Honeymoon TLC: Top 5 Honeymoon Tips

Dear Thriving Bride,

No matter where you are going for your honeymoon, the purpose is usually the same for most couples: to get a relaxing break from the stress of wedding planning and to celebrate the wonderful and courageous journey both people embarked upon when they said “I will” until the time they said “I do.” If you are reading this, you are probably still a bride who is thinking about (and planning) your honeymoon. I am where you will be in a few days, months or years. I am on my honeymoon. Before leaving, there were a few tips I thought to give to you as I packed, and I am finding those things to be true and very appropriate. Be it the beaches on Cancun or the Bohemian villages of Indonesia, your honeymoon will be an even better time with these tips.

1. Pack light! I cannot stress this one enough. Regardless of where you are going, packing light will always serve you. Choose multipurpose clothing that is appropriate for the climate and events you will be enjoying. I love scarves that I can tie on my head when I’m having a bad hair day or pants that can either be dressed down or up. FYI: Packing light means your hubby just may agree to your need to go shopping. Stay tuned for my upcoming Thriving Bride Honeymoon Packing List!

2. Know where to spend your money and where to save it. Friends told me that it’s common for most couples to sleep for the first few days of the honeymoon. I know that’s what we did for the first 24 hours. Regardless of how laid-back your wedding was, it’s as if you had a red carpet event starring you and you need to rest. Who says you can’t afford a great honeymoon! You definitely can, but you just need to know where to put your money. If money is not a concern, so be it. If it is, stay at the less expensive places for the first few days, sleep and get some R&R and head out for the 5 star hotels during the second half of your trip. Note: I have about 2 weeks for my honeymoon, so I can do this. If your trip is really short, then maybe a night somewhere budget-friendly and the next few nights in the place with the wonderful room service and spectacular views.

3. Plan your itinerary, but don’t over plan. Are you the one who just planned your wedding? If you are a bride, then you probably did. So, this is the time for you to give to yourself and rejuvenate as much as possible. So, make sure you have your flights as soon as you can, and find a place to stay, but be open to what happens when you don’t plan every detail. Note: This is not a play by play orchestrated event, IT IS YOUR HONEYMOON! Plus, it is harder to change your mind when you book every last event in advance. So, make a few plans and then let your trip surprise you.

4. Ask all and any hotels and restaurants about honeymoon packages. This may be an obvious one, but we recently stayed in a wonderful thatched roof style house and it was by no means a hotel, but it was spectacular. And guess what? They had a special three course dinner with wine and wonderful massages in our room. You won’t be newlyweds for too long, so always mention this!

5. Be clear about your “vacation mojo”, especially on your honeymoon. So, how do you like to travel. Do you both prefer a 5 star hotel to a condo rental? Are you both interested in exploring local culture or is a resort style experience more of your thing? It is crucial to get clear about this. If your vision includes room service and a golf course and your partner wants to rent a house on the beach and snorkel, it is time to have that conversation. And do yourselves a favor. Have that talk before the honeymoon!

In recognition of the fact that many couples do not take their honeymoons until several weeks to months after the wedding day, already married couples can read this article here on my most recent blog, Thriving Wife.

Wedding Day TLC: Top 5 Tips for Enjoying Your Wedding Day!

Dear Thriving Bride,

written on my wedding day (11/10/12)

I want you to know that I am the bride in you writing this for the wife you will be in the next few hours.* It is the morning of your wedding, and already the sun is coming up. I have always marveled at how each sunrise signals the possibility of starting over and beginning again. I want to tell you a few things that will be important for you to remember today, and I need to tell them to you now before all the business of the day starts.

Happy and excited on the morning of my wedding day!

Happy and excited on the morning of my wedding day!

1.Today is an exciting day, but the love and relationship you have with PJ is not solely about today. It is about the rest of your lives. So, remember to have fun and if something becomes stressful, remove yourself from the situation and find your dear man and hold him close. It is in this moment that you will remember why you are doing this and everything else will come second.
2. Don’t forget to take in every single second and savor it. Look at the love you have created and nurtured around you. It is an amazing thing! Do not let other people’s stress or business of the day take that away from you. Soak it in!

Want to read more?   Click here to read the rest of this article on my most recent blog Thriving Wife.   I’ll still post ideas, inspirations and memorable moments from my wedding on this blog, so don’t worry.  You can enjoy both! Enjoy!

Top 5 Tips for Writing Your Vows

Dear Thriving Bride,

The truth is, not every couple chooses to write their vows.  But if you do, I’m here to give you a few tips to help you! The choice is personal and not writing yours does not mean that you are not a Thriving Bride. It just means that you chose something different than I did. If in fact you are interested in writing your own vows, here are a few things to remember along the way. I am a writer, so that greatly helped me and my partner, but in the end what helped the most is that we made sure to keep this part of the process in line with the rest of our wedding: joyful, honest and as unique as we are.

1. Do something unexpected, but true to you as a couple! There are no rules when it comes to writing your vows, so you too can throw the rules out the window. Before my wedding, I went to several weddings where each partner wrote something to read and read it to the other person. That’s fine, but we chose to have a conversation instead. It was a dialogue of sorts, and we went back and forth between each other. This allowed our guests to take part in our vows in an unexpected way, and I think they actually listened to them as well.
2. Write your vows as soon as you feel inspired to do them, but don’t wait too long.  It is always a good idea to have a first draft that you start pretty early on as you plan your wedding, then you can always edit it.  The important thing is having a place to start, and getting an early start was helpful for us.  A month before our wedding, we felt inspired and many of the ideas we wanted to include in our vows were at the tip of our tongues. So, we just sat down and wrote them. It was a first draft, but it pretty much stayed the same except for a few changes. There’s nothing like capturing the truth of the moment!
3. Be open to making changes. A few days before the wedding, PJ told me that he wanted to add a line to our vows about forgiveness. I loved the idea because it is an important idea that felt so true to our relationship and something that we try and practice as much as possible. Your vows are not written in stone. So, give yourself room to add and/or subtract. We decided on and scribbled down the lines about forgiveness in the waiting room 2 minutes before we walked down the aisle (well, danced – but that’s a post for another day).
4. If you have a wedding officiant (or someone else you trust to share your vow writing process with you), share your vows with this person. It was super helpful for us to do this. Our officiant was after all marrying us and it helped bring us together before the wedding and we had a greater understanding of why we were all doing this. I say “all” because despite the fact that this is your wedding, your officiant is one of the many people that will be extremely involved on your wedding day.
5. Let your vows be true to who you are. Are you quirky and funny? Figure out how to add that in there. Are you spontaneous? Maybe you want to leave room to improvise parts of your vows? Whatever you do, let it be memorable for you and your beloved. The flowers will die and your dress will be completely soaked in dance floor sweat, but you will remember (and so will others) what you said to each other.

Need more help or ideas to help you write your wedding vows? Ask a Thriving Bride question and I will do my best to answer you as soon as possible.

Bridal TLC: Make your “Bad-Ass Bride” List

Dear Thriving Bride,

It is two days before my wedding (11/8/12), and everyone keeps asking me how I am feeling. The truth is, I am feeling very content. This is my response when I get asked, and it is true. I am feeling content because I do not feel as if I am lacking anything or as if something is missing from this experience. Yes, there are people that will not be physically present at my wedding: my blood parents, my blood twin sister, and my two deceased brothers.

As you know, my younger brother will not be there to walk me down the aisle. He is dead and I know many emotions will come up as I remember him today and on my wedding day. As you know, my brother Mike will be there to walk me down the aisle. I was not born into a family that included Mike, but after more than 15 years we have had the fortune of inheriting each other. So yes, I feel content.

I feel satisfied, full of joy and very proud of myself. So, this is the post where I encourage you Dear Bride to give yourself as much credit as you can muster. If in fact you have given yourself the ability to go through the challenging emotions connected to your family of origin, the permission to embrace your family of experience and allow others to give to you, you should be very proud of yourself. So, in honor of everything you have done to become a Thriving Bride, I’d like you to take some time before your wedding day and make a “Bad-Ass Bride” list. It sounds funny, but I am serious. It’s time to look back on everything you have experienced on this journey and give yourself (and others) permission to congratulate you.

There will be several people there to congratulate you on the day of your wedding. Some of them will understand what the journey has looked like (many of my friends and family members have been reading my blog) and others will toast to you having found the love of your life. Either way, find some time and do a different kind of toast if you can. Toast to your courage, your willingness to open yourself up to receiving support, encouragement and help along this journey and especially to your ability to make peace with whatever outcome has landed in your lap in regards to your family of origin.

My “Bad-Ass Bride” list looks something like this:

In 90 days (It is 88, but will be 90 when I get married), I ______________ (fill in your name here) have fulfilled my desire to live my life and plan my wedding as a Thriving Bride, which has meant paying attention to my emotional needs, allowing myself to feel them and making peace with any challenging past traumas connected to my family of origin. In an effort to do this, I set out to take care of myself (emotionally and physically) and have achieved that in the following ways:

1. I ran for 84 of my 90 days.
2. I got 8 hours or more of sleep for 82 of my 90 days.
3. On the days when I did not sleep for 8 hours, I at least got 6 hours of sleep.
4. I brought up issues with my partner and my family if and when they arose.
5. I allowed myself to grieve the absence of my blood relatives, to accept them for their moments of grace as well as their flaws, and to not let my happiness be attached to their decisions.
6. I asked very important people in my life to serve as my Surrogate Parents at my wedding and going forward in my life.
7. I asked my Surrogate Brother to walk me down the aisle.
8. I posted on my bridal blog, ThrivingBride.com four times a week for 90 days. Woo hoo!
9. I did not eat any sugar for 45 days leading up to my wedding in order to feel better after many months of antibiotics.
10. I allowed my community to shower me with love with a Bachelorette Party, a Bridal Shower and an Engagement Party.
11.I learned how to “follow” in my “first dance” with PJ. Many thanks to our Wedding Dance Instructor!
12. I told the world my story as honestly and truthfully as I could through my blog. This, yes this, is what I am most proud of.

So, what does your “Bad-Ass Bride” list look like? What are you most proud of on this journey towards your wedding day? Think about it and ask your friends and family to help you remember the things you have achieved and write them down so you can always remember them. You deserve a lot of credit Dear Bride, so give that to yourself as much as possible in these few days leading up to your big day.

Bridal TLC: Remembering Your Mother’s Life Lessons

Dear Thriving Bride,

No one told me how to do any of this.  I have been molding it and carving it up and out of me as I’ve spent the past four months preparing for my wedding.  I thought about this last night as Obama won the election.  No one told him how to become the first Black President.  No one told him how to become the first President who had an African father.  And no one told him about how to become the first president with “a funny last name” as he often says. I will be married in 3 days, and I am thinking a lot about “first moments” and figuring out how to do things not from a place of knowledge but form a place of what we believe is possible for our own lives.  Today I want to talk about my African mother and the lessons she taught me. Somehow, I believe those lessons are helping me do all of this and do it in a way that feels good to me.  In essence, I believe I am doing what she could not do for herself: choosing who I love knowing that I will always be safe and cherished instead of living  in fear and terror.  I wish she could have done that, but I am doing it for the both of us.

There is an African proverb that says “I am, because you are.”  As the election results came in last night, I thought about Obama’s book titled Dreams of  My Father.   In the book, Obama talks about the ideas he had of his father based on his grandparent’s stories. His parents divorced when he was still very young, so he had to piece together who his father was. This is just a small part of the book, and I know it is also about so much more, but it got me thinking about my parents and their dreams.   After all, I did have two African parents whose vision of the world was shaped from their home country and background.  The truth is, regardless of how absent your parents were then or are now, it is impossible to forget the impact they made on you.

For all the mistakes my parents made, I have to give my mother credit for some of the amazing life lesson she taught me.  Even though I often felt like the scrawny ugly duckling (my breasts came in later than I hoped and I was pretty scrawny and I was being sexually abused by my older brother)  while I was growing up, my mother always imparted this idea of interdependence.  I remember anytime I would compare myself to anyone else she would tell me to remember that if I kept doing this, there would only be three options in my life: being totally miserable because I could not match up to other women, being totally mean and hateful towards other women or just deciding to end my life because every and any one was better than I was.  In some way, she taught me about what was possible for my life and I did not even know it until adulthood.

I look back now and it seems kind of funny.  She pretty much let me and my sister know that if we expected to be like everyone else, we might as well jump out the window because that was never going to happen.  She encouraged us not to look down on other women or judge them for any reason whatsoever.  ” I am, because you are” meant that if  I considered myself beautiful and called other women “ugly”, then I in fact was not beautiful because I was a reflection of others and they were a reflection of me.  It’s not a Western idea, so it might be hard to follow where I’m coming from, but I hope some of this makes sense.

There are brides out there who might be skinnier, prettier and wealthier than you. And the list goes on.  When you hit those moments, remember that you are both a reflection of each other.  And of course we all have different circumstances!  Life would be pretty mundane if we did not.  Now, wouldn’t it?

I’m here to tell you that she is a reflection of you, and she exists because you do.  And by the way, nothing (our money, our beauty, our wealth) really belongs to us anyway. We are given the opportunity to have these things in our lives for some time, and then we must let them go at one point or another in our lives.

Thank you Mom!  Somehow, despite your ability to protect us from Dad, you helped me keep my sense of self intact.  And right now I need that more than anything.  So again, thank you!

To all the brides out there who are feeling like they are not quite “good enough” in any way right now.  I advise you to “check yourself” and figure out if you want to live the best life you have to the fullest or spend all your time being upset that you’re not as skinny and pretty and wealth as so and so.

For me, this is a time waster.  Just quit worrying about someone else and go be your best self.  I bet that self is pretty bad ass!

Bridal TLC: Managing The Days Before Your Wedding

Dear Thriving Bride,

I will be married in 4 days, and I want to thank my friend JG for calling me today and leaving an inspiring message.  I have not called her back yet, but it took just a few words for me to be inspired enough to stop and write this.  JG reminded me that although I have done everything to be a “thriving bride”, it is also normal to have a “bridal panic attack.”  I want everyone to know that I am not having a “bridal panic attack.”  I actually feel pretty great, it’s just that it’s hitting me how my life is about to change.

My life has changed so many times, so I am used to change.  That’s not the issue here.  The issue here comes down to a moment I had with PJ a month or so before he asked me to marry him.  We were in our New York City apartment and had just returned from a wonderful trip together, and I decided to watch one of my very important television shows that night.  As I watched it, I saw couples separated by death and devastation and I realized that I loved PJ from that place inside me that knew loss, and knew it very well.  I also loved him from that place that knew that despite loss, it was part of my nature to continue loving and loving and loving.

It is part of my nature.  I was born into a family that could not love me in the way I needed, but I loved my brother in that way.  It was that kind of caring that said: whatever happens, I take you as you are.  As PJ slept in our NYC apartment I watched this show and cried my eyes out and then I had to go to the bedroom and tell him how I was feeling.  I had to tell him that I loved him from that place of what I thought had been lost after too much loss, but was now very possible.  I had to tell him I loved him from that place of capacity that had in fact been diminished for some time, but was now capable and able.  I loved him from that place of knowing that loss is the other side of love, and an inevitable part of it that makes loving so palpable when it is actually felt and expressed.

No, I am not having a “bridal panic attack.”  I might have one the day of the wedding.  I might look around me and wonder how this day all came together.  I will see my surrogate parents there and family of varying ages and backgrounds.  It will be that moment of knowing that I love all of them so deeply knowing that I could lose all of them at the same time.

The loss is inevitable, but the love is rare.  What a wonderful thing it is to know that Dear Bride.  And even when you feel like everything is spinning out of control, go back to that.  Love is really rare, and so if you find that you have the chance to share in its joy, please do so!

And if you find yourself in a “bridal panic attack”, you most likely need a moment to take in the fact that you, yes you, are capable of loving this much.  And also you will need to take in the fact that you, yes you, are about to change the course of your life forever.  And you, yes you, will need to remember that this is one of the most blessed and unique opportunities that this life will give us.

I will be married in 4 days.  What a lucky girl I am!  Yes, what a lucky girl I am!

DIY Wedding Traditions: The Surrogate Father/Daughter Dance

Dear Thriving Bride,

I will walk down the aisle in 6 days, and I can’t wait to dance with my two surrogate dads during the father/daughter dance.  Neither one of these men share my DNA. And no, I wasn’t adopted by two gay men who desperately wanted an African baby from Nigeria.  But, they are both White American men who love me, care for me, take me as I am and have chosen to stand for me as surrogate dads on my wedding day.  It’s pretty emotional and pretty awesome at the same time.

Last night I wailed and wailed as I sat and talked with our wedding minister.  He is not connected to any organized religion, but he is a minister of joy and of the truth.  That’s why we chose him.  We were supposed to meet to talk about the ceremony and instead I ended up sobbing and telling him (and PJ) about how I was trying to piece together this wedding, this family, this community and carve it from a place I did not even know I could carve it from.  Does this make any sense?  When I was a little girl, I always prepared myself for the fact that I would walk down the aisle and create the wedding of my dreams because somehow there would be no “manual” for how to do it.

I mean, how does an Nigerian American woman marrying a Jewish American man plan a wedding with two brothers dead, parents unable to show up without conditions and a beloved community that is willing and able to show up for her?  She lets them.  Yep, that’s exactly how she does it.  She says yes to their kindness and yes to their offers to throw parties for her and yes to their gifts of uncompromising faith in who she is and who she will become and yes to their desire to go on this journey with her.  She accepts all the love that comes to her from people who have the capacity to love her just as she is, and she settles into what it feels like to finally be taken care of instead of having to take care of everyone else.  This, in essence, is her blueprint.

I told you that PJ and I have been taking dance lessons.  Our instructor has spent the past month working with us, and she also encouraged me to bring my dads.  So, yesterday both of them held me in their arms and swung me gently around the room.  It was an amazing feeling.  Just gliding across the room with them and looking into their eyes made me wonder if I could get through the whole dance without crying.

Why on earth should I not want to cry?  This wedding, this journey, this experience, this life that I am living is carved out of the uncertain but absolutely possible determination of love to commit itself to giving each and every one of us the opportunity to become beloved by others.  No matter how mistreated we may have been in the past, when we are taken for who we are and supported unconditionally we become beloved, and maybe that is how we heal from the past.  Maybe that is finally what forgiveness and acceptance looks like.

My biological father was not there for me in the past, and he is not here for me now.   Despite this, I want him to know that I have fathers who will be there on my special day and have my back.  And that is something that will never go away!

So, you may read this and say: That’s great she found surrogate dads, but what about me?  How do I find one?  Well, I’ll tell you how I think you might find one.

Finding fabulous surrogate parents is like finding a loving partner.  You may say there are no great men or women out there for you, but are you remaining open to the possibilities of who that person may be.  I found one surrogate dad because I met his wife (my surrogate mom) in a store and she seemed like she was having trouble translating (into Spanish) what she wanted, and so I asked her if she needed some help.  So yes, I translated for her and she invited me to her home for brunch.  And I met my second surrogate dad because he lived on the same property as a friend and when I met him, he and his wife invited me to sit down and have a few snacks and wine with them and I agreed.  I remained open.  I did not know these people when I met them and I was not looking for surrogate parents either.

I was interested in what happens when you remain open to the possible relationships that can come out of being honest about who you are and leaving room for someone else to do the same.  Do you want to find a surrogate parent?  If someone invites you to their home and takes interest in who you are, say yes to the invitation.  Every time you say yes, you get to know them a bit more (and vice versa) and more and more intimacy is created.  Every time you let someone give to you, you give them the gift of being able to share who they are with you, and if you like what you experience, you go again.  You keep going, you keep exploring and if (and when) they ask, YOU ALWAYS LET THEM KNOW WHAT THEY CAN DO TO SUPPORT YOU!

Do you want them to throw you a big and fabulous birthday bash?  Let them know and ask them.  If they say no, it’s not because they don’t love you.  It’s simply because healthy relationships have boundaries, and they want to give to you when they have the capacity to do so.

As I’ve mentioned before, any good relationship involves a process.  They did not give birth to you or legally adopt you, but you can choose who you want them to be.  How’s that for second chances?  Stay tuned for my top 10 Tips for Finding Fabulous Surrogate Parents!

An Emotionally Sustainable Wedding Part 4: Top 5 Tips for Making it To The Altar

Dear Thriving Bride,

I will be married in 7 days, and I want to ask you to remember what I said (in an earlier post) about minimizing stress and maximizing your ability to thrive.  Well, here’s the time for me to talk to you about it.  If you want an emotionally sustainable wedding, you have to try and remember what’s most important: your soon to be spouse.  Everything else is important, but the other person in this relationship is  extremely important.  Did you know that  many engaged couples never say “I do?” There are plenty of reasons, but a major one is that they decide not to stay together and end the engagement. So, if you both want to show up at the altar eager and ready to marry each other, then here are a few tips:

1. Keep the Romance Flowing:  Once you are engaged, keep going (or start going) on date nights.  These are moments to stop, reflect, focus on this person and take one deep breath.  It’s also some good fun.  If you decide to take wedding dance classes, these moments can be your weekly dates.  If you have the resources, you can throw in dinner afterwards and have a really great night!

2. Manage the Crazy Control Meter: If and when you think you are going in this direction, find a quiet place and remember why you are marrying this person.  Think about how bummed you’d be if they decided not to marry you at the end of the wedding planning journey.  You did after all just pay the final wedding vendor and your big day will be happening and now you’re acting like some ………  I’ll let you fill in the most appropriate word that describes you right about now.

3. Spend time with your chosen family: These are the people who may or may not share blood with you. They are the ones who are there to support you.  Find time to spend some time with them outside of planning for the wedding.  I always support PJ in spending time with his mom without me there.  A huge transition is about to happen and it is important that he continues his personal relationship with her, and that may or may not include me at times.   Plus, it does not hurt to make people feel special!

4.  Figure out your marriage communication mojo: If it works, that’s great! If it is not working, then change it.  We’ve gotten to a point where we have an issue come up, but we get to the other side of it pretty quickly.  This is because now that we are getting married, I see PJ in a different light.  I see us as a team, and I don’t take things so personally.  I figure out how “we” can get things done.  It’s helpful, but you may need another approach.  If you find yourself having several arguments, now is not the time to be proud. Acknowledge your partner’s feelings, apologize and move on. We all learned patterns of behavior during childhood and now may be the time to hang on to some and let go of others. You’ve got a whole life ahead of you and now is a good time as any to figure out how you want to communicate going forward.  More to come on this topic!

5. Give your fiance gifts as often as you can: Who says you have to wait until the wedding day or until the Winter Holidays?  That’s months away and you are experiencing this time with your partner now.  It is important to give your fiance actual physical gifts and emotional ones as well. Did you notice that your partner now apologizes anytime he’s hurt your feelings?  Give him an acknowledgement of that.  A kiss wouldn’t hurt either.  You are growing and changing so much in this time, it is an opportunity to notice and acknowledge.  Do you know that your partner loves a certain restaurant or a particular flower?  Give it to them!  And if you’re mad at them, it might just be a good time to let yourself be angry while shopping for them.

It sounds crazy, but by the time you make the transaction at the store, get back in your car and drive home, something may have shifted inside you and you just might be ready to talk it over.  Yesterday we went into a vintage store so I could buy a few wedding day things.  I saw a little gold clutch, and when we came home, PJ gifted it to me.  He was pretty sly and figured out how to purchase it without me knowing.  This was a two way gift: He gave me the purse, but he also gave me the knowledge that he pays attention to my wants and needs.  My surprise and delight in knowing that he paid attention, then gave him the gift of happiness and satisfaction as well.  It is important to give, but one of the greatest gifts you can give your partner is to be able to receive as well.

So, let the flowers and the dress and your bridesmaids be important, but let your partner and the acknowledgement that this is a shared journey be even more important.  You’re both worth it!



DIY Wedding Traditions: The Family Crest

Dear Thriving Bride,

I am walking down the aisle in 8 days, and I want to give you a few ideas for traditions you can incorporate into your big day. When we thought about fun things to do for our wedding, we thought a lot about which traditions we would want to incorporate from our  our multicultural wedding.  It’s interesting to think about the traditions you want to hold onto and the one’s you want to let go of.  This journey has been all about learning so much about ourselves and each other, as well as realizing that some traditions aren’t so bad, especially when you can bring the “old school” into the “new school”.  I am basically asking you to keep certain traditions you want to have at your wedding and to create or re create new ones. That’s what we did when we decided to have a family crest.


Family Crests are great DIY wedding traditions. You’ll have to wait until after the wedding to see it!

Say what?  Yes, we did and we are very excited.  The thing is, I love traditions.  I think they help us understand where we come from, what our ancestors experienced in their lives and what lessons we can learn from them.  Having said that, I don’t believe in repeating any traditions just because the people who came before me did them.  For me, if the tradition was harmful or does not fit into my life, then I usually don’t want to do it.  Would you have your wedding at a specific church because that’s what everyone in your family before you did?  That’s all well and good if you are at peace with it.  But, if you are secretly screaming inside, it’s time to break the habit and let go of that tradition.

Repeating traditions for the sake of everyone else and not really thinking about if it works for you as well is like repeating negative patterns in your family.  Usually, you want to break those now don’t you?  But there’s also a different way to go.  There’s reclaiming a tradition or a family pattern and making it your own.  Again, as I’ve mentioned so many times, you can take the essence and leave the rest.  Creating a crest was part of the essence of our wedding: unique, adventurous, quirky, fun and innovative. We’re blending so many traditions and cultures that it was impossible for it not to be unique!

That’s what we did when we decided to create a family crest.  We worked with the fabulous graphic designer Lynn Rawden, who started creating crests when she did one for her own wedding. When I spoke to Lynn, she reminded me that it was important for engaged couples to always keep an element of surprise for each other and their guests when planning the wedding celebration, and that really resonated with me.  This idea was definitely going to be our element of surprise! Even though we originally spoke Lynn about designing some paper invitations for us,  she suggested that we think about creating a family crest.   Now, this was something for us to think about!

Crests are not just a Western tradition. They exist in many cultures, but my Nigerian American family never told me if we did or did not have one.  My grandfather was a village chief, and all I know is that he had a few servants. A  family crest?  It was not part of our understanding of who we were and if it exists, I doubt it was passed on to my parent’s generation.  My partner PJ does not know of one in his family either.  But the fascinating part of all this was that it did not matter if we had one because we could decide now to have one and to pass it on to our children and so on.

This may seem like it is just about crests and DIY wedding traditions, but through this process I have learned a lot about how I want to live my life.  Sometimes someone may not want to do something for me that I need, but who says I can’t create it for myself.  I am creating this wedding with my partner and we are creating our openness to what comes up along this journey and we are also creating and/or recreating traditions.  I think it’s a great life lesson and it feels fabulous!

I looked up the history of crests and many of my ideas about them were true.  Historically, you didn’t create a crest just because you wanted to because it had to be handed down to you, like a family inheritance.  The interesting thing is that just being family didn’t mean you go the crest.

Here’s what Wikipedia had to say about it:

There is a widespread misconception, due in part to Victorian stationers’ marketing of engraved letterheads, that a crest and a coat of arms belong to everyone with the same family name; but usage by persons not descended from the original grantee constitutes usurpation. mily name; but usage by persons not descended from the original grantee constitutes usurpation

Basically, it had to be “granted” to you or you could be seen “stealing” it even if you had the family name.  Sounds bizarre, but it’s true. Well, crests meant a lot to families and still do.

But guess what?  We’re having one.  For us, crests symbolized a shared vision within a community of people (family, organization, etc) that was articulated through a symbol that incorporated shared values to impart to the current generation and those to come.  Some are very literal and say things like the following: love, honor, fidelity.  But, that might not be the road you want to go down.  You can get as creative as you’s like.  They can even serve as great gift ideas. We wanted a symbol to stand for our mixed cultures, our love for each other, important phrases that we wanted in our family, and our family name.  And we get to grant it to each other, to our children and then it can continue.  Who says you can’t reclaim and/or recreate a tradition to fit your needs.

You can.  With a little imagination, you can do anything you want for you wedding!  Stay tuned for my upcoming post about great gift ideas for your wedding guests and my thoughts about gifting in general.  I know everyone has an opinion about that!


Bridal TLC: Remembering the Little Girl in You

Dear Thriving Bride,

I will be married in 9 days, and I want to talk to you about the emotional ghosts in your closet that will surely creep up as you get closer to this day.  For me, there is this huge and wonderful community of love and support all around me, but I find that one thing or another triggers this little girl inside me that dreamed of this day, and it is hard to believe it is all happening.  I mean we’ve all read those books about manifesting what you want and staying present in the moment, but the past is real and it did happen.

This morning I looked in the mirror before going for a run and I was shocked at what my silhouette reminded me of. I had my shirt bunched up a bit and I looked like me when I was 5 years old and smiling into the camera while perusing the local library of the city we lived in at that time.  There was so much joy in my face, no there was actually childhood glee.  It is that moment that we all have, but children know how to harness it and express it most.  It is that look that says: nothing can destroy this moment!

Me at 5 years old!

As I was waiting for my running partner to ring my doorbell, I kept looking into that mirror.  With my shirt all bunched up and my silhouette staring straight at me, I noticed that my body had not changed much: slight hips, strong legs, a certainty about my expression.  It was all still there, but I knew that I was no longer that little girl.  I couldn’t be, but I learned so much from being reminded of that day in the library when someone (possibly one of my parents) snapped that photo.  The only thing that was missing from the me I saw today in the mirror was that childhood glee.

I think it was missing because as much as I am so excited to marry PJ, I am letting go of something that is still a bit unexplainable.  I believe I am letting go of who that little girl had to be to survive, and I also believe I am letting go of who she thought she had to be to find love and support in this world.  I am embracing that she was a part of me, but the me now knows who she is and knows that no amount of loss, grief, emotional or physical violence could destroy that childhood glee, that essence that I managed to keep tucked safely within me and use later.

So, from now until my wedding day I will remember that little girl in the photo and no matter what comes up I can say to myself: nothing can destroy this moment!


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