IVF for PGD: Egg retrieval and genetic testing results

6to10cells

Since my last post, we froze some embryos, ran the SportingLife 10K and redecorated our bedroom. For now, I’m back with the update on our IVF cycle.

In my last IVF update, I shared that I was getting set to take the trigger shot and go in for the egg retrieval. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the egg retrieval was no big deal. I was given Fentanyl through an IV and then went in for the procedure. I was awake but slightly foggy. I didn’t feel much pain, just a bit of discomfort.

Leading up to the egg retrieval, we were told that we could expect getting around 10 eggs but they’d grab whatever they could. They managed to find 17! Knowing that they’d drop off at high rates, it felt good to start with that higher number. Every morning, the embryologist would give me a call with an update. It was kind of fun to wait for this call around 10 AM everyday. The downside is that they’re never going to call with an update that you’ve miraculously gotten more, you just hope they don’t drop off in large numbers.

The afternoon of the retrieval, they fertilized the eggs, and the next day I received a call that 16/17 of the eggs were mature, and 13/16 were successfully fertilized. By Day 2, there were 12/13. Those 12/13 also made it to Day 3. There was no update on Day 4. Since we were doing IVF for PGD, the objective was to biopsy and test Day 5 or 6 blastocysts. The number of fertilized eggs that make it to that stage can be pretty low, but I had youth on my side, so we were hopeful! The encouraging part is that those that make it to Day 5 or 6 are much more likely to result in successful pregnancy further down the line. It was still a bit of a bummer when these little tiny, 2-6 cell things stopped doing their cell division thing.

On Day 5, 5/12 were ready to be biopsied and on Day 6, 3/7 were biopsied. So of our initial 17 eggs, 13 were fertilized, and 8 made it to biopsy. The biopsy samples were sent off to a lab in the US, where they’d developed tests specific to us using genetic samples from Mike, me and my dad to screen for the BRCA 1 gene mutation that my mom passed on to me.

Each little blastocyst had a 50% chance of being positive for BRCA 1 mutation. On top of screening for BRCA 1, we also did PGS, which screens for a whole bunch of chromosomal abnormalities, including Down’s Syndrome. Since embryos with chromosomal abnormalities usually won’t result in a successful pregnancy, the idea was to find BRCA negative embryos that were also chromosomally normal. On average, they expect to detect chromosomal abnormalities among about 40% of those tested, with that risk increasing with age. Once you find out these stats…how few fertilized eggs make it past the first few days, even without any fertility issues, it’s a wonder that anyone manages to get pregnant at all. But with 7+ billion people on earth, I guess it somehow works out!

We had to wait about 2 weeks to get the PGD genetic testing results, and during that period I felt curious but not stressed or nervous. I had been feeling a bit stressed out before, wondering how many would make it to Day 5 or 6. If we didn’t have many, we’d have to consider doing an additional cycle first, since the cost of genetic testing is so high, so it makes sense to test as many as possible at once. So that’s the question I was mostly going back and forth on.

When we found out we had 8, we decided we were cool with sending those off for testing without getting another batch. Based on the 40% and 50%, I was anticipating that we’d find out there were 1-3 healthy (BRCA negative + chromosomally good) embryos depending on how much overlap there was between those two risks. So I was pretty happy when I got the call that we had 4. So now our potential future babies are chilling in the freezer. My friend pointed out that they’re quadruplets since technically they were all conceived at the same time! Haha. I bet they’re so cute with all their tiny cells.

Oh, by the way, IVF helped me quit coffee! On the day of my egg retrieval, I wasn’t allowed to eat or drink anything, including my morning coffee. Thanks to the Fentanyl they gave me, I didn’t experience the usual coffee withdrawal headache and just decided to go with it and haven’t had a drop of caffeine since (over 3 weeks now!). Want to quit coffee? Try Fentanyl. Just kidding. Please don’t.

IVF for PGD: Cycle protocol and update

Since I’ve been doing my own share of Googling other people’s IVF experiences over the last several weeks, I think it’s time that I document my protocol and experience with my current IVF cycle.

We’re doing IVF for PGD (pre-implantation genetic diagnosis) to screen embryos for the BRCA gene mutation. I inherited this gene mutation from my mom, and each of my eggs is 50% likely to be positive, too. BRCA 1 radically increases the risk of ovarian and breast cancer, so while I’m doing what I can to reduce my own cancer risks, we decided to pursue this option to try to avoid passing this on further. (Read more about our decision HERE)

So, my IVF protocol involved taking a birth control pill for 2 weeks. This ensures that my ovaries aren’t doing anything before we get started. After those two weeks, I started on Gonal F to stimulate follicle growth. I was to do that for 6 days before adding in Luveris and Cetrotide.

Ok, I actually totally messed up and thought I was supposed to take Luveris + Cetrotide instead of Gonal F instead of in addition to Gonal F. The next morning at my appointment, I was so devastated when I found out that I’d missed a dose because I was worried everything had been ruined and my cycle would be canceled. Fortunately, the nurse explained that my follicles had still grown so all was ok. Of all the meds to miss, the Gonal F was the least tragic at that point. So phew! I still was anxious about it for the rest of the day and just so upset that with all the uncertainty that already exists with this process even when you do everything 100% correctly, I hated to think an innocent mistake could mess up a cycle. When a cycle runs many thousands of dollars, eeek!IVF for PGD

Anyway, from then on I took them together. Luveris works with the Gonal F to stimulate follicle growth and the Cetrotide prevents ovulation to keep all those eggs up in there until they’re mature enough for retrieval. While Gonal F comes in an easy-to-use pen, the others required mixing dilutants and powders and swapping needles and instructions with 17 steps. I got the hang of it though and am now pretty much a doctor 😉

I’ve had to go to early morning monitoring appointments every couple days for ultrasounds and blood work. I’m so lucky that the clinic is a 5 minute walk from my office. I know there are other ladies that drive in from 2 hours away, and probably even further. With appointments between 7 and 8am every day or two, I really lucked out with being so close by!

My appointments showed that I had a decent number of follicles in each ovary and they were growing steadily although slightly slower than expected. This just meant that I had to “stim” longer (10 days total).

After so many injections, my belly is now feeling quite tender, but otherwise my only symptom has been major bloating, which results from big swollen ovaries full of growing follicles. The bloating started about 4 days in and has only gotten worse. I constantly feel like I’ve eaten a huge meal, and feel like I’m waddling around. I even have to undo my pants!

IVF for PGD

I’m also a bit more irritable, which isn’t surprising with the hormones flooding my system. Hearing people (Mike) making a noise while yawning has suddenly become the #1 most annoying thing ever. I have no idea why this of all things nearly triggers rage within me. So random. Fortunately I’ve managed to keep myself in check since I know that’s hormone-related craziness. Ok, so maybe I’ve become very irritable, but only a bit more than normal 😉 Otherwise I’ve been going about with business as usual for the most part. I’ve stopped running at my doctor’s recommendation, since swollen ovaries + vigorous activity can lead to twisted ovaries, which I guess is as awful as it sounds. I’ve been walking/waddling, but avoiding doing any more than that.

Tonight I’ll be taking Ovidrel to trigger ovulation, and then my eggs will be ready for harvesting in a couple days. I’m so happy that I only need to take one injection tonight instead of 3.

Since we’re doing IVF for PGD to try to find our healthiest, BRCA- embryos, it really is a numbers game and kind of crazy to consider how they drop off at each stage. Right now it looks like I have at least 10 good follicles, maybe more. Hopefully eggs can be retrieved from all of them. Even then, who knows if we’ll end up with any or one or two or more at the end. It goes something like: # follicles > # of eggs retrieved > # of eggs fertilized > # of embryos that grow into blastocysts > # of embryos that are BRCA- and chromosomally normal. And that still doesn’t guarantee anything when it comes to the success of the later frozen embryo transfer. For now I’m hoping for a successful egg retrieval in a few days and for the rest we will have to wait and see!

Redecorating: Bedroom – BEFORE

Staying within the lines #colour #color #colouring #coloring #colouringbook #coloringbook

A photo posted by @homeatsix on


I haven’t posted in ages because I have no idea what I want to blog about. I still have plenty of wedding-related things, but I don’t want to get tooooo boring. I haven’t been feeling creative in the kitchen, and the most crafting I’ve been doing is colouring. I don’t want a whole other month to go by without a blog post, so I’m back with just a little life update.

Lately life has been about two things. Our living situation and IVF. I’ll do an IVF update another time.

I’ve been living in our current apartment for over 6 years now, and Mike moved in 3 years ago, and we’d been itching to move for a while. All last year we were busy with wedding planning, so we figured we’d wait until that was over with before trying to find a new place. We considered buying something for a while, but decided that we weren’t ready to move out of the city yet, and with shacks going for millions now, we ruled that out pretty quickly. But like housing prices, rent in the city is CRAZY!

I looked and looked and since we can’t find anything else that would give us the same space for any less than double our current rent, we’ve decided to stay put for now. It’s not the worst thing in the world since we do love our neighbourhood and we do have more room and storage than most other digs in the city.

To make the best of it, we’ve decided to give our apartment an update. We’re getting on top of some much needed repairs, putting up a fresh coat of paint, and swapping out some of our furniture.

The rooms we’re making changes to now are the kitchen, living room and bedroom. We’re leaving our home gym and Mike’s office alone for now. While we’re kind of trying to tackle it all at once, we’re hoping to have the bedroom done first. Ceiling are being repaired tomorrow and painting is happening this week.

Before Mike moved in, I had the girliest room, so we painted the walls and put up our DIY headboard, but other than that it was just sort of a mash up of things. SO BROWN! We were kind of going for a cabin/cottage vibe, with the paddles on the wall and snowshoes above the bed, but we never really got around to fully executing the look. With my vanity taking most of the room on my side, and Mike’s large dresser on the other, and Josie’s cat tree crammed at the foot of our bed (because that’s her fav spot and we can’t deny her), our room has never been that peaceful retreat we want.

bedroom-before

BEFORE: Bye-bye DIY headboard and our weird cabin-y décor (It doesn’t normally look so disastrous…we’d started tearing it apart before it occurred to me to take a ‘before’ photo!)

So Step 1: Get rid of all our things.

bedroom-before

BEFORE: My old vanity

I want SIMPLE, SOFT, LIGHT. We picked out paint this weekend and we’re going with the lightest gray…basically off-white, so I hope that brightens the room up. I think I am truly a minimalist at heart, but SUCH a maximalist in practice. I just love all my things and have a hard time not having everything out on display all at once. I’ve been working on this over the last few months and really trying to pare down and de-clutter. Spaces don’t all need to be filled!

josie on her tree

Don’t know if I can kick Josie (and her tree) out of the bedroom b/c isn’t this the cutest thing to wake up to??

Some of my Pinspiration:

bedroom-inspiration-2 bedroom-inspiration

Do’s and Don’ts: Bridal Party Thank You Gifts

Your girls are there for you for all the excitement, stress and planning leading up to your wedding, and you might have gone a little Bridezilla on them a time or two.

A thoughtful gift can is a nice way to communicate your gratitude for their participation in the wedding, so consider these Do’s and Don’ts when it comes to shopping for your bridal party Thank You gifts!

Do's and Don't for Bridesmaids Gifts[DIY beauty box]

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Click here for details. 

Do’s and Don’ts: Bridal Party Thank You Gifts

DON’T gift your bridal party anything that is emblazoned with your wedding details. No one wants to carry around a tote with your wedding monogram, and no one needs a beer koozie with your wedding date.

DON’T gift something they will only use for the wedding day. That robe embroidered with “Bridesmaid” will look really cute in your getting-ready photos, but it’s not very meaningful as a gift if they can’t get any use of it after.

Along those same lines, if you choose to pay for your bridesmaid’s dresses, nails, hair or makeup, that is lovely but that is not a gift. If you want them to look a particular way for your wedding, that is for you, not them.

I did include the jewelry for my bridesmaids in their gifts, but I also added in a piece that wasn’t for the wedding day, and I hope the jewelry is something that they like and will wear after the wedding, too.

I couldn't tie the knot without you bridesmaid gift[Bridesmaid earrings]

DON’T go overboard. Elaborate gifts aren’t necessary. Your bridal party might have shelled out a ton of cash related to your wedding, included expenses associated with showers, bachelorette parties, clothing, transportation and hotels, and that’s something to be mindful of. But your gift is not meant to pay them back for their involvement. Your gift is meant to say Thank You and to communicate your genuine gratitude.

DO consider your budget. When planning your wedding budget, make sure to include a budget line for bridal party Thank You gifts. Set a budget that makes sense within your overall wedding budget, and stick to it. Gifts valued at $50 to $150 will generally be appropriate. (On a tight budget? These gifts are under $40!)

DO consider your circle. If your friend recently gifted beach towels, your gift of Tiffany bangles might make them feel bad, and that’s the last thing you want to do with a Thank You gift.

bridesmaid gifts name bracelets[Personalized name bracelets]

DO consider what will mean most to your bridesmaids. I wrote above that paying for your girls’ dresses isn’t a gift, since it’s for your wedding. But for a cash-strapped bridesmaid, covering that expense might be more meaningful than whatever little tchotchke you’d give them. The last thing you want is your girl to open her personalized, leather-bound day planner, and think, “ok, that’s nice, but I would rather have cash back in my pocket!” If you decide to go that route, I think it’s totally fine to then give a small gift like a bottle of wine and a sincere Thank You card.

DO consider individualized gifts. One idea is to buy Thank You gifts as if you were buying birthday gifts, and tailor the gifts to suit each persons likes. While no one wants a tote with your name on it, gifts with their monograms are super cute. Initial necklaces are one of my fav gift go-to’s (like this in yellow gold).

DO consider the gift wrap. Even if you didn’t come up with the world’s greatest bridal party Thank You gift, you can still make it look super fun by packaging it creatively. Not very creative? Just write their names on simple paper bags using a metallic sharpie!

diy bridesmaids gift bags

DO include a Thank You card. Thank your bridesmaids and be specific. Did one of your girls go above and beyond in helping to plan your bachelorette party? Was she up all night addressing envelopes? Put it in a card.

Wedding Paper Divas - Thank You Cards

Wedding Paper Divas is giving away 10 FREE Thank You cards for their Anniversary Sale, so this is a great opportunity to stock up on those Thank You cards! Click here to get yours and enter the Promo Code: 10Years to get 10 FREE cards.

Have you given or received any great bridesmaid gifts? Share your ideas in the comments!

Tips for Creating a Wedding Dessert Table

As we started the planning process for our New Year’s Eve wedding, there was one thing we definitely knew we wanted. Both of us love sweets (for better or for worse) and we knew we wanted to have an insane wedding dessert table.

Mike’s mom lovingly baked most of the treats for our table. (Thank you!) We kept an eye on prices over the months leading up to the wedding, and knew where to shop for the best deals. We used dishes we already owned and scoured thrift stores for candy jars, cake plates and serving platters. By shopping sales we were able to keep the cost of our dessert table to less than the per person dessert price offered by our caterer even though we stocked our dessert table with enough to feed twice as many guests.

Sweets table - tips for setting up an insane treat table for your wedding
sweet & salty popcorn for a late night wedding dessert snack

Create levels:

A variety of heights is the key to making your wedding dessert table really stand out.

  • Use cake stands and jars of different heights and sizes.
  • Create platforms. Place several boxes underneath a table cloth, or wrap them in gift wrap that matches your theme.
  • Accessorize your table with props such as tall candle holders or vases to add visual interest.

tips for setting up a wedding dessert bar

Stick to a theme:

Give your wedding dessert table a cohesive look by tying it in with the rest of your wedding decor. There are a variety of ways to do this without resorting to only including candy in your wedding colours.

  • Match the table linens to your decor, and then tie coordinating ribbons around candy jars and cake stands.
  • Create a backdrop. Hang coordinating streamers or banners to make your dessert table a real focal point.
  • Be consistent with the styles and colours of your serving platters. Stick to only white or clear glass. We kept to our metallic New Year’s Eve theme and used foil doilies to pull the look together.
  • Use flags on toothpicks or skewers to decorate desserts and tie in your wedding colours and theme.

mini oreo wedding cake - tips for a wedding dessert table

tiny donuts for a wedding dessert table

Easy-to-serve:

If your guests are going to be serving themselves at your dessert buffet, make sure that treats are easy to reach and eat.

  • Provide the right utensils. Make sure to have tongs, scoops, and knives for each dessert.
  • If you’re serving up gooey fudge bars or fresh-cut fruit, make sure to have dessert plates and not just napkins for your guests.
  • If your table is too wide, you might have your guests leaning over it to get to the treats at the back. Desserts shouldn’t be placed more that 2 or 3 deep.
  • If you’re placing candles or flowers on the table, make sure your guests won’t be reaching over them to get to that brownie to avoid burns or spills.
  • Rather than slicing into a full-sized pie, individual pies or tarts are easier for your guests to select. Cake pops instead of cake slices are cute and easy to handle.
  • Keep things pretty, but accessible. Guests might be hesitant to pick desserts out of an intricate arrangement. You don’t want your guests wondering if that beautiful chocolate tower is just for decoration, so a little bit of purposeful disorganization can welcome your guests to dig in.
  • Use candy jars with wide openings to make the candy easier to scoop.

fererro rocher tower for wedding dessert table

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Snap a #selfie: A plugged in wedding (& a printable to share your Instagram wedding hashtag!)

Plugged in wedding! Share your wedding #hashtagPlugged in wedding! Share your wedding #hashtag

I love sharing moments on instagram (follow me!), so an unplugged wedding definitely wasn’t my style. In fact, I wanted to encourage our wedding guests to snap and share as much as possible! Even with our two photographers running around, I knew our guests would capture some special moments.

Our venue had several TV monitors, so we livestreamed our Instagram wedding hashtag all night. Any pictures uploaded to social media with our #hashtag would appear up on the TVs moments later.

printable instagram signs to get your wedding guests hashtagging your #wedding

We used a livestreaming platform called ii.do. A couple weeks before the wedding, we pre-loaded a whole bunch of photos and tagged them with our Instagram wedding hashtag, so that it served as a slideshow at the same time. We had a mix of childhood photos, photos of the two of us, and photos with our friends and family. Then as our guests uploaded their photos with out wedding #hashtag, those photos were added to the livestream.

Our guests used our Instagram wedding hashtag to shareselfies, photos of us, little details from food to decor and even a video of our first dance! After the wedding, the ii.do website made it easy to download everything that had been shared with our Instagram wedding hashtag. It was really fun to look back on all the photos our guests shared, and to see how much fun they had at our wedding.

Make sure to snap a wedding selfie

encourage wedding guests to share their photos on instagram with a wedding hashtag!

encourage wedding guests to share their photos on instagram with a wedding hashtag!

Get plugged in

  • Choose a unique Instagram wedding hashtag, so that you don’t find other people’s photos in the mix. Make sure to do a search before your share!
  • Keep your hashtag simple and avoid easily misspelled words.
  • Make sure your hashtag doesn’t contain any spaces or symbols or it won’t work.
  • If you’re pre-loading your Instagram wedding hashtag like we did, create a separate Instagram account so that you don’t flood your followers’ feeds with your childhood photos.
  • #Hashtag those special moments leading up to the wedding, too, including getting ready that morning (but don’t give too much away!)
  • Have a designated Instagrammer. As the bride, I didn’t want to be on my phone all night, so I asked my sister to snap away.

encourage wedding guests to share their photos on instagram with a wedding hashtag!

Share your #hashtag

To encourage our guests to share their photos on social media, I created little signs for each guest table.

I’d love to share them with you, too! You’ll just have to fill in your own wedding #hashtag, print on card stock, cut, and fold! Print as many as you like and place them on seats for the ceremony, up on the bar, or on each guest table at the reception, like I did.

Click here to download: Wedding Instagram Signs

rosehill venue lounge toronto wedding venue Continue Reading

Cruising with a nut allergy: Our Royal Carribean cruise experience

Cruising with a nut allergy - tips for safe travels
For someone with a severe food allergy, there are few scenarios scarier than experiencing an allergic reaction in the middle of the ocean, many miles and hours away from shore. Since an anaphylactic  reaction can lead to death in only minutes, we were obviously concerned about taking our first cruise with Royal Caribbean.

Since this was our first and only cruise experience, I can’t speak to any other ships or cruise-lines, so here I’m going to share some details of how we safely navigated a peanut allergy at sea on our Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas cruise.

I previously wrote about our challenges with travelling France with a peanut allergy, and overall, I’d say that cruising with a nut allergy was actually much easier.

When we were booking our cruise, we were informed that Royal Caribbean ships aren’t nut-free, but they take allergies very seriously. Mike’s nut allergy was noted on our reservation and included on our booking confirmation. That was a good sign!

chicken-marsala

Dining rooms

The first evening when we showed up for dinner, we were very pleased that the host was immediately aware of the allergy when our reservation came up on the system upon check in. Once we were seated, a chef and supervisor came to speak to us and confirmed the nature of the allergy and we asked some questions that assured us that they had a good understanding of the allergy and cross-contamination.

Apparently Oasis of the Seas serves up 30-40,000 meals per day in its dining rooms, so you can imagine that there’s a huge risk of cross-contamination. In order to ensure that our meals were prepared safely, using clean utensils and with safe ingredients, we placed our dinner orders a day in advance. This ticket would then go in with a big *Peanut Allergy* note, which ensured that the meal was prepared safely. Because of changes in plans, we did sometimes order day-of, but that tended to cause some delays. By ordering in advance, we were advised of the safest meals and accommodations were made such as leaving nuts off a salad or sauce off a meal.

lamb_royal_caribbean

Fortunately, it was clear that the dining room staff had received great training and were aware of cross-contamination risks. However, some were more experienced or better informed than others. While the person serving our meal would usually already know about the allergy, a different server coming around with bread might not.

Stay Safe Tip: Go with the traditional dining option and select a regular time. You’ll have the same server and the same supervisor who will become familiar with your allergy (as opposed to ‘My Time’ flex-time dining where you may end up with different tables and staff). Even so, remind the waitstaff of the allergy both when placing the order, and when your food is served.

lobster-dinner-cruise

Buffets

For the first half of the cruise, I was feeling really great about the fact that I hadn’t seen any dishes that actually contained peanuts at the buffet. There were a few dishes with other nuts, but I was starting to think that they didn’t use peanuts at all. But then the Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce appeared. And then the bowl of peanuts at the salad bar. Big reminder: Never assume!

When we hit the buffet, we always informed the host at the entrance of the allergy and they would inform the supervisor, who would then go get a chef. Yes, it was sometimes annoying to wait for this all to happen, but better safe than dead, right?

taco-buffet-cruise-royal-caribbean

The chef would then take us on a tour of the buffet and would let us know which dishes were definitely safe and which to avoid.

When I saw the aforementioned peanut sauce, I grilled the chef on whether precautions were taken and he assured me that it was prepared very separately from the other dishes.

Stay Safe Tip: Ask for a chef to give you a tour. Every time. On a boat in the middle of the ocean is not the time to take risks.

Desserts

Desserts are usually the riskiest food when it comes to nut allergies since they’re commonly used and often hidden. In the dining room, instead of ordering off the menu, the waiter usually brought out an assortment of safe desserts, so that was no problem. Mike really enjoyed getting to eat a variety desserts, since it’s something he usually has to skip when we go out to restaurants.

Mike generally avoided desserts from the buffets though. We noticed that some desserts at the buffets would be labeled with a “contains nuts” warning, but I bit into a bar that didn’t have that warning only to find that it was filled with peanut butter. No big deal for me, but Mike can’t afford to take those sorts of gambles. While the chef did identify some nut-free options, the risk for cross-contamination seemed high.

Stay Safe Tip: Ask for the peanut-free snacks and desserts. There’s a secret stash of pre-packaged safe treats!

berry-crumble

Other guests

On a ship with 6,000 other people, you’re bound to find yourself next to someone who is snacking on a bag of peanuts or chomping on a Snickers bar. Tables can end up smeared with peanut butter, and you never know where oily hands have been.

Stay Safe Tip: Wash you hands, and do it well and do it often. The hand sanitizer pumps all over the ship are great for preventing transmission of viruses, but hand sanitizer can’t kill peanut proteins.

Finally, we always made sure to have a 2 Epi-Pens on hand at all times, and we knew where the medical center was. Apparently they’re equipped to handle pretty much anything except surgery, which is comforting, but fortunately we didn’t need to test that out!

Please comment and let me know your experiences with cruising with food allergies!

Saying ‘I do': Braving the cold for a winter wedding

Faux furs for the bridesmaids for a winter wedding

We’re having unseasonably mild temperatures currently in Toronto (and I am loving it!), but unfortunately we weren’t so lucky back on December 31st when we braved the frigid temps for our ‘first look’ and wedding party portraits. Brrr!

staying warm in a winter wedding

Once all the details were planned for our wedding day, the only thing stressing me out was the weather. Was it going to be unbearably cold? Was slush and salt going to ruin my dress? Was a snowstorm going to prevent guests from making it?

I was watching the forecast obsessively. While a snow storm hit earlier in the week, a couple days of rain washed away the snow and our wedding day was clear, but bitterly cold. We were just thankful that the roads were good for all our guests making the trip.

When we decided to have a winter wedding, I had absolutely no intention of taking any outdoor photos. I’m a huge wimp when it comes to the cold, and was sure that we could take perfectly lovely photos inside. Our photographers, however, insisted that we take wedding party photos outside for the natural light. I was easily persuaded, since we were meeting in the summer and I’d temporarily forgotten how much I hate the cold.

People kept saying how some snow would look so nice in pictures, and I was like, “NO THANKS!” Since we took our photos before the ceremony, I just imagined trudging down the aisle afterwards in a soggy, dirty gown. When the sidewalks were clear that morning, I definitely sighed with relief.

staying warm in a winter wedding

A friend gave me the white shawl that I wore, and my sister and I found the other (faux) furs at thrift stores over the span of a few months. We kept our eyes out for little fur jackets that were shorter in length which gave a more modern look than the many longer coats that were on the racks and didn’t worry about matching colours. We ended up with a nice mix though, I think. At $20-30 each, they were so much less expensive than the shawls I was seeing in stores, and they kept us all a bit warmer, too.

winter wedding fur jackets

I felt awful for my girls in their short dresses (which they wanted, btw, so I didn’t feel entirely responsible), but I didn’t hear a whimper of complaint from any of them. The boys were a bit better off in their tuxes, but fingers didn’t stay out of pockets for long and because us girls ran a bit late, they were already freezing by the time we arrived. Thermoses of hot chocolate and coffee were a big help.

staying warm in a winter wedding

To be perfectly honest, in hindsight, I do wish I’d gone with my initial instinct and just found a good indoor photo site instead. It was cold, and a little bit miserable, and I feel that because of that, we didn’t even really get the variety of shots we would have liked. While we did get some lovely photos, there are many with strained smiles and pink noses that betray just how cold we were.

Were you a winter bride? How did you keep warm?

Photography: Joseph and Jaime Weddings // Location: University of Toronto // Hair: Monica Le // Makeup: Fiona Man

Honeymoon Highlights: Eastern Caribbean Cruise

Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas Honeymoon Cruise

Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas Honeymoon Cruise

We’re back from our honeymoon, so I’m checking in to share some highlights! We took a 7-day Eastern Caribbean cruise with Royal Caribbean on their completely insane Oasis of the Seas ship. We’d never done a cruise before, but people kept recommending that we give it a try.

Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas Honeymoon Cruise

The ship was 16 decks of craziness with non-stop entertainment, ridiculous amounts of food, and six thousand other people.

Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas Honeymoon Cruise

There were rock climbing walls, surf simulators,  a park, casino, skating rink and carousel. We watched shows with dancers and acrobats, divers and aerialists and The Martian in 3D.

mini-putt-cruise Continue Reading

The must-have item for every bride: my Etsy ring dish favourites

There’s no worse feeling that realizing you’ve misplaced your engagement or wedding ring! The key to avoiding that dreaded moment is to have a few dedicated spots to place your rings whenever you need to take them off. That way you’ll only have a few places to check when you realize you aren’t wearing your rings…and that won’t be under the fridge or in between the couch cushions!

When we got engaged, my sister gifted me this really cute ring dish customized with our initials that she purchase on Etsy. It’s great to have a safe place to put my ring when I’m cleaning, applying lotion or getting my hands dirty.

ring dish

[Zinnia Designs]

I’ve collected some of my favourites in this Etsy ring dish round-up. There are so many cute options, I might have to pick one up for every room!

The prettiest little watercolour dishes.

watercolour ring dishes

[Susan D Gordon]

This dish would be a cute gift for a new Mrs.

Mrs ring dish

[Pearls and Pennies] Continue Reading