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Debra FriedNorthfield
United States
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Debra Fried Northfield is a wedding planner who specializes in helping brides' dreams come true. Since 2004, Debra's company, Enchanted Weddings, has helped dozens of young couples put on amazing weddings at a surprisingly affordable price.

Debra Fried Northfield assists brides with determining how much can be spent on their dream wedding gowns.

Weddings these days are a big business, notes Debra. The average American wedding costs $28,000. This amount does not include the price of the honeymoon. Although most engaged couples approach wedding planning with a budget in mind, they're not really informed about ways to cut weddings costs. They're not really looking for ways to economize.

The average cost of a wedding dress, for example, is $1,100. There are ways to cut down on that expense while still choosing a beautiful dress. Brides should begin looking for gowns as soon as they become engaged. That way they will have plenty of time to check out sample sales, trunk shows and other bargain venues.

Many reputable websites and brick-and-mortar businesses sell gently used wedding gowns. These places sometimes sell wedding gowns from top designers for as much as 90 percent off. Alternatively, a bride who pays full retail price for her gown can sell her gown after she's through with it. Modern brides also have the option of renting wedding gowns the same way that grooms rent tuxedos.

Just like other retail clothing businesses, wedding gown outlets must clear old inventory for new products. These outlets usually have sales where prospective brides can pick up beautiful dresses at a reduced price, explains Debra Fried Northfield. Certain gowns are more expensive just because of the way that they are made. Beaded gowns, for example, are more expensive than non-beaded gowns because of the labor that goes into the embellishment.

As a bridal industry professional, Debra Fried Northfield is very interested in the history of marriage ceremonies. From times immemorial, marriages have been occasions for celebrations. In early times, however, marriages weren't motivated by romantic love. Instead, they were strategic relationships negotiated to strengthen dynastic alliances.

Up until the beginning of the Middle Ages, notes Debra Fried Northfield, offspring were regarded as a type of chattel. That designation meant children could be married off to whomever their fathers chose. Marriages essentially became a means of securing economic or political advantages. The personal desires of the individuals actually entering into the marriage were of little importance. The family's best interests were the only significant factors.

With the flowering of Romantic art and poetry in Victorian times, however, love became an important factor in marriage. Part of this change can be attributed to the redistribution of wealth following the Industrial Revolution. The growth of a strong middle class blurred traditional social boundaries associated with marriage.

Marriage as a Legal Structure

In ancient times, the bride and the groom's mere presence at a wedding ceremony signified consent to the marriage. In the 12th century, however, a Benedictine monk named Gratian decided that consent had a role to play in marriage. In his Roman Catholic canon law textbook, Decretum Gratian, Gratian required couples to give their verbal consent to marriage. This is the origin of that famous wedding ceremony phrase, "I do."

Marriage vows themselves date back to the Anglican Book of Common Prayer first published in 1549. The Book of Common Prayer was the brainchild of Thomas Cranmer, Henry VIII's controversial Archbishop of Canterbury. Many scripted vows from the Book of Common Prayer are similar to the modern vows that Debra Fried Northfield has helped couples to write. The Book of Common Prayer originated phrases like "to have and to hold" and "for better or for worse."

The state played a relatively small role in English marriages until the 18th century. The Clandestine Marriage Act of 1753 was the first law to require that couples obtain a state license. In some municipalities, couples also had to issue formal announcements known as wedding banns. The state would not recognize a marriage unless a minister in a church or chapel performed the service.

It wasn't until the 19th century that civil marriages were recognized within Great Britain. Civil marriages were implemented by the Marriage Act of 1836.

The History of American Weddings

In pre-Colonial and Colonia America, weddings were small, private affairs, notes Debra Fried Northfield. They were generally held in the home of either the bride's or the groom's parents. At church on the following Sunday, the newlywed couple might be formally recognized by the entire congregation.

In the opening years of the 19th century, weddings had evolved into more elaborate affairs among newly rich Americans. Many of the traditions that Debra Fried Northfield helps her guests plan for today originated during that era. These traditions include the dinner reception, the wedding cake and the toast to the new bride and groom.

Where Did White Wedding Dresses Originate?

As Debra Fried Northfield notes in the 19th century and before, women typically owned only one ‘best dress.’ Often, this dress was dark in color so it would not have to be cleaned very often. Naturally, most brides opted to be wed in their best dress even if it was dark.

In 1840, however, the newly crowned Queen Victoria wore a white satin gown when she married her cousin Prince Albert. Queen Victoria was a trendsetter. Across Great Britain and the United States, thousands of brides began clamoring to be married in white satin dresses.

Weddings became increasingly elaborate as the years went by. In time, planning the event became too much effort for the bride and her family and so the wedding industry was born. Wedding planners were called wedding vendors in the 19th century.

In the 1920s, many large department stores introduced specialized bridal departments. As photographers' services dropped in price, it became commonplace for brides to immortalize their weddings in photo albums. By the 1950s, many wealthy American weddings had become curiously stilted affairs. The props and the ceremonies were all interchangeable.

In the 1960s and 1970s, brides began demanding customized weddings that would showcase the marrying couple's unique qualities. While most day-by-day planning is still done by professionals, the bride signs off on all important decisions. Sometimes the groom also gets involved with planning activities.

Wedding Traditions

There are many quaint and charming traditions associated with weddings. Here are a few of Debra Fried Northfield's favorite traditions.

• The bridal veil: The bridal veil originated in ancient times when many grooms had no idea what their brides looked like. If the groom didn't like what he saw, he might recoil in horror! This would embarrass the bride's family. Better to keep the bride covered up.
• The bouquet: Until modern times, brides carried herbal nosegays when they married, featuring plants like garlic and dill. Social historians believe this custom originated in the times of the Black Death. Herbs like garlic and dill offered some protection against contagion.
• Tying tin cans to bumpers: Tying tin cans to the bumper of a newlywed couple's car is derived from a French custom called charivari. The original custom calls for a group to bang pots and pans underneath the newly wed couple's bedroom window. The group would refuse to leave until a meal had been cooked for them.

French settlers in Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana brought the custom with them in the 17th century. With the advent of the automobile, charivari focused on turning a car into a noisemaker. Debra Fried Northfield has been careful not to damage the car bumper when she has participated in this humorous tradition.

Wedding Trends

As one of the country's preeminent wedding professionals, Debra Fried Northfield is often asked about the future of weddings. Here are some wedding trends she foresees for the coming year.

Debra thinks that weddings will be smaller. Many couples want less crowded and more intimate affairs. They would rather spend money on a honeymoon or on a house down payment than on a wedding.

Along with the smaller wedding trend, Debra thinks more brides will want to do some of the hands-on wedding work. Brides want to customize their weddings so the ceremony and the reception reflect the bride and groom's personalities. Brides may want to arrange their own flowers, for example. If they're handy with a needle, many brides may customize their off-the-rack wedding gowns. They can embellish these gowns with colorful extras such as sleeves, colored belts and beadwork.

Brides are opting for some unusual spaces that are far outside the traditional wedding or reception venue. They're looking at locations such as farms, gardens, backyards, galleries, upscale cafes and even warehouse spaces for their weddings.

The big new wedding theme for the coming year will be avian. Brides will fall in love with bird-themed invitations and bird cage card holders. Instead of rice, the bridal party will toss bird seed at the young marrieds as they depart on their honeymoon.

It's important to remember that your wedding day is a special day in your life. People don't all share the same idea of what "perfect" means. Whatever that words means to you, however, is how your wedding day should be. Wedding planners are committed to helping you enjoy a perfect wedding day. Nothing makes Debra Fried Northfield happier than to know she's helped a young couple achieve their wedding dreams.

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