Choosing a Great Wedding Gift

When you get married, one of the perks is all the awesome presents you receive. Almost all of your household items get an upgrade, from your trash can (thanks mom!) to your bathroom towels. And of course, you get a lot of cash to help pay off the wedding and start your new life together.

When you’re a guest at a wedding, it can be hard to figure out what a good gift is. I was reflecting the other day on what my favorite presents were and noticed they all tended to fit a few criteria: unique, special, practical and thoughtful.

Here are a few of our favorite gifts:

Wedding Memories

My sister and her husband were a huge help during my last few weeks of wedding planning because they offered to handle our guest book as part of their wedding gift. You have no idea how much these little details can be a thorn in a bride’s side!

They came to Chicago with this gorgeous frame, printed photo from our engagement session and everything we needed to create a “guest book” that we can show off in our home forever. We have it hanging in our living room now and I love looking at all the notes we got from guests.

Unique Registry Items

I am all about buying someone something off their registry- they really need those things to build a new home together. Instead of buying the typical items listed though, I like to purchase one of the few odd items – like a neck massager or a set of bathrobes – you can find on a couple’s list.

These less common items are often times the gifts that the bride and groom are secretly most excited about. For us, it was our ice cream maker. This is the one kitchen item I am absolutely in love with. I use it literally once a week to make delicious, homemade ice cream like this:

Personalized Home Decor

My best friend Julia gave us this gorgeous, hand-painted vase that features the Chicago skyline.

It was made by a popular artist in our hometown and I know Julia put a lot of thought into matching the blue with our new dishes. I love this gift because every time I look at it, I think of my beloved Chicago and where we fell in love and eventually married.

Another personalized present I loved came from my friend Jaime. She had a bottle of wine branded with a picture from our wedding dance, and paired it with some gorgeous Tiffany’s wine glasses.

Trust me- anything that comes in that blue box will be adored by the bride!

Group Purchases

We had a few items on our registry that were significantly higher in price than others- like our bathroom towel set and pots and pans. We really needed them, but weren’t expecting to get them since they cost a lot for one person to buy.

So we were happily surprised when my parent’s friends coordinated together to get us some of these more expensive items. Buying gifts with other people definitely takes more time and effort, but the extra level of thoughtfulness doesn’t go unnoticed by the bride and groom.

A Honeymoon Surprise

Luke and I spent our honeymoon in Maui, HI and when we checked into the hotel, were greeted with a wonderful surprise: our friends Gary and Serena had arranged for us to have breakfast “in bed” on any morning we chose.

Enjoying a gourmet breakfast on the balcony of our room ended up being one of our favorite moments from our honeymoon and definitely a memorable gift.


Of course, you can never go wrong with money. Checks, gift cards, cash- these are ALWAYS appreciated by a newly married couple. Luke and I used some of the money we received to splurge on some big ticket items like a new bed, camera and computer.

We were lucky enough to receive many thoughtful, special presents for our wedding.

What do you typically give the bride and groom at weddings you attend? If you’re married, what is your favorite wedding gift?

Le Dinh Hon – A Vietnamese Engagement

Hi Batty Life readers! Thi here, again.

It’s been a while, but I’m a friend of Liz’s and wrote a guest post about a year ago. A lot has happened in that past year…I got engaged, had some parties, showers, a bachelorette and fast, fast, fast forward…am getting married in about 10 days!

Tea, anyone?

My fiancé Cory and I were doing our video e-sesh last Friday (I know, what’s a video e-sesh?!? We’ll soon find out). Our videographer Caleb Condit asked us to talk about all the events and celebrations we’ve had during our engagement. While we’ve enjoyed so many special times with our closest friends and family, we spoke most proudly about our Vietnamese engagement tea ceremony.

As a first generation Vietnamese-American, I’m so lucky to have the opportunity to celebrate to very distinctive ceremonies. From the beginning, Cory and I knew we wanted to incorporate Vietnamese traditions into our wedding planning. For my parents, it was as important to host a tea ceremony at our home for friends and family as it is for Cory’s parents for us to get married in a church. So, while most were enjoying their Labor Day BBQs, we were enjoying some engagement TEA!

The Ceremony – Le Dinh Hon

A Vietnamese tea ceremony is typically held to announce an engagement or to celebrate a wedding – but in both cases, the rituals are the same. The day starts with the groom’s family processing their home to the bride’s home. They come bearing seven (a lucky number in Vietnamese tradition) gifts  such as jewelry, tea, alcohol for toasting, cakes, fruit and usually a roasted pig, which they offer to seven representatives of the bride’s family before asking permission to enter the home.

While I was in hiding, my parents invited Cory’s family and friends into the home and respectfully accepted their gifts.Cory’s family shared their intentions and asked for permission for Cory to propose to me. My dad, a man of little emotion, tearfully accepted Cory into our family and offered his blessing. I’m bummed I didn’t get to see this first-hand.

Afterwards, my mom walked me out to the ceremony, where Cory saw me for the first time wearing the traditional Vietnamese ao dai (which he was wearing himself). He and his family offered me gifts of jewelry and we were…tada, engaged again!

As a sign of respect and appreciation, we offered our parents and family members tea. In return, family members shared their blessings with us in support of the union.

The Reception

After the ceremony, we enjoyed a light brunch at my parent’s house. Then, in typical Vietnamese fashion, we were off to a local Chinese restaurant a short 30 minutes where we enjoyed a lovely seven course meal!

I’m feel so incredibly lucky to have shared such a special celebration with my parents and Cory’s family. It was so important to my parents and I was so touched to see how respectful, open and proud Cory and his family were to take part in such a unique tradition.

Have you ever celebrated a special wedding custom? Please share with us. I’d love to hear about it!

Seven of my favorite photos from the day:

Getting ready with my mom…

Cory’s family and friends come bearing gifts…

I come out for the first time…

Cory “re”-proposes…

Cory and I offer tea to my parents…

We took a few photos after the ceremony…

Our dads share a few speeches at the reception…

(Photos by Audra Buchanan)

Dream Destination Wedding With No Fuss

Hey guys. Good news! The girls I showed my sister’s condo to decided to rent it despite the horrific showing they lived through. I am sooooo happy I can put that scary part of my life behind me. :)

On another note, a friend of mine recently let me know about a really cool way to plan a destination wedding that is full of elegance without any hassle.

Apparently Martha Stewart has teamed up with Sandals resorts to create six themed, packaged weddings that brides can choose and customize for their destination wedding. Everything from the table settings to the cake is taken care of and of course in true Martha fashion, it’s all absolutely breathtaking.

I don’t know about you, but the idea of planning an out of town wedding sounds like a ton of work. Plus, let’s be honest, nothing I could plan would look nearly as gorgeous and a Martha Stewart wedding.

The weddings above range in price from $1,500 to $6,000 for a small party, which seems totally reasonable to me. Much less than a big city Chicago wedding!

Would you guys ever purchase a “template” Martha Stewart wedding or would you want to own the details yourself?

Ten Things to Do When Starting to Plan a Wedding

My dear friend Kelly, of, recently became engaged to her boyfriend Steven aka Schmidtty. Here they are right after he popped the question…in Vegas!

Adorable, right? Kelly quickly reached out to me for help figuring out where to begin with planning her wedding. See, her and her Schmidtty are moving to AUSTRALIA (so jealous!) and need to get as much planning done for their Chicago nuptials before heading down under around the holidays.

Just going through the wedding planning process, I sent her some thought starters to get the whole process going. So here are my 10 things to do to start planning a wedding:

1. Celebrate!! Take AT LEAST a week or two to enjoy being engaged.

2. Figure out where (city) you want to get married. This should involve a discussion between you, your fiancee and parents (if they’re paying).

3. Decide on a season you’d like to get married in. I’m partial to Spring since it’s before all your friends get inundated with weddings and it won’t be unbearably hot! Fall is also a great time too.

4. Make a rough guest list to give yourself an idea of the capacity your venue will need to hold. Task your parents with helping list out family and friends. Or better yet, get your married siblings old lists!

5. Determine what’s more important to you: the venue (church or reception site) or the date. If it’s the venue, then call them immediately and see when they’re available. If it’s the date, then crowd source places you like to see if any fit your calendar.

6. If you don’t have a place in mind, then the next step is to figure out some venue options. The Internet is a great resource for finding ideal wedding locations. You can also look on local photographer’s websites to see where other couples have gotten married (that way you can research photographers AND venues at once).

7. Before setting your date in stone, research the weekend to make sure there aren’t any major conferences, sporting events or tourist traps taking place in your city that weekend. If there are, keep in mind hotel prices may be sky high and flights for guest pricey.

8. Research and book the vendors you care most about. If you have your heart set on a photographer, certain band or make up artist. Call them to lock in their availability right away. You’ll have more time to think about the auxiliary players you care less about.

9. Search for hotels close to your reception site and begin negotiations with them for a block rate. Make sure you read the contract carefully, or you might end up in a debacle like we did!

10. Set a timeline for getting your dress, bridesmaid dresses and groomsmen attire. Sometimes dresses can take up to six months, so if your engagement is short, you’ll want to start dress shopping right away.

Getting these first 10 things checked off your list will help ensure you’re is a really good place for your wedding planning. Once the above is figured out, the rest of the details will fall into place and you’ll have some time to relax and enjoy the process.

Would you guys add anything to my top ten? Rearrange the order? Let me (and Kelly) know!

PS- Congrats Kelly and Schmidtty! So happy for you guys.