Thursday, December 28, 2006

Conflict diamonds

With the message of the movie "Blood Diamond" reverberating around the world right now, I'm getting a lot of letters about how to tell if your diamond is one of the 'conflict diamonds,' and where you can go to find non-conflict diamonds. Here's a great article from's jewelry expert, where you'll find terrific, educational links to help you out:

And if you're interested in naturally-colored diamonds, check out

While we're on the subject, look at the beautiful hues of colored pearls at I had the great fortune of trying some of these on, and they give a modern twist to a traditional wedding day jewelry look for moms, maids and brides.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

If you've gotten engaged this holiday season....

Congratulations! This is a very exciting time for you, and for your families, so start off the process right -- with a relaxed celebration that's all about happiness and not about planning. Invite your nearest and dearest over for dinner, or take everyone out to your favorite place, and soak up the joy that everyone's feeling right now. No need to freak out about the plans to come -- or the expenses -- since there's plenty of time for that later. Take lots of photos, perhaps using Adesso Albums ( to create a scrapbook/guestbook with notes from everyone in attendance.

Now's also the perfect time to start your gratitude journal, where you'll record all the bright moments during your pre-wedding time. Check it out at my site, along with all the books you'll need for an organized, budget-friendly wedding.

It was a beautiful Christmas, spent with my family, with Joe and with Joe's family -- great food, great company, and the gift of loved ones right there at the table. Can't ask for more than that. :)

As the year comes to a close, I thank you for visiting me here at my blog, for writing such wonderful letters to my site and through my wedding forums, and I wish you a happy, safe, and healthy New Year.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Bridesmaids: how to donate your dresses!

The big trend today is for bridesmaids to donate their dresses rather than letting them collect dust in the back of the closet. Sure, you could hope to wear the dress again, or maybe get it tailored into a shorter style...but imagine the thrill of a high school girl who gets YOUR dress to wear to her prom.

Nonprofit organizations around the country collect "gently used" dresses or tuxedos in order to give low-income teens a chance to attend their high school proms in style. Check out these organizations:

Chicago: The Glass Slipper Project:
Los Angeles: The Cinderella Project:
Washington: The Fairy Godmothers:
Arizona: Fairy Godmothers of Flagstaff:
Ohio: Fairy Godmothers Inc.:

I will be donating my bridesmaid's dress from my brother's wedding to one of these groups -- so know that no matter where you live in the country or the world, you can arrange to send your dress or gown through the mail! Just check out their sites for details.

Benevolent holiday gifts

Charitable giving is a top trend this holiday season, so when I came across this one, I had to pass it along to you. Several years ago, while on a weekend visit out at my friend Jen's in Pennsylvania, she surprised me with tickets to see Jane Goodall in lecture. It was a fascinating evening, as Ms. Goodall was launching her new initiative to foster environmental and animal studies in schools. Now, her organization has an auction going on -- closing at 5pm EST tonight -- So if anyone on your list is a fan of Ms. Goodall's, perhaps this is the perfect place to get a gift.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Donate your dress

If you're not planning to vacu-seal your wedding dress after the big day, consider donating it! Bethany and her team at have set up a terrific program where you donate your dress, and 20% of the consignment sale through their partners goes to the charity of your choice...and it may qualify as a tax donation. So check out this terrific program at I'm searching right now for a group that collects bridesmaids' dresses that will be given to inner city teens to give them stylish prom gown choices. I'll report back on that one as soon as I find it. Busy day today...I've set up charity events for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, the Red Cross, and others through the fabulous gift store chain -- it's my new favorite place for personalized (modern or traditional) wedding, shower, and engagement invitations, as well as amazing gift items for bridesmaids.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Ready for Christmas

Tonight, Joe and I decorated his Christmas tree....I'd gone for coffee while he was finishing up with the strings of lights, and as I was walking back in the winter night air, with two coffees and way too many donuts, it finally felt like Christmas to me. I was bringing 'gifts' to someone I love very much, to a warm apartment and boxes of Christmas ornaments, and the biggest smile grew on my face. Never mind that a heavy ornament clanged against Joe's new crystal ornament (I would have been devastated if it broke) and that Tigger decided to chomp on Joe's hand was the lovely snapshot of holiday happiness that surpassed what I hoped it would be.

We're getting tons of stories in through the 'Best Marriage Proposal' contest, and I love the creativity of these proposals. It's already our best collection ever -- a proposal in Canada at a winter resort, excellent use of the town firemen and the Santa who drives around each Christmas Eve, a cheerleading squad, and more. Last year, two of our couples were featured in People magazine, and we're sure that the media will be calling for our latest stories. Wherever they end up, our couples are very, very happy right now. So spread the word and get your friends to send in their stories. We'll be sharing the best of them on

Right now, I'm in bliss-ville after our lovely holiday evening, and the Rob Lowe movie 'When Things Go Wrong For Mitch Albom' (or something like that) is on in the background. I'll settle in here by the fireplace with a good book for an hour or two and then check our scores because we're in the Fantasy Football playoffs. We may have beaten the #3 guy, which puts us up against the #1 guy next week. And the #1 guy cheats. So let's hope that justice prevails and we knock him out as well. Now that would be a Christmas Miracle. And perhaps a movie of the week starring Rob Lowe next year. He's not turning anything down these days, apparently.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

National average wedding expenses

The numbers are in! According to, here are the national averages of what wedding couples are spending for The Big Day:

Wedding Attire: $2,606
Wedding Ceremony: $2,525
Wedding Favors & Gifts: $1,121
Wedding Flowers: $1,969
Wedding Jewelry: $2,066
Wedding Music: $953
Wedding Photography & Video: $3,688
Wedding Reception: $14,169
Wedding Stationery: $847
Wedding Transportation: $410

I'm not sure what people are spending $2,525 on for their ceremonies -- perhaps decor is included -- but I AM sure that you can beat these numbers with my book 1000 BEST WEDDING BARGAINS. Just looking at this list, I'm thinking, "Nah, you can do better than that!" for a few categories. Some of my top tips for wedding budgeting:

1. Make a Priority List, and devote a larger percentage of your budget to that. If you're thinking, "We want our guests to eat well at the reception," then you'll devote a bigger chunk of your budget to that. If you're not dreaming about custom invitations, then go to to get invitation-making software for almost nothing. That money can then be shifted into your catering, or as a simple big savings.
2. Get a realistic view of what things cost. Start with, where you can plug in your zip code and get category averages for your area, and do lots of research on wedding vendors' price sheets. Few will post their prices online, so you'll have to contact them for a consultation. Consider this time spent to be an investment in your wise money handling.
3. Don't cut too far, or go too far in trying to get things for free. Aim for the middle range, since quality service and products do cost a fair amount.

In other news, I taped my first segments with The Wedding Podcast Network (, and I'm very excited about our upcoming shows. The program is called 'Here Come the Moms,' and we're focusing on everything the mothers of the bride and groom need to know to help plan the wedding, learn the new etiquette rules for moms, de-stress and look great on the wedding day. We're focusing especially on communication, problem resolution, and making sure you look FORWARD to the future after the wedding day. My co-host Holli Ehrlich is delightful, and we have the next ten shows waiting to go. So log on to the WPN and listen to some of the masters like Sylvia Weinstock and Preston Bailey share their inspirations as well. Our show launches next month, and we'll be taping live from the 4PM Wedding Salon at Gotham Hall in New York City in April. (Big thanks to Joe and Adam for circuitously hooking me up with this opportunity!)

Monday, December 11, 2006

Great job, Maren!

My friend Jill's daughter Maren has just embodied the holiday spirit. This is a beautiful girl, whose ringlet blonde hair has always been a focus of compliments (and, I'm sure, some envy in the schoolyard). I just received an e-mail from Jill with a photo of Maren, her hair cut into a cute, little bob.....she donated her hair to Locks of Love, an organization that accepts haircut donations to make wigs for cancer patients. And shortly afterward, Maren dropped a dollar into the Salvation Army bucket.

They say that volunteering is at an all-time high, with one in four Americans donating their time -- not just their money -- to their favorite charitable causes. Kids and teens are the top demographic for this. Plus, charitable wedding registries are on the rise. The nightly news might show devastation as our regular media diet, but as long as there are wonderful people like Maren out there, as long as those 'thinking of others' surveys show a rise in benevolence, that's a very good sign for the future. The holiday spirit is alive and well.

Our bouncing bundle of joy

Joe and I are proud to announce the arrival of our new hamster, Tigger. He's super-tiny, a bundle of energy, and FAST. He seems quite happy in his palatial new home, complete with straw-thatched cottage, lots of cotton and wheel, and the ability to sleep without half a dozen other hamsters climbing on his head. Joe had to actually pick me up in the store so that I could see into the high-up hamster tank, but we made our choice between the sleeping Tigger and the lumbering, greasy-looking, larger hamster in the corner who seemed to be having hallucinations of some kind. Our little guy likes carrot chips and it's only a matter of days before he'll be sleeping in Joe's hand.

Today's been a pure writing day -- I'm doing 8 articles for and I just delivered the entries for the E-Mail a Day program through that site as well. And publicity has started for my new-to-launch book, "Renewing Your Wedding Vows." [If you're one of the couples featured in this book, your copy will be on the way to you shortly!] So it's back to work right now....

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The new anniversary gift list

Traditional gift etiquette has long offered a list of gifts that were appropriate for wedding anniversaries by number. The 1st anniversary was paper, 2nd was cotton and so on...

Now, there's a new, modern list for gift-givers to consider as an alternative to the traditional items (which, of course, some people still stick to.) I scrolled through this modern collection of numbered gift suggestions and found myself laughing. Some of the entries are just so...unexpected. For instance, you have to be married 47 years to get books? But on your 44th anniversary, you get groceries. Don't worry, though, because on your 41st anniversary, you get LAND, so you have someplace to put the books and the groceries. And the cotton and paper everyone else got you years ago.

Just for fun, and perhaps for gift ideas, check out the going list:

And let me know what you think. I'd love your suggestions for some of those blank spaces.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Your Wedding:The Ultimate Bliss Trip

Engagement season has begun, and several million new brides- and grooms-to-be have started shopping for their wedding planning books. We're getting a great response for our new downloadable e-book and guided meditation MP3s at It seems, quite wisely, that today's brides and grooms know that having a plan to stay relaxed is just as important as having a plan to create the perfect wedding. So we offer our guide to keeping your cool and enjoying the process more. Kerstin Sjoquist and I invite you to check out our newest project and add it to your arsenal of wedding prep materials. Body & Soul magazine has just announced that it will include this project in an upcoming issue, and we're thrilled about that!


My brother's wedding

My brother was married this past weekend, and I'll never forget walking down the aisle and seeing my little brother standing there in his tuxedo. He mouthed an 'I love you' as I approached, and after the ceremony told me the same thing. I thought I'd be all weepy at my brother's wedding, but I really wasn't. I was focused on the fact that my father -- who just got a pacemaker a few weeks ago -- was in attendance, and that my mother -- who overcame unbelievable odds to survive her cancer -- looked so beautiful in her gown and was there too....and that Joe was there looking so handsome, and my mother's sister, who hadn't seen her since before she got sick. For me, it was all about who was in the room. Who embodies love. Who embodies family. I have always said, in person and in all of my books, that it's all about the people you love. I won't share details of the wedding, since I was not there in a working capacity but rather as the sister of the groom. And Joe gets bigtime angel wings for doing my family the favor of driving 6 hours up to New Hampshire to deliver this bridesmaid and my father's oxygen tanks, my parents' medicine, etc. He was an integral part of my parents being able to attend -- they were able to fly in because of him. And my parents and I are supremely grateful...

Now that the wedding is over, it's back to work. I start my wedding podcast on Thursday, I'm doing new online content for New Jersey Bride that's due next week, I'm lining up appearances, and the finished version of "Renewing Your Wedding Vows" just arrived the day before I left for the wedding. It's GORGEOUS, with cover quotes from Sasha Souza and Diane Forden. I'm so proud of this brings such a happy thing into the world -- people celebrating GOOD relationships and successful commitments. I love my job. I love what I have the opportunity to create. And I love that somewhere, a couple will see this book, pick it up and use it to plan their own vow renewal -- and their kids will learn about what makes a marriage work. I'm in the inspiration business...