Thursday, August 8, 2013

Wedding Budget: Coordinating Multiple Parties with Ease

By Cherie Johnson

Photo from /
For husbands-and-brides-to-be with large, extended families, they often find that both sets of parents, and perhaps even grandparents, want to chip in to help defray the soaring cost of today's weddings, which, on average, come in at a whopping $20,000. Many couples, too, are electing to pick up the rest of the slack. Corralling so many people who want to help with the wedding budget can be a virtual nightmare though. Before simply accepting their good wishes and checks, the very first thing you should do is sit down with your fiance and chart a course of action to ensure you've covered every element of your wedding that requires a significant contribution. Planning a wedding with a budget in mind comes down to knowing what you're looking for in terms of venue, vendors and necessities -- this, however, can be easily put to rest with a systematic budget planning roadmap.

Planning a Wedding with a Budget in Mind
An itemized wedding budget detailing the specifics -- such as the dress, food/drinks, venue, flowers and band -- will ensure you've covered all the major aspects of your wedding day.

At the top of your worksheet, spreadsheet or what have you, list what you've decided is a reasonable amount to spend on the wedding. On the left hand side, make each specific and significant element that you must or would like to have a line item. For instance, the ceremony, which encompasses the venue/place of worship, wedding officiant and any licenses would be listed here. Decide on a true and honest estimate of what you're willing to spend planning a wedding on a budget, and then at a later day, add what you actually spent so that you can keep accurate track of your finances. Other items in the left hand column should consist of things such as the reception (food/drinks, cake, favors, venue, etc.); wedding attire (bride's clothing and shoes, makeup, hair, groom's clothing and accessories); rings/jewelry, flowers (for the entire party and at both venues); musician/band/DJ; photograpy; transportation (if applicable); invitations and signage; and anything else that would cause a significant dent in your wedding budget. Remember to include such essential fees as tips for vendors (about 15% to 20%), trial hair and makeup sessions and dress/tuxedo cleanings and pressings.

As far as planning a wedding on a budget with your parents, his parents and any other well-wishers (step parents perhaps), show them your finalized wedding budget at an informal, yet constructive meeting. Discuss costs and who can realistically afford what. In days past, it was common -- and expected -- for the bride's parents to pay for everything, a modern dowry in a sense. Today's weddings no longer involve such a considerable sacrifice, though it is still carried on by many traditionalists. At this meeting, you'll want to discuss how the payments will be made; maybe your parents would like to split something or pay for one segment of the wedding entirely. Will they be giving you one lump sum in a check or visiting vendors with you to pay upfront? Such concerns about planning a wedding on a budget should be dealt with by a frank talk that involves all parties.

Many wedding budget planners suggest opening a separate wedding account at your bank that's not linked with any of your personal accounts. This simple action will help you more carefully figure out what's been spent on the wedding and where the funds are going. You should also set aside an additional 5 to 10% of your overall wedding budget should mishaps arise. The likelihood that you will go over your budget is almost a given; the amount to which you do can be controlled, in most instances, by careful wedding planning, and that budget of 5 to 10% extra you've stashed away will come in handy. Scaling back from the get-go is a huge help; this includes things like not having a buffet (wasted food), having fewer bridesmaids and offering just wine and beer at the reception (alcohol is a major expenditure). Still, if these are must-haves, just be cautious of vendors who try to upsell you to some better, improved service that you probably don't need. Research is a crucial part of planning a wedding on a budget, so make sure you do your fair share before visiting vendors and venues.

Fine-tuning Your Wedding Budget for Success
Far too many couples forget about planning a wedding with a budget in mind and have a bang-up, blow-out bash that ends up putting them in the red. Add that to any other debts, and you're starting your marriage -- which should be thoroughly exciting -- with a gray cloud over your heads. A well-planned wedding budget that's done from the start -- with nothing unaccounted for -- will ensure that you can mosey off to your honeymoon with nothing else to worry about but enjoying yourselves.

Cherie Johnson is the founder and owner of Creative Wedding Favors, a one-stop shop for personalized, unique baby and bridal shower, graduation, quinceanera, anniversary and wedding favors, helping countless couples and families make their big events a success. Cherie's wedding advice has appeared on several websites including Little Wedding Guide, Wedding Lenox and the Wedding Source. Before she launched her company in 2006, Cherie worked as a professional wedding photographer, capturing the most special moments of the bride and groom's big day. For more information on Creative Wedding Favors or to find a variety of colorful, customizable gifts and favors, please visit

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

5 Ways to Be Sure Your Bridesmaids Don't Hate You After Your Wedding

Photo Credit \ Brooke Anderson

If you've ever been a bridesmaid, you probably know that it's no easy task. Check out five painless ways you can keep your friendships together in the middle of planning your wedding:

Keep in mind that you're the one getting married, not your entire circle. Planning your wedding -- no matter how small or low-key -- can become all-consuming. However, your bridesmaids still have lives to attend to. Yes, your wedding is important to your friends, but they do have other things going on that often take precedence.

Be considerate when choosing their attire. Blowing $300 (after alterations) for a dress you'll probably only wear once? Not cool. There are plenty of other fashionable and affordable places that offer bridesmaids dresses such as J. Crew and Ann Taylor. Also, remember: Any dress can be transformed into a bridesmaids dress if it fits your vision; don't be scared to think outside the box.

Check out the other three tips here.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Wedding Party Gifting Dos and Don'ts

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Your wedding party has been there for you through the good and the bad. To thank them appropriately, it's customary to give gifts to show your appreciation for all they've done. Here are a few dos and don'ts to think about:

Be unique. If you've ever been in a wedding party, most likely, you already know the gift routine. The typical gifts -- beer steins, watches and necklaces -- are great; however your friends probably already have lots of these items. If you really want to "knock their socks off," think of something outside the box. Check out websites like Etsy Weddings and Pinterest for unique options. Also, local vintage shops are great places to find one-of-a-kind gifts.

Don't procrastinate. Let's face it, shopping at the last minute is always a stressful experience. And that stress is multiplied when you're trying to put the finishing touches on your wedding. Chris Easter, co-founder of The Man Registry, suggests completing your shopping no later than one month prior to your wedding. If you wait too long, you may end up paying extra shipping or rush charges for purchases you make with online specialty shops. Additionally, keep in mind that some personalized gifts need extra time to create and ship.

Read the other dos and don'ts here.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

RSVP Woes in Wedding Planning

Photo Credit: Matt Hutchinson

You would be hard pressed to find a couple who hasn't experienced surprise, anger, hurt or disappointment about who didn't come to their wedding and who did not RSVP without having to be asked (after the deadline).

What is going on with people? Why aren't they able to fill out a stupid card with a stamp already on it and tell you they are going to come or not come to your wedding? And then show up if they said they were coming!

The RSVP deadline is where the rubber meets the road in wedding planning. Until this point, you can live in fantasy land. You dream of the big day, you count everyone you want to be there and budget accordingly, finding the right reception space, deciding on the food and festivities surrounding the big day. The mythical princess moment is just around the corner and soon, you will have The Final Guest List or the final cast of characters to witness your Cinderella moment.

Getting those RSVP cards in the mail every day can be as exciting as the actual wedding gifts.

Ironically, this is often the small window of life when you diligently RSVP to friends' weddings. When you're single, you have no clue about the enormous task of wedding planning, and when you're married, you either get amnesia, or you're busy having your last pre-child moments, being pregnant or raising children. A simple RSVP card is just another item on a busy checklist of activities for those marrieds/singles. I remember a married-with-kids coworker of mine said to me about RSVP cards, "I figure if I don't respond, they know I'm not coming." I wanted to strangle her.

I admit, I'm in the amnesia camp with the exception of one guest who was unreachable until after the final catering count and who, to add some extra blood pressure, was also bringing an uninvited guest (someone he barely knew but had a crush on). This was two days after the catering deadline, plus an uninvited guest. The person is still living because he was a guest on my husband's side, so I stayed away from him (with a strong warning of my parents and husband to chill out). The woman he invited did end up dating our guest.

The bubble bursts when you find out that your Cinderella day turns out to be just another day for most of your guests. Your rational side knows this is not the biggest day to them, but you are shocked that they can't just respond, or you are hurt and disappointed when they decide not to come for lame reasons. (I recently heard about guests having a lot of household chores that weekend, so they wouldn't be able to make it. I was at a wedding with a half empty reception hall because a full 70 people RSVP'ed yes and no-showed. There was clearly some family drama going on there!). Hopefully, you have enough cheerleaders to keep you from being weighed down by the emotion of it all.

How do you, then, rethink your wedding when you estimated for 200 and only 100 will make it? Or when you have a huge ballroom and it will be half empty instead of brimming full? Or when the reasons cherished guests give for not coming are shockingly pathetic and dismissive on your big day? Or when they don't show and don't bother to call you to explain?

First of all, I hope this article normalizes what you're going through. You are not alone -- far from it. For any story you have, there is going to be someone else with a way worse story. Then, it's a matter of letting yourself feel whatever you are feeling about it. (Your emotions may range from, "Oh well, the important thing is I'm getting married" to "What a flipping idiot!" to "I can't believe someone would be that rude!").

The next choice is how you are going to set aside strong negative emotions, temporarily or permanently. You can't let these people ruin the build up to your wedding. Are you going to forgive or forget or stew? You can ask yourself if this is worth altering a friendship -- maybe yes, maybe no. For sure, now is not the time to make nasty phone calls or worse, write flaming emails. I encourage you to talk with your spouse-to-be. Life is full of disappointments and hurts, and this is a perfect time to remind yourself that you are marrying this person for his or her support. You can let them know what you need in the moment. Sometimes, it's as simple as, "Honey, I am going to vent right now. Please just listen!" or you may want to actually ask to get a rational perspective on why the wedding will still be wonderful and life will go on with or without the offending persons or the modified guest list or altered plans.

Once you have wrapped your head around the new wedding guest list, remind yourself of the love and support you are getting from everyone who will be there in person or in spirit. Weddings are a community event, and the number of people who are there has nothing to do with the quality of your supportive community. Most of us would take one great friend over 10 acquaintances. Your wedding day is a huge day for you, and nobody can change that by their inconsiderateness. Bask in the glorious day surrounded by those who love you and are witnessing the beginning of your married life.

Elizabeth Doherty Thomas is a co-founder of The First Dance, along with Marriage and Family therapist father Bill Doherty. The First Dance is a 2007 Modern Bride Trendsetter award-winner for taking on the complex family dynamics of wedding planning. See what engaged couples and wedding professionals are saying about their book "Take Back Your Wedding." Their entire website is dedicated to offering advice on working through the people stresses of wedding planning as a couple, with your families and how to strengthen your upcoming marriage through this enormous first task of married life.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Tips for Throwing A Festive 4th of July Party

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The 4th of July is right around the corner, but you still have time to put together an amazing party for your friends and family. Check out these tips:

Evite your family and friends. When you're planning a party at the last minute, take advantage of technology to get the word out. Websites like or allow you to send free email invitations and keep track of your guest list. Additionally, make a Facebook event and invite your friends.

Decorate the party with stars and stripes. Of course, flags can be a main theme for your party decor. Small flags are not only affordable, they can also be found at any party supply store or superstore. Other decorations to consider are balloons, paper lanterns and flowers in red, white and blue. For your table centerpieces, you can use Mason jars or other glass containers and fill them with red, white and blue jelly beans or other candy.

Set up a craft table. Kids love to make crafts, so set up a crafting station at your party where the kids can make 4th of July star wands, patriotic handprint flags and American flag tissue paper wreaths. You can come up with a craft that kids of all ages can do together or something that teens can help the younger ones put together. Another idea: Have a beading table where children can make necklaces and bracelets. Just keep in mind that beads can be a choking hazard, so supervise the project at all times, or just let the older children participate.

Celebrate the states. Add a little fun to your party by making it a 50 states theme. Have your guests dress up (or act) like someone from a different state. Having a potluck? You can have each guest choose a state, then bring a dish or food that particular state is known for.

Allow everyone to pitch in. Hosting a 4th of July party doesn't mean you have to do it all. Ask your guests to bring drinks and side dishes, while you provide the grilled food. You can ask them to bring traditional sides (like potato salad), but encourage guests to bring something that reminds them of their own family traditions; and you might find a new tradition to try.

Serve patriotic desserts. Grilling is awesome, but you don't want to forget the desserts. You can find some ideas by checking out our source here.

What tips do you have for throwing a fun and festive 4th of July party? Please share by leaving a comment!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Tips for Planning Your Wedding Rehearsal Dinner

Check out these tips for pulling off your rehearsal dinner without a hitch:

When to have it: While most people have their rehearsal dinner the evening before their wedding, right after the ceremony run-through, you can have yours whenever works best for you.

Paying for it: Usually, the groom's parents plan and pay for the rehearsal dinner. However, these days, many couples pay for it themselves or ask both sets of parents to contribute to the cost. If you feel strongly about which venue is chosen, you should start talking about everyone's plans.

Who you invite: Must-includes are: all members of the wedding party (with their spouses/dates); parents of flower girls and ring bearers, if the little ones are invited; all parents, stepparents and grandparents of the bride and groom and siblings who aren't in the wedding party (and their spouses/significant others); and many times, the officiant and his/her spouse. Out-of-town guests should be invited as well, but if you'd rather keep the gathering more intimate, schedule an event for them at another location, like a restaurant, the hotel where they're staying or informal cocktails at a friend's or relative's home.

Formality: It can be however formal (or informal) you want it to be, but it should not be more formal than the actual wedding. Whatever style you choose, send the rehearsal dinner invitations after you've received wedding RSVPs.

Where to have it: Try to keep it simple. Places to consider: a restaurant (preferably one with a private room); someone's back yard; or a pizza place for a super-casual shin dig. As long as you and your guests are comfortable, relaxed and having a good time, anything goes.

And don't forget these moments:

Toasts. If the groom's father is hosting, he can welcome guests with a formal toast, or the best man can do it. Then, other-well wishers can toast as well (keep in mind that toasts can be a little longer and more humorous at the rehearsal dinner than at the wedding). Be ready to rise and thank those who've toasted you. And later, you and your fiance may want to take a minute to toast each other and thank your hosts.
Gifts. Give your bridesmaids and groomsmen their thank-you presents, particularly if it's something they'll need for the wedding.
Performances: If secular readings or popular songs aren't right for the ceremony, you can include them in the rehearsal dinner.
Special presentations. A lot of rehearsal dinners have videos that incorporate footage from the bride's and groom's pasts.


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

How to Throw The Best Birthday Party Ever

By Annette Yeturn 

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Are you one who has determined that having birthday parties at home is just too stressful so you avoid them with fear and trembling? A little planning can go a long way. With it, you can help turn a potentially chaotic mess into a wonderful birthday party that your child will remember for the rest of his life.

So how do you throw the best birthday party ever and still remain sane? Let's review four top tips to help make the day stress-free:

Make a Plan -- A birthday checklist will help to keep you on track and in control. No more "Oh, I hope I didn't forget something." With this single step, you will have built-in reminders and will take the pressure off instantly. Include even the things that you know you won't forget like 'bake a cake' or 'buy paper goods' just so you know that everything is there and will be taken care of. Have a section on your list to keep track of the items you need to buy as well as a detailed timeline. This also helps if you have people helping you with the party as they will know what's been done and still needs to be done on your checklist.

Get the birthday child involved -- Keep in mind that your child is the focus of the day, so he should be consulted and involved in a majority of the planning and preparations. It may take some extra time but having him involved will really make him feel special -- and that's the goal of the day after all! Have him choose the theme, take him with you when you shop for the party favors and paper goods -- ask him what he wants! You'll be glad you did!

Grab a photographer -- You want to remember the day in photos, but often, the last thing on your mind during the party is taking pictures because you're so busy with the kids, the parents or getting the candles on the cake that the camera gets left on the counter unused. Snag one of the other parents or a neighbor friend to be in charge of the photography of the day. Make sure you communicate which pictures you want to have taken if you special ones you want, but otherwise, let them just snap away. The beauty of a digital camera is that you can take tons of pictures and delete the ones that don't work.

Hire help -- Ask an older sibling or cousin to assist you during the planning and especially on the birthday party day. Your helpers can serve as clean up crew or even be in charge of the games and activities. This way. you can focus on your child or the guest's parents, etc. You can, of course, pay them a small wage for their time, give them a special present or gift certificate from you for their help.

These small steps and some advanced preparation will help you to have a fun, memorable party without pulling your hair out. Keep your birthday child as the focus, and the rest of the day will go smoothly! Enjoy!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

5 Tips for What to Wear to a Wedding

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Attending a wedding soon and have no clue what to wear? Here are a few tips:

  1. Do not wear white. It'll appear that you're trying to upstage the bride.
  2. Think about the location before you purchase your outfit. And if it's an outside wedding, consider bringing a wrap.
  3. Go with wrinkle-proof material if you're attending a destination wedding.
  4. Purchase (or bring) two pairs of shoes: one for the ceremony and another for the reception in case you want to hit the dance floor.
  5. Planning to hang out with the bridal party after the reception? Be sure to pack some extra clothes.

Do you have tips for what to wear to a wedding? Share below!


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Party Favors Aren't Just for Weddings

By Cherie Johnson
Photo from |

One of the many things a bride has to consider is the favors that will adorn the tabletops at her reception. Since party favors are usually marketed to brides, however, most party planners bypass the charming addition that they make for any occasion. Affordably priced and useful, party favors help liven up a gathering, and party planners who want to add a little panache incorporate their various party favor ideas into a celebration to provide guests with a special memento. And regardless of the nature of the gathering, just remember that party favors are no longer solely meant for weddings. Here are some party favor ideas to get you thinking creatively!
  • Anniversary: Whether it’s the first or the 50th time, celebrating the bonds of marriage is a special affair for both the couple and their family members. Often, anniversary celebrations are thrown secretly for the couple who have no hand in its planning. Friends and family choose the cake or dessert, the decorations and invitations; occasionally, they also choose to incorporate party favors into the festivities, which are always a big hit. Anniversary favors, usually a spin-off from wedding favors, herald love in all its forms and are available in a variety of different styles, colors and shapes; popular party favor ideas include handy wine bottle stoppers, personalized champagne flutes (so everyone can toast the happily married couple!) and always useful barware sets.
  • Baby Shower: It’s an exciting but hectic time when it comes to being a mother, and everyone wants to help out by providing assistance, advice, gifts, and, of course, by throwing a baby shower for the mom-to-be! With trays of delicious finger foods and cute baby gifts, the expectant mother and her friends celebrate the momentous occasion. And the perfect way to decorate each attendee’s spot at the table is with functional baby shower party favors, such as cheese graters, salt and pepper shakers, measuring spoons and timers – all of which have a fun, festive baby shower theme.
  • Birthday Party: Birthday party favors, which make excellent grab bag gifts or table decorations, are perfect no matter how old the ‘birthday girl or boy’ is. For children’s birthdays, selecting age appropriate party favors, such as lip balm, candy in personalized favor tins and picture frames are ideal; while, for an older teen’s or adult’s get together, party favor ideas such as candles, ice cream scoops, pens and bookmarks not only help guests reminisce but are also fully functional.
  • Bridal Shower: This get together is one of the bride’s most cherished events; she has time to mingle with her best friends and just kick back and relax. Planning the bridal shower is often relegated to the maid of honor or other close friend who takes care of all the responsibilities of selecting a theme, sending out invitations, choosing a caterer (or cooking it herself) and decorating the space festively. Providing just an extra touch of personalization, bridal shower party favors are a classy, thoughtful way to help your guests remember the party and thank them for coming. Whatever party favor ideas you choose – from candles and photo albums to monogrammed make-up bags and coasters, your guests will have a stylish memento to remember the festivities long after they end.
  • Graduation Party: From high school to college and beyond, the graduate in your life deserves a little recognition for his or her hard work over the years. And what’s the perfect way to celebrate? With a party, of course! From a cook out to a day at the beach, there are just as many party favor ideas to complement whatever theme you choose, including customizable favor tins, memorable photo frames, and stylish, yet feminine koozies to keep those drinks cold all summer long.
  • Quinceanera: Celebrating the day when a girl turns 15 – a rite of passage for many – is an important milestone and one that has been planned for months. Dressed entirely in white, she looks forward to this day, sharing in the festivities with her friends and family members. While planning the big after party, finding a way to thank the guests for their attendance is a necessity! Along with the food and entertainment, decorating the tables with festive party favors for all who showed up is a great way to say thanks. From manicure and pedicure sets for the younger attendees to candles and personalized shot glasses for the older folks, there are many different party favor ideas to show your appreciation.

Keep the Memories Alive
The perfect place setting or little thank you gift for any get together is a party favor! Regardless of whether the event you’re throwing is for yourself or a loved one, party favors add a special touch to any affair. Small, customizable and affordable, party favors keep the memories alive long after the party is over.
Cherie Johnson is the founder and owner ofCreative Wedding Favors, a one-stop shop for personalized, unique baby and bridal shower, graduation, quinceaƱera, anniversary, and wedding favors, helping countless couples and families make their big events a success. Cherie's wedding advice has appeared on several websites including Little Wedding Guide, Wedding Lenox, and The Wedding Source. Before she launched her company in 2006, Cherie worked as a professional wedding photographer, capturing the most special moments of the bride and groom's big day. For more information on Creative Wedding Favors or to find a variety of colorful, customizable gifts and favors, please visit

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Live Marketing Events For Any Size Business

By Courtney Marie Smith

A common misconception in the small business world is the notion that only big brands and companies can
Photo from:
benefit from live marketing events. Furthermore, most businesses doubt they can afford to host or participate in events, as common belief views publicity-geared events as expensive and time-consuming. Fortunately, any business owner or manager can implement the following strategies to expand awareness, enhance customer relations, drive sales and maximize media exposure.

Host a customer appreciation event
Whether you own a small fashion boutique, an exclusive diving venue, luxury salon or thousand-room hotel undoubtedly have loyal customers. Perhaps they frequent your venue so often you know them on a first name basis, or maybe you recognize them from a couple of visits throughout the year. Either way, they represent your biggest fans, most able connectors and willing word-of-mouth promoters. Host a fun thank you event with light food and drinks, special offers, contests, giveaways and feedback opportunities.

It does not have to cost an arm and a leg. Simply tap into your preferred vendors list and ask them to participate and support your event (they, in turn, gain product and brand exposure). So the saying goes, "I scratch your back, you scratch mine." A little appreciation goes a long way.

Create buzz with a product launch or promotional event
Is there a new product that no other local venues offer? Are you bringing in a new spa line that will wow your customers? Perhaps your property is offering a summer rate special at your hotel? Whatever the case, you must effectively publicize your promotions. Sure you can advertise, but ads can be a bit costly. Why not host a publicity-geared event to maximize media coverage and exposure to your customers?

My advice? Get creative, but keep it simple. A friend of mine created a highly successful spa and salon happy hour that featured mini spa and salon treatments at a reduced rate. Of course, there were special sales, bites of food and cocktail samplings that made the guests feel welcomed and well...warm and fuzzy. The warm and fuzzy feelings lead to impressive ROI and valuable customer feedback. The end result? An increase in sales, exposure, measurable analytics and prime media coverage in local lifestyle publications, television spots and radio mentions.

Implement an Event Calendar
Event calendars are great ways to drive traffic to your website and keep your brand fresh in customer's minds. If you feature an ongoing happy hour special, exclusive trunk shows, live entertainment or books signings, you must have a method for delivering the information to your customers. Many website plug-ins are available free of cost and can be easily integrated into your website or company blog. Post all relevant information including date, time, cost (if any), RSVP directions and a contact number or email for questions. Your business' event calendar serves as a promotional foundation and can be easily linked to additional promotional channels, such as social media.

If you have a computer and a heartbeat, you have undoubtedly heard the term social media. My recommendation is to use it, and use it often. Social media promotes highly personalized referrals and recommendations through viral means at a mind-blowing pace. "Monkey see, monkey friends usually do," as I like to say. Chances are if one or two friends attend your marketing events and have a great experience, they will tell their entire social network about it. Bingo! Welcome to the influential world of social media.

Link your event calendar to your blog, micro-site, Facebook fan page, Flikr account, etc. (the list goes on and on). These days, social networks are growing rapidly and can provide valuable momentum for buzz campaigns.

Measure the results
Live events put you face to face with your customers, providing an opportunity for interaction, sampling, feedback and data collection. Be sure to collect contact information including name, email and phone number. Ask attendees their opinions on new products, current products and special promotions. Many guests are eager to provide feedback, but collect it in a professional manner and organize it after the event to be used in future outreach campaigns. Many businesses have incentivized survey participants with give-aways or promotions in order further enhance the feedback process.

As you collect contact data from attendees, be sure to ask them permission, especially if you plan on sending email, mobile or direct mail campaigns. This will ensure you have creating an opt-in database, which will lead to fewer bounce-backs and unsubscribers, while also ensuring you have obeyed spam laws. Lastly, have fun! Marketing events are creative, social and engaging. When you plan them, put yourself in your customer's shoes. What would you want and expect from your favorite businesses?


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Wedding Traditions to Consider Borrowing

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Are you a bride-to-be who's bored with the typical American wedding traditions? Well, why not make your "something borrowed" a wedding custom from another culture? All countries have their own twist to matrimony; here are a few to consider trying for your own big day:

1. In Hindu ceremonies in Southern India, the blissful couple takes seven steps together to indicate their friendship, which is considered the cornerstone of the marriage.

2. The custom of jumping over a broom represents sweeping away the past and beginning a new home. The tradition began during slavery, when African-Americans weren't allowed to marry and sealed their love with a leap. These days, brooms are often made by hand as keepsakes.

3. In France, the bride and groom drink a wedding toast from a two-handed goblet known as a coupe de marriage, and it's often engraved and handed down from generation to generation.

4. In Venezuelan weddings, the honeymoon begins right away. And it's not unusual for the newlyweds to slip away from the reception to get the private party started.

For six more tips, check out 10 Wedding Traditions Worth Borrowing.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Home-based Entrepreneurs: Have You Left The House Lately?

By Ali Brown

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Home businesses are great and we can all expound the advantages: flexible hours, no commute, working in your sweats, convenience and independence, etc. But when was the last time you got out of your bunny slippers and attended a live function with real people?

I think it was Woody Allen who said that 80% of success is showing up, and although it was a satirical remark, there's truth in it. If it's been awhile, let me refresh your memory about why it is essential that you get out of the house regularly. It's good for your business and really good for you, too!

There are many different ways of getting out of the house with your business in mind, such as calling up a colleague and meeting for coffee or a drink, attending a networking event or signing up for a seminar.

Start by checking your news outlet's business events calendar for local happenings. Consider attending your chamber of commerce networking gathering, Business Networking International, local entrepreneur group meetings or a local CRAVE party. To make a lasting impression with people at these events, make a point to attend regularly, and they'll think of you when they need your type of product or service.

You'll want to sign up for your local organization's newsletters, Facebook and Twitter accounts so you can keep abreast of their events. Be selective and attend the gatherings that really appeal. Grab a colleague or friend, and you'll be sure to have a great time, no matter what, or, if you're more daring and want to really connect with new people, go solo.

I know it takes effort at the end of the day to get dressed and go out, but it is sort of like exercising, once you do it, you'll feel great. Here are some of the advantages of attending live functions:

  1. You'll meet old friends, make new friends, and see face to face what people are up to. We all get busy and forget to reach out to one another sometimes, but seeing people right in front of you is stimulating and renews your core.
  2. If you're attending a meeting or training session, you'll learn new, exciting information, hear first hand other's successes and get tips about what doesn't work. These mixers are great places to learn about how other people are getting their business needs met and how to learn about great deals and save money.
  3. You'll have a chance to meet potential mentors, people who are ahead of you in the game, and then in turn, you can become a mentor to someone else who needs your guidance some day.
  4. Just being in the room with like-minded people can be invigorating and can give you the necessary jumpstart to dive into a project you've been wanting to start and to keep your momentum going.
  5. There's no substitute for showing up with your smiling face. People forget quickly, and by getting out there, you remind them that you're still here going strong and ready to offer your products and services.
  6. Every successful entrepreneur eventually needs to be comfortable speaking publicly before a crowd. Attending these smaller mixers and honing your message first one-on-one, then at your table of networkers and then finally in front of the entire room, is a fantastic way to build your courage. If you need more help in this area, Toastmasters, whose mission is to help people with public speaking and leadership skills through public speaking and feedback, comes highly recommended.
  7. Attend with the intention of connecting with a least one individual, and you'll never be disappointed. This may not be a potential client, but if they become an acquaintance and colleague, they may know someone else who may need your products and services. Get to know people deeper than these one night events allow, and grab some cards, make some calls, and have some coffee dates. That's when the more fruitful conversations transpire.
  8. Remember that people attending these functions are all trying to spread the word about their businesses too. Be interested in them, what they're doing and what they offer as well. Even if you don't need their services, you may be able to connect them up with someone else, and they'll remember the favor.

As you see, there are so many benefits to getting out of the house sometimes even if you are a die hard home-based business fan. Exchange those bunny slippers for high heels at least twice a month, and I'll see you out there! (By the way, in case you didn't hear, my own SHINE Event is networking on steroids, so you'll want to check it out).

Self-made millionaire entrepreneur and Inc. 500-ranked CEO Ali Brown teaches women around the world how to start and grow profitable businesses that make a positive impact. Get her FREE weekly articles and advice at

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

7 Wedding Costs To Do Without

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If you stubbornly stick to expensive wedding traditions, the costs of your big day can quickly add up. So, since we're now living in the 21st century, it's time to throw away those uneconomical wedding customs and just keep those that work with your budget.

Check out this article from Savvy Sugar to see what costly wedding traditions to ditch.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

How to Choose Flower Girls Dresses for Your Special Day

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Weddings are spectacular events filled with love, family and friends as well as beauty. Your aim for the day is for everything to be perfect; after all, this is the day that a bride has been waiting for, probably since she was a child. From flowers to the flower girl dress, one only hopes it turns out to be fabulous. There are many important aspects to a wedding, but one's dress is easily visible so one should take extra care when choosing this for the ceremony.

Weddings Are Joyous Occasions
Dresses play a large part in any wedding. They are very important. After all, everyone is going to be talking about how the bride, her bridesmaids and the flower girls dresses looked, so properly selecting each garment is vital. When it comes to choosing your wedding dress, a lot of thought should go into it. The same can be said for the flower girl dress. One probably already has the design, style and shade of white pictured and so the process of selecting is made easier.

If you have no clue as to the type of flower girl dress you prefer, there are plenty of resources available to provide inspiration, and ideas should soon to start to flow.

One might not put as much though into the designs and styles of the dresses of your wedding entourage as you do yourself though, but choosing their wear is just as important.

Choosing Flower Girl Dresses
With so many things to do before the big day, a bride might be so overwhelmed that the thought of still having to pick out a flower girl dress can become a nightmare. However, selecting adorable little dresses can be a fun process that does not take much effort from a bride. Once you have decided on the color of your wedding, the task really becomes very easy.

Start by considering the season. This is a very important aspect that many brides do not give enough attention to. Having a summer wedding, you might think simple, sleeveless and short. That is correct, but you also might want to pay attention to the type of material for these flower girl dresses. Some fabrics could be heavy and warm, making a little girl feel hot and uncomfortable. Besides this, she may probably feel more tired and irritable. The color that you choose also plays an important role. Dark colors absorb more heat so stick to light and pastel shades. Material should also be light and loose on the little girl.

If you are planning to have a winter wedding, then you should also cater to your flower girl's needs. Remember that your flower girl is a kid and unlike adults, who can handle a little cold, kids are often miserable when they are uncomfortable. This makes for an upset little one and many bad photos! Short sleeves are pretty, but make sure she has a matching jacket when it gets a little chilly and that she has leggings on to keep out the cold.

When it comes to styles and designs, many brides-to-be do not really know where to begin. Once again, the time of year should serve as a guide.

Paging through bridal magazines are wonderful ways to pick up styles. Not only with bridal magazines but also you might find that you get cute little dress ideas from ordinary fashion magazines that you could incorporate as a dress for your flower girl. If you feel limited by the selection of little girls dresses, then you can take an adult dress and miniaturize it into a flower girl dress. However, be careful when doing this; you do not want your flower girl looking too mature. Flower girls should look cute, adorable and youthful.

Also, look at what works for others. Get ideas from past weddings you have attended or turn to movies for ideas. If you do find something you like from a friend or family member's wedding, you can incorporate the same style, but try to make it a little bit original.

The Size of the Dress
The length of a flower girl's dress has always been a debate. Long, hitting the ankles or short, knee-length, which one is right? Luckily, there is no right or wrong answer; it really depends on the bride. Knee-length or just below the knee is a great choice as little girls like to run around and play, so this length makes them feel free, whereas they might feel restricted in a longer dress.

If you do prefer something longer, avoid dresses that reach all the way to the floor. Not only is it bound to get dirty, but also your little flower girl can be prone to trip. A great medium when it comes to length is to have a dress that ends halfway between the ankle and knee. In this sense, the dress is not too long and not too short either.

Lisa Parker is a freelance writer who writes about family and family events such as weddings, often focusing on one specific aspect of a wedding, such as flower girl dress.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

4 Ways to Make Summer 2013 The Best One Yet

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Have you spent your winter hibernating? Are you ready to rediscover the favorite parts of your town? Here are a few ways for you to make the most of this summer:

1) Rock out. Whether it's finding a new band playing at a street festival or jamming out to your faves, summer is the perfect time to find new music.

2) Lend a helping hand. Walk dogs, wash cars or just help an elderly neighbor carry their groceries inside. Don't know where to start? Check out local nonprofits in your area.

3) Find a wine/food/beer festival. Head to a food festival, and check out local fares. Also, be sure to bring your camera (or phone) and a notepad to write down your favorites -- you might find inspiration to create your very own summer culinary masterpieces.

4) Make some friends. Meet some new folks (and make some new friends) at a community or networking event. Who knows? You could find a new concert-goer, running buddy or even a business partner!

For three more tips, check out our source, 7 Ways to Make This Summer Your Best One Yet.

Friday, May 17, 2013

11 Strategies to Neutralize Wedding Planning Stress

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We might as well get it out in the open. Planning a wedding is not a big job. It is a huge job somewhat akin to staging a Broadway musical, minus the cast of experienced participants. To make matters worse, the more guests that are invited, the more formal the event, the more complex the plans, the bigger the job is. That means stress. Lots of it. There is no way to get around it, but there are ways to neutralize wedding planning stress.

Moreover, since the female tends to place more value on the festivities of the day than the male mind does, chances are the groom is not going to take the lead planning the day. This means that the stress of wedding planning is generally felt more acutely by the bride.

Indeed, many brides feel like their groom does not care, thus increasing their stress. Whether or not their perception is true, the reality of the perception is enough to leave most brides pulling their hair out.

The secret to maintaining sanity during the wedding planning process is to maintain a bag of tricks that will allow the bride to minimize the stress, whether by strategically recruiting others to do some of the work or by scheduling events designed specifically to help her unwind before she unravels.

Take a trip to the spa: Often, brides will plan a trip to the spa with their bridesmaids in the week just before the wedding. That can be good, but it might not be enough. There is nothing that will release stress faster than being pampered while you lay on a warm table immersed in a soothing fragrance and surrounded by relaxing music. Can't afford trips to the spa? Not a problem. A bride with a limited budget can recruit a good friend to help her create her own spa experience with aromatic touches, soft music and a homemade facial mask or body peel.

Hire a wedding planner. A wedding planner who has been around the block a time or two offers something very few brides have...experience. They know people in the business, they know how to deal with wedding professionals, relatives, etc. Most of all, they know what to expect and what is a problem and what is not, so the bride does not have to waste stress over situations that are not really a problem.

Have the groom break out the digital camera, camcorder and laptop: Guys love their toys...and most guys love anything high tech. So recruit them to set up a wedding website -- through which you can have them post wedding registry information, track RSVPs, share engagement photos and videos -- even send out the invitations, or at least have them use the computer to print the invitations and create address labels. You get the idea. Getting rid of such a huge amount of work in a way that he will embrace gladly will reduce any bride's stress level.

Go out to dinner: Take the time to sit and enjoy a good, high quality meal. Eat something healthy. This is as much about good nutrition as it is about a change of pace. Our bodies need the change of pace that sitting down to a good meal will provide, and it also needs nutrition rich foods to help deal with the stress planning a wedding can bring. Going out and having someone wait on us for a change is part of the therapy. Who the bride chooses for company is her decision, as long as it takes her away from wedding planning activities during the meal.

Take a bath: There is nothing like soaking in a hot tub treated with scented bath salts while reading a good book by the light of candles ringing the tub. Add a glass of a favorite sipping drink and watch the stress melt.

For six more tips, click here.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

5 Must-Haves to Bring to Every Event

Photo Credit: haveseen (
Are you an event planner? Check out these essential event-packing tips from Louise M. Felsher, CMP, CMM, freelance event producer & co-owner of Treasure Island Wines:

  1. Embrace Space-Saving Technology. Don't lug your heavy laptop around; instead, choose an iPad and a few substantial flash drives to use with on-site computers. (Check out some of her favorites here).
  2. Find Items that Multitask. If you have items that serve two purposes, bring them with you. For instance, Felsher sleeps in her running tights so she can go from bed into her running route at 5 AM; she doesn't need to pack PJs; and she'll be the "least humiliated/best dressed" guest if a 2 AM hotel fire occurs.
  3. Bring Over-The-Counter Essentials. Assume you won't have time to find OTC needs in a different city. So, plan ahead for allergies or random aches and pains by packing any medicines you might anticipate needing. You don't want to let those issues derail your entire event!

For two more must-haves, check out our source, Five Essentials to Bring to Every Event.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

5 Conversations You Should Have Before Tying The Knot

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You may be in premarital counseling now, or it might be the last thing on your mind. Either way, you already know there are a few delicate issues engaged couples are "supposed" to talk about before making it official. Here's what a few seasoned couples therapists say you should talk about before saying, "I do" (via

1. The Kids. If you haven't brought it up yet, now is the time to talk about whether you want children. But you shouldn't stop there. The experts think it's also important to discuss where each of you stand on issues that'll come up when you start trying to have kids and when they're actually around. For example, are you open to adoption if necessary? Or, how should the kids be disciplined when they disobey? These issues can become huge fights later, so it's better to go over them now.
It's okay to disagree on: The number of kids you want right now. "Once a couple has their first kid, they'll have a better idea of how many children they really want," says Jaclyn Bronstein, a licensed mental health counselor in New York. The number isn't as important as long as you agree on a timetable -- how many years you want to wait before you have children, according to Vivian Jacobs, a licensed marriage and family therapist in New York.

2. Money and your careers. Since one of the biggest things married couples fight about is finances, talk now to avoid arguments later. Decide whether you'll combine all your money or keep your accounts separate. Also, figure out which accounts you'll draw from for daily expenses and for large investments. If one of you is a spender and the other one is a saver, decide on amounts to set aside for the future and for personal spending that you both will be happy with. "No one has the right answer to what your money strategy should be," Jacobs says. "You just have to live within your budget, figure out what works for you, and be reasonable and communicate." Additionally, talk about your career plans. Where do you want to be in five years? How do you see your career, and your salary, progressing over your lifetime. Getting your expectations in line with reality will reduce money-related arguments later on, Jacobs says.
It's okay to disagree on: The number of hours you should be pulling at work right now. "If someone has a busy job and works 12- or 14-hour days, that might be a big issue at the beginning of a marriage," Bronstein says. "But maybe they agree that getting financially stable is more important in the long run." That's a trade-off that works, she says. 

For the other three tips, check out our source, 5 Conversations to Have Before Getting Married

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

5 Free Webinar Tips To Help Make Your Event Wildly Successful

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By B. Hopkins

Webinars are one of the most effective ways to market online. They have many advantages. Multiple forms of media can be used, presenters can interact with their audience and establish rapport through teaching and offering valuable information. They are a very effective way to sell products and also expand your influence in a niche. Here are five free webinar tips to help ensure your next event is wildly successful.

1. Plan your webinar ahead of time. You want your webinar to be entertaining, informative and concise. People are very busy these days and don't want to sit in front of the computer for hours, listening to someone ramble.

Keep you presentation interesting by using multiple forms of media such as slides, pictures and demonstrations using the Internet and other sources. Don't just use slides with lots of text.

A webinar is your opportunity to connect with your audience. Be sure to leave plenty of room for asking them questions and interacting with them throughout the presentation.

Once you have your presentation planned, practice, practice, practice. Make sure you are familiar with your webinar service technology as well.

2. Promote your webinar. Announce your webinar through your email list, write a post on your blog, post messages on your Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin accounts, and ask everyone you know to spread the word about your free event. Send out multiple messages so that people don't forget.

3. Enlist at least one co-presenter or helper. Webinars are often more interesting if there is more than one presenter. If it makes sense to have a co-presenter or guest speaker, it can definitely add a lot of value to your webinar. If you will be the only presenter, make sure you at least enlist someone to help you keep an eye on things. The chat window needs to be monitored, the audio needs to be tested, and you need to make sure the webinar is running smoothly without technical difficulties. Having an extra set of eyes, ears and hands can be a big help.

4. Be engaging and interact with your audience. Remember to interact with your audience. Ask them questions throughout the presentation and answer any questions they may have. You should always schedule time at the end for a Q&A session, but it's also a good idea to answer questions throughout the webinar.

Have fun, and remember to keep your audience interested and entertained. Don't worry so much about being serious and "professional." The key is to establish rapport so that people will begin to know, like and trust you.

5. Tape your webinar, and re-purpose it. Make sure that you tape your webinar so that you can use it later. Offer it as a replay to your email list and blog readers. Or you can also consider selling it as a product to those who did not attend.

You can also re-use webinar materials. You can post the slides on slide-sharing sites or offer them as a free bonus to your email list.

A free webinar is one of the most effective ways to market your business and establish yourself as an authority in your niche. With a little preparation and practice ahead of time, you should be well on your way to having a wildly successful event.

TeleseminarLive is a free service that sends you a list of upcaming paid and free webinars and teleseminars. Become a member of this site today, and reduce your risk of missing out on a free webinar opportunity. Also, find out more about how to find free webinars.

Article Source

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Simple Ways to Connect with Your Husband

Photo from | Tomasz Wagner Mananetwork

April is Couple Appreciation Month! And one way to show your husband you appreciate him is by making sure you stay connected, just like you did when you first met. Check out the article below for ways to do just that:

Have you ever rolled over in the morning and not known the man lying next to you? I'm not referring to that time back in college -- I'm talking about the present. After years of marriage, you may start to feel like your husband is a stranger. Or is it that you feel he's getting stranger? Either way, here are five simple ways to stay connected to your husband:

1. Cook a meal together. Whether it's breakfast or dinner, it doesn't matter, as long as you're spending time together. How about getting up early Sunday morning and making a big, old-fashioned Sunday breakfast for you and the kids? Or sending the kids to a sitter and preparing a nice romantic dinner together?

You'll save money fixing the meal at home rather than dining out. Plus, you won't have to get "all dolled up" (unless you want to). Most importantly, you'll be using teamwork, which is the number one priority for any marriage.

2. Take on a project and get dirty. Tackle a big and messy job on your list -- cleaning out the garage, pulling up shrubs in the yard, organizing the attic. Make an afternoon of it, and do it together! You'll both feel a great sense of accomplishment that the job is finally done, and it'll feel great to know that you got it done by operating as a unit.

Now that you've worked up a sweat, why not draw a bath for two?

3. Spend a lazy afternoon going through old photos and reminiscing. Talk about the activities you used to do when you first started dating, and make a plan to start doing them again. You might not be able to do them all, but make the effort to do as many of them as you can, whether it is taking long walks, going to concerts or making out at the movies.

4. Play hooky! Plan a day where you can each stay home from work and spend the whole day home -- alone -- together -- doing absolutely nothing! Lay in bed all day, cuddle and watch movies. Make sure to turn the ringer off on the phone.

5. Make an effort on a daily basis to stay connected to your husband. Listen, ask questions -- be his partner in all aspects of your life. Something as simple as making it a point to say, "How was your day, honey?" every day when he gets home and listening to his response can make all the difference.

The most important thing to remember is that you are not in your marriage by yourself. Share your concerns with your husband if you're not feeling quite as close as you once did. Let him know how you feel, how it makes you feel and that you want to work on it.

Chances are, your husband will be clueless, but once he realizes that you are genuinely concerned, he'll jump right in and make more of an effort. Good luck!

Nicole Dean is a freelance writer for -- a website dedicated to helping married couples stay friends and to help them remember why they married each other in the first place. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Packing For Your Honeymoon

Preparing for your honeymoon? Check out these tips from Alexi Mintz and Kate Duff of

Photo from Highways Agency
Bring double-duty fashion items. Pack a few key items that can serve several uses, depending on the accessories you bring along. For example, a belt can turn a simple beach cover-up into the perfect sunset cocktail outfit. And a chunky statement necklace can make a T-shirt and jean ensemble perfect for a night out.

Play it safe when it comes to footwear. Shoes can be the most difficult item to pack. They awkwardly take up space in your suitcase, but they can make or break your outfit style-wise or ruin an "off-the-beaten-path" adventure if they're not comfortable. So, when thinking about what you'll wear, remember that marriage is about feeling comfortable and in love with one person the rest of your life. With that said, find a dressy pair and a casual pair of shoes you've tried ahead of time for comfort. Marry them, and stay faithful.

Roll your clothes. Mintz and Duff believe 100 percent in rolling your clothes when packing. Also, rolling  a necklace into a shirt is a great way to be sure it doesn't get tangled. And place your jewelry and accessories in your shoes to save space in your suitcase.

For more tips, check out How to Pack for Your Honeymoon.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

A Wedding to Remember: Unique Wedding Ideas They'll Never Forget

By Cherie Johnson

Photo from |
There are very few once in a lifetime events quite like your wedding day. From the flowers and dress to the flavor of the cake, the option to plan and personalize your wedding with your own unique wedding ideas is truly in your court. And we've all been to dozens of weddings that follow the standard format -- the rehearsal and subsequent dinner, the wedding ceremony where the bridesmaids, groomsmen and couple walked formally down the aisle and finally, the reception.

And yes, points are given to the couples that take the time to personalize their weddings with fun favors, unusual refreshments, decorations and other unique wedding ideas. But have you ever thought about shaking up your own wedding, perhaps even changing the very structure of it? With a little ingenuity (and planning), you can personalize your wedding in a way that's fun for everyone!

My Favorite Memorable Ideas for Unique Weddings
Consider the rehearsal dinner. Whereas most couples elect to run through the standard 'meet and greet,' practice their walk down the aisle to get rid of those pre-ceremony jitters, and then sit down to a light repast, some brides and grooms choose to infuse this gathering with their very own unique wedding ideas. One example I've heard of is eliminating the sit down dinner entirely, which is usually more formal in nature anyway. The brides then invite the rehearsal dinner guests over for a picnic (in warmer months) or a potluck supper (great any time). The option not only takes away a lot of wedding stress but also encourages the guests to interact more.

The wedding ceremony itself is, of course, meant to be solemn and respectful, but that doesn't mean before or after the priest or minister marries the couple you can't infuse the ceremony with your own unique wedding ideas. One of the more unusual examples I've heard about is the entire wedding party dancing up and down the aisle to the delight of the guests who get in on the act. Without so much as a hint as to what is going on, an upbeat tempo begins playing and guests start clapping. The bridesmaids and groomsmen get footloose up and down the aisle, making way for the groom's and bride's grand entrances. After all, a lively entrance is certainly one way to personalize your wedding and make sure your guests never forget your nuptials!

Another way to personalize your wedding is seating guests at round tables at the wedding venue itself (serving as both the ceremony and reception area). Though it appears to be the reception, the guests actually watch as the bride and groom are married while seated at tables, and then after a quick swap out, the area becomes a beautiful reception. The perks? The bride and groom save lots of money because there's no need to secure two venues, and your guests don't have to travel.

And, of course, if you choose to have a wedding theme, you can incorporate all sorts of unique wedding ideas. Take the idea of a renaissance-themed wedding. Both the bride and groom, for instance, will be wearing flowing fabrics and unique headpieces, while the entertainment could feasibly be even more entertaining. Couples have hired 'court jesters,' 'jugglers' and 'dancers' to lighten the mood, carry on the renaissance theme and personalize their wedding in a unique way. However, whatever your wedding theme may be, just remember to explore all the unique wedding ideas and possibilities available to you. If it's historical in nature, do your research! If it's hobby-themed, ask your friends to share their ideas. Not only will collaboration on unique wedding ideas help you to envision a better wedding, you'll also have the support of your friends.

At your reception  just about anything goes. It's your day, so plan and personalize your wedding reception how you want. Some brides feel as though they have to please their guests. Bottom line -- if you plan and personalize your wedding activities and events, your guests will want to stay all night long. Consider, for example, the buffet or sit down style dinner served at most weddings. A few brides have elected to have wait staff circulate with heavy hors d'oeuvres and beverages or have had multiple refreshment tables set up around the room. Usually, one of the most popular attractions and these refreshment tables is the giant chocolate fountain with fruit and pretzels for dipping.

Another one of the more unique wedding ideas I've heard about is a groom's cake made entirely of meat. Ideally, the groom's cake is meant for him and his right-hand men, so in many ways, it's appropriate. And you might just have a lot of extra 'cake' left over to enjoy later!

Memories that Last a Lifetime
These exmples of unique wedding ideas are just a few of the more memorable highlights I've seen at weddings over the years. Regardless of how you choose to personalize your wedding, it will always be a special day -- a celebration of love and romance with your closest friends and family members. And if you ultimately decide to play it on the traditional side, don't worry -- you have those beautiful memories to last a lifetime.

Cherie Johnson is the founder and owner of Creative Wedding Favors, a one-stop shop for personalized, unique baby and bridal shower, graduation, quinceanara, anniversary and wedding favors, helping countless couples and families make their big events a success. Cherie's wedding advice has appeared on several websites including Little Wedding Guide, Wedding Lenox and The Wedding Source. Before she launched her company in 2006, Cherie worked as a professional wedding photographer, capturing the most special moments of the bride and groom's big day. For more information on Creative Wedding Favors or to find a variety of colorful, customizable gifts and favors, please visit

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

10 Tips for Having a Smart Marriage(R) from the Smart Marriages Conferences

Photo from

1. Marriage matters. Married people and their kids do better on all measures of health, wealth, happiness and success. And married folks report having more and better sex than single or divorced people.

2. It's not the differences but how we handle them that separate successful marriages from the failures. Disagreeing doesn't predict divorce. Stonewalling, avoidance, contempt, criticism and the silent treatment predict divorce. Learn how to disagree in ways that help you fall more in love.

3. All happily married couples have approximately 10 irreconcilable differences -- 10 issues they will never resolve. If we switch partners, we just get 10 new issues that are likely to be even more annoying and complicated. Sadly, if there are children from an earlier marriage or relationship, disagreements about them go to the top of the list. What's important is to discuss our own set of issues just as we would discuss how to manage living with a chronic bad back or trick knee. We wish they weren't there, but what's important is to keep talking about how to manage them and still do the marriage "dance."

4. Love is not an absolute (a yes or no situation), and it's not limited to substance. It's a feeling, and feelings ebb and flow, depending on how we treat each other. We can learn new ways to interact and the feelings "of being in love" can come flowing back, often stronger than before.

5. Martial satisfaction often dips with the birth of a baby. That's normal. Marital satisfaction is at its lowest when there are kids in the house between 11 and 16. That's normal. We need to know what to expect, appreciate our parenting partner -- and hang on. It makes good sense to stay married for the sake of the kids -- and for our own sake. Even with challenges, it's a lot easier to be a parenting team than to be a single, divorced or remarried parent. Plus, there is a silver lining: satisfaction goes back up with the empty nest. The final stage of marriage -- a job well done -- is the real honeymoon period.

6. Sex ebbs and flows. It comes and goes. That's normal. Plan and make time for more "flows."

7. Creating good marital sex is not about putting the sizzle BACK INTO your sex life. Early marital sex is sex between strangers -- we don't yet know our partners or ourselves. The passionate sex is intimate sex based on knowing our partner and letting them know us. One of the most important tasks of marriage is to develop a satisfying marital sex style. It's not about going BACK; it's about going FORWARD together.

8. Repair attempts are crucial and are highly predictive of marital happiness. They can be clumsy or funny, even sarcastic, but the willingness to make up after an argument is central to every happy marriage.

9. Learn to welcome, embrace and integrate change -- to discuss and update your wishes, hopes and dreams -- on a regular basis. We often "interview" each other before marriage and then think "that's it." The marriage vow is a promise to stay married, not to stay the same. (Thank goodness!) Keep up-to-date with changes in your partner. Don't fear changes, celebrate them!

10. Try several different marriage education courses. Become informed consumers -- rate the courses, discuss what you liked best, which ideas were most helpful. Decide which courses to recommend to your kids, friends and family, which to give as wedding, anniversary and new baby gifts. The courses don't tell you what kind of marriage to have. That's up to you. They give you the tools -- the hammers, screwdrivers and levels -- so you can build the kind of marriage that suits you, one which can help you negotiate, and renegotiate, your own values meanings and goals.

Find a class here. Strengthen your own marriage and/or learn how to become a Marriage Educator and teach courses in your community.

By Diane Sollee, founder & director,

Thursday, April 4, 2013

10 Essentials for Brides at Their Weddings: Tips to Keep You Looking Your Best

By Cherie Johnson

Photo from /

It's the day of your wedding, and the tips and advice you received from your mother, friends and loved ones have paid off, and you look and feel beautiful. Time has been spent arranging your hair just so, making up your face perfectly and getting you ready for your big day. Many times, however, brides just consider the big picture -- and often forget how uncomfortable they may be during the ceremony or reception in a hot, heavy dress with four-inch heels. It's a bad scenario, but it happens. To keep you up, dancing and mingling with your guests, here are a few of the most essential bride must-haves for your wedding day. With a little forethought and a carefully packaged cocktail bag, you can be prepared for whatever the day has in store with these wedding day tips!

The Top 10 Bride Must-Haves
1. Comfortable shoes: One of the most essential must-haves is comfortable shoes. Imagine having to dance and walk around in those four-inch heels for a few hours. Sounds painful, doesn't it? Not buying comfortable shoes is the reason that many brides switch to flip-flops during the reception. Though a quick wardrobe change is one option, consider testing out the shoes you buy well in advance. One of the more routine wedding tips that experts suggest is to walk around your home to break the shoes in and ensure you don't get annoying blisters in the process. After all, squinting and wincing in your pictures will not be pretty. And if you're insistent on those pretty but painful four-inch heels, bring along another pair of more comfortable shoes for the after party -- some simple flats will do the trick!

2. Breathable gown: Much like your shoes, one of the best bride must-haves is a wedding dress that moves with you. A constricting dress will make your cringe as much as those shoes do, and tugging and jerking the fabric will damage it, not to mention alert everyone to the fact that you're extremely uncomfortable. Try your dress on beforehand. When trying it on at the shop, if it feels too tight, then your wedding day will be no different  Move around and get a feel for the dress to ensure that you are at ease on your big day.

3. Waterproof mascara: Oh, there will be a lot of tears shed -- by you, your mother, your close friends and family. But you'll be heartbroken when you see your mascara making bee lines all over your face. One of my favorite wedding tips is to wear waterproof mascara to combat the 'raccoon look.' Wearing waterproof mascara on your wedding day will keep your makeup looking fresh, and you'll rest assured that you have no smudges to worry about.

4. Long-lasting lipstick: From eating to kissing, your lipstick has many opportunities to fade or smear away. Before deciding on one brand or color, try it out for a while. Wear it while doing all the things you normally do to see if it has the possibility of fading, smudging or smearing. And make sure you pack the tube of lipstick in your 'bride must-haves' bag.

5. Durable antiperspirant. Whether your dress is sleeveless or not, antiperspirant that stands the test of time is an absolute necessity. You want to stay clean, fresh and sweet-smelling throughout the ceremony and reception, and one of the many wedding tips that experts suggest is to use long-lasting antiperspirant. The only way to guarantee this, of course, is with durable and/or prescription strength deodorant antiperspirant. This extra layer of protection will give you more confidence in whatever you're doing.

6. Small compact mirror: Throughout the ceremony and reception, you'll be relieved that you had your little compact mirror on hand. Tucked away in a small cocktail purse with your other bride must-haves, it's just a little bit of added confidence. You can quickly check for makeup smudges and reapply as needed or see if any food particles have become lodged in visible places.

7. Aspirin or ibuprofen: Headaches happen. And so do aching limbs -- usually at the most inopportune times. And as far as valuable wedding tips go, be prepared by adding a little tube of aspirin or ibuprofen to your 'bride must-haves' cocktail purse. Even if you don't need it, someone else just might.

8. Stain removal pen: You can find these handy little pens everywhere. Plus, they're small enough to be tucked into your cocktail purse, filled with your other 'bride must-haves.' Just make sure to spot test the pen on a discreet part of your dress before applying it anywhere during the actual event. Some contain bleach, which harm the fabric. For a quick removal of a tiny but noticeable stain, however, these pens are a God-send.

9. Hairbrush/comb: Tame those frizzies and stay beautiful throughout the day. Another of my favorite wedding tips is to purchase a fold-up brush, which is ideal for a small purse with precious space. A quick dab of lipstick and one or two brushes through your hair will have you ready to meet and greet with guests.

10. Emery board: There is nothing more annoying than a jagged nail. Keep your freshly manicured fingers looking lovely by taking a quick swipe of the emery board (or nail file) across it should one break or chip.

More Than Just Wedding Tips -- Valuable Advice
These 10 bride must-haves and wedding tips will ensure that you are prepared for your big day. Weather the day effortlessly by testing out your wardrobes, makeup and hair in advance as well as by packing a little cocktail purse with some of the essential bride must-haves listed above, like that tube of lipstick, compact mirror, aspirin, stain removal pen, comb and emery board. Even if you don't need them, you'll be glad you had them. Think of these bride must-haves and wedding tips as a little helpful layer of protection.

Cherie Johnson is the founder and owner of Creative Wedding Favors, a one-stop shop for personalized, unique baby and bridal shower, graduation, quinceanara, anniversary and wedding favors, helping countless couples and families make their big events a success. Cherie's wedding advice has appeared on several websites including Little Wedding Guide, Wedding Lenox and The Wedding Source. Before she launched her company in 2006, Cherie worked as a professional wedding photographer, capturing the most special moments of the bride and groom's big day. For more information on Creative Wedding Favors or to find a variety of colorful, customizable gifts and favors, please visit