Engagement Party Planning

You’re engaged! Congratulations! Now, it’s time to celebrate. Plan a fabulous engagement party with these simple tips…

Schedule It Soon: The point of an engagement party is to celebrate your engagement, so don’t wait too long to plan the festivities. The engagement party should be held relatively soon after the proposal, within a few weeks or months. Just make sure the party is scheduled closer to your proposal than to your wedding day.

Spread the Word: The guest list can be as big or small as you want it, but one rule of thumb applies: anyone invited to the engagement party should also be invited to the wedding. Invites can be as casual or formal as you prefer too. An evite, word-of-mouth invite, or formal invitation is acceptable, depending on the overall theme of the day.

Choose a Theme: The engagement party’s theme and décor should be different than the wedding. This is your chance to have a little fun. Plan a beach BBQ or fall festival, or opt for a dreamy romantic evening outside. You definitely don’t want the engagement party to outshine the wedding, but it can be its own unique and inspired event.

Arrange the Food: Since the party can be as informal or formal as you choose, there is no set rule about food. If you’re hosting a lavish affair and money isn’t an issue, plan a nice dinner for your guests. Otherwise, it’s totally reasonable to serve hors d’oeuvres, gather for brunch, or simply have a dessert bar.

Have fun: The party is supposed to be a celebration of your engagement so don’t be afraid to have fun! Plan some interesting and exciting activities for your guests, such as games or dancing with a Chicago Wedding DJ.

BHLDN has arrived – Anthropologie Weddings

Monday was a big day in the bridal world.  BHLDN, the bridal brainchild of the people at Anthropologie was launched.  The whimsy, magic, and delicateness of Anthropologie has now been packed into a beautiful world for brides.

BHLDN is of course heavily focused on wedding gowns.  Their selection is one-of-a-kind and makes almost any past, present, or future bride swoon.  They’ve got something for every body type and every type of bride.  If you want elegant, they’ve got it.  If you want romantic, they’ve got.  Vintage inspired, garden appropriate, whimsy laced…yep, they’ve got those too.  The selection is nothing short of beautiful.  However, just because Anthropologie is a big name, doesn’t mean they’re pumping out their gowns by the thousands.  Dresses are sold on a limited basis, so brides don’t have to fear seeing their dress on every corner or at every alter.

And in true Anthropologie fashion, the customer service of BHLDN is special and sincere.  Their website abounds with ways to narrow down your style and find the perfect look. Shipping is affordable and returns are free with a prepaid label.  And don’t fret about confusing bridal sizing.  The folks at BHLDN have made it easy, with a focus on traditional sizing and a fit guide that can help even the most size confused bride.

But BHLDN doesn’t stop at bridal gowns, they make it a point to continue the bridal experience creating party inspired dresses for attendants, family members, and guests.  These dresses are also perfect for the bride to wear to other wedding related events and festivities.  BHLDN is the antithesis to stuffy, cheesy, and unwearable bridesmaids dresses.  It’s hard to find one dress on their site that you don’t love.

Continuing the magic, BHLDN offers shoes, lingerie, accessories, and more.  Their shoes are Cinderella worthy, and their accessories are statement pieces fit for a queen.  Glancing at their website, its easy to forget you’re in wedding world, because their pieces are so timeless, you’ll be swooning and loving them long after the wedding has passed.

Please enjoy the following images from the BHLDN collection.

Five Wedding Traditions You Can Skip

Tradition is an integral part of a wedding celebration.  It has defined the ebb and flow of ceremonies for centuries, passed down through families and cherished by loved ones. Heartwarming: yes. Necessary: not always. The tradition that trumps all is a couple’s personal touch on their special day, and their overall part in the process. If you are rethinking a traditional ceremony, read on for some examples of add-ons that you may want to leave behind.

1.       Guests should have assigned seating. Unless your cousin can’t stand your uncle, there’s no need to corral and separate grown adults into assigned seating at dinner. Guests enjoy socializing and open seating gives them the freedom to move around and sit with different relatives and friends throughout the evening. If you are going for a casual feel, this tradition is best left in the past.

2.       You shouldn’t see your fiancé until the ceremony. I pose this question: why can’t you see your betrothed before the ceremony? Do you like the idea of waiting to glimpse his face when you are walking down the aisle, or is it just tradition for tradition’s sake? Bottom line: if you want quality time with your almost-husband before the ceremony, go ahead and take it. It’s your day, and you should do what makes you comfortable.

3.       You should have a same-sex bridal party. Yes, the bride and grooms’ attendants usually belong to their respective genders, but who says your best guy friend can’t stand next to you on your wedding day? The tradition of including friends in the ceremony is an important one, and should supersede whether they are female or male. Friendship is invaluable; include those who deserve to be included.

4.       Guests should sit on “sides.” Many couples struggle with an imbalanced guest list; that is, one side of the family is bigger than the other. Mitigate the problem by eliminating sides altogether. Not only does it even things out, but it encourages the families to mingle and get to know one another. It’s a win-win.

5.       You should toss the bouquet and garter. Many people consider this age-old tradition cheesy, but they play it out because it is expected. While some wedding guests may be looking forward to fighting for wilting flowers or a satin skivvy, it is avoided by others. If you aren’t keen on this tradition, review your guest list to help decide on its inclusion. If there are 50 singles attending, you might let this one go. One the other hand, if the single people are limited to your twice-divorced step-uncle and your 45-year-old aunt, it may be best to spare them the awkwardness.

Tradition has its place, but your wedding should be your own creation. Give the “should’s” of wedding planning a backseat to your own feelings. You will be happier with the result.

Thanksgiving Weddings

Thanksgiving is the perfect time for an elegant yet relaxed celebration, as the autumn holiday lends itself to natural settings, simple decor and comfort food. And while the general rule of thumb is to avoid having your wedding around a holiday, Thanksgiving presents an entirely different set of circumstances. While you probably don’t want to hold it on Thanksgiving Day, the Friday or Saturday after can be a great option. Most friends and family will either already be in town or planning on traveling anyway – so making the trip to your wedding may not be a burden. Plus, most of your guests will already have the day off. Need more convincing? Here are some creative ways to plan your Thanksgiving wedding in style…

Ideas for a Thanksgiving Theme Weddings

Invitations and Stationery

  • Send out save the date cards as soon as possible since your wedding will fall on a holiday weekend.
  • Dress up ordinary wedding invitations and wedding with inexpensive silk fall leaves included in each mailing.

Wedding Flowers and Decor

  • Instead of gaudy arrangements featuring pricey blooms – keep your decor a simple enhancement to mother nature’s natural bounty. Use the autumn harvest for inspiration; think gourds, pumpkins, squash, gold dipped fall leaves…you get the idea.
  • Use hollowed out pumpkins or cornucopias for centerpiece holders.
  • You’re not confined to rustic and casual for Thanksgiving. Create a posh Thanksgiving ambiance, and drape lush velvet in a rich chocolate brown or gold throughout your party space. Accent the scene with antique broaches, crystal candelabras and stemware.

Menu and Catering

  • The food is the main attraction for this party. You cannot go wrong with traditional favorites: turkey, red potatoes, corn bread dressing, green beans, and honey glazed carrots.
  • Consider incorporating your family recipes into your wedding menu and serving the meal family style (if your guest list is small).
  • Serve traditional fare in sophisticated, creative ways. For instance, present soup or veggie puree in mini shot glasses or hallowed out gourds, or warm apple cider in glass mugs with cinnamon sticks.

Wedding Cake

  • To round out the thanksgiving feast – serve a pumpkin cake or even a tiered pumkin pie!


  • Make it – homemade goodies like fudge, candy apples, or jams presented in festive packaging always go over well
  • Bag it – fill mini burlap bags with coffee beans, bulbs, or any treat you desire, and tie a label with your monogram or wedding date to the top
  • Pour it – miniature bottles of maple syrup are a sweet treat
  • Fill it – miniature wood crates lined with straw and filled with goodies are a rustic touch

Source: Elegala.com

Wedding Bar Options

To drink or not to drink, that is the question. Serving alcohol at your wedding reception can be a costly, and at times controversial, decision. An open bar is the most generous (and expensive) option for your reception, allowing guests free alcohol and unlimited drinks of their choosing. However, if cost or controversy is a concern, here are a few alternative beverage options, of both the alcoholic and non-alcoholic variety:

Limited Bar: If you’d like to offer alcohol, but want to avoid a massive bill or the risk of guests overindulging, consider offering a bar with limited choices and hours of operation. Set a specific alcoholic drink menu with a few options for guests and then limit the times when drinks are available. For example, simply offer beer and wine that is only available during the cocktail hour or just through dinner.

Soda Bar: Offering unlimited soft drinks is certainly more cost effective than liquor and it can be done in a way that’s unique and creative. Serve sodas out of classic glass bottles for a nostalgic vibe or glam them up with fancy fluted glasses for a more elegant affair.

Espresso Bar: Set up a complete coffee bar for guests to indulge in cappuccinos, lattes, and mochas before and after dinner. When served in elegant china, coffee drinks can take on a sophisticated and swanky air. Serve in mismatched coffee mugs for a more relaxed, laid-back feel. To spice things up, consider offering alcoholic alternatives. Alcoholic after-dinner coffee drinks are classy, delicious, and more cost-effective than mixed cocktails.

Cider/Hot Cocoa Bar: Warm up chilly guests at a fall or winter wedding with an apple cider or hot cocoa bar. In addition to the hot beverages, offer a buffet of toppings, like whipped cream, cinnamon sticks, peppermint, sprinkles, and chocolate shavings, for guests to sweeten their treat.

Juice Bar: Liven up a summer gathering or afternoon brunch with a variety of juice options for wedding guests. With chic glassware and an array of garnishes, juice can be both refreshing and classy. Embellish beverages with a splash of alcohol for light, fruity cocktails.

Splurge & Save On Your Wedding Day

Every decision of the wedding preparations comes at a cost. Unless you have an unlimited budget, you’re constantly forced to negotiate with yourself about the expense of every item. If I spend more in this area, I’ll have to cut back in another. Here are some ways to splurge and save on the big areas of your wedding and reception:

The Dress

SPLURGE: Buy the dress of your dreams and have it altered to perfection. It is, after all, the centerpiece of the day and probably the other time you’ll justifiably be able to spend such a significant amount of money on one item of clothing. Plus, you’ll look and feel fabulous all day and in all of your photos. Designer Wedding Dress

SAVE: There are a number of ways to save on your wedding dress. Shop the racks of bridal discount stores, sample sales, or expos. Or wear the wedding dress of your mother, grandmother, or another close female relative. Even if it’s outdated, you can often have it redesigned for a fraction of the cost of a new designer gown. Dress Preservation


SPLURGE: You should absolutely have the flowers that you love at your wedding and reception. They add a punch of color, contribute to the overall theme and feel of the day, and complement the décor. In the hands of a skilled florist, your bouquets and centerpieces can become works of art. So find a great florist who understands your vision and put them in charge of the entire flower scheme.

SAVE: You can still have the flowers of your dreams but for considerably less if you purchase them through a floral wholesaler. Nowadays you can order almost any flower in bulk on the Internet and have them delivered to your home. Find a friend or relative who is skilled with floral arrangements to create the bouquets or gather your bridesmaids together the day before the wedding to each arrange her own. There are books and magazines that offer a step-by-step guide for creating professional and beautiful bouquets, centerpieces, and boutonnieres on your own.


SPLURGE: Splurging on food for your reception is as easy as it gets. Simply hire an amazing caterer, select the most indulgent fare, and offer seven courses for your guests. Throw in an open bar and a dessert buffet to create an unforgettable meal that you’ll be paying off for a long while.

SAVE: Saving on food doesn’t mean sacrificing taste and quality. Opting for a more unique meal is a great way to save cash and make your wedding more memorable. Consult your favorite local restaurant about catering the wedding. They’re often much less expensive than traditional catering companies and you already know you love the food. You can also opt for an elegant brunch instead of dinner or an extravagant array of appetizers and tapas instead of a full meal. If your wedding is themed (think rustic, carnival, or Southern), opt for a tasty but inexpensive meal that supports the theme.


SPLURGE: There are a number of amazing venues that will wow your guests and rack up a big bill. If there’s a location that you absolutely love or has significant value to you, spend the cash to reserve it for your reception. You can also rent creative locations like aquariums, zoos, or museums that are unique, memorable, and entertaining. Even if the venue rental costs more than you intended on spending, you might be able to save in other areas like décor (if it’s ornately designed), rentals (if it comes equipped with tables and chairs), or food (if it’s included in the price).

SAVE: If you know someone who owns a great piece of property, approach them about renting it for a small fee or even using it for free. Family homes, vacation spots, or parks can be great for hosting your wedding and reception and great on your wallet.

More On Wedding Budgeting

Creative Place Cards

If you’re planning to assign seats for your guests during the reception, you’ll need a way to notify them of their spot. Place cards, which should include your guest’s name and table number, can be a great way to incorporate creativity and style into your wedding. Here are a few creative suggestions of ways to wow guests with place cards:

Traditional: Tented place cards are the most traditional option, but they don’t have to be boring. Stationers offer a wide variety of traditional place cards that are classy, romantic, and unique and available in a wide array of colors. Or, if you’re hoping to save money, buy a DIY kit at a craft or office supply store and have fun creating your own. Use ribbon, flowers, stickers, stamps, or other crafty add-ons to create a clever card that’s unique and beautiful.

Seasonal: Incorporate the elements of the season with your place cards. For fall weddings, tuck a place card into acorns or attach with string to apples or gourds. Multipurpose stylish Christmas ornaments as place card holders for winter weddings. For spring, affix a card to a tiny bundle of wildflowers or use seashells for a beachside summer wedding.

Hanging: No one says your place cards have to be assembled on a table. Make things fun and different with hanging place cards. Connect them all with string to create a trendy garland, pin them to a chic covered bulletin board, or attach them to twine using wooden clothespins.

Edible: Make place cards do double duty by notifying guests of their seats and being a tasty treat. Order specially made cookies, cupcakes, or desserts with guest’s names written on top or simply create a cute flag or pick that can be stuck into the tops of each.

Sign: Place cards don’t have to be individual slips of paper for each guest. Assemble one giant list for guests to peruse. Order a large framed print (or have an artistic friend draw or design one), listing guests and their seat assignments or mapping out the room with guests listed at each table, and hang it on a wall or mount it with an easel. Add a rustic touch of whimsy by using a chalkboard to list the seating arrangements.

Favors: Kill two birds with one stone and save space by fastening place cards onto wedding favors. Tie the card on with string or have them printed as a sticky label that can be attached to the favor.

Bridal Shower Etiquette

The bridal shower is one of the few wedding-related events that you don’t have to plan, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t require any work from you. At the very least your friends and family are probably planning one bridal shower for you, if not several, to equip you with the gadgets and goods you need to stock your new home. As the bride, here are a couple responsibilities that you should fulfill:

1. Register for Gifts: While registering for gifts isn’t absolutely mandatory, it’s a great way to ensure you receive the things you truly need and want for your future home. Your registry should be completed prior to the mailing of bridal shower invitations so your guests have ample time to find and purchase a gift. Here are some great wedding registries. More about wedding registry.

2.      Provide the Guest List: It’s up to you to provide a list of names and addresses for everyone you’d like invited to your shower. Remember, if a person isn’t invited to the wedding, they shouldn’t receive an invitation to the bridal shower. In recent years, it’s become common to include every female who is invited to the wedding on the bridal shower guest list. In reality, it’s totally acceptable and more appropriate to only extend invitations to the wedding party, immediate family members of the bride and groom, and close personal friends or co-workers.

3.      Be Early: There’s nothing more awkward for your shower hostesses than having to entertain a complete stranger (or several) while the guest-of-honor is nowhere to be found. Be sure to arrive to the shower early enough that you’ll beat your guests, but not so early that you’ll interfere with the party preparations beforehand.

4.      Provide Helpful Tips: Nobody wants to deal with a bride who is trying to call all the shots for her own bridal shower, but it is helpful to provide useful information to your hostesses about special needs, dietary restrictions, or allergies of guests. If, for example, you have an aunt who is allergic to nuts, a relative who is handicapped, or a co-worker who is vegan, a simple heads-up is much appreciated so the hostesses can make the necessary arrangements to accommodate everyone.

5.      Open Presents: This seems like a no-brainer, but some brides feel shy or awkward about being the center of attention and unwrapping all of their gifts in front of a roomful of people. It is, however, your responsibility as the guest of honor to open your presents in front of your guests so they can celebrate with you and witness your reaction.

6.      Hostess Gift: A personal card and small gift is the most appropriate way to say thank you to your shower hostesses. You can hand-deliver a gift at the actual shower or mail something a few days later to express your gratitude.

More About Bridal Showers

Choosing Wedding Colors

One of the first decisions that need to be made regarding your wedding is what colors to use. The choice will affect everything from the flower arrangements to the stationery to the centerpieces and everything in between. Unless you have a clear favorite color, selecting the color scheme for your wedding day can be a daunting task. Here are some simple ideas to make the task easier:

1. Seasonal Inspiration: What time of year are you getting married? Deep colors like brown, rust, and burgundy are natural choices for a fall wedding, while breezy pastels work great in spring and summer. Let the natural colors of the season determine your wedding colors. As an added bonus, outdoor photos will look fabulous when you take your cue from nature.

2. Venue Accent: If you have your heart set on a particular location for the ceremony or reception, allow it to direct your color choices. Consider the space where your nuptials or celebration will be held and select hues that accent. If a color is prevalent in wall décor, flooring, or surroundings, be careful not to choose a color palette that will clash.

3. Trust Your Instincts: If the wedding date or location hasn’t been set yet and your wedding is essentially a blank canvas, trust your own instincts or tastes. Are there one or two colors that keep coming to mind? When you envision your big day, what do you see? Go with your gut. In the end, when you look back on your wedding day, you’ll be happy that you selected a color that you love and represents who you are, rather than the current trend of the day.

4. Trust Others’ Instincts: If you’re at a total loss of what you want, browse wedding magazines, websites, and photos to gather ideas. Bookmark web pages or tear out photos from magazines of anything that catches your eye. Once you’ve collected several images, compare them and see if a clear theme or color scheme is present.

5. Flower Power: Flowers are a great way to determine the color scheme of your wedding. If you have your heart set on using a specific bud, let it be the color inspiration. A lot of flowers come in various shades, but stop by the local florist or flip through a floral book and see what draws you in. You might be surprised to find yourself pulled towards sunny wildflowers or dramatic orchids.

6. Create a Theme: Maybe you feel like colors are irrelevant but that a theme is incredibly important. What is it? Do you want an ultra-modern wedding or something romantic? Whimsical or preppy? Once you determine the overall theme, it’ll be easier to select colors to support it.

Wedding Colors 2011

Flower Power

Flowers can add drama, romance, or a simple splash of color to your ceremony and reception. With literally thousands to choose from, flowers can make a unique and beautiful statement at your wedding. Here are a few helpful tips to consider when planning your floral motif:

Book in Advance: Since many flowers need to be shipped from other continents, it’s important that you give your florist ample notice about your wedding and your preferences. Your florist should have at least six weeks to order flowers and have them shipped. As an added bonus, ordering in advance can often save money.

Multitask: Many brides order elaborate flower arrangements for the wedding ceremony with no plans to use them again. When meeting with your florist and brainstorming ideas, think of ways to reuse flowers for both the ceremony and reception. This will save you cash and keep the gorgeous bouquets on display. Arrangements used down aisles can double as centerpieces while larger displays can serve on the buffet table, head table, or alongside favors or place cards.

Trust the Experts: It’s wise of you as a bride to assemble photos and ideas of flowers or arrangements that you like. However, when you sit down with the florist, trust his/her instincts. Communicate your vision, likes, and dislikes but be open to suggestions the florist may offer.

Budget: Flowers are not always cheap so be sure to budget accordingly, especially if you have your heart set on elaborate arrangements and bouquets or particularly pricey buds. Talk to your florist about ways to incorporate more expensive flowers, but offsetting the price by coupling them with less expensive blooms.

Size: Contrary to what they say, size does matter. Large arrangements, bouquets, or centerpieces can be a major wow factor at your wedding, but they can also take away from the day as well. A massive bouquet for the bride or bridesmaids can be heavy, distracting, and can actually hide the beautiful dresses. Tall centerpieces at the reception can overpower an intimate space, prohibit guests from visiting with one another, or obstruct otherwise beautiful views. Elizabeth Wray Designs can help you with these types of decisions.

Accent: Just because you love the color pink doesn’t necessarily mean that every dress, accessory, and flower needs to be in various shades of the hue. Don’t be afraid to use accent colors for a dramatic pop. While the monochromatic look can be stunning, it’s not always easily achieved. When you see your wedding photos, you might be disappointed to see bland bridesmaids whose flowers blend into their dresses. Look through magazines and discuss ideas with your florists to incorporate an unexpected accent color in your floral arrangements.

Flowers By Season

More About Wedding Flowers