The Wedding Registry: The Importance of Asking for What You Want

Dear Thriving Bride,

I will walk down the aisle in 10 days, and one common truth about being engaged is that it brings up the issue of money.  I will talk more about money in other upcoming posts, but  today I want to talk about money  and wedding registries.  I recently spoke to a few friends about this, and it comes down to this: some people have a hard time giving money as a gift and they need to be able to give you something they can go into a store and buy.  We’re just weird about money in Western culture sometimes, and some people feel uncomfortable about it.  That’s just what it is.  The truth is, I am not sure why this is the case, but it just is.

So, I am talking to you about money, but I am really talking to you about the importance of asking for what you want and need.  I believe that when it comes to giving and receiving, the following is always true:  You have the right to ask for what you want and need, and the person you are asking has they right to say yes, no or maybe.  Both people have the right to step up and respond in the way that they feel capable of doing.  But, remember this:  When you ask for something, there is always the possibility of someone saying no.  But guess what, no is not the worst thing that can happen to you.

Losing a loved one is really difficult.  Living with a disease that may or may not kill you is really challenging.  Dealing with uncompromising family members during your wedding planning can also be a pretty miserable experience.  Having someone say no to a request you make might be disappointing, but it is not the end of the world.

So, you are engaged and planning for your wedding and you want a modern wedding registry.  Who doesn’t. Our generation travels mostly by planes instead of cars, moves around constantly, gets transferred to different countries four our jobs and learns several languages to work and live in our society. This is a great thing and we are a more culturally diverse world because of it, but it also means that we have more destination weddings and more practical wedding registries.

PJ and I decided to register for the things we actually wanted.  We wanted money to help us on our honeymoon, so we focused mostly on that.  For inspiration, there are many great sites that help you ask for what your really want, but we chose to use Wedding Republic, where engaged couples ask for everything from a roof to add to their new home to a down payment on a car.  It may not be your thing, but if it is, speak up and ask for what you want.  It is important to remember that some people will be hesitant, and some may not feel like contributing actual cash towards a gift.  Let those people contribute in the ways that they can.  But, if you don’t create the registry for the things you want and you end up with 100 fondue pots, that one’s on you.

Asking for what you want is a huge bridal journey lesson and a life lesson as well.  Do you want your mother to host your bridal shower?  Ask her to.  Now, you may assume that every mother should just know that she should do this but this is not the case.  Let me tell you something that I have constantly experienced:  When there is a big event in my life (graduation, major birthday, wedding) many people have assumed that someone else was helping me.  It was natural because I had many friends and everyone thinks that one way or another I’ve got it covered.

People need you to ask them because they need you to let them know what you need.  If you don’t ask, you’ll end up cranky and pissed that no one knew to do this and that for you on your special day.  Well honey, it benefits the giver and receiver when you speak up.  You give people an opportunity to see if they have the capacity to support you in the way that you want and need, and your give yourself and opportunity to discover and articulate what it is you want.

This is especially crucial for brides like myself who grew up in homes where you were not allowed to speak about how you felt or ask for what you wanted. For me, what I wanted was supposed to be what my Dad wanted, which was never the same thing.  And guess what?  I’m not in that situation anymore and I get to say what I want, how I feel, what I hope for and how I’d like people to support me.

And like I said, the worst that can happen is for someone to say no.  But guess what?  One big fat no is not the end of the world.  It might be the beginning of a good thing.  It might give you the opportunity to reach deeper into your family and see who can be there in the way that you need.  And when that support shows up, it might just surprise you and create a wonderful bond.

 

Bridal TLC: Be a healthy bride and not a hungry bride!

Dear Thriving Bride,

It is 11 days before my wedding, and like most brides, I  want to look good on my wedding day.  Actually, that’s a whole bunch of bull.  I want to look fabulous! You are probably feeling the same way. You want people to say you look beautiful, which they will say no matter how much weight you did or did not lose in order to fit into that dress.  Now, here’s where I want you to pay attention.  I had to write about wedding diets because sometimes well-intentioned brides find that their wedding diets turn into wedding disasters.

Did you know that countless brides buy dresses that are two to three sizes too small as motivation for weight loss?  Even if you are one of those women  who might think this is crazy, you too are still part of the population of American women who are  thinking about shedding a few pounds before your wedding. If you say that’s not true, I have a hard time believing you.  It’s fine to want to lose some weight, the problems usually arise in how you handle your weight loss.

How are you not supposed to think about it?  We get such mixed messages in our culture around beauty and acceptance.  On the one hand, we are supposed to love ourselves as we are and on the other hand we’re supposed to do all we can to fit into a dress for one day.

According to The New York Time’s Article titled “Bridal Hunger Games”, many brides do over the top things to lose weight.  In general, most statistics state that brides tend to want to lose 15-20 pounds before their wedding day.  Fair enough.  Who am I to tell you that you should not move towards a healthier lifestyle as you embark on this next journey of your life?  But here’s the thing: crash diets, fad diets, weight loss injections and only drinking water in hopes of some miracle is not a healthy lifestyle.  You are about to get married and you will need all your health and happiness. So, take care of your body!

Before I got engaged, I had a pretty healthy diet so I did not think much about weight loss.  I did not think about weight loss at all.  I thought about feeling great!  I know I have not told you everything you need to know to understand where I am coming from, so I will tell you.

14 years ago, I was 20 years old and enjoying my summer break from college.  That summer I went to Nigeria to attend my older sister’s wedding. When I returned, I found myself bedridden within a few days. I literally felt like I had been knocked down by a massive truck.  Turns out I picked up a nasty bug in Nigeria that would continue to affect my life for several years.

My immune system went down the drain.  I was allergic to every and any thing.  I experimented with different dietary changes in order to feel better.  I had a condition that would get better, then I’d be very sick. This past year, I went through a severe treatment of antibiotics, and afterwards my system was so overloaded that my doctor told me I could only feel better if I did not eat sugar for  least a month before the wedding.   I stopped eating sugar, and within days I felt so much better.

I tell you all of this because as I get ready to walk down the aisle, I am thinking about feeling well and energized and less about what the scale says. I’m not telling you  this to say that you should not consider shedding a few pounds if you really feel that this will add to your health on your big day.  What I am saying i that if you focus on being healthy and feeling good on that day, you will most likely lose weight and feel great at the same time.  So, here are a few things I’m doing to feel great on my wedding day:*

Doing yoga and staying healthy!

1. Drink 6-8 glasses of water with lime every day.  Lime has so many benefits. It has helped to balance the PH levels in my body after so many antibiotics, keep my immune system strong, and so many other things as well.

2. Sweat every day, but make sure it is something you enjoy doing.  You can go running, go to yoga or go to a class at the gym.  I love to sweat everyday, so do it!

3.  Decrease your sugar intake.  Most foods end up turning into sugar in our bodies, but this is especially true for artificial sugars. I think it’s a recipe for disaster if you cut sugar out all together, so focus on cutting out artificial sugars.  By the way, you can still get a sweet taste with natural (I don’t like artificial) sweeteners.  I love Agave Syrup, an all natural sweetener that just hits the spot.  A teaspoon is enough for your cup of coffee in the morning.

4. Swap out processed grains for whole grains.  Brown rice instead of white rice anyone? How about whole wheat pasta in place of regular pasta?  The nutritional value is a lot higher, and you get more energy from these foods as well. Enough said!

5. Ask your partner to help you get there.  I asked for PJ’s help since I’ve been on my “ridding my system of antibiotics” diet, and he has been very helpful.  Let your partner know that you are doing this to feel great on your special day, and have a conversation about how he can help you.

6. Do Yoga!  I have been a runner since I was pretty young, and usually I prefer exercise when I am outdoors and in my running shoes, but I do have to make an exception with yoga.  It helps your mind and your body.  Now, how can you go wrong with that?

7. Change your mindset.  Instead of thinking about being on a “wedding day diet”, think about the fact that you are creating a healthy lifestyle now and for the future.

8.  Get enough sleep!  Feeling great on your wedding day isn’t just about what you are putting into your body, but what you are doing to it as well. Of course you are busy with wedding planning and working as well, but you’ve got to let your head hit that pillow as many times as you can during this journey.  Lack of sleep has been linked to weight gain and hypertension.  I don’t think you want to go down that road!

9.  Don’t forget to enjoy, but don’t indulge.  Basically, as soon as you get engaged everyone will want to celebrate with you in one way or another.  I think the whole “none for me please” response usually makes you want the whole box later.  I won’t be able to do anything for you when your fiance finds you locked in a closet scarfing down the extra box of cupcakes.  This attitude usually leads to emotional eating, and you know what happens when you eat instead of expressing how you are feeling. So, listen now!  Just have one, savor it and move on.

10.  Be a healthy bride and not a hungry bride!  To help you, check out the Lose It App for fun ways to change and/or fine tune your current eating habits.

The point of this whole thing is that you’ve got to be healthy and full of energy so you can celebrate with all the loved ones around you.  Sorry to bum you out, but last time I checked carrot sticks don’t give you much energy!

 

*Disclaimer: All and any of these tips are things that I am doing to stay healthy for my wedding and they simply represent my opinions based on what has helped me stay healthy.  I am not a medical doctor and am not advising you from that perspective, so please check with your medical practitioner before doing any one of these things and just to make sure you are generally healthy overall.

 

 

 

 

Enter to Win a Free Wedding Ring

The Thriving Bride Win the Bling Contest!

Are you a cash strapped bride who could use a wedding or engagement ring? Are you a groom who’d love to get a beautiful wedding ring for your soon to be wife and the budget just can’t seem to blend together your aesthetic and your wallet?   Well, here’s your chance to tell us what makes you a Thriving Bride, get a beautiful ring and add to the joy that is just beginning in this phase of your life. I actually bought this ring for myself but it’s too small! So I thought, why not give it away to another Thriving Bride?

Details about the ring: This is a 18K gold plated ring size 6 with cz stones.

How to enter:   Tell us what makes you a Thriving Bride!  If you need some inspiration, go to http://www.thrivingbride.com/glossary to read more about the type of person a Thriving Bride is.  This contest begins at 12:00 A.M. Central Standard Time (CST) on November 30, 2012, and ends at 12:00 P.M. CST on November 7, 2012. To enter, head on over to http://www.facebook.com/thrivingbride and join the contest!  Each entry must:  (1) be original and not infringe the intellectual-property rights of any third party, (2)  not have been published in any medium, and (3)  not have won an award.

Judging: All entries will be judged by the Thriving Bride Team.  The winners will be notified by email and/or via Facebook after November 12, 2012. Names and possibly excerpts will also be published in my new blog ThrivingWife, which launches in the month of November.

Contest Rules:

1. You must be 21 years of age or older to enter the contest.

2. You must be a bride or a groom who wants to write about your bride for the sake of winning a ring for her.  Now, isn’t that romantic!  Each submission must answer this question: What makes you a Thriving Bride?  Remember, being one isn’t just about tough circumstances.  It’s about what you do with those circumstances. I won’t say more, but please go to the Thriving Bride Glossary (www.thrivingbride.com/glossary) for more information.  Read the definition very carefully so you can write one amazing submission.

3. You must “like” the ThrivingBride page (www.facebook.com/thrivingbride) in order to submit an entry.

4. Submissions should be at least 500, but no more than 1000 words.

5. All work submitted is the sole property of the author, but in submitting the author gives ThrivingBride.com permission to reprint it if it is chosen as a contest winner.  Entries will not be returned.

Prize:

Winning Essay will receive: An 18K gold plated ring with cz stones. Can be used as wedding ring or engagement ring.  Note: This is not a solitaire standard engagement ring.

 

Redefining Your Wedding: Surrogate Parents and Chosen Family

Dear Thriving Bride,

A few weeks ago, I had a gathering with my Surrogate Parents. It was a beautiful afternoon and we sat down to lunch with my fiance’s mom and my two sets of surrogate parents.  Along with many friends that I’ve know over the years, they are my chosen family.

Hanging out with my Fairy God Mother (FGM)

It feels so natural and right to have them in my life and in my wedding. We are modern women who are redefining our weddings according to our own ideas of happiness, so who says you can’t redefine what family means for you? There are all kinds of people ready to love us in our lives, we just have to let them, and not be so attached to the descriptions we put before the names we give them. I am a realizing that anyone committed to going through a process (giving birth, adoption both formally and informally and just showing up)  with me that involves a commitment to my long-term growth and happiness, while being able to have the perspective of my parent’s generation, is someone that I am more likely to consider as a chosen parent. I am sharing all of this with you because I want to give you another way to think about family as you get ready for your wedding day.

Everyone (whether you know it or not) has different kinds of parents.  You have your stable parents and your discerning parents and your understanding parents.  You also have your absent parents and your inappropriate parents and your self-absorbed parents, and then finally we have the hot button words: the biological parents.  So many of us would like to believe that biology does not matter because it’s about the relationship you have with someone and not what you call them.  Right?   Well, biology does matter and so does my relationship to the people in my life.  For some, biology is where we start out, and it is often our first memories of what family is and should be.

But focusing so much on biology when it comes to parenting can be very harmful.  I see the harm done when I read the paper and hear about another child returned to his or her biological family after living in foster care, and I cringe every time those kids don’t survive because their blood families decided to harm them once again.  Actually, that pisses me off.  It matters to everyone, and it should matter, but it cannot be the only consideration when one’s family of origin has miserably failed them.

What I call someone, and what they represent in my life are both equally important.

So, what happens if we take out the words to describe our parents?  Let’s see! What if my parents were not my biological parents and were just my parents.  As soon as I tell you this, each of you will understand this according to how you were taught to define parents.  To some people it’s the folks who always have your back and look after you no matter what.  To other people, parents can only be the people who share blood with you.

We also know that someone can become a parent through adoption.  I am not going to pretend to understand what it is like to be adopted or to understand the challenges both parents and children face in the adoption process, but I can say that this type of parenting happens because a child needs a loving and caring family and there are adults on the other end who hopefully need the love of that child.  And when these situations align, there is a legal process to allow for both people to find each other and become a family.

I am a woman who needs people who can be there for me in a loving and supporting way during my wedding.  I have my Fairy God Parents, who have been those people in my life for the past two years. We had a pretty instant connection and I needed them as much as I believe they needed me.  I have another set of Surrogate Parents who are always happy to have me around and will be there to support me as well.  We do not share blood or DNA, but we do share a process.  We did not sign papers or show bank statements, but we did share a meal and experiences and I let them know why they were important to me.   Every parent to be needs to go through a process (also known as a rite of passage) to become one.  My biological parents went through the process of giving birth to me.  I respect them for that.  My Surrogate Parents went through the process of seeing and accepting me for who I am, and continuing to do so on this journey.  They also agreed to be by family and stand for me on my wedding day.  For me, this sealed the deal because it is what I needed to feel safe enough to surrender to all the possibilities of the love they have to give me.

Attention Brides: It might be time to think about who you want to stand for you as your parents, and to decide what process you need to go through with them to get there.  It does not happen overnight!

The lunch we had was our process, rite of passage, ritual or whatever else you want to call it.   This may sound strange to some, but this is what is true  for me.  I am so grateful that I have an understanding mother-in-law who welcomed them into her home, prepared lunch and gave me the space to introduce her to some of the members of my family.  My sister and her family will join me at the wedding, and she will also be there to join the community of loving people that I call family.

My Surrogate moms are hosting my bridal shower!  They wanted to know what they can do to support me and so I told them.  Do you want to know the best way to find you surrogate parents?  I can only give you the advice my fairy god mother gave to me:

When we all get together, it would be very helpful for you  to tell everyone why they are there. 

I agreed with her and that was our ceremony, our ritual, our process.  We all sat at that table and I told them why I loved them, what they had meant to me and why they were there.

My Fairy God Parents were there because they represent unconditional support in my life, plus they add a little bit of Texan sass to the mix as well.

My other Surrogate Parents were there because they too represent unconditional support in my life, but also because they  are often willing to do whatever it takes to support me, and let me reiterate the words “whatever it takes.”  My Surrogate Dad was willing to form a “find love for Uchechi” committee shortly before I met Peter.  Like I said, these folks aren’t shy when it comes to having my best interest in mind.

The real reason both couples are in my life is because they always have refrigerators stocked full of food.  Okay, this sounds funny, but I like that feeling of going to their homes and feeling at home.  I can take off my shoes, sit back and relax and know that they will be supported and provided for.   I never relaxed at my parent’s home.  Now I also have PJ’s mom and  three houses to go to.  I am a lucky girl!

The other day, I received an email that I have always wanted to receive from my parent.  My surrogate dad said that I could call him whatever I wanted, but that what mattered most was that he loved me and would be my “safety-net.”  I breathed long and hard that day.    Words can harm, and I know what that feels like from my blood family.  Words can also heal.  Thank you Surrogate Parents for using your words to heal.

So, finding your surrogate parents is about a process and a need. You need them and they most likely need you and it is important for you to figure out some act that you can all do to bring them into your life in a formal way that let’s them understand the role you want them to play in your life.   Some people say that the difference between blood family and chosen family is that we choose the people we want.  That’s one side of it.  We often forget that they choose us as well.  We are no longer the child that feels unwanted and abandoned, but instead we get to be the adults who choose love and get to be chosen as loved ones by our partners, parents and family.

 

Redefining Your Pre-Bridal Past: You Cannot Change Your Parents

Dear Thriving Bride,

It is 14 days before my wedding, and I have not spoken to my parents since we announced our wedding date. I want to tell you about the ups and downs, and about how I really am feeling happy and excited about what is to come.  I also need to tell you that I have postponed writing the details of this experience with my parents for some time.  I am a writer, and I did not know where to begin.   I decided that starting somewhere is better than not telling you the story.  My advice to you is to tell your wedding journey story to as many people as you can before you walk down the aisle.   You will be amazed at the support that is there and willing to be there for you if you just let them. And even if you are overwhelmed, you must start somewhere.  This has been the journey so far:

1. PJ called my Dad and asked for my hand in marriage.  My Dad let him know that he needed time to process it all.  I respect this!  After all, I was his first child (I have two sisters who had arranged marriages) who did not go back to our village to marry a man from the same tribe and village.  A few days later we spoke to him and he gave his blessing.

2.  Keep in mind, I  introduced my parents to someone I was dating (for the first time ever) a few years prior to  getting engaged to PJ.  I just never did before.  I was 32 years old and had a man at my parent’s house for the first time in my life.  This is how we lived.  They kept the letters flowing from suitors arranged by my aunties back in Nigeria, and I kept my heart’s desires private.

3. During the same conversation, my Dad asked to speak with me privately the next day.  He asked that I call him when PJ was not there.  Knowing my Dad, I did not have good feelings about the whole thing .  PJ was sleeping and so I called him and listened as he told me about how PJ’s relationship with his in-laws was very important.  I agreed. He then told me that I should not do what my older sister did and ruin the PJ’s relationship with them.  I did not understand.  He then told me about how I should not “fill PJ’s head with unnecessary stories about my childhood.” At that point, I understood clearly and had nothing to say.  He wanted me to promise that I would never speak with my soon to be husband about my past. I simply could not promise because if I did I would be injuring that little girl inside me that dealt with abuse for so many years from my family of origin.  Nope!  It wasn’t going to happen.  I told him that I would get off the phone if he continued to speak to me that way.  My mother was standing right next to him and told me that she did not hear him  say the things that I have just told you.

4. My parents do not call for two weeks.

5. We decide to set the date of our wedding and send out a “SAVE THE DATE” email.

6. My parents call, discover we have set the date, and let us know that they are supposed to decide on the date as my parents.

7.  I refuse to continue the conversation.

8. We set the date, send out email invitations and they are not on our invite list.  At this time, I let them know that I will not allow any kind  of violence (yelling, screaming, etc) in my life, and ask them to communicate with me via email and email alone.

9. We begin to exchange emails. I ask them to acknowledge certain behaviors before I can move forward and talk with them about the wedding.

10. My parents refuse to tell their friends about our engagement.  Their reason: We have not done all of the traditional things involved in a Nigerian engagement ceremony.   I believe in honoring traditions, but we are not able to travel and do this ceremony.

11. My father starts threatening that he will not come.  FYI: I think he was unaware of the fact that he was never officially invited to the wedding!

12.  I sent out an email asking them not to come. Here is an excerpt:

I am so sorry, but I do not tolerate any form of abuse in my life.   I would hope that as long as I was choosing a kind, loving, generous and supportive partner, nothing else would matter. But for you, it does. And for me, this does not feel supportive and is actually affecting me emotionally to the point where I need to tell you that I would prefer if you did not come to my wedding. 

Both of your sons are dead, your older daughter hardly speaks to you, and I do not want you at my wedding.  My response to all of this is to say Shame on You.  Life has given you some many opportunities to do better and repair past mistakes, but you always choose not to.  Yes, shame on you!

12. I let my mother know that she is invited to the wedding, but I do not extend that invitation to my father.  My mother knows this is an invitation for her, and her alone.

12. It is 14 days before my wedding and  they have yet to respond to my initial email. They want to know which airport to fly into.  I do not want them there.  I simply do not.  You may judge my choice, and I can understand if you don’t understand where I am coming from.  I am a Thriving Bride because I have accepted who they are and chosen what I want at my wedding, and this does not include this kind of stress.  It is up to you to decide what you do and don’t want at your wedding, and you get to speak up about that when it comes to who to invite as well.

My parents are who they are.  I cannot change them.  You cannot change yours.

If the people who say they love you are not adding to your happiness at this time in your life, then maybe it is time for you to say Shame on You!  Maybe not?  It is your call, but it is up to you to decide what works for you in your relationships as you lead up to this happy day.

Anyone who says they love you and want to support you during your wedding journey, should be able to muster the capacity to help you on your journey towards becoming a Thriving Bride.  If they are not capable of doing so, you may want to reconsider if and how you want them to take part in your wedding. You can just accept them and let them know your boundaries and limitations.  You can also get a fabulous set of Surrogate Parents.  Look for my next post with Tips to Help Thriving Brides find Fabulous Surrogate Parents!

 

Wedding Rites of Passage: Celebrating the Bride

Dear Thriving Bride,

It is 15 days until my wedding day, and this journey has been an eye opening and rewarding one. It’s also come with its share of heart wrenching emotions and I’ve found myself in tears more than once.  You want to know what the best thing I’ve done so far to help me move through each stage of the process has been?   It’s been all about taking the time to allow my community to create celebrations (bridal shower, Bachelorette party, engagement party)  for me and to enjoy these moments.  Here’s where I’m coming from.

When I first got engaged (and actually for most of my life), I’ve known that I wanted to have all the parties I could muster.  I wanted the engagement party, the bridal shower, the Bachelorette party, the rehearsal dinner, the impromptu coming together of families that wasn’t a rehearsal dinner, and for me as a thriving bride these parties have also included an Introducing the Surrogate Parents Party.  Yes, I did and it was fabulous.

There are some of you that may think all of these events are not necessary or that the most important day is that day when you walk down the aisle.  Well, I don’t think so.  For me, celebrating each moment has given me two very important gifts: the knowledge that I have a tremendous ability to receive love and support from my family and the rites of passage to prepare me to be “ready” on my wedding day.

First things first. Let’s talk about giving and receiving.  Most women (in general) are givers.  We have been and continue to be.  Just look at the fact that we often choose to give birth, nurture and raise those children and see them grow into full human beings.  The men are there too, but we are generally the givers.  How many women do you know who know how to receive.  I’m not talking about receiving a bottle of perfume on your birthday or flowers on Mother’s Day.  I am talking about receiving help with the kids, admitting you can’t do something because you are just so damn tired and simply asking for help when you feel like you are drowning.

Please don’t hesitate to weigh in on this one.  I am curious to hear what you think.

So, it may not be a natural inclination for you to be able to receive.  And then if you look at those women who come from unstable family situations (like myself), the expectation was often that you gave to others and understood it not only as your role, but as your duty.  At least that was the way it went in my family.  After recovering from that, I understood that I so needed to give to myself, and to let others give to me.  I’ve also noticed that every time I have one of these events (or should I say every time my community supports me by putting on one of these events), I feel like I am slowly going through some unexplainable right of passage.  It is like each person is slowly and gently “giving me away” and I find it to be a very rich and exciting experience.

Last week my Bay Area girlfriends had a Bachelorette party for me.  They organized it and let me just show up. The women there ranged in age, sexuality, ethnic and cultural background and personal history, but I had known them for so long.  Two women were a few of my first college instructors and knew me when I was 17, newly enrolled in a writing program that would change the direction of my life.  Another woman was one of the first people to professionally publish my work when I was 20 years old.  Another woman was a former student in that same writing program, where I later became an instructor.  Another woman organized a benefit on my behalf when I became very sick and all I could do was shout “HELP” really loudly to all and any who would hear me.  She heard me!  Another woman is a fellow poet and has always been able to see my beauty beyond what’s on the outside and notice it, and acknowledge it.

They may have not known this, but by showing up for me in this way, I ended the night by sitting and reading each and everyone of their cards and crying. We had laughed, cried, talked about how long we had all known each other, and the ways in which we had grown and changed, wrote silly but important MAD LIBS vows and ate delightful chocolate cupcakes.  I felt like a young African girl who had just been given one of her many marriage tribal marks that she would receive before her wedding day.  Yes, I let them give to me and gave them all the joy I had to offer them at the same time.

Are you unsure if you want to honor some wedding celebration traditions and let go of others.  Well, I would encourage you to try each one on and see how it feels.  As I kept going from one event to the other, I realized that I was ready for the next one and the next one.  And in a week from Sunday I will have my bridal shower with my local community of women who have not known me for as long, but they will be there to give to me and I will be there to receive.

Receiving is simply being open to whatever it is that someone or a group of people have to offer you, knowing that you have the right to say yes or no to every and any gift.  But, if you catch yourself saying no, step back and look at what’s happening.  Are you nervous to have people support you?  Are you unsure that they’ll come through? Do you always prefer to do things yourself?  Trust me, no one will question if you are strong.  You are a bride who comes to the altar with challenging circumstances and discovers that you are more resourceful and capable than you know.

Sometimes being capable means stepping back and giving someone else permission to love you, to see you, to honor you, to nurture you and to carry you along in this next phase of your life.

I hope you consider honoring these traditions. If you are unsure of how to do so, look for my upcoming post about “Rallying Your Family Support for Your Wedding.”  And if you are looking for some inspiration, follow me on Pinterest  for some really great Bridal Shower and Bachelorette Party ideas.

Redefining Your Pre-Bridal Past: In Honor of My Mother’s Grace

Dear Thriving Bride,

I will be married in 16 days and I have no desire to see my parents at my wedding, but I do want to honor my mother for who she taught me to be. I have told you many things, but I have not told you that I feel more at peace each and every day with my decision to not have them there.  I miss my mother so much, but I miss my idea of her even more.

My mother always supported anyone who was hungry, underprivileged, under served and dismissed.  She was unable to do this for herself with my father, but she showed me how to do it in other ways. My mother took me to see Nelson Mandela speak in Boston in 1990, shortly after he was released from prison. My mother greeted new immigrant families upon their arrival and took them straight to the food bank and invited them to our house to celebrate their first Thanksgiving in America.

My mother received her degree and taught elementary school for almost 20 years, and was always so good with the little kids. Every year the space below the Christmas Tree was filled with wrapped boxes with her name on it. Her student’s parents always made sure she received something special for the holidays. My mother taught me how to live a life of purpose, and like me, my mother left what she knew (her Nigerian village) to pursue an education abroad.  Even though I went from Boston to Berkeley, I still chose to live pretty far away from my parents in pursuit of my dreams: to educate my whole self, to heal from a sordid history and to move from surviving to thriving.

My mother also showed me things that I should never ever do in my life.  I remember the day my father got upset with her for something or another and slammed a wooden comb into her forehead and then proceeded to slam her head against the kitchen tile.  That day changed me.  No matter how hard I tried, I would always remember her with the comb embedded in her brow, and the shock on her face coupled with the trickling blood.  That was not all of who my mother was, but that day she became the woman who almost let a man kill her. And that scared me.

I survived that moment by deciding that I would never be that woman.   I did not know who I would become, but that was not it. I would be stronger, braver, more outspoken and never find myself in that position.  I had it planned out.  In the end, there really was no plan.  In the end, I watched men carefully and gave them my trust if they had soft hands and eyes that told the truth.  That ended up being the only thing that I knew would serve me well.

I am getting married in 16 days and on the cusp of starting my own family.  May there be enough love surrounding both of us so that my children remember me as the woman who lived her life in honor of her mother’s grace and in forgiveness of her mother’s faults.

 

An Emotionally Sustainable Wedding Part 3: How to Train Your Parents

Dear Thriving Bride,

I am getting married in 22 days, and I want to talk to you about “training” your parents.  My suggestion might stir up some heavy emotions and make you think that I am suggesting that they go through an emotional boot camp before your wedding.  Don’t be silly, I would not suggest that unless they needed it.  Note to Brides: MOST PARENTS DO NEED IT!  So yes, I am not only suggesting, but asking you to consider it seriously.  Here’s why?

Most traditional (it’s still traditional even if you are wearing a hippie dress and you picked flowers straight from your garden and even wrote your own vows)  weddings involve the part where someone “gives the bride away.” This is both literal and metaphorical.  You may choose to walk down by yourself, but many brides choose to have some male relative in their blood or chosen family do the deed.  So, why do you think this is done?  It’s because this is that last stage and you’re fully grown now and the umbilical cord has been cut again and everyone is so happy, but they are also losing their minds.

Weddings make people go crazy (i am talking to you too bride), and I like being proactive and toning down the crazies before they start.  You are now really “someone else’s” and you are now really “starting your life.”  I would love to go on about how this isn’t how every family is, but let’s cut the bullshit and admit that anyone reading this probably already knows this.  If I spent much time disclaiming everything I said, I would not have the time to write this.  I think it’s more important to write this. Don’t you? Good, were on the same page!

I once dated a guy who simply told me that every person has to “train their parents”.  I was shocked but pleased with the idea.  No, they are not children.  No, you don’t want to assume anything about how they will or will not behave during this time, but instead it is about setting expectations and letting them know when your boundaries have been crossed.

Do you want a band at your wedding?  If the answer is no, tell ’em now and be firm.  If they try and insist, tell ’em that you are honored that they want to be involved, but their current involvement is not adding to your happiness. If they persist, you may have to fire them.

This does not mean they will not come, it just means that the resume they presented you with (“willing and able parent able to help my child achieve and manifest his or her wedding day vision”) has turned into a different kind of resume (“willing and able parent able to make my child do what I want them to achieve and manifest my idea of his or her wedding day and hopefully make them think it’s what they wanted all along”).  If an employee did this, you’d have to speak with them and make requests.  If nothing changed, what would you do?  Hopefully, you’d transfer them to another department or fire them.

Transferring someone to another wedding department isn’t so bad.  If music for your wedding is not your mother’s strong suite, what about sending her on over to flowers and decorations.  The truth is, this process is all about assigning people to a job that they are best at. I hear the view is still very nice there, and the flower lady sometimes serves really hot and delicious coffee.  Bathroom breaks are allowed, and I think there might even be a gift bouquet for mothers.

The point is, feel free to fire or transfer.  This does not give you the right to pick at every last thing and make life miserable for people who want to help you. Life is short, relationships (if based on real love) will endure and as you cut this next umbilical cord you will not only have begun healthy and emotionally sustainable wedding day traditions, but you will have embarked on healthy means of communication and boundaries from this moment forward.  I think you can’t lose here.  And here’s the best part: After you’ve “trained” them, they can take off their training wheels and ride smoothly into the next phase of this life with you as people who support you and your desire to live an emotionally healthy life.

Warning to Brides: Not all parents are capable of helping you achieve your vision. Don’t worry, I’ll get to that subject in an upcoming post. I’ve told you about my parents, but I have not told you all the ups and downs in this process. Don’t worry, I’ll get to that!

Exciting Updates at Thriving Bride: Thriving Bride is starting Bridal Giveaways!  For any cash strapped brides who need a wedding band, watch our Facebook page for an upcoming giveaway (www.facebook.com/thrivingbride)

In Support of Marriage Autonomy for the Sake of Marriage Equality

for Amy

Dear Thriving Bride,

I will be married in 23 days, and the most crucial part about my wedding journey is this:  I got the right to choose who I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.  It’s that simple, but it’s made all the difference.

I have yet to write in detail about gay marriage and the debate that is always a hot button topic for every politician as he or she decides to run for office.  For these people and for many human beings in the world, this is (and should be) a hot button issue because in my opinion it is not about marriage equality, but what we are really talking about here is marriage autonomy.

When I was 10 years old, my dad sat me and my sister down in the kitchen and told us that we needed to learn how to cook.  He loved to discipline us by telling us some really frightening stories about people who did not do certain things the “right” way, and what happened to them as a result.  So, there we were at age 10 sitting on 7 pound bags of rice from the African market and wondering when we could just forget about stirring the pot and go out to play with our friends.  He wanted us to learn how to cook because if we did not, we not only would lose any Nigerian suitor out there (basically, he made it clear that no man would pay a dowry on our behalf if we could not cook), but he also followed this up with a parable.

The girl who was always sleeping while her mother was cooking

There was this girl who slept while her mother spent her backbreaking days in the kitchen.  Was she awake when her mother stirred the onions into the pot?  Nope!  Was she awake when her mother added the Nigerian spices?  Nope! Was she awake when her mother ground the melon seeds and poured them into the onion broth and then added the red palm oil?  Nope.  She was only awake at the end, when her mother was pouring in the salt.  Can you guess what happened to this girl when she became a woman and had her own kitchen?  If you think she only knew how to boil water and then add salt, you guessed right.

So, in an effort not to become the girl who only knew how to cook salt stew, I sat in that kitchen and dreamed that I would one day be able to choose the man I loved.  At this age, my biggest nightmare was that I would wake up next to a man that I did not know and who I did not choose and be forced to pretend to love him for the sake of tradition.

It is a human need to be loved.  It is a human right to choose that form of love.  I am marrying a man, and I am not claiming to know what it is like for those men and women out there who want to marry someone of the same sex or of a different gender identity than the one the state acknowledges.

So, I want to stand behind everyone who knows what it is like to be 10 years old, 15 years old, 20 years old, 30 years old and even 60 years old without feeling the freedom to make that choice on his or her own.  Whether it is tradition or state sanctioned choosing, it is still someone else choosing for you.  And who the hell wants that?

I think back to being a little girl.  I wonder about little girls who wanted to love other little girls. In many ways, we both wanted the same thing: To find safe places where we could be ourselves, and be loved for who we were.   And when each of us finds that, no law or government should be able to tell us to let that go.  I hope each of you who finds this companionship and capacity of another human being to take you as you are and to do the work of loving you, never lets it go.

I would like to propose a toast to all the people I know who just want the right to choose. We are first generations Americans whose immigrant parents are afraid to let go of traditions from the old country, we span the whole LGBTQ spectrum, we sometimes fall in love with people of the opposite sex but simply don’t want to get married, we want recognition for the fact that we have done one of the most awesome and difficult things in this world: found someone who is anything but perfect and chosen to take that person “as is” right off the “rack” of human beings that we have the profound luck of stumbling upon every day when we leave our homes.

Let’s give everybody the chance to choose his or her love and to choose how he or she wants to live it.  I think back to Mildred and Richard Loving, the interracial couple whose marriage and court case broke the anti-miscegenation laws in the United States in 1967.  When Mildred wrote a letter to Robert Kennedy’s office in order to appeal her case she said, “we didn’t hurt nobody, and we just want to live in peace.”  Without Mildred and Richard, I probably would not have the freedom to marry PJ more than 40 years later.

I think about a picture a friend of mine recently posted on Facebook. She was dancing with her partner and she made it very clear what she wanted for her birthday: to be able to marry her partner and raise her son with the same rights that all human beings yearn for and deserve.  I can’t grant her that for her birthday, but I can give her a belated birthday present by letting her know that the beauty of the two of them dancing made you know that there was love there.  If there is love, there is possibility, and if there is possibility there is community and if there is community there is accountability and if there is accountability there is an investment in who each and every one of us becomes. And when there is that communal investment, I do believe God is there: That presence of grace that gives all of us permission to come forward as we are without shame or ridicule. I truly believe that  an ashamed society can never be an accountable or fully loving one.

So, I stand in support of Marriage Autonomy.  I don’t want my parents, my elders, my village, my fellow Nigerians, other Africans or my government in my bedroom.  It’s that simple for me.  When we lose our right to vote, we lose our voice and when we lose our right to choose who to love, we lose our understanding of what is possible in our lives, and when we lose this understanding, we lose our sense of self.  I don’t want this to be my future or ours.  Vote for Marriage Autonomy!  The worst thing that can happen is that you find a whole lot more people walking taller and feeling stronger and better about themselves.  One might just catch your eye too, and then anything is possible.

 

 

An Emotionally Sustainable Wedding Part 2: Understanding Your Value

It is 25 days before my wedding day and I am feeling full of the love and support of the many women in my life.  Last night, I had a bridal shower/bachelorette that was organized by my maid of honor and another really good friend.  Both of these women are phenomenal in my book, but they are also emotionally supportive and always help put things in perspective for me.  They also (always) take the time to tell me what they love about me and why they think I am important to them.  As you get closer to your wedding day, it is important for you to surround yourself with people who cheer you on, and to soak up all the love and adoration that you can.  This is the time to know what you do well, to claim it, and to receive all the support you can get to keep being so fabulous.

Let me break it down a bit more here.  We live in a society that is often very emotionally confusing when it comes to taking responsibility for our actions.  On the one hand, committing a crime can land you in jail for a long time, but on the other hand you can move to a new and bigger city to get away from taking any responsibility for the emotional bridges you burned with loved ones.  Yep, it’s kind of crazy but it’s the world we live in.

Remember what I said about an emotionally sustainable wedding?  It’s a wedding that allows you to go through your range of emotions, recycle anything that can be reused for the good of everyone involved (including yourself), and let go of the things that are nothing but emotional waste.  It’s easier said than done, but I need you to listen very carefully.

The first step to having an emotionally sustainable wedding is understanding your value and taking credit and responsibility for the things you do very well.

How come it’s so easy for many of us to talk about how we are not great parents, friends, cooks, partners, etc.  It’s fair to know and acknowledge what you  are not so good at in this lifetime, but then after doing that why don’t you name all the things you do well.

Here are thing things I do really well. Actually, I don’t just do them well.  I am actually a ROCKSTAR when it comes to the following:

1. I am a great cook.

2. I have the emotional capacity to love people deeply and dearly and to let them know they are loved by me.

3. I am a bad ass educator.  I still have some of my student’s in my life, and it means the world to me when they show up and let me know how much my presence in their life impacted them.

4. I am a good listener.

5. I am not only good at listening, but I am really good at reflecting back to the other person what I think I am hearing them say.

6. I am pretty good at receiving compliments and praise. I do not dismiss them or pretend what someone is saying and acknowledging about me is not true.

7.  I am also pretty good at being accountable for my actions by listening to others who need to express their criticism or feedback about my actions towards them or others and how they were affected by it.

8. I am good at drawing boundaries, especially with my family of origin.

9.  I am really good at being a “connector” and bringing people together who I believe need to meet and “connect.”

10.  I am extremely resourceful, and do a pretty great job with this.  Instead of saying, “I can’t do this or afford that”, I figure out how to get what I need.

11. I am a really good giver and receiver.  I love to give to the people in my life, but I also enjoy and am able to let people give to me.  This one comes in handy when you are planning your wedding!

12. I love to laugh and I do it really well.  I need to express this one, especially because while growing up my family always told me not to smile because they said I had crooked teeth. Well, I never got braces and my smile and laugh brings me joy and gets other people laughing as well. Friends tell me how much they love my smile and my laugh, and I am grateful to them for reminding me of this.

So far, this is my list.  I will think more about it, and add more and share this list with you as I continue this blog.  I encourage you to make your own list.

In order to understand your value, you need to make your own list of the things you are really good at.  Try and get as specific as possible.   If you are having a difficult time coming up with your list, ask your friends to help you!

Once you make this list, you can then step back, look at it and keep it tucked in your purse or pocket throughout this process.  If you come from a dysfunctional family, then you might need to remember that you are a really great friend, especially when some aunt of yours reminds you that you always flake and were never good at doing things for your family.  This is not the case for all weddings, but I want you to walk away from this day with as much joy as you can muster.

So, make your list and refer to it as often as needed.  Stay tuned for An Emotionally Sustainable Wedding Part 3!


 

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