Swoon-Worthy Ideas: Making Guests Comfy & Happy

These days, sending guests directions and hotel information is simply not enough. Brides and grooms are making a real effort to take care of their guests, which, in turn, makes guests feel appreciated and tended to. Here are a few touches that will make your guests swoon over your thoughtfulness.

* flip-flop basket: even the most comfortable heels can start to pinch after a night of dancing. Why not offer a basket of flip-flops (bought on the cheap at Old Navy or Target) to your guests, so they do not have to make the choice between dancing in heels or (no no no) dancing with bare feet.

* hotel bags: these are pretty standard these days, but guests feel so pampered when they check into their hotel and get a goodie bag. It's nice to include directions and an itinerary of the wedding events, as well as some snacks and drinks and definitely a personal note from the bride and groom.

* wrap basket: if your wedding is outdoors, it may be nice to offer wraps to your guests. Even summer evenings can get a bit cool. You can purchase inexpensive pashminas these days online or in cities. What a sweet way to keep your guests nice and cozy.

* transportation: Guests love weddings where the bride and groom provide some sort of transportation between the hotel and reception venue. Knowing they do not have to worry about directions and can relax and kick off their heels at the reception is priceless. Your transportation does not have to be fancy: a school bus or van will do the trick.

* drinks: offering your guests a drink to comfort them at the beginning or end of the ceremony is also a nice touch. Think ice-water with mint or lemon as they arrive at your outdoor summer wedding; or a cup of hot mulled cider as they depart from your fall wedding reception; or even a glass of champagne as soon as they enter the cocktail portion of your reception. Along this line: make a point to have butlered drinks during the first 15 minutes of your cocktails - it will cut down, if not eliminate, the all-too-common bottleneck at the bar as people make a bee-line for a cocktail.

* morning after brunch: Jamie blogged about this recently, and I think it is a fabulous idea. If it is in the budget, it's so nice to host a morning-after brunch for your guests. And even if you cannot swing it financially, perhaps make reservations and invite your guests to join you the morning after the wedding. Just be sure to make it clear to them that they are on their own for the bill.

Hopefully this will give you some ideas for ways to make your guests feel special at your wedding. What do you think -- do you have any other suggestions? Please do share.

See you swoon,

To give a gift or not?

We all know the excitement of grabbing the mail and feeling the thick envelope that arrives inviting us to an upcoming wedding. The idea of a great night with friends and family and celebrating loved ones starting their lives as husband and wife is so much fun! It is a well known fact that when you attend a wedding a gift is expected and should be an honor for you to give to the happy couple.

What happens when you realize you cannot attend? Are you still expected to send a gift? Believe it or not this is a question that many people have and is very important to know.  My opinion is yes.  If the couple has taken the time to think of you and want you to be a part of this occasion then I think it is important to show your support and gratitude in the form of a gift.You can think of it like this, if it were your wedding what you want or expect your guests to do?

What are your thoughts?  Have you ever been confronted with this and what did you do?

See you swoon,

Eco-Chic: Five Simple Ways to Add Some Green to Your Routine

There seems to be a pretty common misconception that being environmentally friendly is expensive or difficult.  Nothing is further from the truth!  Below are five simple, easy and inexpensive ways to add a little green to your life.

1.  Stop using shampoos with sulfates. A few months ago, my hair was a disaster: dry as straw, unmanageable, and downright difficult.  After chatting with some friends, I realized my issue was probably the sulfates in my shampoo.  Sulfates are detergents that clean your hair -- and they're also really terribly harsh and strip the good moisture from your locks.  Giving up the sulfates was a painful process - my hair rebelled and it was not pretty. But now it is totally worth it.  You have to read labels - something labeled "natural" may still have sulfates!  My favorite brands are Burt's Bees, Giovanni and JASON (the first two are available at Target; all three are available at Whole Foods)

2- Start using vinegar.  A few weeks ago, I blogged about some recipes for cleaning and beauty products using vinegar.   Give it a try!  It is so cheap and so easy to swap in the vinegar for what you were using.

3- Make a point to buy organic fruits & veggies that are part of the "dirty dozen." I'll be honest here: I do not buy all organic food.  But I do make a point to buy organic when the fruit or veggie is one of the following, as these have been found to contain the highest degree of pesticides:  celery, peaches, strawberries, apples, blueberries, nectarines, sweet bell peppers, spinach/kale/collard greens, cherries, potatoes, grapes and lettuce.

4.  BYOB(ottle): Stop buying bottled water.  Instead, buy a great aluminum option (like Sigg or Klean Kanteen) which you can reuse and refill.  It is staggering to think of how much petroleum is used in creating all the bottled water we buy.  And doubly staggering how much of those bottles end up in landfills.  Plus, you're paying for water: why do so when you can fill at home for free?

5-BYOB(ag):   Along the lines of BYOB(ottle) above, stop using the plastic bags at the grocery store and buy a bunch of canvas bags for groceries.  Whole Foods has them for $1 each and they change design by season - they're super durable.  And it is so much easier to carry a bunch at one time than those plastic bags.  Keep a bag filled with them in your car so you're never without them.

There you go!  Five simple, easy, inexpensive ways to get your green on.  Do you have any easy tips for living a more sustainable life? Do tell.

See you swoon,

Swoon Worthy: Joseph Ambler Inn

Recently I had the pleasure of attending and being in my best friends wedding at the Joseph Ambler Inn located in Horsham,PA. This place has a true country, farm fresh feel with all the modern amenities of course.  I was so impressed with the beautiful grounds and accommodations, this venue has everything you could want for any type of event.  I have to say, my favorite part of the Joseph Ambler Inn (besides the most loving cat I have ever seen) was the outdoor patios, they are incredibly romantic and perfect for a ceremony , cocktail area or small dinner.  Rooms and houses are available to rent, I am going to have to recommend the rooms that have the hot tubs, does a night away get any better than that!?  This place is a must see.

See you swoon,

Pick a color ... any color

Settling on a color can be such a difficult thing: whether it is your wedding color, your wall color or even make-up colors. Most people I know (including yours truly) make a color decision and then worry about whether it was the right one.  "I know I want this for a bridesmaids dress, but oh ... the yellow is so fresh and pretty too." "I love this wall color, but kind of wish I had gone a bit lighter. Or a bit darker. Or maybe not as blue."  Indecision over color, which is such a powerful thing, is normal.

So how do you choose?

photos courtesy of Style Me Pretty 
For your wedding, anything goes.  Think about your favorite color(s) and flower(s).  Some brides base their wedding around those things.  For those who may not be quite as decisive, look at wedding magazines and blogs and bookmark or cut out the pictures that you like. Try not to focus on the color at first - just focus on what you like, what strikes you, what makes you swoon.  Think about where your event will be: a church & ballroom? outside under an oak tree? on a white sand beach? rooftop city loft?  Some colors may work better in certain spaces.  And for a short-cut, make a bee-line to Snippet & Ink and search for her inspiration boards: she does all the work for you!

photo courtesy of Benjamin Moore
As for home, wall color is tricky.  Take it from me: I have painted and repainted almost every room in my house.  Some were mistakes (the powder room that I wanted to be a butternut squash and ended up being electric neon orange) and some were me changing my mind (the dining room from deep red to light taupe).  When making a decision on paint color, it's best to invest a little money in the beginning, and by that I mean: (1) buy a fan-deck and (2) buy the inexpensive color samples and put them on the wall.  Fan-decks are usually about $10 and most paint companies sell them.  Pick the paint that you prefer (Sherwin Williams here!) and keep the deck handy.   Fan-decks are great, but there is no substitute for seeing the actual color on the wall, in different spots in the room in varying light.  What looks absolutely perfect on paper may be way too dark when on your wall.  Yes, you will have to live with big blocks of paint on your walls for a bit, but that's preferable to taking the time (and money) to paint the entire room, only to realize when it's all said and done that the color is not right.

Got any color conundrums? Let us help!

See you swoon,

Yay or Nay: Pictures before the wedding ceremony?

I love that moment when a bride and groom see each other for the first time, the excitement you can see on both of their faces is priceless.  So the question is, do you save that moment for when you walk down the aisle or do you have a private moment just the two of you beforehand?  These yays and nays always have me torn!  There is something to be said for keeping with tradition and waiting to see your bride or groom for the first time as you walk down the aisle to spend the rest of your lives together but on the other hand the option to keep that moment all for yourselves and take your pictures before the festivities begin can really take the pressure off, not to mention allow you more time after the ceremony to party and enjoy your guests...and each other of course!

Speaking from personal experience, no matter how well planned out the timing is on your big day there is usually something that is bound to throw a wrench into the mix.  Now that I have had the chance to walk down the aisle and do things the traditional way I would like to try the other way and have most of our pictures out of the way so that the rest of the day is open to relax.  Now if I could just get my husband to agree to wedding number two!

So what I want to know from all of you out there are you thoughts on this topic.  Pictures before or after?

See you swoon,

Wedding Gift Thank You Note Etiquette

I am here to set the record straight on wedding gift thank you note etiquette, including how much time you have to get them out (hint: you do not have a year), how to write and organize them in a manageable way, and what you should say.

DO:  Handwrite each of your thank you notes promptly.  Your guests understand that you are busy both before and after the wedding, so do not feel rushed to send your thank you notes within a day or two, but definitely try to get them out within a few weeks.

Some tips: when you make your invitation guest list, print out two copies and have that second copy be for wedding gifts.  When you receive a gift, note next to the person's name what the gift was and highlight the person's name with a yellow highlighter.  Once you have written the thank you note, highlight over the yellow with pink ... orange means your note is written and sent; yellow means you still need to write.  I'm a color-coding dork, so this process worked well for me.

DON'T: sacrifice content to get them out the door.  Take your time and express your genuine appreciation to the gift-giver.  Being busy or overwhelmed with wedding details is no excuse for a proper thank you.  To make life easier, you could split the thank you note writing duties with your fiance/husband, or endeavor to write 5-10 cards per day, rather than an entire stack.   Thank the person for the gift, explain how you will use it, thank them for coming to the wedding (or say how much you're looking forward to seeing them at the wedding if it's a pre-nuptial gift) and close by thanking them again for their generosity.  Done.

NEVER: never, ever, never take a year to send out your thank you notes.  I know I said it above, but it bears repeating.  I am not sure where this misconception started that a bride and groom have "a year" to get their thank you notes out.  It's not true, and frankly, it's rude.  Take a few weeks, even one month, but never a year.  Delaying that long sends a clear message to your guests that writing the thank you notes is not worth your time and a drag, and that you are unappreciative of the gift.  And trust me: your gift-givers will remember that it took you forever to get those notes out.

What do you think? Am I being too harsh? Or do you agree with me that the one year rule is inappropriate?

See you swoon,

What Would Jamie Wear: Bridal Party Accessories

The Cape May wedding that I talked about last week is drawing near so let's get down to business and find some fantastic accessories for the bridal party that will be unique, classic and not to mention a nice piece to keep as a memory of such a wonderful occasion!  When you go shopping for accessories make sure not to go overboard with statement pieces.  If you wear a necklace that really stands out, keep your earrings simple.  You could certainly wear a bracelet that has a big personality along with earrings that have a similiar effect because they are not right next to one another.

Let me know what you think, and for all of you out there who have attended weddings this past weekend or have weddings coming up, send us pictures of what you decided to wear. I want all the details!!
Cape May Bridal Party dress (this weeks inspiration)

See you swoon,

Home Swoon Home: DIY chandelier

I'm on a home redecorating kick at my house.  I am trying to make my home into a haven that truly reflects my style and fill it with things and colors that I absolutely love.  I am slowly moving room by room and have finished up the living room, dining room, playroom and laundry room.  I'll be posting before & afters in the coming weeks and months and will also show some pretty easy (and inexpensive!) ways to make some upgrades.

Today: my dining room chandelier.  When we bought the house in 2004, it came with a classic brass chandelier.  Totally not my style.  At all. But it was functional and the perfect size for the space and while I can do lots of handy projects, I do not touch electrical.  For two years I lived with that chandelier and gave it dirty looks every time I saw it.  Finally, while on maternity leave with my son, I decided I had had enough.  I went to Michael's and bought some foam brushes and two tubes of antique copper craft paint.  In a few hours, my chandelier went from this (note: drapes, furniture & wallpaper belonged to former homeowner):

to this.

Nice.  However, after a few years, I wanted a different look.  I had since removed the former owner's wallpaper and painted the room a lovely deep red.  I changed that to a light taupe a few months ago, which you will see when I do the before & afters.  In working on my dining room redo, I absolutely fell in love with this chandelier from Pottery Barn.  I did not love the $300 price tag (not including shipping).  So I looked at my chandelier.  The lines were kind of similar to the Pottery Barn number.  Maybe I could paint it again and add some crystals? I figured the worst thing that could happen was that I destroyed the chandelier and would have to replace it.  I had saved some money for a new light fixture anyway, so I had nothing to lose.

Here's the Pottery Barn chandelier

and here is my knock-off

What I did:  bought a tube of "wrought iron" colored craft paint at Michaels and applied with foam brush. The finish was way too flat, so I topped it off with a shinier black.  I bought some crystals on eBay for about $20.  I strung them together and used (gasp) hot glue to affix them to the chandelier.  Then I bought new white linen shades, at $4 a pop online.  The ivory shades that I had just weren't right.

What it cost:

* two containers craft paint from Michaels: on sale for 99 cents each = $2.00 total

* crystals from Chandelier Liquidators on eBay: $20 (I have more than half of them leftover for future projects, too!)

* six new white chandelier shades from Kiefer's Chandelier Parts online: $24

* foam brushes & hot glue: $0 (already had on hand)


I love the finished product.  I know this isn't my forever chandelier, but for right now, it works.  I can use the extra crystals for other projects and will be able to either reuse the chandelier shades or just sell those puppies on eBay if they don't work out.  The moral of the story: don't be afraid to work with what you've got!  Have confidence in your ability to transform things in your home.  It's fun.

Got any projects you're dying to try but not sure how it will go? Let us know!

See you swoon,

Swooning for Budget Friendly Honeymoons

I am just itching for a vacation right now so this could not have come at a better time. Lately I have been stalking travel sites trying to find the best deals available and dreaming of my next destination. I am a sucker for any location with blue water and an all inclusive but you can be sure these sites offer many other options from a relaxing beach getaway to adventurous excursions.

    Let me just say, this site has everything!!  You can find the top 20 best travel deals of the week along with search engines used to find the best flights, hotels, and cruise packages available.  You must check this one out, you do not want to miss all the deals that are available here.  You can also subscribe to this site and receive newsletters to stay up to date.

Trip Advisor can be used for multiple purposes.  I find it most useful to search destinations I am considering and read what other people think about the location and their experience at each hotel or resort.  You can look at pictures that others travelers have posted to get a real feel for whether this would be a good fit for you.  Check it out and let me know what you think of this one.

This site by far has some of the best vacation deals I have seen.  I love searching their 99 hour sale and thinking of where I could be in a few short hours enjoying the sun, a massage on the beach and fantastic food.  While you are limited to locations with...blue water, I am positive you will not be disappointed.

I would love to hear about your recent vacations and sites you like to book from.  Don't hold back I want to hear all the stories, especially becase it may help me pick my next vacation spot!

See you swoon,

Swoon-worthy bridal shower gifts

What to buy for a shower gift can be a tough decision.  If you're a guest, it never hurts to stick to the registry or buy a gift-card to a store that you know that bride and groom will like.  However, if you're a bridesmaid or the mother of the bride or groom, or if the bride is a special friend, you may want to step up your game a bit and give the bride something a little more thoughtful and special.  Here are a few tried and true hits:

* Months of the Year: This takes awhile, but is well worth the effort.  My mother did this for me for my bridal shower and I still hear raves about it (and honestly, am still touched by the gift).  Essentially, you give the bride 12 boxes, one for each month and explain why each gift is appropriate for that month. January can be hot cocoa mix and mugs; February maybe a Chinese cookbook for the Chinese new year; April can be Easter items; June can be BBQ supplies; October can be Halloween; December can be Hanukkah, Christmas or Kwanzaa.  You can keep it simple with one gift per month or go further and do a box filled with stuff.

* Something Old, New, Borrowed, Blue: This gift is also a lot of fun to give and to receive and is based on the tradition of the bride having something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue on her wedding day.   Some ideas:

-something old: an antique for her home; a family heirloom; a classic book that she loves; an old photo in a lovely frame.

-something new: something off of her registry; a gift that seems totally her style.

-something borrowed: loan her something that you carried on your wedding; give her a cookbook and let her "borrow" recipes from the author - may I suggest Barefoot Contessa? I {love} Ina Garten more than words can say.

-something blue: blue lingerie, a baby blue spatula for her kitchen, a blue kitchen towel.

* Christmas Ornaments: there are kits out there like this one that follow the German tradition of giving a bride a set of ornaments for her Christmas tree, all containing symbols of love, family and marriage. Rather than buy the kits, I prefer to find my own ornaments and substitute certain things if needed.  It is more fun that way, albeit a lot more work.

* Wine Lover's gift: My mother-in-law did this for me and I loved it: she bought a big basket and filled with all sorts of wine themed items: a corkscrew, some cheese plates, a few bottles of wine (ahh, she knows the way to my heart), and some bottle stoppers.

* Cooking Lessons: This is a great one if you know the bride can't cook or loves to cook ... or is anywhere in between!  You can get some cooking lessons for her and her fiance and then pick up a whisk and bowl and tie them all together.  How fun is that?

* Early Honeymoon: Most couples are delaying their departure for the honeymoon until two days after the wedding.  You could buy a night's stay in a really luxe hotel room for them to spend the night before they leave on their honeymoon - just be sure to pick a hotel that has easy access to the airport.  It's a great way to kick off the honeymoon.

* Honeymoon-themed gift: Find out where the bride and groom are honeymooning and base your gift around that.  If they're headed to Hawaii, get beach accessories for them: towels, sunscreen, flip-flops, magazines & books for the flight; if they're going to Europe, get some Euros, a handful of travel books, maybe some wine from the countries to which they're traveling.

I hope this gives you a few ideas for thinking outside the (gift) box. haha.  What is your favorite creative gift to give?

See you swoon,

{photo courtesy of Country Living}

What Would Jamie Wear: Cape May Rehearsal Dinner

One of our readers has a Cape May wedding coming up and has asked for some help. This will be a two part post so stay tuned next week to see accessory ideas for the bridal party.

This rehearsal dinner will be more on the casual side with the groom wearing shorts and a button down. The dresses I have found will work for more than just a rehearsal dinner, you could wear them at work (as long as your dress code allows) and you could definitely wear them on the weekends for another party. Remember ladies, price per wear!!

I am in love with this color blue, it is so bright and beautiful.  The ruffle neckline adds just enough flare to make this dress exciting.

This dress is not necessarily something you could wear to work but it is a nice addition to a summer dress wardrobe and would be perfect for a summer rehearsal dinner.

This wrap dress is similiar to the first dress but this is another example of a dress that you could wear to work and could also double as a dress that would work for a rehearsal dinner.  The bold color makes you stand out without being loud or obnoxious and this color can be falttering on many people too!

The print on this dress really pops.   It is always nice to have a few dresses in your arsenal that are not just worn once and never seen again.

What are some of your favorite places to shop?  I love finding new boutiques and trends that I can share with everyone.  As always, happy shopping!

See you swoon,

Shanna's Picks: home & wedding magazines

If you were not already aware, I absolutely adore magazines. I subscribe to about ten. Don't believe me? Ask my husband and our postman. I rationalize the high volume of glossies by arguing that I don't have time to read actual books and if left to my own devices I would surely purchase magazines at the newsstand (which is always more expensive than a subscription). Being the magazine maven that I am, I naturally have a few faves and am happy to share.

Wedding Magazines:

It's not that easy to find wedding magazines these days.  Sure, they are out there, but their numbers are dwindling.  It's really kind of sad, I think.  In fact, one of my absolute favorite wedding magazines, Elegant Bride, was canceled last year.  Sure, blogs are in and blogs are great, but it's just not the same as getting your hands on a glossy and flipping through the pages.

Martha Stewart Weddings:

I already raved about Martha's website, and I feel the same way about her magazine.  I never fail to be awed by the creative but not too "crafty" ideas in her magazine.  The magazine features pretty much everything and anything someone needs in planning a wedding: swoon-worthy dresses and accessories, Q&As, real weddings, DIY projects and honeymoon ideas and advice.  And, it's always 100% class with Martha.  I can look back at my stash from 2001 and 2002 and the weddings are just as lovely and stylish now as they were then.

Inside Weddings:

Inside Weddings is a bit more fashion forward than Martha Stewart Weddings, in my opinion.  Like Martha, Inside Weddings features it all: gowns, real weddings, beautiful ideas to make your own and tons of eye candy to enjoy.  Everything in this magazine is on trend or one step ahead.  Love it.

Home Magazines:

Oooooooooh, home magazines.  Unfortunately, home magazines are also folding (RIP Domino Magazine ... sob sob).  But there are still quite a few that make me do the happy dance when they arrive in my mailbox.

DIY Magazine:

I love this magazine.  Only two things could possibly increase my love for it: (1) that it would be published more than four times per year and (2) that I discovered it sooner.  DIY Magazine has so many easy projects (and some more challenging) for every area of your home: from choosing the right paint colors to refinishing a dresser and from tips on how to spruce up your patio to full-fledged makeovers.  It isn't easy to find the actual magazine, but I bought my first copy at Lowe's while waiting in line (to buy paint of course) and subscribed as soon as I got home.  I'm hooked. And I'd venture a guess that you will be too.

Better Homes & Gardens:

My thoughtful mother-in-law gave me a gift subscription to this magazine a few years ago, and she has been kind enough to keep renewing it.  I'm so glad: Better Homes & Gardens (who also publishes DIY Magazine), is chock-full of swoon-worthy home ideas.  While DIY Magazine is focused solely on home projects, BHG has a little bit of everything: home, recipes, entertaining and gardening.  I can attest that the first three are always wonderful.  As for gardening, I cannot vouch for its contents.  I do not, and cannot, garden.  I am cursed with a pretty very black thumb.

Architectural Digest:

It's funny: I have no clue how or why I started receiving this magazine each month.  I did not subscribe and no one I know sent me a subscription.  But my name is there on the addressee panel and I am not going to question.  Architectural Digest is so far from my personal design aesthetic and so completely beyond my budget, but I have an incredible appreciation for the designs featured in it.  The clean lines, the modern decor ... it all had me at hello.

There you have it! My favorite home and wedding magazines. What about you? What are your favorites? Please share if I've missed one or two -- because you know I'm itching to get just one more magazine subscription. Apologies in advance to Mr. Postman.

See you swoon,