Your Big Day (and theirs too) Planning a wedding can be both a personal and powerfully inclusive, stress-free endeavor.


It’s the bride’s day,” says local wedding planner Tami Smallwood-Brown, “but [on your wedding day,] you also have to think about your guests.” Smallwood-Brown, the owner of Blush Wedding and Event Planning, describes a wedding as a huge dinner party. “You want your guests to have an experience,” she adds.

Just like planning a dinner party, brides should consider themselves hosts. There’s a lot for a bride to think about when planning a wedding. Venue, dress and rings—of course, the list goes on. Even so, guests, and their enjoyment of the day, should be at the forefront of her mind.

“The No. 1 thing a bride should consider when planning a wedding is convenience,” says Heather Harlan-Warnack, the director of communications and development at Maryvale Preparatory School. Harlan-Warnack has seen her fair share of weddings. The Castle at Maryvale, an American model of England’s Warwick Castle, is the setting for anywhere between 75 and 100 weddings a year. This venue scores a four-star rating on Wedding Wired and was named one of the top 50 venues by The Knot magazine. The spot’s popularity is due in large part to the pure beauty of the place: Imagine 80 acres of greenery, a picturesque staircase and a fountain.

The Castle continues to be one of the best places to marry in Baltimore because, as Harlan-Warnack explains, “Maryvale has so many amenities you’ll need on that day.”

There’s a bridal suite for onsite preparation. Wedding parties can have both ceremony and reception on the property because of the many different rooms and areas inside and out.

“Maryvale can be a one-stop shop. We offer you everything—an event planner, caterer—all of it,” Harlan-Warnack adds. The castle located in Lutherville, is situated conveniently close to Interstate 695. Another bonus: free parking.

The experience, for guests and participants, goes much beyond the actual wedding ceremony.

“The mother of the bride has plenty to worry about; her hotel shouldn’t be one of them,” says Lisa Gardener, the marketing director of the Ivy Hotel.

Impress those out-of-town relatives (or score points with the in-laws) by putting them up somewhere swanky. Hotels, like the historic Ivy in downtown Baltimore, make for not only special places to stay, but they are also abundantly well-appointed. At the Ivy, for instance, each room comes standard with wine, there’s no need for tipping and they offer complimentary car service.

With only 18 rooms at the Ivy, patrons have the staff’s complete attention. “We treat you like you’re part of the family,” Gardener says.

Last, but definitely not least: Wedding party participants matter, too. “The last thing the bride thinks about is wedding gifts,” says Smyth Jewelers’ district manager Rhoula Monios. And she doesn’t mean for the bride and her future hubby.

“For the parents, for the bridesmaids or the groomsman, we have something for everyone,” Monios says.

Smyth carries premier wedding bands, engagement rings, wedding jewelry and more.

“We did Natty Boh belts for a wedding party once,” Monios recalls.

A unique gift to commemorate the day is a thoughtful gesture that “makes everyone feel like they’re a part of your story.”

>> This is most likely your first wedding. For a wedding planner it won’t be. “Involve a professional right away. We plan weddings all year long, we go to them every weekend. We consider things you may not think of.
We know about all the best venues. We can help you plan your budget.”

>> Plan your wedding in terms of the senses. “Think of what you want your guests to see, hear and taste!”

>> Create an environment everyone can enjoy. “Whatever you do, do not seat 10 people to a table—unless they’re all 100 pounds soaking wet!”

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