Sarah Bilaye-Benibo was happily single when she met her now husband, Bio. Thirty, the Chicago based blogger used her premarital years to dig deep, focus on self-improvement and spiritual growth. She made a commitment to remain chaste until her wedding day, which meant not even going so far as kissing. Bio was up for the challenge and their courtship was a beautiful journey that led them to fall in love solely through communication and spending time together. Learn more on how and why Sarah decided to hold out before marriage and what it’s done for her relationship.
Briefly describe yourself.
I was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, but became a Chicagoan last year. After graduating from Spelman College with a degree in Music and teaching privately for 5 years, I am now pursing music full-time. I sing in a gospel trio called God’s Chosen and we just recently independently financed and released our sophomore album “1&6.” I enjoy blogging, listening to music, and having Saturday morning talks with my husband.
When did you get married? If you had a ceremony, briefly describe your big day.
My wedding was September 28, 2014, it was a bright and lively day. My favorite color is yellow, but not like lemony yellow, more like sunshine yellow. My wedding colors had to reflect this. I chose marigold, silver gray, and blush to decorate everything from the Unity Candle to the cake topper. My mother’s side of the family is British (originally from Jamaica) and my husband’s family is Nigerian so our day was filled with music, dancing, and accents from all over the world! But with so much to recount, one of my favorite parts about the day was dancing with my dad during the cocktail hour. My only greater memory is the kiss that began the beginning of my new life!
What are some things you did to prepare for marriage? How was it helpful?
The most preparatory act I had to do was spiritual. Before meeting my husband I was already in a very good place and wanted to remain there. I finally felt settled in my singleness and committed to keep God as my number one priority, even if a guy came along. Not long after sitting my friends down to tell them of my new found commitment to the Lord, I met Bio. Right before our courtship began, I mustered up the courage to tell him about my vow to not kiss another man until my wedding day. It was what God urged me to do to maintain my chastity and to keep a clear mind about choosing Christ first in all things. Most people thought I had taken my commitment too far, but I knew if this relationship worked without the distraction and crutch of sexual activity, then it would more than likely work for the long haul. God gave me peace about my decision and promised I would never regret it. And so we did it. With the help of the Lord and one of my favorite bloggers, Heather Lindsey, we successfully made it to the altar and shared our first kiss in front of 200+ people. God faithfully kept His word and even helped me keep mine!
What books would you recommend for a bride-to-be?
“10 Great Dates Before You Say ‘I Do’” by David and Claudia Arp, Curt Brown, Natelle Brown
“5 Love Languages” by Gary Chapman
What was one of the biggest challenging when transitioning into married life? Did you receive any helpful advice?
Since transitioning into married life, one of the biggest challenges has been finding and embracing a new normal. At the age of 29, I left the only city I’d ever called home, moved into an apartment 5 hours away, inherited a roommate, and had a brand new weekly schedule. This took getting used to and honestly, I’m still adjusting. Advice that I’ve taken and would give is to avoid comparing your old life with your new life. If you used to hang out every weekend, but now you stay in most days, it is ok. If you used to wash dishes after every meal, but now you wash them all at the end of the night, this too is ok. Finding a new normal between two people who had two completely different lives takes time and should be given time to successfully accomplish. Keep an open mind and like my mom says, ‘there’s more than one way to skin a cat!’
What attracted you to your husband? How did you know he was 'The One'?
I was instantly attracted to my husband’s ability to communicate. Romantic, right? ha. But hear me out! Our relationship started via email after he found me on LinkedIn, so, initially, all I could judge was his communication skills. He had a way of explaining profound things, simply. He had a knack of understanding my feelings and thoughts (even if he didn’t agree). Once we met, it was like I’d found everything I ever wanted. I had no doubt he was ‘The One.’ He was definitely a looker, but more than that he was a thinker and that intrigued me. He listened well and gave excellent advice. Ever since our first date, I’ve wanted him to be a permanent fixture in my life and now he is…forever.
What advice, tips, or suggestions would you give to brides-to-be or women seeking to be married one day?
My advice to all single women is to know one’s self. Spend time alone. Ask yourself hard questions like “What am I passionate about?”, “What makes me happy?” or “If I could do anything, what would it be?”. Knowing yourself is critical in finding a mate, because it enables you to tell almost immediately if that person is for you. If their thoughts about life, love, and God matches yours, the chance of your relationship lasting is probable. First, however, you have to determine your thoughts. Otherwise, you are liable to take whatever is offered to you. This not only wastes time but puts you on an emotional roller-coaster that may be harder to get off than you think.
Feel free to add any additional thoughts or advice.
I’d advise single women (and married women) to never stop working on themselves. It’s so easy to point your finger at someone, whether it be your mate or a friend, and see their flaws, but it is more productive to look internally and see yourself. Your shortcomings. Your biases. Your issues. When you pursue becoming a better person, it allows you to appreciate others more fully. This appreciation not only brightens your own life but also brightens the lives of others.
photos by Forever Day Photos[divider]
Before I Said I Do is a new bi-weekly column dedicated to sharing stories and advice from women on how they prepared for married life. Take a look at our previous feature with wife and mother, Christy S. Muhammad. Interested in being featured for this column? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org