#TheVictimWedding Part 1

I’m in no way going to attempt to tell the story of our wedding week and mini moon in one post. I can’t sit still for that long, and I wouldn’t want to torture you by making you scroll endlessly.

Needless to say, our wedding week was CRAZYTOWN U.S.A. In the months and weeks leading up to our wedding, I really thought I was going to go legitimately crazy from the stress, drama, and fighting. Note to self: next time, fight harder for the things you want in the beginning, especially when you know EXACTLY how things will turn out if you don’t.

For nearly a week straight, I drank Pepto Bismol like water. If you don’t think stress causes your internal organs, namely your stomach and intestines, to go completely berserk, then you clearly have never planned a wedding. Ours had a guest list topping out at 382. Thankfully, only around 280 came, so yeah, there’s that too.

I’m also not very good at keeping surprises, so holding all of it in, the stress, the surprises, the procrastinating, the not fighting-Timmy’s-battles-even-though-I-wanted-to-so-bad stuff, took their toll on my body and mental health. Two days before the wedding, Timmy and I went to dinner where we discussed how in the future, event planning will go one of two ways: either I do everything with little to no input from Timmy OR there is no event.

Seems reasonable, right?

We spent Memorial Day weekend as the calm before the storm. It was us two and Floyd, beaching it, sleeping in, enjoying what we could before we had to pack up and head to Atlanta. It really was glorious.

Photo May 30, 8 17 29 PMPhoto May 30, 8 19 08 PM

We arrived in Atlanta on Tuesday evening after a 7 hour drive. It was a PAIN in the ass to try to remember to bring all the wedding stuff that we had stored in our tiny little apartment. With my checklist in hand, I made sure we packed every last item. However, as soon as Timmy got his hands on one of our marquee letters that had been hanging in our apartment for MONTHS, he immediately broke one of the bulbs at the stem.

Imagine the scene, will you. We’re already leaving 4-5 hours later then planned, Timmy’s to-do list hasn’t gotten any shorter, and he breaks a bulb.

Now imagine my brain exploding.

So after that fun experience, we hit the ground running in Atlanta. My mom and I knocked so many things off the to-do list that weren’t necessarily big things, but small things that were growing by the minute. The poster program had to be printed and backed. Check. We had to drop off all the decorations at our event designer. Check. We had to get a new bulb and back up bulbs from Home Depot for the marquee letters. Check.

It felt like it went on and on. And this doesn’t even include Timmy’s list that he left for the last minute.

We did make time to stop by our friends, Matt and Lindsey’s house to give them a reprieve from a tough year, even if it was only for about an hour. We gifted them a couple’s massage and I watched their son for them so they could get out of the house and reconnect. It was probably the best idea Timmy and I had this entire time. I highly recommend that in the thick of wedding planning that you do something for someone else. It got our minds off of things and helped us focus on what matters: friends and family in our lives.

Thursday night, I had a wonderful night at home hanging out with my family that had come from so far. We danced, drank LOTS of cava, and relaxed before the craziness of the weekend began.

Friday rolled around and I started the day off with a hike up Stone Mountain with 4 of my friends from my bridal party. It was amazing. Getting a good sweat, seeing all of Atlanta, spending some much needed quality time with my friends…it was the best start to our weekend. We even got done faster than expected, so once I got back to my parents’, I decided to watch Harry Potter until the verrrrryy last minute.

Those were the last moments I had to myself for the rest of the weekend.

We headed over to our next door neighbor’s house where our neighbors threw me the best bridal luncheon ever. It was EXACTLY what I wanted and what I needed. The most important people of my life were all there: those I grew up with, the women of my family, my bridal party, my best friends. It was low-key, delicious, and so so so fun to catch up in an intimate setting.

Of course I cried. Who wouldn’t??

Then we headed over to our hotel, the Glenn Hotel, our home base for the weekend. Our friend Mathew scored us a SICK deal on the penthouse, and we’re still amazed at what he was able to do for us. It was HUGE, posh, and completely sexy. It was awesome! We grabbed our shuttle bus with the grooms’ party and headed over to our venue, the Foundry at Puritan Mill for the rehearsal.

That was quite the clusterf**k. Imagine 24 people plus 4 parents plus the engaged couple plus our officiant and music man plus our wedding planner. It was ridiculous. Timmy’s side tended to not shut up the entire time we were up there and it took EVERYTHING I had not to just completely lose my mind at them. With the stress of everything just starting to bubble over, I was reaching my breaking point with the drama and disrespect. But I held it in and made sure we got through it, blow-up free.

See, I’m improving.

I can’t fathom trying to do something like this again, and although I don’t regret our wedding weekend AT ALL, I still wish I had gotten something more intimate, something smaller, something more, for lack of a better word, calm. Some people really did go off the deep-end in the planning of this wedding, and I can’t help but think that if the sheer magnitude and scale of this wedding had been eliminated from the beginning, the drama would have decreased significantly.

Or not at all. Who knows.

All I know is that it was the greatest weekend of our lives. Words don’t exist to describe it at all. But when you make your wedding as personal as we did, the effects are felt and are lasting. Stay tuned for #thevictimwedding rehearsal dinner.

♥, VB

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The People You Turn Into

What is it about weddings that can turn a person inside out? What happens in a person that makes them either go to the light or the dark side?

If there’s anything I’ve learned about wedding planning (and there have been many lessons), it’s that people change when it comes to weddings. Weddings can either amplify the good nature within people or it brings out the crazy. The complete bat-shit crazy.

Sound familiar? Here’s some of the people you might meet, the good and the bad, after you get engaged:

  1. Butt-Hurt McGee

This person is sooooooooooooo offended that you didn’t ask them to be in the wedding party/throw a shower/include them in your day somehow. In fact, they’re so butt hurt by not being included that they’ll throw shade every which way they can by turning down invitations to parties, not answering phone calls or texts, and even threatening to not go to your wedding.

This person will basically be absent for you during wedding planning. Even if you were close before, they will vanish anytime you call or try to hang out. There’s nothing you can do to make up for the terrible “rift” your decisions have caused the relationship, mainly because the “rift” is made up and not that serious.

Depending on your level of closeness, you can decide to really put some effort into repairing the relationship and addressing the conflict or just walk away.

2. The Nickle and Dimer

This person is so obsessed with the bottom line that they’d rather you have your wedding in a parking lot and ask people to bring their own chairs, booze, and food than try to pay for anything over the budget. They can’t see the end picture because they’re so bogged down with the small details that nearly every decision ends in a stalemate and uber frustration.

No doubt, this was me at the very beginning of wedding planning. I was so overwhelmed with the high price tags of everything wedding-related that I basically shut down and cried every day. The guilt of a big budget followed by millions of decisions made me the human version of a IED. Want to know when the next explosion is? Just say the price tag and KABOOM.

3. Me, Myself, and I

This person has made it clear that your wedding is all about them. Every question they ask is all about them. “How am I supposed to get around town?” “Who is going to watch my kids?” “How could you NOT want to meet my child?” “Can you do this for me?” “Can you do that for me?” “Your wedding locations are really inconvenient for me.” “Me me me me.”

This is the worst person ever. Not only can they not understand that your wedding is about you and your fiance, they make it a point to let you know any chance they get that if you’re not meeting their every need, they’re not happy for you in the least bit. Not until you switch the focus to them, that is. Then they’re overjoyed at the chance to have a me-party during your big day.

4. The Worrier

This person is worrying about everything and they’re not even the one getting married. They will contact you obsessively about every little detail, even ones that have nothing to do with them or their duties. “Has anyone done this yet?” “Where am I supposed to meet you?” “I emailed/texted/called you 1 hour ago, why haven’t you responded?” “Who is picking this person up?” “Why don’t I know everything that’s going on?”

This person is EXHAUSTING. I mean, 100% completely out of control debilitating. If the incessant calls/emails/texts don’t wear you down, then the million and one ridiculous “What if/then this?” made-up scenarios will stress you out so much you can’t help but lose it.

5. The “I’ve Forgotten How to Adult” adult

Normally, this person has everything in their life together. They have/had a job, pay their bills on time, may have a family, and is someone who typically handles their stuff. Yet, somehow wedding planning makes them question how they accomplish the simplest tasks day to day. “How do I get around a city I already live in?” “How do I get myself dressed and looking presentable on the wedding day?” “When and where am I supposed to feed myself?” “How are others supposed to feed themselves?”

This person will frustrate the crap out of you. No matter how many times you remind them that they normally drive themselves around, or that they can call a cab, or that they can hire someone to do stuff for them, they will continue to insist that they don’t know how to do these things. The easiest thing to do with this person is to ignore them until after the wedding.

6. The Ghost

Where has this person gone? You contacted them at the beginning to ask them to be a part of your wedding in some way, and they subsequently ghost you and never respond to anything again. In fact, you have to contact them 5 or more times before they respond, and who knows if they’re actually going to answer the questions you posed for them.

Sometimes your Ghost is Me, Myself, and I. They disappear until you can somehow make it about them again. And when you do, they’ll respond to you lightning fast as though they never ghosted you in the first place.

This person is different from Butt-Hurt McGee. They’re not offended or hurt, they’re just terrible at staying in contact. Even when they know it’s crucial to be around and accessible, they can’t get it together long enough to respond to emails/texts/calls in a timely manner. They simply, POOF, vanish from communication and you don’t know if they’re alive or dead anymore.

This person isn’t terrible, they’re just annoying as f^*k.

7. The “I’ve Lost My Mind and Will Make Terrible Decisions” friend

This person will out of nowhere and with no warning become your worst enemy at a moment’s notice. They will behave like a crazy person, make really terrible decisions (usually fueled by alcohol and a general unhappiness with their own life), and end up destroying the bond you may have had with them.

This person will generally not apologize. In fact, instead of apologizing, they’ll use any excuse to justify their bad behavior and question you for even bringing it up to them like they did anything wrong. This person is T.O.X.I.C. You may have seen some of the warning signs before but chose to ignore them because they never did anything bad to you in the past, and besides, it’s your wedding! Everyone will be on their best behavior, right? Right??

This person may make you question yourself and what you did to deserve this type of reaction. The person may also fuel the fire of other people’s bad behavior because they think they may be able to get away with acting out. Which will then make you question your relationships with these people in the first place.

This is not really the state of mind you want to find yourself in while you’re planning your own wedding. The best thing you can do is sever the tie and move on.

8. The Human Bra

Without question, this is who you want everyone associated with your wedding to be. These people are the most supportive, the most helpful, the most loving and caring people of all. Never hesitating to ask, “How can I help?” “Where do you need me?” “I’m here for you”, the human bra is the person and persons who will support you through the drama and help out when you’re about to lose your mind from all the stupid little decisions that have to be made.

They’ll text you out of the blue to tell you they love you and they’re excited for not just your wedding but also your marriage. They’ll do their best to keep the drama away from you and your fiance, attend all your functions, and never complain. Even if they can’t bring their children even though they want to (because duh, they love them), they say nothing and handle their lives efficiently so that they can help you out.

I’m happy to report that the human bra is everyone on my side. They have gone out of their way to make me feel special and loved and excited for my wedding and my marriage. They’ve even done the same for Timmy, just to make him feel all the love and support that I’ve received. I just can’t get enough of them!

——–

Obviously, I’m exaggerating a bit and poking fun not just at the people I’ve met during my own wedding planning, but stories I’ve heard from friends who had their own fair share of craziness during their weddings. You can only control what you can control. and although some of these personalities have driven me crazy, I’m choosing to focus on the good. The good being my friends, family, and of course, Timmy.

2 weeks. Let’s do this.

♥, VB

Parties Galore

Do you understand what it feels like to have people throw parties in your honor? It’s like this completely overwhelming mixture of appreciation, love, gratitude, humility, and guilt, wrapped up into 72 hours. That’s what this past weekend was like for us.

If you know me (or have read this blog), you should be well aware by now that I like to plan. This weekend was a planner’s crazed wet dream. From the second we landed in Atlanta Thursday night until we left Sunday evening, I don’t think we got to sit down and chill out for more than 30 minutes at any given time.

Because we only have limited time whenever we come back to Atlanta, we usually have to do double duty with social events. We want to see everyone but time constraints make it hard to prioritize. Not so with this weekend! We had a number of close friends and family ask if they could throw parties in honor of our upcoming wedding, so to save airfare, we requested that they be hosted on the same day. Who needs sleep, right?

Friday, we hit the ground running. Got our marriage license, got my nails done, had a hair and makeup trial while Timmy went to a hotel to check out suites for our wedding weekend, then we had a rehearsal dinner tasting and venue walk-through with the caterer.

So while we planned to come home for a full day on Saturday, it occurred to me if people were going to be in town for these parties, why not try to throw yet another thing in the mix? Since I could be classified as insane, I decided to take on the monumental task of hosting a party at Timmy’s mother’s house on Friday night.

Because Timmy’s first bachelor party did not really go as planned (read: massive drama ensued), I decided to throw him a surprise bachelor party 2.0. My anxiety was at an all-time high trying to plan this party and keep it a surprise from him. Do you know how difficult it is to do that when you live in less than 800 square feet??

For weeks, I had to make sure my phone was on me at all times in case one of his friends texted me. I had covert phone conversations with his mother and texted with his stepfather to ensure that everything would go as planned. It drove me insane to have to depend on other people to get this done, but concessions had to be made as I knew that I would have ZERO time to pick up food, drinks, and a passenger van that I chauffeured to and from Decatur to make sure no one drank and drove.

Barbara and Trey really came through for us on this event, and I could never thank them enough. Towards the last hour or so, Barbara began to crack trying to stall Timmy while I finished setting up at the house. He got so suspicious, I don’t know how Barbara managed not to just give up and tell him! Major props to her though as she used a fantastic stalling technique at the bar they were at before they came home: asking Timmy what the differences are between a Roth and Traditional IRA. Genius.

Once he got home and saw the door closed to the living room, a smile spread on his face, because while he knew something was up, he didn’t know what. And when he walked into the room and saw his friends, he was still so confused! I had to tell him it was his Bachelor Party 2.0 before he realized what was happening. He lit up and the rest is history.

To be honest, this party wasn’t the most incredible production ever. It was nothing fancy, nothing crazy, just an opportunity for him to get together with his best buds for a night of drinking, laughs, and catching up. And it 100% worked. He said later that the bad memories from his first bachelor party were a dim memory compared to his 2nd fiesta.

And all was right in the world.

Saturday was NON STOP. I made it crystal clear to Timmy and his friends that fun could be had, but not so much fun that he couldn’t wake up for our 11 am shower being thrown by Timmy’s neighborhood friends. Sure enough, he woke up slightly hungover but hey, he woke up and made the best of it.

We walked two doors down to the most incredible food spread and warm and welcoming people ever. It was incredible. These people hardly know me and my parents but spent a lot of time making us feel loved and part of the group. It meant so much!

And the gifts! I’m still not over the feeling that registering for gifts is one of the most 1st World things one can do, especially when you’re in your 30s and already own everything you need. And even after registering, we were told 3 separate times that weekend that we hadn’t registered for enough!! CRAZY TALK, I tell you!!

After our first shower ever, we walked out of there on a high immediately followed by a 2 hour nap at Barbara’s. You’ll see that the two gifts I decided to include in the pictures are our favorites only because 1) I have wanted an immersion blender for YEARS, and 2) Timmy and I have now worn our monogrammed robes every night since we got home. Thank you thank you thank you!

Saturday culminated in another party thrown for us by our friends Mathew, his fiance Lucie, Michael and his wife Abigail (who unfortunately couldn’t make it from DC). This was known as the “young people’s party” and we did it up! Gosh this was so fun.

We got to see so many of our friends that night, food, drinks, the works! And of course, it’s not a party until someone lights an old Christmas tree on fire and endangers the neighborhood, right?

Right?

Other than that safety hazard, we stayed there until close to 1:30 am and got home just in time for Daylight Savings Time, which has royally kicked my ass. Just an FYI, it’s incredibly hard to recover from a weekend of partying AND an hour lost. (Ugh, isn’t our life so hard?!?!)

Sunday we finished up with lunch with our wedding planner extraordinaire to review the timeline for our wedding weekend, and visited with a friend who is about to undergo some pretty scary brain surgery in a week. We flew out Sunday night and I haven’t really recovered since.

The weather could NOT have been more perfect. We waited for rain everyday, and it never happened. Actually the rain came, no joke, RIGHT as we left for the car after Saturday night’s party. It’s like the world’s forces conspired to make sure we had the greatest weekend ever.

As we left for the airport Sunday evening, the feelings from the weekend began to hit me. The well-wishes, the congratulations, the amount of support we have behind our relationship is overwhelming. We couldn’t fail even if we wanted to; it’s clear to us how many people have our backs. We still can’t believe how much time and effort and love was put into everything.

To everyone who played a role in this weekend, small or large, THANK YOU. Truly, completely, just THANK YOU.

♥, VB & Timmy

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 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