Reblog: Real Love is a Choice

Today is Valentine’s Day, and I must admit this year’s “holiday” feels a bit more special than it has in the past as I look forward to quality time spent with my One. I used to be one of those girls who either shrugged her shoulders at the romantic celebrations happening around her or banded together with a girlfriend or two to strong-arm the Hallmark-inspired-necessity that Galentine’s was just as important. V-Day has never been a favorite of mine, but I suppose that’s because it has been quite a few years since I’ve had a true Valentine.

Talking with G over this past weekend in anticipation of not actually spending Valentine’s together, the topic of love and choosing to love one another came up. (Side note: It is always so remarkable to me to hear this man talk about his feelings for me — even though it happens on a daily basis — and have faith he means every word he is saying.) The chat was amazing and only reiterated the key reasons as to why I’m marrying this man. Then I come across this excellent article written by Seth Adam Smith and #YASSS! This could not be more on point, my friends, and I must do my part to share Seth’s wisdom across the blogosphere.

So without further ado, here is how I plan to live my marriage…

Is There Such a Thing as a Fairy Tale Ending?

My wife and I have known each other since high school but didn’t date until much later. We had only dated a couple of weeks before we realized that we were madly in love and wanted to get married.

I was all for it! I even suggested a spontaneous, immediate wedding in Vegas. (Seriously). Kim, however, was a bit more practical about the whole thing. She wanted to take the time to plan it all out.

I felt deflated. “We’re so different,” I said. “You like to plan, while I like to be spontaneous.”

Kim’s eyes widened. “I can be spontaneous!” she said, hurriedly. “I can totally be spontaneous. You just have to tell me in advance when you want to be spontaneous, and I will write it down in my planner…”

I gave her a strange look. She was totally serious! Clearly, Kim did not understand the meaning of spontaneity.

We must choose to love our partner just as they are. 

Embrace the Imperfections

Funny as it may seem, the more I think about this conversation the more I’ve come to realize that planning to love someone—or choosing to love someone—is actually one of the most beautiful things about love.

I’ve heard it said that real love is an unconditional commitment to an imperfect person.

And it’s true.

When all the butterflies have fluttered away and your wedding day becomes a distant memory, you will discover that you’ve married someone who is just as imperfect as you. And they, in turn, will come to learn that you have problems, insecurities, struggles, quirks—and body odor—just as real as theirs!

Then you will realize that real love isn’t just a euphoric, spontaneous feeling; it’s a deliberate choice, a plan to love each other for better and worse, for richer and poorer; in sickness and in health. Of course, you don’t choose who you’re attracted to, but you definitely choose who you fall in love with and (more importantly) who you stay in love with.

“We come to love not by finding a perfect person, but by learning to see an imperfect person perfectly.” – Sam Keen.

Love is About Choosing to Walk the Path Together

Our society places a lot of emphasis on feelings. We are told that we should always follow our feelings and do whatever makes us happy. But feelings are fickle and fleeting.

Real love, on the other hand, is like the north star in the storms of life; it is constant, sure, and true. Whenever we’re lost and confused, we can find strength in the love that we have chosen.

Besides, life already offers us plenty of spontaneity: rejection, job loss, heartache, disappointment, despair, illness, and a host of other problemsWe simply can’t abandon ship every time we encounter a storm in our marriage. Real love is about weathering the storms of life together.

True love withstands the tests of time.

In speaking about my grandma, Grandpa once told my mom, “It hurts me to see her like this. You know, when I got married I thought that everything would be smooth sailing. I never imagined that I would have to help her change her catheter every day. But I do it and I don’t mind it — because I love her.”

Committing to Love

Love is so much more than some random, euphoric feeling. And real love isn’t always fluffy, cute, and cuddly. More often than not, real love has its sleeves rolled up, dirt and grime smeared on its arms, and sweat dripping down its forehead. Real love asks us to do hard things — to forgive one another, to support each other’s dreams, to comfort in times of grief, or to care for our family. Real love isn’t easy — and it’s nothing like the wedding day — but it’s far more meaningful and wonderful.

Real love isn’t always easy. But it’s worth it.

I recently came across this wonderful quote:

No one falls in love by choice, it is by chance. No one stays in love by chance, it is by work. And no one falls out of love by chance, it is by choice. – Unknown

Whenever my wife and I run into a problem in our marriage, we do our best to choose love.While we’re certainly not perfect, the love we share today is more real and more wonderful than anything we had ever anticipated.

So, whatever spontaneous storm may come our way, I plan to continue loving my wife.

If you truly love someone (and they truly love you), commit to that love and plan on it being hard work.

But also plan on it being the most rewarding work of your life.

Written by Seth Adam Smith on Thursday February 9th, 2017. Find the original post here.

Reblog: Here’s What My Parents 1974 Wedding Would Cost in 2017

With our list of all-things-wedding-related (vendors, rentals, objects, songs, guests, etc.) ever increasing, I just had to share this blog post with you as it hits STRAIGHT. ON. THE. HEART. of what I have been saying lately: weddings are ridiculously expensive! And it is simply due to the word “wedding” that vendors and other event-aimed businesses are able to increase prices. Ugh! DOUBLE UGH!! Now, with this handy little monster of a post at my disposal, whenever someone feels the need to say, “We didn’t pay that when we got married!” I’ll be able to cheerfully hand this wonderful explanation as to why the world hates on true love and makes the wedding planning situation so much more difficult than necessary. (Please excuse the language.)

Reposted from Buzzfeed, originally posted on October 22, 2017 and written by Meg Keene.

I got engaged in San Francisco, exactly 35 years after my parents’ 1974 wedding. Their San Francisco wedding cost about $2,000, which in today’s money is roughly $10K. So naturally, when we started planning, my mom thought that if I made the same good practical, frugal choices that she and my father had made, I should be able to pull off something similar for $10K. I just needed to be smart about it.

In fact, when most people get engaged, I think we generally assume it should be possible to get married for $10k BECAUSE THAT IS A FUCK TON OF MONEY. And yeah, if you cut some corners, in many parts of the country you actually can pull off a pretty nice wedding for $10K. (Hell, I’ve built a whole business around helping people do just that.)

But by today’s standards, my parents’ wedding was BEYOND. They got married in San Francisco’s reigning massive church, Grace Cathedral, three days after Christmas. They had a whopping 300 people in attendance, and a cocktail reception at the swanky Marine’s Memorial Club. Their cake alone was so big that when we tried to re-create their wedding, we couldn’t even find a baker that still made cakes that large.

And yet their budget was only $10,000 in 2017 dollars.

“When most people get engaged, I think we generally assume it should be possible to get married for $10k BECAUSE THAT IS A FUCK TON OF MONEY.”

As sticker shock began to set in (one quote I got for “affordable invitations” would have been one-fifth of the proposed $10,000 budget) it became really clear that $10,000 wouldn’t buy me a wedding anything like my parents’ bash. But if you’ve planned a wedding, you know how breaking that news goes:

“Well, in my day, we were able to do that for a dollar. If you just got down to business and weren’t so self involved/financially irresponsible/addicted to your iPhone, you could do it for that cost too.”

“Well, my coworker’s best friend’s cousin’s daughter was able to plan her wedding for only $500! So I know it can be done.”

“Well, maybe if you were just willing to do things a little more simply. How much of that stuff do you really need? I’m sure if you just ask them, they’ll offer a discount.”

The problem is it’s really hard explain WHY things are so goddamn expensive, when everyone around you keeps pointing to your bad choices and blaming millennials and Pinterest.

So, with the help of my cooperative parents, my staff and I set out to re-create their wedding in today’s economy, to show exactly what wedding inflation looks like. Luckily, my dad is a mathematician who remembers every number ever, so we were able to re-create their line-item wedding budget with astonishing accuracy. He gave us a line item on costs that added up to $2,195, or just under $10,000 in today’s currency. Then we made a bunch of undercover phone calls to see what the same things would cost in real life 2017 Wedding Dollars.

This is what we came up with:

The Ceremony: My parents got married in Grace Cathedral — aka a huge-ass church in the middle of San Francisco. They weren’t members of the congregation, but they were able to snag the membership discount in exchange for a kneeler, needlepointed by my grandmother. (Totally how weddings work now!!!!) The total cost for a Saturday morning wedding was $100 for the cathedral, $100 for the organist, and $50 for the verger (who assists with the ceremony). In 2017, the cost for nonmembers is $7,500 (or $7,250 if you pay by cash or check). There’s also an additional fee of $150 for the carillon (aka church bells), which my parents still talk about as being magical.

1974 cost: $250
What it should cost in 2017 dollars: $1,201
What it actually costs in 2017: $7,650
Increase: 537%

Invitations: My parents sent out engraved wedding invitations, which, if you’re not familiar, is basically the most traditional, formal, and expensive method you can choose. Engraving is so fancy that most online retailers don’t even offer it. In 1974, they paid $250 for 300 invitations (they invited 600 people, because…1974), which translates to $1,201 when adjusted for inflation. In 2017, you can get a set of 300 engraved invitations in a simple design for $2,209 (with the invitation card, envelope and RSVP included, but no other bells and whistles.) The funny thing is, at $250, the invitations were easily one of the bigger line items on my parents’ wedding budget (certainly the most expensive detail). But in our 2017 calculations? They ended up being one of the least expensive things on the list, not because they were cheap, but because everything else was so damn expensive.

1974 cost: $250
What it should cost in 2017 dollars: $1,201
What it actually costs in 2017: $2,209
Increase: 84%

Floral: My parents got married three days after Christmas, so for the ceremony, they used the flowers that were still up from the holidays — which means their floral needs were relatively small: one bridal bouquet made with holly, ivy, and irises; three bridesmaids bouquets full of daisies; flowers for the flower girl (same); and two arrangements for the cake table at the reception with chrysanthemum and ivy. All in all? $50 in 1974 terms.

Had they wanted decorations for the church? Grace Cathedral currently has an “approved florist list,” and the first one I clicked on had a minimum order of $8,000.

And in case you thought you’d be thrifty and reuse some of your ceremony decor at the reception? NOPE, not allowed. Which might seem reasonable if those altar flowers didn’t cost EIGHT THOUSAND DOLLARS AT MINIMUM.

As it stands, flowers can come from anywhere, so we sent some photos of my parents’ bouquets to our friendly florist Belle Flower for a quote, and the estimate came in at $1,400. (That said, many florists in San Francisco these days don’t get out of bed for less than $4,000, so in reality you may end up with more flowers than my parents had…and a much higher bill.)

1974 cost: $50
What it should cost in 2017 dollars: $240
What it actually costs in 2017: $1,400
Increase: 483%

Photography: My parents met their (very experienced) photographer when he shot my aunt’s wedding. He had subsequently raised his rates, but was willing to honor the old price…which was a whopping $50. And while with enough elbow grease (or Craigslist skills) you can find photographers at almost any rate these days, most professional photographers working in San Francisco will be priced at $2,500 or above — and that’s on the conservative side. The experienced photographers often start around $4,000.

1974 cost: $50
What it should cost in 2017 dollars: $240
What it actually costs in 2017: $2,500
Increase: 941%

Bridal attire: Getting married in December meant my mom was able to get a nice wedding dress from the premier department store of the time during a half-off sale the previous spring. It cost $150 in 1974, and her super-long cathedral veil and satin flats added an extra $45. All told, her attire would have cost $937 if you adjust for inflation. Recently (and blessedly) we’ve had an explosion of retailers offering more reasonably priced wedding dresses, so 50% off a dress of similar style and fabric would come in at around $1200, compared to the inflation-adjusted cost of $721. Her veil, on the other hand, would have cost four times as much, even from a relatively affordable brand like BHLDN ($144 in inflation dollars compared to roughly $650 in today’s dollars). Though once you start adding embellishments like lace, you could easily get upward of $1,000. The only thing that came under budget during this whole experiment? Ballet flats. Which you can get for $50 pretty much anywhere.

Bridal attire: 1974 cost: $195
What it should cost in 2017 dollars: $937
What it actually costs in 2017: $1,900
Increase: 102%

Cake: My parents’ cake was ridiculous. Wedding cakes were bigger back in the day. And my parents got it into their heads that they wanted to serve birthday cake–size slices of cake, not teeny wedding cake slices. As a result, that cake will go down in history as only slightly less absurd than the woman who baked a life-size cake in the shape of herself. We’re talking five tiers — with every tier in a different flavor — and enough servings for 600 people. There was…a lot of leftover cake.

In 2017? Of the handful of bakers we called for quotes, most of them didn’t even offer a cake that big anymore. At most, we could get five tiers that would serve 300 people and then the offer to supplement with sheet cakes. But given the original cake’s extravagance, this is one area where wedding inflation wasn’t as bad as it could have been — because, hey, it was only triple the cost.

1974 cost: $100
What it should cost in 2017 dollars: $480
What it actually costs in 2017: $1,500
Increase: 212%

Reception & Catering: My parents had their reception at San Francisco’s Marines’ Memorial Club, where they got a sizable discount because my grandfather was a founding member. (Today’s membership discount is 2.5%.) My father says, “We served hors d’oeuvres and wedding cake. My mother-in-law, who paid for the reception, gave us the choice of limiting the guest list or eliminating full champagne service. We gave up the full champagne service and served champagne punch instead.” Total cost for the reception? $1200 (which, if you adjust for inflation, would be $5,769 today).

In 2017, my parents would have had one of the cheapest options offered by the Marines’ Memorial Club: an afternoon hors d’oeuvres package. I called them up to see if it’s possible to forgo the included open bar for a similar champagne punch setup, and was told that it would only save $10 per person on the built-in $80 per person cost (which I was told “they wouldn’t advise”). Translation: We will offer you discounts that are so menial you won’t even take them. All in all? Getting the same package they got in 1974 would cost $24,000 today, beforetaxes and tip (and more than $30K after).

1974 cost: $1200
What it should cost in 2017 dollars: $5,769
What it actually costs in 2017: $30,128*
Increase: 422%
*Includes 2.5% discount

So all in all, this is what we’re looking at…

Total 1974 cost: $2,095
What it should cost in 2017 dollars: $10,068
What it actually costs in 2017: $47,286
Increase: 370%

You read that right. That is a 370% increase in what it would cost to throw my parents’ wedding. Why? It’s kind of a chicken-and-egg thing. Sometime between 1974 and today, people realized that weddings weren’t necessarily a side business. And now there’s a whole industry around weddings. An industry that, as Rebecca Mead writes in One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding, has been “assiduous in working to establish the trappings of the lavish formal wedding as if they were compulsory rather than optional.” And wedding vendors aren’t out to get you; most are small business owners who are charging for the increase in time, attention, and ~perfection~ that couples and their parents have come to expect.

Basically, expectations around weddings are much higher than they used to be, and everything is now considered mandatory in order to have a “real wedding.” Which you already know if you’ve ever heard someone say, “Well it’s not a wedding if you don’t… [serve three kinds of steak/hire a professional photographer for 14 hours/wear a crystal-studded thong].” And the phenomenon of higher expectations feeds into higher costs which feeds into even higher expectations, and the whole thing just snowballs until you feel like saying “Fuck it, let’s elope.”

Wedding vendors aren’t out to get you; most are small business owners who are charging for the increase in time, attention, and ~perfection~ that couples and their parents have come to expect.

But there’s hope! Here are some things you can do to help mitigate the sticker shock:

  • Don’t spend money (or time) on things you don’t care about. No one shows up to a wedding for the details.
  • Prioritize fun over pretty (it’s cheaper and more effective).
  • Remember that just because you can’t do what your parents did doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong.

And of course, the next time someone suggests that they know how to plan your wedding better than you do, tell them you’d gladly take them up on their offer to be your wedding planner. After all, wedding planners aren’t cheap these days.

Reblog: Calling Out Toxic Relationships

This is an edited repost from my Archives, with the original able to be found here.

It has become apparent to me over the past few months how important it is to be surrounded by people who truly want the best for you and are in your life to uplift you in the low times, encourage you in the rough times, celebrate with you in the joyful times, and walk beside you at all times. This is something that has been on my mind a lot lately as I begin looking at my tentative guest list and start asking my bridal party to stand beside me on my wedding day.

I am a huge proponent for taking care of everyone before myself. It’s an awful habit of mine, caring about everyone’s needs around me before my own. Honestly, if an airplane was going down, you wouldn’t want your child to be sitting next to me — I definitely would be trying to put their face mask on prior to mine. It is just my instinct. Some may say this is an admirable quality. Some may disagree and say it’s a weakness. I say it can be both, depending on the situation.

Unfortunately, though, I also see it as a quality not always shared among my peers. Over the past few months, I’ve become a bit more aware of how others interact with me and those in society. I have always been pretty observant, but perhaps not specifically to how people interact with me.

Recently, my vision has broaded and my observations have been enlightening.

Since becoming more aware of such interactions, I’ve made it my goal to surround myself with more “true” people in my life. More integrity-centered friends, real and honest. I have found Life is much more joyful when I have a handful of trustworthy friends rather than numerous questionable acquaintances.

It was about two months ago when I chose to begin calling out toxic relationships in my life.

Certain behaviors are incompatible with a healthy relationship, be it a friendship or romantic. Relationships that are the most debilitating and unhealthy give you the feeling that you’re not being taken care of emotionally, spiritually, mentally, or physically. At least, not in the ways you should. They may even start to shape you into someone you are not proud to be.

I think we’ve probably all been in those relationships where we just don’t feel like ourselves. It’s almost like your authentic self is withering away while you try to appease the other person with a faux version of you. We give away our power to other people sometimes and becoming someone another person wants us to be rather than the person we are is giving them ALL the power.

The word “toxic” means something drains the life and energy from someone. When you’re in a toxic relationship, you grow weaker and more feeble as you subject yourself to the whim of the person you’ve given your power. That desire to be agreeable is actually suffocating the real you!

All relationships can open our eyes to new perspectives and expand our awareness of society, but some relationships simply shut you in and hinder your development. Certain people are not assets in your life; some are liabilities. Your intuition tells you this, but we don’t always listen, do we? Sometimes the voice inside our head saying change and growth is good can be stifled by self-judgment and fear instilled by those in our lives. It is when you realize this voice is a good thing, however, that you also recognize that you cannot develop healthy relationships before first cutting off these unhealthy ones.

Now there are a few signs to decide whether or not your relationship with another person is toxic. The obvious signs are physical, emotional, or verbal abuse, cheating, lying, and stealing. However, a toxic relationship is any one which causes you to feel isolated, sad, trapped, criticized, or afraid.

Sometimes this means that you feel you can never do anything right. Your friend or partner constantly puts you down as not good enough. This sort of treatment might even lead you to begin acting like the judging person and reacting in ways not true to your character. Or you may simply go into a shell and try to hide the personality traits being mocked and become only part of the person you truly are.

Another sign is when you feel uncomfortable simply being yourself around the other person. You can’t speak your mind, you can’t participate in the things you love, you can’t go to the places you love, you can’t spend time with the friends you once enjoyed, etc. When you have to put on a different face just to be accepted by this person, then something in the relationship is wrong.

Or how about when everything is about the other person, and never about you. Have you ever heard the song “I Wanna Talk About Me” by Toby Keith? Yeah, it’s great to talk about other people and learn what’s going on in their lives, but you have feelings and situations going on in your life as well. Listen to the conversations you have with this other person. If the conversation is completely one-sided — meaning your opinions are not being heard, considered, or respected — then the other person does not care about your side of the relationship. If they don’t inquire about you and your life or take into consideration the points you do make when you have an opportunity to share, then why keep caring about theirs? This behavior just leaves you feeling isolated.

However, the biggest sign to me that you are in the midst of a toxic relationship is when the other person does not want you to be happier than them. Say you begin a new career, enter a new romantic relationship, or have some new Life opportunity open up which any friend and/or partner typically should be beaming with excitement for you. Instead, they become withdrawn. They no longer ask questions or take an interest, they go out of their way to point out the faults in this new opportunity, and they outright become hostile towards you when the situation is brought up. It is almost as if they place their insecurities on your shoulders and what once was a budding friendship or romance is now a twisted jealousy of a relationship.

The reason a toxic relationship is not ideal for anyone is because it does not allow you to grow or change. Is the other person encouraging and supporting your efforts to grow and improve yourself? Evaluate the relationship and be honest — what is the worth of this relationship to you? 

Embrace the answers that come from your intuition. Your own conscience is going to want what’s best for you, unlike the friend or partner of your toxic relationship. Don’t sit in an uncomfortable or unsettling relationship until the effects of isolation and sadness push you into depression or bitterness. Take deliberate action according to your gut feeling.

Sometimes this deliberate action may call for a very difficult decision to be made — you may have to cut off the relationship completely. However, in the big picture of Life, people come and go and some relationships have an expiration date. Friendships and romantic partnerships may, though incredibly hard to lose at the time being, be more worthwhile to lose in the long run in order to make way for a much more meaningful relationship instead. Chalk it up to experience, feel the grief of a lost friend or love briefly, and go about bringing more light into your Life than what that toxic relationship was shadowing.

You won’t be sorry.