Matt and I love traveling together. Being on vacation or on a trip where we are removed from the stresses of everyday life and we just focus on things we love doing and each other is the ideal situation. You find out so much about a person when you travel with them and if traveling is something you want to do as a couple, you have to make sure your travel styles vibe well. Luckily, Matt and I are on the same wavelength when it comes to jet setting so it quickly became something we loved to do as a couple and will continue to do (hopefully more often as long as the money and puppy sitters are there).
When we were making the decision on where to go for our honeymoon we definitely had some back and forth before we came to the final decision. My heart was set on Europe from the beginning because it had been years since I had been abroad and Matt had never been. Matt was pretty open to my suggestion but somehow the idea morphed into him going to see soccer games overseas which was NOT how I envisioned our honeymoon going. I mean that would be a great trip, just not for our honeymoon. I imagined my college days, gallivanting around Europe, without a care in the world, going from city to city while running off of practically no sleep. Back then, it was thrilling and made me feel spontaneous but now, just thinking of living like that gives me a stomach ulcer.
I am not “go with the flow”, I like everything planned, and I knew that as ridiculous as it sounded, in order to relax I would have to plan the shit out of a Euro trip before we went. Usually I would have jumped at the opportunity but when you are planning a wedding, hustling at your 9-5, blogging on the side, and trying to keep your health in check, the LAST thing you want is another thing to plan. Now I do have to give Matt credit, for as non planning as he is, he did offer to help but me being the extremely particular psycho that I am I insisted I was going to do this myself. I felt bad because I wanted us to have an amazing honeymoon but I didn’t have the time to plan something, especially on a budget, but at the same time I wanted it to be super specifically everything I ever wanted.
As Lauryn Evarts would say, “I don’t ask for much”.
Our friends had done a European cruise the year before and absolutely loved it. They were able to visit multiple locations and seemed to have remained relatively stress free throughout the whole thing, planning included. I had been on cruises my whole life growing up for our family vacations (including a European one) and Matt and I went on a cruise together a few years ago. It seemed like a perfect solution. And it was. Here’s why:
You get to experience a bunch of different places.
If we were going to pay for the flight and invest the time into going abroad we wanted to make sure we were seeing more than just one destination. Cruises give you that option! My first experience abroad was on a European cruise and I love that it gave me a little taste of so many different places. From that experience I was able to decide what my favorite cities were and make plans to visit again. With this being Matt’s first time abroad I wanted him to have a similar experience and be able to take in the beauty of the different culture, history, and architecture of a few locations.
Everything is taken care of.
Once you board a cruise you have to worry about absolutely nothing. You don’t have to worry about getting from city to city with all of your luggage, you don’t have to worry about where you are going to eat dinner, you don’t have to plan your days in port because the excursion has already taken care of that. Take it from the most anxious person ever, if I say you have nothing to worry about, you really don’t.
Upfront cost/ easy to budget.
This one is a huge relief especially when you are trying to plan and budget for a wedding at the same time. Before we even left for our cruise we had paid for our flights, the cruise itself, our excursions, and gratuity. This way there were no surprises and we could start paying these things months before we actually went on the trip. The only additional expenses were extra meals we had while in different ports and alcohol on the ship. With that it was super easy to track our expenses though so we didn’t have any colossally terrifying credit card bills to return home to.
We choose to do the 7 Day Adriatic Cruise through Norwegian Cruise Line. It was cost effective but still really nice which was important to us. We weren’t going to be spending a ton of time on the ship because we were visiting so many ports but I am a stickler for good food and service so we were not going to compromise on that.
Our itinerary was:
Sunday: Venice, Italy (EMBARK) --- Cruise leaves at 5:30 pm
Monday: Kotor, Montenegro --- 2:00 pm-8:00 pm
Tuesday: Corfu, Greece --- 10:00 am-4:00 pm
Wednesday: Santorini, Greece --- 2:00 pm-10:00 pm
Thursday: Mykonos, Greece --- 8:00 am-4:00 pm
Friday: At Sea
Saturday: Dubrovnik, Croatia --- 7:00 am-1:00 pm
Sunday: Venice, Italy (DISEMBARK)
We choose this cruise specifically because I was dead set on going to Santorini and we both really wanted to do the Game of Thrones tour in Croatia. This itinerary gave us the option to do both and also stop in Mykonos which was another destination I had wanted to check out.
We left out of Venice, Italy and neither of us had ever been there before so we were super pumped about this and wanted to get there a few days early so we had some time to explore. I also ALWAYS recommend getting to the port city early if possible just in case of any delays, missed flights/connections, or any other SOS moments. It also starts your vacation off a whole lot smoother when you aren’t stressed because you are down to the wire on your schedule.
We booked our flights so that we would fly overnight on a Thursday and arrive in Venice on Friday morning. That would give us half of Friday, all day Saturday, and half of Sunday to explore before we boarded the ship. The question here was, where were we going to stay? At this point we had invested the majority of our budget into the flights and the actual cruise so we were not going to be staying at any fancy hotels on the water. I looked. They were amazing. I tried to justify it. But I couldn’t. Instead we opted for an Airbnb that cost us about $120 or so per night. As much as I am a fancy hotel lover, I also really love staying in an Airbnb, especially in a new city. I feel like it really gives you the opportunity to immerse yourself in the culture and what it would actually be like to live there.
Our small apartment was perfect for our stay. We had a full bed, a kitchenette, our own bathroom, and, thankfully, air conditioning. My favorite part is that we were tucked away from the street in a building that opened up to a private courtyard where we relaxed and enjoyed wine before we headed out for dinners. Our Airbnb host was so friendly and extremely helpful. She met us at the water bus station and walked us to our apartment. Since there are no real streets in Venice, things can get a bit confusing so we were thrilled she was there to help. We weren’t in a super touristy area so we had the chance to try out cafes that weren’t flooded with tourists and explore the residential areas that surrounded us. We stopped at the fancy hotels I mentioned before to grab a cocktail on their terraces and enjoy the views and then strolled back to our cozy home away from home. I absolutely loved it. AND it was way more budget friendly than the alternative.
TIP: We actually were able to cover the Airbnb expense with the points from my Capital One Venture Card. I got this card about two years ago to use for all of my business expenses. This means that I can pay that off every month with the money my company reimburses me with while racking up points to use to my next vacation. The thing I love about this card is you can use your points toward any travel expense, not just flights. That means pretty much anything from hotels down to your Uber. You also get a substantial point bonus if you spend a certain amount within your first three months of having the card. I can’t remember the exact amounts from when I signed up but we were able to use that bonus to put a serious dent into our flights to and from Hawaii back in 2016.
Speaking of flights…..
Flights are always the budget buster and there isn’t really a solid way to get around that. Of course if you are spontaneous and can randomly book a trip somewhere you can take advantage of those flash deals on flights and things of that nature but when you are traveling at very specific times, your options are limited. A trick that we used for this trip and our trip to Hawaii was piecing together one way flights that were more cost effective instead of just settling on the roundtrip package. On our way to Hawaii we did a one way flight to LA, hung out for a few days, took another one way flight to Maui, and then booked another one way flight home. It ended up being cheaper than the alternative and allowed us to break up our travel time. On this trip we searched surrounding cities for cheaper flights going abroad. Luckily, living in Baltimore gives us access to flights out of quite a few major cities within only a few hour drive. We found an Aer Lingus flight out of Philly that stopped in Dublin and then flew straight to Venice. Score. For our home flight we booked one from Venice, back through Dublin, and then to Boston, then Baltimore. It worked out really well and saved us a chunk of money that we could then put into other vacation related expenses.
Since we were already paying a decent amount to fly overseas, I wanted us to get the most out of our trip and not sacrifice any potentially great experience because of money. But at the same time I still didn’t want to blow our budget out of the water. We have other trips on the horizon that we need funds for too! We found a pretty good balance where we splurged on some things (like good food and wine) but saved in other areas that didn’t necessarily matter as much to us. Let me give you an example… On the ship they offer specialty dining packages which are really cool but not cheap. They allow you to visit the specialty restaurants that have some amped up décor and service along with a special menu. We did end up doing one night of specialty dining but the rest of the time we ate at the regular restaurants on board which still had great food/service and we had already paid for it in our initial booking price! Instead of spending big on the ship we went to nice dinners in Venice and Santorini where we could get courses of fresh local food and bottles of wine for a fraction of what that would cost on the ship.
The main expense that we accrued while on board the ship was alcoholic beverages. On our previous cruise we purchased the alcoholic beverage package that allowed us pretty much unlimited drinks for the duration of our , all for a flat, prepaid rate. We looked into the packages this time around but the cost seemed too steep for what we thought we would actually be drinking. Plus, we were going to be off of the ship for the majority of the time in ports where wine was cheaper than water. Definitely a better choice than on ship purchases.
At dinner we would split a bottle of wine that complimented our meal. The bottles were pretty decently priced in my opinion and the ones we tried were pretty good! I’m not a super wine snob or anything so I would think for someone with a more elevated taste they may disagree. I am at least moderately picky when it comes to wine though and they had viable options in just about every category. I did splurge on a few glasses of Veuve one night.
What about excursions?
Our excursions were prepaid from when we booked them months ago and some of our wedding guests gifted us excursions through our Wanderable site so that covered a large amount of our activities we had planned. If you are big into traveling I highly recommend registering on Wanderable. The website allows you to create your own page detailing your honeymoon plans and allows your wedding guest to purchase different experiences for you. The whole thing is customizable and you can add anything from excursions, to on board credits, to spa treatments, that your friends can contribute to or purchase in full. I am always into giving an experience instead of a material item so I think it is super cool to be able to actually see the couple you are gifting to, enjoy an adventure you purchased for them.
Even in Venice, where we obviously didn’t have any excursions, we didn’t spend a ton of money on activities. Everything is walkable to the transportation costs were very low. When we did need a boat or a car to get somewhere, we relied on public transportation which is very affordable. In Venice we did splurge on one activity which was a total MUST while we were there. A gondola ride. It was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life and it actually felt unreal. It was 100% worth the 100 euro we dropped and I would certainly do it again next time.
TIP: Before we left for our trip we opened up a Southwest credit card. Now these credit card tips aren’t supposed to make you think it is no big deal or that you should just open a bunch of credit cards. We don’t have a ton of cards and choose wisely based on the points/rewards which cards make sense to open when. We have been planning a trip to Florida in December and we knew that if we signed up for the card, spent money, and got the new sign up bonus points, it would basically cover our plane tickets for our next trip. This trick worked perfectly and by both using just one credit account to put all of our travel purchases on we were able to really track what we were spending and realistically communicate that to others now when they ask.
What’s the verdict?
Matt and I both agree, we are thrilled with our decision to have done a cruise for our honeymoon. Exploring Europe in such a carefree (but preplanned!) way allowed both of us to relax but also experience so many different places in the Mediterranean. Everyone always asks us if we wish we had more time in the ports. “It seems like such a short time!” is the number one concern I hear when other people are considering booking a trip for themselves. Of course we wish we had more time in ports. I would have loved to have spent a week on every Greek island we visited. That being said, I also don’t have months off of work and a trust fund to boot. For the time we had and the budget we had, there is no better way that I think we could have seen these destinations.
Now that Matt is at least a little more familiar with Europe and I am done with wedding planning, our next trip abroad will probably be planned out in my typical OCD fashion. It probably won’t be another cruise again for a little while just because we like to mix things up but I certainly will do a European cruise of some type again.
My overall verdict is that if you want to go to Europe on your honeymoon, you want to see more than just one place, and you want to actually relax, a cruise is 100% the way to go.
Hopefully this article helped to break down how we decided on our trip as well as how we made things as cost effective as possible. I know there were a lot of questions about this topic so if there are areas I didn’t touch on or things I didn’t answer send me a DM or drop it in the comments and I will make sure to address your topic.
Over the next month or so I am working on creating posts highlighting the different destinations we visited along with some tips, tricks, and recommendations from those places. Stay tuned and follow along on Instagram (@crohnicallyblonde) to be the first to know when these posts go live!
The past six months or so have been nuts, getting ready for our wedding and honeymoon. Every weekend and every free moment after work was full of decisions, logistics, and often times chaos. Planning a wedding is no joke, especially when you have no wedding planner and have to arrange all of the moving parts yourself. I had immense help from my mom, stepmom, and dad but being the absolutely psychotic micromanager that I am, even when projects were left in the best hands I was still stressing.
On top of that we were planning an 11 day European honeymoon which not only required a slew of decisions and finalizing details but also arranging care for the pups while we were gone. We had family and friends step up to help us in this area as well which we couldn't be more thankful for.
Through all of the planning I really tried to step back and enjoy the process. Ideally you only plan a wedding once (or twice if you eloped like us!) so why not take everything in and try and appreciate all of the work that goes into throwing the biggest party of your life? Living in the moment is not my forte but I really did make and effort. I wanted to enjoy the other festivities that lead up to the big day…. the bachelorette party (lucky for me, I had one in New Orleans and a winery day planned close to home!), the bridal shower, the days leading up to the wedding when our family was together. It makes me so happy now to look back and realize I truly got to enjoy those moments. I can say the same for the wedding and the honeymoon as well.
In order to live in the moment these past few months, I took a big step back from sharing everything in my life in real time. I have all of these sweet moments and details documented and eventually I will share them with the world but in the moment I wanted them to be privately enjoyed. Instead of focusing on creating moments for the rest of the world to see, I wanted to genuinely enjoy those moments for once. I have shared photos after the fact on Instagram with updates and kind words for those who made these moments happen. I have gotten messages over and over again of people asking why I didn’t share more details from this event or that event or my planning process. The answer is because I was actually living it. And I have written down every request from every person who has reached out and I promise I will share the details. Now that I have had the chance to take things in for myself, I can share them with the rest of the world and I am so freaking excited to do so.
I have also had people ask about the podcast. It is coming back! We have guests lined up, we have some really good topics, and we are ready to dive back in. Same goes for blog content. I stepped back from pushing out content in these areas for a bit because I didn’t want to publish content I didn’t love. And I didn’t have time to create the content I would feel good about. I wasn’t going to write a shit post or record a shit podcast just to get something out. I also had some partnerships and companies that I was (and still am!) partnered with that I was creating content for. I feel very strongly about these publications and their ability to reach a large audience and make a difference so while you haven’t been able to read everything I have created for them yet, it is coming and you will be able to see the hard work I have put in behind the scenes.
Balancing my life has been a chaotic sort of shit show for the past six months but I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. Thank you to everyone who has followed this journey on Instagram through posts and stories and is revisiting my site now for all that is to come. I appreciate you. I have taken your requests and suggestions very seriously. And I can’t wait to share the details of my life with everyone again.
WHAT YOU CAN LOOK FORWARD TO.....
Drop a comment or a DM on Instagram and let me know what else you want to hear about!
In the podcast this week my mom and I opened up about our ongoing struggles with eating disorders and recovery. We thought it was fitting because it is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. First off, if you haven't listened to this week's episode, stop and go listen ASAP (HERE!).
In the podcast we didn't go too far into our backstories but focused more on a real time update and the continued struggles we've experienced. After the podcast went live I had quite a few people who were curious about how we got to this point and our experience when we were in the darkest parts of our experience.
So I figured why not create a post answering those questions....You can hear/read about my entire story in this post and on The F- Word podcast (episode 15). I also dive into some coping tools and a recovery focused book that I love in this post.
My mom has just recently become a huge part of Crohnically Blonde so has not yet had the chance to share her full story. Diane shared a bit about her past struggles with anorexia and how her struggles and then recovery evolved through having children and then combating Crohn's.
I hope ya'll enjoy what she has to share and I am so excited for her to continue to share her experiences and wisdom with us!
I began my issues with Anorexia in early high school, didn’t seem to have issues in college, resumed my issues after college and seemingly moved beyond my issues a few years after my second daughter was born. While in high school, Anorexia was recognized, but not discussed much and according to what I knew, not many people knew how to deal with it. My best friend was concerned and talked to my parents. I vaguely remember my parents addressing it with me and my dad trying to convince me to eat ice cream.
After college when I got married, I resumed my anorexia. I don’t remember during any of this time anyone ever telling me that I was fat or too big. It was all me. Why? Was there a gene involved? Was it a product of my apparently not so happy childhood? Was it society? Yes. No. I don’t know. I just knew that I had to carefully watch what I ate, make sure I exercised a lot and never got above a certain weight that I had determined was my healthy weight according to my perception of how I looked. And this was a full time job as I thought about it constantly. There were a couple of times that I allowed myself to gain some weight. When I was trying to get pregnant. Because at the lower weight, I didn’t have my period. During this time of trying to get pregnant, being pregnant and after the births during breast feeding, I was still very obsessed about what I ate and how much I exercised. Actually, I weighed my least amount ever when my second daughter was one.
What happened next? I don’t know exactly, but about two years later I sought help for what was diagnosed as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Besides medication, I saw a counselor that helped me through some issues that I didn’t realize I had. I am very good at shutting off parts of my life. Then I didn’t seem to have Anorexia any more.
Really? Okay maybe not Anorexia, but I still had body image issues which I didn’t fully acknowledge for many more years. I raised my girls knowing I had had an eating disorder so was very careful not to let my vocabulary and behavior show this or affect them. I thought I did a good job with that. Well, no I didn’t.
Today, I still have body image issues and now I have Crohns.
This is where in my story Michelle and I pick up to discuss the issues-do you mentally ever get past an eating disorder? How does it evolve as you get older? What about other health issues on top of it? What about social media?"
In honor of Eating Disorder Awareness Week, Diane and I decided to take the plunge and share our truths about ED recovery this week on the podcast.
I started my journey through treatment and towards recovery 8 years ago now and have learned that it is a just that... a journey. There is no magic switch that makes an eating disorder go away, not to mention the havoc that my Crohn's has wreaked on my body image.
It took me a long time to want to share my story so publicly, especially on my own platform, which I know seems weird coming from someone who talks about bowel movements and vomiting like it is my day job. For some reason (which we dive into in the podcast) talking about a mental illness was more difficult for me to address than talking about my physical one.
The topic of ED's and even more the topic of recovery are so near and dear to Diane and I. We've both suffered, fought, been knocked down, gotten back up again, and that is why we share our stories, as uncomfortable as it may be. You're not alone.
Whether you have an ED, have had an ED, know someone who has an ED, or just ever experienced negative self talk and put yourself down because of something related to your body, please give this a listen.
Listen to our stories, feel free to share with us yours, and lets continue to fight this stigma and utilize this community to continue healing.
Stay tuned this week because there are some more blog posts coming about ED related issues, recovery, and a whole lot of realness.
Happy New Year to the Crohnically Blonde fam!
After the amazing year that 2017 was it is going to be hard to top in 2018 but I like to believe that things just keep getting better. I am starting the year off by refocusing my energy on myself, my family, and my passion (this blog!). I've been reading a ton of great material that has helped to get me back in gear and motivated because honestly I have been in SUCH a funk for the last few weeks of 2017. I always get super deep and into my feelings reflecting and critizising every little thing I could have done better which I know, is not cool, I'm trying to stop. I just have this perfectionist attitude that I can't quit!
I've done a lot of reflecting and I've decided to spend January filling my life with relaxation and self love. I know this sounds absolutely nuts because most people spend January kicking their asses into shape at the gym and picking their bodies apart to motivate them to get back in the game. I am not doing that.
Yes, I have health and fitness goals that I am trying to reach, I always do in some way or another but I am including that as part of my self love. I'm not beating myself up to reach my goals, I'm teeing it up in my mind as "how can I love myself more?".
I am all about this.
So I don't know about you, but when I think of myself relaxing I get really stressed out. Weird. I know. I get stressed about all of the things that I could be doing that are productive and all of the successful people who are on the move 24/7 and here I am trying to just watch an hour of The Real Housewives without feeling guilty.
I literally have SUCH a problem with this so I have come up with some cool ways to relax while I am productive. Multitasking at its finest. Now, I know this isn't the best advice. Experts or whatever would probably say, you need to spend X amount of time relaxing per week or day or something but I am just doing what works for me so here we are.
I find the things that bring me joy and relaxation and I pair them with some type of productive activity so that I not only feel productive while relaxing but it also makes me like to do annoying productive tasks that I am trying to complete. (I promise I also do relax fully but that is usually in the form of a bubble bath where I am literally forced to not do anything else but sit in a bathtub).
Here are a few things I like:
These are just a few things that I like to do to relax while still handling the things I have to handle in life. My goal for January is to relax while cleaning my entire house and making a solid plan for the year. Obviously that includes a lot of those tasks above which I am not so thrilled about but I can look forward to it because of the fun/relaxing things I will pair with them.
Below I have included links to a few of my favorite things that relate to this post so definitely take a look and let me know what else you do to relax while being productive AF.
Happy New Year y'all! Let's make it happen.
What I'm Listening To...
On Audible: It's Not Okay
I'm trying to catch up before Andi Dorfman's new book release. This Bachelor Nation alum is spilling everything and as a reality TV lover this book is everything. So entertaining while still light enough to multitask while listening.
Via Podcast: And That's Why We Drink
Ghost stories mixed with true crime mixed with hilarious just about everything... sign me up. One of the hosts also has Crohn's Disease which automatically makes her one of the crew.
What I'm Watching ...
I'm obsessed. It might be a problem. It is full of drama but if you miss 10 minutes it is easy to pick back up. You can binge watch on demand or via Hulu. It will keep you busy while you clean out your whole house, basement, attic, and garage. Promise.
What I'm sitting on...
Accupressure Mat (in hot pink of course). Make sure to grab one of these from Amazon. They have the best selection for great prices.
There has been so much to be thankful for lately between our wedding, quality time with friends and family, and the holiday season. During exciting times of the year it is easy to get wrapped up in the fun and end up over exerting yourself so I have been making a serious conscious effort to keep myself and my health in check.
The thing with Crohn's and any chronic illness really is that it never goes away and even if it seems like it does it can always creep back up. My symptoms are something that are aways with me. On holidays, on vacations, on my wedding day, Crohn's is always the extra guest to the party. I know this sounds super depressing and at first it really was. Over time, though, I have learned to make it work and still enjoy things to the fullest in my own special way.
The reason I wanted to write this post at this time of year was because as I mentioned before it is far too easy to over exert yourself and by time Christmas and New Years come you are too sick and exhausted to celebrate. This used to be highly frustrating for me because I used to love to be at pretty much every social event or party I was invited to which was a lot during the holiday season. Now I've had to cut it back and decide what events are most important and I prioritize how I want to spend my "out" time.
You do get used to it! Your family and friends will start to respect your limits and sometimes it can actually be kind of nice to have to spend an evening snuggled up binge watching Christmas movies. I am extremely thankful for the medications and research that have helped get me to a point where my symptoms are manageable and I am thankful for the doctors who have devoted their life to finding better treatments and hopefully a cure.
Antidote asked me to be a part of a video they released featuring fellow chronic illness bloggers sharing the reasons why they are thankful for medical research. I was very excited to share my candid thoughts and be part of a group of such strong individuals who are fighting each day.
Take a look at the video below and remind yourself why YOU are thankful this holiday season.
If you follow me on social media, you know that Matt and I officially tied the knot a little over a week ago! I wanted to post about it beforehand so badly but was trying hard to keep it under wraps until the day of. We almost made it there until we couldn’t help but to share our excitement. As little rules as people say there are these days around weddings, I have most definitely gotten my fair share of confused glances (and texts) since we let everyone know. I wanted to create a post sharing with everyone WHY we choose to do things this way and to recap the sweet details of our day. Luckily we had our wedding photographer, Madison Short, with us every step of the way to document the best day of our lives.
First things first, I am not pregnant. Everyone keeps asking me this and I have to set the record straight here once and for all. We had always talked about doing a small wedding since we first decided we were going to get married. Of course things escalated and I wanted to have an intimate ceremony but a bigger party as well. Nothing with me is ever simple so instead of deciding on one we decided to do both. As I mentioned in my post before, my health insurance was a big reason for us needing to tie the knot ASAP once we officially knew we were going to get married. The financial incentive for making it official in 2017 was also increased because we bought our house this year. Tax returns, hello. Anyway, we decided that it would be great to have an intimate ceremony with only our immediate family and then we’d have the party/renewal ceremony next summer. That would give us the best of both worlds- getting married, legally, when it makes most sense but still having the time to plan our dream big day.
On a completely unreasonable note, having two ceremonies gave me the opportunity to live out my wedding dreams in multiple seasons. This is ridiculous, I know, but from the start I couldn’t decide between a winter or a summer wedding so now I got both. We set the date strategically in November, before the holidays (and around the health insurance!) so that our immediate family would be able to attend. Matt’s mom suggested that we do it inside of a restaurant so that we wouldn’t have to worry about bad weather. This actually turned out to be amazing that we went with that option because it happened to be the coldest day of the year so far.
LOCATION + FOOD
We chose to have the location be Petit Louis in Columbia, MD, per recommendation from my mom. The food is absolutely amazing and the French theme was chic and right up my alley. We rented out a room that perfectly fit our 17 guests and had room for us to do our mini ceremony right in front of the table. We opted for a 1pm start time so we had our picks from their lunch menu. For food we had stationary cheese plates and a choice of soup or salad to start. The main course had four different French inspired options and for dessert there were three delicious options including my favorites the chocolate mousse and the crème brûlée. They were so accommodating with many attendees being gluten free and one vegan. They made sure to keep all of our glasses forever full with champagne and our wine selections.
One of the reasons why we choose Petit Louis (besides the amazing food and cool décor) was because it is right on Lake Kittamaqundi which is beautiful in the fall. We did our first look out on the pier and had a ton of pictures with an autumn inspired backdrop. Even though it was cold, we couldn’t have asked for a better day.
Décor is a big deal to me. We were lucky because the restaurant already is very beautiful and has a great fall color palette so we were working with a good canvas. My stepmom, Mona, is a florist extraordinaire so she created two beautiful arrangements for the table, my bouquet , and a boutonnière for Matt. The colors were amazing and went so well with the vibe I was going for.
I also really wanted to have some other little details that show our personalities. We had beautiful champagne glasses and a cake cutting set that Matt’s mom got for us which totally added a personal touch and are great to have at home as reminders of our amazing day. We wanted to have a cake just to cut but didn’t need it to be served to everyone (the crème brûlée was indulgent enough) so we went for a tiny gluten free naked cake from Kupcakes and Co. Matt picked out the cake topper and I thought it was such a perfect representation of our little family! If the dogs couldn’t be there in person at least they were on the cake!
MY OUTFIT + DETAILS
It took me longer to decide on my dress for this day than it did my actual, full out wedding dress for July. I wanted to wear something that would wow Matt but I didn’t want it to be similar to my actual wedding dress. I cycled through white dress after white dress but everything was either too summery or just not me. My mom suggested to go for something gold and at first I was not into the idea. When I thought about it more I fell in love with the idea and then this dress. It was comfortable, not insanely pricey, and actually something that I can see myself wearing again. Maybe for an anniversary date night?
Part of what I always pictured for a fall/winter wedding was having some cozy fur to wrap myself in. I found a few from BHLDN that I liked but wasn’t keen on spending the money on one. My mom remembered that she had a fur stole that was passed down from my grandmother. It was absolutely perfect and was a great way to make me feel like my grandma who I was so close with was there to enjoy the day with us. I also wore her pearl bracelet. Something old and something borrowed. Check.
My grandma was such a huge part of my mom and my life so it really was so special that we incorporated some of her pieces. She always loved fashion so much so it really seemed fitting. My mom surprised me the night before the ceremony with a jewelry box and locket with an angel that had photos of both her and my grandma in it. I, of course, was sobbing and so in love with this gift that allows me to keep these two strong women, who I admire, close to my heart.
My other jewelry was from Kate Spade (earrings) and from Kendra Scott (necklace). These were my something new and something blue. My shoes were also something new and definitely were a showstopper in my opinion. Originally I was just going to wear plain nude heels until my best friend Kelli told me that I should get some killer heels and wear them for both events. Any reason to justify a Badgley Mischka purchase and I am sold. I also choose some new perfume and went with Kate Spade’s Walk On Air which is delicate, fresh and now reminds me of how amazing that day was.
Hair and makeup wise I am pretty low maintenance. No really, I swear. I actually did my makeup trial with my friend Shauna the morning of the ceremony. She always does an amazing job and this was actually my first time getting airbrush makeup done professionally. It lasted from 6am when I got it done until literally 10pm when I took it off. I was AMAZED. Worth the money for sure. Lauren at Dakota Salon is my regular hair stylist so she knows exactly how to make my super fine hair look luscious. She threw some clip in extensions in and we went for a soft, romantic look that was different enough from what I am going to have for the July wedding. It was nice because it didn’t feel too overdone but still made me feel absolutely beautiful.
We didn’t want Matt to be too dressed up but we wanted him to look sharp and feel great. Cue J. Crew. His shirt, pants, and tie are all from J. Crew and not only fit him great but are actually things he will wear again (expect a repeat performance at my company Christmas party). It didn’t make sense to invest in a super nice suit for one day when he already was going to have to get another one for July. Since he wears scrubs to work every day it isn’t like he would get great use out of all of these suits! He really liked what he was wearing and it made him feel confident and comfortable which was the most important thing. He invested in some nice dress shoes from Nordstrom Rack because he can wear these for multiple occasions including the wedding in July! At first we were unsure about doing a boutonnière but Mona made a game time decision to include one and I am so happy that she did.
THE LOVEY STUFF
The whole day was absolutely perfect. Being able to say our vows to each other in such an intimate setting was perfect. I didn’t know how nervous I was going to be to speak in front of everyone! I think it was the whole emotions piece of it that gave me butterflies. Matt’s mom performed the ceremony and it was absolutely beautiful. I think pretty much everyone in the room teared up. We decided to do a first look because we spent the night apart from each other and wanted a moment to just be with each other before everything started. I tapped him on the shoulder and he turned around with the most genuine smile I had ever seen. I told him to ‘bend the knee’ because we were joking that I looked like a Khaleesi/ Jon Snow mash up with my long blonde hair and fur. We were cracking up like only us nerdy GOT lovers would.
WHY WE LOVED IT
This way of tying the knot was absolutely perfect for Matt and me. We get the best of both worlds, celebrating in a low key and intimate way but also being able to bring our extended family and friends together to celebrate with food, drinks, music, and a ton of laughs. We wanted to make sure the party for everyone was exactly how we want it to be so we did not want to rush it and move up the timeline of everything. I was so worried that people would be offended that they weren’t invited to this ceremony but that wasn’t a good reason to change my whole plan. We had such a great time just truly celebrating our love and now I feel like we can relax and really let loose when the time comes in July.
Thank you to everyone who made our ceremony so special through planning, attending, and supporting Matt and I through everything. We appreciate everything more than words can even express and we are so blessed to have a team of supportive people in our lives as we begin this new chapter together. As for our family and friends who we didn’t have the chance to celebrate with yet, we look forward to #PickensIDoRoundTwo in July 2018!
I hope you guys enjoyed this recap and I hope this shed some light onto what the heck I have been up to instead of creating content recently. Things will resume to normal now…until round two comes along, and I will continue sharing my planning stories and tips in my new series. I received so many encouraging and congratulatory messages from you all on social media and I appreciate it infinitely. Crohnically Blonde is officially a married woman!
The past three and a half months have been a total whirlwind to say the least. Being engaged is both the happiest and craziest time you can ever imagine. While, in theory, being engaged is between you and your partner, it really ends up being a time where your friends and family rally around you in excitement about what is soon to be the biggest and most exciting commitment of your life.
Now Matt and I have such a funny love story, which you should hear about in our upcoming podcast but we never were going for a fairytale wedding situation… ironic considering the whole Disney proposal thing. Since the day we decided we were going to get married we actually were convinced that we were going to elope on an island somewhere. As things actually started to get real, we realized that we so badly wanted our closest friends and family there and it just wasn't feasible to do the destination thing. So we decided to do a small wedding that was going to be focused on us spending time with the people we loved who were supporting us on our new journey and overall just having a damn good time. That being said we still have about 100 people that we want to celebrate with us which can really add up price wise. Also, as superficial as this sounds, it is the truth; I love décor, I love details, and I like everything in my vision to be just right. This comes with a price tag. Especially after working for a wedding planner in the past, my standards of “the perfect big day” some could say are a bit unrealistic for what cash I actually want to (and can) shell out. With us just buying our first home, my medical bills being sky high, and us wanting to travel the world before starting a family in the next few years, we have been determined to create our perfect big day on a budget that is actually realistic. For the past three months I have been working with Matt and my closest family and friends to plan an event that is going to be budget friendly, beautiful, and so freaking fun.
This is where a lot of my time has been taken up where I would usually be spending it blogging and I was super stressed about my lack on contributions to Crohnically Blonde. Matt (he’s so smart that’s why I love him) suggested that I start sharing my experiences of wedding planning through the blog because there have to be some other people out there that are going through the same thing. Duh. Thank you fiancé. So that is where this series of posts started. I want to share with you guys my planning journey in hopes that it can inspire or help you. Learn from my mistakes and please take my successes and use them for your own big day.
To start off this series I wanted to rewind back to right when Matt popped the question. After the shock and the love and the tears and all of that jazz happened it set in…. I’m engaged, what the heck do I do now?
I definitely thought that and I panicked a little inside. I could not have written this post until I was out of the initial couple month storm of craziness. Now looking back I can organize my thoughts and break down what exactly I would recommend to myself (or any of you) right after you are officially engaged.
First piece of advice….
Don’t immediately share on social media.
I know coming from me who lives and breathes Instagram this may come as a shock. I always thought that I would be Instagramming my ring ASAP as soon as that thing was on my finger. I actually waited until the afternoon the day after to announce our big news. Not a huge gap of time but enough time for us to just enjoy each other and be happy living in the moment. This also gave us a chance to tell our families and our closest friends first so that they would see if before the rest of the internet. Once I posted I was flooded with well wishes online, via text, and by phone call. It was a lot to handle and while I am so thankful, it was nice to have that special time where it was just Matt and I celebrating our commitment. For a short while it is your own sweet, romantic secret.
Figure out if you have a deadline.
Okay, now this one sounds weird but it is really helpful. Is there a certain time that you want to be married by/need to be married by? Example for me: my health insurance was about to be dunzo so I knew the sooner the better. This helped me to craft a timeline of when the actual ceremony needed to happen and helped me narrow down venues. If there was a venue that would be booked two years out, that was going to be a hard no for me (and also most likely out of my price range). If there is a “deadline” per say then that may force you to get a little creative which sometimes can turn out to produce the best events. Knowing that we were setting a date for less than/a year out meant that I had to start booking things almost immediately after returning from our trip (where we got engaged). Now this doesn’t mean to start going crazy and booking every single thing right away but you need to lock down the things that are really important to you so you don’t miss out. That brings me to my next tip.
What are the elements of your wedding that are most important to you and your S.O. For me I know my photographer was #1 and I would take out a second mortgage on my house if I needed to get the one I wanted (just kidding but like am I kidding?). Shout out Maddison Short. Matt’s number one thing was having a really good DJ. Knowing that those two things were so important and “make or breaks” as I like to call them for the big day, we booked these vendors first and actually planned our date around when they were free. We got super lucky in this situation because my sister’s big in her sorority is the wedding photographer I wanted so she was flexible with us and our DJ is one of my college friends who is a professional DJ. Things just worked out here which I couldn’t be more thankful for but seriously if the vendors you want are in high demand (which ours definitely were) you need to lock them down ASAP.
Figure out who your wedding party is going to be and ask them.
I think this is so important to do early on because part of the planning is the fun of bouncing ideas off your girlfriends and also part of the benefit is they help to take some of the stress away. I asked my bridesmaids pretty soon after we got engaged to be in my bridal party and I couldn’t be happier. (There will be a post on how to craft the perfect Bridesmaid Proposal coming up, don’t worry). They will be there to really be invested and help along the way. It also helps to have conversations upfront with members of your bridal party about what you expect from them. For example, my MOH is my sister Amanda. She also happens to be in her last year of college and is totally swamped. Some of my other bridesmaids are getting married, in dental school, and about to graduate high school this year so that can also be stressful and leave little time for participating in the usual "bridal party activities". My best friend Kelly is in my bridal party and while she is not officially the MOH she has taken on a lot of the helpful planning duties. I explained the situation to her from the start and she has been a huge help taking the stress off of my MOH. Being a bridesmaid shouldn’t be a burdening experience so make sure you are communicating and being as open as possible about your expectations the whole way and hearing them out if they say they need some help from other members of the party or your family.
Whether you are on the groom side or the bride side, another perk of asking your party early is that you can start planning the Bachelor/Bachelorette parties early. This means watching out for deals, maybe getting early booking discounts, and planning ahead so the maximum amount of people can come.
Find someone who has been there and done that recently.
This isn’t always and option but I really have found this to be helpful. I have a few friends who have gotten married in the past few years that I have been bouncing ideas off of like crazy. They know those little things that you wouldn’t even think of… I mean, event insurance?! They also have great referrals and I am a firm believer that referrals are the best way to find vendors. There are things that I know from working in the wedding planning business but when you are piecing things together on a way tighter budget, things have to get a little more strategic and creative. That is where utilizing what these friends have done and their experiences can make your life a lot easier. Also, they keep you sane because they know how ridiculous this process can be. It was my married friend that introduced me to Natural Calm, coincidence? I think not.
I am OCD about just about everything so getting organized was one of the first things that I did. I am going to do a whole post on just exactly how I organized things in case you want to use my “model” but however you do it I suggest you make it fun. I picked up a bunch of super cute office supplies from Target to use and went to town. There are so many moving parts to a wedding and more contracts for different vendors than you will ever see in your life so being organized is so crucial. This also helps you to make sure you are on time with payments and not irritating vendors because you realize you forget to cut them that check you owe! Even though I have a Pinterest board (multiple, let’s be real), I also like printing out inspiration photos and collages so I can see everything together. Kind of a waste of paper but that is just how my brain works. There are plenty of actual planners that are specifically for wedding planning which are great if you want a separate book. For me I integrate everything with my Day Designer that I use regularly so I am seeing my upcoming “to do’s” every day and not falling behind. Another tool that I love is the wedding checklist on The Knot. I haven’t exactly followed the timeline of when to get things done (I’ve been early, overachieving AF) but it is a great reminder of little things that I would have definitely forgotten if they weren’t on the list.
My last piece of advice for those few months following your engagement and really up until your day of (and beyond) is...
Don’t forget about your partner.
Things can get really crazy. There is a ton of attention on you from friends and family which is great because they love you and want to celebrate, but don’t forget the reason why you are celebrating. You have to make sure you aren’t getting too caught up in the planning and decision making that you neglect your S.O. When it all comes down to it, the wedding is one, literally one day, of your life. Your marriage is forever so cherish this time that you have before your big day to really remember why you are so excited to spend the rest of your life with this human.
I hope these few tips have helped/will help you all! I wish I would have know all of these tidbits a few months ago! As I said before I can't wait to keep sharing my planning experience with you. You shouldn't just expect the basic bridal blog topics though. I want to touch on some things that maybe aren't the happiest part of the experience because someone needs to put it out there. I'm talking- body image/trying on wedding dresses, managing expectations (and opinions) or those around you, and anxiety of being sick on your big day (chronic illnesses are the ultimate wedding crashers). Of course we will also touch on some lighthearted topics which I'm super excited about to: bridesmaid proposals, choosing a caterer, how to get organized with your planning, and why you don't have to (and probably shouldn't) do everything by the book.
As always, if there is anything that you are excited to hear about, shoot me and email or message on Instagram and I will make sure to add it to a post soon.
In light of the recent, devastating hurricane I have teamed up to help promote Knack's efforts to Uplift Houston and give back to the community. There are endless families and individuals that are displaced, waiting in shelters to rebuild their lives, and mourning the loss of what they once called their home. Knack is doing what they can to give back and ease the pain of those suffering. By purchasing one of their three Uplift Houston gift boxes, they will donate an identical box to a hurricane survivor in need or provide a monetary donation of equal value to a shelter.
I think this is such a cool way to donate and honestly it is such an easy way to make an impact. The boxes range from $81- $136 and not only are you donating but you are also getting a box for yourself. I know that we shouldn't need personal incentives to help our fellow humans who are struggling but this is a great way to take advantage of a special gift and give it to someone special who is close to you. In times like this where people have lost their loved ones and are struggling through serious hardships, it is so important that we take an extra moment to appreciate those close to us.
Knack in and of itself is an amazing brand that focuses on lifting up others and conveying how much you care in the perfect way. I love what they are doing for our friends down in Houston so I am urging you to get involved!
The link to the boxes is HERE!
Let me know which box you choose to send!
Crohnically Blonde is sending lots of love and light to those impacted by Hurricane Harvey and those who are in the path of Hurricane Irma.
I have this whole motto where my blog is about kicking chronic illness's ass. Usually I think I am pretty good at it. But recently, I have been getting my ass kicked. I hate admitting that because that's not who I am. I am not someone who spends a long weekend unproductively on the couch. I am not someone who lets physical defeat get me down mentally. But you know what, I am realizing that maybe that has to be a part of who I am now. I exhaust so much mental energy being upset that I am "not productive" or "I'm shitty because I didn't make it to the gym". I am so damn hard on myself. But it is against my nature not to be.
I also get frustrated REALLY easily when things are not in my control or I can't solve a problem. A blessing and a curse I supposed. Recently, a lot has been out of my control. My symptoms have escalated and I am having more bad days than good. The thing is, it isn't my gastro effects of Crohn's that are crippling me from living a normal life. It is the fatigue, joint aches, muscle pain and all of this is just getting worse. I am so thankful that my Remicade has definitely helped my gastrointestinal issues but I can't help but wondering, what else is going on? There has to be something else. There is no physically possible way that a 26 year old should feel this way.
I have went through the motions, gotten blood work done, MRIs, CT scans, sonograms. Somehow I am a perfect specimen of a human on paper now. But my body is telling me otherwise. I thought, maybe I just need to go to the gym more and be more active and my joint pain will go away. Wrong. I made it 30 minutes into a gentle yoga class before my wrists were swollen my knees were aching and my one knee actually gave out when walking down the stairs when I got home. THIS IS RIDICULOUS. Coming from someone who used to frequent 90 minute intense hot yoga classes, frequented other classes at my local gym, and have a serious collection of Piyo programs that I loved to do at home, this was a wake up call. Even during periods of time where I wasn't working out as frequently I could drop in for a HIIT class and hold my own, and now I can't even make it through a damn gentle flow yoga class?!
I scoured through my blood work to see if there were any signs of something that maybe my doctor was missing when she told me everything was "fine". I also in a fit of range sent her a probably not so nice message explaining that "fine" is not what I would use to describe my situation right now. I am not blind to the fact that with one autoimmune often comes others. Many doctors have speculated there is something else that is going on behind the scenes but they have never been able to pinpoint it. I have a recommendation to go see a Rheumatologist which I supposed I should but somehow I feel like its just another dead end. I have been frantically researching my symptoms (I'm long past being concerned about when WebMD says I'm on the brink of death), and have found some theories that I will share as I go through this journey of, hopefully, diagnosing what else is going on. I am not only going to see the recommended Rheumatologist but also a specific Lyme literate doctor as well so I can make sure I am covering all bases.
I have some theories of my own which I don't want to share until I am sure, but let this serve as another example of why taking control of your own health and doing your own research is so crucial. You have to be your own advocate.
I will make sure to keep you guys along on this journey with me and as always I appreciate anything that you guys have to say as far as questions or comments. If you have been in this similar situations and have stories of your diagnosis I would LOVE to hear those stories and pieces of advice as well.
I do also have to close this post out with addressing the mental impact that this whole thing can have. It can literally make you feel crazy because on paper you seem fine but you aren't! People start to act like it is all in your head. But it isn't. I know that, other Spoonies know that, and what has helped me so much in staying sane through this is leaning on the online support community and hearing about other people's similar situations. Us chronic illness fighters have to stick together and support each other, which comes back to the reason why I started Crohnically Blonde in the first place.
Blonde babe. Maryland native. Crohn's crushing puppy mother to two sweet rescues.