February 2017

Alternatives to Diamonds for Engagement Rings
Diamonds are beautiful, however there are many beautiful stones that exist.

Though diamonds are a girls best friend, there are plenty of other beautiful stones out that are more budget friendly and will surely stand out.

Wedding and engagement rings have a long history, probably from Roman customs where a woman would wear rings attached to small keys, which demonstrated her ownership by her husband. Women were considered property for many years, and we’re fortunate that this has changed. The first rings with diamonds were recorded in the late 1400s. Maximilian I, the King of the Romans and Holy Roman Emperor, commissioned a diamond ring for his betrothed, Mary of Burgundy.

Maximilian is responsible for the diamond engagement ring trend, but it was the Victorians who popularized the ornate designs and beautiful settings that we know today. However, diamonds were largely inaccessible to the masses until De Beers began mining in the late 1800s. The demand for diamonds dropped during the Depression, but De Beers Company fought back by using the movie stars of the time to advertise the diamonds.

Are Diamonds Really a Girl’s Best Friend?

In the 1953 film, “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” Marilyn Monroe sang:

“The French are glad to die for love.

They delight in fighting duels.

But I prefer a man who lives

And gives expensive jewels.

A kiss on the hand

May be quite continental,

But diamonds are a girl’s best friend.”

Diamonds might be considered traditional, but not everyone can afford these rare gems. Some people don’t want to support the industry. There are a lot of other gemstones that can be made into beautiful rings. Here are some of the best alternatives.

Alternative Stones

  • Garnets come in shades of pink and red most commonly, but you can also find them in other colors. Although garnets aren’t as hard as other gems, only a 7.0 on the Mohs scale (a diamond is a 10), you’ll be able to get a bigger gem for a fraction of the cost.
  • Sapphires are most commonly a blue gem, but you can find them in other hues. The best part is that sapphires are generally one-third of the price of diamonds. You can get a larger stone, but make sure it’s well cut.
  • Emeralds come in beautiful shades of green, and although they aren’t one of the more popular gems these days, they can look chic and timeless in a ring setting that will last forever.
  • Pearls are an iconic look, but they do tend to scratch and tarnish easily. You can find very elegant pearls at a good price, but don’t plan on wearing the ring every day to make it last.
  • Opals can reflect the entire rainbow as they move in the light. No two opals look the same, but they are in the middle of the Mohs scale. Opals don’t stand up to daily wear like a diamond might, but they still make a beautiful ring.
  • Onyx is generally black in color, but it can come in a variety of colors for fine jewelry. The black stone pairs with anything you wear and it looks timeless and chic.
  • Sunstones are a very abundant gemstone and come in a variety of shades including peach, red, orange and green. Many are found just south of the border in Oregon.
  • Amethyst is a pretty, purple gem that is durable but less expensive than diamond. The gem is beautifully paired with gold or silver for a classic look.
Fascinating Traditions in Canadian Weddings
Catching the bouquet is one of the oldest marriage traditions.

One of the most common wedding traditions practiced to this day is the catching of the bride’s bouquet.

The idea of getting married is nothing new. In fact, weddings are some of the oldest ceremonies to have been documented across all civilizations. There are a lot of traditions that have persisted through the years even if the mentality behind a wedding has changed. In Canada, for example, there are plenty of unique ways of going about the process of marrying your partner.

Common Wedding Traditions

Planning for a wedding requires time and research. Here are a few wedding practices that appear often in Canadian rituals in the current day and age, as well as in other cultures across the world.

Catch the Bouquet

One common tradition found in many weddings is the tossing of the bouquet. Traditionally, this is an act by the bride, who tosses the flowers backwards over her shoulder toward a crowd of single friends and relatives. It is customary for this part of the ceremony to only include women, but shifting attitudes have shown that single men can also get in on the fun if the married couple so wishes. The history behind this act is a bit more interesting than might be first believed.

In older cultures, it was common for single women to tear away a piece of the bride’s dress. This was meant as a gesture of good luck for the women holding the strip of garment. As wedding dresses became more expensive, brides found that it was a bit much to have their families and friends tearing away at their beautiful gowns. The bouquet toss was a custom introduced to ward away women who wanted a piece of luck and provide them with a competitive chance for their wishes.

Eternal Love

Some traditions are so ingrained in the cultural sphere that it’s hard to imagine another way of going about the process. Rings, for example, are the cornerstone of an engagement and subsequent wedding. There have been many different approaches to the exchanging of rings over the years. Essentially, experts have traced the tradition of the ring back to Egypt in its earliest days of civilization.

The Egyptians would trade rings as a sign of eternal love and commitment. Eventually, due to the conquests of the Greeks and Romans, the tradition was adopted. As civilization expanded through Europe, the custom became more widespread until it reached the height that it exists at now. The custom of wearing a wedding ring on a specific finger can also be traced back to the Egyptians. They believed that the third finger on the left hand was the one most closely connected to the human heart.

White Wedding

A common practice in the modern age is for a woman to wear white on her wedding day. This is actually not as old of a tradition as many might believe. In Western culture, the custom of wearing white began as a way of symbolizing the purity of the bride. This started during the Victorian Era in England and has persisted to the modern day in many countries. What’s more fascinating is that brides across the world wore a multitude of colors on their wedding day before this practice began.

White was a rare color to be seen during a ceremony in earlier traditions. It has lively and vibrant colors being more closely associated with the passion and beauty of shared love. Though it seems that most brides wear white in the current age, the trend is being pushed against. More women are wearing dresses that match their personal tastes rather than taking part in a tradition that holds no meaning for them.

As you plan your wedding, consider the meaning behind current customs. You may want to break from tradition or go with the flow – the choice is yours.

Celebrating Mardi Gras in Canada
Mardi Gras is celebrated all over the world.

Mardi Gras is a time of celebration just before lent.

February 28 is Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Day, Carnival and/or Mardi Gras, depending on your culture and traditions. Mardi Gras is the last day for parties before the time of Lent. Lent is when many Christians fast before the Easter holiday. You don’t have to celebrate Easter to enjoy Mardi Gras, but knowing why it’s celebrated can help you understand the traditions.

What Is Mardi Gras?

Mardi Gras is the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, which is based on the date of Easter. This means that the date generally changes from year to year. In 2017, it’s February 28. Next year, the date is February 13. In Canada, it’s not a statutory holiday, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t find celebrations here in the country.

During Lent, Christians give up many indulgences, such as meat, alcohol and rich foods. Shrove Tuesday began as a way of using up the food in the household that might be forbidden during Lent. Some believe that Pancake Tuesday was a pagan holiday. Christians are reported to have made pancakes because the recipe would use up eggs, lard or butter, sugar and milk, foods that might be limited through Lent.

Although Lent probably originated in Europe, people around the world now celebrate Mardi Gras, Carnival or Shrove Tuesday with huge festivals. Masquerades and costumes are popular, but so are large amounts of alcohol, many rich foods, not only pancakes and pastries.

At one time, Mardi Gras was a more sedate celebration. Today, it is often considered the single person’s holiday in late Winter, as opposed to Valentine’s Day, which is more couple-centric. 

Where to Celebrate Mardi Gras

Since 1445, Olney in Buckinghamshire has held a pancake race in which women (although men can participate) carry a frypan and toss a pancake in it while racing 415 yards (one-quarter of a kilometer). The pancake must be in the pan when crossing the finish line, and the contestants must be tossing it as they cross the finish. Typically, these women also dress as housewives, wearing an apron and a scarf. Following the race, everyone goes to the church for a service.

Rio, New Orleans, Trinidad and Tobago and Sydney, Australia are great places to go to enjoy huge parties and crowds for Mardi Gras. Not only is this a time to eat indulgently, it’s also a time to be free of inhibitions. It’s an “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die” attitude. In New Orleans, it’s traditional to accumulate beads. Tourists think the best way to get beads is to flash someone, but really, locals prefer you just shout, “throw me something, mister!“ at the people on the floats. Parents of children who come out for the parade will thank you for not flashing yourself for their kids to see.

Places in Canada to Celebrate Mardi Gras

Locally, the most popular place for Mardi Gras celebrations is in Quebec City, but this year’s Carnaval de Quebec was from January 27 through February 12, making it much earlier than Mardi Gras. Ottawa’s Winterlude also misses it this year, as it is from February 3 through 20. You may just have to look for ones in your neighborhood or create your own traditions.

World Interfaith Harmony Week
World Interfaith Harmony Week is about peace between religions.

World Interfaith Harmony Week is about bringing different religions together.

Seven years ago, H.M. King Abdullah II of Jordan proposed a week for Muslim and Christian leaders to engage in dialogue based on common elements of their religions. The King made this proposal to the United Nations, and it only took one month to be unanimously adopted by the organization. The first week in February is now observed as World Interfaith Harmony Week.

Common Elements in Monotheistic Religions

Muslims, Jews and Christians have two commandments that are common in each religion:

  • Love of God
  • Love of the Neighbor

The idea is that these two commandments are at the heart of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Looking at these two philosophies, we can find solid theological ground without compromising the tenets of our own faith.

Leaders came together and published “A Common Word” (ACW) as a way to bring religions together. “ACW is a document which uses religion as the solution to the problems of inter-religious tensions. By basing itself on solid theological grounds in both religions ACW has demonstrated to Christians and Muslims that they have a certain common ground (despite irreducible theological differences) and that both religions require them to have relations based on love not on hatred.”

2017 Events Around the World

Countries around the globe plan events to bring people together to find world peace. According to worldinterfaithharmonyweek.com, in 2017, there are currently 472 events on the calendar. While Western countries plan activities smaller countries have activities listed on the calendar.

King Abdullah believed that society could use infrastructure to bring harmony and peace between individuals, thus leading to peace between countries. Although we still have a lot of work to do, it is evident that more people want to see respect and tolerance between religions, governments and communities.

2017 Theme

The theme for 2017 is “The Gift of Love”. Although he is a direct descendent of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad, the King is funding the restoration of Christ’s Tomb in the Church of Holy Sepulchre. His gift is thought to be worth about $4 million dollars. King Abdullah believes in the true message of Islam, but he also promotes interfaith dialogue. He has proven his worthiness as custodian of both Muslim and Christian holy sites through his words, deeds and actions. He truly has given the world a gift of love by respecting a faith not his own.

Take Part in World Interfaith Harmony Week

World Interfaith Harmony Week for all the world’s religions. While religions have common ground, it’s up to us to engage in dialogue and find that common ground to bring us together.

The United Nations has many declarations for world peace, cultural diversity and tolerance. World Interfaith Harmony Week is just one more time that is dedicated to finding common ground between faiths. We may not be able to change the entire world by being friendly, but we can change our community by encouraging diversity and tolerance.

A Collection of Literature for Black History Month
A library full of different texts and literature.

By reading literature from the past, we can help make our future better.

The 2017 theme for Black History Month is “The Crisis in Education.” Even though racially separated schools are illegal, many urban neighborhoods that are predominantly African-American still have a crisis in education. Schools are underfunded and overcrowded and fail to deliver substantive opportunities. These gaps have to be addressed to ensure all children have the opportunity to change the world. Take some time to read one of these great books for Black History Month to understand how these artists have made a different in literature.

 

Literature Based on the Harlem Renaissance

  1.  “The Collected Poems” by Langston Hughes

    Explore the works of one poet in this collection. Hughes was a writer in the early 20th century who received many awards that allowed him to travel and write. He is a lyrical poet and considered one of the fathers of “jazz poetry.” As a leader of the Harlem Renaissance, he is an influential American who had a way with words.

  2. “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston

    Hurston was a contemporary of Hughes. She experienced literary success in the 1920s, leading her to be an influential figure during the Harlem Renaissance. This novel is considered her masterwork, but at the time it was published, in 1937, it was poorly received.

  3.    “Go Tell It on the Mountain” by James Baldwin

    This novel, Baldwin’s first, is an autobiographical story of his life as a teenager during the Harlem Renaissance. He draws heavily on the language of the King James Bible and makes several references to stories in the Bible, which are important to his culture. The Church has both positive and negative influences in this classic.

Other Reading Material for Black History Month

  1. “The 100 Best African American Poems” edited by Nikki Giovanni

    Giovanni put together this collection of great poetry that celebrates the African-American heritage. It’s probably the best compendium for readers to get a taste of poetry from the lens of the Black poet.

  2. “Native Son” by Richard Wright

    Although “Native Son” may seem like a trope of the classic story of an African-American man who kills a white woman, Wright never attempts to justify the behavior; he just explains how it was inevitable. It’s about poverty, fear, fate and free will.

  3. “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison

    Ellison’s novel is a bildungsroman, or coming-of-age story, that discusses many of the social and political issues of the 20th century that affected black men. Time magazine called it more than a race novel, naming the book as one of the top-100 Best Novels from 1923 to 2005

  4. “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave” by Frederick Douglass

    There’s probably no other memoir that has been as influential on the abolition of slavery than this one. Even if you don’t enjoy reading, this novel should be on your must-read list as a story of what it was like in the 19th century for a black man.

  5. “The Underground Railroad” by Colson Whitehead

    Whitehead writes about a literal “underground railroad” that slaves can take to freedom. This novel, which has won awards, reimagines what we know about the stories of the South. It’s a grim and realistic look at slavery during the Civil War.

Learn From the Past

In order to understand the future, we have to understand history. Knowing the civil rights issues that the African-American faced in the past helps us ensure that our country never returns to that place. Maya Angelou said, “It is impossible to struggle for civil rights, equal rights for blacks, without including whites. Because equal rights, fair play, justice, are all like the air: we all have it, or none of us has it. That is the truth of it.”

Choosing Flowers Based on Symbolism
Many flowers have different meanings.

Large bouquet of different colored flowers, specifically tulips.

At one of the most prominent weddings of the 21st century, the flowers for the bridal bouquet were carefully chosen. Kate Middleton selected the ones that were important to her family and to the Royal Family. Myrtle was chosen as an emblem of marriage and love, and specifically, the sprigs of myrtle came from a plant grown from the myrtle used in the bouquet of Queen Elizabeth II. Kate chose ivy, the symbolization of fidelity and affection. The hyacinth was representative of “constancy of love.” Sweet William was for gallantry, and the lily of the valley for the return of happiness.

You don’t have to be royal to make a wedding bouquet that’s representative of your partner and yourself. Flowers aren’t only for weddings, either. You may want to use this list when you need to choose a spray for your grandma’s funeral.

The Meaning of Roses

You probably know that red roses are for love. Practically everyone gives these flowers for Valentine’s Day, but roses come in many different colors. Say what you mean by choosing different colors for the bouquet you bring to your loved one:

  • White – innocence and purity
  • Yellow – joy and friendship, or a new beginning
  • Orange – enthusiasm
  • Dark red – unconscious beauty
  • Light pink – grace and gentleness
  • Coral – friendship and modesty
  • Lavender – love at first sight
  • Dark pink – gratitude or appreciation
  • Pale peach – modesty
  • Yellow with a red tip – falling in love

More Flowers With Meanings

Here are some other popular flowers and greenery that you can choose to say something special:

  • Bachelor’s button – blessedness
  • Bay – glory
  • Chrysanthemum – cheerfulness
  • Daffodils – regard
  • Daisy – innocence
  • Ferns – sincerity
  • White jasmine – sweet love
  • Lavender – devotion
  • Mint – virtue
  • Red poppy – consolation
  • Sage – wisdom and mortality
  • Yellow tulips – hope and cheery thoughts, friendship
  • White tulips – an apology
  • Pink tulips – confidence and happiness
  • Purple tulips – the color of royalty, used to express admiration for someone’s accomplishments
  • Violets – faithfulness

The white carnation symbolizes pure love. Pink carnations are symbolic of a mother’s undying love. Legend suggests that the pink carnation first appeared from the Virgin Mary’s tears. Purple carnations are for unpredictability. Light red carnations are for admiration; dark red carnations are a sign of deep love and affection.

Another suggestion for symbolic flowers is to host a garden party with your friends and have each one bring a flower or plant that has meaning to the person. Make a pretty flower garden or create a mixed bouquet to remember each other. It would make a nice housewarming gift or a memory for a new bride.

Make a Special Message

Flowers aren’t just for weddings, funerals and special holidays. Take home a bunch of flowers to your loved one anytime to make a special memory. Know the language of flowers to send the right message any time you choose.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, how many words is a flower bouquet worth? Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “the earth laughs in flowers.” Christian Dior believes, “after women, flowers are the most lovely thing God has given the world.” Say something special with flowers.

15 Self-Care Tips for Any Time of Year
Healthy self-care lifestyle concept with diet and fitness.

Effective self-care requires a healthy balance of taking care of your mind as well as your body.

Life gets hectic sometimes, and if you’re like most people, you just keep going along with the flow. You probably forgot to take care of yourself amid the holiday parties or following after-school activities, work, and family obligations. It doesn’t matter if it’s the middle of winter or end of summer. These self-care tips will help you keep a positive outlook when life gets to be too much.

Bodily Self-Care Tips

  1. Take long, deep breaths from the diaphragm to slow your heart rate.
  2. Eat healthy. There’s more than one reason to eat more vegetables, fruits and grains. It’s not just about staying healthy, it’s about having more energy and feeling better. But don’t forget to splurge on your favorites. Moderation is the name of the game.
  3. Cherish your rituals. Create special moments for the holidays, but also make daily rituals that add meaning to your life. Make the bed with your spouse every morning to remember to start the day together. Have time together with your family every night at a regular time to focus on each other. Ground your day with the ones who matter to you.
  4. Cherish your friends and make time for them. Have a night out when life gets tough and you need someone to chat with. Better yet, order in and have a night at home talking to your BFF.
  5. Make time for regular exercise. Sitting around on your couch isn’t only bad for your mental game, it’s not healthy physically. Find some kind of physical activity that you enjoy. Try out different sports until you find one that fits into your lifestyle.
  6. Watch less TV. Television robs you of your time, your goals and your motivation. Rein in the binge watching to get off the couch and do something else.

Mental Self-Care Tips

  1. Put the electronics down every day. Recharge your phone and your mind by giving yourself a break from being readily available and on call. Research shows that people sleep better when they don’t look at the backlit screens before bed.
  2. Allow yourself to feel your emotions. Don’t fight your anger or sadness. It’s said that “what you resist, persists.” Get it out of your system and move on to more positive feelings.
  3. Read more. Non-fiction expands your mind, while fiction expands your imagination. Take some time to enjoy a good book.
  4. Take time off social media. If you’re on Facebook and Twitter all day for work and then come home and spend time looking at the best aspects of your friends’ lives, you’ll probably start comparing yourself to others, which doesn’t help with self-care.
  5. Stay away from negative people. Surround yourself with people who will help you stay positive and motivated.
  6. Don’t be that negative person in others’ lives. Everyone has bad days, but don’t be the one who talks badly about everyone else.
  7. Forgive yourself. You have to give up the anger you have toward yourself for the mistakes you make. If guilt doesn’t encourage you to change, then it isn’t good guilt.
  8. Forgive others, or at the very least make a choice to stop carrying the anger around. Deal with what’s bothering you and keeping you from moving forward. It’s not easy to let those things go, but the negative feelings you hold inside are not hurting anyone but you.
  9. Learn to say no. Don’t feel as if you always have to say yes. Set boundaries and limits for yourself.

Self-care isn’t always easy, but it’s vital to your well-being. You aren’t going to have all the answers, nor do you need to. You just need to enjoy the journey of life, wherever it takes you.

9 Movies for Black History Month
Black History Heading showing Africa and North America.

Here in North America, we dedicate the month of February to celebrating Black History.

Like the United States, Canada celebrates Black History Month during February. This month was chosen because of the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. The roots of Black History Month began in the early 20th century, but it was in the 1970s when the observance picked up momentum. In Canada, it was in the mid-1990s when the month was officially recognized.

Black History Month has its critics. There are some who say black history is history; it shouldn’t be relegated to one month. Even so, it’s good to remember the contributions of people who often get overlooked in the history books. Not everyone can be remembered in one history text or class. In honor of Black History Month, here are some movies you should see:

Classic Movies About Black History

  1.    “Gone With the Wind” (1939)Margaret Mitchell’s epic book that was made into a movie has its critics. However, what’s interesting to note is that Hattie McDonnell, the actress who played Mammy, was the first black person to receive an Oscar. The producer had to call in a special favor to get permission for McDaniel to be allowed into the no-blacks Ambassador Hotel to accept the prize.
  2.    “Lilies of the Field” (1964)Sidney Poitier became the first black man to receive an Oscar, nearly 25 years following McDaniel’s win. This 1964 classic might seem tame compared to today’s blockbusters, but it’s a great lesson in humility and faith in accomplishing goals.
  3.    “In the Heat of the Night” (1967)Poitier was a big name in Hollywood, and in 1967, he starred as a detective from the North who had to help a racist cop in the South track down a murderer. Through the course of the film, the two men begin to develop mutual understanding. The film represents the changing social-political climate actually occurring throughout the United States.
  4.    “The Color Purple” (1985)This movie, directed by Steven Spielberg, was a highly acclaimed film of its time. It was Whoopi Goldberg’s breakout role, but more importantly, it focused on the plight of the African-American woman. See it in film, read the book or attend the theater version.

More Recent Movies About black History

  1. “Boyz N the Hood” (1991)John Singleton kicked off a decade that gave us many movies about black men just trying to survive in their own urban city under the veil of violence and discrimination. He was the first and youngest African-American to be nominated for Best Director.
  2. “Malcolm X” (1992)This film was placed on the National Film Registry because of its historic significance. Denzel Washington lost the Academy Award for Best Actor that year, but he still took many other awards for his role. The film is highly acclaimed and well received, and it’s a must-see for everyone to understand this man who changed history.
  3. “Hidden Figures” (2016)Released last year, this movie recognizes the contribution of black women to the United States’ space program. It’s based on the true story of three Virginia women who changed history by believing they could.
  4. “Ray” (2004)Ray Charles is one of the most acclaimed musicians in the world, but he came from very humble beginnings. At the age of seven, Charles went completely blind. Still, he overcame his disability and his heritage to become one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century. This film is a story of his perseverance during a difficult time in history.

There are many other movies that give us glimpses into the history of African-Americans. Spike Lee has made many movies that did not fit on this list. Watch some of these great flicks during Black History Month.

Stop Smoking This Year
2017 is the year to stop smoking

It is many people’s New Years Resolution to stop smoking in 2017.

The third week of January is designated National Non-Smoking Week in Canada. The Canadian Council for Tobacco Control coordinates the efforts. The agency asks everyone to have a Weedless Wednesday by giving up all smoking on this day. The entire week is dedicated to the conversation about smoking and its impact on your health.

Common Concerns When Trying to Stop Smoking

You know the reasons to quit smoking: It’s better for your health, the air and the people around you. However, it’s not easy to stop smoking after years of relying on cigarettes. Too, there are many fears about how you will adapt to life without smoking. Many people are concerned about weight gain and withdrawal. However, by working with cessation experts, you can minimize your concerns and prevent weight gain. There has been a lot of research dedicated to the cessation of smoking and its impacts on your life. One key finding is that stopping smoking is better for your overall health than gaining a few pounds or going through withdrawal.

Benefits of Quitting

It takes two hours for your blood pressure and heart rate to return to normal after smoking a cigarette. Blood circulation also improves in this time frame. Imagine if you gave up half of the cigarettes you smoked each day. Your body would have more normal vitals that much longer. After 12 hours without a smoke, the carbon monoxide in your blood decreases to normal levels and the amount of oxygen in your blood to increases to normal levels.

In just one day without a cigarette, your risk of having a heart attack or developing coronary artery disease declines. You still have to watch your health, but you’re taking major steps toward increasing your lifespan. In two days, your ability to taste and smell improves because nerve endings are able to regenerate. It takes three days for the nicotine to be out of your system. This is when the biggest onset of withdrawal symptoms occurs. You’ve saved money for the past three days by not smoking, so do something for yourself. Get a massage, go out to the range or buy something nice for yourself as a reward.

In the next two to three weeks, you’ll be feeling much better and able to get back to exercise and do physical things without getting winded. The withdrawal symptoms should begin to subside by this time. You’ll be able to breathe easier and enjoy more of life’s fun. After four weeks, the cilia in your lungs are repaired to the point of being able to help you fight off lung infections and respiratory issues. This helps your lungs repair. The longer you go without smoking, the less withdrawal symptoms you’ll experience. After one year without smoking, your risk of heart disease is reduced by half of what it was when you were smoking.

Set Goals

Once you’ve decided to stop smoking, set goals. Make sure these goals are manageable and measurable. Instead of trying to give up smoking for one year, take it one week at a time. Just for seven days you’re going to stop or at least reduce the number of cigarettes you smoke.

Use the intervention programs that are available to you. Through the Council for Tobacco Control, you have access to helplines, telephone counseling, therapy and community-based programs. Your healthcare provider can even provide interventions to assist you through the withdrawal symptoms. It’s up to you to ask for help. Gain the support of your family. Talk about your fears and expectations. Make a commitment to your health by giving up cigarettes. Take up a new hobby to replace the time you spent smoking. Do it for yourself and your loved ones who want you around for years to come.

Wedding Engagement Announcement Etiquette
Taking the first steps towards an engagement.

Every engagement started somewhere. For some, it was dating a friend; for others, dating websites played a crucial role.

According to some experts, about 40 percent of wedding engagements occur between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day. It doesn’t matter when you get engaged, you’ll want to spread the news far and wide. It might sound like a childish notion to have a plan for sharing your engagement news, but you’ll want to make sure that your mom hears your announcement from you, not Aunt Sally. Here are some etiquette tips you might want to consider.

Who Do I Tell First?

Before posting on social media, you want to make sure your family and close friends know. If you have kids, you should talk to them first and give them some time to process their emotions before making the big announcement. Social media and/or newspaper announcements should follow your own verbal notices.

Can I Post Pictures of the Ring on Social Media?

Modern etiquette experts all recommend not sharing a picture of just your ring on social media, although it is very common to see close-up pictures of rings on Instagram or Facebook. The best way is to take a picture of your left hand that includes you and your fiancé. It’s more gracious and focuses on your announcement instead of focusing on the consumerism of how big the ring is.

Dealing With Uncomfortable Questions About the Ring

If you get asked about the price or size of your ring, you may be uncomfortable discussing that particular information. You don’t have to tell someone how much the ring cost or how many carats the diamond is. It is good to have a general response to any questions to be able to deflect the discomfort you feel. “Brad spent more than he should have, but we’ll have this treasure forever.” “It’s not the size that matters to me.” Humor is a good tool to have in your arsenal. Quickly change the subject to some other aspect of the wedding.

Who Should Be Invited to the Engagement Party?

You might want to invite all your friends and family to your engagement party, but wedding etiquette dictates that everyone who is invited to pre-wedding events should be invited to the actual wedding. This is one reason to keep the engagement party small. Although anyone can throw the celebration, traditionally the parents of the bride host the party. The best man and maid of honor should not be the ones hosting this party, because they are responsible for other parties closer to the wedding.

Do Brides Have to Wear White to the Engagement Party?

It is traditional for brides to wear white to the party, but that shouldn’t limit your wardrobe. The most important thing is that you feel comfortable and enjoy the party and your friends. White puts you in the spotlight, and it will be a nice reminder that those pictures are from the engagement party.

Etiquette for Those Who Have Been Informed About the Engagement

If you’ve been chosen to get the information before it’s been posted on social media, hold off on posting anything on social media about the wedding until after the couple makes an announcement. It’s tempting to want to break the news, but it’s just good etiquette to wait. Don’t ask about the size or cost of the ring. If the bride and groom want to tell you, they will.

You also shouldn’t approach the couple to ask whether you’ll be in the bridal party. It puts the bride and groom in the awkward position of having to say no if they’re planning a small wedding and not including you. Just wait to let the bride ask you. You aren’t obligated to get engagement gifts for the couple, but gifts are customary. Choose affordable gifts that fit within your budget and communicate your happiness.