Oftentimes I see women of color spending so much time planning for the wedding, they forget about their marriage. The wedding planning process is a very stressful time, and if couples aren't on the same page, it can lead to a very rocky first year of marriage or divorce. I got married young (24) and canceled my wedding and 300-plus guests 60 days before it was set to take place because we were not ready.
We went back to church and worked out our issues. We ended up having a small wedding in the Bahamas a year later. It was super embarrassing at the time, but the financial and spiritual lessons we learned were needed. I know in my heart that if we would have gone through with that wedding, God wouldn't be in our marriage now. So, as a wedding photographer, I try to connect with my brides on a personal level to give them some guidance during their planning process as the wedding industry and social media set unrealistic expectations. So here is a quick sample of some of my tips!
1.Review your finances and set your budget early.
Before you get a wedding magazine, set a date, or go to Pinterest, you need to know how much you are willing to spend on your wedding. Finances are the number one issue in marriage in America today, and you don't want to start off headed down the wrong path. I know weddings are expensive, but that doesn't mean you can't have a beautiful day within your budget! Once you have your budget set, stick to it. Splurge within your budget! If you want more flowers, cut back on the number of guests. Sis, I promise you no one will remember the type of chairs you had at your wedding. Do what's best for the family you are creating!
2.Set family boundaries.
My husband is Bahamian so not only were we blending two families but two different cultures. We were still learning each other's family dynamics, and I had a hard time understanding them, so I found myself at odds while planning. To cut down on the drama, we came up with a rule that he would communicate negative feels to his family and I would talk to mine. We would be a united front even if we had to make compromises coming to our final decision. It worked so well, we kept it in our marriage for both births of our children! It saved us a lot of time and energy!
3.Hire a bomb photographer.
I know you're thinking this is totally self-serving of me, but honestly, it's going to be the only thing you have left from your day. I always tell my brides when they get into their first significant disagreement with their husband after their wedding, pull out their album to remind them of the happy times! The goal here is to have your great-great-grandchildren look at these photos one day. Think about it as an investment in your family's history. I have so many brides come to me after "going a different direction" because they hate their photos or important moments were missed. It's the one area of your wedding you want to make sure you have made a personal, and you can see yourself in that person's work.
4.Have a Beyonce moment (make it exclusive).
Facebook is going to be a complete snapshot of the human experience. However, I am a firm believer that not every moment of our lives should be shared with everyone. This is an intimate moment of two families becoming one. Why not just enjoy the moment with the people that are in the room? An unplugged wedding is when the bride and groom request their guests put their phones/iPad/Gopro/Christmas DSLR cameras away during their wedding. I'm down for the idea of having an unplugged wedding, however, if that takes it too far for you, why not just the ceremony?
When I walked down the aisle, I wasn't trying to see my husband through a sea of cell phones, I saw him. His eyes, his smile, my mom's smile, my mother-in-law's tears. It was a powerful moment and I am glad we did it OUR WAY.
I always ask myself what happened to all those iPhone photos after the wedding anyway? Do they just sit in the cloud? Like really, you hired a photographer and I promise you won't regret having an unplugged wedding. Wait, why not have an unplugged marriage too? See, I know my story is different. However, I have found social media to be unhealthy for my marriage in the beginning. So, I kept mine off completely. To me, marriage is too real for the fake land of Instagram. My husband doesn't have social media and I have it for my businesses. I just found keeping my private life private is best for my little family. It works for us and may not work for you! it really may not be that deep. But I suggest you have a conversation with your partner to see what works best for your relationship especially when you have kids.
5.Support black-owned businesses.View More: https://unique2chicphotography.pass.us/swanhousefavs
This is your opportunity to keep your dollars in our community. I hate that we have this stigma in our community about the level of service black business have. It's simply not true. We are here. We are ready and we are luxury honey! I have seen a new wave of "woke" brides actively searching to hire all-black vendors and I'm all the way here for it. There is nothing like having a photographer that went to an HBCU or a DJ that was in the band. There are so many vendors to pick from in different styles and at each price point. I know if you take your time, you can find great ones that are within our community. Just know we love the support and will provide the same if not better quality of service as our counterparts!
6.Start marriage counseling and stay in it.
Planning a wedding can introduce a new level of stress into your relationship. Managing finances, family expectations, and personal time can all be a lot to handle. I see couples learning after the wedding that marriage isn't as easy as they thought. It requires a lot of hard work and commitment every single day. I personally found counseling helpful during the process of building our marriage once the honeymoon stage was over. I think of it as a tool to help fix things if we fall off track, which we do. It's funny because you think you really know a person otherwise you wouldn't be married to them.
However, life as a way of throwing you curveballs. I'm here to tell you, that you will face problems that you never thought would be an issue. For me, my unexpected life surprise was being diagnosed with thyroid cancer at 27 years old. I know when you see cancer, you think the worst but my situation was far from it. It did, however, take a toll on my mental health and my marriage. My husband and I didn't know how to navigate through that storm so we sought the help of a professional. Marriages have ups and downs and different seasons. It's OK to have an outside neutral party to help you through it.
7.On the 7th Day, God rested.View More: https://unique2chicphotography.pass.us/swanhousewedding
The planning is over, the wedding is done, now it's time to relax on a beach and enjoy the first days of your marriage together! I will honestly say not taking a honeymoon was my biggest mistake during my planning. We were getting married on an island so our reasoning was the wedding was a honeymoon -- NO, it wasn't. We spent so much time entertaining guests and we really didn't see each other that much, which is normal during a wedding weekend. We should have taken a few days to ourselves just to relax. The world is open now, it's affordable to get to Thailand or Aruba for a week. My husband and I always said we would take a "honeymoon" later, but five years and two kids later, I'm still waiting. Trust me, you won't regret the time, vacation days, or the money spent.
Featured image via Elizabeth Austin Photography.
Elizabeth Austin-Davis is a northern girl with a southern heart. While in Alabama pursuing her business undergraduate degree at Tuskegee University, she continued to follow her passion of photography. In 2013, she successfully launched her photography business. Since then, she has photographed weddings internationally, and her work has been featured in Brides, The Knot Magazine, Martha Stewart, HGTV, Black Bride Magazine, and many more. Her ability to artistically translate her couples love through images, has been a catalyst in developing her unique style.
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Exclusive: Gabrielle Union On Radical Transparency, Being Diagnosed With Perimenopause And Embracing What’s Next
Whenever Gabrielle Union graces the movie screen, she immediately commands attention. From her unforgettable scenes in films like Bring It On and Two Can Play That Game to her most recent film, in which she stars and produces Netflix’s The Perfect Find, there’s no denying that she is that girl.
Off-screen, she uses that power for good by sharing her trials and tribulations with other women in hopes of helping those who may be going through the same things or preventing them from experiencing them altogether. Recently, the Flawless by Gabrielle Union founder partnered with Clearblue to speak at the launch of their Menopause Stage Indicator, where she also shared her experience with being perimenopausal.
In a xoNecoleexclusive, the iconic actress opens up about embracing this season of her life, new projects, and overall being a “bad motherfucker.” Gabrielle reveals that she was 37 years old when she was diagnosed with perimenopause and is still going through it at 51 years old. Mayo Clinic says perimenopause “refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.”
“I haven't crossed over the next phase just yet, but I think part of it is when you hear any form of menopause, you automatically think of your mother or grandmother. It feels like an old-person thing, but for me, I was 37 and like not understanding what that really meant for me. And I don't think we focus so much on the word menopause without understanding that perimenopause is just the time before menopause,” she tells us.
Photo by Brian Thomas
"But you can experience a lot of the same things during that period that people talk about, that they experienced during menopause. So you could get a hot flash, you could get the weight gain, the hair loss, depression, anxiety, like all of it, mental health challenges, all of that can come, you know, at any stage of the menopausal journey and like for me, I've been in perimenopause like 13, 14 years. When you know, most doctors are like, ‘Oh, but it's usually about ten years, and I'm like, ‘Uhh, I’m still going (laughs).’”
Conversations about perimenopause, fibroids, and all the things that are associated with women’s bodies have often been considered taboo and thus not discussed publicly. However, times are changing, and thanks to the Gabrielle’s and the Tia Mowry’s, more women are having an authentic discourse about women’s health. These open discussions lead to the creation of more safe spaces and support for one another.
“I want to be in community with folks. I don't ever want to feel like I'm on an island about anything. So, if I can help create community where we are lacking, I want to be a part of that,” she says. “So, it's like there's no harm in talking about it. You know what I mean? Like, I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change. I'm just getting better and stronger and more intelligent, more wise, more patient, more compassionate, more empathetic. All of that is very, very welcomed, and none of it should be scary.”
The Being Mary Jane star hasn’t been shy about her stance on therapy. If you don’t know, here’s a hint: she’s all for it, and she encourages others to try it as well. She likens therapy to dating by suggesting that you keep looking for the right therapist to match your needs. Two other essential keys to her growth are radical transparency and radical acceptance (though she admits she is still working on the latter).
"I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change."
Gabrielle Union and Kaavia Union-Wade
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images
“I hope that a.) you recognize that you're not alone. Seek out help and know that it's okay to be honest about what the hell is happening in your life. That's the only way that you know you can get help, and that's also the only other way that people know that you are in need if there's something going on,” she says, “because we have all these big, very wild, high expectations of people, but if they don't know what they're actually dealing with, they're always going to be failing, and you will always be disappointed. So how about just tell the truth, be transparent, and let people know where you are. So they can be of service, they can be compassionate.”
Gabrielle’s transparency is what makes her so relatable, and has so many people root for her. Whether through her TV and film projects, her memoirs, or her social media, the actress has a knack for making you feel like she’s your homegirl. Scrolling through her Instagram, you see the special moments with her family, exciting new business ventures, and jaw-dropping fashion moments. Throughout her life and career, we’ve seen her evolve in a multitude of ways. From producing films to starting a haircare line to marriage and motherhood, her journey is a story of courage and triumph. And right now, in this season, she’s asking, “What’s next?”
“This is a season of discovery and change. In a billion ways,” says the NAACP Image Award winner. “The notion of like, ‘Oh, so and so changed. They got brand new.’ I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
"I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
She continues, “So I'm just trying to figure out what's next. You know what I mean? I'm jumping into what's next. I'm excited going into what's next and new. I'm just sort of embracing all of what life has to offer.”
Look out for Gabrielle in the upcoming indie film Riff Raff, which is a crime comedy starring her and Jennifer Coolidge, and she will also produce The Idea of You, which stars Anne Hathaway.
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Feature image by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images
Jay-Z has mastered an air of mystique. With a rap career that spans three decades, the Brooklyn native has managed to weave in and out of the public spotlight, making his rare interview appearances eagerly anticipated.
When you’ve managed to reach billionaire status at the rightful age of 50 and are married to the greatest female artist of our generation, you can grow accustomed to letting your resume speak for itself. But in late October, the music mogul shed his discretion and joined CBS This Morning co-host Gayle King for an in-depth interview while touring his "The Book of HOV" exhibit at the Brooklyn Public Library.
JAY-Z weighs in on "$500,000 in cash or lunch with JAY-Z" debate: "You've gotta take the money"
In the exclusive interview, the 4:44 rapper discussed his extensive body of work, detailed his active involvement in criminal justice reform, and gave rare, personal insights on the cultural impact of his wife, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, and their daughter Blue Ivy, joining her mom on the Renaissance World Tour this year.
During his sitdown with King, the Roc Nation owner settled the viral internet debate of “Would you rather have one meal with Jay-Z and pick his brain, or get $500,000 cash?” To which he simply advised fans to take the cash.
“You gotta take the money,” he said. “What am I gonna say?”
Internet debate aside, you might be surprised to learn that this coveted conversation with the goated hitmaker almost didn’t happen.
The morning show host caught up with Scott Evans from Access Hollywood recently and shared that her interview with Jay-Z may not have happened had she heeded the advice of her friend, Oprah Winfrey.
"You know he doesn't like to do interviews, and I was shameless," King told Evans. "I just groveled [so much] that it became embarrassing."
“Even Oprah said, ‘You are making a damn fool of yourself. Stop asking him. He doesn’t want to do it.’ But I couldn’t let it go, because he never said no, no, no – he just kept delaying, delaying, delaying."
Despite Oprah's initial suggestion that he was being “polite” by not saying no, King persisted in her request to interview Hov and expressed gratitude for his eventual participation."
Oprah said he’s just being polite because he doesn’t want to tell you no, but I kept coming back,” King continued. “I don’t know why he said yes or why he changed his mind… I’m just grateful that he did."
It’s safe to say that fans and admirers of Jay Z are grateful for King’s persistence. Without it, we’d have one less opportunity to gain insight into the rapper’s life as a proud husband and father and preserve his legacy.
To commemorate Gayle King’s noteworthy entry into Hov’s interview hall of fame, we’ve put together a list of his most iconic interview moments.
Jay Z's Classic 2013 Interview on The Breakfast Club:
The Breakfast Club had a nearly hour-long conversation with the mogul about music, family, and much more.
Jay-Z in Conversation with Dean Baquet of The New York Times
The rapper and music mogul discusses therapy, marriage, and politics with The New York Times's executive editor.
Jay-Z on 'My Next Guest Needs No Introduction' with David Letterman
Jay-Z appeared on David Letterman's Netflix series My Next Guest Needs No Introduction and gave his views on the Trump administration.
Jay-Z Joins Kevin Hart on Peacock’s 'Hart to Hart'
Hip-hop legend Jay-Z sits down with Kevin Hart to discuss how self-confidence and Muhammad Ali's influence on his life.
Jay-Z’s One-on-One Interview with CNN
CNNMoney's full interview with the hip-hop mogul about everything from his new book to Obama to how he makes money.
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Featured image via CBS