Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Wedding Wednesday: 5 resources I wish I had when planning my wedding

I’m not exactly sure who’s responsible for labeling a wedding as “the bride’s day,” but let's be honest. They got it completely wrong. A wedding is meant to celebrate two becoming one before God, friends, and family. A wedding is a ceremony that marks the beginning of a sacred union—one that requires mutual input from two invested parties in order to function in the healthiest possible way. Weddings are not just excuses to get our hair and makeup done and wear a pretty dress in front of all our friends and end up as the most "pinned" bride/cake/event of all time on Style Me Pretty…which, like many brides, I had to remind myself of (more than once) throughout my planning process.

You know what else I had to repeat more often than "om" in a yoga class? Mantras like, "It's going to be okay. This is all going to work out. I have more than enough time. I'm not going to end up using bedsheets as tablecloths. So what if Crate and Barrel is out of every single item I'm trying to register for?" 

photo: Suggs Photography

One year later, here I am. A newlywed. Everything is okay. Everything did work out. I had plenty of time, I nixed tablecloths (and bedsheets) in favor of farm tables, and my Crate and Barrel gunmetal-instead-of-ecru napkins are working out just fine, thank you very much. But that still doesn't change the fact that planning a wedding can leave a girl feeling a little in the dark and a lot overwhelmed. Especially when she's fighting to keep her eyes on the prize—building a healthy marriage, rather than just throwing a fabulous party.

That being said, here are five resources I wish I had when planning my wedding. 

[photos: @karleykiker on Twitter,,,, @hitched_in_a_hurry on Instagram]

1. A Christ-Centered Wedding by Catherine Parks + Linda Strode: Remember what I was saying earlier about how warped the definition of a wedding has become? Catherine Parks and Linda Strode totally agree. This mom-and-daughter duo wrote A Christ-Centered Wedding to remind brides-to-be of what's truly important—becoming forever teammates with someone who is going to push you continually toward Christ. This book constantly refers to the fact that as believers, we are the bride of Christ. Why is this important? Because all marriages—even the best, most beautiful marriages that feature love stories only He could have written—will pass away. Our status as His beloved? That's eternal. Christ's relationship with the church is the relationship earthly marriages are meant to reflect (see Eph. 5:25-27 for details). I so could have used this book and these reminders when planning my own wedding.  

2. Team Bride Apparel "Wifey" Sweatshirt: Y'all, I needed this. I still need it. Soon, I'm going to have to break out the credit card and make it mine. Have you ever heard that saying, "Look good, feel good?" This off-the-shoulder sweatshirt looks good, and I have a feeling I would have felt a whole lot better about my Crate and Barrel registry process if I'd been wearing it while pointing my scan gun in every direction imaginable. 

3. Bummed Bride: Why did I not know about this website when I was engaged? We all know that laughter is the best medicine, meaning that paying a visit to Bummed Bride is the equivalent of taking 100 (legal and healthy) happy pills. The editor's motto says it all: "Excited to get married. Bummed about stress, money, and drama." Um, me too. Check out their Twitter and Instagram (@bummedbride) accounts for your daily dose of real-talk. And then take this Hitched in a Hurry -excerpted Bridezilla quiz featured on their website!

4. Southern Weddings Magazine: Did this mag exist while I was planning my wedding? Yes. Did I know about it yet? No. But I have since come to adore and virtually stalk—I mean, admire and respect from a distance—the publication's editor-in-chief, Lara Casey. Lara and her team of belles have created a mainstream wedding magazine that is relevant, tasteful, gorgeously branded, mindful of the Mason-Dixon, and most importantly, God-honoring. That is so cool, y'all. I love what this team is doing, and I can't wait to get my hands on Lara's newest set of Power Sheets.  

5. Hitched in a Hurry: Duh, had to sneak in five seconds of self promo. In all seriousness though, it's weird to say that I wish this book had been available when planning my own wedding, because if that had been a reality, I wouldn't have written it as a resource for other brides. So I guess I'll just say, I wish I had known that planning a wedding in fewer than six months was totally do-able. I wish I hadn't left the majority of the bridal salons I visited believing I was going to walk the aisle naked. I wish someone had been there to tell me how to organize my time, and approach a pre-marital counseling session, and create my own programs, and give thoughtful gifts to my fiancĂ©, friends, and family. Which is why I created a resource that says and does all of that and more for current "Hitched in a Hurry" brides—gals set to say "I do" in six months or less. 

photo: Suggs Photography
What other wedding planning resources would you recommend to a newly-engaged gal? What's the best piece of marriage advice you've received?

Monday, September 8, 2014

When you know, you know

Update: This post was originally written about a year and a half ago, and we're still happily living in "our place." Newlywed life continues to be an adventure and a question mark, and we wouldn't have it any other way. 

We've been in "our place" for the past week, which will officially become our new home in October. Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. The home of retired people, Trevor Hall, a lot more alligators than I'd care to think about, and soon, us. It's a blessing and a question mark and an adventure all rolled into one, and I can't wait to get the whole thing started.

instagrams from our new home, summer 2014
This island and these beaches are tied to so many of our memories. So of course, I've been walking back through each and every one of them. Especially the one where, after just three days of side-by-side conversation, I knew that Taylor was going to be the man I spent the rest of my life with.

"When you know, you know."

I'd heard it so many times before, but I never understood it until the knowing actually happened.

"What do you mean, I'll just know? Will something change physically? Will I hear an audible voice? Will I suddenly mature out of Disney movies, calling my mom three times a day, feeling awkward while alone in public, and avoiding laundry for as long as possible, and instantly be able to visualize myself throwing dinner parties, doing expert wine and cheese pairings, actually making the bed, and birthing 2.5 children?"

For me, mostly, the answer to all of the above proved to be a resounding no. 

No, I haven't stopped singing along to the Frozen soundtrack. No, I haven't cut back on the number of times I call my mom. (In fact, serious concerns such as "How do I wash a pot holder?" and "Can you get a bacteria from putting frozen chicken in the crockpot?" have probably increased the number of times I tell Siri to "call Momma.") I still wait to do laundry until I'm down to my two least favorite pairs of underwear (TMI, sorry), still haven't thrown a classy dinner party with jazz music playing in the background, and definitely still can't picture myself carting around a tiny human on my hip.

Weirdly, though, something did happen physically during the I-know-that-I-know moment. And because it frustrated me to no end that not a soul out there could describe how the whole thing was supposed to happen and/or feel, I thought I'd share my own experience for your consideration.

summer 2012
Taylor and I were sitting on the beach talking. Adventure, travel, dreams, plans. But mostly, Jesus. No matter which topic we landed on, everything was Him, because He was the lens. In my own life, I've seen again and again that there's no adventure better than the one He's planned. No travel experience that can bring the kind of ultimate fulfillment, joy, and satisfaction He does. No dreams that have life without Him, no plans that have merit without His orchestration. When I realized that Taylor saw life like this—no separation between his faith and his day-to-day, his decisions informed and his perceptions shaped by Christ—it's like a spear went through my soul.

There is not really an elegant way to say that, because it was not gentle. It was sudden, sharp, and intense—like a valve or a switch flipped on that enabled me to recognize and know and see Taylor in a deeper way than what our surface conversation could have enabled me to. The whole thing literally took my breath away. I remember actually gasping at one point because I was so flooded by the overwhelming desire to lay my head on his shoulder, see a thousand sunsets sitting right beside him, gain access to the emotional space he kept so well-guarded, pour salve into wounds he carried that had not healed, speak truth over any lies that held his mind captive, and protect and nurture his dreams until all of them came true. Which is SO not appropriate to admit on day three of a family vacation when you know, logically, that you're both about to go your separate ways.

But I knew. In fact, I knew it so hard that I wrote it in my prayer journal and irrevocably claimed it as mine. Taylor was my husband. I didn't know when a wedding would happen, or what our relationship would look like, but I trusted. Not the emotion or the fantasy or the "feeling" of it. Not a kiss. Not a spoken promise. I trusted, in the most unabashed way I have ever experienced, the heart of my Heavenly Father. The Giver of the kind of good gifts that are "immeasurably more than all [I] can ask or imagine." (Eph. 3:20-21) Knowing that Taylor was going to be my husband also helped me know on a more intimate level that the Lord was real, and active, and pursuing my heart. That He was close, and near, and present.

wedding rehearsal at the Westin, summer 2013
I wept that night as I wrote in my journal not because of the overwhelming love I felt for Taylor—that hadn't fully formed yet—but because I felt to my core that Taylor had been given eyes to see me like my Heavenly Father does, and vice versa. I didn't have to pretend during our conversations on the beach. I didn't have to act. I didn't have to explain, or phrase things just the right way, or manipulate, or control, or present myself in the best possible light, or gloss over the ugly parts of myself or my story. I could be accepted and known and cared for just as I was…and I could rejoice in the new capacity growing within me to "love as [my Savior] first loved [me]." (1 John 4:19)

Keep in mind that nothing even close to romance, love, or marriage had been said between Taylor and I at this point, y'all! And it didn't need to be for a long time after, either. Because that wasn't fully the point. That wasn't the measure of my knowledge or my assurance. And while I think that "when you know" experiences can look and feel a lot of different ways for a lot of different people, there's one thing I'd love to tell every single girl out there in the middle of determining how serious she is about forever:

Understanding that Taylor was going to be my future husband did not increase my infatuation with him. Instead, it caused me to fall deeper in love with my Lord and Savior. I wasn't in awe of Taylor's perfection, blind to his faults, or convinced that he was my other half. Instead, "knowing" that I was going to marry him left me in awe of the perfect love of the King of the Universe and the wholeness I have in Him. I was humbled and brought to my knees. I literally laughed and cried at the same time, which I previously thought only happened in movies. I felt compelled to run into the arms of the Father, rather than into the arms of Taylor.

wedding photo: Suggs Photography
No matter where you're at in your journey today—single, dating, engaged, or married—it's my prayer that you know, that you know, that you know that you are deeply loved and fully known. That you don't have to act. You don't have to pretend. You don't have to clean yourself up, show off the good things and camouflage the bad, tuck away the darkness you've experienced and polish whatever's on the exterior until your hands are cracked and bleeding. You can rest. You can trust. You can know that He is enough, and He is good.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

. . .

PS: We've got a crazy-long love story that I'd love to share with you. If you're curious, you can click here to start from the beginning. For real-life love stories from other couples + information about planning a wedding in six months or less, like we did, pick up a copy of Hitched in a Hurry via Amazon or Barnes & Noble. 
Karley with a K. Todos los derechos reservados. © Maira Gall.