I’m still thinking about that wedding thing we did.

I recently got an email from a college friend who was filling me in on the details of her boyfriend and their relationship and a wedding she recently went to and her thoughts on weddings… And as it oftentimes does with most of my friends, the conversation led to her throwing out the idea that she will probably elope if she decides to eventually get married.  Actually, more of my good friends have eloped (or had a super small wedding) than have had a more ‘traditional’ ceremony/celebration.  Before I met the Husband, I had always assumed that I would elope or run off somewhere and just get the whole thing over with.  However, he wanted a wedding.

Not a bad spot to start 'forever' together, huh?

Not a bad spot to start ‘forever’ together, huh?

On a tangent – I do not think that men should get to throw out the whole ‘I want a wedding’ card if they do not actually want to plan the wedding.  The Husband really and truly thought that it was every woman’s dream to spend every waking hour for months planning her wedding.  He also thought every woman naturally loved to cook and clean.  I set him straight on all of these accounts and more, don’t you worry.  Anyway, when we started talking about getting engaged he told me that he wanted a wedding and basically got super pissed when I told him I had no interest in planning one.  After thinking about it for a few more minutes (it doesn’t take me too long to make a decision) I decided that since getting married is a two person thing, I should probably agree to a wedding so we wouldn’t have any regrets.  We compromised and decided to have a destination wedding in Jamaica.  BUT, I still ended up having to plan almost the entire thing.  While the Husband helped me accomplish some tasks (stuffing envelopes!) I had to do a majority of the work and scheduling and stressing and talking to families/friends and coordinating… you get the idea.  I’m still bitter.  He’s lucky I love him and that it turned out to be worth it!

Now, there were times during the planning of our wedding that I wanted to rip my hair our / vow never to speak to anyone ever again / call off the wedding and elope in a private ceremony … you get the idea.  I practically burst into tears (wait, maybe I did burst into tears) multiple times a week over the anxiety this one day, November 17 – to be exact, caused.  So, I totally and completely understand why women wouldn’t want to put themselves through this torture.

But, the thing that kept me going was knowing that in the end I’d probably be glad that we ended up having a wedding.  Isn’t there some quote about how we only regret the things we didn’t do?  Well I think there is a quote like that, and although I know that it’s not true in all situations (I can think of quite a few dates I wish I hadn’t gone on!), I definitely applied it to this event and am very glad that I we went through with it.

Yep, I’m going to say having a wedding was one of my very best life decisions.  And we all know I have made A LOT of excellent life decisions. (Feel free to roll your eyes at this point.)

Reasons I’m glad I did NOT elope: (I would write a list of reasons to elope, and I might later, but basically if you go on any wedding website and look at the ENDLESS lists they have, that should convince you.  If it doesn’t, look at how much this list of things will cost to implement).

  • The Bridal Shower – I could write a whole post on bridal showers, because generally I dislike them and don’t understand them and never ever wanted one… But I loved mine.  It was my aunts and cousins and love and happiness and a great time to get together with people I don’t see enough.  Although they aren’t for everyone, I think it’s nice to give relatives the opportunity to celebrate you in a way they want to, so I’m glad I gave my relatives the chance to keep tradition and have a shower (or two).
Some of my cousins at my Cincinnati bridal shower.

Some of my cousins at my Cincinnati bridal shower.

  • Engagement party – Our friends came over and met our dog and played games and talked together and we gossiped and had a great time in our new home.  Basically, we used our engagement as an excuse to party, and I’m glad we did!  It would have been super-awkward to celebrate our engagement and then not be able to talk to people about a wedding that would follow… but that’s my opinion and I’m sure it’s possible to have an engagement party and still elope!
  • Bachelorette party – One of the top 5 nights of my life, easily.  My girlfriends are amazing.  Once again, I’m sure this could have happened without a wedding, but it may have to happen after the fact.
  • Cards/Notes – I’ve received the kindest notes and cards from people!  I will keep them forever.  I’m sure if I had eloped people would have sent me cards.  Other people (my mother included!) would have written me hate mail.  I prefer cards.
  • Dress shopping – I bought my dress with my mom, mother-in-law, and sister-in-law.  We went to one store, I found a dress, and then we had brunch.  It was such a wonderful day.  Plus, I loved trying on so many pretty dresses!  Maybe I don’t go shopping enough, but I really did enjoy it.
  • Photos – Looking at photos of the wedding week always make me tear up.  I had such a blast and am so glad that I have such great pictures of all of our loved ones together.
  • Community – We had an absolute blast bringing our friends and families together to witness our ‘big event’.  Seriously.  Even though my parents are divorced and I was a little nervous about throwing them on an island together, it all worked out as perfectly as I could have hoped.  Plus, our friends are now friends and hanging out with each other in different cities!  Oh the joy I feel has no bounds when I think of all of my loved ones together.
My bridesmaids cracked me up.

My bridesmaids cracked me up.

  • The dancing – Ohhhh the dancing.  I had the best time dancing.  I never even dance at weddings, but at my own wedding I was unstoppable.  It’s like having a private dance party with all of your best friends but it’s just a LOT of best friends.  It doesn’t hurt that our friends and families are excellent dancers.
My college roommates came to Jamaica and danced with me.  They're pretty stellar.

My college roommates came to Jamaica and danced with me. They’re pretty stellar.

  • Excuses to talk to friends/family for 9 months before the event – Even though dealing with friends and family members were the very worst/most stressful moments of wedding planning, there were some joyful conversations in there!  Planning a wedding can be a wonderful excuse to talk to loved ones who live far away.
  • Memories – Priceless.  My favorite memories include walking down the aisle, hearing ridiculous stories about the guests, dancing, the speeches, our rehearsal dinner, getting ready for the day… the Husband’s parents looking so happy…ok basically I loved everything.
M new sisters and mother-in-law on the dance floor.

M new sisters and mother-in-law on the dance floor.

  • My parents – My mom was so happy the whole time I was wedding planning.  Seriously.  She couldn’t get enough of it.  She didn’t plan anything, she just liked hearing me talk about planning… so she ended up adding additional stress to my life, but that’s ok because having a wedding to talk about made her happy and her happiness is worth it.  My dad was an entirely different story… he hated the idea of a destination wedding and made it known from day one.  If my mom added 2x the stress to my life, my dad added 1000x the stress to the event.  But, I’ve never seen him happier than on my wedding day and he’s still talking about how it was the best wedding he’s ever been to (and he says it in disbelief, still).  I know that my parents would have forgiven me if I had wanted to elope or have a super-small ceremony, but the fact that they enjoyed the day as much as we did means a lot to me.  Plus, we are now all bonded over this one week in our lives.
  • The Husband’s parents (and family) – His dad gave a speech that made me cry.  His brother (best man) gave another excellent speech.  His mom told me that she prayed for him to find a great woman and she’s so happy he has.  Both of his sisters were my bridesmaids. Were these moments worth the stress that his family caused at other times? ABSOLUTELY.

best man

Having a wedding is a big and expensive decision and I can completely understand why someone would be hesitant to dedicate so much of their life to planning a single day… But honestly I am very, very glad that we have these memories to look back on.

Ultimately, was it worth the money?  Yes.

Worth the time it took to plan? Yes.

Worth the stress? As much as it pains me to say this… Yes.

I'll leave you with the sexiness that is my current husband and one of his great friends.

I’ll leave you with the sexiness that is the Husband and one of his great friends.

An ode to apple tea.

When we were in Istanbul I cradled a glass of hot apple tea in my hands wherever we went.  We were given tea in the markets while bargaining over the price of decorative plates.  We drank tea at the Grand Bazaar at a cafe that was recommended and took us over an hour to find.  We drank apple tea in the mornings and at night after dinner.  Sometimes I drank apple tea after lunch.  Occasionally I would forget to specify apple tea and they would give me Turkish tea and that was (almost) as good, but not quite.   I would break my own rules and have caffeine at any hour I chose, because it was apple tea and I was in Istanbul and it was delicious and I loved holding the glass in my hands and breathing in the apple scent and drinking the tea slowly, because I always drink slowly.

apple tea and turkish coffee

We also drank sahlep.  Vendors sold this delicious milk drink on the corners and we drank at least one cup of it a day.  Of course, the cups were very small, but it was a treat.  It tasted of milk and honey and floral and cinnamon and we would pay a few TL and savor the drink as we walked around the older parts of the city.

These days I’m missing these drinks.  In Chicago I have to stand in a line at Starbucks (or better yet, a local coffee shop) to order a fancy drink (that takes too long to make) in a to-go cup that is too big and too expensive for a simple treat. It’s as if the city wants me to freeze.  Istanbul was much better at keeping the bellies of its visitors and residents warm and full

Istanbul, I miss you and your delicious treats and your friendly shop vendors and your large mosques and the singing that calls worshipers to prayer.  I also miss the desserts we ate for breakfast and the time we went to Asia for lunch and got on the wrong ferry and ended up on the opposite side of the bay.  I wish we could be back in Turkey bargaining with shop owners and reading our guide-book and walking around holding hands and eating our baked goods that we bought from other street vendors.  I miss the roasted chestnuts that were everywhere and for all different prices.   I miss the friendly people and the expensive seafood and the small-sized drinks.  But most of all, I miss the apple tea!

A (long) wedding recap, because it was kind of a big deal.

50 days (or so) after our wedding and I still don’t really know what to say about it.

I could do a whole post on why I loved having a destination wedding.

Or another one about my favorite memories.

Or multiple blog posts on awesome events that happened leading up to it.

Or maybe a post on the stressful process (total understatement, some of the process was a complete nightmare) of wedding planning.

Or even a rant about how I really hate the WIC (wedding industrial complex).

But instead I think I’ll write a post about how my wedding wasn’t perfect and why it was totally ok (because it turns out that life isn’t very perfect!)

Our wedding wasn’t perfect from the start.  There was stress about getting engaged and stress about where to have the wedding and I was ready to get engaged and the Husband was taking his time and I wanted a certain venue (in Jamaica) and it was booked for 2012 and I have a fear of odd numbers so we couldn’t get married in 2013 (nor did I want to be engaged that long).  We decided to get married in Jamaica because I refused to get married anywhere else and we started researching venues before our engagement.  The Husband’s family found out somehow and brought it up at dinner and we announced the date before I had a ring on my finger.  The Husband asked my parents’ permission and I asked my dad about the budget all before the engagement.  By the time the Husband actually proposed, the venue was set and the date was picked and my extended relatives already had gotten emails from my parents to ‘save-the-date.’  Once we got engaged the Facebook posts exploded and I had to text friends so they wouldn’t find out online.

If I would have known I would be getting engaged that morning, I would have done my hair!

If I would have known I would be getting engaged that morning, I would have done my hair!

This was far from the engagement story I had hoped for.  But it was perfect.  The proposal was emotional, my family was super-thrilled, my friends were happy for me and called to hear details, and the ring is beyond-gorgeous.  I thought I told the Husband ‘yes’ when he asked me to marry him, but evidently I just asked if I could put the ring on that instant.  Same thing, right?

Fast forward to the (imperfect) planning process…

Planning the wedding itself was super easy and stress-free, seriously.  Budget conversations with my family were not.  Tears were shed and I got angry and then I got over it and we moved on.  Siblings said they weren’t going to be in our wedding party for various reasons.  Then they changed their minds. Close friends and family members said they were coming and then changed their minds because things came up.  Other friends and family members sent their regrets and well wishes.  RSVPs are an emotional time that i was quite unprepared for!  But, other friends and family members sent gifts and cards and happy notes and thoughtful notes and called to check-in on us and came to our housewarming/engagement party and made the whole process super-fun.  I loved picking out my dress with my mom, and the Husband’s mom and his sister… we had a great time.  My aunts drove in from Cincinnati to have a mini-shower and spend a day doing brunch and it was wonderful.  My cousin threw me a family shower in Cincinnati and I had the best time catching up with women I don’t see often enough.

My bachelorette party was the most fun I had ever had (up until the week of my wedding).  My friends came in from all over the country and we ate a homemade dinner (with gourmet food) and painted and went to a bar and drank wine and laughed and laughed and laughed.  They bought me sexy gifts and thoughtful gifts and wrote sweet notes and my heart could still explode with happiness thinking about that weekend.

bachelorette party

Then November came and we were ready to get married! I started feeling sick the weekend before the wedding and by the time I got to Jamaica I had no appetite at all. It was my worst nightmare coming true.  But, I greeted all guests when they arrived at the resort and cannot even explain the happiness of seeing all of my best friends in one place.  The people who were supposed to be there were there and I never once thought about those who couldn’t make it.  Everyone had a blast jumping off cliffs, snorkeling, eating jerk chicken and lobster, and drinking the bartenders concoctions.  We played ping pong and bags and tanned by the pool.  One night we played beer pong.  We went to sleep early and woke up early and saw dolphins during breakfast.  I drank coconut milk straight from a coconut that had been cut down from a nearby tree in front of our eyes.  We had an amazing villa but didn’t spend any time in it because we spent all of our time with guests.  Laughter and love was everywhere.  We drank fruit smoothies and banana moons and watched the sunset over the ocean.  Friends bonded over volleyball in the pool.  We got massages and pedicures and manicures.

The rehearsal was fun and laid back.  The rehearsal dinner was so well put together that some people (after a few drinks) thought that the wedding was over.  We had to gently remind guests that the ‘real’ event was the next day.  The Husband’s dad gave a speech and I cried and the food was delicious (so they say, I didn’t get to eat any of it) and I carried around a Sprite to help calm my stomach.  We played a crossword game and I’ve never laughed so hard. Guests sat together and friends of ours became friends with each other and families got along and my hair was frizzy in the humidity.

gazebo

The wedding day came and I woke up early to throw up.  Then I continued to throw up.  And the guests drank and played on the cliffs and hung out in the pool and recapped events of the night before.  The photographers came early (as planned) but I couldn’t sit up. so they left to take photos of the resort and the groomsmen. My mom spent time with me and I cried.  The Husband gave me my wedding gift early and I cried.  The bridesmaids got their hair done and the hotel called a doctor.  The doctor gave me a shot and I stopped throwing up ginger tea and the hair and makeup team came and made me beautiful.  I even took a shower and shaved (but I didn’t wash my hair).  My bridesmaids and mom helped me into my dress but they couldn’t pull it tight because my stomach would heave.  My dress was a little loose but still looked gorgeous (in my opinion).  We pushed the wedding back 30 minutes because of the delay in getting me ready.  I was nervous that I might throw up on the altar but I didn’t.  We had sent the pastor the wrong ‘script’ so our ceremony didn’t mention God except for the readings, which was not our intent.  But, it was short and sweet and perfect and no one noticed.  Our bridesmaids and groomsmen looked flawless.  Ants bit the bridesmaids all ceremony and during pictures, which was quite funny because it wasn’t happening to me.

My support system was pretty stellar.

My support system was pretty stellar.

We took sunset pictures with the wedding party, and each other, and the guests.

sunset

The food at the reception was delicious, the speeches were outstanding, the cake was beautiful and delicious, the centerpieces were elegant, the scene was out-of-this-world beautiful, and the dancing was the most fun I’ve ever had.  I ate chicken broth and drank a sip of champagne and tried to smile a lot more than I felt like smiling during dinner.  There was a fire dancer and we were in awe. After everyone ate (way too much) the guests got tipsy and sweaty and danced with each other and danced with their dates and danced with new friends and danced with me and the Husband and everyone took shots and smoked cigars and I was happier than I thought was humanly possible.  The photographers had to go but the dancing continued until the DJ stopped at 11pm and no one was ready to leave.  I’ve never seen 100% of guests on a dance floor before and it was truly something special.

dancing

I went to bed with all of my makeup on and my hair still done.  I was so relieved to get to my room where I could lay down.  Our room was decorated with flower petals and candles and the Husband took pictures of it while I was curled up in bed, fast asleep under our mosquito net.  The guests kept partying and my uncle wore snorkel gear into the hot tub.  Memories were made well into the night (so I was told).

The next day I felt a tiny bit better and put on a bikini and jumped off of the cliffs with my new husband.  We joined everyone for breakfast and said goodbye to some of the guests.  We spent the next few days enjoying time with our friends and family and going to Ricks Cafe and watching cliff jumpers and enjoying more sunsets and taking pictures and smiling a lot.  We were sad to say goodbye to our guests and even more sad to eventually leave Jamaica ourselves.

and that about wraps up our wedding experience!  It wasn’t absolutely perfect, but it was the best week of my life and most of the events leading up to it were highlights of my year/life.  It was definitely better than I had ever hoped for and guests still talk about it constantly, which makes every ounce of stress worth it.

The Husband and I are now building our perfectly imperfect marriage and I expect that it will closely follow our wedding: it probably won’t meet all of my lofty expectations in all areas, but I anticipate it will greatly exceed my wildest dreams of how happy I can be at any moment.

Volunteering turned out to be the very best way we could have started our marriage.

As I’m sure you’ve figured out, the Husband and I returned from Tanzania/Istanbul safe and sound and are now in the process of adjusting to ‘normal’ life.  It’s awful (the adjustment, that is).  The trip was absolutely perfect.  Well, except for the flight home from Paris… Delta received a scathing email from me today.  But moving on to the more positive things, it was most-definitely the second best vacation of my life (after my wedding week) – and for once I’m not exaggerating or being overly dramatic!

Our first week of the trip we spent volunteering in a town near Arusha, Tanzania.  It’s hard to tell people about the experience because it really is one of those things that a person has to experience to understand.

I’ll leave you with a not-so-brief summary of our time volunteering:

We stayed in a volunteer house with 15 or so other volunteers.  The volunteers were young and liberal and free-spirited and lovely and we had a good time getting to know them.  I even went boxing with a few of them at a local gym that was probably 30 ft by 15 ft.  We ate ciapatta and chai every day. We snacked on pineapple 3 meals a day.  The pineapple was the sweetest and juiciest fruit I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating.  We commuted to the orphanage an hour each way on a crowded van.  The rides cost 300 tsh each and we paid the conductor with coins.  The vans (dala dala) were packed with people and the smell of sweat and bodies was super overpowering.  More people fit in those vans than I would have thought possible.  The back seats were the best because if you sat near a door more people would crowd in and stand in front of where you were sitting or squeeze on your bench.  The language was Swahili and we loved learning it.  We arrived at the orphanage around 9am and we taught classes in English.  The students were mainly 6-10 years old, but there were some older and some younger.

Joy,

Joy.

There were openings and bars instead of glass in the windows.  There wasn’t enough chalk and no one had pencils or notebooks.  We taught simple words and grammar and a lot of math.  We taught English words for the parts of the body and learned that corn cobs are used for hygiene in Tanzania.  Recess sometimes lasted 1 hour and sometimes lasted 3 hours, depending on if the teachers wanted to teach that day.  It was so hot in the sun, but the students wore sweaters anyway.  Every day the children wore the same outfits, no matter what the temperature or weather.  The Husband taught them ‘Rock Paper Scissors’ and they loved the song (but didn’t understand the game).  The students loved our skin and fingernails and quickly found that they could see our veins through our whiteness.  White people (or really foreigners in general) are referred to as ‘mzungu’ but the students usually called us ‘teacher’.  Goats and cows came to graze in the school yard in the afternoon.  The boy who was in charge of grazing the animals was around 6 years old.  The students brought water bottles to class, but sometimes they didn’t have water from home.  The poverty was incredible, but seemed almost normal in our surroundings.

Break time was not such a break for volunteers!

Break time was not such a break for volunteers!

I firmly believe that every person should spend time volunteering internationally.  In my opinion, it’s the only way to truly learn about another culture, as well as our own.  The perspective I’ve gained about my own life through volunteering in Central America/Africa is priceless – and I was only able to do it in short stints.

Plus, (and trust me on this) if I can manage to survive without cheese and hot showers and western toilets and air conditioning and all other things we take for granted in the USA but are not common in other countries, you can too!

I didn’t win the lottery, in case you were wondering.

I was not the winner of $500 million this week.  I bet you’re as shocked as I am!  Feel free to send over some sympathy cards with either cash or Pottery Barn gift cards inside.

this was me the night before the lottery.  sigh.

this was me the night before the lottery. sigh.

However, not all was lost in my total failure to win half a billion dollars.  The lottery did prompt the Husband and I to have an important conversation in which I realized how totally boring I am.

Husband asked me what I’d do if I won $500 million dollars…. I looked at him quizzically and replied, ‘nothing!’  He was a bit incredulous and kept asking if I would quit work or travel or what I’d actually do but I really couldn’t come up with a damn thing.   The crazy thing is, I’m not even easily entertained…

Or easy-to-please for that matter.  I don’t consider myself to be a very simple person but I’m definitely fairly frugal so my first instinct when I get money is always to save it.

Yawn. I’m so boring.  I’m not even 30 yet!  So, right after this conversation I started to spend money.  I figure, if I can’t blow money in my mid-20’s when I have a dual-income-and-no children family, when will I be able to blow it?!

I’m sure you’re dying to know: what did I spend this money on….?  Well, I setup a monthly donation to a favorite charity and I upped my Birchbox (I’m obsessed  subscription to a yearly one.  Yep, big time spender – right here.

… that was all a tangent…

Anyway, I started thinking about what I would actually do with $500 million (or even $5 million, I’m not that greedy) and I did come up with a few things:

  • Travel for a year all over the world – originally I told Husband that I wouldn’t quit my job, but I think I would take a year off and travel the world and talk to as many people as possible.
  • Buy a condo in the mountains – a nice winter home… preferably in Aspen.  Although, Aspen is expensive to fly into so visitors might be limited… maybe Steamboat Springs.  I love mountain towns.  And, I’ve never been to Colorado in the summer, so that could be an added bonus.  Sounds like a new bucket list item was just created…
  • Donate a lot of $$ – because, obviously.  This would be focused on charities that empower women, end abuse, end world hunger, and cure cancer.
  • Save, Save, Save – because my (hypothetical) kids probably will want to go to college one day.
  • Completely redo my wardrobe – I would donate every last piece of clothing I currently own and just start over.  This would be the best project in the world.
  • Put my dog in doggy daycare every day instead of just twice a week – because he loves it and I actually do care about the little monster’s happiness (sometimes).
  • Start having babies and hire a full time nanny (preferably from Jamaica, because then she will most likely be laid back and awesome) – articles like this scare the crap out of me.  It turns out babies are super expensive and will be sucking money out of us forever, as soon as he/she begins forming in my womb.  But, we’ll probably still want one or two or three or a herd of these eventually, so it’d help to have some extra dough and be able to hire a nanny so Husband and I can still work if we want to.
  • Go to more sporting events – tickets in Chicago cost hundreds of dollars each for some sports.  This means that Tim and I watch most games on TV; however if I were rich I would most definitely be at the games in person more frequently!
  • Fly first class – this is an extravagant expense which I absolutely refuse to pay for right now, even if it’s just a matter of using frequent flier miles to upgrade seats.   But, if money wasn’t an issue, I think I’d buy the first class tickets and fly that way all of the time… I mean, why not?!

Phew, I’m not (quite) as boring as I thought.

Happy Friday!!!