"It's a Nice Day for a White Wedding"

I was at dinner recently with a friend and colleague of mine, the I Do Decorator, we discussed some memories and weddings we have worked on. From that conversation, I have come up with this list of suggestions and Do’s and Don’ts for brides planning their special day.

  • Do keep in mind that you are not the only person getting married. I are working with many other brides and your wedding, happiness and memories are VERY important to me, but I am probably working with at least fifty or more other brides.

  • Don’t theme your wedding. This is NOT a birthday party or college kegger. This is your wedding. If after talking with friends and family who will be honest with you please read “Five Alarm Fire.”

  • Do think seriously about waiting at least six months (or more) after your groom is out of jail before getting married. I believe you. I’m sure he’s innocent and that “the man” has the wrong guy, but just think about it, ok?

  • Do remember your bridesmaids will probably never wear that dress again; especially if it involves tulle, taffeta, lace and any color besides black, brown or gray. Each one of these fabulous women will buy whatever dress you choose because they love you, but don’t show them the picture of the mermaid cut, form fitting, hot pink dress with aqua blue tulle spitting out of the bottom and say “I chose this because I thought you could wear it again sometime.” Did you really?

  • Don’t be “that bride” and get so intoxicated that you can’t remember your wedding. If you decide to drink in your wedding dress, try to stick with something clear like vodka and Sprite. Red wine, cherry pucker, and cranberry juice are never friends with someone wearing all white.

  • Do think long term about the colors you choose for your wedding. Baby shower pink is not a good color on you, your bridesmaids, decorations or anything….unless it is a baby shower. You will have these pictures and memories FOREVER – do you really want an all light pink reception?

  • Do be a kind and supportive Mother of the Bride, I know you are paying for everything, but really, this is your daughter’s special day. Let her make some decisions and try not to call me as soon as she is out of the room to change things to how you want them.

  • Do remember that limits are good. Limit the number of bridal showers you have. Limit the distance the showers are in respect to the attendees. Limit the number of bridesmaids and groomsmen. You don’t need to have every friend you know buy the dress, shoes, tux, etc. Four bridesmaids are good, but 12 are too many.

  • Don’t let your meetings with vendors, decorators, wedding planners, etc last more than an hour. I know you have a lot to do, and so do I so like a professor of mine always said – K.I.S.S (Keep It Simple Stupid).
  • Don’t ask me to do the impossible. Although I am here to make your event run smooth and help you have an unforgettable night, I cannot repaint the walls of your chosen venue, regardless of how much you insist beige doesn’t flow well with your color scheme. I will also not lay carpet or hire someone to install carpet on the marble floors no matter how much you think your feet will be cold when dancing barefoot, bring slippers.

  • Don’t go barefoot. Do you know how many other people and things have walked on these floors? Toss a pair of slippers or something into your bridal bag. Barefoot all night may equal black feet and possibly the development of some type of foot fungus.

  • Don’t register at too many places. Yes, options for your gift givers are always good, but your list of registries should not be longer than a legal size sheet of paper.

  • Don’t take out a second, third or fourth mortgage on your home (or your parent’s home) to pay for your wedding reception.

  • Do invite only immediate family when you are getting married for the third, fourth or fifth time. I mean, how many toasters and blenders do you really need?

  • Don’t get married on a day where the numbers line up to be consecutive or matching (i.e. 07/08/09 or 09/09/09) for luck. There is nothing that proves this to be “lucky.” Any other day of the year is just as “lucky.” Marriage is not about luck, but about love, patience, compromise, hard work and faith.

  • Don’t take it out on me. I am here for support and to help you, but I am not your verbal punching bag.

  • Do only invite the people you want to share your special day with. If you think that your Maid of Honor’s third cousin is weird – don’t invite him! Your wedding day is about surrounding yourself with people who love, support and celebrate you and your groom, not inviting as many people as possible.

  • Do remember that your first kiss as husband and wife does not need to involve tongue. Remember your dad is in the front row with your grandma!

  • Don’t include “cash gifts only” anywhere on your wedding invitation. This may be considered by all of your guests to be rude and if it were me giving you a “cash only gift” I would give you a penny.

  • Don’t forget about the feelings of your loved ones. Yes this day is about celebrating you and your chosen spouse, but there are a lot of people who love you helping you throughout the process, don’t forget that a special thank you and kind words are appreciated.

Take to heart this advice. You will want to be remembered as a kind, loving and fun bride, not the kind of bride that has stories and blogs written about her!


The “I Do” Expert

Daddy's Little Girl

Spencer Tracy. Steve Martin. Robert DeNiro. Alan Alda. Alex Rocco. What do these men have in common? Each played the role of “father of the bride” in a movie at some point in his career. This same role is played by men around the world everyday. I am sure it is a bittersweet time in every dad’s life, walking his baby girl down the aisle and giving her hand to the man she has chosen to spend the rest of her life with. I am sure that each father has a picture in his mind of what his daughter’s husband will be like. He should be kind, funny, moral, caring, a provider such as a doctor, lawyer, or CEO. Dads want to give their girls the world and so much more. I don’t think that Sasha’s dad ever dreamed when she was a little girl that she would marry the man that she did on that beautiful summer evening in 2007.

I never actually met Sasha or her fiancĂ©. I only ever dealt with Sasha’s father. The bride’s mother wasn’t even very involved. She was the perfect wife who made sure her husband was fed at 5:00pm everyday, that he had his cocktail and very “Joan Cleaver.” She was a sweetheart. I loved her immediately.

He always wore a jacket or cardigan, khakis, monogrammed dress shirt, bow tie, and penny loafers. She always wore something sweet and cute. She was fashionable and always had her purse and shoes perfectly matched. Although her outfits were very cute she was very practical. I pictured that as soon as they entered the house she neatly placed her pocketbook on the entrance table, enter the kitchen and tie on an apron. They were the sweetest couple and very kind.

I affectionately called him “dad-zilla.” He was very specific in what he wanted and didn’t want for the wedding and reception. He picked out the invitations, the music, the menu, the song the couple danced to, the decorations, etc. At first I thought it was so nice that he was helping so much. Then it got to be a little weird that he never wanted me to ask her questions or call her about anything. It hit me! This must be an arranged marriage. I didn’t know that white, upper class, Americans did that - but to each his own, right? This could be the happiest union in the state. As we grow up it we learn that our parents are right about a lot more things that we give them credit for, so maybe we should trust them to pick out a spouse. Maybe Tina Turner was right “What’s love got to do with it?”

As the planning continued I found myself getting more excited as the reception neared. I couldn’t wait to see the bride and groom see each other for the first time. It was four days until the reception and dad-zilla called me everyday. He wanted to bring the photo DVD in to test the color, he wanted to check the table arrangements, he wanted to make sure that each table cloth was centered on the tables; but most importantly, he wanted everything perfect for his only daughter.

During one meeting, dad-zilla was testing the slide show. He insisted that “Joan Cleaver,” the mother of the bride, and I kept our backs to the slide show (he didn’t want anyone seeing his work until the color schemes were perfect). As we chatted, I learned that bride and groom had been dating for seven years and they have actually known each other for fifteen years.

“So this isn’t an arranged marriage?” I wanted to shout. Bummer!

The love birds met at a conference they both attended professionally. Hmmmm. Maybe they are teachers? Architects? I found myself not listening to Mrs. Cleaver and instead trying to think of professions that hold conferences for professional advancements. I had a long list in my head of what the bride and groom might do. I was completely bamboozled. I wanted to turn around and sneak a picture of the bride and groom, just a glimpse! Every time Mrs. Cleaver thought I was about the turn around she would say:

“Remember honey, Mr. Griswold wants it to be a surprise for everyone.”

“Yes ma’am, sorry.” But what’s the big surprise. Is the bride the only human to have two heads, seven arms, and four ears? Why make it a surprise? I mean if I was the parent of someone with two heads, seven arms and four ears I would show her picture to everyone before she got there so that no one stared! What were these people thinking - show me the mutant bride!!

Finally, wedding day was here. I was anxious, I’ll admit it. I hope that I could live up to the standards that dad-zilla set for me. I didn’t get a chance to attend the wedding ceremony. Dad-zilla had that under control. I was assigned to be at the reception hall to greet guests as they arrived. As the Cadillac, BMW and Lexus automobiles drove into the parking lot I thought to myself that this would be a pretty early evening and that the group would be very tame.

Guests began entering the reception hall. All very nicely dressed for a summer wedding and reception, mid to upper sixties, white hair, professionally and neatly dressed, then I heard a roar coming from the parking lot, a very distinctive sound, the only sound to be patented – the sound of a very large group of motorcycles. I wonder if they have the wrong reception hall? This will be a little awkward to send them away and make sure that none of the older guests are uncomfortable with the group entering in more leather than in one might find at a cow farm in Idaho.

“Hello! Are you here for the Griswold / Todd Reception?” I asked.

“Yes miss we are.” said the burley man covered in leather. “Do you have a place we could leave our helmets?”

“Sure, follow me.” I open up the cloak room for Hell’s Angels’ helmets. At least they believe in safety first! That’s a plus!

As everyone was mingling during cocktail hour, I just kept thinking about the newlyweds. When they hugged, did she hug with two arms or all seven? Then I noticed something as I looked through the mingling guests, we had another group of people added to our interesting little concoction of wedding reception guests. There were the conservative guests in their floral dresses and suits, then we had the bikers and the other groups....does that guy have a tattoo on his head? Yes he did! There were guests covered in tattoos and piercings.

I began gathering our proverbial melting pot of guests to the location where the bride and groom were going to be announced. I had my staff with the bridal party, the band leader was in place for the announcing and now I had to run in the back to check on the caterers.

“It is my pleasure to announce Mr. and Mrs. Trevor Todd!!!” the band leader said. Everyone stood up and applauded. Darn it for not having 6’ 5” parents! I couldn’t see over any of the guests to catch a glimpse of the happy couple.

Everyone ate and had a great time. It seemed like anytime I scanned the room of over 400 guests to try to find the bride in a big white dress her back was to me. Dad-zilla and Joan Cleaver FINALLY brought the bride and groom by to introduce them to me just before the first dance and the father / daughter dance.

Sasha was beaming - she was wearing a smile ear to ear and so was her groom, Trevor. He was bald with a nicely trimmed long goatee (no not ZZ Top long). He shook my hand and I noticed her name tattooed across his fingers. She had her hair done in an “up do” with tendrils framing her face and she had on a beautiful dress. She was covered in tattoos.

As I talked to Sasha and Trevor, I learned that she was the top tattoo artist in the state and that he was a custom motorcycle designer and builder. It finally all made sense, all of the different guests belonged to each of their different lives, friends, and family. It really was beautiful, that I think Sasha and Trevor would have been just as happy eloping or getting married in Vegas and having a huge party, Sasha knew how much this meant to her father and they went through the whole ceremony and evening and loved every moment of it.

To see Sasha and her dad spinning around the dance floor to Judy Garland singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Joan Cleaver said:

“This is ‘their’ song. He sang this song to her every night until she moved out of the house to go to college and sometimes even then they would sing it on the phone together. “

I had tears welling up in my eyes. Every time I hear that song I always picture Sasha and her dad dancing on that day. There is a special bond between father and daughter that is unexplainable. It was a beautiful moment and I am so lucky to have been a part of their special day.


The I Do Expert

"Love is All You Need"

Everyone has a thought or two about marriage and weddings. Some of you dream about small weddings with only family, some want to invite the whole town and close down Main Street, while others are just as happy jumping on a plane to Vegas and getting married by "The King" himself.

We love "LOVE." We love weddings, celebrating and hearing two people make promises to one another that are selfless, perfect and amazing.... "I Erik take you Ariel to be my wife, to have and to hold, through sickness and in health, for richer and poorer, as long as we both shall live." It's okay, wipe away the tears.

Were The Beatles right? Is love all we really need? I think so! There is nothing that cannot be accomplished with the love of friends, family, and "the one." But I will admit, there were times, wedding, and receptions where I didn't think that there was enough love in the world to pull it off. In the end, I am happy to say that I have never had a runaway bride and I have never had a reception not happen. It has been close, but so far in my wedding planning career - I am batting a thousand.

I hope you enjoy my stories and journey, but like any fabulous Lifetime movie - the places and names have been changed to protect the lovely people I have had the chance to work with, but believe me....everything else is pure fact. I couldn't make this stuff up.

So with this ring, I thee wed.
The "I Do" Expert

Five Alarm Fire

“Love is a burnin’ thing,
It makes a fiery ring.
Bound by my desires,
I fell into a ring of fire.”
Johnny Cash & June Carter Cash

After my first meeting with Sarah and Billy, I knew that this wedding was going to be a roller coaster. She was probably in her late 30s and he in his early 30s. She already had two children, and he was not the father. Sarah definitely wore the pants in the relationship.

Sarah knew exactly what she wanted to happen at her wedding reception during our first meeting which took place about two years prior to the wedding day. A month later, when we met again, everything changed. Then three months later, a complete change again. I do not like to use pencils, they always smudge, but I found that anytime I had an appointment with Sarah I automatically reached for a pencil because I knew something was going to change. At one point, we had to change the whole bridal party because they all had an intervention with her about how controlling and demanding she was and that they were through with it. Hello, red flag! Of course they were all just jealous of the love that she and Billy had and she had SO many friends it would be easy to find replacements.

This will be a wedding that will always stick out in my mind. Why? Because it was themed. My only experience with themed weddings at this point had been watching “A Wedding Story” on TLC. Sarah and Billy wanted a firefighter themed wedding. Nope, this wasn’t a birthday party for Sarah’s four year old son; you read correctly, this is for their wedding. Maybe the “Volunteer Firefighters Do It For Free” T-shirt the groom to be was sporting should have tipped me off, but sitting at the table it was like a backdraft swept through the room and took my breath away.

A firefighter themed wedding. What do I know about a firefighter wedding? Thinking that maybe the theme would change the next time we had a meeting, I didn’t put too much thought into it except having the bride and groom arrive at the wedding reception in a fire engine. I guess I wrote this down only because I never thought that it would be allowed. I mean what would happen if there was an actual fire and the fire truck was joy riding around town. I can see the head lines now. “Million Dollar Homes Burn So That Bride Could Make A Red Hot Entrance.”

Well, apparently, volunteer firefighters have a lot of pull in the department. We had the fire truck on loan for the arrival of the bride and groom. I shared the news at our meeting. “Sarah, Billy, great news! We have a fire truck secured for your wedding reception to bring you to the party!” Yes, I successfully accomplished my first theme wedding. “All of your guests know you are a firefighter, so I was thinking we could use red flowers, black linens, and make it very elegant and incorporate colors associated with firefighting.” I was proudly patting myself on the back for making a “themed” wedding as classy as possible on the budget we were working with, but not going too cheesy like four year old birthday party with fire trucks, helmets, hoses, etc. When I looked across the table smiling at Sarah and Billy, their blank stares indicated that they either hated the ideas or that I was now speaking fluent German. “And what else?” Sarah finally said.

OK, think......think......think.....channel your inner Johnny Cash, Garth Brooks, and James Taylor. They all sang about fire, how can we make it work? "Ring of Fire” Nah. “Standing Outside The Fire?” Definite possibilities, firefighters try to keep people standing outside the fire. “Fire and Rain.” Yes! Mix some blues in the color scheme, maybe smoke, fire and water?

“I know!” Billy says. I was relieved because at least they were talking to me and I wasn’t fired. “Let’s use our fire hose,” Hmmmmmm. Really? Interesting idea. “And fire protection gear.” Billy continued. Waiting for a reaction from the mousey bride, I bit my lip. “Please say no, please say no, please say no” I chanted in my head. “I LOVE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!” she squeaked. “That’s why I love you! Isn’t he great!” she gushed. Seriously? You want fire hose, helmets, boots, and toy trucks at your wedding? Ok, to each his own right?

Decor and color scheme. Check!

When it came to guests and food, I have never been involved in such a harebrained scheme in my whole life. The bride wanted to have a wedding reception and wedding that maxed out the reception hall and church. She wanted no less than 500 guests. Great! The more the merrier! Well, except for the fact that dear little Sarah only wanted to actually serve dinner to thirty guests, just close family and friends.

After I picked my jaw up off the ground, I tried logic and reason to get Sarah to understand this was not acceptable. You cannot feed only a small fraction of your guests! “Well,” she says very matter-of-factly, “it is not like we aren’t going to give them anything.” Phew! Maybe she just wanted a private dining room for those thirty guests and I misunderstood. They will definitely do some food for the other 470 guests. It is the only thing to do, who only serves 30 people at a wedding. “We will have the bar open while the others are waiting for us to eat.” As she smiled at me and tapped her acrylic nails accented with “diamonds,” All I could hear was my mom’s voice run through my head. “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” So I smiled back at her, meanwhile my brain was moving a mile a minute. “You can’t do this! You can’t serve only 30 guests!” I wanted to scream at her, but I couldn’t.

“Great!” she says “Thanks for your time! We will talk to you soon.” And off into the sunset drove the volunteer fireman and his blushing bride to be.

Stunned and Speechless,

The I Do Expert

When a heart is on fire, sparks always fly out of the mouth

Mid-morning my phone rings.  “Good Morning, the I Do Expert.  How can I help you?”  I said as cheerfully as possible for a Monday morning.  “You could help me by doing what you told me you were going to do!!!” screeched the voice on the phone.  

Robin Williams’ voice fills my head saying “GOOOOOOOOOOD Morning Vietnam!”  As soon as Mr. Williams finishes, my mind begins racing as to who this caller could possibly be....and it hit me.  Who could be that rude on the telephone?  The only bride in the world who would be so rude as to serve only thirty guests dinner at her wedding reception.  “Good Morning Sarah.  Something seems to be bothering you,  what can I do to fix it?”

It had been months since I had heard from “sweet”, “kind” Sarah.  Actually, I was glad I hadn’t heard from her in a while.  I had followed up with her via email immediately after our meeting with the estimate for her wedding reception and the fifth floor plan we had worked up.  As we were still over a year away from the wedding, the firefighter themed wedding, I could not imagine what on earth she was so upset about.  Then I thought, Billy realized what he had gotten himself in for and the whole thing was going to be cancelled.

To the silence on the phone line I said “Sarah, is everything okay with you and Billy?”

“Of course it is!  Everything is not okay with me and you!” she barked.

“Sarah, what has you so upset this morning.  You said that I haven’t done something that you wanted me to do?”

“Yes, where’s the floor plan you said you were going to be sending me?”

The floor plan that you have changed eight times? The floor plan that you insist on setting up completely different than anything I recommend?  I wanted to say, but instead I kindly said “I am sorry you are so upset over this.  I sent the floor plan the day after our meeting three months ago.  Why don’t I go ahead and send it to you again.....”  Well long story short, and I will spare you the obscenities that she called me, Sarah changed her email address and forgot to give it to me.  She had changed from her maiden name to her married name already.  Not once did she apologize for jumping off the deep-end over a floor plan for an event over a year away, but she shoved the blame off on me saying “Maybe you aren’t as good as everyone says you are because if I were you, I would have known that I would change my email eventually.”  

Sure Sarah, aside from being a stellar wedding and party planner, I forgot to mention I am a mind reader!  So I have her new email address and sent the floor plan on.  

A few more months fly by, and Sarah, Billy, and I sit down to go over some details to finalize them (in pen this time)!  We have a meeting scheduled.  I had blocked off a good portion of my afternoon for the loving couple.  We discussed decorations, menu, seating charts, etc.  All and all the bride and groom were thrilled.  

Let’s fast forward six months to the glorious day of the wedding and reception.  Everything runs smooth at the wedding ceremony.  The second string bridesmaids did a stellar job of looking like a fairy-tale for the bride.  We finish up pictures at the church while the guests are headed to the reception location.  Everyone is loaded into the fire truck and they are off.  It was like a dream come true....sirens, flashing lights, and people staring to see what was going on.  Sarah was thrilled.  She was perched on the fire engine like she was the prom queen at a county fair parade.  

We arrive at the reception hall and guests are lined up to see the spectacle.  Once inside, we get everyone arranged to be announced into the reception when I hear something coming from the back of the line.  I rush back to find the bride in the midst of a three year old temper tantrum.  She was crying, stomping her feet, and all but flailing on the ground.  

“What’s wrong, are you alright?” I say rushing to her and looking for any sign of serious injury.

“I saw someone wearing my shoes!  Can you ask them to change?  This is my day!”  


Seriously?  I am looking around for the a guy to jump out and say “Smile, you’re on Candid Camera!” I want to say “Where’s Ashton Kutcher?  Did I just get Punked?” 

Instead I look at her and she is dead serious.  She was the tiniest little bride and her dress was beautiful and full, you couldn’t see her shoes.  When she pulled her dress up to reveal the prized possessions that someone dared to wear at her wedding, I lost my breath a little.  No they were not Manolo’s, not Louboutin’s, not any designer.  They were your run of the mill, clear heeled stripper shoes!  I am surprised they didn’t have glitter or real fish floating around in the heels.  It literally took every ounce of me not to bust up laughing at this point.  

Out of my handy wedding emergency bag I pull a pair of white, glitterized ballet slippers.    “Here Sarah,” I say passing them to her.  “Slip these on, you are going to want to be comfortable the rest of the night and I can guarantee you no one else in here has a pair of these!  I hand made them just for you!”  

With tears in her eyes, she threw her arms around me and gave me the biggest hug.  She was thrilled.  So she was announced, went into the reception and had a fabulous time.  

In the end, I convinced her to take the money she would have spent to serve thirty  guests lobster and steak, and instead serve all of the guests a nice buffet dinner.  So everyone ate!  Yippee!!!!  

6 Firefighter Uniforms (pants, boots, helmet, and suspenders) for Decor - $300.00 deposit to the Fire Chief

500 Buffet Dinners - $3,000

2 Fire Hoses for Decor - Free (they had holes in them)

Happy Bride and Groom - Priceless

I am so glad to have been able to give Sarah and Billy their dream wedding.  I think that every wedding, reception and couple have a lesson they teach me.  

Lesson Learned:  Dream weddings come in all different shapes and sizes.  It is not the final dollar amount spent on a wedding and it is not even doing things by the book.  It is sticking to what makes you happy and enjoying every minute of it.  Sarah especially taught me patience, smiling through it all.  I definitely had to take a “kill them with kindness” mantra to get through this one!  


The I Do Expert