It will make you look at your partner in a new way!
Sunday, May 17, 2015
Tuesday, May 5, 2015
Because this blog is dedicated to my work as an officiant, I typically limit entries to wedding related items. However, this posting is different – it has nothing to do with weddings, but, hey, please keep reading!
My friend, Melissa Cistaro, has her first book published today – a memoir – “Pieces Of My Mother”
This is my tribute to Melissa – Enjoy!
On Tuesday, May 5th, “PiecesOf My Mother,” a memoir by Melissa Cistaro, arrives at bookstores. Melissa is a friend and so, yes, in a way, this is a shameless plug! However, I’m writing not just to plug her book. I’m writing about Melissa because she inspires me and I enjoy nothing better than writing about people who inspire me.
As a child I became a voracious reader – from the Hardy Boys to “David Copperfield.” Early on I became fascinated with writers. What kind of person could twist words with the slight-of-hand of a magician and so conjure worlds from the almost familiar to the outright exotic? Although I was a good Catholic boy, I considered nothing more sacred than a book. I loved the sheer physicality of a book – open the covers and another world tumbles out.
I never aspired to be a writer, but I very much wanted to be friends with writers. I wanted to sit in the company of my heroes and “saints.” When I got to Fordham University I landed my own radio show, “Bluestockings”, where each Thursday night I’d interview poets, novelists and literary folk. I was mentored by Marguerite Young who at that time had written the longest (1198 pages) novel in English, “Miss McIntosh, My Darling.” She introduced me to Anais Nin, legendary feminist and diarist. I believed they lived life differently from me and that somehow they had the eyes to see, the ears to hear and the hearts to feel in ways I didn’t.
And now, all these years later, here’s Melissa – prettier than Marguerite and far less hedonistic than Anais – a friend with whom I’ve shared many a pot of tea. She’s so wonderfully “not different” and yet from the ordinary dimensions of her daily life she’s written a memoir of her mother who abandoned her and her brothers and father. She’s told the story of her anything but ordinary childhood. This week her book physically appears on bookshelves after more than a decade of writing and rewriting, after having been rejected two score over. And I am in awe.
I was seduced unabashedly by the romanticism of Marguerite and Anais. But I know Melissa too well to shroud her in any romanticism. In the harsh glare of everyday life, I admire her for raising a family, loving her husband and staying true to her children. I celebrate her for being faithful in giving meaning to what was unfathomable. I cheer her for slaying dragons and calling a truce with demons, as she offered peace to her childhood memories.
To find the extraordinary in the ordinary – that is what goes into making us human. And writers show us how.
Thank you, Melissa!
Monday, May 4, 2015
Monday, April 20, 2015
Earlier this month I had the honor of being on a panel sponsored by WIPA (Wedding Industry Professionals Association). Myself and half-a-dozen other wedding professionals were asked to offer our advice on “how to save time.” This is a highlight reel created by the incomparable Perryfield Films.
While the panel was speaking to fellow professionals, I think this reel offers some basic, practical tips that could help you as you go about planning your wedding.
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
I recently came upon this poem by Jane Hirschfield and I was totally taken by it. Perhaps you will be, too!
A Blessing for Wedding
Today when persimmons ripen
Today when fox-kits come out of their den into snow
Today when the spotted egg releases its wren song
Today when the maple sets down its red leaves
Today when windows keep their promise to open
Today when fire keeps its promise to warm
Today when someone you love has died
or someone you never met has died
Today when someone you love has been born
or someone you will not meet has been born
Today when rain leaps to the waiting of roots in their dryness
Today when starlight bends to the roofs of the hungry and tired
Today when someone sits long inside his last sorrow
Today when someone steps into the heat of her first embrace
Today, let this light bless you
With these friends let it bless you
With snow-scent and lavender bless you
Let the vow of this day keep itself wildly and wholly
Spoken and silent, surprise you inside your ears
Sleeping and waking, unfold itself inside your eyes
Let its fierceness and tenderness hold you
Let its vastness be undisguised in all your days
― Jane Hirshfield, Come, Thief
Friday, April 10, 2015
I want to be your friend
forever and ever.
When the hills are all flat
and the rivers are all dry.
When the trees blossom in winter
and the snow falls in summer.
When the heaven and earth mix—not till then will I part from you.
Ben (names changed) called me the day before his wedding in a panic: “how do I write my vows?” I was surprised because Ben had struck me as an organized guy. Besides, he’s a violinist and often plays at weddings, so he’s heard many, many vows. In that moment, though, he sounded like a drowning man!
I told him to just speak from his heart, but this only confused him more, “how do I do that? What else should I do?” “Nothing,” I told him, “just speak from your heart.” I reminded him that a vow is not a pre-nup. It’s a pledge of the heart and, as such, is not a detailed listing of everything that he’s going to do and not do in his marriage. His vow is but an echo of what is deep within his heart.
Ben and his fiancée, Marissa, had been high school sweethearts and dated throughout college. She, too, was a musician. At their ceremony, Ben made his vow first (as is tradition). Marissa’s eyes were glistening as he spoke movingly “from his heart.” When Marissa went to speak, she was so overwhelmed with the intensity of the moment that she reached out for my hand. I thought she was just giving my hand a squeeze so as to steady her nerves. But, she held my hand tightly throughout her vows––and they were not short!
I’ll always remember that moment, not just because it was the first and only time that a bride held my hand while offering her vows. And not just because I felt self-conscious; but, rather, because it was achingly tender.
Over the last twenty years, I’ve officiated many ceremonies and so I can forget just how difficult it is to find the words to let someone you love know that there are no words to describe your love.
Ben was not the last groom to call me sounding desperate. There have been many grooms, including Jason, a groom who had still not written his vows by the time he arrived at the ceremony site. I calmed him down by reminding him that his fiancée would kill him if he didn’t have thoughtful words to offer her! We found a quiet place away from his groomsmen. I scrounged around for some paper on which he could write his vows and then left him by himself. Well, Jason thought he’d be debonair and write his vows on his tux jacket’s pocket-handkerchief. Only problem, he started to sweat during the ceremony and he wiped his forehead with the handkerchief and, yes, wiped away his vows!
And while Marissa is still the only bride to hold my hand, she’s not the last bride to cry while saying her vows. There have been many, including Cheryl who sobbed so hard that she couldn’t get through her vows. I patiently waited, but when she seemed unable to say anything more, I gently moved on to the exchange of rings. After the ceremony, annoyed with me, she wanted to know why I hadn’t done something to calm her down. Short of throwing a glass of cold water in her face, I didn’t know what I could have done.
Ben and Marissa did have an advantage of sorts in writing their vows. Since they’d heard scores of couples exchange vows, at the very least, they knew what not to write. However, if they were unsure of how to write their vows, then how much more so are couples that aren’t as familiar with weddings?
I don’t think anyone can “teach” someone how to compose a vow. A toast or a speech? Sure. A vow, though, is such an intimate expression of devotion that it defies instruction.
I still believe that writing your vows is as simple as “speaking from your heart.”
Writing your vows is an opportunity to:
· slow down
· create time to retreat into your heart
· consider why you’re promising what you’re promising to whom you’re promising in this crazy world of ours.
In terms of the practical side of writing your vows, I urge you to NOT:
· worry about the word count
· worry about how long it will take to say the vows
· worry if they’re corny or cheesy (they’re not – I’ve never heard vows that made me roll my eyes!)
· compare / share your vows with each other ahead of time
In terms of giving structure, order and flow to your vows, what I’ve noticed works most elegantly is. . .
· Begin with a memory, an anecdote, a story of a moment in time when you suddenly realized that your partner was “the one.”
· Grounded in and flowing from that memory, tell your partner what you appreciate about them, what you treasure and value about them.
· Grateful for the memories and gifts, state what you vow to do and be for your partner.
· And somewhere in the midst of all this, be sure to say, “I take you as my husband / wife” because that little phrase turns your words of love into a vow.
It really is that simple!
I’m always honored when a couple invites me to bear witness as they give their word to each other—as they enter into the mystery of life and love. It is such an intimate moment. I’m in awe of the generosity and courage, the hope and faith people show in that moment of giving––of giving their word, which is their life to each other.
And so I salute you and cheer you on!!
Monday, April 6, 2015
When I meet with a couple to discuss their ceremony I ask a lot of questions – not because I’m nosey, rather because I want to get as a full a sense of who they are as possible.
One of the questions I ask is: “Your parents: alive, deceased; together, not together; talking, not talking; or any combination thereof?!” Occasionally, a couple will say that both sets of parents are together and equally happy for them. More often, though, I get answers that are complicated for any number of reasons!
Earlier this year I met with a bride, Ellie (names changed), whose father had refused to give his “blessing” to her and her fiancé Finn. For five years he held back. Finally and somewhat begrudgingly he gave his approval. He reached this place because both Ellie and Finn, were patient and, in my opinion, generous in their consideration of his feelings.
Ellie shared with me a letter she had written her dad. It was over six pages, single-spaced and I, who seldom cry, was misty-eyed by the end.
If you’re reading this post and are a bride or groom, I know that you have your own story with your parents. I want, though, to share a very edited selection from Ellie’s letter.
Well, one of my favorite quotes is from the great (and infamous) Irish writer, Oscar Wilde. He said, “Never love anyone who treats you as ordinary.”
I love that notion of not giving your love to someone who thinks you’re merely ordinary. The selection below (details have been altered to protect privacy) moved me because clearly Ellie and Finn do not treat each other as ordinary. . .
. . .Finn is my best friend. He works 30-hour shifts with the pager going off constantly, trauma patients coming in, the doctors asking for help, the nurses calling for orders, the patients and families wanting someone to talk to – it’s chaotic. And after all that he goes home exhausted and he still finds it in himself to call me, talk to me like I’m a human being, ask me how my day was. He listens to me complain about school and how I’m exhausted and he helps me through it. He never gets angry at me, he never gets impatient, never tells me that my problems are insignificant compared to his. . .
Since I’ve met him he has never once raised his voice at me, never disrespected me, never made me feel inferior and even in the most stressful times in his own life he’s never taken his emotions out on me. He understands me, appreciates me, takes care of me and always knows exactly what I want. He makes me smile when I need to, lets me whine when I want to and is always there for me through everything. . .
The only thing that makes this picture incomplete is the fact that you decided long ago that you dislike him. . .You think he’s unreliable but what you haven’t seen is how he always keeps his word and follows through with the things he says. You think that he can’t stay faithful but I’ve never met a more faithful person to his friends, his family, his colleagues and to me. . .
I know you liked Brandon (name changed) and you miss him but that wasn’t a relationship I could have stayed in. When he got grumpy he was unpleasant, after 10 hours at work he would be snappy, if he was unhappy about one thing he was unhappy about everything, including me. . .I always doubted myself, always figured I was doing something wrong, I always wanted to know what I could fix or do better. I thought that the cost of knowing what he was thinking was having to deal with his raw emotions.
Little did I know that there could be someone who would tell me everything they were feeling but at the same time realize that I wasn’t the source of his negative emotions, I was the cure for them and there was no need to take his anger out on me.
I know the type of person that you are trying to protect me from; but time and time again Finn has shown me that he is not that type of person. . .I don’t want to lose my family over this. . .I’d like to be able to have a calm conversation with you about this without any yelling or arguing. . .
A moving letter, yes?
If you’ve been to a lot of weddings, chances are you’ve heard read the classic excerpt from St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, “Love is patient, love is kind.” It’s a powerful reading, but because it has been heard so many times at weddings, it’s lost it’s force.
Here’s a modern translation of Paul’s letter. What strikes me is how similar Paul’s words on love are to the words Ellie uses to describe the love she shares with Finn.
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn't want what it doesn't have.
Love doesn't strut,
Doesn't have a swelled head,
Doesn't force itself on others,
Isn't always "me first,"
Doesn't fly off the handle,
Doesn't keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn't revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
Love never dies: trust steadily, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly.
And the best of the three is love.
My hope is that your wedding celebrates a love that truly is extraordinary.
My hope is that your love for each other will always be extraordinary!