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.
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 preceremony 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, prepare 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.
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.
In addition to the blossoms you and your wedding party wear and carry at the ceremony, flowers are essential decor at the reception. Hang cones of flowers from the ceiling or on the backs of chairs, and drape them around the wedding cake. Display bouquets on each table, and tuck large urns or buckets of daisies into out-of-the-way corners.
Purchase flowers from a florist, or gather favorites from your garden. You can display them in assorted vases, or package them in pretty paper Flower Cones. Decorate the cones with copies of vintage family photos (perhaps of weddings from long ago or loved ones you wish to remember on this special day) or more recent photos of memorable family times.
Keep flowers fresh in the cones by inserting each flower into a florist's water tube (sometimes called a pick), which you can purchase at a florist's shop.
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.
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.
Pinwheels made from scrapbook papers and arranged in a large vase serve as a whimsical "bouquet" for the table.
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.