Jul 5

5 Tips for Engaged Couples

By Regina A. DeMeo, Nationally recognized for her expertise in family law. Ms. DeMeo has been a source for AMC's Good Morning America, she's a lecturer, author and has her own TV show in Maryland.

Summer love is in full swing, especially with some great tunes!  Personally, I am digging Taylor Swift's break up song, as I walk around feeling like I'm "22" and navigating some seriously "Blurred Lines."  Many are probably dancing until the crack of dawn out to "Get Lucky" and looking for that "Ooh-la-la."  But, if you have managed to get past all of this and decided to tie the knot, you are now playing in a whole different ballpark.  You are less focused on which parties to attend and more focused on hosting the biggest event of your life.  Excited yet nervous at the same time, you have some major issues to work out with your significant other.  After 15 years of helping couples with their prenups, and sharing my words of wisdom as a matrimonial lawyer on things to avoid, here are my top 5 tips:

1. Talk about finances - you may not want to do a prenup, but at least have the discussion about (a)what you think should be kept separate, (b) what you consider to be joint, and (c) how you will handle the household budget.  If you are willing to memorialize this in a prenup, even better.  These do not cost a lot of money and buy you a tremendous peace of mind.  In the meantime, if you feel overwhelmed by money talks or find that the two parties have vastly different views on spending vs. saving, go meet with a financial planner.  On a more pratical and immediate level, however, you need to set a realistic wedding and honeymoon budget.  These are not minor or easy discussions, and they often involve other family members, so these can be fairly sensitive discussions-- better to get these out of the way sooner rather than later under incredibly calm (preferrably sober) circumstances. 

2. Premarital counseling - This is totally different from couples counseling that you seek when things are already breaking down-- if you are there, that is NOT a good sign.  What I am talking about is a pro-active effort to get some professional advice on strategies that will enhance your relationship.  Many religious institutions offer courses, and there are some great on-line resources or workshops for couples, just one weekend if you like, where you can have a facilitated dialogue about how you envision your partnership working.  What is important to you in a spouse?  What are that person's needs and desires?  Do you share the same core values and vision for the future?  How can you ensure that you continue to communicate well?  Can you establish some rules for resolving conflict? A quick workbook that you can purchase to help you with these discussions is "Focus on Forever," which is available at www.aaml.org.

3. Learn Your Love Languages - Dr. Chapman wrote an entire book about this, but you also go to his website www.5lovelanguages.com and take a 4 minute quiz to determine your love languages.  Rarely do we pick a partner with the same love language as ours, so you need to learn to use theirs and appreciate when they are expressing love in their own language.  For example, mine is Quality Time- you will know that I love you if I make time for you, and similarly I will know that you love me if you make time for me.  If I am paired up with someone who needs Words of Affirmation, I am going to have to make a serious effort to praise that person.

4. Build Your House - I'm not suggesting you literally go buy a bunch of bricks, but you need to work on your emotional foundation every day.  Don't take each other for granted-- just because you put a ring on someone's finger, does not mean you have purchased them.  Dr. Gottman talks about building on your friendship, which is your foundation, and working through your conflict resolution skills by avoiding the four dark horsemen.  (Get his book: Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work).  With trust and respect as your two pillars, you can slap that roof on top and work on nuturing your dreams and aspirations together.

5. Set Boundaries - Dr. Cloud wrote a great book, "Boundaries in Marriage," which explains the need for us to remain true to ourselves while forming a partnership.  You don't actually become one, you remain two separate individuals that are now overlaping in large areas of your life.  To make this union work, you have to know and respect each other's boundaries.  For example, my work and my son are top priorities in my life, and these are fully my own domain.  If anyone ever tried to undermine either of these two aspects of my life, they would at the speed of light see me bail.  It is okay to have a zero tolerance policy on certain things like drugs, adultery, smoking, anger management issues... the point is that Mr. or Mrs. Right will know how to walk that line.

Not everyone will be able to successfully negotiate all the details of merging two households, and that's totally okay-- better to find out sooner rather than later, trust me on that one!  This is why I would recommend at least a nine-month engagement period, and there really is no better way of knowing someone than when you live with them.  While doing so, pay attention to your feelings, and how others around you perceive the whole situation.  Is everyone around you supportive, or are they expressing concern?  Are you happy, or are you dreading each and every decision that needs to be made?  Don't ignore your gut-- your instincts are there to protect you.  If you need more time to sort things out, someone that loves you will understand and will not try to pressure you.  Don't let anyone rush you or try to guilt you into doing something you are not ready to do- ever. I have talked with a lot of people that have called off engagements-- both on a professional and personal level.  Not a single one has ever regretted that decision.  Meanwhile, over the years I have had to counsel over 1,000 people going through a divorce, and every single one that ignorned the signs has regretted lacking the courage to call it quits before the big day.

The reason it is such a big day is precisely because marriage is not easy-- it is hard work, and you need to take your time to find the right partner that is not just your "ooh la la," but also your rock.  Finding someone to have fun with is rather easy, but when you come across someone you can trust and respect and grow with--now that is a challenge.  You need someone that you can not just build a house with, but a life together-- that requires loyalty, and a commitment to working things out and never taking each other for granted.  Without these sentiments, the ring, the house, the big party are all meaningless.

So, to those of you that have managed to find that meaningful someone, I send you my heartfelt congrats!  I know the journey was not easy, and is probably littered with discarded frogs along the way, but now you are about to close that chapter and start a new life, which is a huge cause for celebration-- just remember my 5 tips and have a blast!

Source: Regina A  DeMeo

Contact Ms. Demeo at 240.261.0559   web site follow this link

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Jan 16

Honeymoon Islands - Best in Luxury Honeymoon Planning

Press Release: Honeymoon Islands, Inc. noticed by brides for being the best of the best in Luxury Honeymoon Planning read more

Honeymoon Planning

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Dec 20

Real Honeymoons - Nick and Jessica venture to St. Barths Luxurious Eden Rock

Eden Rock Hotel St. Barths

Getting to St. Barths is no easy feat but celebrities and luxury travelers young and old will all rave, "IT IS WORTH IT!"  We whole heartedly agreed and hopped the jet to Miami then to St. Marteen, and finally onto a twelve-seater hopper plane over to the small Island of St. Barths.  The plane ride is very exciting and adds to the adventure of getting away.  Upon arrival we were welcomed by the Eden Rock Hotel staff on the sprawling terrace ocean front with views of the luxurious yachts below. We were led to our Garden Cottage where a welcome bottle of champagne and the YUMMIEST sandwiches ever awaited our parched little bodies.  

Ready to jump into the lap of luxury we climbed the stairs to the rock restaurant where we feasted on sushi (our favorite was the crispy rice and tuna).  Jean George's sushi bites are divine when paired with some of their amazing cocktails (their cucumber spritz is beyond imagination). Then it was back to the cottage where our Wedding feet were put to rest and we truly - slept. 

I love the first morning of vacation - waking up in paradise you can't help but smile all day.  I think Nick and my jaws hurt from smiling bliss.  We spent the day at the resort where the beach staff helps you pick out your own VIP seats which will be reserved for you for the week.  We took advantage of the complimentary beach toys and kayaked in the afternoon. There was a beautiful jellyfish show out past the rocks! One of our favorite dinners in St. Barths was at the Hideaway which the locals call Andy's place as the owner Andy, is a wonderful Brittish man who spoils you with good cheap eats.  The truffle pizza is wood fired and tastes like a Parisian delight.  After dinner he brings you vanilla rum that lights up your hearts with warm love. 

The concierge helped us set up an adventure to jetski around the entire island.  We loved every second of that thrilling adventure.  The beauty we saw that day will never be forgotten.  You see all of Gustavia, a spectactular view of Colombe beach where you can often see dolphins!  Towards the end you get a real thrill riding through the locals "washing machine," where you will have to master your jetski skills!  Our guides were French X game competitors who could honestly do tricks and flips on the waves.  It was thrilling!  That night we had our favorite car driver - Sebastian take us to the raved of Bagatelle (there is one in Vegas and LA and we'd always heard this one was the best)!  The restaurant is lined with bottles of Crystal, Dom, and every luxury champagne you've ever dreamt of.  The DJ was the best on the island and we ate and partied with the staff.  We stumbled over to the famous Yacht Club to party after but found it better at Bagatelle.  St. Barths undoubtedly has the best DJ's of any honeymoon location.  If you love house music you will love this!

Each night you come home to the best homemade macaroons on our pillows.  My favorite was the vanilla mocha pictured - deeeeee-light!

Spending the days on the beach gulping down bottles of Rose, Lobster Salads, good books and dreams of our future together was the best time of our lives!!

The island recommends you check out the night life - which is one of the main reasons we went!!  Le Ti is frequented by celebrities like Jack Nicholson, Tom Cruise, and every model in New York and Miami.  This hot spot has live burlesque shows Friday and Saturday.  They provide costumes and wigs for you and we partied hard here.  They let the French bring their pups to this loud scene - which we loved!  Nick made friends with the bunny.

We ventured past Gustavia one day with our new German friends to hike to Lower Colombier Beach which boasts big waves and possible dolphin sitings - not to mention a great lunch promised after at Isle de France!!!  The hike is S-T-U-N-N-I-N-G!!  We enjoyed the pool after lunch and stayed for sunset. 

Our last night we became extremely sentimental about the amazing vacation we were given.  We thanked all there, wrote our names in the sand, and had a romantic "last meal."  We told the staff we wanted Jean George's Ginger Rice to be featured on "THE BEST THING I EVER ATE" on the food network to which they laughed at our American over the top TV.  We loved the lamb and lobster - salivating just looking at it again.  

Back on our flight to Winair we left with full hearts.  Thank you St. Barths and Honeymoon Islands for helping us have the best Honeymoon EVER!!!

PS...I should mention our favorite French Goods!  #1: We adore this romantic and skin quenching oil - it can be bought on the island and is divine.  It will forever smell like St. Barths to me!  Belous P Colombe  #2:  Yacht Wear!  We thought we were most likely to wear these St. Barth's cute sweatshirts and apparel once home in Seattle.  FREE St Barths.

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Oct 17

Keeping Up With Shannon Eileen - Real Honeymoon - Part Four - Turtle Inn

After three days in the jungle, Blancaneaux arranged for us a private transfer to Turtle Inn, Francis Ford Coppola's charming ocean resort in Placencia. Our fourth and final destination. We got settled into our beautifully decorated Balinesisan style cabana and set off to tour the grounds.



That fancy coconut drink? I'd been waiting for one all honeymoon. Hal surprised me with it.

Borrowing Turtle Inn's wheels, we biked into town. Placencia is small, super quaint and 100% authentic. We really dug the non-touristy laid back island vibe. We made it to the crooked dock and bought a few homemade coconut macaroons from Brenda's Caribbean Kitchen. As we left, Brenda shouted after us in her Creole accent, "See you 'round like a donut!" Needless to say, that became our phrase for the rest of the trip.

For dinner, not only was it Indonesian night, it was silent movie night. Score. Our entire table was filled with about 30 small plates of tasty morsels, no kidding. We stuffed ourselves silly while watching Buster Keaton on the big screen.

But this night was far from over. Lucky us, it just happened to be the eve of Belize's Independence Day. The entire village, including the Turtle Inn staff, met at the Barefoot Bar for drinks and dancing. It was pretty awesome seeing the front desk and concierge gals letting loose in normal street clothes. Apparently, we left before the party really started. But we wanted to get back - a storm was brewing overhead...

On the morning on Belize's Independence Day, we woke up the heaviest thunderstorm I've ever experienced. And I live in Seattle, folks. It was thrilling! The rain pounded, the wind roared, and our cabana roof started to leak on my side of the bed. But I didn't even care. I actually watched the storm unfold as I showered. With floor-to-ceiling glass walls, the bathroom looked out to the private patio. It felt like I was outside, but with hot water raining down on me.

After the storm passed, we walked out to the main road to watch the local parade, which pretty much consisted of townsfolk crammed in the back of trucks dancing to music from their boom boxes. Love it. Can you believe that Belize only became an independent nation in 1981?

Afterwards, it was time for our Monkey River wildlife adventure tour. We were so happy to share it with our honeymooner friends, Jeff & Steph.

Meet Terry, our expert guide for the day. He actually grew up in the tiny Monkey River fishing village. We ate a traditional Creole lunch cooked by his mother, while his pops was sound asleep on the porch rocking chair.

It was such a beautiful ride.

After some quality river time, we parked the boat to explore the jungle.

At last, we came upon a family of howler monkeys high in the trees. We heard them from the moment we entered the jungle. They make the most frightening sounds imaginable, similar to the smoke monster from LOST, or dying beasts with breathing problems. If I heard this sound without knowing what it was, I would have ran for my life.

On our way home, we hung out for a bit in shallow waters to try and spot a manatee. And we actually saw a few! Every once in awhile, they'd surface to breathe. Terry has eyes like a hawk. Another day, another incredible tour in Belize. And tomorrow... possibly our favorite one yet.

Guess what we did on our last full day in Belize? As you can see from our extra awesome outfits, yep. That's right. SCUBA!! We upgraded our packaged snorkel tour to an intro dive. We've been dying to learn how. Especially Hal, who could spend all day every day in an underwater aquarium.

We took a speed boat to Laughingbird Caye, the southern most island in the central lagoon of the Belize Barrier Reef. It's one of the world's greatest scuba destinations. We were down for 45 minutes on our first dive! We saw schools of fish and critters in conch shells and a barracuda. After lunch, we went down again. Via boat back flip! (That took some convincing). This time, reaching 70 feet when we're only supposed to go 40. We saw a lobster and a humongous ray.

Sadly, we have no underwater photos of the brilliant things we saw on the bottom of the sea. Just our memories. But we surfaced with ear to ear grins. We're officially hooked and would love to get certified. Do any of you scuba?

Once we got back to Turtle Inn, we took advantage of the complimentary massages for honeymooners. We've decided that here on out, all future trips will be honeymoons. Shhh, no one needs to know.

We hit up the oceanfront bar for pre-dinner drinks and toasted to our final evening with mini Sofia champagne.

After a farewell breakfast with friends, we packed our bags and left for the airport. But in order for us to get there, we had to fly a tiny plane from a tiny airport. Just us and the pilot. Hal even got to sit up front! This was an adventure in itself. It was the perfect way to end a trip of a lifetime.  From the little plane, we boarded the big plane. And 3 hours, a layover, and another 5 hours later, we were home.

 Keeping up with Shannon Eileen - Real Honeymoon - Part One - Viceroy

Keeping up with Shannon Eileen - Real Honeymoon - Part Two - Coqui Coqui

Keeping up with Shannon Eileen - Real Honeymoon - Part Three - Blancaneaux

We hop you enjoyed reading about Shannon & Hal's honeymoon adventure to Mexico & Belize. This concludes a four part Shannon Eileen - Real Honeymoon series. Follow Shannon Eileen's blog

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Oct 14

Keeping Up With Shannon Eileen - Real Honeymoon - Part Three - Blanacaneux

One 5-hour car ride, two tortes, a relatively painless border crossing, roadside dried plantains, a van switch, and 2-hours of bumpy off-road drive, we reached our first destination in Belize: Blancaneaux Lodge, a 20-room luxury eco-resort near San Ignacio, deep in the Maya Mountains. Francis Ford Coppola bought it while abandoned in the early 80's, fixed it up, turned it into a personal family retreat, and then opened it for public in 1993.

We were greeted by friendly faces and received a complimentary upgrade to the riverfront honeymoon suite! Complete with a heart-shaped lawn. The cabana itself was relatively small, but it felt very cozy. We could pick coconuts from our deck. Exhausted from our early morning drive, we watched a fascinating educational presentation on the elusive jaguar (nerds!), devoured a homegrown meal at their Guatemalan restaurant, and hit the sack.

The next morning, we sipped our coffee and tea from our deck. For breakfast, they served fruit, fresh squeezed juice and a basket of fry jacks. What are fry jack, you ask? They taste like a donut. Deep fried doughy goodness.

We were dying to explore the grounds by horseback before our scheduled tour later that afternoon, but we were short on time. So we set off on foot, discovering acres upon acres of pine jungle, rivers and streams, fruit and nut orchards, organic gardens, and pristine natural beauty. Blancaneax is truly a magical place.

Our local guide, Jorge, met us in the lobby to take us on our tour to Barton Creek Cave. During the 45-minute bumpy jeep ride, rain came down in sheets. This made for an adventurous drive. But thankfully it let up as soon as we arrived. Jorge stopped the car, pulled down an overhanging branch, and picked a few berries for us to taste. The leaves smelled so familiar, yet I couldn't place what it was. As we nibbled into them, the tips of our tongues became numb! They were from an Allspice tree.

Jorge told us that the cave was a spiritual place for the ancient Mayans, used mostly for ceremonies and sacrifices. It was the gateway to the underworld. If a water droplet fell from a stalactite upon your head, it was considered a blessing. At one point, the stalactites hung so low that we had to stop. Jorge said this is where he usually turns around, but since he liked us, he let us bend down to go a little further. And bend down we did. Our heads were between our knees. Not for the claustrophobic!

We slowly made our way back toward the entrance. It started with a tiny speck of light. It grew and grew until I could no longer tell what was moving, us or the light. It was breathtaking. So beautiful, I was moved to tears.

We climbed back into the jeep and bounced our way back to Blancaneaux in the pouring rain. That was by far one of the coolest things we've ever done.

The next day, we had a tour to Caracol, the most extensive Mayan site in Belize. The adventure began with a brief visit to Rio Frio Cave, the largest cave system in Central America with a massive 65-foot entrance.

And then, the main attraction. Geronimo was our knowledgeable guide. He informed us that Caracol took 600 years to build and was only recently discovered in 1936 by lumberjacks. Situated 1600 feet above sea level with no body of water nearby, it remains a mystery how more than 150,000 people were able to survive there.

Finally we get to the top.

And then Geronimo (our guide) picked up a tarantula!

It was a scorcher of a day, so on our way home, we stopped by Rio On Pools, to swim and cool off. On September 20-21, a few days after we left Caracol, they held a huge Equinox celebration with a traditional fire ceremony performed by a native Maya shaman. 100 people gathered there to camp overnight underneath the stars and watch the rising sun over the temples. We were kicking ourselves for leaving too early. How amazing would that have been?

To be continued…

Keeping up with Shannon Eileen - Real Honeymoon - Part One - Viceroy

Keeping up with Shannon Eileen - Real Honeymoon - Part Two - Coqui Coqui

Keeping up with Shannon Eileen - Real Honeymoon - Part Four - Turtle Inn

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