10 Tips to Have the Wedding of Your Dreams (On ANY budget!)

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Fun fact of the day:
The average cost of a wedding in America is $35,000.
(Source: http://fortune.com/2017/02/03/wedding-cost-spending-usa-average/)

Clearly, in the age of social media comparison & Pinterest-perfect photos, the pressure has never been higher to spend BIG on the “BIGGEST” day of our lives!

“Wait- are you against spending money for a wedding?!”
No, I’m not.

“Don’t you think a bride deserves to have a wonderful day!?”
Of course I do. (haha… pun intended…)

My intent is NOT to make you feel bad if you had/are planning to have an expensive wedding.  Everyone’s circumstances are different. After discussing our goals with my husband-to-be, we decided that we wanted to go into our marriage debt-free and stress-free, and we intended to pay for our own wedding. For the sake of context and transparency, I want to disclose that my entire wedding cost $5,000. Some people might say that number is ridiculously low, others might say that’s way higher than what they feel comfortable spending.

And guess what? That’s okay! 

Let’s just toss aside the expectations and opinions of others for a minute…

I want us to stop and think about this together:

In a world where divorce rates have climbed to almost 50%, clearly there’s a much deeper need to prepare for a lifetime of marriage itself, rather than only preparing for a wedding (which is over after only one day!).

The amount of money you spend on your wedding day will NOT affect your joy in marriage. 

So, what WILL affect your joy in marriage? Here are just a few ideas:

  • Pursuing God’s heart first, BEFORE you pursue someone else’s.
  • Attending premarital counseling together.
  • Reading books together about healthy relationships.
  • Seeking wisdom and advice from mature people whose relationships you respect.

THOSE are steps of preparation that will take you SO much farther than simply finding the perfect wedding venue or hiring the best DJ.

Let’s take the spotlight OFF of spending a fortune on a single day for the sake of impressing others, and put the emphasis on investing in a lifetime of choosing JOY together!

So, if you’re excited about the idea of learning some tips and tricks to have the wedding of your dreams on a realistic budget, keep reading! 🙂

I’ve picked 10 primary wedding-day expense categories, and included some tips and tricks for each topic. Here we go!

1.) Invitations

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The average cost of paper wedding invitations (save-the-date cards included) ranges from $500- $800 for a mid-size (150-300) guest list.  (Don’t forget to add postage on top of that! Yikes!) But before you get discouraged about spending hundreds of $ on pretty pieces of paper that will eventually end up in everyone’s recycling bins, here are a few ways to trim those costs:

  • Digital Save-the-Dates! Instead of sending 2 rounds of cards via mail, you could send digital save-the-dates, and save the formal paper invites for later! We did digital save-the-dates for our wedding, and guess what? No one complained.
  • Bundle-deals! Oftentimes, printers will offer bundle deals to purchase Save-the Date cards, Invitations, RSVP cards, and Thank You cards all at once! Saves time and saves quite a bit of money if you shop around a little.
  • Ignore the Brand.  Designer invitations can be lovely, but don’t feel pressure to shell out big bucks for a trendy brand-name printing company.  If you have a friend with talent in design/graphic art, you could ask him/her to whip up a couple of ideas for you as a wedding gift, and then print them low-cost yourself. Or, check out places like Costco, Sams Club, or Shutterfly for bundle deals! (I ordered ours from Costco- and no one was bothered by the fact that I only spent $60 for 200 invitations.)

2.) The Venue

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  • Book “Off Season”! If you have the flexibility to choose your wedding date, it’s often much more affordable to get married in an ‘off season’ month. Depending on where you live, these times can vary- a little research goes a long way! Where I live, July & August are often much less expensive times to book a wedding, because of the hot weather and lack of popularity for venue requests during those months.
  • Last-minute deals!  This won’t work for everyone, but if you’re looking at a short engagement season (my engagement was 4 months long), scouting out those last-minute deals can really work out in your favor! I got a 45% discount on the venue I chose, simply because I booked barely 2 months in advance and the owner was eager to fill a vacant off-season weekend. You have a LOT more negotiating leverage if you are flexible and willing to snag those last-minute deals!
  • Get creative! If you have a friend with a stunning garden, or a family member with property that could be perfect for a wedding, consider asking if they’re willing to ‘lend’ you their space for your ceremony! Or, if there’s a specific place that is significant to you both as a couple, think about what it might take to get hitched in a location that is completely unique to you. This could definitely save you some serious moolah!

3.) The Food

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  • Ask about preferred vendors!  Many venues provide bundle deals or referral discounts to help you get more bang for your buck.  The venue I chose also happened to be owned by a 4-star chef, so we got a significant discount for our catering because we booked both the venue and the food through the same person.
  • Go ‘Buffet’ style! This is an easy way to avoid extra service charges and the extra venue staff required for a sit-down formal dinner.  Buffet style meals can be just as classy, and just as delicious as a full-service seated meal. Guests were raving about the food at my wedding months after it was over- and it was buffet-style. We had one self-serve appetizer course during the cocktail hour, then a full buffet with salad, veggies, garlic herb mashed potatoes, creamy pesto chicken, and roasted pork. I’m very happy with my choice to go with a ‘buffet’ style dinner!
  • Host a dessert reception! This could be a great option to consider for an early afternoon wedding OR a later-in-the-evening wedding.  If you have family and friends coming in from out of town, and you want a longer wedding reception that spans over the course of the late afternoon and into the evening, then you’ll need to feed your guests dinner.  For example, if your wedding ceremony starts at 4, and reception ends at 9, it will be difficult for your guests to survive the night on a single slice of cake.  However, if you opt for a shorter reception, or even an early afternoon wedding that will be over by dinner time, a dessert & punch reception can be a classy and affordable alternative to a traditional dinner.

4.) The Dress

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With T.V. shows like “Say Yes to the Dress”, and “My Fair Wedding”, expectations about wedding dresses are at an all-time high. Of course you should choose a dress that truly makes you feel beautiful,  but don’t be tricked into thinking it’ll have to cost thousands of dollars.

  • Buy a used dress! Don’t shy away from the word ‘used’. As mentioned in my little story above, it can definitely be a GOOD thing. My dress, alterations included, was less than $500! It was a one-of-a-kind designer dress from a small bridal boutique, and the reason it was so affordable was because it had been worn one time at a bridal show, and was put on display after that. So, it was considered “used” (or a ‘sample dress’) even though it had never been worn in a real wedding before! So on my wedding day, I got to wear a unique designer dress in a style no one else had, and it didn’t break the bank.
  • Rent a dress! You’ll have the budget-freedom to choose a much more extravagant dress at a fraction of the cost of buying. Bonus: Renting a suit/tuxedo is a viable option as well- especially if the groom isn’t usually a ‘formal dress-up’ kind of dude. Kevin already owned a nice suit which was given to him as a gift from his family, so that worked great and didn’t cost extra.
  • Minimal Alterations!  If you can find a dress that needs minimal (or no) alterations, that’s an added bonus! I’ve known many brides who were blindsided by how much alteration work costs, so you can trim down those costs by choosing the right fit for your body type.

5.) The Flowers

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One word: WHOLESALE.

  • Buy wholesale! If you’re a low-maintenance bride who doesn’t mind a little DIY (or if you have creative friends/bridesmaids who can lend you their arrangement skills), check out your nearest wholesale florist! I purchased the flowers for my bridal bouquet, all my bridesmaid bouquets, a ‘tossing’ bouquet, boutonnieres, table decor flowers, and ceremony flowers, ALL for LESS than $130.
    All the flowers for the ceremony and reception for less than a single bridal bouquet would have cost at our local florist.
    Flowers galore!!
  • Choose in-season flowers.  If you go with in-season floral arrangements, they are most often FAR more affordable than other types of flowers/plants that need to be ordered and shipped from far away.

6.) Photography

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  • Find someone with experience. If you’re going to splurge, this is the place to splurge.  It might sound amazing to have free photos from a student photographer, but it’s definitely a big risk. You don’t want to hire a photographer who is brand-new in the wedding industry; find someone with experience or you’ll run the risk of blurry or poor quality photos.
  • Ask for deals/packages. Find a middle-of-the-road, quality photographer/videographer whose work you enjoy, and don’t be afraid to ask for a bargain! Our wedding video was a fraction of the cost of most of my friends’ wedding videos, but the quality is just as wonderful. ALWAYS ask for a bargain and hunt down the good deals! Almost any photographer or videographer will offer a deal if they’re trying to book an off-season weekend event.
  • Find someone with AMAZING customer service.  Ask your friends, network with married couples whose photos you love. My photographer was incredibly talented, but the customer service after the event was a little disappointing. A few of our pictures came in black-and-white only, and he had stated in writing multiple times that he would send me the color versions, but almost 2 years have passed, and I have yet to see the color copies of those photos. Be sure to ask for personal reviews from people to find someone who follows through and delivers what they say they will deliver, in the timing that has been agreed upon!

7.) The Entertainment

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  • Opt for a DJ instead of a Live Band.  Live bands can be SO pricey! Go with a DJ instead and save some major moolah! Our DJ was incredible- everyone was on the floor dancing the night away, and he was an amazing communicator before and during the event itself. A live band can be a lot of fun, but there’s nothing a talented DJ can’t do to make up for the lack of real-life musicians at your reception!
  • Ask your friends!  Do you have any close friends or relatives who are musically gifted? They might cut you a deal, or you could even ask them to perform as their gift to you rather than purchasing something off the registry.  For example- at one of the sweetest weddings I’ve attended, two of the bride’s close friends played a beautiful and personalized acoustic set during the cocktail hour. Guests enjoyed the gift of live music, and the bride enjoyed the gift of quality entertainment for the reception without spending a fortune! It was a win-win.
  • D.I.Y. Photo booth. This idea is very popular for a reason! It’s a fun way to personalize your reception and give your guests something fun to do during your cocktail hour!
  • Stay true to your personality as a couple.  Kevin and I LOVE playing games and being goofy. So we asked the DJ the day of the wedding to make up a fun and funky game of musical chairs- EVERYONE got in on the fun! It was a spontaneous moment that fit the crowd perfectly. The game got everyone up on the dance floor, young and old! We also had quite a bit of swing dancing, an ‘Anniversary Dance’ to honor the guests who had been married for the longest time (the “winners” a.k.a. longest married couple provided their best marriage advice to all the guests), a photo booth that printed 2 copies of each film strip instantly; one for the guests to stick into a scrapbook with drawings/notes, and the other for them to take home. Don’t be afraid to bust out of tradition- have FUN and let your reception reflect who you are as a couple!

8.) Cake & Dessert

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  • Support local businesses! A sweet friend of mine owns a bakery business, and gave me an amazing deal on a beautiful cake that was just the perfect size for our guest list.  Supporting local businesses is ALWAYS a good idea!
  • Keep it small.  The most expensive ‘cake mistake’ most brides make is assuming everyone invited to the wedding will want a slice. Some people don’t even like cake! We had a 3 tier cake, modestly sized, and there was plenty to go around for each of our 120 guests, as well as saving the whole top tier to deep-freeze for our 1st wedding anniversary a year later.
  • Skip the champagne. Sparkling punch, Martinelli’s apple cider, or other non-alcoholic options can be a much more affordable alternative to champagne for the post-cake-cutting toasts! We offered alcohol ONLY during the cocktail hour, and then it was closed down. Much less expensive choice than letting the wine flow freely all night long (not to mention that limiting alcohol is a way to deter anyone having a little “TOO much fun”… after all, no one wants to see Aunt Edna dancing on the tables to “I Had the Time of My Life”).

9.) Favors

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  • Remember, this is OPTIONAL. So many sweet friends of mine spend HOURS/DAYS perfecting little homemade gifts, designing and folding mini boxes of candy,  crafting picture frames and little treats, burning several hundred CD’s of their wedding playlist… and yet over half of those favors were still sitting out on the table after the last guests had gone home.  Don’t feel too much pressure to spend big on such a small detail. Favors just aren’t a central part of the event, and most often they simply get left behind.  Even though favors are a totally optional tradition, I still wanted to have something for our guests to make sure they could leave with something fun and memorable. So, I opted for a vintage-style photo-booth rental! Since I booked at the last-minute, I got an incredible deal with unlimited prints for guests, and it was such a big hit! People love fun and quirky photo memories, and they sure did take home TONS of personalized photo-booth strips to remember the event!

10.) Honeymoon

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  • Expedia! Expedia was our best friend! (Not a sponsored post, but hey, shout out if you’re reading, Expedia!) We booked an all-inclusive bundle deal at a classy adults-only resort in Cancun Mexico, where we could enjoy 5-star food on the beach, live shows every night, and being pampered like celebrities.  And the price tag for air-fare, food, entertainment, excursions, and all expenses for the entire week? $1600. There are amazing deals out there, and it’s totally worth it to hunt them down!
  • Stay-cation! Wherever you live, there’s always the possibility of a ‘stay-cation’! Enjoy breakfast in bed, jump in your car and head to a cute AirBnB outside of town, try some classy restaurant you’ve never been to before, find the fun and quirky things that make your town unique and go explore with your new HUSBAND/WIFE!
  • Research Travel-Hacking! If you take the time to research and get creative, you can earn low-cost or FREE flights to essentially anywhere.  I will write more on this topic later; my husband is a travel-hacking genius who found a way to fly both of us to Europe last month for only $190 (together, not each!)!!! We only paid taxes on our tickets, since we had already racked up enough air miles to cover the tickets themselves. The primary expenses on that trip were AirBnB accommodations (still way cheaper and more fun and personal than a hotel), food, and other entertainment.
    If you’d like to hear more about travel-hacking, please let me know! I’m planning to do an “interview-style” blog post someday soon with my husband. He’s the travel-hacking genius of our household! 😉 In the meantime, here’s a great ‘beginners resource’ for anyone who is interested in how travel-hacking works:
    http://zerototravel.com/trade-for-travel/beginners-guide-travel-hacking/

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Whew! That was a LOT of information! Thank you for your patience in reading this far! 🙂
I get long-winded when I’m writing about something I’m truly passionate about. I’m passionate about marriage, and I’m also passionate about helping friends save money (and stress) on their wedding day! I hope a few of these tips and tricks come in handy for you, or for anyone you know who is trying to plan a budget wedding!

If you have questions, feedback, or want to hear more, please comment below or send me an email! I’d love to hear from you! ❤ Happy wedding planning!

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A Surprise Visit to my Childhood Home

DSC_0937 (1)My heart fluttered in anticipation as our tiny rental car rounded the last corner of Main Street, Darley.  I leaned forward in the passenger seat as my husband skillfully navigated the narrow village roads, straining to catch my first glimpse of the timeless stone cottage I hadn’t seen in almost 15 years. I exhaled a silent prayer of gratitude for this chance to return to a place I thought I’d never see again.

The drizzle of rain began to subside as we approached…

And suddenly, there it was.

Another car was parked in the driveway, indicating that the current owner was likely home. How odd that seemed! I hadn’t really put much thought into the fact that someone ELSE lives there now, and that idea seemed so strange to me as I sat in the car, gawking at the front of the house.

My heart was pounding and my hands quivered as I reached for my camera-
“Ok, I’m just going to take a couple pictures of the front of the house, really quick, to show my mom.”

“Babe, you know you need to knock on that door. Right now- this is your chance.” My husband smiled knowingly as he replied.

He was right. After all, I didn’t come all this way to just snap a few photos from the car like a total creeper! I needed to knock on that door. I needed to take the chance, and ask if I could walk around to the side of the house to see the back garden, too.

I shivered nervously in the brisk countryside air as I approached the front door, hand-in-hand with my sweet husband.

I knocked, and as we waited for an answer, a thousand memories flooded my mind.

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This was the home where I spent some of the happiest years of my childhood.  The home of a million springtime wildflowers and epic winter snowball fights, where I learned to play the piano, where my siblings and I made a tree fort in the back garden – that beautiful garden with nothing but miles of fields and pastures beyond the stone wall – where I raised my first kitten and experienced my first loss when she died, where we put on dramatic plays and performances on a makeshift stage in the living room, where my imagination ran wild, where we’d lay out on a blanket at night and find shapes and patterns in the starlight…. where I’d sometimes dream about what it would be like to grow up, and other times insist that I never would.

And now here I am.

15 years later, and I’m back home- even if only for a few moments.

The door opened, and we were greeted by the cheerful face of a young mother, with two beautiful girls at her side, curiously peeking out the door.  (Side note: an amazing coincidence- the two girls were exactly the same age as my sister and I were when we moved away from the house in 2001!)

“Hello! I hope we aren’t interrupting your afternoon tea- my name is Kristin, this is my husband Kevin, we are visiting from Texas. I grew up in this house back in the 1990’s, and I just wanted to see if it would be alright if we went around the back of the house very quickly to see the garden one more time? It would mean so much to get a photograph to show my family. Would that be alright? We loved this house so much, and still talk about it often.”

“Of course, dear!” She replied excitedly, “How wonderful that you’ve come back to see your childhood home- that is the most amazing thing! Why don’t you take your time enjoying the garden, and then when you’ve finished please come inside and we’ll have some tea to warm you up. The girls will give you a proper tour of the house! It would be lovely to find out how it’s changed over the years.”

I felt joyful tears welling up in my eyes-
“Wow, I can’t thank you enough! We won’t be long, thank you so much! This means more than you know!”

Kevin and I walked hand-in-hand around the side of the house to the back garden, and the feeling of stepping back in time truly took my breath away.

DSC_0529There are moments in life when it almost feels like the end of a movie; loose ends tie together, reunion happens, joy explodes, and the credits roll.
Standing in our old garden felt like one of those “credit roll” moments:  returning as a grown-up to the very place where I promised I’d “never grow up”.

My heart was doing complicated emotional somersaults:

I felt an overwhelming sense of joy in my vividly renewed memories,
and yet a powerful sense of grief that those memories are all behind me now.

I was in awe at how much this place had stayed the same,
and also in awe at how much I’ve changed in 15 years.

My husband and I had time alone in the garden to laugh and cry together.

After a few more minutes, we were invited inside, and I couldn’t have imagined that we’d receive such a warm welcome, and have the opportunity to befriend the current residents. Over a warm cuppa tea, they assured me that they would continue to take care of it so that it would always be a home full of love.

My heart was so full as we returned to our car and slowly drove away.

Even though we had to say goodbye to the house and the sweet family who now call it ‘home’, the memories I made there are mine to keep forever.

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5 Ways to Score a Great JOB!

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A sweet friend of mine asked me to write about… *drum roll please*… post-college JOB HUNTING! Whether you’re still a student, a newly minted graduate, or if college is far behind in your rear-view mirror, job hunting can be a challenging season of life.

There’s a LOT to be said about job hunting, but I condensed the best advice I’ve ever heard into 5 nuggets of wisdom to keep in mind as you search for a job. (Or,  you can just file this away for the next time you’re on the hunt!)

1.) Still in school? Invest in an INTERNSHIP!

If you are still in college, you can help your future post-college self by investing in an internship NOW.  This is SO important! Whether it’s for an entire semester, a summer, a month, or even a few weeks here and there- find an internship program that will provide experience in your field of study. Even unpaid internships will pay off BIG time after you graduate! Of course, every field of study is different, but in all of my 16 interviews in the 2 months after my college graduation, not a SINGLE prospective employer asked me about my GPA, or how involved I was in my classes. They asked me about my experiences. They wanted to know what sort of hands-on, real-life experiences I’ve had in the field. To every employer I spoke with, EXPERIENCE mattered a whole lot more than my 3.9 GPA.

2.) Apply EVERYWHERE.

I remember talking with a friend who had been a college grad for several months, and he was discouraged that he was still job-hunting.  I asked him, “How many places have you applied?” He replied, “Two or three so far.”  Woahhhh wait a second! Almost 3 months of job hunting, and only 3 applications submitted!? No wonder he hadn’t found the right job yet! The odds of scoring a good job are DRAMATICALLY higher when you are more assertive in your job-hunt strategy. When you don’t have a job, your full-time job is FINDING a full-time job. How many hours a day would you spend at work if you were employed? That’s a good estimate of how many hours a day you should be searching for jobs, filling out applications, attending job fairs, etc. I submitted a little over 60 applications in the 2 1/2 months that I searched for a job straight out of college! The job market for my field was tough to break in to, but by submitting SO many applications and opening so many doors of opportunity, I boosted my chances of nailing the fantastic job I ended up with.

3.) Ask good questions.

Job interviews can be really intimidating.  You go in a brightly lit room, cameras all around, in front of a table of three judges who will decide whether or not you’re ‘Hollywood worthy’…. oh wait. That’s American Idol. Never mind. But hey, the pressure is still SO REAL in a job interview! You’re there to BE judged, but don’t forget that you’re also there TO judge. You’re not only there for the employer to find out if you’re a good fit for them, but you’re also there to find out if the place of employment is a good fit for YOU! So, come in with a few questions prepared, so that when the interviewer asks- “Do you have any questions for me?” (which, 9 times out of 10, they WILL ask you if you have questions), you won’t have that deer-in-the-headlights blank stare. You’ll have a couple of well-versed and thoughtful questions to ask the interviewer, and you’ll take note of his/her response so that you’ll have a better picture of the opportunity.

Here are a few example questions you could consider:

“Could you please tell me a little more about the day-to-day responsibilities of this position?”  

“How would you describe the culture of this company?”

“What do you think are the most important qualities needed for someone to succeed in this role?”

4.) Find Career-Specific Job Fairs.

More than once, I wasted my time at a job fair that was too generic and/or ambiguous. There are recruiters out there who are looking for ANY graduate they can get their hands on to fill many different types of positions, but those positions might not be right for you. I went to a career fair that was advertised as being for college graduates, but in reality, every company representative I spoke with made it clear that employees only needed a high school diploma, and the majority were call-center positions. (Nothing at all against call center positions, but that was one career path I was determined to avoid, and I didn’t want to settle if I didn’t have to.)  If I had done a little more research to find career-specific job fairs, I would have spent my time more effectively and likely would have had the chance to network with other young professionals and recruiters from companies I actually WANTED to meet up with!  So, don’t just jump on board and sign up for a job fair before you do a bit of research to make sure it’s a job fair that fits with your career path.

5.) Chill out.

Stop panicking. Stop comparing yourself to friends who might have landed a job faster than you.  Stop allowing your negativity to cloud out opportunity.
STORY TIME: I distinctly remember one night 2 months into my first post-college job hunt, I was sobbing into my then-boyfriend/now-husband’s shoulder. My dramatic blubbering went something like this: “Babe… *sniff*.. I just won’t find a good job. I’ve tried. No one wants me. Maybe I should just apply at Sonic… at least they have really good tater tots…*sniff*”.  Sounds funny now, but back then, I was devastated! And yet, 3 weeks later, I was interviewing with my current workplace and landing a FANTASTIC new job that was better than anything I could have hoped for.  So, stop wasting precious time wondering if you’re hireable, and spend more time developing and emphasizing your hire-worthy skills.  More often than not, it takes time and effort to land a solid job in today’s economy.  You might not score the job of your dreams right off the bat- in fact, that’s unlikely. But that’s okay.  Your happiness in  your job comes primarily from your perspective: a higher title and a heftier paycheck aren’t a guarantee of satisfaction. In the meantime, stay positive, keep an open mind, and most importantly… chill out.

~~~

A job-search can be a tough season, but hang in there! If you have any other tips, advice, or comments about your own past/current job hunts, please let me know- I’d LOVE to hear from you!  Thank you for reading, and happy job-hunting!!!

~K

 

Sweet Sorrows (GUEST POST!)

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Hey ladies, you’re in for a treat today! Rue is a friend of mine who is currently working on an article for a christian magazine. She also is the voice behind the travel blog “Walker Stalkers”
(Be sure to check it out after reading her post below! https://awalkerstalker.wordpress.com/).
The exciting news today is that YOU have the opportunity to help out, and get YOUR story heard! Want to know how? Keep reading below! 🙂 The rest of this article is written by Rue.

“Hello everyone! It’s so nice to meet you. Thanks again to the lovely Kristin for letting me guest post. I enjoy her thoughts on marriage and relationship and so of course she was the first person I thought of when I started hunting around for a blogger to help me with an article I’m working on. Which leads me to why I’m visiting you all today. I am working on an article for a Christian magazine on some of the ways in which marriage affects friendship, specifically female friendships, though I think these issues are not limited by gender. I have read a lot of articles on how marriage affects family relationships, but in my personal experience, getting married was harder on my friends than my family. As a single woman, I truly loved my engaged friends and wanted to be happy for them but sometimes to tell the honest truth (yikes!) I wasn’t happy at all. I was jealous and angry that they had this special experience I was completely left out of. Patiently waiting is difficult enough but at a certain age, single women start attending a whirlwind of bachelorette parties, bridal showers, weddings and baby showers that can make even the most patient person want to pull her hair out. I remember feeling like I was stuck in this waiting room, watching as one by one my friends disappeared behind a door into some unknown place. I couldn’t go until they called my name and so I just kept sitting in this horrible room waiting to be let out. Though I honestly tried as hard as I could to celebrate my friends, I often felt like my fake smile was fooling no one.

You can imagine then, when I became a fiancée myself, how sensitive I was to the issues my single friends might be facing. I could deeply empathize with their pain, but if I’m being honest again, I wanted to rejoice! I was so joyful over the amazing gift God had given me in my husband and all I wanted was to celebrate with my closest friends the good work the Lord had done. Along the way, we all made mistakes, but overall I think we derived a lot of comfort from Romans 12:15 “Rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.” As I have gone on to struggle with fertility issues while many friends have given birth to their beautiful children, this verse has brought me incredible comfort and wisdom. I figured, if my friends and I were facing these issues, other people probably were too and so I started working on this article.

This is where YOU come in. I would love to hear about how your engagement affected your friendships personally or how you experience engagement or marriage as a single person. If you feel comfortable sharing your story, please email me at scaliRM@gmail.com and I will send you some interview questions. If you have other thoughts or very strongly disagree with the premise behind the article I’d love to hear from you too!

I firmly believe female friendships are some of the most valuable and important, both in terms of holiness and happiness. I am hoping this article can give a voice to brides wanting to rejoice with their best friends and women needing a space to mourn with their soul sisters. There is a wealth of information out there on how to support each other after marriage, but the wedding season itself can be a stressful and trying time for everyone. I’d love to hear how you and your besties navigated those experiences.

Thanks for all your help!

An Open Letter to the Fans of “Fifty Shades”

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Dear fan of ‘Fifty Shades’,

As you likely already know, the “Fifty Shades” phenomenon is continuing with the second film, “Fifty Shades Darker”, coming soon to a theater near you.
Maybe you already have your tickets? The book trilogy, followed by two on-screen renditions, has been wildly popular- mostly among women.
Even women within the Church
.

Maybe you are proud to be a fan, or maybe you are slightly ashamed of what you are endorsing with your money and your time. Maybe you’ve been following the series since day 1, or maybe you just picked up a book one day out of curiosity, and then got hooked.

Well, either way, you can take a deep breath and relax, because I’m not going to use this post to tell you to pack your bags and head off on a guilt-trip.

I’m not going to announce that you aren’t a true Christian ( because that is between you and God), and I’m not going to question the freedom you have to choose your preferred means of entertainment.

So now we know what I WON’T tell you in this letter.
Let’s move on to what I WILL tell you:

Entertainment is never “JUST” entertainment.

“Chill out, it’s just a movie.”  It’s not that simple. Garbage in, garbage out. When we fill our bodies with unhealthy food, our bodies become less healthy. In the same way, when we fill our minds with unhealthy ideas, our hearts become less healthy.  Our brains are like tofu: tofu absorbs the flavors of whatever surrounds it in the frying pan. Similarly, our brains “absorb” the ideas and concepts we surround ourselves with, whether consciously or subconsciously.  It’s incredibly naive to say it’s “JUST” entertainment, when the reality is that the entertainment choices we make DO affect our mental and emotional health.  Are we mindfully engaging with culture, or are we turning out brains off and simply absorbing whatever ideas are thrown at us?

You might be trading the richness of reality for a shallow fantasy.

I personally know women who are deeply dissatisfied in their relationships, their marriages, their sex lives… all because of inherently flawed expectations. Please hear me out, ladies: Romance novels can be equally as damaging to relationships as pornography addiction. The effects are similar; certain expectations are set, and dissatisfaction ensues.  Maybe you can relate? If you are finding excitement and escape through this series, or any other similar form of entertainment, my heart breaks for you.   In chasing after a shallow fantasy, you are missing out on how incredible reality can be when you turn off your television, put down the graphic novel, and invest in whoever God has put in your life to love and to cherish. It’s natural and normal to want to be loved, desired, cherished, and fulfilled. When you allow God to meet those needs in your heart,  you will feel the freedom leave the “shallow kiddie pool” of cheap entertainment and escapism, to jump into an ocean of grace and lasting satisfaction.

Toxic relationships never deserve to be glorified.

Disclaimer: I’ve never read the entire book series. However, shortly after the first book was released, before all the hype began, I did pick up a friend’s copy and skimmed through a few pages- and quickly put it back down. Even the few pages I skimmed were violently opposed to everything I’d learned about what love truly is.
Love is patient, while Fifty Shades is lustful. Love is kind, while Fifty Shades is aggressive. Love does not envy or boast, while Fifty Shades finds it’s foundation in jealousy and pride. Fifty Shades is a portrayal of self-seeking pleasure disguised as romance. In psychological terms, the story glorifies a toxic narcissist/co-dependent relationship, when the reality of that type of a relationship is anything BUT romantic. I’ve personally witnessed the damaging and traumatic effects of abusive relationships.  I firmly believe that glorifying this level of brokenness, on-screen in front of MILLIONS, is only adding fuel to the fire.

 
So, now what?
You still have your movie tickets, and you still have the trilogy on your bookshelf.

Again, just like my introductory disclaimer, I believe that you have the freedom to choose your entertainment preferences. I’m not naive enough to believe that a single blog post has the power to change your mind, or impact your heart. Only God can do that.

I just want you to hear this: You are far, far too precious and valuable in God’s sight to settle for a cheap fantasy, when you could be pursuing true joy and fulfillment that only comes through Him.  Your mental and emotional health are WORTH asking yourself tough questions about entertainment choices. 

Sure, some people will think it’s weird if you swim against the current and choose to engage  your mind before buying your tickets.

Some people might call you a ‘prude‘.

I used to be so afraid of being called a ‘prude’. But if the word ‘prude’ is short for ‘prudent’, and ‘prudent‘ means “acting with or showing care and thought for the future”, is that really such a bad thing to be?

~K

 

 

 

 

 

24 Lessons I Learned from my Husband

0062In honor of my his 24th birthday, I want to share 24 lessons I’ve learned from my husband. His maturity far surpasses his age; I am so humbled and blessed by the many ways God has been teaching my heart and molding my character through Kevin.

It wasn’t easy to narrow this list down to only 24, so consider this a list of highlights! 🙂

1.) Confidence is a daily decision, not something you stumble across on a good day.

Kevin’s personal confidence is an inspiration to me- he’s my role model when it comes to cultivating boldness in the context of humility and grace.

2.) It’s okay to laugh at my own mistakes.

I laugh a lot more now, and I’m still learning not to take myself TOO seriously. As I grow in confidence (see item 1 above), I will feel less insecure about my silly little mistakes, and more prone to find the humor in them.

3.) Gentleness takes a LOT of strength.

Kevin treats me with a gentleness and tenderness that surpasses all of my hopes and expectations. His strength of character enables him to love me so well.

4.) How to structure a budget.

I’ve always been careful with finances, but Kevin has taught me more that I ever thought I would learn about financial concepts, budgeting, investing, biblical stewardship, and more. And, shockingly, even as a right-brained person, I feel really good about how much I’ve learned!

5.) How to disagree agreeably.

It doesn’t happen often, but we’ve had our moments of disagreement. We’ve even debated. But we’ve never ‘fought’. An argument shouldn’t feel like a ‘battle’, it should feel like two people who are fighting alongside each other to reach a peaceful resolution. Kevin displays nothing but respect and grace as we work through our issues. Before I dated Kevin, I had experienced the intense fear of angry outbursts, broken things, and verbal abuse, so I began to believe that arguments were a thing to be feared.  God used Kevin to help ‘rewire’ my perspective: he has taught me that healthy relationships do “fight”, but in a healthy way- as a team, and never as opponents.

6.) Failure and success are a matter of perspective.

This is something I am still learning, but Kevin provides me with a powerful and constant example of how important perspective truly is.  Failure isn’t something to be feared, yet neither is accomplishment something to be worshiped. The lessons learned along the way are the stepping stones to meaningful success.

7.) Organization is often much more effective than just ‘winging it’.

I’d still consider myself a spontaneous person, but all my closest friends have noticed a definite increase in my organizational skills. I have my husband to thank for that! Now I can enjoy the best of both worlds. Who knew that an increase in organization would be so helpful?! 😉

8.) Love covers a multitude of sins.

This is something I was always taught growing up, but never has it been more deeply poignant truth than in the context of marriage. Kevin’s love keeps no record of my wrongs, and he provides a constant example of how to reflect God’s grace when I fall short.

9.) The best moments together don’t cost a penny.

I’ve always known this in my head, but Kevin brought this reality to my heart. I treasure the simple moments now, more than ever before. Sure, the occasional date-night-splurge is lovely, but the quality of our time has nothing to do with the quantity of money we spend.

10.) You must be lavish in your forgiveness so that you can be unconditional in your love.

Those  who are forgiven much, love much. It’s a biblical truth, and a concept proven true, time and time again, by my gracious and forgiving spouse.

11.) Communication is so much more than words.

I’m a ‘words person’. Yet, there are so many situations where words are cheap, and words fall so short of the full breadth of effective communication.
This is a lesson I’m still learning!

12.) The world is complex, but joy is simple.

Life doesn’t slow down, and it doesn’t get easier.
But joy is simple, and it’s always worth pursuing.

13.) Shared values should always be discussed, never assumed.

We grew up in very similar ways, and we discussed our values and goals throughout our dating relationship to make sure we were on the same page with the ‘essentials’. However, this kind of communication should NOT stop after marriage! It’s so important to continue to have deep and meaningful conversation, and make the time to discuss our values and ask tough questions. Don’t just assume you’re on the same page- take the time to listen to one another often!

14.) Laughter truly IS the best medicine.

My husband’s sense of humor brightens my life, and even makes me physically FEEL better even if I’m sick or upset.  We’re talking about the laugh-til-you-cry, smile-til-your-face-hurts, giggle-til-you-snort type of laughter! No one makes me laugh like he does.

15.) Tangible goals matter.

I didn’t often write down my goals before Kevin encouraged me to do so. I was afraid to write them all down in detail, making them REAL and concrete, because I was afraid I’d fail.  (See #6!)

16.) Seek to understand before seeking to be understood.

I like to get my point across. I like to feel understood. But this often comes at the cost of loving communication; truly taking the time to LISTEN first and speak LAST. It’s always worthwhile to make the effort to understand someone’s viewpoints and allow them to use their own voice, instead of assuming that you already know where they are coming from. Kevin is the best ‘listener’ in our relationship, and I’m trying to be more like him in this area.

17.) You are a “professional” when you call yourself a professional.

In your life and in your career, other people will take me seriously when I learn to take myself seriously. There isn’t a magical moment when I cross the line between ‘regular person’ and ‘professional person’; professionalism isn’t a ‘line’. It’s a direction.

18.) Silence really IS golden.

I used to feel the need to fill every silence, but over the course of my friendship with Kevin (and now in our marriage), I’ve learned that silence isn’t something to be feared. It’s healthy and beautiful to be able to enjoy the silence together, and not feel the least bit awkward or insecure about it.

19.) Over-thinking is toxic.

My habit of “over-thinking” isn’t something I am proud of.  I even occasionally find myself over-think about over-thinking! Kevin has taught me that although it is always important to be thoughtful, to analyze carefully, and to consider the effects of a decision, there is such a thing as ‘analysis paralysis’. Overthinking can freeze up your ability to make a decisive action, cause you to make mountains out of mole hills, and ignite unfounded negativity when your imagination runs wild in the wrong direction.
Thinking is good, but over-thinking is almost always NOT good.

20.) Words without action are meaningless.

Kevin’s integrity really stands in stark contrast to so many other people I’ve observed. I’ve always put such an emphasis on the importance of words, but I realize now more than ever how cheap words can be.  It’s NOT okay to speak out against something while secretly indulging in it behind closed doors. It’s NOT okay to use your voice to portray yourself as a ‘super-spiritual Christian’ if your actions don’t glorify God when no one else is watching. If your actions don’t match your verbal sermons, then all of your words are worthless.

21.) You are the average of your 5 closest friends.

People are like tofu- we absorb the ‘flavor’ of whatever (or whoever) we are surrounded by. We should be friendly to EVERYONE, but reserve our closest friendships for people who will build us up and challenge us to grow- NOT people who will drag us down and damage our  reputations.

22.) Wisdom is much more than knowledge.

I like to know things. I like to be ‘right’. I like to ‘win’ the debate.  But Kevin has reminded me and gently encouraged me with the truth that wisdom is SO much more than what you know. It’s how you apply what you know. One applied truth is more beneficial than 100 truths that you keep inside your head without allowing them to transform your actions.

23.) True romance makes Hollywood look completely lame.

Puppy love”  looks like a little plastic kiddie pool next to the vast ocean of true romance. Our love has grown in such a richness and depth, and I praise God for that. The flutter of infatuation, though it was exciting in its season, seems so empty and shallow to me now. Hollywood romance is glamorous, but true romance goes so far beyond the moments when it’s ‘easy’ to love. It’s the simple, not-so-glamorous-moments that display the depth of an ever-maturing love:  Moments when Kevin finishes my share of the chores, even when he is exhausted, just because he wants to serve me.  Moments when he takes the time to pray with me every night before we fall asleep. Moments when he shows up with flowers and ice cream when I’ve had a particularly trying day. Moments when he makes the effort to write me letters and notes of encouragement, even when he isn’t a ‘words person’.  Moments when we work through disagreements with respect, when we are quick to listen and slow to speak.  Moments when we recognize that, regardless of our emotions in the moment, our commitment to one another is unwavering against the backdrop of an ever-changing life.

24.) God’s timing is ALWAYS better than ours.

More often than I like to admit, I am stubborn enough to believe that my ideas are the BEST ideas, and my timing is the BEST timing. But, time and time again, God shows me that His timing is always best, and he has used my relationship with Kevin to prove this truth in my life, time and time again.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

To anyone who read all the way to the end, thank you SO much for reading! I would love to hear about some of the lessons you’ve learned/are learning through your spouse- it’s always so helpful to take a moment to reflect on the ways we’ve helped one another to grow.

And to my sweet husband, Happy Birthday, my love!  
Here’s to 365 more days of lessons learned, jokes told, adventures embarked, music made, confidence built, struggles shared, songs sung, and dreams chased. Together.

 

 

 

 

10 Relationship RED FLAGS!

red-flags
Newsflash: Dating relationships aren’t always butterflies and roses. *gasp!*

No relationship is ‘perfect, but a relationship can and SHOULD be healthy.  Sure, everyone hits bumps along the road, but if you ignore these RED FLAGS, you might find yourself veering off the road and over a cliff!

When someone shows you who they are, believe them” -Maya Angalou
Keep your eyes wide open. Are you settling for a toxic relationship?

How many of these red flags do you recognize?

1.) Your values don’t align

No one agrees on ‘everything’. Two individuals are bound to have individual perspectives. But what are your essential values? What are his/her essential values? You might not see eye-to-eye on every topic, but if your overarching values and beliefs are in conflict, that is a serious issue.  (For example, if you feel convicted to wait until after marriage to have sex, but your partner expects sex in the relationship, there will be a constant struggle. The struggle will end in compromise, bitterness, and/or a breakup.)

2.) People who love you tell you “it’s a bad idea”

Your life choices as an adult are between you and God.  I don’t believe that you should date someone JUST because people tell you to, or break up with someone JUST because people tell you to, but I DO believe that it’s wise to listen to trusted advisors and friends.
If close family and friends (who have your best interests in mind) are showing a pattern of pulling you aside to gently explain why this relationship is damaging, hear them out. They aren’t blinded by infatuation, so chances are they see something you don’t see yet.

3.) You’re “walking on eggshells”

Are you afraid to share your true thoughts and explain your perspectives? Do you worry constantly when he’ll explode next? Are you terrified to say something that might rub her the wrong way? Stop, drop, and roll right out of those flames. Fear consumes joy faster than a wildfire withers up dry grass. If ‘perfect love casts out fear'(1 Jn. 4:18) , and you are experiencing high levels of fear in your relationship, that is a clear sign of the absence of true love.

4.) Lies and/or keeping secrets

Love ‘rejoices with the truth’ (1 Cor. 13:6).  When truth is absent, your relationship will inevitably spiral into a deeply unhealthy perspective of reality.  If you can’t build your relationship on a foundation of honesty and transparency, it’s important to ask yourself: why are you with this person?
Or, if he/she feels the need to lie to you, why would you trust this person?
Can you really trust someone with your heart and your future if you can’t even trust them with their own words?

(Side note- the absence of truth and transparency is also toxic when relating to other people outside of your relationship. Ask yourself: Do you feel the need to hide your relationship from others? This is also a huge red flag. This type of secrecy is toxic, and will cause all sorts of problems down the road. If you feel trapped into hiding the truth, that should raise some tough questions about whether or not this relationship is healthy to begin with.)

5.) Aggressive behavior

I used to think of aggressive behavior in a relationship in terms of ‘extremes’. After all, if I didn’t have a black eye, or wasn’t physically harmed, everything was cool, right? Wrong. If your significant other frequently raises his/her voice, or even damages property/possessions in anger, that’s a huge red flag.  Please please don’t skim over this: You are worth respect, and you should feel cherished and protected, never afraid. When he breaks things, or is abusive with his words, you need to realize that he is only one small step away from taking out that aggression on you in a more physical way.  Aggressive behavior at ANY level should be taken dead-seriously. Anger issues need to be dealt with and processed in a healthy way BEFORE entering into an intimate relationship with another person’s heart.

6.) Authority issues

Take a look at how your significant other views/behaves towards figures of authority. Of course, submission to authority should only take place if the authority isn’t demanding you do something that violates your conscience. But, overall, does this person hold animosity towards people who are in positions of authority in his life? Is he disrespectful towards his elders? Does she have issues with respecting her parents? Does he have a tough time holding a job?  Keep your eyes wide open to these signals.

7.) Unwilling to learn

One of the greatest signs of maturity is teachability. You know the stereotype about teenagers in a ‘rebellious’ phase who think they know it all? Well, there are plenty of adults who sadly have yet to grow out of that phase.  Without a tender heart and a teachable spirit, you’re in for a long and bumpy relational road!  A healthy relationship involves two people who are constantly learning about one another and growing closer to the Lord and to each other. That level of intimacy and growth is extremely difficult when you’re with someone who isn’t teachable.

8.) Addiction issues

Addiction issues are not only harmful to the person with the addiction, but also to those closest to him/her.  Whatever form it takes- drug abuse, alcoholism, pornography, etc.- an addiction will be a constant relational struggle in knowing that your significant other is displaying a pattern of choosing something or someone other than you This pattern is a one-way ticket to shame, betrayal, and unfaithfulness. Of course there is freedom in Christ from these harmful patterns, but the road isn’t easy, painless, or quick.
Is addiction an active struggle in your life, or in the life of your significant other?

9.) Alienation from your friends/family

One of the biggest signs of an emotionally abusive relationship is alienation from the people closest to you.  Is your significant other posing a roadblock to your social health? Do you often feel a sense of guilt after you spend time with anyone other than your boyfriend/girlfriend?

10.) Unsupportive of your dreams

Your dreams matter. Your goals matter. If someone truly loves you, they will find ways to pursue your dreams together in cooperation and compatibility.  Do you find yourself sacrificing everything you are passionate about in order to be in a relationship? If you answer ‘yes’, then chances are, you are in the wrong relationship.

~~~

Author Stephen Chbosky put it so well when he said:
“we accept the love we think we deserve.”

If you are finding yourself feeling uncomfortable reading this list, if you resonate with any of these red flags, please resist the temptation to brush it all under the rug and move forward without asking yourself some tough questions.

Letting go of a toxic dating relationship is NEVER easy, but it is ALWAYS worth it.

If you have any other red flags to share, or need someone to talk to, please comment below or send me a message and I would be so happy to hear from you! God bless you always.