Visit the Hilton Carlsbad Resort & Spa

We were recently guests at the Hilton Carlsbad Oceanfront Resort & Spa, in Carlsbad, CA, and were absolutely blown away by the property. There are several things about it that make it a dream location for a wedding—its proximity to the ocean (we’re talking right across the Coastal Highway from the Pacific Ocean with the most AMAZING views), the most absurdly talented Chef and kitchen staff, the beautiful, modern guest rooms, and a stunning ballroom (the hotel was just built 2 years ago). But there’s more that really struck us—despite the hotel’s chain namesake, it truly is a boutique hotel with the most amazing options to customize your stay. Whether you’re a California local or if you want to plan a destination wedding that’s still stateside, this intimate property just north of San Diego should be at the top of your list when it comes to finding the perfect venue.

So with that in mind, we decided to take the difficulty out of wedding planning for you, and we planned you a 3 day wedding weekend! 

Day 1: 

Welcome! Treat your guests upon their arrival with a welcome package waiting in their rooms. Suggested treats? The Chef’s own French macaroons or field-fresh strawberries (both of which we had the palatable pleasure of tasting for ourselves!). After you’ve settled in, the Hilton Carlsbad Oceanfront staff are amazing at dreaming up the most creative and fun activities for groups. My favorite? A salsa and guacamole class—up the ante with a contest to see whose recipe wins. Then, cocktails await at the outdoor Fire Lounge, followed by a specialty custom dinner with wine pairings at Chandler’s Restaurant, the hotel restaurant that is a favorite among locals. Could the night end on a tastier note?

Day 2: Wedding Day!

Set a relaxing tone for the morning with a group yoga session, and then host a group brunch for the wedding guests followed by a relaxing afternoon pool-side or oceanfront while you and your bridesmaids hit the Hilton Carlsbad Oceanfront spa. I’ll tell you from experience that this is one AWESOME spa—plus, 85% of the products they use are natural-based or organic! The men can hit the links at one of several nearby PGA courses.

Start the wedding with a beachfront photo session and an intimate ocean-view ceremony set on the flagstone terrace or in the garden, and after outdoor cocktails, move into the new, elegantly appointed ballroom for dinner and dancing.

Day 3:

Thank your guests for spending the weekend to celebrate your union with a farewell brunch. Whether a traditional buffet or a smoothie and yogurt parfait combo, this is a great time to open gifts, reflect on the past evening, and spend a little more time with your loved ones.

Do you have time to stay longer? Well, your guests can enjoy, plenty of water activities like fishing, surfing, whale watching and other water sports. Or they can plan family friendly day trips to LEGOLAND California, Sea World, the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park, Disneyland California! They can also go for some fun tours – we recommend the Gemological Institute of America for something a little more educational, or if you’re the outdoorsy type, a day at one of the local flower farms! And for those guests looking to explore a bit more, suggest they take a day trip up and down the coast to any of the many small but amazing towns with great shopping, dining, and nightlife.

Thanks again to the Hilton Carlsbad for inviting us to visit, and we hope you consider their amazing boutique hotel for your destination wedding!

Graphic: Hannah Lee

Tags: , ,

04.30.14 / Featured, New Sponsor Blog

Simple Natural Light Maternity Session

We don’t often feature maternity sessions, but when Lacie Hansen sent us Nicole and Hiten’s absolutely stunning maternity session, we just couldn’t turn it down. We’re lucky to have featured hundreds of beautiful weddings, but we don’t often get a glimpse into what comes after the wedding day. Love blossoms after marriage, and pregnancy is the perfect time to celebrate it. The birth of a child is the embodiment of your love, and a beautiful maternity session is, in our opinion, an absolute necessity. Spend time together to document the peaceful and quiet days before your little one enters the world.

We love that Lacie and Nicole kept this shoot simple, and we hope it inspires you to take pride and celebrate your body as it changes and gets ready for baby. Don’t be shy. Show off how strong you are. Your children will appreciate it one day.

Tips for creating the perfect natural light maternity session:

-Choose a photographer you love and trust. Your wedding photographer is a great choice. Lacie shot Nicole and Hiten’s wedding in addition to this maternity shoot.

-Keep things simple. Keep your clothing, hair, and makeup minimal and let your body speak for itself.

-Be yourself and choose a location you’re comfortable in. We love maternity sessions at home, where you feel most secure and intimate.

Would you consider a maternity session like this when you’re about to welcome baby?

Photography: Lacie Hansen | Hair and Makeup: Team Hair and Makeup

Tags: , , ,

04.29.14 / Featured

Mailing Made Easy with Postable

Postable, one of our favorite sponsors, makes planning your wedding and sending save the dates and thank you cards easier than ever! How? Postable is an amazing online service that creates and mails your wedding stationery for you – really! And they’re offering Once Wed readers 20% off their first purchase! Keep reading to find out how to get your discount.

Here’s how it works: Postable makes it simple to collect all of your guests’ mailing addresses all in one place with their free address book. All you have to do after you collect addresses is choose your favorite design, and click send. They’ll deliver your save the dates for you! When it’s time to send thank you cards, the addresses are already ready for you – making what most people say is the most painful wedding task a breeze.

You can choose from a wide variety of designer cards for your save the dates and thank you cards as well! They have a huge selection from some of our favorite designers, like Rifle Paper Co. and Felix Doolittle. Each card is printed on 100% tree-free cotton paper, and best of all, no matter the design you choose, each card is only $2.00 + postage! Seriously – go look at stationery, and you’ll realize what a deal this is (plus, think of all the wrist cramps you’ll avoid!). You can customize your save the dates and thank you cards with your own pictures and designs, and your thank you cards will be personalized to each guest.

Postable is offering Once Wed readers 20% off their first order. Simply enter the coupon code OnceWed (all one word) at checkout to receive your discount!

Graphic: Hannah Lee

Tags: , ,

04.29.14 / Featured, New Sponsor Blog

Intimate French Countryside Wedding

We stand in awe of Ginny Au’s timeless and inspired work, and this sweet and romantic French countryside wedding, captured beautifully by Ryan Ray, is no exception. We absolutely adore every detail of this simple and intimate affair, especially that stunning chapel. We have more beautiful words about their special day from the bride:

Some of my and William’s most treasured memories were created in France. We have a tremendous love affair with the country, whether it’s sunshine contrasted against our then wet home of Ireland, or the awe-inspiring architecture of Paris, France that have given us memories that dreams are made of. It seemed only natural for us to say our vows in the French countryside. It was important to us since all our family and friends had to travel from different countries to be with us that we had a small, intimate, communal and family/friends-centric event. From the long al fresco tables during dinner to the tiny old Italian chapel (the estate which housed all guests was originally owned by an Italian family centuries back and would attend mass out the back of the chateau) we just wanted a warm, intimate, and loving vibe.

Having documented so many weddings myself, I immediately wanted somewhere that had the potential for fantastic light paired with rich detail. During the planning process, at nearly every turn, I was insistent on having our ceremony outside to take advantage of the perfect light. However, as soon as I saw the tiny chapel on the chateau grounds, I fell in love ,and though it was fairly dark from a photography standpoint, it was incredibly romantic and beautiful (and of course our photos were still incredible). For our ceremony, I wanted it to be slightly different from the rest of the wedding because it was to us, the most important and sacred part and start as a married couple. The tiny church held hundreds of candles, wooden and slightly mismatched chairs, a single aisle lined perfectly with foraged greenery from the grounds by the amazing and tireless Ginny, and simple, natural ceremony programs. We ended our ceremony with cute acoustic rendition of Johnny and June Cash’s “Jackson” which was perfectly us. If I had to choose a favorite detail from the day, it might have been our “Together in a Bucket” sign. Its a little quote William and I say to each other and Lindsay (House of Hannah) put her talents to inscribing it on my dear grandmother’s old mirror who had recently passed. We now have it in our home and it means the world to me. 

There were a million things that made the day but having our friends (all vendors included) and family there and simply enough marrying each was a magical experience. 

 Photography: Ryan Ray | Creative Direction & Styling: Ginny Au | Rentals & Design: Lindsay Moynagh, House of Hannah | Dress & Veil: Kathy de Stafford | Paper: Brown Linen Design | Hair and Makeup: Brittany Massey | Shoes: Christian Louboutin | Flower girl dress: hand sewn by the bride | Earrings: Knights Bridge Boutique | Engagement Ring: Appleby | Weddings Bands –  simple gold bands (his and hers) by local Irish goldsmith | Singer/guitarist for ceremony and cocktail hour: Polly Jones | DJ | Videography: Rewind Documentaries | Venue and Catering: Chateau De Varennes | Groom’s suit: Louis Copeland | Cake: Patisserie Cherie |  Makeup: Annette Fouracade | Officiant/Vicar: Father Christopher Morgan – OEC East of England, Parish of St. Thomas | Hair: Samuel Gachet from Jack Holt Prestige International

Tags: , , , , , ,

04.28.14 / Featured, Real Weddings, Real Weddings Blog