A New Way to Think About Engagement Proposals

Last weekend, I proposed. But you were already engaged.

Yes, I know I proposed too. So, why ask her to marry you when you already said yes to her?

Reciprocate the request for their commitment. That’s precisely the first reason why I proposed. Maya asked me but I didn’t ask her in return. She asked for my commitment to her for the rest of our lives. I wanted the same. Yes I recognize when a proposal happens, the reciprocation of such a commitment is often assumed. However, doing a two-sided proposal gives incredible affirmation of such a dual commitment.

Defy traditions and expectations. It seems as though tradition puts us under the impression that we need to lead our lives a certain way and do things a certain way such as an engagement proposal. A person proposes to the other. The other says yes. They get married. They live “happily ever after”. There’s that. But there’s also freedom to do as you please. The freedom to celebrate, affirm, and live your love for one another the way you want to. The options are boundless. That’s why I thought, why not do my own version of a surprise proposal, hopefully making my fiance feel just as special as I did when she proposed to me. Because of that, we had double the surprises, double the fun!

Pursue the extraordinary. Whenever we hope to become exclusive with another individual, we’re often looking for stability and security. They’re in this just for you, as you are for them. Meanwhile, we become frightened when we become that “old married couple” who don’t seem exciting or into one another. I believe a psychotherapist, Esther Perel’s Mating in Captivity, says it perfectly.

“We seek a steady, reliable anchor in our partner. Yet at the same time we expect love to offer a transcendent experience that will allow us to soar beyond our ordinary lives. The challenge for modern couples lies in reconciling the need for what’s safe and predictable with the wish to pursue what’s exciting, mysterious, and awe-inspiring.

-Esther Perel’s Mating in Captivity, 2006

So, how can we have both? How can we maintain both the lust for novel experiences and the assuring stability and faithfulness with our partner? Do the adventure you desire with them. Do something new with them. Do something different with them. Stay attuned to their love language as well as your own and be responsive to that. Do the firsts again, with a twist. Host an engagement party twice. Renew your vows every few years. Go on a honeymoon for 2 weeks every summer because heck with it right? Enjoy your extraordinary selves, together.

Choosing your Top 3 Wedding Priorities

***There’s a FREE, downloadable supplement to use at the end of this blog post!***

I think most of us are well-aware of the unsolicited “advice” you’re bombarded with once the wedding planning takes off. I often find this “advice” to be in response to ideas expressed by the individual getting married. People intend to be helpful, I would think. But often times, it’s discouraging to hear because the “advice” comes off as opinionated and lacks affirmation of one’s original ideas. Once you hear someone else’s opinion, you start to wonder, “Is my idea really not the best one?” Hosting a wedding is a paradox in itself. It is about you and the one you’re marrying. But then it also is about pleasing those who come to celebrate you two. Some advise you to focus on yourselves. Others advise you to please everyone else. The feat to achieve in this paradox is finding a happy balance. This is what makes it hard. Nevertheless, Maya and I strive to achieve this happy balance.

While dealing with unsolicited “advice” in the beginning phases of wedding planning, you may wonder where to start. Now I’m being one of those people giving advice to others…(but I intend to entirely be helpful to your own ideas and interests!) You can start out by discussing each other’s top priorities, alone. Setting your priorities straight may help you determine how much of your given budget you’d like to allocate to each priority since they are important to you two. I’m sharing this advice because, admittedly, I jumped into wedding planning in full splash, allowing my heightened imagination to cloud my sense of reality. It took me approximately a week before I pulled myself out of the water, and started anew by treading the water carefully and patiently. I couldn’t help myself at first. If you end up doing the same thing, that is okay, or so I’ve been told. It is a novel, exciting time. If you get carried away, so be it. Just draw yourself back in when you need to. For starters, Maya and I each chose three top priorities. You can choose more, but I suggest: the less, the better.

Maya’s Priorities: (1) People, (2) Food, (3) Music
Cecilia’s Priorities: (1) Location, (2) Flexibility, (3) Self-Made

You may have noticed that Maya and I developed pretty general priorities to start with. If you choose to do the same, generalization may allow you and your fiance to keep your expectations manageable, as well as allowing creativity to do its charm. After discussing in more detail what our general priorities were, Maya and I continued to dig into more detail. For instance, with the location of the wedding, it quickly became clear that I wanted to consider my hometown in Central Pennsylvania. I adore the nature backdrop among other more sentimental reasons. We were able to decide on the Central PA region pretty quickly since Maya’s family has spread out from coast to coast; therefore, she does not have much of a home base anymore. We are keeping the specificity of our venue choice private for now since we have yet to tell our guests! One of my priorities, check. Easy peasy. Meanwhile, food is an undeniable priority for Maya. She hopes for good food. When we do some tastings with select vendors, I’ll be focusing on Maya’s impressions and how we can please her and our guests.

As an aid in choosing your top priorities with your fiance, download the Priorities Checklist provided here. You can develop other priorities on this list too with the given spaces at the bottom of the checklist. Happy Planning!

Why are people using the term “Partner” more nowadays? Here’s why.

Until 2015, not all queer* couples could marry legally (in the USA). Due to limited rights, queer folks often called their significant others “domestic partners” to signal the seriousness of their relationships. Because of past circumstances, using the term “partner” continues to be commonly used by the queer community. Now, even though this community’s visibility has increased, using the term “partner” has gone beyond such a community in recent years. Some may be protective of how and who uses the term, but they’re probably going to have to eventually get over it because my older sisters use the term “partner” sometimes when they refer to their “husbands”…and I just freaking love it. I don’t know if they know that but there it is. Anyway, there shouldn’t be a census for who can use what terms. The term “partner” is now being normalized and that is a good thing. Here’s why.

The term “partner” represents neutrality. For starters, many of you have long ago lived the teenage years. Most of you are no longer “boys” and “girls”. So don’t you think its about time to toss the “girlfriend” and “boyfriend” business at 29 (or 35…43) years old? Using the term “partner” allows for adults to be adults. It’s as though you give yourself permission to be taken seriously when addressing your significant other(s) in the dating world.

Tradition has evolved. More women are going to work. More men are staying at home with the kids. We’re taking turns doing the driving, the shopping, and the cooking. When speaking of heterosexual relationships, gender roles throughout history have been largely disportionate. Especially when it comes to balancing out responsibilities and rights in society and within a relationship. Just 100 years ago, women didn’t work outside their home and men never cooked a meal for their family. In most cases today, if there is an imbalance in a relationship, it is frowned upon. Now, if traditional roles is what floats your relationship’s boat, by all means, have at it. Otherwise, past and personal preferences set aside, relationships are a two-way street. Referring to one another as “partner” encourages that culture between you two. Relationships grow and flourish beyond origins of “husband” and “wife”. They have evolved into a “partnership”.

Using the term “partner” is a lovely mystery. A mystery sacred to those who choose to use it. If I’m honest, I have fun with this one from time to time. Whenever I’m annoyed with someone else’s intentions or priorities, I use the mystery card. Here’s an example. The other night, I was at an event chatting with a stranger. I used the term “partner” and the gal gave subtle hints of curiosity about whether I was talking about a male or female partner. I decided not to give it away because why should I? My question to them is, “Why do you want to know the gender of my partner above every thing else? Inquire about something more interesting and useful to both of us. Besides that, all you need to know is that I love the literal guts out of my partner and couldn’t be prouder to be able to talk about them with whomever, whenever, wherever I go”. Nice meeting you, bye. Now, that may be a bit nit-picky but you have to admit, I’m making a valid point here.

You are teammates and equals. I think this is one of the most important pieces to live and breathe in your relationship; therefore, it may be the most important reason to convince you why it’s admirable to address your significant other as “partner”. You’re here to make one another feel special. Tell them…no, show them why they’re special. Cheer on one another. To strive and do better. And when they’ve done their best even if it wasn’t quite enough. Be a reliable constant for fun and games. Don’t hesitate to carry their burden, whenever they are weary. And don’t allow yourself to be left out of the equation, both of you. Advocate for yourself, for the other. Give. Receive. Reciprocate. You’re a partnered team not just through love but friendship too.

*This term is modernly used as an umbrella term to identify sexual and gender minorities who are not heterosexual and cisgender.

One Traditional Blessing Turned Into Three Modern Blessings

Since ancient Rome, it has been traditional for the groom-to-be to ask the bride-to-be’s father for their permission to marry their daughter. This tradition has become controversial in Western society in recent decades, especially today. The roots of this tradition remind us of when sexism and chauvinism were manifested and women were treated like possessions. Such reminders cause for a controversial decision of whether to request for a blessing in 21st century relationships.

While these origins of such a tradition are contentious, Maya decided to adopt such a tradition. And all in spite of being a woman hoping to marry another woman whose father had long ago passed. Before we go any further with assumptions…she adopted this tradition with a twist of her own. Just like anyone can with any tradition they please, Maya redefined the ancient practice, tailoring it to fit our modern love story.

Instead of one individual, there were three individuals she had in mind to ask for their blessing.

My best friend: at my sister’s wedding last summer.
My mother: on a family hike last fall.
And my deceased father: the night before she proposed.

Maya did not ask for their blessing so to have permission to marry me. She did not ask because I was their possession or property to give away. She did not ask because it was traditional or expected. Really, anyone who knows her and us, knows she’d find a way to marry me one way or another.

Maya asked my best friend, my mother, and my father for their blessings because these people know me through and through. They know who I truly am. They know what I need. They know what I want. Even my deceased father, through mind and spirit. Maya wanted to hear and see their affirmation that we are the best people we can be for one another through matrimony.

And that they did, enthusiastically, gracefully, and willfully.

40 Days of Decluttering

My partner and I grew up celebrating and practicing different faith traditions. She is Jewish. I am Christian. Gratefully so, when I told my Mama that Maya is Jewish, she instantly chuckled with unexpected delight. “Now we got someone Jewish to add to our already diverse clan!” with a big, teethy grin stretched across her face.

One thing I cherish about my relationship with Maya is our enthusiasm to participate in one another’s faith traditions. Now, neither of us are regular temple or church goers, nor do we practice every tradition our respective affiliations practice. However, in our own little ways, we honor our respective faiths due to the uplifting connections, meaningful gatherings, and good times they bring to our lives.

To share a few things we do: We have apples and honey during Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Maya puts up with the Christmas chaos every year with my family, participating in my siblings’ Secret Santa gift exchange. We have Hamsa decorations scattered throughout our bedroom walls to bring us happiness, luck, good health, and fortune. Maya watches me as I attempt to sign the hymns bellowed through the organs at my family’s church. I commemorate Yom Kippur and Passover with her family if we can squeeze it into our schedules. Currently, we are discussing what traditions we’d like to incorporate in our upcoming wedding (we recently got engaged!). Meanwhile, we also seek to try out new things or adopt practices in our own creative ways to honor and celebrate our families and where we came from.

A little over a month ago, I was sitting on the bedroom floor, sorting through Maya’s childhood photos when I impulsively requested that we do something for Lent. For those of you unfamiliar with Lent, it is a practice developed by the Christian church with which its people devote to fasting, abstinence, and penitence in commemoration of when Jesus fasted in the wilderness. Typically, Lent begins on Ash Wednesday (March 6, 2019) to Holy Saturday (April 20, 2019). This includes 40 week days and Saturdays.

So what did we decide to do for Lent, for 40 Days? We went “Marie Kondo” on our “stuff”. We decided we wanted to create space for serenity and inspiration while being rid of unnecessary clutter. Each day of Lent, we looked for an item we each owned and asked ourselves any of the following:

“Does this give me a spark of joy?”

“When was the last time I used this?”

“Will I use it soon?”

“Who else might enjoy it more than me?”

Just like that, day after day, our collection box grew and grew before it overflowed with 80 items on the last day of Lent. The last part we have to do yet is go through this collection box and see if we missed anything. Otherwise, we will sort through these items to see what can be given away and what can be donated.

Since having done this for Lent, I sense freshness in our personal spaces, drawers, and shelves. We minimized “stuff” in our lives. Meanwhile, we added tranquility and space to enjoy one another more.

p.s. Right after Lent, we dove right into having no leavened bread for 7 days as is practiced by the Jewish faith tradition. We’ve been having a lot of matzah lately!

Washington, DC has a 5th Season: A Must-See!

My partner, Maya, and I developed a once-a-week-date-night tradition which we started last fall. We take turns hosting the date night. Maya usually finds the local hidden gems for us to wine and dine. Last week was at Maydan, a hideout in Northwest DC which houses a 2-floor tall clay oven and majestic chairs suitable for even queens. On my end, I tend to choose dates involving an activity and a go-with-the-flow “bite to eat” like this week’s date.

Yesterday, I arranged for us to trek over to the other side of the city so to see a spectacle that so many rave about during this time of year. I like to call it Washington, DC’s 5th season. It happens between winter and spring; late March to early April. All because of one type of tree.

Approximately 3,000 cherry trees greet its viewers with pink and white floral fireworks along the 2-mile Tidal Basin Loop Trail. These trees commemorate a gift given to the United States in 1912 by the Mayor of Tokyo. Such a gift draws in tens of thousands of tourists including locals to the Tidal Basin in Washington, DC. This 2-week long spectacle is an annual celebration of the friendship between the Japanese and North American people.

This year, the full bloom began on the last day of March followed by the peak bloom a few days later. A peak bloom means about 70 percent or more of the clustered cherry trees have blossomed, lasting only a few days. As we walked around the 2-mile Tidal Basin, the cherry trees formed timber-truss flower pathways leading us through the memorials of Thomas Jefferson, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Martin Luther King Jr. It felt like a fairy land for photographers, romantics, and little ones who dream of being princesses. This weekend, the blossoms will wean off its branches, becoming mystical swirls of pink, white, and light brown coin-sized petals, ending the 5th season as spring appears.

We topped the night off by heading to Downtown on a whim and into the Capitol City Brewing Co. for some crab cakes and locally brewed drinks. Next year, you should come on out for the 5th season beauties! You won’t regret it.