December 20, 2007
"Is This a Toothbrush or a Drill Sergeant?"

April 2007
"The Busy Woman's Guide to Clean"

September 2006
"Green Machines"

"Stepping Up to the Plate"

Fall/Winter 2003
"Just Shoot Me"

Spring/Summer 2003
"Hot Showers"

July/August 2000
"Ski Towns in Summer"

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Spring/Summer 2003

Hot Showers
Go ahead and break tradition. These parties are sure to please

For many brides-to-be, the traditional shower can be anything but fun. If hers follows the standard format, your bride will spending a very long afternoon sitting in someone’s living room, opening gifts one by one and trying to show the appropriate response to each. No wonder so many women beg friends and family to skip the whole thing.

“Many brides just don’t feel comfortable being the center of attention,” says Kristen Weiss, owner of I Thee Wed, a wedding planning company in South Natick. “It can be very awkward to be in the spotlight, especially when you’re receiving presents and trying to talk to people at the same time.” In that situation, she says, the real purpose of a shower — to “shower” the bride with love and affection as well as loot — often gets lost. “Most brides feel compelled to entertain the guests, even though the party is supposed to be for them. So things can get pretty stressful.”

A better idea, says Weiss, is for the bride — or the friends and family planning the bridal shower — to think long and hard about what type of event she’d like: “What would make her feel most relaxed and able to enjoy herself?” asks Weiss. And while it might take some imagination, in the long run, planning a shower around the bride’s unique tastes and personality is a lot easier than trying to modify a traditional shower, she says.

As with any other event, you’ll have to take a few things into account before you start sending out invitations. Price, of course, will be one of the first considerations, says Tina McIsaac, owner of Minghetti Events, a wedding planning service in Boston. You’ve also got to consider logistics — how near (or far) the event can be, and how long it will last. Beyond that, she says, are the personality, taste and physical abilities of both the bride and the guests. “You can’t expect to throw a shower that includes an all-day bike ride if the guest list includes the bride’s grandmother,” she says. By the same token, a shower that revolves around an afternoon tea will probably appeal much more to the older guests than to the bride and her peers.

If you’ve got a mixed group of attendees, as most shower-planners do, you might consider throwing two separate events, suggests Weiss. “I’ve had clients plan a big shower that’s more traditional and will include the ‘older crowd,’ then have a smaller party for the bride and her closest friends.” Weiss stresses that neither event has to break the bank. “You’re trying to make an occasion that feels personal and intimate,” she says. “Plan your party — the location, theme, food, and decorations — to reflect the bride’s unique personality, and you’ll find it doesn’t have to cost a fortune.”
Here are a few ideas to consider:

The Spa Shower
If the bride loves pampering, consider a day of indulgence at a spa, says Weiss. Plenty of Boston-area spas offer reasonably priced packages suitable for bridal parties who aren’t named “Rockefeller.” At most spas, the bride and her buddies can enjoy individual pedicures, massages, facials and other indulgences, then meet for tea (or drinks) afterward. To throw a spa shower, shop around to find a spa that offers the services you want, and be sure to make your reservations early — especially if you’ve got a big group.

The Soiree Shower
Lots of people — including brides and the people who shower them — love parties, says Weiss. “I’ve arranged several showers that are more like an intimate cocktail party than a prim and proper luncheon.” Weiss recommends setting up a room — either in a private home or a restaurant or club — like a French bistro or small Italian trattoria, complete with cocktail tables, hors d’oeuvres and music that set the scene. “This event is perfect for the bride who really doesn’t want to be the center of attention — and who wants to include both men and women at the party,” she says.

Choosing to make the shower into a party also allows you more flexibility with scheduling, says Kelly Scriven, president of The Bride’s Maid, a wedding planning service in Boston. “Where is it written that all bridal showers have to be on a Sunday afternoon?” she says. “Some of the best showers I’ve attended and planned were held on a weekday evening.”

The trick here is to choose a location that conveys the mood you’re seeking — high-fashion and hip, perhaps, or old-world and informal — and then create your setting, Weiss says. If the bride loves dancing, for example, be sure you’ve got room to groove. If she’s typically more interested in fine food and conversation, make sure that the seating is intimate and the menu interesting.

The Sporty Shower
Is the bride-to-be the rough-and-tumble type? And do her close friends and family share that spirit? If so, consider throwing the ultimate in non-traditional showers.

“When I was getting married, my friends took me on a canoeing trip,” says Jeannie Choi, an outdoor enthusiast who lives with her husband in East Falmouth. “My friends arranged for six of us to rent a big battle canoe and paddle down the Wells River in Vermont. It was the perfect idea — and I was really touched.”

If you’d like to throw an active shower, consider a day (or a weekend) of biking, cross-country skiing or hiking, suggests Weiss. Or, for the truly adventurous, there’s fly-fishing, windsurfing, snowboarding or rock climbing. “What you do isn’t as important as why you’re doing it,” says Weiss. “To have fun and be together.” Thus, the key is to make sure that the activities you’re planning are appealing — and do-able — for everyone.

The Spotlight Shower
While there are plenty of brides who’d rather not be the center of attention at their shower, there are lots of others who love taking center stage. McIsaac was one of them. “My shower was all about me — my childhood, my favorite games and music — and I loved it,” she says. “It was like being the birthday girl all over again. So much of wedding planning is about other people — making sure that the relatives are taken care of and nobody is being excluded or neglected — and it’s all very serious and important. But for that day, the focus was all on me.”

To give your bride the star treatment, McIsaac says, look to her for inspiration — for everything. Does she dream of the yachting life? Charter a boat or take a dinner cruise, suggests Scriven. If she loves the beach, have a seaside picnic (and arrive late in the day to avoid the crowds). Has she always wanted to live on a country estate? Pick an outdoor setting, as McIsaac’s friends did, complete with a tent and lush green lawn. Are there specific foods, music, flowers or colors that she loves — but perhaps couldn’t incorporate into the wedding itself? Use them all. Take her childhood photos to create the invitations as well as the table decorations. And ask guests to write personal notes that draw on their shared experiences or inside jokes. “Adding all the personal touches you can makes all the difference,” McIsaac says.


July/August 2000

Ski Towns in Summer
Head for the hills: These towns rock with hiking, biking, and golf, golf, golf

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Vail, Colorado
One reason that Vail is beloved in the summer: the fur is worn by the local fauna, not by the tourists. When it warms up, the whole Vail Valley becomes a low-key, outdoorsy playground. For rock jocks, there are several must-climb peaks, including Mount of the Holy Cross (one of Colorado's famous 14ers). Missing the fur? Try a luxury llama expedition and spend the night in hut-to-hut comfort. White-water junkies will find plenty of rapids to shoot, or you can mix it up on hybrid rock climbing/rafting trips developed by Vail's own 1998 Eco-Challenge champions.
Best beds: The Sonnenalp, a classic Euroglitz hotel with its own spa and golf course (970-476-5656).
Outstanding outfitter: Paragon Guides organizes llama treks, plus biking and climbing trips (877-926-5299).
Good grub: Try the burgers at Bart & Yeti's, a funky cafe named after two local dogs (970-476-2754).
Festivals: Vail Summer Sports Fest, July 29-30; Eagle County Fair and Rodeo, July 29-August 3.

Big Mountain, Whitefish, Montana
Just about as close to the Great White North as you can get without a passport, this tiny town is 25 miles from Glacier National Park and is home to some of the best back-country hiking and camping around. (Note to self: pack pepper spray for the bears.) Whitefish also abuts obeyed Mountain, a.k.a. Hikers' Heaven. Trek up the 5.6-mile Danny On Memorial Trail, slurping huckleberries along the way. The town's waters are most famous for whitefish (duh), but its lakes and streams are teeming with bass, salmon and the Holy Grail of anglers, the rare westslope cutthroat trout. To ride the waters instead of just dropping a line, schedule a white-water rafting or kayaking expedition; for calmer conditions, try canoeing and sailing on Flathead Lake, the biggest freshwater body west of the Mississippi—yee-haw!
Best beds: The Kanadahar Lodge on Big Mountain and Grouse Mountain Lodge in Whitefish, both midsize hotels affiliated with the Montana Adventure Company. A concierge service sets you up on park tours, chartered sails and other excursions (800-321-8822).
Outstanding outfitter: Glacier Wilderness Guides and Montana Raft Company, for fly fishing, backpacking, rafting and horseback-riding trips (800-521-R A F T).
Good grub: Hellroaring Saloon, a 1940's ski chalet and now home of the enormous overstuffed burrito (406-862-36364).
Festivals: Gear Grinder Mountain Bike Race, August 19-20; Glacier Nordic Run, August 26.

Stowe, Vermont
The unofficial home of maple syrup becomes less sappy in the summer, when flatlanders visit to get farther into Mother Nature than cutting a ski trail. These are some of the most rugged peaks in the country, with top-notch on- and off-road biking routes to wheel you through picturesque towns and leave you in a sweaty state of fatigue when you arrive back at your B & B. Stowe's biggest warm-weather draw is its golf, headlined by the Stowe Country Club (the female head pro has a class-A rating from both the PGA and LPGA) and its golf school. For the ultimate Vermont experience, let your divining rod lead you to one of the secluded swimming holes (bathing suits not required) for an icy dip in just-off-the-mountain water.
Best beds: The Inn at Turner Mill dates to 1936, though its homemade granola is a little fresher; it offers direct access to hiking and biking trails. (800-922-0016).
Outstanding outfitter: Umiac Outfitters sets you up for canoeing, kayaking, climbing and camping; it also conducts naturalist tours — that's nature, not nudists (802-253-2317).
Best beer: For home brew, head to the Shed and Brewery, a Stowe institution (802-253-4364).
Festivals: 43rd Annual Stowe Antique & Classic Car Meet, August 11-13; Mutt-Strutt Festival for Animals, August 1.

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