Donuts, Doughnuts … I’m going nuts!

My life has been changed. Forever.

It’s dangerous, it’s glorious, and it’s so much fun. I’ve learned how to make doughnuts!

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Completely obsessed. Can’t. Stop. Making them. I only need a taste of one to satisfy me … they’re just so much fun to prepare. And decorate. And bake. And share. And watch the pure satisfaction on the faces of those enjoying them. No seriously – eyes light up when people see them, and they’re even more impressed to learn that you made them yourself! (Perk – they’re my hubby’s favorite treat, so I get triple brownie points when I make them.)

These have been my go-to for parties, birthdays and celebrations lately and there’s never any leftover. Cake pops used to be my signature, but I have a feeling those little balls on a stick might just be getting the boot.

I’ve had several people ask me for the recipes, so I’ve decided to share them with you. You’re welcome (or I’m sorry!).

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These Brown Butter Pistachio Doughnuts were the first tasty little suckers that are to blame. One taste and I was hooked.

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I’ve recently developed and extreme love for anything with pistachio, so I should have known what was to come. But, like a weak little girl, I went on to bake them anyway. And they were worth every single calorie.

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Don’t even kid yourself. You know you’re making these bad boys this weekend. You can find the recipe HERE.

After obsessing long enough (as in two days) over the pistachio doughnuts, I decided to tackle yet another amazing recipe: the classic sprinkle doughnut.

sprinkle donutsThey were originally supposed to be Funfetti Doughnuts, but when it came time to add the colorful sprinkles I realized I didn’t have much. Shame on me! I only had one small pack of shark-shaped colorful sprinkles, which I ended up adding to the batter and to the top of one lucky doughnut, which I dedicated to Left Shark.

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These were super delicious as well, but pistachio still holds the key to my heart. Find the recipe for Funfetti Doughnuts HERE.

As of now, those are the only two doughnut flavors I’ve made. I know – I’m so ashamed! I just can’t stop making the pistachio ones for those times of need. BUT have no fear! I’ve rounded up a few other baked doughnut recipes for you that sound just as amazing. Can’t wait to give them a shot myself! (Just click the doughnut name for the recipe, which can be found on other websites and blogs.)

Not baked doughnuts, but still worth honorable mention:

Before I wrap up this post, I wanted to share a few tips and tricks that I’ve learned in my short life as a doughnut-maker.

1. First and foremost, you’re going to need a doughnut pan. You can get them at Bed Bath and Beyond for around $15.
2. Spoon your batter into a piping bag or a large Ziploc bag and snip the corner off. It makes filling the pan so much easier.

3. Line the inside of a large cup (I use a Tervis tumbler) and fold over the excess. This will help your baggy stand upright and make for easier filling.

There you have it! Hopefully those few simple tips will help you make perfect doughnuts. If you try any of these recipes or have any others I should try, please leave me a comment below!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go enjoy. Please donut bother me. (Hehe) :)

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Weekend Getaway in Helen, GA

Every now and then you just need a little weekend getaway. Am I right, or am I right? And what better excuse than a friend’s birthday? Our friend Meghan celebrated her birthday just recently, and when her husband Nick asked if we’d like to join them for a mini-vacation in Helen for it, we immediately jumped at the idea.

I went to Helen, GA for family vacations growing up and I’d talked about it to Jimmy, Nick and Meghan in casual conversation over the years, and they all were intrigued. I’d only been in the summer, though, when we’d raft and tube along the rivers, so I knew winter in Helen would be a little different. Plus, I hadn’t visited there in over ten years, so when Meghan decided that’s where she wanted to go for her birthday, I was stoked to check it out from a totally different perspective (and this time I’d be old enough to drink the yummy German beers!).

Jimmy and I drove to Richmond Hill Thursday after work and stayed at my mom’s so we could leave super early Friday morning. So Friday at 6 a.m., we stopped to pick up our friends Brittnee and Travis, who would be joining us for the weekend, and hit the road. I’m pretty bummed I didn’t get a picture of the stuffed-to-the-brim Jeep, but it was pretty impressive how much we fit in there (and also very pathetic how much four of us needed for a two-night trip). Time to make the 4.5 hour drive up to north Georgia!

After a few strops and an eventful drive, we made it to our cabin right around noon. It was so perfect!
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The cabin was only a few miles from town and was in a beautiful, tucked away wooded area. When you walked in, there were tall ceilings, wooden floors and walls, and a fabulous stone fireplace. The mater bedroom with jacuzzi tub was on the entry level, a private bedroom with a queen bed and bathroom took up all of the upstairs space, and a sitting area, full bath, game room and sauna make up the lower level. The hot tub on the back of the wraparound porch was icing on the cake. AND THERE WAS SNOW ON THE GROUND!

Once we all got settled in, the six of us bundled up in preparation for the 20-degree weather and headed out for lunch.

We strolled through town and took in all the cuteness. If you’ve never been, Helen is one of those charming places full of character that you should probably add to your bucket list. The little town of Helen is a quaint little German village that is great to visit all seasons during the year. The “city” is made up of several restaurants, many of them German, pubs, coffee shops, and other locally owned shops. It really is like walking through a little Germany (from what I’ve heard and seen, at least)!
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We found a cute little restaurant called The Troll Tavern where we decided to stop for lunch, and enjoyed warm sandwiches and cold German beers. Annnnddd followed it up with a little photo shoot. I was WAY too excited about all of the snow and ice on the ground and in the water!

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After lunch, we walked up to Betty’s Country Store (a must-see, it’s precious) to pick up a few necessities. During the walk there we discovered this strange but interesting glass blowing shop …

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… Hansel and Gretel’s candy shop (where we picked up some fudge and caramel apples) …
… and this mini frozen waterfall! (Okay, it was actually a fountain.)
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We headed back to the cabin for some wine and R&R before going back out for dinner.
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Oh, and some pictures in the snow.
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Dinner time and time to bundle up even more – it was going to be a low of 18! Back to town we went. We all agreed on German food for dinner, obviously, so we walked around until we stumbled across Old Heidelberg Restaurant. Walking in is a little deceiving.  The lower level is made up of a dated smokey bar, which I imagine is a great time when you’re in the mood for that sort of thing, but the restaurant is upstairs (and is not smokey). The atmosphere wasn’t super thrilling, but the food was amazing. Again, I’m bummed I didn’t take a picture. Brittnee and I split the schnitzel stuffed with cream cheese and chives, spaetzle and German potato salad. Drool.

*Spoiler: This was my favorite part of the trip.* When we walked outside after dinner it was SNOWING!! And not just tiny flurries – it was actually snowing! That was my first time ever seeing actual falling snow, so to say I was excited is a bit of an understatement. We southerners don’t get to see that very often!
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The rest of the evening was spent playing games and celebrating Meghan’s birthday.
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Oh, and the boys enjoyed some guy time in the hot tub with cigars and whiskey. Hehe.
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The next morning I jumped out of bed to see if it was still snowing. It wasn’t, but there was much more fresh-fallen snow on the ground! While Nick so kindly made us breakfast, I headed out to build a snowman.
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Ta da! My very own Olaf. (Cut me some slack. There wasn’t that much snow! I had to make do with what I was given.) Brittnee came out to play in the snow, too.
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A few hours later, we headed into town for lunch at Big Daddy’s. It was pretty dang tasty, if I may say so myself.
Our initial plan for the day was to hike up to Anna Ruby Falls, but the roads were closed due to weather so we hit up the wineries instead. Rough, I know.

The first winery we stopped at was Frogtown. I expected all of the wines to be sweet and fruity, but they actually had a wide variety of dry reds and whites, along with fruity and dessert wines. Jimmy and I did the red and white wine tasting, Nick and Megan did the white wine tasting, and Brittnee and Travis opted for the sweeter wines.
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Next stop: Habersham Winery. They have several different wines as well, but I thoroughly enjoyed their sweeter ones. The peach and the red muscadine wines are divine! Opposite from Frogtown, their tastings are free which was a nice plus.
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After we were all wined up, we headed back to the cabin for the night. The guys decided to prepare us a nice meal (beef Wellington, roasted potatoes and a Swiss chard salad!) so while they cooked, us three girls ran outside for some hot tub time.


Dinner and games followed!

Sunday morning came way too soon and it was time to leave. We packed up and loaded the cars … which is when I found Olaf decapitated and missing an arm :(! His head melted right off – bless his little heart.
Nick, Meghan and their pups headed back to Jacksonville, and the rest of us went out for one last German meal before heading back. Hofer’s for the win. I had chicken and spaetzle soup, and a hot ham and Swiss sandwich with German potato salad, and It was probably the best meal of the weekend.
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Of course we couldn’t leave without taking a picture with Santa in front of the Christmas Shoppe …
… and swinging by Jumpin Goat Coffee Roasters (where I found peach coffee!) for some delicious local caffeine to get us through our drive.
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The time came to hit the road and leave that little slice of heaven. But it won’t be long until we return … we decided we all want to go during the summer for tubing AND in October for Oktoberfest! Until next time, Helen.

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Local Artist, Hand-Drawn Prints, and a Custom Portrait Giveaway!

Monster GiveawayIt’s giveaway time!

I am SUPER excited about this post. I’ve done several giveaways here on my blog, but this is the first I’ve paired up with a local artist to give away a custom piece of art work! Keep reading to find out how you could win a hand-drawn custom portrait of you and your plus one.

A few weeks ago, my friend Morgan introduced her friend Kelly Hewitt and I via email, and thought we might like to collaborate for a blog post. When Kelly told me a bit more about her, her business, and offered a fun and completely different type of giveaway I was pumped! Kelly is a skilled artist in Tampa, Florida with a very unique style. She has recently launched and online store and Etsy shop for her creative business, Melodious Monster, and I thought many of my readers would enjoy learning about her.

Kelly’s artistic style, in my opinion, is edgy, simple yet abstract, unique, and witty with a bit of dry sense of humor tied in. Her sketches are unlike anything I’ve seen and I just love it! She was kind enough to send me a few pieces of my own and I couldn’t wait to share them with you!

These prints will be perfect in my kitchen and in my craft room. I love the “Bake it till you make it” one!

These cards are perfection. I can’t wait to send them to two lucky friends!
And these will be fabulous in my office (Maybe. My husband has already threatened to steal the chocolate one twice.).
IMG_6767 How cute is that birch tag? Kelly can make those to order, and they’re great for ornaments, gift tags, dressing up a package, or just something fun to add to your art collection.
And if you know someone getting married, this is a fun and completely original gift!

Love Forever Birch Tag Original

I love to paint and draw myself, so I am all about supporting other local artists and crafters. It’s pretty rare to find someone who is so imaginative and creative on paper these days!

So, want to win a one-of-a-kind piece of art work? Since it’s Valentine’s week and everyone is feeling extra lovey, we’ve decided to give away a custom, hand-drawn couples portrait. If you win, you can see yourself, character-style, next to your husband, wife, best friend, child, parent, pet … whoever you choose! (If you want a family portrait, Kelly will be more than happy to add additional people for a slight charge.)

Seriously … how cute would this family portrait be hanging in your hallway?
Custom Family Portrait - 8.5x11 print & digital file
To enter this giveaway, comment below telling me who you would have in your custom portrait with you. That’s it! I will select a winner at random on Thursday, February 19 and announce it here on the blog.
Really want to win? Here are two ways to get additional entries:
1. Follow Kelly (@MelodiousMonster) on Instragram!
2. Tweet about this contest for an additional entry! Be sure to take me, @BlakeleyAV, in your tweet for it to count. Sample tweet: I just entered to win a custom hand-drawn portrait by Melodious Monster on ‘s blog! You should enter, too:
(Contest dates: Feb. 9 – 19, 2015. Winner must be 16 years of age or older, and must be a US resident.)

Be sure to check out Kelly’s Melodious Monster website and Etsy shop in the meantime. Those amazing greeting cards are calling your name … :)

A Wedding Video Created by Our Guests

WeddingMix saved our wedding. Let me start from the beginning.

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About three weeks before our wedding, I got a call from the videographer (that we’d hired about five months earlier) who had some tragic news for us: his full-time job was relocating him to DC and he would no longer be able to shoot our wedding. Holy cow – heart attack central.

Enter WeddingMix, which I discovered a few days later.
WeddingMix, an incredibly genius idea, allows all of your guests to upload any footage they capture from your wedding day to their site or app and uses it to create a custom video. A program that would allow our guests to take photos and videos of their favorite moments from our wedding day, collects all of them in one easy-to-use app, AND creates a video for us at a super-affordable cost? Count me in.

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Before our wedding, I published a blog post encouraging our guests to download the WeddingMix app, come with charged cell phones, take LOTS of pictures and videos, and upload them to our wedding on the app. I also included a little blurb with instructions on our wedding programs.

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Once our guests uploaded their footage, I gained access to all of the pictures and videos, and WeddingMix got to work on creating us a one-of-a-kind, video story with all of them. Take a look at the one-and-a-half minute highlight reel I just received!

How incredible is that?? I can’t WAIT to see the full-length one! I know it’s going to be so much fun.

Wedding videography can be expensive, so if you’re up in the air about forking out the money, or just want to add something a little more personal to your wedding, I highly recommend giving WeddingMix a shot. They have several different packages available and some even include handheld video cameras that they will ship to you and pull footage from. Once all of your guests’ footage has been uploaded to the app, you can personally select the clips you want used in your video, organize them in the correct order, pick your editing style, and add captions, or just let their professional editors completely surprise you (which is what we did).

It truly is such a fun and affordable way to relive your wedding day and see everything from your guests’ point of view. Even though we did end up hiring another videographer at the last minute, I am SO glad that we had this fun element incorporated into our celebration.

THANK YOU to all of our guests who took photos and videos on our big day to make this video possible, and thank you WeddingMix for being so fabulous.

P.s. If you missed it, be sure to check out my recap pots of our wedding day: Part 1: Getting ready/first looks/the ceremony and Part 2: The reception/after-party! It was a wedding for the books, if I do say so myself :).

Disclaimer: I received a discounted rate from WeddingMix in exchange for an honest review of their product. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

The Best Party in the History of Parties (a.k.a Our Wedding Reception)

It’s still January, which means it’s still #Vinicky121314 Recap Month! A few days ago I shared the details from part one of our wedding day (getting ready, first look and the ceremony), and now it’s time to get to share my point of view from the fun part – the reception.

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The ceremony is the most important part, but obviously the reception is where it’s at. Let’s be honest, that’s the part that people actually look forward to when they get that purdy little wedding invitation in the mail (as long as there’s an open bar!).
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And since ours was undoubtedly phenomenal, I’ve just GOT to recap every last detail with you, up to the after party when I did something that very few brides would do in their wedding dress (intrigued yet?). Here we go!

The Reception
I’m just going to be blunt: our reception was the! Maybe I’m just a little biased, but Jimmy and I had a freaking blast and it seemed like everyone else did, too. We held the reception at beautiful Savannah Station (which was originally constructed in 1902 as a stable for horses that hauled freight wagons for The Southern Express Company) and it looked absolutely stunning. Our colors were black and gold, which went perfectly with the venue, low lighting, and the pops of Christmas decor throughout.
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While we were taking pictures after the ceremony, our guests enjoyed a cocktail hour and entertained themselves with a DIY photo booth.

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The wedding party took a private trolley from the ceremony to the reception, which was the perfect opportunity for us to all catch our breaths, calm our nerves, and laugh uncontrollably yet again about the moonshine disaster.
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Oh, and it allowed for Lawton to channel his inner-monkey.

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Once we arrived, our guests were ushered into the ballroom and emptied the bar so we could all make our grand entrance. While waiting for the DJ to announce us, we grabbed these most epic pictures *ever.*
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Soon after, our bridal party was introduced (I can’t wait to see the videos of their entry dances), and Jimmy and I were announced as Mr. and Mrs. Vinicky for the first time!
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We went right into our first dance as husband and wife. Our parents and wedding party circled the dance floor, which wasn’t even planning but I thought was really awesome.

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Our talented husband-and-wife friends, Sean and Sidney, sang a slowed-down, custom version of our song, Here (In Your Arms) originally by HelloGoodbye, for our first dance song. It was incredible (not our dancing, however. Just the song!).
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Next, my daddy and I shared a dance to Daddy Dance With Me, and we both tried our best not to cry. (You couldn’t see it under my dress, but I was standing on his feet for most of the dance, just like I did when I was a little girl.) :)

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He is such a special man. I can’t tell you what those three minutes and forty-seven seconds meant to me.

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Then Jimmy and his mom shared a sweet dance to her favorite song, What a Wonderful World, and it completely melted my heart.

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I had to snag a hug, too!

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The dance floor opened up, as did the food stations, and it was time to get the night started. Our food was catered by Magnolia Grill Catering out of Richmond Hill, GA, and they did an absolutely beautiful job. (Though I knew they would – I used to work with the chef!) To tie in with my southern roots, we opted for a truly southern menu, buffet-style. During the cocktail hour, chicken-and-waffle bites, kielbasa in puffed pastry, tomato cucumber sandwiches, and Swedish meatballs (to throw in some of Jimmy’s Swedish heritage) were passed around. Our Southern Experience dinner menu included: Pulled Pork Sliders with House Made Pickles, Petite Southern Fried Chicken, Macaroni and Cheese, collard greens, a shrimp and grits bar, a mashed potato bar, fresh veggies, a fruit and cheese display, baked brie, their amazing homemade ranch (specially requested by yours truly), and more. YUM.
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Mark and his staff were absolutely wonderful. The second we sat down, they were already making their way toward us with handfuls of plates with tastes of everything on them.  Jimmy requested that they save him a mini chicken-and-waffle, which they did, and he was thrilled! We tried eating, but got side-tracked each time we tried to take a bite. Visiting with people stopping by for pictures and to say hi, and looking around at how beautiful everything looked seemed more important than eating. Neither of us had much of an appetite anyway – I think nerves, excitement and adrenaline had taken over! I DID eat the shrimp and grits, though. OMG.

Our DJ, Max, played some dinner music while we all enjoyed dinner, and people started making their way to the dance floor.

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Next order of business: CAKE! Our cake was made by Cake Appeal, owned by two ladies from Jacksonville (one was my original personal trainer – how funny is that?!), and was made up of layers of key lime cake with Swiss buttercream frosting and blueberry cake (with fresh blueberries!) with cream cheese frosting. The entire cake table looked beautiful!
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We were mostly nice to each other when it came to feeding cake.

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In lieu of a traditional groom’s cake, Jimmy decided to have 150 of his favorite creations: doughnuts. (We tasted doughnuts from about six places before he found his favorite local shop to get them from – The Donut Shoppe in Rincon, GA.) The flavors he picked were blueberry, maple, red velvet, chocolate frosted, and pumpkin. (And they were totally worth every single calorie!)

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Not sure why we decided to eat the doughnut Lady and the Tramp style, but …
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Moments later, the band started to play and the dance floor quickly filled up. Having a band at our wedding was pretty much Jimmy’s only major request. My cousin had an amazing band at her new year’s eve wedding a few years ago, and it was the most fun we’d ever had at a wedding. We both love live music and we wanted our guests to have as much fun as we did at her wedding, so it was a no-brainer. The challenging part, however, was finding the right band. We didn’t want a string quartet or a typical, cheesy wedding band; we wanted a band that we would go see on a Saturday night out with friends. My co-worker suggested a band she used to hire for her sorority’s socials and we fell in love with their sound instantly. Shortly after, we hired Ocean Street, all the way from Nashville, to come play our Savannah wedding. And they killed it. Not only are the guys incredibly nice and talented, but they put on one hell of a show! No one wanted the night to end, and neither did we.

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First band break = speech time! I personally love this part of wedding receptions. It’s so nice to hear loved ones speak from their heart about the bride and groom, and I know how special it is for the two newlyweds. It was wonderful getting to be on the opposite side of things (not having to make the speech this time!), and I must say, our people nailed it. My dad was so sweet and heartfelt (and a little lengthy, but I warned everyone about the beforehand!). He loves Jimmy and I know he’s so excited to have him as part of our family now, and it showed.
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I had one Maid of Honor (my sister) and two Matrons of Honor (my two best friends from home), so they did things a little different. My two Maids of Honor, Whitney and Brittnee, tag-teamed it and came up with an adorable toast to the two of us. Love you girls! My little sister’s speech completely caught me off guard. First of all, she looked absolutely beautiful and seeing her on stage with that lighting completely took my breath away. Her unprepared speech came straight from the heart and instantly brought tears to my eyes. Love you, little sis!! And then there was the best man. My, oh my, how I wish I’d been prepared. He’s a naturally funny guy, so I expected some jokes. What I didn’t expect was for him to stalk my Facebook timeline from the past five years and pull embarrassing status updates that he would read to 250 people!!!! I couldn’t stop laughing and I’m still telling people about it. Trust me, it’s something you NEED to watch for yourself. Stay tuned for that …

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Toasts came to an end, and it was the perfect time to put all the single ladies and gentlemen on the spot for the garter and bouquet toss. Garter toss first. I’ve always enjoyed watching this part at weddings, but I’ve never really thought about being the one sitting in that chair. It’s a completely different view! I always cheer for the groom to pull the garter off with his teeth but I never imagined how embarrassing it must be for the bride in the moment. Until I was in the hot seat. I sat in a char in the middle of the dance floor, Jimmy disappeared under my 40-pound dress, and came out with a White Sox (surprise!) garter in his teeth I’m pretty sure my cheeks turned bright red, but it was funny and I’m glad he was the groom that I always cheer for.

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After hitting the chandelier on his first try, Jimmy gave it a second shot and slung that bad boy toward the guys. A few guys jumped for the catch, and the lucky fella that ended up with it was Matt, the boyfriend of my friend/co-worker Ashley (the one who suggested the band!).

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Then it was my turn … and I was slightly terrified. Scared I’d hit the chandelier or whack someone in the face! (I have terrible hand-eye coordination and can’t throw worth a crap.) I was hoping Ashley (Matt’s girlfriend) would catch the bouquet, but my fear got the best of me and aiming wasn’t exactly my top priority. I about tinkled my pants when I saw these photos!
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It was a close call, but Ashley missed and my friend Zach’s date, Kim, caught the bouquet. It was fun to watch, and I love seeing the terrified look on some of these girls’ faces!

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Once all of the traditional wedding festivities were out of the way, the rest of the night was dedicated to that dance floor. The band played one great song after another, and nearly every single person was getting their groove on.
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Pretty soon, Jimmy way playing the air keyboard …

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I was doing some weird pointy-dancey thing …

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… Mike was driving the school bus …

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… and Brittnee was SnapChatting all of the madness.

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Then the band start playing The Outfielder’s Josie and suddenly the crowd seemed to part, everyone formed a circle around the two of us, and we totally danced like no one was watching. I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun in my life.

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It was about this time in the night when everyone had danced off their dinner and consumed several drinks, which made it the perfect time for our late-night Chicago dog bar. This was another idea Jimmy had, and I loved it. Why not incorporate something from his home AND his favorite food?! Our caterers tracked down authentic Chicago dog ingredients, made Jimmy a special sign and everything. As soon as they announced that the hot dog bar was open, I made Jimmy his first Chicago dog as his wife …

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… proceeded to feed it to him …

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… annndddd fed his groomsmen. Don’t ask, because I don’t have an answer for you. I guess in that moment it just felt right!

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Before the photographer left, she remembered one more picture that I’d requested: the giant chandelier.

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Thank you for remembering this one, Katelyn! It is my absolute favorite picture of the day.

The band wrapped up and the DJ started back, and back to the dance floor we all went. (And then it was time to be done but no one was ready, so we extended the venue, bar and DJ another hour-and-a-half. Oops!) Jimmy and his guys did the “Bacon” dance to Shout (like, they all laid on the ground and started “sizzling” like bacon…?), the bridal party got on stage and broke it down (ha ha, right) to Baby Got Back, and we all continued dancing and singing the night away.

It was finally time to be done at Savannah Station, but not everyone wanted to be done for the night, so the DJ announced that our after party was at Savannah Smiles! We all grabbed a seat on the shuttle and in taxis, and headed a few blocks toward River Street.

The After-Party
Bed time? Who needs it. A different dress to change into? What’s the fun in that? My friend Gina said she had a blast going out in her wedding dress, so I decided to go for it, too, and am so happy I did. I had SO MUCH FUN!

We first headed to Savannah Smiles to meet up with everyone from the reception. I was finally able to spend some time talking to friends and family that I didn’t get to really talk to at the reception, and I think I actually finished my first cocktail.

IMG_1133 IMG_1124 IMG_1142 1975107_10204702823985948_659097009270368627_n (FYI the one in the middle is my personal trainer who kicked my butt for six months before the wedding. Hence the flexing.) :)

When we were ready to a change of scenery, we headed to Saddle Bags for some country music and line dancing. Oh, and a little bull riding.
Yep, I rode a mechanical bull in my wedding dress. And let me be the first to say that it is HARD to get up on that thing when you’re 5’3 in a 40-pound wedding dress!!!! Thanks to Brittnee, who made me get on in the first place, I finally got up after about three minutes of sliding off.

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The bar was closing and the lights were on, but no one was letting me leave that place until I successfully rode the bull. Here’s proof if you want a good laugh.

It was pretty fun, I can’t lie.

But wait, there’s more! Jimmy and I were still on a wedding high and didn’t want the night to come to an end, so we headed to my mom and step dad’s suite at the hotel with a few who were still hanging on. We sat around and recapped the night, told embarrassing stories of one another, drank peach moonshine (not the one that broke on the ground during the wedding ceremony), and ate a delicious, ginormous pizza from Sweet Melissa’s. (And my step dad so graciously helped me with my train on the walk there so it wouldn’t drag on the ground.)

IMG_1140 IMG_1126 IMG_1129 IMG_1392 IMG_1139Around 4:30 a.m., we all finally decided to call it a night and headed to bed.

By the end of the night, I was going off four hours of sleep, my hair was a tangled mess, my makeup was smeared, my belt was coming loose and hanging low, my feet were blistered and the bottoms were dirty and black, my bustle had broken and I was throwing my train over my shoulder, I was bruised and scraped from trying to get on the bull, and I found a wrist band, bar napkin and cigarette butt under my dress … and I wouldn’t change a thing.

It was 500% the most amazing 24 hours of my life, and I would do it all over again exactly the same ten times if I could. I got to marry my best friend and the love of my life, celebrate with a kick-ass party, and do it with almost ALL of our friends and family from across the country. I am beyond blessed and couldn’t ask for anything more.

A HUGE thank you to all of you who made the trip to Savannah to celebrate with us. I wish we could have spent more one-on-one time with each of you, but it truly means the world to us both that you were there. For those who couldn’t make it, we missed you and you were there in spirit. Thank you to all of the fabulous people who helped set up and tear down (Meghan, Stephanie, Heidi, Valeria, Aunt Pam, Mom, Lora, Jessica, Melissa … I know I’m leaving people out. You know who you are!) Thank you to all of our amazing vendors/partners for being the best of the best. You’re all perfect and Jimmy and I love you to pieces!

12-13-14. Best. Night. EVER.
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Want more pictures? Click HERE to see all of the amazing pictures our fabulous photographer, Finnegan Photography, took of our wedding day.
(Note: All other photos were captured by friends and family. Thank you all for the beautiful pictures!)


Coming up next in my wedding recap series:

  • Our Wedding Weekend
  • Our Griswold Honeymoon
  • Wedding Day Bloopers
  • Tips for Brides-to-Be

Why 12-13-14 Was the Best Day Ever

Any guesses? I’ll give you a hint: It was our wedding day … duh!

View More: crap. We’re MARRIED! And what’s even crazier is that it has already been over a month since we said “I do.” It’s insane how quickly time flies. I have been dying to write a wedding day recap post since the day after we got hitched, but the past four weeks have been unbelievably busy and I haven’t found the time. So much catching up on life to do! But, now that a month has already gone by, I figured it’s time to bite the bullet and share all about our perfect day.

So, I am declaring the rest of January “#Vinicky121314 Wedding Recap Month” and flooding the Internet with stories and LOTS of photos of our numerical nuptials. You’ve been warned. To kick it off, I’m starting with a detailed recap of our wedding day. However, since I have so much I want to share, I’m breaking down our wedding day into two posts: getting ready/first look/the ceremony and the reception/after party. Here’s part one.

Getting Ready:
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On the morning of December 13, 2014, Jimmy and I woke up in separate rooms at the Andaz Savannah in downtown Savannah, GA and began getting ready for what was sure to be the best day of our lives. I can’t tell you what he was doing that morning, but I can certainly tell you what I was doing: minorly freaking out. Not because I was getting cold feet or nerves were getting the best of me, but because the place cards hadn’t been finished, I hadn’t even started on our wedding programs yet, and my vows were a bunch of jumbled, unorganized thoughts saved in Notes on my iPhone. (Okay, in my defense, I planned the entire wedding – every last detail – on my own, and everything else took priority at the time … and then I ran out of it.)

So, after a restless night (because I was too excited to sleep), I hopped out of bed at 5:45 a.m. and got to work. Two short hours later, my life-saving bridesmaids came to the rescue and helped me out. While I was creating the wedding programs in PhotoShop, Amanda, Whitney and Lauren were finishing the place cards, and Sarah was typing my vows and making us all cry as she read them out loud. Around 11:30 a.m., another life-saver, Meghan, came to the room, took the flash drive with the program file to FedEx/Kinkos, and came back an hour later with our ceremony programs printed and cut. HOLY COW … talk about the start to a wedding morning. All I can say is thank goodness for mimosas, amazing friends, and Sarah’s ability to keep our glasses full.
View More: this chaos was taking place, Rachel was starting on makeup and Mrs. Debbie and Heather were starting on hair.
View More: View More: View More: View More: IMG_1108 IMG_5429To add to the craziness, my sister was MIA with my flower girls, my mom was putting things together and running around like a mad woman, my step dad was trying to figure out how the chairs needed to be set up at the ceremony site, the guys were trying to figure out how to get all of Jimmy’s stuff and the groomsmen’s tuxes from my room, one of the bridesmaids was struggling from the night before, and two of my friends were remaking some of the decorative signs because the first try didn’t fit in the frames. There was probably more, but that’s all I needed to know about. But hey, we had mimosas and Peppermint Mocha Kahlua-spiked coffee! And somehow I wasn’t really panicking too much.
IMG_1114View More: all caught our breath, continued getting ready, and the photographers and videographer started doing their thing. And my, oh my, did they do it well. I didn’t even have to give any instructions .. they just did what they love doing and the result was flawless.
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My flower girls finally arrived, I gave them their gifts, and we all helped get them dressed. (P.s. I think it’s safe to say I have the most precious nieces ever!)
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While getting ready, Jimmy and I exchanged gifts. His sister was the messenger, and the photographer captured both of us opening them. I gave him a black and gold watch to go with our wedding colors, along with a pair of personalized collar stays that said “You’re my person” and  “See you at the altar.”
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He gave me a beautiful sparkly bracelet that complimented my dress and other accessories perfectly!
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Once all of us girls were finally ready, it was time for a first look with the bridesmaids. How precious are they?
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Next up: portraits with my gals!
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Everyone looked so spectacular.

First Looks:
Next up, first look with my daddy!

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Are you crying yet? If not, you will when you see these photos of me giving my mom and dad their gifts.
I gave my mom a few goodies, and an embroidered handkerchief that said, Mom, To dry your tears today as you have always dried mine. Thank you for the wedding of my dreams. I love you, Blakeley 12.13.14.
I gave Dad a pair of personalized collar stays that said “I love you, Daddy!” and “Always your little girl.”, a handkerchief that said, Dad, Of all the walks we have taken, this one will forever be my favorite. You’re the first man I have ever loved, and I will forever be your little girl. I love you, Blakeley 12.13.14,” and an appropriate T-shirt.
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I also gave Jimmy’s mom a handkerchief that said, Sue, Thank you for raising the man of my dreams, for your love, support, and for welcoming me into your family. I love you, Blakeley 12.13.14.” She’s a crier, too!
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Now that my eye makeup was smudged from my parents making me cry, it was time for the first look with my almost-hubby! We debated long and hard about seeing each other before the ceremony, but decided to go for it, and I’m glad we did. His sister walked him out with her hands covering his eyes, my bridesmaids peeked out of our hotel room window, and his and my sister secretly watched on the side. We were both so excited to see each other, I think it helped calm us down a little bit, and we were able to get some really great pictures together. Oh, and I cried AGAIN!
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View More:’ve been together more than five years and have lived together for three. We’ve done a lot together and are each other’s best friends, but there’s just something about seeing the person you love most for the first time on your wedding day. That feeling of love and excitement, knowing you’re about to marry the man of your dreams … I can’t even explain it. It completely took my breath away.

Once we dried each other’s eyes and I wiped the pink lipstick from his face, we were also able to sneak in a few pictures together, too, before the sun went down.
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Shortly after, it was time to head to the ceremony. My girls and I jumped on the trolley and headed to Telfair Square. And guess what … we were a few minutes EARLY! I know, I found it hard to believe, too.
The Ceremony:
Wedding Programs
Our ceremony took place at 5:30 p.m. in Telfair Square in downtown Savannah, just as the sun was beginning to set, and the weather was absolutely perfect.
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It was so neat driving up to the square and seeing everything set up. I’d pictured it in my head for the past 11 months and worked so hard to create everything, and I was blown away with how beautiful it looked, and how everyone who set up made it look just like I’d imagined. (A huge thank you to those who set up the square!!! You did a fabulous job.)
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We had a hot chocolate bar to keep our guests warm …
View More: View More:… and my nieces passed out the wedding programs and lavender to toss at the end of the ceremony.
View More: 13054 View More: was excited, anxious, happy, ready, and my mouth was really dry. Surprisingly, though, I wasn’t nervous at all. Just plain happy, and I couldn’t wait to walk down that aisle and marry the love of my life. The trolley pulled up to our drop-off spot, and it was time to make our way down the aisle. I remember everyone gathering around to hide me and fix my dress’ train, and a tour group on a trolley driving by, shouting “Congratulations!” and “You look beautiful!” and snapping pictures.

Then suddenly, I heard my song, everyone stood, and Dad and I started walking down the aisle. I think he was more nervous than me!
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I was waving to people as I walked down and doing just fine, until I made eye contact with Jimmy and saw him choking up. Then my eyes started to leak, too. (Fun fact: Instead of walking to the traditional “Here Comes the Bride,” I walked to the “Portuguese Love Theme” from the movie Love Actually, and surprised Jimmy. That’s his favorite movie and he loves that song, and he knew nothing about it until that very moment. He said it made him start tearing up the second he heard it.)
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In that very moment, everyone seemed to disappear and nothing else in the world mattered. Just us.

Our ceremony was absolutely perfect. Our dear friend and former co-worker of mine who is now a pastor, Michael, officiated our wedding. He did such a wonderful job sharing personal stories of us, and it means the world to me that he was the one to legally solidify our commitment to one another. It was fun hearing him tell personal stories of the two of us, and really meant a lot to hear him say the kind things that he did.
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There were many parts during the ceremony that had us giggling, but one of the funniest parts was right at the beginning when Dad and I made it to the altar. Before Michael even asked, “Who gives this woman away?,” Jimmy was already trying to snatch me from my dad! Dad told him to “Hang on!” and gave me a big ol’ hug, which made Jimmy even more anxious. These pictures that my friend’s mom took are priceless!
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Our fiend Sean sang a song that Jimmy and I have loved for years, “Happy” by NeverShoutNever. He’s just so talented – I had to show him off to our friends and family! (Wonderful job, Sean!)
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Michael read a few beautiful scriptures from the Bible, and my sweet nieces, Hope and Olivia, stood up for additional readings. Hope read “Carrie’s Poem” (from my favorite show, Sex and the City) and Olivia read an excerpt from the book Wild Awake by Hillary T. Smith. They did such a perfect job!
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Jimmy and I decided to write our own vows for our wedding. We wanted to make our wedding completely personal, so doing this only made sense (but it was really hard!). Besides, when else do you really get to say those kinds of things to your special someone? We successfully made each other cry and laugh at the same time. (I’ll share our vows in a later post!)
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We exchanged rings …

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And then the disaster happened. To add to the originality, we decided to create our own unity ceremony. Instead of blending sand or lighting a candle, we thought it would be fun to blend two types of moonshine into one, to symbolize the two of us becoming one.
We started with homemade peach moonshine (an obvious flavor since I’m from Georgia) and apple moonshine (made with Wisconsin apples – where we vacation with his family every summer), and took turns pouring them into one large jar.
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The plan was to drink a little on the 13th of every month for the first year of our marriage. All was fine and dandy … until Jimmy every-so-slightly touched the wobbly table with his knee and it tipped over, and the jars came crashing down. Before we knew it, glass was all over the ground, peach and apple slices were surrounding our feet, my girls RAN to save my dress, and everyone sat in silence waiting to see how we were going to react.
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That’s when I started laughing … and laughing, and laughing, and laughing. I couldn’t stop!
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Mostly because I’d debated on going through with the moonshine thing up until that morning, AND because Jimmy said he wanted something to go wrong to make our wedding memorable. Well, he definitely got his wish!

A few short minutes later, we shared our first kiss …
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… and were pronounced husband and wife!

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Holy cow! What an amazing feeling. I can’t even begin to explain the rush of love and happiness I felt at that very moment, but I hope it’s something everyone  gets to experience in their life. Pure bliss.

After the ceremony ended, our guests loaded the trolleys and headed to the reception, and we took a few photos with the wedding party …
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… and our families …

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… just the two of us …
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… and even got photo bombed by The Grinch himself!
Then it was time to load on to the trolley and head to the reception. Party time (post part two)!
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It was the most perfect day of my life, and I wouldn’t change one single thing. The weather was absolutely beautiful, 60 and sunny, and we were surrounded by 240 people we love with all of our hearts. AND WE GOT MARRIED!!!!

A huge thank you to everyone who helped with the ceremony. Whether you were in our bridal party, helped set up, had a part in the ceremony itself, took down the chairs and decor, helped with coordination (Renee!), took pictures or video, or simply came out to witness our marriage, we are eternally grateful to each and every one of you. THANK YOU!

Here’s a full-length video of our ceremony that my step dad recorded on his phone (if you feel like watching!):

So what was our reception like?
To be continued …

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In case you can’t tell, our photographer was PHENOMENAL! Click HERE to see all of the amazing pictures our fabulous photographer, Finnegan Photography, took of our wedding day.
(Note: All other photos were captured by friends and family – Mrs. Monica, Elke and Neil. Thank you all for the beautiful pictures!)

A Brief Reflection on 2014

Wow, what a year! I can’t say much else about 2014 other than the fact that it was amazing, incredible, magical, unbelievable, perfect, and went by way too quickly. It was seriously the best year of my life, and I can’t let it get away without recapping all of the unfathomable things that happened (like getting MARRIED!!).

We’re in our first full week of the new year, and usually by now I would have written about my new year’s resolutions and promises to myself. This year, however, I am going to do something a little different. Instead of a post of new year’s resolutions that I most likely won’t even stick to, I am going to reminisce on what was sure to be the most unforgettable of years.

So without further ado, here are some of my favorite memories from each month in 2014:

January 2014
It was our first full month being engaged! What a great way to start the year.
We got to celebrate our engagement with our friends and family! My parents hosted a fabulous engagement party for us, and Jimmy’s parents even made the trip down from Chicago. (You can read about it here, if you’d like.)
IMG_1928 IMG_1942 IMG_1941While his parents were in town, we thought it would be the perfect time for our parents to get to know one another. His parents had already met my mom and step dad a few times, but my dad and [almost] step mom hadn’t met them until the party. We all enjoyed a wonderful dinner at Cap’s on the Water, and it was just such a great night.
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March 2014

I said “yes” to the dress! I fell in love with the first wedding dress I tried on and just knew I had to have it. Even though I changed my mind about it throughout the next few months and fell in love another, I am so glad I stuck to my original choice. It was perfect. (You can read all about my dress shopping adventure here, if you’d like.)
1898140_10101354634568591_677602473_nWe secured our wedding venues! This was so much fun, and one of my favorite parts about the wedding planning process. (Click here to read about our search for the perfect rehearsal dinner venue.)
IMG_1853Two dear friends of mine and wonderful people, Adam and Lisa, tied the knot on March 29th. They had a beautiful wedding, and we got to spend time with my Jacksonville Landing family!
April 2014

We took our engagement photos! (You can see all of the photos here.)
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And sent out our Save the Dates!
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My friend Beth got married to her soul mate on April 26th. She was a gorgeous bride, it was a beautiful wedding in Jacksonville, and the two of them are so special to me.
May 2014

I started at Peak Physiques! I decided to start working with a personal trainer at a nearby gym to get in shape for the wedding, and have never been so happy about a decision. They have completely transformed the way a treat my body, and I am excited to continue working with them this year.
My mom and step dad threw a Cinco de Mayo party, so we all wore mustaches, sombreros and drank margaritas. Oh, and my step dad drank the worm from the bottle of Mezcal!
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June 2014

My friend Beth (the one who got married in April) had a celebrity-themed costume party, so J and I dressed up as 90’s Justin and Britney. It was so much fun!
July 2014

The 4th of July is one of Jimmy’s favorite holidays, so we always try to do something fun and all-American. Last year, we spent the morning at the pool, then spent the evening at the Jacksonville Suns baseball game with some of our favorite people and holiday buddies!
August 2014
Jimmy and I celebrated five years on August 29th! We spent the weekend in Savannah checking items off of our wedding to-do list.
September 2014
I had the honor of posing as the Real Bride for the latest issue of Bridal Beauty Magazine! I still haven’t seen the issue, but the photo shoot was a lot of fun. (Feel free to read about it and see all of the behind-the-scenes pictures here.)
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We sent out our wedding invitations!
October 2014
My mom threw us a Jack-and-Jill tailgate wedding shower on the day of the GA/FL game. Everyone wore their team colors, we watched the game, had yummy football food, opened gifts, and took lots of pictures by the photo booth. It was so much fun!
IMG_4989 IMG_4946 IMG_4939 I had not one but TWO bachelorette parties in October! The first one was in Savannah, and I was able to celebrate with all of the girls who couldn’t make it to the destination one. (You can read about it here.)
10700727_10101748954643001_7707547138608880526_oThe next weekend, 12 of my girlfriends joined me in Nashville, TN for the most epic weekend ever. (I haven’t finished that recap post yet, but I did post the pictures from our photo shoot here.)
IMG_5883 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor Halloween, Jimmy and I dressed up as old-school comic book/pop art characters. It was so much fun doing the make up for this!
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November 2014
My bridesmaids Whitney, Brittnee and Heather threw me the most adorable Breakfast at Tiffany’s Bridal Shower! They went all out: decorations, breakfast food, a mimosa bar, accessories and more. So cute and so much fun!
IMG_5145 IMG_5090 IMG_5156Our family holidays and get-togethers are always wonderful, but this past Thanksgiving at my dad’s was just so nice. Perhaps it was because I knew I wouldn’t get to celebrate Christmas with them, but I really enjoyed it and loved having the whole family together.
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December 2014
WE GOT MARRIED!!!!!! 12-13-14 was by far the happiest and most amazing day of my life. I can’t wait to share all the details about that perfect weekend here on the blog! (Make sure you subscribe so you don’t miss it.)
10835263_829613140414513_9096820856969280938_o10750066_10101852508510221_1204933782788724470_o 10887492_10101885785692481_1275761285701718859_oJimmy and I honeymooned on an eight-day cruise out of Fort Lauderdale, FL. We cruised on Princess Cruiselines, stayed in a beautiful suite with a balcony, and traveled to Princess Cays, St. Thomas and St. Maarten. It was very different but a lot of fun spending Christmas in the Caribbean with just the two of us. We had the time of our lives. (That post is coming soon, too!)
IMG_5706 IMG_5631 IMG_6076 IMG_5793And then, when we got off the ship and decided we weren’t ready to be done yet, we stayed the night in West Palm Beach, where Jimmy caught this lobster from a claw machine! (Then the restaurant cooked it for us to eat.)
IMG_6263Somehow I managed to find time to send out Christmas cards, and they are my favorite ones yet. Only because the timing was so perfect and we will never get to send another like this again!
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We continued our Christmas dinner at Maggiano’s tradition and enjoyed our first date night as husband and wife.
And then, on the last day of 2014, we celebrated such a phenomenal year with fireworks, champagne, and lots of happiness in downtown Jacksonville.
IMG_6373 IMG_6395 IMG_6396Oh, and I lost 22 pounds and a lot of inches. And I can do push-ups, pull-ups and flip tires!
See, told you it was a fabulous year :).

2015 will be much different (not planning a wedding and all), but I know it’s going to be another great year. I have several friends getting married, some I know will be expecting their first (or second) child this year, and Jimmy and I will get to enjoy being husband and wife!

So, what can you expect from me this year? Personally, you can expect that I will be doing everything I can to live a better, healthier and happier life. I plan to do that by just being responsible and doing less. Saying “yes” less, spending less, doing less, drinking less, and eating out less. But also by doing more. Making more time for myself, going to the gym more, eating more healthy foods, sleeping more, traveling more, and saving more. Oh, and being the best wife I can be! For my blog, you can expect a lot more posting (including a lot of post-wedding posts. I have a lot to recap and advice to share with future brides!).

Thank you to everyone who helped make 2014 so amazing: my husband (hehe, I like saying that), my friends, my family, my co-workers and my blog readers. I love you all and can’t wait to share 2015 with you.

CHEERS, and happy new year!
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Mrs. Vinicky

Get your camera phones ready, wedding people!

If you’re coming to our wedding this weekend, make sure your cell phones are fully charged and you have your charger handy for backup. We’re counting on YOU to capture all of the moments that we don’t get to see, conversations we don’t get to be a part of, your thoughts on everything throughout the day, and all of the important events we partake in!

Many people these days ask their guests not to take photos and use their phones during the festivities. I understand completely, but that’s not the route we are taking. Not only are we encouraging our guests to use our wedding hashtag, #VINICKY121314, but we’re encouraging everyone to take as many photos and videos they want throughout the day and share them with us! (Just as long as you’re not scrolling through Facebook, and you’re actually participating in the fun :).) We put a lot of time, planning, money, thought, and hard work into our big day, and we want as much footage of it as possible! Plus, so many people are coming in from all over the country and we won’t get to spend as much time with them as we’d like, so this will be a way for us to feel like we got more one-on-one time with each person.

So, if you’re coming to the wedding, pull out your phone, go to the app store, and download the “Wedding Mix” app. It’s free and easy to find. When it asks you to find a wedding, type in “VINICKY121314″. Throughout the wedding day, enjoy yourselves and don’t think about being on your phone the entire time, but when the moment seems right, snap a picture or a video! Then, when you’re lying in bed with a slight headache Sunday morning, upload those photos and videos to our wedding in the Wedding Mix app.

In addition to relying on our hired videographer to capture the day, we’re relying on you to help us with a DIY wedding video, baby! No pressure. We’re talking the fun, silly, embarrassing, behind-the-scenes between you and your friends, your table at the reception, those killer (or terrible) moves on the dance floor … those sweet moments of happiness and love … the best man’s hilarious and humiliating speech … my dad’s [probably very long, but very sweet] speech, and so on. You can also view our “requested shot list” in the app. Another cool thing – if you use our hashtag in any of your Instagram pictures during the weekend, they will automatically be pulled into our photo/video library! Pretty neato, huh?

The fine folks at Wedding Mix reached out to me about including them in my wedding, and I just couldn’t refuse. In return, they offered to make me a pre-wedding/bachelorette celebration photo highlight video. Check it out!

I can’t wait to see what they come up with when they have dozens of videos and photos to choose from that our guests take. So, remember to download and then upload. We know you’ll make us proud! :)


P.s. If you won’t be celebrating with us in Savannah, feel free to check in on Instagram using #VINICKY121314 over the weekend! (FYI I am @BlakeleyA and Jimmy is @JimmyVinicky.)

Disclaimer: I received a discounted package rate and a complimentary highlight reel in exchange of a blog post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Get Ready for the Time of Your Life (+ Giveaway)

Enter to win two tickets to Opening Night of Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story On Stage, presented by the FSCJ Artist Series! The North American tour of Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story On Stage premieres in Jacksonville from Tuesday, December 9th through Sunday, December 14th for 8 performances only at the Times-Union Center downtown.

Samuel Pergande (Johnny) and Jillian Mueller (Baby) in the North American tour of DIRTY DANCING – THE CLASSIC STORY ON STAGE. (Photo by Matthew Murphy)

Words cannot even begin to describe how excited I am. Every woman’s favorite movie, favorite cast, favorite soundtrack, favorite storyline, and favorite dance is making its way to Jacksonville for a LIVE performance! I am, of course, talking about Dirty Dancing. And I, ladies (and gentlemen), have two tickets to opening night to give away to one of my fabulous readers. Happy Monday.

Samuel Pergande (Johnny), Jillian Mueller (Baby) and Jenny Winton (Penny) in the North American tour of DIRTY DANCING – THE CLASSIC STORY ON STAGE. (Photo by Matthew Murphy)

If you’re one of the sinful few who have not seen this most amazing classic flick (Yes, these people do exist, and my friend Ashley is unfortunate proof. After you enter this contest, head over to her blog and give her hell.), here’s a quick synopsis for you:

Dirty Dancing is an unprecedented live experience, exploding with heart-pounding music, passionate romance, and sensational dancing. Seen by millions across the globe, this timeless love story features the hit songs “Hungry Eyes,” “Hey Baby,” “Do You Love Me?” and the heart-stopping “(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life.”

Samuel Pergande (Johnny) and Jillian Mueller (Baby) in the North American tour of DIRTY DANCING – THE CLASSIC STORY ON STAGE. (Photo by Matthew Murphy)

It’s the summer of 1963, and 17-year-old Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman is on vacation in New York’s Catskill Mountains with her older sister and parents. Mesmerized by the racy dance moves and pounding rhythms she discovers in the resort’s staff quarters, Baby can’t wait to be part of the scene, especially when she catches sight of Johnny Castle, the resort’s sexy dance instructor. Passions ignite and Baby’s life changes forever when she is thrown in to the deep end as Johnny’s leading lady, both on-stage and off.

Samuel Pergande (Johnny) and Jenny Winton (Penny) in the North American tour of DIRTY DANCING – THE CLASSIC STORY ON STAGE. (Photo by Matthew Murphy)

I know, you’re covered in goosebumps and your heart is racing with excitement, right? Would it race even faster if I told you that all you have to do to win tickets to the show’s opening night on Tuesday, Dec. 9 at the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts in Jacksonville is leave a comment on this post? ‘Tis true!

To enter, leave a comment below telling me your favorite line, song, dance or scene from the classic film. That’s it! I will select one winner at random on Friday, Dec. 5 at 1 p.m. EST. For an additional entry, Tweet about the giveaway and tell all of your followers how awesome the FSCJ Artist Series and I are. (Sample Tweet: I just entered to win tickets to opening night of Dirty Dancing on ‘s blog, thanks to ! ).

This is my favorite part! Samuel Pergande (Johnny) and the company of the North American tour of DIRTY DANCING – THE CLASSIC STORY ON STAGE. (Photo by Matthew Murphy)

I am still so devastated from the loss of Patrick Swayze, so this will be the perfect way to remember him and pretend he is still with us. I mean, how much do these characters look like those from the movie?! It’s uncanny.

Samuel Pergande (Johnny) and Jillian Mueller (Baby) in the North American tour of DIRTY DANCING – THE CLASSIC STORY ON STAGE. (Photo by Matthew Murphy)

Tickets for Dirty Dancing in Jacksonville start at only $37.50 and can be purchased at HERE, (904) 442-2929, and the FSCJ Artist Series Box Office between 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday – Friday. Discounts are available for groups of 10 or more at (904) 442-2947 or Stay updated on show discounts by liking the FSCJ Artist Series’ Facebook page and following them on Twitter.

Dirty Dancing Performance Schedule at Jacksonville’s Times-Union Center:
Tuesday, December 9th at 7:30PM
Wednesday, December 10th at 7:30PM
Thursday, December 11th at 7:30PM
Friday, December 12th at 8PM
Saturday, December 13th at 2PM & 8PM
Sunday, December 14th at 1:30PM & 7PM

If you just can’t wait and need more now, you can go behind-the-scenes of Dirty Dancing with this episode of the Broadway Balances America mini-series during The Balancing Act on Lifetime Television:

P.s. In all honesty, I asked my FSCJ Artsit Series contact if she could arrange for the cast to teach Jimmy and I THE dance for our first dance at our wedding. (She laughed.) But hey, if anyone knows it and is willing to teach it, I am willing to learn!

Ready for more goosebumps? WATCH THIS!!

Disclaimer: Tickets to the show were provided to me by the FSCJ Artist Series. I am a member of the Artist Series’ Professional Theater Ambassador Program and am compensated with tickets to select shows in exchange for an honest review. Opinions are my own.

Nashville Bachelorette Party Surprise Photo Shoot

Twelve girlfriends and I took on Nashville for my bachelorette party, and it was pretty much the best weekend ever. The girls did SO many amazing things for me and had so many surprises planned (post coming soon!), but I wanted to do something to surprise them as well.

If you know anything about me at all, it’s that you know how much I love pictures. I love to take them, be creative with them, scrapbook them, show them off … anything and everything. They capture memories and create new ones as well. So, for my surprise, I decided that I wanted to hire a photographer to come to the house we rented for a photo shoot! That way it could be something we would all be able to enjoy forever. After days of searching through Google and asking friends for recommendations, I finally discovered Maria Santini Photography, who so graciously agreed to come to town and spend an hour with 13 excited ladies.

We rocked our cowgirl boots for some photos, pink dresses and heels for some, and incorporated a few inside jokes (like the splits) into others. It was such a blast, and I would highly suggest doing this for your next girls getaway or bachelorette party!

Here are some of the amazing moments she captured.
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The everyday happenings of a southern girl living in a big(ger) city.


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