Stay Smitten: Elf, Brunch & Vacays

 Jenna Walker Photography

Jenna Walker Photography

Stay Smitten” is a recurring blog feature filled with tangible relationship advice to help make sure your honeymoon is more than just a phase. That it’s a way of life. Why? Because marriages in which love shines the brightest have the power to change the world.

About a week before Christmas every year, Mr. Smitten and I find a piece of paper and scribble the same things on it we did 365 days earlier:

  • Brie

  • Fig spread

  • Gluten-free crackers

  • Shrimp

  • Cocktail sauce

  • Gluten-free egg rolls

  • Champagne

  • Milk duds

  • Sweet tarts

Then, about two nights before Christmas Eve, we set the smorgasbord on our coffee table, pop the bubbly, slip into our pajamas, watch our pups open one gift (seriously) and push play on the movie Elf for the 1,347th time.

We know that Buddy makes it across the Candy Cane forest. Finds the World’s Best Cup of Coffee. Falls in love with Jovie. And, eventually, makes it back to Papa Elf in the North Pole.

The familiarity of the movie—and every warm, fuzzy feeling it conjures—is exactly why we repeat the pattern before every Christmas. While we have traditions with our larger families, too, reserving some for just the two of us—both holiday traditions and others throughout the year—is another way for us to stay smitten.

After all, our traditions are opportunities for us to create new shared memories, which make us smile to talk about after the fact—like the year J got his new Orvis bed and, within minutes, started snoring and didn’t stop until Elf’s closing credits. The moments build connection, bond us, strengthen our relationship. Plus, they’re just plain fun.

If you and the love of your life need some inspiration for creating a few traditions of your own, here are a couple others that keep Mr. Smitten and I looking forward to them rolling around on our calendar, whether it’s week after week or year after year.

Sunday morning brunch

Weekends in the Smitten household tend to be busy, which means the hubby and I don’t always get to spend Friday evenings or Saturdays together. To ensure we get some one-on-one weekend time, Sunday morning brunch has become a staple in our household. The standing date usually consists of one of us sizzling omelets, pancakes, bacon or whatever we have on hand, and catching up on life, listening to a podcast or playing a board game.

One vacation every year

This one is a no-brainer for any travel lover, but if you’ve followed Smitten Honeymoons for any length of time then you know this tradition’s roots run deeper for Mr. Smitten and me than the fact that we enjoy exploring new destinations together.

On our honeymoon, we met a couple who said their secret to a happy marriage was committing to at least one vacation together every year—no friends, no kids, just the two of them. The time away allowed them to prioritize their marriage and show each other that their relationship matters more than any obligations at home. Of course, I agree with them 100 percent, especially once you factor in the inevitable ways in which travel forces couples into new experiences (i.e., teaches, connects, inspires, rejuvenates, etc.). This tradition has become one of my non-negotiables.

What is your favorite tradition you share with the love of your life?

Real-life honeymoon: Smitten in Moorea & Bora Bora (part II)

Real-life honeymoon: Smitten in Moorea & Bora Bora (part II)

Earlier this month J & K shared some of the magic of their honeymoon to Moorea and Bora Bora, including what they loved most (e.g., relaxing in their overwater bungalow, snorkeling with sting rays and sharks and hiking to a romantic waterfall. This week, they’re back with more advice on how to make the most of planning your dream vacation—no matter what honeymoon destination you have your eyes on.

Real-life honeymoon: Smitten in Moorea & Bora Bora (part I)

Real-life honeymoon: Smitten in Moorea & Bora Bora (part I)

When J & K told me their engagement story shortly after we started working together to breathe life into their dream honeymoon, I was even more excited they had their eyes on the French Polynesia—an ideal destination for a couple desiring secluded romance and relaxation with a sprinkle of adrenaline and adventure…

When in Amsterdam … cruise the canals!

When in Amsterdam … cruise the canals!

Amsterdam is a maze of circular canals—165 of them stretching more than 30 miles, to be exact. While exploring the historic city’s waterways via beautiful brick walkways and more than 1,200 bridges was a highlight for me, there is one quintessential way any couple on their honeymoon must see the “Venice of the North” (a.k.a Amsterdam): Via a canal cruise!

U by Uniworld part 1: The A

U by Uniworld part 1: The A

I do not consider myself a “cruise” person, at least not in the traditional sense. Oceanliners that sleep thousands of people just don’t appeal to me, which is exactly why river cruising through Europe with U by Uniworld was so perfect. If you're looking to hop from city to city, U by Uniworld makes it effortless, while offering oodles of comfort and convenience.

wow your hubby or wife on your honeymoon

wow your hubby or wife on your honeymoon

It’s no secret that I’m not a huge fan of surprise honeymoons, where one half of a couple is charged with planning everything and keeping it all a secret—including the destination. This is mostly because the honeymoon is such a significant vacation, and I cringe at the thought of there being unmet expectations between brides and grooms when it comes to how to spend the start of their happily-ever-after.

On the other hand, what I am 1,000 percent in love with?

Couples creating smaller surprises for each other throughout their honeymoon, which makes space for memorable, thoughtful moments without the same risks inherent with keeping the entire vacation a surprise!

Delicious & fun: Uplevel your Paris honeymoon with this Versailles tour

Delicious & fun: Uplevel your Paris honeymoon with this Versailles tour

My favorite meal on my recent trip to Europe with Mr. Smitten, my sister and her hubby wasn’t at the Michelin Star awarded Le Jules Verne, located hallway up the Eiffel Tower. It wasn’t our delicious dinner at the hippest hotel in Amsterdam, The Hoxton. It wasn’t even our beautiful breakfasts or dinners aboard our U by Uniworld river cruise, meticulously curated to accommodate my dietary restrictions. Rather, it was this …

Real-life Honeymoon: Smitten in St. Lucia

Real-life Honeymoon: Smitten in St. Lucia

When I started working with Shawn and Hannah on their dream honeymoon, I knew it was going to be fun. Like, really, really fun. They are some of the most enjoyable people to be around, partly because they are constantly making each other laugh and are always up for a new adventure. I also knew that the year leading up their wedding had been filled with some amazing life events, and that they’d be ready for—and so deserving of—some serious rest and relaxation after their wedding. Thankfully, St. Lucia left them smitten. In their own words, here’s what Shawn and Hannah had to say about their honeymoon on this idyllic island in the Caribbean.

Honeymoon hack: skip every line at the eiffel tower

Honeymoon hack: skip every line at the eiffel tower

It’s no secret that going up the Eiffel Tower is a highlight for thousands of couples on their honeymoon every year in Paris—or that it can literally take hours of standing around to cross the experience off their bucket list. Thankfully, there is a memorable way to get around spending any time in any lines at all. Even better? This Eiffel-Tower hack is a perfectly romantic addition to any honeymoon itinerary.

That time I ate pigeon in Paris....(and loved it)

That time I ate pigeon in Paris....(and loved it)

“We’ll be serving pigeon tonight,” she said. “Is that okay with everyone at your table?” This was one of the first things our waitress asked after seating my sister, her hubby, Mr. Smitten and me on the Bustronome Voyage Gourmand in Paris last month. Never having tried pigeon—or ever having it occur to me that people eat pigeon—I shook my head yes and wondered what other surprises the evening would hold...

I changed my mind about this honeymoon destination

I changed my mind about this honeymoon destination

When Mr. Smitten and I were considering honeymoon destinations, I didn’t even give Mexico a glance. In my mind, doing so would result in a honeymoon filled with everything I didn’t want: mega resorts, drunken college kids and loud music that thumped from dusk to dawn. I'm embarrassed to admit how wrong I was. Now, I can't stop dreaming about returning. Here's why...