November 2017

November 12, 2017

While an all-female bridal shower still dominates the party circuit, more and more brides are sharing the spotlight with their grooms and having a couples' shower (also called a co-ed shower and a joint shower). All genders are welcome and give a decidedly modern feel to a classic celebration.

Related: What's the Deal with Co-Ed Bachelor and Bachelorette Parties?

And the hosting duties go to…

For a traditional shower, the bridesmaids usually host, but an aunt, cousin, family friend, even the bride's or groom's mom can have the honor instead. The same applies to a co-ed shower—whoever wants to host can do it. It may turn out that the guys are eager to attend but can't get past the old-fashioned idea that showers are a female thing so they're not interested in planning it.

If they are willing to share the work...

There's certainly a lot to do: deciding on the guest list, picking a theme, finding a locale, choosing a menu, sending the invitations, making (or buying) favors, and anything else that's needed to do. Nothing should be one-sided: Whether it's the theme or the menu, everything should be appealing to each guest, no matter their gender.

A note about opening gifts.

This is still a major activity at many traditional showers, but consider downplaying it if guys are there. To save time so everyone can mingle more, the hosts can request that gifts be wrapped in clear cellophane or not wrapped at all, cutting out all the tedious unwrapping by the bride and her maids. Or choose a theme that will intrigue guests. While most men (and many women) won't get too excited about seeing the fluffy towels Aunt Carol gave you, they may pay attention when the theme is "entertainment," and the gifts are wine-bottle openers and portable Bluetooth speakers.

November 9, 2017

Unexpected engagement gifts can be some of the sweetest and most sentimental you'll receive-like that hammered silver frame your best friend gave you to display your engagement selfie, a handmade vase your childhood neighbor sent that's exactly your style, or a set of pint glasses from the college bar where you and your partner met, gifted by your future best man. But since most couples haven't yet registered when they start receiving engagement gifts, they may also end up with duplicates of items they already have, knick-knacks they'll never use, or pieces that are just not their your taste-and that are all extremely difficult to return. Without a return receipt or a registry, is there a way to swap that mustard-colored bowl-which definitely doesn't match your minimalist dream kitchen-for something you can actually use?

"When you receive an engagement gift, it's much like birthday or hostess gifts," says etiquette expert Diane Gottsman, author of Modern Etiquette for a Better Life and founder of The Protocol School of Texas. "You wouldn't return it and ask for something different-most often, you just say thank you." Since engagement gifts are completely optional-even at an engagement party, says Gottsman-they don't have the same return etiquette as a wedding or bridal shower gift. "This is not about accruing items," says Gottsman. "It's more about being a gracious receiver."

In a few scenarios, you could ask to exchange the gift: If it's a twin of one you already have-especially a kitchen appliance or larger item that's too hard to store-you can use that as an opening line to request a swap, like trading a mixer for a set of pans or a vase for a set of candlesticks. And if a well-meaning friend or family member sent a gift for you to use at the wedding, like champagne glasses or a cake knife, you can gently mention that it doesn't quite go with your theme. "You can just say, I appreciate the offer but I have a particular idea already in mind," says Gottsman. "Just be honest, but be diplomatic."

RELATED: ENGAGEMENT PARTY GIFT ETIQUETTE: IS IT EVER OKAY TO RETURN PRESENTS FROM FRIENDS AND FAMILY?

But in most cases, unless you're very close to the gift-giver, you're better off writing a cordial thank-you note and keeping the gift instead of risking hurt feelings by trying to return it. "The bottom line is you have to look at the relationship you hold with that person," says Gottsman. "If it's a family member and you're close and you feel comfortable with your relationship, you can certainly be a little more honest, but you have to look at the relationship first and foremost to determine how it is going to affect it."

Remember, keeping an item doesn't mean you have to look at it every day. Gottsman says it's perfectly fine to put the gifts in storage and bring them out when the giver visits, or to display them in a room you don't use as often-like your guest bath or your spare bedroom. "If it's something you can't return and you really don't want, you have to think, will they come over and ask about it? Will they be offended if I get rid of it? And if answer is yes, then you just tuck it away in a corner someplace."

Even keeping a gift out of sight doesn't have to be a permanent solution. "None of us keep things forever so at some point in time, it can just disappear," says Gottsman. The exception: Family heirlooms, which you should be able to present whenever the giver asks to see them. That the ugly mustard-colored bowl may have a fascinating history behind it-and hearing it could be a truly priceless gift.

November 9, 2017

When a college class brought Jacqueline and David together in January of 2013, their romance took off at lightning speed. Just two months into their relationship, the pair made a bold decision to move to Thailand together to travel and teach English. "Everyone thought we were crazy," Jacqueline says, "but I knew he was the one and was following my heart!"

In August of 2018, David planned a romantic proposal at Jacqueline's parents' lake house in Wisconsin. He led Jacqueline to the pier, where he had set up framed pictures—taken throughout their years together—and scattered flowers. As a surprise, David flew in his family and Jacqueline's sister so they could spend the remainder of the day on the lake with them, celebrating the engagement. This couple envisioned an intimate wedding that felt romantic and ethereal, so they invited just their immediate families to the Amalfi Coast for their intimate nuptials, which took place on June 27, 2019. The pair's 12 guests joined them at Belmond Hotel Caruso in Ravello, Italy, for the ceremony and reception; the locale treated attendees to breathtaking views of the coast.

To mitigate the fact that they chose their venue without actually visiting it, Jacqueline and David worked with the hotel's coordinator and a day-of planner; overall, they felt that the process went smoothly. The easy part was putting together the small guest list, and the couple felt they were in good hands with the vendors they worked with from afar. "The venue, florist, musicians, and day-of planners made it an extremely enjoyable experience!" Jacqueline recalls.

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