Why does everyone spend so much on weddings?

Flipping through bridal magazines trying to get some cute ideas for our upcoming big day, I started getting a little sick to my stomach. No, not cold feet. I was a little sickened by some of the extravagance, to be honest. It seems like so many people spend so much time and energy on the wedding without putting much effort at all into preparing for a life together.

I grew up in a Catholic family, and so did James. We were taught that marriage is a Sacrament. This means that marriage is much more than just a civil contract, it’s sacred. In it, two people are joined forever by God, who gives them the grace and strength to live out their vows. This puts it on a level way beyond our secular view of marriage. Take a look at the Catholic marriage vows:

“I, (name), take you, (name), to be my (wife/husband). I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you, all the days of my life.”

That’s some serious business.

I want our wedding to be about our enormous family and the life we’re beginning together. I don’t want the Plaza in June, the $15,000 gown, or the $5,000 carriage ride in Disney World. Just my James and our family and close friends (which adds up to over 300 people so we really have to scale it back! We’d like to keep it 200 MAX, preferably less). Now it’s true, having a party for 200 people that involves food and dancing is very expensive. But that doesn’t mean it has to be extravagant.

Look at the difference, for example, between Kim Kardashian and Kate Middleton. Two very expensive televised events, but that’s where the similarities end. Kim married a guy she hadn’t dated for very long in a Hollywood glam ceremony where everything was the absolute most expensive it could possibly be. It was extravagance for the sake of extravagance. Will and Kate had been dating for YEARS. They showed the utmost dignity throughout the engagement and wedding, and didn’t make a show out of their love. It was expensive because it was the royal family, but it was tasteful. You could tell that they truly loved each other and had been waiting for that moment for a long time. Will and Kate’s wedding displayed true love. Kim and Kris’s wedding displayed extravagance.

I also don’t like all this emphasis on the wedding being all about the bride. It’s not just my day, it’s his day too! It’s OUR day. I’m sure I’ll have some crazy stressed out moments along the way, but I want to always remember that the bridesmaid’s earrings have absolutely ZERO consequence. What matters is that James and I are being joined together in a lifelong commitment to love and honor each other for the rest of our lives. That is what we are celebrating. And that is priceless.

New Year, New Life

For my birthday this year, James and I went to Colonial Williamsburg over New Year’s.  We had a wonderful time! One of the best parts of this trip was strolling down Duke of Gloucester Street on Sunday morning, January 1. It was warm, maybe 60 degrees, and there was not a cloud in sight. The whole place was gleaming in sunlight. It was so quiet and peaceful. I’ll never forget it.

One of the interesting points of our relationship is that James is a morning person, and I wish I was. I always  have a lot of energy after 6pm, and end up staying up way longer than I should and sleeping late. Whenever I do get up and experience a calm morning, I love it. One of the things I’m looking forward to in our marriage is having some help with going to sleep on time and waking up early.

I’m really looking forward to this new year (providing the Mayan’s are wrong, of course). I feel like I have a new chance now to start a whole new life. I want to write more, weigh less, and create more reasons to smile. We’re already making plans to go to Philadelphia, Williamsburg, and hopefully some beautiful warm place for our honeymoon (if God answers our prayers and lets us get married this year).

2012 started with a peaceful morning in a beautiful place. I hope this warm feeling continues throughout the year.

Engagement Stress = Blessing in Disguise?

Like most girls, I love the movie Bride Wars with Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway. One of the major themes of the movie is how engagement stress can either drive couples apart or bring them closer together.

James and I have had our share of engagement stress. Thankfully, we’ve been able to recognize that with every road-block comes a chance to work together. We’ve never put it in those words, but it’s true. Every issue that has popped up in our path has made us turn to each other for help. Everything that’s happened to us has been another chance to hold hands and walk forward.

Recently I was telling a priest some of the struggles we’ve gone through, and he pointed out that perhaps it truly is a blessing in disguise. People that have fantasy engagements do not always get the chance to prepare for what marriage really involves: sharing and sacrifice. I pray every day for a happy marriage. Maybe this is God’s way of answering my prayers. If we learn what to expect now, we will have an easier time adjusting later. Maybe if we can be happy together in bad times, we can be happy in good times.

I know I’m very young and often naïve, but I have a good feeling about this.

Dating on Faith: How important is Spiritual Compatibility?

It’s time-honored advice, marry someone with the same religion as you. Or at least, be compatible on a spiritual level. What does this mean, really?

From the time I was a little girl, my parents told me to marry a fellow Catholic. Marriage, they said, was hard enough without a difference of faith. This was a little surprising coming from my mom, as her dad was Catholic and her mother was Lutheran. When I got a little older and went to Catholic University, I still held on to this belief. It took a few years to realize though, that there was more to faith than a religious label.

Plenty of people say they are Catholic, or Lutheran, or Jewish, or Episcopalian, or whatever. It’s easy to find someone with the same religious label as you. What is NOT easy, though, is finding someone with the same view of God.

You can tell a lot from a person by asking one simple question: “What would this person do if God showed up at their front door?” Some people would fall to their knees and beg forgiveness. Some people wouldn’t care. My family would answer the door and say, “Hey man! How’ve you been? We’re just sitting down to dinner. Want some spaghetti?” If you’re type who would invite God as part of the family, find someone who shares that. At the end of the day, a person’s ingrained view of God can affect everything! A person’s relationship with God affects every aspect of their life. This includes how they treat others, how they raise their children, and how they deal with the trying times of their life.

Like a lot of naive young women, I learned this the hard way. Spiritual incompatibility can make you lose sight of who you are. It wasn’t until I found my James that I remembered why my faith was important. James’s faith reminded me of my dad’s faith: a strong belief that God is a friend, a member of the family. God is a sweet, loving father who will always be there for you, no matter what you do. Go to church on Sunday, pray every day, at least just to say “hi”, because God loves you and wants you to be happy. Love God with all your heart, love your neighbor as yourself, and put your family first no matter what age you are.

It usually takes a while to figure out what kind of faith someone has. You can listen to them talk all day, but you’re not going to know who they really are until you spend some time with them. Faith isn’t just a personal thing, it’s a life changing, cultural thing. For me, it took a lot of mistakes and years of searching to figure out what was important to me. It’s not all bad, though, and I wouldn’t change a thing. Without those years of searching, I would never have found myself, my fiancé, and my faith.

Bling :-)

So I haven’t written in forever, but I think it’s time I bring this blog back up, mostly because I miss writing. A lot has gone on in the last year, like, um… ::holds out left hand waiting for you to notice:: IM ENGAGED!!! James and I are getting married!!! I have the most beautiful ring in the whole world and the most wonderful fiance imaginable. Seriously, he’s better than prince charming (who, in fact, is named Prince James in Once Upon a Time…I think the writers got that from my James). We haven’t settled on a wedding date yet, and I’m totally stressed out over it already, but everything’s going to be fine because the most important decision has already been made (the groom, of course) and no matter what happens on that day, I get to be Mrs. James P. 🙂

We got engaged July 24, 2011. My wonderful aunt, who is also my godmother, threw us a fabulous engagement party in October. His family and my family finally got to hang out. Both our families are huge, and they both go to the same church, so it’s not suprise they all had a great time together. It was a dream come true for me and James to see everyone together. We already love each other’s families and have for years, so it was really overwhelmingly beautiful to have everyone together.

More updates will come later, I’m sure I’ll be blogging about wedding stuff and tv shows (did I mention I love Once Upon a Time?). Oh and I now have a real job, and my lunch break is ending so I have to go. And I went to Greece and Turkey and loved it. And we’re looking for a house (too bad only one of us can live in it until the wedding because so far we’re having a hard time deciding who needs it more).

Arrivederici tutti 🙂

Mr. Right, Mr. Perfect, Mr. Good Enough

Recently, author Lori Gottlieb sparked controversy, thanks to her advice to women about choosing “Mr. Good Enough” instead of waiting for “Mr. Right”. After the onslaught of women accusing her of advocating “settling”, she answered that what she really meant was that too many women have stupid requirement and expectations, making it completely impossible to find a life partner. (See original article here)

She was right, really. Some women are too picky. How many of us know people (including ourselves) who have ditched a guy after the first date because of some odd quirk? At the same time, we complain when we’re on the receiving end of such quick judgment. The truth is, you need to give someone a chance before you can really get to know them.

Let’s look at an example:

James and I had a lot in common. We grew up in the same town and knew a lot of the same people. We had never met as kids, but later on, towards the end of college, we met online. Here comes the first date. We had a nice time talking over milkshakes for about an hour. At the end of the date, he walked me to my car, gave me a little hug and got the door for me. I said my polite “this was fun,” and I meant it. I just wasn’t sure if I would give him a second date. Sure, he was nice. He was a gentleman. He paid the bill and opened the doors. We had a similar childhood and had the same religious beliefs. To top it off, he was extremely good-looking. What was the problem?

I wasn’t sure if I felt a spark. I wasn’t sure if we would have much to talk about. I wasn’t sure that we would enjoy the same things. I wasn’t sure if his good manners were just a show. I wasn’t sure if our different levels of education would become a problem down the road.

Still, I was intrigued. I did want to find out the answers to my questions. I knew he would probably be a nice friend to have. I just wasn’t sure that I could date him. So what did I do?

I decided to tell him that I wasn’t ready for a relationship. But, we enjoyed each other’s company so we went out a few more times, as friends. Then came “date” number 3, when the sparks finally hit full-force and we ended up kissing goodnight and planning DATE number 4. We’ve been very happy ever since.

I’m not 100% perfect, and neither is James. We’re human, after all. My mom always told me, don’t look for the guy who is without fault. Look for the guy who has faults that you can live with. Give a guy a chance. You never know how happy can be until you try.

(Of course, many women, especially young ones, make the mistake of dealing with WAY too many faults in a partner, thanks to their insecurity. See Are College Relationships Detrimental for Women?)

Jake and Vienna, Seriously?

The big news tonight was that Jake and Vienna are together. (Ouch, right?) They announced after the show that, after 3 months of living in separate states to keep their relationship a secret, she’s moving in with him ASAP.

Moving in with a guy that she hasn’t even dated? That’s a little crazy. Think about it, they had a few “dates” on the show, then were long distance for 3 months, and now moving in together? Can anyone say looney-bin?

I liked Tenley better, though after watching tonight’s episode, I’ve decided that she deserves someone better than Jake. She’s right, she needs someone who will love her with everything he has. It takes a little heartache to learn what that really means, and I’m glad she knows what she wants. That’s not unrealistic standards, that’s respect for yourself.

Ali the Bachelorette? Not bad. She did have the most personality. I liked Gia and Tenley better, but Ali seems to be the most well-adjusted and ready for the challenge. I just hope she’s not the b-word that she seemed to be at points this season.

I wouldn’t have picked Vienna for Jake, but I wouldn’t have picked Ed for Jillian either. I guess whatever floats your boat, right? I mean how much should other people’s opinions matter, especially the opinions of people who only know you from watching you on TV?

The other big news was that Jake will be on Dancing with the Stars. I LOVE that show. I don’t really like Jake much anymore. I really do think he’s just a “good-looking dork.” And have you noticed that he walks exactly like George W. Bush? Some how I can’t picture either of them as good dancers. Must be a Texas thang.

Who Does Jake Pick?

All the spoilers (which have been correct to this point) say it’s Vienna. I’m pretty ticked about that, but I’ve had time to get over it. Tenley seems WAY better, but still pretty lousy. She’s very nice and sweet, but she has a ton of baggage. The girl talks about her divorce all the time. Jumping back into marriage after only a few months seems pretty stupid.

Good lord I hate Vienna. She gives 23-year-olds a bad name, seriously. I know plenty of 23-year-olds who could handle marriage and all that goes with it… but Vienna? Miss “my daddy bought me 5 cars because I kept wrecking them”???

My personal guess… looks like Jake doesn’t pick anyone. Maybe asks Ali back on the After the Final Rose show, ala Jason + Molly. At least that’s what the previews seem to allude to. We’ll see. Can’t wait til Monday night!!

P.S. Does anyone else think American Idol has gotten extremely stupid? Honestly, I stopped watching religiously after Jordan Sparks’ season. I do think this season will probably be the last one though. Simon’s throwing it to the wolves by leaving.

3 Steps to a Perfect Valentine’s Day (or any date, really)

Valentine’s Day 2010 was a smash-hit… probably thanks to “Snowmageddon”. Being snowed in for over a week and not being able to see James for almost 2 weeks wasn’t too much fun. But it did make Valentine’s day even more special. For future reference, however, I’ve realized that there are 3 easy steps for a perfect valentine’s day, or any memorable date, for that matter.

1. Do something different for a change

James picked me up in the morning and took me to brunch at this fun French place in Columbia, MD called “Cafe de Paris”. Very original, I know, but the owner really is French, we met him, and French is clearly his first language. The decor was fun, faux plaster/stucco-ish walls with vintage French posters and big comfy red leather couches. The Crepe Cafe was the section of the place that served breakfast. I had a crepe filled with eggs and ham, and James had one with brie, tomatoes, and onions. The onions were a little heavy and he didn’t like it very much, but he was a good sport about it, and I gave him some of mine.

2. Have a thoughtful and heartfelt surprise planned

The best surprise of Valentine’s day this year was the gift James gave me. He made a CD of all the love songs he sings to me in the car. You know, those classic 90’s love songs like Brian McKnight’s “Back at One” and All 4 One’s “I Swear” (best re-make in pop history, in my opinion). I love it. He couldn’t have done anything else that would have made me so happy. What made it so great was that it really means something to us. He was so thoughtful.

3. Make it clear, you love spending time together

After brunch, we spent the day together. We ended up going to the mall and walking around for a while, before heading back to my house just to hang out. Sometimes it’s really nice just to be together. Later on around 7:30 we watched a movie and ate pizza for dinner. Maybe that doesn’t sound special, but it’s the attitude that matters. Sometimes there’s nothing better than cuddling on the couch with take-out. Love stories aren’t about fancy restaurants and expensive presents. They’re about hearts.♥

The Bachelor – Jake’s in the wrong league.

At the beginning of this season’s “The Bachelor”, everyone was asking themselves, why is this guy who is smart, sweet, has a great job, a great personality, rippling abs and a gosh-darn-cute-as-a-button smile STILL SINGLE at the ripe old age of 31?

Now we get it. It was just too good to be true, really. But I see it now. The guy doesn’t understand women. He’s a little too trusting, naïve, innocent, whatever you want to call it. He expects too much in the beginning. He picks the wrong girls. He’s way too easily deceived by a pretty smile. And the saddest part of all is, he really is genuinely sweet. Maybe a bit too idealistic and expecting, but truly a nice man.

It doesn’t help that they gave him a house of seriously wacked-out girls.

He does seem to be wising up a little now in week 3. Thank GOD he dumped Michelle. I hope they rip her to shreds on SNL. Really, I’d like to see Tina Fey do an impression of her.

As for Vienna, wake up Jake. True, she’s not quite the Paris Hilton clone I pegged her as, but she’s still too young for you. She’s nicer and sweeter than I originally thought, but still too immature. Her main problem now it seems is that, like Jake, she’s too trusting of the other girls. I like that she apologized for all the bragging, and I think she’s sincere. I still think she’s wrong for Jake.

Ali, oh my gosh, what happened. I thought she was nice and sweet and fun. Turns out anyone can put up that face for Jake. She’s doing exactly what she accuses Vienna of – putting up one face for Jake and a totally different one in the house. The way she treated Vienna was disgusting.

Corrie- I like her now. I think that comedy routine ripping Vienna was actually a smart thing to do. It let Jake in on the truth in an indirect way. It came off as showing concern, without making herself look like a jealous, self-centered rhymes-with-itch. It was very clever and she deserves some credit.

Ella- LOVE her. She’s a great woman. She seems much more mature than Jake, which could become a real problem. Or, it could be just what Jake needs. He seemed very good with her kid. I hope he’s smart enough to see how great she is. Given his track record… it’s iffy.

I’m glad Elizabeth is gone. She was WEIRD. From the moment we met her on TV, I thought she was way too aggressive in a weird way. Jake doesn’t need her. And she really was a tease. Poor Jake had no idea what to think, and she didn’t explain herself very well. Even ignoring everything else, the way they communicated was bad. They didn’t connect well verbally. The would have had a hard time in a real relationship together.

Poor Jake’s in over his cute little head.