Monday, September 26, 2011

Monday Marriage Matters: Friends

Last week, my family lost a very dear friend.  His family has been a part of our family for almost 25 years, and in the wake of the sorrow and grief that we are all working through, I've gotten to thinking about couple-friends. Because I know that for a lot of us, it's very hard to make friends. There's the first problem, which is that making friends as an adult is challenging.  You are likely to have work friends, or friends from various clubs or activities, but finding true kindred spirits is really challenging.  In school, especially college, making friends is easy. You have a dorm environment, it's easy to pick out people with similar interests or ideas, and everybody needs to make friends.

The problem with being a couple is that often for couples, a person dates or marries somebody that doesn't represent all facets of their being.  The reason you are friends with somebody isn't necessarily the reason why somebody else is friends with them, therefore it is entirely possible that your best friend could wind up with somebody that you don't really like or "get" at all.  Sometimes they wind up with somebody you think is totally awesome, and then it turns out your spouse doesn't really like either of them.  Sometimes they wind up with somebody you find extremely annoying, and then you and your spouse are sad because you have to stop hanging out with your friend because his/her annoying significant other always wants to come.  Sometimes they are awesome but they live far away and you don't get to see them that often.  (This was actually the case for us growing up - our friends lived in Egypt, so we saw them every other year, for about a month at a time.)  All of this makes me think that meeting the right other couples to be friends with is largely a matter of luck and being in the right place at the right time, and being committed enough to wanting friends that you pursue a friendship.

There are some other problems with being friends with a couple, and I think it's often hard for both people in the couple to like both members of the other couple equally.  This is the thing about my family and our friends that is really striking.  My parents both were really good friends with both members of the couple.  I should point out that if making friends for most people is challenging, making friends for my parents is Everest.  My mother is painfully shy and can be hard to get to know, and my dad is well, my dad.  But somehow, they found the two nicest, most warm-hearted people in the entire world who not only were willing to be my parents friends, but counted themselves lucky have my parents as friends!  I think another big part of this was they had children the same age, which gave them something in common and meant that nobody got left behind when the other couple decided to have kids.

I don't think there are any real secrets to making friends as couples - I think the answer might just be to keep trying to meet people until you meet the right people?  Or to make sure you regularly have dinner dates, etc. with other couples? Does anyone have any suggestions? Have you struggled to make friends with other couples, especially in a new city?  Do you think, like I do, that it is largely a matter of luck and meeting the right people, or is there something more that is required?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Monday Marriage Matters: Travel

My husband travels a lot for work - not a LOT a lot, but enough that I spend a certain number of nights alone.  And the thing about being alone is that well, it's kind of annoying. It's super-frustrating to cook for one person, and not have anybody to do the dishes.  But it's kind of liberating.  Because I can eat junk food, like frozen waffles and boxed mac and cheese, and eat stuff he doesn't like, like broccoli, and watch crummy television and go for long runs after work and sleep late.  Sure, nobody does the dishes, but I don't have to do them either. I can leave all the dishes until Friday morning and do a mad fit of dishes before my husband gets home.  (Don't worry sweetie, I don't.)

The main reason I don't really like being alone is something I probably should be ashamed to admit as a, y'know, Grownup: I am afraid of the dark. I mean, it's not the dark so much as I'm really creeped out generally when I'm alone.  When my husband goes out of town, I paranoidly check all of the closets; I have to have the TV or radio on because otherwise I interpret every creaking of every beam in our 100+ year old apartment as something going on.  This also leads to my staying up waaaay past my bedtime watching Daily Show reruns for company.

There are a few other strains that one of us or the other traveling (because in the past it was me) puts on our relationship - when one of us works late, or works nights, like my husband does when he is out of town, it's really hard to touch base.  We talk once or twice a day, for about five minutes, pretty much to make sure the other person is alive, the house is still standing, and to finalize any weekend plans, etc. that need to be made.  It's just really hard to have a long conversation when there is a manlift backing up in the background of a conversation.  It always feels like that episode of the Office where Pam and Jim keep calling each other and can't quite connect.

The other thing that's sometimes a problem is when a last minute trip comes up and we already had weekend plans, which means that he gets home and then we're off camping or to his folk's house for the weekend, or we're throwing some kind of party and the house needs to be sparkling.  It's hard to shift gears suddenly from not seeing each other to spending all our time together, and I always come out of it saying something like, "I just need some space right now!"  Usually, eventually, we settle down and he does the laundry and I make dinner, and then we eat together and get a chance to actually enjoy each other's company, but sometimes that takes days.

Does anyone else have a traveling spouse? How do you keep in contact and make it work if you can't talk regularly? Any suggestions for good single person meals? Bonus if they involve broccoli.  I'm not a big soup person though, so I'm reluctant to make a batch of soup and live off of it all week.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Surprising things from The Knot

I was talking to a friend yesterday, and we were talking about The Knot. And I have a lot of issues with the Knot, although they've corrected some of my big graphic design issues with the site (no more pop ups!) But I noticed one thing that was awesome, when I went to help my friend with her venue search. Because the thing that the Knot now allows you to sort by is whether the venue is handicapped accessible. 

If you have a handicapped family member, you know how hard it can be to find a handicapped accessible wedding venue.  Even family members you don't know are handicapped might show up in a wheelchair - that they didn't mention to you because they didn't want to trouble you.

Anyway, I just wanted to let everyone else know that, because maybe you're venue hunting and maybe you hate the Knot, and you've promised you would never go on there, but if you're looking for a handicapped accessible venue, it's a darn good place to start.  They also now sort by other things, like whether there is outdoor space available, or whether there is a Kosher option available (but seriously, are there venues that can't make a Kosher option happen? That seems to me like the one time that you let the couple bring in outside catering, even if you are proprietary. Weigh in in the comments.)

Also, if you loved your venue, make sure to submit it to the APW Venue directory, because that is going to be amazing.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Monday Marriage Matters: Guest Post

Remember Mike and Stacy and their fabulous seal-and-send invites? It's okay if you don't. All you need to know about Mike and Stacy is they are poster children for marriage.  Mike and Stacy make marriage look fun, and they are always thinking ahead to their next adventure.  So when they told us they were going to join LV's Ride and ride their bicycles across the country, nobody thought it was a weird thing for two young married people to do, but recently it occurred to me that riding a bicycle with your spouse, and a group of 10 other riders, staying in churches and camping outside with them, for two months, might take a toll on a marriage.  So I asked them to share their story with you, and here it is:

As we flew out to Oregon for our west-to-east cross country cycling trip, days before our first wedding anniversary, we were filled with excitement. In addition to anticipating amazing views of scenery and landscapes and the joys and challenges of cycling for 60 days, we were looking forward to meeting our fellow riders. We said, "Let's not ride together all the time." We wanted to avoid being THE married couple, and make sure we weren't viewed as excluding ourselves from the roving community.

Just a few weeks into the ride, we needed to reevaluate. We didn't like riding miles away from each other, and arriving at our destinations sometimes hours apart. We found ourselves frustrated and less than impressed with our other companions. While it was fun to have different experiences to discuss at the end of the day, we wished we had shared the day's scenery and challenges with each other instead. We decided that since we were, in fact, married, people would understand if we wanted to ride with each other every day.

Being the only married couple in a group of 20- and 30-somethings as we traveled from town to town earned us an interesting label. We were often introduced as a novelty: "And these are our MARRIED riders!" Knowing we were married often caused people to feel they needed to cater differently to us. As strange as it felt, the response had its perks. Sticking together meant that the nursery room at a host church could be reserved for us (while the rest of the team slept sardines-style in the hall). It also gave us permission to sneak away every now and then - getting a hotel on our anniversary night and having our own two-person tent.

However, we quickly learned that traveling with your spouse isn't all honeymoon nights and lovely roadside conversations. Being each other's best friend meant we shared our greatest joys and our biggest trials. It's much easier to vent honestly (and sometimes take out one's frustrations) to the person with whom you're most comfortable. This meant that we could go for miles not talking to each other, or miles shouting at each other.  We also discovered more things on which we shared a deep connection. At each day's end, and at the ride's final end, we both agreed that we wouldn't have wanted to share the trip with anyone else. Having dozens of other riders from across the country with whom to compare, we confirmed that we were each other's favorite riding and traveling partner.

At the end of the trip, we were reminded of Rolf Pott's (author of Vagabonding) sage wisdom: Choose your traveling companions wisely. We couldn't agree more!

Friday, September 9, 2011

New Jersey Wedding: The Party Bus

If you are looking for a way to make a sister-in-law who is not actually in the wedding, but will inevitably be hanging around, feel included, I would start with extending an invitation to her for her to ride on the Party Bus with you and all of your bridesmaids.
Back in April, L. told me, "you're coming on the party bus with us!"  I was super excited, because otherwise, it was just going to be me, on my own, driving to the church and the photo-location and the reception site, since Mark was in the wedding.

The bridal party for the wedding was too big for a standard limo, so they rented a party bus.  I had never been on a party bus before, but was not picturing a giant limo.  I was picturing something a little fancier than a school bus, kind of like when my family chartered a bus for the Renaissance Festival for my grandpa's 80th birthday.  Instead, the party bus pulled up complete with flashing lights and a soundtrack that started off with Going to the Chapel.  If you have to travel to your wedding, I highly recommend the party bus.

A quick tip though - make sure you tell your limo driver any shortcuts you usually use.  Ours made us about 10 minutes late to the ceremony by taking the major roads instead of the back roads that my in-laws use to get to their church, and since the windows were down, we didn't realize where we were going until it was too late.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

New Jersey Wedding: Getting Ready

It is surely weird to recap another person's wedding, but I'm going to recap my SIL's nonetheless.  It was so very different from ours, and what struck me as funny is that a lot of people would look at her wedding and call it very traditional or very WIC - church ceremony, big hotel reception - but at the same time, it was a low-key way to have a wedding.  I came away thinking the same thing I've always thought, which is there is no wrong way to have a wedding.  And I think that's the heart of the APW philosophy, so I wanted to showcase some of the big differences between a more traditional wedding and what we did.

L. got ready at the house, which was great because everything that we needed was there.  I talked about this before, but getting ready at the house definitely has it's advantages.  And disadvantages.  We'll talk about the cat later.

Things happen when a wedding is approaching.  Things rip.  They break  You need safety pins, hairspray, bobby pins, scissors, a vase for flowers.  All these things can be put in your emergency kit, but if you're like me and leave at at the hotel, you're SOL.  As long as your house itself doesn't stress you out, getting ready at home is pretty relaxing.  It also meant that there was plenty of room to spread out and hang out on the couch while we were waiting - because I will say, the child-size chairs in our getting ready room were a pretty big disadvantage.  We also had a pretty sweet food spread going on for constant all-day snacking.

The ladies from the hair salon came to the house, and were still really reasonably priced.  When I priced hair-at-home, it was insanely expensive, but these ladies charged pretty standard salon prices ($65-ish for an updo, $20 for a blow-out) compared to what I had found.  
I didn't used to be a fan of the wrap-around towel dresses, but L. got them all for us and they were SO cute, and they make fantastic summer bathrobes.  I've been wearing mine every day since the wedding.  This is something we couldn't have worn at a salon or venue (I had wanted to get my girls matching green zip-up hoodies) if we had gotten ready there, but they were super fun.  

Wait, whose that doing L.'s makeup? Oh yeah! It's our photographer, Kiersten Rowland of Prema Photographic.  She's one of L.'s very best friends, and it was so nice to get to spend time with her.  There is really something amazing about hiring somebody to capture your wedding when they are also a part of your life, so I feel really lucky that we get to see Kiersten so much.  

Friday, September 2, 2011

DIY Updos

My SIL had a UK reception last week after her wedding, and I showed up at Mark's grandparent's house to help her get ready.  She and her mom were trying to figure out what to do with her hair, and she'd already put in a cute braid, but her hair is a shade too short to do a properly easy up-do with, so I wound up freehanding it a bit.  This is a pretty easy style for somebody with shoulder length hair and a friend.
I wound up gathering L's hair into a half-ponytail, and then wrapping the strands of loose hair around the ponytail holder and securing them in place with bobby pins.  From there, it was pretty easy to curl the rest of her hair around and secure it at the base of the ponytail holder.  The hair flower helped hide the fact that I had stuck it a little too far to the left, which was handy.  If you are going to DIY your hair, a veil is also a helpful way to hide the mess.  I then super-hair-sprayed it in place, and since English hairspray is really wet, held it in place with a loose ponytail holder until it had dried.  

Anyone have any tips for doing your hair yourself or with a friend?  I think it's good for everybody to have a fancy style that they turn to when they need to look a little bit spiffy.