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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Life and Marriage

Date Night Ideas Without Leaving Your Home

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You’re never too old and life is never too busy for a date night. I have found in my own relationship and with others around me that people tend to say life gets in the way of maintaining a strong love between you and your significant other, but taking time to have a date night doesn’t mean it has to be expensive or cause you to go out of the way. Sometime, you just need a good night in together to refresh and reinvigorate after a long work week. I am a huge homebody and my husband is a very energetic individual, so finding activities around our house has become more frequent and truly tests our creativity! Enjoy a selection of my favorite in-home date nights that I share with my hubby.

Make Dinner Together

I would say this is the most common thing we do together. With Jeff constantly going to training in the evening and me not getting home from my busy day until 6 p.m., the majority of our time is spent together cooking and eating, so making dinner together is one of our favorite things to do. Our week and date nights get even easier when we use Plated with prepacked meals to fit our busy schedule. Delicious food is a huge part of our love language and Plated surely delivers so that we can spend more time together and less time at the grocery store picking out ingredients.

Learn more about Plated and preview your menu options!

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Stream a Fitness Class

If you like to be active but don’t feel like leaving your living room, find an online fitness class that you can do at home. Yoga, HIIT and sculpting classes are just a few options available for free on YouTube or on a fitness streaming site. Take 45 minutes together and burn a few calories, then treat yourself to that pint of ice cream in the freezer!

Take a Neighborhood Walk

After a long work week, there’s nothing more refreshing than a nice walk – no worries, no stress and just good, quality time together. I love taking walks around our neighborhood with Jeff and our dog. With a walking trail right behind our house through some very scenic areas, it’s easy to hop outside and relax when the weather is beautiful.

Host a Personal Bonfire With S’mores

Snuggle up in front of a warm fire with some delicious sweets. Whether indoors in a fireplace or outside in a fire pit, take a deep breath to relax together and create your own mini bar of choice – from deluxe s’mores to cocktails or even hot chocolate, take a night to treat each other to your favorites rather than thinking diets and restrictions.

Make a Pillow Fort and Enjoy a Movie

Take it back to your childhood with a good ol’ pillow fort and your favorite films. Grab a few snacks from the grocery store or your favorite take out, put on your favorite PJs and get cozy together for a night of relaxation in your own home. This is a perfect plan as well for a rainy or sick day where you don’t feel like leaving the house and just want to binge watch something good!

Do a Project Together

Have you been putting off building some new shelves or painting that spare bedroom – make it a date night! You may think I’m crazy, but doing projects together is great way to bond. Try making something fun together or making a game out of the project by making it prize worthy. For example, whoever paints the least in a room treats the other to dinner or does laundry for the next week.

 


Make it an ultimate date night by pairing your favorite activity above with Plated, a meal delivery kit for true food lovers offering convenience, menu inspiration, and efficiency!

Learn to cook more and live better by visiting plated.com!


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Some featured products in the post have been provided for testing purposes complimentary for brand partnerships. All opinions expressed in this post are those of the writer and not for promotional purposes. 

 

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Life and Marriage

20 Life Lessons I’ve Learned In Our First Year Of Marriage

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People always say the first year of marriage is the hardest, and even though we achieved some really big things this year, I can firmly say that being engaged was definitely harder. Planning a wedding as our first big project together created a lot more tension in our lives and gave us a great foundation for our marriage, so being married was more a breeze than we thought. Although, being married changed a LOT of stuff in our day-to-day lives: merged bank accounts, name changes, buying a home – a things that take some negotiation.

As my husband and I celebrate our first year of marriage together, I can’t help but look back at the lessons I’ve learned in the first year, and few tricks to help couples, married or not, to prepare them for life ahead.

TREAT YOUR SPOUSE EVERYDAY LIKE YOUR BEST FRIEND

My husband is the kind of guy I can just be stupid with – I can tell him everything, laugh at inappropriate jokes together, and I can bitch about that stupid girl at work to him without any judgement. He listens to me, knows my routines, and understands what I like inside and out. This has been absolutely revolutionary in our relationship. He feeds me when I’m hangry and don’t want to admit it, and loves me when I need it. He knows he’s my everything, in love and in friendship, and that truly is our foundation together.

DON’T LET ANY CONVERSATION BE OFF THE TABLE

He’s my life partner and my best friend forever, so I’ve learned nothing can ever be off limits in your conversations. When I am mad or uncomfortable with something, I need to be able to tell him and vice versa, or else it just piles up into resentment. Sometimes conversations are hard, but trust me, they just get harder as life goes on. I’ve really learned that if you have questions or something to say, you really just need to ask them or say it because leaving them unanswered or unspoken is worse.

STUPID, ADULT THINGS SUCK, BUT YOU HAVE EACH OTHER

Taxes, major purchases, money – these things are the biggest stresses in relationships, but they have to be done. In our first year of marriage, we bought a house, bought him a new car, both changed jobs, and managed to find ways to pay off debt. These things are all POSSIBLE – and without fighting too. It really means you have support each other in these conversations and make sure you lay your cards on the table from the start. My advice for a big purchase like a home or car: have both of you write down what features and benefits you want from that purchase, calculate how much you can afford payment each month based on your income (don’t forget insurance and related expenses not in the base payment), and find a common ground. Which leads me to the next point…

COMPROMISE, COMPROMISE, COMPROMISE!

The BIGGEST lesson is that marriage isn’t 50/50, it has to 100/100. You each have to give it your all, and giving it your all means taking a loss individually time-to-time. Sometimes you have to sacrifice something to make the other happier, or to make a lifestyle work the way you want. Push your pride aside and accept the fact that you have to compromise. I hate the saying “wife’s always right” because as a wife, I think us women rely too much on that – we have to compromise too and being selfless for your husband means the world to them.

IT’S OK TO NOT ALWAYS LIKE EACH OTHER, BUT ALWAYS LOVE EACH OTHER

I get so mad at my husband sometimes (mostly about stupid stuff) – it’s OK not like each other sometimes. But one thing for sure, no matter how mad we are at each other or dislike each other, we still love each other. Your spouse is the closest, most important person in your life – it’s unconditional love as best friends and life partners, and it’s OK to say you love each other even when you don’t agree.

INTIMACY DOES NOT EQUAL SEX

Too many people think they need to give their partner sex to satisfy them, and if they don’t, they fear the dreaded dry-spell. Well, being intimate doesn’t have to equal sex. Just being together brings intimacy to your relationship and makes you love each other more. I love snuggling with my husband after a long day at work, in the few minutes we get before he has to jet off to training. It gives me warm sense of love that refills my life cup and makes us feel close.

ACT FOR WHAT’S RIGHT FOR YOUR RELATIONSHIP, NOT SOCIETY

Society tells you to do a lot of things – have kids, buy a house, own two cars, each have stable jobs. But this isn’t the mold that fits for everyone. Each relationship is different and your life is what you live with, no one else has to live with it. Don’t let the pressure of societal norms put pressure on your relationship. When my husband said he wanted to quit his job and train full time, I knew we would make all of the other things like finances work, but I will admit that it was hard at first for me to tell people my husband didn’t have a full time job. Now, I completely embrace my husband as a “stay at home dog dad” and I’ve seen everyone else embrace the modern ideal that the man doesn’t have to be the breadwinner in the family anymore.

LOVE YOUR SPOUSE FOR WHO THEY ARE, NOT WHO THEY COULD BE

Too many people dream about what their spouse can be, whether it’s a ripped fitness model because they start going to the gym or a CEO because they have a new job. Love them for who they are now and not who they can be, because loving them for who they can be makes you feel disappointed when they don’t meet your expectations. You loved them and married them for who they are, don’t change that when they change something in their life. My husband is the best at living this, because even when I want to be a more fit person and lose weight, or change my appearance because of an insecurity, he loves me unconditionally for how I look at that moment, and tells me it every day.

NEVER FEEL PRESSURED TO CHANGE OR DO SOMETHING

Just because one of you is ready to take a big life step, doesn’t mean the other is, and you should never pressure them to do it. My husband was beyond ready to be a dad even before we were married, but my career was just hitting a huge milestone and I have a lot of goals I always thought I would achieve before kids. When I told him I wasn’t ready, I was worried he would be mad, but since we compromised and conversed about what we as a couple wanted to achieve before kids, the pressure has been relieved and if anything, we’ve stepped up together to work toward our goals one at a time to knock them off our “pre-kids” list so that we can make our family dreams come true.

SOMETIMES, YOU JUST NEED TO AVOID THE ARGUMENT

When you see someone every day, it’s easy for little things to add up and annoy you, but sometimes you just have to do something to avoid the argument. For the first few years we lived together, I harped on my husband because his clothes never make it into the laundry basket – and they still don’t! But, I changed my attitude about it and now it’s become part of my routine to pick up the trail of clothes to avoid the argument that could ensue. Sometimes it’s just easier because it’s unnecessary to fight over such little things.

IT’S OK TO DO STUFF ON YOUR OWN, EVEN THOUGH YOU FEEL GUILTY

During my first year of marriage, I felt so guilty going out with my girlfriends without my husband because we always went places he would love to go, like out for sushi or to the movies. I wanted to bring him along but didn’t want to be that girl that was attached at the hip to her husband. What I’ve had to learn is that it’s OK to feel guilty, but embrace the private time (I’ve heard it gets worse with kids with mom guilt!). You deserve your own independence as long as you give your husband the attention he needs too. Some husbands require more than others, but never forget those people who were there for you before your spouse was in the picture too, like family and friends.

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DON’T STOP DATING JUST BECAUSE YOU’RE MARRIED

Date nights have become my favorite thing – when we go out, we wear cute clothes, get delicious food, and don’t talk about the stresses of life. It’s just like a first date all over again and I remember every reason why I fell in love with my husband. Just because you’re married, it doesn’t mean that you stop dating your husband and I think a lot of couples forget that when they fall into their daily routines. We have habits of treating date nights like another night at home, but really work to separate yourself into another mind set where hot button topics of your life don’t come up, like work.

NOT ALL LIFE GOALS HAVE TO BE MUTUAL

It’s OK to have personal goals, as long as the other person knows this is what you want to achieve. When my husband came to me and said he wanted to start MMA fighting, I refused because he was already injury prone and I didn’t want him to be gone for training so often. I soon realized I was being selfish just because his goal didn’t involve me (plus I didn’t want him to get injured), but just as my mom tells me about raising kids, sometimes you have to let them do what they want to do and if something bad happens, they learn their own lesson. I support my husband in the goals he wants to achieve, just as he supports me in my personal and professional goals. They may affect us as a couple, but mutual knowledge and understanding help us work together, and formulate our couple goals around them.

IT’S OK TO FEEL A LULL IN YOUR RELATIONSHIP POST-WEDDING

The first year of marriage feels… empty. You’re not planning a wedding and if you’re not planning to have kids right away, it just feels stressful because there’s nothing to look forward to but boring daily routines. Give yourself some time to explore passion projects or hobbies rather than rushing into the next big life step. For us, I started this blog and wanted to explore more of my personal interests, and my husband wanted to try new sports, and now we fill our time with things we actually enjoy, together and apart.

IF SOMETHING ANNOYS YOU, FIX IT EARLY

If you find something that you don’t like or that really bothers you, step up early and say it because resentment is very possible, no matter how much you love someone. Negotiate a resolution and find an equal compromise that works for both of you. If you find this difficult, couples therapy is a great option, or even seeing your local clergy to have a couples session. When we were going through marriage counselling for our pastor to officiate our wedding, there were a lot of tough topics we had to talk about, and we ended up coming out stronger with more transparency in our relationship.

EFFORT MAKE A MARRIAGE, NOT A WEDDING

Just because you have a $50,000 wedding and a new ring on your finger, it doesn’t mean life is all peaches and roses forever. Marriages require a lot of work, and it doesn’t always mean physical. The mental and emotional work are the biggest parts, making sure you’re supporting and loving each other through the demands you each need. I highly encourage every couple to know your love language (read the 5 languages of love book!) because it truly helps you better understand what makes your partner feel loved.

TIME TOGETHER DOESN’T ALWAYS HAVE TO MEAN INTIMACY OR ACTIVITIES

My favorite part of the day is eating dinner with my husband. It’s a rare occurrence because we work on opposite schedules, but on occasion, our time together is the best thing after a long day at work, even if he’s turning the TV on to his show without asking me what I want to watch. It’s important that you make time together to do whatever you want and relax.

SOMETIMES, YOU HAVE TO BE AN EXECUTIVE DECISION MAKER

The best part of marriage is that you can legally represent each other, and most the time one person steps up as being the decision maker more often. In our relationship, I handle all of the bills and big business negotiations simply because that’s where my skills are best suited, and sometimes you just have to step up to be that support for your relationship. Instead of both of us managing all of our bills and money, causing serious confusion, it’s just easier for me to do it and keep him in the loop if something changes or is wrong. It’s OK that some heavier decisions weigh on one person versus the other – really sort your life choices based on your strengths and weaknesses, and you’ll find that you’re not destroying your mind trying to figure something out you’re not good at.

GIVE EACH OTHER SPACE

The best thing you can do is create a designated physical space for both of you. Now, living in a small apartment doesn’t always allow for that, but in our current home, my husband has his designated “man cave” for all of his gaming and sporting stuff, while I usually spend most of my time in the living room or my office. We both have areas to decompress and relax when we need to recharge on our own – and yes, you sometimes need your private time rather than couple time. When we did live in our one bedroom apartment, Jeff had his gaming desk in the living room, and I spent most of my time in the bedroom on my computer or watching TV when we were home together. Even that little physical separation gave us room to breath.

ENCOURAGE EACH OTHER ENDLESSLY

It’s easy when you see someone every day to lose sight of the big picture, but it’s important to tirelessly support each other, even in the little things. When my husband didn’t want to stay at his job anymore and to just train full time, I was unsure of how that would impact us and our relationship, but I supported him because his passions are more important to me than anything else. I want him to be the best self he wants to be and achieve things he dreams of, and supporting him is the first step. When people called me stupid for letting him do MMA fighting (after being so accident prone the last year), I told them they’re right, but I love that man and I support his dreams. Whatever he breaks or bruises, I will be by his bedside telling him he was stupid, but that I love him and that I’m proud he tried his best.

To me, this is how I love. You may not agree on everything, and don’t expect to because you won’t – you compromise, you love unconditionally, and you grow together. That’s what marriage is all about. The first year of marriage is no walk in the park. I always joked before our wedding that nothing will change after the big day except a piece of paper, but the reality of forever really sets in when you call each other husband and wife. Once the big decisions start to roll in on top of the daily pressures of money and work, you find yourself in weird spots you’ve never been before, and navigating these tight trails is where couples come out stronger.

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Life and Marriage

My Favorite Recipes From Joanna Gaines’ Magnolia Table Cookbook

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I have grown to really love cooking and baking with a kitchen that now feels like home after our recent improvements. I have always been better at cooking, but my growing interest in baking has yielded me growing discipline for following recipes and interest in creating more complex sweets as I learn more techniques.

For my birthday, I was recently gifted Joanna Gaines’ newest cookbook featuring her favorite southern fairs with her own worldly flairs, making my copy become filled with “must make” post its! I started my journey with a classic – Jojo’s biscuits and made multiple recipes and delicious dishes using these basic baked clouds to start! I’m happy to share a sneak peak of a my top must-try recipes straight from her book to your table – click the image below to see the recipe!

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Life and Marriage, Travel

Fun Summer Activities In The Chicago Area

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Looking for a little Midwest fun? Well put on your gym shoes and get ready for a day packed with activities and adventure! There’s nothing better than finally getting out of the house after a long, cold Chicago winter, and some of favorite activities are now open for business! See what I spend my weekends doing from May through September!


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Don’t let rainy summer days get you down – the museum campus along the lake makes any day wonderful and full of imagination! The Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium and the Adler Planetarium are just a few must-see spots to get the creative juices flowing. Even better, most museums have free admission days for Illinois residents with your ID! We happened to go to the Field Museum this year for my husband’s birthday and spent hours looking at all of the amazing and historical exhibits!

Learn more!


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Take a trip back in time and experience a real life medieval times! Jousting tournaments to shops and Ye Old Pub, get transported back in time for chump change at this spectacular event just minutes over the Wisconsin border north of Chicago. Also, who wouldn’t want to meet a few knights in shinning armor?

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Being a major city brings all of the best festivals to your front door, whether in the city or the suburbs. From the apple festival in Lake County to downtown music festivals like Lollapalooza and food fun at Naperville’s RibFest, you’re bound to find a festival worth your time! Find something you love and spend your weekend perusing artisan goods or jamming to your favorite bands.

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Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! Chicago is home to not one, but two zoos! Visit Lincoln Park Zoo in the city with FREE ADMISSION to see your favorite wildlife creatures come to life in the urban jungle, or see the vast and beautiful exhibits at Brookfield Zoo just outside the city limits. Both are a great experience to see indoor and outdoor animals come to life on a fun and sunny summer day.

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See a game in the classically preserved Wrigley Field in one of Chicago’s most vibrant neighborhoods or take it out the suburbs to see the Chicago Dogs or Kane County Cougars for baseball fun on a penny pocketbook. A day in the sun soaking in some sports fun is exactly what the doctor called for the cure the winter blues. This is a summer tradition for my husband and I – we got engaged after a Cub’s game and always love seeing a little baseball with hot dogs and a cold drink!


Want the ultimate list of things to do in the city this summer? Click here!


 

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Life and Marriage

My Favorite Recipes: Lemon Blueberry Tart

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If you haven’t noticed already, I LOVE baking! I may not always be good at it or follow the recipes to the letter, but having the freedom to take someone else’s recipe with my own flair makes baking all the more fun! My favorite new addition to my collection is a rectangle tart pan, and I was so excited to make my first lemon tart! I have never made lemon curd or shortbread, and learning the techniques took some trial and error.

After many trials and tribulations, I am beyond thrilled to share my favorite recipe for my delicious lemon blueberry tart!

PRINT THIS RECIPE HERE!

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