caticonslite_bm_altWatch Your Wedding Grow From Two, Then Three, Four, and More…

In the beginning, it was so simple. First romance, then that wonderful realization that you want to be together always. A ring appears, a question pops, a yes exclaimed.

But soon a crowd begins to form.

It starts with excited phone calls to mom and dad, friends and family. There are hugs and exclamations of joy. We’re getting married! You’re getting married!?! How wonderful, says the world. Everyone loves a wedding. Everyone has an opinion.

And then, the planning begins. You know the why — love and all that, it’s the where, when, what, and how that turn even the most sensible couples into raving lunatics. Yes, you will become a raving lunatic. Sorry about that. Unless of course, you listen to the Sane Bride.

Are You Throwing a Wedding or a Broadway Play?

At some point, your wedding will evolve from a simple expression of your love for one another into a full-scale production. You will empty your bank accounts, your parents will invite dusty relatives you thought had long passed, and you will become obsessed with the subtle color variations between ivory and bisque.

A keyword search for “wedding” on Amazon.com produces over 5,000 results. Most of the books, guides and planners repeat the standard rules and etiquette that dictate the blueprint for every wedding you’ve ever attended. From seating arrangements and division of expenses to corsage allocations and proper linen monogramming, these codes of conduct shift the focus from an expression of commitment between two people to a display of material necessity. The American way encourages spending as a way to validate our place in society, so why should the wedding industry differ. But you don’t have to support it.

What Do You Really Need to Make a Wedding Happen?

When did real people decide that it was necessary to serve 300 guests a sitdown five-course meal? When did real people decide that it was perfectly normal to require the bridal party to stay at a $400-per-night hotel and purchase $600 designer gowns and suits? Hmmm?

We’ve heard it all before. Friends and family vow to never fall victim to the bridal industry. They pledge to overcome the stress and the pressure to follow the cookie-cutter formula, but without fail, they inevitably end up delivering a wedding that is a variation on the same traditional theme. It’s not their fault. It’s what the wedding industry and every voice around them tells them to do.

In general we blame the wedding industry, parents, friends, co-workers, the government, organized religion, anyone who has ever watched television — basically all higher life forms capable of communicating with the outside world.

More specifically, we point our fingers at serial bride Elizabeth Taylor, and her modern contemporary, J Lo, star of the hit film Anaconda. Or was it Jackie O? Cinderella? Or poor, lovely Princess Diana. These are not ordinary people, and in Cinderella’s case, not actually real. Regardless, dear readers, we’re sorry to have to break the news, but you are taxpaying, hard-working, trying-to-make-ends-meet real people.

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Take Our Poll: Are You a Vegas Bride or Groom?

By Gregory Moine

Welcome to fabulous Las Vegas sign by Gregory Moine, on Flickr

It may seem like a cliché, but more couples are married in Las Vegas than any other city in the United States. According to the the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority’s website Visit Las Vegas, there are more than 122,000 marriage licenses issued each year.

Vegas is a pretty great option considering the multitude of location and accommodation choices, the cheap airfare and activities for a wide range of guests. And bonus, you can spend as little (in the hundreds) or as much as you’d like. The variations are pretty endless from rocking Elvis weddings to romantic ceremonies performed in a gondola through the Venetian’s canals. Are you ready to take the Vegas plunge?

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caticonslite_bm_altGoogle Joins the Wedding Industrial Complex

Yes, Google is now in the wedding business at google.com/weddings, making it easier than ever to create a simple and free web site, create invitations and save the date cards with Picnik, and plan the details with Google Docs.

And bonus, right now you can enter for a chance to win $25,000 towards your dream wedding designed by Michelle Rago. Not sure who that is, but I’m sure she’s a lovely person.

Create your wedding website with Google Sites. I’ve used Google Sites for several projects and they are very simple to set up. Any collaborators will need a Google account – but doesn’t everyone have one these days. They have several themes to choose from and it’s a simple process to add pages and update the navigation automatically.

For photo editing and personalized announcements they’re hawking Picnik, one of the company’s hundreds of acquisitions. I’ve never used it but on a quick tour, I’m kind of annoyed. The styles all coordinate nicely with templates available for Google Sites, so everything will match beautifully. But there isn’t single sign on between my Google account and Picnik. I have to log in again. Shouldn’t it just know me? And I can’t use my existing Google account to login. So booo. But it is free so what do I expect? Oh yeah! Great stuff just like I get from all Google products. Ok so after all my complaining it only took a few minutes to create an account. But then I got completely lost. I can’t recommend this site. Use Snapfish instead.

Next they’ve package Google Docs as the way to save time “by collaborating with your bridal party on guest lists, schedules, addresses, and more. Access and edit your planning documents from the bridal shop, bakery or pretty much anywhere.” Now this I believe. I love Google Docs and use them for just about everything from tracking expenses to doing taxes to party planning. If you haven’t tried them yet – do it now!

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caticonslite_bm_altPlanning to Watch the Royal Wedding? Take Our Poll!

The Royal Wedding of Prince William of Wales and Kate Middleton is set for April 29, 2011. Will you be watching?

I remember as a sleepy 10-year-old getting up at 3 or 4am to watch the nuptials of Princess Diana and Prince Charles. Of course, I grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin so getting up early wasn’t out of the ordinary. And it was glorious! Such the perfect fairy tale wedding… But, it’s pretty doubtful I’m going to haul my rapidy widening ass out of bed at an ungodly hour to watch this time around. How about you?

For inspiration, highlights from Princess Diana and Prince Charles’ wedding.

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caticonslite_bm_altBHLDN: Gorgeous Wedding Gowns, Worst Store Name Ever

From Anthropologie comes BHLDN.com, a collection of gorgeous wedding gowns, bridesmaid dresses, shoes and accessories at reasonable prices — $600 to $3,600.

An understated word with significant meaning charmed us. And so began, BHLDN.

Inspired by the Dutch word for “to keep,” as well as countless tales from family and friends of the extraordinary weddings they’d been part of, we began dreaming up something new.

Our roots are with Anthropologie, so a passion for experience and creating one-of-a-kind moments runs deep. But our offering speaks more to the not-so-everyday occasions—ours is a voice that celebrates a woman’s most anticipated milestones. And one that gives tradition a twist.

We want, more than anything, to help a woman create an event that reflects her own unique perspective… to a tee. We want to give a bride that edit she’s been searching for—with heirloom-quality wedding gowns, artisanal hair adornments, footwear, and lingerie. And we want happy bridesmaids—in mix-and-match frocks with rich hues and unexpected details.

But it goes beyond the dress. Our goal, and the reason we drape, fold, bustle, and stitch, is to start a conversation with our customer—to build a resource where she can come to find inspiration and to share with those closest to her, as well as our broader coterie. BHLDN’s story is unfolding; and we’ll look to our customer for cues and guidance going forward.

There are no checkboxes. No fill-in-the-blanks. On the contrary, we think a moment should be as layered and dimensional as the woman standing within it.

Be you. Be loved. BHLDN

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caticonslite_bm_altOCD Wedding Disasters: The Hunt for the Perfect Place-Settings

A few weeks ago, a co-worker announced her engagement and plans to move with her finance to New York City. She’d already decided that in spite of the East Coast move, the wedding would take place in California gold country and the guest list would be near the 150 mark.

We all went out for a ladies work lunch to celebrate at a tea house down the street from the office. We sat on rickety chairs and drank tea and tiny sandwiches brought to us by our glacially slow waitress. All the place settings were delicate tea cups and saucers of the variety my grandmother spent her life collecting. And this little 20-something planning her first wedding pipes up that she was planning to collect 150 settings of vintage china for her wedding.

150 settings in addition to working full-time in New York City, and planning a wedding in California. Sounds like an OCD disaster. I can already hear her complaining about how the most important day of her life was ruined by only finding 123 cups and 143 saucers for her vintage place settings and how little Ralphy, the nephew of so and so, broke three sets! Oh the humanity.

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caticonslite_bm_altSierra Club: 10 Steps to a Green Wedding

The Sierra Club offers 10 great tips on how to have a green wedding from beautiful alternatives to conventional diamonds, using recycled paper or postcards for invites, staying local for bachelor and bachelorette parties, dress and flower options, and basing your menu around local, organic, and seasonal foods. More… 

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caticonslite_bm_altBeware the Cost of the Average American Wedding

The cost of the average wedding in the United States (honeymoon not included) is $20,398, according to The Wedding Report, a wedding professional online resource. The 2007 average topped out at $28,704 but has since dropped 24%. But still, twenty grand is still a lot to spend on a party…

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caticonslite_bm_altOld School Celebrities Who Started the Wedding Madness

Grace Kelly & Prince Rainier of Monaco
• 12 carat diamond ring
• Veil hand-embroidered with thousands of seed pearls

* Reality Check: Doublewhammy
Hollywood Royalty + Real Royalty
Get married at Grace Cathedral and host a “To Catch a Thief” themed cocktail party at a
friend’s house.

Elvis Presley & Priscilla Ann Beaulieu
• Six-foot, six-tier wedding cake
• Menu included lobster, Oysters Rockefeller and ham and eggs

* Reality Check:
Get married by Elvis at the Viva Las Vegas Wedding Chapel

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caticonslite_bm_altChoosing Your Wedding Location: The Great Outdoors

The Bay Area has some of the most beautiful weather and scenery in the world. Unfortunately, especially along the coast, the views can be shrouded in chilly fog for weeks on end. If you want outdoors and better odds with the weather, plan a coastal wedding for September, October or November. Or, head inland where temperatures quickly rise into the 90s and 100s during the summer months.

Brainstorm:

  • You love camping. Plan a weekend trip to Yosemite national park and get married under cathedral-like Redwoods.
  • Texas BBQ makes your mouth water? Rent a spot in Chrissy Field and hire one of several local full-service BBQ caterers to cook up a storm for $15 to $20 a head.
  • You are the Badminton Queen of Chippewa County. Host a tournament in your local park and serve guests individual picnic boxes and fruity cocktails.

The upside of the outdoors location:

  • Take advantage of the most beautiful weather and scenery on the planet! It’s worth the risk.
  • Only $200-$600 to reserve an outdoor location in Golden Gate Park or the Presidio.
  • Many regional parks have gorgeous spots to rent for even less.

Location Woes — Don’t Panic

Jason & Ricki had only been engaged two weeks before they’d really considered the cost of hosting and feeding 130 guests. They panicked and reserved the first reception location they could get. When they realized their budget of $10,000 would only allow them to serve their guests passed hors d’oeuvres, they cut their guest list in half and decided to have a more intimate event. However their location, on which they already put a deposit, was now inappropriate for 60 people.

Things to consider:

  • You are gambling with the weather.
  • You may need to rent and transport everything from tables, chairs, tents, catering equipment, microphones, speakers, portable toilets…
  • Accessibility issues for elderly and handicapped guests.
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caticonslite_bm_altWedding Stress Is Over-Rated

If your wedding day is supposed to be the most important of your life, how ironic that some brides can’t wait for it be over. Too many brides complain that they are so stressed and exhausted by their wedding day that they can’t wait for the honeymoon to recover.

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