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Purple Unions Blogger Quoted in The Atlantic on Gay Marriage and Weddings

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

Check out the well-written article in The Atlantic — Mr. & Mrs. Smith: How Some Gay Couples Reclaim Old Marriage Traditions — comments by Sandy Malone in the last part of the story.

Sandy Malone is the owner of Weddings in Vieques, a full-service destination wedding planning company based on Vieques Island, seven miles off the coast of Puerto Rico.  She is also the star of TLC’s new reality wedding show “Wedding Island,” premiering July 17, 2013 at 10 pm ET/PT.  Sandy and her team (including her husband Bill, a retired SWAT team commander) have planned and executed almost 400 weddings in the Spanish Virgin Islands.  Sandy is a veteran event planner from Washington, DC, with years of experience planning large and small weddings, press conference, and corporate and political events.  She has planned countless events on Vieques Island, beginning with her own wedding back in 2004.  Since that time, her professional staff has executed large and small weddings of all styles, including elopements, vow renewals and fabulously posh events at multi-million dollar waterfront villas.  She has also planned family reunions, destination baby showers, corporate retreats and a variety of other events for clients from all over the United States and Canada.  Sandy is also the owner of Weddings in Culebra (wedding planning on Vieques’ little sister island), Flowers in Vieques (a full service floral and décor firm), and Boutique in Vieques (a clothing and home décor shop).  Sandy has a regular column on the Huffington Post  and has been rated “Five Rainbows” by her happy gay clients!

Tips for Tracking Down MIA RSVPs from Tacky Wedding Guests

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

Are Americans just becoming ruder every day, or is it my imagination?  The number one thing that stresses out my wedding clients is something that I don’t think should even be an issue – wedding guests who don’t respond to formal wedding invitations, causing lots of wasted time tracking down responses and worrying about an uncertain budget.  So rude it’s unbelievable!  And gay weddings have just as bad an RSVP track record as straight ones, so don’t be pointing fingers.

The art of the RSVP is becoming a lost one.  I don’t even mean in the strictest sense of etiquette – I mean that wedding guests have become some of the laziest, tackiest people in the world if reports from my brides and grooms are accurate. Almost one hundred percent of wedding invitations today have an easy way to respond to the invitation – in fact, most have a pre-stamped envelope to insert the fill-in-the-blank response card.  So easy that “even a caveman could do it.”  And yet, my couples are reporting as many as fifty percent of their guests have to be called, or sent an email, in order to find out whether they’re attending the commitment ceremony or not.  Surprisingly – a lack of response doesn’t necessarily indicate they’re not coming.  Only that they don’t have enough respect for the brides or grooms to send back a prompt response.

Let’s back up and educate the general public who may be confused.  RSVP stands for “répondez, s’il vous plaît,” which literally means “please reply” in French.  In the strictest form of etiquette back in the day, the invitee was actually supposed to hand-write a response to the hosts (usually the bride’s parents), but that nicety has given way to the pre-printed card they can send back.  I’m sure that was invented by some desperate bride in modern times (note to self – look that up).

What is horrifying to those who fight changes in wediquette (gay or otherwise) is the birth of the online RSVP – but even that hasn’t solved the lack of response problem.  Whether it’s an Evite or some fancy wedding website with responses you can click (and even choose your meal), advocates of formal wedding traditions will tell you it’s a bad idea to forego the traditional paper invitation and response card.  Let’s just face it folks – not everybody opens Evites or even special links to wedding websites sent personally by the bride and groom.  Even members of the bridal party have confessed to never having opened the web pages the brides and grooms so carefully and lovingly designed to share with their invited guests.  Swear to God, the track record on RSVPs done on digital invites is actually WORSE than the old fashioned paper kind.

So what can brides and grooms do to make life easier?  Here are a few tips that my clients have found to be helpful… sometimes.

–       If you’re having a destination wedding, send out your travel info packet and wedding invitation as soon as possible – but give them the traditional 6-8 weeks to reply.  You will know how many guests you have months ahead of time.  But you’ll also have time to track down all those MIA.

–       Assuming you’ve sent out a nice paper invite and response card, a follow up email the day after the RSVP deadline to guests whom you haven’t yet heard from is not inappropriate.  Some guests will remember to put it in the mail, others will email you back a response.  Whatever it takes, you just need the info.

–       The bride or groom who invited the tacky non-responsive guest (sorry, long day, I might be a little crabby on behalf of my clients) should call that particular guest to follow up if it gets to that point.  Don’t make your future husband or wife call your college friends who’ve been unresponsive.  That’s not fair.  You invited them, you hunt them down.  And definitely do not expect your fiancé to call your long-long relatives.

–       When all else fails, involve a third party.  And I mean after you have each called and emailed your respective invitees.  The third party can be your mother or your wedding planner – doesn’t matter which – trust me when I say that even the tackiest guest in the world will not ignore that phone call or email.  You’ll have shamed them into responding.  It’s not pretty, but when it needs to be done, it’s the best way to do it.

Expect to see brides and grooms (gay and straight) struggling with the RSVP issue and so many more etiquette and basic manners challenges on our new reality TV show, “Wedding Island,” premiering on TLC on Wednesday, July 17th at 10 pm Eastern/Pacific.  The show features me and my husband Bill and our fantastic island crew as we struggle to survive daily life while executing dream weddings and commitment ceremonies on an island where everything has to take two boats or two planes to get here.  Season One does feature a gay wedding – but that’s all I’m going to tell you so that you make sure to set your DVR and remember to watch!  For the official skinny, check out the official TLC press release http://press.discovery.com/us/tlc/press-releases/2013/tlc-commits-wedding-island-thursday-nights-25-2544/.

Dwayne and Rodney with cameras

Until next time, happy wedding planning from Weddings in Vieques and Weddings in Culebra!  And good luck hunting down those RSVPs.

Sandy

Sandy Malone is the owner of Weddings in Vieques, a full-service destination wedding planning company based on Vieques Island, seven miles off the coast of Puerto Rico.  She and her team (including her husband Bill, a retired SWAT team commander) have planned and executed almost 400 weddings in the Spanish Virgin Islands.  Sandy is a veteran event planner from Washington, DC, with years of experience planning large and small weddings, press conference, and corporate and political events.  She has planned countless events on Vieques Island, beginning with her own wedding back in 2004.  Since that time, her professional staff has executed large and small weddings of all styles, including elopements, vow renewals and fabulously posh events at multi-million dollar waterfront villas.  She has also planned family reunions, destination baby showers, corporate retreats and a variety of other events for clients from all over the United States and Canada.  Sandy is also the owner of Weddings in Culebra (wedding planning on Vieques’ little sister island), Flowers in Vieques (a full service floral and décor firm), and Boutique in Vieques (a clothing and home décor shop).  Sandy has a regular column on the Huffington Post  and has been rated “Five Rainbows” by her happy gay clients!

Purple Unions Blogger and Wedding Planner Gets Reality Show on TLC

Wednesday, June 19th, 2013

Dear Readers!

I’ve spent enough time making fun of reality TV celebs on my blog that I figured I’d better go ahead and “out” myself to all of you before you find out from somebody I’ve snarked about in the past!  Check out my blog today in the Huffington Post to hear all the inside skinny on the making of “Wedding Island,” TLC’s new wedding reality show featuring Sandy Malone and the whole crew at Weddings in Vieques a they plan and execute weddings AND COMMITMENT CEREMONIES on national television!  No room for error there!

Check out the blog at “Your New Favorite Reality Show Has Arrived” on HuffPost Weddings today!!!  And mark your calendars for the premiere of “Wedding Island” on Wednesday, July 17th at 10 pm eastern.

Until next time, happy wedding planning from Weddings in Vieques and Weddings in Culebra!

Sandy

 

 

Sandy Malone, a guest blogger with Purple Unions, is the owner of Weddings in Vieques, a full-service destination wedding planning company based on Vieques Island, seven miles off the coast of Puerto Rico.  She and her team (including her husband Bill, a retired SWAT team commander) have planned and executed almost 400 weddings and commitment ceremonies in the Spanish Virgin Islands.  Sandy is a veteran event planner from Washington, DC, with years of experience planning large and small weddings, press conference, and corporate and political events.  She has planned countless events on Vieques Island, beginning with her own wedding back in 2004.  Since that time, her professional staff has executed large and small weddings of all styles, including elopements, vow renewals and fabulously posh events at multi-million dollar waterfront villas.  She has also planned family reunions, destination baby showers, corporate retreats and a variety of other events for clients from all over the United States and Canada.  Sandy is also the owner of Weddings in Culebra (wedding planning on Vieques’ little sister island) , Boutique in Vieques and Flowers in Vieques (a full service floral and décor firm).  Visit her at www.weddingsinvieques.com.

Don’t Let Anyone Take the Fun Out of Wedding Planning – 5 Tips for Dealing with Party Poopers

Saturday, March 16th, 2013

Nothing makes me madder than when I talk to a client who is all upset because of things their friends, family, future in-laws, and wedding party are doing and saying to poop on their party while the couple is still planning it.  I think it sucks that anybody wants to take away the brides’ and grooms’ fun while they’re making all the little choices that come together to create the most important day of their lives.  If you’re gay and you’re getting married, let’s face it, there’s some stress associated with it, even if it’s just in the context of telling everyone in your personal and professional life about your decision.  You certainly don’t need any additional bullshit that will take away from your happiness.

Mothers of brides and grooms who behave like they’re the bride are probably the worst offenders, and also the hardest people for couples to deal with in these matters.  Let’s face it – she’s going to be your family for a long, long time so brides and grooms want to pick their battles very carefully.   And if she’s supportive of your non-traditional union, you may have to suck up a little more than a straight couple would if she’s playing the bridge with other family members who aren’t as supportive.  But here’s my best advice on dealing with that specific issue – If you’re dealing with family members who do not support your gay marriage, write them off as far as your wedding planning goes.  Hopefully, someday they will see the light (or the rainbow haha) and you will have a relationship with them.  And invite them if you WANT to or ignore them til they change their attitude.  But that’s another blog…

When it’s the wedding party making life and planning difficult – and I’ve seen and heard about badly behaved bridesmaids and groomsmen of all flavors, so this isn’t limited to the divas or the gay men – it makes the wedding couple question whether they’ve made the right decision asking these people to be members of their wedding party in the first place.  Sometimes the behavior or remarks are so egregious that those people have to be uninvited to participate.  It definitely makes couples take a step back and think about what could happen after 10 Mojitos when the toasts get started.

Obnoxious wedding guests are the most annoying but also the least important issue to worry about.  It’s usually not somebody who is close to either half of the couple – it’s the date or spouse of somebody that already has a reputation for being a pain in the ass with most of your friends.  You know who they are when you put their name on your guest list, and that’s the first time you cringe.  They’re the ones who are insisting on bringing their children to an “adults only” event or who have emailed your wedding planner 12 times about their specific dietary needs because really, that’s a normal thing to do, right?

I’ve developed five strategies my clients can use to keep their sanity and senses of humor when stops being fun:

1 – Pick your battles carefully because at the end of the day, you are going to win the war.  You are getting married.  That’s what this is all about.  If you have to cave on inviting some people you’d rather not, just do it unless there’s a very real financial or moral reason not to.  I wish I had caved on a few that I didn’t, but I can’t go back and undo that now.  Remember at the end of the day, this is about people who WANT to be with you to celebrate your big day.  But it is your big day and you will win the war at the end.  You’re the ones who are getting married – they’re just your cheering section.

2 – Don’t give in on things that are really important to you.   Whatever it may be.  If you really want to do the wedding gown dash at Filene’s Basement and your mother objects, ignore her.  If you and your fiancé have chosen a venue or a caterer you love and can afford, ignore negative input from others.  If you have always wanted to have a specific kind of décor and bouquet, you should do what you want, regardless of the unsolicited opinions of others.  If you want your parents to participate in a manner in your ceremony that any of them are uncomfortable with, but it’s really important to you, don’t give up on it.  If your gut instinct is to run away and elope, call me.

Dwayne and Rodney Byrum, WIV alums from 12/12/12, opted to do a non-traditional handfasting ceremony.

Dwayne and Rodney Byrum, WIV alums from 12/12/12, opted to do a non-traditional handfasting ceremony.

3 – Make the most of your wedding events leading up to the big day.  I’ve had some clients who were pressured to scale back on things because, in this economy, it can be difficult for friends and family to do all the traditional engagement parties, bridal showers, bachelorette/bachelor parties, etc.  You don’t have to give up anything that you would traditionally have, but you may need to adjust your expectations. Bachelorette parties don’t need to be someplace far away if you’re traveling for your destination wedding a few weeks later anyway.  And engagement parties and showers given in homes are far lovelier than anything you’d experience at the country club or a fancy hotel.  So much more personalized and usually more fun and relaxed.  Enjoy these events and thank your hosts for being so generous by keeping your guest lists small.

4 – Make a date night out of anything you aren’t looking forward to doing for your wedding.  Whether it’s a family get together, dance lessons, making the DJ playlist (and do-not-play list) or crunching numbers, there’s a way to make it fun, special and exciting.  That might involve a bottle of wine or surprising new undergarment (key word being “surprise”), but you can make something that you’re not looking forward to be something totally fun to do.  Wedding planning is supposed to be fun — get a little silly and romantic.

5 – Remember that it’s really all about you and your fiancé at the end of the day.  If somebody is acting like a jerk, or being a roadblock to your wedding plans, cut ‘em loose or go around them.  You don’t have to listen to anybody’s opinion but your partner’s – unless you’re taking bank from your parental units, in which case you probably do have to at least hear them out.  You should still do what you and your fiancé want in the end.

You are getting married.  This is something you’ve dreamed about for a long time, and hopefully, you’re only going to do this once.  It’s really important that you and your future spouse take everything into consideration based on your wants, needs, and opinions.  Don’t let anybody tell you what you can and cannot have or what you must or must not do.  Have fun with it.  Have your wedding reflect your own taste and style.  You’ll never regret it when you look back at your wedding pictures years down the road.  And the planning should be one of the most fabulous memories!

Until next time, happy wedding planning from Weddings in Vieques and Weddings in Culebra!

Sandy

Sandy Malone is the owner of Weddings in Vieques, a full-service destination wedding planning company based on Vieques Island, seven miles off the coast of Puerto Rico.  She and her team (including her husband Bill, a retired SWAT team commander) have planned and executed almost 400 weddings in the Spanish Virgin Islands.  Sandy is a veteran event planner from Washington, DC, with years of experience planning large and small weddings, press conference, and corporate and political events.  She has planned countless events on Vieques Island, beginning with her own wedding back in 2004.  Since that time, her professional staff has executed large and small weddings of all styles, including elopements, vow renewals and fabulously posh events at multi-million dollar waterfront villas.  She has also planned family reunions, destination baby showers, corporate retreats and a variety of other events for clients from all over the United States and Canada.  Sandy is also the owner of Weddings in Culebra (wedding planning on Vieques’ little sister island) and Flowers in Vieques (a full service floral and décor firm).

The Most Unusual Wedding Gift Registry I’ve Encountered – and Helped Create!

Friday, February 1st, 2013

I’ve been planning both gay and straight weddings on Vieques Island for years, but a set of lesbian clients stumped me recently. When I asked where they were registering for gifts, they said they were having some problems with that. I assumed it meant Williams Sonoma versus Crate & Barrel, or something along those lines. But that’s not what they meant. In fact, it’s the most unusual wedding registry request I’ve ever heard. My brides want to register to have a baby together, and they’d like to ask their guests to contribute as a wedding gift. Wow.

Never daunted by the unusual request (hey, I tracked down that elephant… I just decided it wasn’t going to work transporting it on the ferry), I started my research. Based on what I found via Google, and from asking my other clients who were registered there, I recommended the ladies investigate Wedding Republic. With the slogan “A Wedding Registry for the Important Things in Life: From your honeymoon to your house down payment – nothing is off limits,” I figured this was probably the best place for my clients to register to fund the conception of their child. Why not? If you think about it, it’s a pretty slick idea. There are other websites like this but this one was recommended by somebody I knew so I went with it.

Every couple deserves to have a little one this adorable!  Now there are wedding registries to make even this dream come true!

Every couple deserves to have a little one this adorable! Now there are wedding registries to make even this dream come true!

Let’s face it – the traditional wedding registry isn’t getting nearly enough love anymore. And you can tell the big department stores are feeling a bit of the pinch because they have MUCH more lenient return policies than they did back when I got married. I remember them being pretty awful. Never mind the fact that the rules of etiquette give you a year to receive gifts, the department stores want you to have everything sorted out, exchanged, returned and whatever else within 90 days or so. Some of them are nicer about it, but it all depends – and God forbid the gift giver bought it on sale… well, they’re going to tell you exactly how much your friend saved when they let you swap it for something half its original value. Classy, huh? Don’t play. That’s exactly how it works at the very top end places to register. I’ve seen a real change in the way stores are recruiting new clients for gift registries now. They seem more “enthusiastic” about attracting brides. I’m hearing from clients that there’s a little less standing around in the bridal department at the big name stores wishing that somebody had time to help you and instead, there’s a zapper gun for everyone when you wander loose in the housewares department – no more having to share with your fiancé. You can both shoot at the same time and put twice as much stuff on your list.Ten years ago you couldn’t register for the very nicest crystal and china at Bed, Bath and Beyond, and now you can. And let’s face it, the saleswomen in that store are far less pretentious and intimidating than the women who run the bridal registries at Bloomies, Tiffany’s, Lord & Taylor, or even Macy’s. Less than 10 years ago, online honeymoon registries were still considered a massive faux pas and my parents were still trying to decide whether they approved of our generation’s gift card phenomenon. Whatever happened to giving beautifully wrapped packages containing future family heirlooms? Honestly, I did it. I am the proud owner of 16 full place settings of Wedgewood China and 16 sets of three Waterford goblets (white wine, red wine, and water, of course… Pallas pattern, if you were wondering). Bill and I left all of that stuff back in DC when we moved to the islands to plan weddings – and now I seriously question the amount of money invested in the stuff sitting in my cabinets. So I’m intrigued by my clients’ desire to register for getting pregnant for their wedding gift registry. This could really apply to any couple, or people could even start thinking further ahead and set up college funds for their progeny or even savings accounts for buying their own beach house.

In this particular case, these women are making a statement with their registry in addition to truly asking the people who love them most to help with something that is really important to them. It touches me a little to think that we’ve played a small role in something that will end up being so big in the grander scheme of their lives. I wonder what their guests will say when they check out the registry? Until next time, happy wedding planning from Weddings in Vieques and Weddings in Culebra!

Sandy

Sandy Malone is the owner of Weddings in Vieques, a full-service destination wedding planning company based on Vieques Island, seven miles off the coast of Puerto Rico.  She and her team (including her husband Bill, a retired SWAT team commander) have planned and executed almost 400 weddings in the Spanish Virgin Islands.  Sandy is a veteran event planner from Washington, DC, with years of experience planning large and small weddings, press conference, and corporate and political events.  She has planned countless events on Vieques Island, beginning with her own wedding back in 2004.  Since that time, her professional staff has executed large and small weddings of all styles, including elopements, vow renewals and fabulously posh events at multi-million dollar waterfront villas.  She has also planned family reunions, destination baby showers, corporate retreats and a variety of other events for clients from all over the United States and Canada.  Sandy is also the owner of Weddings in Culebra (wedding planning on Vieques’ little sister island) and Flowers in Vieques (a full service floral and décor firm).  Sandy has a regular column on the Huffington Post  and has been rated “Five Rainbows” by her happy gay clients!

“Marrying” Your Financial Matters Together so that Both Spouses Share the Burden

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

Hello there!

This is another one of those topics that’s not specific to gay weddings — it’s just good advice for every married married couple out there, and for partners who are considering formalizing their relationship.  If you’re gay and “married” in a state that doesn’t actually have gay marriages, you probably have more paperwork than most couples just to keep yourselves covered so that you can both have the rights of any other straight couple in your state.  If you’re gay and at least half of the couple is military, you’re going to need a whole other file cabinet to keep your important business organized in a way that is functional for BOTH of you.  So let’s jump in to this topic with both feet!

The new Mr. and Mr. Dwayne and Rodney Byrum showing off their rings... before they went home to sort out their legal paperwork!

The new Mr. and Mr. Dwayne and Rodney Byrum showing off their rings… before they went home to sort out their legal paperwork!

Who pays the bills in your household?  You or your spouse?  Do you share the responsibility?  And if yes, how is that working out for you?  Most couples find that it’s nearly impossible for more than one person to be responsible for the monthly obligations because only one person can be absolutely sure that everything that has to get paid gets paid, and only one person can keep exact track of how much money is where.  Meanwhile there are piles and piles of receipts, important documents, paperwork and policies that have to be filed and organized and maintained.  Is it any wonder that financial matters cause rifts in so many relationships and marriages?My husband and I have regular fights about this topic because I get sick of being responsible for paying everything.  It’s not that he doesn’t contribute financially – that’s not the point – he puts in more than me, I’m sure.  It’s just that he’s sorta semi-retired (depends how many weddings we’ve got because he only works a few hours a day when there are no clients on island) and I put in an 18-hour day on a regular basis, so I think it would be nice if he would take some of the burden of household responsibility off of me.  I do appreciate that he does the laundry, but the laundry doesn’t call from an 800-number when you’re too busy to deal with it.

The problem is that if I threw down and gave Bill an ultimatum, he would pay the bills.  But he would pay them his way.  Unfortunately, our systems don’t mesh.  He believes in an old-fashioned slotted thing with dates on it so he knows what’s due when and when to write and mail checks.  In my world, I pay it all online, instantly.  When I get around to it.  We have such an insane life that although I’m often late in taking care of our personal business, but by using auto-pay and other electronic features, I keep us out of debtor’s prison.  I fear my husband’s proposed antiquated system – for God’s sake, I haven’t even ordered new checkbooks in five years cuz we use them so infrequently.  As such, he wins and I’m stuck paying the bills because I’m more afraid of a paper system getting lost in the fray than I am of losing yet another hour of sleep getting things done.  Call me a neurotic control freak… I’ll own it.  Call my husband a lucky bastard… he’ll own it.

Do you have any idea how many marriages break up because of money problems?  It’s not about gay or straight.  Sometimes it’s not even about whether you actually have or don’t have money.  It’s about how the money is managed (or mismanaged) and the perceptions both spouses have about how their partner makes good or bad decisions about finances.  When a marriage is solid, it’s easy to be on the same page about dollars and sense (pun intended).  But when life is already throwing your curveballs, it’s easy to use money as vehicle for a bigger argument.

Let’s face it, there’s always something you can come up with that your spouse probably shouldn’t have purchased at one time or another.  I know that when Bill learned during a news media interview last year how much money we actually spent eight years ago on our wedding on Vieques Island and the black-tie reception back in DC a week later, he nearly flipped.  He’d had no idea.  Yes, he was there while I was making decisions and he did join my mom and I one the planning trip on the island, but he didn’t really seem to hear anything we were discussing.  He asked once or twice if we’d be able to afford it all and I assured him it would be paid off shortly after the wedding and he was okay with that.  It was seriously eight years later that it clicked and nearly set him off.  By that time, I just laughed at him.

Having a plan and an overall joint philosophy about money is mission critical for a happy marriage.  It’s something you can start working on before you get married so that when you make the transition, it’s not quite as harsh.  But once you’re a team legally (whether by legal union or by having intermingled your lives via legal paperwork) as well as emotionally, you need to have a person who is the lead for taking care of the paperwork in the family.   Paying the bills, doing the filing of the paperwork, managing health insurance paperwork, paying the other insurances (home, car, life, etc.), is a big responsibility and one that must be shared logistically and emotionally if not in actuality.  Remember, once you are legally joined, if one of you tanks your credit, you’re both stuck with lousy credit for a long time.  You are linked in so many ways that it’s hard to imagine.  Next time you go for a car loan, your spouses’s defunct, never-paid (and rarely used), post-college gym membership may pop up to ruin your day. Don’t freak – everything is fixable.  It’s just never immediate.

How can the burden be shared?  One person really does need to keep the books, so to speak, or you end up bouncing checks on each other by mistake.  But that doesn’t mean the other partner can’t be the filing guru – there’s a lot of paperwork in life.  Once you have children it gets even worse.  That stuff has to be done on a regular basis or you end up in paperwork hell.  Scanning is an excellent idea but it also requires time and attention to get it all into the computer.  Once a year, Bill and I usually have to suck it up and sort paperwork for two days on big tables to get it all put away in the right places.  Don’t let that happen to you.  It’s sorta like the “you cook, I clean” work-share philosophy.  Whoever who takes on the responsibility of paying all the bills monthly should be able to rest assured that their better half is going to file them away neatly where they can be located if there’s a problem or question.

There’s no reason to let managing your finances put a damper on our married life.  You just need a plan for the money and a plan for the paper and you need to stick to them.  If things don’t work, look for strategies that will work for your particular lifestyle.

Until next time, happy wedding planning from Weddings in Vieques (www.weddingsinvieques.com) and Weddings in Culebra (www.weddingsinculebra.com)!

Sandy

 

Engagement Season Has Begun – Are You Ready to Take the Plunge???

Monday, December 24th, 2012

So you know that the next six weeks are the BIGGEST time of the year for new engagements, right?  And if you’re a gay couple, let’s face it – you have so many more proposal options.  He can propose, or he can propose!  Same with the lesbians out there – she can pop the question, or she can surprise her with a ring?  There are no expectations, except within your own relationship.  There are no rules.  Whoever gets up the nerve (and the cash for a ring in some cases) can be the one to take that big step.  Forget the stereotypes.  Have fun with it.  Bill and I got engaged on December 20, 2003, and we celebrate that date together every year.

Dwayne Byrum proposed to Rodney Stroth on their one year anniversary, this Thanksgiving 2012.

So is there a chance this is the holiday season to begin making plans to formalize your relationship?  If so, I have a few tips that might come in handy – for the partner asking, and the partner being asked.1)    Go get a manicure (unisex demand here).  You cannot have ganked-looking nails if there is the slightest change that somebody is going to be slipping an engagement ring or promise band on your hot little hand over the next two weeks.  Start the basics now – gentlemen who don’t consider themselves “metro” ought to take a serious look at their paws.  Maybe it’s time to take a walk on the wild side and get somebody to tame those nasty cuticles.  Ladies who don’t lunch – your hands matter too.  Stop chewing the nails, invest in a file, and remember that everybody is going to be looking at the symbol of your love resting on the hands.  You’re just providing an attractive backdrop.  Or at least an inoffensive one.  I know it’s hard when you work with your hands – I have a hard time myself because wedding flowers tear me up – but this is the time that it’s really worth the extra effort (or hand cream).

Dwayne Byrum and Rodney Stroth Byrum show off their rings the morning after their 12/12/12 elopement on Vieques Island.

2)    There are no rules about how a proposal has to go – you don’t have to have the ring there, you don’t have to have a ring at all!  Just depends on what the two of you have talked about and whether your expectations are met overall (let’s face it, if you ALWAYS wanted a diamond and you don’t get it, you’re gonna be bumming).  So if you feel the moment, take it.  Even if you’re not formally prepared, if you sense your partner is trying his or her hardest to actually, formally “pop” the question and you’re watching them struggle… be kind and help out.  If, of course, you love your mate enough to make that life commitment.3)    If you do get engaged, be ready to share that information together.  It’s okay to keep it a secret for a short period of time while you get your ducks in a row.  It’s the holiday season for goodness sakes.  Even if you’re bursting with joy to announce that you’re making a life commitment to each other, if your partner’s family is going to be all around you for the next week and they’re not all as supportive as you would both prefer, it might not be the exact right time to share that information.  By all means, tell your friends and those who love and support you, but save the bombs for dropping after the holiday season.  Let’s face it; anybody who doesn’t support your union is wrong.  And it’s going to be unpleasant when you deal with it, right?  So why the hell would you want to put a damper on the most amazing thing in the world by telling THOSE people when you are in a celebratory mode?  Let them find out through the grapevine down the road unless you relish the idea of a drama-filled holiday engagement.  Not!

4)    Don’t think you have to have a long engagement – nowadays, you can get married as soon as you’re ready to do it.  If you want to go someplace far away and bring your best friends and closest family with you, you probably need to give them a little bit of notice, but not that much.  How long you draw things out may complicate matters that don’t need to be complicated.  Remember, nobody but you and your intended spouse actually gets to have an opinion.

5)    Have fun with your engagement!  Go out and buy a beautiful ring holder for the dresser (if you got something to put on it), get some ring cleaner (I find the red jar at Bed Bath and Beyond is pretty gentle and effective and also comes in a toothbrush-looking travel applicator that’s good to keep in a Dopp kit or cosmetic bag).  Celebrate your love and take lots of pictures.  Make the date of your engagement something you celebrate every year for just that reason – it’s the date the one (or both) of you got up the nerve to commit every day for the rest of your lives to one another.  Pretty significant.  And for gay couples who have struggled just to have the right to be together and actually have this moment, it’s probably even more important.  Don’t let anybody poop on your party – go celebrate, show off and have a blast.  Congratulations!

Until next time, happy holidays from Weddings in Vieques and Weddings in Culebra!  Good luck popping the question!  It’s going to be just fine. 🙂

Sandy

Sandy Malone, a guest blogger with Purple Unions, is the owner of Weddings in Vieques, a full-service destination wedding planning company based on Vieques Island, seven miles off the coast of Puerto Rico.  She and her team (including her husband Bill, a retired SWAT team commander) have planned and executed almost 400 weddings and commitment ceremonies in the Spanish Virgin Islands.  Sandy is a veteran event planner from Washington, DC, with years of experience planning large and small weddings, press conference, and corporate and political events.  She has planned countless events on Vieques Island, beginning with her own wedding back in 2004.  Since that time, her professional staff has executed large and small weddings of all styles, including elopements, vow renewals and fabulously posh events at multi-million dollar waterfront villas.  She has also planned family reunions, destination baby showers, corporate retreats and a variety of other events for clients from all over the United States and Canada.  Sandy is also the owner of Weddings in Culebra (wedding planning on Vieques’ little sister island) , Boutique in Vieques and Flowers in Vieques (a full service floral and décor firm).  Visit her at www.weddingsinvieques.com.

How Numerology Can Affect the Success of Your Marriage — and Why the 12/12/12 Challenge Could Be Your Best Best for a Happy Future Together

Monday, October 29th, 2012

Hi there everybody!

Numerology plays a bigger role in wedding planning than I ever could have imagined before I got into this business. In fact, the very first wedding I ever planned was for Lynn and Brian Beisel on 7/7/07. My husband Bill and I picked our wedding date because it was a long weekend (more travel time for destination wedding guests) and we figured we could get it all planned in time (nine months out). My favorite hotel in the world, Hacienda Tamarindo (super gay friend, btw) was available and willing to let us get married there – the only other wedding the owners had ever permitted was their daughter’s – and so we grabbed September 4, 2004.

Part of the compromise with my parents about having a destination wedding was a commitment to have a formal wedding reception back in DC exactly one week later. Why we put ourselves through that timing hell, I can’t explain. But that was the deal that was struck – meaning my police captain husband and I would be celebrating our formal, black-tie wedding reception back in the nation’s capitol on September 11, 2004. Oops! After some consultation with all the other cops involved in our wedding, we decided to go forward with it. September 11th needed a better association in all of our hearts and minds, and we couldn’t think of a better way to do it. So you could say numerology played a role in our wedding, but it surely wasn’t intentional. With most of my clients, it’s completely planned.

Would you believe I’ve had brides who changed their wedding date two or three times based on what their astrologists recommended as “luckier” numbers for them (or in one case it was the MoB’s psychic advisor’s suggestion)? Nope. Not kidding. Whatever floats their boats as long as I’m not already booked that day, right? She’s the bride. The triple date thing has been madly popular and we have done a wedding on every single triple date since we started our business – 8/8/08, 9/9/09, 10/10/10 – but the granddaddy of them all was last year when we did five weddings on 11/11/11. They weren’t all big weddings, in fact, they were mostly elopements. But it was still a freaking zoo around here. Now I see 12/12/12 looming in our very near future and I can hear the warning drums beating. Sad thing is that I’m excited about the challenge.

Why are numbers so important to so many people? For some, it’s because the numbers are supposed to indicate what kind of future it will bring you. For others, it’s cultural.

Dante Pestano and Patrick Ricci at their gay wedding on Vieques Island on 4/8/12!

There’s a really funny website called Phuture.Me that has a hilarious wedding date planner tool with instructions and explanations about how you can use different combinations of numbers to achieve the wedding date that will give you the most successful marriage. I always thought love, commitment and patience made a good marriage… boy was I misinformed. 12/12/12 is considered an incredibly special date for all sorts of reasons. In Belize, there’s a “very special” ceremony permitting only 12 couples on the Mayan ruins. The Mayans believed that the number 12 signified both mystery and authority, and a whole bunch of other things. To quote one Belize wedding website “since there are 12 chakras in the human heart, the 12 tickets to the 12/12 /12 Mayan Marriage of Many… will be the most coveted invitations in the worldwide wedding market!” LOL Nice marketing. But apparently the opinion is regional because The Moscow Times reports that applications for 12/12/12 weddings are down compared to the 1,179 marriages on 11/11/11. But of course, you have to file your paperwork more than two months ahead and get permission to get married in Russia, so maybe they’re missing all the folks who decide to be spontaneous and elope on a special date. Two couples in Northumberland in the UK have already scheduled weddings at 12 minutes after 12 on 12/12/12. Twelve is considered the number of “completeness” there and so the date is supposed to be a good omen for the marriage.Alrighty, if I take off my skeptic hat, I have to admit there must be something to the numerology or thousands and thousands of people wouldn’t be ALL OVER IT. Combos of the number 3 are popular – hence the two weddings I planned on 6/9/12 this year. Another couple had a thing for the number 4 so we did a 4/8/12 wedding this year too (that was my gay buds Dante and Patrick, featured in the pic in this blog). And let’s not forget the one on 3/3/12. I bet I could go on and on – just looking at the number combos on the wedding date archive file is giving me a headache. Obviously, numerology is incredibly important to a whole lot of brides and grooms all over the world for different reasons (including a whole bunch of my clients). But I must say the gay clients have been more creative with their numerology than the straight ones. Do you think maybe it’s because they’re not listening to their mother’s psychics, or because they are?

So now I feel like I have a challenge. I want to do 12 weddings on 12/12/12. My husband will probably go on strike and lead a mutiny of my staff, but it wouldn’t be the first time (I’m not going to warn him about this btw – he’ll read it in this column with everybody else so I’ll have to hide that day). There are, after all, 24 hours in the day on 12/12/12… this could be a heck of a challenge. I’m not afraid (much). But I’ve never taken on a project that I didn’t completely deliver 100%, so I’m confident that my team here on Vieques Island can totally handle it.

In fact, I’m sooo serious about this challenge that I’ll offer 25% off on elopement packages to the first 11 eleven couples that book their elopment on Vieques Island on 12/12/12.  Only 11 because I’ve already got one booked and it wouldn’t be lucky to do more than 12, right?  Not gonna risk jinxing this.  This offer is GOOD FOR 12 DAYS ONLY!!!  Email me today at info@weddingsinvieques.com to make sure you get the best chance at having the happiest marraige ever.

I’ll keep you posted on my progress, but let me sign off with a totally self-serving reminder to all you newly engaged and just-about-to-get-engaged couples out there – I don’t have 12 weddings on that day yet. Do you think that if you’re the 12th couple I book for the 12 weddings on 12/12/12 and we marry you at 12 minutes after 12, you can pretty much be guaranteed the perfect future and happy marriage? I don’t know the answer to that question. But if there’s a chance… Just sayin’.

Until next time, happy wedding planning from Weddings in Vieques and Weddings in Culebra!

Sandy

Sandy Malone is the owner of Weddings in Vieques, a full-service destination wedding planning company based on Vieques Island, seven miles off the coast of Puerto Rico.  She and her team (including her husband Bill, a retired SWAT team commander) have planned and executed almost 400 weddings in the Spanish Virgin Islands.  Sandy is a veteran event planner from Washington, DC, with years of experience planning large and small weddings, press conference, and corporate and political events.  She has planned countless events on Vieques Island, beginning with her own wedding back in 2004.  Since that time, her professional staff has executed large and small weddings of all styles, including elopements, vow renewals and fabulously posh events at multi-million dollar waterfront villas.  She has also planned family reunions, destination baby showers, corporate retreats and a variety of other events for clients from all over the United States and Canada.  Sandy is also the owner of Weddings in Culebra (wedding planning on Vieques’ little sister island) and Flowers in Vieques (a full service floral and décor firm).  Sandy has a regular column on the Huffington Post  and has been rated “Five Rainbows” by her happy gay clients!

Don’t Be Fooled into Hiring Bogus Wedding Vendors for Your Big Day!!! Tips from a Professional Destination Wedding Planner

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

I performed a wedding ceremony last weekend.  You read that correctly – I didn’t plan it, I was the minister.  My husband and I both got ordained back when we first started planning weddings under the assumption that one day, a minister would get sick at the last minute and somebody would have to step in to avoid disappointing the bride and groom and their family and friends who had traveled so far for their Caribbean destination wedding weekend on Vieques Island.

Fortunately, that’s not why I was the minister tonight.  Vanessa and Ariel, the clients, opted to plan their own wedding and weren’t satisfied with the selection of ministers offered to them by the hotel where they were holding their events, so they contacted me for help.  Hence, my debut as “Sandy Malone, wedding officiant.”  And I did a darned good job if I do say so myself (and I know it’s true because my husband Bill said so and he’s always right).

Anybody who has been reading my blog for years is wondering what the heck I was thinking – and that I’m not practicing what I preach.  Not true!!!  I have always strongly urged all potential wedding clients to make sure that whomever they hire, on whatever island, be sure to hire individual professionals to perform each wedding service.  Your wedding planner shouldn’t be your minister and your photographer and your caterer and your innkeeper unless you’re seriously trying to mimic an old Andy Griffith Show episode where the mayor of the town is also the bail commissioner and the minister of the peace.  But it is something to watch out for as you begin your wedding planning research in this sort of economy.  And not just in the Caribbean.  Every business owner out there is looking to maximize their income.

If you’re getting married back in the states at a traditional hotel, they probably have a list of vendors that they recommend.  That’s not what I’m talking about – those are just local pros they’ve had good experiences with (and who, in some cases, they have a financial kickback arrangement with – and it’s okay to ask that question).  I’m talking about when you call a little boutique hotel or guesthouse in some remote town or on an island that you’ve fallen in love with online, and the highly articulate, seemingly well-informed owner of the establishment tells you that she can personally take care of all of your arrangements.  That should be your first big red flag.

I am a wedding and special events planner.  That’s what I do.  Just so happens that I also own the biggest event flower service on Vieques Island too – Flowers in Vieques – but that’s only because there was nobody on the island who was willing to create the kind of arrangements my clients wanted so we had to create the service for them.  Previously, clients with unusual or elaborate requests were stuck between a rock and hard place – take what the local shop could provide or spend a fortune to bring in their dream flowers from another island.  Not an acceptable budget option for my 60 weddings a year, so we opened a flower service that is now available to the general public, not just my clients.  But that’s sort of the exception to the rule and was created out of necessity on an island five miles wide.  Anyone who knows me is well-aware that I proudly claim to be a “florist under duress.”  Fortunately for my clients and the locals who have used our services, I’m very, very good at it and I have an incredibly talented team of flower designers to call on as well.

I am not, however, a photographer.  I am not a videographer.  I am not a beautician.  I am not a pastry chef or a caterer.  I am not the minister.  I am not the DJ.  I am definitely not owner of the wedding venue or the hotel/guesthouse property where you’re proposing to put your guests.  And because I am none of these things, I can focus on the most important job – planning your wedding.  I can act as your advocate and deal with potentially problematic vendors before you ever get to the island (there’s no three-strikes policy for weddings) and fire and replace them before you get here if screw up.  You don’t have to be Bridezillas or Groomzillas when you arrive on Vieques Island, Puerto Rico, because I have already rained hellfire and brimstone down on any vendor who isn’t primed and ready for your arrival.  Not even joking.

Your wedding planner doesn’t have time to cook your food for your events.  Your photographer should have one job – focusing (literally) on you.  And while your hairdresser is getting you beautiful, I’m busy making sure that the lanterns are hung as you directed and that there are tiki torches lighting your entrance path when you arrive.  How could I possibly be all things necessary for a wedding?  Nobody can do that.

But in this economy and with the birth of the DIY wedding books and four zillion how-to wedding television shows out there, every slightly creative woman and gay man out there is ready to call themselves an event planner.  And if they happen to have a guest house and their friends are always telling them how they should be a caterer, these people aren’t thinking of you as wedding couples with individual tastes and needs for your wedding weekend.  They are seeing the dollar signs add up and trying to take as big of a bite as possible out of your wedding budget because, let’s face it, you don’t have a local wedding planner as your advocate to put the brakes on things and let you know what you’re getting yourself into.

DO YOUR HOMEWORK.  Do the vendors you are considering write blogs?  Read them and see if you like them and want to work with them.  Do they have pictures up and testimonials that seem real?  If you’re not satisfied with publicly available reviews like those available on Wedding Wire (www.weddingwire.com), then you should contact the vendor directly and ask for some real client references you may contact directly.  Use your common sense – you’ll be able to tell if the photographer is really the hotel owner’s useless/perpetually unemployed brother in law with a second-hand Nikon.  If it doesn’t smell right, RUN.

This wedding officiant gig was a one-time thing for me – my cameo, so to speak – unless an emergency happens and my husband or I have to step in at one of our own weddings (sorry Bill, I’d make you do it before me).  I wasn’t the wedding planner – though I ran the wedding rehearsal the day prior just because the clients were sweethearts – all I did was show up, marry them, and leave.  Now I’m back in my office with my wedding planner hat back on and my wedding officiant hat hopefully retired til I’m feeling desperate on a future Halloween.

Final thought: You wouldn’t hire a veterinarian to be your primary care physician.  Don’t be fooled by imaginary wedding planners and vendors in a place you’ve never been or seen – find somebody you can trust to tell you who is, and who is not, totally legit.

Until next time, happy wedding planning from Weddings in Vieques (www.wedddingsinvieques.com) and Weddings in Culebra (www.weddingsinculebra.com)!

Sandy

Sandy Malone is the owner of Weddings in Vieques, a full-service destination wedding planning company based on Vieques Island, seven miles off the coast of Puerto Rico.  She and her team (including her husband Bill, a retired SWAT team commander) have planned and executed almost 400 weddings in the Spanish Virgin Islands.  Sandy is a veteran event planner from Washington, DC, with years of experience planning large and small weddings, press conference, and corporate and political events.  She has planned countless events on Vieques Island, beginning with her own wedding back in 2004.  Since that time, her professional staff has executed large and small weddings of all styles, including elopements, vow renewals and fabulously posh events at multi-million dollar waterfront villas.  She has also planned family reunions, destination baby showers, corporate retreats and a variety of other events for clients from all over the United States and Canada.  Sandy is also the owner of Weddings in Culebra (wedding planning on Vieques’ little sister island) and Flowers in Vieques (a full service floral and décor firm).

Should You Invite Your Parents to Your Wedding even if They Don’t Support Gay Marriage?

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

Hi again!

A new client recently asked me whether she should invite her mother, who does not support their union, to her wedding festivities.  If she were asking me the question about anybody other than immediate family, my clear and concise answer would be “do not invite anyone who doesn’t support your decision to get married.”  However, you only get one set of parents in this lifetime, and you (hopefully) will only have one wedding.  If your parents don’t choose to attend your gay wedding, that’s on them.  But if you take the high road and sincerely invite them, they can never say you excluded them from the biggest day of your life.  It also puts the forgiveness ball in your court.  You can choose to forgive (or not) them for not attending down the road if you want to, but if you didn’t even ask your dad to walk you down the aisle, you can never get that back again and fix it.

Some would say that’s rich coming from me, since I didn’t invite some of my siblings to my wedding eight years ago, and have absolutely no regrets about excluding them.  That’s different.  If you and your parents or siblings weren’t on speaking terms pre-engagement, then all bets are off.  But if everything was kosher prior to your big wedding announcement, you may not have to throw the baby out with the bathwater right away.

I advise all of my clients to pick their battles wisely during the wedding planning process.  For something as serious as whether to invite the people who put you on this earth to share your wedding day, don’t let a momentary lapse of judgment (theirs, of course) dictate the future relationship you’ll have with them for the rest of your life. It’s no skin off your back to send the invitation.  If they come, you include them and they become a part of your happy memories.  You can enlist the help of a sibling or a sympathetic friend of theirs to help them acclimate to the situation so you don’t have to be the one doing the babysitting.  And for real, they might need some hand holding.  Certainly you can make a bigger statement by NOT inviting them to prove a point if your parent has been vocally opposed to the marriage, but in your haste to win that battle, you night well lose the war.

Remember, not having your parents with your on your wedding day can be far more devastating than having to deal with the drama that may unfold when you make the big engagement announcement.  Again, allow for the fact your parents are from another generation and try to be as understanding as you possibly can be, given that they obviously have serious concerns or objections to your lifestyle if things have come to this point.  When everything is said and done, you are getting married whether they like it or not.  You do not need their permission, but it would be nice to have their blessing.

Your life isn’t over when you get married, in fact, it’s just beginning.  And maintaining a positive relationship with your family becomes even more important if you choose to have or adopt children. A child growing up in a “non-traditional” home may have some of his or her own challenges to face, depending on how enlightened the population is where you live.  Grandparents (and aunts and uncles) can create a solid and secure foundation for children and should not be easily discounted.  Certainly, you don’t want to have your mother babysit if she refers to your wife as the Whore of Babylon, but if you get mad when they don’t greet your wedding announcement with a brass band and never even give her the opportunity to change her mind and support you in person on your wedding day, you may be burning a bridge you could have rebuilt much more painlessly.

Instead of getting angry, take the time to sit down and educate them.  If they don’t (outwardly) have a problem with your gay lifestyle, perhaps you can disabuse them of the notion that gay marriage is so far-fetched.  Maybe they’ve never really given the time to think about what you have to put up with on a daily basis, and the fact that you have to jump through about a billion more hoops than a straight couple to get your lives set up.  Do they realize how this will change the practical aspects of life for you?  Would these practical aspects change their opinion of your choice to marry?  There are a lot of websites with GOOD information for parents who are struggling with their children’s choices.  Find the good sites and send them the links directly, don’t make your 70 year old mother Google “gay marriage.” God only knows what she’ll come up with before she finds the legitimate info was looking for.

The decisions about whom to include for your wedding are challenging, but not insurmountable.  It can be an excellent way to say to your parents “nothing else matters that has happened – I just want you there.”  Likewise, failing to invite them sends another, very permanent message as well.  Remember, they say it’s all in the delivery – but if you never send the invitation, it never gets delivered and you’ll never know for certain exactly what they might have done with it.  Think long and hard about it because once your choice is made – you can’t undo it.

Until next time, happy wedding planning from Weddings in Vieques and Weddings in Culebra!

Sandy