Dating Through the Engagement

One thing I definitely wasn’t prepared for during our season of engagement was how often I wouldn’t see Jody. Most of my time, outside of work, consists of working on the wedding in some shape or form, and most of his evenings are spent at the university where he is taking his graduate classes. Especially with the number of weddings we attended this fall (we love y’all, but three wedding weekends in a row was exhausting!), we seldom had time for just us. We would try to plan one night a week to curl up on the couch and watch a movie, but we would typically end up multitasking through the entire movie — him, reading through social work articles and me, building our wedding website. So much for uninterrupted time.

It turns out that we weren’t the only couple to experience this. A number of my couple friends say that they seem to see each other less after the proposal. While this made me feel better that it wasn’t just me, it still doesn’t help with the stress that we have to deal with, especially when we don’t get that one-on-one time that we want.

We are no experts, but Jody and I have gotten better on making time for us, even in the midst of this busy season. It takes a little bit of planning, and also a little bit spontaneity, which we both excel at in our own ways. Here are a couple of examples of mini date nights that we did, and I hope they’ll inspire you to make time for them too!

  1. Dinner and a Movie: Jody and I love going to the movies, even though it doesn’t happen all that often. He is a huge Star Wars fan, so I surprised him a couple weeks ago with pre-ordered tickets to go see Rogue One. Pre-ordering the tickets may have been the best decision I’ve ever made — there were no lines to wait it, and it forced us to go, even though it felt easier to bail and just stay home. It was a much needed date night, in the middle of the holiday rush!
  2. Wedding Tasks Date Night: One of the best pieces of advice I’ve received thus far is to turn your registry event into a date. We decided to do our registry early, so that family could work from our registry as ideas for Christmas gifts. On one of the few free weekends we had, we headed to Annapolis to begin our registry. We took a break in between the two stores for dinner. It was a nice break from talking about the wedding to instead focusing on our first home we will have together!
  3. Exploring Local Attractions: This was one of our favorite weekend activities when we were in Richmond. There was so much rich history surrounding that area that I was so interested in seeing. After we moved to Maryland, Jody was disappointed we no longer had our miles of trails, but I was excited to show him nearby places that I spent time visiting. One weekend this fall, we made the quick drive to the ocean, where I introduced him to Rehoboth Beach; the beach town I grew up going to in the summers. We have a list of places nearby that we are going to explore next!
  4. Middle-of-the-Week Dinner Date: Jody has, by far, mastered this mini date night. On more than one occasion, I’ve come home from work to him saying “Let’s go out to dinner tonight”. My little planning heart has a minor heart attack as I think about the food I’ve already bought to prepare, but every single time, it has been so worth it. Whether it is just to Chipotle, the pub or a fancier dinner, spending an hour and a half together, uninterrupted, has reenergized our relationship.

When we are on these dates, we try our best to stick to the rule of “no wedding talk”, to try to soak up as many moments of just us as possible. Of course, sometimes that doesn’t always work, but going into each date with the goal of focusing on our relationship and each other has helped us to continue to grow as a couple through the hectic season of our life.

What dates have you and your partner enjoyed? Let me know in the comments below. I can’t wait to hear some more ideas!



MEP to MEC: Six Months to Go

I can’t believe that Jody and I have been engaged for a whole six months already! While it sometimes feels like I still have a million things to do, I know that I’ve made a lot of big decisions already! Here is a quick update of all of the fun things that we have accomplished so far:

July 2016 (11 months to go):

  • Began gathering ideas and parts of our story we want to incorporate in the details
  • Booked our officiant! This was actually the first wedding related decision we made. We asked my uncle, an ordained pastor in the Methodist church, if he would officiate our ceremony, when Jody met him for the first time on vacation!
  • Visited four venues and booked reception venue
  • Set our wedding date!
Completing the brainstorming section of my Southern Weddings planner, while on vacation in North East, Pennsylvania.

August 2016 (10 months to go):

  • Asked our gals and gents to be a part of our wedding party!
  • Booked our ceremony venue

September 2016 (9 months to go):

  • Took our engagement pictures in Richmond, VA
  • I said YES to my dress!
  • Attended my first bridal show
After trying on 60 gowns at three different stores, I found the dress I’m getting married in!

October 2016 (8 months to go):

  • Booked our photographer
  • Met with caterers
  • Started our wedding registry
  • Tried on wedding bands

November 2016 (7 months to go):

  • Hosted a mini Bridesmaid brunch
  • Went bridesmaids dress shopping with all my girls (More to come on this)
  • Booked our caterer!
  • Met with a DJ

December 2016 (6 months to go):

  • Booked our DJ
  • Ordered our save the dates
  • Bought my veil and went MOB dress shopping
  • Celebrated our first engaged Christmas!

The past six months has flown by! I’m trying to cherish every second of the rest of our engagement, but I cannot wait to begin married life with Jody!

Merry Christmas!

15726627_615986618526137_2417396782091924053_n.jpgMerry Christmas to all! I hope this season brings you peace, love, joy and hope for the year ahead. I am excited to celebrate my first engaged Christmas, but am cherishing every moment of the weekend, as next year, I’ll be a Mrs. and won’t necessarily be waking up in my parents’ home. Take some time to sit back and capture a moment, whether that be with a camera, or by putting every detail from this special time in the back of your mind. You never know how much that memory may mean one day.

Keep your heart and soul focused on the meaning of Christmas:

The Birth of Jesus

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Merry Christmas, friends!

Creating an Inspiration Board

I wasn’t originally planning on sharing this, but after seeing how helpful it has been thus far, I felt that it may be helpful to you as well! I’ve always had a relative idea of what my wedding would look like, but that image has also changed drastically over the past few years (At one point, I wanted a beach wedding!). I had read about inspiration boards, but figured that my Pinterest board was good enough. I was way wrong.

Shortly before I got engaged, I had already started sifting through the images on my Pinterest dream wedding board (yes, we all have one prior to meeting THE ONE) and getting rid of the ideas that were no longer relevant. Even so, by the time it came to planning my real wedding, I was completely overwhelmed by the amount of ideas I had saved, and the lack of a budget, time, or space to execute them in a cohesive manner.

I read suggestions on several wedding blogs, and encouraged by my wedding planner, to create an inspiration board, filled with images, fabrics, foods — any details that inspires the look for our wedding. We had already come up with three words that I wanted to describe the whole event: rustic southern romance. I took those words, the color palette I had in mind and headed to Pinterest to begin the quest of gathering images that reflected what I hoped our wedding would look and feel like.

The hardest part wasn’t finding the images, but rather, narrowing it down into a cohesive college. I only had so much space to include these pictures in my planner, and too many images made me as overwhelmed as my Pinterest wedding board. I decided to narrow it down and only include 8 pictures. Here is a sneak peek at what I came up with!

I decided to pick one picture from the areas that I felt were most important to our overall look. I included bridesmaid dress, a wedding dress, reception look, decor and flowers. While we already knew we were hosting the reception in a barn, I decided to keep that image in the college because I wanted to keep the feel of twinkle lights and a soft summer breeze in mind while planning! I, of course, had to include barrels considering our winery venue.

These pictures aren’t meant to be the be-all, end-all decision makers as you plan your day. Rather, it is suppose to give you a little push in the right direction when you have a million options spread out in front of you. You may go into wedding planning thinking you want one thing (especially when it comes to dress shopping), but you come out with an entire different look. That’s okay! The best thing about this board is it keeps me sane when I start to second guess decisions. I am sure to refer back to it when I start to become overwhelmed. It forces me to look at the bigger picture, and realize that one decision doesn’t determine the course of your day. Marrying your best friend is the ultimate decision, but it doesn’t hurt to celebrate surrounded by soft and pretty flowers in the meantime.

Have you tried creating an inspiration board? Tell me about it in the comments below!

Our Engagement Pictures

For those of you that remember, I was a tad hesitant about Jody’s idea to get our pictures taken for a friend who was trying to build his portfolio [see proposal]. I was set on having our engagement pictures taken at Randolph-Macon College, so when it came time to discuss engagement pictures, we had half of the work already done!

We were a little unconventional in terms of choosing a photographer for this shoot. We knew we wanted our engagement pictures in Virginia, but we also knew we were planning a wedding in Maryland. We considered booking a Virginia photographer, and then paying travel fees for them to shoot the wedding, or booking a Maryland photographer, and then paying for them to come to Virginia for the engagement pictures. But when it came down to it, we had limited time to make that decision, and I didn’t have time to book our wedding photographer right that minute. The hardest part was choosing someone in our time frame: we were set on having our engagement pictures in Richmond, but had 15 days before we were moving to Maryland. Our weekends in the fall were already booked with weddings, so we had one weekend that would work to get our “late summer” engagement pictures completed!

As Jody grew up in the area, I asked him to help with our search. We ended up coming across a girl he went to high-school with, who just moved back to the area, and was a photographer on the side! We met her to discuss what we wanted, and to decide if we wanted her to take our pictures. She was down-to-earth, a quality we really wanted in our photographer. We liked the pictures she had taken, and she let us be in control of a good portion of our shoot! Here’s some of our favorites:

We were able to get pictures taken at R-MC and in downtown Richmond — the city where we experience the first few years of adult life together! There wasn’t a better place to capture us in our state of engaged bliss. Thanks so much to Ashley Edmunds Photography for these fantastic images! We are so grateful that we have these pictures that capture our love story in the towns we fell in love in.

Choosing Our Wedding Venue

Back in high school, I had made a pact with myself that I would never buy a wedding magazine until I was engaged, to make the period of engagement even sweeter (Of course, that didn’t stop me from sitting in the aisles of Target or Barnes and Noble flipping through every beautifully laid out page). But, now I was actually engaged, and was too nervous to start planning the day I’ve dreamed about since I was a little girl! We were on cloud nine, and I was afraid that we would lose that excitement by starting the planning process.

For the first few weeks of our engagement, we did very little planning–just soaked in the state of bliss that we were in. Fortunately, we had already planned vacation, which began shortly after the proposal. We decided to just stick our toes into the beginning stages of planning, while we were relaxing on vacation. We stayed at an adorable little bed and breakfast off of Lake Erie. We spent a few mornings in a gazebo that overlooked the lake, with a couple of the magazine we were gifted as engagement gifts. We talked about how excited we were, what we imagined our married life as, and ways to incorporate our love story into our wedding.

By the time we returned, we had some ideas of what we were looking for in terms of the theme and feel of our wedding. We wanted a more casual affair; with a smaller guest list that had the feel of a big family gathering. I knew that I wanted southern hospitality to be at the core of the day, with a rustic flair. I had always dreamed of getting married in my hometown, so it became time to start looking for venues near home.

I started by searching for all of the venues within 30 minutes of my church. I had just assumed that I would be married in my church, and as locations are more spread out on the shore, I didn’t want our guests having a long commute between the two venues. There are a surplus of waterfront venues to choose from, but considering half of them were out of my budget, I felt that waterfront reception, while beautiful, wouldn’t fully match our rustic theme.

Ideally, I imagined an elegant, rustic barn venue, complete with high ceilings, and wooden beams galore. I also imagined that finding this perfect venue would be easy, as I was planning a wedding in a very rural area. Much to my surprise (and to my dismay), there was only one venue in my area that could work, but it was too small and too expensive for my event. I started to worry that I would have to settle on my dream venue.

While we were on vacation a few weeks prior, we went to a beautiful little winery in upstate Ohio that we joked would be perfect for the wedding.It wasn’t until my mom called me the night before I was suppose to drive up to go “venue shopping” that we realized we never considered looking at wineries to hold the reception. There were two in the area that were big enough to hold weddings: Layton’s Chance and Harvest Ridge Winery. I made last minute appointments for a tour at these vineyards, in addition to local classics, The Tidewater Inn, and The Evergreen.  I packed my bag, grabbed my wedding planner, hopped in the car and headed to Maryland.

As Jody had to work, and since I still had some vacation days I needed to use, my mom volunteered to go venue shopping with me. I met her at my parents’ home, and took a short drive to Harvest Ridge Winery.

I almost knew that was my reception venue the second it appeared around the bend. Surrounded by rows of grapevines was a barn, a small courtyard, and a smaller building with large windows on the right. It was like God looked at my wedding inspiration board, and put a winery I’ve never heard of just 20 miles away from my hometown. I was ready to book the building before we even walked in!

After a tour and wine tasting, we stopped by my childhood church, St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, just to see if the wedding date we had in mind was available. My current church is 30 minutes away, and I never could picture getting married there, even as beautiful as Immanuel Lutheran is. We were able to pop in the sanctuary, taking a peek down memory lane, as I spent the first 14 years of my life growing up in that church. I opened up the big, wooden doors in the back of the sanctuary, and for the first time,  pictured Jody at the end of the aisle as my groom. I had a feeling that I was standing in the room where I would marry my best friend, but I still had a couple other venues to visit!

The Tidewater Inn is a classic venue, here on the shore. It has two elegant ballrooms, that have enough personality, decor would be minimal, and an outdoor option in the middle of the small-town hustle and bustle. All of the wedding portraits I’ve seen at the Tidewater were stunning. Plus, the food is phenomenal. I never imagined getting married there, as it is quite expensive, but it was so fun to go tour the rooms, and imagine hosting our wedding at this classy location.

We headed further down the shore to another winery. It might have been the hottest day of summer, thus far, but it made imagining my beginning of summer wedding even easier. With a sweet glass of wine in hand, we toured this beautiful facility, which included a ceremony location in the middle of the vineyard! As much as I loved the uniqueness of this winery, it was pretty far from most things, including my church. I really didn’t want my guests to have a long commute between the ceremony and reception, and since I wanted to have the ceremony in a church, Layton’s Chance Winery just wasn’t a match.

Our last stop was at Evergreen Easton Point, which is a health and well-being facility, on a serene waterfront property. The views were breathtaking, and I imagine even more so during sunset. However, I did worry about that amount of mosquitoes that would be present in late June, on the riverbank, as well as the lack of inclimate weather options for our guests.

I had a pretty good idea of which venue options we would choose, but I promised I wouldn’t make any decisions without Jody’s approval. One week later, I brought Jody back to St. Luke’s and Harvest Ridge Winery, where we decided without hesitation that we would be married on June 24, 2017 at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church and would celebrate the first hours as newlyweds at Harvest Ridge, surrounded by our closest family and friends.









the proposal.

It was no secret that Jody and I wanted to get married. We began talking about it after Jody graduated from college. However, the following year when I graduated, Jody told me he wanted to wait until after he completes graduate school to tie the knot. While I was disappointed that we would have to wait a few more years, I was glad to still be able to spend most days with him.
Fast-forward one year. Jody had been accepted to Salisbury University for his masters program, and was planning to move from Richmond to Maryland at the end of the summer. We spent most of our time outside of work, exploring the city, traveling and taking picture, our latest hobby turned small business. One evening, Jody told me that his coworker, Tony, was also trying to build his portfolio for his photography business, and had asked to practice couples styled shots on us. While I was hesitant, I reluctantly agreed to participate. Jody said that Tony wanted us to pick a few locations that meant something to us as a couple, or a place that we go a lot, with the idea of being in a place where we were comfortable would make us more relaxed and have a better shoot. According to Jody, they decided that we should start with pictures at Randolph-Macon College, our alma mater. At this point, I mentioned I really didn’t want pictures at R-MC yet, because I knew I wanted to get our engagement pictures taken there one day. Jody convinced me that we’d only get a few in Ashland, and then we would go to Richmond for the rest.
Our shoot was scheduled for June 26, 2016 at 6:00pm. As a budding photographer, I knew this was the perfect time of the day to get pictures during what is known as “golden hour”. While I was still reluctant to go to R-MC, I was getting more excited about having some pictures of Jody and I that were better than iPhone quality. However, when we were nearing the school, my stomach started doing flips. I mentioned to Jody that I was nervous and he just shrugged it off and told me that Tony was going to meet us at the tennis courts, which I just assumed was because it is the largest parking lot on campus that doesn’t require a parking pass. As we got out of the car, I noticed that there was a group of people huddled back under the shelter, which I quickly forgot as I walked towards Tony to introduce myself. Jody pulled out his speakers, which he does do pretty often, and started to play some music. It was in this moment when I realized that all of the pillars of the tennis court’s gazebo were covered with pictures of Jody and I over the past couple of years. I looked up to see twenty balloons floating at the top of the gazebo, with more pictures of us taped to the string. Realizing what was about to happen, I look up at Jody, who grabs me by the hand and starts walking me to point out his favorite memories and photos of us. He then leads me to a larger picture, with a towel draped over the frame. He let go of my hand and said “Go look at that one.” Taking a deep breath before reaching for the towel, I uncovered a image of Jody holding a sign that says “Turn Around”.
Timed perfectly to the words of “When She Comes Around” by Ben Rector, my favorite independent artist, Jody gets down on one knee and says the words every girl waits her whole life to hear:

“You came into my life and brought light to one of my darkest points. Morgan Elisa Parks, will you marry me?”

I cried as I said yes, full of so much joy as I was looking into the eyes of the love of my life, trying to engrave every emotion that we both felt in that moment into my memory. He slipped the ring on my finger (which I completely forgot to look at until ten minutes later) and whispered “this ring is very special”, immediately telling me that he included his mother’s diamond in the setting, which was something he brought up as a possibility when we first started talking marriage. As soon as he said that, I realized there was a crowd of people to my left, quickly realizing was our families and closest friends. Jody had managed to capture everything I had ever dreamed of for a proposal– at a meaningful place, a private moment followed by a celebration with our closest family and friends, a little white lie about when it was going to happen to throw me off-guard (it worked!), and a photographer to capture the greatest moment of my life thus far. It was more than I ever could have dreamed of an I will cherish Jody, and the day that he planned perfectly, for the rest of my life.

the accidental first date.

After texting nonstop for a couple of weeks, Jody and I made more plans to hang out outside of tennis. After receiving the news he was accepted in an internship program at Pediatric Hematology and Oncology at VCU, we decided that we had to go get ice cream to celebrate (He was quickly learning that ice cream was the way into this girl’s heart). We planned to go to Coldstone, which was a short drive from campus. Even though I was under the assumption we were getting ice cream as just friends, I couldn’t help but be nervous to spend one-on-one time with Jody for the first time. While finishing our sweet treat, Jody asked if I knew how to drive stick-shift. I said that my dad taught me in his jeep a couple years ago, but I never really practiced. His face lit us and said “I’m going to teach you to drive my car. Come on!” In the practically empty mall parking lot, Jody convinced me to drive his car, even though I was SO nervous that I would embarrass myself in front of him. A not-so-terrible practice lesson and lots of laughs later, we realized neither one of us were ready to end the night. Jody suggested we go catch a movie across the street. After looking at what was showing, he suggested we go see Scary Movie 5 (This was a terrible suggestion. Even he will agree), but there was still 45 minutes until the film started. We hung out in the lobby of the theater, learning that we both love people watching. I still couldn’t figure out why conversations with him came so easy. Our original 30 minute ice cream mini celebration turned into our first date without us even knowing.

how we met.

fullsizerenderIn my previous post, I announced that I am engaged, and am getting married in June 2017! Over the course of the next few months, I will be posting the progress of our wedding planning, and what is a better way to begin than the story of how my beau and I met.

In the spring of 2012, Jody and I met at Randolph-Macon College through the tennis program at the school. I was a freshman, and Jody was in his junior year of college. Our two teams didn’t interact very often, but as we practiced at the same time, Jody still managed to ask his teammate, “Who is that girl over there with the ribbon in her hair?”
Over that summer, Jody would post about once a week on my Facebook page with goofy pictures, and mostly, random variations of my name (i.e. Parks and Rec, MoPar, Morrrrrrrrghan). I thought he was super funny, and I wondered why I didn’t know him any better than “that guy on the tennis team who parks in the only spot closer than the handicap parking spot and has a creepy mask on his passenger’s seat headrest”.
Fall came and went, as did our few, far and in between interactions. However, right before I left for my four weeks abroad in Europe, Jody messaged me on Facebook, just to chat. I told him I was about to leave for my trip and wouldn’t have access to my phone, but I would message him if I ever had a good wifi signal (It didn’t happen very often). I was surprised within a day of me returning to the states, to get a text from him asking all about my trip!
As the spring semester of 2013 began, we quickly grew to be close friends. We both were captains of our respective tennis teams and played #4 Singles — which worked to our benefit because that meant we were able to play on courts near each other! During his portion of the tennis spring break trip that year, I decided to surprise him and show up at his match as he was playing a college not too far from my house. We owe everything we have to the sport that led us to each other!

first post, take two.

Some of you who followed me before may remember that I ran a blog several years ago that you can still see here about what it is like to be a Twenty-Something individual in this day and age. I shared stories and experiences that hopefully shed some insight into handling this sometimes awkward season of life. Eventually, I became a college-graduate and suddenly had more responsibilities than just watching HGTV.

While I am still a “Twenty Something”, I am in a new season of life that I decided was worthy of blog documentation (ahem, I’m getting married!). I am eager to share my newest experiences with you and I’m anxiously waiting for all of the blissful moments ahead!