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Thursday, December 26, 2013

Leftovers

With Christmas day behind you, it's time to think of, that's right, leftovers. Not the leftovers you might be conjuring up, but rather spiritual leftovers. Between the family, food, and fun of the holidays, it can feel as though the day flies by. There are special moments, memories, and feelings associated with the holidays that you might long to keep with you for more than a day. That's where leftovers come in.
On holidays and other special occasions, you often feel your spiritual best. You are moved to give more generously, feel more compassionately, act more kindly, or forgive more easily. Whatever it is about special days in the year, you get in touch with your inner being and take stock of how you can improve yourself, if only for one day. But what if you could bottle up these precious moments and compassionate feelings and take it with you as you plan your wedding or on your life's journey? You might begin to feel as though every day were a special one. You would see your life improve, as well as the relationships with those around you. A simple shift in attitude and mood can do that.
But how, you ask? Leftovers. On the days you feel a spiritual and emotional high and where your life is open to giving, take a moment to soak it up. Breathe it all in and then write it down. Pen the magic of the day; how you felt, the emotions swirling about and then commit to living another day feeling as blessed as you did just then. Put it somewhere close, but safe, so you can refer back to it, keeping those feelings fresh in your mind, body, and soul. It may even be helpful to have a token reminder, like a bracelet or a pin, on you at all times, so the feelings never leave. The holidays come and go, but the spirit of the day doesn't have to, if only you choose to keep it going.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Happy Holidays

Ahhh. The holidays are here at last. It's time to relax and enjoy the season with your loved ones. And while the movies occasionally make the holidays look easy and enjoyable, sometimes it's these moments that prove to be a challenge. Let's face it, when you're in a room full of family members, everybody is going to want to hear how your wedding planning is going. Some of them will want all the details and others may be happy with a simple few, but they will all have an opinion on your decisions and ideas. So give yourself a present this holiday season: enjoy it wedding free.
It's great to be able to talk about your wedding preparations with the ones you love, but you've been doing that since your engagement. And with so much to do, it can be hard to separate yourself from it even briefly. It's important and even necessary to take a break from wedding chatter so you can re-energize and reconnect with the people and the world around you. The holidays are a special time each year, where you have the opportunity to do that.
Taking a vacation from your wedding planning means you have more time to listen to what's happening in other people's lives, to let go, relax and not worry, and to just be in the moment. It means not having to deal with the less than supportive comments that may come with some of your relatives. And if those comments will come, whether you discuss your wedding or not, choose to live above them and not get pulled into their negativity. It's one of the hardest things to do, but putting on your virtual armor and participating in the joy of the holiday instead, will make you a stronger, happier person.
So put down your to-do list and pick up the cookie cutters or play out in the snow. Enjoy the beautiful season, the love around you, and the special moments you can create right now. Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Keeping Family Drama at Bay

Everybody has an emotional history with their family members. It's no different for the bride. Ideally you get along with the majority of your relatives, but occasionally there is someone in the family who gets under your skin. And even if you get along swell with everyone, maybe there is tension between other family members. So what do you do to keep the family on their best behavior on your big day?
Start by discussing your hopes for a happy and peaceful wedding day with the potential "drama makers." Keep in mind your "I statements" from our previous blog. You want to show understanding, but at the same time let them know how important putting aside their differences for your happiness is to you. You might begin a conversation with, "I realize you and Aunt Gertrude don't always get along, but I do hope my wedding will be one filled with happiness, fun, and peace for the entire family." There is no blaming or negativity in that statement. It simply reflects your feelings and wishes.
Next, make sure to arrange the guest seating appropriately. Seat family members who get along well together. But don't put relatives who don't get along on the opposite side of the room if they will feel left out or not part of the family. You want to be respectful, while making them feel comfortable, as well. Also, appoint a wedding day "mediator" to act on your behalf if tensions start to rise. It's best to choose a non-family member or someone who is friendly with both sides. That will help eliminate the "you always side with them," argument and hopefully, keep you out of the mix.
Follow these steps to help reduce the potential for family feuds on your wedding day and then let it go. Ultimately, individuals are responsible for their own decisions and actions, so fretting about what might happen is futile. Enjoy your special day and let someone else worry about extinguishing any drama that might pop up.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Expressing Yourself Effectively

Now that we've gone over the listening aspect of communication, let's turn our attention towards the verbal part. Regardless of who you are communicating with, you want to make certain that you are able to get your point across. To do so, you must speak directly. No beating around the bush or playing a guessing game. Therefore, you have to feel comfortable with the person you are talking to.
Good communication also means being able to speak in a genuine manner, without negativity. It means talking without condescension, blame, anger, or hurt towards another person. You may be feeling some of these things, but that doesn't mean you need to address someone with hostility. It's best not to engage in conversation if you don't have your emotions in check. Give yourself some time before approaching a difficult topic, so that you can communicate rationally and respectfully. So, how do you approach your mother who insists on you planning your wedding the way she wants it? Or your fiance who isn't as involved as you'd like him to be? Or your photographer who isn't returning your calls in a timely manner? For starters, realize that it is okay to feel angry, hurt, frustrated, and any other number of emotions. But channel some of these emotions through positive activities, like exercising or cleaning. Then sit down and think about how you can communicate your feelings properly.
The idea of using "I" statements is not a new one, but it's an important one. When you are in disagreement with someone, turn to your "I" statements and express your feelings. For instance, in the example above, you might say to your mother, "I feel frustrated because I am not able to plan my wedding the way I want to," instead of "You always have to control everything, don't you?!" Or maybe you tell your fiance, "I'm disappointed. I thought we would make some of these decisions together." That is a much better expression than, "You never want to help. You don't understand or know what I'm dealing with."  Using "I" statements helps the other person understand what you are feeling and keeps you from blaming or putting them down. It also keeps the other person from having to be on the defensive, which typically occurs if you use "You" statements.  While this, along with watching your body language and showing empathy, is just the beginning of a lifelong journey of effective communication, it will definitely start you on the right foot.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Art of Listening

In keeping with the theme from the last post, part of communication means being a good listener. A good listener is able to sit and truly hear what another person is saying. That means you can accurately restate or summarize what your partner, for example, shared with you. Having to listen without interrupting, commenting, or offering your side of the story is challenging, especially in moments when you disagree. But doing so, not only helps you hear another person's thoughts and feelings, it also allows the other person to share their ideas safely, without feeling threatened. This is an important skill in any relationship. Keep in mind too that the best listening means free of distractions from phones, computers, etc. So if you're having an important conversation, unplug for the duration, so you can give each other your full attention.
It is also important to listen to yourself speak. Have you ever had those moments when you said something and then think to yourself, "why on earth did I say that?" Everybody has them. Thinking about what you are going to say and formulating the best way to state it, is critical in conversation. Of course, it's best to fully listen to what the other person has to say, so you know you "get it," before thinking about your response. We'll discuss the best ways to express yourself in the next blog. The part to remember here, is that you need to listen to yourself and how you speak. From there, decide what it is you can change in order to communicate better.
Listening skills will help you in all your relationships, not just with your fiance. Whether you are communicating with family, friends, or wedding professionals, accurate listening will serve you well. So when your officiant tells you the order of the ceremony or what to expect, listen, and then, rephrase what you heard back to her. This way you know you understood what she meant and that you're on the same page. Start practicing this with your wedding vendors, so that you feel more confident in the planning process.

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Essentials of Good Communication

Good communication is the hallmark of all strong relationships. That means having the ability to both listen effectively to your partner and express your feelings, wants, and needs to each other. Both of these skills are essential to understanding and knowing what each of you desire in your relationship. Working on communication skills is a lifelong process. There may be days you are better at it than others, but if you pay careful attention to how you communicate, you can learn to improve it.
Any time is a good time to begin working on self-expression and listening. And now that you're engaged, it offers more of an incentive to ensure you both start off on the right foot. According to best selling author and psychiatrist, David Burns, three things foster good communication: 1) having the ability to openly and directly express your feelings 2) having the ability to listen non-defensively when your partner talks 3) having the ability to treat each other respectfully, even if you disagree or are angry or frustrated.
Take a moment to think about your relationship and maybe a recent conversation or disagreement you had with your significant other. Consider these three attributes of good communication. How successful were you at them? Did you feel comfortable expressing yourself honestly to your partner? Were you direct in what you wanted or  did you simply hint at ideas, hoping he might just "get it"? When your fiance spoke, did you listen attentively to what he had to say? Did you find yourself disagreeing, interrupting, or using negative body language, like rolling your eyes or folding your arms? Finally, were you able to have a conversation, even if you disagreed, in a peaceful manner and safe environment, without feeling threatened physically or emotionally? Analyzing your conversation style is the first step to understanding where change needs to occur.
Change doesn't happen over night and is something that takes time and effort. You also have to be willing to consider yourself as part of the problem. Remember that there are always two people in a relationship. Blaming or trying to change others is much less effective than working on yourself and improving your ability to communicate, both as a speaker and a listener. And the better you become, the stronger your relationship will be.
Recommended Reading: Feeling Good Together, by David D. Burns, MD, 2008

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Staying Positive

Now that you're engaged, you might find that with so much on your plate, there are days you feel low energy and zapped of your motivation. So what can you do to stay inspired and keep a positive mindset? One good practice is creating and reciting positive affirmations. Affirmations are short positive self-statements. Using these statements helps you focus on the things you want most while planning your wedding or on the big day itself.
Examples of affirmations for the bride include:
  • I am a beautiful bride
  • I feel calm and confident as I plan my wedding
  • I am creating a memorable wedding with the resources I have
  • My wedding day is as wonderful as I imagine it
  • I surround myself with people who support my wedding day dreams
The affirmations you create are specific to your needs and situation. Simply write them in the positive and stated in the present tense. Reciting them daily keeps you focused on where you want your energy to be. It is not necessarily "convincing" yourself of something you are not; rather it is shifting your attention to the emotional or physical state you want to be in. Such self-statements reminds you to take the action you need to make your affirmation a reality. A note on affirmations: they work well if you are having a minor setback, but in general have good self-esteem and emotional health. If you struggle with esteem issues or suffer from depression or excessive anxiety, it's best to seek out professional help to ensure you're on the right path towards healing.

Monday, December 2, 2013

On Second Marriages

Marriage is as unique as the person you decide to wed. So whether this is your first marriage or the second time around, your wedding is meant to be meaningful and memorable just the same. If this is your second marriage, look inside to see how you and your life has changed. Your tastes may have shifted and your ideas for a wedding may be completely different from your previous marriage. Maybe you prefer something smaller or more spiritual, or perhaps you're considering a destination wedding. Whatever your thoughts, remember to get your groom's opinion, as well.
If this is your second wedding and your fiance's first, you may think he wants a big affair to remember. And while that is a possibility, it's just as plausible he would be happy with an intimate gathering of family and close friends. It's important not to try and "mind read" here. Some brides may feel compelled to go all out with a big wedding party since he hasn't experienced it in the past. They might feel he deserves it or should have this grand event that every bride dreams of, even if they don't care to have another fancy celebration. A good rule of thumb is not to assume you know what's best for your groom.
Talk to your fiance about your wedding plans. Tell him what you had in the past and what your thoughts are on your upcoming nuptials. Then see what his ideas are. Instead of asking if your fiance wants this or that, ask open ended questions. Ask him to describe his perfect wedding day or what his hopes and dreams are to make it memorable, happy, and fun. Then try and work together on creating a day you both will find special and unique to your union together.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Guest Blogger- Kaitlyn Morris: Getting the Best "Hair" for your Wedding Day

Our guest blogger today is hairstylist, Kaitlyn Morris, who services Richmond, Charlottesville, and the surrounding Virginia areas.
When you think about having the best hair for your wedding day, do you think about the style or the condition? Most would jump to style, but you should be thinking about the condition of your hair first. To have your style look the best on your special day, you need to have your hair in "tip top" shape. This is not something you rush two weeks before the wedding, it's something you plan 6-8 months before the wedding. Let's talk about a few things you can do to improve your hair's health.
Pregame: First, you need to think about how you will wear your hair. You can't go wrong with growing it out, but make sure you still trim the ends. With some styles you need the length to make it work. You can always cut it after the wedding. To keep your hair healthy for your upcoming wedding get trims every three months. Ask your stylist to cut a 1/2 inch off or one month's growth.  That’s the key to growing your hair and keeping it healthy.
Healthy Hair, Happy Bride: Think about what you put into your body. You are what you eat and so is your hair. Make sure to include some of these foods in your diet as you prepare for your big day: Salmon is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. Dark green veggies are a good source of Vitamin C and A, so get as much as you can. And almonds are a good source of Zinc. Working these foods into your diet not only benefits your hair but also your skin. You will be glowing in no time!
Products, Products, Products: You know that feeling when you buy any off brand items? You somehow can always tell the difference from the name brand. Shampoo and conditioner are the same way. Go the professional route and buy products from a salon, since professional products are only guaranteed if they are sold in a salon. Your hair will thank you.
Have your hair colored about 1 1/2 to 2 weeks before the wedding. That gives your hair enough time to "settle" so it still looks fresh, and natural. I would recommend holding off on changing your hair dramatically until after the wedding. You might think you will love adding low-lights to your platinum hair, but if you have never done it before, don't take the chance. If you decide you don't like it and try lightening it back up, you risk damaging your hair. So wait and make a big change AFTER you are married.
You also don't have to just do treatments in the salon, do them at home as well.  Products like "It's a 10 Miracle Hair Mask" and "Pureology Hydracure Intense Moisture Masque" are two of my favorite hair treatments. These simple treatments will not even make your daily "getting ready" time longer. When you shower, put the mask on, shave your legs while it sets. Rinse it out when you're done and you're on your way to healthier hair! The more time you have to leave it in the better, but whatever time you spend in the shower once or twice a week will do just fine.
Trial and Trial Again: Have a trial. When you do, see if you can schedule it around a day you will be active, like going to a party or a night out with the girls. This way you can get a good idea of how it will hold up for the reception. Have pictures ready of hairstyles you are thinking of. It makes it easier on your stylist to know ahead of time what you are looking for. If you don't like the results, repeat. You need to have confidence in your hair choices for your wedding day, so it's one less thing to worry about.
Your Special Day: One last tip: If you can avoid washing your hair the day of, do so. The cleaner the hair is, the more curls and pins tend to slide out. We don't want your hair dirty, so "second day" hair will do and you will appreciate the end result much more. That’s it. Apply these steps for your wedding day and your hair will look fantastic!
Kaitlyn Morris is a hairstylist in Richmond, VA and services Richmond, Charlottesville, and the surrounding areas. She specializes in Bridal hair, prom and homecoming hair, and children's hair. She can be contacted by phone at (804) 839-6931 or at KaitlynMorrisCreates@gmail.com

Monday, November 25, 2013

Home for the Holidays

The holidays are a wonderful time of the year to share in traditions or create new ones. Where you spend them makes them all the more meaningful. Now that you're engaged, you may wonder where you will be celebrating this year and for years to come. Families celebrate holidays differently, so it's a good idea to talk to your fiance about his traditions and vice versa. Learning from each other about your past holiday experiences, what you enjoy about them, what you definitely want to keep doing, or what new traditions you would like to start practicing is an important conversation to have. It will help you understand each other's needs better and may also give you a clue as to where you might end up celebrating the holidays.
Both families will likely want you to visit during certain holidays. So how do you choose? In addition to knowing how each of you feel, try to understand each family, as well. Who you will spend various times of the year with will depend on geographic location, finances, work schedule, family and social commitments, and other factors. It can be challenging, but attempting to celebrate with both families at some point during the year will be appreciated respectively. If that's not possible, alternating visits yearly with each side for different holidays is another possibility. And yet another, may be inviting family to spend a holiday with you, as you and your future husband begin new traditions together. Mutually deciding on how and where you will celebrate is key to your holiday happiness. Explaining to your parents or future in-laws about your holiday plans is equally important. Let them know your reasoning and how important they are to you regardless of where you will be.  Plus, you can practically be in the same room via Skype or other video conferencing, send special gifts, or be creative in other ways to include family. Remember that with the right mindset and a bit of creativity, you can experience meaningful moments wherever you are.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Guest Blogger- My Hotel Wedding: 5 Reasons a Hotel Wedding will 'De-stress' Your Life

Our Guest blogger today is Lauren, from My Hotel Wedding, your one-stop site for seamless hotel wedding planning!
Here are the top 5 Reasons why a hotel wedding will de-stress your life:
1) Convenience - Hotel weddings bring everyone together in one place! Your guests only have to worry about finding their way to the hotel, where everything from the ceremony to the reception will take place. And to top it off, at the end of the night, no designated driver needed. Expecting a lot of out of towners? Choosing a centrally located hotel makes it easier for guests who may not be familiar with your wedding city to get around and sight see. AND who doesn’t like one big sleepover with their favorite family and friends? EXACTLY, we all do!
2) Hotel Staff - Everyone at a hotel wants to make your wedding day special, from the front desk to housekeeping to everyone in between. At the right hotel, they can make you feel like a VIP from the moment you step in the door, to your departure the following morning. Whether they send you special treats or upgrade your hotel room, there are tons of special touches that you only receive at a hotel wedding.
3) Steamer, toothpaste, sewing kit, no problem! – Hotels have EVERYTHING at their fingertips! Whether you forgot your toothpaste or your wedding dress is wrinkled, hotels can make magic happen. I once had a wedding at my hotel where a guest’s halter dress broke. No worries, I said, we have a seamstress on site! So we took a stroll to the ladies room and did some DIY on her dress, which lasted the whole night.
4) Transportation no more – No need to worry about hiring a bus to go from here to there and back again. With everything in one place, people only have to bring their dancing shoes!
5) Fun – Hotels are fun! No noise complaints from neighbors and most times you can party till midnight or later. At the right hotel for you, you’ll bond with your catering manager and the staff.  So it’s like hosting a big party with your family and friends, who are all working together to make your wedding day perfect.
See, weddings don’t have to be stressful. By picking the right hotel and team you’ll be able to kick back and truly enjoy your special day!
My Hotel Wedding is your one-stop site for seamless hotel wedding planning! For more information, visit their website at www.myhotelwedding.com or contact Lauren at lauren@myhotelwedding.com.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Bride and Groom Unite

Now that you're engaged, you will come to realize that everybody is about to start offering you advice. From where and when to get married to what to wear and who to hire, family and friends will have an opinion. If you are open to the many words of wisdom, great! Grab a pen and paper and start taking notes. At some point though, you may begin feeling overloaded with information. That's when things get a bit fuzzy and you're not sure whose advice to follow or why you decided to listen to everyone in the first place.
If you're starting to feel overwhelmed by all the well meaning suggestions, try not giving it too much attention. The next time someone offers you advice, thank them and change the conversation to something else you'd rather talk about. If they are persistent, offer your appreciation and let them know you have already taken care of it or will give their ideas some consideration, if that's the case. You can even let them know that, as it happens, today is your 'day off' from wedding planning talk. Everybody needs a break, right?!
Once you've made some wedding decisions, stick to them. Don't let someone's negative reaction get under your skin. This is when it's time to call in the cavalry, aka your groom. Presenting a united front with your groom gives you support and makes it harder for others to argue against. So if your best friend can't understand why you chose not to use her brother as a photographer, tell her you and your fiance looked at many options and after much discussion decided on someone else. Always show appreciation for their recommendations, but be firm once you've made a decision. No need for explanations either. Make sure your fiance is in the know and on the same page as you in case your friend decides to approach him on the matter too. The important point is that making an argument for your choices together is stronger than making one on your own. And for various reasons, sometimes hearing the decision from your other half makes the news easier to swallow and less of a sticking point.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Guest Blogger- Allison Williams: You'll Want Engagement Photos, Here's Why.

Our guest blogger today is Richmond, VA natural light photographer, Allison M. Williams.
You're freshly engaged! Congratulations! So, what now? What type of wedding do you want? Have you set a date? Have you started looking for the perfect dress? So many questions!! First, slow down and take some time with your fiancĂ© to dream a little and enjoy the new reality -- that soon you will be embarking on an exciting new adventure, together.
Now is the perfect time to have some engagement portraits done. There's nothing sweeter than fresh, new, exhilarating love. Pick your favorite spot -- that has special meaning to you as a couple. Perhaps the place you went on your first date, where he asked you to be his wife or a special place you've been meaning to visit together. It'll be something fun to do together before the wedding planning goes into full gear -- and there are many ways to use the photos throughout your personal 'wedding season.'
Save the date cards! If you plan on sending them, it's nice to showcase yourselves on your cards. It adds a personal touch and gives a warm, fuzzy feeling to the recipient -- making them all that much more excited to help you celebrate your wedding day!
Newspaper announcement! If you choose to include a couples picture in the paper, you'll have many favorites to choose from!
Framed gifts for the parents! Either at the time of the wedding, or a special occasion or holiday before your wedding, your parents and future in-laws would love to have prints to commemorate this time in your lives!
The program! Some couples choose to incorporate their photos into the cover of their program or a small image on the back if they offer a thank you to their wedding vendors, attendants and guests for helping make their special day so special!
Reception slide show or framed and featured in the reception hall! Some reception venues have a large screen or television and you could choose to incorporate your engagement photos (and also photos from childhood, if you like) and create a slideshow to play through all or part of your reception. Another option would be to frame and display the photos on a banquet table or as part of the centerpiece decor at your guest's tables.
Matted and framed 'guest book' alternative! Many couples are choosing a favorite engagement photo and making it the center of their 'guest book.' At the reception an oversized matte is in lieu of a guest book and guests can sign and leave well wished for the newlyweds all around the picture! It is then a great piece to put in your home!
Wedding favors! Some brides get creative with their favors! Sometimes small framed prints are given -- and sometimes wrappers with the bride and grooms face are made and wrapped around chocolate bars! The options are boundless!
Thank you cards! Often, brides want to include an actual wedding picture in their thank you notes, but sometimes they finish their cards before they get their wedding day images back from the photographer. Simply planning to use the engagement session photos can be helpful.
And, don't forget to display them in your home together!! Having your engagement session photos on the wall and on tabletops is a nice reminder of that magical, blissful time right after getting engaged -- the carefree time spent dreaming about your future together.
Allison Williams is a wife, mother and natural light photographer in Richmond, Virginia.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Setting the Date

It's the day you've longed for since before you can remember. It will be one of the most memorable occasions you celebrate. And now it's time to choose the perfect date for your wedding. If only it were that simple. At first glance, it might seem easy. Select the day that works best for you and your fiance, right? Think again. Your parents, siblings, future in-laws, extended family, friends and others will give you their input too. And what once was the best day ends up being anything but, because your Aunt Susie will be on a cruise, your future brother-in-law has another wedding, and your best friend is having a baby then. You get the idea.
Choosing a wedding date can be challenging, once you check in with everybody. So know right from the start that you cannot please everybody all of the time. Trying to will make you a very unhappy bride. There are bound to be people who wish you chose a different date or who won't be able to make it. Your job is to make sure the people who absolutely have to be there (i.e., they are in your wedding party, you couldn't imagine your wedding without, etc.), can be there.  Once you and your fiance pick a date, run it by your "must have guest list." If you're fortunate, there will be no conflicts of interest and you'll be good to go. If not, you may have to look at alternate dates and choose a runner up.
The hardest part ends up being communicating your choice date with an unhappy guest. Be honest, but empathetic. Inform them how you understand how disappointed they are, but the date you chose worked best for your wedding for XYZ reasons. You can also mention how you will miss having them there, but hope to be able to celebrate with them on future occasions. You might ask, if it's possible they make even part of the ceremony or reception. Whatever their response, at some point you need to let it go. Don't let guilt get in the way and bring you down. Once you've decided on a date, stick with it and move forward with planning your wedding.

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Importance of Gratitude

It’s important for you and those around you that you find time to take a breather and be thankful for everything you have. Some people tend to focus on what they are lacking, instead of what they already possess. They focus on the “have-nots” in life. It can come in the form of statements like, “I don’t have enough money to pay for this wedding” or “I don’t have the energy to exercise today.” It can also manifest in the actions you do or don’t do. For example, you choose to binge on sugary comfort foods because you think you’ll never have the figure of your friend, who is sure to look stunning in her gown. In this case, you compare yourself to someone else and what they have, instead of focusing on your own unique qualities. If you constantly dwell on what you don’t have, you are more likely to feel sad or depressed. You are also less likely to attract what you need into your life because you are not looking for it, since your attention is elsewhere.
Being in a grateful state of mind, means shifting your thoughts to the things you do have. You can be thankful for the money you have to pay for most of what you want, for the energy to get through another day’s work, even though it may not have included exercise, or for the curves in your body that your fiancĂ© loves. Strive to keep these things in the forefront of your mind. It will prevent you from falling into the “have not” category. Developing an attitude of gratitude gently reminds you that there is always something to appreciate, be it large or small. And even in difficult situations, there is usually something to learn and grow from and therefore, be thankful for.
To help you achieve a gracious mindset, begin keeping a gratitude journal, where you can write down all the things you are thankful for daily. Or if that becomes too time consuming, simply list five things you are grateful for each day. I borrowed this practice from best selling author and coach, Cheryl Richardson. It's a quick, easy and uplifting practice. So, what are you grateful for today?

Friday, November 8, 2013

Guest Blogger- Rev. Phyllis Ann Min: Choosing an Officiant that Fits You

Our guest blogger today is Rev. Phyllis Ann Min, a non-denominational wedding officiant in Richmond, VA and serving the surrounding areas.
So you don’t belong to a church or have a clergy friend who can perform your ceremony… so who will do the honor?  Who will be a good match with your style, beliefs, or traditions and then be able to enhance your ceremony with their eloquent delivery?  Seems a little detective work is in order.
Choosing an officiant is a personal choice.  It does not need to be complicated if you know what you want in an officiant.  This person is participating with you at a very memorable time in your life and needs to be someone you feel comfortable with and connect with.  That is the bottom line!
There are several other features to assist your decision-making as to whom officiates.  It does not matter what size or type of ceremony you are planning: casual, themed, unorthodox, classic or traditional, indoors or out in nature. Your officiant is the key person who is to create a wonderful feeling and delivery of your meaningful ceremony.  If possible, interview a few officiants in person.  Meanwhile, examine what is important to you while considering these helpful key questions:
  • Do you feel comfortable with her/him in your initial meeting?  Let your intuition (gut feeling) guide you.
  • Does the officiant show interest in learning about you, who you are, and have a friendly nature?  Do they share things about themselves so you can see them as a person? Do you feel relaxed with them?  Are they a good listener?
  • Do you enjoy this person who will be performing your ceremony?  Do you like their humor?  Wit? Calmness?  Smile?
  • Is the officiant interested in meeting your parents/family? (It is proper for the officiant to be introduced to your parents at the rehearsal, especially if they never met.)  Can they interact well and socialize with the parents, family members, and friends? Is this officiator understanding and sensitive when it comes to religious customs and family issues?
  • Will you have some freedom or input in creating your ceremony with this officiant?  If you want something unique or non-traditional in your ceremony, can that officiant be adaptive, creative, and even helpful to you in expressing those ideas?
  • Will they let you write your own vows?  Include your favorite prayer or readings?  If personalizing the ceremony, will they offer choices/ideas of various elements for consideration to enrich your ceremony? Can you comfortably discuss your preference for a secular or non-secular ceremony?
  • Do they require pre-marital counseling?  If so, how do they work with couples to establish compatibility and self-awareness of one‘s behavior on pertinent issues for a successful marriage?
  • Does the officiant give you a sense of confidence in their knowledge and abilities in all aspects relating to the ceremony?  Do they demonstrate professionalism and sincerity?  Are they well organized and cover details?  Do you like their overall presentation?  Are they articulate?  Do they communicate well with you and others? Do you want a person who is experienced and can easily handle last minute changes?
  • Do they conduct the rehearsal efficiently in a relaxed, orderly manner? Are they clear on instructions or suggestions to make the rehearsal flow easily?
  • Does the officiant work well with musicians/DJ, photographers, and wedding planners?  Can the officiant offer such referrals if asked?
  • Does the officiant have a back-up in case of emergency?
  • Does the officiant have a sense of spirituality or sacredness that you respect?
Answering these questions will help you understand the qualities you are looking for in an officiant. And knowing what’s important to you, be it someone who exudes a feeling of enthusiasm, love, and joy or someone you feel a heart to heart connection with, will help you choose the one who will be standing in front of you on your wedding day. Best wishes!
For more information on Rev. Phyllis Ann Min, you may contact her by phone at (804) 353-9127 or by email at phylliswithjoy@aol.com. You can also visit her website www.phylliswithjoy.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/weddingswithrevphyllis

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Honesty Speaking

Your mother hands you her wedding gown and says she would love for you to wear it down the aisle. She’s been saving it for this very day. You think, it’s a nice gesture, but so out of style! How do you be honest without making her feel bad?
“Honesty is the best policy,” or is it? Honesty is the ability to be frank with others and yourself. Being honest in a gentle, friendly manner works best. So you let your mother know you appreciate her offer and that the gown was beautiful on her. You, on the other hand, have a different taste and picture wearing a dress that’s XYZ. Just as she may have enjoyed choosing her dress, you want to have the same experience. Invite her along to share in these special moments. This is your wedding and you want to make decisions you are happy with. It’s also a joyous time so you don’t want to hurt anyone else’s feelings either. The best way to be honest is to relay information face to face. Emails or phone conversations can make it harder to get your message across. It can also lead to misinterpretation. When you talk to someone in person, you can see body language and emotions and tweak your conversation as you go. The opposite is also true. The other party gets to see your feelings and you can show them that their ideas are important to you, but may not suit your wishes at this time.
Being honest with yourself also means not giving into other people’s wishes just because you don’t want them to feel bad. Unless you see a greater advantage in sacrificing your own needs for someone else’s, don’t cheat yourself out of happiness. That means having the courage to let your florist know you were looking for something different if you’re not happy with the trial centerpieces. Or finding a new hair stylist if yours insists you’ll be happier wearing your hair down, when you have always dreamed of wearing it up. It’s not always easy being honest with someone else or yourself, especially if you’re thinking the other person is the expert so he’s probably right. Usually there is no right or wrong in these cases. It’s a matter of opinion. Find a way to work together to achieve a viable solution for all sides through honesty and integrity. And make sure to check in with yourself too and ask if this is what you honestly want.

Monday, November 4, 2013

So Your Fiance Doesn't Want to Talk Color Scheme, Now What?!

You got engaged, celebrated, and now it's time to get to work planning your wedding. Suddenly, as you dive in to your wedding preparations, you begin to feel as if you are doing most everything and your fiance is just not interested in helping. It may even feel like he doesn't care. So how do you get him more involved?
Not surprisingly, this situation comes up many times. In general, women are the ones who do a lot of the hard work when it comes to planning a wedding. It doesn't mean that your fiance doesn't care or isn't interested in the wedding details. Let's just call it part of nature. Some men enjoy being part of all the decision making and some men don't. So relax; it usually has little to do with your relationship with each other.
If it's truly making you feel bad, talk to him. Tell him how you feel and see what he says. If choosing flowers and picking out a color scheme is not his thing, then respect that. Share your desire to plan the wedding together, but show understanding if he's not interested in all the details. Ask him what parts he would like to be involved in and work on those together. Better he enjoy that time with you, then spend hours upset because he feels forced into doing something he'd rather not be doing. And just because your fiance may not be making some wedding decisions, doesn't mean you can't share your choices with him afterwards. Agree on a day during the week where you can update him on the progress you're making to create a special day for you both. This way, you can feel like you are planning together. Plus, if you made a wedding day decision he doesn't care for, your fiance might just realize the benefits of taking a more active role if he wants some say!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Creating a Wedding Day Mentality

It's here. The moment you've been waiting for: your wedding day. The excitement is in the air. Your venue looks beautiful, your dress fits perfectly, your hair and make-up leaves you glowing. It's exactly as you had hoped. Everything is going smoothly until....
You can fill in the blank with just about anything you can think of. Your centerpiece is missing, your gown tears while dancing, the best man doesn't show up, the flower girl doesn't quite make it down the aisle, extra guests you didn't plan for arrive unexpectedly, and the list goes on and on. You can't expect to plan for every possible thing that could go wrong, but you can decide how you want to respond. It's easy to get flustered when things don't go according to plan.  Practice ahead of time, how you want to feel and act on your wedding day. Ideally, you want to be calm, confident, and happy. That's hard to do if you're too concerned with little things that don't go as you planned. Make an effort to put your enjoyment at the forefront of your mind. Assign someone else, if you haven't already, to step in and take care of unexpected issues. Learn to laugh off minor setbacks and focus on your groom, the love surrounding you and the reason you're getting married in the first place. That is what's most important. Also, what you notice your guests might not. So refrain from putting your attention where you don't want it. Keep it centered on the happy and positive things and that's what your guests will remember.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Finding Your Wedding Dress Without the Stress

This article is inspired by a recent #WeddingMarket Twitter chat I was fortunate enough to be a part of, that featured Say Yes to the Dress star Randy Fenoli. Searching for your perfect wedding gown is one of the most exciting parts of planning your wedding. You've seen so many pictures of beautiful brides and now it's your turn to find the "one" and truly become a princess for the day! But finding a dress can be overwhelming. Many brides visit multiple bridal shops, sift through tons of wedding gowns, and try on more than a dozen before they narrow it down to the final one. Seeing so much white can even cloud your vision of what kind of dress you came in looking for in the first place. You don't want the stress of finding the right dress to bog you down, because trying on dresses is fun! So here are some tips, to help make your wedding gown shopping less stressful and more enjoyable.
For starters, know where you want to go. Select several bridal salons and schedule visiting them on a given date. Make sure to get an appointment, so the bridal sales staff there can set aside time for you. Without an appointment, you might be on your own, and with so much to look through, you'll lose valuable time and may not get to see what might actually be a great fit for you.  Next, know what you want to wear. If there is a dress style you love and have always dreamed of wearing, gather images to take with you on your shopping trip. Show the sales staff what you're looking for, including cut, fabric, and design, so they can help you focus on finding a gown you would like.  Know how much you can afford to spend on your dress too. Sticking to your price range will narrow down what you need to try on and will reduce your financial stress.
It's also important that you are comfortable in your own skin or you won't be happy with whatever you purchase. Learn to love yourself, your shape, your size, or start making some changes now to help you feel better about yourself. All brides are beautiful. Look around and notice real women of all shapes and sizes who have been brides. This can help you put your feelings into perspective and know that you too will look gorgeous on your wedding day. Beginning a daily, "I am a beautiful bride" affirmation will also help remind you of this if you start to doubt yourself or your looks. Finally, as Mr. Randy Feloni says "buy a dress that makes you feel the most beautiful. You'll wear it more confidently." Definitely take those words with you when dress shopping!
For more on wedding dress shopping and what you'll want to take with you to the bridal boutique, here's a nice article by Chelsea Underwood, owner of Pretty in Pink Events, as featured on The Bridal Hotlist: http://bridalhotlist.com/wedding-dress-shopping-checklist-seven-must-have-items-3013717/

Friday, October 25, 2013

Guest Blogger- Jay Congdon: Creating a Memorable Wedding Reception with Your Music

Our guest blogger today is Jay Congdon, President of Fourth Estate Audio, a professional Chicago DJ and Chicago Wedding DJ company since 1965.
There are several ways you can personalize your wedding reception entertainment to your individual tastes, and provide some memorable moments for your guests. Here are just a few for your consideration.

  • Love Songs to the Bride and Groom Typically, your reception guests will clink their glasses together, to get the two of you to kiss. Instead, some couples ask their DJ to make an announcement that anyone who wants the bride and groom to kiss, must sing them a line or two from a song with the word "love" in it. The guest's entire table rises together and sings. Sometimes, they come up with some very creative songs that give everyone a good laugh.
  • Choreograph Your First Dance If you have the time and the inclination, you may wish to take ballroom dancing lessons together, and dazzle your guests with a rehearsed performance. Be sure the bridal gown is cut to accommodate such a dance. Start your lessons about 3 months before your wedding. Keep the song to 3 minutes or less if you can. Be sure your DJ has the right version of the song; and tell him in advance how you'll alert him that it's time to start the song. His cue can be something as simple as a nod of your head.
  • Dollar Dance The bride and groom begin a slow dance together, then the guests are invited to cut in and dance briefly with either the bride or groom, for a dollar (though a smart DJ will remind the guests that there's nothing wrong with 10's or 20's). Sometimes it takes two or three songs for everyone to get a chance to dance with the bride or groom. People can either pin their money to the bride's gown if someone provides straight pins, or the Best Man and Maid of Honor can collect the money. It's a nice way to give the newlyweds a little slush fund as they head off for their honeymoon.
  • Anniversary Dance All married couples are invited to join the bride and groom on the dance floor. A slow song starts. After a few seconds, the DJ asks all couples who've been married less than 5 years to leave the dance floor. A few seconds later, all couples married 10 years or less must leave. Eventually, the couple married the longest remains alone on the dance floor, and a big cheer goes up as the DJ tells the newlyweds, "Here are your role models."
  • "Soul Train" Two parallel lines of dancers form at opposite sides of the dance floor, and couples take turns dancing down the middle, just as they did on "Soul Train." It's a great way to get everyone involved in the dancing.
  • Conga Line
    The bride and groom lead the way, and the line forms behind them, with each person putting his/her hands on the waist of the person in front of him/her. Popular songs for a Conga line include "Hot Hot Hot," "Party Train," "C'mon & Ride It," and of course, "Conga." Always a nice photo op.
  • Line Dances
    People love dances that they know. And there are plenty of line dances that we've all seen a million times -- "Electric Slide," "Cha Cha Slide," "Macarena," "YMCA," "Chicken Dance," "Cupid Shuffle," "Gangnam Style" and so forth. Even if you absolutely hate every one of them, please don't spoil it for your guests. Even if they don't normally like to dance, they'll be on the dance floor for the line dances, and their inhibitions and spirits will be lifted. Remember, your reception is a party you throw for your friends. Let them have a good time, too. You can always tell your DJ not to play any line dances unless someone requests them. But putting them off-limits denies your guests some wonderful bonding moments.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A Bride's Bill of Rights

I've decided that as brides, you need a bill of rights so you can feel good about yourself and plan your wedding successfully. To do both, you have to be confident within and with your decisions. Sometimes it also means protecting yourself from outside pressures or inner anxiety. Having a guideline to refer back to can help you set good boundaries. Here are some important ones I came up with, but please feel free to add your own too. Let me know what you else should be on this list and I'll revise it with the additions and hopefully get it printed up as a keepsake and reminder for brides!  But for now, go ahead and print this one off and keep it somewhere you can read daily.
Bride's Bill of Rights
  • I have the right to be a happy bride.
  • I have the right to ask for help.
  • I have the right to say "no" if I'm feeling overwhelmed.
  • I have the right to make time to care for myself.
  • I have the right to work with professionals I like and feel comfortable with.
  • I have the right to share my wedding day details, hopes, and dreams only with those who support me.
  • I have the right to terminate a working relationship if it's not a good fit.
  • I have the right to make decisions without feeling guilty or pressured.
  • I have the right to stop worrying about things I cannot control.
  • I have the right to remove myself from family or friendship drama.
  • I have the right to laugh, cry, and express other emotions I might be feeling.
  • I have the right to set aside non-wedding related days.
  • I have the right to have a life outside of wedding planning.
  • I have the right to follow my own trends and make my wedding uniquely mine.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Politics and Relationships

Monday Musings:How does politics fit into your relationship? Are you conservative, moderate, or liberal? Do you and your partner share the same political views? Does it matter to you? Some individuals have strong political beliefs, while others aren't as passionate. How you feel about these things can determine how you vote, what causes you might contribute to, and even where you decide to live or what people you associate with. Understand each of your views and know how it fits in your relationship. You may decide when and where having political conversations are acceptable, for instance. Maybe you prefer not to talk politics during social gatherings or with friends who have different viewpoints, because sometimes what begins as an innocent conversation can turn into a heated argument. Regardless of your ideas or affiliation, discussing your political views ahead of time will help you understand how big a role it will play in your new life together and what other decisions it might affect.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Meditation 101

Personal reflection, concentrated breathing, finding inner awareness and peace of mind. However you define it, meditation is a practice that allows you to quiet your mind and learn to be still amid the bustling world around you. The neat thing about it, is that it's free and open to anybody willing to try. All it takes is time and practice, and the payoff is hugely rewarding.
Meditation and guided imagery, which essentially is going on a meditative journey while visualizing various images, is known to have many positive effects. Practicing meditation and guided imagery can help you reduce anxiety and stress, improve your mood, inspire and motivate you, lower your blood pressure, reduce headaches, improve work performance, and enhance your creativity. These are just a handful of researched benefits. There are numerous other physical, emotional, and spiritual advantages to meditation.
Meditation involves finding a quite space free of distractions where you can concentrate on your breathing and letting go of all your thoughts. It may include focusing on the different muscle groups in your body and teaching you how to relax them so your body feels completely relaxed. It can include instructions to visualize yourself at a certain place or to feel a positive emotion, all with the intention of helping you feel calmer and more at ease. Once the meditation is over, you tend to feel lighter physically and emotionally. But don't be too upset, if it doesn't do much for you the first time around. Like any activity, it takes practice and with time, will surely inspire you.
You can practice meditation anytime, although many people find it helpful to set aside time first thing in the morning or before going to sleep at night. Having quiet time before bed is particularly useful in helping you wind down from the days activities. It's also likely to help you sleep better.  With all these benefits, why not get started today?!

Monday, October 14, 2013

With a Little Help from your Friends

Monday Musings:Are you and your fiance planning on asking friends to take on professional roles at your wedding? Trying to cut wedding costs seems to be at the top of most engaged couples priorities. One way many couples do this, is by enlisting help from friends and family. And while that could be a good way to reduce your overall expenses, you need to look at the advantages and disadvantages of having those closest to you getting involved in the details. If your best friend happens to be a photographer and offers to shoot your wedding day photos for free, that's great! Or is it? Sure, she is a professional, but keep in mind she is also your friend. Since you have a relationship outside of business, things can become a bit more complicated if you're unhappy with her work or style. And since there is no contract or payment, you don't have any guarantees of when you might get you photos back or what exactly is included. You can also run the risk of feeling you "owe her one" afterwards. Remember too, that she is your best friend. Putting her to work, means she can't enjoy the fun during your wedding day festivities. Still, sometimes it can be a good idea, especially if you're short on funds or your friend wants to do something as a gift for you. You can always have her shoot the family and couple photos and have someone else photograph the festivities, so she can enjoy them with you. The key point is to put extra thought into wedding day decisions and never jump into things too quickly, especially when they sound so good.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Bridal Support

As with many endeavors, you will find that there are people within your circle who will be supportive of your wedding day dreams and others who are less than enthusiastic with your vision. Your job is to keep those who are supportive closer to you than those who are not, during this happy time in your life. Having people who are not supportive around you can make you feel more stressed out, unhappy, or otherwise drained of positive energy.
How do you know who is on Team Bride and who isn't? Most of the time it's quite easy. It's the people who respond, "why would you want to have your wedding there" or "we wouldn't do it like that," when you tell them your wedding day ideas. It may even be a look or a sense of doubt that they give you. It could be the same individuals who have said or done similar things in the past too.
Unfortunately, sometimes it are those individuals closest to you who can't seem to see things your way. This can make your life even more challenging. By all means, don't shut important people out of your life as you plan your wedding, but do know where to draw the line when it comes to your happiness. If they aren't directly involved in your wedding (i.e., in the wedding party, paying for parts of it, etc.), then share your details sparingly. And if they are involved, share  the information they need to know. If Aunt Jane wants to know why you do not want to talk more about your wedding details, try giving her the honest truth. Tell her that you tried to open up to her about your wedding day vision, but that you didn't feel very supported. Since this is an exciting time in your life, you've decided only to share wedding news with those who can understand and appreciate your decisions. It may sound a bit harsh, but sometimes people need to know how you feel or may simply be unaware of their statements or behavior. This may not work in all cases and also depends on your relationship with the other person. So you have to judge wisely who has to be told what when.

Monday, October 7, 2013

To Have and to Hold

Monday Musings: How do you and your partner feel about public displays of affection? Hand holding, hugs, kisses, and other physical contact. These are all ways you share your emotional and physical connection with your fiance. How comfortable are you with being physical in front of people you know or don't know? Have you shared with each other what works and what you prefer to keep behind closed doors? Some couples are fine with public displays of affection, while others aren't. Knowing what you are okay with and where will help you both express yourselves better in a manner that's good for each of you.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Bumps in the Road

You're engaged and everything appears swell, but suddenly you and your fiance are not getting along as before. It's a feeling no bride likes to have and an experience no bride wants to go through. Unfortunately, it does happen on occasion. If your engagement has become less than simpatico, sit down with one another and have a talk. What's going on with each of you? Is the busyness of wedding planning getting you? Do you spend less time with each other as a couple? Are these feelings new or did you have some issues before your engagement? Answering some of these questions can help you see where problems may stem from. Once you have an idea of what the real issues are, see if you can work on it now. If life has become too hectic with all the wedding planning, make sure you schedule date nights for the two of you outside of wedding planning. If wedding costs are creating tension, find ways to lower your budget, for the sake of your relationship.
If the problem lies outside of wedding planning, for example, it's communication issues, seek outside help. Professional help can save your relationship if you're both willing to work on it together. Remember that relationships are a two way street. That means both of you must be willing to get help to potentially resolve whatever is interfering with your happiness. Having that first conversation early on is the best way to get a clearer picture and to move forward from there.