Thursday, February 21, 2008

Brides: Fitness and Nutrition

Look fabulous on your wedding day with this healthy exercise and nutrition guide to get in shape for the wedding day and beyond. Of course you want to look fabulous on your wedding day – who doesn’t? Unfortunately, a gorgeous gown and killer accessories can only take you so far. The true pathway to looking and feeling amazing is paved by a healthy fitness and nutrition routine. know that tired piece of advice is easier said than done. But that’s where we come in… We’ve outlined the basics to get you started towards a healthier you.

Getting Started - Lifestyle Changes vs. Restrictive Dieting:

The key here is simple changes you can incorporate into your daily routine that will gradually improve your health and the look of the body. In other words – no crash dieting! Extreme caloric deprivation is not only dangerous, it sets you up for failure since it’s impossible to maintain.

If you’re looking to lose a lot of weight, you’ll need to get cracking at least 6 months before your wedding day (or as soon as you read this!) Even if you’re just looking to tone up and drop a few pounds, start today. Why wait?

When it comes to losing or maintaining your weight, forget fad diets, forget the off-limit foods, forget the banned categories of foods. There is only one simple rule you need to know: to lose weight – you must burn more calories (energy/exercise) than you take in (eat). It’s all about calories in vs. calories out.

Nutrition 101 (the calories-in part)

Get a general estimate of how many calories a day you’re burning, then build your meal plans around an equal amount of calories (to maintain) or slightly less calories (to lose). A handy free tool can be found at Here you can enter personal stats like height, weight, and weight loss goals – along with the various types of physical activity you do each day (not only at the gym, but also activities like cooking, cleaning, walking up stairs – they all count). The tool will then calculate the number of calories you should eat based on your goals.

Here are some simple guidelines to help you maintain your caloric goals, keep your energy level up, and get all the nutrients you need:

1) Eat 5-6 small meals a day
Give up the notion that you must starve yourself to lose weight. Your body is designed for survival, and part of its survival mechanism involves holding onto body fat to be used in times of food shortage. Skipping meals or eating a very low amount of calories causes your body to go into starvation mode, which slows your metabolism.
Three large meals do not provide your body with the constant flow of nutrients and energy it needs to increase your metabolism and burn fat. Strive to eat 5 or 6 small meals evenly spaced throughout the day.

2) Portion Control
Understand that the size of your stomach is about as big as your two fists. So at one meal, you should never eat more than two fists full of food. Here’s a general idea of the correct size portions:
* Protein – a deck of cards or the meaty part of your hand with the fingers cut off
* Carbohydrates – make a fist and cut your hand in half (or about 1 cup)

3) Food Content - Focus on Fiber and Protein
Food without protein or fiber has little to no nutritional value (that’s what they mean by empty calories). With every meal you eat, you should aim to get about 10 grams of protein and about 5 grams of fiber – for a total of at least 60 grams of protein and 25 grams of fiber per day). This doesn’t mean you have to bring out the calculator every time you eat. Getting your daily amount of protein and fiber is easy if you’re eating 5-6 small meals a day consisting of foods that have at least a few grams of fiber and protein. Check the nutrition labels on the foods you buy.
Forget the notion that all carbohydrates are evil. Complex carbohydrates rich in fiber are “good carbohydrates,” absorbed slowly into your system, giving you a steady energy supply. They can be found in whole grain breads, pasta and rice - also beans, fruits and veggies. The fiber in these foods also helps promote satiety, making you less likely to overeat.
When it comes to carbs, you should aim to have at least 3 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruit per day. Avoid any grain products with the word “enriched” on the label and pasta products with “semolina” in the ingredients; instead opt for those with whole grain, stone ground, and whole wheat. Same goes for items containing high fructose corn syrup (sugar) in the first three ingredients – skip ‘em!
Protein is necessary for muscular growth and aids in weight loss by:
1) requiring more energy to digest than other foods (i.e. burning more calories and helping with the calories in vs. calories out equation).
2) helping to preserve lean muscle tissue while you lose fat
3) slowing down the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream; reducing hunger and making it easier for the body to burn fat
4) promoting satiety – helping you feel full so you can stop eating sooner

Other Easy Nutrition tips:
Having difficulty sticking to this eating plan? Here are some small steps you can take to achieve your caloric goals:
- stay hydrated – drinking lots of water helps you stay hydrated and may also make you feel full (sometimes hunger pangs are actually a sign that you’re thirsty). How much should you drink? Multiply your total body weight by 75%; this is the total number of fluid ounces you should take in each day.
- sub. sugar free/low fat versions of your favorite snacks
- sub low fat or fat free dairy for whole fat versions
- switch to diet sodas
- replace sugar with splenda in recipes or other items you usually add sugar to
- limit alcohol intake – not only is alcohol empty calories (all sugar, no fiber or protein), but it usually leads to poor eating decisions or skipping workouts. Try your best to avoid it.

Exercise 101- (the calories-out part)

Getting Started - Establish an exercise routine you can live with. If you’re currently sedentary, don’t attempt to dive into an hour-a-day/seven days a week routine – because chances are, you won’t stick to it. Instead, increase your energy level with achievable goals; 30 minutes for three to four days a week is a good start for those who haven’t hit the gym in years. If you’re already pretty active, commit to taking it to the next level – either by adding a few extra minutes to your workouts, or increasing the intensity of your routines.

Regardless of your current fitness level, you should strive for an exercise routine that combines cardio, strength and flexibility. Here’s an optimal fitness schedule for you to strive towards; depending on your current fitness level, working up to this routine may take more or less time:

Cardio Schedule - 3-4 cardiovascular workouts a week for 25-40 minutes. Pick activities that you enjoy and try to change it up - remember, exercise is meant to be fun. Take a fast walk or jog with your dog, go swimming, ride your bike, play tennis.

Strength Schedule - 3-4 strength workouts a week for 30 minutes. When strength training, you should work until fatigue – meaning the last repetition of each exercise should be extremely difficult. Don’t forget to include core and stabilization training; try incorporating physioballs, BOSU and discs into your workouts, or take a pilates class once a week.

Flexibility Schedule - Stretching will help you increase flexibility. Flexibility training can help avoid muscle imbalances, postural distortion and injuries. Stand tall, shoulders back, walk graceful and don’t forget to smile, this is your day!

No Time?
Let’s face it – we’re all pressed for time – especially busy brides-to-be. The most efficient way to get all your cardio, strength and flexibility training in is through interval or circuit training training. By doing short bursts of cardio and strength with minimal rest in between – you can get the most of your time.

Bridal Beauty Countdown

The bridal countdown is on! Follow this monthly bridal beauty regimen, and ensure you’re a beautiful bride on your wedding day. Seeking that illustrious bridal glow? Of course you are. Few times in your life actually command all to rise from their seats to feast their eyes upon your beauty as you walk into view. For such an occasion, looking “good” just doesn’t cut it. You need to look once-in-a-lifetime fabulous. Feeling the pressure? Fortunately, the one thing you can control on your wedding day is your bridal look. For while that fabled glow won’t just miraculously arrive in time for the big day, careful planning and prep work can ensure your most radiant self walks down that aisle. To avoid last minute beauty blunders – here’s what you need to do now, and what can wait until your final hours of singlehood…

Get Started Now! (or about 6 months out)
1) Get Great Skin – Now’s the time to address any skin problems you’ve tolerated; rid your skin of acne, sun damage, scars or wrinkles. Book an appointment with your dermatologist and discuss treatment options, such as retinol creams, lasers, skin lighteners or chemical peels.
2) Get In Shape – If you haven’t already, start a fitness and nutrition routine that you can live with - and stick with until your wedding day (and beyond!). Need some motivation? Join the bridal boot camp craze. These fitness programs geared towards brides are popping up all over the country.
3) Plan Your Look – As soon as you’ve found “the dress,” decide how you want to wear your hair and makeup for the big day. Now’s the time to test new looks. Start growing your hair if you think you’ll want it longer. If you’re contemplating a drastic cut or color change – do it now – and leave time to get used to your new do, or change it back.

3-6 Months Out
1) Hire Your Pros – If you love your stylist and are getting married locally, make sure he or she is available on your date. Otherwise, start auditioning stylists for the big day. Many hair stylists also offer makeup services and are willing to travel, while others do not.
2) Get a Facial – To ensure positively glowing skin on your wedding day, start a regimen of monthly facials

1 Month Out
1) Make those Whites Pearly – Schedule a teeth cleaning, and if necessary, consider whitening your teeth. Crest white strips are a painless, inexpensive way to whiter teeth. Or if your budget allows, have them professionally whitened.
2) Go for a Trial Run – Schedule your consultation with your hair stylist and makeup artist for about one month prior. You should have your veil and any hair pieces at this time.
3) Fake a Tan – Experiment with tanners, bronzers, lotions, tanning beds etc. Give yourself enough time to ensure the look is natural and to your liking.

1-2 Weeks Out
1) Cut and Color – The best time to schedule your final cut and color is 1-2 weeks out – to ensure enough time to fix any last minute color mishaps. Avoid doing anything too drastic.
2) Shape your hair “down there” – Make an appointment to have your bikini line waxed (you don’t want to fumble with razors on your honeymoon), and have any other waxing done now (eyebrows, upper lip, legs). This will allow enough time for any redness to fade.
3) Get your last facial – Again, leave enough time for any acne/redness to fade.

The Day Before
1) Put on the Polish – Get your final manicure and pedicure the day before so nails can thoroughly dry. Get a bottle of your polish from the manicurist for last minute touch-ups.
2) Go Light on Sodium and Curb the Alcohol – Have fun, but don’t go crazy at your rehearsal dinner. Too much salt and alcohol leads to eye puffiness.
3) Pack an Emergency Kit – Include tissues, nail file, breath mints, bobby pins and nail polish. Get pressed powder and lipstick from your makeup artist.
4) Get that Beauty Sleep – Avoid caffeine and exercise before attempting to go to bed. If you just can’t get enough shut-eye, freeze moistened green or white tea bags to put over your eyes the next day. The tannins will help reduce any puffiness.

Day Of
1) Eat Breakfast – Avoid anything too fatty or salty. Instead eat fibrous carbs and lean protein for energy.
2) Drink plenty of Water – Try to drink at least 32 oz in the eight-hrs leading up to the ceremony.
3) Give Yourself Time – Bride’s typically begin their hair about three hours in advance, followed by makeup.
4) Relax and Smile – You know you look fabulous!

Reduce Wedding Stress

Advertisements, to-do lists, future in-laws, they all demand attention – and the resulting stress can overpower what’s supposed to be a joyous time in your life. You’re a bride-to-be, certainly a revered title. Some might even say the envy of all hopeful marrieds....

But you’re bombarded with a growing pile of mundane details demanding your attention, and the stress that results can threaten to overpower. Instead, emerge from the pile of fabric swatches, font styles and contracts and ..…just….breathe. During your engagement, step away from wedding planning, and take time to enjoy yourself as a fabulous single woman. Sure, kicking your heals up and relaxing as your task list expands exponentially may sound impossible. In reality, allowing yourself some time to rejuvenate will not only reduce wedding stress, it will ultimately make your wedding planning more efficient. Have you ever tried going for a morning run without a good night’s sleep the night before? The same applies to wedding planning.

Here are some easy methods to reduce wedding stress:

Reclaim your life and your self
What activities comprised your free time before wedding planning seized your soul? Reading? Jogging? Shopping? Crafts? Don’t let those activities slip; take that time to yourself and enjoy the relaxation that comes with doing something that you enjoy. Even if just for a few hours a week – it will make a world of difference

Reconnect with friends and loved ones
Has it been weeks or months since you spoke with your best friend or sister (NOT about the wedding)? Losing contact is easy when you’re busy or believe loved ones are out of touch with your life. Take some time to reconnect with your closest friends; ask them about their lives. Keep them up-to-date on your wedding planning – but also discuss other aspects of your life. You are a multi-faceted person, after all.

Cater to someone else for a change
Yes, this is one of the few times in your life when the attention is solely focused on you and your life decisions, and you should enjoy your time in the spotlight. That said, don’t get caught up in the selfishness of being a bride. Do something unexpected for someone else. Take a break from wedding planning and cook a friend dinner, serve a meal at your local soup kitchen, babysit for a couple who could use a break…You will be surprised how good (and relaxed) you will feel by making others feel appreciated, and you will immediately reduce stress.

Spend quality time with your fiance
It’s sadly ironic that in the planning of a new life together, couples often struggle to find quality time with one another in the present. The best way to begin a marriage on the right foot is to avoid neglecting your relationship now. Building a life as one should always be your top priority, (remember – it IS the reason behind the big party!) so enjoy romantic evenings together and try not to talk about the wedding. Focus on your relationship and your future beyond the wedding day.

Above all else, don’t lose sight of what’s important and don’t lose sight of yourself. Keeping this in mind will reduce wedding stress. Savor every moment of your engagement, and arrive at your wedding positively radiant.

Getting Married: The Internal Battle

The flowers, the dress, the caterer, the guest list - our focus during engagement revolves around the details in planning the perfect wedding. Yet if we can manage to tear ourselves away from the 5th revision of the seating chart for just a moment, we realize that engagement is one of the most significant psychological transitions in our lives, packed with an assortment of tangled emotions and conflicting feelings.

Inside the newly engaged woman often lie fear, anxiety, sadness and loss. It is these important internal details, so largely ignored by conventional wedding guides and planners, that an engaged woman must face and confront if she ever hopes to arrive at the altar fully prepared to enter into a healthy marriage.

Feelings of loss?

There is no other time in your life when you are truly giving up one identity for another. The transition is more complex than simply taking a new last name, a literal change of identity and a decision that brings with it its own set of questions and anxieties. You are also giving up your symbolic identity as a single woman, even a child. Women often worry, “I’m losing my youth,” or, “I won’t be able to relate to my single girlfriends.” A stage in your life, the only stage you have ever experienced, is ending, and many women experience feelings of loss as a chapter closes on their lives.

What if…

As one chapter closes, another begins. A chapter of commitment and togetherness. This new stage brings forth feelings of joy and excitement, but fear and uncertainty are also involved. You are entering into a partnership with another human being, causing your future’s happiness to rely so heavily on the actions of another. Needless to say, this realization can expose feelings of fear. What if our marriage doesn’t last? What if he cheats on me? What if I cheat on him? What if the passion fades and we grow apart? What if something terrible happens to him? These questions can penetrate the veneer of even the most outwardly joyous bride.

Am I making a mistake?

Popular culture and society seems to conveniently ignore these questions and uncertainties. As engaged women, we hear a barrage of “congratulations!” and “what will your dress look like?” when we announce the big news. Even those closest to us neglect to recognize the importance of more internally probing questions and advice during our engagement. As a result, many women begin to question their readiness for marriage. Any feeling less than euphoric is deemed as indication of making a mistake, as we have been conditioned to believe that anxiety and confusion are a reflection of “not being ready” or choosing the wrong partner. Thus, instead of accepting and discussing these feelings, we distract ourselves with the wedding planning and ignore our internal emotions.

Harness and Accept your feelings!

In reality, these thoughts could not be more normal. In every other major life transition, simultaneous feelings of loss and gain are not only expected, but encouraged. When you graduated high school, when you graduated college, when you moved away from your hometown, when you left your first job for a better opportunity, those around you understood and sympathized with your conflicting emotions. But did those feelings of sadness and loss hinder you from taking that next step and succeeding with flying colors? Of course not. You allowed yourself to address and analyze your thoughts, and then you proceeded with the change. This is exactly what you need to do during your engagement as you prepare for your journey to the altar and marriage. Realize that feelings of sadness and anxiety are normal, allow yourself to feel these feelings, and discuss and analyze them with those around you. Don’t allow your friends and family to focus on the wedding planning process to the exclusion of your internal struggles.

The engagement stage involves more than simply planning a big party. It involves introspection and emotional analysis. It involves open communication with your fiance, family and friends. It involves acceptance of fear and sadness. Once a bride realizes the complexity of this transition, she can address her emotions and move forward in planning for both a fabulous party and a successful next chapter in her life.

Gifts: Attendants

They have done so much for you, not only as a part of your wedding party but also as a friend and confidant over the years. How to even begin to say thanks? Start by presenting your wedding attendants with heartfelt gifts to express your gratitude.

What to Spend
Consider both your budget and the amount that each attendant must spend to be in your wedding. In the end, it’s always the thought that counts, but giving movie passes may seem a tad ungrateful if your maids had to shell out $600 each for those couture dresses you insisted upon. Get something that lets your attendants know how much you appreciate them. Generally, spending $50-$150 is a good amount.

When to Give
You can present the gifts during any private moment with your maids. Many brides give them during the bridesmaid’s luncheon or tea. You can also hand them out at the rehearsal dinner, when your closest friends and family are gathered together. Consider presenting them along with a toast, thanking them for their support and friendship over the years.

Attendant Gift Ideas
Monogrammed Robe/Pajamas—a great idea especially if you and your girls are planning a slumber party right before the wedding.
Spa Certificates—or pop for a trip to the spa, and treat everyone to a massage. Your maids will appreciate the special pampering.
Personalized Picture Frames—including an individual photo of you with each bridesmaid.
Jewelry—it can be something to wear at the wedding - but also try to choose something they will wear again. You want a gift they will enjoy that will often remind them of you!
A Container Filled with Goodies—can’t decide on one thing? Give it all! Find a creative container and fill it with goodies and mementos. A monogrammed canvas bag or a pretty decorated box will work nicely. If your budget allows, splurge on a nice designer handbag! Be as creative as you want.
Fur (or fake fur) Wraps—a great idea, especially for a winter wedding.
Makeup—have their makeup done for the wedding, and then purchase a few items for them to keep. They will feel fabulous for the big day and will also have something to take with them that they picked out.
Mixed CDs—full of tunes that hold special meaning, a great extra that can add a nice touch to another gift.

Guests: Welcome Baskets (2)

With the emergence of destination weddings and guests often spread all over the country, savvy couples are taking advantage of a golden opportunity to offer a warm welcome and set the tone for a fabulous series of events. What a great idea! Wedding welcome baskets are a nice added touch, immediately comforting the travel-weary by making them feel right at home.

How much you spend is entirely up to you. You can be as lavish as you like, although simply giving a bottle of water and a plate of homemade cookies will let your wedding guests know you care. Remember - you only need to put together one welcome basket per room - not per guest. So confirm the number of rooms reserved with your hotel, and assemble your baskets accordingly (of course make a few extras, just in case). If you know that many of your friends will be shacking up together to split the cost of hotel rooms, consider packing double of some items in each welcome basket.

Depending on the policies of the hotel in which you’ve reserved your roomblock, the staff may personally deliver the welcome baskets to each guest room, or they may leave them at the front desks and give them to guests as they check-in.

Include some essentials that will make their stay more comfortable—such as bottled water, snack items, mints, tissues etc. Think about what items you often wish for when staying at a hotel. This is also a great place to include relevant information for your wedding guests - phone numbers for the families, other guests staying at the hotel, a wedding itinerary, nearby attractions and local maps.

Also consider including items that are reflective of your wedding location. Use your wedding welcome baskets as a creative way to tie everything together and introduce guests, many of them visiting for the first time, to the area. Getting married in Maine? Throw in some maple syrup! Or Texas - how about a miniature cowboy hat or a packet of spicy chili mix? You get the idea....Use this opportunity to be creative, and make your wedding a memorable event - from arrival to departure!

It's Your Wedding: Take It Back

There is nothing wrong with wanting to have a traditional white wedding, but sometimes it is nice to send your guests home with a little something extra that makes yours stick out in their minds for years to come. Today’s weddings are all about options that reflect your personalities and style.

Ceremony Ideas
Location If you opt to not host your ceremony in a house of worship or in the same location as your reception, choose to exchange vows at sunrise on the beach or at sunset from the rooftop of the tallest building in your metropolitan area.
Refreshments Use the season or your location as an opportunity to greet guests with a refreshing drink. Lemonade and sweet tea will quench your guests’ thirst while gathering in the blazing sun, or serve hot apple cider to warm your guests during chiller months.
Grand Entrance Make your entrance especially grand by being escorted by your pet dog or by arriving on a white horse.
Vows and Readings Not a new concept, but speaking from the heart by writing your own vows or incorporating personalized poems into your ceremony will surely grab the attention of your guests.

Reception Ideas
Location You shouldn’t feel bound by the need to have your celebration in your hometown or the town in which you currently reside. Don’t be afraid to consider something unexpected. Bring your event to your favorite vacation spot or another location that has special meaning to you and your hubby. Everyone can appreciate some time away.
Venue Type Think outside the banquet hall and bring your celebration to a naturally beautiful venue like a garden or museum. Your guests will enjoy strolling around picturesque grounds or appreciating timeless works of art.
Seating Arrangements Add some visual interest to your setting by interspersing different shaped tables throughout the room, or seating your guests at long tables for a family-style affair.

Catering Ideas
Bars who doesn’t like something with the word “bar” attached to it? Your guests will delight in all things bar, from a mashed potato bar or dessert bar to an espresso or martini bar.
Ethnic Cuisine If you have a strong heritage, have visited a favorite world destination together, or even just have an affinity for a particular variety of cuisine, revolve your menu around that ethnic specialty.
Family-style Offer delectable comfort foods with a twist, served up family-style – a great icebreaker for your guests.
Seasonal Take inspiration from the season and serve a menu that offers a theme of seasonal favorites. Lemon grilled salmon or maple-glazed chicken are always hits.
Courses Break out of the conventional chicken-or-fish mold and base your entire meal around cocktails and appetizers or coffee and desserts.
Fondues Fondues are making a comeback, and whether you prefer sweet chocolates or savory cheeses, your guests will relish in the rich offering.

Flowers & Decor Ideas
Color Scheme Try pairing a few uncommon colors together or featuring varying shades of the same color throughout your space.
The Food Pyramid Fill cylindrical glass vases with fruits and vegetables reflecting your colors. Oranges, lemons, and limes have been done so try a unique, more contemporary look with mangos or coconuts or tie it to the season with texture-rich earthy vegetables like husked corn, acorn squash, or artichokes.
Au Natural Consult Mother Nature for inspiration, and bring the outdoors in. Natural objects like stones, leaves, pinecones, even twigs can add an organic aesthetic to your reception décor. Place in rustic containers or scatter amongst pillar candles for added ambiance.
Lighten Up Floating candles in a shallow bowl add lighting and elegance to your tabletops. Or arrange multi-level candles on a mosaic of mirrors or tiles and surround them with seashells or flower petals. Placing coffee beans or red hot candies at the bottom of a vase or bowl to hold the candles steady also adds an aromatic effect.
Consult your Inner Child For the kid at heart, fill decorative bowls with your favorite candies – such as jellybeans and M&M’s in your wedding colors. These centerpieces are sure to be a hit with your guests!

Entertainment Ideas
Ceremony Music If “Here Comes the Bride” doesn’t suit your style or personality, choose a song that does. There is no written rule that states you can’t make your grand entrance to a rendition of your favorite Beastie Boys’ song.
Non-traditional Instruments If you desire live music over a DJ, consider tying your musician selection to the theme or location of your event. A beachside bash naturally lends itself to the sound of steel drums, while a trumpet quartet will sound impressive in an elaborate cathedral.
Themed Music Take it one step further and zone in on the music that is indigenous to your wedding location. Guests attending a Mardi Gras-themed event in New Orleans will bask in a cocktail hour of Dixieland jazz.
DJ and a Band Can’t decide which you would rather have? Have both to ensure that all types of music are represented throughout your day to please both your 85-year-old grandmother and your 21-year-old cousin.

Photography Ideas
Photojournalism More and more brides are leaning toward hiring a photographer who specialized in a photojournalistic style. These photographers shy away from posed shots and aim to capture all of the candid moments that you’ll always want to remember or may have never seen.
Creative Shots Hire your photographer to follow you throughout your entire day (leading up to the “Do Not Disturb” sign, of course). While it may make you feel anxious to have someone photograph you as you get ready, these shots will help you to remember the joy and anticipation of every part of your big day.

Cake Ideas
Minimal Adornments Some brides believe in the “less is more” adage. A simple cake minimally ornamented can make a bold statement.
Square Tiers Looking for a subtle way to break away from the ordinary? Square tiers make a modern presentation. Whoever said “it’s hip to be square” must have been in the cake business.
Cake-free If cake isn’t your favorite dessert, then don’t feel the need to serve it to your guests. Apple crisp, peach cobbler, or even cupcakes are always crowd-pleasers.
Sugar-free The end-of-meal offering doesn’t have to be made of flour and frosting. Think savory instead and visit your local cheese shop to have them construct wheels of cheese in tiers for your guests to cleanse their palates at the conclusion of the night.

Attire Ideas
Wardrobe Change Today’s brides are opting to wear not one dress, but two! Wear an elegant gown while you exchange vows and slip into something a little more comfortable to round out the evening.
Anything but White A white wedding dress symbolizes innocence and purity, but if that’s not your style, feel free to bring out your colorful personality by adding a splash of color to your attire. You can be as subtle as a colored sash or jewels or as bold as a fuchsia-colored dress.
Something Borrowed Anything retro screams chic these days. So why not consider donning your mother’s vintage gown as a tribute to a family legacy. A few alterations can make it your own.

Stationery Ideas
Ethnicity If your heritage is important for you to represent on your big day, do some research and find a stationer who offers multi-cultural invitations and announcements.
Creative Touch For more intimate, casual gatherings, request the honor of your guests’ presence in an innovative and entertaining way. Here’s an idea - have your invite printed on a balloon so guests have to blow them up to receive the message.
Programs Do something a little different with your programs by including personal photos or by printing them on something that serves a dual purpose like a fan.
Storybook Get the most bang for your program buck by including stories of how the two of you met, who introduced you, and your relationship to everyone in the bridal party. Think of all the time you’ll save by not having to explain all of this to your husband’s childhood neighbor during the reception!

Transportation Ideas
Grand Entrance If the size of your bridal party doesn’t warrant a stretch limousine, consider arriving on horseback, on the back of your husband’s motorcycle, or in the passenger’s seat of your dad’s antique car.

Favor Ideas
Double Duty Décor Elements Use photo frames as place cards or potted plants as centerpieces, and let your guests take them home at the end of the night.
Something Useful Give your guests something they can enjoy for years to come. A small bag of seeds to plant will remind them of your big day every time they smell the flowers.
Something Edible As if a five-course meal wasn’t enough, send your guests home at the end of the night with an extra treat of your favorite candies or special hometown delicacies.
Donations With a high emphasis on karma these days, give something back and make a donation to your favorite cause in lieu of knickknacks. Your guests will appreciate the altruistic gesture.

Gift Ideas
Attendants After seemingly endless Friday nights planning showers and licking envelopes, your bridesmaids are going to need a little pampering of their own. A spa gift certificate is the perfect way to thank them for their hard work.
Gift Baskets Make out-of-town guests feel welcome by greeting them with a basket of goodies in their hotel room. Include some essentials that will make their stay more comfortable and incorporate some items that are reflective of your wedding location. Nothing like some bottled water and Vermont maple syrup to get them through the weekend!

Registry Ideas
The Gift of Travel If time away is more important to you than a waffle iron, consider setting up a honeymoon registry. Many travel agents offer services to collect, record, and apply contributions from your guests toward your honeymoon expenditures. Some even allow guests to contribute to specific activities at your destination location, such as scuba diving lessons or boat rides.
The Gift of Life If your house is already stocked with all of the essentials, give something back instead. Many eco-friendly organizations such as the World Wildlife Federation offer donation registries.

Favors: Guest Friendly Tips

Hands on
Draw guests out of their chairs with a candy buffet or bakery cart. These interactive stations allow guests to fill favor bags (or pastry boxes) with the treats of their choice.
Doubly duty
Choose favors that also serve as place cards, or even centerpieces, to save money. Think small wrapped boxes of chocolate that you can stack as centerpieces, or labeled Champagne bottles that double as place cards.
Classic favorite
Cookies. Think cutouts that match a blossom in your bouquet. In many cases, these sweet bites can be designed by your confectioner.
Bridal bucks
Give your guests one more reason to be thankful for your friendship—slip lottery tickets into customized envelopes placed at each table setting.
Choose a favor that will help the environment. Think evergreen-tree seedlings. Visit to place your order.
Family bonding
Bake cookies with mom, enlist bridesmaids to help fill clear boxes with Jordan almonds, or craft Christmas stockings with grandma.
Win-win favors
You can never go wrong with chocolate. But don't forget less traditional (and less expensive) sweets that can make a lasting impression, such as taffy sticks or caramels. Buy the sweet stuff at
Musical memories
Share your love of music by making customized CDs for each guest.
Dashboard departures
Ask the valet to place a rose on the dashboard of each guest's car with an attached thank-you note from you and your groom. This parting gift doubles as a favor.
Home cooking
What's better than mom's signature apple pie? Give each guest mini pies for a tasty treat.
Green thumb
Give guests a growing favor, such as potted herbs, to cook with at home.
Practical present
Shield guests from the sun, if you're marrying outdoors, with pretty parasols that they'll be able to use long after your wedding day.

Venue Type Comparisons

Size up the sites - use this cheat sheet to weigh the pros and cons of various types of venues.

Venue Type: Great Because…: The Downside…: Here’s the Deal…:
Banquet Halls/Function Facilities
• Cost efficient and hassle free wedding packages available
• Tons of wedding experience makes site coordinator an invaluable resource • Weddings can look mass produced
• Multiple events held per day, affecting your starting and ending times The average banquet hall’s ambiance may require some imagination to make it your own. Consider it a blank canvas upon which to create your stylistic masterpiece
• Onsite accommodations and added amenities (concierge, shuttles, spas etc.)
• Proximity to airports and/or vacation destinations
• Low or no rental fees • Hotel ballrooms and cuisine can be generic
• Ballroom dividers may be unappealing (ask to see in advance)
• Potential lack of privacy - larger hotels host multiple events at once Providing everything in one location, these venues make things super easy for your guests. Of course, amenities, ambiance and cost vary greatly depending on the hotel or resort.
Country Clubs
• Golf and other activities may be available for guests
• Great outdoor photo opps • Facilities not completely private (members still on site)
• Food may be average or limited Interiors vary, but the grounds will almost always be striking (lakes, golf courses, marinas – you name it). You may have to be sponsored by a member.
• Good food is their specialty
• Fully decorated interiors punch added pizzazz often lacking in basic ballroom décor.
• Space limitations – make sure the space can fit a dance floor and band or DJ
• Potential lack of privacy – if your group size doesn’t warrant renting the entire place, you may be close to regular patrons Most have experience hosting large functions – so planning is relatively painless. If you’ve got a certain look and price point in mind, chances are you can find a restaurant to match.
Mansions and Historic Houses
• Impressive architecture and manicured grounds provide a distinctive setting
• Privacy – these venues usually host one event at a time
• Higher rental fees
• Space – if there’s no large ballroom, parties may have to split into smaller rooms or take place outside
• More restrictions - noise, décor and rental times
• Accessibility – these venues are often in secluded locations The style quotient is high, but expect to allocate more effort and more of your budget for this luxury.
Libraries and Museums
• Distinctive architecture and cultural ambiance
• Exhibitions on display add element of entertainment • Higher rental fees
• Public government space – means potentially restrictive rules, hours and red tape
• Often little coordinating assistance Your guests won’t soon forget this setting, but you may want to hire a professional planner to help with details.
Public Parks, Gardens and Beaches
• Solve decorating dilemmas when Mother Nature does the work for you
• The natural setting complements relaxed weddings
• Necessary permits and many restrictions
• Outdoor disturbances – insects, dirt, mud, allergies, noises, temperature
• Must plan a backup for inclement weather Don’t think these natural settings are a breeze – everything must be rented, from tables and chairs to portable restroom facilities and dance floors.

Reception: Sample Timeline

Sure, you may have been to dozens of weddings, but when it comes down to planning your own reception, it’s hard to know what is supposed to happen when.

00:00 - Cocktail Hour – (bridal party takes pictures). After your “I dos,” you and your husband leave the ceremony first – followed by the bridal party and your photographer – to take your first photographs as husband and wife. At this time, your guests will head to the reception site. To keep the mood festive and fun, cocktail hour should begin as soon as guests arrive at the reception, whether that happens five minutes or an hour after the ceremony.
01:00 - Grand Entrance/First Dances Husband and wife…..Mr. and Mrs….this is the time for your grand entrance. The facility or event coordinator will gather your guests to await your arrival. Typically the bridal party and both sets of parents are introduced, followed by the bride and groom. Since all eyes are on you, this is the perfect occasion to step immediately into your first dance. Sometimes the father/daughter and mother/son dances can take place at this time as well – or you can choose to hold those dances after the meal.
01:20 - Welcomes and Toasts After your first dance, all eyes are still on you. With everyone gathered, this is a perfect time for the parents, the bride and groom, or the honor attendants to speak. The host (often the father of the bride) may choose to welcome and thank your guests for coming. Someone may say a blessing. The best man and maid of honor may also choose to speak at this time.
01:30 - Eat, Drink and be Married… Whether you serve a sit down meal or buffet, this is the time when everybody eats. The bride and groom and their parents are typically served first or are the first to hit the buffet. This may seem contrary to etiquette, but serving them first affords the time to make table visits while the rest of the guests are seated. Your band or DJ will play subdued “dinner appropriate” music at this time (Sinatra and old standards are a favorite). Word of advice to the bride and groom: make sure you take advantage of this time to eat!
02:30 - Get your Groove On Take the lead and hit the dance floor! Guests usually follow the lead of the bride and groom, so do your part to ensure a packed dance floor. At this point, you should have already greeted your guests and accomplished your duties as hostess. Remember – this is your party, so have fun.
04:00 - Cake Cutting About an hour before the reception’s finale – your waitstaff will begin preparing for dessert and coffee. The cake cutting signifies to guests that it is appropriate to depart anytime thereafter, so make sure it doesn’t happen too early, or you could find yourself alone at an empty reception.
04:15 - Back to the Party Of course, many of your guests will forego cake and coffee for more drinks and dancing. The band or DJ should kick right back into lively dance music for those all-night partiers who relish another turn on the dance floor.
04:30 - Bouquet Toss/Garter Removal If you plan to do a bouquet toss, it usually occurs as one of the last events of the evening. Make sure your florist prepares a throwaway bouquet so you can keep your original as a keepsake.
04:45 - Last Dance/Last Call Take advantage of this opportunity to leave a lasting impression, and end your wedding on a high note. The right tune for the last dance will have your guests reluctant to leave. It needn’t be slow song; something lively can ignite the mood for the after party, should you desire.
05:00 - Send-off! These days, receptions are so fun and involve so much pre-planning, the bride and groom no longer wish to make an early getaway. In fact, they’re often the last to leave! Make your send-off the evening’s finale. Your coordinator will usher everyone to watch as you make your getaway. Have guests blow bubbles, toss rose petals or even light sparklers to wish you on your merry way towards a lifetime of happiness.

Reception: Rental Checklist

Depending on your wedding venue – and the type of reception you’re planning - you may need to supply some, if not all the items needed to host your event and serve your guests. Here is your ultimate reception rental checklist

When you book your reception site, be sure that you understand what’s included in the rental fee. Each venue is different, so you have to clarify with the site manager which items the venue provides and which you must provide. As always, make sure that everything you have agreed upon is put in writing. Depending on the venue – and the type of reception you’re planning - you may need to supply some, if not all the items listed below. Here is your ultimate checklist:

Here’s a breakdown of the types of tables you may need:
Guest Tables
36-inch rounds seat 4-6 guests.
48-inch rounds seat 6-8 guests
60-inch rounds seats 8-10 guests.
6 ft rectangle seats about 8 guests
Cake Table(s)
Appropriate size depends on size of cake, whether you’ll also have a groom’s cake, and whether you’ll display both cakes on the same or separate tables. 48-inch round usually works well
Head Table
Seats bridal party. Often consists of rectangular tables placed end-to-end.
Sweetheart Table
in place of head table, small table that seats the bride and groom while the rest of the wedding party sits at guest tables.
Buffet Tables
If you have decided on a buffet dinner, you’ll need to arrange several food stations, such as meet carving, etc. (Buffet tables may be provided by the catering company.)
Gift Table
Size depends on the number of guests you are expecting.
Guest Book Table
A small table for your reception guest book.

To Consider: For a seated dinner or buffet, you will need to provide seating for all reception guests. For a buffet style cocktail reception you may able to get away with enough chairs for half or more of the total number of guests. You may need to rent or purchase chair covers separately. High chairs for children should be available from rental companies.

Linens and Chair covers
Consider: Linens and Chair covers may be included with the rented tables and chairs, or you may need to source them elsewhere.

For a formal sit-down reception, tables are usually set with complete place settings. At a buffet reception where guests serve themselves, plates and silverware may be located at the buffet table.

A large tent or canopy may be required for receptions held outdoors to protect you and your guests from the sun or rain.

Options: Tents and canopies come in different sizes and colors. A smaller tent (20-by-20 feet) will accommodate about 40 guests at a sit-down dinner. A 20-by-40 about 200, and a 60-by-100 about 500 or more. Depending on the shape of your reception area, you may need to rent several smaller canopies rather than one large one. Contact several party rental suppliers to discuss the options.
Take pictures of the site for references for your tent rental company. Although they should survey the facility themselves before they set up the tent, the pictures are a good reference for them when you first set up an appointment.

Heaters/Air Conditioners
You may need to rent heaters if your reception will be held outdoors and if the temperature may drop below sixty-five degrees. There are electric and gas heaters, both of which come in different sizes. Gas heaters are more popular since they do not have unsightly and unsafe electric cords. In warmer climates, portable AC units may be rented for outdoor events.

Dance Floor
The size of your dance floor will depend on how many guests you expect. They can range from 12 by 12 feet up to 20 by 30 feet or larger. Get some graph paper and make a floor plan, and bring this to you when you visit your rental company.
16’x16’ (up to 100 persons) - 16’x20’ (up to 150 persons) - 20’x24’ (up to 200 persons)

Venues: Find the Right Ceremony Locale

For couples choosing to hold their wedding ceremony at their own place of worship or that of their families, the perfect location to exchange vows is a non-decision. Many reception sites also boast beautiful settings in which to hold a wedding ceremony, offering the bride and groom a convenient alternative.

For others though, the perfect ceremony site can present an illusive challenge, since unlike reception sites, resources for ceremony site ideas are often scarce. In response, we did some digging and came up with a list of useful ideas and resources for unique ceremony locations. Make your wedding ceremony as memorable as the reception!

Parks: Offering a picturesque outdoor setting, parks are perfect locations for wedding ceremonies held during temperate months. The abundance of natural scenery can even eliminate the need for pricey decorations!

Government Buildings: Often magnificent architectural wonders, government buildings are a great untapped resource for memorable wedding ceremonies.

Rivers/Lakes/Beaches: If your wedding reception will be held close to a body of water, take advantage of the ideal location and consider holding your ceremony on the banks of the water.

National Monuments: Incorporate some historical significance into your affair, and hold your ceremony near a local monument.

Natural Wonders: Nothing signifies taking the big leap into marriage quite like saying “I Do” from a waterfall, cliff or mountain top!

Botanical Gardens: In addition to all the love in the air, a garden wedding ceremony provides warm breezes, fragrant flowers and a great relaxed vibe. Consult your almanac and ensure the outside temperatures will be comfortable during your chosen time of year.

Museums: Another often untapped resource of architectural prowess, museums provide distinctive backdrops for ceremonies (and an opportunity to learn something!)

Family Member’s House or Yard: Perhaps the perfect ceremony site is right in your own backyard! Having a backyard ceremony adds a special personal touch and creates a down home feel. Because no two backyards are the same, it also guarantees your wedding ceremony will be unlike any other.

Roof Deck or Roof Top: If you’re close to a metropolitan area—consider the roof of one of the tallest buildings. This can make for stunning views and photo opportunities.

Not sure where to begin in finding these wedding ceremony sites? Start by contacting your local chamber of commerce for recommendations and information in your area, and take it from there. In considering these options, make sure to determine any rules and regulations first. Find out about any necessary permits, restrictions, parking rules or other scheduled events.

Ten Ideas to Personalize Your Wedding

It’s all about you so take back your ceremony! It is a ritual – time honored and sacred – but that does not mean your wedding ceremony has to be like every other. Of course, some couples choose to be extremely original and opt for exchanging vows on a roller coaster, while bungee jumping or even dressed as trekies. Good for them for such uninhibited displays of originality. But even if you prefer a more traditional and “scream-free” wedding ceremony, you can still find creative ways to infuse your ceremony with elements that are distinctly you.

Not every wedding ceremony must take place in a house of worship. Outdoor locations and other unique ceremony sites can make for ceremonies that are both spiritual and memorable.

Welcome and refresh your guests by serving lemonade, iced tea or water. It’s a nice touch, and your guests will appreciate the gesture. Depending on the season or nature of your wedding, you can use your refreshment of choice to tie in the theme or style of the day.

Personalized Pew/Row Decorations
Who says your ceremony decorations must be floral? How about draping framed photographs of the bride and groom tied with ribbon over the ends of each row?

Customize your Programs
Summer brides – how about the shape of a fan? Or keep the shape and style traditional, and include personal letter or poem to add some interest to this often overlooked detail.

The Grand Entrance
There are other ways to make your entrance beyond the traditional march with your father. Ride in on a horse. Or be escorted by both parents, a close uncle, brother, friend—even a pet!

Personalized Aisle Runner
You will know this is your ceremony while walking down the isle on a runner personalized with your monogram or logo.

Beyond “Here Comes the Bride”
If walking down the isle to the same song as thousands of brides before you doesn’t sound appealing, there’s no reason why your favorite tune can’t make a memorable substitute!

Mix up the Bridal Party
Who says your maid of honor must be a “maid?” If your best pal happens to be a guy, have a “man of honor.” Same goes for the best man; there’s no reason why there can’t be a “best woman.”

Not Crazy about the Unity Candle? Try the Sand Ceremony
Instead, combine sand into a beautiful bowl or vase. The sand can be of two colors, creating a visual representation of the joining of two families and something you can keep and cherish forever.

Write your own Wedding Vows, Readings, Poems
Nothing puts that special personalized stamp on a ceremony quite like vows and readings prepared by the bride and groom themselves. These spoken words expose your mind and your heart to each other and to your audience.

Budget: Ceremony Savings

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that the wedding ceremony is the reason behind the big party. In reality, the ceremony is one of the few true essentials on the wedding planning checklist, so you’ll need to allot space for it in your wedding budget. Thankfully, fabulous vows do not need be a budget buster. Heed this advice to walk down the aisle in style.

Site Savings: Two in One
Many reception venues also host on-site ceremonies. The ceremony fee may be built into the cost of the reception or tack on a minimal expense (planning tip - the ceremony fee is easy to negotiate since you’re forking over so much the reception). Hosting both events in the same location will also save on transportation expenses.

Honor Your Faith
If you have a strong religious affiliation, your house of worship will likely host your wedding ceremony. This is good news for your budget, since members of the organization can usually rent the space free-of-cost (although a donation is a nice gesture).

Décor Deductions: Something Borrowed
Plan your wedding near a major religious holiday when your place of worship is decked with festive décor. “Borrowing” your ceremony décor means one less detail to plan – and one less item to purchase.

Simplify Your Site
Overdone decorations are unnecessary for a brief ceremony. Keep décor elements simple (and cost-effective), and save the pricey arrangements for the reception – as this is where your guests will spend the majority of time. For example, strategically placed candles set a romantic ambiance and cost considerably less than flowers.

Go Natural
Cut décor costs further by exchanging vows in a naturally beautiful location. A garden wedding hardly needs additional floral arrangements, while an ornate church may be breathtaking on its own (planning tip - for public outdoor settings, be sure to check the rules and regulations.)

Music Markdowns: Amateur Alternatives
Ceremony musicians can tack on an extra $500-$1000 if you’re not careful. Consider some alternatives and pocket the extra cash for your reception entertainment. If your ceremony site boasts a respectable sound system, round up some classical CDs and someone reliable to cue the music – and viola – instant background music. Or better yet, ask a talented friend or family member to perform during the ceremony (a perfect job for that cousin you couldn’t quite squeeze into your wedding party). You’ll cut costs and give a special person a significant role on your special day.

Banish the Rental Fee: Multi-Talented Musicians
Hire your reception entertainment to accompany your ceremony as well. Vendor pricing is much easier to negotiate when you purchase multiple services or package deals.