Wedding Season Checklist

Celebrating with my friends Liz and Mike this weekend!

As summer hits its halfway point, I’m mentally preparing for the peak of wedding season – two weddings down, five to go, plus the bachelorettes and showers on my calendar.

I’m not complaining – every time I get invited to a wedding, I’m touched that my friends thought to include me on their special day. Still, without being in any of the bridal parties, it’s a lot to keep track of between dates, locations, gifts and outfits. (Honestly, I’m surprised that I’ve only lost one RSVP card so far.)

To stay on top of everything, I’ve relied on a spreadsheet. I’m not exactly known for my organizational skills, so this is a big deal to me. You can even download it here, because no one wants to be that friend who forgets a wedding gift, or worse, the actual wedding.

I keep my spreadsheet organized by date, instead of events related to a couple. For me, the key to actually using a checklist or spreadsheet is not having too many categories. Here are some of the ones I’ve found most helpful:

  • Website: because no one has time to figure out if a couple is registered on The Knot, Zola or elsewhere every single time they need to look up wedding info.
  • Where: this will help determine if you need to book accommodations, transportation and other details.
  • Gift Purchase & Value: If you’re looking for advice on how to determine how much to spend on wedding gifts, I can’t help you with that. Sometimes I do write out a check, but when I buy off a registry, it can happen months in advance. I mark this down, along with the value of a gift. I find this important in case you buy something on sale, you’re buying multiple, smaller gifts or even gifting a service.
  • Dress Code: When you have three black-tie optional weddings in a row, you might want to make sure you’re not wearing the same dress back-to-back. Or maybe that’s just me 🙃

Download the wedding season checklist here.

Next up, I have a bridal shower and then two weddings in August! There is some constant spreadsheet updating happening. I hope it was helpful for someone – you can download it here, no email address required! Tell me, are there a lot of weddings and celebrations on your social calendar?

~ Sarah

My First Philadelphia Apartment

Small Apartment Living Room | Shades of Sarah

Even though I’ve been living in my house for six months now, I still occasionally find myself nostalgic for my apartment. It was the first place I ever lived in by myself. When I moved in, I had an idea it would be the last place I’d live before I bought I house — I just didn’t expect that to be less than 2 years later!

Before I moved out, I made sure to take some photos of the apartment. Living there definitely came with highs and lows, but I enjoyed making the space my own. Hopefully some of these photos can give you some inspiration if you’re also decorating or organizing a small apartment!

Some details about my old apartment: it is a third-floor walkup in a dog-friendly building that was recently updated, but originally built at the turn of the 20th century. I also rented a corner unit, which meant the natural lighting in the kitchen and bedroom is 💯 I lived in East Kensington, near a coffee/comic book shop and tattoo parlor, and really enjoyed my time in the neighborhood.

For additional context, I moved in following a breakup in which my former partner and I shared a large house, so unlike most twenty-somethings, I was attempting to downsize. Anyway, here’s a brief walkthrough of the apartment:

Living Room

Small Apartment Living Room | Shades of Sarah

My apartment door opened up to my living room. For seating, I bought a gray sleeper sofa from Wayfair and green wingback chair (a hand-me-down, but originally from Target). Above, I hung some of my favorite photographs I’ve taken around Philadelphia, but printed them in black-and-white. My mom garbage-picked the side table and painted it white — it’s one of my favorite pieces. For extra storage in the living room, I used a white Kmart dresser as a tv stand. I acquired an IKEA shoe rack through my local Buy Nothing group. To accommodate it, I disassembled my coat rack and bought this accordion rack from Amazon.

Small Apartment Bookcase | Shades of Sarah

The living room also had a crazy crowded white IKEA bookcase. I was blessed with high ceilings, so I placed a large framed front page from the 2003 World Series, originally from my dad, on top of the bookcase. This was the darkest corner of my entire apartment, but I still had enough light during the day for a silver pothos on the bookcase. Clearly, there was a bit of a green/teal color scheme happening.


When I think about it, my bedroom was actually pretty spacious! But I tried to cram way too many things inside — partly because of the lack of storage space, partly because I’m stubborn. Somehow I managed to fit in: a queen-sized bed, a side table, a chest of drawers and (another) small sleeper sofa. The side table, chest and sofa were all hand-me-downs from friends, because my friends are the best.

Small Apartment Bedroom | Shades of Sarah

I tried a comforter and a duvet set before settling on an all-white quilt for the room. The comforter was just too much work to take to the laundromat (#glamorous), and the quilt was plain on both sides, therefore reversible and easy to bleach. For extra comfort, I added IKEA throw pillows and fuzzy husband from Target. I never got around to adding more decor to the walls by my bed, so it was just a canvas painting from a Paint Nite event on a large wall.

Small Apartment Bedroom | Shades of Sarah

My mom and I hung a matching mirror above the chest, and on top of it I kept jewelry boxes, a picture frame, some small plants and a salt lamp. A mini-gallery wall took shape with a framed map of Colombia (my mom’s native country), a wooden map of Philadelphia and another small mirror and Aztec-inspired plate.

This blue sleeper sofa was my original couch, and I moved into my bedroom once I bought my gray Wayfair one. When it wasn’t covered by my laundry, it was another space for me or Arya (or any of our other dog visitors) to lounge. Above the sofa, we hung another small gallery wall and a larger framed print from Minted (you can read about both here).


My kitchen wasn’t too exciting, but I did love the two windows and I had a decent amount of counter space. While living in my apartment, I started to get into plants more (you may or may not have noticed), and most lived in the kitchen.

Small Apartment Kitchen | Shades of Sarah

To take advantage of the light while maintaining privacy, I used cafe panels instead of longer curtains for my tall windows. A friend gave me papel picado (I love Mexican and other Latin American decor), which I hung in the kitchen for extra color.


Even less exciting than the kitchen, but hey, more plants! I made the macrame hanger for my pothos. Above the toilet, my mom and I hung frames I had in my teenage bedroom. They’e actually small puzzles of famous artworks that we put together and then glued to matting.

Small Apartment Bathroom | Shades of Sarah

For extra storage, I added a corner shelf next to the sink. I picked it up sometime in college, and it has been essential in different living situations. Highly recommend picking one up, like this one from Amazon!

That’s about it. It was fun going back through these photos, because I kept almost everything from my apartment but found new ways to arrange and organize things in my house. Things are still coming together, but I see some room tours in this blog’s future! I hope this helps someone who is looking to decorate their first city apartment!

~ Sarah

A Weekend In Gettysburg

Gettysburg Guide - Shades of Sarah

Remember when I went to Gettysburg last summer? I almost forgot, until my friend Nancy asked me for suggestions! What I do remember is that Gettysburg is an easy drive from Philadelphia, and the perfect weekend escape from city life. It’s also an incredibly dog-friendly area, which is a major bonus when you’re traveling with 120+ lb of dogs. (Highly recommend.)

Where To Stay

Gettysburg Guide - Shades of Sarah

I suggest checking out local Airbnb options (here is my referral code). Gettysburg is an interesting mix of tourist areas and rural country hills. You can definitely find a chain hotel to stay at, if that’s your travel style. Airbnbs offer you some more space, and as someone who has always lived in the suburbs or city, more of a cultural experience. What I’m saying is, YOU CAN STAY ON A FARM. Which is exactly what Melissa and I did.Gettysburg Guide - Shades of Sarah

Our Airbnb was a dream. There were chickens, horses, farm dogs and goats. One of the highlights was bottle feeding two baby goats. We brought our own snacks and wine, and drank on the porch and looked at the stars. This is such a city girl cliche, but OMG there are so many stars. The next morning, we drank our coffee and tea on the porch and took in all of the sounds of ~nature~. Definitely a more relaxing soundtrack than city buses.

What To Do

Gettysburg Guide - Shades of Sarah
Gettysburg Guide - Shades of Sarah
Gettysburg Guide - Shades of Sarah
I couldn’t go to Gettysburg and not visit the battlefields. (Fun fact: I was an American studies major.) Gettysburg National Park is overwhelming in scope. There are a lot of audio tour options and bus tour options, but since we were traveling with Zamboni and Arya, we chose to walk. We mostly walked around Devil’s Den and Little Round Top. (Dogs are allowed on the grounds, but not indoors or inside the cemeteries.) You could spend a whole day walking around Gettysburg National Park and not see everything. Everything is very spread out, and, tragically, it puts history in perspective.

For a more traditional hike, our Airbnb host recommended Pine Grove Furnace State Park, close by in Gardners, PA. We ran out of time for this, but it looked awesome.

What To Eat & Drink

Gettysburg Guide - Shades of Sarah
Melissa and I were pleasantly surprised to learn that Adams County is home to several winerys and cideries (it’s actually nicknamed Apple County)! We wrapped up our day at Hauser Estate Winery, which has beautiful views. In addition to their own wines, they also make Jack’s Hard Cider! My favorite drink was a crisp cider sangria, which was perfect for summer. We also had fried apple dumplings to snack on! Hauser Estate also has dog-friendly outdoor seating, although the pups were too wiped out to join us.

Other wineries and cideries in the area:

Adams County Winery
25 Chambersburg St
Gettysburg, PA 17325

Reid’s Orchard & Winery
2135 Buchanan Valley Rd.  
Orrtanna, PA 17353

Reid’s actually has a tasting room in downtown Gettysburg too (400 Baltimore St.). Before we left Gettysburg, we visited downtown and ate lunch. Also, be aware that much of the town is actually closed on Sundays! We had lunch at One Lincoln, where we sat out on the patio with the dogs overlooking Lincoln Square and drank some Big Hill Cider. We didn’t visit any museums, but the Gettysburg Railroad Station is a very cool building.Gettysburg Guide - Shades of Sarah

I enjoyed my time in Gettysburg, and I would definitely go back in the future to visit more wineries and try a ghost tour. A trip to Gettysburg is also shockingly affordable compared to a big weekend in the city. You can read Melissa’s recap here.

~ Sarah