Making Wedding Favors Count!

Take-home favors have  been a staple at weddings for decades. A simple box of chocolates, a ribbon-tied group of Jordan almonds, a framed photo of the married couple.  The goal is to present your guests with a small token of your appreciation  with  a personal touch. Deciding on what favors to give  in a  creative manner seems to get harder all the time.

Budget – When deciding on what type of  favor to bestow upon your beloved family and friends, first you must consider your budget. Break it down by numbers.  If your budget is $800 and your confirmed guest list is 150 (add an extra 10 for overflow), you will only be able to spend $5 on each favor. It is easy to see how quickly these things add up, right?  Decide on your budget first before you get locked into a pricey favor that you cannot afford. Whenever you can, buy in bulk and do the work of assembling and gift-wrapping your wedding favors yourself.

Stay with one theme – After your budget is squarely in place, determine the style of your event. Vintage, rustic, modern or beach…. whats the overall theme of the day? It is important that your guests feel like you have put some thought into this. Mugs filled with coffee & cocoa samples would be adorable for a winter event but would make no sense at all if presented at a beachfront affair, no matter how well put together they are.

Personalize everything. Whether it is ribbon printed with your names or a simple monogram stamp, the personalized touches add a dramatic flair that definitely gives each gift some “WOW”! Imagine this : You place a candy bar next to each plate at every table…. Big Deal, right? Instead you could place a small box with three hand made truffles, tied with a personalized ribbon and a tiny, monogrammed gift tag that says “For Robin.. we love you”.  Which would you rather receive? Between boutiques, stationery stores and on-line resources, there are hundred (thousands) of places that can help you with rubber stamping and laser printing. Of course  some time, planning and effort go into this but, they are also things you can do as a couple, with your bridesmaids or your family. It can be a fun group activity, unless you are master do-it-yourself-er, then it is called therapy! It is well worth the end result.

Remember, this is a keepsake and a touchstone for you and your guests. It is intended to be a token of your appreciation and not an afterthought. Put as much planning into this as you would any other aspect of your wedding and your guests will be “WOW”-ed by your sincerity and thoughtfulness!

-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago

Unplugged Weddings – Fair or Unfair?

Nowadays nearly everyone has a cell phone, smart phone or some other device that keeps them constantly ‘plugged in’. Is it possible you should sometimes leave the phone at home ? I think we all can agree that there are just some situations where a cell phone is not necessary. 

Some brides and grooms have decided that that too much technology can spoil an event and  are having  “Unplugged Weddings”. Whether it is cameras, phones or other technology, couples are coming to the conclusion that enough is enough and making a statement. If you are among those, you may have a rough road convincing others that they need to be unplugged during the events of the day.

The reasons that couples are opting for unplugged is simple: Noflashes going off during the ceremony, no one popping up in the wrong place in photos because they were trying to get a  good shot, no one’s phone ringing or beeping during any part of the event. 

Is it possible that you could request that everyone to turn off their electronic devices and not offend anyone? No. Some people will see it as an infringement of their personal choice. Some people are so plugged in that it would never occur to them that putting down the device will allow them to enjoy the moment better.

So in the age of technology when nearly everyone is held hostage by some sort of communication device, how do you politely remind guests that you are unplugging?

Start early– Tell everyone that you are planning and unplugged event. Even if it under the pretense of asking their opinion, have a discussion with as many of your guests,  attendants and family as possible about how you plan to do this. Make sure you talk to the guests that have great communications kills –  you know, the ones who like to pass on information.

Officiant –Have a discussion with the officiant on how to make a proper announcement the day of the event so no one will be offended. There are many examples available online but the best way is to be honest. You can add a touch of humor if that’s your style.

Website – If you have a wedding website, designate a page to the subject. Explain your reasons in a way that you feel your guests will understand and a way that does not offend.

Guest – At the event, have one of your  guests serve as the person who reminds everyone and gently ‘nudges’ people who are not  following suit. It won’t be offensive if it comes from another guest who is not a member of the wedding party. Make sure it is someone who can keep it light and not come off as the ‘cell phone police’. Practice what he or she will say so that it does not turn into a confrontation. “By the way – did you see that James and Carol asked everyone to turn off their phones?”  No drama, no arguing, no problem, right? It is better to designate someone to do this than to have one of your (probably older) relatives give them the evil eye at some point.

Print –Some couples have printed signs on display at the entrance of the church or hall, at each table and in various places where there is high visibility. If you choose to do this, make sure it is tastefully worded and pleasing to the eye.

If you decide to unplug your wedding, don’t despair if you get some feedback. It isn’t as if you are confiscating cell phones at the door and not allowing outside contact with the world. understandably some people with small children or sick relatives or even urgent personal business will have their phone with them and have them turned on. They will merely have to put their phone on vibrate or silent mode and step outside to have a conversation if the situation arises.

One of the best things about your wedding is that it is your wedding. The choices you make reflect who you are as a person; stick to your guns,  be respectful and move on.

-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago

Ten Trends We Loved in 2011

From luxury shoes to cultural influences, 2011 brought us some of the best trends in wedding and reception styles that we have seen in a long time. Many people this year have been booking their venues with Tradewinds Hotel. Brides and grooms channeling their own personal style, incorporating pop culture and following the advice of well-known wedding stylists have embraced these styles above all others.

1) Two Gowns. Having a gown for the wedding and a separate, less formal gown for the reception is not only acceptable, it has become extremely popular since Kate Middleton embraced this trend last  April.












2) Aisle Runners. Custom aisle runners have become the latest must-have. Available in an array of colors, monograms, styles, this is a trend that is going to explode in 2012.



3) Flash Mob. Having the entire wedding party take part in a choreographed but, seemingly impromptu dance is a big hit and makes a great wedding video.


4) Headbands.  Smooth, sleek, spectacular and sparkly, the headband was the headpiece of choice. The number one reason is that a great headband will look good with any hairstyle.
















5) Going Green. Couples have taken note of environmental concerns and continue to place the future of our planet among their top priorities and are willing to pay more for green, eco-friendly products.


6) Culture. Couples are infusing their cultural heritage into the entire event from start to finish. Blending cultures, food, dance, music makes a warm welcome to all members of the family.












7) Luxury. Couples are cutting back on non-essentials to spend more on luxury items. Figure out what is important to you and spend the money there, whether it is food, top shelf liquor from, an exceptional cake, Bvlgari cufflinks or a couture gown – you will never regret treating yourself to something fabulous and tasteful.





8 )  Shoes. The bridal shoe has gone from ordinary to extraordinary, explaining why brides everywhere are so excited about their shoe; wearing color, over-the-top sparkly platforms and opting for fabulous designer shoes for their wedding.











9) Less is more. Classic Black & white photography,  monochromatic decor, engraved invitations. The classics never die and and ‘”Simple”  is a style statement that needs no explanation. You won’t see any leopard prints here.

















10) Seating. One of the best trends in receptions is the ‘conversation area’.  Beautiful furniture to match your decor, arranged  in the bar area to give the appearance of a lounge. The benefits are endless; in addition to adding an element of style, you provide an area other than the table for guests to meet and mingle.

-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago


Unwrapped Showers – A Disturbing Trend

From time to time I hear a wedding idea that I have never heard before. If  I hear something twice in one week, I know it is something that deserves further research. But, before I will label it a ‘trend’ I need to see proof that more than one person is using this idea, that it seems to be catching on and that people are universally accepting the idea. In my humble opinion, some trends are good and (in this particular case) some trends are bad.

Recently it has come to my attention that invitees are being asked to bring gifts to Bridal Showers….. unwrapped. On the pretense of being open-minded I have responded with the obligatory, “That’s interesting, tell me more.” when, in reality, I am saying to myself “That’s the silliest thing I’ve ever heard”. I can’t even imagine what that gift table looks like. Haven’t they ever heard that presentation is everything? Furthermore, am I losing my mind?

The alleged purpose of the “unwrapped shower” is two-fold: To save on paper waste and to save time for the bride who could be spending that same valuable time ‘bonding’ with her guests. Lets examine this carefully:

Reduce Paper Waste: Being abut as green as any average person could be without using a palm frond for toilet paper, I find myself stuck between a rock and a hard place on this one. I understand not wanting to waste paper, I recycle and re-use everything possible. I still carefully open Christmas gifts so I can re-use the paper for  next year, I purchase only paper made from recycled products, I measure gifts so that I can use as much of the paper as possible and not waste a scrap. However, this is where I draw the line. In good conscience I cannot bring an unwrapped gift to anyone, anywhere, for any reason. It’s like wearing a beautiful outfit and not combing your hair. In addition, if everyone across the globe collectively stopped using all wrapping paper of any form, there would be a huge gap in the job market and parts of the economy would be out of work…. not on my watch. I always say you don’t have to sacrifice style to go green, that being an environmentalist doesn’t mean you have to change everything about the way you live. Could I be completely wrong?

If going green is really your main purpose, then you need to address that in the invitation and make it clear. Maybe you could ask guests to use ribbon only. And speaking of ribbon, when wrapping a gift for any occasion whatsoever, you should only use fabric ribbon.  It can be tied, untied, ironed and tied again. Recycling ribbon is the perfect way to go green and the plastic shiny ribbons are just not as pretty. My favorite is the ribbon with a small wire edge so you can make a big swirl-y bow and it stays in place! The real  purpose of the ribbon is to keep the box closed or the package tightly shut. So, if the box has a lid – are you supposed to just tape it or what? Could this be the reason that Tiffany & Co, uses beautiful blue boxes and fabric ribbon? You don’t need to wrap a gift from Tiffany & Co, the box is pretty and the ribbon keeps the lid closed. Whoever came up with that idea was way ahead of their time: elegant, beautiful and no waste!

Saving Time:In cases where the bridal shower is large and the bride is expected to open gifts in front of everyone, the theory is that this will save time  that could be used socializing with her friends. I understand that wedding protocol dictates that the gifts should be opened in front of everyone so the guests can oooh and ahhh over the lovely items. For me, this a tradition that could be broken without  regret. Open your gifts later and spend this time with your friends. I can think of a million ways to save time and this is not one of them and the amount of time it takes to tear into a package is the least of my concerns.

Maybe everyone should just walk into the shower and hand you a wad of cash (no card or envelope so we don’t waste paper) in front of everyone and annouce the dollar amount.

If I was invited to an “unwrapped shower”, I would bring my gift in a decorative box sealed shut somehow and attempt to understand the motive behind it and hope I could keep my opinion to myself  and not offend anyone.  But, of all the ideas I have heard in a long time, an “un-wrapped shower” is just about the worst.

-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago

Earth Day – No sacrifice is too small!

As we celebrate Earth Day 2011, we are reminded via news and television that there is a lot that needs to be done to reduce our carbon footprint, and that every small step you take is a step in the right direction.

Change is hard. You are used to doing everything in a very specific manner and when you go about change, it is a struggle at first. Those darned compact fluorescent light bulbs were so expensive at first it was hard to justify buying them but, slowly the prices cam down as  the impact of each bulb was slowly steeped into our psyche. Why do they even sell regular light bulbs anymore?

Planning your wedding, preparing for the largest social event of your life , one that will change the way you think, sign your name, make the bed and just about ever other seemingly mundane task is the  perfect time to begin thinking about how your actions impact the planet.

Here are the 5 best things you can to do reduce, reuse or recycle on your wedding day:

1) Talk to your jeweler and insist on conflict-free diamonds. The Kimberly process was enacted to prevent the illegal trade of  “blood diamonds” whereby mine workers are tortured, mutilated or killed. That’s not even the worst part, the worst part is almost 100% of the money goes back to those who perpetrate this violence. Conflict free diamonds come with a certificate of authenticity and are readily available at retailers everywhere.  Insist on  them!
2) Digital Photography allows  you to be able to view all of the proofs and print only the ones you wish to keep. Before you say anything, remember that digital cameras (especially the ones used by professionals) will produce the same kind of image as standard 35mm photography. If your photographer uses both,ask if you can get digital proofs.  Avoid single -use cameras at all costs.

3) Limousines can reduce gas emissions greatly when you consider the alternative of 7 bridesmaids and 7 groomsmen driving individually to an event. Boom! You’ve just saved several gallons of gas! If you can find a limousine company that has alternative fuel vehicles or even hybrids, BONUS!

4) Buy locally grown food and flowers. It saves money, transportation and labor costs. You have reduced the handling time and you will have fresher, healthier, more desirable vegetation and probably save a few dollars in the process. It’s a win/win.

5) Consider giving your guests favors that will make a difference. Mini-trees, flower bulbs, plant able papers all can be wrapped in organic or biodegradable paper with raffia. It will be organic and visually appealing!

Happy Earth Day, everyone!

-Penny Frulla for Bridal expo Chicago

Green Weddings – the big picture

It is almost Earth day and I can think of no better time  to discuss the impact of waste. All of the plastic bottles, plastic ribbons, containers of all shapes and sizes that come with the packaging of an event! Yes, in all fairness they are mostly recycled but for every plastic option you are presented, there is probably a sustainable alternative.
Consider this:

Consumable gifts- Party favors that your guests can take home don’t have to be tchotchkes. You know, those things you take home and put on a shelf and then dust once a week. Be creative! Dress up some fancy chocolates or soy candles with organic tissue paper and a raffia bow. Tiny trees in a glass tube are great mementos, think about everyone at your reception planting a tree that you gave them…. they are really affordable, too.

Guest Book options are out there in droves. If you hate the idea of purchasing something that will be put away in a box (possibly forever), how about a large framed photo of the couple with an even larger mat where all of the guests could sign it. It will be framed and hang on your wall for eternity. Another great idea is a video guest book completely edited onto a dvd which you can pop in the player from time to time and have a look at how young everyone was ‘way back when’. There are tons of options available.

Candlelight is romantic and flattering. Candles can also be very bad for the air you breathe considering many candles are scented with chemicals and perfumes. Flameless candles are battery powered and look exactly like the real thing. If you must go with real candles use only soy , beeswax or vegetable based ones.

No plastic or paper. If you feel strongly about this, have a discussion with the catering manager at your venue. Although cloth napkins will be at the dinner tables, paper napkins will probably be at the bar. Ask them to omit these and be prepared to offer another alternative.

No balloons. Latex is plastic.  If you must  have balloons ask for Qualatex or Betallic brands.  Both are 100% biodegradable and have a half life of about 3 weeks (not very long) both are made with natural latex instead of plastic.  Mylar balloons can be re-used several times if they are handled properly. Check with your balloon resource.

Rice is fine. Birds do not die from eating rice. If you want rice thrown at your wedding, have at it. Make sure the pouches are reusable or biodegradable.

Bird Seed is better. Of course the birds will love you. Will the church? Will the best man get to the reception without a stain on his jacket?

Grass seed is best. Find out what kind of grass is at your site and buy a few bags of it. The birds will eat some of it, sure. But, a great deal of it will wind up on the grass and eventually produce more oxygen.

Sunday is Earth Day –  Take the bus or walk to work if you can and turn off the lights for an hour – it will make  great cuddle time!

-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago

Green Weddings! Step One – Flowers

Earth Day is only 4 days away and in celebration of Mother Earth, I am dedicating every day this week to a different topic on how to “Go Green” with your wedding. 

Going Green is not just about recycling or re-using, it is also about using products that reduce your carbon footprint. Simply put, your carbon footprint is based on how much CO2 is generated by the goods you consume.


Flowers are green, the foliage is green and the leaves and stems are almost always green. But not all flowers are created equal. Brides and grooms today have so many more options than those of days gone by. Even as recent as ten years ago,”Going Green” was more of a chore than a choice and there were few (if any) options  for an environmentalist. If you are an eco-conscious couple you will want to consider these tips:

Buy locally – Many flowers sold in the U.S. are shipped from faraway places  (China or Ecuador). Logically, flowers flown in from other parts of the world require much more carbon emissions that flowers grown locally.  Transportation, shipping, handling all contribute to higher CO2 levels being emitted into the precious atmosphere. The bonus? Local flowers are generally cheaper and you are contributing to the local economy.

Use Organic Flowers – Organic flowers seems redundant. After all, they should all be organic..right? yes, and no. Some flowers are grown in conditions that require intense amounts of nasty pesticides. If you are a staunch environmentalist,  pesticide-free flowers are the only option. The bonus is that organic flowers actually smell like flowers!!

Potted plant centerpieces – A single potted Orchid will look smashing at the center of your table. Hydrangeas and Tulips are popular potted options as well. Worried your tables will look like the garden center at Home Depot? Relax, a qualified florist can transform an ordinary potted plant into a masterpiece.








Grow your own –  Although it may seem ridiculous, it is entirely possible for even the novice to grow tulips, paper whites, Amaryllis or Hyacinth to be used to accent the room.

Talk to your florist– By far the most important piece of advice ever given! I strongly advise having a conversation with your florist about how you can go green. If you want to grow your own bulbs – great! Talk to your florist (first) to see how they can incorporate these into your scheme. I will issue a strong warning to all brides: Do not attempt to design and arrange your own centerpieces or bouquets. It is a mistake.  Unless your Aunt Fanny is a certified, trained florist – don’t let her do it, either. Just because she makes centerpieces for the Junior League once a year does not mean she can handle the magnitude and demands of a wedding.

Bridal Expo is the first and best place to being your journey for an eco-friendly wedding. Driving to one of our shows with 60+ vendors will save  countless hours of driving time and considering gas is $4.oo gallon or more, it is entirely possible that you will save hundreds of dollars on gas.

-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago