Weddings // July 21, 2014

Two months ago, my husband I were married in a small ceremony with friends and family on a ranch by the Carson river in Nevada. It was a balmy day filled with love, laughter and mishaps. I got stranded in a strip mall less than an hour before the ceremony (long story), one of the groomsmen forgot to pick up his tux, and the officiant came down with the flu. Despite these things we had a lovely day, because my husband and I (and everyone helping us) were prepared for things to go wrong and so took things in stride when they did.

“Savor the moment.” That’s a great way to remind ourselves to take in every detail of a special moment, trip, or occasion and file it away in our memory for future enjoyment. But what about those details that you want to forget. That you have to forget, so that the story about your trip to Ecuador is “Remember that time we stood at the equator?” instead of “Remember that time we almost froze to death in the Andean Mountains?” It’s choosing, in the moment, to asses the situation, stay positive and plan to salvage the moment. Then you can have an experience that can be savored over and over again. My new husband and I have had enough whacky moments to get good at this. We’ve also learned some great lessons and established patterns for how to make the most of an unexpected trial. Here’s how we do it.

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Stay Positive and Invent a Motto

In fact, it was looking back on another near disaster in our recent past as a couple that encouraged us to keep positive on our wedding day. It was December, 2012 in Ecuador and we had had a series of unfortunate events: a harrowing bus ride through the Andean mountains; being left on the side of the road at 3:30 AM in the middle of said mountain range; crazy guide; faulty gear; altitude sickness... and the list goes on. We took lemons (scary mountain trip) and made lemonade (impromptu trip to El Mitad Del Mundo, or “Middle of the World,” in Quito). We decided to remain positive about all the mishaps and even gave them a cutesy name “Mitad Del Mundo,” a motto to remind us to laugh in the face of trials.

Assess the Damages

While my husband, Mathias, and I were prepared to be positive during our big day, we did not prepare for all that would go wrong with our honeymoon immediately after.

My husband planned a romantic beachside getaway for us in what was advertised as a “charming” and “quaint, historical” inn. After an eight hour drive (twice as long as we’d planned for thanks to faulty navigation system) we arrive to a quirky, small, old inn miles away from the shoreline of Daytona Beach Florida. Since it was the middle of the night, we ignored the fact that it didn’t look like the post card. The friendly staff escorted us to our room and I immediately went into my habit of inspecting our room for cleanliness and proper accommodations. To my horror, I found broken glass behind the curtains, dirty towels hung in the bathroom, filthy dishes under the bed and a bottle of lube spilling out of the night stand... This was definitely the honeymoon suite, and someone had a good time in it. When we informed the staff that our suite looked like a scene out of The Hangover, we were kindly escorted to a larger suite with an ocean view. The ocean view room came with friends: cockroaches, mosquitoes and termites (oh, my!). It was too late to go anywhere else, so we built a fortress on the bed and stood watch against creepy intruders until dawn.

Next, we assessed our losses. Romantic mood: dampened. One night’s pay at crappy inn: lost. Time: one day of our special getaway gone. We were outraged by our experience until we reminded ourselves that we’ve had worse vacation moments and started planning to make our honeymoon a trip worth remembering. In the end, we still had each other and that meant things weren’t as bad as they seemed.

Move to Plan B...or C

During our honeymoon experience, we kept positive and realized the situation could be salvaged. We didn’t want to spend the rest of our vacation at the infested inn, so we worked on plan B: Disneyworld! Until we realized that did not work for our budget or timeline… on to plan C! We quickly mapped a route to the nearest beach, Daytona, and planned to just enjoy the time with each other instead of trying to make the trip perfect. The result was, for us, near perfect. We spent one day sleeping in, eating pancakes and being beach bums. We learned to paddle board with a Hawaiian native who showed us how to go with the flow of the waves; and we enjoyed the local nature and vegan food scene. Finally, we laughed at how everything that could go wrong with our plans did. We had fun anyway.

As we age and start a family there are likely to be dozens of stories that start with “remember that time when...” We knew that this would be a story that we’d look back on and laugh at, but what turned our dud into delight was our determination to laugh now. Who cares that our bridal party wore mismatched outfits. Everyone was beautiful and I think that’s a trend now. Sure, it looked like the set of the Hangover in our honeymoon suite, but so what! At least somebody had a good time in that termite infested chateau that shall remain nameless. We managed to salvage the memories of our first landmark moments as a married couple: time spent with dearest love ones, priceless. Here’s hoping that there are many more to come.

Published in Weddings
Thursday, 20 March 2014 18:37

Weddings | Planning For Your Marriage

Weddings // March 24, 2014

There are less than three months until my wedding and I just found my dress and I still have not sent out save the dates, or wedding invitations. Like many brides, I have become overwhelmed in the swirl of dress shopping, fine tuning the guest list, selecting a caterer and finding a D.J. (This is a truncated list, of course.) When I feel inadequate to make decisions on flowers, color schemes and cake decorations, I find confidence in knowing that I’m at least taking the right steps to ensure that Mathias (my fiancé) and I will still have a healthy relationship after the wedding.

So, while I envy the women who seem to be the perfect wedding planners, I’ve tasked myself with being a diligent marriage planner. I won’t attempt to offer expert relationship advice, or claim to know the keys to having a perfect anything, let alone a perfect marriage. However, I do know that being successful at anything requires a plan. Here are the tactics I’m using to make sure that Mathias and I get a healthy start to our marriage.

Make a Life Plan

When Mathias and I got engaged our first priority was mapping out our lives together. Questions like, which city will we settle down in? How many children will we have? Should I go to graduate school? All came up as we focused on planning our future. A good place to start with this planning process is goal setting. Everything starts to come together when you ask yourself what you really want and work toward that. For example, if what you really want is to be a stay at home mom in five years, then that might impact your decision to pay for graduate school right now.

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Create a Budget

The time to start planning your financial future with your partner is now. Both parties need to lay out what they bring to the table in terms of assets and debt. Just like life planning, it’s important to set goals. Are you the couple who wants to go on a big vacation every year, or is your biggest priority saving for a down payment on a house? Is eliminating student loan debt or investing one of your goals? Determine where you want to be financially and it will become easier to create a plan on how to get there together.

Seek Wise Counsel

I like to think of pre-marital counseling as preventative maintenance for your relationship. You can pinpoint trouble areas that currently exist, develop a strategy for dealing with future pitfalls and cultivate deeper intimacy with your partner. There are several options for counseling, so explore what works for you. It could be seeking advice from an older couple who you respect, group sessions with a religious guidance counselor, or private sessions with a professional counselor. Mathias and I are currently taking six sessions with a professional counselor who is helping us prepare for the three issues that cause the most conflict in marriage: sex, money and in-laws.

Learning how to fight fair, financial planning and deciding whose family to spend Christmas with may not seem romantic. However, these things are essential to having a healthy relationship. The details of wedding planning are important and I'll get the invitations out, hire the caterer and try to remember to smile and breathe through the ceremony. More important than the wedding is what will happen after we say “I do,” cut the cake and ride off into the sunset. I’m looking forward to enjoying the rest of my life committed to Mathias and happy to know that we’ve got a plan.

Published in Weddings
Friday, 18 October 2013 19:54

Weddings | Wedding Prep Resources

Wedding // October 21, 2013

How couples ever planned their wedding before the internet is a mystery to me. When I was planning for my wedding I spent hours looking through websites to find ideas. I think I Googled wedding planning 1,000 times in 6 months! These websites not only serve as inspiration, but also as a comfort that TONS of other couples are in the same boat as you: planning the most important day of their lives. Here is a list of the websites that made planning my wedding day that much easier.

Style Me Pretty

If you are looking for pictures of beautiful, real weddings, this website is a must see! Brides submit their wedding pictures for a chance to be featured on the site, and I must say they pick some STUNNING ones to share. I was on this site everyday looking for color schemes and décor inspiration, along with eyeing all the wedding dresses. A bonus for this site is that after you wind down from your big day you can submit your pictures for the chance to be a featured wedding for other brides to oogle at!

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The Knot

This site is one of the most popular wedding pages out there, and if I didn’t love all the other websites so much then I would say this is your one stop shop. It’s filled with vendor information, registry help, planning suggestions, decor and fashion ideas along with tips on planning your honeymoon. My Husband and I even made our wedding website through The Knot and loved it! What’s also great is that after you’re married they have sister websites  “The Nest” and “ The Bump” to help you with creating a home and preparing for a new baby.


Brides.com and My Wedding.com

These sites are very similar to each other and also to The Knot, but are totally awesome and worth checking out.  They each have categories consisting of vendors, planning tools, wedding dresses, registries, beauty, honeymoon, etc. I personally don’t think you can ever have too many of these informative sites at your fingertips.


Pinterest

Pinterest isn’t particularly a wedding website, but with all of the boards and wedding pins it might as well be. I can’t tell you how many nights I spent scouring wedding boards and DIY ideas. (Well, I could but that information might be embarrassing ...) What’s also really great about this site is that you can make your own wedding boards to save, or “pin,” the things you love from other sites in one place. Even if you never browse through other people’s pins, you need this site just to save yours.


The Man Registry

Finally, a site for the Grooms! This is a great site for the man in your life to go to for inspiration of his own. It can get overwhelming for them to continuously look at pink taffeta gowns and peony arrangements (ask my husband!). As much as they want to be involved, sometimes they need a space to go for ideas on their wardrobe that isn’t surrounded by a page full of ruffles. AND maybe a little advice on how to deal with Bridezilla…

These site are good places to start on your journey to the big day. Plus, you can check out the weddings section here on Made Woman Mag. Good luck and congrats!




Published in Weddings
Monday, 26 March 2012 09:00

Relationships | First Comes Love...

March 26, 2012 

First comes love, then comes marriage. But between those comes the day most women dream about their whole lives: the wedding day.

Even if you have yet to find Mr. Right, chances are you've spent more than one boring lecture or slow day at the office daydreaming about the designer gown you'll walk down the aisle in, or the beachfront property where you'll say your vows. A wedding is not only the celebration of a lifetime, but for many it's also the biggest party they'll ever throw. So beyond the fantasy of those (hopefully) once in a lifetime nuptials, there's also the reality that a wedding takes a significant amount of planning and preparation.

On average, this glorious one-day affair requires 1,600 hours worth of prep time and comes with a median price tag of almost $30,000. Sound overwhelming? Well, it doesn't have to be. By keeping some simple tips in mind, the planning process can be just as enjoyable as the big day that it leads up to.

Start early

Try to start the planning process at least 9 months in advance of the wedding date. This will give you plenty of time to think through what you want your big day to look and feel like, while giving you ample opportunity to research venues and vendors that can help execute your vision.

Establish a realistic budget

The budget is the very first thing you should think about when you start the wedding planning process. It affects EVERYTHING, from how many guests you can invite to the type of venue you should select. So once you have the ring, before you do anything else, sit down with your fiancé, parents and anyone else that may be contributing and establish a realistic budget. Once you know how much you have to spend, plan accordingly.

Prioritize
The phrase "you can have it all," doesn't apply when it comes to planning a wedding, unless you're on Platinum Weddings. Take the time to think about the elements of your celebration that matter most to you and your groom. For example, if you want to include a certain number of family and friends in your special day, you may have to cut back in other places like food selection. But just think, when all is said and done, having your college dorm mates there will be a lot more memorable than whether you were able to serve beef instead of chicken.

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Get organized
With so many moving parts, it's vital that you set up a system to help keep you organized. You'll accumulate a lot of important paperwork and contracts during the planning process, so purchase a three-ring binder with tabs and sheet protectors to store key documents. Create an electronic folder in your email account to keep track of all important wedding correspondence.  Keep a monthly checklist of items that need to be accomplished and enter important dates, like dress fittings and tastings, into your planner.

Rally the troops

While we pride ourselves on being super women, a true Made Woman knows when to delegate as well. Don't attempt to do everything on your own. Enlist a team to help you carry out the many tasks required to pull off a successful event.  Mothers, friends and bridesmaids are typically eager to lend a helping hand and are especially valuable on DIY projects like assembling programs. If you have the money, hire a good wedding planner. Enlisting the help of a professional during the early stages of the planning process can really save you a lot of time, energy and money in the long run.

Keep your eye on the prize
At the end of the day, remember that the wedding is truly about celebrating the love and commitment between you and your groom. Don't spend so much energy planning the wedding that you forget to nurture your relationship. Over the months of planning, regularly and intentionally carve out time and schedule activities that are wedding-free. Ultimately, a wedding is nice, but a healthy and happy marriage after all the guests are gone should be the true focus leading up to the big day.


Published in Weddings

December 5, 2011

As a newly married woman, I can relate to those of you out there who are engaged. The excitement, the romance, the love.

I’ll be honest: It’s also overwhelming and all consuming.

Most of us have a romantic notion of engagement. After he slips that ring on your finger, you imagine pure bliss from then until you say “I do.” But along with the ring comes wedding planning. As soon as I entered that territory, I felt pressure from family members, stress with the wedding budget, frustration with the guest list and worries about my appearance (read: getting “wedding dress” ready).

If I had known a few things before going through the wedding planning process, it would have helped me live in the moment of being engaged a little bit more. So ladies with rings on your fingers, please read on…

 

Rule #1: Engagement is awesome, wedding planning is tough

For me, being engaged was wonderful. I loved looking down at the sparkle on my left hand and saying “my fiancé” because it excited me. But after a brief time, “The Wedding” began to overshadow those good, heart-all-a-flutter vibes. With a to-do list a hundred-plus items long, it was hard to bask in the beauty of early engagement.

For many brides, this happens. The wedding day is beautiful and will be one of the best days you ever have – it was for us. But the second it’s over, my husband and I looked at each other and said, “Thank God it’s done!” The good stuff comes after you walk down the aisle. Being married is everything I wished for and more – so much better than being engaged and wedding planning. Still, when I was engaged I tried to enjoy the process even amid all the wedding chaos. It’s such a short amount of time, and you don’t want to look back and wish you had appreciated it more.

 

Rule #2: Count on your groom

With bridesmaids, supportive parents and enthusiastic family members—all with ideas of their own —it was hard for me to stay focused on just what my husband and I wanted for the wedding. But we became each other’s rock during the engagement when we felt frustration with wedding planning or pressure from family. We made a single rule: Never to fight over the wedding. Granted, there were tense moments, but we stayed very committed to taking a deep breath and a step back in those moments. We talked out the source of the frustration (usually someone or something outside of our relationship) and promised not to take things out on each other.

We made almost every decision together, and we counted on each other for support instead of getting caught up with all the others involved. I was fortunate to have a very involved groom (he was the one who picked out our wedding cake!), and it helped us plan a wedding that was true to who we are as a couple – not just what I wanted, not just what he wanted, and definitely not what everyone else wanted.

 

Rule #3: Forget about the wedding

Depending on the personality, some brides want to spend every moment focused on their wedding, while others may detest the idea altogether. I fell somewhere in the middle – hating some of it (the guest list, coordinating details and transportation) and loving other parts (flowers, wedding shoes, food and wine).

One thing I learned that I would advise other brides to do is to take a break. Spend some time each week doing something that has nothing to do with the wedding. We would try to have family dinners without bringing up the wedding, or we would go play tennis, take a hike or catch a movie. Turns out there is life outside of the wedding…a fabulous life!

 

Rule #4: Take it slow with big decisions

From moving in together to getting a puppy to buying a house, engagement often spurs additional root-laying actions. My fiancé and I moved in together. And then we adopted a puppy. While moving in together was totally right for us, the puppy proved to be way too big of a challenge. We were anxiety-stricken and totally freaked out as new puppy parents, and we realized it was too much, too soon. We found the puppy another home, said our goodbyes and got back to wedding planning.

Almost every bride will be overwhelmed with feelings of settling down and joint decision-making. For me, it made me want everything a married couple has right away. But I learned to just take it slow. Big decisions like buying a house or car, getting a pet or moving are better made after wedding is over. Advice? Being engaged is already a big decision. Unless something feels totally comfortable, don’t rush it. You have forever ahead.

 

Rule #5: Remember what the wedding is all about

My husband and I are huge NBA fans. One of the things we did while engaged was go to lots of pro basketball games because we both loved it, and it took our minds off the wedding. It kept us interested, energized and enabled us to be ourselves and appreciate each other’s company.

I had to remember that that’s what the wedding was about. It was about that handsome man who at times makes me laugh hysterically, at times drives me crazy, and at times brings so much joy to my heart that it takes my breath away. Without my groom, there would not have been a wedding. I realized that I had to keep our relationship as the top priority. So for any of you brides out there, keep going on dates, make special dinners, do whatever it is that keeps you two in love. You cannot walk down the aisle unless he’s waiting at the end of it for you.

Published in Love + Dating