Today I’d like to share a Baby Shower I threw for my sister-in-law about a month back. She welcomed her beautiful healthy son into the world earlier this week and Liam and I are just ecstatic for the new family.
The Invitation & Theme
“Ready to Pop” was a wonderful theme to work with right out of the gate. It was easy to find balloon decked stationary; I chose a vistaprint.ca design that is cheerful and gender neutral. We knew the baby was a boy, but as this was a coed shower, wanted to keep everything as inclusive as possible. We held the party of about 30 guests in our home for a fun and laid-back affair.
The most import part of any gathering! Everything served fitted with the theme:
Popcorn Shrimp w. Thai chili sauce
Popcorn Chicken w. plum sauce
Jalapeno Poppers w. queso
Salad with Poppy-seed Dressing
Pancetta & Cheddar Popovers
Pesto & Chive Popovers
Pop-Tarts Snap Crackle Pop Rice Crispie Treats
*full disclosure: these are Tim Horton’s Timbits. The local bakers wanted about $3 per cake pop! Sorry, that was not in the budget. But for $10, some drizzled icing and a lollipop stick, these impostors looked great and tasted like good old-fashioned Canadian deliciousness.
Games and Activities
Ready to Pop To get everyone loosened up, we handed out mini-helium balloons + tooth picks, counted down together and POPPED! One balloon contained confetti, which burst all over the winner of a fabulous door prize.
Guests loved writing funny messages on the bums of newborn diapers. The new parents should appreciate the late-night comic relief as well. An instructional sign told guests to “pick a diaper and write on the BOOTY, something to take their minds off the DOOTY“.
Like beer-pong, but with training-potties. Particularly enjoyed by the gentlemen.
A blind taste-test of various baby food. I was ruthless with this one and included flavours like corn, beef, and turkey. Muhahaha!
We challenged our guests to a surprise round of baby trivia. Free French and English downloads available here and answers here.
Decor and Other Stuff Balloons were obviously the decoration of choice for this party, and I scattered bunches of them around the house in colours pulled from the invitation.
A wooden train-set played centerpiece, winding around small arrangements of seasonal button mums, and is now a bonus gift for the baby! Simple cut tulips in tall glass vases also helped create that spring-time feeling.
Adults enjoyed a “Pop, Clink, Fizz” Mimosa bar and “Pop a Cold One” beer bucket. Kids loved the popcorn machine.
Favours were an assortment of “pop” candy, including blow-pops, ring-pops, pop rocks, and Popeye cigarettes.
For a guest-book, people left messages in the Dr. Seuss book Hop on Pop. How more on the nose could this theme be?
There was of course a hearty round of gift-opening by mum and dad-to-be and the customary “oooo”s and “awwww”s from spectating guests.
It was a wonderful party -to plan, execute, and attend- and a pleasure to meet the friends and family of a couple who have brought a wonderful little bundle of awesome into all our lives.
Liam and my first wedding anniversary is drawing near and I cannot believe how fast this first year of marriage has gone, or that I have posted so little about the wedding! Our destination nuptials in Portugal were fantastic, but we wanted to celebrate with our more extended friends and family in Ottawa too. So, early last September, we held a cocktail reception to do just that. Here are the details:
We wanted a venue that reflected our personality as a couple. Liam and I enjoy the finer things in life but tend to gravitate towards a more casual and relaxed atmosphere. Especially after having such an elegant wedding, we really wanted a fun, comfortable place to continue the celebration. Sidedoor, with its ideal Byward Market location, historic stone walls, and funky wine glass chandeliers fit us perfectly. A big bonus were the flat screen TVs all around the space that had our wedding video playing on a loop.
Having a beautiful venue meant we did not need to do much … but in the age of Pinterest, no wedding is complete without a few DIY details. At least if you love DIY details like I do. This hand-made rustic wood sign was the first thing to greet guests at the entrance to the courtyard.
Playing up the wine theme, I made a dozen chalkboard-look wine bottles with funny little sayings about wine. These were grouped on tables and served as lighthearted centerpieces as well as fantastic conversation starters.
In addition to petals scattered everywhere, a few small flower arrangements adorned the cocktail tables and bar. These were in soft pinks and vibrant blushes that contrasted nicely with the stone and dark decor of the restaurant. Even a few flowers were enough to make the party really feel like a wedding. The Food
Passed canapés kept guests nibbling all night on the Asian-fusion fare the venue is known for. There was also a [very Canadian] poutine bar that came out later, as well as a cupcake tower for some traditional sugary wedding fun.
We would have loved to have treated our guests to an open bar, but that was just not in the budget. We did the best we could by offering everyone a glass of white or red wine as they arrived. On the stem of each glass was ticket for a second drink at the bar. The Guest Book
It took months of wine drinking (yay!) and help from our boozy friends to collect hundreds of red wine corks for our shadowbox guestbook. Etched on the glass of the frame is our last initial, first names, and wedding date. Guests signed and wrote little notes on the corks and dropped them in the box which is now displayed in our home.
Friends and family got to take home a waiter’s knife corkscrew printed with our names and wedding date. Each were tied with purple ribbon around gold heart “thank you” charms and displayed on actual wooden grape crates.
Local Ottawa cover band One Vision rocked all night long with pumped-up renditions of pop/rock classics. Their energy was infections and kept guests moving on the dance floor. Purple glow-sticks added a playful element and were a throwback to Liam and my “rave days”.
We also (apparently) made a speech, which neither of us can much remember. We probably only intended to thank everyone for coming, but the pictures make it look like we are a comedy duo … who are really in love. At least we thought we were funny.
We obviously enjoyed ourselves. I lost my voice and both my big toe nails (sorry, over-share) that night but it was totally worth it. Planning a big event can be a lot of fun when the pressure is off. Everything had been set up before hand, the wedding was said and done, we were three weeks married and just ready to party with pretty much everyone we knew. And party we did.
I always knew I wanted an outdoor ceremony, but in Ottawa there is just no safe time of year that guarantees a perfect day. Sure, we have beautiful stretches of Canadian summer, but rain is always a possibility and stifling humidity isn’t much better … not to mention the mosquitoes!
Rather than take chances, I planned my wedding in one of the sunniest places on Earth: Estoril. Known as the Portuguese Riviera, the coastal area of Casscias and Estoril gets an average of only 10 days with rainfall in June, July, and August, as compared to 34 days in Ottawa. Even if it does rain in sunny Estoril, it will probably be a light refreshing sprinkle followed by a beautiful burst of sunshine. The average amount of rain that falls during that period is 27 mm as compared to a staggering 247 mm in Ottawa!
Portugal enjoys one of the most stable climates in the world with a moderate kind weather influenced by the sea. My wedding was at the end of August, but in Portugal, your chances for a warm bright day are high no matter what the time of year. * Statistics according to WeatherWorldOnline.
Face it. Down-south all-inclusives have been done.
Sure they’re fun, easy, and have great weather, but do you really want to invite your guests to another resort wedding? Chances are they have attended, or at least been invited to, a few already and may not be all that interested in taking the same type of vacation again. No matter where you go in the Caribbean, your wedding runs the risk of looking like every other resort wedding out there. … which is fine for some, but not for me.
While Portugal has all the ease and beauty of the Caribbean, it is an exotic unique choice that will intrigue and entice your guests.
There are some seriously beautiful venues.
Our wedding was held in at the Villa São Paulo, a palace built in 1911 by a Mrs. Benedita Alves de Mello – A Portuguese millionairess who made her fortunes in the coffee plantations of Brazil. This little piece of history has been completely updated for a comfortable modern stay. TV, A/C, Wifi, what other acronyms could you need?
The Villa is positioned on a cliff directly facing the Atlantic Ocean, fifty private steps down to world-famous beaches. With 14 air-conditioned bedrooms, two fully equipped kitchens, a pool, and direct access to the beach, the Villa SP is a fantastic base for a Lisbon Coast vacation and an incredibly stunning location for a wedding.
And I chose one of many many options. There are historic palaces, monasteries, luxury hotels, countryside mansions -many of which are UNESCO World Heritage sites. Absolutely breathtakingly beautiful venues that are the stuff of fairy-tale princess bride dreams.
Everyone speaks your language.
Okay, maybe not every single person, but the vast majority of Lisboetas speak more than enough English to point out a metro station or direct you to a landmark. Portuguese people are notoriously warm and friendly and -I may have a slight bias here- are the nicest and most interesting people on the planet.
So not only do you have fascinating conversations with locals to look forward to, but also detailed discussions with wedding vendors regarding your decor ambitions, hair, makeup, floral preferences, et cetera.
We’ve all had wedding food:. chicken/fish/beef, fingerling potatoes, with steamed seasonal vegetables. Yummy
Cocktail Hour Beef Croquetes
Pastelinhas de Bacalhau (codfish fritters)
Rissoes de Camarao (shrimp dumplings)
Linguiça grelhada em tacinhas (grilled sausage)
Prosciuto wrapped pineapple
Shrimp stuffed papaya with cream sauce
Seabass and clams in a bed of vegetables
Roast lamb, vegetables, and potatoes
Chocolate and passion fruit mousse
Red Velvet wedding cake with raspberry filling
Not to mention all the champagne, wine, beer, and cocktails 35 people could possibly consume in one evening. No one saw the bottom of a glass, ever.
And yes, I know that there are actually fantastic caterers in this wonderful Northern country that I live in who could absolutely compete with my menu, but they are certainly not the standard! You’d have to find them out, go for tastings, work with them on the menu, and pay them your first born child. In Portugal the standard for good food and fine entertaining is much higher. Everyone eats well all the time, so at weddings the fare is expected to be fabulous.
My menu was part of a package offered by The Villa São Paulo. It was Menu C and I didn’t taste a bite of it until we took our seats at our reception. But more importantly, I didn’t worry about it. Not once. Ever. I knew with absolute certainty that in Portugal, I would be feeding my guests far better than I could ever have hoped to back home.
Easy to get there and around.
We had a few first-time travelers on our guest-list who were nervous about making their first jump across the Atlantic to this mysterious little sliver of Europe. But the direct Air Canada fights out of Toronto and Montreal made it a breeze for everyone, and the Lisbon airport is a seriously well-laid out facility. English signage is everywhere at airport and tourist areas, so being lost is always temporary.
Our guests arrived to us at the Villa São Paulo in several ways. Seasoned travel veterans rented cars at the airport and hopped on the highway out to Estoril. The adventurous crowd used the metro and train station, finding it all extremely cheap and easy. And for the group of 12 that were flying out together, consisting of my 80 year old grandma and some virgin-travelers, I arranged a private van transfer that was perfectly prompt and professional.
We were also constantly taking cabs to and from the centers of Casscias and Estoril. Both a beautiful sea-side walk away, but it was sometimes more pleasant to take a 7€ cab ride after a day of shopping or evening of eating.
Euro goes a little bit further.
You can spend as much or as little on a wedding as you want. Weather you hire a white elephant to whisk you away, or if you walk to a bar after a ceremony at City Hall, it will still be your wedding and will be romantic and memorable. Me, I wanted everything short of a white elephant, and in Portugal I got what I wanted.
I’m not saying that it was cheap!
We still spent a tone of money on our wedding, like a tone. But we certainly got a lot more bang for our canuck bucks. As already mentioned, the quality and style of catering far surpasses the North American standard for about the same cost, and alcohol was far cheaper. Videography was also a great deal. The video that would have cost us thousands here at home was an add-on to our photography package for mere hundreds (I’ll post the video soon I promise!). Hair & makeup and flowers & decor were right on par with Canadian prices. And other vendors like the officiant, security, DJ and musicians came up to a bit under what I would expect to pay here.
A lot of this assembling of fantastic services had to do with my wedding planner Claudia. She has a circle of top-notch wedding professionals around her that she brings with her own expertise and attention to every wedding held at the Villa a São Paulo. I would not have had my dream wedding without her.
It’s a built-in Honeymoon.
Trust me, you wont want to leave. After your dream wedding, you can head to the Algarve for much needed time doing nothing but relaxing on the beach. Need a little more adventure? Well the waves around Sintra are some of the best in the world for surfing. Scuba diving, sea kayaking, fishing, and dolphin watching are also all on offer all along the coast. Not into water sports? Head into the cities to explore centuries of history and culture. Take in a Fado show for some chillingly beautiful Portuguese language ballads, or bob your head as you watch folkloric dancers perform in traditional village garb.
If you do want to branch out and see more of the world, Portugal is an excellent jumping off point to a host of other destinations. We had an opportunity to travel with family through Morocco and our flight to Casablanca out of Lisbon only cost us about $200. Many of our guests also took advantage of being in Europe and tagged on France, Italy, Spain, and the rest of the Meditarian onto attending our destination wedding.
I’ve been to one winter wedding, and it was totally beautiful. I was a bridesmaid in a long silk purple dress, the ballroom was filled with elegant tapered candles, and the bride and groom shot some stunning portraits in the snow.
As part of my wedding-withdraw, I find myself imaging different versions of my wedding in every situation. Most recently; an elegant holly and mistletoe decked soiree celebrating love and the festivities of the Season. Featuring a set of these bridesmaid dresses from J Crew.
These would be stunning on any set of women, and the girls would love having a bridesmaid’s dress that can do double duty at the office Christmas party.
Trust me. People actually do want to see the pictures.
I had always loved browsing the engagement photo galleries of my friends on Facebook. Even distant acquaintances I hadn’t spoken to in years; it was a joy to see high quality photos of them looking happy. But when it came down to my own engagement, the thought of spending money on a photographer to take casual shots of my fiancé and I felt amazingly narcissistic.
But then I got over it. I found that my real-life friends were very keen to see happy cutesy pictures of Liam and me; just as I had been/would be keen to see theirs.
To further justify ourselves, we had the best photos from our shoot turned into a photo-book that doubled as a guest book at the wedding. People absolutely loved browsing the pictures during the reception. Now when we flip though the book, it’s not just pictures of us, but the notes of best wishes and love from our family and friends.
It’s surprisingly romantic.
How could it not be? You’re engaged, thrilled about the wedding and life with your partner, and then you are told to cuddle, hug, kiss, and outright canoodle as much as possible. Our photographer kept saying “Seriously, you guys can’t get close enough” and Liam would hold me tighter, I’d rest my head on his cheek, we’d stare into each other’s eyes. At first it felt a bit much, but for heaven sake this was our engagement! A public declaration of love and commitment is literally what the whole wedding thing is about.
It’s great practice for the wedding day.
I’ve never been camera-shy, you can ask anybody, but Liam was more than a little worried about being photographed. The engagement shoot was a great way to get comfortable in front of a camera, as well as get use to the poses and directions from the photographer. We also picked up little tricks like keeping your fingers just a little bit apart for a relaxed looking hand. Your photographer is likely a pro, and working with them on getting great shots will be a lot less stressful on a day that’s not the most important day of your life.
It’s an (other) opportunity to express yourself as a couple.
Our wedding was an expression of who we are as a couple; modern, classic, elegant, travel lovers with a modern classic elegant destination wedding. But we also love canoeing, roughing it in the wilderness, and being silly. We used our photo shoot to express that.
It gets everyone excited for the wedding. Including you.
Most of my engagement felt like a weird waking dream. Internally I was excited, nervous, and very preoccupied with both the planning and the fact that I was about to embark on the greatest journey of my life. But of course the rest of the world just kept spinning like it was nothing. When our photographer posted 9 “sneak peek” pictures from our shoot on Facebook, the overwhelming amount of likes and comments from friends was incredibly reassuring. People said that they couldn’t believe how close the date was getting, how happy we looked, and they started asking questions about what the wedding would be like. Even members of our gym were coming up to us to talk about it! The public announcement made, it was as if the flood-gates were open. Yes my wedding is a big deal. Yes other people care about it. Yes this is exciting!
It’s an opportunity to commemorate a special place.
The cottage has been in my family for almost 50 years, I grew up spending my summers there. I joke that Liam started dating me for access to it … and he’s never outright denied that. He loves the lake and the woods as much as I do and it’s become a special place for both of us. The cottage didn’t work as an actual wedding venue, but using it as the location of our photo shoot meant that this special spot was part of the whole wedding experience.
You get to know your photographer.
Our photographer, Christine Aubrey, was recommended to me by a long-time friend. We hired her after two e-mails and a brief look at her website -and that could have been it. She would have shown up to our reception, done great work and we would later have some fabulous pictures. But because we spent one lively afternoon together during our engagement, when she arrived at our wedding reception we hugged her like a friend. We offered her a drink, told her to eat some food, and treated her like she was another guest … much nicer than having a stranger awkwardly walking around with a camera.
Liam and I both felt very comfortable asking Christine to take certain pictures of guests or small DIY details, where we might not have felt as at-ease had we not known her. A real professional will always do a professional job, but we certainly got more out of the experience having gotten familiar with our photographer during our engagement photo shoot. She also got to know us a little too, and I’m sure that will be reflected in the reception photos. I can’t wait to see them!
Mar, céu azul, luz, muita cor, saudades e arte portuguesa!
Apresento-vos um casamento muito especial.
Os noivos não eram portugueses, mas fizeram questão de ter as cores do azuleio português presentes no casamento assim como representado a palavra “saudade” que só em português existe!
A noiva levava uns sapatos lindos, que combinavam perfeitamente com todo o ambiente envolvente!
Em memória aos avós que não estavam presentes, a Eve Marie, fez uma homenagem linda.
Colocou no bouquet as fotografias dos avós e no acto de votos disse muito saudosa
“Vavó and vavô would be very happy to be here to see this day.”
Sea, blue sky, light, lots of color, nostalgia and Portuguese art!
I present to you a very special wedding.
The bride and groom were not Portuguese, but made sure to have the colors of the Portuguese azuleio present at the wedding as well as represented the word “saudade” that only exists in Portuguese!
The bride wore a beautiful shoes, which matched perfectly with any surroundings!
In memory of grandparents who were not present, Eve Marie, did a beautiful tribute.
Placed in the bouquet photographs of grandparents and the act of votes said very nostalgic
“Grandma and Grandma would be very happy to be here to see this day.”