Our Wedding Morning

I’m thrilled to finally share our wedding with you! Over the course of the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing some details from throughout our day, along with my regular lifestyle posts. I’m so excited to relive the best day of my life with you!

The night before, I had set my alarm to Taylor Swift’s “Love Story” for 7:30am, with the message “Get up, you’re getting married today!” I had read on another blogger’s wedding recap that she choose to set her alarm to a song to wake up to on her wedding day instead of the default buzzer and I thought that was a great idea! Since I have been a huge fan of Taylor Swift since she began her music career, it was an obvious song choice to wake up to. Of course, I woke up two hours before it was even set to go off to sunlight streaming into my room. Even though it was earlier than I planned, I was so giddy — it was finally my wedding day!

Before I started getting ready to head to the church, I had to take one final look at my vows. I had wanted to have them completed weeks before the wedding, but I could never find the exact words. I knew there was just something missing. However, as I sat there on that beautiful June morning, hours before I became a wife, I finally found the right words to promise to my soon-to-be husband as I envisioned him at the end of the aisle, and for all of the days that would follow.

Before I knew it, it was time to jump in the shower and head to the church. My wonderful hair and makeup team from Shabby Chic Salon were already there, so I slipped into my robe and welcomed the rest of my bridesmaids as they arrived. We sipped on coffee (and eventually mimosas) and listened to all of my favorite love songs as we had our hair and make up done. It was truly wonderful to spend those last few hours as a Miss in such a sweet environment!

Our videographer, Shore Films, arrived around 10:30am, which was wonderful since our photographer wasn’t arriving until later. He got some great footage of our details, and even funny clips, especially after I tried to open my eyes after get eyelashes put on! In the meantime, our flowers arrived — I was so excited to see what Emma Jean of Robin’s Nest Floral and Garden had created for me! After I saw the bouquets, adorned with the beautiful monogram ribbons, I snuck down to the sanctuary to get a glimpse of what magic was happening there. I was breathless when I saw the altar; my vision had completely come to life, better than I ever imagined. That moment, standing barefoot in the sanctuary, surrounded by beautiful flowers, might have been my biggest “Oh my gosh, I’m getting married!” moments.

Around this time, Jody and his groomsmen arrived. We had them all gather in the libary on the second floor of the church to try to prevent our two parties from running into one another. The guys enjoyed some time to hang out together, so their getting ready process didn’t seem as rushed. Per Jody’s request, a tray of Chick-Fil-A nuggets was delivered for him and the guys to eat before they started getting ready.

It started to become tricky for us to move throughout the church, so by the time Laura of Laura’s Focus arrive to start capturing pictures, each of our respective parties were confined to our rooms. She greeted me with a hug and we began to start the process of getting ready!

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I had asked my mom and my sister to help me get into my dress and I’m so glad that I did. It was so special to have a few last moments as just the three of us. While we realized I never found anything borrowed (we decided the lipstick was borrowed because all of us girls ended up using it for touch-ups throughout the day), my something old was my diamond, which was from Jody’s mother’s engagement ring, my something new was my wedding dress, and my something blue was a piece of one of my dad’s shirts, with an embellishment that was on the tights that my mom wore to their wedding that we sewed inside the skirt of my dress. This was one of my favorite details from our day!Cox_0061Cox_0100Cox_0082Cox_0120Cox_0116

I had decided that I wanted to have a first look with my bridesmaids. While they had seen my dress once before when we picked out their bridesmaid dresses, I still wanted to share a sweet moment with them. The look on their faces when my sister opened the door is priceless. I love these girls so much!

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I also always knew I wanted a first look with my Dad. I knew the day would be emotional for us, and I wanted to give us a chance to have a special moment before he gave me away. It was also when I gave him his gift (an embroidered handkerchief). I had been nervous for this moment, because I knew that there was a chance we’d be emotional but I’d say we held it together pretty well. 🙂

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Once the first looks were over, it was time for Jody and I to have a quiet moment together before we started the ceremony. However, you’ll have to check back soon to get that story!

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MEP to MEC: Bridesmaids Gifts

Happy Wednesday, y’all! Jody and I have been married for 100 days, as of yesterday, and that has put me in a wedding sharing mood. For this week’s edition of Wedding Wednesday, I’m going to share what I gave my best gals for their pre-wedding bridesmaid gift, with the hope that it will serve as inspiration for your big day!

I started thinking about bridesmaid gifts around the same time I was gathering items to give my girls when originally asking them to be in the wedding (you can see what I did here). I wanted their gifts to be filled with things they would appreciate having during the weekend of the wedding, as well as being useful in their daily lives. I love using the various things that I received as gifts from being a bridesmaid — I think back to their happy day each time I use it!  Most importantly, however, I wanted the gifts to be heartfelt and meaningful. Holding the title of “bridesmaid” can be a lot at times: money, coordinating weekends for various celebrations, time off work, travel, etc. With that being said, I am so very grateful that each of my bridesmaids made room in their equally busy lives to celebrate our happily ever after.

Some of my favorite pictures from weddings are of the bride and her friends getting ready.  However, when they have coordinating outfits? Be still my heart!  I knew from the very start of my wedding process that I was going to get my bridesmaids their own robes to get ready in. In June, you never quite know how the weather will be, so, I was lucky to find some extremely light and breathable robes. After spending many hours searching every corner of Etsy, I order these beautiful robes. I was so impressed with the robes when they arrived that I rushed ordered one for myself!

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Monograms were also a given for these gifts. After seeing the idea in a magazine, I knew I wanted ribbons to be tied around all of our bouquets, so I decided to monogram the ribbons as a surprise for them to carry on my wedding day, and then keep after! I didn’t have these wrapped with their gifts because I had the florist tie them on, so it was a fun surprise when our bouquets arrived!

Jewelry has always been something that I’ve never been great at styling so I always appreciate it when the bride gives her bridesmaids something beautiful to wear. I found this adorable set and just knew that my girls would look stunning wearing sparkling gold bracelets with matching drop earrings. The shop I bought them from also personalizes the cards that come in the box with your wedding colors and bridesmaids names! How cute!

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While shopping for a few pieces for our honeymoon, I came across these peony candles. As I’ve mentioned before, my biggest request with our flowers was to have as many peonies as we could, because that is the scent I wanted to remind me of my wedding day. So when I realized T.J.Maxx had exactly five peony candles left, I just knew I had to get them. I hope when my girls burn them now, they remember how grateful I am for their friendship!

Lastly, I added a little something sweet to the bags. When I think of getting ready and celebrating with my best friends, I think of champagne to toast the occasion! Enter champagne gummy bears. I couldn’t resist buying a set of these adorable cubes, and even an extra box for myself! My bridesmaids loved snacking on them throughout the morning as we were getting ready.

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I also included a handwritten card for each of my bridesmaids. I knew the day of the wedding would be crazy, so I wanted to be sure I adequately expressed how extremely grateful I am for each of them in my life. They truly are the best gals!

That’s it! I wanted to spoil my friends, just as they had spoiled me over the previous months, but yet keep the gifts practical and thoughtful. I had so much fun finding these items and gifting them to my bridesmaids. I hope this helps all of you brides if you are needing some inspiration, and if not, I hope you enjoyed a taste of the morning of my wedding. Don’t worry, there is plenty more to come. 🙂

Robes: silkandmore // Monogram Ribbons: GoldandGlamour // Earrings and Bracelet Set: AllureWeddingJewelry // Candles: T.J.Maxx // Champagne Gummy Bears: Nordstrom //

MEP to MEC: Saying Yes to the Dress

I can hardly believe this past Sunday marked one year since I said yes to the dress that I married my best friend in! After a long day of shopping I found my gown and couldn’t have found a better dress to wear as I said “I do”. I haven’t shared many details from that day, mostly because I wanted to keep the details of my dress and bridal style a secret for my husband and our guests. Now that the wedding has passed, I thought it would be fun to share my experience in honor of the one year anniversary of buying my dress!

I’m pretty sure that I have been a devoted follower of the “Say Yes to the Dress” TV series since it first aired on TLC. I have watched countless brides go through the process of picking their dress and have mentally noted every tip ever shared about trying on wedding dresses. With all of this knowledge, I felt over prepared when it came to shopping for my own gown. I knew what style, color and look that I was going for and was confident I would be able to find the dress with little to no stress or heartache. Even still, I knew I was open to trying on each style and silhouette just to be sure.

I decided a number of years ago that I only wanted my mom and sister at my bridal appointment. I tend to be very indecisive and while I’m sure my bridesmaids’ advice and suggestions would be so heartfelt, I knew having more opinions would make the process even harder for me. Because my sister was still in college and had a busy fall due to her tennis schedule, and I had almost every weekend booked with weddings and bachelorette parties, I knew we had a limited window for all of us to experience this together. I scheduled three appointments (yes, all on the same day) at three different bridal salons, mostly just in case I didn’t find what I was looking for at the first two stores. I even brought along my bridal style inspiration board I made to help the consultants understand what I was looking for.

My first appointment was at a little bridal shop in Delmar, DE called Stained Glass Bridal. It was the same shop that my aunt got her wedding gown from, as well as where my sister got her senior prom dress a few years prior. We arrived for the appointment and the very nice employee invited us to help ourselves to any dresses on the rack. While this store didn’t give the one on one attention I was anticipating, it was nice to just try on the dresses to get over the “wedding dress shopping” nerves. I tried on some beautiful A-Line gowns including what I call the “Wendy Dress” (pictured below). I knew after going through the dresses that I had pulled that my dress wasn’t at this store. However, I was a little surprised how much I liked this fit and flare with a gorgeous long train!

My next appointment was at Downtown Bridal in Salisbury, MD. I immediately felt more relaxed as this appointment began, solely based on the face that this store had more gowns than the previous one and my wonderful consultant was truly interested in helping me find my dream dress. After I told her our theme, and that I was looking for an A-Line gown with a tulle skirt, she pulled so many beautiful dresses for me to try on. I also mentioned that I was surprised that I liked the fit and flare at the previous store, so she found a few of those for me to try on as well.

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I absolutely loved this dress. Even though it didn’t seem bridal enough for me, I will be returning for this dress if Jody and I ever renew our vows! It even has a bow on the back. Be still my heart.
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This has “Steel Magnolias” written all over it.
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This dress is just gorgeous. I honestly don’t remember why I didn’t like this one, but if you don’t have the feeling then it must have not been the one!
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I just loved this full skirt (with pockets!) but I’m not the biggest fan of taffeta. Still beautiful though!

Just like the process to find a husband, you may fall in love, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is the one for you. 30 some odd dresses later, I still didn’t have the feeling. I had fallen in love with a dress with lace detail at the top, and a beautiful tulle skirt, but even after getting “jacked up” and trying it on twice, I still wasn’t sure it that dress was the one. Between each dress, I had thirty seconds to myself to have my own silent options. I vividly remember standing in the dressing room, completely torn as to why I wasn’t excited or sure that this dress was it. It was pretty, it felt comfortable, and I loved the lace applique across the bodice. But, in my thirty seconds to myself, I looked at my dress and thought “That’s it? That’s all you’re going to get as your wedding dress?”. I knew something wasn’t right. Something was missing, although I wasn’t exactly sure what.

We left that appointment and I was becoming frustrated and disappointed. I knew we didn’t have many other weekends for me to do this with both my mom and sister in tow, and I really didn’t want to drag out the process. I was confused as to what I wanted, after being so sure that the A-Line style was for me. Disheartened, we headed to the last appointment at Louis Marie Bridal.

Even with an hour drive to the next shop, I still felt a little flustered upon arrival. Because we had spent so long at the last appointment, we were late to this one and only had a little over an hour until they closed for the day. Once we met with my consultant, I told her everything that has transpired that day from what dresses I liked, which ones I didn’t and handed over my inspiration board yet again to see if we could find anything. She pulled three dresses, two A-Lines, and one fit and flare. I tried on the first A-Line and liked how unique the top was before it descended into the fuller skirt. I thought it could be a possibility, but still headed back into the changing room to try on the others.

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As I pulled the next dress out of the bag, I thought to myself, “Wow, this is really pretty”. I slipped it on and walked out to see it in the mirror and thought again “Wow, this is really pretty!”. It hugged me in all of the right places, and had a hint of sparkle that was subtle enough to only be noticeable when the light hit it the right way. It showed off my curves, had beautiful lace detail, and had buttons going down the back. It was then that I realized I might be more in love with the fit and flare after all.

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I honestly don’t even remember the other dress I tried on after that one. But I did, and apparently didn’t impress me because before I knew it, I was back in this Serenity Bridal gown, this time to get jacked up. At this point, my mom and sister hadn’t said much in regards to what they thought about the dresses, mostly to not confuse me any more than I already was. But when I put that dress on the second time, I was desperately hoping that they liked it as much as I did. I pulled my hair back and we added the veil, and I turned to my entourage again for an option. As soon as they said they loved it, and could see me wearing this down the aisle, I burst into tears. I had found the dress that I was going to marry my best friend in.

After three different bridal stores in two different states, and over 50 dresses in one day, my road to finding my dress wasn’t what I imagined, but I wouldn’t have had in any other way. I’m eternally grateful to my consultants, Louis Marie Bridal for all they have done for me during my engagement, and my mom and sister for their unwavering support through this experience.

I do want to mention too, it is completely normal to have dress regret. For weeks after I bought my dress, I wondered if I made the right choice, or made a decision solely to get a dress that day, and would I regret my choice on my wedding day. Buying a wedding gown is a huge investment, emotionally and financially, so it is normal to second guess whether you made the right decision or not. I know I struggled with this and I don’t think it is talked about enough. For me, trying on wedding dresses made everything feel real; this was actually happening, you are getting married. Those emotions mixed in with “this is the dress that I’ll remember forever” is a lot of pressure for someone to deal with! But, looking back now, each time I tried on my dress after I bought it, I fell in love with it more and more each time, just like I do each day I spend with Jody. If anyone else is experiencing this remember that you chose it for a reason. Stick with your gut and everything will turn out beautifully. After all, you could get married in your pajamas, while I don’t suggest this, you’ll still be just as married at the end of the day and that is all that matters.

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MEP to MEC: Rehearsal + Dinner

Honestly, the day before the wedding is kind of a blur, but in the best way possible. The morning started off bright and early with my mom, maid of honor/ sister, Madison, and bridesmaid, EmilyAnn, to the nail salon for a little pampering. We chatted and enjoyed a few moments of not worrying about last-minute preparations or what few things still needed to be done. We were even offered complimentary prosecco in celebration of what the next 36 hours would hold. While it was not my first time getting my nails done for a formal event this year, it was beyond surreal to believe that, this time, I was the bride!

After grabbing Chick-Fil-A for lunch (shocking, I know 😉 ) we met another bridesmaid, Olivia, at my parents’ house. Because our reception venue didn’t have a day-of wedding coordinator or in-house decor, we were responsible for getting most of the decor set up the day before. This included all of our linens I purchased, table numbers, seating chart, our details and signs, the sweetheart table — pretty much everything that was stacked in my parents front room for months! Admittedly, I did have mixed feelings about setting up. After 12 months of planning and designing, I was anxious to finally see it in person, but also nervous that my vision wouldn’t come to life, and at that point, there wouldn’t be anything I would be able to do about it. Thankfully, it seemed to come together and I was excited to see the room filled with florals, candles, and people the next day! With the help of bridesmaids and family, we were able to get the reception room all set up in under an hour.

We met the rest of our wedding party, officiant, and ceremony participants at the church exactly 24 hours before the real deal. I was so overwhelmed with joy to finally be standing in the church where I was baptized, and where I spent most Sundays for the first fifteen years of my life, preparing to marry my soul mate. I was a bit nervous when it was my turn to practice walking down the aisle with my dad, especially because our pianist (my middle band teacher and former Praise Team keyboardist!) was able to attend so we were able to practice with music. It made the rehearsal feel more realistic than I anticipated it to, but I also think it helped me hold it together the following day. Our rehearsal was otherwise went seamlessly smooth, and I’m extra thankful for our patient bridesmaids and groomsmen who made it so easy!

A few months prior, my father-in-law so graciously offered to host the rehearsal dinner, but allowed Jody and I pick the location and menu. The dinner was held at Harry’s on the Green, which is a local restaurant just three blocks from the church, that specializes in American cuisine, with a french flair. As Harry’s has such a unique style to begin with, we didn’t even worry about decor and just let the natural aesthetics take over. Since we were already having an intimate wedding of just under 100 people, we made the decision to keep our rehearsal dinner just as intimate with only our immediate family, wedding party, ceremony participant and their dates.

After a rainy morning, we were surprised we were able to still be seated on their patio for dinner. While the humidity was high, there was an occasional breeze off of the river, which only added to our relaxed dinner atmosphere that we were hoping for! Although, my poor groom unfortunately completely sweat through his dress pants and had to run up the street to our new apartment and change right before they served dinner!

After carefully weighing our options earlier in the year for our selective menu, we chose to have baked brie, a fresh spring salad and cream of crab soup as appetizers, a choice of lump Crab Cakes, Bourbon Glazed Pork Tenderloin or Caprese Flatbread for the main entrée and ended the night on a sweet note with Apple Pie, Strawberry Cheesecake or Hot Fudge Ice Cream Puff. The restaurant even had printed out personalized menus for our affair!

During the dinner, we also presented our gifts to our wedding party and family. I have always loved giving presents, but watching these people who have done so much for us open the gifts that we got for them to attempt to express how eternally grateful we are for their friendship, was surprisingly one of my favorite parts of the evening.

The whole evening was so special and joyful. It reminded me of the feeling that you have on Christmas Eve — it is one of the best days, but the anticipation for the day that follows fills you with such happiness; just pure bliss. I will never forget how it felt to kiss Jody for the last time as my fiance. Part of me didn’t want to let him go because 4:30pm seemed like awfully far from that moment, but the other part of me knew how fast the hours ahead would pass and definitely did not want to rush through any of it. After one last kiss goodbye, I watched Jody drive off into the night, as I went home to spend one last night as a Parks. I’m so grateful to have had such a wonderful celebration as our wedding weekend was fully underway!

 

MEP to MEC: Wedding Welcome Bags

Hello, friends! Can you believe it has been two months since we tied the knot?! I thought it would be fun to share the welcome bags that my mom and I put together for our out-of-town guests. As I’ve previously mentioned, most of our guests were from out-of-town, and as I knew I wouldn’t be able to hug each guest as they arrived, I was adamant on creating a bag full of goodies to thank them for making the trip for our special day!

I began to brainstorm ideas of what to include, how it should look and how much I wanted (read: could) financially invest into these surprise gifts. After some thought, I decided that I wanted to give them a glimpse of life on the shore, with some favorite local treats!

DSC_1430Each bag contained Old Bay Crab Chips, a packet of Black-Eyed Susan seeds (Maryland’s state flower!), salt water taffy from Dolles’ at Rehoboth Beach, directions from the ceremony to reception, a list of our favorite local places, and a wine glass from Harvest Ridge Winery. I was so pleased with how they turned out, I made sure I set aside a bag for myself!

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One of the pros of designing my own wedding stationery (spoiler: more on this later!), was that I was able to keep the monogrammed crest on all of our paper products! For all who know me know that I am a huge fan of pretty paper, so naturally I didn’t want to keep my wedding paper products limited to our invitation suite. I included a welcome letter to the guests that, even as heartfelt as it was, couldn’t grasp my immense gratitude for all who made it to our wedding. On the back on the letter, Jody and I created a list of our favorite local restaurants and such for guests who were looking to stretch their legs (and bellies!). On the opposite side of the directions card, my sister took my measly sketch that I created of both of our venues, the hotel, and where we were hosting our rehearsal dinner and turned it into a beautiful map artwork. I wanted to make sure our guests were prepared for their stay and travel to each of our events, especially since I knew cellular service near the reception wasn’t reliable and you always need to know where is there best place to get ice cream. 🙂

While I loved how the paper products turned out, I still think the Maryland details were my favorite. While finding the Crab Chips were not as easy as anticipated, they were so worth it. Originally, I had planned on having something salty and something sweet, but after considering the wine and cake that we were providing at the wedding, I thought salty snacks would be more appreciated (by the time we got to our hotel that night, I was really kicking myself for not having a bag of chips for us!). The seeds were actually hard to find too, considering Black Eyed Susan’s are the State’s flower. I loved the idea of our guests being able to take a little piece of Maryland home with them too!

We dropped the bags off at the hotel on the morning we knew guests would start arriving, and had them labeled with the guest’s name to help out the hotel staff. From there, the hotel handed them to the guests as the checked in over the course of the next few days. I appreciate Best Western for working with us to make our guests visit to Denton even more pleasant, with some tangible memories to take when the weekend was over. We hope our guests enjoyed their visit to our little corner of the world!

 

MEP to MEC: Our Welcome to Town Dinner

Happy Wednesday, friends! This Wednesday seemed as good as any to have a Wedding Wednesday post. Over the next months, I’ll be sharing more details from our big day, so I thought that I would start with the event the kicked off the weekend’s activities!

Because so much of our guest list were out-of-towners, we started having guests arrive on Thursday before our wedding. I had been feeling guilty for months about bringing so many people to Maryland’s Eastern Shore, and not serving them true Maryland seafood (We actually had seafood as an option for our rehearsal dinner, but due to the size of the venue, we kept our group to a minimum). It wasn’t until my uncle asked what seafood I’d be serving that I had the idea to have a dinner for all of our guests that arrived a few days ahead of time. I wanted to keep the event very casual and laid-back, so I chose my favorite crab shack to invite our guests to join us! Harris Crab House has been a staple in my family for years and I couldn’t think of a more perfect place to kickoff our weekend. The restaurant is location right on the Narrows, near Stevensville, and has breath-taking views of the water that surrounds this part of the world. It is right off the highway exit, making this a place our guests could literally jump off before continuing on to the hotel.

Ironically, a few others decided this was the perfect location for their gathering as well. We arrived right behind two parties of 18 people each, so when we asked for seating for another 19 people, I’m fairly certain the poor hostess panicked. Luckily enough, our guests had gathered down by the dock bar, and Harris’ didn’t seem to mind when we asked if we could sit out there.

Jody and I greeted everyone down by the dock (adorned with Bride and Groom buttons :)), and did our best to do introductions, while hugging each person that arrived next. It was completely overwhelming, in the most wonderful way, to reach the realization that all of these wonderful people were here, ordering the best seafood, in anticipation of our wedding, in just two short days.

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We laughed, drank, ate, caught up with family and friends until after the sun sunk into the bay. All throughout dinner though, I kept taking a peek at my soon-to-be husband. I couldn’t wrap my head around how on earth I am lucky enough to marry my best friend that I met on the tennis courts four years prior. Even though the stress had caught up to me that day, all of the worries I had disappeared because now, I could finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, or my light at the end of the aisle. In two days, the wedding would be over, but our lives would be just beginning.

After the crab cakes, soft crabs, salmon, hushpuppies, and cornbread were all had, we said goodbye for the night as I headed home to finish up some last-minute details on the decor that we would be delivering to the venues the next morning. I knew sleep in the next 48 hours would be scarce, but our wedding weekend was finally underway. I could not wait.

Wedding Gift Etiquette for Guests

As wedding season is in full swing, purchasing wedding gifts may be at the forefront of your mind. Being on both sides of the gift-giving and receiving this year, I thought I would share a thing or two I’ve learned about gift etiquette that I’d like to share with you today!

Zola Card 1 The Registry

As I have shared in previous posts, registering for gifts as a couple during your engagement is such an exciting time! For someone who tends to lean on the more practical side of things, it was a bit challenging for me to realize what we could have to build our home, versus only registering for the things that we needed. However, it was so wonderful to stroll the aisle (and virtual aisles online!) picking out items that we could imagine in our home. Most brides and grooms spend quality time picking out items to put on their registry, so if you are looking for a gift that you want the bride and groom to love, stick to the registry. However, I don’t think that means you can’t buy something off of the registry for the newlywed couple. We received an engraved pizza cutter as a gift, and it was one of the cleverest gifts that we received! If you do choose to not purchase an item off of the registry, be sure that you get a gift receipt.

As a bride, the biggest tip I would give those who either don’t have a lot of wedding experience or someone wanting to get the happy couple something that they’d like, don’t ask the bride or groom want they want. The couple took the time to make the registry for a reason, where they handpicked items they’d like, so they would be pleased with anything from those lists. In addition, often the bride and groom are so distracted by planning their wedding, they can’t remember what they even registered for in the first place. Don’t be that guest that bothers the soon-to-be newlyweds only a few weeks (or days– it happens!) before their wedding.

Zola Card 2 How Much To GiveWith the amount of weddings Jody and I have attended in the past year, while planning our own, I know firsthand how it can financially add up over the course of a few months. I do my best to plan ahead – either I purchase both the bridal shower and wedding gift at the same time, or I make sure I note at the beginning of each month in my planner what gifts need to be purchased for that month. Even during the months where the money is tight, I do the best I can to at least cover my plate. If finances are tight (or it’s a very busy wedding season), I think it also a wonderful idea to go the meaningful route. That could be a handwritten letter with marriage advice, a sweet Mr. and Mrs. Picture frame, or a bottle of bubbly for the couple to share on their first anniversary!

Zola Card 3 - When To GiveIn the past, it would still be considered “on time” if guests bought a gift for the happy couple within a year of the wedding. However, especially with how attainable and convenient wedding gift shopping is now with online registries, I suggest purchasing the gift within three months of the wedding. Chances are, if you wait longer than three months, you may forget about it and the bride and groom may think you didn’t think of them during their special time. While it is not required to purchase a gift, it is customary to get one for each event you attend.

While I personally didn’t use Zola for our registry, I can definitely see why so many people choose to! Not only can you add any staple branded products, but you can also include experiences, monetary funds and more in one central location. This prevents having to register at several different locations, and remember what you registered for where – I know that was a problem I had! It even makes the process super simple for guests too. There is a group gifting option, where your guests can donate the amount that they are so graciously willing to contribute to a high-priced item that you may not normally receive. Additionally, it is all online and will ship right to the bride and groom, which means not having to lug around a wedding gift to the actual event. That is such an incentive for those out-of-town guests!

I hope a few of these tips help in the midst of this wedding season! We only have two more weddings this season, but I’m sure these tips will serve as great reminders as we head to our next wedding as guests, rather than the guests of honor. I’d love to know; do you have any other tips when it comes to purchasing gifts for a wedding? Tell me in the comments below!

Our Honeymoon in Jamaica

If you remember my post back in February, you may recall that deciding on a place to go for our honeymoon was a bit of a challenge. But y’all, we just loved Jamaica and could not imagine celebrating our first few days of newlywed bliss anywhere else! The location of our resort was far from most of the touristy sites, which made it feel even more secluded. After such a whirlwind couple of weeks leading up to the wedding, it was the perfect place to relax and unwind. It was the perfect decision for us, and I’d love to share a few of our favorite experiences!

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Prior to arriving, I was concerned that I would get tired of sitting all week, especially since I was constantly on the go on my previous vacations. To my delight, I loved hanging out in the pool and heading out to the beach each day! It took us until our third day in paradise to fully feel energized again, so floating in the pool with my new hubby was just magical.  We also lucked out by having our room adjacent to the pool with the swim-up bar. Jody and I found it so convenient to be able to walk out onto our patio and into the pool. As our room didn’t have a mini-bar, it was just as nice to be able to go just as far to get a refreshing tropical drink. 🙂

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We ate so well while in Jamaica. Apparently, there is a stigma with all-inclusive resorts with the food not being all that great, but boy, did we luck out. We had thought it was delicious our first night there (albeit, we were exhausted), but after talking to several other couples who have visited other Sandals resorts, South Coast has the best food, at least out of all of their other resorts in Jamaica. We made sure we ate at all of them at least once, and then saved room towards the end of the trip to frequent some once more. Most of the restaurants reflected the resort’s European theme. There was Mediterranean, French, a patisserie (yum!), Caribbean, Italian, Sushi and Asian. While we never had a bad experience, our favorite dining experience was breakfast. Jody and I barely saw each other in the week leading up to the wedding, so to start our mornings off with coffee, small talk and omelets, these moments became one of my favorite memories from our entire honeymoon experience.

We were so spoiled as honeymooners as well! On our first night, we received a bottle of champagne in our room during the turn down service. Later in the week, we received a do not disturb honeymoon sign for our door, a congratulatory note, and breakfast in bed. The staff would often ask how our honeymoon was going and give us their best wishes — it was so fun to be pampered all week! We also enjoyed a couples massage, which was singlehandedly the best 60 minutes of my life (after our wedding ceremony, of course!). We giggled that as it was designed to rejuvenate our love, it was only the beginning for us. Nonetheless, a little pampering can make you feel like true royalty.

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We went on two excursions — one of which was a wedding gift, and the other came with our package when we booked our trip. And y’all, we had more fun than I ever imagined. Our first excursion was the Black River Safari tour and trip to YS Falls. We didn’t know much about it, other than it was the closest excursion to our resort, so we weren’t really sure what to expect. But after cruising on the Black river, spotting crocodiles and Jamaican wildlife, and then jumping OFF OF A WATERFALL CLIFF, we were blown away by how much fun we had! We lucked out with an amazing driver and tour guide, who gave us a glimpse into Jamaican culture and we had such a blast facing our my fears, especially when it came to the falls. I honestly thought that all we were doing was taking pictures of it and playing in its natural pools, but am so glad that we had the opportunity to climb up the falls, and then jump off of the cliffs with my new hubs. It was such an adrenaline rush!

Our other excursion was a sunset catamaran cruise that left from our resort, and sailed along the coast until sunset. We dropped the anchor shortly into the cruise, which gave us an opportunity to (again) jump off of the side of the ship into the Caribbean waters below. Even though that excursion was towards the end of our week, it was still the first time we had been in the ocean since we had been there. We enjoyed drinks and snacks, once back on board, and we sailing into the sunset, when we experienced another surprise — a torrential downpour! Our captain did a great job keeping everyone’s spirits up while we were all damp, and for surprise #3, the sun came back out as we were sailing back up to the resort. We loved that the staff were such happy people. They love to laugh and everything was “no problem, mon”, which was such a great environment to be in. It is hard to complain when you are surrounded by so many blessings!

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In the evenings, we typically would wind down after dinner by attending the entertainment on the resort that was provided to us. We attended a Newlyweds Game Show, Jamaican night, White night, and live music out on the terrace. My favorite moment was when one of the musicians started playing “Wagon Wheel” and Jody and I join other couples and danced. It was so surreal to be dancing with my husband to a song we played all of the time in college, danced to a number of times in the kitchen and dancing to surrounded by our family and friends just days before. It was one of the moment when it hit me that I have the rest of my life with my best friend.

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After seven blissfully wonderful days in Jamaican paradise, we couldn’t believe that our honeymoon had already come to an end. We weren’t ready to leave, but anxious to begin married life back home. We were excited to visit with our families, open wedding gifts and settle into our new apartment together, but we wouldn’t be lying if we said that we were sad to leave Jamaica. Although, after being greeted to a welcome home goodie bag in our car at the airport, champagne at our apartment, and of course, Jody carrying me  “over the threshold” and up the stairs when we arrived home, I began to realize that our time in paradise wasn’t over, it was only just beginning. And from what I can tell so far, it’s going to be pretty great.

My Bachelorette Party

 

Three weeks before the big day, I piled in the car with my sister, Madison, and my friend, Jackie and headed towards Wintergreen Resort, tucked away in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains for my bachelorette party. I didn’t know the plans of the weekend until I arrived, but I was so excited to spend the weekend with some of my closest friends. I was the perfect escape in the midst of wedding craziness!

Since I knew all of my wedding party would have to take off work to come to town for the wedding, it was important to me to not have them have to do the same a few before. A lot of my friends were in other weddings this year, I knew how hard that can be, especially when working. With that being said, the Friday night of the weekend was rather low-key, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. My (at this point) soon to be father-in-law so graciously let us stay with him on Friday to break up the drive. We arrived in Richmond around 8pm, which allowed us some time to head downtown and take a trip to one of my favorite bars, 3 Monkeys. Unbeknownst to my friends, I had been seriously homesick from RIchmond the past few weeks, so being able to walk around and see so many familiar sites was more therapeutic than anything else. Needless to say, a few drinks in RVA made me even more excited for the festivities that were to come.

On Saturday, we had an early wake-up call in order to make the most out of the day. After breakfast at my favorite brunch location in Richmond, (friends, if you are ever in Richmond and you need a place to brunch this is it!) and some coffee for the road, we headed towards Charlottesville. As we drove up the Blue Ridge Parkway, I was so distracted by the breath-taking views, I didn’t even realized that we had arrived! I was then met by three of my other bridesmaids, Olivia, Amber and Logan, and the cutest decorations in the house we were staying at. I especially loved the napkins, but that’s just me loving any paper product. Shortly after a quick toast, we piled in the cars and headed down the mountain to the plethora of wineries that are in Nelson County.


Our first stop was at Flying Fox Vineyard. It was tucked off of the main road, and was a small little tasting room, but I highly suggest stopping at this winery, if you are ever in the area! They have eight staple wines, but they are all very different from one another, which makes a tasting even more interesting. While we might have blown through the tasting a little fast (oops), I thoroughly enjoyed using this time to catch up with some of my best friends!

Our second stop was at Veritas Vineyard & Winery, and y’all, this place is breathtakingly beautiful. Click on the link to see what I mean — I wish I had thought to bring my Nikon with me!
We decided to grab a bite to eat on The Terrace, since it was a little after lunch time, and to forgo the tasting. Instead, we each got a glass and found a table on the porch to allow us to eat, sip, and chat. I tried to freeze that moment in time — wine, some of my closest friends, and beautiful scenery– it was the perfect snapshot! I had a glass of the rose, which was delicious, but I will definitely have to make a trip back to try the others!

We tried to make it to Pippin Hill Vineyards, but they were closed for a private event. Since most wineries close at 5pm, we only had time for one more. Our final winery of the day was at Cardinal Point Winery. We participated in a tasting and Olivia and I enjoyed a glass of wine outside, while the band was finishing up for the afternoon. The highlight of this winery (in addition to the wine) was that there was a dog in the tasting room!
I had so much fun wine tasting, but I was super excited to go to Devil’s Backbone for dinner. Jody and I had visited this brewery a few years ago but I couldn’t wait to go back. The weather was on the warm side, so we were thankful when a table opened up inside. After a delicious dinner, we headed back outside to finish our drinks and play a few rounds of cornhole before we made our way back up the mountain. Saturday night included games back at the house where we were staying. After one too many cupcakes and laughing our way to a six-pack, we headed off to dreamland before we all headed home the next day.

Before heading out on Sunday, my gals prepared me the cutest breakfast, and then we sat out on the deck and sipped on our coffee. We talked about what I was looking forward to about our wedding, and I shared some details that I hadn’t told the girls yet. It was at this point that it started to sink it that we were getting so close to our wedding. The conclusion of this weekend was the last big celebration before wedding weekend, and I couldn’t have dreamt of a better way to kickoff the biggest month of my life.

July Goals

Now that we are back from our honeymoon and are beginning to settle into newlywed life, I’m excited to see how Jody and I decide to tackle all of this newly discovered free time that we have! We’ve began to brainstorm what we’d like to accomplish this summer, and now that I have more free mental space than I did in the past 12 month combined, I hope we are in for a very productive month. Here’s a peek at what I checked off my goals last month, and what I’m hoping to work on this month!

June Goals

  • Continue with marriage devotionals We hope to continue this throughout our marriage!
  • Finish planning my wedding!
  • Make myself find time to exercise, even if it is just going on a walk or ab work on my floor
  • Finish moving our belongings into our newlywed apartment and have it set up so Jody can move in It was livable… now to get it decorated!
  • Celebrate my 24th birthday!
  • Welcome our guests to town and get married!!!

July Goals

  • Get back into a workout routine, choosing to be active at least twice a week
  • Officially change my name
  • Research places to get my wedding dress cleaned (Shore friends, I am open to suggestions for this!)
  • Begin tackling my porch project
  • Go on a day trip to somewhere new
  • Celebrate one month of marriage!