What We’ve Learned About Love and Marriage

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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.

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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…

 

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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

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. 

EXACT. OPPOSITES.

 

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!

XOXO,

~Mel

Hope This Helps! : Invitations Pt. 3

Martha & Snoop

MARTHA

 

Now I know, some of us have mixed opinions on Martha Stewart, but I’ve got to admit that when it comes to wedding etiquette, she’s got you covered. If you want to know what the rules are about ANYTHING, Martha’s got advice for you. So how did that make things harder for me? Well, if you can’t tell already, there are a LOT of things to consider when choosing wedding invitations without thinking about what is “traditional”.

Once you start looking up etiquette for one thing, you realize that there are entire books written on the subject and you could spend weeks trying to bring your invitations (or ceremony, or reception) up to that standard. (Or you can take my approach, order what looks nice and keep it kicking.)

Honestly, I don’t understand how people do it and it makes me even more grateful for all of our friends and family who don’t really care what we do as long as they get an invitation!

So here’s the deal. I respect you as a person. I’m not going to boss you around and tell you how to have your wedding. But if you’re curious about invitation etiquette, I’ll link some interesting things below.  I see the value in some of these and not so much for others. Just remember this: it is YOUR wedding! Do what you want (especially if you’re the one paying for it!).

 

  1. Check out this article on how to tell guests about your registry. (I disagree on this one)
  2. Click here for information on how to address all three of your envelopes.
  3. Here’s some info on how to handle “plus one”s.
  4. Minted.com has a great timeline for when to send things out!

 So, what do you think about #1? Answer our poll!

 

 

Hope this helps!

XOXO

~Mel

 

 

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

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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

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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.