The Light

All images courtesy of Lavender Leigh Photography

Many moons ago, I mentioned in one of my previous blogs that someday I’d tell you about mine and J’s wedding day.
Since the primary focus of this blog is mental health, it took me awhile to figure out how to fit a wedding into that theme. But in a random conversation today with a coworker, I realized that back in 2013, when much of my life was in turmoil (my job(s), where we’d live, our finances, my self care), our wedding was one of the only things that I remained excited about. Now, looking back eight years later, September 28, 2013 stands out as a bright light in an otherwise very chaotic time.

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not a very fancy girl. I didn’t want a ballgown with a corset, I didn’t want sky-high heels, and I wasn’t going to force my bridesmaids to spend $400 on accessories or wear a god awful dress. J pretty much felt the same, so we decided that our wedding day would truly be about celebrating the two of us with 300 of our closest friends and family, and we set to work creating a day that we’d love.

Despite trends, despite naysayers, and despite “proper etiquette,” we spent nearly two years building the wedding we wanted. Our ceremony took place in an old theater, I wore sparkly sandals under my dress, J & the groomsmen had boutonnieres featuring Nintendo characters, and our reception was at a fire hall. While I wasn’t initially a fan of “theme” weddings, we did add some Penguin hockey touches, considering our friends set us up on a blind date back in 2008 because we both loved Pittsburgh’s NHL team.

Even though the months and weeks leading up to the wedding had been a roller coaster ride of emotions, I somehow managed to sleep beautifully the night before. Getting my hair and makeup done went smoothly, as did arriving at the theater to get dressed with my bridesmaids and mom. The photographers showed up on time, my dress fit perfectly, and I wasn’t even nervous while I was waiting to walk down the aisle.
Then, right before my dad and I made our entrance, a fire alarm went off in the lobby. I burst out laughing as an employee raced to silence it, and by some miracle our guests didn’t hear a thing over the music. The quick ceremony went off without a hitch, and we drove to a nearby park to have our photos taken.

There, one of my bridesmaids was really upset that she’d left her bouquet back at the theater. She was nearly in tears, apologizing for “ruining” my pictures. I shrugged it off and we carried on without flowers. No big deal at all.
We had a lot of fun with our photographers, posing formally and funnily, and I have a ton of images to remind me of that day.
Afterwards we headed to the reception hall where we entered to thunderous cheers and applause, and immediately shared our first dance. As Peter Gabriel’s Book of Love flowed from the speakers, tears of happiness leaked from my eyes. I simply could not believe that we were finally married!

The rest of the evening sped by –J’s best man gave a tear-jerker of a speech, I danced with my dad, J & I (lightly) smashed cake in each other’s faces, my sister & maid of honor caught my bouquet. We participated in the dreaded “bridal dance,” an (apparently controversial) tradition very near and dear to my Slavish roots. My dad swung my mom around the dance floor to Van Morrison’s Brown Eyed Girl, & nearly everyone was bumping and grinding to Macklemore. Our guests signed our custom Penguins jersey/guest book and munched on cookies from the famous Pittsburgh cookie table tradition. I remember that there were multiple points during the night where I was so overwhelmed at the amount of people who had traveled from out of state that I burst into tears just seeing their faces. I was so touched that family and friends had traveled so far just for J & I that I couldn’t contain my emotions.

Far too soon, the last song of the night was playing. Our last remaining guests joined us one final time on the dance floor as we cherished the final few minutes of our wedding day.

Afterwards, J & I piled into his Chevy Equinox with our gifts and cards and headed to a nearby Hampton Inn. We were exhausted and sweaty and our feet were killing us, but we were so completely happy. Our wedding was truly one of the best days of both of our lives, and I am so thankful we have such happy memories of that day.

Eight years later, if I had to give any advice to an anxious bride (or groom!) I would say this — stay true to yourselves. Your wedding day is truly the only day that is 100% about the two of you, so take advantage of it! If you like an off the wall idea, use it! If you loathe a particular tradition, scrap it!
If you can’t afford something, get creative with alternatives.
Don’t ask for too many other peoples’ opinions — you’ll get confused and overwhelmed.
Don’t worry about stuff you can’t control. I promise it is NOT the end of the world if your bridesmaids’ shoes don’t match or if someone wears camo pants to the reception.
Go with the flow. Things are going to go “wrong.” But take a breath. Re-center. Go with it. Enjoy yourself!
Pause multiple times throughout the day. It really does go soooooo fast. Take a moment as often as you can to imprint memories in your mind.
Bring (non-messy) snacks! It’s usually several hours between breakfast and dinner.
Make it a priority to eat dinner at your own reception!
Wear comfortable shoes (or bring a back up pair).
HAVE FUN!!

Hope you enjoyed hearing about our wedding day, and hope the pictures made you smile. If you or someone you know is planning a wedding, tell them to check out my other earlier posts with more wedding advice —

Five Details of Your Wedding Day You Don’t Need to Stress Over

6 More Things Not to Worry About on Your Wedding Day



Bon Voyage!

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On April 27th, I attended the best going-away party that there ever was and ever will be.

Our good friends R&M are moving to Holland this May, so they decided to hosted a party to say farewell to all their Pittsburgh friends and family.

I met R&M through my husband J, who worked with M’s brother many moons ago. When J first told me he wanted me to meet some of his friends, I was so worried that they’d think I was weird. But then I met them, and I realized that R&M were weird themselves – in all the best possible ways.

Back then, I was still pretty unsure of myself and my direction in life. And when I looked at R&M, who are 7-10 years older than me, I felt like they were the kind of people who simply had their shit together. Even though they hated their apartment and their jobs, they were working to better their situation, and doing it on their own terms.  They had been dating/engaged/living together since 1999, but had no immediate plans to marry. They just weren’t the kind of people who did things traditionally.  But they were kind, welcoming, accepting, hard-working, and hilarious, and quickly became a regular fixture of our social circle.

Over the next eleven years, J and I watched countless hockey games with R&M and shared countless beers and hysterical laughs at our local bar. They were there my mom got sick, when J and I got engaged and married, and when we bought our house. They came to our Halloween parties and barbecues and invited us to their house warming party when they finally were able to move out of the apartment they’d loathed for so long. Behind the scenes, R&M worked together to stop smoking and lose a ton of weight, and R obtained his Bachelor’s degree. A few years later, M obtained her Master’s. All the while, they talked frequently about M’s home in Holland, where they visited regularly throughout the years.

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And now they’re finally doing it. The dream that they’d talked about for as long we we’ve known them became a reality last fall when they purchased one-way tickets to the Netherlands and put the gears in motion to make a monumental move. Though I am of course beyond sad to see them go, I am also beyond happy.

Because even though I now know R&M’s struggles, I still feel like they truly did always have their shit together. They always knew where they were headed as individuals and as a couple, and they didn’t let anyone or anything stand in their way. They encountered naysayers, roadblocks, and heartaches as they worked towards their goal, but they finally achieved it. And people like this, friends like these, are the reasons I stay hopeful. It makes me believe in true love and the possibility of accomplishing your dreams, no matter how un-traditionally you may pursue the path or how many people may scoff in your face.

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So on that Saturday in April, R&M gathered thirty or forty of their closest friends and family at their beautifully remodeled house for one last party. The food was delectable, the alcohol flowing, and the laughter loud, as usual. But everyone was waiting with bated breath for the “3:30 surprise” that M had posted about in the Facebook invite a few weeks prior.

At some point during the party, R&M and a handful of close friend disappeared upstairs almost unnoticed. R returned to the living room a few moments later, dressed in a dark blue suit complete with custom cuff links and a bow tie. He stood in the center of the living room, called for everyone’s attention, and began by thanking everyone for coming. He went on to explain that April 27th is a holiday in Holland, one in which most everyone has off work. “This is great because M and I will always have our wedding anniversary off – because we’re getting married, right here, in three minutes.”

The house exploded in cheers and applause, and then M appeared at the top of the staircase, glowing in a tea-length rose-gold dress, metallic heels, and a spray of white feathers in her hair. She joined R in front of their fireplace, grasping her bouquet orange tulips, and their friend/caterer/officiant performed the sweetest, most heartfelt wedding ceremony I’ve ever seen. R&M shared the same vows, which they wrote together, and were the most beautiful words I’d ever heard exchanged, especially the part where they promised to be each other’s favorite everything.

I watched from the staircase with tears rolling down my face as they laughed and exchanged rings and kissed to seal a promise that had been going strong for twenty years.

It was over in less than ten minutes. The guests were mostly clad in jeans, the photographer was a co-worker, the cake said “Bon Voyage” instead of “congratulations,” and their pit bull/ Great Dane mix milled around their feet as they were declared married by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. It was the best wedding I’d ever had the pleasure of witnessing.

R&M

Saying good-bye to R&M is going to be so hard. For me, it gives new meaning to the term bittersweet, because I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy for two people to leave my life as regular fixtures. We’ll of course stay in touch via Facebook and such, and they’ve already invited us to come visit, but I know it won’t be the same. Still, I can’t think of two people who deserve their dreams as much as R&M. And I really believe that our friendships can stay strong despite the miles and ocean that will soon be separating us.

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6 More Things Not to Worry About on Your Wedding Day

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At long, long, long last, Spring has finally sprung!

And its corresponding wedding season is already going full force. So I’m taking this opportunity to pass on some more wedding advice for my fellow Quirky, Confused, and Curvy brides:

  • Flowers: Flowers are undeniably beautiful. And they can really spruce up any church, banquet hall, or hotel ballroom. But they are also ridiculously expensive and wasteful. My advice? Go with artificial. Before you cringe and drop the “tacky” word, do some research. Silk flowers have come a long way in the last few years. I used the website The Brides Bouquet and could not have been more thrilled with my choice. I got a ton of compliments and flowers for my entire wedding party only cost around $200. Plus I now have a keepsake from our wedding day displayed in our home. Even if you use real flowers for decorations, silk can be a great money saver when it comes to the actual bouquets and boutonnieres.
  • Undergarments: Anytime I’ve ever been in or around a wedding, the bride has always had some . . .contraption under her dress. Whether she’s a size 2 or 20, there’s always some sort of push-up bra, corset, or hosiery that could have been used for medieval torture.
    But comfort was a huge priority for me. Obviously I wanted to look stunning, but when selecting my dress, I also made sure I chose a fabric I could move in – not just to dance, but to sit and stand and bend and hug. I also wanted to make sure the design was something that was compatible with a regular bra instead of some strapless thing I’d be tugging at all day. I know most women are much more tolerant of specialized undergarments than I am, so to each her own. But I also want to reiterate the importance of making comfort a priority. Remember – you are going to be in this dress (and aforementioned undergarments) for approximately 6-12 hours, if not more. Do whatever you can to maximize your comfort. I highly recommend wearing your bra/shapewear of choice a few times before the wedding day to “break it in.” I also swear by these amazing things called Skimmies which can really save us curvy girls from the dreaded “chub rub.” I now wear these under every dress I put on and have no idea how I suffered through pantyhose and the like for so long.

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  • Receiving Line: I was absurdly stressed out about the receiving line. A friend who had gotten married before me told me that so many guests “mobbed” her in the church lobby that she was almost an hour late for her pictures, which set the entire night back.  Since our photo location was a bit of a trek from our ceremony space, I didn’t want to get behind schedule. Plus, my venue was a theater on a crowded downtown street, and there was no room for such a thing. So I decided to simply not have one. After the ceremony, our officiant announced that there would be no receiving line and that we’d see everyone at the reception hall. This worked perfectly. Me and my bridal party managed to leave the ceremony spot swiftly so our day could stay on track, and we had plenty of time to eat, dance, and mingle all night. We even managed to visit with pretty much every single one of our guests at our leisure.
  • Your Bridesmaids’ Hair/Nails/Shoes: I know most brides obsess about Every. Tiny. Detail. of your wedding day, but this is something you don’t have to waste time thinking about. Trust me, no one is going to notice whether or not your BMs have a pedicure or if their manicures match. No one is going to whisper if they all have different updos. No guest is going to gasp and faint if their shoes don’t match, especially if the dresses are long. The only request I made to my girls were to pick the same color/fabric dress and not to wear flip flops or hooker shoes. I trusted them to make appropriate and comfortable choices, and of course they did! I wouldn’t have picked insane women for my bridal party. And keeping the expectations of the details casual helped my girls stay calm and happy, so they could help me do the same.
  • A Tan: Many moons ago, when I was young and skinny and spent every waking minute of summer vacation swimming (or marching away the days at band camp), I had a killer tan. It made me feel pretty and I could get away without wearing much makeup. But now I’m pretty pale. Even more so because I spend 8+ hours a day sitting behind a computer. So for a hot second I did think about slipping into a tanning bed or getting a spray tan for my big day. But I decided I didn’t want cancer, and didn’t want to waste money risking a runny, uneven, unnatural looking “glow.” So I ditched the idea and wore my natural skin tone to my wedding. It worked for me every other day of my life, so why wouldn’t it fly on my wedding day?
  • Losing Weight: Last but not lease, please do not go insane trying to drop, like, 30 lbs. or four dress sizes for your wedding. Your fiance proposed to you because (s)he loves you just the way you are. So there’s no need to drastically change your body. It’s fine if you want to add some muscle or trim away a few pounds of holiday/winter weight, but don’t go buying a dress a size or two too small thinking it’ll serve as motivation. This only gives you something else to stress about! You’ll be a gorgeous bride just the way you are. Trust me.

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Five Details of Your Wedding Day You Don’t Need to Stress Over

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Since the holiday season is now winding down, I’m sure there are plenty of women out there sporting a shiny, new engagement ring. In recognition of engagement season, I am sharing some advice from my own wedding-planning experience a few years ago.

As a quirky, slightly non-traditional bride with anxiety, I had my fair share of meltdowns while I was planning my wedding back in 2012. Some things were legitimate concerns – what if I get sick? What if my venue burns to the ground? What if the caterer forgets to show up? But of all the insane disasters I conjured up in my mind, there were a few things I majorly stressed out about that, in the grand scheme of things, really did not make or break the day. I’m sharing them with current brides-to-be so you can focus on more important (and more fun) aspects of your wedding.

  • What Your Guests Will Wear
    While our wedding wasn’t overly formal, I swore up and down that if I spotted someone wearing jeans or something equally casual to our wedding, I would freak out and kick them out. Well, guess what? One person wore jeans to my wedding. And someone else also wore a camo baseball cap. I spotted the faux-paus when we first arrived at the reception, had a quick thought of, “wow, really?” . . . then moved on with the night. It didn’t effect anything else about the day or my experience, and I didn’t think anymore about it beyond those two micro seconds when it was in my line of vision.
    The exception to this, of course, would be if your venue has a strict dress code or if the bride and groom request guests wear a certain shade to match a color scheme, but IMHO, I think the latter is taking things a bit far. Even if you have some grand vision of every guest swathed in gold, your day will not be ruined if a handful of people don’t obey this request. I promise that you will have so much else occupying your mind!
  • Transportation
    Our budget was relatively small, so it didn’t take long for me to realize that a party bus or limo was out of the question. We had cars, of course, and so did our parents and members of our bridal party, but thirteen people would not fit in an SUV or even a minivan. I knew that it wouldn’t be the end of the world if the bridal party and our parents got to where they needed to be in a fleet of everyday vehicles instead of a blinged out stretch limo, but I was more concerned with the logistics of that than the appearance. I knew none of our guests would care how we arrived to the ceremony or reception, but I feared that with more than two vehicles going from ceremony site to picture site to reception, someone would inevitably get lost, separated from the group, or God forbid in some terrible accident. But none of those things happened. I rode to my wedding in the back of my bridesmaid’s Nissan Versa with three of my best friends. My sister, mother-in-law, and parents rode in their Subaru, and my husband drove his groomsmen in his Equinox. We all made it to each place on time in one piece pretty much effortlessly.
    Looking back, this was probably my biggest stressor that ended up amounting to absolutely nothing – in a good way!
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  • Favors
    When I first started planning our wedding, I was adamant that I didn’t want to give food or candy away as favors. I insisted that our guests have a gift they could use in the future and keep as a memento of our special day.
    Coasters, bottle openers, keychains, hand sanitizer – the creative list of “usable” wedding favors is endless. And it is also expensive. Even if an item only cost $2, with a guest list of about three hundred people, we were looking at spending six hundred dollars on favors!
    Then I realized that of all the weddings I had been to in the past, I could not for the life of me remember the favors I was given. In a perfect world, usable favors are a nice “thank you” gesture for your guests, and can be a cute detail to tie in your theme, but no one is going to put said favor in their china cabinet.
    So I did exactly what I said I didn’t want to do, and gave away candy. I stuffed a handful of gummy penguins into a cute bag with a pretty ribbon and attached a label with a quick story of how J and I met and why penguins represent us as a couple. Done!
  • Plates/serving ware
    Obviously if you’re getting married at a castle or a five-star hotel, you don’t want to set your tables with cheap plastic utensils that are going to break when cutting into filet. But don’t splurge on expensive silverware or china. And don’t even bother with decorative chargers. Sure, they look nice at a table setting, but can you conjure up any specific image of a place setting for any wedding that you’ve attended?
    And don’t give “appearing cheap or tacky” a second thought. Again, I ask you – think of the last few weddings you’ve attended. Do you remember what kind of plate you ate of off? No. And your guests won’t either.
    There are so many middle-of-the-road alternatives for “real” silverware and dishes. The internet is full of them! Google and have fun! Do NOT stress about this detail.
  • Sky-High Heels
    Most women like the concept of heels – they’re sexy, they improve your posture, and they make your legs look great. But actually walking around in the damned things all day is a different story. Your toes pinch, your heels rub, and your feet start to go numb after standing at the altar for only a few minutes. Unless you are a rare species like one mother/daughter duo I know who are more comfortable in heels than out (hats off to both of you), forgo the uncomfortable contraptions and prioritize your comfort!
    On my wedding day, I wore blinged-out sandals with a soft, padded insole (see pic below!) and my feet Did. Not. Hurt. At. All.
    Think about it – you’re going to be standing, walking, and dancing for at least six to eight hours. If you’ve ever worked a job where you stand all day in flats or even tennis shoes, you know how badly your feet ache at the end of a shift. So why torture yourself by wearing heels on a day that’s supposed to be so much fun?
    And unless you have a tea-length dress, no one is going to see your shoes anyway!
    Still not convinced? Wear those “must have” heels for your ceremony but have a pair of flip flops, flats, sandals, or even slippers in your wedding day bag. Even if you have a quick ceremony, you’ll be looking to ditch those heels eventually. Trust me.
  • I hope this helps all you brides-to-be out there! Enjoy your day and stress as little as possible!
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