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Ceremony hacks for the shy and nervous

January 31, 2024

Are you very shy or are you anxious about the ceremony part of your wedding day? If the answer is yes, try to pin down exactly what has you tied up in knots. Is it being the centre of attention or is the thought of speaking in front of everyone? Maybe it’s the kiss? There are ways to structure your ceremony so that it’s easier on your anxiety. You might even enjoy yourself.

Shy woman pulling sweater up over nose

Image by cookie_studioa on Freepik

Small ceremony

There is no reason to have a huge ceremony if you will hate every moment of it. Have a tiny and intimate one and invite everyone else to the reception for food and dancing. For a legal ceremony, you only need two witnesses. Or you could make it immediate family only. Stick with a guest count that makes you feel comfortable.

Keep it casual

Don’t have a big entrance with music and all eyes on the wedding couple. Mingle with the guests as they arrive and then at the appointed time just have the officiant start the ceremony. You can also wear more casual clothes if it will make you comfortable – sneakers are allowed!

You can set up your ceremony so your backs are to the guests and you are looking at your officiant. That might make it easier to focus on your partner and the words being said. You can also consider sitting instead of standing if that appeals to you.

Work with your officiant

If you don’t want to speak in front of everyone, your officiant can present your vows in question format, so all you have to say is “I will” or “I do.” If you would like to say more, they can use a “repeat after me” style so they feed you your vows a few words at a time.

Skip the kiss

Kissing is not a ceremony requirement. If you are opposed to too much PDA, you can hug it out instead, or even just hold hands and then raise them up in celebration after you are pronounced.

Get rid of other moments of focus or intensity

There is no need for a cake-cutting photo-op or a first dance if you are worried about having all eyes on you.  You don’t need to sit apart from your guests at a head table or sweetheart table for dinner either. It’s your day, you should feel empowered to set yourself up for success by eliminating stressors.

Incorporating native plants or flowers into your wedding  

January 8, 2024

Sustainable, local, and beautiful: native plants are growing in popularity as people move towards an eco-friendly lifestyle. We’ll discuss why and how you can incorporate these plants in an elegant and unique way into your wedding, and perhaps in your garden!  

Native species flowers in a bouquet

photo credit: Renee Piatt

What are native plants?

Native plants can refer to many species of wildflowers, shrubs, and even weeds. They are, as their name implies, native to a particular region or ecosystem. They haven’t been introduced by humans and are very beneficial to their respective habitats.  

Some examples of species native to the Ottawa region include Canadian columbine, common or swamp milkweed, Canada goldenrod, and New England asters.  

How are they beneficial?  

Native plants are beneficial to humans and wildlife in various ways. They provide nectar for pollinators, food for other insects and animals, and shelter for small creatures in the winter. Native plants also enrich the soil and prevent soil erosion, are often drought-resistant, and don’t require watering or unnatural fertilizers.  

How can they be used in my wedding?  

Native plants are increasingly being used for wedding bouquets and even as décor. Since they are locally grown, they are more eco-friendly and oftentimes less expensive than traditional flowers like roses. Some people enjoy collecting their own flowers for their weddings to make DIY bouquets or table arrangements. Try using flowers of differing heights and textures as well as filler plants like ferns to freshen up the arrangement. Don’t forget to choose a cute container to display them in! 

Some florists offer native plants for wedding bouquets and flower arrangements You can check your florist’s website or ask what options they have available.  

What are some good native flower options I should look for?  

Some unique Ontario options to consider are:  

Blazing stars: these flowers are unique with their long, spiked flower stalks and bright purple colour.  

Obedience plant: also known as the false dragonhead for their flowers that resemble snapdragons, they come in white and pink varieties.  

Wild bergamot: another unique-looking flower, these fragrant blooms come in red, purple, white, and pink. They have unique tubular petals that surround a daisy-like centre.  

Canadian Columbine: This wild columbine has delicate red lantern-like flowers that droop in such a unique way. They can be long-lasting flowers, but they are not as commonly used in bouquets.  

Goldenrod: goldenrod gets a bad rap for causing allergies, since they’re often confused with ragweed. These plants produce many yellow flowers, all arranged on fun, drooping stems. 

What if I want to start gardening with native plants?  

Adding native species to any garden is beneficial, and there are so many options to choose from! Before you go out and purchase your native plants, it’s always best to know what kind of sun your garden gets and the moisture level of the soil. There are native options for every garden, even full shade! Your local plant nursery or hardware store will usually carry natives, and their supply of these pollinator powerhouses is ever-growing to meet the needs of nature-loving gardeners. So go ahead and grab a pot of wild bergamot and have fun adding a pop of colour and biodiversity to your garden.  

Whether you want to go full rustic chic or just want a pop of colour, look no further than your own backyard! Take inspiration from Mother Nature and get creative. These often-overlooked wildflowers are sure to wow.   

How to write your own wedding vows 

November 3, 2023

Writing your own wedding vows is an ideal way to express your love and devotion to your partner. However, it can seem daunting trying to capture your romantic journey in a short speech while also making promises for your future together. Vows are also often said in front of your entire family. So where to begin? 

Here are some tips that can help you write your own heartfelt vows and as stress-free as possible.  

Consult with your partner 

While many couples wish to keep their vows a surprise, it can be a good idea to ask your partner how you both want your vows to be structured, or even just the overall tone. Do you want more traditional vows? Maybe you want to tell a story with a bit of humour throughout. Knowing what you both want will allow your ceremony to flow perfectly. You can keep the content secret while making sure you’re both on the same page! 

Start writing your rough draft in advance

Do not wait until the last minute. Start writing your vows a minimum of a month before your actual wedding day. Stressful writing can cause you to accidentally omit precious memories or leave you feeling unsatisfied with your result. Even if you start by jotting down a few ideas or sentences, starting early is always best. You can also ask a trusted friend or family member for ideas, input, or even to listen while you practice reading your vows aloud.  

Vow format options

Not sure what format or tone you want to go with? Here are some popular formats:  

Humorous vows: these often include funny stories you love telling, jokes, anecdotes, or movie quotes. Humorous vows can feel very lighthearted yet equally romantic. People listening can get a better sense of your relationship and can laugh along with you. This format is especially good if you’re nervous and want to lighten the mood.  

Romantic vows: these are more traditional in nature and are a great way to really tell your love story. You can start from the beginning of your journey together, all the way to your wedding day. Romantic vows are great for couples who want to really be heartfelt and tell each other how they feel.  

Traditional vows: these are often the ones you see in movies and are usually said when a couple chooses not to customize their vows. Traditional vows can be just as meaningful and represent a couple’s religion or family. These vows often start with ‘I, ___, take you, ___, for my lawful wife/husband, to have and to hold from this day forward…’. You can add a little extra to personalize traditional vows while keeping that familiar feeling.  

Step-by-step vow writing 

Begin by stating who your partner is to you. If you often say they are your best friend, address them as such.  

No matter what format you choose, you can start by saying what you love about your partner, your favourite things about them, why you fell in love, and how you feel when they aren’t around. Tell a story about them that you adore; this can be a funny story or a very romantic story, or both! 

Make promises that you vow to keep; these can be traditional, like: ‘I promise to love and cherish you, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, for better or for worse, and to be faithful to you until death do us part.’ You can choose some more humorous vows like: ‘I vow to love you unconditionally, even if you’re a Habs fan,’ or romantic vows like: ‘I vow to love the person you will become, just as I love the person you are now’. 

Conclude your vows by either reiterating the most important parts of your speech or by making one final poignant vow to wrap it up.  

Remember, your vows should be as unique as you are and personalized however you want. Have fun with them!  

Customizing your ceremony makes memorable moments

September 23, 2023


Some people think the ceremony is the boring part of a wedding day. They anticipate it will be long or dry or overly religious or full of legal-type details. They would rather fast-forward to the party.

Those people are missing out.

The legal requirements for a ceremony are short and simple – a question of intent for each partner, signing of the documents, pronouncing the couple as married (Quebec has some additional required text.) There is lots of room for creativity and meaningful connection. Your ceremony can be the highlight of your day, if you put in some effort. Personalizing the script, music, and vibe will result in a ceremony that has personality and will provide lasting memories for you and your guests.


Guests may be expecting classical music and a serene bride or groom gliding down the aisle. But it can be so many other things. We’ve seen flower men, flower grandmas, a choreographed dance up the aisle, pets carrying rings, a ring bear (in a bear costume), ring security guards, and more. One officiant we work with once introduced a wedding party as they came down the aisle as if they were taking part in a WWE wrestling match. From sweet to silly, why not get things started in a way that will set the tone for the ceremony and the party to come? Don’t be afraid to showcase your personalities.


Do not feel bound by tradition. Your wedding music does not have to be classical or instrumental. It can be anything you want, so make it meaningful to you. Make it memorable for your guests. Make it fun. It’s the best when the first few bars of a song hit and the guests look at each other and say, “this is so them!” Pick songs that mean something to you. The one that you sing to each other while dancing around in the kitchen, or one that represents a departed family member, or one that your kids love. Pick a song that bops, or one that croons. A love song or a party anthem, you get to decide. Finish your ceremony with a dance party and invite everyone to take part.


Words matter. Your wedding script can tell your story. If you are having a lot of people at your ceremony, they may not all be familiar with the way you met and how your relationship progressed. Sharing some details will help catch them up and give them an appreciation for why you are standing in front of them. Your script and vows can highlight all the things you love about your partner and your relationship. Tone can vary from formal to downright goofy. Your vows are your promises to each other for your life ahead. They should sound like you, not some one-size-fits-all script.


Include the people who are important to you. While a friend or family member can do a reading during the ceremony, there are lots of other ways to incorporate folks. If you have someone with musical ability, they can sing or play during the ceremony. Recognize your mothers (or parents) by giving each a rose at the beginning of the ceremony. Include kids by giving them a gift, making vows to them, or having them sign a document (Record of Solemnization in Ontario or temporary certificate in other provinces). Bring together a blended family with a sand ceremony where each family member gets a different colour of sand and takes a turn pouring it into a clear jar, a symbol of unity that becomes a permanent fixture in your home. If you want to get everyone involved, pass your rings around from guest to guest in a ring warming. Or give everyone a smooth stone and ask them to hold it during the ceremony and infuse it with their best wishes, then collect them afterward in a jar or box and keep them on display.


The attitude of the couple can have a big impact on the vibe of the ceremony as well. If you are just wishing it would be over, your guests will also probably feel that way. If you embrace the ceremony as a celebration and a key component of your day, then that positive energy will filter through to your guests. It’s a one-time event, so make it something you will enjoy!


What to discuss with your wedding officiant?

May 12, 2023

You know you need a credentialled wedding officiant to make your ceremony legal. But what kinds of things should you talk to your officiant about before the wedding?

Their credentials: You can inquire how they are credentialled and ask to see proof. In the province of Ontario there is a government list where you can search for anyone registered to conduct marriage ceremonies.

The legal bits: When are you planning on getting your marriage licence? (In QC it’s the officiant who acts as the licensing agent). Your officiant will appreciate it if you can send them a clear photo or scan of the licence in advance so they can prep some of their paperwork.

The ceremony language/script: The legal requirements for a wedding ceremony are simple and minimal (question of intent for each partner, sign the paperwork, pronounce you as married, and in Quebec the Civil Code must be read). The rest is up to you. Bring your officiant your favourite poems or readings to include in the script. (They may have suggestions as well if you don’t know where to start.) Talk about any anecdotes or shared experiences or hobbies that you’d like to be mentioned in the ceremony. Discuss ways to honour loved ones who have passed. Talk about cultural traditions you’d like to include.

Tone: Lighthearted and relaxed? Formal and distinguished? Let your officiant know what tone you are hoping to strike, and they will do their best to accommodate.

Colour and theme: Officiants are often happy to dress to complement a couple’s chosen colours or theme. Is it a Western and denim theme? Black tie with a touch of purple? Hawaiian shirts? Feel free to talk about how the officiant should dress.

Mechanics and logistics of the day: Tell your officiant who is responsible for music and/or microphones. How many are in the wedding party? Who will have the rings? Who are the witnesses?

Rehearsal (if you are planning one): Do you need your officiant there? Do you need them to run the rehearsal? What dates/times are you considering?

Additional questions: Don’t be afraid to ask for advice. Your officiant probably has a great deal of experience and may be able to suggest ways to handle potentially difficult situations. For example, divorced parents who don’t get along, blended families, multifaith unions, an uncle with a drinking problem who may make a fuss, etc. You can also talk to your officiant about your feelings or fears. If they know you are anxious about speaking in front of a crowd, they can help.

Your wedding officiant will try to make your day everything you want it to be. They are more than just the person who “signs the papers,” they are a great asset to your wedding planning, your personal cheerleader, and an understanding ear.

2023 wedding trends

February 15, 2023

breakfast board, live plant centerpiece, pool party

Last year was a banner year for weddings. The pent up demand that built through two years of Covid was released in a flood of nuptials. Wedding vendors were booked up, venues were in short supply, and couples were squeezing their ceremonies into unconventional dates and locations. So what does 2023 hold?

Sustainability and live plants

Couples continue to become more eco-conscious. People are skipping the extraneous stuff – no programs, no welcome bags, no cheap plastic flip flops for the reception, and no takeaways or thank you gifts unless they are edible, plantable, or at least compostable. Fireworks are also losing their appeal as they are pollutants and can have negative effects on animals. Live plants are always a beautiful table centerpiece and you can give them out at the end of the event (think something vibrant and lush, not so much the succulents from past years). Live plants may also feature in the ceremony backdrop or aisle decor, giving the couple the opportunity to use those shrubs and flowers to spruce up their yard afterwards.

Wedding dresses

There continues to be a lot of variation, but this year there is an influx of inspiration from the 1960s, including the minidress. You will continue to see fringe, but less bohemian and more luxe. More high necklines as well, in both lace and fabric.

Pool party

Whether they are pool-side for the ceremony or hitting the pool for the reception, couples will be embracing summer. It can be kept classy and modern, but the pool party prefers to live in the land of retro vibes, bold décor, and over the top umbrella drinks. The couple making a splash for the camera in their wedding garb? Maybe! (Just be careful a water logged dress or suit doesn’t drag you under.) The only sticking point for pool-side fun is the weather.

Beyond charcuterie boards

We’ve seen the idea of grazing nibbles expanded for receptions. Cocktail style receptions offer the flexibility for everyone to get face to face with the wedding couple and guests aren’t stuck chatting with only the folks at their dinner table. While charcuterie boards are still popular, we’re now seeing breakfast boards, dessert boards, butter boards (a trend which spiked on social media last fall), pizza boards, poutine boards, and themed boards for holidays. For folks who aren’t yet ready to go back to buffet-style dining for fear of germ spreading, individually portioned charcuterie boxes or cups may be just the thing.

Couples doing whatever the flip they want

Since Covid, there has been an ‘anything goes’ approach to weddings. Couples are emboldened to make their day all about what they want, not what people expect. Weekday weddings, morning weddings, backyard weddings, tiny weddings, these are all choices that are here to stay. Couples are continuing to select traditions that are meaningful to them and reject the rest. And we’re here for it!

Minimizing cellphones & social media at your ceremony

October 24, 2022

You see it all the time – people viewing the world through their cell phone cameras. For example, recording video of a fireworks display, taking a million photos of an iconic landmark and fiddling with filters trying to get that one ‘gram-worthy shot, and, unfortunately, taking non-stop video or photos of a friend’s wedding ceremony. In all cases, these people are missing out on being in the moment and having the fullest experience. So how do you make them stop for your wedding?

Ask nicely….and more than once

Set your expectations from the beginning by mentioning in your invite that you are having an unplugged or device-free ceremony. Explain that you have hired a professional photographer or appointed a specific friend to capture the event. If you are having wedding programs you can mention it again there by saying, “Thanks for respecting our wish to have a camera and phone-free ceremony.” You could also set a sign at the entrance of your ceremony venue to remind people. Finally, ask your wedding officiant to make an announcement before the ceremony begins telling guests to put their phones on silent and put them away so they can be fully present and enjoy the moment with you.

Or try for a compromise

Another option is to ask guests not to take photos until you have been pronounced as married. The officiant could announce at the beginning of the ceremony that cameras and cellphones should be stored until the end of the ceremony when the couple will spend a few moments posing for guests’ photos.

What about people sharing “unsanctioned” photos online?

You know your guests best. Do you have the type of friends and family who carefully curate or those who post their entire camera roll (including the blurry ones)?

If keeping the lid on wedding photos until you have a chance to view and select your own preferred shot is important to you, you may want to take steps to help that happen.

First, ask your photographer if they can provide a couple of sneak peek shots so you can get a sanctioned photo out on social media quickly, ideally the next day. Another option is to take a “just married” selfie and get your own photo out first that way.

Follow the steps above for an unplugged ceremony. You should also think twice about a wedding hashtag – which will encourage people to post photos.

You can let guests know ahead of time that you would appreciate them not sharing photos online until you have had a chance to post your own. The same as asking for an unplugged ceremony, your options for asking and reminding guests not to post on social media are in the invitation, in the program, via a sign at the venue, and an announcement before the ceremony begins.

You can also review your social media settings and adjust your privacy so people can’t tag you or tagged photos won’t show on your FB or Instagram pages.

Best of both worlds?

If you do want friends and family to share photos from the reception, you can reveal your wedding hashtag at the reception venue. You can also create an Instagram-worthy backdrop or seating area and have a sign encouraging people to take photos.

There will always be one

No matter what you say or do, there will always be someone who doesn’t play by your rules. Try not to get upset. Maybe they are truly addicted to their phone. It’s their loss for not taking time to be in the moment with you. And a good photographer can work around them.



Wedding Arch Alchemy: Creating a Stunning Focal Point

September 8, 2022

Wedding arches are a big décor trend and it seems like they will stick around. And why not? It’s an easy way to have a big impact on your ceremony space.

An arch is a way of drawing the focus to the spot where you will exchange your vows. They are especially helpful if you are getting married outside where there is no obvious focal point or at a venue where it’s essentially a blank canvas.

arch examples

Two takes on the same pergola at the Ottawa Wedding Chapel


An arch can help you incorporate the colours and theme that you have selected for your day. From bo-ho to sleek and modern, an arch is a set-piece that helps create the ambiance you want. You can use pretty much any material — wood, metal, fabric, live plants, etc.

balloon background

Balloons provide big colour impact. Photo: TracyGracePhotography


Your arch can also serve as a backdrop for photos after the ceremony as well. Guests won’t be able to resist snapping a few frames in front of it.

You can rent all sorts of backdrops, flower walls, and arches. Wedding groups on social media or buy and sell sites like Kijiji are also a good source for ready-made items. Of course, if you’re handy you can DIY it and have it to keep or sell to someone else. If you are buying or making a sturdy structure, you can add it to your garden or patio after to extend its life.

You don’t have to break the bank — simple can be very effective. You may be able to use something you already have or something you can thrift or make — sheer curtains, old wooden ladders, paper flowers, a tree branch, etc.

Sunflower round arch

The sunflowers here are a perfect tie-in to the couple’s splashes of yellow.


Keep the weather in mind as you plan. There could be rain or wind and you don’t want your arch to tumble — make sure it’s stable and possibly staked to the ground. Wind can also play havoc with draped fabric.

If there is a view or horizon, pay attention to what vista your arch frames — it’s going to be in a lot of photos. You may want to work the angles to avoid a highway with traffic or the back of a building for example. And while you may think of a wedding arch as having a lot of height to draw the eye, you can create something lower to the ground (especially if you have a view with mountains in the background). An existing flowerbed can be your focal point with some added pillars or use potted perennial plants to create a low-rise semi-circle. You can use the plants for landscaping at your home afterwards or gift them to the members of your wedding party.

This stunning backdrop was created by Ottawa’s Monara Events Photo: Green Tea Photography Venue: Billings Estate Museum


In the end, make sure that the focal point of your ceremony location is something that brings you joy when you look at it. The personality of the couple should be apparent — so don’t be concerned with sticking to something flowery, if that’s not what you like. Get creative and playful. Make it as steampunk, anime, forest elf, comic book, futuristic, or Day of the Dead as you like. It’s a key visual for your day.


Who Can be a Wedding Witness?

March 2, 2022

Signing wedding paperworkWhether you are eloping or having a huge wedding, you are going to need official witnesses for your ceremony to sign the legal marriage documents.

You will need two – one to sign for each partner. At every wedding there must be at least five people present: the couple, two witnesses, and the officiant. In Canada, witnesses must be physically present, they can not be present by video.

Witnesses must have the mental capacity and language skills to understand what they are witnessing and signing. They may not be impaired by drugs or alcohol. Some provinces have rules around age, for example in BC witnesses must be 19+, in Alberta 18+, but in Ontario it’s up to the officiant’s discretion (we still recommend 18+).

Witnesses can be family or friends, or they can be strangers. They do not have to be Canadian citizens or live in Canada.

There is no obligation for your honour attendants (best man/maid, maid/man of honour) to act as witnesses. If you would like to recognize someone else important to you by having them sign as a witness, the officiant can call them up at the appropriate time.

All that witnesses have to do is sign their name on the legal paperwork. They also need to provide their home address for the officiant’s records or marriage register. Should something go wrong with the process of registering the marriage (lost in the post, etc) it is possible that witnesses could be called on to sign/testify that they witnessed the marriage and agree that both parties were consenting, on the date it took place.

If you are planning an elopement and do not have witnesses for your wedding, your officiant may be able to supply them. Our chapel and All Seasons Weddings both offer this service for an additional fee. If you are eloping in a public place, you can try to find witnesses on the spot.

If you are planning something unusual or a location that is difficult to reach (requiring hiking, snowshoeing, paddling, etc) double check that your witnesses are on board, or take those factors into consideration when selecting them. You want someone who is delighted to be standing on top of a mountain with you, not someone who doesn’t have the proper gear or stamina.

No matter if your witnesses are your best friends or complete strangers, your wedding will hopefully be a memory you will carry with you forever.

Eloping: a perfectly normal and acceptable way to get married

May 28, 2021

eloping same-sex male coupleAn elopement is a sudden secret wedding, often without parental consent. We’ve seen Covid-era micro-weddings referred to as “eloping” but usually these are just small weddings rather than true elopements. Parental consent isn’t such a big deal in modern times, but sometimes people still choose a sudden secret wedding.

Why get married suddenly? There can be lots of reasons. Maybe you have been together forever and finally decide to make it legal. You may not feel the need to have a lot of wedding fuss because you have been living your vows every day. Maybe your schedule is incredibly busy, and you don’t have time to plan a big wedding day. Or perhaps outside circumstances, such as pregnancy, job opportunity in another country, impending surgery or medical treatment, or end of life diagnosis will play a part. It’s also possible that once the decision to get married is made, you just don’t want to wait.

Why get married secretly? Some people don’t like the spotlight and the idea of standing in front of dozens of people declaring their vows is too nerve-wracking. If this is you, eloping might feel like a huge relief. You may have a challenging relationship with your family, or there may be other challenging relationships within your family. If you’re not convinced your divorced parents can be in the same room together without fireworks, eloping might be for you. It may be that your choice of partner is not approved by your family or friends. If people haven’t been supportive of your relationship, why would you want them at your wedding?

The good news is that eloping is a completely normal and acceptable way to get married. You don’t need permission from anyone!

What do you need to get married? In most of Canada, getting married is very straightforward (Quebec is the exception here.). You need a marriage licence, two witnesses, and a wedding officiant. The witnesses do not have to know you personally, they just are just there to witness you declaring your intent to marry your partner and the officiant pronouncing you as married. You don’t need to have rings or vows, flowers or toasts. All Seasons offers a “Make it Legal” package with its officiants at the location of your choice (your home, a hotel room, a park – you pick!) The Ottawa Wedding Chapel also offers simple, straightforward elopements (with a nicer backdrop than city hall).

eloping couplePotential side-effects of eloping. You may end up with friends or family who are disappointed they didn’t get to celebrate with you. Weddings are still key milestones that many people feel should be shared. But guess what? Your family or friends can arrange a get-together without a wedding.

Don’t feel guilty if you decide to elope. Your reasons are your own and nobody should feel they have the right to dictate how you decide to tie the knot with your partner. Eloping can be exciting and romantic. Imagine saying “I do” with a Rocky Mountain helicopter ceremony or with an intimate ceremony at the location of your first date.

It will save you a pile of money that you can put toward travelling, purchasing a home, or even just paying down your debt. This alone is a good reason to consider it. The average Canadian wedding costs $29,450 according to Wedding Wire in 2020.

Eloping is less complicated and less stressful than a traditional wedding. There is no need to follow any tradition. Run off and get married on a Tuesday if you want! Get married in your pyjamas at home. Book a hotel for the weekend and spoil yourselves with massages and a fancy dinner, and squeeze in a wedding in between. What is important is that the two of you commit yourselves to your life ahead in a way that feels right to you.


Photos by Marcelo Chagas and Emir Kaan Okutan from Pexels