say "i do" to a christmas wedding...

What could be merrier and more festive than having your wedding take place during the holiday season? If the holidays are your backdrop of choice... make sure to incorporate all the dazzling décor, colors, aromas and sumptuous flavors of the season. 

Some inspiration...

Make sure to tie in the rich colors of the season with splashes of red, crimson and gold

Deck out your wedding party with festive accents such faux fur shawls.

Greenery, ivory and candles add to the romantic feel of this magical season 

A romantic winter wonderland makes a stunning backdrop for photos

Get creative with seasonal favors

Warm your guests up with a hot toddy station

Tie it all together with rustic place settings

Opt for a snowman "bride and groom" cake topper

Firewood escort cards are a fun way to incorporate the season

When the weather outside is frightful, there's even more reason to keep guests dancing till dawn with late night treats! 

dream location in playa del carmen...

Escapism looks a little different to everyone, but for me it’s simple. I need three basic ingredients: surf, sun and sand. Okay four... that special someone to share it all with.

I don’t need a personal butler, 8-course meal experience or a flat-screen TV in my pool-side cabana. Don’t get me wrong- I don’t like totally “roughing” it either, but I don’t want to break the bank in order to enjoy a hammock and a Mojito. But is this a realistic wish list? A recent visit to the mesmerizing Le Rêve Hotel & Spa gave me my answer: Yes!

The hotel is reachable via an unpaved maze of roads that take you away from Cancun’s bustling “hotel zone” and the large, all-inclusive resorts along the Riviera Maya. A mere 10 minutes from the heart of Playa, this intimate 25-suite property oozes more romance and charisma than its neighboring mega-resorts combined. Le Rêve literally means “dream” in French and within minutes of checking in, I realized how fitting the name really is. The thatched roof cabana-style design combined with private gardens and stunning ocean views- create the perfect tropical wonderland getaway.

The hotel has four distinct room types- each offering different amenities and styles. The ground level garden suites are the epitome of relaxation with over-sized hammocks, while the beachfront bungalows (complete with private plunge pools and exclusive beach access) are definitely worth the “splurge”.

The master suites are probably my favorite- with king sized canopy beds, thatched roofs and large balconies unveiling front row views of the azure seas.

All of the rooms have an open, airy atmosphere- think flowing white fabric, warm wooden accents and (my favorite) a vibrant accent wall designed out of Mexican tile.

I’ve searched high and low and believe me- there are few hotels along Mexico’s Riviera Maya that are as private and intimate as this seaside escape. The resort does not allow children- making it the perfect locale for honeymooners (they even have a Honeymooner's Walk featuring plaques with the names of couples who have honeymooned with them).

The enchanting, relaxed atmosphere of this petite resort also makes it an excellent choice for a destination wedding buyout. It’s easy to take up the 25 rooms- making this slice of paradise entirely yours for the weekend to enjoy with your guests.

So what’s the catch? There isn’t one. I ran my mental checklist... exotic locale without having to travel very far? Check. Unique accommodations? You betcha! An uber romantic setting at an affordable price? Yup! Price tag? Room rates range from $200/night to $600/night (for a bungalow during the high season).

So go ahead and check it out... the forecast is always sunny at

Le Rêve!

the "essence" of the riviera maya...

Always on the hunt for unique properties... my latest find takes the form of a mesmerizing boutique hotel on a blissfully remote beach about 20 minutes south of Playa del Carmen.

My first clue that I had hit upon a hip hideaway was the dirt track road I had to take off an unnamed highway to even get to the property. In fact, I kept asking my driver if he was sure he was taking me to the right place!

The former house of an Italian Duchess, Esencia is a 50-acre seaside estate backed by a tropical jungle and fronted by a dazzling white beach. When the Duchess decided to share her slice of paradise, and craft her home into a hotel- she did it with one condition- the property had to maintain the feel of a private house... and that it does! None of the 29 rooms (which are housed in white stucco haciendas) have numbers- they all have names. Yet the names aren’t posted anywhere- truly making you feel like you’re staying at a wealthy friend's beachside estate.

The other thing that really amazed me is that I never had to sign for a meal, spa treatment or anything else-- the staff all knew me by name!

The minimalistic, all white decor of the rooms fits perfectly into the overall “luxury in the jungle” vibe of the hotel. The property is ideal for stylish couples who want a mellow retreat. A “buyout” for a destination wedding is definitely the way to go- allowing your guests to take over the entire property.

Families might be more comfortable staying in one of the 10 garden suites (each features outdoor showers and private plunge pools) or one of the two-bedroom cottages, which have kitchens (including private chef services), media rooms and their own full-size pools. 

Although the property is kid friendly- the resort’s amenities are definitely geared towards grown-ups... particularly Aroma SPA. Having frequented spas all over the world, I consider myself quite the spa “junkie”, but I’ve never encountered anything quite like this. Housed in a circular, Mayan-inspired building- it is a sanctuary where past and present Mexican healing rituals mix- resulting in a very spiritual experience.

Treatments are based on ancient healing techniques and are 100% natural & organic. Built on a foundation & belief in the healing powers of local plants- ingredients are grown in an organic garden & mixed by hand in the spa’s “pre-hispanic” kitchen.

I indulged in the Ritual de Limón- a massage that incorporates limes (considered by Mayan healers a natural element for purification), with deep stretching. When she was finished, my therapist handed me the four limes she had used during my treatment and I tossed them into an open fire to “burn” away the negative energy that they had absorbed from my body during my massage. Quite cathartic!

Clearly I’m a fan about everything at the hotel... including the phenomenal cuisine. Chef Bernardo’s Meso-American creations with a Yucatecan ‘twist’ are served up at both of the hotel’s restaurants. A favorite for me was his unique twist on Eggs Benedict...poached eggs on artichoke hearts with hollandaise sauce. Another special treat is the sublime ceviche menu (I enjoyed the zesty Azteca ceviche on the beach along with a Hibiscus margarita!)

spoiling (complimentary) touches...

Pre-breakfast coffee & pastries that are delivered to your room... you just have to let the concierge know what time you’d like them and they “magically” appear outside your door!
8AM yoga classes on the lawn
Couples’ palapas on the beach
Afternoon cookies & tea in the main house (the Duchess would approve!)
Excellent staff that quickly know you by name (Fidel was amazing!)

Needless to say... I can’t wait to book my next trip back!

unexpected finds in turks & caicos...

The Caribbean is always a popular pick for couples considering a destination wedding. But with so many islands to choose from... deciding on the right one can be tough. I recently had the pleasure of visiting Turks & Caicos and came across some very unexpected (and pleasant) finds...

First of all... I had no idea that this island group is made up of 40 islands and cays of which only eight are inhabited (by humans!) These islands are also only about a 90 minute flight from Miami and 3.5 hours from New York- making this a very accessible & affordable destination to get to.

Providenciales (Provo to locals) is the most well known and developed of the islands- offering a wide range of resorts, restaurants and attractions. It has also earned "Best Beach" designation by Conde Nast Magazine. The north shore of the island is where you will find some of the most amazing beaches, as well as a long coral reef teeming with aquatic life. This main stretch is home to the majority of the major resorts, romantic villas and condos. My personal favorites include: the private villas at Amanyara, the chic Gansevoort and the all-suite Grace Bay Club.

Another popular attractions is the island of Little Water Cay, also known as Iguana Island, where some 2,000 critically endangered Rock Iguanas- the biggest population of this species in the world- are the island's only residents.

For marine enthusiasts, 200 miles of continuous coral reef- open for diving and snorkeling- beckon while the shallow waters of Gibbs Cay invite you to get up close and personal with some of the friendliest sting rays I've ever encountered!

Restaurants abound on the popular island of Provo where the natural beauty makes al fresco dining a popular choice with many restaurants dishing up stunning vistas to go with delectable dishes.

Formal options can be found in the Grace Bay area, but for a more "ocean-to-plate" experience- I wouldn't miss Da Conch Shack in downtown Provo. The best part about this barefoot dining experience is that you literally watch your dinner being fished out of the ocean. You can get fresh conch prepared every way imaginable from fritters to stir fried to curried. Make sure to end your meal with rum cake topped with rum-raisin ice cream. Yum!

On a non beach day, I would highly recommend a visit to the Caicos Conch Farm to get an overview of how conches are raised from eggs and then transferred to ocean holding pens. You can even pick up and handle these creatures at each stage of development.

And when nightfall approaches, the island comes alive with romantic sunset or moonlit boat cruises. Throughout the Turks and Caicos, soft sunsets bathing the scenic island invite romantic beach strolls, assuring memories that will last a lifetime. 

Make sure to check out my video below for tips on how to plan your destination wedding or honeymoon, with some of the best places to stay and the best times to go.

panamanian pleasures

From the glitzy, cosmopolitan metropolis of Panama City to dense jungles on the mystical Azuero coast to its 1,500 lush islands–Panama is a land of many “personalities.” With great shopping, luxury hotels, jazz clubs, casinos and a killer skyline, Panama City has a vibe reminiscent of Miami

The Old Quarter, “Casco Viejo,” is a blend of Old Havana and New Orleans’ French Quarter, offering a totally different feel. Boutique hotels housed in 16th and 17th century colonial Spanish mansions dot the cobblestone streets of this walled city promising Old World, picturesque wedding venues.

The Canal may have first put Panama on the international map but the country’s excellent weather, with natural attractions such as cloud forests, raging rivers, diverse ecosystems and unspoiled beaches are the big draw, promising an ideal wedding or honeymoon escape.

Something old, something new perhaps best describes Panama–the latest “hot spot,” for couples in search of sun, sand, culture and interesting things to do–all at affordable rates–for a destination wedding or honeymoon. This country located at the crossroads of two oceans and two continents, has been dubbed the “paradise between two seas.” In recent years, it has become the most visited destination in Latin America and it is quickly becoming a favorite with visitors from around the world.

From the Caribbean to the Pacific coasts, it is home not only to a diverse range of resorts, but a variety of stellar real estate properties as well. Whether you’re in the market for a Caribbean island getaway, a condo along Panama City’s striking skyline, one of Bocas del Toro’s charming gingerbread houses or beachfront homes… or one of Chiriqui’s isolated mountain retreats, you’re likely to find a slice of heaven in Panama.

By day, shopping beckons with goods from around the world while chic restaurants, trendy, boutiques, Canal tours and sojourns into the capital city’s quaint neighbors offer plenty of other options. When night falls, restaurants, nightclubs, discotheques and casinos offer a totally different vibe.

This city within a city evokes a kinder, gentler age and nowhere is this more apparent than at two sister- hotels located here, which lend new meaning to the title: “boutique” accommodations.

One of Panama’s most intriguing destinations, Bocas del Toro, is recognized as both a Biosphere Reserve and a World Heritage Site. Its colorful rooftops, fresh seafood, jungle islands and towns built on stilts over transparent waters have made it a “hot spot” for couples wanting to run away to a postcard paradise. Tucked inside the rainforest overlooking the Caribbean Sea on the archipelago of Bocas del Toro, Tranquilo Bay Eco-Adventure Lodge is the perfect vantage point from which to explore the dazzling corals and giant starfish that inhabit these waters.

For landlubbers, there’s beach combing, birding and exploring while lovers of the sea can explore the many reefs and lagoons around the resort. These laid-back islands known for fun and sun- will not only provide a stunning backdrop for romantic nuptials, but also promise endless activities for your guests.

Oozing with mystique, options are endless in Panama. There are many unique, romantic locales here to say “I do.” Soft moonlit beaches or chartered sunset sailboat receptions promise couples a memorable wedding experience- it’s just a matter of honing in on what you want. You won’t be disappointed...

romance in paris... off the beaten path

It’s no secret that this city attracts romance seekers from around the globe. I just got back from three days in the “City of Lights” and I have some suggestions for some not-so-typical romantic experience and unique hotel finds in the French capital.

Everyone always says that the best way to explore Paris is by foot, but I beg to differ. I say- explore the Capital of Romance by water. Start off by grabbing your sweetheart and hopping aboard a River Limousine. These Venetian style boats were designed in Venice and specifically made for the Seine. For a totally unique experience, watch the sunrise over this magical city from your private boat while sipping champagne and snuggling with your sweetheart.

Paris is known for its many bridges, but my favorite spot for a scenic smooch is Pont de la Tournelle. Not only will you have a stunning view of Notre Dame and the sultry setting of the Seine, but there's also hardly ever any traffic on the bridge.

Another very romantic (and unknown) experience is a visit to the "I Love You" Wall in Jehan Rictus Gardens just behind Place de Abssesses. The wall was created by artists Frederic Baron and displays over 300 messages of love in over 250 languages. How romantic is that?

They say that they quickest way to a man's heart is through his stomach- so why not put this theory to the test? Take a private cooking class together! There's a great company called Paris Chef that will customize your culinary experience. You can accompany the chef to the local market and hand pick the freshest ingredients. A fun way to experience this is by renting an apartment in Paris and have the chef come to you. Enjoy a romantic candlelit dinner at home with your own private chef!

And last, but certainly not least on my list is my pick for most romantic place to stay. Situated on the corner of Avenue George V and the legendary Champs Élysées the Hotel Fouquet's Barriere has a long history dating back to the early 1900s. Francois Andre and Lucien Barrier launched the concept of resort hotels while sitting on the terrace of Fouquet’s (a restaurant at the time). Together they dreamt up the idea of one day opening a hotel in the glitzy city. Unfortunately both passed away before making this a reality. Upon Lucien's death, his daughter Diane, took over the empire and vowed to follow through with her father's dream. In 1998 she purchased Fouquet's with the idea of expanding it into a hotel. In a cruel twist of fate, Diane was injured in a terrible plane crash which left her paralyzed and sadly, she died two years later. Her husband, Dominique vowed to continue his beloved wife's project and Hotel Fouquet's Barriere opened its doors in 2006.

Today, the boutique property continues the ongoing legendary tradition and provides the quintessential romantic experience. Their "Fly me to Deauville" package takes romance to another level as couples are whisked away from the hustle and bustle of Champs Élysées by private helicopter. A quick 45- minute ride from Paris is the quaint beach town of Deauville. The package includes overnight accommodations at the hotel, round trip helicopter transportation to Deauville and a luxury picnic on the beach once they get there.

Make sure to get in touch with us if you would like additional information on any of the above experiences or if you'd like Runaway Bride to help you book your own uniquely romantic trip to Paris!

a royal affair...

Ever since Kate Middleton married her Prince last year, couples everywhere have fantasized about having their own Royal Wedding. And while getting married in West Minster Abbey isn’t a very realistic option, getting married in a castle is a very viable one!

I recently had the privilege of visiting Highclere Castle just outside of London. Set in the gorgeous English countryside, this victorian castle has been home to the Carnarvon family since the early 1600’s. In fact, the Earl and Countess still live here and I had the great honor of sitting down for tea with Lady Carnarvon during my visit.

To visit Highclere is to step back in time.... which makes sense why the popular series Downton Abbey is filmed on location there. It was fascinating to hear Lady Carnarvon talk about how she, her husband, their four sons and three dogs call this 300 room castle home. Yes, it takes a small army (a staff of 100 ) to keep everything running, there are no showers in any of the 80 bathrooms and no TV, but somehow- this family gets on just fine.

As I sat in the drawing room, sipping my tea- I took in my surroundings. Ornately decorated with antiques and glorious oil paintings, the room also had quite a cozy feel to it. A mixture of old and new- the room was filled with photographs- old black & white pictures of the royal family mixed in with colorful snapshots of the Carnarvon’s today. 

The castle has become a wildly popular place to visit due to the popularity of the fictional, UK drama- “Downton Abbey”- set in the Edwardian period and depicts the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants during the reign of King George V. 

The castle is open for tours, but is also available to rent out for weddings.

There are multiple options within the castle and it’s surrounding grounds to accommodate weddings from 10 to 400 people. They’ve done everything from a proper English Garden wedding for 300 people under a marquis in the garden to a more intimate affair in the library. And while there are no overnight accommodations for guests in the castle itself, there are multiple hotels just down the road.

So for all those ladies out there who want to have a real Cinderella experience on their Wedding Day- Runaway Bride can help you make this happen at Highclere Castle or any of the other beautiful castles throughout Europe!

2012... a symbolic year in the maya calendar

It has been said that once the dust of Mexico touches your soul, you will never be the same. This couldn’t be more true - especially in 2012. This is a very symbolic year in the Maya calendar, a year of renewals and new beginnings. To honor this historic event, couples seeking a truly spiritual experience should tie the knot amid this enchanting culture in some of Mexico’s most sacred places. It goes without saying that the scenery and locales will leave you mesmerized, but there is something to be said about saying “I do” in the shade of ancient Maya ruins or being married by a Shaman in a traditional Maya wedding ceremony.

Here are some tips for couples looking to add an exotic twist to their ceremony:

Traditional Maya Ceremony

To the Maya, a wedding ceremony is a rite of passage, a ritual of purification, connecting a couple’s spirituality with the natural world around them. The couple is surrounded by family and friends who form a circle of energy around them. Candlelight and the smoke of sacred copal incense, create a magical and mysterious atmosphere. Calling upon the four elements as witnesses, the Shaman calls forth: water, air, earth and fire. Ancestral instruments accompanied by traditional chants, replicate the sounds of the ocean, wind, birds and trees. A colored cloth placed on the couple unites them, symbolizing the start of their new life together.

Love Among the Ruins

Combining tradition, mystery and tranquility, the seaside Maya city of Tulum is a quiet place where the warm white sands and Caribbean breeze, lull you into a state of serenity. Here, the sacred ruins can be the backdrop on your special day or you can exchange vows at nearby mystical cenotes (underground sinkholes). The impressive temples of Cobá offer another magical setting for your not-so-traditional nuptials. Tulum is the only known archaeological site located by the sea and it is easily accessible from the popular Riviera Maya “corridor.” Boutique hotels, rustic beachfront cabanas and private rentals provide a great alternative for those seeking a more low key experience.

A Colonial Affair

Beautifully restored 18th century haciendas are the settings for weddings in Merida, located about three hours west of Cancun’s Riviera Maya. Home to some of the world’s most ancient archaeological sites such as Chichen Itza and Uxmal, the Maya culture is very much alive in this corner of the Yucatan peninsula. This romantic, colonial city offers a fresh alternative to popular beach destinations, promising unique hideaways and world class accommodations. Couples can exchange their vows in elegant cathedrals or in quaint colonial chapels, followed by outdoor receptions set in lush garden settings and haciendas, evoking the grace and elegance of “old” Mexico.

Traditional Maya Healing Rituals

The practice of healing through pre-Hispanic indigenous rituals is still very much a part of the Maya culture today. These ceremonies have tremendous spiritual and healing power. Laying the groundwork for mind and spirit to become one, many couples incorporate these traditions into their experience. Through the years, Maya have employed different practices for healing - massage being one of them. Natural therapeutic clay is applied to couples during the popular Maya Clay massage, while ancient ritual chants ask the gods to give the newlyweds a long life of happiness. A Temazcal - indigenous sweat lodge - is another unforgettable group experience. The native people of Mexico have been practicing this purifying steam bath ritual for hundreds of years. Based on traditional healing methods that incorporate the properties of fire and water to purify mind, body and soul, this has been a popular treatment with honeymooners and couples the night before their wedding ceremony. 

This intruiging culture is begging to be explored....

luck of the irish

What could be more unique than a St. Patty's Day wedding? A couple married on this day will not only be blessed with the luck of the Irish, but they will have their own unique holiday to celebrate every year.

Also-- think about how much fun you can have with the theme? Green is fun and endlessly versatile. Pairing it with navy or black, gives it a more sophisticated look or blend it with citrus colored hues to give it a tropical twist! I came across the following picture boards for green inspired ideas and wanted to share them!

This fun loving culture is full of folklore and legends and legends lend themselves to the perfect marriage proposal set up. So how about getting engaged on this Irish holiday? You can't go wrong with the "Luck of the Irish" on your side, right?

So whether you get married or engaged on this fun filled, festive day--you can be sure of one thing... you will have crowds of people to help you celebrate every year on your anniversary!