Saturday, January 3, 2015

7 Things I Learned from Shelby Swink

I came across this amazing story of a sweet 23 year old young lady, Shelby Swink, that was going through a heartbreak. Her fiance, whom she had met in college, and her were happily engaged to be married after a romantic proposal in March 2014. With wedding planning going swimmingly and a bright future ahead, she was surprised when the week before her November 1st wedding arrived he backed out. He told her he did not love her and didn't want to marry her.

"Bam. My dreams of marrying and having kids with what I thought was the man I would  spend the rest of my life with vanished," she said. 

Shelby was at a cross roads. She could either choose to go book herself a pity party or get up, dust herself off and face the world. She didn't just face the world but made it more beautiful. With help from her bridesmaids, parents and talented photographer Elizabeth Hoard (a gorgeous, glowing, mommy photog based in Memphis) she turned broken pieces into a colorful masterpiece. A day of sadness was turned to joy with one of the best "Trash the Dress" sessions to date. 

To read the full original story, check out featured Off Beat Bride or the popular follow up piece on Buzzfeed. Shelby has made such an impact that her story is trending on several news sites, gossips blogs and wedding mags. I was so inspired by Shelby and her story I started thinking of all the little life (and wedding) lessons wrapped up in this one change of plans. I put together a list of the seven things I learned. Maybe they will help me be a better person/friend/planner. Maybe they will help you...

Shelby Swink, 23, met her ex-fiancé in college back in 2011 and they hit it off right away. The two were happily engaged by March 2014, planning for a November wedding.
Courtesy of Elizabeth Hoard Photography

1. Bad things happen. 

No, not every couple will have something as dramatic as a week of break up, but mark my words. Something bad will happen. The limo will be late, the cake topper will tip, Aunt Peg will get a bit too woozy at the open bar and start showing off her goods to the groomsmen. The random, unexpected, ugly things that happen in life seem to make it interesting. Think of these events as a garnish on a drink. You don't need the lime wedge placed on the rim of the martini glass to actually make the Cosmo, but it somehow it completes it. Prepare yourself to have a lime wedge or two come your way.

“A pity party was the farthest thing from what I wanted or needed,” she said.

I have heard a lot of jokes along the lines "Pick your girlfriends wisely because they will most likely outlive your husband". I know this is just in jest, but it's kind of true. Our gal pals are there for us when we are single, taken, married, divorced or widowed. We have to remember to take time to also grow and cultivate those relationships just like you would for a signifigant other. In case you need some bonding inspiration (and don't have a wedding dress to trash) check out yesterday's post on 10 Things to do with your MOH.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better group of friends.”

3. Your parents love you unconditionally. 

As you get older you start to realize the vast, deep, unbreakable love your parents truley have for you. I love that Shelby's mom weighed her daughters happiness over the cost of a gown. Lots of times I think we shy away from really devulging raw and sensitive topics to our parentals for fear that we may disapoint or let them down. I think it's healthier to do he opposite. Let them see you when you are down, they have been cheering you up for a long time. They know you like no one else. I myself have started doing this over the last few years and it has changed my life. 

“My mom is the one who paid for the dress, so I was nervous as to how she would react when I told her what I wanted to do with it. But both of them were 100% supportive and wanted to be there for me.”

4. You have the power to free yourself. 

Sometimes people (I'm a huge offender of this) get caught up in excuses to why they can't be free of something. I can't quit my job because I don't know if I'll find a new one. I can't break up with my boyfriend because I'll have to move. I can't get over my breakup because I need time to be sad. I believe in giving yourself permission to feel down in the dumps, but only for a brief moment. After that moment is over, you must embrace the pain. Then free yourself of it. Shelby did it. So can we.

"I can't even describe how liberating and cathartic the experience was for me," said Swink. "The Moment the first bit of paint hit my dress I was free."

Swink’s dress is also being displayed in a local bridal shop in Memphis through the beginning of January. A portion of the proceeds from each dress bought while it's on display are going to a local nonprofit called Be Free Revolution.
Courtesy of Elizabeth Hoard Photography

5. Art comes in many forms. 

When people think of art they usually picture Starry Night by Van Gough or the Mona Lisa by Leonardo Divinci. Art is much more than just paintings. I challenge you to take a cue from Shelby and use your imagination and creavity to make something simple into something beautiful. The most common mediums are wood, canvas, paper but you can use anything from dresses to cocktail glasses. Making art not only creates something tangible for you to be proud of but also releases powerful energy from inside you outward into the universe.

“At first it sounded crazy, but after really thinking about it, I knew that it was the perfect thing for me,” Swink said. “After all, it was just a dress, a material item.”

6. Celebration is needed not only in times of joy, but also in times of pain. 

I thought it was a lovely gesture that Shelby's father not only came, but brought Champagne and Cigars. I love metaphors. This reminds me of a football game. Is it better to have a cheerleader cheering you on when you already scored three touchdowns or right at crunch time when you really need to score? Allow the people around you to be your cheerleaders. Way to go dad!!!

“Nov. 1 was supposed to be a fun and happy day surrounded by friends and family who loved me,” Swink continued. “I decided that I would not let my ex-fiancé’s mistake of letting me go take that away from me.”

7. Color makes everything more beautiful. 

I love color because it reminds me of nature and nature makes me happy. It reminds me of cotton candy sunsets and beautiful muti toned birds. It makes me think of fields of wild flowers and ripe fruit hanging low on tree branches. Color is pure and uplifting. Next time you are sad leave your dark and serious colors in the closet. Clothe yourself in a rainbow of glory. Shelby wears it well and I'm sure you would too. 

“Instead of lying down and letting life trample over me, I decided to get up and face it head-on,” she said.

And if she could say one thing to her ex, this is what it would be: “Thank you for sparing me greater pain and loss down the road. Thank you for pushing me to realize my own strength…” “…Thank you for teaching me that no one can take away my happiness. Thank you for letting me go so I can one day experience true reciprocated love. THANK YOU!”

                       "...Thank you for teaching me that no one can take away my happiness. Thank you for letting me go so I can one day experience true reciprocated love. THANK YOU!”

All photos are courtesy of Elizabeth Hoard photography
You can follow her on Facebook here.

Thank you Shelby for being such a great role model and inspiration to all of us. I know I personally (and I'm sure my readers will agree) enjoyed your story. I'm really excited to follow your journey through 2015. Life can get ugly and hard. You are the best example I've seen  of how to make it prettier in a time of such sadness. Please pass on our good wishes to your bridesmaids and parents. We would love to have a paint party with you next time you're in California! 

Happy Planning, 
xoxo Megan 


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