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

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Panama

This last month has been exhausting. There’s been a lot of traveling, a lot of stress, and a lot of heartbreak. There’s also been a lot of joy and hope, so let’s start with the first story and make our way through the rest later.

The weekend after our Bach party (as in 3 days later) we flew to Panama for a friend’s wedding in a remote location off the coast called Bocas del Toro. My father’s side of the family all still lives in Panama City, so imagine my surprise when I ended up being the first in my entire family to visit Bocas. I’m such a world traveler.

On the flight from Atlanta to Panama, we got upgraded to First Class and holy shit I don’t think I can ever go back to being a regular citizen. That was legit. AAAAAANND I totally forgot that my friends’ gelato company, Honeysuckle, is now served on first class flights on Delta, so that was definitely fun and filled me with pride at how cool my friends are.

We sat next to two gentlemen that were THE definition of the odd couple, talking extremely loudly, making each other laugh, and just genuinely becoming friends. It was a much older white man who was super overserved with wine (as we all were) and a SUPER tall black man who, as we learned later on the flight, used to play for the Atlanta Braves in the 70s and was roommates with Dale Murphy. How cool is that??

My cousin picked us up from the airport and drove us to our hotel around 9:30p, which gave us just enough time to shower and fall asleep only to get up at 5 am to make our flight to Bocas. We got into the cab, told the driver Albrook Airport, and took off.

About 30 minutes later, I had the feeling that something wasn’t right. I had purposefully picked our hotel because it was only 15 minutes from the Albrook airport, so I signaled to Timmy to tell our driver, and lo and behold, we were one exit away from the WRONG AIRPORT. So we turned around and proceeded to take one of the most dangerous drives back in order to hopefully make our flight.

I had neglected to tell Timmy about driving in Central and Latin America. It’s really fun when you think about it: lane markers are really just suggestions, traffic lights are there for funsies, pedestrians get dropped off on the side of the highway, including school children, and the emergency lane is really for when you want to go faster. Timmy, bless his heart, almost had a heart attack.

And I just laughed quietly to myself.

We ended up making our flight by about 20 minutes. Thank god it was a small airport and not the international one, because we would’ve been screwed. And I had amped myself up to have a good ole, knock down drag out fight about payment since the driver was the one who messed up, but he charged us fairly and all was good.

We landed in Bocas after about a 45 minute flight and wow. What a cool freaking town. It’s laid back (think: not rich and glamorous resort living), friendly, and cheap. We stay on Isla Colon, the main island, which was about a 15 minute water taxi ride away from Bastimentos, where Jasmin and Todd were getting married. Our hotel was ADORABLE and definitely worth it.

We immediately found OUR spot, a teeny little bar restaurant with a surf/dive shop in the back. This town is clearly a surfer’s town, as everyone was unkempt, sun bleached, and suuuuuuuper laid back (read: high). This place served the BEST FISH TACOS EVER. No, I’m not kidding. They were amazing, and we went back again before we left for a repeat meal.

hell yes

The day of the wedding, we decided to take a day trip to Starfish Beach. We took a $35 cab about 30 minutes through the jungle to the other side of Colon. This was not a fun ride. The streets are “paved” and very very very hilly. It’s a miracle I didn’t get sick.

From our drop off spot, we took a water taxi about 5 minutes to the beach and OMG. This place. Unbelievable. It’s called Starfish Beach because there are starfish EVERYWHERE. You’re not allowed to pick them up but you can touch them underwater. It was just so cool.

We were pretty hungry when we got there but knew that the wedding was a few hours away, so we decided to split a meal at one of the little restaurant/shacks on the beach. There were only about 100 people on this remote beach, with a few spots to get food and drinks. We had brought the beer (which was like 85 cents for pretty delicious beer) and ordered a lobster with creole sauce from a dude who spoke perfect English. Then the coolness started.

We were told to go pick our lobster. Here we are thinking, “Oh from a tank. Cool.” Nope. FROM THE WATER.

Then we’re told to take a seat. Here we are thinking, “Ok, one of these tables.” Nope. THE TABLE IN THE WATER.

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Then he brings out the food. Here we are thinking, “This will probably be pretty good.” Nope. THE BEST LOBSTER I’VE EVER HAD.

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We clearly highly recommend checking this place out.

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The only time we were taken advantage for being tourists was on the water taxi over to Bastimentos to the Red Frog Beach Resort for the wedding. We didn’t get an itinerary in our gift bag, so I was going by the wedding website which said the wedding started at 4:30p. Knowing how long it takes Timmy to get ready (AGES), I said 4, so he’d be ready on time. We boarded the water taxi, paid the driver, and headed out.

First, he lied and said English was his first language even though it clearly wasn’t. Then, we stopped for gas (without telling us first) and asked for more money (which we didn’t give him). Then he dropped us off at the wrong dock at the island even though there were only 2 and I clearly didn’t know which one we were supposed to go to (side note: the resort is the only thing on that island. He clearly should’ve known). Thankfully, he was still close enough to come back and pick us up because at this point, Timmy and I didn’t have any more cash for a new water taxi. Silently and clearly disgruntled, he drove us to the other marina and HAD THE NERVE to tell me it was because my Spanish was so bad that he didn’t know where he was going.

F*%k You, sir. Clearly, you’re an idiot.

Finally we end up getting to the resort, which then entailed a golf cart ride to the actual wedding location, and by the time we arrived, it was 4:17. On time, right? Wrong! Apparently the wedding had been moved up to 4p, so we were late. AND YOU ALL KNOW HOW I FEEL ABOUT BEING LATE.

The Bride and her bridesmaids were already at the top of the stairs and I can’t even explain how bad that feels. We did it once before for a wedding in Beaufort, SC where the church was surrounded by 25 other churches and we got super confused as to which one we were supposed to go to. We ended up running into the church right before the bride, and I do mean, RIGHT before the bride and I’ve never felt so bad in my life.

Cue a second time doing this in Panama. We apologized profusely and explain what our taxi driver did (which apparently happened to a few people at the wedding too), and ran down the stairs only to be seated about 4 minutes before the wedding started.

Whew.

After the ceremony, they served fresh coconuts and I drank that sucker down in record time. We made our way over to the cocktail hour which was in a really cute hut overlooking a spectacular view.

And it was also in direct sunlight with no fans. I’m not going to lie, I don’t think I saw anyone use napkins for anything other than wiping off the profuse amount of sweat torentially downpouring from every inch of skin. Welcome to life on the equator. Thank god we were all wearing white.

The party moved back to the ceremony site where we ate, danced, and caught up with old friends. I heard someone say that I was Todd’s oldest friend present at the wedding, which just made my heart warm. I’ve known that dude since 1st grade, and he’s been solid ever since.

We were able to get back to our hotel much later that night so Timmy could shower. And then in the morning he showered again. And then he showered after breakfast. He took 5 showers in 18 hours. I’ve never laughed so hard at someone being unable to control their bodily perspiration. Did you realize that knees and ankles can sweat?

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We made it back to Panama City where my cousin took us on a whirlwind driving tour of Panama. I hadn’t been back to Panama in over a decade, since my Abuelita’s funeral, and holy shit, this city is insane. It looks like Dubai. The entire downtown looked NOTHING like that the few times I came to visit when I was younger. It’s really incredible.

We got dropped off at our amazingly beautiful Marriott for a quick snooze and another shower for Timmy, and then we were ready to meet the family for dinner. We went to a restaurant in Casco Viejo, which is the oldest part of Panama that they’ve beautifully restored. It looks a lot like Viejo San Juan, with its cobbled streets, white walls, and beautiful architecture and plazas. This was Timmy’s opportunity to meet nearly all of my dad’s side of the family, and I was so happy we were able to fit in a quick visit. It’s been so long since I’ve seen them, and it was so so so fun. And Timmy was a HUGE hit (when isn’t he, really). All in all, it was a fantastic but too quick 4 days.

Thanks and congratulations again to Jasmin and Todd! You gave us a reason to come to Panama to celebrate your love. We both couldn’t believe how gorgeous Jasmin looked (not that it was surprising since she’s already beautiful), I mean really stunning, and Todd couldn’t have been more happy to have all his friends and family in one place. We love you guys! Panama, we’ll be back, don’t you worry.

♥, VB