Monday, February 17, 2014

A Love Letter to the Jersey Shore

Thanks to a wonderful Valentine's weekend, I'm feeling all sorts of warm and fuzzy so I've decided to write a love letter to my one true love: The Jersey Shore. 

For all you Jersey brides out there, I hope this gets you even more excited to get married in the most underrated, misunderstood, and beautiful place in the country.

Dear Jersey Shore,

I was born with your ocean pumping in my veins.  Your sand has found its way into every facet and crevice of my life.  Your sun has made my happiest days even happier and my saddest days a bit more tolerable.  You've been my playground as a child; you've been my make-out spot as a teen; you've been my escape; you've been my treat to myself; you've been the place I go to figure it out; you've been my fake-sick-day-because-I-hate-my-job; you've been my reminder that I can always come home; you've been my ever constant favorite place.

You've been the most important part of my love story.

I spent the first 24 years of my life searching the world for love.  Everywhere I went, every state I visited, every country I trekked through, I looked for love.  I looked for my person.  I met boys with Southern charm and boys with British accents and boys who went huntin' and too many boys who made fun of where I came from. 

Then, just when I was ready to start collecting cats, I met a boy from the Jersey Shore.  This boy grew up 9 miles from me my entire life.  Our paths had crossed a thousand times - our high schools played sports against each other, we frequented the same bars in Belmar, and some of our mutual friends had dated each other.  What took us so long to meet I will never know but when we did, I knew I had finally found my person.  And he was a local.

He took me to a restaurant on the Asbury Park boardwalk for our first date in the gut of winter.  The beach was covered in snow but it was still the beach.  The air still smelled gloriously salty and the waves still roared and crashed.  I ached for summer the same way I ached to fall in love. 

By the time summer came, I was living with that boy in a cozy little home less than two miles from your beaches.  I saw him surf your waves for the first time, and I was already in pretty deep, but I think I fell in love with him all over again.  When we took our dog to the beach for the first time, his joy was so pure and so contagious that my cheeks hurt from smiling so much that day. The three of us spent that entire first summer taking long, long walks along your shoreline.  A few years later, we got engaged during one of those walks.  And it's remained our most treasured weekend tradition, no matter the season.

We made sure to say hello on our wedding day.  My favorite photos are the ones of me and that boy, who is now my husband, walking hand-in-hand along the Spring Lake boardwalk.  The boardwalk was packed as it was a blue-skied, early summer day.  There was not a single person who didn't stop to wish us well.  Those are your people, our people, the best people.

You've persevered through some pretty harsh times, Jersey Shore.  You've dealt with the talent-less ass clowns on MTV, and the richer but equally offensive "Housewives."  You've welcomed the less-than-polite "visitors", year after year, summer after summer. You've had some recent political scandal that has made Jersey even more synonymous with traffic jams.  We thought Hurricane Irene was bad until Hurricane Sandy rolled through.  Hurricane Sandy - the one who pretended she was an angry Greek Goddess and created waves the size of buildings and flooded your homes and businesses; wiped entire towns off your map; devastated your economy. That was the truest test of your strength and resilience and you handled the worst disaster in your history with grace, courage and heart.  So much heart.   

You treat everyone as if they are a beloved guest but you can admit it - the locals are your favorites.  Well, I want you to know, as a local, I love you.  I love everything about you - the good, the bad, the ugly.  Always have.  Always will.

Jersey Strong,

My 3 loves: husband, dog, Jersey Shore.

Monday, February 10, 2014

5 Last Minute V-Day Gifts Just For Him

It's Monday; Valentine's Day is this Friday.  You have exactly 4 days to pull this off. 

Backyard Bride has you covered, you crazy procrastinator, you.

5 Last Minute V-Day Gifts Just for Him

  1. Bake him heart cupcakes.
    How-to recipe here.
  2. Romantic bubble bath for two.
  3. Put a (sexy but tasteful) photo of yourself in a frame.
  4. Take a road trip to nowhere.
  5. Write him a hand-written love letter.
The best part - most of these are (almost) free.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

6 Months Down, Forever to Go

I sent my husband this text this morning:
"6 more months until we can eat freezer burned cake!!!"

As I look out the window at a snow-covered winter wonderland, in some ways, our summer wedding day six months ago feels more like a lifetime ago.  But in reality, we are only six months into a journey that will, in fact, last a lifetime.

Brian and I were "practically married" for a long time before we actually got married so I didn't think much would change.  We still live in the same townhouse; we still treat our dog like a human child; we still pay the same bills; he still leaves his hats on every surface in the house; I still pour a drink for myself in a giant cup and only drink half of it.  We are still the same flawed but stupid-in-love people we were six months ago.

But here's the biggest transformation... the best change that has come out of marriage so far... we act like husband and wife.  We are, in every sense of the word, a team.  I always thought all my selfish ways would vanish when I had a baby because for the first time ever I'd have someone to take care of besides myself.  I'm happy to report that all (well most) of my selfishness disappeared the day I married Brian.  Every single decision I make about my life, from now on, concerns another person.  My husband.  I no longer have that "Me Against the World" mentality because Brian has taught me that it's "Us Against the World" which makes it a lot less scary.

I got laid off about five minutes after we got married.  The timing could not have been worse.  Before I got married, I would have called the one person in the world who would know exactly what to do: my mom.  Instead, without hesitation, I called my husband.  (My mom was my next phone call.  She always will be.)

Brian's reaction to that call showed me exactly why I married him in the first place.  He wasn't mad.  Well, he wasn't mad at me; he was mad as hell at the corporate jerks who eliminated my position.  I'm paraphrasing but this is pretty much what he said:
"Kays, we will be fine.  You weren't happy there anyway.  Now you can take some time and figure out what you really want to do.  Plan weddings.  Write your book.  Take the dog for long walks.  We will be fine."

It was one of the lowest points of my life and Brian made me realize that I didn't have to carry this burden alone.  And I never have to again.  When people get engaged, they often think of all the wonderful, fabulous, huge moments they will share with their spouse.  The great "firsts" of any marriage - first house, first baby, first family vacation, first promotion.  Well, as soon as we got back from our honeymoon, Brian and I were slapped in the face by a "first" we were so not prepared for: first financial hardship.  That's about as real-life-married as it gets.

He was right, though.  I am fine.  He is fine.  We are fine.  In fact, together we are more than fine.  Together we are unstoppable.


6 months later...

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

DIY Picture Frame Ring Holder

I've said it before... a RING HOLDER is the best gift for a recently engaged friend.  Believe me when I tell you, a bride-to-be's top fear is losing her ring.  If she develops the good habit of taking it off before bed and putting it in the same place each night, that ring will last a lifetime (as it is intended).

There are so many cute ring holders out there for sale, but DIY'ing it with your own special message to the bride makes it that much more personal.

I started selling these Picture Frame Ring Holders on my Etsy Shop and I can barely keep them in stock! They are actually really fun to make... here's how.


  • (1) 4 x 6 picture frame (I get all my frames at The Dollar Tree)
  • Scrabble tiles (depending on the message you choose)
  • Scissors
  • Chevron Stencil (optional)
  • Burlap
  • Acrylic Paint
  • Paint Sponge
  • (1) Small Adhesive Metal Hook
  • Hot Glue Gun + Glue Sticks

Step-by-Step Instructions:

  1. Choose your word or saying and make sure of two things - (a) you have the Scrabble tiles in all the letters you need and (b) you can fit it in a 4 x 6 space.
  2. Cut your burlap (a bit larger than 4 x 6).  Hold your stencil over the burlap and using the paint sponge, paint the chevron pattern onto the burlap.  Set it aside and allow it to dry completely.

  3. Remove the backing and the glass from the picture frame.  Hold the empty picture frame over the painted burlap and place your Scrabble tiles.  Using the hot glue gun, glue each individual Scrabble tile to the burlap.

  4. Keep the empty frame over the burlap with the Scrabble tiles for placement.  Take the glass your removed from the frame and place that on top of the empty frame.  Decide where you'd like to place the metal hook.  Hint - make sure you don't put it too close to the bottom of the frame; there needs to be enough space for a ring to hang.


  5. Peel the adhesive from the metal hook and secure it to the glass.  Make a small mark on the burlap where the hook will poke through.  Cut a very small slit into the burlap where the mark is.

6.  Put the frame back together in this order - burlap first, glass behind the burlap with metal hook poking through the burlap, frame backing last.


I've also made other variations following the same steps as above.  You can get as creative as you want with this.  I plan on doing polka dots instead of chevron for my next round (crafting rebel, I know).

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

(A Sweet Little) Hump Day Humor #9

Exactly 5 years ago, I went on my first date with Brian. He ordered the lasagna. I later found out he did this because he wasn't sure if I was one of those vegetarians who got offended when people eat meat in front of them. (I'm definitely not.)

I guarantee he orders meat on our date tonight but it thrills me that 5 years later, even now that we're married, he's still the same sweet, considerate, thoughtful guy he was on that first date.

He is the one who encouraged me to launch Backyard Bride Consulting and he's been my biggest supporter every step of the way. My heart couldn't possibly be happier.

I might just have to buy him this pillow as an anniversary/thank-you gift for putting up with a wife who decided to risk it all and start her own business.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Lady in Waiting

So since it's technically "engagement season" - the period of time between Thanksgiving and Valentine's Day when thousands of couples get engaged - this blog post is actually for the LADY IN WAITING. 

This blog post is for any girl who is absolutely sure she has found The One and hoping beyond all hope that he feels the same way. 

This blog post is for any girl who has a private My Dream Wedding Pinterest Board and is wondering if she will ever get to make all those fabulous DIY projects a reality.

This blog post is for any girl who is quite literally living out the plotline of "27 Dresses." 

This blog post is for the girl who gets a little weepy about the fact that he has NOT put a ring on it after she's had too much wine.

This blog post is for the girl who is capable of being really, really happy but also kind of sad, all at the same time, when ANOTHER one of her friends gets engaged.

RELAX.  Please.  Take a deep breath.  Now take another.  If you're rummaging through his underwear drawer as you read this, STOP.  If you're on the Tiffany's website building a 3-carat princess cut with a halo and a platinum band, STOP.  If you're on the verge of a self-pitying-ice-cream-binge, STOP

It will happen when it is meant to happen and not a minute sooner.

I was YOU just a short time ago.  I was a girl madly in love with a boy who just wouldn't pop the question.  I became obsessed, some might even say borderline insane, about getting engaged.  Brian and I had a mortgage, a dog and a very intertwined life together.  We were in that irritating "practically married" state that couples find themselves in after years of co-habiting.  The longer we carried on this "practically married" façade, the more insecure I felt.  It was illogical; it would have made a lot more sense that the longer we were together, the more secure I felt. But like I said, I was in a bit of a crazed mental state.

Maybe it was the word "boyfriend" that really bothered me.  I absolutely hated introducing Brian as my boyfriend.  Boyfriend simply didn't carry the weight that our relationship had gained.  I guess I could have called him my domestic partner but that felt a bit formal.  And if Brian and I are one thing together, it's informal.  We eat cereal for dinner like three nights a week.

Brian never once, NEVER, gave me any reason to believe he didn't want to marry me.  He didn't talk about it much (most guys don't) but all of his future plans included me, which was a really good sign.  So what the hell was the hold up?  What was he waiting for?  I wanted to grab him, shake him and scream: WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR, YOU BIG MORON?  I'M A GREAT CATCH.  I'LL BE A GREAT WIFE.  WE HAVE SOMETHING INCREDIBLE AND RARE AND WONDERFUL.  WE ARE IN LOVE.  WE ARE LUCKY.

Of course I didn't do that.  Looking back, I'm really glad I didn't do that.  I'm even more glad I didn't give him an ultimatum - some future date that would be the be-all-end-all of our relationship if he didn't man up. 

So as the months and eventually years passed and my ring finger remained bare, how did I keep the tiny thread of sanity I had left?  I had faith.  Some days it was waning but it was always there because my gut told me this man, who I bravely gave my heart to, would do right by me.  One day.

My one day finally came on August 4, 2012.

We were on vacation in the Outerbanks, NC with his entire family.  It was our last day there.  With a 12 hour drive home ahead of us, we had agreed to get an early start and be on the road by 7 am.  Brian had casually mentioned the night before that he was going to set his alarm for an ungodly early hour so we could take one final walk on the beach with our pup and watch the sunrise.  I obliged under the condition he would let me sleep in the car.

I woke up that morning to the smell of cologne.  Before I even opened my eyes I asked, "Why the heck are you putting on cologne at 5 o'clock in the morning?"  His suave response, "In case I get all sweaty and gross, I don't want you to have smell me for long ride home."  I rolled over and went back to sleep. 

A few minutes later he was annoyingly poking me in the ribs, telling me if I didn't get up we'd miss the sunrise.  I grumbled and stretched for a full 10 minutes, like I do every morning because waking up for me is TORTURE.  Then I rolled out of bed, brushed my teeth, threw my hair up in a bun and remained in the clothes I had slept in - a tank top (no bra) and his boxers.  Oh and I didn't bother to put my contacts in.

As we strolled along the empty beach, just the two of us and our best fur buddy, did it ever cross my mind that he might propose?  No.  I had gotten my hopes up too many times, only to be devastatingly disappointed.  There was a point in our relationship when every time Brian bent down to tie his shoe, I held my breath.  Plus, Brian had mentioned on numerous occasions that he found it cliché to get engaged on vacation.  So on this particular morning, I was happy enough just to be with someone who wanted to watch the sunrise with me by his side.

We walked for a long time without much talking.  That was one of the things I loved about us - we didn't always have to talk.  Our silence was comfortable and at the same time, comforting. 

And then, before I could even contemplate what was happening, Brian was down on one knee.  There was no prepared speech, no hidden photographer.  He was just a boy asking a girl to marry him.  His hands and voice were shaking.  In that exact moment, I realized something revolutionary and quite profound -- Me and him were on exactly the same page.  We always had been.  All the vulnerability, all the insecurity, all the self doubt... he had it too.  And his fear of rejection was never more evident than on the day he proposed.  He was basically handing me his heart, along with a diamond ring.  It was the most raw and terrified I had ever seen him.

I don't remembering saying "yes" but I know I did.  I remember crying - mostly tears of relief.  I remember making him promise over and over again that I wasn't dreaming.  This was real. 

And I remember asking him, point blank, "What took you so long?"

He just shrugged, smirked his sexy smirk, and said, "I don't know.  Life."

The only photo we took on the morning we got engaged... a perfect sunrise.