Archive for Jen O'Brien

Experience The Best Of Montana At This Luxury Guest Ranch

Travel » Honeymoons

There’s a sense of quiet that comes over you in Montana. Maybe it’s the vastness of the state (it’s the fourth largest after Alaska, Texas and California), the scarcity of tall buildings, which inspired its “big sky country” moniker, or the fact that it’s home to more cattle than people. With just over a million residents in all of Montana, less than half the number of people you’ll find in Toronto alone, this just might be one of the best places on earth to get away from it all.

The most beautiful of the treasure state’s many gems can be found near the Sapphire Mountains in the heart of western Montana. The Ranch at Rock Creek is a 6,600-acre all-inclusive luxury dude ranch designed for discerning travellers like Kate Bosworth and Scarlett Johansson, who both held their weddings on property. The ranch is home to 29 one-of-a-kind accommodations that range from well appointed lodge rooms to luxury homes and stunning creekside glamping cabins.

Once your accommodations at this Relais & Châteaux property are booked, ranch ambassadors work with you to curate a bespoke itinerary of activities to help you make the most of your rustic-chic honeymoon.

Choose between exhilarating local pastimes like horseback riding, shooting, fly fishing, hiking, archery and a host of other seasonal activities while exploring the ranch’s meadows, forests and its namesake creek.

The dining experiences at The Ranch at Rock Creek are perhaps the most exciting of all. Executive chef Josh Drage creates elaborate farm- and ranch-to-table tasting menus complemented by fine wines and craft beers that truly celebrate the best that Montana has to offer.

Ranch evenings are capped off at the on-site saloon, complete with a bowling alley, where guests can mingle over craft cocktails.

Tucked into elegant Western accommodations next to a roaring fire surrounded by rolling hills and distant snow-capped mountain peaks, Montana’s appeal is undeniable; and for a peaceful rest after months of wedding planning, there’s simply no better escape.

Everything You’ve Ever Wanted To Know About Wedding Hair Extensions

Fashion & Beauty » Hairstyles

Photo via iStockphoto

Wedding hair extensions might not be the first thing on your radar after becoming engaged, but as you begin to make beauty decisions for the big day they absolutely should be. “They’re going to give you the oomph that you’re looking for in your photos,” says Noor Ahmad, the founder and CEO of Unicorn Hair Extensions, who compares extensions to false lashes, in the way that they can enhance and complete a look. “They’re not just for people who don’t have a lot of hair,” she adds. “They’re for anyone who wants that extra boost of confidence.”

Since hair extensions aren’t something you can typically just pop into the salon and purchase, we asked Ahmad for tips on navigating this important wedding purchase.

What should people look for in quality hair extensions?
“You want to touch them and see how they feel,” Ahmad explains. “Do they feel too soft or do they feel like your own hair? Some of the hair extensions on the market are coated with silicone — this is what makes the hair really silky and soft. What happens with silicone is that it comes off after one or two washes and you’re left with brittle hair extensions. You also want to look at the source of the hair — where the hair is coming from. In the hair extensions industry, there is hair that people source from Malaysia, China and Japan and then there’s hair that people source from India. Indian hair is what we carry and it’s superior in quality to all other hair extensions out there aside from European hair. If a website doesn’t mention where it’s sourcing its hair from then it usually means it’s sourcing its hair from China — and usually price is a good indicator of that. The better the quality, the higher the price.”

How do you colour-match extensions?
“A lot of companies will allow to you send in pictures for colour-matching purposes. When you take these pictures you’ll want to do so in indoor lighting away from the window. You’ll want your hair to be down. Most people have hair that is multi-tonal and our extensions are multi-tonal as well so something like that blends very well,” she explains. “For your wedding hairstyle you want to wear something that has dimension, you don’t want something that’s an exact match because in pictures that dimension is what’s going to show.”

For natural, loose, beachy waves, what sort of extensions should you buy?
“If you’re leaving your hair down, seamless hair extensions are perfect because they don’t feel too heavy,” Ahmad explains. “The ones we have come with seven or eight pieces and they clip in. I wouldn’t recommend tape-in hair extensions, because even though they last four to six weeks, your stylist isn’t going to be able to backcomb them and your stylist will want to control where the volume goes while styling your hair — with clip-in extensions you can easily control that.”

When should you buy?
“It’s a good idea to get your hair extensions so that you have them in time for your engagement shoot,” says Ahmad. “That way you can take them to your stylist and they can get used to the texture of the extensions. Before wearing hair extensions you always want to wash them. When you wash them they’ll take the same texture and shape as your natural hair. Ideally it’s good to have them for your engagement shoot so that you and your stylist can get comfortable with them. That way you have time to tone them or cut them too.”

How long do hair extensions last?
“Hair extensions do not last forever. They’re not getting the natural oils and nutrients that your hair needs to grow. Depending on how often you wear your extensions and how well you take care of them they can last between a year and a half to several years,” says Ahmad.

How do you take care of them?
“You should wash them after about every five wears and you can even treat them to a masque if they’re feeling dry,” says Ahmad.

Modern Pink Colour Schemes

2019 Wedding Trends » Decor

“Anything but blush” should be the mantra for pink parties in 2019. Soft hues have given way to rich shades of raspberry, fuchsia and watermelon for an updated (and much more dramatic) take on the wedding industry’s hero colour palette. This sweet table offers the perfect example of how to pull off a modern pink party. Silk and velvet in rich shades of pink create a stunning textural backdrop for an array of tonal treats. A sculptural floral arrangement from Carmel Floral and minimalist cake from The Wedding Cake Shoppe complete the look.

Neon Details

2019 Wedding Trends » Decor

Brights are back in a big way for 2019 and the wedding world is ready for this radical shift. Pops of fluorescent colour provide the perfect punch for a whimsical celebration, whether incorporated in a tablescape, dessert spread or ceremony setup. Laser cut acrylic table toppers and place cards are sure to make a splash, while dayglo diamond, llama and cactus cookies like these beauties from Downtown Dough are the ultimate Instagram-worthy favour.

Elevated Canadian Themes

2019 Wedding Trends » Decor

One of our favourite wedding themes involves paying homage to the country we’re from. Instead of a typical rustic vibe you might look to when thinking of Canada, elevate the idea with plaid napkins, a super-cool antler candelabra centrepiece and a luxe faux-fur tablecloth. Best yet, this theme goes with any venue, so whether you’re from Banff or Thunder Bay, you can incorporate our home and native land into your big day.

Iridescent Stationery

2019 Wedding Trends » Decor

First spotted on the Fall 2018 runways, holographic and iridescent materials have made their way into the décor world to spice up spaces with a touch of retro futurism. A nod to the 80s and 90s, luminous paper goods in cascades of rainbow colours can be a particularly chic addition to a wedding celebration. We love how this invitation suite from Simply Sealed pairs iridescent card stock with modern lettering for a contemporary spin on wedding metallics that is at once fun and sophisticated.

White-On-White Tablescapes

2019 Wedding Trends » Decor

Nothing quite compares to a white wedding. For 2019, the ultimate elegant party concept is elevated with tone on tone details. Lush floral arrangements, like this stunning piece from Henna Florist, should be the hero of all-white reception. Bursting with white roses, ranunculus, tulips, hydrangeas and orchids, the look is completely devoid of leafy greenery. A few hints of gold in the cutlery and stationery are all that’s needed to complete the look.

Statement Bouquets

2019 Wedding Trends » Flowers

High impact blooms make for an unforgettable wedding bouquet. We love playing with exotics to create a unique floral statement. Pictured here, the white king protea is the perfect choice as a star player in your bouquet (surrounded by china berry and dusty miller) and if you want an arrangement focused on one flower only the phalenaopsis orchid is also definitely having a moment.

Under-The-Table Centrepieces

2019 Wedding Trends » Flowers

To really make a statement with your reception florals, look beyond the tabletop – or, in this case, below it. Floral chandeliers of the past have given way to artful, modern floor arrangements showcased beneath glass or Lucite tables. Leaf & Bloom used hearty greenery like palm leaves and ferns to create these textural showpieces, which are absolutely ideal for a gallery wedding.

Pampas Grass Clouds

2019 Wedding Trends » Flowers

Light-as-air pampas grasses are one of the hottest trends for decorating your ceremony aisle (see Mandy Moore’s OTT boho wedding) and reception space, but instead of just having the installations on the ground, we love the idea of taking it higher with billowy pampas grass clouds. These beauties were created by Wild North Flowers and feature a natural, environmentally-friendly mix of pampas grass, dried solidago and corn stalks. Clouds can be hung from the ceiling, affixed to walls or placed on the ground to create an airy, textural décor element.

Ikebana-Inspired Centrepieces

2019 Wedding Trends » Flowers

The ancient Japanese art of floral design is experiencing a revival as of late, with sculptural arrangements taking centre stage. Colour, shape, form, lines and balance all come into play when creating these thoughtful arrangements. To create this particular piece, Timberlost mixed stargazer lilies with foraged wild clematis. The result is a minimalist piece that makes a big impact.

Fruit And Floral Spreads

2019 Wedding Trends » Flowers

Edible arrangements are where it’s at for 2019, but we’re not talking bouquets of daisy-shaped cantaloupes here. The vibe is chic and Mediterranean – a veritable feast for the senses, artfully displayed in cascades of colour. For this particular arrangement, Kenilworth Floral combined exotic fruit with red ranunculus, red orchids and red gloriosa lilies to create a lush centrepiece just as gorgeous as any floral garland.

Watters Spring 2019 Wedding Dresses

Fashion & Beauty » Wedding Dresses

Watters’ founder and designer Vatana Watters admits that her inspirations often come from her world travels. The brand’s most recent offering pays homage to the textured dunes found along the Oregon coast with gowns in varying shades of ivory and nude.

Titled “The Sun Was Shining on the Sea”, the spring 2019 collection also draws inspiration from Lewis Carroll’s narrative poem, “The Walrus and the Carpenter”, which appears in the book, “Through the Looking Glass”. Flouncy ruffles and whimsical accessories appeared on the runway beside structured corsetry and ribbon details — a nod to both Victorian-era fashion and Carroll’s dreamy prose.

Five Great Reasons To Honeymoon In Cartagena

Travel » Honeymoons

Photo by Jen O’Brien

Strolling the rainbow-hued streets of Cartagena’s old town, it comes as no surprise that this astoundingly beautiful Colombian city inspired an entire literary genre. This is the place that famously fuelled the imagination of Nobel Prize-winning Colombian author, and godfather of magical realism, Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It is a place where he envisioned the fantastic intermingling with everyday life.

To see Cartagena in person is to realize this surreal dream. Perched on the Caribbean Sea and encircled by an elaborate stone wall built centuries ago to ward off invading pirates, the city’s old town tells the story of Cartagena’s history as a thriving port. Magnificent churches and colonial mansions bursting with bougainvillea appear around every corner, solidifying the city’s status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Photo courtesy of Casa San Agustin

The accommodations
To experience Cartagena to the fullest, booking a stay at one of the walled city’s boutique hotels is a must, and there’s no spot more honeymoon-appropriate than Casa San Agustin. Step through the property’s ornate gates and you’ll discover a tranquil escape where history meets modernity. With just 20 guest rooms and 10 suites spread across three exquisitely-restored 17th century colonial homes, Casa San Agustin has the intimacy of a luxurious family home with all the thoughtful amenities of a five-star hotel. A palm-fringed courtyard frames a pool set against an ancient aqueduct, while original frescos adorn the walls. Guest rooms feature wood beamed ceilings and modern Colombian decor along with luxe Frette linens and Ortigia toiletries. This hotel is indeed a refection of the city, highlighting the area’s rich past and exciting future as one of the most fashionable destinations in South America.

Photo courtesy of Casa San Agustin

The food
Even extremely well-travelled foodies will be astounded by the quality of cuisine in Cartagena. World-class chefs from Colombia and abroad have flocked to the city in recent years and are truly making the most of its fresh fish and local produce. Visit Donjuan Restaurant for perfectly prepared seafood in an elegant setting, or Carmen for a modern take on Colombian cuisine. El Burlador Gastrobar, sister property to a restaurant of the same name in Seville, Spain, serves up some of the best tapas imaginable (the huevos rotos with truffle oil poured tableside is a must), while Alma Restaurant, nestled at the heart of Casa San Agustin and consistently rated among the best places to dine in Cartagena, offers the ultimate romantic date night experience with outstanding seafood (try the lobster empanadas), outdoor terrace seating and live music most nights.

Photo by Jen O’Brien

The architecture
Locals often refer to Cartagena’s old town as “el corralito de piedra” (the little stone corral) and its stone walls built in the 17th and 18th centuries enclose some absolutely jaw-dropping colonial buildings. The best way to discover the city’s architectural gems is by spending a day wandering the old town on foot. A few must-see spots include the Torre del Reloj, an iconic clock tower built in the 19th century, and the Iglesia de San Pedro Claver (pictured here), a former Jesuit monastery turned museum. Cap the day off by strolling atop the city walls to Cafe Del Mar, the ideal spot to grab a cocktail while watching the sun sink into the Caribbean Sea.

Photo by Jen O’Brien

The shopping
With a burgeoning fashion and swimwear scene that’s making headlines worldwide and street side kiosks bursting with colourful hand-woven bags and straw hats, Cartagena is heaven for shopaholics. Start by picking up a signature mochila, perhaps the most popular Colombian souvenir. These woven bags are created by the indigenous Wayuu tribe residing in the La Guajira desert close to the Venezuelan border and while the colourful carryalls are found on virtually every street corner, you’ll find the highest quality versions in the city’s boutiques. Anyone interested in Colombian fashion should pop into St. Dom, which carries clothing and accessories from the nation’s top designers. For swimwear, OndadeMar is the spot to score stylish Colombian suits and cover-ups, while Loto Del Sur, a luxurious yet fairly under-the-radar Colombian skincare and fragrance brand, carries high-end soaps, scrubs, candles, lotions and perfumes created using ingredients sourced from around the country.

Photo via iStockphoto

The islands
One of the most interesting aspects of honeymooning in this part of the world is that you can split your time between the city and the beach. Cartagena is well-known for its incredible shopping, dining and nightlife but venture roughly 100 kilometres off shore and you’ll find the Rosario Islands, which encompass all the signature pleasures of the Caribbean, from clear blue seas to white sand beaches and fresh local seafood.