Who is the Brit?

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He’s probably going to be slightly embarrassed by this….

I know I don’t have gaggles of readers, but do those of you who read this blog wonder why I refer to him as ‘the Brit’?

The obvious answer to this is, well, because he is British. Surprised, right?! However, other people close to me began calling him this because, in their eyes, it made him more exotic and he was different from us because he wasn’t from the U.S. It became a sort of a joke when we’d go to my very small hometown in Pennyslvania, and our adopted family member/my brother’s best friend would say, ‘I knew the Brit was here because the tire tracks from the car were on the wrong side of the road!’ And we would all laugh, even if it didn’t make a whole lot of sense. And it sort of stuck. He was the Brit.

At first, I was keen to keep our names off the blog, but then I decided it didn’t make much sense since our photos were up. Duh. Regardless, I still used the Brit when I wrote about him. But, I have to say that I am outgrowing using ‘the Brit’. I think because to me that isn’t who he is. He is Richard and there is so much more to him than that nickname implies. He is the guy who has stolen my heart and has reminded me how life should be lived and makes me laugh a million and one times a day.

Some day, I will share the story of how we met and how we went from being friends to husband and wife, but for now, I think it is important to just say that he is my best friend, the most amazing husband, and my favorite travel companion. And from now on, he’ll be known as Richard around here.

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{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!!

{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….

Still feeling the love.

Remember in this post when I said how loved I felt on my hen party?

As if it couldn’t get any better, the Brit and I were showered again with love on Saturday the 19th of January by about 35 of our friends and family here in England. Two of our most special friends and their kids were sadly unable to come to the wedding, and as their gift to us, they asked if they could throw us a party when we returned. We were extremely touched by this gesture, and they set off planning this party for us. All that we were told was the date and that we would be picked up at 7:30. The rest was a surprise!

Remember my love-hate relationship with surprises I mentioned with regards to the hen party? The Brit and I together to talk about and wonder is about 100 times worse than me on my own! Oh, it was a fun three weeks in our house. Regardless of how much we had attempted to find out the details prior to the party, we were very much looking forward to seeing what was to come on Saturday.

We dressed in our ‘rehearsal dinner outfits,’ which were completely inappropriate for the time of year as we had just had a snow storm. (As the Brit says, “Everyone should have a rehearsal dinner outfit!” Ha!) To make it even better, I wore my wellies to the party as I had visions of myself wiping out in my heels before we arrived. We were quite the sight!

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Us with our amazing friends who planned the party for us!

We were picked up and whisked away to the unknown (okay, at this point it was known because we are super sleuths!) location, and we were both a little nervous just because of the unexpected. I walked into the room first, and it is such an odd sensation having a party thrown for you because you just do not know where to look. I realize that sounds completely daft, but when all of these people are there to see you and to celebrate with you, then you want them to all feel equally special to you.

So, in we walk to Club Tropicana by Wham! – me in my wellies and the Brit in what he has come to call his ‘game show host jacket’ – and we were truthfully surprised by how many people were there! Their kids, who are just great*, were waiting for us at the door with tropical cocktails, and you could tell how excited they were for us to be there and to see everything they had done. It was so sweet.

They decked the venue out with beach-themed decor, including our actual centerpieces and a sign we had made from the wedding day. Our professional photographs were streaming on the television. The amount of effort and love that went into the whole evening was so touching. We were overwhelmed! Everyone was so excited for us and really wanted to hear about the wedding day! It was really nice.

After lots of chatting, our friends asked the Brit if he wanted to say a few words, and so he said some very nice things and gave a big thank you to our hosts for the lovely night. Then, as if we weren’t surprised enough, they said they had some people across the pond who wanted to wish us well. (I tear up even thinking about it now.) What a shock! They had gathered video messages from my parents, my brother and sister-in-law, and three of my bridesmaids. It was so thoughtful. As an expat, there are a lot of things you want to share with your family and friends back home, but it just isn’t possible. It’s something you have to come to terms with when you live abroad and sometimes it is easier than others. I would have given anything for all of them to be with us on that night, so having them be part of it through their videos was extra special.

A friend of ours DJ-ed throughout the night, and we boogied the night away. There was a brief intermission in which we lit off sky lanterns, which we had bought to set off on the beach on our wedding day in the DR. However, it was fairly windy on our wedding day, so to avoid catching the palapa huts on fire that idea had to be nixed. This meant 20 lanterns came back to the UK with us. It was such a cool thing to do and the night of the 19th was very still, so the lanterns went up perfectly. (I wish I had some good photos of this, but the combination of alcohol and darkness hindered my photography skills.)

After the lantern lighting, it was back to the dance floor until last call when 8 of us decided we still weren’t done partying and we sauntered (the wellies came back on!) to the nearest dive club/pub. True testament to the divey-ness of this place…they didn’t serve wine, so some of our friends were drinking Smirnoff Ice. (I, by this time, was only on water.) It was an incredible night that both of us felt the effects of the next morning!

I don’t think I can say it enough that our friends and family (on both sides of the Atlantic!) are truly special people. I feel especially grateful to have been welcomed so quickly and lovingly into the Brit’s group of friends. It really does feel like I’ve been here forever when it comes to hanging out with all of them. We can’t thank our hosts and the people who attended enough for helping us celebrate our wedding one last time!

*The first time we saw them after the wedding, their daughter asked me if I was part of their family now…and then I melted into a puddle. Okay, really, I gave her a big hug and a kiss. But seriously, I wanted to cry big fat tears of happy — in their eyes, we are no longer Uncle Richard and Becky, but Uncle Richard and Auntie Becky. 

Starting 2013 off on the right foot!

I started this post on Thanksgiving Day, and I still want to share it because I think it is a good segue into writing about our wedding and all the festivities associated with it. But really, why didn’t I post it then? Because I convinced myself I was ‘too busy’ to write or to even hit ‘publish’. That’s a silly and stupid excuse because the truth is that I allowed an air of uncertainty to take over my excitement in writing this blog. I had moments when I felt I wasn’t good enough and that I have nothing worthwhile to write about…seriously lame. But, in actuality, I have so much to share about this time in my life and about how I am trying to make the most of the waiting game that is caused by the UKBA visa application process. I started this blog because I love to write and I need to keep that in mind, so I thank those of you who stuck around through my sabbatical because I can honestly say it feels good to be back.

I’m determined to start 2013 off with optimism! And, why shouldn’t I?! I did marry my best friend just over a week ago!

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Oh, hey, remember me? I’m not sure what caused my absence from the blog, especially after proclaiming I wanted to write every day for a month straight. Yea, that didn’t go so well. But truthfully, I haven’t even signed on and attempted to write a post. Rather, I chose to avoid my blog and I’m not sure why because, in all honesty, I really enjoy writing it and sharing my experiences with those of you willing to read about them.

The Brit and I have spent very little time at home during the past month. We’ve been home so little that we have already made a deal with each other that the month of January is meant to focus on us and making time for ourselves. Do not get me wrong because we love our crazy life and the fact that we have so much on our plates (both work and personal), but sometimes you just need a break and you need to spend more than one weekend a month in your own house. That being said, we have so much excitement ahead of us that I don’t want January to get here too quickly (let’s just say I’m SO glad January is here!), but at the right speed so we can really savour and enjoy what is to come for us in the next 5 or so weeks.

The biggest of these excitements is our wedding on the 29th of December! Umm…how did that sneak up on us?! We arrived back in England last Thursday from a week in the Dominican Republic celebrating my cousin’s destination wedding, and we finally made it back home on Friday as the Brit was working away and I went with him. That night, over takeaway from the most amazing little Thai restaurant in our village, we lit a fire under both of our bums and got to work on wedding planning. It hit us both that we have quite a bit left to do for the wedding and we were up until 1:30 AM that night focused on wedding details. (As a sidenote, I love planning this wedding with him! We make a great team, if I do say so myself!) Since then, it has been non-stop on the wedding organizational path with some stress thrown in, but mostly excitement! I am truly beyond ecstatic about marrying this guy, and it’s been so fun making it reflect our personalities and working to emphasize the importance of our family and friends who will be making the trip to be there with us. I can hardly wait!

And, jumping around here, as I think about the people who will be coming to our wedding and those close to us who can’t make the journey, I’m ever so thankful for having such amazing people in my life. Most of you likely know that yesterday was Thanksgiving in the U.S. It is hard to be away from home during Thanksgiving, and I never realized that until living in a place that doesn’t celebrate this holiday. I sort of feel like I have taken advantage of spending Thanksgiving with my family in the past, and I think it will make our next Thanksgiving in the U.S. even more special. I believe I’ll cherish it more. And, I love that the Brit has embraced Thanksgiving and has enjoyed celebrating the holiday with my family in the US in 2010 and 2011. Despite how hectic our life has been, he humored me when I suggested making Thanksgiving dinner for his family on Saturday because I think he realized what a special holiday it actually is. I’m glad we can share it with his family and try to show them what the day is all about (aside from the delicious food, that is).

We really do have so much to be thankful for this year.