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The Perfect Wedding

A typically blissful occasion preceded by months of anxiety and sleepless nights. Yet, properly arranged, a wedding can be painless, and yes, even perfect. How? Read on. On the following pages, our guide to nuptial planning and peace of mind.
By Elaine Rogers |

“We’re in a very strong Victorian period,” says Dallas bridal consultant Francine Bessant, president of the popular bridal boutique, Francine. “Veils and intricate beaded headpieces are a big part of that look, and Dallas brides want beautiful, new gowns made in New York and shipped fresh to Dallas.”

Whether you call the trend a Victorian revival or “the Princess Di look,” Bessant and other local experts say the bridal business is booming via the return of the big, traditional wedding and a national affinity for long, white, elaborately ornate gowns complete with lacy trains, intricate styling, and lots of ruffles, beading and sequins.

Interestingly enough, Bessant maintains that the wedding industry is on the upswing, in part, because the local economy has taken a turn for the worse. Calling her market “virtually recession-proof,” she says, “when things get tight, people don’t spend as much on other things, but they’ll always spend money on a wedding.”

And, while weddings in general cost anywhere from $1,000 to 5100,000, Bessant says her Dallas brides- typically independent, college-educated women aged 25 and up-pay anywhere from $1,200 to 31,500 for their gowns alone, and their nuptials cost $20,000 to $30,000 by the time all is said and done. That estimate might send chills down many a parent’s spine, but experts say it is realistic considering the varied expenses of wedding rings; invitations; floral arrangements; catering, room rentals and entertainment for a 150-guest reception; photography; gifts; and of course, the honeymoon.

Why are weddings so big given the odds that one marriage in two will split up? Perhaps it’s because the marriage rate is growing faster than the divorce rate, and the battle of the sexes of the 70s has given way to a quest for romance in the ’80s.

“No matter what the statistics,” explains Hazel Brigner of Brigner’s Cake Supply, Irie “when people get married, they think it’s a once-in-a-lifetime event. That’s why we think we’re in the best field in the world, because we’re working with people at the happiest time of their lives.”

To make the most of their time in the limelight, many Dallas brides and their mothers are turning over the party-planning duties to professional wedding consultants. Then, instead of doing it themselves and possibly showing up at the festive event frazzled and tense, they can sit back and enjoy the occasion.

“More mothers are putting things in the hands of the professionals,” Brigner says. ’That way, all they have to do is show up and look beautiful. We’ll do the work and worrying for them.”

We’ve become full-time party-planners,” adds Kyle Wall, owner of Wall’s Catering. “A lot of people come to us just for a wedding cake, but then they find out that we do everything from ordering napkins and matchbooks to helping the bride choose her wedding dress or taking the couple to the airport. Then, they let us do it all.

Wall says many caterers are expanding their services because of a growing demand, and operations such as his often rent or provide banquet facilities of their own in addition to catering at any site designated by a client. Complete catering, he says, has become more popular because it offers an alternative to the often-expensive hotel and country club receptions. His costs, he estimates, run from $12 per person and up.

Full-service hotels are still a favorite wedding reception choice, however, as brides can rely on hotel personnel to handle many if not all of their party details. Besides catering the food and manning the bars, hotels may take care of details ranging from floral arrangements to musical entertainment.

“We do an awful lot of wedding receptions,” says Dru Bakunas, catering sales manager at The Lincoln Hotel. “And we can handle as few or as many of the details as they want us to.” For a crowd of 150 people, she says wedding receptions at the Lincoln cost as low as 51,500 and as much as $7,000. and the average totals out to about $30 per person, or $4,500 all told. Rooms are generally booked six months In advance, and it’s not unusual for brides to make their reception reservations 16 months in advance.

Interestingly enough, Bakunas notes that even though Dallas newlyweds lean toward large, traditional weddings, their receptions are generally less formal than the large sit-down dinners that prevail in many northern states. “For the most part, receiving lines and head tables are passe, and Dallas brides tend to favor hot hors d’ oeuvre and wine receptions rather than full-scale dinners. A lot of people cut costs by serving only wine and Champagne instead of having open bars, and they use disc jockeys and taped music rather than dance bands.”

While they may keep things relatively simple when it comes to their receptions, local florists say Dallas brides have gotten very sophisticated in terms of their tastes in floral decorations.

“Brides today are spending more on flowers than ever before,” says Donna Williams, manager and bridal consultant at Flower Affair. “Instead of the roses, carnations and daisies that used to be in practically every wedding a few-years ago, they want to use flowers that are unusual and exotic-flowers that they’ve never seen before.”

As a result, Williams says her store now stocks a large selection of unusual, European flowers and very few roses and carnations. And, while the average amount brides spent on their wedding flowers was just 5600 three years ago, she says customers today usually spend between $800 and #1,200 to equip their weddings with altar decorations, corsages, boutonieres and bouquets. “They’re paying a lot more for these types of flowers, but it seems to be what people want these days,” she adds.

Florists also say greenery has replaced baby’s breath as a decorative addition to the typical bridal bouquet, and brides are earning flowers adorned with less ribbons and streamers as well. “They seem to be going for a more open, free-form look,” Williams explains, “and they’re using bright, colorful floral arrangements instead of the traditional white altar flowers”

Tiel and deep green arc two of the newer colors being shown in bridesmaids’ dresses this year, and pink and mauve have replaced last year’s burgundy’ as the hottest colors tor wedding flowers. Additionally, florists say many brides are adding a new twist to the traditional Wedding: by accenting their attendants’ vivid dress colors with multi-colored bouquets.

While Dallas brides seem up on the latest colors and styles of their wedding dresses and floral arrangements, they and their husbands-to-be usually take a more conservative approach toward such things as wedding rings and photography.

Local jewelers say that despite the increasing number of twin wedding bund sets available in jewelry stores, the solitaire diamond engagement ring still holds the top spot in the hearts of most brides-to-be. “Occasionally, we have couples who come in looking for matching bands,” says Grant Reeder of Fuller’s Jewelers. “But, the diamond engagement rings with a ring guard and band are most popular for women, and the men seem to prefer plain gold bands.”

Reeder and others say that older grooms with better-than-average income levels often opt for more ornate wedding bands, but even second-time brides seem to prefer diamond solitaires to matching bands.

Similarly, traditional wedding photo albums are still the most popular form of saving the special moments of a wedding day even though video tape services are widely available and have been on the market for several years. Professional photographers say that, now more than ever, posed wedding photographs make up the lion’s share of the wedding photography business, and couples usually only request videos as a sidebar to the traditional photographs, or else they make their own home movies with their private VCRs.

“Around the time of a wedding, people get real traditional,” explains Ron Ellis of Innovations by Ron Ellis. “The big wedding has made a comeback and people want the traditional family shots and maybe a couple of pictures of the wedding cakes and tables. … A double exposure of the wedding is about as artistic as they want to get.”

Besicles being traditional in their tastes, Ellis says today’s young couples are often tough customers and smart shoppers when it comes to their wedding photography. “It always surprises me when they spend $1,000 or so on a wedding gown, and then they balk at the cost of photography,” Ellis says, adding that most couples will pay from $ 500 to ?1,000 for their wedding pictures. “It’s up to me to remind them that the gown is going into a closet, but the photos will be around forever.”


The P e r f e c t Wedding

We’ve al] heard the stories.

A bride gets mad and refuses to speak to one of her out-of-town bridesmaids because the latter was late to the rehearsal dinner. Her mother has a case of hysterics just before the wedding because the floral decorations haven’t been delivered to the church, and the bride’s father responds to the situation by yelling at the bride and making her cry while she’s trying to get ready for her walk down the aisle. Later, the groom’s parents leave the reception early because they felt slighted at the way their in-laws handled the seating arrangements, and the newlyweds bicker at each other as a result of their parents’ misunderstanding.

Unfortunately, such scenarios aren’t that unusual because no matter how-happy a bride and groom might be about the prospect of getting married, weddings are generally ruled by nervous tension and stress. Tempers flare over the most trivial incidences, and if wedding guests pick up on the mood, then everyone is left with a bad taste in their mouths.

Whether your wedding is large or small, formal or intimate, experts say-there is one piece of advice all prénuptial planners should take to heart: Remember Murphy’s Law, Rather than having an otherwise perfect wedding day spoiled by the negative side effects of an event’s emotional highs and lows. couples and their parents should prepare themselves to deal with unexpected problems calmly.

“It seems like your brain dies when you get married,” says Rev. Allen Bradley of Wedding Chapel Marriage Ceremonies. ’And, when it comes to weddings, anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.”

Bradley says he has officiated at countless weddings in which something went amiss. “I’ve seen grooms who left their rented tuxedo shoes at home and had to borrow a pair from a guest or else ended up wearing sneakers with a tux,” he says. “And, I’ve seen a lot of others who forgot to bring their marriage licenses or wedding rings to the church.” Most weddings, he says, have at least one groomsman who wears an ill-fitting tuxedo because he didn’t bother to try it on beforehand; at least one incidence of a cake, or flowers or food being delivered late or not at all; and at least one or two hours during which havoc reigns supreme among the bride and groom and their families.

“I’ve seen it all,” Bradley says. “Things always go wrong at weddings. and people shouldn’t be surprised when they do. They should just make the most of any bad situation and deal with it as positively as possible.’”

Thus, Bradley unci others say a positive, resourceful attitude accompanied by a good sense of humor is the real bey to making a wedding memorable for the right reasons. Then, even if something goes wrong with the catering or the flowers or the reception plans, those involved can keep the mishap in its proper perspective and laugh it off, or at least enjoy the fact that so many things went right-for example, if the bride and groom both showed up and exchanged vows, who really cares if the cake didn’t taste good or champagne was in short supply at the reception? Count the wedding a success.

Of course, many wedding mishaps can be avoided altogether if those planning the wedding pay close attention to the details before emotions begin running high. Besides merely planning ahead, a bride and her mother, or a young couple planning their own wedding should check and double-check their list of things-to-do and that someone has attended to each detail they’ve listed. “Just because someone said they would do something a couple of months ago doesn’t mean it got done,” Bradley warns. “People should pay attention to who is doing what, and when and how.”

Dean Wheeler, co-owner of Candlelight Weddings adds: “It’s best to have as few people involved in the planning of a wedding as possible. That way, you can keep track of all the details and be assured that everything is being done.”

In order to do that, Wheeler says an increasing number of brides are employing bridal consultants who coordinate and organize weddings. “More brides are starting to realize that the best way to have a hassle-free wedding is to have a trained professional handle the details,” she says. Additionally, consultants say a bride’s in-laws and friends are less likely to get their feelings hurt when they’re not consulted on the wedding plans or when their well-intended-but-unwanted advice isn’t heeded if they know that an independent party is in charge of planning the event.

Last but not least, young couples should keep in mind the fact that their weddings arc meant to be special to them, and they .should make sure that they spend their time enjoying their pre-wedding days and savoring the festivities rather than worrying whether everything will go off without a hitch. That, the experts say. is the best way to insure that a wedding becomes a perfect memory.


Your Wedding Your Own

It’s hard to put a finger on what makes one wedding special and another boring, but most of us have sat through our share of both.

Some seem rushed or disorganized; others, long and tedious. Often, the problem lies in the fact that the ceremony doesn’t reflect the personalities of those who are in it. They might be friends whom you’ve always thought of as unpretentious and friendly, yet, their wedding turned out to be large, formal, stuffy, and somehow unsuitable. Another occasion may have seemed overbearingly solemn rather than festive, and it surprised you given the bride’s ordinarily enthusiastic and fun-loving demeanor.

I once served as a bridesmaid for a college girlfriend who asked the preacher who lived next door to her family to preside over the ceremony. She was Baptist and he was Lutheran, but she knew him and liked him personally. What she didn’t consider, however, was that the type of ceremony he traditionally conducted was not the type she would have wanted had she been better informed.

As a result, 1 found myself wanting to interrupt the preacher midway through the ceremony when he launched into a sermon about it being a woman’s duty to cleave to her husband and obey his every command. Lacer, my friend-an independent, liberal-minded, modern woman–told me rather sheepishly that she took the vow to “love honor and obey” her husband because by the time the minister performed the ceremony in front of ait her family and friends, she realized that it was too late to tell him that she wanted a more modern type of ceremony. She just hadn’t realized there were so many choices to make, and no one had bothered to tell her.

I knew another bride who had always envisioned herself tying the knot in a small, intimate ceremony, but she ended up with four bridesmaids and a long guest list that was filled with names of people she’d never met because her mother had wanted her wedding to be a huge society event. I also knew a couple who shared a distaste for country western music, but they hired a country western band for their reception because the bride’s father wouldn’t pay for any other type of musical entertainment.

None of the examples described above had serious or heartbreaking ramifications, but they all epitomize the types of compromises that may leave couples regretting the way their weddings were done and wondering if the ceremonies were actually theirs or someone else’s.

From the vows to the music played at the reception, young couples should make sure the wedding is set up like a party they’d like to attend, rather than the type of party their parents would like to have. It’s nice to make concessions to insure that older guests are comfortable at a young couple’s wedding reception, but not if so many changes are made that the bride feels like she’s at a stranger’s wedding,

Often, first-time brides aren’t aware that they have so many options in terms of the types of vows they may want to take and what, if any, scriptures they might want read during their marriage ceremony. A wedding can take five minutes or two hours, depending on what is said and sung and preached as a part of the event. Unfortunately, many times, a couple is told what would be best by their parents, friends and ministers rather than offered an education about their many options.

Thus, brides and grooms should ask their minister for a full explanation of the type of ceremony he or she usually performs; and they should request a listing of verses and readings the official likes to use. Additionally, they should explore other alternatives and discuss their personal preferences before they decide who they want to officiate and where and how they want to be wed. Many, many books have been written on subjects ranging from “planning a wedding” to “writing your own vows,” and anyone who hasn’t considered how they would like things done should find a trip to the nearest library or bookstore well worth their while.

Then, whether a couple gets married in a very conservative, traditional ceremony, or holds an unusual, avant garde event, they should be able to Kike comfort in the fact that it was a wedding of their own choosing, one of their own design.


Honeymoon Destinations

Despite Dallas’ sweltering summers and mild winters, local newlyweds typically head for the beach. Travel agents throughout the city say Caribbean cruises are the favorite honeymoon destination, followed closely by Hawaiian cruises or land trips.

“It’s a year-round trend,”’ explains John Lane, a travel consultant with Just Cruises in Dallas. “Honeymooners generally want to go to one of three places: the Caribbean, Hawaii or Bermuda”

The most popular trip is a seven-day Caribbean cruise, he says, and three- to four-day cruises rank high as well. “Cruises are great for (honeymooners) because everything is taken care of beforehand-the airfare and the entire cruise schedule-and they don’t have to pack or unpack every day. It’s real romantic”

“A lot of our customers take Caribbean or Hawaiian cruises for their honeymoons,” adds Gail Wittenstein, co-owner of Trendsetters Travel & Tours, Inc. “And a lot of them come back and take them again on their anniversaries or as second honeymoons.”

The only catch, travel consultants say, is that most seven-day cruises require a Saturday morning departure, and that poses a problem for couples with a Saturday wedding planned. “Not that many ships leave on Sunday,” Lane says, “so, sometimes they end up taking a different cruise or going somewhere else than they originally wanted. Or, they wait a week or two before they take their honeymoon cruise.”

The best alternative for many newlyweds is simply a Hawaiian land trip, in which they fly to Hawaii and visit just one or two cities instead of traveling around the islands on a ship. But, whether the choice is Co go by land or by sea, most trips of this caliber require several months of planning. A seven-day Hawaiian cruise runs about 51,600 per person, while week-long Caribbean cruises range from $700 to $1,000 per person, depending on trie season and the cruise line. A four-day Caribbean cruise costs closer to $500 per person. Travel experts say a better choice for a budget-conscious couple might be a trip to Mexico instead.

“Mexico is a great deal because it’s so much closer and cheaper, and you still get the tropica] type of vacation honey-mooners seem to want,” Wittenstein says. And, when the “high season” ends on April 15, she says couples can cake a three-day, two-night trip to Cancun or Cozumel for as little as $200 apiece.

Similarly-priced and even more popular than the Mexico trips, Wittenstein adds, are brief trips to Las Vegas. “Our number one seller is a four-night package to Las Vegas for $179 per person,” she explains. “A lot of people Like the trip to get married or as a second honeymoon because people love to gamble, and we can arrange their wedding at a place called the Chapel of Love where-for ?45 to 160–they’ll pick you up at the airport in a limousine and drive you to the chapel to get married.”

Wherever newlyweds plan to travel, they should think about the trip as soon as they set the wedding date, because they’re more likely to get the trip of their choice if they plan far in advance. A six- to eight-month lead time is preferable, travel agents say, and it may take advance booking of as much as a year if the trip takes place on a holiday. Two months is considered short notice if a cruise is planned, and 30 days in advance requires quite a bit of luck to find space available on a ship.

-Luckily, for short-term or lust-minute planners, many Dallas hotels have honeymoon packages and discount room rates for newlyweds, and many such offerings come complete with complimentary fruit and cheese baskets, free Champagne, and brunch on the morning after.

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