In this post, I am going to discuss something near and dear to my heart … event planner software. I know having this level of emotion for something so mundane and inert may sound a bit crazy, but bear with me. I have been building and marketing wedding planning software and event planner software for the last year or so. With that said, it probably makes more sense as to my level of feelings for the topic.

This short post is directed at the wedding consultants and event planners out there who are looking for tools to help them serve their clients better and be more efficient and organized. Although many of you might think that being a wedding professional or event planner might be a breeze, think again. Your job is to please your clients and deliver the event of their dreams, and usually this is no small order. To accomplish this, you have to coordinate lots of vendors and hundreds of details while juggling multiple events at the same time. It’s a tough job, and only those with a passion for it do it well.

With that said, any tools or resources that can help planners become more efficient is a godsend. And event planner software is such a tool, so when considering this software, planners need to remember a few things.

1. Look for tools that work with your existing setup – There’s no need to go out and buy a computer to fit the software, as there are plenty of software options that are compatible with PCs and/or Macs.

2. Look for tools that help you with both events and your business – Calendars, guest/attendee list managers, venue managers and other tools for managing an event are great, but it’s also very helpful to have tools for managing your business details, including proposals, invoices, finances, budgets, contact and vendor lists, etc.

3. Look for tools that can grow with your business – Some software programs might work great right now, but will they expand as your business grows? Make sure the software you use can expand as your needs grow.

4. Pay for something that’s good – There are certain things you save money on, but business software isn’t one of them. It’s better to buy what you need and what will help you than to go cheap and discover that it won’t do half of what you want. Plus, a good piece of software can actually save you time and money, so it’s worth the investment.

5. Make sure the software has customer support – You never know when you might need some help or when the software develops a bug or two (all software has bugs now and then), so make sure the software you buy is backed by customer support.

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It probably comes as no surprise that couples spend the biggest chunk of their wedding budget on their reception, but did you know that they spend the second largest chunk of their budget on their photography and videography? When you thing about it, this makes sense, because most brides and grooms first want to have a memorable occasion with lots of great food, drink and dancing, but they also want to preserve these memories so that they can relive the experience via pictures and videos.

I must admit that we completely cheated at our wedding and didn’t hire either a photographer or videographer, instead opting for putting digital cameras on everyone’s tables and having them all snap photos as the night went on (with my wife’s cousin doing the more formal wedding photos). However, hiring a professional photographer is a great move if you want someone at the wedding dedicated to capturing the night on film and who is great at what they do.

With that said, here are a few things to look out for when making a decision on photography for your big day.

1. Experience – Look for photographers who not only have a decent book of business but who have also shot weddings before. There are lots of rookies out there, and although they may be talented, there’s no substitute for experience.

2. A viable business – Would you feel more comfortable hiring an established photography studio that’s a stable, ongoing business or a freelancer/part-timer who operates out of their basement? Put it this way … I’d feel more comfortable that the established photography studio will still be in business on my wedding day than a fly-by-night operation.

3. A style that fits you – Some wedding photographers excel at more formal portraiture and poses. Other photographers are great at documentary/photojournalistic style. Still others have a certain way of shooting or whimsy that might fit what you’re looking for. Make sure to review a photographer’s book and see if there’s anything that catches your eye, and if there’s isn’t ask them if they can accomplish what you are looking for.

4. Excellence at a fair price – Bargain shopping for decorations or a dress is fine, but you shouldn’t be bargain shopping if you want decent photography for your wedding. With photography, you get what you pay for, and you only have once chance to get this right, so make sure you hire a talented, accomplished photographer who will capture your big day like you want.

5. The right personality – Your photographer will be all over your wedding – in the aisle of your ceremony, in front of your families, dealing with kids and adults, talking with people at the reception, etc. – so you want them to have the right personality that gels with you and your guests.

These are some good tips for getting started in your search. In addition, some photographers use photography studio management software to help manage all their details. This photography studio software can help them keep their business completely organized and manage all their details much more easily. Some photographers also use photography management software to manage all their photos as well as their business. Something you can keep you eye out for is a photographer that uses such photography studio management software tools to help them better coordinate and collaborate with you, keep you in the loop and provide you with online tools to help you better plan the photography for your big day.

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You’re getting married. You’re the groom. Then your bride tells you to prepare the rehearsal dinner while she is charge of wedding party gifts for everyone. You have no idea what a rehearsal dinner even is. It’s your first time to get married and hopeful that it’s your last time as well. Now you’re thinking of running to friends. And the best people to approach are your groomsmen. So now you, the groom, and your groomsmen are starting to plan the wedding rehearsal dinner. How exactly are you going to do it?

The wedding rehearsal dinner may be unfamiliar to some but it’s actually one of the best ways to make sure that your wedding will be as special as you expect it to be. It’s not necessary for everyone but it’s really a good way to have each other’s friends and loved ones come together and make them involved in the wedding. It is also a perfect time to hand out groomsmen gifts to your wedding party and Best Man. To plan it, you may need your groomsmen to reserve the place and invite the guests there. They can take charge of the logistics and just coordinate with you.

As the groom, what you have to plan the most for the rehearsal dinner is the flow. Usually, what takes place in this event are toasts and moments of thanking people. They say you can never over thank a person. In this dinner, it would be good to really thank those who helped in the wedding in any way they did. You can also be specific thanking people according what they have contributed to the wedding. Make it an intimate gathering since the wedding reception won’t have that much intimacy. Careful with the flow though. You don’t want the wedding rehearsal dinner to be so systematized that it would seem to be a stiff program. What you need to create is a relaxing atmosphere with not much of an agenda set.

For the groomsmen, they need not look for a sophisticated venue for the rehearsal dinner. It can actually be done at a friend’s house. It doesn’t really matter if it’s simple. The goal is to have people enjoy a time together and a place where your future wife can bond with her friends and dish out her great bridesmaid gifts. Perhaps simple dinner could be served or a much more prepared dinner if the couple has more budget for this evening. Planning it may sound absurd because there’s not much to plan but making sure the venue and food are ready matters a lot. Other than that, the night can stand on its own. The couple will take their time interacting with guests and thank them personally.

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Today we have a guest post from the very kind people over at EngravedGiftCreations.com…

You may have been appointed as one of the groomsmen already at least once in your life but until now you still don’t know what your role is. Well, you have roles and that’s for sure, and not you’re not there to simply collect groomsmen gifts and party. Even though that is a part of it. But most of the time you think your role is limited to the wedding itself. It’s a common misconception that the role of the groomsmen only takes place during the wedding. If you really think about it, groomsmen have roles to play even before and after the wedding.

As groomsmen, the primary role you have is to make sure that there’s a bachelor or stag party. This party must be a surprise for the groom. Well, the groom will be very busy with the wedding planning and thinking about what personalized groomsmen gifts to buy so this task is left to the groomsmen. Not a lot of groomsmen know about this role that’s why some grooms have stag parties go boring instead. The best man most likely will spearhead this event. But in times when the best man is arriving only days before the wedding, the groomsmen should take over.
Before the wedding, it would be good to also assist the groom in wedding planning for the groomsmen to help reserving locations. The groom might need someone to be with while buying his tuxedo or his suit. All these logistics and others will require some hands and, yes, moral support from buddies or the so-called groomsmen. You’ll be one of the useful groomsmen if you do these things. Remember, wedding planning is a very time-consuming thing. He would really need some assistance from people who understand the most.

During the wedding rehearsals, groomsmen play an important role. You are to make sure that you are present at the rehearsals. Not only that, your presence there is not just for the rehearsals alone but you’re there to assist. If possible you can also coordinate with everyone part of the rehearsals making sure they’re there also. Some have rehearsal dinners. In this part, you ought to really involve in executing the rehearsals. Your assistance will definitely take out stress from the groom’s wedding planning process.

As groomsmen, you’re not given just a space in the wedding invitations to wait for personalized flasks as a gift. Your name is there because the groom trusts you to be part of those who could not just give moral support but real help as well. If you’re distant before the wedding, it may be good to financially assist your buddy.

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Been a while since I last posted, but no time like the present to dole out some advice on reception music.

Groomasaurus Gal and I decided to forego any DJ or band and use mixes that we put together and play them via our iPod. This is an excellent choice for those brides and grooms who are music aficionados and want to control the flow of music themselves. (Just a side note … instead of making mixes on the iPod itself, I used professional DJ management software called Traktor to mix all my music beforehand). However, a few things to be aware of when taking this route.

Create several types of mixes – The mood of the party may change, so you need to have mixes for every mood and vibe and be able to change these out on the fly.

Create enough music for twice the allotted time you have – To ensure you have enough tunes, make sure you have at least twice what you need. So if your dinner lasts 2 hours, have enough dinner music for 4. If your reception dance time is 3 hours, have enough music for 6.

Choose music that you and your guests both like – Ideally you want everyone at your wedding to enjoy the music, so try to find music that everyone will respond to. And if musical tastes vary to the extreme, try to find some middle ground or even devote certain times of the evening to certain types of music.

If you don’t want to deal with selecting music and want to leave this to the professional, hiring a DJ is a great idea, and here are a few things to find out when you’re screening and hiring a professional DJ.

1) Do they have a specialty in weddings? Some DJs are great at playing clubs but don’t quite have the presence for weddings. Make sure your DJ has wedding experience and the presence to pull off a wedding.

2) Do they have the right equipment (and does it gel with your venue)? Ask about their equipment and their setup, and see if it is feasible for your venue.

3) Will they accommodate to your style of music and needs? Whatever style of music you want to have played (rock, country, pop, dance, etc.), find out if the DJ can play that style. Also, if you have any special requests or activities, ask if they can handle those.

4) Can they act as the emcee for the reception? Some DJs only play music, so if you need the DJ to serve as the emcee and announce the wedding party, make announcements throughout the night, etc, make this a requirement.

5) How do they charge and when does the clock start running? Many DJs will charge a flat fee for a setup and a certain number of hours. Also, find out what any overage/extra hours charges in case the party goes longer than expected.

6) Find out about deposits and cancellations – Ask if they require a deposit and if it is refundable. Also, find out if they allow cancellations and how late you can cancel.

7) Will they play your CDs? If you have specially requested music you want them to play, find out if they will play it or if they stick to their own program.

8) What will they be wearing? Your DJ is going to be front and center, so they need to dress the part. Learn about what they will wear and let them know about any special attire requests you may have.

That’s enough to get your started. Finally, if your a DJ and need help managing your business, here’s a site that describes DJ booking software and DJ management software products.

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Choosing the Perfect Engagement Ring

by on December 13, 2010

For today’s post, 77 Diamonds has compiled a ten-step plan to finding the perfect engagement ring. So before the panic sets in, ease your mind with their simple-to-follow guide.

1) DECIDE ON A BUDGET AND KNOW HER RING SIZE
Before you can even begin to comprehend the process of deliberating over diamonds, you must outline your budget for the rock. Once you’ve thrashed out the finer points with your wallet, it will be much easier to reconcile you or your significant other’s preferences for the style and design of the ring. However, before you splash out, it is essential that you know their ring-size.

2) ALWAYS CONSIDER METAL AND SIZE FIRST
Engagement bands are usually made of platinum, yellow gold, rose gold, palladium or white gold. The type of metal and its thickness will affect what settings, styles and stones you can pick, including the procedures for repair or re-sizing, therefore it is important to consider the ring size here too (either in mm or a ring grading E to V).

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3) CHOOSE YOUR SETTING WISELY
There are many variations of standard and custom settings available for engagement rings. Prong, bar, tension, bezel, channel, flush, cluster, and invisible, to name but a few. Which setting you choose is often dictated by the shape and size of the ring that you may already have in mind. The most popular is the ‘prong’ setting because it holds the diamond in place as if it were hanging, maximizing the amount of light that enters the diamond which in turn makes the stone sparkle more.

Choose the right Diamond: The 4 Cs
Clarity, Cut, Colour and Carat are the famous four aspects of a diamond that you are going to have to brush up on before determining which diamond to choose for that all-important engagement ring. Our diamond education section is a recommended read.

4) DIAMOND CLARITY
Clarity of a diamond is what makes every diamond unique and subsequently it is what has the most influence on its price. Clarity is measured by grades which mark the level of inclusions of the stone. Inclusions are the broader term for blemishes, scratches, air pockets and non-diamond material on the surface of or inside the diamond. Grades range from Flawless to Included (flawless being the best) but be wary that diamond grading laboratories have different grading standards. To ensure an eye clean diamond you should always go with a stone of VS1 clarity or above or else make sure you either see the diamond for yourself or have your jeweller confirm it is ‘eye clean’.

5) DIAMOND CUT
Diamonds are known for their brilliance, but a diamond’s sparkle is determined by its cut which works to reflect as much light as possible by adjusting angles and proportions. The cut grade should be classified according to the certificate issued by the grading laboratory.

6) DIAMOND COLOUR
Diamonds are famous and loved for their icy white appearance; however most diamonds contain a hint of brown or yellow. Colour is graded on a scale from D (white or colourless) to Z (brownish or yellowish). Diamond grades from D to H are usually colourless or near-colourless but a faint yellow tint becomes visible in I grades. You need to consider personal preference, budget and the colour of the jewellery setting before settling on a stone colour.

7) DIAMOND CARAT
In order to get the best value for your money you’ll need to find a good balance between quality and size. Carat refers to the unit of diamond weight and is equal to 0.2grams. The carat weight will give you an idea of the size of your diamond, but double the carat does not necessarily mean double the size of the stone.

8) CHOOSE THE BEST STYLE FOR HER
Once you are familiar with the 4 Cs, you’re ready to choose a diamond shape. Shapes include the classic Round Brilliant cut, the trendy Princess cut, the glamorous Emerald cut, the creative Oval cut, the majestic Marquise cut, the antique-style Asscher, the sparkling Cushion cut or the popular Heart or Pear shapes.

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9) CHECK YOUR CERTIFICATE OF APPRAISAL
Once you have chosen the diamond and the setting, you will need to obtain a certificate of authenticity especially if you choose to insure your purchase.
The certificate validates the carat weight, cut, colour and clarity with the diamond’s exact measurements. The majority of certificates are issued by two of the most trusted certifying organizations of the diamond industry. The Gemological Institute of America (G.I.A.) and the American Gem Society (A.G.S.)
Be cautious of alternative laboratories which may not be internationally recognized.

10) OBTAIN A GUARANTEE OR WARRANTY
Just in case the ring needs adjusting or repairing, ensure that you understand your rights for return or amendment. Depending on the jeweller, they will usually provide either a limited-time money-back guarantee or a lifetime warranty.

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Today we have a guest post by the esteemed directors of the Relationship Institute at UCLA, Dr. Thomas Bradbury and Dr. Benjamin Karney. From time to time, they will be offering us advice on how to maintain healthy, enduring relationships, so we really appreciate their time in sharing their insights with us.

Just a bit about the Relationship Institute … Founded with the belief that healthy couples and strong families are the cornerstone of our society, the Relationship Institute at UCLA provides people from all walks of life with the information they need to understand and strengthen their relationships.

The goal of the Institute is to disseminate practical, research-based knowledge about relationships to the community. To achieve this goal, the Institute offers programs that are designed and delivered by leading experts in the study of intimacy, marriage, and the family.

The Institute is directed by Dr. Thomas Bradbury and Dr. Benjamin Karney, professors in the UCLA Department of Psychology.

My parents did not have a great marriage – they said hurtful things to one another, argued a lot, and separated twice.  Individually I know my parents really cared about me, but there is no hiding the fact that my brother and I grew up in a stormy home.  I am planning my own marriage now, and I have these nagging questions in the back of my head:  Is my marriage doomed?  Am I destined to follow in my parents’ footsteps?

One of the consequences of the 50% divorce rate in the US is that many adults were exposed, as children, to troubled relationships between their parents.  And even if the parents manage to stay together, as was the case for your parents, obviously this is no guarantee that the marriage will be harmonious.  Children will pay a price for harsh exchanges between their parents, as children and as they enter relationships in adulthood.

Here is what psychologists and sociologists know about how our marriages are affected by our parents’ marriage:

First, there really is a connection here.  For better or worse, we learn a great deal about relationships from our parents and our families – how to disagree, how to show affection, how to spend time together as a family, and so on.  Many good studies now show that your marriage will be, in part, a reflection of the families in which you and your partner were raised.  You are right to be concerned.

Second, the connection is not a perfect one.  There are plenty of people who have unhappy or divorced parents who themselves go on to have perfectly fine marriages – and there are plenty of people who have happy and intact parents who go on to have pretty bad marriages.  In both cases we can see that a marriage is more than the by-product of our parents’ marriage, but this second group of people reminds us that a lot of things have to go well in order for a marriage to really thrive.

In our seminars, we tell couples that having divorced or highly conflicted parents doubles the risk of the children growing up to have bad relationships of their own.  Now that might sound scary, but let’s dig a bit deeper.  If children raised by happily married parents have, say, a 20% chance of ending their marriage, then children raised by unhappily married or divorced parents have twice the risk:  about 40%.  You do not want to overlook this risk, but you don’t want to forget that this means about 60% of the people raised to unhappily married or divorced parents turn out to have marriages just like those whose parents did not divorce.  Sixty percent, more or less, end up doing just fine, and that is the good news.

So how do you get yourself into the right group, given your background?  How do you overcome the risk?  There is growing evidence that people with conflicted or divorced parents really do communicate less effectively than those with healthier family backgrounds.  We see this in our own laboratory, when we videotape newlyweds like you talking about relationship strains.  The fact that we can see these communication differences gets back to the idea that we learn about relationships by observing how our parents communicate with us and with each other, and then we display those skills – or that lack of skills – when we enter relationships of our own.

The key task seems to be managing negative emotions and relationship problems especially well.  You and your partner might have to work extra hard at regulating feelings like frustration, anger, and sadness.  So what can you do?  For starters, do your best to avoid these kinds of caustic emotions, try to give your partner the benefit of the doubt when he screws up, do not allow situations to escalate and get out of control, and avoid lashing out in anger at all costs.  Talk with your partner about how important this is for you.  Go out of your way to show affection and appreciation for your partner.  Work hard to learn the circumstances that generate strong negative emotions in your marriage.  Does this happen when dealing with in-laws?  When work is stressful?  When you have been drinking?  You need to get the upper hand on these circumstances, or they will prove to disrupt your ability to stay close and connected within your marriage.

Good luck!  Like all couples, you will have to take active, routine steps to keep your relationship healthy and strong.  But unlike couples with parents who have good marriages, you might need to work a bit harder to learn the skills and strategies that will keep you and your partner feeling secure and validated.  Take heart in knowing that the odds are actually in your favor, but remember that you and your partner need to work together as a team to break this particular family tradition.  Doing so is one of the greatest gifts you can give to your children, and to your children’s children.

Dr. Thomas Bradbury
Dr. Benjamin Karney
Professors of Psychology, UCLA
Co-Directors, UCLA Relationship Institute

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If you’re getting married and have started to explore wedding-related sites, you already know there are tons of sites out there that sell lots of absolute crap (and look more than a bit sketchy doing it). This is what makes Top Notch Gift Shop and the people there such a breath of fresh air.

First of all, they started their site as a home-based business back in 1999 (which is ancient for the Web, BTW, so they have a long track record) for much the same reason that I have started online businesses – because they didn’t like how existing sites were serving customers and thought they could do it much better. And even though they now operate out of a much bigger warehouse in northern CA, they still provide people with personal service and offer some great wedding gifts.

Whether you’re a bride and groom looking for gifts for bridesmaids, groomsmen and parents (or for each other), or if you’re a wedding guest looking for a gift for the happy couple, you will get some great ideas at Top Notch Gift Shop that you likely wouldn’t find elsewhere. For example, I was just browsing through their online store and found this awesome Dom Perignon Champagne Gift Basket for the happy couple as well as this nifty Groom’s Survival Kit (it has everything you need on your wedding night/weekend except the requisite protection). And, if you’re looking for bridesmaid gifts or groomsmen gifts, you’re sure to find something cool and unique on their site (heck, they even have Jeff Gordon steak brands for branding your ribeyes as well as cufflinks made from an actual seat from Yankee Stadium).

So, if you have a few minutes, wander on over to their site and give them a visit … you’ll definitely find something you didn’t know existed (and will definitely want to have).

(BTW, in case you are curious, this is not a sponsored post … I simply thought their site stuck out from all the fluff I see everyday online and was worth talking about.)

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Not everybody changes their last name … my wife kept her last name (mostly because the end result would have given her initials that mirror an unfortunate acronym). However, most brides do change their name, as do some grooms (via hyphenation). But regardless of who you are, there’s quite a bit to do when changing your name, as discussed in this article on the name change process.

I spoke with the folks over at MissNowMrs.com, a Web-based service that takes care of all the name-change paperwork and details for you, and they said that you don’t really need to wait until after your wedding to begin the name change process. This process includes tracking down the dozens of required forms as well as completing and filing each and every state and U.S. government form and sending notification letters to all of your creditors. Sounds like a pain, huh?

Enter MissNowMrs.com. It was specifically created to save you the hours of time digging for information and forms, to offer you a fun, stress-free transition from Miss…to…Mrs.! Whether you are in the planning stages of your wedding, are now celebrating being a newlywed OR even if you have even been married for years, you can complete MissNowMrs.com’s 3 easy step solution: Questions, Forms, File! After you register with them, you have up to 6 months to access your online account with them, so that you can complete your forms at your leisure.

If you want an easier way to a new name, stop by their Web site or drop them a line at 800.301.9296.

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Look, we all have at least one odd, socially-acceptable-yet-slightly-embarrassing-in-certain-circles obsession. It’s an obsession that you don’t mind mentioning to your friends (and even might boast to them about) but you would rather not have a perfect stranger (especially one whom you are trying to impress) privy to. You know, something like … “Did you know Joe collects brown dress socks; he has like 87 pairs of them?” or “Have you ever seen Laura’s troll doll collection? You know, those little plastic dolls with the crazy shock of green or orange hair? Her house is full of them.”

This stuff is all fodder for fun and laughs among friends, but they aren’t things that you want to come up in a job interview or when you’re meeting the President. A friend with knowledge of these little foibles will just smile knowingly and say, “Well, that’s Laura for you.” But a stranger with this knowledge will smile politely the entire time they are whispering “FREAKSHOW” under their breath and backpedaling to a different corner of the room (despite the fact that the stranger also has at least a few of these little skeletons in his/her closet).

Sorry to say for those women out there who are obsessed with planning your wedding, but being a bridezilla is an obsession that falls into this category. In your circle of friends, being a bridezilla is a “cute” fact about you, something that your friends giggle about and shake their heads in wonder. Some of them may even encourage it, being former/future bridezillas themselves. But when this little detail about you makes its way to a complete stranger, more people than you think will roll their eyes and wonder what other harmlessly deviant tendencies you have.

I think any activity or hobby that becomes the focus of one person’s free time (or even their entire life) becomes open to ridicule from others. I’m not saying this is deserved or right, because we all have little foibles like this. It just is, and it probably arose from some trait inherited from our caveman/woman forebears to keep everyone in the village in line and from doing anything too different that might jeopardize the welfare of the tribe.

I’ve corresponded with many brides and planners over the last year or two, and for the most part, the bridezillas to whom I have talked have been very friendly, engaging people who simply happen to be engrossed in every detail regarding their wedding. And as long as this doesn’t encroach on your relationship with your fiance or how you treat other people, it is harmless and falls under the rubric of “peculiar but ultimately endearing personality trait.”

However, when it gets to the point where a bride is shrieking because the lavender bows on her floral arrangements are one shade off, or she has to drive 500 miles to buy her third $4,000 wedding dress because the other two might not be the “perfect” one, well, this is when we guys take pause and we begin to think “Do I really know this person to whom I am getting married?” Definitely not a question you want your guy to be thinking.

I’m co-owner of a business in which we sell online wedding software to engaged couples and wedding consultants, and I actually had a consultant call me who said that her bride client had screamed at her because our software didn’t work right the first time she logged in (the client was using the wrong password, by the way). Are you kidding me? I felt so bad for the consultant, who seemed to be at wits end trying to please this client who was completely out of line and becoming more irrational every day.

So what I’m saying is, if you’re a bridezilla (and only about 15% of you out there really are), make it an endearing part of yourself and not scary. Because we all eventually flee from scary.

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