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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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A few weeks ago, I co-hosted a baby shower in my hometown. I’m from a small town in North Carolina, where the ladies from my home church were some of the first to change my diaper and rock me in the church nursery. They’ve watched me grow up over the past almost-27 years, and they genuinely love celebrating milestones in my life with me. This means that oftentimes, when I’m home, I find myself faced with the question “So, when are you getting married?”

It can be easy to feel jaded by that question. I get it. The heart behind Southern Weddings isn’t about beautiful pictures—it’s about relationships. In all that we do at Southern Weddings, our mission is to inspire others to cultivate a life full of love. Whether you feel like you’re perpetually single, or dating to see who is right for you, or you’re in a relationship and taking things at your own speed, what I’ve found to be most helpful in responding to this question is a different framework.

(Just a note, I use “we” in most of these answers because I’m talking about it in the context of my current relationship, but to my single gals out there—I see you. Know that I often used these responses when I was single as well.)

Remind yourself that it is a good thing that people are invested in and care about your relationship. It’s important to realize this is often the heart behind that question. Great relationships are cultivated in community with others. When I’m asked this question, it’s typically because the person asking the question cares about me and has seen the good Logan brings out in me, not because someone wants to be able to write a date down in their planner. When Ms. Madelyn or Mrs. Hickman asked me this at my sister-in-law’s baby shower recently, I was grateful that even after years of living in a different place, they still cared about the big things happening in my life.

“Let me tell you about what we’re looking forward to in our future.” One could say this is a way to deflect the question, but I like this answer because it shows that the most exciting thing to me in my current relationship isn’t necessarily an upcoming engagement or wedding day, but the other fun things we have planned. Whether it’s a larger event, like a long weekend vacation to the beach, or something simpler, like date night at a new restaurant you’ve been wanting to try, I love giving others glimpses into the exciting things happening in my life, whether they have to do with my relationship or not!

“I don’t know. And I’m okay with not knowing right now because I am content with where we are.” Our team fiercely believes that a marriage is more important than a wedding day, and the same applies to our relationships! A wedding day isn’t the finish line, but rather, one of many markers in your relationship. We believe that every part of your relationship—both the big and small moments—is meant to be celebrated in a way that is deeply meaningful. It’s one of the reasons Southern Weddings did our own spin on Fruitful Summer this year! Relationships matter, and cultivating meaningful relationships is the secret to a full life. I’ve found this is exactly why the mission of Southern Weddings resonates with me—and so many of you—so much!

“We’re still getting to know one another.” Don’t let anyone tell you that you should “know” after XX number of months. Yes, some of the darling brides in our magazine and on our blog knew after the first date. But others spent years as friends with their now-husbands. Neither is better than the other. The timing that you choose for your relationship is the best timing for you.

“You should ask him.” One of the very first things Nicole and I realized when we began to talk about dating well in the office was that no one asks our boyfriends this question. Depending on who is asking, one of my favorite tongue-in-cheek answers is simply “You should ask him,” followed by a sweet smile :)

Depending on your relationship with the person asking the question, it’s okay to politely ask them to refrain from asking. I hesitated to add this one, but in the end, I think it’s one of the most important ways you can respond to this question. I’ve found that I often experience the most discontentment in my relationship with Logan when I feel bombarded by the question. One of the most honest ways you can respond is by gently explaining that to someone. I’ve been known to tell my mother or some of my close friends (all people who very much have the right to ask that question) this on days where I don’t particularly feel up to talking about the timeline of my relationship. Each and every time, the person has responded very graciously. Whether you’re single and pursuing other passions or in a long-term relationship, this answer has often led to very sweet conversations!

I’d love to hear from you! Nicole and I are excited to continue to be back on this column to talk to you about dating. Feel free to email me at Jess@SouthernWeddings.com to say hi or let me know if there’s anything in particular you’d like us to talk about! I am so grateful you are here!

Photos by Live View Studios from our Facebook page

Written with love by Jess Metcalf
4 Comments
  1. avatar India reply

    This was super helpful! As someone who has dated their current boyfriend for a few years now, I get this question more often. I think “You Should Ask him” is my favorite response, as he would be the one doing the proposing! :)

    xo, India

    • avatar Jess Metcalf reply

      India! I’m so glad it was helpful for you! “You should ask him” is one of my favorite tongue-in-cheek answers, typically followed by “let me tell you all about the exciting things we’re looking forward to!” Grateful for your support! xo, Jess

  2. avatar Kirsten Barber reply

    I loved coming across this article today. The, “When are you getting married,” question and those like it have always bugged me. Growing up, it was, “When will you start dating?” When I was dating, it was, “When will you get married?” And now that I am married, it is, “When will you have children?” As a people pleaser, these questions hit me on an emotional level and start to make me doubt my personal timeline. I used to respond with defensive remarks and anger, but I’ve learned to start laughing off the questions. My favorite response was the cheeky, “You should ask him.” Thank you for doing this. I think it is something every woman faces in her life, and it is always better to handle something with grace, even if it seems a bit intrusive.

  3. avatar Jess reply

    Kirsten! I’m so glad you were encouraged! Questions about the next season of life can be fun to dream and talk about at times, but I love the idea of being able to focus on the present and right now. I think we too often (myself included) wish away the right now for what is to come. Grateful for you! xo, Jess

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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