Wedding

How He Asked

The pictures from our 2013 phones are really not great quality. So this is from our engagement session the following Spring. Photo by Kristin LaVoie Photography

The pictures from our 2013 phones are really not great quality. So this is from our engagement session the following Spring. Photo by Kristin LaVoie Photography

Yesterday was the 5 year anniversary of our engagement! In honor of the occasion, I wanted to share the story of how he asked!


The year was 2013. The town, Chicago. Conor and I had recently moved back to the States after a glorious year living down unda, in Sydney, Australia. While we had lived together when we were there, when we returned home, he got an apartment close to his office, and I moved back in with my parents. So to see each other, we would often have weeknight date nights after work.

That fall I had started volunteer tutoring with an awesome organization, Chicago Lights, located on Michigan Ave. It was a tutoring evening, so when I finished he picked me up and told me we were going to this sushi place in his neighborhood.

We were driving towards dinner, and I notice he missed the turn, and then he turns the opposite direction from sushi. At this point, I’m thinking, “What’s going on? Where are we going? What’s happening?”

We pull up at the Radisson Blu, in the Aqua building (Conor’s favorite building in the city at the time). He says, “Surprise! We are doing a staycation here tonight! There was a flash sale (lol not true) so I thought it would be fun!” This was not that far off from our occasional change up in routine, so it wasn’t completely out of character. But I was definitely deep in my head. “Is it happening? Or is he just being spontaneous? You’re imagining this.”

We get up to our room, and it has a killer view of the Wrigley Building and all of the Christmas lights along river. Even the bathroom had a view! We stepped outside on the balcony and it was freezing, and promptly returned inside. We then looked at the view from the bathroom for a while. Meanwhile, my mind is going crazy in every silent moment staring out the window. We finally got out of the bathroom (thank God!) and found ourselves in a cozy corner looking down at the Christmas lights. Next thing you know he starts saying all of these really nice, loving things, that I couldn’t repeat even if I tried, because a moment later he was down on one knee and I was mess. He asked me to marry him and the rest is history. 💘

I had never been that girl pestering and wondering when it would happen. And it’s interesting, for a really long time I didn’t want it to! We were so happy as things were- I didn’t want marriage to change things. Also, to be fair, I am a child of divorced parents who met in college (just like us!) and I did not want that fate for myself. We had been together for 6 years when I finally felt like we could begin to approach the subject of engagement! I know, I’m crazy. But when the time came, I could not of have been happier or more ready.

What I love about Conor and our relationship is that we know each other sometimes better than we even know ourselves. He told me later, he didn’t even know the night before he proposed, because if he knew, he knew that I would figure it out. So he had to surprise himself in order to surprise me! He had the ring for months before finding the right moment to make it happen. He also knew that I wouldn’t be keen on something large and public, despite the fact that he is super charismatic and thrives in the spotlight. It was a special night that was really just shared by the two of us- which made it all the more meaningful to me.

It’s funny because in someways your engagement is the beginning of your story, even though it can feel like a fairytale ending. There is so much ahead, both beauty and hardship. We have been through so much over the past 5 years (I mean really 11 years now!), and have so much more ahead of us. Being married is the process of falling in love, over and over again. 💖


So that’s our story! I would love to hear yours too! Comment below or send me a note on Insta or FB! Happy engagement season, beauties! -AHS

To change your name or not, that is the question.

should you change your name when you get married

You’re getting married! YAY! You now have to make a million decisions in prep for the big day. Band or DJ? Buffet or seated dinner? Cake or doughnuts? Are you going to keep your name or change it?

That last one can be a doozy. An easy question for some, and a more challenging question for others. For me, I fell in the latter group. I’m an over-thinker at heart. :) I tell my story below- but before that- have a read of the list of questions I compiled to help you get clear on what decision is right for you!


Questions for reflection

I believe there is not a right or wrong answer on whether changing your name is a good decision, it’s different for every person. If you are struggling with making the decision here are some questions to help you get clear on your feelings on the matter.

  1. Do you like your current surname?

  2. Do you like your spouse's surname?

  3. Do you like your middle name?

  4. Does your name have meaning to you?

  5. Do you feel your identity is tied to your name?

  6. Does having the same surname as your spouse matter to you?

  7. Does having the same surname as your children (if that is in your plan) matter to you?

  8. Would you be open to hyphenating? Would your spouse?

  9. Would you like your childrens’ surname's to be hyphenated?

  10. Would your spouse be open to taking your name?

  11. Are you open to taking their’s?

  12. What will you accomplish by changing your name?

  13. Do you or your spouse have surnames that are difficult to pronounce? Do you care?

  14. Have you always thought you would take your spouse's name?

  15. Do you feel politically motivated by changing your name or lack thereof?

  16. If you don’t change your name are you ready to be inconvenienced at times because your name differs from the rest of your family?

  17. Imagine how it would feel to have any iteration of names you are considering. What feels right or wrong about them?

Again, there isn’t a right or wrong answer to any of these questions. In the end, it's YOUR name, YOUR life, and you are the one who will live with it. Make sure it's a name that feels like you! 


My story

Changing my name was a tough decision for me: 1) because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to change it and 2) because if I did, I wasn’t sure what to change it to! My name, as it was, was a pretty badass, strong name. I was (and still am) attached to it. Here are some of the reasons I liked it: 

  1. It just has good flow! [Alexandra Marie Hayden - in case you were wondering!]

  2. I'm my dad's only child, so “Hayden” is at the end of the road with me.

  3. Marie was my grandmother's name, and I was very close with her.

On the alternative side of things, I grew up in a household where we all operated with different names. My brother has a different last name than I do. My mom went back to her maiden name professionally after she remarried, and has different names on all of her IDs/ credit cards (side note: I still don't know what her legal name is).  She did this for me, so I wouldn't be the only one in the family with a different name (shouts to my Ma- appreciate ya). But regardless, it was confusing when we traveled, and it was confusing for my friends. They never knew what to call her. It was always nice to be with my dad and stepmom and to just be, "The Haydens." 

Beyond that, the concept of just taking your husband's name is antiquated. It stems from a time when women were treated as property: originally owned by our fathers then ownership transferred to our husbands. And TBH, I'm not into it. While that is not the case today, it still just annoys me that we perpetuate the tradition without question. My name is very much a part of what I consider to be my identity and I did not take the decision of changing it lightly. 

That being said, I love my husband a whole lot, and I wanted to feel apart of his "clan," if you will. For me getting married was not a loss of my current self but gaining a new aspect of my identity as wife, and (hopefully, eventually[!]) as a mother. I also have the coolest in-laws ever (yes, I know I'm very lucky!) and I did not have any pressure to change my name. 

Conor (my hubs lol) and I could've hyphenated our names, but that wasn't something either of us was really into for the whole (future) family. Mostly because I know from my own experience how confusing and annoying long names like that can be for kids (side note: you have no idea, to this day how many people are incapable of saying or spelling my FIRST name correctly). Conor also could have taken my name, but if I didn't want to lose my name for loss of identity, I did not want him to have to do that either. 

I eventually decided I wanted to add "Shea" into the mix. So when it came time to finally make the change, (and yes I actually waited 3 years to do it!), I got to the social security office, and I didn't know how to fill out the form. Would I be Alexandra Marie Shea? Alexandra Hayden Shea? Alexandra Marie Hayden-Shea? 

When my name was called, I had the sweetest Mexican-American (this detail is important for one reason, coming below) woman helping me. She saw the confusion in my eyes, and asked me what I was struggling with, and I told her the story above. She looked at me and she said, "You cannot lose your grandmother's name. And you cannot lose your father's name either. Why not keep them all?" And then I started crying. Yep. I started crying. In the social security office. But I was crying because she was right. It was so obvious, why had I not come to that conclusion on my own? It felt so right. I was not losing any aspect of my identity, I was just adding to it.

I'm so lucky that I was called to her booth, because in Mexican culture (so said the woman), you just add on a name, not replace it. It makes sense because in the villages people would know who your family was on both sides. If she hadn't helped me, I hope I would've come to the same decision, but I don't know if I would have realized it was an option.  

In the end, my name is now Alexandra Marie Hayden Shea, and I wouldn't have it any other way. It is reflective of who I've been and who I choose to be. And at the end of the day it feels like me. Just don’t ask me what my monogram is– I have no idea! What can I say I like to have my cake and eat it too. In the end I’m glad I took my time to figure out what was right for me. I hope sharing my story helps you figure out what is right for you, too! - AHS


Resources

I used this service to help me with to file all of my documents (I left forms blank with what my name would be since I wasn’t sure) but it was very helpful to know where to start.

Miss Now Mrs.


Still struggling? Want to talk about it? Send me a DM on Instagram or Messenger me from Facebook. I’m always happy to go deep with you on these things! <3

It's okay to not feel amazing when you get engaged

anxiety about wedding

I have something to talk about that is not often discussed in the wedding industry. In fact, it's very rare to read or hear about it at all. I'm bringing it up, because I think it is important for brides to be to hear and I want to be a voice to help you stay grounded during your engagement. You ready?

It's okay to not feel absolutely wonderful every day of your engagement. In fact, it's even okay to feel sad! 

I've talked to enough women to know that while we want our engagement periods to be one of sheer bliss - there are moments that are harder to deal with. And I'm not just talking about wedding planning stress, although that doesn't make it any easier!

I think there is this stigma about talking about other emotions when you are getting married. Like somehow if you are not swooning with affection for your fiancé/e every day, you love them less, or even worse, that you shouldn't be getting married.

I need to debunk this. There are so so so many reasons that you could be feeling anything but happy during your wedding "season". 

You could feel sad about not being your parents little girl any longer. You could feel weird because everyone says "you just know" and you didn't know. Or maybe your nervous because your parents were divorced and you know you don't want that fate for yourself. Or maybe you are overwhelmed because there are a lot of life changes happening at once. Maybe you're sad about the loss of your single life. Maybe you're sad about having to split holidays. Maybe you're sad that your life as you knew it is changing forever. Maybe it's that you have been dreaming of your wedding your whole life and you aren't ready for the dream to be over. Maybe it's every one of those things or none of them. 

It is possible to feel joy, love, and excitement–and also sadness, loss, and anxiety during your engagement.

Getting married is one of the biggest life events you will experience. Sometimes it's a huge adjustment, sometimes it's just a formality. What I want you to walk away with, is that it is okay to feel any of these emotions during this time. Make space for yourself to process your emotions. Feel how you feel, and don't be ashamed or scared about feeling more than just joy during this time in your life.


Have you felt like this at all during your engagement? If you feel this way it can be incredibly isolating. I know this is a sensitive topic, but I want you to know I am here for you if you need to talk about this with someone. If you want to talk about it, please, send me a message on social media or drop me an email in the form below and I will get back to you shortly. This is not an email sign up, just an opportunity to chat with an unbiased party. :)

If talking isn't up your alley. Be sure to check out some of the other posts to help keep you "Zen for the Wed." Xx - AHS

Should you switch to natural deodorant before your wedding? A breakdown of transitioning to natural deodorant

Natural deodorant has been around for years, but I've noticed a huge uptick recently in people ready to make the shift! It has been on my mind for a while, and for a while I mean about 13 years. My step-mom is a breast cancer survivor and since she went through the experience, natural deodorant has been on my to-do list (continue reading for the "why").  But when is the right time to make the switch? Would it be okay to do before your wedding? This post walks you through my experience switching to natural deodorant and my recommendation for when to make the switch.

Why to switch

I'm not a super smelly or sweaty person.... or so I thought. I had been using a regular solid antiperspirant stick for years. It worked very well, but, the main active ingredient was aluminum

Why do regular antiperspirants use aluminum? It blocks the sweat glands, preventing sweat from coming out. [Sweat itself doesn't smell, but when it interacts with bacteria on the body, it can create an odor. This is why depending on who you are- you may be more or less smelly. Different types of bacteria thrive on different skin types. This is also why good hygiene is key. Shower, people!] But what is the issue with aluminum? From Cancer.org: 

"Some research suggests that aluminum-containing underarm antiperspirants, which are applied frequently and left on the skin near the breast, may be absorbed by the skin and have estrogen-like (hormonal) effects.
Because estrogen can promote the growth of breast cancer cells, some scientists have suggested that the aluminum-based compounds in antiperspirants may contribute to the development of breast cancer. In addition, it has been suggested that aluminum may have direct activity in breast tissue." 

That being said, it is important to note that no studies have confirmed that aluminum could increase breast cancer risks. Another doozy that has been associated with aluminum products - Alzheimers! Again, there has been no scientific evidence proving there is any link. However, the way I see it is science is fickle, studies are often flawed (anyone who has ever paid attention to nutrition studies are super aware of this!), and there is always new data emerging. I would rather be safe than sorry! Thus the search for the perfect natural deodorant commenced. 


My experience 

First, let's talk about the fact that everyone is different, and my experience may be different than yours. But, switching to natural deodorant has been a bit of a struggle for me. 

So far I have tried 3 different varieties of natural deodorant. And the key operating word is deodorant - not to be confused with antiperspirant. As stated above, antiperspirants block the sweat from coming out, deodorant just masks the smell. And that is a big change to get used to.

Option 1: Life Stinks

life stinks natural deodorant what to expect when you transition to natural deodorant

The first has been in my beauty bag for years. It's called Life Stinks by the Duggan Sisters. They are a small, local (yay!), Chicago business. It comes in a powder that smells like lavender or cedar. You can also purchase a "Stink Stick" that you put on first if you are a heavy sweater. I tried it for awhile years ago, but couldn't make the commitment. Mostly, I felt like I sweat much more compared to my normal antiperspirant (which isn't a knock on them, just the nature of the beast). I gave it a shot again recently when I started testing out natural deodorants.  At the end of the day, I'm just not into the powder, but it is purely personal preference. I throw it in my gym bag and will put it on post sweat to help absorb the moisture, but not for daily use. I like the feeling of putting on a stick. It is closer to my original routine and is an easier transition. Ingredients: aluminum free sodium bicarbonate, tea tree oil and lavender or cedarwood oil

Option 2: Dear Me

Dear Me Organic Deodorant

The second try was Dear Me Natural Organic Deodorant. I found them on Instagram and I decided to give it a shot. As of right now they have one scent blend called, "Make My Day". It smells great. This was really my first hardcore attempt at switching. I started with it at the beginning of March. It worked beautifully for the first month. I wasn't particularly sweaty or smelly! Success! Then at the end of April I brought it with me on my trip to South Africa. Let's just say my body had not transitioned to a warmer climate and neither did the deodorant. I was stinky. And it was a challenge. I returned home from the trip to warmer weather in Chicago, and the problem persisted. I was showering twice a day just to keep the pits stink-free. That being said, it definitely could've been the "detox" time period I had read about- when your body is expelling toxins and smelliness is increased for a while. I did also get some mild irritation and redness when I first switched, too. It went away though. BUT–I used it the entire time I was in yoga teacher training–and I felt like it held its own! 

Another random consideration, the first ingredient in Dear Me is coconut oil, which means at warmer temperatures it will melt. You can store in the fridge and get a refreshing cool feeling when you apply in the morning, but don't leave it in your beach bag. I really did like this deodorant a lot and it lasted me for about 4 months. I would definitely consider bringing it back for the colder months. Ingredients: Coconut Oil, Beeswax, High Quality Baking Soda, Arrow Root Powder, Peppermint Essential Oil, Palmarosa Essential Oil, Tea Tree Essential Oil

Option 3: Native

native natural deodorant switching to natural deodorant
Native natural deodorant ingredients aluminum free paraben free

For the last month I have been using Native deodorant. It is another stick blend. There are actually quite a few scents available- I opted for the seasonal blend, Rosé (duh). I also purchased a little mini of their bestseller, coconut & vanilla. It's a bit harder (doesn't use as much every application) than Dear Me, so I think it will last awhile. So far I really have liked it.  There are quite a few more ingredients in it- but it really works very well. I still am a lil' stinkier at the end of the day, so I reapply (and really scent is truly gone- it doesn't feel like I'm covering it up with perfume or something) or I shower before bed. Honestly, this is the first time I feel like life is business as usual since I switched to natural deodorant this winter. What I found super interesting is that they have a probiotic in their ingredients - L. acidophilus! I'm curious to know if by adding that bacteria it changes the dynamic of the smell. If any of you know the answer, please share! <3 Bonus- if you decide to try Native and use this link we both get a free mini-deodorant. Yes, pls! Ingredients: Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Arrowroot Powder, Stearyl Alcohol, Sodium Bicarbonate (Baking Soda), Shea Fruit Butter, Coconut Oil, Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Polyglycerol-3 Beeswax, Jojoba Esters, Tocopherol (Vitamin E), L. acidophilus, Dextrose, Glyceryl Caprylate, Glyceryl Undecylenate, Fragrance

The Outcome

My conclusion - there isn't a simple answer. The effectiveness appears to go up with the number of ingredients in the deodorant, but I would prefer a simpler blend. As of right now I am happy with Native, but I haven't ruled out trying the others again, or trying new blends. It's interesting because we all have different bacteria that thrives on our skin- so there is not one answer that works best for everyone! I would recommend trying out any of the options above to see how they work for you. I feel like I've finally become comfortable with using natural deodorant- my next mission is to get my husband to try it too! 


What to expect when you switch from a normal antiperspirant to a natural deodorant

Helpful tips for switching from Native!&nbsp;

Helpful tips for switching from Native! 

  1. It's not business as usual. Things will feel different under there. It takes time to get used to an increased level of perspiration. 
  2. You may be stinkier for a period of time while you detoxify- or not. Some recommend doing an armpit detox mask. I didn't try, but perhaps would help eliminate the toxin stink period. 
  3. Some natural deodorants may stain your clothes. I didn't notice this more so than my previous anti-perspirant, but it's good to be aware of. 
  4. Shave your pits the night before to prevent irritation. 
  5. Reapplying is your friend. 

 


The Verdict?

So when is the right time to switch to natural deodorant? I don't believe there ever really is going to be a good time, but I would wait until after your wedding! Maybe even wait until you get home from the honeymoon. If you are ready to take the plunge, I would start at least 6 months before wedding. I think there are too many X factors. Pit stains on a white dress? Worrying about lifting your arms when dancing on your big day? Detox stink kicking in on your honeymoon? I would stick to what has worked for you in the past. Don't change anything up unless its not working! After the wedding passes you have your whole life to test out what works for you and your bod!


Have you tried natural deodorant? Did you make the switch before the wedding? Any brand recommendations to try? I would love to hear your thoughts! Leave me a note here or on Insta/FB. - AHS

Put a little (self) love in your heart...

When I look at the pose above, I first think to myself, "Woof, those calves. And I have a long way to go to make this pose look good!" It takes me a moment to reset and appreciate how far I've come and appreciate that tan instead!

When I look at the pose above, I first think to myself, "Woof, those calves. And I have a long way to go to make this pose look good!" It takes me a moment to reset and appreciate how far I've come and appreciate that tan instead!

When you look in the mirror what do you see? Sometimes I see circles under my eyes. Sometimes I see bloat from last night's pizza (yep- I eat pizza!). Sometimes I see a whole lotta thigh. Rarely when I look in the mirror am I like, "damn that's a fine looking lady in there!" But why don't I? I suspect I am not alone in this. 

There are probably a lot of contributing factors, and I do not want to diminish them - but I will focus on two reasons for the purpose of today's note. The first is comparison. A natural human tendency that has been magnified by the omnipresence of social media. We spend our days longing for what other people have- their banging bodies, their DREAM weddings, their perfect husbands, adorable babies, charming houses, fancy cars, and exotic honeymoons. We spend a huge bulk of time assessing other people's lot in life and comparing ours to theirs. This isn't to say that we dwell on it or it takes over how we live our lives (sometimes yes, sometimes no) but regardless it happens on the daily. Sometimes we know we are doing it, other times it is operating in the background - but still happening. 

The second reason is judgement. Comparison feeds judgement. Example, so-and-so buys a beautiful new home – "But who would want to live there? It's the middle of nowhere!" Someone posts a selfie - it's attention seeking and/or desperate. Someone cuts you off on the highway - they are an a**hole. Immediately we affirm our own choices and lifestyle, building our own ego at the sacrifice of tearing down someone else. We judge other people and ourselves ALL of the time for EVERYTHING. And that includes what we see when we look in the mirror. 

And it's exhausting. 

And it doesn't serve us.

And in fact, it has a negative effect on the way we view ourselves and others. We need to knock it off. 

Less judgement, and more love. 

We need to love ourselves. Seriously, love every part of ourselves. We need to cut out the negative self talk. We are KWEENS ladies! And stunning rays of light filled with love. We are pure magic. When we acknowledge this, it helps us to see that in everyone else. 

Today is #internationalyogaday, and with it, comes a challenge. Love yourself and then love others. That's our mission. But how to shift our mindsets? It's a big task, so let's break it down.  

 

Step 1. Acknowledgement

Sit with a journal and a cup of (insert beverage of choice) and do some self reflection. When do you tend to compare yourself to others? Is it comparing that bling on your finger to your friend's? Does it happen when you look in the mirror and you think about the Instagram model you follow? When do you tend to judge? Does it manifest in road rage? Again, is it social media? Your favorite Bravo TV stars? 

Just take the time to think about how comparing and judging show up in your life. If after reflection you truly do not compare or judge, please teach a class and invite me! 

 

Step 2. Forgiveness

The next step is to forgive yourself and forgive others for being this way. We have to absolve ourselves from this. These habits are ingrained from childhood and perpetuated by the culture we live in. Let's not beat ourselves up over being judgmental. That defeats the purpose of this whole exercise. 

 

Step 3: Radical acts of self care

How did we get to self care? Well, what is at the heart of comparison? I believe it's our own feelings of inadequacy. Showing yourself some care is the foundation of self love. Do something for yourself every day. Take time for yourself. Whatever that means for you. By caring for ourselves, we nurture self love. It helps us to live more comfortably in our own skin- which helps us to love others better, too.

Self care is not selfish.

I repeat, SELF CARE IS NOT SELFISH. When you are feeling drained and out of gas - it is really easy to get into negative self talk patterns. Beyond that, it also hinders our ability to serve others. So take the time to refuel. It is so important for your mental and physical health. Don't know where to start? Take a break from wedding planning and try some of the suggestions below:

  • Spend quality time with loved ones.

  • Buy a coffee for a homeless person.

  • Take a bath.

  • Laugh. Really hard.

  • Watch trashy tv, or whatever gives you joy.

  • Bask in the sun.

  • Dance by yourself.

  • Get a mani/pedi.

  • Do nothing - guilt free.

  • Do something you have wanted to do for a long time, but never had the time.

  • Go for a walk in nature.

  • Read a book.

  • Take a nap.

  • Exercise (in a way that sparks joy!).

  • Call a friend.

  • Look in the mirror and tell yourself that you are beautiful.

  • Meditate.

  • Take a social media/technology hiatus.

  • Eat a hearty nutritious meal.

  • Eat whatever you want, and without judgement

 

Step 4: Judgement Detox

Now that we have acknowledged our habits, forgiven ourselves for them, and have built up our self love... it's now time to take a break from the judging. This is really, really hard - because it is ingrained so deep. And it's not always showing up the way you would think. For example, today I was trying to back into my garage, and a neighbor had left what I think was an air conditioning unit outside their door, which prevented me from getting in my usual way. I was so annoyed. I was thinking about how inconsiderate that action was. Why didn't they move it to the side? Was this a handy person or was it the neighbor? Someone doesn't know the protocol... Judgement after judgement after judgement. And then I stopped myself. I realized, it was highly unlikely that they even realized it inconvenienced anyone. THEN I realized, I manage to get into my spot, just fine. I spent 2 minutes thinking they were horrible people, and realized I worked myself up over absolutely nothing. 

And this story isn't rare. I'm sure I do this 10x a day.

Your mission, should you choose to accept, is to spend one day completely judgement free. Only loving thoughts towards yourself and others for just one day. That doesn't mean the judgements won't arise, but do your best to quash them when they come. AND double whammy, when they come up- don't judge yourself for having the thoughts! 

 

In summary

The world we live in is full of judgements. By giving ourselves some self care, and by choosing to judge less, we will love ourselves and others more! Yoga reminds me to have a beginner's mind, love and accept myself where I am at, and to love others unconditionally. I hope that through reading this post and doing this exercise, it helps you do the same. 


Are you going to participate in the self care and judgement detox challenges? I would love to hear if you participate and how it went! Use #shedselfcare and #shedjudgementdetox so I can see! -AHS

My Best Friend's (African) Wedding

Photo by Eileen Laubscher,  BrightGirl Photography .

Photo by Eileen Laubscher, BrightGirl Photography.

To give a bit of background, the my bestie, Anna, lived in Cape Town for a few years, a few years ago. That is when she met Awonke back in 2012. (Fun fact: I came to visit her and met him the month before they started dating! I'm very glad I did because I wouldn't have gotten another opportunity to meet him for at least another 3 years after that!) She moved back to the States in 2014 (right before my wedding!) and these two lovebirds have been doing long distance ever since. I won't go into specifics but it has not been an easy road for them. Through long distance, to immigration issues – it would have been so much easier for them to pull the plug on this relationship a long time ago. But they didn't, thankfully, because they love each other a whole lot.  This wedding was sublime, not just because of the setting or culture, but because it was the start of a new beginning for these two beautiful souls who deserve to be together, wherever they want to be, forever. 

The wedding took place in Durban, South Africa in April – and it was glorious. 

My only picture from that night that is worthy of sharing.&nbsp;

My only picture from that night that is worthy of sharing. 

Day 1: Bachelorette Party (and Bachelor Party)

I flew in and made it by 8pm after delays lasting for more than 8 hours! Woof. Not everyone was in yet, but we had a lovely evening drinking wine and catching up with some of my favorite humans. Just, ya know, in Africa. 

Simultaneously the bachelor party was going on, and I think it was a bit... more wild... than our evening. 

 

Day 2: Welcome... and other monkey business

This was the day mostly everyone arrived, so there were last minute details to finish. We distributed welcome bags to the hotel rooms of the guests. They were stacked with goodies, one of which was "biltong" a South African specialty, which is basically another form of beef jerky. The local monkeys knew that there were goodies inside- and I was "attacked." Dramatic. Basically, the monkey lunged at me so I would drop my goods. Luckily, a groomsman came to my aid and escorted me to my room. Because I kept the welcome bag... the MONKEYS FOLLOWED ME to my room! Here is a sentence I never thought I'd say or write – monkeys are sexist and harassers. It's true!! They leave men alone and harass women. Also side note: when I was in Cape Town in 2012 we were attacked by baboons... ask me about that story another time. :)

I also was able to go to the beach with the sistah's of the bride (and co-MOHs!). And that evening was the welcome party! It was amazing to meet so many wonderful people who love my friends just as much as I do. It's always fun to meet friends from different phases in life, but rarely do you have an opportunity to meet friends from another continent. "Good people beget good people,™" is my wedding mantra and this wedding did not disappoint. The party went on long into the night! I should've gone to bed early, but hey, lost track of time, begetting goodness. 

Day 3: It's happening! Wedding day!

Today was the day we had been waiting for, the actual wedding! It was a perfect day. I woke up to a spectacular sunrise (#jetlag). We drank bubbles alongside our dandelion root tea (#shedtip to cure bloat! and yes these two things probably cancelled each other out), got our hair did, and took photos. The ceremony was in a church on top of a hill, with a window wall behind the altar that overlooked the ocean. I was honored to do a reading and be one of the witnesses to their union. The priest was a character. And here is really where things began to get interesting. The groom's family sang the most beautiful songs every chance they could, (you can hear some post wedding in the video below). It was just the beginning. And just like that, these two were married!

(Please don't judge my video skills - I was just trying to capture some of the music and dancing of the day! I legit have no editing skills, feel free to fast forward!)

The cocktail hour looked out over the ocean with an abundance of incredible food. The reception was full of love, laughter, tears, and 10 speeches. No, not a typo, 10 speeches. But they were interspersed throughout the evening and flowed beautifully. There was spontaneous dancing mid-eating. More singing. Dance offs. It was perfect. 

Day 4: the Zulu Wedding

I don't think I've mentioned yet that the entire wedding experience did not feel like real life. It was incredible. And then, the Zulu festivities began. And then it really felt like a dream!

To be clear, I am no where close to being an expert on South Africa's history or culture, but I will try to illuminate on what I do know. There are many tribes (I believe I've read that there are more than 3000) in South Africa, but there are two main tribes that tend to dominate - the largest is Zulu, the second largest are the Xhosa. IsiZulu is South Africa's most widely spoken official language. The groom's father was Zulu and his mother was Xhosa, but it's a patriarchal culture so he is considered Zulu. Even for a lot of the South African's there, many had never been to a Zulu wedding, so it was a privilege to have been in attendance. 

As a member of Anna's "tribe," we waited patiently at a neighbors house down the road from the groom's parents, waiting for Awonke's tribe to come fetch her! They came singing and dancing down the road singing that Anna was their's! 

Really the best way to describe the day is by watching the compilation below. It includes a lot of singing and dancing. It ends with an impressive performance by the groom!

(Note: The groom's brother, Anelisa, was married a couple years ago, but they did not have a full Zulu celebration, so they celebrated his marriage at the same time. So there are co-grooms and co-brides in some of these photos.)

The co-grooms! Awonke (left) and Anelisa (right).

The co-grooms! Awonke (left) and Anelisa (right).

Aren't they beautiful? The co-brides in their first outfit change for the day! Belinda (left) and Anna (right).&nbsp;

Aren't they beautiful? The co-brides in their first outfit change for the day! Belinda (left) and Anna (right). 

The father of the bride after receiving his blanket!&nbsp;

The father of the bride after receiving his blanket! 

Earlier in the week, the family had slaughtered a goat and a cow in honor of the festivities. In Zulu culture it symbolizes to the ancestors that a celebration is beginning. What I think is wonderful is that they use every part of the animal. The hide of the goat will be made into a rug for the newlyweds. The meat was served at the reception. They passed around a feast of bread, sweet potatoes, regular potatoes, goat and beef on platters a plenty. I unfortunately didn't get a picture(?!). Shocking I know, I think I was just too excited to eat it! 

The ceremony was long – about 4 1/2 hours - but as you you could see in the video, it was mesmerizing. A large portion of the time was dedicated to gift giving. From the groom's family to the brides and vice versa. The gift of choice were blankets. Everyone gave everyone blankets. I'm not sure what the symbolism was behind it, except for general hospitality - and if you ever come to visit you know there will be extra blankets! 

In the Zulu tradition, Anna had to put this necklace around Awonke's neck to make their marriage offish.&nbsp;

In the Zulu tradition, Anna had to put this necklace around Awonke's neck to make their marriage offish. 

The moment!&nbsp;

The moment! 

Many of the elders in the family gave the newlyweds advice. Ranging from conjugal rights to not looking at your husband's phone, the topics proved entertaining!

The elders had a front row view of the festivities.

The elders had a front row view of the festivities.

New Friends In Durban
Met these fun ladies on the way to the bathroom!

Met these fun ladies on the way to the bathroom!

Love them so much!&nbsp;

Love them so much! 

We ended the evening celebrating the groom's birthday. Can you imagine a better way to spend your birthday?! 

We are singing "Happy birthday" - can you tell?

We are singing "Happy birthday" - can you tell?

Outfit change with a view!&nbsp;

Outfit change with a view! 

The only pic I have with both of them!&nbsp;

The only pic I have with both of them! 

Bride Tribe

There is probably so much I missed, but I tried to do the celebrations justice. The weekend was so joyous and truly was a celebration of love!  I was honored to be involved. And I will end with this: 

"Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope." - Maya Angelou

Cheers to the newlyweds and their happily ever after. - AHS 

Wedding Celebrations: A Guide To Healthfully Making It Out Alive

A wedding could be defined as one beautiful day where you marry the love of your life in a ceremony and then throw a party for your family & friends. That’s what I thought before I was engaged at least. Oh, how wrong I was. 

A wedding really is a series of events.  Depending on your style (and the generosity of various friends and family) these are some of the events that may be included in your “wedding season” (as my mom referred to mine!): 

bridesmaid cheers wedding events healthy
  1. Engagement Party (informal, formal or both)
  2. Trying on dresses. Followed by dress fittings. 
  3. Picking out bridesmaid dresses with yo ladies
  4. Meetings with vendors (varying from venues, florists, photographers, videographers, bands/djs, wedding ring shopping, etc.)
  5. Catering/Menu tasting 
  6. Cake tasting
  7. Bridal Showers (could be thrown by bridesmaids, relatives on either side, colleagues or all of the above)
  8. Bachelorette 
  9. Welcome party (for out of town guests)
  10. Bridal luncheon 
  11. Rehearsal
  12. Wedding
  13. Day-after brunch

It is easy to see that the wedding is actually just one day in a slew of nuptial-related events. Ideally, you want to feel bride-y and festive for every single one. But how to handle so many, especially the ones surrounding feasting?  Below I take a look at some of the hardest events to navigate. I have compiled my best advice as a past bride and health coach to navigate your “wedding season.” This should help you feel your best and enjoy to maximum capacity. 

 

General Rules of Thumb for Your Wedding Season

Remember that this should be one of the happiest times in your life. Don’t let the stress of planning, and weight loss make it any less enjoyable. No matter what – resolve to be present, and enjoy every moment of the process. Planning the wedding and the events are the majority of your time spent, so make it count. Also, when you are stressed, your body releases the hormone, cortisol, which makes it very difficult to lose weight. So keep it chilllllll. 

If champagne is present, you are obligated to have a glass. You are the bride, and you deserve it! Celebratory champers is a must. However, it is important to not over indulge, particularly in the final events right up to your wedding (welcome party, bridal luncheon, rehearsal). While you are most likely at the weight you will be at for the wedding, alcohol is a huge bloat offender. So have the glass of bubbles. Don’t have 5. 

Overall, remember that consistency is key. While there are quite a few events in prep for the wedding, you have plenty of other days of the week where you can be eating clean! It's all about striking a balance, my friends. 

 

Engagement Party 

This is typically quite a while before the wedding. Least amount of pressure. Sample food. Live it up. Try not to overdo it but don't stress if you do. Just enjoy. 

 

Showers

Normally closer to the wedding, now is not the time to indulge. If you know there is going to be some amazing food, try to manage your meals before and after so that you can have your cake and eat it too! Feel free to try bites of everything, but eat slowly and pay attention to your hunger cues. 

 

wedding events food

Catering/Menu Tasting

It is so important to try everything because this is what your guests will be served, so this is not a time to be skimpy. That being said, try one of each appetizer (or if you trust your future hubs you can delegate), and be sure to try all of the entrees and wine selections (if you are having it). Operating word being “try”. You do not need to eat all of the food placed in front of you. If you don’t like wasting food, you can see if they will give you boxes. The key is to not feel like the giant blueberry kid from Willa Wonka at the end of the meal. 

 

Cake tasting

cake tasting wedding events healthy eating

Honestly, what is better than tasting your wedding cake?!

The beauty of tasting is that it is just that, a taste. So unless you are gluten intolerant (and if so, perhaps look into GF desserts) you should be able to enjoy this part of the wedding process, no problem! Just remember to take small meaningful bites. 

With one of my cake tastings, we ended up with 12 cupcakes to take home. While I wish I could say I gave them away, the truth is I slowly ate them, ¼ cupcake at a time, alongside my boo. Bad form ladies, bad form. Learning from my mistakes I highly recommend finding out in advance if you are going to have leftovers (call the bakery and ask). If you are going to have leftovers, drop them off in a care basket with friends.

Try to do this early on in the wedding process so you aren't stressing it! 

 

Bachelorette 

This is the time to let loose! When else are you going to have all of your girls there to party with you? If you do go the traditional bachelorette route, try to have the party more than a month before the wedding. Then get right back on the healthy living track post-soiree. This ensures that you won’t sabotage all of your hard work! 

However, if raging isn’t your thing- more power to you! I know ladies who have done trapeze or pole dancing classes bachelorettes. Active and booze-free (aka calorie-free!), you can have a blast and be working towards your dress-worthy bod. 

 

welcome party, bridal luncheon, rehearsal dinner

These events usually directly precede the actual wedding. The good news is, you already fit in your dress, the key is making sure you feel fabulous the day of your wedding. 

During these events, engage in the practice of mindful eating, chew slowly, and eat until you are full. Try to avoid breads and cheeses (keeping your digestion nice and clear for the next day).

Ideally, drink celebratory toasts but make sure you don't have more than a couple drinks. Alcohol, besides providing lovely hangovers the next day, can create bloat in the body. If you do wake up the morning of the big day and you are feeling less than your best, I recommend drinking some dandelion root tea (add to your shopping list now!) - it is an excellent de-bloater.

 

The Wedding and Day-After Brunch

Congratulations, you made it! The morning of the wedding - please eat a light breakfast (eggs or oatmeal are good), even if you have nerves (#nofaintingbridespls)!

During the events eat as much food as you can, when you can, because you are going to be pulled away almost immediately to go round to tables or chat with someone you haven't seen yet. Everyone is there to see YOU, after all. Cheers to your happily, healthfully, ever after! 


What do you guys think? Do you feel prepared to tackle your wedding season? I hope these tips help! Let me know your thoughts below or on Instagram! Xx - AHS

Shedding for the wedding: what's the deal with exercise?

sunsetyogaexercise.jpg

So you've found my biz. It's called Shed for the Wed. For a lot of folk it brings up horrid ideas of living on the elliptical and drinking your meals for months before your wedding. 

I hope if you have read anything on my website at all, you have figured out I am NOT about that life. 

You know that the way we operate here is about making soulful, healthy, eating decisions – and that is what is going to make you feel your best on your big day and EVERY day (if we are being honest here). But the truth is – it could just be "SHD" – soulful, healthy decisions. That is the big picture. In terms of your waistline, yes, eating is the number one priority. But in terms of who you are and living your best life, SHD is the ticket. 

So where does that leave us re: exercise? I'm sure you all know the girl who spent her life at the gym before her wedding. That is one approach that works for some. In my humble opinion, I find that few can sustain that level of vigor, and then after the wedding the weight comes back (and sometimes more) [This also applies to extreme cleansing. NOT about it].

Moving your body shouldn't be just about trying to lose weight. It should be about what makes you feel like a #bossb**ch (someone cue the Cardi B or Lizzo or both)! But I'm going to tell you a secret—before my wedding, I think I exercised twice in the entire 10 months leading up to it. I felt amazing on my wedding day and it was just good, clean, eating. Yes, this works too, but that being said- I would not advocate you follow that approach either! It was not good for my mind or body to not exercise during that time. It's all about SHD- and I would've been much more zen during my wedding process if I had been moving my body more. 

I really found myself loving fitness AFTER the wedding. I started experimenting while I was working at Lululemon (#joblove) and I learned so much about myself and how I like to get my sweat on. 

I know that I still am in love with yoga 12 years later my first class. That HIIT is what it takes to push my body past a plateau. I know that with pilates my body can do things I didn't think were possible to my abs. I also know I need lots of hands on adjustments because of all my hyperextended joints. I know that SoulCycle is my JAM and I feel like I can do anything if I can ride on beat (#rhythmchallenged). I know I hate spinning (or any class) with a leaderboard. I know I like going to Orange Theory because they monitor my heart rate so I can compete with myself (and it's right next to my house – easy = good!). I know that a good long run can do wonders for my mind. I know that even though I love getting my sweat on – it is still a mental challenge for me to make it out the door. 

That being said, that is all my own journey, and only you can figure out what is your jam. I can't give you a magic formula that will be the answer to all of your exercise needs. I wish I could, but unforch not how it works. Every person's body is different and will have different needs. I've compiled a list of questions for you to ask yourself to find your own fitness groove:

  • What is your current level of fitness? 
  • How active are you? Daily, weekly? 
  • What are your goals for your activity? What is the why behind them? 
  • What exercise makes you feel good? During or after? 
  • Have you found something that makes you feel good and strong in your body? If so, what is it? If not, what have you tried? What are you interested in trying next?
  • Do you prefer outdoor activities or classes? 
  • Does one activity give you more joy than others? 
  • Do you feel better with cardio or slower strength? 
  • What is it going to take for your to add movement to your life? 

If you want more direction re: your fitness goals – schedule a FREE consultation with me below. I'm happy to chat to figure out a sweat sched that gets you excited to sweat and is sustainable for you! 

What's your favorite way to sweat? Let me know in the comments below or on insta! Have a lovely day, babes! xx