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Most brides' hearts are all atwitter when their special someone finally pops the question.
But after they say "Yes!" panic can suddenly set in.
They're about to plan the biggest day of their lives, and most haven't a clue where to start.
Twelve Fredericksburg-area businesses hope to make the wedding planning process as painless as possible. They've formed a nonprofit group tentatively called the Events and Weddings Association, and will put on seminars every other month.
"We'll be sharing our knowledge from all our years in the wedding business," said Ginny Chilton, a bridal consultant who runs Weddings by Ginny on Lafayette Boulevard. "It's a little bit different concept than having a bridal show. Brides and grooms can come and ask questions."
The first seminar, a sort of Wedding 101 crash course, will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. March 19 at Holiday Inn Select in Central Park. Each vendor will give a short talk, and participants can meet with vendors afterward.
"A lot of the information we'll cover is in the bridal guides, but you'd like to hear it from someone else, too," said deejay Jason Price of Classic Hits Entertainment in Fredericksburg. "A lot of times it sinks in better that way."
An added advantage is that seminars will be held year-round, because weddings aren't all held in June, he said. The next seminar will be held May 21 on the City of Fredericksburg riverboat, a popular wedding reception site.
"They'll all be based on planning," Chilton said. "That's the big thing. When brides first get engaged, they say, 'Oh my gosh, now what do I do?' We're going to show them what to do to make their lives less stressful."
Besides Chilton and Price, association members include I Thee Wed; Beastly Productions; Cakes Galore; Fredericksburg Limousine; Fredericksburg Supplies and Rentals; Images By Ivan; LOK Custom Fashions; Personal Chef Catering; Primerica; and Videographers of Fredericksburg.
The idea for the seminars sprang from similar events Chilton and others in the bridal business held several years ago. They stopped holding them because they got too busy.
"We decided to do this again because when we do bridal shows, some of the [vendors] come here and then leave. We thought it would be good to get the local vendors together and do it ourselves," said Mary King of LOK Custom Fashions in Stafford County, which sells bridal gowns and formal dresses. "I think it should be very good, because it advertises our business along with helping the young brides."
The association has been meeting weekly for the past month to get organized, and decided to donate proceeds to charitable causes. One possibility is giving away a complete wedding package to a couple who can't afford it.
Weddings are expensive. The average ceremony and reception costs $26,327, according to Brides magazine.
So where to begin?
While some couples focus on their honeymoon, Chilton recommends picking the wedding date first, then checking to see if their church or synagogue is available. After that, they should locate a reception site, look for that perfect wedding gown and line up the florist, caterer, photographer, deejay and other vendors.
Chilton said most of the brides she sees at Weddings by Ginny come armed with wedding planners or notebooks they've divided into sections. They've also compiled a list of ideas from bridal magazines and Web sites.
"There are so many different things on the Internet now," she said. "You wouldn't believe the sites."
Theme weddings are especially popular, Chilton said. Examples include Mardi Gras, Cinderella or something tropical and beachy. But many brides also want to incorporate a traditional touch into their big day.
"We have a lot of girls who say they're looking for a seamstress because they're using their mom's dress and it needs to be altered. I had one bride who had a veil that belonged to her mom and she wanted it redone."
Brides typically turn to consultants and events such as the group's wedding seminars because they need help planning their wedding, selecting a site and finding people who can help with such things as dress fittings and dance numbers.
"They may come here unorganized," Chilton said, "but when they leave, they won't be."
To reach CATHY JETT:
In 2004, September was the most popular month in which to marry, followed by October, then August, June and July
The length of engagement is 17 months
43% of couples had both their ceremony and reception in the same location
9% of couples had a destination wedding with an average of 53 guests
--Source: Brides Magazine 2005 wedding study