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Friday, August 29, 2008

Behind the Scenes of a Proposal

Back in June, I blogged about a proposal planner. I wondered if men really needed to hire someone to pull off a not-so-average-on-bended-knee proposal. Once again, the Wedding Planners synchronicity came into play when I received a very interesting email with a YouTube video link. But before I get to that, a little background...

If you have a copy of SOS Marry Me, you'll notice I mention someone named Michael in the acknowledgment section of the book. Michael is a member of Portland Mountain Rescue and helped me with a ton of research for Serena and Kane's story as well as two other books, including my upcoming November 2008 release titled Rescued by the Magic of Christmas that features a mountain rescuer hero.

I met Michael through his sister, who I met on-line at a climbing forum in December of 2006. As soon as he agreed to help me, I started peppering the poor guy with questions. And not just your typical research questions, either. I wanted a peek into his brain to understand how rescuers and climbers thought. This went on for eleven months. Eleven long months for him, I'm sure. And it's not over yet. I'm still asking Michael questions, but what can I say? When you find someone who's open and willing to help, that person becomes your go to guy! And face it, how many men do you know who'll answer your email when they're base-jumping in Norway? Romance hero material, don't you think?

Needless to say, I was thrilled when I received an email from Michael's sister with a link to this YouTube video:

All I could say after watching it was "wow!" Could you imagine having a video of your proposal to watch over and over again? And also be able to share it with family and friends? I still enjoy watching our wedding video so I'd be all over a proposal one!

I thought it would be fun to ask Michael how the entire proposal came about, what happened after they'd filmed it and of course, Linda's reaction. Here's what I found out...

Michael and Linda had already decided to get married, but there had been no official proposal though he'd had a spectacular ring made for her. Five days before he was set to head out of the country to go base jumping, Linda reminded him that he'd said he would ask her to marry him before he left. Uh-oh. That didn't leave him much time. Michael called it a quick scramble as he planned the proposal in a day.

On a Friday morning, he met a buddy, who's a SERT team member, at the Drop Zone outside of Portland, Oregon. The pressure was on. They would have one take to film the proposal because both were competing in a 10 sport athletic event for charity the next day. The friend filmed the jump, spent much of the night editing the proposal and putting it on a DVD.

After the sporting event, Michael decided to take Linda to the Oregon coast to propose. He figured they could go to a bar and have the bartender play the DVD. One problem he discovered once they'd arrived--no DVD player in the bar. That wasn't going to stop Michael. He decided he would just buy a DVD player and take it to the bar! Problem solved.

As they were shopping, they entered an art gallery. A painting called to both Michael and Linda with its yellow color and trees, symbols from their dating and the life they would build together. As they bought the painting, Michael noticed a slick looking Macintosh computer which would have a DVD player built in. Forget the bar, he knew where he was going to propose now so he asked the gallery if they could pick up the painting after lunch.

At a nearby resturant, Michael excused himself from the table and dashed back to the art gallery. He asked the art gallery owner if she would play the DVD for Linda when they returned to pick up the painting. She agreed. The new plan was set! Now he needed to execute it.

Linda and Michael returned to the art gallery to pick up the picture. The gallery owner asked asked if they wanted to see a video of the artist and her work on her computer. They did, but what she played instead was Michael's skydiving proposal. Linda cried. He gave her the ring. She cried some more. In fact, she cried the entire drive home. Linda told Michael that though the ring is amazing, the video is so much more important to her!

Congratulations on your engagement, Linda and Michael. Thanks for letting us share in the proposal! The Wedding Planners send our best wishes to the two of you. May your marriage overflow with love, laughter and romance.

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Everything A Woman Could Want...

Hi, it’s Julie here, general assistant at The Wedding Belles, engaged to Matt McLachlan, the man of my dreams – at least, I think he is…and in a job I adore – at least, with women I adore, my best friends in the world…in America, at least.

Do all brides question their lives as the wedding approaches? Why do I suddenly feel as if, in marrying Matt, I will lose a part of myself? I love whom I work with, but not my job…I help all the Belles with their tasks, help their career dreams, but where are mine? Do I even know?

The engagement party is next week. And Matt’s gone again. He’s somewhere in Florida. He said it was a family issue…that was all. I’m marrying him in two months. Am I wrong to expect to know what those issues are?

Something’s wrong, and he’s not telling me. Oh, I know he’s had a lot to do with saving McLachlan Marine Industries, but he’s done that now, and still I know nothing. What is Matt hiding from me? He’s handsome, rich and treats me like a queen. I know he loves me…I’m, well, I’m certain of that, he tells me every day…but suddenly I feel lost, alone – and very far from home. My Australian family’s coming in six weeks for the wedding, but – but…I am in a place I love, with a man I love, working with women I love –

And still something’s missing. Too much is missing. I don’t even know what it is…is it Matt who has the problem - or is it me?

When Matt comes back, I am going to find out.


Coming Up In September

It’s almost September and my turn to take over the blog. This month, I hope to show you:

Funny wedding and honeymoon stories

Unusual, even unique, honeymoon destinations

Unique cultural weddings

The weddings of a few editors and their gorgeous honeymoons

See, in my September book, The Bridegroom’s Secret, Julie finds out, through Matt, what she really wants to be…he brings her career dreams to life. And I hope to show you what that is throughout the month. Blogs from Julie herself might show you what she longs for…her first one is coming up in a minute!


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Christmas Wedding!

This morning I began work on my 36th book for Harlequin/Silhouette. It’s a Christmas story with a Scrooge-like hero, which is always fun to write. But the most fun of a Christmas story is in the details. Christmas music, cookies, tinsel strung from stop lights, silver bells, wreaths, and the overall mood all can become part of the story.

But that's the joy of writing those stories for me. I’m a real sucker for Christmas, so it doesn’t surprise me that my own wedding had a Christmas theme!

We hadn’t set out to have a Christmas wedding, but the timing worked, so we decided to go for it. When I chose bridesmaids dresses I chose emerald green satin. My two flower girls, my sister Tammy (who is 20 years younger than I am) and my niece Kelli (my Godchild) wore white dresses with red dotted Swiss. The flowers on the altar were poinsettia arrangements. Our bouquets were red and white.

We didn’t use any Christmas icons like Santa, Rudolph or elves to produce a mood. We simply chose to make the best use of red and green, gold and silver, and poinsettia arrangements to give our wedding a Christmas flair.

The fun of a Christmas wedding, though, is that you can take the theme as far as you wish to take it. You can use small wrapped packages as part of your centerpiece and serve Christmas cookies. If you live in the right part of the country you can even be brought to church in a sleigh. And dare I say Santa could perform the ceremony!

My husband and I chose to take a light hand with the Christmas theme and we created a memorable wedding. There were plenty of ooohs and ahhs at the beautiful floral arrangements, silver bells and gold tinsel, and the golden glow from candles in centerpieces.

The trick to a good Christmas wedding is remembering that your wedding, not the holiday, is the purpose of your special day. Surround yourself with as many or as few holiday reminders as you want and create a theme wedding that guest will enjoy and remember!

susan meier

Monday, August 25, 2008

Disney Wedding with Deb Mullins Part II

Destination Weddings – Disneyland Part 2 (The Reception)

One of the best things about having our wedding at Disneyland was the ease of arranging a wedding that was being held in California from my home in New Jersey. The Disney wedding planners did everything by email or fax or regular mail, making it very easy to keep track of everything from so far away.

Disney has many menus to choose from regarding food. We went with a fruit and cheese display for the cocktail hour, and a simple buffet for dinner. The food was delicious! Also, the coordinator made sure the bride and groom ate first.

Disney can also design the wedding cake. You can have different flavors of cakes for each layer (chocolate with raspberry filling for me and chocolate chip almond cake with cream cheese icing for the groom), and the fantastic creations they can dream up… Wow. We had a white chocolate replica of the Disney castle as the topper for our cake. My husband wanted to know who was going to eat such a thing. My response? Every female in the place! Here’s a picture of our wedding cake, courtesy of photographer Alyn Stafford.

The Disneyland Hotel also has some breathtaking backgrounds for taking photos. There are waterfalls underneath the Disneyland Hotel, and at night they turn on gorgeous colored lights that play off the falls. This is a picture snapped by Alyn Stafford while the reception was going on. Earlier, the wedding party had posed for photos here.

You can see fountains through the windows of the Garden Terrace room, where we had our reception. This room has three walls made up of floor-to-ceiling windows so you can enjoy the great view while partying, and the bar was outside on the terrace. (You can see part of the terrace in the upper right corner of the picture The railings in the middle of the picture belong to the bridge that takes you to the hotel.) While there were curious passers-by observing the festivities, Disney was great about posting signs and roping off areas to preserve our privacy.

The Disney wedding package also includes a free night at the hotel for the bride and groom, as well as discounted room rates and park tickets for your guests.

Now you would think that a wedding at Disneyland would cost the earth. Though I had my heart set on Disney, we had shopped around Southern California to get an idea of prices for the area. But we were able to have a very memorable wedding in a lovely rose garden, followed by photos in front of spectacular waterfalls and really good food in a room that overlooked scenic fountains and foliage, all for a reasonable price when compared to other venues. And the service and quality you get there makes it worth every penny in my book!

Deb Mullins

Disney Wedding with Historical Romance Author Deb Mullins!

Destination Weddings – Disneyland Part 1 (The Ceremony)

Susan asked me to guest on the blog since I was recently a bride—my second wedding anniversary is coming up on September 2! My husband and I had a cross-country romance. He is from California and I was living in New Jersey. Whenever I came out to California to see him, we would go to Disneyland. So naturally, once we decided to get married and hold the wedding in California, where else would it be?

Disney weddings are a great one-stop-shopping way to have a fabulous wedding in a wonderful setting while allowing Disney’s Fairy Tale Wedding planners take care of everything for you.

That’s right—Disney has its own wedding planning department! They can take care of everything from food to music to photography to flowers—they even bake the cake. And boy, are some of these cakes memorable! You can take a look at some of their breathtaking creations at the Disney weddings site at http://www.disneyweddings.go.com/site/gate/index.jsp. Click on the park you want and the link for Fantasy Fare.

Disneyland has two “wedding gardens,” especially set up for weddings. There is one at the Grand Californian Hotel, which has a lovely rustic feel to it. There is also the Rose Court Garden at the Disneyland Hotel, a beautiful setting with a huge green lawn and a white gazebo and 800 rose bushes. (Kelly, our Disney wedding planner, told me if the roses are not in bloom on my wedding day, they will pull up those bushes and plant new ones!) I’ve included a picture of the Rose Court Garden, the site of my wedding. My mom snapped this picture when we were out visiting possible wedding venues.

You can also get married in the park. That’s right, you can arrange to have your ceremony inside Disneyland park after hours. There’s more information on that at the Disney Weddings website.

You can also include some extras in your package. Ever want to ride in Cinderella’s pumpkin carriage? Here’s your chance! Brides at both Disneyland in California and Disney World in Florida can opt to arrive at their ceremonies inside the famous coach. You can also elect to have royal trumpeters herald your arrival or have Mickey and Minnie Mouse attend the festivities. This is Disneyland—anything is possible!

Part of our service included a sand ceremony, and while we provided the materials, the Disney staff made sure everything was all ready for us.

This picture of our sand ceremony was taken by our wedding photographer, Alyn Stafford (www.alynstaffordphotography.com). Unfortunately someone had provided us a very small funnel, so the sand moved very slowly…and the guests all applauded when it was finally done! Other than that tiny glitch, everything went very smoothly. Then it was off to the reception—which was taking place steps away inside the Disneyland Hotel. I’ll talk about that next time!

Some Final Words from Audra

This is my last blog post! It's hard to believe August is almost over! It's been a fun month. And we've enjoyed hearing from those of you who have read my story.

A few final words on finances and weddings.

When collecting information for these blogs, we also questioned a few couples who had been married for five or more years.

We asked...If you had it all to do over again what would you change?

Most of the men said they would save the money spent on the big wedding and put it toward a down payment on a house. LOL

Most of the women said they'd try to be more present on their special day. It's easy to get so swept up in hoping every goes well that you forget to enjoy yourself.

One couple wished they'd had a more personal ceremony. More private. Because a few years after their wedding they hit a rough patch and learned what those vows they said were really all about. They were sacred words that truly mean something when life doesn't quite turn out the way you think it should. They should be said in a sacred special way. Not tossed off haphazardly.

One couple wished they'd taken all the money they spent on their reception and gone to Vegas and had one final rousing good time before their kids began arriving.

After reading the answers to the questions about cakes that went to waste and flowers that cost a bundle and were dead the next morning or trampled on the reception hall floor (I would have liked to have been at that reception!), only one thread stood out.

It's YOUR wedding and you're going to be spending lots of money. Make sure you really do get what you want...have the party YOU want ... or the getaway you want. I'm not saying become a Bridezilla...I'm saying, think about what you really want.

Then have that. If you want to run away, run away romantically. If Vegas really is your dream town, get married there. (I saw many, many brides -- white dress, veil and all -- playing the slots the year I was there!) If a house is your number one priority, go small on the wedding and save the money for a house.

But most of all...When you say your vows, choose the words that really are in your heart. Then live what you've said. Keep the promises you make to each other.


Friday, August 22, 2008

Underground Weddings...

My last post was on Extreme Weddings. The thing I, who thought I was adventurous, would never do…and then I took a trip to Seattle, and found something interesting…

Underground Weddings. Yeah…how weird and yet somehow cool is the idea? But before you get visions of coal mines or gold mines or Jules Verne/Brendan Fraser kind of thing, it’s not that far beneath the earth, or that dangerous. Just a storey or so beneath…to the first city of Seattle lost to fire in 1890.

We took an underground tour because it’s the kind of thing we love to do (I’ll have to check on cave weddings…we did a fantastic caving experience in Greymouth, New Zealand, a few years back. Wonder if they’ve had a wedding…watch this space, because next month I’m taking over the blog and will be specializing in unique weddings and unexpected honeymoon destinations, with people a little bit famous and some not yet famous. J

Anyway, the tour: if you haven’t done the Seattle Underground tour, I recommend it. They start with some fun facts about Seattle in an old pub (bar?) about the city and its citizens of the time, the railroad – and a few not-so-nice, tongue-in-cheek comments about Tacoma, its rival city! Then you go underground and a guide tells you what happened, when the first, wooden city burned down in an hour, and the long steps to rebuilding so it wouldn’t be flooded by the Puget Sound. On the tour, I spied a small picture of a couple getting married just where I was standing, at the site between an old bank, café and a hardware store, and I had to snap it. Amazing, isn’t it?

What do you think of that? Is that a tempting thought? It became more so to me when our guide said parts of the famous 70s show Night Stalker had been made there…I loved that show, and the 80s show Beauty and the Beast with Ron Perlman and Linda Hamilton…imagine getting married as she might have…ah, now there’s romance, don’t you think? Swept off your feet by the mysterious yet tender beast of the night…


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Bridesmaid on a Budget!

Next summer, my niece Carissa, is getting married. Once. LOL. She is planning one special day. Her sister, Kate, however, isn't merely in Carissa's wedding; she's also in two other weddings that summer. OY!

Isn't that the way it always goes? When one friend gets a ring, it seems everyone does. LOL.

But Kate's not laughing. She's calculating the high cost of being a bridesmaid. Bridesmaid dresses cost a bundle. In our neck of the woods, the bridesmaids also host the bridal shower and bachelorette party. And let's not forget the hidden costs. Does the dress require a special undergarment? What kind of shoes are required? What's everybody doing with her hair? And my personal favorite...is the bride requiring everyone to tan?

Wow! That one blew me away. Can brides really DEMAND that you tan? Yes, in this day and age they can. LOL.

My niece, only half joking, told me to watch a few episodes of Bridzillas to get an idea of how demanding some brides can be. So I did and I have to tell you I was shocked.

But I also saw Kate's point. In three weddings next year she will spend over $3,000. Just to be a good friend. LOL.

Here's the rundown for Brides to remember so that when they're thinking of demanding that each bridesmaid in their party go to the salon and get fake nails, they might pull back!

Dress (rarely less and sometimes more than) $250
Shoes $100
Undergarments $50
Bridal shower $200*
Bachelorette party $200*

*Please remember that's $200 per bridesmaid for the shower and the bachelorette party.

Hair (Updoes are all the rage now) $50 - $100
Tanning $20
Manicure $50 (in my area...in yours it may be higher!)
Pedicure $50

And let's not forget gifts for both the bridal shower and the wedding!

So Brides...Have a heart! Think of your bridesmaids' budgets when choosing their gown, their shoes, their hairdo, and any and all nail arrangements!


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Story Behind the Story

It was very easy for me to come up with Audra’s Character for the Wedding Belles continuity.

The business needed a level-headed, yet vibrant young woman. Somebody who could bring order out of the chaos of so many creative women and Audra was more than ready to fit the bill. Audra also had an interesting background. The daughter of a woman who'd worked as a maid to one of Boston's wealthiest families, Audra never saw a class difference. As a child she tattled on older, cooler Dominic as if he were just another boy. At college time, she didn't hesitate to enter the typically male dominated world of business. She was smart. She could be savvy. She wanted her shot.

Audra was pure joy to create!

Dominic Manelli was another story! I knew the basics of the kind of guy who would end up stealing Audra's heart, but little did I know he’d come with his own baggage.

As soon as I brought Dominic into the picture, I could see he was troubled. Yes, he was a playboy -- the exact kind of man Audra should avoid. But I also saw a shadow in his eyes and I wanted readers to see that too. I wanted them to know that he didn't simply miss his older brother who'd been so tragically killed, and didn't merely have a somewhat difficult childhood with an overbearing father. I also wanted them to see how losing someone so close at such a young age could impact a person's entire life.

That was when I realized that my Wedding Planner story wouldn't simply be about finding the right guy for a wonderful young woman who wanted to do something important with her life; my book would also be a story of personal triumph for Dominic.

In the end, I fulfilled all my wishes about the story, bringing Audra and Dominic together through their mutual love for Dominic's brother's baby boy. It's a story that will make you laugh and cry...and that's always my goal. Because a good story, like life, is all about balance. Some days we laugh. Some days we cry. But as long as we have each other ... Life is good.


Monday, August 18, 2008

Creating a Budget

Yesterday, I asked each bride to create a vision of her perfect wedding. Today, we're going to take a look at that vision and see how that translates to a budget.

But first, let's talk cold hard cash. Who's paying for this thing?

A few decades ago, the parents of the bride paid for most of the wedding, with the groom's parents picking up the bar tab. Those days are gone. LOL

But that doesn't mean that your parents won't help out. So the first step in planning your budget is asking your parents (both the bride's and the groom's) if they are willing to help. If they say yes, get a commitment of either a money figure or a budget line item. Are the groom's parents willing to pay the bar bill? Are the bride's parents willing to give you some cash?

Your next step in creating a budget is realistically coming up with an amount YOU can afford to spend. For instance, it may not seem off the charts to spend $10,000 on your wedding. In fact, in this day and age that's a low number. But where are you going to get that ten grand?

If you have savings, you're ahead of the game and the money you saved might serve as your magic number. Otherwise known as the amount you can spend!

If you're planning on paying as you go, which many brides and grooms do...with credit cards that you pay off monthly...then you need to consider your entire financial picture. Can you pay off everything you charge every month? If you can't, what's a realistic amount to pay off each month? Can you afford $100, $200 or $800 each month?

If you can afford to pay $800 each month for an entire year before your wedding...that's actually only $9600. If you're willing to pay $800 each month before the wedding and for a year after your wedding that's still only $19,200. And that doesn't include interest.

That's today's reality check. LOL

And that's also how you come up with the amount you can spend. Be realistic. Remember, too, that anything you carry over after your wedding affects your lifestyle for as long as the debt remains unpaid.

Okay...So once you have a number, a realistic amount you can spend, then we start talking budget line items. And now we take a look at either the picture board or the written version of your wedding.

You should have separated your vision into ceremony and reception, but we're going to break those down even further. Your ceremony includes people, music, decorations, travel. Your reception includes food, drink, travel, decorations, entertainment.

Each of these categories breaksdown even further! And that's where you get your line items for your spreadsheet.

At the ceremony, for instance, people breaks down into the bride and groom, person/people needed to perform the ceremony, parents of bride and groom, attendants (groomsmen, bridesmaids, flower girl, ringbearer), music.

If you're creating your "spreadsheet" in a notebook or in a spreadsheet program such as Excel the system is basically the same...You create a page for the ceremony. You can use the people, decorations and travel as your headings in the lefthand column, then create line items beneath them.

Columns beside the lefthand line item column include "Contacted" (where you place a checkmark if you've contacted him or her or the person's phone number for future reference), "Date" "Price" "Date" "Down Payment" "Date" "Balance" "Date" and "Paid in Full" Date".

Like this (I'm not sure how this will translate in the blog...but here goes...)

Contacted Date Price/Fee Date Down Payment Date Balance Date Paid in Full Date

Note that everything you do has a date column beside it for you to record the day you got the fee, made the downpayment, paid the balance in full. It's as important for you to list the date you contacted people and/or paid them as it is to list that you contacted them and/or paid them. LOL. This is for your reference. Lots of people also leave a column for check numbers.

Once you have your columns headed and your 3 main items of ceremony, people and travel broken down, then you can begin actually making line items.

Here is where weddings differ and where I'm going to give you instructions and then ask you to create your own line items!

First, our example...

People needed at the ceremony breaks down to: (And people whose pictures should be on your picture board or who should be mentioned in the "vision" you wrote...)

1. Person to perform ceremony
2. Assistants (like altar boys and readers if you're having a religious ceremony)
3. Musicians
4. Singers

Each one of those has to be contacted and has to be paid.

So you would list each one.

The next segment of the "ceremony" budget might seem a little out of place, but, trust me, doing it by "envisioning" what you see at your ceremony, you won't miss anything and won't have to add money later to an already stretched budget.

Why do I want you to think about all the "people" at your wedding ceremony? Two reasons. Moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas, god parents, ring bearers, flower girls, bridesmaids and groomsmen all need flowers. Some of them also get gifts.

So leave a few lines below your segment of ceremony "performers" (LOL) and write flowers.

Because that's the next big ticket item for your ceremony.

You need flowers as decorations, but you also need bouquets, buttoneers and coursages.

Then list mom and dad, grandma and grandpa (etc).

Since you've listed flowers, this is a good place to also list floral decorations you need for the church, JP's office, or wherever your ceremony will take place.

Then leave two spaces and write gifts...Below that write the name of every person who gets a gift.

Then leave two spaces and write clothes. Yes, clothes. Because you aren't going naked. At least I hope not. You will want a dress, jewelry, shoes, veil, undergarments. Your groom needs a tux, shoes, socks, etc.

This is also the place where you add in manicures, pedicures and salon visits. Are you getting your hair done? Should you get it dyed the week before?


Are you paying for mom's dress and dad's tux? The flower girl's dress? Typically, everyone involved in a wedding pays for his or her own clothing. But if you're someone in special circumstances who has promised to pay for someone's gown or tux...Get that in your budget right now.

Why? Because you need to see...actually see on your spreadsheet...that you might not be able to afford to be generous. Or that you've stretched your generosity to its limits by paying for your sister's dress and you can't pay for anyone else!

That takes care of people. You now have made accommodations to pay the people performing your ceremony and who are performing at your ceremony. You've bought flowers. You've bought gifts. Everyone is dressed. Next, it's time to decorate.

Decorations for the ceremony typically breaks down into the area around the bride and groom; seats; walls, windows and walkway. What do you want to decorate? For some, your work will be done. Your church or JP may only allow you to bring a floral arrangement or two. For others, you may need seat markers and window decorations...or decorations for some other part of the church.

For those of you who are having outdoor weddings you also need to be 'seeing' and writing down things like chairs, podium for the person officiating the ceremony, and something to walk on.

This is the reason that I believe no one budget spreadsheet works. A person having a church wedding doesn't have to worry about seating and/or an altar. A church comes with those things. A person getting married at the office of a justice of the peace might not be permitted to decorate. She may not even be allowed to invite guests. Or if she can invite guests, the number allowed at the ceremony may be limited.

This is why you need to either write out your vision, clearly and concisely, including all people and settings or make a picture board and from that vision pull the items you will need. Because no two weddings are created equal!

To finish your ceremony section of the spreadsheet, you would fill in the transportation section. Are you renting a limo? If so, who rides in it? How is everybody else getting to the wedding? Remember...it's not a sin to ask someone to drive him or herself to the wedding!

You follow that procedure for the reception. Looking at your picture board or reading your vision to find your line items.

The next step is to begin getting prices for all the things you have listed on your budget. The first thing most people do is talk to the reception hall. Why? Because dinner for the reception is probably your big ticket item. If the hall or caterer charges $100 a plate and your want 100 guests...That's $10,000 right there. Knowing you need $5,000 for the other things on your list and your budget is only $10,000 (we're low-balling the numbers for ease of explanation) then you don't enough money for 100 guests.

Ah...now we're beginning to see why everyone agonizes over the guest list!

The real bottom line to budgeting is to create your sheet listing everything you want or need and do some "shopping" by getting prices from florists, caterers, DJ's, and dress shops. Then start thinking about where you can be ecomonical. You won't want to skimp on dinner...but if mums are cheaper than roses, you may want to consider cutting down on what you spend for boquets!

And that's how you create and work with a budget. You don't have to list things the way I have. I did it this way because I like to SEE things! I'm very visual. By envisioning a bride walking down the aisle or a bride and groom walking around a reception room, I see everything needed to make the scene complete!

You may not be visual. You may also decide to have sections like Bride, Groom, Ceremony and Reception. Or Personal, Ceremony, Party.

There are no hard and fast rules, but there are cautions. Whatever system you choose to figure out what you'll need, what you want and how much you can pay...work very hard to get everything in the picture! Don't forget small items like a flower for grandma's dress. Don't think you have enough money to generously pay for the flower girl's dress until you've seen the numbers!

Because that's the real reason to have a budget. It's a way to map out everything so that you make provision for speical touches and don't put yourself in debt for the rest of your life! LOL

Thursday, we'll talk bridesmaids!


Accountant's Eye View

Good morning!

Hi! It's Audra again. Only this time, I'm speaking to you as an accountant. I wrestled with Susan for control of the Monday, Tuesday and Thursday spots in the blog this week to talk money to all the prospective brides out there (and Moms and Dads of the brides who are hoping to get a bit of control over the money).

This is sort of going to be a workshop for you. So if you're a bride, know someone who will be a bride, or know parents of a happy couple...or if you're a bridesmaid, this is your week! We're talking money...and how to get and keep control while having the wedding you envision.

When I sat down to write this post about budgeting your wedding, it occurred to me that everybody's wedding was different. No one spreadsheet would work for everyone. So I suggest that as a first step, you write out your vision for your perfect day.

Does it include a ceremony? Is it a religious ceremony or a civil ceremony? At the beach? In a church? In mom's living room? The office of the local Justice of the Peace?

How do you and your bridal party get from the ceremony to the reception?

What do you see at the reception?

Some brides can simply write out their wedding as a "story" of sorts. Others cut pictures from magazines and create picture boards of their special days. Either way, I want you to get a clear picture of your entire special day!

Now, am I asking you to do this as a "fun" exercise? Partially! LOL But the picture board and/or written versions of how you see your perfect day will help you to breakdown what you see into line items for a budget!

We'll talk a bit more about creating a spreadsheet for a budget tomorrow. For today, though, I want you to either write out your vision of what you see happening at your wedding and reception or create a picture board of your wedding so you get a visual of exactly what you want.

Tomorrow, we'll work on segregating items to create a spreadsheet that will help you create a budget. And Thursday we'll talk a bit about Bridesmaids. Before you choose the most expensive dress in the dress shop, I want you to consider just how much money your bridesmaids will be spending to make your wedding, shower and bachelorette party the "events" of the season, so that they can budget too!


Friday, August 15, 2008

The Disaster Stories...

I guess I've been watching too much TV lately because between Dr. Phil and Everybody Loves Raymond reruns, I've been thinking about wedding disasters. On a recent episode of Dr. Phil, they had a wedding where a deck fell off the side of a house where a reception was being held, taking the wedding party and half the guests down and into a pool (people were hurt; it was pretty awful). Apparently there were so many of them, Dr. Phil even has a page with advice on how to get over your wedding disaster.

Another wedding was ruined by storms, still others had drunk grooms. And then there's that classic Raymond episode where he tapes over the wedding video, and he and Debra have to recreate their wedding (which he also ruins ;-).

Thankfully, I didn't have any wedding disasters, though I have known people who have had things go wrong (forgetting rings, stains at the last minute). The Wedding Channel has a whole list of "what to do" if things go wrong at the last minute.

One of the funniest things-go-wrong videos I came across in writing this blog was this one.

I figure no matter what I wish I could have done over at my wedding, at least my mistakes aren't on You Tube ;-)


Thursday, August 14, 2008

At Home Wedding ... Forget-Me-Nots

No, not the flowers! The important things every bride needs to remember to have a successful at-home wedding!

1. A reputable wedding planner can be crucial if you choose to tie the knot in an home wedding. Wedding planners bring experience and expertise to the table. And they know the best place to rent that table, along with the other tables, chairs, floor runners and enough canopies to provide shelter for everyone in case of inclement weather.

2. A home wedding requires more than a few laps around the yard with a lawn mower the day before the wedding. Necessary for a wedding - mowed lawns, swept or shoveled walkways, trimmed hedges, tidy flower beds, and freshly painted fences. Don’t despair if the yard doesn’t have shrubbery, flowers, fences or fixtures. None of them are required for an at home wedding or a successful marriage. Insisting on newly-planted decorative trees and shrubs only adds stress to you and your parents. A few well placed potted plants can bring the garden look you want!

3. An adequate parking area is a must unless the happy couple don’t mind exchanging their vows over a hood or trunk. While your driveway and side yard may provide enough parking space for immediate family and a few friends, a guest list of several hundred equals a need for numerous parking spots. One creative couple in our town obtained permission for their guests to park at the local grade school and hired buses from a local tour company to shuttle guests to the wedding.

4. The homeowners of the chosen location may see a wedding as a perfect opportunity to remodel a downstairs bathroom and hallway, paint the living room, or add a few touches to other rooms the guests are likely to visit. A home wedding should not be used as an excuse to obtain a second mortgage or massive home improvement loan and redo an entire house. One of my son’s friend married at home and while her father figures he saved ten thousand dollars on wedding expenses, he borrowed more than double that amount for home improvements. Years later, he’s still paying for improvements not a single guest ever saw; the remodeled family room and extra bedroom are empty except when his grandchildren visit occasionally.

5. The bride, the groom, and the wedding party have a responsibility to stop stressing and remember the purpose of this day together. Nothing, not sun, rain or snow, forgotten flower arrangements, dropped rings, crying flower girls or any other so-called disaster can detract from the real reason you’re marrying your beloved. This day, this wedding is all about the beginning of your life together.


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Funny Story about "RITA girl"

If you read this blog regularly, you already know I was honored with a RITA award last week from Romance Writers’ of America. The after-celebration has been fantastic—lots of cards, calls, emails, flowers, even pink champagne! But life has a way of keeping us humble. Let me share a funny story that happened on the Monday after the award program.

The local florist telephoned and asked if I was the “Linda Goodnight who had just had a baby”. After some sputtering and rather hysterical laughter, I said no. She was puzzled because she couldn’t find any other Linda Goodnight in the phone directory and needed an address in order to deliver the flowers. I asked if perhaps an error had been made because I’d just won a rather major award and it was possible that someone might send me some flowers. The florist replied, “Let me read the card.”

It said, “Congratulations on the RITA, girl. We are so happy for you.”

The florist had assumed I had just had a baby girl named Rita! So I told her to bring the flowers on out and I’d introduce her to my baby girl named RITA.

She and I had a great laugh when she arrived with my bouquet compliments of my OKRWA chapter.

Oh, and here’s a shot of my baby girl with her flowers.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Does an At-Home Wedding Save Money?

Birds filled the trees above the gazebo in the back yard, their melody accompanying the bride’s cousin as she sang a lilting rendition of the wedding song. A brilliant blue sky provided a breath-taking ceiling and bright sunshine warmed the early spring day. Eighty-two guests sat in rows of chairs under several hundred-year-old maple trees. The perfect setting for a wedding on a perfect day in May.

The bridesmaids, followed by the bride, made their way past smiling friends and relatives to the gazebo where the minister, groom, and groomsmen waited. The backdrop on the gazebo was constructed by the groom and his brothers for this special day. A friend had adorned it with a handmade ivy wreath dotted with white roses. Huge bouquets of turquoise and white balloons lined the path to the gazebo. It didn't matter a bit that the balloons were purchased at the dollar store or that the bride's and bridesmaids’ bouquets came from the super market. It didn't matter that a friend of the bride made the wedding cake as her gift to the happy couple. And it mattered even less that the brunch following the ceremony was catered by a friend of the groom's sister and included muffins baked by the bride's mother.

Two of our six children opted for at-home weddings. Three were married in traditional church/reception hall ceremonies. I’ve since compared the costs of the at-home weddings to the cost of the weddings chosen by our other children –– well, I should say by their brides. The total cost of both weddings at our home was less than what our youngest son's father-in-law paid to rent the hall for his daughter's wedding!

Add in dinners for two hundred and the cost of a band, Daddy paid a pretty penny for that wedding. Whoops, forgot the flowers at the church and the limo rented to get the bride and groom to the hall. Oh, and the cake. My daughter-in-law laughed as she said her dad was amazed that the cake cost more than her wedding dress! As the groom's parents, we picked up the bar bill for that wedding and gave up a big chunk of the savings we'd socked away for our retirement.

So, if you ask me whether an at-home wedding saves you money I have to answer, "You bet your bippy it does!" Not only is it a huge savings, it is more personal and more appreciated by the bride and groom. The comments after our son's outdoor wedding ranged from, "This was the most beautiful wedding I have ever attended," to "Having the wedding in this lovely tree-shaded area with the blue sky overhead was better than being inside a church. God created the great outdoors for us to enjoy, what better place to get married?"

So, whether you plan an outdoor wedding or a smaller, more intimate wedding in your home –– which we did for our youngest daughter –– it can be more personal and cost a lot less than a wedding held in a church and reception hall. And you won't need a limo and procession of cars –– and all that gas -- to get from the church to the hall!


Monday, August 11, 2008

Good Morning From Audra!

Audra here!

This month I'll be posting a few short blurbs about myself so you can get to know a little more about me than what is in my book! This week, I've been asked to talk about my career. How did I become one of the Wedding Belles?

I never consciously thought about my choice of profession. After years of going to Christmas Parties at the home of my mom’s employers, The Manelli family, it was a no-brainer that their lifestyle was something to aspire to.

It never occurred to me that the maid’s daughter should think more practically. I made great grades in school. I liked business. I liked taking care of details. And I knew developing these traits, especially through an accounting degree, would probably take me anywhere I wanted to go.

Fate brought me to Callie and ultimately to the Wedding Belles. I love bringing order out of the chaos that frequently abounds in the Boston Brownstone! Everyone, including the Wedding Belle’s owner, Belle, is a bundle of energy and passion that fuels my own passion to do the best job I can do.

But I’m also a closet romantic. The small part I play in making our clients’ most important day special and unique gives me great satisfaction!


Saturday, August 9, 2008


So sorry for the delay in getting the news out to you. I've been off to RWA in San Francisco and then this week finishing up a book while reveling in my RITA win.

Without further ado, from a random drawing of many, many great July comments, the winner of the $25 gift certificate to any online store of your choice is:


Congratulations, Brandy. Thank you for posting on our blog!

If you will email me your address and your choice of which online gift certificate you want, I will get that taken care of!

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Friday, August 8, 2008

Old Traditions Made New

There was a time when it seemed that everyone engaged in the practice of throwing rice at the bride and groom. Then word came down that this practice endangered the birds (later proved to be not true) and there was also the fact that guests slipped on rice, so people looked for alternatives.

Here are some of the things that people have switched to in recent years:

Birdseed (although this should only be done at city weddings, since birdseed contains non-native invasive species)

Rose petals or freeze-dried rose petals

Lavender buds

Confetti (which has to be cleaned up)

Grass seed (when on a lawn)

Glitter (shudder)

A balloon drop (probably less in favor these days due to the repercussions for wildlife and the environment)

One poster noted that for a European-style wedding she attended, coins were thrown

Fall leaves for an autumn wedding (which obviously involves some care and planning)

Fake snow for a winter wedding

Of course, what goes up (or out) must come down. Things thrown end up in the bride's and guests' clothing and hair, some venues have restrictions (fresh rose petals stain; rice and confetti and other items must be cleaned up), so some weddings planners/brides and grooms have opted for things that don't have to be thrown at all. Some of these involve elaborate orchestration, but here are a few:

Bubbles using biodegradable soap

Having guests wave ribbon streamers

Having guests ring bells (including jingle bells for a December wedding)

Sparklers for a nighttime wedding (pretty but lots of planning. Guests must be spaced out enough so that no one gets burned and care must be taken when children are present)

Kazoos or other noisemakers

Butterfly releases (although there are limitations regarding weather, and one should, of course, make sure this is done in a humane fashion)

A pair of doves released as the bride and groom depart the church (again, one wants to do this in a humane fashion)

Still, other people are opting to skip this tradition altogether. What do you think? And, have you seen other alternatives as ways to send off/welcome the new bride and groom?

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Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Road Less Traveled...For Your Honeymoon

The cost of a honeymoon often rivals the cost of a wedding. Audra’s idea of a dream vacation is to be alone on an island in the Caribbean with her special someone. Tropical island destinations provide a perfect honeymoon for many couples, but Audra would be the first to remind us that a honeymoon in a non-traditional location can often be as special as two weeks on a Caribbean island, but less expensive.

1. Dreaming of Aruba or Jamaica, but don’t want your honeymoon budget to become a nightmare? Visiting an island or beach resort close to your home state or country instead of flying half-way around the world will save on travel fares and accommodation prices. Seek out package discounts for combining travel and accommodations well in advance of your wedding and consider traveling during non-peak hours to save even more.

2. Will you live where the wedding will be held or is your new home in another town, city, or country? My daughter and son-in-law married in Pennsylvania but planned to return to his home on an Air Force base in Montana. They considered their need to get to Montana, their love of motorcycles, and a desire to attend the annual Bike Rally in Sturgis, S.D., then chose to spend their honeymoon riding their Harley to Sturgis, camping along the way. They attended Bike Week before riding on to Great Falls. Their unconventional honeymoon not only saved them quite of bit of money, it gave them a chance to fulfill one of their wishes.

3. There’s no written or unwritten law stating a honeymoon must directly follow a wedding. A newly-married couple may delay their honeymoon while waiting for a change in seasons, a special event, more vacation time or a variety of other reasons. While money, or lack there-of, isn’t often cited as a reason, it should be included on that list. Couples needing a bit of time between the wedding and the honeymoon often find they feel as though they've actually taken two honeymoons if they share a night or two in a hotel or bed and breakfast near home right after the wedding and go on their "real" honeymoon a few months after the ceremony.
Planning your honeymoon around your favorite interests will enhance your special time together. Remember that where or when you go on your honeymoon or how much or little it costs isn’t nearly as important as spending time with the person you love.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Wedding Planners at RWA

Three of The Wedding Planner continuity authors (aka The Wedding Belles) attended the RWA National Conference in San Francisco and recently returned home - Linda Goodnight, Melissa James and me. Linda and I had met in Dallas, but it was the first time either of us had met the delightful Melissa James. We weren't as organized as last year's Thursday night dinner, but we managed to connect at several events.

At the Harlequin Mills & Boon Meet and Greet on Thursday morning, the three of us came face to face. I thought Melissa James had red hair so didn't realize it was her until I noticed her name tag. It was great to finally come face to face after years of emailing on the loop and late night chats via Yahoo IM. Linda, of course, hadn't changed at all!

The three of us shared a cab with Harlequin Romance author Claire Baxter to Noe Valley, a neighborhood in the city, where we attended the Harlequin Romance authors tea party at Lovejoy's Tea House. The place would be perfect for a wedding shower or baby shower!

That night the three of us bumped into each other again at the Harlequin Party held at the Four Seasons. We ate, drank and danced the night away. The Wedding Planners would have given the thumbs up to the event!

The RWA Conference closes out on Saturday night with a glittery, Oscar-like awards ceremony honoring the top judged books of the year. Moments after winning the RITA for best Inspirational Romance, Linda Goodnight was all smiles as she's congratulated by Susan Mae Warren. Looking on in the background is Melissa Endlich, a Harlequin editor.

Congrats to Linda on her RITA win from all the Wedding Belles!

The Wedding Planners was never far from my mind during the conference. And on Saturday afternoon, I had a wedding planner moment when I was meeting with my agent at the Westin on Market. We were sitting outside sipping ice tea when I noticed a flurry of action near the door to the hotel. I noticed women in matching full length midnight blue gowns. I put down my glass, grabbed my camera and told Annelise I'd be right back. After all the effort I'd gone to with posts for this blog, I couldn't believe a wedding party had almost fallen into my lap.

I took these two pictures then returned to my agent to finish up our chat. But my gaze kept straying to the brides and her attendants as well as the groomsmen who soon joined them as the walked by. And there were a couple of ah moments with toddler boys dressed in beige linen short outfits joined the wedding party. They were just too cute, but I'd already put my camera away by then! I just wished the other Belles could have been there to see them.

I just hope the six of us can meet next year in at the RWA Conference in Washington D.C. But that might take some expert planning ala The Wedding Planners to make that happen. Still a writer can dream and think what if...

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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

A Shotgun Wedding!

A Shotgun Wedding

Mother of the Bride is a role I enjoyed four years ago when my daughter married her long-time best friend. Four years later, my son-in-law resides in another state as he prepares to deploy to Afghanistan and my daughter is back home. Separated by twelve hundred miles. On their fourth anniversary last week. Well, actually the fourth anniversary of their second wedding.

They’d married the first time a few months earlier in a judge’s office so they could be added to a military housing list for married couples. She returned to college, he to work. Five months later, they married again at a beautiful gazebo on the outskirts of town. Thank heaven we have video proof of the events of that evening. Let’s just say it wasn’t a traditional wedding in any sense of the word.

The early evening sun smiled down on them as they exchanged their vows in front of family and friends. And a mule. Tears filled my eyes as I gave my daughter a hug and hurried to my front row seat. But laughter quickly dried my tears as I watched the groom and groomsmen roar around the block on their Harleys before taking their places to wait for the bride and her attendants. The girls arrived on a cloth-draped hay wagon pulled by a Oliver tractor. The sun couldn’t compete with the light shining in my daughter’s eyes as her father and step-father escorted her, skipping, down the grass aisle between numerous guests perched beneath two large canopies, followed by a handful of friends and relatives bearing guns. Not for the reason usually associated with shotguns at weddings, but because guns and country wedding just seem to go together here in the hills.

Oh, and that mule? He was ridden to the ceremony by the groom’s father and laughed and brayed as only a mule can do just as my daughter spoke her vows.

The wedding cake, three sheet cakes iced in green with a ribbon of gray to represent a road into the future, complimented cups printed with two tiny angels and inscribed with my daughter’s and son’s-in-law names, the date, and the words "The Ride Begins." Their honeymoon was a two week Harley ride across part of the USA, ending in Sturgis, South Dakota just in time for the annual motorcycle Rally.

As the mother of the bride, I know for a fact that while they’ve hit a few bumps in the road, the love they felt for each other during their non-traditional shotgun wedding grows stronger every day.


Monday, August 4, 2008

Audra would never tell you this herself, but...

Audra Green Character Profile
Age: 26

Physical Description: Tall and slender with sleek yellow hair and blue eyes that are both warm and sexy.

Character Traits: Practical, logical Audra harbors a secret romantic side that few people see. She believes this is why she ended up with The Wedding Belles, wedding consulting and planning business, as her biggest client. By day, she loves being smart and capable. At night, she likes bubble baths, reality TV … especially The Apprentice…and silk sheets. Her closet is filled with sexy lingerie because she believes women make the best executives and the sexy lingerie reminds her she’s still a woman!

Last romance: Left at the altar by a rich playboy. Learned the lesson that even the smartest woman can do silly things for love and vowed never to let her guard down again.

Secrets: She once told her friend Ally’s parents that Ally was spending the weekend with her so Ally could visit a college boyfriend.

Secret Indulgence: The chocolate pudding pies her mom makes for her when she’s overworked!

Secret Longing: To work for Donald Trump and not just see how he does business, but also learn everything she can so that she can someday put all the knowledge to work to do something really important for the world.

Likes: She loves her family. Especially her nieces and nephews whom she takes for ice cream every chance she gets.

Dislikes: Self-centered people. People who believe the world should revolve around them.

Dream Vacation: Alone on an island in the Caribbean with a special someone.

Friday, August 1, 2008

It's Finally August!

By now you know me as the author of book five of the Wedding Planners Continuity Series for Harlequin Romance.

My book MILLIONAIRE DAD, NANNY NEEDED! will be released on August 12! I'm very excited about this but also excited to host this month's blog entries.

Because my heroine, Audra, is the Wedding Belles' accountant, I've found some people to talk about the financial implications of various kinds of weddings. Even if you aren't planning a wedding, each has a great story to tell. Deb was married at Disney World. Lorraine's two daughters had at-home weddings. Denise's daughter had a genuine "shot gun" wedding.

I also hope to have an accountant answer a few questions about how to create a budget. He's a bit busy right now, but if he can't get away to help us, there are several great books available.

August will be a great month! I hope you'll join us.