Hello loves,

I wanted to continue with my writing theme this week with another personal piece. One that I hope will remind you never to give up on yourselves. With the hustle and bustle of daily life, it’s rather easy to see why to get through the day, we sometimes just go with the crowd – thinking “No good will come”, “Compromise isn’t possible, why bother?” and on it goes. We tend to argue with ourselves ‘it’s just not worth the effort’. We say to ourselves “shut up”. And then we go along with whatever in order to appease others. Then we end up flopping onto our beds at the end of the day.

But there are always going to be days where fighting for something you want or finding ways to compromise with others is worth it. While each day, I encourage you to ask yourself that, there are by far some special, unique and outstanding days that you will likely need and want to fight for those wins in life.

One of those kinds of days are wedding days. About a year ago, one of my best friends in the world, Alana H., married. And to the love of her life, Harley R.. This happened after 3 years of friendship, 8 years of dating and a 1.5 year-long engagement. She liked “Yu-Gi-Oh!”. He liked “DragonBall Z”. To be fair, the reverse was also true. They were the epitome of that cute, quirky couple that you adored in High School. When they (finally) got engaged (seriously, we were all waiting on this) and started planning out their “Harlana” wedding, they were bombarded on many sides with ideas as to what would make up their “perfect wedding”.

This is that story.

When It Began

When asked about what brought them together in the first place and how it’s changed over the years, Alana recalled, “I thought he was the funniest guy I ever met. And he thought I was really hot. What continues to bring us together is probably the fact that he’s the sweetest and most selfless guy ever. It also helps that he’s also still funny. Humor has always been important to me… if someone can’t make you laugh, what’s the point? I really like the saying, “Find someone that makes mundane chores like going to the grocery story more fun.” Harley’s that kind of person and that’s why I dated him for years.”

While Harley acknowledged and affirmed that, the first time he saw her, he thought she was hot and that was the first thing that attracted him to her, he continued, “She’s also a great a person; she’s super smart, funny, and I learn a lot from her.  She inspires me to do better and be better. I couldn’t imagine spending the rest of my life with anyone else.”

Back in High School, it was a completely different game for them as a couple where they just had little moments for the first 3 years. Harley remembered, “We had hung out a couple of times in high school starting in freshman year, but I think when she actually noticed me as a potential romantic interest was when she invited me to her friend’s birthday. That was weird, but I think you’ll agree a pretty normal level of chill for Alana. We watched Watership Down and she peed her pants a little bit laughing at some dumb joke I made. About a week later, Alana and I agreed to start dating, and made plans to go see Yes Man.”

But since Yes Man, they dated and remained a close couple getting them to the point that they are now. Looking back on her “Harlana” wedding experience, Alana acknowledged, “Harley wanted to date me because he thought I was hot. He still jokes that the reason he’s with me is because of that but I know that isn’t the only reason. Marriage is really expensive and intense… physical attraction would not be the only factor making this relationship work, haha.”

The Planning Begins

Weddings, while wonderful unions of love and families, also present numerous challenges for brides and grooms and Harley and Alana’s Harlana wedding was no different, presenting challenges of costs, who to invite, playlists, food, traditions, decorations, etc. Harley recounts, “The most important thing to me was the food. I trusted Alana with everything else. It was much easier to let Alana plan everything because she likes running everything.”

Being very Type A, Alana was happy to do so. Thinking back on it, Alana said, ”The most important thing my wedding had to have was an amazing playlist. Some girls plan and dream about their wedding their whole life. I didn’t–I honestly didn’t know if I would get married when I was a kid. I didn’t care about it. But if I did have a wedding, I wanted the music to be good so I could dance to my heart’s content.”

It was the start of many fun and cool things that Alana and Harley wanted to have (or not have) at their Harlana wedding. Some of that was fine. But other times it presented them with challenges, because, as they do, people get worked up about weddings, whether they’re in them or not. Together, Harley and Alana would often talk together about these struggles and what they were willing to fight for and let go. One of the biggest struggles was the guest list. Neither of them wanted a ‘big wedding’, just those they loved and saw as important in their lives to be there. The ‘real’ celebration to them was going to be a two week trip to Japan for their honeymoon directly afterwards. So as you can see when every plate can cost a few extra hundred dollars, a well defined guest list was important to them!

Harley said, “Our families gave us a lot of grief about how things should be done and who we should invite. It put a lot of stress on Alana and myself because everyone wanted to invite a bunch of people. We solved these challenges by telling people we were gonna do things our way and invite who we would want to invite, and not people we didn’t know. We were honest with our family and told them that we couldn’t afford to invite a bunch of people we wanted to, so we weren’t going to invite people that our families wanted to invite just to please them.

Alana elaborated on the issues they faced as well, “It was really expensive (more than I thought it would be) and that was challenging considering we wanted to go on a somewhat expensive honeymoon. I feel like random people messaging me that I hadn’t spoken to in years asking me to be invited is normal. (Or rather, I’ve heard that it has happened to other people.) Those are always awkward conversations but we solved those problems by just being honest.”

And in the end, it worked out! Alana added, “Ultimately, I’m happy I invited [who I did]. I know it meant a lot to them. It’s just funny to me that weddings make people so emotional and prideful. It becomes all about status whether someone gets invited to a wedding or not and if someone’s significant other doesn’t get invited, people see it as a rejection of their character. I suppose because it sort of is since you chose to be with that person? I just didn’t want to pay for extra meals but yeah. Weddings make people crazy.”

It didn’t stop there. Wedding party drama occurred. Alana changed jobs. Everyone wanted to give speeches. Parents had opinions on everything. Others made sly comments. There were even points in which Harley and Alana found people trying to pit them against each other in fights. Ultimately though, it was, as they said, honesty that helped them through it all.

“We mostly just told it like it is. And everyone somehow chilled out when the wedding came around,” Alana summarized, “I seriously don’t know what it is but like I said… weddings make people go CRAZY.

Crazy yes, but in the end, it was also fun! They made it their own, incorporating traditional and non-traditional elements. Together, they plowed through to get exactly the kind of Harlana wedding that would make them, and everyone else, happy.

The Big Harlana Day

After getting married at Alana’s local Catholic church and having a formal procession (the latter unplanned by them, but planned by of all people, their photographer – good job photographer 😉 ), everyone headed over to the reception and were greeted to Harlana wedding colors were inspired by Splatoon, Alana’s favorite video game. At the same time that they bought flowers for all of the tables as was tradition. (Not because they had really felt the need to by the way.) Characters from DragonBall Z were the cake toppers. K-Pop, Video Game, and Anime music filled their playlist. Sprinkled in were timeless classics allowing for something for everyone. And yet, ultimately, everything they picked out was for them. Even the song for their first dance which was to the upbeat and obscure song “I 2 I” from “The Goofy Movie”.

Alana recounted, “Harley doesn’t like to dance so he and I hadn’t danced together since probably prom. A slow dance felt too awkward between two people that didn’t know how to dance together. But I thought “I 2 I” from the Goofy Movie would be funny and cute. Harley later told me that we had joked, for years, when we first started dating that that would be our first dance song. I remember my DJ, moments before we were supposed to make our entrance to the reception, asking if we were “really sure” we wanted that song to be the first dance. We said yes, despite telling no one that would be our first dance and not having practiced dancing to it together. It was a real good time, though, and I’m glad we didn’t practice. It was more natural that way.”

Natural and totally them. Looking back on it, they both had many happy memories. Alana loved the speeches, the songs, all the iconic moments like cutting the cake and the bouquet toss. To her surprise, she said “People really just had a good time. And I mean, weddings are supposed to be a happy occasion. But when you put that many divorced people in one room you have to wonder how it’ll go. I’m just glad everyone put on their big boy pants and got along so Harley and I could have a good day. That was really nice.”

Meanwhile, Harley had few, but poignant words on the best parts of his wedding day, “My favorite part of the day was getting married at the altar. Seeing Alana in her wedding dress made me so happy.”

While Alana jokes that the best part of the Harlana wedding was “Getting on a plane to Japan”, she sums up both of their feelings on their wedding, “My wedding day was honestly amazing. Like I said before, I never grew up with dreams of how I wanted my wedding to be. So I really didn’t know what to expect. After the stress and crap that so many people put me through leading up to my wedding day, I think I expected it to be horrible. Instead, it truly was the best day of my life. I was happy I had a wedding day. Just so I could experience all of my favorite people in one place. That is a memory I will never forget.”

The “Harlana” Advice

So for everything they went through, what is their advice on planning an important day like a wedding? Alana pointed out that talking together before the Harlana wedding and knowing what were the most important parts of the day to each of them was the best thing they could have done as it allowed them to know what to focus on and what to ditch, converging on as she puts it a Harlana wedding that “was something special as a result.” Very applicable advice, whether you’re planning a wedding or not. Harley meanwhile, kept his advice simple: “Let your wife plan the wedding. It’s a way better experience. You’re happy, she’s happy–it’s a win-win.”

At the end of the day, staying true to themselves and each other, despite the challenges they faced, proved to be the winning solution, bringing them and yes, even those around them, the greatest amount of happiness. Reflecting on the lessons she learned over the course of their wedding planning and the big day itself, Alana states, “Put [your] happiness first. It sounds selfish, but I used to have an issue with setting boundaries with people. I didn’t know how to say no. And I wanted to be liked by everyone. Because I thought, if everyone liked me, maybe I would like myself and be happy.

“I kept telling myself once I completed my degree or once I had the job or job title I wanted or once I made a decent salary, then I would be happy. I kept waiting to achieve happiness and measuring it against the completion of these life stages that didn’t really have a standard beginning or end. It was only after I decided to actually put happiness first instead of the career or what people thought of me that I started to be happy and I started to actually like myself.

“It makes sense now, but at the time, I couldn’t understand why I was so unhappy and hated myself. [Actually] it turned out that living my life by other people’s standards which made me unhappy made me hate the person that I was because I wasn’t being true to myself. Once I put my happiness first and stopped caring what other people thought, I actually started to like myself. It doesn’t happen overnight and I went to years of therapy to make a self-discovery like this. But hopefully not everyone has to go through what I did before they finally start living the life they always wanted to live.”

And one year later, after learning all of this is, where is the Harlana married couple? Alana happily states, “Married life is great! A lot of what people said about marriage is true–it’s a lot of compromise but it’s a lot of fun. Marriage is a lot of work but it’s totally worth it. Marriage deepens the love you have for the other person. I think it’s because marriage means you get to navigate life as a unit rather than an individual. And it’s nice to always have someone in your corner. You’re building a life together with your partner. And knowing that strengthens the foundation of the relationship you had with your partner prior to marriage.”

Would they do it all over again?

“Absolutely! I wouldn’t change a thing.”

So take a leaf out of this couple’s book. Be true to yourself. Realize that it’s okay to say what you want and fight for what you want. Set boundaries and don’t just let life slip by and out of your control. It’s okay to take the reigns and chart the course you want to take in life. But most importantly, it’s okay to put your own happiness first sometimes and work towards compromises with those you love. You never know, it may bring others joy as well and deepen your bonds with them too.

Happy Anniversary, Harlana! Keep being true to yourselves and each other,