This past year, I married the man I was born to love twice.
I said “I do" for the first time on October 9, 2015, and then again on October 10, 2015. About a year earlier, we got engaged on my husband's birthday.
I have to pause for a second as I write “husband". Our commitment to being forever bound to each other came long before those days, long before that title, long before I answered "yes" to his proposal. As far as I'm concerned, it was through our daughter that we made our first and most important commitment to each other.
Realistically, you can marry whoever you want, divorce that person, and move on with your life. However, when you procreate together, you are forever bound to each other through that child and that is a very serious lifelong decision. Commitment in any relationship should come before you ever decide to procreate or legalize your union. It is something that a person displays to you through their actions and not their words. It is something that creates comfort and peace in your home; not destruction and chaos. True love is about security, stability, honesty, loyalty and freedom.
The freedom to be yourself and to grow organically.
You will not have to question, analyze, or decide if someone is truly committed to building with you, you will know.
And I knew.
I always knew.
What happened those two days back in October was just adding another layer to commitments Bryan and I already made. Our daughter, Amirah, was a seed we both planted and from her and within her, grew a tree of love in great abundance, deepening love to something even more eternal if at all possible. Our weddings were absolutely perfect, mostly because I went into those days with the mindset that they would be. I wasn't going be the bride who spent energy stressing about little things. I would be the bride focusing on the actual point, celebrating our love.
For me, it was simply a day to celebrate what we had already been doing for 7 years prior to our wedding date. Marriage for us is an extension of our already existing bond, a way for us to enhance one another's lives, as well as striving for our own individual greatness. In our time together, I've found that you don't need to get married to create this bond with another human being and you don't have to have a super expensive wedding to prove anything to anyone either.
Our wedding was by ourselves and for ourselves.
Our wedding was officiated by two of our friends, Kalonji Nzinga and Najib Kamagate, who got ordained online and created a personal ceremony that really touched our hearts. My Aunt Joyce made the broom we jumped over and my friend, Ashley Simpson, sung me down the aisle. Our wedding party consisted of thirteen bridesmaids, thirteen groomsmen, and three flower girls. I went into my wedding day with so much pride that we had made it to this moment together.
Our budget was on the lower end of the expense scale at $15,000, paid for primarily by me. I thought it would be a nice gesture to my husband because of how much he sacrifices for our family as the financial leader of our home. The Strongwater Food and Spirits based in Columbus, Ohio acted as our venue of choice and was the perfect backdrop for our minimalistic wedding.
DIY home and jewelry designer Nalo Wise doubled as my matron of honor and decorator, providing most of the eco friendly décor of the celebration, including planter beds with succulents flown in from California that guests were able to take home with them.Our favorite foods of fish tacos, jackfruit tacos, falafel, macaroni and cheese, kale salad, and a table of our favorite desserts of: oreos, sour patch kids, donuts, and chocolate cakes were offered in abundance to guests in attendance.
The day after my second wedding, which was a traditional Cambodian wedding to honor my husband's culture, I was lying next to my husband and looking at this beautiful man that I fell in love with so long ago.
And I realized that I didn't really feel a difference after being married. I had always loved him, honored him, been faithful, and committed. I realized at that very moment that we can have everything we want in life, with or without titles. Happiness is a mindset, something you have to be willing to accomplish beyond others' ideals.
Yes, our wedding was beautiful and yes, those two days were a great way to create memories that we will never forget. But, if there were no ceremonies and we had decided to take that money and travel with our daughter instead, we would have returned home to the same reality.
We are in love, we are committed, and I now realize that marriage is something that happens long before the wedding.
Bride: Ashley Sirah Hinton Chea @watermeloneggrolls
Groom: Bryan Chea @_chea
Wedding Planner: Lindsey Collins
Wedding Décor: @PeytonNile
Makeup Artist: @Noonebeam
The most beautiful takeaway I have about marrying my husband was the news we learned in the months that followed. Two months after the wedding, we found out we were having our second child.
After suffering a miscarriage last year and it being such an emotional experience, I believed I might never have another child. Conceiving is difficult for me because I do not ovulate regularly and I wasn't willing to take any medication to fix the problem I was having. I am a strong believer in letting things happen naturally and organically.
We were able to conceive our second child on my sister's birthday. The irony of that date is not lost because my sister passed away 8 years ago. I always feel like she finds a way to remind me she is still with me.
Our daughter now acts as another beautiful reminder of her.
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
If you haven’t scrolled upon Olivia McDowell's TikTok famous dinner parties, you may need to reconfigure your "For You Page."
What began as a passion for hosting aesthetically themed meals for her closest friends has quickly become a viral sensation. With an astonishing 12 million viewers, women describe Olivia’s picturesque dinner parties as the “dream girls' night,” complete with classy cocktails, beautiful table settings, elegant outfits, and, most importantly, food plated to perfection.
Seemingly reigniting the feminine urge to host fancy dinner parties, Olivia has perfected the finer details. Overlooking the skyline in her beautiful NYC apartment, she never fails to make her signature handmade pasta dishes while simultaneously looking effortlessly chic in the wardrobe of dreams while doing so.
Replying to @nara0630 what should the theme of my next dinner party be? #minivlog #nycliving #dinnerpartyideas #caviarinnewyork
What I love most about hosting intimate dinners for close friends are the connections and relationships that form over food. They don't require a caviar budget with a high-rise apartment, it just takes determination and a little creativity. Watching Olivia’s journey inspires viewers to be a part of a community of positive and uplifting women who share common interests and tastes in food, fashion, and decor. Simply stated, she’s raising the bar of friendship goals.
If you’re aspiring to host a holiday-themed dinner party this season, check out the four tips that will guide you along the way.
Choose Your Theme
Replying to @emz.life.tsv what was your fav part? 🤍 hope this gives you some inspiration to host a fancy friendsgiving too! #hostingtip #dinnerparty #pastamaking
Set the ambiance with a thoughtful theme, which will indeed be your guiding light for less stress during the planning process. Establishing a theme sets the tone for everything else to fall in place, such as menus, table design, and presentation. For example, a holiday-inspired dinner party is a perfect occasion for elegant all-white decor paired with draped table cloths, pillar candles lit atop luxe holders, floating floral arrangements, and, for a personal touch, handwritten place settings.
Utilizing free resources such as Canva for menu templates and creating a “Dinner Party” moodboard via Pinterest is perfect for gathering dinner inspiration for themes, decor, and recipes for the special occasion.
Simplify the Menu
How to host your own pasta making dinner party — part 1: pasta making from scratch 🤍 Hosting dinner parties has become my favorite thing to do this year. More goes into it than you expect, the prep, planning, guestlist, tablescape, etc. but it’s always worth it in the end. What do you guys want to see next? #hostingtips #dinnerparty #pastamaking
Don’t overcomplicate the menu. A simple dinner party formula to use as your guide to making sure your guests leave full of food and joy is appetizers, salads, entrees, sides, desserts, and beverages. As a starter, assemble an aesthetic spread that your guest can nibble on while awaiting the main course with starters such as bread, cheese, jam, nuts, and fruit. A simple salad will do, complete with a light dressing right before your entree. For a main dish, pasta recipes always go a long way and also allows your guests to interact with one another, which leads to McDowell's third dinner party hosting tip.
Include an Interactive Element
Replying to @itstai.tv 🖤 #girlhood
To break the ice and encourage guests to get to know one another, introduce interactive elements to the evening. Moments of interaction allow everyone to connect, like capturing content for social media or memorializing the essence of the night through fun Polaroids. Olivia also encourages her guests to participate in the pasta-making dinner process as a group, or if hosting a brunch, her friends indulge in building their own coffee bar as an opportunity for forming connections and conversation starters. Group board or card games are also great for laughs and healthy competition to help get the vibes flowing.
Don’t Forget the Dress code
Replying to @samantha_mendiz when all of your friends are the main character 🖤🥂 #dinnerparty #nycfashion
Tis’ the season for glamour and sparkles, so why not go all out with a super chic dress code? You can’t have a picture-perfect holiday dinner party without the coordinating attire to match. When planning, make sure to make the required attire specific yet broad enough for a range of personalities and preferences to comfortably partake while looking stunning doing so.
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Featured image by Justin Lambert/Getty Images