On The Road With The Lillys- Melinda’s 30th Birthday Celebration

This gallery contains 71 photos.

This year, Melinda turned 30-years-old, and to celebrate Ciara planned a surprise getaway filled with adventure, great memories and unexpected snow. Check out the details and pictures below: Day 1 Surprise Location: Asheville, NC Surprise Adventure: Private Glass Blowing Lessons … Continue reading

Must Be The Money!

Melinda always jokes about how long it took for me to pop the question. And while I agree that it took longer than most engagements, I don’t regret waiting. When I met Melinda, I was a broke college student living off of meal plans and prayers. My financial situation must have showed on my face because the first thing Melinda gave me was a book to read titled, “Generation Debt”. My first reaction was…


But, instead, I decided to take the book and give it a read. Well about that. I have to be honest, the reading part never happened. I was in college, I didn’t have time to leisurely read, yet looking back I can see how that experience was a defining moment for our relationship. See, Melinda has two college degrees. One in Business Administration and the other in Business Management with a concentration in Financial Services. I, on the other hand, purposely avoided anything finance and math-related. Algebra? Pass me by. Profit and Loss Statements? Pass me by. Give me American Literature, all day, every day.

But that was college…

As our relationship developed, I realized that we were getting very serious. I graduated from college and started building my career- one step at a time. Now I wish I could say that I immediately saw the value in financial literacy and made all of the best financial decisions, but I’d be lying and Melinda would call me out. I didn’t “get” the importance of financial literacy until we experienced hardships that rattled us to our core. As a provider, I knew that I did not want that kind of life for my family. I also knew that one of Melinda’s favorite songs was… Yep, you guessed it….


So I had to get it together.

Okay, I’m kidding about that part, lol.

But seriously, I knew that I wanted to marry her but I wasn’t willing to do it until I could offer her some kind of financial comfort. I wanted the experience of providing the wedding of her dreams without creating debt, I wanted to take her into a jewelry store, have her pick out her ring and pay cash for it. I mean it would be the least I could do for all of the sacrifices we made throughout our relationship, right? All of that has been accomplished and now we’re married. I’m here to tell you that…

Financial literacy and planning should never lose its importance in your marriage

If anything, your commitment to increasing financial literacy and security should get stronger. I know that one of the best gifts I can ever give my wife and (one day, very soon) our children (Noah and Ava- yep, we have the names decided already) is financial security. And in order for us to have that, we have to know how to manage our finances effectively. We have to develop the spending and saving habits that will make that possible. We have to set financial goals, meet about them, assess them, change and/or refine them and make sure they’re achieved within the agreed upon timeframe. Sacrifices will still be made, but it’s a choice that we make now. We choose to sacrifice or wait on some things now, because we want to luxury of retiring comfortably. We choose to live modestly so we can ensure that our children have money for college.

I have now replaced those American Literature books with finance-related books, because I understand the value of money and want to learn how to use it more effectively. Collectively, we are intentional about building wealth and exposing ourselves to any opportunities to build our financial acumen.

If you’re in a serious relationship that could lead to marriage, start having conversations about your financial goals and priorities now. Don’t wait until hardships surface. Don’t wait until you’re wealthy, don’t wait until you get the joint account, start educating yourself on how to manage your finances effectively. I can tell you that it’s not how much money you all have that counts, it’s about how you manage it. You will manage $5.00 the same as you would manage $500,000- it’s all about your mindset.

Believe it or not, the number one reason for divorce in the United States is financial strain. People get married and fail to develop strategies for how they will manage their money, what happens next? They walk away from the courthouse broke and broken-hearted. That’s not a good combination but it’s completely preventable.

Here’s what has worked for us

  1. Google Drive – We house all of our budgets, financial plans and goals in Google Drive. It’s user-friendly, robust yet simple and we can access it through an app on our phones or from our laptops no matter where we are in the world.
  2. Meeting Regularly to Discuss Our Finances – It’s one thing to set financial goals, but you cannot stop there. You have to make time to meet regularly to track and measure your progress. This also allows you to identify when certain goals are achieved so you can celebrate!
  3. Writing the Vision and Making it Plain – Most people start with a financial goal of just paying their bills on time, period. That’s a start. But what is your big vision for your finances? Do you want to build wealth? Leave assets behind for your children? Save money for your children’s college expenses? Retire early? In order to get this out of your head, you have to write down the big vision. I have certain financial goals, Melinda has certain financial goals. We write our visions down and then we talk about them. The end result is a collective vision that incorporates both of our goals.
  4. Setting our Agreements – When you get married, your money isn’t just your money anymore. You are a team. So it’s important to have certain rules regarding the family’s finances. Here are some of our agreements:
  • We agree that all family finance meetings must include a beverage of choice that may include but are not limited to the following: hot chocolate, wine, hot apple cider, coffee or tea.
  • We agree that we will try not to speak in definitives (I’m going to do this, we’re going to do that) and instead we will ask for each other’s input or make suggestions.
  • We agree that as far as the budget is concerned, if it isn’t a line item on the budget, it doesn’t need to take money out of our accounts.
  • We agree not to spend more than $20 without having paid all budgeted bills first.

We’re not financial experts

As we conclude this post, please understand that we’re learning every day. We’re not financial planners, we’re not economists, we’re just two people with a goal of living responsibly and building wealth for our family. What we’re suggesting may not work for your family. You may identify a better system- that’s cool. Please come back on this post and share it! We can learn from each other! Honestly, if you walk away from this post with a few takeaways and some chuckles, our objective has been fulfilled!





What’s this all about?

We are adding a section to our blog where we share our traveling experiences with you! One of the goals we established for our family this year was to travel more. By adding this section to our blog, it will allow us to invite you on the journey as we achieve that goal!

So where are the Lillys headed next?

It’s a surprise for Melinda’s birthday so you’ll have to wait and see until next week. But what I can say is that we’re going to two different places and it’s not Puerto Rico again. She’s in for a big surprise and we’re taking you with us!

Marriage Lessons From The North Carolina Couple That Holds The Guinness World Record For The Longest Marriage


Herbert and Zelmyra Fisher hold The Guinness World Record for the longest marriage. The North Carolina couple were married for 86 years!

Our goal is to beat that record and luckily the Fishers left us with a few gems on how to build a successful, long-lasting marriage! We’ve shared a few below:


Question: What made you realize that you could spend the rest of your lives together? Were you scared at all?

Answer: “With each day that passed, our relationship was more solid and secure. Divorce was NEVER an option, or even a thought.”


Question: What was the best piece of marriage advice you ever received?

Answer: “Respect, support, and communicate with each other. Be faithful, honest, and true. Love each other with ALL of your heart.”


Question: You got married very young – how did you both manage to grow as individuals yet not grow apart as a couple?

Answer: “Everyone who plants a seed and harvests the crop celebrates together. We are individuals, but accomplish more together.”


Question: At the end of bad relationship day, what is the most important thing to remind yourselves?

Answer: “Remember marriage is not a contest, never keep a score. God has put the two of you together on the same team to win.”


Read more about the Fishers at- http://www.epicdash.com/their-marriage-broke-a-world-recor…/

What We’ve Learned About Love and Marriage


Ciara on Love 

I think the biggest lesson I have learned about love is that it truly conquers all. It is resilient. And I know that sounds very cliché, but it’s incredibly true. When two people come together and truly commit to loving each other, love takes the form of glue and bonds their hearts together.

I’ve also learned that true love is like a mirror that projects the other person’s soul. It is there that you are shown who that person is- their strengths, their weaknesses, their fears, their insecurities. And for some reason, you feel safe with being exposed. You feel liberated. You feel understood. You feel esteemed.

When I met Melinda, I wasn’t living authentically. I had a nicely decorated box that I was comfortable inside and Melinda was the wrecking ball sent to demolish it. And I was afraid because I had buried my true identity and didn’t know who I was without that box. It was through this experience that I learned that true love can be the catalyst for your rebirth. That you can meet someone who God has equipped with eyes that can see through all the facades and find you- your true self; be it hidden, battered or scared and provide it with a place of refuge.

Love liberates.

I know and love myself because of the love that I share with Melinda. And as we have evolved over the years, I’ve learned that love is a teacher. And if you’re willing to be its student, it will teach you how to love like God. It will teach you how to care for something as precious as the human heart and it will check you.


Love will check you, boo! It will correct you when you’re letting pride get in the way; and it will mold you over time into the person you’re destined to become.

Love is gentle. And it can soften the hardest of hearts. Love is patient. It never gives up on you even when you try to push it aside. Love is like home. It’s safe. It’s familiar. You can come in, drop your bags and rest.


Melinda on Marriage

Ciara and I had been fast asleep for quite a few hours when I heard the loud crash in our master bathroom. I sprang up and hopped completely over Ciara’s still sleeping figure on the other side of the bed. I completely cleared her body and the edge of the bed, sticking a perfect 10 point landing with both feet on the floor. That’s when I woke up. I was ducking to get under the bed when Ciara sat up and asked me what was wrong. I told her that I had heard a loud crash in between breaths and she looked around to see what happened. Our shower caddy had fallen from its suction cup hook.

I was doubled over, trying to catch my breath when she took my arm and guided me to the bed. She only said four words to me all night and until the next morning. “Come here” as she lifted the covers and wrapped me in her arms and then, “It’s okay”, repeatedly until I caught my breath. My heartbeat had slowed from the pace of a HBCU drumline to that of 7-year-old learning to skip rope when I realized what had happened. I was amazed at how quickly and accurately I had moved in my sleep. I realized that I hadn’t woken up until my feet hit the floor and that everything up until that point had been driven by my mind or subconscious or the angels. I also realized that each time my silent chuckles shook my shoulders, Ciara would hold me tighter and drowsily mumble, “It’s okay.”

In the span of a few minutes I felt absolutely terrified, oddly fascinated (at the speed and accuracy of my response) and later, completely safe.

So far, marriage has been a lot like what happened that night. The wedding happens SO quick. Afterward, I was really terrified because I didn’t really know who “Melinda Lilly” was or how to be a wife or if any of that was supposed to be any different than the previous 6 years of our dating relationship. I’ve been completely fascinated with how quickly people seem to respect our relationship now versus before. Most of all, I feel safe. If anything goes down, I know exactly where to go. I don’t even think about it anymore, it’s automatic. I never have any doubt in my mind that Ciara will always protect me, even in her sleep.

And the thing about our marriage is that, there isn’t a part of our lives that isn’t touched by our union. So, sometimes she’s protecting me from bumps in the night or spiders or airplane turbulence (more on that in a later blog) but sometimes she’s protecting me from self-doubt or stress or anxiety or embarrassment. Sometimes I’m protecting her. Either way, it is when we are most vulnerable that we reach out and make each other feel 100% safe.


Wusband & Wife: What’s Next For Our Blog

When we started this blog over a year ago, our intent was to focus on our wedding planning journey as a same-sex couple in the south. We did just that. And on July 26, this happened…



We got married!

And since that very special day, we’ve been thinking about what’s next for our blog. We knew that with over 638 likes on our Facebook page and 1,162 visitors to our website that there must be a bigger purpose for our blog. We just needed to figure out what it was.


We would be lying if we said that we had it all figured out. In fact, we still think that there’s more to come for this blog, but we’re content with taking it one day at a time. So you’ve followed us throughout our wedding planning journey and now we invite you to take the journey with us as a married couple.

Wusband & Wife 2.0 will address topics related to marriage, topics like: communication, compromise and trust. Our goal is to be transparent, entertaining and inspiring. Let’s face it, not everyone believes that same-sex couples are able to create healthy, long-term marriages and we want to counter that belief by showcasing our journey as a same-sex married couple. We will share our lessons, our laughs, our ups and downs, in hopes of creating a safe place for other engaged and/or married couples to nurture and strengthen their relationships.

Are you ready?

We are! Today marks our seven year dating anniversary and also represents five months of marriage for us. To kick off this next phase of our blog, we decided to write about what we’ve learned about marriage and love. Stay tuned, it’s going to be good…

Update From The Lillys


We did! On July 26, 2015, in front of our closest family and friends, we got married! And the day could not have been more perfect! As you can imagine, the weeks before and after our wedding were insanely busy. So we apologize for not updating our blog as frequently as before. Nevertheless, you can visit our Facebook page for more photos and updates from us. We’ve also put together our vendor list for anyone who’s interesting in checking them out. We’re happy to send it to you- just drop us a comment or email with your email address. We would highly recommend each and every one of them! They made our special day unforgettable.

What’s Next For Us?

We have considered spinning this off into a marriage blog where we talk about our experiences as newlyweds. Or perhaps we’ll pitch that idea as a column for another publication? What do you all think? Would you continue reading about our journey as a newly-married same-sex couple? Drop us a comment or email us to share your thoughts! One thing is for sure, no matter what direction we take, we are SO grateful for all of the support we’ve received along the way.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

-Ciara & Melinda Lilly

Vendor Spotlight: Your Custom Catering & Events

Contact Person: Nate Turner

Email: info@yourcustomcatering.com

Services Provided: Catering and Event Management

Website: www.yourcustomcatering.com


How we met Nate and Chad

Okay, we’ll admit that food was ranked pretty high on our “Must not be an epic fail” list. So what did that mean? We stalked caterers for months. Yes, stalked. We checked Facebook pages, website photo galleries, Facebook page reviews, everything! Melinda’s stance was, “They need to prepare food that I cannot make at home.” My stance was, “If I’m going to pay for everyone to eat, it has to be food so good that it makes me want to slap Jazzy (just kidding PETA).”

We were like this… minus the pipe 


In one of Melinda’s searches, she came across Your Custom Catering and Events and sent me the link to their website. Their website was user-friendly, informative and professionally-designed (this matters). Next, we went to their Facebook page. We needed to see photos. However, the cardinal mistake we made was, we didn’t eat before perusing their photo galleries. The most appropriate and cute way to explain what resulted from that mistake is this…



After wiping the drool from our mouths, we submitted an online inquiry to schedule our initial consultation.


The Initial Consultation

For this consultation, we brought out the clipboard and a list of questions that could have been converted to a novel. But Chad answered each question with detail and ease. He and Nate were professionals. They knew their business and weren’t caught off guard by any of our questions.


We liked that.

We discussed every element of our vision- the food, the aesthetics, the venue, plating, etc. Outside of just catering-related information, Chad gave us suggestions and tips that we (well maybe just me) didn’t think about. Like, I knew we would need tables, and Melinda convinced me that table linens were a must-have, but who would have thought about how the table linens would lay on the tables? Glass or plastic wine glasses, yeah I totally didn’t think about that. But Your Custom Catering did and explained the pros and cons of each option.


The Food.

In all of our conversations with other caterers, the food options were limited but costly. We were getting a little nervous, because the trend was that one chicken entree, two vegetables, a garden salad and a cup of lemonade equaled $45,524 (okay, maybe not THAT much, but close enough). But things were different with Your Custom Catering. We were able to select menu items that were unique, elegant and fairly priced. And did we mention that they have a Krispy Kreme bread pudding made with… Krispy Kreme doughnuts?


In case you couldn’t tell Ciara loves donuts, folks. 

The Food Tasting.

So the moment we all have been waiting for has finally arrived. It’s time to taste the food! And I, Ciara, have to be honest; I was a little nervous. Melinda could make an old man’s boot taste like a signature dish from a five-star restaurant. This is why I lost my two-pack after the first year of our relationship, but I digress. My ultimate fear was that we would be paying a premium for food that Melinda could make at home. But that fear dissolved as soon as I tasted our first hors-d’oeuvre. This food was like slap yourself kind of good. Don’t believe me? Check out the expressions on their faces…


And this is just the first hors-d’oeuvre! There were two more to follow!

Every single dish on our menu was fantastic. The challenge, however, was upholding the correct etiquette when you really wanted to lick the plates. Here’s an example of how good this food was- there was one dish that came over a bed of lettuce. Andreana, Melinda’s sister and Maid-of-Honor, and I were on to the next dish only to find Melinda raving about the lettuce and how well it paired with the sauce. The lettuce, folks. Melinda, the culinary master, was impressed with every part of that dish- even the lettuce! Who can make lettuce taste magical? Your Custom Catering, that’s who.

Drum Roll… 

This may not be an effective drum roll, but the baby is cute.

The Krispy Kreme bread pudding. Ya’ll. No words will do it justice. I’ve basically concluded that I had an out-of-body experience while eating it. It was incredible! It tasted just like a hot, glazed Krispy Kreme doughnut! So, so, so good!


In Conclusion.

After we completed the food tasting, we started discussing our linen and centerpiece selections. Oh, you thought Your Custom Catering was just a catering company? These guys do it all! They are truly a one-stop shop for most of your wedding needs. We decided to use many of their services because we were impressed with their attention to detail and their dedication to quality work. We appreciated how attentive they were during the food tasting and found them to be incredibly helpful when it came to visualizing our decor. It didn’t take long to realize that we were dealing with professionals that we could trust.

As we were driving home from the food tasting, Melinda and I both took a sigh of relief. We knew, without a doubt, that we had made the right decision with Your Custom Catering. We were in good hands.

Hope this Helps! – Invitations Pt. 4

Design Styles

If you’re engaged to a person who has totally different design preferences than you and you’d like to test the strength of your love for one another…just wait until you have to pick out invitations! It is a great test of compromise and budgeting skills! As I mentioned before in part 1, a lot of invitation companies sell each piece individually. That means you not only have to negotiate with your partner on the design of the invitation but on which and how many pieces are really needed for your wedding. Now, given an unlimited budget, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to find something you BOTH like. But here’s OUR problem.


Ciara’s style is like this:

Vintage Fanfare

Regal, Sophisticated and Vintage


By Vintage, do you mean old? 


While my style is more like this:

Modern, Quirky, Fresh

Modern, Quirky, Fresh



I get vintage, but you get fresh? My design preferences are vintagely-fresh. 



So how did we do it? After literally 3 months, we got so frustrated that Ciara gave up and let me pick whatever I wanted. (And this, my friends, is a lesson in and of itself. Don’t go back-and-forth on something as simple as an invitation. Just do what will make your spouse happy.)  🙂 BUT being the good future wife that I am *brushes shoulders off*, I refrained from choosing my favorite design and picked one that we both liked.


I should mention that it isn’t that we couldn’t find ANYTHING we both liked. It’s just that some of the really good designs just didn’t fit in our budget or took too long to print up.  I mean, imagine paying $4.00 for the invitation ONLY (not including RSVP cards, etc). If you need to send them out to 100 people, you’re already looking at nearly $500 on invitations! It isn’t impossible, but I just really couldn’t see US spending that much on invitations. (Nope! There was NO way that we were going to pay $500+ for invitations. I could draw our wedding invitations for $8.92.)


Some things that might make your invitation search easier are:

  1. Having a theme – I know it sounds cheesy but if you have a set theme like “Paris” or “Travel”, it is easier to search websites for those keywords and only browse a few options rather than a couple thousand!
  2. Knowing your colors ahead of time – you can also search many websites by color or special features like glitter and foil.
  3. Ordering catalogues and samples early on – many companies send out a catalogue or samples at no cost so you can see what colors look like. Minted.com sent us a GREAT kit that had all their paper types,  printing types, colors and popular designs in it FOR FREE. It was high quality stuff. David’s Bridal sent us free samples in the colors we were debating on so that we could be sure about the printing before we ordered. (There are approximately 2,947,493.4 shades of purple, y’all)
  4. Know your personal style as a couple. We couldn’t find many designs we liked on certain sites because they just catered to a different style. Some were very muted tones and others were very lacey and traditional.
  5. Talk about the value of the invitation. For some couples, the invitation is the first glimpse you get of the wedding style itself. And if you have a theme it will be important to carry that into your invites. But for others, it isn’t that big of a deal. Either way is OK. Having a conversation about this early on will help you set a realistic budget and stick to it.

So, basically, if you are EVER planning on needing wedding invitations, do yourself a favor and start a Pinterest board NOW. Like RIGHT now. Stop what you are doing, ask your boss for a 15- minute break and make that Pinterest board! And then add me, we’ll pin together. 🙂


Hope this helps!