The Best Way to Spread Christmas Cheer

It’s officially December, guys!!! Time to spread some Christmas cheer for all to hear [or see in this case]!  My favorite time of the year is here, and despite what an intense and emotionally draining year it has been, I am beyond words for how thankful and blessed I am feeling.  With all the sad stories of people leaving this world too soon and the passing of my grandmother, I am so so so thankful for another year with my family and friends and all the support I undeservingly receive.  This year is coming full circle with Christmas around the corner.


Photo credit: Lindsey O’Nele

Christmas is just the best, and I sing out loud and proud.  One of my favorite traditions in the recent years has been taking photos for Christmas cards.  Each year, they evolve.  Our first one was a selfie taken off of Ryan’s dingy old iPhone back in 2013 and printed off a cheap mini HP printer, and this year’s was shot by a lovely lady, Lindsey, I’m especially glad to have gotten to know better this past year.  I think for us, our Christmas photos are even more special just because she took the time to really try and capture what we wanted for several hours at different locations.  Not only that, I’ve been trying to learn the ropes of photo editing with her (even though she is so far ahead of me and so inspirational.)  So the patience and creativity behind our day meant a lot more to both me and Ryan.  (Thanks, Lindsey!!! We are beyond grateful for your talented eye and the time you gave to us amidst a crazy week ahead of you!) She did such an amazing job that it was so hard to choose which ones to post for y’all.

Photo credit: Lindsey O’Nele
Outfit details: Top (it’s actually a dress): Missguided;
Skirt: Morning Lavender;
Shoes: Lulus (also can be found on Vici Dolls)
\\click on the links to go directly to the product. For the original Missguided dress, it was sold out, but I found a very similar dress– also from Missguided.\\

For our first location, we decided to go to the Family Christmas Tree Farm in Santee.  The backstory is that we recently bought our first real Christmas tree there a couple weeks ago, and it was so magical for me.  I’d never gone to a Christmas tree farm before because my dad and brother always went to pick them out, and they were usually in those small lots you see on the side of the road – not that it makes the tree any less magical.  Going for the first time, the smell of the different trees was exciting.  The farm was bigger than any I had seen and there were endless rows of different types of trees.  I felt like a little kid at Disneyland, and Ryan loves when I get that excited for Christmas.  So it was only appropriate that we take photos there. (Plus, I’m a sucker for outdoor pictures – portrait or landscape.)


Photo credit: Lindsey O’Nele

Of course, I’m an absolute sucker for twirling shots.  (Reference my wedding and anniversary photos for proof.) Lindsey nailed these shots!  I’d post every single one of them, but I’ll spare you.


Photo credit: Lindsey O’Nele
Photo credit: Lindsey O’Nele

And we also may have indulged in my silly idea of having Ryan throw me over his shoulder.  Sometimes, a photoshoot needs a little shenanigans, and it was fun to try this out!


Photo credit: Lindsey O’Nele

Photo credit: Lindsey O’Nele

For our second location, we wanted to do a little cozy indoor shoot at our apartment with the newly decorated fireplace and, of course, Lilo!  No family photo is complete unless we’ve got the furbaby.  Although our apartment wasn’t completely furnished with all things Christmas just yet and our Christmas tree barely adorned with just lights and no ornaments, we got some amazing shots that I had been wanting to do for a couple years.  It was really the first time our Christmas pictures weren’t rushed and well thought out, so it was fun and a learning process.


Photo credit: Lindsey O’Nele


Photo credit: Lindsey O’Nele


Photo credit: Lindsey O’Nele

Thank you, again, Lindsey for taking such precious and meaningful Christmas photos of our little family!  You are just the best. This was so much fun, and I can’t wait to create more beautiful memories. On that note, I think I need to watch Elf…

…or maybe Mean Girls, because “You Go, Glen CoCo!” “Aaaanndd none for you Gretchen Weiners.” ;P

 

But What if I Fall?

Fall is finally in the air here in San Diego, and I’ve returned for a new update on my life.  It’s nothing too exciting to the average reader, so I guess I’m writing this more for myself.  It’s more of a reflection I suppose. These past few months have been eventful and eye-opening. Let’s just take a quick look on the past year.

When I first started this blog, I was just married and back from my honeymoon.  Fresh and hot out of law school.  Not long after, I decided to begin pursuing a possible new career because I fell in love with wedding planning while planning my own.  (Never in a million years did I think this was a possible dream I could pursue.)  At the encouragement of my husband, I began contacting countless wedding planning companies and struck gold with the woman I work for now. I had only worked a few weddings before my grandma had a sudden turn in health for the worse, and I had to make next-day flights back home to care for my grandmother.  Around that time, I poured my thoughts and feelings into my blog since it strangely gave me even a glimmer of clarity and a release. (I never wrote an entry of closure since I hadn’t quite processed it at the time, and I intend to at some point.) When my grandmother passed suddenly, I returned to San Diego with a heavy heart I didn’t expect to have; my feelings even took Ryan by surprise. But I carried on and have continued wedding planning. Now, I’m also working for an attorney I worked for last year, and to say that it has been a blessing is an understatement. I couldn’t stop beaming because it was (at least to me) a dream job.

With both jobs, I fall in love even more, and when you work with the right people who push you, inspire you, and are genuinely kind and understanding people, you realize it’s not work if you love what you’re doing. I realize that’s rare after having gone through several jobs over the last few years.

In a strange way, I felt my grandmother’s passing was her nudge at me… telling me that life goes by quickly and that times are changing.  It is possible to do everything I want in this life and that I have to go for it now.  I have to make it happen.  It’s a lot easier said than done, which I’m sure you’ve figured out.  But with my very traditional Chinese background, I felt stuck at a crossroads with tradition and my generation’s views.  To give you a better idea of what I was struggling with, here’s a little background:

My grandma came here from China (essentially a single mom) and worked hard to give my mother and her sister a better life.  In turn, my mother (and father) worked even harder to give me an easier life. All those who came before me had struggles I can’t even begin to appreciate fully.  They didn’t have the luxuries my brother and I were so fortunate to enjoy – watching TV, sleeping in, only having to focus on ourselves and school grades. Their history and the way they were brought up meant working a steady job with good pay and reliable benefits, which to this day is a mindset they have drilled into me.

While I appreciate that it provides comfort, possibly some bragging rights if you can call it that, and the fact that it puts my mind at ease, I am surrounded by dreamers, entrepreneurs, achievers – all of whom are humble and successful. I’m inspired more and more each day so much that might heart might burst, and I just have to do something about. They have each explained to me they have had to take huge risks and have also had naysayers and odds against them.  Their successes were not without multiple failures.  I’ve even read of those who have had similar upbringings and their parents came around to their choice of careers.  Sometimes, I’m afraid my family will say all those dreamers, entrepreneurs, achievers, are all just the lucky few and to not take chances.  But there will be those who always doubt, and I’ve come to firmly believe if you trust in what you’re doing, things will naturally follow. As one of my favorite quotes goes:

“What if I fall?”

“Oh, but my darling, what if you FLY?

Having felt worn out, tired, judged, and looked down upon, I finally decided I am going to pursue wedding planning and other business ventures with Ryan. I’m going to enjoy learning photography, blogging, planning things to do on the weekends with Ryan, stop turning friends down and hanging out more, and continuing to do law. Just living life and enjoying it more. After all, as cliché as this sounds, you’ve only got one life to live and anything can happen at any moment. So, carpe diem!

P.S. Thanks for reading! I can’t believe how many of you actually read a nobody’s blog! I love hearing your feedback. XO!

To Have Children or Not

Most girls grow up mapping out their life and creating a timeline for when everything will happen. For some, everything works out according to plan for the most part. For others, not so much. I never really started planning out the rest of my life seriously until I was 23. At 23, I was just ending my gap year teaching in South Korea with Ryan—my then-boyfriend of six years, now husband and together for a little over ten. We both had our minds set on law school; Ryan had been accepted to law school, and I decided to re-take the LSATs because I refused to settle for schools I didn’t want to go to. I knew I could do better. So Ryan and I prepared for our third round of a long-distance relationship. I retook the LSAT, got into a school I wanted, and we moved back in together where I took a full time job until I could start school.

 

By that time, I had a lot of time to reflect on what I wanted. I met one of my best friends through Ryan’s friends at school. She had just married and moved out to San Diego, too. Spending time with her while Ryan and I were in law school made me really think about what more I wanted out of life. For so long, I had put my career in life as the most important thing on my mental totem pole. I never realized there was so much more to life than accolades, prestige, and even more than that– what people (family and friends) expected of me.

Happiness. My own happiness; I never truly considered what that meant to me. So, I sat down and thought about my life timeline. I knew without a doubt I would be ready to marry Ryan by the time I was 25. I wanted to be married by 27, enjoy a good three years of married life, and then if I wanted kids, I would have my first one by 30. And I always told myself if I had a kid, I would want two because I wouldn’t want the first to be lonely. (Also, maybe having my children be one boy and one girl would be pretty neat.) BUT, of course, life doesn’t roll that way. I was engaged at 27, and married at 28. Now, I’ve just turned 29, and I’m still trying to just enjoy married life because I’m trying to sort out my career.

 

 

For the majority of my life, I was decidedly against having children. It was only up until two years ago that I came around to the idea of having children. I struggle with so many thoughts about having children, and I’ve read other blogs that discuss both sides. There are the bloggers that say they are happily married and decided they were against having children, and then there are the bloggers that say having children is the best thing in life and they’ve always known they wanted to have kids. Then there are the flat out scary articles that say they decided to have children and they feel indifferent or they just completely regret it and feel bad about the thoughts they have. It’s all so overwhelming and, truth be told, it scares me to death. I don’t think I could ever regret having children even if I was on the fence about it. I wholeheartedly believe that if I had them, it’s because they are a product of the most abundant love between husband and wife.

My pro-con thoughts currently are (and some, if not all, are completely ridiculous. Maybe too blunt. Go ahead, roll your eyes.):

PROS

  • I would love to have kids to see what Ryan and I made. I just know they would be beautiful. (Yes, you may cringe.)
  • When I’m alone, I’d love to have them around to make me laugh and drive me crazy and remind me of Ryan when he’s away.
  • I’d also love being selfless and devoting my time to something other than myself—a precious human being that I know would be so special.
  • I want to see what kind of people they will be based on how we raise them – hopefully upstanding, innocent, kind, generous, honest, and compassionate people.

CONS

  • I’m a little selfish and feel like I never have enough time with him. I just want all the time in the world to be in love when we’re not working. Doing nothing and everything. When we were in law school, we hardly saw each other due to work, internships, and crazy school work. Most days, we woke up, go through our days by texting constantly, and then winding up passed out in bed. So the time we have now after work together—even if it’s only a few hours—means a whole lot to me, and it sort of makes up for the past several years.
  • There are so many places I still want to travel to (without kids), and there’s no way I could be done traveling by the time I’m 30, or even 32.
  • I don’t want to have my kids when I’m in my mid-thirties because I still want to be a young mom.
  • I’ll miss being able to do whatever we want whenever we want. Late night coffee runs, staying up late to watch Netflix, playing video games, waking up late on weekends.
  • I feel terrible for possibly not wanting kids because I know so many people struggle with conceiving and go through painful procedures, take medications, have hard meetings with doctors and countless nights of tears and praying, and I know children are such a gift.

It feels awful to know that I have to decide quickly what I want to do. My body is a ticking time bomb, and yes, I could freeze my eggs, but that is incredibly expensive. It’s not something I want to do, although I had thought about it before. I just hope some time soon, something in life will help me realize what I want to do. Like maybe my wedding planning business takes off. Maybe I find an amazing law job like the one I love right now. Just some sort of sign to let me know what direction I should take. It’s hard to not think there’s something wrong with me for thinking this way.

Whatever I choose… WE choose… or however life lays itself out before us, I know I don’t want either of us to regret it. I won’t let others judge us for a decision one way or the other. I’m just trying to finally live my life. No school, just enjoying my work doing law and wedding planning, making time for friends and family finally, and finally enjoying my significant other without homework!

 

I’m Fine

It’s been a while since my last post. I’ve been regrouping myself and trying to get back into the groove of things even with a lot of setbacks. But here I am. I’ve been forging ahead and trying to wake up remembering that (1) you only have one life, so don’t sweat the little things, (2) the important things in life are your family and friends, and (3) do what will make you happy.

Sometimes, when you’re going about your day in the midst of something that is overwhelming (like your job, maybe it’s studying, moving, helping a family or friend in need), you forget what you wake up thinking about: “I’m going to have a good day. Keep things in perspective. Etc.” Well, today is one of those days. I woke up having a go-getter mindset. Then I began to get slowly overwhelmed over the day: sluggish, annoyed, and defeated. Nothing really terrible happened. I was just beginning to get frustrated with what I was doing in the moment despite my best efforts; I wasn’t happy with where I was going.

All of a sudden, I just felt stuck in life.

I thought my mindset would change when I got home—change of scenery, a place I was comfortable with. But no, I was even more frustrated. Then I came across a blog entry from a southern blogger who talked about why we go to the default saying, “I’m fine” whenever we’re asked how we’re doing. I’ve seen so many articles on this topic, and each one has felt the same. They’ve all combed through so much on this particular topic that I felt there was nothing more for anyone to talk about, really. But her perspective was interesting: the reason she would say, “I’m fine” was (1) because it was a southern way of life and (2) because, in part, social media and, in some ways, women, are a part of this. (By that, she means, we say we are fine in real life and on social media, because if we say otherwise once or more than once, we get the, “It’s okay. We all have those days,” response and then behind our backs, they say something else.) The blogger goes on to discuss that she’s tired of hearing, “I’m fine,” and that if she were really friends with someone, that someone should lay it all out there honestly because she would want someone to listen to her if she were to have a bad day as well.

Firstly, I don’t think it’s just a southern thing. (Now this is just my opinion.) I think it pertains to anywhere we live. I can’t speak because I haven’t lived all over the country or all over the world. But from where I grew up, to states I’ve visited, as well as other countries, it’s all been the same response. Furthermore, I could say that’s how I feel the culture is in San Diego, as well. I don’t know—I could be wrong. Perhaps being in the law field, I feel that you have to be professional and not let emotions get the best of you to your partner, firm, company, clients, anyone. Maybe other professions in San Diego are laid back and you can just talk about how you’re feeling with your co-workers. (Thoughts, anyone?)

Now as to her latter reason, in theory, that sounds great. I’ve always thought this growing up: that friends should be able to tell friends anything. But let’s be honest. She’s right about women being a part of the problem. I’ll also say what some are really afraid to say, and that I have been afraid to say for a while, as well. Some girls just don’t play like that. I have friends that I feel like I can tell anything to but then feel bad afterwards thinking they’re judging me for complaining, for having a bad day, for feeling crummy over something small (maybe once or maybe often). I’ve seen them talk about their other friends and say, “she complains too much,” “I just don’t have time for that, etc.” (I’ve been guilty of this before, too. Don’t worry. I make conscious efforts to stop doing things like this.) I’ve seen some of them gradually change not only in person but in social media; they don’t tell me about tiny things that bother them when they used to. I understand that we tend to do these things as we grow up, but the extent that some people put these walls up for the sake of “adulting,”– it really catches me off guard and a lot of me finds it unnecessary. Do you really need to do that with friends? Am I the only one that doesn’t mind when a close friend, no matter where they are in life or what circumstances they’re now in, just calls me up and says, “Hey, I want to talk. My life just sucks right now”? Shouldn’t we keep part of that aspect in our lives to stay a little sane and healthy? It’s a strange and sort of insane balance of being a friend, or so I’ve found. We like to appear to have it all together, we’re mature, we’re adults now.

Fortunately, I’m incredibly lucky to have a friend now, after basically my entire life, who I can call up or text any time, any day, and just complain to about anything and everything. I don’t feel bad about it afterwards. And I don’t feel like she’s judging me. (Sure, I say sorry for complaining, but she gets it.) And the relationship works vice versa. (I should also mention that my husband is this exact sort of friend, too, but a girl needs another girl sometimes!) That kind of friendship keeps me sane and feeling healthy. The point is in a man’s world where we women are still trying to fight our way to the top and earn our fair share that men earn, we should support each other at the most basic level — being mentally, emotionally, and physically– if possible,there. There are enough men to judge us when we’re feeling vulnerable, emotional, or even when we’re just going about our day feeling fine as a peach. Ideally, we shouldn’t have to figure out which girlfriend is on our side and will listen to us. Ideally.

But back to my having a downer day and reading that blog post: in a strange way, reading her blog and that particular topic made me feel better. I may not have agreed with her post 100% but I really appreciated her raw and honest perspective on the whole “I’m feeling fine, today” projection to others. It made me think that on days like today, it’s okay to feel down in the dumps. I always knew it was okay to feel that way. I just hate it. I hate acknowledging it. Who likes feeling down? It makes me lose productivity. But today, I’m not feeling fine, and that’s okay. Today, my friend is on the other side of the world in a different time zone, but she’d still listen no matter what the time zone. Today, my husband will tell me it’s okay to feel down because in my position, he has felt the same exact way. So it’s okay. Tomorrow will be another day. Tomorrow, maybe I’ll feel differently and genuinely say, “I’m fine.”

What It’s Like to Provide Hospice Care to Your Own Family

Death happens in so many ways, and many of us handle it in different ways. The first few times I knew of someone dying, I was either too young to understand what was happening or I was intentionally far removed from the situation. I remember trying to get on my tippy toes to see who was on the hospital bed, and I remember how pristine the room was with family crowded around behind these flimsy curtains. I also remember seeing someone I knew — a family friend — who used to be warm, loud, and welcoming just laying peacefully at a funeral. I was too young to process the entire ceremony or even the process leading up to death itself.

The first real death I understood and processed was when I was in my first year of college.  My grandmother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  Every summer, I would go to Hawai’i to visit relatives, and this summer was no exception. The only difference was that now, my grandma couldn’t do the things I was used to seeing her do such as cooking us dinner, walking around, and running chores in the backyard. This time, I had to help my dad wash her on the couch, she had a bag attached to her so she could eat and use the restroom, and my father and I would have to clean this bag often. It was definitely a little hard to see, but it wasn’t anything I couldn’t swallow.  She was hardly tired.  I knew she was a strong spirit, and this wasn’t going to stop her boisterous attitude. By the end of that summer, she seemed to be improving, but just in case, I said my goodbyes. Not long after I flew back to California, she passed away suddenly, and I was not expecting it. Two months later, my grandfather passed suddenly, and of course, that was hard on me.  He was in amazing health when I had said goodbye to him. I’d spent every single summer with them since I was a child, and the period in which they passed wasn’t long enough for me to digest either of their deaths. It was a difficult rest of the year to say the least…

Around that same time, my other grandma was diagnosed with dementia and it progressed quickly each year. I made trips back home often to help my parents care for my grandma– feeding, clothing, showering, walking. It was a ’round-the-clock responsibility that we chose to take on as a family because my mom and aunt were nurses, and I don’t regret it.

Fast forward to ten years later. About four weeks ago, I got a phone call from my mother saying that my grandma had suffered a major heart attack, and the doctor said that before this, she had (over time in the past year) been having minor heart attacks. No one knew because my grandmother didn’t know what was wrong with her and likely forgot almost as soon as it happened so she never voiced anything. Since then, only 25% of her heart has been functioning.  I flew home the next day I received the phone call to help my mother because we were going to begin palliative care as the prognosis was essentially that she did not have long to live, and my dad had just had cataract surgery rendering him helpless as well. No other relatives were around to help care for my grandma. That week, I spent all day every day next to my grandmother. Feeding her, changing her diapers, bathing her in bed, brushing her teeth, taking her on walks when she felt well enough. On those walks, I’d walk her down the same streets she’d walk me every day for seven years to get to school. It was just us two, and I would stroll her in silence taking in the sunlight.  We both love the warmth of the sun.  Those were our moments, and I’m lucky I got those moments. At night, my mother and I woke up every 4 hours to give her medication and change her diapers. During the entire week and a half, she still knew who I was and was able to talk to me, and she seemed more alert than before. As soon as I got to the airport to go back to my new home with my husband, I fell apart. I cried the entire way home and well into the night in my husband’s arms. But I thought at least, I got to say my goodbyes, and she knew who I was when I left.  I didn’t need to go through the heartbreak again.

Then just a few days ago, my mother said she needed my help again because she needed to work. The day arrived, everything seemed just as it was when I left. My grandma was still eating, could sit up, and look at me. But as the night took over and my mother and I continued our four hour routine, we noticed my grandmother had taken a turn for worse breathing harder. At times, we saw her stop breathing for seconds at a time before we could proceed to rotate her. The only time she would open her eyes completely was when she was in pain and couldn’t breath. When my mother would walk out of the room to get water for her, she would look at me wide-eyed when it was just the two of us in this huge living room, and it completely broke my heart. I was so helpless.  She was telling me with her eyes, “Help me, I can’t breathe.” Just her eyes struck at my heart.  At this point, I had never dealt with death this closely, and I could have lost it then and there, but I needed to keep it together for my mother. When my mom walked back into the room and my grandma gasped for air, my mother knew she needed to give her pain medication, and it was the first time she ever needed to use it. By morning, my mother and I looked at each other and knew she was starting to actually go.

My grandmother, as of this morning, can no longer drink liquids or eat baby food. Instead, we have to brush a sponge filled with water to wet her lips and make it easier for her to suck on it. We grind her pills with liquid, and she can barely even take it. She can no longer speak, and her eyes roll to the back of her head and stay closed. Her breathing stops more often, and when she gasps for air, it pierces my heart every. single. time.  With her congestive heart failure, liquid is filling her lungs, and she can’t cough.  When she breathes, you can hear the gurgling. She turns her head left to right in agitation trying to breathe.

After only one day, my heart can’t bear it. I’m ready to collapse, burst in tears, and my heart is panging. But seeing my aunt and mom crying, I know I need to be strong. We know the end is nearer than we thought, and she could go at any moment.  I don’t know how I am going to be able to handle this or move forward. I’ve never dealt with death on this level. Providing hospice care for a family member is incredibly hard– having to watch them suffer like this every second of the day, getting worse every hour and you can’t take away their suffering. Having to provide comfort to them while watching them die. I would not wish this on anyone. I’m not ready to deal with this at all… I didn’t think heart break could get any worse. Just moments ago, I walked into her room to get something and that huge lump in my throat and the tears just hit me.  The piles of clothes she wore were on her bed, her wheelchair that she had used just a few days ago was there, she used to sleep in there, but her clothes… her clothes. As I walked back out of her room and into the living room to sit next to her and seeing her so helpless, I am losing it this second.

I can’t help thinking that she knew I would be back without my even knowing it, and she held on just for me to come back. But that breaks my heart even more. I don’t know how I will face the rest of this night or even tomorrow, but all I can do is pray.

How Much Are Those Pinterest, The Knot, and Style Me Pretty Wedding Dresses Really?

Hey girl! You’re newly engaged and the first thing you want to do is shop for wedding dresses that you’ve been pinning on pinterest! I get it—I’ve been there. For the married ladies, most of us have been there, too. There’s nothing more exciting! (Other than possibly taking that ring bling picture for social media, of course.) Sign me up. Where do I start?! You’re going to have a bunch of questions, so I’ll try to answer some from my own experience and post-wedding research.


(Both images above belong to me.)

How do I find the dress I love from Pinterest, Style Me Pretty, Carats & Cake, and The Knot?

First, you’re going to want to make an appointment at bridal boutiques. You have pictures of the kinds of dresses you want on your phone, and maybe you want to try the same exact ones from Pinterest and screen shots. Most of the pictures usually don’t say the designer name of the dress, but some do. If they do, then head on over to google to find the closest bridal shop with the designer you want. If they don’t, it may be a little hard to find the designer, but you can try and drag the original image into google to see if anything pops up.  Now that you are ready to try on gowns and you have the designer names, you’ve found the bridal salon location, and are about to make an appointment, let’s go! But wait—how much does it cost?

 Okay, I know the exact dress(es) I want to try on… And on a scale of “$ to $$$”, they’re $$$ to $$$$$$$!

When I first started dress shopping, I had the general idea that most wedding dresses were around $1,000. The dresses I pinned on Pinterest had no prices listed, so I blissfully assumed dresses like that were available and somewhat affordable (aka maybe slightly more than $1,500). What I didn’t know was that a lot of the wedding dresses I loved from Kleinfeld or Pinterest were easily over $4,000.

Ladies, keep in mind: THIS IS ONLY THE PRICE OF A DRESS. It doesn’t include a veil and/or headpiece, alterations and bustling, you and your fiancé’s rings, florals, venue cost, a wedding planner, alcohol, cost of food (plated food versus a buffet if it comes to that), linens, chargers, other table settings, décor, invitations and save-the-dates (if you don’t go paper friendly), chiavari chairs, DJ, MUAH (make-up and hair for you and if you choose to pay for your bridal party), bachelorette party, rehearsal dinner, photographer, and videographers. Maybe even the cost of a bridal suite for the night before and day-of-the-wedding). Take a deep breath!

Here are just a few of the main designers I pinned when I was dress shopping myself and fell in love with. I’ve seen my girlfriends recently pinning the same dresses as I did, so I thought I’d post the ones I loved (and still do) along with retail prices listed from my research so you’re not caught off guard. (Many of these designers’ main lines have dresses that run well over $9,000. I was completely heartbroken when I found two dresses I had my heart set on were such dresses.) While these are only a couple pictures, I can guarantee just about any picture you click on will be one of these designers’ dresses.

Berta– $8,690. This is my personal all time dream and favorite dress by Berta. (Obviously can’t afford this! Well, I could but how smart am I being at that point?)

Inbal Dror   $8,500 (a close second contender I loved! The back of this dress is just stunning.)

Monique Lhuillier – (This is the designer of my actual wedding dress. I wanted this exact dress, but the cost was $8k – $9k! The horror… this dress was tied for second.)

Hayley Paige – ($5,345.00)

Lazaro – ($5,390.00)  I personally love how flattering this dress can be and the horsehair mermaid structure. While this particular designer never really caught my eye, I’ve seen lots of girlfriends posting his dresses.

Ines De Santo – (This stunning couture gown sold for $6,500. Similar dresses from her line sold for upwards of $8,000) This image is from preownedweddingdresses.com 

And here are some more names of my other favorite designers (check them out future brides! Just beware of the costs):

Pronovias (This stunner sells for $6,500, but Pronovias actually has mostly affordable dresses around $1k – $2k. Do-able!)

Galia Lahav – $11,500 – $12,000

Pallas Couture –  $11,000 – $15,000 (For this particular gown, I couldn’t find the price. But the range this gown lies in is at the very least $11,000. Many of the other stunning dresses from this designer are in the same price range.)


Alessandra Rinaudo
Sareh Nouri
Alvina Valenta
Romona Keveza
Rosa Clara
Rue De Seign

What can I do if I can’t afford the same exact dress I want?!

Okay, now you’re in disbelief. While it is discouraging, there is something you can do about it. Actually, there are several things you can do. FIRST: some advice from one bride to another! Tell the bridal consultant your price range so they don’t pull out dresses from a higher range that you fall in love with. (I did this, and it worked until I saw a dress that caught my eye, I tried it on, and had to have it. I gave in, and it was my downfall. Don’t be me!)

Solution #1: Go with the cheaper line of the designer if they have them or go with a dress that can be altered to look similar to your dream dress.
Some of these designers—like Hayley Paige, Lazaro, and Monique Lhullier—make another line to make their dresses a little more affordable. Hayley Paige’s other line is Jim Helm, Monique Lhuillier’s is Bliss, and Lazaro’s is Tara Keely. (The Jim Helm and Tara Keely lines run around $1k-$2k. Much better, right?) Personally, I think it’s wonderful. Heck, I said “Yes to the dress” at first to one of Hayley Paige’s cheaper dress line to make it just like the higher-end $5k-$6K Monique Lhuiller gown I ended up purchasing. To some other bride-to-be’s, they feel a little bitter because they can’t afford the exact designs they wanted. (I totally get it, girl—Pinterest, Style Me Pretty, and The Knot got your hopes up. It’s kind of unrealistic and unfair to us ladies that have no idea what a dress or wedding costs! Nothing but the OG dress will do!)

Here’s the Hayley Paige Blush dress I said yes to at first just to settle… but later changed my mind: 
I planned on adding more layers to make the dress more full-looking, raising the horse-hair and adding a more mismatched layer of horsehair towards my waist line, as well as adding some pretty appliqué on the horse-hair like the Monique Lhuillier dress I loved.

Here’s my actual wedding dress, which was a Monique Lhuillier (all photos below are taken by Lin and Jirsa Photography):

(Below, dress is bustled.)

Solution #2: You don’t need to look to Pinterest for dress goals!
There, I said it. I mean it. When you go wedding shopping, you’ll have ideas of what you want but actually trying on the dresses is a whole other experience. You’ll find that some styles just truly aren’t as flattering on you as you thought. You’ll begin to develop a different taste of what you want. You might have wanted sparkles and then you’ll suddenly realize you want a simple elegant and modest front side with a sexy low-back. That being said, there are other great dresses come from sites like BHLDN, JCrew, and Grace Loves Lace (for boho brides). I absolutely love BHLDN and Grace Loves Lace. Also, sites like Revolve and Missguided now have bridal sections that look just as amazing, couture, and are affordable!

Other huge name brands such as Allure, Pronovias, Paloma Blanca, Watters, Essence of Australia and Maggie Sottero are incredibly gorgeous and affordable.

Solution #3:
You can go to sites like www.preownedweddingdresses.com or similar sites like Still White and Tradesy to get designer dresses at a cheaper price. While they may still be a little pricey, it is certainly a better bargain and you may find some incredible steals if you take the time to look. You can buy a dress a size bigger than you and take it to someone to alter the bottom and take it in. Then begin to add or take away things on your dress. (When I bought my dress, I wanted to add a bow to my dress, and the owner of the salon from where I purchased my gown laughed in my face and said it would look ridiculous. I ended up buying my own fabric, researched on similar fabrics to match my dress material, found a great alterations seamstress, and she made my vision come alive.)

Solution #4:
Buy your dress at full retail price and then sell it later on a pre-owned wedding dress site! Easy as that.

Solution #5:
Go to bridal salon sample sales! Go and ask the shop when and which gowns will be on the sample sale racks! You’d be surprised to see how great the dresses are and how good the prices are. I was surprised myself. This is probably one of the best things hands down you can do!

In conclusion, be careful when you’re getting your ideas off of Pinterest. You’ll fall in love and know the dress you want, but it’s dangerous and will end up in heartbreak. Now that you know what to look for and what to think about, good luck bride-to-be’s!!! And have so much fun!

Xx

Transparency as a Blogger

When I first decided to take up blogging in high school (remember the good old Xanga days?), I usually never hesitated to write out my thoughts, feelings, or opinions. I spoke freely to the world as if they were a part of my life and knew almost everything about me. In a sense, they did, because I went to school with them. There was little consequence then because I would soon move away for college, and other high schoolers were blogging about similar topics.

Photo credit: Lindsey O’Nele

When I decided to take up blogging seriously, again, I was thinking more about what kind of content I wanted, how I wanted to brand myself as a blogger, and how I wanted my initial design of my blog to reflect me. In the back of my mind, I knew I needed to eventually consider how transparent I wanted to be with my followers, but I wasn’t ready to address it just yet. With my career being in law (for now), the sad and unfortunate truth is that many will judge you and hold you to a higher standard. Topics that you tackle must be done so tastefully and professionally. So, my captions and the one other blog post I have so far, while genuinely authentic, allow you to only scratch the surface of who I am and what my thoughts are on certain things.

Why is this such a big thing to consider? It seems whether there’s a popular travel, lifestyle, wedding, photographer, or fashion blogger, they all allow you into intimate aspects of their lives. I’m just not comfortable with that yet. I wholeheartedly believe that when you begin a public blogging journey, you bring in all those around you—friends and family. So how you choose certain topics for your blogs and present written or photo content can bring judgment on you and loved ones. (It’s much easier—for me at least—to ignore judgment from strangers.)  Another thing is that it’s also not just judgment I’m afraid of but I just naturally tend to shy away from all things public eye. I have never liked being at the center of attention, but deciding to pursue this passion places me in such a situation. Perhaps this will be one of the biggest obstacles for me to overcome as a blogger, and I’ll have to figure out how to let my readers in another way… but for now, I’m still navigating. And that’s okay with me.

 

I’m back!

You guys! If you’re here, you’ve no doubt found this via my instagram or you just stumbled upon this post. I am so excited that you’re actually here and reading this and am so grateful that you would even be here. I have been working on this blog on and off since last summer, but it is finally coming to fruition! I’m still experimenting with the pictures I take, post, and how to incorporate them into my post so bear with me for the next several months. Did I mention how happy I am that you’re even reading this post? Well, I am. So thank you, again, and I hope you’ll engage yourselves in these posts with me and with each other because it won’t always be about fashion but rather every day thoughts and situations. (Also, in future posts, my pictures will be more scattered throughout posts rather than at the very end! Not to worry.)

Anyway, for a first post, I thought I’d give you a little teaser of this past weekend with Ryan. (Ryan is my husband for those readers who are new to me and my blog!) With the crazy rain San Diego has been having, the Anza-Borrego Desert now has flowers blooming like crazy! So, we decided our to explore the “super bloom” and have a fun little getaway just for us. Well, it was certainly fun and hilarious because here’s the story:

My car was 3/4 filled with gas before heading out, and I asked Ryan whether we should fill up on gas. I always like to assume the worst and be prepared for anything.

Ryan turned to me and shrugged, “It’s a city there, right? They’ll have gas there. The drive isn’t that long. We’ll be fine.”

“Are you sure? It’s a desert over there…”

“We’ll be fine. We can find one on the way up there if we need to.”

“Okay. You’re right. I think………….. Yea. You’re right. I trust you.”

“We’ll be fine,” he said. “We’ll be fine.” HA.

The entire drive up, there was not one gas place to be seen. As the gas began to drop and we were getting closer to the desert, Ryan and I giggled nervously because it was unbelievable that before we even got to the desert, we saw not one gas station. As we entered the dizzying and winding roads of the desert, Ryan and continued to look at each other and laugh. “We’ll push if we have to.”  It was not a joking matter, but we were in such good spirits because we were just happy to be spending time with each other that it didn’t matter. After we finally made it to the desert, I tried to look up gas on Ryan’s phone which did not have reception. Dun dun dun!

Luckily, my phone, which has Verizon — LIFESAVER– was able to locate a gas station 18 minutes further into the desert. “Gringos Gas Station” it said. “Thank the Lord! Where would you be without me?” I laughed at Ryan. “Dead.” To Gringos Gas Station we went. Upon arrival, what did we see? A whole lot of empty, abandoned cars lined up and the gas station completely abandoned. Now let me just tell you that where this gas station is, it exists just off a tiny roundabout. On the roundabout, there exists a Tiny Wells Fargo, a half abandoned mall, and one other restaurant. It’s called the Christmas Circle. It was NOT a Christmas Circle. Who named that?!

On our search for more gas, we had to go back around the roundabout, past the Wells Fargo and past the half abandoned mall to get to the one other gas station in existence. There were only two pumps available and the only gas available was premium and each person had to go into a liquor store to pay for the gas. Cars were piled up all the way out of the parking lot, cars were leaving because it took too long. Ryan and I just laughed hysterically because this little Christmas Circle roundabout town– or whatever you call it– was seriously something out of a book! People inside the liquor store were just swiping 5-6 bottles of water frantically left and right. Ryan likes to say it was madness like the apocalypse was coming.

Well after that little adventure, we were hungry for lunch, so naturally, we went to the half-abandoned mall whereupon we found one restaurant completely closed, people starving peering inside the windows, and inside, Costco-sized packs of water just packed to the ceiling. Just locked behind those sad doors. It was sad but too funny at the same time. (Good thing we had our hydroflasks.) I felt so nervous leaving my car in the parking lot with our water in sight, but Ryan and I ventured on just behind the mall and found a hidden restaurant luckily. Afterward, we finally had our highly anticipated hiking adventure and picture taking in the desert.

We had a lot of funny things happen on this trip, but this post would go on forever. All in all, it was so worth it, and I wish we had more time and that we could go back out there again… but we have planned some other fun adventures for the next upcoming weekends. So stay tuned! Until then, here are just a few of the many photos we took! I’ll make a separate post about my ouftit. I just figured since this is my first post, I’d make it juicy and fun for you all. Hope you all had a good chuckle like I did. Below are the details of my outfits.

Romper: on sale at Shop Tobi  Thigh highs: Want My Look

Jacket: No longer on sale, but still up on Tobi Shoes: from Missguided but are no longer available. You can find similar shoes there or on Public Desire.

Exciting News!

Hi all!

The last few months have been such a whirlwind! As you know, I finished the bar and immediately jumped into finding new law jobs and pouring myself into this lifestyle and fashion blogging! Unfortunately, I had no idea what I was getting myself into; I needed to finish wedding planning, I needed to invest time into becoming a strong and independent working woman, and I needed to really figure out how I wanted to brand my website and make it more professional–both layout and photography! (Definitely way over my head…) It’s going to be a serious investment over the upcoming year, so I can’t wait for you all to see the site come to life over the next year and get a huge revamp.

Now that my own wedding is over and I am back from my honeymoon, I thought I’d take the time to let you know what I really want my blog to be about. To do that, I think you all need to know who I really am and what I’m all about in my life.

Who is Margaret Rigney?

I just turned 28 back in June and recently graduated law school in April 2016. On October 22, 2016, I married my high school sweetheart after knowing him for 10 years and dating for nine! Together, we own a 4 year old maltese, we have traveled to Europe and Asia and just recently to the Maldives for our honeymoon! That’s just the surface of who I am today. Who am I really and who do I want to be?

I have always been a believer in kindness, generosity, patience, honesty, and compassion. That is who I strive to be every day and that is what I hope to bring in whatever I do in life.  That being said, I want to take the chance to segue into what my blog will be about and how you and I will get to know each other better!

What is this fashion and lifestyle blog about? What’s different?

For this site, it will primarily be about: travel; fashion; home decor; beauty; and home. But as a young woman, I want this lifestyle and fashion blog to really address lifestyle in the sense of where we stand in the world today: what are the thoughts we have growing up, how we feel in society, how we deal with others in the workplace, how we pursue our dreams, how we address our doubts, and much more.

All the blogs I have come across are glitz and glamour, and it’s such a glimmer of hope for us guys and gals; we all hope to one day be just like them! But I hope to bring a more realistic touch from time to time. Not all of us are able to live the lavish lifestyle jetsetting off to and fro every week to New York or Europe and wearing Georges Shobeika like it’s no big deal. I want to incorporate a realistic lifestyle and fashion for the younger generation who are still working to pursue their dreams. I want to address thoughts and difficulties that I have come across in my life and hear your perspectives, as well! This is a place for support– for both boys and girls (men and women)– as much as it is a place for ideas and inspiration!

Ultimately, I really hope this site grows to be interactive. 

Until then my darlings! Thanks for sticking through this long post!

travel leisure lifestyle blogger blogging fashion adventure runwaywithrigney maldives honeymoon beauty home decor runway Margaret Ng Margaret Rigney San Diego California
travel leisure lifestyle blogger blogging fashion adventure runwaywithrigney maldives honeymoon beauty home decor runway Margaret Ng Margaret Rigney San Diego California