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A habit that I’m trying to pick up from Emily is to savor my days rather than rushing time by celebrating or preparing for the holidays too early. However, when your mom texts you multiple times a week asking when you’re coming home for Christmas, it’s time to make some plans!

Choosing which holidays to share when you’re dating is a challenge we’re all well-acquainted with. With multiple families to see, traditions to take part in, and miles between each of them, how do you choose which you do together? How do you invest time in each other and each other’s families when you’re not engaged or married yet (or even thinking about it!), but still honor the traditions you’ve made among your own family and friends?

Taylor and I have learned that there’s no one way to do the holidays. In fact, we do it differently every year, since we both balance two sets of divorced parents, siblings and their respective spouses, everyone living in different states, and ever-changing work schedules. Actually, this is the first year we’ll be spending every holiday from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve together! It’s given us a great excuse to start making our own traditions, and to add even more cheer to the holiday season.

I asked the ladies in the office if they would also weigh in with their experience doing holidays while dating, and which fun traditions were formed from that time. I hope it helps to remind you that while the holidays can come with their fair share of schedule-wrangling, and time-compromising, there’s still plenty of time to do something that’s exciting and celebratory for the two of you!

For me and Taylor, this year will be the first in the four years we’ve been dating that we’ll spend Thanksgiving together. Two years ago, we started our own tradition to make up for the holiday we didn’t get to spend together: an annual Friendsgiving dinner with our best friends. Not only has this helped me hone my turkey-roasting skills for the day when we get to host family Thanksgiving, but it’s also been a really sweet way to spend time with our friends and each other during the holidays without taking time away from already-established family commitments.

Kristin: Initially, Kyle and I spent holidays apart.  Over time, we made a joint decision to spend different holidays with one another’s family in the light of different factors like location, timing, and established family traditions. We had very open conversations about how to best do this, knowing that our decision impacted more that just ourselves. And once we made a decision, we stuck with it. Early in our relationship, if we weren’t spending the holiday together, we started to exchange cards on all of the major holidays, slipping them into suitcases or cars in advance. I found my very first holiday card from KPW tucked in my school bag right before Thanksgiving, after he had left to go home to be with his family. While we spend all holidays together now, we still continue the card exchange, leaving them under pillows or taped to the bathroom mirror.

Amber: When we were dating, my family was local, but his family was a three-hour drive away. We alternated years, with some spent at his family’s house on Thanksgiving and mine for Christmas. Brandon had been away for many holidays during his seven years in the Air Force, so it wasn’t hugely disrupting to his family for him to be away on any respective holiday.

Emily: John and I grew up in the same town, so our parents conveniently live only 10 minutes away from each other. While we were dating, we stuck with our own families for the major events (Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas Eve, Christmas morning), but made sure to each spend time with the other’s family while everyone was in town for the holidays. Things like baking cookies with John’s sisters and sledding down the hill behind his house were priceless opportunities to get to know his family better! Starting with our very first Christmas, though, John and I exchanged stockings. We went to college together, so we’d do the exchange—complete with hot cocoa and cookies from the dining hall—before we went home for the holidays. More than gifts, stockings to me represent something you do only with your family, so I love that we made this a tradition for our own budding family unit long before we actually got engaged.

Jess: When Logan and I were living in the same city, we’d have breakfast together on Christmas Eve before driving our separate ways to celebrate with our families. Now that we live in different states, we’re having to get a bit more creative about creating new holiday traditions.

Marissa: Since our families live in different states, the holidays have always been a bit tough for us. However, we have always wanted to be respectful of each other’s family commitments. During our time dating, we chose to celebrate the holidays with our own families. We wanted to give our undivided attention to our respective families, so we spent the time surrounding the holidays together creating memories and traditions. One tradition that we began when we were dating was trips to Callaway Gardens to see the lights. Add in hot chocolate and a cozy blanket, and it’s the perfect date night!

I would LOVE to hear how you’re spending your holidays with your significant other and your family! What fun traditions have you created, and how have you navigated both families’ commitments?

All photos by our Blue Ribbon Vendor, Caroline Lima.

nicoleyang Written with love by Nicole
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Being in a long-distance relationship or marriage isn’t something that most people would willingly choose, but it’s a reality that many couples face. In fact, six out of the eight Southern Weddings ladies have been long-distance with their respective beaus at some point while dating or married!

The whirlwind of my and Logan’s respective job changes forced us into a long-distance relationship before we even realized it! Logan had been applying to jobs in different cities after graduating with his post-grad degree, so it wasn’t a surprise when he was offered and accepted a job in Atlanta, GA. He moved within two weeks of accepting the offer.  Less than a month later, I officially joined the Southern Weddings team, based in Chapel Hill, NC. Needless to say, our job changes meant that we were firmly rooted in two different states for the immediate future.

There’s no shortage of wonderful tips on long-distance dating, but I wanted to share what has (and hasn’t!) worked for us over the course of the past ten months. My hope is to offer practical advice, but also to encourage you to focus on creating memories in this season instead of longing for the day when the two of you are reunited!

Resist the urge to spend all your time together. This sounds like I added it to the wrong list, doesn’t it? Yes, Logan and I are excited to spend time together when we see each other, but we try to resist the urge to be exclusive in an attempt to catch up on lost time. Some of my favorite memories are times Logan and I have spent with each other’s new friends or coworkers. For example, when I’m in Atlanta, we try to make a point of spending time with his coworkers or new friends and attending his church together. It’s a great way for me to begin to get to know his life in Atlanta, and vice versa when he visits.

Know when you are going to see each other again. Having a date on the calendar (as in, an actual date) for when you will see each other again turns any goodbye into a “see you later!” (Logan would approve of that Dumb and Dumber reference.) Of course, it’s tempting to count down the days until you are reunited once you know how soon it’s coming, but try to make sure you’re being present by enjoying your current city and friends in the meantime! As (I think) Jim Elliot said, “Be where you are.”

Make your travel time productive and fun! I’ve never been a big fan of driving (I’d much rather be the copilot and DJ), but I’m learning to make the drives more bearable by making them fruitful! I’ve come to enjoy my drives to Atlanta—it gives me time to process my week and recharge. I love listening to audiobooks on Audible, catching up on my favorite podcasts, and listening to my favorite Spotify playlists (Hamilton, anyone?). Leaving Atlanta on Sunday afternoons can often be sad, so I’ve created a tradition to stop and treat myself to a guilty pleasure of mine for dinner—buffalo wings! Whether you’re driving or flying, use your travel time to your advantage and make it enjoyable!

Know each other’s schedules. Make a point to touch base on Sunday evenings and ask “What does your week look like?” or to share Google calendars with one another. Even if the initial answer is “normal” or “boring,” just keep asking questions! This is great for two reasons: you won’t set unrealistic expectations to hear from your significant other when they have plans, and you’ll know how to follow-up after your days.

Find encouragement. Logan and I had only been living in separate cities for a few weeks when I interviewed with the SW team. Up until that point, everyone’s first question upon finding out about his job had been “When are you moving to Atlanta?” instead of asking how I was feeling. To be honest, it was pretty discouraging that more people cared about my timeline than my heart. If you’ve followed Lisa and Dave’s relationship, you know that they were long-distance for more than a year before Dave moved to NC. When I shared about Logan’s recent move with the team, Lisa immediately said, “Oh my goodness, how are you doing?” The fact that she cared more about my heart than when I was making a transition meant more to me than I could say. She has been a consistent source of encouragement (along with many others!) throughout these past ten months, often texting me on my Sunday drives home to say she was thinking and praying for me. Find the people who will encourage you and cheer you on in this season!

Communicate, but don’t over-communicate. Be honest about how you’re feeling. Talk about what is and isn’t working, but remember that every conversation doesn’t have to be a serious one, nor does it need to be a lengthy one! Some of my favorite FaceTimes with Logan have been quick conversations, like while he is making dinner after getting home from work. He sits the phone on his counter while he “cooks,” and we talk about our days. When he finishes cooking, we often hang up for the evening. These conversations last no more than ten minutes, but they remind me of some of my favorite memories—cooking together.

Don’t compare yourself to other couples. Some of my friends who are in long-distance relationships talk on the phone every night. Logan and I are not big fans of talking on the phone, so we don’t do that very often. And that’s okay! For a while, I felt guilty about not talking each day, asking myself “Does this make me a bad girlfriend?” or “Are we really not that serious?” until Logan graciously reminded me that I was being silly, or perhaps ridiculous. We try to touch base each day in some form, but I’ve learned that pressuring ourselves to fit into a mold feels forced and inauthentic. Don’t worry about fitting into every guideline you see about long-distance dating or marriage—this list included!—but do what works best for the two of you!

My final piece of encouragement: this is worth it. Don’t view being in the same place geographically as a “light at the end of the tunnel.” You can learn so much in this season, so don’t wish it away.

Photos by Christopher and Nancy from our Facebook page, which are much lovelier than the screenshots of my FaceTime calls with Logan :)

Is there anything you would add to this list? Feel free to comment below or email me at Jess@SouthernWeddings.com—I love hearing from you!

Written with love by Jess Metcalf
9 Comments
  1. avatar Kelly reply

    Love your advice Jess! Especially about not fitting into molds. It seems this day and age that people expect you to be constantly communicating with each other. But I find that when you do that you’re missing out on whats going on around you.

    • avatar Jess Metcalf reply

      Kelly! Thank you for your encouragement! I agree with you completely, and it oftentimes makes the times we do talk even sweeter! xo -Jess

  2. avatar Christina Dean reply

    Thank you for this list! My boyfriend and I are in the very beginning of a long distance relationship (3 months in a just a few days!), and at the moment none of my friends are in long distance relationships. Reading this has given me some great pointers, and I can’t wait to share it with my beau. Thanks, Jess.

    • avatar Jess Metcalf reply

      Christina! Sending you extra encouragement! It has taken some getting used to, but there are so many sweet things about being apart as well! xo -Jess

  3. avatar Annie reply

    My husband and I did long-distance for three years before we got married. It was tough, but tips like the ones above make it easier–I especially liked knowing what his general schedule was, so we could plan what times were good to talk or Skype. (We even did some Skype ‘cooking dates,’ where we made the same meal and ate together while we video chatted.) When it felt hard, I tried to remember that doing long-distance was WAY better than breaking up, which would mean I’d never get to talk to him again.

    • avatar Jess Metcalf reply

      Hi Annie! Three years! I love what you reminded yourself when things felt hard; what a good perspective shift! xo, Jess

  4. avatar Kensington reply

    Goodness, I love this! I am in a long distance relationship currently, and I find reading people’s advice is so encouraging. I especially identify with setting a date to see each other next. For me, it doesn’t induce a countdown, but instead gives me peace of mind and frees me up to enjoy and be present in all the moments that will happen in between! Thank you for this Jess! It’s fun to follow along on another couples journey :)

    • avatar Jess Metcalf reply

      Kensington! Thanks for sharing, I agree completely; knowing the date definitely gives you the freedom to enjoy the present! Sending you a big squeeze! xo, Jess

  5. avatar Jennifer reply

    Thanks for sharing. Reminds me of my own situation, in which I’ve just begun a long distance relationship with my husband as I start a tour across the country for 10 Billion Lives. “Every day I wake up and we speak…at 4am Pacific Standard Time… because he’s in NYC… and I’m in California.” The story of my husband and me going long distance within a year of our marriage. http://www.nynomads.com

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For the first four years that Taylor and I dated (as in, up until this summer!), he worked in sports videography–working seven days a week and attending every football and basketball game, whether at home or away. Since my fall was mostly dedicated to getting our annual print edition out, there would be many days where we would both get home late at night and hangrily grumble at each other until we went to bed (okay, maybe that was just me…).

Making time for date nights and quality time was a challenge for us. We both believe that we shouldn’t have to sacrifice the time we spend on personal hobbies and passion projects for each other. After all, those things are what made us who we are, and they’re a huge part of why we love each other! So with time so scarce, how could we find ways to continue to grow closer? After our first year of experiencing this particular season of crazy together, we had to get creative about how we approached date nights. I know we’re not the only ones who are in this position, so here are some of our tips and ideas for making dates happen at any time.

Images by Ais Portraits.

1. Plan in advance. Take a look at your calendar and spot any overlapping days or nights off that you can. Block them off so you can spend them together! It doesn’t matter if you use that time to finally make that road trip you’ve been talking about, or if you just binge watch your favorite TV shows and go out to dinner. If you’re able to, give yourselves a date that you can look forward to, whether you plan something big or nothing at all, you’ll know the weekend didn’t escape you and you used the time well!

2. Make it any time. Maybe you only found one or two days that you were able to block off in advance. That means you’ll need to use whatever time is left in the best way possible. Date nights aren’t always an option, so why not date mornings? One of my favorite dates I’ve had with Taylor is when we decided to get up early to get breakfast and then explore a museum downtown before he headed off to work. Date mornings practically guarantee an equally great day (and usually inspire a string of text messages throughout the day, too!).

3. Make it anywhere. I think this is half the fun of dating! Any place can be romantic or fun enough for a date, whether you’re meeting for a Chick-fil-A lunch at the exit between your two offices, meeting in the grocery store parking lot to split an ice cream, or meeting over the phone before bed. Get as creative as possible–those are some of the best dates to look back on!

4. Make it anything. Let me tell you a story. When Taylor and I moved in together and experienced our first busy season under the same roof, dinners were tense. I would get home a little earlier than he did and start cooking right away. Mostly, I did it out of hunger, but I also did it because that’s how I wanted to show Taylor I supported him and his late nights–by taking one more thing off his plate. Eventually, though, I became upset that I was the only one doing this. As it turns out, cooking together is one of Taylor’s favorite ways to spend time with me, so instead of prepping dinner on nights that I worked late, he waited, wanting to unwind over wine and chat about our days while we concocted something delicious. Discovering this made our busy season so much more enjoyable because it took a burden off both our shoulders and turned it into something fun instead. I had to pack extra snacks for work so I wasn’t starving by the time I got home, but it gave us many nights of happy conversation and quality time doing something we both love to do. The moral of the story: identify the things that bring you the most joy in your relationship and make those a priority. Dates can be anything you want them to be as long as you approach them with a bit of romance and whimsy :)

5. Make it pizza. Or whatever you use as your fallback. There is no shame in ditching fancy, creative dates. Or homemade meals. Or forks. Or the dinner table. We’ve instituted “pizza picnics,” which give us an out on the few days when cooking is the last the thing we want to do, and our brains are spent. We order our favorite pizza from a nearby restaurant, lay a blanket on the floor, and call it a date. It’s nothing fancy and nothing new, but the fact that we’ve given it a name and made it a tradition makes it so much fun. When we say “pizza picnic” at home, both our eyes light up and we pull out our favorite blankets, splurge on a Mexican Coke, and chat happily until the doorbell rings. Plus, you can make this a date anywhere. We’ve been known to crave pizza picnics on vacation when we’re spent from sight-seeing and new-experience-having.

6. Take an interest. This isn’t a date idea, per se, but one of the tips Taylor and I implemented early on in our relationship that have made our untraditional date nights easier to embrace. We’ve been told a number of times to leave work at work, but quite frankly, that just doesn’t work for us. We’re emotionally invested in what we do, or we just can’t turn our brains off when we get home, so our vote is to talk it out. Trying to compartmentalize didn’t work for us–instead, it left us distracted when we were together. So, we’ve decided to talk through our days thoroughly–both the wins we had at work and the struggles we face. There are so many benefits to this! We get to be fully present with each other since we lay all our cards on the table. We’ve built up a lot of trust in each other because we share our problems and we seek advice and comfort in each other. And lastly, because we’re both fully aware of what’s going on in the office, it makes it much easier to be understanding when you get that text at 9 P.M. that says “I’m still at the office–eat without me tonight. Xo.”

I’m always searching for more fun date ideas — what are some of the best or most creative dates you been on?

nicoleyang Written with love by Nicole
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  1. avatar Kelly reply

    Absolutely love this! Great advice!! :)

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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