Monday, March 31, 2008

Little bursts of intensity

I've counseled tons of brides and grooms about the gripping bursts of intensity that come in the weeks before the wedding, so here I am in the same ups and downs. Little things are going to spin out of control here and there, so you have to hang on to each other, ask for the relief you need, even if it's just a hug or a morning cuddle. With such a short amount of time to go, even the little problems become larger, so you have to make a conscious effort to write in that gratitude journal, not let the to-do list get out of control, imagine the gorgeous 'snapshots' of your day. For instance, I'm looking at the hydrangea trees and bells of Ireland plants out in my front yard, thinking 'these are going to be gorgeous backdrop for our photos!' It returns me to center. Sure, I'm tense about the sheer magnitude of all the little tasks that need to be done...few people can shake that entirely. But I have a supportive fiance who can make all the worry go away with just one kiss. And we have a solid organizational plan to get all those little details covered.

When we went to apply for our marriage license, we took photos of ourselves outside of town hall. That's right. Everything goes in the wedding scrapbook. So there we were, looking like a couple of lost tourists, smiling as my mom captured the moment. You have to build these snapshot moments into this tense time, or you're going to lose it.

For our weekend, we enjoyed the glorious spring weather and discovered that the previous homeowner had planted daffodils out back, so our first spring in the new house has presented lots of great surprises like that. We have so many unique and unusual birds by us, and I'm hoping to see a robin's nest with those pretty blue eggs in it. The sunshine, the 'fresh start' of spring, the anticipation of good things promised...all are adding up to a higher-energy time. Soon, our home will be filled with our favorite people from all phases and eras in our lives, and that's going to be a phenomenal event to kick off our wedding weekend. Imagine the snapshots! A wedding is all about the PEOPLE who come to share it with you. Yes, you're the center of the day as the wedding couple, but appreciation for loved ones is what elevates a wedding to truly spectacular.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Compassion Couture

Karla Lightfoot's Compassion Couture offers bridesmaid gift tees that send a positive message out into the world:

So your gift of a tee that says something special can make the day of everyone who crosses paths with each of your bridesmaids! Karla's company donates at least 10% of profits to a compassionate charity...and if there's anything we need more of in the world, it's compassion!

Check out Karla's site for more designs, including Be Kind and Be Present, two of my favorites. And if you're a woman with big ideas, join us at a Ladies Who Launch event in your hometown!

Monday, March 24, 2008

The best bridesmaids in the world

I have the best bridesmaids and Matron of Honor on earth! I really have to write a fabulous toast to them at the rehearsal cocktail party, because they're traveling in from Pennsylvania and Virginia for this big day. A day they have all, in one way or another, helped me get to. I've long wished that they lived nearby, so that we could go for girls' night out, get manicures, go to yoga class, go horseback riding, co-op shop at Costco. All the great things about having good friends nearby. We always say, "I wish you were closer!" but we're as close as ever through phone calls and daily e-mails. They return me to my center, as ingrained as they are in who I actually am. So Joe gets not only me, but the great things I absorbed from them as well. We're all products of the people we know.

I was just writing to Jill, my MOH, about the bad dream I had last night, a wedding nightmare [all brides get them] that took place in our darkened reception hall. The wedding is in the daytime. I love Jill's dream analyses, so this should be fun to hear her take on it. And tonight, I'll talk with Jen about what she's reading now, and also to see if she got the birthday present I sent to her. My face always hurts from laughing after I talk to her. And I owe Pam a call -- we had so much fun bowling with her and her kids. I just love these women. They were the first to know that Joe was The One, simply from my tone of e-mails. "You're not being the least bit cautious" was one of their comments. "So this guy must be making you feel protected." Ah, I could never hide my feelings, and my friends know how to read me. So I have been prayed for by my ladies, called, joked with, and verbally hugged from miles away. I do wish they lived closer, but would I get any work done with all those fun outings to do with them? One of my post-wedding goals: visiting more with them at their homes, hopping the train to Philly, going on Amish Country tours with Jill, going out to Chicago to visit with Linda. Joe and I agree that this wedding season has made us appreciate our good faraway friends even more, so we're making it a priority to see them more often. A fabulous circle of trusted friends, who have been with us for so long, is the best life gift ever.

Next room!

We did the right thing in tackling the hardest room to remodel (the office) first...after that, all the other rooms are a cinch. Last night, after a delightful Easter holiday spent with both sides of the family, Joe put up the new Roman shades in our TV room, and we've decided to go with a beautiful deep platinum color for the walls instead of the burnt yellow we chose so long ago.

Which brings up my inevitable parallel to wedding world: the colors you pick out at first might not be the colors you end up with. As all the plans come together, you may find yourself drifting from the pink into more of a terra cotta color. Hang onto your color swatches, though, since it's a terrific keepsake of your wedding day to see the colors you *almost* went with!

In our book What's Your Bridal Style? , Casey Cooper and I guide you through a bunch of color questions to get you looking in your closet and at your home decor to see which colors you have already claimed as your favorites, and which match the season and location of your wedding. Colors also have memories attached to them, so we've asked about your best and worst color memories, too. It's just a different way to explore the whole topic of color for your floral arrangements and food choices, not just the dresses. Visit for more on this book as well as my 30+ additional wedding books, articles and the Don't List worksheets for recording what you both don't want at your wedding.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Supporting a cause

The act of giving is a great thing all the way around. The charity receives much-needed support, and you feel great about being involved and making a difference. I've advised my stressed-out brides to find a little something to do as a way to Give Back. It might be a $10 donation to a charity or volunteering at a 5K on a free Saturday morning.

A colleague of mine asked me to participate in her fund drive for MDA, and that request brought back such great memories of my childhood days. My sister, brother and I planned and carried out big carnivals in our Dad made one of those wheels that you spin to win a prize [I'm sure he still has it in his workshop.] We set up all kinds of games, had movie showings of 'Jason and the Argonauts' in our garage with the movie projector and provided little baggies of popcorn to those who paid 15 cents to see the film. And I was the fortune-teller in costume, up in the tree house with fabric on the walls and little crystal ball for effect. [I had event-planning in my blood even then!] We had gone to Nabisco to ask them for a donation of goodies as prizes, and they gave us a giant case of Oreos. I don't remember what we raised, but I do remember how much fun it was to work together for a great cause.

Since then, I've become very involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (, speaking at one of their events and continuing to raise funds, supporting my brother in his marathon fund-raiser, writing to politicians about medical research funding, and I also sponsor schoolkids at a Lakota School in North Dakota. Last year, I received a letter from a few of the graduates, and that was incredible. Even a two-minute effort for a cause returns such great emotions. And that's exactly what a bride and groom need now.

Getting involved in a cause now, even when you're stressed with the wedding, removes you from your little world [in the grand scheme of things] and connects you to something so much bigger. Which is always a great thing.

So great work, Toni and Steve, for your efforts now, and I hope that you all find a way to give a little something back to the world.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Great quote from Jason Castro

Yes, *the* Jason Castro from American Idol. While gearing up to work on my book manuscript, I cruised on over to the AI site and clicked on the dreadlock sweetie's picture. And he had the best quote: "In the end, it will all be ok. If it's not ok, then it's not the end!" How perfect a philosophy for weddings?!

In my Internet cruising, I also went to our honeymoon spot website and read up on all the different kinds of massages at their spa. So here's a bit of advice for you...when wedding planning stress starts to build, go look at photos of your honeymoon resort. Read up on the amenities, look at the color of the ocean or the hammock by the beach. You'll be there soon.

Safe while you're away

It's no longer enough to just stop your mail and newspaper deliveries while you're away on your honeymoon, as a deterrent to crime. It's a great idea to bring in a trusted housesitter to stay at your place for the week or two while you're away, and make sure you take safety to an even higher level -- teach your housesitter how to shut off the gas and water valves in your home, what to do if your basement floods, what to check if the power goes out, how to work your TV and DVD players so that they're not just pushing random buttons and messing up your DVR. Where the fuse box is and how to work it. How to work your security system -- we have a super-complex one, as well as a network of neighbors looking out for our property at all times. Tell the local police department about the days you'll be away, so that they can step up patrols in your neighborhood, which is also something we're doing as a matter of smart vacationing.

If you'll board your pets, check ahead of time to see if they need any shots such as the bordatella shot to prevent kennel cough, which is a deadly disease that can claim your pet in weeks. If pet-sitters will watch your little ones, make sure they have a complete set of supplies, including enough materials to change their bedding two or three times, plus the phone number of their veterinarian as well as a local animal hospital/emergency center. A vet isn't always open at night, so be sure you provide this second number just in case!

And do a thorough safety check of your home before you leave, making sure that all windows are locked, inner garage doors locked, sliding doors have thick rods or baseball bats in the groove so that they can't be slid open, and other security precautions. And program your air temperature to remain at a safe level, to prevent frozen pipes that cause expensive damage when you return home. It's a lot to keep track of right before the wedding, but it's an essential set of steps to take to keep your home and property safe.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

In memory of Bob Milan

After receiving a response card from Mrs. Milan on her own, I knew something was up. Our dear family friend, the teller of brilliant and brilliantly-delivered jokes, passed away on the 29th, and somehow the message never got to us about his life remembrance ceremony. I'm heart-broken for his wife of 57 years, astounded by her class in responding to our wedding invitation during that terrible time in her life, and will certainly donate to his favorite charity in memory of him. I remember a great story about Bob -- I was in college, living with my dear friends Jen and Pam, and Bob asked me what the biggest challenge of apartment life was. I said, 'affording toilet paper' just joking around. The next time I saw him, he had gotten me a case of toilet paper. That's the kind of guy Bob was. The kind you wished you had as a grandfather. In many ways, he was a grandfather to me, and I wish him an eternity of peaceful rest. He made the world a brighter place. Much love to Jane and to his two beautiful granddaughters.

The gift of what goes wrong...

I must admit that it took a hot bath and a walk around the block to clear my head enough to get to this realization, but there are gifts in the things that go wrong with weddings. I can turn someone's crappy comment into an article. I can appreciate the people who *do* express their joy for us. After the frustration wears off, I mine the problem for the gold. Every bride and groom have problems before the wedding day, and the ones you don't see coming can hit you at a weak spot. And it's such a sadness for me that anyone would try to hit us at a weak spot right now. But they do. It's just a sorry, sad fact. What's cheering me, and what I'll laser-focus on right now, are the many notes of congratulations coming at us from my community on iVillage and on Pash Weddings. Strangers wishing us well, from the goodness of their hearts. Someone at the bridal show I attended said something profound: "Happy people are the quiet ones." They don't give you crap because they're too busy being happy. So true.

So whatever else might go wrong will become an article, a help for other brides and grooms, and in the pruning of our life right now, we make room for the good people who express the best of everything that we deserve. Ironic, isn't it, that we cut back a bunch of trees and pulled the gunk out of the hidden recesses of our gutters last weekend? That's what wedding seasons include as well. It's the dark side of it. I've long advised people to focus on the good, focus on their love, embrace their spouse-to-be, and try, TRY to focus on the good stuff even when the bad stuff is loud (some of my brides write to me because parents have threatened to not come to the wedding if they don't get their way. Can you believe the selfishness in that?!). Weddings bring out the best and worst of people. No bride or groom is exempt from that. We're just lucky that we have soooo many great people with good characters who are happily, willingly doing all they can to make this wedding day fabulous for us and for our circle of loved ones. Let's not forget, both of our families have been through a lot in the past few years, and this wedding is a victory party for all of us, a time for closeness, a joyful gathering.

Yeah, it's a gauntlet. But at the end of it, you change what needs to be changed, you thank for what needs to be thanked, and your life is blessed because you're married to your best friend. Those who want to attract bad karma to themselves can do so. As for us, we're experiencing the great karma that comes from all we have done to care for others over the years. And that's the best part. The things you don't expect to go so RIGHT are in the mix as well. Just focus on that!

Monday, March 17, 2008

A GREAT bridal show

This weekend, I attended THE best bridal show I've ever been at -- It was elegant, beautiful, with tons of great food and wedding cake, and seminars to educate and rescue all of the newly-engaged couples and their parents. All of my favorite NJ wedding coordinators were there, so I got to spend some time with the best in the business, and in a little bit of downtime I sat for the caricature artist who created my first caricature since I was about 6 years old at Disneyworld. I apparently bear a striking resemblance to the Olsen Twins now.

Speaking of childhood photos, I spent Saturday searching through my old photo albums for one picture of me that we're going to display at our rehearsal dinner: I'm about 4 years old, in a stroller, laughing at Tigger in the Disney park. And I *found* it, along with countless hysterical photos of me with the 70s patterned dresses, ringlet curls, dancing school portraits, family photos from our many fun adventures and traditions, and a display of my childhood Smurf collection. Still have 'em, plus the little houses and the snail cart. Looking back through all of that stuff made for a delightful day, which got even better when Joe and I [after laughing at the bad haircut photos] spent our first spring-weather day doing yardwork, trimming bushes and trees by our driveway, and clearing the gutters [that one was all Joe]. Spring cleaning might sound like a burden to some people, but it's one of those Snapshot Moments for me, one of the things I was thinking about when we signed the papers to buy this house.

So it was an awesome weekend, and now I'm back to book-writing, promoting, and article-pitching. And congrats to Joe for landing a big article assignment -- I may have to find my Writer Smurf to put on a celebratory cupcake!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

My favorite post on iVillage

A fan asked me recently which post on my blog "Planning in Peace" at iVillage Weddings is my all-time favorite, and I have to say it's this one: "What Falls Away". The sad fact is that while weddings *should* be magical times where the bride and groom get a brief window of everyone working to make their dreams come true, that's not always the case. You do find out, sadly, that some people aren't what you thought they were, or that they don't value your friendship as much as you though they did. You may have canceled your own vacation plans in the past to attend their wedding, but here they are not coming to yours because they have to go to their nephew's whiffle ball game, or they have an appointment with a psychic that day. The 'reasons' can be mind-blowing. Of course you will get some reasons that inspire empathy on your part -- we have some guests with tough medical issues we understand completely, and we have a gravely ill great-aunt right now. Guest list responses aren't the only issue here...I hear from a lot of brides whose bridesmaids are letting them down, and that's the Big One. So I'm speaking generally to my big audience of brides, grooms and their families that the wedding season will present a great gift, albeit a tough one: you find out who you will devote extra effort to keep close in your life. That's looking at the positives. We have 140+ guests who are making great sacrifices in money and time to be with us, and great friends who jump to fulfill our wishes for this day. So if you have some 'What Falls Away' issues in your own wedding, join us in focusing on the Awesome People. I've always felt that what falls away just makes room for bigger blessings down the road.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Lost in the mail!

We're just finding out that some of our guests never received their invitations in the mail! Which just goes to show you that you can be ultra-organized, send your invitations out early like we did, and STILL have a snafu! So I'm e-mailing all of our non-responding guests to see what their status is. Pays to have a good backup plan! These kinds of 'out of your control' issues can't be just have to roll with it. It's frustrating whenever your careful plans get blown out of the water, especially when you get heat from other people for things that are not your fault, but here's a way to remedy that: keep a running list of all the things that are going RIGHT during the planning stages. And visit wedding message boards to get a little perspective by reading stories from people who have BIG problems, like an out of control guest list that's 150+ people over what the room can hold (These people will have to change venues at great cost!). Compared to that, our issues are tiny.

I wrote The Bride's Diplomacy Guide to help couples handle the problems that other people stir up, so if you're having clashes with your wedding players, pick up my book and get your scripts on how to handle

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

In the middle of this, I work...

Things get very up and down during the last few months before a wedding. It's quite a ride, with the elation of a Yes response followed by the deflation of a No. The thrill of getting the cameras ordered, followed by the sad discovery that a product you wanted is no longer available. Hang on tight, because the hits keep do the thrills. You really have to have an iron stomach to get through these last few weeks, since so much is going on. The key is to write everything down, and then celebrate crossing each task off your list. It gets it all out of your head. Everyone's going to have ideas now, so just let that float away. Don't even think about changing anything. And lean on your bridal party. They WANT to help. I have the best bridal party in the *world*, and my Matron of Honor just answered a dilemma in 2.3 seconds with an offer that's going to be one of the many highlights of the day. I'll keep this one a surprise for now, since it might wind up in an article I can't scoop on my blog.

And in the middle of this, I'm writing my new book on life after the wedding, so when I can shake off the nagging To-Do list, I'm in a Zen state where time flies, the words just flow, and I'm cracking myself up with the clever little concept that just came to me, or the inside joke I embedded in the draft. [Every one of my books has inside jokes in them...only those closest to me could ever pick them out, and only one editor has ever chopped one]. I'm at the halfway point in the book right now. Oh yeah, there's going to be a big edit down the road, but I'm very pleased with how this is coming...especially because I'm writing it in the middle of Wedding Whirlwind. Speaking of which...I'm creating my seating chart as responses come in. So I won't have that insanely stressful task a week from now.

Okay, time to get back to work...I have a goal of 20 more pages written today, so that I don't have to bring my laptop on the honeymoon!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Every bride gets to this point...

...and probably most grooms, but I can't wait for this wedding to just get here, be wonderful, and be done. There's a lot of assumption out there that because I'm a wedding expert, everything is easy, things are just peachy, and it's going to be the wedding that Donald Trump would throw for Ivanka. It's going to be a gorgeous wedding, yes. Joe and I have put a lot of effort into it, we do have most details organized wonderfully and we do have the benefit of my knowing my industry. But for ANY wedding, there are always elements you can't control. You can't control the weather. You can't control what other people will do and say. You can't control the flower crop in Ecuador or the price of seafood. So to every wedding couple out there, I must remind you: this wedding planning season is very short compared to the life you're going to live together as a family. Focus on what's going well, and expect that some things are going to go very differently than you imagined. But at the end of the day, even with flowers that aren't from Ecuador, you will be married to your best friend. I know, it stinks when challenges arise, but there's a beautiful life ahead of you.

Despite some guest list issues this weekend, Joe and I completed some very exciting tasks on our wedding list. The honeymoon is booked! We found the butterflies for our cake top! We found our centerpiece vases for 1/3 the price we found previously! We finalized our payments with key vendors! We ordered our tabletop cameras! We received some wonderful news about guests who *will* be at the wedding. And we set up our second bedroom so beautifully, it looks like a 5-star bed and breakfast suite. We attended the Rutgers/Seton Hall basketball game which was very exciting at the end.

In a few weeks, I'll be married to my best friend, and he will be married to me. It can't arrive soon enough.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

The Yes box and the No box

When the response cards start coming in, the best way to stay organized is to create little boxes [we used the ones our response cards and reception cards came in] for your Yes and No response cards. Want to know your running headcount right now? Just flip through the cards in the Yes box, and top the pile with a sticky note bearing the number for all the cards below, so that you don't have to count them all over and over again.

And looking ahead, figure out a great way to store these response cards as keepsakes. Many of our guests wrote wonderful notes on them, wishing us well, and these we'll have forever. So do you have a pretty box to store them in? Card and craft stores have fantastic fabric-wrapped gift boxes with bows already on them that I think would be the perfect holders for these little cards, and they're just a few dollars each. Some grooms have MADE keepsake boxes for their brides to store all of these little collectibles and engagement cards [we're saving ours too!], and that becomes an heirloom for your new family.

So look at your response cards for beyond the wedding. How will you keep and protect yours?

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

DIY Cake Topper?

Looks like we'll have to make our own cake topper, since the design we discussed doesn't seem to exist out there! I've checked everywhere, and there's just no sign of the butterfly-themed style. If I ever retire from writing, looks like I've just discovered a big hole in the wedding decor market that I can fill with DIY (Do It Yourself) designs!

You'd be stunned by how many entrepreneurs start off their million-dollar businesses with exactly this same type of moment. What you're looking for isn't out there, or it's cheesy, and you can whip up better ones yourself. Thus, your empire is born. I know companies that started up because the bride couldn't find a sparkly-enough veil, or a plain enough ring pillow...this wonderful wedding industry may have a reputation of being expensive, but it certainly does inspire future moguls! own line of cake toppers...sounds like a plan.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Don't they realize there's a future ahead?

I've been thinking a lot about a bride's family I've been helping at my iVillage Weddings etiquette board...they have an out-of-control mother of the groom who has essentially planned a rehearsal dinner that's way bigger and grander than the wedding. So she 'scooped' the wedding in some sick competition with the bride's family. She will 'win' this one, but at what cost? Alienating the bride and groom? Hurting feelings? Embarrassing her husband? It seems that some people put 'winning' above all other things, eschewing etiquette and what the bride and groom want just to get their way. They don't care at all about other people's feelings. This mother-in-law is going to get her Wedding #1....but she has a lifetime of loneliness ahead of her. Her steamrolling personality will have no one to steamroll. She's just planned a very dark future for herself...because no one forgets the way you behave when a wedding is being planned. No one forgets how you hurt the bride or groom. Your need to 'win' means you lose, bigtime. This pre-wedding era is a sacred time when everything does mean more. If you blow it, there's no going back. I'm so upset for this bride and groom from the post on my etiquette board, but here's the bright side: the mother made a big show of just how self-centered she is, and this will help protect the couple in the future. There's no way this groom will let his bride be hurt again by her.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Catch me in the New York Times!

Thinking of inviting kids to your wedding? Or leaving them off the guest list? Check out my advice in Sunday's New York Times: [Please note: the reporter mistakenly attributed my advice about having a low-set kiddie food bar at your wedding -- so kids can help themselves -- to a mention of our wedding. We're not having a low-set hot dog and mac and cheese station for the kids invited to our event.]

We had a fabulous weekend, starting with the 75th birthday party of the judge who will perform our wedding ceremony. How wonderful to see the closeness of that family, hear about his meet-and-greet with the Pope, watch a gorgeous photo montage of him, and enjoy the great company at our table. We're honored to have been included for that lovely evening.

On Sunday, we gathered with Joe's family for his mother's birthday brunch, and we did get to talk a little bit about the wedding plans, timing, the fun stuff that's upon us now that we're under 2 months until the big day. Speaking of two, today is the 2-year anniversary of our first date. For our first anniversary, we went back to the same jazz club where we first what will we do to celebrate today? I'm on a super-tight deadline for my new book, and Joe has piles of work, so this one might be a cuddle-on-the-couch party. Which is just as thrilling. Sigh....