One Year Anniversary

filmscans089Monday was our one year anniversary, which I can hardly believe. It feels like such a cliché to say that it seems like our wedding was just yesterday, but that really is the truth. The past 365 days have absolutely flown by, and I feel so grateful to have shared in them with my perfect partner.

filmscans024 IMG_9047I remember every detail of the day so vividly. I remember going for a run with my brother in the morning and enjoying breakfast tacos, coffee, and green juice with family and friends at Jo’s, all of whom had traveled to Austin for our special day (I thought that was a fun fact – not one person on our guest list lives in Austin, so it was a true destination wedding for everyone involved, bride & groom included!). I remember feeling pampered as I had my hair and make-up done while my bridesmaids and family got ready in our amazing suite at the Hotel San José. I remember rocking out to a playlist I had made specifically for our wedding day, and I remember feeling overwhelmed with love for my best girls, my parents, and my brother as we drank mimosas together and noshed on snacks. I remember excitedly piling into the limo to head to Le San Michele and dancing the whole way there (everyone got particularly stoked about singing along to “Timber”).

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rachelandjames 0544I remember bursting into tears as we pulled up to the venue because it was all really happening. I remember seeing the floral arrangements for the first time and being astonished by the weight and beauty of my bridal bouquet. I remember putting on my dress and feeling like I was floating on air. I remember waiting anxiously for the ceremony to start, sipping champagne with my bridesmaids while peering out the windows as the guests arrived and took their seats.

filmscans029rachelandjames 0352 rachelandjames 0357 rachelandjames 0378rachelandjames 0428I remember the sound of the string quartet as they played “Make You Feel My Love” while Dad walked me down the aisle. I remember seeing the first glimpse of my groom’s sweet face as he started to cry, watching his bride walk toward him. I remember every detail about the ceremony, about our brother-in-law’s incredibly thoughtful presentation as he officially deemed us husband and wife. I remember Callie sitting at our feet, posing like the perfect flower dog she was.

rachelandjames 0348 rachelandjames 0411 rachelandjames 0510 rachelandjames 0475I remember taking photos all around the property after the ceremony concluded, basking in the energy and glow of the evening. I remember having a few stolen moments with James, enjoying margaritas and appetizers and reflecting on the fact that we were married. I remember listening in rapt to the amazing toasts read by my dad, James’s dad, Karli, Erin, and Andrew. I remember inhaling more green chile macaroni and cheese than anything else, and I remember how delicious our chocolate wedding cake (appropriately named the James Brown cake) tasted, especially when paired with an ice-cold flute of champagne.

filmscans084 rachelandjames 0510 rachelandjames 0536 rachelandjames 0742I remember the dance party – oh, the dance party! – that ensued after dinner, concluding with my favorite people forming a circle around James and me as we got down to one of my all-time favorite jams, “Forever” (thanks to Karli requesting that the DJ play it as the final song of the night). I remember running to the getaway car with James and Callie, so overwhelmed with love and joy. I remember crying once again in the car, feeling so grateful to be embarking upon our new life together but just a little sad that our special day was over already. I remember it all, and I’m so thankful.

So, to my husband – thank you for being my person, my love and my life, today and always. Here’s to a million more years together!

Photos by the amazing Heather Hawkins

Wedding Weekend Reflections

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I know, I know, you’re probably wondering why I’m still rambling on and on about our wedding festivities. Frankly, I think I’m still living on cloud nine. Being married is such a blessing and as the photos and videos continue to roll in, I get to relive our special day over and over again. I just can’t help myself, really – everything was so perfect that it needs to be documented and shared.

One thing I especially loved about our wedding weekend was that everyone got to spend so much quality time together. Though our wedding wasn’t until Sunday, I headed down to Austin on Wednesday to be with my parents and brother for a few days before everyone else arrived. We had so much fun eating delicious meals (at places like Hopdoddy, Bufalina, and La Condesa), exploring the city, and resting and relaxing together. If you’re getting married soon and you have the luxury of taking a few extra days off, I would highly encourage you to spend some down time with your family – it created such an irreplaceable memory for me.

Since Austin is only three hours from Dallas, it didn’t strike me as a typical destination wedding, but at its core, it was – not one person on our guest list was from Austin, making it a destination for literally everyone. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that many of our wedding guests had never been to Austin and wanted to carve out time during our wedding weekend to have fun in the city – I loved that it could serve as an opportunity for a new experience for them. Because of that, people arrived early and stayed late, making plenty of time for my whole family to catch up with loved ones who had traveled to join us for our special day. Nothing felt rushed or condensed – we got to laugh and talk and enjoy one another for as long as we liked.

My two favorite memories, aside from the wedding, of course, took place on Saturday afternoon after our rehearsal lunch and on Sunday morning on the big day itself. On Saturday, everyone was free to rest and relax after we rehearsed and had a great home-cooked lunch together. Organically, everyone (including friends who we love but weren’t members of the wedding party) congregated at the courtyard bar at my beloved Hotel San José. We sipped on delicious cocktails, munched on cheese & hummus platters, and had the absolute best time being all together. At one point, I looked around and felt myself getting emotional (for the zillionth time that weekend) – everyone I loved, from all different walks of life, was in the same place at the same time. It was so surreal. I wanted time to stand still so I could soak it all in. Erin Pommer snuck away to our courtyard suite so she could capture a group photo from the balcony, and she probably doesn’t realize what a gift that picture would be to me – it is truly one of my most favorite images from the whole weekend. As the evening progressed, my bridesmaids, Mom, and I made our way upstairs to order pizza, drink wine, and have a slumber party. Throw an impromptu ice cream run (adorned in our gorgeous hotel robes, of course) into the mix and you’ve got yourself the most fantastic conclusion to a perfect day.

The next morning, my brother and I went for our daily run, which is really the best way to start any day. When we got back to the hotel, we found nearly the entire wedding party (minus James, of course – we didn’t want to see each other until I walked down the aisle!), several of our relatives, and tons of friends from our hometown of Wheaton having breakfast and enjoying the beautiful morning weather at Jo’s Coffee. Once again, organically, people had congregated at a fun spot in town, ending up all together to mingle and eat and relax. While I had listed Jo’s on our wedding website as a place to go, it still amazed me that so many people were there all at the same time. I love the fact that Austin is big enough to offer so many things to do while still being small enough to allow you to run into people you know wherever you go. I had the best time snacking on breakfast burritos, drinking green juice & coffee, and chatting with so many of my favorite people before I got ready to become Mrs. Brown. In fact, I was having so much fun that I was a little late for my hair appointment – oops. Patrick was at Jo’s that morning, too, shooting so much great footage of everyone having a blast together. I love that that footage was showcased in our wedding video – it is so special for me to have that morning captured on film.

Reflecting on these memories just reminds me of how grateful I am for community, and also of how consciously I need to continue pursuing it for the rest of my days. Community is life-giving to me – making memories with people I love is sustaining and soul-filling in a way I can’t really describe. I’m so thankful for the incredible people that walk with me through life’s ups and downs. I could go on and on about them and our memories and experiences but I think I’ll stop here, pausing for one more moment to give a slow clap for the most perfect wedding weekend of all time…

Hotel San José

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Posts are popping up all over the interwebs about summer vacations that people are embarking on – it’s June already, say what?! – and it made me think about the Hotel San José, one of my most favorite places in the world to rest and relax. Located in the heart of Austin’s South Congress district, it is situated in the midst of the city’s hustle and bustle while simultaneously maintaining a super chill and comforting vibe. For those reasons (in conjunction with the rave reviews I gave after staying there with my brother in 2012 and my mom in 2013), it was the hotel of choice for my family and many guests during the wedding weekend festivities. The rooms are gorgeously outfitted in hipster-chic decor with lots of neutral pieces and pops of color, like these fabulous hippie blankets (Mom gifted me with the teal & yellow combo after our first visit to the hotel together). Beautiful kimono-style robes are provided for each guest – I love them so much that Mom & Dad sent two to James & me as post-wedding gifts and, suffice it to say, we are obsessed with them. The rooms are stocked with Malin + Goetz products, which are my absolute favorite (who can resist peppermint shampoo, cilantro conditioner, and bergamot body wash?). The hotel’s breakfast is the stuff of legends and their courtyard bar is undoubtedly one of the best in Austin. The Hotel San José owns Jo’s Coffee, the delightful coffee shop adjacent to the parking lot, and they serve unbeatable coffee, Daily Greens juice, and the tastiest breakfast tacos from Tacodeli, all of which you can charge to your room. Even the keychains that go along with the room keys are darling (and the answer is yes, I have one of them on my key ring – so, basically, I bought everything in the gift shop). The decor, service, food, and ambiance are all truly perfect. It is, without a doubt, one of my very favorite places to be – and, lucky me, it’s just a three-hour drive away!

The Hotel San José is owned by the Bunkhouse Group, who also built, designed, and outfitted the El Cosmico in Marfa (where Kyla, Laura & I stayed in September), the Hotel Saint Cecilia in Austin (where James & I stayed on our wedding night), and the Hotel Havana in San Antonio. The El Cosmico and the Saint Cecilia are just as gorgeous as the San José, and I’m sure the Havana measures up – but I’ll have to make a trip there to find out!

I love these photos that Heather took of the Hotel San José during the wedding weekend – they really capture the boutique-y & beautiful essence of the hotel. If you find yourself in Austin in the near future, do yourself a favor & book a room at the Hotel San José!

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