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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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?
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 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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The ship was 16 decks of craziness with non-stop entertainment, ridiculous amounts of food, and six thousand other people.
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.
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.
Wedding planning is a very exciting time, but sometimes it can be pretty stressful, too. There are just so many details to take care of from booking your venue, caterer and DJ to selecting stationary, linens and hors d’oeuvres to arranging transportation, playlists and flowers. And it all needs to be done on a timeline. Some brides-to-be are surprised when they find out that they should be ordering their wedding dress about 8 months before the big day, or don’t realize that sending invitations out too early can actually result in fewer RSVPs making it back.
Getting things done early has always been my way of avoiding the worst of the last-minute stress, and it’s something that definitely helped when it came to wedding planning. That’s not to say that we weren’t scrambling to the very last minute, because we definitely were, but I did manage to get most of the bigger things out of the way ahead of time, so that I was better able to enjoy the wedding planning experience.
When it came to wedding planning, some parts were really fun (crafting!), while others were not (negotiating with vendors). But it all needed to get done. My friend, Julie, gifted me the Moleskine Wedding Journal. Not only is this wedding planning journal super cute, but it’s the perfect place to keep track of all your wedding details and inspiration, and maybe practice your new signature over and over, too.
We DIY-ed a lot of our wedding, so there were lots of tiny details that needed to be considered and could easily be forgotten. This planner has a handy 12-month planning timeline, so you can make sure you’re on track. The Moleskine Wedding Journal is organized into sections where you can record details from meetings with vendors, observations from venue site visits, music selections and there’s a handy pocket to tuck receipts and business cards. Before we met with vendors, I filled in the appropriate page with their information including names and contact info, and then I wrote out the questions I had for them to make sure I didn’t forget anything. When meeting with our caterer, it was really helpful to be able to flip back to my notes from our meeting at the venue where I had taken down table dimensions and the sizes of the dinner plates.
There were a few moments during the year of wedding planning that I found myself getting overwhelmed, but it always helped to get my thoughts, questions and lists of things that I still needed to do/buy/make down on paper, and my Moleskine Wedding Journal was the perfect way to keep it all organized.
Do you find yourself getting sick after times of stress? While I was in school, I’d inevitably get sick right after exams were over. My body would just give up in exhaustion and I’d succumb to sickness. Leading up to the wedding, I was worried about getting sick. It seemed like everyone around me was coming down with something, and I was experiencing a lot of stress at work, and with the wedding planning, of course.
I took a week off work for the holidays before the wedding, and I was concerned that once I had that opportunity to slow down, that I would be hit by my usual post-stress sickness. I definitely didn’t want to be sick on my wedding day, so I made an extra effort to wash my hands frequently, I kept my distance from anyone that was coughing or sniffling, and I gave my immune system an extra boost with these natural immunity boosters.
Flu-fighting green tea
This flu-fighting green tea is packed full of flu-busting ingredients and tastes delicious. There’s green tea to boost the immune system, turmeric for its anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties, lemon for vitamin C and to support detoxification, ginger for nausea, cayenne pepper to clear out respiratory passages and honey for sweetness.
Add ingredients, except honey, to a tea pot infuser basket and add boiled water. Allow to steep for 2-3 minutes, add honey and enjoy.
A well-nourished body is so much more equipped to fight off any bugs, so I make sure to double my dose of green smoothies. Dark leafy greens are a great source of vitamin C. I add extra ginger for it’s antimicrobial properties. Click for my favourite Low-Sugar Green Smoothie recipe.
Oil of oregano
Mike introduced me to oil of oregano early on in our relationship, and now I totally swear by it. When I wake up with a sore throat or feel the slightest bit of sickness coming on, I turn to oil of oregano and more often than not it totally nips it in the bud.
Oil of oregano can be taken as a drop under the tongue, but the stuff can be pretty harsh, so I prefer to take a few drops of concentrated oregano oil in a cup of water a few times a day (use a straw to prevent it from burning your lips!). I also use a Q-tip to apply the oil directly to the back of my throat for an extra boost.
Do you use any of these natural immune boosters? How do you ward of sickness?
Our wedding day truly was the best day of my life. The many months of planning came together in a beautiful and unique day that really represented Mike and me as a couple. Most importantly, we were surrounded by everyone we love. It was romantic and emotional and SO MUCH FUN!
Hopefully I don’t bore you all to death with my wedding posts, but I really want to get all the details documented here on my blog. Before I get into some posts on my wedding DIY projects and other details, I wanted to share some of my favourite wedding moments. We have beautiful portraits that were taken with our wedding party and families, which I’m sure I’ll share soon, but these photos capture those memorable moments that made the day so special.
Looking at the first picture below, I can remember exactly how I was feeling. Just 10 minutes prior, the girls and I were scrambling to get out the door of the hotel, frantically looking for jewelry at the last minute before squishing ourselves into the car and making the short drive to the University of Toronto, where we did our portraits. In the hotel room as it got close to go-time, I’d started getting super anxious, but at this moment I remember feeling quite calm. I walked up behind Mike for our first-look, and I remember feeling a quiet excitement as I waited for him to turn around!
Before the ceremony, the girls were sequestered in a room downstairs. We were able to hear all the guests upstairs and that really built the excitement. As we came up the stairs, I remember that I was all flustered because I couldn’t really hear the music and wasn’t sure when I was supposed to go. And then I was suddenly at the end of the aisle, and everyone was looking at me. I’d heard and read over and over advice to take a moment before walking down the aisle to really take it all in. I remember that I took a very deliberate pause, but all I saw in that moment was bright colours. But I do remember the feeling of that moment and I hope I can hang on to that!
I don’t really remember walking down the aisle. I’ve read other brides’ descriptions of locking eyes with their groom and seeing no one else. I’m sure I was looking at Mike, but I don’t remember.
I do remember this moment, though. As my dad lifted my veil, all I was thinking was, “this is it, this is it.”
A few minutes into the ceremony we paused as the families lit a unity candle. I think we all were able to relax in this moment.
And then there was this moment, where I was trying to jam Mike’s ring onto his finger. We were so worried about this moment that we’d practiced! I even had our coordinator run to the kitchen moments before the ceremony to grease up our rings with olive oil. It’s really challenging to put someone else’s ring on! Mine slipped on without too much trouble, but although I made a good attempt, I couldn’t get Mike’s ring on.
After the vows and rings were exchanged, and the glass was smashed and we had our wedding kiss and were announced as husband and wife, I remember when our recessional music came on (Home by Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros) and we basically bounced back down the aisle. We were so happy and the energy was so high and everyone was smiling and cheering. I feel like I can see the jubilation in this photo.
This moment is right after we walked back down the aisle, before we went downstairs where we chilled out while our guests enjoyed cocktail hour upstairs. I remember that we got to the stairs and I looked back at our guests and was surprised that they were all still looking at us, so we went for this kiss. It’s those little wedding moments, being surprised in that instant, that stand out because they were unanticipated. I’d visualized our wedding day from beginning to end so many times over the previous months during the planning, but these were the unplanned moments that really struck me.
Our first dance to Brad Paisley’s Then was definitely a source of some anxiety for both of us leading up to the wedding. I knew Mike was really nervous, so I was mostly nervous about how it would go for him. We’d choreographed a simple dance, stealing moves from YouTube, and had practiced mostly in out kitchen and not nearly enough. Mike started the dance off with this little turn, which he got suddenly self-conscious about a few days before the wedding, deciding he didn’t want to do it.
This photo captures the moment right after Mike did his spin, and we were both laughing and feeling like it was all going to be ok. I’m actually the one that ended up messing our dance up by completely missing a move, throwing the rest of the dance off, but we were smiling the whole time and had a great time. It was great when it was over, too.
Everyone gave the loveliest speeches, but I especially loved the speech given by Mike’s older brother, Matt. One part in particular really stuck with me, where he said some words welcoming me to the family but that it felt like I’d been part of their “little clan for some time now,” which was so incredibly touching.
Mike and I were super nervous about getting hoisted up in chairs during the Horah, but we also knew we definitely didn’t want to miss the opportunity. Sure enough, it was totally terrifying, and I was sure that I was going to hit the ground at any moment, but it was also exhilerating and so much fun to be up there and see all these people laughing and cheering and dancing around us.
We are so happy we chose to have a New Year’s Eve wedding, but in the early planning stages, we weren’t too sure about choosing that holiday date. I’d never heard of anyone having a NYE wedding, but I got the idea after seeing a New Year’s themed re-run of the show Four Weddings, and it seemed like fun.
When I first suggested it to Mike, his initial reaction wasn’t too positive. Would people want to give up their New Year’s Eve? After thinking about it a bit, he got on board. And that’s how it went with pretty much everyone. I heard the same thing from guests. I think once people realized that it meant their NYE plans were sorted and dinner and party plans would be taken care of for them, people quickly got excited about it.
One thing that we wondered, and that a lot of people have asked me about, was about New Year’s Eve wedding costs. Would a New Year’s Eve wedding be more or less expensive and more or less challenging to plan? Some people automatically assumed it would be more expensive, since it was a holiday, while others automatically assumed it would be less expensive, since it was in the winter and ‘off season’.
Based on our experience, the answer is: both! Planning a New Year’s Eve wedding had both costs and savings, challenges and benefits. So for any other brides out there considering the New Year’s Eve date, here is a breakdown of where we won out, and where we paid the price.
NYE Wedding Venue
We started shopping for our wedding venue in January, so we only ran into a couple that had already been booked for New Year’s Eve. Keep in mind that you’re not only going to be going up against other weddings competing for a space, but also New Year’s Eve parties. While a few venues offered their weeknight rates, many charged many thousands of dollars more for the New Year’s Eve date.
For our New Year’s Eve wedding, we held our ceremony and reception at the Rosehill Venue Lounge, which is located in Toronto’s midtown at Yonge and St. Clair.
This past year, New Year’s Eve fell on a Thursday. But our venue charged us their usual Friday/Saturday rate. We didn’t luck out with a cheaper weeknight rate, but we didn’t get hit with an extra holiday rate, either. Also, we were able to get in the day before to decorate because no other events were booked on the Wednesday. That would never happen for a Saturday wedding, and since we did most of the set up ourselves, that was super helpful.
NYE Wedding Catering
This is where our New Year’s Eve date cost us the most! Once the clock strikes midnight, employees are paid double-time and a half. This, of course, causes staffing costs to skyrocket. Except for our caterer, these extra staffing costs were absorbed by the vendors. For example, we didn’t pay any extra for our venue staff (coat check, security, etc.) compared with if we’d had our wedding any other Friday/Saturday night. Staffing costs were built into our fee. Our caterer, however, billed us hourly per staff, so our charges racked up after midnight. To minimize the damage, we worked with our caterer to reduce the number of staff that would still be working after midnight. We’d considered serving up a late-night snack, but decided that we’d cut that out since it would have kept the cook and servers there after midnight. We calculated that serving poutine for 50 people was going to cost nearly $1,000…almost entirely because of the staffing costs (cook, servers, dishwasher). No thanks!
For anyone planning a New Year’s Eve wedding, staffing is one area to watch out for. We’d gotten quotes from other caterers that wouldn’t have billed us this way, so additions like a late-night meal wouldn’t have had such a huge impact on the bottom line. This is just something to watch out for, and to ask vendors about up front.
NYE Wedding DJ
New Year’s Eve is a busy night for DJ’s, so there’s not much chance of scoring a deal here. DJ’s that we reached out to for quotes told us that they’d charge $200-500 extra for the NYE date, since there’s no shortage of parties for them to work that night.
The DJ we finally went with was recommended to us by our venue, and we weren’t charged extra because it was New Year’s Eve.
We had our photo booth, venue lighting and A/V included in the package that we negotiated with our DJ. This turned out to be a good thing because the original photo booth vendor he had lined up ended up pulling out due to personal reasons, but our DJ was the one who had to find a replacement. When we were shopping around for photo booth vendors, many did have surcharges for the NYE date, so we were lucky to avoid that, especially if we’d had to scramble at the last minute to find a replacement. Since it was part of our original agreement, our DJ took care of it, possibly taking a bit of a hit on his overall profits.
My mom passed away six years ago, so when we were planning our wedding, I knew I wanted to find a way to include my mom somehow. Of course she would have been such a big part of my wedding planning and the wedding day if she were here, so it was really important for me to honour her memory. I wanted to try to find that right balance of acknowledging that she was dearly missed without totally bumming everyone (or myself) out.
During the planning process, I googled the topic a few times and came across a few ideas that we considered.
One that I thought was sweet was to set up a memory table with photographs of loved ones. I came across the idea of using a sign that read, “We know you’d be here today, if heaven wasn’t so far away,” which I thought was pretty cute. I’m sort of a big fan of the rhyming sign thing! I think this is a really nice idea, but when I saw photos of the set ups, I felt like it gave off a bit too much of a funeral vibe.
I also liked the idea of lighting a memory candle during the ceremony. We had a really nice part in the ceremony where we lit a family unity candle, so I didn’t want to go overboard with too many symbolic candles. But I think that’s a nice way to honour someone, since we light candles in remembrance of people at other times, too.
Leaving an empty chair in the front row was another poignant idea I came across. That definitely would emphasize their absence. I considered it, but it didn’t work out logistically.
We ended up finding a couple ways to honour my mom that best suited us and our wedding:
I carried a brooch from my mom on my bouquet as my something old.
We asked our officiant to include the following brief mention during the ceremony:
There are those close to Jill and Michael who are not here today, but would have rejoiced with them if they were. These include …. We remember and acknowledge each of these relatives, who are deeply missed and fondly remembered at this time.
I thought it was sincere without putting too much emphasis on this part. When we added this in, it honestly didn’t even occur to me that this would make me emotional, but I think I was crying by the time he said the words, “There are those close…” If I’d known that would make me so emotional, I’m not sure I would have included it! But I managed to pull it together (sort of) for the rest of the ceremony.
During the reception, we had a slideshow that played in the background on TV screens, and I included some photos of my mom and myself. These photos were just slipped in among childhood photos, photos with friends and a live Instagram feed, so it was pretty subtle but I think people enjoyed catching glimpses throughout the night.
Finally, we made donations to a couple of charities in my mom’s honour and decided to make a brief mention of this at the bottom of our ceremony program in a section titled In Loving Memory. I felt kind of funny about this approach, but we decided that it was a nice way to include my mom’s name on the program along with our other parents and the wedding party. Not seeing her name on there somehow made her absence stronger, but I also didn’t want to make it too in-your-face sad, like “The Late …” under Parents of the Bride. That was an idea that was suggested and I think I typed it up in a draft of the program, but it seemed out of place among a list of attendants. We also considered having a small “In remembrance of” section at the bottom, but then we weren’t sure how we’d decide how to draw the line around who we would/wouldn’t include. In the end, the brief statement we came up with worked for us since it got her name on the program, conveyed that she was missed, and I thought that including the specific charities would answer questions for some of those guests in attendance who might wonder how she’d died.
These ideas worked for us, but there’s definitely no right or wrong way to honour a missed loved one and it can be done privately or publicly or not at all. Whatever suits the couple and their day.