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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Trend Alert: Cupcakes!

Who doesn’t love a cupcake?! It’s a delicious little one-serving dessert, with the perfect ratio of delectable, melt-in-your-mouth icing to moist, tender cake. Doesn’t it make you happy just thinking about it? Something we started seeing a little of here and there a few years back was couples sending guests home with cupcakes as favors or even serving cupcakes in place of the groom’s cake, bride’s cake or both. The trend has really taken off and the cupcake has become a must-have at many weddings. Not only are full-service wedding bakeries making them by the dozens for brides and grooms, but specialized cupcake bakeries a la Sprinkles are popping up all over the D/FW metroplex.

Why do cupcakes take the cake? You can easily offer a multitude of flavors, they are extremely portable, you have unlimited flexibility on how you package or display them, no cutting is required and you can get really creative with the design or even personalize each cupcake if you like. No matter if you’re serving them at your event or sending them home with guests for sweet dreams, and whether the cupcakes are cool and sophisticated or funky and whimsical, they are sure to be fun and a crowd pleaser. So, let them eat (cup)cake!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Wedding Gown Shopping 101

Shopping for your wedding gown can be one of the most exciting and fun tasks on your wedding planning to-do list. But it may not be as simple as you think. What are your expectations of finding your gown? You may not realize it, but your expectations are probably based on your experience of normal retail shopping. But nothing could be further from the reality that is wedding gown shopping!

Bridal salons vary, just like other department stores. When shopping at Kmart, you wouldn’t expect the same level of service or product as you would when you shop at Saks Fifth Avenue. The same is true of bridal salons. In the D/FW market, we have three echelons of bridal salons: the entry-level or lower-priced gown salons, like David’s Bridal and Alfred Angelo; the moderately priced or mid-level salons, such as Demetrius, Mockingbird Bridal and Lulu’s Bridal Boutique; and the higher-end salons of Neiman Marcus, StarDust Celebrations and Stanley Korshak. Salons are generally privately owned and do not function like “normal retail.” For instance, orders usually take three to five months to arrive, the merchandise cannot be returned and the gown will not fit perfectly when it arrives.

One thing that sets bridal gown shopping apart from looking for, say, a little black dress, is that what you wear on your wedding day is a “gown”, not just a “dress”. And gowns are a big deal. Generally, you can’t just go to a store, pick out a wedding gown in the size and color you like and take it home. Bridal gowns should be ordered six to eight months in advance of the wedding, hopefully right after the venues are selected – although the bride should be able to wear what she wants regardless of where she is getting married. Selecting a gown is about one-third of the process; next comes accessories (shoes, jewelry and veil) and then fittings and alterations. But more on that later.

You should be forewarned that trying on gowns can be a bit awkward. At the entry-level, because the gowns are inexpensive, the salon may have a size run for try-on purposes. But at the moderate to expensive salons, unless the bride is 5’9” and a perfect size 8, the sample gown will not fit. Because these higher-end bridal salons don’t have size runs, the stylists have to be very clever to try and make the gown look good on the bride’s shape, giving her an idea of how an appropriately sized gown would look. If the bride is small, she will experience having the excess material pulled and tucked while she is clamped into the gown; if she is larger, she will be squeezed into the gown and then clamped in the back to her bra. In about 90% of the cases, the gown will be three to six inches too long, so the bride will be asked to stand on a platform so she can see how the gown will fall or drape normally.

Sometimes brides come in with a picture of their “dream dress” from a magazine. This works out in about 25% of these cases. Many times, the dream dress turns out to be a nightmare, because of being an unflattering or incompatible style for the bride’s body type or other similar issues. Most bridal gown sales people are experienced in helping a bride determine what works best on her figure. Come in with an idea of what you like but be open-minded and let the salon’s experienced personnel suggest some styles to try on. Often, they will know exactly the type of gown that will make the bride feel most stunning. If the salesperson doesn’t know fabrics, construction, how the gown can be altered and such, move on to the next salon. Where your gown is purchased is as important as what you purchase.

Once the bride finds her gown, it will be ordered based on her measurements. Then she will need to focus on accessories. Veils, headpieces and jewelry are important, but after selecting your gown, shoes should be next on your list. You must purchase your shoes before you receive your gown and have them with you at your first fitting. You’ll also want to have any foundation pieces with you at the fitting to ensure you’ll have the perfect fit once your alterations are complete. Select your veil and jewelry six to eight weeks before the wedding or the bridal portrait if you’re having those taken in advance of your wedding day.

Shopping for gowns can be fun and you want all of your friends’ opinions, right? Wrong! Often brides want to bring an entourage, but that is not a good idea. Usually a best friend (who really knows your style and will be honest with you) and a mom are the best people to bring. Too many people make selecting a gown confusing and often, feelings get hurt. Everyone has an opinion, no one likes the same thing and the bride gets lost in the confusion! Often the guests want the bride to try their suggestions on and either the bride doesn’t want to or the cost of the gown is an issue. Buying a wedding gown is serious. Save the “girls’ outing” for the bridesmaid dresses shopping or maybe bring the gang in when the selection is between the final two dresses. Another special idea is the keep the gown secret until the big day, making the bride’s entrance a really big “ta-da”! In this day of show-all, tell-all, wouldn't it be nice to have a little mystique around “what does the bride’s gown look like?”

A few other words of advice from a salon’s perspective: if an appointment is required, be on time. If you are late, you may miss your time because the next appointment is entitled to have her time protected. If you need to cancel, please do so, rather than just no-showing. Salons often have waiting lists and some other bride would be grateful to have your slot should you be unable to make it. And by all means, please wear underwear; rarely does a salesperson want to see a naked customer!

Yes, buying a wedding gown is serious business. You’ll be making a big decision and a commitment that will drive many other details of your wedding. But it can be fun, too! Just by doing a little research and planning ahead, you can take your time to find the gown that will make you feel most confident and beautiful on your wedding day. And what bride doesn’t want that?!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Be Our Guest

Weddings are truly special; one of life’s most wonderful milestones, meant to be celebrated with family and friends. Often, between gown and tux fittings, cake tasting and budget-mania, even the most normally thoughtful couples who adore their loved ones can lose sight of their guests. While the wedding is technically about you, the bride and groom, you should take care to be considerate of your guests and let them know you’re so glad they made the effort to be with you on your special day.

The most seemingly obvious yet simple way to be thoughtful of your guests is to, well, think about them. Put yourself in their shoes. There are a few factors that will impact your guests the most – travel, weather, food/beverage and the first impression – and by just spending a little time thinking these through from the viewpoint of your guests will go a long way toward making sure your event is talked about for a long time afterward…in a good way!

Are a lot of your guests coming in from out of town? Have you reserved enough hotel rooms at an appropriate variety of room rates and did you communicate this information to them? Have you considered drive time between your lodging options and the ceremony and reception sites? Did you provide easy-to-follow, accurate directions to your venues? Often when couples have a large number of guests traveling to attend their wedding, they will have both the ceremony and reception at one venue, simplifying logistics for their friends and family. Taking it a step further, having the event at a hotel will eliminate the problem. And, many hotels will give you a better room rate for your guests if you’re having your event at their hotel.

If you do have a lot of out-of-towners, it’s very helpful to provide transportation for them. Buses are a great way to get a lot of people from one place to another – and make sure they get to the ceremony on time. Bussing is also a fun way to foster mingling between your guests who may not know each other or to give far-flung relatives a chance catch up.

Also along the lines of travel is parking. If your venue does not have a large free parking lot, you’ll need to plan for valet service. By all means, please build this into your budget! It is frustrating for guests to have no choice but to valet and then have to pay for it themselves. Even if your event site does offer a park-yourself option, providing valet service for your guests is a very generous touch and your guests will appreciate it. Make sure you explain the parking situation on the direction cards you include in your invitations. And as many guests will invariably lose it along the way, make sure to have copies of the directions on hand at the ceremony site and include one in your welcome items (more on that later).

While you obviously can’t put in an order for perfect weather, you should consider how weather could affect your event – and your guests. Did you know that May is the rainiest month in the D/FW area? January is the coldest month, while July is on average the hottest (though you probably would have guessed it was August right about now). If you’re set on an outdoor event, you must make a back-up plan in case of rain. Tents take time to construct and if earlier in the week it looks like it might rain, play it safe and get the tent! Other thoughtful touches if you anticipate rain could be a stand of umbrellas for your guests to get to their cars relatively dry or baskets of flip-flops so ladies can save their Jimmy Choo or Manolo Blahnik heels from mud.
If you insist on an outdoor event during the warm months, make sure you have fans, ice-cold drinks and other means to keep your guests cool and comfortable. If your event is during the winter months, you should rent a coat rack for the reception. It’s unkind to expect your guests to just keep their coats on the back of their chairs and it will kill the look you probably spent a lot of money on.

Food and Beverage
Let’s be honest, while your guests are looking forward to witnessing your lovely marriage ceremony, it’s the reception that they’re most excited about – the music, the dancing, the food and drinks!!! What a disappointment to stand at the bar and order a drink only to hear, “that will be $6.00, sir.” What?! Just say no to the cash bar. It is in poor taste to expect your guests to pay for their own drinks. You wouldn’t invite guests to your home for dinner and ask them to pay for their cocktails while they’re there, would you? Of course not! If you cannot afford a full open bar for the duration of your reception, there are plenty of more affordable options. You can offer only beer and wine; you can have a champagne-only bar or save by nixing the champagne and having guests toast with drinks “in hand” at the time of your formal toasts. Or you can forgo alcohol altogether and just serve iced tea, coffee or soft drinks.
There are so many options when it comes to food at receptions now – seated dinner, buffet, stations. While many factors will affect your choice of meal – style of reception, personal preference, the venue itself – you also may want to consider the palate of your guests. You and your fiancé may be avid connoisseurs of exotic foreign delicacies but most likely your guests, especially the older ones, will appreciate a more recognizable menu. That doesn’t mean your food has to be boring. Mix it up a little, and make sure the caterer will label the food on buffets and stations. Guests want to know what they’re being offered, and they’re more likely to try new things when they know what they are. Also, it’s considerate to steer clear of common allergens, such as peanuts or shellfish, especially if you know you have guests with allergies.

The First Impression
This one is short and sweet – plan for a little something for your guests to receive when they arrive at their hotel. It doesn’t have to be much, just a personal note thanking them for traveling to share your big day. You can arrange for them to receive it at the desk upon check-in or pay a small fee to have it left in each guest’s room. You can of course get more elaborate than a note – baskets, bags or cowboy hats filled with goodies and bottled water, brochures on local attractions and your agenda for the weekend. But just be sure to include that little note that you took the time to personally write to them to let them know you are glad they came.
The Bottom Line
Despite your best efforts, with so many demands on your time surrounding your wedding weekend, it is not easy to get quality time with all of your guests. Even though they may get only a few minutes of your time during the event, your guests will feel welcome and happy to be a part of your celebration if you will take the time during your planning to focus on them and what might serve them well. After all, while your wedding comes and goes in a blur, you will have these friends and family members in your life long after you say “I do.”

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Amor Verde

There is a Native American Proverb that says, “We did not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” Such is the philosophy of our featured wedding couple, who held their intimate wedding ceremony and reception at their own completely green home in Dallas this past spring.
Many of the materials making up the beautiful home of Donna Wilhelm and John Gunn are renewable resources, having been repurposed, reclaimed or recycled. Naturally, this couple, who is passionate about protecting the environment and the earth’s natural resources, took the same approach for their wedding – starting with the 100% cotton invitations from Crane’s.

Donna and John were wed by Reverend Marty Younkin in their spacious living room with approximately 100 friends and family members looking on.

At the end of the wedding ceremony, the guests were invited to take a small stone from baskets near the pond in front of the home. They were asked to make a wish for the newlyweds and throw the stone into the pond, leaving a memory for the couple. This “blessing stone tradition” led by Reverend Younkin was so touching, and the couple enjoyed secretly witnessing it by peering from the house through a nearby window, unseen by their guests. Donna and John took great pleasure throughout the evening asking their friends and family what wish or advice had been cast into the pond for them.

It was time for the reception, starting with cocktails…next door. All the guests strolled on a pathway of greenery to enjoy the cocktail hour at the new, equally amazing eco-friendly home of the bride’s daughter (who also served as Matron of Honor) and son-in-law. The guests noshed on hearty passed hors d’oeuvres of beef Carpaccio, salmon tartlets and onion squares before heading back to the bride and groom’s home to continue the celebration.

As guests returned, they were treated to the couple’s first dance and cake-cutting ceremony before the buffet opened and the casual, lively celebration continued. This was an encore wedding for both Donna and John, and they wanted to add special touches unique to their life together, including bringing in their love of travel. Guests were treated to food and music from all over the globe.

Chefs Jonathan Calabrese and Brad Dickens from the trendy – and very eco-conscious – Savory Catering Company prepared Mediterranean chicken with olives and wild mushrooms served on creamy Parmesan polenta onsite while guests toured the beautiful and interesting house, taking in the green elements and fascinating art and sculpture.

The couple had a miniature tiered wedding cake for their cake-cutting ceremony but the guests enjoyed a delightful assortment of cupcakes and tarts for dessert.  All of the food was served on earth-friendly bamboo plates and all the utensils were also made of bamboo, one of our most plentiful, renewable and biodegradable resources.

Music performed by the percussion-driven “Duriye and Friends” drifted throughout the house the entire evening as guests of all ages danced on the patio to the jazz, funk, Latin and Afro-Cuban rhythms, again in tribute to the couple’s international travels and love of various cultures.

The décor was all about nature. The muted pastel color palate was a wonderful way to bring the outdoors in, from green and ivory linens to the natural wood containers filled with lush white, green, peach and yellow flowers fresh from the garden…Junior Villanueva’s garden, that is. Junior of The Garden Gate did a fabulous job of keeping all the décor earthy and in balance with the couple’s lovely eco-friendly home, with his usual stunning style.

As the evening wound down, guests were sent home with hugs and small pots of fresh herbs, which the happy couple hoped they might plant in gardens at their own homes, bringing a little more green into all of their lives.


Bamboo dinnerware: Smart Living Companies

Catering: Savory Catering

Florist: Junior Villanueva, The Garden Gate

Linens/chairs: BBJ Linens and Ducky Bob’s Event Specialists

Minister: Reverend Marty Younkin, Love Notes

Music: Duriye and Friends

Photography: Graham Hobart

Wedding cake/ Cupcakes: The Cupcakery

Wedding Planners: Marsha and Staci, StarDust Celebrations

Monday, August 2, 2010

Plan Ahead, Rest Easy

Whether you’re just diving into the process or have been planning your wedding for months, you have probably discovered that everything takes a lot of thought, detail and time – much more time that you might have ever imagined! Choosing and ordering great bridesmaid dresses for your sweet friends and family who have agreed to stand up for you can be an overwhelming task. It’s an important – and time sensitive – piece of the planning puzzle and it deserves your attention! But, in keeping with our philosophy that planning a wedding should be fun, we have created a guide to help you in your quest for the perfect dress for your bridesmaids.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that you should order your bridesmaid dresses four to six months before your wedding to ensure your girls are looking their best. Most of the dresses take three months to come in, and you should also allow additional time for alterations. Attendant gowns are ordered from a size chart rather than made to individuals’ specific measurements, so 95% of all bridesmaid dresses will need to be altered. So, to help you breeze through this process, here is your step-by-step action plan:
1. Let's face it, bridesmaids’ dresses have come a L-O-N-G way – thank goodness! There are so many great designers and beautiful styles, and often the dresses available today can be worn again after the wedding. Because we know every bride has a different vision for her big day, we offer several lines from different designers, and you’re sure to find something to fit your style and budget. So, your first step should be to preview the extensive collections offered at our StarDust Celebrations Salon in West Plano and LuLu’s Bridal Boutique in Uptown Dallas at

2. Once you’ve found a few options that you love, come in to the store carrying the dresses you’re drawn to so you can narrow down your search and fill out an interest form, which helps you keep track of the designer(s) and styles you like.

3. Select the bridesmaid dress that best suits your wedding colors, style and season. Be a thoughtful friend and keep in mind the body types of your attendants. For instance, if one of your bridesmaids is a size 18, she probably cannot wear a natural waist, slim skirt dress. Today, many brides select two or three styles and give each maid the option of selecting the best dress for her body shape. The dresses are all then ordered in the same color and fabric. Or some brides even select the designer, fabric and color and allow each girl to choose her own style within those guidelines. Some additional tips when selecting the dress style for your girls: If your maids are “busty”, consider spaghetti straps over strapless; otherwise, you risk a mishap on the dance floor. Lastly, an A-line style dress fits 90% of all body types; if it’s very important to you to have all of your attendants in the same dress, consider selecting an A-line.

4. Whenever possible, bring your bridesmaids with you to be measured the day you place your order. All maids will need to complete their paperwork before the order is placed.

5. Out-of-town bridesmaids will need to download the required forms (PDF format) at Each designer has their own form, so be sure to your attendants select the correct form for your order.

6. Your out-of-town maids will need to fax or e-mail their completed forms back to the Salon or LuLu’s (whichever is the store you order from). We strongly encourage these ladies to have their measurements taken professionally by a local tailor to ensure the size chosen is as accurate as possible. The more accurate the size, the fewer alterations that will be needed, usually saving time and money!

7. A few special order notes to remember: if your maid is over 5’8”, she may need to order extra length; if she is over a size 16, she may need extra sizing; and if you need the gowns in less than 12 weeks, there is usually a rush charge that the designer applies.

8. Be sure to inquire about our discount program! To take advantage, all dresses must be paid in full before the order is placed. A little tip: it’s best to give the ladies a deadline before your actual deadline.

9. We will contact the BRIDE when the dresses arrive or have them shipped to previously specified locations. If your girls are in our service area, they can schedule an appointment with our alterations department to ensure a great fit. We accept appointments Monday through Friday during store hours.

10. Out-of-town bridesmaids should schedule an appointment with a local tailor, making sure they will have their finished dress in plenty of time before your wedding.

Your bridesmaids are probably those closest to you who have been a big part of your life so, of course, you want them to be happy with your selection. By planning ahead, you are likely to find beautiful dresses your girls will feel good about, in plenty of time and you can rest easy – that is, until it’s time to move on to the next to-do on your checklist!