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When Two Become One

Lately we've been hearing a lot of news about money and cost of living. With current spikes in gas prices, a hurting real estate market and our national debt, brides and grooms need to get smart about their future by organizing their finances before they say "I Do."

Here are some quick ideas to help you keep your finances on track.

Keep a list of all assets as well as your properties' estimated worth. This should include but is not limited to your home, car, jewelry, checking and savings accounts, antiques and other valuable possessions. Remember, when you decide on an insurance plan, the more items you include in the same plan, the better rate and discount you will receive. Also consider a life insurance policy for added security.

Also keep a list of all debts and outstanding credit card balances and loans before the wedding. Know ahead of time what money you need to set aside to pay off bills so you can budget your wedding expenses accordingly. Then make a conscious effort to pay off what is known as "bad debt" first such as credit card debt. If you have student loans or a mortgage, make the minimum payment each month and do it on time, but try to pay more than the minimum amount each month for your credit cards.

Start paying yourself first. Even if you are not married this is an important tip. Start early with a retirement plan such as a 401(k) or an IRA. If the company you work for offers this benefit, take advantage of it and put whatever amount you are able to into your account each month.

Seek advice. Don't expect yourself or your partner to know all the answers when combining assets or planning for your future. Talk to your bank or a financial expert who can offer you the advice you need on how to start planning for your future today.

Plan for the future early. If you are planning on buying a home, starting a family or investing, consider all of your options before making any rash decisions. Always seek expert advice and do your homework before investing any money. The more planning you do from the start, the less stress you'll put on your marriage later.


Hey All You First-Time Home Buyers, We Have News For You

If you are planning a wedding and also shopping for your first home together you certainly have a lot on your plate. As first-time buyers you'll need the most advice and education you can get and that means finding a real estate agent willing to give the extra attention and time to a newbie like you. Don't be afraid to meet with a few different real estate agents in the process to interview them. You need to find the right match for you.

On HGTV, Sandra Rinomato works with what she calls "Property Virgins" to educate and prepare them for process ahead. If you too are a "property virgin" we recommend checking your local listings to find out when this show airs in your area. You'll learn a lot about the woes and joys of buying a home and receive some free advice on what to look for and what to avoid when you're buying property.

Here are a few of her tips that we find most useful. To read all of her advice, click here.

1. Don't forget to set aside money for closing costs when budgeting out what you can afford. It's typically one and a half to two percent of the purchase price. That goes toward the land transfer tax and pays a lawyer.

2. Brand-new condos tend to be smaller, sometimes no larger than one bedroom, while older units typically have more square footage.

3. When figuring out the price of a property, sometimes it makes more sense to look at the price of a house in terms of monthly payments instead of focusing on that big number.

4. You can make changes to the inside of a condominium, with the proper condo board approval, but never to the exterior.

5. You can't negotiate maintenance fees with a condo, and those fees tend to go up periodically.

6. It's better to walk away if you're not comfortable with the situation.

7. A simple renovation after the sale can boost the value of the investment by thousands.

8. When it comes to investing, the best place to invest is in an up-and-coming area.

9. It is especially important to have a home inspection if you are looking to buy an aging or older house. They look past the visible surface to the infrastructure, inspecting plumbing and looking for faulty fixtures and waste lines. They check electrical systems to make sure they aren't overloaded or a safety hazard. They also look at possible structural problems like the foundation, walls and floor joists.

10. The rule of thumb is that you should be able to afford a mortgage three times your income.


Queen Bee For A Day

Hey all you bridesmaids and maids or matrons of honor, we have an idea for you! Every bride could use a special day of being pampered, honored, and adored, even if it’s just for a day. Give your friend a day of royal treatment. All she has to do is clear her schedule and proudly wear the crown of the “Queen Bee”. From Party Blu Prints, comes a 13-page how-to manual to take you step by step through the process of planning the ultimate "Queen Bee for a Day" event for the bride-to-be. Just think how loved she'll feel knowing you put the time and effort into a de-stress session just for her?

Party Blu Print walks you through everything, step by step. Although this is one of the most loving gifts you’ll ever give her, you’ll be surprised by how easy it is to pull off.

Download the entire manual by clicking here.


Writing Your Vows: The Dos & Don'ts

One recent tradition that is becoming more and more popular is the writing of your own vows. Adding this personalized touch to your wedding ceremony adds tenderness and romance that can never be contrived or phoney. If they are from your heart, they will always emote the right response from your partner.

Here are just a few simple guidelines to get you started...

Do – Sit down with your fiancé and discuss overall guidelines for your vows. You want to keep your vows similar in length and style. You certainly don’t want to say too little or too much, when your fiancé is doing the opposite. Also, if you decide to add some humor to your vows, but your partner keeps their vows very serious, the ceremony will not feel balanced.

Don’t – Don’t write for the crowds. Keep your vows only about each other and your relationship. Don’t feel like you have to make your guests laugh or cry. Your vows are about you and your fiancé and your guests are simply there to share in YOUR joy.

Do – Talk with your officiant to gain his/her perspective on your vows. Your officiant can offer insight on what is appropriate and can also help with writers block by offering suggestions and feedback.

Don’t – Don’t try to memorize your vows word for word. In the moment, no matter how many times you’ve rehearsed you may go blank with the excitement of the situation. So at the very least, keep a cheat sheet.

Do – Review traditional vows for inspiration. The most common vows are: “I so-and-so, take you so-and-so, as my lawfully wedded husband/wife to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until death do we part. This is my solemn vow.” Remember that your vows are about a promise you are making to each other, not just about how great your partner is.

Don’t – Don’t embarrass your partner or friends and family with your vows. Sincerity is key but you don’t want to get too intimate or personal.

Do – Be specific. Use words and phrases that are to-the-point and truly signify your commitment to your partner. Don’t use fluffy words or phrases to make your vows sound profound. They will come off sounding pretentious.

Don’t – Don’t use clichés. Your commitment to each other is unique and special, and cheesy cliché’s are not appropriate for the seriousness of your vows.

Do – Practice, Practice, Practice! You want your partner to believe in what you are saying, so don’t ruin the moment by not being prepared. Plus it will help lessen your nerves and you will be able to focus on your fiancé rather than the lines you are about to recite.

Click here for more "How-To's" from our "What You Need To Know Section"


A Burnless Flame

Candles add an extremely elegant touch to your wedding. In low light, the gentle flicker of candles sets the stage for a romantic evening. But, unfortunately, due to safety concerns, many wedding facilities do not allow candles to be used on site. So what are you to do if you had your heart set on a hundred flickering lights?

Meet Ashley Danae Designs. Ashley Danae Designs creates flameless candles that are made of wax and have a deliciously light vanilla scent. The candle’s "flame" flickers like a real candle, but instead of burning down to the wick, you need only a fresh pair of batteries to recharge their light. Unless you walk right up to the candle and pick it up, you have no idea the candle is not real and the best part is you'll never have to replace it.

Ashley Danae's candles also come in a wide variety of colors, patterns and styles. Just check out some of the samples below.


Fire & Ice Wedding Theme

If you are still in search of inspiration for a unique wedding and color scheme look no further. Often for corporate or social events, a common theme is Fire & Ice, but we think this is also a great underlying theme for a wedding. You may never think to combine blues and silvers with deep reds, but actually, the color combination is quite dramatic and beautiful. If you don't like to pair the two colors together, you could also always plan an "ice" themed ceremony and move to a "fire" themed reception or vice versa. After all, Fire & Ice works perfectly for weddings because we all know there is ice on your finger and fire in your relationship.

Here are some ideas to get your creative juices flowing...

Top Left: Nicole Miller Stretch Charmeuse Dress available at Nordstrom, $385
Top Middle: Maggy London Embellished Trapeze Dress available at Nordstrom, $148
Top Right: Donna Morgan Ombré Silk Dress available at Nordstrom, $178

Top Left: Urns with ice and crystals featured in Brides
Top Right: Lavish ice bucket from Lush Life Home, $54
Bottom Left: Faux ice cream cupcakes featured in Brides
Middle Right: Platinum pear shaped brooch from Levieve
Bottom Right: Preston Bailey martini glasses with Cosmo Bleu martini inside

Right: Silk Charmeuse Pintuck Dress available at Ann Taylor, $188
Middle Left: Christine Double V-Neck Dress available at Ann Taylor, $198
Middle Right: Maggy London Charmeuse-Empire-Waist Dress available at Macys, $158
Right: BCBGMAXAZRIA Satin Halter Tiered Dress available at Macys, $220

Top Left: Every Fire theme needs loads of candles to set the mood (Brides)
Top Right: Fire Drill table decor, featured in Brides
Bottom: Left: Deep red table decor featured in Brides
Bottom Right: In Hindu traditions, couples fuel a fire throughout the reception to give thanks for their wedding. (Brides)


Glamor Is Your Middle Name

There is really only one time in your life when you have the excuse to really glam yourself up, and that is your wedding day. Most girls love playing dressing up with old fashioned accessories and over-the-top fashion jewelry when they are children, but even as adults, women secretly love to put on the ritz when it comes to wedding day fashion. Glamor never goes out of style and these days, wedding photography photo sessions are getting more and more creative. One trend we just love is the golden age of Hollywood, and adding simple touches to your wedding day accessories from this era adds sophistication and ultra feminine style.

Plus it's just plain old fun. Ask your photographer about scheduling part of your portrait session for these types of unique shots. Your photographer can later add touches and color enhancements to make it look like you just stepped off the red carpet in 1954.

These photos were featured in Modern Bride, and taken by Alban Christ. Click here to view the entire portfolio.