Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Tips For Planning The Perfect Bachelorette Weekend in Palm Springs

For months, alongside planning my Italian Wedding, which was recently postponed again due to the COVID-19 outbreak, my best girlfriends and I had been planning a quick little escape to Palm Springs for a fun-filled bachelorette weekend. Little did we know that this was to be our last get together for quite some time as just days after our return, the Los Angeles City Mayor set forth the in-home quarantine to all Los Angeles residents. We made it out just in time! During our trip we still wanted to exercise caution so we decided to keep most of the activities at the Airbnb we rented. We went out to one dinner on Saturday evening but mostly lounged by the pool, cooked and played fun bachelorette games.

I'm super excited to share all the details from the weekend below, but first, I want to give a big thank you to my bridal party (Natalee, Crystal and Elizabeth) for putting together an epic bachelorette weekend for me. After having to postpone my Italian wedding from April to October, it was a much needed getaway to lift my spirits. Also, a big thank you to all my friends (Ingrid, Annette, Danny, Robin and Mel) who put their lives on hold to spend the weekend with me.

On to the details....

Where we stayed:


This is the house we rented on Airbnb located in Cathedral City just 15 minutes away from downtown Palm Springs. It was the perfect location and size with an enormous kitchen, four bedrooms and a swimming pool. The house also offered a pool table, an outdoor bar and bocce ball area. The house was stocked with everything we needed from kitchenware to games to towels and even bathroom amenities. If you're interested in booking this Airbnb, here's the link. There are plenty of other houses available to book on Airbnb especially in Palm Springs. Many cater to large groups like bachelorette parties with multiple beds in each room and most importantly, a pool! Palm Springs is the perfect escape for a warm, sunny weekend away from the cold. 

Itinerary for the weekend:


My sister Natalee, my Maid of Honor, created a printed itinerary for the weekend. She found the perfect design on Etsy that matched the theme of my bachelorette weekend: pink, white and gold! If you're currently planning a bachelorette party, I believe picking a color theme is super important. It makes for pretty photos and the bride will be super impressed! Don't forget to also create a unique hashtag =) Make sure to check Instagram to see if the hashtag has already been used as you don't want your posts mixed in with thousands of others.

Link to the itinerary design HERE. 

Having an itinerary allowed us to have the perfect mix of relaxing and party time. I didn't want anyone to feel overwhelmed with too much of this and too little of that which is why I also decided early on that we would only go for two days. Finding the perfect balance is key to any weekend trip! Here is the itinerary we followed:

FRIDAY
3pm | Check-in
4pm | Poolside Lounging
6pm | Pizza Time
8pm | Party Games and Drinks

SATURDAY
10am | Brunch
12pm | Poolside Lounging
02pm | Light Bites
07pm | Dinner at Birba Palm Springs
10pm | After Dinner Drinks and Games at Airbnb

SUNDAY
11am | Brunch
12pm | Check-Out

Spending most of the time lounging either by the pool or inside playing games allowed for the trip to be such a great bonding experience amongst all us girls. My cousin and sister went above and beyond to cook and clean (god bless them!) for everyone Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday, we went to one of my favorite Italian restaurants, Birba Palm Springs. If you ever visit, I can't recommend this restaurant enough! Since we were a large party, we shared a delicious prix fixe menu family style with pizza, pasta and more! Definitely the comfort food we needed while talking about the craziness of what was is going on with the Coronavirus.

Here are a few bachelorette games we played over the weekend:

1. Team Bride How Well Do You Know the Bachelorette

2. Truth or Dare Scratch Off Cards

3. Never Have I Ever

4. Banana Race- This one was the most fun and very interactive! You basically tie a string around your waist, attach a banana on a string as well and tie it to the center of your stomach and let the banana lightly graze the floor. You and your opponent have to use the banana to get a ball (we used a lemon) across the finish line first using no hands or feet, you can only use your hips.

Bachelorette party decor and supplies:



My cups, napkins, barrel matches, shot glasses and coasters were all custom designed from Foryourparty.com. If you've never heard of them, definitely check them out for all your future party needs! You can personalize everything from graphics, colors, fun facts, and hashtags to really give that custom unique experience. I went with the same pink, white and gold theme as the itinerary. I chose Best Wknd ever on the frosted cups and cocktail napkins with my hashtag #MelsBachWeekend and the date. For the barrel matches, I personalized them to say "Get lit with Melanee" and my hashtag. For the coasters, I personalized them to say, "Drinks For Melanee" and for the shot glasses, I kept it simple with "Bride Tribe."

Visit this LINK to check out Foryourparty for your next event! Bride-to-be's, their party supplies are not only perfect for bachelorette parties, but also for bridal showers, welcome parties, engagement parties and weddings! 


My sister got these personalized drink stirrers that say "MelsBachWeekend" made off Etsy HERE. They made for a perfect bachelorette prop!


My sister and I got these cute personalized totes made for all the girls from Etsy HERE. We thought it would be the perfect gift for them to use later on for shopping or going to the beach. Who can't use an extra tote right? We filled the gift bags with candy, bachelorette themed sticker tattoos, biscotti cookies, pink visors from Fashion Nova, a custom Ciao tee from Etsy, and gold pens with a diamond top from Amazon


Since my wedding is in Italy, I wanted to do something Italy themed! I decided to get these customized Ciao tees made from Etsy for a fun group picture. Most of the girls ended up wearing the tees all weekend! You can shop them HERE

If you're planning a bachelorette, tees that go with the wedding theme is a way to get everyone excited for the big day!


One of my bridesmaid's, Crystal, made me this beautiful balloon arch for me! She also hand-cut all the paper pieces hanging down the middle. It made for the perfect photo backdrop and we definitely took advantage! 


My other bridesmaid, Elizabeth, got us these cute pool floats from Big Mouth Inc. Can't have a pool without some floaties, am I right?! You can shop them HERE


I had such a great weekend with all the girls and feel so blessed I was able to celebrate my bachelorette after having to postpone the wedding and before we all got quarantined. Thanks again to everyone who came and celebrated with me. And to all you bride-to-be's who are affected by the Coronavirus, I'm praying for all of us that things get better soon so we can have our dream weddings! 

If you have any questions, feel free to message me below. 

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Beverly Hills Courthouse Wedding


As Raphe and I were planning our Italian wedding celebration, we were simultaneously planning our legal ceremony in the states before we left. This was partly because of legal reasons and also so that those who couldn't make it to Italy, including my parents, could still be a part of our special day. We officially got married on March 6th, 2020, at the Beverly Hills Courthouse!

A week before March 6th the pandemic was rapidly escalating in Europe, and we officially decided to postpone our Italian wedding celebration, initially scheduled for April 18th, 2020. We thought about postponing our legal ceremony, too, but decided to keep the date as my father's health was not well, and we really wanted him to attend. We're so glad we kept the date as all courthouses have since been closed due to COVID-19. It was a small celebration with immediate family and just what we needed to lift our spirits after the sad news that we weren't going to Italy 5 weeks later.

I've been asked so many questions on how best to plan a courthouse wedding, specifically at the Beverly Hills Courthouse, so I am writing this post to share some tips for those of you that may be trying to plan your courthouse wedding. I'll cover why we picked this courthouse, how to plan, and what to expect on your big day!



Why we picked the Beverly Hills Courthouse:

At the end of 2019, I did a ton of research before picking this courthouse to see our options in the local Los Angeles area. I didn't want my elderly parents to have to travel far, so anything outside of Los Angeles wasn't an option for us. After scouring the internet, I saw that there were many small independent chapels to choose from, but they weren't quite what I was looking for. I then looked at courthouses and saw that our options were Beverly Hills, East Los Angeles, Lancaster, LAX (near the airport), and a few more. Honestly, it came down to choosing the courthouse that would be best for pictures, and Beverly Hills was the clear winner. I looked up the Beverly Hills Courthouse address and saw that it was just a block away from Beverly Hills City Hall. We could take our pictures then walk just the short block to the courthouse to get married. I had taken pictures there a few years back and remembered how beautiful it was! I searched images on Google and saw so many stunning wedding pictures taken there, which confirmed my decision. I told Raphe, and we moved forward with the plan.


How to plan your Courthouse wedding:

In January 2020, Raphe and I researched online what we needed to do to get our marriage license and pick a date at the courthouse. We learned that we couldn't reserve a date and time online, and that we must appear in person at the Beverly Hills Courthouse first with our driver's license and fill out the marriage license paperwork with a clerk. The clerk was very friendly and very helpful. She thoroughly explained the process and associated fees. After we filled out the paperwork for the marriage license, the clerk explained that since we would actually be doing a ceremony at the courthouse, we could pick a date and time for the ceremony right then and there. A lot of information regarding the courthouse dates for legal ceremonies is available online here. From this site, we knew what to bring with us and that when scheduling a ceremony at the Beverly Hills Courthouse, the only open days were Wednesdays and Fridays. We picked out March 6th (at that time it was perfect timing, being just a month before our Italian wedding celebration), and had a few backup dates, and the clerk let us know the available times for ceremonies there. Good news for us that they had plenty of times as the ceremonies only take about 15 minutes, so they fit a lot into just those two days. Sadly though, they also informed us that they had just a month prior changed ceremony rooms. The previous room was on the 2nd floor and allowed up to 50 guests, and the new room, on the first floor, only allowed 8 people (something that was not on the website at the time). 

Overall, it was a relatively straightforward process, and we received our official marriage certificate a few weeks later in the mail. We were told to show up 30 minutes before our scheduled time on March 6th with our new marriage license, proper government-issued photo IDs, and at least one witness. We were so excited and couldn't wait!


What about photos:

During my research, I found an extremely helpful article written by a photographer who said that you need a permit to shoot at Beverly Hills City Hall. I know all about being stopped by security for shooting pictures in places that don't allow it, and I wanted to make sure that this wasn't going to happen on our legal ceremony day. My husband is in the film industry, so he knew all about getting permits and made calls right away. One issue you may have is that getting any filming permit (even if there isn't a professional photographer or crew) is that cities will require you to have insurance coverage. The permit fee is relatively nominal, but finding insurance can be more difficult. If you are hiring a professional photographer, they should be able to take care of this. Luckily for us, my husband's production company has a policy, and it was easy to issue a certificate of insurance to the city. After speaking with someone from the city permit office, we were given a two-hour time frame for that day, in which we would have sole permission to shoot at City Hall. They took a while to email the proper forms to fill out, but we submitted it just in time. Honestly, on the day of, there was no one around, and no one came up to us to ask for our permit, as is often the case. It seems to be Murphy's Law, if you have a permit, you won't get stopped, but if you don't, you might be asked to leave by security. So if you plan on taking pictures there and don't have a permit, you may be okay. Just be prepared that you may be taking a risk, or you might just get lucky!


What to expect on the day:

Aside from nerves creeping in (both Raphe and I were very nervous on the drive there), the entire process is a cake. When you arrive at the courthouse 30 minutes before your scheduled time, you and your guests will have to go through security, and then just to the left of the security booth, there is a clerk stand that checks you in. She will verify your IDs and check that all information on the marriage certificate is correct, at which point she will ask for one or two witnesses to sign in their designated spots. Fun fact: they clearly do this a lot and have probably seen everything! You actually get two copies of your marriage certificate, one unofficial form that is for you, and one that gets mailed in to be the certified copy. They actually had our witnesses sign the non-official one first because the signatures need to be small enough to fit in the box and not cover any other information. They said that doing so could result in addresses, names, or any additional information being inputted into the state register incorrectly. 

From there, you wait until your time is up. At the time of our ceremony, about 3 or 4 other groups were waiting in the lobby for times after ours (we weren't the only ones who had a full room apparently) and the clerks will ask you to keep quiet to not disturb the group currently in the small ceremony room. 

As we had quite a few people who couldn't make it to Italy and were only allowed 8 people, we ultimately had to cut down the list for our legal ceremony to just immediate family and a few friends. As it turned out, the room is tiny, and there are only 6 chairs. We had planned a small lunch celebration after the ceremony, and so we had people that came to the courthouse hoping to get in but were willing to wait outside for the 15 minutes if it didn't work out. Luckily, they had no problem with us packing the room with 10 people. And best of all, our beloved dog Bodhi was able to come into the room as well!

Once they call you in, the Judge will ask for both of your names and pronunciations then invite everyone in. Our Judge was lovely and pleasant and announced how everything was going to proceed before she began. It's extremely helpful because you are so nervous that all you have to do is listen and follow instructions. 

The ceremony itself was actually much more poetic and meaningful than we expected. The Judge had beautifully touching words to say, similar to what you'd expect a minister or officiant to recite at a traditional wedding, and really felt like she was connecting with us for that 15 brief minutes. Then, just like that, you're married!


Legal Ceremony dress:

I received quite a few messages about my legal ceremony dress and wanted to share it will you all here. It's the By Watters Lynette Gown from BHDLN. I fell in love with the full skirt, length and detailing as soon as I saw it on their website. I thought it was perfect for a smaller affair such as a legal ceremony as opposed to a full wedding celebration. I have two other BHLDN wedding dresses saved for my Italian wedding celebration that I can't wait to wear in September 2021.

A big thank you to BHDLN for my dress, Bloominous for my bridal bouquet and Raphe's boutonniere, Raphe's mom, Jacquie for taking our photos and to the Beverly Hills Courthouse for letting us bring in our dog, Bodhi!

Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Why We Picked Orvieto For Our Wedding Location and How I Proposed by Raphe Wolfgang

In 1999 after graduating from high school, I went on a trip with 47 other students and friends, that spanned 23 days and 11 total countries. Needless to say as a 17-year-old this trip had a significant impact on who I am today. It also was the first time I fell in love with Italy.
When I returned home I made it a personal goal to take one semester in college to study somewhere in Italy. In my sophomore year at the University of Arizona, I began studying Italian with the idea that I would continue this study in Italy. At the time the most popular programs were located in Florence, but in the Spring of 2002, a representative for the Office of Study Abroad visited my Italian class to share a brand new program starting in the Fall. This program was to be based in Orvieto, a much smaller town, and thus an entirely different experience, hopefully, one more entrenched in the day to day routine of Italian culture. I knew right then that this was for me.
In the fall of 2002 I packed my bags and traveled through Greece, visiting Athens, the islands of Mykonos and Santorini, and parts of southern Italy with my brother, Zach, before eventually landing in Orvieto, where I would stay for 3 months, learning about Italian culture, art and all of the archeological history.
My time in Orvieto was transformative, to say the least. I made new friends, explored new cities, and for the first time in my life was without some of the major support groups that had accompanied me throughout all the prior years, like family, long term friends, and even good old American comfort food. There were times when I was homesick, tired of eating pasta, and frustrated by not being able to fully communicate (my Italian as it turned out was not as good as I had hoped).
Somewhere about halfway through my time there I was walking late at night through the city center with my friend and I noticed something. Now, it is important to know one thing about Italian culture, and that is the tradition of the passeggiata, which literally translates into an evening stroll. Passeggiata is sort of a way of life, I came to learn. Almost every night around 10:00 pm the entirety of residents would, likely after a long and delicious dinner, stroll about the streets. And when I say "stroll" by American standards it is walking so slowly that you are barely getting anywhere. And on this particular night, my friend and I were walking at our normal American pace, weaving in and out of the crowd, as if we were trying to get somewhere. At some point, I looked up and told my friend that maybe we should try and go at the slower pace to see what all the fuss was about. It didn't take long for the effect to sink in. All at once you could feel the warmth of these people, you could see how everyone knew everyone and they would greet each other with hugs, kisses, and smiles.
From then on I started to experience the true magic of Italy! And that is the people. Italians are emotional, caring, and deeply communicative people. I rarely missed a passeggiata after that, each time soaking up a bit more of the spirit of Italy. The pace of life is so much slower than America that it seems ineffective until you realize that these people are truly living each moment to moment. Instead of chasing the next thing they take the time to savor the individuality of what is in front of them. The single most important lesson I've learned in my life.
When I returned home, I felt calm, like I could tackle anything. It was as if my spirit was refreshed and full. Of course, the effect wained with time as school, life, and all of my future plans befell me, but since then I've always remembered the importance of the current moment.
So, when Melanee and I traveled to Italy in 2018, I made it a priority to visit Orvieto and my old stomping grounds. Our day started at Locanda Palazzone with a 3-course lunch, tour, and wine tasting before we headed to the city to eat a Pizza Rustica and take in the views from the wall I had sat many times overlooking the beautiful vineyards and hills of Umbria. It was one of our favorite days of the trip and when we returned home we were sitting in bed and she said, "Wouldn't it be awesome to get married at Locanda Palazzone?" I didn't need much convincing.

How I Proposed:
I had the proposal planned for months with Melanee having no clue. Her father was a long time jeweler with diamond connections in the jewelry district in downtown Los Angeles. We were gearing up to head to Italy for a wedding in August 2018 and I knew it would be the perfect opportunity to propose to her in the country I hold so dear to my heart. 
One thing that was important to me, because we were traveling to Italy for another wedding, was that I didn't want to propose before the wedding as to not draw attention away from the bride. As our trip planning unfolded, I steered us in the direction of going to the Amalfi Coast after the wedding. This, I knew, would be the perfect backdrop for my proposal. The only challenge here was that I had to carry the engagement ring, concealed in my camera bag, for almost two weeks as we traversed throughout northern and central Italy. On more than one occasion, tours and other stops wanted to check my bag, and I would always get an extra surge of nerves thinking, well I might have to just do this now. Luckily, this never happened and so after the wedding we headed to the Amalfi coast.
I wanted it to be extra special, and so when Melanee mentioned that she wanted to do a sunset cruise in Positano, I thought, what better place than a boat? However, when we arrived in Praiano (the coastal town we stayed in) I took a look at the boats, and some of them were really small. My pragmatic side started thinking, what if the boat is too small, or the ring dropped into the water, or one of us got sea sick, and of course, what if the boat captain didn't get the picture right? Maybe the boat wasn't the best place to get down on one knee after all.
The night we arrived in Praiano, we headed into Positano to visit La Sirenuese, a fancy boutique hotel  and frequent stop by many bloggers, to take some pictures and have a glass of wine and some oysters. As we walked to the table, I thought "this might be a good place to do it." But as we sat there, we both felt odd. The crowd was stuffy and a little pretentious, full of rich Americans. Our two glasses of wine and 6 oysters cost us about $95! We both wanted to finish our wine and leave, but the sun was setting. I casually mentioned, knowing full well my ulterior motives, that we should try to go soon to catch the last bit of the sunset on the beach below. Melanee agreed and we headed down.
As we reached the beach the calmness of the Mediterranean waves lapping at the shore put us both in the perfect state of mind and I knew this was the moment. I positioned Melanee on the beach and said that I wanted to set up my phone to take a picture of us with the backdrop of Positano above us. Little did she know that I was secretly setting up to take a video. When I set up the video, she asked, "is there enough light?" I hit record on the video and made up an excuse that maybe I had something in my bag for it. I quickly walked to my bag and retrieved the ring. I walked over to her and popped down on one knee, presenting the ring box I had been carrying so discretely for the past two weeks. To my surprise, she had no clue what was happening and her surprise made it all that much more special. 

Melanee & Raphe- Our Story On How We Met

The story of how we met is all about timing. Neither of us was particularly looking for any sort of relationship at the time, having both been through our fair share of bad ones. One day at the end of March 2017, Raphe got a call from a colleague to shoot a commercial project for the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills where I work. It was on this shoot that him and I met. I work as the Digital Marketing Manager for the hotel and one of the shoots for the restaurant there was scheduled for late in the evening after we were closed. My boss, not wanting to be there too late, asked me to stay and babysit the shoot. So I obliged and sat at the end of the bar as Raphe and his crew set up for the coming shots. Low and behold, as is no unfamiliar event in the film industry, the actors were taking a lot longer to get ready than anticipated so we had some time on our hands. It was in a camera test that he angled the camera on me and he told me he thought, "wow she's really pretty!" He showed me the clip and we began talking to pass the time. 
I, said, "so your name is Raphe?" 
Raphe having heard this about every day of his life said, "yep, and my last name is Wolfgang." 
"You're name is Raphe Wolfgang!" I laughed. Like really laughed.
Seeing the opportunity he replied, "Yeah if you look me up on Facebook I'm certainly the only one." I promptly looked him up, added him as a friend, and sent a message. This message chain continued for a few days after the shoots had ended. I remember our chemistry was immediate. I laughed at all my stupid jokes, we had very similar outlooks on life, musical interests, and travel ideas, but there was just one problem; He thought, "This girl is cool, but she has to be like 26 or so, no way can I date someone so young." In one of the messages, he made some joke about feeling like an old man because my back was hurting and so I asked him his age. He said, "I'll be 36 in August." I said, "Oh, you're not that old, I'll be 36 in November."
After that, he decided to ask me on a date. We elected for some time the next week, which was tricky because he was leaving that Wednesday to Arizona for his sister's wedding. It didn't look like the timing was going to work out so he said, why don't we do something when I get back. Unbeknownst to him, this worried me, because I thought he'd just go to AZ and then never reach out again (as I mentioned we both had some bad prior experiences with dating). I asked to just do something low key, maybe that Tuesday after I went to work out if he didn't mind me showing up in workout clothes. Little did I know, this was music to his ears, girls in LA can be a little high strung, and all he desired was someone low key and down-to-earth. We settled on meeting at The Snake Pit, a dive bar on Melrose for a drink. 
In Raphe's words:
I remember sitting across from her at the table and the usual nerves I felt on dates simply wasn't there. We gazed in each other's eyes and there was some deeper connection that neither of us could really explain. We parted with a long hug and I told her I'd be in touch (she still didn't believe me, thinking fully that I'd ghost her).
I drove to AZ the next day and was texting her throughout the weekend. When I returned we picked up right where we left off. From the early stages of our relationship, we both recognized what we had found in each other. The best analogy we could use was that we felt like we had won the lottery. It didn't take long for that feeling of knowing I had found the right person to sink in. And the rest, as they say, is history.


"I Planned My Dream Wedding in Italy...Then Coronavirus Happened" Featured on Brides!

I was truly honored when Brides reached out to me to share mine and Raphe's story about having to postpone our Italian wedding due to the Coronavirus. It's been a surreal time and never in my wildest dreams did I think this would happen to us. I will say that this has made us stronger as a couple and we now know we can face all of life's hurdles together. The most important thing as that we have each other!

Keep on reading as I'm sharing my personal essay I wrote for Brides below.


Like most girls, I started fantasizing and planning my perfect dream wedding from an early age. So, when I met the man of my dreams, and he proposed to me, I was extremely excited to get the planning started. Raphe, my fiancée (now husband) proposed to me while we were on a trip to Italy for one of my best friend's weddings in the beautiful ocean-side town of Positano. On that trip, I fell in love with Italy and all it has to offer. What's not to love, right? It has art, culture, and of course, the food! When we returned to the States, we started talking about plans for our wedding. The possibilities spanned from a simple legal ceremony, to eloping, or to a more grand event (i.e., the wedding I dreamt about all those nights as a young girl) in either Santa Barbara or even possibly Italy.
           
We eventually chose Italy for a few key reasons. Firstly, Raphe spent a semester in college abroad in the small town of Orvieto, located in the lush vineyard-laden hills of Umbria in central Italy. That experience was so transformative for his life, so while we were on our trip, we visited a beautiful boutique winery just outside Orvieto before he showed me around the town. For Raphe, having the opportunity to get married in this special place was particularly meaningful. Secondly, some of our family members and guests, especially my sister and Raphe's parents, have never been to Italy, and quite frankly may not take the opportunity to go. Our Italian wedding would, for them, be the perfect excuse to explore one of our favorite places on earth. That gift alone was enough to push us close to the decision. Lastly, when we found out that we would be able to stretch our somewhat limited budget further in Italy than a similarly sized wedding in California, we were sold. Italy it was, and the image of our wedding started taking shape.
           
We found a local wedding planner who lives in Italy and specializes in planning weddings for those coming from abroad name Emma, with Love Italy Weddings. After our first skype call with her, we were sold, as we knew she would be able to execute our joint vision and deliver an elegant and quaint wedding ceremony and reception. Next, we picked our date. We wound up choosing a date in April 2020 because the weather would start to warm but would still allow us for an off-season wedding, allowing more comfortable (and more affordable) travel for ourselves and our guests. Then we were off to the planning phase.
          
For the next year, countless emails, skype calls, and shared Pinterest boards were exchanged between Emma, Raphe, and I, and soon every detail was falling into place. Raphe, having been to Italy several times and living there, was instrumental in planning details for many guest's travel itineraries. By January of 2020, we had nothing but high hopes for our Italian wedding celebration. Deposits had been made, our travel arrangements were all set, and we were in the home stretch and getting excited to go when something we could have never predicted happened.
           
About seven weeks before our departure to Italy, we started receiving news alerts from guests and friends about the Coronavirus or COVID-19, which had begun in Wuhan, China, in December of 2019, that was spreading through Italy quickly. Within a week, we went from being elated to stress beyond belief. Things escalated so rapidly with the viral outbreak in Italy that within two weeks, the U.S. State Department and CDC issued a Level 2 warning to travelers, which stated that travelers should take increased precautions (like washing hands, sneezing into elbows, etc. to avoid infection). At that point, we began having some serious discussions with our wedding planner and venue in particular. Though there was a threat, we had determined to wait and see what would come of it, without changing any plans. Since so much work had already gone into it (not to mention the money), it seemed to be the most reasonable and logical way forward.
           
Not less than a few days after our first talk, the CDC warning raised to Level 3, which meant travelers should seriously reconsider all "non-essential" travel to Italy, and even to a Level 4 in the northern regions of Italy, which meant: Do Not Travel. We were faced with a difficult question: Is a destination wedding with 45 guests essential or not? Certainly, we wouldn't want to take the risk of having any of our guests contracting the virus (especially a few of our guests who are older and had pre-existing medical conditions that would elevate their risk of severity). Still, more troublesome at the time was the imminent threat that the CDC would raise the warning to Level 4, and we simply would not be able to go at all. Or worse yet, when we arrived in Italy, the level would increase, and our guests and ourselves may be forced into quarantine abroad or upon returning home.
           
Raphe and I started scouring the internet for all the news and information we could find regarding travel restrictions as well as basic information from top scientists regarding the Coronavirus itself. The pressure just kept mounting on top of us. We were nearing deadlines to pay complete balances on catering, and other vendors, that according to our contracts, were to be completely non-refundable should the event occur where we would be restricted from traveling to Italy by our own government. That first weekend of March, with our wedding a mere eight weeks away, was pretty surreal. We went through periods of depression, utter disbelief, and even at times, started considering what canceling the wedding would mean for us. Would we just regroup, take the loss of our deposits and try for a local wedding celebration? Was postponement an option? Or should we just cancel the whole thing and move on with our lives?
           
At some point, we were able to calm ourselves and talk rationally through the situation. I remember Raphe asking me, "what do you really want?" I thought for a moment, and said, "I want my Italy wedding." But what did that mean, Italy or bust? Ultimately, it meant that we had to think smart about our options and look for a postponement that was suitable for our situation. Luckily, Emma was able to start negotiating with our venue quickly, and they came up with a date in early October of 2020. She worked to revise our existing contracts so that we were able to move all of our deposits to that future date, instead of losing them. We spent the week working through terms to renegotiate the remainder of payments. It was important to us to have assurances in place if the situation with the Coronavirus is not cleared up by October so that we would not be out nearly the entire cost of our wedding.
           
There were so many elements to consider in the process. Besides our financial obligations and travel arrangements, we also had to consider that 45 people had made plans to put their lives on hold for a week or two to make the trip to Italy. Luckily for us, our guests were more than understanding of our predicament, and all assured us that whatever we chose would be fine with them. With five weeks remaining until our initially planned date, we pulled the trigger and officially decided to postpone to the new potential October date.
           
At the time I am writing this essay, we are taking a much-needed break from wedding planning. Luckily, we have much of the hard work already figured out, and we're fortunate that we could change the date with most of the details remaining intact. Though the situation at present is still unknown and we don't know how long things will remain complicated with Italy and the world as it struggles through this Coronavirus, we remain hopeful that everything will work out. We are optimistic that we will wind up having a stress-free and beautiful Italian wedding just that way we dreamed it up.
           
On a happier note, from the beginning, we had planned a small legal ceremony here in Los Angeles, where those guests that were not able to make the trip to Italy (mainly my elderly parents) could help us celebrate. We completed that legal ceremony on March 6th, and are officially married! Doing the legal service here was also an excellent precursor to what we will face on our larger Italian wedding, and we feel more prepared than ever.
            
Above all, we've learned a valuable lesson through all this. In the end, what matters most is that we have each other. In a way, this situation is a small gift from the universe to test our strength as a couple as we embark on the life-long journey of marriage. I'm proud of the way we were able to persevere through this situation, and it gives me great strength to know that we have a solid foundation for life's undoubted trials and tribulations that lie ahead.

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Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Wedding Registry Must-Haves from Bed Bath & Beyond

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Bed Bath & Beyond. The opinions and text are all mine.


Planning our wedding has been filled with moments of joy and excitement and of course, all those nervous moments meticulously getting every detail just right. Now we’ve hit the home stretch and our wedding is only 10 weeks away! Yay!

Of all the exciting things I’ve been able to do as a bride-to-be, like finding that perfect wedding dress (2 in my case!), my bachelorette party, and planning our exciting honeymoon abroad I’ve been secretly waiting to get registered! I love shopping and creating a registry of specific items Raphe and I want as we start our new life together as husband and wife sounds like the perfect date night to me!

Since Raphe and I already live together we knew that our wedding registry would have to be a mix of some traditional items like small kitchen appliances and some more non-traditional items like home décor pieces and new bedding!

Luckily for us, Bed Bath & Beyond offers an extensive all-in-one wedding registry that includes all of the traditional and common wedding registry items AND some non-traditional wedding items like furniture, home décor, luggage and even offer once-in-a-lifetime experiences or Honeymoon and Cash Funds! With everything under one roof the decision was easy and we decided to register at Bed Bath & Beyond.


The process literally could not have been easier. With the ability to register whenever and wherever, you can register in-store with one of their registry experts, on-the-go with their mobile app which has a convenient in-store scanner so you can you add items directly from your phone, or even online. We actually started our experience in-store with the help of Michelle, our in-store Wedding Registry Specialist, who worked with us to not only explain the whole process but also provided some invaluable tips! As she walked us around the entire store from top to bottom, pointing out must-haves, offering suggestions, and explaining the difference between all the options for certain items like a new Non-Stick pan set, or what type of attachments we could add to a new KitchenAid stand mixer (hello Pasta maker!), she explained the importance of having items in our registry that fit a range of price points. Doing this allowed us to create a registry full of items that would fit all of our guests’ budgets and we were able to ensure all the bases were covered using their handy Price Analyzer tool!


From there we did another lap around the store utilizing the mobile app to scan some items we missed the first time around, like this awesome Spice Rack!


Before we left the store, Michelle introduced us to all of the amazing features and helpful tools offered with the Bed Bath & Beyond wedding registry. The Registry Checklist, for example, is a tool that helps you stay organized and ensures that your registry is thorough and spans all of your household wants and needs. Then there’s the Registry Guide (in print and digital) that is filled with ideas and inspiration for myriad items that you might have missed.

Once we returned home, at our leisure we were able to add more items online from their vast inventory of products as well as manage all of our items to create the perfect wedding registry! Having all three of these seamless options at our disposal made the process convenient, easy and so much more fun!

Below I’ve listed all of our ultimate must-have wedding registry items:


Admittedly Raphe does most of the cooking in our lives, and I being the smart woman that I am know that the right toys for my Leo will entice him to make more of my favorite recipes! The KitchenAid mixer is a classic kitchen staple with its myriad and versatile head attachments you can use it to make delicious blueberry pancake batter or fresh pasta from scratch! Raphe loves me so much he even let me pick this pink colored model which is called Guava Glaze! We even added the 3-Piece Pasta Roller Attachment set (not pictured) so I can enjoy my favorite food whenever I feel like it!


Every cook needs a good set of non-stick frying pans. These go beyond good. Featuring a dual-layered nonstick interior they are ideal for food removal and cleaning, they are oven-safe up to 400ºF, and offer an innovative design that keeps the pans securely stacked all while saving space in your cabinets!


On the more practical side of our registry we needed a new dish rack, but no ordinary dish rack will do. Everything Simplehuman® makes is flawlessly and beautifully designed, and this dish rack is no exception. It’s stainless steel look blends nicely with the rest of our existing appliances, and its compact design allows for more counter space while still holding all the dishes we utilize on a daily basis.


I’ll admit it, I didn’t know the power of this beautiful machine when Raphe first eyed it for our Registry, but it does so many things it almost replaces all other cooking devices in your kitchen! It is essentially, a pressure cooker (cooking foods in a fraction of the time of conventional methods), a rice cooker, slow cooker, yogurt maker, steamer, sous vide, sauté, food warmer, cake maker and stock pot. The best part about this is its ease of use, which for someone like me who is often intimidated by cooking, opens up a whole new exciting world of making delicious recipes!


Simplehuman® to the rescue again! Let’s face it, we all have to have a trash can in our kitchens, but now we can say our trashcan is like a work of art! From its foot pedal opening the gentle self-closing lid, to its sleek stainless steel fingerprint-proof finish (it even has a built in liner compartment so changing bags is streamlined), this trash can is the pinnacle of trash cans!


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Did I mention I love pizza and pasta?! Raphe and I often enjoy making our own pizza’s from scratch (or sometimes making a frozen pizza when time is an issue), and this handy little combo makes quick work of slicing up the pizza into perfect slices for us to share!


I fell in love with this spice rack in-store and new it would fit perfectly on our countertop. (No more spice jars in a drawer!) The clear jars with easy-to-read lid labels makes picking out the perfect spice as easy as eating a slice of pizza with sprinkled Oregano!


Stepping out of the shower or a nice bath into the soft luxurious feel of Turkish Cotton towels is something that almost can’t be described. Suffice it to say, I wish I could just wear the towel all day!


Since the addition of our sitting area, we’ve have been hunting for the perfect coffee table that would both fit in and also be unique enough to add a pop of modern into our design. This beautiful table with Faux Marble top and gold legs matches the rest of our furniture perfectly and supplies the perfect accent. Also, can I say how perfect the surface is for future flatlays?!


Raphe and I have so many wonderful photos from our travels together it is always hard to decide which one is worthy of being framed as a permanent memory. With this digital frame, all that is eliminated as we can have an endless slideshow of all of our favorite photos from past, present and future!


With our busy schedules we admittedly neglect a regular vacuuming of our apartment at times. We had been talking about an iRobot for some time so when we saw it as an option, we quickly added it to our registry! The WiFi enabled Roomba allows us to start cleaning with the press of a button on our phone, or more conveniently, regular cleanings can be scheduled as often as we need. Now our floors can stay cleaner with all the pet hair and dust without us even thinking about it. Bodhi is still figuring out if it’s friend or foe though! Hehe!


The wall above our couch has sat unadorned for sometime as we could never quite figure out exactly what we wanted there. We knew we wanted pictures, but worried about them looking like a designed element. We love this frame set, because it comes with a large paper pattern layout so the frames are perfectly positioned in a way that complements the space! Now all that’s missing is our wedding photos!


I’ve always wanted a matching luggage set! These sleek and durable hard-side luggage pieces just look like they want to be filled and taken on an adventure! Can’t wait to take these puppies to Italy (the destination of our wedding!) in a couple of months!


Bedding!

This was what I am most excited about! Every adult needs a complete curated bedding set, and every Queen (that’s me) deserves the finest in Goose Down duvet! Right?

This Wamsutta® Dream Zone® White Goose Down King Comforter is the ultimate in luxury duvets. It feels lightweight yet keeps warmth in on those frosty nights! Paired with the Under the Canopy® Solid Organic Cotton 3-Piece King Duvet Cover set and sheet set it’s like sleeping in a cloud.


The Under the Canopy® Ogee Satin Weave King Quilt in Grey adds the touch of elegance to the bedding, while the Bee & Willow™ Home with Lauren Liess Martha European Throw Pillows in White and UGG® Monroe Square Throw Pillow in Snow give it that perfect feminine touch while still keeping the look clean and modern.


The UGG® Monroe Chenille Throw Blanket in Birch is the perfect addition to complete the look and is so soft and comfortable for the cold mornings reading in bed!


Most importantly Bodhi approves!

These are all of our wedding registry picks from Bed Bath & Beyond and we couldn’t be happier! Our place got a serious upgrade and feels more like home. If you’re looking to do your wedding registry, I can’t recommend Bed Bath & Beyond enough. Not only do they have an easy return and exchange policy, they also have a price match promise and offer free shipping for everything over $39. Their shipping is also super fast, everything came within a week and was packaged perfectly and arrived damage free. On top of all that they even offer a 20% discount for any remaining items left in your registry after the wedding and they provide a bonus 20% off gift to celebrate your first wedding anniversary. I will definitely be using that!

To create your own registry at Beth Bath & Beyond visit this LINK, to get started today!

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