Archive for Jen O'Brien

The Best Spot In The Caribbean For A Low-Key Luxe Destination Wedding

Travel » Destination Weddings

destination-wedding-in-antigua-2

Photo courtesy of Curtain Bluff.

For some couples, the perfect wedding day means a banquet hall filled to the brim with crystal details, flowers and hundreds of guests, but for others — those who prioritize intimacy, stunning natural surroundings, impeccable food and a laid-back atmosphere over traditional pageantry — there’s no better place to tie the knot than Antigua.

Located just north of Guadeloupe and east of St. Kitts where the northeastern Caribbean Sea meets the western Atlantic Ocean, the two-island nation of Antigua and Barbuda is part of the Eastern Caribbean’s Leeward Islands. The area is renown for its mellow vibes, friendly people and beautiful uncrowded beaches — the near-perfect weather year-round doesn’t hurt either.

It’s hard to be anything but relaxed in this island paradise — all the typical stress of wedding planning instantly starts to melt away as you sail in over turquoise waters and touch down amidst lush rolling hills just minutes from the pristine shoreline studded with celebrity vacation homes (Oprah, Richard Branson and Giorgio Armani are among the stars with property here).

The best time to go: With very little rain and temperatures that hover around 25 degrees Celsius year-round, there are few bad times to visit Antigua. However, planning a celebration between May and July (the island’s off season) could save you and your guests a bundle on accommodations.

The flight: Both Air Canada and WestJet offer non-stop flights from Toronto to Antigua’s V.C. Bird International Airport. The trip from Toronto takes just under five hours.

The legal paperwork: Legally tying the knot in Antigua means paying a visit to the Ministry of Justice located in downtown St. John’s with your valid passports, completing an application and paying applicable fees. There is a registration fee of US$40 that must be paid at the courthouse in the new government buildings on Queen Elizabeth Highway. The application fee for a special marriage license is US$150, and the marriage officer’s fee is US$100. Most hotels will include these fees in their wedding package costs and arrange to help sort out the paperwork.

The venue: Charming boutique hotels abound in Antigua, but none compare to Curtain Bluff. This unpretentious all-inclusive five-star resort on the island’s south coast, a favourite hideaway of rock gods like Keith Richards and Eric Clapton, features flawless ocean views from every room and suite. The property, which is consistently named among the best all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean, has been under the same ownership and management since opening its doors in 1962. The atmosphere is that of a luxurious summer camp for adults that you can visit year-round. And with a full-service spa, gourmet food, top-shelf bar drinks as well as complimentary snorkeling trips, tennis instruction, yoga and pilates classes, water sports, and a location that spans two hammock-lined beachfronts, it’s no surprise that many guests return year after year.

The resort hosts just a handful of destination weddings per year and prides itself on pulling out all the stops for these special celebrations. Curtain Bluff’s owner Chelle Hulford even opens the doors of her immaculate private home, The Bluff House, to couples interested in reciting their vows on the sweeping balcony with views across the sea to Montserrat’s steaming Soufrière Hills volcano — a testament to the relaxed atmosphere that defines a stay at this idyllic hideaway.

destination-wedding-in-antigua

Photo courtesy of Curtain Bluff.

The local customs: Music plays a big part in Antiguan life, particularly Afro-Caribbean percussion including steel and iron band music. Each Sunday an area called Shirley Heights hosts a barbecue party for tourists and locals alike. Tunes are provided by the island’s famed Halcyon Steel Orchestra, who can also be booked for wedding celebrations.

The budget: Basic wedding packages at Curtain Bluff start at roughly US$1,300 and include the wedding license, marriage officer’s fee, a bridal bouquet, a boutonniere, use of either one of the beaches or the Bluff House for the ceremony, a single-tiered wedding cake and a private gazebo dinner. Expect to pay closer to US$10,000 for a more elaborate celebration that includes hair and makeup at the on-site spa, a photographer and a band. Larger parties are eligible for group rates when it comes time to book rooms.

5 Fun Ways To Add Mexican Flair To Your Wedding

Planning » Reception Ideas

mexican wedding - maracas

Want to throw a bash where good times are the first order of business? Look to the south! While a full-fledged Mexican-themed wedding may not jive with the otherwise elegant celebration you’ve been planning, there are more subtle ways to incorporate your favourite fiesta items into your celebration (for example, you could hold off on the mariachi band and instead incorporate papel picado and candy skulls into your decor). In honour of Cinco de Mayo, we’ve gathered together five of our favourite Mexican party ideas. Not only are these ideas wedding appropriate, they’re also guaranteed to get your guests in the celebratory spirit.

Reem Acra Spring 2018 Wedding Dresses

Fashion & Beauty » Wedding Dresses

Reem Acra Spring 2018 Wedding Dresses

If you’re of the mindset that bridal fashion is best served with a side of priceless gems, then you’ll adore this new collection. For spring 2018, Reem Acra drew inspiration from internationally renowned jeweller Tiffany & Co. Presented at Tiffany’s Fifth Avenue flagship store in New York, the Reem Acra runway show began with an unexpected twist. The first nine models donned sleek black gowns draped in jewels to pay homage to the store’s iconic setting. The remaining 28 dazzling looks showcased Acra’s ability to combine tradition with contemporary silhouettes and adornments.

Many pieces within the new collection reflected Tiffany’s signature jewels: sculpted and cut-out bodice details reflected the intricacies of ornate platinum metalwork juxtaposed with the vibrancy of Tiffany yellow diamonds. Looping and scrolling bands of geometric diamonds in ribbon and bow motifs also inspired romantic embellishments on sheer sleeves, necklines and tulle overlays.

The show closed with a stunning Tiffany blue gown — 2018’s answer to ever-popular blush pink.

The Best Honeymoon Spot For Couples That Love World-Class Beaches And Puppies

Travel » Honeymoons

honeymoon in turks and caicos - beaches

Turks and Caicos has developed a reputation as the ultimate place to kick back and relax – and this is not without warrant. Serene Grace Bay, a wide stretch of sand on the main island of Providenciales, is a postcard-perfect spot to embrace the art of doing nothing. However, spending your entire honeymoon in Turks and Caicos in the chill zone would mean missing out on all of the amazing things these 40 islands and cays have to offer.

Scenery aside, there’s so much that sets the Turks and Caicos islands apart from other popular Caribbean destinations. A plethora of luxurious accommodations, in particular, have drawn honeymooning stars like Sofia Vergara and Eva Longoria to Turks and Caicos, while Kylie Jenner and Nicki Minaj both headed to the islands to celebrate birthdays recently.

Read on to learn more about why you can’t go wrong with a honeymoon in Turks and Caicos.

Swim With Pigs In This Caribbean Honeymoon Paradise

Travel » Honeymoons

caribbean honeymoon in exumas - swim with pigs

Swim with pigs” excursions have drawn thousands of travellers to the Exumas in recent years, but paddling porkers are just one of the many selling points that make this Bahamian archipelago of 365 cays and islands a dream Caribbean honeymoon destination.

Located just 314 miles from Miami and a three-and-a-half-hour flight from Toronto, the Exumas are surrounded by turquoise water with beach views that rival even the most remote South Pacific island. Add to this amazing food and luxurious accommodations and you’ve got an ideal spot for the romantic vacation of a lifetime.

We’ll fill you in on all of bucket-list-worthy itinerary items you need to check out in the Exumas (pigs included).

South America’s Best Non-Beach Honeymoon Destination

Travel » Honeymoons

honeymoon-in-cusco-locals

Some couples were specifically engineered to garner maximum enjoyment from spending days on end sipping daiquiris on the sand, and others…not so much. If your idea of the ultimate vacation means exposure to ancient history and local culture, rather than simply sun and umbrella drinks, Cusco, Peru may just be the non-beach honeymoon destination of your dreams.

Imagine a city nestled in the heart of the Andes with llamas and luxury hotels in equal measure; a place where women in swathed in elaborate traditional garb cradling baby goats perch outside high-end boutiques, and where some of the world’s finest examples of Spanish colonial architecture sit in contrast to rugged mountain peaks – this is Cusco.

Once a backpacker haven used as a precursory stop before the trek to Machu Picchu, this vibrant Peruvian city, the former crown jewel of the Inca Empire, is re-establishing itself as a world-class destination.

From ancient wonders to modern amenities, we’ll show you why this city of contrasts is the ideal non-beach honeymoon destination. Read on to discover everything you need to know to plan the trip of a lifetime in this fascinating part of Peru.

Reem Acra Fall 2017 Wedding Dresses

Fashion & Beauty » Wedding Dresses

reem-acra-fall-2017-wedding-dresses-26

Airy fabrics and modern silhouettes dominated the runway at Reem Acra. Overall, the look was ultra-romantic with form-fitting, shoulder-baring bodices and tiered skirts stealing the show.

Typically a skewing towards more dramatic, modern looks, Acra seems to have toned down her signature aesthetic for Fall 2017 in favour of more ethereal designs featuring lace, intricate embroidery and beautifully structured corsets. Subtle colour also made an appearance in Reem Acra’s new line in the form of a dreamy lace gown featuring a layered skirt kissed with lavender.

Photography courtesy of Reem Acra

Houghton Fall 2017 Wedding Dresses

Fashion & Beauty » Wedding Dresses

houghton-fall-2017-wedding-dresses-23

Katharine Polk took quirky bridal separates into an entirely new stratosphere for Houghton Fall 2017 and the result is a collection of edgy wedding looks not for the faint of heart. According to Polk, the collection, which includes knit sweaters, embroidered silk baseball jackets and hand-painted leather wearable way beyond the wedding day, was inspired by successful, sexy and strong women.

With this new line entitled “Not Your Baby,” brides are encouraged to mix and match slip dresses with motorcycle jackets and top traditional lace gowns with oversize knitwear. Driving home the message of non-conformist bridal style, Polk recruited a group of real women to model her designs.

Photography courtesy of Houghton

2017 Wedding Dress Trend You Need To Know About: Off-The-Shoulder Silhouettes

Fashion & Beauty » Wedding Dresses

liancarlo

Photo via Liancarlo.

If you’ve been to the mall recently you’re likely familiar with off-the-shoulder silhouettes – they’re literally everywhere.

Shoulder-baring looks first emerged on spring 2016 fashion runways and this trend definitely resonated with bridal designers. Spring 2017 bridal runway collections were filled with off-the-shoulder dresses in every style imaginable, from flirty, Coachella-inspired gowns to sleek, form-fitting frocks designed to frame the décolletage.

2017-wedding-dress-trends-off-the-shoulder-1

Photo via Marchesa.

This beautiful embroidered dress from Marchesa’s spring 2017 collection dress is a lovely choice for a laid-back boho wedding. It’s also a great alternative to a traditional strapless gown, allowing you to show a little skin while still taking advantage of a bit of arm coverage.

2017-wedding-dress-trends-off-the-shoulder-2

Photo via Rosa Clara.

On the other end of the spectrum, this Rosa Clara gown illustrates how sleek and chic the off-the-shoulder silhouette can be. The form-fitting design is ultra-flattering and the bow detail at the waist adds a stylish twist that could also be helpful for anyone hoping to camouflage a tummy.

At Francesca Miranda’s spring 2017 show, the off-the-shoulder trend took the form of a flowing, knee-length tent dress with dramatic chiffon bell sleeves.

naeem khan

naeem khan

Naeem Khan, on the other hand, offered up a stunning blush pink off-the-shoulder gown with intricate applique details and just a hint of a sleeve.

Christian Siriano offered yet another interpretation of this wedding dress trend by adding shoulder-framing chiffon sleeves to a classic strapless fit-and-flare silhouette.

Refreshing Cocktail Recipes For Summer Weddings

Planning » Reception Ideas

summer-wedding-cocktails-rainorshine

Parched guests are never pretty. If you’re getting married during the warmer months it’s especially important to take pre- and post-ceremony refreshments into consideration.

Offering up signature drinks is an nice way to welcome guests to your party, and for a summer wedding refreshing, icy cocktails are your best bet. Incorporate fresh fruit garnishes and give the concoction a cute, personalized name that references your new last name, wedding theme or the location of your celebration.

Start by testing out these five refreshing cocktail recipes for summer weddings to get your creative juices flowing.

Epic Spots To Host A Destination Wedding In Costa Rica

Travel » Destination Weddings

destination wedding in costa rica - secrets

With beautiful beaches, lush rainforest surroundings, warm weather year-round and a plethora of affordable accommodation options, it’s no wonder Costa Rica has become a popular destination wedding spot for Canadians. Twenty years ago the country’s venue options were rather limited, but these days Costa Rica boasts a host of new resorts that actually specialize in over-the-top celebrations – these are the types of places whose on-site wedding planners won’t bat an eyelash when you stress the importance of having peonies in your centrepieces and gluten-free meal options for your guests.

Check out the newest full-service resort venues perfect for your destination wedding in Costa Rica.

 

7 Ways To Have An Instagram-Worthy Honeymoon In Costa Rica

Travel » Honeymoons

honeymoon-in-costa-rica-black-sand-beach

During a honeymoon in Costa Rica you’re likely to experience a lot of firsts – your first encounter with a howler monkey in the wild, your first walk on a black sand beach, or maybe your first zip down a rainforest water slide. If you’re a couple that enjoys documenting and sharing all of your adventures together via social media, you’ll find no shortage of photo ops in this fascinating part of Central America.

Twenty-five per cent of Costa Rica’s land is devoted to national parks and within an hour’s drive from Liberia International Airport you’ll find mist-shrouded volcanoes, majestic waterfalls, secluded beaches and overgrown rainforests teeming with exotic wildlife. So where do you even begin your selfie-snapping adventure? We’ll introduce you to seven life-altering experiences you absolutely can’t miss during your honeymoon in Costa Rica.

You Won’t Believe These Wedding Photos Were Shot On An iPhone

Planning » Photo/Video

iphone wedding photos - bride on iphone

Smartphones have undoubtedly shaped the ways in which we experience, and share, pivotal moments in our lives – a fact that is especially obvious at modern weddings.

When is the last time you attended a celebration where guests weren’t vying, iPhones in the air, to capture that perfect photo of the ceremonial kiss or first dance to share via Instagram? With the rise of custom event hashtags and wedding photo-sharing apps, those candid shots snapped by friends and family have actually become an important part of documenting a celebration. But can smartphone snaps ever really stack up to those shot on pro DSLR cameras? Inspired by the recent work of famed Indian wedding photographer Sephi Bergerson, we set out to answer this question. We wanted to see what was possible when Canadian pros were tasked with capturing wedding photos on the world’s most popular camera.

Weddingbells asked three of Canada’s most sought-after wedding photographers, Jennifer Moher from Jennifer Moher Photography in Peterborough, Ontario, Gabe McClintock from Gabe McClintock Photography in Calgary, Alberta and John Yoo from IAMJOHNYOO Wedding Photography in Vancouver, British Columbia, to spend a month snapping celebrations on their iPhones and you won’t believe the results.

Here Moher, McClintock and Yoo share some of their favourite photos shot on iPhone, along with the stories behind them. You’ll learn about the apps and settings these pros used to shoot and edit each image, along with some background on what goes into capturing a great iPhone photo. Whether you’re a professional photographer or just an avid Instagrammer, you’re sure to be amazed and inspired by these shots, many of which were captured on the fly.

4 Reasons Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula Is A Dream Honeymoon Spot

Travel » Honeymoons

yucatan-mexico-honeymoon-02

With over 1,000 kilometres of coastline, the Yucatan Peninsula lays claim to some of Mexico’s best beaches, from Cancun and Isla Holbox on the northern tip to the Mayan Riviera and Cozumel, but there’s more to this captivating area than spectacular stretches of sand. This 197,600 square kilometre piece of land, which separates the Gulf of Mexico from the Caribbean Sea, is also home to the largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere and some of Mexico’s most impressive Mayan ruins. Add to this the tropical climate resulting in balmy weather year-round and you’ll understand why this part of the world has become such a treasured tourist destination.

Read on to learn more about what makes the Yucatan Peninsula the perfect place for a dream honeymoon.

Close