Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Budget Wedding Tips

Despite what many bridal catalogues, wedding websites, friends, family members, celebrities, etc., might have you believe, you don't have to spend a lot of money to have a nice wedding. I personally planned my husband's and my vow renewal ceremony (since we eloped, this ceremony was our "wedding," with almost all the trimmings) for under $2,000. It can be done.

The average cost of a wedding today is $22,000. Many couples actually take out loans to pay for their weddings. I'm of the personal opinion that, unless you just have a lot of extra money lying around, you shouldn't have to pay nearly this much for your wedding. Most couples can't realistically afford it, either (hence the loans). Why put yourself in debt for something that's going to last only a few hours, when you could save that money for your marriage, which will probably last longer, unless you happen to be Drew Barrymore.

For those of you looking to plan a wedding on a shoestring budget, don't worry...there are quite a few resources for you, including books and websites. I've also decided to post my personal tips here for you to peruse and consider.

The price of your ceremony and reception location(s) can make or break you, budgetwise. Don't expect to get a great deal simply by renting out the church you've been attending since childhood, either, although there are always exceptions. If you can get a good price from your church, great! If not, here are some other options:

-museums and art galleries, especially smaller venues
-local colleges (it doesn't have to be your alma mater, either; a lot of colleges rent out their facilities for such functions)
-historical houses
-state parks
-botanical gardens
-zoos (they usually only rent out for receptions)
-local hotels
-theatres/concert halls (not movie theatres; the stage kind *wink*)

This is just a very small list. Be creative; think outside the box! Drive around your area with the purpose of looking for possible locations. You'll be surprised at what you see as possibilities! And never underestimate the power of having a "friend of a friend of a cousin" who has a huge, beautiful mansion. The main thing is to ask!

Also, a lot of locations will give you a deal of sorts if you agree to have both your ceremony and reception at their site. Some will even provide catering for the reception for a discount if you go with this option. You must ask about all of these things; ask them for deals, for discounts. The worst they can say is "no."

There are tons of discount bridal shops on the Internet. Also, there's probably a David's Bridal near you; be sure to check them out, as they often have lovely dresses for low prices.

A lot of designers have a separate "informal" or "destination wedding" collection, and these dresses are almost always under $1,000, and usually much cheaper than that, even directly from a bridal shop. Also, look for bridesmaids dresses in styles you like, as they are much cheaper than wedding gowns.

If you buy from a bridal shop, be wary of alteration costs. Ask up front about these costs.

If you buy from the Internet, be sure to do so at least a couple of months before your wedding, even if they promise "lightning-fast" delivery, just to be on the safe side and to allow time for alterations.

eBay always has a huge selection of bridal gowns, but be wary: some of these so-called "designer" dresses are not actually by the promised designer. Also, eBay has many bidders who are "professional" bidders of sorts and who will sneak in during the last few minutes (even seconds) of an auction and bid a dress right out from under you, leaving you with no time to outbid them. I've seen my share of brides-to-be heartbroken after losing their dream dress in an auction. So just be aware of that.

Also, if you know someone who's a fabulous seamstress, why not have your dress made? You can get a pattern from McCalls or a similar design catalog, or--if you're especially creative--come up with a design yourself. Or you can go with an old standby, and try on dresses in a bridal shop and get someone to (inconspicuously) take pictures of you in the dresses, then take the pictures to a seamstress.

Invitations are often brides' budget-breakers, because many people don't expect them to be as expensive as they are. You can easily avoid these costs by either ordering your invitations off of eBay or making them yourself. You can find great invitation stationery at stationery stores (and at Target!) for budget prices, and you can either use your own printer or go to Kinko's. There are also several invitation kits for computers that will help you with design and layout.

I personally feel that handmade invitations are much more meaningful, and often much more attractive, than "professional" invitations. You have the freedom to do whatever you want, and there's just something very special about that personal do-it-yourself touch.

Make your own! Again, eBay has wonderful sources for wedding favors, and you can also get supplies from Michael's, Target, or any craft store. Most wedding sites have tons of favor ideas.

The cake
If you're having a small wedding, you might consider making the cake yourself, or getting a friend or family member with culinary talent to make one.
Publix also makes beautiful wedding cakes for great prices. For example, 3-tiered cake is a flat rate of $159. Compare that to most bakeries, where you'll pay around $7-$10 per slice (on average).

eBay, Michael's, Target... As far as flowers go, remember that you will save tons of money by only having flowers that are in season at the time of your wedding.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Bridal Gowns: Making A Choice

Shopping for your wedding gown is a very exciting and fun thing to do, but it can also become very confusing. Choosing just one gown out of the thousands of options available can make even the most organized bride's head spin.

The first time you walk into a bridal shop, chances are you'll be overwhelmed by all the choices you've got. The best thing you can do to prepare yourself is to spend some time looking through the national bridal magazines to see which styles attract you. Granted, the gowns look different on professional models, but the pictures will give you a good idea of what's in style and what options are available.

While you're paging through the magazines, pay attention to details: necklines, sleeves, appliques on the train. Take the dress apart in your mind and consider each piece separately.

Don't rip out the pages. Instead, mark them and take the whole book with you when you go shopping. This is important because bridal shops often call the manufacturers for more information about gowns, and to do this they need to know page numbers.

When you do finally venture out, take the time to plan ahead. Most bridal salons prefer to show gowns by appointment, so call ahead. Appointments will last between one and two hours, so be sure you space them out.

Whatever you do, don't try to squeeze it in on your lunch hour. Shopping for your bridal gown isn't like looking for a casual outfit, where you can go into the store and look through the racks. It's very much a one-on-one process. You need to sit down with your consultant and discuss what you're looking for before you try on a single gown. An appointment assures that you will get this kind of relaxed atmosphere, and it guarantees that the consultant will be able to take the time to do everything possible to get you the gown you want. You'll have much more success if you aren't pressed for time.

Your first couple of outings should be purely for exploration. You'll try on a lot of gowns before you decide on one, but the more you try, the better an idea you'll get of exactly what you want. Believe it or not, though, it is possible to try on too many gowns. Once you've settled on a neckline and general style, stick with it. Try not to fall into the trap of trying on every dress you see; you'll only confuse yourself. If that straight skirt didn't look good yesterday, it's not going to look any better today.

Have an idea of what you'd like, but keep an open mind. It may not look like much on the hanger, but it could be the dress of your dreams. When you try on a gown, focus on the way it looks and feels. Is it comfortable? Does it emphasize your good points and hide your flaws?

Shopping alone can often be difficult. Take with you one or two people whose opinions you truly value (most brides count on Mom and their maid- or matron-of-honor). If possible, take the same people each time so you all are equally well informed as to what you've seen and liked. It's important that you limit yourself to only one or two people, though, or you'll end up confused by too many conflicting opinions. Bring the others once you've made your decision.

Most of all, remember that this is YOUR wedding gown. Make certain you're not trying to please or impress anybody else with your choice. Nobody will be impressed by a gown that looks terrible on you, or one that is clearly uncomfortable. In the end, the only opinion that counts is your own. If you feel beautiful in the wedding gown of your choice, you will be.

If the gowns you've seen have all started to blur in your mind, it's time to stop looking. Go back and re-try your favorites, then narrow it down from there. If you're having trouble deciding, here's a handy trick: Over a period of a week or two, don't look at any gowns. As you concentrate on other aspects of the wedding, picture yourself walking down the aisle and note which dress you're wearing. Chances are that's the one you'll buy.

A word of caution, though. Bridal gowns usually take anywhere from three to six months just to come in, and you'll need about a month on top of that for alterations. Obviously there are exceptions to this rule, but leave yourself as much time as possible before the wedding to be sure you can get the dress you want.

How do you choose a bridal shop? Keep in mind that you'll be working with these people for the better part of a year, if not longer. You need to trust them and be able to get answers to your questions. Some things you should find out about include whether you'll be able to see the gown without an appointment; how it will be stored; if anyone will be able to see the gown when you are not present; and if you will be able to take the gown out of the store and then return it for safekeeping until the wedding.

Check with the Better Business Bureau for unresolved complaints. As far as payment goes, most shops require a fifty percent deposit, with the balance due either at your first fitting or when you pick up the dress. Be wary of any shop that asks for more than fifty percent before the dress comes in.

Talk to your consultant about what the price of the gown includes. Many shops include all or part of your alterations, and some include the veil as well. This is very important to know when you shop for the best price. The dress with the lowest initial price can end up being the most expensive when all the hidden costs are added.

Alterations can be a big added expense, and you can count on needing them. You're taking a lot of time and spending a lot of money to get the perfect bridal gown, so once you find it, don't skimp on the alterations. The way the gown is altered will have a big influence on how good it looks on you. The most beautiful dress in the world will look awful if it doesn't fit properly, so be sure that your gown is altered by an experienced bridal seamstress.

Doing alterations on bridal attire is very different than altering everyday clothing, because there is much more detail and the proper fit is essential. For example, if a blouse is a little loose through the body, you probably won't be too concerned -- you may even prefer it that way. If your bridal gown is loose, however, it'll show, and it'll be pretty uncomfortable.

If alterations are not included in the price of your gown, find out the charge for each procedure. A hem may cost $30, but if your skirt is lined it can be considered two hems and you'll pay twice as much as you expected. Bustling the train is another major expense. Also find out if pressing is included. With something as important as your wedding gown, you probably don't have either the facilities or the skill to press it properly yourself.

Be aware that a lot of manufacturers copy each other, so know what you're getting. You may find a copy of the gown you want at a much lower price, but be aware that it may not be of the same quality. Even though you only wear the dress once, you don't want it to fall apart by the end of the day. Talk with your consultant about different manufacturers to be sure you're getting the quality you expect.

Whether or not it's your first marriage, your wedding day is something you've dreamed about. Selecting only one gown out of the thousands of choices can be a difficult and confusing process. Instead of letting your decision be a source of worry, take your time and enjoy it. This is one of the most important days of your life, so it should be exactly what you've wanted.

Friday, December 12, 2008

How Do I Choose The Wedding Party

Choosing the wedding party can be one of the most pleasurable or daunting experiences you will encounter while planning your wedding.

While there are no set rules on how many attendants are required, there are some standard guidelines to assist you.

On average a wedding party will consist of 4 to 6 bridesmaids and groomsmen. This number may vary depending on the wishes of the marrying couple. Generally, the more formal a wedding the larger the wedding party typically is. And, as a "rule of thumb", the number of groomsmen in a wedding party should be equal to the number of wedding guests divided by 50 - with a corresponding number of bridesmaids. For example, if you were expecting 400 guests at your wedding, protocol would dictate 8 bridesmaids and 8 groomsmen. Interestingly enough while it normal on occasion to have more groomsmen than bridesmaids in the wedding party - there should never more bridesmaids than groomsmen.

Also please remember when planning your wedding party that "cost matters." The larger the wedding party the more costly your wedding will be. Each additional bridesmaid comes replete with requisite bouquet, gift, and accommodations. So if cost is an issue, the more does not necessarily mean the merrier.

Be thoughtful when narrowing your selection list. This can be quite the task if you have many friends and loved ones. Remember, you can't include everyone. If there are some women that you want to be involved but you can't have them as bridesmaids, ask them to be Honorary Bridesmaids. (Also known as Honor Attendants). They will attend the rehearsal dinner, bridesmaids' luncheon, and sit with the family in the front of the church on the special day.

Finally, and most importantly, be attentive to the needs of your attendants. Invitations to be in the wedding party should be offered at least six months in advance. This will allow adequate time for those involved to make travel arrangements, purchase attire, and save money. Don't be offended if someone you ask opts out of the wedding. Being a bridesmaid or groomsmen requires a great financial/time commitment and for many of us those two commodities are in short supply. Therefore do not assume that a "no" is indicative of a lack of interest or a personal slight. Many people simply cannot afford to be involved.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Ten Slimming Tips And Eight Sneaky Ways To Hide Pounds!

Here is some advice to anyone who may be a pound or two (or three) heavier than she would like to be for her special day.

Remember to consult your physician before going on ANY diet or ANY work-out program. Ask your physician the right daily caloric intake for your specific size - then do it !

COUNT CALORIES: the American Medical Association suggests that fat be no more than 30% of your daily intake. So while you are counting calories COUNT FAT GRAMS as well.

Professionals suggest that your protein be 40%, your carbohydrates be 40%, and your fat only be 10% of your daily intake.

FILL UP on fiber. Fiber helps your body carry away waste resulting in lower levels of fat in your body. The American Dietetic Association suggests these fiber sources: whole grains, fruit, vegetables, and dried peas and beans. Fiber keeps you feeling full so you eat less.

DRINK at least 8 glasses of water each day. Drinking water is the best way to cleanse your system and is ESSENTIAL in your fight against fat! Water flushes the fat away. Water also makes you feel full so you eat less. When you feel hungry, drink a glass of water (often when we feel hungry we are merely thirsty.)

EAT LESS red meat. Your body needs protein, but there are much better sources: chicken, fish, cheese, egg whites and soy products.

SPICE UP your foods! Use hot spices, garlic, onion, seasoned salts, etc. You would be surprised what you can do with baked potatoes, vegetables and salads without adding any fat.

Burn some extra calories every day. You don't have to be involved in aerobic classes, spend money on gyms and work-out programs. You can walk, jog, swim, or bike. Just keep it up at least 20 minutes per day. Also, try walking 15 minutes after each meal.

Use the Food Pyramid. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggests 6 - 11 servings of bread, rice, cereal or pasta; 3 - 5 servings of vegetables; 2 - 4 servings of fruits; 2 - 3 servings of meat; and limited amounts of fats, oils and sweets. FOR WEIGHT loss use the lower end of the Pyramid's servings. Keep healthy snacks handy like fresh fruit and vegetables and don't let yourself feel hungry. Keep track of what you eat and how you work out, it's a great way to discipline yourself, and.... you will be happier on your wedding day and thereafter.

Now if dieting and exercise just aren't working for you or are working for you but just not fast enough for your approaching wedding day - here are Sandra's tips for "sneaky ways to hide pounds".

Although diet and exercise are the best ways to look fit for your wedding day, here are some sneaky strategies that can make you look even thinner.

  1. Choose the gown that is right for you. FULL SKIRTS HIDE LOTS OF FLAWS like large hips and heavy thighs. A "V" waist which is fitted at least 3" below the waist, gives the illusion of a MUCH smaller waist. "V" or long oval necklines elongate the upper body creating a SLIMMER look. A high neckline tends to accentuate what is already there and gives a bustier look. 3/4 length sleeves will make unshapely arms DISAPPEAR. A tapered sleeve will make your arms look SLIM. These tips can make you look 10 POUNDS smaller. Stay away from large puffy sleeves - they add width!

  2. Keep your attire proportioned. If you have a long dress and a long train, purchase a long veil.Shorter gowns and veils make you appear wider by cutting your silhouette into sections.

  3. DON'T ACCENTUATE THE NEGATIVE. If you're bottom heavy, avoid large bows and large bustles. If you want to minimize your bust choose a dress with a plain, not beaded bodice. Know your fabrics. Avoid fabrics that cling to you. SHINY FABRICS REFLECT and make you look LARGER. Look for matte finishes and shantung. Make sure your dress is a good fit, A BAD FITTING DRESS WILL ADD POUNDS.

  4. Wear sculpting lingerie. Waist trimming, tummy flattening, figure smoothing lingerie. These garments can take inches off. Be sure not to wear something so tight that you can't breathe on your wedding day. You will already be nervous and if you can't breathe freely it could cause you to faint.

  5. POSTURE IS A MUST! Stomach in, shoulders back, chin up - THIS INSTANTLY HIDES POUNDS.

  6. A large bouquet, in proportion to the fullness of your skirt, can be strategically placed at your middle as a natural form of camouflage.

  7. THE CAMERA CAN ADD POUNDS so know your camera angles in case your photographer doesn't. Stand with one foot behind the other, in a "T" fashion, this will make your hips appear smaller. Don't turn sideways, face the camera with your shoulders at a slimming 35 degree angle. HIGH CAMERA ANGLES SLIM and this causes you to look up at the camera stretching the neckline. Make sure the majority of your shots are head and torso shots.

  8. Get a makeup artist. They can make your cheeks, neck, and nose look thinner. Also, they can bring attention to your lips and eyes which can not only make your face look thinner but WILL MAKE YOU GLOW!

How to pick the right diamond and right wedding rings.

First pick the right jeweler! Weddings today are far different from the ceremonies that took place some 500 years ago, but there are at least two ancient traditions that have stood the test of time, the giving of a token of commitment (today's engagement ring) and the exchange of the wedding bands.

One of the larger purchases of a lifetime may be your engagement ring. Before the engagement ring is purchased the ultimate question in your mind should be "where do I find a jeweler I can trust" and should you NOT have this question in mind then one of the potentially largest purchases of your life could end up being one of the costliest purchases of your life (not necessarily a good way to begin a marriage.)

Choosing a diamond ring takes research and a jeweler that will take the time to help educate you is what you should be looking for. It's very easy to get swept off your feet, but remember to ask the jeweler a LOT of questions. A trustworthy jeweler will welcome questions to help the groom (or the bride and groom) achieve a real comfort level.

Now let's give you an organized path to making a decision of where and what to purchase:

  1. Take a look at the store....is it open warm and friendly? Can you watch the jeweler at work? If you end up asking yourself "what's wrong with this picture" you are NOT in the right shop!
  2. Ask to look at several loose (unmounted) stones, if the jeweler offers you his loop (the tool used by jewelers to magnify the stone) this is probably a good sign.
  3. Think of how you are treated and educated by this jeweler. Did you feel a rapport being established? Was the jeweler very helpful or very condescending? Remember, you are the one about to spend the money - you are the one to be catered to. If you end up in the LEAST BIT uncomfortable you are NOT in the right shop!
  4. Think about how much you know about the jeweler and the jeweler's business. Ask about the jeweler's experience; ask about appraisals; are they free; what will the diamond appraise for; ask about what type of WRITTEN warranty the jeweler offers; and, ask about the possibility of eventually trading up to a larger diamond!
  5. Be careful when a jeweler offers you a deal like selling you a diamond for "only 1/2 of the appraised value". If the diamond appraises (an appraisal is the diamond's estimated value) for twice as much as you are going to pay for it how is the jeweler staying in business? - is the jeweler not charging enough for the diamonds? - are the diamonds marked up so high that 50% of the established cost is all they are worth? - is the jeweler really giving you a fair and true appraisal of the diamond?

Many of today's knowledgeable shoppers are turning to independently owned jewelry stores because they feel they receive more personal service.

Once again, if you have to ask yourself "what's wrong with this picture" you are NOT in the right shop. Many of day's more knowledgeable shoppers are turning to independently owned jewelry stores because they feel they receive more personal service.

A trustworthy jeweler will be sure you understand the 4 C's of diamond analysis; Color, Cut, Clarity and Carat weight. These characteristics determine a diamonds quality and value.

Color refers to the diamonds natural color. Diamonds are measured on a color scale ranging from D to Z stones. Stones in the Z range are called fancy or colored diamonds. Be aware that a jeweler has the means to synthetically color a stone - this is NOT the same as the real thing!

More than anything the Cut and finish of a stone determines how sparkly and fiery the diamond will be. Although most diamonds can be cut in a variety of shapes the most popular and common are oval, marquise, emerald, pear, round and radiant.

Clarity refers to the presence or absence of flaws (including small specs of black carbon or other minerals) inside the stone. The more flawless the more expensive the stone.

Carat refers to the weight of the diamond.

Remember this is likely to be a MAJOR investment. Learn as much as you can from as many qualified sources as you can find. When you start looking for the jeweler that can best help you make sure you are totally comfortable with your choice -- if you have ANY reservations you are NOT in the right place.

Also remember that after making this extremely important purchase you should have become knowledgeable, comfortable with your decision and you should have made a new lifetime trusted friend in the jeweler you finally selected.

Wedding Coordinators And Planning Consultants

Planning for a wedding or similar special event is often very time consuming and usually can be an extremely hectic process. For most people this is a first time event and many of these first timers just don't know how to go about finding the resources of dependable and reliable professionals. Quite often many first timers don't even realize that professional help is available!

A Wedding Consultant (or Wedding Planner) is an individual or team of individuals who has the background, the knowledge and connections to take your specific wants, desires and budget and create, what many of us who have done it on our own would consider, an event miracle!

In reality many of you may not need a consultant but if you are planning for anything more than a very small gathering of only the closest half dozen friends and very immediate family the Wedding Consultant often allows you to see the cost up front and to take nearly ALL the headaches and potential problems off of your shoulders. In Reality? - By hiring a consultant you only have to follow up with and oversee ONE person and even then (if you have selected a really good one) you shouldn't have to even worry about that one.

Consultants give you personalized attention. They listen to your ideas and desires, help you establish goals and a realistic budget and, then, go to work for you to make it all happen - while saving you time and money! That's right, a good professional is likely to pay for him or herself by knowing where to shop and how to shop for many of those event items you need - and all of this is just for starters - the consultant does much more for you. Here is your source for the most current trends and for proper wedding etiquette.

Today's bride and groom are often busy professional people, working, attending school or both. Some of these individuals are second time brides that are professional people working and raising a family. Often the mothers and the best friends of these busy couples are also either working or live out of town. Hiring a consultant can be very beneficial for all concerned, by taking the pressure off everyone.


Really it's a lot of common sense. Ask wedding professionals; look in wedding magazines (like this one), and the phone books; make appointments to visit with prospective consultants (the first appointment/interview better be free or you don't want them anyway.) Get a general feel for the person you think you will be happy with. REMEMBER, this individual is NOT doing you any favors, THEY are being interviewed by YOU - If you elect to hire this individual you could be spending a lot of time with this person. Make sure you ask for references, ask about their experiences, certification, years of experience, etc. If you are dealing with a certified wedding consultant you are likely dealing with an individual who has taken the time to study, learn and know their business. BY ALL MEANS ask to see their contracts and DON'T sign without carefully reviewing the contract (contracts, no matter how friendly they seem to be, mean legal obligations and legal obligations mean legal advice wouldn't hurt you prior to signing anything.)

Choosing The Right Wine For Your Wedding Reception

Choosing the right wine for your reception doesn't have to be scary. You don't have to be a wine expert to make good choices. A good tasting wine can elevate the food at your reception and it doesn't have to be as expensive as you might think.

I would estimate 95% of all receptions and rehearsal dinners that I have coordinated have only served wine, champagne, and beer. Hard liquor has typically been served on a cash basis. You will need to choose a red wine and a white wine. You will have some guests that prefer a sweet wine, like a white zinfandel, a blush colored wine. The blush wine should simply be the "house" blush, as these are all inexpensive and vary little as to quality.

For a white wine, I suggest tasting the restaurant's house white wine. They may have a good quality house wine that is generally reasonably priced. Trust your own taste and the tastes of your family and if the house win e is not great, move on to a wine list for your selection. The wines on the list may be divided by country of origin (France, California, Italy) or by the grape (Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc). I would suggest a Chardonnay over any other variety; as it is a great "food wine". Good Chardonnay should be dry yet have a round, fruity finish. Some of the best Chardonnay in the world are grown in California, and you can find some real bargains in the unknown labels or "boutique wines". Spend some time tasting wine from a grocery or liquor store to discover what qualities of wine you like and what labels your prefer.

Most restaurants will allow you to request a certain wine that is not on their list and they will quote you a price based on what they pay for it. Just because you pay ten dollars for a wine at the store doesn't mean you can pay a restaurant fifteen dollars. You cam estimate that a ten dollar bottle of wine from the store will generally cost thirty dollars in a fine restaurant. Restaurants have to pay a 14.5% tax to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission for every bottle of wine they sell, and they try to keep the cost percentage at 25%.

My personal recommendations for American Chardonnay in the $20-$30 range are: La Crema, Cambria, Callaway, Mirassou, Columbia Crest, Rodney Strong, Chateau St. Michelle, Vichon, Hill, and J. Lohr.

If you are looking for something expensive, pick up a copy of "The Wine Spectator" and look up the ratings on labels that you know or are interested in. Just remember a wine is not judged solely on price. With some wines you are paying for a well known label and others are less expensive because they are not as widely distributed.

When selecting the red wine, I suggest going with either a Cabernet or a Merlot. These names refer to the name of the grape. Cabernet has been described as a rich, full bodied wine with hints of oak, cherry and berries. Merlot is a soft more mellow wine that has a great mass appeal, as its characteristics are not so blatant. Again, the first place to look for great Cabernets or Merlots is on the U.S.A. These two grapes are grown all over California, Washington State and Texas. Some of my favorites within this same price range are: Liberty School, Kenwood, Guenoc, Franciscan, Alexander Valley, B.V., Velverdere, Clos du Bois, Gundlach Bundschu, William Hill and Joseph Phelps.

Don't forget Texas wineries when you are tasting and selecting. There are some fine wines that are winning medals at international competitions and they are generally less expensive than California wines. Though most of the good wines come from Texas hill country a few good wines are being made right in Grapevine.

Finally, one note of caution when dealing with restaurant managers or catering directors...you will almost never be able to bring your own wine to the reception or rehearsal dinner. The T.A.B.C. permit that most restaurants carry, restricts them from allowing guests to bring alcohol of any kind into the establishment. Some restaurants may let you, but will charge you a "corkage fee" for the privilege. The restaurant is generally braking the law by doing his, yet some have a special package license which allows them to do so.