It’s wedding season in our family and I’m overjoyed with the whiteness of it all. I love the lillies, the tulle, the sashes and bows.  I love the fragrance of fresh flowers and the literal joy worn on the bride and groom’s faces.  I love the cake (unfortunately, I REALLY love the cake).  Truthfully,  I love everything about celebrating the love of a young couple making that covenant to God and therefore to each other.

By the end of this summer, three of my dear cousins will officially be living in wedded bliss.

This weekend, my precious cousin, Lora, will be walking down the aisle with a very wonderful Brian who our family has come to love.  They make a darling couple and it fills me with joy to see the anticipation and wonder of their life together in their eyes.  It takes me back to when I was a young bride myself.

The kicker is that I was a young bride twice (you will learn more about this sad union in the upcoming weeks as I add to the installments on the “My Life” page.)

My first marriage and my second are so vastly different that I can’t even begin to compare them.  The first time around, I was 25.  The second time around, 30.  I’m not suggesting that you must be older to understand marriage because I don’t believe this – I just know that I possessed more wisdom the second time around and had figured some things out that 1) I didn’t really want to have to figure out and 2) realized that some of the things I did figure out might be helpful to other young brides.

I am in no way suggesting that I am a marriage guru.  This statement alone is probably making JJ giggle as we speak.  I am so far from it and and I still have so much to learn.

But if I could have a conversation with the young bride I was eleven years ago?  Here’s what I would say: (In “Top Ten” format…)

10.  Listen, sweetheart.  It’s not about the wedding.  It’s about the marriage.  Who cares if you have a scripted font or Helvetica on your placecards?  That’s not going to make a bean of a difference when it’s midnight and you are in a heated discussion about money.  Also, that font isn’t going to make you laugh when all you can do is cry but a good life partner?  Absolutely.  Part of their job.

9.  Have a good time for a while – just the two of you.  Hold off on children for at least a year.  Get to know each other as husband and wife.  Go on walks.  Make dinners.  Sip wine/beer/margaritas on your front porch.  Laugh.  I don’t want to suggest that life is over when the kids arrive but boy is it different.  And for the record?  We didn’t follow this advice ourselves.  Susannah was born within the first year of our marriage.

8.  One word:  Grace.  If you want it, give it.  Enough said.

7.   The other night, JJ and I were discussing something that was a little bit heated.  He made an ingenious statement that made me want to say “Dude.  That was profound” but I didn’t because I was too mad.  After telling him what I would have done in a given situation (see what I mean?  I so don’t have this gig figured out…) he said, “Natalie, you can’t judge a person by what you would do.  That’s your criteria not theirs.  We don’t see it the same way.”  I know this to be true but for some reason, when he said this it was like someone had put smelling salts under my nose.

6.  Laugh.  Just freakin’ laugh.  Find the funny in everything and don’t take it all too seriously.  Seriously.

5.  OK, the gender thing.  Newsflash:  Men and Women ARE indeed different.  Women base their success on relationships and men base their success on well, success.  Financial and professional success.  This explains why a woman is devastated after a disagreement with her best friend and a man has to be scraped off the ceiling if his job is not going well.

4.  On that note…Please don’t throw tomatoes at your screen.  BUT.  Men are wired to want sex more than we do.  It’s just a fact.  They are visual creatures.  I would suggest trying to never say no but before you think I’m June Cleaver, hear me out on this one.  I believe that 1) if you don’t provide this basic need for your husband, someone else gladly will and while I know my JJ is a man of God and of immense integrity, at the end of the day, he is a man and 2) when things feel “off” between JJ and I, it’s usually because we have not had any time together if you know what I mean…Some days I have to really focus on getting myself in that frame of mind (could I have ANYONE ELSE pawing at me?) but I’m almost always thankful I did when we are back on-track and we both feel reconnected.

3.  Talk to each other.  Give yourself permission to be vulnerable because if you can’t with your spouse?  You need to figure out why.

2.  I just asked JJ what advice he would give a newlywed couple and he said, “Two become one but don’t forget where you came from.”  See why I love this man?  Don’t forget who you are or place your identity in your spouse.  That’s just too much pressure for anyone – that hole is God-shaped and can only be filled by Him.

1.  And the number one reason?  God. God. God.  He must be front and center.  In all things.  In all decisions.  In every moment.  Just always.  Always.

Congratulations to Billy and Christa, to Lora and Brian, and to Jessica and Matt.  We are so happy for you and welcome each of our new members with open and loving arms.  Our family is a little bit nuts but it’s a good nuts – we’re glad you are now a part of it.

And guess who the cutest flower girl on the planet will be on Saturday?  You guessed it…Susannah!  Photos will be shared next week.

For more Caffeinated Randomness, go and visit Andrea at Under Grace Over Coffee. I love all of the women who participate in this weekly meme – it’s my favorite one!

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