What We’ve Learned About Love and Marriage

12438660_10102260816707415_446151538_o

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.

200_s

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…

 

11224325_910473635713908_5798959886282527151_o

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.

Now…

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?

image

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…

11427852_845055580413_6974968306105493256_n

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.

Vendor Spotlight: Your Wellness Coach

Contact Person: Maureen Carlomagno

Email: maureen@your-wellness-coach.com

Services Provided: Health and Wellness Coaching

Website: http://www.your-wellness-coach.com

 

How we met Maureen

After reading about us in Creative Loafing, Maureen sent us an email to introduce herself and her company. She explained that she had recently developed a coaching package especially for couples who were planning their wedding and that she would love to work with us and extend her new service to us for free!

Yes, our favorite word, FREE!

I don’t think five minutes passed before we were responding to her email for more details. Throughout the day, we exchanged a few more emails and scheduled our first meeting.

 

Our First Meeting

IMG_3222

 

Melinda’s smile says it all. Our first meeting with Maureen was great! There are so many things we could appreciate about Maureen. But here are a few that really resonated with us: she was kind, very knowledgeable, attentive and genuine. She listened and we could tell that she sincerely cared to learn more about us. And as you would expect from any coach, she was organized, direct and very thorough.

How thorough?

So thorough that Melinda didn’t have any questions after we wrapped up our meeting!

And that never happens.

 

The Coaching Package- The Intuitive Bride

Some couples seek pre-marital counseling to prepare them for marriage while others just jump the broom with their fingers crossed. Melinda and I are taking a different approach. For 8-weeks, we will work one-on-one with Maureen to address different topics like: Health History, Personality and Life Values Assessments, Goal Setting and Health Action Plan, Health Risks and Personal Biometric Information, Nutrition and Healthy Eating, Exercise, Objective Self-Review, Time Management, Stress Management, Social Support, Staying Motivated, and Positive Mindset.

This coaching package will equip us with tools and resources that we can use throughout our marriage. It will give Melinda and I an opportunity to grow in our knowledge of each other, because it’s true, you can be with someone for many years and still learn something new about them every day.

During one of our most recent coaching sessions with Maureen, we learned about our personality types. And although our personality types were quite similar, there were a few differences that we were able to identify. We both walked away with a better understanding of how we can communicate more effectively with each other. Now we have new knowledge that we will be able to apply in our everyday interaction.

But What If You’re Not Getting Married Right Now?

You can still use Maureen’s services! She offers both individual and group coaching packages that you can read more about here. She also conducts various health and wellness seminars in and around Charlotte. In fact, if you’re in the Charlotte area this weekend, Maureen will be hosting a free “How To” Online Shopping Class at Harris Teeter. We’ve included the details below:

Seminar: Harris Teeter “How To” Online Shopping Class: Learn how to shop faster, smarter and healthier

Date: Saturday, February 28, 2015

Time: 10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.

Location: Davidson Harris Teeter, 431 Peninsula Drive, Davidson, NC 28036

Topics Covered In The Class: Learn how to shop from the comfort of your home or office, shop online in under 30 minutes, then pick up your order in 10 minutes or less, learn tips to stick to your grocery budget, save valuable time in your busy schedule, unlimited shopping available, convenient pick-up times, new tips and tricks on the Harris Teeter app and website and how to make eating healthier easier.

Register Here: http://goo.gl/forms/rhihP2lxSi

 

To Have Your Cake and Eat It Too- Ciara & Melinda’s Cake Tasting Adventure

10533906_767979149963358_5066105556783199469_n

 

Ciara here, can I be honest with you all? I counted down for our special day. Now before you all say, “Awww, isn’t she sweet,” I must confess that I’m not talking about the wedding day (although I am counting down for that too). I had an official cake tasting countdown. See, for me, cake is a serious matter. Almost as serious as coffee. And I wanted to be sure that our guests experienced the best wedding cake possible at our wedding. So weeks prior to the cake tasting, I increased the intensity of my workouts to make up for the gluttony that would follow. One could say, “Ciara, how could eating bite-sized cake pieces equal gluttonous behavior?”

Let me explain…

For starters, let’s discuss how we arrived at the cake tasting stage. Earlier this month, our close friend, Mara, referred us to a potential wedding cake vendor. And after visiting their website, I immediately remembered tasting a sample (“a” sample, Ciara?)  Okay, since Melinda wants to call me out, I remembered tasting all the samples; and being really impressed with them all. We exchanged a few emails with the vendor and scheduled a complimentary cake tasting for two weeks out.

The Day Arrives…

And I’m ready. I flossed and brushed really well. I even ate a light breakfast. Minutes into our consultation, we’re greeted with two plates of four different cakes. Then Dayna, one of the owners of the company, asks one of my favorite questions,  “Would anyone like coffee?” I knew then we had found our wedding cake vendor. Okay, maybe not at that exact moment, but they certainly scored major cool points. For the next few minutes, Melinda and I are tasting different cake and frosting options; but Melinda is chipping off baby pieces of cake. Here’s where the gluttony comes in…

8.5 minutes into the consultation and my cake is all gone…

But Melinda’s isn’t. She’s had enough to determine her favorites and I’m left with a tough life decision, do I eat her cake and just deal with the gluttony later or do I let the cake go to waste? I thought about all the people starving in the world and decided the least I could do in that moment was not be wasteful. I said…

And ate her cake too.

 

You know what? I didn’t really need all that cake anyway, babe. Jesus might have been lookin’ out because I’ve got to fit into a wedding dress in 6 months! But seriously, this was one of the easiest decisions to make for me. Probably because I was well aware that the cake was going to be Ciara’s “thing”. It was honestly kinda cute to see her enjoy her favorite part of this entire process and I’m really glad we got the cake that she wanted. I guess this is how she feels when she gets me the purse, make-up, blanket, smashburger, that I wanted. It is a good feeling. 🙂

All of their cakes are made from scratch using the freshest ingredients and you can tell. The cake was delicious. We decided on a custom-designed, three-tier wedding cake. We cannot wait for you to see the finished product!

 

Ciara & Melinda’s Feature Story on Black Lesbian Love Lab

Ciara gets down on bended knee in front of Melinda.

Photo Credit- S. Espinosa Photography

 

If you haven’t liked our Facebook page , chances are that you missed the feature story we did with  Black Lesbian Love Lab . We had such a great time doing this interview and wanted to be sure that all of our readers checked it out! So if you missed the feature story or if you have an interest in learning more about me and Melinda, definitely check this story out. Click here to read it.

Ciara & Melinda Make Creative Loafing Charlotte’s 15 People to Watch in 2015

Ciara Lilly, the mannequin, and Melinda Robinson

Photo Credit: Creative Loafing, Melissa Oyler

 

We are thrilled to announce that we have been recognized by Creative Loafing Charlotte as one of 15 people to watch in 2015.

It is an honor to share the list with some of Charlotte’s most amazing changemakers. If you’re in the Charlotte area, be sure to pick up your copy of Creative Loafing today. For our friends outside of Charlotte, you can check out our feature story online by clicking here.

 

 

Vendor Spotlight: Celebration Sounds Entertainment

 

 

Celebration Sounds

 

 

Contact Person: Rick Hyburg

Email: Rick@CelebrationSoundsNC.com

Services Provided: Wedding and Special Event DJ Services

Website: http://www.celebrationsoundsnc.com

How we met Rick

For months we sought a DJ for our wedding and just couldn’t find the right fit for us. This all changed when our good friend, Mara, introduced us to Rick at Celebration Sounds Entertainment. After a few Facebook exchanges and a quick browse of his website and Facebook page, we eagerly scheduled a consultation with him.

The Consultation

When we first started our wedding planning journey, we both identified what elements of the wedding were most important to us. The number one thing on Melinda’s list was the DJ. So you can imagine how excited she was during this consultation. We were prepared. We even had a list of interview questions, as seen below, that we printed from our wedding planning binder.

1655724_745328805561726_6081931090868919392_o

What really resonated with us about Rick was that he had a sincere desire to learn more about us, first. Before we discussed his services, we spent time learning about one another. He shared his professional experience, explained how this whole process would work and even gave examples of various success stories that developed our confidence in his DJing abilities. He was professional, engaged, funny and didn’t mind answering the 150,498, 239, 398 (okay, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration) questions Melinda had.

We knew we had found the right DJ

cabbage patch

This is our celebratory cabbage patch dance

On our special day, Celebration Sounds Entertainment, will handle the ceremony and reception music. We cannot share too much, because we want our guests to be surprised, but we’ll say this much… This will not be your Grandmother’s wedding ceremony and reception. And Celebration Sounds Entertainment is making it possible!

Goodbye 2014, Hello 2015

Today is the last day of 2014 and we didn’t want to end the year without acknowledging our readers. According to our WordPress stats, our blog was visited over 490 times in 2014. Most of our readers are from the United States, but we have devoted readers from other countries like: Jamaica, Japan, England, Africa, Poland, etc. We also have 11 subscribed followers of our blog! And last, but not least, on our Facebook page; which you can find here, we have 271 likes!

What do we have to say about that?

And we mean it.

In 2015, we purpose to share even more of our journey with you. You can expect more vendor spotlights, more updates concerning our progress and even some wedding planning advice!

One of our biggest goals for 2015 is to attract more opportunities that allow us to spread our story across a larger audience. Beyond unveiling our wedding planning journey as a same-sex couple in the south; we want to reach those individuals that need to hear that it’s okay to love who you are and who you’re with, without any fear or shame. Basically, we just want to show evidence that love truly conquers all- our story speaks to that. So if you have ideas on how we can achieve this, like perhaps you’re Oprah and want us on Super Soul Sunday, then please contact us.

To each of you reading this, we wish you and your families, a prosperous 2015! May it be your best year yet! Thank you so much for playing a part in making 2014 such a memorable year for us!

 

Happy New Year,

Ciara & Melinda