Category Archives: Wedding Planning

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

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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

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

The Right Bride(smaid) for the Job

I’m going to try to sum up wedding planning in one word. Okay, here goes….

“Overwhelming.”

By the end of my wedding, I was in old flip flops and totally exhausted. But the real fatigue came before the wedding even started. Photo by Tiffany Deegan.

No matter how organized, meticulous, and laid-back you might be about the whole process, there will come a moment when it all just feels like so much work. (That moment will probably arrive for your fiance a lot sooner than it will for you. Consider yourself warned.)

So the important thing is not only to be organized, but to have friends and family there to actually help you — people who can assist you with some tasks, and completely take over others. Here’s a breakdown of what qualities to look for in the people you ask for help with each item on your to-do list.

WEDDING DRESS SHOPPING
Ever watched Say Yes to the Dress? Then you know an entourage of opinionated galpals isn’t going to make your selection process any easier. Don’t feel obligated to take anyone based on their relationship to you.
The Right Stuff: Take only (a few!) people whose judgment you trust to help you figure out which dress flatters you most, suits your style, and will make you feel exactly the way you want to feel on your wedding day.

GUEST LIST PLANNING
For this one, you’re going to need input from your family — and his. But when it comes to narrowing down the list, you can turn to a close friend for support and guidance.
The Right Stuff: Pick someone you’re very close to, who truly understands the details of your wedding (space and budget limitations; overall feel you’re going for) and who knows a lot of the friends and family on your list. She or he will then be able help you make those sometimes painful decisions of which people really don’t need to be on your guest list.

Your beloved might not really want to help you tie ribbons on to a couple hundred bubble wands . . . but your bridesmaids might! Photo by Tiffany Deegan.

CHOOSING DECOR
Your intended may or may not want to wrangle just the right linens, candles, flowers and aisle runners. But you might have friends — or a mom — who are all pressing for you to choose what they like best.
The Right Stuff: Solicit the guidance and assistance of a fashion-forward friend or family member whose taste is similar to yours. Make sure s/he is someone who can keep the big picture in mind and understands how all the pieces need to work together to create just the right feel.

SENDING INVITATIONS
If you’re not hiring a calligrapher but you’re having a formal wedding, hand addressing your invitations is the way to go. And if, like me, you have over 100 invitations to send . . . that’s going to lead to a lot of hand cramps — unless you get some help!
The Right Stuff: Ask for help from a close friend who has the patience for slow, repetitive tasks; s/he also needs to have a good attention to detail (one wrong number or letter and the invitation won’t make it to your guest!) — and of course, legible, attractive handwriting.

PLANNING THE BRIDAL SHOWER & BACHELORETTE PARTY
Traditionally, this is the one part of the wedding where the bride is supposed to butt out! But if you’ve got several people clamoring to handle these duties, it’s up to you to help make sure they end up in capable hands.
The Right Stuff: Shower hosts should be social, outgoing people who know how to make sure everyone feels included and has a good time, who can plan a relaxed but structured event, and who won’t be calling you at the last minute to say they just found ten invitations they forgot to mail! Bachelorette party planners ought to be bridesmaids or close relatives who understand your personality and know how to plan a party you — as well as all the other ladies — will enjoy.

Putting one bridesmaid -- likely your MOH -- in charge of the wedding party will help ensure everyone knows where they're supposed to be and what they're supposed to do. Photo by Laura Yang.

OVERSEEING THE WEDDING PARTY
Although you probably would like to think you can handle this yourself, as the time of your wedding draws near, the truth is you’re going to get a bit a.) frazzled; b.) distracted; and c.) busy.
The Right Stuff: Even if you have a wedding planner, it’s a good idea if one of your bridesmaids can be appointed a sort of ringleader. Choose a well-organized, detail-oriented friend to make sure all the other members of the wedding party know where they need to be and when, what they need to bring, and what they’re expected to do at any given time.

This barely scratches the surfaces of the ways your friends and family can help you. Some personal examples from my wedding: one bridesmaid picked up my gown after my final fitting; a friend from church crafted lovely wreaths for ceremony; my aunt transported table linens; several other bridesmaids decided to beautify the church entrance . . . by buying and spreading entirely new mulch in the plant beds the day before the wedding. . . .

So keep in mind that whenever a new task arises, you don’t have to panic — and you don’t have to do it all yourself! Yes, you don’t want to overwhelm your friends and family, but they don’t want you to get overwhelmed, either. Don’t hesitate to ask for help — and don’t be surprised when help is offered before you’ve even asked!

(Just be sure to write so really nice thank you notes after the honeymoon!)

~ Laura

A Holiday Wedding: The Pros and Cons

The holidays are such a joyful time that weddings seem like a perfect fit -- you just need to make sure it's the right fit for you. Photo by Laura Yang.

By now, Thanksgiving is a distant memory, Hanukkah has come and gone, Christmas flew by, and New Year’s is upon us! So if I may, I’d like to take you on a little trip down memory lane. . . .

Four years ago, December was Wedding Month more than Christmas Season as far as my friends and acquaintances were concerned. I knew three friends getting married within three weeks of each other,and they each had lovely weddings that reflected the festive mood of the bride and groom and of the holidays.  Since then, I’ve known a handful of other couples who have made December the month they said “I do.”

But there were some tricky logistics to work out and some guests who simply couldn’t make it due to other holiday plans.

So as you get caught up in the excitement of the season and start wondering if you might like to get married at this “most wonderful time of the year,” here are a few things to consider:

The Cons:

  • You last-minute wedding preparations might end up taking a backseat to your friends’ and family’s Christmas parties and planning — or at least get juggled around them.
  • For the rest of your life, you’ll face scheduling conflicts on your anniversary, such as more Christmas parties, kids’ pageants, traveling, sheer busyness, and so on.
  • A Christmastime wedding may make your potential guests have to choose between celebrating your marriage with you and celebrating the holidays with family.
  • At a time of year when people are already spending lots of cash on Christmas gifts, they may be a bit hesitant to also buy your wedding present — or pay for a plane ticket and hotel, which sometimes come with premium prices during the busy travel season.
  • The holidays can get chaotic enough without also adding the stress of a wedding into the mix.
  • Depending on when you get married in December, you may have to cut short or postpone your honeymoon in order to not miss Christmas with your family — or you might miss Christmas with your family.

It’s not all bad, though. There are plenty of pros to balance out the cons.

The Pros:

  • A wedding and anniversary during the holiday season will make the season that much more special.
  • Friends and family love getting together during the holidays — it’s the perfect time for a wedding-based family reunion. (One friend’s family all stuck around after the wedding and celebrated Christmas together for the first time ever.)
  • Decorating for a Christmas-y wedding can be relatively easy and inexpensive, especially if your venue is already decked out for the holidays.
  • Depending on when you get married in December, you may have to cut short or postpone your honeymoon in order to not miss Christmas with your family — or you might miss Christmas with your family.

Yes, that last one made both lists. Your own feelings about Christmas and your family determine which list it actually belongs in. . . .

I personally enjoy holiday weddings, but definitely have seen firsthand how they come with some unique challenges for wedding party members and guests alike. What you need to figure out is whether there are more positives or negatives in your holiday wedding equation — and whether your family and other guests will follow your logic.

Happy planning — and happy holidays!

~ Laura

Brainstorming: A Piece of Cake

A show-stopping cake makes a dramatic wedding centerpiece, like this cake modeled after a bride's gown. Cake by The Pastry Studio. Photo by Al Dee Photography.

There’s no use trying to sugarcoat it (hahaha — pun intended). Wedding cakes are an expensive addition to your big day. They can also be confusing. Ganache? Mousse? Dowels? Which parts are even edible?!

Thankfully, you’re friendly neighborhood baker is there to answer your questions. Hey, don’t look at me!

All you’ve got to do is come up with your dream design — and even there, your baker will be more than happy to help!

But before you head into the bakery, figuring out a few key elements by asking yourself a few simple questions will save you — and your baker — a considerable amount of time. So sit back, enjoy the ride, and start daydreaming about fondant bows and tiers of tiramisu,

1. Rank in order of importance to you: Your cake must be ____
Stunningly beautiful
Delicious, of course!
Simply elegant
Inexpensive
A unique original

2. Are there certain flavors or flavor combinations you know you want — or want to avoid?

While the "bride's" cake is usually a sophisticated confection, the groom's cake is all about having fun and showing off some personality! Cake by The Pastry Studio. Photo by Al Dee Photography.

3. Are you open to cost-saving ideas, such as a mini cake for cutting and sheet cakes for serving; a decorated Styrofoam cake and sheet cakes for serving; a cupcake tower; a small cake for each table?

4. If you want a cake that fits certain dietary needs (dairy- or gulten-free, or Kosher, for example), have you already checked with your first-choice bakery to make sure they can accommodate you?

5. Budget allowing, are you in the market for a groom’s cake? Would you be willing to scale down your wedding cake so you can have a groom’s cake, too?

And a few tips when it comes to cakes….

  • Ask your caterer or reception venue not to place a slice of cake in front of every chair at your wedding; instead, have them hand-deliver cake to guests. That way, you’ll avoid serving cake to guests who have already left the party. Have the caterer or venue package up the leftover cake for family, or send it home with guests in boxes.
  • If your cake arrives and a detail or two aren’t perfect, try not to sweat it. I heard a story from a photographer about one bride who was terribly upset when the bakery delivered a round cake, although she had ordered a hexagon. When she found out that they’d had to scramble to make her a second cake after the original was ruined during delivery — another car cut off the delivery truck, forcing the driver to slam on his breaks — the bride cried again. But those were tears of joy.
  • Pre-designed cakes cost less than original designs -- and they can look beautiful and taste just as sweet. Cake by Publix. Photo by Laura Yang.

  • Plan with your fiance exactly where and how you’re going to cut your cake. With such a big dessert, figuring out where to put that knife can be difficult!
  • This sounds like common sense, but keep in mind that the oils in cake and especially frosting, as well as chocolate and fruity fillings, can leave a permanent stain on wedding gowns!
  • As with all other wedding day items, price-check before you sign a contract with any local baker. It’s a good idea to check their references and speak with several past clients just to make sure they have a record of satisfied customers.
  • Don’t be afraid to tell the baker exactly what you want, but bear in mind that they might not be able to deliver a seven-tier cake that weighs as much as you or hand-make sugar flowers that are the exact shape as the ones in your bouquet. Be reasonable about what you expect!
  • When you cut into your cake…remember to smile! You’ll have that moment captured forever, so even if you’re nervous you’ll spill crumbs on the tablecloth, flash a few pearly whites and look like you’re having the time of your life!

~ Laura


Eureka Moment: Bustle, Bustle, Toil and Tussle

Simply number or color-coding your bustle ties will save you -- and your maid of honor -- a lot of time and frustration on your wedding day! Photo by Laura Yang.

I have a very vivid memory from one of my best friends’ weddings: The other maids and I, as well as the bride’s mom and the nervous groom, hovered around the bride in a small side room as the reception swirled on without us.

We were trying to retie and jerry-rig the bustle after the groom’s errant foot had produced a hearty rip! and a suddenly-lopsided bustle. (Thankfully, only a bustle tie had ripped — the dress itself was perfectly fine and the groom was the only one of us who was upset.)

Now, there’s really not much you can do to prevent that situation, unless you want to order all wedding guests and even the groom to give the almighty dress a good three feet of clearance space at all times. But you can do something to make the whole bustle-tying process a lot more streamlined and a lot less brain-bending.

When my seamstress created the French bustle for my dress, she pulled out a handy trick. She simply numbered each of the bustle ties so my maid of honor wouldn’t have any questions about which pieces of ribbon she should tie together.

It worked, as they say, like a charm.

~ Laura