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

Weddings and Television- a Marriage Made in Hollywood Heaven

The romance between viewers and television weddings  started with a bang in 1981. In July of that year over 750 million people watched as Lady Diana Spencer married Prince Charles. Later that same year the fictional characters of Luke Spencer (no relation to the former) and Laura Webber were married in a lavish ceremony with Elizabeth Taylor as a surprise guest. This is still the highest rated hour in daytime soap opera  history with 30 million+ viewers.

Since then we were riveted while movies, seriesm specials and reality television took over the wedding venue. Of course reality tv is a guilty pleasure many watcha nd few admit.  There are currently 20+ wedding-related reality shows on various channels ranging from extremely popular to struggling viewership. This doesn’t even include cake and decor related shows and specials, or The Knot on demand. 

The hunger for these shows is never-ending and based on two things: trainwrecks and fairytales. We watch the trainwrecks to feel better about ourselves and we watch the  fairytales hoping that could be us one day. Using that basic formula  the networks know that if they build it – we will come.  The highest rated shows tease us with the hope that there may be a trainwreck within a fairytale or vice versa. Sometimes it happens, and when it does……. it is a hit!

Say Yes to the Dress has a simple plot:  Find your dream gown in a 35,000 square foot iconic Bridal Salon in Manhattan. Brides from around the world have flocked to Kleinfeld’s Bridal for generations in hopes of locating the gown of their dreams. The best part of the show is the interaction between brides, their family and the staff. Sometimes you get to see the happy ending and sometimes you get to see a near-catfight among the salon guests. Catfight? $25,00 gown? Happy ending? Where do I sign up?
This is a perfect mix of good and bad and I always walk away feeling satisfied. Not so much with the Altanta version.

Bridezilla is not as easy to watch. Maybe it is the years I spent in bridal retail, maybe it is my mother’s  upbringing … I dont know. But there is something about this show that give me  heart palpitations. If I have to listen as one more bride demands to have things “her way or the highway”, I think I might throw something at the tv. These women exist in real life as well as on tv and my advice is to  avoid them at all costs. Watch if you must.

Amazing Wedding Cakes has only one down-side. Yes, it is exhilarating to watch as these talented pros create art from flour and suger. The problem is that they also give the illusion that baking and delivering a 5 tiered cake is not  as hard as it looks. What I love most is watching the chefs and bakers work with their creations, how quickly their nimble fingers make a blob of icing look like an actual tea rose. They way they move their hands is hypnotic. This show should come with a disclaimer-” Warning: watching this show might give you the temporary impression that the tasks you are about to watch are easy. Do Not Try This At Home!”

Platinum weddings allows us to experience the wedding of the uber-wealthy. With colossal budgets come colossal demands and this show is a real tribute to the wedding planners and how well they are able to organize and execute these demands. You will not see any Bridezillas here. These women pay someone to get mad for them and it is usually the wedding planner.  Watch as each planner delivers all of the couple’s request, whether it is  the hand-monogrammed table linens or  600 flower centerpieces. This show delivers the goods every time and although there are rarely any nail-biters, the drama is still there. It’s in the details.

David Tutera  made a name for himself as a highly sought-after wedding planner many years before his reality show  began broadcasting into our homes. What this show accomplishes is genius. It takes one  part trainwreck and sprinkles it with magic dust to turn it into a fairytale.  Mr. Tutera can turn a swamp  into something magical and he does this everyt ime. The lucky brides are so thrilled to have him on board and they trust his style so there is smooth sailing – usually. When you hear the crickets something is not right.

No re-cap of wedding shows would be complete without the ultimate trainwreck of all time; My Big Redneck Wedding. I dont think this needs much explanation. I can’t explain it anyway since over-all clad grooms andbrides in hunting gear makes no sense to me. Honestly I am not sure if this has any elements that I would recommendnd except one – it is a trainwreck every time.  If you like trainwrecks, knock yourself out.

Don’t miss Fabulous Cakes tonight at 8 pm on TLC featuring Chicago’s very own fabulous bakers including Amy Beck who we are very proud to have as one of our preferred vendors. Best Wishes, Amy and to all of you who sacrifice to make our wedding viewing more enjoyable! 

-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 Part Two – Invitations

One thing is certain when you are planning your wedding; the invitation should give the guests all of the information they need to know about what kind of event it will be. Aside from the printed words describing the date, time and dress code, the  style of invitation and the actual paper itself are big clues as to what one can expect on your big day. You should choose your invitations accordingly and don’t forget to order the matching Thank You cards!

When you add the layer of eco-consciousness to your affair, it might seem that you will have fewer choices. In this case, it is the contrary. Make no mistake, though, when your guests get your invitation they will understand that you are making an effort to reduce waste . Take this into consideration: Half the trees felled in the US every year are used for paper, and an estimated 30-40 percent of our landfills are filled with paper waste. And in case you didn’t know, the manufacture of paper is a nasty, toxic process that leaves a trail of waste and destruction. WOW! …and YUK! 

Conscientious  retailers and clever manufacturers have finally realized these devastating facts and have started making and marketing paper products that are eco-friendly and attractive! Your guests will understand your commitment to the environment as well as to one another.

Recycled Paper is made from post-consumer waste. Specifically, old paper. Recycling paper saves tons (literally) of trees. Paper can be whole or part recycled and can also be mixed with other pulp products. One thing is for sure – when it is recycled, it is clearly marked. Look for the “Recycle” logo. It will look and feel just like any other paper.

Tree Free Paper is made of various fiber rich products like hemp, sugar cane, kenaf, bamboo or (ready?) elephant dung. Not one tree is used and all of these papers are made from the surplus of one product or from a highly sustainable resource. Hemp paper was used by Thomas Jefferson to draft the Declaration of Indpendence and also used to print the very first Gutenberg Bible… so it has been around for some time and lasts forever without yellowing. All of these papers look and feel organic, they have texture and a timeless, elegant beauty similar to parchment.

Plant-able Paper is  hugely popular!  Imagine after the wedding instead of throwing out the invitation, your invited guests can actually plant the invitation into the ground and flowers or herbs will grow. An amazing reminder of the day, this will be the most talked about invitation ever received.  The instructions are easy and are included with each invitation. A powerful message to remind other subliminally that love grows like a plant and it needs some nurturing along the way.  These papers have some depth due to the implantation of seeds, don’t let that discourage you, the papers are wonderful to hold in your hand, if only for a moment, before they go back to the earth. You’ll be tempted to save them – but don’t.

The only option for Greenies that I strongly disavow is the urge to go paperless. For Tupperware parties, children’s birthdays, and neighborhood pot lucks, e-invitations are fantastic. It saves time, money and trees. However, your wedding is such an important event in your life and of those who love you, to even entertain this idea for a wedding invitation is simply a big no-no. Times change and so someday this may become the norm. I’ll let you know when that happens.

If you are interested in eco-friendly options for your invitations or if the environment is your cause du jour, following three simple rules will allow a good night’s sleep and a clear conscience.

1) Talk to your stationer about eco-friendly options.

2) Make Sure the paper being used is 100% recycled waste.

3) Use a company that uses products made from sustainable, renewable  or plant-able products. By making this commitment to your partner and the earth together you can rest assured that your invitation will stand out as one that is unique and memorable. The earth will thank you.

-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