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Photographer and educator Katelyn James is a very dear friend to Southern Weddings, and one of the sweetest gals we know. When she recently mentioned that she and her husband Michael have been working with a marriage counselor almost since they said “I do,” we were intrigued. It’s a topic that doesn’t get talked about a lot, but one we think deserves more love! We asked her to share a bit more about their experience today. Take it away, Katelyn! – Emily

When Emily asked me to share about our experience with a life coach/marriage counselor, I was excited… but then I had a split second of feeling a little uneasy about sharing this part of our life, because there are so many stigmas surrounding the idea of counseling, coaching, and therapy! Then I realized that that is the very reason why I SHOULD be sharing! Just last night we had friends over for dinner, and the fact that we meet with a life coach every two weeks came up. The first thing out of the wife’s mouth was, “Oh, he would never do that! He’s so against counseling of any kind!” I get it. It seems like only those who have super SERIOUS issues go to counseling or have a coach. Well, Michael and I have found that that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Michael and I started meeting with our life coach (who is really more like a marriage counselor) over three years ago. At first, we weren’t convinced that it was a necessity. I mean, isn’t it normal to have marital tension, and use tones with one another, and feel conflicted about the balance of working together? Isn’t it totally understandable that we came from different family dynamics and that affects the way we show up emotionally with one another? Isn’t is normal to have weeks of not feeling like we’re on the same team?

I think those things ARE normal… but they don’t have to be. I actually think that the most damaging thing a couple can do in a relationship is just accept the unhealthy parts of their marriage and never dive deeper into the reason they are happening in the first place.

My dad is a pastor, and he always talks about how so many marriages have unhealthy tendencies that get masked by the “children” phase of life. Kids come, and life becomes all about them. It’s exciting and new and fun, but what happens when they are off to college and it’s back to just you and your spouse at home again? When it’s just the two of you and those struggles that you had before kids? They’re going to be waiting for you, which is why you see so many divorces happening when kids reach the end of high school and begin college. The little things matter, and they add up!

Michael and I knew deep down that we wanted to have a third party speak into our life. We love our parents, our siblings, our best friends… but there is something so powerful about having someone meet with us that isn’t biased towards us in any way. Our life coach lives in California, and we live in Virginia. We don’t meet in person, and we don’t even meet face to face. We commit to a simple one hour phone call every two weeks.

The actual commitment of the calls isn’t hard… it’s doing the HEART SEARCHING that’s hard. It’s being honest with how you’re showing up in your marriage that’s hard! Michael and I have grown so much in the last three years. The conversations that we are having with our life coach are the type of conversations that we would have never experienced without someone helping us dig deeper. No one enjoys digging deeper into the mess of their life, but it’s necessary in order to create a new vision for your marriage!

It’s hard to explain what we’ve gained from meeting with our coach in just one paragraph. To put it simply, it has been life changing. Michael and I have a greater understanding of why we are the way we are. The beautiful thing about our coaching sessions is that we have learned to recognize and see more clearly what is truth, and what we make up to be true about what another.

For example, assuming that Michael is mad, frustrated, or annoyed with me based off of his interactions with me totally discredits what could be going on in his world. A lot of tension and tone stems from outside stress. Choosing to respond to Michael based on what I KNOW to be true about him (that he loves me, cares for me, and wants the best for me) instead of the immediate circumstances has been a game changer.

Life coaching or marriage counseling isn’t just for those that are heading down a path of destruction… it’s for healthy marriages! As a photographer, I’ve spent a lot of money on education to improve my craft. My marriage is so much more important than my business, and so it only makes sense that we would invest in our relationship, as well.

If you’re considering hiring a life coach or marriage counselor, I recommend gently bringing it up to your spouse. This is something that you both need to be willing to do. Don’t be frustrated if it takes a few conversations to get on the same page! Sometimes I look forward to our calls, and other times I dread them… but no matter what, I always end our calls knowing that we’re fighting for our marriage together and there’s nothing else that is more important! We are learning how to love each other in a healthier way and even though we’re far from perfect, we know that God is doing amazing transformation in our relationship!

Thank you so much for sharing your heart, Katelyn! For those interested in learning more about Katelyn’s specific coach, you can visit Julia’s site.

All photos by Jillian Michelle Photography

emily Written with love by Emily
1 Comment
  1. avatar Amber Stapp reply

    I love this! What a powerful article with such an important message for all couples! I’m inspired by this wonderful couple and their commitment to creating the best most God honoring marriage they can. Blessings to them both. And their baby is gorgeous!!!

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The holiday are in full swing and Christmas is just days away. This time of year can be filled with joy and excitement (biggest congratulations to our newly engaged gals) and it can also be bursting with activities, events and a seemingly never-ending to-do list. Whether you’re all-the-hearts over your new diamond or trying to knock out wedding to-dos in-between wrapping presents and sealing envelopes, it’s easy to get caught up in the busy and forget to carve out time to focus on what matters most. So let’s all agree to put down the to-do lists, throw those last presents in gift bags and take some time to embrace the holidays.

Big hugs to Blue Ribbon Vendor Justin Demutiis for all these festive photos!

Here are a few personally tested ways to embrace the holidays and add a little extra festive love into your most important relationships:

1. Two words: Hot chocolate. Whether you’re a devout coffee drinker or an extra whip cream kind of gal (yes, please), the thought of taking time to actually sit and enjoy a hot holiday beverage for even a few minute without trying to cross off another to-do sounds dreamy. This doesn’t have to be an all day affair. Sneak away from your family for a half hour and drive to Starbucks or duck out after dinner one night or for any early-morning breakfast date. The important thing is not when but making an effort to carve out some intention time to be still.

2. Take advantage of any planned travel to enjoy a little extra holiday-inspired quality time. The SW gals are all professional road trippers: check out our expert tips. For travel over the holidays, take things up a notch and pack some gingerbread cookies, make a holiday playlist or prep holiday-themed “20-questions” (think: favorite childhood toy, best memory, worst holiday outfit, etc.).

3. Recreate a childhood holiday tradition. For me, it’s new pajamas on Christmas Eve and watching the Santa Clause (my most favorite holiday movie). Doing this with KPW puts me in the holiday spirit and force me to reset, so we’ve been known to do this on nights other than Christmas Eve utilizing last year’s festive jams.

4. Take listening to holiday music to a new level with your own version of Christmas Karaoke. While I’m a strict ‘no-holiday music’ until after I’ve eaten Thanksgiving dinner gal, all bets are off once the turkey leftovers are put away until the confetti falls on NYE. Pull out your parent’s old holiday records or blast the (retro?) N’Sync Christmas album. Don’t just play the music in the background–channel your inner Mariah Carey and belt out the songs! Dancing along is recommended and participation by all parties is highly encouraged. Let your hair down and turn the music up.

5. Go hunt holiday lights! Wedding bouquets are to weddings as Christmas lights are to Christmas. Twinkly lights might be around more than just during December, but there’s something extra special about the holiday lights when you add candles in the windows and wreaths on the doors (bonus points for holiday inflatables). Put on your cozy clothes and pile into the car or throw on your tennis shoes and a scarf (assuming you don’t live in FL) and go on a search for Christmas lights around your neighborhood or city (hand holding encouraged). I’m betting just getting away for a few minutes will clear your head and have you humming a Christmas song in no time.

It’s amazing what a little intentional holiday reset will do for my spirits and how (with just a little effort) it will refocus me on what ultimately matters. Remember, there’s nothing magical about December 25, so bring on the Christmas pajamas and hot chocolate as long at the tree’s still up and you’re still humming a little “12 Days of Christmas”. Merry Christmas, y’all!

PS: I’m sure y’all are bursting with other great ways to embrace the holidays. Share them below!! xo.

kristin Written with love by Kristin
1 Comment
  1. avatar Kelly reply

    Oh I love these posts! Wonderful ideas to reset, be still, and enjoy these last few days before Christmas. :)

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For some people, November 1 is an invitation to break out the Christmas decoration boxes and hang the mistletoe.

I am not one of those people.

I think every holiday should have its due, and that it’s practically a crime to breeze right past Thanksgiving, which is one of the loveliest holidays of all! But there is one holiday hustle I can get behind, and that’s planning ahead for Christmas cards. On that note, today we’ve teamed up with Dixie Design to offer a few tips for getting your Christmas cards done beautifully and out the door on time! (And their designs are so sweet and Southern – can’t wait for you to see!)

1. Choose a photo. If you got married in the last year, your decision is probably an easy one: you’ll obviously be using a photo from your wedding! (It felt like a huge rite of passage for me!) On second thought, sifting through all of your beautiful wedding photos and choosing just one could be challenging, indeed…

2. Take a new photo, if necessary. If a wedding photo isn’t an option and there isn’t a photo you love from the past year, consider hiring a photographer. Many pros offer “mini sessions” in the fall for exactly this purpose: usually 15-20 minutes, where you receive 10-20 photos, for $150-$400. (Following your favorite photographer’s social accounts or subscribing to her newsletter are great ways to stay in the loop about sign-ups.) “If you have time in advance,” says Jennifer from Dixie Design, “it’s nice to find a card you love before having your photo taken. That way, you’ll know the appropriate orientation (vertical or horizontal) and the colors you may need to wear to coordinate well with the card’s design.”

3. Gather your list of loved ones. “Your wedding address list is a great starting point for gathering holiday card addresses,” says Jennifer. “You can cut and paste those addresses into a separate document, and then you’ll have your card list ready for next year, too — and it will be simple to make changes to addresses and add new addresses along the way.” We’ve also found Postable to be a great solution if you like to keep an online address book, or our friend Emily Ley’s version if you’re more of a pen and paper gal.

4. Select your card design. The fun part! Spend time uploading your photo into several different cards – “remember, you may love your photo and you may love a certain card, but the two together simply might not work,” says Jennifer. Christmas cards are practically a collaged piece of artwork for the month of December at my house – like little paper jewels! – so don’t be afraid to have fun with special details. From Jennifer: “We think our holiday cards feel special because we strive to provide our customers with designs that look like they were custom-made for them, with details like hand lettered and calligraphed messages, illustrated and painted designs, monograms, and high-end paper.” Aim to place your card order no later than December 1, but ideally around November 15. And remember, especially if you’ve moved in the past year, it’s better to be ahead of the curve with your card so your loved ones can adjust their address books!

5. Stuff, stamp, and send. With your cards in hand in plenty of time, you’ll have a week or two to address them at your leisure, ideally beside a Christmas tree, with hot chocolate in hand, and your favorite Christmas songs on the radio :) We think a hand-written note, even if brief, on each one is a lovely touch. Same for hand-written addresses on the envelopes. Enlist your new husband to help with the sealing and stamping part! A seasonally-colored strip of washi tape on the back flap or a modern holiday stamp (like the ones from our friend Lindsay Letters) add a little extra zip.

All of Dixie Design’s holiday cards are fully customizable on their website — you can upload your photo, view it inside potential cards, and personalize your message, all right there on their site! We’re big fans of their sweet illustrations, happy colors, and darling Southern aesthetic, and know they have just the design you’re looking for for your first Christmas card as a Southern newlywed! See them all right here.

P.S. Tips for writing a Christmas letter.

This post is brought to you by Dixie Design. Thank you so much for your support of the brands that make Southern Weddings possible!

emily Written with love by Emily
2 Comments
  1. avatar Beautiful Life Wedding Video and Photography reply

    Nice Tip… thanks for sharing!

  2. avatar brianne munz reply

    This is so useful and such good timing! Ive now got it on my calendar to order these. Thanks for keeping me on schedule. I love Christmas cards so much and I feel like they get over looked these days. Its the little things. #maytraditionliveon

    p.s. Dixie Design is SO CUTE. 100% using them.

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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