And now it’s all official

Initials


I made such a rookie mistake on Tuesday — I’m almost embarrassed to tell you.

I showed up at a Social Security office to begin my post-marriage name-change process . . . without a book.

I know.

Let’s call it stupidity. Or complete naiveté. Or just pure insanity. Regardless, I was expecting to dash into the SSA to become a Johnson on my lunch break. In, oh, a half hour — maybe a touch more.

It’s no big deal, my newlywed coworker said.

I was in and out in 40 minutes or less, my newlywed sister said.

As for me? Well, I walked back out into the cool, crisp, freedom-laden air . . . almost three hours later.

If I wasn’t gray before I stepped in, I certainly was after.

(And for the record, I’ve been plucking coarse, stark-white hairs from my scalp often enough to scare me. It’s becoming a thing.)

My comrades-in-arms were sprinkled in the chairs all around me, all of us huffing and puffing and checking our watches and iPhones while others paced nearby. We grumbled to each other; we grumbled on our phones. I waited 40 minutes to simply get a number, then another hour-plus to be called.

There were two people working, calling us back one by one. And while we were there, one of the two went on her lunch break.

I mean, she has to eat — I get it. I certainly wouldn’t be starving in order to assist a red-faced crew of people needing to talk about retirement benefits or replacement cards or compromised social security numbers.

But anyway, it sucked.

The good news is that my request was accepted, and I was able to head back to work with a sparkly new identity. I expected to feel very emotional about it, especially given how I was reacting to the issue a month ago, but the whole process was over with surprisingly little fanfare.

I went in a Snider. I came out a Johnson.

And it’s totally okay. Cool, actually.

Like so many changes in my life, I think I’ve just needed time to adjust. The idea of crafting a new identity from the old one was very overwhelming at first, but I’ve quickly come to realize I’m still myself — and aside from some paperwork, not much regarding my identity has changed. I’m not starting over as someone new; I just have a partner now, and that wonderful gentleman and I share a name.

The Johnsons. I love it.

And I’m doing just fine!

Minus, you know, sitting for three hours without reading material, which ranks impossibly high in the Stupid Things This Bookworm Has Ever Done.

I might actually need to have my head examined.


The time we got married

Wedding portrait


Driving home in two vehicles from visiting my parents this week, I looked at a passing car — a very familiar passing car — and thought, That’s my husband.

I have a husband.

I wouldn’t say it was the first time I’d paused to consider that, but it was still one of those existential lightning-bolt moments. I realized Spencer and I got married, of course, but it’s only been two weeks. Little experiences — like changing my name at work — keep bringing it back to me, taking me back to that one gorgeous day.

It’s a great one to remember.

Our wedding day, November 10, was definitely one the happiest — perhaps the happiest — of my life. In the weeks and days leading up to the main event, I worried I’d be too “in my own head” to really enjoy the moment. I was so fixated on making sure my sister’s September wedding was perfect that I didn’t actually process my little sister was tying the knot until I walked down the aisle at her ceremony.

I didn’t want to do that, I knew. I wanted to be emotionally present. But there were lists to check, bills to pay, vendors to contact, guests to coordinate . . . I turned into a machine during that final push, honestly. I didn’t think or feel; I just did. A spreadsheet marked “THINGS TO DO” taunted me as I updated it every single morning.

It was daunting, honestly. And though I never quite approached a full-blown wedding freak-out, there were some tense moments. I never got cold feet, but I did feel overwhelmed by my two full-time jobs: the newspaper and the wedding. The stress got intense sometimes . . . particularly for a type-A worrier like me.

But by that Sunday, it had melted away. Dissolved. Evaporated. Disappeared.

One of my happiest moments the day of the wedding was actually after the salon, where my hair had been pulled into a side twist by a longtime friend. I was alone, driving myself from my parents’ house back to our apartment. I hadn’t been “home” in days. My brother-in-law was there, waiting to take me to the venue.

It was warm. The sun was miraculously shining. I was in my own car, manning my own vehicle — and though cheesy, it felt like I was truly directing my own fate. It was a moment of calm in an otherwise whirlwind of a day, and I will always treasure that quiet 20 minutes playing Ingrid Michaelson as loud as it would go with the windows cracked (can’t mess up the hair!), just singing and breathing.

I was getting married.

As I searched for the perfect red lipstick (L’Oreal Infallible in Garnet, by the way) at a drugstore earlier in the week, I struck up a conversation with a kind cashier. When I told her why I needed such a specific and long-lasting color, she leaned back and fixed me with a dazzling smile.

“Lady, you’re getting married!” she squealed, this woman with a face as open as the moon. “That must be a great feeling. Someone wants to marry you!”

It really was.


Wedding makeup

Spence with father

With bridesmaids

Tying shoes


After a morning of getting ready in our respective suites (hours that truly flew by), it was suddenly time for the Big Reveal. Spencer and I did a “first look” with our photographers, choosing to see each other for the first time in a private moment before the ceremony. It was one of the best decisions we made. Though I was actually pretty calm that morning, seeing my guy before 140 guests did immediately soothed any frazzled nerves.

And I didn’t even cry!

(That much.)


First look 1

First look 2


To get to our portrait location before the ceremony, we rode in a golf cart manned by our event-coordinator-turned-awesome-friend Jen — which felt a bit like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride! We waved to golfers on the course at Swan Point, our venue, and thanked them for their well wishes.

As we flew along the path with the wind threatening to whip up my fluffy dress, we laughed and laughed. I felt invincible. There was nothing I could not love about that moment.


Golf cart


The ceremony itself was perfect. The sky was crystal blue. I seemed to float out on my father’s arm, amazed that everything was happening so quickly, and barely registered the faces of friends and family around us. Spencer stood at the end of the aisle with a look of utter contentment on his face, and I had a flashback to the pair of us sitting at Panera years ago. The wind had whipped our hair then, too.

If I’d had to pinpoint something about which I was anxious before the ceremony, I probably would have said standing before a group to utter words precious, personal and dear. Despite the fact that I live a somewhat public life, I still consider myself a private person — and honestly, making declarations of public love made me feel a little queasy.

But at the right time, the right moment, I didn’t even think about that. So swept up in the moment with my hands clutching Spencer’s, I repeated the words and I felt them to the tips of my cherry-red toes. I could have shouted them. And I’ve only had tunnel vision a few times in my life . . . but this was one of them. It felt like minutes, but our officiant assured us the ceremony was, in fact, a half hour.

Fastest half hour of my life.


Ceremony entrance

Vows

Tear during ceremony

First kiss


Our reception was everything I’d hoped it would be and more: exciting, lively, energetic, fun. Before the wedding, many people reminded me to keep looking around to soak up the sensation of having so many people I love together in one room — and they were absolutely right. Spence and I ate dinner quickly so we could start to dance and circulate, and I’m proud to say we spoke to nearly everyone in the room. (We did miss a few folks, and I feel terrible about that!)

And the dancing. The dancing. If you’d told me I would spend most of my wedding reception kicking up my heels on a wooden floor, grooving to everything from “YMCA” to “MMMBop” to “The Chicken Polka” (which took the place of a traditional father/daughter dance), I definitely would have pictured myself cowering in a corner somewhere instead.

But our wedding . . . well, it did something to me. Made me stronger. Bolder. More confident. Super happy. I didn’t care if I looked silly or robotic or weird rocking one of the three dance moves I know and can successfully(-ish) execute; I was seriously just having the time of my life.

I was in a bubble. A very, very sparkly bubble.

Color my husband impressed, friends, because we’d talked for months about how I “wasn’t going to be dancing that much,” and he would basically have to live with it. Me? Not a dancer.

But I was that night . . . we all were.


First dance

Angry chickens

YMCA

Boys dancing


. . . So was it everything we dreamed of?

Yes.

Surrounded by friends and family from near and far, some from Florida and North Carolina and New York and even one special guest from Sweden, I’ve never felt so happy, loved and content. I looked at the dance floor at one point, so happy and shocked to see my coworkers breaking it down with Spencer’s friends alongside our families and our parents’ friends, and it was just such an awesome feeling. A feeling I will hold close forever.

That very evening some friends had to get back on the road, returning to their corners of the universe apart from ours. We gave them hugs. We thanked them for coming. We wanted to wrap ourselves up in their good wishes for as long as possible, but most of our guests were on planes or in cars by the following evening.

We were all together for one day — one perfect, crystallized moment in time. For the only time.

That’s why photography is so important . . . but that’s another post.

Spencer and I spent the whole day in a deliriously happy cloud, marveling at our good fortune to have the warmest, prettiest day in November for our wedding day . . . but more than that, just so happy to pledge our lives to each other. It’s been a journey — one y’all have taken with me! — but it was more than worth the planning, time, energy and . . . well, the money.

You can’t put a price on that kind of happiness.

I won’t even try.


Family

Cake tasting

Bridal party

Groom and shoes

Portrait bokeh

End of the night


I’ll be share the details — and decor! — in future posts, but just wanted to focus on the memories today. (This article on that very subject is a great read.)


All photos by Birds of a Feather Photography


That crazy name-change issue

photo


In the past nine days, I’ve slowly started becoming a Johnson. It’s exciting, scary — and everything in between.

In the months leading up to the wedding, I toyed with the idea of . . .

Keeping my maiden name;
Hyphenating my last name;
Legally changing my last name, but keeping my maiden name professionally;
Just straight-up changing my last name and rolling with it.

It took me a while — and a bit of soul-searching — but I’ve ultimately decided to take Spencer’s last name. The choice is very personal, of course, and feels “right” to me. My husband has been very supportive of whatever I want to do, and I’ve been uncertain about it — but at the end of the day, my marriage marks a great change. A step into the future. And I feel like Johnson is that refresh I’ve been wanting.

I’m still me, of course. But I’m married me. And it will feel good — albeit scary — to take a new name.

Of course, these are all just words floating around the universe right now . . . I haven’t taken any legal steps to change just yet. Honestly, the idea of changing my entire identity makes me want to cower under a table fort made of old sheets at my grandparents’ house (which everyone knows is awesome). My younger sister has started the process, as has a newlywed coworker, so I’m relying on them for help and advice.

But I did make one big alteration: I changed my name on Facebook. That might as well be legal, right?

So it’s all fine and good to become Megan Johnson on a screen, friends, but that left me with another decision to make: what to do at work. Regardless of what I chose legally, I always thought I’d keep Snider somewhere in my moniker — either as a middle name or hyphenated part of Johnson. Since I write for a newspaper, I considered it a pen name. I thought it would be a nice homage to my roots.

Then I panicked.

Whatever I put with my column on Wednesday would set the tone for everything to come. If I’m Snider-Johnson now, even just professionally, that’s how I’ll be addressed by friends and readers alike. Staring at a computer screen on Monday morning, I realized I had to make a decision. A real decision.

Am I changing my name — or not?

It suddenly seemed strange to go halfsies . . . to be Snider-Johnson some places, Johnson or Snider in others. Which is it? Who am I?

Can I be both?

Caught up in the excitement of the wedding, I avoided the name-change issue. Friends have already started calling me Mrs. Johnson, and I love the way it sounds . . . but it’s still so foreign. But like all things surrounding my nuptials, both large and small, I’m sure it’s just a shift to which I’ll have to grow accustomed. I’m sure I’m not the first woman to look around in confusion when the doctor beckons “Mrs. So-and-so” out of the waiting room. (Who? Me?)

When the time came to put my byline on tomorrow’s column, I made a decision I didn’t expect.

I just went with Johnson. Plain ol’ Johnson.

So far, being Megan Johnson — at least in spirit — is pretty similar to being Megan Snider: both women are readers and writers, photographers and dreamers, daughters and sisters and friends. But the former gets to be part of my refresh, my reboot: my big, bold steps into whatever comes next with my husband.

Scary and good.

—–

If you’ve changed your name, how did it make you feel?
Did you ever feel uncertain about your decision?
Are you happy with the choice you ultimately made?


The new normal

Megan and Spencer


Well, I had high hopes for today’s post.

I was going to sit down and craft some gorgeous words on Sunday evening, weaving in so many of the tales from our wedding day — now more than a week ago! — so they’d be etched into my mind forever.

Of course, by Sunday, we were busy restoring the condo to its previous state of almost complete chaos (versus absolute chaos) and just trying to get ourselves into a mental space to return to work after almost two weeks off. I started working on a few scarf orders, pored through our many wedding photos already back from our fantastic photographers (small sampling here), hit a craft fair with my mom and sister and basically ran around doing everything and nothing.

It was glorious.

But none of that got me to where I wanted to be: writing a wedding post, which I desperately want to do. So I’ll have to tease you with a few photos now with the promise of more to come, then offer assurances that write meg! will get back to its regularly scheduled programming shortly. Surprisingly, I have been reading — much more than I expected — and am looking forward to slipping back into “normal life.”

Of course, “normal” is different now.

But it’s super lovely, too!


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Almost a Mrs.

Married


Exactly one week before I met Spencer for the first time, I was driving home from another lukewarm date with The Temper Trap’s “Sweet Disposition” pouring through my speakers. It was raining in Annapolis; I had a long drive home. The man I’d met for coffee had been nice and polite, but there was no spark. No chemistry. When we shook hands goodbye, I knew I wouldn’t see him again.

And yet, I felt . . . so hopeful.

I remember everything about that Sunday: meeting with girlfriends earlier in the day; walking through the city; the squish of my toes in my too-small boots. It was a chilly March afternoon and I’d already received my first email from Spencer, though I’d set this Annapolis date up before we’d firmed up ours. I don’t remember when I emailed him back, exactly, but I know it wasn’t long after I got home. I just felt in my bones that good things were afoot.

That hope was not misplaced.

After years of getting-to-know-yous and falling-in-love-with-yous and wondering and excitement and a little indecision and lots of laughter, it’s official — officially time.

I’m getting married. To my best friend, my confidante — a man so thoughtful and sweet and mine that I can hardly stand it. Sunday is our wedding.

It’s been a long journey — one that started long before Spencer and I even met. But I can’t look back on the last decade of love lost and found without a sense of purpose, gratitude and joy . . . because as pedestrian as it sounds, every detour eventually brought me to Spencer. And I feel grateful every day to have him by my side.

I’m taking a blogging break for our big day and following honeymoon in West Virginia, but I plan to make my triumphant return as a married lady on November 18. I’m sure I’ll have lots of moments and photos to share! I can’t wait.

Thank you for coming along with me on this wild ride . . . and, well, every ride we’ve taken together in the last five years. It’s been so fun sharing wedding updates with y’all, and I’m sure I’ll have many stories from the other side!

Signing off for now . . . but so excited about all that’s to come.

See you soon!

xoxo


Red lip contrast

Lips


I like the idea of being the woman in red lipstick.

Perhaps more than actually being the woman in red lipstick.

It takes courage to wear red. Real, tangible, serious confidence. I wouldn’t have had it a year ago, when I was heavier and downtrodden and uncertain about life in general. But 2013, for as tough as it’s been, has also provided opportunities to grow and change and act a little wild.

I walked in from my lunch break yesterday wearing a bright, bright, really really bright red shade. I’ve been on the hunt for the perfect kiss-proof shade for the last few days, knowing I want to rock a red lip for the wedding but decidedly do not want my soon-to-be husband to do the same.

A trip to Ulta yielded a sample of a Stila color, but it had flaked and kissed off on my diet soda by mid-afternoon. When Spence and I met to grocery shop in the evening, I “tested” it with a smooch — and, um, yeah. My guy looked freshly kissed, all right. Kind of cute in a romance-novel way, but definitely not going to work before 150 of our nearest and dearest in a few weeks.

A coworker is lovely and quite knowledgeable about all things makeup — and she was impressed with my choice. Though I never leave the house without something on my face, I rarely rock bold shades. I spend way too much time drinking and eating on the job to worry about mussing up my looks and, to be honest, I’m just not that fussy.

But she liked the red lip. With my fair skin, super-dark hair and brown eyes, the red really pops. “You’re high contrast,” she said. “Has anyone ever told you that?”

They hadn’t. But I like it.

Though I feel like a vampy vixen in red lipstick, I also feel a little self-conscious in the shade — almost like I’ve worn a too-revealing dress, you know? Lipstick is reserved for special occasions. And as we draw closer to W-Day, I’ve had to get serious about finding one. I’m having a professional do my makeup that morning, but she recommended getting my own lipstick so I can easily reapply throughout the day. I agreed easily, not too concerned, but I really should have been.

I should have been.

Because finding the perfect no-smudge, gorgeous red lip color ever for my wedding?

Well.

Like always, I’ve turned to the trusty Internet for help with this life-altering decision — and found several lists of recommendations. I imagine I’ll be off to the drugstore on my lunch break for a little research. I’m leaning toward the Revlon or Maybelline products because, well, they’re in my budget. But if anyone has a favorite or some advice, please feel free to share!

I know I’ll find something — and hopefully something my fiance won’t have to wear, too.

And either way, I like the idea of being high contrast . . . a measure in extremes.

I want “bold” to suit me.


Red sunglasses


State of the wedding, vol. 3

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Outtake from our makeup trial “photo shoot.” I actually do like the makeup!


Well, friends, we’re a little over two weeks out. Sixteen days, to be precise.

Sixteen. Days.

I’ve stopped looking at my checklist on The Knot; it scares me. I’ve made my own “to-do” list in Google Docs, otherwise known as my Bible, and refer to that on a daily — er, hourly — basis.

I feel like I should be panicking or something . . . but I’m not. I’ve crossed from anxiety around the three-month mark to the wedding zen so many promise. I’m sure I’ll have a freak-out or two in the next week or so, just trying to make sure everything gets organized, but I’m pretty positive it will pass.

Honestly, in many ways, I was more anxious about moving out of my parents’ house than I ever have been about getting married. I take that is a good sign: the prospect of life with Spencer is decidedly not terrifying (always a good thing to realize two weeks from your wedding), and we’re settling into our new lives as a couple who also share a residence.

I feel like a real-deal, seriously serious grown-up. And that’s fun, too.

My bachelorette party is this weekend (woo!). My sister and friends are showing up at 8:30 a.m. tomorrow to whisk me off to an unknown locale, something I am ridiculously excited about, and the idea of spending two days with them just doing whatever has been the bright light at the end of a busy week.

It’s funny to read my post from July — back when I was really nervous about corralling a large group of people. Of 227 invited guests, our guest list has been pared down to roughly 150 — something that surprises me, honestly, but is understandable. We’re getting married on a holiday weekend, which is helpful for some and not for others; it’s November, so kids are in school; finances could be a concern, weather is a factor. I’m just thankful so much of our extended family is making the trip and really can’t wait to see everyone!

And speaking of “everyone,” they’ll start arriving in a week and a half. Which means we really need to get our place in tip-top shape. I’m somewhat ashamed to admit we still have a few bridal shower gifts boxed in the living room . . . just from lack of space. After I took over several of the bookcases with my massive library, we’ve had to get creative with storing and moving items around. It’s been . . . interesting! Heh. But we’re working on it. A work in progress, indeed.

So what’s left to do? Well . . .

• Finalize the seating chart.
• Create all escort cards for said seating chart.
• Finish the table frames for our writer/scientist theme.
• Box up all decor and get that ready to take to the venue.
• Stuff welcome bags (when Spencer’s family arrives).
• Finish paying everyone. I hear $$$$ is a good thing.

There’s more, of course . . . but I won’t bore you with the tedious ramblings of an OCD bride! And they’re little things.

I’ve had my hair and makeup trials (pictured at top), my dress is taken in and ready, jewelry has been selected or borrowed. Our menu is done, headcount almost final, signature cocktails chosen (that was one delicious taste test). Everyone knows where to be and when — partially thanks to my always-updated timeline. I need to send that to all the vendors, actually . . .

I’ve also started weaning myself from wedding websites and bridal newsletters in general. While I definitely have favorites, spending too much time looking at others’ celebrations is starting to make me feel anxious. With so little time left, I don’t have the inclination, energy or funds to design quirky new decor, order funky colored straws or any of the other “Pinterest-able” elements I’ve loved looking at for so long. We’ve planned, and the plan is in place. Basically: it is what it is. What’s done is done.

But what’s done? Well, it will be awesome. For the most part I do feel good, calm. I’m getting thank-you notes out quickly and am sort of slipping into that introverted time of reflection, you know? It’s been so BUSY BUSY BUSY DOING ALL THE THINGS that I haven’t really allowed myself to consider the fact that I’m getting married, especially when so much energy was poured into my sister’s big day in September.

But now it’s our turn. We’re really doing this!

Sixteen days.

I can’t wait.