Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Selecting Bridal-Party Gifts

Giving gifts to members of the wedding and other special guests is a time-honored way of showing thanks and sharing joy. It's customary to present a token of appreciation to bridesmaids, ushers, flower girls, ringer bearers, readers and parents, as well as anyone else who helps make your wedding day special.

You may choose to give the same gift to all of your attendants--one for bridesmaids, another for groomsmen. However, you might decide to give each person their own unique gift. Another option is to present your maid or matron of honor and best man with something different or a bit more special.

Here's a short list of gift ideas to spark your imagination:

  • porcelain, silver or crystal keepsakes
  • picture frames
  • trinket or accessory boxes
  • cuff links
  • wallets or money clips
  • spa or beauty salon gift certificates
  • jewelry to be worn for the wedding day--and long after
  • silver or crystal vases
  • candlesticks
  • personalized stationery
If you're planning a theme wedding, think of a gift in keeping with the topic. Going nautical? Give seashell picture frames or golden knot cuff links. Marrying around a holiday? Wrap up elegant tree ornaments for a wintry wedding or cool sunglasses for one near the Fourth of July. (You get the idea.)

Many gifts lend themselves to monogramming--a great way to personalize your selections. Silver key chains, money clips and compacts are just a few of the shimmering items that can be engraved with the recipient's initials.

Some brides take into account that their attendants' wedding-related expenses can quickly add up--from a possible plane ticket down to a dress and shoes--and may offer to defray some of those costs by helping to pay for all or part of the outfit, hotel room, and so on. For many bridesmaids, that can be the most welcome gift of all.

Gifts are traditionally presented to the bridesmaids at a luncheon or party held before the wedding day. The groom usually gives gifts to his ushers at the rehearsal dinner. (Just go the route that works best for you!) And don't forget to tuck a personalized card inside each one. Happy shopping!

25 Cool Gifts for the Maids

If the women in your wedding already have enough imitation pearl necklaces and monogrammed jewelry boxes for this lifetime, we suggest you put your mind where your maids are-as in, spend the brain power and select gifts that reflect their personality and interests. (The gifts don't all have to be the same, you know.) Use this list of our 25 favorites for inspiration.

  • Aromatherapy candles that fit in with each of their lifestyles (tranquility, energizing, de-stressing.).

  • Beautiful hair jewelry, like a butterfly barrette or rhinestone bobby pins.

  • A small box of decadent chocolates.

  • Perfume and a dainty atomizer.

  • All the fixings for a luxurious bubble bath. (Don't forget the rubber ducky!)

  • A day of horseback riding (or kayaking or roller-skating, etc.).

  • Gorgeous candlesticks and candles that fit their decor (there are so many out there to choose from!).

  • Cooking, art or ceramics classes (fun for the creative types, and relaxing for those who are highly stressed).

  • A pair of margarita glasses, a good bottle of tequila-and limes, of course!

  • For a business traveler, a tiny blowdryer and mini sizes of all her favorite toiletries (or even the expensive ones she'd never buy for herself).

  • A deluxe set of designer makeup brushes for the beauty aficionado.

  • A fine linen handkerchief (for all those happy tears she'll shed at your wedding).

  • A gourmet gift basket (include a tiny cookbook and all the ingredients to make a few recipes).

  • Découpage a shoe box with memorabilia: old photos, ticket stubs from movies you saw together, snippets from letters. Fill it with sweets or another treat.

  • Concert tix for a favorite band.

  • Manicures and pedicures all around! (Great to give before the wedding.)

  • A precious evening bag-and not necessarily one for the wedding.

  • A subscription to a "___ of the month" club. From flowers to wine, there's one for every passion (and budget).

  • Gourmet coffees or teas in a fun, jumbo-sized cup and saucer.

  • A beautiful handblown vase or other artful objet.

  • Lingerie (they'll never expect it).

  • For a movie nut, a small collection of her favorite videos, some microwave popcorn and a video guidebook. (Don't forget the Junior Mints!)

  • A lovely photo frame (or two)-and a promise for a wedding photograph of the two of you.

  • Classy stationery-splurge on a monogram if there's time.

  • Still stumped? How about a gift certificate for a day-spa treatment or two? It's a gift that never misses.

Registry Q & A: What about bridal registry return policies?

Chances are you know how easy it is to purchase gifts from a bridal registry-- just choose from your price range on the couple's list and you're done. Now it's your turn, as the bride, to create a registry. Although it's fun and not terribly difficult, here are some Q & A that you should read through before registering.

Exactly what happens when we go to register?
You meet with the bridal registry director or wedding gifts consultant to determine which items and quantities you want to include on your registry. At many stores this service is computerized, so you can actually leave with a printout of your list. The bridal consultant can help you make the right choices based on your lifestyle and entertaining requirements. Hint: Register for gifts in a wide price range so your guests have a choice.

What are some items couples commonly include in a registry?
Before you actually visit any store, make an informal list of things you want. Have some idea of your color scheme and think about how many place settings you would like. To help you get started, here are the things that top most wish lists: formal and everyday dinnerware; fine and casual glassware and barware; serving accessories and flatware; cooking equipment and cutlery; kitchen appliances; table linens; sheets and bath linens; home electronics; luggage; and furniture. Be sure to visit our Gift Registry Checklist for a complete list of registry ideas.

When should I register?
Many stores will recommend that you register at least six months before your wedding day or before any engagement parties. One word of advice: Don't try to do it all at once-it can be overwhelming. Make several visits to the store so you can edit and update your choices over time. Also, while appointments are generally not necessary, they are very often preferred.

Can I register for anything in the store?
That will vary by the store and the merchandise available. Many stores may ask that you restrict your list to items in the traditional home departments. However, although you may able to register for nontraditional items (furniture, lingerie, etc.), the registry won't necessarily track their status.

If I register at a store chain, can my guests order from any branch or location?
Yes. Particularly in larger department stores with computerized registries, guests should be able to order system-wide. Also, if the store is part of a conglomerate, they may be able to order from various name stores in the network.

What if we change our minds about an item on our list once we get home?
That's not a problem. Simply contact the bridal registry and inform them of your change.

What is scanning?
When registering at the store, a couple is given a hand-held scanner to scan the bar codes on merchandise they're interested in. It's faster and easier than writing the information by hand. When finished, the scanner is placed in an upload port and the couple's choices are automatically entered into the system. The list is then printed out and changes can be made at that stage.

What is a "completion program"?
If, after the wedding, a couple has received only a partial amount of items from their list, a store may offer them a discount on any of the remaining items. For example, if you receive eight of 12 wine glasses, you may purchase the other four with a discount. This program is more common in department stores and will vary.

What is a "club program"?
This is a special, interest-free charge account just for tabletop: china, crystal, silver. The terms of the account vary from store to store and the program is open to anyone. Note: Completion and club programs used together make a great combination.

How often is our list updated?
The great majority of registries are computerized so that your list is updated automatically as purchases are made.

For how long is our registry kept active?
It varies by store and company, however, registries are often kept open for just over one year so that they're still active for your first anniversary, holidays, birthdays, etc.

What about bridal registry return policies?
Most stores, of course, have a return policy, though the terms may vary. As always, keep the item in its original wrapping and have your gift receipt handy.

How can we let our guests know where we're registered?
Some stores will provide you with "shower cards" that say where you are registered. These cards can be enclosed with the bridal shower invitation. If these cards are not provided, the hostess may indicate where you're registered right on the shower invitation. Never refer to your registry location on a wedding invitation.

Is it possible to order from a store's website?
Stores that have registry websites may inform you about the process and what they offer, but actually require you to register in person. It may vary, so check with the store-or your computer.

Bridal Party Gift Ideas: Coming Clean

Right now, one of the most popular bridal party gift ideas going is the beauty basket. It’s thoughtful, pretty, affordable, great-smelling and can be personalized in endless ways.

Most bath and beauty shops offer pre-packaged gift sets as well as tons of individual items that brides can mix and match. Look for bath gels, soaps, lotions, powders, potpourri, massage oil, candles, eau de toilette, hand cream and sunscreen, among lots of soothing products. What many brides really like about this pampering present is that they can customize it to their attendant’s tastes. Your maid of honor is a freesia fan? Select a boxful of items scented with their sweet smell. Got a sister who’s a good-skin fanatic? Put together a basket packed with jojoba and vitamin E.

Did we say basket? While a top choice for this gift bundle, there are lots of other imaginative "containers" you can go with. Try a hat box, fruit or vegetable crate, beach bucket, flower pot—you get the idea. Again, it’s all about personalization, so shop around. Some stores even have baskets geared just for gardeners and romantic aromatherapy kits.

And let’s not forget the men in your event. Though not nearly as extensive, grooms can also find stuff for the guys in their party. Shaving kits lead the hot-item list, followed by hair, shower and skin boosting products.

In your own city you’ll probably discover at least one "body boutique" to suit your Big-Day gift needs. Ones we like: Crabtree & Evelyn, Bath & Body Works, Aveda, Victoria’s Secret and The Body Shop.

Bridal Party Gift Ideas: Jewels Rule!

We gotta admit. We love the idea of giving spa certificates, basketball tickets and really good wine to wedding attendants. But the most classic of all bridal party gifts-- jewelry-- still rates way up there with us.

There's a reason great jewelry has remained such a popular gift idea over time. Lots of reasons, actually. For starters, appreciation is basically guaranteed. Who doesn't love receiving a beautiful pair of earrings or very cool cuff links. And, if you and your friends are at the age where weddings seem like a weekly event, this is the gift that will get lots of use.

Of course, if the bridesmaid look you're going for hinges on uniformity, giving them all the same pretty set of jewelry will also assure success. Even if your attendants' dresses all vary in style, identical pearl chokers can give just the right touch of unity. Also think bracelets, rings and lockets.

Grooms can get in on the act by giving cuff links that really complement a tuxedo--as well as other suits hanging up at home. The classic money clip (we like them engraved) is still a welcome accessory. And why not look into watches? Check for great deals in the months before the wedding--there are decent timepieces that won't break the budget. The bonus: Getting groomsmen to the church on time.

And don't forget any flower girls in the group. Delicate pieces of jewelry featuring a birthstone are popular with the younger set. A locket for a holding a favorite photo--perhaps one of the bride and groom for starters--is also a welcome present. And a special jewelry box (with a surprise inside?) is a must-have at this age. As for ring bearers, use the watch idea, but this time look for a digital version with a cartoon character or super hero in the design. He'll be the envy of the playground.

Bridal Party Gift Ideas: Delicious Gifts

Delicious Gifts

Everyone wants to give the members of their bridal party presents that won't end up in a drawer. There are lots of great gifts that both sides will love (see our archives!), but few are more useful than food and drink.

Zero in on the interests of each of your wedding members-- you may realize that one is really into fine wines, another is a chocaholic, and so on. Before you know it, a food theme may take shape. The most appreciated gifts are also those that show you put true thought into the giving. And your bridal party will love you for it.

Here are some more delectable-- and totally unique-- edible gift ideas. Most of them work well in a themed basket or bucket.

  • Wine and beer. Special vintages and premium micro brews are high on the A list when it comes to wedding party presents.

  • Teas and coffees. For those who prefer something more mellow, there are tons of gourmet teas and super-charged coffees out there with price tags that are gift-worthy.

  • Martini or margarita sets. Very much in vogue, pitchers and the makings for these cool cocktails are perfect for parties--and you just may get invited.

  • Chocolate heaven. Get the really good stuff and lots of it. Throw in hot chocolate mixes, chocolate-covered pretzels--you get the picture.

  • Cooking class. Especially fun in metropolitan areas where big-name chefs often share their expertise at schools and restaurants. Friends can meet, cook and eat with some real culinary stars.

  • Cookbooks. Whether they're currently wrapped up in a single cuisine or spend the weekend baking, there's a large collection of cookbooks out there to indulge any interest.

  • Restaurant gift certificate. Don't know their way around a kitchen but have been to every restaurant within a 50-mile radius? Then a gift certificate (for two!) to an elegant establishment sounds ideal.

Bridal Party Gift Ideas: Strictly Tickets

Strictly Tickets

Looking for that one-size-fits-all, winner of a wedding party gift idea? Think tickets. They can be for one, two or an entire group. Personalize the presents by choosing different events for each attendant or invite everyone on the same outing. Either way, this is a bridal party gift sure to please both sides-- and here's a list to prove it.

  • Concerts. Rock, classical, jazz, country, even opera--it's all music to our ears. From the band everyone's been waiting to hear at the big arena to that cool jazz club that's always seems to be sold out, these passes are a hit.

  • Sporting events. Though the World Series and Super Bowl may be out of reach, local games, college bowls, hockey play-offs or even nine holes of golf at your town's toniest course is a great way to spend time together. (The guys might like it, too.)

  • Museum events. Ah, the art of giving: If you live in or near a major city, important, temporary exhibits in it's museums often require advance ticket purchases--and costs can be right in line with gift levels.

  • Movies/film festivals. How about a dozen movie gift certificates for the bridesmaids who see every one of Leonardo's films-twice? Or bestow a weeklong pass to the science fiction flick fair for the best man who's never missed a Star Trek episode.

  • Stage plays--Broadway even. From top regional theater to the Great White Way (depending on your budget and location), the play can be the thing for everyone in the wedding.

  • Ballet/dance. A little Swan Lake, the Nutcracker at Christmas time, or something more modern--think Martha Graham, Alvin Ailey, Twyla Tharp.

  • Comedy clubs. Laughter's the best medicine, especially if it's wedding stress that ails you. Treat the whole gang to a great stand-up place and roll in the aisles together.

  • Conventions. Is your city known for its flower show? Is the "X-Files" convention coming to your civic center? Events like these just might please the whole bridal party.

  • Ski lifts. The slalom seekers in your crowd would probably appreciate lift tickets to their favorite slopes. Hot toddies, optional.

  • Wine tastings. Oenophiles-- you know, wine lovers-- would jump at the chance to sample some fine vintages presented by an expert. It's a great way (for the single set) to meet people, too.

  • Lectures. From cooking classes with a renowned chef to a series of chats featuring some pretty famous actors, attendance at these events can reach standing-room type numbers.

  • Circus. Clowns, acrobats, elephants, the works. Some troupes are more sophisticated than others--but it's still for the kid in everyone.

  • Day cruise. If there's water where you live, chances are you'll find companies who sail around the shores. This can be a tour that takes in Manhattan, a raft that roughs white water out west and everything in between.

Bridal Party Gift Ideas: Do the Spa Thing

Do the Spa Thing

Looking for that one-size-fits-all present that your bridesmaids will actually like? Go the spa route and indulge them with a gift certificate. Sounds good, but not sure what to get? Read on for a rundown of ideas.

First off, there are "away spas" and "day spas," each with an array of pampering services. If you opt for a destination spa, the experience can be completely soothing. A pre-wedding weekend getaway with the whole bridal party in tow makes a terrific group treat-- if it's in the budget.

Overnight stays at local spas can be affordable, especially if the establishment offers a wedding party package and your group is on the small side. Beyond beauty and body treatments, activities such as yoga, hiking and aerobics may also be on the schedule. Generally, everything from meals to massages are included, with the result being happy, relaxed bridesmaids and one very de-stressed bride.

However, not everyone is comfortable with constant hands-on attention. For them, day spas, where you can spend an hour or an afternoon, are good choices since they offer individualized services that can be given as gifts in any combination. Certificates are usually redeemable for up to one year so they can be used at the recipient's leisure. Costs for services vary greatly depending on where you live and the type of spa or salon you select. (And don't forget the guys: lots of places offer facials and massages just for gents.)

Here's a sampling of popular services offered at both destination and day spas around the country:

Types include Swedish, shiatsu, sports techniques and reflexology to relieve stress, soreness and tension.

Deep cleansing and rejuvenating, facials feel soooo good--this gift will get you raves. Aromatherapy, herbal and fruit acid varieties are some top choices right now.

We all know how soothing a bath can be-- and spas have made a real splash in that department. You'll find options such as mineral soaks and hydro massages that put the power of water to work.

Many treatments lavish attention on every inch of skin. Oils, sea salts, clay, seaweed, paraffin and even algae are used to slough off dead cells, polish the body and jump start circulation.

Sure, we want trimmed and polished nails for the wedding--and way beyond. But spas don't stop at expert manicures and pedicures. They often list hand and foot massages, soaks and warm paraffin treatments among their more luxe services.

The Name Game: To change or not to change

To change or not to change -- that is the big question. The answer: well, it's complicated.

Maybe you're totally ready to take a new name to match your new husband. There are a lot of perks to this route: you'll share the last name, you won't offend your in-laws, and when you have kids, you'll only have to argue about which first name to give them. But it's going to require a little legwork on your part. You'll need to call various companies and governmental bureaus and file the proper paperwork to get your new name on your passport, Social Security card, driver's license, insurance policies, credit cards, bank accounts and human resource records. Because in many cases you'll need a photocopy of your marriage license, save this task for after the honeymoon.

But maybe you're not too jazzed about giving up your own name. You're in a career where your name's important; you love him, hate his name; or you just wouldn't feel like you with a whole new surname. You'll save yourself some paperwork, but be prepared to face a little grilling from your elder relatives. Stand your ground. It won't make you any less married if you keep your own name.

Or, you might try a different avenue. Many brides choose a compromise between keeping their name and taking their husbands': they hyphenate their maiden and married names. Other couples choose to share a name they create themselves that's either a blend of their old surnames or something new entirely. And some men even take their wives' names as their own. Again, it takes paperwork and a little compromise, but any of these alternatives just might work for you.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Reception Style: Boat Receptions

Setting Sail: Boat Receptions

Karen's mother was dead-set against her daughter's wedding reception being held on a boat. The woman was not merely concerned, she was not simply unhappy-she thought it was a terrible idea. "All her friends' daughters had had beautiful wedding receptions at traditional places, like hotels, country clubs, and banquet facilities," Karen explains, "and she wanted me to have a similar event. Also, she was afraid it would rain. She was afraid the wedding party would get seasick. She was afraid there would be sharks! Luckily for us, my father thought the boat was a great idea, and he managed to talk her into accepting it."

The day of Karen's wedding dawned sunny and pleasant. Karen's mother boarded the yacht with a face set in grim displeasure, shaky on the high heels Karen had advised her not to wear. Four hours later, when the boat returned to the pier, the woman was in a very different mood. "She had taken off her shoes," Karen remembers, "and she was taking all the credit for having chosen a boat for the wedding reception-which was fine with me." Now, two years after Karen's wedding, her parents are planning a 30th wedding anniversary celebration-on the very same boat.

Karen believes her mother enjoyed the nautical celebration so much for a variety of reasons. "As soon as she climbed on board," Karen says, "all of her fears were laid to rest. There was no rain-and even if there had been, there was a ballroom below the deck that was just as nice as many of the traditional facilities we had visited. She realized that the deck was large and heavy enough so that no one was going to get seasick, and that even if there were sharks, they didn't pose much of a threat."

Of course, there is also the undeniable romance of a party that takes place on the water. When the boat pulls away from the dock, the wedding celebration is on its own private island. The scenery is terrific, and the cruise itself is exciting. Even a landlubber like Karen's mom could not resist such charms.

Considering a boat reception? Begin your plans by arranging to visit several different yachts and charter companies. Like traditional reception sites, boats have a variety of personalities, and no two are exactly the same. There are very modern, luxurious cruise ships that offer a sophisticated, streamlined atmosphere. And there are also historic restored riverboats and paddle wheel-powered vessels for nostalgic celebrations. For relatively small wedding receptions-and for brides and grooms who share a true sense of adventure-there are even clipper ships for a wedding celebration on a boat that actually sails.

Naturally, there are practical details to consider when hosting a wedding reception on a boat. Guests should be aware that the party will be on a boat so that they can prepare themselves by bringing along a jacket (the air is much cooler offshore), their sunglasses and shady hats, and by wearing comfortable shoes. On even the very largest cruise ships, shoes with heels are probably not the best footwear for the bride or her guests. If you feel that you must wear heels for your walk down the aisle, be sure to bring along a flat pair of shoes for the reception and dancing-ballet slippers are a great choice.

The food on the larger boats is usually similar to that of a hotel ballroom or banquet hall. Brides are usually offered several wedding packages from which to choose; they may include entertainment, flowers, and a wedding cake, as well as food and beverages. On the very smallest boats, kitchen facilities will consist of only a small galley, so food must be brought on board already prepared, which means that simple hors d'oeuvres or picnic-style fare is the best option. Some couples choose to highlight the nautical atmosphere by serving a seafood buffet, including a raw bar, of course.

Boats naturally suggest a nautical theme to the bride and groom, some of whom decide to weave the theme throughout all of the wedding details. You might let guests know from the instant they open their invitations that the wedding will be a special one by edging the invitations with gold anchors and printing the type in navy blue ink. Instead of sugar flowers on the wedding cake, ask if your baker can design sugar seashells. And choose favors that also reflect the nautical theme: Present each guest with a box of four perfect chocolate shells, a tiny ship in a bottle, or even a rubber duck.

Reception Style: To a Tea

To a Tea

Still can't decide which reception style is for you? If you've ruled out most of the traditional options, you may be open to something more unique. Like a tea party. "Tea" may bring to mind old ladies and lace doilies, but you can make this afternoon affair anything but stuffy. It may just be your "bag."

Eccentrics and artistic types. You never follow the crowd, eschewing anything that's popular or cookie-cutter. Unique is your middle name; people know you for your style.

Think like a Briton:
  • Finger sandwiches, tarts, fresh fruit, scones and cream.
  • Serve a broad assortment of teas and a little coffee for the java-swilling set.
  • Champagne punch for toasting.

  • It's distinctive, so you'll have a party everyone will remember.
  • A dainty menu and small-scale music (a harpist; a chamber trio) go lightly on your checkbook.
  • This reception lends itself to creativity: scour flea markets for antique tea cups, which your guests can take home; let them play friendly games of badminton or croquet.

  • Again, it tends to be a shorter event, usually with no dancing.
  • With a later starting time, you may not be able to hit your vacation spot until the next day.

Reception Style: Luncheon

Let's Do Luncheon

You're researching your own reception style. Breakfast seems too early. Dinner is just too late. The middle of the day may be the perfect party time for you. At a luncheon reception, you serve more substantial fare at midday-and have the entire evening to yourselves. Sound appealing? Read on for the details…


Classicists. You don't follow the trends, instead sticking with items and traditions that stand the test of time. You aim for quality and simplicity in everything you do.

  • Salads and pastas.
  • Cold salmon or chicken.
  • Toss a few quiches or crepes into the mix.
  • It's suitable for buffet, station or sit-down service, depending on the size of your guest list.
  • You can open the bar for this meal, but serve light drinks like champagne punch, along with fruited lemonades.

  • The reception is early enough that you can hit your honeymoon locale that night, but late enough to let you ease into the day.
  • The menu's a little pricier than brunch, and you'll start to ring up a bar tab, but you'll probably still pay a lot less than you would at dinner.
  • This is prime time for an outdoor reception (except in the heat of summer).

  • Like the breakfast reception, a luncheon isn't the time for a wild party with dancing.
  • Lunch doesn't lend itself to a long, lingering party.

Reception Style: Wines 101

Check out our latest ideas on helping you plan the reception that best fits your needs and style. Read through all our other ideas, too!

Wines 101

Don't go blank if your caterer asks you what wines you want to serve: we've got you covered! There are plenty of delicious, affordable wines out there for the choosing-even if you want to pour champagne with each course, including dessert. Here, the experts at Village Wines & Spirits in New York City offer up some selections.

Napa Ridge Chardonnay $9
A medium- to full-bodied California wine, with a light oaky flavor

Fetzer Sundial Chardonnay $9
A medium-bodied California wine, with both fruit and oak notes

Colombelle Gascogne Classic Blend $7
A medium to light French wine made from many different varietals

Cavit Pinot Grigio $7
A medium to light Italian wine, with a sprightly flavor

Casal Garcia Vinho Verde $6
A Portuguese wine, light in both body and flavor, with green notes

Santa Christina Sangiovese $8
A medium Italian wine made from Italy's most famous grape

RH Phillips Mistura $8
A medium- to medium-full-bodied California wine

Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi/Cabernet Sauvigon $8
A medium to full-bodied California wine; a broad, inviting flavor

Forrest Gun Merlot $10
A fruit-heavy medium- to medium-full- bodied red wine from California

E. Guigal Côtes du Rhone $10
A French wine of medium to full body, with a spicy dryness

Sparkling Wines & Champagnes
Domaine St. Michelle Brut $10
A dry Washington state sparkler; serve with dinner or cocktails

Cristalino Brut $8
A bone-dry Spanish sparkling wine

Argyle Brut $10
A dry Oregon bubbly

Seaview Brut $9
Least dry of the four Bruts; from Australia

Martini & Rossi Spumante $10
A dry, soft, slightly sweet Italian wine; serve this one with the cake!

Reception Style: A Bride Before Breakfast

A Bride Before Breakfast

As you've probably noticed by now, wedding receptions can take place nearly any time of day. Menus and venues are available almost around the clock, making it easier to plan the big event.

If the thought of waiting for the P.M. hours to roll around is too much for you to handle, consider getting an early start on the activities. Really early. As Lisa Milbrand, reveals, there's definitely a demand for sunrise celebrations followed by breakfast and brunch. Here's her profile of this party style:


The unpretentious couple. You can't stand a lot of hoopla and attention and like things low-key. And you appreciate the serenity and soft light of early morning.


  • Bagels and croissants with marmalades, jams, butter and honey; fresh fruits.
  • Pancakes or waffles.
  • Smoked salmon, specialty sausages, Canadian bacon.
  • Have a chef make custom omelets or crepes.
  • Serve an array of coffees, teas and juices.
  • Pastries, or a white cake with fruit filling, are the perfect finish.


  • If you want to get an early start on your honeymoon, this is the reception to have-you'll be able to get there for your wedding night.
  • A breakfast or brunch is a pretty inexpensive proposition, as the food served is cheaper than dinner fare, and you won't have the bar tab (just a little champagne for mimosas).
  • An early event has a more intimate feel.


  • Early morning isn't the time for a wild party with dancing.
  • If you're planning a sunrise ceremony, your night-owl friends may sleep through the whole thing.

Reception Style: Cocktails and Canapes

Cocktails and Canapes

Somewhere between the sit-down party and dessert soiree comes the hors d'oeuvres and cocktails reception. Sophisticated and somewhat simpler to arrange, this event style is often held in the early or late evening.

What's on the menu? A good caterer will be able to offer a tantalizing variety of tidbits. "Send out waiters bearing trays with scrumptious little bites, and set out luxurious cheese and fruit displays," says Lisa Milbrand, associate editor of Modern Bride magazine. "Aim for a variety of hors d'oeuvres: from upscale caviar bars and shrimp and oysters on ice, to more quotidian fare like mini-quiches and stuffed mushrooms."

While we love this party idea, there are two points of caution. First, any guests expecting a five-course meal may feel short-changed. Consider stating on your reception card enclosure that a "cocktail reception" follows your ceremony-this way they can choose to have an early dinner before the festivities. Also, don't be deceived by the words "hors d'oeuvres." If you're not careful, the bill could rival that of the finest sit-down affair. Watch the budget as you make up your menu.

Now for the cocktail end of things. Again, dollars come into play in a big way, so clearly price out your ideas. The good news? Today's bar options are on the rise. "Offer your favorite specialty drinks," says MB's Milbrand. "Look into a martini bar; cosmopolitans and gimlets; a tropical drink station for pina coladas and fruit daiquiris; or a wine-tasting bar with everything from syrahs to reislings."

Like the hors d'oeuvres idea? Great-just know your crowd. Guests probably stand and mingle at this type of reception more than any other. The upside to that: You get to skip the whole seating-chart saga. And since you provide tables for only 30 percent of attendees, you save on centerpieces. Now that's food for thought.

Reception Style: Just Desserts

Just Desserts

Your wedding reception can take any shape you like. From a sit-down dinner to international food stations (look for these and more in our archives at the bottom), the style you choose should reflect what you're all about. And we know-some of you are all about dessert.

This sweetest of all receptions usually works best late in the day, when guests have already dined and are ready for a little cake-and any other sinfully sugared treats you want to offer.

A dessert party appeals to indulgent types-goes without saying. But this affair may also be your best bet if the two of you are looking for something less formal lasting only several hours. Oh, and it's great if you're on a small budget, since a big meal is bound to cost more.

So what's a couple to serve during a decadent night of dessert? Feast your eyes on these suggestions:

Wedding Cake! And a really great one, please. Since it's the centerpiece of this party, make it count.

A groom's cake. This traditional tribute to your guy's interests and hobbies usually incorporates chocolate in a big way. Adds a nice balance to the main cake, especially if it's basically on the lighter side.

Ice cream sundaes. With all the fixings, of course. Set up a separate bar laden with toppings from fruit to nuts and watch guests turn into kids again. (And watch any kids go crazy.)

Cheese and fruit. Your maid of honor is training for a marathon and cousin Joe is diabetic. Give them something they can enjoy, too! Since not everyone likes (or is allowed) a selection of sugary desserts, cut the sweetness with some savory offerings. And for those disciplined souls with self control, place a bowl of dipping chocolate right next to the fat strawberries.

Pastries and cookies. Downright de rigeur at some receptions (cannoli, anyone?), many guests love a plateful of individual little confections they can call their own.

Got milk? When it comes to washing it all down, you'll probably insist on champagne then move on to coffee. But there's lots more (yes, like milk) in between. Ask about-and price out-cappuccino, espresso, liqueurs, sparkling ciders and the like.

Reception Style: Coffee Bars

Coffee Bars: Not the Same Old Grind

The American craze for coffee in all its varied forms, born in the funky cafes of the Pacific Northwest, has brewed a demand for specialty coffee bars at wedding receptions across the country. Caterers report that it has become quite common for couples to offer a selection of specialty coffees along with dessert; and guests are responding with enthusiasm.

With the exception of the Seattle crowd, most of us remain a bit confused about what distinguishes a latte from an espresso. A guide, courtesy of Starbucks, the famed coffee purveyor:

Espresso (Ess-press'-o): A special blend of coffee beans are brewed by a method that uses pressure to produce the thick, aromatic beverage known as espresso.

Caffe Latte (Caf-ay' La'-tay): First, a shot of espresso fills the bottom of a cup. Then, the cup is filled with fresh, steamed milk. The beverage is topped with a quarter-inch of foamed milk.

Caffe Mocha (Caf-ay' Mo'-kah): Mocha syrup is added first. Then, a shot of espresso and on top of that a swirl of steamed milk. The drink is topped with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of cocoa powder.

Espresso Con Panna (Ess-press'-o Cone Pa'-na): A shot of espresso with a dollop of whipped cream floating on top.

Cappuccino (Cap-uh-chee'-no): A shot of espresso is layered with a shot of steamed milk. Next, the cup is filled with foamed milk, the dominant ingredient.

Reception Style: Caviar Basics

Caviar Basics

When it comes to special occasions, few things exude the sophistication and luxury that caviar does. A rare treat for most of us, caviar is a welcome delicacy at almost any affair-- it makes guests feel that they are being treated well indeed. If any single food can create a sense of excitement, this delicacy certainly can, making it the perfect culinary element at any wedding reception.

Fine caviar is expensive and precious because it is relatively rare and somewhat difficult to obtain. Most people know that caviar actually consists of fish eggs (roe), but few realize that this roe must be removed from a sturgeon's ovaries while the fish is still alive. These eggs are then rubbed through a sieve screen to remove the thin skin or membrane of the eggs, while taking care not to break any of the tiny orbs-- a mishap that will reduce the final product's quality gradation.

Good caviar should consist of shiny, firm, whole eggs. The caviar should never smell or taste fishy or salty. Only sturgeon roe can be labeled simply caviar. All other types must list the name of the fish first whitefish caviar, for example. Because they are more readily available, these other types of caviar are less costly. In the United States, for example, we import most of our sturgeon caviar from Iran, while whitefish caviar comes to us from Canada or the Great Lakes region.

Sturgeon caviar comes in several varieties, including beluga, ossetra, and sevruga. Beluga, generally regarded as the most desirable caviar, is known for its mild flavor, has a light gray color and consists of large eggs. Ossetra caviar can be golden brown, bottle green, or bluish gray and it has an intense taste. Sevruga, a popular variety in the United States, is usually dark gray or black. Lumpfish and whitefish caviar are considered less desirable than sturgeon. The roe is more heavily salted and the eggs are usually dyed black. (This is important to remember when cooking-- the dye will run.)

The vast majority of people will not know which type of caviar they are being served; but if you are hosting a knowledgeable crowd with sophisticated palates, it is best to stick with a high grade of caviar-- or simply not serve it at all.
Every caterer has a creative way of presenting caviar, but many prefer to take advantage of this delicacy's jewel-like appearance by simply serving different types and hues of caviar on toast points.

While caviar frequently appears at black-tie weddings, many event planners point out that its impact is often greater at more casual wedding receptions, when the host seeks to establish a relaxed but elegant air. And, like good diamonds or a classic tuxedo, caviar will never go out of style.

Reception Style: Menus with Meaning

Menus with Meaning

For many couples, weddings offer an opportunity to display pride in their heritages--right down to dessert. In fact, a meal including an eclectic blend of international foods is a common request heard by many caterers.

Whether you're looking to reflect his-and-her ethnic origins or are simply planning your party around a favorite international theme, make the menu fit the feeling. A really creative caterer will be able to work with you to develop dishes that represent your heritage or country of choice. Even one or two items passed as hors d'ouevre or included in a buffet or sit-down dinner will help get the message through.

Need help getting started? Here are some delicious ideas we've heard from some recent brides and grooms:

  • Spanish: Have a traditional tapas buffet that includes bread, dips, Chorizo sausage, etc.

  • Middle Eastern: Try roast lamb and couscous.

  • Chinese: Have fun with dim sum and dumplings.

  • Japanese: A sushi bar or teriyaki station.

  • Italian: Ravioli filled with porcini mushrooms, focaccias and tiramisu for dessert.

  • French: A crepe station, chicken cordon bleu, a good Champagne for toasting.

  • German: A variety of wursts and a sweet strudel.

  • Mexican: Go for quesadillas, fajitas and fruity sangria.

  • Irish: Tea sandwiches, scones, Irish smoked salmon--and a great ale or two.

  • British: A fish-and-chips station, shepherd's pie, trifle for dessert.

  • Russian: Blinis, borscht--and a touch of caviar?

  • Balinesian: roast pig and noodles.

  • Hawaiian: luau ending with a dessert of haupia, the region's traditional coconut pudding.

Reception Style: Bar Shopping

Bar Shopping

If you plan to serve liquor at your reception, you've got a little homework to do. In addition to the more traditional bar options, brides and grooms are getting creative with the drinks they offer guests. Whether because of budget or simply reception style, choices today are more varied than ever before. To help you decide, here's a basic glossary of bar terms you should know:

  • Open bar. Just what it sounds like: guests request drinks from the bar for the entire or a certain period of time. The hosts pay a flat rate based on the average per-guest consumption calculated in advance.

  • Consumption bar. "This means that the bartenders keep a running tab during the party and add it up at the end," says wedding consultant Joann Gregoli of Elegant Occasions in Denville, New jersey, who frequently recommends this type of service. "But it's important to to know your crowd. If you have many guests who are non-drinkers, a consumption bar will save you money. However, if you think your guests will indulge themselves at this celebration, you might want to think twice about this option."

  • Wine and champagne bar. Many couples are economizing with this tasteful alternative. And instead of just red or white, the range of wines is now much greater: Offer everything from Chardonnays and Sauvignon Blancs to Zinfandels and Cabarnets. And a choice of sparkling waters and juices satisfies those guests who prefer nonalcoholic drinks.

  • Champagne reception. This type of reception--complete with a beautiful wedding cake, of course--can be elegant, festive and easy. Simply serving champagne to drink can also cut way down on the bar tab.

  • Mixed drinks. The fancier cocktails and blended drinks that may be more costly than others.

  • Poured drinks. Simple drinks that aren't mixed, shaken or stirred.

  • Premium brands. Well-known or quality brands of liquors, imported or vintage label beers and wines.

  • Tableside or Barside service. Beverage service provided at the table by a waiter or by a rolling bar.

  • Corkage fee. Fee per bottle charged to open and serve liquor that you personally bring into your reception site.

Reception Style: What's In?

What's In?

  • "Combination" entrées featuring a sampler of beef and chicken, or chicken and fish dishes. Guests don't have to make choices on the response card or at the table; and the caterer doesn't have to worry whether all the guests will order one choice over another.

  • Lighter fare with fewer calories, less fat, and sauces and dressings on the side.

  • Wedding cakes in the couple's favorite flavor, or combination of different flavor layers. Cheesecake, chocolate, mousse and carrot cakes are hands-down favorites.

  • Wedding cakes displayed on adjustable multileveled stands, rather than stacked in tiers.

Reception Style: All Set for Sit-down

All Set for Sit-down
The reception decision is looming. You've ruled out buffets and want more than endless hors d'oeuvres. Let's talk about the sit-down dinner.

Traditional? Yes. Stuffy? No way! While the sit-down is definitely more formal, the atmosphere you create makes all the difference. Everything from the menu to the centerpieces is a reflection of your style, so do it your way. Set a great table and choose food that says something about your interests, heritages or lifestyles.

You can expect a sit-down reception to start with cocktails and hors d'oeuvres. That's followed by a three- or four-course dinner including an appetizer, soup or salad and an entree of either meat, poultry or fish served with vegetables. Dessert and/or wedding cake round out the menu.

A professional caterer should have dozens of wonderful, delicious and creative menu selections from which to choose. Dietary restrictions and vegetarian requests should also be accommodated, if necessary. Here are some basic dishes you may come across; your caterer may have her own creative versions of old favorites, as well:

  • Soup or consomme
  • Fruit salad
  • Pasta with vegetables
  • Shrimp cocktail

  • Salad greens with portabello mushrooms
  • Sherbet or sorbet
  • Fresh tomatoes, mozzarella and basil
  • Prosciutto and melon slices

(served with items such as baby vegetables, wild rice, etc.)

  • Stuffed chicken breasts
  • Beef tenderloin
  • Lobster ravioli
  • Seared tuna
  • Chicken Cordon Bleu
  • Baby rack of lamb
  • Grilled prawns
  • New York strip steak
  • Ginger chicken
The main entree is sometimes followed by a fourth course, most often a fresh, green salad (in which case soup may be served as the second course, above) or a selection of cheeses.

While the parts of the sit-down dinner are somewhat standard, there are several styles of service. (The style you choose is one factor that determines your final bill, depending on the number of wait staff needed.) Least formal is family style, where platters of food are placed at each table and guests serve themselves. With plated service, the plates are filled in the kitchen then brought out to guests. During French service one waiter holds a tray of food while another serves each guest from it. Finally, Russian service requires extremely coordinated waiters to hold a tray with one hand while serving guests with the other.

Reception Style: THE BUFFET WAY

The two most popular reception formats continue to be the sit-down dinner (we'll talk about that next time!) and the buffet.

At a buffet reception food is displayed on long tables and guests help themselves. It's a great way to offer lots of variety, and everyone can refill their plates as often as they like. The buffet is a more casual format and usually appeals to couples who'd like their guests to mingle. If you really know your crowd and feel that they'd rather not sit for hours at a table with the same people, a buffet may be for you.

Of course, buffets are also more affordable than sit-downs because you save lots of money on labor. It takes a much bigger wait-staff to serve seated guests than it does to work a buffet.

You may host a buffet reception for brunch, lunch or dinner. Ask your caterer about the type of dishes you can offer. Each professional has his or her own style and specialties, so work together on a creative menu. Generally, several main entrees are chosen along with a few side dishes and smaller items, such as bread and cheese. Here are some sample selections:

  • Stuffed chicken breast
  • Beef tenderloin
  • Poached salmon
  • Pasta primavera

  • Green salad
  • Fruit salad
  • Grilled vegetables
  • Savory rices

  • Gourmet bread and butter
  • Assorted cheese and crackers
  • Crudite and dips

Take the buffet idea once step further-- get the facts on food stations. This trend-setting reception style is similar to the basic buffet. However, instead of one big table, there are many tables set up around the room, each one featuring a different dish or theme.

Food stations can be simply planned, with individual tables for seafood, hand-carved roasts, pastas, salads, desserts, etc. But many brides and grooms-- and their caterers-- see them as a chance to do more inspired menus. Very often, favorite foods that reflect the couple's heritages will find places of honor at various tables around the room. One couple we know used this format for an international theme with each table (and its food) representing a different country. Another classic-and-country couple expressed their separate but equal styles with his barbecue table set not far from her made-to-order crepes. A good caterer should be able to work with you--and your budget-- to turn your visions into reality!

Guest Accommodations: Something To Sleep On

Yes, you're very busy trying to pull all those loose ends together before your wedding day. But don't forget to take some time to arrange accommodations for those out-of-town guests who have gone out of their way to come celebrate with you.

It isn't always practical to have guests stay with family or friends, especially if you're considering having them stay with yourself or your immediate family. You'll have far too much to do to worry about entertaining visitors.

It is the bride's responsibility to arrange hotel accommodations for her guests. The farther in advance you make reservations, the better. You'll be more likely to get the number of rooms you need and you may be able to negotiate a special rate as well. Most hotels are busier on the weekends, so there's no such thing as calling too early. The guests usually pay for their own accommodations, but if you can fit it into your budget, it is a nice gesture to provide all your guests with an all-expenses-paid day of celebration.

Remember that your full-service travel agent can also help you take care of these arrangements as well. This can be a wonderful time saving service for hurried brides who just don't have enough time to see to all the details themselves.

Try to find a hotel that is convenient to the wedding and reception, and be sure to check out the rooms before you book them. If you're having a hotel reception, reserve rooms there so your guests don't have to worry about driving anywhere. Since you're already providing the hotel with your reception business, they should be more than happy to block off a number of rooms for your guests.

You might also consider arranging some form of transportation from the hotel to the ceremony and reception. This will ensure that they won't be late because they got lost in an unfamiliar town. Many limousine companies have added large-capacity vehicles to their fleets to accommodate the needs of groups.

Many hotels have response cards that can be included in your invitations. The guest simply has to fill out the card and send it back to the hotel for a reservation.

It's a nice touch as well for you to have flower arrangements or fruit baskets waiting in the rooms with a short note welcoming your guests. If there's a long gap between your wedding and the reception, plan to have a courtesy room set up with snacks and beverages. This will give the out-of-towners a place to go and mingle between events.

If you're not planning to leave right away on your honeymoon, you may want to plan a gathering after the reception or the next day to spend more time with those guests you don't get to see very often. It gives you all a chance to relax and visit in an atmosphere that isn't as hectic as a wedding can be.

Try your best to make your guests' visit enjoyable and memorable. Show them that you appreciate the effort they made to travel to your wedding.

Wedding Videography: Are You Getting the Whole Picture?

Your wedding day is a precious memory you will always treasure. Still, as the years progress, your recollections of that day will no doubt fade. The happiness you felt, the nervousness, the relief, will all blur together and make it hard for you to re-create your true emotions.

By hiring a professional videographer, you can preserve the memory forever. Your children and grandchildren will love to see your wedding day, and a professional videographer can really capture the emotions of the moment.

Some brides leave the hiring of a professional videographer to the last minute, and only if they have extra money, because they don't consider it to be a detail as important as the florist or caterer. However, long after the flowers have wilted and the food been eaten, your wedding video will still be something concrete that you can look at to remember your wedding day.

It is very important that you hire a professional instead of just recruiting some relative to take the video. Think of it this way: many people know how to work 35 mm cameras, but you hire a professional to take the wedding photos because he or she is trained to account for such variables as lighting and weather, and knows how to get the best shots.

A professional videographer is no different. He or she should be familiar with the wedding ceremony, so missing parts of the ceremony will not be a problem. Professionals know how to account for lighting, and to capture the emotions and facial expressions that an amateur might miss. Also, professionals offer the choice between one camera or two, to provide the coverage that you like best.

Professional videographers offer other advantages, such as a smooth editing process, special effects, and spliced-in music and childhood photos. All of these perks combine to form a video that is of a very high quality.

When you shop around for a videographer, be sure to view sample tapes. Feel free to take notes, because the videos will begin to blur together. Pay attention to every detail. Is the camera held steady? Is the edit smooth from one sequence to the next? How well does the emotion of the day come across? Do you feel like you were actually there? Is the sound quality good -- how clear can you hear the vows? This last characteristic may vary with the church, since some do not let cameras close enough to the couple to catch the vows clearly.

Just as you did with your photographer, meet with the person who will be taking your video to discuss your ideas. You may want to include personal, private interviews from the bride and groom to each other, and this is an option you should discuss with your videographer. Also talk about exactly what you want taped, where, and when.

Ask about the package deals that they offer. If one does not appeal to your needs, see if you can create your own. Check out the price you get for the type of coverage. Standard coverage includes the ceremony and reception, but be sure to ask questions anyway.

View tapes filmed with one and two cameras to see which type of coverage you like best. The two-camera coverage is more like today's television shows, and many brides prefer the professionalism this lends to the overall product.

Also be sure to ask about the availability of back-up equipment, including lighting, in case something should break.

Ask as many questions as you can, and don't worry about sounding nosy or mistrustful. You only get one shot to do this, and you want to make sure that the person you hire is going to do the best job possible.

Try to arrange for the videographer to attend your rehearsal. This will give him or her a better chance to work with the layout of the church, and find out what restrictions are placed on where the cameras are allowed to be. If he can also film sections of the rehearsal, it will give you some "bloopers" to add to your finished product.

When you choose your videographer, be sure to get every detail in writing. Specify how long he or she will work, what the prices are, if food should be provided at the reception for him or her, and what the hourly overtime charge is. This contract is for your protection as well as the videographer's, since there are so many details to finalize that it would be easy to forget one or two.

You may want to ask about getting additional copies of the video for family and friends, since professional copies are of a much higher quality than their homemade counterparts. Find out if the video company keeps copies of each video on file in case yours gets ruined or you need another copy.

To keep your video in working order, store it at regular room temperature. Every three to four months, play the video to keep all the movable parts working (if you don't have time to watch the video, just fast forward and rewind through the tape).

Your professional wedding video will provide countless hours of entertainment for you and your husband, as well as a tribute to old memories. Those emotions you felt on your wedding day will never fade if you have a wedding video to help rekindle those old flames.

The Tuxedo: Blend In or Stick Out

Today's tuxedos do a lot more than merely provide a neutral background to show off the bride's gown. Men are no longer content to sacrifice choice, and area tuxedo shops are responding by carrying different lines of suits in various elegant styles. Men want to look their best on this big day too, and the more options available to them, the better opportunity they have to sweep you off your feet.

The most popular choice among 08's grooms is still the classic black tux, due to its elegant overtones. However, there is a lot of variety within today's black tuxedos that make them anything but ordinary. Your groom has to choose between dinner jackets and tails, notched lapels and shawl collars, different pocket styles, jackets with or without vents, and many other details. These decisions are by no means minor, and each detail makes an important statement.

Another vital decision regards color. Pattern has become the staple of the tuxedo industry, for it combines many colors in a vest or cummerbund to match a variety of bridesmaids' dresses. The colors that these dresses come in are so varied that it would be practically impossible and definitely not cost-effective for tuxedo shops to develop ties, cummerbunds, and vests that coordinate perfectly with all of these colors. Instead, patterns have been developed which can be matched with a variety of dress colors. Patterns also provide grooms with an additional opportunity to express their individuality in making a loud or soft statement.

While most men are still wearing the traditional white wing collar shirts, pants are popular in pegged, pleated, and plain front styles. The various types of pants are chosen to complement the groomsmen's ages and tastes.

Many fathers and older groomsmen dislike the pegged styles preferred by many of their younger counterparts. To combat this problem, grooms are encouraged to forego the assumption that all groomsmen's pants should match, and instead allow their attendants to choose whichever style they are more comfortable with.

Shop around for prices, styles, and friendly, personal service. Tuxedo shops often carry different lines of tuxedos, and offer various "deals." Investigate each of these deals, and find out what exactly is included in the prices. A complete tuxedo ensemble should include a jacket, shirt, studs and cufflinks, bow tie or ascot, pants, a vest or cummerbund, and formal dress shoes. Every detail is important, so make sure each is included in your price.

The choice between a cummerbund and vest is a reflection of the groom's style. Cummerbunds are traditional favorites, while vests add a little 1990's sophistication to your groom.

Once the groom's ensemble has been selected, the two of you will need to decide what the groomsmen will wear. The groom should be easily distinguishable from his attendants in attire, so choose suits for them that complement, but do not mimic, his. One way to accomplish this is for the groom to wear tails, with the groomsmen in regular hip-length dinner jackets. Another way to distinguish the groom from the groomsmen would be for him to wear a vest with a pattern in a certain color, while his attendants wear the same patterned vest in a different color. Even the best man must match the other groomsmen. Only the ringbearer is allowed to wear the same tuxedo ensemble as the groom.

The fathers can be distinguished from the other attendants by matching their ties and vests or cummerbunds to their tuxedos instead of the bridesmaids' dresses.

The best idea, as with all other wedding arrangements, is to plan early. Register with a tuxedo shop as soon as possible, and reserve tuxedo numbers and styles at least three months before the wedding.

Don't neglect to check in to make sure that your order was placed, especially if you plan to marry in the spring/summer season. Not only is this the time for the most weddings to take place, but it is also high school prom season, and therefore an especially busy time for tuxedo shops.

About two to three weeks before your wedding, bring in the entire male party for measurements. If an attendant is out of town, make sure a measurement card is filled out correctly so that the shop can order a fitting tuxedo.

Have the tuxedos ready for pickup no less than two days before the wedding. Insist that all attendants try on their tuxes before they leave the shop to avoid last minute surprises.

Even choosing a tuxedo is no longer a simple detail, with all of these decisions to be made. Take advantage of the myriad of possibilities that allow your groom to express his own style and look so handsome at the same time!

Wedding Transportation: A Short Getaway

With so many details to consider in planning a wedding, it is easy to overlook the most obvious. You've coordinated times with the caterer and band, made accommodations for out-of-town guests, and garnered "something old, something new, something borrowed, [and] something blue."

Still feel like you're missing something? With the hustle and bustle your wedding has become, that sinking feeling that you've forgotten an important detail looms ominous in the back of your mind. You want to make sure that everything is taken care of, down to the transportation you will need from the ceremony to the reception. You know that you need to leave your ceremony in style, and this is no detail to leave to the last minute.

Limousine services and horse-drawn carriages are two of the most popular and elegant ways for couples to make their "getaway." Whether you are after a sophisticated wedding bash or a traditional celebration, there is a mode of transportation to suit your needs, as well as your tastes.

You should begin planning your wedding transportation within a year of your wedding. If a limousine service appeals to your idea of the perfect wedding, ask around to find friends who have employed these services with reputable companies. Don't just pick a name out of the phone book -- you have to do your homework to find a company that will be sensitive to your needs.

When you go visit the various companies, check out the exact car or cars that you would be renting. Make sure that they are nice on the inside as well as the outside, and that whatever services you would contract to receive are in working order. Find out what resources the company is prepared to call upon in an emergency. Are there extra cars available in case yours breaks down? Copy down the license plate and/or serial number of the car you like to make sure that you receive that exact one.

Also verify that the company has the proper licenses and sufficient insurance. The State of Ohio issues "livery stickers" to those companies who present valid insurance, and these stickers must be on both the front and rear license plates.

You may also want to ask for and check references, as well as call the Better Business Bureau, the National Limousine Association, or the Ohio Limousine Association to see if they have received complaints about a specific company.

Once you find a company, you and your fiance should decide how many cars you will need, and for how long. A typical rental lasts five hours, and gives you ample time to get picked up, taken to the church, married, and then driven to the reception site. Make the most of your rental, and have the limo pick up other friends and family after you and the wedding party arrive at the church.

Typically, the maid-of-honor and the best man ride in the first car with the couple, and the rest of the wedding party follows in a second car. Whichever arrangement you decide upon, make sure that everyone has enough room to keep their clothing wrinkle-free.

Many couples find the Victorian charm of a horse-drawn carriage appealing. The broad range of carriage colors, sizes, and styles that they have to choose from make it possible for the couple to choose the right carriage for them.

When meeting with livery services, make appointments to view the carriages and horses. Make sure that both are clean and in good shape. Look for a livery owner who is flexible to your ideas, and knows how to make your ride romantic and special.

Unpredictable Ohio weather does not have to ruin your day if you plan accordingly. Many carriages come with convertible tops and pull-up windows to keep you warm and dry on your way to the reception.

You will need to decide if the carriage will carry just you two, or if you will include the best man and maid-of-honor. Most carriages can fit four grown adults quite comfortably.

In choosing a horse, temperament is much more important than breed. The driver will choose a horse who is calm and good-natured, so that you can sit back and enjoy yourself.

Whether you choose a limousine service or a horse-drawn carriage, your selection will reflect your individuality. Both options are fun and luxurious, so be realistic and choose the mode of transportation you and your fiance will enjoy most.

Wedding Toast Tips

No wedding party is ever complete without the traditional toast to the bride and groom. Unfortunately, many of us are not the best public speakers. If hundreds of eyes should fall upon you for words of wisdom and congratulations, don't "uuuummmm..... aaaaahhhh....." and "well....," your way through the special moment.

Champagne toasts are cherished highlights and definitely merit special though. According to the experts, a toast is the perfect opportunity to express thoughtful sentiments that all too often go unsaid. With the following tips from Martini & Rossi, producers of the world famous Asti Spumante and Martini & Rossi Brut, your message will come through loud and clear - and, most importantly, from the heart:

  • Think about what makes the bride and groom so special as individuals and as a couple;
  • If you could make one wish of happiness for the couple, what would it be?
  • Speak to other friends and relatives of the couple, get their input;
  • Think about what the main message of your toast should be (love, commitment, relationships, etc.);
  • Touch on a specific experience you have shared with the couple;
  • Practice reciting the toast several times before the big day.
If you heed these few simple tips, toasting the newlyweds should be a joyful and memorable experience for all of the guests. Remember, too, that a toast should always end on an optimistic note - everyone should be able to look at the future with love in their hearts!

Wedding Rings: The Infinite Circle

For centuries, men and women have given rings to each other as a pledge of faith and undying love. Despite the fact that different cultures wear the rings on different fingers, the meaning behind these gifts is always the same. Our practice of wearing the rings on our third fingers stems from the belief of the Ancient Greeks that the "vein of love" connects to our heart from this finger.

Whether we believe in the "vein of love" or not, the perfect circle of a ring represents an infinite unity to which all marriages aspire. It is also our custom to adorn our engagement and wedding rings with the lustrous, durable diamond as a symbol of the beautiful, yet lasting qualities that we hope for in our marriage. For many years we were told that "diamonds are a girl's best friend," but in the 1990's many independent women are seeking alternative stones and metals other than gold and silver in their engagement rings and wedding bands that reflect individual tastes as opposed to time-honored traditions.

A wide variety of gemstones give greater flexibility in choosing colors and styles. Most popular among women are rubies, emeralds, and sapphires, but even more unusual stones are gaining popularity. Men tend to prefer blue sapphires or black onyx, in making a more neutral statement. Still, many couples are fond of the traditional look, and choose diamond rings to accentuate their commitment to traditional values.

Whichever gem you choose, there are a few characteristics that determine a stone's value to consider before picking out a specific stone. Known as "the Four C's," the cut, color, clarity, and carat weight indicate the quality of the stone.

Cut refers to the shaping and faceting of the stone. A good cut adds priceless beauty to your ring without added expense. A well-cut faceted stone will reflect light back evenly across its surface area when held face up. If areas appear dark, the stone is probably too deep and narrow. If the stone appears washed out and lifeless, it is probably too shallow and wide.

According to Virginia Paterson of James Locke Jewelers, cut is the most important factor in determining a stone's quality. "The stone's value depends upon what it will 'wear' like. A well-cut stone reflects light from the top of the stone, while a spread-cut stone reflects light from the back, and makes the grease and oil that collect behind any stone much more visible."

Many jewelers may try to sell you by the size of the stone instead of the cut. Paterson advises that you develop a trusting relationship with your jeweler, and make sure that he or she is knowledgeable about the cut of stones. Ask if there is an ideal-cut stone for you to measure your prospective purchase against. If they don't know what you are talking about, they aren't aware of the proper information they need to ensure you that theirs is a quality stone.

The characteristics of color that determine the quality in gemstones are different that those in diamonds. In gemstones you should look for a medium-toned, intense, clear, and saturated color. However, the best diamonds are colorless and disperse white light into a rainbow of colors. Still, these diamonds are very rare and expensive, so you would be better off opting for a diamond with a slight tint that is invisible to the naked eye. Clarity is determined by the presence or absence of inclusions, or tiny flaws. Most stones have inclusions, so you would do best to choose one with the least visible flaws. The stone's value is in this way dependent upon the number of inclusions, and those without any are extremely rare and much more expensive. Always examine diamonds free of any mounting, because often-times inclusions are hidden in this way.

Carat weight refers simply to the size of the stone. Carats are subdivided into 100 "points"--a fifty point diamond weighs one half of a carat. Choose a carat weight appropriate to your budget as well as your lifestyle. Bulky rings are inappropriate for really active people, but may suit others perfectly.

Once you have the perfect stone picked out, your next decision is what type of metal to mount it on. For engagement rings as well as wedding bands, platinum is making a big statement. Fused with gold or by itself, this metal offers an interesting new look without an outrageous price. Diamonds in platinum and gold settings are set off in a fresh way, and many bridal sets are becoming popular using this motif.

Whichever stone or metal you choose, you should always strive to attain "the Fifth C"--confidence in your jeweler. By shopping around and comparing notes, you can determine which jeweler has your desires as well as your budget in mind.

The symbolism enacted by the wedding ring has been around for ages, and will continue well into the next century. Update this age-old tradition by choosing stones and metals that reflect your personality, and this custom will never go out of style.

The Wedding Rehearsal: Getting It Right

The wedding rehearsal is not just a sentimental tradition left over from the days of our parents. In the 08's, practicality is the buzzword, and there is nothing more practical than having a rehearsal of this very important ceremony.

You want everything to go as you and your fiance have planned, but in order for this to happen, your attendants and other ceremony participants must be well-versed in the circumstances of the ceremony. This is especially important today, since fewer and fewer ceremonies copy the traditional style, and participants do not automatically know where they are supposed to go.

The wedding rehearsal gives everyone a chance to practice their roles in the ceremony before going public. Every person involved in your ceremony should attend -- the bridesmaids, groomsmen, parents, flower girl and ring bearer, officiant, readers, musicians, and especially the bride and groom! It is also a good idea to have your wedding consultant on hand for any last-minute questions, and your videographer so that he or she can get a better feel for the layout of the church.

Give the flower girl and ring bearer plenty of time to walk up and down the aisle by themselves. This will help them get used to being the center of attention so that they won't get stage fright at the wedding day.

Walk through the entire ceremony a couple of times so that everyone knows their parts and their cues. If the musicians can't be on hand to play for your rehearsal, try to get a copy of the processional and recessional so that the attendants can become familiar with the songs.

The wedding rehearsal usually takes place the day before the wedding, and is followed by a dinner hosted by the groom's parents. This dinner should be held near the ceremony site, preferably in a private room, although a restaurant is another option. may want to have your wedding caterer cook for the rehearsal dinner as a kind of "dry-run" for the real wedding reception.

Whether you go to a restaurant or decide to have your rehearsal dinner catered, you want to make sure that the food is delicious. Book your dinner site as soon as possible so that you can concentrate instead on the menu. may decide to go for a family-style meal, although many brides and grooms are opting to give their guests more choices. The bride and groom will select four or five entrees before the dinner, and their guests will have their choice from these dishes.

As with your reception food, sample the dishes before you hire anybody. Find out how many servers will be assigned to your group, and go over any other details to make sure that your dinner is a success.

Make sure that the proprietors work out of a licensed kitchen, have the proper insurance, and are willing to accommodate you and your fiance's ideas.

Traditionally, the best man makes his first toast to the bride and groom at the rehearsal dinner. This is also the perfect opportunity for the couple to present their bridal party appreciation gifts. The rehearsal dinner will be the last quiet time you will be able to spend with your close family and friends before your new, married life. You will want to take this time to relax and spend some quality time with your loved ones, and also tell them how much you appreciate their presence in your lives.

Wedding rehearsals are as practically now as they were in the previous decades. Even with our advanced technology and conveniences, the wedding rehearsal is still an integral part of having a successful ceremony.

Bridal Registries: Trends and Tips!

A recent survey of newlyweds found that 89% received many or most of the items they included on their bridal registries. They found an easy and convenient way to save their guests and themselves a lot of time and wasted money by opting to register their "wish list."

If you want to avoid the hassle of duplicate gifts, and give your guests an "insurance policy" that their gift will be used and appreciated, open up a bridal registry in a store that carries a wide variety of items to suit both your and your fiance's tastes. By doing this, you acknowledge the difficulty involved in choosing a wedding gift for any couple, and your guests will appreciate your foresight. Even family members and close friends will not be able to second-guess the needs and wants of a couple in their new lifestyle. Only you and your fiance can pick out china patters, silver, or other items that you can be certain to like and use. These gifts will lay the foundation for your new life together, and only you two can dictate the circumstances of this life.

Even if you have been living on your own for a while, or are entering a second or third marriage, registering can provide you with a unique opportunity to receive some items that you may not otherwise buy yourself. Any supply of basic appliances can be updated, and perhaps you and your husband-to-be will have other needs which cannot be met with your old possessions. New items received in a marriage after a divorce are always special because they signify your "new" life, and leave behind any previous history that your old items carry.

Many brides-to-be express the concern that they will be seen as only concerned with gifts if they open up a bridal registry. As long as you don't announce your registration on the wedding invitations, or allow the store to send notices of this fact to your guests, they will appreciate the planning you and your fiance invested in helping them choose the perfect gift.

Lately, bridal registries have been including more untraditional items as well as the conventional crystal, china, and silver. Sporting goods, electronic equipment, artwork, furniture, cellular phones, answering machines, TVs, and computers are all popular choices. More expensive registry items are perfect for groups of family members, friends, or co-workers who want to chip in on a gift together.

Another new trend has been for couples to register with travel agencies or mortgage lenders. In this type of "registry," a cash donation may be made to help finance the couple's honeymoon or down payment on a house. If you do decide to go this route, it is advisable to also register at a store to please any old-fashioned gift-givers who may not like the idea of giving money at a wedding.

If you do register at a store, there are some guidelines you should follow:

  • Visit many stores with your fiance to find one which carries a variety of items that you both like. When you find the one you want to register at, go there on off-hours to avoid confusion and maximize personal attention from the bridal registry coordinator. He or she will be happy to help you match patterns or pick out items, so take advantage of this service.

  • Register as soon as you can after your engagement, so that your registry can be used for engagement, shower, and wedding gifts. Your place of registration may be announced on shower invitations, and otherwise spread by word of mouth from family and friends. It should never be included as part of the wedding invitations.

  • When registering, ask as many questions as you can. Find out the store's policies on returns, deliveries, and special-orders. Will they mail a duplicate of your registration forms to you for verification?

  • Don't be afraid to register for unconventional items. There are many items you will need in your new home that differ from crystal, china, and silver. If something out of the ordinary catches your eye, go for it.

  • Try to involve your fiance in as much of the decisions as you can. After all, his tastes and needs are just as important as your own.

  • Update your registry frequently to avoid receiving duplicate gifts. Many registries are now computerized, and offer the advantage of instant updating upon purchase.

  • Also keep up to date with thank you cards. Open each gift promptly upon receipt, and jot down the item, who sent it, and your initial thoughts upon opening it. Notes with a personal touch are always preferred, and failure to send a thank you card is a major etiquette faux pas.

  • As a general rule, keep the gifts in the $25-$75 range. However, don't neglect the lower or higher priced items.

Keeping these helpful hints in mind, you are on your way to a blissful marriage. Working together with your fiance to supply your new home is a partnership that your guests will appreciate as well, for the ease and confidence it gives them in choosing your gift.

Finding A Reception Hall That Fits the Bill

As you've probably seen by now, there are as many ways to get married as there are brides and grooms. And when it comes to celebrating that union, you'll find that there are even more options.

Whether you're planning a gala event for 300 people or an afternoon gathering for 25, the list of options is endless. But the most important part of having a great wedding reception is choosing the right location.

The key to finding the right reception hall is time and flexibility. If you don't have one, you'll need plenty of the other! Since many of the most popular sites are booked even two years in advance, many brides reserve their reception hall even before their church.

The most popular wedding months are May through October. If you plan to marry during these peak times, you'll need to keep an open mind about the date and the time of day, since your first choice may have already been taken.

Consider a Friday evening, Saturday afternoon, or Sunday instead of the usual Saturday evening reception.

Friday evening receptions are becoming more popular, and they can be as successful as those held on Saturday if you take the time to plan ahead. You may have to send out the invitations a little earlier, but the important people in your lives will set aside the time to spend with you. Friday receptions also give you all of Saturday to relax with out-of-town guests and to pack for your honeymoon. Since they're not as busy, caterers may be a little more flexible with price or require lower attendance minimums for a Friday reception.

If you opt for an off-season month, such as January, February, or March, you'll not only have more choices about times, you may get a discounted rate as well as the ideal time. Besides, what better time to go someplace warm on your honeymoon?

Before you begin looking for the ideal reception site, you should have some idea of what type of reception you want to have. For example, if you're planning a small reception with only cake and punch, you'll be looking for something quite different than a bride planning a sit-down dinner with dancing.

Try to think about any special requests you may have before you begin touring halls. For example, many brides are requesting a non-smoking reception. If this is of interest to you, be sure to make your preferences known to the staff at the hall. Ask if there is a separate place for people who do want to smoke.

One of your first considerations should be the location of the halls you are considering. Most brides like to keep their ceremony and reception sites fairly close, so that their guests don't have to spend a lot of time driving.

There are many important things to keep in mind when you shop for a hall. First and foremost, don't compare prices over the phone.

Calling around for prices tells you nothing about what you're getting. What sounds like the best price over the phone could turn out to be an over-priced hole in the wall.

Instead of focusing on the price, you need to consider the value of what you're getting from the hall. One hall may seem to have higher price per meal, but it may include all sorts of things that a lower-priced hall does not. For example, be sure to find out whether the price includes table linens (there may be an extra charge for colored tablecloths or napkins), glass barware (some facilities use plastic cups to save money), china, table centerpieces, etc.

Whether or not you're getting a good value depends largely on what is important to you. Think about such things as decor, landscaping, whether you prefer glass dishes and barware to paper products, whether you want colored table linens, etc. before you begin to visit sites.

Take the time to actually visit the site and look around, because the price includes so much more than just food.

Check out the bathrooms for cleanliness. Is the parking lot in good shape, and is it big enough? Were you comfortable with the staff and management of the site? See how your waiters and waitresses will be dressed, and ask if there is a coat room or valet service offered.

Many brides feel that visiting a reception site once is enough, but in reality, you should visit each site at least twice. Even if you have a photographic memory, time will begin to blur your ability to distinguish between possible sites. Therefore, visit each possible site once to narrow your choices down to two or three. Then, go back and visit each one again as if it were your first time there. You will amazed at how much better or worse a reception site will appear to you the second time through.

Even if you're sure it's the hall you want, you should still take the time to look around on two different occasions. This will provide you with a sense of security that everything you fell in love with on your first visit is really as beautiful as you remember.

Have a general idea of what's important to you when you visit the hall. Consider whether you want glass dishes and barware or if some paper products will be okay. Also think about how the grounds look. If it's a nice day, will your guests be able to enjoy a landscaped environment, or will they be taking a walk in a parking lot?

Many couples are also interested in having available an attractive place to take pictures in case of inclement weather on their wedding day. Ask if the hall has a formal foyer for indoor photos, as well as landscaped grounds or a nearby park.

If your reception will be during the summer, investigate the air conditioning and find out what happens if it breaks down. Be sure to ask about security and whether there is an extra charge for it.

Ask if the office is staffed during the reception in case there are any problems. It's important to have someone available to take care of your very request, even if it's as small as a change in the room temperature or finding a guest to take a phone call.

You should also look at what other events are scheduled for that day and how much time is allowed between bookings. If your guests are having a good time, you don't want them pushed out the door because another party has been scheduled right after yours. There should be, at the very least, an hour between bookings.

If the room is partitioned, find out what sort of group will be next door. The noise of their party may be an intrusion on your reception.

If you plan on bringing in some decorations, find out what limitations there may be, and when you or your supplier can come in to set up. How soon after the reception must the decorations be taken down?

Is there a lot of empty time between your ceremony and the reception? Often the wedding is in the morning or early afternoon, but the reception doesn't start until the evening, and the guests are left for hours with nothing to do. The reception hall may be able to provide a separate room stocked with snacks and beverages where guests can mingle until the actual reception begins.

In planning the menu, most couples like to give their guests a choice of foods. For a while the trend was toward healthier entrees, but many couples are moving back to beef.

Many couples are looking for a different way to present the food as well. Food stations, which can accommodate anything from hors d'oeuvres to a full meal, are being seen at more and more weddings. Each station will be placed in a different part of the room and will carry a particular theme. For example, you can have a carving station, a pasta table, a seafood station, etc.

Food stations can be a good way to get conversations started among people who don't know each other, since they allow people to mingle more freely than they would if they were to just sit down and wait to be served.

Family-style dinners are also becoming very popular. When serving family-style, the servers will bring out large platters of food that are then passed around the table. The food is served in courses, so it tends to make the meal more leisurely and relaxed.

Of course, the traditional buffet or sit-down dinner is still very popular among brides.

If you're planning a buffet, the most important question to ask when you're discussing the menu is whether you will be charged per person or by the plate. A "per plate" charge means that you will pay each time a person is served. If you have some heavy eaters in your family, you could end up paying three times for the same person's meal. Also find out if the serving portions on a buffet are fixed, or if you can have as much of an item as you want.

You'll want to taste the food as well, so find out what provisions are made for this. There may be a charge, but consider it well worthwhile. Nothing will ruin a reception like bad food!

You also need to put some thought into what your guests will drink. Decide in advance how much you want to spend on liquor, and have an idea of what's most important to you. Will you have a lot of people who will want mixed drinks, or will it be a younger crowd who will prefer beer and wine? Also, look at your guest list and figure out how many drinkers you are inviting, versus how many non-drinkers. If a majority of your guests don't drink, you can shift money away from the bar and into an area your guests will be more focused on, like the food.

If you do opt for liquor, will you use name brands or house brands? Some couples choose to save some money by offering only beer and wine instead of the more costly mixed drinks. Will you provide champagne for the entire reception, or only during the toast?

If you choose to have a full bar, try to be charged by the drink (or by consumption) rather than by the bottle. In this case, you are charged only for the liquor you use, rather than for the whole bottle, whether it's used or not.

Be sure to arrange for bar service that lasts as long as the reception itself (the average wedding reception lasts between 5.5 to 6 hours). You can save some money by requesting that the bar stop serving alcohol at a particular time, but you should make provisions for some sort of beverages to be supplied until the reception is over. Also find out how many bartenders will be on duty, whether there are any corkage fees, and whether the facility has liquor liability insurance as well as food insurance.

Find out how many bartenders will be on duty, and

if you can be charged by consumption rather than by the bottle. If you're charged per bottle you pay for the entire bottle whether it's all used or not, whereas with consumption charges you are charged only for what you use.

If you are charged by the bottle, ask if you will receive credit for partial bottles. When you get to the reception, you should also politely ask the bartender to keep the empty bottles. Then you won't find yourself asking later, "Gee, did we really drink that much?"

Make sure the hall you're looking at is the right size for your reception. Don't book a hall that is too big. The hall shouldn't be overcrowded, of course, but if people are closer together there will be a more festive air.

Most couples choose to have a cake table and a gift table. These require more preparation than you might at first think. Don't place them in a dark or remote corner where no one will notice them. This is especially true for the gift table. Believe it or not, there really are people who steal gifts from receptions, and it's pretty easy to do if the gift table is right by the door. After all the guests have arrived, ask the person overseeing the reception to lock the card box in an office until the reception is over. That way you don't have to worry about it.

Ask what provisions are available for your musicians. Make sure there is enough room and power for equipment and instruments. Is there any type of a bandstand or stage?

Check out the table linens as well. Look at the types of table skirting offered for the bridal table, cake tables, and so on. Are colored tablecloths or napkins available, and is there an extra charge for them? Also ask whether napkins for the cake are provided.

Some reception halls include a wedding cake in their package. Inquire as to whether you have to buy their cake, or if you can bring in your own. If they provide the cake be sure to get a sample, and find out how flexible they are on how the cake is decorated. Do you have one choice or fifty? Also determine whether there is any extra charge for cutting, serving, and boxing up the leftover cake.

Take some time to meet with the staff. It is most important to have confidence and faith in the people you will be working with to plan your reception. A couple should feel that the reception site is going to take care of things for them and that they are in good hands.

Your deposit is a subject of serious concern. If you're planning your wedding a year or more in advance, you need to be sure that the site will still be in business by then. The best way to ensure this is to work with a reception facility who has been in business for some time. Even so, it is important that you ask about such things as deposit requirements, the hall's policy regarding refunds, what happens if the business changes owners or closes.

Also find out exactly when the balance is due, and if the price includes taxes and gratuities.

Make certain that your agreement with the reception site is put into a legal contract. A contract is an absolute necessity to protect yourself and the hall, and guarantee that your reception will go as scheduled. As such, be sure that you understand all of the provisions contained within the contract. If there is anything you don't understand or are confused about ask to have it explained, and don't sign anything until you are satisfied that you understand.

Don't be afraid to ask lots of questions. That's the reason you went to visit the hall. If the staff isn't interested in answering your questions, chances are they won't be interested in helping you have the wedding reception you want. The better informed you are, the more comfortable you'll feel with your choice.