My Best Friend’s Indian Wedding

Ten years ago I moved in with a complete stranger – one with a name I wasn’t even certain how to pronounce.  We knew nothing about each other and only talked once before setting out with our families to find a place to live.  We settled in a borderline ghetto apartment off the campus of the University of South Carolina – right up the street from a homeless center (whose residents we would one day meet at our door).  If our surroundings weren’t going to take us out, our lack-of-homemaking skills were certainly enough to leave our families fearing for our survival.  But somehow, like all college students, we learned to live.

The moments after our parents pulled away, the very first few we had alone, set the stage for what turned out to be an unbreakable bond.  We had a super small box TV with limited reception.  The only thing on was a Richard Simmons exercise video.  So we did what any strangers would do – we looked at each other, got up, and starting sweating with the oldies.  From there the rest was history.  Barkha became the little sister I never had, though all too often, she was so much wiser than I.

We used to talk about the weddings we would one day have.  As a first generation here is the states, her plan was to return to her parents’ homeland of India when that day came.  But, time changes everything.  A few years back, she met an amazing Indian man with a huge personality and name that could not be more fitting for a person who always seems to have a smile on his face – Sunny.

Instead of making the trip to India for their nuptials, Barkha and Sunny brought their traditions, celebrations and family to Florence, South Carolina, for an unbelievable three-day, 5-outfit changes, event.

The first night is the henna tattoo night, or Mendi.  On this night we learned never again to ask an Indian, “Is this spicy?”  Their anwser will likley be no but if you’re brave enough to try, make sure you’ve got a bottle of water (or five) on hand.

Outfit Details: This maxi was a Black Friday deal from Instagram – just $10!

The next morning was the Manglik Prasango – it’s essentially a pre-wedding ceremony filled with prayers and activities that purify and cleanse the bride and groom (their events are held separately).  A turmeric power mixture was spread on Barkha’s face and arms via family members.  The yellow dress she’s wearing has to be discarded afterwards; she can never wear it again, even as beautiful as it is!

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Outfit Details: Adrianna Papell dress retailed at $189 and found at Belk after-season clearance for $35. Jewelery set just $6 from Burlington. 

Later that evening was Garba Raas.  For hours upon hours, guests dance in a circular formation to a series of synchronized steps.  I was able to wear a traditional Indian outfit that night but as if my blonde hair didn’t say “I’m not Indian enough,” the fact that I took out a row of chairs because I was not used to the shawl definitely made it clear!

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Outfit details: Big Buddha Bag (retails for $79) found at Hamrick’s for only $30.

The big day came on Saturday and if you think a Catholic wedding is long, it has nothing on an Indian wedding.  The ceremony started at 10:30 a.m. with Sunny making his way to the Civic center with a majestic white horse among family and friends singing and dancing; the whole shebang ended around 2:00.

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Outfit Details: This amazing three-piece set was handmade in India and given to us as a gift from the bride. 

By the time evening rolled around, it was time to party – and man can those Indians party!

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Outfit details: No special deal on this Cachet dress but sometimes you’ve just got to splurge. The Jessica Simpson Beryl Glitter Platform sandals were on clearance at Dillards for $35, but you can find them still at Lord & Taylor for $53. The rose gold earrings also came from a clearance rack at Dillards, just $7. 

From start to finish, this was one of the coolest experiences of my life but the best part was seeing two incredible, genuine, driven, insert any other positive attributes you can think of here, begin the next chapter of their lives together.

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The Nearly-Wed for Fifty Years Game

One of my favorite bridal games is the take on “Newly Weds,” where a couple is asked a set of questions about themselves/their partners and then that expert knowledge is put to the test.  We played it recently at my best friend’s bridal shower and after nearly 10 years, it turns out the bride-to-be and her future husband know each other pretty well!

So, in honor of my parents’ upcoming anniversary this month, I thought it would be fun to see if they’ve learned a thing of two about each other after nearly half a century.

What’s the first thing you noticed about mom?

Dad: She was sitting at the bar, enjoying a drink (note: my mom didn’t drink).  And, she was cute.  I knew I had a shot because I had on a nice coat and my fancy pipe.  Her first words were I’d never go out with you.

What’s the first thing dad said he noticed about you?

Mom: That I was cute.  The first thing I noticed about him was his stupid fancy pipe sticking out of his jacket.  He thought he was something else but I showed him, told him I’d never go out with him! (46 years later…she sure showed him).

***

If you had a super power, what would it be?

Dad: I may be a superhero.  I could actually be Superman and no one could disprove me because they’ve never seen us in the same place at the same time.

Me: The question was super power, not super hero.

Dad: Then I’d be a Viking warrior.  Tap into my heritage (clearly, we were not understanding the question so it was time to move on).

If dad had a super power, what would it be?

Mom: He already has one…bullsh*t.  It’s his hidden talent.

***

If you were stranded on an island, what’s the one thing you’d bring?

Dad: A boat.

If dad were stranded on an island, what’s the one thing he’d bring?

Mom: Rum and cigarettes.

***

If you were to cook one meal for mom, what would she want it to be?

Dad: Steak on the grill.

If dad were to cook you one meal, what would you want it to be?

Mom: Steak on the grill.  Anything else would be my last meal on earth.

***

If you were a dog, which breed would you be? 

Dad: I’d be a German Shepard; they’re smart, loyal, and tough.  Your mom would be a Cocker Spaniel because everyone loves Cocker Spaniels.

If dad were a dog, which breed would he say he was? 

Mom: Oh, he would definitely say he was a German Shepard because he thinks he’s smart, rough and tough and strong and that people are afraid of him.

***

Who wears the pants in the relationship?

Dad: I do.  But your mom will tell you differently.

Mom: Your dad.  I wear skirts and dresses.  Except one time he accidently wore MY pants to the gym so I don’t know what that says about him.  Dad (who pipes in from down the hall): Yeah, but they fit me so I don’t know what that says about you!

***

What would mom say is your most annoying habit?  What’s hers?

Dad: She’d say smoking.  For her it’s talking.

Mom: Smoking.  He’d say mine is griping about his smoking.

***

If mom could get rid of one thing of yours, what would it be?  What item that belongs to her would you want to get rid of?

Dad:  She would say my trains.  And for her, I’d want to eliminate her phone.

Me: But the phone is yours, too.

Dad:  No it’s not.  You think I ever get to use it living with her?

If you could get rid of one thing of dad’s, what would it be?  What item that belongs to you would he want to get rid of?

Mom: I would toss out his accordion!  He certainly would not say to get rid of “my boat,” the one he “bought for me” that I never use and he uses all the time.

***

Which one of you takes the longest to get ready?

Dad: Do I ever need to answer that?

Mom: Oh, that’s me.  He does not care if he has stripes, circles, polka dots, checks, plaids, stains or nothing!

***

Describe grandma and grandpa’s (mom’s parents) first impression of your using one of these cereal brands: a) Lucky Charms b) Wheaties c) Fruit Loop

Dad: It would be Cheerios.

Me: That’s not an option.

Dad: Oh.  Well it works best because I can sometimes be cheery.  But if I’m limited, I’ll have to go with Lucky Charms.

Describe grandma and grandpa’s first impression of dad using one of these cereal brands: a) Lucky Charms b) Wheaties c) Fruit Loop

Mom: It was definitely NOT Lucky Charms.

***

What is your favorite thing about mom after all these years?

Dad: I’d have to say her personality.

What would dad say his favorite thing about you is after all these years?

Mom: Probably that I keep his clothes clean.

Me: But earlier you said he doesn’t care if he has stains on his shirt.

Mom:  Ah, you’re right.  Then it’s because I give him food to eat.

This blushing bride of 46 years doesn’t even know how much her husband still adores her after all this time.  While it may not be apparent to some, the love is in the answers above.  Theirs is not a relationship that’s served as an inspiration to a Nicholas Sparks novel, but it is built upon mutual respect, admiration, protectiveness and most importantly, laughter.

Happy anniversary guys, I love you!

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Bridal Brigade: Showering our Bride with Love

All the planning, crafting and 57 lb suitcase carrying paid off during my best friend’s bridal shower. The party turned out better than we could have ever expected.

We hosted the shower at a local restaurant. It was a private setting and the staff was super to attentive to us the entire time – through set-up, during the event, and after it was over.  The layout was ideal, too.

Decor

Instead of spending money on decorations that would simply be tossed out after the event, or buying a gift from the registry, I decided to work/shop with a dual purpose in mind: make or purchase items that Diana could use for the wedding or in her future home.  Luckily, their house colors will be the same as the wedding colors!  We were also able to reuse a good chunk of the decor we bought for the bachelorette party.

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For the “What do you love most about our bride?” activity, we asked the groom to share five things he loves most about his bride-to-be (written on the black hearts).  Then each bridesmaid, along with the mother-of-the-bride and future mother-in-law, wrote one thing they love most about her.  Blank cards were available for guests to share their thoughts as well.
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Each guest was asked to share a bit of love advice for the soon-to-be newlywed couple.  Then, each week during the first year of their marriage, Matt and Di will be tasked with opening up one heart, reading the advice, and making it a point to abide by whatever that particular message guides them to do.

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The bottom of the gift table was lined with pictures of Di’s early years (and boy were there some gems in the collection!).

2015-07-25 13.21.39One of the bridesmaid put together this incredible wedding dress cupcake compilation.  Looks like something a culinary professional designed (with a heavy price tag).  She did such an amazing job on it.

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Some of the bridesmaids put together these awesome centerpieces as well.  The faux flowers were laid on a bed of diamonds and illuminated by a changing color light.

2015-07-25 15.49.31We brought back props from the bachelorette and set-up a photo booth that was put to good use.  The frame was a fun addition, but also something the couple will be able to use in their new home.

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Games

We kicked the party off with an ice breaker. Each guest was handed a card with a name on it – 1/2 of a famous couple.  They were tasked with finding their soulmate.  Of course, Matt and Diana cards were included!

ice breakerWhile everyone was eating, we played a round of bridal trivia.  Tables were broken up into teams of five and everyone had to compete in the categories of wedding songs, wedding movies and general wedding knowledge.  Ironically enough, it came down to a tie between the Mother-of-the-Bride and the future Mother-in-Law.  They had to duke it out over tie breaker Q’s about their son and daughter.  In the end, the MIL team brought home the prize.

Next up was the “Nearly Wed” game.  In advance of the party, we asked Matt to answer a few questions and then Diana had to guess his responses.  For each one wrong, the poor girl with lock jaw had to put another stick of bubble gum in her mouth (I’m a horrible friend).  Luckily she knows him pretty well after 10+ years!  We gave guests a copy of the questions so that they could play along, too.

The ladies also played a bridal scratch off and two lucky winners got to bring home a prize.  While the bride-to-be opened up gifts, guests had to follow along and mark off items from the gift registry Diana received that matched up to their cards.  The first two winners scored a Bath & Body Works candle.  Gift bows were handled off to one of Di’s ridiculously talented friends, who created this masterpiece (the groom even got in on the action):

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It was absolutely amazing day celebrating an even more amazing person. Can’t wait until we get to stand by this girl’s side!

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My Best Friend’s Bachelorette Bash

As I prepare for my best friend’s bridal shower I realized that I still haven’t posted the rest of the deets from her amazing bachelorette party in Asheville, NC.

After arriving at the cabin in the woods, Catherine, the bride’s little sis and co-MOH, made a delicious steak and pirogi dinner – Diana’s favorite!  We quickly scarfed it down and headed to the first surprise adventure of the weekend.

DSCN1129cheersA childhood friend who now resides in Asheville recommended the LaZoom Comedy Bus Tour.  The regular tours run throughout the day and at night, it switches over to haunted comedy ride.  Sounds a little abstract, I know, but this was the funnniest thing I have experienced in ages.  We could not stop laughing the entire time.  You can bring wine and beer on the bus and while that sounds like an awesome idea, it turns into a terrible one after all the laughing you’ll do!

LazoomBusAfter the LaZoom tour, we hit the down.  One of Asheville’s most notable attractions is the Friday night drum circle.  Upon arrival, we couldn’t tell if we were witnessing a scene from True Blood or one of the coolest things ever.  We jumped right in.  When in Rome, right?

drum2drumThe best word I can use to describe the city of Asheville is eclectic.  It was a mix of everything artsy, natural, hipster and southern.

The next morning started off with brunch at Posana; the place was on-point.  There was a whole lot of food envy going on at the table because each meal looked better than the next.

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brunchBrunchIt was time to burn off the calories after brunch, so we headed over to Di’s next surprise: Asheville’s Amazing Pub Cycle. And amazing is the best way to describe it.  We followed that up with a PYT serenade by street performers and more day drinking at Wicked Weed Brewing.

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brew2To keep pace (and survive), we headed back to the cabin to relax for a bit before venturing back down town that night.  At the recommendation of our local friend, we ordered in via Gourmet Valet; you can choose between more than 60 restaurant options and they deliver it right to you.  We did a quick online search for a coupon and got 20% off.  After we were ready, the first stop was the Piano Bar where Diana got another serenade on stage.

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DSCN1078I made last fling ring/checklist for Di out of a wreath Styrofoam, spray paint, paper and glitter.  The front said “List of last acts before you become Matt’s” and with a little participation from the groom, the back said “Do these things one more time before you become mine.”  She had to carry it around all night and check off the actions like take a picture w/a stranger using the selfie stick, take a pic w/another bride and hand a guy a note that says, “Call me, maybe?”

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A night like Saturday called for a homemade brunch at the cabin.  Since most of the trip was a surprise, we wanted to give Diana a say in the festivities for Sunday so we gave her a few options in the form of an infographic (yes, I take planning too far).

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She selected a lazy cruise down the river via Zen Tubing.  It was such a relaxing experience…until the thunderstorm came.

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For our last dinner, we ate at Corner Kitchen.  It’s where President Obama ate on his trip to the city!

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di an iThe weekend wound down with an evening of games and wine.  We played one game where Di had to guess which sexy item came from whom, and I’m now questioning her friendship because she didn’t know the Jessica Simpson PJs came from me!  We also played a really fun ladies night card game where someone reads the descriptor (something like who would be most likely to survive in the wilderness) and then all the girls name the bridesmaid that fits best.  I’m also questioning my friendships after the cards I got! 😉

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DSCN1125Just two more months to go until the big day!

Wedding Wear

As a late 20-something (milking every bit of that phrase for the next 350+days), weddings are a frequent occurrence – especially this time of year.  That means a combo of all things I love: celebrating the beginning of my friends’ next chapter in life, ID’ing the perfect dress to fit the occasion and finding only the best deal on the attire.

Over the weekend I watched two of my very best friends exchange vows along the bank of the York River.  The only thing more beautiful than the scenic view was the love between these two.  With a beach theme and primary color of orange, coral seemed like the perfect color complement and that meant I FINALLY got to break out one of my best all-time buys.

During Belk’s season-end sale (one of the most prime times to lock in killer deals on last-season spring/summer dresses), I found this beautiful Trina Turk coral lace dress, lined with a nude underlay. Retailing for $298, the dress was reduced to $138, then $70 – and because of the sale, an extra 50% off.  Just THIRTY-FIVE DOLLARS for an amazing designer dress.  I paired the dress with a turquoise drop necklace, earrings and bracelet from Charming Charlie.

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Bachelorette Bach Decor – Day 1 of our Asheville Getaway

Earlier this month we celebrated my best friend Diana’s bachelorette weekend in Asheville, NC.  I spent so much time planning and crafting over the past 9 or so months that now it feels like I have nothing to do!  So, better time than never to write about the amazing adventure.  We crammed a lot into three days so I’ll break the posts up to prevent bachelorette overload!

As a small airport, flying into Asheville can be pretty pricey for girls flying in from out of town so we decided to road trip it out to the mountains.  With an SUV packed to the brim, we made sure to save room for the most important girls’ getaway essential, the selfie stick. car selfie

We hit the road and headed for the windy, and the rainy, and the scary, Blue Ridge Mountains. Upon nearly driving off a cliff (try backing up an SUV that’s not yours, on an essentially one-way mountain road, during a torrential downpour), we FINALLY made it to the cabin we rented on AirBnB. While some of the girls left to gather groceries for the weekend, my friend Steph and I got to work decorating.The fireplace was the perfect backdrop for the gals' gifts.

The place sure was rustic; everything you would expect a cabin in the woods to look like – minus the creepy aspect (though there were some parts…).  Yet, it had so much character.  There was a screened in porch, outside deck overlooking a breathtaking landscape, three bathrooms (a MUST for seven ladies) and more space than we could have imagined. The only thing we weren’t too crazy about was the “Welcome to our home; don’t leave food outside because of the bears” sign.  Luckily, there were no Yogi sightings.DSCN1010

Each of the girls (or “Mountain Maids”) got an absolutely adorable shirt for Saturday’s adventures, made by SassyCraftsKS on Etsy.  I’ll share those in the next post.  To keep with the southern theme (the bride is a New Yorker), I wrapped each one up in burlap and sealed it with custom bridesmaid pins we had designed from Etsy shop owner Lauren Lash, made to match the bride’s sash.  Diana had cups made for each one of us, too!  The fireplace (one of three, including the outside firepit) was the perfect backdrop for the goodies.

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Catherine, the sister of the bride and co-MOH, made shirts for each bridesmaid with a number on the back.  While the random numbers kept us guessing for the weekend (she threw an odd DSCN1004
number in to throw everyone off), it all made sense on the last evening when we took a big ol’ group shot – it was the wedding date! Another fun element of the party was the “photo booth.”  We got some booth accessories, a white sheet and a disposable camera (this way no one could delete the pics!) and snapped away throughout the weekend. Those are probably just pictures that we’ll keep to ourselves; maybe a good way to calm the bride’s jitters on wedding dDSCN1006ay:)

Surviving a bachelorette, especially one in the mountains, can be tough so we had to be prepared.  Mountain survival gear bags were packed to make sure we had everything we needed: gum, breath freshener, Tylenol and hair ties; what more could we need?DSCN1007

There is no such thing as a party in the south without Mason jars.  With four of the seven girls flying in from New York and one from Colorado, we had to make sure they had this southern staple to bring back with them.  I brought along a glass juice dispenser purchased on the Today Show’s Steals & Deals for just $49 (65% off retail).  Although the chalkboard says, “Everything Tastes Sweeter in a Mason Jar,” our cups were filled with other delicious beverages throughout the weekend, such a homemade Sangria.

DSCN1008I’ve been stock-piling supplies for over a year now.  The wedding colors are purple and gray so anytime I saw something that was one of those colors and could come in handy (and was on sale), I picked it up.  This method really helps save on costs.  Instead of waiting until the last minute and being forced into buying the first thing you see because you’re low on time, do your research and take advantage of a deal when you see it.

I don’t think the decorations would of looked half as cute if it wasn’t for the country feel of the cabin itself.  Thankfully we were able to capture pictures of the set-up on the first day DSCN1015because with that many girls living in one place for a long weekend, things are bound to get a little messy! All the months of constant, meticulous planning (I’m sure Catherine was tired of seeing my number pop up on her phone 50x a day) finally paid off when our beautiful bride entered her decorated palace for the weekend with a huge smile on her face.

Won’t you stay with me: Step 2 in Bachelorette Bach Planning – Accommodations

Ok, so your bride has spun the globe and landed on the party destination of her choice.  Great! Now, where the heck are you going to stay?  The good news is there are tons of options out there that cater to any group size, budget and preference.  The challenge is sifting through those options, and their claims of being the best/offering guests the world, to make sure you find the right fit.

Is your bride someone who wants to be in a constant state of exploration, out & about with her favorite friends until the wee hours of the morning?

If so, take it to the hotel, motel…okay, you get it.  Hotels are the most optimal options for a group of gals that just need a place to crash at night.  With a big crowd though, there’s a need for multiple rooms and this could get pricey so before you book, do some research.

You can lock in some awesome deals by calling the hotel directly or checking out discount travel sites.  My favorites are Travel Zoo (great for full package options) or Priceline’s Express Deals.  With Express Deals, you won’t know the name of th2013-04-19 09.54.21e hotel you’ll be staying at until the purchase actually goes through but you can ensure the location will meet your standards through the star-rating selection.

For destination celebrations (think Aruba, Bahama, come on pretty mama, kinda places), a travel agent can also be a great resource.  Sure, there’ll be additional overhead for the service charge but instead of spending countless hours researching accommodation options and pricing, just think of the adventures and shenanigans you can come up with in your free time!  Plus, the agent may be able to work in some flight deals too.

Is your bride low-maintenance and more focused on spending QT time with her gals rather than gallivanting through town day & night?

A home rental may be your best route.  It offers a more relaxed, spacious environment to catch up (over wine, of course).

I’ll admit I was skeptical of Airbnb at first, but after spending a week in a San Francisco Row House (pictured) three years ago, I fell hard for the service.  This 2013-05-31 21.18.15modern, social approach to rentals is the perfect way to immerse yourself into the community culture.  From San Fran, Boston, New York, New Hampshire to Austin, I’ve never had a bad experience during an Airbnb stay.  A sound alternative to Airbnb is VRBO.

For my best friend Diana’s Asheville adventure, we locked in an incredible cabin.  Nestled smack-dab in the middle of the Blue Ridge Mountains, we’ll be surrounded by breathtaking views and only minutes away from the one of the region’s claims to fame – breweries, on breweries on breweries.  Oh, and the best part?  We’re paying half of what we would have paid for two rooms at one of the area’s downtown hotels.  Renting also offers another opportunity to shave off the top of that extra spending – eating at home!  Full kitchen access means full bellies.  Instead of venturing out for every meal, make a plan for a homemade dinner at one night or brunch in the morning.  Just make sure you have someone in your party that knows have to cook!

All this advice aside, there’s one message that always rings true: it does not matter where you are, only who you’re with.

Pick a Spot on any Old Map: Step 1 in Planning the Best Bachelorette Bash

I’m a planner by profession.  My office walls are adorned with calendars four+ months out, I begin coordination of PR campaigns six months ahead of time and my vacation days for the entire year are often scheduled by January so my team can plan accordingly.  So when it comes time to plan for things on a personal front, you can imagine I go a little overboard.

My beautiful best friend is getting married in just four short months but before she can walk down that aisle, it’s my duty as co-MOH to give her a weekend she’ll always remember.  Thank goodness her sweet sister shares the role and has been the best partner in planning the upcoming shenanigans.

We started coming up with our game plan waaaay back in August, which probably sounds crazy considering the party is in June, but it takes time to get all the pieces in place for (what hopefully ends up being) the perfect bachelorette bash.  The first thing we needed to determine was where the celebration was gonna go down.

There are so many incredible spots for bachelorette parties, each one catering to a different type of bride.  With so many places to choose from, Catherine (co-MOH) and I came up with a plan to research various spots and put together mini agendas and budget estimates for each, letting our bride Diana make the final call.  We each picked and put together agendas for a total of seven locations (Asheville, NC; Cancun, Mexico; Key West, FL; Las Vegas, NV: Montreal, Canada; New Orleans, LA; Smith Mountain Lake, VA).  After delivering a multi-page guide to girls going wild across North America and presenting each option to our bride, she narrowed it down to two: Asheville and New Orleans.  From there, we put it out to the bridemaids for a vote and after each one was cast, Asheville became the last one standing.

While this may not seem like a traditional choice, there was not a single place on the list that would have been a better fit.  With endless choices of local brews, breathtaking mountain views and a food scene making national news, Asheville is a gem of a spot for brides before they say their “I do’s.”

I can’t wait to share details of the agenda for the weekend but for now, much of it’s still a secret!