Types of Wedding Venues

After you’ve decided your wedding budget and guest list, the next most important thing to investigate is wedding venues—and there are many options when it comes to venues. It’s easy to become overwhelmed when you start your search and realize so many places can host your big day. In this post, we’ll discuss everything from obvious options such as halls and hotels to more unique options such as aquariums and theaters. The type of venue you pick will change the whole mood and aesthetic of your wedding, so choose wisely and make sure it’s your dream spot.

Beach

You don’t have to be in the Caribbean to get married on a beach. It’s warm enough year-round in the southern United States to have a beach wedding. Or if you live in the north, you can still have a beach wedding from April through October. Hubby and I actually come from Florida and relocated to New York City, so the beach was our second home growing up, and we decided to go for a beach wedding ceremony. The best part is that you don’t need much decoration, and you have the beautiful sound of the waves. Beware of wind though… my veil went for a ride!

Botanical Garden

Nothing in Spring may be more beautiful than a botanical garden! With all the flowers in bloom, you are bound to capture endless stunning photos as if you are in your own secret garden. You would definitely save on decorative florals, as your venue naturally comes with an abundance of backdrop plants. Allergies aside, it would smell divine.

Castle

Reading this in the United States, you may not think that we even have castles except Cinderella’s… but think again. I recently posted about a ceremony venue castle in Central Park, NYC, and there are many northern options for castles. If the Cinderella ballgown princess vibe is what you want, it’s not out of reach.

Community Center

A possibly more affordable option would be a local community center. This could be a gymnasium, a firehouse hall, or a large room in a multi-purpose community center facility. You may have to rent the furniture if the space comes bare, but the good thing about this is that you can totally customize what you rent. Or if your space comes with all of the furniture, you would save a bundle! In most community center scenarios, you will have to hire a caterer, but the center will usually have a kitchen space for them to work from.

Photo Credit: Lakeside Community Center

Country Club

An existing country club member may receive a discount because they already pay annual fees to be a member, whereas the non-member would pay a higher fee to use the private club’s space. So whether your family belongs to a country club, or not, this option isn’t as exclusive and out of reach as you may have thought.

Photo Credit: Here Comes The Guide @ Silver Lake Country Club

Cruise Ship

You have two options when it comes to cruise ship weddings. You can actually have a wedding ceremony on board the boat before it departs the origin port. Then guests who don’t want to go on vacation after the wedding just depart the ship and forego the reception. Guests who plan to vacation with you stay on board for the reception. This may cut costs for the couple, because there will be less people to feed. Or you can do your wedding on the boat while at sea, and whoever wanted to go on the vacation gets to share in your big day. The cruise ship will probably organize a group rate, private dinner, flowers, photography, and literally everything in a one-stop-shop package.

Photo Credit: Disney Wedding Podcast

Estate

Large beautiful homes are a gorgeous backdrop for weddings. I will caveat that statement with the fact that a lot of estates will only allow the house to serve as a backdrop, but not actually allow you inside. That would mean you are having a large tented wedding, and possibly renting in your own trailer bathrooms. The benefits to this option are that the space would be private, you wouldn’t be sharing the venue with any other events for the day, and you would have freedom to do things, like bring your own alcohol, that venues with caterers wouldn’t allow. Bear in mind that there may be separate “rules of the house” that the estate owners would want you to adhere to. Read your contracts thoroughly.

Farm/Barn

The rural country bride’s dream wedding has become increasingly popular over the years, and now you can find barns all over the country that serve as wedding venues. Whether the barn was rustic (non-renovated), a renovated older barn, or a new-build barn, you would have have a different venue, so ask lots of questions. Factors to consider are air conditioning, catering, bathrooms, and dirt.

Photo Credit: Wayfaring Wanderer Boone NC Photographer @ Overlook Barn

Forest

Getting married in a forest is a dreamy venue. I’m going to go totally nerdy on you, but I always think of the Lord of the Rings character Galadriel from the Lothlórien when I think of forest weddings. Total fairy ethereal aesthetic can be found in a forest, and I am all for this. Hubby and I almost chose a forest wedding for our nuptials.

Golf Course

Fore! Golf and extreme manicured grass enthusiasts will love a golf course wedding venue. Golf venues could be outside, tented, in a large pavilion on the property, or in the clubhouse. Golf cart and golfing photos would be adorable. If you love to golf, then don’t forget to ask about a group rate to hold a round of golf. Maybe an activity for just the bridal party to capture awesome pics, or maybe an in-between ceremony and reception full wedding guest-list activity. This would give the couple time to escape and take their own romantic just-married pics with one photographer while the second stays behind and captures family and friends enjoying themselves.

Photo Credit: Slowmotiongolfswing.com

Hall

Wedding and special event halls are very common up north. The sole purpose of the property is to house events. A large hall will have multiple event spaces inside and host possibly more than one event per day. You are usually greeted with valet parking, followed by a multi-room affair with ceremony, cocktail hour, and reception taking place in three separate spaces. If you have many guests from out of town, you may have to organize transportation to and from a nearby hotel block room.

Hotel

The one-stop-shop! Hubby and I chose to get married in a hotel, because half of our wedding guests were from out of town. This is the most convenient option for weddings like ours where lots of out-of-towners will need to stay at a hotel and would have to pay for transportation to and from another venue. We booked our rehearsal dinner, beach-side ceremony, cocktail hour, reception, next-day brunch, and hotel room blocks all through the one hotel. The more you bundle, the higher chance you have to receive a break on the price. Never hurts to ask! Also, if getting ready, ceremony, and reception are all in the same place, then the whole bridal party and couple also save on not having to book transportation. A win/win!

Photo Credit: Historic Hotel Bethlehem

Museum/Library

If you love art or books, then let your passions drive your venue. Museums and art galleries will sometimes have changing exhibits, so ensure you know what is scheduled to be on showcase during your wedding day. You wouldn’t want it to clash with your color palette or be something super modern when your wedding is supposed to have a traditional vibe, for example. A beautiful large library room is ever so “tale as old as time.” Be the Belle of the ball in your own Beauty and the Beast inspired wedding. I’m seeing centerpieces of small stacks of books with a mix of tall and short florals. Stunning. You will likely have to work around the hours of these venues and be limited to when they close for the evening.

Photo Credit: Ruffledblog @ Fernbank Museum

Park

Your local municipality’s Parks Department may allow weddings to take place on their public property, but permits will likely be needed to use the space. In New York City, you will need a permit to hold a ceremony or reception on park land. Parks Departments may be strict on tenting or additional décor you want to bring on site, so be sure to read their FAQ pages and the contract prior to booking.

Place of Worship

Ceremonies are not the only thing a place of worship can host. If your church/synagogue/mosque/etc. has a large roomed space, ask if they ever rent it out for events. For example, if your church had an outdoor space large enough for a ceremony, then an indoor building where they can clear the chairs and host events, you can utilize both spaces. Or perhaps up north your church has a basement that can be used to hold the reception. Get creative here. You can save a bundle by hosting your whole wedding itinerary in one location.

Photo Credit: The Old Church

Private Home

If someone in your family owns a large property, you have found yourself a free wedding venue! This will be the most affordable. You will have to probably rent the tent, tables, and chairs, but your caterer can use the existing kitchen to cook, and you can have guests use the indoor bathrooms (so no bathroom rentals). Or you can find a private property on a site like AirBNB, where you can filter for “suitable for events.” This will allow you to find mansions where you can rent the whole property for a few hundred dollars a night. Allow your full bridal party and immediate family to sleepover for the weekend, and invite everyone to celebrate the ceremony and reception on the property.

Photo Credit: Brides of Oklahoma

Restaurant

Some restaurants have party rooms, while others will allow you to buy them out for the evening and you have the whole space to yourselves. It depends on the restaurant. Guests can either order whatever they want off the menu or do a set menu.

Photo Credit: Lafayette

Rooftop

Rooftop cocktail parties in lieu of stuffy sit-down traditional receptions are a new trend that I am here for. Hubby and I ALMOST booked a rooftop cocktail reception, and in the end caved and went the traditional hotel route. Although our wedding was awesome, I do sort of regret the choice because it would have been so unique, a stand-out affair. The rooftop venue we looked at had a ton of sofa lounge furniture and large cocktail buffet grazing tables in the indoor section, cabanas with low tables and fire pits outdoors, multiple bars, and a big dance floor. I have that one in my back pocket for a future event.

Photo Credit: The Loft at Prince

Theater

Movie theaters as well as Broadway-style theaters are unique options for events! You could do the wedding in the theater where guests sit in the chairs, bride walks up the aisle onto the stage (in front of the dropped curtain) for the ceremony. Then after the ceremony they raise the curtain and reveal a seated reception ready and waiting for guests on the stage. Sometimes the theater hosts the event in the lobby. So many options here. Theatre buffs, or people who want to WOW your guests, really consider this one. Also ask if you can use the front marquis to put your name in lights! Just imagine the photos!

Photo Credit: Jess + Nate Studios @ Fox Theatre Detroit

Theme Park

I’ve written a post on Florida Disney wedding venues, but there are many theme parks around the world that would allow you to host an event on their property. Just like libraries and museums, you will likely have to hold your event in off-hours, before the parks opens or after the park closes.

Photo Credit: Disney Weddings

Vineyard/Orchard

Wine fanatics, this is the spot for you! This type of venue is seasonal. Consider a wedding when the grapes are still on the vine for more beautiful pictures. Some wineries even do mini bottles with custom event-specific bottle labels. What a great favor!

Photo Credit: Presqu’ile Winery

Yacht

Imagine going out for a dinner cruise with all your closest family and friends. A sunset ceremony on the water followed by dinner and dancing as the evening went on. In NYC, there are several boats that ride around Manhattan to give you panoramic views of the city skyline as you dance the night away. Smaller boats are available to be rented out by one party for the evening. Larger boats may be able to support a separate event on each floor of the yacht.

Photo Credit: Water Fantaseas

Zoo/Aquarium

You are at your aquarium wedding about to seal the wedding promise with a kiss, and you are beautifully photobombed by a school of fish. Now that’s a photobomb I can live with. Large aquariums and zoos have spaces to be near to the animals during all elements of the day. The photos would be adorable, and minimal décor would be needed as your guests are immersed into an almost interactive experience where the walls move and everywhere they look they are mesmerized by the scenery.

Photo Credit: Carrie Wildes Photography


Now that you’re more knowledgeable on wedding venue options and have maybe narrowed down your preferences, you can start searching in whatever town you want, near or far, for that specific type of venue. The narrowed-down search will save you time from skimming through dozens of venues that don’t meet your needs. Happy planning!

If you can think of other venues that we may have missed, feel free to write them in the comments below!

DISCLAIMER: Any brands listed above are not sponsors.

A Week in Sanya, Hainan, the “Hawaii of China”

Sanya is a city in the southern portion of China’s Hainan Island, known as the “Hawaii of China.” This was our eighth stop on our six-week honeymoon around the world. We were officially in the latter half of our trip and planned to spend a relaxing week in the south of China, soaking up the sun. Continue reading to learn about how we booked the trip, language, currency, transportation, our hotel, food, small town visits, downtown visits, and an excursion to a breathtaking park.

How We Booked

First, I’ll dive into a mini education for those couples reading this that are engaged…While you’re engaged, you have the opportunity to attend many events, such as wedding expos and venue expos. A wedding expo is a general expo probably hosted at a conference center in your town that will feature many different venues and vendors. A venue expo is hosted by a particular venue, and they usually showcase their preferred vendors. The latter is mostly for couples who are already booked or interested in booking that particular venue. These are free opportunities to learn more about venues and vendors. Often, there are door prizes that you can enter into just for attending the event or booth prizes that you can enter if you speak to the representative running that booth. My point in telling you about these events and prizes is that you should take advantage of all the wedding perks you can.

We happen to have won our week-long stay in Sanya as a door prize at a venue expo! Well, we particularly won a week-long hotel stay for a company that had properties all over the world. We knew we’d be in Asia, so we searched their website for an eligible Asia hotel during our dates and found our hotel in Sanya. You do still pay taxes and fees (and likely airfare) when you win trips like these, so it’s not totally free, but it’s significantly cheaper than if you paid the full price.

If you are looking into booking Sanya and aren’t limited by a prize trip (like we were), then you may consider booking closer to the downtown area. Although we were in a quiet resort-lined beach area, we did need to taxi about 23 minutes to get to the main hub on Jiefang Road.

Language

Overall, the main languages in Sanya are Hainanese, Putonghua, Cantonese and, believe it or not, Russian. We learned that a lot of people who live in Russia also vacation to this island, being that it’s a tropical paradise pretty close to home. We even saw signs in Russian when in town.

The first challenge we had experienced in Sanya was that no one working in our hotel spoke a lick of English. It was extreme culture shock, because everywhere that we had been thus far in Asia did speak some English, and Hubby speaks Japanese. It took some patience, and both the front desk receptionist and us using a translating app, but we eventually successfully communicated.

Don’t let lack of speaking the language deter you from traveling to new places. With technology these days, you can communicate easily enough. However, we do always recommend you learn a few pleasantries in the foreign language such as “please,” “thank you,” “hello,” and “goodbye.” We also recommend you learn emergency words such as “help” and “police” just in case. But hopefully you’ll never use those.

Currency

We forgot to use an ATM at the airport to take out Chinese Yuan (the primary currency on the island). We still had some Yuan leftover from our visit to Beijing, but we were running low. So we took a taxi into the downtown area to find an ATM. We stopped into several small banks, and our cards wouldn’t work in the machines. We recognized the Agricultural Bank of China, and that bank allowed us to withdraw. But for a hot second, we thought we were stranded in China with no money or even enough cash to taxi back to the hotel. Very stressful. Long story short, definitely pull out cash in the airport ATM where there is bound to be some English speaker who can answer questions if you experience problems. Not all stores will accept credit cards in China, so it’s essential to carry enough cash on you for your stay. For reference, at the time of writing this post, $1 USD is around ¥7.15 Chinese Yuan—a great exchange rate!

Transportation

The Sanya airport is very small. It’s actually two buildings: one for domestic and one for international flights. Arriving into Sanya was easy. We hopped into a taxi, and our hotel was only twelve minutes from the airport. Upon leaving Sanya a week later, however, we did have some confusion as to which building to be dropped off at. We figured that since we were heading to Japan we should go to the international terminal, so we got dropped off at the larger modern international building. But they made us change buildings, because our flight stopped briefly in Guangzhou, China, and they therefore treated our flight as domestic. Ensure extra time in case you too have to switch buildings. We had to schlep our luggages across the whole terminal, down a couple flights of steps, across a small street, and into the next building.

The domestic building seemed like it was the original airport building. Although smaller and older, it had a charming vibe with wood accents. Though small, it still had an airport lounge with some snacks and beverages, which we were grateful for. Beware that if flying domestic (or if you have a domestic layover like we had) through China, you will go back through a screening process when you land, and any foods and liquids (even purchased in the previous airport) must be discarded. We had packed a few snacks and waters from the Sanya airport lounge, and when we landed in Guangzhou they were confiscated.

Taxis were available easily at the airport. We recommend you print out all of your hotel/excursion paperwork so you can show the address to your drivers. Communication may not be easy, and having the printout will allow drivers to see the exact place you are trying to go. Once at the hotel, because it is located outside of downtown, taxis will need to be called by the front desk. Once you are in the downtown area, you can find taxis all over. Even at the park we visited, there was a taxi line at the exit.

Hotel

We stayed at the HNA @ International Asia Pacific Convention Center Sanya, located in the Sanya Bay Resort District. This area was resort after resort lining just across the street from the beach. When we booked the hotel online through the prize company, the photos looked great! And although the hotel ended up being very nice, it looked absolutely NOTHING like the photos online. So that was a minor shock upon arrival.

Our hotel looked nothing like these two photos that were on our final booking paperwork

They originally gave us a great room, with the exception of the two twin beds. For our honeymoon, that just wasn’t going to fly. So we went back downstairs and used the translation app to say that we wanted the beds together (hand motions and all). They gave us a new room with a king size bed, but now it was a small room with a partial wall and street view instead of the spectacular view that we had before, overlooking the large pool area. This second room should have been a utility closet or something. So we defeatedly went back downstairs and said we would just take the original room. Hubby was awesome and did some rearranging of the furniture, and boom, a king size honeymoon bed!

Our room was very nice! I believe this was the largest room of our six-week honeymoon. It had a separate desk and sitting area, spacious bathroom, closet, mini fridge, newly created king size bed, a balcony with chairs, and a great view. Had we been on a higher floor than the second, we probably could have seen the ocean view over the tree line. But even without an ocean view, our room was perfect because we had a pool view. It also became convenient when one of us went upstairs to grab something and we could talk to the person below to see if they needed anything before heading back down.

The lobby was spacious. We took the stairs most days instead of waiting for the elevator, because we were only on the second floor. The downstairs had a bar, a small convenience store, and a restaurant. The back area included the largest hotel pool I’ve ever seen in my life. It was so large that even with everyone swimming, you were never too close to anyone else. There was plenty of space for kids in shallow waters, exercise laps, and waders like myself getting carried around by the wind on my float. Lounge chairs lined the pool area. I do feel they could have supplied more chairs as only some had optimal sun vs shade ratio. We had to get downstairs early to claim our chairs, but after learning that on our first day, we were fine. There was also an outdoor portion of the restaurant and fountains leading to the beach across the street.

Once across the street, you are literally in the sand. The beach was never too busy. As the whole area has resorts lining the beach, it was private. I am an avid seashell finder, and when I am at any beach I am scoping the sand for pretty shells. We started to find a bunch of shells and were picking them all up. Then we realized there were small creatures living in them and dropped them back into the water. We found very few shells without small crabs and snails inside. So, although the beach in this region has nice shells, you will be hard-pressed to find something you can bring home. After seven days, we probably only had a sandwich bag full. There was definitely a noticeably higher level of waste in the water than we had experienced at any other beach around the world. But we saw lots of jelly fish in the water at the time of year we visited (May), so we didn’t go in anyway. But that didn’t stop us from enjoying daily sunset walks on the beach.

Food

On our first night at the hotel we ate dinner at the poolside restaurant. There was a talented singer who performed nightly, which created a nice ambiance. But we ordered a beef dish and literally got a plate full of small bones with no meat on it. We couldn’t even tell what part of the animal it was because it was in such small pieces. Beef at all? Questionable. We felt like we were being pranked. We tried to eat it, laughing the whole time at the scenario. Even in Beijing China, we hadn’t had difficulty ordering because all the menus had photos next to each dish. Here, too, there were photos, but nothing was in English so we weren’t even sure what we ordered! We left a bit hungry that night but with good laughs. Other nights that we ate dinner at our hotel, we took a cue from the Russian tourists and ordered meat kebabs. Those were great!

Super Skeptical about the kebabs after our first dining experience…but they ended up being great!

On the second night, we ventured to a neighboring hotel’s restaurant. Our goal in exploring the neighborhood had honestly been to find an ATM. The hotel was a Sheraton, so we figured maybe the American brand hotel would have an ATM that our cards would work in. It didn’t. However, we learned they had a buffet and decided to eat there for dinner. This buffet was about $30 USD per person. For China, that was expensive, but they had great food. Our favorite was the endless supply of grilled lamb chops. Nice ambiance again with live entertainment and outdoor seating under the moonlight. Ended up being our nicest and most romantic dinner.

The next day, we went to the front desk to ask about things to do in the area and grocery stores to buy snacks. We tried using the translating app again to communicate. Then a friendly pilot from an airline company came over and introduced himself. Apparently, his company puts the pilot and flight attendants up in the hotel overnight all the time, as it’s so close to the airport. He knew the area like the back of his hand. He explained that local small-town food shops and restaurants were in walking distance just a few blocks away. We were so excited to meet another English speaker and grateful that stores were so close we could just go out and explore.

We followed his directions exactly: walk out of the hotel to the main front road, turn right, walk down to the first stoplight, cross the street to the left, walk down a block, cross a small bridge, and then that upcoming strip of stores was our destination on Taoyuan Road. It was about a ten-minute walk and well worth it! We found many grocery stores. For beverages, we purchased large bottles of water and juice. For breakfast, we got fresh fruits like different varieties of mangoes and bananas, muffins, buns, and yogurt. For lunch, we got instant ramen bowls. There were so many flavors to choose from that each day it felt like we were eating something different. We also purchased a ton of snack foods like crazy flavored chips (the steak flavor was my ultimate favorite), cookies, candies, etc. All the food was extremely affordable, but the ramen was our best purchase. It was so hot outside in May that we also purchased ice creams and ate them as we continued our walk.

On our first trip to this strip of stores, we found a small family-owned local restaurant to stop in and eat lunch. They had pictures posted of all the food, so we felt confident when we ordered. We got a beef noodle dish and a chicken dish, and both were delicious! The gentleman who owned the shop literally hand-made the noodles in front of us, folding the dough over several times until it became many layers, stretching out the layers until they were thin strings, then cutting the long strings into delicious, fresh noodles. On another occasion, we ate at a Chinese fast food chicken and burger joint. We didn’t know the name, but they had a picture of a Ninja Burger as their logo. They sold fried chicken sandwiches that we really liked. We ended up visiting this restaurant a few times during our stay, as it was convenient, reliable (not a plate of bones!), and had a scene of young people our age eating there due to free Wi-Fi. We also saw on the map app on our cell phones that there was a dumpling joint nearby and tried to eat there, but it seemed to be closed permanently.

In the downtown area that was a taxi ride away, we found a bunch of stores, restaurants, and fast food options. The day we were walking around that area, we found Pizza Hut and decided to stop in to eat. Even though that chain is somewhere we could eat in America, it was totally different than America, because they had very unique flavors for pizza. Hubby’s pie was actually a square cheese-stuffed crust segmented into four flavors: pineapple ham, pepperoni, vegetable, and Korean BBQ pork with eel sauce. I got a personal pan pineapple ham (my favorite). On another trip to the downtown area, we also got McDonald’s. I know, we kept choosing American fast food in China, but honestly after the plate of bones on the first day, a real meal was more than welcome. On the taxi ride to the downtown area, you will also pass some really cool buildings with some creative architecture. Pleasant surprises everywhere you look in Sanya!

Day-Trip Excursion

This honeymoon stop was totally supposed to be about relaxing and no excursions, and although Hubby would have been pleased to spend a full seven days tanning poolside, I was going stir crazy only a few days in. We did some impromptu online searches for things to do in the area and found the Yalong Bay Tropic Paradise Forest Park. We got ready for the day, took a taxi into town (Jiefang Road) to a large grocery store for snacks and water bottles. Then we hailed another taxi and drove about 35 minutes to the park. On the way there, we kept researching and learned that by the time we arrived we would only have two and a half hours to explore before they closed. Oh well, we were already on our way!

Upon arrival, you purchase the ¥158 CNY ($22.10 USD) ticket and then get ushered onto a small open-air bus that takes you for a ride up the mountain. When we got off, we went on a great hike up steep rock steps until we finally came to a large canyon with a rope footbridge. It was a breathtaking view. A bit crowded, but if you have patience, you can get some less obstructed shots. After the bridge, we continued on our hike to some treehouse lookouts. Although we had a great day, we wished we had known about the hours of operation prior to visiting, because we would have made an earlier start and had a full day there. The park definitely has a lot more to offer than we experienced. Plan your day accordingly. Even writing this post, I looked up the park again and realized they have a transparent-floor illusion bridge. Can’t believe we missed that!!

My Biggest Regret

Whether lounging poolside, walking along the beach, taking a taxi into town, or at the park, everywhere we looked we saw couples with professional photographers doing photoshoots. This was a popular activity in Hainan because of the tropical lush greenery and blue water vistas. I wholeheartedly regret not going over and trying to communicate with them to see if we could set up a photo shoot. They had been at our resort daily, so it would have been convenient, and with the exchange rate it probably wouldn’t have been too expensive. The photographer at our resort brought a see-through kayak, a surf board that said “engaged” on it, and some other props. Often, the photographer placed the couple, stepped back to get himself ready for the shot, and then his assistant did the final touch before the photo was snapped. This could have been something like drifting the kayak out into the pool to make them look like they were in the middle of the water or splashing water at just the right spot. The photos were completely staged, but I’m sure they looked beautiful in the end and would have been a unique souvenir of our time in China.

Pro Tips

  • Hainan is a tropical place, and small creatures may find their way into your room. Therefore, avoid leaving any open food out. There was a time we went out for dinner and came back in to find a small animal (of an unknown variety still to this day) scurry out of the way when we flipped the lights on. I screamed, and it was gone. Maybe a large mouse or shudder very large spider. I couldn’t even sleep in the room that night until Hubby completed a full inspection of the place and confirmed he couldn’t find it. I guess however it got in, it got back out. We never saw it again, because from that point on we wrapped up everything and put it into the fridge when we were done with it.
  • We found a store that sold general items, and I picked up a large donut pool float. Our resort had floats for rent, which were such a waste of money because they rented per hour! So I was extremely happy when we found these floats. It came deflated and they filled it with a machine when we purchased. After we got back to the hotel, we realized it was beginning to deflate—just our luck! But we are in China, so there was no option of returns. A hole in my new donut float! I was devastated. Haha We took the float to the pool to see where the bubbles of air were coming out, and then get crafty and covered the tiny hole with a sprinkle size piece or duct tape. In the end you can hardly tell that we did a repair because it blended in so perfectly with the design. We already had duct tape on hand because our brand-new luggage broke earlier in the trip, and we had to buy duct tape to tape it back together until we got back home to return it. The float was a total splurge, because the price was about what I would have paid in America, but I will say that it significantly increased my poolside enjoyment, and over a year later I still have it. So well worth the money! Don’t waste money on renting from your resort.
  • You will find the most unique purple seashells in Sanya. Beware that even when no animal seems to be living inside, if you take it from the beach, it will smell like something died in it. Purple is my favorite color and I was taken aback by the beauty of these shells in varying shades from lilac to plum. I took two back up to our hotel room and ended up relocating them to the balcony until I finally ditched them back on the beach. Stinky little things! Pictures below show the snail type animal that would normally live in this shell.

The island of Hainan, in China, and the city of Sanya specifically, was a complete surprise to us. We booked it on a whim, having never heard of it before. We planned on sun and relaxation and got so much more. Everything since even before wedding day had been a whirlwind, and this week of lounging poolside allowed us to reset. Staying off the beaten path allowed us to explore and dine like locals. We also learned some valuable travel lessons that we’ll keep with us forever. We highly recommend Sanya!

DISCLAIMER: Any brands listed above are not sponsors.

Belvedere Castle in Central Park NYC

Living in the concrete jungle and dreaming of getting married in a castle? Wales may have the greatest number of castles per square mile in the world, but you don’t have to go to the UK for this dream to come true. If you live in New York City, you have a castle right in your backyard—well, Central Park’s backyard: Belvedere Castle. In this post, we’ll be discussing the history of the Belvedere, its location in the park, a newly completed multi-million dollar renovation, and how to book.

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The History of Central Park

We wouldn’t have the world-renowned Central Park we have today if it wasn’t for Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted. In 1857, Vaux suggested that New York City hold a contest to design a large centralized park in the middle of the city. At the time, Olmsted was the Parks superintendent, and Vaux persuaded him to help create a design plan named “The Greensward Plan.” Their plan for a park with green spaces—as well as separated paths for carriages, horseback riders, and pedestrians—was a new concept. Vaux designed scenic bridges and underpasses that would alleviate collisions, which helped their joint plan win first place! Later that year, construction began, with most work being completed between 1860 and 1873. Today, the park is a whopping 840 acres and a gem in the heart of New York City.

Photo Credit: airpano.com

The History of Belvedere Castle

Belvedere Castle was built from 1867 to 1869 and sits atop Vista Rock, which is the second-highest peak in the park. The terrace, pavilion, and miniature castle overlook the Great Lawn, Turtle Pond, and Delacorte Theater to the north, and the Ramble to the south. From the highest lookout, you have a bird’s-eye-view over the tree line to the towering buildings lining Central Park West, Fifth Avenue, and 59th Street. The castle is aptly named, as “Belvedere” means “beautiful view” in Italian.

The structure was designed as an open-air folly, to be purely ornamental and serve no purpose except for passerby enjoyment. However, in time, New York City had thought of a new purpose for the structure. Ever checked the weather in NYC and noticed Central Park is one of the listed locations? That’s because in 1919 the U.S. Weather Bureau transformed the castle into a weather station by adding scientific instruments such as anemometers, thermometers, and antennas. They also altered the original design by adding windows and doors to the previously open-air structure. Rainfall was also monitored just south of the castle.

Belvedere Castle was vacated in the early 1960s, and that began its fall from its heyday. Due to underuse, the castle fell into disrepair and unfortunately became victim to a disgusting display of vandalism.

The Rebirth

In 1980, the Central Park Conservancy was formed, and in 1983 they began a major restoration on Belvedere by removing graffiti and rebuilding the pavilions. Belvedere had its rebirth as it reopened as a visitor center and gift shop.

Then, in 2016, the Conservancy had a proposal for a $12 million renovation to the castle that would “address drainage, waterproofing, and climate control systems, along with deterioration that has occurred over the last 35 years.” Basically, the castle is going to be the most beautiful, perfect, and up-to-date it has ever been! In March 2018, those plans went into effect when Belvedere closed for a long overdue 15-month renovation. The castle just reopened to the public on Friday, June 28th, 2019, and it remains one of five visitor centers in the park.

During the work, contractors dug 400 feet deep into Vista Rock to add a minimally-visible, zero-emission, energy-efficient geothermal system for cooling and heating of the castle’s interior. Architects went back to Belvedere’s roots with a clear pane window design that evokes the original open-air look. This feature serves not only its function by keeping the new cooling and heating systems from working into overtime, but also its beauty because in the years prior to the renovation the windows were obnoxiously obstructed with bars and shutters.

Then all of the stonework was redone by rebuilding the walls enclosing the terraces; repaving the terraces with new bluestone pavers, appropriately positioning them in the historic and beautiful checkered design; and cleaning and repairing the interior stonework. A long-gone wooden tower that had originally (150 years ago) decorated the top of the pavilion on the northwest corner and balanced out the structure was also rebuilt. And for the first time in the castle’s history, it was illuminated. This is, by far, my favorite restoration, as it makes such a big impact on the evening look of the castle and allows visitors to see the castle from other vantage points within the park.

Photo Credit: Zach Nelson

This video sums up perfectly the scope of work and detail that went into the restoration:

Video Credit: Central Park Conservancy

Discovery

If you were interested in checking out this venue on a tour, the Central Park Conservancy hosts two public tours: the Belvedere: Beautiful View Tour and the Discovery Walks for Families: Turtle Pond Tree Walk.

Or, you can visit on your own in the Summer (June 7th to August 9th) from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm, and Fall, Winter, and Spring from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. Keep in mind that the castle is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.

Or, if you are reading this on a rainy day and just can’t wait to get out there, check out these 360-degree views by dragging the video below:

Video Credit: Central Park Conservancy

Paperwork

Being that this venue is located within a City of New York park, the castle is actually public space. Your certified wedding planner will need to apply for a Special Events permit with the NYC Parks Manhattan Borough Office if 20 or more people will be in attendance. The permit takes 30 days to process, so ensure that you are ahead of deadlines in case there are any hiccups.

As to not distract from the park’s already spectacular scenery, the permit prohibits decorations, although handheld chuppahs are allowed. It also prohibits amplified sound, but you can get around that with acoustic music which is acceptable. Applicants must apply online here. There is a $25 non-refundable application fee, payable by credit or debit card via the online application. NYC Parks has a handy one-pager on their website.

This venue can accommodate a ceremony but not a reception. Nevertheless, you could still have the most spectacular day with an early ceremony in the park. Follow that with a few hours of couple and family photos in the most scenic and historic park in NYC. Then you could make your way to one of the park’s few restaurants or venues that could host your reception (Tavern on the Green, the Loeb Boathouse, or the Central Park Zoo), or you could leave the park entirely and head to a local reception hall or hotel to meet guests.


The romantic beauty of Belvedere Castle is undeniable. The history of the castle and the rebirths it has gone through over the past 150 years are remarkable. The site changed from a park building to an official weather station, to an abandoned structure, to a welcome center and gift shop, and now (after its most recent renovation) it has been brought back to a modern state of its original prime. This site receives approximately one million visitors each year and plays matrimonial host to proposals and wedding ceremonies, bringing joy and wonder to all who experience it.

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Two Days in Bangkok Thailand

Songs like Murray Head’s One Night In Bangkok and movies like The Hangover Part 2 showcase Bangkok as a crazy fun city that you don’t need to spend too much time in (because it could get you in trouble). So the perfect place to honeymoon, right? Next stop on our six-week honeymoon around the world is Bangkok! If you missed our other Thailand posts, click here for Chiang Mai Part 1 and Part 2 and Phuket Part 1 and Part 2. Bangkok is an enjoyable city full of culture and nightlife but small enough that you can experience most of what it has to offer in a short duration of time. In this post, we’ll be covering transportation, hotel, temples, and nighttime activities.

Day 1

We were flying domestic from Phuket Thailand to Bangkok Thailand and used Thai Air. The best part of the flight was the meal surprisingly. They served these hot-pocket style margherita calzones that were so tasty. For an hour-and-twenty-five-minute flight, we were surprised they fed us anything. Flights within Thailand are so cheap too! We only paid $37 USD per person. For that price, it’s absolutely worth it to see several cities, not to mention that it may be cheaper flying internationally out of Bangkok because it’s a larger airport hub than some other big cities in Thailand. Adding a few days’ stay in Bangkok may save you some dough in the long run on flights alone.

After the flight landed at 3:30pm, we took a train to our hotel. As always, it’s important to us that our hotel is close to public transit so we can avoid taxis. We booked the Hotel Solo Sukhumvit 2, which was walking distance from the train and sported a modern lobby and a spacious room.

  • Although we were near transit, in hindsight, the biggest downfall was that we were too far from the attractions that we wanted to see. We had selected a hotel that was close to a train station, but if we had selected a hotel that was closer to the temples, then we wouldn’t have needed to go on trains at all. Our train rides didn’t take that long, but it was extra travel time that took away from us enjoying the city. So our major advice for Bangkok (or any city you stay in for about 48 hours) would be to stay in walking distance from your attractions, if affordable.
  • The second downfall is that our hotel included a nice rooftop pool and we didn’t even have time to go in it. We only searched for hotels with pools, so perhaps there would have been more availability, cheaper rates, or options closer to the temples had we not filtered by that amenity. If you are visiting a city for a brief stay, just skip the extra search filters. You’ll hardly spend much time in the hotel anyway.

By the time we checked in, unpacked, and got ready for the night, it was already starting to sunset. I had learned of a riverside market called Asiatique The Riverfront that had dining, shopping, and some rides. A night market sounded like the perfect activity for our first night. We took public transportation there, which included two above-ground trains followed by a brief ferry ride. The total trip was about 50 minutes. The trains seemed older than the trains in China and Hong Kong, but it was actually really nice arriving by ferry over to the attraction, because the route was more scenic than if we took a taxi.

We were ready for dinner, so we went straight to the BKK Food Fest area. There were many vendors with booths of varying options. We first walked around to see the options and create a game-plan, then we got to work ordering and eating our small bites. We ate so many different things! Lots of little deep-fried sea foods, so hubby was happy, but there were all sorts of choices. The food was tasty, we left full, and we did not get food poisoning. Hubby had just recovered from a bad bout of food poisoning from Phuket, so we were super grateful that the newly introduced food didn’t bring the illness back. There there were some adventurous scorpion and insect options too, though we didn’t partake.

After we ate, we walked around the rides area that included bumper cars, a ferris wheel, a carousel, and other smaller amusement rides. Then we headed indoors to check out the shopping. There are some storefront options of chain stores, and then there are booths like a real night market. They sold all types of goods, so we picked up some souvenirs as we walked around.

We finished shopping and decided to go back the exact way we arrived. Since Asiatique was soon closing, there was a long line for the ferry to leave. We figured we’d wait so we could experience the river at night. It moved pretty fast, and soon enough we were on the two trains and then walking to our hotel. It was close to midnight when we arrived back and we were waking for an early start, so we went straight to bed.

Funny art installation we saw while on the train

Day 2

Before our trip, I had done a lot of research on what there is to do in Bangkok. I read about the several main temples and attractions that, if timed out perfectly, you could see all in one day. So my mission became creating the most perfect one-day Bangkok temple itinerary!

Start your day with an early wakeup, and either eat breakfast at your hotel or on your walk to the attractions.

8:15am-10:30am:

The first stop will be the Grand Palace which opens at 8:30am daily. I recommend you arrive 15 minutes early to get in the queue to purchase tickets, which are free of charge for Thai natives and ฿500 TB ($16.30 USD) for foreigners. These tickets provide access to the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, the Grand Palace, and Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles.

The site was very busy in the morning. Lots of tourists like ourselves trying to start their morning with the Grand Palace. But don’t let that scare you away though. I’m sure it’s just as busy all day long, because it was definitely worth the stop. The site is massive. There are many buildings and beautifully manicured garden areas to explore and take photos of. We first stopped at the Emerald Buddha, which is a large meditating Buddha made from a solid piece of green jade, clothed in gold and diamonds. This attraction was the most crowded. We took our shoes off, walked in, saw the buddha, and then exited. It was very unique from the rest of the buddha figures we had seen in Thailand though. Had it not been so crowded inside, we may have spent more time looking around.

Just after seeing the Emerald Buddha, it started to downpour, and the rain did not let up for a short while. We took refuge in one of the open structures and waited out the storm. The storm definitely helped to lessen the crowded morning rush, because after it stopped there were so many less people on site. We continued to walk around and explore the grounds. The Grand Palace that was once lived in by kings has fantastic architecture and garden courtyards. We didn’t go inside any of the Palace buildings, but it was still neat seeing them up close.

Next stop was the Queen’s Textile museum which showcased many outfits Queen Sirikit had worn, with photos of her at outings wearing them. I loved seeing all the vintage outfits, hats, and bags. While we were visiting, the Textile Museum had a special exhibit celebrating the 200-year-old friendship between the U.S. and Thailand. We hadn’t known what the exhibit was when we entered the museum, but it was cool we got to experience something so relatable! Not sure if they do this for all exhibits, but don’t miss the interactive area on the first floor left side. If all exhibits are as wonderfully done as the one we experienced, this museum is a must-see! It’s totally indoors and a nice air-conditioned break from the heat. We spent around an hour in the museum alone, but in total you could spend two to three hours at the Grand Palace. Had we not been rained out, we probably would have spent more time exploring the grounds.

10:30am-10:47am:

Next stop was to the Wat Pho Temple which was a 17-minute walk from the Grand Palace.

10:47am-12:50pm:

Wat Pho Temple or Temple of the Reclining Buddha opens daily at 8:00am. Upon arrival, you will wait at a ticket booth to purchase your ฿100 TB ($3.26 USD) ticket, then you are allowed entry into the large property. We first got in the queue for the large golden reclining Buddha. This was my favorite temple of the day, because the Buddha was so large: 160 feet long to be exact! It made for some really great photos. The line snaked us through the building, and along the way you had many opportunities to snag some sweet pics of every angle of the structure. Since you were always walking along the railing, you had unobstructed views for photos. The line brings you down the front then up the back of the long Buddha body.

Although the Reclining Buddha is probably what brings most people to this property, there is so much more to see. We walked around for another good bit of time taking pictures. There were other buildings, statues sprinkled throughout the gardens, and sweet sleepy kitty-cats everywhere (photos at the end)! We spent almost two hours at the property.

12:50pm-1:20pm:

Next, we walked right across the street about a minute’s walk to a restaurant called the Tha Tian Store City Lodge. It was a small place but was busy, so we figured they must have some good food. We found the food to be tasty and the service to be good and fast. We didn’t want to spend too much time at lunch, so it perfectly worked into our schedule. Looking at this restaurant’s reviews on Google, I see now that it has mixed reviews. We had a fine time, but if you wanted to check out other options, that whole street is lined with food options. Don’t veer too far, because the ferry is close by and also our next mode of transportation. I’ve read good things about these other options: Krisa Coffee Stop, Krua Khun Kung, and Old Town Café.

1:20pm-1:30pm:

This next stretch of time was spent walking from the restaurant down a side street to the ferry, purchasing our ฿4.00 TB ($0.13 USD) ticket, waiting for the boat, boarding, and riding directly across the Chao Phraya River to the next temple. With no waits, this trip is 10 minutes. I have some more notes in the transportation section below to help you speed up the process of finding the ferry.

1:30pm-2:30pm:

Our next stop was to the Wat Arun Temple or Temple of the Dawn, which opens daily at 8:30am. When you get off the ferry, you will need to purchase a ticket to enter the grounds for ฿50 TB ($1.63 USD). The way it was built in a tall, towering structure reminded me of the pyramids from Egypt. Unlike some of the other colorful Thai temples we had seen, Wat Arun from a distance looked very white, but as you got closer you began to realize the backdrop of the temple is white with a very intricate pattern of red, blue, green, and yellow mosaic tiles. I found this temple exterior to be the most beautiful. We spent about an hour walking around the grounds.

2:30pm-3:15pm:

When we left Wat Arun, we took a ferry back across the river to where we had started, then we transferred to a different ferry line that would take us farther south toward our next destination. There were several stops along the way, so the ride took a little bit of time, but I’ll never complain about a nearly free boat ride!

3:15pm-7:00pm:

Next, we headed to the River City Shopping Complex, which is a huge mall that specializes in antiques. We weren’t really in the market for antiques, but our next activity was a dinner cruise that left from the waterfront of this shopping center, so we decided to head there a little early and hang out in the mall. We explored some of the stores which really did sell all types of antique items, and then we stopped at their pharmacy to pick up some essentials we had been running low on.

7:00pm-7:30pm:

Then we were ready to cap off the night with a Princess dinner cruise along the Chao Phraya River. They suggested you arrive 30 minutes early for the 7:30pm departure. We walked back downstairs pier side, and it was a sea of people! Apparently, our Princess dinner cruise wasn’t the only company leaving from this pier. It took us a few minutes to maneuver through the crowd and find our actual boat. There were these ornately dressed, overly-pleasant hosts that greeted us. They asked for our ticket and in exchange they provided us with a purple orchid and greenery corsage pin and an orange sticker. Each boat company did the same with a different color flower and sticker. Later as they would check everyone in, this would help make it easy to board: wrong flower and sticker, wrong boat! Next, the host took a picture of us. Then, we were welcomed to take a seat and wait for boarding.

7:30pm-9:30pm:

The website states that “The River Star Princess Cruise will take you to enjoy the beautiful night scenery on both sides of the Chao Praya River in our cruise seat. The captain of River Star Princess Cruise will be leading the boat up to Rama 8 Bridge and then, you will have an unique opportunity to get some snapshots of two most wonderful night spots in Bangkok, Wat Arun The Temple of Dawn and the Grand Palace & Wat Pra Kaew -The Temple of Emerald Buddha. Time for your dinner under the candle light with “Live Music” in a romantic atmosphere. Delight the Thai & International cuisine in a superb buffet. Enjoy the Thai classical dancing performance and disco on the cruise.”

I recommend you arrive early so you can guarantee a seat right on the water. Hubby and I were seated at a table with other people, but we arrived first, so we sat across from each other and took the river seats. This allowed us to get unobstructed photos without heads or the boat in them. For ฿1,400 TB ($45.66 USD), everything was pretty much included. We had drinks, a huge yummy international buffet spread, live entertainment, and the cruise itself, which allowed us to see all the temples we saw during the day all lit up at night and a great vantage point for photos. We really enjoyed ourselves. While we were eating dessert, the host delivered our framed photo in a cute red frame. While we were dining, they must have printed them and got them all ready as included souvenirs. This was very unexpected and a nice touch to end the evening.

9:30pm-10:30pm:

The only disadvantage of the cruise was waiting for a taxi to get back to our hotel. As you can imagine, all the cruises arrived back at the same time, so it was another madhouse on the pier. The taxi stand was an absolute wreck! It took us forever to find our car (hailed via a Thai version of Uber or Lyft) and leave. If I could do this over again, I’d either take a ferry back toward Wat Pho Temple or walk several blocks away from the mall to call a taxi on the street.

By the time our taxi found us, we were exhausted, and just wanting to go back to the hotel to crash. The ride back wasn’t too bad once we were in the car. In hindsight, this was our only night to go and enjoy the rooftop pool, but we were exhausted and just wanted to crash. Walking temples all day and eating a big meal will have that effect on you.

Alternatives for the Itinerary:

  • There is definitely a chunk of time between our temples and the dinner cruise—however, you really can’t plan down to the minute because you’ll want to have enough time to walk through each temple property without being rushed. You may take more or less time than we did. So leave some wiggle room and maybe have a backup activity to fill the gap and maximize time if your temples finish fast.
  • To fill the gap, you could add an activity such as a longer nice sit-down lunch, a short Thai cooking class, a massage parlor, the National Gallery Bangkok, or a Jim Thompson House tour.
  • Our hotel was too far to go there and back between temples and the dinner cruise. It would have been nice to get all dolled up for dinner. Perhaps if you select a hotel closer to the attractions, you can run back, relax poolside, or take a honeymoon siesta, then get freshened up before you head out.
  • Even though you may think 8:30am is too early to be at the first temple, and if you have room you can shift everything later, DON’T! It’s literally so hot, you guys – SO HOT IN THAILAND. The earlier in the morning you go, the cooler it will be. We arrived at the shopping mall at the peak of heat for the day, and the air conditioning was welcome.

Day 3

We woke up and packed up the room. The end of Bangkok was quickly approaching. The next stop on our honeymoon was to a city called Sanya, located on the island of Hainan in China. Due to us flying international, we wanted to be at the airport three hours in advance. Our flight departed at 4:00pm, so we arrived by 1:00pm.

Transportation Options

  • The Bangkok Skytrain (known as the BTS) and the Bangkok Subway (known as the MRT) are the two most convenient ways to travel around Bangkok. Trains were good, but in my opinion it’s not a large system with enough lines. In comparison, the BTS and MRT in Bangkok only jointly have 5 lines, whereas Beijing and New York City have 20+ lines.
  • Ferries were also a great option if traveling along the riverfront. They make multiple stops along the way, so it’s not that quick, but it was nice being on the water. The trickiest thing about the ferry is finding some of the entrance booths to purchase tickets and get on. It’s not as commercialized as you would think. There is not a lot of signage, and some of them sort of look like you are entering a tin shopping or food hut (like a night market booth), not a ferry terminal. We always pre-download maps of the cities we are visiting, so we used Google maps (which was surprisingly reliable and accurate!) to help us find the exact locations of the entrances. We took ferries to get to Asiatique and our dinner cruise.
Photo Credit: Travelvui.com
  • Taxis are expensive, but tuk-tuks are even more expensive. There is an Uber/Lyft-like app you can download called Grab. For us, it said “five minutes until pick up” but that easily turned into a 30-minute wait. Maybe it doesn’t take traffic into consideration? if you don’t mind waiting, the Grab app is the cheapest kind of car transit. I recommend you download it before your travels.
  • Walking in May just wasn’t an option for us. We tried to walk where we could, but it was so hot. If you visit Bangkok at a cooler time of year, then stay as close to your attractions as possible and walk. It will save you money as well as time waiting for transportation.

Pro Tips:

  • Women must cover up shoulders and knees while visiting sacred temples. It was so hot in May that I decided to wear a sleeveless, below-the-knee dress and then brought a t-shirt along with us that I threw on whenever we were going inside a temple. I just couldn’t bear the heat, being so covered the entire day, so adding the t-shirt layer worked perfectly.
  • Sticky mango rice is life. We didn’t eat it nearly enough times in Thailand, and you can hardly find it of the same quality back in America; when you find it, it tastes totally different. I don’t even eat coconut, but I LOVED this dish.
  • To avoid illness, don’t drink the tap water in Thailand. Only take ice when it has the hole in the center. This is a sign that it may have been processed and purified. If you have access to airport lounges, stock up on a few water bottles that will tide you over until you can purchase bottles at a convenience store.
  • The largest market in the world, called Chatuchak Weekend Market, exists in Bangkok, but it’s only open on weekends. We missed it since we visited on a Thursday and Friday and didn’t have a full weekend day to explore. If you visit on a weekend, then maybe add in a day just for shopping and exploring this area of town.
Photo Credit: Tripsavvy.com
  • Bangkok is also known for having fun full-moon rooftop parties. Unfortunately, we weren’t visiting during a full moon, but if you are then definitely look into if your hotel or a local bar is having a party you can attend.
  • Be cautious if wanting to purchase Buddha memorabilia. You will see it sold everywhere you turn, but Buddha is a sacred symbol and there are fines or jail time if you are seen to be disgracing the symbol or not following the strict exportation of Buddha rules.

Bangkok is a great stopover if you are headed to a destination in Asia and want to spend a few days in an additional city. We were able to experience multiple iconic temples, enjoy an exhibit on Thailand and American friendship, and have two nights out on the town. Although short-lived, we enjoyed our jam-packed 48 hours in Bangkok.

…Ending on some temple animals for your viewing pleasure…

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Picking the Perfect Wedding Dress

Once you’re engaged, the “Great Pinterest Hunt” begins for the perfect dress… but where to start? You end up liking parts of this dress and other parts of that dress, so you Pin them both. While you’re still having difficulty nailing down exactly what style and cut you like, your Pinterest board quickly begins to look like a hodgepodge of all the white dresses you can find. And when your Pinning frenzy ends, you still can’t make heads or tails of the results.

Well, take a break from all those Pins and read on to learn about dress silhouettes and necklines. Once you nail down the options available for neckline (top of the dress) and silhouette (bottom of the dress), you’ll be able to narrow down your internet searches and find the perfect dress.

It’s a lot of pressure to find “the one” dress that is supposed to make everyone cry of happiness, and TV shows like TLC’s “Say Yes to the Dress” at Kleinfeld’s amp up the pressure. Sure, every now and then they have a bride leave the store empty-handed, but nearly every episode ends with the bride making a purchase. I’d like to begin by saying that leaving the store having picked your dress on day one is the stuff of fairytales. I did NOT find my dress at the first store I went into. I live in New York City, a fashion design and bridal mecca, and I visited four stores before I found the perfect dress. For my entire life, I envisioned I would wear a ballgown. Lo and behold, they looked awful on me! I was swallowed up by every single one that I tried on. It took four stores and pushing myself out of my mental comfort zone before I realized my body looked best in a fit and flare. It was at that moment I realized the best way to find your perfect dress is to understand your body type and style.

Silhouettes

A-Line

This silhouette name comes from the A-shape the dress provides on your body as it creates a fitted bodice, a cinch across your waist, and a fuller skirt. The A-Line is versatile, not quite as full as a ballgown but fuller than the other cuts, can be cut into most fabrics, and handles embellishments such as beading and embroidery with ease.

Photo Credit: Kleinfeld’s Bridal

Ball Gown

I am sure everyone has heard of the ballgown dress cut by now. But if you are unsure, think back to Cinderella’s blue dress with a full skirt. This dreamy fairytale look will give any bride the princess vibe. Typically, the bodice of this dress is sleek, with a defined waist and a full skirt hiding the hips and belly. Those factors make the ballgown extremely flattering for many different body types.

Photo Credit: Kleinfeld’s Bridal

Dropped Waist

As funny as it sounds, the dropped waist is to wedding dresses what the mullet is to haircuts: it’s a fitted top through right below the waistline, then a flare from just around the hip area. The dropped waist is for the bride that wants to show off their figure but also wants a full skirt. The best of both worlds (so maybe it’s not like a mullet then haha).

Photo Credit: Kleinfeld’s Bridal

Empire

The bodice of the empire ends right under the breasts, and the skirt begins to flow down from there, covering the waist and hips. Although this dress does not provide you with a very feminine waist-hugging shape, it is forgiving and provides you with a lean and tall shape.

Photo Credit: David’s Bridal

Fit and Flare / Trumpet

A sexy cut, but not as dramatic as the mermaid, the fit and flare hugs the body until the skirt begins to open up mid thigh. You achieve a little derrière attention, without it being the star of the show. As I mentioned above, this was the cut I chose because I was finally able to see my body.

Photo Credit: Kleinfeld’s Bridal

Mermaid

Here comes the sexy siren! The form fitted bodice, waist, hips and bum lead to a puff of skirt from the knee down, imitating a mermaid’s tail. The mermaid is the most bootiliscious dress there is! If you are petite, consider that you won’t be able to hem the dress from the bottom; you may have to shorten before the mermaid tail, and that could potentially change the look of the dress if it was beaded or embellished.

Photo Credit: Kleinfeld’s Bridal

Sheath

This cut is very form-fitted and hugs the body at its every curve, from bodice to a straight drape down from the knee. I see this style worn often for beach ceremonies. This dress is lighter weight and won’t be as affected by sand or wind. Sheath gowns are also excellent options for petite and slender brides who don’t want to be swallowed up in their dress.

Photo Credit: Kleinfeld’s Bridal

Tea Length

A very 50’s inspired dress is the shortened tea length that ends the hemline mid-calf or at the ankles. This style may work for a daytime wedding, a themed wedding, or if your style is a little retro.

Photo Credit: David’s Bridal

Necklines

Bateau / Boat

This shape follows parallel to your shoulders, cutting slightly rounded but almost straight across, showing less of the décolletage (the upper chest where the collarbones appear). Due to the semi-straight high line, it is often seen as a modest cut.

Photo Credit: Kleinfeld’s Bridal

Cowl

This cut has the most fabric because there is a draping layer that hangs over or above the bust.

Photo Credit: Nordstrom

Crew

Also known as the T-shirt neckline, due to its similarity to an actual crew T-shirt, the crew neckline is round and sits at the base of the throat.

Photo Credit: Kleinfeld’s Bridal

Halter

A halter style wraps around the neck, leaving the shoulder and back bare. This style is practical for women with a larger bust, as it helps to hold in “the girls.”

Photo Credit: Kleinfeld’s Bridal

High Neck

A modern high neck style narrows at the neck in the front and back of the dress leaving only the shoulders bare. Meghan Markle’s second wedding dress that she went to the party in was a high neck cut. Older or more traditional full coverage high necks will look more Victorian with a high neck fabric and full sleeves.

Photo Credit: Kleinfeld’s Bridal

Illusion

A sheer fabric with embellishments on top creates an illusion of bare skin with floating designs. This style is very chic. Illusion necklines can be seen in the front as well as the back of the dress and can be sleeveless or have long sleeves. You can also find a sheer illusion top with no design, which creates a classy look and provides support without the heaviness of a full fabric top.

Photo Credit: Kleinfeld’s Bridal