Attending Weddings While Planning Your Own

My plans to write daily posts did not take into account our plans to spend the weekend driving from Maryland to Gettysburg on Friday, Gettysburg to Pittsburgh for a wedding Saturday, and Pittsburgh back to Maryland on Sunday. Then by Monday, I was out of the habit. So, here is Tuesday’s make up post!

I love weddings. I am always excited to share in the joy of other people’s love. Normally I spend a wedding taking photos of the gorgeous bride walking down the aisle, enjoying cocktail hour, and dancing the night away with the other guests. Since I have begun planning my own wedding, attending weddings is a whole new experience. Instead of sitting back as a passive observer, I have begun making mental lists (and some actual lists…) of the the must steal moments, the great ideas, and the massive misfires of the night.wedding 4

It’s strange to realize you are evaluating the best day of someone’s life on the fact that the floating candles in their centerpieces burned out halfway through the reception and the traffic from the highway was so loud that you couldn’t hear their vows.

So, my take aways from the two weddings I have attended recently.

Must Steals

BURN A SCENTED CANDLE IN THE LADIES ROOM

It completed changed the atmosphere and the bathroom spelled lovely! For this gorgeous October wedding, this Bath & Body Works seasonal candle was perfect. candle

CREATE YOUR OWN PHOTO BOOTH

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In looking back through the pictures, I can’t find a full shot of the photo booth, but it looked amazing! It was a huge hit with all of the guests and a really fun alternative to renting.

REST AREA FOR GUESTS DURING THE RECEPTION

Loved this idea!

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– KIDS MEALS

Lastly, I loved that the children attending the wedding were fed chicken fingers and fries. (Secretly, or not so secretly, I would have preferred their meals to mine:) )

Things you never think of… until you don’t like the way it went down. 

– CHECK YOUR CANDLES AHEAD OF TIME

 Or your guests may spend the evening doing this… IMG_2253[1]

Well… maybe YOUR guests won’t, but since these two souls will be attending MY wedding, I hope to prevent a repeat of this incident. It inspired me to test the length of time that tea lights burn. It turns out that they will not last through the evening. On the lookout for longer burning candles now.

– SPEAK INTO THE MICROPHONE

There was traffic on the highway nearby and wind blowing that partially drowned out the voices, however, the officiant could be heard over all of this.  None of the guests could hear ANYTHING said by the bride and groom. If you’re going to use a gorgeous setting near a noisy highway, speak clearly into the microphone.

PLACEMENT OF THE SEATING CHART

This was Roland’s biggest takeaway from the wedding. The guests all entered on one side of the room, then had to look for the seating chart which was in the opposite corner. Soon a line had formed from one end of the ballroom to the other with guests waiting for their place cards and signing the guest book.

– LIMIT BOUQUET AND GARTER TOSS TO OVER 18

Though it was completely adorable when an 8 year old caught the bouquet, it caused all of the single men to dodge out of the way when the garter was tossed. When the DJ finally convinced someone to pick up the garter, he took the classy and appropriate approach of having the gentleman put the garter on the child’s arm. However, it made for a few awkward moments as the guys treated the garter like a hot potato and the DJ wrangled people back in line.

I still love weddings! With all of their perfect moments and occasional debacles. My motto for every imperfect wedding I’ve ever attended is that no matter what else went wrong, the couple still ended the day married. I can only hope I have the same attitude for my own wedding!

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Happy Birthday Mom!

Today is my Mom’s birthday. My adventurous, brave, and beautiful mother. I live 2 hours from her and don’t get to see her often enough, but today I got to celebrate her birthday with her. Roland and I met her and my Dad in a town halfway between where we each live.

It was a new restaurant to all of us, recommended by a coworker. The food took a long time. The conversation focused around work and it was mostly stories about our frustrations as none of us are too pleased with work these days. When our food finally came, it really wasn’t that good. However, in the midst of the list of things that weren’t perfect about the evening, we laughed and enjoyed each others company. I didn’t really notice until I sat to write this how many things went wrong. It was a day when it would have been easy to get caught up in the little things that didn’t matter, but I was focused on my Mom. Appreciating her and the time I could spend with her today. No matter what goes on around us, we ALWAYS have fun when we’re together.

So all I want to say today is Happy Birthday Mom! I love you and appreciate you more than you know. I’m so glad we got to spend part of your birthday with you.IMG_0082

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The Salt Cathedral

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Just a short bus ride out of Bogotá is the city of Zipaquirá, home to the Salt Cathedral. The Salt Cathedral, dubbed the “First Wonder of Colombia” in 2007,  is a cathedral built underground in a salt mine. Though this stunning cathedral is not officially recognized by the Catholic church, on average 3,000 visitors attend mass in this cavernous sanctuary every week.

I referred to the bus ride from Bogotá to the cathedral as “short.” It is only 48 km (30 miles) from Bogotá to Zipaquirá but, as my life typically goes, it had to be more of an adventure than that.  We had been told by the hotel to take a cab to the southern Bogotá bus station. After having fought with cab drivers through our entire trip, when this kind soul of a driver told us we should take the bus to Zipaquirá, we promptly ignored him. This was our first mistake. Instead of the one hour this trip should have taken, we left the station on the bus and spent the next hour driving through the city with a man hanging out of the open door calling our destinations out, picking up stray folk along the road. Eventually we stopped for ten minutes at the northern bus station and were on our way for the “short” bus trip we had been promised.

I think it is fair to say that the driver did not value the relationship between the bus wheels and the black top nearly as my as I do. On more than one gigantic speed bump our bus, the Rapido El Carmen, demonstrated their emphasis on the rapido and took liftoff. I can only assume that El Carmen is a saint who kept us alive as the bus driver careened along.

We got off the bus on the side of the road in Zipaquirá and traipsed through the town, asking for directions along the way. For some reason, no matter where I am in the world, whatever I am looking for is always seems to be up the hill from me. So, up the hill we trekked. It did make for a nice view of the city along the way.

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Zipaquirá had a beautiful square where we saw a trolley tour of the city. I was very disappointed that it stopped running before we finished our tour of the cathedral. We eventually reached a gate that we thought was the top of the hill, but of course when the guard came out and directed us, she pointed up the hill again. This time it was stairs. We made it to the top where we saw the Plaza of Flags and purchased tickets for the cathedral and the archaeological museum.

The Salt Cathedral was incredible. The stations of the cross were carved out along the path leading into the main sanctuary. Each station’s cross had a different design to symbolize that station’s event.

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The sanctuary was breathtaking. The pictures don’t begin to do it justice to represent the magnitude of the space.  Sculptures and other religious art were hidden in alcoves throughout the tour.

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Though no part of the tour would make you forget that you were underground, it was easy to lose sight of the fact that this place was at one time a working mine. A short video giving the history of the mine was included in the tour.

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After touring the cathedral, the archaeological museum was a let down. It was filled with ancient pottery and pieces of pottery. We did find this little lady in there.

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I would not recommend the museum unless you have a burning passion for ancient Native Americans art and life. The trolley tour of the city would have been more our speed, but now we know for next time. The Salt Cathedral was indescribable! Even in pictures. I would definitely recommend a visit there.

6 Things Every First Time Traveler to South America Should Know

Traveling with my fiance, boyfriend at the time, to South America was an adventure for many reasons. I was born into a traveling family. My parents took me on my first international trip when I was less than six months old. This trip was followed up every few years by a visit to a new country and culture.  In my teen years, my crazy parents moved onto a boat and we spent the next couple of years sailing through the Caribbean living in different countries for days or months at a time. Suffice it to say that Central and South American culture rarely surprises me anymore. For my fiance, however, this was his first time out of the United States (neither of us counts the 4 day cruise we took that allowed us one day in the Bahamas).

As my Nana would say, he was “baptized by fire” on this trip as I dragged him through the cities, fields, and jungles of Ecuador and Colombia. No plan and no reservations. It’s a miracle he didn’t kill me along the way.

So, here is my list of 6 Things Every First Time Traveler to South America Should Know…. also known as the list of things I should have told my boyfriend before we left the country.

1) DON’T FLUSH YOUR TOILET PAPER! 

This is what Roland’s face looked like when I delivered this little gem…

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He still feels that way after the trip. To further emphasize this point, however, here is a sign from the airport (where plumbing is apparently better) informing you that it is ok to flush the paper. In newer parts of the cities, it seems that being able to flush toilet paper is becoming more common. When in doubt, throw it out! It’s much better to have put it in a closed trash can than to find out the hard way that the toilet can’t handle it.

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2) BRING YOUR OWN TOILET PAPER

This is good travel advice regardless of your destination (My mom always stuffs at least 6 travel tissue packs in my stocking at Christmas). It is true for many places that I have traveled, including those in the US. I would say though that you are more likely to be caught without paper in South America. In some cases, you’ll be lucky to score a bathroom with a toilet seat (a tank cover is a bonus)!

3) ROAD SIGNS AND SPEEDOMETERS WILL READ IN KILOMETERS, NOT MILES

I wish I had a picture of Roland’s face from the moment he looked down at the speedometer and exclaimed we were going 120 miles per hour! I have to admit that I laughed for a bit too long before I was able to explain that it was kilometers and we were really going closer to 75.

4) C DOES NOT MEAN COLD

This particular piece of advice only relates to Spanish-speaking countries and refers to the markings on the faucet delineating hot (H) and cold (C). In Spanish-speaking countries you will find F and C, but C does NOT mean cold. It stands for caliente which means HOT! Roland’s Spanish was good enough that this particular piece of advise was unnecessary, but I have been on several work and witness trips in the past when screams from the shower demonstrated the dilemma 🙂

5) DON’T EXPECT OTHERS TO OBEY TRAFFIC LAWS

The first time a bus passed us on an uphill curve in the fog… this is something you never get used to, but is an important warning for anyone planning to drive here. Initially this point was going to say “Traffic Laws Are Optional,” but I decided that was not actually a wise suggestion even though it is generally the accepted attitude. I read in the guidebook that Bogota is one of the most dangerous cities in the world to drive in and that traffic accidents are one of the highest causes of death in the country. This is true of Ecuador as well. It can be a lot of fun to drive in this countries and DEFINITELY and adventure, just be aware. These are pictures I took while Roland was driving like a Ninja through the fog, saving us from more than one close call.

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6) ALWAYS NEGOTIATE BEFORE YOU ACCEPT A SERVICE

This applies to many areas of travel in many countries. I added it to this list following this trip for one reason: Bogotá cabs! No matter what the meter said, we were asked for more money. If you have not established a set price or agreed to the meter reading before you get in the cab, you have very little to go on. My Spanish is good enough to put up a fight, but if I didn’t have exact change for the driver I lost more than once before this expensive lesson was learned. The same rule holds for local buses.

These are just a part of the adventure of travel, so don’t be discouraged! This is not a comprehensive list because I wouldn’t want to take all of the fun out of it 😉 Just a few necessities to get you by. My final piece of advice is this: TRAVEL and do it often! Not everyone is out to get you and there are many kind souls to meet along the way. There is so much world to see and so little time to do it.

For the travelers out there, feel free to add any suggestions or comments!

Refocusing

It’s been three months to the day since I wrote a post on this blog. In that time, I’ve been traveling, wedding planning, enjoying the changing of the season, and living my life in the real world 🙂 However, I hope to get back to my goal of posting regularly. Living a goal directed life takes practice and I’m out of practice.

In that spirit, I plan to kick off my return to this lifestyle by a week of daily posts. What you can expect to read about in upcoming posts:

– A Day Trip to Morocco, also known as “The Day of 3 Countries”

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– La Costa del Sol

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– The Salt Cathedral

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– Telefericos

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– An Evening in Lisbon

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– Things I Learned Taking a First Time Traveler to South America

-Attending weddings while you are planning your own and many, many other adventures.

I am excited to share my stories!