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Jun 272016
 

Hello there! How was your weekend? Mine was absolutely amazing and included not one but TWO very important life milestones. Crazy! Let’s take a look, shall we? Since so much happened, this recap is actually pretty long. Be prepared for lots of scrolling!

Thursday

I actually wound up working from home on Thursday because….we closed on our town house!

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Fabio and I are now the proud owners of a town house in the heart of Ballston (in Arlington, VA). We could NOT be more excited and spent some time on Thursday walking around the house in complete shock.

We’ve never had more than a one bedroom apartment together, so to be able to call “home” an actual town house with two bedrooms, a loft, and STAIRS is pretty unreal. Yay! We were totally on cloud nine.

Sadly on Thursday evening Fabio had to fly out to Miami for a bachelor party, so I was on my own after that. I wound up grabbing dinner with my dad, meeting with the air conditioning guy who needs to fix our HVAC unit, and then binge watching Parenthood while painting my nails. Not a bad evening at all!

Friday

Friday morning began with a sweaty workout at one of my favorite spots: Urban Athletic Club!

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Photo via Anne

I was joined by my friends Anne and Kathleen, who is seven months pregnant and still going strong when it comes to workouts. Amazing! I hope I can stay as fit and look as adorable as Kathleen when I’m that pregnant. 🙂

After class, I headed home to shower and then drove over to my mom’s house, where I stayed for the majority of the weekend! (I had off from work due to summer flex scheduling 🙂 Awesome!)

We spent some time sitting by the pool and soaking up the sun while chatting about the new town house, work, the wedding, and other mother-daughter stuff. 🙂

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For lunch my mom made us fried squash blossoms, pizza balls, and a fresh salad from the garden. Delish!

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At around 3:45 pm, my Aunt CC arrived from New York! As I mentioned last week, we had plans to go wedding dress shopping this weekend, and on Friday afternoon CC and my mom joined me at Posh Bridal in Urbana, MD.

Although Posh Bridal had a lot of very nice dresses, I didn’t see anything that really called out to me. Regardless, it was really fun to try on dresses with CC and my mom, since those are the two people I definitely wanted to make sure were involved in this big decision. 🙂

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After dress shopping, we headed back to my mom’s for a crab feast!

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Crab feasts always remind me of Maryland in the summer, and it had been way too long since the last time I had them. Yummm!

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My stepsister Maggie and her boyfriend Nick joined us for the feast, and we had a great evening picking crabs, sipping wine, and catching up. So fun!

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Saturday

Saturday was dress shopping day! We started the morning off with fresh squeezed orange juice and potato hash with poached eggs, courtesy of my stepdad.

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Delicious!

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After breakfast, my entourage of dress shopping helpers arrived! I was lucky enough to be joined by my half-sister Nicole, my best friend from middle school/high school Bianca (one Maid of Honor), my other high school best friend Hana, my stepsister Maggie (second Maid of Honor), my mom, and CC!

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CC also bought everyone personalized tote bags and towels in case we wanted to go swimming after shopping, plus little champagne bottles to celebrate with.

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Like usual, she totally outdid herself. Thank you, CC!!

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Then we were off!

Since it was in the same general area, our first stop was the new town house!! Everyone seemed to really like it. 😀 Thank goodness!

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Then we headed to Fabulous Frocks, a bridal boutique in Alexandria that offers designer dresses at a discounted price.

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Fabulous Frocks only sells sample dresses, so what you see is what you get. Luckily I fit pretty well into sample size dresses, but I could definitely see this kind of store not working out for some people who need a bigger or smaller size.

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There’s also a relatively small selection of dresses at Fabulous Frocks, and honestly when we first arrived I thought I was going to have a hard time even finding enough dresses to try on.

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Because of the limited selection, I wound up trying on some dresses that I never would have tried at one of the other boutiques, and I wound up finding one that I LOVED! It was totally not what I expected to like for my wedding dress, but I felt so happy in it and after I took it off I couldn’t get it out of my head.

Eventually it was time for us to leave Fabulous Frocks and head off to our next appointment at Global Bridal, and the whole car ride over I kept thinking about the dress.

Global Bridal was also located in Alexandria, and I would absolutely recommend going there for dress shopping. We were helped by a super helpful consultant named Amanda, and after showing her pictures of what I wanted she pulled out about 7 dresses that were all exactly what I was looking for. Global Bridal was the first place where I found TONS of dresses in exactly the style I wanted.

The only problem was that I still couldn’t stop thinking about the other dress. Even though it wasn’t what I pictured myself wearing on my wedding day initially, the dresses that I thought I wanted just didn’t compare. Even when I found a dress that was exactly what I had been looking for, it didn’t give me butterflies like the other one had.

Luckily all the ladies with me agreed, and after saying sorry to Amanda we decided to head back to Fabulous Frocks so I could buy my dress!! 😀

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This is when we made the decision to go back and get “my dress” 🙂

When we arrived back at Fabulous Frocks, the consultant was not at all surprised to see us since she could tell how much I liked the dress. She said she had to finish up her other appointment, but then I could get back in the dress one last time. While we waited, my awesome friends surprised me with a bottle of champagne!!

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To be honest, I wasn’t expecting to actually BUY a wedding dress on Saturday – I sort of thought we’d just be looking around and then I would go back to buy something with my mom later – but since Fabulous Frocks only has one of each dress, we couldn’t risk someone else snatching it up. Good thing my friends were prepared with champagne!

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Before long I was back in the dress, and everyone toasted me with their champagne. Yay!! I said yes to the dress!!

Afterwords we had a celebratory lunch at Nick’s Riverside Grill on the Georgetown waterfront.

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I cannot thank these lovely ladies enough for coming with me on this important day, especially the three that drove down from NYC! I couldn’t have made this decision without them!

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All in all it was the most perfect day, and it ended with my mom, CC, and I going for a late night swim in my mom’s pool and lots of wine. SO FUN!

Sunday

On Sunday it was back to business: I started the day with church and then picked up Fabio from the airport so we could get started with moving. And do you know what the first thing I moved into the new town house was? The wedding dress, of course!! 🙂

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Now I just have to figure out how to keep Jack’s hair off of it and keep Fabio’s prying eyes away…haha!

Question of the day: For my married friends, how many dresses did you try on before you found “the one?”

 Posted by on June 27, 2016
Jun 222016
 

This weekend I’m going wedding dress shopping with a small crew of bridesmaids and female family members, and I could NOT be more excited. I made an appointment at two dress boutiques, and we’re going out to lunch afterwords, so it should be a really fun day!

Before taking everyone out to the stores though, I wanted to try on some dresses with just my mom so that I could get an initial feel for what kind of dresses I like. Even though I already have a style in mind, I thought this would be a good opportunity to try on dresses in different styles – like trumpet gowns and big poofy ball gowns – so that I can be more strategic and focused when I have my entourage in tow.

So, to start off this little shopping adventure, my mom and I met up at Ellie’s in Alexandria!

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Ellie’s had great reviews online, and since you can’t bring more than 4 guests with you to an appointment there, I knew it would be the perfect spot to check out with my mom. As soon as we walked in, we were greeted by our helpful consultant Cassandra, who asked me what styles I like and what my budget is. She also asked if I had any pictures of dresses to show her, but since I wanted to have fun with the appointment and try on lots of different types of dresses, I decided not to show her any of the pictures.

Then she told us to walk around the racks (and helpfully told us which ones to avoid to stay within my price range) and pick out about nine dresses to try on. When I found one I liked, Cassandra would take it back to the fitting room, and my mom and I didn’t need to lift a finger. I thought this was great customer service!

Even though Ellie’s wasn’t a huge store space, they had a ton of dresses to choose from!

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I wound up choosing nine dresses to try on before I even finished looking through all the racks in the store.

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If I was looking more seriously I think I would have done a lap of the store first, and then gone back to choose my nine, instead of just picking them out as I went. Since I was just trying them on to get a feel for style though, I had no problem picking a few here and a few there.

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Then I headed into the dressing room and started trying on dresses! There were a few that I wound up liking a lot so I’m not going to share those pictures here, but I’m happy to share some of the ones that got nixed.

I really liked this A-line dress with a beaded bodice and crinoline skirt, and I even told Cassandra that if I was having my wedding at a different venue this one would definitely be a contender.

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Since we are having it at the Aspen Wye River Marriot in Maryland (i.e., outside, on the grass, by the water) this dress didn’t really fit my vision, but it sure was beautiful.

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I also tried on one that was even poofier and reminded me a lot of a Cinderella dress! That one was way too heavy and would be impossible to dance in, but it was fun to try on anyway. 🙂

There were also some really beautiful dresses that were more form-fitting thrown into the mix, and even though I liked these a lot, they didn’t really feel like me.

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I also don’t know what I’m doing in this picture – lol – but you get the idea. 🙂

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Overall our first adventure in dress shopping was a big success! I left with a better understanding of the types of dresses I want to be looking for at our next appointment. I also realized that choosing a dress is going to be really hard, especially because I’m a pretty indecisive person anyway and all the dresses were so beautiful! I’m hoping that having a bigger entourage with me on Saturday will help me narrow down the options a bit more. I’m also hoping that when it’s the right dress, I will just know. For those of you who are married, did you know right away when it was “the” dress?

After shopping, we headed over to Dante Ristorante near Tyson’s Corner for lunch! Fabio and I had gone there a while back for dinner around the holidays, but this was our first time going when the weather is nice and it was just beautiful!

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My mom and I were seated outside on the patio, which was surrounded by a cute fountain and plenty of beautiful greenery. It was so peaceful out there!

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My mom and I started off our lunch with champagne (duh!) and an order of calamari. Both were delicious!

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For my entree I chose the veal ravioli, which was to die for. I had remembered that the homemade pasta is really a specialty at Dante Ristorante, and this meal did not disappoint! The pasta was chewy and perfectly cooked, and the decadent tomato cream sauce had me mopping up my plate with bread. So good!

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My mom got the special of the day which was fish with crab meat (obviously a healthier choice) and the bite I had of her meal was so fresh and flavorful. Yum!

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We also got an (unpictured) chocolate hazelnut trufo for dessert, which was the perfect ending to a perfect meal.

I have to give a HUGE thank you to Dante Ristorante for taking care of the bill in exchange for a review on the blog (though of course all opinions are my own). The staff there is so incredibly generous!

Overall it was a perfect mother-daughter day, and it got me even more excited for the shopping adventure this weekend. I can’t wait!

Question of the day: Married ladies, how did you know when your dress was your dress?

 Posted by on June 22, 2016
Apr 292016
 

Hey there, and happy Fri-YAY!! I have a little something different planned for today’s post; you see, earlier this week I received a flash drive in the mail with the professional pictures from our engagement party in New York City! Although I already recapped the party in full here, I still wanted to share the pictures with you. I tried to pick the best photos from the hundreds that the photographer sent us, and even though I narrowed it down significantly, there are still a TON in this post. Whoops?

Anyway, I thought they turned out great, so I hope you enjoy them!

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Our party was held at Distilled NY in Tribeca, NYC, earlier this month.

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As you probably remember, my Aunt CC and Uncle Steve planned the whole thing! CC wound up hiring Forever Young, a full service event planning company. When we arrived at Distilled NY before the party, we got the chance to meet Sara Greenberg, the director of Forever Young, who pointed out all the little details of our party.

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Sara had worked with CC to determine what little touches would make the party more festive for the big day, all while staying within CC’s budget.

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While a lot of the details were coordinated by CC (like our guest board below, which she ordered from Etsy), Sara painted all the mason jars herself and helped with a lot of the other decorations. So cute!

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Sara did such a good job making sure our party was festive and fun, and I can’t recommend her services enough. Definitely check out Forever Young if you’re looking for an event planner!

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Ok now for all the people pictures. 🙂 Here we are when the party first started! I borrowed a pink blazer from my mom, and wore this dress from Lulus that I had gotten taken in a bit at the waist. Great decision!

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Here I am with CC, the most amazing hostess there is!! 🙂

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Also, how pretty are those flowers pinned to my blazer? That was another detail Sara coordinated! (Fabio and our moms got some too!)

Before long, the rest of our friends and family started to arrive.

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Mother daughter pic! (Can you tell she and CC are sisters? I think we all look alike.)

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My dad, stepmom, and little sister Nicole

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Fabio’s parents

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My stepsister, Maggie

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Me, Fabio & Nicole

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Bianca and Hana, two of my best friends from high school

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Sloppytown, my college besties!

From there, the party quickly picked up steam. We had invited 55 of our closest friends and family (and wished we could have invited more!) and the room quickly filled up with our favorite people.

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Here’s the groom to be!

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We had a great time mingling with friends…

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Lol – Megan’s face!

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…and family!

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Epic photobomb!

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Sisters!

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I love pictures like the one above, which includes important men in my life from multiple families (Fabio’s, my mom’s, and my dad’s). The fact that they were all getting to know one another makes my heart so happy!

Also these next two pictures are some of the best ones I have of my closest family members. Love! <3

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Plus Fabio’s family!

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Me & my sister. <3

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Toward the end of the night, all our families and friends were mixed up with each other and I was on cloud nine. Everyone got along so well and seemed to have a lot of fun intermingling with different groups. (I guess an open bar will do that to you…)

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My Maids of Honor!

Once again, I have to thank CC and Steve from the bottom of my heart for throwing this amazing party for us. This was truly a day I will never forget! You guys are the best!!

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And of course, to the one who made this whole thing possible…

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I love you, my amazing fiance. 🙂

The end.

Question of the day: Would you ever hire an event planner or do you like to plan everything yourself?

 Posted by on April 29, 2016
Apr 042016
 

This past weekend, Fabio and I were joined by our closest friends and family for an engagement party in New York City. My amazing Aunt CC and Uncle Steve threw the party for us, and I don’t think they will ever know how appreciative we are. We had an absolutely amazing time, and none of it would have been possible without them. Thank you CC and Steve!!

Here comes the recap, complete with about a million pictures!

Friday

Fabio and I took the bus up to NYC on Friday night, and we arrived in the big apple around 11:00 pm. From there we met my mom, stepdad, stepsister, her boyfriend, CC, and Steve at a bar near our hotel (we stayed at the Empire Hotel in Columbus Circle and it was great!). We had a few celebratory drinks (glasses of prosecco for me!) and then called it a night. We had a big day on Saturday!

Saturday

Saturday morning was pretty rainy, but I was so excited for the party that it didn’t matter at all. Fabio, my mom, my stepdad, and I started off our day with a rainy walk over to a bagel shop!

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I ordered an everything bagel with veggie cream cheese, lox, and tomato, plus a coffee on the side. Hit the spot!

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Then after showering up, my mom and I headed over to DryBar in Bryant Park for blowouts with my friends! My little sister Nicole joined us as well, and she had a blast getting ready with the big girls.

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🙂

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They gave us each glasses of champagne at the DryBar, and there were cookies set out by the register too. My kind of place!

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Doesn’t my mom look beautiful in her purple suit? She’s so chic!

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Me & my home friends, Bianca and Hana! Stollen from Hana’s snapchat, of course. 😉

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(Don’t mind the makeup-free face!)

Then after quickly getting changed and made up back at the hotel (it had stopped raining!), it was time for our party!

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The party was held at Distilled NY, a fun bar in Tribeca. When we walked in, we saw that CC had outdone herself with the decorations. There were cupcakes, cake pops, vases, frames, and adorable personal touches everywhere we looked!

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How cute is all of this?!

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IMG_0175I especially liked this custom wooden guest book that CC bought for us from Etsy. There were a few silver paint pens set out, and guests were encouraged to sign the board for us. 

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Amusing side story: I asked my little sister to be the first one to sign the board, and she just wrote out her name in basic print. I had to explain that she was supposed to write something else too, like Congratulations or draw some hearts or something. She thought she was only supposed to write her name, which I thought was so cute! Haha!

I am in love with this banner that CC got us too, which is also from Etsy.

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CC even bought nice soaps for everyone to take home…

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…and had little stations where people could leave us advice.

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She seriously thought of everything!

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Then it was time to party!

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There were about 55 people there, and we had an open bar with passed hors d’ouvres from 2:00 – 5:00 pm. So fun!

I love this picture with my dad and little sister.

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My mom and CC!

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The moms! (Don’t you love those corsages CC got us?)

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My mom, dad, stepmom, and little sister!

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Me and my sister <3

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My mom and dad!

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I’m such a Daddy’s girl 🙂

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Fabio’s family!

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A bunch of our friends came to the party too!

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Look at all these handsome men. 🙂

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So fun! Here I am with my friend Claire…

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And with my besties Bianca and Hana!

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Later in the day I switched from drinking wine to this delicious cucumber drink with a sprig of rosemary in it. Delicious!

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Us with Aunt CC, aka the best party planner ever!

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Eating treats of course!

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Oh yeah, CC also hired a professional photographer (!!) to be at the event and take pictures of everyone. I kid you not – I told you she went above and beyond! At one point, he asked Fabio and I to step with him off to the side so he could film this new video thing where part of the image is frozen while the rest of it is a moving video. I didn’t understand what he was talking about at all, but went along with it.

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Well as you may have already seen via my instagram, it turned out awesome!

How cool is that? I have no idea how he did it, but it makes me even more excited to see the rest of the pictures he took. He’s clearly very talented! I’ll share them with you when I have them!

Things got a little silly later in the evening, and we kept the party going for much longer into the night. We went to a couple more bars, and just had the most amazing time with friends and family!

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<3

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Overall the party was so much fun, and I felt so lucky to have all my friends and family surrounding us for the special occasion. I loved how well Fabio’s family got along with mine (our parents and siblings have all met numerous times, but this was the first time the cousins, aunts, and uncles all met) and seeing our families and friends intertwined just put the biggest smile on my face. This event just made me even more excited for the rest of our wedding festivities to come!

Sunday

My family and I had a nice breakfast at our hotel on Sunday morning, where we recapped all the fun we had the day before. 🙂

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And then at noon we hopped on our bus back to DC!

I just have to thank CC and Steve one more time for throwing us such an amazing party. It was absolutely NOT necessary (AT ALL!!) but I am so, so, so thankful that they organized all of this for us. It was such an incredible day, and I know we will have the best memories of this party for the rest of our lives. You guys are the best!!

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Question of the day: Have you ever been to a blowout bar? It was really cool! I definitely want to go again.

 Posted by on April 4, 2016
Feb 192016
 

Even before I got engaged, I thought about who my bridesmaids were going to be and how I was going to ask them to stand next to me on my big day. My friends are very important to me, and I knew I wanted to ask them by doing something creative. Once we were engaged I spent a few days scrolling through Pinterest and different blogs to get ideas, and I then I set my plan in motion! Here’s what I did. 🙂

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First, I ordered these bridesmaid tank tops from Etsy.

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The tank tops shown in the Etsy shop say “bride tribe,” but I thought a more traditional shirt fit better with my personality. Luckily, the seller was able to totally customize my order for me! I also needed a bunch of different sizes, two maid of honor tank tops, and a white tank top for myself that says “bride.” The seller accommodated all of my requests, and got the order exactly right. Woohoo! I definitely recommend this Etsy shop if you’re in the market for something similar. She has a lot of cute stuff!

Then I purchased these cute little gift boxes from another store on Etsy! These were relatively inexpensive and I thought they made the perfect package for wrapping up all the cute tank tops. I wrapped each folded tank top in a few pieces of tissue paper, popped them into the boxes (which were very easy to assemble!) and then tied the packages with some twine I already had. Easy!

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(One note about these boxes: they ship all the way from South Korea and don’t come with a tracking number, so if you do wind up purchasing these make sure you plan to order them about two weeks before you actually need them.)

Once the packages were assembled, I made a little card for each girl. On the front, I printed this design that I made myself using PicMonkey:

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Cute, right? Then on the inside of the card I wrote each girl a note explaining why I want them to join me on my special day. Then I placed each card in an envelope and tucked it under the twine. It was really important to make sure I didn’t mix up which shirt went with which card!

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Then I took all 10 of my packages (yes…I’m having a gigantic bridal party) to the post office and mailed them off to my girls! Everyone said they loved the tanks and I think sending them in the cute polka dot boxes was a fun touch. It wasn’t the cheapest project in the world, but I wanted to make it special! 🙂

Question of the day: If you’ve gotten married, how did you ask your friends to be bridesmaids? If you haven’t gotten married, how would you like to do it?

Even though I wanted to do something creative for my friends, I know that everyone is different and no matter how you ask your bridesmaids, they will be thrilled to join you on your big day!

 Posted by on February 19, 2016
Feb 022016
 

Hello, hello! Today I’m soliciting your feedback on some of the recent wedding venues Fabio and I checked out. I’d love to hear which one you think we should choose!

To give you some background information, we really prioritize the atmosphere of a place; we want people to remember how much fun they had during our event and we don’t care as much about things like food or additional decorations too much. Ideally we are looking for a place where people can spend a long weekend together – almost like a mini destination wedding – although it’s not necessarily a deal breaker for us if a place isn’t set up that way. With all that being said, here are some of the ones we saw!

Chesapeake Bay Beach Club

Ok – so we didn’t actually go see this one, but I am including it on here since it’s been recommended to me by so many people (including many of you!). Fabio and I are already going to a wedding at this venue later this year, and we didn’t want to get married at the same place as two of our close friends. Also, since it’s been recommended to me by so many people (I bet 30 people have mentioned it to me so far) I think I would rather get married somewhere a bit more unique. That being said, I’m sure it’s gorgeous!

Maria’s Love Point

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This was a beautiful bed and breakfast in Kent Island, MD, situated right on the water with beautiful views. The owners of the bed and breakfast would coordinate everything related to the wedding including setting up the tent, ceremony site, parking, etc. We would work through their caterer, and it seemed like logistics would be pretty easy here. When I looked this place up online, I thought you could rent out the whole house and have it to yourself for your event. When we got there though, we realized that the owners live there year-round, and although you could rent a number of rooms it wouldn’t quite be the same as having the place to yourself. Since this venue would basically involve getting married in someone else’s backyard (which we could do just as easily at my grandparents’ house, which I’ll talk more about below), we decided to nix this place. It was very beautiful though, and the owners Ed and Maria seemed like they’d be great to work with.

Swan Cove Manor

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This venue in Cambridge, MD, is more of a house rental property (in fact we found it on Home Away) and it includes three big houses and a smaller bridal suite house that, all together, could sleep 48+ people. It was right on the water with gorgeous views, including the one above which was taken from the living room in one of the houses. Gorgeous! While we liked the houses here, it would require a lot of coordination on our part. Basically we would be renting the property (which was cheap, but not that cheap) and then have to do everything else ourselves. It was also really far away, way out in the middle of nowhere, and you had to drive through a sketchy neighborhood to get to it. We decided to nix this one too.

The Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay

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The Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay in Cambridge, MD, was absolutely beautiful, and we really liked this venue. We liked that everyone would be able to stay at the same hotel as us, and that there was plenty to do (there was a pool, golf course, small beach, and dock where we could bring over my dad’s boat). The ceremony site we liked best was way out on the water (gorgeous!) and there was a tented pavilion where we would most likely hold our reception (although it would be a tight squeeze with 150+ people). At the end of the tour the kind coordinator Molly took us into the ballroom, which is where the ceremony and reception would be held in the case of inclement weather. I think the ballroom would have been fine for a reception, but I really, really didn’t like it for a ceremony. It looked too much like the conference spaces I go to for work! Molly had told us that if there’s any thunder or lightning at all then the wedding has to be moved indoors, and the decision to move indoors has to be made by noon the day of the wedding. This was a huge downside for us, and that coupled with the high costs of rooms for our guests (about $300/night) and the distance from DC, Baltimore, and New York ultimately caused us to nix this option too.

My grandparents’ house

Photo from over the summer!

My whole life I thought I wanted to get married at my grandparents’ house. It’s right on the water (beautiful) and also holds special sentimental meaning for me since I spent so much of my childhood there. While my grandfather seemed totally fine with us having the wedding there, my grandmother has been a little more hesitant (my aunt got married there a while back, and a hurricane came through and flooded the lawn right before the wedding. It was a lot of work for my grandparents to fix everything up after that). That being said, we still wanted to consider it as an option, so we met with a tent rental company to discuss having it there. While a tent would definitely work on the property, we would again be on our own for many of the logistics, and even if we took care of everything ourselves it would probably still put a lot of pressure on my grandparents. For example, we would need a bathroom trailer brought in so people didn’t go into the house, and that would require backing a big truck out onto the lawn. The dance floor might also damage their grass a bit, and we don’t know how their neighbors would feel about such a big party in a residential neighborhood. Hotels for our guests would also be a big problem, which I explain a bit more below. Because of all these factors, I’m pretty sure we’re going to nix this option too, although it could still be in the running if we decide it makes the most sense budget-wise.

Brittland Estates

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This is the venue that we visited last week and fell in love with! All the time we were looking at venues, we asked ourselves if we liked it as much as Brittland. The answer was almost always, “nope!” Brittland Estates in Chestertown, MD, consists of 500+ acres on the Chester River, and we would be renting out two giant houses for Friday – Sunday of the wedding weekend, which would sleep about 40 people. This was exactly what we were looking for because we could have family and the bridal party stay right in the houses with us, while the rest of the guests stayed in a hotel about 5 minutes down the road. We would get a shuttle to bring the hotel guests over, and encourage everyone to spend a three day weekend with us at Brittland. The grounds included a pool, and we would be able to bring our boat over to take people tubing during the day. We would have a rehearsal dinner BBQ right by the water, and Jack would be allowed to stay there and be in our wedding as the ring bearer. 🙂 Out of all of the houses and grounds that we saw, I think Brittland was definitely the prettiest. The biggest downside was that you’re only paying to rent out the space, and then have to coordinate a tent, caterer, florist, etc. on your own. After thinking it over, I think it would probably be too stressful because if/when something went wrong, I would have no one to call to help me. If people are hanging out by the pool and boat all day, who is going to corral them into getting ready for the wedding? Who is going to tell me when it’s time to walk down the isle? There are just too many variables here, and that, coupled with the hefty price tag of just renting the space alone, is causing us to most likely nix this one too (though we haven’t officially decided on that yet).

Silver Swan Bayside

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Sigh. This place! Silver Swan Bayside in Kent Island, MD, was probably my favorite of the “traditional” wedding venues we saw. It was right on the water, the sun would set right behind the ceremony location, the wedding planner helps to take care of catering and decorations, they have a great rain plan, etc. etc. etc. It was just great. We left this location feeling like this was the place for us, but the more we thought about it, the more downsides we saw. Here’s the biggest one: the hotels closest to Silver Swan are the same hotels used by tons of other wedding venues (Chesapeake Bay Beach Club, Maria’s Love Point, my grandparents’ house, and a couple of others). These hotels sell out very, very quickly, and also cost about $300/night for just a Best Western and a Holiday Inn. If these hotels fill up with other weddings (which they will) our guests would either have to stay in Annapolis, which is not very close and on the other side of the often-traffic-jammed Bay Bridge, or get creative and find some sort of Air BnB somewhere. While we haven’t totally ruled this option out, we are very worried about the hotel situation. It’s also not set up to be a mini destination wedding at all, which was something I was really hoping for.

Aspen Wye River Marriott

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Last but certainly not least, we have my current favorite: the Aspen Wye River Marriott in Queenstown, MD. This one totally caught me off guard; I initially found it when searching for other hotels near my grandparents’ house (to avoid the issue mentioned above) and didn’t even consider having the wedding there. For some reason they have less of an online presence than the other venues, so we just didn’t see that many reviews or pictures of their weddings online. As soon as we got there though, we all fell in love! While the Wye River is technically owned by Marriott, it’s totally different in that it’s only 50 rooms and it can only be rented out to groups (you can’t get a room on your own for just one night). When people have weddings there, they have the whole hotel – which really looks more like a bunch of cute brick houses – to themselves. The grounds are beautiful, and they still have a pool and a dock where we could bring our boat up. They also have a golf course, volleyball net, bikes, a game room, fitness center, and more. The rooms are much more affordable for guests ($200/night) and we would still get the feel of a mini destination wedding by having all our guests here. I’m pretty sure there are cheaper hotels in the area for any guests that don’t stay in the Marriott, and they would be much more affordable. Jack is also allowed! Woohoo! There is also a wedding planner on-site who caters to your every need, and the Marriott takes care of the food, tent, etc. so I wouldn’t have to do any of that myself. Also, the rooms offer a little more privacy than Brittland since they are real hotel rooms (no one has to share a bathroom), and you get the intimacy/fun of staying in a place with all your favorite people with just a little more personal space. Currently this is the leading option, but we haven’t seen the price yet (gulp!) so that could change when we get the estimate later this week.

Phew! And there you have it, a summary of all the wedding venues we considered/are considering. I should mention that while the venues that I nixed might not be exactly what we were looking for, I totally understand how they could be perfect for someone else. We are just trying to find something that fits our own personal preferences. 🙂

Question of the day: Which one do you like best??

 Posted by on February 2, 2016
Jan 042016
 

Thank you all so much for your kind words on our engagement! Here’s how it happened. 🙂

Christmas Eve

On Christmas Eve, Fabio’s family joined mine for a Christmas celebration at my grandparents’ house.

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Fabio’s dad recently sold their house in New York, so this year his family decided to celebrate Christmas at Fabio’s sister Diane’s house in Baltimore. This is great for me because it meant that Fabio’s family could join mine for all of our Christmas festivities!

His mom even flew in from Bolivia, since she wasn’t able to come for Thanksgiving. It was so nice to have a full house!

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As the sun was setting, we headed outside for some family photos. Here I am with my sister!

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And my two favorite Fabios (Fabio is a junior – his dad’s name is Fabio too!).

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How handsome is this guy? 🙂

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Here’s Fabio’s sister Diane and her husband Alex…

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And his oldest sister Karen and her husband Martin!

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Eventually we came inside for some more festive fun! Fabio’s mom and my dad played around on the piano; they are both so talented!

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Meanwhile I sang songs from Frozen with Fabio’s niece, Sofia. 🙂

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Let’s just say we sang a LOT of rounds of “Let it Go!” 😉

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Soon enough it was time to eat!

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My grandma put together an amazing spread, and Diane and I contributed by bringing a few things. Everything was delicious!

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After dinner it was time for presents! Everyone received a few wonderfully thoughtful gifts, and we had a fun time taking turns opening them.

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Before we left, we coordinated our schedules for the following day: The plan was for me to go back to my dad’s house so I could be with my sister as soon as she woke up on Christmas morning. Meanwhile, Fabio and his dad planned to sleep at our apartment in DC, and would come pick me up to take me to Diane’s house for a late Christmas Day lunch.

While we were making plans, my dad invited Diane, Karen, Martin, Alex, and Fabio’s mom for an impromptu brunch on Christmas Day. While this isn’t something we normally do on Christmas Day, it made sense to invite everyone over since it’s so rare to have all of us together. Diane said she wasn’t sure if they’d be able to come, but that they would try. (Little did I know this whole “spontaneous brunch” had been planned way in advance!)

When we got home, it was time for bed! My sister and I slept in the bed together with Jack, which was a lot of fun. I have to cherish these years where she’s still young enough to be really excited on Christmas Eve!

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Christmas Day

My sister woke us all up at 7:00 am on Christmas Day, and then it was time for presents. Santa came!

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I got some great gifts from “Santa” including two new lenses for my DSLR and a new bike to replace the one that got stolen over the summer. Woohoo! Thanks, Santa. 😉

The dogs got some gifts from Santa too!

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Haha!

After opening gifts, we got ourselves ready for the day! Fabio’s family (including the Baltimore crew) arrived around 11:00 am for our impromptu brunch and some additional gift exchanging.

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Around this time, my grandparents arrived! They don’t always spend Christmas Day with us since we have dinner at their house on Christmas Eve, but they didn’t have any other plans for Christmas Day so they decided to stop by.

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Then my mom and stepdad arrived to say hi to everyone, and drop off a few Christmas gifts for Fabio’s family. At this point I wasn’t suspicious about anything, but I was thinking about how nice it was to have so many of our loved ones in the same place. It’s so rare that we all get together, and who would have thought that this “last-minute” brunch would have turned out so well? 😉

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We passed around a number of presents, and then we got down to the last one, which was for me. Upon opening it, I saw that it was a memory book that Fabio had put together! At this point I started wondering (hoping?) that he was going to propose, but we’ve made these kinds of books for each other in the past so it still wasn’t totally out of the ordinary. (Also, we went ring shopping about a month ago, and he acted TOTALLY clueless about all things diamonds. What a sneak!)

When I opened the book, I saw that Fabio had made a page for each year of our relationship, complete with the best pictures of us from each year. When he got to year seven (our current year) it said “Lucky 7” and something about special things happening for us this year. Then there were the usual photos on the page, but instead of a third photo there was a piece of paper that said, “Insert This Moment Here.”

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At this point, he pulled a ring out of his pocket and got down on one knee!

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Then he told me how much he loved me and asked me to marry him!!

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Of course I said yes!! It turns out everyone was in on the surprise except for my mom and me. Look how surprised she is in these pictures! I’m so glad my dad took these pictures for us. 🙂

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Then we went around hugging everyone! Family is so important to me, and it meant so much to me that Fabio had everyone there to share our big moment. My mom and grandma were both in tears!

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Here’s the man of the hour with my dad, step-dad, and grandpa. Everyone was so happy!

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Including me! 😀

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After we were done admiring my ring and hugging each other, everyone shared a champagne toast and then sat down to brunch. What an amazing Christmas Day!

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Also, I am obsessed with my ring and cannot stop admiring it. Fabio did an amazing job!!

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Later in the day, we drove over to Diane’s house for a late lunch, which doubled as a celebration of our engagement. 🙂

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Diane cooked an amazing feast for us, and I’m pretty sure I was on cloud nine the entire time.

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I couldn’t stop smiling!! Is this real life?

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Fabio is the best boyfriend-turned-fiancĂ© I ever could have imagined, and I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with him. This year is going to bring so many exciting things for us, and I can’t wait to share them all here with you!

Question of the day: How much detail do you want me to share on wedding planning, a little, medium, or a lot??

 Posted by on January 4, 2016