Life and Marriage

Why I Stepped Away From Life For A While

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Over the last month, I’ve forced myself to take a step back in life. There has been so much going on all summer long that I just felt completely exhausted, even after our week long vacation. On top of that, there are so many changes coming with the season and life that I didn’t feel like I could actually enjoy them. I realized that I really just needed some quality “me time” and I couldn’t put a limit on when that started and stopped. Taking a step back from life doesn’t mean I’m introverted or anti-social, but it’s a reflective period for me to reinvigorate my passions and take time to explore me before I can truly give my best to everyone else.

WHAT I DID

Taking a step back from life is hard – granted, there are certain aspects to make life go around that I couldn’t let go, like work and bills, but overall, I took a few weeks to not make plans, not work more than I have to and not stress myself out with crammed deadlines for anything. My husband works weekends, so those ended up being the perfect time for me to relax around the house and do a few projects I wanted to do but never could fit into my schedule.

I spent mornings getting out of bed when I felt like it, going to the gym and doing what my body was telling me to do, or even catching up on some new movies I haven’t had the chance to watch and baking some new treats. I also enjoyed doing a little “fall cleaning” and getting rid of some of our clutter throughout the house (especially my closet!), and cleaning out our spare bedrooms to be a more organized person. It felt so great to really declutter and relax in a space that felt comfortable again. It was also nice to spend time with my husband for once without being consumed by my phone or running around with others making plans.

Another big project I have been dying to do for over 6 months is our master bedroom redesign. This is the last big room in our house that I haven’t touched since we bought it, but ironically it’s the room I spend the most time in during the few hours a day that I’m home. I kept putting it off because of many factors, but especially because I didn’t have time to make the decisions I really needed to make to get the project started. Check out a quick sneak peak before I share a full walk through soon!

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HOW I DID IT

The hardest part of this was completely clearing my schedule. I had so many things I felt like I needed to do on my days off, but I really needed to focus on making me a priority. I stopped stressing over my hair and makeup on the weekends, often going to the gym completely untouched besides washing my face and brushing my teeth. I took some time away from obsessing over social media and spent more time destressing and relaxing, like taking longer showers, enjoying naps when I felt tired in the afternoons, and just picking up that dinner when I didn’t feel like cooking.

I will admit – this was REALLY HARD. It was hard to step away from life and do what I want to do. I feel programmed to “go, go, go” and get as much done as fast as possible, but taking a step back really opened my eyes to what truly matters in life. Yeah, there are dishes in the dishwasher that have needed to be unloaded for a few days, but I spent time really enjoying our lives and designing our new master bedroom.

I did have some guilt because I wasn’t giving time to you all and writing/posting as much as I promised I consistently would, but I think we all agree that we need a break sometimes from the chaos. This time away truly helped to me think bigger and better for the future with so many new and exciting projects coming up to share with you all!

WHY I DID IT

I have hit a season of life that I just feel like I need to cut things out. I’m just one person and I can only do so much, and I’ve spent the last few years pushing myself to the limits to help or please others. My doctors have told me my whole life that there have been long term effects on my body due to high stress levels, and I’m finally ready to put my body and mind first in life. I don’t think I could have done this without my supportive husband. When I’m stressed, I don’t make his “job” of loving me any easier and I have known that for a while but have done nothing about it.

I have finally hit a point when I put my husband and I first above all, instead of worrying so much about what others think, feel or say. In hindsight, I realize the biggest issue we’ve had the last few years, especially while planning our wedding, was that I was trying so hard to please everybody and engage the negative people in our life, and that caused so much stress on me. With our new season of life, I’ve realized that I need to do the opposite to disengage and remove all of the stress and negativity from life that isn’t bringing anything positive to my growth. We need to think about our family in terms of immediate family and close friends, and worry second about extended family and disconnected friends because in the end, we rely on each other most to get through daily life.

WHAT HAPPENED?

Contrary to what I thought would happen, I feel completely refreshed! I didn’t think this would be effective and would ultimately stress me out more because I would be so worried about getting things done, but I’ve truly loved putting myself first. I have eaten food that I previously told myself no in a responsible manner and filled my tank with activities that I actually enjoy.

The biggest benefit to this whole “experiment” was mental health. I have been on the verge of many breakdowns the last few years, and I’m ready for a time in my life to slow down, enjoy the people around me and take in the beauty life has to offer.

My mind feels more inspired to do creative projects and I have truly learned what is important in my life now. I have seen that filling my tank makes me a more emotionally and physically available person for those I love rather than wasting my time on people who just cause more stress. I have began to cancel plans that I really dreaded doing and scheduling get-togethers with those I love or invest in fun activities we’ve been putting off for so long.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Start small – take a weekend, cancel your plans, remove everything from your schedule, and do what makes you happy. The more often you do this or the longer you can do this, the easier it will become to fill your personal cup of happiness and energy to grow and learn. I honestly thought I was being my best self before by being selfless and appeasing everyone, but I realized that things were falling through the cracks, and people who mean everything to me were facing the brunt of my backlash. It’s important you actually take time for the things you love and really appreciate living more, especially when time gets crazy with kids, marriage, work, gym, and so much more going on.

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Home

Our Weekend Master Bedroom Remodel

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I’m not sure I’m any bit qualified to be called a designer, but gosh darn do I LOVE interior design! If I could go back and do my career all over again, it would be a huge debate between archaeologist or interior designer because just putting together colors and items to give a feeling or mood is incredible satisfying. I have known since we bought our house that the master bedroom would be something special – this is a space we live a majority of our lives in, sleeping, talking and relaxing, just my husband and I (and our dog of course!). I purposefully saved the biggest project for last to give myself time to thing about my dream bedroom.

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Inspiration

I probably pinned about 10 different bedroom concepts and eventually settled on a few ideas I knew I loved. I knew I wanted color because the rest of our house is gray and white, and I wanted to stick with our “modern farmhouse minimalist” look we have through out the house – with a twist! I wanted a more masculine approach with feminine accessories of antique brass fixtures and decorative pieces.

The Design

Wall Sconces – $50

I bought these inexpensive wall sconces from Wayfair, and even though I loved the original oil rubbed bronze, it was too dark against our dark colored wall so I repainted them to be an original bronze color, then used the same spray paint on all of our night stand and dresser hardware as well to coordinate. I got them during Wayfair’s Columbus Day sales for 30% off and they were such a steal at only $24 each! The great part is that they have a plug in and can be converted to hard wire depending on which you choose to go with – because I haven’t freshened up on my electrical skills, the plug is a much easier option for now, plus I painted the cords the same color as the walls to try and hide it!

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Bed – $260

I have had the same frame for our bed since before I even met my husband, and with the quick deterioration of every box spring we’ve ever had (my husband is a rough sleeper!), we needed a platform bed that didn’t require a box spring that could support our memory foam mattress. This tufted platform bed from Wayfair is the perfect solution to fit our grey and navy theme.

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Bedding and Sheets – $0

We had this bedding already for a few years and it’s still in really great shape so we saw no need to purchase new linens. That helped to shape our room design knowing that the bedding was so light and we ensured that the dark wall paint complimented or matched the dark sheets we had.

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Shelves – $14

This was probably the cheapest DIY project I’ve ever done in designing our home! Having already had the desired stain at home from previous wood projects throughout the house, all I purchased were four black shelf brackets for $2 each and two 3′ pine boards. A little sanding, staining and quick assembly, and this project was so simple and made a huge impact in our room to warm up the cool tones.

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Wall Art – $40

Instead of trying to find some kind of art or saying to go over our bed, I thought about creating something myself, whether it be custom printing black and white photos to fit the 16×20 frames I purchased (from Michael’s) or doing a calligraphy piece. Ultimately, I thought it would be a truly meaningful idea to write out our wedding vows in watercolor for a simple design that had such a story behind it.

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Side Tables – $0

I previously showed you all how I redesigned these thrift store side tables for $40 with a little paint and new hardware. They truly now match the bedroom and I couldn’t be more thrilled how well they look against the navy wall.

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The Final Result

On a Saturday with some helping hands of family members, we finished the painting, bed assembly and TV mounting which were huge projects. Later that night, the shelves and lamps were hung and the final art work was put up on Sunday. It’s hard to believe we put this huge project together in practically 24 hours, but it was totally worth it! After thinking over the decisions for weeks, preparing the paint, furniture and accessories, it was a great experience to see it all come together.

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Travel

Our Bahamas Getaway: Days 3 and 4

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Even though our trip in total was 8 days long, the cruise went too fast with only 4 nights and a handful of days. Days 3 and 4 were some of the best to finish out the family fun, with a day trip to Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas, and a day at sea enjoying all the perks on the Enchantment of the Seas. Check out our explorations and favorite pics!

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Day 3

As our only public port of call, Nassau was a familiar destination to me. My family and I had been there about 7 years ago on another cruise, but I have no recollection of what we did, so it felt like a fresh new adventure. I’m not personally a big shopper and really dislike souvenirs as a minimalist at heart, so before we left on vacation, I made sure to look into what sites are interesting to see and historical learning opportunities. My husband and I are big history nerds and prefer to spend our vacation seeing the world rather than seeing the same t-shirt for the third time. Plus, how can you not resist the charm of brightly colored building and Bahamian culture?

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Once off the boat early that morning, we decided to take a quick hike a few miles to the Queen’s Staircase and Fort Fincastle. The Queen’s Staircase is 66 step handmade staircase from the late 18th century forged by slaves as a direct route from the city center to the fort. With a now towering waterfall complimenting it’s facade, it’s truly a beautiful and relaxing area. The interesting part though is the walk is very hot, with lots of sun beaming down on you and store-lined streets, but once you steps under the canopies of the Queen’s Staircase, you;re transported to a Caribbean oasis.

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Just up the stairs and a short 2-minute walk down the street is Fort Fincastle, a small, but powerful, 18th century fort designed to help protect the harbor from awaiting foes. For only $3, we toured the fort, saw the cells that some slept and lived in during hot Bahamian days and even got to push the canons around – just in case our ship is under attack! The view was magnificent, with 360 degree views of Nassau city, Paradise Island and the port harboring our ship.

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The midday walk back to the ship was brutal as the heat began to rise, so we decided to relax in the port market for a little fun – and hair braiding! It’s pretty much impossible to go to the Caribbean and not have someone get their hair braided. Enjoy some funny pictures of my husband thinking he looks tough with cornrows (even though he admits they hurt terribly!).

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Day 4

Our fourth and final full day was spent cruising the seas on the Enchantment from Nassau back to Port Canaveral, but we didn’t let the thought of vacation ending get us down! We took full advantage of the benefits of the ship while we could. My brothers-in-law were excited to try the rock climbing wall and trampoline park they offered, while Jeff and I indulged in the peace and quite of the Solarium, Royal Caribbean’s adult-only pool and relaxation area. The day was spent basically going from pool to food and back, relaxing in the warm sun and cool ocean breeze.

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Instead of going to the formal dining room, our group was pretty sick of eating so much delicious food and decided to take it light that night, so we enjoyed our final movie on the pool deck, and I was pretty excited to see they were playing Solo since it was new and I had not seen it. By the way, it was actually pretty good!

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My biggest indulgence during our trip was their breads and desserts! The rolls were so delicious and their desserts are perfectly portioned to taste multiples with minimal sugar so I didn’t feel overwhelmed by one piece of cake!

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It was a sad day when we had to get off the boat and begin our two day drive home, but this vacation was one for the memory books with our two families coming together and having so much fun!

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Travel

Our Bahamas Getaway 2018: Days 1 and 2

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Our first year anniversary was a huge celebration this year, and when my husband proposed we plan a second honeymoon (since our original honeymoon got switch around due to Hurricane Maria), we couldn’t help but take the opportunity to get away. When we thought more about how we were one family, we turned it into a massive family vacation with both of our parents, and my husband’s siblings and grandparents – talk about major coordination!

This trip took a lot of time and many nights of work, but in the end, we had an absolute blast as one family celebrating a special time in our lives. Read all about our first two days of our adventure and my favorite tips to planning your next getaway!


DAY 1 – PORT CANAVERAL

I don’t count the two days we spent in the car driving to Florida from Chicago as part of the vacation, although the laughs were endless in the car with my parents. Day 1 truly started when we met up with the whole family. We opted to book a 4 night Royal Caribbean cruise to the Bahamas – my in-laws have never been out of the country so it was a great starter trip to experience, plus since we were so well taken care of on our honeymoon and still had a blast, we have sort-of become Royal Caribbean loyalists, especially for a mostly adult vacation of late night fun and delicious food.

Once through check-in at the port and on the boat, we spent the afternoon venturing around the Enchantment of the Seas while awaiting for our stateroom. We ate our way through the Windjammer buffet and saw amazing amenities like a rock wall and trampoline park. The kids couldn’t resist the urge to jump right into the pool immediately and we enjoyed the Sail Away Party on the pool deck before dinner.

Our group dinner was made extra special when the staff made sure all 12 of us fit at a single table for quality bonding time, plus the food was absolutely phenomenal! It became hard to turn away multiple entrees when it was so delicious – I felt bad leaving food on my plate.

After dinner, it was immediately back to the pool to relax and enjoy as the wind blew through the deck from sailing the Atlantic. The great part is that it was Monday night and they played football on a big screen right over the pool so no one missed a beat on vacation! Ultimately, day 1 was exhausting as is, so keeping it low key made the day nice and relaxing

TRAVEL TIPS

  • Your first day on a cruise is usually very crazy – don’t plan any activities and leave your schedule open to see the whole ship.
  • Spend an hour watching your ship sail away from port, it’s truly magnificent!
  • Make sure to try all of the food options before sticking with one all cruise. On our first cruise, we spent the whole trip in the buffet and didn’t realize how amazing the dining room food was until it was too late.

 


Day 2 – COCOCAY, BAHAMAS

Day 2 meant a relaxing day at CocoCay, Royal Caribbean’s private island in the northern Bahamas. Because our party was so large, we booked two private bungalows on the island’s south beach which separated us from the public crowds. This was possibly the best decision we made the whole trip because we were able to have quality family time without losing people or worrying about crowds. Plus they were feet from the water and truly relaxing!

The bungalows came with floating mats, beach loungers, ocean views and catered lunch so we didn’t feel like we missed a beat of the main beach experience. We even brought our own snorkels to enjoy the magnificent wildlife with lemon sharks, sting rays and jellyfish swimming by our feet. When we wanted to tender back to the ship or check out some of the island shops, a quick shuttle service took us back to the main beach for fun – although, we spent almost all day at south beach!

Once we were back to the ship mid-afternoon before we sailed off to Nassau, our group enjoyed relaxing afternoon peace and quite (mostly in the form of naps!) before a delicious dinner again in the dining room. This night was formal night, so it was great to see everyone in their Sunday best enjoying delicious food and drinks. That night, we indulged in some late night bites at Windjammer while enjoying a cinematic classic, American Graffiti, on the pool big screen. My absolute favorite was the homemade corn dogs!

TRAVEL TIPS

  • If you’re planning a beach day during your trip, see what the local rental price is for equipment. Sometimes it’s just cheaper to buy it on amazon or at the local store and bring it yourself.
  • If you want to take an excursion, it’s worth the few extra dollars to book through your cruise line in the event that something happens, like cancellations or the excursion runs past port departure time.

Stay tuned for part two of our adventure, featuring our day in Nassau and 24 hours at sea!

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Travel

Must-Have Items To Make Your Next Vacation Easier

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With our big family vacation to the Bahamas just days away, packing has consumed our home trying to make sure we get everything we need. My husband and I try to travel every year, and each destination has different needs and products to make our trip successful, so I am sharing my favorite must-have products to make your next trip just a tad easier, no matter where you’re going!


A PORTABLE SAFE

Whether you room doesn’t have a safe to store your precious goods, or you’re heading out for a day on the beach, a traveling lock box is the best investment you could make for yourself. As the perfect size to fit your passports and money, the lock box we picked came with a custom code to secure our items and a tether of tie it to a physical object to that our goods don’t walk off with someone else. On our honeymoon, this is was the best product to take to the beach because we could tie our items to a post or beach chair without worrying when playing in the ocean!

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FOLDING AND HANGING TOILETRY BAGS

If you are traveling to multiple locations, a hanging toiletry bag is the best for easy packing. Keeping your toiletries in one place will not only prevent you from forgetting anything, but also will simply require a quick zip and right into the suitcase it goes! Once you arrive to your destination, hang it in the bathroom or closet for easy access. These bags are also great for small items, like undergarments and jewelry.

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ALL-IN-ONE BACKPACK

Finding the best travel bag makes every step of your journey easier. My favorite backpack was an easy purchase from Amazon and features a large pouch for our paperwork, wallets, and camera, and a small pocket for travel sized products and quick grab items. My favorite feature is the built in charging ports to charge our devices on the go!

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PASSPORT WALLET

An RFID-resistant wallet is a must-have to prevent any theft and convenient access to your travel documents. This wallet includes passport and travel ticket storage, card slots and easy access compartments for all of your needs. Plus, with a one-place-stop for all of your important documents, you have no worries about landing home safely because you’ll keep everything in your pocket or purse.

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PACKING CUBES AND HANGING LUGGAGE BAGS

Compartmentalizing your goods makes finding what you need easy and fast. It also prevents you from having to dig through our clothes to find the one item we want, causing our clothes to stay organized and neat. I am also a huge fan of a hanging luggage bag – with so many delicate clothes and dresses that wrinkle easily, this is by far the best investment without having to worry about carrying a clunky iron with you or having one wherever you go.

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PORTABLE STEAMER

In the event that you absolutely need every wrinkle removed on a day-to-day basis, a portable steamer is the best investment you can make! It takes up very little of your luggage and gives your daily style a boost of life by removing those worn in travel marks from being shoved in your suitcase.

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HARDSIDE LUGGAGE

After many trips with ruined luggage or tossed up goods inside, I found hard luggage to be my best option – and it doesn’t disappoint! When we went on our honeymoon, with multiple flights and luggage transfers, everything was just as I left it and the luggage remained in place without any issues! I tell any seasoned or new traveler looking to explore the world that hard suitcases are a complete lifesaver and usually don’t weigh more than soft luggage.

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Life and Marriage

Our First Year Anniversary: Advice For Brides-To-Be On Wedding Planning

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Everyone always says your first year of marriage is the hardest – honestly, planning our wedding over two years was much more stressful than our first year. Wedding planning is the first major lifetime decisions you make as a couple (of course, unless you are in the minority who buys homes or something like that first). There were nights we had fights that made no sense and that I look back now as foolish and silly. But what it truly taught us was how we need to learn to deal with each other under times of pressure and stress, especially long-term.

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Weddings bring about a lot of little details that only brides and grooms can decide on, so it’s important to make the right decisions for yourself, your budget and your guests. When we planned our wedding, we opted to not follow the traditional wedding planning track and invest our money in areas we felt were most important, which ultimately made our wedding a huge success to be something we and our guests loved. As a future bride-to-be, always focus your decisions on a rational, holistic approach – my rule of thumb was:

If it doesn’t make your guests happy or isn’t useful for the big day, why invest time and money into it?

This method helped me rule out A LOT of unnecessary investments and allowed us to free up our budget for important things, like food, and open bar and a great photographer. Here are a few of my favorite tips and tricks to help you in your decision making and why they were so successful for me!

Don’t waste your money or time on favors for everyone.

If you really must, offer a basket of favors on the welcome table, but don’t spend your time or money assembling one for each guest. Most of them will likely leave them or forget them unless they’re food or something truly useful that they need. To bypass this at our wedding, we ordered about 50 custom matchbooks and placed them with cigars on the bar – they were all gone by the end of the night and huge hit! For our bridal party table, instead of standard place cards, we ordered wood cut outs of their names to keep.

Spend your money on the things that matter to your guests.

Your guests have three primary needs – food, drink and fun. That’s what they come to weddings for so to make them happy, make sure those areas are up to par. Invest in a great caterer or one that gives an experience, like a pig roast BBQ, serve an open bar or pick-your-own drink (no one likes a cash bar), and make sure your DJ brings the beat with plenty of dancing and fun. Everything else can be compromised on, like creating a seating chart versus seating cards, serving a dessert bar instead of a five tier cake, and DIY’ing your centerpieces instead of getting an expensive florist.

Make budget room for the three things that you will remember forever.

Your wedding dress, your photos and your video – these are three musts to invest into. Having your dream dress gives you all of the confidence you need on your wedding day and memories that last a lifetime. You also want to make sure you have an amazing photographer and videographer because these are complete treasures. We originally were going to invest all of our money in a good photographer and not hire a videographer, but all of our married friends and family highly encouraged it, and it was by far the best decision we ever made! Not only did our photographer capture every happy, sad, and straight silly moment of the day, but the videographer got it all on video for us. We look back at these moments all the time and they’re the most cherished things we have from our weddings.

You can find high design without high budget.

Finding the right venue can make all the difference in your budget – we spent a little extra money to find an all glass walled barn in the country overlooking beautiful scenery rather than a stuffy ballroom and ended up spending a lot less on decor because we let the venue speak for itself. When we went to our florist to pick our centerpieces, we showed them our Pinterest inspiration and set a budget for each piece, then let them work their magic. They found ways to make our vision come to life in a budget that worked for us rather than adding a bunch of extras on to jack up the price!  Always make your budget and vision clear, and your decor specialists try to work within both.

If someone DIY’d it online, so can you at half the price.

Even if you’re not creative, there are tons of tutorials to make your vision come to life at half the price. For us, I DIY’d a ton of our decor that our guests didn’t bat an eye at, including our seating cards, our invitations and our table numbers. Most of my time was spent on our seating charts, which were simply white Sharpie paint pens on acrylic sheets from the hardware store, and our marque letters, which were two-foot cardboard letters from the craft store and $10 bulb lights from Target! For $60, I made a vision come to life that would have cost us over $300 to rent!

Put your money into pieces you will use again in your home or after-wedding life.

Almost everything we bought for our wedding had a secondary purpose afterwards – our lantern for our unity ceremony is now displayed in our home, our guest “book” were corn hole boards we now use at family parties, and all of the frames used to house signs and photos are now displaying our beautiful wedding photos in our home and offices at work. They may cost more than cheap disposable alternatives upfront, but in the long-term, you already now have decor for your home!

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Life and Marriage

Our First Year Anniversary: Wedding Outtakes

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Our first year wedding anniversary is just around the corner and it’s hard to believe this year flew by that fast! It feels like just a few months ago, we were saying I Do in front of our friends and family at Orchard Ridge Farms in Rockton, IL. With the beautiful videos and photos from the talent professionals we hired, we constantly look back at this beautiful day and the life we now live together as husband and wife – but with the beautiful also comes the outtakes! Enjoy a few of my favorite goofy photos and videos from our big day that even I missed happening while running around!

 

 

 

Photography: Ryan Davis Photography

Videography: Windy City Productions

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