How We Planned our Wedding in 10 Weeks

View More: weren’t pregnant. Common and slightly personal question when you announce your engagement and how soon your wedding will follow. But my husband Carlo and I planned our wedding in 10 weeks from the day he popped the question in the Bahia Honda in the Florida Keys. Most of the reason was financial – we wanted to be married before moving in together; I had a lease that was soon expiring when we got engaged, and his had just been renewed a few months before. His apartment was nicer and larger, and neither one of us favored a long engagement, so we chose to get married sooner rather than later.

Oh, did I mention he proposed in December? So….we were planning this during the holidays. The. Busiest. Time. Of. The. Year. And we were both working overtime every week.

Everyone’s story is different, but this is how we did it. And had a lovely wedding. In 10 weeks. On a roughly $3000 budget. It took largely two things: prioritizing and reality checks.  What needed to be done FIRST to ensure the important things happened? Is this something that we CAN realistically do? It forced us to pick what was important to us, and honestly, I think kept us from having any big regrets.

1. Like most girls these days, I created a Pinterest board for my wedding. As a general practice, I pin WAAAAAY more stuff than I’ll ever use, but that is because I use it to “sift” my thoughts. I like a lot of different styles that often don’t quite go together, so I pin a lot of ideas, then go back a few days later and look at it, scrolling for patterns. This helps me see what I really like (I want that in MY wedding) versus the “impulse pin” (wow that was a neat idea for THEIR wedding). I also read a LOT of articles (like this one that I’m writing for you) to glean advice from other’s successes and regrets.

2. We picked a date and venue right away. We knew we needed to get invitations out ASAP, which needed those two items! So we knew we needed to make those two decisions first (prioritizing!). And then we ordered our invitations immediately. I’ve heard of couples spending endless afternoons reviewing venues; we didn’t have that luxury of time so we quickly narrowed down our options to places we already knew (we were looking for something outdoors), and actually scored a family friend’s lake house!

Side note – EVERYTHING  is more expensive than you hoped when you’re planning a wedding, so if you’re on a budget, consider was realistically matters. Example: fancy invitations? Or quality photos? Go with what’s going to last. Your invitations will likely go in the trash after the wedding. Your photos you will have forever, so put your cash in what matters more. We got ours from an Etsy shop. No fancy RSVP cards, gold lettering, or little charms tied in satin ribbon on each one, but they were “us” and got the job done. They told people we were getting married and how to celebrate with us. Which is what we needed them to do.

3. We enlisted a lot of help. For someone who wanted to elope, Carlo wanted 6 groomsmen, who he dubbed his “merry men”, so I picked 6 bridesmaids. Which turned out to be fantastic, because it gave us 12 sets of talented hands that were more than eager to help us put our wedding together! And spouses of the talented hands who were also excited to join in the planning as well.

The wife of one of Carlo’s merry men basically became my coordinator – she would text me every couple of days with little things to remember to do, and kept everything running smoothly behind the scenes on our Big Day. She was amazing, and I gained a deeper friendship with her as a result. Double score! We actually just finished our first Disney half-marathon together in January (her second, my first). Oh and she’s the one who helped us get our DJ since my shaky-to-begin-with music plan didn’t quite work out at the last minute, and got us tablecloths from her workplace.

So many of our other friends helped us too. One of my bridesmaids gave me her Big Day’s line up (she had gotten married the year before) so I knew roughly how to plan out the timing of the vendor arrivals, order of the ceremony, who was in charge of what, etc. Another two helped make bouquets. Three girls from work decorated for us. Several of the guys helped set up our chairs and display tables and reception area, and then made sure they were cleaned up and ready for pick up after we left.

4. We booked our photographer. Again, we didn’t shop around (which I wouldn’t recommend if you don’t know the professional doing your shoot). I’ve heard horror stories of photographers not showing up, or disappearing with your photos after your wedding. Yikes! It was a blessing that Ryan and Julia, husband and wife duo of Akins Photography, and I had worked together at camp for a couple of summers. I knew the quality of his work because he was our camp photographer/videographer. I contacted him, asked him for a quote which included their travel down from the big ATL, and secured our deposit. He recommended starting a board on Pinterest with the type of photos we liked so he could get exactly what we wanted. And our photos were BEAUTIFUL.

5. We did only the essentials. We didn’t have the budget to do a big sit down dinner, or even a buffet. We planned it for 4:30 in the afternoon so we could do cupcakes and some appetizers (which his mom and stepdad graciously helped us with). As a result, this also saved us from having to purchase/rent/create centerpieces, tablecloths, cutlery, and decorations for 15ish tables. And spend a thousand hours creating seating charts.

6. We took care of all the other details as small projects each day. Boutonnieres for the guys one night, bouquets for the girls another night. Cupcake tasting on a random afternoon (which Carlo and I counted as a date – score!). Researching rentals for chairs and tables by the pool. By doing things in small chunks, it made planning such a big event seem much more manageable.

7. As we completed projects, I placed everything in boxes/bags and stored them in a corner in my apartment. All together. So when the day came to decorate, everything was in one place.

8. I forgave myself for the projects I didn’t have time to do. I kept my wedding board as a secret board on Pinterest, largely because I didn’t want everyone asking me about it before we were actually engaged (it was pretty much finished and ready for action by the time he asked me to marry him). That helped me be ok with not getting every. single. thing. done on that board. I picked the projects I really wanted (and the DIYs Carlo really wanted), did those first, and as I ran out of time, I let myself be ok with not completing every pin. Because no one had seen the board, no one knew what was “missing”.

As we pulled away in my husband’s Scion, he put his hand on my leg, and said, “I’m glad we decided to go with a ceremony. You did a good job.” And that’s what was important. We enjoyed ourselves. Our friends enjoyed themselves and helped us celebrate our happiness. Oh, and it wasn’t just me that planned it – when I said “we” in all the above steps, he helped all along the way. 🙂


Pass the Chromosomes, Please

“Are you ready to dissect the turkeys?” my biology professor asked in his Egyptian accent a couple of days before Thanksgiving. The class chuckled. “What? It’s biology.”

He continued onto the lecture of the evening – tonight starting a new topic – genetics. A breath of fresh air if you ask me. We’d been on photosynthesis for what seemed like forever, and though I like plants, I like animals and people much better. They show the genius of our God – their design revealing His fingerprints even in a scarred and broken world.

Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as He is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning…No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. – 1 John 3:7-9, ESV

I read this two days after that lecture in biology, and the microscope bulb went on in my head. John, the author of this passage wasn’t just talking about parenting differences, whether our Creator or Adversary is teaching us, directing us, and so determining whether or not our actions are righteous. He was actually referring to something with far finer detail, we just wouldn’t discover it until over a thousand years later…

You’ve probably seen the DNA double helix design – much like a twisted ladder, with the rungs being complementary pairs of 4 compounds, abbreviated A, T, G, and C. It’s not so much the A, T, G, and C that’s important  – but the sequence in which they are found that matters. They are the alphabet of biology, the words and sentences formed from them are the genes, and the collection of genes – an x-shaped book called a chromosome. And much like the words and sentences of a well-crafted book form an image in the mind of their reader, the “readers” of genes – known as enzymes – form a picture that is you – and me – in the form of physical characteristics and personalities. It’s incredible…information transformed into a creation.

What’s even more amazing is that each microscopic cell in our bodies, indiscernible to the human eye and present in each individual in a number rivaling our national debt, contains 23 of these informational books tucked safely away inside the core, or nucleus, of each cell. Twenty-two of them are homologous – or duplicates…twins. Number 23, however, is a little special.

Chromosome 23 is a twinsie in females, but not in males. And because of this, the man in a set of parents determines whether the nursery gets painted pink or blue. Every single cell – all trillion of them – contains this chromosome, because each one came by way of duplication and division from a single male and female cell fusing at conception. That male cell, biblically, is referred to as seed.

No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.

 Notice cannot – not will not, not should not. The one born of God cannot keep on sinning. Why?

“I will put my law into their minds, and write them on their hearts,” declares the LORD.

 Being born of God isn’t just sprinkling religion on top of your life to make it better, or even to make you a better person. Like the mark of paternal heredity, His writing on your heart means that you bear His seed – you receive His DNA – and it is the blueprint of every single fiber of your being, the smallest level of functional life. It means that the words of His Word form a picture that is you…as you were always intended to be.

Perhaps that’s why Jesus told Nicodemas He had to be born again in order to be an inheritor of the Kingdom of God. Perhaps that’s why Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians, Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away, behold, the new has come. Perhaps that’s why God worded things as He did in 1 John 3. As Creator, He clearly knew about all of these processes long before we even knew there was such a thing as DNA…

I praise you, because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.




Muse from Middle-Earth

Túrin looked in those eyes as he raised up his sword; and straightway he fell under the dreadful spell of the dragon, and was as one turned to stone…Then Glaurung [the dragon] spoke again, taunting Túrin. ‘Evil have been all your ways, son of Húrin,’ said he. ‘Thankless fosterling, outlaw, slayer of your friend, thief of love, usurper of Nargothrond, captain foolhardy, and deserter of your kin…’ And he [Túrin] saw himself as in a mirror misshapen by malice, and he loathed what he saw. -The Children of Húrin by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Journey into the world of Middle-earth…before the famous saga of The Lord of the Rings, and you will meet Túrin, the hero of The Children of Húrin. It is actually a sad tale because he is very much alone in his struggle against the Black Hand of Morgoth, of which the dragon Glaurung is a servant. I won’t recount the whole story, as Tolkien can weave words infinitely better than I can, but what is important to know is that the words which Glaurung spoke were not true.

The dragon took events that he knew to have happened in Túrin’s past, twisted them, and aimed at him poisonous accusations, laced with the tiniest amount of truth so they would pierce his very being. The names sank deeply, and after rendering Túrin immobilized for a time, turned him against his own self, echoing the internal voices he had already been struggling against. The titles sank deeply and directed his next steps.

Thankless fosterling. Outlaw. Slayer of your friend. Theif of love. Maybe yours sound a little different…

Unwanted. Undesirable. Not good enough. Awkward. Failure. A disappointment. Foolish. Childish. Incapable. Invisible. Fake. Deceitful. Manipulative.

Words that render you as one turned to stone. Words that pierce who you are, distort your beliefs, and overshadow your steps.

I don’t know how much Tolkien desired to have a deeper meaning behind his story, but to me, fantasy fiction has a way of revealing truth in a picturesque way. I know I’ve had encounters with Glaurung, though I wasn’t face-to-face with a monstrous beast. Some of those names…never spoken aloud by a human being, but I’ve heard them nonetheless. And those carelessly or purposefully spoken? Served to echo the internal doubts I have already struggled against.

What do you do? Glaurung has too great a power and cunning to be defeated.

…He seated [Jesus] at His right hand, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. – Ephesians 1:21, ESV

Doubtless, the “every name that is named” here is a reference to Artemis and the other numerous Greek and Roman gods worshipped in the ancient city of Ephesus, the letter’s original postal address. But when I considered it more, I realized that God Himself seated – a denotation of completed action according to Hebrew religious tradition – Jesus far above every name.

Far above every name of unwanted, thief of love, foolish, and failure. Far above titles of disappointment, invisible, incapable, slayer of your friend. Far above the accusations that misshape our mirrors, render us as one turned to stone, and direct our paths.

I won’t tell you how Túrin’s tale ends, or if he slays Glaurung…you’ll have to read the legend and found out for yourself. And I can’t tell you exactly how my tale will turn out, because I honestly don’t know. But I can tell you that because Jesus sits far above all rule and authority – He alone has the authority to tell me who I am.

Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the One who died – more than that, who was raised – who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. – Romans 8:33-34, ESV

Hello, My Name is Truth

“Paw Print!” She called, the tone in her voice betraying she was close to tears. I was working at WinShape Camps for Girls at Young Harris over the summer, where all the staff have nicknames by which the campers call us. Mine is Paw Print. The camper who called? One of the Drops, our youngest age group designation.  She had a blonde pixy hair cut always with a bow, and a personality as precious as she looked.

We were at Brasstown Valley Stables, where we had just left the corral to head out on the trail. She was riding Cherokee, a large paint horse whose withers measured almost above my head; I was walking the trail with a radio clipped to my hip and a first aid kit in my backpack. I was there for physical safety, but also for “nerve safety,” as many of our riders that day had never been on a horse before. She was two horses in front of me.

“Whatcha need?” I said as I stepped out of the train of manes and tails and came up next to her saddle.

“I don’t know how to make him stop!” She said. The horses we were spending the afternoon with were trail-trained, meaning that they basically just follow the horse in front of them on trails that they know well. Cherokee, however, was coveting just about every blade of grass that he passed, was pausing and grazing, and she couldn’t get him to stop it.

I showed her, with imaginary reins, how to steer him a little better, though with such a big horse and such a little girl, she was still slightly panicked and timid. She asked if I would stay next to her and I told her I would as long as she needed me to, placing my hand on Cherokee’s shoulder to let him know I was there. Another blade of grass caught his eye.

“Pull up on the reins.” I coached. Tug. Cherokee didn’t budge. “You can pull harder, it’s okay.”

“But I don’t want to hurt him,” she answered. Hmm…

“Sweetie, how much do you weigh?” I asked.

“About 50 pounds.”

“You know, it would take about 20 of you to equal of one of him. You won’t hurt him.”

“Oh.” She tugged again, harder, and this time Cherokee responded. After that, she handled him beautifully, and her anxiety turned into enjoyment for the remainder of the ride. I stayed nearby, but slipped back into line with the rest of the horse train. Amazing what discovering truth can do.

Jesus said to him [Thomas], “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also. From now on you do know Him and have seen Him.” – John 14:6-8, ESV

This familiar statement comes in the middle of a conversation in which Thomas, one of Jesus’ closest friends, grapples with understanding what Jesus is telling him – he is struggling to understand truth. Don’t miss what Jesus told him – that truth is not just reality or fact, but it is a Person – Jesus Himself.

He went on to say that Thomas had now seen God – though in the past it was determined that man shall not see Me and live. (Exodus 33:20, ESV) Let that sink in. The God who spoke the Universe, and all that is in it, into existence, was standing in human form, speaking face to face with an ordinary man…introducing Himself as truth.

“If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (John 8:31b-32, ESV)

Just like understanding the truth that she couldn’t hurt her Goliath of a horse set my camper free from her fear to enjoy the activity that had been planned for her fun, Jesus says that knowing Him, Truth, sets us free. Free from fear to live the life that He has orchestrated for our development, and also for our enjoyment.

How does He do it? Coming alongside and having a conversation with us. Speaking to us in a way we understand. And if you spend some time with Him, you’ll realize He’s wearing one of those “Hello, my name is…” tags. It says “Hello, My Name is Truth.”

Dialogue in the Dark

There we were – in Chick-fil-A Cow Van number 27, weaving through Downtown Atlanta traffic. It was nearly 3 o’clock – and we were supposed to be at Atlantic Station at 3. Why? Only the driver and the shotgun rider knew – they like surprises. We soon found out, though, as we were handed our tickets…

We were headed to Dialogue in the Dark. For those who don’t know (like me, at the time), it’s a pitch black experience that enables you to maneuver through the everyday routine of someone who is – you guessed it – completely blind. As you enter, you are given a white cane, and are led by a blind tour guide. The experience lasts for an hour, and takes you through a simulated grocery store, a park, on a cruise ship, across a street, and into a cafe, where your guide tells his or her unique story. My guide had only been blind for 18 months, losing his sight to diabetes. He answered our questions, and told us of the depression that followed his blindness – the emotional darkness that followed the physical.

So Jesus said to them, “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going.” – John 12:35, ESV

A friend recently texted me this verse, noting that pain follows darkness, and offered that if you’re struggling to keep a grip on the light, stand next to someone with the light and follow their example. It reminded me of this experience that I had in downtown Atlanta back in January…

Though my guide didn’t physically give light to the passageway, he was able to shed light on the experience because of his own. If I hadn’t have followed him, I would have been lost entirely. I wouldn’t have known where I was going. I followed his example, had my eyes opened to new lessons along the way, and eventually stepped out of the darkness that, at the time, seemed to be never-ending.

Ultimately, we have to follow Christ, who is the Light of the World (John 8:12), but when we follow Him, He makes us a part of His body – and He has so composed the body…that the members may have the same care for one another. (1 Corinthians 12:24-25) He has composed it so that when we are struggling, we can stand next to someone who has the light and follow their example.

Perhaps that’s why Paul said, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1, ESV)

Smiling Toyota

Ever see a face made from the taillights and bumper of the car in front of you? Like it’s smiling at you as its eyes light up when it’s driver taps the brakes? You know you have. Don’t deny it.

I was pulling out from class when I noticed that the Corolla in front of me had a small hole punched in its rear fender – like it had an off-center hole in its chin. Don’t ask me why I notice things like that, I just do. And my first thought?

“It has a mental foramen!”

It’s happened. I have officially studied a lit-tle too long. Perhaps I should explain.

The mental foramen is a small opening in the lower jaw of a human skull; actually there are two of them. Yes, you have them, and so do I. Foramen refers to a hole, and mental refers to the specific position of that hole anatomically. Why do I know this? And more importantly, why was that the first thing that popped into my head when I saw this blemished bumper?

Because I had just had an exam – a lab practical the night before, in my Anatomy & Physiology course, and had been studying the bones and features of the skull and vertebral column. It immediately came to mind because I had thoroughly studied the material, and quite honestly, continued to roll the information around in my head because I am fascinated by the course.

And this isn’t the first time it’s happened. You know how some people can see dragons or fluffy bunny shapes in the clouds? When I was studying biological cells and their structures, I saw cell shapes – in the clouds. When learning about the aquatic nitrogen cycle for one of my Aquaculture courses, I had dreams about the nitrogen cycle. I know some of this strangeness is due to the fact that secretly, I’m a slight science nerd. But it’s weird how our brains can recall stored information like that – at such random moments.

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. – Joshua 1:8, ESV

Meditation has been something that has been talked about quite a bit in my small group at church recently, and this slightly odd encounter with the smiling Toyota actually helped me see it a little better. Biblical mediation carries with it the notion of “thinking about continually,” going over and then back over material so that it is stored, ready for retrieval at opportune (or possibly slightly random) moments.

When I was preparing for my lab practical, I studied – I looked at pictures and diagrams from all different angles, drew, colored, labelled, Googled – you name it…over several weeks. I wanted to understand the big picture not just because I wanted to do well on the exam, but also because the subject intrigues me.

God wants me to do the same with His Word – to not just read, but look at it from all different angles. To draw, color, label – integrate His material into my mind not just so I can be careful to do all that is commanded, but because it intrigues me.

Quite a lesson from a little hole, and a smiling Toyota.

Lesson on Loneliness

The seventh floor hotel room in downtown Atlanta was dark except for the lamp in the corner; on the street below, a few lonely taillights passed. Where could they be headed at 1 o’clock in the morning? I slipped under the covers with my Bible and my journal, remembering with thankfulness the friend that had made it for me, and rustled the pages to Mark 6:45-51…

Immediately He made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while He dismissed the crowd [which happened to be the crowd of 5,000+ that He had fed with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish]. And after He had taken leave of them, He went up on the mountain to pray. And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and He was alone on the land.

And He saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, but when they saw Him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, for they all saw Him and were terrified.

 But immediately He spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” And He got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded…

 I’ve read this passage so many times, but that night, I could almost feel the spray of the waves on my face, smell the salty air, and hear the wind howling as it created a tumult of waves. And there was a sentence I had never noticed before…He meant to pass by them. Why? Why would Jesus mean to pass by His own when they needed Him?

I think the reason I saw this scene so vividly was because it was one very familiar to my heart – because it spoke of a loneliness and fear in the midst of others, even close friends. It spoke of disciples, who probably wondered where their God was, making headway – painfully – at the darkest time of the night, for the wind was against them.

You know, you can’t see wind – you can only feel it and see its effects.

 But what then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?  – Romans 8

But it doesn’t feel like God is for you when He’s on the shore and you’re in the middle of the sea – in the middle of the night when loneliness is the worst – when the rest of the world is quiet and dark, but doubts and accusations are causing surging waves that threaten to drown your spirit and your faith.

For when God made a promise, when He desired to show more convincingly the unchangeable character of His purpose, He guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul… – Hebrews 6

 But why did Jesus send them on ahead of Him to begin with? I don’t know. But when He was on the land, He saw them. Space and time couldn’t keep His eyes from them.

And why did Jesus mean to pass by His followers in this storm? Perhaps that’s not as important to notice as the fact that He immediately spoke to them when He heard their cries – and He detoured from wherever He was headed to calm their fears. He considered them worth stopping for.

And He got into the boat with them. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like He gets in the boat because the waves don’t always cease, but hindsight always shows that He was there. Maybe He’ll be on the shore praying, or walking on the water coming to save the day, or in the boat to calm with His presence, but He will always be there.

And perhaps it’s okay to be alone. Jesus Himself was alone at the beginning of this epic; Mark went through the trouble of pointing it out four times in three sentences. Just make it an “alone” with God. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8