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After proposal on bended knee, he goes to bridal expo with wife-to-be

Vendors offer services, wares to young couples

POSTED: February 8, 2008 5:04 a.m.
TOM REED /The Times

John Whiteley of Brenau Catering prepares cheese tortellini with roasted red pepper Alfredo at the Bridal Expo at the Gainesville Civic Center. Brenau Catering was one of several food and catering businesses making samples of their menus Sunday at the expo.

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After three years of dating, Clay Carlyle got down on bended knee, looked deep into girlfriend Jennifer Reece’s eyes and asked for her hand in marriage.

That was Jan. 21. On Sunday afternoon, Carlyle found himself at the 16th Annual Gainesville Parks and Recreation Bridal Expo at the Gainesville Civic Center, surrounded by bridal gowns and a gaggle of florists, caterers and cake makers.

Carlyle was one of several grooms-to-be who attended the event, although the male presence was a drop in the bucket amid a sea of engagement ring-wearing women accompanied by their mothers or the mothers of fiances.

"I kind of wanted to look around to have an input and have my say," Carlyle said.

"I didn’t have to drag him here," said Reece, who added that she was surprised by Carlyle’s proposal. "He wanted to come. It’s his wedding, too."

The young couple set a wedding date for late July, leaving them six months to plan every detail of the wedding, including invitations, the wedding party, the wedding party’s wardrobe, flowers, cake, the reception venue and music, not to mention the dinner menu and that well-deserved honeymoon.

The dozens of booths at the bridal expo illustrate the endless list facing brides-to-be the moment after giving their nervous boyfriends the green light on marriage.

The three-hour expo hosted a barrage of wedding service companies, which featured a fashion show with models displaying the wedding and bridesmaid dresses of Unforgettable Bridal and Formal Wear. Dozens of hair and make-up stylists, photographers, florists and stationary retailers had booths at the expo alongside food service companies.

Scott Augustine, a photographer with Lasting Impressions, said the expo was well-attended this year with a crowd of roughly 500 people. He said numerous brides-to-be participated in this year’s expo with their fathers, as well as their mothers.

"Usually they’re kicking and screaming, but there’s more grooms this year, too," Augustine said.

He said future brides are scouting the expo for wedding day services, and most have limited time, as well as a limited budget.

"They’re trying to figure out how to get the most for their money, especially now," Augustine said.

"The economy for sure has impaired people’s budgets," he said. "People are still getting married, of course, but they’re being very careful in how they are spending the money they have."

Augustine said many future brides and grooms are prioritizing wedding details in an effort to cut costs.

Many expo attendees said they are putting photography at the top of the list, while others said they have invested in a good band for the reception.

Some brides-to-be were at the expo well in advance of their wedding date. Some had wedding dates set for 2009 and even 2010.

Lacey Duke is planning an October wedding, and said she attended the expo in an attempt to get some new ideas.

"We haven’t done much yet," Duke said. "There’s so many things, so many details. It’s kind of overwhelming. But it’s a good thing to have all the local people in the same place ... instead of trying to find them all on your own."

Duke left the bridal expo with several business cards, and perhaps a wedding dress. She said the expo helped her to get the ball rolling on the big event and gave her a better idea of how to plan its details.

Florist Judy J. Thompson said flowers are one of the more extensive arrangements to be made for a wedding, and require about four months’ notice before the big day, and even longer if the wedding will take place in the busy spring months.

Caterers said a menu should be planned about two months in advance, and bakers recommended that engaged couples plan the specifics of the cake several months before the wedding day.

Jean Ellis, the mother of a bride-to-be, attended the event to get ideas for the wedding of her daughter, who lives in Washington, D.C.

Ellis encouraged brides-to-be to keep the meaning of the day close to heart, despite all the chaos of planning.

"The most important thing to remember about planning a wedding is that it is one day — and it’s the beginning of your life together," Ellis said. "As long as the preacher shows up for the wedding, you’ll have a wonderful day."



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