Getting Through the First 5 Years

Insight from a Wedding Planner
by Lisa R. Nelson

As much as I would like to say that the wedding is the most important thing, it’s not. The wedding is only the beginning. The planning is fun. The dreaming is fun. The idea of your family and friends in one place is fun. I suppose a wedding is a good start, because it teaches the couple how to work together.

Well, once the fairytale is over – life starts anew. What happens when all the excitement of the wedding and honeymoon wears down? Life – and sometimes it’s not too pretty. Let's talk about marriage. After all, that’s what we are all doing here, yes? You are working towards the ultimate goal of spending your life with the person you love and I am helping you to take the first step. I still believe in the dream of the fairytale marriage. The magical “happily ever after”. Can it happen? I don’t know. I’ve been married for 6.5 years…and I am still hoping for mine.

What is the secret? I wish someone could tell me. In my case, none of the people in my life had their “happily ever after”. That’s what progress is about. You are supposed to do better than your parents. Part of being married is being able to work together as a team...a strong united front (this really helps when you have kids). Having someone who knows who you are - deeply and completely - and someone you who can truly be yourself with is a gift. If you can across a table from your partner without saying a word and feel totally comfortable – you are golden!

I think the most important thing is not lose yourself. The ole’ “Ball and Chain” is definitely OUT in 2009. Yes, I do agree that the wedding ceremony unites you. This is true. But, you were your own self before the marriage and you continue to be yourself after the marriage. It’s important that you maintain your identity and friendships and are able to go out, or stay in, and be your own person.

Communication is clearly important, as well. But, honestly, sometimes you just don’t want to talk. I will admit that effective communication can be difficult to pull off, especially when discussing an emotional topic, but in the end it’s worth it!

So…there you go. My secret to lasting the first 5 years of marriage. 10 years? I don’t know. I’m not an expert yet. Perhaps I will write another blog in 3.5 years and share my secrets.

By Popular Demand... now has a Facebook group. It seems to be part of ongoing effort to be everywhere at once, doesn't it? But it's a good fit for us, when you think about it, since most of our readers are busy homemakers and professionals. So if you're doing any networking on Facebook, pop over to our group and join the fun.

Controversy: Negro Face Cookies???

Well. This is not the kind of publicity most bakers hope for. But an idea by one New York business owner is obviously "half-baked" to say the least. He says his Drunken Negro Face Cookies, created "in honor" of President Obama are funny. And of course he's acting completely surprised that no one is laughing. See the full story and video on

Wedding Gown of the Day

Alfred Angelo
Style 1649W

Upside Down: Friday Inspiration

- by Erica
This post originated on our sister blog "Beautiful Brown Babies." But as we wind up a truly exciting and inspiring week, it occured to me that everyone could use a little Jack Johnson (singer/guitarist from Hawaii, like our new President) in their lives. Leave it to my 2-year-old to pick out the perfect tune and video to sum up the events of this week. It's Jack Johnson's "Upside Down" from the Curious George soundtrack. Just try to watch and listen without cracking a smile.

Who´s to say what´s impossible?
Well, they forgot this world keeps spinning
And with each new day
I can feel a change in everything

And as the surface breaks reflections fade
But in some ways they remain the same
And as my mind begins to spread it's wings
There´s no stopping curiosity

I want to turn the whole thing upside down
I´ll find the things they say just can´t be found
I´ll share this love I find with everyone
We´ll sing and dance to mother nature´s songs
I don´t want this feeling to go away

Who´s to say I can´t do everything?
Well, I can try, and as I roll along I begin to find
Things aren´t always just what they seem

I want to turn the whole thing upside down
I´ll find the things they say just can´t be found
I´ll share this love I find with everyone
We´ll sing and dance to mother nature´s songs

This world keeps spinning
And there's no time to waste
Well it all keeps spinning spinning
Round and round and upside down

Who´s to say what´s impossible and can´t be found?
I don´t want this feeling to go away

Please don´t go away
Please don´t go away
Please don´t go away

Is this how it´s supposed to be?
Is this how it´s supposed to be?

The Skinny on Wedding Planner Prices

- Lisa Nelson of Elegant Event Design

You will find that many of my entries are inspired by people that I have met with or talked to. I have a good one this week!

I had a couple who was interested in hiring a planner with 4+ years experience, was certified, had at least 5 vendor and bride references and had a knack for style. They were interested in partial planning, and gave an unrealistic budget for all the planning they required. They then asked for a quote via email and choose a planner based solely on the quote.

My first bit of advice - don’t do this.

Yes, the Bride and Groom must be comfortable with what you are paying. I understand the importance, especially in these difficult economic times. I also understand that time is extremely valuable. But, planning a wedding is so personal and intimate. It is absolutely imperative that you are comfortable with the planner you choose and your styles are very similar, especially if he/she is going to be making design recommendations. I would never recommend that you visit 10, but interview your top 2 or 3.

So, with this in mind, I thought would review the different ways in which planners price their services, and how this pricing might not make sense for you. We will discuss “the flat rate”, “the percentage package” and “the hourly charge”

1. Flat rate packages – A planner will tell you that he/she will plan your wedding for a certain dollar figure. Often times, wedding day coordination services will be billed on a flat rate. Brides are often intrigued by flat rates because they seem all inclusive. There is no possibility of the price going up. Be careful. Make sure you know exactly what you are getting for that rate and that all your needs are met under that price umbrella.

The problem with one size fits all pricing, is that there is not a one size fits all Bride. Different Brides have different needs. Also, every Bride has a different definition of a full service planning. For example, some Brides say that they need full service planning, but they want to attend all the meetings themselves and do not need the planner to attend. They want to go dress shopping by themselves or with their Bridesmaids without the planner. In other words, they want to do some of the planning themselves. Then, there are other Brides who want the planner to do everything with them and always want the planner to be with them. Under a flat rate package, both Brides would pay the same price. My question for you is – why should the Bride who is doing some legwork herself pay the same price as the Bride who has a planner by her side every step of the way?

It’s definitely easier for budgeting purposes….but be careful. The planner has to charge a rate, assuming that the Bride will be using her a lot. Often times, the rate is higher for these packages.

2. The percentage package – The planner will charge a certain percentage of everything she helps you to book. Typically, the commission will be 10-15%. For example, the planner helps you to find a site and the site fee ends up being $1,000.00, she would take her commission based on the site fee. If she charges 10%, she would charge the Bride $100.00 for her effort in helping her find a site. For budget purposes, take your estimated budget, multiply by the percentage, and that will be the final fee.

You must be careful here. In this day and age of the ever expanding wedding budget, you might end up paying more than you would like.

This package is definitely better for the Bride stated above who does her own legwork. Since the planner only charges commissions on the things that she helps the Bride book, the Bride wouldn’t pay a commission on her dress since the planner didn’t have a hand in helping her choose the dress – for example.
Make sure you are very clear on what constitutes a commission owed to the planner. Does making a phone call entitle her to a commission? Make sure it’s clearly stated in the contract.

3. The hourly package – This package is pretty straight forward. The Bride pays hourly for all the planning that is required. After the consultation, the planner will be able to give the Bride an idea on how many hours it’s going to take to plan the wedding.

I think most Brides hate this pricing the most because it always has the potential of going up. Like the percentage package, the more you ask the planner to do, the more it’s going to cost. I don’t know - it makes total sense to me.

This package is excellent for the Bride who wants to do some of the planning herself. It’s also great for the Bride who wants a more customized approach. This package is extremely bad for the Bride who wants the planner to attend every vendor meeting, each dress fitting, etc.

Also, because of its potential for going up, it’s more difficult to budget. A knowledgeable planner will give the Bride an idea of what the final costs will be based on the needs.

This is not an all or nothing situation. Many planners use a combination of all of these packages. For instance, planners might bill on a flat rate for the wedding day services, bill on a flat rate for a certain amount of partial planning, and then go hourly. Then, they might bill on a percentage for the full planning. Or, they might bill on a flat rate for most full planning and a percentage for their largest weddings. Or, they might charge a flat rate for day of services and bill a percentage for all the planning.

You have to think about what your needs are, and then decide what pricing is best for you. If you like a planner that doesn’t offer the package you like, negotiate with him/her.

The First Couple

President Obama!

Associated Press

Happy Inauguration Day!

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!

The famous I Have A Dream speech:

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Fivescore years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free; one hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination; one hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity; one hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself in exile in his own land.

So we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition. In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of our Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was the promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note in so far as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check ; a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.

And so we've come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy; now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice; now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood; now is the time to make justice a reality for all God's children. It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the movement. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality.

Nineteen sixty-three is not and end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content, will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual.

There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds.

Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny and they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. This offense we share mounted to storm the battlements of injustice must be carried forth by a biracial army. We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?: We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality.

We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one.

We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating "for whites only." We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of excessive trials and tribulation. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi; go back to Alabama; go back to Louisiana; go back to the slums and ghettos of the northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can, and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

So I say to you, my friends, that even though we must face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed - we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, sons of former slaves and sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day, even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places shall be made plain, and the crooked places shall be made straight and the glory of the Lord will be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with.

With this faith we will be able to hear out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.

With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to go to jail together, knowing that we will be free one day. This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning-"my country 'tis of thee; sweet land of liberty; of thee I sing; land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride; from every mountain side, let freedom ring"-and if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that.

Let freedom ring from the Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and hamlet, from every state and city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children - black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Catholics and Protestants - will be able to join hands and to sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last, free at last; thank God Almighty, we are free at last."

Does "Simple" Mean Inexpensive? Not Necessarily!

- by Lisa R. Nelson
Simple and Minimalist does not equal inexpensive

Martha Stewart has featured many beautiful weddings in the last 6 years. There was one, that was featured 4-5 years ago that stands out n my mind. It was uncomplicated and easy. It took place in a small room, around a long rectangular table. There were only about 10-15 guests. Everything was draped in white. The flowers were simple but beautiful - oranges, yellows and browns. They had a few large wispy arrangements and then smaller arrangements placed elegantly down the center of the table with candles surround. The chairs were covered with white chair covers - which looked to be custom (I didn’t say the wedding was inexpensive). On the back of only the Bride and Groom chairs was an embroidered monogram. The design was effortless and minimalist. It was absolutely brilliant. This wedding was of the most beautiful weddings I have seen featured in a magazine.

When looking at competitors websites, I came across one that said “simple is boring”. Hhmmmm? I don’t agree - or maybe I am too protective of my style and way of life. One of the biggest trends this year is simplicity of design and style. As both men and women are marrying older, they are looking for a more mature look and style that reflects their maturity in life. Couples are looking for something different - different color combinations and textures, but are looking to simplify. Simple A-line dresses are definitely in. Brides are looking for shed the excess fabric so that their true beauty and sophistication shine through. The make -up is getting much lighter (just to enhance the natural beauty that exists) and the veils much more simple – Cage veils exude class.

Many of the brides who contact me mistakenly say that they want something simple. What they really mean is they want to save money. Simple and inexpensive are not synonymous. Simple is timeless. Have you ever looked at your parents wedding pictures? You can tell the wedding happened n the 70’s or 80’s, because of the feathered hair, the big sleeves and the style of dresses. Simplicity lacks trends. When you take a look at a wedding, it could have taken place at any place or time. This is one of the reasons I love this style.

20% off at Therez Fleetwood Bridal

If you've ever wanted to own a Therez Fleetwood gown or headpiece, now is your chance. The designer herself is offering a 20% off gift certificate. As you may already know Therez Fleetwood is known the world over for her African-influenced wedding creations.
If you're interested, simply go to her website and use the reference code #AAB1909. If you're lucky enough to live close to her Texas studio, you may print out the gift certificate below. The special runs through February 1st.

Bouquet Giveaway!

One of our fellow bloggers is making a truly generous offer to couples getting married this year. Quiana Burwell of Chocolate Brooms and Bouquets is giving away one of her gorgeous "Butterfly Bouquets" (a $55 value, shown left). To win it, all you have to do is tell her the funny or unique way you got engaged. Send your TRUE proposal story to She also has runner-up prizes. But the offer ends on February 1st. So, get to it!
Get more information on her blog.

Jill Scott: Baby on the Way

Just a few months ago, we let you know that singer Jill Scott was engaged to her drummer Lil John Roberts. Now it appears that in addition to a wedding, the Grammy winner has another blessed event in her future: The birth of her first child. That's right, Jilly from Philly is reportedly due on April 25th. Celebrity Babies reports that she spent her first trimester filming HBO's No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency in Botswana.

Weekend Cocktail Series: The Gorgeous Kir Royale

Have any champagne left over from New Year's? If so, you already have one-third of the ingredients needed for this lovely and festive cocktail.

5 oz Champagne
3/4 oz Chambord
Vanilla sugar

Dip the top edge of a Champagne Flute with Chambord and then dip the glass into vanilla sugar to rim the edge with sugar. Pour in the Champagne and carefully top off with the Chambord. How easy is that???

Courtesy of the girls at the Bridal Party Tees

New Release from Kindred The Family Soul

"House of Love"

More on Kindred HERE.

The "Hourly Consultation": Could It Save You Money?

-by Lisa

A couple met with us a few weeks ago. They need someone to direct their wedding day. During the interview, the groom began complaining about the fact the Bride wanted to hire a planner to help plan the entire wedding. He then said – well, it doesn’t really matter because we have gone way beyond our budget anyway. I then quickly turned to him and said, "This is exactly why you needed a planner. A good planner will help you stay on budget."

Upon first thought, the low budget bride hiring a planner sounds counterintuitive. Many couples think that planners are a luxury for the rich. Personally, I think that all brides should ensure not just a perfect day, but also a positive planning experience. It’s just for the reason stated above that a low budget Bride needs a planner more than anyone, and I am going to tell you how you can get one - the hourly consultation service.

Many planners will offer hourly consultation. The prices and the minimum number of hours will vary. Make sure that you choose someone who you will be comfortable with and who knows a variety of quality vendors within your budget. This is very important since there are a lot of vendors out there who prey on unsuspecting Brides in all budget categories. Some planners might even offer you free vendor referrals if you book their minimum hourly service. In addition to vendor referrals, planners can help you to find a site, help with your site design, help with your color and theme, give you access to their personal library of magazines and planning books, or help you to find dresses (Bridal or Bridesmaids). Most importantly, they can create a customized engagement timeline, so that you are doing everything that needs to be done. Additionally, they can help define your priorities and help you to build and track a realistic budget that you can live with.

A good realistic budget is so important from the start. I cannot stress this. A good planner can tell you what’s realistic and offer alternatives so that your dream day can become a reality.

During the interview, make sure you ask the planner what she can do for you for the hours that you have. This will give you an idea of how she can help you. Make sure you get a proposal in writing. Also ask about adding additional services onto your hourly consultation - for example, if you hire her to do the wedding day (not right away, but at some future time), would you be able to acquire a better rate on the consultation service, or an adjusted rate on wedding day services?

2009 Wedding Fashion and Style Trends

-by Erica

Smaller Weddings

A funny thing happened on the way to the altar: The economy veered into the ditch. But we rediscovered something very important. Necessity really is the mother of invention. Some of the most memorable weddings we've seen in the last year have been relatively small or medium-sized affairs. Can you do it, too? Yes, you can.

Simple Dress with Ornate Veil

As we showed you a few weeks ago, the veil is no longer an afterthought in a bride's ensemble. These days, the veil may very well be the centerpiece. One of the newest trends has women buying simple or "destination" style dresses, then pairing it with an ornate veil. Designers are responding by creating pieces with lots of embroidery, beading, and gorgeous netting.

Hair Fascinators & Headpieces

Courtesy of WToo Brides

Have you ever noticed how one trend seems to instantly give birth to its opposite?
While some ladies are going all out for a veil, others are opting out. Instead they're choosing dazzling hair fascinators and headpieces. These options are often as intricate as veils anyway because of feathers, pearls, fabric flowers, or just the hint of a birdcage veil.


This one comes from our resident wedding planner Lisa Nelson who says, "Couples are shying away from the traditional and opting for something more documentary in style. They are also moving away from the “picture in the frame” style Art Leather album to a modern Magazine type layout."

Ultra Personalization

"Bamboo" from Wedding Paper Divas

Just a few years ago, it was en vogue to showcase your nationality or background. But now, brides-to-be are cutting out the middle man and going strictly with what they themselves like- no holds barred, no consultations with Miss Manners- from the invitations to the newlywed send-off, even if they have to design their accessories themselves. For some women cookie-cutter just doesn't cut it anymore, especially with the trend toward DIY.

Vintage Fashions

Perhaps it's just "the times" or a yearning for quality items out of the ordinary. For whatever reason, vintage styles are as hot as if they'd just come out yesterday. Chintzy, homey, quaint. Whatever you call it, it's a definitely creative way to bring back what has already worked in the past. This is showing up in everything from gowns to caketoppers to the groom's wardrobe.

Colored Shoes

Statistically speaking, most brides-to-be still choose white as the color of their bridal shoes. But in 2009, you'll see that more and more are taking the opportunity to add a pop of color on their feet. Some of the most popular photographs on wedding blogs are candid shots of brides who have a flash of hot pink, green or blue peaking from under their gowns.

Short Hair and Medium Length Hair

Malonda Richards courtesy of Essence Magazine
OK, we saw this one coming. Things had to change. There was just too much pressure on women with neat hairstyles to grow their hair long enough for an updo before the wedding. And why not look like yourself on your wedding day? Now we're getting lots of photos of brides wearing sassy short or medium length styles. And you know what? They look absolutely fabulous.

Did we leave anything out? Set us straight! Tell us about the trends you've been seeing!

It's 2009... Happy New Year!

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