To the Newly Engaged

It’s the season to get engaged!

I should know. In December 2003, I got engaged.

It’s Christmas 2003 now and I find myself buying video games and Little People sets.

Ten years ago, I wasn’t thinking about Santa Claus and Elves on Shelves. I didn’t know how many, what gender or even if I would be having kids.

No, I was sitting next to my boyfriend at one of our favorite restaurants in Virginia Highlands, staring at a glittering ring nestled in a little black box as I heard him say the words every girl dreams.
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A Very Merry Wedding to You!

Christmas wedding proposal

Have you ever considered a Christmas wedding?

I know it is not the most popular time to get married and there are some hurtles to overcome in the process. Christmas is, after all, an incredibly busy month for everyone.

I have been to three winter weddings in my whole life and only one of those was considered to be a Christmas-themed wedding.

It was breathtaking.

There is something magical about being a Christmas bride.  I picture white fur collars, halls decked out in deep reds and greens and a gorgeous horse-drawn winter sleigh beautifully adorned with silver bows and sleigh bells that tinkle at the slightest movement.

It makes me want to cheat on my stifling July wedding that took place over nine years ago and get married all over again.

Honestly, I would never forsake my small July weddingand well, I live in Georgia, where I have never needed a sleigh and wouldn’t know where to find one if I did.

But it’s a lovely picture.

If you approach a Christmas wedding with the understanding that it has it’s own unique challenges that must be acknowledged and dealt then I know you can have your own breathtaking Yuletide wedding of your dreams.

Christmas is a busy time of year.  Most people hit Thanksgiving, and run full speed ahead until they ring in the New Year, after which they collapse for a few days before running to sign up at their local gyms

I mean, I’m guessingI personally have never joined a gym in January due to guilt from holiday overindulging (guiltily looking at the ceiling and whistling while hiding oversized yoga pants behind back).

First thing you should do if you are planning to make December your future anniversary month, as with any date you are looking at for your wedding, is check with your family.  Be sensitive.  See if it’s feasible to plan it at a time when those you really want to be there can truly be there for you.

Evaluate your bridesmaids’ situations and your own expectations of their availability.  They will, no doubt, be juggling office parties and commitments of their own.

If you find that the support is overwhelmingly in favor of it, then go for it!

In terms of your guest list, the reality is that it just might be hard to get the same kind of attendance at your Christmas wedding that you might get at a wedding any other time of year.  This may not always hold true, but you have to understand that December calendars can fill up quickly and while people may really want to be there, they just may have scheduling conflicts.

Second, you need to know that you are going to be busy the month of December.  Your Christmas may look very different.  You may not get that Christmas wreath up on your own door.  There may be no annual “wrap gifts and drink wine” night at your house that year.  (But if you DO manage to pull it off, I totally want to be invited for that).

When I found out that I would be having my first child in late November, before Thanksgiving, I was so excited to have a Hallmark channel style Thanksgiving with my newborn.  My holiday would look the same as it had every year before, only better, because I’d be cuddling a beautiful baby in my arms.  I was going to make those Pilgrims proud.

What a silly, silly girl I was.

My first Thanksgiving as a mom was spent walking the halls with a screaming, colicky baby while my husband walked the aisles of Kroger buying every baby product known to man that promised to stop babies from crying and some that promised to stop us from caring.  The beautiful holiday ended with us arguing over whether the fact that the baby was crying was a good enough reason to go to the ER.

I was disappointed that my expectations were blown rather than going easy on myself.  So go easy on yourself.  You might be taking down your cornucopia door decoration in January.

And the neighbors might be judging you a little.

So keep your normal Christmas tradition expectations in check.  You don’t want to spend your wedding season beating yourself up because you didn’t get your Nativity yard inflatables up.

Christmas is a magical holiday that’s about being with the ones you love.  It is not a stretch to see why someone would want to also make it the time when they look into the eyes of the one they choose forever and take their vows.  So if you are considering a Christmas wedding and you are willing to approach it realistically, I say, “go for it.”

Make sure to get a great kissing picture under the mistletoe!

If you are having a Silent Night, why don’t you Jingle Bell Rock on over to our Pinterest board so you can see that It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas because I pinned some great Holly Jolly Christmas wedding ideas.

(See what I did there).
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Save Your Bank As You Save The Date – Wedding Planning Tips Infographic

By Jenny Creno
from The Blog of CreditCard Insider

budget wedding tips

Soon after couples announce their engagement, planning the wedding becomes one of the first financial obstacles that the couple has to overcome together. The best thing to do is to learn about typical trends when it comes to planning a wedding and what mistakes lead to the most financial failures amongst couples during this process. Should you put everything on credit cards? Or create a separate checking account specifically for wedding expenses to avoid overspending? The infographic below highlights information from couples who have gone through this process, wedding planners, and event coordinators to give newly engaged couples a few tips on how to save on their wedding, avoid financial conflicts, and lastly and most importantly the benefits of stress free well planned wedding. Want even more advice? Check out more tips on our community page, and our wedding budget calculator.

Those redundant words, your wedding day is just one day, may very well be the truth. But society has given us Bridezillas, Say Yes to the Dress!, and all the jazz to keep us wanting that one big day, to be one very big day. Don’t get caught up in the fuss, and listen to the advice from people who have been through this process before.

Wedding Planning Tips Infographic

Check out our interactive wedding budget calculator based on the budget allocation in this infographic, and read more tips on our community page!

Like this infographic? Share your thoughts on your own blog and use the code below to embed it in your post:

<a href=""><img alt="Financial Advice For Wedding Planning from Credit Card Insider" src="" border="0" /></a>

Wedding Photographer is the Most Common Wedding Vendor Issue!

Wedding Photographer is the Most Common Wedding Vendor Issue!

Couples getting married often purchase wedding insurance to guard against any unexpected accidents or issues involving vendors. A recent report by Travelers insurance found that 58 percent of all vendor issues involved photographers. Vendor-related issues led the survey as the leading cause of wedding-related problems with photographers leading the field by a wide margin…
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Funny wedding

Three Different Ways to Throw a Wedding Shower

So, you are throwing a wedding shower and you need an idea to tie it together or just feel like you are giving the bride what she really needs.  There are so many fun and unique ways to throw a bridal shower these days.  Here are three great showers that any bride will deeply appreciate…
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From Georgia to Ghana: How two pen pals fell in love and overcame setbacks in their pursuit of marriage.

This is a love story.

A real one.

It’s about sacrificial, faith-filled and time-invested love.

It spans a few years, a few countries, a few setbacks and a lot of uncertainty.

It is a love story realized, yet happily unfinished.

This is the true story of Samuel and Fayelle.

You may kiss your bride

Our love story begins back in 2000, with a college student named Fayelle.

Born and raised in Smyrna, Georgia, Fayelle was always interested in learning.  She relied on her educational opportunities and life experiences to grow her as a person.  She was an avid reader and an eager traveller.

In college she decided to take an unlikely class. It was on Francophone Culture.  For those of you, like me who didn’t know, Francophone means, “French-speaking” This class focused on culture in French-speaking countries that were not France and included the study of many African countries.  This was exciting to her because at the time, Fayelle was also very interested in learning as much as she could about Africa.

One other thing you should probably know about her is her love for writing letters.

You take those three very simple ingredients.  A class.  A passion.  A pastime.  These are the beginnings of a great love story.  One that she never saw coming.

Samuel and Fayelle pic 2

Not satisfied with just the class, Fayelle did something that was very hallmark to who she is.  She looked for a life experience that she could use to gain more knowledge, and that is what led her to search for African pen pals with whom she could write. This would give her a chance to get to know these countries through the eyes of its people and that was a very exciting prospect.

It didn’t take long for her to find an agency that specialized in matching international pen pals, and she went to work filling out their extensive questionnaire.  The agency wanted to know her interests, desires and background in order to match her with the perfect people with whom she could share letters.

Three weeks later, she received a list of ten names from the agency.  Five women and five men were selected for her from countries like Angola, Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania and Ghana.  She hoped to correspond with these men and women about life in Africa and tell them about her life in the United States. She could hardly wait. So what was the first thing she did?

“I lost the list,” she admits, “I was going to contact the agency to get a copy of that list again when letters started coming in for me.”

Her name had been sent to other people’s lists and so she began excitedly reading and writing responses to these new acquaintances.  Among her newfound African friends was a man from Ghana.

His name was Samuel.

At first, Samuel was just a name. A name at the end of a letter that was lumped in with the other people she was writing. There was no reason to think of him any differently. She was learning so much about these African nations and getting and sending pictures. “It was a fantastic experience,” she gushes.

By late 2002, she noticed the letters began to slow down.  Some completely stopped.  There was only one person she was still writing on a regular basis.  That person was Samuel.  They had become more than names on a letter to one another.  They had forged a real bonda friendship.

It was now the beginning of 2003 and things, unbeknownst to them, were about to change.

It began with the unexpected and sudden death of Samuel’s beloved mother.

This was obviously devastating to Samuel and he sought comfort from the one person he felt would really understand his grief.  This time, though, a letter would not suffice.  Samuel picked up the phone and for the first time he called his American friend, Fayelle.  In the time they had been writing, their bond had grown.  It had grown to the point that in a moment of inexplicable grief, she was the person he turned to for support.

They talked and prayed, leaning on their friendship and their common faith to carry them through a difficult time. “He was so sad,” she recalls.

After that, Fayelle and Samuel continued to communicate through mostly letters and now, the occasional phone call.

But in early 2004 they both began to struggle in different ways.

Samuel knew he was in love.  He was in love with his friend from America.  She was his confidant and the one he wanted to be with forever.  But there was a complication.  In the flurry of letters and photos that were sent back and forth, Samuel noticed Fayelle wore a ring on her left hand.  Was he in love with a married woman?  Was she engaged?  Promised?  There was only one way to clear up this question in his mindbut did he have the nerve?

Fayelle, on the other hand, had always focused on making Christ the center of her life. For a while now, she had worn a silver puzzle ring on her finger to signify that she was the bride of Christ.  But now, she began seriously struggling with her future.  For some reason, her future husband, whoever he was, sat heavy on her heart.  She described it as inner turmoil.  It invaded her thoughts, her dreams and she could not figure out why a girl with such a zest for life and a true spirit of adventure who committed herself to being the bride of Christ could be so worried about getting married. It was unlike her. She leaned on God, like she always did in times like these, and bravely carried on.

In May of 2004, Samuel worked up the nerve to ask Fayelle the question he had wondered for many, many months. He wanted to know the meaning of the ring she wore, so he asked.

Are you married?

Fayelle explained to him that it was a ring she wore as a reminder to herself and moved on.  Any thoughts about anything other than a friendship with Samuel were overshadowed by the reality that he was a man she had never met, who lived in Ghana. So for her part, Fayelle did not spend a lot of time dwelling on his inquiry.

After that, the letters began to increase dramatically.  “He was very good to talk to and we were similar in so many ways.”  They no longer waited to receive each other’s letters before sending one, they just wrote whenever they had something to say.

Then in July 2004, Fayelle received a very long letter from Samuel that stopped her in her tracks.

He was in love with her. 

That wasn’t all.

He wanted to marry her. 

Kissing fayelle and samuel

Their friendship was now at a giant crossroads.  There was no going back. Things were going to change one way or another.  She put the letter aside and for two weeks did nothing but struggle.  It was very hard for her.  Of course, she had to tell him, “no”.  They had never met.  He lived in Ghana.  It was crazy. Just crazy!

Or was it?

Every time she sat down to write the letter that would reject Samuel’s proposal and every time she tried to write the words to explain whyshe just couldn’t.  Oh she tried.  She literally couldn’t. She felt it in her soul. It was not right.

Telling him, ‘no’ was not right.

What was she going to do?

She went back to the thing that got her through everything else in her lifeher faith. So she prayed.  Boy, did she pray.

One afternoon, she was walking by a beautiful lake and she felt God telling her that it was okay.  Not only was it okay, it was right.  It was part of his plan.

It was right.

“And I went home and wrote the letter that said, ‘yes,’ and it was SO RIGHT,” she remembers.

As soon as she finished the letter, her heart was at peace.  From there, she says, love for Samuel just filled her and began to grow exponentially.  It was an inexplicable and insane turn of events, but as she puts it, “I knew he was the one for me.”

The biggest confirmation for both Samuel and Fayelle came in the form of instant approval and excitement from their immediate families, something that most definitely had weighed on their hearts. Family meant everything to them. Once they received the blessing of their loved ones, they felt the freedom to plunge ahead with their plans to marry.

In March 2005, Samuel sent Fayelle an engagement ring and asked her over the phone to marry him.

It was official.  The girl from Georgia was about to marry the man from Ghana.

There was nothing left to do except plan a wedding.  It was simple really.  Well, okay, it wasn’t at all going to be simple.

The original plan was to get married in Virginia in September of 2005.

Although Fayelle really wanted to go to Ghana before the wedding to meet Samuel in person and spend time with his family, there was some push back from his more traditional extended family.  There was opposition to, Samuel, a Ghanaian marrying outside of the country, and had she gone there first, it would have been as if she were “taking” him away from his country.

So to avoid the possibility of insulting her new family, they decided to get married and go back to Ghana in a few years to meet and get to know everyone at that time.

The only thing standing between them and marriage in the US was the approval for a fiancé visaand for that, there needed to be a very good reason why this couple had never met.  In short, they had to explain the last several years of their growing love to a total stranger.  Their future plans on hold until a decision was made.

Samuel and Fayelle both wrote lengthy letters, something they had obviously grown used to doing, explaining the past several years and how all roads had ultimately led to their falling in love and their desire to marry.

In a devastating blow, their reasons failed to convince and the visa was subsequently denied.  As she sobbed into the phone, her husband-to-be comforted her. “You know, hearing you cry makes me love you more.  It’s like you’re a flower – you’ve opened the depths of your heart to me and I love what I see and feel so privileged to see it.”

It is a statement she claims she will never forget.

Plans to marry in America were now replaced by plans to marry in Ghana.

It was not going to be easy.  Samuel’s extended family, as I mentioned, deeply opposed such a union.  He persevered though, always keeping his eye on his ultimate prizemarriage to Fayelle.  It also helped to have close members of his family who unconditionally supported him.  They had been hearing about Fayelle for years, seen his love grow and witnessed the changes in him.

Getting a visa for Ghana was a lot simpler and being an over the top excited traveller, Fayelle was ecstatic about getting married there.  The one downside being the number of shot required, but this was a small price to pay for love.


On March 2, 2006 (Samuel’s birthday) Fayelle arrived in Ghana, giddy and not a bit nervous.  Samuel was waiting with equal excitement. As the years of distance shrunk to only a few inches between them, he looked into her eyes and said, “You are SO beautiful.”

And she melted.

He then took her bags and her hand, and as they walked together to his car, it all came together.  It all made sense.  THIS was so right.  It was as if they had known each other for yearsand really they had.  What had started as two people seeking friendship outside their own culture several years ago had grown into love.

They spent 16 days in Ghana prior to their wedding on March 18, 2006.  Joined by her cousin and friends, Fayelle and Samuel took their vows and made their commitments to one another on that day.  Years of writing and caring for one another had finally culminated into this beautiful and perfect day.

Dancing Fayelle and Samuel

They spent another 16 days experiencing Ghana together as husband and wife before she had to return to America.

FAyelle and Samuel wedding pic

Samuel would not be returning with her.  There was a visa still standing in between them and their fairy tale ending.

In the airport as they said their goodbyes, Fayelle began to cry.  She cried at the airport, she cried all the way back to America and when she finally arrived at her mother’s house outside of Atlanta she cried even more.

She soon realized that she had contracted a mild case of malaria and that would put her in bed for three weeks.  So she lay in bed, recuperating and also crying for her husband.

Most couples don’t have to endure the pain of this type of separation. We take for granted that nothing is standing in the way of our happily ever after except a wedding. There was so much more that needed to happen before they could be together, in one house.  There is no other way to explain it other than to say it was hard.  But it was worth it for them both.


They were willing to follow all the rules, go through all the paperwork and do everything that was required of them so they could be together again. They were willing to endure the pain of temporary separation to have a lifetime full of happiness and love.

Fayelle was told her husband’s visa would take 6-9 months and cost $450, and so she got to work immediately to make it happen. But when all would be said and done, it would take $1500 and more than two years before Samuel and Fayelle would be reunited.

To everyone’s immense happiness, in May 2008, Samuel left his home country of Ghana forever and arrived in America to begin his new life with his pen pal, dear friend and now wife, Fayelle.

Samuel and Naomi

Samuel and Fayelle’s love story was not simple.  It was not full of instant connections, fast engagements and immediate gratification.  It was a love that certainly caught them off guard. It was rooted in the soil of friendship, nourished by the magic of time and blossomed into a love that could overcome any obstacle.

In September of 2009, Fayelle and Samuel were thrilled to welcome a daughter, Naomi into their lives. They currently reside outside of Atlanta and will complete their amazing family this month with a second daughter who is expected to make her appearance any day.  When asked to describe her life, Fayelle will quickly tell you, “My heart is full.”

Four Great Reasons to Take your Wedding to Paradise

Four Great Reasons to Take your Wedding to Paradise

This article is about destination weddings.

Here is a helpful quiz to see if you are the destination wedding type.

When you picture your wedding, are you standing on a beach? 


Do you live on a beach?


Do you live within a short drive of a beach?


Okay so…you probably get it. That would be a destination wedding of which you are dreaming…
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Four Irresistible Wedding Ideas

Four Irresistible Wedding Ideas

The greatest thing about today’s weddings is that there are no hard and fast rules anymore.  Weddings have become a creative expression of the bride and groom rather than a one-size-fits-all ceremony lacking in personality.  And thanks to sites like Pinterest, and the plethora of adorable wedding ideas available, there have never been more creative ideas at a bride’s fingertips.

Here are four wedding ideas that I simply can’t resist…
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After the Vows: When Your Big Day is Over

After the Vows: When Your Big Day is Over

So that’s it. You’ve said your vows, exchanged rings, tossed the bouquet, and posed for more pictures than a Kardashian.

You’re married.

Now what?

I remember at the end of my own wedding, having that feeling. Now what? When it was time to go, we hugged everyone, said, “Well, this was fun,” and walked across the street to get into our car. It was so strange. The plans I had spent months making, the stress of making sure the day was perfect.

It was over.

I remember riding in the car to our hotel in a daze. Not sure what I felt about “the big day” being done…
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Wedding Picture Catastrophe: How an iPhone Can Ruin the Moment

When I was a little girl and my mother had something important to discuss about my behavior, she would call it having a “Come to Jesus” meeting. I knew that if Jesus was involvedshe meant business.

So as I’m neither a photographer nor a bride, I feel like I can have a come to Jesus meeting with favored wedding guests.

I hope you are ready because I’m going to get right to the point.

Here we go.

Stop taking pictures at weddings.

I mean it. Just. Don’t. Do. It.

Not with your phone, not with your iPad, not with your professional-ish camera.


I know you mean well. I know you take pictures on the side. I know that it’s a generous gift in your mind to offer the bride pictures from a totally different perspective.

I get it. You are doing it out of kindness and excitement, but unless the bride has specifically requested itdon’t.

Are you okay? Are we cool?

I don’t mean to be mean, but there’s a thingand the thing is this: You could ruin a key photograph for the bride and groom.

“Now that everyone is equipped with some sort of smartphone or high end camera they feel it is acceptable or even helpful to snap shots through out the day,” explains Brandy of Brandy Angel photography. “I say it is the opposite of helpful.”

Your kindness can backfire in a big way and I know you don’t want that to happen.

Jumping out in the aisle to snap the first kiss, while in your mind is thoughtful, could block the photographer. So she will forever have a shot of her first kiss in the background with your back and iPhone screen front and center.

The bride wants to capture her entire day so she can look back and always remember how she felt, what she was thinking and how she looked.

She doesn’t want to remember what your back looked like.

She doesn’t care to reminisce about what version of iPhone everyone had.

She definitely doesn’t want her pictures so bright from your flash that her skin blends in with her dress.

All of these things can and have happened when well-meaning people snap pictures during the ceremony.

She has hired a photographer. She has spent a lot of money to capture the most precious moments from the day. She’s got it covered. So as Ludacris would say, “Move. Get out the way.”

Seriously, just enjoy the wedding.

You know it’s just not a good wedding article without a Ludacris quote.

Apparently, these so called, Paparazzi guests have become a huge problem for photographers who are already fighting so many other elements of the day such as weather, lighting, time, family and simply trying to be multiple places at once.

Chris from Chris + Melinda Photography weighs in, “Paparazzi guests can be a big distraction for the bride and groom and other guests with their camera noises and flash. There are many horror stories of guests blocking the professional photographer during a critical moment or blowing out photos with flash. It is the professional photographer’s job to avoid this the best they can, but sometimes it is just unavoidable.”

Let me put this in other terms.

Would it occur to you to bring an instrument and play your own music over the pianist as the bride is walking down the aisle?

Would you pick flowers from your garden before leaving for the wedding to adorn the bridal party?

Would you bring a crockpot full of your mom’s famous nacho dip and a few bags of chips to set up next to the caterer’s spread?

You would not.

Then why are you taking pictures? Why are you standing next to the photographer during family shots and causing wandering eye syndrome?

That’s right, when you are ‘simultaneously’ snapping the family shots next to the photographer, the bridal party doesn’t know where to look.

So they are looking at you and the photographer is left to capture a moment that looks like a bunch of really well dressed people looking off into the distance at what? An impending alien attack? A tornado? It just looks weird. Plus it’s totally not a cute Pinterest picture anymore.

It’s not that anyone thinks anything malicious is happening. I know that pictures are windows into moments and you want to capture your friend or family member’s special day from every angle. I get it.

But, it creates a bigger problem.

The bride doesn’t want to be forced to frame your Instagram photo of her taking her vows because it was the only clear shot.

She doesn’t want to flip through her “wedding album” on your iPhone.

She definitely doesn’t want her wedding picture debut on Facebook to be while the ceremony is going on because you are tagging her in shots along the way.

Seriously. Don’t make me quote Ludacris again.

She and the photographer want the freedom to create, in pictures, the vision they’ve discussed and planned in detail prior to the wedding.

Not being able to do so because you are competing with guests is more than heartbreaking for the bride AND the photographer. You can’t get those moments back.

Some photographers have had to make changes to their own contract to protect themselves.

“It has become such an issue that I have even entered a clause in my contract,” says Angel. “I always try to discuss this with my brides before the wedding and decide upon a solution. I would never want to implement that clause, however I have heard many horror stories that made me decide to protect myself. “

The photographers can only do so much. Some weddings are held in venues that even restrict where the professional photographer can be to shoot the wedding.

So, while I know you mean well and the bride knows you mean well, please think twice before capturing your own moments as they may come at the expense of a key moment for the bride and groom.

If you are a bride, you may want to consider discussing an unplugged wedding with your photographer and have your guests turn off their equipment until the reception.

To find out more info about some of the photographers like Brandy Angel and Chris + Melinda Photography, please check out our “find a vendor section.”


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