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“Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to Your name give glory, for the sake of Your steadfast love and Your faithfulness” (Psalms 115:1)
Congratulations on your engagement!
What an opportunity to savor God’s love for you as you move forward towards your marriage, a covenant relationship that echoes Jesus' steadfast love for His bride, the Church!
Whether you are brimming with joy or overwhelmed with anxiety at the prospect of planning a wedding, take delight in the fact that God has a brilliant and unique purpose for your wedding and for your marriage. You are filled with the sweet fragrance of Christ.
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“Green” Centerpieces (with a Purpose)
By Wendie Aston
One of the most expressive elements of a wedding reception is the table centerpiece. Often centerpieces are comprised of flowers that paint a 3D picture of the personality of the bride and groom. The common use of organic elements in centerpieces make them a natural fit for adding a touch of “green” to your wedding, which could mean having re-useable centerpieces, natural elements, or multi-purposed arrangements that save money and leave less impact on the environment.
Even for the traditional floral arrangements, going green is simple. Using organic and Fair Trade flowers is best for you and the environment. If you live in the NYC area, here is a great sustainable florist like Gardenia Organic. For those in Los Angeles you can try LA Botanicals or just look online or visit your local florist.
Depending on the theme of your wedding and the time of year, you also have various non-floral options and additions. For evening weddings, candles are simple, yet they add elegance to the table and can complement any centerpiece design or stand alone in a glass jar, vase, or vessel of water. Picture floating, organic roses on a mirrored surface with the reflected light of a few soy votive candles around the arrangement. Candles add warmth and serenity to a room that might otherwise feel too big or chaotic. To be eco-friendly, it is important to avoid paraffin candles, which are made from petroleum and emit toxic fumes. Choosing candles made from beeswax or soy will help to ensure that your guests breathe easy and the impact on the environment is minimal.
A less traditional option is to create edible centerpieces. You could use a large basket with a variety of breads, rosemary, and an assortment of olive oils or olives–perfect for an outdoor, vineyard-like reception. Another edible centerpiece is a tower of cupcakes at each table. Cupcakes are a great way to double as a dessert (if your guests can wait to eat them), which means it costs less for you. And if they are organic, you can rest assured that your guests are ingesting only natural ingredients.
If you are a spring bride, consider using potted orchids. You would have the tradition of a classic floral arrangement, yet you would not be left with dozens of arrangements that will die in the next couple of days. Potted orchids, if nurtured well, will last you for many bloom cycles. Similarly, you could put together an array of potted organic herbs to give to your guests as party favors. This is a great cost-cutting idea since the herbs serve double duty as centerpieces and party favors—not to mention, your guests get to enjoy natural flavors in their healthy home-cooking after your wedding is over.
Summer weddings usually have that light and airy feel so you could use vases of sea shells and sand. Potted arrangements of summer flowers also work well since they can be easily reused and taken home to enjoy. Bowls or vases of oranges, lemons, and limes can give a bright, cheery look to the table.
For a fall wedding you can borrow the Thanksgiving cornucopia idea and design bowls of apples, pumpkins, and gourds. These can be reused or donated.
If you are planning a winter wedding, you can take advantage of the season by decorating with pine cones in a glass bowl. You can intersperse moss to give the centerpiece an outdoorsy look or use a small potted Christmas tree as the centerpiece for a December wedding. For favors, add small ornaments for each guest to take home.
Whatever centerpiece option you choose for your wedding, consider being creative with the natural beauty that God has created, as well as evaluating whether your centerpieces can be recycled or reused.
Photo © mrorange002
Wendie Aston is a GREEN blogger who hopes to inspire all moms to be better stewards of the environment and to create healthy GREEN homes for families to thrive. She is available for GREEN consultations to GREEN your home, lifestyle, or to create your dream GREEN nursery in the NYC area or via Skype. www.greenonthescene.blogspot.com
“Sing aloud to God our strength; shout for joy to the God of Jacob” (Psalm 81:1).
I love praise music and singing at church because it gets me singing aloud to God, my strength. I was struck, however, by the idea of shouting for joy to God. Occasionally, when I am utterly overwhelmed by God’s goodness or by inexplicable happiness, I’ll shriek with a giddy gratitude for God’s love and the life He has given me. But as soon as the shout exits my mouth, I feel hindered by embarrassment that someone might have heard me. Usually I’m in my car. I’ll steal a look to the drivers on my right and left to see if they heard me shouting.
Your language of praise might be more free than mine, which is awesome. If you do feel awkward letting loose in praise to God, know that you aren’t alone, and hear a challenge to treat God with more gratitude and exuberance than you do your fiancé. You are about to stand before witnesses and declare your love for this special man. You might even sing him a song, and you will likely dance with him and kiss him in front of everyone. Even before your wedding, think of all the ridiculous things you have done to communicate your head-over-heals, crazy love for him: standing under his window with a stereo over your head, checking every old bookstore for his original copy that was once sold, showing up at the top of the Empire State Building at a certain time and day, writing him songs, staying up all night, etc. Consider that your relationship with God far surpasses your relationship with your soon-to-be husband both in significance and in depth of love. How can you show God that you are crazy in love with Him?
Lord of lords, I delight in You! You are my first love, and I want everyone to know about You. Give me courage to be free in expressing my love for You. Give me a language of praise that is unique to our relationship. Be ever glorified in my songs, my shouts, my words, and my deeds. And as I learn to love my husband more and more, let that relationship always be a reflection of my relationship with You and not the other way around. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Sending Save the Dates was a no-brainer for Chris and me because our wedding was in Southern California, but my college friends were from around Connecticut, his high school friends were from Northern California, his family was from South Carolina and Georgia, and his family friends (who were like his family since his parents were missionaries abroad) were from across the world. If we wanted all our guests to come, we had to give them ample time to look for travel deals and save up money.
We did not want to spend a lot on our Save the Date since there would be an invitation to follow, but we also didn’t want to waste the time, effort, and money on sending something not worth receiving. According to us, that would have been something sloppy, something tacky, or even something that was quality but was outside of our personalities.
We wanted our wedding to be a celebration of gratitude for all those who helped shape us into the people we were at that point, so our Save the Dates would be reflective of that. Both he and I are lovers of tradition, but we also are just plain goofy and think life is so much better when it’s lived creatively.
So, let me break down the factors:
1) Budget for Save the Dates: minimal
2) Personalities: traditional yet goofy
3) Purpose: to invite our guests into our relationship since they had been so deeply involved with our lives
4) Time Line: about 6 months in advance
All of those factors intersected when I saw a Save the Date on a friend’s refrigerator. It was a photo booth strip (keep in mind, this was before the photo booth rage, so it was even more creative); each picture had the couple making silly and cute faces while holding up signs that spelled out Save the Date.
So Chris and I made a date of it at the Santa Monica Pier. We spent about $6 taking several strips of photos, trying to master the timing of switching the signs and holding them at the right level. When we finally found a good one, we triplicated it on photo paper at Kinko’s and made enough copies for our guests.
Then we used Kinko’s paper cutters to slice the strips apart. Along with the photos, we added the story of our engagement. Chris had washed my feet on Venice Beach (as Jesus did for His disciples the night He committed Himself in entirety to loving them) and taken me to dessert where our families were waiting to celebrate with us. It was an elaborate set-up and story that we thought our guests would enjoy knowing. So we printed that out, two to a page, and copied and cut those while we were at Kinko’s.
On supplies, we spent around $30, and on postage, another $50 or so. For what it was worth to us to announce our wedding well in advance, $80 was a steal. The story made people cry (definitely a sign of a good love story, right?) and the photo strip was fun and original, so many people kept it on their refrigerators even after the date was marked on their calendars.
If you and your fiancé have the time, you can make an adventure out of the Save the Dates task by doing them yourselves. Especially if the design is one that causes you to reflect on the proposal or on your relationship, it can be a really sweet (and productive) date.
Article originally published on May 6, 2011.
My friend’s husband told me one day that many husbands have confided in him that sexy pictures of women on Facebook are a consistent catalyst for them to look at porn. That’s all it takes.
He said this to me as a plea to encourage other Christian women to hold our friends accountable. Of course none of us want our husbands looking at porn, but are we doing anything from our end to help protect our men’s eyes?
I’ve thought a lot about this.
As a single girl, I thought it was cool to look sexy. I know I’m not alone in that (though hopefully you are less rebellious than I was). Catching a guy noticing me for a little longer than he should felt empowering.
Now that I’m married, to my husband’s chagrin, I’ve become modest, at least by California standards. It has nothing to do with thinking wives need to be frumpy without any sex appeal. It has everything to do with cherishing something valuable in my marriage and in other people’s.
I think it’s beautiful and even a little sultry for my husband to be the only one who gets to know what I look like in something slinky, wild, or sexy. As far as I’m concerned, no one else needs to be thinking about me in that way, so I shouldn’t give them opportunity to.
Even more compelling to me than protecting that spark for my husband (because Chris tells me that every guy wishes his gal were hot eye candy to some degree. You know, a “That’s right, fellas…I don’t know what she’s doing with me either, but I’ve got a hottie” kind of thing) is protecting the sanctity in the marriages around me.
In our church group, being a product of sunny Southern California, we have a beach party every year. People are usually really respectful about wearing appropriate beachware. Every once in awhile, however, a girl with a great figure will unveil her string bikini. I can’t even imagine how hard it is for all these newlywed husbands to keep from checking out this accessible body knowing that his wife is right there and knowing that this super hot chick is one of his buddy’s wives.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for tanning in a bikini, but I would never ever want to be the cause of one of my friend’s husband’s stumbling. Marriage is too sacred to put someone else, especially someone else whose marriage I am championing, in the face of temptation. It’s like Romans 14 so aptly says, even if you can do something in good faith, you need to take the responsibility not to do it if you are making another stumble.
Accountability without relationship is harassment, as my sage husband once told me. But we all have relationships with Christian women, and we owe it to our husbands and theirs (or to their future husbands) to value and encourage modesty amidst our communities and to hold accountable when necessary.
In your engagement period, you are coming up against the transition from being a hot single girl to someone’s hot cherished wife. I think it’s pretty cool to watch the shift of boundaries for being sexy from trying to woo men in your dating years (again, maybe I was more rebellious than you) to flourishing within the privacy and sanctity of marriage. You are nurturing your marriage by being sexy for your husband, and you are nurturing others’ marriages by being modest for them.
Modesty doesn’t have to mean frumpville. Have fun with it, and help other Christian women to also.
Article originally published on May 4, 2011.
“On that day King Ahasueres gave to Queen Esther the house of Haman, the enemy of the Jews; and Mordecai came before the king, for Esther had told what he was to her. Then the king took off his signet ring, which he had taken from Haman, and gave it to Mordecai. So Esther set Mordecai over the house of Haman”(Esther 8:1-2).
Life doesn’t always go according to plan. Esther was forced to marry the very king who (under poor counsel) decreed that her people would be killed. The only person who truly knew her and loved her was her uncle, Mordecai, who became the object of wrath to the one, Haman, who counseled the king to kill Esther’s people. This was not the ideal life by any means.
But Esther and Mordecai were both faithful to God, and despite harrowing circumstances, God redeemed the situation. He even reversed the power play so that the very one who was set to destroy (Haman) was the one who was destroyed, and the very one who was the object of punishment (Mordecai) became the one in power over his destroyer’s house. And God used Esther to influence the king to save her people. God vindicated His faithful children.
No matter the turmoil in our lives, God is greater. No matter the conundrum, God is wiser. No matter the atrocity, God is just. We have a narrow picture of God’s overarching plan. What seeming disaster are you facing today? What family drama is plaguing your engagement? What fears do you have about your role in others’ lives? Petition the Lord and be faithful to Him; watch what He will do.
Holy God, You are all-powerful. With You, I have nothing to fear. You are my conqueror and redeemer. You know the cries of my heart and the injustice around me. Overwhelm my heart and circumstances with Your justice so that I may rest in You despite the fear and turmoil in my heart. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Reading other people’s vows can help you put words to the thoughts you are trying to convey in your own. Here are the vows from bride, Julie, and her groom, Marc.
JULIE TO MARC:
“Marc, my love, I stand before God and these witnesses as I confess my love and the promises I give to you. I love you Marc Davies. I love the way you put Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior 1st in your life and how you model that in your actions and in your words. I love your servant heart and the way you give generously when someone is in need. I love the way you pray for me and with me and always remind me to stop and pray when I start to stress and have a ‘Julie’ moment. I love your patience and gentleness. I love the way you calm me in a storm. I love that you have a heart of gold and treat me like a princess. I love that you accept me for all of me and always see past my mistakes to see my heart. I love that I feel secure and safe with you and trust that you will never leave me no matter what I do or say. I love the gifts you give me and the surprises that always await as you smile sweetly in your selfless nature. I love the way you lead me and help me to be the woman I desire to be and you encourage me to be stronger than I ever thought I could be. I love that you bring out the best in me. I love that you are my best friend, my companion, and my teammate. I love that you are a man of your word. I love that you always come to my rescue when I need you by my side. I love that you support me through the joyous days and also the darkest days. I love that you are strong when I am weak. I love how you take care of me and are gifted at many things that I myself struggle with. I love how you look at life. I love that you bear the fruits of the spirit. I love that you are ‘NEAT.’ I love the way you love me. I love that you want to be my husband and choose me as your wife for a lifetime. I love you ‘like no other.’ These are just a few of the qualities I love about you, but there are millions more that words could not do justice. My love for you is beyond words.
I love you, Marc, and I know that there will be times when I fail you, disappoint you, and hurt you, so I will need your grace and forgiveness throughout our marriage. I promise to always work towards loving you more and helping you to feel like a man. I promise to be faithful, loyal, and committed to you always. I promise to be your helper and supporter. I promise to build you up and encourage you. I promise to stand by you with all the decisions you make. I promise you that I will take care of you and nurture you when you are sick or down. I promise to care about the things that are important to you. I promise that I will try to never go to bed angry. I promise to show you love and to say “I love you” daily. I promise to keep God at the center of our marriage. I promise that I will always be open and honest with you about my inner thoughts and feelings. I promise that I will try to always be gentle and patient with you. I promise to always put energy, effort, and adventure into this marriage. I promise that I will try to always see you and love you as God sees you and loves you. I promise that I will never give up on you or this marriage. I promise you that I will hold your hand through the good days, the bad days, and even the ugly days. I promise you this, my love.”
MARC TO JULIE:
”Beautiful Julie, I love no one on this earth more than you. You have surpassed everyone I have ever known in strength, beauty, and love. You match me in power and passion and are my soul’s perfect companion. I am overwhelmed with one look of your eyes. You bring out the best in me. You reveal Christ to me through your love. Your heart is pure. You are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. You are gentle, sweet, fun, goofy, talented, and gifted. You are smarter than you think, wiser than you know, and more beautiful than I could unveil in forty thousand lifetimes.
From this moment on I have two main purposes for my life: To serve the LORD Jesus Christ with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to present you to him at the end of your life without stain, wrinkle, or blemish. To accomplish this I promise to pray with you daily, to surrender my life and my selfishness to you more and more everyday, to listen and really understand what you are saying, to fill your life with fun and excitement, to work hard to provide everything you need, and to never leave you. All these are impossible without the help of God. With his guidance, your life will be extraordinary. To have you as my wife is a blessing beyond measure. I am honored to be your husband.”
Article originally published on April 29, 2011.
If you are anything like I am and buckle at the thought of sifting through airline deals, visa requirements, and transportation costs, you are probably also intimidated at the thought of a destination wedding.
Travel logistics are an art that I have never mastered. Maybe you haven’t either, but if you are a bride who has dreamed of a wedding on a tropical beach or in a hillside castle, there are resources out there to help you plan your destination wedding with some ease.
First, your planning time line will be slightly different from a non-destination wedding, namely earlier travel plans and invitations, as well as travel-specific details such as securing a passport or visa if necessary. Following destination-specific wedding time lines that are created by professionals will help keep you on track.
Second, you will most definitely need a wedding coordinator in order to juggle international vendors (and even just international time zones). If you get married at a destination wedding resort, you can often choose a wedding package that comes with built-in coordination and vendors. If you are starting from scratch, make sure you find a coordinator who is either familiar with your destination or is internationally savvy.
Thankfully, sites like Destination I Do Magazine website, in their Resource Directory, offer some coordinator leads based on different countries. They also have built-in travel leads for coordinating group flights. Or if you want personalized travel consultation, there are also companies who specialize in concierge destination wedding and honeymoon travel. They design your travel for you based on reputable relationships that serve your particular needs.
Destination weddings have become a hot market, which serves you because of all the resources that are now available to you online. All you have to do is search for the ones that will be helpful to you (which is a very easy task to delegate to an available bridal party member if your schedule is already saturated), and with a click of your mouse, you will be well on your way to your dream wedding.
Wherever you get married, ¡felicidades!, félicitations, congratulazioni!
Photo © Barbara Helgason – Fotolia.com
Article originally published on April 27, 2011.
“I will study the way that is blameless. When shall I attain it? I will walk with integrity of heart within my house” (Psalm 101:2).
To Kill A Mockingbird is one of my favorite books (ah, the English teacher in me) because of its simple perspective on deep issues of right versus wrong. Atticus Finch (the father of the protagonist, Scout) is an upstanding man described as being the same in the house as he is outside of the house. This description has lingered with me as a true picture of integrity.
So often we put on a kind, confident, or composed face for all outside of the house and when we get home, our loved ones get the brunt of our anger, insecurities, and turmoil. Perhaps it’s because we believe they will never leave us or perhaps it’s because we don’t necessarily get to choose who our family is, but either way, we can easily give our worst to those we are the closest to. Let your marriage operate differently! Walk with integrity of heart in your house so that you are the same woman inside the house as you are outside.
Heavenly Father, all the goodness in me is a gift from You. There is nothing righteous in me apart from You, so I thank You for Your grace and for Your Spirit Who transforms my heart. Strengthen me to be a light in my home so that my words, thoughts, and deeds will always be those that reflect You. May that integrity of heart greatly bless my husband and family. In Jesus’ name, Amen.