Foxes in Paradise & A Blizzard Wedding

Howdy folks! I’m back from my honeymoon, well-rested, relaxed (well, sort of), and — by some miracle! — actually a little bit tan! Sean and I escaped the 2 – 3 feet of show that Winter Storm Jonas dumped on the DC Metro area and spent 3 days traipsing around the Florida Keys, a day in Miami, and then 7 days aboard the Norwegian Escape!


We spent some time with Hemingway’s cats in Key West (they have thumbs!), ate lots of delicious seafood all throughout Florida, drank LOTS o’ drinks (exhibit A below), got some time in the sun, and just spent time enjoying being husband and wife (which is still SO weird to say, not gonna lie.)


The Norwegian Escape is a brand new cruise ship that sailed to St. Thomas, Tortola, and Nassau. I’d never cruised on Norwegian before, but I found a really great deal and what with it being a shiny new ship, I’m glad we gave it a try!


It was a lot of fun — the boat was definitely constructed with families in mind, so it had waterslides, a ropes course, and some really great shows. All of which I took full advantage of, heh. The boat had a capacity of over FOUR THOUSAND passengers (crazy!), plus something like 1,700 staff, but it definitely never felt like there were that many people on board. Thank goodness.


Overall I had a really great time: our room was nice, the excursions were good, the staff was friendly, and the ship was beautiful! We went snorkeling and beach-dwelling in St. Thomas & Tortola, we got to spend a lot of time in the sun, and the food was pretty good on the ship.


However, there were definitely a few things I didn’t really like — when I booked, the casino on board was supposed to be smoke-free (hooray!), but apparently NCL changed their minds at some point and it definitely was NOT. And because of the casino’s location right in the center of the main Atrium area, three whole levels of the ship basically smelled like smoke all the time. Which especially sucked, ’cause it was one of the most beautiful parts of the ship!


Also, one of the restaurants on board the ship was supposed to be included as a complimentary option, but before our sailing, they changed it to be priced a la carte. Which I don’t really care that much about since there were plenty of free options on board, but it just seems so sketchy for a huge company to constantly be going back and forth and changing their minds. If I had my druthers, I’d probably still prefer to cruise Celebrity, but who knows? Maybe I just need to take a few more cruises to really decide. ūüėČ

Now, since Winter Storm Jonas decided to crash our wedding and  we got hit with what some dubbed the Blizzard of the Century (still a little early in this century to make that call, in my opinion, but whatever), I feel pretty confident in saying that we earned our honeymoon.

Especially considering the state of things when we left. Feet of snow, unplowed neighborhoods (ours didn’t get touched ’til Monday!), slick roads. Oy. I had to walk half a mile in the snow from the closest cleared road just to be able to get to the house to pack for our honeymoon!


But, let’s be real, it’s kind of a miracle that Sean and I were still able to get married at all — never mind the fact that it was a legitimately awesome party and aside from the whole missing half our guests thing, it couldn’t have been more wonderful.

See, the week before Winter Storm Jonas hit the Eastern seaboard, most people were making emergency trips to Trader Joe’s, purchasing extra snow shovels from Home Depot, and waiting in line to fill up their gas tanks. Me? I was preparing to get married.

Yep, out of all the days in winter that could have been hit with a mega-blizzard, OF COURSE it was on my wedding. As my uncle, who officiated our wedding, so eloquently quoted, “If you want to make God laugh, make plans.

Our venue, the morning of the wedding.
Now, I chose a January wedding date in the first place, so I can’t really say that I wasn’t prepared for a snowy wedding day. I mean, c’mon, I had the boots, I had the faux fur coat… I just wasn’t prepared for THAT MUCH snow. But even with #Snowzilla crashing the wedding, I knew, without a doubt, that I wanted to get married to my love if at all humanly possible.


Canceling/postponing didn’t really feel like an option, since by the time the storm was looking like it was definitely happening and that it would be as bad as folks were saying, many of our family members had already arrived in town. Some of our vendors had already canceled on us, but our venue, caterer, coordinator, photographer, and videographer never did (because they’re the BEST), so we figured at the very least, there would be some great food at a beautiful spot in Old Town Alexandria, and we’d be able to capture the experience with the folks who were able to make it.

For the most part, we just proceeded as if there wasn’t a world-ending blizzard about to rain (well, snow) on my parade. We got our manis + pedis, we worked on the flowers (well, my amazing super-bridesmaid Holly did most of the flower arranging while I cried quietly in the corner), and we just tried to make the best out of what was turning into an increasingly more insane situation.

When we realized just how bad the storm was looking, my family hastily worked to book ourselves and the wedding party at the Hilton Old Town Alexandria, located just half a mile from our venue for the weekend. So on Friday, just before the snow unleashed itself upon the greater DC area, we all packed up and headed into Alexandria.

Thankfully, many of our family members were already staying at either the same hotel or one just across the street, and the rest of my extended family members immediately jumped on rearranging their travel plans, rebooking flights that got canceled and driving many hours so they could beat the storm. It was incredible — almost every single member of my family who had RSVP’d yes was able to be at the wedding, and I was so, so touched.

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So Friday evening we headed over to the Memorial for our wedding rehearsal — the snow was already coming down pretty hard at this point — and were met by a WUS9 reporter who wanted to do a story on our wedding! So that was fun, and you can check out the video here, hehe.

Friday night was our rehearsal dinner, which — again, thankfully — Sean’s parents were hosting at the very same hotel. So there were no major worries there, thank goodness! We had a traditional Chinese tea ceremony as part of the festivities, ate lots of food, drank, and all had a damn good time because, hey, it’s not like any of us were going anywhere that night!

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It was kind of a blessing in disguise, really, because I have some really awesome friends who changed their plans and hung out with us a day early so they wouldn’t miss the wedding, so I got to spend extra time with them. That was kind of a theme throughout the entire weekend, in fact: blessings in disguise. People really reveal themselves during a crisis, and I am so fortunate to be surrounded with people who sacrificed their weekends, changed their plans, and never complained for a second that I was forcing them to deal with a blizzard.

Right, so, Saturday. The Wedding Day.

Obviously, things didn’t run quite as smoothly as they might have sans-blizzard, but as you already know, all’s well that ends well. Even though everything went basically as smooth as it could have, especially given the circumstances, I spent a lot of the morning pretty stressed out because I kept thinking that worse things were going to happen. At this point, our hair & makeup folks had already canceled on us, and the DJ wasn’t able to make it either, but I think I was half-expecting for the caterer to call and say they couldn’t get there, or for the venue to call and say they were shutting down. We put up our photographer, videographer, and coordinator in the hotel with us, so that was comforting, but without the caterer and without the venue, things would have been a very different situation, so I was still anxious.

But of course, I had no real reason to be! Aside from our timeline getting a little bit skewed because we all had to do our own hair & makeup, and us having to change our first look from outdoors to indoors because, well, obviously, things went relatively smoothly. Remember that thing I said about how certain people reveal themselves to be absolutely amazing in a crisis? Well, I’ve got a lot of those people in my life.

When we decided to move our entire encampment to Alexandria on Friday, my parents’ next-door-neighbors amazingly agreed to look after all five of our family’s dogs (yes, FIVE). They even ended up shoveling my parents’ walk AND shoveling out some of the back yard for the boys. I was incredulous. When I forgot one of my makeup bags, my friend Megan walked ten blocks IN A BLIZZARD to Walgreens to pick up supplies so that I could do my own makeup.

My wunder-bridesmaid Holly stepped in — after already spending the night before making boutonnieres — to do my hair on the day of the wedding, and it looked amazing. My friend Breanne helped the rest of my bridesmaids with their hair + makeup. And the groomsmen stepped in to create a wedding playlist when we found out that the DJ wasn’t going to make it.

Originally, I’d had all kinds of grand plans to be able to set up a lot of the decor and stuff myself, because I had a very specific vision of how I wanted everything to look. I wanted to provide examples of the centerpieces and stuff, because, you know, I’m a crazy person. Well, with having to move everyone over to the Hilton and do the rehearsal and not collapse into a pile of tears and everything, that obviously didn’t happen. But, again, it didn’t matter because my coordinator Caitlin and her assistant executed every detail wonderfully.

They spent extra time over at the Memorial ensuring things were all set up, coordinating with the vendors, coordinating with my bridesmaids, and I never knew any of it was even going on. She’s good, folks. She is good.

After we were (finally) ready, I went down to the hotel lobby to do my first look with Sean. Then we headed over to the Memorial nice and early to take more photos. Originally our plan was to go around Old Town Alexandria to take photos but, of course, that was one of many plans that had to change. Which was not a big deal, as it turned out, because the wind and snow at this point was so intense, it was like you were being shot with tiny little icicles all over your body. Brrrr. This shot that Sean’s brother captured sums it up pretty well:


I will tell you, I think the thing that provided me with the biggest sense of relief that entire day was just physically GETTING to our wedding venue. Until I actually walked through that door, I felt like there was still a chance that this wasn’t going to happen. And since I ran into another bride in the lobby of the hotel whose venue had cancelled on her, it wasn’t until I was on-site, with my groom, my officiants, my parents, my wedding party, and my awesome vendors, that I really knew, 100%, that this was happening.

Sean’s brother also captured this moment of joyful sobbing that happened when I found out that my friend Chad had literally walked 2 miles to play our ceremony music. Hey, 1/4 of a string quartet is a pretty good turnout when there’s a blizzard going on outside!

Unfortunately the weather outside was too severe at this point to do any more photos outside (Sean and I tried, haha), so took some wedding party photos and family photos indoors while folks were arriving. Before we knew it, it was time to start the show! And amazingly, we still started the ceremony almost exactly on time!

Our wedding ceremony was filled with love and joy — we followed a traditional Episcopalian liturgy, but added a few personal touches, including exchanging some personal vows. Sean’s vows were amazing, and unshockingly, I basically cried my way through the entire ceremony.

And when all was said and done, we were MARRIED! Mr. & Mrs. Fox, at your service!

TIME TO BOOGIE!!!!!

We had a pretty traditional wedding setup — with the ceremony, then cocktail hour, then dinner, dancing, and debauchery.

We may have had half the amount of people, but they partied twice as hard! Almost all the guests who couldn’t make it were locally-based. With the Metro shut down Friday night, I think the amount of snow was just too intense for people to even get out of their neighborhoods. So a HUMONGOUS MOUNTAIN of bonus points goes Anne & Matt and Lara & Jim who win the Ultimate Grand Prize as our only friends who made it to the wedding despite not staying at the hotel the night before. They’re crazy. I love them. 

Photos stolen from Anne ūüôā
It was a ridiculously good time. DJ Ben (my bro) & DJ Brett (Sean’s best man) kept the tunes spinning and folks were gettin’ down on the dance floor, and it was a pretty amazing night.

After Sean and I had finished eating, we slipped away to take a few more photos and shoot some video together, and when we came back it was party time!


Mia was the real star of this wedding, let’s be honest. ūüėČ

My friend Megan brought her sweet Fuji Film Instamax camera (basically an even more awesome Polaroid), and captured some great shots throughout the day too.

Obviously, this is really just a brief overview of everything that went on throughout our wedding weekend, and there’s so much more to dive into, buuuuuut this post has already been ridiculously long, haha. So prepare yourself for more posts to come, as I’ve got lots of details to show you, stories to tell, and there are lots more photos to come from my awesome photographer, too. And I can’t WAIT to see my wedding video! There’s still so much to relive from this awesome, momentous, historic, wonderful, wonderful day.

Lovelovelove,

Gretchen Fox <3

Slytherin Hair, Hufflepuff Spirit

Those of you who have been longtime readers of this blog know that at one point in time, I was a daily blogger. Yes, every single weekday, and even some weekends if there was anything particularly exciting to report, I would open up a fresh post page in WordPress and type, type, type my heart out. I would detail everything from my latest weigh-in what I made for dinner the night before, to what I had been up to that weekend, to just all of the random thoughts that ran through my noggin.

Of course, part of the reason for that daily blogging was the accountability I so desperately needed to keep myself on track with weight loss, but¬†another (rather sizeable) contributing factor was the fact that my job, well, let’s just say it didn’t exactly keep me busy 100% of the time. And during the rare¬†times when I was busy, I was doing things I wasn’t exactly jazzed about having to do. So¬†what better way to keep myself from going cuckoo behind a cubicle than to take to the magic of the world wide interwebs, right?

Well, as it turns out, me running to this very blog on an almost-daily basis was the very thing that honed my writing and social media skills to the point where I was able to land a full-time job that took advantage of those very things. A job that honestly felt tailor-made for me. My dream job. (I know how obnoxious it is that I still say stuff like that, but, hey, honest is as honest does!)

But, of course, suddenly having a job that not only required more of my time, but that I also¬†wanted to devote time to, meant that I found myself starkly lacking in that ho-hum, what-to-do-what-to-do downtime where I was able to do a lot of my blogging. And so, those daily posts suddenly dropped to a few times a week. Then maybe once a week. And now… well, I think we all know I’m not the greatest at updating frequently.

And the funny thing about blogging, for me, at least, is that the longer you stay away, the harder it is to jump back. Logically, you’d think it’d be the opposite scenario. I mean, I have so much to report on, so many things to tell you about, so many photos to embed, I¬†should¬†be cranking out post after post, right? But it’s actually more like, there’s so much to say, I don’t really know where to start.

Funny, right? When I was writing at least 5 times a week, I rarely struggled to come up with content, and yet here I am with a multi-part dream vacation, a very stressful and frightening¬†hospital stay¬†for my dog Harry (don’t worry, he’s okay now, thank goodness), a friend’s wedding,¬†and tons of events, cooking expeditions, and restaurant recaps stirring around in my brain, and I hardly even know where to start.

Well, I guess I should follow¬†Fraulein Maria’s¬†advice and start at the very beginning, eh?

A couple of weeks ago, Sean and I headed down to sunny Florida for a vacation¬†that basically consisted of all the best possible things in life: my niece Mia, Harry Potter, Disney, a cruise, Sean’s birthday, the Kennedy Space Center, and, of course, more Harry Potter. (Duh.)

It was a pretty long trip and as you can see, we did quite a few different things, so I’ll try to tackle this chronologically.¬†The trip can essentially be broken up into thirds. Part I consisted of being together with my sister, brother-in-law, and Mia, who drove over from Georgia to visit¬†Universal Studios and Disney’s Magic Kingdom with us!

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Mia’s first trip to Disney, though she will not in any way, shape, or form remember it, was so much fun! I’m sure I would have still had fun even if it was just us “grown ups” touring Magic Kingdom, but I have to admit that it’s all the more special with a little princess in tow.

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And even though I’m sure parts of it were really overwhelming, I think Mia really had a great time! We basically had to pry her off of the teacups, and she was so excited to meet Belle, well, see for yourself. She was literally head over heels for her. ūüėČ

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I will, of course, do a much, much (much much much much) more detailed post on Diagon Alley, the newest part of the Universal Studios Theme Park and literally the most magical place on Earth, but for now, suffice it to say that it was absolutely amazing and perfect and wonderful and I almost cried but didn’t quite so be proud of me.

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Just a couple of gals hanging out on Sirius Black’s flying motorbike, nbd.
Sean absolutely gets full marks for being so wonderful through all my insane fangirling, of course. For someone who has only read the first three Harry Potter books, has only seen like movies 1, 2, and 8 (or something equally as ridiculous), and doesn’t exactly have the Disney-obsessed gene that tends to run in my bloodline, he was an incredibly good sport.

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I did not actually end up buying him the “Best Boyfriend” award pictured above, but those of you fearing for Sean’s sanity after what he went through on this trip, don’t worry. Part 2 of our trip was a lot more fun for him, I promise. ūüôā

After we said goodbye to Jenny, Dan, and Mia, it was time for Part II of our trip! Sean and I took the world’s most expensive Uber ride about an hour east from Orlando to Port Canaveral — we were going on a cruise! See, my old man’s 30th birthday just happened to coincide with this trip, so I figured that a nice, relaxing 3-day Bahamian cruise was just the ticket to make sure he got a chance to really enjoy this vacation too.

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PS: Traveling as a couple and trying to get pictures together = having to choose between taking yet another selfie OR¬†awkwardly asking other couples if they’ll take a picture of you, since only they truly know your plight.
We were on Royal Caribbean’s Enchantment of the Seas, and the cruise was very nice — lots of downtime, relaxing, and, of course, eating! Oh boy, so much food… it’s really a good thing the cruise was only three days, I tell you what. We left from Port Canaveral and stopped in Nassau, Bahamas, and then we were also set to stop at CocoCay, Royal Caribbean’s “private island,” but unfortunately some really bad winds meant we had to skip it, as the water was too choppy to risk taking tender boats to the shore.

Oh well, being on the boat is where most of the fun in cruising is at, anyway, right? I mean, I managed to win $20 in the casino off of a $5 initial investment, so I’m thinking things went preeeeetty well for us. ūüėČ

We actually ended up returning to Florida ON Sean’s birthday, so we headed just a few miles out from Port Canaveral to the Kennedy Space Center’s Vistor Complex and spent most of the day nerding out about space. (Sidenote: we also just saw Interstellar over this past weekend and I tell ya, it was a good combination to have just visited the Space Center, heh.)

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Sean’s a big space nut, so he had a great time checking out the old rockets, the space shuttle Atlantis, and all other sorts of nifty space-race history stuff while we were there. And as for me? Well, I may be¬†as much of a space enthusiast as Sean, but I definitely learned a lot…

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Finally, we ended the day with Sean’s birthday dinner at Luma on Park, a fantastic restaurant that came recommended by my coworker and the Orlando Community Manager for Yelp (she does what I do here, only there.)

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And that successfully wraps up both Parts I and II of our trip! Whew! For those of you still reading, I’m pretty impressed that you made it. And fear not, I shall save Part III for another day, since it pretty much just consists of going back to Harry Potter World, shamelessly geeking out, and totally, utterly, completely loving my life.

Slytherin hair, Hufflepuff spirit.

Hopefully at least getting a significant chunk of my big trip down on paper (so to speak) will help me funnel my blogging mojo back into some semblance of normalcy. I definitely have more to report on, so stay tuned! Especially those of you who are looking for more of an in-depth look at the new Diagon Alley part of Universal Studios, hehe. Oh man, there are so many more ridiculous pictures to come…

‘Til next time!