Our 3rd Anniversary: Lobsters, SkinnyGirl & Light Horse Tavern

Yesterday Shaun and I celebrated our 3rd anniversary, after marrying on a beach in Aruba in 2008. Thank you all for your kind words :)

We actually started our anniversary celebration on Saturday evening, since Mondays are not exactly known for being the biggest celebratory night of the week. To make things a bit special, we decided to go a little bit out of the box for our dinner at home. We wanted seafood...so that's what we made. And by we, I mean Shaun prepared everything while I sat on the couch. It was heavenly.

We started the evening with grilled shrimp. Tossed with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper, these shrimp were tender with a tiny crispiness on the outside. A little homemade cocktail sauce took these to perfection.

For the main attraction, we wanted lobster. We haven't made lobster in a very long time and we were both so excited for this dinner! This is the part that I especially sat on the couch for - I'm not into doing the deed when it comes to lobster, so Shaun dutifully took over. With a little bit of clarified butter on the side, the lobster were sweet and tender and oh-so-delicious.

It's hard to top such a fantastic, cozy dinner at home (my favorite kind), but when Monday rolled around, we realized that we did not want to cook at home. Shaun first greeted me with a SkinnyGirl Margarita as soon as I arrived home from work. I'm pretty sure he's a keeper, that one :) He made them fancy by shaking it over ice first, adding a lime slice and coating the top in salt. Happiness.

We enjoyed these out on our terrace while we exchanged gifts. I gave Shaun a framed vintage map of the world (circa 1922) since he is a history buff and we are both big travelers. I thought it would be a great addition to our gallery wall, or even the beginning of a new wall in our office. Since the 3rd anniversary is leather, Shaun thoughtfully gifted me with a leather journal, complete with handmade pages - the perfect gift for me since I always carry around a notebook for blog ideas, to-do lists and any other ideas that I want to record. Now I can do that in style :)

As for our dinner, we chose Light Horse Tavern in Jersey City, one of our all time favorite restaurants. You may also see our delicious Valentine's brunch at Light Horse Tavern post from a few months ago. Yum.

We started our meal with a glass of wine for me and a beer for Shaun. To kick off the goods, we ordered a raw bar platter, complete with oysters, 2 types of clams and mussels. I've never seen Shaun so happy - he adores seafood!

We also ordered a cheese plate, which I absolutely adore. Manchego, Blue and Talleggio graced the plate, topped with fig chutney (swoon), carmelized nuts and lavendar honey.

For my main course, I chose the barbecued skirt steak with grilled onions and jalapeno polenta. This meal was really so wonderful. The steak was sweet and savory while the polenta added a bit of spice. I want this everyday.

Shaun chose a roasted duck breast. Now, I'm typically not a big fan of duck since I find it a bit greasy. But Oh.My.Word. This duck was amazing! It had a crispy layer of fat over the breast which just melted in the mouth. It was truly fantastic.

If you can believe it, we chose to skip dessert. I was SO stuffed after this dinner! Not to worry. Since my birthday is quickly approaching, I've already informed Shaun that clearly cupcakes will be necessary.

So there you have it. Our multi-day anniversary celebration. So what do you think? Are you a seafood eater? Of the raw variety? What's your favorite special meal?

Our Dream Destination Wedding in Aruba

Today is a wonderful day. Exactly 3 years ago, I married my best friend and the love of my life on a beach in Aruba. Happy Anniversary honey!

2 nights before our wedding, Aruba 2008
I’ve been wanting to tell you all about my destination wedding for some time now, but I thought it appropriate to wait until our anniversary celebration. I hope you’re ready for a lot of information and a lot of photos. Because that’s just how I roll.

After we got engaged in September 2007, Shaun and I decided that we wanted to buck the lavish Jersey wedding tradition and do something a little more low-key...a little more ‘us’. Aruba had been my family’s annual vacation destination for some time so I immediately knew that the laid back ‘tude, blue seas and breezy, never-fail weather would also be the perfect place for our dream wedding. After a lot of discussion and a lot of family-convincing, we planned our big day for July 11, 2008 at the Westin Aruba Resort.

Unlike most weddings, we had more than just one evening to play with so we planned a full-blown long weekend wedding. We planned lots of fun activities, dinners and of course, a sunset beach ceremony. And since we have such wonderful family and friends, we had a whopping 80 guests in attendance, one of the biggest weddings Aruba has seen.

To plan from far away did mean relinquishing the power of options (since there's about 3 photographers and 2 bands to choose from), but just because we got married in a far away place didn't mean sacrificing an ounce of style or personality.

Since it was a beach wedding, it was easy to carry my favorite color - blue! - through in each and every detail. Starting with the invitations, we settled on dark blue, light blue and white. The invitations featured information about the nighttime rehearsal dinner and sunset beach ceremony and reception (which we chose to do indoors since the Aruba humidity can be a bit overwhelming and we wanted our guests to be comfortable) all wrapped together with a light blue ribbon.


We also included information about restaurants, activities to do while in Aruba, and recommended attire for the big day. I should also mention that we sent out very detailed Save-the-Date cards way in advance so that people would have lots of time to plan, should they want to attend.

The theme of the wedding was casual...or island elegant, as I like to call it. It meant no suits but also no shorts. We tried to keep some sense of formality while still taking to the elements - sun, sand and water.

While most of our guests spent the day on the beach, my bridesmaids and I spent the afternoon at the hotel spa getting our make up and hair did.

The Westin put us up in a gorgeous suite, so the girls and I got ready there. It seemed like it took forever (!) for the wedding planner to finally call us down to the beach. After getting into our gowns - and doing a paparazzi-style photo shoot on the terrace outside the room - we had some champagne and I got my sweat on waiting for the call.

My dress (which I still dream about because it is hands-down the best garment I’ve ever worn) was classic and simple crisp white chiffon. It was tight, corset-back and fell straight down. No poofieness for the beach. Oh and I walked down the aisle barefoot. Meanwhile, Shaun wore a fitted light brown suit matching the beautifully tan sand with a shiny white tie to match my gown.  

I chose a shiny, strapless light blue dress for the bridesmaids while the groomsmen wore dark blue Tommy Bahama shirts with light blue details. While the guys wore dark brown boat shoes, the ladies ditched their shoes at the top of the aisle for a barefoot beachy vibe.

The bridesmaids’ flowers were a mix of coral, blue, white and purple, the perfect complement to the girls' dresses. For my own flowers, I chose calla lilies, the same flower that my mom had carried at her and my dad's wedding 30 years earlier.

After the guests and groomsmen were in place, the girls and I headed down to the beach. The beach was set with white covered chairs with blue and silver sashes along with a calla lily-crested archway at the end of the aisle.

I also designed sweet beachy wedding programs for our guests.

The religious aspect of our wedding was very important to our families, so we also invited Shaun’s family’s pastor to join us and perform the ceremony. As their long-time pastor and family friend, it was wonderful to have him officiate our ceremony, rather than an island-issued ordained person (not that there’s anything wrong with that, either).

With our closest friends and family by our side, we promised to love and take care of each other until the end of time and beyond. It was the happiest day of my life, and one that was 8 years in the making.

Following the ceremony, we had a small cocktail hour on the beach while Shaun and I posed for sunset photos.

Inside the reception, the beach theme carried through to all the details. Table assignments were written on sand dollars and each table featured flowers reminiscent of the girls' bouquets. I also had blue and white starfish shipped down for the occasion to be used as table decor. We even did the matchbook thing, once again showcasing starfish as the signature icon of the night.

Since the whole event was fairly casual, we chose a buffet rather than a sit-down dinner. We dined on stuffed Dover sole, cornish hens, lamb with rosemary (Shaun's favorite), beef tenderloin, plantain & sweet potato salad and lots more!

My sister Kimberly gave a beautiful toast that made me both laugh and cry.

The cake was fun and playful in white and our signature blue. The top was adorned with an H monogram, signifying our last name. The flavor? My favorite chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream (since Shaun isn't a dessert person, I was given free reign to choose the flavors).

We also knew that a simple favor just wouldn't do the trick to thank all of our fantastic family and friends for not only attending our wedding, but spending more than a couple of days with us in paradise. In welcome gift bags, we supplied Shaun & Rachel's Wedding in Aruba t-shirts (which everyone dutifully wore the morning after)...

... bottles of Aruban water (they are famous for their fresh water) and a matted photo of a Divi Tree, a beautifully slanted tree that is swayed by Aruba's strong island tradewinds.

It's a signature icon of the island and as a gift to us, some friends picked out a plaque with a Divi tree painted on with the words Bon Bini scrawled beneath it (Bon Bini means Welcome in Papiamento, and it's now happily displayed in our kitchen, which you may recall from my Avid Kitchen article).

We danced the night away. I'm pretty sure that every person there had a fantastic time at our wedding week!

As you can tell, I'm kind of obsessed with our wedding. And I'm not going to lie...I kind of want to do it again :)

I have a couple other posts coming up for you this week, including our civil service at the Aruba town hall and our pirate-themed rehearsal beach BBQ.

So there you have it. A lot of detail about our beachy island wedding. I hope you made it this far without changing the page :) So what do you think? Have you ever been to (or had) and out-of-the-ordinary wedding?

Psst...if you like this, check out the story of how we met and fell in love.

The Story of Girl Meets Boy

I hope your in the mood for some sap and some goo this morning because for today’s What About Me Wednesday, I’m going to share the story of girl meets boy. It’s a lengthy tale, but a fun one so I can’t wait to tell all of you. Those who know us, know this story already, but I don’t think they will mind hearing it one more time.

rafting down the Yellowstone River, August 2010
Perhaps this should actually be called the story of how girl and boy started dating, fell in love and eventually got married since Shaun and I were friends (more like we had mutual friends, but it’s my version of the story, so I’ll say we were friends) for about 2 years before we went on our first date. Let me back up.

Shaun and I grew up in the same, humongous town in New Jersey. Our hometown is so big, that among 12 elementary schools and 2 middle schools, our paths didn’t converge until our sophomore year in high school. We had a few classes together (like history, english and health, but who’s keeping track?) and I quickly deemed him the cutest boy in school. It didn’t hurt that he was already about 6’2”. I like ‘em tall, dark and handsome. Oh and then I heard him cracking jokes to his friends. And I quickly deemed him the funniest boy in school. I was completely smitten people.

in my sophomore dorm at NYU, circa 2002

Like cheesy high school romantic comedy smitten. You know, looking for him in the hallways between classes, jumping at the chance to be his squaredancing partner in gym class, but all the while pretending it was like it just-so-happened to work out that way, attending the boys’ soccer games in which he played (though this last bit seems less stalkerish since I was on the girls team and that’s just what you did). You get the point.

out in New Brunswick for one of Shaun's birthdays

Anyhow, as our two separate groups of friends merged, we saw more of each other and I suppose entered into actual friend territory. We chatted on AOL (yep, the original) and on the phone a couple of times. And then he asked me out on a date in the spring of our senior year of high school. Not like a group hang out. But a real date. I put on a super ‘90s green sweater and my mom helped me put on eye shadow (she knew this one was special!). It was pouring rain and my sister Kimberly squealed when she saw his car pull up. I put my stone age cell phone on silent for the evening and somehow managed to remain completely calm. He took me out to our local coffeehouse where I pretended to enjoy a cappuccino (even though I thought it tasted like tar), listened to live music and never ran out of things to talk about. We watched a movie back at my parents house and he kissed me. I thought it was the absolute best night of all time and most certainly had to have been a dream.

After that, we went back to being friends. Or as I like to say, all that high school stuff got in the way. We still hung out together at parties, but we weren’t dating. We went with other people to the senior prom, but ended up spending the whole party together. Here’s a major throwback shot for ya...

Our senior prom, circa 2000
And of course the post-prom weekend took place in Wildwood, NJ where we spent the whole next day walking the boardwalk and having breakfast together. The rest of the summer played out as such. We hung out with the group and on our own. Hesitant to believe his intentions after our date that went nowhere, I just went along for the ride, enjoying every moment but not really expecting our fun summer to go anywhere. Shaun, however, had other plans in mind since I noticed he was always finding ways to hang out with me, even to simply drive me home from a party.

Celebrating one of my early 20's birthdays down in Atlantic City 

We spent a lot of time down the Jersey shore, eating ice cream and playing boardwalk games (that’s just what you do in the summer ‘round these parts), riding around in his giant red Astro van listening to Red Hot Chili Peppers and Dave Matthews Band. A mere 3 weeks before we were set to leave for our respective colleges (me at NYU, he at Rensselaer Polytechnics Institute outside Albany, NY), we decided that we were officially a couple and would give it a go despite being 3 hours away from each other.

at my surprise bridal shower, June 2008

...and the rest, as they say, is history. We spent 4 years alternating travel between Albany and Manhattan (never once even ‘taking a break’). After school, we both moved back to New Jersey to get our careers going (and I went to grad school full time for a year) and save money. A few years after that, we had a romantic and breezy beach wedding in Aruba

at our 2008 Aruba wedding, joined by 80 of our closest friends and family

...and here we are, 11 years later. It’s funny how things work out, isn’t it?