8 Simple Rules for the Aspiring Marathoner, as Told by a New York City Marathon Finisher

Hi, Friends! Hope y’all are having a wonderful week.

Today’s post is guest-written my friend and fellow UC warrior, Lizzy! She’s a recent first-time marathoner, and in case you were thinking about signing up for 26.2 miles, you get to hear firsthand advice and race recaps from a finisher of the New York City [freakin] Marathon today! So from one friend to another, here’s Lizzy :).

Oh- and if you can’t get enough of her, be sure to check out her blog HERE!

Hello, Internet Friends! My name is Lizzy, and I ran the New York City Marathon on November 5th. What?! It still feels so crazy whenever I say that out loud. I’m comin’ atcha today with my experience, things I learned, and key takeaways for those of you crazy enough to consider doing 26.2.  Hopefully I can give y’all a little bit of a better idea about what to expect when training for a full marathon.  Let’s dive in, shall we?

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1. Why did you decide to run the NYC Marathon? 

One of the biggest responses I faced when telling people I just wanted to do a full marathon (knowing I’m a slower runner) was “Well, why even run a marathon if you’re going to be out on the course for that long?” Fair enough. I’m a slow-poke runner.  But, I actually chose to do the race for a special reason, that had nothing to do with my love for running.  In 2014 I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. The diagnosis came after almost a year of questions, miserable symptoms, an incorrect Crohn’s Disease diagnosis, and four different doctors and specialists. Stacey shares a similar diagnosis to me, which is how we met originally. Getting diagnosed with a form of Inflammatory Bowel Disease is really tough on a number of levels, but one of the hardest pieces is it’s effects on your physical ability and energy. When you are flaring, you have close to zero energy. It is so, so hard to bring yourself to do anything physically challenging because your body is working so hard to keep itself healthy. I did not choose to run a marathon because I thought it would be a *fun* challenge. I chose to run a marathon to prove to myself that UC will not limit me in every aspect of my life.  This is why I originally started running 3 years ago; to show UC who’s boss.  The NYC Marathon was offered as a race through the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation’s Team Challenge program—where you fundraise for the Foundation and train for a marathon at the same time. I’ve done several half marathons with this organization before and they are a BLAST.  This felt like the perfect way to tackle my first 26.2!  I signed up and immediately hyperventilated.  I felt like I’d bit off way more than I could chew!

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2. What did your training schedule look like, and how long did you train? 

My training officially started in June of this year. I ran three days a week, cross-trained twice a week, did strength training one day a week, and took one solid rest day.  There are so many different training plans to follow, and I felt like three days of running was plenty for me.  My cross training consisted of low-impact activities (I usually flip-flopped between swimming/aqua jogging, the elliptical, and spinning), while my strength training was more focused on full-body movements that built up my core and lower body muscles.  For some context: I was returning to running after an injury I sustained last fall—so I needed the extra days of cross-training to make sure I didn’t re-injure myself. Thank goodness for my physical therapist. 

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3. What was the most difficult part of your training? 

The training itself was really, really tough. I felt like I turned down a lot of opportunities over the summer because I was so focused on my training schedule. Then, to add another layer to the crazy, I auditioned and got a part in a musical that was occurring in mid-November. Add weeknight rehearsals on top of marathon training, and I felt like I hadn’t seen my friends or live-in boyfriend in three months. Ack! The time-suck is easily the worst part of marathon training. You have to mindfully plan your time, and this can be kind of a buzz-kill. Spontaneity wasn’t something I could really afford myself this summer and fall. Training is really a part-time job. 

4. What were you most nervous about? Advice?

The day of the race was next-level. I was so, so nervous.  There was a lot of excitement, too. But mostly nerves. I knew I needed to trust my training, but I was feeling a bit discouraged because of what my time goal was. I wanted to finish around the six-hour mark. Listening to others at the start who’s goals were two hours shorter than mine was tough, I won’t lie to you. It messes with your head a bit and made me wonder if I was really cut out to do this.  But, I was excited to deliver a big “eff you” to Ulcerative Colitis and prove to myself that I could finish.  I’m happy I went in with that attitude, because the race exceeded my expectations. The crowds were so supportive, and it didn’t matter that I was running with the six-hour pacer. There were so many of us in the back of the pack! I wish that I had seen more stories about slower runners before I attempted this—there are a lot of us!  The energy was infectious and for the first 19 miles, it didn’t matter how slow or fast I was. I fed off the New York energy and felt like a total rockstar. Running these larger races can do that to you.  It also helped to see family and friends on the course. I would absolutely recommend bringing a hype squad with you, especially for your first race. 

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My mom and her sign on the course!

5. What was your least favorite part of the marathon? Best part?

I started to have a really tough time right after mile 19. For whatever reason, my hip gave out. I had done all my training runs, I felt healthy going in—it just goes to show that sometimes things don’t go as planned.  I tried to run a little bit, but I ended up having to slow down to a full walk (I had been doing a walk/run interval prior to slowing down) and that was really, really disheartening. It slowed my time down significantly, and put me finishing about 45 minutes after I thought I would. The last 7 miles were the worst for me mentally. After doing so well, having to slow down just as you’re about to hit the wall was not a fun feeling and I’m not going to lie—it was a struggle.  There were many tears and I considered just giving up.  But, all of this emotion was followed by one of my favorite parts of the whole race—at mile 22 a very nice lady in the Bronx offered me a slice of cheese pizza. It was exactly what I needed, and made me smile. I was able to stay positive for rest of the race. 

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6. Mental or physical- which did you rely on the most for this race?

What everyone says about the mental game of the marathon is true. It doesn’t matter how slow or fast you are, the most important thing is believing you can do this.  I bawled when I crossed the finish line. Physically, I was so tired. Mentally, I was spent. It was such a mix of relief/exhaustion/frustration/elation; it took me a while to fully process what I felt after finishing.  I was so glad to have finished, to have done it, to have shown my body that I could do it. No matter how hard it was, I did it.  UC limits me in a lot of ways, but it didn’t keep me from finishing my first marathon. And for that I was grateful.

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Me right after I finished, post-cry sesh!

7. Did you have a finish time goal in mind? If so, did you meet it?

Try to not have a set finish time in mind. Take it from someone who was told this—it is so, so hard to not go into something like this with a time goal. I had one, and I so wish I hadn’t. I think if I had gone in with the ONLY goal of finishing, I wouldn’t have beat myself up so much after I had to start walking at mile 19. I finished an effing marathon, and my concern for those last 7 miles wasn’t finishing—it was finishing quicker. That wasn’t fair to me, my emotional state, or my body at that point in the race. My biggest regret with this race is that I didn’t just try to enjoy the last couple of miles. I was positive, sure, but I was so anxious.  Besides the nice lady offering me pizza, I don’t remember a lot from the last 7 miles. I wish I had.

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THE BLING!

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8. What’s the best advice you can give to someone thinking of running a marathon? 

For those of you who are thinking of doing this, I have three pieces of advice: train well, stay healthy, and for the love of all that is holy, try not to go into your first race with an exact finish time in mind.  Train well so you feel confident going into the race. It’s ok to miss a run every now and then—I missed a long run about a month before my race and had to shorten it because of a bad cold.  This leads to my next piece of advice-STAY HEALTHY. You are not doing your training a favor if you run with the flu. Give your body a break. You know what’s best for you. I’m glad I shortened that longer run with a cold, because I was able to crush my 20-mile training run the following weekend since I wasn’t sick. 

Give yourself lots and lots of grace while training for a marathon. LOTS AND LOTS OF GRACE. This is a massive undertaking. Surround yourself by people who support you and encourage you. Make sure you take your full rest day each week.  When that’s all said and done, ENJOY THE HECK out of the race and wear your medal for as long as physically possible. I’ve carried mine with me the last week because I’m so proud of myself. Wear your finisher’s gear. Own that pride. You just finished a flippin’ marathon! Will I do another one? Heck yes. But for now, a half marathon is still my favorite distance, and I’m going to give myself a break. I want to focus on staying healthy with UC. I also want to treat myself to a big ole’ plate of cheese fries. Priorities.

-Lizzy

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HUGE shoutout to Lizzy, for not only taking the time to write this post, but also for making marathons sound far less intimidating and attainable, even for us mere mortal slow-pokes who just wanna make a difference. You are an actual badass.

And now, I’ll dream of that mile 22 New York style pizza all the live-long day…

 

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Dogs & Health

This post is dedicated to those dealing with autoimmune diseases, inflammatory diseases, cancers, the flu, or the common cold. I hope this lifts your spirits!

When I was in college (against my parents’ wishes) I rescued Jaxon.

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Jaxon is some sort of maltese/poodle mix if I had to guess (Maltipoo?) and he’s deaf from being left alone outside for the first eleven weeks of his little life. The vet’s best guess is that grass mites actually ate his ear drums- poor, sweet guy! He’s been deaf ever since.
(side note: I’m certain there’s a special place in hell reserved for people who are mean to dogs)

Thankfully, my roommates were all on board to keep Jaxon, so we took turns feeding him nutrients via syringe depending on who was at the apartment from class. Before we knew it he was making his rounds to all the college parties, occasionally even sneaking into classes and workplaces. On more than one occasion I was walking him through West Campus when a complete stranger ran up to us, “Jaxon!!!!” He was quite popular.

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In the Fall of 2012 when I became sick and was diagnosed with moderate to severe ulcerative colitis, Jaxon slept on my face while I napped for hours at a time. He slept on my feet while I had symptomatic episodes from the toilet. He stuck his nose beneath the door when I locked myself in the bathroom. He knew I wasn’t feeling great, and he did his best to heal me.

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And in a way, I really think Jaxon has succeeded in helping me heal.

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Honestly, he’s Mister Independent most of the time. His favorite spot is alone on the back of the couch. But if he knows that I’m not feeling well he sleeps ON my face, and I swear I can hear his concern. When I was worried about symptoms, he was there to try to calm them, letting me pet his soft fur all through the night while he curled up into a tight ball by my stomach.

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And now that I’m feeling much better he’s still careful to keep a watchful eye, making sure his people don’t wander too far:

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Just knowing my little furballer was at home patiently waiting to greet me after doctor’s appointments, infusions, procedures, or just a regular day made all the difference in the world, and I’m confident that he’s a big reason why I’m able to be the positive patient that I am.

 

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For more, here’s an uplifting article about how pets can improve your health. Do you have any experience with an animal helping you better manage your disease or condition? 

To find a pet rescue near you, click here! Hope you consider adopting whether or not you’re ill; pets have a way of changing your life for the better!

Keep moving forward 🙂 I’m rooting for you! (and so are your pets)

-Stacey

PetCareChoice.com


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A Weekend in San Francisco

This past weekend Sydney, a close friend from back in the high school days, and I traveled to San Francisco to celebrate a wedding. We had zero plans after our plane landed, so we decided to take a drive across Golden Gate to Sausalito!

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I actually thought Sausalito was a sleepy little harbor town in a quiet dreamland, but after breakfast the town started to come alive. We really loved walking around and exploring this place!

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We found a coffee and breakfast nook called Cibo that I HIGHLY recommend if you’re ever in the Bay Area. I had a smoked salmon panini with black coffee that tasted nutty and strong, and the prices weren’t outrageous. I’d give them 5 stars!

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Then we walked along the harbor, hitched a Lyft, and journeyed to Muir Woods, down and around switchbacks that our driver navigated at brisk, daring speeds growing faster as the curves got steeper, and Sydney and I both ended up carsick…

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…But seeing this forest was well worth it!

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These trees were sacred. I mean it. I felt so incredibly enchanted and peaceful walking through their cool shade, looking up high into the sky to see their leaves while tripping over their strong, gigantic root systems in my tiny shoes, laughing at myself. I thanked God for this magical experience.

Just as I was thinking, “I am so small and insignificant” I ran into my roommate from Houston, Christy (and the world suddenly felt even smaller)!!! I had NO IDEA that we were going to be in San Francisco the same weekend, and we had ZERO cell reception in Muir Woods, so we honestly couldn’t have planned our reunion any better than fate.

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Remember when I said we had zero cell phone reception? That also means no Lyft or Uber…so after Muir Woods we called a (very expensive) taxi cab driver from the Muir Woods Visitor Center to take us back into Sausalito…where we ended up carsick (again).

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But nothing a glass two glasses of California Pino Noir couldn’t fix.

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Then we ferried back across The Bay for an affordable $12 and met Christy for dinner…

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…after coffee and bookstores, of course.

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They didn’t have Rupi Kaur’s new book that I was looking for, “The Sun and Her Flowers” *womp*

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The next morning we slept in and enjoyed the sun beaming in through our AirBnB before taking a walk under the warm sun in the cool, windy air to breakfast.

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We walked through a nice, beautiful neighborhood with large, manicured yards, which seems to be rare in SF. Sydney said these trees “looked like giant broccoli”- ha!

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We went to Cafe Antigua in Japantown where I was pumped to drink this almond chai, and it was delightful. But I made the mistake of ordering a breakfast taco (sorry guys, the Texan in me strikes again), which I’m pretty sure made me violently symptomatic…or maybe it was the chai. Who knows!
The rest of the day was spent napping/recovering while Sydney bossed an economics exam.

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Followed by ice cream from Cream

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And then the wedding! So beautiful. This was my first time at a Muslim Palestinian wedding, and if I’m being honest- I have never felt more alive at a wedding reception before in my life! From hours of dancing to live drums and tambourines to the food-I loved every soul I met- the families were so hospitable and accommodating “be sure to dance all night long!” and celebrating Waleed and Amany until late at night was a real treat.

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I got a pic with the King! Groom Waleed and I met while we were both working at a hospital in Houston. He was counting down the days until he and his roommate got to move back home to San Francisco, but in the meantime he adopted me as his little sister, and I am so thankful. I couldn’t be happier for he and his Bride- she is a true beauty inside and out. So much happiness!

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The next morning we said “Goodbye!” to our sweet, little bnb and headed back to the airport.

I missed Zack (and Jaxon) A TON, so it was great to return home.

Until next time, California 🙂


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Weekend Recap: Pizza Day, OKC + Movies

CHRISTY CAME TO TOWN!

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Christy and I roomed together in Houston for a year and a half. She and Zack met in the same graduate college at Rice University, and almost immediately we knew that Christy was “our people”. We’ve been close friends since 2014!

We began our weekend by enjoying the weather on the patio at Empire Slice House in OKC, probably one of my favorite pizza spots in Oklahoma to date. I mean. Look at dat pizza. Plus they had Shiner beer, and ain’t nothin’ finer than Shiner, so we’re 2 for 2, Empire Slice House. HIGHLY RECOMMEND if you’re ever out and about around OKC! Christy picked a good day to fly in- Remicade/Pizza day! 🙂

Then we rented Hidden Figures a la RedBox. I love a girl power, and I love space. I can’t believe it’s taken so long to tell the story of these GENIUSES behind NASA who were complete trailblazers, except I kinda can (#society). But Hidden Figures is definitely up there with some of my favorite movies now. Just go buy it.

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Saturday’s weather demanded outdoor festivities, so we settled for some specialty pops in the sun with ice cold beer on the side. Christy said, “Hey Stacey-pretty sure you could make these for free.” <– not untrue. I also got a really good chicken and hummus wrap situation from a food truck, but I forgot to photograph. Still gettin’ this whole blogging thing down! A nice family sat at our table with us and immediately started talking politics. Honestly, I really enjoy how eager people are to make conversation here in Central Oklahoma. These people are genuine and kind, and they always have enough time to speak to you and make you feel like a friend…even if you disagree politically ;).

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I found a new sour beer that’s pretty good ^ . I. luv. sours.

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And then we walked down the street to a brewery for more sips. Unfortunately neither Christy nor I are big drinkers, so after three beers over the span of four hours we needed naps (I’m a little ashamed to say). So we came home, ate leftover pizza (#CarboLoading), and watched the new Beauty and the Beast. Emma, you’ve come a long way since Hermione, and I love you all the same. 

This morning we woke up and had breakfast at a local eatery and then walked a couple of miles around and throughout campus just to look around- OU is really quite beautiful. I know nothing about it, but the architecture is admirable.

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We finished off the weekend with a trip to the theatre to see Wonder Woman (lots of movies). I LOVED WONDER WOMAN!!!! GOOD LAWD I want to learn a dozen languages and Brazilian jiu jitsu and meet Chris Pine. Hope your weekend was just as great!

Have you seen Wonder Woman or Hidden Figures? Thoughts?
Any other sour beer drinkers in the house? Suggestions? 


Wedding Recap: Georgetown, TX

This post obviously has nothing to do with running or food. But it’s a pretty cool part of life that I’d like to remember, and I thought, “HEY! Maybe someone else is planning a wedding and would like to creep on mine???”

So… in honor of receiving the wedding photos (from our amazing photographer), here’s one of the most fun days of my life:

7:00 am: Wake up Call

We stayed the night at the cozy cabins located onsite at the venue. I was SO NERVOUS/excited, and I’m not sure if I actually went to sleep. We woke up to a frigid seventeen degrees, a record low this year for Austin, Texas. I still had high hopes completely naive wishes of having the ceremony outdoors.
We headed over to Flair Austin for our 8:00 AM hair appointments, champagne and Round Rock Donuts in hand. Disclaimer: No one felt like drinking champagne, so we just towed it around with us.

12:00 pm: Make-up

As soon as the hair fun had ended, we raced over to the venue for makeup, courtesy of Veronica Smiley, ESPN, celebrity, and freelance makeup artist (AKA miracle-worker). I felt like Samantha Ponder.
Shoutout to my face for having zits after weeks of being clean and clear.

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Zack’s dad was kind enough to deliver sandwiches for everyone, so all stayed happy and full. I snacked on EPIC brand turkey jerky, wine (may or may not have been from a straw), and lots of water. I finally had to make a game time decision of where to have the ceremony due to the ridiculous cold. My bridesmaids were amazing, “It’s YOUR day. Where do YOU want to have the ceremony?” What did I do do deserve these people? We all thankfully decided on our Plan B: indoors. No way I could make people sit in 22 degrees while we said our vows!

2:30 pm: Dress

This deserves a shout-out to the photographer, Rebecca Taylor Photography. Everything was SUCH a blur and I wasn’t thinking straight most of the day, but it was her idea to pull me into the courtyard to get my mom and sisters get me into the dress. Such a sweet moment. Thank you, Becca!!!

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Earrings, a gift from Zack’s mom:

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And Zack was getting ready with his guys at the cabins at the same time:

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He look good.

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And those tuxes were fiyah.

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Zack said this was their “album cover”
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3:00 pm: “First Look”

A special moment, just for my #1 since day 1, my sweet dad:
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Love my dad ❤

3:30 pm: Bridal Party Pics

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Oh. My dress wasn’t ready in time for bridal portraits, but Becca miraculously made time to squeeze in a few while my gals finished getting ready. THANK YOU ❤

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Girl had her work cut out for her, because I am hella awkward.

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4:00 pm: Note Exchange
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4:45 pm: LET’S GET MARRIED!

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My late granddad’s wedding band was a gift to Zack from my Memaw. Zack had my ring custom made and hand-picked the diamond, and we designed my sapphire band together.

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I feel like I should maybe write a post about how we saved SO much money on our wedding, but I literally downloaded these invitations from Etsy for $12, and they were perfect.

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And I made all the signs myself #BrideOnABudget
*flips hair*

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Okay. Wedding time.

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Our ushers were the best.

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YAY!

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5:30 pm: Fajitas & Party Time

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[Really good] Speeches

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When the MOH spills a drink all over the groom… :p

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Father-Daughter Fun ❤
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Really surprised that our cake was amazing…our baker forgot it was our wedding day, and had to make an emergency delivery after I sent a panicked text. But it turned out GREAT!
Lemon cake with real raspberry filling. mmm.

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Devin, 3x garter toss reigning champ

Dancing with the bouquet toss winner, Lorraine Ralaine
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Invite Germans to your wedding. Let them lead the party.
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The most fun night!
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Thank you to EVERYONE who came to make us feel celebrated! You all are the reason why we had so much fun, and we hope you did too!

If I could offer any advice to anyone planning a wedding, just remember that at the end of the day, you’re going to walk away married to the person you love, and that’s the ultimate goal! It doesn’t matter if your baker forgets to bring the cake, or your wedding spontaneously gets moved inside because of record breaking weather (ha)…but all those memories certainly make the day all the more fun, I promise.

🙂

Stacey

Shoutout to:
-Rebecca Taylor Photography, a true God-send
-Flair Austin (hair)
-Stefanie Cutler (hair)
-Veronica Smiley Makeup
-Norma, Anthony, and Angel Springs Event Center
-Mario, our amazing caterer, who even took the time to pack us to-go meals and had them ready in our car that picked us up form the reception. HOMEMADE EVERYTHING.
-Rocks With Sass (bridesmaid jewels)
-My hard-working dad
-Jesus. None of this would’ve happened without Jesus. 
-Lindsay (MOH & BFF) for dealing with me, and Sydney, Becca, Shelby, Christy, Hailey, Susanne, and Haley for being the greatest friends