The Road to Residency

Tips to Prepare for USMLE Step 1 by Dr. Teoria Murray.

God has truly blessed me with strong, phenomenal, professional young women who are open to sharing their experiences and encouraging others in their journey. Today's post was written by Dr. Teoria Murray; may you find useful tips as you prepare for the USMLE Step 1 exam.

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Tackling the USMLE Step 1- One IMG’s Story

If you are a medical student or graduate anywhere in the world, chances are you have heard of the dreaded United States Medical Licensing Examination. This 3 step hurdle has been known to stir up fear, anxiety and frustration in the hearts of those with the goal of entering a US residency program. As a 2018 graduate of the University of the West Indies in The Bahamas, I was no exception to this rule. After completing medical school and then internship, I set my sights on the Goliath USMLE Step 1 and completed this task (mostly) unscathed. In this post I will share with you the insights I gained in the process so you can hopefully have an easier experience than I did. 

1.     Set clear, realistic goals


Medicine is vast with an estimate of over 120 specialties and subspecialties in the United States. What is the specialty of your dreams? Based on your research and experience thus far, what area do you think you could wake up and still enjoy practicing for decades to come? You may not have a clear frontrunner in mind and that’s okay. Maybe there are two or three that spark a light in you. Do not set a low bar for yourself because of the perceived disadvantage of being an international medical graduate. Look up the average IMG Step 1 score for your target specialty and aim above that. As you take practice tests, track your progress toward this goal. Work towards it. Pray about it. Hang it high in your mind as an achievable goal. 

Source: Charting Outcomes in the Match: International Medical GraduatesCharacteristics of International Medical Graduates Who Matched to Their Preferred Specialty in the 2018 Main Residency Matchhttps://www.nrmp.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Charting-Outcomes-in-the-Match-2018-IMGs.pdf


2.     Create a study schedule


Once you know your goal score, you also need to decide the amount of time you will dedicate to studying. Generally, it is recommended that IMGs spend at least 6-8 months studying for Step 1 for 6-8 hours a day on most days. When I made the decision to take Step 1, I realized that the long days of hospital-based medicine led to exhausted nights and I wouldn’t have the discipline or energy to study like I needed to. This led to the tough decision of taking 5 months away from work for dedicated study. If you can do this, that’s great! However, many persons can’t realistically afford to do so. In that case, study time will have to be structured around your work schedule and other responsibilities. Towards the end of the study period, set aside a dedicated study time for serious review. 

There are lots of study schedules out there than you can adapt to your personal needs and it may take some trial and error to find one that works for you. There are templates for 6 weeks, 3 months, 6 months, 12 months and everything in between. I settled on Cram Fighter’s 4 month schedule because of the time left before my exam at that point, but if I could do it again I would have chosen the 6 month option. You can have a look at some sample schedules here


 3.     Choose your resources wisely


The amount of information that’s available to us in the 21st century can be both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, there’s so much useful information. On the other hand, there’s just SO MUCH useful information. How do you choose? The key isn’t how many resources you use but how well you utilize them. In this case, less really is more (especially since you will likely go through the material multiple times). For Step 1, the core resources are UWORLD, First Aid, and Pathoma (UFAP). To supplement these, I found Sketchy Microbiology and Pharmacology useful. Picmonic is also a good visual aid to cement these concepts. However, take consideration of your learning style as well. If you find yourself to be a more visual learner, you may use online learning systems like AMBOSS, Boards & Beyond or Lecturio to guide you through UFAP. The possibilities are endless, so the best advice I can give here is to CHOOSE EARLY. Then evaluate your decision and decide if changes need to be made but do this within the first weeks of study because changing tactics late in the process can be a costly mistake.


 

4.     Spend more time on weaker areas


Step 1 is divided into the major areas of Anatomy, Behavioral sciences, Biochemistry, Biostatistics and epidemiology, Immunology, Microbiology, Molecular and cell biology, Pathology, Pharmacology, and Physiology, with some genetics and nutrition sprinkled in. We all have those subjects that come easier to us. I would find myself almost enjoying studying behavioral sciences and pathology most days, but other areas of study seemed more painful than pulling teeth. (Biochemistry, I’m looking at you.) This is a discomfort you want to face head on. The subjects that you least enjoy studying and that you score lower on in practice tests are the ones that need your attention. Review them early and often.



5.     Practice, practice, practice


Get UWORLD early in your study period. You may be tempted to wait until you have seen all the information to start practicing exam questions. After all, that’s usually the way most of us did things up until now. You learn the information then practice exam questions when you almost feel ready. Step 1 is a whole different ball game. UWORLD is a useful tool with over 2000 questions and explanations. The questions are very close to those that will appear on the real thing so you want to give yourself time to get comfortable with the question format and the thinking that goes into answering them. The UWORLD subscription also comes with a simulated exam (UWSA) that is a bit shorter than the real thing but can give you a taste of what it will be like. 

You will also want to take NBME exams. These are the closest to the real deal you will see before exam day and tend to approximate your Step 1 score +/- 9 points. It is recommended that you take at least 3 or 4 of these prior to the actual exam as a concrete way of measuring how effective your studying is. If your NBME score 1 month from the big day is still a far cry from your goal, it may be a good idea to postpone your exam and give yourself more time to study.



6.     Take care of your health


As robotic as the rigors of USMLE prep can make you feel, you aren’t a machine. You will still need sunshine, fresh air, water, exercise, and some social interaction. In the era of COVID-19 this may take some creativity, but a healthy body, mind and soul will go a long way in boosting your productivity. Set fixed times for study and stick to them, without multitasking. Schedule study breaks and take them. Eat healthy foods that can fuel your brain whenever possible instead of junk food that can make your brain feel foggy. Don’t use caffeine as a substitute for sleep. This is a marathon not a sprint and you don’t want to burn out. Do things you love. Stay in touch with your loved ones. Read a book or watch a show that has nothing to do with medicine, even if only for 30 minutes every day. 



7.     Give yourself grace

Preparing for and passing the USMLE is taxing. Some days you won’t feel like studying. Study anyway. Some days you won’t meet all of your goals. You may score lower than you expected on a UWORLD question block. Your NBMEs may be less than stellar. You may doubt yourself, your abilities, your goals, your calling, and all the signs that led you to believe you were on the right path. Don’t beat yourself up. Take a deep breath. Stretch. Pray. Reach out to someone you know is always in your corner for a pep talk. Talk things through with other colleagues preparing for the exam or who have taken it recently. But whatever you do, don’t give up. You already know that you are capable of amazing things. God has brought you this far and it’s only up from here. So keep pushing and at the top of this mountain, when you realize it was all worth it, reach back and encourage those still climbing. 

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Dr. Murray is a recent graduate of the University of the West Indies, currently practicing medicine in The Bahamas. Feel free to post your comments below if you would like to hear more from here in reference to the USMLE Step 1 examination. 


Wedding Series | Part 2

“So it's not gonna be easy. It's going to be really hard; we're gonna have to work at this everyday, but I want to do that because I want you. I want all of you, forever, everyday. You and me... everyday.” 
― Nicholas Sparks, The Notebook


Thank you for returning for the remaining tips in this two part series. Be sure to read all the way until the end as there's a surprise in store particularly for those who are planning their wedding and reside in The Bahamas.


In the last post, we left off with the cake and ways to go about deciding on a vendor. Keeping in line with the reception festivities, the next point has to do with what sets the mood.


10. Music

In all honesty, this was one of the most tedious parts of the wedding planning process. This takes a whole lot of time and talent since you have to consider every aspect of the wedding. 

One way that most wedding planners suggested you tackle this was to divide it up into the different areas of the wedding and then to subdivide that list. What do I mean by this? Well I'll just list it below seeing lists are more aesthetically pleasing and easier to read: 

  1. Song/Music for when guests arrive and are seated
  2. Processional Song: Song that is played when the bridal party enters
  3. Bridal Entrance Song
  4. Ceremony Song: songs that are played for the lighting of the unity candle, signing of the register or jumping the broom
  5. Recessional Song: the song the bridal party exits to and all attendees
  6. Bridal Party Reception Entrance Song
  7. Bride and Groom Reception Entrance Song
  8. Cake Cutting Song
  9. First Dance Song
  10. Father/Daughter Dance Song
  11. Mother/Son Dance Song
  12. Playlist for the Party. 
Remember that your music should also tie in with your theme and fit both your styles as well. You must also decide on whether or not you have the time to create a playlist that your DJ or wedding planner would be able to follow and seamlessly transition from one to the next.

When deciding on the music for your wedding be sure to remember that live performances (unless donated as a gift) can be expensive and these persons would also be included in your total guest count. 

I cannot stress enough, how important your theme is when deciding on whether you would like live performances (solos, bands, quartets etc) versus music that can be played from a USB. Our wedding was an outdoor wedding and we wanted to keep it very intimate and warm, so fortunately for us, between friends and family the music was not a big deal, the execution on the day appeared to be our biggest hassle as my wedding planner basically did her own thing and played music that she had on her phone. 

Be sure to stick to your budget as well. Trust me it can be done. A friend of mine who is way better at putting music together than I am, made a wedding playlist that her DJ played throughout her wedding, and with the exception of one song that was on repeat, it did in fact set the tone for her big day.

Check here for some ideas of songs for each of the above mentioned. 



11. Weekday vs. Weekend Wedding 

Most people stick to the traditional weekend wedding simply because that's all they know or they rather play it safe. But don't fall into this trap. 

Weddings can be held on any day of the week as long as you make the necessary arrangements, especially if you're having a destination wedding.

Is there a long weekend coming up and persons would have sufficient time to rest after they've celebrated with you and your new spouse? Why not have it the day before the long holiday weekend? 

If you haven't already gathered, weekday weddings are cheaper than weekend weddings. Do your research and when you're searching for a venue, ask what the difference would be if you were to host your special day on a weekday rather than a weekend. 

Our wedding was on a Thursday at 2:00 p.m. in the afternoon. By doing this, we were able to keep it to a "grown folks" affair and stay within our decided on number of guests. 


12.  Choosing a date

Depending on how you're planning your wedding and whether or not you've been sucked into the lie that your save the dates need to go out as soon as you are engaged, then you may already have a date and you can skip on to the next section. If you're still deciding on a date, then read on. 

When you're choosing a date, there are several things you must consider. 

  1. Be mindful of the part of the world in which you live. Based on where you live, you may have to consider when your country or the country you will be hosting your wedding, experiences their 'wet' or 'dry' season. You want to ensure your guests are properly dressed for the day as well as your wedding party and so you can plan to have either umbrellas or sunglasses that can be taken by your guests and used on the day if your event will be outdoors.  For us, we had to remember that although we wanted to be wed in September, hurricane season was still in effect during this time and when we discussed things with vendors this also had to be mentioned and all of the questions we had regarding alternatives and refunds etc were made clear in the event there was inclement weather and what would be done after. 
  2. If you're deciding on a holiday, will places be available. Be mindful that not all facilities may be open or if they are compare the prices to host events on a holiday versus on another day of the year. Also, keep in mind that some persons may have already planned vacations for certain holidays, so if you're holding onto a particular holiday, be sure to survey your friends and family members particularly those who you would like to be in your bridal party to see if they have anything planned as yet. 
  3. Consider your theme.  If you're planning a winter wonderland wedding, of course that would be hard or near impossible to execute in the dog days of summer. Your theme must also be considered when choosing your date. For outdoor weddings that you're wanting to be later in the afternoon, consider daylight saving's time etc. Summer's have longer days and shorter nights and would be an option for any type of outdoor soiree all things considered. 
And of course if the date has some sentimental value to you both, you can always do your best and plan around your date. 



13. Accommodations 

Thanks to all the creative, non-traditional persons out there and easy access to the internet to find all of this stuff out, when it comes to where guests will stay when they travel for your wedding, there are so many options. 

Before, persons would simply crash at someone's house if the space permitted or the bride and groom would secure blocks of rooms in a local hotel that was affordable. Now with websites such as airbnb, this takes the guess work out of wedding party or wedding guests accommodations. 

After calling around to the various hotels, we decided that an Airbnb rental would be more comfortable for our guests and would allow for bonding during the last few days leading up to the wedding. 

We were able to do everything in the home we rented and since our wedding was during hurricane season and more specifically the week of Hurricane Dorian, when we had issues with the initial home, we were granted the opportunity and assistance to transfer to another house within the same area as our first rental. 

Unbeknownst to most, the home we were transferred to was the one my husband liked from the beginning because of its coziness, whereas I loved the first house for the pictures, divided spaces and the outdoor area that was perfect for entertainment. 

Do be mindful that when you're booking your rentals via Airbnb, not all renters are created equal. Look for persons who are considered 'super hosts' like Scott and Kent. Kent ensured we were well taken care of the first night when we noticed with the heavy rainfall just how much water was coming into the house. 

Other things to consider when choosing accommodations for guests who would be from out of town especially are: 

  1. Cost. If you're hosting a large amount of persons you want to consider places that are affordable and if split between the total group would be a rate that everyone would be able to afford. 
  2. Proximity to Venue. It would be such a luxury to be within walking distance of your venue, because it would mean that even if you're a few minutes late you'll still be on time. Well not really but you get my drift. The last thing a wedding guest is looking forward to doing, is jumping in their car or having to rent a car to drive across an island or the state, just to attend your wedding. You have to factor in the time of day you'll be married, the day on which you're married, if its during high traffic times etc. The last thing you want is for your guests to go so far out of their way to get to celebrate with you, that when they arrive they're still trying to get rid of their road rage. Our accommodations were about 5 minutes walking distance from our venue and the walk was an easy one at that, if anyone wanted to walk, it was an option that we considered. 
  3. Number of Rooms.  If you're wanting everyone under the same roof, like we did, then consider whether or not the house you're viewing has enough space for everyone. You want to take into consideration the number of couples versus singles who will be traveling, whether there are enough bathrooms that can be shared, whether a family will be traveling as well and if they can get a section of the house to themselves for comfort. The last thing you want is for persons to spend all this money contributing to the cost of the house rental and not be comfortable. The owners of the property we rented also had villas/apartment units that could have been rented if persons weren't comfortable staying in the 'big house'. 

Tanglewood House. Montague Heights, The Bahamas. 

Be sure to have options and that are affordable, comfortable and within a good distance of where the event will be held to avoid persons getting lost etc. 

Here are some options we considered when choosing our wedding accommodations. One feature of the first house that we loved, was the fact that it had a cottage

The purpose of the cottage would be for my husband and I to retreat to following the wedding since I only had a week off which was dedicated to the wedding and we wouldn't have a honeymoon right away. The cottage was still on the grounds where everyone else would be, but within a safe distance to feel secluded and isolated from the world. 


14. Venue

I've given you some tips already in regards to your venue, but here are some more points you want to take note of. 

Your venue must fit your theme, your budget and the experience you're wanting to create for your guests. 

Be sure to research several options before deciding on one and you must discuss this with your partner. 

Now that you have your budget in hand, a date chosen (that may or may not be flexible) and several places that you've saw and considered, you can either contact these places yourself or hand the list over to your wedding planner. 

After my husband and I decided on our theme which took a whole lot of arm twisting since he wanted so desperately to get married on the beach, there was only one place that would fit what we had envisioned once this theme was chosen.

We went with the Retreat, a part of the Bahamas National Trust because of the beauty of the grounds, the various options to host the event and the ability to create awareness for the environment and the trust itself. 

The various gardens allowed us to take our guests on a nature walk through the park that some may have never entered or been a while since others revisited.

This venue also offered different packages for persons wanting to use the grounds for various aspects of their special day. This was the most affordable when compared to the cost of having our wedding in a hotel's ballroom or the cost to decorate a church hall (to my liking) as the trust offered a package that combined both ceremony and reception. For some, if your guest list is excessive and exceeds 100 persons, this option may not be the one for you as their maximum number of guests allowed is 100.

Another plus was that they offered a security deposit, which was rather impressive. Besides all of this, the main thing that peaked my interest was the fact that once you chose the combined ceremony and reception package, you had access to the entire grounds; which we used to our advantage utilising each 'garden' area for different parts of our wedding. 

The pathway leading to the ceremony area was what we used to create the feeling of a nature walk, the 'mocktail and games' area was set up in the garden adjacent to the one where the ceremony was held and one of the first gardens was used for photos with our family, friends and guests and the reception area stole the show. 

Have fun with your decorator and do as many walk-throughs as you may need to in order to get it just right.

Since we were tracking the storm up until the day before the wedding, I had walked through the venue several times with the decorator and wedding planner going over alternatives in the event there was a call for passing showers, or if the temperature became too unbearable. 

Bride's Aisle

Ceremony Garden

'Mocktail' Hour Garden: Transition between the ceremony and the reception. Lounge area for guests to grab refreshments and listen to some steel pan music and mingle while we took photos.

Reception Garden


15. Flowers

There are so many options when it comes to your bridal bouquet. Some persons choose bridal floral hoops or a bouquet of brooches and discard the idea of flowers altogether. Whatever tickles your fancy, fits your budget and works with your theme should be considered. 

Since our bridal party was very small (1 maid of honour,  1 best man) our floral arrangements didn't break the bank. 

As I mentioned in the last post when I discussed the cake, my mother decided that the flowers and the cake would be her contribution; and we are beyond grateful. 

When I decided upon my bouquet, I had my mind set on a cascading arrangement filled with burgundy flowers such as Proteas and anemones. The names alone scream E-X-P-E-N-S-I-V-E, however, once I found a vendor who was up to the challenge of creating such an arrangement and sourcing the flowers, they were within our budget and not as expensive as we thought. The main reason was because they were still in season in the United States and the only main cost would be the shipping. 

With the hurricane hovering over the islands of the Bahamas, closing businesses and affecting life and our wedding plans, I wasn't able to get my cascading arrangement filled with weird and wonderful species. Nonetheless, the florist did an amazing job of making an arrangement that would still complement our theme and be within our budget since she was unable to get her shipment of flowers. 

The decorator was able to work with the florist and together the arrangements for the reception table were simply perfect. 

To keep costs down in regards to your wedding, consider using flowers that are in season in your area or somewhere close if your florist has to outsource them. If you're okay with faux flowers, like my sister-in-law was, consider the affordable faux arrangements that are available on sites like Amazon. They can be repurposed in your new home or handed down or sold to someone else. 

Or, if you're like my friend, you can ditch the bouquet altogether. Only the traditionalists would really notice anyway. 

If you are including a bouquet, be mindful of the weight of it as well, since you will be holding it in your hand for most of the initial parts of the ceremony and then again for photos, some arrangements can be very heavy. As beautiful as my arrangement was, it was rather heavy to hold and I totally forgot how heavy they can be.

If you're having a bouquet toss, opt for tossing a single flower or a faux arrangement. Be sure to ask your florist about this as this may either be an additional cost or be included in your package. 



16.  Wedding Accessories/ Keepsakes

These are the something 'old, new, borrowed and blue' items and other must-haves that make your day extra special. 

They can be considered the perfect photo prop that is not only stylish, but functional as well. 


Custom scent or our wedding reception tables and out of town guest favours 


Some things you may want to consider to make your special day all the more special are: 

  1. A wedding dress hanger.   Be sure to consider a stylish, affordable dress hanger for all of those getting ready photos. There are various options to choose from, such as a French inspired hanger, like the one I went with to hold my dress, or wooden options that can be found in a number of shops on Etsy
  2. Wedding Scent. This can be the cologne, perfume or even the candle scent you plan on using on the day. For our wedding we had a candle scent created for our reception table which served as a mosquito repellant and offered a nice fragrance as well. Choose things that can serve dual purposes if possible. Your perfume or cologne bottle can add a certain aesthetic to your getting ready photos that you may not have considered before, so keep this in mind when you're choosing your items. 
  3. Shoes.  Your shoes should be affordable, comfortable and work well with your style and your venue. These are special details that photographers love to capture, so consider special ways to spruce them up, like adding messages to the soles, or choosing ones that have coloured soles to them. Get creative with this one. 
  4. Cufflinks and Tie bars.  These don't have to be boring. Incorporate your own personal flair to these photographable pieces. You can add initials, have them personalised with your favourite photo of you and your spouse etc. Consider personalisation sites for inspiration and out of the box ideas to spruce these items up and be sure to consider your budget. 
  5. Purse. Given your theme, a purse may be a feasible wedding accessory. There are so many wedding purses on the market now that it's going to be hard to choose just one if you're considering having a wedding purse. Be sure to stick with something that is small and stylish and can hold your essentials. You would want to consider how you would carry it if you're also carrying a bouquet, so be sure to work these little details out. 
  6. Veil. Nowadays, a veil is not an essential especially when you're considering your wedding theme. If you are going to wear a veil, you want to consider the length, and keep in mind these can get expensive the longer you go. You also must consider the shape, style, colour and whether or not you will want it to be embellished or not. I went with a birdcage veil which was handmade by a local. It fit the aesthetic I was aiming for and didn't take away from my dress. 
  7. Garter. If you're going to have a garter toss and all of the hoopla that goes with it, then you would want to consider how much you're going to spend for it. You can find very cheap ones from sites such as David's Bridal or even Etsy. Since this wasn't up our alley, we saved money and eliminated this altogether. Be sure to consider cost for these items, seeing it's something that will be tossed, do you want to spend a lot of money on it? 
  8. Hair accessories. For brides who are considering rocking their natural hair, there are so many hair comb and hair pin options to make your natural styles pop. Consider these for your bridal party as well as your mother's hairpieces if you're wanting a jewelled look without excessive pieces. 
  9. Capelets or jackets. With traditional wedding gowns being tossed to the side, there has been an influx of different pieces when we talk about a wedding 'dress'. These include caplets or jackets that can be added to a more slim fitting gown or to the bride who prefers walking down the aisle in a pantsuit. Whatever fits your fancy, be sure to consider the cost, whether you will have it custom made and the turnaround for such and the number of fittings required before your big day. 
  10. Cake topper. I almost forgot this special item. It was custom made from an Etsy shop in the Ukraine. Sadly no one knows what happened to it after the wedding, so the item I wanted to hold onto as a keepsake and use every anniversary, will now have to be replaced.
    Wedding accessories: Bridal robes, birdcage veil and bridal party hair accessories.



17. Services

The services include everything that makes up your special day as well as those that allow you to relax which you may or may not include. 

When choosing your vendors, and before you sign anything in life, you must always take the necessary time to read over the contract. Let the vendor know that you will need the contract in hand to read over before you make any payments or sign. Be sure to read it over with your spouse as well and as many times as necessary before you sign on the dotted lines. 

What happens most often, is that persons are so hung up on securing their venue or accommodations that they sign without reading and they pay the price later when there are hiccups on their day. Don't let this be you. Read the fine print and inquire if you are unclear about something listed in the contract especially if the vendor mentioned something else when you spoke, so that the contract can be adjusted to reflect what was discussed. 

Some services you may not have considered are as follows: 

  1. Hair and makeup. This can be a consolidated service or a stand alone service depending on the overall cost. If you can consolidate this service be sure to do so as you may save more if you were to go with one vendor versus two. Be mindful of the restrictions for this service such as the time the hairstylist or make-up artists will arrive and the cost if the bridal party is not available on time for them to begin. Have a wedding day timeline that can be given to your day of coordinator (if you're going with a wedding planner, this should be provided), your stylist and other vendors a day before your wedding day. 
  2. Barber services. Men aren't as fussy as women in regards to grooming as most can cut their own hair or beard, but if you're wanting to treat your spouse and his pals to this service be sure to speak with a barber shop to ensure they can accommodate each groomsmen and satisfy their needs and the overall style of each gentleman. With this service you must also pay special attention to the time allotted and relay this information to your spouse so everything can go as planned on your special day. 
  3. Nail care.  Based on how elaborate you go, this can be done a few days before your wedding as well as a day before your wedding. If your gals are taking care of their own nail arrangements be sure you know when they're going to have them done and that they have a timeline for the wedding so they aren't scheduling their nail appointment too close to anything that you have planned. 
  4. Officiant. If you are having multiple persons officiate your wedding as we did, be sure to speak to each person to know what the cost will be and if they have any restrictions to what is planned for the ceremony. Before you print your programs be sure to have your minister review it as some may refuse to officiate based on what you're wanting for your ceremony if your ceremony isn't traditional.
  5. Performers. Some persons require full payment upfront to book, and others only require half, some may include in their fee an invitation to the reception and to be fed, while others will only charge for their time performing and leave when they are done. Be transparent with your vendors. 
  6. Decorator. This service may be combined with a florist if you happen to be in an area with an assortment of wedding vendors. Be sure to inquire on the cost of each service offered individually and combined. Some wedding planners also work as venue decorators, have the ability to design and print your programs and may even offer florist assistance. Just ask and see if you can consolidate services for a reasonable price. 
  7. Caterer. Some caterers offer rental of dinnerware and serve ware whereas others do not. These are all services that can be combined and that can save you money. 
  8. Photography and Videography. This is another service that can be combined and if you ask, may offer some perks if you book them together. Be sure to read your contracts carefully and what each vendor is offering as you may end up paying for something that you initially thought was covered. 
  9. Emcee/Master of Ceremonies. This can be consolidated as well if your DJ is talented in this area. Fortunately for us we were able to solicit the talent of my cousin and one of the Bahamas' finest comedians- Sawyerboy. This was the icing to this family filled affair. 

Get your family involved if they're talented enough to add to your special day. 

The main point I'm trying to get across is the importance of reading the contract and keeping in mind all of the things vendors do not mention when you initially meet such as the times they will terminate their services, when you can expect to get your security deposit and what will lead to forfeiture of that deposit. 


18. Go with your gut

As much as you will plan, everything won't go according to it. Be sure to take in each second of the day and go with your gut when you must. 

Since we are a praying couple, and as much as my wedding planner wanted me to cancel my wedding because of the storm, we knew that by the day of our wedding the weather would clear up, it may be hotter than we would have liked, but all in all there wouldn't be need to cancel. 

Not everyone will understand why you're doing some things and everyone will question you, but proceed as planned if you've received divine assurance. Be wise and always keep your plans before the King. 



19. Choose sustainable jewellery options

If you're paying out of pocket for your wedding and exchanging rings will not be a part of your ceremony, consider putting off rings until you can afford it, or purchase affordable, sustainable options. 

There are so many sustainable jewellery options out there that will surprise you. Consider sites such as Everly or The True Gem or even Brilliant Earth. These companies provide affordable options for every lifestyle and budget and offers options such as moissanite as opposed to the typical diamond. 

If rings aren't your style and you're looking for something more functional, you can choose his and her watches. 

Whatever suits your fancy, be sure to stay true to who you are, your beliefs and what you can afford. 


Do not allow society or family to dictate how your wedding should be, after all this day is to celebrate your union and no-one else's. 


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There you have it. The completion of this two part series. Thank you for reading until the end.

As promised, here is the list of local vendors whose services we utilised for our special day.




Caterer: Frank & Annie Roker Catering, sourced through Wedding planner.


From Furnace to Palace

“The greatest breakthroughs happen in the most difficult of times. Expect, believe and receive it.” 
― Jeanette Coron


The last five months have been interesting, to say the least.

I've gotten married. I've relocated to another island. I've taken on a new role. I've slept in a tent while on call. I've worked without a salary. I've worked a 24+ hour shift while receiving treatment for my own ailments. I've sat and cried and questioned God because, despite all of this, nothing appeared to be going right.

During the last five months, I have never experienced so much frustration and anger. My body through pain tried to get my attention and foolishly I ignored it. Pain is our body's way of drawing light to a problem that is brewing. We are programmed to work through it or to dampen this response with analgesia so we can work more. Well, my body had enough. It is now during this time of rest and healing and also waiting that I decided to spend more time in the word since I've also become prone to neglecting my personal alone time with God.

After disturbing text messages and in light of what seems to be a hopeless situation (the state of healthcare in The Bahamas), I found myself drawing comparisons with my current situation and that of Daniel and his friends. This opened my eyes to the promise of breakthroughs after trials.

As the world is now experiencing a crisis, it is becoming more evident the importance of knowing that this is not the end. There is life after death, and that life can be ours if we accept the gift of Jesus Christ.

Regardless of everything I've endured thus far, I am reminded that during our time of sufferings and tribulations were are to know that 'suffering produces perseverance; perseverance character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.' (Romans 5:3-5)

So friends, during this time of health crisis, recommit your lives to Christ and find comfort in knowing heaven is our ultimate goal and Christ if offering it to us once we're willing to obey his laws.