With all of our focus on how to make your wedding special, we thought it was time to highlight some ways to make your marriage awesome, too. Introducing “Snapshot of a Marriage,” a new series from contributor Emily Westbrooks, who interviews couples on some of their secrets for a strong and successful marriage.

Donna and Jim both grew up on farms in the same small town in Alberta, Canada, each the oldest child in large families. After dating for three years, Donna and Jim got married in 1972, when they were both studying education in college. Donna was 19 and Jim was 20. Donna says, “We were young when we got married so we grew up together.” But, she explains, “We both had large extended families and felt their love and support, so we never felt that we were alone on this new venture of marriage.”

Donna shares a clever trick she has used throughout forty years of marriage: “Whenever I feel that a disagreement may be brewing, I ask myself to imagine that I am only allowed a limited number of disagreements throughout our marriage. I then ask myself if this situation is worth using one of them up. Usually not!”

Jim and Donna liken two people in a marriage to two sides of the same coin, “One is heads, the other is tails,” they say. Together “you are one, yet you have your own interests and identity.” In their shared interests, Jim and Donna have tried to remember to plan dates together thoughout their marriage. They waited ten years before having children, and then found it took a lot of teamwork to coordinate childcare and busy schedules as working teachers. Now that they are retired, Jim and Donna find it easier to make time for even more dates: they go dancing every week and like to take long walks together. According to Donna’s pedometer, they’ve logged more than 20 million steps in just the last few years!

And in addition to keeping their marriage strong, those steps have paid off in another way. For their fortieth wedding anniversary, the couple threw a party and decided to give their guests a fashion show – wearing their original wedding suit and gown! After forty years and millions of steps, they still look dapper as ever.

SNAPSHOT SUBMISSIONS  Do you know a married couple whose relationship you admire? Or maybe you’re married and want to share your words of wisdom! We’re now accepting submissions from couples who have been married for ten years or longer. Email Emily at emily@fromchinavillage.com with your first names, how long you’ve been married, and a few sentences about why you’d like to be interviewed for our Snapshot of a Marriage series.
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Kelly and Brian’s wine country wedding is a glamorous blend of unique and classic, with a mix of neutral colors and jewel tones running throughout the day. Enjoy Events Co. brought to life the bride’s vision of a classic celebration with a twist.

The invitation suite was both whimsical and understated, with a vintage twist. The monogram designed by Antiquaria was used on various printed elements on the day of the wedding.

Why did you choose this location for your wedding?  We have spent a lot of time up in Napa because my husband’s aunt and uncle live there. It really became one of our most favorite places to escape to. We love good wine and of course gourmet food. There isn’t a more beautiful place to soak up all these amazing things.

What inspired you when you were planning your wedding?  The 1920’s was a huge inspiration. Plus, Napa’s landscape was an amazing canvas to work with. I loved the idea of having touches of Old Hollywood meet rustic.

What was your favorite moment or part of the day?  The entire day was just perfect so it is hard to choose. I think the ceremony was the most unbelievable part of the day for us. There are so many feelings and emotions in your body. That was a very powerful moment.

What was the best advice you received as a bride?  To do exactly what you envision. Have the wedding that will make you most happy. I made many decisions during the planning process my mother may not have totally agreed with in the moment, but in the end she totally understood my vision and my dream and she couldn’t have imagined it to be any different once she experienced it all. And I have to agree, I wouldn’t have changed a thing. It really was the best day of my life.


See more of this Old Hollywood vineyard wedding in the gallery.

Photography: Cooper Carras Photography / Venue: private residence in Napa, California / Planning, Design: Enjoy Events Co. / Flowers: Shotgun Floral Studio / Bride’s Dress: Vera Wang / Bride’s Shoes: Valentino / Hair Stylist: Conscious Beauty / Videography: Austin Hendrix Productions / Catering: La Saison / Chairs: Hartmann Design Studio / Rentals: Classic Party Rentals / Linens: La Tavola / Vintage Rentals: Milk Glass Vintage Rentals / Invitations and Emblem Design: Antiquaria / DJ: Gary of Flashdance / Cake: SusieCakes / Photobooth: Magnolia Photobooth / Valet: Jeffrey Valet
  • Old Hollywood Inspired Wedding in Napa

    23 January 2013
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    Today’s cheerful farewell brunch comes to us from Calder Clark Designs and photographer Jeremy Harwell – I just love seeing all this yellow in the middle of winter! Whether you’re hosting a farewell brunch, or considering a brunch reception for the main event, there’s plenty of inspiration here.

    Guests enjoyed lawn bowling and cornhole (or bean bag toss).

    Pale blue hydrangea were a nice accent to the bright citrus palette.

    The brunch buffet included all the favorites: seasonal fruit with yogurt, house-made croissants and breads, pancakes, Baker’s Mill Creek heirloom cheddar grits, scrambled eggs, sausage and bacon. Guests also enjoyed mimosas and Bloody Marys.

    Guests could also opt for a to-go box, with a choice of buttermilk biscuit sandwiches and a fruit cup.


    See more details from this preppy yellow brunch in the gallery.

    Photographer: Harwell Photography / Planner: Calder Clark Designs / Venue, Catering: Old Edwards Inn in Highlands, North Carolina / Floral and Fabric Production Team: Blossoms Events / Rentals: DC Rental / Tenting: Skyline Tent Company / Linens: La Tavola / Stationery: Cheree Berry Paper / Calligraphy: Elizabeth Porcher Jones / Transportation: Elite Limousine / Band: County Farm
  • Preppy Farewell Brunch with Sunny Details

    22 January 2013
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    Vivian is a wedding photographer who found herself on the other side of the lens as a bride. “Having seen countless weddings throughout the years, I’ve witnessed just how easily the outside pressure of the wedding fantasy can cause brides to lose sight of what a wedding is really about,” she says. “What helped me stay focused was knowing that I didn’t have to do everything and that a few simple and elegant details could be just as beautiful as a wedding that was full of them.”

    Vivian shares a special moment from before the ceremony: “Len and I had chosen to walk down the aisle together and when he came into the bedroom to get me, I could see his face brimming with tears. I asked what was wrong and he gave me a huge hug and said, ‘Nothing. I just love you so much!’ It was a small moment that is forever cemented in my heart.”

    Says the bride, “When it came to choosing a reception location, I knew I wanted to do it at a restaurant. I didn’t want to have to worry about selecting linens, chairs, figuring out where the caterer would setup, and I knew that a restaurant would have all that taken care of.”

    Vivian on the look of their reception venue: “El Dorado Kitchen had a front room with a wall of white and green vases which were in our wedding colors and in the modern and elegant style that we were going for. Because the room itself was so beautifully decorated, I knew that I didn’t have to do much else. My florist, Nancy Liu Chin, designed the perfect simple floral arrangements for our reception that complemented the restaurant’s decor. Our cake designer also beautifully paired geometric designs as well as succulent accents.”

    Why did you choose this location for your wedding?  We knew we wanted to keep the wedding small and intimate. This allowed us to stretch our limited wedding funds and provide our guests with more. The idea for our wedding was to make a relaxing weekend out of it. We rented a beautiful house in Sonoma that provided enough space and amenities for everyone to enjoy themselves. The large backyard was equally beautiful and I knew that underneath the trees would be the perfect place for a ceremony. As a photographer, I deliberately chose locations that I knew would have the best natural light.

    What inspired you when you were planning your wedding?  I was inspired by the natural beauty in Sonoma. We are so fortunate in Northern California to have this natural beauty at our fingertips. Our wedding style was a combination of rustic natural elements paired with modern elegance. Len and I both have a love for the outdoors and nature as well as mid-century modern design and we were able to recreate the balance between the two with our wedding.

    Is there anything else that helps tell the story of the day?  Oh yes. I would say my husband having to go to the ER for appendicitis on our wedding night was an unexpected surprised that flipped our wedding weekend and honeymoon on its head. Our Sunday barbecue was canceled, our Palm Springs honeymoon was canceled. Len and I spent the rest of our stay in wine country at the hospital. (You can read all of the details of Vivian and Leonard’s ordeal over on A Practical Wedding.)

    What advice do you have for other brides?  Prioritize and be realistic. And learn to let go. I knew that choosing locations that were naturally beautiful would save me a lot of planning and decor headaches. And I also knew that I didn’t want or need a million little DIY details since I did not want to spend the weeks leading up to my wedding in a wedding DIY sweatshop. (And those DIY details weren’t missed at all.) Learning to let go was important as well. There comes a point during the wedding planning process when you have done all you can do and there’s no point in worrying about what’s out of your hands so it’s best to let go and settle in and enjoy your wedding day! The unexpected is bound to happen and all you can do is roll with the punches and focus on what’s really important: celebrating your love with friends and family.


    See more photos from this intimate Sonoma wedding in the gallery.

    Photographer: Josh Gruetzmacher / Ceremony Venue: private residence in Sonoma, California / Reception Venue: El Dorado Kitchen in Sonoma, California / Floral Design: Nancy Liu Chin Designs / Bride’s Dress: Nicole Miller from Lilac Dress Boutique / Fascinator Veil: BHLDN / Groom’s Attire: Ted Baker / Groom’s Ring: DMD Metals / Invitations: Tricia Jang / Cake: Soul Desire Bakery, 707-980-9371 / Rentals: Wine Country Party & Events
  • Simply Modern Wedding in Sonoma

    21 January 2013
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