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Hi, ladies! Some of you long-time readers may remember our friend Katie, from the wonderful and hilarious blog Marriage Confessions (and some of you might just recognize Katie from MC, apart from SW!). Katie drops by to share her funny, smart, and poignant perspective on life after the wedding, and we know you’ll love her as much as we do!

It’s the start of another new year. I don’t know about you, but I have big plans for 2012. Big plans. I’m going to eat better, organize my linen closet, send birthday cards on time, get my oil changed before my husband lectures me about taking care of nice things… Big plans, I tell you. New Year’s resolutions are a great way to take a look at your life, reevaluate, adjust your priorities, set some goals, and move forward.

But aren’t those all things we should do in our marriages, too?

Each year, before we make our own New Year’s resolutions, my husband and I go out for a dinner date that we like to call the “State of Our Union.” During this meal, we set our goals and make our resolutions for our marriage in the upcoming year. It’s a time for us to talk about the past year, remember the good things that happened, reflect on the bad things, and pat ourselves on the back about how far we’ve come. It’s also a time for us to look ahead, too. Much like a business, a marriage needs a plan to be successful. Good marriages just don’t happen. They are the result of two people who have planned, worked hard, and set goals.

State of the Union talks aren’t as daunting as they sound. In fact, by the time our meal is finished, I feel really good about myself, my husband, and our family. If you’re looking to jump start your new year and your marriage, here are some tips for a successful State of the Union dinner:

1. Location, location, location – Be sure that you go out of the house somewhere for this discussion. For one thing, it keeps you from fighting about anything you might disagree on. You have to be polite and cooperative if you’re in public. Mostly though, going out to eat somewhere gives the dinner and conversation a sense of lightheartedness. Get dressed up, get a babysitter (if applicable), put on your favorite dress, wear his favorite perfume. It’s much easier to talk about your family budget if you look great, feel desirable, and are having fun. Also, be sure you pick a location that is conducive to enjoying yourselves and having an intimate conversation. For some, this might be a quiet booth at a sports bar and for others this might be a swanky hotel bar. Chris and I just went out to a quaint sushi restaurant on the beach for ours this year. Candle light on the table made even discussions about difficult subjects seem romantic.

2. Focus on certain topics – State of the Unions given by presidents are clearly organized, focused, and precise. State of the Unions given by married couples should be the same. This isn’t the time to drag every small issue in your marriage out of the closet. (That’s what holidays are for…just kidding…kind of…) This conversation should be focused on the big picture, not the nitty gritty. Topics that should definitely be discussed include:

a. Make a financial plan for the coming year. Include what you each prioritize for the coming year, goals you want to achieve, and a plan for how to reach those goals. If you have a major event coming up in the new year, such as a wedding or the birth of a baby, this is a good time to talk about how you’ll prepare for those things financially.

b. As uncomfortable as it sounds, you need to talk about how happy each of you were in the past year with your marriage. And then – this is equally, if not more important – you need to talk about why you felt that way. This doesn’t have to be an emotional or dramatic conversation, either. If you have trouble starting this part, ask your partner to score on a scale of one to ten how happy they were with your relationship last year. Then, talk about why they gave it that score. When you’ve talked about their view, give your own score and tell why. The point of this discussion isn’t to change each other’s mind or to point blame about anything. The point is to see where you are each starting the new year. You can’t move forward if you don’t know where the starting line is.

c. Set your priorities for the new year together. If one of you is thinking about how perfect the timing would be in the spring for a new baby and the other is thinking about how perfect the timing would be in the spring for a new roof, you’re going to have some issues. Having different priorities isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but those priorities should be out on the table for everyone to see and work towards. So, talk about them. What do you want to accomplish that year together? If there are multiple goals, then what is the order of importance? You have a better success rate for reaching your goals if you are both working towards the same finish line.

d. Talk about mistakes you made in your relationship last year and how you can avoid them in the new year. We learn the best from mistakes – and, trust me, we all make mistakes in our relationships. But if we never pause to learn from those mistakes, then our relationships won’t grow. Maybe you’ve had a reoccurring fight that kept coming up in the past year, maybe you made a particularly bad decision about your marriage, or maybe you just had an overall trying year in your relationship… now is the time to talk about the causes of those issues and how you can both work better to solve those issues. This isn’t about rehashing the past, but more about recognizing weaknesses in your relationship so that you can strengthen them together. If you can’t have this discussion without fighting, then save this for its own conversation at a different time. State of the Unions should stay on topic and be polite and civil in order to be the most productive. While this topic is healthy to discuss and is an important part of moving forward, if it’s going to stop your conversation flow, then avoid it during your State of the Union dinner and focus on it at a later time.

No matter where you are, what you’re wearing, or what topics you decide to talk about, the overarching rule of State of the Union dinners is to listen. Listen to what your partner says. At our State of the Union dinner with my husband this year, he said that he needed more from me. It was hard to hear and I wanted to immediately snap back with a list of the times that I had needed more from him, too. But this dinner isn’t about pointing fingers or hurting each other’s feelings. It’s about really hearing the needs of your partner and voicing your own needs, and then it’s about making a plan to move forward and meet those needs. So, when my husband said he needed more from me, we spent a little bit talking about exactly what he needed from me. Was it more time? More chores? More effort? Turns out, he just needed more attention from me. He felt like I was giving it all to the kids and he was being left out. I would have never known he felt like that if I hadn’t stopped to really hear him. Now, that’s something that I can focus on changing in the new year.

I think for many married couples, we wait until there is a problem before talking about the state of our relationship, but that is being reactive in your marriage and not proactive. This year, as you kick off 2012 with resolutions of more time at the gym and more organized filing cabinets at work, be sure that you set some good resolutions to help move your marriage forward, too. Knowing the state of your union before the new year begins is the first step towards making this the best year yet!

Love all things Katie? Past columns for Southern Weddings:
Change is the Name of the (Newlywed) Game
My Wedding Registry Changed My Life
Working it Out With the In-Laws
Managing Your Money
Come on Baby, Light My Fire
On Moving

All photos by Oh, Darling! Photography. See more on their blog here!

Oh, Darling! is a fabulous member of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

Written with love by Sierra
  1. avatar Taylor reply

    We have talked about having the “state of the union” talk at church!! My guy likes to call it our “romancipation proclamation” haha!

  2. avatar desiree reply

    what a great post!!! thanks so much for sharing. soon-to-be brides and grooms, listen up! it’s not all fairytales and flowers all of the time ~ but that’s okay! My favorite resolution quote is this, “If the grass looks greener on the other side, water your own lawn!!” :)

  3. avatar Candice reply

    Wow, great post. Sounds absolutely terrifying to try but a great way to anticipate and solve issues. I like the idea that this is proactive, not reactive.

  4. avatar Rachel @ The Ongoing Planner reply

    What a great idea! We are very proactive about our conversations, but sounds like a great excuse for a date night :) It is definitely important to remember to listen to each other!

  5. avatar Jen reply

    This is an awesome post! I had been thinking about discussing resolutions with The Hubs this year and this is the perfect format for us to do it with. I’m going to share this with my friends because I think it sounds like something that would be extremely beneficial for all couples!

    Thanks so much for putting this together with such detail! :-)

  6. avatar Sharlee reply

    Great ideas, Katie! I love this! I just told my husband I’d like to start doing this. It sounds like a good way to start the new year. I agree that setting goals/achieving them together helps you to grow together as a couple.

  7. avatar JenniferLO reply

    What a great post! Something every married (or soon to be married) couple should read!

  8. avatar Nikki reply

    Great idea, Katie! I can’t wait to bring this up to the Hubs and get to work setting up a “State of Our Union” dinner soon! My goal is to not become defensive and really listen to my Husband’s needs. Thanks again!

  9. avatar Meghan reply

    Love, love, love this post! Hubs and I try to have this conversation every once in a while, but it’s usually at home and we end up getting distracted and/or nitpicking about other things. I’m right there with you on feeling the urge to just snap back sometimes :) I really appreciate the advice and look forward to planning something like this with my hubby.

  10. avatar Katherine reply

    This is a great post! It makes me feel excited to talk through things with my S.O. a little differently than we might have in the past! Plus date nights are always great :) Thanks Katie!

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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A good ole farm wedding in the North Carolina mountains was perfect for Whitney + John. Locally-grown flowers were loving assembled by the bride’s friends and placed in jars that topped the tables, while napkins with the familiar check pattern of cook outs below the Mason-Dixon sat waiting for barbecue and biscuits. The rustic details and romantic setting in the mountains is as sweet as can be. Guests partied the night away to a bluegrass band and then gathered to give Whitney + John a proper sparkler exit. Thanks again to Oh, Darling! Photography for sharing this lovely wedding!

What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? What was Southern about your wedding? John and I grew up in Pennsylvania and California, but spent the last 5 years in Chapel Hill, NC. We’ve learned to love so many elements of the culture and the natural landscape of the South. We incorporated our favorites into the wedding. We married in Western North Carolina, which we are convinced is one of the most beautiful places on earth, we served pulled pork BBQ for dinner, our ceremony music was provided by a bluegrass trio, and all of our flowers were grown by a local farmer.
Describe your wedding flowers: Our flowers were one of the best parts of the wedding. Meredith McKissick at Sweet Earth Flower Farm was brilliant. She worked from the beginning to offer us beautiful blooms that coordinated with our theme and preferences. She delivered buckets of flowers the day before the wedding, and our friends and family lovingly arranged them in Weck jars. My bouquet – which took my breath away– was designed by Meredith.
Describe your wedding cake: Jodi and her team at Short Street Cakes baked us cupcakes in four amazing flavors. Our cutting cake was strawberry, made with fresh berries. It was delicious, but we only got one bite at the wedding!
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome while planning your wedding? John and I got married at a very busy time. We moved up north (to NYC for John, Philadelphia for me) immediately after the wedding, so the weeks leading up to it involved packing and saying goodbye to our home and friends in NC. It was emotional and physically exhausting, but we were lucky to have lots of support. We couldn’t have done it alone.
What range did your wedding budget fall into? $10,000-$25,000
What is the one thing you are most happy you splurged on? Photography!! We’re just so happy and feel so lucky to have had Whitney and Dustin of Oh, Darling! capture our day.
Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line? We wrote simple and honest vows. When we started talking about them several months ago, we only knew that we wanted to say the same vow to one another and that we didn’t want anything overwrought. John and I thought it was important to include a line about how our marriage was about our dedication to one another but also our commitment to the other people in our lives, whether it be friends, family, or our communities. Our favorite lines were “I promise to join with you completely, to laugh with you in joy, to grieve with you in times of sorrow, to serve others in peace and hope, and grow with you in love.”
What’s next for you as a couple? What are you looking forward to in the future? We’re living apart this year for clinical psychology internships, so we just see each other on weekends. We’re making the most of those weekends! Once were in the same place, we are very much looking forward to starting a family, settling into careers, and making a home.

Photographer: Oh, Darling! // Videographer: Brother // Coordinator: Claxton Farm // Venue: Claxton Farm// Florist: Sweet Earth Flower Farm // Wedding Cake Baker: Short Street Cakes // Caterer: M7 Events // Paper Products: Hello! Lucky // Bride’s Dress: Nicole Miller // Bride’s Hair Accessories/Veil: Emersonmade // Bride’s Shoes: J.Crew // Bridesmaids’ Dresses: J.Crew // Accessories: earrings by Katrina Lapenne

nicoleyang Written with love by Nicole

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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Whitney + John’s wedding at Claxton Farm was relaxed and naturally beautiful. The flowers, which were grown by a local farmer, were a fresh and lush accompaniment to Whitney’s bridesmaids in J.Crew and to her own simple and elegant Nicole Miller dress. With a couple of flowers in her hair, she was ready to say “I do” to John in a wide open field where their ceremony took place. Whitney + John are convinced that Western North Carolina is one of the most beautiful places on earth and we have to agree — just look at the view their guests took in as the two recited their vows! Big thanks to Oh, Darling! for sharing!

How did the two of you meet? Tell us your story. John and I met while we were both research assistants in a psychology lab at UC Berkeley. John was my supervisor. For the first year we knew each other, we were very professional and very friendly. I thought he was the greatest person – kind, smart, sensitive, and charming. About a year later, our dear friend (and later our officiant!), Sarah asked both of us to help with a research project. Our job was to code videotaped arguments between couples! After a few months of working together, we went on a date.
Describe the proposal. John and our dear friend Sarah planned the proposal. I was in graduate school and living in North Carolina, and John was still in the Bay Area. I flew back to California for my birthday, and John surprised me with a trip to Sonoma to stay at one of our favorite little inns. One night, we went to a delicious dinner and returned to our room to find it transformed. Sarah had followed us to Sonoma and collaborated with the innkeeper to fill our room with roses, candles, chocolate, and our favorite music while we were away. I remember thinking that this was the best birthday of my life and then I turned and realized that John was on one knee!
Three adjectives that describe the day are: Genuine, warm, exuberant
Our favorite detail of the wedding was: A few years ago, our very good and very talented friend, Patrick wrote us a song for our wedding (at this point, we had been engaged for a few years). A few weeks before the wedding, he revised it to reflect the ways our relationship had grown. He sang it for us immediately after the ceremony. It was really amazing. We also loved our invitations. We took a photo of Claxton Farm and sent it to Hello! Lucky in San Francisco and asked her to help us create an invite that incorporated the green hills, the sky and sun, and the barn. The result was beautiful. The sun from the invitation became a decor theme, reflected in the place cards and thank-you cards. We told ourselves that even if it was cloudy on the day of the wedding, we’d have a sunny celebration!
Tell us about finding your wedding dress: I found my dress at Lovely Bridal Shop, in NYC. My sister and I converged in the city one weekend several months before the wedding, and I tried on several at this sweet boutique. I put on my Nicole Miller dress and fell in love with it. It had the simplicity and the details that I wanted, and it was (thankfully) well within my budget!

Photographer: Oh, Darling! // Videographer: Brother // Coordinator: Claxton Farm // Venue: Claxton Farm// Florist: Sweet Earth Flower Farm // Wedding Cake Baker: Short Street Cakes // Caterer: M7 Events // Paper Products: Hello! Lucky // Bride’s Dress: Nicole Miller // Bride’s Hair Accessories/Veil: Emersonmade // Bride’s Shoes: J.Crew // Bridesmaids’ Dresses: J.Crew // Accessories: earrings by Katrina Lapenne

nicoleyang Written with love by Nicole
1 Comment

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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