How To – Be The Best Dressed Guest!

A long time ago there was a very strict dress code for each and every event. Seriously, people got dressed up in suits to go to baseball games and ladies were in stockings and heels at the grocery store. Today, it seems, people have trouble knowing how to dress for dinner at a casual restaurant much less a wedding.  I see  people of all ages  wearing pajama pants in public and generally speaking, casual attire has gotten out of control. So when  my friend called me today and asked what she should wear to a wedding I thought it might be a good time to go over what is acceptable and what is not acceptable in wedding guest attire.

So in this day of casual wear how do you tell your wedding guests that jeans are not acceptable (even with a dinner jacket for men) and that you fully expect them to dress appropriately? It is not that hard, actually. The place to let your guests know what is expected of them is in the invitation or, even better, on your website if you have one.  I have defined some of the more common dress code terms so you can use them to let guests know what to expect.

“Casual Attire”– If you are having a destination wedding on the beach, your female guests should wear a sundress, cruise-wear, not beachwear. Espadrilles, sandals and a dressier flip flop ( if that exists) are all appropriate footwear. The beach is no place for stilettos, anyway. Men can get away with a nice shirt, maybe Tommy Bahama or a stylish Cubavera  shirt  with linen pants.

“Informal Wedding Attire” is a step up from casual. A nicer dress, made of nicer fabric – something you would wear to a college graduation or to meet the first lady. Floor length is out. Men should wear a suit but still no need to wear a tie if the shirt is nice enough. For a preppy look try a navy blazer with Khaki pants and a pastel print tie.

“Formal Attire” means men have the choice of a tuxedo or dark suit. Ladies can wear either short or long gowns but, it needs to be dressy. Break out the glam but, don’t worry if you prefer the casual side of formal. Cocktail dresses are fine.

“Black Tie” or Ultra Formal is defined as cocktail or long dresses (only)for women and tuxedos (only)for men. Break out the fine jewelry, sparkly accessories and beaded purses. Men do not have to wear a bow tie as long as they have a tuxedo or a fine suit with contrasting fabric on the lapels. Dress like you are headed for the red carpet at the Academy Awards.

If your guests do not have the good sense  to know the definition of ‘Casual Wedding Attire’ ( for example), how do you enforce the dress code? That is entirely up to you. You could either have security to make sure everyone is  up to par and those who aren’t are turned away or  tell the photographer not to take photos of anyone dressed inappropriately. Or you could just let it go.  With any luck at all, you could have someone dressed so oddly that it will entertain you for years to come. 

-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago

Best Wedding Trends From 2012

Can you believe 2012 is almost over?!  It’s time to look back on 2012 and some of the fabulous wedding trends that sprouted from the imagination an creativity of seasoned professionals. Of course some may be passing fads … but,  some are definitely worth keeping! In no particular order, here are the ones we would like to stick around for at least another year:

Inspiration Boards

Thanks in large part to Pinterest, this trend has enabled brides to see the big picture when it comes to their wedding story.

Unique Venues

Less than 5% of couples have their ceremony in a house of worship. Finding just the right place to celebrate your love is a charming way to spend time and express your individuality.

Colored Wedding Dresses

Jessica Biel and Reese Witherspoon both tied the knot in subtle shades of pink. Color is hot and you are guaranteed to see a lot more of it in 2013.

Mix It Up

Bridesmaids wearing different (but matching) gowns, making every single groomsmen’s boutonniere slightly different, brides wearing cowboy boots, having homespun touches at the reception. Breaking tradition is the new tradition!







Delaying the Honeymoon

According to about 25% of all couples delay their honeymoon by  more than a week. It gives you time to unwind and prepare for the journey without feeling rushed.


Excited to see what 2013 has in store for weddings? Tune in tomorrow when I explore some 2013 wedding predictions!

-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago

Southern Wedding Belles

The recent news of the engagement of two-time Grammy winner and American Idol alumni Kelly Clarkson to Nashville talent manager Brandon Blackstock got our creative juices flowing, imagining what kind of wedding this “Southern  Belle” might have in mind!


For the rest of the world who does not live in the Southern part of the United States, there are very distinct differences between South Carolina Style, Kentucky Style, Louisiana Style and  Texas Style. So, the fact that Ms. Clarkson hails from Texas and has planted her roots in Tennessee poses a ‘Southern Style’ challenge. However, there are some must -haves for any true Southern Wedding:

It’s all about the family. Expect to see cousins, kids, aunts, uncles and  relatives from every corner of the globe – even Yankees! The more the merrier, Southern weddings are known for being large and friendly so, when it comes to family; there is always room for more.

Grooms Cake. A groom’s cake  presents an opportunity for the bride to get creative & really WOW her groom. Since so much of the wedding is about the bride & her style, this is a great way to honor the most important man in the room.This tradition has really been embraced by people across the globe.


Beverages. Southern brides love to honor their heritage, & the quintessential beverages of the South are the great way to do so. From mint juleps & neat bourbon to sweet tea & Coca-Cola, there’s a Southern beverage to quench the thirst of young & old wedding guests alike.

Charming Accents. Glowing votives, floating magnolias, mason jars, old fashioned lanterns, parasols; all touches that remind you of a simpler era are abundant. Think of timeless elements that would work as easily in 2012 as they would have in 1954.

southern & traditions1's Wedding in Charleston

Most of all, the Southern culture is steeped in beauty, elegance, and grace. Whether your wedding is Sweet Home Alabama or Sweet Home Chicago, you can always incorporate some of these elements to make your celebration ooze with Southern Hospitality.

-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago

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

Photobooth Fun – Candids that count!

 A few years ago at one of our Bridal Expos,  I discovered this new trend in weddings where (in addition to the official photographer)couples were hiring photo-booth companies to bring a portable booth to the reception to allow their guests to take fun snapshots in the privacy of a cloaked ‘room’. I immediately had to try it out. I was surprised at how quickly it produced the photos, the quality of the photo itself and how there seemed to be some magical quality about the experience. I was sold.

The benefits of the photo-booth are many:

1) Get the guests up out of their seats, moving around the room and interacting with people outside of the table. You might  run into someone you haven’t seen in a long time and you might meet a new friend and discover you share a common bond with the bride and groom. At the very least you will be able to have a richer experience of the wedding.

2) See a side of your guests that may have previously gone unnoticed. By getting everyone involved in this, table by table or as individuals, they will lighten up a bit. Maybe, just maybe, they will let their hair down a little and loosen up the tie long enough to have fun and (dare I say it) even bust a move on the dance floor a little later. The door is open.

3) Get your guests talking. This will be a conversation piece as well as a functional method of preserving memories. People will be buzzing about the photo-booth, keep that in mind when booking your photo-booth professional. 

Once you have decided to book a photobooth for your wedding always remember to check references and their work. Just like photographers, they are not all created equal.

 -Some offer different options like a photobooth album or additional prints.

-Some offer different backdrops customized to your wedding colors.        

– Ask if they offer customized photo strips. 

– Make sure there is a professional attendant on hand to oversee any shenanigans or technical problems.

As with any contract, make sure you have everything in writing!

Recently I came across the photos I had captured  in that first photobooth I saw at Bridal Expo in OakBrook, IL and it reminded me of being a kid and slipping into a photobooth at Woolworth with my friend. Then, miraculously, it all came together: the Photobooth experience is not just about the photos. You will get hundreds of photos taken at your event; staged, portraits, group shots, candids, and more. This is something more, it  is something to bring everyone together to one place in time. A time where something as simple as slipping into the photobooth is guaranteed to put a smile on everyone’s face…. like time travel without the flux capacator and all the other complications involved. Rabbit Ears are welcome.

-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago

Courthouse Weddings – Facts and Myths

There is nothing that says a courthouse wedding can’t be fabulous. As with all brides and grooms, this is your event to plan any way you want and nothing is stopping you from having a memorable event… at the county courthouse.

Myth: You don’t have to get dressed up to get married at the courthouse.

Fact: You should wear something special. Buy a beautiful dress, some new shoes and jewelry, have your hair and makeup done. Maybe you don’t want a traditional wedding gown but, this is a great time to wear something really fabulous. I can’t be the only one that thought Carrie Bradshaw’s courthouse look was way better than the “bird on her head” wedding getup. Men should wear at least a sport coat or a tie. You are beginning your lives together and for that you should look your best. Set the bar high and don’t ever forget what a special day this is.

Myth: You don’t have to bring anyone with you

Fact: You should bring the people who mean the most to you. Let them witness this important event and remind you of the commitment you made. They will be happy you asked and you will be happy they came. In fact, you can bring  several people with you but, I would keep it to your immediate families so that no one gets hurt feelings.

Myth: You don’t need flowers.

Fact: You should have a small bouquet, and he should have a small boutonniere. It doesn’t have to be fancy or super-expensive, it should be simple and elegant and smell really good.

Myth: All you need is a few snapshots – from your cell phone!

Fact: You should definitely hire a photographer, even if it is only for a couple of hours. Since the majority of their clients get married on the weekend you may be able to hire a photographer for a much lower rate, it never hurts to ask. You will not be sorry that you have a few beautiful photos of your wedding no matter where it is.

Myth: If you get married in the courthouse you shouldn’t have a reception

Fact:  There are many reasons that some couples opt for a simple courthouse wedding. Sometimes it is due to economic difficulties, logistics,  and then there are some people just prefer the privacy of a civil ceremony. This doesn’t mean that you cannot have a celebration afterwards. Plan a simple family dinner at your favorite restaurant or an entire reception if you want, although you may not want to call it a ‘reception’ since that term is reserved for an event immediate following the ceremony. If you decide to go this route and wait a few months, consult your invitation specialist to change the wording accordingly. Don’t wait too long –  the sooner the better!

This is your wedding, your commitment, the beginning of your lives together, celebrate it how you want and remember this: no matter how low-key you want it to be… it can still be fabulous.

 -Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago




Dinner is Served – Reception Options

Believe it or not, the food at your wedding reception is one of the most  memorable parts of your wedding day. Your guests may not remember the style of the bridesmaid’s gown or the color of your centerpieces but, a good menu will leave a lasting impression.

When you select your venue, your attire and your invitations you have already made the first big decision as to what kind of reception meal you will be serving and although there are many ways to modify each of these to suit your personal taste and style, there are basically four types:

Cocktail Reception- A growing trend in wedding planning is the cocktail reception. Often it seems that the best wedding reception food is served during cocktail hour, so many couples are choosing to simply have an extended cocktail menu for their guests. This choice allows you to have many different food items to sample, and it provides a more informal atmosphere for a more casual wedding. It is crucial that you have ample waitstaff and keep the food coming. Since the sight of empty trays can leave guests wondering if that’s all there is…

Buffet – Another  informal option for the main meal is the buffet. You will choose from several main courses, sides and stations, and guests will decide on what they want to eat when their table is called.If you want to provide variety for your guests, this is a good option for you as they will be able to sample several things and eat only what they want. Since it is less formal, the buffet typically allows more time for your guests to dance and mingle.This choice can also be easier on your budget because less wait staff is needed to serve your guests.

Family Style – The style of dining  with the serving platters on the table so that all present can serve themselves. A step up from buffet since the guests don’t have to get up from the table and still less formal than a sit down dinner.With this you can also rest assured that guests with dietary restrictions can find something to eat by planning the menu carefully and taking their concerns to heart.Again, you will save money on the amount of servers needed but that is not the best part of this option. The bonus is that guests take only the food they eat and there is much less waste. They can sample a variety of foods and still not overindulge by having only small portions.

Sit Down– For a formal affair, the most obvious choice is a sit down dinner. The meal will be set by the choices you make with the caterer. Some couples offer choices (chicken or fish) but, that is not necessary. If you decide to accommodate special dietary concerns remember that once that door is opened , it is impossible to close. IF you find yourself with a small group of friends who have severe food allergies or medical diet restrictions, consider grouping them at the same table and accommodating  them that way. Again, there is nothing that says you need to serve anything to accomodate anyone’s diet whether it is for medical or other reasons. A sit-down dinner  reception relies heavily on good service to move the meal along so make sure to ask how many servers you can expect. The minimum should be one server per 10 guests but some venues stretch it to 15. Without ample servers you run the risk of the meal taking too long and taking up time that was supposed to be devoted to other things. While your guests won’t be able to walk around as much during dinner, they will get to spend ample time talking with each other at the table. Because of the extra wait staff needed this tends to be more expensive than the other options. 

As for the food itself, always work with the venue. If they are famous for a certain dish, incorporate it into the menu.Whether it is a hotel, restaurant,  banquet facility or caterer, ALWAYS insist on tasting the food they will be serving at your event.


-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago






The dreaded “B” word – Budget

When planning your wedding, there are many things to consider; location, time of day, how many guests to invite, etc. But none of them are as important as the actual wedding budget. Couples are faced with so may decisions regarding this one very special day that it can become daunting if you enter into the planing stages unprepared. Before you even think of shopping for the first item, sit down with your betrothed and have a very candid budget meeting. During that meeting you will each  have to make concessions. How much are your families able or willing to spend to help you?

Once you have established your budget, you can being to negotiate the importance of each individual item. What are the most important aspects of the day for you as a couple? Photographs tend to rank higher and things like table favors are lower in the scale of importance. However, everyone is different and no one can tell you what is important to you, except you.  There are some ways to help you stay within budget.

Plan your wedding on a Friday or Sunday. Many venues offer greatly discounted rates for events that are not on Saturday. They will be happy to negotiate with you during off-season as well. When is off-season? It varies from state to state and year to year. The big shift is that more couples seem to get married in December than June ……….. for now. Imagine how spectacular your ceremony would be against the backdrop of fall foliage or spring in bloom!

Shop realistically for your gown. Take someone with you when shopping for your bridal gown. When you first go into the salon, state your price point and politely ask the consultant not to bring anything over your specified amount. It will save everyone time and aggravation. Be honest with yourself about what you can afford. If your gown budget is $2000, you can not be shopping for gowns that are priced at $4000, it will only lead to heartache.

Flowers can be expensive. However, this is a place where you can really save  as well. Using flowers that are in season or grown locally can save hundreds of dollars and give you a better, fresher product. Using non-flowering greenery can also add a touch of whimsy to your centerpiece.  Also – don’t be afraid to use bigger flowers in the centerpieces because it could save money in the end. Explore your options with a trusted florist.

Bigger tables- opt for the big round table that seats 10. Larger tables will require less centerpieces and give guests a chance to meet more people from other parts of your life!

Bridal Expo- yes, you will save money by attending one of our many shows throughout the year. Our vendors offer discounts at the shows and for couples who have attended the shows. Seeing everything in one place saves time which saves money … and with the price of gas nearing $4.00 gallon, driving is money. You can see up to 60 wedding professionals at one time and these are our trusted vendors so the research is done. The bonus is that there are prizes awarded at each show so you could possible win a honeymoon or a valuable gift package.

Call 847-428-3320 to get four complimentary tickets to a show in your area so you can start saving money immediately.

-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago