Over The Moon - Our Stay At Cocobay Resort, Antigua

While it sounds exciting, planning the trip of a lifetime can be a stressful task in top of planning a wedding. We tossed around ideas of exotic locations, touring the Amalfi Coast or sailing Santorini, but when it came down to it our love for relaxing in the warm Caribbean sun made for an easy decision.

Not quick to raise his hand for wedding related tasks, Brian volunteered to lead the search for the perfect Caribbean honeymoon spot. We knew wanted something off the beaten path but also all-inclusive. After writing checks the last six months, the last thing we wanted to was pull out our wallets daily. Unfortunately, outside of the usual spots like Cancun, Jamaica, and the Dominican, the concept of “all-inclusive” isn’t all to wide spread.

Nevertheless, the Eastern Caribbean island of Antigua has always been on our radar. Boasting 365 white sandy beaches (one for each day!) and offering some of the most beautiful resorts in the world, it quickly moved to the top of the list. The only problem was that outside of your typical Sandals resort, Antigua wasn't home to many all inclusive resorts that fit our vibe. That was until we stumbled upon Cocobay Resort! We were immediately drawn to Cocobay through their beautifully curated Instagram account. Without hesitation we reached out and booked a 10 day trip in one of their Premium Waterfront Suites.

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We were lucky enough to be able to leave for our honeymoon two days after our wedding. After a quick stop in NYC we were off on a quick four hour direct flight to Antigua. Upon arrival, the online images of Cocobay’s immediately came to life. With its colorful collection of pastel cottages, white sandy beaches, and turquoise water we immediately fell in love with our surroundings.

Upon entering our Premium Waterfront Suite we were instantly relaxed by its spacious interior and one of the best oceanfront views either of us have ever seen. The view was complemented by the cottage private balcony fully equipped with a hammock, daybed, and our very own private plunge pool. Being able to enjoy coffee and cocktails in this private and intimate setting was a highlight of our trip!

Cocobay offered two main swimming pools along with a main bar/clubhouse and food was served at their restaurant, Rafters. Being veterans of the all inclusive life we were a bit skeptical of only having one restaurant to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner, however Cocobay exceeded our expectations. We looked forward to the dinner menu daily and frequently indulged in menu items such as beef tenderloin and spiny lobster.  There were also plenty of food options off the resort that were easily accessible via hotel arranged transportation. Luckily for Cocobay guests, the grounds also is home to Sheer Rocks, voted the #1 restaurant in the Caribbean in 2018. We frequently visited Sheer Rocks for cocktails and one night for dinner for a culinary experience we will sure never forget.

 Our View from the pool, stairs to Sheer rocks on the left

Our View from the pool, stairs to Sheer rocks on the left

Where Cocobay really won us over though was through their warm and welcoming staff. From the moment we arrived and we were personally greeted by hotel manager O’Neil Richards, we felt the staff’s personal dedication to making sure our trip was a trip of a lifetime, and they certainly succeeded!

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While we are sad that the wedding journey has come to an end, we are happy we can look back on not only the wedding, but also our honeymoon with no regrets. Thanks to Cocobay we were able to unwind and recharge -together-  in one of the most picturesque settings on earth. If you are looking to do the same I recommend checking them out. We surely hope to return one day!

Questions about planning a honeymoon, anniversary trip, or couples getaway? Leave them below!

First Glimpse at Our Wedding & What's to Come!

Happy #WeddingWednesday from the other side! Now that our wedding has come and gone, we're so excited to be going through our photos and video from our special day. Brian and I are back to work, getting the hang of married life. We sincerely appreciate everyone's well wishes and kind words! For everyone who has asked, married life is going well! It's the same... but different. :)

Since so many of you have been asking to get a little teaser of what our wedding day looked like, our videographers, Sarah + Ryan of Two Palm Films just delivered this little teaser from the wedding day and we couldn't be more excited to see the full thing! Our full length video will be shared through my partnership with Love Stories TV in the coming months. 

Yesterday on my IG stories I asked what you wanted to know specifically about the wedding. This was extremely helpful and enlightening because now I will be sharing things that you actually want to see! I've got a Google Doc saved of all of the questions that I will be answering over the next month, but here are a few:

  • all about bridesmaids: how I asked, what they wore, what they were gifted
  • decor: table scape, florals, how we incorporated our crest
  • what I did for something new, something old, something borrowed and blue
  • dress details: specifically undergarments and tailoring
  • our ceremony music and our first dance song
  • our dessert table: a more in depth look at our custom made cookies with our dog Walter painted on there & glitter donuts!
  • the food: you're after my own heart, loved how many requests we got about this!
  • the day overall: if there were any glitches, hardest part about planning, etc.
  • our incredible vendors, specifically Buffalo based

Be sure to leave a comment here or on my IG if there is anything I might've missed.
Our wedding photos will also be shared on Martha Stewart Weddings, so stay tuned for that as well! 

What do you think?! Would love to hear your thoughts!

Vendors:

Design + coordination: KCYouThere
Photographers: Colin Gordon Photography
Video: Two Palm Films
Florals: Buds and Blooms 716
Dress: Martina Liana #685 from Wedding Atelier
Veil + jewels: Sara Gabriel
Groom suit: custom Joseph Abboud tux from Men's Wearhouse
Wedding bands: Jared the Galleria of Jewelry
Bridesmaids dresses: Jenny Yoo
Bridesmaids jewelry: Sorrelli
Bridal makeup: Rosa Barney
Bridal hair & bridesmaids hair/makeup: Groom Service
Groomsmen suits: custom Joseph Abboud tux from Men's Wearhouse
Groomsmen accessories: The Tie Bar
Paper goods: For Your Party
Invitations: Minted
Dessert table: B Sweet Designs
Signage: Sweet Carolina Collective
Robes: Natori
Greenery backdrop: Buffalo Event Essentials
Neon sign: Echo Neon Studio
Photo booth: Ayers Photography
Linens: Blvd Wedding Concepts
Flatware: McCarthy Events
Table numbers: Rust Belt Love
Custom wedding crest: By Brittany Branson

3 Things You Need To Know For Creating The Best Wedding Registry

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If you've been following my wedding journey, you know that I really struggled with my wedding registry. Brian and I are more of a modern couple, living together for a few years before we decided to tie the knot. When it came to creating our own wedding registries, I was lost. We definitely needed some upgrades on things but we didn't need all of the typical stuff that stores and other online guides were suggesting.  As if wedding planning isn't enough to do, we decided it was also a great time to update our home... Not sure if we're crazy or sane but we wanted to take this time to update our home to reflect this new chapter in our life. That's when we discovered Wayfair and then soon after that, Wayfair Registry! I've teamed up with Wayfair to compile a few helpful hints when it comes to creating a registry of your own. 

Make the registry work for your lifestyle

If you haven't already heard of Wayfair, it is one of the largest online destinations for the home. As Brian and I were in the process of updating our home, we loved purchasing off of Wayfair but didn't realize it offered such a seamless registry process.  Wayfair Registry makes it easier than ever for couples to conveniently register for everything home, all in one place, by selecting from more than 10 million products across all styles, including outdoor, kitchen, bed and bath, living room and home renovation. This was extremely valuable to Brian & I because we needed random things like lamps, dresser drawers and patio cushions... not something you'd typically think of as a registry item but stuff we truly needed.

Do not be scared to register for big ticket items

Since we needed bigger items, it can sometimes feel awkward to register for those things because of the higher price point. Wayfair Registry offers a “group gifting” option, where guests can contribute a dollar amount to big-ticket items like sofas, large appliances, or home renovation needs like lighting fixtures, plumbing materials and more. Fret no more!

Be sure to have fun with it! Make it a date night.

The in-store registration process was really overwhelming for my beloved groom so it was a total luxury that we were able to create our Wayfair Registry from the comfort of our own home! We opened a bottle of wine, snuggled up on the couch and were able to browse their extensive selection of items that we could both agree on!

A few other reasons we love Wayfair:

  • Wayfair Registry offers free shipping on all orders shipped directly to the couple, the convenience of white glove delivery for large items, an extended 90-day return policy, access to dedicated registry specialists who offer personalized support and guidance, and more.
  • Wayfair Registry serves as a hub for couples, letting them personalize their page by uploading photos, sharing notes with guests and tagging their favorite finds.
  • It's easy. It's painless... what more could you want?

Here a few of our favorite registry items:

To get started with your own registry process, click here!

Thank you to Wayfair and Wayfair Registry for collaborating with me on this post! All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Size Inclusive Summer Dresses: Get Ready For Under $150

 Photo by Heather Houston Photography

Photo by Heather Houston Photography

Spring is finally here! I've been getting a bunch of requests for casual & special event dresses so I decided to do a little round up of my favorite dresses. As always, you can shop the looks by clicking on the images or links directly! Be sure to check out my IG story today for a few additional looks that are on major sale. 

Everyday Casual

A few weeks ago I did a try on haul from my latest Old Navy finds! I live in these dresses all summer long. They are so easy to throw on- dress up or dress down for a perfect everyday look.

Daytime Chic

These are a few of my favorite dresses that are perfect for a daytime affair: showers, graduations, parties, etc! 

Fancier Affairs

Fun fact: did you know that black tie affairs don't necessarily mean you need to wear a floor length gown? A dress that hits at or just below the knee can still be formal! It really all depends on the style and fabric, in my opinion. Accessories can also really help! 

All White Everything

As a bride to be, I definitely have an addition to LWD's this season but I feel like they are just such a classic look! I will definitely be re-wearing post-wedding (but definitely not to other people's weddings!)

As you may see, I've only selected a few brands here. I find myself staying loyal to brands when I find my perfect fit. When it comes to sizing, I get a bunch of questions so I thought I would let you know what I am in hopes of helping you find your fit! I love these brands because they are extremely consistent in their sizing- so I can always count on things fitting true to size.

Old Navy: Large
Eliza J: Size 14
Maggy London: Size 14
David's Bridal: Size 14

What are you shopping for this season? Do you think any of these dresses would work for you? Leave a comment below! 

Saturday Swimsuit Finds: Splurges & Steals

Happy Weekend, everybody! This week on my IG stories you voted that you're shopping for swimsuits. In case you missed it, I recently posted a collaboration with SwimSpot, highlighting their fantastic swim collection and fit specialist program for every body type. Be sure to check that out here!

When it comes to swimwear, I like to invest. I'd rather buy 1-2 high quality suits a year that will last me a few years rather than buying inexpensively that will only last you one season. As a full busted, curvy lady I need support and fabric that holds me in. If you've never "splurged" on a swimsuit before, now is your time! To me, it makes a huge difference especially with the bra situation. I like to only wear bra sized two pieces. When it comes to one pieces, I like to make sure the fabric quality is on par. I'm pretty picky and loyal to my favorite swimwear brands: Panache Swim, Elomi Swim, La Blanca, SwimSpot and Kenneth Cole

The most important thing about wearing a swimsuit is having confidence! For me, it's taken time to develop that but once you find a suit that makes you feel good- it makes all of the difference. I've rounded up my favorite swimsuits under $100, I hope you find a suit for you. As always, feel free to leave me any comments or DM me on Instagram with any questions!

You can shop these suits by clicking directly on the images and it will take you right to the website!  

LBS (little black suits):

If you're new to wearing trendier swimsuits, these little black suits will be your perfect gateway to pushing yourself out of your comfort zone in a flattering way. 

Bra Sized Tops:

Once I discovered my actual bra size (36FF), bra sized swimwear has been a complete game changer for me. Here are a few of my favorite tops that you can mix & match with different color bottoms!

For my fellow bride tribe:

Or anyone who loves white swimwear, there's something so classic and cute about white swimsuits. 

Just a few more I either have or am crushing on...

As I said before, all images are shoppable, so you can click directly on the image you like and it will take you right to the page! Quite a few of these are on sale this weekend so now is a great time to buy. Be sure to leave a comment or message me on IG with any questions! 

5 Things I Learned While Training for a Couch to 5K Program

Serving up a little #MotivationMonday today, wanted to give you an update on my couch to 5K program. In case you missed it, earlier this year I set some goals for 2018 and completing a gradual 5K runner program was one of them. The program duration lasts about eight weeks and I did it 2-4 times per week over the duration of nine weeks because of my travel schedule. I trained indoors at my gym on a treadmill. I was extremely hesitant to ever mention my running goals on my instagram but so many of you responded so positively, you helped fuel my motivation to complete this challenge. I never considered myself to be a runner so I was fearful that I wouldn’t be able to complete this program... but I did and that feels darn good to say! To all of the runners and non-runners out there, here are five things I learned along the way. 

Stretching matters! 

Stretch it out! For real, I like to stretch before and after my runs and it makes a huge difference. I just feel so much more flexible and warmed up when I stretch. Before my post-run stretch, I always like to do a “cool down” where I walk five minutes at a moderate pace to bring down my heart rate.

It isn’t a race. 

To me, it was never about being the fastest or strongest or the best. I set a goal of completing this challenge with no other expectations. As tempting as it is to look over on the treadmill next to me to see their speed and distance, I kept reminding myself that I cannot compare my journey to anyone else’s. I still don’t consider myself to be a runner but I’m sure proud that I was able to complete it on my own terms. And that’s all that matters! 

I CAN run.

This for sure was probably my biggest obstacle, perhaps even a metaphor for something bigger in my life. After years of telling myself I don’t have a runner’s body or I’m too big to run, I decided to challenge that voice in my head. When I first started the program, I was really hesitant to ever post about it because I was scared I’d fail. Not that I’m entirely scared to fail, but I honestly wasn’t sure if I’d be up for this challenge. I simply started it because I was bored with my current workout plan and wanted to give it a shot.  I’ve proved to myself that I can run a 5K and these curves (and previously torn meniscus) were ABLE to run. 

I still don’t love running. 

Love is a strong word. Don’t get me wrong, I like running, I just don’t love it. When I first started, I had dreams of falling in love with running, craving the “runner’s high” that other people had experienced. After this program, I still can’t say that love running, but I do love and appreciate my body for being able to give it my best shot. Would I do it again? Yes. I still might keep up with it, but maybe try a different approach. I don’t enjoy running for 30 minutes straight, but knowing that I can is enough for me. In the future, I’d prefer 3 mins on, 2 mins off- something like that. 

I can do anything that I put my mind to.

This applies to all things in life, this was just a helpful reminder. When I imagined running, I had flashbacks of my high school soccer practice and how miserable I was because I wasn’t good at running. I was never the fastest nor did I ever enjoy it because I felt like I was losing a race I wanted no part of. I really enjoyed this couch to 5K program because it is gradual and at your own pace- literally. Each day, I got better, building up my endurance, surprising myself each time I completed the day. I ran by duration- not speed or distance because I didn’t really care how fast or far I was going, I was more into being able to run for particular amount of time. For anyone considering starting the program, I say DO IT! Prove to yourself that you can, because if I can do it- you can too. This I know for sure.

*Bonus* What you wear when you work out matters!

When you look good, you feel good and that always gives me a boost while working out.  For me, I prefer function over fashion but both, when possible. When I workout, I like to wear a cropped legging and a tank with either a zip up jacket or pullover. I have been in love with RBX Activewear for many years now, I can successfully say that I’ve completed this 5K journey wearing functional, fashionable and reasonable styles from RBX! Because I love, wear and believe in the brand so much, they were kind enough to partner with me and offer my readers a discount on RBX purchases! Use “Caralyn10” for 10% off your purchase.  In the photo above, I’m wearing the Prime X Back tank and the Prime Mesh Block pocket capri. Shop my looks here! 

Would you/have you ever done a running program like this? Does running come easy to you? Would you consider doing a program like this after reading my post? Leave your thoughts in the comments below, I can't wait to hear! 

Photo by Maxey Greene

Save The Date: Behind the Making of our Wedding Crest with Brittany Branson

Happy Wedding Wednesday, everybody! *GIVEAWAY ALERT* Keep reading to find out! Now that my guests have had plenty of time to receive their save the date's from us, I've decided to share this very special creation with you. Save the dates have a very unfortunate acronym so I'm going to keep spelling out 'save the date' for you. ;) Typically, you'll see save the date cards with photos of couples on them. In my line of work,  I often feel that my family and friends get sick of seeing pictures of me- because I certainly get sick of looking at myself! I also knew I wouldn't be able to commit to one picture of us to live on someone's fridge for 6 months! Therefore, I was inspired to shake things up a bit with our save the date's. Cue Brittany Branson.

I came across Brittany's Instagram in the fall and I was immediately attracted to her bubbly personality and stunning designs. My wedding planner, Karina Lopez connected the two of us and decided to create a custom wedding crest, also known as a watercolor heirloom crest. Brittany thrives o working with couples who aren't afraid to get creative! In that, she loves using their love story or unique aspects of their personality as her inspiration for creating their custom wedding art.

After some careful thought and research, Brian and I pulled together all of the things that embodied our relationship. These ideas were then sent over to Brittany and we gave her creative reign to make something special. And boy, did she deliver! 

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Our requests to Brittany were fairly simple. We wanted our crest to represent the aspects of our relationship but in a tasteful way. Here are the things that we brainstormed about our relationship that we wanted embodied within our crest:

-Downtown Buffalo cityscape // where we first met and fell in love
-Palm tree leaves // we love the beach & traveling to warmer climates
-Walter, our dog, in a bowtie  // we wanted him represented in a way that wasn't overkill, I think she did so well with this concept! 
-A yellow umbrella // How I Met Your Mother reference - one of our favorite shows
-Hydrangeas & white roses // my favorite flowers
-Established in 2018 // for the obvious reason of getting married in June 2018!

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It's simple, thoughtful and yet so meaningful to Brian and I. I know we'll be able to use this crest for years to come. Spoiler alert: I believe we're going to use the crest on our custom stamps for our formal wedding invitations. We also can add it to little details at our wedding as well as frame it in our home for years to come. We had the crest implemented into a simple design on Minted and printed it on a thick card stock through them!

I'm currently running a giveaway on my instagram account to receive your very own custom watercolor heirloom crest! You don't have be engaged to enter to win, this crest could be special for any family at any phase of life. In order to win you must:

1. Follow @CaralynMirand & @ByBrittanyBranson on Instagram

2. Subscribe to CaralynMirand.com by typing in your email (on the sidebar of the blog page on your desktop or on the bottom of this page if you’re on your phone) 

3. Comment on my instagram post why having a custom family crest would be special to you

4. For bonus entries: tag any friends including bride to be's who'd love to enter

Giveaway will run Wednesday, March 14th at 12:00pm EST until Saturday, March 17th at 12:00pm EST. Must be following both of us to enter, subscribed to my website and commented on my photo. No purchase necessary! Winner will be chosen by a random name generator. 

 

What do you think of my crest/ save the date?! Leave your reply below. 
Special thank you to Brittany Branson and Minted for collaborating with me on this post!

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My Favorite Self Tanners and The Best Way To Apply It

Hi everyone! It's been a minute since I shared my last post with you but I've been traveling a bunch which means less time to blog. Now that spring break is upon us, I've gotten dozens of requests on what self tanners I use. As a model, I have to maintain a healthy glow year round due to my swimwear and lingerie clients. Therefore, I've decided to breakdown my favorite products but before I do, I have to share a little secret: the actual product you're using matters about 25%, the way you're applying matters about 75%. In short: application matters! I've been getting spray tans for about a year now and applying self tanners for over 7 (#tbt to Jergens' orange covered palms) so I consider myself a sunless tanning pro! I'm going to fill you in on what makes my sunless tan so perfect in these easy steps. I have never been a fan of tanning beds for obvious reasons but I do love to feel golden bronze year round! I do a combination of spray tans and self application tanner year round. As always, the images shown this post are clickable/shoppable so clicking on the images will bring you to the site! 

Before you tan:

Whether you are going for a spray tan or applying it yourself, you need to exfoliate. In the shower, I use a washcloth or loofa with a sugar scrub on my skin to make sure I wash off any dead skin or previous tanner. This is an extremely important step, you cannot skip it! This is time to use a sugar scrub, this is my favorite exfoliant but you can use whatever or even make your own! When you exfoliate your skin, this gives the tan the opportunity to lay evenly. This is my favorite body scrub, but you can really any sugar based scrub (click the images to shop).

Once you're done in the shower, make sure you dry off really well. Sometimes I even still scrub my skin with the dry towel to make sure I got everything. Now, when I go to get a spray tan I do not ever apply moisturizer or makeup. I also try not to apply deodorant, so the tan sticks directly on my skin and nothing else. Side note: if you live in Buffalo, NY and need a good contact for an all natural spray tan, I have a girl who does it out of her house for $25! DM or message me if you'd like her info. She is phenomenal and my tan seriously lasts over a week. 

Before apply my tanner of choice at home, I put a little light lotion on my feet, heels, knees, elbows, nails and any other severely dry spots. I have also discovered that using a mitt has been a game changer, that way it helps you buff out the skin without getting your palms all orange. I use this to moisturize, I did a collaboration with Dove a few weeks ago and I'm still loving this light, unscented lotion:

While you're applying:

As I said before, using a mitt has made applying SO much easier. You can apply it without rushing out of fear that it'll soak into your palms. When you use the mitt, you want to make sure you're applying in circular motions so it doesn't streak. You want to "buff" it into your skin. I've been trying different self tanners for a long time, my favorite at home tanner has been this Saint Tropez bronzing mousse (click the images to shop):

The reason I like the mousse is because it's buildable and you can see what you're applying so if you cause any streaks, you can easily buff them out with a little lotion applied to the mitt. I have Brian help me get my back so that it's not streaky. Ask your significant other or a pal to help you out. I usually apply the mousse at night, wear baggy clothes the rest of the night and then shower the next morning.

If you're in a rush and don't have time for the mousse process, I still urge you to exfoliate but here are some excellent instant/ buildable tanners so you can apply and go with now down time:

After you apply:

If you're using the mousse or getting a spray tan, you want to make sure you give your skin some time to absorb the product. Wear loose clothing and don't sweat or workout immediately after so your clothing doesn't rub anything off. 

When you do shower, make sure you DO NOT take a super hot shower. This will cause the tanner to become spotty and uneven. Take a warm & lukewarm shower, and try not to exfoliate the skin until you want to wash the tanner off. 

Moisturize!!! This is super important everyday but when you want to keep up your fake tan, this is extra important. You want to make sure you're moisturizing more than you typically would so that your skin stays hydrated and so the tanner stays even. 

This may sound high maintenance but I've mastered the art of applying and as long as you follow these steps, you should have a long lasting tan. Feel free to ask any questions below! Would you be willing to try this routine? Leave your answer in the comments. 

Friday Favorites: Stepping into Spring Style

Happy Friday, everybody! I seriously cannot believe we're almost through February- time is just flying by but this only means we're one month closer to warmer temps! Unless you live somewhere warm year round, if that's the case I envy you. This week on my Instagram Story, you voted that you'd like to see a spring style round up. I've decided to link some pieces that I've bought and some pieces that I'm really considering buying! This spring, I'm all about the florals (groundbreaking, I know), trying out shorts for the first time in 2006 (bermuda shorts, amirite?), and building my wardrobe with investment pieces that will carry me from season to season. As always, the images and font in bold is clickable/shoppable- so you can shop directly from this post! There are also some amazing sales happening this weekend!

What's Spring without Spring Dresses?

Easy Basics:

I like to shop pretty inexpensively when it comes to basics. They go with everything, you can wear them over and over

Jackets!

I love spring jackets because they can easily take you into other seasons as transitional pieces!

Wedding Wednesday: The Perfect LWD with David's Bridal!

As I’ve been deep in the wedding planning process,  I’ve been on the hunt for EVERYTHING LWD (Little White Dress) for pre-wedding festivities. I’ve searched high and low and I haven’t been able to find many options that were high quality, unique, affordable and SIZE INCLUSIVE! This is why I’m so excited to partner up with David’s Bridal to share the little white dresses they have to offer for events surrounding the wedding. Not to mention, I am into their accessories too. They were kind enough to send my favorite dress from their collection to see how I’d style it for my upcoming wedding events.

I will link all of my outfit details in this post so you can shop directly from this page by clicking the text in bold or the product images!

 Click to shop the   dress ,    purse   and   earrings  ! 

Click to shop the dress, purse and earrings

David’s Bridal is an incredible destination for casual, on trend styles at an affordable price! I was pleasantly surprised to see the variety of styles and sizes for all the events surrounding the wedding: whether it’s for an engagement party or photos, bachelorette party, bridal shower, rehearsal, honeymoon, celebrating your first anniversary - David’s Bridal offers so many options at an incredible value for every body type.

Whether you’re a bride to be or not, white dresses will always be timeless! I know I'll be wearing my LWD's long after my wedding. Switch up your accessories to keep the look fresh. You can throw on a leather or denim jacket and re-wear this dress over and over!

Here are a few other LWD’s I’m loving:

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Another reason I’m loving David’s Bridal are their accessories! They’re on trend and extremely affordable. Here is the necklace I’m wearing above as well as a few extra that I’m loving:

For anyone looking for little white dresses, definitely check out David’s Bridal for all of your bridal needs and beyond. To find a store in your area, click here. I was really impressed by their latest offerings and I think you will be too! They're affordable, great quality and size inclusive- three things that go a long way around here.   

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All photos by Ryan Kell

This post is sponsored by David’s Bridal but all thoughts and opinions are my own.

It's Time To Go LIVE!

Some thoughts on a Wednesday...

See the above image to explain my mood about Instagram lately. 😖😜 I've really been struggling with my Instagram posts and the platform in general. Since the recent algorithm changes, I've seen and felt some paint points from it. Last year at this time, I was determined to build a platform and community that was founded on the principle of being meaningful, honest, fun and kind. I am incredibly proud to have built such a great community, and my goal is to create content for you that you love. Now with the changes, it's incredibly frustrating that 80-90% of you can't see what I'm working on! 

As a creative soul, I've always known that I was destined for an atypical career path but I never knew what that meant. My work through this blog and social media has ignited a spark in me, a true passion. I really enjoy what I'm doing here, I'm growing and learning something new each day. However, the best part of this job is that I get to connect with people like you from ALL over the world. There's seriously nothing like hearing from you, I really appreciate hearing your thoughts and opinions. I feel so much pride when I think about the little fam we've created here. Every like, comment, direct message and vote is noticed and I couldn't be more grateful. If it wasn't for you, I wouldn't even be in this position. So, thank you for helping me make my dreams come true and joining me in this incredible journey! 

Alright, alright- enough of the gushy stuff! Although I could really go on all day, just to reiterate how much I appreciate you because I don't think I say it enough. 😘  Now, I'd like to introduce you to some new content that will be happening! My goal is to create fun and new content that you love, which is why I can't wait to announce something special here! I'd like to implement a new Instagram Q&A series on Instagram LIVE! Yes, LIVE! (I'm a little scared, not gonna lie). I'm hoping to do it this weekend- Saturday or Sunday.

I'd like to try this is for a few reasons. First and foremost, I want to constantly keep my content new and fresh and engaging. Secondly, I enjoy pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I'm a little bit terrified to go live because anything can happen! But in spirit of embracing it all, I think this could be a fun way to show you a different side of me you might not always see. Lastly & most importantly, I absolutely love chatting with you through your comments and direct messages. I feel like you all are my close friends! My hope is for this to be a more casual and candid version of me. I want to get to know you better too!

In spirit of not going on Instagram Live alone and afraid, please leave a comment below of something you'd like me to answer! Ask me anything, within reason! 😉 Also, please let me know which day you'd prefer! Even if you can't watch it live, I'll be able to save it to my profile to view later. I can't wait to see what you're wondering, so please leave the questions below! I'll have some questions for you too. 

 

My Modeling Story: Where It All Began

Every year around this time I get very nostalgic of my start in the modeling world. I'm incredibly grateful for my start and I like to reflect and appreciate how it all began. Recently, I was watching America's Next Top Model with Ashley Graham and Khrystyana. It just amazes me how far the plus size / fashion industry has come. I posted on my Instagram Story that I had gotten discovered by Tyra Banks herself and it was so surprising on how many of you didn't know that! As my 8th modeling anniversary approaches this year, I'd like to pay an extra special homage to my beginning. I apologize for the low quality images in this post, they're all from 2010! It's also amazing to see how far photo quality has come!

Posted on a whim: 

Flash back to January of 2010, I was a senior in high school accepted on early decision to Clarkson University. My mom had suggested that I go online and apply for scholarships, since the price of private school tuition was not cheap. Instead, I found myself wandering the internet, stumbling upon The Tyra Show's website. Back in 2010, Tyra Banks had a daytime talk show and she had just announced that she was hosting a "Fiercely Real Teen Model Search." Instead of calling it "plus size" she was calling it "fiercely real." If you were a teenager (13-19), above a size 12 and taller than 5"9 you were eligible to enter. My friend and I saw the contest and kind of laughed about it, daring me to enter. I had always been comfortable in front of a camera, thanks to my dad's love for taking pictures but I never thought of modeling as an option. I submitted my senior portraits on a whim. People were posting their submissions on the forum so quickly, my photos went from page 1 to page 25 by the time I refreshed. So to be honest, I kind of forgot about it. 

 The first picture that I submitted, my senior portrait. 

The first picture that I submitted, my senior portrait. 

Busted (for good reason):

A few days later, I got an email from a producer named Michael Carandang. He thanked me for my submission but asked me to follow the directions and submit the photos that they were requesting: typical model digitals including full body, 3/4 shot, side profile and an up close face shot. I was a little taken back that they emailed me but I didn't think much of it, to be honest. However, that night at the dinner table included a conversation something like this: "Mom, I did something I shouldn't have... Instead of looking up scholarships, I posted my pictures on Tyra Banks' website and just got an email from a producer asking for more images." 

One of the very few times not listening to my mother paid off.  We googled the producer's name to make sure he was legitimate, he was, so we proceeded to respond back to him. My aunt came over the next day and helped me take my very first digitals! Things continued to move very fast, once we submitted the proper images, I was notified that I had been selected to be in the top 100. Next day: top 50, next day: top 25, top 20, top 15, then it dwindled down to the top 10. I was interviewed on the phone a few times and then I was notified that my image was going to be shown to Tyra, who then was going to select the top 6 to be in the contest. Apparently, Tyra was laying in the dentist's chair when she was selecting these images. I was selected to appear in the top six, flying to New York with my mom. Before we were allowed to get on the plane, we had to record a video promoting Tyra's BIO Campaign: Beauty Inside Out. From the time I posted my pictures, to the time that we got on the plane was just about a week. It was a whirlwind.

 Getting picked up from the JFK airport in a limo was definitely a highlight 

Getting picked up from the JFK airport in a limo was definitely a highlight 

Off to NY:

 Our first night in NY, probably the first time I got my hair and makeup done, I think I added to the makeup too. I am dying looking at these photos!!!!!!! So many questions... Bronzer, hair bow, key necklace... Face palm.

Our first night in NY, probably the first time I got my hair and makeup done, I think I added to the makeup too. I am dying looking at these photos!!!!!!! So many questions... Bronzer, hair bow, key necklace... Face palm.

But the whirlwind had only begun. The contest had a very similar format to ANTM except that we were all underage, they couldn't house us together alone. We were put up in a hotel for a little less than a week. We were told to report to the lobby at 8:00AM every morning, without our mothers. My mother of course came down in a separate elevator and hid in the lobby bushes just to make sure we were in good hands. We were, the producers were incredibly kind to us and made us feel comfortable. 

 The top 6 contestants! This was just before our first photo shoot in our Nike activewear!

The top 6 contestants! This was just before our first photo shoot in our Nike activewear!

We filmed for three days. The first two days were themed photo shoots in a studio: a fitness shoot sponsored by Nike, a shoot sponsored by Torrid and a celebrity themed shoot (I was Fergie). See my final photos below:

 From left to right: Activewear shoot, Torrid shoot, Fergie shoot

From left to right: Activewear shoot, Torrid shoot, Fergie shoot

The last day we were filming in The Tyra Show studio, where the top 6 filmed two episodes of the show, where we were dwindled down to find the winner based off of the shoots and challenges that we did the previous days. 

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The judges included Tyra Banks, Jon Illani (former Wilhelmina agent), Whitney Thompson (first plus size ANTM winner, cycle 10) and Ann Shoket (former editor of Seventeen Magazine). Just as the models are judged on ANTM, each of us were called to the judges stand to be critiqued on our photos. I'm pretty sure this shot below is when Whitney told me I had a snooty nose, something that still makes me giggle!

 I am completely cringing at my outfit choices, by the way. 2010 was not a great time for fashion in my life. 

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And the results are in:

The judges gave me great feedback, seemed to like me and somehow I made it through four rounds, ending up in the top TWO with fellow contestant, Sheridan Watson. All in all, I ended up being the runner up in the competition.

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 Tyra assured me to stick around, she wanted to set me up with an agency.

Tyra assured me to stick around, she wanted to set me up with an agency.

Although I had lost, I was incredibly grateful for the experience and here Tyra said that she wanted me to pursue a career in modeling. She told me to stick around, that she wanted to connect me with with an agency. 

As soon as I got backstage, I was immediately stripped of my microphone & borrowed clothing and told to leave. I was confused because Tyra just told me to stick around because she wanted to connect me with an agency. 17 year old me had my first dose of reality television, 25 year old me is still waiting for that call from Tyra! 

After about a month of sulking that I lost, I quickly snapped out of it and realized that if I made it this far I should pursue it- can't hurt, right? Luckily, I had grabbed the business cards of the judges and decided to make those connections on my own. At seventeen years old, I was negotiating my own rates and flying myself to NYC to shoot for Seventeen Magazine. Once the show aired, a lady named Madeline Jones from Plus Model Magazine was sitting on her couch watching and decided to track me down. She really believed in me and helped me sign with a few agencies, leading to me signing with my current agency, Dorothy Combs Models in 2012. Since then, I've gone on to work for major clients such as Forever 21, Hanes, Fruit of the Loom, Macy's, Sydney's Closet, Deb Shops, Venus, Elomi, Dia & Co, Fashion To Figure, Dillard's, and many more! I am also incredibly proud to say I graduated from Clarkson University in May 2014 as the Senior Class President with a dual bachelor's degree in Innovation & Entrepreneurship (business) and Psychology. I am incredibly grateful to my family at Clarkson who believed in me and allowed me to go to school and travel for modeling jobs. 

Although this post is long, it's really only the tip of the iceburg when it comes to my beginning in the modeling industry and how things really happened after. Just picture this as a moment of time that catapulted a series of other events. I learned a lot from this experience and I will forever be grateful for my start in the industry! This is a prime example of going for it, you never know how it can change your life forever. I can still vividly remember my time and experiences this year, a time that forever changed my life. I'm happy to answer any questions about my experiences, so feel free to leave them below!

If you'd like to read a more in depth feature of the shows: be sure to check them out on Judgement of Paris' site for episode 1 here and episode 2 here! All of the screen shots from the show are from his site, so thank you Judgement of Paris. 

Here are a few more photos from the show that I will cherish forever :)