4 Tips for Planning An Epic Bridal Shower

My friend Kristin and I met our first day of college at Clarkson University. We have been through a lot together, including planning our weddings! I had the honor of helping plan her bridal shower brunch in Sodus Bay, NY earlier in the summer. She was such a special part of my planning process, I was ecstatic to return the favor. I wouldn't call myself an expert party planner, but after going through this a few times I wanted to share a few of my tips for planning the perfect bridal shower!

tip #1: determine the venue + theme 

The shower took place in a refurbished barn on Lake Ontario. We decided to go for a floral and champagne theme. We wanted to compliment the natural elements of the space while giving it a light and airy feel! The bride loves brunch so we decided to complete the day with a mimosa bar, served with fresh fruits!

IMG_3736.jpg
IMG_3533.jpg
fullsizeoutput_6eb6.jpeg
fullsizeoutput_6eb0.jpeg

tip #2: personalize + have fun with it! 

Aside from simple gold frames with pictures of the bride and groom in them, I wanted to incorporate a little personalize fun from For Your Party! FYP offers a wide variety of party/ paper goods for any event. I decided to go with cocktail and luncheon napkins to reflect the theme of the party, I've linked the exact ones that I customized below. 

fullsizeoutput_6ec1.jpeg
fullsizeoutput_6ebe.jpeg

tip #3: stay true to the bride


It's so easy to get lost in Pinterest ideas but remember to stay true to the bride's personality and style. At the end of the day, this day should reflect her! For my shower, I didn't want guests seated at tables the entire time so I opted for a midday cocktail hour instead. My friend Kristin had a similar format with a brunch feel, complete with an DIY mimosa bar!

fullsizeoutput_6ecd.jpeg
fullsizeoutput_6ec8.jpeg
IMG_4026.jpg

tip #4: designate a photo spot

Most bridal showers I’ve been to include some sort of photo opportunity… Everyone wants either a picture with the bride or a picture of the bride opening her gifts. We decided to set up a super simple photo backdrop using white curtains and fresh eucalyptus for the bride to sit in front of while she opened her gifts. Push the gifts aside afterwards for some adorable group shots!

IMG_3804.jpg
IMG_3743.jpg
IMG_3547.jpg

Shop the post!

Feel free to click on the images below to shop them directly. 

Thank you to Kristen Mirand for capturing these images. 
Thank you to For Your Party for sponsoring the paper goods.

Do you have any other tips for planning a shower? Leave them in the comments below!

Try On Confidential- Episode 4: Rent The Runway

This week’s Try On Confidential decision to feature Rent The Runway was fueled around this pretty red dress that I wore to my Sonoma trip last week. I’ve seriously never received so many messages about a dress before, I knew I needed to feature it this week. I’ve been a longtime Rent the Runway fan, using it as my go-to for special events. It’s so easy- they send you the items with a pre-paid UPS label and you send back the worn clothes when you’re done with them. Ship them back and they take care of cleaning the items too! Stay tuned for my IG stories to see more about the process.

IMG_8554.JPG

They’ve recently launched their Unlimited program where you can rent 4 items on rotation and swap them as often as you’d like for $159 a month. It is the smarter, better, more thrilling way to access the fall fashion of your dreams without the typical drawbacks of seasonal transition - shopping trips, closet restocking, unpredictable weather and, worst of all- overspending. I told them I was doing this and they were kind enough to offer my readers an exclusive code for 40% off your first month of membership (cancel anytime btw)!

Use “CARALYNPERK40” for 40% off, sign up here!

Here are the four items I was able to rent, I rented with the intentions of my Sonoma trip and an upcoming wedding! Check out my stories to see how these items look on + what sizes I wore. As always, the links are all shoppable- you can shop these items directly from this page!

However, RTR is NOT just for dresses. Unlimited gives you unrestricted access to all the layers you need for sweater weather - jackets, sweaters, tops, bottoms, work dresses, weekend wear, etc. Here are a few of my favorites:

With RTR Unlimited, you can wear the fall wardrobe of your dreams without the investment or closet space. Access $50,000 in designer clothes for a flat monthly price ($159/mo) but use “CARALYNPERK40” to get 40% off your first month! Would you try something like this? Leave a comment below.

Celebrating Sonoma County Wine Month!

As I’m sure many of you saw on my Instagram account last week, I was invited, along with some other amazing bloggers, to join the Sonoma County Vintners as we celebrated Sonoma County Wine month. The purpose of the trip was to take a deep dive into Sonoma County’s history of wine making and experience all that the region has to offer. I can honestly say that I have a whole new appreciation and respect for wine and winemakers after this trip, I’m excited to show you a glimpse of my time there!

Webp.net-resizeimage (1).jpg

Traveling to Sonoma was quite a long trip, but everything went very smoothly! I went from Buffalo to Chicago, Chicago to San Francisco, San Francisco to Sonoma. The Sonoma airport was so small yet efficient. It was about 10 minutes from our hotel in Healdsburg, we stayed at the H2 Hotel which was adorable! I had the chance to experience this with four other incredible bloggers: Ashley Robertson, Erika Altes, Kathleen Barnes, Sira Kante and Chrissy of Harlowe James - be sure to follow them too!

Webp.net-resizeimage.jpg

Our first full day in Sonoma County started at Frei Brothers Winery. This winery is truly a historic landmark as they have been in Sonoma County for over a century. We had the the pleasure of taking an open-air Jeep tour throughout the grounds which was incredible. One of my favorite moments of the trip while at the Frei Brothers Winery was learning about how falcons and their trainers are brought in to watch over the vineyard. When grapes are ripe, they are incredibly tasty which makes them targets for all types of creatures. Falcons are natural born hunters and are used to keep these unwanted creatures away. I was incredibly moved by this because in 2018, you’d think we’d have all of this crazy technology but they were thoughtful enough to revert back to nature!

After we wrapped our tour we were treated to grape stomping. Used in traditional winemaking before machinery, grapes were crushed by having barefoot participants repeatedly stomp on them in large buckets to release their juices and begin fermentation. We were provided shoes but opted for a more authentic experience…

By this point we worked up an appetite and we were welcomed to a Farm to Table lunch with local chef Gia Passalaqua, fresh pizzas from the outdoor wood oven and the most beautiful charcuterie display I’ve ever seen! I have more photos of this on my phone than I’m willing to admit. There were a number of Frei Brothers wines that paired perfectly with this spread! My favorite was definitely the Chardonnay.

Later that evening, we were welcomed to MacMurray Estate Vineyards by Kate MacMurray and she shared the history behind the impressive property. We then retreated to the barn and mixed our own blend of Pinot Noir. The Sonoma County wine region is very large and the tastes of grapes can vary. We tried five different Pinot Noirs from Sonoma County and were able to create our own bottle and cork it and bring it home with us.

Later in the evening, we were welcomed by Bear Flag Wines for an epic dinner. We met winemaker Aaron Piotter and enjoyed a feast under the dazzling canopy of the Sonoma sky. Sonoma weather is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced- known for it’s hot days and cool evenings - we were well prepared with blankets and heaters for our meal outside. No meal is complete without dessert - we had bear-shaped homemade graham crackers for Bear Flag Wine s’mores by a rumbling campfire.

Day two began exploring Francis Ford Coppola Winery’s 2018 harvest in their vineyards with their on site viticulturist.  We tasted their Zinfandel grapes that were about to be picked within the next week or so! Once we learned a little bit more about the property, we were invited to a formal tasting of Coppola wines. I was really excited to learn about all of the different types of wine they offer- at many different price points.

Tasting definitely works up an appetite, so on the second day we went outside to meet Francis Ford Coppola Winery’s Chef Tim Bodell for a “garden to table” luncheon using fresh fruits and vegetables from the winery’s garden- which we were able to pick ourselves! We definitely enjoyed the fruits of our labor.

After lunch we were welcomed to the Coppola Winery’s iconic pool, complete with our own cabana.  After a few hours in the sun, we went back to our hotel, freshened up a bit and went back for an intimate Italian dinner.  The next day, I headed back home to Buffalo.

We experienced A LOT in our short time in Sonoma but I will forever remember my time there. I was so moved by the passion that the community has for creating wine, I will definitely be purchasing Sonoma County wine- knowing all that has gone into it makes it taste THAT much better. If you are contemplating a trip out to Sonoma, DO IT! The people, the wine, the food- it’s incredible. Would you visit Sonoma? Leave any of your comments or questions below!

Thank you Frei Brothers, MacMurray Estate, Bear Flag Wines and Francis Coppola Winery for sponsoring this once in a lifetime adventure! Images courtesy of Ashley Greene Photography and MJ.

Shop my Sonoma looks below:

Try On Confidential - Episode 2: Abercrombie

Happy Friday! I am beyond excited to keep this try on series going, the response from last week was incredible. As we keep this going, I will definitely fine tune the process. Keep the requests coming, I love hearing what you are shopping for! This week, I am featuring an oldie- Abercrombie & Fitch. Hear me out here- I could never fit into A&F when I was younger, I barely squeezed into their XL in 8th grade. After searching the web I kept coming across items from them and finally, I caved. They seem to have really reinvented themselves, with minimal logos and better sizing. I ordered a bunch of things and decided to do a try on haul for you all.  The prices are also incredibly reasonable- especially with this weekend's sale! 

A couple things to note:

  • Their sizing is still a tad wonky. I am a true 14, I fit into their largest size denim (32W) but sometimes I wear large's in their bottoms. Some of their stretchy bottoms can fit a 16. For the most part, I'm a large in their clothing. Occasionally I will buy an XL, some of the oversized sweaters I've purchased a medium. My best advice: order a few sizes and try them out. It takes some time to find your fit but once you do - I promise you won't be disappointed.
  • Join their *free* A&F Club - you get exclusive offers, earn points on every purchase and access to exclusive sales. 
  • I'm really impressed with their quality, their sales are awesome so I feel like these items are a great value. Other than them not being 100% size inclusive, I feel like they're a gem! 

Be sure to tune into my IG stories to see how these items fit on me. I've also added a few other styles that would be great to freshen up your fall wardrobe! Leave a comment below on what styles you're loving.

NEW Weekly Try On Series - Episode 1

I absolutely love when I get requests from you- whether its email, comments or direct messages. It makes me feel like I am your "go-to girl" on all things. I love that so many of you can relate to my curvy size 14 figure, so much so that you like seeing clothes on me before you buy them. That's why I've decided to launch a weekly series where I will be buying and trying items from different stores. I will be categorizing them by stores and items. Each week, I'll be showing you how they look on me and giving you my honest feedback. I hope to develop this idea into some sort of hashtag so you can use it too when you buy and try the items I've suggested.  As always, I'm open to all of your feedback so feel free to leave a note below on which store or items you'd like to see next!

This week's pick: H&M

H&M is always a favorite but their sizing can be a little crazy. However, I noticed that they have taken strides to improve their sizing. I would say that their sizing is much more accurate, if anything it runs large. I wear a size 14 or 12 in most of these items. Be sure to check out my IG story for a better idea of how they fit! All of the images below are shoppable - feel free to click and shop the looks directly from here. 

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.

fullsizeoutput_6a0f.jpeg

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!

Facetune_08-07-2018-06-49-54.jpg

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

IMG_2071.JPG

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!