partyWhen you start planning a wedding, you think you’re hosting one big party. But along the way someone will helpfully point out that there are several other parties you should be planning too. (This helpful person will most likely not be helpful enough to pay for said parties.) These complementary wedding parties are like cousins to the actual wedding: They’re not mandatory but they are traditional, and some could even be considered expected.

The good news is you’ll have help planning them – in fact in some cases you won’t even be in charge! (Deep breaths…) To get you started, we’ve compiled a simple list of ‘dos and don’ts’ for each of these wedding-related soirees. Now that’s helpful.

Your wedding day is so much more than just you and your spouse-to-be standing in front of God and family to declare your love for one another. It is a minefield of possible disasters that you must avert at all costs. It is a lovely chance to reconnect with family. It is a crisis-management gauntlet you must run while looking fabulous every step of the way. And it is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to express yourself. All of this, the good and the not-so-good, makes up your big day.

The wedding reception candy bar is a thing of the past. The make-your-own s’mores station has been played out. Mini cupcakes? So 2009.

So what hidden menu surprises are brides and grooms offering their guests these days?

The answer, oddly enough, is a late-night snack.


shrimpiesIf you have ever attended a wedding, or a formal affair, the meal is always that one aspect that will be remembered for being a hit or a flop.  Wedding food could and should be amazing; it should be something to remember when you and your guests look back on your wedding day.  In the overall wedding budget, the largest amount of the couple’s money will be spent in this category, so plan with care when selecting the caterer, the menu, and style of service for your wedding. 

When selecting a venue (see March column), you’ll notice some venues have their own exclusive caterer or in-house food and beverage department. Otherwise, a couple must research off-premises caterers to fulfill this position. 

Click a banner below to check out some local-flavored inspiration, go behind the scenes at a couple of awesome island weddings, pick up a few pointers on Pinterest, and learn how to handle the dreaded Naughty Groomsman. It's all at your fingertips in our Bridal Guide.







weddingplanner_brideToday’s bride is a savvy one. She’s a bit older than her peers from previous generations, so she has a little more dough to spend and a more refined style to showcase. She’s a tech-savvy pinner who has solid DIY intentions but Hollywood wedding dreams. She also has a full-time job, a sizable social circle and a lot on her plate, even before The Question was popped. In short, she’s the perfect client for a wedding planner.

“A big benefit of hiring a wedding planner is the convenience factor,” for brides who wish they could do it all but know they can do it better with help, said David Wood, president of the international Association of Bridal Consultants. “Your wedding should not be a learning experience. It’s like a one-night Broadway show, and you want to get it right the first time.”

That show is something that takes just the kind of planning, timing and attention to detail that certified wedding planners are trained to provide. There’s a lot a wedding planner can bring to the table, but first and foremost is “making the event happen on time and under budget, because these things spiral out of control,” Wood said.  “Weddings are a very emotional business, and you can generally benefit from having a cool head involved in the planning process.”

The wedding planner’s first job is to sit down with the couple and find out their vision for the day:  The dates they’re looking at, the number of guests they’d like to plan for, the style, and a rough budget for the whole shebang.

Wedding planner Ashley Rhodes helps merge love and location

“Stay local, buy local goods for favors and embrace Lowcountry style and settings,” said Ashley Rhodes. Rhodes has planned a score of Lowcountry weddings, and is full of ideas for making your local wedding one-of-a-kind.

Details abound, such as the sweet potato butter from Lowcountry Produce given out as wedding favors. “They were listed in Oprah’s favorite things four years ago,” Rhodes added.

How wedding planner Serena Crumley made a few new friends

“I still play Words with Friends with them. When they come back in town to visit, they call me,” said Serena Crumley when talking about the wedding party at the Mallory Weaver/Andy Milford nuptials shown here.

That personal connection was forged during a wedding that called for a lot of thinking on Crumley’s feet. There was, for example, the not-trivial detail that no one in the wedding lived on Hilton Head or had ever been here before.

Wedding planner Julie Miller made one couple’s big day a masterpiece

“When Tiffany called me, I got this classic traditional feel. Then I met her and Mitch and right away I was struck by one thing: They were both very fun people,” said wedding planner Julie Miller.

That insight into her clients led to a wedding where each quirky detail belied a playful sense of humor, but those details added up to a stunningly elegent wedding.

And while some bottles wore custom-made Koozies, one bottle contained a very unique idea.

“Tiffany brought in this antique bottle and had everyone put a message in there for the couple,” Miller explained. “And they’re going to read all of them on their first anniversary.”

weddingdress_amydaringWritten by Jen Leiti and Photo by Amy Daring

Are you one of the many brides guilty of having an addiction to “pinning”? Are you finding yourself on inspiration overload? For many brides and grooms, the abundance of creative ideas out there can be quite overwhelming! With so many ideas to incorporate into a single event, how are you supposed to narrow them down to a design concept that is fresh, innovative and personal without overdoing the details? Here are some tips I share with my brides to help them come up with the perfect concept.


You know you live in a beautiful area when it’s on the list of top destination wedding sites in the United States. Brides from Maine to Michigan choose Hilton Head Island as the locale for the most important day of their lives, and with that decision comes a significant amount of special circumstances and unique wedding planning decisions.

To avoid any etiquette missteps, here are a few tips.


Photo by Hunter McRae Photography

Wedding planning by Weddings With Leah

We live in a society of instant gratification, where the value of even the most important event in our lives is measured by the time it takes to upload and the number of “likes” it generates.



Women have come a long way toward being appreciated for their inner beauty and intellect above all else. But let’s be honest: When a bride daydreams about her walk down the aisle, she just wants to take everyone’s breath away.