Sunday, November 22, 2009

Taking Your Destination Wedding From Cookie-Cutter To Unique

More and more couples are choosing to marry abroad at the destination of their dreams. They envision getting married in a picture perfect setting surrounded by breathtaking arrangements of tropical flowers and with an incredible sunset in the background. They look forward to having every detail looked after by the onsite resort wedding planner, and being able to just sit back, relax, and enjoy the entire experience. Unfortunately, the picture in their mind doesn't always match the actual experience without a lot of upgrades and additional expenses.

The first thing that each couple should realize is that while most resorts offer a variety of wedding packages it is essential to read the fineprint and know exactly what you're getting for your money. Does the price include the cost of your officiant who will be performing the ceremony? Will the ceremony decor look like the pictures you've seen on their website or does it just include a basic signing table, white tablecloth, and simple floral arrangement? Is the ceremony and reception limited to a specific number of guests, and if so, what are the additional costs per person if you add to that number? These are just some of the basic questions you need to know before you sign on the dotted line of your contract.

Don't get me wrong! There are some fabulous opportunities for couples to have a beautiful destination wedding. Couples just have to be willing to do their homework ahead of time to ensure that they are not disappointed or end up paying for significant upgrades in the days before their wedidng. Here are some tips to make sure your wedding is exactly what you want it to be:
  • In your initial conversations with the resort's on-site wedding coordinator, check if you will be able to make selections such as choosing your flowers or cake ahead of time. This is easy to do through e-mailing digital photos, but some resorts prefer you to wait and plan your wedding with them in the days before you get married. Unfortunately, if you wait that long, you may end up having to settle on some of your decisions as it will be too late to make alternative arrangements or else be prepared to pay significant dollars for upgrades.

  • Ensure that the resort offers a bad weather alternative and know what exactly that entails. We hope for the best, but smart couples plan for the worst.

  • Collect pictures from magazines or wedding websites of bouquets, centerpieces and wedding cakes that appeal to you. Scan them into your computer and it will make it much easier to communicate ideas back and forth about what you want. Many resorts offer an upgrade for flowers, musicians, cake, and decor. You mine as well get what you would like than just accept what is offered. Once again, do this early in the game to ensure that you have enough lead time to get what you want.

  • Make sure you compare the package to the "a la carte" options of building your wedding yourself. It may end up more cost-effective to choose a less expensive package and personalize it yourself.

  • Check online with other couples who have gotten married at your chosen resort. How was their experience? What concerns did they have? What advice could they offer? Learn from those who have married before you!

  • Meet with the onsite coordinator in the early part of your trip to review the details of your wedding. The earlier you make this meeting the better chance you have of being able to make any necessary changes or improvements that need to happen.

  • Most importantly, make sure you get any additions or deletions to your wedding contract in writing. Always note the time and date it was discussed, as well as who you were speaking with. In addition, bring your file with all of your notes, e-mails, and amendments with your on your trip in case you need to refer back to them.

  • Don't be afraid to ask for help. Get a wedding planner in your area who has experience with destination weddings. She will have your specific needs in mind and can negotiate on your behalf to ensure that you get the wedding that you want. It is up to you on whether you want them to travel with you for the ceremony itself, but recognize that having them there can take a lot of the weight off your shoulders, allowing you to truly relax and enjoy the entire experience.

Destination weddings can be beautiful and magical with the proper planning and attention to detail ahead of time.Destination weddings can be a beautiful and magical experience. You just have to remember that although this will be one of the most important days of your lives, for the resort, this is just part of their regular business. They prefer to keep things simple because it makes their lives easier. A smart resort, however, recognizes the significance of your wedding to the two of you and will want to work with you to make it everything you dreamed of. (Happy customers will be repeat customers.) Work with your resort wedding planner to communicate your ideas and make many of the necessary decisions ahead of time. With the proper planning and attention to detail, your destination wedding can be everything you ever dreamed about and more.

If you wish further assistance, or advice on your own destination wedding, please contact Cathy at


Cathy MacRae is a certified wedding and event planner, and owner of Creative Weddings and Occasions and Del Sol Destination Weddings. Located in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, she plans wedding for couples in and around the Calgary and Banff area. She is also a destination wedding and honeymoon travel specialist helping couples plan their weddings in paradise all around the world. For more information about planning your own wedding or for advice from Cathy, please contact her at

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Finding The Wedding Dress of Your Dreams

With so many choices, it is important to plan ahead before you go dress shopping in order to make the most of the experience.Most girls dream of their wedding dress from a young age. It is probably one of the most significant events next to the moment that she gets engaged and the actual wedding itself. It will also probably be the most expensive piece of clothing that most women will ever wear. Most importantly, it has the ability to make every girl feel like a princess!

Most brides look forward to the shopping experience and looking for THE dress, but finding a wedding gown can quickly turn into a major frustration if you aren’t properly prepared. Here are some strategies that can help you find the perfect gown for you:

  • Look through bridal magazines and wedding websites for gowns that appeal to you. Most websites will identify local vendors that may carry a sample of the gown. Some can be purchased directly online, but I would encourage you to try on the gown when at all possible.
  • Identify your pricepoint before you start. What are you willing to spend. Make sure you also designate a portion for accessories, such as your veil and headpiece, shoes, and jewellry. Avoid trying on dresses that you can't afford.
  • Bring in pictures of gowns that appeal to you. This will give the salon personnel a starting point to work from.
  • Make sure you know if your ceremony site has any restrictions you should be aware of. For example, many houses of worship consider bare shoulders to be disrespectful. Therefore, you need to find something that will cover your shoulders.
  • When possible, become familiar with dress terminology so you know the difference between a-line and a sheath before you start shopping. If you know the vocabulary, it will help you communicate your ideas better to the sales staff.
  • Limit the number of people you shop with to 1 or 2 people that you trust explicitly to give you an honest opinion. Many brides bring along their mother and possibly their maid of honour. If your shopping party is too large, it’s too easy for your voice to get lost amidst everyone else’s opinions. Although it's tempting, try to avoid bringing more than three people with you.
  • Begin looking for your dress at least six months before your wedding, if possible. This gives you some time to look, to get your dress made, and still time for alterations as necessary. If you wait too close until your wedding date, you may have limited choices and have to select gowns in stock that are already in your size.
  • Choose a time to go shopping when you don’t have to rush off somewhere afterwards. You need time to try on dresses without being in a hurry. If you can swing going during the week then the sales staff will often be able to give you more attention than on weekends when traffic is heavier.
  • Wait to get the WOW feeling. You'll know when you try on YOUR dress. It should speak to you. If you don't find it the first time out, don't panic. Try a few salons Even if you find your dress right away, sleep on the decision and make sure it's the right one for you.

Your wedding dress allows you to become a princess! Few moments are as special as finding your wedding dress. Take the time to enjoy the experience and share it with those who are closest to you. After all, this is your moment to shine. Enjoy your time in the spotlight!

For additional assistance on finding your perfect wedding dress, please contact us at


Cathy MacRae is a certified wedding and event planner, and owner of Creative Weddings and Occasions and Del Sol Destination Weddings. Located in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, she plans wedding for couples in and around the Calgary and Banff area. She is also a destination wedding and honeymoon travel specialist helping couples plan their weddings in paradise all around the world. For more information about planning your own wedding or for advice from Cathy, please contact her at

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Invitation Etiquette

As your wedding date draws nearer, it is time to send out your wedding invitations. With so many options available, it is important for you and your guests to understand the etiquette involved.

  1. Each invitation should be specifically addressed to the guests that are being invited. For example, if you address the invitation to Mr. and Mrs. Carl Smith and Family, you are inviting Carl, his wife, and their children. If you only address the invite to Mr. and Mrs. Carl Smith, the intention is to only invite Carl and his wife. However, please note that although you may be aware of invitation etiquette, your guests may not. The response card may be returned with more guests than you you intended. If this happens, it is up to you to decide on how to respond. You may have to call them and politely explain that the invitation was really intended for only the adults. If this is an uncomfortable conversation, then you may just have to be ready to add to your guest list.

  2. If you are inviting a couple who live together, but who are not married, then you specifically address the invitation to both of them, such as Mr. Carl Smith and Ms. Anna Roberts.

  3. In the past, when single friends have been invited it has been customary to address the invite as Mr. Thomas Anderson and Guest, giving them the choice of whether to bring someone or not. More recently, with the high costs associated with weddings, some couples are choosing to limit their guest list, especially if they have a number of single friends who already normally hang out together. Once again, if you receive the response card and the number is two instead of one, then be prepared to make a phone call to clarify the situation right away or accept an increase in your guest numbers. However, please note that if a single friend has been seeing someone for three months or more, you should include "and Guest" on the wedding invitation, allowing them to bring a date.

  4. RSVP cards should already be stamped and ready to be mailed back. It may seem like a little thing, but it is considered bad form to make your guests pay for their own postage.

  5. Information in regards to where you've registered for gifts should not be included in your wedding invitation. Instead, create a wedding website that not only includes maps and updates about your wedding, but a specific section of links to places you've registered. Now days it is considered quite acceptable to include the website address in your wedding invitation to point guests in the right direction.

  6. Wedding invitations are normally mailed out three to six months prior to the wedding. Although e-mails work for Save The Dates, invitations should still be "hard copy".

For additional assistance on how to properly word wedding invitations or help with any of your other wedding stationary questions, please contact us at


Cathy MacRae is a certified wedding and event planner, and owner of Creative Weddings and Occasions and Del Sol Destination Weddings. Located in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, she plans wedding for couples in and around the Calgary and Banff area. She is also a destination wedding and honeymoon travel specialist helping couples plan their weddings in paradise all around the world. For more information about planning your own wedding or for advice from Cathy, please contact her at

Monday, October 12, 2009

Decor Ideas For An Fall Wedding

As much as most of hate to see the end of summer, the fall season does give us some incredible options to work with when it comes to wedding decor. The oranges, yellows, browns and reds of autumn provide us with a fabulous and stunning palette of colors to work with. It also gives us a chance to bring in elements from the outdoors, including leaves, dried flowers, and possibly even vegetable gourds. Add to it the Thanksgiving season, and you may be able to incorporate a turkey or two.

One of our couples recently got married in a beautiful outdoor ceremony in a picturesque location in Southern Alberta on Thanksgiving weekend. Large containers of dried flowers, prepared by the groom's mother, were artfully arranged on either side of the trellis, filled with cattails, dried berries, and other plants unique to the area. To add some additional color, Blue Hydrangea brought in two large vases of curly willow and seasonal flowers that added color to the ceremony backdrop. Metal pails of flowers were also used to decorate the end of each row of chairs and line the center aisle. It was quick, easy, and economical, yet looked great!

The best part was that all of these items were able to be easily transported to the reception site at the Lynnwood Ranch (south of Okotoks) allowing the bride to continue the theme in her reception decor. She wanted to create an atmosphere that was both rural and rustic, and by incorporating and reusing items from the ceremony decor, we were able to add to the overall feel and ambiance at the reception venue. The metal pails of flowers were especially useful as we used them throughout the room including on the edge of the DJ stage, the coffee service table, in the washroom areas, and placed effectively throughout the room. A bride on a really tight budget may have even opted to re-use them as part of her table centerpieces.

Playing on the Thanksgiving time period, country-style stuffed turkeys decorated the buffet tables, along with additional arrangements of silk tiger lilies in the colors of bright oranges and reds, adding a holiday feel to the food lines.

Some couples think that their centerpieces have to be expensive to look good. If you get creative, there are many affordable options that can be quite effectively. At this wedding, we opted to use a set of three tea light holder at varying heights. Artificial leaves in autumn colors were pulled off a garland and scattered on the table around the holders. Ivory glass stones were also scattered around the centerpiece along with mini-pumpkins and other vegetable gourds. The flame from the tealights provided a warm, romantic glow. However, please note that the burning time of a tealight is relatively short. You may want to consider using LED lights instead (they make ones now that flicker like a candle) to avoid having to change them throughout the evening or if you are in a venue that does not allow open flames.

If your wedding is still a year off, one cost-saving idea is to take advantage of some the sales that might be on now and purchase some of the "seasonal" materials ahead of time. Even if you're not sure what you want to do, you will probably find ways to incorporate them, and not end up paying full price next year.

Fall is fantastic season when it comes to wedding decor! The bright colors of autumn give us lots to work with, and the natural materials available are plentiful. Look around, get creative, and most importantly, have fun!

Cathy MacRae is a certified wedding and event planner, and owner of Creative Weddings and Occasions and Del Sol Destination Weddings. Located in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, she plans wedding for couples in and around the Calgary and Banff area. She is also a destination wedding and honeymoon travel specialist helping couples plan their weddings in paradise all around the world. For more information about planning your own wedding or for advice from Cathy, please contact her at

Friday, September 18, 2009

Tips For Getting Great Wedding Photographs

Wedding photography is one of those things that should not be left to chance. The pictures taken that day will last a lifetime, being seen by your children, your grandchildren, and even future generations. They are special moments in time that you will look back on fondly in the years to come. As a result, you will want to make sure that you hire the right person to take your wedding photographs. The following are some tips to consider when looking at finding the perfect photographer for your wedding:

Tip #1:
Research your wedding photographer ahead of time. Get references, check their portfolio, and ask to see a complete example of a wedding he or she covered.

Tip #2:
Look at wedding photos of friends and acquaintances. When you see ones you like, ask for the photographer's contact information.

Tip #3:
Make sure that you meet with the photographer who will be covering your wedding. You want to ensure that there is a good connection there as you will spend a lot of time with this person on your wedding day.

Tip #4:
Sit down as a couple ahead of time and decide what photograph shots are important to the two of you. Your photographer may have some ideas of their own that you may want to consider. Create a list and include the list as part of your contract.

Tip #5:
Make sure you know ahead of time what is included in the photographer's package. It would be criminal to pay to get the photos taken, but not have the funds to get them developed or placed in an album.

Tip #6:
Particularly if you're doing a destination wedding on the beach and choose to use the resort photographer that is included as part of the wedding package, take a quick surveillance of the beach to ensure that there aren't any unwanted guests who may appear as part of your wedding photos.

Tip #7:
Be sure to include your photographer (and their assistant) in the total number of guests that you give to your reception venue. After all, they deserve a meal too after their hard work throughout the day.

Tip #8:
When you receive the DVD with your digital prints, make a copy and leave it with a close relative or friend. In case of flood or fire, you will at least be comforted by the fact that your wedding photos haven't been lost completely.

There are a lot of details to consider when planning a wedding. Start working on finding your photographer shortly after finalizing your date and venues. The effort you put into finding the right person to take your wedding photos will be worth every minute you invest. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words. A great photo is worth much more!


Cathy MacRae is a certified wedding and event planner, and owner of Creative Weddings and Occasions and Del Sol Destination Weddings. Located in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, she plans wedding for couples in and around the Calgary and Banff area. She is also a destination wedding and honeymoon travel specialist helping couples plan their weddings in paradise all around the world. For more information about planning your own wedding or for advice from Cathy, please contact her at

Friday, September 4, 2009

Welcome Bags For Your Wedding Guests

Choosing to have a destination wedding means asking family and friends to travel great distances in order to join you on your special day. One way to show your appreciation is to provide a welcome gift that your guests will receive upon their arrival. A bag filled with an assortment of goodies that will hint at and prepare them for the fun that awaits is the perfect way to kick-off your wedding celebration and show your guests how excited you are that they have decided to join you.

As part of the package, you should include relevant information about the wedding and the location. Be sure to include the itinerary of planned events, maps and guides of the area, and perhaps information about activities that may interest them. Your guests will appreciate the gesture, especially if they accidentally left their invitations and itinerary at home. Ideally, you want your gifts to be meaningful, maybe even giving a hint of some of the activities planned for the week. Keep in mind that the quality of items included is more important than the quantity. A couple of thoughtful items will mean more to your guests than a bunch of junky souvenirs.

Here are some ideas of items that could be included:

  • Custom-labelled bottles of water
  • Sunscreen
  • T-shirt
  • Hats
  • Luggage tags
  • Local map of the area / guidebook
  • Locally made rum (Jamaica) or tequila (Mexico)
  • Macademia nuts or cookies (Hawaii)
  • Postcards
  • Beach towel
  • Spanish-English dictionary
  • CD of local music
  • Flip flops monogrammed with the couples’ names and wedding date

Keep in mind that the items you choose should be non-perishable and don’t require refrigeration, as hotel rooms can make it tricky to keep things cool. Also remember that guests have limited rooms in their suitcases, so items should be easy to pack and compact.

Although decorative baskets look nice, they are bulky and next to impossible to take home. Instead, choose something with a local flair, like a woven bag in bright colors from a Mexican market or a monogrammed beach bag. Other alternatives if you’re on a tight budget may include using cellophane and ribbon, or purchase simple gift bags from your local dollar store. Maybe even include tissue paper in the same shades as your wedding colors.

Think of how excited your guests will be to check into their hotel after a long flight and transfers from the airports and find your gift waiting for them. The excitement and energy your welcome bag will generate will immediately get everyone in the mood to enjoy the celebration, while also letting your guests know how much you appreciate them and the fact that they have chosen to join you for this special occasion.

Cathy MacRae is a certified wedding and event planner, and owner of Creative Weddings and Occasions and Del Sol Destination Weddings. Located in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, she plans wedding for couples in and around the Calgary and Banff area. She is also a destination wedding and honeymoon travel specialist helping couples plan their weddings in paradise all around the world. For more information about planning your own wedding or for advice from Cathy, please contact her at info@creativeweddingsandoccasions.

Words From A Wedding Graduate

(Editor's Note: This is a fantastic blog by Meg, originally published at It gives great ideas for brides-to-be on how to stay in control of their wedding and how to enjoy the experience.)

Before I start telling you small stories about our wedding, I wanted to give you my wedding graduate post. This is, simply, my best wedding advice. I'm sure I'll chatter about these subjects more at some point, but there is something to be said for boiling advice down to its essence.

These are the the tips I'd give any friend who asked. I hope it makes a few of you feel a little more free, or a little more sane:

  • When people ask you if "you might regret such and such a choice..." say no. And move on. Because if you make a choice that is authentic to who you and your partner are, I can emphatically tell you that you won't regret it. Period.

  • Gut-check. By the week before the wedding, I was making all my decisions by instantaneous gut-check, "What seems right for us? Ok, done," no second guessing. It's easy to loose track of this during the planning process, but if you're not sure about something, check your gut, and then go with it. I think your gut is where your heart lives.

  • Keeping people on a need-to-know basis is fine sometimes. It's not just that it's easier to apologize than to ask permission, but that people will be so caught up in the joy of your wedding day that little things that might worry them before hand won't bother them at all on the day of.

  • Learn how to kindly but firmly say no. If you know deep down that something is just not right for you, be kind but firm, it will save you endless heartache in the end. Maybe you learn this in wedding planning because its the single best preparation for adult life that there is.

  • It's ok to cry. I wasn't always explicit about this on the blog, but I found wedding planning to be a difficult at times. It was also one of the great learning experiences of my life, but frankly, learning sort of blows sometimes. The thing about weddings is they are this complex mix of families, friendship, faith, values, aesthetics, cultural assumptions, other peoples expectations, and oh yeah, love. So while weddings often bring out the best in people, sometimes they bring out the worst. I can admit now that I spent more than one night in the planning process crying myself to sleep. And I wasn't crying because my flowers didn't match my linens, I was crying because of Big Life Issues the wedding brought up. So if Big Life Issues come up when your planning, let yourself cry and work through them. Its not silly, it means that you're grappling with important things in a major life transition.

  • Share it with your partner. Saying, "It's your partner's day too," has become cliche in progressive wedding circles, but it's true. But let me say this: your partner might not care about or think about the wedding in the same way you do, and that's a good thing. This is probably one of the first really huge projects you take on with your partner, so work on modeling the same collaboration and respect that you'd like to see when you take on other projects together, like say, raising children or buying a house. And yes, if you are fiery like we are, you'll yell at each other a bit too, which is So. Normal.

  • Find a way to keep yourself grounded. One of the things I wish I'd realized going into wedding weekend is that your wedding is not a totally free pass. Family tensions will still be family tensions, someone will get stressed and yell, and that person who always acts a little weird at parties may act a little weird. But the bottom line is, for one weekend none of it is your problem. Let it go, move on, stay grounded. For me this was one biggest challenges of the weekend, but also the most spiritually rewarding.

  • Focus on the Ceremony. Sometimes the ceremony gets lost in the shuffle, because it's not pretty, or because it's emotionally complicated. But this is why everyone is there, this is how it all starts, and this is what changes you forever. No matter how traditional or non-traditional you want your ceremony to be, think about it, talk about it, and make sure it feels like it's yours. Make sure you both feel like you can live inside it, as your truest selves.

  • Show Up. When the ceremony starts, you need to be THERE. Even if it makes you sob, even if it makes you laugh, even if someone just yelled at you, even if something major just went wrong. Be fully present, because you only get to live this once.

  • Lead your guests by your example. (This is the single best piece of wedding advice I have): When you're planning, you spend a lot of time worrying about which choices will matter, and which choices will not. Well, it turns out that the thing that will shape your wedding day the most is free: your attitude. If you are joyful, present, and relaxed your guests will follow your lead.

  • Get. A. Wedding. Stage Manager. You can't be in charge the day of the wedding, no, no, no. Get someone else to be in charge of the organizational details, even if they just take your cell phone from you as you walk up the courthouse steps. Lots of people will tell you that this means you need to hire someone to run the day of, but you don't. Having a friend manage our weekend made us able to bliss out, and it filled the day with a depth of care and joy that we could never have bought.

  • Honeymoon (right after the wedding), if you can. By honeymoon, I mean find a way to get away from your regular life for a bit, which could mean a staycation or a big trip. I firmly believe that a inexpensive honeymoon right away is more important then saving for something lavish later. Honeymoons are magic things, and you have the rest of your lives for great vacations. Honeymoons give you and your partner some time to absorb the enormity of what happened, to replenish yourself, and to just be in a giddy bubble of joy together. And do what you want. We went on a big adventure, when everyone thought we should lie on the beach. Trust me, you'll be able to bliss out *anywhere* afterwards.

  • And finally, remember the FUN. About 80% of wedding media, both online and in print focuses on aesthetics. And caring about aesthetics is great, up to a point. Make things authentic, make sure they feel like you... and then think about having fun. No one has ever left a wedding saying, "That party was so fun! Did you see the hand lettering on the favors??" No. At a great party, no one even notices the favors because they are so busy dancing/drinking/chatting/catching up/feeling overjoyed for the wedding couple/laughing/eating/telling stories/making memories. And remember, having fun isn't complicated (We're playing twister! We're doing a scavenger hunt!) It's easy. It's good people, good conversation, maybe some good food and wine, maybe some music, and two people who love each other joining their lives together. I know our wedding was successful because I keep accidentally referring to our reception as 'the party.' Remember when we danced to that song at the party? Remember that joke someone made at the party? And you know what? It was the best party I've ever been to.

And, finally, the one thing I can tell you from the other side: the party will be wonderful, it will be joyful, it will be what you need it to be. But the real secret? The other side is better. The other side is something you've never quite felt before. The other side is worth it.


Special thanks to Meg from A Practical Wedding ( for being a guest blogger and sharing her words of wisdom with future brides.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Tips To Ensure Your Destination Wedding Goes Smoothly

Ahh, paradise! The waves gently wash up on the sugary white sand. The sun is just starting to set slowly over the horizon, creating a magnificent sunset backdrop for the ceremony. Your closest family and friends have travelled from near and far to join you on this special day. It’s your wedding, and everything is going perfectly according to plan, or is it?

Destination weddings, just like regular weddings, are prone to obstacles. One of the problems that occurs is due to the distance involved, many destination couples hope for the best and assume everything will go perfectly in paradise. The challenge lies in making sure you’ve got all of the details covered, just like planning for a regular wedding. Furthermore, you want to ensure that you are prepared to handle any possible situation that may arise. After all, avoiding any unnecessary surprises is half the battle!

Lost Luggage
You’re travelling to a destination which often involves suitcases and airplanes. Anyone who has lost their luggage will tell you what a terrible experience it is. There is a limited amount you can do to avoid this from happening, but there are some steps you can take to make things easier if it does occur.

First of all, ensure that all bags that you’re travelling with are clearly labelled with your name and contact information. If possible, put a second tag on it as well. Also check the luggage tags yourselves to ensure they are properly checked through with the correct airport codes. If your luggage does get lost, taking these simple precautions will make it easier to be identified.

Secondly, put some of your clothes in his bags, and vice versa. This way, if one of you does lose your luggage, you still have some items to work with in the meantime.

Third, if you plan on carrying your wedding dress onboard, check with the airlines in advance about making arrangements to do so. Most brides have no idea that these arrangements often need to be made ahead of time, sometimes risking huge fees at the airport at the last minute in order to bring their wedding attire along on the flight.

Proper Paperwork Filed
What could be worse than getting ready for your wedding only to learn that the proper paperwork wasn’t filed on time, and therefore, your ceremony won’t be legal? Try and keep smiling with that going on in the back of your mind!

To start with, I recommend that you check with your resort wedding coordinator for the requirements of a legal ceremony in your destination location, but I wouldn’t stop there. I would also encourage you to check out other websites, including government ones for the most up-to-date regulations and requirements. Also check with your own government if a wedding from your destination country is considered legal and if there is any special paperwork that may be required. Especially when the legality of your wedding is at stake, it is better to be safe than sorry.

In addition, make sure you note any important dates and set yourself a deadline well ahead of the final cut-off. For example, a number of countries require the paperwork to be registered 30 days prior to the ceremony. With that in mind, I would aim for getting it there two months ahead of time, giving yourself extra days to allow for transportation of documents, and possible any translations that may have to occur.

Officiant Hired and Confirmed
Most often, the onsite wedding coordinator will book your officiant. To safeguard yourself, I would ask for the contact information and confirm it myself just to be safe. I heard of one couple whose wedding ended up being delayed for three hours waiting for a back-up officiant to arrive because the onsite coordinator had made a mistake and forgot to book one.

Secondly, make sure that you clearly understand what the ceremony will be like. In many Hispanic countries, the language spoken throughout the ceremony will be in Spanish, although it can be arranged for a translator to be present at the ceremony.

It is also important to find out if you are able to have some personal touches in the ceremony. Are you allowed to have other friends or family perform readings? Are you able to have a sand ceremony or a candle ceremony (harder to do if you’re outside in the breeze)? Your onsite wedding coordinator can probably answer some of these questions for you, but you may want to take the initiative and either ask her to confirm the details on your behalf or speak with the officiant yourself.

Poor Weather Alternative
As much as us hope for perfect weather on our wedding day, we can’t always get what we want. My motto is to prepare for the worst, and that includes bad weather. When you are booking your wedding, make sure you know what the contingency plans in case of poor weather. Don't just let the onsite coordinator tell you it is covered. Ask her for specific details. If you’re moving to an indoor location, what will happen in terms of décor, etc? Who makes the final decision about whether it is outside or inside? When is the latest that decision can be made? You will want to ensure that the alternate location is suitable for the size of your wedding and that it can be quickly adapted into a nice location.

If a poor weather alternative is not provided, then I would seriously consider another resort or get the coordinator to come up with a suitable plan of action before you commit to anything. If the plan is in place and you don’t need it, great! If the worst happens and there is a torrential downpour, the wedding can still continue and everyone will stay dry and happy!

Heat and Humidity
Perhaps one of the biggest obstacles couples aren’t prepared for is the difference in the heat and humidity that they face compared to the climate they’re used to at home. If possible, book your wedding ceremony for either early or late in the day to avoid some of the extreme temperatures that are experienced from 11:00 AM until 3:00 PM or so.

Encourage your guests to dress in clothes more suitable to the climate. At a recent wedding in Costa Rica, the couple asked everyone to dress in white (color reflects the sun) and to choose clothing in fabrics of cotton or linen that are cooler and breathe easier. Of course, these were only suggestions that were made, but gave guests permission to dress more casually and make suitable choices for the climate and location.

As a bride, you will want to make sure you have your make-up bag on hand as you may have to freshen up often to avoid looking wilted. Dry powder will help keep you looking fresh, but you may have to take a few moments to remove some of the old make-up and reapply so you avoid the look of having it caked on. Anything that is “oilfree” may also help reduce the amount of shine that can come with perspiration.

For the groom, you may want to make sure you have an extra shirt or two, or even a second pair of pants. At a recent wedding in Costa Rica, the groom perspired through three shirts. (He brought five so that wasn’t a problem.) But he never anticipated that he would sweat through his pants as well. Thank goodness one of his shirts was a little longer and covered the “wet spots” on the back of his pants!

Finally, this may seem like common sense, but make sure that you drink lots of water to stay hydrated and possible even avoid long sessions in the sun on the day of your ceremony. You certainly don’t want to get heat exhaustion on your wedding day!

Wedding Coordinator
I always advice couples to have someone on hand to handle and coordinate all of the details of a wedding. The last person who should have to be dealing with these things is the bride herself. The bride and groom should be able to enjoy their wedding day without people constantly asking them if they should start serving the tapas or dealing with the musicians that have not yet arrived.

Many of the resorts have a onsite wedding coordinator. This person is usually designated to looking after the weddings that happen on the resort property, but while many of them are quite good, you often don’t know the experience of this person. Check websites, such as to get current and updated information about other couples who have gotten married at the same resort. These people can be a source of great information and insight. Also good information source is Google to check out what other people have said. Now, you do have to edit and filter the information that is out there, but it should give you an idea fairly quickly of whether people are pleased with the services they received or not. Even if everything has been arranged ahead of time, make sure you book an appointment with your wedding coordinator early in your trip to review the details and ensure that everything is as you requested and pictured. It's just one more step to confirm and review the details to make sure your wedding is what you planned and envisioned it to be. You certainly don’t want any surprises!

If your wedding site location does not have a coordinator, it would be in your best interest to either hire one from the location or bring one from home experienced in destination weddings. Having someone who can confirm and own all of the possible challenges that may arise will be worth every cent that you end up paying, as the other option is that you end up doing it all yourself.

My philosophy has always been that if you have a back-up plan, you won’t need it. Planning a destination weddings has just as much potential for problems as planning a regular wedding, if not more as so many of the details are looked after long-distance. The key to making sure things go smoothly is to get the details looked after and confirmed ahead of time, and have alternative solutions to some of the more possible problems. This care and attention to detail ahead of time will ensure that your wedding celebration goes off without a hitch!

Cathy MacRae is a certified wedding and event planner, and owner of Creative Weddings and Occasionsand Del Sol Destination Weddings. Located in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, she plans wedding for couples in and around the Calgary and Banff area. She is also a destination wedding and honeymoon travel specialist helping couples plan their weddings in paradise all around the world. For more information about planning your own wedding or for advice from Cathy, please contact her at

Monday, August 17, 2009

Make Your Reception Rock!

Great receptions don't just happen. And it's certainly something you don't want to leave to chance. A great reception is planned well ahead of time and is full of ideas to increase the fun factor and guest involvement. After all, the wedding is over and your reception is the opportunity to kick back and celebrate!

One of the first things you want to consider is the appropriateness of the venue. Does it provide the type of atmosphere you’re looking for? There is a lot you can do with décor and lighting to completely transform the venue and create the ambiance you're after. You may even want to assign a theme. What about recreating the glamour of a classic Hollywood movie premier, or perhaps you want more of the party atmosphere associated with Mardi Gras. Think, you could decorate the room in colors of purple, green, and gold and have masks available for your guests to help get them in the spirit!

Choosing your source of music is equally important. Personally, I've always been partial to a live band, but a great DJ can be equally as effective. Whoever you hire, you want to be assured that they are able to read and react to your guests. In particular, you want to make sure that they have a playlist guaranteed to get your guests in mood. It is important to think of what types of music your guests are going to enjoy and respond to. Take the time at least a month ahead of time to work with your band or DJ to create a playlist that will match the mood and ambiance you desire for your wedding reception.

The other essential element is to come up with ideas that will encourage guests to become more involved. For example, at the recent wedding reception we did in Costa Rica, a Tequila Shooter table was set up in the middle of the dance floor as the band started their third set of music. In addition, members of the wedding party (arranged ahead of time) started handing out props, such as Hawaiian leis, straw hats, and maracas engraved with the newlyweds’ names. Combining the party props, the tequila, and pre-arranging with the live Salsa band to kick the music into high gear, allowed the partyto takeon new life and become totally reenergized.

Finally, you may want to make some plans with your wedding party ahead of time. Get your groomsmen and bridesmaids to start conga lines and keep the dancing going. Maybe even be more direct with your attendants by asking them to invite “wallflowers” to dance, giving everyone a chance to get more involved and have some fun.

Your reception should be a festive occasion and something that everyone can enjoy. It will take careful planning, but with the right attention, it can be the culmination of a great day and a fantastic celebration that you and all of your guests will remember fondly for years to come!


Cathy MacRae is a certified wedding and event planner, and owner of Creative Weddings and Occasionsand Del Sol Destination Weddings. Located in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, she plans wedding for couples in and around the Calgary and Banff area. She is also a destination wedding and honeymoon travel specialist helping couples plan their weddings in paradise all around the world. For more information about planning your own wedding or for advice from Cathy, please contact her at

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

How To Choose Your Perfect Destination Wedding Location

What happens after you decide to have a destination wedding? Most newly engaged couples are excited and absolutely thrilled about about the opportunity to get married abroad, but then hit a snag as they struggle how to proceed. With so many options, how do you even begin to choose the destination that is perfect for you?

The first thing to do is decide what type of wedding you’re planning have. That in turn will help pinpoint the geographical location that you want. For example, those considering a beach wedding are more likely to look at areas in Mexico, Central America, or areas of the Caribbean, while the person with their heart set on getting married in the mountains will look towards the majestic Rockies or the Appalachians.

Possible locations to have a wedding include:

  • Beach Wedding: Mexico, Hawaii, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Bahamas, and even parts of Florida
  • Castle Wedding:Europe, Canada (Casa Loma in Toronto, Ontario), United States (Biltmore Castle in Asheville, North Carolina; Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California)
  • Mountain Wedding:Numerous locations in Alberta (Banff, Canmore, Lake Louise, Jasper) and British Columbia (Fairmont, Golden, Revelstoke, Whistler, Vancouver’s Grouse Mountain); Colorado
  • Winery Wedding:Napa Valley in California, United States; Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, Canada

The next important step is to carefully consider what the majority of your guests, made up of close family members and friends, will be able to comfortably afford. Remember to include travel expenses, accommodation, and meals and drinks in your estimate. You don't want people to come to the wedding, but not be able to afford to eat or participate in other activities while there. All-inclusive resorts packages are extremely popular with those wishing to do a destination wedding for the simple reason that everything is included in the price. If the majority of your friends are still students or just starting out in their careers, they are likely to have little discretionary income, so choosing the best five-star resort in the area might make the trip out of their price range. In the same vein, if you decide to experience a rustic eco-lodge with no electricity or even a ceiling fan, a number of your guests will really struggle with the experience and end up having a terrible time which in turn will put a damper on your wedding experience. To best meet with success, most couples should aim for something that is rated a minimum of 4 or 4.5 stars. Cruising is another "inclusive" pricing option, in that it includes accommodation, all meals, activities and entertainment, although alcohol and air transportation is extra. Other options to consider may include renting private villas with kitchens to cook your own food, or some have staff that will prepare all of your meals if so desired.

When choosing a resort, you need to carefully consider its location, its amenities, and the crowd that it caters to. For example, if some of your guests have children, you will most likely want to stay away from the “adult only” resorts. Other important questions that you need to consider include:

  • Are there choices for dining?
  • Is there a pool and a beach for swimming?
  • Is the resort completely isolated or near a town that is easy to get to?
  • What types of activities are there to do? Is it easy to access local activities?
  • Will guests need a vehicle for transportation or be able to survive without?
  • Are there evening activities or a nightclub for the younger crowd?
  • Is there an age limit for guests? Some possible restrictions include 13+, 16+, and 18+.

Probably the other most important piece of information you require is what types of weddings are offered at the resort or location of your choice. Most resorts offer specific wedding packages, beginning with a simple ceremony for two, all the way up to ones complete with receptions. It is important to check with the resort about what types of packages they offer and the costs associated with each. As well, I would encourage you to check if the resort has “a la carte” options, allowing you to upgrade and personalize your ceremony a little more. For example, many couples want a better photography package or wish to use a different photographer entirely. Some resorts will allow this if you buy a day pass for the photographer. Finally, you need to verify that the resort has an opening to perform your wedding at the time period you're looking for. There is no point booking your trip if the resort is unable to schedule your wedding.

A destination wedding is supposed to be easier to plan, but the stress can quickly escalate if you don't do your research in advance. Check with internet sites, such as to hear from actual people who have stayed at the resorts you're considering for "real" opinions, but read a number of them to get an overall impression from a number of guests. I would also encourage you to check with someone who specializes in destination wedding planning to advise you and help you find the destination best suited for you and your group. This person will also most likely be able to assist you in getting group pricing and better rates for you and your guests.

It's a big commitment, and can seem more than a little overwhelming, but I promise you that a destination wedding can be everything you dreamed of and more with the right research and preparation. Do your homework and you can find the perfect location for your dream wedding!


Cathy MacRae is a certified wedding and event planner, and owner of Creative Weddings and Occasions and Del Sol Destination Weddings. Located in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, she plans wedding for couples in and around the Calgary and Banff area. She is also a destination wedding and honeymoon travel specialist helping couples plan their weddings in paradise all around the world. For more information about planning your own wedding or for advice from Cathy, please contact her at

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Flower Power For Your Wedding

When we dream about our weddings, most women spend a fair amount of time fantasizing about how they will look as they make their way down the aisle. They imagine the gorgeous gown that they will wear, and possibly the hairstyle and jewels that will best go with it. Often they will picture a veil and maybe even the type of shoes to best offset the gown. The picture isn't complete, however, without an image of an absolutely magnificent bouquet carried in the arms of the bride as she heads towards her intended groom.

It could be said that bridal bouquets are as unique as the wedding. They come in a multitude of shapes, colors, sizes, and even styles. Each one differs slightly, depending on the wedding, the bride, and the florist. So many brides begin planning their big day knowing that they want nice flowers, but not much more than that. Where do the begin? How do they even begin to choose their flowers?

Choosing the flowers that are right for you depends on a number of factors. Some of the important ideas to consider include the design of your dress, the theme or style of your wedding, the date and location of the ceremony and reception, and even the shape of your body. These are necessary decisions you should have in place before even making an appointment with a florist.
A good florist should be able to help guide you through the multitude of other decisions that you will need to make. She should be able to educate you about the difference between nosegays and pomanders, free-forms and hand-tied. She should be able to recommend flowers that will complement you and the type of wedding you're planning to have, possibly even introducing you to new ideas you hadn't considered before. She may even be able to suggest ways that you could save some money by selecting flowers that will be in-season and could be found locally rather than having to have them shipped from elsewhere. They are the expert in their field. Count on them to guide you along the way and provide you with valuable information and advice.

So how do you prepare for your first meeting with the florist?

First off, I would encourage you to through books and magazines for pictures that appeal to you. These photographs can really help give you a starting point to work from, but remember that they are just a starting point. Encourage the florist to share their ideas with you, allowing them to create something truly unique and personal to you versus a copy of something else that has already been done. The photos allow the florist to see what you like, but add their creativity and expertise and you will find that they can up with something absolutely stunning.

Secondly, have an idea in mind of what you will want to spend. There are countless books and software available with information on wedding budgets. These can help break down your overall dollar figure into how much should be spent on each item. If you use a wedding planner, they should be able to give you a realistic estimate on how much you have to spend on flowers, specific to your area, as well as some possible ideas of who to talk to. Another important piece of information to know is how many items you are looking for. Are you looking for just bouquets and boutonnieres, or will you need centerpieces as well. In many cases, knowing your budget, the florist may be able to suggest substitutions or alternatives to stretch your budget a little further, but maximize your flower potential.

Third, don't be afraid to ask for references, but be sure to follow up with some brides in regards to their satisfaction with the flower arrangements and the service received by the florist. I recently did a wedding where the florist made beautiful centerpieces, but for whatever reason, struggled in getting them to the reception venue on time. Thirty minutes prior to the reception, the incomplete centerpieces were still sitting on the floor of the ballroom waiting for additional elements to be added. They wouldn't have been on the tables ready for the 5:30 PM reception if myself and the other members of the planning team hadn't stepped in to help get them finished. Not an experience I personally wish to repeat!!!

Other items you may want to take into consideration include:

  • One of the advantage of fresh flowers is that most do have a scent. Do you want your flowers to have a strong heady perfume, something more citrusy, or maybe a more subtle scent?
  • Do you want the groom's boutononniere to match your bouquet? Your florist should have ideas on how to do this. I would also encourage you make the groom's boutonniere a little different than the ones for the other groomsmen.
  • Are they able to do your centerpieces as well? Sometimes florists will offer you a better price with larger volume involved. They may also have packages available for you to consider.
  • Can they deliver the flowers on your wedding day? Flowers will look fresher if they are made up the day of than the day before.
  • When are you taking your wedding pictures? Will you be outside in extreme temperatures (hot or cold) which could give the flowers a wilted look? (One of my bride's getting married in February specifically chose silk flowers for her bouquet for fear of the results in taking photos in -25 degree Celsius weather.)
Last of all, don't be afraid to get ideas and quotes from a few different florists. Possibly even talk to some of your other vendors and see if they have any recommendations for florists you may want to speak with. Once you meet with the florists, you will quickly get an idea if you feel comfortable working with them, and on whether or not they can give you what you 're looking for.
Choosing the right florist to design your wedding flowers in an important decision in the overall planning process. Their expertise and advice can guide you in making the critical decisions that can take your wedding flowers from boring to beautiful!


Cathy MacRae is a certified wedding and event planner, and owner of Creative Weddings and Occasionsand Del Sol Destination Weddings. Located in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, she plans wedding for couples in and around the Calgary and Banff area. She is also a destination wedding and honeymoon travel specialist helping couples plan their weddings in paradise all around the world. For more information about planning your own wedding or for advice from Cathy, please contact her at

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Sorting Out Wedding Stationary: The Necessities Versus The Niceties

Figuring out what to do with your wedding stationary can be puzzling for any couple. Somewhere between RSVP cards and Menu cards, your head starts to swim with all the details as you try to figure out what is needed and what is not. When you're on a tight budget, these decisions become even more important.Bulleted List

If you're trying to prioritize, there are three main stationary items you should look at for your wedding:

  • Invitation / Invitation Set
  • Escort Cards
  • Thank-You Cards
Invitations are the most important and necessary piece of wedding stationary. They give your guests all of the pertinent information in regards to your wedding. The should include the date, the time, and the location of your ceremony and reception. They also usually include an RSVP card (and an addressed and stamped envelope) for guests to send back so you can know whether to count on their attendance or not. Other options are to include are maps or directions to ceremony and receptions sites. Your invitation is often the first hint your guests will have about your wedding. When possible, they should include elements of your wedding theme and colors.

Escort Cards are available for guests to pick up as they arrive at the reception. On each card, the guest's name is printed, as well as which table they are assigned to sit at for the meal. A definite necessity for large weddings, escort ideas are still a good idea for small ones as they ensure that close relatives and family friends are seated in prime locations and seated together. It wouldn't be right for grandma and grandpa to get stuck in the back corner or for families to be split up. If you're opposed to individual escort cards, another option is to build a seating board that can be mounted on an easel outside the reception venue. For a large wedding, you might even make two. These boards show the position of each table and who is assigned to each one.

Thank-You Cards should be self-explanatory. Common courtesy dictates that you should give a personal thank-you note for each and every gift you receive. This includes shower gifts, engagement gifts, as well as wedding gifts. The same applies to everyone who attends your wedding. To save time, many try to combine the wedding thank-you with the wedding gift. To save yourself time and trouble later, make sure you have someone help you when opening gifts by keeping a detailed list of each item and who gave it to you. This will make your life significantly easier when doing up the thank-you cards. The rule of thumb is that all cards should be sent within six weeks of the wedding.

It is up to each couple to determine the importance of other stationary items.

Save-The-Date Cards are especially useful for couples planning a destination wedding or a wedding around a holiday period or long weekend when you want guests to know about the event six to nine months before the actual wedding. While e-mail invitations are considered tacky, you can get away with e-mail Save-the-dates.

Place Cards are another fairly common item, assigning guests their actual seat at each table. Not necessary, but sometimes add to the decor and theme at each table. It also ensures that enough seats have been left for families and couples. Note that if you are having a small wedding of 30 people or less, you may want to skip the escort cards completely and use place cards instead.

Programs are considered a nice, but unnecessary item. They can be used to explain the order of events at the ceremony, especially the order of any special cultural traditions that guests may not be familiar with. Sometimes they also list the wedding party and any other additional information that you may want shared, such as hymns that will be sung, or prayers that require a response. Others include meaningful poems or maps to the reception venue.

Menu Cards are another item that is really up to the couple on whether they need them or not. Whether it's a buffet or plated dinner, they let guests know what they are about to eat. I'm personally okay without them, but if guests get to make a choice on what to eat, they are a nice idea. If you feel that they are important, another option is to print one larger one for each table to share instead of individual ones.

Like most aspects of your wedding, it can be easy to get carried away when choosing your wedding stationary. I would recommend you decide ahead of time on what pieces are most important to the two of you and stick to your guns!


Cathy MacRae is a certified wedding and event planner, and owner of Creative Weddings and Occasionsand Del Sol Destination Weddings. Located in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, she plans wedding for couples in and around the Calgary and Banff area. She is also a destination wedding and honeymoon travel specialist helping couples plan their weddings in paradise all around the world. For more information about planning your own wedding or for advice from Cathy, please contact her at

Monday, July 20, 2009

Turning Your Dream Wedding Into A Reality

Whether it's dreams of castles and princesses or whimsical fairy tale fantasies, most brides have envisioned their wedding day right from an early age. They have such big hopes for their wedding day. However, as newly engaged couples start pricing out ballrooms and caterers, many of those dreams seem to come crashing down around them. Their once elegant plans dashed and the budget slashed as reality and the true cost of things comes brutally crashing down around them.

So often I talk with couples who want a beautiful wedding, but don't know how to go about it. They have sacrificed on the venue and cut down the guest list. The meal has been changed from five-courses to four. They have simplified as much as they can to the point that it seems like all of their wedding dreams have slipped away, leaving them with a big headache versus a unique and special celebration of their love. How then do you get the wedding that you want?

It is essential to start by making a list of what you envision your wedding to be. Write it down on paper. List what words you would use to describe your event. What would it look like if money wasn't an object? Where your wedding be? What would the venue look like? What would you look like? Be specific about as many items as possible - flowers, cake, food, centerpieces... What special touches do you envision? Look at "real weddings" in bridal magazines and wedding websites to get ideas that appeal to you. When making your list, don't worry about whether things are possible or not. Just focus on thinking big at this point as big ideas can inspire us. Your descriptive list will create a vision to work with, a starting place for go from. Just like building a house, your list will provide you with a foundation to build from.

During this process, I would strongly encourage you to work with a wedding coordinator that can also design and decorate for your wedding. Initially, it may seem like a big cost, but think about what you are getting out of it. A good decorator can take a basic, simple community hall room, and with the proper lighting and decor, transform the space into something else entirely, saving you big dollars on what you would have spent on a luxury hotel ballroom rental. She can take your vision and find affordable ways to incorporate your ideas. She may not be able to recreate your entire vision, but she can emphasize enough elements to create the ambiance that you're after. Often times, she can even suggest cost-effective special touches that you may not have even considered. She knows which venues will probably work best and knows the florist that can give you exactly what you're looking for. She may have ideas about rental props and decorating tips that you may not have even considered. The money you spend on the wedding planner/decorator will often end up stretching your dollar further than if you went out and contracted these services on your own, getting you more value for each dollar you spend. Furthermore, she also has the ideas and expertise to add the special little touches that will be able to transform your space into something spectacular.

Regardless of whether use a wedding coordinator/decorator or not, selecting a theme is essential as it pulls together all of the various elements of a wedding celebration. The theme can be subtle, such as simply choosing coordinating colours that will be used throughout, to completely over-the-top, where the theme is incorporated into every aspect of the wedding. It can be as simple as pinning paper butterflies on the back of chair covers to as grandiose as bringing in a literal forest of trees and fairy lights. The important things is that whatever theme you decide on, it should reflect you and ideas from the list that you originally came up with.

Always remember that your wedding has the potential to be great without costing an absolute fortune. With careful planning and consultation, you can create an event that your guests will still be talking about long after the wedding is over.


Cathy MacRae is a certified wedding and event planner, and owner of Creative Weddings and Occasionsand Del Sol Destination Weddings. Located in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, she plans wedding for couples in and around the Calgary and Banff area. She is also a destination wedding and honeymoon travel specialist. For more information about planning your own wedding or for advice from Cathy, please contact her at

Friday, July 10, 2009

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

One of the bonuses of being a wedding planner is that when I meet people for the first time, they often start sharing the special memories associated with their own wedding day. I get to learn all about the details - the good, the bad, and the ugly!

More often than not, the one thing I hear on a consistent basis are regrets about the wedding photographer. Maybe they used a family friend with a hobby in photography, but who missed a number of critical shots throughout the ceremony and reception. Another person complained that the pictures were not centered properly, and often included extraneous people in the shots that should never have been there. My personal favorite is the the story about the wedding photographer who shot my parents' wedding completely inebriated. (Too bad they hadn't had a wedding planner like me to make sure this didn't happen!)

Photography is the one area that most couples wish they had invested more of their wedding budget. After all, this is the person responsible for capturing all of the special moments that you will cherish in the years to come. A good photographer will be able to tell the story of your wedding, each picture representing another page in story, capturing the special feelings and deep emotions of the day.

So how do you go about finding a great wedding photographer? The first thing is to know what you're looking for and figure out what you like. There are two main styles of wedding photography. The first one is the more traditional approach of posed shots, much like the wedding pictures of our parents and grandparents. The newer trend is photojouralism, where the photographer captures moments as they happen. It sounds simple, but actually requires a great deal of skill to done effectively. Many couples are choosing someone who can do a combination of both - someone who can do a series of posed portraits as well as the spur of the moment shots throughout the day.

Once you have figured out what style you like, the next step is to find the photographer who can accomplish what you want. Wedding planners have a good sense who the reputable photographers are in your area. They know the ones to use as well as the ones to avoid. They also have an idea of the costs that each one charges. This can save you hours and hours of time spent checking and researching it yourself. However, if you're set on finding a photographer on your own, one of the best methods is to look at the portraits of married friends that appeal to you and ask them who they used. As well, talk to acquaintances who have been recently married to get a firsthand accounting of the pros and cons of their wedding photographer. From there, check out photographer websites and try to see samples of their work. If you like what you see, arrange an appointment with the photographer to learn more about pricing and the packages that they offer.

Other strategies to ensure you get the photographs that you want:

  • Find a photographer that specializes in weddings. [Skip this step at your own risk!]

  • Verify who will be taking the pictures at your wedding. Is it the photographer you met with or will he delegate to an assistant?

  • Make a list of the shots that you want and give them to the photographer ahead of time. The photographer may also have some ideas so be sure to listen to him. After all, he is the expert!

  • When you get the pricing information, make sure you know what the package exactly includes. Some couples are shocked to learn that their photo package only includes the actual taking of the photographs, and all photo finishing costs are extra. Is it really worth spending a fortune to get the photos taken if you can't afford to pay for them to get developed afterwards?

  • Ask the photographer to see complete photo shoots for weddings that he has done. It will give you a better idea of their complete coverage of a wedding, whereas their portfolio may only include their best shots.

  • Ask for references and follow up on them.

  • Make sure you remember to provide your photographer and his assistant with a meal if they are going to stay for the reception.

Your wedding portraits are going to be around for years to come. They will have places of honor in your home on the fireplace mantle or centered on the living room wall. Your children and grandchildren will want to see them time and time again. Make sure they are photos that will cause you to stop and smile as your remember the official beginning of your lives together. We've all heard the saying that "a picture is worth a thousand words." Wedding pictures are worth more like a million!


Cathy MacRae is a certified wedding and event planner, and owner of Creative Weddings and Occasionsand Del Sol Destination Weddings. Located in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, she plans wedding for couples in and around the Calgary and Banff area. She is also a destination wedding and honeymoon travel specialist. For more information about planning your own wedding or for advice from Cathy, please contact her at

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Choosing Your Bridesmaids Wisely

With the excitement of announcing your engagement out of the way, many brides feel weighted down as they try and make the all-important decision of who should be in their wedding party. They have ideas of who they want to share the entire experience with, but don't want to risk disappointing, or worse yet, offending any close friends or family members.

Being asked to be a bridesmaid is considered to be a gesture of honor and appreciation. It signifies that the person is someone of great importance to the bride, but more importantly, the person is someone who the wedding couple trusts to help them make their big day a success. All of the bridesmaids are expected to assist during the planning process of the wedding, help relieve stress and anxiety of the bride, and provide much-needed emotional support in the months leading up the ceremony. This is even more true of the maid of honor, who basically become the bride's right hand throughout the entire process, helping her along each and every step along the way.

To ensure your wedding runs smoothly, it is critical to make good decisions about who should be in your wedding party. One of the best ways to help make this important decision is to consider some key factors when looking at the various candidates.

The first step is to consider is how important is this friend in your life. Are they someone you see often, or if they live out of town, at least someone you communicate with on a regular basis? I mean it's great that you were best friends as children, but are you still close? Growing up, the two of you may have inseparable. The two of you may have even planned out your dream weddings, promising with a pinky-swear to be each other's maid of honor, but it's okay to recognize that circumstances in our lives cause things to change and that people grow apart. Your childhood friend may be someone who is still important to you, but they could be just as easily invited as a guest instead of a bridesmaid. You aren't expected to keep promises that you made when you were 10 or 11 years old. Your bridesmaids should be people who you currently count as your closest friends. They would be the people that you immediately called as soon as you got engaged. They are the ones that you still envision being close to 10 or 15 years down the road. The people you choose should be the ones you consider to be your closest friends now in this current stage of your life.

Another critical component is to consider how reliable this person is. Face it. You're going to be counting on them a lot to help you out with a variety of tasks. It could include everything from addressing and sending out invitations, attending dress fittings, helping plan bridal showers, attending all the various pre-wedding and post-wedding functions, and running errands for you, particularly in the last week before the big day. Are they someone you know will be able to step in and help out as needed ? Are they someone who is good at anticipating things that will need to get done or in solving problems as they arise? You want to choose people who you can rely on to be organized and on top of things. Do you really want to have to deal with someone who blows off a dress fitting because something came up at work or continuously finds excuses to avoid helping out with the invitations and other odd jobs that all need to get done? More importantly, do you want to deal with the added stress of dealing with this person on top of everything else you will be worrying about? Choose people who won't let you down.

The final important factor is to consider how will the members of your wedding party get along? If you choose people that are high maintenance, or can't stand each other, recognize that you could be setting yourself up for disaster. One would hope that people would be professional enough that they could put aside their differences for the day, but unfortunately, this isn't always the case. Some people need to be the center of attention. As the bride, you are entitled to be in the spotlight on your big day. You shouldn't have to share it with a high drama bridesmaid that requires excess attention.

Once you make your decision on who is best suited to being part of your wedding party, there is nothing stopping you from finding other significant ways to include some of friends and family who didn't make the list. From picking up people at the airport, to making sure people sign the guest book or photo mat, there is an endless list of jobs that need to be completed. With some careful thought and consideration, I'm sure you can find something to help make other friends and family members more involved. It is critical that you make sure that these friends know that you value their friendship and consider them to be an important person in your life. Most people will understand and be happy to be included in some way.

Your bridesmaids should be close friends or family members that will share the entire wedding experience with you. It's not to say that there won't be tension along the way, but a wedding can be something that draws all of you closer together. You want your bridesmaids to be people you can rely on and count on to support you every step of the way. Make good decisions about the people who are going to stand by your side so you can focus on the real goal of actually getting married and enjoying the entire experience!

Cathy MacRae is a certified wedding and event planner, and owner of Creative Weddings and Occasions. Located in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, she plans wedding for couples in and around the Calgary and Banff area. She is also a destination wedding and honeymoon travel specialist. For more information about planning your own wedding or for advice from Cathy, please contact her at

Monday, June 29, 2009

Calgary Chamber of Commerce's Enmax Ballroom - Calgary's Hidden Gem!

Located in the prime downtown core of Calgary, Alberta, thousands of people walk past the Calgary Chamber of Commerce each day, unaware of the venue treasures that lay inside.

Other office buildings tower over the unassuming four-story structure, but inside, are numerous rooms perfect for wedding ceremonies and receptions. Their main venue is the Enmax Ballroom, located on the fourth floor. With a vaulted ceiling and Art Deco feel, this beautiful room plays host to hundres of conferences, speaking engagements, dinners and other various recpetions each year. With a kitchen on-site, the Chamber's catering staff are able to whip up magnificent four- and five-course meals for lunch and dinner gatherings or a delectible assortment of appetizers or succulent sweet treats for any cocktail party or afternoon tea. Bartenders stationed right outside at the old oak bar can quench your thirst with a wide assortment of beverages. The room holds 300 people for a reception or 170 banquet-style (table of 9), but can expand to 350 and 240 respecitively by opening the wall and adding the Peter Bawden Room.

On the second floor, the Chamber Dining Room is perfect for a cocktail reception or smaller dinner groups. With soothing colours, ambient lighting, and smaller break-out spaces, this venue is perfect for smaller, more intimate gatherings.

Nearby hotels, like the Hyatt Regency and the Palliser Hotel, can accommodate out-of-town guests, and ample parking is only a block away at the James Short Parkade.

As a member of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, Creative Weddings and Occasions is able to offer specially reduced room rates to our clients. Contact us now at to learn more or get started on booking your reception venue.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Where, O Where Should Your Destination Wedding Be?

Many couples today are looking at destination weddings as an alternative to a traditional wedding, but with so many amazing locations to consider, where does one even begin?

The first step is to close your eyes and let your imagine take you away. What is the first thought that crosses your mind when you picture yourself getting married? Where are you? What do you see? Start writing down words that best describe the style you want your wedding to reflect. Urban and upbeat or laid-back and tropical? Classic and elegant or intimate and cozy? Everyone’s definition of paradise is a little different. Start, by figuring out what is most important to the two of you. Better yet, decide what best “represents” the two of you.
Now comes the fun part. Start imaging the various locations that will achieve the effect that you want. Are you looking for a location with a white sand beach with amazing views of ocean or perhaps the elegance of a European castle? An outdoor affair in the rugged Rocky Mountains or possibly a lush affair at an actual winery?

With a clear view of what you want, this is where your destination wedding specialist can come in handy. Most of us, unfortunately, don’t have an unlimited budget to work with. Given the information of the style of wedding you want and the type of venue you’re looking for, your wedding planner can start working on making your dream wedding a reality by finding realistic options for you to consider and saving you tons of legwork in the process. For example, numerous all-inclusive resorts throughout Mexico, Cuba and many of the Caribbean islands are catering to destination wedding clients. An independent wedding planner will know which resorts to use to get the best value for your dollar, yet still avoid having a “cookie-cutter” wedding experience. She may have some other alternatives for you to consider, such as a crystal clear lagoon with a waterfall in the background or a private estate with an incredible cliffside view.
Again, your destination wedding specialist can be helpful if you want to consider unique wedding experiences. She should be familiar with companies that do helicopter weddings, cruise lines that will actually marry you at sea, or even the agencies to use for the truly unusual weddings, like an underwater one or a canopy tour in Costa Rica with a bit of a zip line at the end.

Another advantage to using a destination wedding specialist is that she can make your fairy tale dreams come true. If the idea of truly being a princess and marrying in a castle holds great appeal, but Europe is simply too far away and too cost-prohibative, allow your wedding planner to suggest alternatives closer to home. North America has its own share of castles, such as Casa Loma in Toronto, Canada or Biltmore Estate in Ashville, North Carolina, but you have to know where to find them. Wineries found in the British Columbia, Ontario, and California are definitely more accessible and easier to budget than the Italian or French countryside.

Your wedding will be one of the most memorable occasions in your life. It makes perfect sense that this one-of-a-kind experience that should be reflective of the two of you. With so many location possibilities to consider, the only limitation that should hold you back is your imagination!
For more information about destination weddings or to start booking your own, please contact us at or check out our website at