From One Former-Bride to the Brides-to-Be: Wedding Tips

I just finished planning a wedding. Like most Brides, I spent the six months preceding the actual planning making Pinterest boards and reading wedding planning websites. I am here to tell you that their advice, while awesome, does not always ring true-to-form. And so for inquiring minds, here are some Wedding Planning truisms that I learned along the way while navigating the tricky waters of wedding planning.


This was the one weird thing that I absolutely wanted to happen. I don't even know.

This was the one weird thing that I absolutely wanted to happen. I don’t even know.

1. I’m going to start this off somewhat ironically: Do Not Listen To Every Bit of Wedding Advice That You Hear. The moment either yourself or your significant other proposes, every single person that you’ve ever met is going to give you advice (They will also start making wholly inappropriate comments on your future child rearing, monetary investments, and sex life. Everyone from strangers to your coworkers to family members that haven’t seen you in fifteen years will do this. Just buck up and practice your fake smile and nod). Remember that every person is different. One woman’s 30k, deeply religious wedding does not have to be yours- and neither does the country hoe-down that your best friend threw complete with cowboy boots under her white dress. This also applies to your vendors. Your photographer, florist, caterer, facility manager, and DJ all have a very specific idea of how your Wedding should go. Don’t be afraid to (politely) shut down the ideas that you do not like, and to (again, politely!) steer them into the direction of something more “you.” Just keep in mind that their ideas exist because they’ve done weddings thousands of times, whereas you will probably only do it once (or twice. Whatevs). So they definitely “Get” the wedding thing- but they don’t know you or your significant other, and its YOUR day!

2. Sometimes it isn’t possible to have every person that you want to be in your party IN your party. Whether it’s because you’re trying to keep the wedding party small or because your friend can’t necessarily afford to be a bridesmaid/groomsman, sometimes people that you would love to have in your wedding party have to be on the sidelines. To make matters worse, they might be hurt that they don’t get to be included on the “extras” of the Wedding. But with weddings becoming increasingly DIY, your friends/cousins/whomever can be involved by having them take part in the fun miscellaneous bits; the bachelorette party, doing crafts (if they like that sort of thing), or even having them involved in the Wedding itself. Friends of mine who could not be bridesmaids did wedding readings, helped with music selection, and honestly kept me sane when I didn’t want to think about another wedding detail for the rest of forever. And I’ve found that if you’re just upfront and honest about the situation, they’ll understand. They’re supposed to be your friends, after all.

3. Save money- skip the “Save the Dates.” Seriously, between the invites and postage (double the postage- you have to pay for the invites to go out AND for them to come back!), adding a “Save the Date” to the mix just isn’t worth it unless your heart is really set on having them. “Save the Dates” are a trend from the last 5-10 years that stemmed from the increased popularity of expensive destination weddings. You really, really do not need one for an intimate, local affair. Honestly? most people will know that you’re getting married by the increase of Pinterest wedding pins and your panicked Facebook statuses anyway. Save the cash for the honeymoon.

4. Sneak Away the day before the wedding. My husband and I did this, and we don’t regret it one bit. We took off of work the day before the wedding and we went down to the beach with some friends. Our phones were off, we packed a lunch, and we went swimming and goofed around and just relaxed for a few hours until we trekked back home to get ready for the rehearsal dinner. Those last few hours of “pre-wedding” can become filled with planning and chaos and stress, and it kills what’s supposed to be the focus of your day; you and your partner-to-be! So plan ahead and set that day up so that you have the time to sneak away. Tell your wedding confidantes where you will be, that you will not be reachable, and enjoy your day with your lovie!

5. Ultimately, the little details don’t matter. Listen, you’re getting married, and that’s freaking huge. I promise you, you aren’t going to care about the exact orientation of the flowers or whether you walked down the aisle to the perfect song or what shoes the bridesmaids decided to wear. Most of these are details that you only pick up on in the photos afterwards anyway. None of my bridesmaids had matching shoes, hair, or jewelry and they all looked absolutely stunning. The recessional song was started 90 seconds late, and my husband and I stood at the top of the aisle waiting for it to start- and we didn’t care! Somehow we accidentally ended up in a receiving line when we were supposed to be taking pictures- these things happen. You will look sweaty in some photos, someone will get drunk, and an uncle will draw a penis on your car because he thinks it’s funny. Just let it go, and fill your day with people that you love (and who are willing to clean off your car for you while you are greeting guests).

6. Have your witnesses fill our the wedding certificates before they get drunk. We learned this one the hard way. The last thing we did before leaving was sign the marriage certificates, and it was a struggle to gather everyone to fill out the information, show everyone where exactly they need to sign, and make them stop dancing long enough to fill out the forms in triplicate. Do yourself a favor- pick a point earlier in the day’s events to do this. Whether it’s between pictures or before dinner or whatever- don’t leave it until the end!

7. And finally; Buck tradition and see your bride/groom the morning of the wedding. Jim and I decided to spend the night before the wedding and that morning together. In our minds, it was the most important day of our lives, and we wanted to wake up that morning next to each other and spend as much of it together as possible. We got up early and took care of some things, went to breakfast, settled some last-minute details (making sure the rings were where they needed to be, putting tissues in suit pockets, etc.), and then went about going our separate ways to get ready. Honestly, even though the wedding is about the two of you, you’ll spend the day being led to different places, posed, and in conversation with your guests. It’s an amazingly fun time, but you probably will not be able to sneak away to be with your new wife/husband privately until the wedding is over (I learned this after Jim and I did try to sneak away, and I found photos of us).  So having that morning together will be nice quality time to add to the day, and it becomes a part of the memories.



Finding the Balance (and revealing my immaturity).

Since graduating from college two years ago I’ve been struggling to learn a new life-balance.  Of course, in the last two years my entire life has changed significantly, so it’s seemed like the moment I’ve captured some semblance of balance it’s been upset by something new and I’ve had to go through the process all over again.  And so, as my husband and I settle into married life and the new home and jobs that have become increasingly demanding over the last couple of months, we are still trying to find that “balance.”

This is something that is amazing to me, because we are two people. I cook, and he cleans up dinner (or vice versa). He feeds the cats, while I tend to all of the grooming, nail trimming, flea treatments, and pilling (because there is always something when you have three cats). I clean the house, and he does the laundry. We both track expenses (to varying degrees of success) and go to the farmers markets/grocery shopping. We make our own lunches. In essence, we are each doing half of the work that we would be doing if we lived alone. And yet, by the time 9pm rolls around, we’ve exhausted ourselves from the day and all we want to do is be on our computers and zone out. And ultimately, there isn’t much wrong with that, except we still need to meditate, study (we both have a heavy-duty reading list to work through for some individual projects that we’re working on), exercise, and get things in order for the next day. Not to mention I need to be writing, and if I’m not writing, I’m working on editing projects for a writing collective of which I am a member.  (<— This sentence was brought to you by Not Ending a Full Stop With a Preposition.)

So I guess my big frustration right now is figuring out how to do all of the Important Things (cooking, cleaning, exercising, meditating, studying, etc.) without essentially driving ourselves bonkers in the process.

Fellow grown-ups! How do you do this? Drop a comment below- I’d love to get some tips!

P.S. Sorry this post was not done on Thursday. The week caught up with me.

It’s Banned Books Week!


Some of my personal favorites!

Some of my personal favorites!

When I was 15, my high school banned a book from being taught in the honors senior English classroom. In my hazy recollections, a parent had called and complained about the book, and one thing led to another, and the book was removed from the curriculum. I can’t remember what book it was, because it was banned for the senior classes and I was a mere freshman, but needless to say the book was never taught again. It was one of two books that would suffer that fate during my teenage years. Now, my parents were not really the censoring type. They paid close attention to my internet activities and what TV channels I watched, but as far as books were concerned, I was allowed to delve into whatever I wanted from the YA section of the bookstore (Which my parents took me to frequently. They bankrolled my literary addiction very generously). So it was a very foreign concept to me throughout most of my teenage years that a parent could call the school (that all-powerful institution that governed nearly everything) and have something removed from the curriculum purely because they didn’t want their kid to read it.

My interest in the matter might have dropped right then and there, if it weren’t for a collection of the district’s English teachers who banded together and decided that it was Not Okay for students whose parents were fine with the curriculum to not be able to learn from the novels that they were supposed to read. So they created an after-school club. Every other week, students could get permission slips signed and stay after school to read banned and contested books, and watch films that were meaningful but not generally considered appropriate for a high school audience.

I was one of the youngest participants in this group, and I cringe to think about what awful contributions I no doubt made as a freshman to this group of juniors and seniors (who, in truth, were a terrifyingly sophisticated group to be associating with). But I made a lot of close friends in that group that stuck, and grew even closer to one boy who (nearly 9 years later) I would marry. So in a superficial way, banned books are important to me. But it goes a bit deeper than that– banned books are typically banned because they’re honest. They tell hard truths, and they do it by giving the reader a perspective that may not be comfortable. How many of us would forget the the depravity of victim-blaming after reading Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita? Or the disgusting realities of deep racism if not for To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee or The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison? Even contemporary books that have been banned, like Looking for Alaska by John Green and The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky have a meaningful place in the lives of the youth today who have read them; they are a voice to the soft spoken in a world that’s become increasingly cruel to youth. They deal with issues that, like it or not, teenagers are facing when they get up every day. And then there’s books like The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley- they may not take place in a world that’s shaped like ours, but these books reach out and show us what the alternatives could be- they show us the dangerous parallels and why we need to maintain our voices in times where it would be easy to be silent. Banned Books are frequently silenced because they have a lot to say, and they’re worth listening to.

So use this week to take a look at some of the absolutely fantastic banned books available at your local library or independent bookstore. If you’d like some guidance, (and I am no expert) here are my top ten favorites:


1. The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

2. Looking for Alaska by John Green

3. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

4. The Great Gatsby by Scott F Fitzgerald

5. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

6. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

7. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

8. All Quiet on the Western Front by Enrich Maria Remarque

9. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut

10. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky


A Kitten Adoption Story

Two hours ago, I was attempting to enjoy a milkshake that Jim made me while I watched Pushing Daisies. I say attempting, because while I was trying to indulge in Ned the Pie Maker’s life drama, there was a cat sitting on my chest, trying to paw at the contents of my glass. I tried to move him, to push him off, but his purrs of contentment as he nudged my spoon and licked my fingers made it hard to get too frustrated. While one cat was trying to acquire a milkshake, my other cat was curled up by my side, sleeping. The other cat still has a few lingering cuts on his neck, residual effects of a six-month long mystery that we’re only just getting to the bottom of. I’m not a parent yet, but these kitties are the closest things to kids that I’ve ever had (seriously, give twice weekly green tea compresses to one cat and do daily management on the weepy eye of the other and have them NOT feel like babies. I challenge you). So today I’m going to tell the story of how we acquired our kitties, mostly as a prequel to Thursday’s story, which delves into holistic cat care and vet services, which will be for more practical and much less “crazy cat lady.” I promise. Anyway, here goes;

Last September, my fiance and I adopted two striped orange tabby cats from the Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society (PAWS). We went through a wonderful foster mom who was a great, loving home for our boys before we were able to take them in.

The kittens at the foster's house, 5 months old.

The kittens at the foster’s house, 5 months old, getting into mischief.

We decided to get a cat early on; I had grown up with cats, and knew that I would miss having one around. Additionally, at the time, I wasn’t working as much as I am now, and was worried about being lonely while the house was empty. The intention was for us to pick out one cat, preferably from a shelter, which was kid and dog friendly, and had either already been declawed by a previous owner (I don’t believe in declawing cats) or was able to have its nails clipped or filed. About a month after making our criteria, Jim’s sister sent us an email with pictures and descriptions of four five-month old cats that her friend was fostering.

Of the four, I immediately fell in love with a cat named Pirate, so named because of an eye condition that made his one eye “weepy.” Truth be told, I was worried that he wouldn’t be adopted out because of his eye and his age- lots of people want cute kittens that are little 8-to-10 week old fluffballs of perfect love, not 5 month old rambunctious kitties that are more interested in mischief with an eye condition to boot. The entire litter had had ringworm soon after they were born, and they spent their first 3 months going through icky treatments and tests, so by the time they were cleared for adoption, they were no longer seen as kittens in the eyes of most people.

Charlie at 5 months

Charlie (then Pirate) at 5 months

But when we were able to meet with the foster momma and see Pirate, we were told straight off that he had pretty significant separation anxiety, and that we’d have to adopt a second cat if we wanted to take him. Luckily, as we were being told this, another kitten named Nacho curled up in Jim’s lap and started playing with the hem of his shirt. Meanwhile, Pirate was chewing on my hair, perched in my arms. We were sold pretty quickly.

Nacho at 5 months

Nacho at 5 months

It was actually a very unique experience- Jim and I picked the kittens out in late July, but construction at the new place didn’t finish up until Mid-September. For the interim month and a half, we visited our kitties at the foster’s house every other week, bringing them treats and toys. When we were finally able to pick them up to bring home, they were almost seven months old. Pirate was re-named Charlie, Nacho kept his original name, and we spent the first night in our new home listening to the sounds of the new house curled up together.  Or, Jim and I were curled up together. The cats spent the evening running from one side of the flat clear to the other, endlessly, for the entire evening. I got about 3 hours of sleep that night, in 15 minute intervals, and at one point one of the cats jumped onto my face in the middle of the night and his foot landed in my mouth. Not an appreciated wake-up call.

As the months have worn on, Jim and I have become those crazy cat parents that the internet constantly makes fun of. We bought high-end food (which ended up still being poorly chosen, but more on that Thursday) and treats, have piles of boxes and toys for the kittens to play with (and chew. endlessly), and each cat gets vet-approved supplements and vitamins. At night Charlie curls up either on my chest or between my shins, and Nacho sleeps near Jim’s feet underneath the covers. They chase each other around the flat after breakfast every morning. They groom each other, and have torn our curtains to shredded bits. Charlie once found a way to open up the drawer where we keep our files and he chewed up his own medical records, and last week Nacho opened Jim’s dresser, jumped in a drawer, and got himself trapped inside while Jim and I searched the house for him in a panic for twenty minutes. They’re mischievous, needy as hell, and the most loving cats I’ve ever met. We definitely lucked out.

Nacho and Charlie at 11 months, Valentine's Day 2014.

Nacho and Charlie at 11 months, Valentine’s Day 2014.

Nostalgic Interlude

My fiance and I stepped up the planning of our wedding this week, which has been wonderful but also very overwhelming. On a typical day-to-day basis, I don’t make very many big decisions. I pick what I eat for breakfast, choose a scarf that matches my outfit (sometimes), and pick out activities for the after school program that I run. I do not choose fancy menus for guests or decide on venues for receptions and I can say with one hundred percent certainty that I don’t understand the point of a cake tasting at all. I mean, it’s cake- it has the cake-y part, the frosting, and as long as the bakery can decorate it to not look like one of those awful “over the hill” tombstone shebangs we’re good to go! Right? Maybe? I dunno. What I do know is the prospect of someone baking a bunch of different cakes for me to shovel into my face for free so that I can ultimately pick the vanilla one makes me feel like a terrible human being. But then again, I feel guilty when the employee at the supermarket bags my groceries for me, so I may not be the best judge of the situation.

Anyway, today Jim and I decided to run some errands and on the way to one of our stops we made a wrong turn. At first, I was going to go into my typical mode of being the overbearing passenger-seat-driver and tell him how to re-route ourselves (despite the fact that he is perfectly aware of exactly where we were and where we were going) when instead I began to direct him elsewhere.

“There’s somewhere that I want to go.” I said, pointing to a fork in the road. “Turn left up here.”

I would like to point out that Jim didn’t ask me where we were going. He has that kind of faith in people that I admire- he didn’t care where we were going or that I was clearly uncertain of the directions, he just knew that there was a place that I needed to end up, and he was going to help get me there. If he had asked, I don’t think I could have continued to give him directions. To be honest, where we were going was somewhere that I hadn’t been in nearly a decade (by my estimate), and I couldn’t bear the thought of telling him where we were going if I wasn’t going to be able to find it again.  It was just one of those things. So he drove and I pointed out a right hand turn, then a left. We ended up on a winding residential road that I wasn’t sure if I recognized, and I felt the small bit of confidence that I had had start to dampen.

Finally, the curving road came to a W-shaped intersection that made my heart jump.

“Take the center fork, and make a left.” I said. I recognized it. For years, I had made that car ride five or six times a week, sometimes more. I had been relying on a sort of muscle memory, the way that a car jolts you back and forth, the sound of a blinker, the look of those large houses that stare down at you from corners, to lead me back.

We made the left, drove to the end of the block, and Jim stopped the car when he saw my body turn completely in my seat. I didn’t even have to say anything. He just knew.

The house looked nearly exactly how I remembered it, except that it’s not white anymore- it’s a pretty beige now, with trim around the windows. Even so, the row of windows that line the dining area of the eat-in kitchen were just where they were supposed to be, with a small jutting room that was a walk in pantry. When I was a kid, one of those shelves was stacked with Goosebumps books that my uncle had bought me. Over the years I read almost all of them, and then when I was too old to read them they were read by my brother. On the night before Halloween my aunt made popcorn in a pan in that kitchen. I did my homework up until I was in the sixth grade at the kitchen table. The phone that was connected to a number that I had been taught to memorize by singing it to a certain tune was connected to the wall behind the kitchen door. I wondered if the thick green carpet in the living room had been replaced, and if the current residents thought it was weird that the hall closet was actually a blocked-off staircase that used to lead to the second floor.

After a few minutes Jim parked the car and we got out. The property had a few days worth of newspapers piled on the front stoop, so I knew that no one was home. I pointed out the front porch, and showed him the window that had broken once during a hurricane. The big holly tree was there, and I thought that it looked bigger, but I didn’t know if it was actually bigger or if I just was remembering it from a smaller perspective. We walked around the side and I showed Jim where my uncle had parked his boat, back when he had one. There was a patch of dirt in the yard that hadn’t grown back, and I told Jim that that was where my cousin’s playhouse had been when we were kids. I have no idea if the patch never grew back, or if there was another reason for its grasslessness, but I was okay with not knowing.  I told him about the kids that used to live next door and across the street that we played with sometimes.

We didn’t stay very long- I didn’t need to. I have a couple places that I called “home” as a kid. Most of them are only a town or two over from where I live now, I pass them every few weeks and don’t really think much about it. This house, which I technically never lived in, hadn’t even been a second thought for nearly a decade. But something drew me to it today, and it was kind of comforting to see that it was still standing. Not only was it still standing, but it wasn’t very different at all. Not only that, but it was still filled with memories. This is something that I can appreciate now that I live on my own; places hold memories just as much as people do. I suppose you just have to know where to look.

In the end we returned to our errands and continued to go about our day, neither of us mentioning the interlude into nostalgia that had taken place.