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  • Canton couple wins Fort Lauderdale beach wedding in celebration of legal gay marriage in Florida

    On Dec. 18, Jeff Davis proposed to his long-time partner, Jerry Rizor, with the hope that they would be able to legally marry in Ohio by the end of 2015.

    Turns out, they won't have to wait that long.

    The two, together for 14 years, are among 100 couples chosen by the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau to participate in a "Love Is Love"sunrise beach wedding this week, which celebrates the recent legalization of gay marriage in Florida.

    The ceremony is capitalizing on a growing trend in the travel industry: Destination weddings, an increasingly popular choice for straight couples, is an appealing option for gay couples, as well, who can travel to a location where gay marriage is legal to tie the knot.

    The Canton couple leaves for the Sunshine State on Wednesday.

    "It's a dream come true," said Rizor, 64. "At my age, after all I've been through, I was wishing and hoping for this - but I thought it was just a dream. I didn't think it would happen in my lifetime."

    The two were chosen - from entries from hundreds of couples, both gay and straight - after Rizor sent in the story of how he and Davis met.

    It was after Rizor's long-time partner, Steve, died in 1998. Davis read the obituary in the Canton Repository, and knew that somehow, some day, he and Rizor would meet and fall in love. That day came two years later, when Rizor responded to Davis' personal ad.

    "I am with the person I was meant to be with," said Rizor. "I do feel that Steve is the one who brought us together."

    picture: SheinDressAU bridesmaid dresses

    And this week, they're headed to one of their favorite travel destinations, where they'll be feted as newlyweds following their wedding Thursday.

    According to U.S. Census information, Fort Lauderdale has the highest concentration of same-sex couple households in the country, at nearly 3 percent.

    It's also consistently ranked among the top destination for gay travelers. Broward County attracted more than 1.3 million LGBT travelers in 2013, who spent about $1.5 billion, according to the visitors bureau.

    It's been a top vacation spot for Rizor and Davis for years.

    "The whole atmosphere down there is very welcoming," said Rizor. "It's heaven on earth."

    The two won't be recognized as married in Ohio when they return, but they think that's just a matter of time.

    Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to consider four cases - including one from Ohio - that are expected to resolve the national debate on gay marriage.

    Gays and lesbians can marry in 36 states, including, most recently, Florida. But in Ohio, the state's ban on gay marriage, approved by voters in 2004, remains in effect - at least for now.

    Their friends and family in Ohio, unable to make the trip to Florida, have asked if the couple will throw a party when they return.

    Said Davis: "In June, if it's all legal in Ohio, we'll have a big party here."

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  • How to plan a wedding

    Weddings are magical. Brides adorned in white gowns, twinkling tiaras and lacy veils take the traditional walk down the aisle toward their individual soul mates and agree to the terms of “till death do us part.”

    Of course, before saying the “I do’s,” sharing that first dance and feeding a bite from the multitiered cake to each other (or smearing it across their face), there is a great deal that must be done to make it all tie together like the “Just Married” sign on the back of the getaway car with cans dangling and clanking the pavement.

    There are so many factors and decisions that need to be made: invitations, how many people to invite, the venue, the food, the photographer, the music, the color theme — the list goes on and on. It can be a pretty daunting task for the future bride and groom.

    Taia Younis, owner of Inspired Occasions, a Clifton Park event-planning business, tosses a bouquet of information to couples who have just snapped their engagement photos.

    Welcome a Helping Hand

    At minimum, hire a day-of-wedding coordinator. “People don’t have an understanding of what wedding planners can do; I think everyone thinks it’s this Jennifer Lopez person who follows you around everywhere and picks everything out for you — that’s just not the case,” Younis said.

    “Even if a bride is planning the wedding, she needs someone at the end to make everything happen because eventually the bride has to be a bride. She can’t do that and manage all of the details at the same time.”

    Keep Calm and Wed On

    “Brides need to pace themselves; they tend to get excited and take on a lot right away,” Younis said. “It’s important to look at the big picture and plan out what’s being done in manageable chunks of time. A lot of times, brides who take on too much at the beginning will burn out and then they start to not like the experience because they are so overwhelmed. It doesn’t have to be that way; just take a breath and do one thing at a time.”

    It Ain’t All About

    The Money, But . . .

    Taia Younis putting the finishing touches on one of the many brides she has worked with.
    picture: bridesmaids dresses

    “Be very clear about how much you can spend and who is paying for it,” Younis said. “Many couples, who think families might contribute, avoid the conversation and it can get them into some trouble later on if they overspend and the family doesn’t come through.”

    On Your Mark, Get Set, Rank!

    Prioritize. What elements of the wedding are the most important to you? “You need to plan and spend your money in that order so that way, at the end, if you have to let some things go it’s something less important,” Younis said.

    “If music is something that is really important to you, book that band before buying 300 mason jars for favors. Brides get on that Pinterest and they get all of these ideas and end up spending crazy money without stopping to think about what is most important.”

    Beware Of The Blogosphere

    Don’t’ always believe what you see on the Internet. “A lot of websites will tell brides that they can negotiate everything with vendors; I think that’s a misconception,” Younis said. “If couples need to approach negotiation with a vendor, they should ask about how services might be modified with their budget instead of asking them for a lower price. That’s an easy way to alienate some vendors and it’s not a reasonable approach. Not everything is negotiable.”

    Settle On The Location First

    “Venue is number one. It dictates almost everything else,” Younis said. “It determines how many people you can have, what’s left to spend on everything else. It will take up 50 [percent], 60 percent of the whole budget, and it will become the overall feel of the wedding.”

    Let There Be Light

    People underestimate lighting; it’s extremely important to the look and feel of a reception and a lot of couples don’t really give that a whole lot of thought,” Younis said. “They can bring in specialty lighting, like bulbs that hang above the space, up-lighting on the perimeter or, a less expensive way to go, a room dripping in candles gives the room a lot of ambiance.

    “Sometimes a venue will say that they provide candles, but it’s like three little votive candles on the tables,” Younis said. “Think about the nicest restaurants that you go into — the ones that make you want to linger. They are usually the ones that are softly or calmly lit — that’s how the reception space should be.”

    If you wed in the winter . . .

    u Embrace the winter: Finding a location that already eludes coziness for guests is the key. “You definitely want a came-in-from-the-cold experience where they feel enveloped in warmth,” Younis said. “Reception areas with fireplaces and stone are lovely, and windows where you can see how snowy and icy it is outside.”

    u It Doesn’t Have To Be As White As Snow: “I think people make the mistake of thinking winter weddings always have to be white,” Younis said. “I like to see people use more warm colors because it creates a warm atmosphere on the inside.”

    u Make Things a Little Steamy: “Have a hot cocoa bar with homemade cookies, things that people associate with winter,” Younis said.

    u Spice Things Up: “It’s a good idea to have a signature cocktail that is geared towards winter,” Younis said. “No margaritas, but instead maybe a hot toddy or a hot spiked mulled cider.”

    u Favors: Choose ones that speak to winter, like maybe giving the women cashminas to wrap around their shoulders — since most still are in sleeveless cocktail dresses, this will give them something to cuddle up in.

    u Final thought: Stay away from cliché snowflakes.

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  • All It Takes Is One Shitty Person to Ruin Wedding Dress Shopping

    There's a scene in an episode of this season's Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (Queen Lisa Rinna 4 Lyfe) in which Kim Richards takes her daughter Brooke wedding dress shopping. Her aunt, Kathy Hilton, mother of Paris, arrives late to the bridal salon and is greeting Brooke's coterie when the bride-to-be emerges from the dressing room in the first gown she tried on. Kathy Hilton, mother of Paris, wheels around and proceeds to drop a steaming load on poor Brooke, commenting, among other complaints, that the dress "looks like a cocktail waitress"—this, by the by, is a thing Kathy Hilton, mother of Paris, says in front of the dress designer.

    There's a tinge of sadness to the occasion, as Brooke's father—Kim's first husband, Monty—is terminally ill and Brooke and her betrothed opted for a short engagement to account for Monty's health. Brooke gets what's important. Her aunt, Kathy Hilton, mother of Paris, does not.

    All It Takes Is One Shitty Person to Ruin Wedding Dress Shopping
    picture: bridesmaid dresses

    Uncommon Courtesy recently addressed the issue of how to behave while wedding dress shopping; while reading it, I kept wishing someone had mentioned a few of the rules of thumb laid out by writer Jaya Saxena to Kathy Hilton, mother of Paris. Among the very sensible suggestions for how to behave are: remember that this isn't actually a dress you will be wearing; be nice when offering feedback; and for goodness sake's, if you're offering to pay for the dress, in part or in full, do not threaten to withhold the money if the bride doesn't pick out exactly what you had in mind.

    It, you may be thinking, is crazy that people need to be told these things. You are absolutely right, but also: People are crazy and need to be told these things!

    So let's hear from you: Who acted up during dress shopping? What did she (or he) do? What didyou do? Did you flip out? Cry? Fire that person from the wedding? Or maybe you lost your shit during someone else's dress shopping, and if so please tell us about that.

    As is our custom, we shall reunite in this space on Thursday to laugh and cry together at the best/worst stories you have to tell.

    My mother did that. I told her to keep her money since I didn't really need it, she's broke, and I wanted a dress she wasn't crazy about. Right in the middle of the store I said that to her and she finally shut up (after hours of insisting I try on about 20 other dresses thatshe liked and I hated) and paid (half) for the one I loved.

    Seriously, all the dresses she kept picking out were the biggest, poofiest, laciest, princess dresses that I my short, narrow ass drowned in. They all dwarfed me and made me look like a child. She, of course, loved this because, "Oh you look like a little girl again, it's so adorable!". She has issues ...

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