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The past three and a half months have been a total whirlwind to say the least. Being engaged is both the happiest and craziest time you can ever imagine. While, in theory, being engaged is between you and your partner, it really ends up being a time where your friends and family rally around you in excitement about what is soon to be the biggest and most exciting commitment of your life.
Now Matt and I have such a funny love story, which you should hear about in our upcoming podcast but we never were going for a fairytale wedding situation… ironic considering the whole Disney proposal thing. Since the day we decided we were going to get married we actually were convinced that we were going to elope on an island somewhere. As things actually started to get real, we realized that we so badly wanted our closest friends and family there and it just wasn't feasible to do the destination thing. So we decided to do a small wedding that was going to be focused on us spending time with the people we loved who were supporting us on our new journey and overall just having a damn good time. That being said we still have about 100 people that we want to celebrate with us which can really add up price wise. Also, as superficial as this sounds, it is the truth; I love décor, I love details, and I like everything in my vision to be just right. This comes with a price tag. Especially after working for a wedding planner in the past, my standards of “the perfect big day” some could say are a bit unrealistic for what cash I actually want to (and can) shell out. With us just buying our first home, my medical bills being sky high, and us wanting to travel the world before starting a family in the next few years, we have been determined to create our perfect big day on a budget that is actually realistic. For the past three months I have been working with Matt and my closest family and friends to plan an event that is going to be budget friendly, beautiful, and so freaking fun.
This is where a lot of my time has been taken up where I would usually be spending it blogging and I was super stressed about my lack on contributions to Crohnically Blonde. Matt (he’s so smart that’s why I love him) suggested that I start sharing my experiences of wedding planning through the blog because there have to be some other people out there that are going through the same thing. Duh. Thank you fiancé. So that is where this series of posts started. I want to share with you guys my planning journey in hopes that it can inspire or help you. Learn from my mistakes and please take my successes and use them for your own big day.
To start off this series I wanted to rewind back to right when Matt popped the question. After the shock and the love and the tears and all of that jazz happened it set in…. I’m engaged, what the heck do I do now?
I definitely thought that and I panicked a little inside. I could not have written this post until I was out of the initial couple month storm of craziness. Now looking back I can organize my thoughts and break down what exactly I would recommend to myself (or any of you) right after you are officially engaged.
First piece of advice….
Don’t immediately share on social media.
I know coming from me who lives and breathes Instagram this may come as a shock. I always thought that I would be Instagramming my ring ASAP as soon as that thing was on my finger. I actually waited until the afternoon the day after to announce our big news. Not a huge gap of time but enough time for us to just enjoy each other and be happy living in the moment. This also gave us a chance to tell our families and our closest friends first so that they would see if before the rest of the internet. Once I posted I was flooded with well wishes online, via text, and by phone call. It was a lot to handle and while I am so thankful, it was nice to have that special time where it was just Matt and I celebrating our commitment. For a short while it is your own sweet, romantic secret.
Figure out if you have a deadline.
Okay, now this one sounds weird but it is really helpful. Is there a certain time that you want to be married by/need to be married by? Example for me: my health insurance was about to be dunzo so I knew the sooner the better. This helped me to craft a timeline of when the actual ceremony needed to happen and helped me narrow down venues. If there was a venue that would be booked two years out, that was going to be a hard no for me (and also most likely out of my price range). If there is a “deadline” per say then that may force you to get a little creative which sometimes can turn out to produce the best events. Knowing that we were setting a date for less than/a year out meant that I had to start booking things almost immediately after returning from our trip (where we got engaged). Now this doesn’t mean to start going crazy and booking every single thing right away but you need to lock down the things that are really important to you so you don’t miss out. That brings me to my next tip.
What are the elements of your wedding that are most important to you and your S.O. For me I know my photographer was #1 and I would take out a second mortgage on my house if I needed to get the one I wanted (just kidding but like am I kidding?). Shout out Maddison Short. Matt’s number one thing was having a really good DJ. Knowing that those two things were so important and “make or breaks” as I like to call them for the big day, we booked these vendors first and actually planned our date around when they were free. We got super lucky in this situation because my sister’s big in her sorority is the wedding photographer I wanted so she was flexible with us and our DJ is one of my college friends who is a professional DJ. Things just worked out here which I couldn’t be more thankful for but seriously if the vendors you want are in high demand (which ours definitely were) you need to lock them down ASAP.
Figure out who your wedding party is going to be and ask them.
I think this is so important to do early on because part of the planning is the fun of bouncing ideas off your girlfriends and also part of the benefit is they help to take some of the stress away. I asked my bridesmaids pretty soon after we got engaged to be in my bridal party and I couldn’t be happier. (There will be a post on how to craft the perfect Bridesmaid Proposal coming up, don’t worry). They will be there to really be invested and help along the way. It also helps to have conversations upfront with members of your bridal party about what you expect from them. For example, my MOH is my sister Amanda. She also happens to be in her last year of college and is totally swamped. Some of my other bridesmaids are getting married, in dental school, and about to graduate high school this year so that can also be stressful and leave little time for participating in the usual "bridal party activities". My best friend Kelly is in my bridal party and while she is not officially the MOH she has taken on a lot of the helpful planning duties. I explained the situation to her from the start and she has been a huge help taking the stress off of my MOH. Being a bridesmaid shouldn’t be a burdening experience so make sure you are communicating and being as open as possible about your expectations the whole way and hearing them out if they say they need some help from other members of the party or your family.
Whether you are on the groom side or the bride side, another perk of asking your party early is that you can start planning the Bachelor/Bachelorette parties early. This means watching out for deals, maybe getting early booking discounts, and planning ahead so the maximum amount of people can come.
Find someone who has been there and done that recently.
This isn’t always and option but I really have found this to be helpful. I have a few friends who have gotten married in the past few years that I have been bouncing ideas off of like crazy. They know those little things that you wouldn’t even think of… I mean, event insurance?! They also have great referrals and I am a firm believer that referrals are the best way to find vendors. There are things that I know from working in the wedding planning business but when you are piecing things together on a way tighter budget, things have to get a little more strategic and creative. That is where utilizing what these friends have done and their experiences can make your life a lot easier. Also, they keep you sane because they know how ridiculous this process can be. It was my married friend that introduced me to Natural Calm, coincidence? I think not.
I am OCD about just about everything so getting organized was one of the first things that I did. I am going to do a whole post on just exactly how I organized things in case you want to use my “model” but however you do it I suggest you make it fun. I picked up a bunch of super cute office supplies from Target to use and went to town. There are so many moving parts to a wedding and more contracts for different vendors than you will ever see in your life so being organized is so crucial. This also helps you to make sure you are on time with payments and not irritating vendors because you realize you forget to cut them that check you owe! Even though I have a Pinterest board (multiple, let’s be real), I also like printing out inspiration photos and collages so I can see everything together. Kind of a waste of paper but that is just how my brain works. There are plenty of actual planners that are specifically for wedding planning which are great if you want a separate book. For me I integrate everything with my Day Designer that I use regularly so I am seeing my upcoming “to do’s” every day and not falling behind. Another tool that I love is the wedding checklist on The Knot. I haven’t exactly followed the timeline of when to get things done (I’ve been early, overachieving AF) but it is a great reminder of little things that I would have definitely forgotten if they weren’t on the list.
My last piece of advice for those few months following your engagement and really up until your day of (and beyond) is...
Don’t forget about your partner.
Things can get really crazy. There is a ton of attention on you from friends and family which is great because they love you and want to celebrate, but don’t forget the reason why you are celebrating. You have to make sure you aren’t getting too caught up in the planning and decision making that you neglect your S.O. When it all comes down to it, the wedding is one, literally one day, of your life. Your marriage is forever so cherish this time that you have before your big day to really remember why you are so excited to spend the rest of your life with this human.
I hope these few tips have helped/will help you all! I wish I would have know all of these tidbits a few months ago! As I said before I can't wait to keep sharing my planning experience with you. You shouldn't just expect the basic bridal blog topics though. I want to touch on some things that maybe aren't the happiest part of the experience because someone needs to put it out there. I'm talking- body image/trying on wedding dresses, managing expectations (and opinions) or those around you, and anxiety of being sick on your big day (chronic illnesses are the ultimate wedding crashers). Of course we will also touch on some lighthearted topics which I'm super excited about to: bridesmaid proposals, choosing a caterer, how to get organized with your planning, and why you don't have to (and probably shouldn't) do everything by the book.
As always, if there is anything that you are excited to hear about, shoot me and email or message on Instagram and I will make sure to add it to a post soon.
Any time there is a season change my skin FREAKS out. Oily, dry, break outs, peeling, you name it, my skin is doing it. This year I feel like I've finally got things under control with a serious routine but I needed to step up my game in the scalp department. I focus so much on styling products and products to protect my color that I majorly neglect taking care of my actual skin on my head. So weird, right? I run into the same issue every year where as soon as it starts to get cold my scalp gets flaky and dry and I just tough it out or steal some of Matt's Head & Shoulders that hangs out in our shower. This year I have finally found the solution though and I couldn't wait to share it with ya'll. This Tea Tree Shampoo from Maple Holistics is my new favorite find. Not only does is sooth my scalp, eliminate flakiness, and make my hair feel super smooth... it is under $10. If you have been following along with Crohnically Blonde you know that I am in the middle of planning a wedding so cutting costs anywhere I can is on the agenda for me so this is actually perfect. It smells amazing and makes me not hate the dreaded task of washing my hair so much. I mix this in with my normal haircare routine and use it 1-2x per week (I only wash my hair every other day anyway).
As I started to check out everything else by Maple Holistics, I realized that you can actually sign up to get FREE samples. We all love free and we all love trying out a great product before we actually buy so go request a sample and your scalp will thank you. Let me know what you end up trying and what you think!
Recently I had the pleasure of speaking with some members of the Antidote team who shared with me this new and truly helpful way to find research studies and clinical trials that not only are you eligible for but that are a perfect fit for your condition. I, myself, have been in talks with my doctor just a couple of weeks ago about potential involvement in some clinical trials coming up so this seems to have been brought to my attention at an optimal time! Anyone with a chronic illness knows that you do the majority of your own research about your condition and treatments and often are the one presenting the options you find fitting to your healthcare provider. That is why I find Antidote so valuable. This search tool gives you the opportunity to search those options and connect you with the best choices for you. Anything that I can do to make finding treatment options easier, sign me up, because you all know it can be exhausting.
My explanation does not do Antidote justice though so I have included a post from a member of their team, below, so that ya'll can get the full scoop on how Antidote can help you in your battle with Crohn's or any chronic illness for that matter.
A New Way to Find Research Studies for Crohn’s Disease
As anyone living with Crohn’s disease knows, finding the right treatment option can be a challenge. To start, there’s no one test to diagnose Crohn’s disease, so other conditions have to be eliminated as options first before a Crohn’s diagnosis can be considered.
Once you’ve been diagnosed with Crohn’s, there’s no one treatment that works for everyone. The goal of Crohn’s treatment is to reduce the inflammation that causes symptoms. Ideally, treatment also leads to long-term remission.
But for some people, standard treatments just don’t help that much. Researchers are looking into new options to better treat, and ultimately cure, Crohn’s disease.
Some treatments in development aim to block inflammation at the source instead of treating symptoms once inflammation already occurred. Research suggests that newer corticosteroids, for example, may be better at treating Crohn’s symptoms than older ones, with fewer side effects.
One new treatment path researchers are exploring involves a bacteria called Mycobacterium avium paratuberculosis (Map), which may contribute to Crohn’s disease. The bacteria causes intestinal infections in cattle that are similar to Crohn’s disease in humans. Several studies are investigating whether treating people with Crohn’s with an antibiotic for this bacteria makes a difference in symptoms.
Joining a clinical trial can be one way to access potential new treatments as well as quality care. There are currently 234 research studies looking for volunteers living with Crohn’s disease in the United States.
Before new treatments can reach patients, they must make their way through four clinical trial phases. Each phase tests the potential treatment for safety, effectiveness, or both, and volunteers are needed for each one.
Every trial has different requirements for participation, though, and it can be difficult to sift through on ClinicalTrials.gov. Though all clinical trials are lifted there, the website wasn’t designed with patients in mind, so it can be frustrating to try and find what you’re looking for.
Antidote is a health technology company that aims to solve this problem through their simple search tool. You can find clinical trials that may be a good fit for you by following a few steps:
If you’re interested in learning more about new research studies near you, start a search using the tool below.
BYLINE: Nancy Ryerson is a Digital Marketing Manager at Antidote. Prior to joining Antidote, she was on the marketing team at The Michael J. Fox Foundation and worked as as a health journalist.
I have included this tool below so that you can start to search right off of CrohicallyBlonde.com! As always, if you have any questions or comments don't hesitate to reach out.
The more I become involved in the Spoonie community, the more I hear about different illnesses that plague our community and those who are fighting to live with these often debilitating conditions. As I get to the age where I will be considering having children within the next few years, I find myself anxiety ridden over my child having some type of autoimmune disease like I have or another invisible illness that cannot be seen or easily diagnosed. Remembering the pain that I suffered as a child being sick and misdiagnosed makes me vow to never have my child (or children) go through what I went through. This is no knock at my parents. They always had me seen by the best doctors and looked into whatever medical information was available. Back when my parents were struggling to find answers the internet wasn't alive with knowledge like it is now. I am so incredibly thankful that when my children are born, I will have the power to be their own health advocate just like I have to be for myself. The information that is available now is so infinate and continues to grow thanks to all of the new research and those who publish the findings on public sites and forums.
When I saw a presentation by the Diamond Headache Clinic, shedding light on the symptoms and misdiagnosisis of Abdominal Migraines, Migraine Headaches, and Cluster Headaches in children, I knew this was something that I wanted to share with you all in hopes that it could help a child who is suffering and has gone undiagnosed. Symptoms of these invisible illnesses are so easily misinterpreted for other sicknesses such as the flu or a cold or just 'being anxious'. They aren't like a scrape or a broken bone where there is physical evidence of what is causing the pain. Sometimes there is but sometimes there isn't. When I read through this presentation it really struck me that at least as adults we can express and do what we can to ease our pain but children do not have that same freedom. I can choose to work from home one day because my pain is too bad for me to leave my sofa. A child is at the mercy of their gaurdians telling them they must go to school whether they beleive their invisibile symptoms or not. I can choose to take medications that will ease my pain. A child, again, is at the mercy of their gaurdians. They cannot fight to be their own advocate. They don't have the resources. But we do. We as parents, god parents, aunts, uncles, brothers. sisters, or friends have the power to listen and to do the research and help get to the bottom of what is causing pain and harm if a child around us is suffering. Let this serve as a reminder that even if you can't see it, it could still be there.
As a parent or any of those identities previously mentioned, I urge you to take 10 minutes of your day to review the information in this post that way if a child you love is suffering, you may just be the one to help them realize that there is a solution and a way to get treatment. Take a look through the presentation below:
If you know a child who is struggling with any of these symptoms, please do not hesitate to reach out to the Diamond Headache Clinic. We all deserve to have our voices heard and our pain addressed even if someone else has to advocate for us.
As always if you need a friend to reach out to or just need someone to share with and vent about your story to, I am always here. That is what Crohnically Blonde is all about. Last, I want to send a ton of love to parents raising children with invisible illnesses. I can't begin to imagine your undying strength and I am so thankful for all of you for raising children like me.
t has been about a month now since I've posted a true Crohn's/health related update. First off, thanks for sticking with me guys. These past couple months have been total chaos both physically and mentally. I can honestly say they have been some of the happiest with my engagement but also some of the hardest trying to find answers to health issues. Recently I have seen multiple doctors who cannot figure out what the cause of my constant body pain, fatigue, and weakness is. Finally it seems the conclusion is some type of connective tissue disease/disorder either brought on by an autoimmune or even the Remicade. I don't have any distinct diagnosis yet and am waiting on an appointment with a rheumatologist who I pray can help me make sense of all of this.
I know I have said this before but not know what the heck is wrong with you is one of the most frustrating things to go through. The physical piece of it is hard, yes, but the emotional aspect of having an invisible illness or chronic illness can be the most debilitating part of the whole thing. I love sharing my life and my struggles with our community because I like helping other people and connecting with others but recently I have just been retreating and trying to conserve energy.
Something that I always hear from people with chronic/invisible illnesses is that their friends say that "they change" or "they are antisocial". At first I always thought, "oh its just people being depressed about their situation". I did this SO seriously when I was really sick a few years ago. I stopped talking to friends, I spent any free time at home, and I because a lot less of the social butterfly I always used to be. Crohn's has changed my social demeanor a whole lot to be honest.
I have a new take on this now. I think that this natural instinct to retreat when you are sick is something that your body does as a line of defense. It is trying to conserve your energy for what is most important, keeping you alive and thriving. I used to think it was a conscious decision that I didn't stop and talk to everyone I could in the office or the grocery store anymore. I thought it was me lacking the confidence that I used to have that cause me to crave being the center of social attention. Now that could play into it but I really think that my body is conserving my energy for myself because I am sick.
I have started to think about this as I go through my day now and it really has helped me to change my perspective and keep me from feeling as guilty. I have a limited amount of energy per day and I need it to be allocated in the way that best suits myself and my health. Now I don't literally mean energy like physical energy. I mean that energy, plus mental energy from problem solving, stress, and just general thoughts. I mean emotional energy that you put into relationships and conversations no matter how trivial they may seem. There is only so much that I can give and if I give my already limited amount away to everyone else, How am I going to feel? The answer is not good.
I've shifted my mindset and realized that sometimes it is so necessary to pull your focus inwards for a bit because you can't spread light and love to others if you, yourself, are not up to par. I have taken these past few months to rebalance, rejuvenate, and realign. Although my physical health is still not where I want it to be, my mindset is great and that is the real compass for what is to come. I know so many of you understand this struggle and for those of you who don't I hope you never have to.
I can't wait for ya'll to see what is to come and I am so excited to continue to grow this community even more. Thank you for the support that this group always gives to me and I look forward to continuing to share my stories with you all.
Blonde babe. Maryland native. Crohn's crushing puppy mother to two sweet rescues.