Top 5 Beach Honeymoon Vacations (Part 2)

Last week, our resident travel guru, Jackie Laulainien, gave us the rundown of two of her favorite honeymoon-by-the-beach locales. Here are the last three, which just leaves one question: where are you going this winter?


Thailand Honeymoon

Thailand was one of the stops we made on our honeymoon, and I’ve never been to a country where traveling was easier. If you’re a first time traveler, this would be a great place for you to start. Thailand is also wonderful because it’s easy to live like a king there even if you are on a budget. Getting there is the expensive part, but if you can find a ticket for around $1,000, you are in good shape. The beaches in Thailand are literally endless, as Thailand has about 2,000 miles of coastline but is only the size of France.

Best time of year to go: November through February, this is Thailand’s “cool season” (cool is relative, it’s still nice and hot). The west (Phuket and around there) has a rainy season from April to October, and the east (Gulf of Thailand) has a rainy season between September and December.

How to get there: Fly into the capital city of Bangkok. For shorter flights to get around Thailand, check out

Activities not to be missed: Drink from a coconut, try every kind of curry known to man, ride an elephant, visit a temple, take a ferry, find a secluded beach, visit the beach from the movie “The Beach,” try fruits you’ve never tried before, go kayaking, go climbing if you like (it’s a top destination in the world for climbing!), float in a natural swimming pool, snorkel, shop, pick your dinner from the freshly caught array of seafood, have a drink at a sidewalk bar, eat Pad Thai from a street vendor, ride a longtail boat, visit Railay Beach, ride a tuk-tuk in Bangkok, walk down Kao San Road, put your feet in a fish spa, drink freshly squeezed juices, get a foot massage, and eat mango and sticky rice.

I know. That was a lot.

How much time to allow: Considering that it takes a couple of days to get over there, you may want to allow yourself as much time as possible to explore once you get there. At the very least 10 days, hopefully more like 2-3 weeks.

Bali & Gili Trawangan, Lombok (Indonesia)

Honeymoon in Bali

I’m sure you’ve heard of Bali, and I’m sure you haven’t heard of Lombok, but they are right next to each other in the chain of volcanic islands that make up Indonesia. These two islands offer a beautiful snapshot of Asian culture and provide the best of both worlds for the beach-goer and the adventurer.

Best time of year to go: Avoid travel between December and March, which is monsoon season, although you will still see plenty of sunshine during this time.

How to get there: Fly into Denpasar Airport on Bali. You can take a fast boat to the Gili Islands of Lombok easily from Bali.

Bali Honeymoon

Activities not to be missed:


Have dinner on the beach during sunset at Jimbaran Bay, explore the rice paddies outside the bustling town of Ubud, stay at one of Bali’s many jungle or beach resort hotels that cater to your every need and will be candy for your eyes, catch a traditional Balinese dance, and wander your way through the open air markets.

Gili Trawangan, Lombok

Stay a few days at Vila Ombak with its private swimming pools, waterfalls, and swim up bars just across the street from a beach with views of the main island of Lombok and its Mount Rinjani volcano. Eat seafood every day, go scuba diving or lounge at the beach or pool. Relax. If you have time, head over to the main island of Lombok to climb Mount Rinjani.

How much time to allow: Remember that it takes a couple of days just to get here, so try to come for two or even three weeks and you should have plenty of time to get your relax on.

Greek Islands

Greek Isles Honeymoon

For a unique European honeymoon, consider exploring the Greek Islands, whose beauty will be a treat for your eyes, the mediterranean cuisine a party for your taste buds, and the language a soft song for your ears. After exploring Athens and its ancient architecture, you can catch one of the many ferries that will take you out into the thousands of islands that make up a mediterranean paradise.

Best time of year to go: May through September will be the best time to visit the islands and beaches, as the storms set in late September and many resorts close.

How to get there: Fly into Athens and plan to stay a day or two to explore before you head out on a ferry to the islands. Check out Greek ferry schedules here. If you get seasick, you can fly to Santorini from Athens.

Activities not to be missed: Santorini, the most famous and most beautiful of the Greek Islands. Beach, cruise, snorkel, scuba dive, wine taste, hike, hot spring… Santorini has it all. Naxos is very chill, and Mykonos is happening and has one of the most beautiful downtowns I have ever seen. There are so many islands to choose from, do a bit of research to select the ones that are the best fit for you! Or just stick with Santorini….

How much time to allow: This is a great week to 10-day option, all depending on how much you want to move around and how long you want to spend in Athens. One or two days in Athens is plenty.

About the Blogger

Jackie LaulainienBozeman local Jackie Laulainen is a travel blogger at After visiting, traveling through, and living in over 35 countries in the last 10 years, she has a thing or two to say about travel tips and advice, which is a subject she does not take lightly! Her mission is to equip and inspire other Americans to travel the world and broaden their horizons through experiencing cultures outside of their own. She has just published her first book “The Aspiring Traveler’s Handbook: A preparation guide to international travel,” a detailed resource which answers many of the questions that come with being a new traveler.  The book is now available for purchase on her blog. Besides traveling the world as often as she can, Jackie does freelance web design for small businesses and teaches local adult Spanish classes in Bozeman where she lives with her husband Nate and 100-lb rescue mutt Rami. If there is anything Jackie can help you with in your planning process, please visit her on her blog, or say hi to her on Facebook or Twitter.

Have more questions about international travel? Jackie would love to hear from you. You can email her at

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain


Ask Leslie: Gift Bags

Welcome Gift Bag

I wouldn’t mind getting this welcome basket…

This is a regular series where we answer readers’ questions about their wedding day, the wedding process, and general etiquette. Have a question? Drop me an email!

Dear Leslie,

I’m doing a mostly destination wedding and I want to put gift bags together, but it seems so expensive and time consuming to do something nice. What is your advice?

Oh, reader, I feel you. I love gift bags because it shows your out-of-town guests how thankful you are that they’ve decided to spend your special weekend with you, despite distance and cost. And plus, who doesn’t love a little treat showing up on their bed when they check in?

I usually like to include the following things in gift bags:

•Custom printed Welcome Itinerary, with all weekend information needed

•Map of surrounding area, good restaurants, coffee shops, etc.

•Water (two bottles)

•Snacks (Costco Trail Mix, treats like cookies or brownies, etc.)

•Chapstick or sunscreen, depending on the time of year

•Tiny bottles of wine or champagne

•Tiny jams/honey and crackers

•Beef jerky (We’re in Montana, so this is a must!)

When you’re buying in bulk at a big box store, it’s pretty easy to get all of these things relatively inexpensively. The challenge is when you start customizing. Maybe you want to introduce your guests to your hometown with a cookie for your favorite bakery. This will be more expensive than Famous Amos cookies from Walmart.

I’d say pick ONE thing you really want to highlight (maybe it’s a package of jerky or a jar of jam from your favorite local preserve maker) and build your bag around that. Maybe include in your Welcome Itinerary a little note about your ONE THING, like where it’s from and why it’s special. Then, fill in with tiny treats that you can get in bulk.

To produce the bags, make a little assembly line in your living room and start with the heaviest item first (water, usually). After you’ve filled all the bags with water, go onto the next heaviest thing. Finish with your welcome note on top and a custom gift bag tag enclosure, and voila! You’re done!

Anticipated cost: Between $10 – $20 per bag, depending on your ingredients and the amount of bags.

What tips do you have for personalizing your gift bags? Leave me a comment below!


Leslie Lukas on Style Me Pretty (Happy Anniversary, Alexa + Dave!)

In case you aren’t a follower on Facebook (if you aren’t, why not? Get the latest news from me on my Facebook page!), then you may not have heard the exciting news.

Leslie Lukas Weddings and Events was featured on Style Me Pretty (the resource for the modern bride) in January.

(I was so excited, I forgot to blog about it.)

The featured wedding was one of my favorite clients (okay, I love them all…really!), Alexa and David. The wedding was full of romantic personal touches (cocktail stirrers with hand-tied flies on the top to represent their love of fishing, Irish Belles for their Irish heritage) and was gorgeous, both in style and design, AND in the love that was shown and shared that day.

So in honor of their one-year anniversary on Sunday, I’ve assembled some of my favorite photos from the wedding (there were honestly too many to choose from). To read the full article about our design profile and why it worked so well for Alexa and David, head over to Style Me Pretty.

(And happy anniversary, Alexa and Dave. Here’s to many, many, many more!)

Leslie Lukas Style Me Pretty

Montana Wedding and Event Planner Style Me Pretty Montana Wedding Montana Wedding and Event Style Me Pretty

Do you love Style Me Pretty as much as we do? What do you think of Alexa and David’s wedding aesthetic?

All gorgeous photography by Lauren Browne Photography.

How to Give a Killer Toast


We’ve all been there — cringing as some not entirely sober best man rambles on and on about how his buddy, the groom, had SO MANY terrible girlfriends before he met the bride. Or the sister of the bride cries her way through a speech filled entirely with inside jokes that no one understands. Or the father of either shows a slideshow of every major milestone that seemingly lasts well until after the cake should have been cut.

Weddings are emotion-filled days and sometimes, it’s hard to capture all of the things that you want to say in one, memorable, heart-filled speech. But if you’re looking to avoid some common wedding toast no-nos, here’s a good place to start. Your audience and everyone waiting patiently for cake will thank you.

Remember your audience

If you’re in a room full of your high school buddies, then by all means, tell any kind of embarrassing story you’d like. However, chances are that some parents and grandparents will be in attendance, and if you give a speech consisting entirely of stories that they can’t relate to, then you are shooting yourself in the speech-making foot. Be relevant.

Keep it short

Your friends love you, they do, but unless you’re Jerry Seinfeld, stick to a two to three minute toast. This ensures that you limit yourself to only the most relevant and heartfelt stories. And, when you give yourself a time limit, you don’t get stuck on a tangent about how that one time, in college…


For the love of pete, DO NOT get up on wedding day without having done a trial run in front of your significant other, hamster, or at least the bathroom mirror. Every good wedding toast that I’ve ever heard has been rehearsed at least once (if not four or five times) to find the best place for dramatic pauses, to make sure all the words flow seamlessly, or to see if it’s just a smidge too long.

Be authentic

This means not looking up four quotes on “true love” from a Shakespearean novel, nor does it mean composing a stand up routine that could compete with Chris Rock. A mix between heartfelt and funny usually yields the best results, but if witty jokes aren’t your thing, don’t feel like you have to be a comedian. Most of the time, the bride and groom simply want to know that they are loved and supported by their friends and family, so if your toast accomplishes that, then you’ve got it all down (as long as you practice, keep it short, and remember your audience, too 🙂

Okay, toastmasters, I know you’re out there. How many of you have given wedding toasts (good or bad!)? What are your recommendations for giving a good one?

Eight Design Websites I Love


Want to know a secret? I spend a lot of time on the internet. I do a lot of research for my clients as well as my business and when I’m not wrangling contracts and following up for the gajillionth time with a vendor, I’m sneakily perusing the online design world for inspiration on wedding décor and hosting ideas.

So why keep it all a big secret? Here’s where you’ll find me most of the time (unless I’m at a cake tasting or a walkthrough or a design meeting or…)

Design Sponge

Surprise! Am I blowing your mind yet? If you haven’t taken a look at Design Sponge’s gajillions of archives, you’re missing out. Geared more towards homes décor, I still love how the bloggers and designers there can take a space that is pretty yuck and turn it into beautiful. Definitely a good one when I’m presented with a challenging décor job or an unconventional room layout.

Wedding Lovely

This website has gorgeous photography, but it also deals a lot with the more practical side of planning a wedding. If I’m looking for inspiration on how to tighten up a clients’ budget or read lovely stories from first-hand brides, I head here.

Style Me Pretty

Well, duh. I’ve been featured twice (here and here) on Style Me Pretty and it’s probably because the design aesthetic over there is exactly what I bring to my weddings. Elegant, classic, yet modern and organic, with a twist of fun and lightness.

Apartment Therapy

Again, this website has lots of beautiful spaces so sometimes, I’ll go to see what color trends are popping up and how people have creatively used decorating ideas to make small spaces look larger or large spaces look more cozy.

The Knot

I love the Knot, not only for its great advice, but for its fantastic community. The comments on some of the posts are enough to keep me clicking back there for inspiration all the time.

Green Wedding Shoes

Oh my goodness, if you haven’t seen this gloriousness then you are missing out, sister! Made for brides who trend toward fashion-forward and even a bit edgy (they’re in Southern California. Of course they’re gunna have a little edge!)

Bridal Snob

This one is solely pictures, so when I’m looking to do some vision boarding or create an inspiring color palette, Bridal Snob is my go-to. (Also, the language is hilariously colorful!)

Rustic Wedding Chic

Since I’m in Montana, this blog has some gorgeous wedding eye-candy, with a real down-home rustic feel. Perfect for brides who are looking for that country-style wedding, but still sophisticated enough to please anyone.

What are your favorite places to get wedding inspiration? Leave them in the comments below so that I can find more places to get inspired!

Hello, Style Me Pretty Friends! (and 5 Ways to Relax on Your Big Day)

Style Me Pretty Montana Wedding

If you haven’t heard the news, Leslie Lukas Weddings and Events is making its second debut of 2013 on Style Me Pretty. If you haven’t seen the wedding of the lovely Kelly and Ramiro, then head on over there and check it out. (All the beautiful photography was done by the one and only Eye in the Sky Photography. Thanks, Kene!)

And if you’re clicking over here from Style Me Pretty, welcome to my little corner of the internet! *big wave*

If you haven’t visited the House of Lukas before, here are a few posts to get your started: 

About Leslie (everything you’ve ever wanted to know about me)

Napkin Folds (from simple and sweet to complex and original)

How to Dress: A Groom’s Style Guide (because every man needs a little help from a professional sometimes)

Giving Back on Your Wedding Day (a guide to giving back before, during, and after your big day)

And of course, if you want to get some inspiration or help for your own wedding, click over to my planning website and see what I offer.

Now, on to more good stuff…

It’s almost June here at LL Headquarters, and we are in full-on planning mode. Which means we’re constantly checking email, phoning vendors, and generally trying to keep our cool while also juggling thousands of little planning balls (which is why this is our job! So you don’t have to feel this way!)

If you’re a DIY bride (or groom) or someone who has a planner but can’t turn their brain off from wedding day anticipation, never fear! Here are my 5 favorite tried-and-true tips to make sure you don’t become Bride (or Groom!) -zilla on wedding day.

1. Plan a morning alone.

If you have a large wedding party, this could be difficult to do (I’ve had bridesmaids start their hair and makeup as early as 7am. Eep!), but even just an hour for you to spend taking a long walk, writing in your journal, or simply drinking a cup of coffee while staring out the window by yourself BEFORE the wedding pandemonium begins will be a good way to center yourself, reflect on your beautiful relationship, and get ready for the awesome day ahead.

2. Workout.

If you’ve been on a wedding eating and exercise plan, probably the last thing you want to do is spend an hour in the gym. However, getting your heart rate up, sweating out some of your energy, and spending time alone or with a friend will be a good way to get yourself to focus. All that nervous energy building up as you sit and watch your bridesmaids get their makeup done? Not good. Instead, go for a run, get a little sweaty on the cardio trainer, or take a vigorous yet calming yoga class. Your body will thank you.

3. Drink water.

Aim for three liters today. I know that sounds insane, but all senses are firing today. If you can’t stomach water, try Crystal Light iced tea (not too much sugar so you don’t crash later) or 1-part juice to 2-parts water. And if you’re having mimosas with your bridesmaids, try to only drink one an hour and flush with plenty of the clear stuff (not vodka, silly. Water!)

4. Eat lunch!

I can’t tell you how many brides that forget to eat lunch. They’re so nervous, they can’t eat, or they’re making sure that everything is taken care of, or they’re trying to fit into their wedding dress…the list goes on! However, all that nervous energy + no food + cocktail hour + cocktails at the reception is a recipe for big-day blood sugar crash and burn. Make sure you have a little something and try to get protein AND carbs in there so that you stay full until dinner. My favorite? Turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread, pasta salad with sunflower seeds and veggies, or a yummy hummus + veggie + fruit platter. Filling but not bloat-inducing.

5. Take a deep breath. Repeat. Enjoy.

The moments that you experience on your wedding day are unlike any other that you’ll experience…and speaking from personal experience, they’ll go by in an instant. Make sure you take a few moments to breathe and take in all the people around you who care about and you and want to be with you as you usher in your new life with your spouse.

What are your tips to stay cool, calm, and collected on wedding day?

Dear Leslie: Do You Have Ideas for Wedding Favors?

Useful wedding favors

Dear Leslie,

I’ve been scouring the internet forever and I can’t seem to find favors that I really, really love. Do you have any suggestions?

I’ve totally been there. Spending hours and hours online, looking at Pinterest, trying not to spend an arm and a leg while making it elegant, classy, and fun. If I could get back the time I’ve spent doing this, I would in a heartbeat.

Well, why don’t I just make it easy for you. Here are some ideas for that I absolutely love:

Edible favors (with a personal twist)

I love all things personal, which is why I encourage guests to create favors that have a bit of their personalities. I’ve had brides who come from beekeeping families buy little mason jars, fill them with honey from their hives, and stick on a little label (tied with a raffia bow and mini-honey dipper, of course!). If you’re Italian in heritage (or love all things travel), why not give a little jar of your favorite olive oil, or jam from berries you canned last summer (if you’re planning way ahead!).

A warm pastry

This works well for colder weddings, or weddings where guests have a bit of a drive or cab ride back home. Imagine the weather turning chilly, your guests have danced and drank all night, and now it’s late and the party’s over. What do they want? Short of a piece of pizza, they probably want a gooey treat to keep the warm or curb that late-night hunger on the way home. Sticky buns are my favorite, but you can also do chocolate croissants or danishes. Planning tip: have them served on a tray for people to grab on the way out with a little sign that says “For the ride home. On us.”

Things that are useful

We do a lot of outdoor weddings in Montana and in the summer? It’s hot and can be buggy. One of my favorite ways to say to guests “We’re thinking of you!” is to place out a basket of fans that guests can grab on the way to their seats. They can fan themselves and then take a little piece of the wedding home with them (bonus points if you get the favors monogrammed or have a cute message put on them). Other ideas are flashlights (for those stumbling in the dark after an outdoor wedding) or lightweight pashminas for chilly nights (easily sourced inexpensively if you’ve got good Googling skills!)

Donation to your favorite cause

I love giving back on wedding day. Plus, by the end of the night, guests are wined and dined enough that they might not want another thing to take home with them and eat. I’ve had couples who will create 3″x5″ flyers with faces of different animals from a local shelter, saying that a donation was made on their guests’ behalf to keep them safe and warm. Maybe donate to a cause abroad or locally. or buy handmade goods from artisans living in a country you’ve traveled or  where you want to travel.

Anything local!

This is a total plug for Montana because huckleberry products and local bison jerky are definitely rampant in this part of the country. If you’re planning a destination wedding (or have lots of folks from out of town) a simple nod to the local culture can be a great touch, but also a treat for some of the in-town guests who may not go out and buy a local product for themselves. Sourdough bread from San Francisco! Magnolia cupcakes from NYC! Deep dish pizza bites from Chicago! Saltwater taffy from the coasts! The options are limitless!

Nix the favor altogether

Wait, what? I thought you said that this was a post on how to pick great favors, Leslie!

Okay, you’re right, but take a second and hear me out. Why are you wracking your brain trying to decide on a favor? Is it because you think you have to have one? Is it because all your friends had one at their weddings? If the answer to either of the latter questions is yes, then I’d say spend your money elsewhere. In Montana, we do LOADS of destination weddings, so we carefully plan welcome bags for out of town guests and often forgo a favor. If it’s not that important to you, then stop wracking your brain and move onto the next task on your (likely very large) to do list. (and if your looking for other ways to trim your budget fat, I’ve got you covered).

I’d like to start doing this as a regular series. If you have any questions about your wedding that you’d like me to answer on the blog, send me an email at

Bozeman and Big Sky Christmas Decorators!

Did you know that for the past 12 years, we have provided expert holiday decorating to some of the most discriminating clientele in the Big Sky and Bozeman areas?  From business open-houses and parties to large scale lodge decorating, we have the experience and know how to pull it off seamlessly….

We have access to exquisite fresh garlands–greens that will last through the holiday.  Cedar, long-needled pine, douglas fir, and mixed.  We also can create a fresh wreath in any size…these are full, hand-made to order, and will come with all the trimmings.

If you are interested in our holiday decorating services please inquire by sending us a note :

We provide the following services:


We can bundle up your home or business for the holidays.  References by request.   Please enjoy the slide-show of some of our work:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

May your holidays be warm and bright!



Napkin Folds–101

Many of my clients ask me how to fold napkins to make their table settings a bit more special.  I have several up my sleeve and found some great tutorials on-line that will help you decide what is best for you….and to help make your table extra special!

Here is a great blog I came across—

Keg Designs

And here is a link to Wedzilla Blog and a video tutorial:

Wedzilla Blog

I searched my archives for a few photos of napkin folds from our weddings– photo credits top to bottom–

Eye in the Sky PhotographyLauren Brown PhotographyMorgan Lamare Photography, Rebecca Nicklin, Lauren Brown Photography and Nashan Photography

Easy Fall Decorating Ideas, inspiration

I am so inspired by all the fall goodness I found on-line today.  I typically grab my inspiration from outside my window, but since there is over a foot of snow outside, and it is still November, I decided to see what the rest of the world is up to!

As suspected, traditional fall palates of golds, rusts, oranges, yellows, and browns still reign superior, and the decorating fashions of Martha Stewart, Pottery Barn and Real Simple are some of my favorites.

I found this great centerpiece idea from Martha Stewart that I fell in L.O.V.E with.  Non-fussy arrangements are some of my most coveted…lots of one type of material in an unusual container.  In this one, it is simply a hollowed out pumpkin with fall leaves- en-mass.   Click here for instructions

Here are some more inspiring photos I found on-line from Pottery Barn, Martha Stewart, and another good find: Lizzies Creations–fall decor on the cheap!

Have fun with creating your thanksgiving table and decorating your home.  It can set the tone for your next dinner party and really make your family guests feel even more loved.  Here is a fall photo shoot I did with my wonderful friend and photographer, Lauren Brown, of Lauren Brown Photography and Elsa Cambell of the Woodlands at Cottonwood Canyon.   You can find some great inspiration locally at Montana Party Rentals in Bozeman, Montana….

  1. Use fall leaves or garland to adorn the back of your guest chairs.
  2. Specialty napkin folds can add a decorative element in a pinch– add a fall leaf or mini pumpkin, or tie it with a pretty satin ribbon.
  3. Use seating cards so that your guests feel welcome.
  4. bring out the china and silverware, or find some fun melamine at your local decorative store.
  5. let your local florist create a special fresh centerpiece for you….
  6. create a menu using your home computer and a special font from Dafont…mount it on a specialty scrapbook paper or piece of felt or leather for a more custom look.

Cheers, LL