We have some exciting new things going on with our website this week.  First, we’ve added a nifty new tool that helps you calculate your wedding costs and another that will let you know what the average wedding costs where you live. Find them at: http://www.whatsupmag.com/weddings/wedding-guide.aspx.

Next, we’ve made our What’s Up? Weddings Workbook available, in a printable version, on our website as well. The workbook includes sheets for calculating your wedding budget, keeping track of your guests, selecting your music, establishing your gift registry, choosing your flowers and decor, and arranging your reception seating, as well as a photography checklist and a wedding day checklist for the bride and groom. It’s very cool and will help you with achieve the number one thing you need to plan a  successful wedding: organization. (Well, that, and patience. Oh, and some cash.) Check it out at: http://whatsupmag.com/images/2008/10/weddings/fw08wuwwbk.pdf.

Another helpful tool you will find on our website is our Ultimate Wedding Guide, a comprehensive guide to venues, caterers, hotels, and restaurants in the Annapolis and Eastern Shore areas. We’ve done all of the research for you here. Use it! http://www.whatsupmag.com/weddings/wedding-guide.aspx.

Finally, one of our interns, Monserrat Urena,  was very busy collecting info on wedding photography this week. So much so that we had extra to share with you here. (Love her!) Below, find all of the points that you will want to be sure are covered when signing a contract with your wedding photographer. Enjoy!


Wedding Photography Contract Must-Haves

You’ve done your homework, made appointments, and looked at dozens of photographer’s portfolios and websites. Finally, you’ve found a wedding photographer whose work dazzles you—and the prices is right. Hooray!

 But wait—before you move on to the next step in your planning process, you must first agree upon and sign a written contract. Here’s what it should include:

  • The names and contact information for you and your photographer
  • The correct date(s) and exact hours that the photographer’s services will be needed from starting time to end (specify locations where your photographer will shoot with the exact addresses)
  • Name of person who will shoot your wedding and assistants (if applicable)
  • Number and type(s) of cameras that will be used
  • If using film: The number, type, and cost of rolls of film to be used including a clause for the inclusion and cost of any additional rolls used (if needed)
  • Package details, including the number of proofs you’ll receive  
  • The date your proofs will be ready for viewing and how long they can be in your possession
  • The time when and means by which you will receive your full order once it has placed, and any other delivery details
  • The duration of time that the photographer will retain control of your negatives
  • Total cost (itemized is advisable)
  • Overtime fee (if applicable)
  • Reorder price for additional prints
  • Deposit amount that is due
  • Balance and its due date
  • A cancellation and refund policy
  • Name of an acceptable substitute in case of emergency
  • Guarantee of a backup camera/equipment should there be equipment failure
  • Photographer’s signature

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Brian Ray Studios

Brian Ray Studios


The cooler weather has arrived, bringing with it some of my fall favorites: changing leaves, gourds, pumpkins, apples, eggplant, and butternut squash. Then there are amazing fall flowers in dreamy colors such as golden yellow, burnt orange, ruby red, rich purple, and chocolate brown.  If you are planning a fall or winter wedding, it’s likely that you will be using seasonal flowers in your bouquets, centerpieces, and decor. (Seasonal flowers are usually more affordable and a more eco-friendly choice, to boot!) Below, is a list of some of those flowers, their meanings, and a few decorating ideas.


Amaryllis: splendid beauty, pride

Daisies: Innocence

Grape ivy: fidelity, friendship

China aster: love, daintiness

Fuchsia: taste

Zinnia: thoughts of friends

  • Magenta zinnia: Lasting affection
  • Scarlet zinnia: constancy
  • White zinnia: goodness

Yarrow: healing


Chrysanthemums: cheerfulness, optimism, and “You’re a wonderful friend.” These flowers transition from summer to autumn in shades of yellow, bronze, and orange.

*Decor ideas for fall weddings*

  • Arrange sheaths of wheat or corn at the reception site’s entrance.
  • Integrate pumpkins, cornucopias, acorns, leaves, or gourds into your theme.
  • Use hollowed-out mini pumpkins with votive candles, elegantly carved pumpkins with beautiful designs or monograms, or paper bag luminaries to create a warm, seasonal atmosphere.
  • Place flowers in gourds or pumpkins instead of vases.


Baby’s Breath: festivity

Carnations: fascination, divine love, bonds of affection, health and energy

  • Pink carnation: remembrance, “I’ll never forget you,” a mother’s love
  • Red carnation: admiration, my heart aches for you
  • White carnation: innocence, faithfulness, sweet and lovely

Eucalyptus berries: protection

Juniper pine gardenias: “You’re lovely,” sweet love, good luck

Holly: goodwill, domestic happiness, foresight

Poinsettia: “Be of good cheer”

Snowball mums: cheerfulness, optimism

Tip: You can personalize a bouquet for the season by adding pinecones, evergreen, or berries.

*Decor ideas for winter weddings*

Group different varieties of poinsettias around the reception site.

Use pine branches and white candles in clear glass candle holders to create beautiful, fragrant centerpieces.

Another centerpiece idea is to fill a pretty bowl with water, cranberries, and floating candles (consider star- or snowflake-shaped candles).

Other elements to consider adding to a winter wedding theme: sparkly white lights, miniature gingerbread houses (or gingerbread couples as favors), miniature evergreens, candy cane pillars, snow globe centerpieces, mistletoe, and shiny ornaments.

*Note: Many flowers, especially favorites like roses and lilies, are available all year.

Did you use a seasonal theme at your wedding? Send your photo or ideas to: stephanie@whatsupmag.com.


For more on seasonal flowers and other ideas for bouquets and centerpieces, see our article, Petal Power:


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More Wedding Kids

September 29, 2008

Thanks to Wendy Hickok of Hickok Photography in Annapolis for sending us the following shots of wedding kids—and for proving I’m not the only one who is obsessed with little kids in bowties: “I agree kids at are one of my favorite things to photograph at events,” she says. “They always add a totally different dimension to the glitz and glam of a wedding day.”  Enjoy!

Hickok Photography

Hickok Photography

Hickok Photography

Hickok Photography

Hickok Photography

Hickok Photography

Hickok Photography

Hickok Photography

Send your favorite wedding photos to: Stephanie@whatsupmag.com.

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Wedding Kids!

September 24, 2008

In preparation for the upcoming issue of What’s Up? Weddings, I have been looking through hundreds of photos every day. No matter how many beautiful wedding photos I look at—with their stunning scenery, handsome grooms, and gorgeous brides in amazing gowns—it’s always the pics of the adorable kids and babies that make me stop and say, “Awwwww!” (I mean, what’s sweeter than a distracted flower girl? So much for the money you spent on those flowers, guys!)

I don’t get much opportunity to feature these cute kids in the magazine, so I thought I’d gather some photos together to share with you. This slideshow’s sure to bring a smile to your face. (Especially that little guy with the tie in his mouth!) Click on the photo to begin.

by Egomedia Photography

Thanks to: Richard Allen Photography, Melissa Grimes-Guy Photography, Clear Focus Photography & Video, Egomedia Photography, Burleson Studios, Beverly Fuss, and Kimi Raspa

Did you have a cutie in your wedding? Send me your photos! Stephanie@whatsupmag.com

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Not Your Average Calligrapher

September 18, 2008

Ink and Annie Calligraphy

Ink and Annie Calligraphy

Attention, brides-to-be and wedding planners (especially those of you with really bad penmanship): There is a stellar pro calligrapher in our midst! In researching an upcoming article on wedding stationery, I was fortunate enough to be put in touch with the amazing Anne Riley. Anne is a professional calligrapher who lives on the Eastern Shore. What makes Anne so interesting, in my opinion, is the extraordinary passion she has for her art.

For the past two years, Anne has been studying under Master penman (or should I say penwoman?) Pat Blair, who just so happens to be in charge of the White House calligraphy department. (I bet you didn’t even know they have their own!) In fact, when Anne met Pat, Pat was Dick Cheney’s personal calligrapher. (My newest goal is to have one of those someday.) She also wrote the Queen of England’s invitation to a white-tie dinner at the White House. Both women are members of the Washington Calligraphers Guild, a nonprofit organization with over 500 members.

When I last heard from Anne Riley, the go-getter was preparing to leave for a week-long retreat in Ohio, where she will be studying with another impressive penman in the calligraphy world, Michael Sull. Michael worked as a calligrapher for Hallmark for 8 years. Anne promises to share samples of her latest work when she returns.

Anne specializes in wedding envelopes and place cards, and has started her own business in Salisbury, called Ink and Annie. If any of you Maryland brides have calligraphy needs (meaning your chicken scratch just isn’t going to make the cut), I think Annie’s definitely worth checking out.

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Have Your Cake

September 5, 2008

Our second issue of What’s Up? Weddings is officially on newsstands (check it out for all of your wedding planning needs!), and we are already hard at work on our next issue. Always trying to keep abreast of hot, new trends, I’ve been in touch with local bakers about their wedding cakes. We’re lucky to have some real pros in the area, and some of the images they are sending me are truly amazing! I’ve saved some of the best for our upcoming article (stay tuned), but in the meantime, here is an idea of the types of cool cakes we’ve been talking about:

Courtesy of Caroline's Cakes, Annapolis

Caroline's Cakes, Annapolis

This whimsical showstopper is the epitome of Annapolis, with nautical flags draping each of its four perfect tiers. Not surprisingly, local bakers say that nautical colors are quite hot in “America’s Sailing Capital.”

Courtesy of Caroline's Cakes, Annapolis

Caroline's Cakes, Annapolis

Centerpiece cakes (mini cakes that serve as the centerpiece for each table at the reception) are another hot trend right now. Pamela De Bari, decorating coordinator at Caroline’s Cakes in Annapolis, says that this is what the bakery’s refrigerator looked like last weekend after preparing an order for eight 6-inch cakes for a local wedding.
Caroline's Cakes, Annapolis

Caroline's Cakes

Good things do come in small packages. Even more individualized than centerpiece cakes, cupcake “trees” or “cakes” are also quite popular with local brides- and grooms-to-be as well. Each guest can choose their own cupcake (choosing a few different flavors and colors for them is a fun option), and often, as seen here, a 6-inch version of the wedding cake is prepared for the topper–that way, the happy couple doesn’t miss out on cutting the cake!

These are just a few examples of the many exciting things happening in wedding cake trends–and there are many more on the horizon. Stay tuned for more sneak peeks. Until then, indulge in a cupcake (or three)–you’re probably craving them by now.


Did you have a unique or beautiful cake at your wedding? Do you create extraordinary wedding cakes? Send your pics to stephanie@whatsupmag.com, so I can share them with our readers!

To check out a recent article on wedding cakes: http://www.whatsupmag.com/weddings/wedding-features/0708-cakes.aspx.
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The Wedding Gift

August 27, 2008

Like many other aspects of a wedding, there are social rules and expectations that pertain to gift giving. I wasn’t fully aware of all of these “rules” until I began researching the topic for a story I was writing on wedding etiquette. There are many of them–and maybe a few you that you wouldn’t guess to be true. When I celebrated my own wedding last year, I was astonished at how many others didn’t know the most general rules of gift giving–you know, like the one that says you should give one. I will admit that this mostly proved to be true of the younger crowd, and that our 40s and older guests seemed up on their etiquette. (Maybe it was because they had attended more weddings, or because they had celebrated their own and/or their children’s. Or maybe it was because the younger generations just don’t care as much about etiquette.) Either way, if you are going to a wedding and care to know what is expected when it comes to gift giving, here goes:

Let’s start with my favorite.

If you are invited to the wedding, you should give one. This rule applies to each guest regardless of whether or not he or she can attend. (Really!) The gift doesn’t have to be expensive, but is meant to acknowledge the couple’s joyous occasion. The few exceptions to this rule are second marriages (if you gave a present at the person’s first wedding, you are not obligated to give another–this doesn’t mean you can’t give one, however) and if you decline a wedding invitation from someone you don’t know very well or no longer keep in touch with.

Registries are good. The traditional reason for bestowing wedding gifts upon the couple is to help them prepare for their new life together. Though you may think that it’s boring to choose something from a registry list, the bride- and groom-to-be registered for those items for one reason–because they need them. Registry items are sure to please and will always prove useful. More and more couples are also setting up alternative registries, such as honeymoon registries/funds and new home funds. A contribution to these is also a very welcomed gift.

* Traditional etiquette says that bridal registry info should never appear on the wedding invitation, but should only be spread by word of mouth or in an insert in the bridal shower invitation. The popularity of wedding web pages has enabled couples to post the information for guests who are interested–without foiling etiquette rules.

Cash and gifts are also good. It also goes against proper etiquette for the bride and groom to request money in lieu of gifts, but that doesn’t mean it’s not greatly appreciated! Most weddings cost a pretty penny these days and it’s likely that the newly betrothed couple would be thrilled with a little cold hard cash to replenish their bank account. Although there is no set rule that says how much you should give, family members and friends who are close to the couple are expected to give more. Fifty dollars is the minimum you should give for a wedding gift. The average monetary gift for a co-worker is $75- 100; for a friend or relative is $100-125; and for a close friend or relative is $100-150. (Before all of this wedding research I had always believed that you should give enough to cover your meal, and double that if you went as a couple. Turns out this is horse pucky. Modern etiquette says give what you can afford.)

Don’t bring the gift to the wedding. This isn’t a horrible faux pas (I mean, a gift is a gift, no matter where you get it), but it it easier for the bride and groom (or their families) to enjoy themselves at the wedding if they don’t have to worry about keeping track of presents or lugging them away at the reception’s end. If sent before the wedding, gifts can be shipped or delivered to the bride’s home (or to the home of her parents, if that’s where she lives). If sent afterwards, they should go to the couple’s home. There is debate about the popular notion that you have until a year after the wedding to send a gift (some etiquette experts say yes, some say no way). To stay out of trouble, it’s best to send it before the wedding.

Armed with this knowledge, I’ll trust you to do the right thing!


Check out our latest issue of What’s Up? Weddings on newsstands this week!


For more on wedding guest etiquette, read my article at: http://whatsupmag.com/weddings/wedding-features/0708-wedding-guest-etiquette.aspx

For my article on general wedding etiquette (brides- and grooms-to-be take note!) or to return to What’s Up? Weddings home page: http://www.whatsupmag.com/weddings/wedding-features.aspx

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I Propose a Toast!

August 19, 2008

I’ll admit it. The other day, while watching a wedding video, I shed a few tears. They didn’t come when the proud father of the beautiful bride gave her away, nor when the bride and groom exchanged vows, nor when the beaming couple were joyfully pronounced man and wife. It was at the beginning of the reception, during the damn toasts, that the waterworks began—and I don’t even know any of these people!

It’s true that many times, a well-written, heartfelt wedding toast will bring me to tears (then again, so can a commercial for cat food on the right day), but these people really had it down. The whole gamut of “man” speeches–the best man’s to the groom’s to the father of the bride’s–were original, personal, and profoundly sincere. You have to agree, it’s not every day that grown men (or women, for that matter) publicly declare their love/pride/admiration for another person/people in front of a room full of their closest family, friends, and acquaintances. This particularly fine display truly moved me.

Traditionally, several people at a wedding would make a speech or toast, specifically the three men mentioned above: the best man, the groom, and the father of the bride. Occasionally, the bride and maid/matron of honor would say a few words, as well. But times they have a-changed and many brides and grooms are choosing to do their own “thang.” These days, anyone can make a toast/speech at almost any time during the reception–as long as it is expected and (fairly) tasteful. (The rehearsal dinner is a better time for impromptu speeches.)

That said, if you plan to give a speech or toast at an upcoming wedding, how can you guarantee that you’ll produce a stellar delivery? Well, you can’t. (Sorry.) But there are a few tips that can get you in darn good shape. Here goes:

Prepare your speech ahead of time. Practice reading it aloud. Make notes on an index card if necessary.

Rehearse the first few lines as you wait to take the floor. You won’t stumble for your first words, and the rest will usually follow easily. If you don’t know all of the guests, introduce yourself first.

As I’m sure all of the gentlemen in the tearjerker video would advise, speak from your heart. It’s not everyday that you are given the opportunity to publicly acknowledge the people you love. Share memories and anecdotes. Create original material rather than borrowing from what others have done–how do they know what you’re feeling?

Be yourself. Remember that the wedding guests are rooting for you. Have fun and enjoy the moment.

If you feel fidgety, walk around a bit. Speak slowly and in the same voice as you normally do. Pause for laughter, if delivering a joke.

Keep it brief. The toast shouldn’t go on for more than two or three minutes.

In closing (or if at a loss for words!), lift your glass and toast.

Now for the DON’T list:

Don’t deliver a speech while drunk.

Don’t use R-rated humor or bad language.

Don’t bring up the bride or groom’s past relationships or money. (This is a toast, not a roast.)

Now that you have all of the basics, go forth and make some people cry!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

We want your wedding toast stories and videos! Did you or someone at your wedding follow all (or none) of the toast writing rules? We want to hear about it! Send your stories/videos to me at stephanie@whatsupmag.com.

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If you’ve been shopping around for (or gazing longingly through store windows at) engagement rings or wedding bands, chances are you might already be familiar with the Four Cs. The letters represent important qualities to look for when selecting a diamond: Carat, clarity, color, and cut. (To learn more about these, check out this article from What’s Up? Weddings: http://whatsupmag.com/weddings/wedding-features/0808-diamonds.aspx.)

When you’ve got that down, there’s something else to consider: a newly added fifth C, which stands for chemistry. Apparently, scientists have developed brilliant cut jewelry that supposedly rivals the color and clarity of natural diamonds. They’ve named them DiamondAura. In an ad I saw for the lab-created stones, a 2.5 carat DiamondAura is compared to a mined flawless diamond in 6 categories. Here’s how they measured up:

In the hardness category, they both cut glass. Both were brilliant (cut) and “D” flawless (color). The mined diamond was “IF” (internally flawless) in clarity and 0.044 in dispersion/fire, while the DiamondAura was clear and 0.066 in dispersion. Now, for the last category—the one that caused me to do a double-take: Cost. The 2.5 c.t.w. (carat total weight) mined flawless diamond costs $60,000+. The DiamondAura costs $145. (Hot dog!) Now, I haven’t personally seen a DiamondAura ring (unless you count the image in the ad—which looks pretty good), but at that price, and with the cost of weddings these days, I thought they might be worth investigating. If anyone knows more about these intriguing new stones, please comment.

And happy hunting!

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Annapolis is for Lovers

July 23, 2008

Who needs Vegas when you can honeymoon in Annapolis?

Sure, those of us who live here know that Annapolis is a romantic city, but now we have proof that out-of-towners do too! A group of New Yorkers recently voted Maryland’s capital as their honeymoon destination choice over other popular options (including a Caribbean cruise and Las Vegas) as part of Saratoga Race Track’s inaugural Race to the Altar promotion. In the promotion, the public is invited to help plan a couple’s ceremony and reception by voting on various wedding amenities over the course of two months (July and August). From July 10-21, the TV viewing audience voted on a honeymoon destination for Waterford, New York couple Jim Barbetta and Michelle Mattiske–and the Annapolis package that the Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Conference & Visitors Bureau (AAACCVB) created took the cake!

Here’s the skinny on the Race to the Altar promotion according to a news release from AAACCVB:

AAACCVB President and CEO Connie Del Signore says while the newlyweds will be enjoying the sights and sounds of Maryland’s capital city, her organization will be calculating the value of the free advertising the destination received as a result of the promotion. “The Conference and Visitors Bureau is consistently on the lookout for promotions that will help to expand the reach of our marketing efforts in key feeder cities. When we piggyback our advertising efforts with promotions such as these, we are able to drive home our message to millions of people that we otherwise wouldn’t reach.” So, when Albany, New York-based event sponsor, Yankee Trails World Travel, solicited the destination marketing organization’s involvement in early June, AAACCVB Vice President, Communications Susan Steckman was quick to create the winning honeymoon package.

Race to the Altar is being publicized on the New York Racing Association’s (NYRA) closed circuit TV, whose simulcast reaches more than 4-million homes in the New York Metro area. It is broadcast to 38 U.S. states, 27 locations in Canada and 11 countries. The event is also being publicized on the 24-hour news station, Capital News 9; via the Times Union (largest area newspaper) voting website, http://www.timesunion.com/saratoga; through a promotional ad in Post Parade, the official race day program; and via an on-site display at Saratoga Race Course on wedding day, August 31.

Television spots specifically promoting the honeymoon portion of the promotion aired July 10-20 on networks including: Oxygen, LMN, E!, Style, Food, Travel, Lifetime, and Tru TV. The commercials aired in the Albany DMA, which includes Albany, Schenectady/Amsterdam, Troy/Clifton Park, and Berkshire, Massachusetts. They also aired in the Saratoga/Queensbury DMA.

In addition to complimentary roundtrip airfare via Southwest Airlines, the Annapolis honeymoon package offers the newlyweds their choice of accommodations: the Harbor View Inn of Annapolis Bed and Breakfast, the Loews Annapolis Hotel, and The O’Callaghan Hotel Annapolis. It also features a host of activities including sailing lessons, a kayaking adventure, a personalized walking tour of the Historic District, spa treatments, dining experiences, gift baskets, and gift certificates from 13 AAACCVB member partners.

The Race to the Altar promotion kicked off earlier this month when New York Metro Area residents were invited to cast their ballots for the wedding couple. Each week leading up to the ceremony, the viewing audience is being asked to vote on a select aspect of the wedding. Voting on the honeymoon destination took place July 10-21. In the weeks ahead, the viewing audience will be voting on the wedding dress, invitations, the reception site, tuxedos, bridal hair style, and rings.

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