How To Stay Sane While Planning for Your Wedding!

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Dance Steps Of Arguing

True story. . .
Two weeks before her wedding, Kelly (name changed) called me—upset. The night before, she and her fiancé, Jeff, had a fight. At the end of the argument, he snapped: “You think you know everything about me, but you don’t.”

I now think she’s calling to tell me that she’s canceling the wedding. Instead, she asks: “Do you think this is a red flag?” Red flag? No, this is a RED CURTAIN!

I asked if she was curious as to what he’d meant when he said she didn’t know “everything” about him. Kelly told me that Jeff often vented and yelled, but that he didn’t mean anything by it. I was still curious since if he doesn’t mean anything by it, why does he yell? She had no answer.

A few days later, Kelly called to tell me that all was fine and back to “normal.” No, Jeff hadn’t apologized and, no, she still hadn’t asked him what he meant by that cryptic, snarling statement. She decided to let the pattern of their arguing remain in place despite the stress it continually caused her.

Kelly had talked herself into believing that there was nothing wrong with this dynamic. “It’s just how he is,” was her mantra. Besides, she was worried that if she confronted him, she’d hurt his feelings. She didn’t want to antagonize the situation by asking him to explain himself, as she “knew” he loved her. 

Fear of confrontation. Fear of conflict. These are fears shared by many of us and Kelly was no different. But it’s essential to understand that conflict is a natural part of every relationship. Odd as it may sound, you can’t have a healthy relationship without conflict.

Over time, you and your partner have developed ways to deal with uncomfortable situations, conversations, and conflict. I call these “dance steps” and you’ve developed them without much conscious thought. The question is: do these dance steps let you and your partner get what you need in a way that’s honest and healthy?

Here are some questions to get you thinking about your relationship to conflict:  What do you enjoy about conflict?  Not enjoy?  Do you know what your partner (personal or professional) enjoys or doesn’t enjoy about conflict?  What would you like to see more of when you and your partner have a difficult conversation?  What would you like to see less of?

There are four “dances” you can do with your partner in an argument.  You can be passive, aggressive, passive-aggressive, or, you can be assertive. In upcoming posts, I’ll explain each dance step and invite you to consider how you can become a more healthy and strategic partner in a conflict.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Another "Style Me Pretty" Wedding!

I am always happy when one of my couples has their wedding profiled on “the” wedding website, STYLE MEPRETTY.   

I’m delighted to share with you highlights from Kelly’s and Michael’s wedding at Rancho Las Lomas.  

I was honored to officiate their ceremony and thrilled that I got to work with the fab and talented folks at LVLWeddings!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

10 Things To Keep In Mind While Planning Your Wedding Vows

Earlier this week I officiated a wedding for an out-of-town gay couple that had decided to combine their wedding and honeymoon.  They invited just ten relatives and friends.  The ceremony was held in their hotel suite that had a breath-taking view of LA.  When I arrived, Frank clasped my hand and said,  “I’m so nervous, I don’t know if I can say my vows.”  I reminded him that there would only be ten people, to which he nervously responded, “that’s a lot!”

The point is, it doesn’t matter if you’ve invited ten people or twenty times ten people.  It doesn’t matter if you’re straight or gay.  A wedding is an out-of-body experience!  And while I “get” why people are nervous, at the risk of sounding obnoxious, I have to ask: “But why are you nervous?  What are you telling yourself that makes you scared?”

I know this is a heretical statement – BUT – your wedding day is not “the” most important day of your life.  Your life together is a series of most important days.  I think your wedding day is “the” day that can be a touchstone for all those other “most important days”.

With that in mind, here are ten things to keep in mind while preparing for your wedding vows.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Why Be Nervous?!

A couple of weeks ago, I officiated a wedding that had 200 guests.  When I arrived on site, the event planner told me that everyone was worried about the bride – “she’s really nervous.”  The groom asked me what would I do if his bride couldn’t finish saying her vows.  The maid of honor took me aside and asked if I’d ever had a bride faint in the middle of the ceremony.  And the bride?  Well, she told me she was really nervous – and then threw back a shot of tequila!

Earlier this week I officiated a wedding for an out-of-town gay couple that had decided to combine their wedding and honeymoon.  They invited just ten relatives and friends.  The ceremony was held in their hotel suite that had a breath-taking view of LA.  When I arrived, Frank clasped my hand and said,  “I’m so nervous, I don’t know if I can say my vows.”  I reminded him that there would only be ten people, but he said, “That’s a lot!”

It doesn’t matter if you’ve invited ten people or twenty times ten people.  It doesn’t matter if you’re straight or gay.  A wedding is something of an out-of-body experience!  And while I do “get” why people are nervous, at the risk of sounding obnoxious, I gotta ask: “Why?  Why are you nervous?  What are you telling yourself?  What thoughts are scaring you?”

CS Lewis, author of “The Chronicles of Narnia,” also wrote a now forgotten sci-fi novel, “Out Of The Secret Planet.”  The hero of that tale says this to his beloved:
“When you and I first met, the meeting was over very shortly, it was nothing. Now it is growing into something as we remember it. But still we know very little about it. What it will be when I remember it as I lie down to die, what it makes in me all my days till then  – that is the real meeting. The other is only the beginning of it.”

I know that this is such a heretical statement to make BUT – your wedding day is not “the” most important day of your life.  Your life together is a series of most important days.  I think your wedding day is a day that can be a touchstone for all those other “the” most important days. 

Your wedding day is “the” day that can become the memory that can become your compass BECAUSE this is the day you say with emphasis:
This is the person I am.
This is the person I want to be – a person who desires, gives, loves, forgives, hopes, hurts and who is generously human.

The poet Sam Keen observed that: “We come to love not by finding a perfect person, but by learning to see an imperfect person perfectly.”  If this is true (and I think it is) why then worry about “perfection”? 

Your vows don’t have to be perfect.  The day doesn’t have to be “perfect.”  You just have to be bravely generous.

Last month, I did a ceremony on a property that overlooked the Pacific.  The view was breathtaking and so was the wind!  It was an unusually windy day.  Jackie, the bride, had a long veil that dramatically blew high up in the air – to the delight and distraction of guests.  Finally, at one point, she grabbed the veil and tucked it under her armpit (strapless dress).  Everyone laughed– and we could get on to the matter at hand – the offering of their vows.

I loved Jackie’s attitude –  ya gotta do what ya gotta do. . .
With laughter.
With joy.
With determination.
With focus.
With love.
That’s the vow you’re making to each other.  That’s how you make your vow to one another.  So. . .

Why be nervous?!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

To The Parents Upset Their Daughter or Son Is Not Having a Religious Ceremony

Last weekend I officiated a wedding that the groom’s parents boycotted because he was marrying a woman of a different faith.  His father was embarrassed and worried about what his relatives in their country of origin would say.

The groom spoke of his father with love, compassion and understanding.  He was hurt but somehow not angry.  I marveled at his generous spirit.

Sadly, this is not the first time I’ve had one or both sets of parents boycott a wedding because of religion.  And so this post is intended for the mother or father who is thinking of not attending their child’s wedding because they don’t approve of them marrying outside “the” faith.

My intention is not to scold.  Rather, I invite you to reflect on my perspective. . .

. . .Over my years of ministry I’ve come to realize certain things that I believe are true about God and church.

As I share these, I ask that you forgive me if at any time I sound presumptuous or arrogant.  That’s not my intention.

“I’m spiritual, but not religious” is what many engaged couples tell me.  Although they grew up in homes that had some church affiliation, much like yours, they themselves no longer attend weekly church services. 

While many of these couples have drifted away from the church rituals of their
upbringing, they still believe in God.  They desire a ceremony that honors the sacredness of what they are doing without it being religious, i.e. denominational.

With many of these couples, their parents, like you, still go to church and, like you, often times are disappointed with the couples’ decision not to have a church wedding. 

I believe that God is never found in a church building simply because it is a church building.
People bring God to a church building.  Family and friends, knowingly and unknowingly, bring God with them to the ceremony.  

It is their love, joy and wishes that make a ceremony sacred—for God can only be found in the love and joy of God’s people.

I believe that when a couple sends out wedding invitations, they are really saying to family and
friends “come celebrate the great good we have found in each other, and bear witness as we give our word to each other.”  It really is that simple.  And what could be more sacred?

I believe that a couple enters into the mystery of life and love when they give their word, their vow, to each other.  In an age when talk is cheap, what could honor God, who is “The Word,” more than for a person to give his or her word to their beloved with an open heart? 

I believe that the sacredness of a ceremony also comes from recognizing that family and friends are the “collective memory” of the day.  In years to come, when life gets messy, they are to remind the couple of the love they celebrated and bore witness to.  And that is a sacred responsibility.

 I believe that a wedding ceremony, when done right, renews and refreshes everyone present.  When done right, a wedding ceremony reminds us what life is all about––friends, family, love, loyalty . . . what could be more sacred than creating that simple, yet profound reminder?

I am saddened—and at times angered—when a couple comes to me and tells me that their mother and/or father have threatened to boycott the wedding because they’re not getting married in a church.

I simply don’t understand how a parent could inflict such cruelty upon their child,
especially when this daughter or son is marrying a good person—a person of integrity.   I can’t understand the harsh words you inflict upon your child.

How often do we say, “God is love”?  Can any one of us truly comprehend the magnitude of this belief?  I don’t believe any human can—not even the head of a religion.

Do you not believe that God’s graciousness encompasses more than we can imagine?

Where there is love, there is God.  Every religion holds some understanding of this tenet.

Is not God in the love your child has for their intended?  Is it not possible that God’s love extends far beyond any church service?

To believe in God is to believe in an awe-inducing, life affirming mystery.  To believe in God is not to believe in magic.

Do you really believe that in the face of love God could be angry?

Why do you claim your anger is a reflection of God’s anger?

Embrace your child, bless your child in and through your hurt, believing all the while, as did all the holy ones of every religion, that in the end. . .

all will be well. . .  

If you’re a parent who’s upset that your daughter or son is not getting married in a religious setting, and you’ve been laying a “guilt trip” on them (hey, let’s call it for what it is!), then here are seven questions I invite you to reflect upon.

Let these questions spur a conversation with your son or daughter and their partner.
Talking is way better than guilt-tripping!

1.      Why is it important to you that your son/daughter get married in a religious setting?
2.      Do you understand that your child no longer attends church?
3.      What do you think will be the consequences if your child does not get married in a church?
4.      What do you think God thinks of all this? 
5.      Is your child’s “love” for their partner a gift or a curse?
6.      What is your biggest fear regarding your child not having a religious wedding?
7.      If “they” judge you/the couple for not having a religious wedding, why are “they” being invited to the wedding?

Thursday, May 1, 2014

What Makes For An "Equal" Partnership

In the January, 2014 issue of “PsychologyToday,” Hara Estroff Marano examines the interplay of love and power in a relationship.  I think it’s an insightful article and I highly recommend it.

But since you may not have time to read the entire article, here is her list of the 10 needed elements in order to have a truly “equal” relationship.

Take a look. . .how “equal” are you and your partner?

The Elements of Equality

1.     Attention. Both partners are emotionally attuned to and supportive of each other. They listen to each other. And both feel invested in the relationship, responsible for attending to and maintaining the relationship itself.

2.     Influence. Partners are responsive to each other’s needs and each other’s bids for attention, conversation, and connection. Each has the ability to engage and emotionally affect the other.

3.     Accommodation. Although life may present short periods when one partner’s needs take precedence, it occurs by mutual agreement; over the long haul, both partners influence the relationship and make decisions jointly.

4.     Respect. Each partner has positive regard for the humanity of the other and sees the other as admirable, worthy of kindness in a considerate and collaborative relationship.

5.     Selfhood. Each partner retains a viable self, capable of functioning without the relationship if necessary, able to be his or her own person with inviolable boundaries that reflect core values.

6.     Status. Both partners enjoy the same freedom to directly define and assert what is important and to put forth what is the agenda of the relationship. Both feel entitled to have and express their needs and goals and bring their full self into the relationship.

7.     Vulnerability. Each partner is willing to admit weakness, uncertainty, and mistakes.

8.     Fairness. In perception—determined by flexibility and responsiveness—and behavior, both partners feel that chores and responsibilities are divided in ways that support individual and collective well-being.

9.     Repair. Conflicts may occur and negativity may escalate quickly, but partners make deliberate efforts to de-escalate such discussions and calm each other down by taking time-outs and apologizing for harshness. They follow up by replacing defensiveness with listening to the other’s position.

10.  Well-being. Both partners foster the well-being of the other physically, emotionally, and financially.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

"Complaining" vs "Criticizing"

The other day I met with Jen, a bride who’s frustrated with her fiancé Jack’s lack of involvement in the planning of their 2015 wedding.  As I listened to her, I began to tune her out because her “concerns” were basically a litany of criticisms.  She was so shrill that I wondered why she was marrying Jack if he was such a lazy lout. When I asked her that exact question, she stared at me, puzzled that I’d doubt her choice of a husband. 

Jen claimed that she loved Jack and then proceeded to recite another litany – of all the good he does.  He sounded entirely different from the fiancé she’d been criticizing!  She was caught off guard when I pointed this out and shocked when I told her that I’d been ready to end the meeting, as I couldn't listen to her criticisms. 

All I could think was – if I had a hard time listening to her, what must it be like for Jack?!

Tara Parker-Pope, blogger for The New York Times “Well” section, offers what I think is a critical insight into what makes for a “successful” argument.

Her research on marriage shows that one of the main differences between a “good fight” and a “bad fight” is whether a person begins with a complaint or a criticism. For example, "I wish you went with me to see more vendors" is a complaint as opposed to "You never show any interest in planning the ceremony. What's wrong with you?" which is a criticism. 

Which of those two do you think is harsher? Read the sentences again and pay attention to the choice of words. Imagine how you would say each sentence to your partner.

In the first sentence you’re “complaining”—meaning you’re letting your partner know how you feel as a result of their disappointing behavior.

In the second sentence, you’re “criticizing”—meaning you’re attacking your partner and so he or she has only two choices—shut down or lash out.

The first sentence begins with “I” and the second sentence begins with “you.” In the first, you’re taking responsibility for how you’re feeling, while in the second you’re nastily attacking.

Think back on your last argument with your partner (or someone with whom you have an ongoing relationship).  Did it begin with one of you criticizing the other? Were you upset more with what your partner said or with how he or she said it?

Remember: the goal of communicating is to get understood. Criticize and the other person will shut down. Complain, in the right tone of voice at the right time, and, if they’re honest, the other person will be more receptive to listening to you.