Wedding Planning Questions: Can I wear a sleeveless gown for my fall or winter wedding?

We get SO many brides-to-be asking if they can wear sleeveless or strapless gowns for winter weddings or fall weddings. The weather, after all, doesn’t lend itself to baring arms unless you live somewhere down south. But that’s why bridal caps, bridal stoles, and bridal jackets were created! Sleeveless wedding dresses and strapless wedding dresses are still the norm, even with all manner of beautiful sleeved wedding gown options out there.

So, what’s the short answer to the question of sleeveless in cold weather?

Absolutely! Today’s most popular wedding gown styles include strapless and sleeveless gowns that you can wear year round if you bundle up.

With the help of some easy to wear bridal accessories, you can stay warm for your outdoor travels, events, or photo ops without sacrificing that traditional wedding day look. You can add a satin or faux fur wrap, bolero jacket, or glamorous long gloves. We love this amazing silk bridal jacket from Amada Wakeley:

winter wedding accessories - winter wedding coat - bridal coat

The best part? Cold weather bridal accessories can add additional drama to your wedding photos. First, it’s jacket on and then jacket off… or jacket blowing in a chilly wind. Or think of a gorgeous fur or faux fur stole dripping from your bare shoulders. Sounds beautiful, no? And warm, too! We don’t want our brides to freeze their buns off no matter what the weather.


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Brides, Look Your Best in Front of the Camera

Some brides-to-be are excited about the prospect of being the center of attention for an entire day – and the primary subject of the photographer’s lens on top of that. But some, especially the shy brides or the brides who never like how they look in pics, can get pretty worried knowing they’ll be photographed hundreds of times in just a few hours. We get that. It can be a little unnerving to have a pro photographer buzzing around. The best wedding photographers are extra good at being unobtrusive… some, not so much.

wedding planning wedding jewelry

But you can up your chances of getting great wedding photos even if you usually can’t stand how you look in pictures. Seriously. Even if you’re kind of nervous in front of the camera. Use these tips, relax, and smile on your big day and we guarantee you’ll look beautiful!

Enhance Your Look:

When it comes to doing your make-up, don’t fall victim to the saying “more is better”. Use the same shades of make-up that you normally wear and don’t make any radical changes to your looks. Remember, you want to enhance your looks with make-up… not cover them up! You’ll look your best when you look like YOU.

Use a Professional:

Consider using a professional make-up artist. They are trained to understand camera lighting and angles, and how to accentuate your BEST features and minimize others. Make sure, though, that the makeup pro you choose understands the look you’re going for.

Do a Test Run:

Do a bridal makeup test run with hair and make-up just the way you are going to wear it on your wedding day. Put on your bridal jewelry set and have someone take several pictures from different angles and with different facial expressions. Then, look at the pictures. Do you like what you see? Too much make-up or not enough? How about the hair style? Too much height or not enough? If something doesn’t look right ­ start again and do another test run until everything looks just right.

It is important to actually TAKE pictures of yourself because it can give you a different perspective rather than just looking in the mirror.

Freshen Up:

Make sure that you bring along a small make-up bag to “Freshen Up” during the day. All you need is some translucent or pressed powder to absorb any shine and some lipstick. If you’re outside taking pictures, bring along some blotting paper which works great to absorb moisture without rubbing off your make-up.

Type of Photos:

When discussing the type of pictures to take with your photographer, keep in mind that full length photographs capture all the beauty and magnificence of the wedding dress, wedding attire and beautiful scenery or backdrops. Close-up or half length (above the waist) photographs better capture facial expressions and reveal more emotions. So, it’s a good idea to get a mix of both types of shots.

Try to Relax:

Particularly if you are taking pictures before the ceremony, remember to relax in front of the camera. If you’re feeling nervous or anxious, this can show in the camera by your facial expression, your posture and smile.

Change it Up:

On your wedding day, you’re going to be in front of the camera and you’re going to be smiling! Take a break every so often and change your expression and move/exercise the muscles around your mouth. If you don’t, your facial expressions in your photographs may look “strained”.

Simple Background:

When taking your wedding portraits, sometimes it’s better to choose a “Simple ” background (with nice, soft lighting) rather than an elaborate one. A “busy looking” backdrop or sometimes a floral garden landscape can take away from the picture and distract from the focal point – which is the bride and groom. The location you select should also have plenty of open shade. Bright sunny areas will cause you and your family to squint!

Candid Photos:

When your photographer is taking candid pictures during the reception, DON’T look at the camera! The beauty of a candid shot is capturing the magic and emotion of a particular moment when people in the photograph are interacting with each other.

Happy posing!

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Wedding Hair: Choosing the Right Bridal Hairstyle

The wedding day hairstyle can be such a dilemma for so many brides. Up, down, half up and half down… there are just too many bridal hairstyles to choose from! Luckily we snagged Gretchen Maurer, a bridal hair specialist and author of The Business of Bridal Beauty, to get some excellent tips for the bride-to-be who can’t seem to settle on a style:

1. Dress:
Start with the dress because, the brides total bridal look has to be taken into consideration, every thing must balance. The brides dress choice and wedding jewelry sets the tone for the entire ceremony and the hair design has to evoke the same feeling.

2. Texture:
Believe it or not the wedding gown can also dictate the texture of the finished hair design. A smooth, shiny updo of curls or glossy stick straight hair complements a smooth satin gown. Where a gown of sweeping tulle is beautifully accented by soft flowing curls.

bridal headpieces - bridal hairpins - hair brooch

3. The silhouette:
Your look from head to toe has a silhouette, either horizontal or vertical. A full skirt is horizontal and best balanced by a wider hair design and or full veiling. A vertical look being narrow and slim is complemented by a hair design of the same lines; it could be a bob tucked behind the ears or a narrow pile of curls on top of the head.

4. History:
No, we are not back in school. But is there a period of history your gown reflects? Theme weddings such as renaissance or swing, make a great excuse to have some creative fun with your hair.

5. Proportions:
Again the full effect needs to balance. The bride with short hair who is wearing an ornate full traditional dress needs to remember to balance her look with the appropriate headpiece. Like wise the petite bride with too much hair might think about wearing it up to draw the eye vertically.

6. Time of Day:
Next to the dress, the time of day should have some bearing on the hairstyle and bridal headpiece you choose. For a day or morning wedding less glitz and sparkle. Save the crystals, sparkle and tiaras for more formal evening weddings. Headbands, flowers, wreaths, and hats are perfect for day or morning ceremonies.

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Wedding Ceremony Rehearsal Basics

Wedding Ceremony Rehearsal Basics

A wedding ceremony should seem to unfold effortlessly and smoothly, but those of us in the know are aware that this is only the case because all of the key players have practiced their entrances and exists, their lines, and the choreography. Also known as the wedding ceremony rehearsal, this walk through of the main event is pretty important for any couple having anything more than the simplest of ceremonies. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Or take longer than 20 minutes to an hour. No one needs to dress up. The bride doesn’t need to don her wedding jewelry or have her hair did. The rehearsal just needs to be thorough enough and long enough to make everyone comfortable with their roles.

As for who ‘everyone’ is, the usual roster of participants at ceremony rehearsals will include:

  • The bride and groom
  • All members of the wedding party (including ring bearer and flower girl)
  • All those individuals with special roles during the ceremony (readers, lighting candles, etc.)
  • Musicians or soloists
  • Officiant(s)
  • Parents of the bride and groom
  • Wedding coordinator

The wedding rehearsal is usually held at the ceremony location the night before the wedding. However, if the ceremony location is unavailable, the rehearsal can be held at an alternate location.

Here are some more tips to make your rehearsal (and thus your ceremony) amazing:

* Make sure that everyone that should attend knows the time and location of the rehearsal. Some brides send out invitations for the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner along with directions for those that may be unfamiliar with the location. The goal is to get everyone there on time!

* Let your Officiant run the rehearsal. He or she should give directions to everyone in terms of the flow, order of events, where and when to enter and where to stand at the altar.

* Don’t try to add anything new to the ceremony that wasn’t already talked about and agreed upon with your Officiant. It will only add confusion to the ceremony and the rehearsal.

* All those with special roles should rehearse their part. Readers may only want to practice a few lines – or they may wish to rehearse their entire passage. Be aware and make sure at the end of the rehearsal that everyone is comfortable with his or her role.

* Instruct the readers on how to adjust the microphone, if necessary. Make it clear where the reading (the actual piece of paper) will be located. Will the notes be at the podium? Or will the reader need to carry them up to the podium? For an evening or candlelight service, make sure there will be sufficient light to be able to read.

* The Bride and female attendants should practice walking down the aisle to make sure that everyone follows the same pace. Children (flower girls and ring bearers) may need extra practice time to make them feel comfortable walking down the aisle.

* The Bride and her attendants should also discuss how their bouquets should be held (i.e. up high, in the middle, or down low). You want a consistent look for the pictures and video.

* The Officiant should also instruct the ushers on how to seat mothers, grandmothers and wedding guests. They should also receive instructions on rolling out the aisle runner if one is being used

Happy practicing!

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10 Ways to Honor Your Parents at Your Wedding

Your parents will already play a special role in your wedding just by being there – and possibly by paying for it, but that’s no longer guaranteed these days. But if you’re like many brides, you may feel driven to honor your mom and/or dad in your wedding ceremony beyond asking for their blessing or including them in the recessional. We’ve thought up 10 awesome ways you can do just that!

parents in weddings

1. Walk down the aisle (the recessional) to the same song as your mother did. This is a nice tribute to your parents.

2. Give a rose to your mother and groom’s mother as you walk down the aisle. Talk to your florist and have them place the two roses in your bouquet (unfastened) and then pull them out when you reach the front of the church.

3. Prior to the ceremony, place a personalized handkerchief and a rose at both mothers’ seats. The handkerchief will be a wonderful keepsake and remembrance. Or, you could include a special personal note of thanks with the rose or handkerchief.

4. Have your mother’s bridal bouquet duplicated. Find some pictures of her wedding and give them to your florist. Alternately, use a mini photo frame with a snap of your parents’ wedding as a bouquet charm.

5. Instead of doing a “bouquet toss,” dedicate your bouquet to your mother. I saw this at one wedding where the bride got up and gave a little speech about someone very special in her life (without mentioning who it was) and at the end she told who it was and dedicated her bouquet to her mother.

It was a total surprise to everyone, especially her mother. Needless to say there was not a dry eye in the house!

6. At the cake table, include framed pictures of your parent’s wedding and even your grandparents’ wedding, too.


7. Incorporate a family heirloom into your ceremony. This could include a piece of wedding jewelry, clothing or a family bible. Some brides like to copy the entire wedding gowns their mother or grandmother wore.

8. Copy the decorations or cake top used by your parents or grandparents at their wedding.

9. As part of your wedding program, you can include a special poem about family. Here’s an example of a special dedication to a bride and groom’s parents:

“We would like to dedicate this ceremony to our parents. They have taught us our values, and shown us how to laugh, love and appreciate all that life has to offer. Their generosity, support, and love is unending.”

10. Ask your Officiant to include the names of your parents or family in a special prayer. Many times family members that have recently passed away may be mentioned in a prayer, but it can also be used for anyone you want mentioned in a special way.

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Don’t Let Facebook Ruin Your Big Day

You’ll never hear us say you’re obligated to invite any one person to your wedding, but it’s just a fact that not being an invitee can hurt certain people’s feelings. Once upon a time, that was less than a big deal. You might hear about it at a few social events or around the office but the wedding you weren’t invited to was not in your face the way it can be today in the age of social media. You log onto Facebook and you’re seeing pics of bridesmaids dresses, pre-wedding parties, and getting a real time play by play of who has RSVP’ed in the positive. It’s enough to give even the hardest-hearted non-invitee a glum moment or two.

facebook wedding

And as I’m sure you know by now, if you hurt people’s feelings you’re gonna have a bad time. So post responsibly! Be a grownup even if you don’t feel like one and consider how your endless wedding posts affect the people around you who won’t be receiving or didn’t receive your gorgeous letterpress invite in the mail.

Here are our tips for keeping social media from souring your big day:

1. Tell your close friends and family they’re invited before you go sharing your wedding deets on Facebook and elsewhere. Ditto for your engagement if that ship hasn’t already sailed. It would be so sad if your favorite aunt assumed she hasn’t been invited because she’s seeing your Pinterest pins feeding into your Facebook feed and you haven’t even called.

2. Once your upcoming nuptials are pretty much common knowledge, don’t overwhelm your friends’ feeds with wedding wedding wedding all things wedding all the time. First off, unless you’re inviting everyone on your friend list you could be inadvertently causing hurt feelings even though you’re just sharing because you’re excited. And second, some people just don’t care that much about centerpiece styles and seasonal flowers.

3.  If you want to use Facebook as your venue for sharing all the details your guests will need, create a group and add all your invitees. They’ll be able to get the skinny on your ceremony and reception plans along with anything else they’ll need to know without bugging the non-invitees. The other benefit is that confirmed guests can talk to each other about travel plans.

4. Don’t complain. So your spouse to be isn’t picking up the slack where wedding planning is concerned? Twitter is not the place to address that. Vent about your wedding woes in public and you’ll earn your bridezilla badge so fast your veil’s gonna fly off. Seriously, people don’t take kindly to first world problems.

5. Finally, remember that your big day is not the most important thing going on in anyone’s life but your own. If you ever find yourself feeling offended because so-and-so didn’t ‘like’ your post or retweet your tweet, breath and back off. That is not a good reason to accuse anyone of not supporting you – most likely, they were just too busy living life to follow along with all your wedding planning revelations.

And that’s as it should be. Balance is the key to using social media in a mannerly way when you’re engaged!

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Can a Friend Perform My Wedding?

Finding a wedding officiant can be weird for couples not affiliated with a specific religious institution. There are freelance priests and rabbis, but maybe you want someone with a humanist bent officiating your wedding. A justice of the peace or non-denominational officiant is your next best option, but in both cases it’s going to be someone you’ve met only once or twice marrying you. That can feel weird.

Having a friend perform your wedding is another option. Less well known and sometimes much more difficult to pull off, but also a money-saver and a way to give your bestie a role in your wedding beyond ‘attendant’. The question is whether the friend you had in mind is cool with DIYing everything that a professional officiant typically does. Here are the deets so you and your friend can figure out how to pull this one off:

When you ask whether a friend can perform your wedding, the answer is usually yes insofar as your friend can stand up in front of your guests, give a bit of a speech, and help you say your vows. BUT either they or you will be responsible for crafting the wedding ceremony – as in, deciding what rituals you’ll include, what the theme of the ceremony will be, and who will participate.

having a friend officiate wedding

Does your friend have the right personality in just the right amounts? Professional officiants are usually comfortable with public speaking but not prone to hogging the spotlight. Your officiant will need to be able to engage your guests, to keep them emotionally invested in the ceremony they’re witnessing.

Can your friend write? She or he will need to come up with the wording of your wedding ceremony unless you’re planning to do it yourself (which is okay, too). If you’ve been writing your own vows, you know that it’s not always easy to compose a beautiful script for an event as important as a wedding!

Now I hate to have to ask it, but is your friend reliable. Not just ‘they’ll show up’ reliable, but ‘above and beyond’ reliable. One of the things professional officiants sometimes have to do is damage control. Like when the best man forgets the ring. Or the mother of the bride is hiding in the ladies room and refusing to come out. Will they be able to handle it when things go just a little wrong?

You also need to be 100% sure that it’s legal for your friend to perform your wedding ceremony if you want to be legally wed. In some states, that just means getting ordained through a non-denominational organization – sometimes it’s as easy as filling out a form online. Other states have stricter guidelines about what constitutes ordination. There are also some states where a person can apply for a one-day pass to legally marry a couple. Check with the County Clerk’s office where you’ll be saying your vows to find out who can officiate.

Finally, make sure your friend knows what she or he has to do AFTER the ceremony to make sure that your wedding is binding. Usually this entails making sure the marriage license has been filled out correctly and then filing it as per the state’s requirements.

If you feel totally confident that your chosen friend can do all that and maybe even more, then by all means ask him or her to lead your ceremony! It’s an extra special way for a special person in your life to participate in your happy day!

Photo credit: Annie McElwain

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How NOT to Go Broke as a Bridesmaid

white bridesmaids dresses II

So last week we talked about the cost of being a bridesmaid and for those who haven’t read the post I’ll just sum up by saying cha-ching! Standing with the bride while she says her “I dos” can get pretty pricey. The good news is that you don’t have to go broke without a fight – and by fight I mean a little creative thinking and maybe a heart to heart with the bride-to-be. Here’s how to (maybe) save money while being a bridesmaid:

1. Know the deal. When you’re hanging with your bestie and she pops the question, don’t beat around the bush when it comes to finding out what you’re in for. Is the bride expecting a Vegas weekend bachelorette bash? Does she have a dress in mind – or is she considering letting the maids choose? How many pre-wedding soirees will there be? Will you be expected to be at them all?

2. Tell it like it is. If you’re concerned about the cost of being a bridesmaid, know that the bride-to-be is probably more interested in your support than in having you spend a gajilliondollars. Probably. As we all know from reality TV there are plenty of so-not-cool brides out there. Let your friend know you’ll be working with a budget so she can help you save money.

lela rose bridesmaid dresses

3. Suggest mismatched maids. Besides being cool, mixed up bridesmaids dresses are also economical – especially when bridesmaids can pick their own frocks. If the bride-to-be is just not into that, then do her a solid and help her shop so you can steer her toward lower priced options.

4. Suggest combining pre-wedding parties. Co-ed bashes are pretty awesome and most brides I know have plenty of guy friends anyway, so why not combine the engagement party and shower? Or have a joint shower and bachelorette party if you think the bride’s family can handle things getting a little crazy.

5. Don’t complain; get creative. If you accept the position of bridesmaid, you kind of do have to go with what the bride wants when it comes to your dress and bridesmaid accessories. Act negative about it all and you may just get fired. Better: speak up when it comes to your budget and availability, suggest less expensive alternatives, and consider that you might not be the only bridesmaid freaking out about the big bill.

6. It’s okay to say no. When you’re really, really, really concerned about the cost of being a bridesmaid – as in, it’s the wedding or tuition – do the right thing and tell your bestie that you’d love to but you just can swing it right now. She’ll either pony up on your behalf if she’s in a position to do so or you two can commiserate together over margarita shooters. Win win for honesty!

Have you ever had to say no when a bride-to-be asked you to be her maid? Or are you a bride who’s worried about how much your wedding is going to cost your friends?

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Halloween Wedding Inspiration

Happy Halloween! If you’re not off partying or gorging yourself with candy (or both) today you might just be planning a wedding. Halloween weddings are NOT the norm around here or really anywhere but some enthusiasts of the day do choose to get spooky when it comes to saying their vows. And why not? It’s not the wedding I’d pick but it’s not up to me to pick the themes for other people’s weddings – thank goodness! Variety is the spice of life and I, for one, am glad it is. If you’re having a Halloween wedding, kudos to you, enjoy, and invite me because I love candy.

Fact: Nothing about your wedding has to scream Halloween.

gay halloween wedding

This wedding has a fright night feel but there’s nary a pumpkin, at least at the beachy ceremony.

Fact: Your wardrobe and wedding accessories options are WAY open.

halloween wedding gown

Though we don’t recommend a Native American headpiece for reasons of sensitivity and also comfort. A birdcage veil is much comfier.

Fact: Orange and black are not the only colors open to you.


Though black will probably almost definitely be a part of your color scheme.

Fact: A Halloween wedding doesn’t have to be kitschy.


Unless, of course, you want it to and then by all means have at it!

Would you ever have a Halloween wedding – or did you have one? Tell us about it!


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How to Get a Marriage License 101

marriage license facts - gay marriage
You’ve got the perfect dress and an amazing pair of bridal shoes and one-of-a-kind wedding jewelry for your big day. The venue is booked and your photog is saving the date. You’ve even chosen cake flavors. Your big day is approaching fast and you feel ready. But are you? Could you be forgetting something like, I don’t know, the legal stuff?

Putting a ring on it is all well and good but if your goal is to make legal you need to do the legwork. The requirements vary somewhat by state and the easiest way to find out what you need to do to take getting married all the way is by calling city hall. Since I’m not covering all 50 states’ rules, I can only give you the basics as outlined here. When you need to know more CALL CITY HALL. Seriously, they will give you the on the ground local skinny.

The General Requirements

You need to bring ID. In most states, that means an up-to-date driver’s license. Or your passport. You’ll probably also need to know your social security number but won’t be required to show your card.

Locals Only?

You won’t run up against residency requirements when you’re applying for a marriage license anywhere in the US. Except… In some counties or states, non-residents cannot obtain a marriage license if the marriage would be void in their home state. If you’re one half of a gay couple, keep this in mind.

No Blood Tests

While the pre-marital blood test still shows up in some movies, very few states actually require couples planning to get hitched to also get pricked. No US state requires a physical.

The Waiting Game

Don’t wait too long to go to city hall and grab a license if you’re getting married anywhere that’s not close to home! In some states, there is a waiting period so you’ll have to apply this or that many days before the ceremony.

Your Vows

There are a handful of states that require couples to include specific wording in their wedding vows. But don’t worry, none of them include “…and obey.”

Pre-Marital Prepwork

There are some states where you can get around the waiting period or get a discount on the cost of the license by having taken a pre-marital counseling course. This usually applies only to local couples, though.

‘I do’ and Done

Your officiant, not you, will be responsible for submitting the completed marriage license to the county where you applied. A copy of your marriage certificate may be sent to you or you may have to order it once it has been processed.

Don’t Dilly-Dally

Most marriage licenses are only valid for 30-60 days after you file your application. Wait to long and it could turn out that your vows aren’t actually binding, yikes!

Your Age, Please

Every state has its own rules about how old you need to be to get hitched. In many the minimum age is probably a lot younger than you’d think, so I doubt you’ll have any issues here. Your license or passport will serve as proof of age.


You’ll need to prove it when you apply. Forget this vital step and your marriage could be null and void!

And Bring Your Checkbook

The fee to file a marriage license application will vary considerably from place to place. Many county registrar offices do not accept credit cards so to be safe, bring your checkbook or cash.

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