When Should My Band Eat?


K8T_8667 If you don't have a professional wedding planner, it may be up to you to create a wedding day timeline. One thing that is often overlooked is when the band will eat.

Read your band's contract thoroughly. There is a usually a page (or two or three) called a Rider.  This is very important information, and you'll want to share a copy with your venue coordinator. It usually details things like stage and power requirements, as well as meal requirements.

I have found that it is best for the band to eat before their first set. They will still need to take breaks, but the standard 15-minute break should be sufficient. Again, read the rider for their specific needs.

If you have any concerns about the timing, share your timeline with the band leader for his or her input. They do this every weekend, and know what works best for them!

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Why A Backup Plan Is Crucial To Your Wedding


We hear it all the time. "It's not going to rain on my wedding day!" In fact, I've been known to say it, in a wishful-thinking sort of way. But the truth is, weather is unpredictable, and it's not just rain that you need to worry about.

We're in Florida, and it's March. This week's high ranged from 59 degrees to 78 degrees. While neither of these is an extreme temperature, there is huge blizzard hitting our neighbors to the north this week. And it could just as easily be in the 30's here. Or it could rain, like it did 3 days last week.rain-umbrella

As you are planning your wedding, think about alternate locations. This is crucial if you are planning an outdoor ceremony, but think about everything else you will be doing outside - getting to the ceremony location, getting to the reception location, taking photos outside, etc.

As you are looking at your venue(s), ask yourself these questions:

  • How close can a car get to drop me off at the door? Will a limo fit into that same space?
  • Are there pretty places inside where we can take photos?
  • Is there a place to have the ceremony inside if necessary? Will it accommodate all our guests? Will I be happy with how it looks?
  • If we move the ceremony inside, how will our decor change?

We try to come up with backup plans that our brides and grooms love just as much as the primary plan. We have to use Plan B (or C or D) from time to time, but I'd much rather have a great plan in place and not need it. Spend the extra time thinking through the options as you prepare for your wedding!

(photo source)

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Multi-Cultural Wedding Tips


ChuppahI had the pleasure of attending the Association of Bridal Consultants' Central Florida East luncheon yesterday. The guest speaker was Yehudit Steinberg, the founder of the Jewish Interfaith Wedding Network. She specializes in creating ceremonies blending religions and cultures, incorporating both families' traditions and beliefs. Yehudit shared some tips that you may want to consider when planning an interfaith wedding.

1. Don't rush. Long engagements aren't a bad thing, especially when it comes to blending two cultures or religions. You'll want to explore your families' traditions, and decide as a couple which traditions to incorporate into your wedding, and your marriage.

2. Open communication. Encourage your families to be a part of your wedding preparations, especially in terms of the ceremony.

3. Address ceremony options first. Especially when you are considering marrying in a house of worship, you will want to secure the date with your officiants before planning any other aspects of the wedding.  In other words, don't book your reception venue and then find out it's Yom Kippur and no rabbi will marry you!

Be sure to visit the Jewish Interfaith Wedding Network website for more great information!

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Valentine's Day Ideas for Engaged and Newlywed Couples


bowling valentineValentine's Day is next week! And as an engaged or newly married couple, you may not have the resources for a romantic getaway or extravagant dinner. Here are some ideas to make your day special! 1. Have a picnic lunch. If your offices are nearby, why not sneak away for a long lunch at a park? (This is great for us in sunny Florida, but this may not be an option for other parts of the country. How about an indoor picnic after work?)

2. Buy a case of wine. But no, don't drink it all on Valentine's Day! Label each bottle with an event you will share in the future - such as "the birth of our first child" or "our first fight as a married couple." But don't forget to label one "Valentine's Day 2013!"

3. Cook a romantic dinner at home. But rather than one person doing all the work, one of you can cook the main course while the other does the appetizers and dessert. Check out Pinterest or AllRecipes.com for some menu ideas!

4. Personally deliver flowers. Anyone can call an 800-number and order flowers. But it's much more special if you visit a local florist and buy some loose blooms. Then surprise your special someone at work with a personal delivery!

5. Go bowling. Ok, I know what you're thinking. Bowling isn't exactly the way most people want to spend Valentine's. But guess who does? My sweetie. He bowls every Thursday night (actually Wednesdays and Thursdays), and since Valentine's Day falls on a Thursday this year, guess where he'll be? Not that I mind - I'm a fan of showing love and appreciation every day, not just one day a year! But guess what? I might just go hang out at the bowling alley next Thursday night. ♥

image source

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What is a House Party?

I know. You're asking yourself, "Isn't that what we had in college? Or for the Super Bowl?"


Well, the term "house party" actually applies to weddings too! With Florida being in "the South" but not always truly "Southern," you may not have heard this term before. Your house party is usually made up of women that you want to honor, but may not be close enough to be bridesmaids. For example, a college roommate you aren't that close to anymore, the groom's sister, or your twelve cousins.

Here are some facts about house party girls:

  • They don't stand at the alter during the ceremony, but they have seats of honor in front.
  • They may have "jobs" during the wedding: reader, guest book attendant, handing out programs, etc.
  • They don't wear the same dresses as the bridesmaids; they choose their own dress, making it much more affordable! (Often they wear a Little Black Dress)
  • They take part in all the pre-wedding festivities, such as showers, bachelorette parties, and getting-ready photos.
  • The bride gives them a small gift, similar to the bridesmaids, to thank them for their help.
  • It's a beautiful gesture to give them a corsage or hair flower to designate them as someone special on the wedding day.

What a great way to honor these special women without having 20 ladies in your bridal party! There can also be men in the house party - usually they are ushers at the ceremony, and will have similar seats of honor. They may were tuxedos, but often wear suits with boutonnieres.

(photo source)

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You're Engaged! Five Things To Do First


It's almost the start of another new year - and it's definitely the start of a new engagement season! 43% of couples get engaged between November and January according to a recent Wedding Wire survey. With that in mind, we thought we'd re-post an article from this time last year with some great tips for the top five things you should do first. Enjoy - and happy planning!

Congratulations! He popped the question, and you said yes. Your head is probably swirling with a million ideas. We've put together a list of the top five things you should do BEFORE anything else - even before picking out a dress or looking at venues!

  1. 5 things to do after you get engagedLet Your Families Know. Start with your parents, and set up a time for them to meet each other if they haven't already.  Next, share the news with siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. And of course your best friends! Once you've made these personal announcements, you can make it "Facebook official" and let everyone else in the world know.
  2. Get Your Ring Insured. This is a step most brides and grooms don't think about.  If you have homeowners' or renters' insurance, talk to your agent about adding the ring to your policy. You'll probably need an appraisal, and the original purchase receipt.
  3. Talk About Dates. Even if you don't have "the" date picked out, you should discuss a general time of year, and whether you will be willing to have a Friday or Sunday wedding.  Talk about dates with your families, and also with your officiant or house of worship to make sure you avoid any religious holidays.
  4. Make a Guest List. You'll need input from your families here too! Ask each set of parents to make their own guest list, and combine them with yours.  From this wish list, you can scale down if necessary.  It's important to have a ballpark idea of how many guests will be invited before you start looking at venues, and of course for budgeting purposes.
  5. Come Up With A Budget. If your families will be contributing financially, talk to them about the amounts they are comfortable with.  Make a list of your priorities (drop-dead photography, incredible food, over-the-top florals) and then start breaking down your budget based on those priorities. You may want to use an online calculator like the one on WeddingWire.com to help you get started.
Once you have these steps taken care of, you can start looking at wedding gowns, interviewing wedding planners, and searching for the perfect location for your big day.


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How Long Should My Wedding Reception Last?


dance floor We often meet with clients that think their wedding reception should last ALL night long. And in some cases, they are right. But more often than not, less is more when in comes to wedding receptions.

Here in Jacksonville, the typical wedding reception lasts between 4 and 5 hours.  There are some factors that will influence your reception length:

  • The type of meal being served. If you are serving a 5-course meal, your dinner will last longer than an hors d'oeuvres reception.
  • How long your cocktail "hour" will last. Many couples have a "cocktail hour" that lasts longer than an actual hour.
  • Your guest list. If most of your guests are from out of town, and are staying at or near the reception venue, they may be more likely to party later.
  • Venue restrictions. There may be sound ordinances you need to comply with, or your venue may have a limit on the number of hours in your rental fee.

Some reasons to end your reception a little earlier include:

  • The send-off. If you'd like to have a grand exit, you'll want to leave before all your guests do.
  • You'll be exhausted. You've spent a year planning every detail of this day, and the butterflies in your stomach may not let you sleep the night before!  Plus, you'll usually be up very early on the wedding day to start hair and makeup.
  • It's easier on the budget. The longer your reception lasts, the longer you will have to pay for food, drinks, and entertainment.

If you'd like a longer reception, consider staging an "after party" in a different space at your venue. Create a unique setting, and have different entertainment. Or, keep the post-reception casual by meeting at a nearby bar. Just be sure everyone has safe transportation home afterward!

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Non-Traditional Wedding Registries


With so many couples living together before the wedding, or merging two households together, the traditional gift registry may not be the most practical for every bride and groom. We've put together a list of some alternative registry options for you to consider.

Honeyfund: Register for travel and activities for your honeymoon! Also, ask your travel agent if they offer a registry program.

Wed&Wish: Register for anything you want, from honeymoon travel to items for your home. All gifts are received in the form of cash, so that you can buy exactly what you want! You could even ask for money towards a down payment on a new home.

I Do Foundation: If you truly don't want any gifts, consider a charity registry. Your guests can donate to a cause close to your hearts, and their gift may even be tax-deductible.

Whether you are registering for traditional gifts or fun adventures, be sure to keep track of the gifts you receive and send thank-you notes promptly! For gifts received before the wedding, you should send a thank-you note within two weeks.

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Pinterest and the DIY Wedding Movement


For a little over a year, Pinterest has been the hot new concept in social media. We wrote a blog post back in February about using this site as a tool for planning your wedding. Now that it has been a few months, we're starting to see some of the creativity found on Pinterest actually show up at real live weddings. Here are some things to think about as you use Pinterest or other tools to create your DIY wedding.

  • Things don't always go as planned.  Be sure you allow plenty of time to create your decorations, try out your hair style, or make your bridesmaids' gifts. And by "plenty of time," I mean a few months. Not the week of the wedding! Things don't always turn out the way you think they will on the first attempt - if you don't believe me, check out blogs like Pinstrosity, CraftFail or PinterestFail for proof.  (photo from CraftFail's blog post, "Enter The Pom Poms of Sadness")
  • Designate someone to setup your creations. You don't want to be hanging your moss-covered initials while you are wearing your wedding gown. Find a crafty friend that can get to your venue early to put everything in it's place - you'll want to give your friend a very detailed diagram of where things go, and the freedom to fix things if they don't work exactly as you've planned.
  • Realize that you may not save money. When you need to buy vases for your flowers, or all the paper to make your invitations, the costs can add up quickly. Not to mention that you may need to invest in other equipment to complete these projects. If saving money is your top priority for DIYing it, be sure to look at all the costs before starting a project.
  • Styled wedding shoots are not real weddings. Many blogs and magazines feature photos of tablescapes or other decor elements that were created just for a photo shoot. While they are beautiful, they may not be 100% practical for a real wedding. The photographer may have shot 100 images to get one or two that look "perfect." The Martha Stewart version of the tissue pom poms shown here may have been completely flat on the other side. The magazine layout won't care, but your guests will.

If you are a crafty or artistic person by nature, then by all means add some hand-crafted touches to your wedding. Otherwise, find a designer you can create the look you want.

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Beach Wedding Tips


Even though summer is winding down in most parts of the country, here in Florida it is still perfect beach weather! I personally don't recommend having the ceremony on the actual beach, for several reasons: the on-looking public, noise, wind, sand everywhere, not to mention Speedo-guy in the background of your photos. We have several lovely locations here in North Florida and South Georgia that overlook the beach while minimizing some of these issues. But, if you do choose to have your ceremony on the beach, here are some things to consider:

  • Always have a backup plan. Weather in Florida is so unpredictable, and the soft ocean breeze can easily become a tropical storm force wind in a matter of hours. While a tent may be an option, it may not be the best solution.
  • Think about access for older guests. Can your grandparents walk easily in the sand? If not, designate a family member (not someone in the bridal party) to help them.
  • Warn guests that ceremony will be on the beach. Make it clear on the invitation that guests should be prepared to remove their shoes or wear sandals for the ceremony. Nothing is worse than high heels and panty hose on the beach.
  • Have water available for your guests. Even when the temperatures are in the 80's, it can be hot in the sun. Remember that your guests will begin arriving about 30 minutes before your ceremony time, so have a water station to quench their thirst. Add some cucumber to the water for a fun treat!
  • Have towels to wipe off feet. As I mentioned previously, there will be sand everywhere. It's a nice touch for your guests to be able to clean up before entering the reception.
  • Rent a sound system. The sounds of the surf are romantic, but they make it difficult for your guests to hear what is being said during the ceremony. Be sure to ask about battery-operated systems, since chances are you won't have a power outlet nearby.
  • Provide sunscreen in welcome bags. Some of your guests may be sensitive to the sun, even if your ceremony is at sunset. Add some sunscreen to your welcome bags, or have it available at your water station.

(photo from Shanae and Marlon's wedding at The Lodge and Club at Ponte Vedra Beach, by Naturally Photography)

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Broadcasting Your Wedding


With modern technology, our world has grown smaller and we are able to communicate with loved ones around the globe in ways that our great-grandparents could never imagine. Why not share your wedding with friends and family that aren't able to travel to share your special day? It may seem daunting to set up a broadcast of your wedding ceremony. but live broadcast isn't just for royal weddings anymore. There are several services that make it very simple! First, check with your videographer. This may be a service they offer, since many companies offer broadcasting services to their corporate clients. If yours doesn't, there are some other options available.

Livestream sells a nifty device that broadcasts HD quality video directly from the camera, no computer needed. At $495, it's not a cheap option but it's a high quality one. The Broadcaster is pictured here (photo from the Livestream website), I think it's a pretty genius idea!

For cheaper alternatives, you could even use Skype, FaceTime, or Google+ Hangouts to share video. There are so many great options available to you!Wedding-specific broadcasts are the specialty of "I Do" Stream. Their options range from $199 to $595, depending on whether you have equipment or not.

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Planning Your Wedding Menu


When you begin planning your wedding menu, there are many more decisions to make that just sit-down or stations/buffet. Here are some tips to consider: Think about what foods are in season at the time of your wedding. In-season fruits and vegetables are more budget friendly too!

Choose foods that will pair nicely both in flavor and in presentation. Monochromatic may work as a wedding color scheme, but it doesn't work well on a plate. Be sure to choose a variety of colors and textures for your meal.

Avoid overly spicy foods. There are few things worse that heartburn during your wedding reception!

Ask your caterer about alternate meals for vegetarians, vegans, and those with food allergies. They will usually offer an alternate entree that will meet all these needs.

Consider printing menu cards that detail the meal and include them at each place setting. If someone does have a concern about a menu item, they can ask their server.

Don't be afraid to ask your caterer about incorporating a family recipe into your menu. Most chefs love to try new recipes, with enough advance notice.

(photo by La Dolce Vita Studios)

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Do You Need A Professional Makeup Artist?


Professional Makeup For Your Wedding DayYES!

(Ok, I'll elaborate...)

Many brides, especially those on tight budgets, are quick to think, "I look pretty good on a daily basis, I can do my own makeup for my wedding." And while, yes, this is true, there are many reasons to hire a pro:

  • Being on time. Think back to your senior prom, when you did your own hair and makeup. Did things go exactly as planned? Usually not.
  • Less stress. Why not sit in a chair for an hour and relax while someone makes you more beautiful? Much better than standing in the hotel room's bathroom.
  • Play up your best features and hide any flaws. Just because your photographer can photoshop that zit, he or she doesn't want to have to do that in 1,000 photos. A professional makeup artist can hide any little imperfections without making them more obvious.
  • Long-lasting coverage. You'll be sweating, dancing, kissing, and eating during your wedding day. And from the time your makeup is done in the morning to the time you leave your reception, that can be a 10-hour day.
  • Proper intensity for photographs. We've all seen those photos of brides whose face looks three shades lighter than the rest of their body, or they look like they aren't wearing makeup at all. Just like models have more dramatic makeup, you'll need to step it up a bit for your wedding day too. A professional makeup artist knows how to achieve this while still making you look like "you."

The most important step in hiring a makeup artist is scheduling a trial run. You'll want to be sure you're happy with the results, but long before the wedding day. In fact, having your makeup done the same day as your engagement photos kills two birds with one stone! Then, if you aren't happy with the look, you have time to make adjustments rather than having a melt-down on your wedding day.

Photo from Megan and Vivek's Wedding - Makeup Artist: Kimtasha (be sure to check out the before and after photos on her website!) - Photographer: La Dolce Vita Studio

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Buff Bride - Losing a Few Pounds For Your Wedding


It happens. We all gain a few pounds here and there. And if you channel surf at any point during the day, you'll see a least a dozen infomercials for losing the weight. An exercise program, a dietary supplement, a food plan. So what should you do if you want to shed those unwanted pounds before your wedding?

  1. Don't do anything drastic. If you don't eat for three days before your wedding, no one will want to be around your cranky self. Including your husband.
  2. Do more activity to burn calories. When you are planning your wedding, you tend to get wrapped up in the details and spend hours sitting in front of the TV watching reality shows or flipping through bridal magazines. Get up, take a walk with your fiance, or watch Bridezillas on the treadmill at the gym.
  3. Don't forget about weight training. It's easy to think cardio is the only way to lose weight. But if you are dieting, you risk losing muscle along with fat unless you do resistance training to keep up the muscle.
  4. Try to eat every three to four hours. Plan out your meals the night before, and pack your lunch and snacks to take with you to the office.
  5. Drink plenty of water. Which is a good rule of thumb in general, but it can keep your metabolism running strong too.

Most importantly, think about making some lifestyle changes permanently, not just before the wedding. Get into the habit of working out with your fiance, learn to cook healthy meals together, or find an activity you can both enjoy.

(To keep the lawyers happy: Be sure to consult your physician before starting any new diet or exercise program)

photo source

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DIY Wedding Maps


Chances are, you'll need a map to include with your wedding invitations. If you are having your invitations custom designed, you graphic artist will probably create one for you. But what if you aren't? There are lots of websites and artists that can create pretty maps for you. But did you know you can do it yourself? I didn't really believe it either, so I made one for our office location! Here's how it works... {Word of Caution: Don't rush this project! Give yourself plenty of time, and work on it over a few nights. If you lack patience, consider hiring someone instead.}

Step 1: Find your locations in Google Maps, Mapquest, Bing, or another online source. If you will have multiple locations, be sure to zoom out wide enough to show them all. You'll be tracing this map, so be sure you are happy with its size, zoom and position. Use Print Screen to capture the image.

Step 2: If you have access to a drawing program, like Adobe Illustrator, open it up and paste your map into a new drawing. If you don't have Illustrator, you can accomplish the same thing using Microsoft PowerPoint! Paste your image in a new slide to get started.

Step 3: Use the drawing tools to trace the main streets on your maps. If you are using PowerPoint, use the Curve tool to trace most roads. You can also adjust the thickness for major roads, and add text boxes to add labels. Remember, it doesn't need to be exact, as long as all the roads are where they should be. Once you have all the roads traced, delete the original Google map and check out your design!

Step 4: Add icons to your map for your ceremony and reception locations - Google "free wedding clipart" to find some cute images. You could also add rehearsal dinner locations, or any other places your guests will need to find.

Step 5: In PowerPoint, use the Select All command to select all the elements of your map. Once everything is selected, right click and choose the Save As Picture option. A dialogue window will open allowing you to save your map as an image file.  Depending on the size your printed map needs to be, it may be better to save the file as a PDF.

That's it! This is my finished product:

Not too bad for a couple hours work!

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10 Wedding Budget Busters


Creating a realistic budget should be one of the first steps a newly-engaged couple take. But even the best budget won't work if you leave things out! We've put together a list of the top 10 most overlooked wedding costs:

  1. Postage - Wedding invitations come in every shape and style these days. Just remember that square wedding invitations and thicker paper stocks create a heavier package, which means more postage. Your invitation envelopes can range from a regular stamp (currently 45 cents) to a 2-ounce stamp (currently 65 cents) or even more. If you invitation is square, add on a little more too. A 2-ounce square envelope will be 85 cents currently. Plus, remember that all of your response card envelopes need a stamp too! For 100 invitations, budget at least $150 for postage.
  2. Wedding Gown Alterations, Steaming, and Dry Cleaning - You've found the perfect gown. But does it fit exactly perfectly? Chances are, probably not. Depending on the type of work to be done, and the style of your dress, alterations can run from $100 to $600 or more. Most brides spend an average of $350. Some gown shops or seamstresses will include steaming your dress just before the wedding to get the wrinkles out. If yours didn't, add another $50-200 for this service.  And once the wedding is over, you'll want to clean and possibly preserve your wedding gown; this service generally costs $150-300.
  3. Sales Tax - Almost everything you purchase, rent or contract will have sales tax added. Be sure that you calculate this into everything, including your food and beverage charges.
  4. Welcome Bag Delivery - Most hotels charge between $1 and $10 to deliver welcome bags to guests' rooms. If you plan on using this service, figure that amount into your budget.
  5. Vendor Meals - Your photographers, videographers, and wedding planners will be with you for 8+ hours on your wedding day. They need food. In addition, your band or DJ's contract may require a meal. Most venues or caterers have special pricing for vendor meals that typically don't include the hors d'oeuvres, salads and desserts. Be sure to ask when you are talking about menus!
  6. Overtime Fees - It's been an awesome party, and you just don't want the night to end. Your wedding planner or the venue's banquet captain comes to you and asks if you'd like to extend the reception. YES! But wait. What will it cost? You'll most likely have an extra rental fee from the venue, charges to pay the service staff and bartenders to stay longer, plus overtime fees from your band, DJ, photographer, videographer, and wedding planner.
  7. Delivery and Setup Fees - All the beautiful table linens, centerpieces and chairs that you ordered need to get the venue. Be sure to factor in delivery fees! And be sure to ask who will tie those pretty chair sashes. If your venue coordinator or wedding planner won't do it, you'll need to pay someone to do the setup.
  8. Gratuities: Some wedding professionals include a gratuity in their contracts. Others will leave it to your discretion. Be sure to read your contract carefully, and make a list of people you will need to tip the day of the wedding. This list might include limo drivers, hair stylists, makeup artists, officiants, and musicians.
  9. Favors: Those cute little favors you found on Etsy that are only $4.00 each? Those add up to $600 if you have 150 guests! Have your wedding planner put together a list of options in different price points to find something your budget will like as much as you do.
  10. Parking/Valet Charges: Many resorts and urban hotels have parking charges, whether your guests use valet or self parking. It's my philosophy that the hosts should pay for parking, not the guests. If your venue doesn't offer parking, you may want to rent spaces in a nearby parking garage for your guests. Nothing is worse than having half of your guests late to your reception because they couldn't find parking!

I hope you have enjoyed reviewing this list of most commonly overlooked wedding costs! Happy budgeting...

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Bridal Shower Recipe Fun


Letterpress Recipe Card BoxMy mom and I were recently visiting my 97-year-old Great Aunt Cora, and the conversation turned to cookies. Even at 97, Aunt Cora can still remember who preferred peanut butter and who preferred chocolate chip.  Each Christmas, she would make batches and batches of cookies, seal them into decorative tins, and give them as gifts. I never understood why I had to share a tin with my mom - but now as an adult, when I think of how many hours of baking that was, I get it! After cookies, we talked about other favorite family meals, and there was a slightly-heated discussion about who is in possession of Aunt Cora's invaluable recipe box. That conversation got me thinking - my generation, and those younger than me I'm sure, don't really treasure recipes. If we want to try something new for dinner, we turn to Google or AllRecipes.com, rather than a treasured family recipe box. So for your bridal shower, why not start your own?

How it works: Include a recipe card with the shower invitations. Be sure to include instructions for your guests to write down their favorite recipe and bring it with them to the party. You might want to write a meal type on the cards, so that you don't end up with all cookie recipes! If it is a small shower of mostly family, you may even want to ask each guest to bring their dish with them, pot-luck style.

My tip: Choose a recipe card that is blank on the back. Then ask each guest to write a little note with the origin of the recipe, a special memory of you, or a wish for you and your husband. I love the stylish letterpress recipe set shown here from OneCanoeTwo Letterpress on Etsy.

During the party, be sure to save time to ooh and aah over all the recipes in your collection!

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Don't Forget To Relax!


We see so many couples get completely wrapped up in their wedding plans. And yes, it is an important day. Some say, THE most important day. But it is just ONE day, after all! Now is the time that you should also be focusing on building your relationship. Take some time off from work, school, and yes, wedding planning to spend some time together. Here are a few cheap (or even free!) activities to do around Jacksonville as a couple:

  • Art Walk: Downtown Jacksonville's Art Walk is held from 5:00 pm to 9:00 pm on the first Wednesday of each month. 30-40 galleries, museums, restaurants, bars and other businesses showcase visual and live art. Art Walks are also held at the beaches and in St. Augustine.

  • Riverside Arts Market: Every Saturday from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm, Riverside comes alive with the Riverside Arts Market. RAM features the work of up to 160 artists, musical entertainment, street performers, food vendors, and a fresh produce market! Admission and parking are free.

  • Apron's Cooking School: The Publix location on San Jose Blvd. at I-295 has a hidden secret - it's home to one of only seven Apron's Cooking Schools in the country! Check out their Couples Cooking series, including topics like Great Grilling and Mexico. While prices range from $40-60 per person, you get a great meal, often paired with beer or wine.

  • Cummer Museum: From 4:00 pm to 9:00 pm on Tuesday evenings, admission to the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens is free! Grab a bite to eat at the Tree Cup Cafe and enjoy dinner in the beautiful gardens.

  • Candlelight Tours of Ft. Clinch State Park: Guided tours of Fort Clinch take place Friday and Saturday evenings after sundown during the summer. Reservations are required for Candlelight Tours. While you are in Fernandina Beach, have dinner in the historic district!

  • Friendship Fountain: Long known as an icon of downtown Jacksonville, the Friendship Fountain underwent a massive renovation last year. There are now nightly light shows set to music from 8:30 pm to 10:00 pm. Stop by Bistro AIX to pick up a delicious dessert as you enjoy the show! (Shown in the photo above, via COJ.net)

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Can A Wedding Planner Save Me Money?


wedding budget worksheetA lot of websites and blogs claim that hiring a wedding planner can save you money. And a lot of brides and grooms read that as, "I'll get discounts." In today's post, we'll explore this topic in detail. Prioritize Your Budget

The best way that a wedding planner can help you save money is by helping you prioritize your budget. He or she should sit down with you to discuss what is most important to you - fantastic view, great food, terrific band, lush floral displays to name a few. Then we'll look at your total budget, and offer suggestions on how best to splurge on your top priorities will cutting back on the things that aren't important to you. It's best to do this before you book any other services, so that you aren't locked into anything that won't fit into your budget.

Avoid Making Expensive Mistakes

Couples often dive into booking a venue or a photographer or a dress before they allocate their total wedding budget into smaller categories. An example may be:

My wedding budget is $40,000, so this venue with the $20,000 food and beverage minimum will be perfect.

In theory, this sounds great. Food and beverage costs are typically somewhere between 40% and 50% of your total budget.  But let's look a little closer. That same venue has an average menu price of $150 per person. You're expecting 200 guests. That brings the total to $30,000. Add on tax and gratuity, plus room rental fees, bartender/chef charges, and other miscellaneous expenses, and you could easily be a $40,000 spent AT THE VENUE ALONE. You still need a dress, entertainment, flowers, stationery... the list goes on and on.

With the help of a good planner, you can avoid the costly mistakes by having a pro analyze your decisions with you and help you get the most bang for your buck.

Relationship-Based Discounts or Upgrades

It is true that your planner may be able to offer some discounts or upgrades from time to time. For example, your planner may rent $20,000 worth of linens from the same rental company each year, so he or she may get a discount on their orders that may be passed on to you. A photographer that really likes working with your planner may throw in a complimentary engagement session or upgrade you to a better album in order to get your business. A baker may not charge a rental fee on a cake stand because she trusts that the planner will return it promptly and in good condition.

While "saving money" shouldn't be a top priority when choosing a wedding planner, it is a definite perk that you should look into.

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Pearls For Your Wedding - Or Everyday


Even though Florida isn't always considered "The South," I have always felt like a Southern girl. And as such, I know that a strand of pearls goes with everything, from a business suit to a pretty sundress to jeans and a sweater at a football game. Pearls are timeless, classic, and versatile. There are three key pieces that should be in every girl's jewelry box:

  • A classic single strand necklace (16" to 18" flatters most women.)
  • Pearl stud earrings (7mm is a good size for everyday use.)
  • A strand of colored pearls  (my faves are pink! Other popular options include gold, black, and gray.)

Then add in some little extras:

  • A super-long strand that can be knotted, layered, or even wrapped into a bracelet (Coco Chanel loved  the 60" rope of pearls, and was quoted as saying "Every woman should have ropes  and ropes  of pearls!")
  • A pretty pearl pendant, hung from a sterling silver chain
  • A multi-strand bracelet embellished with some sparkly jewels

On your wedding day, you may want something simple that can become a family heirloom, or you may want something extravagant. We were recently introduced to Pearl & Clasp, a jewelry company located in New York's Diamond District that specializes in - you guessed it - pearls and clasps. Here are some pretty options beyond the basic strand of pearls, although they do those too!

Another service they offer is pearl restringing. Imagine taking a family heirloom necklace that is a bit dated, and having it restrung into a new piece for your wedding! Or, they could add a beautiful new clasp to your necklace to make it unique.

As a special bonus for our readers, Pearl & Clasp has offered a special discount of 20% off any item on their website (use promo code Heather20). They also offer free restringing with the purchase of a clasp, and shipping for orders over $175 is free as well.

What kind of pearls will you wear on your wedding day?

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