Ingredients for the Perfect Wedding

The elements that make weddings shine are mostly intangible. 

The weddings I've attended that were not only fun, but totally memorable, always have a certain je ne sais quoi, It's something that wedding planners would make a fortune if they could just bottle it and sell it.  And when it comes to wedding planning,  brides tend to strive for greatness. For months — sometimes years — they consider each detail and how it will impact the wedding ceremony and reception, and represent the spirit of the couple. While candles, beautiful flowers and spot lighting certainly add to the ambiance of the room, the truth is, it's the intangible ingredients, like the right blend of people and the tone of the music, that makes a wedding truly shine.

The Perfect Wedding Ingredients

1. Love in the room : The actual feeling of love in the room comes from the couple surrounding themselves with people who truly care about their happiness. Everyone is smiling. You can hear a pin drop during the speeches and the guests will cheer for the bride and groom during their first dance and request constant kissing through the clanking of glasses during dinner. It's a magical feeling that cannot be disrupted or interrupted by the biggest of wedding hiccups.

2. Intimate Guest List: Even with a massive guest list, the wedding won't feel huge with the right combination of people. The key is to invite those who want to be there to show their support and enthusiasm for the unity of the couple. That starts by asking the right individuals to attend. If you dig too deep into the extended circles, then you are more likely to end up with people who could negatively impact the vibe of the celebration.

3. Music: Whether with a DJ or band, good music will get people moving, having fun and breaking a sweat. Couples that put time into song selection will certainly see the reward of their efforts through a packed dance floor. Think about including uplifting songs that will appeal to the attendees. There is nothing more fun than dancing all night with the newlyweds to make people never want to leave the party!

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4. Gracious Bride and Groom: It's the bride and groom who actually set the tone for the evening, by demonstrating their appreciation for both each other and for their families. It shows for miles when the bride and groom is grateful for the love and support they have received along the way. After all, people love a good fairy tale.

5. Enthusiastic Wedding Party: A smiling and happy wedding party can take a wedding from an 8 to an 11 in just a few seconds. They serve as the instruments of the bride and groom and should represent accordingly. From being prepared with their speeches, to leading the charge to the dance floor, a good wedding party is key. Choose wisely!

B is for Bestie...and Bridesmaid

When You're a Bridesmaid, Being a Good Friend Matters.

The countdown is on for my BFF's wedding, which will bring my Maid of Honor duties for this wedding season to a close. I have been "on duty" for well over a year, standing beside two of my best friends, one this past November, and now another coming up Memorial Day weekend.

It's been a great ride.

When your two best friends from different walks of life get married in the same year, you learn much more than how to make bouquets out of ribbon and why peonies are such a big freaking deal. You learn about the gritty meaning of what it takes to be a good friend.

That's because as a bridesmaid, all of the elements of your friendship with the bride come together in fast-forward mode. You have to remember how you fight, how you make up, how to listen and, most importantly, how to think about what your friend wants, rather than what you want (queue strippers vs. karaoke singing at the bachelorette party). This is the time when the bride really needs you - not just to throw parties and be a sounding board for all things wedding, but to help her actually get the guts to walk down the aisle, looking better than ever, while cracking up to your inside jokes until she says "I do."

My friend who is getting married in a few weeks has been one of my dearest friends since we were five or six years old. We grew up together and have seen one another at our very best — and our very worst. Our fights border on sisterly just as much as our laughs. So when she got engaged, she genuinely wanted to share each moment with me while she plotted through the unchartered territory of wedding planning. And it was an honor to be there — for real. Periodically, just to let her know that I was totally in it with her, I would look at her and say, "We're getting married!" And we'd laugh.

Somewhere between the 3rd and 4th dress fitting, the second bridal shower and receiving the invitation she'd explained in such detail over the phone in the mail, I understood something that maybe slipped my mind over years of friendship: I was her person. And this was much more than just being a bridesmaid — it's about celebrating the culmination of years of friendship.

When you're a bridesmaid, you can finally show your friends just how important they are to you, and that's a kind of love and support that is so sincere, it is reciprocated 10-fold in plain old appreciation. Knowing that friendship is what being a bridesmaid is actually all about, makes it a breeze to show up for each event and be the best friend I can be.  I know there is a lot of folklore about the role of the bridesmaid, mostly tied to bridezillas and unrealistic (and expensive!) demands. Forget all that.

It's really just about being a good friend.


The Art of Wedding Dress Shopping Supervision

When wedding dress shopping with your best friend, make sure to remember your duties as a bridesmaid.

Shopping for wedding dresses is something every girl dreams about. It's the toile, the lace, the standing on a literal pedestal in front of 20 full-length mirrors and, of course, the champagne. The process is truly magical - for the bride.

But when wedding dress shopping becomes a spectator sport, the process is also bout hustling to different shops in the snow, the high-pitched squeals of delight from the saleswomen and the oftentimes unwanted feedback from the peanut gallery of overeager cousins, aunts and bridesmaids.

See, when you're a bridesmaid, one of the chief duties is to participate in the selection of the bride's wedding dress. It really is super fun, but until she finds The One, the bride may try on just one dress or she may try on 200. It can be as daunting as finding the groom in the first place.

So when it comes time to hit the shops on the Mag Mile or flying to NYC to say yes to the dress at Kleinfeld's, all bridesmaids coming along for the ride have to be prepared.

Here are some tips on how to master the art of wedding dress shopping supervision:

1. Remember that you're not the bride. That's right, your friend or sister is the bride, and not you. So her style is probably going to vary from your own. Keep that in mind before you open your mouth. In fact….

2. Wait for her reaction first. Before you say a word of yay or nay, unless she is about to make a truly undeniably huge mistake, keep your mouth shut until you know if she likes the dress or not. Especially with the first few dresses that come out. Listening will help you understand what she is looking for - and keep your own taste out of the picture.

3. Manage the room. Especially if you're the Maid of Honor, you have cart blanche to tell the other bridesmaids to STFU if you have to. Or to politely say to the group, "I would love to hear what Mandy thinks about this option" and take it from there. The bride is likely trying to manage a lot of people - give her a hand if you need to.

4. Take pictures (even when it's against the rules). Fine, maybe it's unethical. But if your BFF is about to drop a gr$nd on a dress, she is going to want to have some photos for comparison purposes or to gaze at until the order comes in. A lot of show won't allow photography, but since I am rebellious in the face of love, I pretend to text and snap a photo. Sorry I'm not sorry.

5. Don't allow the bride to be bulldozed by the salespeople. The people at bridal salons mean the best - there is absolutely no doubt about that. But they are also trying to get in a smoke break before their next client - the sooner they get you to say yes, the sooner they can go do other things. So if your bride isn't happy with the cut or the color or the beading and is trying to be polite, it's perfectly acceptable to step in. Here's how: "Mandy, I think I'm hearing that you don't like it. Am I right?" Look right at the bride, ignore the sales people. Your friend nods and says, "I don't like it." That's when you look at the sales person. Just stare, you don't have to say a word. They will bring out another option.

6. Be prepared to gush really, really hard. If your bride finds the dress and it's The One get ready to squeal, scream, celebrate and tear up. This is a huge moment! So no matter how many dresses you've seen, when the bride says she's found it, go absolutely freaking nuts.

And ladies? Good luck out there.


Bridesmaids 101

Everything you need to know about being a bridesmaid.

Since starting my bridesmaids project, several brides have come to me asking what they should expect from their wedding party. These are mostly brides who maybe haven't been a bridesmaid before or they are the very-first bride within a group of friends. It's never easy asking for things from your gal pals, so I help them manage expectations.

I also hear from first-time bridesmaids, who are wondering what their responsibilities are for the big day. I always sort of giggle at that...because the expectations don't just last a day - they last throughout the entire engagement process. So I help them too.

It got me thinking that maybe not everyone is familiar with the duties that accompany bridesmaid-dom, so I put together a little overview of what you can expect and what should be expected of you. Brides/Bridesmaids: hope this helps.

Bridesmaid 101:

1. The Dress:You can't walk down the aisle naked. Anyway you slice it, attire will be involved. Granted, it could be a tuxedo,a flapper dress, a ball gown or something simple and pretty. Either way, expect to spend up to $350 on this. Anticipate that it might not be your favorite dress. But instead of thinking how you can only wear in once, embrace the fact that you will never have to wear it again. See? It's all about the power of positive thinking.

2. Bridal Shower: While you might not have to throw the shower, make absolutely certain that someone is taking the reigns. If not, sorry sister, it's on you. But don't worry, showers can be simple and inexpensive if you get creative. And you do have to get the bride a gift. If you are invited to more than one shower, bring something small to each shower so you don't show up empty-handed. The bride will argue with you about this. But if you don't, you will be embarrassed while presents are opened. Trust me.

3. Bachelorette Party: The Maid of Honor will usually take the reins on the big bachelorette party, utilizing the help of the bridesmaids. Work together to create a fun and stress-free night for the bride. Usually gifts are also required - but cute negligee can be purchased on the cheap at Le Target and other places. Don't go overboard if you can't afford it. Her husband-to-be will never know the difference.

4. Be responsive to the bride: This is like way important. If the bride sends an email, respond. If you are single, down on your luck and exhausted of talking about weddings, then FAKE IT. Yep. Sorry, I am not advising you to be totally inauthentic, but wedding planning is no joke. Be there for your bride. Respond to emails. Be engaged in the process (see what I did there?!).

5. Do not create stress: Your job as a bridesmaid is to make the day less stressful for the bride. If the twinkle lights at the rehearsal dinner aren't plugged in, make sure it gets done. If the bride has lipstick on her teeth, get it off. Pay attention to what she needs until she says otherwise. This also includes making sure she doesn't look foolish - grab her strapless dress and hoist it up if her bra straps are showing. ET CETERA.

6. Lay down the hammer: So, the reason why you're a bridesmaid is because you are a very important part of the bride's life. So if your bride is being a pain in the ass or seems to be unreasonable, go ahead and let her know. Obviously, within reason, but don't underestimate the power of humor. Bridezillas are a fact of wedding folklore so when your bestie gets carried away, steer her back in the right direction. Gently.

7. Have like the best time ever:Approach every event with a fun attitude and enthusiasm. Listen, the bride doesn't need to know that you are hungover as all hell at her bridal shower. That's why there are multiple 'maids. Tell them that you feel like garbage, but never make the bride feel burdened by your overindulgence in the sauce - or anything else that might be ailing you. Your problems will take a back seat during big events. Embrace that and be a good friend and listener.

8. It all comes full circle: This is possibly the most important thing to remember. Being a bridesmaid is an American tradition. Those of us who have been bridesmaids what feels like 100 times, may not want to put their friends through the process when it's their turn to tie the knot. I say, "NUH UH." Make them do it, so you can have the showers, fun and big smiles. Plus, why not take advantage of a little pay back time?!

As always, questions, comments and feedback are welcomed.