Our Dream Honeymoon!

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When Chris and I started thinking of places to go for our honeymoon, a cruise was definitely nowhere on that list. Neither of us had ever been on one, and we had definitely heard horror stories from friends and family. As we had been told multiple times, “You’re either a cruise person and will love it, or not, and you’ll hate it.” We didn’t want to find out if we were “cruise people” or not while we were on our honeymoon. We had also heard that cruises are catered for older crowds, have tiny staterooms, and are not always the most inclusive places for LGBT+ couples. 


So, and I mean this with no exaggeration, Chris and I went through at least 20 different options for trips but we couldn’t come up with a trip that felt right for us. We looked into everything from Costa Rica to Ireland to Australia to Phuket, and everything in-between. It actually got to the point that we had almost decided to just scrap the whole thing and not even go on a honeymoon at all! We knew we wanted to do something unique, but the pressure of the trip being our HONEYMOON just got to us and we couldn’t pull the trigger on anything. 


We literally got so fed up with trying to decide, we almost just booked an all inclusive trip to Mexico, despite the fact that it wasn’t what we really wanted, simply just to be able to take a reasonably priced trip, and not have to worry about food and drinks and mountains of planning. Literally the night before we were going to finalize those plans, we got in contact with Celebrity Cruises about working with them for their #SweetHeartsAtSea campaign. They invited us on a weeklong cruise to the Eastern Caribbean aboard their newest ship, the Celebrity Edge. After months of failed planning, exasperation and stress, this opportunity felt like it was destiny and we put all our inhibition about cruise ships aside and quickly agreed. 


Chris and I have both been following the keto diet for the past 7-8 months and have lost 35 and 25 pounds respectively, which is AMAZING, BUT it meant that neither of us had a single piece of warm clothing that fit us. So we found ourselves three weeks out from a Caribbean cruise with absolutely nothing to wear! Let me just tell you, finding a summer wardrobe in early February is not an easy feat. But between multiple trips to the mall, online orders (and returns) and a few more trips to the mall, we scrounged up enough clothes for a week long vacation and ANXIOUSLY awaited our departure. 


As anyone else would have, I started researching all I could about the Celebrity Edge ship and was BLOWN AWAY at how incredible it looked! The Celebrity Edge is the first of a new fleet of ships that are set to come out over the next few years. The ship took its maiden voyage on December 9th, 2018. It currently sails to the Eastern and Western Caribbean, but is set to add destinations around Europe and the Mediterranean this summer. 

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We Marie Kondo’d the shiz out of our suitcases, kissed our pups and daughter goodbye and were off on, what would become, the most incredible trips of our lives. Upon landing in Fort Lauderdale we were whisked away to the ship for check in. We were absolutely floored by the sheer size and grandeur of the beautiful Edge ship. Celebrity was so generous and hooked us up with a Sky Suite on board, which meant we were lead to a beautiful lounge just outside the ship, where we were greeted with refreshments and comfortable chairs to wait in until an attendant came to us and got all of our information entered in. The level of customer service provided by the crew of the ship was unparalleled. Every single crew member was kind, generous and went above and beyond to help us in any way possible. We made our way onto the ship and the first thing to strike us was how stunning the decor was. It is a beautiful blend of “Great Gatsby” style opulence but blended seamlessly with a modern, simplistic design aesthetic that made it feel incredibly chic and understated. 

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The moment we opened the door to our suite, our jaws dropped to the floor and we both looked at each other and started squealing and jumping around like little girls. The suite was so much bigger and more beautiful than we expected. There was a king size bed, a sofa, dresser and desk, two closets! As soon as we recovered from our prepubescent squealing over our room, we discovered the bathroom and literally started the whole process over again! The bathroom had a massive his and his sink, a separate vanity and mirror, and a bath tub that comfortably fit both Chris and I! As if an amazing room and bathroom wasn’t enough, the cherry on our sundae suite was the balcony! The balcony was very generous in size and had two lounge chairs and a small table and offered stunning views of the ocean and ports we went to. 


Our first day or so was spent at sea, which gave us an opportunity to see some shows in the GORGEOUS theater on the ship. We went to as many shows as we possibly could and were genuinely impressed and entertained at every single one. Marucs Terell and the Serenades put on a wonderful show of classic Motown hits, there were aerial acrobatic and dancing shows, a magic show, and an immersive dinner experience show that was located in an area of the ship known as “Eden”. (One of our favorite nights on the ship!) 


The first stop we made on our trip was in San Juan, Puerto Rico. We spent the day exploring the beautiful city and learning about the cultural and historical significance of the area. Chris and I are both history nerds, and getting to see the forts, the light house, and learn about the rich culture of the area definitely made San Juan our favorite stop of the trip. 


After San Juan we had two full days at sea, which we mostly spent eating and lounging by the pool in “The Retreat” which is an area reserved for suite guests that was a little more quiet and low key than the main pool area. We sipped Pina Coladas like they were going out of style and fully immersed ourselves into relaxation mode. (Oh…. We also ate A LOT of food)


The Oceanview cafe offered a full buffet of delicious foods throughout the day, which we fully took advantage of for breakfast and lunch, but we spent our evenings in the various specialty dining restaurants on board. Every single meal we had was wonderful. Our dinner experience in Eden was one of the most unique experiences we had on our trip. The whole experience felt like we were transported to the garden of Eden, from the lighting and decor and menu to the dancers, actors, and singers mingling among the dinning tables. Dinner in Eden led to a full production show that told the tale of Eden and how it came to be, complete with stunning vocal performances, aerial acrobats, and dancers. We left dinner that night transfixed by the whole experience and we talked about it for the rest of the trip. 

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Another unique dining experience we had was our night at Le Grand Bistro. The entire dinner was “prepared” by tiny chefs (think Pixar style) projected onto the table from above. The chefs each made one of the dinner courses and were competing to be the best chef of the night. We had so much fun seeing the animation on our entire table and the actual food that was prepared matched what the little chef had made for us!


Our last two stops on our dream honeymoon were at Tortola, BVI and St. Maarten. We opted to just do some light shopping and enjoy the gorgeous beaches and crystal blue water instead of going on any excursions, but there were definitely some awesome ones available. 


We couldn’t have asked for a more romantic trip, but getting to spend our first Valentine’s Day, as a married couple, on the ocean was so special. Celebrity Cruises hosted the largest vow renewal ceremony at sea on Valentine’s Day.  Since we had just gotten married, we didn’t think a renewal was necessary, but we thought it would be fun to watch at least. I have to say, seeing all those couples, some of whom had been married for 50-60 plus years, standing before each other and renewing their vows was such a special moment. Chris and I both were in tears and there was a palpable sense of love in the air. It was such a magical experience to be part of. 

One of our concerns about being on the cruise was how accepting the other passengers would be of Chris and I as a couple. A couple’s honeymoon is supposed to be a romantic and relaxing experience and we didn’t want to have to hold back our affection for one another or feel worried about any intolerant people. I am proud, and a little surprised, to say that we didn’t experience a single issue in that regard. We didn’t get any odd looks or ever feel like we were anything less than welcome. We danced the night away at the silent discos, held hands on the ship (isn’t it sad that being able to freely hold hands with my husband on our honeymoon is viewed as a triumph?! That’s a rant for another post maybe! Haha) and we never felt out of place. In fact, I was surprised by the number of LGBT couples on the ship, and was pleasantly surprised to see that they were all fairly open and comfortable showing affection! 

I could literally write pages and pages about how amazing this trip was. We cannot thank Celebrity Cruises enough for partnering with us and sending us on this dream honeymoon. It was the perfect beginning to the rest of our lives as husbands and we couldn’t have dreamed up a more perfect trip. We ate, we drank, we made great friends, we danced, we relaxed, and most importantly we loved. We loved each other, we loved the trip, and we loved getting to share it with you all. 

If you are looking for an amazing vacation/cruise we highly recommend the Celebrity Edge! For the next couple of days they are offering cruises for $20 down and 20% off flights so its the perfect time to book! Click here to go to the Celebrity Cruises website!

The Big Day: 11.03.18

Hire a wedding planner?? No thanks!

From the moment we decided to scrap our plans for a courthouse ceremony and have an actual wedding, I knew I wanted to take the reins and do all the planning myself. While this may sound crazy, I had a couple of reasons: First of all, wedding planners are EXPENSIVE… at least in my opinion, and we wanted to keep everything simple and budget friendly. Secondly, (and yes, I can admit it) I am a bit of a control freak. I hate the phrase “control freak” by the way, its a negative connotation, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with knowing what you want and doing whatever it takes to make it happen, but I digress. So, knowing my personality, I was absolutely certain I would not be able to trust a stranger to make sure the wedding went perfectly. My creative process generally involves me sitting quietly for a few minutes with my eyes closed, visualizing what I want, then after running through a few options something usually pops up and I run with it. Does it always work out well? Absolutely not, but I do try to keep to the initial vision as much as I can.

My beautiful friend, Darby, owns the fitness studio that I teach barre classes at, and she very generously offered the space to us for our wedding. The venue is located in downtown Springfield, and is in a gorgeous, historic building. The ceilings are over 20 feet tall, the floors are beautifully worn hardwoods, and there are exposed brick walls and iron beams throughout. The challenge we faced was turning a boutique barre studio with mirrored walls and ballet barres into a wedding venue. (P.S. if you are ever in Springfield, MO and looking for an incredible workout, make sure to stop by Physique Fitness. I promise you won’t regret it.)

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Time to bring the vision to life

Challenge number one was how to hide the mirrors and barres. I had a grand idea of using hanging curtains but quickly realized that buying curtains for 15-20 ft ceilings and running spans of 25 ft was definitely cost prohibitive! So I did like any other determined person would do…. I bought a bunch of wholesale fabric, a sewing machine from Amazon, and watched some YouTube videos to learn how to sew the curtains myself! It took me a couple of months to get them all done, but I sewed over 250 yards of fabric into curtains! Were they perfect? NOPE! But they turned out great and I feel justified in patting myself on the back because that saved us THOUSANDS of dollars!

In addition to making the curtains myself, I also knew I wanted to make the floral arrangements as well because we wanted to stick to greenery and keep things simple. Darby and I set up an account at a local wholesale floral warehouse and got all the greenery for a STEAL!

The second challenge was the logistics of moving all the workout equipment out and figuring out how to fit our burgeoning number of guests into the relatively small space. After hours and hours of talking it out, 5-6 arguments with Chris (some of which required us walking away and giving each other some space) it was all WORTH IT! We had family and friends there the day before the wedding moving things, cleaning things, hanging curtains, and just being genuinely amazing, helpful people and we cannot thank them enough for everything they did. Over the course of about 7 hours we COMPLETELY transformed a fitness studio into a wedding venue and it was such a beautiful experience.

The Big Day!

After setting up some last minute things at the venue, Chris and I checked into our hotel room downtown at Hotel Vandivort (also a must when visiting Springfield) and took some time to relax together and just soak up the quiet moments before the ceremony. We took our time getting ready, just laughing together and being silly. We were honored to have Lucas Winkelmann take some pictures of us getting ready in our hotel room, and more photos outside with downtown Springfield as our backdrop.

Once we got to the venue, we finalized everything and made our way down to the basement of the studio to wait while all the guests were arriving. The 20-30 minutes we spent together right before the ceremony started were spent with Sydnee. We all were pacing around, nerves building as we heard all the footsteps and laughter of our friends and family above us. We were anxious about everyone having enough room and anxious to walk down the aisle and be up in front of everyone. There is something about being so open and vulnerable, and sharing such an intimate moment with your partner in front of all of your friends and family that is somewhat nerve wracking. At one point we all three looked at each other, hands shaking, nerves at their highest point right before going out, and decided that we needed to dance our nerves out. We blasted Taylor Swift and danced out all of our nervous energy and it was one of my favorite moments from the entire day.

After everyone got settled, the lights were dimmed, “Die With You” by Beyonce started playing and I immediately started crying while I watched Sydnee make her way down the aisle, then Chris, then me. Our dear friend, Dusty, (who got ordained just to marry us) looked down at Sydnee and asked “Who gives their permission for these two to be married?” and with a big smile on her face, Sydnee proclaimed “I do!”

To be absolutely honest, everything from that moment, until the moment we got back to the hotel at 2 am was a complete blur. But not a blur in a bad way, like I missed it all, but more of a blur of crying, laughing, drinking, dancing, celebrating, and just sharing the most amazing day with our closest friends and family. I remember every detail of the ceremony and reception (well maybe not toward the end… #vodka) but there were so many wonderful emotions and memories made, that it all just passed in this magical blur that I felt like I was experiencing in third person, almost like I was hovering above it all, watching everything happen in fast forward. I could write for hours about our big day, but as they say… a picture is worth a thousand words so here are some of our favorite shots from the wedding!

The best best-friend speech EVER

So for weeks leading up to the wedding Barb had been working on a speech and she kept very mum about it. I obviously trust her implicitly, but when your best friend, mother of your child, and former wife wants to give a speech at your wedding…. I was a little nervous. Not because I thought she wouldn’t do a wonderful job, but because she has so much dirt on me that nobody else knows! Well, needless to say, her speech was absolutely beautiful, and one of the most touching moments of the entire wedding. With her permission of course, I wanted to share it with you all.

Breaking up is hard to do.... but sometimes it's for the best?

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I think sometimes, especially on social media outlets, we present ourselves in the best way possible, and sort of skip over some of the darker moments that happen to EVERYONE. I'm not saying you'll ever see me on Instagram looking a hot mess or wallowing in self pity, but I do think it's important to be honest with ourselves, and those who are kind enough to follow along with our story. 

Right guy... wrong time?

Chris and I started dating very shortly after I started Physician Assistant school, which is an all-consuming, rigorous program. I was no stranger to academia and hard work, but PA school was like needing a sip of water and putting your face in front of a fire hydrant... way too much, way too fast, and I felt like I was on the verge of drowning ALL THE TIME. Add to that the fact that I had recently come out of the closet, was figuring out a new life with Barbara, and trying to be a good dad.  In many ways meeting Chris was the best thing that could have happened to me because he truly kept me alive during that time... like literally kept me fed, made me get sleep once in a while, and was always willing to take care of any responsibilities I had that were outside of school and Sydnee (and then eventually he became an integral part of Sydnee's life.) 

Right before PA school the guy that I was dating (the first ever guy I dated) moved away and wasn't very interested in a long distance relationship... which honestly was for the best, but it pissed me off at the time. I don't know what everyone else's experience was, but my "first" after coming out was a HUGE deal to me and I genuinely thought I would be with him forever..... until he left obviously. So just to do a quick recap/analysis of my state of mind: 

Separated from my wife, out of the closet, dumped by the man I loved, starting PA school, trying to be a good dad..... oh, and also having like ZERO money. 

Chris swept me off my feet and was my stable foundation, which allowed me to fully try to figure myself out and manage everything I had going on. I'm definitely not a relationship expert, but those ingredients made for a real shit sundae... especially for Chris because the relationship was VERY one sided.... I got the stability and support I needed, and he basically got an adult version of a toddler with an anxiety disorder. 

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The inevitable outcome of our relationship was to break up at some point. There just was no way to sustain that kind of a relationship. I had continual guilt for all the things Chris was doing for me, and I literally offered him nothing in return because I just didn't have anything to give him. Deep down I was still torn up over my ex and hadn't processed that whole situation in any way, and I eventually came to the conclusion that I had to break up with Chris. I loved him and wanted to be with him, but I just couldn't be the kind of boyfriend he deserved and it was just a really unfair situation for him to be in. 

Up for seconds?

I have to pause here to explain this picture... My roommate and best friend in PA school (and since) is Whitney. She is the type of friend who hears her roommate sobbing in the bath tub after breaking up with an amazing guy and decides that the best way to help is to fold and put up all his laundry and then listen to him go on about said amazing guy for endless hours. She's the absolute best and really was integral in Chris and I ending up where we are today. 

So the first break up lasted a couple of months.... Chris was still around some, mostly because Sydnee had met and come to love him and I didn't want him to just disappear, and probably also because I couldn't fully let him go. One day during and early class I posted a status update on Facebook about being exhausted and needing red bull to get through the day and literally 10 minutes later I get a text from Chris to come down to the parking lot... and there he was with the biggest red bull available.... and boom, we were basically back together. Its a silly thing to say, but that red bull was symbolic for EVERYTHING I needed in my life, and Chris was there to give it to me. After the first semester, things in school leveled out to a more manageable pace and I was able to be a better boyfriend. 

Here we go again....

Things went pretty smoothly for quite a while after we got back together, but I think Chris held a little bit of resentment toward me for breaking up with him, and also wanted to protect himself from getting hurt again. Chris grew up without having a relationship with his dad, he knew who his dad was, and that he had an entire life and family that Chris was not a part of. I felt that he had a sort of perpetual chip on his shoulder and felt like he didn't exactly know who he was and where he fit in his life. We began arguing more, resenting each other more, and we found ourselves in a relationship rut and I didn't see any way out of it. I broke things off again (I know.. I know.... how could I do that?!) and my one request of Chris was that he see a therapist and try to resolve any issues he had developed due to his situation with his father. 

I knew I didn't have a right to make him do anything, but I am really glad I pushed him to see a professional and am so proud of him for actually going because the result of his therapy was that he has developed a truly beautiful relationship with his dad, three sisters, and his step-mom. The night Chris met up with his dad we were broken up, but on his way home from having a life changing conversation with his dad, he called me and told me every detail of their talk. I had never heard him so excited and emotional and talk so fast, and when he finally finished telling me everything, he said to me "I couldn't think of a single person in the world I wanted to tell everything to than you." To this day that may be the single sweetest thing he has ever said to me and I knew in that moment that he was the person I am meant to be with. 

Third times a charm

I guess the point here is that we had two really tough break ups and I couldn't be more thankful that they both happened. We weren't what we needed to be for each other, and our first break up allowed me to work through my issues, and the second break up allowed Chris to work through his. Are we the perfect couple now with absolutely no problems?? Ummmmm.... no. But we are both in it for the long haul, and any issues we have now we work out together because we both know we are stronger together than we are apart. People rolled their eyes, and told us that we couldn't recover from breaking up twice, but here we are! Engaged, so happy, and ready to take on the rest of this journey side by side. Moral of the story.... You might find the right person at the wrong time and you might be the wrong person at the right time for someone else. But that doesn't mean there is no chance. Keep working and if you're meant to be together then eventually the stars will align, and you'll both be the right person for each other at the exact time you need each other the most. 

Engagement Photos!

Finding an amazing photographer can be really difficult. There is a lot of personal style that goes into photography and its super important to find someone that can match their style and artistic eye to the vision you have for your photos. In addition to that, unfortunately we live in a world where there is an added stress for LGBTQ+ couples to find that amazing photographer and also hope that they are an ally and will actually be willing to shoot for them. I hate it. It is infuriating on so many levels, but alas, its where we are and we all have to strive for better, regardless of what the supreme court rules. ***steps off soap box*** Chris and I were so fortunate to find not only an amazingly talented photographer and ally, but also a wonderful friend. (Her husband is also just as amazing and wonderful and will give you the best hug you will ever get in your life) You won't find a kinder, more accepting couple than Elise and Ethan. Check out her website and follow her on instagram to check out more of her amazing work!

Elise Instagram

Elise Abigail Photo

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