Monthly Archives: May 2014

10 Ways Your Wedding Prepares You for Marriage

By: 
Sharon Naylor

From the time you get engaged to your big day, with every decision you make and hurdle you overcome, you're putting all kinds of wisdom into play. You're also fine-tuning skills that can help build a successful marriage, such as sticking to a budget, navigating family politics and knowing when to take a de-stressing break from it all. 

Apply these learning experiences from your wedding-planning journey to your future together:

newlyweds
Photo Credit: J. Woodbery Photography on Every Last Detail via Lover.ly

1. Don't let money fights tear you apart.
Financial disagreements can strain even the happiest of marriages. According to a study by The National Survey of Families and Households, couples who argue about money once a week are 30 percent more likely to divorce than couples who report fighting about finances a few times each month. In order to protect your marriage, take your family budget seriously and be patient for those big things that you want, whether it's a new car or maybe even a baby.

If you went over-budget for your wedding (many couples do!) make it a goal to live within your means now. Start by recording everything you spend over the course of a month — and we do mean everything — in an easy program like Quicken or Mint.com. Next, see what you can take a break from or scale back on, like going out to eat two times a month instead of six. Even little things like choosing affordable cuts of meat when grocery shopping and filtering water from the tap instead of buying water bottle cases can add up to big savings.

As you may have already learned with unexpected wedding expenses, it's also crucial to have an emergency fund, especially if you own a house or car that could need pricey repairs.

2. Make time for your other favorite people  they helped make you who you are.
During the wedding-planning process, you likely involved your parents and siblings somehow, whether it was inviting them to your gown-shopping appointment, honoring your family history with a photo table, or other thoughtful gestures. During your marriage, make a plan to connect with both of your immediate and extended families on a regular basis.

If you live far away from them, set up a Sunday Skype date and send thoughtful emails or texts just to see how they're doing. Share family traditions with your spouse: holiday traditions, recipes, great stories, visits to your families' favorite places and any other insights into your family life before this new life you're sharing.

Let go of family drama. Just like a squabble over the budget or guest list may have stressed you out, family dramas can also create tension in your marriage. Stay out of the fray, forgive what you can and don't get sucked into attention-seeking ploys. Embrace the happier, more positive people in your life, whoever they may be.

mother of the groom
Photo Credit: Rachel Smith Photography on Scratch Weddings via Lover.ly

3. Gratitude is essential to leading a happy life!
Just like you sent thank-you notes for wedding gifts you received, it's just as important to say "thank you" to anyone who adds light and laughter to your world during your marriage. It might be for a dinner your parents took you to, the wheelbarrow your neighbor lent you when you were putting in your garden or anything sweet your husband does for you. Everyone wants to feel that they are appreciated.

Keep a gratitude journal in which you record five things that made you happy that day. This will ensure that your mindset stays balanced even during challenging times. It makes you a happier person to be around, which is contagious!

groom with lipstick marks
Photo Credit: Elizabeth Messina on Kiss the Groom via Lover.ly

4. The couple that plays together, stays together.
One of the biggest wishes among engaged couples planning their weddings is that the entire event be a ton of fun. A great band or deejay. Interactive food stations. Photo booths. Weddings are unforgettable experiences for guests.

Make your marriage stronger by incorporating lots of play, inside jokes, and new activities, as well as making time for the things you already love to do together. 

Next: More marriage lessons ►

 

5. Honor each other’s boundaries.
Make your marriage stronger by engaging in open communication. Rather than just saying "no" when your partner comes to you with a request or vice versa, take the time to explain why you feel this way, listen to each other and prioritize one another's feelings. You both need to understand where the other is coming from in order to make decisions that honor you and your partner's comfort level and values.

It's all about teamwork in a happy marriage, which stems from compromise and balance. Neither of you is The Boss — resentments can boil over when one partner feels like they're getting overruled all the time. Come up with an agreement that neither of you should have to do something you feel strongly against or uncomfortable with, and make an effort to mix up the decision-making.

6. Stay flexible and have a Plan B just in case.
Smart wedding planning involves having a back-up plan: an indoor space for the ceremony in case it rains or an alternative bouquet in case your floral designer can't get an out-of-season bloom.

In your marriage, don't get so hung up on having things go according to your timetable that you're absolutely devastated if your original plan doesn't work out. It's not about what happens to us; it's how we bounce back.

umbrella newlyweds
Photo Credit: Vesic Photography on Inspired by This via Lover.ly

7. Nobody wins when you try to keep up with the Joneses.
Even if your best friend had a $100,000 wedding and yours was just a tiny fraction of that, it doesn't mean that your big day was any less awesome or special. Although it's natural to get envious sometimes, it's not worth acting on by trying to outcompete or match what someone else has — many negative things can spiral out from there. 

The same goes for the home you choose to live in, the furniture you buy, the car you drive and so on. No one wants to feel like they're not doing well enough in life. So, how do you tame that green-eyed monster? Again, we’re back to #3: gratitude makes life fabulous! Let the Joneses be the Joneses and you live your wonderful life filled with beautiful people and your own special touches to the things you do have.

8. The people you hire had better be good.
You put a lot of time and energy into researching, interviewing and hiring the best wedding vendors. The same goes for hiring real estate agents, doctors, contractors...the experts you can't afford to entrust your home (or your life) to without fully investigating them and investing in the best.

You know that when you hire someone without doing due diligence, you're more likely to get crummy service and bad results. You don't want that with your plumbing or your health.

9. Every now and then, get away from it all and get back to being "you."
When stress builds up, it’s not pretty. You may find yourself snapping over minor things, sleeping poorly, overeating, skipping workouts, breaking out...stress is bad news for you and for everyone who loves you. Every now and then, make time to go on a vacation as part of your "happy me, happy us" plan. And even if you can't get away because of budget or time, find ways to switch up your scenery like checking out shops in a nearby town or going for a hike.

Whether you revisit your honeymoon resort, check into a quaint bed and breakfast a few hours away or even just take a day trip somewhere, the important thing is to recognize when you and your spouse are overworked from the daily grind. Escaping your to-do list and unplugging for a few hours/days will dial down your stress levels and make you better partners.

honeymoon
Photo Credit: Caneel Bay Resort

10. Be present – it all goes by too fast.
The wedding day passes by so quickly — one minute you're slipping that ring on your groom's finger and the next minute, the band is announcing that this is the last song of the night. You didn't even get to eat very much of your wedding menu! In your marriage, as in your wedding, make sure you stop, look around, and take in every detail.

Be fully present and you won't look back on your life saying, "There's so much that I didn't take the time to appreciate and enjoy." Enjoy every moment to the fullest.

home from the honeymoon book

 

Sharon Naylor is the best-selling author of over 35 wedding books, including Home from the Honeymoon: The Newlyweds' Guide to the Celebrations and Challenges of the First Year of Marriage.

Visit sharonnaylor.net for more great tips and advice.

The Tough Money Talks You Must Have Before Marriage

By: 
Holly Kylen

pink walletDon't Dodge the Debt

Make sure all the financial skeletons come out of the closet before the big day — discuss school loans, credit card debts and other prior obligations (child support or private loans). As uncomfortable as this topic might seem, you don’t want any unexpected surprises when it comes to debt obligations. Your debt — and your partner’s — impacts not just your collective bottom line, but also your ability to jointly make financial com- mitments, like buying a first home.

Take Financial Inventory

Now is the time to have a heart-to-heart with your future spouse about his financial past, present and future. Talk about retirement and other savings, whether you have wills that need to be updated and work benefits such as retirement accounts, health and life insurance and disability benefits. Explore whether you can save money by going on each other’s health insurance after marriage and consider whether you may need disability insurance to protect your paycheck if one of you becomes disabled and can’t work. Also ensure you are both contributing enough to your workplace retirement plans to take advantage of the employer match.

Play Detective

Take notice of whether your future spouse spends money frivolously, frugally or somewhere in between. Dinners out, expensive vacations and buying the latest “it” item can reveal a careless approach to money. On the other hand, your partner might be frugal, ordering the cheapest item on the menu or splitting the bills down to the penny. Turn the microscope on yourself as well to identify your money personality. Tuning into these clues can help you set realistic expectations for yourself and your partner.

Create a Support Network

Your financial inventory should also include financial professionals who can support you as a couple in working toward achieving your financial and retirement goals. If you already work with an accountant, attorney and/or financial advisor, make sure your partner also establishes a relationship with them — and vice versa. If neither you nor your spouse has ever consulted with a financial advisor, now is the perfect time to find one together.

Look Ahead to the Retirement Horizon

Growing old might seem like it is years away, but planning for retirement doesn’t happen overnight. If you and your fiancé are already saving for retirement through an employer-sponsored retirement plan or individual retirement account (IRA), you are off to a great start. If not, you may want to consider getting started saving for retirement and set up automatic deductions from your checking account or paycheck directly into a retirement account. This is also an opportunity to talk about your collective budget and make sure retirement savings is a shared priority.

Think About 'Til Death Do Us Part

It may be in the marriage vows, but “death” is not something any bride wants to consider before marriage. That said, marriage is a major event that entails joining you for life with someone else. Protect each other through life insurance and update your beneficiary information on financial and retirement accounts.

Establish Your Roles

You don’t have to figure this out right away, but start to talk about how the two of you are going to divide household finances. Perhaps you pay the monthly bills and day-to-day expenses, while your spouse handles the insurance and retirement savings, or vice versa. Figure out each other’s strengths and natural abilities and play to those in how you divide up the financial responsibilities. 

Be Each Other's Biggest Cheerleader

Make sure you are each other’s biggest support when it comes to making financial decisions. Confide in each other and offer constructive advice. If the financial inventory uncovers debts or other financial challenges, figure out how to tackle the issues together as a team. Don’t forget to celebrate your successes, too. Promotions, raises and reaching financial and retirement goals are milestones that deserve recognition.

Holly Kylen is an ING Retirement Coach and financial advisor at ING Financial Partners, where she developed a Retirement Planning for Women seminar. She also serves on ING’s Women’s Advisory Network Board.

Wedding Costs: Where Does All the Money Go?

By: 
Daniel P. Smith

wedding limo
Photo Credit: AveryHouse

Budget Breakdown in the Northeast
 

The Venue: 11%
Looking to capture the city’s picturesque skyline and customize a blank palette, Sojourner Auguste, executive director of New York City-based Erganic Design, says many local couples turn to New York City’s "raw" venues, namely loft spaces, to host their wedding, directing additional capital to the necessary lighting, décor and other rentals. While raw spaces — be they urban lofts or vast country barns — possess a compelling energy, Auguste suggests couples on a tight budget consider a fully furnished space that already claims the style and character they envision for their wedding day. Check out wedding inspiration for an urban affair here ►

wedding ceremony
Photo Credit: Bethalée Photography

Food and Beverage: 55%
Auguste finds many caterers are willing to customize packages at or near a couple’s budget. Her money saving tip: "Beware of too many specialized cocktail hour and dessert stations, which increase staffing and rental costs."

Photography and Video: 14%
Auguste advises brides to map out a timeline of the day they can then share with the photographer and videographer. "From that timeline, you can then determine the moments you want captured and discern how long you need the photographer and videographer on site."

Entertainment: 5%
Rather than booking live musicians for the ceremony and cocktail hour, Auguste urges brides to limit live music to the reception and to add an extra hour or two to the DJ’s contract to cover those segments. "In many cases, you can negotiate a discounted rate for the DJ’s additional time."

Rentals: 9%
Rental fees can add up quickly. Auguste’s budget-friendly tip: "Make sure you see exactly and only what you need from the caterer, so you don’t have to pay for extra utensils or glassware that won’t be used." Check out our ultimate guide to wedding rentals here ►

Flowers: 6%
"Think beyond flowers," Auguste says, and ask florists about "fillers" that will lower costs without sacrificing beauty. "Many florists provide candlelight or centerpiece décor items that will match your theme at a more cost-effective price point."

Next: Wedding budget breakdown in the South 

Budget Breakdown in the South
 

The Venue: 13%
A number of Southern brides turn to distinctive landmarks, such as historic homes or museums, as their wedding venue. By booking in off-peak months — generally, January, February, July and August — Tara Skinner, co-owner of Savannah, GA-based Posh Petals and Pearls, says brides might secure the venue of their dreams on a slimmer budget.

southern wedding
Photo Credit: Kim Graham Photography

Food and Beverage: 33% 
Skinner advises couples to monitor the rental costs required to outfit special locations like mansions and museums. In some (but not all) cases, an all-inclusive, hotel-based reception might be the more economical move. "Do your homework to find out which option is best for you and your budget," Skinner says, adding that, regardless of one’s venue, Southern couples can’t forget to account for another local tradition — the groom’s cake — in their food and beverage budget. Browse 40 amazing grooms' cakes ►

Photography and Video: 16%
Many photographers and videographers offer packages providing complete files of images or raw footage. While that option might intrigue couples with a creative bent, Skinner urges brides to be realistic. "If you choose a disc of images over a finished wedding album, you will save money initially, but will you actually see your DIY album or video project through?"

Entertainment: 9% 
Though many couples view entertainment as the place where they can trim the budget, Skinner advises her clients to consider the entertainer’s talent and service alongside the cost. "It’s essential to have an entertainer who understands a wedding’s flow and tone as well as one who can emcee the celebration with poise and professionalism."

Rentals: 17%
Some of the most unique Southern venues are blank canvases requiring rental of both specialty and basic items, including linens. If you find must-have (but pricey) linens, Skinner suggests using them only on high-visibility areas, such as the cake table.

Flowers: 12% 
Skinner’s tip: "Consider repurposing your bridesmaids’ bouquets for later use at the reception. It’s a great way to save money without sacrificing style." Check out more clever wedding tricks to simplify your life ►

Next: Wedding budget breakdown in the Midwest ►

Budget Breakdown in the Midwest 
 

The Venue: 10%
With a short window to accommodate outdoor weddings, most Midwest brides take the show indoors to places like historic hotels, country clubs or loft spaces that once hummed with machinery. When searching for a venue, Lauren Housley, owner of Chicago-based Ryan Alexander Events, says you shouldn’t neglect key details, such as lighting. "The more natural light a venue has, the better it is for pictures."

bride and groom
Photo Credit: Jai Girard Photography

Food and Beverage: 46% 
Housley calls food an oft-overlooked way to add personalization. "You can work with your caterer to recreate signature family dishes or to create twists on famed Chicago dishes, such as an Italian beef pizza with a giardiniera topping."

Photography and Video: 12%
Creating a detailed shot list is critical. Not only to ensure you get the photos you want, but also to streamline the photographer’s work and make efficient use of his or her time — and yours. (Why pay extra fees if the shots you want are already taken?) Browse 75 must-have photos with your groom ►

Entertainment: 15% 
While many guests love hearing the classics at weddings, you can add a touch of distinctiveness to your day by asking the band or DJ for some interesting songs that are not wedding-day staples. Chicagoans, for example, might request the beloved Chicago Bears fight song or Sinatra’s "Chicago" to add a spirited local flavor to the event. "Add in your favorite nontraditional songs to make your day more memorable for your guests," Housley says. Get wedding song recommendations here ►

Rentals: 8%
You can save on rental fees by asking the venue manager if they would be flexible with the post-reception pick-up time. By arranging a Monday pick-up, for instance, Housley says you can save $100 to $300. And in an effort to minimize delivery fees, "Consolidate tables, chairs and other rental orders from just one or two companies."

Flowers: 9% 
Need to slim down the floral budget? Look to the ceremony location and leverage its inherent beauty as the backdrop. The Chicago area, for instance, is home to some of the nation’s most ornate churches, locations featuring stained glass, murals and other elegant architectural hallmarks. "If you are already getting married at a stunning church, go for a really simple ceremony arrangement that can be repurposed at the reception," Housley says.

Next: Wedding budget breakdown in the Southwest ►

Budget Breakdown in the Southwest
 

The Venue: 5%
Janet Finden, event planner and owner of Cause for Celebration in Phoenix, AZ, urges couples to select a venue that has a food and beverage minimum fitting their budget; When the minimum is met, she says, the site fee is often waived. Couples might also want to consider a non-Saturday wedding, which should result in reduced site fees and, frequently, less stringent food and beverage minimums.

country wedding
Photo Credit: SuthiPicotte

Food and Beverage: 64% 
Since portions are planned out and controlled, plated, sit-down dinners can actually cost less than serving your guests buffet style. When working with venues or caterers, Finden says "You can trumpet the planning and portion efficiencies that come with plated meals to negotiate a lower cost."

Photography and Video: 12%
Finden urges couples to review the photographer’s contract to ensure they are receiving a DVD or flash drive of all their photos with print rights. You can later use that disc to order low-cost prints from any retailer. Find out what to ask before booking your photographer ►

Entertainment: 8% 
Finden says you can maximize your entertainment budget by using a DJ for both the ceremony and reception. She says many DJs can easily add extra sound equipment to accommodate the ceremony location.

Rentals: 3%
By selecting a venue with well-maintained facilities, Finden says rental fees should be minimal because chairs and linens will often be made available to you at little or no expense.

Flowers: 8% 
According to Finden, you can reduce your financial outlay for flowers simply by selecting a venue with eye-catching traits, such as a ceremony location with a beautiful natural backdrop or a reception space with rich architectural elements. The southwest is, in fact, well known for rich and lively natural spaces full of depth and dynamic colors. To further reduce flower costs, "Think about using more candles and fewer flowers for evening receptions."

Next: Wedding budget breakdown in the West ►

Budget Breakdown in the West
 

The Venue: 10%
With water on one side and mountains on the other, West Coast couples enjoy a diverse array of vibrant sites for their wedding, including lush vineyards, ranches and beachfront resorts with endless ocean views. Before visiting any potential venue, Melissa Barrad, owner of San Diego-based I Do…Weddings & Events, recommends that you thoroughly research it online. "Doing so will save time as well as provide key insights on what budget items can be reduced because of the site’s existing characteristics as well as what expenses, such as décor or floral, might need to increase."

country wedding
Photo Credit: SuthiPicotte

Food and Beverage: 50% 
Food and, particularly, beverage can quickly consume much of your budget. Barrad suggests investigating venues that will allow you to bring in your own wine and liquor, either as a part of the rental agreement or through corkage fees. With that go-ahead, couples could then bring in local favorites, such as craft beer from one of the region’s many breweries — Portland, for instance, has more breweries than any city in the world — or wine from Sonoma and Napa Valleys.

Photography and Video: 10%
Barrad says couples on a tight budget might consider hiring a photographer for a "shoot only" package that provides high-resolution images. Then, later, when the bank account bounces back, you can make an album.

Entertainment: 10% 
Barrad suggests looking for multi-faceted musical professionals who can play live music for the ceremony and cocktails — and perhaps even dinner and the first dance — before switching to recorded music for the evening.

Rentals: 10%
"Ask caterers and venue hosts for a comprehensive and itemized quote covering all the necessary materials, such as flatware, glassware, portable restrooms and lighting," Barrad says. In some cases, you might be able to forego or reduce certain items; in others, you might secure items from a different vendor — or even provide them yourself — at a lower cost.

Flowers: 10% 
While flowers contribute to the bride’s vision and the overall wedding-day vibe, Barrad urges couples to embrace novel approaches that can reduce costs. "Hire a florist who is flexible and will even allow you to either provide your own containers or rent his or hers," Barrad says. Find out which flowers are in season for your wedding ►

The Fun Factor: How to Make Your Wedding More Memorable

By: 
Debra Witt

wedding kissing booth
Photo Credit: Mark Greenmantle

Weddings are fun by definition, but if your goal is to make your big day a memorable moment for your family and friends — not just for you and your groom — you’ll want to focus your attention on your guests.

"If a bride wants to hear, ‘This is the best wedding!’ she has to get out of the ‘It’s my day’ mentality and think about the guest experience," says Sasha Souza, a wedding planner based in Napa, California. "From the moment a couple becomes engaged the classic line that gets repeated is, ‘It’s all about the bride’ — but it’s not! The couple is taking on the role of host for the biggest party they’ll probably ever throw. What’s a host’s main role? To make sure their guests are comfortable and enjoying themselves." Check out more wedding planning myths here ►

"Guests have usually been to countless weddings and can predict what’s coming next," says Jennifer Stiebel of SoCo Events in Washington, D.C. How does a couple set their wedding apart from the sea of other happily-ever-afters? "Inject personality and thought into every aspect of your celebration and friends will be talking about the fun they had for years to come!"

bride and groom on carousel
Photo Credit: Josh Lynn Photography

With that in mind, we asked recent brides and wedding planners from across the country to share some creative ways to send your wedding guests home with a smile and unforgettable memories. What they told us ranged from the oh-so-simple touches — like crafting a signature drink or setting up a photo booth — to the why-didn’t-I-think-of-that ideas (midnight milkshakes on the dance floor, anyone?). Use these four concepts to help you and your groom up the fun factor at your wedding.

Next: How to build excitement, hook your guests and more ►

Build Excitement from the Get-Go

In 2012, a couple of classical music lovers asked Winston-Salem, North Carolina-based planner Rebecca Rose to help them pull together their wedding. When she found out how big a role music played in their romance and their lives (the bride sang in an a capella group and they regularly attended symphony and opera performances), they decided to make that the theme of their celebration. Check out our complete guide to wedding music here ►

Instead of sending out save-the dates, for example, they sent out "note-the-date" cards that were in the shape of music notes. At the ceremony, guests were treated to a mini concert featuring a gospel choir, a chamber orchestra, and various soloists.

first dance
Photo Credit: Meredith Perdue Photography

Your fun-factor assignment: Before you start picking out venues and invitations, think about experiences that are important to you and your fiancé. "Figure out what makes you unique as a couple," says Rose. "Think about what brought you together, what you value, and what you both respond to. Those answers are your starting point."

Hook 'Em Before the First Kiss

Yes, your "I do" will be the highlight of the day, but there’s lots you can do to generate smiles leading up to the big kiss. For a recent destination wedding on preppy-chic Nantucket Island in Massachusetts, Stiebel helped one couple create a weekend itinerary that included a lobster bake, island bike ride, and — most talked about — a bow-tie bar where the male guests could pick out a Nantucket-themed bow-tie to wear to the evening wedding. By the time the ceremony rolled around the guests had truly bonded.

wedding lobster bake
Photo Credit: Justine Ungaro

At the other end of the interest spectrum, Stiebel helped a sportsloving couple incorporate their passion for baseball into the day. "Instead of a standard guest book everyone signed baseballs," she says. "Guests enjoyed delivering their best autograph, and the couple now hangs those baseballs in their home."

Your fun-factor assignment: Once you’ve chosen a theme, brainstorm ways to carry it through to the wedding weekend and ceremony. Keep in mind that "fun" isn’t a nice way of saying break your budget! Fun means unexpected surprises to keep your guests engaged and on their toes.

Think Outside the Ballroom

Many times, the brainstorming can begin and end with your choice of venue. Beth Huxta and Greg Conant, for example, knew they wanted their October 2012 wedding in the Delaware Valley to be relaxed and simple. "We’re an easygoing couple so we didn’t want a fussy wedding," says Beth. So rather than price out ballrooms and reception halls, she and Greg scoured the Internet for summer camps. "What’s more easy-going than summer camp?" she says. Check out "glamping" honeymoon destinations here ►

The couple rented out the campsite and surrounding cabins (total cost, $3,000) for an entire weekend and sent out wreath-shaped invitations giving guests a heads-up that they were going to be heading off to camp. After the ceremony, everyone huddled around a crackling bonfire, sipped apple-cider spiked with whiskey and danced almost until dawn. "We didn’t want to squeeze the whole wedding into five hours," says Beth. “We planned everything out so there was no time for people to wonder what to do next."

bride dancing
Photo Credit: Robin Proctor

What Beth and Greg did was make their wedding authentic to them, a key element to any great wedding, says Allison Laesser-Keck, owner of Viva La Diva events in Ann Arbor, Michigan. "Your wedding doesn’t just need to be beautiful, it should have elements that speak to your personalities so it’s meaningful," says Laesser-Keck.

As you consider different places to hold your ceremony and reception, she says, ask yourselves, ‘Is this us?’ Reception halls, she adds, can really come to life when you think beyond the tables and dance floor. Consider creating different "rooms" so guests can lounge in one area, have fun at a photo booth in one corner, maybe play table games in another and so on.

wedding photo boothwedding photo booth
Photo Credit: Jason & Gina Wedding Photographers/Bluebird Productions (left); Katie Holstein Photographers/Bluebird Productions (right)

Next: How to make your celebration memorable ►

Make Your Party, Well, A Party

Not surprisingly, the planners we talked to had a never-ending stream of memorable reception ideas. Rebecca Rose recalled the Texas couple who surprised everyone with impromptu twostepping lessons. Jennifer Stiebel can’t forget the delightful reaction of guests at a recent wedding who were let loose inside a makeshift sweet shop complete with a caricature artist. Similarly, just when guests of one Colorado couple felt the festivities were winding down, Virginia Edelson of Bluebird Events in Aspen helped the duo lead everyone into a "hidden" tent where they were greeted with fruity shots inspired by the Royal Wedding for a drastically different after-party vibe. 

Sasha Souza had fun helping a tech-savvy California couple surprise guests with several different event stations: "Each station had its own atmosphere and food (sushi, grill, patisserie, etc.), but what really made it nice for guests was that at each one they could scan a QR code to receive a secret surprise, like a beer that wasn’t otherwise being offered at the bar." 

But perhaps the most "wow” idea we heard came from Stephanie Yuhas and Matt Conant, Philadelphia filmmakers who walked their guests out of a small movie theater (where they previewed a documentary of their love story that ended with their live-action red-carpet vows) and down the street to an arcade and go-kart center. There, the guests merged right into the center’s regular crowd. "The caterer packed up the leftovers, including the cake, and brought everything to the arcade,” says Stephanie. "We didn’t know how people would react, but you can see how much fun they had on their faces in the pictures."

wedding go karts
Photo Credit: Mike Licisyn

wedding vintage car
Photo Credit: Justine Ungaro

Your fun-factor assignment: "Make sure there’s always something happening at your reception," says Souza. If you’re having an outdoor wedding, set up some yard games off to the side, or offer hand and foot massages, she suggests. Toward the end of the reception, when the dancing is starting to die down, bring out an ice-cream bar or work with your caterer to have the staff pass out mini-milkshakes right there on the dance floor — one of Rebecca Rose’s brides did this and had the band play K.C. and the Sunshine Band’s “Shake, Shake, Shake” hit classic. "The ideas you come up with don’t need to be complicated or costly, just creative," she says.

alcoholic milkshakes
Photo Credit: Rebecca Bouck Photography

wedding candy bar
Photo Credit: Mark Greenmantle

Next: Record all of the fun with these wedding apps ►

There's an App for That

Google + Gifs: Install the Google+ app on your smartphone, turn on auto backup, and ask a few snap-happy wedding- party members to document things like you getting your hair done, guests arriving or key moments on the dance fl oor. The uploaded shots get stitched into a fun animated clip that’s perfect for sharing.

Instagram: Come up with a hashtag for your wedding (be sure to do a search fi rst to make sure yours is unique) and share the tag with your guests. Decide where you want the photos to go (such as a Flickr or Dropbox account or a Facebook page), link everything through an account with ifttt.com (you’ll need to create a “recipe”) and shots with your tag will automatically upload.

Wedpics: Set up an album and invite guests to sync up and snap away. Every photo taken during your ceremony and reception gets uploaded. (You can control what gets shared on social media.) Later on you can organize and edit the shots.

Check out more wedding photo apps ►

wedding app

David Tutera Reveals: The Highs and Lows of Planning a Wedding

By: 
David Tutera

wedding reception centerpieceLet the wedding planning begin! This should be one of the most enjoyable and creative processes you will ever experience. Yet many couples tell me they get so overwhelmed they feel as if they’ve taken on a second job they’ve had no training for. As for me, I started at 14, learning the craft of floral design while working at my grandfather’s flower shop. That’s where my journey began. I truly believe I was bound to create parties. Here, some of the planning aspects I love most — and least. Get the more difficult wedding elements under control and the rest should fall into place.

The Pros (What I Love):

Setting the vision: Getting a chance to dive in and understand what a couple is looking for and the style of the event they want to create is the all-important first step to a beautiful event. My television work makes it seem as though a super-specific theme for your wedding is mandatory, but please trust me when I say it is not. Themes are only great when it makes sense to the bride and groom. However, I do love when a couple knows the types of looks, colors, feelings and moods they want for their wedding. Ask yourself: What are your favorite...colors... historic eras...flowers....seasons? The answers to these questions will help you better envision the overall look of your wedding.

Flowers and décor: I love meeting with vendors and seeing the details come alive in all areas from invitations to flowers, colors and lighting. Invitations, for example, truly set the tone of the overall celebration to come. And flowers make the event literally come to life. A bride without a bouquet or a table without a centerpiece isn’t, to me, a wedding. Soft colors, bold colors or combinations of both work to create an overall style or even evoke a period in time. These visual components can be the most pleasurable parts of wedding planning.

Food and drink: It’s great to use food to tell the story of your culture and background, but take care not to get on the full-on foodie bandwagon when planning your wedding, incorporating too many exotic ingredients. When it comes to beverages, specialty drinks have been a major trend; newer are specialty bars featuring whiskey, champagne and/or wine. Any of these options can make your wedding more unique.

The element of surprise: I love the opportunity to make special moments happen: perhaps a dance that no one knew about or changing up the timeline. I always say that something different should happen every 30 minutes. This allows guests to become interactive participants vs. inactive participants following the same old routine (ceremony to cocktails to dinner) and results in something special. This is what I will always love about doing weddings.

The Cons (What I Don't Love)

Who's invited?: Determining the guest list can be a tough task, as can deciding the seating arrangements: who should sit next to whom. Once this gets set, the sailing will become much smoother, I promise! 

Too many cooks: You do not want a committee of opinions. Pick a few supportive friends and family members (three at the most) and trust in them to guide you and support you. The key word is support.

Travel logistics: Coordinating travel details for all your wedding guests can be mind-numbing, not to mention time-consuming. Instead of being the point person for travel questions, I suggest finding a good travel agent ahead of time (especially if you’re having a destination wedding!) who can handle these issues. It will be worth it if it means you now have time you would have otherwise lost to focus on the other important details of your day.

Details, details: Picking the perfect songs for your processional, recessional,first dance and all of your important formalities (e.g., toasts) can be challenging, since these elements require a final, set- in-stone decision — you want to make sure everything is exactly as you want it. These all-important nitty-gritty details can be a chore, but they are essential to get right.

Oversharing (especially on social media): One of my ground rules: Don’t forget that some parts of your wed- ding should surprise your guests, so don’t spill too many details ahead of time! 

Photo Credit: Michael Segal Photography

David Tutera Reveals: The Highs and Lows of Planning a Wedding

By: 
David Tutera

wedding reception centerpieceLet the wedding planning begin! This should be one of the most enjoyable and creative processes you will ever experience. Yet many couples tell me they get so overwhelmed they feel as if they’ve taken on a second job they’ve had no training for. As for me, I started at 14, learning the craft of floral design while working at my grandfather’s flower shop. That’s where my journey began. I truly believe I was bound to create parties. Here, some of the planning aspects I love most — and least. Get the more difficult wedding elements under control and the rest should fall into place.

The Pros (What I Love):

Setting the vision: Getting a chance to dive in and understand what a couple is looking for and the style of the event they want to create is the all-important first step to a beautiful event. My television work makes it seem as though a super-specific theme for your wedding is mandatory, but please trust me when I say it is not. Themes are only great when it makes sense to the bride and groom. However, I do love when a couple knows the types of looks, colors, feelings and moods they want for their wedding. Ask yourself: What are your favorite...colors... historic eras...flowers....seasons? The answers to these questions will help you better envision the overall look of your wedding.

Flowers and décor: I love meeting with vendors and seeing the details come alive in all areas from invitations to flowers, colors and lighting. Invitations, for example, truly set the tone of the overall celebration to come. And flowers make the event literally come to life. A bride without a bouquet or a table without a centerpiece isn’t, to me, a wedding. Soft colors, bold colors or combinations of both work to create an overall style or even evoke a period in time. These visual components can be the most pleasurable parts of wedding planning.

Food and drink: It’s great to use food to tell the story of your culture and background, but take care not to get on the full-on foodie bandwagon when planning your wedding, incorporating too many exotic ingredients. When it comes to beverages, specialty drinks have been a major trend; newer are specialty bars featuring whiskey, champagne and/or wine. Any of these options can make your wedding more unique.

The element of surprise: I love the opportunity to make special moments happen: perhaps a dance that no one knew about or changing up the timeline. I always say that something different should happen every 30 minutes. This allows guests to become interactive participants vs. inactive participants following the same old routine (ceremony to cocktails to dinner) and results in something special. This is what I will always love about doing weddings.

The Cons (What I Don't Love)

Who's invited?: Determining the guest list can be a tough task, as can deciding the seating arrangements: who should sit next to whom. Once this gets set, the sailing will become much smoother, I promise! 

Too many cooks: You do not want a committee of opinions. Pick a few supportive friends and family members (three at the most) and trust in them to guide you and support you. The key word is support.

Travel logistics: Coordinating travel details for all your wedding guests can be mind-numbing, not to mention time-consuming. Instead of being the point person for travel questions, I suggest finding a good travel agent ahead of time (especially if you’re having a destination wedding!) who can handle these issues. It will be worth it if it means you now have time you would have otherwise lost to focus on the other important details of your day.

Details, details: Picking the perfect songs for your processional, recessional,first dance and all of your important formalities (e.g., toasts) can be challenging, since these elements require a final, set- in-stone decision — you want to make sure everything is exactly as you want it. These all-important nitty-gritty details can be a chore, but they are essential to get right.

Oversharing (especially on social media): One of my ground rules: Don’t forget that some parts of your wed- ding should surprise your guests, so don’t spill too many details ahead of time! 

Photo Credit: Michael Segal Photography