Archive for Jen O'Brien

The Prettiest Canadian-Made Engagement Rings

Fashion & Beauty » Jewellery

Engagement season is currently in full swing and there’s absolutely no reason to look beyond our borders when it comes to gorgeous wedding bling. Canada is home to a host of world-class design studios producing some of the most beautiful bridal jewellery on the market today. And what better way to honour your roots than with an engagement ring that was designed and crafted right here at home?

From internationally-acclaimed artisans who have been in the business for decades to the new homegrown jewellery brands poised for success, we’ve rounded up a collection of the prettiest Canadian-made engagement rings from some of our favourite designers.

The Coolest Place To Honeymoon In Europe

Travel » Honeymoons

Budapest is a symphony for the senses; a place as charming as it is modern and exciting. With its dazzling architecture and burgeoning food and fashion scenes, this central European city is poised to become the next Paris—minus the pretension.

Nicknamed the spa capital of the world for the hundreds of thermal and mineral springs that run beneath the city feeding its numerous bath houses, relaxation is an integral part of daily life in Budapest. For centuries locals have been “taking the waters” to cure everything from hangovers to arthritis.

Budapest is also a place where derelict buildings are being transformed into trendy ruin bars—another of the city’s claims to fame (hence the aforementioned hangovers!).

An average summer afternoon might include a trip to the Széchenyi Thermal Bath, one of the largest bath houses in Europe with 21 pools and 11 saunas, followed by lunch at a Michelin-starred restaurant (there are several to choose from) serving modern takes on Hungarian classics like goose liver and goulash, and local wine spritzers on a sun-speckled terrace on the shores of the Danube.

The romance of Budapest is undeniable, and at the heart of this is the city’s connection to its musical heritage. Handsome, captivating piano virtuoso and composer Franz Liszt is a national hero (even the international airport bears his name) and, in some ways, Liszt has become a muse for the city, which shares his famous characteristics.

Whether wandering Budapest’s cobblestone streets, touring the bustling market halls or enjoying an evening at the iconic 19th-century opera house, it’s easy to lose yourself in the quiet rhythm of this place and almost impossible not to fall in love with what you discover.

We’ll show you some of the best honeymoon experiences the city has to offer.

This Might Be The Ultimate Wedding Gift


iPhone X

Extra jewellery is always nice and, sure, your significant other could probably use a fancy watch to wear on special occasions, but there’s a new tech accessory on the market that we think trumps either of these items when it comes to the ideal wedding gift. The ultra buzzworthy iPhone X hit stores today and it’s actually the perfect wedding day companion.

Check out all the cool ways this state of the art smartphone can enhance your big day:

1. Animoji messaging
Sometimes a smiley face just doesn’t get the point across (especially on the happiest day of your life). Animojis, probably the most hyped feature of the iPhone X, on the other hand, are able to capture and analyze over 50 different facial muscle movements to bring emojis to life in a fun new way with audio. Now you can deliver a lighthearted message to your sweetie moments before walking down the aisle without revealing your dress!

iPhone Animoji

2. Enhanced selfies
Yes, you have obviously hired a photographer to capture every element of your day from beginning to end, but that doesn’t mean you won’t still want to snap a zillion selfies to immortalize your perfect hair and makeup. The iPhone X might just be the best selfie camera on the market. Its seven-megapixel front-facing camera supports Portrait mode (where the subject in the foreground is in focus and the background is blurred) as well as Portrait Lighting, allowing you to give your photos a flawless studio effect or dramatic stage lighting look.

iPhone Camera

3. AR apps for newlyweds
Apple’s iOS 11 ushered in a wave of amazing augmented reality apps. One of the most impressive is IKEA Place, a must-have for any couple furnishing a new home together. This app uses the iPhone’s camera to scan a room then allows you to select and drop furniture into your space while viewing it from every angle on your phone.

Before your honeymoon you’ll also want to download Sky Guide, a stargazing app that will help you identify and learn about the constellations you’re bound to see on your post-wedding vacation in paradise.

4. Party-proof design
It’s also worth mentioning that the iPhone X features the most durable glass ever in a smartphone — this means if you happen to drop it on the dance floor after one too many cocktails it should be okay.

Trendy Destinations To Consider For Your Honeymoon

Travel » Honeymoons

trendy honeymoon destinations - kauai

Your honeymoon is the chance to splash out on the trip of a lifetime (you can even opt for a travel registry to cover some of the cost) so no ordinary vacation destination will do. Think of this post-wedding trip as the opportunity to take a bucket list vacation that you’ll still be talking about on your silver anniversary.

Where in the world should you go? We asked the experts at travel search engine KAYAK for some intel on which destinations are trending with Canadians right now. Click through the gallery below to explore the top five spots Canadians have been searching for in the past six months. Some of the results may surprise you (but they’re all great honeymoon options).

When it comes to nailing down your dates the experts at KAYAK say that Friday is the cheapest day to fly out and start your trip compared to any other day of the week, while returning home on Monday is your best bet (all the more reason to take an extended vacation). Keep in mind that, according to KAYAK, flight prices decrease slightly for domestic flights on Tuesdays and international flights on Thursdays so those would be the days to search for and book your trip. You can use this helpful tool to get a rough idea of how much your dream destination will cost during the time you’re hoping to honeymoon.

This Wedding Was Shot On An iPhone And The Photos Will Amaze You

Real Weddings

This couple used beautiful rustic décor to add romance to their industrial venue, then Toronto photographer Barb Simkova captured all of the stunning details using the new iPhone 8 Plus.

From the photographer: “I love that an iPhone allows you to capture something quickly, with little technical knowledge and set up. Portrait mode blows me away – some of the images that come out of the iPhone in portrait mode have such a beautiful depth to them that I find myself exclaiming, ‘THAT was shot on an iPhone?’ I also find that the low-light capability of the iPhone 8 Plus is quite astounding. The quality of colour that the phone is able to pick up and the quality of the images that you can capture without motion blur or too much grain is really surprising.”

“The portraits of Kristen with her flowers are my favourite. These images were lit from behind, which gives her the beautiful glow. Historically, backlight has been more challenging to capture on phone cameras, and the iPhone 8 Plus’s ability to deal with that type of light – which we wedding photographers spend all day hunting for – is a game changer.”

From the bride: “We were going for a casual, rustic feel with our wedding. We didn’t have a ‘theme’ or ‘colours’ per se, we just knew we wanted a lot of neutrals and greenery to give the industrial space at Evergreen Brick Works a somewhat romantic feel. We had always loved the space at Evergreen and couldn’t picture any other venue for our wedding. We wanted the decor to be minimalist such that it would complement rather than overpower the existing aesthetic of the venue.”

“From our perspective, the band was key to the whole evening. We still have vivid memories of our guests running to the dance floor from across the room when they heard the beginning of a Backstreet Boys’ track.”

“At one point in the night I looked over my left shoulder to see my 86-year-old grandfather busting a move – a sight I have never seen before in my life. Our whole family was amazed and I can guarantee that moment will be etched into my mind forever. It was a testament to the energy in the room. Our families were living in the moment that night and the excitement was incredibly contagious.”

“After being together for 12 years, we wanted to plan a wedding that was very ‘us’ – something casual but heartfelt that was riddled with personal touches. Our wedding day turned out to be just that. The energy and pure, genuine excitement we felt throughout the day, from beginning to end, is something we will never be able to replicate. Our family and closest friends really made sure we felt the love in a big way.

Kristen Holman and Robert Frasca, October 7, 2017, Toronto, Ontario.

Photography courtesy of Barb Simkova from Tara McMullen Photography.

Ceremony venue: Trinity College Chapel
Reception venue: Evergreen Brickworks
Bridal gown: Pronovias from Ferre Sposa
Groom’s tux: Nino Cerruti
Cake: Le Dolci Bakery
Flowers: Sharon Johnson from Coquette Studios
Hair and makeup: Bespoke Beauty
Favours: Blood Brothers Brewing
Stationery: DIY
Day-of coordination: Andrea Hanifen and Julie Stulberg from Kari Lywood Events
Caterer: Cafe Belong
Music: Off The Wall (guitar, Jeff Eager; bass, Mike Ferfolia; drums, Marco Stornelli)
Midnight snacks: Great Canadian Food Truck
Coffee truck: Brightside Brew
Sweet table: Baxter’s Bakery

Rime Arodaky Fall 2018 Wedding Dresses

Fashion & Beauty » Wedding Dresses

Photos by Greg Fink

Parisian designer Rime Arodaky kicked off Bridal Fashion Week with a collection that is equal parts chic and edgy. Showcasing her signature rock ‘n’ roll style, Arodaky sent a variety of silhouettes down the runway, ranging from dresses to separates.

Inspired by the mantra “French Rebel,” Arodaky sought to challenge traditional bridal style ideals with her new line by pairing classic demure necklines and embroidery with sexy thigh-high slits and bold, statement-making ruffles.

To spite her modern point of view, Arodaky admits that she continues to draw inspiration from 70’s icons such as Jane Birkin and Romy Schneider, and her elevated boho bridal aesthetic is one that continues to grow in popularity with each passing year.

This Is A Wedding Photo Game-Changer

Planning » Photo/Video » Planning

Photo via iStockphoto

Great photography is a wedding essential and, let’s face it, these days couples count on guests for cool coverage almost as much as they rely on their pro wedding photographers. The reason? These two sets of pictures serve totally different purposes. While pros are employed to capture the artistic images that will fill Facebook albums and live on mantles for years to come, friends and family are typically called upon to document the event as it’s happening, populating the day’s hashtag with gorgeous FOMO-inducing images that will present the celebration in the best possible light.

Thankfully, it’s never been easier for amateur photographers to capture beautiful photos. iPhone users now have access to a whole new suite of tools perfect for snapping flawless wedding shots.

With the introduction of iPhone 7 Plus came portrait mode (allowing the shooter to focus on the subject and blur the background) and 12 megapixel wide-angle and telephoto cameras, and with the launch of iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X, hitting stores in late September and early November respectively, the smartphone’s camera will be improved yet again with larger and faster sensors, new colour filters, better image stabilization, faster auto-focus in low light and a portrait lighting feature, which promises studio-quality illumination. Meanwhile iOS 11, which launches September 19th, will give iPhone users access to new filters inspired by classic photography styles and a photo feature that can transform any Live Photo into a loop, bounce and long-exposure shot.

Check out these iPhone photography tips and where they can be incorporated into your wedding day. To ensure your wedding hashtag is blowing up with only the best possible images, share these tips with guests beside your hashtag signage and appoint a trusted friend whose photographic style you admire to use these pointers as your honourary iPhone photographer (because everyone loves a special job on the big day).

To make sure you don’t miss the first kiss
Swipe to the left from your lock screen to quickly access your camera.

To get that ultra-flattering couple shot
Try photographing in open shade (like under a beautiful tree) for the most flattering light.

To shoot an artsy shot of the venue
Try turning your phone upside down and shooting upwards toward the ceremony or reception venue for a dramatic angle.

To snap a drool-inducing wedding cake shot
Use portrait mode. You can use this camera setting any time you want your foreground subject to pop. Use it to shoot food, flowers, or even the wedding bands.

To photograph the first dance, even from far away
Crowds tend to congregate quickly when the first dance is announced. Thankfully on iPhone 7 Plus a 2x camera is available in all camera modes, which means you’ll be able to capture a perfectly-framed shot even at a distance. Just tap on the “1x” icon on the camera screen to immediately switch to the 2x camera.

To capture the bouquet toss in a unique way
With the introduction of iOS 11, wedding guests will have so many more cool ways to capture motion with Live Photos. Just ensure that the Live icon at the top of the camera display is yellow and apply Live Photo effects after the shot is snapped. To apply an effect, swipe up on the photo in the Photos app and choose loop, bounce, or long exposure.

5 Jaw-Dropping Spots To Get Married In St. Maarten

Travel » Destination Weddings


Not all destination weddings in the Caribbean need to be laid-back beach affairs. St. Maarten, in particular, is the perfect island to host an action-packed party for a crowd that wants to stay busy beyond the beach.

With a prime location between Anguilla and St. Kitts, this popular cruise ship port with both Dutch and French roots has developed a reputation as the “Vegas of the Caribbean” for its high-end restaurants, bustling casinos and world-class nightlife. This is the sort of place where, if you’re lucky, you just might spot Drake at the club for Ladies’ Night or P. Diddy leading a late-night conga line from the black jack tables to the bar.

St. Maarten also boasts an array of stunning wedding venues, from picturesque patios with views of Maho Beach and its iconic oceanside airport to chic rooftop spaces perched above the sea.

We’ll show you the best places to get married in St. Maarten.

Three-Ingredient Cocktails Your Guests Will Love

Planning » Reception Ideas


Complex cocktails are fantastic for a night out on the town, but probably not so appropriate for your wedding day — after all, nothing kills a party quicker than a super long lineup at the bar. This doesn’t mean that you can’t still have cool signature cocktail offerings at your celebration that extend beyond vodka sodas. The solution? Opt for cool wedding drinks that are both tasty and simple for your bartenders to make. We’ve rounded up some of our favourite three-ingredient cocktails that are as beautiful and wedding-appropriate as they are delicious and easy to whip up.

Bridesmaid Gifts That Aren’t Monogrammed Jewellery



Don’t get us wrong, we love monogrammed jewellery, but it’s not the only way to thank your besties for all the help and support they provide in the lead up to your wedding. When it comes to bridesmaid gifts, think about opting for unique presents you know your friends will appreciate and use beyond your big day.

Weddings are all about individualism so there’s no reason your bridesmaid gifts shouldn’t follow suit. Think about your friends’ personalities, their favourite hobbies, and the types of accessories they love when you’re choosing thank you gifts. Also consider what you’d want to receive (hint: it’s probably not a personalized dress hanger).

Here are a few awesome present options that are guaranteed to thrill your pals.

DIY Unicorn Tassel Garlands

Planning » Wedding Decor


Photos by Carlo Mendoza

The unicorn trend has steadily been gaining steam over the course of the past year, and this folkloric frenzy is showing no signs of disappearing any time soon. Multicoloured hair and makeup has given way to bizarre rainbow-hued meals. From Starbucks to Valentino, some of the world’s biggest brands have even embraced the unicorn phenomenon.

Regardless of how you feel about “unicorn bagels” and ultra-sugary kaleidoscopic frozen drinks, there’s no denying that the unicorn trend is sort of perfect for wedding decor inspiration. With this in mind, we approached DIY guru Lorrie Everitt, creative director at Creative Bag, to put together a unicorn-inspired wedding decor item that’s both beautiful and simple to assemble at home; the result are these amazing DIY unicorn tassel garlands, which come together in just a few simple steps (and sort of mimic the coveted creatures’ multicoloured tails, in case you were wondering).

Click through the gallery below to discover how you can create these gorgeous garlands at home.

The Best Spot In The Caribbean For A Low-Key Luxe Destination Wedding

Travel » Destination Weddings


Photo courtesy of Curtain Bluff.

For some couples, the perfect wedding day means a banquet hall filled to the brim with crystal details, flowers and hundreds of guests, but for others — those who prioritize intimacy, stunning natural surroundings, impeccable food and a laid-back atmosphere over traditional pageantry — there’s no better place to tie the knot than Antigua.

Located just north of Guadeloupe and east of St. Kitts where the northeastern Caribbean Sea meets the western Atlantic Ocean, the two-island nation of Antigua and Barbuda is part of the Eastern Caribbean’s Leeward Islands. The area is renown for its mellow vibes, friendly people and beautiful uncrowded beaches — the near-perfect weather year-round doesn’t hurt either.

It’s hard to be anything but relaxed in this island paradise — all the typical stress of wedding planning instantly starts to melt away as you sail in over turquoise waters and touch down amidst lush rolling hills just minutes from the pristine shoreline studded with celebrity vacation homes (Oprah, Richard Branson and Giorgio Armani are among the stars with property here).

The best time to go: With very little rain and temperatures that hover around 25 degrees Celsius year-round, there are few bad times to visit Antigua. However, planning a celebration between May and July (the island’s off season) could save you and your guests a bundle on accommodations.

The flight: Both Air Canada and WestJet offer non-stop flights from Toronto to Antigua’s V.C. Bird International Airport. The trip from Toronto takes just under five hours.

The legal paperwork: Legally tying the knot in Antigua means paying a visit to the Ministry of Justice located in downtown St. John’s with your valid passports, completing an application and paying applicable fees. There is a registration fee of US$40 that must be paid at the courthouse in the new government buildings on Queen Elizabeth Highway. The application fee for a special marriage license is US$150, and the marriage officer’s fee is US$100. Most hotels will include these fees in their wedding package costs and arrange to help sort out the paperwork.

The venue: Charming boutique hotels abound in Antigua, but none compare to Curtain Bluff. This unpretentious all-inclusive five-star resort on the island’s south coast, a favourite hideaway of rock gods like Keith Richards and Eric Clapton, features flawless ocean views from every room and suite. The property, which is consistently named among the best all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean, has been under the same ownership and management since opening its doors in 1962. The atmosphere is that of a luxurious summer camp for adults that you can visit year-round. And with a full-service spa, gourmet food, top-shelf bar drinks as well as complimentary snorkeling trips, tennis instruction, yoga and pilates classes, water sports, and a location that spans two hammock-lined beachfronts, it’s no surprise that many guests return year after year.

The resort hosts just a handful of destination weddings per year and prides itself on pulling out all the stops for these special celebrations. Curtain Bluff’s owner Chelle Hulford even opens the doors of her immaculate private home, The Bluff House, to couples interested in reciting their vows on the sweeping balcony with views across the sea to Montserrat’s steaming Soufrière Hills volcano — a testament to the relaxed atmosphere that defines a stay at this idyllic hideaway.


Photo courtesy of Curtain Bluff.

The local customs: Music plays a big part in Antiguan life, particularly Afro-Caribbean percussion including steel and iron band music. Each Sunday an area called Shirley Heights hosts a barbecue party for tourists and locals alike. Tunes are provided by the island’s famed Halcyon Steel Orchestra, who can also be booked for wedding celebrations.

The budget: Basic wedding packages at Curtain Bluff start at roughly US$1,300 and include the wedding license, marriage officer’s fee, a bridal bouquet, a boutonniere, use of either one of the beaches or the Bluff House for the ceremony, a single-tiered wedding cake and a private gazebo dinner. Expect to pay closer to US$10,000 for a more elaborate celebration that includes hair and makeup at the on-site spa, a photographer and a band. Larger parties are eligible for group rates when it comes time to book rooms.

5 Fun Ways To Add Mexican Flair To Your Wedding

Planning » Reception Ideas

mexican wedding - maracas

Want to throw a bash where good times are the first order of business? Look to the south! While a full-fledged Mexican-themed wedding may not jive with the otherwise elegant celebration you’ve been planning, there are more subtle ways to incorporate your favourite fiesta items into your celebration (for example, you could hold off on the mariachi band and instead incorporate papel picado and candy skulls into your decor). In honour of Cinco de Mayo, we’ve gathered together five of our favourite Mexican party ideas. Not only are these ideas wedding appropriate, they’re also guaranteed to get your guests in the celebratory spirit.

Reem Acra Spring 2018 Wedding Dresses

Fashion & Beauty » Wedding Dresses

Reem Acra Spring 2018 Wedding Dresses

If you’re of the mindset that bridal fashion is best served with a side of priceless gems, then you’ll adore this new collection. For spring 2018, Reem Acra drew inspiration from internationally renowned jeweller Tiffany & Co. Presented at Tiffany’s Fifth Avenue flagship store in New York, the Reem Acra runway show began with an unexpected twist. The first nine models donned sleek black gowns draped in jewels to pay homage to the store’s iconic setting. The remaining 28 dazzling looks showcased Acra’s ability to combine tradition with contemporary silhouettes and adornments.

Many pieces within the new collection reflected Tiffany’s signature jewels: sculpted and cut-out bodice details reflected the intricacies of ornate platinum metalwork juxtaposed with the vibrancy of Tiffany yellow diamonds. Looping and scrolling bands of geometric diamonds in ribbon and bow motifs also inspired romantic embellishments on sheer sleeves, necklines and tulle overlays.

The show closed with a stunning Tiffany blue gown — 2018’s answer to ever-popular blush pink.