Summer Dates You Will Want to Repeat

Summer is my favorite season! With the warm weather life seems to open up again. The possibilities grow as we are able to get outside, move, and soak up the sun.

In this favorite season of mine, I’ve also noticed favorite dates play on repeat. Here are the Summer Dates we come back to time and time again.

RepeatDates

Ice Cream Dates

Ice cream is simply delicious and especially refreshing on a warm day. Repeated nearly weekly, Tappy and I will sit down and enjoy some icecream together.

This is Summer’s version of a “coffee date” for us. It gives us a treat while we unwind, share dreams, and update each other on our week. But there are some ways you can spice up your ice cream dates! Try to…

  • Make Homemade Ice Cream
  • Make Sundaes or Root Beer Floats at Home
  • Try a New Ice Cream Parlor
  • Order Something Different off the Menu

 

Sunset Walks

Unwind from work, eat supper, and then right before Dusk put on your walking shoes. The sunset not only offers a lovely backdrop for a romantic walk, but it also offers a break in the day’s heat.

Walks are great, because men enjoy side-by-side activities. As you move and the blood gets flowing, your brain starts moving too. Tappy can’t deny that he talks more on walks than sitting down at a table. There is just something about moving together! Plus it’s healthy!

  • Walk Your Favorite Neighborhood
  • Walk the Trails at your Local Park
  • Visit a Botanical Garden or Zoo

 

Outdoor Grilling

We love grilling so much, that we have done it in the rain and snow before… But let’s face it, it works much better in the summer! Our favorite thing to grill is Kabobs. Although, we won’t turn down a BBQ hamsteak, corn on the cob, burgers, or sausages either!

Keep your partner company while they make dinner, eat it outside on paper plates, and enjoy the relaxing nature of it all.

  • Try a new Grill Recipe (Kabobs, Grilled Pizza?)
  • Invite friends over for a cookout
  • Use this marinade recipe we love!
  • Make it a Picnic

 

Visit the Lake

Tappy and I love to take out the family boat. Being on the lake reminds me of God’s hand in all of creation. I admire His work, and think about the blessing He has given us to enjoy it in such neat ways. Who thought of being pulled by a rope attached to a speed boat just to skim the surface of the water on sticks?! I’m pretty sure God gave man that idea.

  • Swim in the Lake
  • Lay on the Beach
  • Go Boating, Tubing, Skiing
  • Kayak or Canoe

 

What Summer Date Ideas do you play on Repeat?

Give us some suggestions for our next date night!

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What’s Behind the Argument?

Even as certified Pre-Marital Counselors, Tappy and I still have our arguments. In fact, some of the most heated arguments  have even happened when we were preparing to teach a Marriage class.

It was a weeknight. We had both gotten home from a full days work to sit down at the table and prepare the lesson for the following Saturday night class.

As we went through the material we would plan illustrations to bring the material to life, supplement from other studies we’ve done to offer more practical advise, and we were also creating a power point to be visually engaging for our students.

Power Points are important, but I felt that lesson-planning was becoming very inefficient by the constant pauses to change bullet points, fonts, and colors. After a while my frustration started to come out in my tone, and small remarks under my breath about how I wish Tap would stop working on the power point.

Before I knew it the frustration had escalated, and Tappy responded by slamming the laptop shut and exclaiming, “Fine, we won’t have a powerpoint.”

Then I rebutted, “Fine, and you can teach this class alone!”

What's Behind the Argument

During the whole evening I was begging him to work on the power point later, I argued that it wasn’t as important as the lesson, and how inefficient it seemed to be multi-tasking. I was talking about the external circumstances. The surface issue was I didn’t want to work on the power point while we lesson planned.

This caused Tap to argue the importance of the power point, how it helped us stay on track during our lesson, and how it made more sense to make it as we went through the lesson rather than after. The surface issue was that he wanted to do the power point simultaneously.

When we stay in the surface issues we offer ZERO sympathy. We don’t put ourselves in the other person’s shoes. Instead we are out to win the argument. 

After the blow up, we cooled down, and we wisened up. We remembered that all heated arguments aren’t about the surface issues, but something deeper.

Tap was probably the one to break the ice, by stating how he felt. “I feel unappreciated when you want me to stop working on the power point, because I feel that my contribution to the lesson isn’t important to you.”

My husband feels unappreciated. AAACK! That’s not what I want. Pause, Rewind. Now I’m slowing down to understand and empathize. I had the opportunity to say, “No, I love the power points you make, and I see how they help the class follow along and engage!” Trying to undue all the harm I’ve done, and shine light on all the positives I see and to show the appreciation he needed.

Then I shared my under-the-surface-feelings, “I feel disrespected when you would stop me in the middle of my sentences or thoughts to fix the power point, because I didn’t feel like you were concentrating on the lesson plan and our time was being wasted.”

That’s when he stepped into my shoes and saw how I was frustrated to watch him work on something I couldn’t help him with, and he began to see that his attention did appear to be pulled in two directions.

Surface issue: To work on the Power Point or Not to work on the Power Point

REAL issue: Feeling Unappreciated & Feeling Disrespected

 

Focusing on our feelings keeps the argument more humane and it opens us up to be more receptive of our partner’s point of view. Using an XYZ statement is a great way to express your feelings as well as help you identify your feelings in the middle of an argument. Here is an XYZ statement:

I feel  ___X___, when  ___Y___, because ___Z___.”

If you scroll back up, you can see how Tappy and I used this exact framework to calm our argument down.

 

What are ways you turn a fight around?

Challenge: Next argument, try to use an XYZ statement and tell us how it goes.

Asking Someone Out on a Date

When I met Tappy a crush began. We would cross paths in the hallway in College as I left class, and he was going to his. As time went on you could sense that I was hanging around after class, and he was coming early just to up the odds of running into each other. After every 2 minute conversation I would say, “We should get together sometime.” HINT HINT, *nudge* *nudge*

But he never got the hint! He’d say, “Ya that’d be fun,” and then walk into class like I didn’t exist. After a couple weeks of this, I decided I would break the social norm and ask him out! I walked back up the stairs and into that classroom, seconds before the professor was going to start and I asked Tappy if he would like to “hang out” with me and to let me know when right there in front of everyone.

AskOut

I walked out of that classroom with hot rosy cheeks and so many embarrassing thoughts swimming in my head, but that night he sent me a message with the days and times he was available and said he would love to get together and do something.

Come to find out “Dates” are becoming rare, and asking someone out is even more unusual. This was already becoming the case 10 years ago, when Tap and I were in College. On our Christian campus the motto was “Ring By Spring.” Instead of traditional dates, individuals became couples and were talking marriage and commitment head first.

5 years ago, we were talking to a bundle of girls I enjoyed mentoring. The idea of having coffee with someone was “awkward” to them. They said “people don’t do that anymore.” “You are either friend-zoned or full out in a relationship.”  The commitment came before the date!

Then there’s now. Tappy and I recently watched a documentary called “The Dating Project,” which followed 5 single people at various ages (18-40’s) who live all across the US from New York to LA. They discuss the dating scene, their personal experiences, and their mindset for relationships. Over and Over the theme was of a “Hook Up” culture – Where individuals would find themselves wondering if they were “dating” someone or not, unclear of the other’s intentions, hooking up with strangers for status or some resemblance of love and attention.

Then, in the documentary, we meet a professor who sees this trend all over a university campus and decides to challenge it within her sociology class! She assigns her students to go on what she calls “Traditional Dates.” These Traditional Dates have some great rules that offer a guideline of where to get started when you are looking for a mate. Here are my favorite 4 Guidelines:

1. You Ask, You Pay & You Plan

Too often, students found themselves on an “accidate.” The fact that it was a date was never clear, or the intentions were different for each party. To date well, you need to do so with clear intentions. Make sure the person you ask knows that it’s a date.

This is where I failed. I didn’t clearly state that it was a date! So on our “date” we ran into my pastor who asked, OUT LOUD, if we were on a date! I was so nervous. I wanted it to be a date, but I hadn’t clearly stated that. I didn’t know if Tappy wanted it to be a date or not and here he is in ear shot! If I said yes, would he be freaked out, if I said no would he think I wasn’t interested?  Don’t make the same mistake.

Then if you ask, you should have a plan. Keep it simple and in an environment that allows conversation (unlike a movie). My personal favorite is an icecream date! Tap would probably choose coffee. Other ideas would be long-boarding, rollerblading, a game of PIG basketball, a walk around campus or at a park.

2. Keep it under 90 Minutes

For a first date keep it short, 45-90 minutes. You are just testing the waters. If it’s bad you have an out. If it’s good, you keep the interest alive and you don’t beat it dead with a stick. They said get out under 90 minutes especially if it’s good.

This is one I would not have thought of! If I’m having fun I can easily loose track of time, but I think we can all agree that less can be more. I don’t think anyone regrets a little bit of a chase or those early butterflies.

3. Prepare 3 Questions

As well as planning the activity, you need to come prepared with three questions. Any more than that it may feel like an interrogation. However, three questions helps keep the conversation going and shows genuine interest. These questions can always generate follow-up questions, and that’s good. Go where the conversation leads! You shouldn’t follow your questions like a check list, just have them as back-up.

4. No Touchy

The purpose of dating is to get to know someone well and to discover if they are a good match for you. These first few dates should be touch free as you engage your mind.  An “A-Frame” hug is allowed, but touching shouldn’t be introduced until you’ve gone on multiple dates and see a possibility of a future and lock-in a relationship status.

This here is super counter-cultural, when we live in a world of Friends with Benefits and Casual Hook-Ups this may not make sense. However, our bodies are literally scientifically wired to create emotional connections out of physical ones (It’s called Oxytocin). Then the more emotionally attached the more biased our opinions and the more our decisions are affected. #beenthere #donethat Tap and I have both stated that we stayed in bad relationships, because we were prematurely invested.  It can keep our decisions wiser to not engage prematurely in touch.

 

Tell me, what do you think of traditional dates? What are some of your favorite date ideas?

Singles: Go ask someone out! Use the guidelines, and tell us how it went!

Couples: Tell us your first date stories!

For more “First Level Date” guidelines check out the documentary “The Dating Project.

 

 

Why #LoveYourSpouse Challenge is Good

I understand why people are rolling their eyes at the #LoveYourSpouse trend…  Because the reality is, life is NOT A FAIRY TALE.

And for most people who are against the trend rightly feel that it is a little too polished and perfect to be true. However, this challenge is a reminder of something all couples need a little more of.

Positivity. Bonding. Forgiveness. Solidarity. Encouragement.

#loveyourspouse

Here are three short reasons why the #LoveYourSpouse Challenge is a good thing.

-Keeping a Positive Outlook on Your Marriage is Healthy-

I’ve shared before that Tap and I have made a commitment to not bash each other in public. When we do this we feel safe in our relationship, we don’t fear embarrassment in-front of or away from our spouse. Our spouse knows our deepest and most hidden flaws, and with this rule I feel safe with him knowing all of me.

So no, facebook doesn’t show the reality of our roller coaster relationship, but it shouldn’t have to. Fights are for us in our own space and time, until they’re too big- Then they’re for us and a mutually trusted counselor or wiser couple.

-Telling and Sharing Your Story is Bonding-

In all of my communication & relationship courses in college the theme of “story” was studied. The premise was that “memory sharing” creates and reinforces a bond between two people. Just watch a couple recite their story, over time they can finish each other’s sentences and they can repeat this story with bravado! You also begin to see them lean into each other, and show outward signs of affection.

Why? Because, once you walk down memory lane it tends to resurface some of those initial butterfly feelings.

Furthermore! Every positive memory is like an investment in your relationship. So when those imperfect hard times hit, you have an investment that softens the blow! We need to keep remembering the reasons we love our spouse, as well as create more reasons and memories for future hardships.

-We all Desperately Need Encouragement-

We should never stop encouraging our spouse… or our friends, family, or other marriages and love stories.

Just after 4.5 years of my marriage, I may feel like I’m not the woman my husband married. Fear that I have disappointed him with the pounds I’ve gained, the patience I’ve lost, and the slow change of personality that happens with experience and time. We all doubt ourselves, and need the reminder and reaffirmation that our marriage is still strong in the midst of challenge or change.

Even in a healthy, loving, committed relationship, I’m glad to still hear I love you.. still.

It is important to remind each other that we did, do, and will always love one another, despite the surfacing flaws, bumps in the road, and challenges we face.

And in a world that pushes divorce, selfishness, and the pursuit of happiness over holiness, it’s good to see love conquer.

How about you? Will you be joining the challenge? Why or why not?

 

Learning to Stop, and Love

The other morning as I was driving to work, I was talking to my sweet husband. He had decided to give his day off-after a long hard week- to paint furniture for our new apartment.

I’m so incredibly blessed by him, it was supposed to hit the 90’s, and furniture painting isn’t the most fun of activities… I had helped him back on Memorial Day and 6 chairs and 3 coats later I was more than done with it!

So all of this to say, my husband is awesome, and yet I am so so far from it.

On the phone he asked me a question and I thought it was a silly one- I pointed it out and got on the weirdest little soapbox, as if I was performing for the debate team.

My case was solid from every direction, backed up with facts and snarky comments… until Tap broke in and tore my case apart with one line.

“Honey.. it was just a question, you don’t have to treat me like a moron.”

And Smack.

For a moment I was rolling around in my own glory and the feeling of being right, to find I was just rolling in the mud of pride and self-righteousness.

For a moment I was rolling around in my own glory and the feeling of being right, to find I was just rolling in the mud of pride and self-righteousness.

Such an ugly pride.

It hurt, because I had hurt him and he was right.

I need to learn how to stop.

People rarely need a reminder of their faults and shortcomings. We are all so aware already- burying ourselves in grief. We do not need to add a single thing to this pile of self-loathing in ANY way.

But rather we should lift this burden off others, especially our men. And begin to build them up.

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you.  Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.

 Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:11-15

Stop rolling around in the feeling of “being right” to only come up filthy. Let us stop our silly debate teams, soap boxes, and self-righteous monologues, and start being cheerleaders, builders, teammates, and dreamers.

 

Thank you honey, for painting the rest of the furniture. For being my team mate in making a house a home. You are strong, talented, and becoming quite the handy man!

Love,

Emilie

Best and Most Challenging Parts of Marriage

A couple-friend of ours is engaged and currently doing pre-marital counseling. They were told to interview three couples (in different stages of marriage) with three questions.

And guess who was a lucky winner?! Tap and I!

We had a lot of fun mulling over these questions, and discussing them with our friends so I thought I’d share them with you.

  1. What is the BEST thing about marriage?
  2. What is the most CHALLENGING part of marriage?
  3. What is your #1 best piece of ADVICE?

Photo Courtesy – Kevin Curtis at Unsplash

Tap and I have been married for 4 years on the 10th of December, and we are still learning just as much as the next couple…. But here are the few insights we were able to give.

What is the BEST thing about marriage : Friendship

Tappy and I probably could have said this in unison… we BOTH feel that this is just truly great.

We love that our team-mate, friend, and lover is always there. We don’t ever have to be alone, we have each other for all the hurdles and celebrations of life.

From this day forward, for better or worse, you always have someone there to go through it with you.

What is the most CHALLENGING part of marriage : Fighting Fair, Balance, & More

To be honest this question came with more than one answer… In the four short years we’ve had together we’ve seen different challenges… and I am positive it’s only a glimpse of the challenges yet to come.  But for each year of our life, I thought there was a challenge worth mentioning.

Year 1: Comparison

In year one, we compared our reality of marriage to our imagination of marriage. We had to learn what the difference was between our ideals and what was. But comparison went further for me… it was comparing myself to other women and specifically Tap’s ex’s. I had to learn confidence and grace for myself, and trust in how God made me, and trust what Tap said when he complimented me.

Year 2: Learning to Fight Fair

This is really more of an every-year thing… We still pull the gloves off every now and then and fight dirty, but the earlier you can drop the bad habits the better!

Tap and I have learned that we cannot go to bed angry, otherwise we can’t sleep.  However, this doesn’t work for everyone. It’s usually best to give yourself a “time-out” to clear your head, minimize the emotion, and get back down to business.

Another great thing for us is to remind ourselves we are a team… whatever we are fighting about, it should be us fighting together to tackle the issue. Try not to forget you are a team.

Year 3: Balancing Life

We don’t have kids yet, but we still had to learn to balance our lives: house chores, work, church, friends, alone time, and date time. It only gets harder when more things add to this list!

Because Tap works in ministry, there was an added dynamic to this.  It is wise to prioritize your life in this way: God, Wife, Kids, Work. But if Tap works for God (in ministry) then this list gets a little blurry. We had to define what items on his Job Description were “God things” and which were “Work things.” It was hard to define this line…. God’s work is important, but it is also important not to become a workaholic and to give your family the proper time they need.

What is your #1 Best Piece of Advice : Dating & Communication

It surprises me how many couples are scared to be vulnerable and honest in a culture that seems to be so “out-there.” Conversations can be tough, but if you can be courageous to discuss things and humble enough to listen it will save your marriage a lot of heart-ache.

Tap said Dating is his best advice… “Happy wife, happy life!” But really, dating allows you to stay connected, keep in touch, and grow together. It’s important to always invest in your relationship.

Tap didn’t realize this until he was married, but he opens up best when we go on walks.

In my studies I learned that men connect “Side by Side” while women tend to connect “Face to Face.”  While I can sit over coffee and talk for hours, a man typically prefers to bond through doing something… fixing a car, playing basketball, etc. So try to connect through doing… go on a walk, kayak, work on a project he’s passionate about, etc.  Don’t always expect him to open up by facing him directly (and possibly intimidatingly). haha.

See some great date ideas at TheDatingDivas.com or the book 10GreatDates, got a budget try $10GreatDates!

What questions would you ask? How would you answer these questions? Engage in the discussion!

Build Each Other Up

Kids tend to make people the punchlines of their jokes.

They often grow-up, but don’t grow out of it. The jokes may take different set-ups, forms, or turns… but people still end up battered on the other end. Their bruises covered by laughter.

In highschool, I was blessed with a positive influence. My youth pastor, Brian, made it our mantra that we would not tear each other down, but that our job was to build each other up.

Whenever we said something negative about someone else, we had to apologize and list three things we liked about that person- and the mantra would be spoken again “Build Each other up.”

Ryan McGuire at StockSnap.io

Life is hard, why make it harder for each other? We have the power to tear down and the power to build up. Why not stand together to make the burden lighter?

How are you using your voice?

As I get older the challenge has changed.

Instead of redeeming negative comments with positive ones, I should be keeping my mouth shut before I say anything negative in the first place.

Bob Goff shared that every time he says something critical to another person he logs into his bank account and gives away $500.  He said this helps him stop and think, “Do I really want to say this, or would I rather take my sweet Maria on a trip?

Most of the time he picks a trip with his wife, keeps his mouth shut, and instead focuses on speaking words of “life and encouragement.”

This is the next step… Speak life and encouragement into others without prompting.

I want to live my life as an encourager… a builder.

This is especially important in my marriage. As a wife, my sole job is to be a helper and encourager to my husband.

As a wife, I get to see the worst side of my husband, but I am called to be his greatest cheerleader despite it. This is oxymoronic, but that paradox gives it even greater power.

Knowing his faults, yet respecting, loving, encouraging, and believing in him anyways is what makes it mean more.

As I try to master being an encouragement to my husband, I need to let that habit flow into all of my relationships.

What would it be like if we used our words to build instead of tear down?

Build up our family, friends, leaders, servers, or the next generation.

I think we will find that a kind word goes much farther than a critical one.

 

Is it easier for you to speak negatively or positively about others? Is there someone you are specifically speaking life into during this season of your life? Who do you know that could use some life-giving words right now?

 

 

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

-Philippians 4:8

 

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

-1 Thessalonians 5:11

The wise woman builds her house,
but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.

-Proverbs 14:1

Seasons of Life: the hopeless and the hopeful

The seasons are changing… From Summer, my favorite – a time of shorts and tank tops, flip-flops and icecream. The embrace of the sunshine and days spent with dirt between our toes, grass-stains on our knees… Everything is alive and full.

To Fall, my husband’s favorite – a time to reminisce our dating days, layering up in the cutest scarves and hats. Filling our tummies with pumpkin anything and everything. Hopping from a fall festival to picking apples to a haunted house…

Then will come winter… Beautiful with it’s snow and the joy of the holidays, but quickly turning sour with the bitter cold that never ends.

Our life is full of seasons, as well.

Photo credit: Heather Wilson Smith at stocksnap.io

We have seasons of joy, passion, and purpose. Seasons of pain, loss, and change. Season of child-bearing, and empty nesting. Seasons of marital bliss, and those of strife.

Just yesterday my husband and I were reminded of a tough season in our life, which we finally feel has passed! We were both dealing with loneliness, living in a new state away from our families for the first time. This loneliness mixed with a lack of purpose and direction in my life had turned into a bit of depression and anger.

Tap describes this season as “walking on egg shells.” Every time he called me out on my short fuse, it broke my heart. I felt like I was failing him as his wife. I wasn’t the out-going, happy-go-lucky lady he fell in love with. My shame buried me deeper, and took me farther from the wife he knew.

Thankfully, from the other side, I can say that this was just a season.

Soon, another “summer” came into my life. It was a slow process. That winter of my soul seemed to last as long as the winter of 2013. After a lot of prayer and tears, God placed the right people and right opportunities into my path.

I was put on the Board of Heart-Song, Inc. Through them, I took a class to rediscover my purpose and create action steps for living it out. In time, I found a new job that aligned more accurately with my skills, degree, and passion. Then, my schedule opened up for even more opportunities to pursue the hobbies I love- like art, ministry, and now dance.

I’m not sure what season you are in right now, but know that it is just a season.

Savor the drippy icecream cone of your life, or

Cling to the hope that your winter will pass.

Regardless of what season you find yourself in, it will pass.  But every season also holds a lesson or a promise.  In every dark season, I can see the lessons I’ve learned or the muscles that grew.  Muscles of mercy, patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control. I learn peace, and I grow in love.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3: 1 – 8

What season of life are you in?  What season did you just leave? What lessons were learned?

Where to Begin Planning a Wedding

How do you plan for a wedding?  Where do you start?!

My facebook feed is full of happy tears, giant smiles, and sparkly rings. If you are one of these giddy new fiances, this one is for you!

Planning a weddingThese are the steps we took –  or should have taken  – in preparing for the Big Day.

This is my all-time favorite marriage book. It helped me focus on what marriage truly is, not what Hollywood (or myself) makes it out to be.

It gave me an opportunity to reflect on my unrealistic expectations, and ground myself in God’s purpose for my marriage, not my own.

This is a SOLID way to start. It was truly humbling… changing the perspective of “Marriage is to make me happy” into “Marriage is to make me holy.”

  • Figure out how much you will spend. e.g. Absolutely no more than $__

We need to start off with a well defined price cap. Once we begin planning a wedding, one decision leads to another, and every little expense adds up big time.

It is easy to be pressured by perfect pictures on Pinterest, pushy salesmen, and blindsided by wedding etiquette. Be sure to know your price-line early, and NEVER cross it.

Keep in mind that the research shows the less you spend on your wedding, the lower the divorce rate. Also, you don’t want to start your life off with a huge pile of debt!

  • Choose your priorities

For me it was: 1) Dress 2) Photographer 3) Dancing.

When you know your priorities, you know where most of your money should go. When the money starts getting slim, remind yourself that the priorities have already been taken care of.

Equip yourself to say no to good things, in order to say yes to the best things. Knowing your priorities will give you the courage to skimp on the decorations or the location.

  • Make a Budget

Now that you know your price cap and your priorities, it’s time to make a Zero Line Budget.

This means, every single dollar of the budget needs to be allocated to something. You can give yourself wiggle room by having a miscellaneous category.  If you need more money for a certain category, you learn that you have to decrease another category to make up for it.

Here is a suggested Budget Breakdown according to Dave Ramsey’s daughter Rachel Cruz:

-Reception 55%
-Ceremony 12%
-Photographer 10%
-Dress 8%
-Wedding Planner 10%
-Misc 5%

  • Schedule Top-Quality Pre-Martial Counseling (it’s worth it)

I know a lot of Pastors offer pre-marital counseling, some for free. However, many of them do not have the time or the expertise to give you the best.

Tap and I spent 6 weeks with a wise couple who gave us tests, assessments, and discussed the nitty-gritty details with us.They listened and tailored our meetings to meet our needs and potential problem areas.

I highly recommend starting your marriage off on a strong foundation. After all, you are really preparing for a marriage, not a wedding day.

If you are unsure of local pre-marital counselors or have a long-distance engagement, check out Don Miller’s resource: Before You Get Married. Or find someone certified to give the Symbis assessment.

Focus on the Family just advertised this Ready to Wed kit, saying that couples who do pre-marital counseling are 80% more likely to stay together! Wow.

  • Choose a season/rough date

Venues can book up a year in advance, so I wouldn’t be too specific on a date. Pick a season, most likely the venue will guide you to the actual date.

  • Start a Date Night Tradition : With NO Wedding Talk

Planning a wedding is really exciting… Thoughts of cake and flowers and decoration details begin to fill your mind 24/7 and live even in your sleep.

However, these details can get really taxing. Discussing them All.The.Time can get really annoying.

Start a date night tradition now, where wedding talk is off limits. Your future spouse will appreciate it.

Also, this tradition can carry on into marriage! Only then, you’ll have to put all arguments on hold, or talk of in-laws and children.

  • Find a location for the wedding and the reception.

If you can’t find a suitable location on a Saturday, be willing to consider a Friday or Sunday wedding. Like I said, Saturdays book up fast!

Some locations are even cheaper than the premium Saturday prices.

  • Hire a photographer for your engagement and wedding photos

Good photographers take the time to know you, your vision, and how best to portray your personality through the photos. Having the extra time to spend together through an engagement shoot will prepare all of you for the Wedding date itself.

A trusted photographer and professor of mine has put together “The Smart Bride’s Photo Guide.” This would be a great place to get an extensive look at how to pick your photographer.

  • Select a Stress-free Wedding Party

Your bridal party or the groomsmen are what can make or break your day. Don’t feel pressured to have a large party, have the same number on both sides, or pressure to ask someone who expects to be up there.

A lot of friends are here just for seasons, but some are full-lifers. Find the friends that love you and support your upcoming marriage. Friends that will last through the changes ahead of you and will only enrich your day- not fill it with drama.

  • Agree on the Guest-list

Be sure to ask your parents if they have any “must-invite” guests.  You may not know them as well as the girl that lived three doors down in your dorm hall, but they watched you grow up.  They prayed over you, taught you in Sunday School, and want to witness your special day and bless you with their presence and possibly present… (and they have a bigger budget then that dorm-mate).

  • Enjoy Planning! Find your florist, cake, caterer, dress, and tux! Just don’t stress it, enjoy it!

Remember… It is one day, your marriage is a lifetime.

What are some tips you would give the blushing bride? What absolutely made your wedding? What would you have changed?

To see how our wedding turned out take a look:

How We Met

The Proposal

Engagement Photos

The Wedding Day

My Wedding Album

Our Honeymoon

What was the last book you have read?

My friend Kelsey is a great wing-man. She made a pact with one of her friends that she would weed out any poor candidates who tried to hit on them while they were out on the town.

If a man ever came up to one of them, the other would ask this question: “What was the last book you’ve read?” In order for the single guy to get any further, he needed an impressive answer with an interesting book review to follow.

Would you be able to pass the test?

Luis Llerena at Stocksnap.io

This question won’t just come up after a pick-up line, you’ll come across this question in social circles as well as college and job interviews. In fact, I just saw it on Michael Hyatt’s blog post: “25 Questions to Ask in the First Interview.”

But why ask this question?

  1. It tells us if you read

People who read tend to be more intelligent, imaginative, intuitive, and prove to be self-improving. If you are not reading, you are not growing. Therefore, it is an attractive quality to read- not only in a mate, but in an employee.

The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.

I can Read with My Eyes Shut! by Dr. Seuss

In a world of few readers, reading gives you a leg up on the competition.

2. It gives us a glimpse of you

What you read shines light on your interests, passions, and dreams.

The last three books I’ve read are: His Needs Her Needs (Harley), Savor (Niequist), and Justice Hall (King).

This can tell you that I am passionate about marriage: both improving mine and helping other’s. Through Savor, a daily devotional, I desire to stay close to the Lord. Then, in my spare time I enjoy an intellectual mystery. Adventures with Holmes and Mary Russell teach me new words, concepts, and observation techniques, as well as purely entertain me.

I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Books are able to transport us… We either slip into a character’s skin, meander in a new town, or take on others’ experiences and skills.  Books can shape our minds and lead us to greater things.

What books have you let shape you?

What was the last book you have read? What does it say about you?