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Country Wedding in the Heartland

Your wedding is an ideal time to gather family and friends together in joyful celebration. And while you're at it, why not garner their assistance in the planning and preparations? Like an old-fashioned barn raising or quilting bee, your wedding can bring loved ones together to work toward a common goal: making your day perfectly memorable.

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Choose your wedding location with care, making sure it's a place that's close to your heart. Whether it's the home you grew up in, a unique family gathering spot, or the botanical garden where you and your true love first kissed, that special setting will guide you in choosing your wedding theme and colors. Even a barn on the family farm can provide a romantic backdrop if the details are chosen with care. Whatever the site, you can easily adapt our ideas to fit your surroundings.

You¿ll need a passel of tables and chairs for seating and dining, so call on friends and relatives to help you search garage sales and secondhand shops and dust cobwebs from the ones you pull from attics and basements. Host a painting party and ask everyone to contribute a brush and white paint; with a fresh coat, the dissimilar pieces will coordinate and look as good as new. To perk up the tables even more, drape them with a soft covering of tulle netting.

Rather than renting china, stemware, and flatware from a rental firm or catering company, purchase inexpensive, mismatched pieces. Choose a theme, such as the pink flowers on our china; then put together a collection by searching flea markets, thrift shops, and tag sales. You'll be delighted by the treasures you'll discover...and when the wedding is over, you'll be set to host large family gatherings with a full china cabinet.

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  • A simple lollipop tree made from wallpaper-covered Styrofoam offers sweet treats.
  • Make it easy to corral the kids at mealtime by setting their special table with individual servings that will appeal to their appetites. These meals containing sandwiches, chips, and fruit are wrapped in large napkins and packaged in shiny tin buckets. A candy cane peeking out of each (it's tied to the string) is the pièce de résistance.
  • A rosy bouquet displayed in an enamelware coffeepot shines as a centerpiece.
  • The simplest details--such as these paper napkin rings tied with pink floral ribbon to embellish secondhand china¿can make your table complete.

You needn't hire a catering firm to serve your reception; just choose foods you and your family members love and can make yourselves. Keep the menu simple--and simply delicious--to appeal to guests of all ages. If you enlist the help of family and friends and begin with some purchased components, you can put together a stellar buffet spread.

If your family gatherings always revolve around Aunt Mary's potato salad and Grandma's beet pickles, include those dishes in your special day. Ask your culinary-inclined relatives to contribute their specialties to your reception. Invite several friends and family members to help make sandwiches, cut up fruit, and steam veggies the day before. Or hand out copies of recipes and ask them to deliver the prepared dishes right before the wedding. Be sure to have plenty of refrigeration or coolers available. And remember to assign someone who knows where everything should be stored to pre-ceremony kitchen duty.

Our menu begins with several ready-made items and incorporates other easy-to-prepare ingredients. For example, the Herbed Egg Salad Roll-Ups start with basic white bread and purchased egg salad, the Stuffed Baby Vegetables are filled with a purchased herbed semi-soft cheese, and the Fruity Pasta Salad is coated with a purchased poppy seed salad dressing.

The right serving platters make the buffet table both festive and practical. Plan to serve from a variety of heights: Place sandwiches on cake stands, drape fruits over a three-tier platter, and serve salads from extra large bowls that will require less refilling. Again, plan ahead and borrow equipment or purchase secondhand serving platters, bowls, and utensils.

Be creative in serving, but do keep your foods safe to eat. If food will be sitting on the buffet table for several hours, and especially if the weather is hot, arrange to keep foods cold. Place fruit and dips in bowls, and sit platters of sandwiches containing meats and cheeses directly on a bed of ice. If the weather is very hot, it's wise to serve perishables in small bowls or platters and replenish them frequently.

During the reception, assign several people the task of keeping the buffet fresh. If you don't want to burden relatives or friends, hire high school or college students to handle the duties.

An heirloom tablecloth is a perfect cover for a buffet table. If you don¿t have one that fits your table--or you don't want to risk damage to treasured family linens--try a disposable alternative. Unroll pretty wallpaper over the length of the tabletop; cut and tack to the table using thumbtacks. Measure around the outer edges of the table; cut a piece of wallpaper half that length. Cut the paper in half lengthwise; scallop the edges. Drape over the sides of the table, tacking in place.

The first wedding cakes were breadlike concoctions broken over the heads of brides as an omen of a long life and years of happiness. The modern cake is more beautiful--and sweeter--but still carries a symbolic meaning: a commitment to share the path of life together. When you and your spouse feed each other a piece of cake, the act will represent the love, honor, and respect you have for each other.

As a symbol of that all-important love, let your cake take center stage at your reception. The setting for our cake is as romantic as it is easy to create. Dress the table in a simple cloth (ours is checked gingham) that matches your wedding colors and your cake. Cover the fabric with a topper made from Anaglypta (embossed) wallpaper. Scallop the edges, and tie ribbons at the center of every other scallop. Pound four garden stakes into the ground. Drape and tie the corners of a lightweight quilt or pretty fabric to the poles; attach ribbon streamers.

This flower-studded cake is nearly too pretty to eat. Be sure to have your photographer take lots of pictures before you cut it! Our cake begins with a box mix. Then it's enhanced with a luscious lemon- or raspberry- curd filling and tucked under lacy icing.

Flowers speak louder than words, so be sure the ones you choose and the style of your bouquet communicate the romance of your day. In any language, the flowers at your wedding should announce the love and joy in your heart.

When it comes to planning your bridal bouquet, take a cue from a lovely French tradition. The bride visits a flower market the day before her wedding and chooses her favorite blooms. She bundles them together, hand-ties them with a pretty ribbon, and voilà--she has flowers for the ceremony.

Creating your wedding bouquet can be as effortless as plucking fresh posies from the garden or a farmer's market or as elaborate as hiring a florist to design a cascade of exotic blooms. Before you choose, explore these possibilities:

  • Hand-tied bouquet--an assortment of flowers tied with a pretty ribbon, similar to the French tradition.
  • Arm bouquet--an arrangement of long-stemmed flowers, often roses or calla lilies, tied loosely with a ribbon or bow and cradled in one arm. Some-times, carrying a single, perfect bloom is preferred to a bouquet of flowers.
  • Cascade bouquet--a large, tear-shape arrangement of flowers, full at the top and dropping into tendrils at the bottom, that spills gracefully downward.
  • Biedermeier bouquet--concentric circles with different flowers, or different colors of the same flower, in each circle.
  • Pomander--a ball of flowers made by inserting stems into a globe-shape base suspended from a looped ribbon. The ribbon can be held or slipped over the wrist. This antique look is an elegant choice if you wear gloves.
  • Pavé arrangement--a tight cluster of blooms that may include one type of flower in the same color or related colors, or several different varieties of flowers. These balanced, geometric arrangements have little, if any, greenery.
  • Free-form bouquet--a loose grouping of flowers that often has blossoms and greenery coming out at various angles. Sprays are one type of free-form bouquet; they "spray" in different directions.

Meanings of Flowers

  • lilac: first love
  • baby's breath: pure heart
  • daisy: innocence
  • dahlia: forever yours
  • tulip: perfect lover
  • red rose: passion
  • pink rose: friendship
  • white rose: respect
  • cream rose: perfection
  • red and white roses together: unity
  • red rosebud: pure and lovely

A lovely buffet table setting is easy to achieve: Simply remember that presentation is every bit as important as the foods you serve. Set the table with beautiful linens (or a wallpaper tablecloth), and add plenty of fresh flowers and greenery. Serve foods from pretty platters and bowls, and use garnishes liberally.

Period wedding dresses such as these, whether they belong to a family member or are purchased from a shop, add a sentimental twist to the day. Vintage clothing stores and catalogs contain gowns from Victoriana to more modern times.

Simple bridesmaid dresses can be adorned with bouquets of real or silk flowers, ribbons, or antique jewelry. For fun, let each of your attendants wear a slightly different gown.

Be creative in your choice of wedding attire: These dresses were not originally designed as wedding dresses but would look lovely on a bride or bridesmaid.

If you are lucky enough to have copies of your parents' or even your grandparents' wedding photos, you know what a pleasure it is to gaze on these intimate pieces of the past. Your wedding is one of the happiest occasions in your life, and you can preserve the memories to pass on to your children and grandchildren.

Whether you hire a professional photographer or have friends and family members record your day, be sure to get a mix of standard photos (bride and groom walking down the aisle together after the ceremony, the couple posing with family members, members of the wedding party) as well as some fun, impromptu shots (you hugging your best friend, the flower girl and ring bearer dancing with arms around each other, a tear sliding gently down your grandmother's cheek). Those unposed photos may well be the most meaningful to you in the future.

As you may have noticed while looking through your family's stash of old photos, black-and-white photos age well. Those of your grandparents and great-grandparents may be in better condition than the color photos from your parents' wedding. Consider having some of your wedding photographs taken in black and white...for an interesting change of pace and because the finished photos will last far longer than color. Experts say that black-and-white photos could last hundreds of years, while color images will begin to fade within 30 years.

Of course, you'll want to display a special framed photo or two of your wedding day. To preserve these photos and avoid sun damage, be sure the frames are covered in UV-protected glass. Use an acid-free mat next to the photo and acid-free and buffered paper in back of the photo. Display the photo away from direct sunlight. If possible, frame a copy and store the original in a safe environment away from light.

When placing your photos in albums, look for one with plastic enclosures of archival quality. This means the plastic components are made of polyethylene, polypropylene, or polyester. Paper pages should be acid-free. Another good method of preservation is to use corner mounts in a scrapbook.

If you have a videotape made, it's important to store the tape properly. Remove the clip on the back of the videotape to prevent taping over your wedding images by mistake (remember that classic episode of "Everybody Loves Raymond"?). Store your videotapes upright and in a case. Keep them away from electronic equipment. As an added safety measure, store a duplicate tape along with your photo negatives in a fireproof box or in a safe-deposit box.

"Every time I look at our wedding photos, a flood of memories rushes back to me ... myas he waited for me at the altar. Even though we've been married nearly 50 years, uncle walking me down the aisle, the beautiful dress my mother made, Bob smiling I'll never forget my wedding day, or the wonderful years that have followed." --Marian Falk Roth, married to Robert Roth, October 12, 1954

You'll treasure a handmade album or photo box forever. Just be sure you use materials that will preserve your photos forever, such as acid-free papers and archival quality plastics. This album and box are covered in Anaglypta (embossed) wallpaper and topped with a scanned copy of a vintage family photo. If you purchase photo albums, buy them from a reputable source to be sure they are acid-free and of archival quality. You don't want to risk losing your photos in a few years.

Including something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue in the wedding is a fun tradition to follow...and the lore behind it is fascinating. (In some versions, one more line adds "and a silver sixpence in your shoe.") As the story goes, brides include something old to ensure their friends will remain friends; something new looks to the future for health, happiness, and success; something borrowed presents an opportunity for the bride's family to share a token of their love (the bride must return it to ensure good luck); something blue represents fidelity and constancy. The silver sixpence (a penny) will bring wealth in the couple's new life.

Observe the old, new, borrowed, and blue in your attire with a blue necklace, pin, or handkerchief your mother wore on her wedding day, and of course, the penny in your shoe. Then extend the tradition to those in your wedding party. Whether it's a ring bearer's pillow made from vintage monogrammed family linens, newly dressed-up sandals for your bridesmaids, or a pretty paper cone filled with flowers for your attendants, your imagination is the only limit to the lovely and meaningful embellishments you can include in your ceremony.

This sweet Ring Bearer's Pillow, tied with satin ribbons, is made from a well-worn monogrammed linen napkin.

Wallpaper embellished with fan flowers and ribbons is fashioned into this Country Bouquet Holder and the Rose-Petal Basket for the flower girl.

Ribbons and silk flowers dress up sandals for the bridal party.

A Monogrammed Wedding Purse made from linens is a thoughtful gift for bridesmaids--and purely practical for carrying to the wedding reception.

Shopping for the perfect dress is a thrill for you...and for the special women in your life. Your mother, sisters, best friends, perhaps even an aunt or cousin, will likely be overjoyed to help you choose the most beautiful dress you may ever wear.

For sentimental reasons, you might decide to borrow a family heirloom dress: one worn by your mother, grandmother, or another close family member. As you meet to try on the vintage dress, invite these women to give opinions, offer advice, and help decide on alterations or embellishments.

If a family heirloom dress isn't feasible, you can still achieve a period look by purchasing a vintage wedding gown or a hand-sewn replica. Another alternative is a lovely vintage dress--not necessarily wedding attire--in white or perhaps another pretty color.

To match your dress, consider bridesmaid dresses from the same period, either purchased from a vintage shop or sewn. Perhaps your mother's attendants still have the turquoise or pink strapless dresses they wore to her wedding. What fun to share them with your bridesmaids! Your mother's attendants may giggle as they reminisce about dressing together, perhaps barely arriving at the ceremony on time, and the fun they had dancing at the reception.

To carry the theme further (and if your family and friends are agreeable), you might even invite your guests to consider dressing in period clothing.

A Paper Cracker holds candy or tiny gifts.

Paper Lanterns are fashioned from scrapbook papers. As part of your reception decor, group them close together over a glow of tiny white Christmas lights.

Fill Country Confetti Cones with rice, confetti, or bird seed to help your guests send you off in style.

Purchased papier-mâché balls are painted and filled with candy message hearts.

This Keepsake Heart, which includes a remembrance quote, is finished with a tassel and ribbon for hanging.

Paper Fans are a useful gift for an outdoor summer wedding and reception. Hint: Hand them out before the ceremony so guests can use them to keep cool.

A Country Candy Container is made from wallpaper and decorated with a fan flower.

Lollipops are inserted into a cellophane bag, topped with tags, and then closed with a pretty ribbon.

Pinwheels made from scrapbook papers and arranged in a large vase serve as a whimsical "bouquet" for the table.

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