Say “Yes!” To Holiday Engagements

With twinkling  lights, jingling  bells and chestnuts roasting on open fires,  it’s no wonder December reigns as the most popular month to pop the question. Thirteen percent of marriage proposals happen in December, while February, despite Valentine’s Day, accounts for just 8 percent, according to the Conde Nast American Wedding Study.

Holiday proposals can be among the most romantic because there are so many creative ways to pop the question. Whether it is Christmas or New Year’s Eve or another celebration, these are my top five favorite  Holiday Proposals.

1) Spell out “Will you Marry me?” with Christmas lights. There are actually companies that will orchestrate the whole thing for you including setting up the lights or you can spend an afternoon (like Clark Griswold) toying with lights and extension cords – it’s up to you.

2) Wrap the ring box inside a large box and then successively smaller boxes so that your sweetheart will initially think the gift is quite large. Nesting boxes are great for this and often come in sets. As each layer is opened, the laughs will grow. Get down on one knee right as the last box is opened.

3) Decorating the Christmas tree together, you hand her an ornament which has the ring tied to the top of it. Make sure she is not standing on anything or she might fall off!

4) Organize a scavenger hunt. Start off with a simple clue to someplace nearby, then get more complicated as the scavenger hunt progresses, and have the final location be a place where you can hide and then pop out and get down on one knee.

5) Buy a scrabble game, spell out the words “Will you marry me” and glue the tiles onto the game board. When she opens the gift, make sure she opens the whole thing so she can see the tiles, and then present her with the real gift – the ring!

Whatever method you choose, this is a spectacular time to get engaged, since the holidays are all about family and celebrating with the people you love the most.

-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago

 

 

Giving Away The Bride – Who’s In, Who’s Out?

It is a well known fact that it is the responsibility (and honor) of the bride’s father to walk the bride down the aisle, presenting her at the altar to her future husband, and then later sharing a dance.   In some cases, both parents walk the bride down the aisle and in other cases she walks alone and rare cases where two grown men come together and share this responsibility equally, and of course cases where the mother walks the bride solo. In 2012 you have all sorts of combinations and none of them is right or wrong.  This is one of those ever-changing customs that seems to get more complicated every day. 

To offer a little help if you are trying to decide who should do the honor, ask yourself the following questions:

Who is paying for the wedding? If your stepfather is paying for the wedding 100%, he should be given the place of honor at your side, right? Maybe.  That is unless, of course, he had absolutely no hand in raising you, barely knows you, recently married your mother and you never lived under the same roof with you, he is not exactly a parental figure – yet.

Who raised you? If your father raised you, cared for you, packed your school lunches and drove carpool to dance class, he should be given the place of honor at your side even if he doesn’t have one dime to contribute toward your dream wedding, right? Maybe.  Blood is thicker than water and family is more important than money. However, your stepfather ( and mother)  may have some trouble swallowing the idea of paying for everything and receiving no end credit.

Is there even a father  figure in your life? If your father is deceased or absent from your life and your mother raised you single-handedly, she has every right to be at your side… just the two of you. If she declines (and she might) , ask a favorite uncle or a brother.  

Does everyone get along? If so, have this conversation in a group and include his family as well. Keeping the lines of communication open will make planning much easier. For instance; your parents are divorced and both remarried. If everyone gets along swimmingly and you want to have an honest discussion about who is paying for what and who has what role in the wedding this – do it. It will save tons of time and drama later. Even if you are all on great terms this might be a touchy subject and hurt feelings could turn into a huge family debacle if left unchecked. Always be respectful of the role your parents have played in your life up to this point – it is not all about the wedding. The point is to be inclusive and not exclusive.

Can anyone even be in the same room?If you have the unfortunate circumstance of having suffered through a bitter divorce, subsequent re-marriages of your parents to other people and extremely hostile family relations – buckle up…this is going to be a bumpy ride! Hold on tight to your fiance’s hand and get through this however you can. My advice is to  delegate the dad responsibilities with whomever you feel is the most deserving and responsible and be prepared for the repercussions.  Of course this is more complicated than a simple decision but go back to questions #1 and#2 and decide who played the most important role in your life. Do not let anyone hold you hostage by threatening to boycott the nuptials if they don’t get their way, this is your decision (as a couple) and there is no going back once the decision is made.

It is important to make this decision early since the wording on the invitation can be complicated with fractured and blended families. If  parents and stepparents are all assisting financially with the wedding, their names should be on the invitation.  This is can be tricky so ask your invitation specialist to help you with the wording before you make a costly mistake.

For the Father/Daughter dance you can dance with both dads during the course of the song, changing partners after an allotted time, you can dance with one father ‘figure’ or you can omit this routine entirely. No one says it has to be a part of your wedding. Discuss this with your DJ.

The absolute worst thing that can happen at your wedding is to let any of these small situations get out of control. Unless you are one of the rare families that get along famously and never argue, you will have some sort of struggle on your hands. Close your eyes, envision the outcome you desire and  when you open your eyes take whatever steps necessary to make that happen without hurting anyone’s feelings or stepping on anyone’s toes. That means at no point in the conversation are you allowed to say “It’s my day”  since that expression is a tad over-used and completely self-induglent. You have to be respectful and make your point without becoming  a martyr or spoiled brat.

Remember that if you have the luxury of having parents or multiple parents, count your blessings, even if they don’t love each other as much as you would like, they most certainly love you and will most likely do whatver it takes to ensure your wedding is a joyous occasion.

-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago

Slow Down!!

Planning a wedding can take a lot out of you. Add work, family, holidays, pets, family,  household chores, errands, financial stress, (did I mention family) and you have what could turn into a complete meltdown. I mentioned family more than once because family causes not only a great deal of happiness, and a lot of stress. It is easy to get caught up in constantly going from one project to another at such a fast pace that you sometimes forget what you are doing.

As a couple, you need to remember what is important that made you want to be married. Not the wedding, not the flowers, not the dress but, each other! Take one day in the middle of all of the fuss and stress and drama to just SLOW DOWN and enjoy life.

To fully enjoy a ‘slow down’ day here are some tips:

-Unplug your cell phone, put away your laptops, take a time out from technology. No facebook, no skype.

-Visit a local tourist attraction that you have always wanted to see but never had time.

– Do something outside your comfort zone. Ziplining, Paintball, Bowling, whatever it is that you don’t usually do, do it. Segway through the city?

– Turn the day into a movie marathon. Rent a bunch of movies you have been longing to see but, never have time. Popcorn, snacks, cuddle up on the sofa and enjoy!

– A day of relaxation and pampering for both of you. Get a massage facial, manicure and pedicure.

-Spend the day in the garden, if you have one. If you don’t – find an Arboretum near you and plan your future garden or just enjoy the beauty of nature.

There are dozens of things you can do to slow down. The important thing is to make a commitment to taking this day to yourself and don’t let anything interrupt you. The wedding planning and decision making can wait one day.

-Penny Frulla

 

 

Daddy’s Little Girl – All Grown Up

If you are blessed to have a father, stepfather (or both) on your wedding day, you are one lucky woman. Losing my father at an early age taught me two things: life is short and a good dad is hard to find. Remember, on your wedding day you will be marking the passage from being one man’s daughter to another man’s wife. It is a bittersweet occasion for him and a good time to remind him of how much he means to you.  It is also a good time to remind him of his role in the wedding, that he has a very special place and purpose for being there, other than to pay for everything, if that is even your dynamic.

Walk Down The Aisle– If your father will be walking you down the aisle, this will be a very emotional moment for him. As you let go of his hand, remind him of how much it means to you with a kiss on the cheek, a nod, a whisper. Don’t be in a hurry to move forward, he might need a moment to digest this.

Father /Daughter Dance – This is when, traditionally, the father cuts in to the first dance of the newlyweds and dances with his daughter for the first time as a married woman as the music transitions into ‘their song’. Or you can have a completely different dance  just for the two of you. “Daddy’s Little Girl” is a bit outdated and kind of (whats the word?) … creepy. Find a song that means something to the two of you, and no one else.

Speech – The father of the bride gives the first speech at the reception. Whether it is lighthearted, serious, or sentimental, it should be whatever suits his personality and your relationship together. He might need help with this as some men are not as eloquent or profound as others. Spend some alone time with him leading up to the wedding, giving him an opportunity to reminisce and ponder………

Gift – Finding the right gift for your dad can mean a lot. I know from experience that men who do not express emotions easily are touched by small gestures. A framed photo of the two of you when you were a little girl, a pair of cuff-links, an embroidered handkerchief. Stay away from t-shirts or mugs with photos of shotguns. It’s only funny because it’s tacky.

Don’t be surprised if , many years down the road, you wind up thinking that your husband is a lot like your dad, it happens all the time. When it is all said and done, he was the first man you loved, the one who taught you to sit up straight and respect yourself and set the standard for what to look for in a husband in the first place. For that, he deserves special recognition.

-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago

Conversation Starters

Conversation Starters are the hottest thing in weddings right now. From Pinterest to Marth Stewart, almost every wedding site is abuzz with dozens of  DIY ideas to get people talking at the reception! From sea to shining sea, here are our top five favorite Conversation Starters:

Origami Fortune Tellers – A throwback to your childhood, these simple, folded paper ‘toys’ are placed at the table with various questions and answers about the couple.

 

Quiz/ Questionnaire – A few fun, lighthearted questions about the bride and groom are guaranteed to get guests talking, reminiscing and laughing.

 

 Guest questionnaires about the bride and groom

 

 Scrapbook Guest Book –  To pull this off, designate a friend or family member to take pictures of guests with a polaroid camera  as they enter your reception and another to print the photos (yes, they still make polariod cameras). The photos are placed in a guestbook photo album so the guests can sign or wrote a sentiment next to their photo and everyone gets their own page!

 

Table Markers– For each table, find a creative use for the number. Example here 5 things you didn’t know about the bride or groom, or 6 places they would both like to visit, 7 relatives that you may not know. Each one is sprinkled with information about the couple, their family, their friends and everything in between.

 

For each person who has replied “Yes”, find an old photo of them to put on the place card. The older the picture, the better. If you met your best friend in grade school, using that picture will certainly spark some conversations!

For each of these very creative ideas, there is a lot of work involved. Folding paper, printing out questionnaires, preparing place cards or guest book pages. Doing-It-Yourself is not for the faint of heart. If you can’t tackle it alone, you can always ask for help! Perhaps you will have more fun with a bridesmaid or two, your mom(s) and a glass of wine!

-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago

Seating Charts Made Easy

You are constantly being told this is your wedding and you should do things the way you want. In most cases, this is true but, when it comes to where to seat your guests, taking advice from others might be in your best interest. Use these ten simple tips to make your seating planning a breeze!

#1) Get a floor plan from the venue with the tables the way they will be arranged at your event. Make sure this floor plans hows how many seats are at each table.

#2) Don’t do anything in permanent marker, things might need to be re-arranged later. Tiny post-its or push pins is definitely the way to go.

#3) Ask both mothers or older relatives ( one from each side) to sit in on the seating plans. They will know the intricacies of some of the more difficult relationships better than you, especially if it is distant cousins or their friends.

#4) Don’t make the final seating plan until you have your final count. Moving things around too much will confuse you and you will be more likely to make mistakes.

#5) Use different color post-its for his family, your family, friends, co – workers, etc.

#6) Always start with the bridal party, then immediate family, then other family members, then relatives, then friends.

#7) Be aware of people with extremely strict political or religious beliefs whenever possible. The last thing you want is a heated debate over a touch topic.

#8) Keep a few extra seats on hand in case a guests unexpectedly shows up. this happens all the time!

#9) Try to seat all of the single people at one table. The guests who are single and choose not to bring a date will be able to mingle and meet new people.

#10) There is tons of software available for wedding seating charts – shop around and find one that works for you. But, always have a paper copy in case you lose your files.

The best tool you have when planning the seating for your wedding is common sense. That, and a sense of humor will make the whole planning process fun and easy!

-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago

 

Bridal Stress Got You Down?

If you are lying awake at night counting centerpieces instead of sheep, if every minute of every day is spent talking about, thinking about or obsessing about wedding plans….. it might be time to unwind a little.

The thing about stress is that it affects you not only mentally but physically. Some people gain weight while others lose, some people have insomnia while others oversleep. No matter how you look at it, being stressed out in the weeks and months before your wedding is bad for your health.

How to De-stress your life :

Stay Organized – Make sure you have a great wedding organizer or even a simple binder and a checklist.

Budget – Stay within your budget and do not overspend. Debt is a huge stress for anyone.

Help – Hire a Bridal Consultant or Wedding Planner if you can afford it. If you can’t, ask friends or family to handle the small things for you and do not second guess every detail.

De-Activate – Don’t plan so many social events that you have no time to yourself, decline a few invitations and use that time to read or catch a good movie.

Unwind – Find time to do something out of the ordinary….nothing wedding related. Having coffee with the bridesmaids is a guarantee that you will talk about nothing but the wedding. Physical activities are guaranteed stress busters; Zumba class,  Laser tag, Aerobics, biking or anything that will increase your heart rate and get your mind off of things.

 Hire – Use only trusted professionals so you don’t have to worry about whether or not the caterer will show up or if the flowers will wilt before the end of the night. Check our each wedding vendor completely so there are no surprises and your work is done.

The worst thing you can do is to try to avoid the problem or mask it with alcohol or  prescriptions. A glass of wine is nice with (or without) dinner. But no amount of wine, or beer or vodka will not get rid of your problems, it just makes them worse. Facing the problems and dealing with them is the only way to make it go away.

-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago

 

 

 

Wedding Planning the Easy Way!

After you have called your parents, siblings and best friends… the next most important thing you can do to start your wedding planning is to present a united front.

It seems like this is a simplistic way of looking at wedding planning but, it isn’t. There are the budget concerns, tricky seating charts and the possibility of having  difficult in laws. How do you handle these? the best answer is: together.

When your budget doesn’t quite meet what you had in mind: have a talk and decide (together) what can be traded. Don’t worry about having a grand affair if you can only afford a garden party, remember that you are getting married and the outcome is always the same.

When a difficult in-law says or does something that offends either of you; stand together and defend one another against all outsiders. Become a team, working together for the greater goal because having a cohesive plan to stick together will get you through all of the tricky wedding planning.

If you have a groom that isn’t interested in the planning process and you bothagree you will be doing the the majority of the wedding planning solo- make sure you have a good support system.  Enlist your most trusted family or friend and have at it. But only if you both agree.

People will inundate you with their opinions and you will have to learn how to politely decline some or most of their advice. People will insist you call their caterer or florist or seamstress or neighbor who does cakes. Tell them you have it under control and change the subject.

If you have a great support system and agree to make all decisions together, you are already off to a great start!

The next best thing you can do is to attend a Bridal Expo – together. Bridal Expo has fine-tuned the wedding planning experience so you can see dozens of vendors in your area who have samples of their work at each show. Kick the tires on a stretch Limo, smell the flowers, taste the cake, touch the invitations, listen to the DJ, sit in an actual photobooth and then relax while Bridal Expo brings to you a Bridal Runway Fashion show that will magically transport you to a New York Runway. Sounds nice? It is. The bonus is that you and your fiancee can literally satisfy all of your wedding planning needs in one place without arguing, planning or even steping outside the front door…. as long as you do it as a team.

-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago

You Might Be a Bridezilla if…….

The first known citation of the term  “Bridezilla” was in the Boston Globe in 1995 followed by a series of cartoons in Modern Bride magazine in 1999. But, it was the television series which aired in July 2004  that made the term ‘Bridezilla’ part of our modern vocabulary. 

Bridezilla is a portmanteau of two words: Bride and Godzilla. This type of morphing or blending words has become quite popular in modern culture, so much so that this one word evokes an images of an out of control, crazed, wedding obsessed woman who knows no limits.  Although rare, they are out there. Of course reality TV (aka staged, scripted versions of real life)  has tweaked the situation to make it worse but,  never underestimate the power of an engaged woman who wants to get her way. So, how do you spot these rare creatures and how do you know when your level-headed, intelligent, caring best friend has succumbed to ‘Acquired Situational Narcissism’?

 If you asked your attendant to change their hairstyle, remove a tattoo or lose weight to be in your wedding – you might be a bridezilla.

If you asked someone else to do the gift registry on your behalf because you are too busy – you might be a bridezilla.

If you have asked anyone  to address and fill in their own Thank You note – you might be a bridezilla.

If you have asked any male member of the bridal party to shave their beard, moustache or alter their appearance in any way – you might be a bridezilla.

If you are planning a wedding that is out of budget, insisting that other’s pick up the tab for things you want but cannot afford – you might be a bridezilla.

If you have had several confrontations with wedding retailers – you might be a bridezilla.

If you have told anyone what they can wear, how they can act, how much they can drink or to whom they may speak at your wedding or reception – you might be a bridezilla.

If you asked any of your attendants to gain weight so you are the thinnest person standing at the altar,  check into counseling immediately.

It appears that sometimes a wonderful, sweet, intelligent woman can turn into bridezilla for apparently no reason. The truth is that there is a reason, perhaps it is stress, family issues, work trouble and if you add all that into planning a wedding, almost anyone can let loose with a little odd behavior.

So what exactly are you supposed to do when this happpens to a friend of yours?

Smile and Nod – Remember that this person will return to normal shortly.

Offer help – She may be in over her head.

Distract – Maybe she needs a day off from wedding planning. Go for a nature hike, game of tennis, bike ride or find an amusement park. If she can unwind for one day – you will reap the benefits and you may be able to get through to her on a different level.

Intervene – Everyone who has been bearing the brunt of this behavior should come together and confront the bride with her outrageous demands. United you stand, divided you fall.

Exit – If the demands go too far and the bride will not retreat or give any concessions, you might have to remove yourself from the entire situation. This may be the only option if the bride’s demands have gone so far over the top that you have lost sight of the person you once knew. Warning: Once you go here, there is no turning back.

In reality, a very small percentage of women actually turn into the dreaded “Bridezilla”. To avoid becoming one yourself, remember what the day is really about: Your friends and family gathering together to share in your happiness. Don’t sweat the small stuff – the wedding  lasts only one day while the marriage should last forever.

-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago