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Variety is the spice of life with wedding cuisine Weddings are a celebration wherein guests look forward to the reception as much as the actual ceremony, and the food served at the wedding is often hotly anticipated. Wedding receptions feature a bevy of different foods to tempt the palates of those in attendance. From appetizers served during the cocktail hour to the last crumb of cake, food plays a big role in a wedding reception. Choosing foods for a reception can take a little forethought, especially when the wedding party is especially large. The following are a few suggestions to ensure most guests are happy with the menu selections. The first rule of thumb is variety. As much as budget allows, give guests the choice over what they dine on. During the cocktail hour -- if there is one -- couples can play with many different tastes and offerings. For those who want to be creative, this is the time to do so. Exotic flavors can be served alongside more traditional offerings that guests recognize. For example, offer Asian fusion appetizers that may have spice alongside more traditional items, like miniature quiches. During the main course of the meal, give guests a few options. Most catering facilities will offer suggestions in their meal packages. Couples can typically choose to offer a meat dish, a poultry and a seafood. This

caters to a wide variety of diners. It is important for couples to recognize that many people have food allergies or are on restricted diets. While it may not be possible to provide for everyone’s specific requirements, it is possible to make

adopted gluten-free lifestyles. More and more restaurants and establishments have expanded their offerings to include gluten-free items, so it is important for the bride and groom to confirm. People who are diabetic and must limit their consumption of

some accommodations First, ask the catering manager how his company provides for guests who are vegetarians or vegans. Ensure that the meal will not be simply a bunch of garnishes and vegetable side dishes lumped together. In addition, couples should recognize that many people have now

sugars and carbohydrates may appreciate a selection of sugar-free desserts or lower carbohydrate foods. When couples focus on meeting the needs of their guests, it shows they have put in the effort to make everyone feel welcome and comfortable at the wedding. Couples who have the environ-

ment in mind can choose to serve organic foods and look to catering facilities that purchase foods from local vendors and farms. If a banquet hall does not make such concessions, ask if specialty items that benefit organic and local food producers can be brought in. Some caterers will be happy to make the change, but it will likely affect the cost of the wedding package to do so. Food and drink will be some of the most costly portions of a wedding, and couples who are interested in keeping costs down can still offer quality foods if they make some changes. Varying the time of day that the wedding is held can enable a brunch or luncheon wedding to take place. These foods are often less expensive and labor-intensive to prepare, and therefore the cost savings are passed down to the bride and groom. Some couples opt for a cocktail and hors d’oeuvre-only reception -- which should clearly be indicated on the invitation so that guests can plan accordingly. An informal wedding may feature only a selection of desserts and specialty liquors. This may be the least expensive option. Food is an important factor at a wedding and it is in a couple’s best interest to ensure that the food served is tasty, full of variety and acceptable to the majority of the guests who will be attending the reception. BR131785

Make the most of a rainy wedding day When a couple envisions their ideal wedding day, rain rarely comes into the picture. Unless a couple likes things soggy, chances are rain on the big day will be a bit of a disappointment. While there’s no way couples can keep it from raining on their wedding days, there are ways to prevent rain from ruining the ceremony and the ensuing festivities. * Have a contingency plan in place well in advance. Weather is unpredictable, but couples who choose an outdoor wedding should begin making a contingency plan well in advance of the wedding. This doesn’t mean couples need to plan two weddings, they just need to discuss with vendors what the plan of action is going to be should rain arrive. When booking a

venue, discuss with the venue manager what the venue can do if it rains. Many venues will set up a tent and have an umbrella station for arriving guests. When getting married outdoors, choose a venue that’s both idyllic and capable of handling a wet wedding. It’s best to also have a contingency photography plan in place as well. When choosing a photographer, ask about his or her history with rainy weddings. Find out if the photographer has an indoor studio where portraits can be taken if the conditions outside are not ideal. Or, maybe he or she is familiar with the reception site and knows a few areas that would make good backdrops. * Get dressed at the venue. Brides understandably fear their wedding dress won’t survive a soggy ceremony. To reduce the gown’s exposure to rain, brides should consider getting dressed at the venue. This means they will only have to wear the dress outside during the actual ceremony. Wrap the gown and other accessories including

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shoes, in plastic to keep them safe from rain and mud. If the wedding is slated for later in the day, call the venue and determine how early the wedding parties can arrive and how much space will be provided for the party to get dressed. This won’t be too big an issue for the groom and his groomsmen, but the bride and her bridal party will likely want to get there several hours in advance of the ceremony. * Wear waterproof makeup. Brides-to-be should wear waterproof makeup. In addition, bring a collection of items, including hairspray and extra makeup, that can help combat the elements. * Prepare the ushers. Ushers will need to be extra diligent during a rainy ceremony. Instruct the ushers before guests begin to arrive that their roles have taken on greater importance thanks to the weather. Ushers should keep an eye out and an umbrella open for arriving guests, escorting guests to their seats under a cloak of

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Roles of the best man and maid of honor Being chosen as a best man or a maid of honor is a significant and meaningful honor. Those roles have evolved over the years, but these special participants must still perform some of the traditional duties of the past, including serving as the official witnesses to the ceremony. The following is a rundown of the various duties maids of honor and best men are now expected to handle once they’re chosen for these distinguished honors. Prior to the wedding Before the wedding takes place, the maid of honor will closely assist the bride-to-be with many of the important decisions related to the look and the feel of the wedding. She typically accompanies the bride to dress shops to select gowns for the bride and bridesmaids. Much in the same manner, the best man will assist the groom-to-be with choosing tuxedoes or suits and also with coordinating with the ushers to ensure they know when to go for fittings. Although the best man will serve as a sounding board for the groom, traditionally the bride and her bridesmaids have taken on the majority of the wedding planning, so the maid of honor can expect to play a larger role than the best man. The maid of honor may be asked to delegate certain assignments, such as helping to find wedding vendors or addressing invitations. She may go with the bride for makeup and hairstyle trials. Together with the bridesmaids, she will plan a bridal shower party and a bachelorette excursion. She may select a wedding gift for the couple and present it on behalf of all the wedding attendants. The best man will coordinate the bachelor party and may be asked to assist the groom with selecting a honeymoon site or to

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come along to book the trip. Wedding day On the day of the wedding, the maid of honor and the best man will act as a support system for the bride and groom. The maid of honor will help the bride get dressed and help iron out any mini-emergencies that should crop up. The best man will help ensure all of the ushers are dressed and get the groom to the wedding on time. During the ceremony, the maid of honor will hold the bride’s bouquet while she participates in the wedding. The best man will keep the rings safe until they are needed. The maid of honor also will help adjust the bride’s train and veil as she sits and stands during the ceremony. Both will sign the marriage certificate as witnesses. At the reception, the best man is expected to give a toast and the maid of honor may share some words as well. She also may accompany the bride to the restroom and assist her with managing the gown. After the wedding The best man will be in charge of returning the tuxedoes to the rental shop, if necessary. He also may drive the newly married couple to the airport so they can depart on their honeymoon. The maid of honor will assist the bride in changing out of her gown and into her travel clothes. Oftentimes the maid of honor takes the gown to the cleaners in the days following the ceremony so the dress can be preserved. BR131826

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Determining if a destination wedding is for you When the time comes to walk down the aisle, more and more couples are choosing to make the procession in a far-off land. Destination weddings are on the rise, with researchers at TheKnot.com reporting that roughly one in four couples who tied the knot in 2011 chose to have a destination wedding. Destination weddings may appear to be an ideal way to tie the knot, but couples should know that planning such a ceremony may be even more difficult than planning a more traditional affair. Couples who choose to have a destination wedding must be ready to put a significant amount of faith in a wedding planner, who is often affiliated with the resort where the couple will be staying. Though the wedding planner may handle many of the details concerning the ceremony and the reception, couples should know that some of that planning will still fall on their shoulders as well. That planning may not be so simple, so before couples spread the word about their island wedding, it’s best to consider a few factors to determine if a destination wedding is truly the best way to go. * Guests: How many guests a couple hopes to invite is a great starting point when determining if a destination wedding is for you. Many couples who choose to have a destination wedding do so because they prefer a more intimate ceremony. Destination weddings are obviously more expensive for guests than a more traditional ceremony, so many guests won’t be able to afford to attend. Couples who intend to invite many guests might want to avoid a destination wedding. * Locale: The destination for your destination wedding should be a locale that holds a special place in your heart. A random location that you find on the Internet might work out, but having some prior experience with the destination can help you anticipate minor, yet potentially problematic, issues. These issues can include the accessibility of the airport, currency exchange rate and the weather. In addition, you can help guests have a better time on their trips if you have already familiarized yourself with the locale. If you haven’t traveled much as a couple and don’t have a particular place in mind, then you might find a destination wedding is more hassle than it’s worth.

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* Accessibility: A common problem many couples encounter when planning a destination wedding is the accessibility of their chosen locale. Couples will likely have to visit the destination at least once prior to their wedding, which will eat up some of your wedding budget and your vacation time (which you will need to save for the actual wedding and your honeymoon). If the locale is a remote island that’s not very accessible, that can make these pre-wedding trips pretty stressful. Accessibility should also be a consideration for your guests. How far will your guests have to travel? How much money will guests have to spend on airfare and hotel accommodations? The less accessible the locale is, the more you and your guests are going to have to spend. Accessibility of the airport is another consideration. Some island locales and resorts are known for their remoteness, which can be a problem for wedding guests. If the resort is a long ride away from the airport, that’s another expense for guests. The resort may provide a shuttle service, but that cost will fall on the couple and the shuttle may not run frequently, which can prove problematic when guests’ arrivals are staggered. * Legality: The law is another thing couples must consider when deciding if a destination wedding is for them. Laws vary depending on the locale, so before you commit to a specific locale, make sure you’re legally allowed to get married there and if there are any hurdles you must clear before you can. Those hurdles might be significant, and couples may find they’re not worth the hassle. Destination weddings are on the rise, but couples must consider a host of factors to ensure a destination wedding is truly for them. BR131781

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Wedding advice: Be open to ideas and expertise Once you announce your plans to get married, there’s a good chance that people close to you will be ready and willing to dispense their share of advice. Some words of wisdom will be priceless, while others you can store away for another day. When polling married couples, you will likely find they would change “this” or “that” about their weddings if given the chance to do it all over again. Here is some advice that you can choose to follow for your wedding day. Tip #1: Trust your vendors Couples often have unique ideas for their wedding day. It may seem tempting to spell out what you want in minute detail and insist on wedding vendors carrying out your wishes to a T. But the smarter idea may be to give vendors a little more free reign -- after all, they are the professionals. “I had a vision in my head of what I wanted my centerpieces to look like,” offers Jean M., Connecticut. “I gave the florist my suggestions and the ‘feel’ of what I was trying to create, but ultimately Ileft the finished product up to her. When I walked into the reception hall and saw my centerpiece baskets overflowing with fall-hued flowers, berries and twinkling candles, I was so excited I had left it up to the expert.” When deciding on particular aspects of the wedding, you can give your general ideas, but leave the finished product to the professionals. Don’t list every song you want the deejay to play or micromanage all of the poses the photographer should take. After all, experienced pros have

likely done this dozens of times in the past and could produce results you never dreamed possible. Tip #2: Scale down Unless you are planning on auditioning for the show “Over-the-Top Weddings,” it might pay to make your wedding more about being personal and less about wowing the crowd with special effects and expensive treats. It’s easy to be lured into extra dinner courses or be persuaded to release doves at the ceremony, but will these extras impact your relationship or the life you will be building together? “If Ihad to do it all again, I would skip the dessert bar I had at my wedding,” says Alice C., Ohio. “The spread of pies, pastries, cookies, and chocolates certainly looked impressive, but it cost me a small fortune. Also, people filled up on the dessert bar so much, they no longer had room to taste my special-ordered wedding cake.” Tip #3: Don’t overextend Your wedding will hopefully be a once-in-a-lifetime event. Therefore, couples often plan to spend a good deal of money to ensure their special day is perfect. Weddings are still viewed as a high-priority expense and most couples save for a long period of time despite sluggish consumer spending reports. According to the market research and analysis firm IBISWorld, nearly 60 percent of couples go over their budgets when getting married. Some do so at the risk of being in debt afterward. “It can be easy to get carried away in wedding spending,” shares Deirdre H., Michigan. “I went way over

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budget when getting my wedding gown and a few other components of my wedding. My husband and I struggled the first year of our marriage trying to fix our finances and battling a bad case of money-related stress.” Try to stick to a budget as much as possible so that you can enjoy yourself not only on the wedding day, but also long after the honeymoon has ended. Tip #4: Keep it in the family Selecting members of your wedding party can be challenging because there may be so many special people in your lives right now that you want to honor. Choosing a best man and a maid/matron of honor is a large responsibility because these people stand out in the wedding. Although couples struggle with their choices and want to please everyone, your safest bet is to choose a family

member. “I ended up choosing my best friend over my sister as maid of honor,” says Clara T., Arizona. “Although we were very close at the time, we’ve since grown apart due to work relocation. My sister and I, however, talk and hang out frequently. I regret not having asked my sister to be my maid of honor, considering hers is a friendship I know will last a long time.” Unless you don’t have close family members or your relationship with your siblings or cousins is strained, choose a family member to serve as best man or maid of honor. It is easy to be overwhelmed when planning a wedding, and couples can expect to be bombarded with advice. However, it could pay to heed the advice of couples who have already lived and learned from their wedding choices. SB127285

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Here’s to you Tips for a great best man toast The best man toast can be one of the most memorable parts of a couple’s wedding. Sometimes a toast is memorable for its humor and heartfelt sense of appreciation for the groom and his bride, while other toasts are more memorable for all the wrong reasons. One of the reasons best man toasts can be so unpredictable is that giving a best man toast is such a unique experience. It’s something many men never do, while those who do give a best man toast may only do it once in a lifetime. It’s understandable to be nervous when asked to give a best man toast, but there are a few tricks of the trade a best man can employ to calm those nerves and ensure his toast is memorable for all the right reasons. * Practice makes perfect. Few people are capable of standing in front of a crowd of people and speaking off the cuff. A best man should take this into account and practice his speech before the big day. A spurof-the-moment speech may provide an adrenaline rush, but such an endeavor may come off as if you didn’t care enough to put the effort into writing a thoughtful toast ahead of

time. In addition, practicing the toast once it’s been written will make you feel more comfortable and confident in front of the crowd. If possible, practice in front of a friend or family member so you can solicit feedback.

disaster. Though it may seem like a good idea to employ alcohol to calm your nerves and lower your inhibitions, it’s not a good idea. Consuming alcohol before your toast increases the chance that you will

A friend or relative might be able to help you fine-tune the speech, which in turn can calm your nerves once you’re handed the microphone. * Avoid alcohol. Getting liquored up prior to your toast is a recipe for

end up embarrassing the bride and groom as well as yourself. * Get to the point. Men and women who have attended their fair share of wedding receptions no doubt have sat through a long-winded toast from

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the best man or maid of honor. Such toasts can bring a festive reception to a grinding halt, and guests will likely tune out before the best man or maid of honor gets to the point. Being succinct should be a goal for a best man with regard to his toast. Avoid long-winded walks down Memory Lane in favor of a toast that thoughtfully cuts to the chase and lets everyone get back to celebrating. * Spin a yarn. While it’s important to be brief, don’t be so brief that no one at the reception learns about your relationship to the groom. Share a humorous anecdote from your mutual past to illustrate the type of relationship you and the groom share with one another. This story should have an element of humor but don’t include anything too embarrassing, and all ex-girlfriends should be considered off-limits. * Congratulate the couple. Because nerves play such a significant part in many best man toasts, it can be easy to forget to congratulate both the bride and groom. Don’t just toast the groom at the end of your best man speech; toast his new bride as well. BR131779

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Tips for writing your own wedding vows A wedding is a once-in-a-lifetime event for many couples, so brides and grooms wish for the event to be momentous and memorable. As such, couples are increasingly integrating personal nuances into their ceremonies and receptions to tailor weddings to their unique visions. The desire to include personalized wedding vows continues to be a popular trend. If you are considering personalized wedding vows, first realize that it may not be a simple task. That’s because you want the message conveyed to be dear to your heart, and that can be challenging when faced with the pressures and planning of the rest of the wedding. That isn’t to say that writing your own vows is impossible. Here are some guidelines for personalizing your ceremony with your own sentiments. * Schedule time for writing. Amid the bustle of dress fittings and interviews with photographers, it can be easy to put off the important task of writing vows for another day. But as any great writer can attest, it takes writing -and rewriting -- to achieve a finished product you can be proud of. Give the task of writing your vows your undivided attention. Mark it in on your calendar or set a reminder on your computer just as you would any other appointment. * Be aware of ceremony guidelines. It is best to check with your officiant and confirm that personalized wedding vows are allowed. During civil ceremonies it’s often acceptable to customize vows as you see fit. However, during religious ceremonies there may be lines of scripture that need to be read or certain passages required. Before you spend hours

working on the task, be sure that it is allowed and that your spouse and you are on the same page. * Jot down your feelings. Answer some questions about what marriage means to you and how you feel about your spouse. Try to avoid trite sayings and think from your heart and personal experiences. Think about what is the most important thing you want to promise to your future partner. These notes can serve as the starting points for the actual vows. * Read inspirational writings. Perhaps there is an author or a poet who inspires you? You can quote certain writers in your vows or let the tone of their works help shape the words of your vows. There also are suggested wedding readings and other quotes about marriage readily available at the library or with a quick search online. * Decide on a tone. Although the day is based on love and affection, you may not feel comfortable spouting words of adoration in front of friends and family. Feel free to tap into your unique personality. Humor can be used if it aligns with the way you normally express your affections. Be sure to weave this tone into more traditional passages to create a cohesive expression of your feelings. * Establish an outline. Put together all of the words and phrases you’ve jotted down

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into an outline to help you organize the flow of the vows, using these words as a blueprint for the vows and building upon them. Make sure the vows will be concise. Aim for your entire speech to be around 1 minute in length to keep everyone engaged and the ceremony moving along. * Put everything together. Draft your vows and then practice them by reading out loud. You want to avoid long sentences or anything that trips you up. Although large words may sound impressive, they could make the vows seem too academic and not necessarily heartfelt. Enlist the help of a friend or two to act as your audience to see if the vows sound good and are easily understandable. Writing your own vows can be a way to include personal expressions of love into a couple’s wedding day. Public speaking is seldom easy, nor is finding the perfect words to convey feelings about a future spouse. However, with some practice and inspiration, anyone can draft personalized vows. BR131768

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Find a gown they all will love Close friends and family members are an important component of a couple’s wedding day. Individuals who are especially close to the bride and groom are often asked to become members of the wedding party, which means a bride-to-be will be asking one or more women to play an integral role in the celebration. To set these ladies apart from other guests at the wedding, they are often asked to wear coordinating bridesmaid gowns. Selecting a style and color that is fitting to the unique people of the bridal party can be challenging, but it’s not impossible. As if choosing your maid of honor wasn’t tricky enough, you now must make a host of other decisions as well, all while playing stylist to the wedding party. Fashion sense is as unique as a fingerprint, and it is unlikely the bridesmaids will be able to agree on every aspect of the gowns they will be asked to wear. However, there are ways to narrow down the choices and be as accommodating as possible to their needs. Size matters The body shapes and sizes of the women in your bridal party will be different, and this should be kept in mind when selecting a gown style and cut. There are certain dress shapes that are universally flattering, such as A-line. Try to avoid

gowns that are extremely formfitting, as only a few of the bridesmaids may be able to pull off this look successfully. The remainder could be left feeling self-conscious and uncomfortable. Plus, form-fitting clothing will be restrictive and can be difficult to move around in -- particularly considering the gown will be worn for an entire day. Flattering Color As a bride you may have a colorscape in your mind for the wedding. But what looks good in table linens and flowers is not always the right choice for clothing. Take the skin tones and hair colors of your bridesmaids into consideration before choosing a dress. Green- and yellow-hued dresses may not look nice on women with olive skin tones, while very pale colors may wash out women with fair skin. Those with dark skin may need a brighter-colored dress. Price Tag It is an honor to be asked to be part of a bridal party, but that honor can be very expensive. The bridesmaids are expected to pay for their wardrobe, hair styling, and makeup, as well as parties and gifts for the happy couple. As a courtesy to the women who already will be investing a considerable amount to be a part of your wedding, make every effort to select a gown that

is affordable. There are plenty of retailers offering stylish options that may not be as expensive as some specialty stores. Other Tips Once you’ve decided on the basic elements, consider the following suggestions to find a gown that the bridal party will enjoy. * Take one or two bridesmaids shopping with you. Try to select ones with opposite body types so you can see how the gown looks on a woman who is thin and one who may be more full-figured. * Think about choosing separates. The bridesmaids can mix and match tops and bottoms to find a fit that works. This may enable a woman with a larger bust size to select a top with supportive straps while another bridesmaid can opt for strapless. Many stores have increased their inventory of separates because of their growing popularity.

* Choose one color and then let the bridesmaids choose the style they like the best for themselves. The look will still be cohesive, but it won’t be boring with one type of gown. Also, each bridesmaid will be comfortable with a gown that flatters her shape. * Go with a tea-length gown. These gowns have become quite trendy and are less formal and cumbersome than full-length gowns. Plus, there is a greater likelihood that the gown can be used again at a later date. * Purchase the bridesmaid gowns at the same store where you will be purchasing your wedding gown. Most shops will offer a courtesy discount if the bridesmaid gowns are purchased at the same store. Ensuring bridesmaids are happy in their gowns takes a little work but will be well worth the effort. BR131782

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