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Author: Nicole

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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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!! :)

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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!

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.

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.

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.

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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