Archive for February, 2009

Gallup Park 2Gallup Park, Ann ArborThere is no question that the economy’s woes are hitting all of us. But that doesn’t mean that we still can’t have some fun and do what we need to do.


I have always said that I think a difficulty with American culture is that we don’t talk frankly about money. In Italy, folks would directly ask how much something cost or how much you get paid. It was shocking to me at first, but then I got used to it. It is helpful to have a sense of costs, what other people are paying and if you can do better.


I’ve talked about this with Americans and there seems to be a gender difference in the discussion of money. For example, almost everywhere I’ve ever worked, the women bring their lunch in and brag not only about their good cooking, but their cleverness in using the leftovers to create something new. We also talk about the coupons they used to get a bargain when they bought their food. Men don’t seem to be as comfortable doing that and tend to spend more money going out for lunch.


These are *huge* generalizations that I would mark down as unsupported claims in an essay I was grading. So prove me wrong. Perhaps the current economy will change how both men and women behave.


Here are some things we’ve done lately that were incredibly inexpensive and either useful or just plain relaxing. It helps us with our daily budget and saving for the wedding.


Get a haircut at a haircutting school. I went for a haircut at the Douglas J Aveda Institute in Ann Arbor. I made an appointment and paid $16.00 for a great haircut and even a scalp massage. Aveda is a no-tip hair salon, so it was really just $16.00. I love Aveda products and enjoyed the scents of the massage oil and the rosemary conditioner. It took an hour, a little longer than a usual haircut since the instructor checked a few times, but it was worth it. I recommend Stacy, who did my hair with great precision and was fun to chat with.


Go to a matinee movie showing. Give up movies? Never. But why not see the new releases at an afternoon show instead of an evening show which may cost a few dollars (or even double) the price of an afternoon show?


Sign up for the point programs wherever you go. Sure, it’s tiresome: You don’t want to carry around an extra card or clog up your email account. But, I encourage you to give in and do it. You’ll save and eventually see it as a challenge. For example, we buy bagels at Barry’s Bagels  at the Westgate shopping center in Ann Arbor and we are about to get a free bagel (plus, their “baker’s dozen” isn’t just 13, it is 14! Score.) (Word of advice: some stores have credit cards, not point systems, with their names on them. Be wary of opening up too many credit cards.)


Make sure all of your credit cards have a point program. Everything you buy with a credit card should give you points. These points take a LONG time to build up to anything worthwhile, but why not earn a little extra with the money you are already spending?


Double your points. We all order online and you can increase (ok, maybe not double) your points. Start by logging into a credit card website and then shopping through their preferred vendor. For example, let’s say you are going to order online with Staples. Log into your credit card company, look for their preferred shopping vendors, enter into the Staples site and then buy something using that credit card and giving Staples your Staples rewards number. Voila! You’ve gotten extra points. Usually, you get more points by ordering through a credit card website than just using the point system set up on your credit card.


Look for coupons and sales. I know, it sounds like advice for your grandmother and who buys a paper anymore? But you can look online for sales. If you’ve already signed up with your favorite companies (for points and just to receive notices), the sales will come right to your email in-box. If not, you can look on company websites. Let’s say you have a big purchase coming up at a store you don’t normally shop at. Look on their website and track it for sales. You can even call the store and ask if they know of any upcoming sales. For example, when we moved to Ann Arbor we had some posters we wanted to frame. We went to Michael’s and were quoted a pretty high price, which was surprising since it seemed like an inexpensive framing store. We talked to the saleslady who assured us that sales come around. We signed up online for their coupons and discovered a 50% off framing sale just a week later.


Happy Hour. We all know about happy hour, but sometimes forget. Look to see if your favorite restaurant or bar has happy hour or other deals (free dessert on Tuesdays, for example.)  


Girl’s afternoon? Stop by the makeup counter in the mall for a free makeover.


Go on a self-directed walking tour. Every town has something to see and do. Look online or in travel books for a self-directed walking tour. You’ll see new things and get yourself out of the house. We like to take weekend adventures (ok, we did more of it in the fall when the weather was better) and drive to nearby towns. It is helpful to have a guide to help direct your tour of the town. The town’s municipal website will usually lead you to the right place.


Go on a factory tour. We haven’t gone yet, but we can’t wait to go on a tour of the Jiffy factory  in Chelsea, MI. It is closeby and free. (Who doesn’t love those easy to make corn muffins?)


Recycle. Some stores offer coupons or discounts for bringing products back for recycling. For example, if you have a Staples rewards card, you can bring back your used cartridges and receive a $3.00 coupon in the mail for each cartridge. I find that most of these deals are with tech products like cartridges, printers, computers, etc.


Supermarket sales and local perks. Know your local market. Hillers, a Michigan supermarket chain, offers a 5% discount to anyone with a University of Michigan ID. If there is a sale on a product you buy a lot, stock up. You can freeze it or store it in the cabinet.


AAA or other discount programs. If you belong to AAA, ask if museums, hotels, etc. have AAA discounts. We recently went to the Field Museum in Chicago for a reduced rate with the AAA discount (which wasn’t listed anywhere, you have to ask.)


Go out for lunch instead of dinner. The lunch menu is usually the same food for less than the dinner menu. Enough said.


Go to the library. Do you need to own every book you read? Probably not.


Buy used books on amazon.com, half.com, etc. If you must own the book, you can usually buy a cheaper copy of it somewhere.


Go to a museum or gallery. Most galleries are free and most museums are inexpensive or have a free night. The Museum of Modern Art has Target Free Fridays which is much cheaper than the usual $20.00 entrance free.


Look for free events. Every university, bookstore, Whole Foods, etc. sponsors free events. Go to a reading, food tasting, lecture, etc. and have a good time. The University of Michigan’s MFA program sponsors readings which are wonderful. They want to get you in the store and you want a night out. They will often sell certain products at a reduced rate for the event that they are sponsoring.


Enjoy the outdoors. Everyone who knows me knows I’m more of an indoor girl than an outdoor girl. Still, I enjoy a lovely park for a walk. Who couldn’t use the exercise and fresh air (if you’ve already taken that allergy medicine? J ) Gallup Park in Ann Arbor has a great paved path around a lake and welcomes even the most avid indoor person (see the pics above.) Hans and I went there a few times this fall and look forward to returning this spring.


Volunteer. There are lots of organizations that make group volunteer projects fun (they want to entice you in, after all.) Look on http://www.volunteermatch.org/ for something in your area.


Make lists. Go shopping with lists of what you need and what you might like if it were on sale (the less necessary items.) This will help to ensure that you don’t buy extra and you keep an eye out for certain sales. No impulse buying here.


Go out and explore the world! There are times when you must spend money (medicine, rent, etc.), but you can be smart about your day to day purchases. Continue to tip well and help support fellow human beings. Don’t spend money you don’t have unless it is an emergency.


When you do come into a little money, remember those non-profits or local stores you visited without spending any money and give them a donation or buy something full price. It is only fair and will help to keep them afloat. They are hurting, too.  



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Lyn Lynch, Makeup ArtistI recently met Lyn Lynch at my fiancé’s friends’ wedding. A perfect complexion, great lipstick and hip glasses, I asked her what she does for a living. We chatted about her experience as a makeup artists and she agreed to share some of her tips here. As someone who rarely even buys tinted lip glass, I was really interested.






How should a bride start her search for a makeup artist?


It’s great if a bride can get referrals from friends or family members who have used the services of a great makeup artist before. Aside from that, an Internet search is really OK – type in “makeup artist” and the city you live in, and take note of what is listed. Many freelance artists have Websites that highlight their work, and that should give you a good idea of what kind of artist they are, and if they fit your needs. Of course, it’s always a good idea once you find an artist to contact them and set up a time to talk about your wedding, or better yet meet in person for a trial run. That way, you can try out the makeup artist before your big day, and get a sense of what they’re like. A good makeup artist will ask lots of questions about your style, personality and what you envision yourself looking like on your special day. I always recommend that the bride supply me with a few pictures of what she thinks is the ideal look – makeup artists are obviously very visual, so it helps us to see what you see in your mind.


What should a bride who doesn’t usually wear a lot of makeup do on her wedding day?


There is always a tendency to play it safe – what works for you in real life is right for the wedding, right? But keep in mind that you’ll be wearing a beautiful dress, your hair will be done (most likely different from what you do in real life, too) and there will be pictures taken, which always calls for more makeup than what you would normally wear. Keep in mind, a good makeup artist will respect that you wear minimal makeup in real life, but know just how to emphasize your best features on your wedding day.


How does a makeup trial work?


A makeup trial is just that – a practice run before the big day. Generally, the makeup artist will apply makeup exactly the way he/she plans to apply it on your wedding day. You’ll have a chance to critique it and ask for changes – more/less color or definition – that way, there are no surprises on the actual day. It can take place anytime before the wedding day – months, days, whatever the two of you work out.


Is it customary for a bride to have her makeup done before engagement pictures?


It’s a very personal decision – often, engagement pictures are the perfect time to do a trial run with your makeup artist – while the look won’t be exactly the same as it might be for the actual wedding day, it’s a good time to evaluate whether the makeup artist “gets” you and your personal style.


Who else usually likes to have their makeup done (bridal party, mother of the bride, etc.)


It really runs the gamut- I’ve done makeup for the bridal party, mother of the bride, mother of the groom, grandmothers, friends of the family, flower girls and friends. I’ve even provided a little concealer and bronzer for grooms who need to look picture perfect.


Do you bring your own makeup or should the bride provide her own?


It is really up to the bride – most makeup artists have extensive kits they travel with that can create any look they need. If you are allergic to certain products or just prefer certain colors, it’s OK to supply your own makeup for the artist to use. It’s something you work out with your makeup artist. Personally, I’ve done it both ways.


What can the bride do to make things easier for you?


It’s helpful if brides are open to suggestion – makeup artists who have done many weddings have a lot of experience with what looks good in pictures – trust them to know what is going to show well on camera. It’s also helpful if you have a clear picture of what you are looking for – we want to make you happy, so be clear about your preferences. It’s really a happy medium between the two of you – sometimes, you’d be surprised about what will really bring out your beauty. Trust a good makeup artist to do that for you.


What is the price range? Are there “recession tricks” to keep the price down?


The price range varies by artist and by city; there is no real guideline. You can keep your price down by offering to do part of the look yourself – maybe book the makeup artist for your complete look, then have your bridal party do their complexion (foundation, powder) themselves and have the artist just do their eyes, cheeks and lips (I charge half-price for that scenario, myself). It saves time and money, especially if your bridal party is savvy enough to do at least part of their look themselves.




Lyn Lynch is a New York City makeup artist who is slightly (OK, really) obsessed with makeup and skincare. She has a full-time job at Sephora, the ultimate candy store for kids like her. She also does freelance work in her free time, when she’s not researching other obsessions. She firmly believes looking good should be fun – and should take as long as you want it to take (sorry, husband).



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Personalized Wedding Poems by Chloé Yelena Miller can be given or read in a number of ways. Here are some suggestions:


Y Read the poem as a toast at the rehearsal dinner or during the reception


YIntegrate the poem into the ceremony


YInclude all or part of the poem in the vows


YPrint and frame the poem as a gift for the couple


YUse the poem in the invitation or save-the-date


YDisplay the poem during the reception or cocktail hour.


YAdd the poem to the ceremony program


YInclude the poem on the wedding website


YHave the poem printed on wedding day favors


YInsert the poem into the thank you cards


YGive the poem later as an anniversary gift


YOffer the poem to your partner as a part of the bride or groom present

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I hope you had a wonderful Valentine’s Day. TruVue Radio host Roland interviewed a number of poets for Valentine’s Day. If you missed the live broadcast, you can listen to the archived version here.

During my interview, I read three poems (Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner), which I wrote for my fiance’ as a birthday present this past November.

Keep listening to hear Weddings by Artists’ custom song writer Anna Huckabee Tull’s interview and song.

Thanks for tuning in!

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Nestling Hearts Created by Lorraine RantalaThanks to Ann Keeler Evans, the Wedding Priestess, for sharing so much information about love and Valentine’s Day. Read one of my poems in her recent article in the Philadelphia Marriage Examiner. You’ll also enjoy Anna Tuckabee Hull’s song.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Thanks to Celia Milton for the great mention on her blog (look for the Feb. 4 post.) Scroll through her blog for other unique wedding ideas. I particularly like the photobooth… wouldn’t that be fun to have at your wedding?

If you are looking for a New Jersey celebrant, don’t miss her website.

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(Thanks to The Ann Arbor Chronicle for mentioning this blog post!)



I attended my first bridal show this weekend at V2V , a lovely boutique in Ann Arbor, MI.


I was smitten with V2V and their dresses when I saw a silk gown with a gathered front hanging in their window recently. Last week, I tried on a few dresses and spoke with Julia and Tracey. They told me about the “Bridal Event” this weekend. It sounded good, but I had no idea how much fun it would really be to attend.  


My friend Shasta kindly drove up from Indianapolis to help with wedding plans and we went together. Saturday, we had an appointment to try on dresses from the trunk sale. There were some beautiful Jenny Yoo and Siri that we loved. I haven’t decided on a dress yet, but I have a better sense of what I might like to buy.


Sunday was the Bridal Event. Shasta and I arrived at 2:30, a little before the second fashion show of the day. When we walked in, the woman gathering the tickets said that we had to try the meatballs right away. I wasn’t sure what she meant until we walked up the stairs and saw the vendors sharing samples of their foods. Who knew we should have come on an empty stomach?


We wandered around the tables of vendors. After tastes of almond cake, raspberry chocolate truffles, meatballs, apple cider and more, we felt like we were at an exclusive party dedicated to crafting original and sincere weddings.


Here were some highlights:


TeaHous is a Kerrytown-area store that specializes in tea and tea products. They had sample earl gray lollipops that would make wonderful favors.


Cakes by Rubina  offered a pure almond chocolate cake bite. It tasted like a true Italian dessert.


Decadent Delights  shared moist chocolate cake with us. They make custom cookies and can even make cookies that match your cake.


I had walked by Schakolad , the chocolate factory, a number of times in Ann Arbor and never stopped. That was clearly a mistake. I tasted a raspberry champagne truffle and wanted to create a distraction so Shasta could steal us the entire silver tray of chocolates.


When we found Zingerman’s, we found the meatballs. At this point I was too full to want to squeeze in extras, but it was delicious. Shasta enjoyed some of the apple cider.


The ultimate high point was the ten minute chair massage by Bellanina I was a new woman after that (why did I have to get up?)


The fashion show was great fun. The models walked down the runway in the dresses carrying lovely bouquets of flowers. Here are some pictures from the show:



V2V white dress

V2V group

V2V Show 3 I highly recommend attending future shows there. The cost was $8.00 in advance, $10 at the door. This was exactly the place to be for a bride who is looking to create an authentic wedding day without the excess of impersonal, commercial vendors.  


Thanks to V2V and Shasta for a wonderful weekend. I’m brimming with good ideas and cake.

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I invite you to read a love poem recently published in The Cortland Review, a wonderful online literary magazine.

The poem began a few years ago while I was in Hans’ living room in Washington, DC. I was looking at a framed New York City subway map and contemplating our love and travels. After a number of drafts, this is what emerged.

Thank you for reading.

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Anita Vaughan, CelebrantChicago based celebrant Anita Vaughan kindly blogged about WordArrangement. Hope you’ll check her blog out!

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Thank you to Elaine Martin Petrowski (check out her blog: Working Writing Woman ) for putting me in contact with Celia Milton, New Jersey Wedding Ceremony Officiant and Minister.


When I talked to Celia, it was obvious that she loves what she does and works closely with couples to create a ceremony that fits them exactly. Read below for advice on crafting a ceremony and finding the right officiant.



 Celia Milton in a Wedding Photo Booth


What three points would you stress to a couple planning their ceremony?


1.  The ceremony is not just the gateway to the reception; it’s the reason for the celebration.  Nothing is worse than having 100 people  enthused with the grandest, happiest expectations of a poignant moment only to be rewarded with the same old ceremony that’s been recited by rote over and over again.  Yawn.  Every ceremonial  choice a couple makes, from the way they arrive at the ceremony space (Will they walk together?  Will the bride be escorted by her dad or other significant relative? Will she walk alone?) to the readings (biblical? poetry? hand written?), to even their placement  (together facing their guests? facing each other?  on each side of the officiant?) expresses a subtle  window into the individuality to their relationship. All these choices should be woven together, by a competent officiant, into a joyful and individual service that really expresses the personalities of the couple.


2. Remember  the settings that surround the ceremony; it does not exist in a vacuum. If you’re in a beautiful garden, the ceremony should refer to the bounty and beauty of nature.  If it’s in the fall, in a winery, it should refer to the harvest of effort, time and growth.  At a beach?  The nature of shifting sand and the reliable comfort of our anchors; our family, our partner, our friends.  There are reasons that each couple picks their setting, and the ceremony should at the very least, present a nod of understanding to that setting and give their audience another way of insight into their particular partnership.


3. Get an early and firm grip on the fact that something will not go as you planned. The three year old flower girl will have a nuclear, face down on the aisle runner  tantrum. The chuppa will list sharply to one side.  The musicians will start playing  the recessional as your officiant is still talking. The photographer will fall into the fountain.  (Not that any of this has happened to me……’: -)   All of these occurrences are events that are uncontrollable, and in many cases, add a note of fresh reality and welcome humor  to the tableau. With the expectation that something is going to surprise you, try to plan out everything that can be planned not to surprise you. Allow plenty of time for your guests to find the site and get comfortable. Take into account that stiletto  heels and grass don’t mix. (I almost lost a couple of maids of honor on various golf courses last year…). Don’t give the four year old ring bearer the real rings. Send clear direction in your invitations, including parking details and logistical glitches (New Jersey shore traffic during the summer…..) that may factor into your guests’ plan.


What is a “must have” in a wedding ceremony?


Well, legally, that is kind of a thin list. The couple needs to take vows, and the officiant needs to make a pronouncement.  Beyond that, the “must haves” are really up to the bride and groom. As an officiant, I’ll try to offer ideas that will work, depending on the family and couple’s situations, but the bare minimum would be a welcome of some sort, vows, pronouncement, and leave taking reading.


What traditional aspects of a wedding ceremony could be left out of the “unbride’s” ceremony?


All of them, really. I almost never see, “Who gives this bride on this day?”  although sometimes, I will say “Who presents Angela on this glorious day?  Who presents Gary on this glorious day?” Kind of levels the playing field, and adds a note of tradition. 

I don’t think I have ever, ever used the phrase, “honor and obey”. My clients just are not into that. There are other ways to promise cooperation and partnership with more gracious wording.


What was the most novel aspect of a wedding you’ve participated in?


Novel…  wow….there are so many; vow renewals at Yankee Stadium; a wedding at a dairy farm where the entire wedding party and 100 guests walked down a dirt road to  the ceremony space; a giant spreding elm in a cow pasture (accompanied by  several free range cows and the farm dog…..). It’s really hard to pick one.  One of the most interesting, however, was a wedding between an American man and a Chinese woman.  Her mother had done the Chinese astrology and decided that they needed to get married on March 23d, before noon, south east of Secaucus.  We found a beach in the right location, (without a permit of course) and at ten minutes to noon we all stormed down to the sub zero beach front and did the ceremony with a Sake sharing, keeping an eye out for park rangers…..in the photos we all look really,really happy but really, really cold!


What questions do you recommend asking the celebrant before making a final decision?


1.How long have you been doing this and what is your training. In this day of internet ordinations, not everyone has the skills to do this work well. It is a combination of people skills, writing, performing, and a maniacal devotion to details. You should be working with someone who is dedicated to their work and your ceremony.


2. How are you legal in my state? (you’d be amazed how few people ask me this, and it is becoming an issue in many areas…)


3. Can we meet with you in person? (if this is geographically possible….you will get a vibe from the officiant’s personality and get to see whether they show up on time, whether they are prepared for your meeting, etc.  One of my trainers says that the way you do anything is the way you do everything, and the meeting or long initial phone call can tell you a LOT about the way your ceremony will be…)


4. Why do you love doing this work?  Your officiant should sound like they really,really want to be present at  your celebration and make it a memorable occasion.  If they don’t sound enthusiastic and fun during your phone conversation, (which is really the easiest part of the process), they are NOT going to be any more enjoyable at the ceremony, and it is really important to be surrounded by people you like that day.


5. How is our ceremony created?  In my humble opinion, sending a couple 26 pages of readings and ceremony chunks for them to choose and then have strung together does not a personalized ceremony make. You should feel that your ceremony is going to be written with care, with your input, and with resources that match your philosophies and wishes.


6. Can we include a sand ceremony, ring warming, broom jump, dunk tank?  If you are interested in including ritual elements, you of course, want to work with someone who is happy to research and write them.  The process is, afterall, a collaboration.  Rigidity is a bad sign.


7. How much do you charge? Does that include travel time, parking, waiting time, extra consultations?  You want to know, ahead of time, what that number is going to be. There are so many ways for your budget to spin out of control that whatever pieces can be booked as a flat fee will be a real asset to your planning. In most cases, the only thing that may be up in the air is waiting time, and this is an important factor not only regard to your ceremony, but also to your reception planning. In some cases, your reception venue or your officiant may not be able to wait a half hour for Aunt Betty, who is always late, to show up. There are many ways and reasons to assure that your wedding happens on time, and a pro celebrant should be able to work with you on containing this cost.


8.  What is your cancellation policy (if  the couple has to cancel or move the date)?  What is your policy if you, as an officiant have to cancel? These are both important questions. If you have to cancel, timing may be all in the decision to refund your deposit or not.  (I personally, try to be as flexible as possible, but if I have turned down three other couples for that date, I may not be able to be as fluid as I’d like. In the case of family tragedies, I always refund the entire amount.)  If the officiant has to cancel (death in the family, abducted by aliens, etc….) you should make sure your contract stipulates that you’ll have your ceremony script back several weeks before the date of your wedding, and that your officiant will help you find a competent replacement. You should not incur any expenses, and you should feel comfortable with the alternative arrangement.


9. Will you work to coordinate  with my photographer, florist, banquet manager, do, band, etc?  The only answer is YES


What was your wedding ceremony like?


Oh, mine was a hoot.  It was 8 minutes long, and the photographer didn’t ever get out of the balcony in time to photograph any of the ceremony on “ground level”…..(I always let my photogs know how long the ceremony is so they can pace themselves!)  Our flowers were run over by the church secretary, the cake arrived on the dashboard of the delivery van, and the bagpiper got toasted and danced with everyone there.  Wouldn’t change a thing!





Celia Milton is an ordained inter denominational officiant  based in New Jersey and New York (though she is happy to do destination weddings on any island location, and she is certified as a scuba diver for those festive underwater occasions).  Prior to starting her practice as a civil Celebrant, officiating at weddings, civil unions and the many other milestones that punctuate our lives.  She lives in northern NJ in a tiny house with a giant dog and way too many wedding books….


Don’t miss her website or her blog.  



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