Ever since my first visit to Disneyland as a baby, I’ve been hooked. From my first pair of Mickey Mouse ears to the annual passes my best friend and I spent our hard-earned money on in high school, the memories I have of days spent with family and friends in the park always bring a huge smile to my face.

So, what better way to celebrate the happiest time of my life than by throwing my bachelorette party at the Happiest Place on Earth?! I truly can’t think of anything that could be more fun, so this April, that’s exactly what we’ll be doing. Not having been to Disneyland in well over a year, I can’t wait to hit the park, pick up my own cute pair of Minnie Mouse bride ears, and ride the day away with the girls!

What about you, ladies? How will you or did you celebrate being a bachelorette?

Are you a Disneyland or Disney World fan? Which rides do you love best? My all-time favorite is Big Thunder Railroad!

(Photo Credit: Disney)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Style for the Camera: Achieving a ‘Picture Perfect’ Look

Today, it’s all about bridal fashion and style, as L.A.-photographer Damien Smith shares with me his tips for ensuring a photo-perfect wedding day look!

As a fair-skinned bride, I’m concerned about turning into a lobster on my big day. But I’ve also heard it’s important to watch how much sunscreen I use, since it might affect the amount of light reflecting off my skin in the photos. Is that true?

Yes, this is true, since sunscreen can make your skin very shiny. It’s best to use an oil-free product so there is no shine or reflection.

When shopping for a dress, what should a bride keep in mind about the types of details and silhouettes that usually photograph best?

Don't let your desire for a perfect silhouette picture influence the type of gown you buy. Get the dress you really want, because a professional photographer will definitely be able to capture a great shot no matter what. However, if a stellar silhouette photo is really important to you, try not to get a dress that's super puffy.

As for as the fine details of your dress, such as beading and shimmer, your professional photographer will capture all of it, usually before you put on your dress, and immediately after you put on the dress. Most wedding photographers do a one-on-one session to showcase the lovely bride and her dress.

When I was trying on gowns, some of the dresses looked completely different in the mirror than in the photos we snapped with my digital camera. For example, the intricate beading and embellishments on the gowns were not as visible in the pictures, and the shots looked dark. Will a professional photographer’s camera be sophisticated enough to truly capture these details?

Point-and-shoot cameras use an averaging system to determine the best exposure for a picture, and so do professional cameras when used on certain automatic settings. When you have a lot of white in the frame, the natural response is for the camera to darken the picture.

However, professional cameras can be adjusted manually by the photographer. As long as your professional photographer knows how to use his camera, there will be no problems. A good question to ask a photographer is, "Do you shoot with your camera using automatic settings, or do you shoot making manual adjustments?"

You want a photographer who makes manual adjustments, as this is the mark of a true professional and someone who knows which settings to use to get the best pictures. If the photographer doesn't understand F-Stop and shutter speed, run!

What should a bride keep in mind when it comes to her makeup for the photos? I’ve heard horror stories about brides who tried doing their own makeup and ended up looking way too washed out in the pictures. How important is it to hire a makeup artist skilled at doing applications for photo sessions?

Unless the bride-to-be is a professional makeup artist, she should not attempt to do it herself. Hire a professional, because there's a huge difference between doing your makeup to go hang out, and doing makeup for your wedding. Professional makeup artists understand that a bride’s makeup must be "camera-ready” to prevent that washed out look.

Why let thousands of dollars in photography, attire and so on go down the drain just to save the couple hundred dollars that a professional makeup artist costs? When choosing your makeup artist, always ask to see pictures of other brides he or she has done makeup for.

What are your plans for hair and makeup, and which photos of you in your gown are you most excited about?

(Photo Credit: Damien Smith Photography)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Here Comes the Bride?

When you envision the bride walking down the aisle at a Christian wedding, you can surely hear the familiar notes of Wagner’s “Bridal Chorus (Here Comes the Bride)” playing out in your head. When I imagined my wedding day, I automatically saw myself walking to this melody, too.

But after hearing and reading that “Here Comes the Bride” is a “theatrical” piece that many Catholic churches frown upon, I armed myself with plenty of unique and different options, though all traditional church songs, before meeting with our officiating priest and rehearsal director over the holidays.

Well, to my complete and utter surprise, our particular church is not only fine with songs like “Here Comes the Bride” and the well-known “Wedding March” recessional by Mendelssohn, but also with plenty of other non-traditional tunes, as well. So, without further ado, here are our picks, which I’m absolutely thrilled about!

Wedding Party Processional 

I love this march, “Trumpet Voluntary in D Major,” especially when played on the organ, which we’ll have available at our church.

Bride’s Processional

After a lot of thought, I’ve decided to walk down the aisle to a revised version of the wedding processional from The Sound of Music, one of my favorite classic plays and movies. I can’t wait to walk to this melody, which we’ll shorten and tweak so that the song doesn’t launch into the “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?” portion.


We’ll ask my bridesmaid Gianna, who will be our cantor throughout the ceremony, to sing a couple verses of  “The Lord of the Dance” as we make our joyful walk back down the aisle together.

Which song will you be walking down the aisle to, and how will your ceremony music mesh with or break away from the conventional wedding “norms” in your faith or culture?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

‘Getting Ready’ Shots: Must or Bust?

Now that I’m finally all set with the wedding gown of my dreams, I must say I’m much more excited about the “getting ready” phase of the day.

Closing my eyes, I can picture the moment. I’m stepping into the dress… My mom and sister are zipping me up and fluffing the train… It’s all perfect except for one little thing.

I won’t have any professional photos to document it!

Let me first explain that our photography package includes eight hours of pictures, and that in the beginning, we thought that would be more than enough time to get all the shots we want. But now, since we plan to do a “first look” at the Gardens of the World botanical site, the hour we would have allotted for “getting ready” shots is instead being devoted to that photo session. The logistics are also understandably complicated by the fact that the house where I’ll be getting ready, the hotel where Stephen will get ready, the “first look” site, the church, and the golf course reception site, though all fairly close to each other, are obviously not in the exact same place.

Plus, now that I’ve received my hair and makeup timeline, I’m wondering whether an extra hour would even be enough time anyway. You see, as of right now, my stylist plans to start doing my hair during the morning hours, and my makeup application mid-morning, so that there will still be plenty of time should I request any last-minute changes.

I suppose I could ask our photographer what it would cost to add extra hours to our package, but with the cost of my new gown and our planned catering upgrade, the wedding budget is just about maxed out. So, the only solution I can realistically foresee at this point is to ask our friends and family members to handle these shots, both as I’m getting ready and as the groom is getting ready across town.

Has anyone else faced this problem? Do you think our friends can handle these photos OK, or is it worth the money to look into having a professional onsite? How are you handling the pre-wedding shots?

(Graphic Credit: Google Images)

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Wedding Planning ‘Bug’

I’ve had a great time establishing my career on Capitol Hill over the past few years, but it’s no secret that my dream job would be writing for a magazine or website that specializes in a topic I’m passionate about, especially weddings or health/fitness.

But over time, I’ve also considered another amazing job. You know what I’m talking about, ladies. Wedding planning.

When I first came to Capitol Hill as an intern, my supervisors loved to joke with me, asking whether I’d caught the “bug” yet. Considering that this was over four years ago, and that I’m still working there today, I think I definitely was guilty of catching it!

And now, planning my own wedding has revamped my interest in coordinating weddings for others, as well, although I know many established planners frown upon “wannabes” who think what they do is all fun and games, or that planning someone else’s wedding will be just like planning your own.

But I know that planning someone else’s wedding, being fully responsible for all of the details and the ultimate outcome of the day, is an extremely high-stress role. For those who can handle it and even thrive off of it, I feel planning allows them to put their organizational skills and detail-oriented focus to good use, while also feeding a creative side – a combo that is rare in many of the other professions I’ve explored.

One serious book I’ve enjoyed on the topic so far is Wedding Planning and Management: Consultancy for Diverse Clients by Maggie Daniels and Carrie Loveless, who initially created it as a textbook for students studying to enter the field. It’s comprehensive and fantastically detailed.

What about you? Have you ever considered a career planning weddings or events, or do you already work in the field? If so, what are you doing or have you done to get started?

When it comes to planning your own wedding, has the experience been enjoyable and fun, or mostly stressful?

(Photo Credits: Google Images)

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Wish Upon a Wedding

As brides, we happily banter back and forth each day about all the aspects of our wedding planning, wondering whether we chose the right gown, picked the right menu or should have gone with a different hairstyle.

But somewhere out there, maybe just around the corner, there’s a bride wondering whether she’ll even live to see her special day become a reality. And if so, will she have to be married from her hospital bed? How will she ever afford it on top of all her medical bills?

Founded by well-known West Coast event planner Liz Guthrie, the newly launched Wish Upon a Wedding is making big day dreams come true for those facing life-threatening illness.

As soon as I read about this incredible organization, I emailed the organizers to ask how I can help out with the D.C. chapter set to launch in June. Want to get involved with a chapter in your area, make a donation, or share your talents? Check out the website today, and don’t miss this incredible chance to share your passion for weddings with those in need!

(Graphic Credit: Wish Upon a Wedding)

Friday, March 5, 2010

Expert Advice From Top Planner Nerissa Montemurro – Part Two

As promised, here’s the second half of my Q&A with savvy wedding expert Nerissa Montemurro, Founder & CEO of Private Receptions™. Happy planning!

What are your top money-saving tips for a bride on a tight budget?

· Reduce the wedding guest list for a more intimate affair that reflects what you want.

· Chances are, you will pay the bulk of the expenses about a month before the wedding. If there are multiple family members contributing to the wedding, take their contributions upfront, and put the money into a savings account or short-term CD to earn interest on it. This way, your money is making money within the year.

· Save with DIY wedding projects, if you’re crafty. Always purchase 20 percent more of the materials you need, because it leaves room for error, requires fewer trips back to a store for supplies, and eliminates additional shipping costs later.

An intimate 52-person wedding in Santorini.

What are the top things you often hear a bride say she wishes she had known or thought about while planning her wedding on her own, without the help of a planner?

Most brides feel they can handle the wedding planning, and start the race out in a full sprint only to die out shortly thereafter. The engagement process is a journey, and a bride doesn’t know what she doesn’t know (especially if she has never planned a wedding).

What are your best stress-busting tips for a busy bride?

· Once you have the look and feel for your wedding, stop reading bridal magazines.

· Always go with your gut feeling.

· Take the week off of work before your wedding.

Nerissa preparing brides at the Jan. 31, 2010, event “The Art of Planning Your Own Wedding™.”

What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced throughout the planning process? What do you most wish you had known when you were first getting started?

(Photo Credits: Photo #1 -- Carli Bauza & Photo #2 -- Freed Photography)

Respected throughout the wedding industry for her business savvy and artistic talent, Nerissa Montemurro brings to life a company that not only has it all, but gives every ounce of it to you! Private Receptions™ is a full service wedding planning and wedding design company founded by Nerissa herself. The firm specializes in one-of-a-kind weddings that represent their client's unique style and vision.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Expert Advice From Top Planner Nerissa Montemurro – Part One

In January, Stephen and I attended a fantastic event called “The Art Of Planning Your Own Wedding,” hosted by Private Receptions™ at the Ritz-Carlton Georgetown in Washington, D.C.

“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.

Featuring a round-table planning session, panel Q&A with top wedding experts, and raffle giveaway, the event was fun, helpful and extremely innovative. As a bride entirely familiar with the challenges of planning one's own wedding, I strongly recommend this program to couples looking for expert guidance that is straightforward and truly useful.

Best of all, Nerissa has now been kind enough to share even more of her planning tips and strategies! Enjoy, and be sure to check back tomorrow for the second half of our Q&A.

Another day at work for Nerissa Montemurro (left) of Private Receptions™!

What are your top tips for a bride just beginning the planning process? What should she consider when trying to decide whether to plan her wedding herself, or whether to hire a planner?

· Consider how much free time you actually have. A realistic assessment of your availability will save you heartache down the road.

· Get a good understanding as to who will be contributing to the wedding, and how much each contributor will need to be involved in the decision-making process.

· Be flexible! It’s very common for a bride to change her mind in reference to an idea, date, style, venue, etc., and quickly learn she is looking for something entirely different.

Brides taking notes at “The Art of Planning Your Own Wedding™.”

What should she look for and think about first, and what are the most common mistakes she should avoid?

· First, determine a budget. The purchases you make for a wedding are a lot larger than from a spontaneous day at the mall. You need to know how much you have for the entire wedding, honeymoon, and any other events you may be hosting for yourself (engagement party, shower, etc.)

· Second, determine which is more important to you – the ceremony and reception location, or the date. If you determine that the location is more important, call for the dates available in the season or month you are looking for. If the date is more important, it will help you weed out the venues that are booked.

· Common mistakes:

#1 -- When shopping around for vendors, make sure you are comparing apples to apples. Most of the time, brides are looking at the bottom-line number, and are not educated about what that dollar amount offers.

#2 -- Online research is both a benefit and a huge hindrance! Many sites out there are marketing a product or service, or flat make money from advertising but lack quality content. Know your author and become an informed and empowered bride.

Nerissa speaking with a group of brides at the Jan. 31, 2010, event “The Art of Planning Your Own Wedding™.”

What are some good solutions for a bride who can’t afford a full-service planner?

· Hourly consultation with a planner to help them get started

· Workshops like “The Art of Planning Your Own Wedding™”

· Look into partial-planning options

Are you planning your own wedding, or bringing a planner onboard? What are some helpful tips you’ve learned along the way?

(Photo Credits: Photo # 1 -- Private Receptions™ & Photos #2-3 -- Freed Photography)

Respected throughout the wedding industry for her business savvy and artistic talent, Nerissa Montemurro brings to life a company that not only has it all, but gives every ounce of it to you! Private Receptions™ is a full service wedding planning and wedding design company founded by Nerissa herself. The firm specializes in one-of-a-kind weddings that represent their client's unique style and vision. Based in New York City, the firm services the greater metropolitan areas of New York, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Bride’s Spring Training: I’m Featured in SELF!

After working hard last year to lose weight and get in shape for our wedding, I’m so honored to be featured in SELF this month as a Challenge success story! (If you read the magazine, I’m on page 83.)

If you’re not familiar with the Challenge, it’s an awesome diet and exercise program SELF features annually beginning each March that’s fun, customizable and inspiring. Last year, I even lost 21 pounds through the program, and continued to lose more after it was over!

To make sure I don’t undo any of my hard work before June rolls around, I’ll definitely be taking up the Challenge again this year. Here, some of my other tops tips and strategies for losing weight and getting in shape!

· I love to run outdoors, and scorched tons of pounds by running at least three miles five days a week last year. But I also hate cold weather, and the snowy winter months have put a snag in my plans. Instead, I bought a fairly inexpensive manual treadmill for $120 so that I can work out while I watch an hour of TV each night. I also go to a Saturday cardio and toning class, offered for a reasonable price at our community center, and alternate between different workout DVDs, including the tough but effective 30 Day Shred.

· I’m not a morning person in any sense of the word, so I schedule most of my workouts in the evenings and at night. The truth is that if I tried forcing myself to exercise in the morning or during lunch, I know I’d quit, so I instead try to figure out the best time based on my body’s natural rhythm throughout the day.

· As hard as it sometimes is, I stop eating when I’m no longer hungry, rather than waiting until I’m completely full. This takes a ton of willpower, but saves lots of calories!

· If I do the same thing for too long, I get bored. To mix things up, I frequently change the fitness classes I take, and also cross-train by including dance, running and weight exercises that work different muscle groups.

· I’ll exercise by myself if I have to, but I enjoy my workouts much more when I have a buddy to share them with. So, I love that Stephen and I usually go running together. I’m also much more successful if I have a specific goal to train or work toward, such as a 5K race. It literally forces me to get moving!

What workout strategies work best for you? Do you have any specific goals you’d like to reach before the wedding?

(Photo Credits: SELF)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Wedding Reception Dilemma: Hand-Passed vs. Displayed Hors d'oeuvres

Thanks, ladies, for all of your help settling our cash vs. hosted bar dilemma a few months ago! I’m happy to say we now have some great news to share about this part of the wedding.

As long as our guest count ends up in the range we expect it to, and we also stay on track with our budget in other areas, we’ll be able to upgrade to a catering package that includes three hours of hosted wine and beer, plus a champagne toast. Complimentary soda, coffee and tea will be offered throughout the night, and we’re still hoping to feature our signature sangria, as well.

This new package also includes one cocktail hour display spread of cheese, fruit or veggies, as well as three hand-passed items of our choice. However, if we’re not able to work this out, it will be on to the next quandry – whether to offer a couple hand-passed appetizers during the cocktail hour, or stick with a display featuring a variety of gourmet cheeses and crackers, plus chips and salsa to help get everyone in the mood for the Mexican buffet to follow.

While the hand-passed options are definitely more “exciting,” with choices like tomato bruschetta and chicken satay, the downside is that guests would likely have to patiently wait to be served at the start of the cocktail hour. A display of cheese and crackers, plus salsa and chips, on the other hand, would allow guests to serve themselves immediately after arriving.

The display items strike me as being potentially more filling, too, compared with tiny bite-sized hors d'oeuvres. And while a guest might not like the hand-passed items that are offered, I think most guests would surely be able to find a couple cheeses they enjoy. And who doesn’t like chips and salsa?

As a guest, which option would you prefer? What are you planning to offer at your wedding?

(Photo Credits: Google Images)

Monday, March 1, 2010

Big Wedding Change Revealed!

Well, ladies, I’ve officially joined the ranks of brides who have changed their minds about…the gown! Yes, I’m excited to say I’m now an Alfred Angelo bride!

After revealing my original gown a few weeks ago, I couldn’t shake the feeling that although it was beautiful and I did like it, I just didn’t feel as happy and thrilled as I thought I should. I didn’t get a rush when I imagined waking up and changing into the gown on my wedding day, and there were nagging doubts in the back of my mind about the fit and style.

But being just short of three months from the big day, I knew I’d really have to get moving if I wanted to make a change this big at such a late date. So, when I saw that a local boutique was having an Alfred Angelo trunk show a couple weeks ago, I decided to make an appointment to try on a few of the gowns that had been my favorites in photos way back in the beginning. As you may remember, I never got to even try these gowns on, since I bought my original dress at David’s Bridal before we had a chance to go anywhere else!

Going in, I really wasn’t sure what would happen. I thought I might fall in love with a new dress, but also thought I might feel reassured in my original choice. Well, from the second I put on the dress I’ve now ended up choosing, I had a “wow” moment I’d never felt as strongly with the other gown. In my heart I knew even then that the first choice had been wrong, and that this was truly MY dress!

But did I really want to change my mind so quickly? Did I really want to pay another $1,000 for a new dress, when I had already paid at least $600, including alterations, for the first one? So, I thought about it. For two weeks. I went back and forth, trying to remind myself of the things I do like about the first gown. But over time, I couldn’t stop thinking about the Alfred Angelo dress, and when I pictured myself on my wedding day, I started to see that very gown.

This weekend, hoping to make a decision, I made an appointment at the Alfred Angelo salon in Glen Burnie, Maryland. Not only were the consultants and managers amazing, but when I put the dress on again, there was no need to think it over any longer. This was 100 percent my perfect dream dress, and since the salon even had it in my exact size, I could see and feel the perfect fit. I felt happy and beautiful, and since Alfred Angelo was having a big sale, I got the new dress for just around $850, including tax!

So now, without further ado, I give you my gorgeous wedding dress as viewed from the front, back, and up close! This fabulously romantic dress truly has everything I want – soft lace, crystal beading, a little pop of our grape color, and a semi-cathedral train that’s longer and more stunning than the train on my original gown. Plus, the fitted upper bodice shows off my hard-fought curves, the result of hours of hard work and exercise over the past year. And the best part is that my awesome consultant Tina even showed me how to make the skirt at the bottom appear a bit fuller by adding a crinoline slip, since the full skirt was really my favorite thing about the first gown. Without a dobut, this gown is “me.”

So in the end, athough I did lose money on the first gown, I know I made the right choice. Plus, even factoring in the cost of both gowns, I’m still under the original $2,000 budget I set for myself in the beginning. And since the new gown fits almost perfectly and was custom ordered three inches shorter, there should be very few changes needed when it arrives in late April or early May.

What do you think, girls? Would you have done what I did? Have you followed your heart to change any big aspects about the wedding pretty late in the game?

(Graphic Credits: Google Images)