Category Archives: Marriage

The Art of Marriage

Normally I post on the style of a wedding, but there is something to be said for spending some time thinking about the style of a marriage.

A few months ago I stumbled across an article about the 50 year marriage between Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward.  They got married in a simple ceremony in Las Vegas in 1958 and we’re married until Newman died in 2008.

Wedding Day in 1958

Wedding lore suggests that at the Newman and Woodward wedding the “Art of Marriage” by Wilferd Arlan Peterson was recited.

Happiness in marriage is not something that just happens.
A good marriage must be created.
In the art of marriage the little things are the big things…
It is never being too old to hold hands.
It is remembering to say “I love you” at least once a day.
It is never going to sleep angry.
It is at no time taking the other for granted;
the courtship should not end with the honeymoon,
it should continue through all the years.
It is having a mutual sense of values and common objectives.
It is standing together facing the world.
It is forming a circle of love that gathers in the whole family.
It is doing things for each other, not in the attitude
of duty or sacrifice, but in the spirit of joy.
It is speaking words of appreciation
and demonstrating gratitude in thoughtful ways.
It is not looking for perfection in each other.
It is cultivating flexibility, patience,
understanding and a sense of humour.
It is having the capacity to forgive and forget.
It is giving each other an atmosphere in which each can grow.
It is finding room for the things of the spirit.
It is a common search for the good and the beautiful.
It is establishing a relationship in which the independence is equal,
dependence is mutual and the obligation is reciprocal.
It is not only marrying the right partner, it is being the right partner.
It is discovering what marriage can be, at its best.

Fifty Years, via Snippet and Ink

Are there married or forever-together couples whose style you admire?  Maybe you’re team Tom+Rita, Michelle+Barack, or maybe you have grandparents who have been married forever you inspire you.  Either way, I think it is important to be inspired by those that get it right.

Happy Anniversary to Us

Two years ago today Mark and I were joined by our families and friends as we exchanged vows and became husband and wife. On that day we joined two families, we toasted each other and the people we love, we danced, we sang, we kissed.

And I got to marry my best friend.  Happy Anniversary, Mark.  I love you.


Wedding Advice: Planning Marriage

In a new installment on The Daily Batch I will share wedding advice, tips, creative ideas and answers to some of the more difficult wedding questions that the magazines “gloss over”.  If there is an issue you want me to tackle, tell me in the comments!

You’ve planned every element of the big day, and now it’s time to plan the marriage, and prepare for what happens after “I do”.

Together Mark and I planned our wedding, he was the CFO (Chief Financial Officer) and I was the CCO (Chief Creative Officer).  Together we also planned our marriage.

Prior to getting married, or even engaged, we discussed our finances, our careers, our ambitions, our faiths, our practices, our families of origin and the family we would create together, where we would live, what holidays we would celebrate and how… we planned our life. We poetically wrote those plans into our ketubah, and on our wedding day we shared sweetly simple vows from our officiant, Cantor Debbi Ballard.

Less than 9 months after we said “I do” we got our first test to vows.  On Wednesday, September 15, 2010, two days after returning from India, Mark woke up at 7am blind in one eye.  To contextualize this, he has always had weak vision in his left eye and has never relied on it, so the blindness in his right eye left him completely without vision.

Together we managed to get to the emergency room. My adrenaline and his memory of Northern Virginia is the only way we made it there.  And so began a series of questions, blood tests, and CAT Scans, when those proved inconclusive we were sent off to an eye specialist.

When that visit also proved inconclusive, we were sent back to the emergency room, with the early diagnosis of optic neuritis, the inflammation of the optic nerve, which typically has an 86% recovery rate.

The first 24 hours of any drama are the worst, because in those hours, you have no answers and only questions.  The questions come from doctors, nurses, and interns, they come from very helpful and supportive family and friends, but the loudest and scariest questions are the ones you ask yourself.

They are practical and short term: What is happening? What is the treatment?  What is the recovery?

And they are long term: Will he be able to drive, work, surf, snowboard again?  Will he ever see me again? Will he see the faces of our future children?

For the next five days we made Mark’s small hospital room at the end of the hall our home away from home.  We had visitors, homemade foods and snacks, take out from a favorite restaurant, flowers audio books, and cheerful texts, phone calls and emails.

Everyday there would be new tests, visits from a vampire between 3-4am to collect blood, scans, and visits from doctors and nurses with giant flashlights and the question, “Can you see me now?”  The answer was always “no”.

Together we were realizing the meaning of the vows, “in sickness and in health”.  When Mark and I first started dating we called ourselves “Team MC,” and in those days in the hospital, and as Mark’s vision in his left-eye strengthened, and the 8 months of doctor visits, trips to Johns Hopkins Hospital, and the Mayo Clinic, that followed, our being a team and partners is what got us through.

His resilience, my perseverance. 
His calm, my questions. 
His steadiness, my ability to cry in the other room – we made the room a no cry zone.

Mark’s right eye did not recover as originally projected.  A year later the cause of this is still unknown and is somewhat of a medical fluke.  The right eye that was completely dark, now filters in some light and shadows.  His left eye has grown stronger, and he works, drives, surfs, runs, does yoga and lives his life like nothing ever happened.

This morning when I told Mark I wanted to write about the past year and what happened he said to me “make sure you write about the fun stuff…”

That is the essence of Mark, he is the most fiercely determined person I know, his energy knows no limits, and he finds the beauty, strength and purpose in every moment.

On the first night in the hospital we stepped away from his room and went outside.  It was still and quiet, and calm.  The moon was bright and high over our heads and Mark couldn’t see it.  And in that moment he recounted how everything was going so right in our world; careers, our new marriage, and exciting opportunities and until this.  It’s the only time Mark ever complained.

Reflecting back on this part of the past year sometimes gives me a lump in my throat.  However, it is an ongoing reminder that we can plan our marriages, and our lives, down to the second, but things will always happen and when they do the timing is never right.  There is no time to waste before beginning the next great challenge or adventure.  The way you overcome the surprises or struggles in life is not by planning for them but finding the right people to overcome them with.


Wedding Advice: To See or Not to See

In a new weekly installment on The Daily Batch I will share wedding advice, tips, creative ideas and answers to your most difficult wedding questions based on the issues and questions I am asked about in real life. If there is an issue you want me to tackle, tell me in the comments!

You’ve lived together for two years, you’ve seen each other through everything, but you can’t quite decide if you should see each other before walking down the aisle.

Question 1: My fiance and I can’t decide whether to see each other before we get married.  My photographer suggests that we do, but I am just not sure…  I’m not really superstitious about it being bad luck, but I just wonder if it takes some of the specialness away from the moment when I walk down the aisle… – Mr. and Mrs. Surprise Love

Answer:  Today, I am fully supportive of the first look, and I admit I did not always feel that way.  When I first heard of this concept, I thought it might be a little too cheesy (even for me), or that it wasn’t quite so magical as it appeared in photos.  I was wrong. (8/10/2011 – 9:45am)

Early on, when we started planning our photography with the amazing photography wife-husband duo of  Ashley and Philip at 1313, we planned to have a first look session primarily for practicality:

  • I was pushing our ceremony until as late as possible, but before sunset – that’s about 5:58pm – leaving little time for well-lit photos after the “I-do’s”
  • We wanted to have a consistent flow from ceremony, to cocktail hour, to reception
  • The majority of our guests had traveled from out of town and we didn’t want to miss out on spending any time with while they were partying, and we were take pictures

Like most practical wedding decisions, eventually emotion crept in.

I spent the day with my mother, sister, friends and family getting ready at one hotel.  A block away, Mark was with his friends also getting ready.  Ashley and Philip arrived to take my “getting ready” photos, and then they left to take Mark’s.

Then Ashley and Philip coordinated my arrival to Mark’s hotel, via limousine, to find Mark for our first look.

He was standing at the middle of a courtyard, by himself, with his back towards me.  It seemed as if time stood still.  I didn’t hear anyone, or see anyone.

First Look: 1313 Photography

I was walking, and walking and walking…

First Look: 1313 Photography

And then, I arrived.

First Look: 1313 Photography

I touched his shoulder, he turned around, and then it was all shock and awe(some)…

First Look: 1313 Photography

What was the most special about the first look moment for me, was that as soon as it happened it became “our wedding day”.  The planning was over.  The license was signed.  We were going to be moving forward from that moment, through the rest of the day, and our lives as partners, as a team and as husband and wife.

That may seem like a lot to capture in a photograph, but that’s how I feel.  That look in our faces is as much of “I can’t believe today is the day” as it is “I can’t believe how lucky I am.”

In the planning of a wedding there are lots of opportunities to lose sight of each other, the intimacy of moments, and the magnitude of the marriage versus the wedding.  By securing those first few moments, just for us, without our friends and family I feel like we were able to connect, release any lingering stomach butterflies, and smile like husband and wife.

Also, to calm any fears that this moment, the first look, lessens the significance of the second “first look” your partner has when they see you walk down the aisle, I will say that’s simply not the case.   When you walk down the aisle it is music, theatrics, flowers, families, flash bulbs, and ironically, you won’t hear a beat, see a face you recognize, again you will only see the face at the end of the aisle.

Do you agree or disagree with this advice? Let me know. And, if there a wedding related issue you want advice on or just some tips – leave a note in the comments.

Something to Think About

A few months ago BrideTide tweeted on a Saturday morning, “Someone, somewhere is getting married today.”  It has stuck with me ever since.  

Obviously someone, somewhere is getting married all hours of the day and everyday of the week (Hello, Vegas!) but generally speaking in the United States wedding day is a Saturday.  Not too long ago I drove past a beautiful old church just as the bride and her bridesmaids got out of the car and began to climb up the steps.  
I was overjoyed. I didn’t know that bride, I had never been inside of that church, but I truly felt so excited for her and them.  I mentioned that tweet from many months ago in an effort to get everyone to share my joy.  Mark nodded along, and then my sister pointed out other major life things happen all the time too: people die and babies are born.

That is true.  Check for the little sister.

Here’s is how I explained it is different.  Marriage is a birth of a new chapter for two people.  In some ways it is the death of their single lifestyles.  But, more than that, marriage (not the wedding) is an active choice.  It is the moment of “I choose you and I choose to go through life by your side.  Literally, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer – when you look around, that’s me, right by your side.” 
That moment that I caught that bride in, the excitement with girlfriends before the ceremony, the dress shopping, the registry, the ring, the proposal, that is nothing compared to that moment when you make the choice.  Getting married is not being married.  Being married is all that much better.

Check mate for the big sister.

On Finding Inspiration

Thirty years ago today my parents got married.  

My dad had the remnants of an Afro, my mom had stick straight hair and wore a simple polyester gown.  They were engaged for nine weeks – not a lot of time to plan a wedding by today’s standards but long enough to plan a marriage.

My bouquet wrapped with lace from my mom and mom’s veils,
My parents follow in the footsteps of their parents; my maternal grandparents have been married for 56 years and my paternal grandparents for 62 years.  As I grew up I would observe my grandparents, and the “funny” things they would do, and now that I am older I see the same things in my own parents.  
They look after each other.  They have stories and memories that could fill books.  They do the little things; pick up the dry cleaning, make the perfect cup of coffee, prepare a sandwich just the right way.  They are for each other the right fit: a partner, a friend, and a love.  They still flirt with each other.  They sing, and share the same music; the music of their own lives.  They are fierce parents (and grandparents) and have created homes that welcome their children, and (grandchildren, and great-grandchildren).  They are still very much in love; my dad proves it to me every time he makes comments on my mom’s new hair cut, toned arms, great smile.  
I am so lucky to have an example of a long and fruitful marriage to look at, learn from and aspire to.
Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad, wishing you many, many more years of love, happiness, and health.

Sign on the Dotted Line

When planning our wedding there were a few things I really wanted for the ceremony: a chuppah, a broken glass and a ketubah (the Jewish wedding contract).  I am Jewish and Mark is atheist and raised Catholic, and so planning a ceremony that reflected our individual backgrounds, and shared future was important.

The ketubah became a pet project for both of us.  If you google search “ketubah” you’ll see endless varieties; Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Interfaith, Second Marriages, GLBT marriages.  And yet, none of these really clicked. Our wedding officiant, Cantor Debbi Ballard was very supportive of us creating our own ceremony that was unique and personal to us, and she encouraged us to apply that same consideration to our ketubah.  So, just like our invitations, the ketubah was written by us and designed by me.

We treated the text of our ketubah like our own vows, and agreed that the it’s text would be the guide for our future.  I am really proud of what we wrote, promised and agreed to.
On Saturday, the twenty third day of January,
Two Thousand and Ten,
joined each other before family and friends
to enter into a mutual covenant of marriage,
and with love and compassion
each vowed the following commitments:
To Ourselves-
To continuously improve our minds, bodies and souls
To push ourselves to achieve goals
To do good in the world
To love life, arts, sciences
And above all to have a sense of humor.
To each other-
To be friends, Partners and Lovers
To be honest and build a relationship on trust
To be kind, to communicate
To be a source of strength and balance for one another
To grow together.
To Our Family
To create a nourishing home for happy and Healthy children
And an open home to all.
Our commitment to the above seals this document

Our ketubah was written with a focus on each of us and us.  It was important to us for the document to guide our marriage and focus on the growth we would want to experience and embrace so that we could continue to grow together over the journey of our lives and our marriage.

We signed our ketubah, and had our best man and maid of honor (Mark’s brother and my sister) serve as our witnesses.  In the Jewish faith the signing of the ketubah meant we were as good as married, so we sealed it with a kiss.

Simple Things

I was off the computer yesterday and in a way being detached from all of the technology that surrounds me was a welcomed break.

So in a moment of reflection I thought of some of my favorite things, that happen everyday, and that don’t ever go out of season or style.

10. The first fall breeze
9. A sweater that’s too big so you can pretend it’s a blanket
8. Holding hands
7. Soup, any kind but really by any kind I mean matzo ball or chicken noodle (which is really the same thing)
6. Grilled cheese sandwiches
5. Touching toes in bed
4. Old pictures
3. Popcorn and m&m candy
2. My family’s support
1. My husband

Surround yourself with your favorite things, I am.

Sweet surprises

Yesterday I got a pedicure.  And in between coats of Essie “Sugar Daddy” and flipping the pages of August’s Food & Wine Magazine, I mentioned to the technician that tomorrow (today) is my six month wedding anniversary.  She was really happy for us.  

She went on to say that she has been married for ten years, and her step son also has been married for a few months.  She said she has friends who ask, “how do you make it work?”  and “how has your marriage lasted so long, (when others do not)?”.  And we agreed together that it works, and not just works but thrives, when you continue to make the effort, celebrate the “montha-aversaries”, and continue dating like you did when you were just boyfriend and girlfriend.

So as if Mark was a mind reader, last night when I got home my husband had made dinner, which smelled delicious, and sitting on the table were these:
I am a very lucky girl.  

Happy Six Month Wedding Anniversary to my wonderful husband.  I love you, always.

It’s the extras…

I can’t stress enough that the wedding we had was perfect for us. It was our dream wedding. It is my favorite day.

However, that doesn’t mean that in the process of wedding planning I didn’t see many other things that I would have liked to have had. I sometimes joked that I could have planned ten different weddings and each would be unique – but since we’re only doing this once, those other designs and inspiration boards will have to wait for friends’ weddings, renewals and theme parties!

I am a long time fan of the beautiful calligraphy work of Laura Hooper. So much of a fan that at one point I attempted to make “Laura Hooper style Save the Dates”. We obviously went a different route, you can’t beat the real thing. I love her work for the whimsy, and unique heart each piece gets.

Designed by Laura Hooper Calligraphy

Doesn’t this make you feel like you’re about to find a Secret Garden? I love, love, love this lush aisle runner of multi-colored petals. The delighted flower girl seems to agree with me!

Image: Rebecca Thuss

We didn’t serve a signature drink, that was a trend we didn’t jump on. We did serve Champagne immediately after the ceremony. If we went signature, it would have been a mojito (we’re both big fans) and in little glasses like this. I love the idea of miniature food and drinks – and of a drink that reflects the location, or the couple.

A wedding we went to on the Big Island of Hawaii served Champagne with dried hibiscus flowers inside – it was a beautiful, subtle touch of Hawaii.

Here’s a little known secret – you can’t do this look if you’re getting married inside of a hotel, conference center, or restaurant. As devastating as that is, it’s an obvious fire hazard. I love the look of tall tapered candles, so I’ll have to figure out an occasion to incorporate this into eventually.

Image from Martha Stewart

Ever since I saw Father of the Bride, I was smitten with Chivari Chairs. To me they scream wedding. I am really loving them in the soft gold for a classic look and lacquered black for a dramatic, high glamor style.

Image from The Lace House

The sparkler exit… This is something Mark really wanted. I think if our ceremony and reception hadn’t been 4 feet apart this is something we would have done. It’s a beautiful site and totally classic. Ultimately, we didn’t miss it, we had plenty of flash bulbs popping.

Swensen Photography

In wedding planning it’s often the extras and details you really sweat and agonize over. At the end of the day you need three things: a partner, an officiant and a witness, in that moment you’ll find all the sparkle you (or your planner) could ever pay for. The rest is just extras…