Lena's Guide to Los Angeles, California

California: utterly warmer than Boston in November, full of amazing food, lots of beautiful sunsets and mountains and everything in-between. Paul and I are coming up on our 3 year anniversary, and finally took our first BIG trip together to Los Angeles! We balled out for a week and had a blast. If you were following on my Instagram stories, you saw some hilarious videos, lots of food, and tons of bubble tea. Here's your Lena Mirisola guide to LA - including details on everywhere we stayed, ate, and visited! All photos taken in iPhone, all panoramas by Paul ;)

Hello pretty mountains!

AIRBNB #1 - SILVER LAKE DREAM HOUSE

This Airbnb was insane. No right angles in the whole thing! We climbed up tons of stairs past lemon and orange trees to our little piece of paradise - with a 360 degree wraparound porch overlooking the Hollywood Sign, mountains, and Silver Lake. The sunsets were truly amazing.

Silver Lake Ramen = possibly my best meal in LA. Look at that fried chicken. They cook their broth for 16 hours... my stomach is grumbling just thinking about it.

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DesignerCon was happening in Pasadena, and our Johnny Cupcakes family was there... so of course we had to pop over and surprise them!!! We had a blast looking at all the art, seeing our friends on a different coast, and buying some art prints (bubble tea themed of course).

We got lost trying to find the Hollywood sign. Note: the signs that say "no access?" They're serious. We scrambled up to the Griffith Observatory instead with only 20 minutes to spare before sunset (damn you daylight savings) - and boy did we see something spectacular. 

What the f.

So, the next day, we tried to find the REAL Hollywood sign trails. It said 3 miles roundtrip. HA! I can power walk that in Boston in like 45 minutes. Let's do this.

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NOPE. A WHOLE LOT OF NOPE. That hike was almost 1,000 foot elevation climb in the dead sun. I almost died, like 100% fact. We had no idea the hike would be that grueling... and if you didn't know before, I FUCKING HATE HIKING.

I only smiled for 4 seconds the whole time trust me

So after coming back from the dead and showering off the 17 layers of dirt on us, we headed to Santa Monica and Venice Beach.

...and got the famous PHORRITO! Yup. A pho burrito. And yes - it tasted just like the real thing!!! We grabbed tea and mini waffles from Boba Lab to picnic on the beach with. We watch the waves and grabbed cheap hoodies from the vendors in Venice before grabbing a Frose at a rooftop bar for sunset.

And then sat in an hour and a half of bumper to bumper traffic back to Silver Lake #veryLA

Millie's breakfast was wild. That's a whole coconut! So delicious, you gotta go. Although the matcha was very Instagrammable, it was a little watery ;)

I love rocks in the ocean which is why I love El Matador State Park!!! We were killing time before checking into our Malibu Airbnb, so we packed a picnic and drove to this amazing beach.

Below right: the drive up the mountains to the Airbnb, below left: the view from the Airbnb!

All windows baby. You had to drive an extra 10/15 min winding up and down the mountains to get here... it was so remote, but watching the sunrise and sunset from here was awesome.

We've arrived at Malibu Pier! Free street parking too.

Malibu Farm breakfast was out of this world. Coconut milk quinoa oatmeal?!?!? AND THAT VIEW!!! A bit pricey, but what ISN'T in Malibu?

NEW BEACH!!! Point Dume beach was incredible. You can take a tiny hike up the cliffs for stunning views, climb over rocks at low tide for a private beach (Pirate's Cove) and we even saw seals hanging out on the rocks!!!

Had the whole thing to ourselves!

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Quick trip down to Santa Monica (I was going stir crazy in Malibu - it's like being out in the countryside!!! Not much to do but go to the beach!!!)

We caught the sunset, grabbed tea at Volcano Tea, and had some delicious burgers at Pono Burger.

I definitely freaked out upon entering. The view was insane. Mountains on the left, city on the right. This is my dream home. How much is rent!?!?

Paul made us stop at In-n-out and while I'm pretty sure they haven't changed the prices since 1948, the fries and shake were A++++. We started to miss driving our little Porsche down the Pacific Coast Highway.

Sunset in the hot tub = so much yes

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Quarters Korean BBQ - what an experience holy cow!!! The drinks were the best we had all trip and the food was wowwwww! The sesame marinated chicken, bulgogi, and japchae.... WOW.

Grand Central Market was SO COOL!!! SO many hipster venues, and I've been following Eggslut for so long on Instagram it was about time I had one in real life. Unfortunately I ate it on the sidewalk in 37 seconds. #sad

We visited The Broad, which is a free museum... but you have to pay $30 each for the exhibit. We lined up thinking we were buying tickets... WRONG. After an hour and a half (already committed, you know) we finally got to the front - and we still couldn't see the exhibit for another 4 hours minimum. And no, you can't buy tickets for the next day. Oh well! We came back later than night for Yayoi Kusama's show.

The dot room was wicked fun (we touched it all)

Rauschenberg, Lichtenstein, Koons...

Why not be tourists on the last day? (Only cared about the Disney stars and Judge Judy)

Goodbye LA, you were incredible. Until next time.... XOXO

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FOOD

SILVER LAKE

Silver Lake Ramen
Dinosaur Coffee
Cliff’s Edge
Same Same Thai
Millie’s Cafe
The Thirsty Crow

SANTA MONICA

Komodo
Boba Lab
Volcano Tea
High Lounge
Pono Burger

MALIBU

Malibu Farm
Duke’s 

KOREATOWN

Quarters Korean BBQ
Snow Monster
It’s Boba Time
Mr. Boba
OB Bear

DOWNTOWN

Grand Central Market (Eggslut!)

HOLLYWOOD

Roscoe’s Chicken & Waffles

CAR

Turo

(Airbnb for cars - it was SO easy, fun, and cheaper than renting esp drivers under 25!)

ACTIVITIES

Griffith Observatory
Hollywood sign hike
Santa Monica Beach
Venice Beach
El Matador Beach
Point Dume Beach
The Broad Museum
Museum of Contemporary Art
Hollywood Walk of Fame

RANDOM THINGS TO NOTE

Gas is $$$

Valet parking is everywhere. Yeah, you gotta pay to park in a parking lot. It sucks. And don't forget to tip.

The traffic is bad but time things between 10am-2pm on a weekday and you'll be fine.

Wear sunscreen.

Make reservations when you can.

There were 30+ more places on our list to eat and drink, but you can only do so much in a week! If you have more faves when visiting LA, drop it in the comments for my readers!

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The FREE Instagram Life Hack You’re Missing

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What if I told you that you could spend FIFTEEEN minutes a week scheduling all your posts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest... for FREE? That's right! Check out the best social media hack you're missing RIGHT HERE!

Amanda & Vinny // A rooftop Downtown Boston engagement

Amanda & Vinny // A rooftop Downtown Boston engagement

Amanda & Vinny: the couple whose love story traces back to a women’s bathroom in a bar in Turks & Caicos. Don't miss their Downtown Boston engagement - from Post Office Square to a rooftop in DTX!

Chelsea & Roger // An autumn Boston engagement session

Chelsea & Roger // An autumn Boston engagement session

Pumpkins, pink roses, and cupcakes, oh my! This quintessential Boston engagement shoot will leave you speechless! From Beacon Hill to the Public Garden, Chelsea & Roger rocked their fall session. 

Nancy & Bruce // An elegant Massachusetts State House elopement

Nancy & Bruce // An elegant Massachusetts State House elopement

Don't miss this classy, timeless Massachusetts State House elopement, complete with sweeping Boston skyline views, a ceremony officiated by Mitt Romney, and an adventure through the Public Gardens!

Vanessa & Jeremy // A stylish 1920's themed Millennium Bostonian Hotel wedding

Vanessa & Jeremy // A stylish 1920's themed Millennium Bostonian Hotel wedding

This Millennium Bostonian Hotel wedding was glistening with 1920's charm ✨ Don't miss Jeremy's happy tears, Vanessa's stunning art deco inspired dress, and the most beautiful sunset rainbow 🌈 #JRobinHerHeart

Kelly & Joey // A romantic, oceanside Red Lion Inn wedding

Kelly & Joey // A romantic, oceanside Red Lion Inn wedding

Kelly & Joey threw a WILD party last night at the The Red Lion Inn Resort - and I bet you've never seen quite an epic entrance as this one! From trolley rides to Old Scituate Light, to body surfing bridal party members, to an antique Rolls Royce ride, these two had the #bestdayever as #kellswishesdegraanted!

Kelly & Jonathan // A blush Tewksbury Country Club wedding

Kelly & Jonathan // A blush Tewksbury Country Club wedding

Kelly & Jonathan said a very teary-eyed "I do" at Tewksbury Country Club - right before a little tequila and dancing! These two love Batman (specifically Jon), their pup, eating Italian food, and now, Kelly's thrilled to finally be married to an Italian! Check out more here -

Stephanie & John // An autumn Glen Magna Farms garden wedding

Stephanie & John // An autumn Glen Magna Farms garden wedding

When your whole wedding smells like roses... 🌹 Stephanie & John said "I do" at the lush Glen Magna Farms during a sun shower! 🌈 Yup, pretty epic. 💍 Click to see more! #foleyinginlove

Alexsis & Keith // An intimate, elegant Castle Hill at Crane Estate wedding

Alexsis & Keith // An intimate, elegant Castle Hill at Crane Estate wedding

A wedding fit for a princess and her prince charming <3 High school sweethearts Alexsis & Keith tied the knot at Crane Estate’s Castle Hill, complete with rolling hills, Italian gardens, a tearful ceremony, and LOTS of dancing. Don’t miss this elegant, black tie wedding on the blog!

Stephanie & David // A sentimental Cambridge Puritan & Co wedding

Stephanie & David // A sentimental Cambridge Puritan & Co wedding

Stephanie & Dave tie the knot in their beloved city of Cambridge, complete with Inman Square kisses, adventures around Harvard Yard & Tatte, drinks at Tupelo, surprise Uber rides, a Lebanese belly dancer, birthday cake, and the best reception at Puritan & Co! Click to read more:

European Summer 2017

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Hello friends! This August, my best friend and I traveled to Paris, Munich, and Salzburg for a bit of summer fun in Europe. I wanted to share our travels, favorite things, mishaps, and more with you!

Fun fact: I bought a camera especially for this trip then took every single photo with my iPhone! HA!

PARIS, FRANCE

Stayed in: Marais Airbnb, Latin Quarter Airbnb

Ate: L'as du Fallafel, Le Grenier a Pain bakery, Berthillion gelato, Au P'tit Grec crepes, Le Petit Marcel steak frites, Pierre Herme macarons, Bobalitas bubble tea, flan, chocolate, pho, dumplings, baguettes, tartes, quiche, and more

Must do: Sunset boat cruise on the Seine via Bateaux-Mouches, view from Arc du Triomphe

Places to picnic: Luxembourg Gardens

Sights: Notre Dame, Eiffel Tower via Trocadero Gardens, Ile Saint-Louis, riverwalk, The Louvre area, Pompadou area, Palais-Royal Gardens, Montmartre 

Mishaps: Second Airbnb host a no-show at midnight, flight home cancelled and delayed over 30 hours, constantly got lost

Brought home: Chocolate, postcards, magnets, tapenade, caramel sauce

MUNICH, GERMANY

Stayed in: Airbnb 10 min from Marienplatz

Ate: Bratwurst, pretzels, Radler (beer + lemonade), apple strudel with cream, fried potato salad, sweet mustard

Must do: Shop and get sausage, pretzels, and beer at the Viktualienmarkt or Englischer Garten beer garden, climb up to the top of St. Paul's church for 360 views of the city, shop in Marienplatz

Places to picnic: Englischer Garten, Hofgarten, 

Sights: Rathaus (city hall), Marienplatz, Odeonsplatz, Residenzplatz

Mishaps: All stores and most everything else closes on Sundays so that got a little boring

Brought home: 6 jars of sweet mustard, postcards, magnets, nips, a scarf

SALZBURG, AUSTRIA

Stayed in: Day trip via train

Ate: Schnitzel, apple strudel with cream, potato salad, pretzels

Must do: Panorama Tours Lakes + Mountains (4 hours, includes boat ride on Wolfgangsee), view from Kaputzinerkloste church

Places to picnic: Mirabel Palace gardens, Kaputzinerberg park

Sights: Mirabel Gardens, the river, Residenzplatz, Chapter Fountain + Horse Pond, Salzburg Cathedral, Getreidegasse shopping, Furtwangler Park and market

Mishaps: Unknown construction on the railroad from Austria -> Germany - we de-boarded the train, got on a bus, got kicked off the bus, waited hours for another train in the middle of nowhere

Brought home: Postcards, magnets

Random things to note about Europe:

Public bathrooms are not free

Water is also not free, and expensive at restaurants

NO TIPPING AT RESTAURANTS!!!

Beware of pickpockets

Only metal detectors at airport security?!

Baguettes are super cheap

You greet store owners hello and goodbye ALWAYS

People eat dinner at 9/10pm in Paris

Some stores and restaurants close in the middle of the day in Paris

Uber is all over the world and is brilliant

Air conditioning is rare

The views are spectacular.

 

Thanks for reading loves! Be sure to follow all my adventures on Instagram!

 

Mallory & Ryan // A blush summer Willowdale Estate wedding

In the words of the groom, “People said it will never work - she is a beautiful angel and he is a unique-featured weirdo.”

Mallory & Ryan have known each other since high school, through awkward encounters and mutual friends. After realizing they were particularly sweet on each other, Mal & Ry patiently waited for the right timing to be together. Between law school, medical school, Connecticut, and Boston, Ryan popped the question by the romantic reflecting pool in Boston, and she said YES! 

With the forecast showing thunderstorms and rain at Willowdale Estate all day, Mallory & Ryan prepared themselves for a wet wedding day. It poured all morning long, as predicted. As Mallory descended down the stairs to see her husband for the first time, something miraculous happened: the SUN came out. After a joyous first look, the ceremony began. Right before their first kiss, everyone could hear the pitter patter of drops bouncing off the tent - it began to pour as they sealed their marriage with a kiss and ran down the aisle. 

Here's to an INCREDIBLE Italian honeymoon and a lifetime of love, dancing, basketball, scooper bowl ice cream, getaway weekends to Burlington, beer, running, and HAPPINESS! <3

Show these vendors some love!

Hair & makeup - Traveler Beauty Company
Invitations - Jen Simpson Design (Etsy)
Dress - Mikaella Bridal
Suit - Joseph A Bank
DJ & live musicians - Czone Entertainment
Florist - Petals, Inc
Cake - Topsfield Bakeshop

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Katie & Marty // A rustic, summer Harrington Farm wedding

"I choose you."

First, Katie & Marty wanted to throw a surprise wedding at their annual clambake. Then, they decided to try out their own backyard for a low-key wedding. Finally, they found the perfect mix of rustic and beautiful: Harrington Farm. They got ready in an old farmhouse just like the one they live in together. Needless to say, everything was utterly perfect.

With a piece of her dad's shirt sewn into her dress, and a special message for her dad sewn onto his tie, this wedding was full of sentimental details. Katie's mother's eyes began to well up with tears as she saw her own veil wrapped around her daughter's bouquet, and the tears were FLOWING during Katie & Marty's *almost* first look. The rainy forecast made way for sweet sunshine all day as Katie & Marty danced on cloud nine through their wedding day with tons of laughs, an abundance of tears, and so many loving guests.  

As Katie's father simply put it, their families aren't gaining a son or a daughter, they're gaining one hell of a couple. Forever and always, The Derens.

Thank you to the fabulous vendors!

Second Shooting: Rachael Riley
Venue & Catering: Harrington Farm
Hair and Makeup: Christy and Co.
Invitations: Ludlow Printing
Dress: Pearl Bridal
Groomswear: Men’s Wearhouse
DJ: Mike Messina from Greg Bedard DJ Entertainment
Flowers: Jeff French Florist
Cake: The Bean Counter

Need help wedding planning?

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The Pros and Cons of a First Look

If you’re thinking about doing a first look, you’re not alone!

Let’s go through the pros and cons of having a first look.

If you’re wondering...

A first look is a private reveal between the couple before the ceremony. One person will stand and wait with their back turned and the other will walk up to them and when they turn around, bam! Happy tears and lots of hugs.

PROS:

It allows more time for couple portraits

If these are top priority for you, having a first look will not only give you more photos, but they’re be so intimate and filled with emotion.

It’s private

Instead of having a big reveal in front of your 120 guests, you can have some rare one-on-one time with your spouse-to-be. Often it will calm your nerves and get you so excited for what’s to come. And don’t worry - you will still cry walking down the aisle afterwards.

You can attend cocktail hour

You can plan for a full hour first look, and also complete bridal party and family portraits during that time so that you can greet all your guests during cocktail hour.

It makes the day less stressful

Couple portraits are the last activity of the portrait hour, and so often we only have 10-15 minutes before the reception starts to complete them. With a first look, you know you won’t be rushed and can be stress-free for the rest of the day knowing you got amazing portraits earlier in the day.

CONS:

You MISS cocktail hour

Although this is traditional, it’s important to some couples to socialize with their guests at cocktail hour instead of during dinner.

Later portraits = better light

Portraits earlier in the day will always be beautiful, but the closer they take place to golden hour, the better. Even if you have a first look, I may pull you for 15 minutes during golden hour for some romantic evening portraits!

It may require more coverage time

If you have a tight timeline, ex different getting ready, ceremony, and reception locations to travel between, adding more time for a first look may cause you to run a little over budget. If a couple doing a 20 minute first look by themselves, this usually isn’t an issue, but if they’re adding an extra hour of portraits, coverage may need to be extended.

There are pros and cons to every decision on your wedding day, but even a 20 minute first look can add SO many more beautiful photos to your album and relieve a lot of stress from the day. Still unsure? Let’s talk about what’s right for you!

XOXO, Lena

2 Simple Ways to Show Gratitude Your Vendors

If you're feeling the love for your vendors before or after your wedding, there are a few simple things you can do to make them feel appreciated and loved!

Thank you's

First and foremost, the most heartfelt thing I can get is a THANK YOU no matter the shape or form. Sometimes it’s a thank you card after the wedding, and I melt. Others it’s a few thank you’s throughout the day - and it makes me feel so loved! Lastly, when I deliver the photos, my heart is bursting when I get an email reply gushing over the photos and thanking me. When my clients are happy = I’m happy.

A thank you or two will go a long way with all of your vendors!

Reviews

Second is a review or testimonial. When I get an email notification from The Knot or WeddingWire, it’s like a surprise Christmas present from Santa. The best thing you can do for a vendor you truly had an amazing experience with is recommending them to others. One way to do this is word of mouth (95% of my clients are from word of mouth referrals), and the other is through online reviews so that they can get connected with more amazing clients like you.

Fun bonus fact:

A few weddings a year, I arrive at the reception to find a PLACECARD with my NAME on it! It feels like I have won the lottery. It’s a silly little thing, and it only works for vendors who are sitting and eating during the reception, but I’ve never felt so welcomed and special (basically like the Queen of England) than when I got a place card from my thoughtful couples with my name on it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy as a clam regardless - it’s just like if you entered a hotel room and there was a pinata full of candy waiting for you. Completely unexpected but SO AWESOME!

XOXO, Lena

 
 

The Secret to Better Getting Ready Photos

 
 

Keep it clean!

That’s right - you are probably getting ready in a gorgeous venue, hotel, or your childhood home. Let’s show that off! You want to look back on the heartfelt location, not the iPhones and Poland Springs bottles in the background of the photos.

Water bottles, trash, bags, purses - if it is seen, make it unseen!

Hide bags, duffels, etc in the bathroom or a separate room.

Put water bottles on the floor or in a designated corner.

Champagne glasses, bottles, and gifts are OK!

Now you’ll have clean, fancy getting ready photos surrounded by your closest friends and family - what more could you ask for?