Fifty Shades of Lies

February 11, 2015

I was a believer of lies.  I believed in what society and the media told me about love and marriage and then on Sunday I would raise my hands in church and sing to a God I didn’t really know, but thought I did, all while counting down the hours until Monday when The Bachelor would be on TV and I could check out of the reality of my own life for a few hours.  I believed I was entitled to a happy marriage and regular doses of butterflies because if happiness and butterflies didn’t exist daily then something must be wrong with my marriage.  I believed in Olivia Pope and Fitz and so rooted for them because true love should win (despite adultery).  I believed in Kim Kardashian.  I believed in Oprah (and really really really wanted to be just like her).  I believed in Fifty Shades of Grey.

I remember when Fifty Shades of Grey came out.  It was 2011 and I was unhappily married.  I was pretending to have everything together for the sake of my professional reputation, relationships, and my sanity – but my personal life was unraveling.  Instead of turning to truth I indulged in lies because it felt better.  Scandal and Revenge and Keeping Up and Super Soul Sunday and Fifty Shades and other crap I read/music I listened to/people I spent time with all distracted me from reality and truth and God.  I became obsessed with my work.  Planning weddings while hating marriage.  The irony.  But since I had apparently already missed the mark on getting the whole happily-ever-after marriage thing right I may as well enjoy the beautiful or messed up stories of others – whether they were true or false – regardless of how they polluted my heart and soul.

So when Fifty Shades came out and everyone jumped on that bandwagon, curiosity and FOMO (fear of missing out) took over and I delightfully secured my spot with so many other women in this country.  A new shiny distraction!  A gorgeous rich man, a unknowingly beautiful yet needy, mousy woman, S&M, “love”.  The makings of a beautiful relationship.  I devoured it.  I wish I could have a rich gorgeous man pay attention to me….well, without the abuse….but if he were rich and gorgeous maybe that would be okay as long as it wasn’t too hurtful or weird.  And she does kinda save him.  Teaches him to love.  Maybe they eventually find Jesus. Seriously.  Those were my thoughts.  Talk about delusional.  I believed the lie because my soul was hungry for what I think all our souls are hungry for: to be seen as precious, cherished, intimately known, understood and loved; but I was feeding it the wrong thing.  And when my husband seemed to fall short I filled myself with lies in hopes it would fill the void only to find it left it gaping wider and hungrier than before.  This went on for years. Years.

Then I met Jesus – truly met Jesus – and everything changed.

Women, what are we doing?  What are we supporting?  Even if you aren’t a Christian – you are a WOMAN.  Is it because Anastasia chooses by her own free will to be objectified that it makes it okay?  Is that what we tell ourselves to justify it?  Are we not made to be more than a man’s perverted play thing? I get that we think it’s just a harmless fictional book series and the movie is equally as harmless – I used to think the exact same thing – but don’t be deceived.  Don’t let the subtlety of it all fool you like it did me. Because each little thing I took in over and over and over again, that didn’t seem like a big deal at the time, slowly changed my belief system, my self view, my world view, my views on God, how I viewed my husband and our marriage.

While planning beautiful weddings is what I do, cultivating a beautiful marriage is what really matters to me.  When I sat in church this past Sunday and our Pastor asked if we knew the name of the main character of Fifty Shades of Grey, I heard more voices say, “Christian” than I heard say, “Amen” after the prayer only moments before.  I was so shaken because I realized not only my own deliberate hypocrisy but that of so many sitting with me.  In church.  WHO ARE WE?!  Why do we buy into these lies and follow the world down that wide path we’re warned against?  I’ve been married for twelve years to a truly amazing man and most of my marriage has been hard because of the lies I believed. If I can help one woman see what took me over a decade to see (apparently I am an extremely slow learner), then bearing this piece of myself is worth it. Here are the three main lies I used to believe:

LIE ONE – TV, Social Media, Music and Literature Don’t Really Influence Me
I remember my parents not letting me watch The Simpsons because they thought it was a bad influence and I thought they were ridiculous.  Turns out they were on to something.  Just because everyone else is watching it, reading it, listening to it does not mean that I should.  Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it (Proverbs 4:23).  I think the negative effect of media on us has two parts:
1) Fear of missing out and/or fear of dealing with our own junk.  If we are constantly exposing ourselves to trash to make ourselves feel better (total lie) or to keep up with the office talk or what the mom’s at the park are talking about, trash is what will flow out of us.  Why do we consume garbage to begin with?  For me, it was because it made me feel better about my own junk, it provided me a brief distraction from my own junk, and it gave me something else to discuss other than my own junk.  Did any of it make me more compassionate, loving, honest or selfless?  No.
2) Making comparisons based on what we see online, on TV, read, etc.  Nothing makes me more discontented that when I am consuming too much media. Suddenly my house isn’t big enough, I’m not skinny enough, my kids aren’t smart enough, my husband isn’t good enough, my friends don’t care enough.  Limiting my media time and increasing my TRUTH time (spending time in the Word) is the only way to combat this lie.

LIE TWO – It’s Okay To Call Myself A Christian While Supporting Things That Are Not Christlike
Oh this lie.  This lie got me for a long time.  I called myself a Christian while not thinking or living at all like Jesus, but with the justification that since I believed in God that was good enough.  You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God.  Good for you!  Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. (James 2:19)  I was the epitome of lukewarm.  I believed in God, I served in church, I lead others and still I maintained I could embrace things the world embraced and call it “harmless entertainment”. Friends, if we wouldn’t want others (Christians or otherwise) to know what we’re watching, reading or listening to then we shouldn’t be consuming it at all.  If you call yourself a Christian yet you support ungodly things by spreading its message and sharing it on social media, stop.  Examine what you support and why you support it and make a decision.  We all have an audience – people who pay attention, online and off  to what we do and say.  Consider your influence on others and the message you are sending.

LIE THREE – The Main Objective of Marriage Is To Make Me Feel Happy
I believed this lie with all my heart and it came from a place of total selfishness.  I didn’t understand marriage because I didn’t understand God.  The less I understood God, the less I understood marriage and the less happy I consequently felt.  I embarked on a long exhausting journey to find true happiness and it left me feeling more empty and depleted than anything else.  When I finally surrendered my life to God, opened my Bible, and began to pray real prayers, I found what had always been right in front of me: the love of Jesus.  True happiness.  If you and your husband both call yourself Christians but your marriage isn’t happy, you don’t have a marriage problem, you have a God problem.  That was our problem.  Once I realized how self-centered I was and decided to truly give my life to God everything began to change.  Mark and I got real honest and I realized that my husband is seriously the best human being I have ever met.  He knows everything about me – every struggle, every flaw, every shortcoming and somehow this man still loves me and chooses me.  Mark reflects God’s love to me (almost) daily.  We support each other, we rally when it’s hard, we die to self and choose the other.  It’s humbling and brutal at times.  But that is true love and its result is the most amazing joy imaginable.  The truth is, your marriage isn’t supposed to make you feel happy all the time; your marriage is supposed to make you more Christlike.

Valentines Day is Saturday.  Instead of buying into the lies of the world about love, relationships and marriage, I pray you would seek TRUTH and find that love – real love – is not selfish, abusive, perverted, controlling or manipulative.  Real love is patient and kind.  Real love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.  It is not irritable and it keeps no records of being wronged.  It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices when the truth wins.  Real love never gives up, never loses faith, and is always hopeful. Real love never fails.

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Post Categories: Advice, Marriage, Personal
43 comments - Latest by:
  • Tara This is perfect! Thank you for saying what a lot of us women are feeling.
  • Amanda - Amanda Douglas Events I loved this Alison, thanks for taking the time to share your heart and your lessons. xoxo

My 2014 Review :: What Worked, What Didn’t

December 30, 2014

As I reflect on this past year I recall the word I assigned to 2014 – CONVERGE – to bring all things together.  Ha!  What a word.  But I understand where my head was when I chose that word this time last year.  I recognized that there was a big lack of balance between my personal life and my professional life and I wanted to bring it together.  As I reflect on 2014 one thing really stands out.  Not the 28 planes I traveled on to the several speaking engagements I had all over the country this year or the weddings that were planned for amazing couples or the workshops I lead or the coaching clients I had the pleasure of working with.  While all of that was wonderful and exciting the one thing that stood out for me this year was a prayer I prayed in August: Lord, change what needs to be changed and align my life with your will.

I had a long list of goals for 2014 and I accomplished nearly all of the professional goals I set for myself, which resulted in my best year professionally.  But something was not right.  Actually, a lot was not right. I tried to stay busy and distracted in an effort to push the reality of that away, but the aching that echoed in my heart only grew.  I’d be speaking on stage to hundreds about being real and using your personality as a platform in your business and afterwards people would wait in a line (an actual LINE!) to speak with me and take pictures with me and tell me how much they admired how “real” I was. Every time I heard that I’d die a small little death to myself because if only they knew that 2014 was my worst year personally. I was unhappy with the focus of my life.  It was so far from what I had envisioned and everything was about my career and my husband’s career and consequently our relationship suffered. Our kids suffered watching their parents disconnected. Not something I was obviously going to discuss on stage. With any amount of success comes a deep responsibility to be authentic and with so much chaos raging around me and so many demands and pressures I started to feel less than authentic because even though I was doing well professionally, I was struggling personally. I finally surrendered and did something I should have done long ago: I called on God.  Funny how we do that when the shit hits the fan.

I’ve been a Christian for most of my life, but I have this horrible tendency towards impatience.  If God isn’t making things happen quickly enough I jump in the driver seat and (attempt to) make things happen myself – except I make a big mess.  So this time around – when I decided to drive and leave God in the proverbial dust – I actually did great professionally. I thrived. God allowed me to experience a good measure of success but at the cost of relationships, my marriage being the main one.  In August, when I prayed for God to change everything, I was finally really ready for change.  And I wanted to go home (to Hanford).  I wanted to start over in the place where it all started.  Mark and I wanted to slow things down and focus on our marriage and we wanted to be surrounded by people who champion us. Weeks after I prayed for change Mark received a job offer in Hanford and a few weeks later we sold our San Diego home and moved.  In the three months that we’ve been here, it has not been easy, but Mark and I have recommitted ourselves to this marriage (again! For probably the 10th time) and to God (for probably the 10th time too – thankfully God’s love and grace are sufficient and plentiful!).  And I guess in the end it all did converge.  Different pieces of my life and my work did come together to create the full picture and I realized I had so much of it wrong.  I am beyond grateful that hitting the redo button was an option and that we were brave enough to do it.

With all that being said there were plenty of reasons to celebrate in 2014!   I would like to share with you what worked for me in 2014 (and further below, more of what didn’t).  I encourage you to make your own list and share as well.  It’s so great to look back on it at the end of the year and see where you grew and where your time was wasted.

Below is my list of accomplishments (professionally and personally) and things in general that worked for  me in 2014.  It’s so easy to play the comparison game, but please don’t.  This list is to share with you my triumphs, yes, but more so proof as to what can be accomplished when you work hard and surround yourself with really great people.  It is by no means a bragging session, as you’ll see further below that I also experienced several challenges this past year (some of which I’ve shared).  I hope this list serves as inspiration that you CAN make big strides in your business if you remain diligent, consistent, fearless and love what you do.

-I set a goal to speak 12 times in 2014 and I ended up having 9 speaking engagements this year.  I had the pleasure of speaking at Event Solutions/Catersource in Las Vegas, Wedding MBA in Las Vegas, Wedding Market Expo in Denver and St. Louis, Be Sage in Chicago, REFINE in San Diego and Texas, as well as a few times for WIPA and NACE.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE sharing what I have learned as a wedding planner and entrepreneur with others!
-I baked more this year than I have ever.  I consider this an accomplishment because I am not a baker.  I hadn’t baked in maybe 6 years prior to this (I don’t have a sweet tooth) but found that I really enjoy it (and guess who got a Kitchen Aid mixer this year?! Yup. This girl.)
-I gave more of myself to those in need this year, both in time and financially.
-I planned and lead my own workshop – REFINE – twice!  Having my own sweet group of people to teach and encourage was amazing!
-I was contacted by producers at ABC Daytime to interview to co-host a new talk show with Tyra Banks. After my first initial Skype interview they invited me to Burbank to interview at ABC studios in person. With Tyra herself.  On a mock-talk show set (similar to The View, all sitting around a table gabbing). Holy freaking moly, right?  When I get there not only am I sitting next to Tyra, but also next to Chrissy Teigan (you know, John Legend’s wife) and Cat Cora (the chef) and so many other amazingly accomplished people.  I could’ve felt small and out of my league, but I didn’t (okay – I felt a little out of my league since I was the only person who didn’t actually have TV experience); instead I was just so HONORED to be included in that group!  My ultimate dream is to have my own show – has been since I was a child – and to actually be THAT close to it, to be validated and called upon by ABC and told Hey, you’re good enough and talented enough to do this….I mean, I cried. Obviously. Even despite not getting the gig (Tyra and I didn’t have tons of chemistry) it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.
-As mentioned before, we moved to Hanford, CA and bought a new house.  Best decision ever.
-I made 32 videos this year (you can visit me on YouTube here).  I still have a deep love for video as it has advanced my career so much.  I incorporated more interviewing this year which can be seen on The Wedding and Event Institute’s YouTube page here.
-I planned and coordinated my first wedding out of state in the beautiful Ozark Mountains of Missouri.  It went perfectly!
-I journaled.  A lot.  I’ve always been an avid journal-er but there have been quieter years.  Even though I lost sight of God’s plan for me, and assumed my own plan was better, I still talked to Him.  A lot.
-Mark and I celebrated our 12th wedding anniversary with a picnic lunch in the same park where we used to picnic as high school sweethearts.  It was perfect.
-I coached 7 aspiring and new wedding planners from Maine, New Orleans, West Virginia, Atlanta, San Diego, and Luxembourgh! I love coaching and will continue to do it in 2015.
-We took a family trip to Legoland and the kids had a blast (especially our 6 yr old son, Brody)!
-I read so much more this year than last year.  (Book review coming soon!)
-I was better at receiving direction and discernment from those I trust this year.

I’ve already shared with you some of what did not work for me in 2014 but this list is comprised of a few more challenges I faced this year.  I am far FAR from perfect and every week frustrating struggles presented themselves.  Some are more personal than others and the very personal things I’ve excluded from this list (you’re welcome).

-The most significant thing that I realized wasn’t working for me professionally anymore in 2014 was wedding planning.  I’m having a hard time even writing that because wedding planning has been such a huge part of my life for such a long time.  This career has been so good to me and I have felt so much love through every experience. I LOVED wedding planning when I started my company in 2007.  Nearly eight years and 204 weddings and events later and I find myself more excited about teaching new planners how to successfully run their business, whether that be via coaching, speaking at conferences or at my own workshops.  The relationships with my couples and the amazing creatives I have worked with over the years has brought/brings so much joy to my life and making the decision to take a break in 2015 and reexamine was difficult. But change is a part of life and I am so excited to explore new challenges and opportunities.  I do have one wedding left in April with the most amazing couple – seriously…I am so happy they will be my 205th and last (well, for now) – wedding because they are so special to me and their wedding is going to be the most beautiful wedding I’ve ever planned.  I can’t wait!
-Traveling more than twice in one month.  I won’t do it again.
-Remember those 15 pounds I lost in 2013?  Well they came back in 2014.  Traveling so much and then dealing with the huge move took its toll on my healthy eating habits and workout schedule.
-As I’ve already mentioned, not walking closely with God this past year only made everything more difficult to manage.
-Traveling so much caused me to miss out on a lot of family time.  I will be more selective with my commitments in 2015.
-I was easily distracted by my phone countless times.
-A major challenge was the dissolving of my team as a result of my move to Hanford.  Managing things long-distance, especially once I decided to not book weddings in 2015, was something that just didn’t make sense.
-Visiting my hometown of Hanford (prior to our move) and my nephews and niece not really knowing who Tia Alison was KILLED me.
-Missing out on what’s important in life to make everyone else happy.  I only have this time.  I only have now.  I’m not going to live so carelessly anymore.


Mark Bustos – If you don’t follow him on Insta you need to (@markbustos).  He is a hair stylist in NYC who spends his one day off every week blessing the homeless with a haircut.  He shares a piece of their story on Instagram.  I love the concept of taking your gifts and skills and using them to selflessly serve others. It is beyond inspiring.  His hashtag is #beawesometosomebody

This interview with Oprah.  I know, I know…I’m a sucker for Oprah but I love her story.

Jess Connolly – Author of the blog Naptime Diaries and creator of The Influence Network.  I am a new fan and what I admire about Jess is that she encourages women to use their online influence for God’s glory.  I believe in her message and I hope to attend a conference soon.  Also – she has created an app called She Reads Truth with daily Bible reading plans that is beautifully designed (I just downloaded mine yesterday).

Oahu was the most inspiring place I traveled to this year.  I spent one of my 3 days there  just traveling around the island a little, visiting different beaches, one of which required a ridiculously steep hike to a private beach where I watched the sunset.  Well worth the fright.  I wish I could go back to that moment.

I believe assigning a word to the upcoming year that reflects what you intend/hope to happen/focus on can be energizing and prophetic.  My word for 2015 is SURRENDER.  I have worked as hard as possible to create what I thought would fulfill me; my own plan.  In 2015 my focus will be surrendering to God’s plan for me.


I made a long list of goals last year.  This year my only goals are:

1) To fall in love with God again.  Deeply in love.
2) To love others well.

I figure everything else that should happen will happen as a result of those two actions.

I wish you all more blessings in 2015 than you ever dreamed of.  I wish you all the courage to let your lights shine.




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Post Categories: Inspiration, Personal
6 comments - Latest by:
  • Tara This is perfect! Thank you for saying what a lot of us women are feeling.
  • Amanda - Amanda Douglas Events I loved this Alison, thanks for taking the time to share your heart and your lessons. xoxo

End Of The Year Blues

December 28, 2014

Christmas is gone and with its swift departure an unsettling reality lingers – the New Year.  Its impending arrival looms in these days after Christmas and many (or maybe just myself) become introspective as we reflect on the past year.  While definite excitement accompanies the arrival of a new year and fresh start, there is also fear.  I hate fear, for its debilitating effect.  Its tendency toward resistance.  But I appreciate fear too.  I value its warning.  I have learned that whenever I fear something, I’m usually on the cusp of something big and good.  Growth.  If I only knew exactly what that meant. You see, I’m in the throws of major life changes and for someone who always has “it” figured out I find myself really uncertain about what 2015 will hold for me.  This makes me uncomfortable.  As I’ve been working this out within myself the past few days (okay, the past few months) I thought I’d share with you because maybe you find yourself in the same place and reading this post will make you feel less alone.

I haven’t been in this space of professional uncertainty in a long, long time.  What is my next move? What will I be doing in 2015?  I have no idea.  But what I do know is that most of us hit a crossroads in life, be it professionally or personally.  We all come to this point where we ask ourselves Who am I?  What do I really want?  Am I doing what God created me to do?  When that impasse arrives and those big questions present themselves, how do you manage the weight of it all?  Below is how I navigate seasons of uncertainty.

One of the most difficult things for me to do when I don’t know which direction to move or what opportunities to say yes (or no) to is to just be still.  Instead, I want to do the exact opposite of stillness.  I want to stay busy and I am easily distracted, especially by social media.  So what does being still mean? Well for me, it has a lot to do with prayer.  When I’m still, I am usually in my favorite chase lounge by the fire, no music, no TV, no phone, no distractions.  It’s an opportunity for me to intentionally pray and listen, to receive clarity from God.  Sometimes I’m only still for 15 minutes, other times it’s an hour, but when I invest time into unplugging from everything I always walk away refreshed and free of the mental clutter I so often wade through.  I may not have any definite answers immediately (oh how I wish God would just TELL me: Alison, this is your purpose, this is why you are here.  Go do that.) but being still coupled with being in the Word always helps me gain perspective.

Social media can be such a blessing, but it can also be distracting and discouraging.  When you’re feeling overwhelmed or anxious do you distract yourself by mindlessly picking up your phone to see what everyone else in the world is up to?  Checking to see how brilliant and successful everyone else is doesn’t help you get any closer to solving your own personal uncertainty, especially if  you’re constantly comparing yourself to others.  Their journey is not your journey and you don’t know the whole story. As you’re seeing everyone else gear up for the new year – especially if you are entering 2015 feeling less than certain about the trajectory of your career, relationships, and other endeavors – it might be easy to believe that everyone else has it all figured out and you don’t, so something must be wrong with you.  I assure you nothing is wrong.  Everyone thinks I have it all figured out.  I don’t.  You have your own story to write and this chapter of uncertainty is only a small part of it.

Whenever I feel lost and unsure of what’s next, I learn.  Learning inspires me.  Whether it’s reading (my go-to avenue for learning), enrolling in a workshop or class, or learning a new artistic or musical skill, absorbing something new helps me out of seasons of uncertainty by inspiring new thoughts and ideas. My 10 year old daughter has an adorable art space in our garage, complete with an art desk, an easel and canvases, paints, and all these different brushes.  I’m just as excited as she is about this creative space because I have never attempted to paint something artistic…on a canvas…you know, to like hang on a wall or something.  It’s one of my goals this week and although it may turn out hideous doing something new is exciting.  (I’ll Instagram the results of my painting project – @thealisonhoward) : )  As da Vinci said “Learning never exhausts the mind”.  Ain’t that the truth.

Intentionality always serves me well.  I am intentional when I choose how my days will look.  We can’t control everything, but we can control a lot.  Just because I don’t know what I’ll be doing with myself professionally in 2015 does not mean I will sit and lament and do nothing.  My career is (was?) a piece of me, but not the sum of me.  I will choose to be intentional with my time.  I will still make videos because I love sharing what I’ve learned over nearly 8 years and 204 weddings and events with aspiring planners. I will still blog, but I’m excited to blog not only about wedding-related topics but other things I love like cooking (and eating!), the Lord, entertaining, reading, traveling, parenting, fitness, marriage, etc.  I will be intentional about spending time with people I love and admire.  I will learn.  I will try new things.  I will seek God daily and trust that He’ll show me, direct me, and provide opportunities.  And I will share my journey with you because maybe that will help someone feel less sucky, less alone.

Wherever you are – in a season of uncertainty like myself or in a season of knowing – I pray that you’ll be blessed these last few days of 2014 (and beyond).  Friends, know that it is okay to not have it all figured out.  Know that it is okay to change your mind and choose a new course.  We have this one sweet, messy, beautiful life.  Let’s use our gifts and passions to love and serve and make it as good and meaningful as we can.

Shine On,


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Post Categories: Advice, Inspiration, Personal
3 comments - Latest by:
  • Tara This is perfect! Thank you for saying what a lot of us women are feeling.
  • Amanda - Amanda Douglas Events I loved this Alison, thanks for taking the time to share your heart and your lessons. xoxo


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I'm so glad you're here!

I'm Alison and I have been a professional wedding planner since 2007. After planning and coordinating over 200 events I am taking a bit go a sabbatical to regroup and focus on the events in my own life.

If you are an aspiring wedding planner I hope you find my experiences and insight helpful. If you are a wife and/or mom in the trenches, I get it and hope you feel less alone as I share my own stories of marriage and motherhood. If you are a fellow blog lover who just happened to find yourself here, enjoy!

Thank you for sharing your comments and thoughts - I love hearing from you!

Shine On,