Tag Archives: Engagement

2013 in Review

31 Dec

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 13,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 5 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.


Our Honeymoon to South Africa and Mauritius

2 Dec


I created a video of our honeymoon to give you an idea of what can be done in two weeks in South Africa and Mauritius.   Soon I will be posting our itinerary and more detailed information about each of the locations.  Stay tuned to CourtneyMara.com!

Wedding (Iberostar & General) FAQs

31 Jul


General Wedding FAQs:

(Q1)  What did you do about tipping?

(A1)  We only tipped our wedding coordinator and the DJ because we felt they went above and beyond what was expected.  I really believe that tipping should not be mandatory and that you should do what you can and want to regarding tipping.

(Q2)  Where did you buy your husband and groomsmen’s outfits?

(A2)  Macys.  Brand = Perry Ellis.

(Q3)  Who does the toasts for the rehearsal and wedding dinners?

(A3)  Rehearsal – we made a toast, but I think it is also common for the groom’s parents to make a toast and a bridesmaid and groomsmen.  Wedding – We had my mom and brother, my husband’s mom, the maid of honor and the best man.

(Q4)  What did you do for shoes?
(A4)  I wore flats I bought from Nine West.

(Q5)  Are wedding programs a must?

(A5)  I don’t think so.  Some of our guests didn’t get one.  It didn’t change anything.

(Q6):  What was the template for your wedding program?

(A6):  I just used one of the Vistaprint templates.

(Q7):  Any issues with tan lines from your dress?

(A7):  No.  I was really good about staying out of the sun.

(Q8):  Did the flight attendants allow you to hang your dress?

(A8):  No, but they did put it in an overhead bin without any luggage.

(Q9):  Any suggestions on sandals for men?

(A9):  My husband bought his at DSW and I believe they were Reef Sandals.

(Q10):  What did you pack in your checked bag and what in your carryon?

(A10):   I posted a packing list I found on BestDestinationWedding.com in the post I did with a destination wedding planning Excel chart.  Click here.

(Q11):  I absolutely love your earrings and necklace! Where did you get them?

(A11):  My earrings were from Charming Charlies.  The Necklace was my Maid of Honor’s necklace and she said she got it years prior from Ann Taylor (she believed).

(Q12):  Did you and your husband see each other before the wedding?

(A12):  Not dressed in our wedding outfits.  We saw each other up until around 1:30pm before our 4:30pm wedding.  We were hanging out on the beach together, then we had a meeting with our officiant, and then we signed our wedding document.   After that, we went our separate ways and saw each other again at the ceremony.

Iberostar Rose Hall Suites FAQs:

(Q1)  Did the fabric on the huppah come with your package or did you have to bring it?

(A1)  It came with the package.

(Q2)  30 minute massage or 10 free wedding photos?

(A2)  Massage for sure!  It was one of the best massages of my life!

(Q3)  What were the vegetarian options?

(A3)  I only remember the lasagna offer, but they seemed to indicate that we could get whatever vegetarian meal we wanted for our vegetarian guests.

(Q4)  The forecast says rain everyday, what is actually happening?

(A4)  The weather tends to say rain in the Caribbean, but actually only have short showers off and on.  Our wedding week, it said rain everyday, but only showered the day before the wedding from around 4-8pm.

(Q5)  Does the resort give you shampoo and conditioner?  How’s the hair dryer?

(A5)  Yes, but I would bring your own conditioner.  The hair dryer was fine.   If you are particular or have difficult hair, you may want to bring your own since it isn’t very strong.

(Q6)  Is the international open bar worth it?

(A6)  I didn’t do the national open bar so I can’t compare, but we figured that our guests are coming far distances so we might as well let them celebrate with all drink options.

(Q7)  If you are using a florist other than Tai Flora, can you get credit for not getting the boutonniere, bouquet and table arrangement from Tai Flora?

(A7)  I have no idea.  We still took these and just used the bridal bouquet as the maid of honor bouquet.  I have heard that some people were able to get credit but received very little as credit.

(Q8)  When did you start hearing from the wedding coordinators?

(A8)  The communication was really bad until we got to the resort.  I got my final details sheet to fill out four months before the wedding.  I turned it in 3 months before the wedding.  Up until we left I maybe got one email a month.  I didn’t even get my confirmations until the Sunday before our Saturday wedding.  However, once we got to the resort, Nicole was very available and super helpful.

(Q9)  Is expediting the wedding certificate worth it?

(A9)  NO!  We did it and got it around the same time as the brides who didn’t expedite it.  I think we got it 5 or 7 weeks after the wedding.

(Q10)  How did the sky lanterns work?

(A10)  We lit them at 10pm with candles I bought at IKEA.   Nicole (the Wedding Coordinator) assisted everyone.

(Q11)  How long was your ceremony?

(A11)  I believe 20 minutes.

(Q12)  Did your ceremony start on time?

(A12)  It was just a few minutes late because my hair and makeup took so long.

(Q13)  Can you get internet in the room?

(A13)  Yes, but bring an ethernet cord.

(Q14)  What did you do with the welcome bags once you got to the resort?

(A14)  I brought them to our welcome dinner.

(Q15)  Does the rehearsal dinner have to be at the same restaurant as the wedding dinner?

(A15)  No.

(Q16)  What was the best cake flavor?

(A16)  We had both vanilla and chocolate.  Both were pretty good.  I also heard the cheesecake is really good.

(Q17)  Do I need bug spray?

(A17)  I never had any issues.  Only one of my guests complained about bug bites.  I guess it wouldn’t hurt to bring some.

(Q18)  How much was the dance floor?  Did you also get a quote from Tai Flora?

(A18)  We were charged $300 from Cover Me Up Tents for the 12’x12′ dance floor.   We got quotes from Tai Flora for our tent, but they were so much more expensive that we didn’t inquire further about the dance floor.

(Q19)  When did you send your official documents for the wedding certificate?

(A19)  About 2 months prior to the wedding.  If you are in the U.S., don’t send it through the USPS! We originally did that and the documents never made it even with tracking!

(Q20)  How long was the champagne toast?

(A20)  We didn’t stay long because we went to do photos.  I was probably there five minutes.   And, there was no official “toast.”

(Q21)  Are we able to substitute foods?

(A21)  I believe so.  We were able to change the menus for both our rehearsal and wedding dinners.

(Q22)  Did you get a complimentary suite the night of your wedding by any chance?

(A22)  No complimentary suite.

(Q23)  Did you have a rehearsal the day before the wedding?

(A23)  Yes.  It was around 3:30pm.

(Q24)  Does the Mexican restaurant just have tacos? Is there any chicken options? And does calabash have any chicken options or is it all meat? Just want to make sure there’s something for everyone.

(A24):  They wouldn’t give me a chicken option for Calabash but I heard another bride was able to get chicken.  The Mexican restaurant has other options than tacos.

(Q25):  Hi Courtney… I had a quick question. I know you said the Mexican restaurant was your favorite.  Can you tell me what the menu is like for a normal dinner? Also if you ate at the Mediterranean or calabash and saw what the regular menu is like? We only have 20 people and I’m wondering if the menu we will order from will be different than the smaller menus that some people have to use for a big group. Thank you so much

(A25):  I don’t eat seafood so I didn’t go to the Mediterranean one because the menu is all seafood except for one item.  Calabash was good for a welcome dinner since it is formal. Most of the food was good I just hated the dessert. I had asked for us to have different options but they messed that up so we all got the same weird gross chocolate goo. The Mexican has Tex-Mex options like tacos, etc. I love Tex Mex so it was my favorite. Some of our guests thought it was just ok. However, the “special tacos” were really good and the appetizer buffet is filling! The dessert buffet is really lacking once again. You know we did reservations at the Mexican for like two tables with 15 persons (maybe it was more) and they accomodated it and we got the menu.

(Q26)  You recommended the Japanese resteraunt, but in my packet of details all I see for restaurants is the Mediterranean, the Mexican, Calabash, and Aunt Ruby? Is there also a Japanese?

(A26)  The Japanese is at Iberostar Rose Hall Beach (which is included with your stay at the Suites). It is a fun atmosphere and you may be able to get 20 people around one hibachi grill. If you have over 20 you would have to move people to the next table. They say 18 persons per table but I really think they can get 20. However, if you want to make sure everyone is together, maybe try Calabash (if you want classy) or Mexican (for another fun atmosphere).

(Q27)  When we are filling out the final details sheet that we are mailing to the WC soon, where it says welcome dinner, that is just reserving a table in whatever restaurant we choose, right? Is there also a place where we are supposed to list the itinerary of our whole week and wedding day?

(A27)  With regard to the final details sheet, you do just pick whatever restaurant you want. I did a separate sheet where I explained in more detail everything I wanted and the itinerary (for example, I wanted two welcome dinners). The accommodated everything.

(Q28):  What time do you recommend doing the bonfire the night before the wedding?

(A28):  I recommend 9-10pm.   Our guests were still eating until almost 9pm so it was the perfect time.  Plus, I only needed to pay for one hour of bonfire and open bar.

(Q29):  Did you get negative feedback about the cost for attending?

(A29):  Only from a few persons.  However, all those persons that came after being apprehensive about the cost, I believe really enjoyed it and didn’t regret the cost.

(Q30):  Did you have any issues with planes flying over and making noise during the ceremony?

(A30):  None at all.

(Q31):  Does it cool off at night?

(A31):  Yes.   And, there is a breeze.

(Q32):  How many people did you have at your welcome dinner and did they charge you for it?

(A32):  We had about 20 at the first welcome dinner at the Japanese restaurant and 52 at the second welcome dinner at Calabash.   These were free.

(Q33):  You gave out your welcome buckets at the welcome dinner.  Did you give people something before hand/at check in to let them know where to go?

(A33):  I emailed all of our guests before they left for Jamaica with the itinerary.

(Q34):  Did anyone make a toast at the welcome dinner?  Was it hard to talk without a mic at a non private dinner?

(A34):  We made a toast.  No microphone was needed for our 53 guests to hear us.

(Q35):  What time was your bonfire?  How long did it go for?  Did the WCs help/stay around for the wish lanterns?  Did you have live music?

(A35):  Our bonfire was from 9-10pm.  We lit sky lanterns at 10pm.  The wedding coordinator was around to help us light the wish lanterns.  We had a mento band.  If I were to do it over again, I would get the fire dancer and just have a Ipod with speakers.

(Q36):  Where did you get the notarized photocopies of your birth certificates?

(A36):  UPS store.

(Q37):  Did the rooms smell musty?

(A37):  A bit.  We just opened the deck window.

(Q38): How many people per table?

(A38):  The round tables fit 8-10 persons.  The rectangular tables can seemingly fit any number because they just add more square tables.

(Q39):  Your bouquet is sooo pretty! Did any of the flowers wilt throughout the night? What kind of bouquet is it? I want to copy it!

(A39):  They didn’t wilt throughout the night.  It was a mixture of hydrangeas, roses and orchids.

(Q40):  How long was your whole wedding reception/ dinner? (What time did it end and did you party after?) With food and all was there plenty of time for everything plus dancing?

(A40):  It was from 6:30-10:30pm.  Dinner was probably over by 8:30pm.  We went to the night club after.  Some of our guests were up until the next morning.  There was plenty of time for everything.  In fact, I actually remember towards the end of the reception thinking that I was ready for it to be over.

(Q41):  How many wish lanterns did you bring?  One per person or one per couple?

(A41):  One per couple.

(Q42):  You mentioned your guests thought the steel pan band was too loud during your cocktail hour on the lobby terrace.  Did you pay for them or did they just happen to be playing in lobby at the same time?  If you did pay for them and had you moved to the blue moon music bar would they still have been too loud there too? Also in regards to your ceremony time/pics you said you felt rushed. I assume your ceremony ended around 5, so from 5-5:20 both you, your husband and all of your guests were doing pics before cocktail hour started? Also I assume you and your husband missed cocktail hr to continue to take pics. Then you just met everyone towards the end or at dinner?

(A42):  We paid for the steel pan band from 4:15-5:15 (ceremony and champagne toast) and then from 5:20-6:20 during cocktail hour on the lobby terrace.  I do feel that if we would have done it in Blue Moon Music Bar the noise wouldn’t have been an issue.  The lobby terrace was kind of tight with the food, drinks, music and 53 guests.   Our ceremony did end around 5 pm.  Our guests were hanging out at the champagne toast and taking pictures until 5:20pm.  Then they went to the cocktail hour while we took pictures.   We took photos until the reception started at 6:30pm.  We met everyone outside the tent.  Everyone was taking beautiful sunset photos at that point.

(Q43):  Is wine included in the cocktail hour?

(A43):  I believe so since we weren’t charged for wine.

(Q44):  Do you remember what the steel pan drum band played?

(A44):  Not at all.  I was so focused on my husband that I don’t remember anything they played.  The only song I requested was “One Love” when we were exiting.

(Q45)  Where did you get the chairs that the guys lifted you up in?

(A45)  I have no idea.  They just appeared.  I am guessing they were the chairs used at the reception without the white cover.

(Q46):  What kind of food did you have at your sit down? Did they give you alot of choices? Are they flexible with foods choices for dinner and cocktail hour?

(A46):  We gave our guests the option of chicken, steak or vegetarian.  They are somewhat flexible. For example, we added chicken.  Originally they only gave one option – steak with salmon.

(Q47):  You need a credit card upon check in correct ? And does everything you do get charged to the room, ie. spa treatments ? And when you check out, can you pay for your charges in cash or does your card have to be charged ? I have some guests asking, they want to bring cash to avoid foreign transaction fees, and I didn’t think you could pay for services in cash.

(A47):   I don’t think I gave them a credit card upon check in, but I can’t remember.  You can charge the spa to your room, but I also think you can pay at the spa.   I think you can pay in cash when checking out, but I am not too sure.  We paid with credit card.

(Q48):  Was your huppah draped in fabric and nothing else?  Did it look ok or was it beat up?

(A48):  I just had the huppah draped in the white fabric.  I thought it was beautiful.   I am sure if you looked really close there are probably some beat up areas of it.

Beach reception specific FAQs:

(Q1)  Did you have an issue with bugs?

(A1)  Only ants.  There were ants, but nobody said anything.

(Q2)  Was it hot?

(A2)  It was warm under the tent, but the uniqueness and beauty of our beach reception made us not worry about it.  And, when people were warm they could step out and get more of a breeze or even go into the ocean.

(Q3)  Is the dance floor worth it?  Does it get slippery?

(A3)  Under a tent, yes.  I think it creates just a classy reception.  If we didn’t have the tent, I would probably say no.   The dance floor was a bit slippery with the sand, but I told some people to take their shoes off.

(Q4)  Is there a bar open at night by the pool/beach?   Is it really going to cost $10pp/hour for reception drinks at a beach reception?

(A4)  There is really no close bar open at night by the pool/beach.  It will cost the $10pp/hour if you want to serve drinks to your guests (unless they change the packages).

(Q5)  Is it extra to have a dinner reception on the beach?

(A5)  Yes.  You need to contact Iberostar to find out the latest cost.  I was charged $58pp for the beach reception dinner and open bar, but I believe those prices have changed.

(Q6)  Your day looked so beautiful. I am wondering if you recommend a tent like yours ( but smaller ) for 20 guests? Do you think it would be too much for only 20 people? It looked so beautiful with the lights you had.

(A6)  They have smaller tents. I think tents with lights are so beautiful and can work for any size group. My only concern for you is whether Iberostar will allow you to have a beach reception. Is there a minimum?  I don’t think there is if you are just doing dancing or also if you are doing appetizers/cocktail hour. However when we were asking about a beach reception with dinner and everything they said 40 person minimum. I don’t think this is right though because I could have sworn I saw another bride’s photos with a tented beach reception and she had a smaller group than we had. I would email the wedding coordinators.

(Q7)  So since you had your reception on the beach did you have to pay for them to set up all of the large tables there or was that included? I know you probably had to pay extra for the tent you had but was that all that was extra? We thought that all we could have included was those small cocktail type tables for the beach reception, so this would be good to know. We are planning on just having appetizers so it isn’t as formal. We weren’t sure if a meal could be served on the beach, instead of in one of the restaurants? I know it is free to have a meal in the restaurant after the wedding.

(A7)  The tables and linens were all included in my $58pp. The tent (900 – Cover Me UP Tents), lighting (200 – DJ Kevan), dance floor (300 – Cover Me Up Tents) and curtains (320 – Cover Me Up Tents) around the tent were extra. No vendor fees for any of these vendors. The small tables are brought out if you are just doing appetizers on the beach. I think you have to have the full meal on the beach to have the large tables. We had a full meal – appetizers, steak, cake.

(Q8):  I have no idea what kind of lighting to request. I don’t want anything crazy and clubby, just enough to make it look really nice and lit up and appropriate for a reception feel! Any suggestions?

(A8):  Just tell DJ Kevan that and he will know what to do. We had no particular color request and when he showed us photos I just said that the blue/purple looked nice.  He went with that but then the lights changed throughout the night.  It was amazing!   He is really good at what he does!

FAQs regarding Jamaican vendors:

(Q1)  Stephen Henrique (Jewish officiant) told me that I just pay him the day of and there’s no contract, is that how you did it?

(A1)  Yes.  I was nervous, but he turned out to be very reliable.  He showed up right on time, meeting us at 12:30pm for us to pay him, go over the ceremony, and sign the wedding document.

(Q2)  How important do you think it is to hire an outside make up artist?  Essential or not?

(A2)  Not essential.  I have heard that the resort does a good job.

(Q3)  Is the steel pan band worth it?

(A3)  It made the wedding even more special and Jamaican, so I think so.

(Q4)  How early should I start reserving my vendors?

(A4)  If you are going to be particular about any sort of vendor, like your wedding photographer, book ASAP.    Vendors get booked really early.  I remember contacting some vendors 9 months prior to our wedding and they were booked.

(Q5)  How did you pay DJ Kevan?

(A5)  Through his website.

(Q6)  How did you pay everyone, including the resort?

(A6) Officiant – cash.  Hair & Makeup (Rashel Edwards) – Moneygram.  DJ – through his website.  Resort – credit card.  Photographer – cash and Paypal.  Videographer – I believe Paypal.  Tent vendor – check.

(Q7)  Do you recommend the catamaran cruise company that you used?

(A7)  Yes.  Island Routes was amazing.  We booked our private catamaran for $2925 + $10 pp and included 3 hours, open bar, appetizer, Margaritaville, and snorkeling.

(Q8)  How far in advance did you contact the flower vendors?

(A8)  About 3 months prior.

(Q9)  Did you book your vendors or did the WC?

(A9)  We booked all of our vendors.

(Q10)  Did the vendors eat dinner with you?  Were they counted as guests?

(A10)  They did not eat with us and they were not counted as guests.

(Q11)   I forget if you told me if you were charged a fee for floral fantasies? I asked the woman if she could deliver the flowers to my room, do you think i’d get charged a fee for her to do this?

(A11):  No fee because they just drop it off with the wedding coordinator. The wedding coordinator then delivers the flowers.

(Q12):  Who did you have to pay vendor fees for?

(A12):  Just the photographer and videographer.  Each had two persons so I paid $400.

(Q13):  How long was your catamaran trip and did you feel it was right or could have been longer or shorter?  Were the inflatable slides from Margaritaville?  Were they worth it?

(A13):  Our catamaran trip was 3 hours long.  It was the perfect time or could have even been longer.  We had so much fun.  The inflatable slides are at Margaritaville.  They are also a lot of fun.

(Q14):  Do you think I should just use the Tai bouquet for my MOH? Did you think it was nice enough? I just want white orchids for hers. I know you said there was added greenery to it to try to make it seemed more full? I don’t want to go with the bouquet for her from Tai and not have it look nice compared to mine but also don’t want to spend extra money if not needed.

(A14):  My MOH bouquet was just orchids and was the one included with Tai Flora so if you want to save money just do what I did. She didn’t say anything about the bouquet, I just really noticed the difference since the 2 bridesmaids had bouquets from Floral Fantasies that were nicer than the MOHs.

(Q15)  Do you know if we can bring our bouquet back with us on the plane?   Also, do you know if there is a place to preserve the flowers?

(A15)  I don’t think you can bring them back, but that would be a customs/Agriculture Department question.  I also don’t know anything about the preservation of the flowers.

(Q16)  On another note, with the wedding, I contacted Chantel at FF and she seems great. She is very responsive so I think I am going to go with them. I saw a bouquet on their site called Lovey Linda, which is beautiful. What flowers were in your bouquet again? Did you get all of your flowers from FF? I want to see if Tai will give me different options rather than getting the free included bouquet and boutonnière and just go with the table arrangement and possibly get another table arrangement in the place of the other two things. Do you think I should just write on the final details sheet I am using FF but would like to see what options I can get through Tai? I just don’t know if I should contact Tai about this or do you think Nicole can handle it a few days before the wedding when we arrive? Lastly, you said you didn’t get charged a vendor fee, a few other people said that as well. Does Nicole just get the flowers from FF and then bring them to our rooms?

(A16):  Flowers: We had hydrangeas, roses and a few orchids in my bouquet and the bridesmaids bouquets (2 – I used the Tai Flora bouquet for my MOH bouquet). I also got 4 boutonnieres (3 groomsmen + 1 for my brother – I used the one from Tai Flora for my groom). Then we got the table arrangements from Floral Fantasies and used the Tai Flora one for the sweetheart table. I don’t know if Tai Flora will change out any of your arrangements. I believe one past bride said she was able to do it for something small but I think that was after a lot of negotiations. They don’t seem to be very flexible. You might as well ask though. I would ask this directly to Tai Flora and maybe even ask the WCs at the same time – it doesn’t hurt to send two emails. I didn’t get charged a vendor fee for FF. FF just drops the flowers with Nicole and then Nicole sets them up at the reception and brings the bouquets and boutonnieres to the rooms you request on the day of the wedding.

Jamaica FAQs:

(Q1)  Is Rick’s Cafe worth it?  How long is the trip?

(A1)  I think that Rick’s was 2 hours from Montego Bay.  And, yes, it was worth it!  Make sure to jump and see the sunset!

Last Important Pieces of Advice:

(1) Hair/makeup appointments – make it for an hour before you think you need to. Mine was not finished until five minutes before the ceremony started.

(2) Bring: (a) envelopes to put in cash for tips and vendors and for checks/cash you receive as gifts (we didn’t expect anything but people ended up giving us cards and so it was good that we could secure the checks in a separate envelope); (b) conditioner; (c) ethernet cord to connect to the super slow internet.

(3) I wish my husband and I had made reservations every night for dinner. We had two nights where we left it up to guests because we didn’t want to over schedule them, but then our guests still wanted to do group dinners so there was a lot of confusion. I wish we had just made group reservations for every night and whoever wanted to come could come.

(4) Our welcome buckets were well liked – our group LOVED the sunscreen (dollar store), aloe (dollar store), sunglasses (LOVEDDDD everyone wore them to everything – Dhgate.com), and snacks from Costco.

(5) Do wish lanterns. Everyone LOVED them!

DC-Area Bridal Salons Under $2000

29 Sep

When I searched for bridal gowns, I had the hardest time finding a list of salons in the Washington DC area that sold gowns under $2000, preferably under $1500 (I just couldn’t live with myself if I paid more than this for a dress that I wear only once).   After much research I finally came up with my own list and would love to share it with you.   The following are a list of salons that have reasonably priced gowns:

  • Alfred Angelo in Springfield, VA.   I ended up buying my gown here.
  • Katherine’s Bridal in Alexandria.  This had my second choice dress.  Beware:  they won’t let you take pictures which was important to me since I wanted to see how I looked in photos with the dress on.
  • Ellie’s Bridal Boutique in Alexandria, VA
  • Moni’s Bridal Boutique in Manassas, VA.
  • Jeanette’s Bridal in Manassas, VA.
  • David’s Bridal in Rockville, MD.
  • The Bridal Boutique in Columbia, MD.  Not great for beach brides since most of their dresses are pretty heavy.  However, a large selection of gowns.
  • Bobbie’s Bridal in Fairfax, VA. – I didn’t find anything here for me, but other ladies may find dresses here.
  • Rosalin’s Bridal in Falls Church, VA.
  • Distinctive Designs Bridal in Rockville, MD.  – This one was far for me but it was my favorite of all the salons.  Absolutely great salon.  I love the layout.  Beware:  they won’t let you take pictures which was important to me since I wanted to see how I looked in photos with the dress on.
  • Pattrapon Bridal in Kensington, MD.  Cute neighborhood especially if you love antiques.

Introduction to CourtneyMara.com

5 Jan

It has been a little over a month since this site truly went public.  Viewership has been picking up so this is the perfect time to really explain what CourtneyMara.com is about.

When Matt and I were planning our EngagementMoon to Tahiti and New Zealand, I searched and searched for an itinerary for one week in the North Island of New Zealand during winter.  I could not find this.  I found plenty of “two weeks” or “South Island” or “summer,” but never precisely what I needed.  I was then determined to create a website where people could post their itineraries or recommendations for different locations throughout the world.

I want CourtneyMara.com to be a place where people can find suggestions to help them plan their travels.  From time to time I add personal stories (the story of my proposal, “DATE MY BROTHER,” and picture of my engagement ring), but for the most part this will be a travel website.

You may be wondering how this site will be different from all of the other travel blogs.  Well, as I indicated above, the focus of this website will be sample travel itineraries and the DOs/DON’Ts of different locations.  I do not want to brag about all of the trips I have taken.  Instead, I want to give people recommendations not only from me, but from all the GUEST BLOGGERS as well.

Speaking of GUEST BLOGGERS, if you have a great travel itinerary or DOs/DON’Ts of a particular location, please share them at CourtneyMara.com.  Or, if you know of some blog post on another website that should be re-posted on CourtneyMara.com, please let me know!  See our GUEST BLOGGERS page for more information.

I hope you enjoy CourtneyMara.com!

Lots of Love,

Courtney Mara

The Ring Has Arrived…

30 Dec

As you may know, Matt proposed in Tahiti, French Polynesia, in August 2011 (see posts about the proposal and the EngagementMoon).  Well, the official engagement ring has finally arrived and it is better than I could have ever imagined.  Justin at Diamond Exchange in Rockville, MD, really helped Matt with creating my dream ring.  I thought I would share a photo with everyone since it has been 4 months in the works…

An Engagement Party To Bowl For…

13 Nov

Let me start this blog out by stating: I have a very great/awesome/amazing friend who works at the White House.   Well, this friend, along with four of my other closest girl friends, wanted to throw Matt and me an engagement party.  What location did they come up with?  The White House bowling alley!

On November 12, Matt and I, along with 19 of our closest friends, bowled at the White House bowling alley to celebrate our engagement.  My girl friends brought food and drinks, Erika gave a short speech, Matt gave a bit longer speech, there was music and football on the TV.  We did not play any serious games (besides a few “best of three”), but we had a lot of fun and took a lot of pictures inside the Eisenhower Building, outside the White House, and with the Washington Monument in the background.

Matt and I are so blessed to have such wonderful friends who came from all over to be at our engagement party and who put a lot of effort into throwing us one hell of a rememorable party!

French Fries, French Wine, and the French Polynesia: The Story of My Proposal

25 Aug

August 25, 2011.  No, it was not a normal day for me, Courtney Mara.  Not only was this the day that I went from being a single gal to being engaged, but I also woke up for the first time ever in a beautiful hotel room on the French Polynesian island of Tahiti.  Matt, my now fiance, and I arrived late the evening before in Tahiti and went straight to our resort, the Radisson Plaza Tahiti.  We decided to take our first day in Tahiti slow by staying on the resort.  We spent the morning and early afternoon playing on the black sand beach, floating in the clear water, laying by the pool, and trying to get the French waiters/waitresses to understand that we like “frozen drinks” (thankfully, Matt was able to find a way to get his strawberry daiquiri and my pina colada).  It all seemed like a normal vacation day.  Low and behold did I know that a big question was coming later in the day…

Matt had made reservations at the nicest restaurant at the resort.  Around 5pm we went to the front desk to talk about our excursion for the next day and to ask about the restaurant.  We soon found out the restaurant serves French cuisine, which is my least favorite cuisine.  Matt cancelled our reservation and indicated that he was not hungry anyways.  I, however, was starving.  So, instead we went to the restaurant by the beach and ordered me french fries.  Matt appeared agitated that we would be eating at this restaurant.  I did not understand why, but I was too hungry to really think into it too much so I continued to eat my french fries (I guess he didn’t want my last meal as a single gal to be french fries).  After the sun went down and my french fries were gone, a resort worker lit the tiki torches between the beach and the pool.  Matt’s attitude significantly changed.  He ran over and grabbed a place for us next to a tiki torch.  He went to the room to grab towels (that would act as a blanket) and I assumed that he was using the restroom since it was taking so long, but it turned out he was really grabbing the ring and checking on the flower delivery.   We ordered a bottle of French wine and we laid out on a couch chatting about our five years together.

I had a feeling that the proposal was coming when Matt started off our conversation with, “So, what did you think of me when you first met me?”  In my head I was like, “Is he about to propose!!??!”  I started to feel his pockets without him knowing, but with no ring box in sight or touch I told myself, “Don’t get your hopes up!”  About 20 minutes into our conversation Matt had me face him as he presented me with a dozen roses.  I was completely shocked – I had not seen that a few seconds earlier one of the waiters delivered roses Matt had ordered earlier in the day (again, during one of his “bathroom breaks”).  Matt then said, “I think you know what is coming.”  At this point my heart was racing, I had my hand over my mouth, and I was thinking, “OMG” and “Finally!”  Matt got down on one knee, pulled out a Tiffany’s cloth bag, took out the ring from the bag, and then he asked the question most girls/ladies dream of being asked by their significant others, “Will you marry me?”  I quickly replied, “Yes, of course!”  Matt placed the ring on my wedding finger and I then got down to his level and hugged and kissed him for the first time as an engaged couple.