First of all, CONGRATULATIONS! This is such a special time in your life that you will never forget. After the thrill of getting that ring on your finger settles down a little, it hits you. Where do you even START when it comes to planning a wedding? Dress, cake, venue, budget, registry, photographer, guest list, flowers, catering, bridal party. The list goes on and on, and it can be completely overwhelming. First of all, take a deep breath. All of the little details will be figured out with some help along the way (especially if you go with an all-inclusive venue). All you need to focus on is the big stuff to get you started. Here are some things we recommend checking off your list after the big question is popped:

1. Budget

  • You and your significant other are going to need to come together and agree on an overall budget. Be realistic and give yourself some wiggle room in case you come across any unexpected costs. Once you have your budget, you’ll be ready to start making decisions around that number. Everything you plan for your wedding should come back to this number, and you want to make sure you’re sticking to it!

2. Guest List Estimate

  • Although you don’t need to determine exactly who you are inviting to your big day, you two will need to figure out an estimate of how many people you want to come to your wedding. Remember that the more people, the more expensive your wedding will be. It’s important to at least have an estimate so you can get quotes from your vendors.

3. Venue

  • Once you know your guest list, you can start shopping for venues that have the right capacity for you! Visit a couple of different venues to determine what your style is, then make a list of what is most important to you (location, venue services, dates available, etc.). Your venue and/or wedding planner will be sure to help you with the finer details along the way!

Once you have knocked out these three to-do’s, you should be able to have a big sigh of relief. Now it’s time to dive into those beautiful details! 💗

I am now blogging for The White Dove Barn also! You can find this post & other wedding-related ones on their website: - check it out :)

This week we are diving into the depths of dating in college.

When Jake and I started dating my freshman year, I had no idea how dating in college actually worked. Luckily, by trial and error, here we are, still together my senior year! I think dating in college can get two pretty bad reps:

  1. It's pointless. College is supposed to be four years of nothing but going out and having fun and not to settle down.

  2. Dating in college is just like normal dating. If you find someone you like being around, you should just jump right into dating them. You wanted to be married by 25, right? You better hurry up and find someone!

From personal experience, I can tell you both of those aren't true.

Whether you and your partner both go to the same school or you're doing long-distance, here are some things I've found to be true about dating in college:

1. Make sure you actually want to be in a relationship.

This might seem like silly advice, but you should take some time to think about if you actually want a relationship in college before you find yourself in a situation you don't want. Everyone has different college experiences and expectations. Some want to find their forever person, and some people just want to have some fun and get a degree. There is absolutely nothing wrong with either as long as you know what you want.

2. You have to be very honest and open about the future

College only lasts 4 years. While this seems like a long time while you're on campus, it absolutely flies by. I am someone who believes in being very upfront at the beginning of a relationship so people don't waste time or end up getting hurt. Don't be afraid to ask someone what they want in life. Where do they want to live? Do they ever want to have children? Would they be ready to settle down after college, or do they want a few years to still date around? Call me old-fashioned, but I think you should date people with the intention of still being together after you get that degree, and you want to make sure you and your partner's lives are potentially going to align in the long-run.

3. You will have to make some sacrifices.

I think it's obvious that your wild nights might be reduced just a little when you start dating someone. It's so important to spend some time with just the two of you (and without alcohol). If going out every single night in college is your top priority, a relationship might not be the best thing for you right now. Don't worry about these sacrifices too much though... you will get so much more in return.

4. It's not always rainbows and butterflies.

I know every relationship has its flaws, but college throws a lot of stuff at you and your significant other. You need to make sure you two are very good at communicating and expressing your expectations and feelings. Be honest about how much time you want to spend together, what bothers you, how you're really feeling, and everything else in between. If you think dating in college is just too hard with all of the outside influences, just remember that it only lasts 4 years.

5. It's worth it.

You and your partner are going to go through some crappy times together in college. It's probably going to get really tricky at times, but trust me, it's worth it. The hard work is worth being able to experience this special time together. It's worth having someone to help cheer you up when you fail an exam. It's worth having someone to always take to fun events and nights out. It's worth having someone to go grab breakfast and have a lazy Sunday with. Trust me, it's all worth it. Don't let the college stereotype, hookup culture, frat boys, or anyone tell you otherwise.

I am so thankful that Jake and I got to experience college together. We made SO many memories during our time at the University of Illinois, and I know we will never forget them (my personal favorite would have to be me getting a better grade when we took a class together 😉)

If you guys want some more tips about dating in college, handling long-distance, or any other relationship-related advice, please let me know! I would definitely be willing to write more on it if interested :)

A little fun fact about me: I am a total true-crime fanatic. I started watching Law & Order and Criminal Minds when I was only about six years old. Any time I go on a road trip, I will listen to hours of the Crime Junkie podcast. It's a slight obsession honestly.

Every single time I leave the house, my mom tells me to be careful. When I was growing up, I would give her an eye roll and hurry out the front door when she would tell me this; however, the older I get (and the more paranoid she gets as she gets older too), the more I understood why she always tells me this.

I was thinking the other day about what I was wanting to write for all of my girls going to college soon, and this topic just kept coming back to me. Sure, it's helpful l to know what to pack and how to decorate your dorm room, but this topic is so much more important, yet, it's really not talked about much.

I think we all are aware of how scary this world can be sometimes. I'm sure most of our parents gave us the same advice when they dropped us off in our dorm rooms: be careful, watch your drink when you're out, and never walk home alone.

BUT I know how easy it can be to think bad things could never actually happen to you, especially if you're from a small town like me. I would hear terrible stories that took place on college campuses, but deep down, I thought I was invincible and safe from all of that. After all, these are supposed to be the four best years of your life, right?

I'm here to tell you, you need to take this stuff seriously. I didn't take it seriously when I first when to college, and I found myself in some sketchy positions some times.

So this isn't your mom giving you advice. This advice from a girl who has been in college for 3 years already and knows some pretty scary situations you can be in and how to prevent them:

1. Don't blow off your feelings.

You guys know that gut feeling you get when something just seems a little off? LEARN TO START LISTENING TO THAT. We don't get those feelings for no reason. It is literally our natural instinct telling us something is wrong. 90% of the true-crime podcasts I listen to involve people who felt like something was wrong but decided to ignore it because they thought they were just being paranoid. You need to do something when you have that gut feeling. It is always better to be safe than sorry.

2. Do not be afraid to be rude.

I'm not here to tell you to slam the door in people's faces, never say thank you, and just be a mean person. BUT, I am giving you permission to be selfish and do what is best for your safety. Let me give you some examples:

If you're walking home from the bar, a party, or the library, and you think someone is following you:

  • DO: call and ask if someone will come to pick you up or walk you home

  • DON'T: be afraid that you're being paranoid and don't want the person to think you're jumping to conclusions

If you're on an elevator and someone is looking at you strangely:

  • DO: hop off at the next stop and wait a minute or two to get back on

  • DON'T: be scared the person thinks you're rude

If some guy won't leave you alone at the bar and is giving you weird vibes:

  • DO: grab a guy friend to hang with until the guy leaves you alone

  • DON'T: keep entertaining him to be nice

Don't be afraid to be selfish. Look out for yourself. A great book to read more about this is The Gift of Fear. I HIGHLY recommend reading it before you head to college or move somewhere new.

3. Don't think you're invincible.

Bad things can happen to anyone anywhere. You need to be aware that these things are REAL and you need to know what to do to keep them from happening to you.

4. Know and use your resources.

College campuses are aware of these crimes, and they provide resources to keep their students safe. Here are a few resources that I've used before and highly recommend:

  • Your friends (to come pick you up, walk home with you, fake an important phone call, etc.)

  • Uber

  • Strangers

  • University resources (Illinois has an awesome system called safe-rides. Even if you're just walking home from the library late at night, you can get a free ride or have someone come walk with you)

  • Self-defense accessories (ex: pepper spray, sharp keys)

I know these are things no one wants to think about when heading to college, but they're something you NEED to think about. I wish we lived in a safe world and didn't have to worry about bad things happening, but we don't. Some of these situations will happen to you, and you need to know what to actually do.

I hope y'all make the best out this crazy school year, and as my mom always tells me, be careful!