Ahem, Ahem: Travel Announcement!

Remember how I said our next big trip was going to be Ireland?  Well, June just seemed too far away and the Emerald Isle isn’t tropical enough, so we just booked an additional trip to PANAMA in May!  I think it’s necessary for me to do some firsthand research for the honeymoon blog, don’t you?

Bocas Del Toro

Bocas Del Toro via Erik Cleves Kristensen

We’re going to fly into Panama City, and then spend four nights in gorgeous Bocas del Toro.  Needless to say, I can’t wait.  Hopefully my tan lasts until our trip to Ireland in June : )

So how did we decide on Panama?  My husband and I first identified our biggest travel priorities.  Mine: beachesbeachesbeaches.  His: the intangible “cool factor.”  What makes the “cool factor” cut?  He didn’t want to go to a generic all-inclusive resort, and I think he just ixnayed all of Mexico on principle (even though he’s only been to Tijuana).  Fine.  But one day we’re going to go somewhere awesome in Mexico and he’s going to realize how much he’s been missing out!

Alright, back to how we chose Panama.  Since we can’t take too much time off of work, we didn’t want to travel TOO far from California, so that cut out Asia, South America, and the Caribbean.  We also didn’t want to go overboard with expenses since we have a European trip coming up, so that excluded Hawaii (since we’d also need to get a rental car there).  And that left us with Central America.  I’d only been to Costa Rica before, so we had lots of other countries to choose from and we narrowed our choices down to three: Belize, Nicaragua, and Panama.

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Real Mini-moon: Carmel

I’m excited to share the second mini-moon on Peonies to Palm Trees!  And this one is extra special because it features my best friend Alice and her husband Jason.  Since their super fun Carmel wedding was the weekend before Thanksgiving, they didn’t want to go on a long honeymoon right away, and why rush to leave such a nice resort anyway?  Check out their relaxing mini-moon below:

When and where did you honeymoon?

We’re doing a delayed honeymoon about a year after our wedding, but decided to do our mini-moon right at Carmel Valley Ranch**, where we got married [in November 2012].

CVR

Carmel Valley Ranch

How long was your trip?

Including the wedding weekend festivities, we were at CVR for a total of 6 days.

How did you decide on your honeymoon destination(s)?

We decided that we didn’t want to go back to reality right after our wedding, and since we just wanted to relax and drink lots of wine, we decided staying put at CVR would be the best bet since it included a spa, pool, hot tub (!), vino, and access to great restaurants in Carmel.

Infinity hot tub

Just chilling in the infinity hot tub

The best part about our honeymoon was…

Relaxing poolside all day! The weather was pretty rainy on our actual wedding day, but it was beautiful after, so we were able to take advantage of the entire CVR area and just lounge all day. And hanging all day with Roxy the bulldog.

Roxy

Hanging out with Roxy, the CVR mascot

If I knew then what I know now, I’d change…

I would have made earlier reservations to check out the bee-keeping area of CVR, sounds like so much fun!

How much planning did you do in advance?

Minimal for the mini-moon. Jason made reservations at some awesome restaurants (absolutely loved Casanova) but otherwise we did some good lounging.

Dindin

Out on the town for a nice dinner

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Should Your Bring Your Wedding Rings On Your Honeymoon?

After receiving a new piece of jewelry, most women can’t wait to show it off.  The same is especially true when it comes to engagement rings and wedding bands.  So if your honeymoon begins shortly after your wedding, you may be extra tempted to bring the new jewelry along… but is that the smartest idea?

wedding rings

There’s no absolute right or wrong answer here, and I think it mostly depends on the type of honeymoon you’re going on and what your rings are like, but here are the things I’d consider before making your decision:

1) Are your rings insured?  If not, leave them at home.  I repeat, leave them at home.  Get those bad boys insured A.S.A.P.

2) How flashy are your rings?  If you have an enormous diamond, you’ve probably noticed how much attention it gets, but is that the sort of attention you’ll want while traveling?

3) What are you planning on doing during your honeymoon?  If your itinerary is something along the lines of “swim, surf, massage, and repeat,” you’ll need to take your rings off a lot anyway, so why risk bringing them in the first place?  I personally know at least two guys who lost their brand new wedding bands during their honeymoons, and I can’t shake the memory of a guy frantically swimming around in the ocean looking for his wedding ring during my trip to Hawaii last year.  Let’s just say he did not look happy.  Large bodies of water + expensive jewelry = usually not a great outcome.

4) Where are you honeymooning?  If you’re going somewhere that has a reputation for street crime* (e.g. Rio de Janeiro, Barcelona, Rome), you may want to be extra mindful about what jewelry you choose to wear.  And if you’re going to a more religious or conservative destination, some tourists feel that they are treated differently when locals perceive that they are an unmarried couple.**  In that case, you may want to wear rings, but that doesn’t mean  you have to bring the real deal.  Lots of people wear fake wedding bands while traveling and leave the expensive stuff at home.

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Real Honeymoon: Thailand

My friend Benu has been promising me to send her Real Honeymoon story and photos for MONTHS, so I’m incredibly excited that it’s finally getting published!  FINALLY!  Alright, Benu and Doug honeymooned in Thailand, and as I’ve previously mentioned, Thailand is totally one of my favorite destinations.  So without further ado, please enjoy their amazing honeymoon below:

When and where did you honeymoon?

We traveled to Thailand where we visited Bangkok and an island off the coast, Samui.

Royal Palace

The Royal Palace in Bangkok

How long was your trip?

2.5 glorious weeks.

How did you decide on your honeymoon destination(s)?

Ours wasn’t your typical honeymoon  – we based the decision on my oldest sister who lives in Singapore and had just had her second baby.  By traveling within SEA, we got to see our new baby nephew, family, AND have a great honeymoon on our own.

flowersinsamui

Flowers in Koh Samui

The best part about our honeymoon was…

Best part of the honeymoon was obviously spending time with Doug! We had a blast – from eating copious amounts of street food together, drinking frou-frou drinks cause you can, to falling asleep on a hammock on our private beach.   Highlights from Bangkok definitely included the street food, the rooftop bars at night (for the city views) and just being a tourist in a city and observing the hustle and bustle that is Bangkok city life.  It was also great to get away from the city and unwind in Samui where we had plenty of time to be alone and take in all the natural beauty Thailand has to offer.

happyhoursunset_Bangkok

Frou-frou drinks

If I knew then what I know now, I’d change…

The timing of our honeymoon was poor due to the fact that I (along with my business partner) had just launched our first online company.  But, that’s life!  I also would have taken the honeymoon right after our wedding – we waited about 7 months so we could gain more vacation days.. but if I could change anything, I would have “lived in the wedding bliss” for a couple of weeks longer and taken it right after the wedding.

highrisebarview_Bangkok

Bangkok at night

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Before the Honeymoon: 7 Lessons Learned from Wedding Planning

Despite this being a honeymoon blog, I’ve been meaning to write a post about wedding planning for a long time now. There are tons of wedding websites, blogs, and magazines out there offering wedding advice, but I truly feel like the following seven lessons will actually make a positive difference with both the planning of and “the big day” itself. I was aware of some of the recommendations while I was planning my own wedding, but man do I wish I knew about all of them.

Mountain Winery Wedding

1) Prioritize.  Prioritize.  Prioritize.

I hope I’m not the first person to break this to you, but it’s impossible to “have it all” when it comes to weddings.  It’s no secret that weddings are incredibly expensive, and even the smallest costs add up to massive totals before you know it.  To avoid developing unrealistic expectations and then getting your hopes up, you and your significant other need to ask yourselves what’s *most important* about your wedding as early as you can.  Is it having a huge guest list?  Hiring the best band?  Looking as glamorous as possible?  Having the most extensive open bar?  Going on a ridiculously awesome honeymoon?  Get your priorities in check before you even begin contacting any vendors.

2) Hire a wedding planner/consultant/coordinator/whatever.

If you’re a bride-to-be and you haven’t hired someone to help you already, stop reading this blog and start researching awesome wedding planners in your area immediately.  Some people think it’s alright to just rely on your venue’s in-house wedding person, but you’ll be a lot happier if you bring in your own expert.  Choose someone who a) doesn’t do a ton of weddings (the more they do, the less time they’ll have to focus on you), b) but has a lot of experience and confidence, and c) that you totally trust.

3) Find a photographer that you love, and then ask him/her for a videographer recommendation.

You’re going to spend a LOT of time with your photographer and videographer on your wedding day, and you’ll want them to get along and work well together.  My photographer and videographer hadn’t worked together before, and I felt like they were just “out of sync” and competing for shots throughout the day.  For example, my videographer missed me putting on my shoes, and then five minutes later asked me to take them off and put them on again.  No, this wasn’t a huge deal, but I felt like things would have gone more smoothly if the two vendors were better used to each other.

4) Take as many photos as possible before the wedding.

Ask your photographer for a list of typical couple/bridal party/family portrait shots, adjust the list to your needs, and find out how much time you’ll need to take those photos (then add 20 extra minutes, just to be safe).  Is it a pain for all of your family members to show up 90 minutes before the wedding begins just to take a couple photos?  Yeah, it’s not ideal, but it’s worse to wait to take photos until after the ceremony because they’ll either miss your entire cocktail hour or you may not even get the shots at all.

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Real Honeymoon: Belize

Central America is perfect for honeymooners who want an amazing tropical vacation, but don’t want to lose a day traveling to the opposite side of the world.  Especially popular with scuba divers, Belize is only a two hour flight away from Houston!  But the biggest thing to consider before booking your tickets to Belize is its hurricane season.** Luckily, Dana and Andrew didn’t have any hurricanes to deal with during their honeymoon in Belize last year.  Read all about their hurricane-free honeymoon below:

When and where did you honeymoon?

Andrew and I went to Hopkins, Belize to a resort called Hamanasi Dec. 1-8, 2012.

How long was your trip?

8 days, 7 nights.Belize Mayan Ruins

How did you decide on your honeymoon destination(s)?

Several coworkers suggested Belize as a fun place to honeymoon, and I wanted a mix of activities/relaxation…also TripAdvisor rated our resort as #1 travelers choice for several years in a row.

The best part about our honeymoon was…

The best part of our honeymoon was spending time with each other! Also, learning how to scuba dive (for me, definitely not for Andrew…), and seeing the Mayan ruins.

Hamanasi, Belize

If I knew then what I know now, I’d change…

I would change the time frame when we went…the sand flies were HORRIBLE that time of year. Also, it was the beginning of the rainy season.

How much planning did you do in advance?

A couple weeks to research resorts, but the resort took care of everything for us including transportation, puddle jumpers, etc.

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Who’s Supposed to Pay for the Honeymoon?

When it comes to wedding etiquette questions, the answers you get oftentimes may not be the ones you were hoping to hear, and things get especially dicey when you’re asking about money.  So let’s *delicately* address the question, “Who’s supposed to pay for the honeymoon?”

Check

Traditionally speaking, the bride’s parents were responsible for paying for the wedding, and the groom’s parents were supposed to pay for the honeymoon.  However, and this is a huuuge “however,” it’s pretty obvious that many of the traditional rules no longer apply to contemporary weddings.  For example, it’s very common for brides and grooms to see each other for photos before they walk down the aisle, it’s not crazy for there to be unequal groomsmen to bridesmaid ratios, and many brides choose not to wear veils.  The point being that wedding rules most certainly change over time, and the same goes for rules pertaining to who pays for what.

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Real Honeymoon: Italy

When I started this blog last year, I knew that Italy was a great honeymoon destination, but I didn’t realize how popular it was!  This is now the fourth Real Honeymoon: Italy post on the blog, and I have two more great ones lined up to be published in the upcoming weeks.  Each honeymoon is slightly different, but they are all equally fantastic.  Check out Cyndi and Ben’s amazing Italian honeymoon below:

When and where did you honeymoon?

We went to Italy in September 2012.  We went to Rome, Florence, Cinque Terre, Positano, and Capri.

Rome

The Trevi Fountain in Rome

How long was your trip?

2 weeks.

How did you decide on your honeymoon destination(s)? 

Neither of us had been to Europe, and I have always wanted to go to Italy, especially Rome and Cinque Terre.

cinque terre

Hiking Cinque Terre

The best part about our honeymoon was…

Our favorite place was Capri.  Our friends got us an evening of wine tasting in Rome which was awesome.  Another highlight was the cooking class we took in Florence.

capri

Private boat trip in Capri

If I knew then what I know now, I’d change…

While we loved Cinque Terre, and the hike was beautiful, in hindsight I would probably have saved it for a different trip, and spent more time in the other places.  Cinque Terre was pretty far out of the way – the day we went from Cinque Terre to Positano, we traveled from 9am to 9pm.**

positano

Sunbathing in Positano

How much planning did you do in advance? 

Everything I could possibly plan in advance, I did.  In fact, my husband thought I was crazy because around March of last year I asked him if I should start making restaurant reservations.  I booked our airfare and hotels in January.  I booked our cooking class and boat tour in Capri probably around March.  I made museum reservations for Rome and Florence in August.  I had looked up the train schedules in advance but didn’t reserve anything – my husband insisted on a little flexibility!

florence

Michelangelo’s David at the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence

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