Last night, I had dinner (and a quick run) with a sweet friend who is also a newlywed. While catching up, the topic of wedding gifts got brought up: Do you HAVE to buy from the registry? Do couples prefer cash? Is it okay to get creative with the gift? It got me thinking about our own wedding gifts.
We had 3 registries: Honeyfund, Crate & Barrel and Bed Bath & Beyond. Honeyfund is awesome because it allows you to put gifts from any site on there (you can link to it), or you can ask for monetary gifts towards a larger item. Some of our “larger items” were a new bedroom set, honeymoon dinners, honeymoon excursions, and honeymoon splurge money. We reserved more traditional items such as dinnerware, silverware and appliances for Crate & Barrel and Bed, Bath & Beyond.
Some of our most used gifts are our: griddle, Kitchen Aid stand mixer, serving utensils, dishes, Keurig drawer to hold our K-cups, cutting board, and our knife block that we were able to buy with the money we were given for our wedding. Also, the specific dinners and excursions people got us for our honeymoon were also BEYOND AMAZING.
Some of the more creative and not on our registry gifts were:
Honey or “Honeymoon Honey” straight from Chatham County (where my husband hails from). We have devoured this entire jar of honey – including my first peanut butter & honey sandwich. Seriously delicious. We thought this was such a thoughtful gift, since a dear family friend of my husband’s family (who is also a bee keeper) gave us the honey.
This plate made us “ooh” and “ahh” when we opened it. How sweet to give a personalized gift that is so very thoughtful. While we never would have registered for this, we love it so much! It’s proudly displayed so you can see it when you walk in our home.
This map/painting is hanging in our stairwell. My sister-in-law (the best woman at our wedding) gave us this gift. She took a map and painted over it so we can mark all the places we travel to in our life together. It says “Home…. is wherever I am with you.” Pretty darn sweet!
We were so thankful for every gift that we received and would have been more than happy just having everyone there to celebrate with us. Back to my original questions, I don’t think you HAVE to stick with the registry when giving gifts, but I do think you should be familiar with the bride/groom’s personalities/tastes if you are going to venture off of the registries. What do you think? Would love to have some readers weigh in on this subject!
Sorry for the hiatus, we returned from our extended honeymoon late Thursday and have been busy with unpacking, decluttering (anyone moving and need boxes???) and of course, college football (Go Hokies!). We loved every second of our trip to Aruba, in fact, we loved it so much that I am going to have to break it up into multiple blogs to give you all the best details. I’ll start with our adventures in Aruba – and don’t worry, I will also have a recap of the day before the wedding and the rehearsal and our actual wedding (perfection!). So stay tuned, and thanks for reading for the past 10 months! Below are a few of my favorite pictures (out of 1000!!) from the best trip of our lives!
Our first adventure in Aruba was obviously to the beach. Eagle Beach is where our hotel (Amsterdam Manor) was located. We had a suite – which was perfect for us with a kitchen (we made breakfast and lunch a few times), a living room (great retreat from the Aruban sun!), and the most adorable patio where we savored many moments, including a champagne breakfast and afternoon drinks. We had a view of Eagle Beach from our room and let me tell you, this was the most beautiful beach. Yes, there were TREES on the beach. But they were so stunning. There were also palapas available at any time of day. We went out one morning at 8 am (early birds!) and claimed our chairs underneath the very last palapa on the row and another day at 2 PM we were able to find an available one. It was NOT crowded and not full of children. The sand doesn’t get hot despite the 90 degree weather, so you can walk on it without fear of burning your feet. And the water was so clear, that we were able to walk out to our shoulders and still see our feet. IN-CRED-IBLE!
We also had a beach bar with the most delicious pina coladas which made beach days even better. Our next adventure was a trip to the Butterfly Farm. We LOVED this experience. There were dozens of colorful creatures fluttering around inside the farm and we got a tour from a knowledgeable young man and even got to hold a giant (baby!) moth! We highly recommend this to any nature lovers or someone looking for some great photos!
With our honeymoon package from Amsterdam Manor, we got a sunset cruise (open bar!) on a catamaran. We sat with another couple who was enjoying their honeymoon (until we got splashed!) and watched the sunset over the water. It was beautiful and peaceful and while we thoroughly enjoyed the trip, we said we probably wouldn’t have ventured out to do it on our own if it had not been included in our package.
We spent more time on a boat the following day thanks to our friends Matt & Amanda (I claim Matt as my favorite co-worker). They have traveled to Aruba several times and had a fabulous list prepared for us when we announced our honeymoon destination. Matt and Amanda got us a snorkeling trip for our wedding present, which included TWO sites. One was the Antilles Shipwreck and the other at Catalina. I enjoyed Catalina more due to the calmer waters, but obviously, the shipwreck provides the opportunity to see more sealife. The tour was through De Palm tours and was also open bar!
One of our most favorite tours was a Jeep tour (in a Land Rover) through ABC Jeep Safari with Ivo as our tour guide. We really loved that ABC was a family owned company and that we could support small business! Our tour took us on steep, narrow roads bordering cliffs with the most amazing views of our lives. We saw the first chapel in Aruba, the Ruins of a gold mill, the Natural Bridge which collapsed the year following Hurricane Ivan but still makes for great photos (we saw a sea turtle in the water below!), and lastly, swimming in the Natural Pool created by the ocean. It was a little overwhelming/scary getting in but once you were in you could snorkle or just relax while others dove from cliffs and the waves crashed around you. Excuse my hair in the last photo, that was after the natural pool adventure and after I slipped while trying to get out and went under (Clumsy is my middle name). Our favorite adventure was actually the most strenuous but totally worth it. We kayaked from the Spanish Lagoon to De Palm Island where we got to spend time doing whatever we wanted! We chose to snorkel while there (cannot wait for our underwater pictures to be developed) but they also had options for massages, ping pong, SNUBA, water slides (great if you have kids), lounging on beach chairs by more gorgeous water and two restaurants for eating. We were amazed with the color of the water that we were kayaking through – however, the trip TO the island exhausted this girl and we chose to take the ferry home versus kayaking back.
Between biking on the island (it’s only 6 miles wide and 19 miles long), we ran almost every morning while we were there. I got in over 25 miles while there! Not all of our activities were active, but all were fun. Parasailing was the last thing we did while we were there. It’s a tad expensive for the short amount of time you get (13 minutes – felt like 5), but the views were worth it. We could see all of Aruba, and straight to the bottom of the ocean. I enjoyed the experience, my new husband only felt it was so-so and wouldn’t do it again. On one of our last days in Aruba, we explored downtown Oranjestad. Water was a must on this trip! We took the bus into town (it’s only $2.30 per person versus a $9 cab ride). Being in the city, you don’t feel the trade winds like you do on the beach, so it was extremely hot. We saw the Parliament office, a gathering of Iguanas, and explored the mall (high-end stores). We attempted to go to lunch at Pinchos while there; however, they are only open for dinner, so we ended up at what we called our worst lunch. Not the food – just the service. Do your research before you eat in-town. Many of the restaurants that are visible from the road are touristy. While we were disgustingly sweaty by the time we returned home, we really enjoyed our trip into the city. We spent a couple nights trying our luck at the casinos (slots for me, computer poker for him). It was fun, had free drinks but I hate being around smoke. Hate is actually not a strong enough word for how I feel about smoke. We didn’t go to any clubs, and we didn’t make it to the Sopranos Piano Bar but we had planned to. Lots of restaurants have live music in the evenings which is nice and our hotel had some events such as happy hour (daily), movie night, Mexican night, etc. While this blog highlights some of the fun to be had on Aruba, it doesn’t do it justice. It was truly a remarkable place with incredible locals, atmosphere and views. We enjoyed literally every second of our trip and cannot wait to go back. Oh – and if you’re already packing your bags and planning your escape, take extra hair ties (it’s windy!) and lots of sunscreen (we used SPF 50 for most of the trip – and nothing less than 30). Oh – and I’d be remiss if I didn’t recap our last night of the trip. We took a bottle of champagne out on the beach and watched the sunset (swoon). It was romantic, wonderful and everything I could have asked for. I am so in love with my darling husband.
I am getting so EXCITED to hop on a plane with my HUSBAND and head to Aruba! I’ve already started planning outfits (and eyeing some others that I’d like to see in my suitcase). I went on a pinning spree last night and added a whole new board for Honeymoon Style. Hopefully this will help me when it comes time to actually pack!
First of all, I’m taking my “How does she do it” bag from Stella & Dot. I have loved this bag from the minute it was released and finally snagged my own. Over-packing is a bad habit of mine, but I’m a girl who loves to have options. However, since we’re going for 11 days and I am not interested in carrying multiple suitcases, we’re going to have a serious effort to cut down on what I take. Necessities include: sundresses, shorts, tanks, lots of bathing suits, shoes for our nice dinners and comfy shoes for excursions and sightseeing. So here are some of the styles I am LOVING:
A while back I mentioned our honeymoon dilemma of WHERE to go!? With so many options and a trip we’ll only take once in our lives, we wanted it to be absolutely perfect. We had considered the entire globe at first and narrowed it down to 5 specific areas – but they were still VERY spread out.
Tahiti was GORGEOUS and a friend had recommended it, as well as another friend who just traveled there and had incredible pictures – but a 20-hour flight? And jet lag on my honeymoon? Plus the price tag on each flight matched the entirety of the stay. It just didn’t quite make sense to us.
Hawaii is also amazing, and we figured out which islands we wanted to go to if that’s where we chose. But again, the flights and the jet-lag outweighed the idea of hiking, beaches and potential great-white shark swimming. Oh wait, nothing outweighs the idea of swimming with great-whites for me, but I figure we have the next 60-70 years of our lives to do that so I’ll just keep it on my bucket list.
We had also discussed the Greek Isles, Seychelles, Curacao and like I said before, a multitude of other places. We decided that the Caribbean made the most sense flight wise, since we could get direct flights that were short, to most places. I spent an afternoon making a spreadsheet that included resort names, location, activities available, flight times/costs, cost of resort for 8 days/7 nights and any other “helpful” information, and then I passed this info over to my beau for his fabulous decision-making skills.
We’ve never had a bad trip anywhere, so I totally trust his ability to choose the right place. I know some people keep the honeymoon a secret but not us! My darling groom emailed me just to say that there were no flights departing on the 8th day like I had wanted, so he went ahead and booked it for 11 days and 10 nights! Oh, and we are staying in the most adorable hotel that Aruba has to offer! This bride-to-be is so excited to be relaxing on white-sand beaches with the man of my dreams, and with an extra-ring on my left hand!
Happy May, and happy just-over-three-months-until-“I do!”
We planned a mini-getaway back in January, thinking that by April we would be ready for a weekend to relax… and escape our busy lives of grad school, work and wedding planning… and we were RIGHT!
Last weekend, we made the drive from Charlotte to St. Augustine (with a stop by Amelia Island for lunch!) and we began our 4-day getaway. Although I took my computer, I didn’t take it out of my bag the whole time! We loved exploring this old, historic city. Downtown was fabulous with shops and roads paved with bricks. Of course, we enjoyed lots of delicious food, including some favorites at: Catch 27, The Floridian, Casa Maya, Manatee Cafe, Harry’s, Tini Martini Bar for drinks, and of course, Fudge Buckets for ice cream on those warm Florida days!
On Saturday, we went to the Rhythm and Ribs Festival to hear JJ Grey & Mofro. The ribs we had there might have been some of the best food we had all weekend. We literally licked our fingers over those! Even though it was in the 70’s during the day, it got chilly at night but we still enjoyed the show!
We spent our other days exploring all that the city has to offer. Including Anastasia State Park’s beach and nature trail, Castillo de San Marcos, and enjoyed a run downtown around Flagler College and the bay. The weather was perfect, and our whole trip was wonderful.
The trip helped us relax and re-focus on the upcoming months and all that must be accomplished. Only 3 weeks until I am officially done with grad school and only 4 months and 2 days until our wedding. So crazy how fast everything is happening. It’s surreal and exciting all at the same time. I’m thankful we had the opportunity to get away together. I highly recommend a last-minute escape for other couples planning a wedding. It’s nice to not think about anything else for a whole weekend and just enjoy time with each other!
High five to the hubby-to-be! We accomplished SO much this weekend (between golf/thesis writing/a 7-mile training run/shopping).
We decided to go with the hotel that offered us a $94/rate that has both king rooms and double-queen rooms but did not have breakfast or an outdoor pool (sorry kiddos!). The Homewood Suites was in the same area and offered an outdoor pool AND breakfast for $98 but only had suite-style rooms with a King bed and sofa-sleeper. I asked opinions of the folks who might end up on the sofa-sleeper and they all said they preferred the double-queen room. So there we have it… contract is being signed today.
My blood-pressure is much lower now that a florist responded positively, confirmed she is available and ALSO told me she was doing a very similar wedding this past weekend at our venue so she definitely thought my floral-wishes were doable! Whew! Happy + relieved to mark that one off the list!
The groom’s aunt & uncle have agreed to play at our ceremony (yay, family!). AND we picked our song to walk back down the aisle together to! (I can’t wait for that moment – eeek!)
We realized that our timing was a bit off with the ceremony/reception – so we’ve asked to add some time to our big day (more time to celebrate with our family and friends). Fingers crossed that it isn’t too pricey of a deal to do this now.
My something blue arrived in the mail and I am DYING over it. So completely perfect. In the words of my bridesmaid, Michelle, “swoon.”
We decided that we don’t want to spend $3000 to fly to Hawaii, Tahiti or the Greek Isles, so we will be staying in the Caribbean for our honeymoon – and splurging on our stay (with maybe a couple extra days added in). With that said, our only prior location we had done any research on in the Caribbean was Curacao – which is gorgeous, don’t get me wrong, I just wanted to have a few more options – also options that aren’t typical honeymoon spots like the Dominican or St. Lucia. I spent Sunday morning researching Aruba, Antigua, Anguilla, St. Maarten, Turks & Caicos and Belize and provided them neatly in a spreadsheet (duh) to LW with names of resorts, prices, amenities, and flight prices (this spreadsheet also contains budget, invite list, addresses, RSVP list, vendors/deposits, rehearsal dinner – I might be a bit of an organized control freak). I gave him full rights to book whatever he thinks is best after evaluating all of the options, or to even add to the list if he finds somewhere else dreamy.
I ordered straws for the reception. Not a big deal but it’s something – and you’ll love them. My sweet bridesmaid Michelle is constantly sending me the most adorable wedding related sites (I tend to shriek a little each time I get one of these amazing emails!). The straws came from Shop Sweet Lulu – which they offer not just stripey straws but chevron and polka dots too!
So it was a busy weekend – but it feels SO good! Hope y’all had a good weekend too. Stay tuned for the announcement of which wedding magazine I will be blogging for starting Monday, 3/11! So, so exciting!
Ordered our adorable bowties (yes, he chose bowties! eeek!)
Finished sending out save-the-dates (and got lots of reports of those that have already been received)
Narrowed down our honeymoon options (to specific places, but not one region!)
Figured out what song I am going to walk down the aisle to (I teared up when we were talking about it!)
So things are moving along slowly but surely, still procrastinating on finding a florist, and getting my dress altered. Both of which need to happen ASAP since I had a terrible nightmare about it this weekend. Alas, it was just a dream… and our wedding is not ruined.
A while back, I asked a few friends to share their personal stories of finding happiness, their weddings and their happily-ever-after moments from their big day – so that I could share them on the blog. Today, I’d like to share one of those, Allison & Alex who got married in 2011. Allison is the younger sister of one of my bridesmaids, and also a good running buddy! I love hearing about other’s proposals, and special wedding moments, plus, what a great way to share ideas!
Allison and Alex were both students at Queens University and had the same Chemistry class. They were introduced through mutual friends where we ended up hanging out in the same group and their relationship developed from there.
Allison describes the proposal:
We were going to Asheville for our four year dating anniversary. He had scheduled a hot air balloon ride for that Saturday morning; however, it was cancelled the day before due to the weather. So he had to scramble for a new idea. We were staying at the Grove Park Inn and that first day after a day at the spa, we were getting ready to grab a bite to eat. We had never been there, so we walked out onto a terrace to get a glimpse of the views. Just as we were taking it all in, he mentioned he had something to ask me… I said, Yes!, while crying joyful tears, and the rest is history (as the saying goes) 🙂
If you could do it all over again, would you choose the same time of year and venue?
Yes and Yes. Even though that time of year is known for rain (we had an outdoor wedding), the spring flowers and weather down here was worth it.
What was the best thing about your venue?
They took care of everything. We went over stuff once, about how I wanted it to look, and they executed it perfectly. It gave me and the bridal party more time to relax and not have to stress about preparing anything.
What did you splurge on for your wedding that you just “had to have?”
I’d say the food and drinks/venue. It was overall a little more than we intended, but it’s what we wanted. We enjoy a nice dinner/evening out and that’s what we wanted to share with everyone else.
What vendor was the best to work with, and why?
Our DJ, Bill from Z Brothers. He runs the show, and he was so laid back and carefree that it helped us relax and trust that everything would go smoothly.
In 3 words or less, what was running through your head on your wedding day? This is Perfect.
What was the best part of your wedding day?
Walking down the huge flight of stairs while everyone looked at me, but I just stared at Alex (who couldn’t stop crying 🙂
How did you deal with stressors on/glitches in your big day?
I just made do and let them go. At that point, there wasn’t much I could do, and no one was going to know the difference either way. For instance, I had ordered 12 centerpieces from our florist, when we ended up have 14 tables. I completely forgot, but we worked it out by using the Bridesmaids bouquets for the other two.
It was satin, one shoulder, trumpet fit, diamond white, with lots of ruching by Sottero and Midgley. It just felt right and made me comfortable, and feel like a bride. I had a hard time finding what I wanted, and as soon as I tried it on (I was actually by myself when I did), I just knew.
Did you do a first look?
No, and still don’t think I would’ve. His reaction was priceless at the alter.
Favorite part of the ceremony?
Seeing Alex get as emotional as he did. He could barely get the words out. It made me and my heart smile the whole time. Favorite part of the reception?
Our first dance. Alex and I took dance lessons and he was on top of it. When we started, I completely forgot the moves – he had to move me around the whole time and I’m pretty sure our routine was totally wrong, but it was so much fun!
Did you incorporate any personal details into your big day? If so, what and why? A couple – 1. our tables were labeled according to places that Alex and I had traveled together. I think if you travel well with someone, it says a lot about your relationship (because it’s not always easy) and we always have the best times together when we do. 2. we had dessert tables, and each of our grandma’s made their signature or our favorite treats to be displayed and everyone have as a favor. It was beyond meaningful to us for them to take the time and make at least 100 pieces of goodies for our guests.
Open bar, because we enjoy drinking with family and friends.
What was your first dance song?
“Everything” by Michael Buble
Do you recommend having a videographer at the wedding?
I’m not sure. I think it would be nice if you can afford it or have extra money for one, but I don’t think it’s necessary if you have a great photographer. We didn’t have one.
Do you recommend having a planner/coordinator to future brides?
If you can afford it, Yes! I didn’t have one, other than the one that came with our venue (which was extremely helpful). If you can’t afford it, everything can be done just fine – you have to be prepared with what you’re in for though. I didn’t have one and I didn’t realize how much there was to it. There were so many more little details that came up that I expected. I even forgot some things – i.e. Our marriage license until the day before bc my Dad asked me if I had it! Having a wedding planner would help to reassure that everything is done and ready to go with less stress, but at the same time, then it’s all you’re doing and you do fill a great sense of accomplishment afterwards.
Did you have children at your wedding? Why or why not?
No we didn’t, except for our Flower Girl. We did not think that it was a place for children to be there. Our wedding was far from both our families anyways, so we knew it would be harder for travel. But other than that, we wanted to share the evening with the adults in our family/friends.
Thanks for letting me share your gorgeous love story, Allison!
On Sunday, I road-tripped it to Chapel Hill to hang out with the best MOH a girl could ask for – and to attend the Carolina Inn’s 18th Annual Bridal Showcase! A special “Thank You” to Jenna at Southern Bride & Groom magazine for the tickets to the show. To say we were underprepared for what awaited us, would be an understatement. I’m still trying to figure out how many calories I took in at all of those cake tasting booths! We had a day full of paper products, flowers, cake and petit fours … and champagne. How can I forget the never-ending flow of champagne? Sarah was giddy over the supply of macaroons that were on-hand – and as a bride who is loving the idea of “mini-desserts”, I loved seeing all the options available. What talented caterers the triangle area has! One of my FAVORITE cakes was from husband and wife duo Ashley & Co in Raleigh. This burlap delight made my heart skip a beat. And since I met my beau at work and we still work together, I love that they do too!
We hit up the hors d’ouevres pretty early on since neither of us had eaten lunch. Lots of deliciousness going on in that tent – and of course, we were smitten with the Carolina Inn ice sculpture! Since my wedding is being held in South Carolina, I really just used this event to gain some ideas and not so much vendors. We did meet LOTS of vendors – and we adored the goodies that they were giving away. Check out this ADORABLE cooler bag from Erin McLean Events! I have been back and forth on whether or not to hire a planner/coordinator to make sure things go off without a hitch – and I loved the idea of just a “day-of” coordinator. Plus, I’ve only heard good things about Erin. And Martha Manning took the cake with her giveaway… Krispy Kreme? Who can say no to Krispy Kreme doughnuts? While I’ve already chosen my photographer, Martha was able to give some recommendations on videographers which was much appreciated. Next on my “to-do” list is to secure a florist for our big day. I want simple flowers (I really want the hydrangeas from my late-grandmother’s bush back home in VA, but that’s a little far-fetched). And since green is our accent color, I was hoping for green flowers – but the fiance insists on them being naturally green and not dyed. So, we checked out some booths at the event and got to actually hold some bouquets (it’s AMAZING how big some of them are!). I like the idea of adding something fragrant to the bouqet – like freesia or mint! We got to see a fashion show while we were there – and I immediately recognized the Southern style of Lula Kate in this dress – and also saw Christy, the owner of Bella Bridesmaid in Raleigh. She sold us our stylish dresses for my friend’s wedding this past August. We somehow missed the bridal part of the runway show, but we did catch the grooms and groomsmen and they sure did look dapper! I had several totebags full of information and goodies as I left, including wedding magazines and honeymoon magazines. We definitely have some reading to do (and decision making on the honeymoon front!)! I LOVED the experience of the bridal show, especially sharing the fun with Sarah. I have to point out one vendor that I was head-over-heels for before we went to the show and I’m so glad I got to see their stuff in real life. I am even more in love now… if that’s possible. Pressed Cotton has some of the CUTEST things I’ve ever seen – and not just for gatherings but for your household. If anyone is interested in a special offer on their items, leave a comment and I’ll be sure to share the deal!
I want to say thank you to all of my readers! Almost to 1500 views (in less than 3 months!). Stay tuned for a very exciting announcement that has to do with ME, this blog, and you reading it!
I thought today’s post would be about food, especially since we were both starving after talking about food with our caterer. Y’all get ready, our wedding food is going to be DELISH! But today… I’m going to talk about our honeymoon.
We have been ALL over the place with where we want to go… I started with a hut in Bora Bora which was countered by Europe/Greece from my sweet Fiance. Then, I compromised with 2 islands in Hawaii (Maui & Kauai) so that we could do the exploring that he wanted, along with the butt-in-the-sand time that I wanted, and was countered with several options in the Caribbean. With it being August, I’m hesitant to visit ANYWHERE in the Caribbean, even though my favorite co-worker tells me Aruba is far enough out of the hurricane belt that I shouldn’t have to worry about anything. We both LOVE the idea of the Galapagos Islands (flora + fauna + GREAT WHITES, oh my!) but it appears to be next to impossible to find lodging there.
We have ruled out Jamaica, Bahamas and anywhere in Mexico since we’ve traveled there before. Although each of them have their pretty and near perfect spots, we don’t feel the need to revisit any of them. Luckily, we still have time to make this decision. A timeline in Carolina Bride magazine recommends booking 4-6 months in advance. Our countdown is at 6.5 months and I’m not feeling TOO much pressure on this issue. Now that we’ve knocked out the catering, our next task is the flowers. And your next task is to vote for us to win this trip to the Caribbean from Wedding Paper Divas + Sandals. If we win, you will have helped select our honeymoon destination – but we need your help to win! All you have to do is click here, “like” Wedding Paper Divas on Facebook, and then click “vote” once a day for the rest of the week. Got it? Ok, go! (and thank you in advance!)