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Tips for planning a unique and personalized wedding

Sharon Naylor, author of “Your Wedding Your Way” shares her top tips with us on how to create a one-of-a-kind wedding, most of which won’t cost you a dime!

1. Use elements of your love story in every area of your wedding; from the food on the menu to the songs on your playlist. Draw from the best memories of your falling-in-love days. Serving the same creme brulee that you had the night you got engaged reminds you of a very special moment in your love story, and let’s guests share in the fabulous elements of your history. Some ideas: use the songs he loaded onto your iPod when you were first dating, serve the same vintage of wine that you served him the first time you cooked dinner for him, choose a coconut custard wedding cake filling to pay homage to the first island vacation you took together (and the dessert you shared while watching the sun set over the ocean…just before he proposed.)

2. Bring in songs you like for the party. If you don’t create and submit a list, the deejay or band will most likely just play songs from the Top 100 Cliche Songs Played at All Weddings. Including the Chicken Dance. No one wants that. So sit down with your groom, go through your iPods and your iTunes selections and create your own lineup of great songs—some of them obscure, all of them family-friendly— to make your reception unique and memorable…and sentimental to you.

3. Choose a location that’s unlike anything your friends have done, but make sure the site you choose has all of the items you’ll need without spending a fortune on rentals. I’m a big fan of bed & breakfasts for small to medium-sized weddings. They’re unique and charming, some are big enough for all of your guests to stay there and have all events in one place, and many are located in fantastic tourism areas like wine country and ski resort areas. You can then have a destination wedding just a few hours away, if that. To find a great B&B, go to http://www.BnBFinder.com

4. Theme your rehearsal dinner and morning-after breakfasts. These two events have been virtually theme-free for years, which is mind-boggling! They’re such great opportunities for you to honor one or both of your cultures, or a theme you may have considered for your reception but decided against (such as an outdoor clam bake that would have been too expensive for 200 guests, but is perfect for 20 guests as the rehearsal dinner!).

5. Tweak the Father-Daughter and Mother-Son dances to make those first dances more unique. It’s already been a trend for brides and grooms to do a tango or some other fun, unexpected dance instead of the side to side swaying slow dance, so borrow that idea for the parental dances. You might even decide to invite your entire families out for each of your songs. At one recent wedding, the mother of the groom suggested that the entire family join them on the dance floor to enjoy the song ‘On Broadway,’ her favorite song from her son’s era as captain of the drum line in high school. It was completely fun and got both parents and the groom’s siblings honored in that special group dance…far better than dancing to ‘Wind Beneath My Wings’ like so many other grooms and moms.

6. Tell your caterer you’d like to get adventurous with your menu. Avoid “the usuals” and bring in organic foods if you’re the green-minded type. Even if the dishes you select are from “the inexpensive list” of pasta and chicken, your caterer can dress them up with unique sauces that make it seem like you spent more than you did. Just by virtue of having something different on the menu, it impresses, and it allows you to bring in your favorite foods.

7. Write your own ceremony. Of course, houses of worship may have rules about what you can add to their traditional scripts, so get permission before you write your own poems or add your own favorite readings from terrific authors and classic voices. It’s the words that make the wedding, so this is the ultimate area in which to personalize your day.

8. Propose a toast. Yes, the Best Man gets the first toast at the reception and the Maid of Honor proposes the next toast. In the past, the bride and groom have stayed away from the microphone, but now it’s a fabulous touch for you to take the microphone right before you cut the cake and thank your parents for a lifetime of love and support, as well as thanking your guests for being there to share your day. This doesn’t mean you don’t have to circulate to all guest tables to say an in-person hello. It’s a way to make your day your own, and lets you deliver a heartfelt message to the most important people around you.

9. Use elements from your heritage. This is making a huge comeback right now. Ask your in-the-know relatives, and—this is a goldmine of ideas—contact the national association for your heritage (found online) to learn about cultural wedding rites that you can incorporate into your plans. Then give a modern twist to (such as sipping plum wine with his parents, rather than having his mom throw plums at you for luck), and make it fun for all of your guests.

Purchase “Your Wedding Your Way” from bookstore…

Gorgeous champagne wedding gown – J10

Jaqueline by Monique Lhuillier – J05

DIY Felt Fortune Cookies

Felt Fortune Cookie How-To
1. Using fabric shears, cut a 4 1/2-inch-diameter circle from a piece of felt. Cut a piece of matching ribbon slightly shorter than 4 1/2 inches. Using wire cutters, cut a piece of floral wire slightly shorter than the length of ribbon.
2. Using craft glue, affix the wire to the middle of the felt circle. Glue ribbon on top, covering the wire. Let dry 30 minutes.
3. Fold the felt circle in half, using the wire as a guide, so ribbon is inside cookie. Next, angle the sides toward each other, bending the wire at its halfway point and forming a fortune-cookie shape, as shown.
4. Assemble the fortune cookies. Carefully peel back one flap of the felt cookie, and insert a paper fortune and a few candies. Fold the flap back over to close cookie around contents.

DIY Carrot cup cake

Makes 84 mini cupcakes

· 1 pound carrots, finely grated
· 3 large eggs, room temperature
· 2 cups sugar
· 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
· 1/3 cup buttermilk
· 1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise, seeds scraped and reserved
· 1/2 cup golden raisins
· 3 cups all-purpose flour
· 1 teaspoon baking soda
· 2 teaspoons baking powder
· 1 teaspoon salt
· 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
· 1 teaspoon ground ginger
· 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
· 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
· 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
· 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
· 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
· 3 pounds rolled fondant
· Pearl dust in silver
· 84 edible cake jewels (fancyflours.com)
1. Make cupcakes: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line mini muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk together carrots, eggs, sugar, oil, buttermilk, vanilla-bean seeds, and raisins. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices. Stir flour mixture into carrot mixture until well combined.
2. Divide batter among liners, filling 3/4 full. Bake until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, 23 to 28 minutes, rotating tins halfway through. Transfer tins to racks to cool for 10 minutes. Remove from tins; let cool completely.
3. Make frosting: Beat cream cheese and butter with 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar. Continue to beat while adding remaining sugar 1/4 cup at a time. Add vanilla, and beat until fluffy, about 5 minutes.
4. To assemble each cupcake: Dollop 1 teaspoon frosting onto cupcake (do not spread to edges). Roll out fondant 1/8 inch thick and cut a 2-inch circle. Gently place fondant over cupcake, creating a pillowlike shape. With a knife, cut a 3/4-inch slit in fondant. To make the ring, roll a small piece of fondant into a rope about 1/16 inch thick; cut to be 1 1/2 inches long. Brush with pearl dust, and shape into a horseshoe. Place curved side of ring in slit, and let stand about 10 minutes to set. Trim tiny edge from top ends of ring to remove the dry tips and create a flat edge. Lightly moisten ring (this will also help remove the dull finish). Set jewel carefully in place, and let dry.

DIY Fortune Cookie Favors

What You’ll Need
Decorative or Scrapbook paper (not too thick, similar to a text weight,
not cardstock)
White text weight paper
Double faced tape
A pencil
A round plastic lid to use as a template (approximately four to five
inches in diameter) or a extra large circle craft punch
A pair of scissors
Computer and printer
1.  Begin by using a plastic lid as a template to trace circles on your
decorative paper.   A 12” square piece of paper yields approximately 9
circles.   Cut out your circles using your scissors.   If you have an
extra large circle craft punch, that works well too.  (see figure 1)
2.  Fold a circle in half with the pattern side in.   Make a crease (at
arrow A) along the folded edge.  (see figure 2)
3.  Open your circle, and turn it pattern side out.
4.  Turn your circle so the crease you made in step 2 is vertical. Fold
the circle in in half horizontally, pattern side out, rounded side down,
Do NOT crease.  (see figure 3)
Hold the half circle on the bottom, ( where arrow B points in figure 3)
between your thumb and index finger.   Use the index finger from your
other hand to push in the middle of the folded side of the circle at the
crease.  (where arrow C points in figure 3).
As you push in, the top corners will start to turn up.
Continue to hold the half circle and use your other hand to pull the
corners in until they nearly meet and form the cookie shape.
If your cookie doesn’t want to stay folded, use a tiny piece of double
stick tape to keep the halves together.  (at arrow in figure 6)
Compose your fortunes on your computer and print them out on a standard
sheet of printer paper using a nine point font.  The fortunes can be a
simple note for the guests such as  ”We’re so fortunate to know you.
Thanks for being here today”.   Keep the fortunes  just a sentence or two
Cut the fortunes into small slips of paper approximately 1/2 inch high by
two to three inches long.  (see figure 7)
Tuck the fortune into one of the open ends of the cookie.  (see figure 8 )
Display in a bowl or on a tray for your guests.
You may struggle with the first one, but after folding a couple of
cookies, you will have it mastered.
What It Costs:
Not much at all !  It works out to be less than 10 cents a cookie.

-Project created by Laurie Cinotto

DIY Birdcage Wedding Veil

Making a veil at home can be just as simple as hunting for one. This birdcage veil was custom made for the bride above, Halligan Norris Smith. The assemblage process took only a couple of hours and shopping for the materials was even less time. The best part is that you have the custom veil you wanted, for much less money.

Materials & Tools
-4×4 Square of felt
-1/2 yd of 9 or 8” wide Russian veiling
-Hat combs (optional, bobby pins may substitute)
-Fabric glue
-Good luck charm
-3 silk or fabric flowers, source: craft store, tinseltrading.com
-8 filler flowers, millinery or small silk flowers work well
-Needle & thread
-Straight pins
-Ruler/ measuring tape

Step 1-Cut heart from felt using template or freehand
Step 2-Cut veiling to 14” piece, if you want a fuller veil add an inch or two, demonstrate fullness by gathering the fabric in one hand. When cutting, be sure to cut just below the “knots”
Step 3-With needle and thread make a continuous running stitch starting with a cut edge, then work needle along one finished edge and thru the other cut edge. Leaving opposite finished edge open. Be sure to catch each stitch through the “knots” of the veiling.
Step 4- Gather to fit on felt heart, then tack down by stitching with needle and thread. At this point play with veiling and placement using a model head or in the mirror. If using combs, attach now to opposite side of heart that veil is attached to.
Steps 5 & 6-Pin flowers to heart, on top of veiling to figure out best placement, then tack down with needle and thread or glue into place.
Step 7-Once main flowers are set into place add filler flowers, good luck charms or trims to your liking. Set flowers by gluing stem ends and sticking them in-between main flowers. Charms or trims can be added with needle and thread.