The Perfect Wedding Won’t Make Your Marriage Better

Imagery courtesy of Taylor & Jordan Snyder

Wives, fiancées, and single romantics: have you ever flipped through a copy of The Knot in an airport bookstore thinking to yourself, “Wow, I wish I had $10 to buy this gigantic magazine so that I could pretend to be interested in it and avoid awkward small talk with the stranger in seat 5A for the next 5 hours?” No? Just me? Maybe you were thinking something more along the lines of, “This is my dream wedding.”

I’m starting to get to the age where more and more friends of mine are tying the knot. And I am so unbelievable happy for them to embark on that journey of love. I was at a party a while ago, and some of the fellow party-goers thought it was really sweet I was already married, and someone asked me, “What kind of wedding did you have?” It threw me off at first, because I couldn’t exactly figure out what she was asking. Did she want to know if I had a big wedding, eloped, was Jewish, did the whole cowboy boots and sunflowers thing or the elegant cathedral, or maybe all of the above? I wasn’t sure. So I told her that I  had a smallish wedding and described my venue and events. She thought it was cute.  We moved on.

But the question stuck with me. I’ve been asked about my wedding many times without being asked about my husband or our relationship—just the wedding. I know some of you are eye-rolling and thinking that I’m reading way too far into the question, which is kind of the truth, but stick with me, because I’m thinking less about the question and more about the wedding culture that has pushed us to have bigger and spendier weddings than ever before. According to The Knot, the average American wedding costs $35,329. THAT IS AN ENTIRE YEAR’S SALARY FOR MANY PEOPLE. On one day. A day that most brides only remember vaguely through the wedding photographs they receive a month or two later.

My wedding was a lot of things, but it wasn’t the greatest day of my life. Yes, I vowed to be a faithful, loving, and humble wife, and accepted my husband’s promise to be those things for me too. But we’d already promised those things to each other long before we dressed up and did it in front of a pastor. Yes, we had beautiful photographs taken (insert plug for Jay and Tay Photography here), celebrated with family and friends, and loved the experience. Those memories are special. I think my wedding was beautiful and I am deeply indebted to all of the wonderful people who tirelessly worked to help me pull it off. But I heard several remarks throughout my wedding planning process about if I wanted to do this, or if I was planning on doing that. How much was my dress, had I seen all of the beautiful weddings on Pinterest? I needed to get my flowers from this place, and my guests would be bored if I played my own music rather than hire a DJ (Because the Cha Cha Slide is so entertaining…eye roll).

The most important thing Alex and I did on our wedding day was get married. And we could have done that in jeans and t-shirts at the county courthouse for $100.

So why did we plan a wedding? Like most people, we wanted to take part in that tradition. We wanted a Christian ceremony. We wanted to celebrate our love with friends and family, and I watch too much Say Yes to the Dress to not have wanted a wedding gown.

My message here is not that you should skimp out on your wedding day if a blow out wedding is what you really want. My point is that you should take a step back from the stress and pressure of planning such a huge party to remember that you’re not planning this party for the future pictures, for the opportunity to be featured in a magazine, for bragging rights, or even for the guests in attendance. You’re planning it for you and your husband (or wife!). You’re planning it because you want to get married. And you can get married anywhere, in any clothes, on any budget, and it’s not going to change how you feel about each other.

You can have the most beautiful, whimsical, breathtaking wedding ceremony in the world and it will not set the precedence for a happy marriage. Because the only things that can make a marriage happy are the two people in it. So drink in all of the fun of wedding planning and the memories that come with it, but keep in mind what’s really important, and hint, it isn’t your wedding, it’s your marriage.  — ♡

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How I Redid My Bedroom On A Budget

This post has been sitting in my drafts for months now, and I am finally coming around to finishing it as we prepare to pack these things up to go in storage for a few years. Of course!      The bow frame is actually a Christmas frame from Kohl’s; I flipped the matting around so that I can use it year round. The wooden map was a wedding gift from our Zola registry, the two bronze things (I honestly have no idea what to call them!) are from the Target Dollar Spot, the candle is from Bath & Body Works, the cute candle stand is from Pier 1, and the wreath is from Hobby Lobby. 

The two adorable wooden signs were purchased during the 50% off sale at Hobby Lobby, the lamp was a Target clearance find, and the wax warmer is from Kohl’s.

The bedroom furniture that we brought in tow with us to North Carolina were either hand-me-downs from when my parents were first married, or furniture that I grew up with as a child. As a result, they were mismatched; the nightstand was oak, the dresser was whitewashed pine, and the armoire was pine stained in a shade I like to call, “only-God-knows-what.” Our mattress also sat lonely on the floor. Honestly, I had more matching furniture in college. We haven’t had a bunch of extra money to spend on interior decorating, and the thought of buying a new bedroom set for a couple thousand dollars gives me anxiety. Especially considering the fact that hubs and I are both two capable, crafty people. So, we set out to make our teeny, temporary apartment feel a little more like a home and we’re pretty proud of the results. (And can’t wait to put all our hard work on display in storage for three years!!!…😉)

This nightstand entered my life somewhere in elementary school. It’s been well-loved, but it’s solid oak and has stood the test of time thus far. When we started the creative process of how we wanted to redo our furniture, I couldn’t decide what type of paint I wanted to use. I knew I didn’t want to sand and restain – especially since we were a thousand miles away from my dad’s arsenal of tools (let’s be real, mostly the power sander). Chalk paint is super popular these days, and as much as I love a matte finish on furniture, I chose to go with something else. I used Valspar Furniture Paint in the shade CI198 String of Pearls, a warm off-white. I wanted to brighten up the room and choose a color that gave me the freedom to incorporate personality into the space through other types of decor. String of Pearls was perfect! The Valspar paint was around $24 after military discount from Lowe’s, and was super easy to work with. The nightstand required 2 coats of paint and no prep work!!! I didn’t sand or prime, and the end result was beautiful. Opaque coverage and no brush strokes! I used some antiqued bronze hardware to update the nightstand and give it a fresh look.

 

The armoire was a little trickier – it had a high gloss finish on it to start with, so I did lightly sand the doors and body. It took three coats for even coverage, and I used bronze hardware again to update the pulls and knobs! I wish I would have used a foam roller on this piece, because I think I would have been able to finish it in two coats. I also rehung one of the doors on crooked, so ignore that minor detail for now 😉

I didn’t seal either of these pieces (I strongly recommend that you do!), but I will seal them with polycrylic before we put them in storage. The dresser is still a work in progress, but I think I’m going to paint the body and stain the drawers for a fun two-tone look!

My husband also built a platform bed using plans from Shanty-2-Chic. (I tucked our bedding in so that you could see the frame) It was a super simple plan, and we stained it using Minwax Dark Walnut sealed with polyurethane. When we return stateside we plan to build another bed, but the platform bed has been wonderful for now ☺️ Here is the link to the plans – however, be aware that you will need to adjust the dimensions for a queen or king sized bed!   

In all, it cost us around $120 in materials, hardware, and other supplies to craft a bed and redo some furniture. We got to personalize some sentimental pieces of furniture and saved a lot of money on buying new pieces. I now view our bedroom as a sanctuary, rather than a mismatched place to sleep. It’s cozy and cute and perfect for us! I have some more pieces of furniture that I want to refurbish as statement pieces, so feel free to share any inspo or suggestions you have in the comments ☺️

• Shelbie Layne

When Your Home Isn’t Quite A Home

I wrote this post two weeks ago, but we just recently got wi-fi access so I’m sharing a bit late. As an update, things are going much better and we are happily settling into our new (albeit temporary) home. xx

Ten days ago, my husband and I moved into our new apartment in North Carolina. It’s a modest one bedroom apartment, and since we can’t nail anything to the walls, it doesn’t quite feel like home. But it is. And we’re adjusting. Since we’re moving again in such a short period of a time, I don’t have a job, which is mind-numbingly boring. I am a doer. Unfortunately, for me, the only doing I’ve been doing is the unsung glory of towel-hanging, laundry washing, toilet scrubbing, and, when I’m really bored, alphabetical-spice-organizing. The second full day we were here, my car got towed incorrectly by the slimiest tow company I’ve yet to encounter. In an attempt to not spend on credit, we paid for the majority of the things we needed for the move in cash. Guess what it takes to buy your car back? A few hundred dollars in cash. Of course this happened hours after we paid all of our bills and rent for the month. In an attempt to make our apartment more home-y, my husband tried to hang some things on the walls with command strips, only to find that they stick a little too well to these walls, so we’ve got a couple patches of missing paint as decoration. I suppose we’ll lose some of our deposit. We still don’t have internet access (these are truly first world problems) and our dishwasher overflows into our sink – which conveniently has a broken garbage disposal, and the previous tenants left us a welcoming gift of what appears to be months old steak, that likes to float up the drain every time we run it. It has been difficult to adjust to a phase of life I haven’t yet lived, and to choose happiness in spite of the hiccups we’ve encountered. It has been difficult to put on a smile and pretend I’ve enjoyed the drivel of cleaning and unpacking as I welcome my tired husband home from work, as if I wouldn’t rather be returning from a day of meaningful work myself.

Spending all day at home has given me too much time to think – to analyze, sympathize, and criticize myself. I should have planned better. I should have saved more. I should have cooked this for dinner and said that encouraging word and been this kind of wife today. I’ve been so consumed with the molehills that feel like mountains and the weight of believing I need to be the perfect housewife that I’ve forgotten to simply be content.

And at 3:00 in the morning, as I laid in bed, unable to sleep, I said a prayer of thanks. Because for all of the silly misunderstandings, minor inconveniences, major expenses, and humbling life lessons, my husband has been so graciously supportive and uplifting. With his hands stained black from a hard day at work, still smelling faintly of diesel. With his boots by the door, neatly prepared for another tough day. With his chest rising and falling rhythmically and his body blissfully unconscious, recovering. I wept. I nuzzled into him, and I wept tears of pure thankfulness for this life and this love. For the roof over my head, for the food on my plate, for the keys to my car and for the meager amount of money in my bank account. For a husband who sacrifices a whole hell of a lot, for a family who has graciously shared advice and well wishes, and for friends who have continuously checked in on me throughout the start of this new journey.

My 5 Star Experience With Rent the Runway

I think most military spouses and significant others can relate to the excited anticipation surrounding annual military balls, dine outs, and galas. They can also probably relate to the anxiety of trying to look formal and fashionable on the cheap! There are some women in this world who are willing to shell out a few hundred dollars for the perfect gown, but there are others of us who cry invisible tears of both envy and disgust upon seeing a $299 price tag on ~ the perfect dress ~

I got my prom dress on eBay. I got my senior ball gown on super clearance from SimplyDresses. I’m practically a deal-finding diva. But after scouring the internet, Younkers (or Boston Store to some of you folk), Macy’s, and my friends’ closets, I was exhausted and empty handed. The only dresses I could find in my price range (under or around $100) looked like they were straight out of 1999. And as much as I was excited to party like it was 1999, I didn’t really want to look the part. So then I remembered a commercial I’d seen on TV a while back. Something about renting fancy purses on the interwebs. And then I thought, “HEY! Maybe you can do that with dresses!?!?” And I was right.

RentTheRunway.com is a website full of designer gowns that you can rent for mostly affordable prices. You can filter results by length, formality, color, size, body shape, and probably more things that I’m forgetting. Reviewers can leave photos of themselves wearing the dresses with their personal specs like height, weight, and usual dress size to give prospective renters an idea of how the dress looks in real life. I found this to be invaluable when I was on the hunt for ~ the perfect dress ~. The customer service is great, and stylists will even help you pick out a few options for your event if you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the choices.

Each renting purchase comes with two dress sizes of the same style (in dress bags) in order to ensure you get a perfect fit, free insurance, and return postage. For $30 extra, you can throw in another dress in a different style in case you’re extra indecisive. If none of your dresses fit, they’ll overnight you a new one. Rentals are either for four or eight days. The process is exactly as follows:

  1. Have emotional breakdown about not being able to afford pretty dresses
  2. Log onto Rent the Runway
  3. Find a pretty dress
  4. Rent it
  5. Rock it
  6. Put it in the mail in the prepaid bag on the next business day
  7. Smile because you just saved 15% or more on car insurance you looked amazing in the dress

I scheduled the dress to arrive two days before my event (they recommend one) because I’m a skeptical person by nature, and wanted to have enough time to buy a 1999 dress from Macy’s if necessary. I’m glad I did, because I ended up needing to buy new shoes because the regular length was a little shorter than I was expecting in the particular style I got, and the shoes I brought didn’t really match. No big, because I ended up finding a pair of matching gold heels for $4 at Sears. (I told you I’m a deal-finding diva) They even included a goodie bag in my box with mini beauty products and perfume samples, which I thought was adorable and practical! I don’t know if it was luck that I got it, or what, but it really sealed the deal on my positive experience with the website. I also rented a gorgeous, matching pair of rose gold earrings for an additional $5.

The only cons I can think of are the what-ifs of not being able to try the dress on beforehand, but the website gives clear guidelines on the measurements of each dress, plus the reviews give you an idea of how the dress looks on other people of your body type. I also think the stylists/customer service people can be really useful for determining which sizes and lengths you should rent. I rented a size 4 and size 6 based on the reviews and measurements on the site, and ended up wearing the 4 because it was slightly longer. Overall, I had an amazing experience with Rent the Runway and was able to rock a Badgley Mischka gown with matching earrings for only $72 and change, thanks to a $25 off welcome coupon. I got compliments all night and felt like a million dollars!

I had a great experience with this service and can’t wait to use it again this year!

What I Learned From Being Published on The Huffington Post

In case you missed it, a blog I posted a couple months ago was republished on HuffPost Weddings, as well as a few other websites, and even made an appearance on Reddit. The comments on my actual blog were 99% positive, supportive, and helpful; the comments on the HuffPost article were probably about 70% positive, and then I decided to stop reading them altogether because a lot of them were downright mean, and it’s a little hypocritical to write a blog about people getting their undies in a bundle, only to get my own in a bundle over their opinions.

This has been a huge learning experience for me. My usual blog audience is less than 2,000 people (and that’s on a good day), so when that particular post exploded, I was really overwhelmed. I was getting messages on Facebook from strangers, people in other countries were sending me emails, and I swear for about two weeks I could not go anywhere – in real life or online – without someone bringing up the dang thing. I wrote what was on my mind at the time. It’s my blog. It’s my life, my opinion, blah blah blah. I am always welcoming of differing opinions and carefully consider advice that I receive. But holy crap, I was not prepared for the storm surrounding this post!

I learned that words are very easily misconstrued. I would scroll through a few comments and someone would quote me out of context and call me insecure or childish, or someone would completely misinterpret my wording. It’s hard to interpret what someone’s trying to say without seeing their expression and body language or hearing the inflection in their voice. I’ve also learned that it is human nature to think we know everything. I can’t tell you how many people left comments about how Alex and I must barely know each other after a year, and all I could think to myself was, “A year? Did these people miss the part where we’ve known each other for eight years? Did they even read my post?!” People made assumptions about me having “daddy issues,” being high maintenance, wanting a sugar daddy, only writing the blog to seek attention (which, I would again like to point out that my usual audience is miniscule compared to the audience for that particular post, and I was so overwhelmed with the response that I actually considered deleting it), and about a hundred more completely incorrect things. I learned that people are keyboard warriors. Some people assaulted my character…over a blog post…😨 (Please tell me you find that as confusing as I do) I’ve learned that a lot of people are heartbroken and cynical. I would estimate that roughly 50-60% of all negative comments were from people who self-identified as divorcees (regardless of marrying young or not), most of whom cautioned me against the “impending doom of infidelity.”  I’ve learned that the saying “opinions are like buttholes” is actually true. Everyone has one, and clearly a lot of people disagree with mine. I’ve learned that some people are just downright bored. A person seriously left dozens of jaded comments on HuffPost’s Facebook post. *yawn* I’ve also had the obvious realization that the internet is a very public place. I was pretty taken aback that people actually took the time to search for my name on Facebook just to send me a supportive message.

Most of all, I’ve learned that you can’t please everyone. And I don’t aim to. I try my hardest to be all “idgaf about you or anything that you do,” but on the inside I was still sort of like, “I wish they made band-aids for my ego.” It was challenging to see so many people attack my character, my life, and my writing without really knowing anything about me. That’s the beauty and the curse of the internet. I didn’t write that blog post to change any minds or to get published. I wrote it for myself, to put my intangible thoughts into visible words, to share my feelings with the small community of people who read my blog. And in the end, I still did that.

So, this is it, readers. I’m happy, I’m in love, I’m getting married, and it doesn’t affect your life in the slightest, so whether you’re really excited for me or think I’m a fool, let’s agree to disagree and go about our merry lives.

I’m Getting Married at 22 and Apparently That Upsets People on the Internet

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Photography courtesy of Caitlin Skinner Photography.

A few years ago, I was in a pretty low place. Like, Garth Brooks kind of low place. I was your average college student, facing the stress and rigor of attending school full-time, working, attempting to be social, and trying to swim my way out of an abusive relationship. I was stuck there, in a relationship with someone who I thought I was in love with, who I thought was my soul mate, who I thought would one day tie our daughter’s shoes on her first day of school. I was so convinced that he was the source of my happiness, the one person who really understood me, and the person I would be with forever, that I was blind to his constant manipulation and made excuses for his aggression. One day – and to this day I’m still lost as to how or why – I woke up feeling strong and empowered, so I walked away. I walked away from the mental and physical pain that accompanied that relationship, I prayed to God for the strength to never look back, and I healed. (The healing part was not a one-day process)

I don’t know why things happen the way that they happen, but I like to think that there’s a greater reasoning behind it than simply “because.” What I do know, is that oftentimes, when we let go, stop searching, and leave behind the anchors of pain and despair, we stumble upon what John Green so eloquently describes as “The Great Perhaps.” When I walked away from all of the pain and baggage that I was carrying from my previous relationship, God opened a door for me. He opened a door to a journey that led me to my Great Perhaps.

Facebook is littered with blog posts titled, “10 Reasons Your 20s Are Meant for Exploration,” “23 Things I’d Rather Do Than Get Married at 23,” “Why I Don’t Need to Be Completed by My Significant Other,” et cetera. Relationships are a hot topic among millenials, and social media has exacerbated the desire for user-generated content that makes 20-somethings feel validated in whatever current relationship status they’re in. What I’ve also noticed throughout this sea of viral Facebook posts is also more and more 20-somethings getting engaged and married. This isn’t a new concept – most of us have parents or grandparents who got married young; the difference is, social media and the internet have given everyone the opportunity to voice their opinions on the topic.

Right now, I’m 21, I’m engaged, and I’ll be married at 22 years old. To some people, it’s like “leaving the party at 9pm,” it’s too young, it’s rushing things, it’s [insert other negative comment here]. Those “some people” are internet strangers and my parents. My parents have a right to be concerned about my life choices and future, and I understand their concerns and am thankful to have parents who love me so much that they want the best and happiest life possible. However, I stand by my commitment and I’m not going to change my mind. I’ve read articles that say you can’t possibly know what you want out of life at 21, and that your life experience has not yet prepared you to make wedding vows. Let’s look at traditional wedding vows:

For better or for worse – I think we can all agree that loving people is pretty easy during the “better” part, and it’s when the “worse” comes around that things get tough. Alex and I have seen each other at some pretty low points (details not necessary). Will I see him at worse? Probably. But I have an idea of how he acts when he’s at his lowest, and it’s helped me to understand him better emotionally, so hopefully whenever we face disaster, grief, stress, and pain in the future, I can love him in the best way that I can.

For richer or for poorer – About a year ago, I had $30 to my name, I drained my savings account to pay my rent, and I was attending free lunch and dinner at a neighborhood church twice a week because I genuinely could not afford to buy groceries. The financial stress I was under seriously affected my mental and physical health, and I was in a constant state of panic and anxiety over making sure my bills got paid. Who did I turn to? Alex. He helped me look for a second job, he listened to me cry, he bought me groceries for Valentine’s Day. This period of time really brought us closer as a couple because we didn’t let the misery tear us apart. Conversely, when I was making a lot more money, Alex brought me back down to earth and if I was spending a lot of money, he let me know that he noticed I was spending a lot more and maybe I needed to slow down.

In sickness and in health – Also about a year ago, I was extremely ill. I will spare you the details, but I have never felt so helpless over my own body. I was constantly up in the early hours of the morning writhing in pain on my bathroom floor, and Alex somehow managed to wake up and answer my sobbing phone calls and comfort me on his already limited sleep schedule. He sent me medicine and positive messages, listened to me when I just needed to vent and cry, and supported me through doctor visits. He was there.

To love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part – I promised this a long time ago, and have no intentions of ever going back on it.

I know that people always say I’m at the age where I think I know everything, but I don’t think that changes as you get older. I think people in their 30s and 40s think they know everything as well, and we all learn as we get older. People get divorced in their 20s? People get divorced when they’re 50 too. It’s smarter to save up and be financially sound before you make any commitments? I’m going to be relatively poor at 22 whether I’m married or not. I’d rather spend those years with someone who makes the misery just a little less miserable. Getting married to Alex is going to make me happy, even through the inevitable petty arguments, Ramen Noodle diets, and toilet seats left up. And I would think it’s pretty selfish for anyone to not want me to experience that happiness just because I’m not living my life in the order they think I should live it in, getting married at the age they think I should get married at, or getting married to the person they think I should marry. I’m not going to live my life in fear of divorce or poverty or anything else for the sake of other people, because at the end of the day, it’s my life, my love, my happiness, and I deserve to be in control of those emotions and face the adversity that comes with it on my own.

I don’t need Alex to complete me, I don’t need to backpack through Europe to “find myself,” and I don’t need to date 20 more people to make sure he’s the one. I don’t need to spend the next 5 years getting to know him better. I’ve known him since I was 13 years old, and I get to know him more every day. Being married allows me to get to know him on another level that 5 years of unmarried life won’t give me.

If getting married at 22 is like leaving the party at 9pm, at least I get to go home, put on yogas, plop down on the couch with Alex and watch two hours of Game of Thrones before bed. We’re going to travel together. We’re going to grow together. We’re going to love each other more, and the reasons for which we love each other are going to change over time. We’re going to build a life together. We don’t have any unrealistic beliefs or expectations that marriage is going to be sunshine and rainbows or easy, but so far none of our relationship has been, and it’s made us stronger.Our love alone will not make our marriage successful, but our commitments to each other and our willingness to be a lifelong team will. And I have yet to figure out why that is so offensive to everyone else. If you don’t want to get married until you’re 30 – don’t! If you don’t want to get married ever, then don’t! I think it’s admirable to admit that you’re at a point in your life where you aren’t ready to settle down and you don’t know what you want out of life – or maybe you do know what you want and marriage isn’t it. Better to be honest with yourself and save yourself and others from heartbreak than to commit to something you know you’re not ready for. However, I’m at a point in my life where I’ve decided (after much thought and prayer) that I am ready to make this commitment, and I couldn’t be more excited to do so. And if that upsets you, well then, I’m sorry – sorry that my future marriage is the most pressing thing in your life that you have to be upset over. I will never apologize for my happiness.

xx

Stuck in an Airport ✈



First of all, Lake Michigan looks much better when I’m in an airplane flying over it. Second of all, I am sitting in Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport for what feels like the 500th time, stomach full of Chipotle from the familiar Concourse D location, and I can’t believe that 4 hours from now I will most likely be in the passenger seat of Alex’s car. The last five months have been hard – honestly, though, I think we’ve had harder times apart. Nevertheless, five months apart was emotionally strenuous, equally on our relationships as ourselves. I have been anticipating this trip for so long, that even though I’m on the brink of satisfying my insatiable crave of togetherness, it is surreal. Until my feet are firmly planted on North Carolina soil, hand in Alex’s hand, I will not believe that this is really happening. But holy moly, am I excited.