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Creative, Budget-Friendly Tips For The Big Day

(NAPSI)-Today, more couples are looking beyond standard wedding packages and exploring customized, do-it-yourself options. According to The Wedding Report, couples spent 10 percent less on their big day in 2009 as compared to 2008, and spending from 2007 to 2009 fell by more than 30 percent.

By choosing handcrafted wedding touches and forgoing pricey extras, creative couples are mixing and matching a surprising combination of one-of-a-kind wedding elements to create unique and personalized celebrations.

From the centerpiece display to the wedding favors, more people planning that memorable wedding are realizing personal touches that actually reflect the soon-to-be-newlyweds themselves can elevate that special day from a cookie-cutter event to an intimately beautiful affair.

Here are four fun and budget-friendly ideas to create a wedding that is anything but generic:

Snip and Style--Arrangements by professional florists can easily take a big chunk out of the budget. Instead, the wedding party can be enlisted to help create floral decor for the wedding. There are a number of free online tutorials that offer detailed how-to instructions on choosing seasonal blooms and arranging everything from elegant centerpieces to bridal bouquets. Personal touches to the floral arrangements may be added by incorporating favorite flowers or purchasing the blooms from a local farmers' market.

Pick and Choose--To spend wisely, couples are also turning away from one-size-fits-all wedding packages and demanding more flexibility in the types of wedding resources available. For example, an array of hotel and event site offerings through the Weddings By Doubletree website provides couples with the flexible option of selecting essential components for their wedding day without being tied to an all-inclusive plan. From mixing and matching options such as guest stays, reception celebrations and ceremony settings, couples can handpick amenities and services that fit their budget and wedding needs at more than 230 hotels and resorts worldwide.

Eat and Drink--Family and friends can also be offered an inside look at the preferences, passions and experiences enjoyed by the happy couple. Wedding favors could include a favorite chocolate or something that symbolizes the couple's life (such as local honey, jam or a unique trinket from their hometown).

For the aperitif, wine could be poured from a vineyard the couple likes to visit. For the main meal, dishes or drinks can be tailored to represent the cultural heritage of the couple (paella for the Spanish side of the family or vodka for the Russian side of the family).

Weddings provide the chance to celebrate the special values and history of the couple, through small details that personalize the event and make the setting more intimate.

Capture and Share--A professional photographer should certainly be considered for the most important portions of the wedding (ceremony, bridal party and family pictures, etc.); however, guests can help capture the rest of the special moments.

Before the big day, family and friends can be asked to bring their digital cameras to document the memories, along with a few disposable digital cameras on hand for individuals who do not own or forget their cameras.

A free online photo service prior to the wedding can provide the couple, the wedding party and guests with the link to upload, download and share their photos after the special day. Printing costs will be slashed in half and everyone can immediately and automatically have a vast selection of images to choose from for their wedding scrapbooks.

For ideas to plan an affordable and memorable wedding ceremony, reception and honeymoon, visit www.doubletree.com/weddings, contact a local travel professional or call (800) 222-TREE in the U.S. or Canada.

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You: A Geography Genius?

(NAPSI)-Are you clever when it comes to knowing about other countries? Take this little test and name the city and country that are described to test your geography skills.

The capital of this country was founded by Christopher Columbus' brother Bartholomew in 1496, and named a Cultural Capital by the American Capital of Culture organization in 2010. This first city of the New World served as the center of exploration to the Americas and is now a thriving metropolis overflowing with vibrant culture and rich history.

The oldest part of the city is known as the Colonial City. There, visitors can explore the Alcázar de Colón, Bartholomew Columbus' home, and also the first cathedral, university and hospital of the Americas.

Historic buildings rest along cobblestone streets that Spanish conquistadors once strolled. The legendary city has a wealth of museums, monuments and restaurants, set among the larger city's modern amenities such as the new Metro transportation system, state-of-the-art cruise ship terminals, savory cuisine, unique shopping, architecture and more.

Resting on the Caribbean Sea, the mystery city is a sophisticated center of commerce with 2.3 million residents, dozens of world-class museums, opera, arts and historic sites, including the Columbus Lighthouse, where Christopher Columbus' remains are said to be.

With two major airports, highways and seaports, this sophisticated center of thought and culture serves as a gateway to over 800 miles of stunning coastline, dazzling mountains studded with waterfalls, exotic cuisine and countless arts and entertainment options.

The country is also the No. 1 golf destination in the Caribbean and Latin America, boasting dozens of designer golf courses, upscale resorts, pristine nature and sizzling culture.

Is this city (a) San Pedro Garza García, Mexico (b) Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic or (c) San Juan, Puerto Rico?

Answer

The answer is (b) Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, the second largest country in the Caribbean. Said Magaly Toribio, the Dominican Republic's vice minister of international promotion: "With over 500 years of spirited Dominican culture, Santo Domingo's assets are especially unique and offer the world a living testament to the past that formed us as a nation and ignited exploration of the New World."

Learn More

You can learn even more by visiting the Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism's official Web site: www.GoDominicanRepublic.com.

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Winning A Vacation To Smile About

(NAPSI)-One of the world's most popular tourism destinations is lighting up the world with smiles--and a free vacation for 67 of them.

The Orlando/Orange County Convention and Visitors Bureau, Inc. is searching for 67 people from around the world who could win a vacation to Orlando for a special world smile event on October 1.

Whether it's a memory of a past experience or a dream of one yet to come, no smile story is too big or small. From braving the fastest roller coaster or hitting a hole in one to volunteering to help others, celebrating a 50th anniversary or dreaming of hugging a favorite character, all smile stories are welcome.

Smile Ambassadors Kyle Post and Stacey Doornbos, best friends from New York City who won last year's worldwide search to spend 67 days of smiles in Orlando enjoying all that the destination offers, will lead this new search.

Post and Doornbos will visit cities throughout North America, the U.K. and mainland Europe to encourage smile story submissions.

Along the way, the ambassadors will also seek to raise $16,750 for the nonprofit organization Smile Train, the amount needed to provide 67 smile surgeries for children with cleft lips and cleft palates.

According to DeLois Greenwood, vice president of Smile Train, so many people take for granted the simple act of smiling. "It's something the children that we help are unable to do. For only $250 and in less than 45 minutes, Smile Train truly gives children a second chance at a happy life."

Smile Train is the world's leading cleft charity with thousands of partners and programs in 76 of the world's poorest countries.

Smile story entries may be submitted at VisitOrlando.com/smile.

In addition to the official rules and prize details, the site also features the submitted smile stories, smile search activities and links to make a donation to Smile Train.

Fans can follow real-time updates on Twitter at Twitter.com/SmileSearch or on Facebook at Facebook.com/VisitOrlando.

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Making The Most Of A Trip To The Beach

(NAPSI)-For surefire fun on a visit to the beach, an increasing number of families are getting their feet wet in South Carolina. What's more, new attractions and old favorites are just waiting to break up--and perk up--the trip.

For instance, there's Carowinds (www.carowinds.com) at the North Carolina state line on Interstate 77. There, a new NASCAR-themed roller coaster pays tribute to the Intimidator, legendary driver Dale Earnhardt, while providing some fast thrills for even the most experienced coaster fanatic.

On a more sedate note, nearby is Historic Brattonsville, one of the largest restoration and living history sites in the Southeast. The 775-acre Revolutionary War battlefield site features 29 historic structures and programs chronicling Carolina Piedmont development from the 1750s through the 1840s (www.chmuseums.org).

Natural history, meanwhile, unfolds off Interstate 95 at Woods Bay State Natural Area. The park preserves one of the largest remaining pristine Carolina bays, with carnivorous plants, alligators, plentiful songbirds and a cypress-tupelo swamp (www.SouthCarolinaParks.com).

In bustling, pedestrian-friendly Greenville, there's Heritage Green, a campus of museums and theatres, including a brand-new children's museum.

Columbia, the state capital at the intersection of interstates 77, 20 and 26, features Riverbanks Zoo and Garden (www.riverbanks.org), the South Carolina State Museum (www.scmuseum.org), the Columbia Museum of Art (www.columbiamuseum.org) and the largest children's museum in the South (www.EdVenture.org).

Also on your way to the beach are produce stands on nearly any major side road. Pick-your-own and working farms open to visitors also abound. You can check out the "Farms" link at www.sc-heritagecorridor.org for locations.

Learn More

More information on destinations in South Carolina is at www.DiscoverSouthCarolina.com and the South Carolina Association of Tourism Regions site, www.scatr.com.

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Encouraging Active Lifestyles Worldwide

(NAPSI)-According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, although childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years, better lifestyle habits, including healthy eating and physical activity, can lower the risk of developing serious diseases. That's one reason why it's important for youths to get involved in sports.

One event that may help is the Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games held in August. Singapore 2010 is a way for athletes aged 14 to 18 and their countries to promote sports excellence, build friendships and deepen respect for one another.

Besides the 5,000 athletes and officials from 205 National Olympic Committees who attend, the Games seek to inspire youths around the world to participate in sports. This will go a long way in combating the trend toward childhood obesity that's endangering the health of young people in the U.S. and many other places.

Learn more at www.singapore2010.sg.

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Girlfriend Getaways

(NAPSI)-An increasing number of American women have discovered that a great thing to do for their families is to get away from them. A refreshing vacation with women friends, it seems, can make a big difference.

Many women today are busy, stressed out and tired from the multiple roles they perform at work and at home. A Girlfriend Getaway gives them the chance to recharge their batteries and reconnect with and focus on their own well-being.

That may be why a new survey released by the American Resort Development Association (ARDA) found 38 percent of women have taken a girlfriend getaway and 63 percent expect to in the next couple of years.

To help keep Girlfriend Getaways fun, affordable and stress-free, ARDA offers "how-to" travel options and a free guide downloadable at www.vacationbetter.org.

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Making Your Next Trip More Successful

(NAPSI)-Here are a few tips to get your next vacation off to a flying start:

• Pack light. If possible, pack no more than 20 pounds in a carry-on−size bag. Carry-on luggage is less likely to get lost, broken or stolen. You may also save money limiting yourself to a carry-on bag, as many airlines charge a fee to check even one suitcase.

• Backpack or rolling luggage? This depends on your own strength and the kind of trip you are planning. A backpack is easier to maneuver, but the weight of it can slow you down.

• Pack clothes that don't require ironing and that mix and match for maximum versatility. Research dress codes in the countries and places you are planning on visiting.

• Use small plastic bottles to repackage larger items such as shampoo and conditioner. Larger bottles add weight and may not pass travel restrictions on what you are allowed to bring.

The latest travel toothbrushes come complete with toothpaste, which is very handy when there are restrictions on how much you can bring aboard.

For example, Fresh & Go's Travel Toothbrush has 30 uses of toothpaste in the handle with a snap-on cap. Approximately two weeks of fresh, mint-flavored toothpaste in a disposable toothbrush ensures you'll have a fresh toothbrush to polish your teeth to their whitest. It's available in adult size but it is made with the compact head so it's good for kids too.

Having a travel toothbrush is not just handy in planes but also a convenient way to keep your teeth fresh and clean on the go, wherever you go. The toothbrush is sold at Walgreens.

• Pack a few plastic bags just in case toiletries leak. Some people prefer to pack toiletries in two bags: liquids such as shampoo and shaving cream in one bag and nonliquids such as floss, cotton swabs, soap and deodorant in the other.

• Save samples. Sample-size toiletries can be just the right size for a short trip.

For more information, visit www.freshangousa.com.

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Travel Made Easier

(NAPSI)-A gift that makes driving with small children safer or air travel easier could earn you miles of smiles from grateful parents.

Here are two award-winning accessories that may come in handy while traveling with a toddler or baby:

• The Snack & Play Travel Tray is a portable and lightweight minitable that provides a comfortable surface for eating and entertainment. The easy-to-clean travel tray solves the problem of a child repeatedly dropping items, a toy rolling out of reach, or messy food spilling in any direction.

• The Air Play tray table cover set for flight is a double-sided, self-contained activity center that fits snugly over most airline tray tables. It has different features on each side so that a child can play whether the tray is down or stowed in its upright and locked position.

For more information, visit www.starkidsproducts.com or call (303) 887-9017.

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