What I’m Reading Wednesday

I. Love. Reading. Since college graduation, a real job, and a wedding, I’ve been reading less. However, like I tell my students, writers must be readers! I recently read Chronically Hopeful’s What I’m Reading Wednesday, and I was inspired to write my own. Maybe this will encourage me to finish the books I’ve begun and begin new ones! Fitting for my word for the word, reading is one of my priorities, and I hope to continue my “What I’m Reading Wednesdays” for the course of the year.

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Personal


For my personal growth, I am reading One Flesh: The Secret to a Blessed Marriage by Roberto Hernandez. I have the honor of knowing Mr. Hernandez, and he is a wonderful man, husband, and father. As a newlywed, I find the information and encouragement in his book to be extremely helpful and God-honoring. I hope to write a full review in the future once I’m finished.

 

Professional

I am in the process of renewing my teaching certificate with a Christian organization. My state certificate does not expire for several more years, but at my school, I am required to have both. One of the books on the reading list is Teaching Redemptively by Donovan L. Graham. I have the second edition, and I am loving it so far. Graham encourages his reader to think outside of the box and to consider what may or may not be working in today’s Christian schools.

 

Faith

While I am not reading a traditional Bible study book at the moment, I am working through the materials at Her Binder Project. They release a new study for each month of the year for free! This month’s theme is “Behold.” I’m also reading Experiencing God Day by Day by Henry and Richard Blackaby with my husband as our nighttime devotional. Finally, the Scriptures themselves! I recently wrote a post reviewing two journaling Bibles, and I am loving my new Bible.

What are you reading?

7 Tips for 2017 Brides

Right about this time last year, as my husband and I (both teachers) settled into Christmas break, we began to get a lot of questions about our wedding plans. We had just gotten engaged in October. There was a lot I didn’t know about weddings, but there were also many very helpful people who came beside us along the journey to our wedding in June and the beginning of our marriage. Since our wedding, I have been in, been to, or been behind-the-scenes for several weddings. I wanted to share some helpful pieces of advice, resources, and tips for brides that I have found extremely valuable.

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Tips for Brides | Grace Upon Grace Today

1. Plan Early!

I used and loved this timeline planning checklist. It’s cute, printable, and FREE! (You do have to provide your email address.) You can store your checklist in a cute color coordinated Bloom binder. There are also so many useful smartphone and tablet apps to help with the planning process. I used Dwindle for our wedding day countdown and Microsoft Excel to keep up with our guest list. The Knot and Wedding Wire also have beautiful, useful apps. Amazon is my favorite place for registries. If you have not created an Amazon registry yet, what are you waiting for? Create an Amazon Wedding Registry!

2. Splurge or Skimp?Tips for Brides: Splurge or Skimp? | Grace Upon Grace Today

I began making a list of the items and services we needed to buy and rent for the wedding. The planner helped! With every item on my budget, I talked with the people who would make the purchase possible (my parents, my then-fiancé, myself, etc.) and decided on which items to spend the most money, and in which areas we would want to spend less. For example, we knew we wanted an excellent photographer and a beautiful venue. Those cost over $2,000 each. Then, we ordered food from a restaurant but did not pay for the expensive catering service. We ordered cupcakes from Sam’s Club instead of a cake from a bakery. I wore my mom’s dress and bought my veil online. Narrow down your big spending items so you have more money set aside for those, while spending less on the items that are not as important to you.

 

3. Easy + Customized Invitations

After you set a date and pick a place, you’ve got to order your save-the-dates, invitations, thank you cards, and RSVP cards (if you’re using them). To save money, we used postcards for our save-the-dates and shower thank-yous, but I also wanted nice invitations and ceremony programs. There are plenty of great resources for paper goods, but my absolute favorite is Zazzle.com. I bought all my paper goods there, and I had so much freedom to customize using the artist’s original design. At many stationery shops, online or off, you are unable to customize what you’d like. However, at Zazzle, I used designs from Jill’s Paperie and then adapted them very easily into exactly what I wanted. I have limited graphic design experience, but Zazzle made it so easy! (And they have MUCH more than just invitations. I even ordered our groomsmen’s ties from Zazzle!)

4. Counseling or Mentoring

Nothing in the wedding-planning process was as helpful as our marriage mentors. We found them through our church and grew to love them. A couple who has been married for a while, has kids, and can devote some time to walking through life with you is a great help, whether for formal mentoring or casual coffee together. We worked through the book Preparing for Marriage God’s Way with our mentor couple and recommend it.

5. Think of Your Guests

Yes, it is your and your betrothed’s special day. However, if your loved ones are traveling to your venue and buying you a gift, you need to consider them and their needs. Of all my tips for brides, this is one is probably the most important. Is anyone in a wheelchair? Provide special parking or a golf cart for transportation to an outdoor setting. Will it be hot? Consider buying fan programs (or make your own with this Wilton Print Your Own Fan Kit). Is it outside? Sunscreen and bug spray are thoughtful. Are there small children? Consider a children’s area or have coloring pages at your tables. One bride I knew had uncovered bales of hay as seating arrangements for her guests. Unfortunately, since the invitation was very fancy, guests thought they should dress up for the wedding. Can you imagine wearing your short cocktail dress and finding uncovered bales of hay as your only seating option?

6. Plan Ahead for Something Special in Your Wedding

Every couple has a special symbol by which to remember their wedding. Some use sand ceremonies, candles, or memory walls for loved ones who have passed. We went to a wedding that had guests write well-wishes and advice on small rectangles that the bride’s grandmother then sewed into a quilt. How delightful! At our wedding, we used a Unity Cross, both for the display and the during-ceremony event. I’m glad we did. It is such a special memory with a beautiful result that we can display in our home. The meaning behind each piece is so special to me. You can order your own, or check out the new Unity Hearts!

7. Breathe!

When you remember to breathe, you are a happier, healthier, more humble person, and that makes for a beautiful bride. Keep in mind that the goal is not a one-day wedding, but a life-long marriage.

Something goes wrong in everyone’s wedding. It’s impossible to have a “perfect” day. However, your celebration in the beginning of your life with your new husband is perfect regardless of how the day turns out. Take these tips for brides to heart, but don’t forget to celebrate your day!

The photos from our wedding are courtesy our wedding photographer: www.orpheusandaphrodite.com 

A Newlywed Christmas {Plus budget-friendly ideas}

It’s our first Christmas season as a married couple, and I’m up at 6am unable to sleep. We’ve been very happily married for six months, and we look forward to many more. However, foraging our way as a new couple and a new family together in this tradition-laden season is difficult! I don’t think I fully knew just how plain weird it would be!

On the other hand, it is also just plain fun. Making new traditions, hanging out with friends, and visiting family are all wonderful this time of year. In addition, my husband is an expert at “lemons to lemonade” circumstances, and we came up with some great Christmas gift ideas that saved us quite a bit. While we’re paying off our college loans and saving for the future, it’s important to work within a tight budget.


Here are some of our strategies for a budget-friendly Christmas:

  • DIY Decorations – I love crafting. We have saved quite a bit of money by making our own decorations instead of buying new. I made our Fall door wreath with $1 fake flower stems and a 40% off basic wreath from Hobby Lobby. The same thing would be cute as a gift for a friend’s home.
  • Hand-Me-Down or Secondhand Decorations – My grandmother gave us a huge tote full of decorations she was not going to use. We sorted out what we could see ourselves using in the next five years and donated the rest.
  • DIY Wrapping – It amazes me how much wrapping paper and other gifting accoutrements cost. We had rolls of brown kraft paper left over from our wedding that I used as wrapping paper this year. I had purchased “Fall” ribbon for 75% off at the end of November and I used it to tie bows around our gifts. (I have also used the comics page of the newspaper to wrap gifts before.) I wrote the recipient’s name on the kraft paper itself with markers. For gift bags, I cut out the image from the front of used Christmas cards and hole punched it to make a tag. Then I wrote the recipients name on the other side and tied it to the bag with ribbon.
  • DIY Gifts – I bake, cook, knit, and write. What better time to put my talents to use than at Christmas? In the past, I’ve done mini banana bread loafs in cute cellophane wrappers. This year, we made my dad chocolate- and butterscotch-drizzled popcorn. It was inexpensive and he loves it.
  • Secondhand Gifts – I know it sounds a little tacky to buy used gifts, but here me out. There is a very nice secondhand bookstore in our area that stocks high-quality books, audiobooks, DVDs, musical instruments, children’s toys, etc. Many of the items are new and the others are gently worn. We were able to find brand new and like new items at this store for a fraction of the cost! They also have a teacher discount, so we were able to save big. There is a wide selection, so it was not shopping only the latest trends either.
  • Free Shipping – Finally, always use free shipping. I signed up for an Amazon Prime account free trial just for the holiday season.  Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial. Anything we weren’t able to find elsewhere for cheaper, I ordered from Amazon.  We did pay for shipping for one item because it was supporting a small business that did not offer free shipping. It was worth it.
  • Start Early – It may too late now, but remember this for next year: If you shop for Christmas around the year, the toll it takes on your December paycheck will be minimal.

I firmly believe that Christmas is about the thought, the care for each other, and the celebration of our Savior… Not about the money spent. With a little bit of planning, our first newlywed Christmas is not going to put us into debt. I’m so excited to be celebrating this season with my sweet husband.

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