7 weeks to go: the ups and possible Down’s of our Baby Button

Every once in awhile, there comes a time when you straight up have to cancel your life. Your cares, your responsibilities, the expectations placed upon you are bulldozed by reality, and you must deal with THIS THING for your own … Continue reading

How We Had a Kick-Ass Wedding (Without Kicking Our Wallet’s Ass!)

It’s not even the middle of January, and already, it seems that “wedding season” is beginning. (Did it ever really stop?)

I love weddings. And I’ve been to some pretty fantastic ones. But I have to be honest…my favourite one so far…was mine.

A lot of people know that we dated, got engaged, and married pretty quickly. For those who are new, it was the span of an entire 5 1/2 months. And only 9 WEEKS of it was spent planning the actual wedding. We didn’t have a lot of money. We didn’t have a lot of fancy ideas. We didn’t even have Pinterest. And yet, our special day was an event that friends still talk about with fondness.

Now that our time is over, and more friends are joining the revelry, they’ve started to ask our secrets. I will gladly divulge them here, through many a picture and story. Because everyone deserves to know that they don’t need $20,000+, or the best food, or the highest-rated photographer (although, we lucked out MAJORLY, as you’re about to see!).

1. I found my wedding dress at Value Village, a good two years before I was even close to getting married.

Did you know that, on average, all wedding dresses at VV cost only $130? Some of them are truly hideous, and unless you’re a skilled seamstress with a fantastic vision in mind of what it COULD be, you should try them on just for a laugh. That’s how I found mine – I was having one of those silly, fun shopping days with my ladies – where I wanted to try everything on without actually buying any of it. You know, that Best Customer of the Day Award.
As we all know, VV can offer some pretty great finds, and I was having a ball as my girlfriends brought me costume after costume. And then, the fateful words left my lips: “Hey, one of you should go find a wedding dress! That would be hilarious!”

Next thing I knew, Michelle brought back this pure white cloud of gloriousness, and I was sure of 3 things: a.) It was not common VV fare, b.) It wasn’t “my type” and c.) it wouldn’t fit anyway.

I was only right about one thing.

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It was one of those moments where you could feel the magic falling upon the room. I opened the door…the ladies gasped…I saw myself in the full-length mirror…was in shock for awhile…had complete strangers, including men, coming up to me, saying, “I don’t know who you are, I don’t know your life, but honey, you need to buy this dress.

So, I did. With the wallets of all my ladies combined. (I was totally just gonna do it myself, but they insisted. This was a great foreshadowing of situations to come.)

And then… almost two years went by. That magnificent little dress hovered in the closet like a ghost, wondering if it would ever fulfill its purpose.
And then…one week into the planning of the Big Day, I tried it on again.

It didn’t fit. I would have had a heart attack, except that the dress, in its tightness, prevented my heart from going anywhere.

2. A very skilled seamstress and a little box of Dryel go a long way.

Our wedding colours were red, black and white. When my very-skilled-seamstress friend Jeannette saw that my dream dress no longer fit, 8 weeks before the Big Day, she just laughed and said, “Oh, I’ll fix that.”

But first, we noticed it should be drycleaned. I tried to calculate another $200 into the budget, until Jeannette, once again, saved the day with her wisdom. For $25, I bought a box of something magic called Dryel. You put your items into the Dryel bag, tumble it in the dryer and voila! You’ve just dry-cleaned your own clothes.

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As for making my dress fit without making me lose 10 pounds over night…a red panel with a black lace-up was found to be extremely forgiving and super matchy-matchy.

(What are we at now? Dress $130 + Dryel $25 + Alterations $100 = $255. Who do you know that has spent $255 on their wedding dress? ME.)

3. Keep it simple, silly.

We each chose 3 close friends to be a member of the wedding party. There wasn’t really a “best” of anyone. For their Big Day outfits, I told the girls, “Just use whatever little black dress and red high heels you might already happen to have in your closet.” I honestly didn’t care. I like variety, and I think making every girl wear the exact same style of a pre-chosen dress could potentially be asking for trouble.
It couldn’t have gone better if I planned it myself.

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Since we found a mother lode of Red Converse at Army & Navy for $14.99 a piece, we told the boys we’d take care of that, as well as their red suspenders and red bow ties. All they would need to come up with is a long-sleeved black button-up shirt and black dress pants. They accomplished this with utmost flair, and our wedding gift to them was taken care of. BOOM.

Now when it came to actually finding bow ties and suspenders, that proved a little more challenging. We only found stores that carried one thing or the other, not both. And even though we liked variety, we kiiiinda wanted the reds to be the same on these particular accessories.

So we prayed a little, made some phone calls, took some chances AND!

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Van Halen fans, take note.

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Between Le Chateau (I ❤ you 4ever!) and Black & Lee, we managed to find 4 sets of suspenders and 3 bow ties, ALL the same beautiful cherry-red colour. If that doesn’t make you believe in God, I don’t know what will.

(Money Tally: $255 dress + $60/4 pairs of shoes + $70/4 suspenders & 3 bow ties + $50 special Van Halen tie = $435.)

4. Do it outdoors.

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If you have a willing friend with a big backyard, you can forget about paying to rent a church or a hall or a courthouse etc. What about the weather, though, am I right? Well, again, I prayed my butt off, and I got NOT ONLY the sunniest, warmest day in Northern BC in late September BUT I got the sunniest, warmest WEEK leading up to the Big Day in Northern BC in late September. The very next day, it rained buckets. I’m telling you, prayer gets shit done.

**We did have a big white tent on stand-by, just in case.

5. You’d be surprised at what $200 at a flower shop can get you.

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Plus 3 small bouquets and 7 boutonnieres. We set our budget, stuck to it, got the simplest arrangements, and had an amazingly accomodating florist. (Shout-out to Larkspur Floral Design & Gift Baskets in Smithers, BC!)

6. Make it a Facebook event.

I know, it’s SO not classy or pretty, but doing our invitations this way accomplished so many things: a.) time-crunch proof RSVP, b.) a list of names you can always easily access, c.) update-able to all guests if any information changes, d.) paper-free. That being said, sometimes, getting some people to actually RSVP on time is like pulling teeth. Therefore, I’m going to add an e.) with one click of a button, you can private message ALL of your guests with a gentle reminder to RSVP…and then again a couple weeks later with an even gentler reminder to RSVP….

7. Catering shmatering.

One of the BIGGEST costs for a wedding is the FOOD. Can I suggest a potluck? Once you have your easily-accessible guest list on Facebook, NOW you can message them about what they can bring to the table! (Once they’ve finally made up their mind and RSVP’d, of course.) If anyone in the wedding party has an deathly allergy *coughcoughMyGroomcoughcough*, make this specifically known so that it won’t get tossed into the food by accident. Or, your guests can make that dish and put a VERY CLEAR sign next to it that details any potential allergens.

Having a potluck was so fun for us! Friends got so creative with all different kinds of appies and main dishes, with some different ethnic tastes thrown in!

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Turns out that my super-skilled-seamstress friend Jeannette is also a super-skilled-wedding-cake-maker. She threw this in as a GIFT.

On that note…

8. Know the Power of the Nifty-Gifty.

Delegating and gifting is a magical combination. If you ask someone to provide a service for you, ie: that gorgeous wedding cake, tell them that this can be their gift to you and they don’t need to bring anything else. (It really only works if a FRIEND is providing the service, haha.) Because of our adopted family and actual family’s generosity, we didn’t have to pay for the majority of renting the hall, the cake, the wine, the table centrepieces (double duty of our main photographer…man, do I know some talented people or what?) or the food. You don’t want your day to be remembered by how expensive it looked, but by how much love was poured into it. And man, we had buckets.

9. Take the Plunge…and Hire a Decorator.

Doing this made us a little nervous financially, but in the end, it was SO worth it. I can’t stress this enough. For $725, we received a GORGEOUS hall for the night AND we didn’t have to clean any of it up afterwards. Between the decorator, a few volunteers from our guests and a small donation to a 4-H club, the Round Lake Hall was returned to its normal state, and we didn’t have to worry about a thing. After all the fun we had, we were exhausted, and cleaning was the last thing we wanted to do. It’ll be the last thing you want to do too.

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Image10. Take another, littler plunge and hire a professional make-up/hair artist as well.

I didn’t really feel that this could actually be important but when I got to the end of my Big Day and I realized that my hair was still in place and my make-up was still on, I knew I’d made the right decision.
Mine and the girls’ make-up was done by my former youth pastor’s wife Kim. She’s gone to Hollywood and given make-overs to celebrities, yet she chooses to grace Smithers with her beautiful presence. She’s kind of a big deal.
And then Allison, another church friend, made a house-call with a baby to do our hair. We didn’t really know what we wanted, but we tried to describe it verbally, and she took it and ran with it like a champ.

**Believe it or not, your wedding day is kind of like being in a play or a movie. Not in the sense that you’re performing for everyone there, but there is a definite element of “costume”, “design,” “lighting,” “photography” and “make-up.” Having artists there who do this sort of thing for a living are invaluable. Your wedding photos will have a huge difference too. Hence, why I also decided to get the false eyelashes for myself and the girls. Now you can actually see our eyes, hurray! (And by purchasing the make-overs/hair-do’s for them, my wedding gift to them was also done, double hurray!)

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Michelle has make-up, I do not. Helloooo, lighting difference!

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And helloooo Bride!      ImageImage

(Money Tally: $435 + $200 flowers + $735 decorator + $400 make-up/hair= $1,770)

11. Have a few photographers, who are just starting out.

You’ll get different points of view of your Big Day from each one, and if you’ve seen their pictures already and you like them, who cares if they’re “new”? It’ll cut your costs way down from choosing someone who has been established for a long time, with a company name. We had 3 photographers, all friends, 2 who made their photos a “gifty”, one who was 8 months pregnant and also made our centrepieces as a “gifty.” We got her a hefty Starbucks card. (Now, 16 months later, she’s one of the most requested photographers in Smithers – and we were her first wedding! I hope she’s charging a lot more now; she deserves it.)

12. Make a photo-guestbook!

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$30, Shoppers Drug Mart, boom you’re done. Now you have a photo album with everyone’s lovely comments and it’ll last forever.

(Money Tally: $1,250.)

13. Be KIND to yourself.

It’s a Big Day. Even if it’s the funnest thing to ever happen to you (which for me, it was), there’s going to be adrenaline and rush and hugging/talking/shaking hands with everyone who came to see you.

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EAT SOMETHING. THROUGHOUT THE DAY.

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TAKE THESE DAMN THINGS OFF.

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AND PUT THESE DAMN THINGS ON.

Drink water frequently, take deep breaths, don’t be hungover. It’s that simple.

14. Get married and make merry!

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15. Realize that you are just getting started.

Sure, we only paid roughly $2,000. Sure, we had a lot of things handed to us and got our socks blessed off. That doesn’t mean that every day since then has been easy or inexpensive. Sometimes I look at these pictures and don’t recognize myself in them anymore. But I always go back to this day when I forget who I am or why I’m here. Love, and the Journey; that’s it. “Where you invest your love, you invest your life.”  A Wedding Day is important, but a Marriage is even more important. You might have been King and Queen for the day, but if you don’t have real love in your hearts and lives, it means nothing.

So prepare for your day, save your money, call your friends. Or forget everything I just listed and elope. I don’t care. Just make sure that when you say “I do,” you say “I do” to all of it. Cause there’s gonna be a lot of it. And this glorious day…

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…will turn into this quiet moment.

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And all of it…the highs and lows, shocking twists and throat-gulping turns, the turbulent sea at rest after a storm…all of it will be good, good, good. Just let your heart keep beating Love…the Journey…Love…the Journey…Love…the Journey.

xo Carly

** MAJORLY NECESSARY UPDATE**

I cannot believe I forgot about this.

16. “Do you have the wing?”

clergymanpbride2

 

 

 

The way our wedding rings came to be is one of my favourite parts of this story.

As I have mentioned before, Steve was once-upon-a-time engaged to someone that we tenderly call Voldemort.

After she left him 6 weeks before their wedding for his groomsman, AND after a 4 month spiel that resembled a train wreck, Steve found himself with a pair of her rings that he just didn’t want to deal with quite yet. He packed them up in their little boxes, intending to pawn them eventually.

A year and a half later, he showed them to me. They were beautiful, thought up from his brain with the help of Spence Diamonds. In other words, they had not been cheap.

Looking at them, I felt sad for him, but hopeful for us. If we pawned them, perhaps they would bring in enough money for us to purchase our own. We both agreed that it was time for this chapter to be closed, to start a new one.

And then, believe it or not, my mom came up with this brilliant idea: we knew a really cool jeweler in Smithers who was gaining experience and reputation by the day. What if he could melt them down and make brand new rings out of them?

beautiful colorful sunset with sun rays

HAAAAH-LAY-LU-YAHHHH!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a few email exchanges, one in-person computer design sesh, and one weekend, Gaelen Van Gorkom gave us these:

wedding rings2 wedding rings

 

 

 

 

 

And that was just his first time melting down an already existing ring and making a new one. Now, he does it regularly, and he’s pretty spectacular. (Also, his original designs are out of the world amazing.) And because we already had the materials, he only charged us for the labour, even going so far as to throw an extra diamond in my ring for free when the design called for an extra.

Steve and I love our rings. We feel naked without them, actually. I think we would love them on a normal basis, but knowing their Phoenix-Rising-From-The-Ashes origin story makes them even more treasured.

Thank you, Handmade Engagement Rings – thank you, Gaelen. And hey, THANK YOU, VOLDEMORT. Without you and your hurty ways, we would not be lovin’ this journey we’re on today.

How I Became a Jesus Feminist Without Really Trying

ImageSome of you may have seen this photo on my Facebook and Instagram feed yesterday, and I can almost hear the collective nods across the interwebs that affirm, “Yes, I know exactly what and who you’re talking about!” but I’m betting there are still more going, “Huh?”

I’ll start from the beginning.

Last June, my best and longest friend Laurie was here for a visit. When we’re apart, we’re constantly sharing things on each other’s walls, things that we just know the other person will love because we love it and it’s awesome. (Our adventures on Bitstrips are our newest obsession.) And when we’re together, like we were for a week this summer, we spend mornings drinking our warm cuppa’s while browsing the sites that we love so much, sharing them together.

One morning, she started mentioning a name. Sarah Bessey.

“Who’s that?” I said.

“You don’t know who Sarah Bessey is?! She lives practically down the street from you! OMG I have so many blogs to show you!”

Thus began my journey that would lead me here, to this newly found Jesus Feminism. Since that fateful June day, I have been reading all of Sarah’s updates faithfully and laughing or crying or pumping my fist with each one of them. She’s like a literary soul mate. The fact that we do live literally only an hour away from each other is both amazing and heartbreaking. So close and yet still so far!

Anyhow, through my reading of her, I’ve learned that for the past while, she’s been writing a book called Jesus Feminist. And it just released yesterday. As you might imagine, in certain circles, the title would be a little hair-raising. But to a mischievous person such as myself, it intrigues me.

Now before I can fully relate why I KNOW I’m a Jesus Feminist, I must share a sad little story.

In the excitement of this book release, I made that above photo, knowing and believing that TODAY I was going to possibly meet Sarah Bessey. Her first stop in her book release tour is at Relate Church in Surrey, a mere 20 minutes from my house. I looked it up and dropped a pin on it. The only thing I couldn’t find was what time it started. I looked all over Sarah’s page, the Relate Church website, and found nothing. As soon as I could, which was only this morning because I HAVE BEEN SO CONSUMED WITH LUSH TRAINING LATELY AND NOTHING ELSE, I phoned the church office to see if they knew anything.

They did. And when I called, it was just starting, ending at 11:30am, which at the time I wrote this, was one minute ago.

I don’t know why I assumed it would be an evening event, but I did. So I didn’t insure my car or try to find a bus route or call a friend. I was totally unprepared and now my dream is derailed. Sometimes, being an adult is hard.

So, to ease the pain and self-pity, I’ve put Ed Sheeran’s “+” album on in the background, and now I’m excited to share my heart on this touchy issue.

Why am I a Jesus Feminist?

Because I believe that Jesus loves women. And girls and ladies and LGs and chicks and broads and crones and dames and housewives and powersuits and singles and everything in between.

Because I don’t believe that I have to choose between being a Christian or being a feminist.

Because I am a woman and I love Jesus and I think women are one of the most beautiful creations I’ve ever laid my eyes on and God created them and how can that not be connected?

It’s really that simple.

However, I also believe that the words feminism and feminist have been slightly corrupted.

When I call myself a feminist, I am not calling men inferior. I am not hating men.

I am merely saying that, in my way of thinking, men and women are equal, in beauty and strength and skills and wonder and words and power. And I think Jesus and Sarah Bessey would say the same thing.

How dare do I presume to speak for Jesus, right?

Allow me to introduce 3 women to you that I just adore, possibly because they so mirror image my own life and I’m biased that way — and I think you’ll find that my presumption is actually proof.

1. Jael, housewife, Old Testament.

If you read the Bible enough times, you’ll start to discover a pattern – at least, in the Old Testament. It goes like this: people are enslaved or warred upon, they cry out, God saves them, they serve him for awhile, they forget what he did, they start breaking his laws and serving other gods, slavery and war and crying out and saving starts all over again.
So Israel’s got a lot of armies and strong men going off to fight these wars on a pretty regular basis. But two particular villains named King Jabin and his Captain Sisera had everyone shaking in their boots, including the Israelite’s army leader guy named Barak. (Judges 4)

A woman named Deborah (who is also pretty awesome in my opinion) was a prophetess in the land. She was revered and listened to the world over. When I picture her in my head, I kinda think Galadriel from Lord of the Rings. Beautiful, majestic, all-knowing, and you don’t really wanna mess with her.

Deborah goes to Barak and says, “Hey, I know King Jabin and Captain Sisera are a royal pain in the ass, but God has told me that if you go into battle against them, you will win. It’s a guarantee, so don’t be afraid. See ya.”
But Barak was like, “No way dude. I’ll go into battle but not without you by my side, kay? Thanks.”
Deborah, gracious and mighty woman that she is, says, “Okay. I’ll go with you. But because you refused to take God’s promise, your victory will be given to the hands of a woman.”

Oh snap.

So the battle happens, and somehow Captain Sisera escapes the battlefield! He goes into hiding, choosing a certain tent for refuge. It was the tent of Jael, whose husband was away fighting the war WITH King Jabin and Captain Sisera. Sisera thought he would be welcomed there, right?

Big mish-take.

Jael, secretly sympathetic to the oppression of Israel, is going about her daily housework, but turns on the charm and welcomes the Captain into her tent. He asks for water to refresh himself. She gives him milk. Why? Because he’s an honoured guest! He deserves milk! And also…

It will make him sleepy.

Sure enough, when he’s crashed out on the ground, Jael very calmly picks up a tent peg and a mallet and pounds it into his fricken head, killing him instantly. Can you imagine? Talk about a not-clean death. In this day, something like that would make the news and would portray Jael as a psychopath of Dexter-like proportions. Lock that woman away so we can all sleep better, please. But Barak and Deborah and all of Israel wrote songs about her.

I think Jael was just tired. She’d been seeing an innocent Israel be oppressed and enslaved for 20 odd years by her own evil people, and I believe God moved her heart and she decided to get shit done. That battle went down in history with not Barak or even Deborah as the victor, but Jael.

When I think of my picture that says I am an immigrant; I am a survivor, I think of Jael. In my very own special way, I got tired. Tired of living in fear, being oppressed, having no future. And one day, I decided to take a stand and make my case against the powers-that-be and I won. I am an immigrant, I am a survivor and I am a Jesus Feminist.

2. Mary, the mother of Jesus, New Testament.

This one’s kind of obvious. Mary has had a pretty prominent pedestal for the past 2000 years, but sometimes I think we forget that realistically, she was probably only about 13 or 14 years old. Having a baby. In a cold, shitty barn with a man she’d barely met — get this, with a man that she was expected to spend the rest of her life with, who had not impregnated her. She skipped all of that! Considered a woman, yet still very much a girl. (Luke 2)

I know plenty of 14 year old girls, and the thought of them experiencing what Mary did gives me shivers. The doula-heart in me breaks for the agony and ecstasy of birth that she lived through with Joseph the stranger, who was probably very helpful in his own way, I imagine. But this life was not inflicted upon her. She chose it. She said yes when God asked her permission, and her life was never the same.

A number of years ago, I wrote a song called Hail Mary, relating how her life and my life are so different and yet they are the same in so many ways. Here are some of the words.

In this world, it’s so hard to be faithful. In this world, it’s so hard to be strong. In this world, I can’t compete with what’s required of me, how much simpler would it be…In your world, the future was so fragile. In your world, deliverance seemed so far. In your world, all you had was strength and faith unseen in a lost society. Did you pray for the Saviour to come to a world that was undone? Did you know you were the one? And did you cry when you realized the truth that the Lord had chosen you to bear the one we all needed? I tell you, girl, if that was me, I would have run away. I guess he knew what you were made of when he came to you that day…So here I sit in my content little world, and I have my doubts and my complaints. I don’t really know what my future holds and I struggle with that every day. And there you were at such a tender age with your entire life before you, and when it fell apart, you said, “Let it be. Let it be. Let it be.”

So when I say I am a doula, I think of Mary. I think of the power and nourishment that women possess to not only grow a child within themselves, but also to get it out. And my heart breaks and prays for those who have struggled their whole lives to know what any of that miracle feels like. I hope you know that whether you are a mother of earthside babies or heavenside babies or no babies at all, that God holds you close to his heart. Your worth to him is not held in what you can or can’t create, but in what you already are.  I am a doula, one day I hope to be a mother, and I am a Jesus Feminist.

Now for my favourite woman of all.

3. Unknown, “unclean sinner”, New Testament.

I’m not a scholar in all of the Jewish culture, but from what I understand, every family that could afford it gave their daughters a box made of alabaster stone, filled with precious oils and perfumes. It was to be kept unopened until the girl was married, and then she would give it to her new husband, as a dowry of sorts.

So one night, Jesus and his followers were eating a meal together at someone’s house, as they often did. Now these followers were all outcasts of society to some degree or other. Jesus was famous for spending time with people who didn’t fit the status quo of the perfectly-righteous-on-the-outside. In this setting, I’m pretty sure it was Jesus who first said, “Haters gonna hate.”

So they’re hanging out eating, and suddenly this woman comes in, approaching Jesus and everyone else starts freaking out. “What is she doing? She’s touching Jesus? JESUS IS LETTING HER TOUCH HIM. She’s crying and pouring perfume all over his head, wasting such a costly thing, she’s so unclean and is trying to drag him down with her, we’ve got to stop this.”

But they barely get a word out against her before Jesus rebukes them, telling them to leave her alone, and that she’s committing a beautiful act of sacrifice and worship.

We have a few blanks to fill in about who this woman was and why she did what she did. I would imagine that judging by the crowd’s reaction that she had probably been a prostitute in the past. Perhaps she knew that she would never find anyone to marry her, so she took that precious alabaster box and gave it to Jesus instead as thanks and worship to him for forgiving her past and making her new again. Never mind the bravery it took to even enter that room to begin with. To hear the scolding of all these other men and maybe women, casting judgment on her even though they weren’t exactly saints themselves. (Luke 7:36-50)

So when I say I am a wife, I think of this unknown woman. She had no hope of becoming a wife, but she gave all that she valued to Jesus anyway. And Jesus did not turn her away or look down on her or see her as a woman and therefore inferior – he blessed her, he forgave her, he thanked her, he loved her.
And even though he has given me a husband who loves me and forgives me and blesses me and thanks me every day, I still need to give my heart, my valuables, my precious possessions to him, even if it’s painful or embarrassing or hard. He created me to be in a relationship with me, and I will do everything I can to say yes every day.

It’s funny…all of these accounts I shared have varying degrees of sexism in them, did you notice?
Jael, Mary and Little Miss Unknown and others like Esther, Ruth, Rahab, Miriam and even more were bound by a culture that considered them to be not much more than property. I think that’s where some people misread God’s heart towards women. What they don’t realize is that God didn’t create that culture, other people and laws from generation upon generation did. And he used each one of those women to go ABOVE and BEYOND the culture they were in, to be scandalously noticed, to be holy troublemakers, to be brave and soft and able to do hard things with his heart inside of them. I see myself in each one of them, and I want to see myself in each one of them.

So for all of my 26 years, I have believed this about women and the Bible and Jesus. But yesterday, I became something a little more. I joined a community of women AND men who are brave enough to say “I am a Jesus Feminist, ask me why!” And so I thank Sarah Bessey for giving us a voice, a place, a cause and a name. The nations will rise up and call you blessed.

Warrior-ing on,

Carly xo