Royal Wedding Anniversary

It was one year ago that I set the alarm for 4 am to make sure I caught the first glimpse of the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Miss Catherine Middleton. For some time I was left shaking my head wondering why the wedding was so conservative ….. I get it; social unrest, economic downturn, high unemployment but, there was still the  lingering doubt in my mind that for the same amount of money spent (roughly $32 million US dollars) they could have had a little more pizazz. Then it dawned on me – this is not a flashy couple. This is a very conservative couple with very conservative taste and by anyone’s standards the task of organizing and planning an affair of this magnitude was oppressive. One year later I think they did a fantastic job of nearly every aspect.  Although neither of the future Queen’s bridal gowns was life-changing, as I had hoped, there are some very interesting facts surrounding the gown, the couple and the entire affair.

The needlework team, from the Royal School of Needlework, that was given the task of  cutting and re-assembling the delicate lace appliques on the gown, shoes and veil with intricate hand sewing, was required to washed their hands every thirty minutes and replaced needles every 3 hours to keep their work fresh.

Upon his coronation, Prince William will be the tallest British monarch ever, at 6ft 3″ tall, making him one inch taller than Edward Longshanks who was the creepy, villianous King with the white curly beard and alleged gay son depicted in Braveheart. Remember when Mel Gibson was the good guy? Ahh the 90’s.

Princess Catherine was the oldest royal bride in history at the age of 29 years, 3 months and 20 days old….not that anyone’s counting. The youngest royal bride was Isabella of Valois, who was aged just six when she married Richard II in 1396. That would have been a great reality show, if only they had TV in the 1300’s.

Princess Catherine is allergic to horses, although she has never missed a game of Polo in which Prince William was playing.  Would you?

Princess Catherine’s mother-in-law, The Duchess of Cornwall (Camilla) is required to curtsy to the future queen, her daughter-in-law, unless her husband,Catherine’s father-in-law is in the room. In that case, Princess Catherine is required to curtsy to both of them. Princess Catherine is second in curtsy protocol only to the Queen. Can you imagine family reunions? I would need a scorecard…. and a cane.

After the wedding, Catherine placed her wedding bouquet on the tomb of the unknown soldier, as her husband’s mother and grandmother both did. Touching and thoughful….maybe that’s something all brides should do.

The wedding rings for the marriages of King George VI to the Queen mother, Queen Elizabeth to Prince Philip, Princess Margaret to Antony Armstrong Jones and Prince Charles to Princess Diana were all made from the same nugget of Welsh gold. The gold was all used up in 1981 so, the Queen commissioned a new nugget. The Duke and Duchess of York, Princes Charles, The Duchess of Cornwall and Princess Catherine’s rings were all made from this new nugget. FYI- Welsh gold is quite rare and very expensive to buy…. was there any doubt?

By the way – Prince William is the only Royal  in history to NOT wear a wedding band. Does it make a difference? I doubt if there is anyone who can read or owns a television who doesn’t know he is married so, not really that big of a deal.

Happy Anniversary William & Catherine!

-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago




Personalizing Your Wedding Invitations

Wedding invitations have evolved into something so personal and unique that you can actually get a feel for the wedding itself just by seeing (and touching) the invitation. Whether you choose parchment, custom engraving or print the invitations yourself, there are dozens of things you can do to spice up the first impression your guests will get of your wedding.

Photos – Consider incorporating your engagement photo into the invitation to make an impact.

Verses – Using your own words, maybe some sort of prose, will add an artistic flair.

Incorporate – Use touches of your culture with color and font.

Sparkle – A little sparkle never hurt anyone, right? A touch of glitter, a rhinestone or iridescent ink is very exciting.

Do not add confetti – no one likes opening an envelope with confetti in it.

Address – Consider calligraphy instead of printed address labels, it really makes an impact.

Stamps – Using a stamp with a specific theme is a nice idea. Take it a step further by using  custom photo stamps for all of your wedding postage.

Postage –  Making sure you have the correct postage will save a ton of headaches. Can you  imagine having 150 invitations returned?

The most important thing to keep in mind when selecting your wedding invitations is that you don’t forget your personal style. Keep the event and location in mind and let that dictate the style of the paper, ink, font and wording.  With literally hundreds of choices, it can get very confusing but, don’t despair – there is a style out there just right for you. 

-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago





Engagement Ring Dilemma!

What do you do if your fiance gives you an engagement ring and you hate it? It is hard to imagine but, this does happen. I can tell you firsthand that being on the receiving end of an expensive engagement  ring that you do not want to wear or that you really do not like is a sticky wicket. Do you declare your feelings up front, learn to deal with it or subversively create your own solution? Whatever the situation is you can rely on the engagement ring designs from Metal Couture to choose as per your style quotient.

In my case, I waited. Picture this: I open a small jewelry box, knowing what was inside and opened to find the most hideous thing I had ever seen. There was white and yellow gold, pave diamonds, brushed and satin finish combined all together in this giant lump. It was like a diamond turd, no kidding. When I saw it I cried, literally tears came rushing down my cheeks. My (now) husband thought they were tears of joy and I did not want to destroy the moment for him. I wore it for months. I wore it and waited until the opportunity presented itself for me to tell him it was not suited to my taste. I went back to the jeweler where he got it and exchanged it for a simple diamond band. The new ring I selected was supposed to come in a set of three but, I left the other two behind feeling like taking all three was a bit much. Unbeknownst to me my husband went in hours later and bought both remaining bands which he presented to me years later, at the birth of each of our two children. He may have bizarre taste in jewelry but, he has impeccable timing and great planning skills.  I love my rings, but I love my husband more and his feelings were important to me. Important enough that if the appropriate opportunity had not come up I woud still be wearing the diamond turd and probably loving it by now.
My story has a happy ending but what do you do if the solution is not so simple, your fiance is sensitive, he doesn’t have a friend who owns a  jewelry store or there is just no way you can bear to wear the ring?

Don’t hold back.  When people hold things in, eventually they come out and you’d hate to be arguing one day and go off because you’re steaming about your ring.

Don’t waste any time. Most stores have a 30 day policy regarding exchanges. After that you will be paying considerably more to get something you like. Costco diamond jewelry comes with  open end guarantee. You can bring it back for any reason at any time for a full refund or exchange.  Who buys their engagement ring at Coscto? Don’t laugh- their  diamonds have been rated as high as one (much pricier) major jewelry company in many independent surveys.

Be sensitive.This is especially true if it is his grandmother’s ring, or a family heirloom. Subtly ask if you can have it re-styled to suit your hand. Maybe you have tiny hands and it is large ring, or vice verse. Here are some fool-proof (and often true) excuses that ease the burden for the gentleman in question:

It’s top heavy and spins on my finger

Baguettes get cloudy too quickly

Channel set diamonds are too hard for me to keep clean

The prongs keep getting caught on things (followed by ) and I’m afraid the diamond will fall out

Marquis cut diamonds make my fingers look fat

My skin reacts to yellow gold.

Whatever you decide to do, remember that this is now your responsibility, you  have to either wear it as is or “speak now or forever hold your peace”. You cannot have it both ways. If you decide to hold onto it, you are not allowed to bring it up years later or throw it in his face constantly, this is a recipe for disaster.

-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago

Counterfeit Couture – How To Avoid Fakes

In difficult economic times most people look to save a few dollars on the pricier items they need for their wedding. Since the average wedding gown costs about $1500, I would estimate that the average designer gown is about $3000. Although this seems like a great place to shave off a few dollars, it is also the place where you are most likely to be scammed when you don’t know what you are looking for.

Designer merchandise is more expensive for several reasons; a lot of time has been put into  fit, fabrics and materials are higher quality and the construction is considerably better. Considering that almost all ‘replica’ merchandise is made in China, that should tell you something.

Christian Louboutin shoes  are extremely popular right now and are about the easiest fakes to recognize. For a while, the flagship store sold the designer shoes with a baby blue sole to represnt the ‘something blue’ for brides.  If you are thinking of purchasing a pair of those rare limited edition blue soled shoes, I can offer no help as I have not seen the real or fake in person. However, the red soled Louboutins have a shiny red, flexible sole with no other color present. Fakes almost always have a thin black band at the shoe part of the sole, have a matte finish and are more stiff than the real ones. Another hint is that the back of an aunthentic Louboutin will have a smooth, straight seam with no tab or overlap. I just finished reading a shopping alert telling the story of  unscrupulous shoppers  who buy, wear and return merchandise all the time. Here’s how it works: they buy the real shoes and return the fakes. Many times the unsuspecting store employees don’t even know the difference until it is too late. Can you imagine buying a $700 pair of shoes and getting dime-store knock-offs? The word furious comes to mind, along with a few others.

Designer Bridal Gowns –Tags means nothing. A long, long time ago I used to work in a salon where we removed every tag from every sample gown the minute they arrived… I still don’t know why. The point is that we had (on hand) large containers jam-packed with authentic designer labels. If someone were not honest, they cold pass off a replica as authentic simply by sewing this into the gown of an uneducated consumer. I do not know of any reputable salon that engages in this practice but, if someone were so inclined- it is very easy to accomplish.  The best way to spot a fake is to see it in person, ask to see the sample and compare as many of the details as you can. The best way to avoid this in the first place is to shop  only with authorized retailers of the gowns you select. Contact the designer or look on their website for recommended retailers in your area. An even better way to avoid this is to purchase your gown at a trunk show where the designer or a representative is present.

Accessories –Headpieces and jewelry are harder to spot since they are not as often copied. Shop on the internet if you will, but purchase in person. When you come across a high end headpiece or jewelry designer like Maria Elena or Cheryl King you will want to make sure you are getting what  you pay for. Again, ask for an authorized dealer in your area and avoid the internet.

Purses –Glad you asked. Purses are the most often copied merchandise and the hardest to spot. It is all in the details. Sloppy stitches, buckled material, crooked stones are all signs of a fake. If you are buying a Judith Leiber bag, remember they DO NOT have serial numbers embossed like other designer bags. They are lined with leather, usually silver or gold metallic and the stones are sizes 7-12.

WORST OFFENDERS: The internet is a hotbed of fraud. Anything that seems too good to be true, probably is. If you care about the label, about the construction, fit and fabric, purchase only from  a reputable retailer. This is true for any of your wedding merchandise. Ebay has cracked down on counterfeit merchandise, at one time hosting hundreds of counterfeit items claiming to be real. Now the counterfeit items have to be sold as such. There are some legitimate, authentic designer items for sale on the internet but these items are usually  samples or have been previously worn or used. Know what condition the item is in before you buy.

How to avoid fakes:

Remember- You get what you pay for.

Never buy an item missing tags or labels.

Always purchase from a reputable, authorized dealer.

If you think you have been sold counterfeit designer merchandise, contact your state’s attorney general and file a report. Make sure you have all pertinent information including date and point of purchase, name of seller and the form of payment used. You may also have recourse through the credit card company if you purchased using  a credit card.

-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago

The Royal Wedding Workout – guilt free viewing!

The wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton is less than 24 hours away! My alarm is set for 3 am and the DVR is set to BBC America for commercial free, uninterrupted, live coverage of the events. I have even designed a mini-workout so I won’t be tempted to doze off since 4 am is a little early for me,  I don’t want to miss a thing and I don’t want to turn into a couch potato! My phone will be charged and by my side in case I need to compare notes with a kindred spirit.

I am sharing my workout with you so we can all get our day started shaking things up and not gluing our butts to the sofa for the wedding marathon!

Items you will need:
Water (bottled or otherwise) … LOTS of it!

Sneakers or shoes suitable  for movement!

Lets get started!  When the coverage begins, or when you begin watching, you can start the workout right away. Find a comfy seat with lots of room around you and you are ready!

Every time the host  says ‘Prince William’ you must take a drink of water. It is important to stay hydrated so you can stay focused and not be tempted to curl up and doze off.

Every time they say ‘Catherine Middleton’ (or any variation of her name prior to the nuptials) you must stand up, bend over and touch your toes. This reminds you that you must bow before the queen. They will be saying this a lot BEFORE the wedding but, not much after since she will have been bestowed a title by the time the affair takes place.

Every time they mention the ‘late Princess Diana’, stand up. With your feet planted shoulder width, stretch your arms up into the air five times.

When the Queen arrives, stand up and do ten jumping jacks. If she is wearing purple, do 20 more jumping jacks. I am actually excited to see what she will wear. She is known for her love of weddings and extreme love for her grandchildren, so I would bet this is probably the happiest day of her life, so far. She may be an aging monarch but she is still  a woman so, I would be willing to bet she is pulling out all the stops. Jewelry? Yes, please …..and lots of it!

When the bride’s parents arrive,  stand and bring one knee at a time up to your chest. Do this five times for each leg.

When Prince Charles arrives, do five lunges. First on the left side and then the right.  This is just to remind us all not to rush into anything no matter how good of an idea it seems at the time.

When Camilla arrives, run in place until she is seated.

When Prince Harry is shown,  stand one one foot, balancing for five seconds and then do the same with the other foot. If you can do this without picturing him in that unfortunate NAZI Halloween costume, you get an extra slice of wedding cake.

When Catherine’s car arrives, stand up once again. You are now in the presence of a future queen. Remain standing until she is at the altar.

When William and Catherine emerge from the church, stand up again.  Run in place, stretch, jog or whatever you wish. After the couple enters the carriage and begin their journey to Buckingham Palace, you can sit down.

The wedding day will more than likely begin around 2:30 am Central Standard Time so any time after that when you join, you can start right away. You can also add your own touches. I just wanted a way to get energized that early in the am without killing myself! 

For me – there is really no place I would rather be than watching this lovely couple exchange vows ….. even at that ungodly hour and from thousands of miles away!!

Since television around the world will be fixed on this wedding , so I encourage everyone to raise their glass to toast the happy couple!

Cheers!  Mazel Tov! Slainte! Prost! Salute! Skaal! L’Chaim! Kampai! Sante’!

-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago

The Royal Wedding -gown speculation continues!

There are only four days left until the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton and I am giddy! I’ve said before that I am obsessed with  this wedding but, in reality I am really only obsessed with the details of the wedding itself, mostly her gown. I am so  super-excited about this wedding that I will watch the entire thing  on the DVR… probably more than once and also more than likely bore my husband to death with the details over and over – that’s what I do. He’ll nod and pretend to care while I talk – that’s what he does.

Not knowing either of them personally or having any interest in the future of the British Monarchy, I am still riveted to the tv whenever there is talk of the royal wedding. I was watching when Diana married Charles in July 1981. That was when there were no HDTV’s or DVR’s or even VCR’s. That’s when there were no 24 hour news channesl and the paparazzi actually had some limits. That was way back in the day when the princess was supposed to marry prince charming and  live happily ever after. I thought that was the way it was.  Diana’s future was not as simple as a fairy tale. But the wedding? It was something to behold.

I still get chills when I see the images of Diana coming out of that glass coach for the first time wearing Elizabeth Emmanuel’s silk tafetta creation, smoothing the skirt slightly as she stepped forward trying to manage  the 25 ft detachable train. Detachable trains became big in the 1980’s as a result of her decision to incorporate it into her gown. For her, it was the only plausible decision since it would be technically impossible to bustle 275 yards of any fabric  successfully! Two hundred seventy five yards of fabric. Mathematically that gown today would cost over twenty thousand dollars in material alone, not to mention the hundreds of hours of labor invlved in hand-sewing pearls and sequins onto lace.  The style of her gown became quickly known as meringue and similar gowns were immediatley copied around the globe, using every fabric imaginable.  That gown transformed Diana Spencer into Princes Diana and single handedly turned her into a fashion icon. The tight bodice, full skirt and puffed sleeves eventually fell out of fashion in the bridal industry as strapless took over. Honestly I can’t wait for this trend to take a break and I know I am not the only one.

Catherine is more mature and has an obviously independent spirit. She has been co-habitating with the future king for some time now…. something that was completely taboo in 1981. She has decided to arrive by car and not the glass coach, much to the chagrin of the public. The designer of her gown has been kept secret, an impossible feat to be sure. Her hairstyle, tiara choice and jewelry choices  are all top-secret. However, every  night there is another deisgner speculating on what she will wear and who is really designing it. Most agree that it will not be strapless. All agree it will be a British designer.
Someone I know ran into someone who  knew firsthand that the designer is absolutely Sarah Burton of the Alexander McQueen label. Hmmmm. But, just yesterday I read an article on the Huffington Post that states (matter of factly),  “I can reveal that Sophie Cranston of the Libélula label is designing Miss Middleton’s gown”.  Last month it was Bruce Oldfield, when Catherine’s mther and sister were spotted leaving his boutique  and then there were the  rumors of Stella McCartney. Today I read that Miss Middleton’s gown is of her own design. It’s all very confusing and if you have a scorecard, don’t even try to keep up.

Why all the speculation? Because believe it or not, this one gown will change the designer’s life and the entire fashion industry for many years to come. It will be something that history books, talk shows, news channels and people around the world will use to catapault into the next big thing. Can you imagine that kind of pressure? No wonder the designer wants to remain secret, they have work to do!

No matter what she wears, I have a feeling there will be bits of Diana incorporated into the style. Whether it is the sleeve, the train or the fabric, she will want the bond that began with her acceptance of Diana’s engagement ring  to remain intact.  I am waiting with anticiaption and hoping this princess gets the ‘Happily Ever After’ that everyone deserves.

-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago

Kate Middleton’s Engagement Ring & The Princess Diana Connection

Now that photos are popping up all over the Internet of Kate’s engagement ring, the speculation of the tone and feel of the wedding begins with fervor. It is indeed the same ring that Princess Diana wore on her wedding day back in 1981 to Prince Charles. “Kate Middleton, the future Princess Catherine, debuted her engagement ring at St. James’s Palace in London on Tuesday,” says The Huffington Post. Those of us in the bridal business will be buzzing for months as one detail at a time of the 2011 Royal Wedding is planned and revealed. What kind of invitations will the Royals choose? What bridal designer will design Kate Middleton’s wedding gown? Vera Wang? Monique Lhuillier? Or could it be Oscar de la Renta? Or perhaps a designer from the UK like Ian Stuart? Will the entire wedding being a spectacle or a more understated affair? We in the States love a great fairytale and now 2011 brides in America will have something to be inspired by! By the way, Princess Diana’s engagement ring cost about £30,000 or $47,000 in 1981 and is made from 14 diamonds encircling a sapphire.