How not to fall into the cookie cutter trap: Planning our wedding our way

My boyfriend of 2 1/2 years, Michael, proposed to me last Christmas morning. I said yes, accepted a beautiful engagement ring, and started planning in late January.

People ask us questions about the wedding all the time these days: What are your wedding colors? Are you having a bachelorette party? Are you going to have an emcee, DJ, or band? What will your song be?

These are questions that have nothing to do with our wedding. I don’t blame people for asking us these things though; the wedding industry has shaped how Americans think a wedding should be. People have their own expectations.

Questions that do relate to our wedding include: How many cities are you visiting during your trip? Is it ok if I come to more than one celebration? What is your actual wedding date?

We’re going to have a small, private ceremony somewhere on the beach with just our parents, and going out to dinner later that evening. The following day, we’re throwing a big picnic for family, friends, and coworkers in a large park on scenic windward Oahu, complete with a tent if the weather shouldn’t cooperate and caterers serving a big buffet. Later that week, Michael and I depart on a month-long trip that includes ten days in South Africa (that’s our honeymoon), as well as stops in 4 cities in the mainland US and London to see friends and family and take them out for fancy dinners.

We decided early on in our process to focus on what we value for our wedding. We are only including what we want– a focus on delicious food! We will not need a fancy DJ or things in certain ‘colors’. Saving in some areas will enable us to celebrate in many more cities during our epic trip. Keeping it simple for us has meant drawing a line and making sure we stick to our guns.

Stay tuned for future blog posts about:

  • Selecting an affordable venue in Hawaii
  • Budgeting and matching your budget to your priorities
  • Managing others’ expectations for your wedding

If you have specific questions about our wedding planning process, leave a comment down below!

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Me and Michael on Kailua Beach, Oahu

Letting Go is the Way to Go

It’s been years since I went SCUBA diving. Back when I got certified, I purchased some quality equipment and went on some amazing dives off the coast of the Big Island of Hawaii. It was very cool, exhilarating even, but I always felt as though I was defying the laws of nature by being fifty feet below the surface of the ocean.

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The author pretending to be a space explorer with ray gun (flashlight), being photobombed by a manta ray (Kona coast, Big Island of Hawaii)

So my wetsuit has moved with me as I go, hung in my closet in three different apartments over the years.  Why did I keep the wetsuit for so long? It was an investment that I made long ago, so I wanted to ‘get my money’s worth’. People have a hard time letting go, but once they do it’s a relief.  See this article for more on this phenomenon: https://www.headspace.com/blog/2017/06/16/cutting-losses/ Once I came to grips with reality– that I’m not a regular SCUBA diver anymore, and if I ever wanted to go diving again, I could just rent a suit on that occasion– I wanted to pass it onto someone who could use it.

I posted my wetsuit on craigslist and have kept relisting it as the ad expires, every couple months. I’d reduce my asking price to try to entice a buyer. Finally, it worked out last night and a woman purchased my wetsuit. I feel great. My closet isn’t housing something I never use, and it can go with her on exciting dives in Hawaii! I may have only gotten back a fraction of the amount I paid for the suit, but I no longer have the obligation to keep it, which is a great, light feeling.

Do you keep things just because you feel like you should? Have you gotten rid of anything recently– how did you feel?

 

Courage and Caffeine

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I used to take pride in not being dependent on any substance. I never smoked at all, or drank alcohol or caffeine regularly.  I pitied those who became dependent on alcohol to have a good time, or caffeine to be productive.

Fast forward past college, living abroad for a number of years, grad school and nearly 5 years working in my field as a professional. Since starting my full-time job, I drink a cup of coffee more or less every morning. The days when I don’t drink coffee are few and far between, and when I don’t drink it, I miss it.

In part, it’s my routine when I arrive at the office and prepare a cup of hot, fragrant coffee.  I enjoy it as I sort my emails and get my papers in order to tackle my to-do list for the day. Or I step out after checking my email and get some Starbucks coffee from down the street. I enjoy walking with coworkers and catching up during this short excursion.

I like how the caffeine in coffee boosts both my productivity and seemingly, my optimism early in the morning. After my cup of coffee, I can do anything. I can do everything. And I can do it well, early, and under budget. I am invincible and amazing. At least, that’s how I feel with the drug flowing through my veins.

And let’s be real: caffeine is a drug. It is not harmless. Wikipedia has the following to say about it:

“Caffeine is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant of the methylxanthine class.[10] It is the world’s most widely consumed psychoactive drug. Unlike many other psychoactive substances, it is legal and unregulated in nearly all parts of the world.”  (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caffeine)

Despite its wide usage and popularity, caffeine is still a drug that people use to support their productivity and lifestyles. For me, it’s now a big part of my morning routine both at work and at home.

Do you drink coffee? Does it make you more productive? Are you addicted?

 

Personal Budget 2.0

I posted a Youtube video a while back which outlined how I budget.

Since then, I realized that the assumptions I was making in executing my budget weren’t working for me.  The ‘non-monthly’ expenses that I saved for each month weren’t all on the same schedule, and I wasn’t actually moving the money each month into a dedicated place for those expenses.  Theoretically, after a year the non-monthly expenses such as credit card fees ($89) and membership dues for Toastmasters ($80) and a professional certification ($400+) would be covered by the money in my main account.  In actuality, it wasn’t that easy to track or ensure I’d have enough in the main account to cover each non-monthly expense when it would pop up.

So I decided to include the non-monthly expense total each month (now $107) as a transfer to a separate account that I make each month.  Then, when one of those expenses comes along, I can transfer the needed amount back into my main account from my savings.

That’s another thing worth mentioning– I used to have two separate accounts, one for emergencies and one for travel.  After we returned from our big trip to Europe last year, I wanted to simplify my finances and decided to close one of the accounts and just have one general savings account.  Emergency funds, money available for using to cover non-monthly expenses, and money to devote to travel are all co-mingled in that one account.  My goal is to maintain a hefty, healthy balance and pad it whenever possible.

In order to ensure my financial peace of mind, I decided to use what I had in my old emergency fund to pay off bills and expenses one month early.  Then I started building up my savings again, but this time it was with actual money that can be saved, not money that could have paid off my credit card expenses for the month.  I never carry a balance on my credit cards, but this way, each paycheck is devoted partly to paying off the next month’s expenses, partly to savings.  Being a month ahead gives me assurance that I’ll have enough in my main account to cover everything.

Thankful for What I Got: November’s Capsule Wardrobe Challenge

Are you a fan of the simplicity/minimalism movement?

Me too.

Are you successful in all your minimalist habits?  I know I still struggle to know what’s worth adding to my closet or home, and what’s not worth purchasing.  But I’m working on keeping my wardrobe to a small, but effective, size.  I’ve been trying to do so for the past few years.  Right now, I believe I have around 35 items in my work wardrobe.

As we celebrate Halloween and don our costumes that we probably won’t wear again, I think this is the perfect time to address the clothing that I have in my normal closet.  Wouldn’t it be great to wear everything I own before re-wearing anything?  This would make my closet an equal opportunity employer.

So my idea is to document each day, starting tomorrow, what I wear and keep track in my closet of what I haven’t worn yet.  As I wear each item, I can make a note of what I think works and what doesn’t anymore, and brainstorm ideas for future item purchases that might be versatile and work with many of the items I already own.

Do you have a capsule wardrobe?  Or do you struggle to find something to wear even though your closet is overflowing?  Maybe a simplified closet would help you to keep only your best clothing and get rid of the rest!

Check out this YouTube video that inspired me to tackle this challenge:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Foqfxo7nMLE  She’s got a different ‘Shop Your Closet’ challenge than me for November, but I think her idea is a great one– use and be grateful for what we already have!

Photos from Europe 

Copenhagen: a good choice was to see the city by boat. Beautiful weather, a little cool but perfect with a windbreaker!

Småland, Sweden: treasures found in the forest! Very lucky to have wild blueberries, lingon berries, chantrelle mushrooms and Karl Johan mushrooms available for the picking.

Stockholm, Sweden: another city you should see by boat! We took a ferry into town from Drottningholm palace, and had my friend Christina with us who could explain the different islands. Perfect, sunny weather.

Venice, Italy: such a fascinating city that has no cars or bikes! Loved walking here, where every crumbling building and canal was so picturesque.

Zurich, Switzerland: we spent an afternoon here to meet up with a friend who originally stayed with me in Honolulu as a couchsurfer a few years ago. Very fun to check out the city’s fancy shopping area.

Reichenau Island, Lake Constance: perfect place and time for a bike ride. So. Many. Flowers. Great fish sandwiches and iced coffee at a few cafes.

Fitness v. Reading

As a goal-oriented person, I take my commitments very seriously and take immense pleasure in seeing progress as I get closer to my goals.  Unfortunately, each day only has a limited number of hours in it, so we can only accomplish so much in a given day.  There’s a push and a pull for each decision I make on how I spend my time.  Lately, the tension has been between my goal of finishing the P90X fitness program before my boyfriend and I set off on our European vacation in late August, and making progress on my reading goal for this year.

When he suggested we do the P90X program, we calculated that we had plenty of time to finish the 90-day program before our departure, with some extra days thrown in, in case of sickness or if we needed extra rest days.  What we soon realized after starting the program was that when it’s both a work day and P90X day, that usually doesn’t leave much time or energy for any other activity.  If we had dinner planned with friends, that usually meant we wouldn’t be working out that day.

It is helpful to have a workout sheet on the fridge and see what’s coming up in the next few days.  I love washi tape and use it to cover each workout as we complete them.

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I joke that playing with washi tape is the reason why I do the workouts.

We’re now on Week 10 of the program (woo hoo!) but that means I’ve really dropped the ball on my reading goals.  It also doesn’t help that I started reading a 900+ page novel that’s pretty slow to get into.  I’ve recently made an effort to get back into listening to the audiobook on my walk home after work, but it’s a real struggle some days.  Perhaps I should start a vision board for my reading goals just like I have for P90X.  That way I could see my progress and get motivated!