House Buying 101

Now, we are first time homebuyers, obviously. While our family and friends who are homeowners were offering good advice, we still wanted to do research of our own. I think for first time homebuyers, between the window shopping to contract signing, we held it together pretty good. So I’d like to share with you all the stuff that we learned during this process. 

When Gerald and I started dating, he told me that one of his big goals is to buy a house – and he wanted to buy it within a year. When things got serious with us, we had to make some adjustments to accommodate our expensive (LOL!) long distance relationship challenges. 

Since we started talking about the house, we have both downloaded Trulia and Zillow to look Fast forward to – we got engaged, I moved to New York and we got married. We were living with my brother-in-law. Then the pandemic hit. We knew it would be the perfect time to buy a house because all the prices were down. But then, we were out of jobs, so it probably would not be the best time. 

When 2021 hit, we decided we are going to really try and buy a house. Or at least, move out and rent. But renting is never a good idea with one income because it would be more expensive than the mortgage and it’s basically not ours. So we started looking at houses again. 

Now, we are first time homebuyers, obviously. While our family and friends who are homeowners were offering good advice, we still wanted to do research of our own. I think for first time homebuyers, between the window shopping to contract signing, we held it together pretty good. So I’d like to share with you all the stuff that we learned during this process. 

Maybe it’s best if we look at it step-by-step.

  1. Find a good lender and get pre-approved. 

Now, we both know the amount of mortgage we are comfortable paying monthly, so we limited our search to this amount. When you look at Trulia or Zillow, they will give you the house’s selling price and an estimate of the mortgage. 

Gerald’s friend recommended a good lender, and he was very nice and accommodating. We thought we were getting a pretty good deal – but there is always someone better. 

So, something we learned the hard way is: do not limit your search to one. Also, find someone who is local to the area. Meaning, he knows the area very well. I’ll tell you why in the appraisal part.

Also, remember – just because you are pre-approved for a loan it doesn’t mean you will be able to take the whole amount out. When you put in an offer, and something happens along the way, the loan can still get denied. 

  1. Find a good realtor. 

We love our realtor very much! Sometimes, people opt to buy a house directly from the seller because it would come out cheaper on the sale price. They do not realize that sometimes, it would cost them more. Realtors are there so they can represent you in the whole process. It is their job to know the ins and outs of the house, every single detail that you are buying; How old is the central AC? How much is the HOA? What is wrong with the house and why is it just this X amount when it should be worth this? 

Our Realtor, Rebecca, helped us in this process. She is very patient, and she is always telling us the truth. “This has high HOA” “This is not a good area to live in, it’s not a good neighborhood” “This house will cost you a lot in repairs” It is up to us to decide, but I love the fact that she guides us through everything from start to finish. 

  1. Making an offer. 

Once you find the house that you like, make an offer. It is a really tough seller’s market during our buying process. People would just give 20K+ more than the asking price. After more than 5x of rejected offers and heartfelt letters, I had to research on how to properly make an offer. There is no better way! It’s like winning the lottery. You just put in the numbers and wait for the call. 

Take note though, you can make an offer higher or lower than the asking price. It’s basically what the house is worth for you. But once you make that offer, there is no turning back. 

  1. Find a good lawyer.

Lawyers are great to have but for some they are not necessary. We wanted someone to represent us. We are first time home buyers and it would be great to be guided legally as well. 

Once your offer is accepted, here comes the paperworks and everything. Your lawyer would be the one to execute them, and they will be the ones talking to the seller’s party. 

  1. Inspection.

Your house should be inspected for everything – asbestos, foundations, safety measures, everything. If you do not know anybody, ask your realtor, they will be able to give you a contact person. 

During the inspection, you will have a walk through of the house with the inspector. You need to look at every tiny detail in the house – except cosmetics. You need to know what are the problems that need to be addressed by the seller. Everything will be put in writing after the inspection. 

Both parties – yours and the seller – should agree which ones should be addressed before proceeding to the next step. 

  1. Appraisal

This is when you will find out the value of the house. The loan officer will send someone to the house to appraise it. So they could know how much they could lend you. 

Remember when I said the lender should be local to the area where you are buying. Here is why. They will evaluate the house worth based on the area, house prices around it, the condition of the house, all those sorts. If the appraiser is a local, he would know more about the area and how much houses would cost. If the appraiser is not familiar with the area, then it might be a problem along the way. 

  1. Closing

Once everything is good with the appraisal, you’ll be able to close in on the house. Prepare for expenses – a lot of it. Your lawyer, lender and realtor should be able to guide you through this last step. It took us almost two months to finish everything from shopping to closing. 

I hope this helps first time homebuyers there. I also hope that your process will be smoother than ours. We hit some road bumps here and there, but we survived. 🙂 

Disclaimer: I am not a Realtor, Lawyer nor Lender. 

Upstate New York Adventure: Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls is a city (apparently lol) in Niagara County, New York State. Niagara Falls State Park was recognized as the oldest state park in the United States. For the second part of our mini honeymoon, we drove up to Niagara Falls! 🙂

Can I just say — I googled Niagara Falls and these are new knowledge for me. LOL, let me share with you: Niagara Falls is a city (apparently lol) in Niagara County, New York State. Niagara Falls State Park was recognized as the oldest state park in the United States. The falls are shared with Canada. You can literally see Canada on the other side of the river. Niagara Falls has 3 waterfalls – the Bridal Veil Falls, American Falls, and a portion of Horseshoe falls.

Following our Green Lakes Park trip, we went further up to see the famous Niagara Falls! It is 7 hours away from New York City and around 4 hours away from Syracuse. After we checked out from the hotel at Syracuse, we drove up and arrived at Niagara Falls around 2pm. We decided to book a room at the Sheraton Niagara Falls. Going back a week before we left home, I was browsing through Groupon travel promos and I found a good deal for $70/night at Sheraton Niagara Falls. But then, Gerald saw a certain room that he liked so we decided to book that instead. We also had a special rate from Marriot Bonvoy, Marriot’s loyalty program, since we registered for it.

So we parked our car at the hotel’s parking lot. It cost around $20 per day. And since we were too early for the 4pm check-in time, we decided to take a stroll around Niagara Falls State Park. It was a ten-minute walk from the hotel.

We explored the park for two hours, did the trails and saw some views. Gerald wanted to take me down the river but we were worried that all the attractions might not be open during that time — but luckily, the boats’ operations went back on three days before we arrived! You have no idea how happy I was! I thought it would be a waste to travel seven hours and not see everything. So anyway — We immediately bought our tickets for Maid of the Mist Boat Tour for the next day. They have trips from 9:00am to 5:00pm. It was easy getting the tickets too! You just log on to their site and purchase the tickets.

the two hour stroll made us really hungry, exhausted and thirsty. We walked to find a place to eat and sit. We found this Chinese Restaurant called Royal Dragon by Rainbow Boulevard. It was the best Chinese food I have ever tasted. We had the Chicken Fried Rice – it was tasty, not too oily, a really good amount of serving for I think $12, we wished we just shared the meal. Also, the service was really good and they served the food really fast. Up until today, Gerald cannot forget about that place. I really hope they open a branch in the city.

Anyway, it was already 4:30pm and the hotel haven’t called us yet. The check in was supposed to be 4:00pm. We didn’t really mind since they said they are thoroughly sanitizing the place. We headed back anyway, and we were just in time! We were just happy to finally be able to lay down and rest — oh and by the way, we booked the Spa Suite so we were excited to see that too. To our surprise, our room was absolutely… just wow! —

I really thought it was expensive to be paying almost $200 per night, but Gerald was okay with it. He said it’s cheap to have a room like this. It’s just sad that I cannot have my breakfast buffet or room service, still! Originally, when you book this room, you’ll have access to the exclusive Club Lounge, daily breakfast and happy hour, as well as HydroSpa with VIP treatment for personalized experience. We just enjoyed the night together watching episodes of #90DayFiance with wine! It was the perfect first day in Niagara Falls.

As soon as we woke up, at 11am, we prepared for Niagara Falls! The hotel restaurant was closed, so we just went to Starbucks, which was down at the lobby connected to the hotel, and had coffee and some bacon and eggs sandwich. Oh, so if you want to go down the river and closer to the falls, please remember the following

1.You will be wet. The falls’ mist will get you wet, like it’s a shower. We didn’t really know what to wear, if there is anything proper to wear. So we just opted to wear shorts, shirt and sneakers. Maid of the Mist will give you disposal raincoats anyway, so you’ll be fine.

2. Wear your mask, and observe protocols. For the pandemic, at least. It was quite hard to wear masks and have them wet when we are on the boat. Take them out to take photos, then breathe. It was a little bit challenging, and I was super scared to drop my mask. LOL. Avoid staying on the edge and always watch your step. It gets a little bit slippery and the boat rails are safe enough to keep you on the boat, but it doesn’t hurt to be extra careful.

3. Maybe a good tip to stay at the back of the boat so see the Horseshoe falls fully. People are going to crowd in all sides of the boat but if there are two of you, stand your ground. The boat is going to turn around going back anyway, so you’ll see everything twice. As for me, I was just speechless and mesmerized, so I didn’t get to take really good pictures. I did take good videos though.

4. Stay for the viewing deck. After the tour, you will be led to the viewing deck to get a better view of the falls and the whole park. We had to stay for another 5 minutes because it was just so beautiful for me, I wanted to look at the view one more time.

So that’s it! We just went back to the hotel after that. Oh, by the way, that time, the restaurants upstate had indoor dining. But they were by reservations only. We ordered food at The Hard Rock Cafe but since they only take reservations and not walk-in, we cannot stay. I was looking forward to dining in an actual restaurant. But oh well, so we just did take-out. Since I was sad about Hard Rock, Gerald and I had some drinks at The Rainforest Cafe. They had some food too but Gerald wanted Hard Rock food. The next day was our check out day. We just had to go back to Royal Dragon for food on the road.

Maybe this is, to this day, the best place I went to since I came to New York. Maybe next time I can cross the borders! Hoping that will be soon.

Upstate New York Adventure: Green Lakes Park & The Craftsmann Inn

Drove upstate for our little honeymoon last summer. A little R&R at The Craftsmann Inn and Green Lakes State Park.

The first half of 2020 has been really hard for all of us and the pandemic has driven us crazy at some point. So since we are newly weds (kind of), and it’s summer, we decided to take a road trip upstate New York. It was kind of hard looking for a place to go since you have to really check and call establishments to be sure that they are open. After two weeks of researching, we’ve settled on two places – Green Lakes State Park in Syracuse, and Niagara Falls in Buffalo.

Gerald has always wanted to take me to Green Lakes State Park. He saw these photos online when we first started dating, and we planned to go when I was supposed to visit last year (2019), but since I was not able to go back to USA that time. Anyways, Green Lakes is known for its two lakes and man-made beach. It’s perfect for a quiet morning jog because you can just pick your trail. It’s up north, a little over four hours away from NYC. And yes, the lakes were green.

So the struggle of trying to find a hotel is another thing, also we are a bit picky with hotels. For me, I have been to the worst hotels back home but I am not taking the risk during this pandemic. Well, we are already taking a big risk traveling. Gerald is a bit picky when it comes to hotels too. Luckily, I found this hotel 15 minutes away from Green Lakes – The Craftsmann Inn. I am so glad I did and here is why —

They have kind staff. Everyone working in the hotel were very nice. They were always smiling and genuinely happy to assist you. Before getting there, I called them and asked for their protocols and what are the inclusions (LOL, I really want to have that breakfast buffet! It’s why I go to hotels!) – that time unfortunately, they do not serve breakfast. They do, however, give some yogurt cups and unlimited water.

They upgraded us to Signature Suites. I tried booking them on Expedia. That time, their rate was $125. It’s a decent rate for Standard Room, right? I was excited to go because their website had really good pictures, and it had a 3D Virtual Tour thing. I know, I’m like a kid lol. When we got there, they upgraded us to their Signature Suite since I mentioned we are on our honeymoon.

The room had one bedroom. Which was small, but I mean, you’re just sleeping. I love the big windows! There’s a living room and a mini kitchen. I didn’t take a picture of the bathroom, but it was a good size. Overall it was very clean, and cozy, and we had a comfortable stay. The room comes with complimentary coffee, that you can make using their coffee maker. And of course, water.

Their restaurant food and service are the best! Craftsmann Wood Grille & Tap House is the restaurant located right in front of the hotel. That time, we had to do reservations because they had limited capacity. So, the front desk told the restaurant that we are newly weds, so they gave us complimentary wine. They gave us the Riondo Prosecco Spago Nero, topped with a slice of strawberry.

Their food is also amazing! For starters, I had the Craftsmann Salad – heirloom tomatoes, baby cucumbers, pickled red onion, carrot, radish,
wood roasted shallot vinaigrette. And then for my main, I had the Grilled Salmon Fillet. It was topped with fire roasted pepper sauce and some crispy onions. Gerald had steak, the man loves steak! He had the Flat Iron Steak, with fries on the side. They had pretty big servings (hello, I’m Asian! LOL) but we destroyed this!

After that night, we were so tired but we decided to go to Green Lakes Park early because we have to drive to Niagara Falls after that. We wanted to go super early, but the park opens at around 8 in the morning. But, LOL, we just slept until 8am and got ready. It was drizzling a little that time, but we didn’t really care. We arrived at the park around 9am. There was parking right outside. You have to pay around $8, and you’re good for the day. I mean, not sure but we did stay until 10:30am.

Since everything was closed, there was nothing much to do but to walk, or jog, and take pictures and just enjoy the nature. I was fine with it. I was just so happy to be outside, somewhere not inside our room, and just to be able to smell the fresh air!! The park had two lakes, as I mentioned. Those lakes total to I think 2-mile trail around it. You can find the map here. We just walked around it, that’s the only thing to do.

If it was a normal day, there are a lot of activities to do at the park like Beach/Swimming, you can rent a boat, camping, there were also barbecue grills there. There’s also a golf course nearby. You can find all the list of activities and rates here.

Over all, I think Syracuse is such a nice place upstate. It was quiet, and people were very nice! There is not much happening there but at least you get to relax! I love upstate! I hope you guys will consider visiting the Green Lakes State Park, and stay at The Craftsmann Inn. I mean, this is not a sponsored post but we had a really good time! 🙂

Badian Canyoneering and Whale Shark Watching

The reason we went to Cebu is because he wanted to see and swim with the Whale Sharks. Since we are already in Cebu, we also wanted to try the Canyoneering. This one I wanted to try before but it was closed due to some accidents back then. We booked this activity through Klook. Click here to see the exact booking package.

Okay, you all should know by now that I really suck at planning trips. This is the only thing that we did not do DIY and Gerald was the one who planned this, so it went really well.

The reason we went to Cebu is because he wanted to see and swim with the Whale Sharks. Since we are already in Cebu, we also wanted to try the Canyoneering. This one I wanted to try before but it was closed due to some accidents back then. We booked this activity through Klook. Click here to see the exact booking package.

Swimming with the Whale Sharks

Oslob, where the Whale Sharks are, is in South of Cebu. It is four hours away from the city. Swimming with the whale sharks is very time sensitive since they only come out to play during the morning between 6am-9am. So we had to leave the hotel around 3am to be able to make it to 7am.

When we got to the place, there was some briefing. You are not allowed to touch the whale shark; in fact, you are not allowed to be near them for less than a meter. You can only take a picture with them and admire them. If you touch them accidentally, the panic and that causes the water to have big waves. So be careful.

I didn’t want to go down the water because I was scared and this is already my second time. The first time I was there, I guess one of my friends touched the whale shark and it panicked and flipped our boat accidentally. But I had to be a stage girlfriend, lol. I wanted to really get good shots for this moment because he waited a long time for this encounter. So cute. Gerald got a few good shots.

The duration of the encounter with the whale sharks is just 30 minutes. They take you in a small boat; let you swim freely for 30 minutes. Don’t worry, they provide life jackets, snorkeling gears, shoes and the manongs in the boat are very attentive and will be watching over his sakays.

After the encounter, you can rinse yourself. It’s your choice if you want to wash up fully or just rinse. We just rinsed ourselves because we were still going to do Canyoneering. Oh, our package included breakfast after the activity. If you’re doing it DIY, there are actually some stores/restaurants that sell breakfast meals. It’s quite a lot of 200 pesos. Also, they have WI-FI.

Badian Canyoneering

After breakfast, we headed straight to Badian. It’s like two hours from Oslob. We woke up pretty early so we were out the whole ride. The tour guide only woke us up. It was around 10 or 11 in the morning, I think.

Upon arrival, they will give you the gears that you will need – helmets, life vests, and DIY safety gears for your cameras. They tied ours to an empty water bottle. They will take you to the briefing area. Canyoneering is more like a free fall into the waterfalls, rivers, so it’s pretty dangerous. You need to listen to the tour guide and really follow instructions.

After the briefing, some kuyas will take you on a motorcycle ride going to the start of the trail. You have the choice if you want to do the shortcut – a two kilometer zipline and 10 minute walk to the first fall, or you can do the long way – 45 minute trekking. Of course, I wanted to trek! I have severe fear of heights. You’ll see.

So we did the trekking and reached the first jump. It’s like a 6 feet stone, then there’s a lower level, which is around 3 feet. I couldn’t jump the five feet one so the tour guide suggested I go from the lower one. This happened. Gerald couldn’t stop laughing. I’m such a pussy, I know.

The jumps get higher as you go further. We had our own tour guide and he was only taking care of us. He is very nice and he really made sure the two of us were taken cared of. We really listened to his instructions. By the way, wearing the helmet and life vests were a must! They are included in the Klook package too. Well, they are required throughout the tour.

I stopped jumping after the first one, haha! I actually bumped my head because the current was super strong and it pulled me. I fell on a rock and slipped and bumped my head. Good thing our tour guide was quick to hold me. There were also slides which I really enjoyed because they were short and low ones.

The highest jump, you really gotta be careful because there’s like just a very small step and you have to jump really far so you won’t hit any rocks. There were those jumps where you have to run first, as a head start.

Look at my brave baby! He has a fear of heights too, according to him! But he overcame all those that day! 🙂 I am so proud! After the highest waterfall jump, you’re going to take a twenty minute walk to the end of the trek. Everyone can swim and relax there. There is also an eating area. Please, please if you ever come here and eat at the end of the tour, please dispose your trash properly!

So the trip last for three almost four hours. They give us time to shower, clean up and eat. The food was good – there was soup, chicken and rice. After that, our tour guide dropped us off at our hotel. This concludes our trip to Cebu.

Top of Cebu & Rico’s Lechon

After the trip to Bantayan Island, we rushed to the city because we arranged a little tour with kuya Jeremy.

After the trip to Bantayan Island, we rushed to the city because we arranged a little tour with kuya Jeremy. Kuya Jeremy is a Grab Driver who drove us from the airport to the hotel the night we arrived. We kept his contact just in case we needed a ride during our stay. He is actually very nice and decent. Since we arrived in the city around 5pm, the tourist attractions that he lined up for us were already closed. I had kuya Jeremy meet us at the bus stop. He waited for two hours since our trip met a lot of traffic. He offered to take us to Rico’s Lechon and Top of Cebu, just so the trip would not be wasted.

Rico’s Lechon

Gerald wanted to try the legit lechon since I told him Cebu is the home of Philippines’ best lechon. Well, to me at least. So he wanted to try it. Also, he wanted to compare their Spanish version called Pernil.

He had lechon during his first time in Manila and he loved it. You know what, after that very long trip, we were totally out in the car so I don’t really know where kuya Jeremy took us to get Rico’s.

We ordered lechon (not the spicy one but I’ve had the spicy one and I love it), chicken skin, and some seafood. I was kind of disappointed because the lechon was not that crispy. I remember, four years ago, we went to Rico’s and it was crispy. It was still good because I was slowly dying of hunger. Okay, sorry we don’t have photos of the food because we were so hungry!

Top of Cebu

Top of Cebu is like the Baguio of Cebu. It’s up in the mountains. They have restaurants there where you can enjoy the view of the entire Cebu City while having a meal. We didn’t really go to the restaurant since we went to Rico’s Lechon first. There were also small stalls of snacks and some stone tables where you can actually chill if you want to.

We ended the day after that. It was such a long day. I’m sorry that I didn’t get to keep kuya Jeremy’s number. But I’ll find it in my old phone and post it here. But in case you’re wondering, we paid him PHP 3,000.00 originally it was for the whole day, but even though we only had him for 3 hours, we still paid him in full. He offered to be our on call driver for the entire trip anyway.

Bantayan Island, Cebu

I’ve always wanted to go to Bantayan Island since I saw Camp Sawi. So when Gerald visited Asia, we took a 6-hour bus ride to check one thing off my travel bucketlist!

This is almost a year delayed in posting, I’m so sorry. I’m still writing because this might be useful to some of you guys. Okay, I am not really a travel blogger so I will make this short, simple and as helpful as it can be.

Gerald went to visit me in the Philippines last October. Of course, he stayed in Manila while I work. But we planned the whole two weeks – our first stop in his trip is Bantayan Island in Cebu. I have always wanted to go to Bantayan Island and have been planning to go several times and for some reason, it is always getting postponed. Since Cebu is on our itinerary, Gerald insisted that we go to Bantayan Island. To be honest, I kind of regret it for the main reason that it was a lot of travel time, and we only had three days in Cebu. It was not a smart move but he still enjoyed it so it’s still worth it, I guess. So tip, do not do land travel if you’re only going to this place for three days. Bantayan Island is in North of Cebu and it is 6 hours away.

How to get to Bantayan Island:

  • Go to North Bus Terminal. You can either take a cab or a jeepney. We were staying in Lapu-Lapu City, so we opted to take a cab.
  • Next, you need to ride a bus going to Hagnaya Port. It would take around 4-5 hours travel time going to Hagnaya Port. So it would be best if you go early.
  • Go down at Hagnaya Port and take a ferry going to Santa Fe. The Ferry trip usually takes an hour to 1.5 hours, but since we came late and it was raining, the boat had to go slow so it took us two hours.
  • When you dock at the Santa Fe Port, you can take a tricycle going to your hotel. We booked our hotel and transfer ahead of time.

We stayed at Camp Sawi – or Kota Beach Resort. We took the standard room so there was no television (though I don’t think there is a television in their rooms anyway). I think it’s fine because people would be out all day anyway. The room came with complimentary water for two and an umbrella (which came in very handy because it was raining when we arrived).

We had to transfer rooms because the roof in this one was leaking. It was kind of hard because there was no reception after 7pm, so the guards had to wait for the decision and all that, if we can transfer. They were kind enough to assist us. They transferred us to a room for three since it was the only vacancy. Photos from the resort website.

It rained all night so I was kind of anxious if our trip was really wasted. Good thing we were blessed with good weather the next day. We had free breakfast at the Kadlawon Restobar. Photos from the resort website.

So, our day tour went like this:

1. We had breakfast around 7 in the morning. I can get used to morning like this! The restaurant was right beside the beach and you can see and hear the sea, feel the fresh air. They also have a pool table right outside the restaurant – you know, to chill with your friends at night. Anyway, they had a number of breakfast sets; the traditional Filipino -silog breakfast sets, or the American bacon, eggs and toasts; all of them came with fruits and juice. Photos from the website.

2. We booked an island tour. It cost us PHP 1,500 plus tips. We went snorkeling – Gerald did not really like it. I for one am not a fan of snorkeling because I am scared of what’s under the sea. Haha!

3. We went to the Virgin Island. This is a small island about 30 minutes from the main Bantayan Island. And we had to pay PHP 500/2 heads then I think extra PHP 100/head.

If you ask me, it wasn’t really a virgin island. It has pretty decorations. There were some accommodations in the island. Our tour guide said that each cottage cost around PHP 3,000 for 24 hours. The electricity is only on for a certain number of hours.

According to the tour guide, there were cliffs where we can jump, but we chose not too. We’re saving the cliff diving for Canyoneering.

This cliff was one of the locations for the movie, Camp Sawi. You can actually jump off at some part of this. We chose not to.

We went to swim for like fifteen minutes, just so Gerald can experience the water. He loved it. He said it’s just right for swimming. We wanted to stay a little more but we don’t have much time.

4. Before leaving Bantayan Island, we went to visit The Ruins. To be honest, I expected it to be a little cleaner – Production Design really does Magic!

We had to hurry back to the city because we wanted to have a little tour if we still can. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time for that. We went to the Top of Cebu and tried the infamous Rico’s Lechon!

Getting Married in New York this 2020: What To Do Before & After Saying I Do

Since pandemic struck, a lot of plans have been changed or moved, a lot of offices shut down in New York – including the City Clerk’s office – which have made it extra hard for us to obtain get married. Find out the steps that we did before and after the wedding ceremony, to officially being married – with certificate.

Have you seen the finale episode of Gossip Girl? It was about Chuck and Blair’s wedding. I have always wanted a wedding so spontaneous and intimate – not that I want a shotgun wedding or a drunken ceremony in Las Vegas – but I wanted a hassle-free and have just the family by our side. 

That is exactly what we did when we got married in Central Park — the very spot where Chuck and Blair got married — last April, and we only had Denisse, Gerald’s cousin as our witness. I thought having a wedding this small will be stress-free but mounting it during this pandemic was actually very challenging. 

I would write about my fairytale come true in another post, but I would like to focus on what you all newly-engaged couples need to know if you want to have your wedding during this pandemic. 

Obtaining a Marriage License

The first and very important step to getting married is obtaining a Marriage License. When we got our Marriage License, New York was not on lockdown yet. It was at the end of February. We got it through the City Clerk’s office in Brooklyn. Before going to the City Clerk’s office, you have to fill-out the Application Forms first and submit them online. 

When you get to the office, they will find the forms in their system. You have to double check every error before they issue it to you. It will cost $35. It was really easy and it only took us 15 minutes inside the office. 

However, since the lockdown, New York has launched Project Cupid – it is where you can schedule an appointment to obtain your marriage license. Just go to the site and follow the easy steps. You can pay through there as well, it will cost $35 too.

Remember that the validity of your Marriage License starts 24 hours after it was issued to you and will last up to 60 days – but I am not sure if they extended it during these times.

Getting an Officiant

Our original plan was to get married at the City Clerk’s office. We were told that we can go anytime and wait for the officiant. The fee would be another $25. We were like, okay, that’s really easy. Let’s chill for now.

So come the lockdown. The City Clerk’s office closed down and there was no way we were getting an officiant, not with the Coronavirus cases rising everyday. So we were like, okay, we don’t know what to do anymore. 

Gerald was asking his friends who got married in 2019. One of his friends suggested that we just contact someone who is ordained to be an officiant – and luckily, he knows somebody. His name is Max. 

Max was a total lifesaver as our Marriage License was approaching the expiration date. He agreed to marry us two days before our license expires.

Getting Married

You know, brides and weddings! I really wanted to have a ceremony and to wear my wedding gown and to see Gerald in a suit (lol!) So we decided to get married by the Bethesda Fountain in Central Park. It was either that or a ceremony at home. 

There are 3 important things that you need during a wedding ceremony – and no it’s not your something new, something old and something borrowed – it’s your marriage license, your witness and your officiant (of course!).

Sending out your Marriage License

The guide paper that comes with the Marriage License states that your Wedding Officiant should be the one to send your signed Marriage License to the City Clerk for them to be able to start processing your Marriage Certificate. 

We literally experienced the famous excuse “It got lost in the mail” — except it’s not an invitation. We sent the Marriage License through mail right after the ceremony. It was sort of a mistake because we did not keep a photocopy first or not even a photo. 

Obtaining your Marriage Certificate

The Marriage Certificate should come automatically in 10 days after your send out your Marriage License. But since ours took a lot of detours and eventually got lost, we had to figure out what happened to it. 

We waited around for three months, called City Clerk a hundred times, got passed around from hotline to hotline, filed a complaint, until we finally registered for Project Cupid — and yes, paid another $35 — just so we could talk to someone who can give us an answer. 

As it turns out, nothing was filed because they could not find us in their system. The person we talked to told us to contact her supervisor. What they did was they gave us another copy of our Marriage License to have everyone sign again, send the signed copy through email and then they will send us our Marriage Certificate within 7-10 days.

We got our Marriage Certificate three months and ten days after our wedding day. It was crazy that it took this long. But then again, these past few months had been crazy for all of us. What’s important to me is that we are officially and legally married. I just wanted to share our experience because maybe someone out there is experiencing the same hassle. I do hope everyone is using Project Cupid now, as it is much easier.

Have a happy wedding day to the future brides and grooms!

How we got married during the pandemic

Today, I married the man of my dreams. It was everything I could ever hope for.

Unlike other Brides, I am that type who wants the small wedding ceremony as small as our immediate family members and two friends – best man and maid-of-honor, maybe. I know this is what’s going to happen if we ever planned to get married here in New York, since my family is in Manila. Gerald and I are both shy people – we don’t like to be surrounded and be the center of attention. So this is perfect.

Since Pandemic started, I cannot really go home because it would be too hard, and the process of quarantine in Manila would be more dangerous if I go home. So, the only way for me to stay here legally is to get married. We filed for our Marriage License just in case. We can always just keep it if I get to go home. But then, unfortunately (or fortunately), things just got worse.

Everything closed, including the courthouses. We said that we would wait because maybe the lockdown will be lifted within two weeks. Two weeks later, it’s already April, and still nothing is happening. I was feeling anxious since I would have to go back to Manila soon. I was doing calls and researching day and night. I was feeling a little pissed, too, to be honest because Gerald was super chill about it. So I kind of felt that he wasn’t really putting enough effort. My sister sent her wedding dress to me, just in case. Everything is “just-in-case” at this point.

Two days before the wedding date, also 2 days before our Marriage license expired, he told me, “Babe, I found us a minister.” I was surprised because I didn’t really expect that, “He could marry us on Saturday. Because tomorrow it’s going to rain.” I was overjoyed and semi-panicking because I still haven’t decided what to wear. Gerald is always the calm one. Whenever I am panicking, he would just tell me to chill and he will silently fix all our problems. He always comes through for me, for us.

He said we could get married wherever I want. My friends and I have always been a fan of Gossip Girl and since we are in New York, hello Upper East Side – I showed him a photo of Chuck & Blair’s wedding, and he said alright, if I want it there. This is the wedding where the Bride is not really in charge. Gerald arranged everything.

When we got there, we had to pick a place. I wanted it to be under the stairs, but I don’t know why we did the ceremony in the middle of the fountain. So it was kind of embarrassing since everyone was looking at us (Thanks for attending our wedding, New York!).

Denisse, Gerald’s cousin is our only witness. Also, our minister brought some champagne! He’s the best!

To my Groom and now Husband, I love you. Thank you for always coming through for me, in the ways I never really expect. You are such a blessing to me. I will forever be grateful and lucky to have you. Love and yours forever, Mara