Wedding Week: Click for special report.
Tuesday, September 9, 1 p.m. ET

Wedding Week: The Bridal Wave

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Erin Torneo and Valerie Cabrera Krause
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Tuesday, September 9, 2008; 1:00 PM

Are you dreading checking your mailbox for fear of finding another stack of save-the-date cards? Do you feel like Bridget Jones, sitting at the singles table in a world of Smug Marrieds? Erin Torneo and Valerie Cabrera Krause can relate. The authors of The Bridal Wave: A Survival Guide to the Everyone-I-Know-Is-Getting-Married-Years were online Tuesday, September 9 at 1 p.m. ET to commiserate and to get you back in the mood to go shake your booty to We Are Family one more time.

A transcript follows.

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Valerie Cabrera Krause: Hi! This is Valerie, the timeline-obsessed, I had better get married by this age so I can have a baby by that age, girl. I am now neck deep in the baby wave (just helped with a shower last week). If you think bridal shower games are bad, just wait until you play "guess the poop." I am excited to talk to all of you about your bridal wave conundrums and rants. I am originally from the DC area, good ole' Reston, Va.. Any Restonians out there?

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Erin Torneo: Hi everyone! Erin here. Once, I broke up with a cheating boyfriend in the backroom of the banquet facility where my best friend was getting married. I was wearing a medieval bridesmaid dress (you read that right), watching the caterers roll out the ice bust for her dessert table, and had to return to the reception and smile while everyone asked me when I was going to get married...

I wrote this book because I was tired of seeing my engaged friends become "lobridemized" by the wedding industry, tired of the contradictory cultural messages (women, be anything you want, but if you aren't altar-bound by 27, egads! spinsterhood for you), tired of seeing people get married just because they thought they were supposed to without giving any thought to what marriage is (but an awful lot to the wedding). Somehow, I survived, and I am looking forward to your questions/war stories.

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Bridal Party Hell: Hi! Thanks for taking my question. I actually submitted it to another chat this week and got a non-advice answer, which is fine, but I do really need to know what to do here! I should preface this by admitting that I hate The Wedding Industry and matchy-matchy bridal parties freak me out, even though I've been in several.

My question is this: I'm a 20something woman whose close guy friend is getting married in the spring, and he's asked me to be a groomsperson on his side of his big, matchy-matchy wedding. Great! I love this friend (purely platonic, I have my own wonderful partner) and I'm excited to be there for him. He and I talked about it and decided it would probably be coolest if I found an outfit similar to what the men will be wearing (suits) but meant for a woman, so I wouldn't be wearing men's clothes or anything. His girlfriend, however, wants me to wear a bridesmaid's dress. I figured I could just say, well, I'm not a bridesmaid, and I can't afford the one you picked out, so... and that would be that. It isn't. She's still on her boyfriend's case about it. He sees my side of this - the expense (the dress is expensive, the shoes are expensive, and I have to fly myself and my partner halfway across the country to get there), the idea that bridesmaid's dresses are tacky and oppressive and unreasonable, that I'm not a bridesmaid, and that I am always tastefully dressed and am putting a lot of thought into this. I respect their wedding, it isn't like I'm going to show up in hip waders and a glittery onesie.

What should I do? Should I talk to the bride directly? We aren't really friends. Should I suck it up, buy the stupid, hideous dress I can't afford, meaning my partner and I will be eating Ramen for a long time? Financial times are tough.

Valerie Cabrera Krause: I would just say something about how it would look odd to have me wearing a bridesmaid dress yet be standing on his side of the aisle. It would look like a mistake. If she is dead set on it then I would look for another role to play. Can you be an usher?

Erin Torneo: I actually have a friend who was a "groomsperson" for a guy friend of hers. She ended up wearing a tux, like the rest of the groomsmen. She thought it was cute until people started to confusing her with the caterers.

I'm thinking your best bet would be to wear something complimentary to what the guys are wearing. For example, if all the guys are wearing tuxes, could you just get an elegant black dress?

As far as the B2B, there's a part of me that wonders if this is a subtle power struggle. You're his friend who's a girl, and she's his girlfriend. Perhaps she's insecure about your closeness and is waging this battle to show you who's boss? If that's the case, God be with you.

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TO ALL BRIDES READING THIS: Please do your single female friends a huge favor and do NOT do the bouquet toss.

Please.

It is degrading to them.

Please do not do it. I beg of you.

They'll thank you for it.

I thank you.

[This is the end of our commercial interruption. Now back to our regularly scheduled programming...]

Valerie Cabrera Krause: While I totally agree, there are some ladies out there who love the toss. I definitely think that you should consider your guest list before making a decision. If there are only 2-3 singles left, do them a favor and forego the toss. If nearly all of your friends are single then go for it if you'd like. Those who want to avoid it can head for the hills.

Erin Torneo: Ha! I agree. Banish the bouquet toss.

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Great Mills, Md.: I have been dating this guy for a year, and things have been great. Lately we've been invited to a lot of his friends' weddings (my friends are a little younger and aren't at that stage yet). At first, I loved to go to these weddings because he and I always had a good time. Yet all these weddings are making me think about my future with this guy, and it's causing some stress. While we enjoy dating right now, and we love each other, we have different long term goals which could end up being a serious problem down the road. How can I stop myself from thinking too much and just enjoy the present?

Erin Torneo: Hi Great Mills. You've hit upon one of the most difficult aspects of the bridal wave: going to wedding after wedding will inevitably make you start to think about where you are in your own life. Weddings can be minefields of emotions (the free booze is a prime factor). Our best advice: stay out on the dance floor (hard to have a state of your union address when We are Family is blaring).

Valerie Cabrera Krause: I agree with Erin. I for one always get into trouble when emotions are mixed with booze. I would keep the drinking in check. If your long term goals are very different maybe you should have a discussion about your relationship, what you both want, just to be sure you are both on the same page...just don't have that discussion at the wedding!

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D.C.: HELP! My sister (who is getting married next Sept) is fighting w/my mom (who is paying for the wedding) about all the planning, etc. My sister feels it's her wedding and she should decide things, my mom feels that she is paying for it so she calls the shots. It's amazing to me that both parties are acting like this because it is not in either of their normal behavioral ranges. I guess weddings bring out the worst. The wedding is an international one and is quickly going over budget. Ceremony will be in Europe, reception the following week in Atlanta. To make matters worse, we just attended my cousin's wedding and now my mom wants to add all this over the top unnecessary stuff and invite cousins we have not even spoken to in 15+ years!

I'm stuck in the middle of this. Any ideas on ways to mediate?

Valerie Cabrera Krause: D.C. Yikes! If i were you I would Houdini myself and disappear. There is no winning in this situation. If you do want to get in the middle, beware of taking a stray bullet.

It sounds like neither side wants to hear the voice of reason so I for one would listen to both sides but keep my opinions to myself.

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Question about your book: Hi ladies, I read your book while I was still single (I'm now married) and the anecdote about the woman who shut down news of her friends' engagement by telling her assembled dinner party guests that "the turkey is getting cold" has always stuck with me. Did she ever end up getting married herself? It's always tough when you want to be married and are feeling like it's happening to everyone but you.

Erin Torneo: Thanks for reading the book! In truth, this woman did get married. Twice...

Here's the thing: she was so fixated on getting married that she ended up marrying the guy (from the Thanksgiving dinner). But then they got divorced. She is now re-married to someone else and already part of the Baby Wave. So life works out, but not the way she quite thought it would.

I know it's tough and no one should beat themselves up for wanting the partnership of marriage, but the "who" is way more important that the "when."

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Hollywood, Calif.: This is great, thanks for providing the forum to rant. A formerly close friend of mine went on a "search for the groom" mission several years ago. Gave him a list with her ring specifications on it. Took 18 months to plan the wedding (coronation) which included ice sculptures on each table, 24 piece dance band (including the Theme from the Godfather as the Daddy/Daughter dance...she was 41 by the way.) The marriage lasted 5 months. Can I just end by saying that I have never been so thankful to not have been asked to be a bridesmaid and pay $750 for the hideous taffeta dress. People are nuts. That's all there is to it.

Erin Torneo: Hi Hollywood! We're in L.A. right now, too. The wedding industry rakes in more annually than the GNP of some island nations, and unfortunately, it takes the focus off the things that actually matter in a wedding, like whether or not two people are actually suited to each other.

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Washington, D.C.: I've just received my undergrad degree, and all of a sudden my former classmates are getting engaged right and left. My first reaction when I hear these announcements is a recoil -- I feel way too young to be getting hitched, and I can't really comprehend why they don't see it that way either. At the same time, I'm in a serious relationship and find myself day-dreaming about marriage. Is it normal to be this conflicted, or am I just a head case? Thanks.

Valerie Cabrera Krause: It is totally normal to daydream and to be affected by what your friends are doing....just don't let their decisions send you in the wrong direction for you. Sure we all get licenses at the same age and graduate together but after that we each take our own path. Maybe your friends are really ready, maybe they'll be divorced in a few years. Either way, don't let their decisions send you on off course.

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Washington, D.C.: Honestly, why do singles have to be the odd man out! I've never felt this way. I'm 35, single, and proud! I LOVE my life. I live as I please. And I am a sucker for weddings - I just LOVE them! I don't even mind going to weddings of a friend twice-removed! It also gives me a good reason to dig up a dress that I bought that I just haven't the occasion to wear! Cheer up guys (I mean gals)! Live your life to the fullest and don't have any regrets!

Valerie Cabrera Krause: Rock on Washington DC!

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Yesterday's article: Hello, There was a horrible article yesterday about a demanding and manipulating woman forcing her boyfriend to propose in her timeframe and with everything that she wanted.

What do you say to people like that? Do women realize how this makes them look like gold diggers and sociopaths? Generally, I avoid people like that, but what do you do when you really run into a psycho?

Valerie Cabrera Krause: Uh oh. I think I may qualify as psycho! I didn't demand and manipulate but I did let my boyfriend know my expectations. And my Dad did too. This is a bit of a retread from the book but as some of you may know, when I moved in with my boyfriend, my dad found out and had a talk with him. Pops was worried that we were playing house. He gave my beau a year to propose. Many women would be horrified by this but I was glad. I wanted to get married to him and I had a crazy timeline in my head. I wanted to be married by a certain age. I didn't care about the rock or the designer of my gown, but I did want to tie the knot in a certain amount of time. Luckily I also wanted to really marry this guy, not just get married.

As long as the guy being manipulated isn't a close friend then I would talk to these girls and see how their mind works, like a sociology study. What makes them tick?

What's tough is that if a woman lets her man know what she wants and when she wants it we call her a sociopath. Why isn't she simply a strong woman who isn't waiting around for him to get off his duff?

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Boston: Hi! I have six weddings this year and nine teed up for 2009 already (bridesmaid for 5...). I have regarded this with bemusement and harmless snarkiness. I did, however, just get engaged and now am feeling awkward and sheepish and find myself avoiding talking about it. What's the best way to not be so awkward??

Erin Torneo: Congratulations, Boston! I can relate, since my boyfriend (master of timing that he is) proposed the week I turned the manuscript for this book in.

You shouldn't be awkward in expressing your happiness. Just remember how you felt when you were on the other side of the table. It's fine to talk about your engagement, but going on and on about it to someone who's single is probably not going to be that interesting to her.

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Boonsboro, Md.: Just a comment: As the father of a 24-year daughter who has been waiting for years for Mr. Right to pop to the question, I found your work really hits home. I am amazed that otherwise competent young women cannot manage this most important relationship.

Valerie Cabrera Krause: Aww shucks, thanks.

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MoCo: Please, please wedding couples - please don't do the "destination wedding". I like to go to the vacation spot of my OWN choosing, when I want to go, and no, I don't want to pay for airfare and a room at some island resort so that your reception (and room) is free. This has to be the biggest scam of wedding couples yet. Just have it within 50 miles of your home; I'll send you a $100 check. Rant over.

Valerie Cabrera Krause: Ahh, the destination wedding. Erin and I call these unvitations: a way for a couple to have an intimate wedding with few people, but all the gifts...in paradise! The good thing for you is that you can send your regrets with a gift and you've saved yourself finding a dress, a date and a way to avoid the chicken dance! A friend who lived in NYC and got married in Mexico defended it by pointing out that her friends were in Seattle and her fiance's were in Iowa. Since everyone would have to fly anyway, why not make it somewhere that people might want to go? Not to mention that a hotel room in Mexico is considerably cheaper than one in Manhattan!

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D.C.: What's the deal with engagement ring obsession? Even after I got engaged, I had no clue there were designer brands of rings or any of that stuff. How should one cope with friends who say they're demanding rings of a certain size? Eesh.

Erin Torneo: I hear you, D.C. Valerie had to educate me on what the "4 Cs" were when we were researching the book. I had no idea.

As for friends "demanding" rings of a certain size, well, some people tend to get quite competitive and are really insecure when it comes down to it. They believe a big rock telegraphs "look how well I did, how worth it I am" but of course, it doesn't.

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Wash, DC: Just got asked to be in my 10th wedding (which I am excited about -- great friend). Just went to a wedding in the boonies this week, 3 hours from the closest airport. Still exhausted. Please people, think about your guests when you plan a wedding!

Erin Torneo: Thanks for your comment.

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Charlotte, N.C.:"Why isn't she simply a strong woman who isn't waiting around for him to get off his duff?"

Because a strong woman would propose herself. Want to get married? ASK HIM.

Valerie Cabrera Krause: I agree. The problem is that we (or should I say I) didn't want to propose. This is what makes us crazy. Even those of us who didn't grow up wanting the princess wedding don't want to propose ourselves. I wanted him to ask me... just on my timeline. Looking back I am lucky that he didn't head for the hills.

And let us all remember poor Britney Spears. She proposed and paid for the ring and caught hell for it! Of course she had a lot of other stuff going on.....

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San Francisco: My very good friend was a "groomschick" a few years ago. She wore an elegant black dress and looked fabulous!

Erin Torneo: Thanks San Francisco!

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Capitol Hill, D.C.: When did elaborate engagement parties become a must? My husband and I just paid $1000 for our share (4 couples hosted) of an engagement party for a wedding in which I'll be a bridesmaid. Add that to the cost for the dress, shower/bachelorette, and gift, and this wedding is costing us more than our honeymoon. The thing is, I've been to several such engagement parties in recent years. It seems like these parties, along with Save the Date cards (for local, non-holiday weddings) have become required pre-wedding events, but they seem like a pretty hefty burden to put on your friends.

Erin Torneo: The rise of engagement parties seems to have come just after the rise of the "next day brunch." We agree that couples seemed to be extending their "big day" into many, many, days. There's incredible pressure worked into these sales pitches: that this is a "once in a lifetime" experience, and hey, people want to milk it.

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Rockville, Md.: The thing that kept me sane when planning my wedding eight years ago, when people are always telling one that "you have to do this or you have to do that" is that he has to be there and I have to be there, anything else would be "nice" - nice but not necessary. It would be nice if our family and friends could be there, and it would be nice if we could feed them good food in a nice place with a good band, but none of this was necessary.

The other thing I kept in mind when excess beckoned, is that, at the end of the day, he is the one I am going home with. If it interferes with that, then it doesn't have a purpose. Also, when people admired my ring, I always answered, "Thank you. The guy is even nicer." It is important that you feel that, if you had to make a choice between the guy and the big wedding, you want to make sure that you would pick the guy, without reservation. If you honestly can't, then rethink the whole thing. Once you get your priorities straight, then the wedding thing falls into place. View the wedding industrial complex as a buffet where you can pick and choose what suits your means and needs, not as something which dictates what you must have.

It also helped that we have loving, kind, sane and generous parents. I can look back on the wedding with fondness and joy, but can honestly say that the next day was even better. I'm glad I did it and I'm glad it's done and I don't have to do it again.

Valerie Cabrera Krause: Bravo!

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Takoma Park, Md.: This is a bit of a non sequitur, but every time I see the word "caterer" I read it as "catheter". I'm not sure what that says about me, but it certainly makes Wedding Week extra hilarious.

Valerie Cabrera Krause: I have nothing to add to this one!

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D.C.: My friend is getting married in a month, and he wants to have all this rap music played so he and the wedding party can get down and dirty on the dance floor. Should I remind him that there will be small children and grandparents at the reception (which starts at 4), or just go with it and try to dance as casually as possible?

Erin Torneo: Yes, I would remind him of that and also of the fact that there may be a wedding video -- in the very least, photographic documentation. "Down and dirty" may seem fun now, but could be on You Tube's greatest hits in a few years.

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Stateless to protect the innocent: I am a late-twenties woman who has been a bridesmaid many times. I am happy to say I am still friends with most brides involved, but at some points that was hard to foresee. I think the problems all come down to the reiteration in TV, magazines, The Knot, etc. that it is THEIR special day. and everything should be done for them and fulfill their wedding dreams.

For one day this would be merely annoying -- we can all indulge them for a day and smile about it. However, it often takes a year or more to plan these weddings, so a special day becomes a year of bowing to the whims of our friends and smiling while they tell us what to do. Because they are the bride.

I do love my friends. And I was thrilled to stand up for them at their weddings. But really... You get a day. Not a year.

Erin Torneo: Well put, stateless.

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Arlington, Va.: I've already survived the wedding years - finally got married to a man who truly is the perfect person for me after a decade of going to wedding after wedding, always, always solo. My problem is this: now I feel very guilty that I've found happiness while some of my single friends are still looking for the right person. How can I be a good friend to them - when they lament their singleness to me, I always feel like a tool because all I can think of to say is: "it'll happen when you least expect it." I met my husband out of the blue, we clicked and were together ever since, so I DO believe that it can happen when you least expect it. But that advice/comment sounds so ridiculously trite. Yet I really do have empathy for my friends because, well, I've been there. Also, we're all in our thirties, so the issue feels especially pressing, since everyone seems to have not even just husbands, but babies on the brain. Any advice welcome.

Valerie Cabrera Krause: Arlington,

I am in the same situation. I have a few great, beautiful, smart friends who are permanently single. They ask me what is wrong with them and the answer is that nothing is wrong with them. I think the best thing is to still hang out with them without your hubby.

You can't not have kids because you are waiting for your friends to get married either! Not that you would. I just had a baby and it's tough for my friends who haven't dated in years. I know they are happy for me but it can't be fun for them to buy me another gift and celebrate another milestone in my life. I try to be a good friend to them. To listen to them and make time for them. That is really all I can do. Until we can magically produce a great guy for all of our great girls all we can do is be the best friend we can be. See, a trite answer too.

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Alexandria, Va.: My best friend is getting married and I am the maid of honor in her wedding. Unfortunately, she lives in another state and the rest of her bridesmaids are friends of hers who live near her and whom I don't know. I am frustrated as I try to plan a shower for her because I feel like they are hijacking what I want to do for her. Any thoughts on how to break in to this chummy crowd and now just get trampled on? They're nice women, but I feel set aside.

Erin Torneo: Hi Alexandria, this is a tough one. Being geographically disadvantaged means you will have a harder time asserting yourself. You said they are nice, though, so that's a start. I think you need to remind them that is your best friend's wedding (I'm assuming your friendship with her predates theirs), and you've been friends for such a long time that being her maid of honor means a lot to you. Hopefully, they will respect your relationship and your wishes!

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Cleveland Park, D.C.: What ever would the KitchenAid mixer people do without wedding registries? Or the companies that manufacture ice cream makers? I gave up buying assorted registry items a long time ago. I send checks. They fit much better into my friends' one-bedroom apartments.

Valerie Cabrera Krause: Ha! I go the other way. I like to go to Williams Sonoma and get the most random gadgets I can find. I got Erin a strawberry huller! The funny thing is that she loved it! Maybe that would be a fun bridal party game: guess the purpose of these random gadgets.

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Somewhere shameful and embarassing: Speaking of rings, I have a shameful confession: I wish mine were bigger. I've been married for quite some time now and have a happy and loving marriage. My ring is beautiful but an average to less-than-average size for the large urban area I live in. We do well in our jobs but can't afford anything bigger without compromising other non-negotiable items. And I really don't want to anyway...but still I get jealous pangs sometimes when I look at other rings. Help me! I know it's totally shallow and superficial.

Erin Torneo: Thanks for your honesty. You can't judge a marriage by the ring, I'm sure you know, so when the jealous pangs hit, try to remember how lucky you are to be in a happy and loving marriage.

If a bigger ring is that important to you, my only suggestion is to mention to your husband that you might like another ring for an anniversary. My friend got married when she was an expat, and there was no time for rings. But for her tenth anniversary, she asked for a diamond ring to go with the simple gold band she's been wearing.

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Rockville, Md.: I am so tired of hearing that someday I'll find "the one." I feel like I am doing everything I can to make whoever he is magically appear but am starting to feel hopeless. To make matters worse, I've already been through at least 3 if not more "bridal waves" of friends getting married. I've bought the gifts, thrown the showers, worn the tacky dresses, done the traveling to others' home towns. But I'm still single and it's starting to get to me. Help!

Valerie Cabrera Krause: This is a tough one. Of course it is going to get to you. Just don't let it get to you where you stay in a bad relationship, get back with a loser ex or say yes to the wrong guy. Try to stay out there, both physically (going out, taking part in activities that interest you) and mentally (not having a "it's never going to happen" attitude). It is so cliche but the best thing you can do is make yourself happy and keep moving forward and hopefully the rest will fall into place. Better to be single and happy than married and miserable.

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Valerie Cabrera Krause: I agree. The problem is that we (or should I say I) didn't want to propose. This is what makes us crazy. Even those of us who didn't grow up wanting the princess wedding don't want to propose ourselves. I wanted him to ask me....just on my timeline.: And for some of us, this makes you a bridezilla. My first reaction to this is "How far and fast did he run?" because I don't think this is healthy.

A guy needs to be just as prepared to be married as the gal is. Shoehorning him into your schedule is a good way to be on the road to divorce before you've even cut the cake. And having daddy eyeball him with a shotgun and give him a timetable is worse. I have to say that I consider both you and your dad to be borderline psycho. Fortunately, my wife of 6 years (and SO for close to 10 years) and I are on the same wavelength. She was surprised when I proposed after 2.5 years, and was happy to wait until I was ready (actually I was ready before she was).

Valerie Cabrera Krause: Frankly I don't think that she should have been surprised. If you are both on the same wavelength shouldn't she have known you were headed down that path? Of course I had talked to my now husband about my feelings...and my dad's. I am probably a bit crazy but he knows that and (thankfully) loves that about me. We have now been happily married for 6 years.

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Gift Expectations: What is the "appropriate" amount for a wedding gift? Let's assume a brother invites his sibling and spouse. Is $300 too much? Too little? Does it matter if they already live together and have a kid together? Does the amount vary based on how elaborate/expensive the event is?

Erin Torneo: A gift is a gift, not a requirement. Our book cites an average wedding cost based on relationship, but really it's all about what you can afford and feel comfortable giving. It's certainly not dictated by the cost of the event.

Thank you all so much for your great questions! That's all we have time for today but feel free to visit our blog to continue the conversation. You'll find it through thebridalwave.com.

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Valerie Cabrera Krause: Thanks so much! This has been great. Hope to hear from more of you at thebridalwave.com

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