We left Orlando ready for some r&r and island time. After an early flight we arrived on the island of Saint Martin, which is both a French and Dutch territory. To kick off our stay, we decided to spend 2 nights on the French side, then would ferry over to the island of St. Barts before coming back and spending our final night on the Dutch side.
There are very few places you can actually walk to on both Saint Martin and St. Barts so renting a car was key. And it’s a good thing Mike drives a stick and we live close to San Francisco, because manual was our only option and Saint Martin is hilly! I would be lost without him. 😉
We arrived at Grande Case Beach Club and treated ourselves to a welcome cocktail, plus a shared order of calamari and a Caesar salad. The patio overlooked the ocean, where the water was such a clear, pretty blue. I couldn’t wait to hop in!
Our room had fresh flowers scattered around, a bottle of wine to enjoy later, and a patio that opened up to a private beach for hotel guests. It was all very romantic and perfect for a honeymoon. Without question the first thing we did was take a dip in the ocean.
We were ready for dinner shortly after our swim and sauntered back to the hotel restaurant. Yum! It was one of the best meals we had there! Even more impressive was that it was cooked entirely in a small camper because the hotel kitchen was still under construction from hurricane Irma damages. This – among other things like chipped concrete and a few patches of dried out vegetation – were signs that the island was still recovering.
We walked to the down town area after dinner for a drink at the Blue Martini. (At the time, I didn’t realize that is was rare to be able to walk anywhere on Saint Martin – or St. Barts – so we took this walk for granted.) The Blue Martini was a quintessential island bar; outdoors, not too fancy with good spirited bar tenders and live music.
Another glorious thing I took for granted when we were at Grand Case was the free breakfast the hotel provided in the morning (foreshadowing that this was not so on the next island we went to… $$$). We enjoyed coffee/tea, croissants, and fresh fruit seaside before packing our stuff and heading out to explore.
Our adventure of choice that day was jet skiing. Equal parts fun and anxiety-filled for me. One hundred percent thrill for Mike (when he was able to go fast without me jamming my fingernails into his ribs hahaha). Once our hour on the jet ski was up, we bobbed around in the warm ocean water for a bit, which was quickly becoming one of my favorite ways to spend our days.
This might be weird coming from anyone else but I’m sure it’s “on brand” for me… one of my favorite things to do when traveling is going to the local grocery store. I knew I wanted to hit up a few on the island, with all of that French influence. Hiii, all of the cheese and nom fresh ingredients!
We bought a small sampler of different cheeses, some grapes, and nuts before promptly going back to our hotel, opening a bottle of wine to pair with our local goods and sitting right by another beach to enjoy the waves again. Ahhh, bliss.
For dinner we wondered over to a gorgeous French restaurant downtown and enjoyed freshly baked bread, more wine, local fish, and seasonal vegetables. For such a gorgeous place, I was surprised it wasn’t packed. We chatted a bit with the owners who mentioned they were just starting to make their slow recovery from the destruction of the hurricane.
It was a small drop in their economy but I’m glad we spent our money there. Plus, we learned about the best spot to go to next: the rum bar right next door.
Looking back this was one of our favorite experiences of our honeymoon. When we first arrived we were the only ones there, which meant all of the owners attention. We learned about rum made from molasses vs. sugarcane and all of the different places it came from. Then we got real creative and asked if we go off-menu, ordering a sampler instead of one drink each. He agreed. We gave him creative liberty to pour us his choices. We learned how to properly drink rum.
Smell. Swirl. Sip. Savor. Swallow.
Pour more. Repeat.
Eventually more people wandered into the bar, which oddly worked in our favor since the owner started pouring slightly larger pours to keep us occupied a little longer while he tended to the others.
We walked back after our rum flight happy and content, crossing paths with a little black cat that I loved and wanted to take home. Not one for the superstition of bad luck, I fell asleep without a care that night; looking forward to the next day and our final stop on our honeymoon, St. Barts!
We decided to go on our honeymoon right after the wedding, to ride the blissed out wave as long as possible, and I am so happy we did. Our first stop was Disney World! We stayed at the Port of New Orleans – French Quarter that had the magic of a Disney hotel but was relatively affordable.
We were able to bypass checkin and go straight to our room (Disney magic, friends!) via our wristbands we got in the mail before our stay. After flying Southwest, where no food was available for purchase, we were starving and needed dinner. The New Orleans cuisine offered at our hotel hit the spot.
After dinner, we grabbed a cocktail and hit up the hot tub: fully in honeymoon mode now.
The next day we blew through our plan to wake up early and slept straight through our alarms. (Maybe we were still recovering from all of the wedding festivities?!) Mike’s style is to go to theme parks from opening to closing, so it was a bit stressful that we’d already missed an hour at his favorite place, Typhoon Lagoon. Still slightly disoriented from our late start, I downed a cup of hotel coffee in the Lyft to the waterpark and slathered on sunscreen, ready for a morning of wave pools and water slides.
Next on the agenda was Epcot.
Side note: My friend Lauren gave us a ton of good information about Disney World – like making dinner reservations 90 days out and when to get our fastpasses – so a special shout out to her before I dive into our Epcot experience (her and her husband’s favorite park).
First up was the new Frozen ride, which I am glad we had a Fastpass for. The ride was cute but not worth the 2 hour lineup for it. I’m also stating to wonder… how many slow-moving boat rides can Disney make?!
Having not really eaten breakfast, we were ready for lunch quickly after. We went for tacos + margs in “Mexico” and it was really nice to just sit for a bit. Plus the water views and breeze in that hot FL sun didn’t hurt.
We walked around and went a few rides after, but were really just killing time before our next meal. 🙂
Dinner was at Le Cellier, the Canadian steakhouse. People raved about this place and, being that I married a Canadian, we had to go. Sadly we were both disappointed with the food. The experience was nice; it was cool to go to a fancier sit-down restaurant in Disney World and our server was kind (obviouslyyyy being from Canada and all), but we were more impressed with the bread basket than the filets…. Not a good sign at all.
Magic Kingdom was the next day and I couldn’t wait to go on Space Mountain. Growing up, I spent many summers driving to Disney Land with my grandparents and Space Mountain holds a special place in my heart. It is a family favorite with a background story we love to tell. It goes like this: I was with my grandparents and my mom waiting for hours to ride Space Mountain for the first time. I guess I was pretty nervous about riding a roller coaster in the dark and kept telling my Grandpa about some concerns I had. It worked out that he sat in the row behind me and I screamed my head off the entire ride. My grandpa felt terrible during the entire ride thinking, I made her go on this ride she hates and is screaming with fear.
Of course, the punchline is, when we got off, I immediately requested we go on it again, having had the time of my life on it. What a relief for my Grandpa! 🙂
Ok, back to our honeymoon! After more rides, we went to lunch at Jungle Navigation Skipper Canteen, which was one of my top 2 favorite places in Disney World. It was a nice air conditioned break from the heat and the menu had the most vegetables I saw in the entire park. Haha
Next we made the game day decision to go back to the hotel for a dip in the pool and an afternoon nap. Much needed!
Well rested, we went to dinner that night at Be Our Guest, which I heard was hard to get reservations for, so I was proud of our planning. The restaurant is in the beasts and Belle’s castle and features a 3 course prefixed menu. The big draw though is the “grey stuff” you get for dessert. It is indeed delicious, y’all.
Turns out I must have gotten my fill of Disney Land when we went a few years ago because I was ready to leave Magic Kingdom after dinner. We went to the Boardwalk in the search of souvenirs but quickly aborted mission for something a little more lively! Cue Disney Springs. Ah, this place was actual magic for this soon to be 30 year old.
We grabbed a beer and caught the last few songs of a live band. It was a bummer we’d already eaten because there were some amazing restaurants there, including a wine and oyster bar that we are still wanting to try. Next time!
Another highlight of the evening was when we caught a skipper just in time to hop on the last boat heading our way. It could have been just the excitement of perfect timing or maybe the beer but for whatever reason, Mike and I loved that boat ride home!
Our last day was spilt between Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. Animal Kingdom was a jammed few hours of rides stacked on rides; between our fast passes, some short lines, and opting to go as single riders instead of together to bypass longer lines.
We had lunch at Sanaa that afternoon and.. let me just pause for a second and say loveeee. The bread service is it, people. Fly to Orlando, eat here, and you can go home right after. (Kidding) (Kind of)
On top of the amazing food and aesthetics, you get to watch different animals walk around in the courtyard while you eat. So overall, it’s just a really fun, delicious, way to spend an afternoon.
After lunch it was time for Hollywood Studios and a 85 minute line up (!) to go on the Tower of Terror. Normally fast drop-down rides aren’t my favorite but Mike loves them. Per usual, I screamed (and death griped my seat) the entire time.
We rounded out the day with a few more rides before going back to the hotel and packing for our early morning flight to the Caribbean!
On Friday, May 17th, 2019 Mike and I got married at Saratoga Springs in California. I knew I wanted to get married at Saratoga Springs before Mike even proposed. Which meant finding a venue wasn’t a hard choice for us. We actually only visited Saratoga Springs once and signed the contract without visiting any other locations or doing other research.
This quick-decision making turned out to be the unwritten theme of our wedding. We met with one photographer and decided to move forward; I tried on 3 dresses and bought the first one I tried on; I asked my good friend Lauren to make cookies for dessert and never looked back. We opted early on to make decisions fast and not to dirty ourselves with too many details or time consuming indecision. If you’re not about stress, I recommended this method.
It helped that my drumbeat for the day was unwavering: our wedding had one great importance and that was us. Spending a lot of money of other things wasn’t of value to me. Of course I wanted nice centerpieces, decent food, and flowing drinks, but they had to be simplistic, no stress options, with little monetary investment.
Our centerpieces were thought of and crafted as a collaborative effort between myself, Mike, my mom, and two of my friends, Allysa and Leslie. We were fine with the buffet style meal the venue would provide – which was BBQ – and aside from picking the side dishes, we didn’t think more about it. For us, a huge perk about a wedding a Saratoga Springs was that, if you picked the house options, the wine and beer were unlimited. (Our one splurge was for an upgraded keg because I love an IPA and I’m picker about my beer than my wine.)
When I think back on our wedding day, one word comes to mind: joy. I think, in part, this is a testament to words being powerful, and what you say mattering. Leading up to the day, I repeatedly said a top priority was our friends & family having a good time. As mentioned already, things like the food or decorations just weren’t as important.
If my drumbeat was Mike & Ashley, Mike & Ashley, Mike & Ashley, my mantra for the day was everyone just dance and have fun!
All love, no drama.
Minimum effort, maximum enjoyment.
Before the wedding, I asked Mike if once it was all said and done, would we deem it worth it? After all, even with the laissez-faire attitude I believe I had when planning our wedding, it still had it’s stressful parts…
I’m delighted to report that it was 100%, would-do-it-again-in-a- heartbeat, worth it.
Our wedding day was the most magical, whimsical, wine-fueled, joyful, love-filled, special day of my life. Everyone we love was there, and I believe it was all of their missions to have the best time while celebrating us. ♡
We got married on a Friday and a week before, it was a gorgeous day in the Bay Area. A beautiful 70 degrees outside, Mike and I went to dinner at a favorite Greek restaurant to toast the upcoming week and hope that the good weather continued.
Spoiler: it didn’t.
The ironic thing was, when we picked a date for our wedding, we pushed it to mid May – closer to summer – to try to get the best weather for our outdoor shindig. In the end, it all worked out wonderfully but we were obsessively checking the weather that week leading up to the big day.
Mike’s parents, his sister, brother in law, and their 2 kids arrived from Canada the next day, the Saturday before our wedding. It was pretty late EST for them so we turned in shortly after a tour of our new house that they hadn’t seen yet.
Sunday was Mother’s Day and we hosted brunch at our house for our moms and Mike’s sister. Mike made French omelettes, which are my favorite way to have eggs (I realize now that I was the only non mom there and the one who decided on the brunch menu / how everyone would have their eggs… but I think the buttery-pillow soft French omelet is enjoyed by all). We also had bagels, berries, and pineapple. My go-to brunch hosting menu.
The day morning was full of the best kind of madness, with kids running wild and family chatting everywhere. It was a nice way to kick off our wedding week.
My favorite quotes came from Mike’s niece when they were playing outside and asking each other silly questions. Mike asked Ella if she knew his favorite color, which she delightfully answered “yes, Ashley!”
You heard it here, folks. Mike’s favorite color is Ashley. 🙂
Monday was mine and Mike’s last day of work and it was a busy one. Despite thousands of things going on, I am happy to report I successfully didn’t check my work email the whole week of our wedding; and quickly silenced our internal messenger app when my vibrating phone buzzed me awake on Tuesday morning.
Later in the morning on Tuesday, my mom picked me up to get my wedding dress from the tailor. A few people asked me if I was doing any special diet before the wedding and I decided against it. Partly because I didn’t want our wedding day pictures to be some kind of bar I set for myself of a hard-to-achieve body for myself; but mostly because life generally doesn’t slow down leading up to your wedding. I basically maintained my same diet and exercise and certainly didn’t have time for much more.
As I expected my dress fit without problem. Next it was off to my last dance lesson to try moving around in my dress vs. the leggings and hoodies I usually wore to mine and Mike’s sessions. Fitting in with traditions, Mike didn’t attend this lesson with me as not to see the dress before the big day.
After some preliminary wedding errands we drove to Santa Cruz with Mike’s family. Besides what trip to California is complete without a beach day? The weather was actually decent at this point and we took turns strolling on the beach, slipping our toes in the water, and chilling out on the sand while Mike surfed.
We hit up a local brewery after where we got the exciting news that Mike and I had been hoping for. Which, to explain, you have to know that the weather forecast was turning out to be worrisome, calling for cold temperatures and rain on our wedding day. Stressful! As mentioned, we were obsessively checking the weather and eventually reached out to our OUTDOOR wedding venue asking what the contingency plan was if it rained.
We discovered it was a pricy $8k for tents to be put up. Wait, what!!! There was no way.
On Monday afternoon (while still at work) we got an email telling us there was an event happening the day after our wedding and they might purchase the tents for it. In which case, our venue could put them up the day before and we could have them for F-R-E-E.
Happily, over pints, we found out that the tents would be, in fact, up for our Friday wedding. Such a relief! The forecast was still calling for a chilly evening, so we upped our heat lamp count and cheers’d.
(Ironically Tuesday night was the one night I didn’t sleep well before our wedding.)
On Wednesday people started arriving from out of town. We had family friends of Mike’s come for a house tour and coffee in the morning. It was a rainy day, which I’m sure our Canadian friends and family were not expecting of my home state in mid May… Thanks for really showing people your good side, Cali! (Not)
Later in the day, we escaped the rain and took Mike’s niece to the children’s discovery museum is San Jose. She was the flower girl in our wedding and we wanted to spend some quality time with her before. Whew, it was great spending time with her but that place was chaotic. Luckily after about 2.5 hours there, she was fine leaving when we said it was time to go.
That night we went out with Mike’s sister and husband for drinks at our favorite local restaurant, OCK, to test out cocktails for our first look before the wedding. We decided to do a first look at a special place to us; where we’ve been countless times, where we take our friends and family who are visiting from out of town, where we went for sandwiches and champagne after we got the keys to our house. OCK also has some of the best cocktails and we were certain some nerve calming juice would be in order on the big day. Anyway, the cocktail menu is rotating so we wanted to be sure we picked “photogenic” drinks for our first look, hence the cocktail tasting with Wendy and Andy.
After drinks (and our first look cocktails decided) we walked back home to meet friends who arrived that day. We ordered Zume pizza and had a mini-house party with wine free of sulfates and house tours for all. Oh, how parties have changed!
It was so nice catching up with friends from out of town and showing them our house though. Looking back on the week this is one of my favorite memories. If only everyone lived closer! (Or if I remembered to take a picture with everyone… whomp whomp whomp)
Thursday morning, the day before the wedding, I happily did a yoga class with Mike’s mom and sister in the morning before we had our walk through at the venue. My mom and stepdad met us there after and it was pouring out! I was freezing in my yoga pants and flip flops but, surprisingly, wasn’t stressed about the weather. We did everything we could with the heat lamps and tents, so it was all out of our control at that point. We sloshed through the wet grass to check out where we would I say “I do,” asked some questions, and made our final payment. There was no turning back now (not that that ever was after our first deposit was paid hah).
After the walk through, it was time to cash in on Mike’s Mother’s Day present and get our nails done (I guess mine was technically a pre wedding gift vs. a Mother’s Day one).
With freshly painted nails (and the constant fear of ruining them before my wedding), I checked into the hotel everyone was staying at with my dad and sister. The hotel was less than a 10 minute walk from our house (a 2 minuet walk from the nail salon and OCK) which made logistics a lot easier. If you’re planning a wedding, I recommend having things as close to each other as possible. There is so much going on, it is nice to have the flexibility to walk wherever anyone needs to be.
Mike and I wanted to host a Welcome event for our family and any friends traveling in from Canada before the wedding. We decided to have a casual dinner at Campo di Bocce, where people could mingle, fill up on Italian food, and play bocce ball. Besides, nothing bonds strangers like some friendly competition.
I heard from a few people that they loved the whole bocce night. The food was great and, luckily, the rain tapered off just in time for us to fully utilize the outdoor courts we had rented. (I didn’t realize the potential chaos I was signing up for between an outdoor wedding and courts for bocce. Thankfully it all worked out in the end.)
In good spirits, we headed back to the hotel. Originally I wanted to just spend the night with Mike before our wedding. We opted for the fireplace suite at the hotel, so there was plenty of room, and I thought it would be easier. Instead Mike wanted to spend the night before with his dad having a drink and talking …manly things, I guess. That’s what we ended up doing and I’m so glad we did.
My dad joined Mike, his dad, and brother in law for some whiskey; while my mom, Mike’s mom, and a few other girls had champagne back in my room. It was a nice, chill night on my end, plus, I got the whole king bed to myself! After all the girls left, my mom and I hung out for a few moments alone and it was so special to have that time with her the night before my wedding.
I went back and forth on having a friend (or my mom) spend the night with me the night before and, in the end, logistics won out as I really just wanted a good nights sleep before the wedding. I’m usually pretty ceremonious, and thought it would be special and quintessential to spend my last “single night” with a close girlfriend, but everyone has their thing that beats out others and mine is sleep.
I slept without a care or dream that night. It was ideal. I woke up on Friday, May 17th, 2019 to a message from Mike that read “we’re getting married today!” I smiled, rolled over, and fell back asleep for another 1/2 hour. When I actually got out of bed, I showered and didn’t check my phone again. It might sound corny but it was such a tranquil morning. Looking back, I’m glad I had that time alone.
Once I was dressed, I wandered to my mom and stepdad’s room to say hello and give my little brother Gio a cuddle. My stepdad and I walked to get a coffee after and then to pick out my flowers at Whole Foods.
The day was generally stress free aside from when I first went to pick out my flowers. I suddenly had no idea what I should get and remember telling my stepdad “this is why people don’t do this the day of their wedding!” Luckily he was the calm in the middle of my bridal breakdown (I had also almost rolled my ankle moments before while texting and walking so was generally on edge at that point).
The flowers worked out – I went with white peonies and orange tulips – but there was room for error there. I’ll say it was more my style to get a $20 bouquet from Whole Foods, wrapped with brown recycled paper and string, but don’t advise it for the next bride! Having those moments with my stepdad before the madness was another really special time for me though.
When we got back to the hotel it was Go time. My sister, who is a LA based makeup artist, was essentially my glam squad. My friends Lauren and Morgan were there to assist with my hair. The whole morning was relaxed. We didn’t have the proper mimosa toast or matching floral robes to get ready in. There weren’t loads of people in and out of my room. Friends was on in the background. I was chugging water like it was my mission, while we snacked on apricots. My dad popped in and out with offers of slices of pizza or to just check on us. And then it was time to put my dress on.
I loved my dress. It was whimsical, romantic, and forgiving. All things a wedding should be in my opinion. 😉
My mom zipped me up and my grandma tied my sash around my waist. Morgan helped me with my sandals. I put my earrings in and a bracelet my good friend Allysa gave me on. I forgot to take off my engagement ring (but wouldn’t notice that until hours later when Mike was sliding my wedding ring on). I was ready for our first look!