current trend: vow renewals (december)

Submitted By Sarah Hagen & Kathleen Paterka
Castle Farms
Charlevoix, Michigan

Current Trend: Vow Renewals

To have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, ‘til death do us part.

Remember when you exchanged those vows with each other?  Whether it’s your 1st, 5th or 50th year together, the two of you have something to celebrate!  You’re still together, still in love, and still going strong!  Marriage is a lifetime commitment, and the vows you originally took, no matter how long ago, take on new meaning when you celebrate by reaffirming your commitment to each other and renewing your love all over again.

Couples choose to renew their wedding vows for a variety of reasons. Celebrating a milestone anniversary? Perhaps you eloped and now you’d like a “do-over” in front of family and friends? Maybe you married in a civil ceremony, or changed faith(s) during the course of your marriage and now prefer to renew your vows in a traditional religious ceremony? Sometimes surviving a serious illness often helps couples come to have a deeper appreciation for their partner, to understand how much they truly love each other, and how precious time is. Also for those who've been through a rough patch, and reconciled, renewing your wedding vows is a wonderful way to make a fresh start with a new beginning.

Renewal of vows is not a legally binding ceremony. Remember, you’re already married. Switch things up, and have fun with it! The planning and ceremony can be completely up to you. It can be a beautiful blessing and re-commitment to each other during a religious ceremony, followed by a lavish reception including family and friends. Or perhaps you prefer writing your own vows for a romantic intimate ceremony on the beach. Some couples recommit their love for each other during a Caribbean or Hawaiian sunset cruise.

Private or public? Choosing to invite your family and friends to witness your renewal of vows can be a tender moving experience for all, especially with today’s divorce rate hovering around 40%. It’s also a wonderful opportunity to show your children how much you love their mother/father. But remember: this is not a second wedding. A Renewal of Vows serves as a recommitment of the time you’ve spent together. If guests are invited, you honor them by requesting their presence at your renewal. Do not expect gifts, and do not sign up for a wedding registry.

Wear something special! A bride’s original wedding gown is entirely appropriate if it fits (lucky you!). If not, choose something that befits the occasion, and the location. Often, couples also choose to exchange rings. Does your husband wear a wedding band? If not, perhaps now is a good time to let him know how much you cherish him by giving him a ring. Most women love jewelry. Why not show her that she’s the love of your life by treating her to a diamond anniversary band she can wear with her original wedding ring?

Location, location, location. Celebrating on the beach? Go barefoot! Hosting family and friends, but can’t afford a big reception? Make the day as stress free as possible; stick to a budget by throwing a backyard barbeque. A private renewal in a wedding chapel? Treat yourself afterwards with an intimate dinner in an expensive restaurant you’ve always dreamed about.

The Day. Normally, Vow Renewals are done on anniversary dates, but don’t let that stop you if there’s another date with significant meaning for the two of you. By all means, use it! However you celebrate, remember that this is your special day. This time, it’s not what the church ceremony dictates, or how many people your mother chops off the guest list, or how much money your father can afford. This time, it’s not about anyone except the two of you. So put your heads and hearts together, and plan to celebrate by renewing your vows however you choose. It’s a wonderful way to let your partner know, “I love you just as much, if not more, than the first time we said ‘I do’.”

And what a great time for a second honeymoon!

Best wishes!
Sarah Hagen & Kathleen Paterka
Castle Farms

Sarah’s experience in weddings began 6 years ago when she joined the Castle Farms team. A 2011 graduate of Grand Valley State University, Sarah’s degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management quickly earned her a position as one of the Castle’s Event Coordinators. With the end of October closing out her first busy season, Sarah has worked with over 40 brides in making their Castle weddings run like a dream. Kathleen serves as both the Castle’s historian and scribe. A member of the Castle Farms’ team for nearly three years, Kathleen’s flair for writing and passion for happily-ever-after endings blends the voice of romance in bringing the Castle’s magic to life through the written word. Together, Sarah and Kathleen make a dynamic duo in the world of wedding blogs, newsletters, and editorials.

securing your marriage license (november)

Submitted By Ami Woods
Owner and Editor of Northern Nuptials
Harbor Springs, Michigan

It's required in the State of Michigan that a marriage license is secured in the county where the wedding will take place.  Licenses are $20 for Michigan residents and $30 for out of state residents.  A list of counties within the Northern Nuptials service area is noted below.  Please note that witnesses signing must be at least 18 years of age.  Congratulations!

Alpena Register Of Deeds
720 W Chisholm
Alpena, MI 49707

Antrim County Clerk
205 E Cayuga
Bellaire, MI 49615

Charlevoix County Register Of Deeds
301 State St
Charlevoix, MI 49720

Cheboygan County Register Of Deeds
P.O. Box 70
Cheboygan, MI 49721

Chippewa County Register Of Deeds
319 Court St
Sault Ste, MI 49783

Emmet Register Of Deeds
200 Division
Petoskey, MI 49770

Mackinac Register Of Deeds
100 Marley St
St Ignace, MI 49781

Montmorency Register Of Deeds
P.O. Box 415
Atlanta, MI 49709

Ostego County
Register Of Deeds
225 W Main St Rm 108
Gaylord, MI 49735

Presque Isle
Register Of Deeds
151 E Huron
Rogers City, MI 49779

Best Wishes and Happy Planning!
Ami Woods

Ami's experience in event planning dates back to her early years growing up in northern Michigan where she catered with a prominent local restaurant.  After graduatingfrom Hope College, a ten year corporate career in Chicago included time with Blue Plate Catering, the largest catering company in the world.  Before returning to northern Michigan and starting her own marketing agency, Ami also spent three years as the private events manager at the Chicago History Museum, one of city's repeated top ten reception destinations.

q&a with Kris Rundblad, Merry Makers (september)

Submitted By Kris Rundblad*

Owner of Merry Makers
Charlevoix, Michigan

kris150.jpgQ: We would like to have our wedding ceremony and reception at a private home on the water and would like your advice.

A: Congratulations! A wedding on the water in northern Michigan is fantastic. We are so lucky to be surrounded by water and the aura this brings is the best.

If you are planning to be outside for the ceremony and reception at a private home you must plan for tents, tables, chairs and all other items necessary to create a ‘venue’.

I always recommend a tent or tents for the day. Even if you have the most perfect day in terms of weather there are still things to consider. Many times when you think of bringing tents in you are planning for the possibility of rain or inclement weather but it is equally important to consider heat and sun. A tent will provide shelter in either case. I also love to use (not a necessity) what is known as a tent liner as this has many values to it. These include esthetic appeal as the most visible value, but they are also great if the weather is chilly as you are heating less of the tent and keeping more of the heat in range of your guests (hot air rises) and during a warm day they tend to billow and help create a breeze of sorts.

When considering an event outside using tents it is very important to have a professional do a site inspection or survey to confirm that you have enough space available for the number of guests you have and the way that you intend to use that space.

They will also be proactive in letting you know if the space is usable for a tent and seating. A quick guide for this before the site inspection is to take a basic folding chair and sit in it at various areas of your site as this will give you an idea of the grade (the degree of inclination of a slope, road, or other surface) of the property. If you are feeling as though you are being thrust forward of falling backward your site may not be workable.

It is also important to have a back up plan. If you are planning to have your ceremony on the beach you will want to have a place to go if the weather should not be cooperating. Don’t just believe that it is going to be a perfect day weather wise (perfect in all other respects).

We often will (if the space allows) create additional space in the reception tent that can be used for the ceremony should the need arise, with this we will use the space as cocktail/mixing space so that it has added value in addition to the use for a ceremony.

It has been my experience that if you have all your bases covered you will likely not need to use your back up plan (of course this is not a guarantee, but more likely really good luck). If you are working with a venue (as many have outdoor areas for ceremonies) or any other professional that does not encourage a back up plan, find someone else to work with. Many times we as professionals want to tell you yes about everything but it is our job to make your day as perfect as possible and that may include telling you things that you may not want to hear.

Again Northern Michigan and our lakes are the perfect backdrop for an outdoor wedding or party, they just require a little more hands on effort to make them work for you!

Best Wishes!
Kris Rundblad
Owner, Merry Makers, Wedding, Corporate, and Social Event Planning

Kris Rundblad is owner of Merry Makers in Charlevoix, Michigan.  For over ten years, Merry Makers Merry has bee providing professional wedding and event consultation, coordination and event design.  Working with Merry Makers allows you to be a guest at your own wedding while the details are handled without flaw.  For additional information, please visit

* Previously printed in the Cause for Celebration Column, Babette Stenuis Stolz, Petoskey News Review (Published November 26, 2010)

the cupcake craze (august)

Submitted Via Kerry Johnston

Owner of The Cupcake Station
Birmingham, Michigan

CCDSCN1046.JPGThere's a hot alternative to the traditional wedding cake and it's growing trend.  Cupcakes!  A native of the metro Detroit area, Carey Johnston opened his first Cupcake Station location in 2006.  An Ann Arbor location followed two years later and just three weeks ago, his third location opened in Plymouth, Michigan.

All locations are downtown as Johnston, "like to be a part of a downtown community versus a strip mall or suburban area".

Johnston has watched the trend in wedding cupcakes grow dramatically since 2006.  In 2006 the business saw maybe only 1-2 cupcake inquiries per month.  Currently, they are creating tasty treats for as many as ten weddings per month.

CCWeddings_8_.jpgThe advantages to serving cupcakes at a wedding are many.  To begin, there's no waste, no mess, and no cake cutting fees involved.  Cupcakes allow the bride and groom to serve a large variety of flavors in individual portions.  Johnston states that their "minis" are also popular options at weddings as they offer a 1-2 bite treat, allowing guests to sample different cupcakes as they wish.

The Cupcake Station in Birmingham offers minis at $1.10 each and full size cupcakes at $2.10 for a minimum order of 100.  At these rates, this is nearly half the price of a traditional wedding cake. 

Talk with your baker about the possibility of cupcakes for your upcoming special day.

Best Wishes!
Ami Woods
Owner and Editor, Northern Nuptials

Kerry Johnston is owner of The Cupcake Station with locations in Birmingham, Plymouth, and Ann Arbor, Michigan.  They are open daily serving an array of regular and mini cupcakes.  For additional information, please visit

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13 ways to green your wedding (july)

Submitted By Stephanie E. Nash
Director of Content and Partnerships, The Green Bride

green_recycle_img.gif1. Invitations. Recycled and post-consumer waste paper, tree-free paper, soy inks, and digital correspondence options all offer elegant ways to reduce resource-consumption, waste, and
the use of harsh chemicals.

2. Jewelry. Eco-conscious jewelers use recycled stones and metals, and ethically sourced gemstones.  Family heirlooms, vintage or antiques, and handmade items are sustainable, often less expensive options.

3. Flowers. Using local, seasonal and organic flowers that are not doused with pesticides, lowers fuel consumption and is often less costly than ordering exotic species. Also consider simpler arrangements, faux flowers, or reusing ceremony flowers at your reception.

4. Attire. No matter what your style or taste, there are many ways to green your wedding attire, from
buying organic, vintage, or re-wearing a family dress, to donating items afterwards.

5. Gifts. By registering with eco-friendly companies you can support sustainable business and educate your guests about eco-friendly products. Some registry organizations will donate a portion of the sales from your items.

6. Favors. There are tons of fun and non-wasteful favor ideas like CFL bulbs, small potted plants or soy candles. Or, instead of a tangible favor, consider making a small donation for each guest to a cause you support.

7. Venue. Choosing an eco-friendly venue will drastically reduce the environmental impact of your wedding. However you can add green touches no matter where you have your reception.

8. Travel. Ecotourism options, green hotels, and carbon offsets all conserve resources and ensure
your money makes its way into the local economy.  To further lessen the impact of your honeymoon, explore local or volunteer vacation options.

9. Photography. Green photographers reduce waste, paper and chemical consumption by using rechargeable batteries, non-toxic inks, 100% post-consumer waste paper, online proofs, LED and CFL bulbs, and recycling.

10.  Décor. Using your location and the season for inspiration will provide natural, cost-saving décor ideas, such as collecting sea glass or shells from a nearby beach for a summer celebration. Vintage items or pieces from friends and family add unique flare.

11.  Food and Beverage. Working with your caterer to create a menu of local, in-season organic foods and beverages will decrease the carbon footprint of your meal and support the local economy.

12. Transportation. To minimize emissions, hold your ceremony and reception in one centralized
location close to your friends and family. Encourage carpools and public transit, or rent an alternative energy bus or trolley for guests.

13. Beauty and Make-Up.  Because many cosmetics contain toxic chemicals, use all-natural beauty and hair products or seek out a “green” salon for your wedding day. It is much healthier, safer and green!

Best Wishes!
Stephanie Nash
The Green Bride Guide

The Green Bride Guide is a comprehensive, credible resource for green wedding ideas, products, and services.

the facts about destination weddings (june)

Submitted By Ami Woods
Owner and Editor of Northern Nuptials
Harbor Springs, Michigan

  • wedding_on_lake_michigan.jpg16% of marriages are destination weddings.
  • The average budget for a destination wedding is $20,600.
  • The average age of a destination bride today is 33, compared to the U.S. average of 28.
  • The average number of guests at a destination wedding is 77.
  • Over 1/3 of all destination weddings take place on the beach.
  • Destination weddings are often fifty percent the cost of a traditional wedding.
  • Guests at a destination wedding spend an average of $400 to attend.
  • 9 out of 10 couples say weather is a key factor in selecting a destination.
  • The average destination wedding takes place 1,400+ miles from home.
  • 58% of American destination weddings take place in the continental U.S.
  • The popularity of destination weddings has grown 400% in the last 10 years.

*Source,,, Conde Nast Bridal Group

Best Wishes!
Ami Woods

Ami's experience in event planning began working locally in northern Michigan as a caterer in high school and college.  A ten year corporate career in Chicago included time with Blue Plate Catering, the largest catering company in the world.  Before returning to northern Michigan and starting her own marketing agency, Ami also spent three years as the priavet events manager at the Chicago History Museum.

full planning versus day of services (may)

Submitted By Ami Woods
Owner and Editor of Northern Nuptials
Harbor Springs, Michigan

weddingplanner.jpgApproximately 60% of all brides use the services of a wedding planner.  Some choose complete, all inclusive planning services that include assistance with every last detail, every last step of the way.  Others choose assistance just for the big day, paying only for day-of services versus full wedding consultation.

The primary factor for most brides deciding whether or not to use a planner is cost.  Many brides simply do not have the budget to accommodate a planner.  For those who do have the funds built into their overall picture, the question still remains what type of service to retain.

For complete services, couples can expect to pay 10-20% their overall budget on a professional planner.  That being said, a couple with a $20,000 event may end up paying $2,000 of that total to the planner. 

Planners may also be involved for just a specified portion of the overall process.  For example, planners are available to help only with the initial plans via a formal meeting, or they may be required to secure only the reception venue, or in many cases, they may be contracted to work only the actual wedding day as a day-of planner.  For day-of planning services, expect to pay anywhere from $500 to $1200 depending on the involvement. 

As I explained above, the greatest factor in determing the hire of a planner will be budget.  Beyond that, however, you will need to decide whether full service or day-of planning will be the right fit for you.

An easy way to decide, keeping costs aside, is to look at the inner planner in both you and your partner.  Are you both extremely detail oriented in your own lives?  Are you both overly organized?  Do you both have the ability to delegate effectively?  Do either of you have any planning, project management, or event experience?  If you can answer yes to two or more of these questions, you can consider getting by without the assistance of a professional.

The benefits of working with a professional are simple - a professional wedding planner delivers a professional event.  As is the case with anything in life, you do get what you pay for.  The DIY approach to planning will be effective, but please know that the stress and burden of a seamless and flawless event will be on you - not the professional.  In the end, your guests will have a smashing time and remember your event just as you want them to - regardless of who orchestrated it.

The decision is really how much of the burden do you want to carry yourself?

Best Wishes!
Ami Woods

Ami's experience in event planning began working locally in northern Michigan as a caterer in high school and college.  A ten year corporate career in Chicago included time with Blue Plate Catering, the largest catering company in the world.  Before returning to northern Michigan and starting her own marketing agency, Ami also spent three years as the priavet events manager at the Chicago History Museum.

top 10 ways to trim your budget (april)

Submitted By Ami Woods
Owner and Editor of Northern Nuptials
Harbor Springs, Michigan

It's no secret that brides from every walk of life are paying closer attention than ever to their planning budget.  When times are tough... the tough save money.  Below are my top ten favorite ways to cut costs in ways that most everyone else really won't notice.

1.  Trim your guest list.  Every person added is an added expense.  Don't ever forget that.  Some rules of thumb: Don't invite anyone that you haven't talked to in five years.  Don't feel that you must allow dates for singles.  Don't feel pressure to invite all work associates.  When all else fails, take your list and divide it into cateogies.  Once everyone is placed neatly into a particular category, eliminate an entire group in one swoop.

2.  Save a tree and a whole lot more.  Forgo the strange and antiquated inner envelope.  Skip the reply card and request that guests call or reply online.  You can save up to $1000 by omitting a reply card for a 200 guest wedding - and of course, you've saved a tree.

3.  Save $$$ on the dress.  Trust me, you will find something you love just as much at that fabulous Macy's warehouse sale as you will from a couture boutique on Worth Avenue.  Shop around, watch for warehouse sales or even sample sales.

4.  Don't rule out Fridays and Sundays.  You can literally save thousands of dollars on not only event space, but also music, catering, linens, etc. just by having a Friday or Sunday wedding versus a Saturday night event.  Remember that for guests coming from out of town, a Sunday wedding can mean a Friday arrival, tons of fun that night and all day Saturday, in addition to your big day on Sunday!

5. Save $$$ on church decor.  The service itself is about the unification of you and your spouse.  It is not about the decor within a house of worship.  Save money by allowing the beauty of a church to speak for itself.

6.  Talk it up.  Talking to friends and family about who they may know i.e. musicians, florists, planners, can save you tons of cash in the long run.  Fully utilize all resources throughout the planning process.

7.  DIY... when appropriate.  There's no greater way to save money than to do it yourself.  But remember, the DIY approach is only beneficial when you really know what you're doing.  Remember to factor in your own time and sanity when attempting any DIY project.  Additional tip: recruit crafty friends for help along the way.

8.  Save $$$ on food and beverage service.  There are honestly neverending ways to cut costs within the areas of food and beverage.  Plated vs. buffet meals, stations, limited bars, minimal apps, and even cupcakes vs. cake are all examples of ways to limit your f&b budget, but to still plan a fabulous event.  Talk with your caterer about the many ways you can save money in the areas of food and beverage.

9.  Let your fingers do the typing.  We all know that shopping locally, especially in rural areas, is the rght way to do things.  But sometimes, budgets call for some cyber assistance.  Get online and start Googling away.  Chances are you will find great deals on everything from dresses to decor.

10.  Limit the invitation style.  Invitations can quickly get totally out of control.  Limit your taste with a simple and to-the-point invitation.  You can even consider printing your own invites at home.

The reality exists that there are a great deal of ways to save money during the planning process.  My best advice is to get a significant amount of input during the process and be sure to review all the possibilities that exist in every area.  You'll be amazed at the ways you can save a few dollars - and remember, those dollars always add up in the end!

Best Wishes!
Ami Woods

Ami's experience in event planning began working locally in northern Michigan as a caterer in high school and college.  A ten year corporate career in Chicago included time with Blue Plate Catering, the largest catering company in the world.  Before returning to northern Michigan and starting her own marketing agency, Ami also spent three years as the priavet events manager at the Chicago History Museum.

destination wedding photography: why go pro (march)

Submitted By Paul Retherford
Professional Destination Wedding Photographer and Owner of Paul Retherford Wedding Photography
Northern Michigan (travel world wide)

tracycharliefaves_0133.jpgYour Wedding location is planned and you think you want a photographer. After racking your brain about guests that can snap images, you recall that Uncle Harry has an expensive camera. Since he will be on the guest list why not ask Harry?

Documenting the story of a Wedding day is an art form. It should not be pawned off on anyone that is less than a Professional Wedding Photographer. Her are a few of the reasons why you should hire a Pro.

First of all, what is a Professional Wedding Photographer? I have heard other professionals say that a professional is anyone who has accepted money for images. I suggest that you call a Professional anyone who has captured, at least, 50 full Weddings, and I would like to see them capture at least 100+ Weddings.

A Professional Wedding Photographer should have been exposed to a large portion of the scenarios during a Wedding day. Being able to respond to adversity and handle high stress situations is mandatory. The Pro should manage time well and help all parties arrive on time and remain on task. Most of all, the Pro is ready to adapt to changing situations and should have the foresight to see changes coming.

Paul_Retherford_Detail0212.jpgProfessional Wedding Photographers have multiple backup systems. Having one camera is not acceptable. I prefer to see two cameras on the Pro at all times. You never know when a camera will error out, break a shutter, or the card will malfunction. Most Professionals have backups to their backups. They understand that this is a once in a lifetime event. Backup is not an option, therefore trust a Pro.

Professional Wedding Photographers know how to make ladies look beautiful and men look handsome. You can spend tens of thousands of dollars on a Wedding, wouldn’t you want to look your best. Professionals know proper posing techniques and also proper angles of exposure to make the subjects look stunning. Do not trust an ametuer to you hotness.

SarahDennis_0055.jpgThese are just a few of the reasons to book a Professional Wedding Photographer for our Wedding day. After you repack your bags and head back to work, your memories will fade but your Professional Wedding images will not. Please, I beg you, trust only a Professional Wedding Photographer. Get lots of references, check testimonials, ask questions, and see examples of full Weddings.

If you have any questions, even if you do not book Paul Retherford Wedding Photography, feel free to email, call, scream, Facebook, tweet, Skype, or whatever cool communication you employ. Have the best time at you Wedding and don’t worry about the Photographer because a Professional Wedding Photographer has your back, front, and side.

Paul Retherford, Paul Retherford Wedding Photography

Paul Retherford Wedding Photography is a full-time Wedding Photography business for the past 8 years, and a part-time Wedding Photographer for numerous years. Paul captured his first Wedding at 18 years old. Paul commisions 20-30 Weddings per year. Paul loves his clients and looks forward to capturing Weddings. He is proud to boast over 300 Weddings captured. Paul would love to capture your Northern Michigan Wedding.

northern michigan: your premier location for destination weddings (february)

Submitted By Ami Woods
Owner and Editor of Northern Nuptials
Harbor Springs, Michigan

February is historically the biggest planning month of the year.  December holidays, the new year, and of course Valentine's Day all make for a busy world of wedding planning.  Because this is such an important month, I wanted to take this opportunity to remind everyone of the fabulousness that Northern Michigan offers as a premier location for destination weddings. 

As editor of Northern Nuptials, I want to remind those of you teetering on the brink of this life changing decision - teeter no more!  You've found Northern Nuptials and your decision has been made - you're going to host the perfect destination wedding right here in beautiful Northern Michigan!

Northern Nuptials represents all areas of Northern Michigan from the 45th parallel north to the greater Mackinaw area - and of course east and west to the great lakes.  Within these boundaries lie endless beauty, unspoiled landscapes, magnificent resorts, quaint private locales, and an array of ceremony and reception options.

In summary - Northern Michigan has endless opportunities for destination weddings.  The area boasts world class golf in the summer and fabulous winter sport resorts in the winter.  Fall color rivals that of famed New England.  Our beaches are pure and unsalted.  Our beauty is timeless.  Our hospitality uncomparable as a tourist destination.

Easily accessible by land, lake, and air, Northern Michigan has spent the greater portion of the last 100 years establishing itself as a premier resort destination.  Take the plunge today and begin charting your course for the perfect destination wedding here in beautiful Northern Michigan. 

Explore Northern Nuptials and experience hassle-free planning and the largest assembly of wedding professionals throughout Northern Michigan.  The best news to wedding parties and guests:  passports not needed, but total destination wedding perfection is always included.

Best Wishes!
Ami Woods

Ami's experience in event planning began working locally in northern Michigan as a caterer in high school and college.  A ten year corporate career in Chicago included time with Blue Plate Catering, the largest catering company in the world.  Before returning to northern Michigan and starting her own marketing agency, Ami also spent three years as the priavet events manager at the Chicago History Museum.

how to customize your wedding (january)

Submitted by Bambi Caicedo Rogers
President of BCR Events in Chicago

BCR_2.gifHappy New Year! And special congratulations to those celebrating a wedding in 2010. Weddings are similar to New Years Eve in many ways.  When done right a wedding is one of the most festive days in a couple’s life. Yet, in the end it is really just the start of what is most important of all--the marriage, and the beginning of a new life together. Planning a wedding can be a daunting task, especially when just getting started. Turning the abstract concept of WEDDING into a concrete event will be much less intimidating once you create a personalized vision. I have planned numerous weddings with great success, and I can say with certainty that what makes for a successful wedding is when the whole evening is a truly unique reflection of the bride and groom. You will be able to achieve this by picking a theme, customizing the typically standard components and choosing a few noteworthy details to make the evening stand out.

There are so many ways to arrive at a theme. When I say theme I mean a common thread woven throughout the various elements of an event. It should be subtle and used to enhance the event and not be over the top. For instance if your wedding date is in November you may want to focus around the changing seasons. You can incorporate autumnal colors and flavors in the décor and cuisine. Remember to be subtle. We’re not talking about cornucopia arrangements on every table and turkey drumsticks for dinner. Perhaps you are a couple that loves to travel and has a favorite spot in, say, South America. There are a number of ways to add accents that recall a great trip to Rio de Janeiro without cheesing things up. You can use music, food, specialty drinks, indigenous flowers and even touch up your evening’s wardrobe if you’re feeling a little adventurous. I’d say the most important thing is to think about you two as a couple and come up with something that you identify with, an experience you cherish or perhaps something you are both known for. Then you will organically come up with your theme, which in the end will help focus your attention and create some opportunities to customize and create some details that will make the night stand out.

Typically when talking weddings, we know that there will be a ceremony of some sort, most likely followed by a reception with food, drink, music and dancing. Wedding ceremonies are usually the more serious portion of the event. Though that is not to say that you can’t add your own fun touch. By now we’ve all seen, ad infinitum, the Youtube video of the wedding party dancing down the aisle.

There are also more subtle ways to add a personal touch to the ceremony. The service of a family priest, reverend, rabbi or other religious official with whom you have a personal history is a nice touch. A newish trend for couples doing non-denominational ceremonies is to have a friend perform the ceremony. Acquiring a certificate to perform wedding rights can be done online very easily these days and at little cost. There are other personal touches that can be added as well. There is nothing wrong with the traditional “Cannon in D.” But why not think about using a couple of classical musicians to play a simple acoustic version of that Grateful Dead song your fiancé loves? Seriously, rock and roll songs can be quite moving when played simply with a couple of guitars and/or a piano and maybe even with a little violin tossed in. Come up with a list of songs that you both love, and then narrow it down to a few. Once you hire some musicians for the ceremony music, you can pick out the songs that sound best. To most of your guests this will merely be nice music. But to the wedding couple and a few more attentive guests who know you both more intimately, it will take on another layer of special meaning.

You should also think about ways to personalize elements of the reception. Think about what is most important to you both. Are you foodies? Sports fans? Are you big fans of libations? Are you big dancers? Do you like swing music? Rock and roll? Bluegrass? All of these are worth considering. If you are doing a retro or vintage inspired theme, there is nothing like a great swing band to really get people dancing.

There are so many great possibilities when it comes to selecting a band for your reception. I’ve done southern inspired and outdoorsy weddings with bluegrass bands where the guests had a blast. Or you can just have this element be for a cocktail hour and do a more traditional wedding band ore DJ during the rest of the evening. Any choice will work as long as it represents the couple. When you are making considerations for your reception, don’t forget to think about your theme. Say, for example, you are going with the Rio de Janeiro concept. You can pick a couple of Brazilian appetizers or main courses as well as a drink or two. Try serving passed empanadas along with Caipirinaha cocktails.

The BCR_1.giffinal step towards personalizing your wedding is by adding a few unexpected details to make the evening stand out even more in your guest’s minds. It is often some of the smallest elements that create the most memorable moments. A nice, useful party favor on the way out is a great touch. At one wedding in late fall guests were served coffee and hot chocolate in souvenir travel mugs as they departed. The bride and groom tell me that they still get comments more than four years later about how delicious the hot chocolate was. They also have numerous family and friends who remember their anniversary each year simply because they still use the mug with the event date on it. I recently worked with a couple that chose to incorporate a winter theme in their wedding. They opted not to use traditional floral centerpieces. Instead, in the center of each table, small cakes decorated with shimmery snowflakes accentuated the winter theme. They also hung twinkle lights throughout the reception venue. And after dinner the guests enjoyed delicious dessert already set at each table.

Let’s say you are doing a summer wedding with an outdoor ceremony. You can use coins from that one country you visited on your favorite vacation as weights to keep the escort cards from being carried away in the wind. There are so many creative ways to add unique, personal, and special touches inspired by your individual tastes. And these details need not be big and extravagant. You can often achieve them with minimal expense.

In the end, know that when it comes to the day-of you will be the harshest critic. All your guests are there to celebrate your joyous event, not critique it. They only see the results, not the plans. The festive mood of the day will sweep them past the few possible hiccups. Just remember that if your wedding reflects your style and tastes, you will be comfortable and at ease and guaranteed to have a good time. Your guests will mirror that feeling and enjoy themselves as well, which is really the greatest result of all.

Happy planning,
Bambi Caicedo Rogers, BCR Events

With over ten years of experience in the special event industry, Bambi is the founder of Chicago-based BCR Events.  Blending knowledge gained as an industry insider with style and attention to detail, Bambi brings her clients' visions to life. Full planning, day-of coordination and custom packages are available throughout the country.

west coast trends in floral and design (december)

Submitted by Brent Wang
Celebrity Floral Designer

Eggs.gifThis holiday season, trends have emerged in modern ways. The poof topiary centerpieces of the 20th century are now considered ostentatious. 

People are embracing the winter season by manipulating ice into abstract shapes highlighted with simple white flowers like gardenias; all displayed in simple glass with crystals. White crystals are the perfect compliment to the look, evoking a cool atmosphere. Dry ice adds to the mystique with wafting threads of fog resting ever so gently on the tables and floors.

As guests walk in, why not try dramatizing the entrance to the fete with mood making fog machines? Candlelight completes the effect, with trends continuing the varried height effect to add even more dynamic class to your celebration.

Looking ahead to Spring... Geek chic is back. Another recent client request is to embrace the science aspect by using chemistry inspired equipment, such as Erlenmeyer and Florence flasks. On a buffet, try using a chemistry lab equipment riddled with cool shaped glass, colored water, dry ice & stems poking outward in all directions.  Flower elements create a reminiscent behind-the-scenes feeling from a French parfumerie.  Don’t shy away from color.

One wedding recently evoked the colors bubble gum, yellow, turquoise and white by using jellybeans to create a whimsical atmosphere. The concept was that all these beautiful flowers were reacting to create cylinders of jellybeans.

What table linen goes well with each of these tastes of whimsy? Black denim tablecloths of course. The new trend to coherent table design means scrapping the same old linens and replacing them with new and interesting fabrics, i.e. denim, burlap, and muslin. By creating a pleated skirt, these new material table coverings offer a refreshing alternative to the mundane stock linens offered by most institutions.

Remember to always voice your opinions and feel confident in asserting that you want to bring your own personal elements to your event, when working with a floral designer, decor specialist, planner or any other vendor.

Brent Wang, Eggs Los Angeles

Dubbed "a poet with flowers" by Los Angeles interior designer Peter Dunham, Brent Wang boasts a lifelong love affair with flowers.  Raised in Tokyo, Bogota and Los Angeles, Brent's floral career began while delivering flowers for well-known LA florist, The Velvet Garden.  In February, 2007 Brent embarked on his own venture with Eggs Los Angeles and quickly became recognized for his fresh take and unexpected point of view.  Brent's approach to floral design balances a thoughtful regard for innovation while interpreting his clients' needs.  Eggs LA clients have inluded actress Kate Walsh, interior designers Donna Livingston and Judith Lance as well as television reality starts Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt.

current make-up trends: party like it's 1963 (november)

Submitted by Christian Van Brimmer
Make-up Artist, Saks Fifth Avenue

It's time to party like its 1963!  With a growing cult following and resurging fashion references, AMC's hit show Mad Men is leading the way for fashion and beauty this season. We're looking at new interpretations of classic looks found on the show with today's products for your perfect bridal look.

To achieve a classic Betty Draper look we'll start with skin care.  6 weeks before the big day, start a regimen of weekly mask treatments.  My favorite is SK-II Facial Treatment Mask (box of 6 for $85). Do one a week and one the morning of your wedding for ultra nourished and glowing skin.

Next prep skin with a hybrid primer/moisturizer.   My favorites are Trish McEvoy Beauty Booster Anti-Fatigue Cream ($85), Crème de la Mer ($130), or Yves Saint Laurent Flash Radiance Skincare Brush ($52). Use a hydrating, but not overly thick eye treatment. Prep the lips with a hydrating treatment and primer like Trish MCEvoy Flawless Lip ($22). Try Bobbi Brown Hydrating Eye Cream ($45) or Trish McEvoy Intense Eye Cream ($48). Allow your skincare to set in and follow with your classic eyelook.

To achieve your classic contoured eye, begin with an all day eye shadow base and primer.  My favorite is Trish McEvoy Eyebase Essentials ($24). This will create a suede-like surface for your shadows and will waterproof them for extended wear ability. It is available in a wide array of shades. I recommend going with one that is close to or 1 shade lighter than your natural skin tone. Next, sweep a neutral skin tone shadow over the entire lid, from lash line to crease. On the lid only, place a shadow 1-2 shades darker than the previous shade you swept on. Next, apply a medium taupe color lightly in crease, just for a subtle contour. Some of my favorite shadows you can use to achieve this look is Quadra Color Eyeshadow from Chanel in Mystic Eyes ($56), Laura Mercier Petite Eye Palette Warm ($28) or create a Trish McEvoy Palette with Stone, Heather, and Tawny ($16-$18).

Next, curl lashes with the world renown shu uemura Eye Lash Curler ($19). Now apply shu uemura false lashes in Soft Cross ($20) for a natural looking enhanced and lifted lash line. After the glue has dried, apply a thin, slightly winged black liquid liner (shu uemura Black Liquid Eyeliner $33) to the top of the lash band to camouflage the glue point. Now use a bit of waterproof mascara, Trish McEvoy Waterproof High Volume Mascara ($28) and brush your lashes up into the false pair. Just brush from underneath so you lashes mesh with the falsies.

To achieve an authentic look, no need to line the bottom lash line. However, you may want to add a white or skin tone pencil to the lower in water line. Try shu uemura Eybright Pencil($18) or Trish McEvoy Eyebrightner in Shell($18). Last but not least, fill in the brow on the fuller side, but not to dark and create a defined arch. I love the Trish MCEvoy Precision Brow Shaper ($26) or the Diorshow Brow Styler ($28). Finish off the brow with a small amount of a matte bone colored shadow from your shadow collection, blended directly under your arch.

We will now move on to complexion. I like to do eye makeup first for a few reasons, the min one being that if you drop shadow, mascara, etc under the eye during application, you don't have to worry about re-doing your concealer. Also, it allows ample time for your eye creme and primer/moisturizer to set in. Begin by applying your foundation from the center of the face, moving out. I like to use a natural bristle brush like shu uemura #18 Goat($39) or Trish McEvoy Brush #55($55) Deluxe Blender. For an oilier skin, I like to use Nars Sheer Matte($42) foundation. For normal-combo skin I use Armani Luminous Silk($58) foundation.

For fuller coverage a must-have is Bobbi Brown Stick($40) foundation. If you are drier, use Chanel Lift Lumiere($65). For under eyes, blend a bit of concealer from the inner corner of the eye and under with a natural bristle lay down brush like shu uemura brush 10 ($67). Look to see if you have any blemishes or flaws that are not covered by your foundation and correct with the tried and true Laura Mercier Secret Camouflage ($28). At this point, use a semi-matte, yet luminous powder to set the look. I use Trish McEvoy Correct and Brighten Loose Mineral Powder ($35). If there are additional areas you would like to brighten, use Yves Saint Laurent Touch Eclat ($40) in areas that could use a boost, like around the nose, inner corner of eyes.

For a soft neutral cheek, sweep on bit of Benefit Hoola or Dallas ($28) on the areas normally kissed by the sun. On the apple of the cheek, dust on a pop of color like Mocha or Orchid Rose from Chanel ($42). At this point, close your eyes and mist on Clarins Fix Make-up ($25), a fine botanical spray that seals your makeup for the day.

Last but not least, lips and nails. This is the tricky part, finding a perfect red lip. Red lips look amazing against the whites and creams of wedding gowns. Remember, so much light around the face can wash you out. A powerful, yet classic lip always works. Avoid anything too shimmery or to dated. Fuchsia may be hot now, but will it be in 10, 15, or 20 years? Frosty, light glosses do not photograph well, so use clear or sheer glosses for shine, not glitter. I honestly prefer a semi-matte, creme finish for weddings.

If you want the classic red, try shu uemura #165, available in creme, matte, or gloss ($23), Diorific Dolce Vita Red ($32). For a blue red, try Chanel Rouge Allure Laque in Dragon #75 ($40). If you have a deeper, olive skin tone use Laura Mercier Sangria or Truly Red ($22). And if you must go sheer, us Trish McEvoy Gorgeous Red ($23).

When executing a flawless red lip, use lip liner that matches the lipstick. Line lips and blend the liner with your finger or brush towards the center of the lip. Now apply a light coating of your shade. Blot with a tissue and dust with a sheer powder. Now apply another layer of you lip shade and smudge lips together. Apply another layer of lipstick and top with a tiny bit of gloss (Laura Mercier Crystal $22) in the center of the lower lip only, if you must. To perfect the lip line, use Yves Saint Laurent Touche Eclat ($40) around the outer edge of the lip line and blend outward. This will define the lip and correct any smudges or strays, plus it will lock in your color and prevent it from running.

For your nails, we will avoid the trend of matching nails with lip. A red nail is too much for bridal, so use a classic skin tone or pink like Ballerina or Allegoria from Chanel ($23) or G960 from shu uemura ($18).

With this look, you will be ready for your classic wedding with my modern interpretation of 1963 glamour, straight out of an ad from Sterling Cooper!!  Now, if you were only marrying Don Draper!

Best Wishes,
Christian Van Brimmer
312.342.3605 cell or 312.799.5307 Saks

Christian Van Brimmer began his career behind a brush in 1999 working for Estee Lauder in Chicago. Since then he has run 2 successful Beauty Hotspots, Bluemercury Apothecary and Spa in Lincoln Park and the Benefit Boutique in Evanston. Over the past 10 years, he has worked for MAC, Dior, Chanel, Trish McEvoy, Laura Mercier, shu uemura and as a freelance artist. His work has been seen in Chicago Style Weddings, Stitch Magazine, and across many Chicagoland runways.

All items available at Saks Fifth Avenue and Benefit Boutiques.

expert advice on having a stress-free destination wedding (october)

Submitted by Jennifer Stein
Editor in Chief / Publisher, Destination I Do Magazine

When it comes to planning your destination wedding, you’re going to need some lists. To-do lists, what to pack lists, guest lists, gift registry lists…and all of these, although helpful and 100 percent necessary, still may not fully prepare you. What you really need is a “Rules to Being a Stress-free and Completely Satisfied Destination Bride” list.

I’ve either pondered, executed or tested each one of these items – using my own destination wedding or the other weddings I’ve assisted in planning as ammunition.

Hire a good wedding planner. This person will be able to deal with all of the potential drama while you stay blissfully ignorant. They will most likely be able to find you some deals too. Just make sure that you’ve checked them out to ensure they are trustworthy and capable of pulling off your event.

Don’t try to please everybody. Bill Cosby said it best: "I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody." This could not be more accurate than in regards to the subject of weddings. When you decide to take the plunge, your mom, your soon to be in-laws, your best friend – all of them will have opinions about your wedding. Whether it be about cost, location or the colors you’ve chosen, someone is bound to stick their nose in. Listening to advice and needs is one thing, but to plan your entire wedding around others will end up making you miserable. Remember, it is YOUR day and although you should consider your guests and be as gracious a host as possible – by letting someone else’s agenda cloud your plans will only end up making you regret things in the end.

Get pictures done before your event, including the bride and groom shots. Some may disagree with me, with the whole superstition – a groom shouldn’t see his bride before she walks down the aisle – thing. Hogwash. Here’s what you don’t realize; you are going to have all kinds of emotions when you see each other for the first time and you’ll want to have a private moment. Unfortunately and fortunately, you’ve got family and friends watching your every move and this is when the sobbing can start. If you want to keep it together during your nuptials and aren’t comfortable with others seeing you get emotional, take a moment before the ceremony with your groom. Cry your eyes out if you must – your makeup artist can touch you up, snap some shots and then start the ceremony. Another plus – you can get on with the reception without keeping your guests waiting for hours as you take your pictures.

Eat at your reception. You paid for it, painstakingly picked out every savory detail of the meal and handed over the “chicken or beef” requests to your caterer - so why should you skip the feast? Couples have complained of not eating due to guests clinking their glasses for a kiss. If it gets out of control, get on the mic and announce the next person who clinks a glass has to kiss the person to the right of them at their table. Chances are, they’ll either have fun with it on their own or leave you to enjoy your meal.

Make nookie. There is nothing more tragic than hearing a couple decided to forgo sex on their wedding night. I’ve often been appalled by people telling me they were too tired. You will be tired, but it’s a great way to end an already magical evening. To restart your engines, have someone go up to your room beforehand and draw you a hot bath, light some candles and get some mood music going.

Laugh it off. Things will go wrong. No matter how hard you try, no matter how many lists you create or how organized you are, something will fall apart. Just don’t let it be you. Most likely the things that end up going wrong are the details no one will notice but you. Your perspective and outlook can easily make a great event even better if you just laugh about it.

Take a moment. Wherever you are, throughout your wedding day – especially at the reception – take just 15-30 seconds to look around you. Take it in – the décor, the smells, the sounds and most importantly, the people. Let it sink in over and over – what is happening to you and who is there celebrating along with you arm-in-arm on the special day of your life.

Kind Regards,
Jennifer Stein

For more information on creating the destination wedding of your dreams – log on to our web site: Printed copies of Destination I Do Magazine can be found at your local Barnes & Noble, select Borders Booksellers and other fine retailers throughout the US and beyond.  Destination I Do is the top destination wedding, honeymoon, romance and travel magazine in the world, established in 2004 by Jennifer Stein and Carolyn Steere.

how to choose music for your wedding ceremony (september)

Submitted by Pete Kehoe
Composer, Producer, and Musician Petoskey, Michigan

Wedding ceremony music can be one of the most memorable aspects of your entire wedding experience, and unfortunately, it's sometimes one of the most neglected aspects of the entire affair. And aside from everything else, the ceremony is truly the moment that everybody has been waiting for; friends, family, and most importantly, you and your spouse-to-be. The music within your ceremony can take your wedding from a ho-hum in-and-out to an incredibly poignant, memorable and emotional experience for everyone. Here are a few tips to make the most of the music within your ceremony:

First of all, think of what type of music would be most fitting for you both. This can be everything from a solo acoustic guitarist to a string quartet, an organist, pianist, flutist, harpist, bagpiper... it all depends on what is important to you, and what your budget can afford. In all my years of performing at over 500 ceremonies (from Buddhist ceremonies to Catholic masses and everything in between), I’ve performed and booked nearly every type of ceremony music imaginable. Make sure the music fits the occasion, the venue, and both of you.

Also, each denomination also has its’ own set of rules for their respective ceremonies. Be sure and talk with whatever clergy will be officiating at your wedding to clear any songs and/or musicians with them well in advance. Some churches are quite particular about popular (secular) songs being performed within the ceremony, and sometimes are very particular about what musicians they will allow as well, especially if the musician you hire will be performing on the church’s piano or organ.

Another important tip is to book musicians well in advance, especially if your event falls during prime “wedding season” (June through the end of September). The best musicians will often book weddings a year or more in advance; leaving the ceremony music until the last minute will likely result in booking someone you'll be unhappy with. Ask for references, do some research and talk to as many people as you can about musicians. As with anything, there are some great talents, and some pretty awful ones too. Make sure you’re hiring quality performers that have considerable experience doing weddings, and don’t balk if they’re not cheap; better to spend a few extra dollars on a talented, seasoned veteran than to save money by having your cousin’s guitar-playing buddy from the local rock group trying to perform the Wedding March on his ill-tuned electric guitar.

Finally, I’ve seen many couples that didn’t give any serious consideration to the ceremony music, and greatly regretted neglecting it after the fact. Think about what music means most to you, both in style and the type of instrumentation. Some serious thought, planning and research into the ceremony music and musicians will make a huge difference in the quality and tone of your ceremony. Doing it right will make your wedding a truly poignant, memorable and emotional event for everyone attending, one they will remember for years to come.

Pete Kehoe

Pete Kehoe is the former owner and operator of Mackinac Music, a wedding music service/booking agency on Mackinac Island for nearly a decade, and has been performing professionally for over 25 years in groups of all kinds and as a solo artist. He’s played venues of all sizes all over the U.S. and Canada, and has opened up for artists such as The Romantics, Foghat, Humble Pie, Jonathan Edwards, Matt “Guitar” Murphy, Mitch Ryder, Rick Derringer, and most recently, Hootie & The Blowfish. Locally, Pete has provided music for literally hundreds of Northern Michigan weddings. He currently resides in Petoskey, Michigan.

considerations for the perfect beach wedding (august)

Submitted By Ami Woods
Owner and Editor of Northern Nuptials
Harbor Springs, Michigan

Planning the perfect beach wedding requires consideration for special, unique details.  While it's important to pay close attention to the many beautiful elements of a beach wedding, sometimes brides and planners forget particulars that can effect the enjoyment of your guests. 

When planning the perfect beach wedding, it's important to this of your guests comfort.  The following tips will assure that all enjoy your special day in the sand.

  • Areas on or near the water tend to be windier than inland, more low lying areas.  Consider a sided tent that can protect guests from wind even in perfectly clear weather.
  • Be sure to inform your guests of the location in the save the date.  Encourage them to wear appropriate foot wear.
  • Consider those attending who will not be able to access a beach wedding.  Uncle Stella deserves to see you get hitched and if she can't maneuver the sand, that will be something to consider.
  • Inexpensive, custom flip-flops make an excellent favor at beach weddings. 
  • When placing tables directly into the sand, be sure to realize that the table height will drop as the legs fall deeper into the sand.  This can effect the way linens look and in some cases, can make linens appear too long for the table.
  • Extra clips for linens should also be used to protect from wind.

Beach weddings an be the most beautiful and memorable experience.  Happy planning with your upcoming beach wedding.

Best Wishes!
Ami Woods

Ami's experience in event planning began working locally in northern Michigan as a caterer in high school and college.  A ten year corporate career in Chicago included time with Blue Plate Catering, the largest catering company in the world.  Before returning to northern Michigan and starting her own marketing agency, Ami also spent three years as the priavet events manager at the Chicago History Museum.

skip the gifts and explore your philanthropic side with a charity registry (july)

Submitted By Ami Woods
Owner and Editor of Northern Nuptials
Harbor Springs, Michigan

It's always better to give than to receive.  Isn't that what our grandmothers taught us?  That being the case, there's no better time than now to explore the idea of a charity registry in lieu of gifts during your upcoming wedding.

Setting up a charity registry allows your friends and family to support the charities of your choice rather than purching you another piece of china.  China is good, but supporting a charity such as northern Michigan's Manna Food Project is even better!

For hassle free charity registry assistance, I suggest the I Do Foundation, a non profit group with a wonderful website designed to handle your charity registry needs.  The site will also assist you in setting up gift registries at stores such as Target and REI where you can dictate that a portion of every purchase will go to a worthy cause.

Visit for additional information on how to give back during your big event.

Best Wishes!
Ami Woods

Ami's experience in event planning began working locally in northern Michigan as a caterer in high school and college.  A ten year corporate career in Chicago included time with Blue Plate Catering, the largest catering company in the world.  Before returning to northern Michigan and starting her own marketing agency, Ami also spent three years as the priavet events manager at the Chicago History Museum.

how to make your guests feel at home during your destination wedding (june)

Submitted By Heather Lynne Vickery
Event Director/Owner of Greatest Expectations
Chicago, Illinois

There are many different reasons couples choose to have a destination wedding.  Perhaps they are looking to save money or keep their guest list intimate.  Maybe they just think it would be fun to get away and have a celebratory weekend with their closest friends and family.  No matter what the reasons, all destination weddings have one thing in common. 

They want their guests to feel comfortable and “at home” at their wedding.

So how can you achieve that goal?  First and foremost keep your guests informed.  Be sure they know about the many details you have worked so hard to plan.  Start by sending a save-the-date card 10-7 months before the wedding.  This does not need to be stock full of information so long as it provides the date and location allowing your loved ones to begin to plan their trip.  Your wedding invitation will set the tone for the type of affair you are having.  Will guests be barefoot in the sand or expected to dress in black tie?  Your invitations for a destination wedding should go out no later than 9 weeks before your wedding and the invitation will address these details.

Another great communication tool used to inform your guests on details of your destination wedding is to have a wedding website.  This is a great place to share updates and plans with your wedding guests and even your wedding party.  Never fear if you are not tech-savvy as there are several fantastic free websites out there you can use.  My favorite online planning tool is Wedding Wire. Here you can not only design and host your own wedding website, but you can also manage your guests list, responses, gifts and arrange your guests for a seated reception.

I also think it is important to plan several activities for your guests while they are on site for your event.  I do not mean to say you, as the hosts, need to pay for every extra curricular activity but simply let them know what is available to them in the area.  Fishing, golf, spa visits, and vineyard tours are all examples of activities that would be of interest to your guests.  Do the background work on all available activities and mail this to guests once you receive a positive reply card.  You can also post this information to your website.  Knowing what to expect and what is in store is comforting to those traveling from out of town.

It is also nice to make them feel extremely welcome and wanted when they arrive at your wedding location.  I think a welcome letter upon check-in or arrival is always a great idea.  Everyone loves that feeling of gratitude and welcome when receiving their special welcome note upon arrival.  A welcome basket is also a sure winner!  I love to see people get super creative with these items. Use a traditional gift bag or even something that can be reused and offer a memory of your special event.  Not only is it better for the environment, but it is fun to have a take home piece from the wedding. 

One of my all time favorite bags is from Laura Hooper Calligraphy.  Laura makes beautiful hand drawn maps of your wedding location and can reproduce them on canvas tote bags.  Fill the bags with treats from your destination location including specialty foods and drinks.  Perhaps include a guide book and maps or brochures from some of the places on your “while you are in town” list. Don’t forget to include an agenda for the weekend. I also think it is a great idea to have BPA free water bottles done with your monogram or wedding date/location on them. This gives them ad additional take home piece to use over and over.

Lastly I think it is important to consider other hosted events in addition to your actual wedding.  A welcome reception is a great way to get people excited and also offers a casual way to socialize before the big day.  If your budget does not allow for all guests to attend a rehearsal dinner (and lets face it, that is essentially a wedding before the wedding) have an intimate dinner with your wedding party and invite everyone else to join you for cocktails afterward.

A farewell brunch is also a really nice way to thank your guests for coming such a long way to celebrate with you. Having a casual “stop by on your way out” brunch just pulls all of those little pieces together.  This event does not have to be fancy.  You are not required to have Swedish pancake and lobster omelet stations (of course that is wonderful if it fits into your budget).  A simple continental breakfast will do just fine and it will be nice to re-cap your wedding night with your friends and family as they prepare to head back home.

No matter where your destination wedding is, remember your loved ones are coming a long distance to celebrate with you.  It is important to take every opportunity possible to make them feel welcome, wanted and loved.  It is in the small details that you can truly achieve these goals.  The details are what really make the difference!

Happy Planning!
Heather Vickery-Pruden

Heather's experience in the wedding industry spans nearly fifteen years.  Before starting her own successful wedding planning company in Chicago, she has worked at several of Chicago's top wedding venues including the W Chicago - City Center.  Heather currently resides near Chicago and offers planning services throughout the area.

expert advice on planning during a recession (may)

Submitted By Ami Woods
Owner and Editor of Northern Nuptials
Harbor Springs, Michigan

There's nothing better than advice that's short and sweet and right to the point.  For this first month of our guest editorial section, I'm going to step in and get right to the point with what I feel is the most valuable advice I can offer to brides and planners - especially today. 

The world's financial instability is effecting many millions of Americans and extending beyond our borders into other countries both near and far.  For many of us, nearly every area of our lives is effected by these changes in the world's economy.

A priority for many brides and planners right now is to work with a limited budget, and to keep costs at a minimum for wedding parties and guests alike.

While I could go on and on with specific cost saving ideas and ways to cut the smallest of corners in order to stretch a planning budget, I'd like to take this opportunity to emphasize one piece of advice.

When planning a wedding in northern Michigan, or anywhere in the world, please keep your guests and your memory in mind.  Focus on the fun of the day... the moment... the memory... the picture that you and your guests will carry forever.  Picture the wedding day and try to envision what items will really stick with you for years to come.  Will you remember the overlay linens that cost an additional $12 per table?  Will your guests remember the custom place card holders at their seats?  Will your wedding party remember the $60 bouquets you placed in their rooms upon check-in?  Think about your details and focus on what's really important and what will really be remembered.  Most importantly, focus on the moment.

You'll find that in doing this simple exercise, you'll end up only paying for what's really important.

Best Wishes!
Ami Woods

Ami's experience in event planning began working locally in northern Michigan as a caterer in high school and college.  A ten year corporate career in Chicago included time with Blue Plate Catering, the largest catering company in the world.  Before returning to northern Michigan and starting her own marketing agency, Ami also spent three years as the priavet events manager at the Chicago History Museum.

guidelines for submitting guest editorial

Northern Nuptials is always seeking interested wedding industry professionals to participate in our guest editorial program.  Details on submissions are below as a PDF file.  Please note that if your piece is accepted, we will happily promote your email and or web address to our visitors.  Thank you for your interest in submitting guest editorial to Northern Nuptials, northern Michigan's premier wedding guide.

guest editorial guidelines

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