{Our Wedding} The Rehearsal ‘Dinner’

Want to read the first part of the {Our Wedding} series? Find it here.

I’ve mentioned before that the rehearsal dinner is not a wedding tradition that is common in the UK, but we still wanted to honor the tradition in our own way. Also, because we knew we wanted to invite all of the wedding guests (instead of limiting the invite list to immediate family and those in the wedding party as is common with most rehearsal dinners), we chose to host a cocktail reception. With the resort being all-inclusive, we felt that everyone would be fine having dinner at one of the resort’s restaurants and then we would all meet up later on Friday evening.

We did have a very short wedding rehearsal earlier in the day dressed in our best swimming attire. This gave Silvia, our wedding coordinator, a chance to let us all know what would happen for the ceremony. It was also a good opportunity for our friend who was marrying us to give us a brief outline of his ceremony and to let those doing readings know exactly when they would need to come to the front of the ceremony space. (I tried to think of a better word for this, but couldn’t as we got married on a random spot on the beach.) It was absolutely hilarious because as we were gathered in a circle listening to Silvia an older gentleman in bright multi-colored Speedos joined in to listen. A friend of mine did catch this in a photo and posted it to Instagram with the caption of ‘Honorary groomsman,’ but I feel a little weird putting it on the blog even though I’m really tempted because I want you all to see how enthralled he was in what she was saying despite him having nothing to do with our wedding!

We approached our wedding coordinator, Silvia, with this idea of a cocktail and dessert reception, and she thought it was a great idea, but had to check with their chef about the dessert portion. She also knew immediately of the perfect location at the resort for the reception, which she showed us during our visit in November. That space is a terrace off the buffet restaurant that she planned to decorate with tiki torches amidst the tropical surroundings of the resort. We could truly picture it and it was exactly what we wanted. So, that was the plan!

carnivalterraceCarnival Terrace during the day

Then, Christmas Day rolled around and the Brit, myself, and our friend went to dinner at the Mexican restaurant at the resort — how’s that for mixing it up for your Christmas dinner?! Our waiter was absolutely fabulous, so fun, and kept calling us his ‘table of beautiful people!’ (I’m sure he has a new table of beautiful people every week, but we were loving it!) We enjoyed our whole meal immensely and he made it so much better. When Friday rolled around, he was the bartender at the swim-up bar and asked us where we were eating that night. We told him we had no plans yet, so when he said he would be serving at the Mexican restaurant, we thought, ‘Why not?!’ So, he was kind enough to reserve two tables for 10 in the back of the restaurant for us. There were 24 of us that all went to dinner together, so in the end, we did have a a slightly more traditional yet informal rehearsal dinner and it turned out to be great! Because there were so many of us at dinner, our meal took a little longer than expected so we were 20 minutes late to the cocktail and dessert reception, but it didn’t matter as everyone was on island time and not too concerned.

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The Brit and I finished our meals and raced over to the terrace for the reception. As we were approaching the terrace, the doors that lead out to it were opened for us and we were both greeted with a melon cocktail, which was the ‘welcome drink’ they created for us that night. The terrace looked absolutely perfect with the tiki torches lit and the moon shining down. Scattered around the terrace were high tables lit by candles for people to gather around. There was a bar at one end of the space and a table full of dessert bites at the other side. (I didn’t take a lot of photos as I was too busy enjoying myself!) A server passed the desserts around while people were arriving. There was a great mix of desserts ranging from cheesecakes to chocolate tarts, and the whole gathering was exactly what we had imagined!

BMrehdinMe with my beautiful bridesmaids.

Everyone mingled and those who hadn’t met each other yet were introduced. It was absolutely amazing to see all of these people we love – most of whom had never met before – getting along so well. I walked up to a table full of my closest girl friends just chatting away like they had always known each other. It made my heart burst and my smile couldn’t have been bigger. I think one of the incredible things about a destination wedding is that because everyone is there longer than just an afternoon and evening – as is the case with a more traditional wedding – then people really have an opportunity to get to know one another. It’s a pretty fun time, and I say that having been a guest and the bride at a destination wedding.

Months before, I had decided to say a few words that night because we planned to keep the speeches at the wedding reception in line with the English tradition, which include speeches from the father of the bride, the groom, and the best man (in that order). About halfway through the Friday evening event with time moving very quickly as we were having such a good time, the Brit pulled me aside and suggested I give my little speech. I wanted to be sure that I didn’t just fumble through it with tears streaming down my face, so I put thought and planning into what I was going to say. Not that I really had to be worried about being embarrassed in front of this crowd, but I wanted to be composed.

We managed to pull everyone away from the amazing time they were having with some shouts and maybe even a whistle or two, and I started off by thanking everyone for joining us in this celebration and expressing how touched we were that so many of our nearest and dearest made the journey to be there with us. I maybe then might have poked a little fun at my handsome groom before I went on to thank my incredible bridesmaids, the Brit’s parents, my parents, and finally, the Brit. I think it went down well, and I even had my dad and the Brit tell me I had stolen pieces of their speeches! The bonus of going first!

Soon after, we were kicked off the terrace and continued the celebrations at the lobby bar before a large group of us made our way to the night club. It was a blast, and I think our dance party gave us all a little insight into what a great time we would have as a group the next night! The photos, which include one of my brother and the Brit embraced in a hug on the floor and another of the Brit on our good friend’s shoulders, really paint a picture of the fabulous time we had. I can’t remember what time it was, but the Brit and I (okay, it was mostly me) decided it was time for us to go to sleep. We did have a big day ahead of us in a few short hours!

brosisrehdinUs with my brother and sister-in-law

And, in case you are wondering, we had planned to stay in separate rooms the night before the wedding and try to stick with the tradition of not seeing each other until the ceremony, but we soon realized we would definitely not be able to avoid each other during the day of the wedding, so we just stayed together and it actually kept the whole thing so much more relaxed.

Next up, the WEDDING DAY!!

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{Our Wedding} The Week Before

I’m still laughing at myself for hitting ‘Publish’ instead of ‘Save Draft’ on this post the other day — oops!!

The Brit and I knew from the start that we wanted to have a destination wedding. We wanted to find a balance and a sort of ‘neutral territory’ between our two countries, and although the Caribbean is closer to the US, we knew we wanted a warm destination so it seemed like the best choice.

After two weeks of debate and scouring the internet for resorts and locations that suited our styles, we finally decided on a resort in the Dominican Republic called Now Larimar. One thing with destination weddings is you aren’t always so lucky to visit your resort prior to making a decision, so we chose Now Larimar based on the website, the advice of a travel agent we were using in the States, and online reviews. (Although I later came to realize that TripAdvisor can sometimes be your worst enemy having worked myself into a tizzy a few times about things I read, so I had to stop myself from reading reviews.) We were able to visit the resort a month before the wedding because we were in the DR for my cousin’s wedding, so that made the last month incredibly easy as we knew exactly what details needed our attention and what decor we still had to purchase.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur room was on the second floor on the far left. I want to go back.

Because this trip was not just any old holiday but our wedding, we splurged on the Preferred Club Ocean Front Master Suite. It was a great decision! We had plenty of room for all of the wedding things we brought with us with a living/dining room, two bathrooms (one of which was the size of the entire downstairs of our house and I am not exaggerating), a wonderful bedroom, and a stunning balcony boasting a hot tub and an outdoor shower that allowed us to wake up to this view every morning….

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The Brit and I left for Punta Cana on Christmas Eve, so we actually spent Christmas Day there. This was the first time both of us were somewhere warm for Christmas, which was weird but incredible all at the same time. (I mean, we saw Santa arrive on the beach in a helicopter!) We were both so excited to be in the sun again and definitely made the most out of our time by the pool. A friend of mine was also there with us beginning on Christmas Eve, so the three of us amused ourselves by making trips to the swim-up bar, soaking up the sun, taking walks on the beach, and tearing up the floor at the disco at night! It was really great!

crabcococollageWe also watched a crab race and drank from coconuts. All funny touristy things that we had a good laugh about!

The Brit and I did have some wedding errands to complete (for example, assembling welcome bags for our guests and our centerpieces) and we had some loose ends to tie up with our wedding coordinator, so we took care of those things as well. One advantage of having the wedding at an all-inclusive resort is that most have their own wedding department, which means they take care of everything from the flowers to the food to the entertainment for your wedding day. We were assigned our own wedding coordinator when we first put our deposit down in early 2012 and she was our contact at the resort throughout the whole planning process. I feel we really lucked out with our coordinator, Silvia, as she was extremely kind with some of our crazy requests and had some great ideas that she thought would suit our tastes.

DSC03681The welcome bags and booklets we made for our guests. The booklets were a BIG surprise to our guests. I’m so glad the Brit came up with this idea because our hard work on them paid off with everyone loving them!

The whirlwind began on the evening of December 26th when more guests began to arrive. It was so exciting and fun to see everyone in a warm and relaxed environment! Our friends and family were there to celebrate with us and they all came with the best attitude of just wanting to have fun! It was really amazing!

ThursdinnergroupOur Thursday night dinner crew — we have some AMAZING friends!

It was also on this day when a storm decided to sweep through the midwest and the northeast of the US, which is of course where nearly all of our US guests live. It’s so funny looking back on it now because I had some tears the morning of the 27th when my parents’ flight was cancelled, but then I just moved on with it because they were rescheduled on a flight for Friday (which ended up being cancelled too and the woman at United got them re-booked with US Airways when my mom explained her daughter was getting married the next day — thank you, United woman!!). Soon after, we found out my aunt and uncle’s flight as well as the flight of one of my bridesmaids and her fiancé were also cancelled, and it didn’t appear they would make it at all. Ha! Still, I was oddly calm. I think I knew it would all work out. And, it did because they all ended up arriving on Friday!

The best part of this is we had no idea my bridesmaid was able to reschedule her flight, so we just happened into the lobby and who comes running at me?! Jessi! I would have loved for someone to have captured a photo of that moment because I didn’t know what to do, and my eyes couldn’t believe what I was seeing. All I could say over and over again was, “I can’t believe it. I can’t believe it.” I then remembered I had cancelled their dinners and her bouquet, so the Brit took over and ran to the wedding coordinator’s office and added them back on — no problem at all! That excitement was soon followed by the arrival of my parents, my brother and sister-in-law, and my aunt and uncle.

Everyone had made it and it was time for the fun to continue with our own take on the rehearsal dinner!

To be continued….

{Road Trip} Nottinghamshire: Sherwood Forest CenterParcs

The two of us had been wanting to get away for awhile, but it’s just been a little hectic this summer. Plus, the Brit has to save up his holiday time not only for our wedding, but for my cousin’s wedding and for his stag do in November. So yea, it just wasn’t happening until he surprised me with a quick weekend away to CenterParcs!

I’d heard about CenterParcs from a few people, so had been wanting to check it out. I think the most unique aspect of CenterParcs is that you are not permitted to drive within the resort outside of check-in and check-out times on Mondays and Fridays. This was especially appealing to us because the Brit drives crazy distances and hours for work, so to park the car up and walk everywhere sounded fab.

Then, the Brit informed me that we would be renting bicycles as well. I truthfully cannot remember the last time I rode a bike, so I was nervous. I was glad there would be no cars around to crash into me, but I was a little unsure about how I would do. (Yes, I realize this sounds lame.)

I could not believe how many bikes they had for rent. This photo only shows half of them. I asked the guy who helped us if they ever rent them all out and he said during summer and school holidays they do rent the majority of them!

Anyway, we got to CenterParcs around 4:30 on Friday afternoon and immediately unloaded our stuff into our villa, so we could park the car and pick up our bikes. The villa we stayed in was Birch 463, which is a shared building with villas 464 and 465. Our villa was either recently built or recently renovated because Birch 463 is very modern and contemporary inside with a separate kitchen/living space, bedroom, and bathroom. (If you’d like to see what it looked like, then you can click here.) I think the other two villas were for 4 people while ours was for 2 and just the perfect size. Each has their own kitchen which is a nice perk if you are coming in larger groups and don’t want to eat at one of the restaurants every night.

Our section of the villa is the front part with the bikes in front of it. I realize it looks like there are no windows in our villa, but the whole back is floor-to-ceiling windows, so we had lots of natural light.

I have to show this picture I took of one of the treehouses, which appear to be absolutely incredible! They have 4 bedrooms with a separate games room, an outdoor hot tub, and a sauna. Anyone want to rent one of these with us for a weekend sometime – we could take turns cooking evening meals?! And, it just seems like such a fun thing to do with a group of friends!  

CenterParcs has a number of restaurants and places to grab a snack or even takeaway (Chinese, Indian, and pizza). They even have a market where you can pick up pretty much anything you might need to make a meal. On the first night, we walked into Strada, which is an Italian restaurant, without a reservation and were seated right away. I imagine if you visit during peak times, especially school holidays, that this wouldn’t happen because the restaurant was still packed during this low time.

There also are a lot of activities available to participate in and for all age ranges because CenterParcs does really cater to families. There is even a spa, which we didn’t use but I would definitely check out if we ever return. A few weeks prior to our arrival, we each picked an activity and signed up for those. I wanted to do stand-up paddleboarding, but wasn’t too keen on being colder than I normally am or to do this in the rain. Instead, I chose hydrospinning. Yes, spinning in the pool! I take a spin class here, so I thought this could be good fun. We both ended up loving it and got a killer workout. If you have an opportunity to try this, I would highly recommend it! The Brit chose badminton. So, on Sunday morning, he crushed me in game after game of badminton for nearly an hour. This proved to be another amazing workout for us and we had so much fun laughing at ourselves!

Other highlights for me include the water slides in the Subtropical Swimming Paradise (felt like a kid again!), our meal on Saturday night at Forester’s Inn which included a delicious lamb shank on mashed potatoes and a slice of apple pie for dessert, a Sunday mid-afternoon snack of a waffle with berries and ice cream at the The Pancake House on the lake, and not crashing my bike (seriously!). We took some long walks, watched the Ryder Cup in the pub in the Jardin des Sports, and slept. It was a relaxing weekend and I don’t think either of us were ready for it to end!

Off to enjoy some R&R…

The Brit and I are off on a little getaway for the weekend to the Sherwood Forest Center Parcs!

He’s been working like a crazy person and I’m always up for a mini-break, so both of us are a tad overly enthusiastic about our long weekend away!

There are no cars allowed outside of check-in and check-out times, so we’ll be riding around on bikes and walking everywhere. We’ve also signed up for some fun activities, which I’ll share later.

Everyone we speak to has said they love Center Parcs and the Brit has been before, so I’m looking forward to seeing what it is all about and to just chill out.

Have any of you ever been to Center Parcs before?

 

Happy 4th from across the pond!

It’s tough to believe that today is the quintessential summer holiday in the U.S. while it is overcast and gloomy in England (and also lacking in American flags waving triumphantly). I love living in England and moving here to be with the Brit and work on my Master’s degree was the right move for my life, but living abroad has made me appreciate my home even more. I received four texts today from English citizens wishing me a happy 4th of July, and although it feels like just any other day here, those texts meant a lot to me and made me smile and think of home.

Of course, I will miss seeing fireworks, cooking out with friends and family, and celebrating our nation’s independence (funnily from the country I now live in). However, I will still have a celebrations of sorts as friends of ours are having a party this weekend, and when I realized it fell on the weekend after the 4th, I suggested an America-themed party in honor of the holiday. That has transformed into an ‘American Legends’ fancy dress party (costume party in the U.S.), which should prove to be all sorts of hilarious! Stay tuned for photos of that!

So, I hope you all have a happy 4th of July in the good ol’ U.S. of A and enjoy all of the goodness that comes along with celebrating the day!

Edited to add:  The sun came out and we had bluebird skies for most of the evening! It was so good to enjoy a lovely outdoor run with a friend tonight!