Thursday, May 15, 2014

On my first blog post

Helene in Between

I'm doing a blog link up! The theme is firsts (#firstsTOTALSOCIAL) and I thought I would share my initial blog post from nearly 4 years ago. From when I'd decided to move to Germany for "die große Liebe" (the great love!). Yep, I'm one of those expats who moved countries for love. Career wise it also wasn't a bad move for me luckily considering I was unemployed after coming back from travelling (one year in Australia). In the post I talk a little about our background story, how we got back together again despite breaking up a few years earlier when the long distance got too much.

Initially I thought I would move to Germany for awhile and just see how it goes, I wasn't thinking totally long term. It was a difficult year with a lot of ups and downs. After the initial "honeymoon phase" with the country passed I struggled for several months (also known as culture shock). I had a long commute, working in a foreign language was exhausting and life as an expat took some getting used to! I also lost my "suppose base"- family and friends from home. I had the GerMann of course which was great but I've always been very independent and didn't want to rely on him completely so I knew I also had a make a life for myself so I set about going to meetups and trying to make friends anyway possible (even if it meant arranging to meet total strangers off the internet!). And gradually I built up my friend group, improved my German and created a life for myself here.

Four years later and I'm glad I decided to take the leap of faith and make the move to Germany. The GerMann and I are happy newlyweds, I have a great job, circle of friends and despite occasional homesickness, I feel settled and happy and don't regret leaving Ireland 4 years ago!

You can read my first blog post here: Deciding to make the move

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Things I learned from planning my wedding (in Dublin from Germany)

I've been meaning to write this post for awhile now to share some tips and advice I have from planning my wedding last year.

Firstly you should relax and enjoy the initial engagement phase for a few weeks, it's a fun time before you start thinking about the big task ahead of you and getting stressed!

1)Try to book the venue, band and photographer as soon as you can. These all get booked out the quickest! We were very disappointed that we didn't get our first choice of wedding band. I had emailed them to confirm they are free on our date but then we spent about a week thinking it over and when I wrote to them to actually book them, they had been booked by another couple in the meantime! So try to get these big things sorted first.

2) If people offer and are wiling to help, use their talents. When your friends offer to help then accept it, wedding planning is a big job so any help to share the work load is great! Think about what they are good at and ask them to help with a related task. For instance, I had a very creative friend who was great at graphic design who made wonderful table names for each table - each table I named after a place in Germany we had visited and she created table plans with photos of us visiting those places. Do as much as you can over email if you are living abroad and get your team of helpers on the ground to takeover some of the tasks for you since you can't possibly fly over for everything. I was very lucky that I had my family and bridesmaids helping out in Dublin, especially because I couldn't be there for everything. Pinterest is also a fun way to figure out your wedding vision and share photo and ideas with your bridesmaids.

3) Allow plenty of time for the invitations. Especially so people have a chance to book flights and plan ahead. We had a lot of guests flying over to the wedding from all over the world; Germany, the UK, Belgium, even Australia. I think we sent the invites out 6 weeks before the wedding but I should have sent them out ideally at least 8 weeks beforehand. And just start earlier than you might think. It easily takes several weeks between choosing your invite style, settling on the wording, proof reading, waiting for the invites to arrive, collecting everyone's address, and then writing and posting them.

4) Give your bridesmaids some guidelines on what sort of hen party you would like but otherwise leave it to them. The bride has so much to organize which means it's great when your bridesmaids or friends organize your hen party (or in my case parties) so that you have one less thing to worry about. Just give them an idea of what sort of party you'd like and what you'd hate! In my case I requested nothing too embarrassing! I also said that since I don't get to see my Irish friends very often I'd like to have a chance to chat and catch up with everyone- and being in a loud nightclub for instance wouldn't have worked.

5) Ask your married friends for advice - which suppliers did they use and who would they recommend, what tips can they share and so on? When you go to other people's weddings think about what works well, what you liked and what isn't your style. You loved the band? Then get their details from the couple. Close friends will also tell you about how much they paid for certain things which also helps give you an idea of what is good value.

6) Don't stress about all your guest having a good time. I was worried about the German guests mingling with the Irish and whether people would enjoy the wedding until several friends told me to just focus on enjoying the day myself and everyone can look after themselves. And they were right, in the end all the guests mixed without needing any introductions from me an it was a brilliant day.

7) Plan which photos you would like in advance and tell photographer. It's a good idea to give your photographer a list of your must have pictures. For instance if you would like a photo of different relations or one of just you and your bridesmaids. If you can get photos of yourself at the reception with some of the wedding guests it is lovely and a nice keepsake to send the guests a print later with the thank you notes. I didn't make it around to everyone unfortunately, and wish I had! I only managed to get photos with a few people.

8) Negotiate where possible and have a budget. Have an overall budget to keep track of the costs. We used an excel sheet and also had a column for who had been paid in advance and who needed to be paid on the day. Of course weddings are expensive and you won't be able to have everything you want so work out what's important to you. For instance we didn't hire a videographer so we had more money to spend on drinks for the guests. And in the end my cousin did a lovely video for us! There are some things you can negotiate somewhat such as the venue so it's definitely worth doing, or trying at least! Or if you use someone you know sometimes you can get a "friend discount". Every little helps!

9) Don't forget the groom. Haha! Get him involved and helping out with the areas important to him. I asked the GerMann early on which things in the wedding mattered to him the most. For him it was the food and music. So he researched possible bands, planned the playlist and had a lot of say in the menu. He was also in charge of the groomsmen, what they wore etc. I was able to choose other things that mattered more to me without interference, such as the bridesmaids dresses, what the wedding cake should look like and the flowers.

10) Importance of hair and make up trial. It's worth having an idea of what sort of hairstyle and make up look you would like and then bringing pictures with you to the trial. Sometimes something you think would suit you might actually not suit you at all which is also why it's great to have the trial! I tried out a hairstyle like the one on the left but I realised that it didn't really suit my face shape and looked too harsh. So in the end I went for a softer style with a side parting more like the picture on the right which suited my face shape more. If I hadn't have tried out various styles beforehand than I wouldn't have known what was right for me.

I also started getting facials regularly about 6 months before the wedding, increasing my water intake and making sure to always remove my makeup at night and these little things made a difference. You want to be looking and feeling your best on your wedding day- there will be a lot of photos!

11) Have the wedding you want. It's important to have the wedding that is right for you both as a couple and not to feel pressurised into having a wedding that you aren't comfortable with. This is important to bear in mind when choosing venue and guest number. For us we wanted to have a relatively small and intimate wedding so we only had 80 guests which was perfect as we got to speak to everyone at least once!

12) Start getting ready really early on the day. When your makeup artist and hair stylist tell you what time you should start getting ready at, it will probably seem very early but they know best! In my case I wish we had even had our appointment 15 minutes earlier as it ended up going over time which threw everything else off! I had imagined that in the house I would have had plenty of time to eat something, take photos and have chats with my bridesmaids but in the end it felt very rushed!

And finally have fun on the day!

Everyone says that the day itself flies by and to try to take it all in and enjoy it and they are right- it's a wonderful day, so take a second to enjoy it! Try to find some time where it's just you too. One of my favourite moments from the day was in the car after the church ceremony drinking champagne and having a chat with my new husband before we arrived at the wedding venue.

There are also some more tips here: planning a wedding in Ireland from abroad

Did I forget anything?

Saturday, May 10, 2014

On changing my name after marriage

Well I've finally done it. It's official. I'm now Frau GerMann. As far as Germany is concerned the old me doesn't exist anymore. It took me ages to get around to it but it actually wasn't that difficult. It involved a trip to the local Bürgerbüro with the GerMann in tow and our paperwork- passport for both of us and marriage certificate. I also brought my birth cert but it wasn't needed in the end.

I've had awhile to get used to the name change as I changed it on facebook once we got back from the honeymoon and also at work so I didn't feel anxious about it until a brief second of panic when the lady told me I can never ever revert to my old name again unless through death or divorce. The two scary "D"s! However if I wish to change my name to a double barrel name at a later stage I can still do that. She also told me to sign the form using my maiden name for the very last time! The GerMann also had to sign, that he agreed to me taking his name. Or something like that. So then we walked out, me a new person! Now I just have to get used to saying the new name and signing it.

I should mention I thought long and hard about whether to take on my husband's name. To me my name is part of my identity and it's a little scary and strange to lose that. My whole life I've been known a certain way and belonged clearly to my family and taking on your husband's name also seems a little old fashioned. While I was thinking over the decision I even googled pros and cons! It didn't help that the GerMann said he didn't mind whether I took his name or not.

In the end though I decided to change my name for several reasons. The majority of my recently married friends changed their names, it's still the done thing these days. For our future kids I would like us all to have the same name, it's nice and shows unity. Also it's a German sounding name and I live in Germany- maybe it will also help me feel like I belong here more. And basically I couldn't think of any really good reason not to change!

How about you, would you change your name after marriage or have you already done so?

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Dublin Easter break

Over Easter the GerMann and I went to Dublin for a week's trip. As usual I had a great time catching up with friends and spending time with my family. Homesickness always hits me strongly just after returning to Germany after trips back though - I tend to find the first few days settling into my German life again difficult. I asked some of my other expat friends about it and they all feel exactly the same. Wonder if it'll ever get easier! It's crazy to think I'll be living here 4 years this July. Doesn't really feel that long!

The one thing I do try to remind myself when bad homesickness hits is that visiting Dublin for a week's holiday is still a lot different to living there. Of course it's lovely checking out new restaurants with friends or relaxing with my family, or going on trips and not having to work or get up early - you are on the total holiday vibe. So you are seeing things through rose-tinted spectacles and in their best light basically. We were also incredibly lucky with the weather that week, it was perfect and sunny nearly every day. During the trip we were out and about most of the time. Some of the highlights: dinner in Gallagher's Bistro followed by drinks in The Long Stone pub, another night cocktails and dancing in Dakota, afternoon tea & cake in the Mellow Fig, a relaxed evening in Il Baccaro Temple Bar, walking Kiliney hill on a beautiful sunny day, scones in the Royal Marine hotel and a long liquid lunch at La Planca.

I'm really hoping this will be the year that more friends from home will visit us as I would love to show them around and go on trips here! Every time I met up with someone I emphasised that they are welcome to visit, that we have plenty of room in our apartment and that it's really lovely here in the Summertime with lots of fun things to do (beautiful lakes to swim in, beer gardens for the long warm evenings, visiting medieval castles...) and it normally stays nice well into October which is also a great time (Oktoberfest, wine tasting, cycle trips..). Everyone I mentioned it to seemed keen to visit and two friends have already started looking up flights and asking about possibly dates. My family are also planning to visit us this year. Can't wait! Had great laughs with my sister when we bought bought Dirnls and wore them to the Oktoberfest last year! The GerMann refused to wear lederhosen but maybe this time we can convince him!