Lessons Learned from Wedding Planning

The follow-up sentence to this title should read: from someone who is known as a control freak by everyone who knows her and also has mild OCD.

I realized how much time has passed since we got engaged when a co-worker a few days ago asked if I had found my dress yet, and I replied, “Yes, just this past November.”

Pause. Not November 2015. NOVEMBER 2014, OVER A YEAR AGO.

So yeah, we’ve been planning our wedding for quite a while now. And our wedding planner reminded us we only have 18 weeks left until our wedding, which ended up with Timmy and I dry heaving a bit at this news. Things haven’t felt all that stressful the last 6 months or so, simply because we got most everything completed as soon as we set the date.

I know I’m quite different from most people in this world. Organized doesn’t even begin to describe how I operate. I see the world not how it is, but how I can group like things with like and how quickly can I accomplish challenges and to-do lists. So once Timmy and I set the date, off I went like a horse out of the gate.

There are so many lessons I’ve learned over the process of planning a wedding for a date 1.5 years after getting engaged. I tried to give us enough time to do what we needed to do (from a different state) while also giving us a cushion of time to also do the dirty work of getting used to what life would be like as a married couple. So many lessons however were ones that came out of left field for me.

I originally scheduled dress shopping at only two small stores in Atlanta Thanksgiving weekend in 2014 simply to placate my sister and mother, who were quickly starting down the “when are you going to start planning” path. I figured dress shopping would calm them down.

Lesson #1: Expect the Unexpected

…like buying a dress before you thought you would and before you have a budget.

I had ZERO plans to buy a dress. And lo and behold, I found my dress at the last store we went into, La Raine’s Bridal Boutique in Virginia Highlands. Correction: my sister found my dress, which was the last one of the day, and I had already changed back into my clothes when my sister brought me the dress. I immediately said, “Oh. My. God.” when I put it on, and the consultant reminded me that this dress was the only one I had a reaction to.

And then I knew. Done. Check. Dress found.

The whole thing happened faster than I had intended, and all of the sudden, with that decision, wedding planning had begun. I wholeheartedly had planned on waiting MONTHS before starting any type of planning with Timmy.

Expectations mean next to nothing when it comes to wedding planning.

Even though it wasn’t the color I wanted, it wasn’t ever what I had envisioned, it was definitely my dress. Which leads me to my second lesson-

Lesson #2: Compromise Will Save You…and Your Sanity

I tried on maybe 20 dresses at both stores. And once I found my dress, I stopped the search and never looked back. I’m the best decision-maker ever (although some have called me impulsive, including myself). I make decisions quickly, with assertiveness and acceptance. Timmy, well, not so much.

I learned maybe 1 minute into our wedding planning that everything I learned about being with Timmy would have to be applied times 10 to the planning process or else we were going to kill each other. I would make a list of decisions that needed to be made, asked him to honestly decide if he cared about those decisions, and the ones he agreed to, I gave him 2-3 weeks to marinate before re-addressing the issues.

That way, I wasn’t all down his grill about deciding things on my schedule, and I still got a decision made by him in a timely fashion.

Obviously, not all decisions have worked like this, but I would say, once we found our groove, probably 75% of the decisions were solved in this way.

I have compromised on nearly every aspect that I thought I would have very strong opinions about. When it came down to it, if it seemed like Timmy felt stronger about something than I did, I let him have it his way. Now, some of those decisions are biting us in the ass a bit now, and I wish I had fought more for some of the things that are going exactly the way I predicted, but hindsight, blah blah blah.

Lesson #3: You Have to Let It Go

Making decisions between Timmy and I has never been an easy thing. I knew heading into this we would really be testing our relationship in ways that I hadn’t anticipated. At the end of the day however, we both realized that we had to let it go. Resentments? Let it go. Anger? Let it go. Confusion and frustration? Let it go.

And I don’t mean let it go like “never discuss it and get over it.” I mean, talk. Talk. More talking. Talk more than you thought you needed to. And then talk again.

Talking through everything that popped up, no matter how insignificant the emotion or issue, made us get on the same page. There was no other option than to be in sync with each other.

And after talking, we realized the issues or things we were so worked up about, NOW we could just let them go.

Lesson #4: You Have to Be on the Same Team. Period.

There has been some drama pop up here and there, like everyone experiences when you attempt to bring two families and two sets of friendships together. If Timmy and I had been divided on anything, we would probably not be wedding planning at this point anymore.

The first issue that ever popped up, the one that blindsided us completely, and had us scrambling to re-evaluate some friendships and trusted loved ones, FORCED us to be on the same team. He had to have my back and I had to have his. We knew we could NOT have opposing or conflicting statements, emotions, or decisions. Any sign of us not being together on it would have severely affected the emotional state of the other person and could have torn us apart.

Once we realized how strong our teamwork was and how it made our vision complete, we have been on the same team on everything else since then. There are no ifs, ands, or butts on this one.

Lesson #5: Still Date Each Other

This one got much easier once we moved back in together at the beginning of this month. Timmy and I hadn’t lived together in 2 years, so every weekend we spent together, going back and forth between Orlando and St. Pete was always filled with dinners out and about.

But during the week, it was usually a call once or twice a day, and then a quick FaceTime right before going to bed. Love was there, but connecting is quite challenging that way.

Once we moved back in, we promised each other a number of things that we’ll see how well we can stick to them over time. The one thing we HAVE done is cook meals and sit down at the dinner table nearly every night for almost 4 weeks. No t.v., no phones, no distractions. Just us.

It can be easy, after 6.5 years together, to start to take each other for granted. And yes, for the record, I’ve heard 90% of Timmy’s life stories a million times now. But that shouldn’t keep us from spending real time together. Time enjoying meals cooked together or by the other partner. Time looking at each other, time not rushed, time for us.

It’s only been a month of living in my less than 800 square foot, one bedroom, one bath apartment, a place we were CERTAIN would make us kill each other in no time at all, and we have grown so much closer, it’s insane. In our cozy little apartment, it feels more like home than any other place we’ve lived together.

Lesson #6: Use Who You Hire

We made about 93% of the decisions on our own. And yes, one of our first decisions was to hire a wedding planner. But I’ve only used her for her expertise maybe 3 times in almost a year.

Why? Like most things in life, sometimes it’s just easier when you do it yourself. I used the internet, my wise friends and family, and my gut to make decisions and hire vendors that fit our vision. I talked to my most organized friends and they gave me what they had when they were planning their own wedding.

I quite clearly can do this all myself. I involved Timmy on the things he asked to be involved in. But at the end of the day, I struggled with figuring out how to use my wedding planner.

And then, MONTHS after already printing out the invitations and having them sit in my apartment for close to 9 months now, my wedding planner caught the only typo that 6 of us who reviewed the invitation never caught.

And my heart fell through my butt.

Obviously (well not really as she had to explain this to me on the phone yesterday) proofreading every important document is a wedding planner’s duty. [Thankfully, the typo is not a big deal or else I would have to order brand new ones. Most people won’t even catch it when they receive the invite. Whew.]

So that naturally led to discussions of the guest list (which so far, has really been the only point of true contention between Timmy and I). And she reminded me of the million and one things to remember when addressing envelopes (which are stupid and I hate them), so she reminded me that she also can look through the guest list to review everything there.

I mean, these are things that it didn’t even occur to me to use her for. I didn’t need her help in picking out invites. We didn’t want to spend a fortune because everyone just throws them away anyways, and we weren’t going to design some floral, romantic, girly thing from scratch. We didn’t want to spend money on calligraphy since the envelopes are the first to go in the trash. But what she did remind me was that since the invites are technically from my parents, they would want calligraphy on the envelopes since it’s a thoughtful and very beautiful touch.

She helped steer us to some vendors that have been amazing so far, but the band was all us, color choices were me, outfits us, wedding page me, music selection us. Her expertise was so invaluable at the beginning when I didn’t know how to talk to vendors, how to look at proposals, how to not work with some vendors, spatial design and decor for a room the size of ours.

If you hire a wedding planner or day-of-coordinator, USE THEM. Don’t believe for a second, since you’re so organized, you don’t need them until the day of. I could’ve saved SO MUCH TIME just reviewing all my decisions directly with her instead of searching the internet like a mad woman for proper etiquette, yada, yada, yada.

Lesson #7: Poof! There Goes Your Budget

You have set ideas how things will go. I wanted to elope and avoid spending money of any kind. I wanted the whole thing to be about the two of us, that’s it. And Timmy felt very strongly that NO.

All of the sudden, we were planning a wedding that I didn’t really want. My parents gave us a budget (because they are amazing and OMG how incredible are they?!!) and it didn’t work with the amount of people on the list. Then they raised it. And it still didn’t work. And they raised it again. And the whole time Timmy and I kept fighting about the guest list and the amount of money I felt we were spending and at the same time wasting.

And then we had another budget increase from Timmy’s mother, and all of the sudden, our costs went crazy. It was like there was no limit on something I had desperately wanted limits for. And I felt crushed. Crushed by guilt. Crushed by the loss of the way I had wanted things to turn out.

If you don’t put your foot down, your budget will explode in your face. My parents gave us, quite frankly, a VERY healthy budget and it still wasn’t enough to satisfy some people’s desires. Instead of buckling down and saying from the very beginning, oh well, we can’t have everything and everyone we’ve known our whole lives at this wedding, we’re still running into issues around the guest list now.

But because we’re also on the same team, these later challenges have felt much easier to handle since we’re both shouldering the effort.

Lesson #8: Plan for the Marriage, Not the Wedding

Like I said before, we have had a long engagement intentionally. At the very beginning, I had a VERY hard time adjusting to this new course in life. I hated everything that we were doing and everything that we had to keep making decisions on.

And now, I’m loving it. I love planning. I love making decisions. We’re at a really good place where now all I am is excited for our wedding. I’m not dreading it, I’m not sad or guilty or anything else but stoked to party with all our friends. I’m so excited, some days I’m ready for it to be tomorrow.

But we 100% haven’t forgotten that the wedding is one day. The real thing is the marriage. The wedding is temporary, a memory that hopefully we’ll be able to store away as much as we can for as long as we can, but a marriage is forever. Whenever we’re with our married friends, one of my first questions is “What is your advice to us?”

I’m craving time with Timmy, even in our cramped apartment, because soon, he will be my husband (I’m still making gagging noises when I say that, so clearly I’m not 100% ready). I need to know him better, I need to trust him more than ever, I need to feel like we’re both fully committed to this partnership. Not that I haven’t felt any of those things before. I just need them more now.

Because marriage is the hard stuff. Picking out vases and candles and outfits and paper for invitations is not hard. That stuff is NOTHING compared to what kind of life marriage brings two people. And it’s a part of life that Timmy and I have zero context for because we’ve never been married.

It’s the fear and uncertainty of the unknown that is keeping my brain up at night sometimes. Even when my heart is settled and sure and dedicated.

So through all these lessons, this roller coaster of emotions spent on a million plus decisions for this wedding, I still repeat what I said almost one year ago:

“The happy is being with my partner, the happy is spending a life exploring each other and this world, the happy is making him laugh for years to come, the happy is in the celebration of this love.

The happy is Timmy. Which will be my mantra from here until our wedding day.”

♥, VB

The End of 2015 and Life Lately

So a lot has happened in the past two months and boom, now it’s 2016. I thought I’d catch you up on our lives the past two months before I launch into the great BIG changes that have happened in the last few weeks.

Halloween, Timmy and I celebrated our 1-year engagement at Spinners on St. Pete Beach. It’s a rotating restaurant that I dumbly reserved a table for AFTER the sunset, so we saw a whole bunch of nothingness. We will return with much better timing.

I finally talked Timmy into wearing a couples’ costume, which he poo-pooed until he realized that it was just a black cotton t-shirt with jeans. We were Opposites Attract, but apparently people also thought we were a pregnancy test, so it has multiple uses. #Imeanttodothat

We also went out to Green Bench Brewery, one of our favorite St. Pete spots and in one of the most random run-ins I’ve ever had, ran into the little sister of one of my close college friends. WHAAATTT?! We ended the night at Enigma for a lot of gay costume contesting and free beers bought for us by people wishing that Timmy was gay.

For maybe one of my highest professional achievements, I was selected as one of the 8 inaugural TEDxUSFSP speakers on November 13. I had a blast creating the talk, practicing it, and then finally performing on stage in front of students, colleagues, Timmy and Gavin, one of my friends that I met through St. Pete Pride. It was truly awesome, and I can’t wait until the video comes out.

November finished out with a morning trip to Auburn immediately following my TEDx talk. It was a super fast trip that started with an 11 AM game and ended with a star-filled night at Lake Martin with good friends. We also got to meet Wiles, my friend Heather’s newest baby girl and Timmy got grossed out by my bachelorette party gift.

December ended the way it should. I made a gingerbread house for the first time, we moved Timmy out of his apartment in Orlando into mine (more on that later), drove to Atlanta for Christmas and New Year with both our families. A little drama here and there, a WHOLE LOT of driving, and so. much. love.

Hope you all had the best holidays, whatever you celebrate, and hope mostly that your final days of 2015 were filled with nothing but joy, love, and hope!

Happy New Year!

♥,

VB

Costa Rica

December started with a trip we had been planning forever and then POOF it was here. We went to Tamarindo, Costa Rica for my college friend Taamy’s wedding to her perfect match Dave. It all started with the card enclosed in our goody bag and ended with some of the best memories I’ll take to the grave.

We flew from Tampa to Atlanta, Atlanta to Liberia, Costa Rica. From there, we took a shuttle about an hour away to Tamarindo, a little surfer town right on the Pacific, close to the Nicaragua-side of Costa Rica. It was so cute and really hopping, with tons of shops, restaurants, and surfer hang-outs. We got to Hotel Pasatiempo, and tried to get a quick nap in before walking around and exploring the place.

Taamy is that friend (we all have one) who can’t wait to start planning her next exotic vacation, who will try anything once and more times if she likes it, who is fearless, beautiful, and fun fun fun. We were so honored to be invited to this intimate shin-dig and we were incredibly emotional to see their love and gratitude for their wedding weekend. Timmy actually had a moment during the ceremony where he couldn’t stop crying, it was really that overwhelmingly touching.

The first night we got there was the joint Bachelor-Bachelorette party at Casa Alang-Alang, the house that Taamy and Dave rented for the week. There was a moment where I was dancing on the side of one of their many infinity pools at the house they were staying at. All of the sudden, I got pushed into the pool, fully clothed. Now, I’m not one for drama, but if there’s ever a reason to get pissed off beyond belief, it would be when a grown ass adult pushes another grown ass adult into a pool fully clothed in a pretty dress.

Well, I did nothing because it was a wedding celebration party for Dave and Taamy and I will NEVER be THAT person who starts fights and takes attention away from the couple. I went upstairs, asked Taamy for a change of clothes, and obviously had to explain what happened, but I left it at that. Taamy and Dave were PISSED. I kept trying to diffuse the situation, but at this point, Taamy had had a few, and you could see the drunk spiral happen a mile away.

The next day, Taamy said she got so mad not because of the alcohol but because she hates when men think they can behave however they want around women because they’ve been drinking. I still think the spiral contributed to how upset she got, but either way, it was unfortunate and I wish it hadn’t happened. The guy who pushed me in however sent me and Timmy a nice bottle of sparking wine with a very classy apology note attached over the holidays, so it’s all good.

It was actually all good the first time he apologized, but I guess Taamy and Dave really let him have it later.

Their wedding was drop-dead gorgeous, their house was UNREAL (I mean it. It was like 10 bedrooms, owned by the guy who started Billabong and who owns Au Bon Pain, 3 infinity pools, and a cliffside view of the Pacific), their wedding vows were real and deep, and we couldn’t be happier that the two of these crazy people found each other in this world. Any opportunity to hang out with my college peeps is the best time ever.

Timmy learned from his Panama mishaps and decided to pack every undershirt he owns and also brought sweat towels. He DID NOT stop getting compliments from everyone on his suit choices and his towel decisions. He was so proud of himself. :)

There was a crazy, “This world is so small” moment we had while getting breakfast at a small place across the street from our hotel. We sat down and Timmy saw that the people next to us had an Oakland hat on. Taamy and Dave currently live in Oakland so it wasn’t a complete jump to assume they were there for the wedding. When we asked, they said no, they were actually on their honeymoon. This was the conversation.

Timmy: “Are y’all here for the wedding?”

Guy: “No, actually we’re here on our honeymoon.”

Timmy: “Oh cool, I thought you were since the bride and groom live in Oakland.”

Guy: “Nope, we live in Florida. We just got married in Orlando.”

Me: “Really?! I live in St. Pete and he lives in Orlando.”

Guy and Girl: “Where?”

Timmy: “Lake Mary.”

Guy: “Dude, I live in Sanford.”

After discussing the streets, they realized that they live 1.2 miles away from each other. WTF.

Then the owner of the cafe came out and said he was from Marietta and went to college at Georgia Southern. I mean, really.

So I’ll leave you with pictures, even though they don’t do any justice to the beauty and fun we had there. These college peeps of mine, god, I love them so much my heart wants to burst. Taamy and Dave, we love the hell out of you.

♥,

VB

The Days We Remember

There are moments in your life where you can remember your youth incredibly vividly, as though it happened yesterday. Time moves on yet it’s tinged with sadness as you realize that every day that passes is one more day that separates you from that time of innocence. Then without warning, there is a moment where you realize without a doubt, the door to your youth is closed, never to reopen again.

My last remaining grandparent died in September at the age of 101 and with her, she took my youthful days of no responsibilities, never ending fun, and joyful naivety.

There is something that happens deep inside when you lose your last grandparent. It’s like the ties to the past have been ripped off and that’s it, the link to your history has been irrevocably severed.

As Timmy and I were on our way to a close friend’s wedding on September 25, I looked down at my phone and saw 8 missed calls from my dad. I knew then it had happened.

I have had moments over the last month of incredible mood swings, moving from sheer joy to a sadness that feels deep and unsurmountable, like even if I had the will, the tears might never stop.

Three weeks ago, Timmy and I went to a Mark Knopfler concert in Clearwater. Timmy had seen him the night before in Melbourne and wanted to see him again with me, even though I wasn’t really that familiar with his music. These were emotional nights for him as he remembered his father and their bond over his music. We sat down in a theater that hadn’t been updated since probably 1992. Clearly being the youngest in the room, I looked around and made a passing comment to Timmy, “Look at this sea of white hair.”

Within seconds, I felt the rush of sadness move up my spine, into my throat, and out of my eyes. Overwhelmed. Despondent. Inconsolable. I cried for hours, and as the music played, all I could hear was the sadness in the notes, in the voices, in the harmonies.

I of course have lost people before, some suddenly, some with more preparation. I never knew my mother’s father, but I remember when I was around 2 years old, probably one of my first memories, my mother answering the phone and collapsing into tears, my father rushing to hug her. What my mother ended up sharing with Timmy and I before we left to go to Spain for my Yaya’s funeral was that the phone call was from my uncle telling my mother that her father had died days earlier and they had already buried him.

Imagine coming home from your family’s first trip to Disney World and having that be the first call you take. Before cell phones, emails, instant ways to connect. He hadn’t been able to contact my mother and so the family had to move forward with arrangements. I can’t even begin to understand the depths of grief and guilt my mom went to then.

We lost my father’s parents when I was in college, one right after the other, 9 months apart. My Abuelito had been sick for a few years, colon cancer, and I was able to see him over Christmas break my first year at NYU. He remembered me briefly, one of the few moments of clarity for him, and I’ll never forget his smile as he looked up and recognized me.

But I’ll also never forget his frailty, round the clock assistance, diapered and incoherent, looking so infantile and old at the same time. He passed and without reason or explanation, my sister and I missed his funeral.

My Abuelita, who hadn’t been separated from him since she was nearly 14 years old, was damaged after that. Never again to be the Abuelita I remembered growing up, who so doted on me and at every waking moment, tried to fill me with food and love. She moved through the world slowly and painfully, as though the weight of my Abuelito’s passing hung on her like a heavy cloak.

She passed quickly, had a stroke and was gone by the morning. This time, my family went to Panama together to celebrate her life. She had an open casket, which I refused to see as I knew I would never remember her any other way than dead in a coffin. I could do without that visual.

Looking back, I remember being sad at their passing, thinking how fast they both went. But I also remember not feeling the sadness, not grieving,  but instead saying I was sad, saying I was in grief. At the time, thanks to the antidepressant I was on, I was numb to everything and everyone, unable to shed a single tear for anything. For being homesick. For missing my friends. For 9/11.

And now, I was unable to feel anything for my grandparents, the ones who had sat through my dumb dances and performances in the living room before bedtime. The ones who would play dominoes and copas with me, and who would tell their stories about family and love and history. The ones I saw only a few times every 2-3 years because they lived so far away.

I always had the sense that my father was angry with me for a long time afterwards because of my lack of emotion, which I’m sure he and my mother took for apathy at my grandparents. I had assumed that they realized that due to the antidepressants, I simply couldn’t feel. I hope my dad knows in his heart that I miss them greatly, a void in my heart that can never be patched.

I am grieving over my Yaya in a very different way. First of all, I am actually grieving, which is a huge relief to be able to feel anything at all. But it has also felt like a dam breaking, one from which all of the emotions I couldn’t feel for my abuelitos is hitting me all at once.

Sitting there, in that concert hall with Timmy, I felt like I was drowning.

Grief can sometimes feel like a light breeze, swirling around you and reminding you of its presence. Other times, grief can feel like a lead smock, the kind you wear in an x-ray machine, a weight so heavy that it cements you to your seat, cutting off oxygen, and making you immobile.

My Yaya’s funeral started with an open casket viewing, which I wasn’t prepared for after having spent 7.5 hours in the air, straight to my aunt’s to change clothes, straight to the funeral home. I also chose not to see her so that I could remember her the way I always knew her: white hair in rollers, dressed impeccably, nails done, makeup spotless, ready to impress, even if she was staying home to crochet.

She would come stay with us in Atlanta usually 4-6 months at a time while I was growing up. She would be there, cleaning the house, crocheting, or watching Univision when we got home from school. I remember she always said a prayer before sleeping and she never took her wedding band off.

She had the best stories, like the nudist who constantly invited her to a nude beach in Spain, but to whom she always politely declined. Or her gorgeous legs she said garnered her nonstop compliments when she walked to the market. She laughed with us when we poked fun at her, always when she tried to say anything in English, a language she didn’t understand. When Santa Claus came out as “Sando Khan”, or Disney World as “Sidney Gol”, or Michael Jackson as “Mickey Johso”.

I remember the way she danced when Spanish music came on, her smile when she saw our friends running to greet her, the way she couldn’t stop laughing when my father would crack jokes with her, her nightly beer because she didn’t really like wine, her love, her light.

And now I think of her absence all the time, like the flamenco show we saw last night at Columbia Restaurant. Our wedding that she won’t be at. The fiance she never met. My twin nieces she never held.

When the attacks happened in Paris last weekend, I had finished my TEDxUSFSP talk and was coming out of the ballroom on a high. I checked Facebook on my phone and immediately realized something bad had happened. It wasn’t really until the next day when I had time to read about the attacks that the fear and sadness began to overwhelm me.

Timmy and I headed to the airport for the Auburn vs. UGA game bright and early Saturday morning, and although I couldn’t care less about football, I was there to support him. But I shed tears in the stadium, sitting in the shade, sunglasses on. The whole time I struggled to put down my phone, to remain present, to be in the moment instead of far away in despair and grief.

Because although I didn’t know anyone in Paris, it was too familiar, this relationship I have with death now, it’s too close and too much a part of me. I began losing people I care about at 19 and it hasn’t stopped. 9/11, my grandparents, one high school friend, my best friend, another high school friend, three high school friends, four, five, my grandmother…it never ends.

I remember the panic attacks after Lindsay died, my first real brush with unexpected death. The inability to focus and move through the day normally.

Now, there are moments during the day where I am gripped with such an intense fear of losing my parents, I lose my breath. The anxiety holds me still and I can almost hear my own heart stop.

I miss my Yaya. I miss my friends. I miss my Abuelitos. I miss my childhood in a real visceral way, which is how I know that the door is closed.

I can’t go back.

The grieving never stops. The crying, however, does.

♥, VB

Just The Way We Like It

This past month has been grueling. I’m 100% not ready to write about everything that happened as it’s been a pretty emotional and exhausting time, but I promise I will.

In the meantime, I thought today was as good a day as any to share something Timmy and I have had so much fun with the past few months: planning them, taking them, sharing them. When I say fun, I mean F-U-N. As in tears streaming down our faces because we can’t stop laughing at ourselves and all of our completely brilliant ideas.

I am of course talking about our engagement pictures.

If you know us, you are probably slightly aware of the fact that Timmy and I like to laugh and enjoy making others laugh as well. We’re pretty self-deprecating and will do whatever we can to get that laugh. Even when others think we’re morons, at least we’re laughing first and foremost (and sometimes last).

Clearly, our engagement pictures were the perfect vehicle for this. I originally had some really ambitious ideas for photoshopping and visual imagery that were, in essence, our way of saying “F*&k You Pinterest” for making everyone believe that having the exact same type of engagement picture is somehow a good thing. As if couples should no longer seek to share something that makes them unique or create a little window into their life together for others to see.

Railroad tracks, old bridges, and brick walls are not unique, my friends. Not anymore.

Unfortunately, I had to give that dream up as our original photographer almost died after taking our original shots in February and I didn’t really think it would be appropriate to be like, “Hey James’ family, I know your son is like at death’s door, but can I grab those pictures when you get a chance? Kthanksbye.”

Like many things I wanted for our wedding planning, compromise was the name of the game. And also a pain in the ass, but you gotta do what you gotta do.

So we enlisted our wedding photographer, Raven Shutley from YouAreRaven (I found her on A Practical Wedding who is not only affordable but takes the most breathtaking photos with a very light editing touch), to meet us one weekend morning in Atlanta in May. I loved her work online and couldn’t wait to work with her. I feel very strongly that our photos should look like us; I didn’t want us so retouched that we look like robots. We filled Raven in on what we were looking to do: nothing serious, nothing romantic, nothing lovey-dovey, and certainly nothing Pinterest-like. Not only did she get it, she was 100% down with getting the photos we wanted and never once tried to sway us from our vision.

Why go through so much trouble to get silly photos, you may ask? Honestly, that’s just who we are. If you’ve ever spent time with us as a couple, you know that we poke fun at each other and ourselves, we’re silly, and we genuinely enjoy bringing people into the fun, crazy world we bring to life every time we’re with each other. To showcase any other image through photos that we’ll own forever would not only be inauthentic, it would be a flat-out lie.

Anyone can capture a loving gaze. Anyone can shoot just the bride and ignore the groom entirely. Not everyone can capture the essence of your relationship through a photo. And that’s what Raven was able to accomplish.

Once we finished the session (which included about 30 minutes of searching for the Beltline Trail entrance until we just gave up and went to the park I played in as a child, and afterwards we drove to the restaurant to finish shooting and meet my parents for lunch, we drove right over the Trail not even 2 miles from the park…), we anxiously awaited the return of the photos. Once they were ready, we had a Google Hangout with Raven where, I’m not joking, the 3 of us laughed so hard at the final products that we barely got a word in the entire time we were on the call.

I’d call the entire thing a complete success. Once we chose the photos we wanted to include in our Save the Dates, I got busy designing the cards and spent HOURS staring at my computer, collapsing in never-ending giggles. Timmy and I chose 6 different Save the Dates, so everyone on our list got a different one. Timmy and I spent last weekend going through our guest list, and one by one, decided who should get which card, and laughed the entire time we did it.

Are these Save the Dates completely appropriate? Not so much. Are they romantic? Nope. Are they us? YES. 100 million times YES.

I’m sure our parents would’ve liked something a little more tame and traditional, but I have to admit, we wouldn’t change a single thing about the photos or the cards. I have the feeling that our parents think that I’m 100% responsible for the direction these photos took, but I want to remind them and everyone else that like most everything in this relationship, we make EVERY decision together (which drives me insane the majority of the time). Nothing that represents us as a couple is decided by either of us in isolation, so if you’re a little ticked about the photos, all I ask is that you remember that it wasn’t just me.

Oh, and get over it.

Timmy and I will remember planning the poses, taking these photos, and choosing who gets which card as times of doubled-over laughter and deep bonding, as we were continuously reminded of why we chose each other in the first place and why we choose every day to stay together.

Enjoy a few of the photos we took that day.

FYI, I doubt our wedding pictures are going to be much different, so stay tuned. :)

To Raven, you made our dreams come true. You can read Raven’s blog about our engagement session here.

♥,

VB