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Dating Well

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If you’ve been following along with Southern Weddings’ Fruitful Summer series, you may have seen Jess and I writing about “dating well.” It’s a topic that has been on our hearts for a long time. All you single and dating readers out there–we see you and we care about you! Whether you’re focusing on building your individual life and passions, dating to see who is right for you, or you’re in a relationship and taking things at your own speed, we want you to feel confident in the place you’re in. When you’re equipped to handle all the relationships (romantic or otherwise) in your life well, the day that you are ready to plan a life with someone, you’ll have a rich and deep well of experiences to draw from.

The first thing we’d like to do in helping y’all date well? Dispel all the myths surrounding dating out there! Whether these myths have actually been spoken to you, or just planted in your mind, we hope you read on and see that they’re not true!

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Myth: You have to be perfect and have it all together to date someone.
The truth: Jess: The perfect relationship doesn’t exist, because no one has it all together. Early on in my relationship with Logan, I remember being terrified to take my shoes off. Why? I can’t believe I’m about to say this on the internet, but it’s because I have smelly feet! I felt this need to make sure that Logan thought I was cute, funny, AND smelled good all the time! It’s such a silly example, but it demonstrates the need I felt to have it all together :)

A few years and some smelly feet later, letting go of perfect has freed me up to be fully myself around Logan. I’m still learning, and our relationship doesn’t always bring out the best in me, but that’s something I’m finding myself being grateful for. Logan is able to graciously point out my blind spots and force me to confront them in a healthy way. We make mistakes. We communicate poorly at times. We forget things that are important to the other person. We hurt one another. We also ask for forgiveness. We are able to do all of those things because we are willing to admit that we aren’t perfect.

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Myth: Your significant other will complete you.
The truth: Jess: Yes, having someone to share pieces of your life with is wonderful! But hear me loud and clear, I firmly believe that Logan will never complete me. My pastor always says “Unhappy, insecure single people make for unhappy, insecure married people.” His point is simply this: how we feel about ourselves while single translates into how we view ourselves in dating relationships or marriage. A boyfriend won’t have all the answers, and he won’t be able to solve all your problems. He will be a great sounding board for those problems. He should be one of the many things that bring joy to your life, but he shouldn’t be the only thing. It is good for me to pursue my passions and make time for my family and friends–and all of those things will also ultimately make me a better girlfriend.

Myth: You must not believe in marriage if you’re not planning to get married.
The truth: Nicole: No matter where you are in exploring the possibility of marriage, planning your life now and exploring relationships fully invested in the present is important. The last thing we’d want y’all to feel is pressure to walk down the aisle before you know you’re ready and he’s the one. I’ve had many moments where I’ve thought critically about marriage (raise your hands if you have, too–I know I’m not alone!), but it has given me more conviction about my beliefs on marriage and how I want to live my life and relationships well before the big “I do.” That means planning date nights so my boyfriend and I are more connected, trying new hobbies so I’m improving and fulfilling myself as an individual, and being open about my passions and plans.

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Myth: You’re only in it to get married.
The truth: Jess: Every relationship is different. We know that, but we’re so quick to forget it, especially when scrolling through our social media feeds! We’ve had friends that knew on their first date that they were going to marry someone, but on the other hand, Logan and I were friends for years before we were ever romantically interested in one another. When we were venturing into dating, I remember a friend asking me whether I thought I would marry him. We had only been on one date! I immediately felt overwhelmed not knowing the answer to that question. But here’s the thing: it takes a lot of time to get to know someone. Dating is an investment. Fight the urge to compare where you are to where your friends are, and enjoy the things you’re learning about one another right now. Relationships aren’t a race, and marriage is not the finish line. The more you embrace the timing that is right for you specifically, the stronger your relationship will be…and the more prepared and equipped you’ll be for marriage someday, should you choose to move forward in that way.

Myth: You can only [travel/set goals together/talk about the future] if you’re engaged or married.
The truth: Nicole: To me, these are the most important things to do before you get engaged or married! Though Taylor and I aren’t planning on tying the knot soon, we talk about our “couple goals” and how we want our future to look a lot. Once we had established that we were in a serious relationship, this was our way of making sure we were on the same page of the same book. We’ve talked about everything from marriage to kids to retirement, and we know that if we do get engaged, we both envision a similar future (lots of puppies and traveling ahead!). Our “couple goals” involve our shared passions, and I love that we’re creating memories together now and becoming closer because of them.

Jess and I are really excited to be back on this column in the near future to talk about dating! In the meantime, feel free to email us at nicole@southernweddings.com and jess@southernweddings.com to say hi! This topic is on our hearts all the time, and we love hearing from friends who are in the same place!

Photos by Graham Terhune

nicoleyang Written with love by Nicole
9 Comments
  1. avatar India H. reply

    As someone who is a long time reader of the blog but not yet married, this has to be one of my favorite posts! I’m in a season of planning on marriage but not yet engaged, and this really helps debunk some of the myths that I often here and encourages me to stop comparing myself to married or engaged friends! :)

    • avatar Nicole reply

      India!! I’m so glad to hear that, and am excited for you in this season of your life! xo

  2. avatar Blair reply

    Love this! I am dating myself and love southern weddings, but I know it is not the right time for me right. I believe so many people get wrapped up in the “idea” of a wedding and don’t think past the long term commitment.

    • avatar Nicole reply

      I’m right there with you, Blair!! I’ve been caught up in that idea, too, but I think there’s so much to love and have fun with when it comes to dating, and we need to share more about it!

    • avatar Jess Metcalf reply

      Blair! We are so grateful for your support, and we are thrilled to celebrate you in this season of your life! Sending lots of hugs! xo

  3. avatar Catherine reply

    “Relationships are not a race, and marriage is not the finish line.” Yes, yes, and yes!! Love that!

    • avatar Jess Metcalf reply

      Catherine! We are so grateful you were encouraged! We’re looking forward to continuing this conversation with you! xo!

    • avatar Jaclyn reply

      This is the best quote. When I got to it I thought the same thing Yes!

  4. avatar Ashley Frederickson reply

    I absolutely love these myths, how true they are that they are just that; myths. I have found my biggest weakness and struggle is comparing my timing and relationships to those of my friends. Some get engaged really quickly and work through the harder things later down the road. I am finding that through my dating right now, we are both learning about the hard and weak points in one another that could potentially hurt our future marriage if we allow it too, but we are choosing to turn to Christ and build a solid foundation upon our redeemer for a stronger marriage when the time is right for us.

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It has been a crazy year, y’all. With three new gals in our ranks (plus three new babies!) and so much changing in our business so quickly, we were all really anxious for our third annual team retreat. With half of our team working remotely, having time together to talk shop, get gussied up for team photos, and play a round of Celebrity in our PJs could not come fast enough.

Someone recently asked us on Instagram how we plan such great team retreats. Kristin and I like to think that when we get together to plan events, our brains mesh together in the perfect chemistry under which magic just explodes everywhere :)

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Our team retreat looks like it’s full of photo shoots, cupcakes, activities, and laughs — and it is! But it’s also full of big conversation, hard decisions, and a lot of baring your heart. The magic of our team retreat comes from the women around the table.

We have two priorities when we gather for our team retreat every year: to make big decisions that affect the future of our company together, and to spend time in person so that our team is stronger than any obstacle we might face.

We’re not going to sugarcoat it, y’all — this time is hard work. Sometimes tears are shed, sometimes we disagree, and sometimes we walk away from a conversation with eye-opening revelations and no answers. But these are the conversations that bring us closer and make us better in business. These are the conversations we have in order for us all to feel represented, supported, and unified. We all have a huge stake in the work we do because we believe it in, and there is no traditional hierarchy where executive decisions are made. That means there are nine of us around the table fighting to do the best work possible. To us, that’s where the magic happens.

Since we love these women so much, and since team retreats are hard work, we like to surprise everyone with fun gifts and activities!

Each gal received a monogrammed luggage tag from Dixieland Monogram in the mail with a team retreat invitation and packing list (and a retreat playlist, which I do declare is awesome).

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After arriving at the Carolina Inn, everyone received a personalized Kate Spade journal for all of their retreat notes, plus a monogrammed Kate Spade water tumbler. Swoozies supplied both of these sweet items, plus surprised us with retreat snacks!

Then, we broke up our work days with a hand-lettering class with All She Wrote Notes! We are the biggest fans of Maghon’s hand lettering classes, and she is the most hilarious Southern woman you’ll meet. We had a blast learning letter forms from her, and then (in true stylist fashion) taking a bunch of pictures of all of our favorite pieces.

We wrapped up the day with a delicious dinner at the Inn’s restaurant, Crossroads. This is my favorite part of our retreats. With no agenda to stick to, and the sweet tea pouring, we tend to talk the most candidly about our jobs, our brides, and how we want to improve every bit of the experience for y’all. (If you follow swmag on SnapChat, you know this is also the time when we bust out our piano ballads.) Then, it was back to our hotel rooms for game night and more SnapChat shenanigans in our soft new Lake Pajamas :)

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On the last day of our retreat, we dug even further into action steps, but not before gifting everyone a Southern pineapple print from Thimblepress and a round of Southern Weddings Office Jeopardy!

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We broke up the day with BLT lunches at a favorite local spot called Merritt’s, followed by a cupcake decorating class with Randi of Sugar Euphoria. I wasn’t exactly a natural at cupcake decorating like Kristin and Amber are, but the good part is that you get to eat your mistakes and start over!

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Finally, we said goodbye to our remote gals who were flying back home early the next morning, and sent everyone off with SW team tanks! Can y’all believe we’ve never had team tees? Ashley at Miller Monograms combined SW’s two favorite things (seersucker and and monograms) to make these tanks for us. Kristin says she feels like a superhero with the SW emblem on her back!

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We’re excited for y’all to see the fruits of our time together — things like deciding on more storytelling, more conversation with you, more in-person time with you, and more content that will help you plan meaningful married lives.

nicoleyang Written with love by Nicole
6 Comments
  1. avatar Lisa Hays reply

    Sounds like a great way to do business and have some fun. I love your website and am dreaming about being mother of the bride and of the groom in the not too distant future. When that happens, I will lead those kids of mine straight to you!

  2. avatar Kyla Fetzner reply

    It looks like y’all had a wonderful time with lots of southern goodness and meaningful activities sprinkled in! :)

  3. avatar Skylar Caitlin reply

    Y’all are seriously team retreat goals!! What kind of structure for your discussion works best in creating a productive retreat?

    • avatar Nicole reply

      That’s so sweet, Skylar! We usually have a list of questions we want answered or decisions that we want to be made. Otherwise, it’s a really open conversation, with a bit of moderation to make sure we’re staying on topic and on time :)

  4. avatar Kristin reply

    This makes my heart soar! So much good + hard work (and a lot of laughs) packed into those three days!!!

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One of our favorite parts about creating the Southern Weddings for High Cotton Bow Tie Collection was that we got to focus on and celebrate our Southern beaus! It’s not often that we get to create something specifically for men or shine a spotlight on them in our photo shoots — our groomsmen reader models were surprised when our “super secret shoot” put them directly in front of the camera!

Creating this bow tie line with the help of High Cotton was certainly a labor of love, and studded with many tips and expert knowledge from the High Cotton owners, Judy and James. Take a peek into what went into creating each of these bow ties, and our fun photo shoot with Anna Routh!

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Like most projects at SW, we started with an inspiration board, pulling together the colors we wanted to bring to life, and the Southern style we wanted the collection to evoke. It was important to us that each bow tie represented a bit of the South and its personalities — from classic blue stripes to cheeky coral check — and that we could envision our own beaus happily wearing each one.

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Working with High Cotton is truly like being invited into the family! Thank goodness for Judy and her son, James, who traded dozens of emails, thread, and fabric swatches with us as we narrowed down our choices. Once we decided on patterns, we then sprung into color options. As a designer who lives for nuances in color, this was the hard part! For example, the blue couldn’t be too cool or too warm, the gold had to be yellow enough to read as gold, but not too yellow that it wouldn’t be a classic neutral color.

With lots of patience from the High Cotton team, we finally made our decisions! High Cotton ordered our fabric from all over the world — madras from weavers in India, silk from the same weavers that work with Hermès — and sent them to a local North Carolina manufacturer to be sewn.

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Seeing the bows ties in person for the first time was like a blast of spring! Each of the colors was just what we were looking for, and we were happily surprised that many of them matched various bridesmaid dress swatches from this year’s collections. Don’t you agree that High Cotton’s suit-donning mannequin looks handsome in his coral check bow tie?

After picking up our brand new bow ties, our photographer, Anna, and I headed to The Bradford for a photo shoot debuting the goods, crossing our fingers that the forecast for rain wouldn’t be true!

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After a few sprinkles of rain upon our arrival, the sun came out in full force, giving us plenty of light indoors to prep.

Meristem Floral created a few different boutonniere options to represent each bow tie’s personality, plus an amazing bouquet for our bridesmaids to carry! We loved using them throughout the shoot and then taking them home afterward to put in bud vases :)

I busted out my bow tying skills (usually only handy at our launch parties) to style some flat shots, while Ashley Mooney gussied up the gals and the gents got dressed.

(Don’t know how to tie a bow tie yet? Stay tuned — we’ve got you covered!)

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Y’all, these gents we’re killin’ it! While the guys don’t normally get a ton of camera time, each of our models shined, beamed, and posed like pros. Lucky for us, Anna’s also a blast to work with — making everyone laugh easily and feel totally comfortable.

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It was an amazing day for a shoot, leaving Jess and I marveling at the weather and the amazing vendors and readers we get to work with.

Love these bow ties? Read more about the Southern Weddings for High Cotton collection here, and find them in High Cotton’s shop. The bow tie line is also available for Home Try-On, so you can see them in person before deciding which is best for your wedding or event!

Photographer: Anna Routh / Bow Ties: Southern Weddings for High Cotton / Makeup: Makeup by Ashley Mooney / Floral: Meristem Floral / Venue: The Bradford / Bridesmaid Dresses: Donna Morgan

nicoleyang Written with love by Nicole
1 Comment
  1. avatar Emily reply

    SO fun to see the behind the scenes! Can’t wait to see real grooms in these beauties, too!!

Southern Weddings reserves the right to delete comments which contain profanity or personal attacks or seek to promote a business unrelated to the post.  And remember: a good attitude is like kudzu – it spreads.  We love hearing your kind thoughts!

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