Recipe Box: Decadent Anniversary Dinner Recipes

Last night was our first anniversary and although I’ve been rigid about my Weight Watchers routine, every once in a while, you have to take a break and celebrate (you learn a lot about what you’re consuming – especially if it’s alcohol!)  Below are my recipes.  I highly recommend the Goat Cheese and Apple Tartlets!

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Wedding Style: To Match or Not to Match? That is the $1 million bridesmaid question

Lauren Conrad isn’t the first to come up with the trend but she’s certainly a shining example of someone who can still be on-point with style AND not seek perfectly matched bridesmaids dresses.  So how do you go about perfecting the mismatched trend that seems to work well, when done right?  Check out my guidelines below:


Set parameters for what your bridesmaids choose.

In my case, having bridesmaids is a bit more complicated.  It isn’t something they are accustomed to in Europe and if you decide to have them, coordinating the purchase of the same gown, in the same color, can prove rather difficult IF your bridesmaids are spread throughout the globe.  And so, I took a slight cue from Ms. Conrad (now Mrs. Tell – who designed her bridesmaids’ dresses) and decided that as long as the gowns are long, are one of four approved colors and NOT taffeta, I would be okay with whatever they chose (although I want them to run the gowns by me before they purchase them).

Choose complimentary colors that work well together AND on skin tones.

For Spring/Summer 2015, the approved global pantone colors are a combination of bolds and muted tones.  I chose Glacier Grey, Strawberry Ice, Toasted Almond and then one off-season color, blush.  So far, I have one bridesmaid in grey (red hair and fair skin) and one in blush (tan skin and black hair) – I’m excited to see what the other three choose!

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It’s okay to be picky on style and fabric!

There are definitely some out-there dresses that just do not make sense for bridesmaids.  At the same time, I’m all for being different.  I want my bridesmaids to be comfortable in what they wear – it should flatter their body type.  Both BCBG and Nordstroms had some excellent suggestions for flattering fits and fabrics.

Have a subtle matching accessory for them to wear.

I cannot give away the gift I’m giving each bridesmaid but it will be part of their look.  I’m rather excited for this too!  I’ve also asked them to wear simple pearl earrings with no other jewelry and neutral nail polish – their shoes, hair and makeup can be however they like.

Don’t be THAT bride!

Everyone has different taste.  And no matter how matching or mismatching your wedding party is, make sure they know you appreciate the extra time (and money!) they’ve spent making sure your wedding is as perfect as possible. If you do choose the dress and/or any accessories, be cost-conscious – not everyone can afford what your taste might be!  Also be respectful of body types – I’ve seen brides ask their bridesmaids to lose weight or make them wear an extremely unflattering dress – this is unacceptable.  (Plus, it’s bad for pictures!) Choose dresses that do not just look good on the hanger, but on the person as well!  Remember, it’s not just about you – it’s about those that have come to celebrate you too!  The more accommodating you can be, without sacrificing your plan, the better!

Planning a Wedding: Finding the Perfect Reception Venue

One of my biggest stresses (as it’s the hardest thing to plan) is the reception.  There are so many little details that go into this party that I commend any Wedding Planner for going into this profession.  There are so many budget line items that you just don’t think about, especially if everything has to be rented.

When choosing a reception site in Barcelona, Spain, note that 10.000 euro won’t necessarily get you very far for 120 people.  Most venue spaces are extremely costly to rent.  Nine times out of ten, it will not include the table/chair rentals and catering/bar service.  We were a bit panicked because of this.  However, our fantastic wedding planner, Rocio Muñoz, was able to find us a place that could accommodate everyone AND on-budget with what we were targeting!


The Glassroom ended up being a perfect choice for us.  Per my previous post about creating the guest list, before choosing the reception and planning the details, you should at least have the estimated number in-hand, when choosing venue size (I’ve seen some people choose wedding venues that are far too large, making the reception look way too small).  In addition, know (and stick with) your budget per person for food, venue rental, alcohol and VAT Tax (21%) – something many people forget.  The rest will work itself out.


In our case, our budget drove the TYPE of reception we are having, which went from my dream of a sit-down dinner to cocktail style with passed hors d’oeuvres.  It actually ends up being BETTER than a sit-down, as people can walk around and mingle with each other, not being forced/confined to a table, while they are eating.  The Glassroom is a smaller venue that only holds 120 (and the rental is only 968 euro WITH tax!).  It will seem more intimate, which is perfect for us.


The even BETTER news is that they have a catering company they work with!  They have several menu options to choose from,  which almost all include beverages (including wine, cava and beer) and dessert (we chose a menu at 50 euro pp), along with the option to tack on an open bar with snacks (18 euro pp).  Our reception will go on from 8pm – 1am – early by Spanish standards but perfect for those of us on a 6-9 hour time difference!

To contact the Glassroom, reach out to Adriana Llorens.  She’s wonderful to work with and incredibly flexible in menu options, venue configuration and agenda.

Still, there were cocktail tables to rent, linens, pillows and some other decor to rent (about 350 euros for us).  If you’re in need of a great company, Crimons is it!  Our wedding planner is affiliated with them so if interested, contact her.

I’ll be posting more on our reception, as the details are finalized!

Wedding Style: Prepping Those Heels!

I am guilty of buying Alexander McQueen shoes that may or may not last all night.  I couldn’t help it – they were so perfect and so sparkly AND on SALE, in MY SIZE!!!!  (See the pic below.)

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But, just because I bought them, doesn’t mean that that’s it – that I am “doomed” to achy feet.  Instead, I’ve done my research on how to make them more comfy.  Check out the great tips and tricks from on how to choose the comfiest heels or make your existing ones, feel as though you are walking on pillows.

Planning a Destination Wedding: Developing Your Wedding Website for Your Traveling Guests!

A GREAT wedding website is so super helpful for all of your out of town guests!  It took a lot of research, stalking my bride friends’ sites and coming up with my own flair.  Below are screenshots from my wedding website, along with some tips, hopefully giving you some inspiration when you begin to create yours!

Tip #1: Plan out what you would like to see on your site, as if you were a guest traveling to your own wedding.

Make sure your guests have ALL the information they need to travel and feel comfortable, during their visit.

My navigation not only provided my guests a journey of our relationship, but also a journey through the festivities.  Travel, accommodations, tips on things to see/eat/drink/do go an immensely long way, in helping your traveling guests get acquainted with where they will be.

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Tip #2: Make sure it’s multi-language friendly.

Some sites, like The Knot, are not built for destination weddings, as well as guests from other countries. (Note: You can use Zank You for multi-language if you choose.)  We decided to build our main pages in both languages, to accommodate his family and friends.

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Tip #3: Discounts, tips and suggestions for exploring the destination are beyond appreciated

We didn’t just research top tourist spots to visit – we DID it (see my travel post here)!  We made sure that when we traveled to Barcelona, we took time to sightsee, and learn what the best tours are, when the best time is to buy tickets for things and even how to get around.  We provided hyperlinks, phone numbers and in some cases, addresses.

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Tip #4: Provide dining option suggestions for all price points!

If you can, make sure you also have a list of places to eat/drink that fall in every price point.  For us, Barcelona is a huge city, so directing people to specific places, takes the guess work out of figuring out their next meal!  And, take it an extra step – provide them information on tipping, VAT tax, customary meal times, etc., so that they can budget and plan accordingly.

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Tip #5: Make sure to provide all travel options available, along with consulate information!

Just as getting lost in a city can feel overwhelming, so can searching for flights/figuring out how to get from point A to point B.  Provide some airline options, along with transportation options available, to get to/from the airport.  Also be sure to include consulate information for the country of each guest, just in case they lose their passport!

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Planning a Wedding: The Cake!

We brides sacrifice A LOT leading up to the wedding – emotional sanity, a purchase of shoes/handbag we REALLY want, and of course, the foods we watch our friends eat, while we pick at our salad (for a healthy weight management option, click here).  There were three things I cared the most about, going into my planning: what I looked like, the ceremony and the CAKE.  Out of all the planning I did, while we were in Barcelona, this part was my favorite.

We headed over to Buvette for a cake tasting, and I was completely blown away.  It’s a quaint little bakery on Amigó that had displays of cookies, cupcakes, cakes and other baked goods in all directions.  Since I had yet to have carbs in quite some time (as I was “saving up” for this day), I tried to tell myself that I needed to pace through it but there was no shot.  (Imagine a puppy at feeding time… but way more classy.)


Spoiler Alert on Tiered Cakes

While some people opt for ALL tiers of the cake to be real, most, in fact, are NOT.  That’s right – almost all levels of a tiered cake are cardboard with decorative fondant.  The cake served to guests come from sheet cakes, already cut and ready to serve. This made me feel better and quite possibly, with this info, can drive costs down!

What about a “Groom’s Cake”?

I always believe, to each their own.  However, I find it a bit tacky to have one on display.  It’s not even customary to have decorative wedding cakes at European weddings (in Spain, they are fruit cakes).  Instead, my groom and I decided to have two different kinds of cakes available to guests, to satisfy both our wants.  We chose gluten-free lemon cake with lemon and raspberry filling for mine (and the one we will cut into) and Nutella-filled vanilla cake with chocolate ganache icing for his.

Below is a sneak peek of what our cake will look like (swap out the “M” with an “O”) and replace the gold flowers with real ones.


NOTE: I may be the bride, hiding in the venue kitchen, finishing off the last of the top layer, since it won’t hold for two weeks, while we’re on our honeymoon ;-)

Planning a Destination Wedding: When to Send Out the Save the Dates!

As I came to find out, “Save the Dates” are very American.  Europeans still call each other to let each know of the wedding date and to expect the invite, just a few months before. Me being the neurotic bride I am, and given that we have travelers from around the globe attending, I sent ours out eight months in advance! (NOTE: Destination weddings usually require brides to send out the StDs six months in advance.)


We decided to go with a luggage tag theme.  All of the “passport stamps” in the background are dates/locations of our biggest joint life events.  It’s just a fun way to let people know that they are about to embark on a fun adventure with us next year!

My designer (and also my sister): Ashley Pennington of AWTEW Designs

Planning a Wedding: Budgeting for the Ceremony


Very few brides remember that there are expenses, beyond flowers for a ceremony – especially if you are getting married in the Catholic church.  Here is a rundown of a few expenses to consider:

  1. Although it’s considered a “donation” to the church, you are required to pay it.  In Europe, this covers the basic flowers for the altar, the priest’s time, the “rental” of the church, the organist and if you wish, the printed programs.  We booked Basilica de Santa Maria del Mar.  It’s one of the pricier Basilicas in Barcelona (1500 euro) but the incredible amount of history and the breathtaking views from the inside, make it worth the extra euros.  (NOTE: If you are looking to book this Basilica, you need to book at least a year in advance.  Keep in mind that May – September is wedding season for them, so the sooner you can come up with your date, the better.)  To book, contact: Roser Borràs.  She speaks Spanish and Catalan, so Google Translate will be your best friend.
  2. Pre-cana classes.  This is where we did not expect the fees we had to pay.  Although fees may vary from Diocese to Diocese, ours came to almost $500.  Within the Catholic religion, you are required to take two courses: one 1-day class and one weekend retreat.  Make sure that if you are getting married in the Catholic church, you account for this!
  3. Additional flowers (down the pews that are reserved for guests), ceremony programs, additional vocalists/instrumentalists, unity candle and other ceremony items.  Although we are still working out these details, make sure to consider these expenses as well – they can add up!

Above all else, remember that the ceremony is the most important part of your day.  All else can go wrong but if the man/woman you love is at the end of that altar, ready to say “I do”, it’s all that matters!

Planning a Wedding: Decide on the Guestlist BEFORE the Reception

Next to budgeting, deciding on the guest list is the second hardest thing to do for many, many couples.  What can start as a “small wedding” can end up being a decent size wedding, very quickly.  In our case, my groom’s family is from Barcelona and he has a large family.  We decided to make this more about family and then invite our closest friends to participate as well.  But, it wasn’t without “guest creep”.  We started at 90 and our invite list is now 120!  Still, it’s a delicate balance – to be able to respect the wishes of family, as well as not leave out the friends that have been there for you, since the beginning.  It ended up shaping the type of reception we are having, within the allotted reception budget we knew we could afford (9.878 euros*).  Remember, you might not have your dream reception but as long as the ceremony is perfect and you look perfect, the rest shouldn’t matter – you’re having a destination wedding, where beauty and great people are all around you!!!

*NOTE: Our allotted budget for the reception, only included venue rental, food and drink.

Inviting a +1


Inviting a +1 means more people to feed – we all know that.  It’s tough asking the single people to come solo, or even those who are in a relationship, who are unmarried, to leave their partners at home.  So, do you spend the extra money so everyone is happy or start whittling down the list?  When we started going through our guest list, we originally said no dates, unless the couple was married.  Then our list expanded to include all significant others. We then realized that some of our American friends would be traveling solo, so if they wanted to bring a friend, they could (although we encourage my single girlfriends to come solo, so they were free to mingle :) ).  It actually helped to shape our reception into a format that could accommodate everyone AND stay within our reception budget.  Check out my post on what our reception ended up becoming (even though we’re still in the midst of planning the finer details)!

Inviting Children or Going Child-free


This is always another tough dilemma.  Undoubtedly, the ceremony will always have one child that picks that particular moment to make themselves known.  And, in other cases, it’s more about the reception venue and how they feel about children being near an open bar/an area where there are potential safety risks (let’s be honest, kids are curious and can get into anything if they want to).  This is a time to remember that it is your day.  If you prefer adults-only as solely a preference, it’s okay.  It’s an opportunity for “mom and dad” to take a night off!  Just remember, you might then have to coordinate/provide childcare services for the evening.  In our case, he has a ton of cousins available for hire :-)

Organizing the Guest List and Keeping the Moving Parts, Moving

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Keeping the guest list organized, with all addresses in one spot, can be quite the task in and of itself!  The above image is from our own guest list tracking sheet.  (NOTE:  “StD” stands for Save the Date and “Invite Add?” is Invite Addressed).  As you will see, we do not have a column for confirmed attendance.  We have opted to use to take care of this, as we are asking people to RSVP online (it saves money, stamps and paper!).  If you prefer, the whole guest list portion of the planning can be done, via

You’ve Chosen your Guest list, Now What?

It’s time to choose the type of reception you want and get those save-the-dates created!  See my other posts on these subjects.