A New Wedding Venture….

S0…long time no post.

I’ve moved into a new role in the wider wedding world. A couple years ago, I didn’t understand wedding photography at all — the hard work that goes into preparing for a wedding, the long hours that go into postprocessing after a wedding, the sheer excitement of capturing just the right shot that showcases a couple’s uninhibited love.

Well, now I’ve gotten a delicious taste of it. I’ve gone from writing about weddings to photographing them. Check out my new project on my website — www.laurayangphotography.com — and my blog — www.blog.laurayangphotography.com — and my Facebook page — www.facebook.com/laurayangphotography.

~ Laura

Cash-lite Couture

This gown comes from the Spring 2011 collection from White by Vera Wang for David's Bridal.

Even before becoming a bride myself, I was an avowed boutique lover when it came to bridal gowns. David’s Bridal, for all its tempting prices, couldn’t attract my attention because I didn’t like the Walmart-style shopping — endless racks of endless dresses sheathed in plastic, and a bevy of salespeople who often, in my brief experience with other engaged friends and from what I’d heard from previous customers, provided less than exemplary services.

A couple years ago, my attitude began shifting with the Oleg Cassini and Galina Signature lines — elegant, fashion-forward creations that made me reconsider my idea of David’s Bridal. Although quite a few of my own friends wore wedding gowns from David’s Bridal and looked lovely, I wasn’t entirely convinced. And while I love a good bargain, I don’t like that their no-middleman prices make it difficult for established small businesses to compete in this economy. Worth mentioning: shortly after a David’s Bridal opened in my area about a year ago, the great little bridal boutique where I purchased my own gown, Bridal Ltd., went under.

But then I stumbled upon White by Vera Wang for David’s Bridal. Ladies, do these gowns look anything less than haute couture?

I would have worn one in a heartbeat! (Especially that one up top.)

The combination is great. Vera Wang, the go-to wedding gown designer for almost 20 years + an unbelievable price (between $600 and $1,500)  = happy brides — and bride-funders — everywhere.

This gown comes from the Spring 2011 collection from White by Vera Wang for David's Bridal.

At this point, I guess boutique owners and true boutique purists are the only ones who can really be unhappy. Because, with this quality at these prices, I’ve suddenly turned into a DB’s fan.

Unfortunately for me, I’m already married — but again, at these prices, I might just have to plan an elaborate vow renewal ceremony so I can shimmy into one of these confections!

I’d always admired Vera Wang gowns from afar, knowing I could never slap down the $10,000 price for some of the gowns I daydreamed about. But now, almost any bride who admires her style can wear a gown with the look and feel — and name — of Vera Wang on her big day.

(Be sure to check out the entire line — and bridesmaids dresses coming this summer.)

~ Laura

Best Wishes for Mark + Stefanie

In just a few moments, my bestie’s older brother, Mark, will become Stefanie’s husband and Hailey’s stepfather on this gorgeous Spring afternoon. What a wonderful day for such a wonderful celebration. Congratulations to the happy couple — and the happy new family!

~ Laura

The Biggest Don’ts

When it comes to wedding etiquette, I’m a big believer in bending the rules to make it fit your own needs, personality, and guests. But there are a few things no bride should ever, ever do.

And I did some of them.

Needless to say, I still think about my own faux pas from time to time and cringe. So here are some of the most important tips I can offer to help you avoid the embarrassment, in no particular order:

Never ask someone for help with your wedding planning unless they’re on your guest list. In my mind, this should be a no-brainer — but surprisingly, it happened to one of my close friends, who was asked by one of her close friends to assist with a particularly personal wedding planning decision . . . and then never even got an invitation to the reception. Needless to say, that friendship has all but dissipated.

In a similar vein, don’t have in-depth conversations about wedding details with people who aren’t on your guest list. (This is where I goofed up.) By chatting at length about the flavors of your wedding cake or how fun you think it will be to dance barefoot on the beach with all your guests, you’re giving the impression that the person you’re sharing with will get to be there to enjoy it with you. As I found out, when your guest list ends up larger than the capacity of your venue, you might have to cut even people you had planned to celebrate with — so play it safe unless you’re sure your conversation partner will make the final cut, or, as I discovered, you’ll forever feel awkward around the people who fell off your guest list.

Another thing to be mindful of while talking with friends and acquaintances: don’t trash other brides’ weddings or make your own plans sound superior. My ten-month engagement was apparently the official Time to Get Married for half the East Coast, so I had plenty of opportunities to avoid this pitfall and observe its distastefulness up close (although I must add that my friends were exceptionally well mannered). Every bride thinks her plans are the best, but it’s downright obnoxious to hear one bride belittle another’s choice of flowers.

Don’t badmouth your groom either. Sure, you don’t think you are, because you know how much you love him — but people who don’t know will really question your union (and your personal character) if you’re constantly complaining that he isn’t interested in the table linens or mocking his wedding-related suggestions.

Just like your groom, you shouldn’t spend your engagement whining about your wedding vendors, your future in-laws, your own parents, or your bridal party. Now is a very, very good time to try to get along with everyone! But while you’re playing super nice, you don’t have to lose to anyone who plays dirty: don’t let anyone hijack your wedding. When it comes to details, hammer them out — kindly — with whomever is paying or close family members you’d like included; just don’t let anyone who isn’t getting married that day trample your vision for the start of your marriage.

That said, remember that you can’t be inflexible. If someone asks you to reconsider a decision or look into an alternative, approach it thoughtfully and critically instead of defensively. Is this person just trying to suit their own interests or presenting a rational suggestion — such as making sure you have a backup plan in case it rains the morning of your mountaintop wedding? Is this person dismissing your idea out of hand or asking you to realistically do a cost-benefit analysis? Is your vendor really ignoring your ideas or genuinely telling you she isn’t capable of creating what you want? Remember that not everything is going to go as planned, so keep the motto I learned on a mission trip in mind: “Semper Gumby” (aka, “be flexible”!). You’ll be a much happier, calmer bride if you do!

On the flipside, don’t be indecisive. Prolonged indecision will create stress for everyone involved (believe me, I’ve experienced this!) and might even mean you miss out on a wedding professional or venue that you love. Think every decision through carefully, but after you’ve weighted your options, force yourself to take action so you — and everyone else — can free your time and energy to move on to other parts of the planning.

While you’ll get plenty of help with planning, you also need to remember that you shouldn’t dominate your friends’ and family’s time with too many wedding chores or events. Everyone loves a good party, but don’t expect even your mother to happily troop to too many showers and luncheons. Even more important, everyone who wants to pitch in with wedding work wants to see you happy, but they don’t want you to assign them a to-do list that’s longer than the Constitution.

In a similar vein, don’t let your wedding take over your life. There are several reasons for this. First up, after the wedding, you’ll feel a big letdown if you did nothing but wedding planning leading up to the big day. Second, you’ll drive away friends and family if you railroad conversations about friends’ promotions and family members’ remodeling projects back to your topic of choice. Third — you still have a daily life (or you’re supposed to, anyway!) with work and time to enjoy all the things you used to love, before your wedding became priority # 1. Keep living that way — because that’s what made you the person your fiance wanted to marry in the first place.

Last but not least — don’t forget that your marriage is more important than your wedding. That should need no explaining at all.

~ Laura

A Lifetime of Happiness for Samantha & Isaac

On Sunday, my longtime friend Sam and her new husband Isaac capped off their whirlwind romance by exchanging vows against the picturesque backdrop of the Halifax River. Only a few close friends were in attendance. Afterward, they celebrated a low-key reception with a few more friends at a local restaurant, then quite literally, drove off into the sunset.

Here’s to many more happy days!

~ Laura

Congrats, Tiffany & Jonathan!

One of the great girls I grew up with, Tiffany, just got engaged to her boyfriend, Jonathan, last night. Congratulations to the happy pair! May the wedding planning be easy and the future filled with many moments as wonderful as last night.

~ Laura

Brainstorming: Dry Wedding or Keg Party?

Fear not — these extremes aren’t your only options. But for a lot of brides, the extremes are what happens.

I’ve been to many a dry wedding, and for all the people who say no alcohol = no fun, I want to ask, since when do you require a chemical enhancement to enjoy a friend’s happiness? I’ve also been to open bar weddings, which have had varying levels of prudently imbibing vs. tipsy/obnoxious guests. And then there’s the wine bar/limited cocktail hour, where drinks are only served until the amount of alcohol consumed reaches a certain price point — then the bartender closes up shop. Or the much-maligned cash bar, where guests pony up for their own adult beverages.

And before I go any farther, let me just say I love every option — as long as it’s the right option for each wedding. But that’s up to you to decide, not some wedding etiquette guru who tries to tell you a wedding must have alcohol or a relative who insists you keep it dry. So let’s go through the pros and cons of each option.

No Alcohol:
Pros: You won’t be paying (likely a minimum of $500 or more) for drinks; you’re guaranteed no alcohol-induced shenanigans or embarrassing performances from guests.
Cons: Some guests might feel you’re neglecting your role as host; the dance floor is likely to be less lively than if you allow guests to loosen up with a drink; no champagne toast.

Is a no-alcohol wedding for you? Consider how many of your friends and family drink socially. Then consider whether you have friends or family who habitually overindulge. If the answer tilts toward the latter, an alcohol-free wedding will preserve your sanity on the big day. Also consider your budget: if a lot of your guests will be just as happy without wine to accompany their dinners, you’ll save quite a bit of cash while still enjoying a nice party.

Cash Bar:
Pros: This allows guests to enjoy alcoholic drinks without adding a hefty sum to your reception cost; a cash bar means guests can have the drink of their choice.
Cons: Some guests might be offended at the thought of spending their own money at your party; cash bars are frequently considered gauche by wedding experts (although my reception coordinator recommended it!); you might end up with tipsy/drunk guests.

Is a cash bar right for your wedding? Chances are, your budget is going to play the biggest role in deciding the answer to that. If you want to provide your guests with a lavish and gracious party, you might hesitate to ask them to pony up for the drinks they want, but if your budget is tight, making alcohol cash-optional is a way to let them have the option to drink without sending you into debt.

Wine & Specialty Drinks Only / Cocktail Hour / Cash-Limited Bar:
Pros: You get to offer alcohol to your guests on your own terms — serve “signature cocktails,” serve drinks for a certain amount of time only, or until you reach a certain price point, all of which save you $$.
Cons: With a predetermined cutoff bar or cash-limited bar, some guests might drink their way through eight brewskis and help you reach your cash limit well before other guests have even gotten their first drink; you might end up with tipsy/drunk guests.

Are any of these alcohol-inclusive but limited options for you? If you want to give alcohol to your guests but keep control over the cost or quantity of drinking that takes place, you’re best bet is to choose one of these options.

Open Bar:
Pros: You can truly wine and dine your guests.
Cons: You’re all but assured of a very high bar tab and quite likely to end up with tipsy/drunk guests.

Is an open bar the way to go at your wedding? If budget isn’t an issue and you have friends and family who love to sample different types of drinks throughout the night, an open bar is probably the way to go. But if you anticipate a lot of guests will overindulge because the booze is on you, consider scaling back to a quantity bar — after X number of drinks are served, it’s time to switch over to virgin cocktails and sparkling cider for the night.

Whatever option you’re leaning toward, when it comes to serving alcohol — or not –making sure you, your fiance and your family are comfortable with the decision is more important than trying to please anyone else, even your guests. You know what you do and don’t want at your wedding. You also probably know your guests well enough to to assess which offering would suit them best. Talk it over with your closest family and friends, and ask previous brides how they’ve handled it at their weddings (and what results they’ve had).

And, whichever way you go, cheers!

~ Laura