5 Ps of Practical Marriage Prepping


NOT A FUN FACT: Every year, around 5 of my booked couples call off their weddings. That’s AFTER the’ve paid their suppliers, shared their cute proposals, and invited their friends and families to a date that will now be forever cursed in their memories. 

As much as i’m tickled by the thought of being paid to not work, I would much rather bring that statistic down to zero. So I prepared a 5-point checklist for couples who might be thinking of tying the knot. 


PURSUE EACH OTHER, because if you can’t choose each other now, you won’t choose each other later. Choose to be together and gradually steer your lives toward each other. Marriage is a partnership and partnerships are about getting there together. If you can’t imagine giving up aspects of your present life (or your past relationships, hangups, and even dreams) to build a future life with your partner, you’re bound to have feelings of regret or resentment. 

PINPOINT WHERE YOU ARE HEADED personally and professionally. You don’t need to have already “made it”, but have you at least started taking steps in the right direction? Are you moving forward or stuck in a rut? Are you wandering the woods aimlessly? Pinpoint where you and your partner will likely be one, three, and five years from now. If you don’t like where either of you are going, change course and commit to those changes together.  

PRUNE YOUR EXCESSES, because your time is limited and you can’t do everything you want to do, so choose what is beneficial and brings true and lasting joy that you can share with your partner. Do you have any goals that aren’t in line with your marriage plans? Do you have hobbies, vices, friends, or habits that hamstring you and are keeping you from being a productive life partner? Get rid of them, or ditch the idea of marriage for now. If you are too attached to unproductive habits or destructive people, marriage is a bad idea. 

PREPARE FINANCIALLY, because love is not enough and your parents shouldn’t pay your bills. Have realistic straightforward no BS answers to important questions. Where will you live? Is your income enough to maintain the lifestyles you are used to? What kind of adjustments do you need to make? You can’t wait forever for things to be perfect but you can do your best to be prepared. If you are unprepared to live life completely cut off from your parents’ financial umbilical cord, marriage will only highlight your lack of readiness. 

PLAN FOR THE WEDDING YOU CAN AFFORD. Yes, start talking about it even before an actual proposal. Make sure your expectations (from yourself and from your partner) are fully in line with your actual financial picture. As much as possible, don’t expect anyone else to foot the bill for your wedding. If you can’t afford the wedding of your dreams, then STOP LOOKING AT OTHER PEOPLE’S WEDDINGS. It’s not a competition, and the people who matter won’t judge you. Ground yourself in reality and manage your expectations, then consider what’s really important for you. A wedding is two people, a minister, and witnesses—everything else is gravy. 

Once you’ve done these 5 things, you’ll be ready as you’ll ever be for marriage. Remember that both you and your partner are imperfect, often selfish people, who have chosen to work together in spite of your differences to make something good in this world. Focus on preparing for a marriage that works, treat your wedding day as the least of your worries, and your best days will always be ahead of you. 

This might be the coolest beach wedding ever

 Let’s welcome beach wedding season with the BEST piece of marriage advice, as seen in this one-of-a-kind wedding


File this under “BAD marriage advice”: learn how to compromise.

When people talk about compromise, they’re actually talking about avoiding conflict. But married life is overflowing with conflict! To compromise implies leaving conflicts unresolved, giving up on finding the best way forward, just so we can move forward.

Big mistake.

I would go so far as to say that married people should learn how to be uncompromising instead.

And if you want to learn more about how to be uncompromising, try shopping for swimwear online. File THAT under “segues you never saw coming.”

…6 modest swimwear brands that don’t compromise style…

…exudes sexiness, without compromising comfort…

…doesn’t compromise fit and coverage…

Chaley had fun with this summery spin on the bridal prep shoot

Chaley had fun with this summery spin on the bridal prep shoot

No, really. Google swimwear and compromise and you’ll see that swimwear designers are, as a rule, uncompromising AF. That should come as no surprise, since they work with such minuscule amounts of material. Every detail, every millimeter, every ounce counts. Conflicting priorities abound. Sexy versus safe, playful versus comfortable, fashion versus self-expression. A great designer doesn’t choose between the extremes, but brings out the best of all of them.

For Chaley, founder and designer of immensely popular local brand Cesa Swimwear, her wedding was a masterclass on how to be uncompromising. She and her now-husband Evan knew exactly what they wanted: a wedding by the beach, surrounded by a small group of friends and family, dancing and partying all night. They had a clear vision, and there was no way they were going to water it down.

Even her bridesmaids were on board with their beach wdding vision!

Even her bridesmaids were on board with their beach wdding vision!

Except their wedding was on a Sunday night, so a crazy afterparty seemed doubtful. Oh, and there was no way they could just have an intimate wedding because all their kin and even friends of their parents would be coming (this one, you can file under “stereotypes about Filipino-Chinese weddings that are often on point”). Also, there was absolutely no way they could get married at a beach with such a huge guestlist.

Vision versus tradition, fantasy versus reality. For Evan and Chaley, the choice was clear. Working with uncompromisingly visionary wedding planner La Belle Fete, they developed a “beach in the city” concept that transformed a posh hotel ballroom to a seaside getaway. Event stylist Dave Sandoval applied his signature style to tropical plants and cyan hues, giving the decor a lush and laid-back feel. LX Events Pro kept the house lights dim, with a pool of light at the center to keep everyone’s attention on the couple (Evan and Chaley knew all about the importance of lighting for effect: on one of their prenup shoots, they used a combination of large format film and vintage stage lights to achieve an authentic 1950s Hollywood look). The lighting, combined with a surround-sound setup, made the event feel a lot more intimate. Strategic use of fireworks and visuals of lapping waves made it feel just like a real beach wedding, and we kept the vibe up all night.

This fresh yet elegant beach formal setup by Dave Sandoval was just perfect, and the visuals of lapping waves took it a notch higher! 

This fresh yet elegant beach formal setup by Dave Sandoval was just perfect, and the visuals of lapping waves took it a notch higher! 

As for the crazy afterparty, let’s just say it started with a lot of messy kissing and ended well past midnight. I’d tell you more about it but I suppose “what happens at the beach, stays at the beach”.

What we ended up with was no half-measure, no compromise. It was no less than the wedding of their dreams.

Chaley told us about how, when Cesa were just starting out, Evan would visit her at bazaars. Little gestures. Checking up on her, bringing her food, helping with customers. Only he didn’t get to help with customers much because in those days, there were hardly any. Sometimes they would pack up for the day without having sold anything at all. Against the odds, she stuck with it, and they to each other. She, uncompromisingly driven. He, uncompromisingly devoted. Cesa’s following grew, and so did their love for each other.


That’s the thing about not compromising. You’ll have to fight for what you want. You’ll make sacrifices, lose sleep, and work hard. It’s a small price to pay to make your dreams come true, and it’s a small price to pay to make a marriage work.

What’s In My Camera Bag

Our next trip starts in just a few days and we can’t wait! Here’s a rundown of what’s inside my camera bag, all packed up and ready to go.


I’ve had this camera body ever since Hope was a newborn and it continues to be a joy to use. The best thing I can say about it is that it’s an excellent tool. If you know what you’re doing, it gets out of the way and lets you do your thing; in this case, making images of the best times and the best people of your life. When traveling with family, I use it mainly for portraits and street photography.

An early photo I took with my beloved X-T10. Literally thousands of shots ago.  

An early photo I took with my beloved X-T10. Literally thousands of shots ago.  


For me, I want a little bit of distance when shooting with my camera. I want to be able to compose a shot that captures the scene (and the feeling!) the way I remember it. I use the iPhone for every other situation: when I’m in the thick of things, unable to take a second to think about composition and exposure. I also don’t like using my camera to take videos, so that job goes to my phone. Always remember that the best camera is the one you have with you. In a pinch, even your phone can produce breathtaking images. Here are a couple of examples, both taken at work when I didn’t have my kit. No camera, no problem. 


I love this lens. I’ve used it for everything: landscapes, astrophotography, pseudo-macro, portraits, and street. The field of view is a good representation of what a human eye sees, so depending on how close you are to the subject you can use it to make a variety of compositions. For vacation photography, it’s best for taking pictures of the places you visit and of your loved ones with some context in the background. Here are some of my favorite shots with this lens. 


I love taking pictures of my wife and daughter when we travel.  Whenever I find a good spot with interesting light and we have a few minutes to spare, I ask them to go through a couple of angles and poses while I click happily away. Sometimes these moments just happen and I manage to steal a candid shot or two. This lens excels at separating the subject from the background, drawing the eye toward them and sometimes even “inside” them, to what they’re feeling or thinking at the time. This is especially useful when you’re in a place that’s crowded or not particularly pretty, as the background becomes a beautiful blur of colored light (again, if you know what you’re doing). Here are a few samples. Yes, you can shoot tight landscapes with it, too!


1. Spare batteries and a charger

2. 64gb UHS-1 SD card

3. Neck strap

4. ND Filter

5. Lens wipes

At the end of the day, these are all just tools. For any photographer, from a professional to a “daddy-tographer” like myself, this is what’s truly important: train your eyes to see, develop your own unique voice, and learn the skills to bridge the gap between what you see in your mind and what you say with your pictures. 

Happy shooting! 

Snack your way to a wedding-ready body

You know that a lot of what we eat isn’t the best choice, but you end up choosing it anyway. I think this is mostly out of habit. Decades of living at your parents’ house have ingrained in you a habit of buying and eating the wrong kind of food.  It’s going to take a conscious effort, but now is the best time to make the right choices. You need to harness the power of habit and genuinely enjoy healthier food so it becomes part of your new day-to-day.