Friday, December 21, 2012

Mr. Bingle

           Coming up on the heels of Christmas, all I’ve been hearing about are presents, presents, presents.  I have a lot of friends with children, so I’m hearing about  everything from Mickey Mouse toys to brand new cars  (you know, the necessary things that children of all ages need to survive.)  With all the talk of material things, I’ve been thinking about what Christmas is all about.  I’m sure I’m suppose to say it’s about Jesus and it is, but that’s not what I think about when I think about such an amazing holiday.  I think about Mr. Bingle!

            Mr. Bingle is a snowman who came to life thanks to the vision a window decorator employed by Maison Blanche department store (which was originally located on Canal Street in downtown New Orleans.)  Since 1948, the miniature snowman’s popularity grew to reach more than just New Orleans, but eventually, the Maison Blanche chain closed leaving Mr. Bingle out of sight for a short period of time.  The heavens blessed us when Dillard’s took over the familiar New Orleans icon and he resides specifically with us, right where he belongs.  Each year, Mr. Bingle’s presence on the side of the department store building was always a clear sign that Christmas was on its way, but in my house, Mr. Bingle was a clear sign that my Grandmother was around.    
            For as long as I can remember, my grandmother was employed by Maison Blanche so Mr. Bingle was a huge part of our childhood with her.  We always had a Mr. Bingle stuffed animal in all of our houses at Christmas and we always read the story of Mr. Bingle (which is written below!)  Since my grandmother’s passing 10 years ago (wow, that’s a long time,) you can find some kind of Mr. Bingle paraphernalia in each of her 8 grand children’s homes.  As a matter of fact, I have a stuffed Mr. Bingle that stays out all year round; I even dress him up for Halloween! 

           The point of this is that the smallest things can take you back to a place and time when life was simpler and we could just worry about presents, presents, present like my niece and nephew will this year.  But what this holiday is really all about is family and the memories we’ve made each holiday we get to spend with each other.  This Christmas, grab a Mr. Bingle, read your children the story of the famous snowman, have yourself some beignets and make some memories.  My favorite memories included  this warm, lovable New Orleans favorite and I remember Mr. Bingle’s jingle way more than I remember what my grandmother gave me as a gift each year!

When Santa left his shop one day
He found a snowman near his sleigh.
"You'll be my helper now," he said,
And tapped the little fellow's head.

The snowman found that he could talk--
"Look, Santa, I can even walk!"
And then he gave a little sigh...
"Oh, how I wish that I could fly!"

So, Santa gave him holly wings,
Then, looking through his Christmas things,
Found ornaments the very size
To make a pair of shining eyes.

Then Santa said, "You need a hat;
An ice cream cone's just right for that.
And keep this candy cane with you,
You'll see what magic it can do!"

The snowman laughed and sang a jingle,
So Santa named him "Mr. Bingle."
That's how it happened. Now he's here
With us at Maison Blanche all year.

My grandmother's old name tag

Saturday, December 1, 2012


As a child, my mother never allowed us to take our shoes off at other people's houses. We went completely dressed in an outfit that included shoes and were to remain dressed throughout the day/ event.  I never really appreciated that "drill sergeant" rule of fashion until I got older and noticed the number of girls who were quick to take their shoes off no matter where we went.  In high school, girls were always taking their shoes off at sweet 16 parties, proms, etc., and as I continued to age, weddings became the place where the shoes came off.  This became the “norm” so much so that the trend now is to give flip flops as the favor at receptions to make female guests more comfortable.

Traditionally, I am a big believer in being different or making things your own – always putting your personal touch on everything.  I guess that’s why I’m not too bothered when everyone partakes in the “flip flop wearing” as a group!  I guess I do fall into the age old saying of "if everybody's doing it, it must be ok.” I may even partake in the "casual fun" from time to time (don’t tell my mom). But weddings are starting to get so “casual shoe” friendly, that the flip flops are now becoming the go-to shoe when guests get to the reception whether they are offered as part of the wedding festivities or not.

I saw a bridesmaid this past weekend wearing platform, jeweled flip flops with a short bridesmaid dress. The last thing you should do when ruining the look of your $200 bridesmaid dress is bring attention to the situation.  Just because they have jewels on them does not suddenly make flip flops a formal shoe.
Here’s the etiquette girl - You don’t have to wear stilettos, you just have to wear "dress shoes.”  So if you leave the house not being able to walk in the shoes, it certainly will not get better as you start drinking and dancing. Wear shoes that you can handle for the entire night. 

But wait, unfortunately, I do have to take this one step further.  I feel that this should go without saying, but apparently I must say it, so let me tell you all that not wearing any shoes is definitely not ok; EVER!  And to make matters worse, it breaks my heart that I have to mention that walking thru the French Quarter without shoes is not only repulsive and a sure fire sign that you are a tourist, but it’s also a guarantee that you’re going home with more than a hangover. That type of etiquette is something that I'm not sure I can ever cover. But do keep this in mind; if you are so drunk that you think taking your shoes off at a wedding reception is a good idea then abort immediately. Have someone put you in a car and get you home right away for you are more than likely about to black out, vomit or at least give the videographer his award winning footage for the night!!!

Thursday, November 15, 2012


I'm sure we are all aware of a little site called Pinterest, which allows us to create a "bulletin board" of pictures to include anything from home décor to the “perfect” guy we’d like to marry!  Pinterest primarily serves as a "book mark" to save the style and ideas of what we love if we were ever to buy a house, plan a wedding, purchase a new wardrobe, start a family or have the money for a complete makeover.  I'm not sure that I understand why pinterest is important to most people, but I know that it is important to my brides so that they have a place to keep all of their design ideas and "favorite looks" as it pertains to their wedding. I think for that purpose, it is useful; but overall, Pinterest is the disappointment of every fantasizing bride and the demise of every planner/ vendor involved in the bride’s wedding. Why do I feel this way? Well, there are a few reasons.
Have you ever seen a Wendy's commercial and the burger looks so big and juicy that it forces you to rush over and order the very same burger that you just saw on television; however, when you get it, it's flat and dry and looks like it shrank in comparison? Well, that's because pictures of food are traditionally fake or staged for the commercials/ ads in which they are featured. This same theory can be true of the seven-tier, strawberry-filled cake that you saw on Pinterest.
When my girls show up to the bakery with a picture of a cake that is 7 feet tall and has to be filled with fresh strawberries because they saw it on Pinterest, they do not understand why the bakery crushed their dreams by telling them that a cake that size will slide if filled with fresh strawberries.  It's the realism that Pinterest takes away from my brides that causes so much disappointment.
Then there is the bride who asks her photographer to take a picture of her, and she wants it to look exactly like a picture she saw on Pinterest so much so that she went out and bought the very outfit that the girl in the picture is wearing.  This is not only frustrating because certain things cannot be duplicated, but it also creates a total lack of originality.  The frantic desire to replicate something to be so exact is a definite set up for a major disappointment (especially when the picture you saw was taken during the day, with windows lining the back wall, with the New York city skyline as its background, and you are asking for the picture to be taken at night in your childhood bedroom with no windows.)
As I am writing this, I realize that I should not blame Pinterest, I should blame the girls that misuse it and take it to the extreme (just like Facebook, but that’s for a different day).  Just like anything else, Pinterest is a great resource for most girls; but I guess when you are living in a fantasy world, you will live in that world with or without Pinterest. It is particularly hard for this planner to see the same design ideas surfacing time and time again and even harder to see my vendors pressured and limited because of Pinterest. Let's get original, ladies. And please for the love of it all, keep things to a minimum.
Just because you saw it on Pinterest doesn't mean it all looks good together and should be used in the same space. I had a bride a few months ago who had her reception looking like a real life Pinterest bulletin board. Guests actually walked in and said "Oh my God, Pinterest threw up in here."  That's not good, girls!!!
So, let's use these resources for good and not for evil. Be your own person. Learn that others’ ideas should be used as inspiration; take what you like and add a twist to it!

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Etiquette of Friendship

                I am a major fan of a little show called Sex and the City; maybe you’ve heard of it.  While watching a few episodes the other day, for the millionth time, I started thinking about the friendships between these four women.  I often wonder how realistic is it to think that we can have friendships like Carrie, Samatha, Charlotte and Miranda?

                As a New Yorker at heart, I am aware that the apartment size of Carrie Bradshaw’s is completely unrealistic on a writer’s salary (that is until she got the book deal and started writing for Vogue, but anyway…).  And, the number of designer shoes and outfits purchased by this New York columnist is definitely not feasible, especially when she eats out for every single meal and only at the most expensive places in the city.  But what about the actual story line of the girls?  Is it possible to have friends that accept you no matter what and put you first, or even in the top three on the priority list?  To have a relationship with your girlfriends where you can make time for each other even once a week is a definite feet, much less to see each other two and three times a week no matter what.  And the rule of no cell phones while they are together?  My friends would die if I would adhere to that rule for even one hour at a Daiquiri Bay night!

While their commitment to each other is unbelievable enough in the hustle and bustle world of climbing the corporate ladder, raising children and trying not to be included in the rising rate of divorce, the bigger faux to this television friendship is the emotional support.  Is it possible to have friends that support you and carry you thru life no matter what the obstacle?  These girls have supported each other thru the tragedies of dating, thru job promotions and job losses, thru changes of address in boroughs and foreign countries, thru marriages and divorces, thru having affairs with married men and having unfaithful spouses, thru child birth, child loss and adoption and even thru cancer and chemo.  They have been there for it all with comments and advice, but without judgment.  Judgment; That is the key.  How many of us can say that we have not only supported our friends thru the roughest phases and decisions in life, but we didn’t judge them in the process? 

One of the things that keep these girls together is their ability to give each other their thoughts and opinions (directly to each other’s faces), but still be okay if ultimately the person doesn’t do as they advise.  Having the ability to still see your friend as the person you always thought she was after seeing her use poor judgment or react poorly to a circumstance in her life, is often hard to do.  But isn’t it woman who always say “if you can’t tell your girlfriends, who can you tell?”  Remember that the next time one of your best friends confides in you and you barely hear the end of her thought before running to call the other girls in the group to gossip about it.  When I tell my girlfriends something, I expect that they will say what they need to say right to my face, drink about it with me, have a good cry and then move on.  If I wanted the gossip and judgment, I’d put it on facebook (or I’d tell my mother).

At any rate, in my life, I have been blessed with best friends that I have picked up at different stages of my life (some from grammar school, high school and of course, college) and I’ve been able to keep them with me thus far.  Ultimately, I realize that all of these women are different and I love them because of that.  There are no two of us that lead the same life or have made the same choices and I respect each of them for who they are.  I do not always agree with them and trust me, I let them know, but at the end of the day, it’s their life and I’m just here to enjoy it with them, help them rebuild it if it comes crashing down and kill who ever hurts them! 

I do not have it all figured out, that’s for sure, but I know that when I’ve gone thru the roughest patches in my life, the last thing I needed was a swift kick to the gut by the people I love the most when I’m already laying on the ground.  Consider how you feel and what type of support you want before reacting to situations that your friends are going thru.  And when there comes a day that your friend does something that you cannot comprehend and support; something so horrendous that you just cannot see her the same way ever again, make sure your house isn’t made out of glass before you throw the stone!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Hair and Makeup Advice

As a bride on your wedding day, before you can put on the perfect dress to pose for the perfect pictures that will be the only physical evidence of your perfect day, you'll need the perfect hair and makeup! A bride without hair and make-up is like a dress with no alterations. Would you wear your wedding dress with those large orange "chip clips" on your back? No. So let's give our entire look an alteration or two.

Some brides choose to tackle hair and make-up themselves, but the vast majorities turn to the professions. When hiring any vendor for your wedding day, I believe personality plays a huge part in being a good fit for each bride. I tend to refer the vendors that will mesh well with my girls and lend themselves both to the type of work the bride is looking for and the "character" that works for that individual. When it comes to hair dressers and make-up artists, I'm very particular about who my girls work with. These professionals start off the day with the bride and essentially set the tone for the entire day and whether or not we stay on schedule, stress out the bride by rushing or running behind, or ease her mind by allowing her to relax with her girlfriends!

With that in mind, I've spoken to some of my favorite professionals who always stay on schedule and make my girls feel relaxed.
Kellie Bode (Kellie Bode Professional Make-up Artistry - www.kelliebode.com), Katie Malone (Katie Malone Make-up studio (pixie make-up salon) www.katiemalonemakeup.com), Trish Popovich (style squared – www.stylesquaredneworleans.com) and Hair stylist Anne Kirsch (anned324@yahoo.com).

One way to keep the day relaxed is to let the bride sleep as long as she can!!! No one wants the bride/bridesmaids to have to start their day at 7am just to so that the there's enough time to get everyone's hair and make-up done. So you have to decide whether or not you want one hair stylist/make-up artist or two and that all depends on the number of girls you have who need the services and the time that you have to get ready. Although all four of my professionals have done and can do weddings of up to 15 girls on their own, the average number of girls they feel works for majority of the time frames on a wedding day is 8. Again, they can definitely handle more, but for a stress free, sleep-as- late-as-you-can wedding day, that's the magic number.

It was agreed upon that it traditionally takes about 30 minutes per face on the wedding day (for bridesmaids) and 45 minutes for the bride and it takes anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes per head (for bridesmaids) and an hour for the bride.
But Kellie Bode reminds me that she "does an amazing job no matter what the role in the wedding". She actually spends the last 30 minutes touching up all of the girls, especially the girls that had their makeup done earlier in the day (those that were first or second in the lineup). I think making sure that each girl is fresh before pictures and the start of the actual event is so important, especially since that's why no one ever wants to go first on the morning of the big day.

As far as the line up goes, I personally think the bride should be someone in the middle of the pack, but closer to the end. I do not like for her to go first, but I do not like saving her for last either. Katie and Kellie both agree that the bride should be second to last or third to last so that she has her morning free to spend time with her friends, get any last minute details together and then she has time after her make-up is done to relax and get dressed early if she needs to.

Another suggestion that I make to my girls is to do a trial with your hair dresser and make-up artist if at all possible. And if you can use them prior to the wedding for real events, that certainly helps as well. Katie tells me that she finds it helpful when the girls come to her before their bridal portraits, engagement session or rehearsal dinner. She says that it allows her to get to know the bride's face and even her personality which can really make the wedding day more personal to the girls.

I do believe a hair trial is a definite necessity so that the hair stylist can learn your hair type, especially if you are hoping to have a more detailed hair style. But truth be told, some of the most detailed styles are coming from the bridesmaids. Trish has noticed the bridesmaids have gotten way more into their hair styles as of late and it's not just about the bride anymore. I think it's a great way for the bridesmaids to have their own individuality but we are always careful to make the bride the star of the show. A good way to accomplish that, and also a huge trend right now for brides, is to have a hair accessory such as a feather or flower. And with the help of pinterest and etsy, there are millions of options out there for the brides to find. What brides do not realize is that these accessories are not always "one size fits all".

Sometimes hair can be too thin for the accessory the bride is bringing in, so Anne has taken things one step further and she actually sells these accessories to her brides so that she can match each bride with the best fit for her! Anytime you have an option to buy something specifically from the professional you are working with thereby making it a little more customized based on your hair, face, body or budget, take it!

No matter what, choose a hair dresser and make-up artist that make you feel comfortable. Create your schedule wisely and make sure you book the appropriate number of stylists to keep your day running smoothly. Take advice from the professionals whenever possible and do a trial before your big day. And here are some last minute tips I'd like to throw in: bring pictures of hair styles (and make-up), show up with a clean face and clean/dry hair and have the hair dresser/make up artist come to you whenever possible. Relax, sleep as late as you can and call one of my professionals to ensure a great wedding day!!!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Cutting in Line

A few weeks ago, a dear friend of mine got engaged (shout out Kelly!). I, of course, gave her three full days to revel in the glow of her new ring before hounding her with planning details and questions of wedding madness. Much to my surprise, she had yet to figure out when she would like to have this most precious event in her life, but it wasn’t because she hadn’t thought about it. The fact is, her future husband’s brother is engaged and has been engaged for quite some time, and he and his fiancé will not wed until May of 2013. Kelly’s fear is that she is suppose to wait until after May of 2013 before getting married since the other couple was engaged first. Can anyone guess my rule of thumb on this one? Yep, that’s right – YOU SNOOZE, YOU LOSE!

In this situation, by the time this other couple gets married, they will have been engaged for two years, which is their decision. But in the wedding world of waiting your turn, anything after a year is open season. Some couples are waiting to finish school, or move out of state, or start their careers. Does this mean that every bride should put her plans on hold because her best friend is marrying a doctor-to-be and they decided to be engaged for 5 years? No way!

For poor ole’ Kelly who got engaged early July, a Spring wedding is her first choice. If she were to wait on her future in laws, she’d have to be engaged for a year and a half and that just won’t fly for her. I say, get while the getting’ is good. As long as she does not make the wedding within a month of their wedding, she is fine. A March wedding would be the latest she could have it without interfering with the other couple. And as long as she doesn’t cross schedules in terms of showers, etc., she is good to go.

When it comes to multiple sisters being engaged at the same time, things can get a bit trickier, but a lot of that falls on the poor father who may be footing the bill for both weddings, which is a totally different topic all together. But as it relates to what order brides get married based on who was engaged first, you get married when you want to get married. There’s something to be said for the bride who has a three month engagement in order to beat her younger sister to the altar, but in most situations, timing is what it is and it’s just a preference of season or scheduling.

In any case, just be considerate of scheduling and making sure there’s enough time for you to get back from your honeymoon or them to get back from their honeymoon, etc (a month’s time to separate the events should be fine). Be considerate of showers and guests that are invited to both events and be considerate of the fact that there is another bride in your presence also going thru the planning and excitement that you are feeling (you may not be center of attention for the entire engagement), but other than that, pick your date and go for it!

Friday, January 6, 2012

The New Orleans Bride

Part of the reason that I started this blog was because I was so frustrated with the “etiquette” blogs out there that are out dated and completely pretentious. The truth is, there really is no true piece of sound advice that works for everyone. Each family has their own set of traditions and “etiquette” and that is essentially what sets the tone for what is “right” and “wrong” in each individual’s situation. The idea that everyone is different is what started me thinking about a new voice for the etiquette of the future, but what is most important to me is to speak for an entirely different group of brides – The New Orleans Brides.

Nothing frustrates me more than reading a book or blog from a writer who classifies New Orleans brides as “Southern” brides. We are not Southern brides; we are New Orleans brides and unless you’re from here, you just don’t get it!

Sit down dinners are not traditional for us, an 80’s cover band will do just fine and we can just as easily have Abita beer in our toasting glass as champagne and no one gives it a second thought. Most of the time, the second line only happens at the reception, around the venue, but when we do venture out, we don’t mind second lining down Bourbon because we’re smart enough to hold our dress in such a way to avoid what might be growing on the streets. We think that cake pulls are a part of every wedding no matter where you are from and we firmly believe that the Groom’s cake is the only chance the guy gets to take part in the wedding. And speaking of cake, New Orleans is the only place where “wedding cake” is an actual flavor and the only acceptable flavor for our wedding cakes.

We have a formula for the wedding day and it typically does not include seeing our groom prior to the ceremony, which will inevitably take place in a Catholic Church. We use police escorts even if we are only going down the street and the local drivers know better than to interrupt a wedding procession. We’re all about a buffet, carving stations and an open bar and the thought of a dry reception is actually confusing to us.

Even the suburban New Orleanians (Metairie and Kenner citizens) who have the tradition of a Catholic Church paired with an all inclusive reception hall because the parents feel it’s rude to ask their friends to pay for downtown parking, follow these traditions as this New Orleans community as a whole is its own breed. Our breed has bridal parties filled with friends they’ve been with since grammar school and each of our guests will surely run into at least 2 sets of people they’ve known their whole life, yet did not realize were connected to the bride and groom.

For the New Orleans bride, it’s all about family, friends you’ve known your whole life and celebrating everything! We’re more about bloody mary’s on the balcony, than iced tea on the porch. And we’re more likely to drink past the heat than to fan ourselves. Because of our saucy twist on Southern traditions, we are not like Southerners at all and that’s why so many people travel to our city every year for their big day! After all, no one does anything quite like we do things here in New Orleans. We do have that Southern charm, but it’s got a kick that translates to anyone who comes to visit and that’s why everyone loves it here – in New Orleans proper – not just the SOUTH!