Friday, January 30, 2015


Asking someone to be a bridesmaid or groomsman is one way to include a loved one into your big day, but how else can you include special people in your wedding celebration while simultaneously avoiding a bloated bridal party?

Consider these new and non-traditional roles that are significantly more fun than pointing people to their seats.

The amount of couples marrying in religious institutions has dropped significantly in the last five years - a sign that more couples are breaking the mold on tradition. If you are one of these couples, consider asking a close friend, who knows you both, to pronounce you newlyweds. Ideally, it’s someone the couple both trusts and knows well.

Real-life bride: Janice-Yu Moran married Wes Moran on August 8, 2013 at the Chicago Botanic Gardens. Miao Zhang, friend of the couple for eight years, officiated. 

Musical Entertainment
If you have friends or family who are talented musicians or singers, ask them to perform a song. Either before the ceremony starts, during or later on in the evening during the cocktail hour or wedding reception.

Real-life bride: MaryBeth Searls married Houston Howell on August 12, 2014. They had their friends perform during the cocktail hour, prior to the reception at Lacuna Artist Lofts.

Dinner Blessing
Whether or not you’re religiously inclined, a way to balance the old and new is to ask a person you love and respect to provide a blessing over the meal and/or celebration. After all, how often will all these people be together again? Take a moment to acknowledge and honor the moment.

Charlotte O’Donnell

Real-life bride: Lauren McTigue married Teddy O’Brien on September 20, 2014. A blessing was conducted by a non-bridal party person before the start of dinner at their Montgomery Club reception.

Photo Wrangler
Instead of usher roles, put 2-3 friends in charge of photo opportunities. These are people who know the group dynamics and can quickly point them out to the photographer, or happen to be able to catch these memorable shots themselves.

Ximena Beltran Quan Kiu

Real-life bride: Kristina Rediehs married John Rediehs on October 20, 2012 at St. Francis Xavier.

Whether it’s because you’re worried about the pronunciation of the people’s names in your bridal party or because you have a lively friend or family member who can fill the role - an MC is a great way to include someone outside of the bridal party and personalize your wedding reception. This person is a key component to helping you create the right mood for the evening.

Real-life bride: Jillian Ruggiero-Gaza married Joe Gaza on August 10, 2013. Jill’s uncle MC’d their reception at Drury Lane.

While you’re evaluating the different roles your loved ones can fill, rethink the aisle roles. Who says your flower girl or ring bearer has to be a child? Feel free to ask a friend or grandma - especially if you’re having a child-free wedding. Let your mind reach beyond the traditional norms, and consider all options as you plan each detail of your wedding. There is a job for everyone, you just have to find it! 

Thanks so much to Ximena Beltran Quan Kiu of C1 Revolution. A real bride (with nine bridesmaids and counting) herself, Ximena is working her way through wedding planning one step at a time. Be sure to tune in to more ideas from Ximena as she continues her path down the aisle!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Bridal Milliner Debra Shirley of Millinery, Etc. was kind enough to give us the scoop on how a milliner can really help put the final touches on a perfect wedding look! Read on for trends, ideas and a bit more about the process!

Emily Gualdoni

Will you please give a brief history of trends in bridal headpieces?
Millinery is the art of making hats, and up until the 1980's Bridal hats were still often worn in weddings.

In the 1990's elaborately decorated crown headpieces took over the wedding scene, some complete with large back "pouf's" in addition to veiling.

In the 2000's the "crown" piece became noticeably smaller and less grandiose.

The current trend in wedding headpieces is a smaller, delicate piece that catches the light that is worn at the side of the head either towards the back, or closer to the Bride's face if she prefers a bolder look.

It may surprise you to learn that the trends I've been noticing are rooted in the past. I have been getting requests from my brides to incorporate details from their mother's or grandmother's headpiece or veil to be added as part of her own bridal piece.

For instance, I recently removed a lace border from the train of a Mom's wedding dress, and applied it to the bottom of her daughter's floor length veil as a lovely finishing touch. Another bride brought me lace flowers that were attached to her Mom's dress and I refashioned them into a headpiece for her.

What is your goal and process as a Bridal Milliner?
My first goal as a Bridal Milliner is to help compliment the overall image of the Bride in her Wedding gown for her special day.

The first step is to meet with the Bride in her dress. I first notice the shape of the gown itself. Then I pay close attention to the particular details of the dress. I consider specific design lines and areas of interest especially on the back of the gown when determining which veil length will be most flattering.

In many cases, the best option is a sheer, understated floor length veil that will give a continuous flow to the ensemble. This way, there is no cut off point, nothing to pull the eye away from the features of the gown or from the Bride's figure.

Beyond the length and shape of the veil, the possibility of adding custom embellishments such as matching lace or beading is discussed. I am quite fond of a hint of matching detail to truly gel a bridal look together. If not on the veil, then in a decorative hairpiece that remains on after the veil has been removed for the reception. Wearing a headpiece that compliments the wedding gown is the perfect way for the Bride to feel polished and put together throughout the evening.

Emily Gualdoni

Why hire a Bridal Milliner?
You might consider meeting with a Milliner if you wanted to ensure that your bridal ensemble was very polished, and "put together," or if you wanted to add a unique, custom, hand-crafted touch in an accessory.

What is one of your favorite millinery projects you've worked on recently?
I worked with a bride that had selected a fairly simple lace dress, knowing that she wanted much of the interest to focused near her face. I created a beautiful floral fascinator from silk petals and lace that matched her dress perfectly. Surrounding the headpiece was french veiling to add a bit of a vintage feel. She also wore a birdcage veil in front of her face for the ceremony.

What was particularly fun about this bride, was that she also wanted her bridesmaids, and her mother to each wear a fascinator to match their dresses. It was thrilling to be able to add so much to not just the look of the bride, but really to a large section of the entire wedding party.

Will you please give us a few tips to keep in mind while shopping for wedding accessories? 
- Envision your perfect look as a whole -- see yourself from head to toe. The dress is only one piece of the puzzle.

- Give yourself time to experiment with how you will be wearing your hair on the big day. Once you know, it's easier to move on to what you'll be wearing in your hair.

- In selecting a wedding veil, consider all the lines and details on the gown, try not to cut into or distract from interest on the dress.

- In selecting a headpiece, try to compliment the particular details of the gown in the elements of the headpiece. It results in a unified, continuous, flowing look that will be beautiful on your wedding day and in your photographs for years to come. 

Emily Gualdoni

To learn more about Debra Shirley's handmade creations, visit Millinery, Etc. All headpieces are crafted using traditional millinery techniques while incorporating new and re-purposed materials to create a truly one-of-a-kind piece!

Photos courtesy of Debra Shirley

Monday, January 26, 2015


As a newly engaged couple, the first items on the wedding planning ‘To Do List’ are to set a date and location, location, location! Many brides-to-be have had the answer to the question of location for their ceremony and reception since they were little girls. Be it a country club, church, banquet hall or beautiful garden your surroundings set the tone for your wedding.

My suggestion in selecting your venues is to think out of the proverbial banquet room box. Utilize your geographical location! Why did you select Chicago, Oak Brook or Lake Geneva? For instance, did you and your fiance meet in the city? Did you grow up in Oak Brook? Did your families vacation in Lake Geneva when you were a child? Pick a place that has meaning.

If there isn't such a special location, pick an area that has physical beauty (think pictures) and everything you're looking for in a venue. Don't be afraid to be picky! It's your big day! Do it right! 

Once you have a location secure, think about your surroundings and the best way to utilize them to give guests an amazing experience. If you have planned your reception at a beautiful ballroom consider taking your guests on a cocktail and hors d’oeuvres cruise prior to the full reception. 

Transportation for you and your guests is an easy way capture the feel of the destination. Consider a trolley ride through your town’s historic square on the way to the reception or book a water limo for the wedding party. These are also great for pictures! 

 Incorporating the personality and feel of your location does not mean that you have to have your entire wedding out on the Lake or atop The Hancock Building. Just pick something that's meaningful to you, that you and your friends will enjoy on your big day. Always pick what you think will make you happiest. 

Thank you so much to Clare of Lake Geneva Cruise Line for her amazing advice on picking the perfect location for your wedding! Learn more about wedding and event cruises, water limos and other Lake Geneva Cuise Line services at

Friday, January 23, 2015

We'd like to congratulate Real ChicagoStyle Bride Jessica Greene, the winner of our Diamond Earring Contest!

Congrats to Jessica and her fiancé, Mitch! Read their story below!

Mitch and I met at a local bar on $2 draft night. However I did not actually meet him that evening. My close friend stopped by a table to say hello to someone. Mitch just happened to be sitting there, too.

I was oblivious to Mitch’s interest in me, and once my friend’s conversation ended we went back to our table. For a good part of the night Mitch continued to bug his friend to introduce us, but he did not. Persistent, Mitch continued to prompt his friend for more information about me. 

A few weeks later, I received a Facebook message from Mitch, introducing himself. We messaged and sent texts back and forth for a couple weeks. He was in Iowa studying for his doctorate in Chiropractic and I was taking a pre-requisite course for my graduate studies at Purdue. We bonded over similar taste in music, TV shows and finding out that he lived 3 minutes from my aunt! 

For our first date, we went to a local summer fest, had dinner, people watched, and talked until 3:00 in the morning! It’s not every day that you get to see the city-sweepers and not even realize how late it was! A week later I took a trip to Iowa to visit Mitch, and we decided to make it official and begin a long distance relationship from Iowa to Indiana.

Long story short, after countless drives between states, weekly Skype dates, hundreds of graduate school exams and practicum hours, learning that Mitch retro-flexes his /r/’s (I’m a speech therapist and found this fascinating), him learning that I have a knack for baking fun cookies and cakes (as I would always visit with some sort of baked good); we realized that we shared a passion for craft beers (especially Three Floyds Brewery beers). While visiting local establishments across states, and sharing countless memories, we could not wait to create more once we were finally living in the same state after graduation!

I graduated with my Masters in Speech Language Pathology on 8/9/14, which was our 2 year anniversary. I was secretly hoping for an engagement ring. Mitch had other ideas. He graduated a few months later in October, which was sweetest day weekend. It was such a fun weekend getting to celebrate all of his accomplishments. 

We took our time driving home; I had planned to surprise him with his graduation presents and a fun “skeleton theme” cake. (Bones, chiropractor, Halloween -- I couldn’t resist). Mitch opened his graduation gifts from me, and then gave me mine. 

I opened up a nicely wrapped long rectangle box to find a pair of Vans shoes that I had been wanting! Like most shoe boxes one shoe is exposed and the other is sometimes covered with tissue paper to separate them. Well, with that prior knowledge I closed the box and began to put it on the floor when my dad chimed in to make sure the other shoe was in the box. I re-opened the box, moved the tissue paper to find a gorgeous oval engagement ring nestled neatly in a custom pint glass that read “Will You Marry Me?” Mitch got down on one knee, and said, “So, I was wondering if you’d like to marry me.” Of course I said yes! To celebrate, we had a Three Floyds “Gumball Head” in our pint glasses.

We will be having a fall wedding on October 8, 2016. Out theme is “Love is Brew-ing” and we are hoping to incorporate our love for fun, new craft brews into the wedding décor and drink menu! 

We have both been so busy beginning our careers, planning a wedding, and saving up for all the next steps we are going to take together as husband and wife. Thank you so much ChicagoStyle Weddings for giving me something “new” to wear on my wedding day! I am sure the diamond earrings will bring us the best of luck!

Are you a Loyal ChicagoStyle Bride? Let us know and you could win big! Click here to enter our next contest!

Planning a 2016 Holiday Wedding? Our friend Amanda Morris of C1 Revolution went on WGN to give Chicago inspiration for planning the perfect holiday event. Steal some of these fab tips to keep for your planning!


The season brings good tidings, packed schedules, and lots of food and drinks. If you're planning a party, how do you prep so that you can actually enjoy your event? And what elements will create party perfection to set yours apart from the rest?

From taking care of others, these fuss-free, party entertainment tips are sure to put you in ‘the spirit of the season!’ Here are simple tips to turn your party planning from holiday chaos to holiday magic!

'Good For You Cocktails'

More people are being conscious of what they’re putting in their bodies. To minimize the negative effects of alcohol, a trend that you’re going to see is cocktails made with “good for you" components that use ingredients like teas, chai powders, organic syrups and no artificial sweeteners, like Thatcher’s organic liqueur.

This is much needed during the holiday season, as people are party hopping and often consuming sugary punches and other cocktail concoctions. These are the solutions to drinking (in moderation) without the guilt.

Don’t worry though, good for you doesn’t mean more work to prepare. You can create a large batch before the party begins and pour in a drink dispenser right before start time.

Femme Du Coupe, a Chicago-based bar styling company, offers their own all-natural, curated cocktail syrup, Le Sirop. And they provided us an easy-to-make recipe for a spiced apple cider.
1 bottle of Rittenhouse rye (available at Binnys)
1 bottle of le Sirop ginger zest
1 and a 1/2 cups fresh lemons juice (available at Mariano's)
1 and a 1/2 cups of Apple cider. For a less boozy and more apple flavored punch add more cider.
Guilt-free cocktails - it’s okay have a few, they’re good for you.

Holiday Appetizers

You can still make your appetizers look elegant while helping eliminate prep time and cleanup. Take a simple classic like mini pigs in a blanket and present on top of parsley as a Christmas wreath. By focusing on bite sized food it will eliminate both food and paper waste, resulting in easy clean-up.

Incorporating Family History

The holidays are a time for traditions and fond memories of the past. As part of your tablescape or throughout the party, showcase photos from Christmas' past and nostalgic vintage pieces. Whether a sit-down or cocktail reception party, memories brought back from these images and items are great conversation pieces.

Ready to create a new tradition? Each year have guest’s placecards or favors be customized ornaments with each individual's name and year on them. Guests will have these to collect for their own tree years to come. This is something the host can prep beforehand and it adds such a personal touch.

Socially Conscious Floral Arrangements

Who doesn’t love a fresh floral arrangement, but you’re not alone if you feel guilty throwing them out a few days later.

Flowers for Dreams is a Chicago-based floral company that helps your conscience, too. They provide locally sourced floral arrangements for the same price or better than other professional florists. Plus, each arrangement benefits a local charity.

Enjoy your flowers a little longer by knowing that after the holiday season is done your dollars will support a great cause.

A Twist On The Traditional

“Hot Cocoa Bar - Stir.Sip.Savor”
By the time guests have reached your event they probably have participated in a week's worth of holiday gatherings and had their fair share of the classics.

Give them a twist on the traditional with a hot cocoa bar station. Include items like custom marshmallows and dipping spoons. Based out of Indiana, 240Sweet offers artisan marshmallows in a variety of flavors including bourbon brown sugar, birthday cake and snickerlicious to name a few.

Dipping spoons will have guests thinking these were created by your own personal cocoa barista but in reality they take less than 15 minutes to make and can be created days before. Simply:
  1. Start with finer silver spoons or for easy clean-up purchase silver plastic spoons.
  2. Melt your desired chocolate flavor. Note: make sure you don’t overcook your chocolate. If it’s too hot it won’t dry fast enough for toppings to be held in place.
  3. Dip the spoon so that it’s covered halfway with chocolate.
  4. Sprinkle desired toppings (i.e. crushed candy canes, oreo cookies, health bites, etc.)
  5. Place on cookie rack covered with parchment paper and let dry.
  6. Display upright in a mint julip or other fancy cup for guests to take their pick on the showcased spoons.

Party Entertainment

“Cookie Decorating Station - Frost, Sprinkle, Wrap ‘Em Up For Kris Kringle”
Often the little ones go under the holiday party entertainment radar but here is a chance to make them feel like VIP guests while being ready for Santa’s visit.

Create a cookie decorating station. As soon as you read this you probably had flashbacks to an absolute mess of crumbs and loose sprinkles. Good news, there is a solution to this:
  1. Take a mini cupcake tin and fill your assorted toppings and sprinkles into each individual cupcake holder. It keeps everything in place as the kiddies create cookie masterpieces. 
  2. Once complete have mini cookie tins layered with parchment paper for them to wrap up their cookies and bring home for Santa -- while you wrap up another successful holiday party season!

Thanks so much for Amanda Morris and the team at C1 Revolution! To see the clip from WGN, click here: WGN - Event planning tips and ideas for the holidays

Photos courtesy of C1 Revolution

Wednesday, January 21, 2015



Why Hire a DJ?
Now that you've got the date set, it’s time to find who will be providing your entertainment. A DJ has a few advantages over a band. For one, a DJ has a much bigger catalog of music to choose from and most professionals have the means to download a song on the spot to fulfill a request. Also, most DJs do not take breaks. While we may sit down to dinner at a table, our first priority is keeping that music going and the events happening on schedule. Lastly, DJs are substantially less expensive than a band.

Perhaps I should introduce myself. I am Joel Quest of Conquest Entertainment, a professional DJ and Photo Booth company in the Chicago area. I’ve been a DJ for 15 years and specialize in weddings for brides and grooms who want to “wow” everyone.

DJs are not all the same. Some are very old school. Some are very modern and cutting edge. Some specialize in particular ethnic traditions and cultures and some are fantastic with children. There’s no right or wrong, it’s about finding the right personality and style that fits in with your party.

Where Do You Find a DJ?
There are so many choices out there that it might be a little overwhelming when you first start your search for the perfect vendor. Here are a few good places to begin:
  • Review sites: These are websites that specialize in the wedding industry and provide real client reviews for DJs as well as other vendors. Reviews and referrals are the lifeblood of the wedding industry. There are several wedding related sites that have all kinds of information on Disc Jockeys.
  • Internet: Finding a DJ that is close to you and your venue through a search engine can be a good start. Simply search for the term “Wedding DJ near (your city)” which will bring up a list of local Wedding DJ companies.
  • Ask your venue: They get to see many DJs firsthand every weekend and they know the difference between a pro and an amateur. Many wedding coordinators have business cards on hand of DJs they trust.

How to Narrow the Search
You will likely be surprised at how many DJ companies there are out there. Once you’ve found a couple DJs you’d like to know more about, it’s time to dig deeper. Here are a few tips on how to make sure the ones you’re thinking of contacting are true professionals.
  • Search the Internet News: Find out more about news, awards or other articles and blog posts the DJ or DJ Company has about them. Some DJs are quite prolific and involved with their craft, and it will be easy to find out more about their accomplishments and awards (or problems). 
  • Review Sites: There are quite a few reputable wedding-related websites out there that have genuine reviews from clients. Go beyond simply relying on the number of stars they may have and read the reviews of past clients. You can tell a lot about the personality and work ethic of a DJ from the written reviews they have. If you see a lot of clients writing very impassioned reviews, it’s a very good sign. 
  • Websites: Any professional DJ company will have a decent looking website that has a lot of information about their style and what they provide clients in terms of options, service and skill. Watch out for old, clunky websites that offer little in the way of info. Don’t always let age fool you… there are a lot of older DJs that understand how to rock a crowd much better than a younger, more inexperienced DJ. But again, you’ll be able to tell this once you interview them. 
  • Who is the DJ?: There are two kinds of DJ companies. Large ones (many DJs) and small ones (one or two DJs). The wedding industry is one of the few where you may find better service with the smaller companies. Larger doesn’t always mean better. Watch out if a company tells you that you get to pick your DJ a month before the event. It means you’re going to get who is available, not who best suits you. 
  • Watch Out for High Pressure: If your salesperson is trying to pressure you into signing today for a discount, or offers you alcohol or other gimmicks in order to get you to sign with them, it’s a very bad sign. The real pros will let you make the decision for yourself without resorting to high pressure tactics. 

Contacting the DJs
I always recommend contacting multiple DJs. I want all my clients to be absolutely sure they have found the right DJ for them. You can first contact the DJs by email if you like. Emailing gives you a chance to ask several questions at once and, as a bonus, this method will show you how fast their communication skills are. Quick communication is VERY important when planning a wedding, also, make sure they answer your questions with an answer that satisfies you.

When contacting a DJ by email, it’s helpful to include specifics about your event. It will give us a better picture of your event and help us give you the right options to think about. Maybe you’re having your ceremony and/or cocktail hour outside. How many people will be there? Do you have any fun idea for your introductions or ceremony you’d like to see happen? It is difficult to give a price for you to consider without knowing all the specifics.

Things to Look For During Your DJ Meeting
Let the DJ tell you what they think their role is at your wedding. Good DJs do a lot more than “just press play.” We coordinate all the events with you, your parents, bridal party, venue staff, photographer, videographer and anyone else that is a vital part of your party. A great DJ is also a keen problem solver. Sometimes plans change at the last second and it’s up to the DJ to keep things rolling smoothly all night long. Look for more subtle clues as well. When you talk to your DJ, do they seem like they really love their job? It’s pretty easy to tell a passionate DJ from one who treats it as a job.

There are lots of “must ask questions” lists on the internet that you can print out to take with you to your DJ meeting.

Your DJ should be a resourceful, idea machine who is eager to sit down with you and talk about all your ideas and tastes in order to make the party perfect. Above all, use your gut instincts. You’ll find there are plenty of slick salesmen who are much better at sales than they are DJ-ing. Speaking of salesmen, make sure that you meet with the DJ who will work with you before signing a contract, not just a salesman who tells you about the DJ.

Price alone should never be the determining factor when selecting a DJ. For the most part, you will get what you pay for. In the Chicago area, the average cost of a professional DJ for a basic 6 hour wedding package should range between $1000 and $1400 on a Saturday during “wedding season” (April-November). Some DJs offer discounts for Friday and Sunday weddings. Others have options like advanced lighting and photo booths as well. Sometimes including all these services with one vendor can save you money. 

Closing the Deal
Once you think you have found the right DJ for your party, it’s time to get down to business. Ask them for a contract that spells out the pricing and what services are to be rendered. Make sure you get things in writing before handing over any deposit money! 

For more information about picking the perfect DJ, check out Joel's website.

Joel Quest is the talent behind Conquest Entertainment DJ & Photo Booth, one of Chicagoland's highest rated DJ companies. He is dedicated to customer service and making sure that your wedding is the best that anyone has ever been to! For more information, email, or call 630-779-4868.

Photo via

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Indie Wed is coming to Chicago on January 31, 2015! Mark your calendars! 

Imagine a bridal expo like none you’ve ever seen: where the guests are invited to mix and mingle among over 100 independent vendors on two floors in a restored billboard factory and instead of the usual stale, trade show booths, vendors set up a variety of unique and whimsical displays.

Couples don’t just pick up business cards but can actually shop in the marketplace, as many of the vendors and artists have their wares for sale. They can dance to live music and tunes the DJ spins, admire tablescapes created by some of Chicago’s hottest wedding pros, and nosh on both savory and sweet items from some of the best local caterers. Don’t just browse the vendors…experience them!

New this year is an amazing 3rd floor “Moroccan Daydream” lounge presented by Jayne Weddings. Take a break and enjoy some delicious food and drink pairings featuring Moroccan-inspired bites from Publican Quality Meats and sweet samples from Black Dog Gelato. Enjoy a mini massage or manicure while being immersed in a super-chill Morocco-meets-70s California vibe. After a long day of mingling with our wedding pros, this will be the perfect spot to relax and recharge.

Also new to Indie Wed 2015 is our 2nd floor fashion lounge with cozy vintage furniture seating, dressing rooms for trying on gowns, and several dress designers presenting their latest fashions. We're excited to provide this dedicated area where brides can try on gowns in a comfortable, relaxed setting and be inspired by some fantastic independent gown designers.

The event will take place:
Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015
from 10am to 4pm
at the Ravenswood Event Center
4043 N. Ravenswood Ave, Chicago

Please visit our website for full details, or find Indie Wed on Facebook and Twitter! And don't forget to purchase your tickets as soon as possible!

Still curious? Check out this video from a previous event!

Monday, January 19, 2015


You and your fiancé have discussed everything from who makes the guest list to what kind of cake topper to get. But have you had a serious talk about money? Only 43 percent of people discuss finances before marriage, an American Express survey found, and a shocking 12 percent have never talked about money issues with their fiancé. This isn't something you want to treat lightly, either — according to a Money Magazine poll of 1,010 married adults, 70 percent of couples argue more about money than anything else, including sex, how to divide up the household chores and the amount of "together time" they spend.

Don't be that couple. Take time now to hammer out how you're going to manage your money once you've tied the knot. The following tips can help:

Schedule Time for 'The Talk'

Set a day and time to have the money talk. Clear an afternoon for this, and make sure you've each done some prep work. There's a lot of ground to cover, including spending styles, the amount of debt each of you is bringing into the marriage and what your financial goals as individuals and as a couple are. Each one of you should come prepared to discuss:

  • How much you make
  • The balances on every account you hold
  • Your spending habits
  • Your financial goals and how you envision reaching them
  • Who, if anyone, will be in charge of paying bills and which accounts you will merge?
  • Do you want to buy a house? When? How will you come up with the down payment? Do you want children? Will you both continue to work after kids come? When will you start saving for retirement? What are your expectations as far as vacations, cars and "fun" spending? How will you pay down debt? Get this all out in the open and look at it.

For a comprehensive look at having a successful discussion of this sort, visit The Simple Dollar.

Make a Budget

Next it's time to create a budget that reflects your goals as a married couple. Your budget should take into account your essential expenses (housing, transportation, insurance, utilities, food, etc.) as well as your discretionary spending (gym, shopping, entertainment, etc.). There are some great budgeting and personal finance apps out there to get you started and help you stay on track.

This is the time to determine how much of your combined income you're going to save and how much you'll use to pay down debt. While nothing is set in stone, most financial experts agree that Elizabeth Warren's 50/30/20 rule is a good guide. It allows for:
  • 50 % of your income to go to the above-mentioned essential expenses
  • 30 % to go to your "wants" like eating out, vacations, etc.
  • 20 % to go to paying down debt, saving money for emergencies, investing and retirement

A Word About Credit

If either one of you is entering the marriage with bad credit, be honest and make improving it a priority. Your credit rating affects a multitude of things, including your ability to buy a house, get a car loan and start a business. It could even influence whether an employer offers you a job or not.

Vow to pay your bills on time. Work debt repayment into your budget, and look for ways you can pay down your biggest debts. Consider using some or all of your wedding gift money to help pay down debt. For more information on improving your credit score, visit

This is the most exciting time of your life as a couple. Have this talk and get started with your best financial foot forward.

Photo courtesy of Social Monsters

Friday, January 16, 2015

Ever wonder where a designer gets his or her ideas or what the process of creating a bridal gown is like? Designer Janet Yang of CALÉ bridal was able to give us the inside scoop on how she operates. 

On Inspiration:
"I usually draw my inspiration from people, life, and nature. If I could, I would sit in a cafe all day with a great cup of coffee (of course paired with a delicious pastry), watch people, take note of their personal style, and their interactions!

"Nature is beautiful. Not only is creation's form beautiful but it is also functional. Whether it's adding pockets to dresses and skirts or having adjustable waistbands, these are some ways I strive for both form and function in my designs."

On the Process:
I always have my sketchbook with me. I will write and draw out any ideas/thoughts throughout the day. Most of the time my writing and sketches look like chicken scratch, but when I get into my studio with my dress form -- that is where it all comes together. I love to actualize my sketches into tangible things. Sometimes my ideas don't always work out and that's okay because sometimes a better idea stems from that. I enjoy the making process not just for the finished product but also for the journey. 

On the Best New Trends:
"I have always loved the idea of bridal separates, and the possibility of wearing them again after all the wedding festivities. Why spend so much on pieces that you can't wear again? I was thrilled when I saw what Olivia Palermo wore to her wedding: a bridal ensemble composed of a cashmere sweater and a tulle skirt with lace details. It was simple and classic, with a twist, and it fit the occasion perfectly."

On Her Clients:
I love to design for the women around me and, honestly, for myself! I think of what women would enjoy wearing, what they would feel comfortable and beautiful in. My ideal client would be the character Holly Golightly played by Audrey Hepburn in the movie Breakfast at Tiffany's. Her style is very classy with a bit of drama. What I love about the character is that she wears the same items more than once! Whether it is her little black dress paired with a large brimmed hat or a statement necklace, you get a sense that she is very stylish even with just a few pieces in her wardrobe. I love that the pieces I make for women can be worn not just once for a special occasion, but can be part of their everyday wardrobe.

On Finding the Perfect Gown:
When I first started shopping for my wedding gown, I thought I had a pretty clear idea of what was going to look good on me and what I wanted to look like on my wedding day. When I tried on the dress that I had been imagining in my head, I realized that it wasn't very flattering and it wasn't special to me.

Once I ventured out of my comfort zone, I found my dress, but it wasn't followed by a flood of tears. I actually started to pet the dress! I was amazed at how beautiful it was and how beautiful I felt! So from my personal experience, my advice to brides is to first try on a few different silhouettes and styles and go from there. Find what looks good on you and what makes you feel beautiful!

I've seen too many brides buy something that they don't love, either because they are pressured by family members and friends or because of their budget. Brides, bring just a few loved ones to your appointments so that you really get to choose what you love. If something is a little over your budget, try to adjust your budget. Maybe you'll choose to DIY the ceremony decorations so that you can spend more money on your wedding dress.

Also, don't have unrealistic expectations for when you do choose your dress. Not everyone cries and reacts the same way. Also, after you picked the one, stop shopping! Someone once told me, when you find the guy of your dreams, you don't keep looking, right? Well, same goes for your dress!

On Fittings:
I enjoy fitting brides in their gowns and giving them the perfect fit. Every bride wants to feel beautiful on her wedding day and the fact that I can help them with that is such a rewarding experience. I love talking with brides, asking what they need and want, and for their opinions. I know I am the expert, but it's the bride that is going to be wearing this dress, not me. So if they want it a little tighter or a little longer, I listen to the bride, pin them the way they would like and let them walk around in it just to make sure they are comfortable and love the way they look. If I know something is not going to work out, I give them my advice and multiple suggestions so that they have options to choose.

It's always amazing to see what a box of pins can do to help the bride visualize what the finished product will look like. And many are amazed themselves! I've had brides tear up at the end of a fitting because it is like when they picked their dress the first time, except this time it's really their dress, fit to their body.

On Finishing Touches:
There is a satisfaction that I cannot completely explain from finishing a gown. Whether it's making a garment from start to finish or altering a dress, there is a sense of relief, but also a renewed excitement for the customer to wear it. When the customer tries on their finished dress and they enjoy wearing it so much that they don't want to take it off till their wedding day -- well, there is an overwhelming sense of accomplishment and pride in my work. Many times my work surprises me, because I know I wouldn't be able to do what I do without the support of my family and friends and for people giving me a chance and seeing something others did not see at the beginning of my career.

On Her Current Projects:
"I currently have a capsule collection on etsy for my company, CALÉ bridal. I also have a facebook page and instagram that show my collection and current projects. I plan on adding more to the collection in the spring time."

Thank you so much to Janet Yang, owner and designer of CALÉ bridal for her fabulous insight on bridal fashion and couture wedding wear!

Photography by Mayumi Tiburzi Photography

Wednesday, January 14, 2015


Are you dreaming of a small and intimate wedding? Dream no more! Small weddings can be beautiful, intimate and oh-so-cozy.

Having fewer people invited to your wedding can not only save you on cost, but also help you make for a more exclusive, personal celebration. No need to remember your dad's cousin's stepson's girlfriend's name.

As the bride and groom, you will have the opportunity to spend more quality time with your guests and increase the likelihood that your friends and family will get to know each other better and enjoy unforgettable experiences.

Event planner and CEO of The EnVISION Firm, Raven White, offered us some of her tips on how to really take advantage of a small and intimate wedding celebration. I interviewed her to learn about designing exceptional intimate wedding ceremonies.

Raven fell in love with creating exclusive events when she had to plan her own wedding. She knows about planning real weddings from both a professional and personal standpoint. She enjoys putting together every detail, like unique decor designs, delicious menus, and making each guest feel like they are part of a very special day.

Having been a bride, Raven understands how overwhelming selecting the perfect vendor and coordinating each detail can be, and she knows that having a certified specialist is invaluable.

For example, I ddidn'tquite understand the difference between a small wedding vs. intimate wedding. There is a difference and Raven summed it up for me perfectly:
"I think you can delineate between the words small and intimate. When I say someone is having a small wedding, I'm often referring to the size of the guest count or budget. However, when I mention the intimacy of a wedding, I'm thinking in terms of ambiance, style, and feeling of the wedding or reception.”

Choosing between a "small" or an "intimate" wedding really comes down to your preference.

Raven gave us her top five tips for planning your small or intimate wedding:
  1. No matter how small or intimate you want your wedding to be, there are always multiple components involved to create a well-organized event. Raven suggests getting a wedding planning workbook or creating a spreadsheet that lists all the details of your wedding. Include things like flowers, caterers, lighting, and invitations. Having a detailed list will help limit stress and keep you organized throughout the planning process. If your goal is to keep costs down, listing everything out in the beginning will allow you to focus on your priorities and not overspend.
  2. Try to limit your guest list to fewer than 50 guests. Consider only inviting immediate family members and close friends, or only having 1-2 bridesmaids and/or groomsmen. When you keep your guest list low, it helps to create an intimate, exclusive feel to your wedding.
  3. For decor, try floating candles. Raven absolutely loves using floating candles throughout the ceremony and reception for evening affairs. She told me floating candles can be put in different sized cylinder vases with submerged dendrobium orchids or colored stones to get different effects. Lighting is one of the best ways to create the right mood for your wedding. In addition to creating an intimate feel, it’s a cost effective centerpiece. Who doesn’t love a little romantic candlelight?
  4. Pay attention to details! When you have a small wedding, every detail can be seen by guests. If you have a guest count of 200 people, it’s easy to have guests miss errors during the event. However, smaller numbers mean fewer people mingling around, making it easier for them to notice glitches.
  5. Make your guests feel exclusive. With a smaller guest count, you may be able to splurge more on the wedding. Try sending them a customized invitation such as a silk invitation box or having a fantastic 5-course meal. For favors, instead of providing one piece of chocolate per guests, why not send them home with individual chocolate sets from Godiva? These are great ways to let your guests know you appreciate them.

I have learned from Raven that you must always look at the big picture by blending floral design, lighting, delectable cuisine, perfectly timed music. By stimulating all of the five senses, you can transport your guests to another world the moment they enter your venue.

Small weddings have a stigma for not being the norm. However, when planned well and executed properly, a small wedding can, in fact, be even more amazing than a 400-person extravaganza. It's all about planning your dream -- whatever that may be!

Thank you so much to Raven White for offering us her tips for planning the perfect small or intimate wedding. Find out more about The EnVISION Firm and her wedding planning packages at You can also connect with Raven on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Guess what readers, Raven is hosting a Google On Air Hangout January 17th Saturday . 1pm- 2pm EST called, “ Omg! I’m getting engaged. Now what?" 

Click here to view the Hangout:

Photos courtesy of Raven White

Monday, January 12, 2015

Our dear friend Denise Adan of Jazzy Flowers recently married her sweetheart, George. We're so happy to be able to share her wedding with you. 

We happened to meet during our first semester of college, but never spoke to each other. The following semester, we discovered we were both animation majors when we had our first animation class together. We had so much fun talking that by the end of that first class George turned to me and said, "We're going to be best friends forever."

We were great friends for 5 years, then became roomates for 2 years and at that point, though it was totally obvious to everyone else, we were starting to wonder if we loved each other. It was totally awkward and weird. We had to learn how to date each other. But it finally smoothed out and we've been together ever since! I like to say we're hardcore best friends.

Our wedding was very important to our familes, I'm an only child and George was the only one of his siblings to have a formal wedding. So from the start everyone was very excited to celebrate. For me, the most special part was to have my father still here with us. My father has defied the odds with a terminal illness for the past 4 years and he always told me he was holding on for my wedding day. It was truly a blessing, a lesson in strength for us all. My father wore sunglasses practically all night, he couldn't stop crying! He literally cried at home, on the drive over, in his room, walking me down the aisle and through out the reception. 

Both George and I are bi-cultural, artists and huge animal lovers, those facts really shaped us as people and probably is a major factor in how similar we are. We tried to have fun with representing both of our cultural backgrounds, it was a mix of Polish, Mexican and African American roots. At first I was nervous about how this would work out (would we offend one side or the other?), but in the end it didn't matter because whatever we made of it was beautiful. We even threw in an "American" aspect of spiking footballs after the ceremony, just for fun! Here is a list of the cool things we did:

1. A hand binding ceremony, jumped the broom and then spiked footballs after that.

2. We had our family stuffed armadillo (who is like a forever pet that's seen every birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Communion, graduation, you name it!) greet our guests on the place card table.

3. We did a presentiation of a funny hat given by the best man to the groom, so that he may keep our marriage light and happy. While I recieved a necklace of baby animals from the maid of honor, as a symbol of taking care of our home.

4. At the reception we did the money dance, and instead of a bouquet toss, we used the footballs.

5. And our cake topper was an homage to our two cats who passed away right after we got engaged. They really brought us together, we felt like a true family with them in our life and we credit them for helping us fall in love. They were also both boys, which is why they are wearing top hats.

With florals inspired by the fields of Poland and the best tres leche cake we know! It was seriously a mash up!

This article is dedicated to Denise's father, Isidro Escobar Adan,  a loving man who always wore a smile.