The Last Hurrah

I meant to post this earlier but this week got away from me — it’s been busy times! So, this is it! The last Cuba post, and then we’re back to regular life things.

Wednesday was our last full day in Cuba with everyone who was still around. Although I was sad that our Toronto friends and moms were gone, it was really nice to spend a full day with the crew that was left. Aside from Sean, they are the group that we don’t get to see very often, since they live on the other side of the country. I was looking forward to a day of hanging out with them, and it was just really nice. We kicked the day off right by renting scooters (Heather and Brent didn’t come for the scooter excursion, as they had already rented one earlier in the week).

Baddest bike gang on the block. Eric was a little, uh, unsteady at first since he had never driven a scooter before, so Kenya got on the back of Lisa’s and had a much better time. Eric got the hang of it really quickly though!

Oh boy, that is a beard and a half.

Unfortunately I had forgotten my driver’s license, which you needed to rent a scooter, so I saddled up with Evan. We all scooted around the Varadero strip for a couple hours and it was super fun.

A highlight for sure!

Dixon was loving his life on the back of Sean’s scooter, his luscious locks floating in the breeze.

We stopped at the large outdoor market and did a little shopping, and then we headed to the beginning of the peninsula, where the oldest resorts are, and stopped for a break at a pier. Pelican!

Lovers!

LOVED the scooters. It was so much fun ripping around on those.

After we dropped the scooters off, we headed to a little chocolate shop across the street from our resort. Ian told us they had amazing sundaes, and we were hot and ready for ice cream. Ian had really bigged the place up but I was not disappointed! My sundae was even better than I had imagined.

Lisa got a chocolate iced coffee and it was also exceptionally delicious.

It could have just been because we were hot but we loved it all.

After the chocolate fest we met up with Heather and Brent and the 10 of us had lunch together in the buffet. Then we changed into our bathing suits and headed straight to the beach. We spent the rest of the day there and I would give just about anything to be back there right now. Brent brought a kite!

Scott flying that puppy around behind us…

Aww, my baby brother.

The tide was really low that day and it left a sandy island in the middle of the water. We set up shop there for a while and it was glorious.

Evan wearing his wedding ring! And also wearing shorts, although they are being sneaky in that pic.

Dixon got buried.

He was a good sport about it.

This would have been a much better photo if my camera didn’t have water all over the lens, but you get the idea.

We met a group of Americans, two guys and a girl who were touring around Cuba, and they approached us for help finding their GoPro they had lost in the water. Evan and I actually had goggles with us so we let them borrow them and one of the guys found it right away. They said they could tell we were Canadian because we all stopped what we were doing immediately and got in the water to help them. And then when they gave my goggles back I lost those in the water, and none of them offered to help me find them so I could tell they were American (ohh, just kidding just kidding. But they didn’t.) We ended up hanging out with them for a couple hours, hearing about their Cuban adventures and of course talking about the differences in our politics (of which there are MANY).

They offered to take a group photo of us so we took them up on that.

CUBAAAAAA. I love this pic.

At 6pm Evan and I met with Alex, our photographer, in the lobby. All our wedding photos were ready! He had all our pictures on a memory stick (that they had put in a wooden puzzle box with a Cuban flag on it, so that was cute), our videos on a hard drive, and a personalized album with 24 prints. We were so impressed. Alex went through all the photos with us on his Macbook and I may have cried. I couldn’t believe how amazing the pictures were and how quickly we got them. I was so happy.

Then we showered and headed out on the town with our pals. We took three cabs off the resort to a nearby restaurant where we had reservations.

I think the girls had the best car. Pink lightning!

This is what happens in a convertible when you have long hair.

The guys had sweet rides too, though.

We went to Paladar Nonna Tina, an Italian restaurant that Evan and I also went to last year (and he also went earlier in the trip with all the guys) and it has really great food! It was such a lovely family dinner!

And we had an album full of wedding photos with us. Evan and I waited until we were with everyone to look at them so we had a viewing session with the group and that is honestly one of my favourite memories. I love that we got to show our beautiful pictures to that group while eating delicious food and drinking all the beer. Fun times.

We ordered a large olive oil focaccia and two giant pizzas for the table (all delicious) and I ordered the spaghetti bolgonese.

Really good but after the pizza and some of Evan’s gnocchi (REALLY good) I was so full and couldn’t finish it all.

There is a sweet pink cadillac that I had seen driving up and down the street not only this year, but last year as well, and it was my dream to ride in it. That night my dream came true.

We got in there!

It was just as fun as I hoped it would be and the guy even played Summer of ’69 for us as we cruised back to our resort. It was pretty groovy.

Brent, Eric and Dixon ended up in one of the cars that drove us to the restaurant.

And Evan, Scott and Sean somehow ended up in a horse and buggy. They ate our dust. Byeeeeeeee.

Hey girrrrrlllllls.

We ended our night at the Beatles bar, because OF COURSE. There was a different band that night and I was digging them.

I LOVED this girl, she was killing it!!!

I wanted to be her friend.

And the guitar player was really into it.

Our new American friends met us there. We really liked Ashley in the red shirt.

But then the two guys who were with her got sort of weird (pretty sure they were just really drunk), so we didn’t end up hanging around with them for too long.

Sistas.

Once we were back in our rooms packing to leave in the morning, Heather and Brent called us and asked if we wanted to go swimming in the ocean with them. Um, YES. I had my bathing suit on and was ready to go in about 30 seconds. I hadn’t been swimming in the ocean at night that whole trip and it needed to happen. It was a full moon and the water was so beautiful, it was such a good way to end the best trip ever!

I still can’t believe how much fun we had. Ah, I want to go back and do it all again. I’m still hearing stories about things that happened that I didn’t personally witness. And we had quite a large group with us so I’m impressed that everyone got along so well and there was no intergroup drama or conflict or anything (not that I expected that but you never know). Just good times all around. We have a reunion coming up this summer at Brad and Brennie’s cottage and I already can’t wait!

 

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La Habana

Our amazing Cuban wedding photographers, AV Smile, had several add-ons to the packages they offered, one of them was a photo session in Havana for an extra $200. We figured why not. We’re here, and we’re already spending all this money (although our photographers were very reasonable and so beyond amazing for the price we paid), and we’re never going to have the chance again to traipse around Havana obnoxiously in our wedding attire. It is an amazing city. We did a private tour last year that I never ended up blogging about, because we saw SO MUCH in one day that I was just overwhelmed. I wanted to do it justice and I didn’t know where to start.

Anyway, we decided to do it. I woke up at 6am on Tuesday after the catamaran day, had my bestie curl my hair and help me get into my wedding dress (THANK YOU AGAIN LISA!!!), and then we waited for Alex (the main photographer) in the lobby. All our Toronto friends and our moms were leaving that morning so it was cute that I got to hang out with them for a bit in my wedding dress before they left.

Alex brought a driver and an assistant lighting guy with him. They picked us up in a classic car, and we were off!

Havana is about a two hour drive from Varadero, but the entire way is beautiful and interesting — there is so much to see! The time flew by. I should probably tell you to get ready for a ton of pictures, though considering my posts over the last couple of weeks you should be prepared by now. We had over 200 pictures from Havana and I’ve cut it down to only about 50 for this, which was so hard. Our pictures are all so amazing, it’s hard to pick favourites! Again, they’re all by Alex at AV Smile.

We started in Old Havana in the Plaza 13 de Marzo, and our first photos were in front of the Museum of the Revolution, which is a former presidential palace. We canoodled around in that area for a bit.

And it was INSANELY. BEAUTIFUL.

What a scene to stumble upon. Our photographer Alex is so ridiculously talented. I still can’t believe it’s us in these pictures.

So many people clapped and cheered or waved at us, or yelled congratulations, we felt like celebrities! I remember a man yelling to us “I am so happy to see you today!” The people of Cuba are so nice!

It was really nice to just chat and, well, kiss and whatever, even though we had an audience. We were in such a beautiful place and it felt really romantic. We also didn’t get to spend a lot of time alone in Cuba, since there were people around us all the time, so this was something we got to do just the two of us. I’m so glad we did it.

We walked over to the edge of the Castillo de San Salvador de la Punta (a fortress in the Bay of Havana), right beside Playa Malecon (a local beach), and resumed the photo fest there.

We were taking pictures right across from the Castillo de los Tres Reyes Magos del Morro or just Morro Castle, which is a popular symbol Havana (we actually toured it last year). It first saw action in 1762 in the Battle of Havana, and the lighthouse that was added in 1846 totally photobombed our picture.

We did not know what was happening and Alex and his assistant were looking at the picture after and just dying laughing. Alex showed me and said “Show this to your girls, they’ll like it.” Yes, yes they would. He only spent a day with them but he knows them well. But I feel like everyone can appreciate it.

The lighthouse got Photoshopped out of the next one.

So we have one we can send to family 😉

Skyline of new Havana!

After that we walked over to Paseo del Prado, a street designed in 1772 and the dividing line between old and new Havana.

I do not know what building this is, but it’s a beauty.

Rawr.

The street itself is quite an attraction, and is considered to be the most beautiful street in Havana.

I’m gonna have to agree with that.

The building in the below photos is a schoolhouse! Alex asked the teachers if we could walk through to go up onto the balcony, and that was quite the interesting experience. It was currently recess so the kids were all playing in a courtyard and no one was in the classroom we walked through to get onto the balcony, but there was some pretty difficult-looking math on the chalkboard. I did not envy those kids.

I love, love, love that Alex got the school kids playing in the doorway below us. That is one of my favourites.

After Paseo del Pravo we got back in the car to go to the National Ballet of Cuba (or Ballet Nacional de Cuba), which looks like this from the outside and is just incredible. The inside, too.

I felt like Cinderella in there!

Ugh, so beautiful.

We almost blend right into the background in this one.

This one was taken outside of the old Bacardi Building.

And this one inside.

It is also magnificent, as seriously every single building in Havana seems to be.

You can see El Capitolio, the National Capital Building of Havana (currently under renovations and they’re moving the government offices back into it), behind us in the below picture.

And the Great Theatre of Havana (or Gran Teatro de la Habana).

Alex actually went inside the theatre and up onto a balcony for these next shots.

I love them!

The pictures below were taken where this old building had its side ripped off and the inside was now exposed. Alex was like “This is a beautiful spot but there are piles of caca in there and it’s a bit stinky, do you feel comfortable?” The bottom of my dress was already destroyed by that point so why not. Alex told me to lift my dress up, and in we went (I dropped my dress back down in a clean-ish spot for the pictures).

There were literally a few piles of crap behind us and Evan asked me “do you think this is human or animal?” We got our answer a few seconds later when some random dude dropped his pants, squatted behind a pillar beside us and took a big caca. I did not know what was happening until after the pictures were taken or I think I would have looked a bit more horrified.

I should probably burn my dress now, but the pictures are so beautiful I’m gonna say it was worth it.

Back to the Capitol building.

After that the driver picked us all back up and took us into more of the interesting alleyways of Old Havana, the area surrounding Plaza Vieja (or the Old Square).

The lighting guy carried my Wifey purse all through the city all morning, which greatly pleased me, mainly so we could get this shot:

I appreciated it.

Just dancing in the street.

I almost didn’t wear my wedding dress for this because I was thinking “how many photos of myself do I really need in a wedding dress?” But I am so, so glad I did. The pictures would not have been the same without it!

Old Havana has four squares, Plaza de la Catedral (Cathedral), Plaza de San Francisco, Plaza de Armas (Arms) and Plaza Vieja (Old Square). This is Plaza Vieja — it’s been around since 1559 and has been the site of executions, processions, bullfights and fiestas (source). And now our wedding photos.

The little girl beside Evan in the below photo was smiling and waving at us, it was cute.

After that we were pretty done with pictures. It was HOT and we both felt exhausted. We stopped for the best ice cream of our lives (this could have also been because we were hot and thirsty) at a little cart in the square. It was served in half a coconut and it only had coconut milk, coconut water, and shredded coconut in it. We bought some for Alex and his assistant as well and the four of us sat around eating and chatting for a while. Alex and his wife come to Toronto fairly often so we told them next time we’re having them over for dinner!

Alex has a really great eye for photos and was telling us that he doesn’t like to take the same picture twice, he likes to go to new areas and find cool shots that jump out to him. Right before we got in the car to go home, a spot jumped out to him, and he took this:

I was so done with photos by that point but I’m so glad he got it. He was also so good with posing us and telling us what to do. If it weren’t for him you know I’d just be skinny-arm posing my way around the city.

What a day. And I just want to mention if you’re ever in Cuba and looking for a Havana tour, I HIGHLY recommend Blexie’s Havana Tours. Blexie took us last year (I talk a little bit about him in this post from last year), and he also took Emily and Corey this year, and his colleagues Bill and Roly took Dawn and Mark and Eric, Kenya and Dixon. You get an entire day in Havana with a private tour guide and a driver in an old car (we had a cherry red ’57 Chevy when we went) and it’s almost the same price as the bus tour and SO. MUCH. BETTER. Go there!!

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Cruisin’ on the Catamaran

Sadly, Monday was our last day with the group from Toronto. They were all leaving Tuesday morning and Evan and I were not leaving with them. We extended our trip by two days because the flights from Calgary and Vancouver got changed and they arrived two and three days after us, and we wanted to spend more time with Lisa, Scott, Heather, Brent, Eric, Kenya and Dixon. And Sean, he also arrived on Thursday. But we had a full day on the catamaran, so we had a fun time ahead!

The bus picked us up at 8:15am to take us to the catamaran, and let me tell ya I was not feeling it when I woke up at 7:30 that morning. I was just a little tired from the whole wedding thing the day before. But I put on my game face and my favourite mermaid bathing suit and I got on that boat, and I’m so glad. I had the best day. It was sunny, the water was beautiful, the drinks were a’flowin (open bar was included in the price of our catamaran excursion) — that is a recipe for a great day.

Sherrie is the brave one sitting on the very front up there.

Not everyone came but we had about 26 of us, including the moms, so it was a good turn out.

Heather and I getting our sun on.

I never really burned but I tanned very extremely, so much on my back and shoulders that my tan just peeled off like a snakeskin. Leaving me rejuvenated underneath? I’m not sure it works like that, and I’m sure that isn’t great but I did wear sunscreen every day so, what can ya do.

Sherrie driving the boat!

Emily and Corey unfortunately didn’t make it (long story) so the captain’s hat that Brad brought was sort of an ode to our Emily.

We’re on a boat!

About 20 minutes into our ride the crew said there was an emergency and they needed everyone to come inside immediately. An emergency DANCE PARTY.

Will liked!

It was the biggest catamaran I’ve ever been on. There were a lot of seats, which was great ’cause our moms mostly parked themselves in the shade and enjoyed the view. Of the sea, and of us being ridiculous.

Dixon getting his tan on like the bronzed god he is.

We tried to get another Cartwright High School pic but we got photobombed.

About an hour into our sail it was snorkel time.

Varadero isn’t really known for snorkelling — Holguin and even Cayo Coco are known to have better reefs, but it wasn’t bad. Snorkelling is fun anywhere, and we saw some nice fishies.

Hey girl.

Hey Dylan.

I saw a conch shell on the bottom so I mermaided down to retrieve it, as one does, and when I brought it up to the surface I realized it was HUGE. Like the biggest conch shell I’ve ever seen. And it had a critter living in it. I had to put ‘er back, no one likes a reef ravager.

We snorkelled for about half an hour or so and then it was back on the boat. I got to drive this time.

Actually the captain did leave me there by myself for few minutes, I told him I was capable since I’ve driven a houseboat. It’s the same, probably.

I didn’t know where we were going so I just kept it straight and blew the horn a bunch of times.

After a few hours of sailing the ocean we pulled up to Cayo Blanco, a beautiful island off of Matanzas, Cuba.

Hannah and I got adventurous on the front with Sherrie as we approached.

Once we got off the boat we immediately all headed to lunch, which was included in the price of our trip.

It was extensive, there was even lobster, and it was so good!

And there was live music, because it’s Cuba and there’s live music everywhere.

After lunch we headed to the beach and set up shop near the coolest little bar with THE BEST pina coladas.

We got a bit of leisuring in.

We spent the next couple of hours hanging out on the sand and in the water. Some sand castle building went down.

Evan’s contribution was the outhouse.

It had the best landscaping of the entire castle for sure.

Cayo Blanco has a beautiful beach.

And Dixon has beautiful hair.

That he needed to brush.

It’s a beautiful beach but I don’t think it’s quite as nice as Varadero Beach where our resort was. That is truly one of the nicest beaches I’ve seen in my life and I feel like I’ve been spoiled for all beaches now. This one did come close, but it was also more busy.

While we were swimming there was a group of exceptionally beautiful people frolicking in the water beside us and filming everything with a GoPro (think thongs and bathing suit leg holes that go up to your armpits). Joel ended up talking to them, because Joel ends up talking to everyone, and he discovered that they were famous instagrammers and Virgin had paid for them all to come here and film themselves looking young and footloose and fancy free. That is living the dream. Once we found that out we may have put a wrench into their beautiful video footage plans. Dawn and Heather swam behind them and started doing high leg kicks and such, which I’m sure looked just as gorgeous as their slow motion frolicking.

Good times at Cayo Blanco.

And then it was back to the catamaran to sail back to Varadero.

We had quite the treat on the way back — we saw dolphins!

At least three of them came and swam beside the boat and were jumping out of the water. It was so amazing.

Of course, none of my pictures are great. It was so cool to see though.

And then one of the dolphins accidentally jumped into the side of the boat and then they all sort of got awkward for a minute, and then they swam away. We were saying later that the dolphins were probably like “Ugh, way to freakin’ go, Carl! We were being all graceful and then you had to jump into the boat and make us all look like IDIOTS.” I’m sure that’s how it went.

My mom was super excited about the dolphins!!!

It was a highlight for sure.

I made new friends on the way back, and they let me drive again.

It was a really fun day.

The lady behind us starting just dying laughing after she photobombed us. I thought she did something really ridiculous in the photo but nope, just her presence.

It wasn’t a super party catamaran, and actually Brennie said it was the first time she’s ever been on a catamaran where everyone was still able to walk off the boat at the end. But I was okay with that. I like being able to walk.

As soon as we got back to our resort we all headed to the pool to meet up with our friends who didn’t come on the catamaran. It was the last hurrah.

We took over the shallow end and there were many shenanigans.

I do not often see Joel get picked up, so that was a treat.

There may have been a few chicken fights.

I just watched from afar (Evan would never put me on his shoulders in such shallow water, are you kidding? he likes safety) and it was highly entertaining.

I think Brennie, our parental supervisor, was the ultimate winner in her white bikini!

Thank you Evan for your feet.

Leg party.

Aw, Sarah.

What a freakin’ time.

When the pool closed we headed down to the beach to swim in the ocean for a bit.

Evan and I had a pretty early night since we had a big day in Havana on Tuesday, but it was a great last day with the whole group!

I love them! What a time with them all. I am so glad we had a destination wedding and forced them all to come party with us for an ENTIRE WEEK!!! I will never forget it!

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Our Varadero Wedding: Dinner + Reception

Again all photos by AV Smile – Cuban Wedding Photography and Videography, and you can absolutely tell when their photos stop and mine start in this post.

After the photo fest it was party time!

I loooooooved that we got to have the reception in the Italian restaurant (where we had dinner the second night), which is open to the ocean and beach and has a beautiful view.

After our guests were seated we did the big bridal party entrance, always a popular event. No one had quite as spectacular of a fail as I did back in the day, but it was very entertaining. We had everyone come in to “Let’s Get Married” by Jagged Edge. That song just reminds me of high school. Joel, our emcee, introduced everyone, and Joanna and Jeff were first up.

Hannah and Eric’s big entrance.

Sherrie and Ian.

Dawn and Mark, and they did an ode to my piggyback!!!

Theirs worked out, however.

Corey and Emily, and I did not know they did the Royal wave so I died laughing when the photographers showed us the pictures a couple days later.

They kill me.

And Lisa and Sean, just under the “Continues” sign!

He just started crazy dancing and she wasn’t expecting it. The video of this is even better than the picture.

And Mr. and Mrs. Evan Evanoff!

I accidentally hiked my dress up so high (stairs were tricky) that you almost saw my something blue.

Dinner time!

But first, our emcee Joel welcomed everyone and did a speech and toast. I met Joel on my first day of Grade 9 and he talked about how Emily and I immediately befriended him.

And then he went on about what an irresponsible driver I was in high school (weren’t we all?). And also about the baby squirrel that five-year-old Eric found in our yard that Joel’s dad ended up taking home, and that squirrel lived in their house for three years, in a giant cage that took up an entire wall in their living room, and the squirrel hated Joel and would try to pee on him when he walked by the cage. So, touching things, really. Just heartwarming stories.

As he was speaking they served our first course, shrimp cocktail. Again, I am not sure where they got the food for this because much like our appetizers, it was miles better than what was in the buffet all week. But I’m not complaining! The shrimp cocktail even had a curry sauce in it!

Next up we had French onion soup which was honestly DELICIOUS, and Ian and Jeff’s toast.

Their speech was heartfelt and funny. They talked about how they were all nerds together in high school and how I bring a new energy to Evan that they’ve never seen before. That seemed to be a big theme. Evan said afterwards that yep, I bring him up to where he needs to be, and he brings me down to almost where I need to be. Hahaha.

After our main course was served (chicken and potatoes and rice and vegetables, also really good), it was time for the bridesmaids to do their thing.

They each did a poem about memories with me, and they all connected to each other. Every single one of them killed me. It was hilarious and I loved every second of it.

I felt so loved!

Then there was Sean. Ohhh, Sean. He also talked about how he and Evan were big nerds in high school (Evan fist pumped and yelled “broadcast club!” when he said this) and how they were so well-liked by their teachers that they were actually allowed to have the keys to the school so they could stay late every Thursday night and work on their school’s Friday video announcements.

I don’t know why we look so sombre here, he was funny. I love it. He also closed it with a very serious piece of advice: don’t leave anything to interpretation. That really resonated with me.

And then, Lisa. A speech I’ve been looking forward to for years.

She nailed it. Her MOH speech was perfect. She talked about how she was actually my first love, and how we met skating on the lake. She said I skated confidently over to her in my Mickey Mouse sweatshirt over my stirrup pants and introduced myself. I can’t imagine how tough her speech must have been to write because we have so many inside jokes over the 25 years we’ve known each other. But her speech was funny to everyone (not just us), and she said wonderful things about Evan also (like how he always makes sure that not only am I safe and good, but also that she is, and that all my friends who are with me are). I loved.

I’m going to have to write a MOH speech for her pretty soon so I think I might just take hers and reverse it. Just kidding, I’ve been writing that in my head for 25 years.

She also gave me the notebook she had been writing her speech in with all her renditions and edits in it. I was not expecting that and I was touched!

I just want to pause here and say that I love how our photographers got so many amazing candid shots but they weren’t invasive at all.

Next up we have Eric. He can just stand there and not say anything and I’m already laughing.

Eric winged it and he was such a natural. He talked about how close we are despite the distance (and the 10 year age gap) between us, and about the time I dropped him accidentally and he lost his two front teeth. And he talked about all the things I taught him, like his first jager shot. And all the things he learned from Evan like “fishin’ and boatin’ and…tilin'”(his words).

Certainly boating, I have the proof right here from the first time he and Kenya came to the cottage:

Nothing janky about putting a motor on a paddle boat.

Eric made me cry and then cry with laughter.

Evan’s mom also spoke briefly, about how welcoming our “wacky friends” had been all week. It was cute. They are quite wacky. My mom didn’t do a speech in front of everyone, but I heard that she took each one of my friends aside and personally thanked them for being so wonderful to me over the years. They were all moved by that, and so was I.

Evan and I also did a quick speech, aaand all the photos look like this because this is what I look like when I’m happy and talking.

I talked about how you need to just persevere with the online dating, because you may need to wade through some murky waters in the beginning. Sometimes people don’t exist, and sometimes people don’t eat, but then sometimes people are Evan, and look what happens. I also talked about how thankful we were to have everyone with us in Cuba, and how it was especially meaningful for us because we had gotten engaged in the ocean in front of that restaurant almost exactly one year before at almost exactly the same time of day. Evan echoed my sentiment about how great it was to have everyone there with us and how we loved seeing all our friends having such a good time all week long. And then he got a little choked up and had to stop, which was adorable. CHEERS TO OUR FRIENDS!!!!

We had dessert but I can’t remember what it was or if it was good. I was on a high.

Then we cut the cake.

To the most fitting song, I think, Cake By The Ocean. I am obviously singing in this photo.

We didn’t think to inquire about a knife so we just cut the cake with a butter knife.

There were also no forks around so I just put a piece of cake on the end of the butter knife and fed it to Evan. And then he was going to feed me but I forgot and almost just fed myself, whoops. I get things done.

That cake actually never got served, but Cuban cake is sort of weird anyway. It’s not as sweet as our cakes and it has a bit of a jelly consistency, so no big loss there. Plus we had already eaten dessert.

And then, our first dance. We danced to Lost Together by Blue Rodeo. I love that song so, so much. We also slow danced to it at their concert last summer so it means a lot to us.

I am serenading Evan in most of the photos of our first dance so my mouth is open and I look like a big idiot. This picture that Sarah took is probably my favourite.

Right before my favourite part of the song, when the strings come in, we called everyone onto the dance floor to finish the dance with us.

I loved seeing random dancing partners, like Dixon and Shanondoah, and Brent and Michelle, who definitely all met like the day before. It warmed my heart.

And here I am serenading…

After our first dance we did a mom’s dance to Heart of Gold by Neil Young (one of my all time favourites).

After we each danced with our own mom, we switched it up.

Cookie and I definitely sang to each other the whole time.

And then we again called all our friends onto the dance floor.

And we spent the next hour there.

My song with my mom has always been Fishin’ In The Dark (because we used to go fishing in the dark when I was younger), and I found out years ago that it is also Sherrie’s song with her dad AND they made up a dance to it! She taught it to me, and now we’re both pros at it.

So we taught people on the dance floor. Hannah was digging.

I did a bouquet toss, but I tossed it to EVERYONE for luck, not just the single ladies.

Sherrie, that tall drink of water, totally nabbed it.

And Lisa’s face behind her is my favourite.

She almost had it!

Lisa is another good friend from elementary (and high) school and I am so so glad her and Dennis could make it!!!

Michelle, Casey and Shanondoah, the beautiful bloggers and lagers!

The reception had to end by 9pm as they had limited speakers and they needed them for the nightly entertainment, so for the last song, our last hurrah, we played Summer of 69 by Bryan Adams.

And something happens to me when Summer Of 69 is playing…

If I’m feeling the guitar solo, then I cannot stop myself from pulling out my signature move. The dance floor air guitar.

It’s a spectacle even when not in a wedding dress, but the wedding dress definitely added a little something (padding for my knees, for sure).

Cheryl, my fellow Jambon!

Legs for days, Heather!

…and Brent.

My favourite picture of Kim of all time:

Eric and Kenya…

Kim and Dylan…

Sherrie and Will…

After the official reception I changed into a shorter white dress and we all met in the lobby bar for an after party. I was going to bring the rest of my wedding playlist but they were actually playing really good music in there that night! And of course Randy was there. He’s everywhere!

That Randy just kills me.

I felt a lot less awkward than I look in that photo.

We got a picture of our Cartwright High School crew!

Just missing Crystal, sadly (and Crystal, we really missed you!).

After the lobby bar we went to, where else, the Beatles Bar!

I don’t know who this man is but I like him.

I don’t know whose kimono he’s wearing either. And I did not realize how nunga-tastic that dress is until I saw pictures later.

There was a new singer we hadn’t seen before!

He looked a bit out of place there, compared to everyone else in tight jeans and leather ensembles, but he was decent!

Oh man, it was a time.

We walked home from the bar with Kim and Dylan and we ran into the Stand By Me man. He was in the street with his guitar every night and when you approached him he would just start into “When the NIGHT. HAS COME. And the way is dark…” and sing the entire song to you. It was wonderful. Evan and I danced to it on this night.

And then Kim and Dylan paid for him to serenade us with another song and I am kicking myself because I can’t remember what song it was. I do remember it being a beautiful moment though.

It was just the most perfect day and I never wanted it to end.

I love those two pictures (and all the pictures!!!) so much!

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Our Varadero Wedding: Ceremony + Photos

Once again I have a million photos, and once again they are all from AV Smile unless I specify otherwise (and I’m pretty sure you should get married in Cuba just so they can take photos of you).

I left you yesterday at the start of the ceremony. We had the bridal party walk down in pairs and I’m really glad we did that because it was a bit of a long walk. We had to walk the path above the beach first (but I liked that!), and we figured no one wanted to walk by themselves. The bridal party walked down to Somewhere Over the Rainbow by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, but the Piano Guys version (I will do a separate post about wedding music at some point).

Eric was walking me down the aisle so Jeff and Joanna took Hannah along with them.

Mark and Dawn, because obviously. And I love that they held hands the whole way down the path to the beach.

Sherrie and Ian.

The lovers Emily and Corey.

And Lisa and Sean, who sort of took over the role o best man in Brotherman’s absence.

And he took it very seriously.

My dad unfortunately couldn’t make it to Cuba (he walked me down the aisle during our Toronto ceremony), but Eric and I are very close so it felt fitting to have him by my side. Once the bridal party made it to the beach and I heard the first chords of Jack Johnson’s Better Together (because OF COURSE!)  it was time to get down there. (we used this instrumental version of Better Together.)

I was excited.

Because we had to walk along the top of the beach, everyone on the beach all stood and clapped and cheered for us as we walked by them. I felt like a celebrity!

Trying to catch a glimpse of my groom…

I loved how they had the ceremony area set up, I didn’t even know it was going to look like that.

To the left of the ceremony area is the public beach so a lot of locals were hanging out there and they had all crowded around to watch. As soon as we stepped onto the beach they started cheering for us, so I started cheering back at them and that is what’s happening in this picture:

I also saw Randy, Mikey (Sexy Position), a few others who worked at the resort, and also a few other people we had met during the week and it made me so happy that they all wanted to come see the wedding. I felt like Rose on the Titanic at the very end when she goes back to the ship and sees everyone who had an impact on her, and then Jack is waiting at the staircase. I saw everyone who made our stay such a great time and then my groom was there waiting for me!

Eric asked me what he was supposed to do when he handed me over to Evan and I said to shake his hand and then maybe stroke his cheek. I was half joking about the cheek stroke but he totally did it and Evan didn’t really know what was happening which was hilarious.

Kenya was taking pictures with my phone and she got a shot of it in action.

Made me laugh pretty hard.

I liked that they set it up so Evan and I could walk down the rest of the aisle together.

Hiiiii.

Our officiant was the resort’s PR coordinator, Elimay, who we had been working with us that week to plan out the details.

She did a great job, although no one except for Evan and I could hear her speaking.

But it was super short (which was also a good thing since everyone was in the sun and no one had seats) and not overly personal, but that was fine because our Toronto officiant Heather totally knocked that ceremony out of the park and I felt like nothing would ever be able to top it. The Cuba ceremony was still sweet and funny and I couldn’t stop smiling.

When Elimay asked us to say our I Dos she had us yell them so our guests could hear which made everyone cheer and it makes me cry every time I watch the video of it. I really, really loved that we got to do this again with our friends.

I didn’t realize that the photographers mic’d Elimay and were recording her words (possibly with an iPhone or something) so that in the video of the ceremony you can hear everything she says clearly. I’m so glad we have that because otherwise I wouldn’t remember.

And then she pronounced us husband and wife. Yay married!

And then we realized we forgot to exchange rings. So, we took care of that.

What’s so crazy is there were so many people behind us on the beach and in the water watching the ceremony in their bathing suits, some of them were even taking photos and videos! The photographers edited them all out and you can’t  even tell anyone was behind us in any of our pictures (they are still there in the video). That is some serious photoshopping skills.

I want to know who Evan is smiling so cheekily at in that photo.

Although it was a symbolic ceremony we still signed a certificate, which was really funny because it had these hilarious drawings of a bride and groom on it.

And then we got to toast.

I didn’t know this was going to happen, but I liked it.

And that was that! Married! We took our wedding bands off after the Toronto wedding and didn’t put them on again until after the Varadero ceremony, so now it felt official official.

I love that heart of flowers. It stayed there indefinitely after the ceremony and for the rest of the week we saw people on the beach taking pictures in it.

The picture below might be my favourite from the whole day, and Kenya took it on my phone! One thing we did remember to bring was bubbles for our guests to blow during the ceremony — I love that she got the bubbles in this pic!

And she also captured the beach-goers behind us, which adds to the ambience. Doesn’t everyone want to see a handful of shirtless men on their wedding day?

Aw, Dawn and her mom.

When the ceremony ended we immediately took a group photo with everyone.

What a fun bunch of people. Seriously, we could not have asked for a better group with us. Everyone got along so well and I feel like EVERYONE is just friends now, even if they didn’t know each other before. And I love that Lisa and Dennis and Phil and Allison could make it to the wedding, even though they were staying at different resorts. It makes me a little teary when I think of all the people who travelled so far to spend our wedding with us.

After the group photo we got a couple family shots. The moms!

Family pic!

Evan and his mommers.

And more of the bridal party.

And the groomsmen and bridesmaids together.

I wasn’t surprised when they picked Evan up like this because it’s sort of our signature move…

I was surprised when they attempted this though.

It didn’t last long. MAN DOWN!

Immediately after the ceremony we had a cocktail hour with canapés.

It was some of the best food we had all week. Alex, the photographer, told us later that it was a really big deal that the resort put out nuts and dried fruit for this, since both are really hard to get in Cuba and especially rare to find on a resort.

I did not want to ever leave those snacks. We chatted with our guests for a few minutes, I shoved about five little toasts in my mouth, and then we headed out onto the streets of Varadero with our bridal party to get some photos.

This man wanted a knuckle sandwich.

We started at the Beatles Bar, and we got a very fitting photo of Evan scolding me for touching the do-not-touch Beatles statue.

That is a very accurate representation of our relationship.

Right beside the Beatles Bar is Josone Park, so we frolicked around in there for a bit. It’s a really beautiful park and I highly recommend checking it out if you’re in Varadero.

Corey’s floating head kills me in this one…

We have some creepers…

We told the guys that they needed to do sexy positions to make Mikey proud.

They did not disappoint.

Do not ask me what Mark and Corey are up to.

Tres romantique!

More canoodling.

I love love love any photos with the old cars!

After the picture fest we walked back to the resort to have dinner and party with our friends! I’ll talk about the reception later but at sunset the photographers brought us down to the water for MORE PICS. It was especially meaningful to Evan and I since it was right where we got engaged almost exactly one year before, and at the same time of day. I love all of the pictures and I’m sure you’re done with them by now but I have no shame. I have about 400, what else am I gonna do with them?

You know we had to do the cheesy sunset heart. Had to.

And we had to get an engagement reenactment.

We were in the water for the actual engagement though.

And we got a couple with our friends!

White people can’t jump.

Except Joanna. She needs to teach everyone her ways.

It was such a wonderful day.

Reception to come.

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Our Varadero Wedding: Details + Getting Ready

Sunday was wedding day!

I’m going to start with getting ready and the stuff before the actual wedding. I have a million pictures and it seems like the best way to split it up. So, get ready for a ton of pictures. But who doesn’t love wedding pictures?

All photos unless I specify otherwise are by AV Smile, Cuban Wedding Photography and Videography. Alex, Vianca (hence the AV) and their team were AMAZING. Hiring them was the best decision of our lives (aside from getting married). We had a team of five at our resort for the wedding — Alex and his wife Vianca, two videographers, and a lighting guy. Not only did they take beautiful pictures but we had all the edited photos, from both the wedding day and a shoot we did with them a couple days later in Havana, an edited video DVD of the entire day, as well as all the raw footage in case we want to make our own video (we both have video editing experience), and a personalized photo album (with our names on it) including 24 8.5×11 prints in THREE. DAYS. They had editors working overnight to make sure we got everything before we left Cuba. AND they were so nice and wonderful to work with. We were blown away. I feel so, so lucky.

THE DETAILS

First of all, my dress!

I wore a different dress in Cuba than I did for the Toronto wedding. My dress is this one by Morilee Madeline Gardner, in champagne. I loved it so much. I felt really comfortable (and beautiful) in it and it was breezy and light, perfect for the beach.

I also added this belt, to both dresses.

My shoes were like $10 from Ardene and they were super comfy with a little bit of bling.

For the ceremony on the beach the bridesmaids and I all wore these barefoot sandals that I got on Etsy.

On my head I wore a starfish/seashell crown that I also got on Etsy.

Since Evan proposed in a clam shell, in the ocean right where the ceremony was taking place, we put the rings in a clasped clam shell that belonged to Evan’s nana.

I’m not usually a fan of wedding detail shots, and maybe I’m biased because these are mine, but I thought the photographers got exceptionally beautiful shots of everything.

My mom gave me the pearl earrings I wore a couple years ago, and the Starfish necklace was also an Etsy find.

My wifey clutch was from Aldo accessories.

Lisa got me a beautiful bracelet for the Toronto wedding that I wore again in Cuba — it’s a spoon (a big inside joke with us because the neighbourhood’s bully was nicknamed Spoon when we were growing up), and they made the spoon part into a mermaid tail!

I love it.

And the flowers!

They are fake, almost like a rubber material so they’re not only realistic looking but realistic feeling. My bouquet, the bridesmaid bouquets, my toss bouquet (that I threw to everyone for luck, not just the single ladies), the moms’ corsages and the groomsmen boutonnières were all from my friend Ashley at From The Stem Up. She did such a great job! I used my bouquet for the Toronto wedding also, and then I just packed everything up in my suitcase and brought them to Cuba. It was perfect.

And I can keep my bouquet forever!

Emily’s mom got us a frame that people can sign and write well-wishes on, so we brought that along with us.

Except we forgot to change the photo in it to one of us. Whoops. Everyone was like “wow, you guys look really different!”

The other big thing I forgot was part of the sign for the front of the restaurant where the reception was taking place. For my bridal shower Lisa made this amazing sign that said “The Adventure Continues” and each letter was on a triangle cutout of a map. I loved it and I wanted to have it in Cuba, except when I was packing I somehow forgot to include the word “Adventure”. We just had “The” and “Continues”. Will, Kim and Dylan were putting that up while we were getting ready and couldn’t figure out what “The Continues” was supposed to mean. So, they put up what made the most sense which was just “Continues”. That makes me laugh when I think about it now.

THE GIRLS

In my bridal party I had Joanna and Dawn, who I met on the first day of Grade 9 and have been my pals since; Lisa, my MOH, who I grew up with and who has been my bestie for like 25 years; Emily, who has been my good friend since elementary school; Sherrie, who I hit it off with in my first year of journalism in college; and Hannah, who I became close with when I worked at OFSAA.

Joanna, Dawn, Lisa, Me, Emily, Sherrie, Hannah

The seven of us got ready in my room and it was definitely a bit cramped but it was so much fun and I’m so glad we had that time together. We blasted music and just laughed for most of the day. Will and Dylan brought us up fruit and sandwiches that they made for us in the buffet, so that was much appreciated!!!

I didn’t have a picture of this so I took a screenshot from the video

And Brent brought us up a tray of drinks!

We were excited about that.

I did my own makeup…

And Sherrie did my hair. She has such a gift for it. She gave us all the ‘Sherrie pouf.”

I think my hair turned out even better than when she did the trial on me.

I was feeling the love that day.

After our hair and makeup was done we headed down to the moms’ room so I could get into my wedding dress with them.

I should mention that the bridesmaid dresses were from RW&Co and their necklaces were from Etsy.

My mom looked so beautiful and happy!

And so did Cookie, Evan’s mom and my new mom!

I could not ask for a better mother-in-law, and I’m so glad our two moms get along so well.

Once we were ready we galavanted around the resort with our photography team.

The boys were also taking photos around the resort so the photographers all had walkie-talkies to make sure we didn’t see each other.

Randy, our favourite entertainer, came over to see us!

His extreme V needed to be more extreme. He was also wearing a ring on a chain around his neck that he pretended to put on my finger.

Mikey, the pool guy (aka Sexy Position) also dropped by to say hi. He got picked up.

My first love!

Gah, I love the beach shots. It was really sunny which I know is a photographer’s nightmare, but I think they still turned out great.

My favourite part of the video is all of us getting ready and then just walking around getting photos.

The guys

In Evan’s party he had: my brother Eric; his good friends from high school Ian (who lived with us for a while a couple years ago), Jeff, and Sean; and Mark and Corey, who he became close with after hanging out with them all the time because they’re married to Dawn and Emily.

Eric, Ian, Evan, Sean, Mark, Jeff, Corey

Unfortunately Brotherman couldn’t make it to the Cuba wedding, but he stood up there with us in Toronto!

The boys all got ready in Sean’s room.

What a handsome groom I have.

His tie is from Le Chateau (and the bowtie he wore for the Toronto wedding is from there as well).

And then they also traipsed around the resort with their photography team, looking super suave.

What a friggin’ handsome bunch of groomsmen!!

After we were all ready it was time for the ceremony, and I was ready to walk down the aisle!

Again!

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