I love weddings, but they make me melancholy

It’s unpopular, I think, to admit how much weddings mean to me. As a diehard romantic from a young age, there’s a lot I love about weddings as an aspiring bride — the chance to wear a beautiful one-of-a-kind gown, the attention bestowed upon me, the commitment expressed through vows, the promise of a lifetime of togetherness, the celebratory atmosphere of it all… it’s safe to say I’m obsessed. 

And yet, several weddings I’ve attended in the past few years have left a sad taste in my mouth. 

After one wedding in the summer several years ago, I drove to a parking lot and cried. At another wedding, I sequestered myself to a corner and moped. I felt so alone, surrounded by adoring couples and a celebration of love. I spent a third wedding mourning that my relationship with the bride wasn’t what it once was. 

I’ve always struggled with jealousy. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say that I’ve struggled with comparison, which has led to my feelings of jealousy. I’m constantly holding myself up against those around me, measuring us, and coming up short in my own estimation. Usually, I compare myself to my friends and family — my brother got more Facebook likes on his post; my best friend is more beautiful; a writer friend got a book deal before me. I’m looking for reasons to love myself and have fallen into the trap of comparison, except I always come up short.

As much as I’ve loved watching the couples celebrating their love during those three weddings, I couldn’t help but compare myself to them. I’m 28, and my list of “nevers” in the dating world stretches like a CVS receipt. Never been in a relationship. Never been on a second date. Never been kissed. Never held hands. On and on it goes. The only thing I have done is go on two first dates. Two whole dates! In 28 years! 

And here I thought someday I’d be a bride!

It’s just too easy to feel like a fool, and it’s so easy to resent the people who are getting married while I’m not. When one of my family members married several years ago, I remember attending the wedding and feeling true joy for him and his bride. It was an honor to stand up at the front of the church with the wedding party. I loved the new dress I bought just for the occasion to celebrate with the happy couple and their guests.

After the ceremony and festivities ended, I took off in my five-inch heels and pretty new dress, got into my car, drove to Walmart, and cried. I cried because it dawned on me, at the time, that I was 20 and despite my strong desire to fall in love and have my own forever story, I had never been on a date. All my crushes had been unrequited. I was heartsick and devastated. The high of the celebration was wearing off, leaving nothing but sorrow.

It’s been eight years since that experience. Last summer I went to my best friend’s wedding – this time around I loved celebrating with her. I was emotional throughout the ceremony –  it was beautiful, moving, and I was unspeakably elated for my friend. During the dinner, I managed to forget that I was there alone. 

I’m so grateful I was able to celebrate my friend’s wedding this way. I regret that I got so caught up in my own issues at the other weddings that I couldn’t enjoy the celebration right in front of me. Moving forward, I will try to revel in the love showcased in future weddings I attend and put to rest all thoughts of my own future.

Maybe someday I’ll have my own wedding; maybe I never will. But one fact I’m sure won’t change is that I’ll stay a little bit obsessed with the institution of a wedding.

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LGBTQIA+ History Coronavirus The World

50 years later, the legacy of Pride lives on

The New York City Pride parade has been cancelled for the first time since its origin 50 years ago. In-person events that were scheduled to take place June 14-28, 2020 are in the process of being reimagined virtually as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Pride is a staple in New York City, as it has been since the Stonewall Riots prompted a revolution in June of 1969. The fight for gay-rights as we know it was born and catalyzed here. America in the 1960’s, and in the decades that came before it, was not at all welcoming for those in LGBTQIA+ community. In New York, any inclination of sexual activity between people of the same sex in public was considered illegal. That is, hand holding, kissing, or even dancing. This antiquated and ridiculous law was not overturned until 1980 when the People v. Ronald Onofre case was decided. 

These times were also riddled with discrimination and a series of raids among other forms of abuse on prominent gay bars and clubs in Greenwich village. Such spaces were some of the only places where members of the community could seek refuge and were finally able to express themselves openly without worry. Nonetheless, police brutality on the basis of sexual orientation and just plain bigotry was awfully common during these raids.  

On the night of June 28, 1969 obvious tensions arose between the two groups, and the patrons bravely decided to fight back against the police at the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar that was one of the few of its kind that opened its doors to drag queens. Notably, the first bottle of the uprising, which lasted six whole days, was thrown by a Black transgender woman, Marsha P. Johnson. The protesters were met time and time again with tear-gas and physical altercations with the police, but they persisted. Those in the street are said to have been singing slogans similar to the ones that we hear today like “gay power” and “we shall overcome.” 

It would be an injustice to ignore the contributions of the Black community to this iconic moment that started a resistance.

This moment sparked the beginning of a modern resistance that is beautifully laced with love and versatility. 

It would be an injustice, however, to ignore the coincidences of this past that align with the current civil rights demonstrations happening across the world, declaring defiantly that Black lives matter. Both movements continue to feature a spotlight on recognizing basic human rights while also condemning police practices that terrorize the communities they are meant “to serve and protect.” So much of American history is patterned with this same struggle, consistency, and perseverance. Not to mention that it was, in fact, Black women who spearheaded this revolution 51 years ago, and 51 years later Black women are again at the forefront of a movement seeking to eradicate systemic inequality. We must not let this go unnoticed.

The year after what has come to be known as the Stonewall riots, June of 1970, marked the first ever Pride parade in New York City. Though it took a long time to come, the LGBTQIA+ community has certainly overcome much of the hate and marginalization that has been thrown its way. But, they’re still fighting. To this day, new non-discrimination protections are being fought for and passed all because of their constant effort and strength. 

Since then, New York City and its Pride parade has been a proven safe-haven for vulnerable and battered communities alike. It is a time for people to come together and celebrate themselves as phoenixes who have risen way above the ashes while also acknowledging the slashed history that they are eternally attached to. 

Just last year, New York City hosted world WorldPride and some 2 million people were in attendance. This in and of itself is a testament to the impact that the revolution has had, and continues to have, all over the world. Such ever-clear and unrelenting perseverance is nothing less of an inspiration. 

Today, as the coronavirus runs its raging course throughout the United States, New York City has been noticeably hit the hardest. With nearly 212,000 confirmed cases and over 20,000 deaths thus far in the City alone, New Yorkers are being urged to remain full of the hope and drive that makes us so thick-skinned in the first place. But, this is not an easy feat, especially given the turmoil that seems to be slowly encapsulating every bit of our daily lives. Once again, we have set out in a movement that looks to challenge history and change it for good. For the LGBTQIA+ community, that anxiety is heightened tremendously. 

The absence of the iconic Pride parade will certainly have a dramatic financial impact on the people and businesses that have come to rely on it. Not to mention the mental toll that will surely come along without a break from mobilizing, resource, or strategy efforts concerning the ongoing, and seemingly never-ending, fight for equal rights. It is certainly an all-hands-on-deck sort of thing. This fight is fought every single day, with the smallest actions sometimes making the most noise, and none of it should go unnoticed. 

The contributions that the LGBTQIA+ community has made to both the City and to the greater struggle for equality are undeniable. So, the decision to cancel Pride this year was not easy. But, it was definitely necessary. However, just because the pandemic prevents us from physically coming together this year, it does not mean that the spirit of Pride in New York City won’t be felt just the same.

An online Global Pride will be broadcasted for 24-hours straight on June 27, starting in the east and moving west. Each local or participating pride chapter is hoped to have an allotment of 15-minutes of airtime each, depending on individual time zones, for performances and speeches by grand marshals. This is a community that has always come together in the face of adversity and this year is no different. My wish is for this to be yet another example of the LGBTQIA+ communities resilience that should be honored and remembered, especially in a context of human rights.

History Science Now + Beyond

Halloween carries a far more darker and chilling history than you think

Halloween is a beloved yearly tradition for many. For some, it is a time for spooky movies or trick-or-treating. For others, it’s a time to get super drunk and party all night in cool, quirky, or cute costumes. Whatever your plans for the night, chances are that it’s a slight stone’s throw from the original premise of Halloween. 

Most scholars and historians agree that Halloween’s origins date back to thousands of years ago, to the Celtic festivity of Samhain (pronounced sow-en) which is celebrated from the evening of October 31 to the evening of November 1. The pagan festival marked the end of the harvesting season and the start of winter, a new year, for the Celts.

During their celebrations, the Celts often danced around a bonfire, wearing costumes. The reason for which is three-fold.

First, they believed that the boundary between life and death was at its thinnest and souls were set free from the land of the dead. The wearing of the costumes symbolized that freedom. Second, Celts believed that some of these ghosts and otherworldly spirits would cause trouble by damaging crops or haunting the living, so the costumes were worn as a disguise. And third, it was a way to honor their Gods and Goddesses of harvest, field, and flock, so they may once again be blessed with good crop the next year.

The Celts also believed the thin barrier between the living and dead made it easier for Druids (Celtic Priests) to predict the future. Also, after the celebrations, each family would take a burning ember from the sacred bonfire and light the hearth at home for good luck. The fire was to be kept burning for several months otherwise tragedy could befall.

The families would also leave offerings of food and drink – tribute – outside their homes at the end of the night to appease any wandering spirits who might seek to play tricks. The dressing up and the offering of food, then, is where the desire for detailed costumes and trick-or-treat comes from.

Other traditions observed today can also be traced back to history.

The families would leave tribute outside their homes to appease any wandering spirits who might seek to play tricks.

At the time of the Celts, Romans were going around conquering various lands and Christianity was attempting to erase pagan religions. The creation of All Souls Day, for example, arose from the Church’s need for a similar holiday to Samhain. All Souls Day is held on November 2 as a day to honor the dead.

During Christianity’s spread, Pope Boniface IV established All Martyr’s Day. Then, Pope Gregory III expanded this idea to include All Saints. The term, Halloween, actually comes from the All Saints Day celebration, which was called All Hallows’ Day or Hallowmas.

And according to, during the Roman Empire’s colonization, their Roman festivities took root into Samhain celebrations. So, if you’ve ever wondered where the tradition of bobbing for apples came from, it stems from the Romans honoring Pomona, their Goddess of fruitful abundance whose symbol is the apple.

Eventually, Halloween came to America and Canada. With the influx of Irish immigrants during the 19th century, Halloween celebrations became more popular. Although Halloween was celebrated in America before then,  it was extremely limited due to the widespread Protestant belief systems in the colonies.

Today’s Halloween, then, is nowhere near what was originally conceived. It’s much more commercial. Retail spending for Halloween, for instance, was an estimated $9 billion in 2018. And even though I love Halloween, I can’t help but find it strange that a holiday which originally started with ghosts and spirits is now this massive business. Many American and Canadian people today don’t even think of celebrating their dead ancestors on Halloween, instead, it’s largely a chance to dress up and party

There are many ways to celebrate Halloween though, but one thing that remains between all cultures and periods is that it’s a time to be around your community, be it while getting smashed or sitting at home and watching movies!

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Surviving the Holidays Culture Humor Life

This is your ultimate survival guide to Eid morning

Eid is upon us, fellow Muslim brethren!

A joyous occasion celebrating the fasts, the prayers, the many times you repeated to yourself through gritted teeth and clenched fists, “I’m fasting” when you tried to calm your road rage.

The morning of Eid is an especially unique moment.

When else during the year do you iron your shalwar kameez at 6:30 in the morning or do relatives 7 hours ahead of you call at the break of dawn to say hello? Only on Eid morning of course!

4:34 AM


Despite having to be up by 6:15, you can’t sleep. Are you that excited for Eid?!

Or has your sleep schedule completely been thrown into a blackhole of chaos that is a summer Ramadan and you’ve gotten accustomed to sleeping so early the next morning?

4:59 AM

Girl Lying and Thinking Gif


Serious existential questions begin to enter your mind.

Did I do everything I could to be a better Muslim this Ramadan? Did I put enough lemon juice on my henna to get ultimate, long-lasting, bold results?

6:10 AM

Sloth Sleeping Gif


Your cutesie “EID <3 :)” alarm label is futile against your right thumb that hits SNOOZE.

6:23 AM

Cat Sleeping Image


The battle between the alarm and your right thumb continues. Your thumb wins.

For now.

6:30 AM

Pillow Bashing Gif


Your brother knocks on your door and tells you it’s to get up. “And oh yeah, Eid Mubarak.”

6:35 AM



All the showers are occupied. You use this time to groggily iron your Eid outfit which seems to be completely made of chiffon, sequin, cashmere, rose petals, silk worms (not silk, silkworms).

6:58 AM

Applying Makeup Cartoon Gif


Once in the bathroom, you wash your face to reduce puffiness. It is still puffy. When your face is all clean, you start putting on your mascara and try to think of the last time you put on a full face of makeup at 7 in the morning.

You remember. It was last Eid.

7:33 AM



Dressed and phone in hand already buzzing with “Eid Mubarak” texts, you go to the kitchen and your mom has laid out pastries on a fancy tray. You approach the cookies but hesitate. Then you remember that food actually isn’t haram (forbidden) and that it’s all okay now. You grab a powdered sugar cookie and allow the sugar to melt in your mouth.

You cherish this moment. It feels so wrong.

But so right.

Meanwhile, Baba is on his 3rd cup of coffee this morning.

8:02 AM

Snuggie Family Gif


You are on your way to Eid prayer and there is traffic. Baba makes a dad joke: “I guess everyone’s on their way to Eid prayer!” Your family laughs at the ridiculousness of the notion that all of LA is on their way to celebrate Eid. Then you all silently contemplate how cool that would be.

Then you think about Creeping Shariah and smirk to yourselves.

8:28 AM

Everything is okay!
Everything is okay!


Your father’s plans for arriving at the early Eid prayer are foiled (as they are every year), and your optimistic mother says, just like every year, “It’s okay, we’ll make the 9 am prayer. Relax, it’s Eid!”

8:35 AM

Spongebob and Patrick Gif


You’re finally at the convention center with thousands of other Muslims here to pray the Eid prayer. You put your shoes in a plastic bag provided so intuitively by the facility, sit down next to your mom, and begin saying the takbir chants. You realize you never really learned the takbir. You just know it from the Eid prayers you’ve attended since you were born. You begin saying it louder.

9:03 AM



Eid prayer starts.

Little kids in tutus, bow ties, headbands, mini kaftans run through rows of people praying. Today, you are okay with the children being unruly because it looks like a Gymboree catalog came to life.

9:10 AM

Voldemort and Malfoy Gif


Eid prayer ends. You hug and kiss the people you know around you.

And the ones who look familiar but you’re not sure if you met them before but it’s probably better to say hello just for good measure.

10:07 AM

Beyonce Eating Donut Gif


Exit prayer area, head for donut table. Eat celebratory Eid donut and relish in the fact that it’s broad daylight and you’re eating.

11:04 AM



After much picture taking, people meeting, Eid-money receiving, and donut eating, it’s time for the traditional Eid nap.

Go ahead, you need this. You have a long day of celebration ahead.

Gender & Identity Life Inequality

These are 5 ways you can honor Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day)

The best part about scary stories isn’t the suspense, gore, and unimaginable monsters coming to life, but the endings. The part where good wins over evil and the monsters are defeated only to be heard of again through storytelling. Growing up I used to view slavery and the holocaust like a scary story. I knew they were real but like all bad things, they came to an end. The monsters were defeated and ceased to exist. In my mind, there was no more racism or antisemitism and everyone lived in peaceful harmony and equal opportunity no matter their skin color or religion.

But here in the real world, it feels like there’s been a surge of antisemitism around the world. The villains are now Neo-Nazis and they are recalling a time that we must never let happen again. The Holocaust, which ended the lives of almost 6 million Jews and other innocents, is a dark stain in history that we will never forget. In accordance with the Hebrew calendar, we remeHolocaustholocaust and all those who survived such terror.

Here are a few things you can do for Yom Hashoah (Remembrance Day), to not only make an impact today but to keep remembering and fighting against hate and persecution.

1. Take part in the Mourner’s Kaddish

[Image Desciption: A photo of a woman praying near a window.] Via Unsplash
The Mourner’s Kaddish is a series of Jewish prayers that honor the dead and is extremely important in regards to the holocaust. It’s been translated into English from Aramaic and anyone can recite it or visit a synagogue to join in the prayers. This act is not only respectful of victims and survivors but shows religious tolerance that Jews often aren’t afforded in comparison to Christianity.

2. Experience history through museums

[Image Description: A photo of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.] Via the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
This is as good a day as any to visit a Holocaust museum to hear the stories of what victims endured. If you are unable to visit a museum today, still make sure you take a moment and reflect. Also, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has online interactive activities that you can read through and take part in. They include things like understanding propaganda and the dangers that come with silence and compliance, which translate well into issues we see today.

3. Engage with unproblematic media

[Image Description: A photo of books in a library.] Via Unsplash
If you’re not a museum person, there are many movies and books out there that will teach you so much.

My favorite books include:

  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak that highlights the book burning that occurred in Germany during WWII through the eyes of the dead.
  • The Boy Who Dared by Susan Bartoletti is based on the true story of Helmut Hubener the youngest person sentenced to death by the Nazis. He shared anti-Nazi material after discovering the lies told by Germany while listening to forbidden radio broadcasts.
  • Schindler’s List where a Nazi is forced to face the reality of WWII and begins to rebel and save Jewish lives.
  • The Boy in the Striped Pajamas tells the story of forbidden friendship between a German boy and a boy in a concentration camp and exemplifies the innocence often forgotten in war.
  • Fiddler on the Roof  follows the life of a poor Jewish man and his life as antisemitism threatens everything he holds dear.

4. Tikkun Olam

Image result for holocaust memorials
[Image Description: A photo of a Holocaust Memorial in California, U.S.] Via San Francisco City Guides
Also known as “fix the world,” and seen as a loose translation to social justice. In Judaism, it’s seen as God’s direction to help those in need. Religious persecution and genocides are still currently happening around the world and it’s important to be aware of them.

The Darfur genocide occurring in Sudan against the non-Arab population is horrific and violent. There’s also the Rohingya genocide in Myanmar, where Muslims are being persecuted for their religion and constantly fleeing for safety to neighboring Bangladesh.

It may seem hopeless and out of your hands but awareness and spreading the word always makes a difference.

5. Remember why we call certain people “neo-Nazis”

[Image Description: A photo of people walking through a memorial for the murdered Jews of Europe, Berlin, Germany.] Via Unsplash
In further conjunction with Tikkun Olam, remember to not exclude anti-semitism in the current conversation. We’ve been so quick to name the alt-right neo-Nazis and call them out on racism, anti-Muslim rhetoric, stupidity and bigotry and while those reasons are accurate and warranted, anti-semitism has frequently been left out the conversation. These people hate Jews and don swastikas on their arms. We have to protect the Jewish as fiercely as we protect our other allies.

The important takeaway is to remember and to learn to see the signs and take a stand before millions die.

We cannot allow history to repeat itself.

Gender & Identity Life

Holi used to be my favorite holiday – until it was ruined for me when I turned 12

Trigger warning: Descriptions of eve-teasing and mentions of harassment.

Holi is a festival of colors. It’s supposed to be a day of celebration and happiness, but instead, it’s been ruined and the meaning has been lost in translation as it increasingly becomes a nightmare for a lot of women.

The Hindu festival originally signifies the end of evil and is supposed to be a day of thanksgiving and good harvest for the pending spring, as well as a festival to rejoice with family and friends. But the way it’s been demonized today, where people use it as an excuse to ignore consent and get away with whatever they want, has completely destroyed the experience for a lot of us.

I was 12 when I last played Holi. 

I’m 21 today and I have no intentions of playing Holi ever again. 

It was that year when a boy my own age started throwing water balloons at me on Holi and would find any and every excuse he could to be able to put color on me. He wasn’t my friend and I categorically told him that I wasn’t comfortable with this, but he didn’t stop. I realized then that people had no respect for my personal space and my boundaries all because “Bura na maano Holi hai!” (Don’t get offended because it’s Holi).

This basically meant that I wasn’t allowed to be uncomfortable if strangers touched me and took advantage of this festival of colors to invade my personal space and forget that consent exists.

And that was the last time I played Holi.

I didn’t realize back then just how badly it had affected me until every following year someone would ask me why I stopped playing Holi after 2009.

I realized more and more, every year, that the festival was no longer associated with fun, happiness, and color for me. When I thought about it, I felt uncomfortable and restless and I instantly wanted to distract myself.

This is the Holi of today. 

And instead of getting better, it gets worse. Women were hit with semen-filled water balloons this year.

To top it off, there have been countless incidents this year alone where women were attacked by hoards of men with water balloons and color and so badly, that it got violent and they were left with injuries on various body parts.

I don’t step out of the house two days in advance every year Holi comes because people don’t know their limits. I don’t intend on putting myself through it again – not even remotely. It’s a risk I’m not willing to take for the sake of my own well-being, especially when I know that these people will get away with it in the name of “fun.”

More often than not, women are forced into celebrating with strangers even when they don’t want to play. Many men take advantage of the tradition of drinking “bhang” (an edible preparation of cannabis consumed on Holi as part of the celebrations) to spike the drink with roofies and other drugs. Women often find themselves being touched inappropriately and being taken advantage of, under the guise of a so-called celebration of colors and happiness.

Holi is a festival that’s supposed to symbolize the end of evil. 

Instead, it perpetuates so much evil all because we live in a society where anything goes if it’s fun – for men, that is. Consent, respect, boundaries, basic human decency – all these things go out the door because it’s Holi.

I probably should be missing it, but in reality, I really don’t.


I’m a loud feminist, but my wedding definitely won’t be

As a little girl, nothing excited me more than the prospect of getting married. I dreamed of puffy wedding gowns, descending roses all over the hall, a grand entrance, and 300 of my closest family and friends.

When we gathered at my grandparents’ house as children, my cousins and I would sometimes hold pretend weddings where everyone would be given a different role each time. I reveled in the thought that someday I wouldn’t have to play pretend anymore and I could have my own grand wedding.

[bctt tweet=”I reveled in the thought that someday I wouldn’t have to play pretend anymore.” username=”wearethetempest”]

However, the more I delved into the world of feminism, the more I questioned my initial idea of how I wanted my wedding to be. I started reading about how weddings are a consumerist show of status and how the very idea of having a “traditional” wedding depends heavily on the engaged couple adhering to heteronormative gender roles.

Some people who throw big wedding parties focus too much on trying to have the most extravagant wedding rather than a celebration of love. In the end, it becomes a showcase of how much money the couple’s families are willing to spend on the wedding.

[bctt tweet=”It becomes a show of how much money the couple’s families are willing to spend.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Some women take on all the planning themselves and only consult their husbands-to-be when it comes time to pay the bill. But weddings are a celebration of two people, so they both should have a say in what happens.

I heard so many people complain about how much money and time they spent planning their weddings only to end up not enjoying it themselves. They wanted to do everything they could to live up to everyone else’s expectations of what a perfect wedding should look like, all the while never considering what they wanted.

Even though I understood the drawbacks of having a “traditional” wedding, I couldn’t help but struggle with wanting to uphold my feminist beliefs and dismiss the urge to conform to society’s expectations.

But if there’s anything I’ve learned from feminism it is that it gives women the right to choose to do what they want.

So even though it goes against a lot of what I believe in, I still hope to have the wedding I wanted as a little girl. I want to be able to celebrate the day I choose to spend the rest of my life with the person I love, and I want everyone to share that fairytale day with us.

I would much rather have a feminist marriage than a feminist wedding. Does it really matter if I opt-out of wearing a dazzling dress if I go on to live with someone who scrutinizes my body? Does it make a difference if I invite 20 or 200 people when my future spouse will end up controlling every relationship I have?

[bctt tweet=”I would much rather have a feminist marriage than a feminist wedding.” username=”wearethetempest”]

I want to be with someone who appreciates my love for celebrations, whether that’s weddings, birthdays, or even random feel-good days. I want someone who supports me and encourages me the way that I would encourage and support them. I want someone who’s willing to put up with all the good and the bad that can come with a marriage.

I want someone who is as feminist as I am, and someone who puts it into effect every day of our lives.

Maybe it will mean I’ll have to take off a few things from my Pinterest wedding board, but as long as I get to live out my princess bride dream, I’m all for it.

Love Wellness

Girls trips with my ladies give me life when I just can’t deal

When I transferred from my first college in Texas to one over 1,000 miles away, I left behind a close group of girlfriends that I was used to seeing on a weekly basis. We ate the shitty dining hall food together, we went out to questionable frat parties together, we studied together. When I moved back to the Midwest I found it difficult to keep in contact on a regular basis; I texted them when I could and we FaceTimed on several occasions, but the reality is, when you live across the country and have a million school-related deadlines, it’s hard to keep up with every single detail of someone else’s life.

Cue my longing to reunite with my friends – and the Central Texas warmth I so desperately missed as I froze my digits off in the never-ending Milwaukee blizzards.

That summer marked the first girls trip I took and the beginning of a tradition my friends and I try to continue: meeting up at least twice a year to celebrate birthdays, New Year’s Eve, and engagements; road trip to different cities; or just to visit and catch up with one another in person. What I’ve learned is that these girls trips are more than just swimming, travelling, shopping, partying, and eating: they are essential to mental and emotional health. They are a way to recharge, unwind, and reduce stress. They also reinforce the strength of women and female relationships.

Every time we get together, there are new life developments to discuss. And every time we see each other, it’s an exit from reality for me. It’s four or five days where I can be honest, loud, and generally enjoy myself away from the pressures of school or work.

Spending time with women I am close with is therapeutic and helps keep me grounded. Girls trips are spaces where I can vent my stress and frustrations and express my concerns about grad school or job prospects. They’re also places where I receive positivity and encouragement.

The fact is that on any given day, my anxiety is high for no apparent reason (yay mental illness!), but these reunions with my friends give me time to relax and re-energize.

Does it seem extravagant to fly across the country to meet up with a group of friends in the age of FaceTime and Skype? To some, yes. But for me, girls trips have been a way for me to escape the stress of finals, the monotonous city of Milwaukee, and family induced anxiety. When I land at the airport and see my friends, we are ecstatic. We pick up where we left off, whether it’s been six months or a year since we’ve all reconvened. There’s no drama.

We fill each other in on our job searches, relationships (or lack of), school projects, and family lives. We get dinner, eat shamelessly, and laugh about our “food babies” later. We dress up, meet friends out, drink way too much, and still get up early the next morning to get breakfast because we only have a limited amount of time together. We go to Galveston’s dirty beach and pretend we’re in Cabo as we watch the dolphins, because at the time, we were too poor to afford anything better (news flash: I’m still too poor). We go ice skating, act like tourists in our own cities, and go on brewery tours. We cry tears of laughter by the end of the trip because we are all too sleep-deprived to function.

Studies show that there are benefits for women who maintain close bonds with one another because these friendships offer judgement-free support, validation, and spaces for women to unabashedly be themselves. Vacationing with your best friends offer similar health boosts. Girls trips offer opportunities to relax, laugh endlessly, and reconnect with friends you don’t get to see often.

Women are strong, and we are strongest when we stand together and support each other. Female friendships are essential to emotional well-being and high self-esteem, and girls trips allow women to capitalize on these important benefits.

Weddings Interviews

Meet the founder disrupting the wedding industry for the greater good – and she’s not going anywhere

At The Tempest, we’re constantly on the lookout to shine the spotlight on up-and-coming women entrepreneurs. When we stumbled upon Black Sheep Bride, we instantly knew that the founder, Danielle Calhoun, has what it takes to inspire us all.

Coming from humble beginnings, Danielle had learned early on that hard work and independence is essential to her success. In 2014, Black Sheep Bride stemmed from a need to challenge the status quo of traditionally overpriced, unsustainable weddings.

Danielle strongly believes that our special day can be an opportunity to give back to the local community and the environment.

Courtesy of Black Sheep Brides

The Tempest: We love your concept of changing the common perception of traditionally expensive weddings to sustainable ones. What inspired you to start Black Sheep Bride?

Danielle Calhoun: Black Sheep Bride came at a time in my life when I was stuck. I owned a successful wedding photography business, but also served and photographed in multiple humanitarian trips. I was tired of living in two separate worlds; looking at phony wedding pictures and couples stressed out about the wine pairings for their plated dinner menus, when there were people starving all over the world.

I wanted to celebrate the change-makers; the couples and vendors using their wedding budgets and businesses to serve others. I was tired of Pinterest-perfect inspiration and was ready for intentional, authentic, selfless love to be celebrated, regardless of the guest list, budget, or appearance. It has been an incredibly tough start-up journey and major labor of love, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

When you first started BSB, how was it received by the local bridal community?

The wedding community was really hit-or-miss with the initial idea. The BSB concept was polarizing depending on the region of the US, to be honest. Being headquartered in Florida wasn’t helpful either because we are last to ‘get’ new trends and there are a lot of traditional southern-esque vendors and wedding couples.

On the flip side of that, when I traveled to more progressive regions like ATL, NY, and California, BSB was well known, respected and followed by many.

Courtesy of Black Sheep Brides

You work individually with each bride to create a sustainable wedding experience. What is the most rewarding experience you’ve had from this endeavor?

Great question. I actually don’t work with the wedding couples at all. We are an online wedding publication and resource center for them. They can find vendors in our BSB Vendor Directory and read helpful tips on planning a charitable wedding. We have met couples that used BSB throughout their wedding planning process and those experiences were the most rewarding to me.

That’s when I felt like I’d succeeded.

Has your concept of social responsibility and giving back stemmed from your childhood?

Sort of. I was raised in a low-income family, but thankfully I had both parents and a very supportive mother who tried to connect me with outside influences, like Girl Scouts. Our family was on both the receiving and giving ends of charity throughout my childhood, so that has increased my awareness. I started working when I was 14 and learned the value of hard work and independence early on. 

When I was 18, I went to South Africa for 3 months, for which I fundraised for the entire trip because my parents couldn’t support my wild dream. That experience widened my worldview and gave me a sense of identity and awareness that I could use if I had the work ethic and creativity to make it happen.

You work with causes like human trafficking, poverty, special needs, etc. Which one is closest to your heart?

Oh, that is a hard question for me. I find a lot of causes close to my heart.  If I had to narrow it down, it would be homelessness, gangs, and human trafficking.

I worked with a local homeless shelter in college and it opened my eyes to how complex it really is, especially for mothers and children. After that, I spent a few years as a youth leader at a small local church, in Tampa, that had heavy gang influence and I learned the ins and outs of gang politics very quickly.

 Human trafficking is what everyone talks about these days and I am grateful to see so much light being shed on exposing this dark, unseen, epidemic. 

What is one piece of advice you’d give women that’ll make them want to be a Black Sheep Bride?

Don’t get caught up in the wedding foo-foo etiquette stuff. You celebrate your love the best way you know how and if that means you skip adding fine china on the registry or having your dog as the ring bearer… YOU DO YOU.

Your wedding is nothing in comparison to what’s ahead, your marriage (aka, the real adventure).

It’s better to start your marriage off with intentionality and compassion than lofty expectations that things have to be ‘just like the magazines’.

So if you want to skip the gifts and register for a charity through SoKind Registry…DO IT. Want a lab created diamond from MiaDonna, instead of risking a conventional, non-ethical, mined diamond… PLEASE DO IT. Or … If you want to elope, cause you think a wedding is wasteful, WE GET THAT TOO. We are with you!

Do you think BSB could potentially change the future of weddings?

I believe that culture as a whole will change the future of weddings and if that means that BSB has influenced even an ounce of that change, I would be honored! I’ve already noticed a drastic difference in the wedding industry over the past three years since we launched, and it’s really encouraging.

The things I pointed out in 2014 are finally being noticed and addressed by the larger wedding masses and it feels good to know. But we are only just beginning.

This interview was edited for length and clarity. You can find out more about Black Sheep Bride on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and on their website.