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10 + Tips for Wedding Planning AND website fix

  • Posted on October 28, 2013 at 3:47 am

If you are a newsletter member or a radio show listener you will know that I told you that my dates for articles listed on my website had been broken somehow and all articles were stuck with an August 2013 date.  Usually I wouldn’t mind, since that is my birthday month, but I do want you to know that I am current with the information I am giving you.  This missive is just a way of trying it out, but let me also tell you what’s been popping off here in the Big Apple on the wedding scene, too

The air is crisp, actually it has been downright cold.  Who am I trying to kid.  My heat thankfully was turned up and is pumping out nicely.  I hope that you are experiencing that toasty feeling as you continue to plan for your nuptials.  If not find your fiance’ and cuddle together while you do your planning.

  Christina Ricci married her fiance on my Mom’s Birthday or . . . well 10/26/13

      Vera Wang’s strapless dresses are still hanging on.

      In the last year, celebrities have been having private, secret or intimate which means small weddings.  Will that trend seep into the lives of regular folks’ weddings, too.  It could save you a bundle.

      DIY wedding programs are on the rise, as keepsake items for both the wedding couple and their guests.

      Save-the-Date magnets, DON’T have to be expensive AND it helps remind your guests not to plan anything else on your wedding day.

      Cupcakes are now taking over as the wedding cake go-to item.  Easy for both the wedding couple and their guests to eat, especially on-the-run in the reception when greeting other people.

      Save big on wedding ceremony & reception by having your wedding in January or February.   That’s the time when places are starving for people to reserve venues.  (Immediately following the holidays) is a plus for you.

       Allow your guests to feel like stars too, with a DIY red carpet and backdrop (maybe with your logo or names scattered on the backdrop) for your version of a photo booth.  Talk about fun times for all, plus great wedding pictures.

       Engaged, but no wedding date yet?  Start saving now, via a wedding prepaid debit card, or bank account specific to the wedding or store a certain amount under your mattress or in a jar each week. (I’m half kidding.)  

 Top CharLena Pick of 5 New York City outdoor wedding spaces:

                          Central Park

                          Riverside Park

                          Fort Tryon Park over looking the Hudson River

                          Botanical Gardens in Brooklyn

                         South Beach on Staten Island

                         Botanic Gardens of the Bronx (Honorable Mention – If wearing fragrance, watch for bees.)

And if you would like to sign up for my newsletter, you in the right spot, just check the upper right hand corner on any page on this website.

A Tip From Our Resident Restauranteur

  • Posted on May 28, 2012 at 2:48 am

I was able to snag a tip from Restaurant, Gourmand and Chef John Colon.  Check it out:


Riverside’s Wedding Open House

  • Posted on March 14, 2012 at 5:11 am
  • Article originally Posted on February 21, 2011 at 10:47 pm


This year, I somehow missed the event entirely. I had it in my calendar at a completely different time than it was in reality. I showed up two hours later than the event. Forgive me for giving you a re-run of the event, however I believe the information is relevant.  The picture above is after this year’s event.

A Parent: Where does the wedding party begin?

Ms. Gregory: I am the first stop, for which you can schedule an appointment and we talk in depth about what you might want, the budget, and the number of guests.  You may also either email me, (best) or call me.  If you are ready to book, then definitely set up an appointment, and I will get you started in the process including your reservation of a room, along with the deposit.   Additionally, if you want your reception here, I can let our catering service, PashaEvents, know that you are booked and ready to have them (the Caterers) contact you.  You (The reservers) may also do that on your own, as well.

Bride: Can secular music be played during the ceremony?

Ms. Gregory: During the ceremony, you may only use sacred music, which you make the decision on what it is.  This is a sacred space and we are strict with having only sacred music played during the wedding ceremony.  At the reception it is your choice of musical style.  You may hire an outside entertainer, or band.

Bride: How long is the ceremony?  How long before the reception begins?  How long is the minimum time for the reception?

Ms. Gregory: The wedding ceremony is typically 30 minutes.  The reception can be scheduled to start immediately or within the half hour of your ceremony’s end.  Typically any place you speak to about receptions will measure their price by the time needed.  We schedule you for an hour cocktail, and four hours for the reception and if you would like dancing as well, that includes more than enough time.

Groom: How much is the reception?

Ms. Gregory: Our pricing is competitive with other venues of our caliber, so our price per plate/person is between $105 -$155.

Groom: Can there be two ministers side by side performing the ceremony, one in English and the other minister in another language?

Ms. Gregory: We have several ministers on staff from which the bridal party can choose.  If their choice is not available, we go down to the next minister who is available.  Often there are requests for a minister, who is not a member of the Riverside clergy staff, who can perform weddings at Riverside Church, then they are allowed to do the homily, and liturgy.  Having another minister duplicate verbatim what the English-speaking minister will say lengthens the ceremony by two, possibly three times as much. and that is why they may join the service, with their specific part or feature, but only be one or two parts, not the whole ceremony, usually the homily and liturgy.

There were many more questions which you may hear on my radio show: All Things About Weddings: Elegant and Affordable. If you are in the midst of or haven’t yet booked your wedding venue, I invite you to take a look a Riverside Church of New York.  And if you get the opportunity to go in February to go to their Open House, I would say, definitely go next year and maybe I’ll be there, too.

Ms. Gregory will also be at the GLBT Expo this at the Javits on March 17 & 18.

To Contact Ms. Gregory: 212 870 6763 or via email


Looking to read something that I have written check out my wedding cake Special Report:



Great Spot in South Bronx For You AND Me

  • Posted on July 29, 2011 at 8:26 am


Last Friday, 22 July, I had a truly fun experience. I was able to catch up to a friend of my husband’s, John Colon, and experience a new establishment – – to me in the South Bronx. The place is The Gallery Lounge, 26 Bruckner.   It’s a beautiful spot with yummy half moon sherbert-colored, orange leather banquettes, a long bar and few table set-ups.   Sounds lush and something out of Florida, doesn’t it?  My friend is of course John Colon of The LatiKnow Company, (which Educates through foods) and is also known for setting up restaurants’ management teams [notably 809 Restaurant & Lounge] in and around New Jersey and New York area, plus his dream come true–his current shop, La Bodega {Food Distribution} in La Marqueta.

I went there to talk to my friend, John Colon, about possibilities of our teaming up together in a mutually beneficial business  with regard to my Wedding Specialties. The experience I had was truly wonderful. Several minutes after my arrival, John came out to greet me in a white double-breasted jacket, to show me what he foresaw in the near future for the space and then back to the kitchen. On the way back, he asked me if I wanted to see “his” kitchen. I was surprised, not so much that he can cook, since I knew that already, but that he ls now a chef. John has always loved food, to eat, yes of course, through education for the customers about uses for certain foods.  Also educating the restaurant team on how to both treat and serve their customers, but also now educating his customers’ palate through their eating experience.  He is all about widening people’s awareness of the arts of Spanish foods from the Hispanic perspective on a broader spectrum.  And now he gets to do just that every Friday and Saturday nights, here at the Gallery Lounge, from 7 pm – 4 am.

I was also able to meet his Consulting Chef Tamar Poysner,  who won Rachel Ray’s 2009 competition:  “Hey You Can Cook 4”.  Ms. Poysner in 2010 was on Gordon Ramsey’s Master Chef program as well.  By now you are wondering what’s the idea behind all this talk of food on a wedding website, right?  Think event space, food, chefs, what does that spell?  Reception site. And I was there on your behalf, asking about possibilities of having your wedding and reception here.  Right now we are working out the details, but have your event for under $10,000 with either full-service or cocktail parties.  Keep in mind for a sit down it is suggested no more than 50 people.

The two chefs were in their element in their kitchen, [and so was I], joking, trying out new recipes, etc. as they continued washing their hands after everything they touched [a very good sign].   I even got to taste a couple of the newer items that they were trying out on their menu, for the evening. It’s always fun to go to talk business and wind up being offered tidbits of food.  I hadn’t expected that at all.  A surprise tasting as it was, for me and you. Yum!  Let me list what I liked there so when you go, you will know:

  • Hot, hot, hot Salsa dance music.
  • Tamarind Sauce and Curry Puff
  • Meet-Lover’s pizza (consisting of Shrimp, rather than pork of sausage.) YUM!~
  • Canoa
  • Jerk Burger [with cheese, of course] Slider

All I can say is YUM!!!!  Go!  Experience the Spanish-Caribbean blend from these two chefs’ diverse and co-mingling cultures.  Ms. Poysner throws in a bit of Italian cuisine she learned during her winning tour to Tuscany.  Together Chefs Tamar Poysner and John Colon through their cooking are able to share their passion for food, via their styles of cooking together for you.  Imagine having that at your wedding and reception.  Again, I say YUM!!!!

The Gallery Lounge, 26 Bruckner Boulevard, Bronx NY 10454

Look for wedding workshops and seminars in the near future in this spot.  There’s even an art gallery complete with paintings on the walls.  Fun and Yummy!




Wedding Cake Taste-Off Author’s Fitting

  • Posted on June 17, 2011 at 1:32 am


Today was all about me. Don’t you just want that sometime? To have a day when it’s about stuff you either have to or want to get done. Well, that was what today was all about.

Here’s what my day’s plan was:

  1. Videotape invitation to Brides for Wedding Cake Taste-Off and talk about my book.
  2. Dress fitting with Ms. Rose Jeffries of Rose Loves Fashion
  3. Call my co-Sponsor; Ms. Angela Gregory, Weddings at Riverside
  4. Make some calls
  5. Home to write.


Did I get all of that done? Absolutely. Was it as quick as it took you to read it? Absolutely, not. First off, I forgot to turn my phone off last night and someone called and awakened me around one am. Not fun, especially since I then did not go right back to sleep. My time to awaken was scheduled for 7:20 am. I did, but also heard someone hit the bathroom, as I was about to and so lay down for a minute. Not wise, I reawakened an hour later. Called ahead to my fitting to let Ms. Jefferies know I’d meet her an hour later than prescribed. Met with the videographer, picked up some luscious cake and off we went to just in front of Riverside Cake, to shoot.

Aerial View

I think she (Videographer) got some awesome footage, plus it was not hard to eat the cake either. Yummy! When you see the footage, I am sure you will agree. Video tapings being what they are, we ran over by 45 minutes. So now I am an additional hour late for my fitting. Plus, I had to dash down to the Garment District to meet her.

At the fitting, ladies, unless you sew (which I don’t) and of course after you have already approved of the design, and interjected your opinion on draping or comments about the spots where you might be uncomfortable (which I did), shut up. I added my two cents and nearly torpedoed the top. I’d put my head into the wrong opening and thought I was correct, which meant all the measurements were wrong. Not! Rose and her team soon discovered my mistake and pinning commenced quite efficiently after that. As you may know designers do the first fitting in muslin, so pulling out the muslin, would have been a lot of wasted work in this case, but not horrifying. I see now why doing a gauge in needlecraft is SO important. (I crochet.) The fabric and the drape is going to be luscious. I cannot wait for you to see it. THANK you Rose for your patience and talent. It is going to be fabulous.

Designer to Author for Wedding Cake Taste-Off

I had to go shoe perusing for a hot minute (Didn’t find a thing I liked, but I was in Midtown, anyway.), and then bead perusing as well. Got some ideas on a potential fun, but elegant necklace. What I find, for me, is after a bit of creativeness in another genre, I am ready to come home and do some serious writing. It’s kind of like oiling the pump. [You’ll find I am not very good at cliches.] Oh, and I made my phone calls in Bryant Park. Very soothing and just what I needed to get more work done. I now have a night of writing ahead of me and I am raring to go. WooHoo!


Wedding Cake Taste-Off; Behind the Scenes – Part 2

  • Posted on June 9, 2011 at 8:43 pm

  • What’s the idea behind the Taste-Off besides publicizing my book? Well, there are two other ideas, that dovetail into the book and the brides.
  • What is one of the bigger subsegments of the reception that money can be thrown? The booze? Sure, if you don’t go with a cash bar.
  • The flowers, yes, maybe if you haven’t spent all your budget during the ceremony.
  • The cake? Yes, that’s it!

I knew you’d come up with it. The cake can get extravagant, plus if you don’t have or know of a baker, where do you go?

  • Do you go with word of mouth or do you go to someone you’ve seen on television, or in magazine or do you go to a wedding expo?
  • Or do you go to several bakers and taste-test their wares or a flavor you think might be what you want for your wedding? That can be both time consuming and expensive. It could also be frustrating.
  • What if your spouse to be can’t go at the same time you are doing your research, what then?
  • Do you buy a slice of what you like?
  • What if your spouse doesn’t like it or once you get it home, you realize you don’t even like it, then what?

The beauty of the Taste-Off is that the brides, grooms, and or wedding couples can come together on a Sunday and taste to their heart’s content, the baker’s best cake. Even look at their portfolio, check out their presentation, style and their price. But it is not just a bridal party bonanza, it is also an opportunity to showcase cake bakers/designers who have been in business for less than 10 years and who may have graduated through and from the WIBO process.

Coming up with the why, who, and where were easy. All of the whats and the how were the tricky parts, but as the time ticks down those seem to be taking care of themselves, too. I hope and it is my plan that it continues that way, too. I needed to come up with an idea for my logo, which initially I saw as an action type of logo, but then I realized that really could be just the background on a flyer. I decided to take it to a professional, but it still wasn’t resonating with me. The logo like the title of my book was posing a challenge, but finally I realized, I had to relax and it would come to me, what the logo could be, just like the book’s title did. After a strange weekend of our new Time Warner modem failing and being thrown off the Internet for 2 ½ days, I was able to come up with a usable logo. Mmmh. I like it. Meanwhile I was talking to other amazing women who were helping me make a successful start on through to and after the finish of event.

  • Rose Jeffries, a designer has signed on to design my gown for the event and offer an hour of her services as a giveaway to one lucky bride.
  • Additionally, Fouzia Eldrissi, one of the people I interviewed for my book is a wedding planner and she also will have a table set up and is giving away time for a winning bride, from one of the giveaways as well.
  • There will be additional giveaways for the brides, but I don’t want spill all the surprises here.
  • Plus, of course a special chapter specific to the event, that I believe each bride or wedding couple will appreciate.

The bakers and cake designer’s for the event will be able to showcase their best cakes for the taste-off, which will be judged for their taste, (blind taste-test) design and table presentation. They are allowed to bring their portfolios and I hope possibly get bookings while they are set up for the event. There will be two baker winners. too. I think they will be delighted to realize that the winning baker’s businesses will be publicized in local media outlets. Yesterday I finished the first drafts of my letters/emails to the various celebrity judges from around the tristate area. I can not divulge as yet who they are, but I have already received two verbal affirmatives. WooHoo!

Money-saving” Ideas That Will Cost You Your Dignity BY APRIL WINCHELL

  • Posted on March 24, 2011 at 4:51 am

The following article are the opinions of Ms. Winchell.  It is fun, funny and informative, but not all of her ideas coincide with my own.  Enjoy the article.

Years ago, I went to France for the first time. And while I was there, I visited the Palace at Versailles.

It was incredible. Room after room of the most mind-blowing opulence you can imagine. I was absolutely spellbound.

For about an hour.

Then I hit my saturation point and stopped being impressed, or even caring at all. I found myself shuffling from room to room, walking over priceless mosaic floors just looking for the gift shop. And I suddenly realized the original occupants must have felt the same burnout. That’s why each room was more over-the-top than the last—it was the only way they’d feel anything at all.

That’s the downside of luxury: At some point you reach a plateau, and it’s all the same. There might be a difference between 900- and 1,000- thread-count sheets, but who can feel it?

I think this is a very real trap people fall into when they plan a wedding. You can only have so many flowers. The steak can only be so big. The linens can only be so fine. You hit a wall after a certain point, so the spending itself becomes the gesture. And ultimately, it’s meaningless.

Of course, there are people on the opposite side of the spectrum. A friend of mine recently told me about a wedding invitation she’d received that said guests were welcome, but they’d have to pay $20 at the door. They were also asked to bring cash for their own food, and cash for the couple, to help fund their trip to Burning Man (naturally, family and special friends were given wristbands allowing them “access to a VIP area with seating”).

Like most of you, I’m somewhere in the middle. I’m not going to fly everyone to Tahiti, but I’m also not going to make them sit at card tables and eat Hot Pockets. It’s all very nice to be a bride, but to have a great wedding you also have to be a gracious host and a relaxed guest. And that’s all about attitude—not a mile-long list of things you have to have.

Here’s my wedding wish list: |


1. A nice dress
2. A picturesque location
3. A good meal

That’s it. No attendants, no separate gown for the reception, no unicorn. Just a nice, middle-of-the-road event for about 100 people. So imagine my surprise when the hotel cheerfully quoted me $600 per person.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never eaten a $600 meal. The most I ever paid was around $1,000, and that was for five people. With drinks. A lot of drinks.

But let’s just say, for argument’s sake, that the hotel can reasonably charge $200 a plate. In fact, let’s say they can get it up to $300 by putting pearl earrings in the mashed potatoes. Every guest would still have to drink $300 worth of alcohol. I don’t even think that’s scientifically possible. In fact, I don’t think you could get up to $600 apiece if you catered the whole thing out of the mini bar.

And this is when the hotel explained that the price they’d quoted didn’t really reflect the food or drink as much as it did the day of the week. This same wedding on a Friday would be $20,000 less. And there’s your plateau: The extra $200 per person doesn’t get you anything except the privilege of writing a bigger check on a Saturday.

My search for cost-cutting ideas also turned up another surprise: Saving money is as subjective as spending it. My reasonable expense might be your ridiculous extravagance. Your sensible cost-cutter might give me a headache from rolling my eyes. For example:

“Fake your cake with an icing-covered foam cake rental. You’ll get the look you want, and you can purchase a sheet cake from a bakery that can be cut up in the kitchen.”

This is insanity. It’s like that Twilight Zone episode where Carol Lynley and her husband wake up after a party and find themselves in an alien child’s dollhouse [spoiler alert].

To me, the tiered wedding cake is nonnegotiable. You have to keep the top so you can eat it on your first anniversary, or your husband will leave you for a massage therapist. Or something like that. I’m not clear on the subtleties.

“Toast with white wine instead of Champagne: Champagne can get expensive, and not everyone likes the carbonation.”

I’m sure lots of people will strenuously object to toasting your marriage with Champagne. “How was the wedding?” “It was okay, except for the carbonation. That was a downer.”

You know, some people don’t like dressing up, either. Maybe you should ask everyone to come in sweatpants, and you can all eat pizza over the sink.

“Do you have a friend who brews their own beer? Ask them to provide beer for your wedding at cost!”

Fantastic. You can get your uncle to make up a batch in his bathroom, and when people start complaining of lead poisoning and blindness, you can blame it on the foam-rubber cake.

“Better yet, do away with alcohol altogether and have a coffee bar! Guests can get cappuccinos, espressos, or even decaf.”

Sheet cake and decaf! It’s like Saturday night at the nursing home, only not as fun.

And now that you’ve ruined dinner, how about saving the planet?

“Instead of wasting paper, send your announcement via email!”

Your wedding invitation is a waste of paper. It’s perfectly okay for the Thai restaurant down the street to shove menus in your mailbox every day, but those wedding invitations of yours are going to turn this planet into a post-apocalyptic wasteland.

Okay, maybe the five cards with two envelopes is a bit much, and I can do without that weird, arcane piece of blotting paper that looks like you’re supposed to roll your own cigarette with it. But the wedding invitation is a wonderful keepsake for some people—what are they supposed to do, print it out at Kinko’s? Oh wait, that would be a waste of paper. Well, maybe you can just send it to their iPhone and they can look at it while they’re on the bus.

“Don’t pay your florist big bucks to put together your centerpieces. Make your own with supplies from the dollar store and a little ingenuity.”

Finally, a sensible idea! After all, they have so many high-quality materials at the dollar store. How about a car-deodorizer centerpiece for the bride’s table? And with “a little ingenuity” I’m sure you could work in a few pencils and a bottle of discontinued shampoo.

“Share decorating costs: Find out if another bride books your venue for the same weekend, split costs on shared flowers, décor and other expenses.”

I love the idea of another woman’s used, wilted flowers at my wedding. But why stop there? Use her bridesmaids and none of your friends will have to buy dresses. Serve leftover Champagne from her reception—it’ll be flat, so that’ll please the carbonation haters. What the hell, why not marry the same guy? You can all chip in on a family compound and lower your mortgage.

“Consider an intimate destination wedding: You’ll be able to slash the guest list and combine it with your honeymoon.”

Combine your wedding with your honeymoon, so everyone you know will be there the whole time. Won’t that be fun? You and your husband can have a romantic dinner while your entire family sits at the table behind you. Then you can all go back to your room and watch Grown Ups on pay-per-view. Better yet, get some roll-away beds and your parents can split the room with you.

To be fair, I did learn something from these horrible ideas: It all comes down to what you can live with. It’s the same strategy I use when I vote: I choose the candidate who’s the closest to my way of thinking on things that really matter to me, then just try to let the other stuff go.

Revised wedding wish list:

1. A nice dress
2. A picturesque location
3. A good meal
4. Paper invitations
5. Real cake

April Winchell has been a talk radio host, a sitcom writer, an advertising executive and the voice of hundreds of animated Disney characters. In October of 2009, she created the hit, which led to the publication of “Regretsy: Where DIY meets WTF” in April of 2010. Even though she has been writing professionally since 1989, she still finds talking about herself in the third person really uncomfortable.