Our Second Week – Visiting Shanghai

Hey Y’all!

Before I get into the update about our second week here in China, I wanted to start by saying a huge THANK YOU to everyone who reached out to Taylor and I this week. I was super nervous about being so raw and vulnerable about our experience in my last post, but there was nothing but kind and gentle encouragement. I was shocked at how many people called and messaged us! We really appreciate the friends and family who encourage us through all seasons of life. These messages and phone calls gave me so much hope, and have been making my transition much easer. If you haven’t read my first post on China, you can click HERE.


With that being said, another week has come and gone here in Nanjing! This week didn’t feel as dreadful and long as the last, and I’m relieved. If you’ve been praying for peace over us it’s working, so thank you! There were a lot less tears and no anxiety attacks this week!! So that’s a HUGE win in my book! I’ve also gotten my camera out again, so there’s a lot more pictures in this update!


Right now, I’m holding onto routine, routine, routine. My mom recommended that I try and make my daily life as “normal” as possible. Although things are much different here, her advice has helped tremendously. Moms are always right. 🙂 Taylor and I get up, go to work, come home, go for a walk, then go to bed. This routine gives me something to look forward to and keeps me from being “bored,” which triggers my anxiety. I’ve also been trying to redirect my thoughts. Instead of focusing on all the negatives and the things I’m missing, I’m thinking about all the positives and what I can have! Unlimited travel opportunities, experiences, less distractions, growth, and unlimited time with my husband. We chose to move to China because of all the amazing benefits, so I may as well enjoy them right?

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Our weeks are structured a little differently here because Taylor’s schedule revolves around a baseball team. We always have games on Saturday’s and Sunday’s, so Monday’s and Tuesday’s are our days off. This week, we chose to visit Shanghai during our “weekend.” We chose Shanghai because it’s a lot more western compared to Nanjing!

This was our first time taking the bullet train within Asia and we were super impressed! They were exactly on time, clean, and Taylor didn’t think it was too hard to navigate. I’m directionally challenged, so I just follow him around everywhere. 🙂 We are 5 hours away from Shanghai by car, but only 1.5 hours away by bullet train.

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We booked one night at the Grand Hyatt downtown, and had a very chill weekend. This was exactly what I needed mentally. Shanghai is very diverse, so we didn’t feel completely out of place. We saw so many other non-Chinese people, which made my heart very happy! We ate American food, shopped, and did some exploring! The Grand Hyatt was beautiful and I’d really like to stay here again! It was perfect for a one night stay.

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Traveling to Shanghai for one night really made me happy and gave me some normalcy in my life. The smooth train ride makes me giddy, because I can’t wait to start traveling to a lot more parts of Asia during our days off! It gives me peace, knowing that when things get rough here in Nanjing, I’m one short train ride away from Shanghai. Taylor has continuously gone above and beyond to make me happy and comfortable here in China! I don’t know how I got so lucky. 🙂

I’d like to start writing about other things in China like, the differences, what we wish we’d packed, working, etc. Please comment what kind of content you’d like me to write about! Thank you!




Tigers on The Road: Raleigh, NC



Taylor and I left for Raleigh, North Carolina last Friday to see the Tigers play NC State. We live about an hour and a half away from the Orlando airport, so we had to get up around 4am to make our 7am flight time. Thankfully, we have TSA Pre-Check and don’t need to worry about standing in line at security. TSA Pre-Check has been a lifesaver for us, especially because we fly out of a very populated airport! The line is always wrapped around and full of Disney Tourists with their multiple kids and strollers, so investing in TSA Pre-Check has been a lifesaver.


This flight was special because we got to bring Maybelle! She has only flown one other time, and she was still a little puppy. She whined a little when we first took off, but after a few minutes she went to sleep. There were two little kids in the seats in front of us and they LOVED her. They kept turning around to check on her.


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Maybelle lives in Florida with us, so she wasn’t used to the cooler weather!



Once we landed, we met up with our great friend Rachel and headed to her place to change for the Clemson game! I was shocked at how beautiful Raleigh was at this time of year. I’ve only visited the city one other time, and it was during late summer. I’ve never seen such beautiful leaves before in my life! If you love fall and all the colorful leaves, then you’re going to love this post because it’s jam packed with red, orange, and yellow!





Like every other Clemson game, we tailgated with friends and family before the game started. The weather was much cooler for us Floridians, but we loved it!








The NC State stadium is one of the best I’ve been too! It was smaller in size, but very clean. Their fans were ROWDY during the game, and the school did an amazing job at pumping up their fans.





This was such a close game, which made things tense. NC State put up a good fight, and we barely pulled out a win.





Once the game was over, we stopped at Cookout (because we can only get this when we’re in the area) and we crashed back at Rachel’s. The following morning we went to the State Farmer’s Market for breakfast.



If you’re in Raleigh and need a good breakfast/lunch place, the State Farmer’s Market is the place to go! The line was out the door when we got there, but we only had to wait an hour for a table. It looked extremly busy from the outside!





Our Server, Daniel, was so good to us and made the wait enjoyable. He brought us biscuits and hush puppies, while keeping our coffee full.




Taylor enjoyed seeing all of his friends!




Once we were done eating, we walked through the Farmer’s Market.







We don’t get all the colorful leaves in Florida, so I made Taylor take a picture of me with the leaves.



The face of pure happiness 🙂


Once we got back from the State Farmer’s Market, we checked in on the pup and took her for a long walk. We were driving back up the following weekend, so we left Maybelle with Taylor’s mom for the week. This way we didn’t have to buy her another plane ticket.



We sat around on Sunday afternoon, thinking about what we wanted to do during the day, and we decided to grab some coffee at Cocoa Cinnamon, then walk around the gardens at Duke.





Walking through the gardens was the best way to spend a Sunday afternoon. The weather was perfect and the grounds were breathtaking. It was a relaxing Sunday and we were glad to see Duke’s campus!
































Going to the gardens and walking around Duke was the best decision we made on Sunday! It was difficult choosing which photos to use for this post, because they were all so beautiful.




To end the night, we drove into the city and ate dinner at Trophy Brewing Co with Rachel and Ben. We were flying out early the next morning, so we needed something quick and filling.



They had indoor and outdoor seating available, and the service was quick but relaxed. It wouldn’t make sense for us to travel somewhere and not order some pizza, so that’s what we did! I ordered the Margarita and Taylor split the Most Loyal with Rachel and Ben.



I’m so glad we travelled to Raleigh to see Clemson play and meet up with friends and family. It can be exhausting living in Florida with all the heat and humidity, so this was a nice break from it all. ❤


Short Weekend in Key West

Before Taylor and I moved to Northern Florida over a year ago, we dreamed of visiting the Florida Keys. On a good day, it’s at least an 8 hour drive from Gainesville. We aren’t moving any closer to the Keys, so now was the perfect time for us to go! Since we had a free weekend, we left early Friday morning and stopped at a rest station for a quick breakfast from Dunkin’.

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As soon as we crossed over the water and into Key Largo, we were starving! With Hurricane Irma happening not too long ago, we weren’t sure how bad the destruction would be. As we were driving around looking for a place to stop and eat, everything was closed due to destruction. There were piles and piles of debri along the side of the road and it was heartbreaking.







The damage was worse in some areas than others, and our hearts went out to the people of the Keys. After driving around and trying to find a place to eat that was open, we finally stumbled upon a small place called Boondocks. It wasn’t anything local or fancy, and the food was alright, but it was a nice break from the road.

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As soon as we stepped out of the restaurant, we noticed a line of traffic. What we didn’t know, was that there was a truck overturned 20 miles ahead, which dumped hundreds of gallons of oil all over the road and it was blocking both lanes. We barely crawled through traffic for FIVE HOURS. What was supposed to be an 8 hour drive to Key West, turned into a miserable THIRTEEN HOUR drive.



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The two of us were super bummed, because we were really counting on that night to explore the city. At one point when we were crawling through traffic, we were stopped next to an ice cream shop. Making the most of the situation, I ran inside and got us some yummy ice cream cones. I had enough time to go inside, purchase two ice cream cones, and make it back to the car before it moved again…

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We didn’t end up making it to our hotel until 10:30 that night. The receptionist at the desk was incredible and offered us free drinks upon arrival. He understood the traffic we’d just went through, and was more than sympathetic for us. Apparently, nobody had checked in that night because they were all stuck in that horrific traffic. After squaring things away at the desk, he personally showed us to our room and made sure we were comfortable.

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Our room was small, but very clean and comfortable. It was perfect for our short stay!


Although we were tired from the drive, we were eager to get out on our feet and find something to munch on. We decided to get a few drinks and some appetizers at the Waterfront Brewery, which was right on the harbor! Thankfully, it was only a few minutes away.


This place was fantastic!! Our server was amazing and the food and drinks were exactly what we needed. Taylor ordered the pretzels and I had the calamari! If we would’ve been in Key West longer, the two of us would’ve definitely returned.

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The next morning, we woke up early and hit the ground exploring! The great thing about our hotel was that it was within walking distance of everything. Our hotel also offered complimentary tea and coffee all day long, so that was an added bonus in my book! 🙂 The first thing we did, was walk to the most southern point of the United States.





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Typically, there is writing on the Southern Point marker, but they were in the middle of repainting it while we were there.



Once we were done looking at the view and taking our touristy pictures, we started walking around and looking at all the unique homes! People in Key West really enjoy celebrating Halloween, because almost all of them were decked out in Halloween decorations. Even our hotel was full of decorations! I believe the city was getting ready for a Fantasy Fest in the near future, which sounded huge!?


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After walking down Duval Street for a little bit, we were beginning to get hungry. We stumbled upon a cute place called, Two Friends. The place looked pretty busy, so we took it as a good sign!


I’m so glad that we chose to eat here, because it was SO YUMMY! Despite being busy, we were sat right away and the service was great.

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I ordered the bacon, mushroom, and swiss omelet, while Taylor ordered their strawberry, banana, french toast. Both were excellent!

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We didn’t have any set plans for the day, so we continued walking around Key West and exploring. Taylor ended up finding a local Rum distillery! If you enjoy rum, you need to check this place out! You can walk around the see them actually making the rum!





I’m not a rum drinker, but Taylor had a sample and said it was great!


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It was super hot while we were exploring, so we decided to go back to our hotel and relax by the pool. We booked our stay at the Eden House, which we found on booking.com. On our way back, we stopped at a local bakery for some sweet treats!

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We loved staying at the Eden House because it was so peaceful and relaxing. We were within walking distance of everything, and the people were so friendly. Each room was unique and very well kept.


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If we ever find ourselves in Key West again, we will definitely be staying here again. There are a few larger hotels on the island, but I’d recommend staying at a smaller place like a bed and breakfast.




Every day from 5-7, the Eden House has a free happy hour! We took advantage of that before getting ready and heading out for a night on Duval Street.







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We started our Saturday night out at Sloppy Joe’s! They had live music and fantastic drinks and appetizers!

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We ordered their mozzarella sticks and loaded fries!

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After about an hour or so, we walked to Irish Kevin’s! Here, we split a World Famous Green Alligator! It had blue carjack, limon run, sour mix and orange juice with a 151 rum floater. Not only was it tasty, but it came with the cup!

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As soon as we left Irish Kevin’s, it started to rain. While waiting for it to stop, we went into a nearby ice cream shop for a late night snack! Once the rain gave up and we walked back to our hotel, we grabbed our swimsuits and headed for the hot tub.

The next morning we had to check out and head back to Gainesville. As soon as we packed our bags and said a sad goodbye to the Eden House, we drove to the harbor for a quick breakfast.





We ordered food at the Cuban Coffee Queen and ate it on a bench beside the water! The food was amazing and it was my first time trying cuban coffee. Now I know why everyone raves about cuban coffee, because it was soooo good! Even Taylor liked it, and he doesn’t even drink coffee! 🙂




On our way out of Key West, we passed the Mile 0 sign and had to stop for a mini photo shoot!


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Although our trip to Key West was short, we had an amazing time exploring the small city and we hope to be back soon!



Family Trip to Canada & Maine

This year’s family vacation with Taylor’s family was to Bar Harbor, Maine. Our flight from Abu Dhabi flew into New York City, where we met half the group. From there, we rented a large van and headed up the coast towards Maine. During our drive, we made a very fun pit stop at L.L. Bean.



We’ve never been to an actual L.L. Bean store before, so we were very excited to check it out! This particular location in Freeport, Maine is the factory and where L.L. Bean began which was unique!


When we were finished shopping, we continued our drive to the town of Bangor. Most of this day was spent driving up the coast. When we finally made it to Maine, we rented an Airbnb for the night. Originally, we planned on staying at a hotel, but we realized that it was silly to pay $150 per room when we could spend that on an entire house! We were only there for the night, but it saved us a lot of money! You can find the listing HERE.


In the morning we drove from Bangor, Maine to Campobello Island in New Brunswick, Canada! We visited Roosevelt Campobello International Park, where we toured the Roosevelt summer cottage!



The Roosevelt summer cottage had the most beautiful views of the water and the interior was massive! We were really impressed with the home, and there were several tour guides inside to answer any questions we had.



The weather was perfect for exploring!







Once we were done walking around the summer cottage, we grabbed a quick lunch and drove to the Head Harbor Lightstation!




You can only reach this lighthouse during low tide. The structure has been around since 1829, but is still used as an active lighthouse, although it isn’t manned by anyone anymore.



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Once we were done exploring the lighthouse, we drove to Herring Cove Provincial Park. We wanted to relax and watch the water for a few minutes!

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While we were in Maine, we stayed in an amazing VRBO within Acadia National Park. There were 11 of us on this family vacation, so we needed something that would accommodate everyone, and this house was perfect!

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picture taken from VRBO.






picture taken from VRBO.

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picture taken from VRBO.


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picture taken from VRBO.









The massive open windows that spanned the back of the house made us feel like we were still outdoors. The owner of the property did an amazing job at making us feel comfortable and welcome during our entire stay. If you plan on taking a trip to Acadia National Park and need a large home for your family, PLEASE consider renting this home. It was a dream! If you aren’t traveling with a larger group, she also rents two tiny homes on the same property that are equally as cute.



Bar Harbor was exactly what you’d expect! Although it was fairly small, it was quaint and filled with charm. There were people roaming the streets and hanging out in the park, watching the boats come and go.




While we were visiting, we found out that blueberries were in season and the people of Maine REALLY love to put them in everything.


At almost every meal, someone was eating or drinking something blueberry!


And of course there was a lot of lobster consumed! It’s not a successful trip to Bar Harbor if you don’t eat fresh lobster.




When we were planning the family vacation, we had every intention on watching the sunrise on top of Cadillac Mountain. Being the highest peak on the Eastern Seaboard, it offers the very first glimpse of the sun each day. However, the weather was calling for rain, so we didn’t want to get up extremely early just to witness a thick fog.


Instead, we visited Cadillac Mountain during the day, and it was wonderful!



Although it was a little windy, the views were breathtaking! Everywhere we looked, there was another amazing view of the water. It felt like we could see for miles!



Once we were done exploring Cadillac Mountain, we took a walk on the beach. Some of us searched for cool shells to take home, while others enjoyed the view.



Just like the lighthouse, this beach is only accessible during low tide. The ground is completely covered in water during high tide. That’s why it’s extremely important to be aware of your tides when exploring the coast of Maine. As fast as the water lowers, is as fast as it can rise!


On a different day, we walked along the Ocean Path in Acadia National Park.


If you’re looking for a fun way to explore the park without exerting too much energy, the Ocean Path is perfect! It’s relatively flat, and there are several lookout points perfect for photos!


We didn’t plan to match, but as a newlyweds this is bound to happen. 🙂 We both are wearing our Buck Shoals teeshirts in support of Dalton’s band! They are super talented, so you should check them out on Apple Music or Spotify!


Along the Ocean Path, you’ll see Sand Beach, Otter Beach, and Thunder Hole.








If the tide and water current are just right, you will hear the waves crash into the rock and create a giant splash plus the sound of thunder. There’s a small viewing area where you can stand to see the waves crash into a small cave. When the air get’s trapped inside and the tide is right, it creates the large splash and the sound of thunder!








Once we were done walking the ocean path, we took a boat tour! This was such a fun and informative tour. There are tons of boat tours you can take while visiting Maine, and we’d recommend them. Just be warned that depending on the season, you may not see much. We saw a bunch of seals and a bald eagle, but that was about it for wildlife.




Our tour guide was fantastic though, and she gave us a ton of historical information and even taught us about how to catch lobster! All in all, I think we learned a lot on that boat tour!


It’s not everyday that you get the whole family together in another state! This was such a fun and memorable experience that I know we will all remember forever. Bar Harbor was adorable and Acadia National Park was stunning! Taylor and I love visiting National Parks, so we’d really love to come back and do some more exploring.


Ice cream is a staple on our family vacations with Grandma, and the blueberry ice-cream was untouchable!!


On a less serious note, we ended our family vacation with a laugh! On the way to the airport, we drove our van right into a ditch. We couldn’t get it out without fear of the van tipping over, so we had to call for professional help.

This is surely something we’ll laugh about forever! 🙂

Our Honeymoon in Abu Dhabi

One of the biggest questions we were asked on the day of our wedding was, “where are you going for your honeymoon!?” When we answered, “Abu Dhabi,” the immediate response we got was, “where is that?” Abu Dhabi is located in the Middle East, and is the capital of the United Arab Emirates. It is situated beside the Persian Gulf, south of Iran and shares a land border with Saudi Arabia and Oman. The popular city of Dubai is located about an hour and a half north of Abu Dhabi.


The day after our wedding we caught an early flight from Charlotte to New York City. From there, we flew 12 hours to the country of Qatar with Qatar Airways. This was the nicest, most comfortable international flight we’ve ever been on in our entire lives. We didn’t even fly first class! When we were booking our flights with Qatar several months ago, we threw around the idea of flying business class since it was our honeymoon. Looking back, we’re super glad we didn’t cave and spend the extra money! Honestly, we didn’t need to upgrade because economy seating was so nice! When we were checking into our flight at JFK, we mentioned that it was our honeymoon and they changed our seats! They gave us the option of choosing exit row seats or having a row with an empty seat between us. We chose the later option because it gave us more space without worrying about another person next to us.

With all the new movies and TV shows available at our seats, our flight passed by quickly. As soon as we arrived in Qatar, we took a short one hour flight across the Persian Gulf to Abu Dhabi. From there, we took a 30 minute taxi ride to the Emirates Palace.



This resort was exactly like it sounds, a palace. It was enormous and luxurious, making it the perfect place for us to honeymoon. Upon arrival, we were greeted and personally shown to our suite. One of the sweet receptionists showed us where everything was, and pointed out all the different amenities within our room.











One end of the Emirates Palace is dedicated to families and larger groups. The other end is for couples and those who want more privacy. To accommodate both ends, there are two swimming pools. The family friendly swimming pool has several waterfalls, a lazy river, a small park, and a large kiddie pool. We stuck to the pool on our side, which was very quiet and relaxing. They had large hammocks in and out of the pool, plus a swim up bar.








DCIM100GOPROGOPR2814.There was also a private beach along the Persian Gulf with stunning turquoise water!




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When Taylor found out that you could ride camels on the beach, he was sold on the idea of traveling to Abu Dhabi. He was SO EXCITED!



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When telling people that we were traveling to the Middle East, we got a lot of concern regarding safety. We stayed at the resort most days, but when we visited the Grand Mosque and walked around the city, we felt completely safe. The local people were so nice and welcoming, so it’s a place we would highly recomend traveling to!




When visiting the Grand Mosque, you’re required to dress conservatively. This means wearing something that covers your arms and legs. If you’re a women, you’ll need to wear a head covering as well. If you don’t have any of these items with you, you’ll be required to rent something when passing through security.







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fullsizeoutput_35ae.jpegThese are our, “why did we decide to tour during the hottest part of the day in Abu Dhabi” faces! :)


There are multiple 45 minute tours of the Grand Mosque available for free! If you don’t feel like participating in a tour group you can show yourself around, but you’re limited to what you can see and learn. Our tour guide gave us a detailed history of the Mosque and we really learned a lot! We’d highly recommend completing the tour rather than showing yourself around! The Grand Mosque was STUNNING!






Our time in Abu Dhabi was unforgettable. I’m really glad that Taylor encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and travel to a place that I’d never considered before. We were able to see a part of the world that some people will sadly, never get to see. Abu Dhabi was breathtaking and offered us culture and experiences that we’ll carry with us for the rest of our lives.


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If you ever find yourself desiring an adventure or an experience that will challenge you and force you to step outside of what you know, we’d highly recommend traveling to the Middle East. You won’t regret it! Or, if you’re looking for the perfect honeymoon destination, please consider the Emirates Palace!

Our Wedding Day!

This post would not be here if it weren’t for one thing. All the glory of this day goes to God! It’s hard to believe that Taylor and I have been together for four years now. Neither of us knew how God was working when he took a boy from South Carolina and a girl from Pennsylvania all the way out to Fort Collins, Colorado. We were both accepted to a seven week summer project with Campus Crusade for Christ. What most people don’t know, is that I applied to one project, and Taylor applied to three! Most students don’t get denied their first and second choice, but Taylor did, forcing him to go to Colorado that summer. From there, God started working in BIG ways, and here we are today!

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To begin, thank you so much to everyone who helped make our wedding day so special. Our engagement was roughly 9 months, and it took a lot of hard work and prayers to make everything come together just the way we wanted. We were so blessed to be surrounded by friends and family who traveled all across the United States to see us!!

On the morning of the wedding, it was stormy and the wind was being difficult. However, The Lord answered our prayers and opened up clear blue skies with a gentle breeze. Just in time to get married!!

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This sign was handmade by my beautiful bridesmaid, Lacie!

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Our “Plan A” didn’t include a tent for the ceremony. However, the event rental company told us that we had to make a decision 5 days beforehand. At that point, the weather was questionable. Although we didn’t want the tent originally, and we didn’t actually need it, it still looked okay!

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The letter S on the tree was handmade by me. I went to Hobby Lobby and purchased a giant wooden S, then purchased some fake flower heads from Amazon. I think it was the perfect touch for our ceremony!

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When planning all the little details, it was really important to Taylor and I that we incorporate our passion for traveling and the outdoors in a subtle way.

My parents and I hand made this wooden sign, which listed some of the different places that the two of us traveled to. We also borrowed an old suitcase from a family friend for the cards!

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The bridesmaid robes were purchased from the Etsy shop, LovinglyOurs. I was very impressed with the quality and customer service. They were shipped quickly and they fit each bridesmaid perfectly! I also really loved how there was a variety of colors to choose from and several fonts.

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The suits were ordered from Generation Tux. After being disappointed with the navy suits available at some stores, Taylor found Generation Tux online. We took a leap of faith by measuring each groomsmen by hand, but they all turned out great! There were a few minor sizing glitches, but the company sent replacements overnight. Each groomsmen received their tux two weeks before the wedding, and had a week afterwards to return it. Most companies don’t allow you to pick it up until a day before and they make you return it the very next day!!

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We thought it was only appropriate that the groomsmen enter by boat! 😉

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View More: http://marianashleyphoto.pass.us/taylor-and-ashleymay-28-2017

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My wedding gown and all of the bridesmaid dresses were ordered from David’s Bridal.

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