Four Years of Marriage

Four Years of Marriage

Today we celebrate four years of marriage! I feel like we’ve packed a lot in these four years: home renovations, job changes, a long sabbatical road trip, three miscarriages, an on-going global pandemic, a successful pregnancy, and, in a matter of days, parenthood.

On April 22, 2017, I never could have anticipated the events of the last two years of our marriage. Two years ago, we were about to find out about our first pregnancy right as we returned home from our wonderful four-month RV trip around the country. From the moment of our first miscarriage in June 2019, it has felt like so much is spinning out of control, first in our world then in the actual world, and the only static thing we have to return to every day is each other.

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Sometimes I wonder if I would have written different wedding vows if I would have known these parts of our journey. What would I have promised my husband (and what would he have promised me) if we knew these storms were coming? I know we both promised to grow together and not apart, and that is something all of these storms have forced us to confront. If anything, I know that I couldn’t have gotten through these years without him, and that I definitely choose the right person to be my life partner (even if he is still really not great at washing dishes haha!).

And now, any day now, we will start a new chapter together: parenthood. We have waited over two years for this moment and now that it’s here, I’m filled with both apprehension about how we will handle these new roles of mom and dad, the most important roles we’ll ever have, and relief that we have finally reached this milestone after all of the pain, expense, and time. Watching Josh prepare to become a father has been so sweet and I know watching him with our baby will only make me love him deeper. However, I know the marriage we have experienced the last four years is about to change dramatically and we’ll have to continue to grow together instead of apart. We’re pretty good at being the Muncy-Piens plus Nora, but it’ll be transition to be the Muncy-Piens plus baby and Nora.

So here we are, another pandemic anniversary where we won’t be celebrating at a fancy restaurant, hotel, or city. What’s funny is that we have never celebrated our anniversaries in a fancy way. For our first anniversary, Josh tried to take me to one of the fanciest, most expensive restaurants here, and my spend-thrift self got so upset about it he cancelled the reservations and we got in a huge fight. It’s funny to look back on now (and we often laugh about it), but I told him next year or whenever we can actually sit inside of a restaurant again safely, he can take me to THE fanciest place he can because I’m absolutely tired of not being able to enjoy a public place. Maybe next year for anniversary #5.

What 3 Years of Marriage Looks Like

What 3 Years of Marriage Looks Like

Today I celebrate three years of marriage to my husband, Joshua. Three years doesn’t feel like that long when you plot it out on paper, but these three years have taught me a lot about marriage, partnership, and Joshua. So what does three years of marriage look like? Foremost, it looks like learning things about Josh that I didn’t know. It looks like loving deeper than you thought you could. And most importantly, it looks like being thrown into storms you never thought you’d weather together.

Back in April 2017, I really had no idea what type of difficulties we’d face along our journey as a married couple. I was honestly just looking forward to making it all legal, saving money on taxes and insurance, and just continuing life. I knew I wanted to be married and that I wanted to marry Josh. When I woke up on April 23, 2017, life didn’t really feel any different except we finally got to wear wedding rings and we both got longer last names (haha). I was super prepared to be married, had asked all the right questions, had read all the right books, and just was my typical enneagram one self about the whole marriage thing. Basically your average Madalyn: coming at something full-force preparation.

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And for the first two years, we experienced normal married couple challenges. Trying to work around one another’s schedules. Working a lot. Home renovations. Cleaning expectations. Money. The normal stuff that you hear about. That stuff can be hard, but overall, not a big deal.

But in the last year, we have weathered some storms that you don’t and can’t plan for. A long job search. Economic insecurity. Business growing pains. Bad insurance. Health issues. A global pandemic. You know, the things you don’t think about as newlyweds. The things that strengthen or break a partnership.

Three years of marriage looks like holding hands into the unknown. I’m not an expert on marriage, and I believe that everyone’s relationship is different but what I can tell you is that having a partner through all of the shitty parts of life has been the best decision I’ve ever made (besides quitting my job for this business). 

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Three years of marriage looks like being held while sobbing about things that out of your control but terribly disheartening anyways. Despite any fight we’ve ever had about any of the above problems, there has been more grace and love in our relationship than hostility. It’s good I choose a partner who is much more level-headed and positive than I am. Over the past year, I’ve been more thankful than ever for the balance we have in our personalities. 

Three years of marriage looks like letting go of independence. If you know me, you know that I’m fiercely independent. I don’t like people to take care of me. We won’t unpack where this came from or why I am the way I am, I’m just that way. But if I’ve learned anything in the last year, it’s that it’s okay to let someone take care of you. It doesn’t make you less tough or less independent. It makes you a human. 

When things got really hard in this last year (and it got really hard in the fall), it was Joshua who held my hand and rubbed my back and told me that it would all be okay. Even in the middle of constant fighting over renovation projects and job hunting, Josh was the one who never stopped being encouraging. He is the reason I still have a business, and the reason I still have hope for the future. 

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Three years of marriage looks like clinging to each other. Over the last year, we have spent more time together than ever. A trip around the country in our travel trailer, renovating our basement, remote jobs, the last year has been a complete 180 from earlier years of our marriage, where Josh was always working and traveling. We genuinely love spending time together and have similar homebody personalities, so this whole COVID lockdown situation doesn’t bother us either really. It’s the same old routine we’ve been living for a year now. In these rough times, we find ourselves clinging to one another, finding joy in the little things we can control (cooking, walks, re-runs of Parts Unknown and Antiques Roadshow).

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Look, I really hit the lottery when I found a man who hates sports, loves to read, was willing to change his last name with me, and who has never once told me to quit reaching for my dreams. I don’t know what I did to deserve it, and when he’s not around, I am actually sad. I have no idea what the next year will bring, particularly with the evolving coronavirus situation. But whatever storm we face, at least we have each other.

Stay At Home Date Night Ideas for Couples

Stay At Home Date Night Ideas for Couples

It’s about one month into the coronavirus quarantine over here and if you’re usually an out and about type of couple, maybe you’re going stir-crazy. Are you finding yourself in need of stay at home date night ideas? As a resident home-body and certified introvert, I don’t mind spending time at home. Lucky for me, I married a guy who enjoys at home date nights just as much as I do!

I’ve compiled a list of our favorite ways to spend an at-home date night. I kept in mind the fact that it’s not easy to go out and buy new stuff. Most of these dates can happen with things you already have in your home. If you have more ideas, share them in the comments so we can all try them!

At Home Date Night Ideas for Couples5

Play a trivia game for an at home date night

Even if you think you know everything about each other, playing a trivia game can be a great way to continue learning more about each other and sparking interesting conversation. You could play different versions of this, including “Would you Rather,” “Never Have I Ever” or the “Newlywed Game.” For a get to know you game or to see how well you know your partner, check out these 21 questions from Psychology Today. Any style you play is fun and is best enjoyed with a glass of wine! 

Visit a museum online from your couch

When we travel and when we were dating, Josh and I enjoy museums of all types. I prefer the historical and art museums while he prefers the science museums, but we always learn something. The good thing is, there are a variety of museums that have online virtual tours you can take!

At Home Date Night Ideas for Couples

Have a board or card game tournament for at home date night

I think board or card games with two people are best played when it’s a full-on tournament. Instead of just playing one game of Yahtzee or gin (our personal favorite), make it a tournament. Keep score and see who ultimately comes out on top!

Check out these board games for two people if you want something new to play and can order something online!

You can’t leave the house but you can still visit some of the world’s best museums from the comfort of your couch. Easy, free, and educational.

I’ve been to several of these in person and can attest that you’ll want to go!

At Home Date Night Ideas for Couples

Bake something at home!

It’s no secret that I loved a baked good and I have to imagine you do too. Baking together for an at home date night can be fun. I personally think licking the spoon and bowl is the best part, right? Romantic yet tasty! If you don’t hoard box mixes (which honestly are boring for a date night baking session), check out the recipes below for your upcoming date night bake:

Missing some ingredients? No problem. Baking is basically a science and the experts say you can substitute! Check out this article with ideas for baking when you’re missing an ingredient!

Have karaoke night as a stay at home date night

  • Chocolate Chip Cookies — a classic, amirite?
  • Healthy Banana Bread — this is my go-to banana bread recipe. We always have bananss going bad too fast (or maybe we just let that happen…)
  • Blue Ribbon Apple Pie — can you tell I love my All American baked goods? I love this apple pie and the crust really isn’t all that hard to make. I always make this pie every Thanksgiving!
  • Apple Crisp — don’t want to bake a pie? Go for apple crisp! But make sure you have ice cream because it’s necessary!

You don’t need a karaoke bar to belt your heart out! Find some songs with lyrics on YouTube and take turns singing. Or do a duet for even more fun. Try the greatest karaoke songs of all time on for size.

Give each other massages at home

I’ll admit that I ask for foot and shoulder massages on a regular basis. Being a photographer isn’t easy on the body! You don’t have to be a professional to do some basic massage techniques to relieve pain and relax your partner. Plus it’s kind of sexy sensual, right?

Check out this video for some tips on massaging your partner.

At Home Date Night Ideas for Couples

Cook together as part of an at-home date night

Even before we were quarantined together, Josh and I loved to cook together. We have spent most of our marriage cooking dinners together or cooking for ourselves because it’s a lot cheaper, healthier and something we enjoy doing together.

The best part about quarantine dating is that you have some time on your hands, so trying out the recipes that take forever is perfect for times like these! 

Another way to make it fun is to do a travel-inspired themed dinner at home date night! Make a pasta for Italy, or create a cheese platter for France. Set up a taco bar for Mexico!

Favorite go-to recipes include:

  • Alfredo Salmon Pasta – there is something romantic about pasta dishes. We love this pasta so much and make it probably once a month!
  • Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burrito Bowls – my favorite no meat combo is sweet potatoes and black beans. With some chili powder and cumin, it rocks! You can pair it with quinoa and some cheese (all thrown together in a cast iron skillet with some onions and peppers), and top with salsa, or you can do a fancy recipe.
  • Naan pizza – buy naan bread and pizza sauce (or make your own with this recipe), top with cheese and your fav toppings and bake for 15 minutes on 425.
  • Spaghetti squash jambalaya – if you are not a big spaghetti squash fan, I know you’ll even like this recipe. Low carb, easy to pull together and super filling!
  • Bruschetta – who doesn’t want an appetizer (or to just make this dinner?). Bruschetta isn’t actually all that hard to throw together and this goes perfectly with the salmon Alfredo!
At Home Date Night Ideas for Couples

Host a photoshoot!

No need to be a professional or have a camera! Try to get better at photographing with your iPhone with my tips and tricks for better iPhone photos! Try taking photos of each other, photos together, and maybe photos of your pet. You can still document your time at home and try out new techniques.

Do you have good at-home date night ideas? Share yours in the comments so Josh and I can give them a try!

At Home Date Night Ideas for Couples
It’s Not About the Wedding, It’s About the Marriage

It’s Not About the Wedding, It’s About the Marriage

I officially became a wedding photographer in the middle of planning my own wedding. This was not planned. In fact, I would NEVER EVER suggest it to anyone. Just like how I would NEVER EVER suggest DIY renovating a bathroom three short months into marriage and while building a NEW business. Nope, never.

I think many people get into the whole wedding planning thing and decide they could do it for cash. That wasn’t me and if my coworker/work bestie Sarah hadn’t been getting married and had had the cash to hire one of the amazing individuals I have followed for several years now on Instagram, then I probably wouldn’t be on this journey at all.

But that’s a story for another day. Because today we’re putting down all things wedding and talking about marriage preparation.

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I really do love weddings. There’s something really beautiful about people in love and people surrounding themselves with people who love them (or not, that’s cool too). But I love marriage so much more because marriage lasts longer than just a very short, very expensive day.

Planning an event, no matter how large or small, is difficult, albeit one with many cultural and familial expectations attached to it. There are people who literally plan events for a living because they really often require a lot of attention to detail and experience to ensure that everything runs smoothly. And I think with weddings so many people get really hung up in that planning process. It’s overwhelming, there’s so many choices to make, and Pinterest has literally ruined everything for all of us (love the platform but MY GOODNESS EXPECTATIONS).

Marriage preparation is so important, y’all

Underneath all of that, there’s something bigger. There’s a marriage coming. And my goodness, y’all got to be ready for it.

This weekend, Josh and I are celebrating our first wedding anniversary. Yes, ONE YEAR! It seems like just yesterday we were dating, but also it feels like we’ve known each other forever. I share a lot about wedding preparation because I spend a lot of time helping couples prepare for weddings. But I wanted to celebrate our anniversary by sharing some thoughts on marriage preparation.

Marriage Preparation Tip 1: Communicate.

If it was up to me, couples would cover a whole lot more BEFORE the engagement than some do. Because before the engagement, there’s a lot more time to focus on the relationship at hand. Relationships always take work, no matter how long you’ve been together or how in love you are. But as referenced by lots of conversations I have with friends, people on the Internet, and some pre-marriage books I read, many couples just don’t talk about the tough stuff like finances, cleaning, deep dark secret insecurities, etc.

You’re in love, YASS. I love it. I truly enjoy working with in-love people. Being around them is a literal joy and treat. But friends, you got to communicate as much as possible. Do the counseling and take it seriously. Spend time together reading marriage books (highly recommend The 5 Love Languages…changed our whole relationship). Most importantly, spend time TALKING. A lot.

Things to talk about:

  • Share what you want life to look like in 5, 10, 15 years and compare notes.
  • Share the deepest fears and insecurities you have
  • How you will handle finances — who’s a spender, who’s a saver, etc.
  • Children. Seriously please cover this.
  • Cleaning and your ideas about cleaning roles. Maybe this is my own cleaning needs coming through but observe habits and discuss them.
  • Emotional labor. Ladies, you know what I’m saying. Start that discussion now.

photo by Jenelle Ranville

Marriage Preparation Tip 2: Practice Patience.

I did not jump head first into marriage. And what I mean by that is I felt like Joshua and I slowly fused our lives together over the course of a year, making the actual getting married part feel less substantial. We got a dog, he moved in with me, we opened a joint bank account, we fought about cleanliness expectations, we started sharing financial information, we completed many house projects, we got engaged, we met families, we fought about cleanliness expectations (again), we got married. It just seemed like less of a shock because I didn’t suddenly find myself with a new roommate, new last name, new societal identity, etc. etc. etc.

Not everyone will do what we did. That’s okay, you don’t have to. I’m an advocate for it, but your life is yours. But even though we did all that, I still needed to practice patience, which was a major goal for me during the first year. I think it’s an ongoing selfish human thing that you do get better at but you’ll never be fully perfect at (unless you are super gracious perfect).

After nearly two years of cohabitation, I still have to stop and take a breath when I discover a poorly cleaned pot (Josh is responsible for dishes in our household), or when Josh forgets to handle something (are we sensing a pattern that I may run my household like a company…entrepreneur at heart!). I’ve gotten better at just trying to show love instead of losing my shit when my expectations are shattered.

I think even if your new spouse is perfectly paired for you and you literally know everything about each other, you still need the patience. We promised to love these people and sometimes showing love means extending grace.

Marriage Preparation Tip 3: Shifting from me to us

I might take some flack for this one, mostly because there are many people out there who’ll say, hey we are two separate identities and two separate people who happen to be doing life together.

Yes, totally. Agreed. I am of that camp. Despite sharing MANY personality traits with my husband, we come from very different places and have different strengths. Great!

But I think humans have this big issue with selfishness. But marriage, in my eyes, is about the complete opposite of selfishness. It’s about being stronger together than you would be apart. I do not mean throw out what makes you awesome and just become a complete different person in marriage. You’ll change, sure. But I think the most important thing is to remember it’s not just about you anymore. It’s about both of you.

The decisions you make impact two people now. When your husband comes home with a speeding ticket, your bank account is impacted too (remember to show patience, guys. PATIENCE). When you get a new job across the country, your spouse has to move too. It’s a life of give and take because sometimes there really is no perfect way to please two people. So we give out of love to our spouses. And then they give back.

This is probably the biggest transition you’ll make in life (unless you have a dog which obviously you already know how to give, give, give) before you have kids. Shifting from “me” to “us” really changes your perspective and when you’re an incredibly independent person like me who has trouble accepting help and support from others, it will take some time to realize what this truly means for you as a couple.

Conclusion: the marriage is better than the wedding

I had a really great time at my wedding. It was a really great day. But that’s really all it was: one day. One day out of so many that I’m blessed to share with someone who is possibly the best person I know (not the best dishwasher by far). And one year in, I’m just really glad I picked him and he picked me. The marriage part is hard work but really, nothing worthwhile is easy. We all know that.

So in the midst of all the floral arrangement picking, guest list trimming, centerpiece dreaming, make sure you’re preparing for this big thing you’re about to do. I think it probably goes without saying, but too many marriages end poorly, and let’s be real, it’s a serious legal drama mamma if it doesn’t work out. Put in the work now, have a blissful first year and every year after that.

That’s my two cents. We’re going to read the notes for our first anniversary that people wrote us at our wedding on Sunday. I’ll let you know if there are any tidbits of advice in there.