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On Tuesday, Joe and I celebrated our five year wedding anniversary! That milestone and the fact that I've been feeling nostalgic lately has had me thinking back on our life together and all of the memories that we've made. I've loved reading posts here on the blog that share the details of how we met and fell in love and I may or may not have read our love story timeline a few times this week. A lot of the memories that I have revolve around our date nights or the many weekend getaways that we've enjoyed together. As I was looking back on the date night memories that stand out to me the most, I started thinking about what made them so memorable.
I've always had a passion for date night, but for a couple of years, we were taking date night for granted. Now more than ever, with our busy schedules and our roles as parents, being intentional with date night is important to us. I don't expect every week's activity to be one that I remember in detail for year's to come, but I want to be intentional with each one and not take any of them for granted. By remembering the things that have made other dates memorable, I hope to add more memories to our story, make our marriage greater and make date night a ritual that we look forward to anxiously each week.
4 Tips for More Memorable Date Nights
We kept it simple
Sometimes I try to go overboard and come up with extravagant plans for our weekly date. This usually just sets us up for disasters which lead to more frustration than fun. Most of the dates that I look back on and smile about were simple and not something that I would have thought of as being a memorable date night activity.
One of my favorite dates to think back on was a double date with two of mine and Joe's really good friends. The guys planned the date and it was just dinner and a movie, but we laughed all night and had the greatest time ever! I don't remember a lot of details about the date, but I do remember where we went to eat, that we saw Tangled and cuddled in the movie theater, that Joe and I took lots of silly pictures in the backseat on the drive home and that that was the night when we decided that we wanted to get married in June instead of waiting until October like we'd originally planned.
Two of my most memorable dates took place at Olive Garden. The first was a simple dinner date, but Joe had been asking me all day what I was craving and instead of going to any of the restaurants that I said sounded good, he drove off in the opposite direction. He'd remembered that every time an Olive Garden commercial popped up while he was watching TV and I was doing homework, I'd mention that we'd still never been there together, and he decided to change that. We walked around the mall after our date and much to Joe's disappointment (he says it ruined the date), we took photo booth pictures. The pictures that we took that night are still hanging on our fridge today.
The other Olive Garden date night was this past Valentine's weekend. We'd just found out that day that we were expecting baby #2. I'd taken the pregnancy test while Joe was picking up our babysitter on his way home from work. I put the positive test in a ziploc bag and hid it in the car and then handed it to Joe when we got in to go on our date. There was an hour and a half wait for Olive Garden, so we went over to the mall to wander and ended up spending 10 minutes figuring out how to get the weird massage chairs to work until we finally got our three minutes massages. We were laughing the entire time because I couldn't figure out the settings on my chair and it kept squeezing my legs so hard it hurt! We enjoyed a big, filling dinner together while we observed high school dance groups and reminisced on our own high school dances. Afterward, we wandered around Target, bought prenatals, and I noted the number of couples there, wondering if they were killing time until the babysitter had the kids in bed like we were.
We stayed at home
I'm a big fan of at home date nights, especially now that we have Bensen and have to take him or get a babysitter in order to go out. Having a family date at first and turning it into a real date after he's in bed or waiting until after bedtime to start our date night activities altogether has been really fun! We're forced to be creative and be present with each other without letting house projects or other responsibilities invade on date night territory. Our budget usually thanks us for staying home at well.
A year into our marriage, we decided to try Datelivery, a new company that I'd read about on a couple of other blogs the month before. We received their very first subscription box and spent date night having and Iron Chef pizza cook off. It was so simple because Datelivery had planned everything for us, all we had to do was read the instructions and enjoy our night together. After we'd completed the date box part of our night, we took Howie to the park and did some stargazing. We still have our chef attire, including the mustaches, and I keep saying that we're going to do that date night again, but it has yet to happen. I guess it's one to add to the list for after this baby comes.
Last summer we had another cook-off, but this time we grilled ribs. That date night activity increased our love of grilling together and led to us finding a new favorite recipe. Joe's winning ribs have been made over and over again since that night and it's something that we always look forward to doing together. I've always loved ribs, but was always hesitant to try making them in anything other than the crockpot. We stepped outside of our comfort zone a bit for that date night and I'm so glad we did!
We tried something new
One thing that I love about our date night bucket lists is that they get us doing something that we've talked about doing for a while, but never get around to. They break us out of our date night routine and add a little bit of extra excitement to our favorite day of the week! I've loved each of the date nights that we crossed off our list. We've discovered our new favorite place to see movies, found the best place to get a burger and gone on a few family adventures.
Our family date afternoon up to Midway this past winter is one of my favorite memories. We had a lot of laughs, enjoyed quality time, hung out in a beautiful setting and got to see Bensen experience some new things. We LOVED the ice castles! We also loved going to the drive-in last summer, although that's probably not a date that Joe and I will go on again. Bensen was young enough that we could take him with us and have him sleep on the backseat while we watched our shows. He was asleep before the first movie even started and we enjoyed a picnic and a baby free date night. However, we had to spend a little bit of time getting him back to sleep when we got home and we decided that we were up way too late for our liking. It was my first time at a drive-in and still a date night that I will always remember.
We splurged a little bit
Every once and a while, we let ourselves go crazy and go on a date that our budget might not necessarily appreciate. This past weekend, we ate one of the most expensive dinners we've ever had. But it was our five year anniversary and it was all about the experience! We definitely don't regret it. We also love to go to Brazilian steakhouses, usually for special occasions like our birthdays or to celebrate the end of another semester. For our one year anniversary, we went to a fun restaurant called The Prairie Schooner and we went back again on the surprise weekend away that Joe planned after graduation.
Splurging on date night usually lets you experience something that you might not ever experience again. It changes the atmosphere that you're used to and gives you something new to experience together. We have a good date night budget, but every once and a while, we feel like it's worth it to exceed that budget because our marriage and making new memories together is worth that extra investment.
Sometimes going all out leads to memorable date nights that you'll look back on and talk about for years to come. But other times, it's the date nights that you wouldn't think are anything special that you are going to remember the most. If you are intentional and plan something that you know you will both enjoy, you will make memories on date night.
Photography by Sadie Banks Photography