How To Stay Sane While Planning for Your Wedding!

Friday, November 21, 2014

A Brief – Odd – History Of Marriage!

I’m always reading other blogs, along with magazines and papers, and so I’m constantly clipping and saving tidbits I find interesting and think I might use on one of my blogs or in one of my workshops.  Oftentimes, though, when I return to the clipping, I can’t recall why I had saved the info or where it’s from!

And so it is with this item. . .recently, I was sorting through  a bunch of posts I had saved regarding weddings.  I have no idea where I got the following, but apparently it’s a review of a book written by Mark Ishee, titled,  “Wedding Toasts and Traditions.”  I checked on Amazon and the book is now out-of-print.  However, I love the info provided in this review – stuff related to the history of marriage I never knew. 

This brief history might put your own planning into some perspective!


The author points to three stages in the history of marriage: marriage by force, marriage by contract and marriage by mutual love.

Marriage by force is indicated in our earliest historical record.  A man captured a woman, generally from another tribe.  This testified to his strength in warfare.  The earliest “best man” aided a friend in the capture of a bride.

According to Ishee, the honeymoon is a relic of the days of marriage by capture.  Frequently the tribe from which a warrior stole a bride came looking for her and it was necessary for the warrior and his new wife to go into hiding to avoid being discovered. 

The “honeymoon” evolved as symbolic of the period of time during which the bride and groom hid until the bride’s kin grew tired of looking for her!

It is clear why marriages by contract developed in time: the revenge exacted by one tribe on another for taking one of their women was costly.  At some point, compensation began to be delivered for the stolen woman in an effort to avoid vengeance.  Preventing tribal warfare and compensating furious family members led to a property exchange: livestock, land or another woman would be exchanged for the bride.

As Ishee points out:  “The very word “wedding” betrays the great stage of wife purchase through which marriages passed.  The ‘wed’ was the money, horses, or cattle which the groom gave as security and as a pledge to provide his purchase of the bride from her father.  From this ‘wed’ we derive the idea of ‘wedding’ or ‘pledging’ the bride to the man who pays the required security for her.

As time went on, this ‘bride’s price’ took the form of elaborate presents given by the groom to the bride’s parents.  Negotiated over long periods of time, sending and receiving constituted that the marriage contract was sealed. 

In some cultures, land, livestock and other valuables were given to the groom in the form of a dowry.  These goods were offered as compensation to the groom when he assumed the burden of supporting the woman.

Such practices of marriage by contract lasted in England until the middle of the 16th century.  The modern practice of ‘giving the bride away’ has its roots in the belief that the bride was property given by the father to the groom.  In fact, the phrase ‘to have and to hold’ comes from Old English property transactions.

Marriage by mutual love was rare until fairly recently.  You did not marry for love; rather, you were expected to love the one you married. 

Ishee states: “It was not until the 9th or 10th century that women gained the privilege of choosing or refusing their husbands according to their own judgment.  Rare exceptions to this are recorded since primitive times, where women claimed the right to select their mates.”

The practice of elopement was an early aspect of marriage by mutual love.  It allowed a woman to marry a man of her choosing, rather than one who met her parents’ specifications.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Marriage: One Long Conversation!

When we talked, I felt brilliant, fascinating;
she brought out the version of myself I like most.
Nadir Alsadir

Recently I learned that close friends of mine (not the couple in photo) are divorcing after twenty years of marriage.  I was / am stunned.  I had no idea.  Not a clue. 

This blog is about weddings and not divorces.  About beginnings and not endings.  Yet, it’s been hard for me to write as I keep thinking on my friends – and on their wedding day.

I officiated their ceremony and I recall sharing with them and the other guests a memory from my time living in the South Pacific.  I lived on an island in the Truk Lagoon.  The people spoke Trukese and my favorite Trukese word is “Achengacheng.”

“Achengacheng” literally means anything that can be easily broken and it is also the Trukese word for “love.”  My wish, corny as it might have been, was that they would always be each other’s “achengacheng” and that they would always hold each other as precious.

I know they tried – in more ways than I could ever imagine. 

But how do you keep the love from breaking?  How do you honor the “achengacheng”?  Yes, there are so many ways, yet, I do deeply, truly believe it all comes down to COMMUNICATION.

The quality of your life is in direct proportion to
the quality of the communication in your life.

true story
One night I grabbed dinner at my favorite local bistro. The staff knows me and brings me “the usual” without my having to ask. I was lost in a book when I happened to glance up and look across the room. Two tables lined the opposite wall.

At one sat a young couple in their 20’s, laughing, animated. And at the other table sat an elderly couple in their 70’s, talking, smiling. I thought—now here’s a dual snapshot of marriage. Except for the wrinkles, little differentiated the older couple from the younger. Both were smiling, talking and laughing.

The German philosopher Nietzsche claimed that, in its essence, marriage is one long, grand conversation. A lifetime of hearty conversation is the surest sign of real love.

Here are what I call SANITY SAVER Questions to get you and your partner thinking:

• If marriage is a conversation, do you and your partner enjoy talking with each other?
• Are you comfortable just being together?
• Are there any topics that are understood to be off limits? Why?

I don’t care if it’s corny, but you ARE each other’s ACHENGACHENG!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Reflections From 30 Years Of Marriage

As I’ve said many times before, here on this blog, some of the most wonderful people on the face of the earth are my friends.  Not bragging – just a fact!  And I’ve had the good fortune to officiate the weddings of many of my friends.  A while ago, I sent a questionnaire to friends who’ve been married for more than five years.  I asked each couple to pick any ten questions (five each) and share their answers here at my blog.

The reason why I asked these wonderful people to share their thoughts on marriage and weddings, is that I hoped they could offer you, the couple in the throes of planning, some perspective on the whole shebang.

Hanna and Bruce celebrated their 30th anniversary on October 6th.  They are the first friends whose wedding I officiated.  The photo was taken earlier this week, on their anniversary.  The wine goblet was the chalice used at their service.  It had belonged to my grandmother and was my gift.

So, from the vantage of thirty married years, here are Bruce and Hanna’s insights on love, weddings and marriage. . . 


Q:  Why haven't you gotten divorced?
A:  Checks and Balances.

Q:  What three things are you grateful for in your spouse?
A:  Love of God, love of others, love of food.

Q:  One sentence advice you'd give to a couple planning to get married?
A:  You must always be grateful for the easy times while being prepared for the hard times.

Q:  What has surprised you most about being married?
A:  How much I love it, and how much I fear I would miss it.

Q:  In no more than 140 characters, sum up your thoughts on marriage:
A:  If marriage was easy and effortless, everyone would do it. It's not. Marriage is by far the greatest challenge any two people can undertake.

Q: What three words do you think of when you think of your wedding day?
A: Joyful. Unifying. Memorable.

Q:  What three things are you grateful for in your spouse?
A:  He rubs my feet, when I don't even ask.  He showed genuine kindness and devotion to my parents in their declining years.  He knows how I like my coffee and my gin, and he quenches all my thirsts.

Q: One sentence advice you'd give to a couple planning to get married?
A:  Every so often, ask yourself “What is it like to be married to me?”

Q:  How has your partner helped you become who you are today?
A:  Here's an illustration: For a long time I was content to let Bruce be the one who made eye contact with the homeless and mentally ill; the man or woman asking for spare change on the street. He would give what money he had in his pocket with warmth while I sidestepped the whole encounter. It felt, since it was “our” money that he was acting on behalf of both of us, and I got a pass. But you know what? It wasn't enough, and I learned that from him without him ever saying a word to me about it.

Q:  What did you experience at your wedding that you hope other couples experience at theirs?
A:  A snapshot memory: We left our reception and got into our rented red Subaru that our nieces and nephews had gleefully decorated with cans and streamers and the requisite “Just Married” sign. It was a beautiful early autumn day in Vermont with glorious colors as we drove the 40 miles to where we would spend the night. I will always remember the smiles, the honks, thumbs-up from other cars as we drove along. At a stoplight I pulled a flower from my bouquet and handed it through the open window to someone in a car the next lane over.

To feel the love and support in celebration of our marriage from our family and friends was wonderful.

To receive it from total strangers was a transcendent gift.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Wedding Conversations I Overheard At My Favorite Cafe

This post is a bit different from my others as it’s inspired by conversations I overheard at my fav café on two different days. . .

The other day I was sitting at my local, fav café, Aroma, when I overheard a young woman (20’s) at the next table whine,  “I tried on my grandma’s wedding dress and it was pretty, but old-fashioned so I’m not gonna wear it.”

Okay, so you’re not “gonna” wear it BUT that doesn’t mean you can’t still incorporate the dress somehow.

This is where creativity comes in – with how you incorporate family tradition + heirlooms in fresh, contemporary ways.

I’m not going to turn this into a DIY blog BUT I once had a bride who didn’t want to wear her grandmother’s dress BUT who loved her grandmother very much.  Her grandmother let her use the dress for part of the canopy of the Huppa the bride made.
It was beyond beautiful!

Even if you are stressing the small stuff (which you shouldn’t!), PLEASE enjoy the fun of being creative and inventive – not for the sake of wowing guests BUT for the sake of honoring cherished traditions and heirlooms – honoring family.


So, I was back at my fav café, Aroma, and this time I was sitting next to a guy talking about how family politics is driving him batty as he and his fiancée come closer to their wedding day.

Apparently, his mother doesn’t talk to his aunt, with whom he’s close, and the sisters haven’t talked for over a decade.  His mother doesn’t want to be in any family photos with her sister BUT he thinks it would be nice for the entire family to have a portrait taken on his wedding day.  His two friends then chimed in with tales of their parents’ dysfunctional family relationships.

So, there you have it – family politics is all part of a wedding – and my experience has been that very few couples manage to get married without family wackiness tripping them up.

But, here’s the thing – when I officiate a ceremony, I look out at the people gathered AND what I see is a bunch of people wanting to believe that despite ALL the divorce and messiness of families, there’s hope that these two people will get “it” right.

That’s why I say that your wedding is a

Statement of HOPE

No one knows what the future holds
Everyone hopes
That the two of you
be faithful to:

The dream of becoming who you want to be as a couple

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Just Enjoy It!

Last week. . .

The Procession had started.  I was in position.  The groom, Eric, took his place next to me.  He looked out and then leaned in and in an awed voice whispered, “This really is surreal!”

Duh – It is! 
And what surprised me is that throughout planning, he had a relaxed, almost blasé approach to it all.

The wedding ceremony is an out-of-body experience and there’s no way to predict how you’ll feel. . .

Just enjoy it all!

Friday, September 19, 2014

It's All About Creating Happy Memories

The other day I was on line at a Starbucks when a man tapped me on the shoulder.  I turned around and had no idea who the guy was.  He smiled and asked if I was “JP”.  He then told me that I had officiated his wedding 9 ½ years ago in Westlake Village.  Suddenly, I recognized Fred and certainly remembered his wife, Rosanna.  I was blown away that he remembered me! 

Fred told me that he and Rosanna were grateful that I had been a part of their day and that they still smile when they look at photos of their ceremony.

I was very moved – and I share this, not to give myself a pat on the back BUT to let you know that Fred reminded me that I’m really not in the business of marrying people. 


I’m really in the business of creating happy, life-giving memories.

And for that, I’m grateful. . .

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

What You're Really Doing When You Get Married

Anyone who knows me knows that I love officiating weddings.  I love celebrating a ceremony for a host of reasons – and one of those reasons is that I get to be a part of one of the most intimate moments in a couple’s life.  I know – that might sound a tad kinky!

But I’ve been thinking about this throughout the summer.  I’ve looked at brides and grooms, straight and gay, and I marvel at what I see.  I see people who are downright daring in their embrace of life – no matter how nervous or whack-a-do they may appear!

It struck me this summer with a new found force that when two people enter into marriage, it really is a
Confounding and generous pledge.

Here’s what I think you’re pledging (and what I’m helping you to celebrate):

You’re pledging. . .

To be the witness of each other’s life
To help each other make sense of life’s surprises
To create a legacy together
To be steady for each other in the midst of randomness
To find peace in the routine of everyday life
To give each other life but not be each other’s life
To trust you will be valued even when you’ve forgotten how
To be brave in sickness
To believe “we can” and “we will” in all those WTF moments
To make yourself necessary to your spouse
To believe that together you’re smarter than any smart phone
To believe that friends and family deserve a place at your table laden with good food, good drink and good story

And in pledging all this, I think you’re also admitting that neither of you really understand the true meaning of what you’re vowing BUT that you are committed to understanding it more clearly day in and day out – all the days of your life.