wedding

When we booked our honeymoon at Sandals, I had no idea what to expect. I had seen the commercials like everyone else, but I was pretty up in the air on what it was really like. And, the online reviews are only so much help.

After we booked and I would talk about the trip with various people, everyone who had visited a Sandals resort raved about it. They would tell me the most amazing, complimentary things to the point where it sounded like an advertisement. But, that made me feel more at ease.

We visited the Sandals Montego Bay resort in Jamaica in December. There are several Sandals in Jamaica, so you definitely need to do your research about which you want to stay at or what part of the island you wanted to be on. That being said, keep in mind this review is based off of that resort! 

Sandals Jamaica, review and was it worth the money

The arrival

Once we landed and made it through customs, we were pointed to the Sandals lounge where they had a drink machine, coffee, snacks, etc. Someone there took our bags and tagged them, so we didn’t have to lug them through the lounge. Within a minute of sitting down and sending Mit to get me a drink, our driver was coming to get me. I mean, we were in the lounge a total of 4 minutes, maybe. Keep in mind we had a private transport as part of our package.

The porter carried our bags to a luxury, clean BMW and the driver took us on the less than 10 minute drive to the resort. He was super friendly and knowledgable, and it was the perfect first impression. Once we got on resort property, it took about 15 minutes to get checked in and in our rooms and then a few more minutes for our bags to arrive. Within half an hour of arriving, I was in my bathing suit and on the beach! 

Sandals Jamaica, review and was it worth the money

The rooms

We had a beachfront walk out room with the tranquility soaking tub. We loved our room’s location— literally you could step on the sand off the porch area. The porch area could also be closed off with a curtain if you wanted privacy, especially because the tub was on the porch (which def seemed odd at first but was exactly super relaxing). It was also great to be able to walk into your room from the beach and not have to walk around all the buildings to get to your “front door.” 

The actual room wasn’t 5-star hotel ish, but it was still nice. The beds weren’t the most comfortable to me, but I was so exhausted at night it didn’t matter. There was also a safe, which we kept rings/phones/ passports while we were in the ocean. I would definitely recommend using it if you have a walkout room because (while I don’t think it would happen) it would be easy for someone to walk in and grab your diamond ring or anything valuable.

If you’re a privacy freak, one of those rooms probably isn’t for you.

The food/drinks

I heard the most mixed reviews on the food, but we had a great experience at all the restaurants we visited (except the Stewfish place, but that was just not an appealing menu in my opinion). While you needed reservations at a few places, you could call that morning to get in for dinner so I didn’t feel super inconvenienced. Also if you have a butler, they will handle that. 

I really liked that the servers didn’t judge you or look at you weird if you ordered two plates or four desserts or whatever. They literally encouraged you to order as much as you wanted! Me and my husband love food, so we definitely liked that.

Of course, the drinks were awesome. I didn’t have one bad drink and neither did my husband. Everything was awesome and they have actual known brands— not some $5 thing they picked up at a corner market. They will also bring full bottles to your room if you ask! 

In full disclosure, I drank liquor and he drank liquor/beer. Neither of us tried the wines.

The butler

In full disclosure, we loved having the butler. If you have extra cash to spend, go for it. But, I’m not positive it’s worth splurging on if you are trying to be as economical as possible. 

The best thing about the butler was by far having them reserve our chairs on the beach (they’ll also do this for the pool too, but we never even got in the pools!). Each night we told them what area we wanted to be in the next day, and they reserved us a great set of chairs with an umbrella. If you don’t get up early and go save your chairs by putting a towel or something else on them, it could be easy to not have a spot. That being said though, it’s not a huge deal to run out there early and throw a beach bag on the chairs you want to save.

Also, the butlers will make your dinner reservations/excursion plans. We had them make our reservations because, why not… but we definitely could have handled that ourselves.

The bottom line is service is so amazing at the resort, you don’t really need the butler to have an amazing experience! We never waited long for drinks or food when we were without our butler.

The excursions

We did one excursion at Montego Bay- the snorkeling trip that also stops by the Jamaican Margaritaville. It was a BLAST. If you like the whole “booze cruise” crazy vibe with music and dancing, its totally for you. Even if you don’t though, it’s still a blast. We did the snorkeling and the famous water slide at Margaritaville, and then relaxed on the boat ride back without getting into the dance party that was happening on the lower deck. 

That trip was $90 a person, and I think it was worth it, primarily for the snorkeling experience.

The final opinion

We’ve already booked our next Sandals trip for this summer! I had the most amazing time, and was both relaxed and energized with all the stuff we did. I don’t think you can beat the Sandals Montego Bay resort, and we’re excited to explore more Sandals locations. Don’t hesitate to join the rewards club while you’re there— its free and you get points for all your Sandals vacations. Just our honeymoon stay got us over $100 off our next trip in points.

Sandals Jamaica, review and was it worth the money

I hope this review was helpful, and let me know if you visit Sandals Montego Bay! 

This post is not sponsored; all opinions are my own.

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So you’re planning a wedding- congratulations! But, you’re slightly freaking out. I get it. There are so many things you have to do and think about when you plan your own wedding, without mentioning working full-time or juggling regular life.

I had over a year to plan my wedding, and while I needed every second of that time, I tried to stay as stress free as possible. It’s not really my personality to get worried over every little thing, but there were definitely were moments where I was completely overwhelmed. Over the course of that time, I learned a few things that guided me throughout the process and into wedding day to keep me calm! That being said, here are my top 5 tips to doing this whole thing as stress free as possible.

If you’re interested in more of my wedding details or planning advice, let me know and I will be happy to share. & don’t worry, I’ll be posting an overload of wedding photos asap!

Take your planning stuff with you.

On my wedding day I brought my binder that had all my receipts, invoices, menus, agreements, etc stuffed in it and I am SO glad I did. There was an issue with some of the rentals, with the vendors saying I had only rented 6 tables, but I was able to quickly whip out that invoice and show them that I paid for 17. They recognized their mistake and quickly fixed the problem, but it could have been a disaster if that situation wasn’t resolved quickly. While I know you don’t want to think about having an issue on wedding day, it’s probably inevitable so you might as well be prepared for it!

Southern Style Diaries, Ivana Hrynkiw, wedding, wedding planning

Don’t flip if your fiancé doesn’t want to be involved.

This one is going to be controversial I’m sure, but my husband didn’t want to be involved in the wedding-planning process… so he wasn’t. And that’s okay! I was able to pick everything I wanted and make all the decisions, and didn’t have to worry about him being unhappy with the color scheme or the flower types. Really, there’s zero point to having him involved in these decisions or meetings if he isn’t interested. It’s only going to cause a fight and a headache for you! If he says he doesn’t care, LADIES, he truly does not care. Pick what you want.

Choose your bridesmaids carefully.

I am so lucky to have the most amazing group of friends and every single one of my bridesmaids was a blessing to have stand beside me on my wedding day. But, I’ve heard horror stories about women choosing a sometimes-difficult friend to be a bridesmaid, and that maid makes everyone else miserable. You don’t need that on wedding day, or during any type of wedding festivity. If you have a girlfriend who doesn’t get along with your core group or who can be a little rough around the edges, give her another job in your big day to feel included, but leave her out of the bridesmaids group.Southern Style Diaries, Ivana Hrynkiw, wedding, wedding planning

Be nice, but stern.

Vendors can be pushy, and you come to expect that. Be nice and accommodating, but know there’s a time to put your foot down and say what you need done- without being a brideszilla. I think it’s helpful to, in the very beginning, talk to your vendors about your expectations and what they can provide. If they can’t provide something you consider vital, that needs to be known up front. Also don’t forget to get prices on everything! I fell into the “oh, of course we can do that!” trap… meaning, sure they can do it, for a cost. Make sure every single thing is listed with a price on your contract or agreement.

Calm down.

Things will go wrong— like my table incident, or when my dad photobombed our first look. But that’s okay! Laugh it off, and know that the most important things are your family, friends, and— of course— groom. Everything else is small potatoes.

Pictures by Arden Ward Upton

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If you’re planning a wedding, you know your registry is one of the most fun things to think about.

We haven’t officially registered yet (fingers crossed we’re going tomorrow!) but we have a list of things we know we want so the process can go a little bit smoother and we don’t go sticker crazy with things we don’t need or have room for. We’re planning on registering at Bed Bath and Beyond, Macy’s, and either William Sonoma or Amazon. Haven’t quite nailed down that third one!

Here is a list of the top things I can’t wait to register for! If you’ve gotten married recently, what did you register for and what has ended up being the most useful thing you received?

Southern Style Diaries, registry, Ivana Hrynkiw1. AERIN Sea Blue Floral Salad Plates

Blue and white china is my FAVORITE china, and I think it looks great in a fancy situation or for a casual dinner party. There is so much you can do with this set and these colors, and I think it would look so pretty in our cabinets! Now, I just need a glass cabinet for them…

2. FirsTime Shiplap Wall Clock in White

The farmhouse obsession strikes again! I love shiplap, especially in this color combination. Wall clocks are the perfect combination of function and style– I have one in the kitchen, and we used to have a big one in the dining room, but it fell and we never replaced it. I think this would look so cute over our dining room table, and go so well with the wood detail on those walls!

3. Lucky Brand Embroidered Ikat Comforter Set

Bedding is something we always need (hello, sleeping with two dogs) and this cute Lucky Brand set is one of my favorites. I love white bedding, but the black detailing on this set won’t show as much dirt as a plain white comforter would. Also, the pattern is interesting without being overwhelming… which means I don’t have to redecorate our entire room to make this work!

4. OXO Stainless Steel Salad Spinner

This is the one thing my fiance wanted on our registry, so I don’t think I have much choice about including it. But, these are super helpful for mixing together a big salad and dressing so you can stick it in the fridge and eat on it for several days.

5. Fiesta Dancing Lady Cookie Jar

Ya’ll already know I have a Fiesta obsession, which you can read more about here. But, I don’t have this fancy cookie jar and I think I need it in my life. To be honest, I’m not sure if this is a typical registry item… but I’m going for it.

6. Magnolia Home Lucca Area Rug in Terracotta/Ivory

The line is by Joanna Gaines from Fixer Upper, and the farmhouse look is my obsession, so this is a perfect line for me! I love rugs like this, especially to give a pop of character to an otherwise plain room. I want this rug in our bedroom underneath the bed, and I’m already visualizing it with the bedding mentioned above! Plus, I think most women will be excited to see her line on our registry so they can browse for themselves, too.

7. Philips TurboStar Digital Air Fryer

No words for this one. I have wanted one of these since I saw Living With Landyn (check out her blog if you never have!) use it in her Instagram stories, because she literally took everything in her kitchen and fried it. Being a southern girl, ya’ll know I love fried everrrrything, so this is exactly the kitchen gadget I need. Fried okra and fried Oreos are first on my list.
This post is not sponsored; all opinions are my own

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If you’re planning a wedding, I feel you. It’s hard work, and it’s stressful…but, it’s also the most fun thing in the world!

I’m planning my own wedding, with the help of amazing family and friends. I have done SO much research about topics from flowers to linens to chairs, and I also joined a wedding library in town that gives me helpful tips and recommends popular vendors to me. While I still have a little way to go, I feel like I have gotten so much done in a relatively short amount of time!

To be truthful though, I had no idea what I was getting into when I started working on my dream wedding. Here are my top tips for planning your own wedding, so you can hopefully learn from my mistakes and have a stress-free experience! The most important thing to remember is to breathe, and have fun!

Happy planning!

wedding, wedding planning, Southern Style Diaries, Ivana Hrynkiw

Get organized immediately

Start off on the right foot, and keep everything organized from day one. Immediately after getting engaged, you’ll start paying more attention to weddings you attend or see in magazines, and chances are there will either be something you love and want to copy, or something you want to avoid. You’ll need a place to keep all of that so you can look back at it, and also add more important documents for safe keeping! My wedding planning binder is from the ladies of Southern Weddings, and it’s precious. It comes with the cutest little tips and tricks, and reminds you to enjoy the planning process! It also has plenty of room to add in pages (with page protectors… I learned the hard way!) or stuff folders in, which you can tell I took full advantage of.

Know the basics (of what you want)

I don’t mean you have to know what color your bridesmaids dresses will be or what your date is. But, I do think it’s wise to have a basic idea of what you want your day to be like— outside or inside? Church or a swanky ballroom or a rustic barn? Winter, or summer? Things like this will make it easier to envision your day, and then your details can start to come together in your head. Everything is so beautiful, it can really sway brides when looking at venues if you don;t have any idea what you want. Things will change along the process, but if you go ahead and know the basics your life will be a lot easier.

Don’t panic when you get your first round of prices

Learn from my mistakes— stuff is expensive. You *think* you understand that, but when you write everything down for your budget, suddenly you are hyperventilating and that’s not going to help anything! Be aware of the price ranges that wedding things cost. You can easily find this online or in a wedding planning book if you purchase one— just for a general idea, reception venues can be $3000 and up, while food can range around $20-30 a person. And don’t forget your tables, chairs, servers, bartenders, etc… it adds up fast, so be mentally prepared.

Pinterest is your best friend

If you already have a wedding Pinterest board you started way before you even thought getting married was in the near future, I suggest either deleting things that you can’t truly see yourself doing/wearing OR starting a new board. When I got engaged and got a general idea of what I wanted (see #x above) I realized that all the poufy dress and the flower walls were beautiful, but they just weren’t for my dream day. Having some kind of vision board, if you don’t use Pinterest, is insanely helpful to both you and your vendors! I use Pinterest and I cut out pictures from magazines and keep them in my binder.

Get help of a trusted family member, friend, or wedding planner

I’m lucky enough to have an awesome mom, aunt, cousin, and mother-in-law, along with tons of friends, that have helped me tremendously through this process. They’ve kept this whole thing moving! I’m pretty convinced no one has it better than me in that department, but if you do, use them to your advantage! Most of your family members will want to help you in some way, so it will help you and make them feel good if you give them a job. Also, this isn’t their first rodeo, so they know better than I do. If you don’t have any family/friends that you want to help you, get a wedding planner! It will take so much work and stress off your plate.

Venue first, then everything else

Venue, venue, venue! Do not book anything else until you do this. Sometimes certain venues require you to use certain vendors– so if you love the venue, you have to play by their rules. Don’t get into a situation where you’ve committed to a vendor and have to back out, or you have everything except your dream venue and it’s booked on your date because you didn’t start looking soon enough. Just save yourself the trouble and trust me, book it first.

Do everything earlier than you think you need to

I know someone will disagree with me on this, but I jumped ahead of the typical planning calendar guidelines by like two months. I am a person that needs to know details ASAP, and to me, there was no sense in waiting. Once I had the venue, I was excited to start looking into other vendors and getting them secured for my date. Sooner is better than later in my opinion, always. Plus, it’ll save you so much stress when you have your dress a year in advance, rather than running to every bridal store in one weekend trying to find the perfect gown.

You’re not going to buy the dress you think you want

I wanted dress A, and I ended up with dress Z. If you think you know exactly what you want, chances are you’re going to get it on and say, “eh,” and go back to the drawing board. All I’m saying is be open minded and don’t set your heart on something until you have it on your body!

Break tradition…or don’t.

Your mom, aunt, cousin, and sister all wore grandma’s wedding dress… but you want a Hayley Paige studded gown. Or everyone is very religious and got married in a church, but that’s just not your thing. Sit down and talk with your family, and explain to them your concerns. Just because everyone else did something does not mean you have to do it! You wedding is hopefully something you only do once, which brings me to my next point…

It’s YOUR day!

Remember that, and own it! Don’t be a brideszilla, but keep in mind that your opinion is the most important. It’s not selfish, its making sure that your day is what you want. I had to be told this several times, and stop putting everyone else’s feelings and wants in front of my own. And you know what? They were right. While I have kept everyone’s opinions in my head (and sided with 99% of them) I have had to make several calls that were different than what some people would have preferred. If you’re like me, you might feel bad in the moment… but that’s better than being disappointed on your wedding day.Follow