I did a thing.

Last night, we played a little game over on the ol’ Facebook page.  And y’all had some pretty good guesses!  Some of you thought I had a make-over! Veneers, teeth-whitening, hair extensions… ha! Maybe I should add that to the list.

One of you suggested that I painted myself. Ha! um… not my thing.

Of course, a married woman can never ever play this guessing game without someone hoping the answer is that another baby is coming… And, no. I’m not pregnant.

But other business-related guesses were inspiring: I got a studio, I created an art gallery, shot a beautiful wedding (which I’ve done a lot already!), or got a new website or sponsorship.

But one of you actually guessed correctly.  Amanda, you made ONE guess and it was correct!

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m delighted to present to you my new logo! Squeeeeee!

I actually have butterflies in my tummy about it! I’m so giddy with excitement!  I love it!  I contacted a fabulous design firm, told them what my business is all about (celebrating and preserving love and legacies), and I really felt like he listened to what I wanted out of a logo.  If you zoom waaaaaaaay in, you’ll notice the confetti has some subtle shapes in it.  Do you see them? I also took this opportunity to do what I’ve been wanting to do with my brand for a while: add another color!  I absolutely LOVE pink.  And gray has been my go-to accent color.  But I wanted another color that was both bold and reflected me.  And I love blue.  So, my design man added in a pretty awesome blue.  And there you have it! :)  This was seriously overdue.  I mean, as much as I enjoyed making my own logo, hiring someone was truly awesome and the experience was great!  My design guy worked with me and kept tweaking my design about a billion times until I absolutely loved it.  :) I’m so pumped!

Thanks for playing the guessing game, guys.  Over the next few weeks, you’ll see me adding my new logo and colors to my branding.  Slowly, but surely.  I’m in love, I’m in love, and I don’t care who knows it!

Book Recommendation: Love and Respect

Love and Respect

When I think back to when The Hunk and I were dating, I know that, without a doubt, the best decision we made as a couple was reading Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerichs. Neither of us had previously experienced successful romantic relationships but we hadn’t failed miserably at being decent human beings.  We had friends and served Jesus.  But I’m telling you, for real, this book changed us. It changed how we related to one another, how we treated one another, and how we interpreted the way we were being treated. I highly recommend this book with the following single disclaimer.

 

Skim the first third of the book.

Seriously.  Have you ever read a book about improving your life before? It seems like all of them start out convincing you to buy the book.  The very book you have in your hands. I’m sure they have their reasons for writing it this way, but I was sold before I started reading it.  If you’re not, maybe read a bit and then start skimming as you become convinced.

Otherwise, this book is based on two things: scientific research and the Bible.  In fact, scientific research has been done to support the Bible.  Ephesians 5.33 says, “To sum up, each one of you is to love his wife as himself, and the wife is to respect her husband.” To some, this is a polarizing verse.  But the book definitely flushes it out.  Eggerichs explains how his research proves that the majority of men would rather be respected than loved and the majority of women would choose being loved over respected.  What he is clear to say is that this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t love our husbands or that we shouldn’t respect our wives.  He also flushes out what “respect” means and how it should be as unconditional as love is.

The second third and the last portion of the book reviews some practical ways to implement love and respect in a relationship.  This is, perhaps, the section of the book that a couple could read together and discuss.  I wish we’d start doing this earlier in the book, but we still benefited greatly from having an unstructured discussion on these two sections of the book.

After you read the book and realize its impact on your view of healthy relationships, go ahead and check out the Love and Respect Ministries.  If you’re single, check out Love and Respect NOW, a sister ministry which, as you might have guessed, is great for people who are not in a romantic relationship but would still like to learn about these principles–I mean, I wish I’d known about Love and Respect much earlier in my life.

Interested in purchasing the book? Consider using this affiliate link to make your purchase: Love and Respect

Bedtime Habits | Marriage Hack

One of my favorite things about being married is bedtime.  I mean, I don’t think there’s anything better than snuggling up in my man’s arms and falling asleep.  And, well, sometimes, not falling asleep for a little while.  Wink, wink!  Bedtime habits are some of the best habits to cultivate in any marriage whenever possible.

Bedtime Habits for Married Folk

Bedtime Habits: Set a bedtime

Life can get pretty hectic.  Am I right?  Some seasons are more hectic than others.  One way to combat a hectic life messing with your marriage is to work to set a common bedtime–or at least aim to go to bed at the same time.

At the beginning of our marriage, The Hunk was in graduate school, full-time ministry, and interning as a counselor.  Sometimes, he had to stay up late to write papers–even pulling all-nighters.  Some nights, we couldn’t go to bed at the same time.  When it couldn’t happen, we still touched base before I went to sleep.

In general, having a shared ritual in a marriage improve a marriage relationship.  Going to bed at the same time can be a simple way to incorporate a shared ritual which creates a sense of unity in a marriage.  According to Dr. John Gottman, marriage research expert, shared rituals increase marriage satisfaction overall.

Bedtime Habits: Three Compliments

If we do a quick search engine search, we’ll see a myriad of answers to the question, “How many compliments does it take to undo an insult?”  In my quick search, I saw anything from 60 to a million.  I’m no expert, but I’m not sure insults can ever be undone.  I like to compare this to trying to put all the toothpaste back into the tube.  It’s difficult if not impossible!

So, whether your day was spent together all day or you were apart all day working, volunteering, having social engagements, and general busyness, aim to go to bed at the same time.  And as part of your bedtime ritual, give each other three compliments.  If it has to be forced at first, that’s fine.  After practice, it should become second nature.

Focus on complimenting one another’s accomplishments, appearance, and intellect.  Maybe he rocked at hanging up that canvas for you.  Tell him.  Maybe she came up with an epic solution to the kitchen organization debacle of 2013.  Tell her that you admire her skill.

Seal these compliments with a kiss. Or even more fun stuff.

Bedtime Habits: Debrief

If your life isn’t already crazy together, it will be.  Before going to bed, go through a quick debrief.  This debrief is clothing optional.

Take turns sharing a high and a low of the day, being sure to end with a high.  “So, dear, what was your favorite part of today?” “My favorite part was when you came home so glad to see me! What was yours?”  Complete the interchange.  Then, discuss a low: “What was the low point of your day?” “I was really sad to learn that my friend’s husband died in an unexpected car accident.  She’s my age with two kids!” “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that…” And this gives a good opportunity to bond and share with one another, offering comfort or a listening ear.  Then, complete the cycle and finish up with another high.  “Okay, what was another part of the day you enjoyed?” “I enjoyed my dinner with Tami.  She is a great friend and mentor.”

What’s great about the nightly debrief, according to Drs. Emerson and Sarah Eggerichs, is that it gives a chance for the two of you to learn more about one another–the things our beloved likes to do or experience and what makes life difficult or a challenge.

Bedtime is the best time.  Make it count with your spouse!

Marriage Hack: Daily Compliments

One thing I love about marriage is that my man compliments me daily.  And lavishly.  The other morning, I mentioned the concept of daily compliments to him–specifically, the role of complimenting one another in marriage.  There are so many reasons daily compliments will change any marriage for the good.

Daily Compliments

Marriage Hack: Daily Compliments

Maybe you read my love story.  On our first date, The Hunk called me beautiful.  I was taken aback–mostly because I thought he was crazy to think that.  He still thinks that.  And I still think he’s crazy. But over the years, he’s continued to regularly compliment me.  His language toward me is full of compliments.  And the compliments go both ways.

I don’t think our marriage would be nearly as enjoyable if we didn’t deliver daily compliments to one another.  Mark Merrill defines five ways to compliment your spouse.  Here’s his list and basic descriptions with examples from his post.

  1. People Skills: Compliment how they treat a stranger.
    This type of compliment starts with observing your spouse. Note when they show uncommon kindness, generosity, chivalry, courtesy, or patience with someone. Let them know what and why you admire that. Say something like, “I really admire how kind you were to people in that crazy crowded store.”
  2. Parenting Skills: Compliment the way they handle your kids.
    Your spouse is more aware of their parenting mistakes than their parenting strengths. You can help them see what a difference they make in your kids’ lives. Just yesterday, I texted my wife, “Susan, I just heard you talking with Megan and Emily, and you really coached them well on that issue. Great job!”
  3. Get ‘er Done Skills: Compliment their ability at a task.
    It’s important to let your spouse know that you admire their abilities, but don’t just compliment an extraordinary skill. Let them know you appreciate all the things they do by saying, “Thanks for cleaning the kitchen…I was tired and I really appreciated you doing that.” Don’t just treat it like it’s just their job…you should still compliment them.
  4. Challenges: Compliment their handling of a difficult situation. If you see your spouse navigate a hard situation well, let them know that you noticed. Tell your spouse that you see how they help your marriage and family. Say something like, “I know the last few days were unexpectedly difficult, but we couldn’t have made it through without your steady hand. Thanks for keeping us calm.”
  5. Appearance or Style: Compliment the impression they make on you. If it’s been a long time since you’ve complimented your spouse, unprompted, about their appearance, do it this week. To be most effective, compliment how your spouse improves what they wear, not vice versa. I sometimes say to my wife, “Susan, you make that dress look really good!”

Daily Compliments: When and How?

Getting started on your daily compliments is simple, but not necessarily easy.  You may find that you are not naturally good at delivering compliments.  Perhaps you have a career in evaluating, problem-solving, or deciphering problems.  As a teacher, I definitely have an affinity toward finding problems and pointing them out.  I am not naturally bent toward looking for specific positive aspects of things or people.  But marriage has helped me work toward improving that part of me.  If you’re like me, you will have to start out making a daily compliment more intentionally.  And that’s okay.

First, look for something you admire about your husband or wife.  Be sure not to choose a compliment that is actually pointed; for instance, if the house is a mess when you come home to your husband or wife, don’t say something like, “You’re really good at chilling on that couch.”  That is not a compliment.  Instead, consider looking through the list above and gather inspiration from that list to start your compliments.

Then, just say it.  Whenever.  Wherever.  In front of people. In private.  Before heading off to work.  As soon as you greet another after work.  During dinner.  In the car on the way to a social gathering.  There is no wrong time to give your husband or wife a compliment.

But you may be asking yourself: Will my husband/wife reject my compliments? It’s a valid concern.  Sometimes, compliments aren’t well received.  There are a few reasons this might be the case.  Firstly, words of affirmation may not be your lovely spouse’s love language.  It may not seem to make a huge difference in your relationship if this is the case.  Either way, though, a lack of compliments can give the appearance of a lack of affection for your love.  So push through if your compliments seem ineffective.  I can tell you from experience that consistent compliments create a better marital atmosphere.

Over time, work your way up to delivering more daily compliments every day until it is second nature to compliment your husband or wife.

Daily Compliments: The Benefits

There are numerous benefits to delivering daily compliments.  I’m speaking only from experience, here, but I’ve gathered a few benefits I’ve found in my marriage that are a partial or a direct result of The Hunk’s daily compliment habit.

  1. Daily compliments reinforce trust.  I trust my man more because he regularly shares his appreciation for me–what I bring to the relationship, my intellect, and his attraction to me. There are plenty of ways to develop trust between two people, but compliments are definitely one way The Hunk has made it easier for me to trust him.  Conversely, The Hunk feels he can trust me with his feelings, internal struggles, and even joys because he knows that I have favorable thoughts toward him.
  2. Daily compliments reinforce genuine love. He loves me.  One way he expresses his love for me is by complimenting me.  I feel cherished, wanted, and–well, honestly–loved when I’m never searching for his general feelings for me.  They are positive.  And being in love with a man who finds me generally a good, attractive, intelligent woman makes me feel loved. Conversely, The Hunk feels loved and respected because he knows I have expressed love toward him as well.
  3. Daily compliments build up your spouse. I’ve seen The Hunk’s entire countenance change when I’ve complimented him.  And, in return, his compliments have improved my self-esteem.  I think it’d be tough to argue against the building up of one another in a marriage.  The healthier a person’s view of himself or herself, the better his or her relationships are in the long run, right?  Makes sense to me.

Wow! I didn’t think I’d have this much to say about daily compliments. Go out there and compliment your loved ones–especially your forever love.

The Wedding Day Timeline

As a bride planning her own wedding, I paid particular attention to the events of the day–the schedule.  I called it the itinerary.  My groom’s parents made fun of me for it; they’d never really had a traditional American wedding for any of their children so they didn’t know how important it was to get all the deets in order. It is, obviously, very important. As a wedding photographer, I spend a great deal of time working on the wedding day timeline for each of my brides.  A good timeline helps get you to everything on time and helps ensure you get the photographs and moments that you want to get on this all-important day.

Wedding Day Timeline

Creating a great wedding day timeline is truly an art form.  I’ve honed the process over the years; with each bride, I’ve improved the process a bit.  Or a lot.  Wedding photographers have a varying level of involvement in creating the wedding day timeline.  I pretty much told my wedding photographer what was happening and when.  It worked out just fine.  For my brides, I gather as much detail as possible from the bride and groom, run it through a magic information decipherer, and then put together an amazing spreadsheet rough draft for the bride to review and approve.

Questions to ask when creating your wedding day timeline

Do we want to see one another for the first time before the ceremony or during the ceremony?

This is the first big question that defines the schedule of your big day.  And this decision is really personal and depends on who the two of you are as individuals and as a couple.  Are you two distracted by or intimidated by being in front of others? Do you find it difficult to express moments during important moments?  If your answer to either of these questions is “yes,” then you might opt for a first look.

On the other hand: Is tradition important to you? Do you prefer to keep special moments in their traditional place? If so, you might opt for a ceremony first look.

How many pictures do you anticipate wanting?

If mass pictures your goal on your wedding day–plenty of family groupings, tons of wedding party hangout time, and lots of party pics–you might want to be sure to space out your events accordingly.  For instance, plan for your guests to have snacks to munch on while you gather your groups together for the appropriate time.  We’ve all been to weddings where we waited for what seemed like forever for the bride and groom to show up to the reception.  When we had food, the impatience was assuaged–music and food made the wait even easier!

I tell my brides to expect each family gathering to expect at least 3 minutes for each family gathering.  And more time with bridal parties equates to more images delivered of the bridal party.  When putting together the wedding  day timeline, keep this timing in mind so that you can set realistic expectations for your photographer, yourself, and your wedding party.

How far apart are your desired photography locations from your venue(s)?

Some brides have an all-in-one venues, complete with scenic backdrops for photography, a ceremony location, and a party room.  These brides don’t have to plan much more than a flight of stairs between events on the wedding day.

If you are traveling between the ceremony location and the reception venue, be sure to allow time for that in your timeline.  If you want to go to a specific location for your bridal party pictures or your bride and groom pictures, make sure you have ample time–with a little cushion in case there’s traffic.  I’ve even had a bride use Uber to commute from a getting ready location to the ceremony reception.

Do you want getting ready pictures taken? Which getting-ready images do you want?

If you’re looking for the iconic hairspray pictures, you’ll want to be sure you’ve contracted enough hours for your photographer to capture that moment.  When will it happen? Ask your hair stylist.  Will your make-up be done within the hours you’ve contracted your photographer? Double-check with both.

If you’re not interested in too many getting-ready pictures, you might consider having your photographer capture the final details of getting ready: your mother lacing up the dress, attaching your “something old” earrings, grandma putting on your “something borrowed” bracelet, your sister carefully placing your tiara.  This can usually take 15 to 30 minutes to complete.

This is one of the big things to bring up to your photographer during the initial contact or a month or two before your wedding day.

What reception events do you care about?

When planning your reception, keep in mind when your photographer’s coverage ends.  The best idea is to front-load your events: cake cutting, dinner prayer, first dances, etc.  Obviously, dinner is in there; but you’ll get far more events covered if they are front-loaded.  And, honestly, after a while, dance party pictures all look the same.  Keep this in mind when planning your wedding day timeline.

How long is your ceremony?

Most of my brides have Protestant ceremonies, which last about a half hour or so.  But if your wedding is a Catholic wedding, the ceremony may last significantly longer. Personally, I pause photography coverage about 45 minutes before the ceremony; this chunk of time is important for transitioning, last-minute detail shots, and for a little padding in case Mom is running late or you hit traffic.

How important is it that you have detail shots of your wedding day?

I love detail shots!  They really do convey your personalities and the atmosphere of the day.  If you love detail shots as much as I do, you should be sure to allow for that in your schedule.  For instance, if you want pictures of your dress, be sure to allow time for the photographer to snag your dress before you dress; the more detail shots you want, the more loosely you’ll want to set up your wedding day timeline.

 

The Debt-Free Wedding

Debt-Free Wedding

The average American wedding in America was around $32,000 in 2015.  Thirty-two thousand! To me, this sounds crazy.  Is it even possible to have a debt-free wedding?

If you have ever planned a wedding, you know that the cost adds up quickly.  A typical American wedding seems to require at least one venue–sometimes two– in addition to a photographer, food, entertainment, flowers, an officiant, fancy clothing, jewelry, gifts, favors, a rehearsal party, and lodging.  Then there are options that many soon-to-be-wed couples tack on: videography, a photobooth, websites, a wedding planner, and even special transportation.

I know that, when I was planning my wedding, I didn’t have, like, any money.  And, at least at the beginning, I was paying fo the whole shebang by myself.  But we got through planning and executing an amazing day with very little debt.

You can do it too.

Debt-Free Wedding: How To

I’m not going to lie.  Having a debt-free wedding will not be the easiest thing you’ve ever done in your life.  Think about it this way: You will likely be working the hours to make up for the money saved.  If you’re okay with that, then go for it. If you’re not, then you may want to reconsider your endeavor.  But, seriously, I encourage you to work for it.  You’ll be glad you did after the flowers die, the food is digested, and all that remains is your memories.  No debt–just memories.  Doesn’t that sound lovely?

Tip 1: Acknowledge your strengths and weaknesses

Admitting we have a weakness is not easy.  But if we’re honest with ourselves, we will save ourselves stress, heartache, and maybe even sleepless nights.  Honest self-reflection can allow you to save money without you, instead, losing your flippin’ mind during the entire wedding-planning process.

Personally, I don’t like admitting that I am no good at pulling triggers.  I am so glad my man is a trigger-puller.  I’d have all sorts of plans in process without anything actually happening if I didn’t have someone to make sure I completed the task.

But your weakness may not be the same as mind.  Maybe you’re seriously no good at calligraphy; don’t set yourself up for the kind of stress that is failing at something when you could have been honest with yourself about your shortcomings.  Just don’t.  Maybe you’re no good at planning an actual wedding ceremony.  Don’t let your wedding ceremony suffer; find someone to help you organize that day’s goings-on.  You won’t regret it.

On the other hand, if you’re really good at making slideshows, by all means: Do it!  Especially if you are engaged for a while; this is one of the things you can do early in your engagement and have it knocked out early.  Maybe you’re really good at creating centerpieces; many brides enjoy these sorts of crafts and do them in front of the television on weeknights so they can check them off the list.

Be honest with yourself.  It’s not worth saving money if you’ll lose it over cake flavors or the reception favors.

Tip 2: Find out who can pay for what

After the new bling on your finger has settled in and the planning begins, sit down with all parties involved–individually, if necessary–and find out what or if they are willing to contribute to the joyous occasion.  Maybe your future mother-in-law has only sons and would love to help pay for your flowers.  Perhaps your man’s parents can’t float the dough to pay for a rehearsal dinner.  Maybe your parents will totally float the bill for your reception.  Find out these deets as soon as possible so you can plan your financial obligations appropriately.

Tip 3: Adjust your expectations

Depending on how the money talk goes, you may have to adjust your expectations concerning your big day.  If no one feels they can contribute anything to your big day, you may be a little bummed.  But think of it this way: What’s important is that you are married to this awesome human being by the end of the day.  This may mean scaling down the big day–particularly parts of it that are more costly.

What’s important to you? Do you need a big party or would a medium one suffice?  Maybe even a destination wedding would save you in the long run.

You may even get amazing and unexpected news that someone will contribute in a way that allows you to really save some cash and then you can even splurge on something you never thought you’d be able to have.

Either way, take a step back from the excitement and focus on what’s important: Starting your life together.  Because, when you know, you want forever to start right now–or as soon as possible.

Tip 4: Delegate it and forget it

This one may be the toughest thing to do ever.  Maybe.  This also depends on the type of people who surround you.  Search for those in your trusted circle who are reliable and willing to offer.  If they offer to help with specific things, try to make that work.  If they offer in general, which many people may do, keep a list of those who offer and those who you trust.  It’s important to tune into the trustworthiness of a person.  The last thing you want it to think you’ve saved money only to find out that you have to shell out some clams at the last minute to buy flowers or favors or centerpieces.

It’s important to tune into the trustworthiness of a person.  The last thing you want it to think you’ve saved money only to find out that you have to shell out some clams at the last minute to buy flowers or favors or centerpieces.  Or, worse, you may trust the person but find out that they are not really good at what they’re offering. And your centerpieces look like junk or don’t even match your preferences.

Tip 5: Ask vendors about payment plans

You might be surprised that a lot of wedding vendors–photographers, caterers, etc.–are open to payment plans.  For some reason, we don’t always advertise this.  Hm.  But most of us are delighted to accept a payment plan.  For us, it’s a steady, reliable source of income.  And, essentially, we set up payment plans so that we are paid in full by the original final payment date, anyway, so it still works for us and helps you as you navigate the finances of wedding-planning.

Honestly, all of your vendors start spending money and time on your big day almost as soon as you book with them; that’s why we usually have some sort of retainer fee.  So, depending on the vendor, you may find a payment plan much easier to process than the typical larger chunks.

Debt-Free Wedding: Final thoughts and warnings

Sometimes, on our quest to manage wedding day finances, we skimp on things that aren’t cool to skimp on.  You might think I’m going to talk about photography, but I’m going to surprise you.

Don’t forget about all of the people who are spending money, traveling, and spending a ton of time on your wedding.  Be generous in your gifts for them: whether it is time, service, tangibles, or words.  People want to feel appreciated.  Hopefully they are not loving you so you’ll give them something but don’t let them begin to regret offering to throw you a shower, buying that dress that they could have done without, or driving hours to help you or even just to be in your wedding.  Be sure you budget for generous gift-giving to those who are sacrificing for your big day.

Remember: The goal is to only get married once.  Make it a wedding you won’t regret and be sure it’s a day you enjoy!