Monthly Archives: April 2014

Super Mario Bros. Engagement Photos


Kristen Klein

Nathan and Jessica crafted quite the elaborate scenario for their engagement photos! After dozing off in the park, Nathan wakes up alone — dressed as Mario. Jessica is missing, and he quickly realizes she must've transformed into Princess Peach. He sets off on a long journey to rescue her, but he gets a little sidetracked along the way. When he finally reaches her, she's angry that he took so long — but he knows exactly how to cheer her up! He proposes, and the two run back to reality together.

Photography by Christina Truelove Photography.

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super mario bros engagement photos

Super Mario Bros.

zombie engagement photos
Zombie Invasion

bear costumes engagement photos
Bear Costumes

american gothic engagement photos
American Gothic

underwater engagement photos
Under Water

facebook theme engagement photos


Average Wedding Cost: Where Does All the Money Go?


Daniel P. Smith

wedding limo
Photo Credit: AveryHouse

Budget Breakdown for The Northeast

The Venue: 11%
Looking to capture the city’s picturesque skyline and customize a blank palette, Sojourner Auguste, executive director of New York City-based Erganic Design, says many local couples turn to New York City’s “raw” venues, namely loft spaces, to host their wedding, directing additional capital to the necessary lighting, decor and other rentals. While raw spaces — be they urban lofts or vast country barns — possess a compelling energy, Auguste suggests couples on a tight budget consider a fully furnished space that already claims the style and character they envision for their wedding day.

wedding ceremony
Photo Credit: Bethalée Photography

Food and Beverage: 55%
Auguste finds many caterers are willing to customize packages at or near a couple’s budget. Her money saving tip: “Beware of too many specialized cocktail hour and dessert stations, which increase staffing and rental costs.”

Photography and Video: 14%
Auguste advises brides to map out a timeline of the day they can then share with the photographer and videographer. “From that timeline, you can then determine the moments you want captured and discern how long you need the photographer and videographer on site.”

Entertainment: 5%
Rather than booking live musicians for the ceremony and cocktail hour, Auguste urges brides to limit live music to the reception and to add an extra hour or two to the DJ’s contract to cover those segments. “In many cases, you can negotiate a discounted rate for the DJ’s additional time.”

Rentals: 9%
Rental fees can add up quickly. Auguste’s budget-friendly tip: “Make sure you see exactly and only what you need from the caterer, so you don’t have to pay for extra utensils or glassware that won’t be used.”

Flowers: 6%
“Think beyond flowers,” Auguste says, and ask florists about “fillers” that will lower costs without sacrificing beauty. “Many florists provide candlelight or centerpiece decor items that will match your theme at a more cost-effective price point.”

Next: Wedding budget breakdown in the South

Budget Breakdown for The South

The Venue: 13%
A number of Southern brides turn to distinctive landmarks, such as historic homes or museums, as their wedding venue. By booking in off-peak months — generally, January, February, July and August — Tara Skinner, co-owner of Savannah, GA-based Posh Petals and Pearls, says brides might secure the venue of their dreams on a slimmer budget.

southern wedding
Photo Credit: Kim Graham Photography

Food and Beverage: 33%
Skinner advises couples to monitor the rental costs required to outfit special locations like mansions and museums. In some (but not all) cases, an all-inclusive, hotel-based reception might be the more economical move. “Do your homework to find out which option is best for you and your budget,” Skinner says, adding that, regardless of one’s venue, Southern couples can’t forget to account for another local tradition — the groom’s cake — in their food and beverage budget.

Photography and Video: 16%
Many photographers and videographers offer packages providing complete files of images or raw footage. While that option might intrigue couples with a creative bent, Skinner urges brides to be realistic. “If you choose a disc of images over a finished wedding album, you will save money initially, but will you actually see your DIY album or video project through?”

Entertainment: 9%
Though many couples view entertainment as the place where they can trim the budget, Skinner advises her clients to consider the entertainer’s talent and service alongside the cost. “It’s essential to have an entertainer who understands a wedding’s flow and tone as well as one who can emcee the celebration with poise and professionalism.”

Rentals: 17%
Some of the most unique Southern venues are blank canvases requiring rental of both specialty and basic items, including linens. If you find must-have (but pricey) linens, Skinner suggests using them only on high-visibility areas, such as the cake table.

Flowers: 126%
Skinner’s tip: “Consider repurposing your bridesmaids’ bouquets for later use at the reception. It’s a great way to save money without sacrificing style.”

Next: Wedding budget breakdown in the Midwest ►

Budget Breakdown for The Midwest

The Venue: 10%
With a short window to accommodate outdoor weddings, most Midwest brides take the show indoors to places like historic hotels, country clubs or loft spaces that once hummed with machinery. When searching for a venue, Lauren Housley, owner of Chicago-based Ryan Alexander Events, says you shouldn’t neglect key details, such as lighting. “The more natural light a venue has, the better it is for pictures.”

bride and groom
Photo Credit: Jai Girard Photography

Food and Beverage: 46%
Housley calls food an oft-overlooked way to add personalization. “You can work with your caterer to recreate signature family dishes or to create twists on famed Chicago dishes, such as an Italian beef pizza with a giardiniera topping.”

Photography and Video: 12%
Creating a detailed shot list is critical. Not only to ensure you get the photos you want, but also to streamline the photographer’s work and make efficient use of his or her time —and yours. (Why pay extra fees if the shots you want are already taken?)

Entertainment: 15%
While many guests love hearing the classics at weddings, you can add a touch of distinctiveness to your day by asking the band or DJ for some interesting songs that are not wedding-day staples. Chicagoans, for example, might request the beloved Chicago Bears fight song or Sinatra’s “Chicago” to add a spirited local flavor to the event. “Add in your favorite nontraditional songs to make your day more memorable for your guests,” Housley says.

Rentals: 8%
You can save on rental fees by asking the venue manager if they would be flexible with the post-reception pick-up time. By arranging a Monday pick-up, for instance, Housley says you can save $100 to $300. And in an effort to minimize delivery fees, “Consolidate tables, chairs and other rental orders from just one or two companies.”

Flowers: 9%
Need to slim down the floral budget? Look to the ceremony location and leverage its inherent beauty as the backdrop. The Chicago area, for instance, is home to some of the nation’s most ornate churches, locations featuring stained glass, murals and other elegant architectural hallmarks. “If you are already getting married at a stunning church, go for a really simple ceremony arrangement that can be repurposed at the reception,” Housley says.

Next: Wedding budget breakdown in the Southwest ►

Budget Breakdown for The Southwest

The Venue: 5%
Janet Finden, event planner and owner of Cause for Celebration in Phoenix, AZ, urges couples to select a venue that has a food and beverage minimum fitting their budget; When the minimum is met, she says, the site fee is often waived. Couples might also want to consider a non-Saturday wedding, which should result in reduced site fees and, frequently, less stringent food and beverage minimums.

country wedding
Photo Credit: SuthiPicotte

Food and Beverage: 64%
Since portions are planned out and controlled, plated, sit-down dinners can actually cost less than serving your guests buffet style. When working with venues or caterers, Finden says “You can trumpet the planning and portion efficiencies that come with plated meals to negotiate a lower cost.”

Photography and Video: 12%
Finden urges couples to review the photographer’s contract to ensure they are receiving a DVD or flash drive of all their photos with print rights. You can later use that disc to order low-cost prints from any retailer.

Entertainment: 8%
Finden says you can maximize your entertainment budget by using a DJ for both the ceremony and reception. She says many DJs can easily add extra sound equipment to accommodate the ceremony location.

Rentals: 3%
By selecting a venue with well-maintained facilities, Finden says rental fees should be minimal because chairs and linens will often be made available to you at little or no expense.

Flowers: 8%
According to Finden, you can reduce your financial outlay for flowers simply by selecting a venue with eye-catching traits, such as a ceremony location with a beautiful natural backdrop or a reception space with rich architectural elements. The southwest is, in fact, well known for rich and lively natural spaces full of depth and dynamic colors. To further reduce flower costs, “Think about using more candles and fewer flowers for evening receptions.”

Next: Wedding budget breakdown in the West ►

Budget Breakdown for The West

The Venue: 10%
With water on one side and mountains on the other, West Coast couples enjoy a diverse array of vibrant sites for their wedding, including lush vineyards, ranches and beachfront resorts with endless ocean views. Before visiting any potential venue, Melissa Barrad, owner of San Diego-based I Do…Weddings & Events, recommends that you thoroughly research it online. “Doing so will save time as well as provide key insights on what budget items can be reduced because of the site’s existing characteristics as well as what expenses, such as decor or floral, might need to increase.”

country wedding
Photo Credit: SuthiPicotte

Food and Beverage: 50%
Food and, particularly, beverage can quickly consume much of your budget. Barrad suggests investigating venues that will allow you to bring in your own wine and liquor, either as a part of the rental agreement or through corkage fees. With that go-ahead, couples could then bring in local favorites, such as craft beer from one of the region’s many breweries — Portland, for instance, has more breweries than any city in the world — or wine from Sonoma and Napa Valleys.

Photography and Video: 10%
Barrad says couples on a tight budget might consider hiring a photographer for a “shoot only” package that provides high-resolution images. Then, later, when the bank account bounces back, you can make an album.

Entertainment: 10%
Barrad suggests looking for multi-faceted musical professionals who can play live music for the ceremony and cocktails — and perhaps even dinner and the first dance — before switching to recorded music for the evening.

Rentals: 10%
“Ask caterers and venue hosts for a comprehensive and itemized quote covering all the necessary materials, such as flatware, glassware, portable restrooms and lighting,” Barrad says. In some cases, you might be able to forego or reduce certain items; in others, you might secure items from a different vendor — or even provide them yourself — at a lower cost.

Flowers: 10%
While flowers contribute to the bride’s vision and the overall wedding-day vibe, Barrad urges couples to embrace novel approaches that can reduce costs. “Hire a florist who is flexible and will even allow you to either provide your own containers or rent his or hers,” Barrad says.


How to Throw the Most Fun Wedding Ever


Debra Witt

wedding kissing booth
Photo Credit: Mark Greenmantle

Weddings are fun by definition, but if your goal is to make your big day a memorable moment for your family and friends — not just for you and your groom — you’ll want to focus your attention on your guests.

“If a bride wants to hear, ‘This is the best wedding!’ she has to get out of the ‘It’s my day’ mentality and think about the guest experience,” says Sasha Souza, a wedding planner based in Napa, California. “From the moment a couple becomes engaged the classic line that gets repeated is, ‘It’s all about the bride’ — but it’s not! The couple is taking on the role of host for the biggest party they’ll probably ever throw. What’s a host’s main role? To make sure their guests are comfortable and enjoying themselves.” Check out more wedding planning myths here ►

“Guests have usually been to countless weddings and can predict what’s coming next,” says Jennifer Stiebel of SoCo Events in Washington, D.C. How does a couple set their wedding apart from the sea of other happily-ever-afters? “Inject personality and thought into every aspect of your celebration and friends will be talking about the fun they had for years to come!”

bride and groom on carousel
Photo Credit: Josh Lynn Photography

With that in mind, we asked recent brides and wedding planners from across the country to share some creative ways to send your wedding guests home with a smile and unforgettable memories. What they told us ranged from the oh-so-simple touches — like crafting a signature drink or setting up a photo booth — to the why-didn’t-I-think-of-that ideas (midnight milkshakes on the dance floor, anyone?). Use these four concepts to help you and your groom up the fun factor at your wedding.

Next: How to build excitement, hook your guests and more ►

Build Excitement from the Get-Go

In 2012, a couple of classical music lovers asked Winston-Salem, North Carolina-based planner Rebecca Rose to help them pull together their wedding. When she found out how big a role music played in their romance and their lives (the bride sang in an a capella group and they regularly attended symphony and opera performances), they decided to make that the theme of their celebration. Check out our complete guide to wedding music here ►

Instead of sending out save-the dates, for example, they sent out “note-the-date” cards that were in the shape of music notes. At the ceremony, guests were treated to a mini concert featuring a gospel choir, a chamber orchestra, and various soloists.

first dance
Photo Credit: Meredith Perdue Photography

Your fun-factor assignment:
Before you start picking out venues and invitations, think about experiences that are important to you and your fiancé. “Figure out what makes you unique as a couple,” says Rose. “Think about what brought you together, what you value, and what you both respond to. Those answers are your starting point.”

Hook 'Em Before the First Kiss

Yes, your “I do” will be the highlight of the day, but there’s lots you can do to generate smiles leading up to the big kiss. For a recent destination wedding on preppy-chic Nantucket Island in Massachusetts, Stiebel helped one couple create a weekend itinerary that included a lobster bake, island bike ride, and — most talked about — a bow-tie bar where the male guests could pick out a Nantucket-themed bow-tie to wear to the evening wedding. By the time the ceremony rolled around the guests had truly bonded.

wedding lobster bake
Photo Credit: Justine Ungaro

At the other end of the interest spectrum, Stiebel helped a sportsloving couple incorporate their passion for baseball into the day. “Instead of a standard guest book everyone signed baseballs,” she says. “Guests enjoyed delivering their best autograph, and the couple now hangs those baseballs in their home.”

Your fun-factor assignment:
Once you’ve chosen a theme, brainstorm ways to carry it through to the wedding weekend and ceremony. Keep in mind that “fun” isn’t a nice way of saying break your budget! Fun means unexpected surprises to keep your guests engaged and on their toes.

Think Outside the Ballroom

Many times, the brainstorming can begin and end with your choice of venue. Beth Huxta and Greg Conant, for example, knew they wanted their October 2012 wedding in the Delaware Valley to be relaxed and simple. “We’re an easygoing couple so we didn’t want a fussy wedding,” says Beth. So rather than price out ballrooms and reception halls, she and Greg scoured the Internet for summer camps. “What’s more easy-going than summer camp?” she says. Check out “glamping” honeymoon destinations here ►

The couple rented out the campsite and surrounding cabins (total cost, $3,000) for an entire weekend and sent out wreath-shaped invitations giving guests a heads-up that they were going to be heading off to camp. After the ceremony, everyone huddled around a crackling bonfire, sipped apple-cider spiked with whiskey and danced almost until dawn. “We didn’t want to squeeze the whole wedding into five hours,” says Beth. “We planned everything out so there was no time for people to wonder what to do next.”

bride dancing
Photo Credit: Robin Proctor

What Beth and Greg did was make their wedding authentic to them, a key element to any great wedding, says Allison Laesser-Keck, owner of Viva La Diva events in Ann Arbor, Michigan. “Your wedding doesn’t just need to be beautiful, it should have elements that speak to your personalities so it’s meaningful,” says Laesser- Keck.

As you consider different places to hold your ceremony and reception, she says, ask yourselves, ‘Is this us?’ Reception halls, she adds, can really come to life when you think beyond the tables and dance floor. Consider creating different “rooms” so guests can lounge in one area, have fun at a photo booth in one corner, maybe play table games in another and so on.

wedding photo boothwedding photo booth
Left: Photo Credit: Jason & Gina Wedding Photographers/Bluebird Productions
Right: Photo Credit: Katie Holstein Photographers/Bluebird Productions

Next: How to make your celebration memorable ►

Make Your Party, Well, A Party

Not surprisingly, the planners we talked to had a never-ending stream of memorable reception ideas. Rebecca Rose recalled the Texas couple who surprised everyone with impromptu twostepping lessons. Jennifer Stiebel can’t forget the delightful reaction of guests at a recent wedding who were let loose inside a makeshift sweet shop complete with a caricature artist. Similarly, just when guests of one Colorado couple felt the festivities were winding down, Virginia Edelson of Bluebird Events in Aspen helped the duo lead everyone into a “hidden” tent where they were greeted with fruity shots inspired by the Royal Wedding for a drastically different after-party vibe.

Sasha Souza had fun helping a tech-savvy California couple surprise guests with several different event stations: “Each station had its own atmosphere and food (sushi, grill, patisserie, etc.), but what really made it nice for guests was that at each one they could scan a QR code to receive a secret surprise, like a beer that wasn’t otherwise being offered at the bar.”

But perhaps the most “wow” idea we heard came from Stephanie Yuhas and Matt Conant, Philadelphia filmmakers who walked their guests out of a small movie theater (where they previewed a documentary of their love story that ended with their live-action red-carpet vows) and down the street to an arcade and go-kart center. There, the guests merged right into the center’s regular crowd. “The caterer packed up the leftovers, including the cake, and brought everything to the arcade,” says Stephanie. “We didn’t know how people would react, but you can see how much fun they had on their faces in the pictures.”

Check out 150 more ways to make your wedding unforgettable ►

wedding go karts
Photo Credit: Mike Licisyn

wedding vintage car
Photo Credit: Justine Ungaro

Your fun-factor assignment:
“Make sure there’s always something happening at your reception,” says Souza. If you’re having an outdoor wedding, set up some yard games off to the side, or offer hand and foot massages, she suggests. Toward the end of the reception, when the dancing is starting to die down, bring out an ice-cream bar or work with your caterer to have the staff pass out mini-milkshakes right there on the dance floor — one of Rebecca Rose’s brides did this and had the band play K.C. and the Sunshine Band’s “Shake, Shake, Shake” hit classic. “The ideas you come up with don’t need to be complicated or costly, just creative,” she says.

alcoholic milkshakes
Photo Credit: Rebecca Bouck Photography

wedding candy bar
Photo Credit: Mark Greenmantle

Next: Record all of the fun with these wedding apps ►

There's an App for That

Google + Gifs: Install the Google+ app on your smartphone, turn on auto backup, and ask a few snap-happy wedding- party members to document things like you getting your hair done, guests arriving or key moments on the dance fl oor. The uploaded shots get stitched into a fun animated clip that’s perfect for sharing.

Instagram: Come up with a hashtag for your wedding (be sure to do a search fi rst to make sure yours is unique) and share the tag with your guests. Decide where you want the photos to go (such as a Flickr or Dropbox account or a Facebook page), link everything through an account with (you’ll need to create a “recipe”) and shots with your tag will automatically upload.

Wedpics: Set up an album and invite guests to sync up and snap away. Every photo taken during your ceremony and reception gets uploaded. (You can control what gets shared on social media.) Later on you can organize and edit the shots.

Check out more wedding photo apps here ►

wedding app


Changing Your Last Name: How to Decide What's Right for You


Danielle Tate

i stole her heart so im stealing his last name sign
Photo Credit: ChicBridalBoutique/Etsy

Name change after marriage is a big decision. While most women anticipate getting married someday, very few of us give much thought to the concept of name change. If you do opt to change your name (and 88.6% of you will), the change is permanent unless you divorce or petition the U.S. court system for a legal name change order, which is about as fun as it sounds. It is wise to fully understand your feelings on name change, as well as your options before making the switch to Mrs.

When I got married, I gamely tossed my maiden name and took my husband’s. Now, nine years later, I wish that I would have researched my name change options a bit more before taking the name change plunge. So, here’s the scoop on married name change and the multitude of options available today. Please take a moment to read this article and make an informed decision; you’ll thank me later!

Option 1: Keep your maiden name

If your profession is closely tied to your name or if you are the last member of your family to carry your name, keeping your maiden name is a logical choice. It’s also the choice that results in zero paperwork!

Option 2: Hyphenate your name with your spouse’s

Most popular in the 1970s, hyphenation allows you to keep your maiden name while still adding your spouse's. It also makes it easy for colleagues, clients, and friends to follow you and your work post-marriage.

Option 3: Take two last names sans hyphen

This name change option allows you to have both surnames but use them interchangeably. You will need to sign all legal documents with both names, but you can introduce yourself with one last name, thus forgoing the mouthful that hyphenated last names can create.

Option 4: Take your maiden name as a middle name and your spouse’s last name

This is one of the most popular name change trends today, as women can take their spouse’s last name but still keep their maiden name. Maiden to middle name change holds even more appeal for women who were bestowed with horrible middle names! This can be done in all states except California (unless you list your maiden as your middle name on your marriage license), Ohio, New Jersey, and Washington. If you live in New York or Pennsylvania, you'll need to follow a specific order when filing your forms to achieve maiden to middle name change (get more info on

Option 5: Take your spouse’s last name

Many brides are ready to axe their maiden names completely and take their spouse’s last name. Reasons range from having unpronounceable maiden names to wanting their future children to have a last name towards the front of the alphabet.

Option 6: Create a blended last name with your spouse

This concept is very new on the name change scene — Mr. Goldberg and Miss Bernstein become Mr. and Mrs. Goldstein. *Please note that this option is only available to California couples, and they must write their blended last names on their marriage license.

Option 7: Have your spouse take your name

If you love your last name and your spouse doesn’t have major ties to his, consider having him take your maiden name as a new last name. Certain states — California, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Illinois, Lousiana, Massachusetts, New York, and North Dakota — recognize a man's right to change his name on the basis of marriage.

Still unsure of the best name change option for you? Play the Married Name Game. This interactive quiz boasts a patent-pending algorithm, which was created by analyzing the name change choices made by the 200,000+ customers and the key influencers of their decisions. It weighs and factors in things like your age and education, along with your personal style, to suggest the name change option(s) most in keeping with your selections.