Favorite Wedding Gifts

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:

photo-1Honey 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.

plateThis 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.

mapThis 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!

Ariba Aruba!

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!

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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.
DSC00632Yes, 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!
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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!
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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.
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Didn't see that wave coming!
Didn’t see that wave coming!

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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!
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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.
DSC_0283 DSC00713 DSC00739 DSC00752CSC_0294Excuse 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.
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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.
DSC00888DSC00884 DSC00887On 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.
DSC00913 DSC00915DSC00929 DSC00930 DSC00939 DSC00947We 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.
DSC00712While 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).
DSC00775Oh – 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.
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Honeymoonin’

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. bagOver-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:

1. My new RayBan Wayfarers

Rayban2. Maxi Dresses … even better if they are Lilly Pulitzer!Lilly3. White Bikinis!
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4. A bundle of J Crew shorts and several pair of Jack Rogers will be accompanying me on this trip!

shorts5. A monogrammed beach hat with my NEW initials (I have one with my OLD initials from Marley Lilly) hat6. A cute beach cover up (also J Crew)tunic 7. Cute dresses for going out to dinner like this eyelet Lilly Pulitzer dress

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I’m also currently loving stripes and my chambray shirts. Not sure how the long-sleeve clothing will do in Aruba but I can guarantee I’ll take one just in case I get the opportunity to wear it.

And it goes without saying that we’re taking lots of sunscreen! We’re prepared to use SPF 70 when we get there, these honeymooners aren’t taking any chances on ruining our 11 days in paradise!

Travel totes!

I am DYING over these Kate Spade totes! How perfect would these be for the honeymoon? Or just one? I’m eyeing the “Rest & Relaxation” one.

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I might claim these as the PERFECT bridal shower gift! What do you think? Which is your favorite?

Aruba, Jamaica, ooh I wanna take ya…

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!
ARUBAThis 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!”

A Much needed Mini-moon

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!
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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!

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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!

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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.

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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!

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Wedding Weekend!

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!)
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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!