Tips for an Amazing Christmas Wedding or Winter Wedding

Planning a wedding for the holiday season can be a lot of fun. There are so many locations already decorated perfectly for a Christmas wedding or winter wedding, for one, so you can take advantage of the free ambiance to make an enchanted wedding to remember. That’s not the only reason to plan a holiday wedding, however. If you’ve always adored Christmas, it does make a great theme. And winter weddings? It’s a no-brainer – off-peak wedding planning can save you a bundle!

Below, we’ve put together some Christmas and winter wedding planning tips that’ll help you create an amazing ceremony and reception.

christmas wedding - red bridesmaid dresses

* Your wedding dress should reflect the joy of the season. A deep red or green velvet cape is a wonderful garment to toss over your shoulders for the reception or on your way to the ceremony. A candlelight or even ivory color dress appears much more dramatic at ceremonies illuminated with candles or soft twinkle lights. Tuxedos are perfect for evening weddings – look into tails for these formal affairs. For a daytime wedding, strollers and waistcoats are more appropriate.

* Floral arrangements can include the flowers of the season – poinsettias, roses, and ivy blend with the greenery adorning the ceremony and reception sites. Your bouquet might include deep red or ivory roses in a bed of trailing ivy. Boutonnieres could be made of a single rose or even a sprig of pine with a small cone. If you’re getting married in a church, ask them what sort of decorations will already be up and plan your colors around their color scheme!

* Greenery is an inexpensive way to add aroma and atmosphere to the ceremony and reception. Drape boughs of pine, holly, ivy, or other greens over doorways, mantelpieces, windows, and the altar. Fill baskets with greenery and pine cones and place near the doorways or at the base of stairways for simple decorations with an aromatic impact. Tall vases filled with white pine cones and bare boughs painted white draped with lights can look amazing. Don’t forget festive colored towels in the powder rooms.

* Your ceremony should reflect your personal beliefs. The holidays are a time of religious significance, and you may want to have a traditional ceremony in your faith. Talk with your pastor about what traditional elements you want to include in your holiday wedding. Some traditional holiday music helps to set the mood. You could have your guests sing carols while they are waiting for the ceremony to begin – though that might not be every family’s cup of tea.

* Your reception can be anything from a few light snacks to a full-blown dinner. For a lighthearted reception, serve hot cocoa and snack foods while you have a holiday sing-along. With your guests already in the holiday mood, it won’t take much for this reception to turn into a long-lasting memory for you and your guests.

* A more reserved reception would be lovely as a sit down dinner with ballroom dancing afterward. Serve traditional holiday foods – roast turkey, ham, or beef with the usual side dishes found on holiday tables. You could also serve something out of character for the season such as chicken or pork, or even elegant French and Mediterranean cuisine but with a wintery twist.

* For favors, find small stockings and write your initials with glitter. Place a tiny tree at each place setting with the names of the guests written on ribbon banners wrapped around the base. Get your bridesmaids together and have a paper snowflake party. Use them to decorate the reception site and perhaps as toppings for small silver cake boxes.

* A sleigh ride away from your reception makes a grand exit, and is the cue for your guests to shower you with bubbles or birdseed. If no snow is available a carriage ride in a wintry white carriage is just as romantic!

* When you plan your bridal ensemble, think snow… silver… Santa… red… We love white gowns with red sashes – it’s a classic look that’s never out of style. How about a satin bridal coat with faux ermine trim around the cuffs and collar? Want more color, then opt for red wedding jewelry instead of more traditional crystal wedding jewelry. Red bridal shoes can also offer a pop of color!

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10 Things NOT to Do Before Your Wedding

blue_wedding_shoes - wedding jewelry

We usually focus on the wedding “dos” here at USABride because our intent is to encourage, not discourage. But for every do there is a don’t and some don’ts are more important than others. You’ll never hear us parrot silly no-nos like never pair black and brown or never let the groom see you before the ceremony because we’re not about criticizing any bride’s style or traditions. We have picked up some solid wedding planning tips over time, however, and today we’re going to share some of the things we tell brides-to-be to avoid doing as they get closer and closer to the big day.

  1. Don’t start your wedding planning without a budget. One of the most stressful elements to wedding planning usually is money. Make sure you decide up front how much your total wedding budget is going to be and who will be contributing and how much.
  2. Don’t spend more than your budget or what you can afford. Your wedding day is an important day, but it is only one day. You don’t want to start your new life together by going into serious debt from your wedding expenses and being strapped with that debt for the next five years.
  3. Don’t rely upon oral agreements with wedding vendors. Get everything in writing!
  4. Don’t try and do everything yourself. Planning a wedding can be a full time job in itself. So don’t try and take on such an enormous project alone, delegate as much as you can! When it comes to weddings, everyone loves to help – let them!
  5. Don’t insist on having it your way all the time! Come to an agreement on the things that are less important. For instance, you have the ultimate say when it comes to your bridal accessories, but may have to give some ground when it comes to the ceremony music.
  6. Don’t skimp on your photography. Your wedding day goes by so fast, and after it’s over, all you’ll have left is your memories and your pictures. If there’s a photo who’s out of your budget range, ask if he or she can do an abbreviated session, like all of the ceremony but only part of the reception.
  7. Don’t get crazy over every detail. It can really take the pleasure out of the wedding planning process. I mean, will it really matter that the ribbons for the favors are baby blue instead of ice blue?
  8. Don’t forget to thank everyone involved in your wedding and those that gave you gifts. Also, don’t let those thank you notes pile up. Send them out promptly after you receive a gift.
  9. Don’t overload yourself the day before your wedding. This is not the time to put together 200 favors. Try to do only one or two small tasks and leave the rest of the day to relax and pamper yourself. You need some time to unwind from the rigors of wedding planning before the big day. Try to make the week before your ceremony and reception fun!
  10. Don’t expect perfection for your wedding day. Expect a “terrific” day and set reasonable expectations. Never forget, the main goal is to get married.

Can you think of any other pre-wedding don’ts?

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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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What Style of Bridal Headpiece is Best for Me?

When you’re trying to choose the bridal headpiece that will top off your entire wedding day look, sometimes getting started is the hardest part. But it doesn’t have to be! When selecting a tiara, bridal comb, headband, or hair pins, just make sure:

1. You’ve picked out and really settled on a wedding dress
2. You have a general idea of how you want to wear your hair on the big day

From there, you’re ready to really do the work of choosing between the numerous bridal headpieces out there!

bridal headpieces - wedding headbands

There are so many styles of bridal headpiece – the trick is to identify your bridal style and use that as your guide! Here we’ve put together a little bit about each kind of headpiece and what makes them special to help you pick the perfect one:

Wedding Tiaras

Tiaras offer the most dramatic look. They are a gorgeous accent to any style gown, from simple and contemporary to ball gown traditional. Tiaras can be worn with or without a veil and are usually accented with Austrian crystals, rhinestones, Swarovski crystals, AB crystals, fresh ater pearls, and faux pearls. Tiaras compliment up-dos and pretty much any other bridal hairstyle.

Bridal Headband

Headbands are now one of the most popular wedding day looks. For brides who want to wear their hair down, a headband can be used to keep  hair away from the face. They also can be worn to accent upswept hairstyles and looks fantastic with shorter hairstyles. In fact, this is one of the best bridal hair accessories for the short haired bride!

Bridal Comb

A comb is a simple piece that can be worn in almost any hairstyle. Brooch style combs offer the striking look of a headband or tiara, but smaller. Depending on the style, a bridal comb can sometimes provide a less formal look, and the best part is they can be worn on different parts of the head. Crystal bridal combs are still the most popular options, but flower combs and feather combs are tres trendy.

Hair Pins

Wedding hair pins are also very versatile. They are a great option for any hairstyle, whether formal or tussled, but especially up-dos with body or layers. They have become very popular for the beach bride because they’re less formal than a tiara or headband but have just as much sparkle.

Happy shopping!

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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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